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Girl Crush

Chapter Text

I got a girl crush, hate to admit it but
I got a heart rush, ain’t slowin’ down
I got it real bad,

I got a girl crush, I got a girl crush
I don’t get no sleep, I don’t get no peace
Lord knows I’ve tried, I can’t get her off my mind


 

It was her secret. It was just a crush. This is all she can think as she sits at the bar contemplating how she got herself into this situation.  She wonders how something so simple, something that should be joyful, got so complicated.  It all started out so simple and innocent.

Mentally shaking her head she acknowledges that the secret wasn’t the problem because despite her best efforts to hide it, almost everyone knew her secret, everyone. She knows the problem arose when she admitted it. Now it feels like her simple secret has become this nefarious thing, a chasm has been created and she doesn’t know how to fix it. She can’t help but feel that it shouldn’t be this complicated.

It’s not as if she’s done something horrible, she hasn’t committed any crimes. Still, she can’t shake the feeling that there is no coming back from this. If she’s being completely honest its not just the secret or her admission that created the rift. It might have, may been, the horror and panic stricken look she got in return that left her embarrassed and feeling like a fool.

This is partly how she ends up at the bar; with a Jameson on the rocks in one hand and a Lone Star in the other. Not to mention she’s been hiding. She chooses to ignore the pointed look Alyssa is giving her. She’s not in the mood. Alyssa just sighs and proceeds to make her way to the other end of the bar, towards the waiting boy flashing a twenty. Without saying anything, she knows Alyssa already guessed what happened she doesn’t even have to ask.

She’s at her favorite bar and tonight is “Group Therapy”. Group Therapy is the busiest night of the week and tonight is no exception, it’s packed. Taking her drinks, she slowly makes her way towards the back of the bar. With each step she can feel some of the tension leaving her body, taking comfort in the nameless masses. She easily gets lost and forgets herself in the anonymity of the crowd. Getting a tray of popcorn, she puts money into the Jukebox making her way back towards the dart board, the perfect place to take out her frustrations.

She accepts a challenge from an overly confident boy, who took one look at her deciding this would be an easy win. So she finds herself standing with her legs slightly apart, left slightly in front of the right, arm in the air at a ninety-degree angle and the dart between her thumb and middle finger. She knows it’s an unorthodox stance but it works best for her. She hears snickering and can’t keep the corner of her mouth from turning up a bit. She loves being underestimated. Focusing on the board, blocking out all the commotion around her, she pictures the subject of her sleepless nights. Motivated, she pulls her arm back and then lets the dart fly, straight into the middle of that smile she can’t seem to forget. She hits the bullseye twice in a row and only needs one more to win. 

Sipping her Jameson, she feels his presence behind her, standing closer than necessary. Close enough that his hot breath tickles her neck but it does nothing to her. Her body knows that his body isn’t the right muscular frame her body craves; leaning into her, pressing closer to her. His smile isn’t the smile she dreams of at night. She’s sure he means it as a ploy to distract her, an easy attempt to throw her off her game. She internally chuckles, taking a long pull from her beer.

Finally, after receiving no reaction, he takes a small step back, putting some space between them, conceding defeat. If he only knew, nothing has been able to distract her quiet like that smile not since her freshman year. Now taking a sip of her whiskey she is also reminded that nothing has been able to ease the pain it has caused either, not even Jameson. 

She continues to ignore the boy, until she hears, “what’s a sweet thing like you doing drinking whiskey, anyway.” He leans a little closer again. She rolls her eyes, taking a small step forward. She doesn’t know why boys always think that girls want to drink overly sweet fruity drinks, the sugar always makes her feel kinda sick. Besides, she and her friends always had access to their parents’ stash of whiskey and bourbon, it’s what she has grown up on since the age of 16. It’s home to her.

Before she can answer, she suddenly hears her favorite voice say “real women drink whiskey” from behind her. She stills for a moment, her heart racing, she doesn’t know how she missed the addition. Her body is normally so in tuned to this presence she can feel it from a mile away. She is forced to slowly closes her eyes, taking a deep breath to steady herself, she’s been avoiding this for the past three days. It’s about this time, she realizes her song is playing on the jukebox. 

 

You only need a roof when it’s raining
You only need a fire when it’s cold
You only need a drink when the whiskey
Is the only thing that you have left to hold

 Slowly turning around, she looks straight into her favorite brown eyes. Time seems to slow down, as it always does lately when looking into those chocolate orbs. Everything else around her disappears. She can barely hear the song blaring through the speakers, she has no idea what’s his name is doing, all she knows is that smirk and gaze shouldn’t be here as a hint of pain rolls through her chest. Oh how she’s missed those eyes. And all she can think is she is going to kill Alyssa, as she swings her head towards the bar.

“Chris….” she hears the hesitancy, as she swings her head back towards the voice. Quickly breaking eye contact, she lowers her head shaking it slightly back and forth. “Don’t, I’m fine.”

There’s a pause, the tension is palpable. Uncertainty and awkwardness surrounds them but she won’t look up, nothing ever good comes when she looks into those eyes. She’s always unduly honest, too apparent and the piercing stare always seems to see too much but never enough at the same time.   

“Chris…” the tone is a little more formal, a little more stringent, a little more forceful and it makes her cringe. She misses the way her name was said with adoration.  She still won't look up, she turns her head slightly to the side, eyeing the guy she was about to beat. He’s whispering with his buddies, interestedly watching the scene before him. He makes eye contact with her saying, “Still your turn”. Refusing to raise her head up she finds herself saying, “look, I’m almost done with this game and then I’m heading to Uris to finish my paper, I’m good.  Just needed a study break”.

They’re in a stand off. The presence behind her willing her to turn around and she determinedly facing away. Eventually, she hears a sigh of resignation. Exhaling she feels the body behind her moving to the side casually leaning against the bar railing, watching.

Picking up her whiskey, she downs what is left in one gulp, pushing her teeth against the glass to hold what ice remains back. She then turns her body fully to the dart board and takes the third dart and blindly throws it, not even caring where it lands anymore. But she knows it goes straight into the center because since her freshman year she hasn’t been able to get away from that smile. She doesn’t even have to look up now to know that smile is mocking her now. 

Hearing exclamations of surprise she immediately rolls her eyes while chuckling. Boys, they could be so damn clueless sometimes. Before they can ask for a rematch, or offer to buy her another drink, she picks up the Lone Star in one hand, grabs her leather jacket off from the stool with the other and walks towards the bar, steadfast ignoring the lithe figure leaning against the rail with wary eyes.  

At the bar, her eyes are orbs of hot fire. Alyssa notices immediately, holding her hands up in surrender, before stating “it wasn’t me”. Tilting her head towards the booth near the front of the bar, “I’m not the only one here tonight”. She sighs as she glances towards the front and sure enough there they are. She just shakes her head in frustration, at herself for not noticing and at Alyssa for not telling her.  “I get it,” she says, “can I just get my backpack, I have to finish my paper”. 

Starting at her for a couple of seconds, Alyssa completely ignores the twenty or so college students frantically trying to get their five-dollar picture of beer with six kamikaze shots. She notices Alyssa’s gaze moving behind her, prompting her to forcefully say “Alyssa. BAG. NOW. I can’t deal with this right now”.  Alyssa blinks twice and reaches down, hands her the bag over the register and holding onto it, gently but firmly says “I’ll see you back at the house”. It should be a question but it’s not. She quickly shakes her head in the affirmative, grabbing the bag, forcefully spinning around as quickly as she can, because she feels the other presence coming up behind her.  

Pushing her way through the bar, fleeing towards the front door, desperate to get away all the while knowing that she is being followed. Mentally berating herself, because there is no one else to blame. Pandora’s box has been opened and the consequences must be dealt with, just…just not tonight.  Rushing to freedom, she resolutely ignores the occupants of the booth even as she feels their eyes on her. She nods quickly at Pep, stepping outside into the fresh night air, the chilliness a welcome changed from the heat of the bar. She’s already breathing a little easier. Swing her backpack on her back she starts to head towards campus.

“Christen, wait” comes the voice again, sounding slightly exasperated and tired. She closes her eyes at the sound, it’s been three days since she’s heard the voice say her name. She won’t turn around, she knows she won’t be able to hide her emotions if she does. So she just continues walking towards campus, hoping to find her freedom. Instead, she can hear the familiar footsteps following her. Silently cursing, she knows won’t make a clean getaway, she’s going to have to say something. Stopping she looks up at the sky, almost as if expecting a divine intervention. She can feel the presence again, standing slightly behind her.

Finally, giving in she says “can we just not."  There’s no verbal response but she hears a snort and feet shuffling impatiently. She knows her comment isn’t a satisfactory answer, so she continues after a pause “at least not tonight, I really do have work to do”. She hears the deep sigh over the loud and boisterous voices of the college students making their way from one bar to the next. Imagining the look of frustration directed toward her, it’s almost enough to make her give in, almost enough to make her turn around, but she knows she can’t. She just isn’t ready. So she decides to take the sigh as a sign of resignation, an agreement that this won’t be happening tonight.

She starts to walk on again when “Goodnight” reaches her ears and she can hear the reluctance and sadness. Turning slightly, but not enough to actually face her, she reverently whispers “Night, Tobin” internally cringing at her own smitten tone.

As she walks on, she thinks back to her freshman year, when everything was simple before she had a secret when she only had a girl crush.

 

I gotta girl crush, hate to admit it but

I got heart rush, it ain’t slowin’ down

Chapter Text

Summertime, time, time
Child, the living’s easy

Your daddy’s rich
And you mama is so good-looking, baby

One of these mornings
You’re gonna rise, rise up singing

But until that morning
Honey, n-n-nothing’s going to harm you now


It’s the beginning of the fall semester and the jovial atmosphere around campus has yet to give away to more studious airs. Parties are abound as new and old students revel in these moments of freedom. It’s Thursday night and Christen along with her three roommates are pre-gaming at their townhouse. It’s been their ritual since the summer. Syd is the designated DJ, Julie supplies the alcohol, Christen has somehow become the designated bartender and Alex’s job is still to be determined.

Typical of most freshmen Christen and her friends basically begin their weekends Thursday night deciding Friday classes are optional. Although once all of her roommates arrived on campus Christen will admit that they’ve been going out every night. Secretly Christen is grateful that her roommates season is starting soon, she doesn’t know how much longer she can keep up with this schedule, between working and partying she’s barely got any studying done and she really needs to keep her grades up.

Normally Christen tries not to drink Monday through Thursday because she’s the genius who thought it was a good idea to sign up for an eight a.m. Spanish class. Mentally berating herself, Christen wishes she’d listened when everyone told her not to do it, Kelley had been right when she said it was a rookie mistake, one Christen will never make again. Christen only had to suffer through one extremely painful hour of Spanish hungover for Christen to promise herself that she would never do it again. But like most promises, it was one that was made to be broken. Even so, Christen attempts to be sober Monday through Thursday.

Tonight is a special night and Christen is willing to break her sacred no drinking rule. Her roommates are hosting a pre-game in celebration of their season starting soon. From what her roommates have been saying, copious amounts of alcohol will be consumed tonight. Christen won’t lie, she looking forward to cutting loose with her girls one last time before she truly gets serious about her classes and school work.

Now that she thinks about it Christen isn’t exactly sure how she got her housing assignment.  She is currently rooming with three freshmen on the women’s soccer team, only she doesn’t play. Their townhouse has fondly been dubbed the “Little house” by most of the older players. However, the irony isn’t lost on her, while she doesn’t play soccer now, she did up until her senior in high school when an injury sidelined her.

Christen is purely at school for academics, in fact, she’s part of an honors program. Originally she was honored until she realized that she would be required to spend her last summer of freedom on a college campus taking classes. Part of her reluctance was that she knew she wouldn’t know anyone on campus and didn’t want to spend the summer alone. While not shy Christen doesn’t have the most outgoing personality.  She’s always relied on sports and clubs to make friends where she’s instantly bonded by a common interest. She was relieved to discover that Julie, Syd, and Alex would also be spending the summer on campus for their pre-season conditioning. Luckily for her, she immediately connected with the girls and they’ve been thick as thieves since happily causing havoc.

“CHRISTEN!!!, hurry up!” Alex yells from downstairs.

 

Music blares from Alex and Sydney’s room. Leaning towards the mirror Christen concentrates on perfectly applying her mascara choosing to ignore Alex. Christen knows she’s running behind Alex’s carefully planned schedule. She got out of work late and insisted on taking a shower the minute she got home much to Alex’s dismay. It’s not Christen’s fault, tonight she had to supervise the basketball courts and whenever she does Christen swears she leaves the gym smelling like dirty sweaty boys.

 

“Oooww owwww” Syd cat calls as Christen steps out the bathroom turning the lights off.  Shaking her head Christen walks to her room to retrieve her wristlet and “come fuck me heels” as Syd has labeled them. Noise carries from downstairs and Christen realize that people have started to arrive. No wonder Alex was yelling, she thinks.  

 

Putting on her espadrilles Julie glances up at Christen. “You do look extra hot, trying to impress someone?” she asks suggestively with raised eyebrows. Christen can feel the heat in her cheeks as an embarrassed smile spreads across her face.

 

“Do I normally, look bad or something?” she worries out loud.  As often as they go out, none of her roommates have ever really commented on her choice of clothing before. Worriedly she looks down, the fact is, she has put extra thought and effort into her outfit tonight but she didn’t think it was that obvious. The last thing she wants is for her roommates to question why or for whom. 

 

Shaking her head, Julie clarifies, “you always look good Press, but there is something extra tonight…” trailing off as she stands upright studying Christen’s outfit. Christen can’t help but smile at Julie’s insistence on calling everyone by their last name, she chucks it up to the fact that ninety percent of Julie’s life revolves around sports. She’s a defender on the soccer team, her boyfriend is a sophomore on the football team and a member of Sig Nu the frat hosting the party they’re going to.

 

Julie instructions Christen to turn in a circle as she twirls her finger in a 360-degree motion. Glancing down at herself, Christen doesn’t know why they’re making such a big deal, she’s not that dressed up. Even though it’s the first week of September the eighty-degree weather makes her choice of black dress shorts, a black lace trim cami, more than acceptable. Christen begrudgingly admits that she might have added a little eyeshadow to bring out the green in her eyes. She’s always been told that her eyes are one of her best features. Before she can oblige Julie, Christen is saved by the boisterous laughter and shouts from downstairs that causes both Julie and Christen to look towards the door.

 

Christen apprehensively asks “Who all is coming?”

 

Julie gives her an apologetic look and explains “I believe the whole team is coming over tonight, probably some of the boys’ team and a select few. You know this is the kick off celebration and I guess it’s kind of a big deal. After all, this is our last night of drinking for a while”. Julie says the last part clearly annoyed.

Christen, shaking her head pretending to be exasperated, “I guess this is one of the perks of living with three soccer players, huh?”

 

Chuckling Julie throws an arm around Christen’s neck bringing her in for a small hug, “however did you get so lucky”?  

 

They both laugh at this but no matter what the future may hold Christen does think she’s lucky.

 

“CHRISTEN! Come, on. The masses are thirsty and apparently my skills aren’t good enough” Alyssa yells up the stairs.

Leaning over the rail Christen yells back “You’re a bartender, you know that, right?”

 

Alyssa pointedly looks towards Alex “Tell, your bestie that she won’t let me touch anything.”

 

Laughing Syd turns off the light to her room, “come on biotches, let’s go down. I’m pretty sure Alex is four five seconds from wildin’ on our asses” Syd states as she heads down the stairs. Following her Christen walks into the kitchen to see handles of vodka and rum on the counter. Groaning internally Christen acknowledges that she’s starting to hate vodka, “Vlady” in particular. Although to be fair to vodka, she’s not entirely sure that the clear liquid in the handles currently sitting on the counter qualifies as vodka. She’s pretty sure it’s just a version of rubbing alcohol.

 

“Finally!” Alex exclaims when she sees Christen. Ignoring her with a shake of her head Christen moves to greet Alyssa, the tall, dirty blonde goalkeeper with an ever peaceful demeanor, who pulls her in for a hug. Although a year older, Alyssa and Christen have been best friends since middle school. They instantly became friends the moment they met on the pitch and discovered that they were both self-proclaimed nerds with introvert tendencies. Then it seemed like fate when they learned that they only lived six houses apart. Throughout high school they ended up taking many of the same classes before Alyssa left Christen for the glamourous life of a college student. Alyssa has always been the motherly one, the responsible one, the voice of reason in their friendship, someone Christen has come to depend on.

Glancing back at the counter Christen slightly pouts “no whiskey?”

 

“Whiskey? what are we fifty-year-old men” a voice behind her says. 

Sticking her tongue out Christen says “my grandmother always said, ‘real women drink whiskey’, and I couldn’t agree more.” Tobin chuckles as she reaches for a couple of PBRs in the fridge.

“Seriously, guys what’s tonight cheaper and cheaper alcohol” Christen complains.

 

Gently bumping Christen’s shoulder Tobin mocks “looks like it, Ms. Connoisseur” laughing as she leaves the kitchen.

 

Christen has no come back, she frustratingly tends to get tongued tied around the older girl. All she can do is continue to gaze after Tobin even as she disappears around the corner. Eventually, she manages to look away only to turn and see Alex and Alyssa share a look. She silently curses herself.  The last thing she needs is the two of them paying attention to her. She already knows for a fact that Alyssa is way too observant, years of friendship has proven that. Christen is never been able to keep a secret from her. 

 

“What mixers do we have at least?” Christen ask hoping to deflect the attention away from her for a bit. “I figured we could make frozen drinks tonight. There is pineapple juice, lemonade mix, ginger beer and fruit” Alex responds.

Nodding her head in approval Christen rearranges the bottles. “We can use the pineapple juice and ginger beer with the rum. It makes sense to make frozen lemonades with the vodka. We can use the powdered mix and add some real lemons, oranges, and sugar”. Christen finishes self-satisfied glancing towards Alyssa who nods in approval.

 

“I knew you would make it just right,” Alex says sweetly, laying her head on Christen’s shoulder batting her eyes. Christen just grateful it wasn’t Orange or Cranberry juice again. She’s starting to have a hard time drinking juice at breakfast now, the lingering taste of cheap vodka is always present to the point she would swear there is vodka in the juice, only she knows it’s impossible.  

 

“Is there ice?”

Alyssa moves towards the freezer “yeah, we got a couple of bags on our way over.”

 

“Alright, where is the blender?” Christen questions

 

Alex opens the bottom cabinet and brings out the pink KitchenAid blender her mother gave her when she first moved in. Christen can’t help but think this isn’t exactly what Mrs. Morgan had intended when she gave her daughter the kitchen appliance.

 

“Ali is on her way over, Chris”, Alyssa states looking down at her phone.

 

“YES! I’ve only seen her once since I’ve been here” Christen exclaims. “Who is Ali?” Alex questions hovering over Christen’s shoulder clearly excited to see Christen place the ingredients in the blender.

 

“A girl from our high school” Alyssa explains, “She played soccer with Christen and me.”

 

“Wait Chris, you played soccer?” Kelley asks walking into the kitchen also coming to check on the progress of the drinks, immediately jumping on the counter across from Christen.

Christen smiles at the freckled faced girl, Kelley is a childish bubble of joy and just generally easy to get along with and she happens to be one of Christen’s favorite sophomores, well aside from Alyssa and…. and she’s not going there tonight Christen thinks as she mentally shakes her head.

 

Turning back to the project at hand Christen takes three lemons and squeezes them into the blender with two oranges and the lemonade powered mix. Next, Christen pours in the “vodka” and she’s being generous with that word before she adds ice. “Yeah, until my senior year.”

“What made you stop?” Tobin asks as she comes into the kitchen, leaning against Kelley who supports an arm on Tobin’s shoulder. Christen notices a pretty blonde take a spot next to Kelley, slightly behind Tobin on the counter. Christen vaguely recognizes her as one of Kelley’s roommates but doesn’t think they’ve been introduced before.  Not really waiting to explain why she doesn’t play soccer anymore Christen turns the blender on, effectively drowning out any attempts of a conversation.   

Christen isn’t necessarily claustrophobic but the small kitchen is quickly reaching its maximum capacity, as a few others come in waiting for drinks. Actually, as she looks up Christen notices that the living room of their townhouse is also quickly reaching maximum capacity. There must be at least twenty people here already. Their townhouse is university issued so it’s a decent size but it still has its limits. Christen sees Julie and Zack talking to Lauren and her boyfriend and she thinks recognizes a couple of the boy soccer players. “Why didn’t we do this at the Big house?” Christen muses out loud as she pours the first round of drinks out.

The Big House is a multi-family house located off campus, closer to the center of town. It’s a Victorian style home with a balcony, a back porch that leads to a backyard where a beer pong table has become a permanent fixture. Most importantly it happens to be home to the majority of the women’s soccer team, only two non-soccer players live there at least that’s what Christen thinks. She’s been there a couple of times but she’s only visited Alyssa’s room on one side and Kelley’s on the other.

“Because, the fresh-meat have to host the season kickoff party and besides this is closer to frat row” Kelley responds happily taking her drink from Christen.

As she hears knocking at the door Christen anxiety over the townhouse capacity increases. She really doesn’t think they are going to have enough space. The kitchen is already crowded.

On her way to answer the door Alex points at Christen and demands, “more drinks!!!”

“Yes, master,” Christen responds as starts the process over again. This time Alyssa helps to cut the lemons and oranges. They hear Ali at the same time Christen quickly looks at Alyssa who is smiling. Christen turns towards the kitchen entrance just in time to see a beautiful brunette with warm eyes and a commercial worthy smile enter the kitchen.

 

At the same time, they both yell “BENCH BUDDY”.

Even though Ali is wearing four inch heels Christen jumps on the girl never doubting her ability to keep them both upright.  Hugging her tightly they stay that way for a minute.  Christen didn’t realize how much she missed this girl, until this moment. Slowly lowering her legs, Christen stands back and just stares at Ali, oh how she missed that smile. Ali then looks behind her, “hey Lys, imagine bumping into you” she smirks. Tugging her into the kitchen Christen is completely oblivious to the stares they’re getting. Alyssa effectively takes over drink making duty.

 

“Looking good kiddo, ” Ali tells her as she gives her a one-over.

“Not as hot as yo, though” Christen responds. 

“Soooo, Bench Buddies”, Kelley questions between gulps of her drink.

“Hey Kel! Yep, this is my bench buddy” Ali says grinning at Christen again.

“Not going to explain that, huh?” Kelley responds.

“Is that why you stopped playing?” Tobin ask.  This earns her a few glares and the blonde quickly smacks the back of her head.

“What?” she mumbles “it seemed like a reasonable question.”

Alyssa finished with the second round of drinks, explains “Ali and Chris always seemed to be on the  field at the same time or on the bench at the same. They literally would either start together or get subbed in together, hence ‘bench buddies”.

“Were you any good?” Tobin inappropriately asks again.

“Seriously, Tobs?” Alex asks rolling her eyes. Christen can’t help but slightly smirk at the look on Tobin’s face, she hates that nickname and Alex has made it her personal mission to use it whenever she can.

Ali glances up towards the ceiling pretending to consider Tobin’s question. Finally, with a glint in her eyes, Ali faces Christen subtly winking at her, Ali shakes her head back and forth before saying “no, not really, we played what? Ten minutes at tops, right C?”

Pretending to think about it, Christen responds seriously, “ten minutes?” uncertainty in her voice, “are you sure? I don’t think I played that much, I mean I barely touched the ball.”

Ali shrugs taking the cup from Alyssa, “True”.

“Don’t believe them” a tall blonde calls from behind Ali. Christen recognizes her as the junior goalie whom Ali’s had surprisingly introduced to Christen as her girlfriend. Pointing towards Christen “if that is the Christen Press, I’ve heard so much about, she was their number one goal scorer and she made All-American with these two” Ashlyn now points to Ali and Alyssa.  Alyssa and Ashlyn share a quick fist bump before Alyssa hands her a cup.

“Yeah, please. Modesty girls, it doesn’t suit you well” Alyssa exclaims.

Eyes alight with mirth Christen slowly turns to look at Alyssa and questions “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” Grinning Alyssa in a slight English accent responds “I do bite my thumb, sir”, ending with a small bow. Grinning ear to ear now Christen continues, “But do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”, Christen also bows slightly.

“Why are they talking like that? Tobin questions holding her cup up “What’s in these drinks?”

“Well, it’s nice to know that not all of us needed athletic scholarships to get in” Kelley deadpans from where her spot on the counter where she and everyone else has been watching the whole exchange in amused confusion. “That would be Shakespeare, dear”.

Tobin turning to face Kelley questions “are you trying to imply that I’m only here because of soccer?”

Holding her cup up to the tip of her lip, Kelley looks at Tobin, “Who did you give your application to?”

Rolling her eyes, “Coach” Tobin responds. 

“Rest my case”, Kelley says before gulping down her drink and handing the cup back to Alyssa as everyone laughs.

"And where did you send your application, smarty pants?” Tobin mocks.

"The admissions office, T-bird, the admissions office" Kelley responds. Christen is highly amused as she’s listened to the whole exchange.

 

Moving to give Tobin a hug, Ali explains “Don’t mind them, they randomly break into Old English, ever since AP Lit".

She and Ashlyn spend the next few minutes greeting everyone.

"So you all went to high school together? Chris did you follow them here because you missed them" Alex jokes.  At this Christen lets out a bark of a laugh "No, if anything, they followed me. “Those two” pointing towards Ali and Alyssa, “were supposed to go to Penn State, this was always my first choice".

Kelley makes a horrified face, "Penn State, what happened? Better sense prevailed?"

Alyssa gives Kelley a dirty look before saying "we always wanted to go to the same schools, so we made sure we all applied to each other’s favorites and in the beginning of my senior year I was offered a full scholarship here and Penn only offered a partial" Alyssa says with a shrug “after that it was an easy decision”.

“Look, Kel, another athletic scholarship" Tobin grins.

Rolling her eyes, Kelley responds "The difference T-bird, Alyssa would have gotten in without it".

"Rude, just rude" Tobin grumbles as she picks up another beer.

"What about you Ali?" the blonde questions. Christen racks her brain trying to remember if Kelley ever introduced them but Christen draws a blank. 

Shrugging Ali says, “I was given a full academic scholarship and here I am"

Alex turning to Christen says "and you're also on a full academic scholarship, right?" Christen just nods and turning towards the counter pretends to busy herself with cleaning up this is a topic of conversation she's never been comfortable with.

The great thing about Alex is that she’s always seems attuned to when Christen is uncomfortable, especially in social settings and she is the queen of changing subjects. Now is no different, picking up on Christen's discomfort she exclaims, “Let’s do shots!” as she grabs the rum, motioning for Christen to start arranging cups on the counter.

Lining cups up for the shots with a raised eyebrow Christen questions "T-bird?".

"Pay no attention to the girl behind the freckles" Tobin interjects.

Rolling her eyes, Kelley explains, "you have to see her in practice, she's started this habit of throwing her arms wide, running in a circle every time she scores" shrugging a shoulder, "and it looks like a bird, so T-bird it is”.

“So no reference to the sports car then?”

Kelley contemplates the questions, “No, she would be more of a Firebird then a Thunderbird”.

Looking confused Tobin states “I don’t even know what that means. Was that an insult or a compliment”

Kelly just winks at Christen, who laughs.

By the time Christen turns around Alex has poured a ridiculous amount of shots. Christen helps Alex slowly hand them out to people in and around the kitchen 

Kelley stands up on the counter and yells “Alright, everyone gather around, lets' toast”. Once she has everyone’s undivided attention she proceeds to sing out, “May your neighbors respect you, troubles neglect you, angels protect you, and heaven accept you”.

 

Kelley’s face falls slightly as silence ensues. No one moves to take their shots instead, everyone stares at Kelley incredulously for a few seconds. Ashlyn grumbles “That’s a song, Kel”

“What, it still sounds good” 

“Just take the damn shots,” Syd yells, as she and Alex throw back their shots, lightly shaking their heads back and forth, cringing as the alcohol burns its way down.

 

Watching Alex pour a couple more shots, Ali warns “Careful Alex, don’t try to out drink Christen, our little angel here” pointing towards Christen “has a wooden leg, it’s kinda amazing”.

Alyssa lets out a bark of laughter, “She once drank half the boys’ team under the table and then showed up the next day bright eyed and bushy tailed like nothing had happened. Meantime, some of the boys were hungover, throwing up in garbage cans around the school.” Christen can feel the heat as it starts to rise up her neck as she remembers the story. It’s not that she’s a lush, Christen was blessed with a high tolerance and besides it’s not her fault the boys couldn’t keep up.

“YES, a drinking buddy” Kelley holds her cup up in a cheers salute.  

Holding her shot up facing Ali and Alyssa, Alex states confidently “Don’t worry, I can hold my own.”

“Yeah, that’s what you said last week before you ended up passed out on our couch,” Tobin says as she gives her a dubious look.

Alex glares at Tobin briefly before saying, “Now for a real toast ‘here’s to great friends, a great season, and an amazing first year!”  Alex and Christen click their glasses together downing their second shot. Once finished Alex turns towards Tobin accusingly “Last week was your fault, you didn’t play fair.”

“I didn’t play fair? How did I not play fair? We were drinking, I didn’t realize it was a competition”

“Well, duh Tobs, we compete at everything”. Alex says smugly, “and you cheated because you switched to beer and I didn’t”. Tobin rolls her eyes but lets it go, everyone already knows there is no such thing as winning an argument with Alex.

As Christen listens to the banter around her she can’t help but notice how attractive her friends are. She’s always thought Ali was beautiful, her dark hair, sparkling eyes, and her wondrous smile. Alex is pretty but in an obvious way. She has shockingly blue eyes that sparkle, a gentle smile and a raspy voice that almost doesn’t match her delicate features. Kelley is beautiful in that girl next door way. She barely wears makeup, not that she needs it and her hazel eyes are piercing but inviting. Syd has these soulful brown eyes, mocha colored skin that she has started to decorate with various tattoos and while not a fan of tattoos they just seem to suit her. Then there is Tobin, with her long honey brown hair, chocolate brown eyes but it’s her smile that always makes Christen falter. While Christen has tried not to think too much about the girl, if she’s honest she’s been intrigued by her since they first met. There is just something about Tobin that Christen admits she finds equal parts beautiful and sexy. It has something to do with the easy she carries herself; an air of self-assuredness but a down-to-earth equality at the same time. She just as that je ne said quoi about her that draws Christen in.

As if hearing her private thoughts Tobin slightly turns her head looking directly at Christen.  Tobin uplifts the corner of her mouth slightly as she winks. All Christen can manage in response is a small smile. She forces herself to turn around before she embarrasses herself with blatantly staring at the girl for longer than is socially acceptable. She turns to steady herself but ends up looking directly into Alyssa’s eyes, who has a knowingly smug look on her face. Alyssa called her out on her interest, okay fine, her infatuation with Tobin, Christen’s first week on campus right after Alyssa had introduced Tobin as her roommate. Needing air and an escape from Alyssa’s scrutiny Christen leaves the kitchen.

Alex joked that she had bought approximately 200 solo cups but by the look of the living room, she had and they are currently scattered all around. Internally groaning Christen knows cleaning up tomorrow is going to be an absolute nightmare. She’s already dreading it. Hoping to get a head start Christen slowly starts to pick up any empty cups she can find when a voice sounds from behind her making her jump a little.

“Hey… Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you but you might as well leave them and enjoy the night. It’s still going to be a mess in the morning. Speaking from personal experience.” 

Clutching the cups in her hand for dear life, Christen angles her body towards Tobin as the brunette moves into Christen’s line of vision. Christen can’t find her voice, she’s not sure why Tobin is here in the living room with her, much less speaking to her. Tobin takes a seat on the arm of the couch, smilingly patiently as she waits for a response. Christen is held captive by the most startling brown eyes she’s ever seen. The longer she stares the wider Tobin’s grin gets. Finally, getting her brain to function she smiles back at Tobin.  

“I can’t help it, I didn’t even know it was possible to have this many cups in one room. 

Chuckling, Tobin surveys the room allowing Christen to fully study her. Tobin looks different than normal, softer in a way but still gorgeous as ever. She’s got on skinny jeans, black healed booties, a black off the shoulder top and small pearl earnings. The ends of Tobin’s hair have been skillfully twisted into loose curls and if Christen isn’t mistaken she has make up on. Drawing her eye brows in thought, Christen doesn’t think she’s has ever seen Tobin wear makeup. Given she hasn’t known her that long but still she looks like someone dressed her up for the evening. “Who dressed you up? Christen finds herself saying in response to the questioning look Tobin was giving her after realizing she was being inspected.

Raising her eyebrows a little, the left corner of Tobin’s mouth twitches in mirth. “What makes you think someone dressed me up? Do I look bad?” She questions looking down at herself.

“No, of course not. I didn’t mean it like that” Christen rushes to say and she can feel the heat begin to flush her cheeks. The last thing she meant to do was insult Tobin. “No, it’s just, it’s not an outfit I would have thought you’d pick out” Christen tries to explain unsuccessfully as Tobin eye brows raise even more.

“And what type of outfit would I pick out?

“Never mind, I’m sorry, you look good.” Christen stutters out. 

Laughing, “just full of compliments, huh Press?”

Christen narrows her eyes at the use of her last name, only making Tobin giggle more.

“Not, you too? Julie has to be stopped”

 Slightly shaking her head “It’s catchy and you’re right. Allie dressed me tonight she thought I need to change my style or something like that” she finishes with a shrug.

Christen can’t help but think that Tobin is blessed with the gift of effortless style. Every time she sees her see looks perfect, even dressed down, Tobin managed to look gorgeous. Not even thinking about what the words coming out of her mouth Christen finds herself saying, “I think your style is perfect.”

Tobin stares at her, looking deep into her eyes as if she’s searching for something. What? Christen’s not sure but the scrutiny is making Christen uncomfortable and she looks down and away from Tobin.

“You should tell Allie that” Tobin finally responds

“Allie?”

“Yeah, my roommate,” Tobin offers.

Christen shakes her head slightly in confusion, “She was in the kitchen with us”

“Oh, the beautiful blonde” Christen exclaims thinking about the girl she recognized as Kelley’s roommate. She should have realized; she would also be Tobin’s roommate as Tobin lives on the same side as Alyssa in the Big house. Then it hits Christen that she said the beautiful part out loud. Christen's eyes go wide in horror as Tobin’s go wide in surprise.

“I’m just going to stop talking now,” Christen looks down at the ten or so cups she’s collected. Christen is embarrassed, she thinks the whole conversation has been nothing but a debacle and she needs a shot to help her forget.

Smiling brightly Tobin chuckles, “No, you’re right. She’s beautiful.”

There is a neutrality in Tobin’s tone that catches Christen’s attention, likes she’s simply stating an obvious fact. They both turn as they hear someone call Tobin from across the room. Tobin stands regarding Christen for a minute and Christen can’t tell if she’s going to say something or if she’s waiting for Christen to say something but eventual Tobin smiles and walks away. It takes all of Christen’s willpower to not watch her go. Christen has no idea what that was about. Why would Tobin seek her out? Mentally berating herself for turning into a babbling idiot she knows this is going to be a painfully long year if she can’t act as like a rational human being around Tobin.

Christen needs a drink, she’s done over analyzing the weird interaction. Knowing Tobin is right about the mess. Christen places the cups on the coffee table, walking towards the kitchen she snags Syd by the arm motioning for Alex to join them.

After another round of shots and the realization that they’ve consumed all the alcohol, Syd yells “Let’s roll out bitches.”  Sydney goes upstairs and turns the music off. Christen and Julie follow her making sure they have everything they need.  Closing their door and locking it, Julie throws her arm around Christen’s neck, “ready for tonight, Press? Word on the grapevine is that some of the boys at Sig Nu are dying to meet you,” Julie says suggestively. Christen manages to keep from cringing while she thinks Zack is a great guy and loves how enamored he is with Julie, she doesn’t think frat boys are for her.

It's not until they’re outside in the fresh air that Christen realizes just how much she's had to drink, she wouldn't say she's drunk but she's definitely in that nice tipsy stage. Smiling, she thinks this is the best, everything is funnier, happier, everything just seems fun and easy. She skips in the direction of where Alyssa and some of the other girls are standing.

“Wait, did you just skip” Tobin laughs as she walks over to the group. 

“Oh boy, I’m not carrying you Press,” Christen hears Alyssa say. Christen narrows her eyes at Alyssa, she also starting to pick up on Julie’s habit of calling her by her last name. Tobin gives Alyssa a quizzical look.

“She only skips when she’s nice and tipsy, one or two more drinks and she’ll be wasted.” Alyssa explains “she once skipped half way home before she tripped and then I had to carry her on my back the rest of the way, because she swore her knee hurt too much.”

Christen is too tipsy to be embarrassed as she listens to Alyssa tell the story, besides it’s one of her favorite memories.

Tobin with mischief in her eyes ask “Oh really, what’s she like when she’s completely drunk?”

“Not gonna happen, T-bird” Christen rushes to say while glaring at Alyssa.

Smirking, Alyssa turns and looks Tobin directly in the eye, “She’s a happy drunk, she gets as competitive as Alex and she rarely backs down from a dare.”

Now Christen is blushing furiously because she knows exactly what Alyssa is referring to, that one night. Screaming internally Christen knows she will never let that night down.

“This one time...” Christen rushes forward putting her hand over Alyssa’s mouth. Christen glares at Alyssa, wondering if Alyssa knows how close to death she is if she tells any embarrassing stories.

Alyssa moves her head away from Christen’s hand, “Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience it firsthand.”

“I can’t wait” Tobin responds slowly clearly amused.

Completely embarrassed Christen is grateful when Alex approaches saying “ignore them Chris” interlocking her arm with Christen’s “skipping is fun, let’s go” and with that Christen allows Alex to drag her away, skipping towards frat row. Christen’s too embarrassed to look back, so she misses the way Tobin’s lips part as her eyes scan over Christen’s body, appreciatively pausing on Christen’s smooth legs and her firm ass before she licks her bottom lip.     

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Come as you are, as you were
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend
As an old enemy

Take your time, hurry up
Choice is yours, don’t be late
Take a rest as a friend
As an old memoria


Christen is in the library when she sees her phone light up. Christen took her phone off vibrate. She imagines that the LED notification is just as annoying to those studying around her but Christen promised Alex she would meet her in the library.   

Glancing down at her phone, Christen frowns when she’s realizes Alex’s sent a group text message. Christen doesn’t recognize the other number.

Alex the Queen: C, where in the library are you?

In the fishbowl

Unknown number: Chris, do you have your stat notes?

Pausing Christen looks at her phone in confusion. Then it hits her, the only person she and Alex both know that is also in her statistic class would be Tobin. Only, that can’t be right, this can’t be Tobin. Christen tries to think of who else it could be but draws a blank. If Alex started the group chat it can only be Tobin. 

Yeah 

Unknown Number: Great, can I copy ur notes and I need the hw assignment.

Sure

Alex’s next text confirms Christen’s suspicion.

Alex the Queen: Tobs, you know where the fish bowl is right?

Unknown number: Obviously

Alex the Queen: Just making sure

T-bird: Chris, I can be there in 30, is that okay?

Yea, that works. Alex are you still coming?

Alex the Queen: No, I have to work on my group project.

Panicking Christen glares at her phone. Tobin is coming? Alone? She’s meeting Tobin alone? Placing her forehead down on the cool surface of the table Christen groans. She’s going to have to act like a functioning human being, something she struggles with when around Tobin.

Outside of their class, Christen’s interactions with the older girl are limited. They only hang out in group settings. Sadly, Christen admits they’re merely acquaintances. Christen had hoped that things would change between them since they’re both taking statistic together. 

Surprisingly Tobin is a lot more studious than anyone gives her credit for. Christen’s grateful as Tobin has been tremendous in keeping her on track. Christen realizes Tobin’s method is sly and discreet, such as asking Christen for help on homework assignments that Christen suspects Tobin understands just fine. It effectively forces Christen to actually complete her assignments on time. It’s not that Christen isn’t studious but between her job at the gym and her working as a student coordinator for her professor Christen’s time is limited.

Although, Tobin is helpful Christen is ashamed to admit that despite sitting next to each other three times a week, they barely talk.

For reasons Christen has never wanted to examine for too long, she’s never been fully comfortable around Tobin. It’s not just the fact that she finds Tobin beautiful because she does, it’s the small issue of Christen having a crush on Tobin. It’s not like Christen has never had a girl crush before, she has. Only they don’t usually last this long. Of course, with Tobin it’s different, Christen has this overwhelming feeling of wanting to be around Tobin all the time. This powerful desire to get to know Tobin better, intimately.  Unfortunately, Christen’s desire renders her completely useless around the older girl. Christen never knows what to say or how to act. Honestly, Christen knows they wouldn’t even talk if it wasn’t’ for Tobin’s consistent efforts. If left to Christen, she would just sit there silently, diligently taking notes.

In her class with Kelley and Syd, it's all jokes and laughter to the point of embarrassment.  One class, Syd had made Kelley laugh so hard recounting her most recent encounter with her crush, Dom, that they actually interrupted the professor. Christen sat next to Kelley mortified, slowly sliding down her in her seat wishing she was invisible as they were given a disapproving look before the professor said “we will continue now”. Afraid of another embarrassing episode, Christen as taken to sitting in front the girls.

Leaning back in her chair, Christen closes her eyes, mentally exhausted, trying to calm and compose herself. She’d hoped to be home by now. Christen agreed to wait for Tobin, knowing the girl missed the last two classes because of away games. When the team goes away, it’s like the quiet before the storm, it is peaceful and calming, Christen uses the time to catch up with her other friends, sleep and do necessary studying. Christen realizes she’s very nervous.  Looking down, she frowns at her outfit, she has on black leggings, her gray shirt with an owl on it that says “Who dat?” and a black zip up hoodie. If she had known, she was going to see Tobin today she would’ve put in more effort. Laughing at herself, it’s not like Tobin would notice her either way. She looks at her watch and frowns, it's been over thirty minutes.  She wonder’s if Tobin has forgotten that she was supposed to come to the library, she’s probably got distracted by better prospects, she thinks aggrievedly. Crossing her arms on the table she gently lowers her head down only stirring when her phone lights up again.

 

T-bird: I’ll be there in 5, sorry I’m running late

Kay, I’m in the back by the stack  

Taking her stat notes out of her bag she lays them on the table. Hearing a soft “hey” she looks up to see Tobin. She’s wearing her ripped jeans, a simple white T-shirt, her snapback and Christen thinks this might be her favorite look.

“You found me”

“Of course” Tobin’s smiles and Christen is enthralled. She knows she’ll never get tired of seeing her smile.

“Sorry to keep you”

“No worries” Christen yawns

“Tired? if you don’t want to stay I can always bring the notes to you later”

Christen is tired and would love to go home, but she’s determined to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It’s okay, I should really review my bio notes, the professor has been giving pop quiz lately” She explains.   

Shaking her head in understanding, Tobin takes a seat across from Christen pulling out her laptop. Tobin makes fun of Christen for being a traditionalist and actually handwriting her notes.

Approximately fifteen minutes later Christen knows she’s not being productive and closes her notes, she keeps stealing glances at Tobin as she diligently copies Christen’s notes. Tobin’s phone buzzes from its spot on the desk. Tobin ignores it, focusing on her current task. Christen can’t help up glance down frowning at what she sees.

“Someone named ‘Madison from bar’ wants to know what you’re up too”. Christen says slightly embarrassed. She’s sure Tobin hadn’t planned on her reading the message. Tobin just bobs her head in acknowledgment still typing away.  Somehow knowing that other girls text Tobin brings a burning sensation in her stomach.

“Want me to tell her you’re in the fishbowl pretending to be studious? Or do you want to take a few minutes to talk to her?” Christen presses.

“I find that if I’m busy, it’s best to just not answer” Tobin responds still looking down at the notes as if there is nothing else she would rather be doing right this moment.

Christen tilts her head in thought as she leans back again. Wondering how many of these texts Tobin get a night and how many numbers she has saved. “So you name the after what? Where you met them?”

Tobin pauses for the first time and glances up having the good grace to look a little embarrassed. Christen feels a little bad, she sure that Tobin had never planned on her seeing her text messages.

“Never mind, I’m sorry, it’s none of my business”.  

Straightening up, Tobin explains “It was something I started doing when I was in high school. I exchanged numbers with more girls than I should have…” she trails off, slightly blushing.

Thinking back on it, Christen admits Tobin will talk to anyone who approaches her, boys and girls alike.  She always finds a quick and polite way to dismiss the boys, encouraging them to talk to her nearest available friend. However, with girls, she’s always more engaging, always paying attention as if trying to make each girl feel special.  

“Because you never want to hurt anyone’s feeling?” Christen guesses looking at Tobin. She receives a shrug as a response “You should be more up front if you’re not interested, might save you some contacts.”

Tobin looks up “I just don’t like upsetting anyone. But then the girls who asked for my number would inevitably call and I’d have no clue who they were. Hence labeling the numbers in advance”

“I see” Christen passes her a look “What about what you feel? Those feelings matter also, you know”

Tobin gives Christen one of her long stares, the one where Christen knows she searching for something, only Christen never knows what. Sincerity? Understanding? Judgment? Judgment is the last thing she has to offer Tobin.

“Yeah, well, I’m a work in progress, what can I say?” Tobin says.

“I’m terrified of what the readout says when I call you”.

Shaking her head, Tobin makes the “lips are sealed” motion, returning to dutifully copying the notes.

“You know I could just call you now”

“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?” Tobin grins.

That grin will be the cause of Christen’s downfall, she’s positive of this. Christen admits it’s becoming embarrassing, the way she’s staring. It is so unlike her to have such an instant attraction to someone. Christen’s thoughts are increasingly becoming problematic so she decides to take a break. Standing She says, “I’ll be right back” Tobin nods her head and lows down.

Christen has been gone for a little while now and Tobin’s finished copying the notes. She would text Christen to let her know but noticed her phone on the table next to the watch she wears all the time. Picking it up to admire it she catches sight of the back of her watch, noticing an engraving. Taking a closer look, she’s surprised to see what the engraving is.

“For He hath said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’, Hebrews 13:5 it was one of my grandmother’s favorite scriptures.” The voice startles Tobin, jumping she colors in embarrassment.

“I know” Tobin responds before elaborating “I know the scripture. I didn’t realize you went to church”

“I don’t” Christen simply responds. She knows the question Tobin is really asking but doesn’t want to have that conversation tonight.

Deflecting she asks “All done?”

Gazing curiously at her, for a moment, Tobin nods as she starts packing up her things.

“Thanks for the notes, I really appreciate it” Christen starts to ask her about why none of her roommates seem to know about this side of her, but figures she’s already dug far enough into Tobin’s private life for one night.

“You heading to the house?” Tobin questions

“Which one?”

Smiling, Tobin slightly nods her head in understanding. Even though the Little house is on campus part of the dormitory system, it’s always filled with soccer players. At any given times Christen expects there to be a least two to three team members in it. She doesn’t mind the constant company but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. She honestly feels like she’s living with the whole team sometimes.

 “Big”

“I wasn’t planning on it but I’ll come see Alyssa,, ” Christen says, although secretly she’s not ready for her time with Tobin to be over. Finished packing up their belongings, Christen leads the way out of the library. They make idle chatter as they walk off campus towards the Big house. Christen ask all about their way games and is nearly in tears hearing Tobin recount some of their exploits in the hotel.

At the big house, Tobin lets them in, Christen drops her bag off by the table in the small dining area before the kitchen.  She starts walking upstairs towards Allyssa’s room, which happens to be in the attic. One the second floor she looks up and is little surprised when she see’s Alyssa’s door is closed. Shooting her a text, @ the big house, where r u?

A Dawg: backyard, bring a beer, please

KK

Walking into the backyard carrying two beers, she holds one behind her “what happened to not drinking during the season”

Laughter breaks out

“Freshman fall for it every time” Ashlyn says as she looks at Alyssa.

Alyssa has the good gracious to look a little embarrassed.

“Yeah, it’s not a strict rule, we try not to drink around games or near tournaments, but otherwise…”

Christen takes a seat on the porch banister near where Alyssa is lounging in a lawn chair that has been brought up on the porch. She immediately zones out trying to relive every minute of the last hour spent with Tobin.

 _____________________________________________________________

The designated beer runner, Christen is heading back outside when she hears annoyed voices. “What’s happening now?” she questions.

“Homecoming week. It’s like fucking spirit week all over again “Alyssa explains “The athletic department is making each team support each other in a show of solidarity or something” and there is a chorus of groans.

Christen is in the process of dragging over one of the lawn chairs near the por when she hears

“Double, double toil and trouble…by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way come”

Christen looks up in time to see Kelley and Syd giving Alyssa the middle finger as Kelley jams herself on the porch railing between Ashlyn and the post. Syd grabs another law chair and brings it to rest near the base of the steps next to Christen. There are grumbling sounds and then Alex appears dragging a begrudging Tobin after her.  They walk over to where Allie has been sitting on one of the few wooden patio chairs they have. Alex plots down on the ground leaning back on her hands, while Tobin pulls Allie up to take her seat, only then to have Allie sit on her lap.  Christen knows they are just friend, she knows that Allie has a boyfriend, but she can’t help the annoyance she feels. Tobin really couldn’t sit on the ground next to Alex?

Her thoughts are interrupted when she hears “This is my least favorite time of year.” There ‘s a chorus of agreement. Ashlyn ask “How are we breaking this up? I’m not going to every game. Not happening”

“Tobs is going to the girls’ basketball game, so that is covered” Alex supplies

Tobin swings her head in Alex’s direction and from Christen’s view outwardly annoyed.

“Who says?”

“Well, I just figured you were because…” Alex trains off, after looking at Tobin.

“I was actually going to go to the field hockey game”

“Already on to greener pastures, are you? And I do mean that both literally and figurative” Kelley smirks

An awkward silence falls over the group with Tobin glaring at Kelley and Alex looking sheepish.

Christen is trying hard to ignore the conversation but she can’t.  She can’t help but think back to last week when she’d been in the living room and watched as Tobin led some girl out the house, and she’s pretty certain the girl was on the basketball team.

Alyssa speaks up “I was actually going to go to the girls’ basketball game. Chris two of the girl are in our class, want to come?”

Christen knows exactly who Alyssa is referring to, she actually worked with Sue on an in-class assignment, so she shrugs her shoulders “Sure”.

“Chris you’re also coming to the boy’s soccer game with me and Syd”.

“Wait, what, why?”

Christen looks back and forth between Alex and Syd.  Syd just shrugs, giving Christen a face that says “take it up with her”.

“ummm…roommate duties” Alex supplies like it should be obvious.

“but I already have to go to the football game with Julie”

“That doesn’t count. We’re all going.  The boys are hosting the tailgate”

“umm, remember I’m not an athlete, this spirit week or whatever doesn’t apply to me”

“Roommate duties,” Alex says

“So now I have to go to three games?”

“Four, we also agreed to go with Lauren to the men’s basketball game” Alex replies

“We!?! Seriously!?! How did I get involved?”

“Room. Mate. Duties”

Allie laughs and Christen is forced to look over, she’s been studiously ignoring that corner of the porch.
“I understand Christen’s pain. We’re gonna end up seeing more games than any of you guys.

Christen forces herself to give a friendly smile because she knows it’s not Allie’s fault she wants to pull her off Tobin’s lap.

“The difference is I can never get them to come to any of my sorority functions,” Allie says pointedly looking at Tobin and Kelley.

“Hey, I went to the last mixer or whatever that was” Kelley responds

“Nope” Tobin says

Allie turns to look at Christen, “You want to come, we can bond over being honorary athletes”

Christen smiles, she knows Allie’s being nice and she knows she should probably be grateful but there is just something there.

“I can’t tonight. I have to open the gym tomorrow at 5 in the morning and I’m already tired. But thank you.”

“No prob, there will be more,” Allie says standing up.

“I’ll help you get dressed, though,” Alex says as she stands,

Allie and Alex pull a reluctant Tobin out the chair, they walk through the back door leading to the other side of the house.


Reaching the fridge, she goes to picks up a few more beers when she notices that Tobin is in the living room lounging in the loveseat. She thought she was still next door.  Walking towards the older girl, Christen questions “Tobs, you okay?”
“Not you too” Tobin groans

Taken back, Christen isn’t sure what she means

Tobin looks up and sees the confusion, “Tobs”
Laughing, “oh, sorry, it’s Alex’s fault, it’s all I ever hear”

“I’ll remember that Press”

“Yeah, well it looks we are both fighting a losing battle”

Tobin reaches out slowly and hooks two of her fingers under Christens, softly shaking her hand back and forth.

“Thanks for letting me copy your notes, I know you were tired,” she says with a lazy smile.

“You’re welcome. Sure you’re alright?”

Nodding in the affirmative, she briefly closes her eyes. “Yeah, I am just tired”

“You know, I think there is a bed for you somewhere in this house”

“Yeah, but it’s so far away” She slowly grins.

Christen doesn't know what to blame first, her tiredness, the alcohol, the fact that she was jealous that Allie was sitting on Tobin’s lap in the backyard, or that stupid lazy grin on Tobin's face that Christen can’t seem to resist. Or maybe it’s the fact that Tobin looks so inviting. Her eyes are hooded yet warm as she stares up at Christen. Head tilted to the side Tobin seems so calm, unaffected and Christen is instantly jealous and annoyed. Neither says anything. Christen knows she should say something, try to have a conversation like a normal person. She can’t because Christen always as this overwhelming compulsion to be closer to Tobin, to touch her, to break her calm veneer. Christen wonders if Tobin knows the effect she has on her. Although, she’s gotten better at holding coherent conversations, she knows her gaze lingers longer than it should. And Christen is hopeful that those few times she feels eyes on her they belong to Tobin, so she’s curious to see the type of reaction she can entice out of her.

So with Tobin's middle and pointer finger still hooked with hers Christen moves to stand in front of her. Tobin subtle shifts. She slouches a little more, pushing her legs out a little more, her hand that isn’t holding on to Christen’s is dangling over the arm of the loveseat. Her gaze is expectant. Christen knows no words can explain how she’s feeling, no words will make sense. Instead, she steps closer until one of Tobin’s legs is resting between her two. Still, Tobin says nothing. Tilting her head a little more to the right, she remains passive, her expression carefully blank. Her eyes are darkening, her pupils a little dilated and it emboldens Christen.

Mentally steadying herself, Christen reaches out with her free hand, placing it on the arm of the loveseat, the cloth warm under palm. Lifting her opposite leg, she slowly moves until her leg is carefully snuggled against Tobin’s hip. Finally dropping Tobin's fingers, using that hand to help steady herself as she brings her other leg up on the other side, gently lowering it. She’s astride Tobin but she holds herself up, her legs the only part of her body touching Tobin.  Christen smiles at the flash of surprise on Tobin’s face. Breathing a little heavier Christen freezes, giving Tobin plenty of time to stop her, voice an objection but she back to looking as content as when Christen first walked over. Christen gradually lowers herself until she’s fully resting on Tobin, straddling her hips. Sitting still, with a lazy smile, arms draped over the sides, Tobin waits. Gripping the arms of the loveseat for dear life, Christen anchors herself to keep herself from bolting. The magnitude of what she’s doing is slowly starting to hit her. There is nothing platonic about her actions, she might have been able to play it off if she had sat side saddle like Allie had done earlier. But no, she needed to sit astride her, challenge her but now she’s at a loss at what to do. Surprisingly enough, there’s a comfortable silence, Christen titles her head in the opposite direction of Tobin’s. She’s dying to know what the older girl is thinking, buts she’s too afraid to break the silence. She takes comfort in the fact that Tobin doesn’t seem appalled. Tobin snuggles further into the cushions her eyes are hooded but dancing with amusement.

Christen has no idea how long they’ve been sitting there when suddenly Tobin sits up, almost brushing her chest against Christen’s and looking directly at her lips. It’s a challenge and Christen knows it, uncertain if the challenge is to close the gap or resist, so Christen chooses to resist. Terrified of what might happen if she closes the space.

“Comfortable?” Tobin ask in a husky voice

And that voice, it’s almost her undoing. She’s never heard that tenor from Tobin before, but she knows she wants to again. Christen only nods back in response not trusting her voice.

“Like how this feels?” Tobin smirks.

“Do you?” Christen manages to question, genuinely interested.

Tobin only smiles, leaning back, infuriating calm again. Christen watches in fascination as she literally watches Tobin work to bring the stillness around her. The only time Christen has seen her wild with abandon is on the field. Then she’s free, running and … so beautiful.  All Christen knows is that she wants that Tobin.  She wants the one that plays with unrestrained passion.

Maybe that is why she slowly removes her hand from its position on the arm of the loveseat, reaching out and slowly removing the snapback from Tobin’s head. Placing the hat gently on the coffee table nearby not once breaking eye contact with Tobin. Cautiously she reaches out again, only this time she skims her fingertips through the ends of Tobin’s hair. Eyes darkening, Tobin’s eyebrows raise a fraction in challenge, daring Christen to do more. This time when Christen’s hand reaches out, she starts near the roots of Tobin’s hair and slowly strokes her hand through. Stilling for a second, Christen’s takes in the wonder of Tobin as she closes her eyes leaning into the touch. The subtle movement gives confidence, allowing her to continue stroking through Tobin’s hair. Not daring to do anything else. Then Tobin moves again, only this time its her hands that move. Christen can clearly feel her hands skimming up her legs, making a small track up the side of her legs, following her curves around to her ass, where she grabs slowly. Christen briefly tilts her head back before lowering her eyes back to Tobin’s, she wants to watch her she doesn’t want to miss any reactions, she wants to see her pleasure.

They can both hear the voices as the make their way in from the back of the house, Christen slowly stands up the whole time looking at Tobin, she reaches for the hat and puts it back on her head, she gives a small smile before moving to the kitchen. She doesn’t look back, she’s afraid of what she’ll see. So she missed the way Tobin deeply exhales, lightly placing a hand on her chest as her heart thrummed away and her body was on fire, turning to watch Christen walk away.

Walking into the kitchen Christen surprised to see Julie. “Where did you come from?” she asks.

Next door. I was working with Becky before stopping out back. She looks around Christen trying to see if anyone was behind her. “Where you in the living room alone”. 

“No just checking on Tobin. I think Alex and Allie might have worn her out.” Julie arches a brow, “not like that, you know what I mean”.

Julie's laughs as she asks “Tobin you alive”

Raising from the loveseat she mumbles “barely”, causing Christen to blush. “I’m gonna drag myself to my room now”.

“Goodnight Tobin”

“Night Tobs”

“Goodnight Johnson, Goodnight Press, Goodnight Kitchen, Goodnight Moon,” Tobin says disappearing down the steps to the basement.

 

“Is Alex still here? I can give her a ride I have Zack’s car.”

“Last I checked. I'll text her.” Christen says, walking towards her phone.

“Ugh, I have such a craving for something sweet” Julie moans.

Absent-mindedly Christen responds while looking at her phone. “If we had anything at the house I would make you some cookies, but we don’t”

Julie’s eyes light up with delight, “We could always make a midnight run to Walmart, they have ingredients to make cookies”

Shaking her head back and forth, no, no, no “I’m so tired and I have to be up early”

Christen normally enjoys their midnight runs to Walmart, but it’s a production and easily takes an hour. Syd and Alex spend hours, well not literally, but still hours perusing the beauty section. Christen and Julie are a little more focused but usually end up buying more food than is necessary. Which is how she ended up making cornflake-chocolate chip-marshmallow cookies one night.

Pressing her hands together in prayer sign, Julie gives Christen puppy dog eyes “Please, pretty pretty please, you don’t have class tomorrow right”

Head thrown back, “no, I don’t have class tomorrow, but”

Julie interrupts her, hands on her shoulders jumping up and down, “please, please…”

“What are you begging her for” Syd questions coming in from the back

Closing her eyes, Christen knows she done for, she’ll be baking cookies tonight.

Excitedly turning towards, Syd, “trying to get her to bake cookies” Julie responds

Christen watches as Syd’s eyes widen in anticipation “oh yes, that”

“Fine! but it will be simple, so either sugar or chocolate chip” Christen sighs, giving in “someone go find Alex, she’ll be pist if we go to Walmart without her”.

 __________________________________________________________

Julie is siting on the counter in the kitchen patiently waiting for the cookies to finish backing.

Christen doesn’t know what time it is but she’s already planning her nap for tomorrow. She’s so preoccupied with figuring out her schedule that she isn’t aware of the contemplative way Julie has been staring at her.

“So, you and Tobin…what’s that about”

Christen looks at Julie startled and confused. Panicking for a moment, she wonders if Julie saw her astride Tobin, but she doesn’t think so. She’s positive Julie would have made fun of her. Not knowing what Julie is referring to Christen stays silent simply raising her eyebrows in question.

Julie shrugs, “She’s cool, an absolute beast on the field.”  She pauses staring at Christen before continuing “Don’t get mad, but I’ve seen the way you look at her, and I’ve seen the way she looks at you”

Frowning, the way she looks at me Christen thinks. She has no idea what Julie is referring to.

“Yes, Press. I know what you’re thinking. The way she looks at you”

“She doesn’t look at me as anything Jules. We’re barely friends, we hardly interact outside of class”

“And tonight…

“She copied my notes, after Alex arranged it might I add”

Shrugging Julie continues, “you didn’t deny looking at her”

“Would it do any good if I did?”

“Nope” Julie says while smiling “I wouldn’t believe you”

“That’s what I figured.

Christen took a deep breath and decided to go with honesty. Julie was the kind of friend you could level with, for good or bad. “I’m not exactly sure what I feel for her. It’s crazy I’m barely friends with her, but I want to be. I want to be someone important to her. But look who she hangs around, I’m not exactly exciting or edgy or ridiculously beautiful. So I get why we’re not close and I get why she wouldn’t want a deeper connection. I’m so plain in comparison.”

Julie is frowning at Christen… “First of all, you’re beautiful.” Holding her hand up, stopping Christen’s objection “I also have it on good authority, there is a list of people around campus who would love to talk to you. Boys and girls”.

“Sure, Sure” Christen replies.

“I know you’re tired, so I’ll let this go for now….”

Then the buzzer sounds “OH cookies!! Julie exclaims excitedly.

Saved by the buzzer, Christen thinks turning off the oven. Placing the cookie tray on the oven top. “Be careful, they’re hot. I’m going to bed if that’s okay with you?”

Jumping down from the counter top, Julie brings Christen in for a hug, holding her tight she whispers “love you Press” pulling away “sweet dreams”

Walking out the kitchen “love you too Jules”

Chapter Text

Somethin’ about you makes me feel like a dangerous woman
Somethin’ ‘about, somethi’ ‘about, somethin’ ‘bout
Makes me wannda do things that I  shouldn’t

Nothing to prove and I’m bulletproof and
Know what I’m doing
The way we’re movin’ like introducing
Us to a new thing 


 

“Fuck!” Christen exclaims. Of all weeks to lock herself out of the townhouse, this was the worst one.  Everyone was busy scrambling to finish papers and study for prelims.  She had barely been home for more than 4 hours at any given time, she’s either been working or living in the library and the ONE night she thought she might get home at a reasonable hour to get some decent sleep, she is locked out.

Christen can feel her blood pressure rising as she stares at her phone willing one of her roommates to text or call her back.  After about 15 minutes, she gives up and calls Alyssa. She really doesn’t want to, she knows the girl has two papers and an exam tomorrow but she desperate, barely functional and can’t think of anyone else to call.

“Chris hold on”, Alyssa answers on the third ring.  Christen can hear shuffling sounds in the background, she immediately feels guilty starting to apologize, when she hears “what’s wrong?” Alyssa’s concern is apparent. Christen manages a lop-sided grin on her face, she’s always been able to count on Alyssa. Alyssa knows that she wouldn’t call unless something important was happening. Sighing Christen explains “I’m locked out and no one is answering their phones, I’ve barely slept this week and all I wanted to do was get some sleep, but no one is home and I don’t even know where they are to get the key from them because no one is answering their phones and I know you are busy, and I know I shouldn’t have called but I just didn’t know what else to do” her voice starts to break as she holds back tears “Shit, I probably could have called Ali… I don’t know why”

Alyssa’s calm voice interrupts her “Chris calm down, it’s fine, besides Ali is here with me. What do need me to do? I don’t know where the freshies are, but you can come here and nap, we’re in Mann”

Of course, Lys would be in the library clear across campus, Christen thinks bitterly.  “I guess I can come met you guys there, at least I won’t be alone”.  Alyssa must hear her reluctance, “I have a better idea, Chris, just go to the house, I am sure someone is home and if no one answers, you know the back window is always open."

“Yeah, with my luck someone will see me, call the cops and then I’ll be arrested for breaking and entering” Christen grumbles.  All she gets as a response is a small chuckle because they both know the chances of that happening are slim.  The back window on the first floor has become a sort of third door to the house, Christen has lost count of how many times she’s heard about someone crawling through it. They might as well put a welcome sign over it.  “Are you sure Lys? I don’t want to bother anyone” Christen question.  “Of course, I am sure, you know where my room is, just go and get some sleep, I am most likely going to be in the library all night anyway” Christen breathes a sigh of relief “thanks so much, Lys, you’re the best, what would I do without you. Love you”. “Oh lord, you’re getting sentimental, just go to bed Chris, oh and love you too”, and with that Alyssa is gone and Chris starts making her way to the Big house with a small smile on her face.

Christen lets out a deep breath of relief when she gets to the two family home to see lights on, she was praying somebody would be up, she really didn’t want to have to jimmy the back window open and climb through.  She quickly rings the bell and hears the scuffling of feet towards the door, accompanied by a muffled “coming”. The door moves and as it swings open fully and Christen sees a lithe brown haired figure with sparkling chocolate eyes causing Christen to blink twice. Christen curses herself, she didn’t even think about Tobin being home.

“Hey!” Tobin says brightly, looking pleasantly surprised. Then taking in Christen’s haggard appearance her expression morphing into one of worry, only adding to Christen’s growing frustration, this has been a nightmare of an evening. “Alyssa’s not here” Tobin says hesitantly.

“I know, I’m locked out of my room and she said I could crash in her room, I hope that’s okay”.

Tobin smiles and shrugs, “yeah, cool”.

“I’m glad someone was home, I was afraid I was going to have to climb through the window”

Tobin lets out one of her giggle-ish laughs, “you wouldn’t be the first. I think Kelley holds the record for most times climbed thought that window and Alex is a close second.” Christen works hard to ignore the ping of jealousy that arises, she begrudgingly admits she’s envious of Alex’s friendship with Tobin and she kinda hates herself for it.

Feeling the need to explain her presence, Christen says “I tried to call Alex, but she didn’t answer.”

“Yeah, I think part of her project is due tomorrow, her phone is probably off”

“Oh, I forgot about that and I know Jules and Syd are trying to finish papers, Alyssa is still in the library and…”
Tobin looks at her smiling sympathetically, “Chris, it’s fine really, you’re always welcomed here. She pauses “Why didn’t you call me?”
Startled, Christen blinks. The though honestly had never crossed her mind. Yes, she and Tobin had started spending more time together, they’ve grabbed lunch a couple of times, studied together, but they still didn’t randomly call and text each other, so it never occurred to her. Feeling a little guilty, “I…I don’t know, I just wanted to go home and when I couldn’t get the girls, I called Alyssa, it’s a habit really” Christen stammers out.

Tobin looks at her with understanding eyes “I get it, you’re stressed and she’s your best friend, but obviously you could have called me also, I would have tried to help, okay?”

Christen nods her head in the affirmative not really know what else to say or do.

Moving towards the kitchen, Tobin is noticeably dragging her feet, so different from her normal confident stride and she has a hand pressed to her lower back. It would be funny except for the obvious fact that Tobin is clearly in pain. Concerned, she asks “what happened to you?”

“Pick up game of soccer on the quad, I went up to head a ball and some jerk came underneath me, I was upended and landed badly on my back. At first, I was just a little stiff but when I was trying to study with Alex the pain got so bad, I decided to come home and try to rest it, I used a heating pad and applied some hot and icy but …” she trails off.

“Still bothering you,those downstairs” Christen needless says. Tobin just shakes her head, clearly unhappy about this development. “Is there anything I can do to help; can I get you something? Christen ask.

Shaking her head, Tobin says “No, I just think it needs time. I was just about to go back downstairs when you rang the bell” she gives Christen a mischievous smile as she says “good thing you caught me, the steps are hell on my back, once downstairs I don’t think I would have come back up. You would have had to climb through the window”. 

Shrugging Christen nonchalantly says, “now that I know I have stiff competition I might just start using the window exclusively.” Tobin burst out laughing and Christen smiles in pleasure. Christen moves to place her bag in one of the chairs around the dining room table. Her eyes drift to the living room, and as if on cue, Christen blushes remembering what happened the last time they were alone.  Turning towards the kitchen she finds Tobin staring at her. She wouldn’t say it’s an unwelcomed look but it always makes Christen a little unsteady. She’s always afraid Tobin is going to see more than she wants her to.

Clearing her throat, Christen tries to diffuse some of the tension she’s pretty sure she’s not imagining. “How’s studying going?”

Tobin leaning against the counter shrugs “going, I guess. I can’t wait ‘til I’m finished.” Tobin has never really been one to talk about school, although Christen knows she’s not as cavalier about her academics as she pretends. “What did you think about our exam? I thought it was fair” Christen tries again.

Tobin just gives a slight shrug, “I’m just glad it’s over.

Christen can’t help but roll her eyes “Of course you would say that”.

Tobin looks at her and smiles, “I just don’t dwell on that type of stuff”. There is a seriousness to her tone. Christen nods her head, she guesses it’s true, Tobin never seems to stress or get riled up over the daily mundane things, in her case, classes and exams.

“How about you, how many more do you have?” Tobin questions.

“One more! Praises” Christen says as she raises her hands in mock prayer “I’m so tired, I’ve basically been living in the library”.

“Of course you have” Tobin chuckles.

“What are you trying to imply” Christen ask with a smirk.

Tobin smiling shakes her head, “nothing. Just you go on library binges this week being one of them.”

Christen not knowing how to respond looks around, noticing a plate of apples next to a glass of water on the kitchen counter, “Do you wthat downstairsfor you?” with a grateful look, Tobin shakes her head in the affirmative. “Come on cripple, let’s get you to bed” Christen says as she watches Tobin gingerly start down the stairs, grumbling the whole time. Christen is glad she’s walking behind Tobin, so the older girls can’t see the flare of heat creeping up her face from unabashedly staring at her ass.  

Tobin opens her door and the only light in the room is coming from her desk near the door, casting the bed located further away in a soft glow. Christen realizes that she’s never been in Tobin’s room before. She looks around taking everything in, from Tobin’s desk in the corner, her full size bed, to her dresser across the way. Along the walls, Christen notices a mirage of framed pictures each of a different landscape. Some familiar such as the Statute of Liberty and the Eiffel tower, and others unknown beaches and forests.

“Have you been to all these places?” Christen questions.

“Unfortunately no, obviously some I have, she points to a picture with a girl perched on a rock. Others I want to go to. I love to travel, I love the feeling of being free and experiencing new things, and I guess, when things get overwhelming I just look up and think about being somewhere else, experiencing something different and it calms me.” Christen understands the sentiment but she’s a little more rooted.  She likes the notion of being home. She turns away from the wall to focus on the rest of Tobin’s room, when she sees the girl slowly moving around the room, trying to pick up clothing and push the thousands, okay that might be an exaggeration, but a large mass of sneakers, cleats, and flip flops into her closet.

 

Christen isn’t actually sure what prompts her to say what she does next, but she thinks it’s probably watching Tobin in pain. Setting down the water and apples on Tobin’s desk, she finds herself bravely asking “Do you think a massage would help?” Tobin slowly turns to Christen and stares at her for what seems like an eternity. Tobin’s been doing this more and more lately but Christen is never sure what she’s looking for, or if she ever finds the answers. Tobin slowly nods her head and drawls out “yeah, if you don’t mind, I know you are tired and…”

“It’s not a problem, where’s your lotion” Christen quickly interjects turning to where Tobin is pointing. Mentally gathering herself, she prays Tobin can’t tell how flustered she really is.   

Picking up the lotion, “Kay, take your shirt off and laydown” she instructs in the most neutral and innocent voice she can muster. She hears a small choking noise, the clearing of a throat, and rustling of clothes. With one last deep breath, Christen turns around and isn’t prepared for the sight before her. Tobin is standing with her loose sweatpants a little below her hips and a sports bra on.  Christen can feel the heat rising all the way up her neck, grateful for the dim light. Her eyes slowly roam up the expanse of tan skin, until she is met with chocolate eyes that hold a hint of something in them, Christen can’t exactly place the look but she thinks she likes it. 

Seconds tick by as they stare at each other, “laydown” the words spoken are barely above a whisper, yet commanding.  Something about Christen’s tone seems to renew Tobin’s confidence, lowering her head at an angle, looking up at Christen with barely hooded eyes, lightly biting her lip as she puts a thumb under the bottom part of her sports bra “this too?”

Christen momentarily freezes, she isn’t exactly sure what game Tobin’s playing but she’s never been one to back down from a challenge. So taking a steadying breath she responds with as much confidence as she can muster “Yes”.  She sees the quick look of surprise pass across Tobin’s face before it’s replaced with that infuriating cocky grin, it’s the grin she wears on the field right before she out maneuvers her opponent.

Only turning halfway, Tobin eases the sports bra off her body, moaning lightly as she goes to pull it over her head, dropping it on top of her previously discarded shirt. Christen eyes widened, she can’t help it as her greedy eyes roam over Tobin’s half-naked body. Christen catches just the barest hint of firm and taunt breast as Tobin gingerly lowers herself down to the bed, lying on her stomach, arms outstretched, exposing her smooth tan back. Christen’s face is a flame and she’s rooted to the spot staring. She finally snaps out of it when Tobin turns her head to look at her with this unreadable expression. As she walks towards the bed, Christen pours lotion into her hands, slowly rubbing them together before touching Tobin. 

 

Perched on the side of the bed, Christen gently rests her palm on Tobin’s back between her shoulder blades, the cool lotion does little to mask the heat pouring off her skin. Tobin slightly shivers but otherwise remains perfectly still. Christen moves her hand up, first to caress the nape of Tobin’s neck and then slowly to massage the tense muscles along her shoulders. Christen starts with light touches, mostly because she’s petrified, she doesn’t want to hurt Tobin and she’s not sure what’s she’s doing, this is different from other massages she’s given and she knows it.

 

After a couple of minutes of light touches, she hears Tobin mumble “you won’t hurt me”. Hesitantly, Christen starts “can I just …” she doesn’t finish her sentence, rather standing up, she lowers herself as carefully as possible until she’s straddling Tobin’s hips, resting just above her ass. Taking a steading breath, Christen applies more lotion to her hands “Let me know if this becomes too much” She feels more than hears Tobin chuckle.  Christen begins on her left upper back pressing harder than before, using her fingers and palms to knead and work the tight muscles. Tobin let’s out a tiny moan causing Christen to pause for a second before continuing. “How does it feel?” Christen ask

“Wonderful” Tobin purrs back huskily. It’s that voice again. 

Christen tries to keep her breathing as normal as possible but is having a difficult time as she caresses her way around Tobin’s back, her fingers memorizing Tobin’s curves, daring to dig low against her hips, then up her sides feeling the gentle swell of her breast as they lay smashed against the bed.

 

Delirium that’s the only explanation for what Christen does next.  Slowly running her fingers back up Tobin’s spine she notices the beginning of a bruise on her shoulder blade “you’re getting a bruise” she whispers as she lightly outlines it with her fingertips. All she gets is a grunt in response but she’s finally cognizant enough to notice the slight increase in the rise and fall of Tobin’s chest.  Christen swallows, her mouth suddenly very dry and before she can stop herself she leans down and places a small kiss on the bruise while whispering “all better”, she’s reward with a short intake of breath and Tobin subtly shifting under her. It takes Herculean effort to sit straight up and keep from placing kisses across the expanse of the strong tan muscular back in front of her.  She hopes her arousal isn’t overly apparent, but she has a feeling Tobin knows exactly what this is doing to her as she can feel the heat pouring from her core.

Christen finds some solace in the fact that she isn’t the only affected person, Tobin’s breathing is coming faster and she’s no longer completely still under her, she shifting a little bit. A self satisfied smirk cross Christen’s face, she’s enjoying Tobin’s reaction and she wants more so she places another kiss on her other shoulder blade. “Another bruise?” Tobin whispers. Christen doesn’t answer, she only applies one more kiss to the middle of Tobin’s back the point between her shoulder blades.  Growing bolder, Christen leads her hand up and over Tobin’s shoulders touching her collarbone, her slick hands smooth over Tobin’s skin, her hands moving closer to her breasts. “You’re so soft,” Christen whispers.

Rising up to her knees, providing space between her and Tobin, Christen whispers “roll over”.  At first she isn’t sure that Tobin heard her, the girl doesn’t move right away. Then after a deep breath, Tobin does as she was instructed, slowly rolling over onto her back. Christen’s eyes immediately land on her breasts, the shadows not enough to hide the erect nipples or the rapid rise and fall of Tobin’s chest. Christen pulling her gaze away, finds Tobin watching her closely. Christen doesn’t know if she should apologize for staring but she doesn’t. She pours more lotion into her hands, meeting Tobin’s eyes again. Those eyes close when Christen touches her chest and a sensuous moan escapes Tobin’s lips. Christen’s hand move so slowly, so softly, caressing Tobin’s skin, no longer even pretending this is about a massage. It isn’t.

Not knowing whether she’s feeling brave and daring—or simply not considering the consequences—Christen lets her right hand travel between Tobin’s breasts to her stomach, her fingers moving in a circular motion. Tobin is nearly panting, her eyes fluttering open, finding Christen’s. Reality hits her then and she stops, waiting, afraid she’d overstepped her boundaries, afraid she’d gone too far. “That feels awesome, I like the way you touch me” Tobin murmurs. She brings her hand up, covering Christen’s, pressing it down hard against her side. Christen waits, not knowing what Tobin wants. Then her eyes slip close again as she takes Christen’s hand, moving it so very slowly up her body. Christen is trembling as she realizes Tobin’s intent, her hand falling back to the bed, leaving Christen’s resting just under the swell of her left breast. 

Christen hesitates, knowing Tobin has left the decision up to her. Christen stares at her breasts, fascinated by the erect nipples, aching to touch them, to feel them against her palm. She doesn’t pause to think about how this will affect their budding friendship, how it will change their relationship. She doesn’t think of anything except the overwhelming need she has to touch Tobin.

So she slides her hand higher, not bothering to try to contain her moan as her fingers move across Tobin’s breast, the nipple as hard to her touch as she knew it would be. Her hand closes around it, feeling Tobin slightly arch higher, hearing Tobin’s moan as she squeezes her breast before finding the nipple with her fingers, rubbing it lightly, feeling it harden even more. Her fingers continued to play with Tobin’s nipple, loving the sounds emanating from her. Christen’s whole body is pulsing—aching. Christen freezes as Tobin hands moves between them, one moving towards Christen’s waist, pressing her down against her pelvis. The other hand moves its way under Christen’s shirt, slowly moving up her chest to graze her fingertip against Christen’s bra, briefly circling her thumb over a taunt nipple before trailing a path back down to her waist.

“Oh, God,” Christen whimpers, her eyes slamming shut.

“You’re trembling.”

“Yes.”

“Do you like the way this feels?” Tobin asked, her own fingers now rubbing along the indents in Christen’s hips, their hips moving in a subtle rhythm now.

“Yes,” Christen says, biting down hard on her lip, trying to stop her shaking. Her mind is racing a mile a minute. Christen forces her eyes open, her hand still covering Tobin’s breast, Tobin still touching her. Christen trails her other hand slowly up Tobin’s chest, following the path left by her other hand. She traces Tobin’s other nipple with her index finger, then slowly moves her thumb around the nipple and across it. Tobin raises her hips up insistently, moaning and it snaps Christen out of her daze.  She’s suddenly very aware and anxious of what they are doing. She wants them to kiss, she wants them to do all sorts of things. But she was afraid of where it would lead, afraid they would do something that Tobin would regret later or tomorrow, afraid they would something she’s not ready for.

“I’m sorry,” Christen whisper, quickly taking her hands away. Gathering her strength, Christen forces herself off of Tobin, she no longer trusts herself, knowing she will embarrass herself further if she continues to touch Tobin. As she walks to put the lotion back she can her the rustling of clothing behind her. Christen’s body is on fire and her cheeks aflame. She can’t believe she was so brazen, she can’t believe she actually touched part of Tobin’s naked body. She’s terrified to turn around and face Tobin, she can’t even begin to imagine what she must be thinking. The longer there’s silence, the more she mortified. She knows she enjoyed every minute and it’s only Tobin’s clear arousal and her body’s expressive response to her touches that keeps her from fleeing the room.

“It’s late, just stay here”, she hears Tobin quietly say. Gathering the little courage, she has left Christen turns around and is met with gentle, smoky, understanding brown eyes. Not waiting for a response, “There are clothes in the top drawer, just help yourself” and with that she turns around pulls back the sheets and moves under the covers, giving Christen an expectant look and who is Christen to say no.  Slowly picking out an extra-large shirt, Christen turns around slowly and proceeds to take her shirt off, replacing it with Tobin’s enormous one.  She shimmy’s out of her leggings, all the while aware of the eyes on her, and unwilling to consider what that means.  

Once changed, she heads over to Tobin’s bed and climbs in. Christen, heart still thrumming, lies stiffly on her back, knowing she won’t be getting any sleep tonight. Tobin reaches for Christen’s hand, gives it a gentle squeeze “thanks for the massage, it really helped.”

“It was my pleasure” Christen whisper back. She turns to her side facing away from Tobin and in the darkness, listening to Tobin’s breath even out, warmed by the heat from her body, she’s surprised to find herself succumbing to sleep.


Blinking against the darkness all around her, Christen is disoriented as she glances around, remembering that she’s in Tobin’s room. Heat rushes up her neck as the events from the previous night come flooding back, she can’t believe she acted so brazen. She turns to find Tobin peacefully asleep, next to her on her stomach.  She looks like an angel. Taking advantage of the moment, Christen smiles and runs her hand down the length of Tobin’s back finishing with a soft kiss to her shoulder.

Christen gets up as quietly as she can.  She knows that Tobin doesn’t have to be up for another two hours at least, but she has to go home and change before heading to work.  Hopefully, she will be able to rouse one of her roommates.

 

Turning the corner from the top of the steps into the kitchen, Christen stops short and freezes, because leaning against the sink with a coffee mug in hand is Alyssa.  Christen knows she looks like a deer caught in the headlights, eyes wide, an incipient smile on her face, speechless. Alyssa nods in the direction of the dining table, where Christen sees a set of house keys.  “I ran into Jules and Syd last night, so I took Jules keys. I figured you’d be up early” and now looking directly into Christen’s eyes, Alyssa deadpans “I didn’t however, expect to find you in the basement.”

Christen’s checks are on fire. She never considering being caught. She still hasn’t moved. Still doesn’t know what to say. “Here, I made you some coffee” Alyssa states as she holds out a mug to Christen.  Finally, energized Christen moves forward, takes the mug and heads to the dining table. “Chris….” Alyssa starts. Shaking her head, she’s not ready, she doesn’t even know how to explain.  “Please, don’t. It’s…. it’s not what you think, I just feel asleep”. Christen can’t look Alyssa in the eyes because they both know she’s lying.

Alyssa sighs, rubs a hand over her face “Chris, I’m not going to judge you” her voice is soft and caring, “You know I wouldn't, I’ve no right. And I’m not going to tell you what to do, but just be careful, okay?” Christen looks up and stares at Alyssa. She’s not exactly sure what she should be careful about, should she be wary of Tobin? Or is she making reference to last year, when she sacrificed her happiness for someone else, she couldn’t be though, she didn’t know about that, right? She honestly, doesn’t know so she gives a small sad smile and briefly nods. “Come one, I’m heading back to campus, I’ll drop you off.”

Christen nods again, picking up her bag, all the while avoiding Alyssa’s penetrating gaze. She’s always been able to see through Christen, and Christen’s nerves are just too raw to have any meaningful conversation right now.

The car ride is silent, Alyssa’s might not be saying anything, but Christen can practically hear her thoughts.

“Oh just say it, I can practically hear you thinking from over here” Christen says exasperated.

Sighing Alyssa says, “You're a big girl Chris, just be careful, that’s all. Don’t play games. Make decisions for the right reasons. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt”

“I’m not, I’m not playing games” Christen whispers back.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Alyssa questions quietly.

“Not yet, I just…not yet, I think I need time to process”

Alyssa nods her head, reaching over she squeezes Christen’s leg and then smiling says

“The basement, huh? I would have bet at least another month before you ended up down there”

“Shut up” Christen grumbles as Alyssa laughs, grateful that some of the tension has dissipated.

Turning to face Alyssa, Christen realizes it’s important she knows this, “I’m not playing games, it’s not a game for me”

Alyssa’s face turns serious, “I know, Chris.”

Nodding, Christen turns to look out the window.  She woke up this morning with a variant of emotions. She was confused, embarrassed, but mostly this overwhelming sense of rightness. She has a crush on Tobin and waking up next to her this morning just felt right, the problem is she doesn’t know if it’s mutual. Jules had mentioned Tobin looking at her, and she’ll even admit that she’s noticed Tobin looking at her from time to time with more than just platonic interest. But now she’s nervous that Tobin will think she’s playing games. The thought had never occurred to her last night. She was purely acting on instincts. Groaning, she leans against the window, hoping she hasn’t ruined everything.

“It’s be alright, Chris. Just talk to her” Christen doesn’t respond, there’s really nothing to say.

“We’re here” Alyssa says quietly, as if she’s afraid to startle her.

“Thanks for the ride, and thanks for letting me stay in your room” Christen tries for levity. 
Smiling, Alyssa leans over and hugs her “You’ll be alright” she whispers. Christen nods as she opens the door. “Thanks again”

Christen is pulling Julie’s keys out to open the door to her townhouse when she feels her phone vibrating, figuring she left something in Alyssa’s car she’s about to turn around and walk in that direction when she see’s the name on the screen.

Why is Tobin texting her, her heart rate sky rockets. Dreadfully, she opens the text.

T-Bird: where are you?

She stares, this is not what she was expecting.

I left, Lys gave me a ride. Why are you up?

T-Bird: I set an alarm, I knew you had to get up early, you didn’t say bye

Christen is floored. Tobin set an alarm? Why would she do that? And a small voice from the back of her head, whispers, “because she cares”.

I didn’t want to wake you, you didn’t have to get up so early

T-Bird: don’t worry, next time wake me up, I want to say bye

Okay she types back, because what else do you say? But she can’t stop the smile that forms on her face. Maybe, just maybe everything will be okay.

Realizing she’s still standing outside her door, she unlocks the door steeping inside. Her phone vibrates again.

T-bird: lunch?

Yes, text me where and I’ll meet you. Now go back to sleep :-P

T-bird: yes, dear

Despite the fact that everything appears to be fine, Christen can’t shake the distinct feeling that something big is about to happen. She doesn’t know what it is or what she can do to prepare, but something out of her control is on its way to her. She just hopes it doesn't break her.  

 

Chapter Text

Never really thought we would make it
We be thinking about what could have been
But we’ve had a record summer, can’t turn it down
Not I don’t wanna see the end begin

Smoke and sunset, off Mulholland
He was talking, I was wondering ‘bout
You and that girl, she your girlfriend
Face from heaven, bet the world she don’t know
Pretty girl don’t know the things I know
Walk my way, I’ll share the things that she won't

Uh-oh, dancing past the point of no return
Let go, we can free ourselves of all we’ve learned
I love this secret language that we’re speaking
Say it to me, let’s embrace the point of no return


 “You’re done for the day, right” Tobin ask pushing the hall door open, letting Christen pass.

“With classes. I’m meeting Ali later. You’re free until practice, right?” Christen waiting for Tobin to catch up to her, ask.  Nodding, Tobin bumps her shoulder against Christen’s “let’s do something”

“Like?” tilting her head, a small smile appearing on her face, as she humbly looks over at Tobin.

Christen is still adjusting to spending so much time alone with Tobin. It’s not that their inseparable or anything, but since that night in the basement. Briefly closing her eyes, Christen works to keep her composure, sometimes she still can’t believe what happened, although a small part of her isn’t surprised, she can be reckless sometimes. She’d wanted to do it, so she did, but she’s still surprised when she thinks about her hands roaming over Tobin’s warm skin and she’s knows Tobin’s naked curves are burned into her memory forever. She wants more than to just physically touch Tobin, so she’s been pushing herself to get to know the older girl better. She’s been making a concerted effort to form a deeper connection with Tobin.  She figures they’d shared too much to just stay acquaintances.

“We can get food, I’m hungry,” Tobin says as they walk down the path.

Christen rolls her eyes, “You’re always hungry and if you eat now you’re gonna want a nap”

Tobin grins wryly, she doesn’t argue the point, knowing it’s true.  “I can’t help it”

Shyly Christen offers, “we can go back to the house, I’ll make lunch.”

Christen knows it’s silly to feel the way she does around Tobin. For as much time as they’ve been spending together, Tobin has never given any indication that she doesn’t enjoy it or doesn’t want to. In the back of her mind, there’s a nagging doubt she can’t shake. Looking over she tries to gage Tobin’s reaction. She’s relieved when Tobin smiles her patient smile. “And this way if you fall asleep on me, I won’t mind” Christen says before she realizes her choice of words.

Tobin stares back at her knowingly, a suggestive smile playing on her lips. Christen feels the color enter her cheeks at the unspoken insinuation. Rolling her eyes, “you know what I mean.”

Chuckling, “alright woman, what are you going to feed me?”

“How about a PB&J sandwich” Christen smirks back. She remembers Tobin’s protestations about it being a snack and not a meal the one time Alex tried to make lunch for her.

Tobin stares back at her, a scowl forming on her beautiful face, “That’s a joke, right? I’m a growing girl, I need real food” now in a full scowl.

“You’re hardly a growing girl” but she recognizes the stubborn looking forming on her face, for as laid back as Tobin can be, she’s rather stringent in her needs.

“We have pasta, maybe chicken, will that suit your highness needs?”

Smiling a self-satisfied grin, she nods her head in the affirmative.

“Can we just stop and get coffee first?”

“Yeah” is accompanied by a burst of short nods.

Then Christen’s favorite thing happens. She’s never sure if Tobin does it consciously or subconsciously and she has no intentions of drawing attention to the movement for fear Tobin might stop. But her heart warms each time she feels Tobin’s long slender fingers reach down and encase hers.


 Christen stands in front of Tobin as they wait to place their coffee orders when a voice calls “Tobin!”

Turning towards the voice, Christen sees a pretty girl walking towards them, her gaze fixed on Tobin with undisguised pleasure. Christen doesn’t immediately recognize the girl but she looks familiar, Christen just can’t place her. Christen pulls her focus from the approaching girl as she feels Tobin stiffen next to her, there is an undeniable tension emanating from her body. Looking at Tobin, Christen sees something flash through Tobin’s eyes she’s never seen before but before Christen can register it, it’s gone. The brown eyes that are usually so expressive are shielded. “Hey stranger, good to see you?” the girl purrs. 

A thing Christen knows about Tobin is that she is subtle but always purposeful with her movements. Now is no different. Tobin begins to raise her hand that is currently clasping Christen’s while simultaneously gently disengages her fingers as she continues to raise her hand up and run it through her hair, effectively dropping Christen’s hand. Christen barely has time to register the action or question it, as she feels her phone vibrating in her back pocket. Looking she sees she has a text from Alyssa. She catches movement in her peripheral vision, registering that Tobin and the girl are moving off to the side talking in hushed voices she can’t hear. A feeling of unease overcomes her. She notices the way the girl tilts her hips forward suggestively while smiling at Tobin, the way her eyes flicker over Tobin’s mouth. Christen frowns with furrowed brows and she’s not sure what it is, but she doesn’t trust the girl. She’s pulled from her observations when it’s her turn to order. Her phone vibrates again, she forgot about Lys’ text.

A Dawg: Why is Syd, currently stealing rolls and rolls of toilet paper from the locker room?

Christen literally snorts and laughs out loud. Her reactions must remind Tobin that she’s here, because Tobin turns a puzzled look on her face, but before Christen can give any type of response, the girl runs her hand down the backside of Tobin’s arm, past her elbow, continuing the journey until she comes to take two of Tobin’s fingers with her hand, effectively drawing back Tobin’s attention. There is something about the action that is overly personal like she’s done it a thousand times before that causes Christen to prickle with jealousy.

Despite her misgivings about the girl, Christen is determined to give Tobin some privacy as she replies to Alyssa’s text.

We ran out and Julie hasn't gotten the car from Zack so we haven’t gone to Walmart.

A Dawg: Chris, you can borrow my car, but only you can drive

Christen had considered asking Alyssa out of sheer desperation but she's been reluctant to ask. Alyssa's Ford Explorer is her baby. Christen remembers the way Alyssa saved her money throughout high school, she’d been determined to buy her first car herself. So to say Alyssa is a little protective of the car is an understatement, she's reluctant to let anyone else drive it. Christen thoughts are interrupted by another text.

A Dawg: Seriously, take the car after practice today. I think Syd is stealing soap now. She can’t get arrested for petty theft, we need her for the next game.

Are you sure Lys? I know she’s your baby.

A Dawg: Yeah it's no big deal, only you can drive. Don't let Kelley drive, no matter what. I've seen her drive and no

Kelley?

A Dawg: Um... Yeah I might have told Syd, you could take her to Walmart to stop her criminal tendencies and Kelley overheard

Le sigh. I'm taking the kids to the store, aren't I?

A Dawg: Better you than me

Thanks, I think.

She frowns as she sees that Alyssa sent her a “You’re welcome” gif of Sadie from Awkward. She’s dreading this trip a little, she loves her friends but taking Kelley to Walmart is honestly like taking a child. Christen constantly has to prevent Kelley from buying ridiculous items such as the six person dome tent she declared would be perfect for the backyard. 

Christen watches in amusement as a string of text messages come in.

The Canadian: Walmart bitches!!

J Johnson: Chris are you free after practice? We should be done around 5

Alex the Queen: Yeah,  C is done with classed for the day. C can you met us at the gym, the car is here.

Trouble O’hara: I'm driving

Hearing her name called, Christen turns towards the counter, picks the cups of coffee up, she slowly walks towards Tobin and the girl. She overhears the girl say “Great, I’ll see you later”, as she walks away, never once sparing a glance in Christen’s direction. Turning Tobin gives Christen a half-hearted smile as reaching for her cup, mumbling “thanks”. Christen looks in the direction the girl had just left and back to Tobin who is frowning down at her cup. Tobin clearly has no intention of discussing what just happened. Christen regards her steadily, a flicker of annoyance resonates within her that Tobin is shutting her out. Christen wants to question Tobin but her expression stops her. She resembles a wounded animal who wants to flee the impending danger.

“Ready?”, nodding, Tobin leads the way out of the café. Christen is aware that she doesn’t take her hand again. 

Tobin is basically silent the entire trip to the townhouse, causing Christen to steal worried glances in her direction. Christen has never seen Tobin this despondent before. It’s only when Tobin’s phone pings that she shows any reaction. Deciding it best to give Tobin time and space mostly because Christen doesn’t know this Tobin. She doesn’t know how to act around her, she doesn’t know to fix whatever happened in the café. Christen doesn’t know who the girl is but she’s clearly someone that is capable of affecting Tobin negatively and for that reason alone she doesn’t like her. To distract herself she starts to plan out lunch. She thinks they have some pesto sauce, she can match that with pasta and pan sear the chicken breast. That should be enough to satisfy the hungry woman who is currently frowning at her phone.

Once at the townhouse, Christen sets her bag down in the living room, walking into the kitchen pulling ingredients out.  She watches with concern as Tobin flops down on the couch, closing her eyes as she leans her head back. She’s literally not spoken a word in the last 15 minutes or so. Christen is suddenly frustrated, for all the progress she thought they were making, she feels like she’s back to square one. Christen doesn’t know how to handle the version of Tobin currently sitting in her living room. She wants to call out and ask questions, possibly provide solstice but she can feel the invisible barrier Tobin has erected around her and Christen has no clue how to break through. Troubled by the fact that Tobin can be so close but so far away at the same time, Christen throws herself into the cooking, distracting herself.

“That smells amazing. What is it?” Tobin asks from the kitchen entrance. Christen gives a little yelp of surprise. She’d been so absorbed with cooking that she didn’t notice Tobin leaving the living room.

Chuckling “Who did you think it was?”
Pursing her lips at Tobin “last I checked you were in the living room”

“Yeah, then my stomach growled, you’re trying to starve me”, Christen notices that her voice sounds off, it’s a little gruffer than normal.

“So dramatic” Christen gazes at her, she takes in her half playful smile. Christen feels better thinking she knows this Tobin, the playful one but even as she looks closely, it’s clear Tobin’s eyes are muted, they lack their usual brilliance. “I’m just waiting for the pasta and then you can eat” Christen responds

“What’s on the menu chef?”

“Pesto pasta and chicken” Christen responds, “is that okay?”

“Sounds perfect”


 Finishing her food, Tobin mischievously smirks at Christen “You know, you’ve seen my room” immediately she feels the heat in her cheeks “it’s only fair that I get to see your room.”

“Yeah, but life’s not fair”

“Gasp, you’re a meanie, Ms. Press” she says with a pout

“You’ll survive, Ms. Heath”

Looking at Christen intently, “I’m not sure about that, you’re hard on a woman.”

Christen raises her eyebrows, “Something tells me, you can handle it just fine”

“But will I enjoy it?”

“Haven’t you so far” Christen whispers

A full grin breaks out across Tobin’s face, her eyes are bright and brilliant again, “Yes, I have” There’s a pause, Tobin takes a sip of her water as they stare at each other, Christen doesn’t know what to say, the conversation took a turn she wasn’t expecting.

“So…. your room?” as the words leave Tobin’s mouth, they sound like an invitation.

“You know where it is” Christen sighs dramatically.

Grinning, Tobin gets up from the table, picking her plate up, walks into the kitchen places her dish into the sink and then she’s sprinting up the steps, Christen’s laughter chasing her.  

Christen stands in the entrance of her room watching as Tobin slowly moves around her side of the room. It’s not hard to guess which side belongs to her, the lack of soccer gear the most telling. Tobin looks at her bed, laughing as she gently taps the bed risers with her foot. “I had these also.”  Christen can’t help the explicit feeling of vulnerability that overcomes her.  She’s never had anyone examine her belongs with such scrutiny.  She wonders what details about her Tobin is able to discern as she gazes at all of Christen’s belongings. She feels like she’s exposing a part of her soul and she’s terrified of what Tobin will think. Christen follows her gaze as it lands on a framed print she keeps on her desk. Staring at the print for a long moment, there’s a look of surprise on Tobin’ face. Christen knows she’s looking at the print her grandmother gave her and she’s pretty sure Tobin knows exactly where it’s from. Tobin glances in her direction but doesn’t say anything. Her gaze then travels north, taking in the various pictures taped and pinned to Christen’s pin board. She focuses on one in particular. Pointing she asks “Who’s this?”

Moving into the room, Christen figures it must be a former teammate, Tobin knows all of her college friends. Coming to stand behind her, Christen follows her gaze and freezes, her eyes widening in surprise. She’d forgotten the picture was still up, she’d meant to take it down a long time ago. Leaning over Tobin, she pulls the picture down.

The picture was taken after her club’s championship game her junior year. In the picture, there are two sweaty girls, both wearing soccer jerseys. The girl to the left has green hazel eyes, long dark brown hair pulled into a ponytail and the other has the darkest brown eyes, dirty blonde hair pulled on top of her head in a messy bun. Christen flinches internally as she sees the unmistakable look of love and adoration the dark haired girl directs towards the dirty blonde. The dirty blonde faces forward completely oblivious, grinning at the camera. Christen is overwhelmed by a flood of memories, the adulation at winning the championship, the joy at being with the dirty blond. She wonders if the girl’s look of love is as apparent to Tobin as it is to her. It seems like such a long time ago, she’d almost forgot how wonderful it had been in the beginning. Lost in time, Christen is brought out of her reverie when she hears Tobin’s soft “hey”

Dazed, Christen turns, looking into empathetic brown eyes, so different than those of her past that she snaps out of it, responding cautiously “Someone I use to play soccer with.”

Tobin gazes at her interestedly “A friend?”
Christen stares at Tobin, trying to figure out the best response, how much of herself is she willing to expose. She has this desire to be known by Tobin, to be understood and it is a powerfully seductive emotion. She also knows it can make you careless, it can make you vulnerable. She’s done that once before and she’s not sure she’s ready to expose her soul like that again. For all of her fascination, she doesn’t know if she’s prepared to be this vulnerable in front of Tobin, she doesn’t know if she can share this dark part of her past but she also doesn’t want to lie. No meaningful relationship can last when they’re built on a lie. A truth she’s all too familiar with.

“Sorta,” she shrugs

Tobin maintains eye contact as she bites her lower lip, something Christen’s come to realizes she does when deep in thought. Taking the picture from Christen, she stares down at it and Christen wonder’s just how much Tobin is piecing together from the simple photo. Tobin stands a little taller as if having made a decision, looking directly into Christen’s wary eyes, she asks gently, cautiously “Was she more than just a friend?”

Sighing, Christen walks to her bed, laying down gazing at the ceiling. This isn’t something that she’s actually ever admitted to anyone. Christen is sure Alyssa had her suspicions but she’s never outright questioned her. Christen also remembers the worried glances she used to get from Ali that she chose to ignore. Mulling over her answer, realizing that she wants to share this with Tobin, wants to talk about it, she might even need to. But she’s also hesitant her friendship with Tobin is so new and it’s been rocky at best. She doesn’t know what this admission will do.

Sitting up she looks at Tobin, “it’s a long story”

Tobin’s expression is friendly, welcoming and open “You don’t have to tell me, I understand if it’s too personal”

Swallowing the rising bile in her throat, “No, it’s okay. I just…I’ve never talked about this with anyone.”

“No one?”

Shaking her head Christen explains “No, at first I didn’t want to, then I didn’t know how and then I couldn’t.”

“Who was she? What happened?” Tobin asks in a gentle, coaxing voice. 

Sighing, Christen flops back on the bed. Throwing her arms over her eyes. She feels Tobin moving closer to her, feels the bed dip where she pulls herself up, to sit.

“I’m not sure where to start” Christen admits.

“Start at the beginning,” Tobin says so simply like it’s obvious.

“We weren’t really friends. We’d played soccer in the same league for years, but I didn’t play with her until my junior year. But I noticed her. I’m not exactly sure how or when it started, I just remember thinking she was beautiful, and she was such an amazing soccer player a better forward than me. I was always staring at her on the pitch. Initially, I didn’t think twice about it. I told myself I was just admiring her skills, but then my teammates started calling me out, saying I was jealous, that I wanted to be her.

“You were infatuated with her” Tobin agrees.

Christen pauses, feeling the heat rising up her neck, thinking back on it, she was so obvious.

“Yes, I was, very much so. I wasn’t very subtle in retrospect, but I couldn’t stop. Then I started the typical denial thing, I said I envious of her body, I was envious of her skills, I just wanted her perfect hair” And even though she’s not looking at her, Christen can feel Tobin nodding, whispering “I know”.

“I slowly began to realize it was more than envy. I would stare and admire her in the ways I heard my friends talk about boys or boys talk about girls and I guess I just knew.” Christen sighs, removing her arms from her face, remembering the fear that came with that realization.

“Where you afraid?” Tobin whispers, as she gently takes one of Christen’s hands, playing with her fingers.

“I was terrified at first, but it explained a lot, why I never really had strong feelings for my boyfriends. At the time, I’d only ever said a handful of words to her, but they meant more to me than months with my boyfriend had. So it wasn’t surprising when half way through the year he broke up with me.”

“I take it you weren’t exactly heartbroken?

“No, not really. I was sad, at first. I didn’t want to lose him as a friend, but I was relieved at the sametime. “Were you able to stay friends?”

With a half-smile, Christen answers “Yeah, lucky for me, we did. I think he understood.”

“I can’t believe he broke up with you, I wouldn’t think anyone would. Exactly, how obvious were you?” Tobin ask a teasing tone in her voice.

Christen chuckles, she appreciates Tobin’s attempt at levity. “I would guess pretty obvious, enough that she noticed. There was a huge party at the end of the season and she found me then.  

“She approached you” Tobin says a little surprised. “I would have guessed the other way”

“Why? I’m a pretty shy person” Christen says matter of fact.

At this Tobin lets out a disbelieving snort.

“Oh hush,” Christen whispers, glad Tobin can’t see the rosy tint of her cheeks. “I was shy, We hadn’t really talked much, so I couldn’t believe it when she actually sought me out”

“I can” Tobin

Shaking her head, Christen explains “I mean why would she? She was more popular, a better player, so I just assumed she wanted to talk about the game”

“I take it she didn’t” Tobin teases again.

“No,” chuckling “I was so clueless. She kept asking me questions about myself, giving me compliments. I didn’t understand until I caught her looking at my lips, then it all clicked into place and I realized she had been flirting with me.” She cringing at the memory “I was so hopeless, I couldn’t figure out how to flirt back, I was a disaster.”

“You not know how to flirt? I find that hard to believe” Tobin deadpans

“Hush!” Christen says while hitting Tobin’s leg. “Be nice, or no more story time for you”

Stifling a laugh, “I’m sorry. What happened” Tobin smiles.

“We talked, we danced, she took me home and kissed me” A silence falls over them. Christen lost in the remembrance of her joy.

“And that was it? Did you ever see her again?”

Christen hesitates, she wonders if she should continue. She knows she could end it here, make it a story about a simple kiss with her crush,  but for some reason she doesn’t want to lie. So much of this is surrounded by lies and she just doesn’t want to do that anymore.

“Yes, I guess you can say we secretly dated until the last semester of our senior year” Christen admits after a while.

From the stiffening of Tobin’s body Christen can tells she’s surprised.

“Secretly?” She questions, her tone anxious but with an understanding quality.

Christen wonders why she’s telling Tobin in the first place. Sure, people back home probably had their suspicious, she knows people suspected she had a crush but no one knew how serious it had gotten, that they had actually dated. Although there were times when Alyssa would look at her, like she wanted to say something but she never did. Ali had tried to talk to her though, but Christen had been too far gone to see reason and talking in hypotheticals allowed her to ignore all the warnings. She wished she’d listened.

“I’ve never told anyone Tobin. Not even Alyssa and Ali”

“About secretly dating someone or dating a girl….” Tobin trails off

“About any of it” turning on her side, she tucks her hands under her chin, waiting for Tobin to face her. She can tell that Tobin is deep in thought, but eventually she rolls to her side facing Christen.

“Can I ask a question?” Christen just nods, she can guess what she’s going to ask.

“Why, why was it a secret?”

It’s a fair question, one Christen had pondered herself, asked herself a million times at night, lying in bed, and then she hears the silky voice in mind. It’s not a secret. I just want this to be about us.

“It’s not a secret until you tell someone,” Christen says repeating the words that had been whispered to her over and over again. Tobin just looks at her expectantly. Sighing, she rolls back over, staring at the ceiling again. “Before her, I’d only had boyfriends. I’d never thought I was attracted to girls like that” Christen says shaking her head slightly, she sits up, scoots back, her back against the wall, she needs the sturdiness behind her, she feels off kilter. “I just never really considered it but I don’t’ think I ever really ruled it out either. Alyssa always use to tease me about having tendencies and I guess, when it was becoming true it was overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do, so keeping it quiet made sense. It was new for her also. We were both working through it, trying to figure it out. I just…I just wanted to be with her and she felt the same way, initially. There is something powerful when you share something that personal, that intimate with only one other person in the world, it makes everything feel so special” Sighing, Christen looks down, “I don’t think I’m doing a good job of describing this”

“You’re doing fine” Tobin says, her tone vacant, causing Christen to look at her. Tobin is gazing off into the distance, clearly lost in her own memories. “Things changed didn’t they?”

Christen regards Tobin seriously, there’s something about her tone that makes Christen think she knows something about secret loves.

“Yes” Christen whispers.  She moves to lay back down again. She’s drawn towards Tobin. Her presence so quiet and peaceful and it’s the fact that maybe someone else understands. “Love isn’t meant to be kept a secret and over time I didn’t want to. She was always worried, constantly afraid someone would find out about. She wanted to keep it a secret, and I was always too afraid to ask for more. She meant so much to me, she became my best friend. I wanted her to know me as no one else ever had, I wanted to tell her all my secrets…”

 “but you became hers instead.” Tobin whispers.

Christen nods her head miserably, “secrets are destructive. Then the lies came and our clandestine affair quickly became this dark thing.”

“Did you love her?” Tobin whispers

“I loved her, and she was mine, I was willing to sacrifice so much for her. It took me a little longer to realize that didn’t mean I was hers, or that she would make the same sacrifices. I think back on all the broken promises and dreams. I don’t know if I was in love. At the time, I thought so but now…I don’t know”

“Do you still talk to her? Tobin questions,

“No” Christen replies, the memories are starting to come back and the pain. She’d forgotten some of the pain.

“Why? Is it the pain or embarrassment” Tobin questions, forcing Christen to look at her profile.

“The disappointment. Disappointment breeds resentment.”

“You resented her?”

“No, I resented myself, I didn’t like who I was becoming when around her and I didn’t recognize myself. but I don’t think I was ever embarrassed, I learned, I learned a lot about myself.” Christen says

Tobin sits up, leaning on her arm she looking down at Christen. “I was, I was for a long time. It kept me from so many things” Tobin whispered.

“Embarrassed?” Christen questions,

Tobin nods her head. “You’re right though, I didn’t recognize myself either, I felt less than” 

Christen can’t help but run her fingers through the strands of Tobin’s hair that were falling over her shoulder. “I can promise you, that’s not the truth at all”

Tobin stares down at her, studying Christen’s face as she’s done before. Christen could only hope that she saw the truth of her words. “I think I know that now, but it’s hard, being kept a secret, it’s hard” she whispers, laying back down.

“What happened?” Christen whispers. There’s a pause, Tobin is fidgeting with her fingers and Christen doesn’t think Tobin will answer. She’s beyond feeling vulnerable and she’s about to get up, when she feels Tobin reach for her.

“I dated a guy for two years of high school but that didn’t last. I then dated a couple of different people but it was nothing serious. I was too involved in soccer, I was never willing to give the person the time they wanted or needed. I learned quickly that I am bad at relationships.” Christen thinks she hears a warning in her voice but isn’t sure.  She also noticed that Tobin didn’t use any pronouns when talking about dating. Christen feels herself get increasingly annoyed, after all she shared she wants more of a detailed answer. She wants one answer in particular. “The girl today, in the café, who is she?”

Tobin blows out a breath of air. She’s quiet for so long, Christen’s about to ask another question “She’s my sorta friend. She was someone who showed me a side of myself I don’t want to see again”. Christen has some many questions, she wants to know so much more, but her nerves have been rubbed raw, she hadn’t planned on having such a serious conversation. And even though, Tobin hasn’t said much, Christen can tell it’s been an emotionally draining day for her as well. So they lay there silently for a while, they don’t touch each other. At one point Christen thinks Tobin might have fallen asleep, her breathing slower than before. So she whispers the questions she really wants to know.
“Do you like girls?” Christen isn’t expecting an answer, so she’s surprised when Tobin roles over again, looking her in the eye, smiling faintly, “I don’t know…but I know I like you, a lot, probably more than I should…” Christen stares, she wonders if this is a joke. It would be a cruel one. And then Christen sees it. The touch of red that colors Tobin’s cheeks, that hints at sincerity. The slight widening of her eyes. She looks vulnerable even, which seems so unfamiliar on Tobin. Throughout their whole discussion she had never once seem as vulnerable as she does now.

All of Christen’s earlier concerns of the girl at the café, the quietness of Tobin during the walk, and most off all sharing so much of herself with Tobin, is forgotten, because Tobin likes her.

Tobin props herself on her arm again, she reaches out, to capture an escaped strand of Christen’s hair, tucking it behind her ear, she gently strokes Christen’s hair. Then so slowly, she moves closer, leaning in more, her full lips moving closer. Christen finds herself wondering what Tobin taste like, how soft her lips are. Tobin’s lips are ghosting over hers, just the briefest of touches.

“Tobin!!, Chris!!” they hear Alex yell.

Smilingly regretfully, “Mom’s home” Christen whispers

Groaning in frustration, Tobin sits up, “YO!” she gets up, moving towards Christen’s desk to gather her things.

Alex walks into the room and stops short, “Oh” she says smilingly “I…what...”

“Words, Morgan” Tobin responds

“Why are you standing there”, Christen hears Julie ask as she moves into the room.

“Oh, I see,” Julie says

Exchanging an interested look with Alex as she moves past her, towards her side of the room.

“no, no, no, don’t do that, don’t give each other looks” Christen chastises.

“I don’t know what you are talking about” Julie responds with a Cheshire cat grin.

Narrowing her eyes at Julie, Christen shakes her head. She knows what Julie is thinking, and she doesn’t need her to know how right she is.

Clearing her throat, Alex says “ready for practice, Tobs? Oh, and Chris, don’t forget to meet us at the gym”

“I won’t. I don’t want Syd to get arrested”

“Great!” Alex says moving out the room but not before winking at Christen who can’t help but roll her eyes. “Why is Sdy getting arrested?” Tobin asks as she follows Alex out the room, leaving Christen with a grinning Julie.

She walks to where Christen is still on her bed “Have a good afternoon, Press?”

Christen leans in, “you’re going to be late for practice”

Julie laughs out loud, grabs her bag and waves goodbye “uh huh”

Chuckling, Tobin comes back in the room, at first moving towards her bag near Christen’s desk. Then with a glint in her eyes, she moves to stand between Christen’s legs,

“Thanks for lunch, I appreciate it” she whispers and Christen doesn’t think she’s just talking about the food. Tobin gathers her her in for a hug, holds her tightly. She pulls back slightly, leaning towards Christen’s cheek but her head slips lower, placing a small kiss on her neck where her pulse is. Instantly, Christen can feel her pulse throb and because Tobin’s lips are still on her skin, she knows she can too. Gently pushing her away, Christen indicates the door with her hand “you’re going to be late too”.  

Grinning that infuriating grin Tobin moves picks up her bag “uh huh, I’ll see you later” she sings before leaving the room.

Christen flops back on the bed, brings her finger to her lips, closing her eyes.

Chapter Text

All hail the underdogs,
All hail the new kids
All hail the outlaws
Spielberg’s and Kurbrick’s

It’s our time to make a move
It’s our time to make amends
It’s our time to break the rules

And I say hey, hey, hey, hey
Living like we’re renegades


Head thrown back basking in the sun, Christen enjoys the unseasonably warm weather as she waits for Ali. She has an hour before she has to pick the girls up. Drifting back to her afternoon with Tobin, she admits it had been unexpected. Christen hadn’t planned on exposing herself so much and she never thought anyone would be able to understand what she went through, much less Tobin. Christen hadn’t planned on telling her story ever. Truthfully, she hadn’t allowed herself to dwell on it, it’s a part of her that she thought she’d locked away. Though the wounds had healed but talking to Tobin brought back so many memories, the pain like paper cuts across her skin, and the crippling sense of doubt and insecurities she thought long gone. Christen knows Tobin keeps a part of herself hidden as well. Christen is very aware of all the things she didn’t say. It’s clear that Tobin’s wounds are fresh, the pain relentless, and Christen knows there’s more to her story. Christen also knows she can’t push her, all she can do is hope that when the time comes, Tobin seeks her out and allows Christen to help her heal.

Christen is so lost in her thoughts she doesn’t notice Ali until she’s directly in front of her, waving a hand. Christen jumps back “OH, Hey” she says startled.

Looking down, chuckling, Ali says “Hiya, you okay?”

Looking up into the face of one of her best friends, Christen regrets all the secrets she kept between them.

“Chr-is-ten?” Ali is starting to look at her with concern, “is something wrong?”

“NO, no, not at all” standing, Christen gives her a warm hug, holding on for longer than usual, but she feels exposed and the comfort of the familiar draws her in.

Ali hugs her back, giving her an extra squeeze. Holding Christen at arm’s length disbelief is evident in her gaze, but Ali doesn’t push. “Are you hungry by any chance, I haven’t eaten yet” Ali says looking around as if food will just appear.

Christen shakes her head “Sorry, I had lunch with Tobin.”

Turning, Ali looks directly into Christen's eyes, a small grin spreading across her face, a knowing glint in her eyes, “huh, nice.”

Christen regards her warily, “No, no, no, not you too!”

“Not me what?” Ali ask, innocently.

“Not you also, with the whole Tobin thing”

“What Tobin thing?” smiling deviously “I was simply referring to you having had lunch already”

Christen sighs in exasperation, of course Ali would catch her with her foot in her mouth.

“But now that you mention it, what’s going on with you and Tobin? Lys mentioned…” Ali trails off at the look of displeasure on Christen’s face.

Smiling, Ali wraps an arm around Christen’s shoulder. “Walk with me to get food then we’ll catch up. How long do you have?”

Biting her lip guiltily, slowing her words Christen responds “an hour, I have to pick the girls up after practice.”

Outright laughing, “this keeps getting better and better, come on” Ali grabs Christen hand pulling her towards the café.

Nursing another cup of coffee, Christen anxiously waits for Ali, who’s currently engrossed in her salad. Christen doesn’t know if she’s ready to discuss her feelings for Tobin, mostly because they terrify her. After everyone left for practice, Christen kept wondering why she had shared so much with Tobin, her conclusion was not a welcomed one. There’s something about the girl that is working its way into the heart of Christen. Christen likes Tobin, it’s hard not to, but she knows she entering dangerous territory where the line gets blurred between liking someone and falling for them. Christen knows the path she’s head down will only end with her falling head over heels for the type of girl who could destroy you. Tobin’s too wild, to raw, Christen doesn’t even know how to explain Tobin with words, but she knows she could be bad for her, but Tobin could also be great for her. She has so many questions about Tobin that she’s been afraid to ask. Everyone she knows is close to Tobin. Looking up Christen thinks “but Ali, isn’t. She can question Ali without making it awkward.”

“So” Ali starts “tell me what’s new? I feel like I’ve hardly seen or spoken to you”

Christen regards Ali repentantly, she knows she hasn’t been a good friend. While they text constantly it hasn’t been about meaningful things. They go to soccer games together, grab lunch here and there but Christen hasn’t really stopped to check in with her. In fact, Christen hasn’t even been to her house.

“Sorry about that,” Christen mumbles. Ali shakes her head indicating it’s nothing. “It can be hard to balance everything your first semester, you’ll get. So how are things?”

“It’s been going good. Classes are fine, except for Spanish. Please don’t let me sign up for another early morning class”

Ali laughs “something tells me I won’t have to”

They make small talk for a while before Christen gets the courage to ask the questions she’s been dying to ask. “So, how well do you know Tobin?”
Ali finishes chewing, before breaking into a wide grin. “Lys is always right. Oh come on, you know we love you no matter, but she called it” Ali states matter of factly.

“She called what?” Christen questions, wondering just how apparent she’s been. Julie called her out on it a couple of weeks ago, Alyssa had more or less caught her red handed, but no one else has really said anything. Pausing, Christen admits that’s not entirely true, she’s become more aware of the looks she gets from Alex and Kelley. Alex definitely suspects something. When they’re all together Alex is always contemplatively watching her and Tobin, but she’s never said anything.

Ali just raises her eyebrow, giving Christen her famous “Don’t try to bullshit me” face.

“Ugh, fine Lys might be right” Christen exclaims, sitting back in her chair.

“You always did have a thing for pretty girls with fancy feet.” Ali says.

Christen stares at Ali pensively. Although it sounds like a statement, the lingering questions in Ali’s eyes, tells Christen otherwise. Christen knows it’s a question, Ali’s subtle way of confirming all her suspicions. After this afternoon, Christen no longer wants to keep this from her.

“Yeah, I guess I do”

Ali smiles proudly at Christen, a look that expresses nothing but love and understanding. “To answer your question, I don’t know Tobin well. I didn't really start hanging out with the team until second semester but by then she didn't come around a lot. I know last year was hard on her” and at this Ali pauses, a frown on her face “I don’t know all the details but I know Ash says said Tobin seemed lost, she lacked some of her usual flare. She got hurt and it messed her up pretty bad and I don’t mean physically.” Looking Christen square in the eyes, Ali gives her a pointed look, “I think she was dating someone and keeping it a secret.” and Christen understands Ali’s not so subtle message. “Ashlyn says she was different after that, she spent less and less time with the team. She started coming back around during the summer.”

Considering what Ali just said, Christen remembers Tobin whispering “It kept me from so many things”. It reinforces Christen’s suspicion that Tobin is very familiar with the sting of hidden love. Christen doesn’t really know what else to say because whatever she’s learned about Tobin she doesn’t want to divulge, it isn’t her place.

Christen does address the unspoken hurt in Ali’s words. “I’m sorry about that” Christen whispers. Ali looks at her with understanding eyes. “I know. I was just worried, you seemed so unhappy sometimes. You stopped playing soccer…”

“That wasn’t the only reason.” Christen interrupts

Nodding her head in acknowledgment, “I know, but you were different and not in a good way”

Christen gives her a halfhearted smile, “I knew you guys knew, I mean, Alyssa always knows” Ali smiles at that “but, I just... I didn’t know how to say anything at first and then as time went on, I just never said anything because well I felt like I was lying at that point.”

“I understand, I was never mad, I just was worried.” Reaching over, Ali grasps Christen’s hand. “But Chris, always know you can come to me, no matter what, okay” Ali looks at her gently squeezing her hand. “I’m gonna give you the same advice, I tried to give you back then. Just remember, you shouldn’t have to lose yourself loving someone, it’s not all about making them happy, your feelings matter also.”

Nodding slowly, Christen is trying to think of a new topic of conversation. She can’t remember the last time she’s felt so exposed. She’s been forced to face a lot of truths in the last few hours, some she knew and some she’d been denying and she’s not prepared to deal with the backlash. Her phone vibrates.

Alex the Queen: Changing. Be ready in 15

Smiling, Alex to the rescue. Although, she not sure she’s prepared to for what’s about to happen.

Looking at Ali apologetically “The kids are ready, I have to go get them” Ali shakes her head in understanding. “That’s okay, it was good to see you. We have to do this more often.”

“Definitely! Want to come with?” Christen ask somewhat hopefully

“You couldn’t pay me,” Ali says before hugging Christen one last time. “God’s speed, dear”

“Thanks” Christen grumbles as she texts Alex back on my way.


The minute they arrive at Walmart Syd and Kelley go running off. Christen worriedly watches as Tobin and Alex follow suit. Julie grabs a cart and examines the shopping list they’d complied in the car on the way over. Julie noticing her anxious look says “It’s fine Press, they can’t get into too much trouble”

Turning, Christen gives Julie an incredulous look. “You sure about that?” Sighing, “it’s not like I can stop them. I honestly thought Kelley wasn’t going to quiet until she sat on my lap.

Julie laughs remembering Kelley, determinedly holding the driver’s side door open, trying to wiggle a leg in between Christen’s so at least one of her feet touched the gas pedal and she could say she had technically driven the car. Julie holds up her phone, “well, let’s get started on this list.”

Twenty minutes later Christen and Julie have picked up most of the essentials when Christen realizes she hasn’t heard or seen the other girls. Standing in the middle of an aisle, Christen looks in all directions, it’s quiet, too quiet. It reminds her of the quiet before the storm. Nervously she questions “Jules, do you know where everyone went?”

Looking up from her list Julie shakes her head in the negative, “no, but if Alex thinks I’m picking up her things for her, she’s wrong”

“Ugh, Syd and Alex are annoying under the best of circumstances, I didn’t know adding Tobin and Kelley would make it so much worse.”

Raising an eyebrow, Julie gives Christen an incredulous look.

“Fine, I was hoping it wouldn’t be this bad.”

“On the bright side, you have the keys so we can always just leave them”

“They’ll burn this place down, and then where will we go for our midnight runs?” Christen says sardonically.

“FIRE PIT” Christen hears Kelley yell out. She closes her eyes in exasperation, she’s positive that nothing good comes when you combine Kelley and the word fire.

“Yaaaaassssss, this will be great for the backyard” Sydney’s voice carries.

Julie looking over exchanges a worried glance with Christen, “did Kelley say fire?”

“Yep, can I worry now?”

“We should go find her. Honestly, this is worse than being with children” Julie exclaims.

“I thought Alyssa was being nice by lending me her car, now I just feel like I’m being punished.”

Turning the corner they follow the noises until they find Sydney and Kelley in front of a round slate fire pit. Christen immediately walks towards the box sighing with relief when she sees that the fire pit comes with a steel lid and nylon cover, it exponential lowers her fears of Kelley burning the whole backyard down.

Taking a picture of the Fire pit, Christen sends Alyssa a picture.

Make sure you have renter’s insurance.

A Dawg: Oh boy

Syd and Kelley are rattling on and on about the benefits of the fire pit. Julie and Christen stare back with blank faces, sharing a knowing glance. Neither, Julie nor Christen will admit it but Kelley and Syd are selling it pretty good. Kelley’s phone rings, she answers it while walking in circles. Kelley is intently listening but her smile is growing by the minute and a sense of dread overcomes Christen. Even though she can’t hear the other end of the conversation from Kelley’s excited comments, she gathers that they will be picking up supplies for a party. Turning she finds Julie starting at Kelley, finally saying “at least Lys’ car is bigger than Zack’s”

“Le sigh” Christen whines. Pulling her phone out of her back pocket she shoots Alyssa a text. What is going on?

A Dawg: what do you mean

Kelley is on the phone and it sounds like you’re hosting a rave soon.

Christen prays they aren’t expecting the Little house to host this shindig.

Christen glances towards Kelley when she hears her name “Chris is here she’ll help.”

Wide eyed Christen turns to Julie who shrugs in resignation.

Her phone vibrates.

A Dawg: Apparently we are. Good luck with that

Lovely, just lovely

“EN GARGE” comes from nearby. Christen closes her eyes in exasperation, she has a sneaking suspicion she knows exactly who is making that noise. Julie is the first to move in that direction because Christen is too busy watching Kelley and Syd talk to a sales associate about bringing the fire pit to the front of the store.

There’s more yelling in Tobin’s distinct tenor. Walking in the direction of the commotion, Christen finds Tobin and Alex in a full battle with two kids swords and Julie bent over in laughter, trying to film them. Knowing this won’t end wall, Christen walks to retrieve the cart because if nothing else she is going to get the things she came for. Before she can move away, Christen hears a thud, as if one of the swords dropped and then “I won” it’s Tobin’s voice. Quickly looking back, she sees the set of Alex’s shoulder, the way she throws her hair over her shoulder and knows Alex is pist. Yep, it’s definitely time to be anywhere but here.
Christen’s perusing the hair care products, when she swears she hears a crash, yelling mixed with laughter. At this rate, she’s just hoping the girls don’t get kicked out before she’s finished gathering everything on the list because she won’t let them in the car until it’s time to go.

At the checkout line, Christen and Julie stare wide-eyed at the two full carts Kelley and Syd have managed to amass in the last hour. Pointing at one Julie questions, “are those Christmas lights?”
“Yeah, We got those and some garden string lights, and a couple of walkways lights, Syd thought of them. We’re going to put them out back to help illuminate the yard.” Christen actually thinks it’s great idea. “Did you get extension cords?” Syd and Kelley share a look and Syd runs off. “I’ll take that as a no”
“What about wood for the fire pit” questions Julie.
Kelley immediately pulls out her phone and starts texting “I’ll have Alex and Tobin pick up some.” Julie looks at Kelley confused, motioning towards the carts, “so what did ya’ll get?” Shrugging, Kelley replies “the essentials.”

Looking around Kelley’s words resonate with Christen as she realizes Alex and Tobin are missing. “Speaking of, what ha…” Christen stops as both Julie and Kelley shake their heads in the negative. “You don’t want to know” Kelley offers. Christen looks back and forth between Julie and Kelley, she knows it couldn’t have been good if Kelley is the one telling her she doesn’t want to know. Rubbing her right temple, Christen can feel the beginning of a headache. She afraid of what havoc her friends have wreaked in Walmart.

“Um, I hate to be a party pooper, but how are we going to get all of this back to the house?” Christen asks, eyeing the carts. “I don’t even know what Alex and Tobin have.” Syd back with a stack of extension cords looks at her confused, “you drove here, remember?”
Christen takes a deep breath, “We could barely fit everyone in the car, remember you four are in the back seat, all of this will not fit into the trunk” she says waving at the three carts.
“I was just thinking the same thing” Julie chimes in.
“That’s fine, the four of us can take a cab back and we can stuff everything into the car” Kelley responds not looking up from her phone.

They spend twenty minutes arranging all the items until everything is stuffed into the back of the Ford Explorer, fire pit included. Christen text Alyssa letting her know that they will need help once they get back to the house.
A Dawg: what’d all buy?
Not me. Your roommate! Blame her.

A Dawg: I can only imagine. Ash and I can help

Great ;)


Clearly, Christen’s warning was not sufficient as Alyssa’s eyes go wide once Christen parks the car in the narrow driveway in front of the house. Opening the trunk, Alyssa gives Christen a surprised look “You let her get the fire pit?”
Let, isn’t the word I would use” Laughing, Julie explains, “Kelley said ‘give her fire or give her death’ and got mad when Chris said ‘death”
Shrugging Chris starts to unload all the crap Kelley picked up. “Lys can I keep the car a little longer, so Jules and I can take our stuff to our house?”

“You mean you actually managed to buy something useful?”
“I did” Christen responds giving Julie a dirty look. Julie had quickly abandoned her in favor of “babysitting the children.” And from her Snapchat, babysitting entailed following them around and filming. “Hey, I made the list for you, all you had to do was follow it” Julie responds.

It’s at that moment that Alyssa stops, first looking at Christen then Julie. She shares a concerned looked with Ashlyn. Hesitantly Ashlyn says, “It’s quiet. Where are said children?”
Christen and Julie share a guilty look, turning Christen bites her lip and Julie spits out in a rush “Walmart. They were waiting for a taxi when we left”
“You LEFT them....unsupervised....”Alyssa exclaims in disbelief
“That’s mean, Walmart will never be the same” Ashlyn laughs.
“Alex is still there” Christen says weakly, she knows it’s a flimsy defense.

“Oh please, Alex is as much a child as the rest when Tobin is there and you know it. She literally walks around singing ‘anything you can do; I can do better.’ I am surprised they didn’t get into some weird competition.”
Again, Julie and Christen share a look that Alyssa catches. “Do I even want to know” she asks.
Shaking her head Christen hears “There may or may not have been an incident with toy swords” Julie starts slowly “and for Tobin may or may not have knocked said sword out of Alex’s hand” Christen cringes a little remembering the set of Alex’s shoulders. From the looks on Ashlyn and Alyssa’s face, they know that it couldn’t have ended well. “And Alex might or might not have issued a ‘duel to the death,’ to Tobin to meet at the center aisle, which may or may not have ended up with Alex running into a rack of DVDs, and knocking them over. Which started a debate on whether the Harry Potter movies were any good and it got ugly after that” Julie continues to narrate, “I was able to capture some of the moments.”
As they watch Julie’s snapchat, Alyssa and Ashlyn are in tears. Alyssa looks at Julie and Christen and shaking her head in mock disapproval “see, and you left them there?”

“We had no other choice, thanks to the fire pit and all the other crap Kelley brought, there was no way they would have fit. “I’m surprised Kelley didn’t try to sit on your lap.”
Catching the side look Julie gives Christen, Alyssa completely loses it, breaking into a fit of laughter. “I should have warned you. She tried the same with Megan when Megan wouldn’t let her drive.” “Yeah, a heads-up would have been nice.”

They’re almost done unloading the car when they hear the crunching of tires on the road. Christen is relieved to see a taxi which quickly turns to exasperation as she hears Kelley and Syd yelling out the window “Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda.” A wave of sympathy for the cab driver washes over her. She’s positive he wasn’t ready. Climbing out the cab, everyone has at least one more Walmart bag, except Tobin. She’s munching on a french fry and her other hand is holding a McDonald’s bag. Christen watches in amusement as Tobin slowly makes her way towards her. “Hungry again?” “Always” but instead of offering Christen a fry she basically just shoves one into her mouth. “they’re good, right?” Christen can only nod her head in approval as she chews.

“We were getting worried,” Alyssa says. “Yeah, you guys didn’t burn down Walmart, did you?” Ashlyn ask. Alex turns towards both of them and sticks her tongue out. “Come on Kelley, we have limited time. People will be here soon.

“Wait, you’re having the party tonight?” Christen ask

“Yep, So don’t be late”

Tobin just shrugs her shoulder. “It’s Friday, whatev. Are you coming in?” Christen shakes her head. “Jules and are dropping the stuff off. I guess we’ll be back”

“Cool” and Tobin walks towards the house, trying to shield her fries from Ashlyn’s prying fingers. Christen watches her go, only to turn and look into Julie’s knowing eyes, only this time there’s something there that Christen can’t exactly place. If she didn’t know better, she would think it was concern. “Ready, Press?” Before Christen can respond, Kelley yells out “You better be back in an hour, we’re going to need your guys help”. Julie salutes Kelley and then they’re off.


Forty-five minutes later, showered and changed, Christen and Julie are pulling in front of the Big house. Ideally, Christen would have liked more time home, but the 6 missed phone calls a piece and countless text messages had forced them back earlier than Christen cares for. Entering the house, they walk into chaos, they're Walmart bags everywhere. Christen kicks on in the direction of Julie, she kicks one back, they continue until Kelley’s standing by the dining room gives them a reproachful look.

“Seriously? At least you came!”

“Sorry, Dad” Christen mumbles, holding back a laugh at Kelley’s expression.

“We were gone for less than an hour, Kels” Julie responds, trying not to laugh. Christen walks towards the back of the table placing her overnight bag down as she surveys the disaster. Kelley consults her phone before saying, “alright, the seniors are responsible for the alcohol, the juniors are bringing the food, and we are responsible for preparing the house.

“Kels, how many people are coming?”

Kelley shrugs, “the whole team will be here and some friends so…45 or so people.” Christen nods, it’s actually not half as bad as she thought. She glances around the room, Alex and Allie are trying to organize a group of bags. Syd’s complying the lights. Turing back to Kelley for instructions, Kelley’s regarding Christen with a look in her eyes that resembles sympathy but before Christen can question it, she’s motioning to Syd and saying “Can you guys start hanging the lights up. It’s getting dark out there.

Christen stands admiring the backyard, the lights really have transformed into something magical. Shivering, Christen wishes she had brought a heavier sweater. While the days are in the low 70s, the evenings are definitely colder, but she had been rushing out the house. Christen’s about to ask Alyssa for a sweatshirt when her phone vibrates. She’s surprised to see the name appear on the readout. Opening the message:
T-bird: if you’re cold, there’s a blanket on my bed. Christen stares dumbfounded at her phone and then looks around. She doesn’t see Tobin. Confused she doesn’t respond but heads inside and instead of going up the stairs, she goes down to the basement. Christen finds a warmer sweater and picks up the folded blanket. Because who really wants to climb all the way to the attic? It’s so far away.

Christen walks back outside in time to hear Kelley and one of the juniors, Megan, calling for everyone’s attention. Apparently, it is time to play games. “Alright. All freshies gather around. Seniors choice, but we’re either playing truth or dare OR never have I ever. Groans and curses can be heard through the back yard. Sighing, Christen hates both games. She stays silent hoping to escape notice. Her hopes are quickly dashed. Alyssa, her sweet Alyssa quickly calls her out from the shadows. “Oh come on Press, you're basically part of the team. Come join your roommates.” Christen begrudgingly moves to sit next to Alex. Eying, Ali and Alyssa she knows this could go bad for her. The seniors decided on never have I ever. “Okay, which rules are we going to play by” Kelley ask. Christen shares a confused look with Syd and then Julie. “Isn't there only one way to play”, Syd questions.

“Nope”, Kelley responds. “Each woman for herself or five finger rule" Seniors decided to play “each woman”. After a couple of questions, it’s apparent that the defenders are picking on the forwards. Most questions revolve around scoring goals, such as “Never have I ever, scored a hat trick, never have I ever been a leading scorer, never have I ever had a brace,” Alex, Syd and Christen are well on to their second round of drinks.

Another around passes and some of the older girls are bored, explicitly Kelley.

“Okay this has been cute but time for the juicy details”.

“What type of questions, you looking for Kel” someone yells out.

Grinning, Kelley picks up her cup and says “Never have I ever had sex” and she drinks. Christen notices the older girls glancing at each other.

“Umm, Kel you're supposed to say something you haven’t done,” Alyssa says.

“I know, but at least now we know who the virgin is” laughs Kelley.

Christen feels for the one freshman who is beet red and chugging her drink down.

The questions get noticeable raunchier but Christen’s only taken a couple more sips of her drink. She doesn't have a nipple piercing, she hasn't had sex in a church (she bets the orgasm was divine) and she's never had sex in the library. She's thinking this won't be so bad until she notices Ashlyn whispering with Ali’s.

When it’s Ali’s turn, she tries to avoid eye contact with Christen. “Never have I ever gone skinny dipping.” Rolling her eyes, Christen drinks. It’s true. Her freshman year in high school all the freshman on the varsity team were forced to go skinny dipping in the school’s pool. Christen gratified when Alex drinks also. Turning to Christen, Alex questions “Freshman initiation?” Shaking her head in the affirmative, Christen gives Alex a high five.

Next it’s Alyssa turn and Christen internally groans as she catches the mischievous gleam in her eye. She has a sneaking suspicion that she knows exactly what Alyssa is going to say.

“Never have I ever” Alyssa starts all the while smirking. “E tu Brute” Christen exclaims with narrowed eyes. Alyssa laughs “never have I ever performed a striptease” at this Christen's eyes go wide and her mouth hangs open slightly. Before she can stop herself Christen yells out “you dared me!!” Alyssa, Kelley and some of the seniors are bent over in laughter. Christen sees Ali trying to control her laughter, mouth “sorry” to Christen. Groaning, she gets up to use the bathroom.

Walking down the stairs, Christen stops hearing hushed talking coming from the kitchen. She thinks she recognizes Tobin’s voice but she’s not sure. She definitely recognizes Alex’s when she states “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m not doing anything. Everything is fine” comes the muffled reply.

Christen so intent on eavesdropping, she misses the last step landing harder than intended. Christen’s face rosy from the drinks, strolls into the kitchen. She finds Alex and Tobin standing by the fridge.

Looking at her with concern, Alex questions “you okay C?”

“Yeah, that last step was tricky”

Glancing at Tobin, Alex rolls her eyes “I’ll be outside” and walks towards the backyard.

Christen turns towards Tobin, who’s head is down, her brown eyes looking at her through long eyelashes. Tobin’s the first to break the silence, a small grin spreads across her face “Nice sweater”

Briefly looking down, Christen forgot what she was wearing.

“Oh, yeah. I was cold. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, it looks good on you”

“I would have asked but you weren’t here and ...” Christen trails off. Biting the inside of her cheek, she hadn’t meant to say hat and the carefully blank face Tobin adopts, tells Christen she’s hit a nerve.

“I know. I had to meet a friend” Tobin says moving to lean against the fridge, a challenge in her voice

Christen quiet, there’s nothing to say. The silence ensues.

Tobin regards her steadily, a nonchalant smirk on her face “Miss me?”

Christen’s seen this Tobin before. This is the Tobin that loves to embarrass people on the field, the one that’s a little dark, a little ruthless. This Tobin hides behind a veneer of nonchalance, she’s sexy, even beguiling. But it pains Christen at first, this isn’t the Tobin she’s come to know. Christen regards her steadily, noting the fact that Tobin’s eyes are her most expressive feature and right now they’re betraying her. Everything about her exudes arrogance and indifference, everything except for her eyes. In them, Christen sees the girl who whispered about hurts and embarrassments. This is the girl that makes her heart skip beats.

Tobin shifts under the weight of Christen stare and she slowly shakes her head, responding “No, I was entertained.”

Tobin’s eyes widen in amusement, a smile developing on her lips. “Oh, really. What a shame?”

With each word she’s gotten closer to Christen, slowly she gather’s her into her arms, resting her head on her shoulder, her face turned towards Christen’s neck “I missed you.” A round of particularly loud laughter from outside makes Christen jump.

Stepping back Christen take a deep breath to steady herself, “we should go outside before either Kelley or Alex sends a search party.”

Laughing Tobin takes Christen’s hand, leading them to the yard. Christen looks at her hand in Tobin’s, her memory flashing back to the way Tobin had causal dropped her hand and a feeling of disquiet overcomes her. There’s something going on with Tobin and she needs to be careful. Christen doesn’t want to lose herself again and the way her hand feels in Tobin’s, she knows she could.


The fire pit is lit, the few girls remaining are circled around it. Christen’s sitting in a chair wrapped in Tobin’s blanket, listening to the idle chatter. She’s running her hand through the back of Tobin’s hair. Once they’d entered the backyard, Tobin had beelined for Alex and Allie. So Christen had been surprised when later the older girl plopped herself in front of her. Tobin leans against Christen’s legs as she talks to Allie and because of their positions Christen’s feels Tobin shiver .

“Cold?” Christen asks noticing the blanket isn't covering Tobin’s body. The fire is still going but it doesn’t emanate much heat.

“Yeah, a little.”

“Come up here and we can share better”

Tobin slowly gets up as Christen opens the blanket in invitation.

Tobin shaking her head, she tries to pull Christen up. Christen resist sticking her leg out, she knocks Tobin off balance and pulling her. Sighing Tobin turns sitting side saddle in Christen's lap, pulling the blanket close.

Whispering “I liked it better when you were on my lap” her voice slightly huskier. “Shut up”

There are a couple of cat calls from the group, but Christen ignores them, thinking Tobin feels so right in her arms.

Chuckling Tobin, snuggles into Christen's side, placing her head in the nook of her neck.

“Comfortable?”

“Ummmmmhmmm” Tobin breaths against her, causing Christen’s pulse to thrum.

An half an hour later, everyone starts to get up and head back into the house. Looking around Christen notices all the cups and beer cans skittered around the yard. Her ODC kicks in, she knows she can’t leave the backyard like this. Christen walks to the kitchen and grabs a couple of garbage bags, impressed that Kelley or Syd remembered to pick some up.

“Chris you don’t have to do that” she hears Alyssa say as she carries dishes that were used for the BBQ into the house.

“I can’t help myself, those cups are just begging to be picked up.”

In the back of the yard, near one of two trees not decorated with lights, Christen bends to pick up another cup up, when out of now where a voice says,

“Can’t help yourself huh?”

Jumping, Christen hadn’t heard anyone coming behind her.

Tobin chuckles, “Sorry, I keep scaring you.”

“I figured everyone was inside” Christen replies breathlessly.

“Everyone is, except you and your cups” she indicates towards the bag in Christen’s hand. “You don’t have to do that, that’s what fre….” Tobin trails off.

Christen raises an eyebrow, “that’s what?”

Looking a little embarrassed “that’s what freshman are for,” grinning that lopsided grin.

“I can’t help myself, they’re just begging to be picked up” replies. Tobin starts to move close and she has this look in her eyes that paralyzes Christen. She couldn’t look away if she wanted to. Little warning bells going off in the back of her head. There’s this sense of déjà vu but looking into these sparkling honey brown eyes, she ignores it.

“What are you up to?” Christen whispers as she watches Tobin’s eyes darken to chocolate, a hint of danger in their depths.

“No good.” Tobin reaches out, places her hands on her waist backing Christen up until she finds herself pushed between the rough bark of the tree and the soft warm curves of Tobin’s body. The contrast is mind numbing; she stares at Tobin's lips. She's not even going to hide it. She feels Tobin leaning in, her hand coming to cradle her chin, and it's slow and agonizing and Christen wants to remember this moment forever.

“Tobin! Where's Tobin, she'll back my story up” Kelley’s yells increasing in volume, indicating she’s walking towards the yard.

Christen feels the ghost of Tobin’s lips against hers, they flutter across hers like a butterfly right before she pulls back saying “Dad’s calling.” Tobin steps back, grabs Christen's hand, picking up a few cups and drags Christen towards the house. Christen’s heart is pounding in her chest, she wonders what will happen when she fully kisses Tobin. Will she survive?

Chapter Text

Words like violence, Break the silence
Come crashing in, Into my little world
Painful to me, Pierce right through me
Can’t you understand?

Words are very unnecessary, They can only do harm
Vows are spoken, To be broken
Feelings are intense, Words are Trivial
Pleasures remain, So does the pain


Frowning at her phone “Kelley, did say to meet her early, right?” Christen questions.

“Yeah, but you know she’s perpetually late” Syd responds.

Leaning back Christen closes her eyes. They’d both received a text from Kelley asking them to arrive ten minutes early to class, which ultimately means Kelley wants something.

“Here comes the coffee fairy,” Kelly practically sings walking down the stairs. “I’m here to make morning dreams come true via caffeine,” she declares settling in the seat next to Syd a tray in her hand holding three coffee cups.

“Black, right?” Kelley questions handing a cup to Christen.

Nodding, Christen smiles sardonically “Yes, like my soul.” Kelley rolls her eyes “and good morning to you too, sunshine.” Christen smiles dramatically in response.

Taking her cup, Syd shares a knowing glance with Christen before asking “What is it, Kels?”

Feigning indignation “Why I never! Can't I get my good friends coffee? How ungrateful”

Syd raises an eyebrow, smirking at Christen unmoved by Kelley’s theatrics.

“You know fairies aren’t benevolent” Christen says over her coffee “They always want something in return. Folklore says that fairies only did favors to entrap people. So Ms. Coffee fairy, what do you want?”

Narrowing her eyes at Christen, “you and Alyssa take all the fun out of things, you’re almost too smart for your own good” then sighing dramatically “but fine, I do want to recruit you guys.”

Smiling smugly “we’re rarely wrong though” Christen replies.

Chuckling “Recruit us for what?” Sydney questions.

Excitedly, Kelley responds “Banner making tonight. I’ve got all the supplies.”

Immediately, Christen shakes her head in the negative, noticing Syd doing the same in synchronization. The last time they had been recruited for banner making, it had been a disaster. Kelley spent more time decorating people with markers, stickers and distracting them than actually working on the banners. What should have taken an hour ended up being an all night fiasco, which came to a pinnacle when Alex accidently managed to drop a whole tube of glitter on Tobin’s head. Requiring Tobin eventually use a lint roller to get the rest out. Although for a couple of days, Christen swore that sometimes when the sun hit Tobin’s hair, you could see sparkles and reflections, not that she’d ever said anything.

Smugly, Kelley points to Syd saying “You have to come, we’re making banners for the boys last home game” Grumbling, Syd slides down in her chair an evident pout on her face. “just because I date one doesn’t mean I have to make posters” Ignoring Syd, Kelly turns towards Christen, “And you’re coming because Alex said you would.” Groaning, Christen rolls her eyes. Alex self-appointed herself the organizer of her social life. Christen has lost count of how many events, games, and parties have randomly appeared on her calendar because of Alex.

“Love her, but despite what Alex thinks, she doesn’t control my schedule.” Kelley and Syd share a disbelieving look.

“Besides you’re at the house all the time, what’s the difference” Kelley tries again.

“I’m not there all the time” Christen responds

Kelley stares at Christen doubtfully. “When was the last time you spent the night in your own bed?”
Smiling haughtily, “Last night”

Kelley looks to Syd for confirmation, who shakes her head “Tis true, she was there” but smilingly deviously “because she had to open the gym this morning and it's closer.”

Christen sticks her tongue out. Scrunching her face in concentration Syd continues “Come to think of it Chris, you’ve been home all this week, haven’t you?” Smiling sublimely, Christen nods.

“Hmm, really?” Kelley says pensively.

Annoyed, Christen doesn’t understand why this is a big deal, Syd spends about every other night at Dom’s and Julie stays at Zack’s some nights. Voicing her frustration, Christen says “What does it matter? Syd you’re barely home and Kelley, from what I hear you’re never at the house, anymore.”

With all eyes focused on her a slight rosy hue rises behind Kelley’s freckles. “That’s beside the point, we’re talking about you.”

“Just saying how would you know if I am there or not?”

“Because the walls, have eyes and ears and they talk” Kelley responds with a raised eyebrow. “And from what I heard, you did or I guess use to come over a lot” confusion tinting her voice “it was also noted that you weren’t just visiting the attic.”

Surprised, Christen never thought anyone was keeping track of her, not to mention she’s only stayed in the basement a few times.

Syd laughs “I thought you were supposed to start at the bottom and then…” motioning with her finger upwards.

“That’s not true, I’m really not there that often.” Christen punctuates with a curt nod, aware of Kelley’s thoughtful gaze. Christen can guess who it has to do with. Everyone assumes something is happening between her and Tobin, no matter what she says. Admittedly, they’ve gotten closer, spent more time together, and maybe Christen hoped it would progress into a relationship, but lately Tobin’s been distant. Christen feels Tobin is keeping her at arms-length. At first Christen denied it, believing everything was the same. They still meet for lunch after class but gradually over time, Tobin became consistently unavailable. Lately, it’s been hard to ignore and it worries her. Christen can’t think of anything she’s done wrong. Truthfully, things have been off since the weekend of the fire pit. Christen’s unease is part of the reason she hasn’t been to the Big house in a while, she needs a break. The uncertainty was making her edgy. The last time she was there Tobin wasn’t and Christen hasn’t been back since.

“So why haven’t you been to the house, we’re not cool enough for you?” Kelley says her tone joking but her eyes are dark and considering, her demeanor that tells Christen she’s looking for a particular answer.

Shrugging, Christen says “I’ve just been busy with work and school. I have a couple of assignments due before thanksgiving break.” Looking straight into Kelley’s pensive eyes, She’s not there anymore and it makes me sad are Christen’s unspoken words.

“Yeah but that’s not for another three weeks?” Syd says

“Not all of us procrastinate they way you do Syd” Christen replies aware that Kelley is still staring at her. The scrutiny is making Christen a little uncomfortable. She feels pathetic for allowing Tobin to affect her so, but she’s only human.

Kelley snaps out of her trance, bobbing her head as if she’s come to some important conclusion “so…what time are you coming by tonight?” Only this time, there’s a challenge in her voice, one Christen is sure Syd didn’t notice but a challenge none the less. Are you going to let her stop you, is Kelley’s unspoken question.

Christen responds “I have work after class, maybe and I do mean maybe, I’ll stop by afterward.” She’s not backing down from the challenge but she really, really doesn’t want to make banners.

“Great! We’ll order pizza” and there is a finality to her voice, causing Christen to shake her head, she knows where she’ll end up tonight.


Leaving work, Christen checks her phone to see she has 20 text messages. She’s willing to bet that at least 15 of them are from Kelley and Alex. Unlocking her phone, Christen skims her messages, smiling when she sees she’s right.

Alex the Queen: Text me when ur done. I’ll pick you up

I’m done.

Alex the Queen: Great! I’ll be there in 10

The back of north?

Alex the Queen: Yup

Walking out, Christen slows down when she notices the girl from the café, the one Tobin had talked to, standing with two girls. Taking in the scene, realization dawns on Christen, she knows why the girl looked so familiar, she’s currently talking to two girls on the basketball team. Squinting in their direction, Christen vaguely remembers the girl playing at the game she went to that one time with Alyssa. Christen hadn’t really paid attention to the game but she’s positive the girl is one of the players. A distance memory comes to her, of Tobin leading a girl out of the Big house. Studying the girl, her hair is styled a little differently and Christen only caught her in profile but she’s positive it’s the same girl. Then it all slowly starts to click together. Why Alex had said Tobin would attend the girl’s game, and why Tobin hadn’t gone. From all she’s learned and surmised, she’s willing to bet money, this is the girl who hurt Tobin, her secret. Her thoughts are interrupted by a text from Alex, telling her she’s outside. She looks back one last time, the girl is laughing, she’s pretty but there’s nothing remarkable about her, nothing that shouts she’s evil, yet Christen doesn’t trust her.

Walking towards the car, Christen considers asking Alex who the girl is, but she’s afraid that Alex will ask her questions that she’s not willing to answer right now. Christen decides to stay quiet.

“How are the banner’s coming?”
“Yeah…about that...” Alex says pulling away from the curb.

Slowly, Christen looks at Alex suspiciously, “uh huh?”

“We’ve only done two…posters…we haven’t started the banners.”

“Seriously!?!” Christen exclaims.

Alex gives her a grimace “yeah…we got a little distracted”

Taking a calming breath, Christen breaths in and out slowly, trying to steady herself.


At the Big house, music is blasting and laughter ricochets off the walls. Christen now understands what Alex meant when she said they’d gotten distracted. Syd is currently in the dining room with another freshman dancing. Well, Christen suspects they are trying to dance provocatively. It might have worked except for Syd keeps making these faces that literally has Kelley rolling on the floor in laughter. Stifling a groan, Christen knows it’s going to be a long night. Joining Julie on the couch, she gives her a big hug. “Hungry?” Julie questions.
Christen shakes her head in the affirmative.

“Kels order pizza when you got out of work, it should be here any minute.” Christen briefly looks around the room, searching out a pair of honey warm eyes not surprised when she doesn’t find them. Turning to ask Julie a question, Christen catches a flicker of something in the depths of her eyes, but as quick as it comes, it’s gone. Julie throws her arm over her shoulder, “ready, Press? I secretly think Alex was waiting for you.”

“Lovely”

Laughing, Julie gets up pulling Christen with her “come one, let’s get a beer, it helps.”

The pizza arrived about ten minutes later. The music is lowered to facilitate intelligent conversation. After eating most of the girls disperse leaving, Allie, Alex, Syd, Julie and Christen at the mercy of Kelley, who’s serious about the banners.

“Okay, Alex and Chris are responsible for doing the outlining, they have the best handwriting. The rest of us can work on the coloring in with markers and decorate with the sticker and glitter.” Giving Alex a stern look “Everyone but Alex is allowed to use the glitter” Kelley continues.

“It was an accident” Alex huffs.

Chuckling Christen pictures an angry Tobin, arms crossed, sitting in a chair with glitter falling all around her, as Alex tried to scope it back up. As if she conjuring her up, Christen hears footsteps coming from the basement steps, entering the kitchen.

“Tobin Powel Heath, what are you wearing?” Allie exclaims.

The comment makes Christen smile. It’s one of the many contradictions of their friendship, Allie always likes to be dressed up and Tobin, well, she’s always clothed. Although, Christen begrudgingly admits that she doesn’t know anyone who pulls off the t-shirt and snapback look, quiet like Tobin.

“You cannot wear that on a date.”

As quickly as it came, the smile leaves Christen’s face. She stills, grateful she’s sitting at the back of the table where no one is looking at her. Christen knows she’s an open book, her emotions are plain to read, she can’t mask the surprise and hurt that flashes across her face. Looking down, Christen takes a moment to compose herself, desperately trying to calm her heart.

“It’s not a date” Tobin responds and Christen thinks she hears an edge in her voice “I’m just meeting a friend for coffee.”

“Coffee?” There is a hardness to Kelley’s voice that Christen’s never heard before, causing her to look up. Kelley is standing towards the front of the dining table staring at Tobin her expression one of displeasure. “Now?” Crossing her arms over her chest, Kelley glares at her “Which friend, Tobin?”

There’s a pause, Tobin remains defiantly silent.

“Tobs, who are you meeting?” Allie questions, her voice gentler than Kelley’s but her concern evident. Christen turns to look at Alex, who is looking at Tobin with neutral eyes. Almost as if she knew this would happen. Christen can’t see Tobin face from where she’s sitting but imagines she’s scowling at the two girls. Tobin hates when they team up on her, especially in front of others.

“A friend” is Tobin’s only reply.

“Again?” Allie starts in disbelief “you’re meeting…” her voice trails off. Christen assumes it because Tobin is glaring at her. Christen steals a glance towards Syd, who is sitting to Christen’s left, avidly watching, a look of confusion coloring her features. Daring to look at Julie, her expression tough, it’s not exactly displeasure, she mostly looks unimpressed. The silence grows as Kelley continues to glare at Tobin. Allie worriedly glances between the two girls, only adding to the tension that has settled over the room, making Christen squirm in her chair. She wants to feel sympathetic towards Tobin, but she doesn’t, not in the least. Christen has a suspicion she knows exactly which “friend” Tobin is going to meet and it’s disheartening.

Eventually, Allie breaks the standoff, turning towards Tobin, she tries again “why would you, when.” Allie never finishes her sentence because Kelley visibly jabs her in the ribs. She makes a quick gesturing motion with her head in Christen’s direction. Taken aback, Christen doesn’t know what she has to do with this current predicament. She looks down at the table, wishing she’d never come tonight, she knew it was a mistake. Christen doesn’t want to be a factor, Tobin doesn’t owe her anything. Christen believed something was building between them, she thought something important had happened that afternoon, but clearly she was mistaken because Tobin has a coffee date and she doesn’t.

Hearing movement, Christen loops up to see Tobin following the path of Kelley’s movement. Surprise registers in Tobin’s eyes and something akin to regret flashes briefly, otherwise her face remains stoic. Tobin must not have known she was in the house. An acute feeling of not belonging overcomes Christen. She’s not sure where it comes from but for some reason, the fact that Tobin was unaware of her presence makes her feel like she shouldn’t be here. Christen glances down at the banner in front of her under the weight of Tobin’s gaze. It seems to break Tobin out of her stupor. Through her eyelashes, Christen sees Tobin turn back to Allie and Kelley, drawing herself up taller, “I’ll be back in a little bit.”

Allie and Kelley share a meaningful look, Kelley eventually shrugs turning her back to Tobin, picking up her phone, quickly sending an apologetic glance Christen’s way when their eyes met. Allie grabs Tobin’s arm and forcefully pulls her towards the doorway.

Christen withdraws when she’s upset, becomes quiet and now is no different. Try as she might Christen can’t help the tendrils of hurt, jealousy, and betrayal that course through her. Christen desperately tries ignoring the harsh whispers between Allie and Tobin. Unbidden, the image of the girl from the café pops into her head, and a flash of anger runs through her. Feeling a pair of eyes on her, Christen turns to find Alex gazing at her with concern. Christen figures Alex knew all about Tobin’s coffee date, she certainly wasn’t surprised. To be honest, she doesn’t think there is much that happens in that girl’s life that Alex doesn’t know about. Winking at her, Christen wants to assure Alex she’s okay. She doesn’t want to make this into something it’s not. She had a stupid crush, she’ll live. After all Tobin doesn’t owe her anything, Christen reminds herself, liking someone, dating does not make.

Turning away from Alex, her eyes land on Julie’s darkening blue ones. Her eyes a mixture of concern and irritation. Tilting her head infinitesimally, Christen wonder’s if Julie knew also. Then she feels, a fiery glare, it’s burning into her, begging her to turn and without having to look up Christen knows it’s Tobin.

Slowly moving in that direction, Christen sullenly raises her eyes to meet Tobin’s, quickly looking away to take in her attire. She’s dressed casually, wearing black jeans, a white t-shirt, her black leather jacket, and a pair of sneakers, and the ever present snap back. Christen’s a little relieved to see she’s not dressed up more, that would have meant something. Despite everything, Christen still thinks Tobin looks sexy as a flash of self-annoyance flies through her.

Turning back to the fiery orbs, Christen feels herself getting lost in their depths. Tobin’s stare is so intent, it’s almost as if she was trying to tell her something without speaking. Something hits Christen’s hand, pulling her from Tobin’s hypnotic gaze. Looking down, Syd had rolled a marker towards her. Christen looks over into warm and kind eyes, she smiles gratefully at Syd. Christen picks the marker up, after quickly offering Tobin a small fake smile and begins to outline the letters on the poster. Frowning, Tobin says “I’m gonna go” walking towards the door “don’t go crazy” and then she’s gone.


Three hours later, exhausted, Christen looks at her hands covered with glitter and marker stains. Shaking her head, she pretty sure a toddler would have stayed cleaner. Julie and Kelley are standing behind her reviewing the banner. It had been a group effort, they’d all worked diligently. Alyssa had arrived about two hours ago and appoint herself the overseer. Claiming, she wasn’t good with arts and crafts, Christen had started to object but then figured why should Alyssa suffer also. A high note of the evening was that Alex had managed to refrain from pour glitter on anyone.

“Finally!!” Kelley says staring, “I think we’re done.” Alex and Syd stand next to her admiring the work, smiling brightly. Christen thinks she’ll be okay if she never has to make another banner. This time had gone smoothly except, Kelley had been extremely particular about the sizing of letters and words causing Alex and Christen to have to constantly sketch and re-sketch.

Christen stretches her back, rolling her head side to side, loosening her shoulders, she stiff from having been bent over the table for so long. Quietly slipping into the chair next to Christen, Julie ask “how are you holding up?” Pausing, Christen wants to be purposefully obtuse, but she’s tired and she knows what Julie is asking. “Did you know?” Christen whispers, slowly turning her head to look at Julie’s profile. She pauses causing Christen’s stomach to drop. Did everyone know but her? Had she been that delusional? “Not exactly” Julie responds her tone holds a hint of guilt. “I heard her talking early in the day about going out tonight, I didn’t know it was a date.”

Christen shakes her head, feeling a little guilty herself. Yes, she and Julie were becoming best friends, but at the end of the day she is still Tobin’s teammate and Christen shouldn’t put her in the middle. “I’m sorry Jules, I shouldn’t put you in the middle.”

Shaking her head, Julie turns to face Christen “No, if I had known, I would have warned you. I wouldn’t have let you walk in to be blindsided. I don’t know that there’s more I would have done, but I would have at least given you the heads up.” Smilingly gratefully, Christen leans over, hugging Julie. “Thanks, that means a lot”.

“For what it’s worth, Kelley and Allie are pissed. I’m not sure why though. But Christen,” Startled. Christen gives Julie her undivided attention, Christen can count on her hands the number of times Julie’s used her full name. “You’re basically my best friend here, and she might be my teammate, but I’ll always have your back and do what I can to protect you.”

It’s silly, they’re simple words, they shouldn’t mean so much, and maybe it’s because she’s tired and maybe because she was blindsided but at Julie’s words, Christen can feel her eyes moisten. She’s only ever had a couple of friends pledge to protect her, Alyssa and Ali and it makes her feel loved. “Love you Jules”, Christen responds hugging her tightly.

Julie whispers “And don’t be too angry at Alex..”
“I’m not, Tobin’s her best friend. I get it” Julie squeeze her.

“Everything, okay” Christen hears Alyssa say. Pulling back, Christen shrugs, “Just tired”

Alyssa looks between the two of them, “Yeah, you’ll learn that when she’s really tired she gets emotional” Alyssa smiles.

Looking around, Christen realizes that they’re alone. “Where did everyone go?”

“I think they went next door” Alyssa responds.

“How did we miss that?” Julie questions, looking as surprised as Christen.
“It looked like you were having a pretty serious conversation, and they were relatively quiet for once.” Alyssa says with a shrug. Julie rolls her eyes but gets up ”I’ll go check on them” and walks towards the door.

“I didn’t even hear them leave,” Christen says astonished.

“Well, you also aren’t that observant when you’re tired” Alyssa supplies.

Scrunching her nose is Christen’s only response.

“I wanted to talk to you about something” Alyssa starts. Christen looks at her with mounting apprehension. The last thing she wants to do is have another conversation about Tobin. Only it's Alyssa, who probably knows her better than Christen knows herself, she trusts Alyssa not to push her more than she can take.

“Okay, about…”

“I wanted to see if you would be willing to pick up a couple of shifts at the bar next semester?”
Christen stares blankly at Alyssa. Bar…shifts…not about Tobin, right. Christen find her words after her brain starts functioning again “um….sure I guess….I thought you had enough bartenders.”

“We did, but one of the girls got hurt and Pep want’s someone who isn’t associated with sports to help fill in when there are overlapping away games, and someone reliable”

“Reliable, that’s me” Christen says bitterly.

Staring at Christen, “you okay?” Alyssa questions, concern creeping into her voice.

“Peachy” Christen says

Alyssa regards her with raised eyebrows, “uh huh, sure you are”
“No, I really am. I’m just tired and cantankerous. Ignore me” Christen says, she honestly too tired to have a conversation with Alyssa about what’s really bothering her. Alyssa regards her, clearly not convinced, Christen decides to deflect. “How many shifts would you need me to pick up?”
“I am not sure. My guess would be probably one or two a week, depending.” Nodding, “yeah, I think I can do that” smiling in Alyssa direction “it would be cool to actually work at a bar and it’s not like I sleep anyway.” Alyssa chuckles. “it is late, are you guys staying? I can drop you off in the morning”

“I don’t know, we hadn’t discussed it. I was hoping we wouldn’t be here this late”

“You should know better by now Chris,” Alyssa says

“I know” Christen sighs ruefully. “it was wishful thinking”
Hearing the front door open, Christen yells out “Are we staying here tonight?”
“I don’t know, but I am” comes a voice Christen hadn’t expect to hear again tonight.

Tobin turns the corner, walking into the dining area. “Hey Lys, Hey Chris”.

“What up dude” Alyssa responds cognizant of Christen stiffening. If Tobin noticed Christen’s demeanor she shows no signs. “How was work?” she asks Alyssa, nonchalantly. Her casual demeanor irritating Christen.

“Alright, looking for a new bartender, I’m trying to recruit this one, Alyssa responds pointing towards Christen. Shaking her head, Tobin moves into the kitchen, going to stand by the counter, out of Christen’s direct line of vision. “Well, she’s Alex’s designated bartender, might as well get paid for it”.

Alyssa chuckles but Christen can hear the unsteadiness of it, Tobin might be oblivious to the tension but Alyssa isn’t. Standing up Alyssa tells Christen, “Text the girls, tell them to stay and I’ll drop you guys off in the morning. We’ll find a time for you to come in and met Pep, okay?” Christen looks up, nodding. She reads the unspoken question in Alyssa’s eyes. Christen nods imperceptibly, she’ll be fine alone with Tobin. Leaning down, Alyssa places a brief kiss to her head. “See you in the morning kid. Night Tobin.” “Night Lys” Christen picks up her phone and send a group text. Christen assumes Tobin’s still in the kitchen since she hasn’t heard any steps. Checking her email, someone needs a 5 am shift on Saturday covered. Christen’s considering it…when the sound of the refrigerator door opening, makes her jump. “Want something to drink?” comes the voice from behind the door.

“No, thank you.” Christen replies as the silence ensues again. Christen not sure why she’s still in the kitchen. She knows she should go upstairs, go to sleep on her air mattress but she waiting. Waiting to see if Tobin will explain because even though she might not be entitled to an explanation, she still wants one.

A ping breaks the silence, as Christen looks down at her phone.

Alex the Queen: “K, see u in the morn

“What happened to the banner?” Tobin questions, coming into the dining area, holding two glasses. She places one in front of Christen. “Kelley took it next door.”

“It’s finished? Did anyone die?” Tobin smiles tentatively.

“There was no death by glitter if that’s what you mean”

“I knew that wasn’t an accident” Tobin smiles, looking down at her feet.

Christen knows she should let it go, she knows that Tobin has never offered her anything but friendship, although she did say … but that doesn’t mean Tobin wants her. But Christen can’t let it go, maybe it’s because she shared a part of her being with Tobin, maybe because it’s just the two of them, but mostly because she’s dying to know.

“How was your date?” Tobin’s head snaps up but she doesn’t say anything. There is a pregnant pause and Christen doesn’t think she’s going to answer. Christen starts blindly picking up items, in an attempt to clean the table.

“It wasn’t a date.” Tobin sighs. “I met a friend.” Turning back, Christen notices that Tobin’s eyes are guarded and she hates the way Tobin has effectively shut her out. She wants to push but she knows she doesn’t really have the right.

“Well, that’s good then” her voice laced with disbelief.

Taking a step closer, “Christen, I promise, it wasn’t a date”

Christen nods, “you don’t have to…”
Tobin tilts her head giving Christen a rueful smile, “yeah, I do, we both know I do. I owe you an explanation…I…” she trails off, fidgeting with her fingers.

Christen wants to be understanding, she really does, but she feels like she’s on a seesaw, she never knows if she’s up or down when it comes to Tobin. “I’m waiting”

Sighing, Tobin rubs her eyes with the heal of her palms. “I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know what’s going on here” she motions between the two of them “but you matter to me, and this feels important. But so does having her in my life. I know it’s crazy and no one understands” she pauses “but maybe you do?” Tobin looks at her with such hope that Christen's hearts restricts for her.

“I know what happened between her and I wasn’t good, and I don’t want that again, but she mattered to me. I have to believe I mattered to her.”

Nodding understandingly, “you want to be friends with her”

“I do, that’s all I want”

“Friends can hurt you too” Christen whispers

“I know” Tobin whispers back, a waiver in her voice. “no one understands but…”
Sighing deeply, “it doesn’t matter what anyone understands or thinks Tobin, it’s about you and what you need.”
“That’s the thing, I don’t know what I need. I… am just so confused” and Christen can’t take the way Tobin is looking at her as if she can save her. She can’t. Christen doesn’t think it will work, but she understands. It’s a terrible feeling to give yourself to some, to care about, most likely love them and believe they just threw it all away. The need to feel a tenuous connection to them is only natural, she thinks.

Sighing, Christen looks up at the ceiling. “there’s no right answer Tobs, there’s no one way to do this” looking down she looks into Tobin’s eyes. They’re a mixture of pain, regret and fear and as much as Christen wants to be mad, as much as she wants to yell at Tobin she’s making a mistake, she won’t, she can’t, because this type of heartbreak is so damaging. Christen can only offer her friendship and support. Staring at Tobin, Christen knows she decided long ago that Tobin was important to her, and Christen is loyal, even to a fault. She knows this will difficult, and probably a little painful for her, she won’t turn her back on Tobin.

“I’m here for you. I don’t have answers but I’ll always be here for you”

The look of relief that passes over Tobin’s face almost makes everything okay, almost.

“I was going to tell you…but I just didn’t know how. I was afraid you would tell me it was a bad idea and if you had, I don’t think I would have gone.”

“I wouldn’t have said that” Christen says. She’s pleased to know Tobin wouldn’t willfully hurt her, but Tobin’s desire to be near the girl was stronger than her concern for Christen and herself. That’s a powerful pull, one Christen knows she can’t compete with. Christen looks down, afraid of what Tobin will see if she continues to look at her. She can’t help that she’s hurt.

“I’m ruining this aren’t I?”

Sighing, Christen doesn’t know how to answer. She doesn’t want to be in this position, she wishes Tobin wasn’t in her position. She also positive that Tobin needs to do this. She needs to work through this. Slowly shaking her head, “we’re good.” A cautious smile appears on Tobin’s face. Christen looks down as silence overtakes them. The room filled with their unspoken words.

You’re going to get hurt, you’re going to hurt me.

I promise I won’t hurt you, I don’t want to lose you.

I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know if I can stay.

Looking down at her watch, “it’s late, we should get head to bed” Tobin says suddenly sounding exhausted.

Christen nods, hearing the invitation, but she can’t. She’ll resign herself to being Tobin’s friend but she won’t torture herself by lying next to her anymore, knowing she conflicted.

“You’re right. I’m tired. I’m gonna go crash in Alyssa’s room.” Christen doesn’t miss the flicker of hurt that skates through Tobin’s eyes. She walks to Tobin, who slowly starts to raise her arms. Christen catches them in her hands, use them to steady herself, preventing Tobin from hugging her, because she knows she’ll give in if she does that. Instead, she leans in giving the briefest of kisses to Tobin’s cheek. “Night, Tobs”

There’s no response as Christen quickly retreats from the room. Christen never looks back, so she misses the tears that quietly escape Tobin’s eyes. The harsh way she wipes them away, throwing her head back, closing her eyes in self-recrimination, whispering “fuck”.

Chapter Text

I need you, I need you, I need you right now
Yeah, I need you right now
So don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me down
I think I’m losing my mind now
It’s in my head, darling I hope
That you’ll be here, when I need you the most
So don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me down
D-Don’t let me down


Frowning at her laptop Christen tries refreshing the website, again. The girls have an away game and Christen is trying to check the score but the team is horrific at updating their website. It’s a half an hour after regulation time end and the score online still says 0-0 at halftime. Slumping back in her chair Christen scrolls through her Twitter timeline searching for updates when she catches a tweet about the girls. Unfortunately, the girls lost the game but Christen smiles when she reads Alex scored off an assist from Tobin.

The game was only an hour away but Christen couldn’t go she had to work and has a stupid paper due tomorrow. A paper she needs to finish soon she thinks, sighing as she puts her phone down reluctantly turning back to her laptop. Engrossed in trying to finish the last paragraph Christen barely feels her phone vibrate. Glancing over Christen notices she has a text message from Alyssa.

A Dawg: You home?

Nope in the libs

A Dawg: We’re about to drive back, I’m dropping your roomies off.

How is everyone?

A Dawg: Ehhh. Some better than others. Al is blaming herself for missing a shot.

Sigh, thanks for the heads up I’ll be home when they get there

A Dawg: Have you spoken to Tobin?

Pausing Christen checks her messages again to make sure she hasn’t missed one from Tobin. Nothing, she has no unread messages. In fact, Tobin hasn't even replied to her good luck text which is unusual. Christen hasn’t heard from her all day. Things have been a little awkward between them but Christen knows they’re both trying. It’s not like Tobin to not answer her and Christen doesn’t think Tobin is ignoring her on purpose.

No, why?

Waiting for a response Christen glares at her phone as the seconds tick by turning into minutes. Numerous scenarios fly through her head each more dramatic and drastic than the one before it. Putting her phone down Christen tries refreshing the team’s website knowing it’s a fruitless exercise. When her phone vibrates again she hastily picks it up, staring at the message in disbelief.

A Dawg: She got two yellows

She got ejected!?!

A Dawg: Yep

Seriously?

A Dawg: No, April fools. Yes, seriously, C

Wow. I am surprised

A Dawg: Wish I could say the same

?

A Dawg: something similar happened last year

Oh.

A Dawg: Getting ready to drive back, someone will text you

Drive safely

Christen is stupefied. Tobin got a red card? Christen can’t remember Tobin ever getting a yellow card, much less two. The longer Christen considers it the less she’s surprised by it. At the last home game, Tobin definitely had an edge to her. There was an aggressiveness that was uncharacteristic of her, something Christen hadn’t previously noticed. Christen admits Tobin’s a hard worker, she’s everywhere on the field but lately there’s a meanness to her play, a ruthlessness. Christen can’t put her fingers on it exactly but it’s like Tobin is trying to prove something or impress someone.

Christen unwilling remembers that some of the basketball players were in attendance that night, her in particular. Yes, Christen knows her name and she doesn’t care what Shakespeare says, a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. The girl has a hold on Tobin that Christen doesn’t understand. She the Lord Voldemort of Christen’s life and Christen refuses to give her existence validation by using her name. Christen admits it’s childish but she still won’t do it.

Rereading her text messages Alyssa comment makes sense as Christen remembers Ali saying something about Tobin needing to be careful if she didn’t want a repeat of last year. According to the story Ali told her, one game last year Tobin lost it on the field, getting herself ejected from the game and was subsequently benched two games for unsportsmanlike conduct. It mystified her teammates at the time, they’d never seen her act so recklessly. But the more Christen learns about Tobin the more everything makes sense, the more she understands and Christen is willing to bet money that it all has something to do with the girl whose name she will not mention.

Looking at the time Christen realizes her roommates will be back soon, she packs her stuff up and heads home, making sure to stop on her way to North to pick up ice cream and cookies.


Back in her room Christen sits at her desk anxiously waiting for her roommates. She checks the time again, they texted her about fifteen minutes ago saying they were by campus, so they should have been here by now. She wonders if they ended up stopping by the Big House first, it wouldn’t be the first time. Christen decides to work on her essay for a couple more minutes before she texts to make sure they’re okay. She’s almost done when she hears the front door open and muffled noise.

“Chris” Alex yells.

“Upstairs”

There’s no other response but she can hear movement below her. Christen is vaguely cognizant of the sounds of steps coming towards her door. Smiling she looks up but stares in befuddlement towards the doorway. She expected Alex or Julie but instead she greeted by dull vacant brown eyes.

Gawking at the girl standing in her doorway Christen is too shocked to move. When Alyssa said she was dropping the girls off Christen hadn’t thought Tobin was part of the contingency. Tobin stands in the doorway awkwardly, staring back blankly at Christen. Tobin takes the lack of greeting as an invitation to enter the room. She slowly walks to Christen’s bed dropping her bag on the floor, Tobin peels her coat off, falling face forward on the bed. Christen carefully tracked Tobin’s movements with her eyes, twisting in her chair until she’s staring at Tobin’s back. Tobin doesn’t move, she doesn’t utter a word. Dazed and confused Christen is at a complete lost, she has no idea why Tobin is here.

Hearing steps behind her Christen twist back around to find Julie and Alex standing in her doorway. Alex’s lips are thinned her eyes full of concern are trained on Tobin. Julie’s eyes are a little harder, she’s regarding Tobin with a level of skepticism. Catching Christen’s gaze Alex motions towards her room with her head. Nodding Christen watches as they leave the room. Standing Christen turns towards Tobin whose hair is haphazardly spread all over, some of her long brunette strands cover her face but Christen can see enough to know her eyes are closed. Christen fights the urge to walk over, smooth Tobin’s hair down and run her fingers through the damp strands. Even with dark circles under her eyes and chapped lips Christen can’t believe how beautiful Tobin is. A small smile pulls at the corner of Christen’s mouth because despite how tense and awkward things have been between them the last couple of weeks Christen is grateful that Tobin is here, glad that she knew she could come to her.

Christen silently heads towards Alex’s room. Julie closes the door behind her as Christen is greeted by a chorus of questions.

Alex “did you know she was coming here?

Julie: “why is she here?”

Eyes wide in surprise Christen holds her hand up defensively. Frowning at the closed door Christen shakes her head in the negative slowly comprehending that no one knew Tobin was coming tonight. Christen notices the shared looked look between Julie and Alex and feels herself getting defensive. Is it so bad that Tobin is here right now? A tiny voice in the back of Christen’s head tells her she’s only happy for selfish reasons.

“Lys text me saying she was dropping people home, but…I had no clue that including Tobin”

Sighing in frustration, Alex sits on her bad. Christen notices that both Julie and Alex are still in their sweats. Usually, after away games, the girls shower and change before heading home. The tension in the room is palpable increasing Christen’s worry by the second. Julie leans with her shoulder against the door as Christen looks back and forth between them waiting for someone to explain but they’re having a staring contest. Finally, Alex sighs and turns to Christen.

“We didn’t know either. Tobin got …” Alex is slow and precise with her words.

“Ejected, yeah I heard”

Alex's eyes flash with surprise, “Lys texted me”

“Oh right, anywho Tobs got the red card. Once everyone was back in the locker room, she went straight to Alyssa. They were whispering for a little bit. I don’t know what was said but next thing I know Tobin’s picking up her bag and walking out the locker room. She didn’t talk to anyone else. Alyssa announced she’s was driving back right now and if we wanted to ride back with her to hurry. So we gathered our stuff and hustled after them.”

Pausing in her story telling Alex looks beseechingly at Julie. Adjusting her position so her back is against the door, leg propped up Julie reluctantly turns in Christen direction.

“We were walking through the parking lot towards the car” pausing Julie looks questioningly at Alex who nods imperceptibly, “when we saw Heath and the basketball player talking. Well, arguing. Actually, it looked like the girl was reprimanding her and Heath looked like she couldn’t have cared less. She wasn’t even looking at the girl. Lys walked over, stepped between them and said something and Heath just walked away, I don’t think she ever said a word to the girl.”

Julie pauses in her story looking at Christen as if trying to gauge her reaction. Christen’s face is blank, she patiently waits for the rest of the story but she’s willing to wager the girl was in attendance as all the pieces of the puzzle start to come together for her. Julie continues, “at the car she got in the front seat and just stared out the window. She didn’t talk the whole ride. When we got close to campus Syd asked to be dropped at Dom’s and Alyssa asked Heath if she wanted to be dropped off first, she shook her head no. So imagine how surprised we all were when Alyssa pulled outside the quad and she was the first one out of the car. Alyssa asked if you had said anything…” Julie trails off questioningly.

“No” Christen whispers shaking her head.

Julie and Alex share another look. Annoyed Christen is about to throw one of Syd’s pillows at them. Whatever it is, whatever happened Christen just wants them to tell her, she doesn’t need protecting.

Alex speaks up, “I thought maybe she’d text you in the car.”

Shaking her head Christen states, “I had no idea. We haven’t really been…” shrugging a shoulder Christen is unable to complete her sentence. Christen doesn’t want to admit that aside from text messages they haven’t spoken.

Looking at her with understanding eyes, Alex says “I know… she’s been different lately, with everyone. She and Kelley are barely speaking. Chris, I’m worried about her, she’s been so distant lately so unhappy. I think it’s …” looking at Christen with wide concerned eyes she doesn’t finish her sentence she doesn’t have to Christen knows exactly who she is refereeing to.

“She was there tonight?” Alex and Julie nod. Christen has mixed feelings about this. One the one hand she’s not surprised a little happy that she didn’t have to see the girl in person. One the other hand she’s annoyed, annoyed that the girl was there and clearly affected Tobin so negatively and a little disappointed that she couldn’t have been there to maybe help Tobin.

Julie moves to open the door at the sound of a quiet knock. Tobin standing bashfully on the other side, she briefly glancing around the room not looking at anyone in particular.

“What’s up Tobs?” Alex says, trying to be as normal as possible but Christen can hear the undercurrent of concern in her voice.

“Can I borrow a towel?a” she asks, shocking Christen with the hollowness of her voice. Without thinking Christen turns to look at Alex in disbelief. Alex gives Christen an “I told you so” look. Julie is the first to respond, “yeah, sure, I’ll get you one” leading Tobin across to the other bedroom.

Christen watches them go when Alex speaks up “please try to talk to her. When she first got out, I thought maybe she wanted to talk to me and that’s why she came here” a bit of hurt in her voice “but when she went straight to your room, it made sense. She came for you. Maybe I am not that surprised. I don’t…I know things haven’t been great between you two but can you please try to talk to her”

“Sure” Christen answers. Noise in the hallway causes Christen to look out the door in time to see Tobin enter the bathroom and Julie packing a bag in their room. Waving to Alex, Christen leaves the room approaching Julie.

“You’re not staying.”

“No, I am gonna crash with Zack, it’s been a long day. Besides…” Julie motions towards the door.

“You can stay, that doesn’t mean you have to go,” Christen says feeling guilty.

“It’s no big deal I already texted Zack so he should be here any minute.” Frowning, Julie looks out the door again, lowering her voice “I know Alex wants you to talk to Heath and I think you should. She’s…” shrugging a shoulder Julie searches for the right words “not her, but Press…be careful, I don’t want you to get hurt”. Christen simply nods her head because there’s nothing else she can say, she knows what’s at stake and knows the odds aren’t in her favor. Whatever brought Tobin here tonight isn’t good.

Julie’s phone rings, she picks it up hugging Christen briefly mouthing “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She waves to Alex standing in her doorway before heading down the stairs. Alex asks, “do you need to shower also?” Motioning to her XL large sleep shirt Christen shakes her head no, she showered when she first got home. Chuckling, Alex nods, “okay, I’ll jump in after Tobs and then I’m gonna pass out.”

“Okay, night night” Alex gives her a sad smile turning back into her room.

Back at her desk, Christen sees she has a text from Alyssa.

A Dawg: Tobin alright?

I don’t know. She’s in the shower right now

A Dawg: Did you know?

No, I hadn’t talked to her all day

A Dawg: huh, she was almost in tears in the locker room.

What did she say?

A Dawg: She asked if there was room in the car, that she didn’t want to go back with her ride or on the bus. I couldn’t say no. You should have seen her

I have

A Dawg: This is bad dude, it’s almost worse than last year. Everyone is worried.

Sigh, I told Alex I would try to talk to her but I don’t think it will do any good.

A Dawg: It might. You have a connection with her.

Sorta, I don’t know, it feels different

A Dawg: Try, if you want to. She can use a friend she can trust.

I’ll try.

A Dawg: K. I’m going to bed

Night.

At her desk, Christen saves her paper, checks her email as she waits for Tobin. A couple of minutes later Tobin walks in, wrapped in Julie’s towel, water dripping from her hair. Bashfully she asks “Can I borrow something to sleep in, I don’t…”

“Sure, what do you want?” Christen interrupts

Shrugging “I don’t care. What you have is fine” motioning to Christen’s shirt.

Pointing to the dresser, “in there, top drawer”

Christen gives Tobin some privacy, her apparent vulnerability is unnerving, it scares Christen a little bit, she’s never seen this side of Tobin before, she doesn’t know how to act around her when she’s like this. It’s worse than the time after the café. Christen knows she promised Alex she would try to talk to Tobin but she doesn’t think tonight is the right time, it’ll be best to do it in the morning. She’s positive Tobin’s not going to be in the mood for a conversation and Christen not sure she is either.

Hearing Tobin get into her bed Christen closes her laptop before turning her desk light off she asks, “Do you need anything?”

Tobin lies under the covers facing Christen she shakes her head no. “Okay, I’ll be right over in Jules bed so if you need anything just wake me up.”

Tobin bites her lip, whispering “stay?”

Tobin gives Christen such a pitiful look all she can do is nod. Hesitating by her bed Christen doesn’t know how this will work, her bed isn’t meant to be shared but she can’t bring herself to say no, especially not with the way Tobin is looking at her.

On her side, her back braced against the wall Tobin lifts the covers in invitation. Christen climbs onto the bed, she starts to lay down facing away from Tobin so her back is to Tobin’s front but a hand on her shoulder stops her. Tobin asks softly “lie down?” Christen pauses trying to decide if she was going to humor her or not. Of course, Christen does as she reclines on her back. Tobin immediately moves, wiggling her way under Christen’s arm, she places her head on Christen’s shoulder, wrapping her arm around her she throws a leg over Christen’s. It’s as if she’s trying to tether herself to Christen, to a tangible item to keep her from floating away.

Immediately Christen is aware of Tobin shivering against her, heat pouring from her body, her skin is burning hot. Placing her free hand against Tobin’s forehead Christen thinks she feels feverish, she wonders if Tobin is getting sick.

“Do you feel alright? Christen whispers not wanting to disturb the strange sense of peace around them.

Tobin doesn’t immediately respond, instead she runs her free hand down Christen’s side, saying “I’m not sick.” Christen stiffens Tobin surprised her, she wasn’t expecting her to touch her. Tobin’s hand stills bunching some of Christen’s shirt in her fist snuggling closer if possible. Christen feels how fast Tobin’s heart is beating, she consciously prevents her heart from matching the frenzied pace. Tobin is breathing labored and shallow, almost as if Tobin’s nervous system has been over stimulated, unable to process everything that is going on.

Christen slowly runs her hand up and down Tobin’s back hoping to calm Tobin and provide her with some comfort. Eventually, she feels Tobin’s breathing even out, her heartbeat slowing down to match Christen’s and after a period of silence Christen thinks Tobin has fallen asleep.

Tobin mumbles something but Christen doesn’t catch it. Christen wonders if Tobin talks in her sleep but she repeats herself, her voice stronger this time, “I’m so lost…” Tobin says breathing deeply falling silent again. Christen doesn’t know what to say so she rubs her back again whispering “shhh, it’s okay, it will be okay.”

Tobin remains silent but her body is alive, her heart rate increases again, her temperature spiking. The heat radiating off Tobin is uncomfortable, Christen wants to pull away, wants to find cooler air but she won’t leave Tobin right now. So she’s surprised when Tobin whispers, “cold.” “You’re cold?” Christen asks, she can’t imagine how Tobin is cold, she’s going to start sweating soon, it’s so warm under the covers. Tobin shakes her head in the affirmative.

“Are you sure you’re not getting sick?”

Tobin doesn’t respond and she remains silent for so long Christen assumes she drift off to sleep. Trying to relax Christen is surprised when Tobin releases her shirt as she sits up supporting her weight with her hand. Christen catches the glistening moisture in Tobin’s eyes from the light from the window. “Can we…” trailing off, Tobin sits up completely reaching down she grasp the end of her shirt and with jerky movements she takes the borrowed shirt off.

The frenzied movements are disconcerting considering how fluid Tobin normally is. Christen stiffens her eyes wide with bewilderment. Tobin feels Christen’s hesitancy, she reads the fear in her eyes which causes her to shake her head “no, no not like that, I just need to feel you.” Slowly, understanding dawns on Christen, Tobin just needs to feel the presence of another person. Christen has heard skin to skin contact can be therapeutic, healing even, and although this isn’t what she had anticipated she won’t say no. Timidly Christen raises up allowing Tobin to remove her shirt. Embarrassed Christen’s painfully conscious of the fact that they are in bed with only their panties on. Christen starts panicking when Tobin lies down again. Settling her head on Christen’s shoulder Tobin snuggles into Christen’s side anchoring herself again.

“Thank you” Tobin whispers, “thank you for understanding.” Christen knows this should be awkward and inappropriate only it doesn’t feel that way. Maybe it’s because Christen is so concern for the girl in her arms. Tobin just seems so lost and broken and Christen wants to fix it, wants to make it all better for her. It definitely doesn’t feel wrong has something to do with the growing pool of wetness she feels on her chest as Tobin silently cries. As they lay there Christen feels Tobin’s heartbeat slow down, beating in time with hers, Tobin’s skin is cooler to the touch, and she’s lost some of the kinetic energy that was buzzing around her. Tobin mumbles again but this time Christen hears her “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“Yes, you do” Christen whispers back

Tobin, shakes her head closing her eyes in a valiant attempt to hold her tears back but they’re coming faster “no…I’m so lost, I don’t…I can’t…I don’t want to feel this way anymore” she sobs.

Christen’s heart breaks for her. She wants to make everything okay, but she can’t. This isn’t her battle.

Pulling Tobin down, “you’re going to be okay.”

Christen tightens her hold, easing Tobin partially on top of her. Rubbing her neck and back, drawing her fingers slowly up and down Tobin’s back she hums a lullaby from her childhood, as tears continue to drop on her skin. Christen doesn’t know when Tobin falls asleep, doesn’t know when the tears stop but she knows one for sure, she’s in trouble. Lying awake with tear stains on her breast Christen admits she’s in over her head. There’s something about being needed by someone, something about being the person they come to in their darkest moments that makes you want to protect them at all cost, you want to chase away all their demons, you’d sacrifice almost anything for them

In that moment when they need you so desperately, you’re not saving them they’re actually saving you because you want to be the person they see, the person they need. It’s a heady feeling, it makes you believe, gives you hope that you’re truly the great person they see and need and it makes you love them for seeing you. In this moment Tobin might be the broken one but Christen is the one falling, the one trapped because she knows there isn’t much she wouldn’t do for the girl in her arms and it terrifies her.


Christen blinks back against the light filtering in from the window. Moving to roll away from the light, she stops when she feels a warm body next to her. Looking over, she greeted by a peaceful looking Tobin who’s still asleep. Carefully, Christen detaches herself from Tobin. Standing up she looks for her t-shirt. Finding it she puts it back on followed by a pair of shorts. Looking back at the bed she pulls the covers around Tobin watching in amusement as she snuggles deeper into them. Checking the time, Christen decides she’ll go downstairs and make breakfast.

Christen is pulling eggs and bacon from the fridge when a yawning Alex walks in. Laying her head on Christen’s back, “pancakes?” she whines. Shaking her head, “Sure, if you make them.” Standing straight, Alex walks to the cabin, grabbing a box of pancake mix, “I’ll help.” Rolling her eyes, “fine. Have you heard from Syd and Jules, are they coming back? Should we cook for them?”

“No, I haven’t, but I wouldn’t worry about it, it's early, I am sure they won’t be back until later”

Looking at Alex, “It is early, why are you up?”

“I couldn’t sleep and then I heard you” Alex responds grabbing milk out of the fridge.

“You’re going home tomorrow for Thanksgiving, right?” Alex ask.

“Yeah, Ali and I are driving back with Lys. You leave tomorrow also, right?”

“Yeah, I’m coming back Sunday, you?”

“Yeah, same here.” Alex and Christen fall into a comfortable silence as they work to finish breakfast, Alex mixes the batter and Christen fries the bacon and scrambles the eggs.

Waiting for the food to finish cooking, sitting on the counter, Alex asks “So, how is she?”

Christen flips a pancake, trying to decide the best way to answer the question. Christen doesn’t want to tell Alex about the tears from last night, she’s sure that’s something Tobin wouldn’t want her to know about. “We didn’t really talk last night, she went straight to bed,” it’s not a complete lie.

Frowning Alex looks down, “Tobin has secrets that she won’t talk about”

“We all have secrets, Al”

“Yeah, but this one is hurting her”

“Most people’s do”

“I know, I’m just…” sighing in frustration, “She’s bad for her C”

Stilling, Christen starts “Do you know…”

Alex shakes her head “No, not the whole story, I’ve managed to figure some things out. I thought maybe…she told you?”

Christen takes the time to mull over her answer, she’s want to be precise with her words. “Not really, I’ve pieced something things together also but no, she’s never told me specifically what happened.”

Sighing, “Kelley won’t talk about it and Allie says it’s for her to work out. I knew something was happening the night of the party, I knew she went to meet her.” Christen doesn’t respond she assumed the same thing. Alex looks up at Christen, a look of guilt on her face “I texted her that night, told her you were alone and cold, I thought…”

“Wait, you sent her a message about me?” Christen interrupts.

“Well…yeah”

“Al?” Christen stares at Alex in disbelief.

“I just…I knew she would come back for you and I wanted her away from that bitch.” Alex explains shrugging a shoulder.

“Too bad it didn’t work”

Alex gives Christen a perplexed look, “it did.”

Christen looks at Alex incredulously about to say something when they hear footsteps coming down the stairs. Christen and Alex share a glance before looking at the kitchen entryway. Tobin walks in, wearing the shirt from last night and a pair of shorts she must have had in her bag. Warily she says “hey”

Alex smiles cautiously. “Morn Tobs, hungry?”

Tobin nods, looking at Christen. “Alex requested pancakes, hope that’s okay”

“Perfect, thanks.”

“Want something to drink?” Alex questions, Tobin just nods in response. Despite the fact that both Christen and Alex are trying to act as normal as possible, there’s an uneasiness in the room. Tobin’s withdrawn and Christen’s not sure if it’s out of embarrassment or unhappiness, thinking it’s probably a combination of both. Alex gets a cup for Tobin and Christen makes her a plate.

Christen hands Tobin her plate which Tobin places softly on the counter. Leaning in she places her forehead gently against Christen’s. Looking into Christen’s eye, she whispers “thank you.” There’s something so innately intimate in the gestor that it renders Christen speechless. Smiling shyly, Christen just nods her head. Alex avidly watches the interaction with interested eyes.

To break the tension in the room, Christen turn to Alex “what can I get for you?”

“I’ll have a little bit of everything” Alex smiles.

Tobin moves into the living room she sits at the table and lowers her head down in prayer. Alex takes the opportunity to mouth to Christen “talk to her”. Shaking her head, “not now” Christen mouths back. Alex glares at her, “yes, now.” Christen crosses her arms over her chest defiantly staring back.

“uhhhh, everything okay guys,” Tobin ask hesitantly, before forking food into her mouth. She’s caught the last bit of their interaction.

Sighing, Alex looks past Christen to Tobin “What’s going on, yesterday…”

Tobin stops chewing, quickly glancing at Christen, who subtle shakes her head. Trying to communicate that she hadn’t told Alex about last night. Narrowing her eyes in suspicion Alex looks between the two of them. “What?”

“I had a bad night” Tobin responds

Scoffing, Alex glares at Tobin. “That’s an understatement.”

Christen’s a little surprised by the hardness in Alex’s voice. Christen knows it’s been hard for Alex. Alex considers Tobin to be one of her best friends and yet she’s unable to help her and probably feels a little shut out. Christen recognizes the look of hurt and concern on Alex’s face. Backing up Christen leans against the counter, the emotions emanating from Alex are discomforting. “Seriously, Tobs what’s going on? You’ve barely been around…” hurt evident in her voice.

Christen steals a glance in Tobin’s direction, she stops eating as she places her fork down rubbing the back of her neck her eyes are lowered. “I know. I’m sorry,” her voice flat. Sighing in frustration, Alex hops off the counter picking her plate up “I’m going to eat upstairs, thanks, Chris” and she stalks out the room.

Tobin watches her from the living room but doesn’t say anything. Rubbing her eyes Tobin leans back in the chair sighing deeply, keeping one hand over her eyes. “I’m fucking this up.”

“She’s hurt, Tobin”

Looking towards Christen moisture in her eyes, “I know, you think I don’t know.”

Sighing, Christen knows she has to talk to Tobin now, she just doesn’t know the best way to handle this. She decides to go with the direct approach. “What’s going on Tobin? You can’t just keep saying ‘you’re sorry’, you can’t keep giving vague answers.”

“I don’t mean to, I don’t know how to explain this. I can’t explain why this matters so much.” She tilts her head back bringing her palms to her eyes she mumbles, “I thought I could be her friend, I thought this time it would be different. And it is but it isn’t at the same time” taking a deep breath, Tobin stares down at the table “Kelley is mad at me, Allie is disappointed, Alex is hurt and…” her words trail off as she shakes her head back and forth.

“How is it different Tobin you don’t seem happy” Christen questions, she honestly just wants to keep Tobin talking maybe it will help her work through everything.

Fidgeting with her fingers Tobin bits her lip and when she looks up, she won’t meet Christen’s eyes. “But I am, when it’s just the two of us, I am…happy” her voice small.

“Oh, ” Christen says looking down, she doesn’t want Tobin to know her words hurt her and she knows her eyes will betray her, show the hurt.

“She’s different, it’s so different, it’s like we’re good friends” Tobin tries to explain desperately.

“Right, as long as no one is around. As long as it’s on her terms. That’s not friendship Tobin.” Christen winces as she hears the hardness in her own voice but she’s had enough. Not to mention she can’t continue to be the one to try and put Tobin back together again, not when each time it slices through her heart.

Tobin throws her head back, rapidly blinking her eyes, trying to keep tears back. When she finally lowers her eyes, they’re moist and guarded but no tears fall, “you don’t think we can be friends? You don’t think it’s real?”

Christen’s initial instinct is to say maybe because she thinks Tobin wants some reassurance but she doesn’t feel like sugar coating anything anymore. Christen feels her face softening with understanding and she knows what she is going to say next isn’t going to make her happy. “It didn’t work for me. It was an uneven friendship. I was always willing to sacrifice more and she was always willing to take more. It took my real friends to help me realize that it wasn’t a positive friendship.”

“I think we can be I don’t think it will be uneven”

Swallowing hard Christen chokes out, “okay, you’d know best.”

Tobin looks up staring at Christen, her eyes tell Christen she heard the hurt in her voice.

“I don’t want to be with her, I just…”

“Tobin, it’s your life. I just hope you’re making choices for the right reasons.”

“I thought you might understand…”

Christen stills at the hopefulness in her voice. She doesn’t know how to explain to Tobin their situations aren’t the same. She doesn’t understand how Tobin feels. Christen feel in love, her heart got broken and then she ran. She dealt with the aftermath on her own, all of her anger and disappointment directed towards herself. She also didn’t think talking to Tobin would be this hard for her, it hurts to know this girl means so much to Tobin because she’s not sure she can compete with that. Focusing again, Christen says calmly “No, I don’t.” shrugging “I think you’re lying to yourself. I don’t think you’re being honest about what is really going on.”

Vehemently shaking her head Tobin quietly says “She cares about me”

“Maybe she does, that doesn’t mean you should accept it. It’s not a friendship, Tobin” Christen thinks if she repeats the words enough Tobin might believe them, thinking maybe she doesn’t need to compete with the girl, maybe she just needs to knock her off the pedestal Tobin has placed her on.

“It is”

Frustrated Christen ask, “Why? Why does it have to be?”

Tobin yells, “because otherwise, everything was a lie, everything I gave up was for nothing, because…then it’s me, I’m the problem, it’s me that’s not good enough and I can’t handle that” tears are leaking down Tobin’s eyes. Christen catches movement out of the corner of her eye. She sees Alex sitting towards the stop of the stares, sadness evident in her eyes, she must have heard what Tobin just said.

Christen desperately wants to console Tobin but she grasps the counter anchoring herself. Something deep inside her telling her that Tobin has to do this, she has to feel the pain she’s repressed for so long. Gentler she starts again, “Tobin you know that’s not true. There are so many people that care about you. You have so many good friends. I know you deserve better and deep down so do you.” Tobin slumps in her chair picks up her fork playing with the food on her plate. As the minutes go by, Christen thinks Tobin might not be willing to talk anymore, she knows this must have been hard for her, she’s never been forthcoming with her feelings.

“Do you really think I’m lying to myself?” her voice wobbly.

“Do you?”

“I don’t know anymore, maybe. I want to believe her I want to believe she wouldn’t keep lying to me, but…”

“Yes, I think you’re lying to yourself a little. It seems like your friendship was based on false premise and no healthy relationship can last on a lie. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can be friends, I just think you have to be honest about the type of friendship you can have with her. I also think you need to be honest about what you want from her,” Christen finishes on a whisper. Christen is doing her best to be open and forthright with Tobin. No matter how hard it is for her, Christen doesn’t want to be another person Tobin can’t trust.

“The worst part, it’s not really about her, I just…” Tobin trails off.

“You want to believe it was real, you want to believe all the touches, all the whispered promises weren’t just practiced lies, you want to believe that you mattered” Christen whispers in understanding. Maybe Tobin was right, maybe she does understand more than she’d like to admit.

“Is it all a lie?” Tobin questions.

Sighing Christen meets Tobin’s gaze, she looks so vulnerable it saddens Christen. Choosing her words carefully Christen answers Tobin but she answers from her perspective. “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone would be that cruel. I have to believe that she cared, that she cared as best she could with who she was at the time. Was it enough for me? After a while, no, it wasn’t. Maybe I am the one who changed, maybe she was always who she was and I didn’t want to see it. I don’t know, but I the end it wasn’t enough for me. Is it enough for you? Only you can answer that.”

They’re quiet for a long moment, Christen lost in the past and Tobin stuck in the present. Tobin eventually asks “Do you think they’ll forgive me?”

The question startles Christen, “I’m sure they already have. You’re a good person Tobin and you’re a good friend. You’ve just had a couple of bad weeks.”

Scoffing, a small smile playing around her mouth, eyebrows raised slightly “that’s an understatement.”

Christen can’t help the giggle that escapes grateful for the small moment of levity.

“I’m mad at myself, I should have known better”

“Don’t think that way, just focus on moving on”

Sitting up in her chair, Tobin nods her head, “Yeah, I will.” Hesitantly, she looks at Christen,

“And you?”

“Me, what?” Christen ask genuinely perplexed.

“I know I haven’t been…”

“Do you really have to ask? I mean I made you some of my special pancakes” Christen interrupts her, she doesn’t want to hear Tobin apologize, she just wants to focus on moving on, hoping eventually they can move forward together.

Looking back at the stairs Christen sees Alex's mouth thank you but Christen doesn’t think it’s warranted despite their talk Christen knows Tobin won’t stay away from the girl completely.

“Can I heat my food up, it’s cold?”

“Let me guess you’re still hungry?”

Smiling Tobin gets up from the table and walks into the kitchen “Obviously.”

Chapter Text

We need love
But all we want is danger
We team up
Then switch sides like a record changer
The rumors
Are terrible and cruel
But, honey most of them are true

Cause baby I could build a castle
Out of all the bricks they threw at me
And every day is like a battle
But every night is like a dream
Baby we're the new romantics
Come on, come along with me
Heartbreak is the national anthem
We sing it proudly
We're too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet
Baby we're the new romantics
The best people in life are free


 

“Woo hoo,” hands held high in celebration Christen dances in her chair.

“Finished?” ask an amused voice.

Looking over the top of her laptop, Christen is meet with sparling honey brown eyes warm with humor.

“Yep! I’ve officially finished my first semester and it feels so good” still dancing.

“Congrats” Tobin laughs.

“I almost can’t believe it, almost.” Christen says smiling brightly as she gazes at the girl across from her. As excited as she is about finishing her exams, Christen knows part of her smile is due to the girl across from her, Tobin’s smile is kind of infectious.

“What time is your exam?”
“Two”

Closing her laptop Christen realizes that Tobin isn’t studying her notes. Tobin had texted her early in the morning seeking asylum, claiming her house was too loud and she couldn’t spend another hour in the library. Christen had planned on finishing her paper and then packing, so she told Tobin she was welcome to come and study. “Shouldn’t you be studying?”
Shrugging, “I should, but I can’t, I’m study out. I’ve been studying for the last two weeks” Tobin says in a pitiful voice.
“Yeah, it’s called finals, dear”

Making a face, “I was hoping Alex would be here, she usually makes me study”

“You know she hasn’t left the library except to shower and sleep”

“I know, I told her I was coming here, I thought she might stay. I can’t be there with her anymore, I think the constant confinement is making her crazier, if possible”

“Do you want me to quiz you or something?”

“Nah, I’m good. If I don’t know it by now, I doubt the next two hours will change anything”

Christen regarding Tobin steadily, she doesn’t want to push her. She’s not worried about Tobin’s cavalier attitude, she knows how hard Tobin has been working. In fact, she’s lasted longer in the library then Christen. Christen’s a little concerned because things have been good between them since the night Tobin came to her, exceedingly good, too good. It bothers Christen that they’ve never talked about that night. The onetime Christen mentioned it Tobin had made it really obvious it wasn’t something she wanted to discuss. So Christen let it go, she understands there are somethings you just can’t discuss. Still Christen wonders just how much hurt Tobin harbors inside and how much she regrets letting Christen see her vulnerable like that. Christen admits Tobin does seem happier since Thanksgiving break, she came back to school with renewed energy. Tobin made it clear she’s determined to move on, making considerable efforts to be around more, she’s less secretive and honest about who she’s hanging out with. No one is thrilled about Lord Voldemort’s presence in her life but the open communication has eliminated a lot of the tension.  

“Well, I have to start packing, I haven’t done anything yet and Lys wants to leave first thing in the morning.”

“Want some help?”

“Sure, bring your notes in case you feel studious or something”

Rolling her eyes, Tobin gathers her notes and follows Christen up the stairs to her room. Standing in the doorway, Tobin’s eyes widen as she takes in the mess. Julie’s side of the room has clothing thrown all over the place, in fact Tobin has to create a path to Christen’s desk. Christen’s side is a little more organized, she has a duffle bag on her floor and stacks of clean clothing lined up on her bed. Placing her notes down Tobin points to the floor and laughing ask, “What happened here?”
“I know, it’s horrible, I should probably be embarrassed but I am not plus most of it is Julie’s.”
“Sure, sure, blame the girl when she’s not here to defend herself.”

“Um…I clearly don’t play soccer nor do I have clothing from the athletic department” Christen says pointing to the largest pile of clothing on the floor.  

Tobin twist back looking at Christen’s pin board and the various pictures before she says “I still wondered about that, why did you stop playing?”

Stiffening, Christen looks over Tobin’s shoulder at the pictures of Ali, Alyssa and herself in their high school uniforms, some of the pictures of her club teammates. This is a conversation she doesn’t want to have at all, but especially not with Tobin. Christen knows it will open some of her old wounds. Wounds she doesn’t want open around Tobin. Christen is working to build a small barrier between the two of them, it’s the only way she thinks She can be Tobin’s friend. Since holding Tobin in her arms, Christen’s feelings for her have grown quickly moving in a direction that she’s not prepared to deal with, she knows she could fall in love with her if she’s not careful. It’s a thin line she’s navigates daily. Shaking her head, “today are only happy thoughts, deal?” Christen claims, hoping Tobin will move on.
Standing her ground Tobin regarding Christen suspiciously, “why won’t you talk about it?”
Internally groaning, of course Tobin would persist. It’s not the first time Tobin’s tried to have this conversation. Folding her arms over her chest, “How are things between you and Kelley?” Christen questions, a hardness in her voice.

Licking her bottom lip, Tobin slowly nods her head, “Happy thoughts, only, right.”

Christen watches as Tobin lowers her head, shifting her feet and Christen immediately feels bad, she knows the question was a cheap shot. Despite Tobin’s efforts, her relationship with Kelley is still strained. Kelley is cordial to Tobin but they don’t hang out like they use to and when they do the tension between them is apparent. Alex tried to talk to Kelley but she’s determined to keep her distance. From what Kelley said, she just doesn’t want to stand by and watch Tobin get her heart broken again. Kelley doesn’t believe they want to be friends nor does she think they can be. Christen can’t help but think Kelley’s probably right. She’s about to apologize to Tobin, who is play with her fingers because the current atmosphere is discomforting, when Tobin speaks up.

“Alex and you have been the most accepting out of everyone. Thanks, I really appreciate it” She says slowly, a wavier in her voice.
“Give them time, Tobs. It’s probably easier for us because we weren’t here last year.”

Tobin is contemplative as if she’s never considered this before “maybe, or maybe you guys are just more forgiving” Tobin says with a little bit of bitterness in her voice. Wanting to lightening the mood a little, Christen jokes “Have you met Alex?”

“Yeah, I have, she can be intense and she’s ridiculously competitive but at least she’s forgiven me.” Tobin says with a sad smile.

“I know. Give Kels some time, maybe talk to her over the break” Christen suggest.

Tobin looks down at Christen, who’s on the floor desperately trying to organize her side of the room. She opens her mouth about to say something then snaps it shut. Pausing she studies Christen seriously and she opens her mouth again asking “Need help?” Christen frowns, she has the distinct impression that wasn’t what Tobin was originally going to say.

Looking helpless Christen says “no.”  

“Want music, I can go get your laptop?”
“Yea, it might motivate me and can you bring my suitcase up, it’s in the closet in the living room”
Looking at the large duffle bag on the floor, Tobin’s raises her eyebrows, “You need another bag?”

“Don’t judge”

Shaking her head, “Sure, need anything else?”

“No, thanks”

Christen hears her phone ringing, sighing in frustrations because she has no idea where on her bed it is, most likely it’s buried under one of the mounts of clothing on her bed. She gets to it right before the call goes to voicemail smiling as she sees it is her mom.

Christen is still talking to her when Tobin enter the room again, laptop tucked under her arm, pulling Christen’s suitcase behind her.

“Okay, I’ll call you when we get on the road…yes, early, around 6…okay, love you too.” Smiling gratefully at Tobin, “Sorry about that, I haven’t really talked to her this week.”

 “You and Alyssa are leaving in the morning?”
“Yeah, what about you?”

“Yeah, I leave tomorrow” Christen briefly glances up, Tobin’s tone sounds off but she doesn’t think much about it as Tobin opens her laptop.

“Are you doing rush with Alex?”
“Have you met me?” Christen jokes

“I have…I don’t know, I could see you in a sorority”

“I’m in one, and it has three other members and my mother is the president” Christen says lightheartedly

“Okay, no more sororities for you” Tobin chuckles.

“No, I am not rushing but I did tell Alex I would come back a little early. Did you rush?” Christen ask

“I did it with Allie after she begged me to. I obviously backed out after the second or third round. I knew I wasn’t going to join”

“Yeah, I don’t really see you as a sorority girl” Christen says absent mindedly.

“Well, I too belong to one and my mother is also the president.”

Christen can’t help but laugh, “Touché”

Tobin leans against Christen’s desk watching in amusement as Christen tries to pack her bags. Christen is arranging and rearranging her clothing.

“Nervous about going home?” Tobin ask after watching Christen put the same sweater in and out of her suitcase three times.
Stopping Christen looks at Tobin, a small frown on her face “Yeah, a little. I know it’s silly. It’s home but I don’t know, I’m afraid people are going to expect something, expect me to be better somehow but I’m still just me.”

“Yeah, I understand, it’s better once you’re home. Everything was pretty much the same for me.”

“I’m also going to miss this” Christen says looking around. “I’ve liked living on my own, being able to come and go without explaining, spending time at the Big house. I’m going to miss everyone, especially my roommates and their crazy shenanigans. Home is going to be so boring. I’m being silly, aren’t I?” Christen ask earnestly.

“No, I understand, you’re going to miss me” Tobin says with a smirk on her face.

“I said everyone” Christen smirks back.

Chuckling, Tobin holds her hand out “come here” she says as she leans against the desk widening her stance. Christen grasp her hand, allowing Tobin to help her up. She willing goes into Tobin’s open arms. She feels herself calming as Tobin wraps her up in a warm hug, pulling Christen tightly against her body. “I’ll miss you but you’re going to have a great time at home and trust me you’ll be back before you know it. It’s not that long.”

Christen doesn’t say anything, holding on tightly, reveling in Tobin offering her comfort, it’s usually the other way around.  

Consecutive beeps make them laugh, reluctantly they pull apart. Christen picks up her phone and Tobin pulls her phone out of her back pocket.

A Dawg: I know you’re going to over pack, want me to pick you up?

Yes, please

A Dawg: okay. You have about two hours, can you do that?

Yeah, that will work

A Dawg: I’ll call when I’m on my way

Sounds good

Christen looks over at Tobin who is still texting away. Christen glares at her bag and suit case on the floor, mentally prepping herself.

“I have to go meet Alex, she wants to go over some questions before the test” Christen can hear the exasperation in Tobin’s voice.

“You’re going to meet her in the library?”

Shaking her head, “No, I told her it had to be outside, she needs fresh air”

Laughing, Christen hesitant to ask but she does anyway, “Are you going to the Big house afterwards?”

Not looking at Christen, “not right away, I’ll be there later though”

“Okay, I’m staying the night so I’ll see you later? If not hav..”

“I’ll see you tonight” Tobin interrupts her voice gentle.

“Okay, good luck on your exam”

“Thanks, see ya later”


 

Following Alyssa into the bar, Christen’s a little nervous, she’s honestly afraid of the cantankerous bar owner, even though Alyssa swears his bark is worse than his bite.

“A-Dawg” comes from the side of the bar.

Christen turns to Alyssa with accusing eyes “you allow someone else to call you A-dawg”

“He heard Ali say it one night and now I can’t get him to stop” Alyssa shrugs. “Adam! What up dude? This is my friend, Christen. She’s meeting with Pep” Alyssa says to the boy sitting on the side of the bar. Christen’s heard Alyssa talk about him a couple of times. He’s one of her favorite bartenders, besides Lindsay, a field hockey player.

 “Oh, the the non-soccer player” the boy says with a southern accent.

Christen eyebrows shoot up, “charming” she says sarcastically.

Adam at least has the grace to look embarrassed. “Sorry, darlin’, but A Dawg here is always talking about you, I meant no offense” Alyssa rolls her eyes.

“Like she said, charming” the girl behind the bar says sarcastically “Hi Christen, I’m Lindsay, nice to meet you” shaking Christen’s hand.

“Pep here?” Alyssa ask scanning the room.

“Yeah, he’s changing a keg, he’ll be right out” Alyssa raises an eyebrow, looking in Adam’s direction “isn’t that your job?”

Holding his beer up, “I’m off tonight” Adam drawls.

“Lazy is what you are” Lindsay jokes before heading off to a customer.

Alyssa faces Adam, “he wouldn’t let you, huh?”
Shaking his head, “Nope, you know how stubborn he can be and he’s limping tonight.” Adam finishes with a frown.
Alyssa shakes her head in understanding. “Yeah, I’ve offered a few times but he never lets me. Do you think it will be busy tonight?”
“Don’t know, some of the guys said they would stop by. I told Pep I would hang around a bit to see.”

“Good”

“If anything, we can throw darlin’ here behind the bar” Adam smiles wickedly in Christen’s direction.

“Darlin’?” Christen tries to mimic his drawl

‘Is ma’am better? I’m a respectful southern boy, after all”
“I highly doubt that, the respectful part, I mean”

Adam chuckles “I like her, she can stay” Alyssa stands facing her demeanor changes as she watches a group of girls enter the bar. Adam smile also fades. Alyssa and him share a knowing look. Standing, Adam says “I’ll go get Pep, for darlin’ here”

Christen can’t help but roll her eyes before she glances in the direction Alyssa is staring. Stiffening, Christen recognizes the girl. Christen takes quick stock of the group, relieved that Tobin’s not with them. Christen hears grumbling, looking she sees a white haired man limping his way towards Alyssa and her.

“Christen?” comes a surprisingly warm voice.

“Yes, hi!” Christen stutters a little bit, nervous again.

He motions over to one of the booths off to the side, “Let’s chat a bit”

About fifteen minutes later, Christen walks back over to Alyssa and Adam eyes wide with happiness.

“How did it go?” Alyssa questions

“He said he’ll give me a trail run. I told him I would be back early and he suggested coming in and shadowing.”

Alyssa shakes her head, “Okay, did he give you a particular day?”

Christen shakes her head “No, he said to call once I’m back on campus.”

“I was going to come back that Wednesday, so if you can wait you can come back with me”

“Okay, thanks”

“You rushing?” Adam ask over top of his can, clearly confused.

“No, my roommate is”

“That’s right, I forgot you’re a freshman.”

Alyssa taps him on the back of the head, “I think you’ve taken too many hits, dude. I told you this”
Adam shrugs, “Too many hits, too much beer, it’s one or the other,”

“Or both” Alyssa suggest
“Let me guess, you’re the football player?”
“You can tell from his neck, only meat heads have necks like that” Lindsay chimes in from the bar.

“What year are you?” Christen questions

“The viper behind the bar and I are both juniors”.

“He’s also in Sig Nu with Zack” Alyssa supplies

“You know Zack?” Adam questions

“Yeah, he dates my roommate.”

“Oh, JJ. Love that girl. Glad Zack found him a quality girl” He said, briefly glancing over towards the booth in front “unlike some of my frat brothers.” Christen doesn’t know who he’s talking about exactly, but the fact that she who must not be named is at that booth, endears him to Christen, plus he loves Jules.

“Oh, you don’t call her darlin’” Christen mocks

“Hell no, she’d kick my ass” Adam laughs. Christen laughs as she takes in Adam’s stocky figure, thinking if Julies was angry enough she could probably do some damage.

Christen’s phone vibrates in her pocket

Alex the Queen: Where are you? We need to celebrate before you leave

At the bar with Lys.

Alex the Queen: Oh right, did you get the job?
I get a trail period.

Alex the Queen: You’ll get, then free beer!!!

Lol

Alex the Queen: come to the house, we’re having game night

Lys and I’ll be there in a little bit

Alex the Queen: cya

“They’re having game night at the house. Alex said to hurry”

“Of course she did”

“Wait, you live with A-Dawg and Allie” Adam questions. Christen eyes go wide with surprise, her eyebrows shoot up in response to the second name, confused she glances at Alyssa, who simple rolls her eyes.

“She’s a freshman, she lives in a dorm. You need to check your helmet; it’s not doing its job” Lindsay quips a grin on her face. Adam only response is a one shoulder shrug.

“I’m trying to get her to move in next year, it will save me gas money” Alyssa adds

“Funny, very funny” Christen deadpans

“Seriously, you know everyone and everyone likes you. It would be better than trying to get someone new to move in.”

“Yeah, but I would want the basement apartment and that’s taken”

“I’m sure you could have it”
Christen raises her eyebrows, “huh?”
“Tobin wants to move into a different room”

“Oh, I didn’t know”

“Tobin? The name sounds familiar” Adam utters

Alyssa gives Adam an exasperated look “Tobin, my roommate, also Allie’s roommate. This is why you’re single. You never listen”

“Oh, Tobs, she’s a cool chick, is she …” Alyssa not so subtle elbows Adam in the side “…a beast on the field” Adam finishes, quickly taking a drink of his beer. Christen narrows her eyes studying the two, she’s positive that’s not what Adam was originally going to say. Standing up, Alyssa leans over the bar, “Bye Linds, Happy Holidays”

“Bye Alyssa, Happy Holidays. Nice to meet you Christen” Lindsay waves.

Waving back Christen says “Nice meeting you”

"Bye Meathead, don’t go tipping cows over the holidays”

Chuckling, “Happy holidays, to you to, A-dawg. See you in the new year, darlin’”

“Are you going to call me that from now on?” Christen questions.

Adam nods in response, “’fraid so, darlin’” a grin spreading on his face.

“Well then, Happy Holidays Meathead” Christen waves goodbye as she follows Alyssa out the door, Adam’s laughter trailing after them.


 

Alyssa and Christen enter the house from the back door and are immediately greeted by blaring music and rambunctious laughter, so in other words a typical night at the Big house. Alex is standing in the kitchen talking to Allie when she sees Christen letting out a cry of happiness, running she gives her a hug. Christen can tell she’s tipsy, her cheeks are flushed and she’s extra affectionate.

“Hey guys” Allie greets them.

“Your fan club asked about you again” Alyssa tells Allie. Allie rolls her eyes “he’s a sweet guy but…”

“Not for you, I know. Not going to stop him from asking” Alyssa says.

Much to Christen’s surprise there are various games scattered around the dining and living room. She didn’t think there would actually be games. It looks like someone robbed the children’s section of Walmart. She sees Syd sitting in front of a connect four grid.
“Oh, is that connect four?” Christen calls over to Syd

“Yeah, we just finished want to play?”
“Yeah, I haven’t played in years this use to be my favorite.” Christen’s joy apparent on her face as she sits across from Syd.

Half-way through their second game, Christen won the first. Julie come and sits next to Christen, laying her head on her shoulder. “Alex wants to play Uno with you guys” she says as she places a box of cards on the table. Both Christen and Syd shrug, saying “fine”.

Christen feels goose bumps on the back of her neck, twisting she see Tobin enter the kitchen. They share a smile before Tobin greets Kelley and Allie.

Alex, joins the girls at the table handing Julie a beer. “Chris, why are you leaving so early in the morning” she whines.
Christen rolls her eyes, they’ve been over this before. “Because Lys wants to leave and avoid traffic and since she’s the one driving…”

“I know, I just wish you weren’t leaving so early”

“Are you driving to the airport with us?” Syd questions

“I think so, I have to double check”

Julie already shuffled the cards deals them out. “I’m just glad I am done with finals. Zack has one more tomorrow, I don’t know how he’s studying right now”

“Yeah, I am glad I was done yesterday. If I had to finish after you guys, I am pretty sure I would have failed that exam” Syd says.

“No, we would have made you study” Alex says. Syd gives her an incredulously look. “Seriously, I would’ve made sure you were studying, I just would’ve been drinking” Alex smiles sweetly.

Laughing, “Morgan you go first since you wanted to play”

“Uno” Alex yells, holding one more card in her hand. Christen sighs, when Alex wins this will be her third win. Sure enough, the next time it’s Alex’s turn she lowers a wild card, ending the game.

Christen begs off from playing another game, she’s tired and a little distracted. Tobin and Kelley are in the back of the kitchen and from the noise the filters over, they’re arguing. Everyone once in a while Kelley’s voice carries over all the noise in the house. Christen's managed to pick up the following key words “using…not fair…going to get hurt” Kelley’s tone reproachful.

Alex worriedly glances to the corner of the kitchen, they share an anxious glance, things definitely don’t seem to be improving between them. Jules quietly ask “Do you know what they’re talking about?”
Alex and Christen shake their heads “No” Alex answers. “I was hoping it would be better by now”
“I know” Christen says. Julie doesn’t say anything as she scrutinizes the scene.

Kelley throws her hands in the air “Whatever Tobin” loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear.

Stalking out the kitchen Kelley walks to Alyssa leaning down to whisper in her ear. Christen watches interestedly as as Alyssa gets up and follows Kelley out the door. Turning to look at her roommates, she finds Alex’s eyes riveted on Tobin, trying to communicate with the girl silently. Jules is staring after Kelley and Alyssa, her brows furrowed. Allie walks over to Tobin and they whisper quietly, Tobin looking at the floor. The roommates all stare at each other, no one knowing what to say.

Syd clears her throat, “I’m gonna miss you guys.” The non sequitur accepted by everyone.

“I know, what am I gonna do without your loud mouth” Julie jokes.

“You’re gonna miss it, that’s what” Syd responds feigning indignation. They make small talk until Julie notices the time.  

“Guys, it’s late and I’ve been up since six this morning. I’m going to go next door and crash.” She pulls Christen in for a hug “I’m gonna miss you roomie, promise me you’ll text me back”

Laughing, Christen says “Don’t I always?” she’s a little relieved to know she’s not the only one suffering from some form of separation anxiety. “Alright, I won’t see you in the morning, because you and Alyssa are leaving at an ungodly hour, but text me when you get home, okay?

“I promise, and have a safe flight”

Jules smiles as she gets up Syd also stands, blows a kiss in Christen’s direction, “Text me also” Looking at Alex, “you coming over to the other side?” Alex nods, “I’ll be over in a little while.

Christen’s about to ask Alex a question when there’s a flop next to her, looking over she sees Tobin lay her head down on the table.

Alex regards her carefully, “You okay Tobs?”
Sitting up, she’s shrugs her shoulders, “yeah… when do you leave again?”

“Tomorrow afternoon, going to take a cab to the airport with everyone”

“Oh right, so you’ll still be here in the morning, unlike this one” She nods in Christen’s direction. Christen’s rolls her eyes, it’s not as if they’re leaving at four in the morning.

Alex laughs, “Yeah, I will be. I’m gonna go crash I’ll see you in the morning?”
“Yeah”

“C, make sure you text us, okay? Luv you!” Alex motions for Christen to get up and she does, walking into a warm hug before Alex leaves out the front door.

Tobin is giving Christen a peculiar look, ever since Kelley left she seems defeated somehow.
“Everything okay?”

Tobin regards her for a long second, before shaking her head. “all good”

“Okay, I’m going to shower and then bed”
Tobin stands up as Christen walks towards her saying “have a good break.”

Tobin willing opens her arms, allowing the younger girl to step into her. She slowly backs them up until Christen’s back is against a wall. She’s buries her head in the nook of Christen’s shoulder, holding her tightly. Christen holds Tobin enjoying the feel of her.

Tobin mumbles “I’m really going to miss you”
Christen squeeze her, “I’m going to miss you too” she whispers.

“You’ve been so good to me”

Christen doesn’t respond, she doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t think she’s done anything special.

Leaning back, effectively pushing her lower body against Christen’s, Tobin tucks a piece of Christen’s hair behind her ear. Tobin looks so serious, Christen can feel herself getting anxious.

“What’s wrong?”
Looking away, Tobin shakes her head. “Nothing, it’s just that…” looking back at Christen “it’s been a hard semester. Thank you for everything.” Christen stares at her but Tobin’s eyes are guarded.

“You don’t have to thank me, Tobs. We’re friends”

Looking towards the entry way, “yeah, we are. Hey listen, there something …. “Tobin trails off, looking back at Christen’s open expression. Christen regards Tobin steadily watching as her eyes darken and if Christen had to name the emotion playing in her eyes, she would name it regret. “Never mind”

“Tobin, what’s going on?”
“Nothing, I just…I’ve been a burden to you, I don’t want to continue”

“You haven’t been a burden. Friends help each other” Tobin’s silent as she zones out. Christen squeeze her again to get her attention. Tobin moves away, “you should get some rest, it’s late and you guys are leaving early.” Suspiciously Christen observes Tobin, eventually she shrugs, if Tobin doesn’t want to talk to her, she knows Tobin won’t.

“Okay, night Tobs” Christen says warily heading up the stairs to Alyssa’s room. Quietly she gathers her clothing and slips into the bathroom. In the shower her thoughts are consumed by the girl in the basement. Christen feels uneasy leaving with the way things are between them. Clearly, something is bothering Tobin, and Christen assumes it has to do with the girl. Christen knows detaching herself from Tobin is the smart thing, the safest thing, but she can’t deny the fact that she wants Tobin. Of no fault of her own, Tobin has worked her way into Christen’s being and she’s doesn’t have the necessary defenses to protect herself. So she’ll continuing to distance herself, knowing its futile. Christen begrudgingly admits to herself she wants to distract Tobin, she’s wants to make Tobin think about her over the break, she doesn’t want Tobin to forget about her. She wanted to kiss her earlier in the kitchen, she’s wanted to kiss Tobin for a while now. She wishes she’d kissed her when she had the opportunity. Getting out of the shower, dressing quickly, she quietly tip toes into Alyssa’s room. She restlessly lies down for about twenty minutes but sleep doesn’t claim her. Deciding to get up and get some water she makes her way to the kitchen.

Entering the kitchen, her eyes immediately focus on the doorway leading to the basement. Christen knows she should go upstairs and force herself to fall asleep. She knows this. She positive this is the best course of action.  Which is exactly why her feet start heading down the stairs, they’re propelling her body forward. Following her basic instincts, she slowly descends down to the basement, closer to the bottom she sees the door open.

Christen slowly enters the room. Tobin is sitting on the edge of her bed, head in her hands. Christen knows Tobin heard her the steps aren’t quiet but Tobin still hasn’t moved. All the confidence rushes out of Christen, she starts to turn around when she hears “hey.” Pivoting, Christen bites her lip in embarrassment. Reluctantly, she responds “hey.” Tobin rest her cheek against her palm, gazing at Christen with a small sad smile. Christen gazes back feeling even more uncomfortable as this is the second time tonight she can’t read Tobin’s eyes. Christen smiles hesitantly about to apologize and flee up the stairs when Tobin sits straight up. Giving Christen her slightly crooked smile, Tobin doesn’t say anything, sliding back the covers, she moves making room for Christen next to her.

Slowly Christen makes her away to the bed. Gradually she lays her head on Tobin’s shoulder, her arm across her flat stomach. They lie like that for a while, neither moving. Christen listens to the steady beating of Tobin’s heart, its cadence slowly lulling her to sleep when she feels it. The briefest touch of lips to her forehead, it’s the sweetest thing ever and she knows she won’t be able to lie still anymore. Slowly raising herself up, Christen looking down at Tobin’s sleepy smile. Fingers are running gently up and down her back. Throwing her leg over Tobin’s she positions herself more comfortable. Christen wants to kiss Tobin, needs to kiss Tobin but she won’t make the first move. She’s always making the first move. It’s been so confusing the last couple of weeks and Christen isn’t sure this is something Tobin wants from her anymore. Leaning in she places a kiss on her nose and lowers herself back down. Head on Tobin’s shoulder Christen resigns herself to sleep. She feels Tobin’s chest move under her cheek and she sits up, Tobin takes advantage and rolls them over gently. Bracing herself on her elbows, Tobin hovers above Christen. She’s smiling, snickering. Disbelief evident on Christen’s face “what?” she asks incredulously.

Shaking her head hesitantly says, “just” followed by another chuckle, Christen can see Tobin lick her lips. Christen thinks Tobin might be nervous. Tobin brings her hands to Christen cheek, she gently rubs her thumb along its contours. Eventually, brushing her thumb over Christen’s bottom lip. Leaning closer, she whispers “just that I can” and then she’s brushing her lips over Christen’s, a fleeting touch that’s so gentle and reverent, then there’s another skimming touch, and then again another brush this time little firmer but just as gentle. Christen wants more, she cups the back of Tobin’s neck, tugging.

This time Tobin dips her head catching and holding Christen’s lips with her own. Tobin lowers more of her weight down on to Christen slowly. Skimming her tongue along Christen’s bottom lip, Christen’s lips parting instantly granting Tobin access, her tongue slipping inside. Their moans mingling as their kiss deepens. There’s nothing shy about their kiss. When Tobin’s pelvis pressed down harder against her, Christen pulls back a little, gently break the kiss, gasping for air. She doesn’t want to go too fast. Tobin’s chest is heaving, gently placing a kiss on the corner of Christen’s mouth. Tobin easies her weight off of Christen, whispering “I know.” Leaning back down she place a kiss on Christen’s lip. Christen, miss the feel of Tobin’s weight on her, placing her hands on Tobin’s back, she pulls her back down whispering “just this.” Pressing her lips against Tobin’s, loving how soft they are, Christen takes Tobin’s lush bottom lip between her teeth and gently bites down. Tobin gasp in pleasure and Christen slips her tongue in, taking in the warmth and wet softness of Tobin’s mouth. Tobin groans into her mouth, the kiss intensifying, their tongues tangle and teeth clash.

Christen loses track of time. She’s never enjoyed kissing someone this much. Her body is overly sensitive, the heat from Tobin’s core pushed against hers is driving her crazy. Slowly, she breaks the kiss again, shivering, Christen manages to roll them so Tobin is underneath her. Even in the limited light Christen can see how swollen her lips are and she’s gratified that she caused that. Looking into Tobin’s eyes, she knows she in trouble. Christen now knows how sweet Tobin taste and she knows she going to want more. Fully on top of Tobin, Christen leans up places one kiss on Tobin’s forehead, then one eye, then the other, to her nose, and finally places a butterfly kiss on her lips. Gradually Christen lowers herself, her head laying on Tobin’s racing heart, the pace matching her own. Slipping hand under Tobin’s shirt, she feels the soft, warm skin, she tenderly pressing her hand to Tobin’s side. Tobin repositions Christen’s leg, slotting it between hers, her other hand slowly rubs Christen’s back. Sighing deeply, Tobin brings both arms around Christen, squeezing her tenderly “Night Christen”. Smiling, Christen places a kiss to the underside of Tobin’s jaw, whispering back “Night Tobin”.  She falls asleep listening to the beat of Tobin’s heart. As she drifts off to sleep, she hears the echo of words in her mind “I’m sorry” but sleep claims Christen before she’s fully able to understand.

Christen wakes to a distant ringing, she not sure what time it is. Looking over, she sees the alarm on Tobin’s phone going off. Christen’s heart warms, thinking she must have set it to say goodbye. Carefully, she climbs over Tobin, not wanting to wake her. Christen heads upstairs, she needs to get ready to drive home with Lys. Turning the corner into the kitchen and Christen has a sense of deja vu. Alyssa is standing by the sink with a cup of coffee in her hand. Only, this time Christen doesn’t feel like a deer caught in headlights, she’s not embarrassed in the least. Noticing the cup of coffee next to Alyssa, she walks over and picks it up.

“Thanks” Christen mumbles “I’ll be ready in a couple of minutes.” Christen smiles ignoring the flickers of concern in Alyssa’s eyes, resolutely deciding that nothing is going to ruin her mood. Alyssa watches as Christen heads up the stairs.

Once Christen is out of sight and Alyssa can’t hear her steps anymore, she looks towards the doorway leading to the basement. Alyssa debates if she should go down when she hears steps. Patiently she waits, her face betraying her anger. Tobin comes around the corner and stops in her track. Looking warily at Alyssa, no words are spoken. Tobin walks towards the fridge but stops before getting there. She faces Alyssa. They stare each other down. Alyssa is clearly displeased and Tobin’s posture defensive, challenging.

“Does she know?” Alyssa says after a spell. Looking down, Tobin shakes her head. Sighing in exasperation, “Tobin…” Alyssa’s voice stringent.

“I know” Tobin whispers back.

“I…”Alyssa pauses “Fix it Tobin, fix it before the break is over” She places her cup in the sink and walks up the stairs. Tobin swipes her hair back from her forehead, linking her fingers behind her head, she knows she fucked up by not telling Christen but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She doesn’t think Christen will understand and now she’s afraid she won’t forgive her.  

Chapter Text

Growing distance free of explanation
This separation, time and space between us
For some revelation
You didn’t care to discuss
I’d rather be black and blue
Than accept that you withdrew

Just tell me
Say anything
Anything hurts less than the quiet

Used to give each other the world, every bit
I used to be the one you’d come to
When it’d all go to shit
Now I’m left here in the dust
With the taste of broken trust


Thu, Dec 31 11:56 PM

T-bird: Happy New Year Chris!!

It it’s midnight yet, T

T-bird: I know, I just wanted to be the first one to wish you a Happy New Year

Or you’re doing it really late, depends on how you look at it.

T-bird: Such a hard woman

You love it

Fri, Jan 1 12:04 AM

T-bird: Happy New Year Chris!!!

LMAO, Happy New Year, Tobs!!!

T-bird: Was I the first one?

Nope Alex and Jules beat you

T-bird: If you had only let me say it earlier, I would have been first

Whatever, Tobs

T-bird: It’s a new year…let’s not with the nicknames

Sure, whatever you say Tobs ;-)

T-bird: Le sigh
You can’t use my words!

T-bird: ;-)

Hope you’re enjoying the beginning of your New Year

T-bird: U too, have a great night!

Fri, Jan 1 6:00PM

T-bird: How was your night?

Good, and yours?

T-bird: Good, I was with family. What’d ya do?

I was with Lys and Ali and some friends

T-bird: Sweet, can u talk?

Sure

Sun, Jan 3 2:17 PM

T-bird: I’m bored. Entertain me

Lol, entertain you how?

T-bird: I’m sure you can figure it out ;-)

Lol, that’s helpful. Want to hear about walking my dogs and hanging out with my family?

T-bird: yeah, if that’s what you’ve been doing

Well, you just heard about it.

T-bird: So mean

Lol, I’m definitely not mean to you

T-bird: sometimes ;-)

Lies and deceit. No really, it’s been so boring. Sadly, I miss school.

T-bird: We’ll be back soon

What have you been doing?

T-bird: Nothing special. What are your plans for the rest of the break?
I don’t have anything planned really, just going to hang out with family and friends.

T-bird: Same here. Still heading back early?

Yeah. I promised Alex

T-bird: Cool

Sat, Jan 9 3:30 PM

Hey, when are you heading back to campus?

Wed, Jan 13 12:17 PM

Lys and I are heading back today. Haven’t heard from you, you okay?

Yesterday 2:17 PM

Hey, I’m getting worried, everything alright?

Placing her phone down Christen lets out a deep sigh telling herself she won’t check it again. No matter how many times she checks, it’s always the same. The glaring absence of a response. Christen is confused, prior to this lengthy period of radio silence they had been in constant communication, always texting and talking. The silence unnerves Christen since she can’t figure out why it’s happening. Tobin hadn’t mentioned anything about not being able to talk.

On Friday, Christen gathered her courage, talking herself into calling Tobin one more time. Only Tobin didn’t answer. When her voicemail picked up Christen didn’t have the heart to leave another message. It’s unlike Tobin to not answer her phone, much less not call back. It’s troublesome as Christen hasn’t heard from Tobin in nearly two weeks.

At first Christen assumed Tobin was busy with her family, then she thought maybe Tobin went away, forgetting to tell her. That was before Christen returned to campus. Now she positive Tobin is ignoring her. Christen worries that something happened to her because she can’t imagine she’s done anything to make Tobin completely snub her. Underlying her concern is an undercurrent of pain the baffling quiet hurts a lot. Christen was always afraid the break would change things between them but she never envisioned this.

Christen glances up as she hears footsteps approaching her door. Alex enters the room flinging herself against Julie’s bed, moaning. The interruption breaks Christen from her dark thoughts as she regards the prone figure with fond amusement

“I have nothing to wear, everything is hideous or plain or just wrong.” Alex exclaims dramatically.

It’s one of the last rounds of rush and Alex has increasing becoming more and more anxious and agitated. Her hair is never right, her clothes horrible and she’s currently working on her fourth outfit change.

Standing up straight, she twirls before asking “How do I look?” displeasure apparent on her face.

Christen can’t help the chuckle that escapes, not wanting to mention that Alex is basically wearing the same thing as before only this time the skirt is black. “You look great! Just like the five outfit before”

“It hasn’t been five, it’s only been four” Alex says dismissively “they didn’t feel right, I wasn’t comfortable in any of them.”
Understandingly Christen nods her head. “Are you comfortable in this?”
Looking down Alex exams herself, “Yeah, I just think it’s plain.”
Shaking her head, “First of all, there is nothing wrong with plain, but this isn’t plain. It’s classic and understated. You don’t look like you’re trying too hard.” Christen says encouragingly.

“Yeah?” Alex ask a frown of doubt on her face.

“Yeah, honestly everything looked great. But if you are comfortable in this then wear it. You’ll feel more like yourself. You should wear it.” Christen says with a hint of hope in her voice, she honestly can’t handle another outfit change.

“Yeah, okay, thanks” Alex sighs, breathing deeply to calm herself.

“You’re working at the bar tonight right?”
“Yeah, tonight is my official first night.”

“Are you nervous?”

“A little. I trained with Alyssa the last two days but I’m still getting used to it”
“Are you working with her?”
“No, I’m working with Adam, he’s nice”

“Why does that name sound so familiar?” Alex puzzles as she gazes up at the ceiling.

“He’s in Sig Nu, knows Zach and loves Allie”
“Oh yeah, he’s always trying to hit on her. He’s a good looking guy too, shame she doesn’t like him”

“Oh I don’t know, I think he’s masochistic at heart. I’m partly convinced he likes her because she doesn’t give him the time of day. I think he said something about it showing she’s smart”

Alex laughs, “I don’t know, I don’t think he’s a bad guy, he’s always friendly when we go to the house”
“Yeah, he seems decent, Lys likes him and he loves Jules”
“I know, she always calls him out on his shit”
“I’m sure” Christen laughs.
“What are you doing?” Alex questions, walking to stand behind Christen who’s sitting at her desk, shuffling through a stack of white cards, at least that’s what they look like to Alex. She leans over Christen’s shoulder trying to get a better look “Are those note cards? Are you studying already?”

Laughing “No, these are pics from last semester. I had some of them printed to look like polaroids. I want to hang them on my wall” Christen explains holding one up to show Alex.

“Cool. Where are you going to hang them?” Alex asks shuffling through the pictures. Christen points to her wall “I’m going to hang a string and attach them with clothespins.”

Alex glances up saying wistfully, “You’re always so creative. I would never have thought to do something like that.”
“I got the idea from my mom and Pinterest” Christen answers honestly.

“Oh, can I keep this one I love it” Alex exclaims excitedly holding up a picture.

Christen glances over to see a picture of Alex, Tobin and herself. She can’t remember when it was taken but it looks like it was down at the Big house. Christen glances away quickly not wanting to dwell on the girl with honey brown eyes.

“Yeah of course” Christen answers pleased her voice didn’t waiver.

“Thanks, is Tobs going to stop by the bar tonight?” Alex questions still examining the rest of the pictures. Christen’s head snaps up as she stares at Alex in bewilderment. Alex is oblivious to Christen’s distress, too absorbed with the pictures. Christen struggles to keep her face neutral but she’s sure her eyes still show her confusion. Unable to form an intelligent thought, “huh?” escapes her mouth.

Alex glances up at Christen perplexed, “Tobin, is she coming to the bar tonight?” she repeats, “or do you not want friends bothering you on your first night?” she ponders as an afterthought. When Christen doesn’t respond immediately, Alex tilts her head to the side regarding Christen curiously.

Still processing the new information Christen’s brain slowly starts functioning. “Oh, I don’t know I haven’t spoken to her today,” Christen responds evasively looking down at the photos in her hand. Bitterly she thinks “or yesterday, or last week, or the week before that. I didn’t even know she was back.” The heat of Alex’s stare makes Christen squirm in her seat. Alex carefully choosing her words, “you didn’t know she was back?” surprise evident in her voice.

It sounds like a statement but Christen hears the question. Sighing, Christen peers up at Alex with gloomy eyes and despite how much it pains her to admit it, she whispers “no, I haven’t spoken to her in a while.” Alex slowly nods her head up and down, lost in thought. Eventually, Alex finds Christen’s eyes, hers filled with compassion and Christen prays Alex doesn’t ask any more questions.

Of course, Alex doesn’t because as overbearing as she can be at times, she’s great at reading people. Clearing her throat, Alex says “When is Julie coming back, again?” Christen smiles at her in thanks “She’ll be back sometime tomorrow and Syd should be here sometime tonight if I understood her text correctly” Christen says wryly.

Alex rolls her eyes, “who knows with that girl. But I’m excited, it will be great to have everyone back. We need to have a roommate night. I’ll plan it” They can hear Alex’s phone beep and she gives Christen a small smile, waving the picture “thanks for this, I’ll see you later”

“Hey Al, can you I don’t know, can you not mention to Tobin that…” Christen solemnly starts

Stopping at the door Alex says, “yeah, no problem, I won’t say anything to her, I promise” her eyes full of understanding.

“Thanks…and good luck tonight!!!” Christen calls after her retreating form.

“You too!!! Sell lots of beer!”

Sighing Christen walks to her laptop, pulling up Spotify she finds Today’s Top Hits and hits play as she continues to organize the photos in her hand. Every time she comes across the tan, twinkling-eyed, brown haired girl, she resolutely places the picture face down, no matter who else is in the picture. Heavy hearted Christen knows they won’t be making it to her wall. Hearing Tobin is back on campus, knowing she hasn’t contacted her hurts more than Christen would like to admit, forming a tear in her heart.

A single thought runs a loop through her mind, what have I done? Christen is unable to fathom a logical explanation for Tobin’s behavior other than she must have done something. Christen thought they’d left on good terms, she can’t think of anything she might have said or done over the break to offended Tobin. The actual knowledge that Tobin is purposefully ignoring her causes unwelcomed sensations to course through her body. Embarrassment the most prevalent of them all. Christen finally understand what Tobin meant so long ago. Alex’s surprise only heightens Christen’s humiliation, she was genuinely surprised Christen didn’t know.

Her embarrassment quickly gives way to hurt. Christen blindly trusted Tobin and after everything they’d shared it’s incomprehensible that Tobin wouldn’t trust her. Christen never once shared Tobin’s story, never divulged her secrets, never once judged her. She’d only tried to be Tobin’s friend. Christen thought Tobin knew how important honesty was to her that she was tired of lies and secrets. She was wrong. Leaning her head back, she blinks desperately trying to keep her tears from falling.

Anger builds within Christen. She’s disappointed in herself, long time ago she vowed she would never cry over pretty girls again. Unbidden memories from long ago resurge and despite her best intentions, Christen is powerless to stop them. Memories and feelings reminiscent of high school. Christen can't help but think that if Tobin had only trusted her more if Tobin had thought more of her as a person this wouldn't be happening. Tobin wouldn’t be hiding things from her. Christen thought Tobin had at least valued her had a friend. Christen hates the way she feels, doesn’t want to feel this way as unidentifiable sentiments roll through like a storm. Sighing loudly in frustration, Christen determinedly pushes the negative thoughts from her mind, focusing on her room. She needs a mindless task to lose herself in.

Starting with her new comforter, she pulls it from the corner, taking her time in rearranging her bed. Finished with one task, she resolutely continues to the next, finding a home for the new print her grandmother gave her for Christmas. Next, she starts on her photo project. Standing on her bed, arms above her head, leaning against the wall, Christen uses a tack to secure the string she needs for her polaroids when her mind registers the words of the song currently playing.

Feeling used, but I’m still miss you
And I can’t see the end of this
Just wanna feel your kiss
Against my lips and now all this time is passing by
But I still can’t seem to tell you why
It hurts me every time I see you
Realize how much I need you.

Glaring at her laptop, the lyrics taunt her. Glancing at her phone she’s unable to deny her curiosity any longer. Begrudgingly, she lowers herself, picks her phone up and opens Instagram. She immediately peruses Tobin’s page. Tobin hasn’t posted anything in a couple of days. Her page is filled with various scenic views, nothing tangible to connect her whereabouts. Christen keeps clicking on pictures until she somehow ends up on the girl’s page because of course, it’s public. A sense of foreboding overcomes Christen, biting her lip, she knows this is a bad decision but she can’t stop herself. And there’s a post, a picture that catches her breath, immediately she can feel moisture welling up in her eyes.

Another surge of emotions flows through her at an alarming speed. Disappointment, betrayal, and anger are the main culprits. Pain quickly follows. Blinking back any tears that might form Christen refuses to be that girl again, the one who pines after someone who doesn’t even care.

The picture is exactly what she thought it would be but was praying it wouldn’t. The basketball player’s arm is outstretched, she’s sitting next to a girl with penetrating honey brown eyes, a smile that would slay demons and a snap back. The basketball player leans in giving the grinning girl a kiss on the cheek. The captain reads a great night with a great person. It was posted four days ago. Christen quickly glances at her page realizing Tobin’s been with her for about two weeks. Biting her lip, Christen quickly glances back at Tobin’s page, it’s now evident some of Tobin’s pictures were taken during this period.

I hate you, I love you
I hate that I want you
You want her, you need her
And I’ll never be her

She switches back to the other page and as she scrutinizes the pictures, she can feel a rage building in her, mostly fueled by disbelief. It’s not that she can’t believe that Tobin and the girl are together if she’s honest she knew it was inevitable. It’s that Tobin used her because that’s exactly how she sees it. Christen feels used. It’s another thing Christen promised herself would never happen again. Putting down her phone, Christen resolves from this point on, she won’t allow herself to be hurt, now it’s about survival, because since Christen first laid eyes on the tan lithe figure with a lazy grin, she’s been on a downward spiral and this time, this time the pain is just too much. This pain is nothing compared to what she felt in high school.

Visceral memories overtake her, the wetness of tears on her naked breast almost real now, words once whispered resonate in her head as if blaring from a speaker, “I’m gonna miss you. I’m grateful for you. You’ve been so good to me.” And like that, the small structurally unsound wall she’s been trying to build for weeks begins to grow. Christen senses it fortifying within her, feels herself hardening. Christen’s always been amazed by how pain motivates people.


“Darlin’” Adam says jovially

“Meat Head” Christen responds smiling brightly.

Christen sends a silent prayer of thanks for working with Adam tonight. He’s easy to get along with and most importantly he isn’t connected to Tobin. With Adam Christen can pretend to forget everything for a couple of hours.

“It will probably be a slow night, not a lot of students on campus yet, ” Adam says. Christen nods in agreement the campus is empty in comparison to when classes are in session. Christen will use the time to hone her skills. She’s more confident making drinks, slowly starting to memorize the recipes. She’s at least mastered pouring a pint of beer.

Leaning against the bar, Christen is parallel to the door, her position gives her an unobstructed view as the girl walks in. Christen immediately tenses up. Quickly she scans the group, exhaling a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. Tobin isn’t here, Christen isn’t prepared to see her just yet. Her emotions are too raw, she knows she won’t handle it well. Studying the girl momentarily, Christen tries to figure out what makes her so special. She’s pretty, Christen willingly admits but there’s an aloofness to her. Christen noticed her interactions with her friends are calculated and callous. Then again, maybe Christen just too giving. Frowning, Christen twists her body to face Adam, only to find him watching her with interested eyes.

“Know her?” Adam asks curiously.

Christen contemplates her answer. She isn't going to pretending she doesn’t know who he’s talking about. Christen knows he saw her starting.

“No, I don’t know her” Christen responds bitterness evident in her tone.

Adam raises his eyebrows in question. Shaking her head, “It’s nothing. Ignore me. No, I don’t know her.

“Lucky you” Adam responds his bitter tone rivaling hers.

“You don’t like her?” Christen asked surprised.

Adam’s quiet for a moment, “No, she’s not my favorite person.” is all he says but he looks like he wants to say more. Christen stares him down, eyebrows raised in question. “I just don’t think she has any redeeming qualities.”

Before Christen can ask him to elaborate, Adam’s attention is drawn to a group of boys at the end of the bar waving a pitcher. Christen stiffens as the door opens again, and two other figures walk through. Breathing a sigh of relief, Christen’s face lights up in recognition, spying Ali. Her smile falters slightly when Alyssa stands behind her. As the two girls approach her, Christen is brimming with curiosity and knows before the night is over she’ll end up questioning them for any information they might have.

Ali and Alyssa make their way towards the back right side of the bar. Rambunctious laughter from the front catches Alyssa’s attention, she twists back inspecting the front booth. A scowl immediately forms on her face before she turns sharing a knowing look with Ali. Ali simply rolls her eyes.

“Bench Buddy” Ali yells, once she’s reached the bar, eyes full of joy, plopping down into a stool.

"A-dawg" Adam drawls from behind Christen.

"Meathead, " Alyssa says while leaning over the bar to give him a high five. “This is my friend Ali, she went to high school with Christen and I and this is Adam” she gestures in his direction.

Ali smiles in greeting “Nice to meet you”

Adam nods “You too”
“Wait, how come she isn’t darlin’?” Christen questions

“That’s name is reserved just for you” he pauses dramatically before grinning like an idiot “darlin’” sounding more southern if possible.

Christen rolls her eyes before turning to greet her friends.

Alyssa takes the seat next to Ali, trepidation in her eyes as she glances towards the front again.

"Chris, how's it been tonight?"

Adam answers before Christen can “It’s been steady and darlin’ here is doing good.”

Lys smiles, “Good”

Ali speaks up, her exuberance apparent “This girl needs a drink”

Laughing, Christen can always count on Ali to brighten the day, “What would you like?
“You’re cheapest beer” she responds. Christen glances at Lys “uh…”

“Don’t do that to her, it tastes like horse piss. Just give her a Bud Light” raising her eyebrows, Christen refrains from making any nasty comments, she not a fan of Bud Light either.

Christen returns with two pints of Bud Light, catching the end of a hushed conversation between Alyssa and Ali.

Ali takes the pint, looking directly into Christen’s eyes gently asking “How ya doing?”

Mustering a small smile, Christen pretends she doesn’t know what Ali is really asking, “I’m learning, it’s easier and harder than I thought.” Ali doesn’t respond, she simply takes a sip of her beer.

An awkwardness settles over them. Christen knows Lys and Ali are worried and she thinks it more than just the girl in the front. Glancing away Christen watches Adam serve another customer. Questions swirl through her mind, Christen knows they won’t have all the answers but she knows they’ll have some. Squaring her shoulders Christen faces Alyssa, saying the first thing that comes to her mind.

“Did you know she was back on campus?” Christen doesn’t have to say whom she’s speaking about Alyssa knows.

Alyssa’s eyes go wide, picking her beer up she leans back into the bar stool taking a long sip. Placing her cup back down, there’s a hard set to her mouth as she curiously questions “You didn’t?”

Christen shakes her head in the negative.

“No, I didn’t know. I haven’t seen her.” Alyssa says hesitantly. The knowledge is discomforting because if Alyssa hasn’t seen Tobin that might mean she's not staying at the Big house.

“How do you know?” Ali asks quietly which is impressive giving the noise level in the bar.

“Al told me today, she wanted to know if Tobin was coming in tonight. I think she assumed I knew” Christen finishes.

Alyssa sighs heavily. “I don’t think a lot of people know”

At that moment, Christen seems movement out of her peripheral vision, rolling her eyes as she recognizes the girl and a friend making their way to the bar. “You’ve got to be kidding me” Christen exclaims under her breath. The extent to which Christen does not want to wait on the girl is unparalleled. She knows it’s part of the job but she can’t tonight, not with the knowledge the girl spent two weeks with Tobin, the time she didn’t deserve. They wait patiently at the end of the bar, Christen mentally pulls her big girl panties on when Adam glances at her with a peculiar look, “Want me to get ‘em?”
Her relief must be evident because he nods saying, “I got it”

Christen looks back at Alyssa, who just shrugs, “he has sisters, they’ve made him a decent guy”

The girls watch in silence as Adam takes their order, he exchanges pleasantries but there is a noticeable tension between him and the girl. The more time she spends around Adam the more she likes him. Him rescuing her tonight is quickly making him one of her favorite upperclassmen. She understands why Alyssa likes him so much.

“Why doesn’t Adam like her?” Christen ask. Alyssa chuckles, “is it that obvious?”“Well, yeah and he mentioned something about it before.”

“Well, yeah and he mentioned something about it before.”“Probably for the same

“Probably for the same reason none of us like her” Ali interjects

Christen stares at them confused. “What do you mean?”

Alyssa picks up her beer, waving her hand in front her indicating Ali has the floor.

“She’s not a nice person. I actually don’t know why she’s popular. I mean yes, she beautiful, but besides that…” turning to Alyssa “you know the story better than me.”

Alyssa plays with the condensation on her glass, “According to Adam, she’s been using one of his frat brothers for several years now.”

Christen looks at them with interest, several she thought the girl was a sophomore like Tobin. “Isn’t she a sophomore?”

“Yeah, they dated in high school. They both came here on athletic scholarships. Sometime during their freshman years she just dumped him. She never really gave an explanation, just one day of the blue she dumped him. Adam says the guy was heartbroken, they'd been together for four years.”

Christen raises her eyebrows in disbelief. People break up all the time this can’t be the only reason Adam dislikes her. “That’s all?”

“No. He kept trying to win her back but over time he realized she was seeing someone else. So he started to move one and when she found out she flipped. He stopped seeing the new girl he was talking to but she didn’t go back to him. So he tried moving on again and each time he did…”

“She would come back” Christen supplies the picture starting to form. “Who was the other gu…OH” Christen exclaims, the picture crystal clear now. She’s unable to say it, looking to Lys and Ali for confirmation.

“Yeah, it was Tobin. She didn’t now. From what Ash says, if it wasn’t soccer related or her classes Tobin was oblivious, so when the girl started hitting on her, she had no clue about the boyfriend. And make no mistakes, no matter what anyone says the girl pursued Tobin.” Ali finishes vehemently.

“Like a predator after their prey,” Lys adds before gulping her beer down. “Hit me.”

Picking the pint glass up Christen dazedly fills it. Everything makes sense. Something shifts inside Christen and despite her best efforts, her newly fortified wall is starting to crumble because she knows exactly what Tobin went through. Setting the beer down in front of Lys, Christen quickly scans the bar but everyone has a drink. Adam is talking with some boys Christen assume are in Sig Nu. Ali comes back and places a cartoon of popcorn between them. Munching on the kernels, Christen’s contemplating the information she just learned. There’s still one question burning in her mind, she finds herself asking “Did you know?”

Alyssa stills, eyes darting to the front booth. She’s so quiet Christen isn’t sure she’s going to answer. Quickly glancing at Ali, her head is down. So Christen repeats her question “Did you know they were going to be together?”

Sighing, Lys resignedly rubs her eyes. Glancing at Ali who nods her head subtly. Alyssa stares directly into Christen's eyes. The gesture makes Christen smile a little. Lys has never been one to shy away from the truth, even hard truths.

“Kels mentioned it to me before we left” Alyssa answers guardedly. Christen immediately thinks back to the fight Kelley and Tobin had in the house, all the pieces of the puzzle falling together. The way Kelley was annoyed, her instances in talking to Alyssa, how defensive Tobin had been.

“Is that what they were fighting about?”
Shrugging a shoulder “A little. Kelley was trying to convince Tobin it wasn’t a good idea, that it wasn't fair to her" and motioning at Christen with her hand “or you. But mostly I think Kelley was pissed that Tobin was going to visit at all. Kelley doesn’t think the girl should able to pop in and out of Tobin's life. Kelley doesn’t like or trust her. She basically thinks the girl uses Tobin whenever she wants to make this guy jealous or vice versa and I have to agree."

Christen glances in Adam’s direction, “I’m guessing that’s the popular opinion.”

Following her gaze, Alyssa nods. At that moment Adam turns around to find three pairs of eyes on him. Nervously he grunts before pushing off the bar, heading in their direction.

“What ya’ll women discussing?”

“Your favorite person,” Lys answers.

“Who, the viper?” Adam says surly. Ali and Lys nod. “She should change her name to ‘Kali’ it would be more appropriate.” Ali lets out a bark of laughter, followed by a very unladylike snort.
Christen can’t hide the surprise that skirts across her face. Adam catches it though and chuckling he leans in whispering “I’m not here on an athletic scholarship.”

Christen laughs, pushing him away. “I like him,looking” she says to no one in particular. Adam laughs returning to his friends. Ali and Alyssa are quietly chewing on the popcorn, sipping their beers. Off handily Christen comments “I overheard some of Kelley’s fight with Tobin, I guess I should have known”

Ali’s gives a disagreeing frown, Lys shrugging a shoulder, “No, I don’t think any of us would have guessed that. I mean, Kelley was also pissed that Tobin hadn’t told anyone.”

“What do you mean?” Christen ask with furrowed brows

“A basketball player told Kelley first. From what Kelley learned and Tobin reluctantly admitted, Tobin had made plans to spend time with her after the New Year.” Lys divulges.

Christen nods, “yeah, I figured that out today”

Ali and Alyssa share a look before giving her matching questioning glances. Head down, Christen mumbles “I saw pictures on IG.”

“You saw?” Ali simultaneously sounds perplexed and annoyed.

“Wait, Tobin never told you?” Alyssa asks clearly aggravated her lips are set in a firm line. Shaking her head, Christen can’t bear to glance up, afraid of what she will see in their eyes.

“I’m sorry” Alyssa starts remorsefully “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything, I honestly thought she would tell you, I…” Christen feels it immediately, the sense of recognition, she knows it in the way her body responds. She knows Tobin entered the bar.

Christen’s head snaps up daring to look in Alyssa’s and Ali’s direction. Surprise flickers across Alyssa's face. Ali looks uncomfortable, the kind of look a person gets when they realize a horrific event is about to happen. Lys peeks at Christen before glaring towards the front of the bar, her lips pursed in displeasure and Christen’s suspicions are confirmed. Standing up straight, Christen slowly turns her body to face the front, her gaze is immediately greeted by honey brown eyes. Shit, Christen silently curses.

Tobin is standing next to another girl Christen doesn’t know. The girl is scanning the room looking for someone, while Tobin is riveted in her spot.

Tobin’s staring so hard, her gaze hot and penetrating that Christen has to remind herself to breathe. There’s joy in Tobin’s eyes that causes Christen to scowl. Christen won’t fall prey to Tobin’s happiness. Tobin must know it won’t be that simple. A smile isn’t going to fix this, not even one from her. Then comes the sickening thought that maybe, Tobin doesn’t care. A shout from the front corner calls out Tobin’s name, the other girl and she move in that direction.

Christen can feel Alyssa’s worried gaze on her. Christen reluctantly twist back prepared to offer a lie and say she’s fine. The looks on Lys’s and Ali’s faces stops her. The lie unnecessary, they know Christen isn’t fine. The obvious stares of sympathy and pity annoy Christen. She doesn’t want to be the type of girl you pity. Ali comes to the rescue chatting about anything and everything to ease some of the tension. Christen’s barely paying attention lost in her thoughts. She knows she should be doing more to help Adam but he’s efficient, managing the bar perfectly.

A hole is being burned into the back of her head and Christen desperately tries to ignore it. Eventually, it’s too difficult, giving in Christen twist around, keeping her eyes blank and face as neutral as possible. She’s meet with darkening eyes, they seem to be devouring her. The stare feels like a caress against her skin, unwanted touches. Christen forces herself to turn away but not before a glare stops her. These eyes are different, they’re astute, assessing as they slide between her and Tobin. A frown forms on the girls face, unhappily she caught the exchange between them. Christen could care less. The girl glares at her, a challenge in her eyes. Christen simple shrugs a shoulder because this isn’t a competition. It can’t be a competition since Christen isn’t willing to play. She’s won’t be a pawn in seeing who gets more of Tobin’s time. Either Tobin wants to be in Christen’s life or she doesn’t. It’s something Christen is learning she has no say in.

Ali and Alyssa spend another thirty minutes at the bar before they both decide to go meet up with some of the girls. Chris promises to do lunch with Ali next week. Lys leans over the bar giving Christen a hug, whispering “I’m so sorry.” Christen hugs her back, giving her a little squeeze, whispering “It’s okay Lys, I don’t blame you. I wish she had told me” They share sad smiles. It’s childish but Christen takes a little pleasure in the fact that Alyssa and Ali leave the bar without speaking to Tobin. Tobin’s eyes follow them out the door her face somber.


Christen and Adam wait for Pep to lock the door, wishing him a goodnight. Adam twist in Christen direction, mouth open about to ask something when his gaze shifts behind her. He seems startled but Christen isn’t surprised, she knows who is standing off to the side. Christen felt her presence the moment they stepped outside.

“I was going to see if you need a ride, but…”
“Are you parked nearby?” Christen ask intently focused on Adam.

“Yeah, just up the hill”

“I’ll meet you in five?” Christen suggest hesitantly

Adam nods, “yeah, take your time” as he walks away.

Christen waits until his footsteps are barely audible before twirling, only to find herself staring directly into Tobin’s wary eyes. They don’t say anything, only stare, the silence deafening. Christen’s eyes narrowing a little in anger. Tobin’s widening slightly, carefully guarding her emotions. Christen’s pulse increases as the seconds tick by. She’s angry and the longer Tobin stays quiet, the angrier she gets.

Christen watches as Tobin licks her bottom lip, biting it softly, shuffling her feet. Clearly Tobin’s uncomfortable and for the first time Christen doesn’t want to sooth her. She honestly has no idea why Tobin is here. For the first time in a while, Christen doesn’t want to be around her.

Tonight was hard on Christen. She understands Tobin’s situation better, appreciates the pull the girl has over Tobin, but she has little sympathy. Her lack of compassion is a direct result of watching the girl flirt with Tobin for over two hours. The only solace comes in the knowledge that Tobin didn’t flirt back, in fact she seemed annoyed at times.

As Tobin’s friend, who she flirts with shouldn’t concern Christen. But they weren’t just friends were they? There was always an underlying current of otherness beneath their interactions. At least that’s how it felt to her. Christen’s no longer sure if Tobin feels the same. She would have said yes at one point. The weighted stares she received from Tobin all night would indicate she still does. Sighing deeply, Christen’s head is starting to hurt, it’s all too confusing.

The sound of feet shuffling drags Christen’s gaze to Tobin as her eyes lazily roam over her. Tobin must have gone home because she has a different jacket on, a warmer one. Christen absently wonders how long she’s been standing outside waiting. Tobin looks smaller, she hunched in on herself, her hands in her coat and Christen doesn’t think it’s just because of the cold.

Placing her hand in her coat pockets, Christen glances towards the sky as if looking for guidance. She’s half tempted to just walk by and not saying anything, but she can’t. Christen doesn’t think she can be that cruel. She also doesn’t want to give into to Tobin, she won’t be the first to break the silence. A small part of her, a part she’s ashamed of wants to make Tobin feel some of her pain. So she takes one step in Tobin’s direction, Tobin peers up startled but holds her ground. Christen takes another and then another, and with each step she effectively backed Tobin against the side of the building.

They’re both breathing hard, only it’s not with want. Christen’s livid and Tobin’s panicky. She knows that any time Christen can utter words that would devastate her and she would have no one else to blame but herself, it’s terrifying. Christen stares deeply into Tobin’s now chocolate orbs, darkening as emotions swirl in them, too many for Christen to process them all. Christen recognizes regret and it renews her anger, there wouldn’t be regret if only Tobin had spoken to her.

Christen watches as Tobin’s lips start to part, finally she’s gathered the courage to speak. In that instant Christen doesn’t want to hear anything. She’s not ready for whatever Tobin might say, mostly she’s terrified it will cause her more harm. Before Christen considers her actions, she moves to silence Tobin, kissing her roughly, dipping her tongue into her mouth, bruising her own lips against Tobin’s teeth. Startled, Tobin doesn’t react at first, then she kisses her back just as hard, her teeth clashing with Christen’s, bruising Christen’s lips. Their tongues are seeking, searching, looking for words neither girl is willing to say.

Christen pulls back, breathing harder than before. Tobin stares with anxious eyes, she understood the purpose of the kiss. Tobin leans forward, keeping space between their bodies, hands in her pockets, her lips gentler than Christen’s, her movements calmer, her tongue soothingly rakes over Christen’s, trying to express her regret. Her lips seeking forgiveness. Christen enjoys the kiss, feels herself falling into it, can hear her wall crumbling under the assault. She wrenches away, searching Tobin’s eyes. She can’t decipher them and her pain resurfaces, she wants Tobin to feel some of her pain. Christen leans in running her tongue along Tobin’s bottom lip before taking it between her teeth, biting down harder than normal. Tobin lets out a gasp of pain. Christen let go, retreating.

Christen chest heaves in tandem with Tobin’s. Wetness registers on Christen’s cheeks, stinging against the cold. She’s uncertain if they’re hers or Tobin’s. Through her blurry vision, Christen registers Tobin’s eyes are brimming with tears, matching moisture on her cheeks. Stepping back, the wind whips at Christen’s tears, quickly she brushes the remnants of moisture away, putting more space between them. They stare at each other warily, the quiet poignant.

Christen licks her lips, tasting the lingering flavors of fear, sadness, regret, hurt and remnants of finality. There was nothing endearing about the kiss, it was a declaration and it hurts more than Christen could have imagined. Closing her eyes, Christen rakes a hand through her hair, taking another step back. Tobin stands stock still gazing at Christen mournfully.

Gazing in the direction Adam disappeared, Christen is all of the sudden exhausted, a deep exhaustion, one that settles in her bones. All she wants is the comfort of her bed. Christen spares one last glance in Tobin’s direction her gaze sorrowfully. Then her feet move, Christen doesn’t remember thinking about moving, but before she knows it she’s staggering up the hill hoping to find Adam.

A smirk crosses her face when she sees a black pick-up truck with a Texas license plate idling by the curb. Walking over, she opens the door climbing in. Adam gives her a concerned glance but he doesn’t say anything. Leaning over he opens the glove department handing her a napkin. Christen hadn’t realized she was still crying, unsure if they’re tears of anger or tears of pain. Huddling into the side of the door, she grasps the napkin. “North, right?” Adam asks gently. Shaking her head, Christen swallows around the lump in her throat. Whispering “Yeah, the townhouses.” Adam pulls out the parking space, turning the music up. Christen stares out the window, running a finger through the condensation, focused on the lyrics that mock her again.

All alone I watch you watch her
Like she’s the only girl you’ve ever seen
You don’t care you never did
You don’t give a damn about me
Yeah, all alone I watch you watch her
She’s the only thing you’ve ever seen
How is it you never notice
That you are slowly killing me

Closing her eyes, tears uninhibited escape down her cheeks and she knows, knows they are tears of pain.

Somewhere, a lithe figure is walking down a hill, hunched over, bracing herself against the cold. It’s welcoming the cold, it gives her numbness purpose. She knows what the kiss was about. It wasn’t like their last one. It wasn’t about passion, she could taste the finality. She thinks back on everything and despite her choices, she refuses to believe that was the end. She won’t allow it to be the end. She has no idea how to fix her current predicament, but she’s going to. Because the one thing Tobin is certain of is that she needs Christen in her life. Pulling out her phone, her fingers stiff from the cold, she manages to scroll through her inbox finding the name she’s been looking for Braveheart. She opens the conversation box, the one’s she read and re-read every day, quickly typing out a message.

I’m going to fix this. Don’t give up on me.

Her thumb hovers over send button and just as she’s about to press it, a different but familiar name and face pop-ups on her screen. She debates answering it, before sighing resigned. “Hey”

Chapter Text

And suddenly I become a part of your past
I’m becoming the part that don’t last
I’m losing you and it’s effortless
Without a sound we lose sight of the ground
In the throw around
Never though that you wanted to bring it down
I won’t let it go down till we torch it ourselves.

Everyone knows I’m in
Over my head, over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She’s on your mind
She’s on your mind


“One…two…three” simultaneously four fist slam down on the table quickly followed by gulping sounds. Wiping the back of her hand across her mouth Christen swallows the rest of her sake and beer.

“I love these” Syd burps

“I can’t do anymore” Julie hiccups

 “I can’t believe how much of a light weight you are, JJ” Alex laughs

“Oh leave her alone, not everyone is blessed with our tolerances” Christen say, leaning over to hug the disgruntled girl.

Rolling her eyes, she shrugs Christen off of her. Her surprising inability to drink as much as the two slightly slender girls is a sore spot for her. Especially with Alex, their competiveness always driving them to push each other. Julie only need one night with the porcelain god to admit defeat when it came to drinking with Alex. “Everyone’s schedule is set right? Everyone got their first choices?” Julie ask, changing the subject.

Murmurs of agreement circle the square table from everyone except Christen. She’d fervently prayed they’d avoid this topic knowing she’s going to disappoint her roommates.

Once everyone was back on campus, Alex had made series of declarations and demands, disguised as suggestions and questions in a manner only Alex could pull off. First, they were to have a roommate’s dinner the weekend before classes started. Syd suggested the Japanese restaurant in town. It’s known for being lenient with carding especially if the restaurant isn’t busy, which surprisingly enough it’s not tonight. Second, they were to attempt to arrange their class schedules so that they each have at least one course in common. Allegedly, it would make studying easier.

Christen had no qualms with her first demand, she loves spending time with her roommates. It’s the second mandate that gave her pause. Christen knows taking a class with Alex, Syd and Julie would inevitably mean interacting with some the “gals”. Not that she doesn’t like the older soccer players, Christen views them as Tobin’s province. She’s been avoiding them like the plague. Christen hasn’t been to visit the Big once since arriving back on campus. The house is Tobin’s home. The chances of running into her high and the prospect of seeing Tobin with the girl nauseates her. Besides she doesn’t feel welcome there anymore. What if Tobin continues to ignore her? The thought unnerving.

Originally, Christen thought her absence had gone unnoticed. Lys never mentioned it, nor did Alex or Jules. She’d received a couple of text from Kelley about house parties but nothing else. It wasn’t until she ran, literally ran into Allie and Kelley one day that she realized, how wrong she’d been. Unexpectedly, was Allie of all people that first mentioned her absence.

 

Head down, walking towards north campus, reading Alex’s latest text message when Christen suddenly feels two strong hands grasping her arms, halting her movement.

“Whoa there” comes a laughing voice.

Looking up mortified, an apology on the tip of her tongue Christen startles as she recognizes the blue eyes filled with mirth. Allie smiles bemusedly an expectant look on her face.

“Oh hi,” Christen stutters “I’m sorry, I wasn’t pay attention”

“That’s obvious” Christen hears dragging her eyes to meet Kelley’s sardonic smile. Slinging one arm around Christen’s shoulder, the hug is clumsy as Kelley is hindered by the bulk of her fleece. She’s careful to avoid Christen’s steaming cup of coffee. Christen glances back and forth between Allie and Kelley befuddled, wondering where they came from. It’s like they materialized out of nowhere. Allie and Kelley peer at Christen with matching smirks, apparently amused by her puzzlement. Shaking her head slight back and forth breaking her stupor. “Right, how are you guys?”
Allie smiles cheerfully, “Good. How about you?”

“I’m good”

“That’s good. Miss seeing you around the house”

“Yeah, you haven’t been to any of our parties. We’ve missed our designated bartender” Kelley interjects.  

“Yeah, I’m sorry I haven’t been by, I’ve just been so busy with work and stuff” Christen replies halfheartedly, the excuses sound flimsy to her own ears. She’s not lying, it’s the truth. Christen picked up extra shifts at the gym and bar to keep herself preoccupied. She may or may not have done it in an attempt to avoid certain people and certain house but those are details they don’t need to know.

“We heard” Kelley says drily, skeptically regarding Christen. Sparing Kelley a disapproving glance, Allie offers an apologetic smile to Christen. “Yeah, Alyssa and Alex mentioned you’ve been really busy lately, we understand” making direct eye contact with Christen, she continues “but you’re always welcome at the house. We’ve missed you.” She finishes earnestly.

Christen is taken aback by Allie’s words, she’d never consider them to be particularly close. In fact all of their interactions involved Alex or Tobin. Christen wonders why she would say such a thing, unless she’s truly been missed. The though honestly never occurred to her. She always saw herself as ancillary, just someone else’s friend. It’s just another reminder of how she’s limited herself.

Squaring her shoulders protectively, Christen stands a little taller, ignoring the growing senses of guilt and regret within her.

Understanding the implication of Allie’s words, she berates herself. In retrospect it was silly of her to think her absence wouldn’t be noticed. Not necessary because they were her friends, but because she was always there. Then there’s the fact her roommates are still at the house all the time. Silly of her to think no one would know why, she was avoiding the house. Of course, Allie and Kelley would rightfully attribute her disappearance to Tobin. Managing a smile, Christen nods her head “I’ll do my best.”

Allie smiles brightly in return. Kelley’s face disbelieving, “What classes are you taking?” Christen blinks, unprepared for the sudden change in topic.

“Uh….I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet” Christen’s perplexed tone displayed on her face.

“Let me know what class you take for the science requirement. I want to finish that one up this year. I’m not taking science as a junior.”

“Uh....okay” recognizing Christen’s confusion, Kelley explains, “I want to pass and I did great in the class we took together.”

“That wasn’t because of me, Kels”

“Yeah, it was. I actually studied with you. So just let me know”

“Sure. Well, it was good seeing you guys.” Christen rushes to say, trying to mask the undercurrent of desperation in her voice. She’s anxious to get away, her body instinctually wanting to flee. She’s uncomfortable being so close to two of Tobin’s best friends. They haven’t mentioned Tobin yet. Honestly Christen doesn’t think they will but the thought of hearing about her, much less having to talk about Tobin is just too much for Christen’s fragile soul. Kelley frowns at her as Allie smiles understandingly “Yeah, you too. Don’t be a stranger.” Waving her hand, Christen briskly starts to walk across the bridge back to North campus.

An object rapidly waving in front of her face makes her jump a little, as she hears “Earth to Christen!!”  She’d zoned out completely lost in her thoughts. It’s something she’s been doing more frequently of late. The concerned looks on everyone’s faces tells her, they’ve noticed.

“Sorry, what were you saying?” Christen mumbles self-consciously.

“Classes? Did you get the ones we picked?” Alex hesitantly asks. Syd, who is still eating, isn’t really paying much attention but Christen can feel the heat of Julie’s stare. It’s intense and probing, a knowing look on her face.

“Not exactly,” Christen say, her shoulders hunched under the weighted glares of Alex and Julie. Avoiding their glares, She hears Julie shift in her chair, fully turning to face her profile. Reluctantly Christen continues “by the time I was able to register for classes some of them were already full.”

Sham tints Christen’s cheeks. Christen realizes she’s becoming the queen of half-truths and omissions. She never lies, she just never tells the whole story. The classes were full that’s not a lie. She omitted the fact that she purposefully waited until early afternoon to register rather than first thing in the morning like everyone else.

The only class Christen made sure to secure a spot in was Oceanography. Christen’s positive Kelley would have caused her bodily harm otherwise. Kelley’s persistence surpasses Alex’s when she’s motivated. Everyday Christen received a text message from her enquiring about the stupid course. Christen ultimately agreed knowing Tobin already completed her science requirement and Christen didn’t think she’d take another one just for shits and giggles.

Refusing to meet their glares, Christen knows her face will betray her, confirming their growing suspicion that she did it on purpose. Between bites of food, Syd questions “So what are you taking?” blissfully unaware of the building tension.
“I’m still taking intro to oceanography with you guys. I’m registered for another stat course, a human behavior course, a psych elective and the writing seminar with you Al” Christen lists offering Alex a conciliatorily glance. Syd nods, “Not so bad, at least you’re in oceanography with us. We have to pass the first two prelims, I don’t want to take the third one.”

“Oh, definitely not” Alex agrees.

Julie gazes unwaveringly at Christen, she remains silent but her thoughts reverberate through Christen’s mind. Julie noticed she didn’t mention a communications course and she knows exactly why Christen didn’t register for it, electing for psychology course instead. Christen had agreed to take the communications course with Julie and Tobin last semester. Christen unsure if Tobin remembers or still plans on taking the class but it was a risk she wasn’t willing to take. The potential of being so close to Tobin was terrifying enough to force Christen to pick another class. 

Under the pressure of Julie’s glare, Christen feels small, she feels like a traitor. Stealing a peek in Julie’s direction, she recognizes her concern but also her hurt. Christen realizes she sort of done to Julie what Tobin’s did to her. Christen should have warned Julie, talked to her about it. But fear, fear kept her from telling Julie, Christen was afraid Julie would try to talk her into taking the course, which of course Julie wouldn’t have. It’s not who Julie is. Christen knows it was her unwillingness to discuss Tobin. She was too embarrassed to explain to Julie why she didn’t want to take the course, hating that Tobin had such an affect over her.

Eyes trained on Syd, Christen breathes a sigh of relief as Julie turns back around. She and Alex share meaningful stares, wordless communicating as only two people who are use to reading each other’s body language can do. Clueless, Syd glances between the three girls as silence overcomes the table. A frown forms between her brows, as she studies Alex and Julie. Her eyes land empathetically on Christen, a small smile on her face. While unsure of the exact reason for the friction at the table, she’s definitely deduced that their displeasure is aimed at the sullen girl sitting across from her. In typical Syd fashion, she clears her throat before asking Julie, “are you still going to Sig Nu tonight?”
“Yep, you guys are still coming, right?” Julie grins, the tension around the table slowly evaporating.  

“I have to see what Allie wants to do” Alex responds. Syd and Julie groan in unison. Christen chuckles. Ever since Alex received a bid from Allie’s sorority, the only one she would ever consider, there’s been a dramatic personality change.  Ecstatic, Allie immediate declared Alex her little and now the otherwise domineering girl is double checking her every move with Allie. Christen finds the difference in Alex’s personality endearing, Julie and Syd not so much.

“Of course you do” Syd says sarcastically, Julie dismissively rolls her eyes.

“We should head back I need to get ready” Julie says signaling to the waiter for the check.

Outside the restaurant, Syd bombards Alex with a litany of questions about her sorority’s hierarchy.  Julie throws an arm around Christen’s shoulder, bringing her in for a little hug, “You kept disappearing on us tonight. Everything okay?”

Nodding briefly “Yeah, I’m good” mustering a smile for Julie. Admittedly, she’s not okay, she’s anything but okay. There’s a sadness she can’t shake. It’s penetrated her bones, taking permeant residency in her soul. Slowly it’s become a comforting ache, one she’s learned to expect. Initially she did her best to wrestle free from its deathly grip. The fight had been exhausting and futile, she always gives in taking comfort in the familiar sadness. She’s did her best to keep up appearance for her roommates’ sake. But despite her efforts she’s transparent, her friends can see right through her, especially Jules.

Deeply sighing, breathing through her nose, Julie pulls on Christen’s shoulder slowing them down noticeable putting distance between Syd and Alex. “Why didn’t you tell me about the class?”

“I know, I’m sorry” Christen says sounding pitiful. “I just didn’t think to”

“We could have picked a different course, you know. I mean it’s not a big deal but you just seem off lately”

“I’m just tired from working so much. It’ll be better once class starts”

“I’m worried Press. You’ve gotten good at lying to yourself” pauses briefly, a hitch in her voice “but don’t lie to me, don’t lie to your friends. I don’t want you to lose yourself in them.”

Immediately tears swell up in Christen’s eyes, Jules’ words piecing her with their truth and accuracy. Abruptly halting, Christen leans back staring up at the stars, wishing things weren’t so complicated, wishing she was okay. Guilt and shame resonate throughout her body, for once something new warring with her pain, as she contemplates Julie’s words. It’s reminiscent of another time in her life, a time when she didn’t know who she was, she only knew how to offer lies. She lied to everyone, most of all herself. Maybe Jules is right, maybe she has gotten too good at it.

It’s just, the wounds in her heart are ruinous, some so fresh, recently scratched in. Others, the ones she thought had healed, thought had disappeared, are opening again, the pain startling at time. She’s barely holding on, and the hopeful, expectant looks of her friends’ faces only make matters worse. Their disappointment evident every time she flounders only adds to her turmoil. Christen’s not sure she’ll survive another talk with Jules. The defender stands near by waiting patiently for her, offering comfort as the star shine above them.  

Slowly shaking her head, she reluctantly says “Fine, I’m not okay” a single tear rolls down her check. Meeting Julie’s eyes for the first time since they left for dinner “but I will be. I just need time.”

Wiping Christen’s tear away with her thumb Julie shakes her head in understanding, “Okay, take as long as you need just remember you’re not alone. A lot of people here care about you.”

“I know, I do know, I don’t want you to think I don’t” Christen whispers around the lump in her throat.

With a lopsided smile, Julie points to the disappearing figures of Alex and Syd, “We should catch up before Syd realizes we aren’t behind them, you know she’ll ask a thousand questions.”

“Thanks Jules, for always being here”

“Always, Press, always”


 

Back in the house, Christen sits at her desk staring at nothing in particular. Music blast from Syd’s new speakers, a gift from Dom. She replays her brief conversation with Jules over in her mind. Jules’s word struck a chord deep within her, “You’re getting good at lying to yourself” the words so memorable, she remembers saying something similar to Tobin. Tobin. Even thinking the name unsettles her. She hasn’t seen Tobin since the night at the bar, two weeks ago. The continued radio silence has becoming comforting in its familiarity. Christen operating under the guise of “no news, is good news”.

At first she expected Tobin to reach out, after all she came to the bar, only there’d been nothing but continued silence. Christen can’t bring herself to reach out, not after the way things ended between them. So each day her heart splinters and shatters a little more. She doesn’t even attempt to mend it. Christen played and replayed that night so many times in her mind, it’s like it happened yesterday. Mostly she remembers the way Tobin’s lips had felt against hers, how they had tasted, how decisive everything seemed. That night is the reason Julie and Alex have been treating her like a delicate doll.

 

Christen manages to keep her tears at bay in Adam’s car, working round the lump in her throat to tell him “thanks” and “goodnight.”  The minute she steps into the darkness, cold air hits her cheeks as angry tears form on her lashes and sobs wrack her body. She doesn’t care who sees. Christen thought the house would be empty, Julie isn’t back yet, Alex should be out doing some rush thing, Syd is most likely with Dom and Christen figured if Syd is home, she’ll be able to sneak by.

She’d been wrong on all accounts. Opening the front door, vision blurry, sniffling to clear her noise. Christen is completely oblivious to her surroundings, she’s so lost in her own despair. She doesn’t register the lights on downstairs or the suitcase resting along the wall.  It wasn’t until she’s half way up the stairs that she belatedly registers voices coming from Alex’s room. Syd is not home but Julie and Alex are. Quickly she hurries up the stairs as quietly as possible. Praying she can get to her room before they realize she’s home. It’s a useless prayer and she knows it. The minute she reaches the landing, two voices simultaneously call out to her.

“C, guess who came back early?”
“Press that you?”
Not trusting her voice, Christen lowers her head, sprinting to her room. Quickly grabbing tissues, she desperately wipes her eyes, snatching another for her nose.  

“Press, what’s wrong?” Julie asked anxiously. Christen closes her eyes in self-annoyance. She should have paid more attention, if she only been more alerts, she could have gathered herself downstairs avoiding this scene. Christen knows that she’ll eventually have to face the two concerned girls standing in the doorway.

“Christen, what’s wrong” Julie questions gently again. Empathically shaking her head back and forth, she closes her eyes, leaning against her bed. She just can’t talk.

Christen thinks she hears footsteps approaching the bed but she’s not sure. She’s positive she hears Alex’s hushed voice. She imagines Alex pulling Julie out into the hallway as their voices have become muffled by distance as parts of their conversation filters to her ears. Opening her eyes, she strains to hear their hushed voices.

“Do you know what happened? Why is she crying?” frustration tinting Julie’s voice making it a little gruffer.
“Tobin” Alex sighs dejectedly.

“Tobin?” The name said with exasperation. “What happened?” There’s a pause as Alex arranges the information into a coherent story.

“Tobin’s back on campus, I know that’s not the problem…” Alex states quickly, “Chris didn’t know though. Which is strange. I mean, they seemed so close last semester…”

“What happened Alex?”

“I thought she knew she always knows what’s going on with Tobin. She always knew more than me. So when she didn’t mention it, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t know” Alex whispers stumbling over her words. “Kelley told me, Tobin spent some of the break with that girl, you know…anyway, I guess Chris didn’t know. When I mentioned Tobin this afternoon, asking if she was coming to the bar, Chris was surprised, she didn’t know Tobin was back on campus. I don’t think they spoke over break.”

Julie sighs deeply, “You think that made her cry? I mean, it would upset her, I get that but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her like this before.”

“No, I know, I just…remember that night that Tobin came here, after our game?” Christen can hear the hesitancy in Alex’s voice.

“The night she got the red card, yeah?”

“Yes, well the next day C and Tobs were talking downstairs.” Alex’s pauses, uneasiness overcomes Christen, she wonders how much Alex has been able to figure out. “I overheard some of their conversation.” Alex pauses for a minute, almost unsure if she should divulge what she knows, she must decide Julie is worthy of knowing because she continues "I think they were close because they both hide things. C’s keeping a lot of secrets.” The accuracy of Alex’s words is chilling. 

“I know. I’ve noticed she keeps a lot to herself. I think something happened to her before she got her, I don’t know what.” sadness apparent in Julie’s voice “you think that has to do with tonight?”
“Yes, only I don’t know how.” sighing clearly annoyed “One of the freshman basketball players is rushing also, she mentioned some of the older girls were heading into Collegtown before going to some frat house. Jules….what if Tobin was with them?” There’s a hush in the hallway, the quiet damning. “There was something going on between them wasn’t there? I mean that would make her cry, right?”
There’s a long sigh, followed by significant silence. “I don’t know” Alex grunts in disbelief. “I don’t know, I only know what I saw, but I’d guess yes.” Julie finally answers.

Christen quietly removes her jacket, not wanting to make a noise and alert the girls. She’s hoping they will leave her alone. Placing the jacket on the back of her chair, her eyes wander to her desk, landing on the upside down polariods. Taking another tissue, she picks them up, before gingerly sitting on her bed. She’s studies them, a nostalgic smirk on her face when footsteps enter the room again. Christen blocked the rest of their conversation out, she’d heard enough.

Two sneaker clad feet come into view. Christen recognizes them, internally debating with herself. She doesn’t necessarily want to ignore Jules, besides she knows Jules won’t let her. Christen just isn’t ready to speak.

Glancing up, Christen offers Julie her swollen red eyes, sadness swimming in their depths. Julie steps closer, pulling her into one of the warmest hugs Christen’s experienced in a while. She can’t help but lean into the defender, laying her head down Julie’s shoulder. Letting Julie’s warmth seep into her, chasing some of the cold away, offering comfort she hasn’t had in so long. Christen thinks the problem with secrets is that they keep you lonely.

Eventually Christen pulls back, unsure of how long they’ve been standing there. She hangs her head, unwilling to meet Julie’s probing gaze. She doesn’t want pitting glances.

Julie takes the photos out of her hand, leaning against Christen’s bed, an arm resting on her thigh. Her other arm points to the string along the wall that’s holding a few of the polariods that Christen had managed to hang before leaving for the bar. “It’s cute. I really like it.”

“Thanks” Christen grunts out.

Slowly holding up one of the pictures in her hand, “You really like her?”
It’s a question Christen’s been avoiding since the New Year. Her pain the last couple of days has been immense, almost too poignant. Christen’s tried to figure why it’s been all consuming. Yes, being lied to hurts, being used just as painful, and losing a friend devastating. Only, Christen’s feeling everything tenfold, it’s breaking her and it shouldn’t be. She should be surviving better than she is. There is only one inevitable answer, a most unwelcome answer, an obvious answer, one Christen’s been denying. She was forced to admit the truth to herself, when she thought about another girl, a girl from what seems like a life time ago. Only then had she experienced similar devastation.

Christen looks down, troubling the tissue with her hand, twisting and untwisting it. Afraid to open Pandora’s box, admit her proverbial sin, unsure what havoc will arise. Christen wonders where the saying “the truth shall set you free” comes from, in her experience it’s a lie. Suspecting now won’t be any different, she doubts saying her truth out loud will be liberating, doubts she’ll find peace. But the burden of keeping all her secrets has become too much for her to bear alone. Christen shakes her head no, answering Julie’s question.

“No? You don’t like her?” Julie’s voice gentle but disbelief colors her tone.
Sighing, Christen knows she’ll have to say it. Slowly raising her eyes, she shakes her head again until she begrudgingly meeting Julie’s warm blue depths, calming like the ocean. “I…” but she can’t continue, the words stick in her throat. She can’t say it, she feels so stupid.

“Oh” Julie gasp, face lighting with comprehension, “You love her” surprise and understanding blending in her words.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Christen bites her lip, lowering her head, her pulse racing. Hot moisture lines her eyes, as she registers the lingering taste of Tobin’s fear and regret on her lips. Sighing deeply, “I know, I’m stupid…I”

“You’re not stupid. Loving someone doesn’t make you stupid” Julie declares sincerely.

“Loving someone who doesn’t love you, does” the words tumble out miserably.

“Hmmm”

Christen glances up at Julie mystified.
“You’re not stupid, Press,”

“I am” rubbing her eyes, “I feel for someone who doesn’t care about me”

Julie makes another noncommittal sound. Christen narrows her eyes. She’s too tired to deal with ambiguity. “What does that mean?”
Scrunching her lips together, Julie pulls her lips to the side. Glancing away, looking at the picture in her hands. “I don’t know how I missed it” she says.

“That’s not an answer” annoyance apparent in Christen’s tone.
“Christen, you’re not stupid” exasperation laced through out her tone, as Julie holds her hand up, stopping Christen’s protest to the contrary, “you’re not stupid, or an idiot, or any other word you’re going to find. You love someone. There’s nothing wrong with it, nothing to be ashamed of. And yea, it will suck if she doesn’t love you back, but it happens, and you’ll survive. Only…and don’t get mad at me… but...” Julie pauses, briefly glancing up. It’s something Christen come to realize Julie does when she’s deep in thought. “I don’t know if she loves you and I know she’s been an asshole lately, but she cares about you.  I’m not saying this to make you feel better. Everyone knows she cares about you.”

“Cared” Christen interjects solemnly.

“Cares” stressing the word “I don’t know what happened, and I don’t want to get give you false hope.” Julie gives her a careful glance, “I’m not saying she loves you, I’m not saying she doesn’t. Who knows. I’m just saying you’re not an idiot. I think she’s stuck in a bad place and I’m not making excuses for her, I just…I know you’re hurt, but I don’t want you to close yourself off, I don’t want you to keep hiding things. You thinking loving her is wrong. Love is never wrong. It might unrequited, but that still doesn’t mean it’s wrong. You’re being really hard on yourself Press, and you shouldn’t be.” Julie’s eyes glisten. Christen can’t stops the hot flow of tears, running down her neck, into her shirt. For so long, she’s been afraid, convincing herself that she’s been suffering because she wasn’t meant to be loved back, that there was something wrong with her. That her type of love wasn’t the right kind. That she was always destined to feel pain. Julie’s words give her hope, maybe she’s right, Christen prays she’s right, that loving someone is never wrong.

Clearing her throat, Julie hands Christen another tissue. “But you have some hard choices to make.”

Christen lets out a sigh, “I don’t want hard choices”
Chuckling, “no one does. But I think you have two options. Either you decide it’s unrequited love and eventually you get over her, you accept whatever she can offer you and that might just be friendship”

Cautiously, “there’s a big ‘or’ isn’t there”

Julie offers her a wry smile, “you talk to her, find out what’s going on, find out how she feels, why her head is stuck up her ass.”

Humorously huffing at the last part, Christen lays back on the bed “Yeah, I was afraid you would say that.”

“Yeah, I don’t see any other options. I just don’t want to see you like this. So go for it. just don’t lose yourself, don’t stop being the Press we all love”

Christen sits up, staring at Julie. The words sound so familiar. Ali said something similar to her a life time ago. Raising her eyebrows, What?” Julie questions

“Nothing, someone once said something similar to me”
“About Tobin?”
“No, someone else” shaking her head again, she finds herself saying “it was a long time ago.”
Wiping the last evidence of Christen’s tears, Julie says “Hey pretty girl, no more tears”
Christen snickers, “I must look hideous. I’m such an ugly crier.

“Yea, a little” Julies shrugs.

Gasping in faux hurt, smiling “Thanks, Jules”

“Anytime, Press”  

 

Christen’s catches motion out of the corner of her eyes, turning to see Julie and Syd enter the room. They’re both dressed up, as much as one can be in this weather, wearing tights jeans, heeled boots, and fitted sweaters. Glancing over at Christen, “Last chance, want to come tonight?” Julie causally throws over her shoulder, the way a person does to be polite but expecting a negative response.

Neutrally regarding her roommates, Christen thinks the thing about pain, it demands to be felt, it won’t be ignored and sometimes, sometimes it mask itself as a friend. Christen’s shrouded herself with it, allowing it to drag her down, losing herself in it, pretending to be comforted by it. Tonight, looking at the anxious faces of her friends Christen begins to uncloak herself. She’s tired of the secrets and lies. Realizing how unfair she’s been, not only to her friends but to herself. She’s been in hiding, doing everything she could to avoid Tobin. But why? It’s not like she’s seeking her out. Why hide, why run? Because you always do, comes the voice in her head. Alex and Julie deserve better, she deserves better. So she surprises herself by saying, “I’ll come”

She watches as Julie literally gives herself whiplash “really?”

Christen needs a throw away night, a night she isn’t inside her head. “Yeah, do you mind waiting? I can get dressed quickly.” She’ll just throw something presentable on, touch up her day makeup, she’s not trying to impress anyone. She just wants a night without pain.

“Seriously, Chris?” Syd says, excitement coloring her voice

“Yeah, why not? Adam mentioned it and it could be fun right? I mean I haven’t really gone out in a while”

Her cheeks warm under Julie and Syd’s scrutiny afraid she’s being transparent that they’ll see right to her real reason.

“Alex!!! Chris is coming, it’s roomie night out!!” Syd screams across the way

“Wait, What !?!”

“We haven’t done this in so long” Syd says clearly excited. Julie smiles at Christen and she’s relieved to see genuine happiness in Julie’s eyes, rather than the worry that was perpetually present when Christen looked at her.  Alex storms into the room, looking directly at Christen “Do you need help picking something out?” Christen gives a shake of her head in the affirmative. She really doesn’t but it’s something she knows Alex loves to do and seeing her joy is enough to make it worthwhile. Glancing back at Julie, “How are we getting there?”
“Zack will send one of the DDs to come get us when we’re ready, I just have to give him 10 minute notice” Alex shakes her head in agreement then turning to Syd “We need shots, go while I dress C” Syd doesn’t even question the directive she just skips out the door.  Christen’s been watching Alex with contained amusement, she glances over at Julie who’s sitting on her bed, slipping her feet into her tall back boots, she just shakes her head in fond annoyance.

Christen picks up her phone to text Adam.

Guess, who is coming tonight?

Meathead: Allie? You’re the best darlin’

;-(, no jerk!

Meathead: I’ll have the jello shots waiting for you

 

Chapter Text

Look… I don’t know how to talk to you
I don’t know how to ask you if you’re okay…
These days I don’t know how to talk to you
I don’t know how to be there when you need me
It feels like the only time you see me
Is when you turn your head to the side and look at me differently

I don’t know how to talk to you
I just know I found myself getting lost with you
Lately you just make me work too hard for you

I’m too good to you
I’m way too good to you
You take my love for granted
I just don’t understand it


 

“It’s called AA girls” a humorous masculine voice sound from behind Christen. Rolling her eyes Alex throws out her finished jello-shot. “Are you sure there’s alcohol in these?”
“Ye-ah” Adam drawls out.

“Even I think they’re weak” Julie complains having finished her own.

“At least they’re tasty” Syd sings out.

Shaking his head in fond exasperation “Alright! Walk away girls, walk away. Leave some for the guys” Adam laughs.

“Yeah, I should go find Zack, I haven’t told him I was here yet.” Julie chimes in from the sink as she and Alex wash the residual stickiness from the from the jello shots off their hands.

They arrived at the house ten minutes ago, spilling out of the back seat of some random freshman’s sedan that Zack sent to chauffeur them. As planned they arrived early to the frat house so they could pregame before the rest of the student body showed up. True to his word, Adam greeted them in the kitchen with a cookie sheet full of jello-shots. Within minutes Alex and Christen had taken four shots in quick succession. Syd and Julie threw back three of their own as Adam and one of his frat brothers watched the spectacle in bemused silence.

“Zack is in his room JJ,” Adam tells her.
“Kay, Press you want to come with or…” Jules asks drying her hand with a paper towel.

“I can show her around, give her a quick tour” Adam offers gesturing towards Christen.

“Yeah, okay that works for me” Christen agrees easily.

“Okay, make sure you show her the VIP bathrooms” Julie orders jokingly

“VIP?” Christen says with raised eyebrows at Adam “I didn’t know you were so fancy”

Laughing Julie explains, “yeah, the main bathrooms on the first floor are usually trashed by the end of the night so they have some upstairs that only a special few know about” winking at Christen.

“Will do. I’ll make sure to escort darlin’ to the main room afterward, the DJ just got set up.” Adam says to Julie.  Christen can’t help but roll her eyes, they should like two parents arranging childcare.

“I’m going to go check and see if Allie is here yet” Alex comments coming to stand next to Julie.

“I’ll come with Dom said he and some of the guys would be here by now,” Syd says hiding another shot behind her back.

“My love is coming...” Adam says grinning like a fool.

Julie rolls her eyes, “Yeah, try not to drool too much.”

Laughing Adam’s frat brother hits him on the back. Chuckling, Adam ask “who else is coming?”

“A couple more girls from my sorority most of the team is staying in Collegetown.” Alex replies while smiling reassuringly at Christen. In return Christen manages a small embarrassed smile, she’d hoped no one witnessed her unease at the mention of Allie’s name but of course, Alex had. Steadying herself, Christen replays her resolutions for the night; have fun, stay positive, allow nothing to get to her and most importantly don’t ruin the night for her roommates.

“Alright, I’m going upstairs” Julie announces, placing her hands on Christen’s shoulders “I’ll meet you in the main room in a couple of minutes.” Smilingly fondly at Jules, Christen reassure her, “I’ll be fine. Hurry up so we can shake our asses” she says doing a little jig.

“Please don’t do that on the dance floor”, Syd says sarcastically. Rolling her eyes Christen twist to face Adam, grinning she gives him a salute, “I’m ready for the grand tour.” Shaking his head “come on darlin’” walking out the door towards the left.

Adam briefly explained the layout of the house which Christen completely ignored, she reminds Adam it’s not her first time at the house. She visited a couple of times last semester before she knew Adam, only then she never strayed far from Jules’ side and she doesn’t intend on tonight being any different. She only paid attention when he pointed out where the “VIP” bathrooms were located. Christen’s been to enough frat parties to just how disgusting the bathrooms can truly get.

The tour final ends in the main room, the room that Christen is most familiar with, she glances around searching for familiar faces. Waving with relief Christen makes her way to Syd in the corner with Dom and some of the male soccer players. A little bored Christen continues to scan the growing crowd until her gaze lands on Allie. Allie smiles brightly at her walking over engulfing Christen in a hug.  

“Great to see you out” it’s a general statement but her eyes convey her true meaning. She’s glad Christen has finally come out of hiding. Smiling back Christen feels the need to explain, “It’s good to see you too,” Shrugging a shoulder “I decided to come since everyone else is out tonight.” Briefly nodding her head Allie looks at Christen with understanding eyes, she heard Christen’s unspoken question.

“Yeah, I’m just out with some of my sorority sisters and of course the best little ever. Everyone else will pretty much be in Collegetown, you know they’re not really into the Greek stuff” she finishes with a shrug. Christen doesn’t think Allie would lie to her but she still scanning the room apprehensively. Then without warning an exuberant Allie grabs Christen’s hand, “Come, I want to introduce you to some of my friends.” Christen helplessly follows as Allie leads her around the room, introducing her to one person after another. Christen already knows she won’t remember the majority of the names but the feeling of being included warms her soul, she limited herself so much lately, she’s been lonelier than she’d like to admit.

Suddenly a beefy arm wraps around her shoulders. Angling her head down Christen hides her grin behind a curtain of cascading hair. Christen doesn’t want to laugh in Adam’s face but his antics are so funny. Nervousness tint’s Adam’s voice as he greets Allie “hiya darlin’, how ya been?” Christen is about to tease him about calling someone else darling’ but she takes pity on him as waves of nervousness emanates from him. She doesn’t want to embarrass him in front of Allie.  

Christen wonders what it is about Allie that unnerves him so. At the bar, he’s all charm and confidence. Beautiful girls are constantly flirting with him as he wields his southern charm like a magic wand. Shrugging, Christen tunes out of their conversation, mostly for Adam’s pitiful sake. Briefly looking around Christen is aware of girls watching the two. Some openly admire Adam while others glare at Allie. She’s not surprised she knows Adam is popular. He’s handsome and extremely nice, well at least to her. She’s worked with him a couple nights where a student has had one too many drinks causing Adam to escort them out, his size leaves little room for arguments. Christen is positive he could be a complete ass when he wants or needs to be.

Unexpectedly a drink is thrust into Christen’s hand by Alex “I made you a drink.” Christen sniffs the cup, sighing. Of course, it’s vodka Christen gives Alex a disapproving look. Tossing her hair over her shoulder Alex gives her a hard look, “trust me that was the best option.”

“Thanks Al” Christen grimaces taking a health sip.

Christen’s hair is starting to stick to her neck as she perspires. Twisting her long locks Christen holds the twist against her head. Stepping out of the group Christen makes her way to the exterior of the room, she’s in desperate need of air, a breeze would be divine. Christen circles around the room finding Julie and Zach. A Rihanna song blasts through the room Christen sways trying to cool down. Eyes wide with amusement Julie and Christen watch as Alex and Syd run into the middle of the dance floor, joining a group of girls yelling “Bitch, better have my money” at the top of their lungs.

Bent over Julie holds on to Christen’s arm for support as the two of them laugh hysterically. Suddenly a piercing feeling runs along Christen’s spine, quick and sharp triggering goosebumps across her skin. Uneasily Christen examines the space around her. She doesn’t see anything but jovial students drinking and dancing. Her senses are heightened, she can’t shake her fear, hackles raised Christen’s instincts take over, she wants to flee only she can’t identify the source of danger. Scanning the room again everything appears to be fine, Alex and Syd are dancing with Allie and Jules points to the dance floor while yelling into Zach’s ear.

Something moves out of the corner of Christen’s eyes, turning away from Julie for a second Christen thinks she recognizes a familiar figure but they’re gone so fast, she’s not sure. Closing her eyes Christen tries to calm down, deciding the universe wouldn’t play that cruel of a joke on her. Because of all the nights, of all the parties on campus, of all the frat house, what are the chances Tobin would come to this one. Christen prays her eyes were playing tricks on her after all she only caught a glimpse. But she knows better, her body’s reaction tells her Tobin has entered the house. Christen knows it in that annoyingly instinctual way someone knows when the person they love enters the room, she just knows.

Moving closer to Jules Christen comforts herself as she doesn’t see Tobin. Breathing deeply Christen tries to convince herself she saw someone else. That’s until she glances in Julie’s direction, shock registers on Jules’ face as her features quickly morph into annoyance. That one look tells Christen everything she needs to know. With wide eyes Jules glances at Christen apologetically, not only is Tobin here but she’s here with her. Compulsively Christen follows Julie’s gaze until she sees them.

They’re circling the outside of the room, the girl is holding Tobin’s hand leading her towards a group of people. Head slightly lowered in boredom Tobin’s eyes show her annoyance. Like a bad car accident, Christen is incapable of turning away, all she can do is stare. The girl swings her head in Christen’s direction glaring when they make eye contact. The heat of her glare breaks Christen’s trance.

Turning to face Jules’ Christen catches her staring at Alex. They’re doing that silent communication thing again. Rolling her eyes Christen is about to reassure Julie she’s fine when Alex’s eyes lands on her, beckoning her to come dance. Smiling, Christen grasps Julie’s hand, dragging her along. Jokingly, Syd immediately starts to grind on her. Christen joins in, tossing her hands in the air and moving her hips subtly. The whole time she repeats her mantra; have fun, stay positive, allow nothing to get to her and most importantly don’t ruin the night for her roommates.

Heat overtakes Christen, hair plastered to her neck, she peels it off her sweaty skin, rolling it into a bun on top of her head. Christen is beyond hot, she hadn’t planned on dancing so much. It’s clear the dancing was a ploy to keep her distracted, she was encased the whole time, blocked from prying eyes and her view impeded. In desperate need of air and liquids Christen knows she’s going to have to leave her circle of protection. She explains as much to Alex who gives her a dubious look. Christen promises she’ll find Adam but she has to get off the dance floor and before anyone can argue with her she exits, searching for Adam. Christen made her way safely around the perimeter of the room when suddenly Tobin is in front of her.

Tobin leans coolly against the wall. She’s standing with a group of guy but there’s an edge to her smirk, her body a picture of arrogance. Tobin resembles a Queen before her court. She’s laughing only it’s different than her normal laugh Christen notes, it’s not as robust, it doesn’t reach her eyes and it’s definitely not sincere. Studying her from the safety of the shadows Christen register’s sadness in Tobin’s eyes. Everything about Tobin is off, her movements aren’t fluid but calculated, habitual automated responses used to keep up appearances.

The girl is standing adjacent to Tobin, their backs towards each other. The girl stands in encircled by her own group, an arm’s distance away from Tobin. Christen thinks they both look like Queens before their courts. Only one is cruel and the other apathetic. The girl reaches back, laying her hand on Tobin’s arm. From Christen’s vantage point she can’t see the girl’s face, only her profile but she has an unencumbered view of the slow smile that breaks across Tobin’s face, gazing at the girl lovingly.

Pain resonates within Christen like thunder rolling through hills, she wants to flee so bad, the picture before her so disheartening. Christen wonders why Tobin chooses to go back. Unable to bare Tobin’s expression Christen about to run away, run in the opposite direction as far away from both of them as she can get. When a voice from within her whispers for her to look again, insisting she watch closer, really look. Reluctantly Christen listens to her instincts studying the two girls. Quickly Christen realizes her error, she completely misread Tobin’s expression. Christen recognizes it for what it really is, friendship not love. It’s the same smirk Tobin has given Alex a thousand times. She uses it to placate Alex when she’s ranting about some trivial matter Tobin could care less about but still listens because after all Alex is her friend. Christen takes a minute to mull over this revelation.

Leaning in closer, the girl presses her side against Tobin in a calculated gesture meant to entice. Tobin’s body stiffens as if the contact was unwanted. Tobin patiently listens to what she says but she’s looking away, uninterested. The girl stares at Tobin for a minute, her eyes narrowing, a simmering rage in her. She leans in to say something else but before she can Tobin looks over, her eyes cold and shakes her head, abruptly turning away.

Christen’s frozen, she transfixed, watching the two girls with morbid fascination, when a hand lands on her arm protectively. Christen doesn’t move she already knows it’s Jules, she can feel her energy. She must have been gone longer than she thought and after the way she acted at dinner she knows Julie is going to be extra vigilant.

Out of nowhere Tobin’s head swings in their direction locating Julie first, her face brightening. Her eyes then scan to the left and quickly to the right until they lock on Christen’s. Their intensity so startling, Christen’s breath catches. Keeping eye contact Tobin leans over, tugging on the girl’s hand, her lips moving, saying something to the girl. The girl shakes her head dismissively. Breaking eye contact with Christen, Tobin glares at the girl, a hardness in her eyes, leaning in again she gestures with her free hand, whispering urgently, insistently. Christen slides her focus to the girl, who isn’t paying attention at all, she’s looking over her shoulder attention solely on a boy. Tobin realizing, she lost the girls attention looks over her shoulder. Rolling her eyes when she sees the boy, Tobin drops the girl's hand walking away. Standing on her tiptoes Christen strains her neck trying to keep Tobin within her sights but she’s quickly swallowed by a sea of bodies. Christen looks back at the girl, who is slowly making her way to the boy Tobin completely forgotten.

That’s when she feels a large calloused hand take hers. “Come darlin’, I need a partner for beer pong,” Adam drawls. Dumbfounded Christen gazes at him lost, her body pulling her in a different direction.  He gives her a protective smile pulling her hand, “come on, it’s safer upstairs.” Glancing at Jules, Christen nods her head, allowing him to take her away after all safety is exactly what she needs.

What Christen doesn’t see is the piercing gaze of whiskey honey eyes, jaw set hard, lips thinned in distaste as they watch Christen being lead away by a handsome boy. A scene she’s all too familiar with.


 It’s a maze, that’s the only explanation, the house is a maze. Christen groans in frustration, she’s completely lost, music blares somewhere above her but every turn leads down a hallway that looks just like the one before it. Christen’s slightly inebriated state only further complicates things. She should have let Jules come with her but she and Zack were winning at beer pong and she couldn’t wait. Alex and Syd were nowhere to be found. Christen suppose she could have had Adam show her the way but a pretty little blonde was hanging over him and she didn’t want to interrupt.

Something in her mind registers the dimming of music indicating she’s she going in the wrong direction. Rolling her eyes, she’s about to turn around when an achingly familiar voice calls out, “You’re going the wrong way.”

Shocked Christen stumbles a bit before bringing herself to a stop. Standing in the middle of the hallway, her heart hammers in her chest. She considers walking into the abyss, hoping to be rescued by another. She wants to run, avoid the figure behind her. Chastising herself, she confesses she’s always running, always delaying making the inevitable hard decisions. This time she’s not going to run. Digging deep within herself, Christen courageously swivels around, frantically trying to prepare herself for what lies behind her. Face blank, Christen passively scans Tobin from head to toe, her eyes drinking in the sight before her. She hasn’t been this close to Tobin since the night outside the bar, two full weeks ago. Unreasonably the only thought she can process is how good Tobin looks. Maybe a little tired, even a little warn but to Christen’s starved eyes she’s still beautiful. Narrowing her eyes in self annoyance, Christen attempts to strengthen her resolve, berating herself for her wandering thoughts.

Then for reasons Christen can’t fathom, memories she’s had locked away, memories of Tobin she thought she had buried, come flooding to the surface taking her breath away. The memories are so real, the comfort of being pressed against her, the weight of Tobin’s body on top of hers, the warmth of her embrace, the sweetness of her lips. Chuckling, she should have known it wouldn’t be easy to banish Tobin, not even in her mind. Heat rising in her cheeks, Christen feels resentment growing within her, at herself for still remembering, resentment towards the girl standing in front of her for making her remember and a little bit of self-hate that after everything she still doesn’t really hate Tobin at all.

Tobin’s quiet, leaning against the wall, her hands in her pockets, body poised nonchalantly as if she had not a care in the world. Blistering at Tobin’s insouciance, Christen finally dares to meet her eyes. Tobin’s emotions are overwhelming, winding Christen with their intensity, her vulnerability disquieting. Blinking, Christen snaps out of her reverie because Tobin’s eyes have always been windows to her soul and now, now Christen doesn’t trust them, doesn’t trust much about the girl standing in front of her. Seeing Tobin is sobering, everything Christen was trying to avoid tonight comes crashing down.  

A cough brings Christen hurtling back to the present. She can’t decide whether or not to confront Tobin. There’s so much she wants to say, so many questions she wants to ask but Christen’s learned not to ask questions unless she’s ready for the answers. She doesn’t completely trust herself to effectively communicate in her current state, so she moves, walking in the right direction. Focused on looking straight ahead, she can feel the heat of Tobin’s gaze on her, burning into her, beseeching her, and still Christen faces forward, mumbling “thanks.”

“Chris…” Tobin starts hesitantly.

Christen keeps moving, ignoring her.

“Christen, wait…” Tobin says while trying to grab her hand.

Christen yanks her hand away from Tobin’s reach, backing up instinctively. Tobin quickly steps in front of her, blocking her way.

“What? Now I’m good enough to talk to?” Christen hisses, anger building within her at an alarming speed.

“I…it’s not” Tobin stutters, caught off guard by her anger which only infuriates Christen more.

“It’s not what…” Christen interrupts her tone foreboding.

“It’s not that, it’s wasn’t like that” Tobin whispers head bowed in shame.

Christen stares at her incredulously, disbelief and anger rendering her speechless, finally she croaks out “That’s it?”

Glancing away, Tobin noticeably swallows, opening and closing her mouth but no words come out.

“That’s honestly what you’re going to say to me? After everything, that’s all you’re going to say?

“It’s not what you think…I” Tobin starts inadequately.

“You’re right, it’s not what I thought because I thought you at least respected me enough to be honest. Obviously, I was wrong” Christen spits out.

“Christen, that’s not it at all, I do resp…” Tobin starts urgently

“Don’t. I don’t want hear your lies.”

Tobin stands straighter, anger flashing through her eyes as she forcefully says “I do respect you. I’m not lying.” emphasizing each word “I’ve never lied to you”

“You just did,” Christen says in a lowered voice.

“No,” shaking her head, “I respect you, so much so and I have never outright lied to you, ever” Tobin whispers vehemently.

“You have, you’ve omitted so much, it’s all the same” Christen whispers gravely.

Groaning, Tobin rubs the heels of hands into her eyes, raising her hands to hair, grasping strands of it, her elbows up. Slowly, she lower’s her hands, meeting Christen’s gaze. Icy pools of fear meet hot molten pits of anger. Christen realizes Tobin isn’t or can’t say anything else, her omissions to great to deny.

Glancing away, Christen brings herself to ask the question that’s been running through her mind for a month now “Why? Why haven’t you spoken to me?”

“I couldn’t” comes the whispered answer. Christen doesn’t know what she means by that but before she can inquire further, they both pause as they can hear a soft voice singing out. “Tob..ey…where are you?”

“Fuck” Tobin sighs in frustration, raking a hand through her hair. Desperately looking at Christen “Please don’t go. Please”

“Oh, there you are…why are you standing in the middle of the …” Tobin’s stares at Christen, waiting for a response. Christen briefly contemplates saying no. Wonders if Tobin would follow her or if she would stay. The part of Christen that loathes their current situation and everything that’s about to happen, doesn’t care. The part that’s been suffering for weeks wants to walk away, let Tobin deal with the consequences of her actions. But she won’t, knows she won’t. It would be playing a game, something she promised she would never do to another person. Nodding slightly, Christen indicates she’ll wait. Tobin quickly closes her eyes in relief before straightening and slowly twisting “Hey, I went to the bathroom.”

The girl stands, hands on hips, glancing back and forth between Tobin and Christen, displeasure evident on her face. Staring directly at Christen, the girl says in a voice laced with contrived sugary sweetness, “I missed you, you left me.” Stepping to her left, Tobin effectively blocks Christen from the girl’s view, before she crosses her arms across her chest, Tobin doesn’t respond, her body posture screams apathy. Christen can partially see the girl over Tobin’s shoulders, catches her squinting her eyes in suspicion.

“Come with me” she holds her hand out “let’s dance.”

“I’ll meet you downstairs in a minute” there’s a resounding smacking sound as the girl drops her hand. The ensuing silence is filled with indignation. Christen stares down uncomfortable with the situation. Christen always stands by her promises but this is so unpleasant, she considers leaving. She hates the girl for her manipulations. It brings forth such unpleasant memories.  

“Toby, please come, you haven’t danced with me all night” the girl tries again.

“You were busy” there’s a hardness in Tobin’s voice Christen’s never heard before that causes her to raise her head and gaze at Tobin's back. Christen can feel Tobin’s distress. So Christen takes a step closer to her, silently sending her thoughts of encouragement. No matter what happens between them she doesn’t want Tobin to be used like this.

“What, are you jealous?” the girl says cheerfully. Tobin offers a disparaging grunt in response.

“You know he means nothing to me, come on babe let’s dance.”

Christen cringes, she’s not sure if it’s because of the girl’s words or the stiffening of Tobin’s back but she guesses it’s the latter. Christen hears the sound of heels moving forward at the same time she watches Tobin step back closer to her. Christen knows Tobin took the step to keep distance between her and the girl.

“Babe?” Tobin chuckles contemptuously her body posed disdainfully.  

“Are you angry about before? You know how it is, how he can be, I didn’t mean anything by it.” Christen hates the way Tobin physically recoils from her words.

“I’m not your babe” Tobin scoffs “we’re just friends.” Her monotone answer suggests she’s quoting something she’s been told a thousand times before.

“Why are you acting this way? Why, because she’s here?”  Tobin shifts again, determinedly keeping Christen blocked.

Tobin sighs as if exhausted like the game they’ve been playing is no longer entertaining.  “Don’t start”

“I thought you said she was just a friend”

“She is. She’s a good friend. Don’t start,” Tobin bites out.

“Are you trying to impress her?” her words are laced with such venom Christen involuntarily steps back. “Her over me?” she says in incredulity.

“Enough!” Tobin’s voice is loud and deadly quiet at the same time, her tone low and menacing, cutting through the cries of the other girl. “Go down stairs.” It’s no longer a suggestion. Tobin demands it.

“Hurry” she whispers harshly.

“I’ll be down when I’m done.”

“Whatever, if you’re lucky I might still be here” followed by heels angrily stomping away. Christen can visibly see the tension leaving Tobin’s body as she slumps for a minute. Christen is starting warily at her back, she doesn’t know what to say. She wants to be surprised by the exchange but she’s not. From everything she’s learned about the girl this is her modus operandi. Christen’s willing to bet she brought Tobin here tonight with the intentions of making her jealous, Christen suspect Tobin knows it also.

Tobin twists back around, looking down she playing with her fingers.

“Charming” Christen starts unemotionally and before she knows it, she hears herself say “Are you with her now?”

“No” Tobin infuses as much honesty and understanding as possible.

“The marks on your neck say otherwise” Christen responds dispassionately, a bite to her tone. Tobin has the good graces to look embarrassed but she doesn’t flinch. She doesn’t reach up to touch the tender skin. Sighing, Christen sight moves past Tobin, staring at nothing. The encounter helped her gain some perspective. The sight of the two of them together was a blunt wake-up call.

“I’m not dating her,” Tobin says her voice strong and unwavering.

Sighing again, Christen glowers at her feet. One thing she’s learned about Tobin is that what she doesn’t say is just as important as what she does. She says they’re not dating, and Christen has her suspicions as to why that is but she won’t dwell on what transpires between them. “Well, I can see why you like her so much,” Christen says sarcastically.

“Hmmm….” Tobin glances over her shoulder “I wonder…” she whispers

Christen sighs for what feels like the hundredth time tonight, “if you have to go…”

Head snapping up, Tobin looks at Christen with wide panicked yes, “No, I don’t.” Christen raises her eyebrows in disbelief but doesn’t argue.

“She’s just in a mood” Tobin says dismissively, her hands making brushing gestures.

“That’s one way to put it.” Exasperatedly Christen ask “what do you want Tobin?”

Tobin worries her bottom lip. “I want to talk to you”

“Why?”

Closing her eyes, she shuffles before answering. “I know you hate me, I don’t blame you, I just don’t want you to…”

“I don’t hate you” Christen says simply, devoid of emotion, it’s the truth despite all of Christen good intentions, she doesn’t her. Tobin looks up in disbelief.

“I don’t, trust me I tired, but I don’t” Relief filters across Tobin’s face, prompting Christen to add “I don’t like you either”

“I deserve that, I’ll take it, for now.” Tobin says remorsefully, “I’m sorry, I know it’s not enough but I am sorry.”

Christen looks away she feels the pressure of wetness behind her eyes. She’s been waiting for these word for so long but now that they are here, she still feels hollow.

“Why didn't you tell me?”

“I couldn’t”

Christen feels her chin start to quiver she brings her hand up in an attempt to shield herself, “But why, what did I do?” voice wavering despite her best efforts.

“Oh no” Tobin takes a step forward. Shaking her head, Christen backs up, Tobin can’t touch her it will completely ruin her.

“You didn’t do anything” Tobin barely manages “it was never about you, it was always about me”

“But why couldn’t you talk to me?”

Closing her eyes again, her jaw clenching, Tobin rubs the back of her neck. “I was too embarrassed, too ashamed. I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to look at me differently, I was afraid I’d disappoint you” it was a miserable, mumbling finish, but she manages to choke it out.

“You don’t trust me” disbelief coloring Christen’s pitch.

“No, that’s not it”

“Yes, it is. You don’t or at least you didn’t. If you had trusted me you wouldn’t have been embarrassed to tell me.”

“I do trust you. I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

“So you didn’t trust me to understand, it's the same thing” Pausing Tobin stares at her, her jaw clenched. There’s a fire in her eyes.

“I trust you, more than I trust myself”

Rolling her eyes, “that makes no sense. Your actions don’t make sense. It hurt, you know. I had to hear it from everyone else.” Christen voice cracking, as hot tears find purchase on her lashes before descending.

“I know, I know” Tobin says remorsefully.

Quickly swiping at the few drops that escaped her lashes, Christen doesn’t respond. Tobin hasn’t a clue as to how much she hurt her and Christen doesn’t want her to know that Tobin basically rendered her useless. The silence grows between them, suffocating. Christen considers walking on, concluding their conversation has run its course. When Tobin surprises her.

“I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you, I knew I was but I couldn’t face you. I couldn’t look at you, this strong, gorgeous girl, and tell you I was giving in again. I just couldn’t.”

Closing her eyes, Christen holds back her tears, attempting to compose herself down. Deep down a part of her understands Tobin’s reason, the other half, is too stubborn, still too mad, it only remembers the pain. Turning hard eyes on Tobin. “I’m just a girl Tobin. I’m not some heroine, I’m not half the things you think I am.

Vehemently, shaking her head, Tobin says. “You are. Maybe you don’t realize it.”

“You’ve made me into this personification and I can’t live up to these standards”

“But you already do! Why don’t you see how special you are?”

Scoffing humorlessly Christen rolls her eyes, Christen counters “I could ask the same”

“No, it’s not the same.” Looking directly at Christen, “I wish you could see you as I do, then you’d understand.”

Shaking her head Christen glances to the side, needing to break her eye contact. She’s uncomfortable with the direction of their conversation. Desperately she seeks to change the subject, she ask another question, “why did you come back to the bar the other night?”

“I wanted to talk to you” she states simply

Christen scoffs, “I thought you were too embarrassed.”

Biting her lip, Tobin drags in a ragged breath, she says simply “I missed you.”

Christen can’t contain the cackle that escapes her lips, masking the sound of her rapidly beating heart. It’s so absurd, but those words, three simple words, shouldn’t matter, shouldn’t be able to affect her. But they do, they pierce her, pierce her with a light she hadn’t expected.

“Look, obviously I fucked this up, I know I have. I wish I had, I wish I didn’t feel this way.” Looking back over her shoulder, where the girl had disappeared, she says wistfully “I’m not even sure why I do.”

The last comment rubs Christen the wrong way because Tobin does know, she just won’t admit to it. Squinting judgmentally “Still lying to yourself I see.” At Tobin’s shocked expression, Christen continues “Don’t worry, apparently you and I have that in common.”

“That’s not true…” Tobin’s gazing in the opposite direction speaking so low her words are barely audible, but Christen still hears Tobin murmur “am I lying?” Christen knows it’s a rhetorical question.

Randomly Tobin says, “I thought about calling you every day. But…I…what would you have done?” She staring earnestly at Christen, eyes wide with honest curiosity “What would you have done if I had called you?”

“Do you know what my voicemail message says?” Tobin knots her brows perplexed. The unexpected question confusing her.

“No”

“Exactly, but I know yours by heart.” It’s not really an answer Christen knows this but she wants her to know that, wants to remind Tobin she called and Tobin never answered. Christen honestly doesn’t know what she would have done. In the beginning she definitely would have answered but after being ignored for so long, she can't positively say she would now.

Shame overcomes Tobin, she looks down “I’m sorry, if I could do it again, I would tell you. You’d be the first person to know.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore” Christen thinks out loud, because she’s not sure it does. She’s resigned herself to the fact that she might never truly understand Tobin or her actions. Tobin’s head pops up at this, apprehension shining brightly in her eyes.

There’s a yell, Christen thinks she hears her name being called. She glances over her shoulder but she doesn’t see anyone. Turning around she jumps in surprise, Tobin’s standing right in front her, Christen didn’t hear her move. Tobin slowly she reaches out, gently sliding her hand along Christen’s jaw line. Standing still, eyes wide with surprise, Christen knows she should pull away but she can’t. Tobin’s eyes are hypnotizing. Leaning her head in, she gently rest her forehead against Christen’s “I’m so sorry.” A waver in her voice Tobin gentle rubs her thumb against Christen’s bottom lip. “Please, don’t give up on me.” A brief kiss against her lips “please.” Christen stares back in wonderment, her breath catching, her mind completely blank except for the feel of Tobin’s lips against hers. It’s been so long.

Then Tobin’s hand slips down and around until it lands on the nape of Christen’s neck, pulling her in, lightly pressing her lips to hers, and then withdrawing. Unprepared, Christen braces against the kiss and placing one hand on Tobin’s chest, lightly pushing her backwards. Tobin’s other arm sneaks around Christen’s waist, anchoring her. Studying Christen’s eyes, Tobin’s searches for any signs of distress or repulsion. Tobin only finds confusion, wariness, and a shimmer of want. It emboldens Tobin, still unsure if her actions are welcomed but she incapable of stopping herself.

They’ve never been great at verbal communication, always been better at expressing themselves with their lips and bodies. Tobin leans in again, her mouth insistent against Christen’s, her tongue begging for entrance. Helpless under the onslaught of emotions, Christen opens to her, tasting the uniqueness that is Tobin, a combination of both sweet and spicy at the same time. Her hand on Tobin’s chest slips up until it rests on her shoulder, grasping it. This time under the lingering taste of Tobin’s regret, there’s the overpowering taste of hope. It’s so strong that Christen devours it, savoring it, wanting to believe it. Gasping for breath, Tobin pulls back. Hands trembling, she entwines their fingers, forehead resting against Christen’s she beseechingly asks “give me a chance”

“What?’ Christen gasp dazed and confused.

“To earn your friendship back, just give me a chance.”

“Press?” the voice getting louder. Giving Christen’s hands one more squeeze, Tobin takes a step back and then another one.

“Christen, where are you?” the voice getting louder until Julie rounding the corner. She abruptly stops, quickly assessing the scene in front of her. Managing a couple more steps, Julie's gaze probing, quietly questioning “are you okay?” but vocally she says “Oh, I thought you’d gotten lost”

“I did.” Christen responds stepping back herself, away from Tobin. Christen is aware that Julie is ignoring Tobin.

“Syd and Al are ready to head home. Adam’s got the DD to drive us” Julie says hand reaching out for Christen’s.

“Okay,” and she gratefully grabs Julie’s hand. She allows herself to be lead down the hallway. The burning sensation on the back of her head, is so hot she can't ignore it, she looks back over her shoulder. Tobin’s standing up straight now, staring after them, looking unusually small and sad. Tobin holds a small smile for a minute but then it falters, looking more like a grimace. Christen isn’t sure how she does it, but she manages a smile in return, meaning it. Although she’s being lead away, the distance between her and Tobin growing, Christen swears she see hope flicker in Tobin’s eyes, a real smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. Facing forward, Christen grasps onto Julie’s hand like it’s a life line. Confused, Christen is unsure of what just transpired but part of her heart soars thinking with time maybe everything will be okay again.

Christen’s the first one out of the house. She giggles when she sees the waiting pickup truck. She’s always wanted to ride in the back of one. Turning to Adam, Christen chortles “Are pickup trucks a requirement for membership?” He barks a laugh, going to open cab door but Christen motions him to the back, “no, help me” as she waits to climb into the bed of the truck.

“Ahh, Press this truck has a cab” Julie laughs.

“I know but I want to ride in the back.”

Shrugging Jules follows Christen, sitting next to her, their backs braced against the wall of the cab. Adam helps Syd and Alex in. Alex sits on the hump over the wheel, her hands held high.

“I just want to point out that we are in a pickup truck, with a guy named Bubba from Texas. If I die tonight, I’m coming back to kick all of your asses” Syd says dryly.

Christen laughs, resting her head on Jules' shoulder. She feels light for the first time in weeks. Her encounter with Tobin in the hallway had been cathartic. She hasn’t forgiven Tobin but she thinks one day she might. She’s still mad at herself and livid at Tobin. Annoyed at Tobin for putting them in this position but mostly underneath everything, she feels a peacefulness she hasn’t in weeks. She’d gotten some answer, while the answers weren’t always satisfactory but least now she knows it wasn’t her. It wasn’t that she wasn’t good enough, it isn’t about her inadequacies.

“Everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Christen sighs, truly meaning it this time. For the first time in a very long time, there’s a sense of hope growing within her, shining a light on some of her darker places. Julie must sense the difference because she hugs her whispering “I’m so glad”.

 

Chapter Text

Written in these walls are the stories that I can’t explain
I leave my heart open but it stays right here empty for days
She told me in the morning she don’t feel the same about us in her bones
It seems to me that when I die these words will be written on my stone

And I’ll be gone, gone tonight
The ground beneath my feet is open wide
The way that I’ve been holding on too tight
With nothing in between

The story of my life, I take her home
I drive all night to keep her warm and time is frozen
The story of my life I give her hope
I spend her love until she’s broke inside, the story of my life

Written on these walls are the colors that I can’t change
Leave my heart open but it stays right here in its cage
I know that in the morning now I see us in the light upon a hill
Although, I am broken, my heart is untamed, still


The aroma of freshly brewed coffee greets her before a cup slides on to her desk. A pastry bag containing a chocolate croissant is gently placed next to it. Since the second class she’s been gifted with a coffee and a treat and three weeks into class the ritual continues. Picking the coffee up Christen blows through the top of the lid, trying to cool the hot liquid down. Daring to glance to her right Christen mumbles out “thanks.” Sipping the wonderful coffee, a familiar sense of guilt overcomes her. The gesture is sweet, extremely considerate but completely unnecessary. Christen should put a stop to it, stop taking advantage but in her defense she thought it was a onetime thing. Christen assumed it was a kind of apology for the first day of class. Chuckling to herself she remembers what a disaster that day was.  

Sitting in the auditorium waiting for her class to start Christen shifts through her bag searching for the notebook already labeled psych.  The plopping sound Christen hears is an unwelcomed indication that someone has sat down right next to her. Annoyance flashes through her. The class is held in one of the larger lecture rooms, there are plenty of seats, why would someone come and sit right next to her? That’s when Christen feels it, the familiar sense of recognition rolling down her spine. 

Stilling in disbelief Christen’s mind races, because what are the chances? Christen closes her eyes, she seriously wonders what puppy she kicked to make the universe so mad at her because there is just no other explanation. Reluctantly, glancing over she recognizes the orange backpack. Quickly sitting up straight Christen slams her notebook down, forgetting all about her coffee cup that is resting precariously close to the edge of the desk. The minute her notebook touches the desk, Christen remembers the cup but she’s too late. She watches in horror as her cup tumbles to the carpeted floor. There is no chance for Christen to catch it, it lands with a soft thud, resting on its side. The cup lands with a soft thud, Christen can feel heat rising up her neck, cheeks flaming. Grateful it was mostly empty, she reaches down, and picking the cup up, turning it right-side up, Christen leaves it on the ground where it’s safest. Quickly inspecting the room, no one seems to have noticed, no one except for the girl sitting next to her. The girl who shouldn't even be here. Twisting to the side, Christen finds herself gazing into mirth filled brown eyes. Christen stares back with a mixture of astonishment and irritation.

Concern cloud the amber orbs as they recognize the growing panic in Christen’s eyes, mumbling, “I didn’t mean to startle you, sorry you about your coffee.” Speechless, Christen glances back, making sure the cup is still standing. When she’s assured it won’t take another spill, she twists back to find a hand extended in greeting, “Hi, I’m Tobin Heath”

Eyebrows raised in confusion. Christen slowly reaches out gingerly taking her hand, barely shaking it “uhh…Hi”

Air visibly leaves Tobin’s body as her bravado falters. Resolutely, Tobin prompts Christens with a nod of her head and determined eyes “uh, okay. I’m Christen” comes her reluctant answer, realizing that Tobin is serious about them introducing themselves.

Grinning, “Hi Christen, nice to meet you”

Mouth slightly ajar, Christen continues to stare, her mind incapable of reconciling what should be true with what’s currently in front of her. Tobin can’t be here, she definitely shouldn’t be here. Tobin is a mirage, it’s the only explanation Christen can come up with as she thinks she’s finally gone crazy. Blinking twice, Christen attempts to clear her vision, only Tobin is not disappearing, she’s still sitting there grinning. Christen’s heartbeat increases out of anxiousness. Tobin’s smile has always been Christen’s downfall, it memorizes her, makes her forget. Christen fights her impulse to smile back. “Uh... what are...?” Christen starts, her bewilderment evident.

Tobin’s smile falters and her fingers nervously drum on the desk, “I thought…the whole friend thing, I figured, maybe we could start over. I’m mean obviously we already know each other...but” Warily, Christen listens as the normally elegant girl trips over her words, stumbling until she stops, one corner of her mouth pulling up, her shoulders jostle up and down. “I just thought maybe we could start fresh.”

Still shocked, Christen stares at Tobin in disbelief. She can’t consider Tobin’s words. Not until she gets some answers. Rage grows in her depths, needing to know how Tobin ended up in this class because it defies all logic and probability. Clearly, the odds are not in her favor when it comes to Tobin. Eyes narrowing suspiciously Christen wonders if anyone told Tobin, thinking she’ll kill Alex if she did. “How did you know I was in this class?

“I didn’t”

“So no one told you?”

“No-pe” Tobin drawls out, popping the “p” a sparkle in her eyes.

“Huh?” Christen begins to lean back in her seat when she suddenly she sits forward again “then why are you here?”

Regarding Christen in amusement, Tobin casually leans back, sipping out of her water bottle, resting an arm over the desk,  “You mean in a class, at a college? Crazier things have been known to happen.”

“No, this particular class, you’re not a psych major” Christen stresses

“Are you?”

“What? No… I don’t know…I might…I’m thinking about it, but…what does that matter…” stuttering terribly her nervousness showing.

Chortling, “Christen…if you want I can change seats, I don’t want to bother you” even though her tone holds a hint of amusement, sadness and disappointment waivers in the depths of her eyes.

Pausing, Christen glances towards the front of the room, desperately struggling to comprehend everything. She purposefully changed classes to avoid this. Christen should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. Glancing back to earnest eyes, she remembers her promise. She agreed to give Tobin a chance, to work on their friendship and maybe organically is the best way. Besides it would simplify her life if they got along. No longer would she feel like she’s pulling her friends in multiple directions.

Since Christen last saw Tobin, she’s played and replayed their encounter. Tobin’s words haunt Christen. Tobin’s actions are clearer, a little understandable and Christen knows she’s not completely justified in her anger towards Tobin. Yes, Tobin hurt her and Christen knows she’s entitled to those feelings but Christen knows she’s no better. In fact, Christen knows she’s done worse, at least Tobin hand the fortitude to apologize. Christen still hasn’t.

Moving on is the best option, so as angry and hurt as she’s been, she admits Tobin has the right idea. Christen accepts that her long time desire for something other than friendship with Tobin is unrealistic but she hopes that they’ll reach a point where there isn’t this lingering awkwardness between them.

“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry, I was just surprised” Tobin nods, sipping her water, clearly trying to hide her smile. Christen reaches into her bag, looking for her pencil case. Busying herself arranging her pencil and pen on the desk, opening her notebook. Chirsten quickly jots down the date, before leaning back all too aware of a pair of eyes on her. Glancing to the left she raises her eyebrow in question.

Smirking, Tobin shakes her head, to indicate its nothing. Tobin pensively focuses on the front of the room. A comfortable silence envelope them, Christen staring into space is startled when a soft whisper reaches her ears “You weren’t in the comm class, yesterday?”

The question because that’s what it is, is so unexpected, Christen answers without thinking “oh…yeah…I decided to take this instead.”

“The class seems cool I think you’d like it. Maybe take it next year…or whatever” Her tone is perceptive, evidently Tobin pieced together why Christen isn’t taking the class anymore.

They sit quietly throughout the lecture. Once it’s over, Christen packs her things up before standing up she says “I’m off to meet Jules. I’ll see you Thursday?”

Smiling, Tobin nods her head staying in her seat. Christen regards her carefully before motivating herself, slowly Christen makes her way towards the exit. At the door, Chriten twist back, watching Tobin lean forward, dangling her arms over the seat in front of her, her head bent down. For a minute she looks impossibly small and all alone sitting in the large empty auditorium. For the first time, Christen wonders if that’s how Tobin feels, alone. If maybe she’s been plagued by the same loneliness as Christen.

Frowning, Christen admits she doesn’t know how things are for Tobin, she wonders how she’s doing. Wonders if she and Kelley are still estranged? Wonders if she and Lys are getting along. Knowing loneliness all too well, Christen hopes she isn’t suffering. Hopes the scene before her isn’t Tobin’s norm. As if hearing Christen’s thought, Tobin glances over her shoulder, staring at her. Smiling, slowly getting up and collecting her bag. Turning Christen leaves the room. Because knowing the answers to her questions won’t change things for her. She couldn’t offer more than she did today, she’s just not there yet. It will take time to fulfill her promise to work on their friendship.

Two days later, Christen arrives to class early, making sure to sits in the same spot as Tuesday. They don’t have assigned seats but Christen has the general tendency to sit in the same spot, she likes the consistency and she wants to make it easy for someone to locate her again if they should happen to show up. Rolling her eyes in self-annoyance, she needs to stop lying to herself and admit the truth, she arrived early hoping Tobin would already be here but she thinks maybe she shouldn’t be surprised that she’s not.

Literally a minute before class starts, Christen is worried that Tobin won’t show up. Christen should have managed her expectation and hopes when an orange backpack plops down by her feet. The professor stands at the podium demanding Christen’s undivided attention, preventing her from glancing over to her left. Then a cup of coffee slides onto her desk startling her. The pumpkin spice muffin that follows confuses her. Unable to prevent herself, she glances over, eyes scrunched in confusing, Tobin only whispers “for you” before facing the front of the room pretending to be engrossed in the professor’s lecture.

The memory brings a soft smile to Christen’s face. Every day since that Thursday, Tobin has arrived to class with a black coffee and pastry in hand. Sighing contently, she recognizes the coffee from the shop in town, it’s the best coffee. Looking over she sees Tobin giving her a sly smile.

“What?”

Shaking her head, “nothing, I’m just glad you enjoy it”

Raising her eyebrows “you know, you don’t have to keep bring me coffee and treats”

“I know, you might have mentioned it once or twice before” she quietly replies, making Christen feel guilty.

“I appreciate it, I just don’t want you to feel..”

“I don’t. I’ll stop once I figure it out”

“Figure what out?”

“Your favorite”

“How do you know you haven’t?”

“Your eyes. When you really like something they light up.” At Christen’s questioning expression Tobin continues “It happens whenever there’s whiskey for you to drink. So, I’ll basically know when you look at it like it’s whiskey.”

“I could always just tell you”

“Where’s the fun in that?” a mischievous grin grows.

“It would be more cost effective”

Shrugging her shoulder, “I’m more interested in the fun”

Christen chuckles, sipping more of her coffee because she doesn’t know what else to do, Tobin’s observation a little unnerving. She’s not even sure how her eyes look when she sees her favorite things.  

 


 

Walking into Ivy, Christen scans the room until she spots Alyssa, Ali, and Julie sitting at a table in the far corner. Worming her way through the throngs of hungry students, a grinning Ali notices her first, waving her hand in welcome. Settling down next to Julie, Christen hears Ali ask “What’s the pastry du jour?”

“Your favorite, chocolate croissant” handing the pastry bag over “I saved you some”

“Boom, baby, boom. This is starting to become my favorite class and I’m not even in it”

“Only because you like half the treats she gives me” Christen responds rolling her eyes.

“’True, tell Tobin thanks.”

Shaking her head in amusement, Christen laughs “sure.”

“How long do you think she’ll keep this up?” Julie muses out loud. Shrugging, Christen mentally replays her earlier conversation with Tobin, unable to shake the unsettling thought that she’s taking advantage of her. Maybe Christen should just tell her or at least drop clues about her favorite.

“I don’t know, I told her she doesn’t have to”

“I think it’s cute,” Ali says.

Rolling her eyes, “of course you do, you’re a hopeless romantic” Alyssa chirps.

“Oh please, don’t act like you don’t think it’s cute”

Twisting her torso, to get a better view of Ali, Alyssa furrows her brows dubiously.

Pushing Alyssa “fine, whatever Maleficent. It’s cute, even if you won’t admit it”

 Shaking her head in fond exasperation Alyssa returns to her previous position. Ali glances up innocently asking “What’s the deal between the two of you, anyway?”

Sighing dramatically, “It is tale as old as time” Christen singsongs

Rolling her eyes, Jules chuckles “So it’s what, Beauty and the Soccer player?”

“Who would be the beauty and who would be the beast?” Ali ask

“Obviously, Tobin would be the beauty” Julie counters, laughing when Christen pushes her.

Laughing with Ali, Christen is hyper aware of Lys’ thoughtful gaze, smugly smirking “Don’t you mean ‘it is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Three pairs of eyes land on Alyssa. Jules simply stares. Ali rolls hers before returning her attention to the book in front of her. Blankly, Christen uneasily meets Alyssa’s gaze cognizant of what she’s implying.

Alyssa’s been relatively quiet on the subject of Tobin since the night at the bar. Alyssa diligently listened as Christen told her about their encounter at the frat house. She was Christen sounding board and the only person Christen has spoken to about any of her feelings regarding Tobin. Neutrally, Alyssa validly pointed out that Tobin and her issues derive from their apparent inability to communicate with each other. Her words from years prior echoed in Christen’s mind “you need to have a real conversation with her, otherwise you’ll never know.” Uncomfortably Christen glances away.

“Oh no, you guys are doing it again that weird literary thing, where you two quote things no one else knows,” Julie says dreadfully.

“No, I’m quoting Disney and you knew it. She’s doing that weird literary thing she’s quoting Shakespeare” Christen explains pointing at Alyssa.

“Ignore them that’s what I do” Ali whispers conspiratorially.

 “How do they do it?” Julie replies in astonishment.

Shrugging, “They’re dorks and actually enjoy things like Shakespeare” Ali responds as if it’s one of the weird mysteries of life.

Affronted by the comment Lys glances at Ali in faux annoyance, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth “Just because I paid attention in Lit does not a dork make me.” Ali gives her a disbelieving look.  

“Fine, I can also quote Disney movies ‘the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” Alyssa says generally like she’s quoting any random line. Christen knows better, Alyssa’s eyes fixated on her delivers the message loud and clear. Christen is destined to repeat the mistakes of her past if she can’t face them. Alyssa eyes Christen knowingly, all too familiar with Christen’s avoidance tactics.

Cautiously Christen finally responds “What’s past is prologue.”  The fear of repeating her past mistake is debilitating at times. Christen can’t help the sense of Déjà vu that over comes her. The players might be different but the situation the same and she knows it ends with her heart broken. Given everything that’s happened, she’s incapable of contemplating a different result. Hope, is entirely too dangerous. So Christen avoids talking about the past, which she begrudgingly admits is ultimately Lys’ point. Christen is relieved that Ali and Julie are oblivious to the undercurrent of Alyssa’s words and the growing tensions between them. There’s so much from that period of Christen’s life that’s she avoided. Christen has the distinct impression Alyssa won’t allow her to dodge it for much longer.

“The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves” gentle and tempered are Alyssa’s words. Again her message clear, Christen is in charge of her future, she can control the situation between her and Tobin, if she only she’s willing to face it. If anyone else knows the devastation of Christen’s past mistakes, Lys would be it. She’s been affected the most by Christen’s resistance to discussing her last two years in high school. Only Christen’s knows her reluctance stems from her shame. She’s not proud of how she acted, only recently coming to terms with her role in own emotional demise.

Commotion to the right of them pulls Christen’s concentration away thankful for the reprieve. Christen instantly recognizes the basketball girl, this her first glimpse of her since that night at the frat house. It’s funny but the longer Christen inspects her, the less glamorous the girl seems, her majesty worn away by the harsh truth that she’s an average girl, and as her grandmother always said “an ugly personality, destroys a pretty face.” A quick glance confirms Tobin isn’t with her. In fact, from the hints Alex has dropped Tobin almost never spends time with her anymore.   

Yawning, hand covering her mouth, Christen finds three pairs of eyes on her regarding her somberly. Ignoring the impulse to roll her eyes, Christen wants to yell she’s fine because overall she feels more like herself than she has in a while. The weight and sadness she felt in the beginning of the month have dissipated. Evading the concerned looks, Christen reaches into her bag pulling a book out. Christen blames herself for their consistent concern. Christen merely told Julie and Ali that Tobin and she were trying to move forward working on their friendship. Ali passively accepted it, only concerned about Christen making sure this is something she wanted. Julie had been doubtful, expressing her concerns about Tobin’s intent.

“Have you spoken to her?” comes the question Christen was hoping to avoid.

“Tobin?” at Alyssa nod, Christen frowns “yeah, you know I have.”

“No, I mean have you actually talked to her about what going on? Not just exchanged pleasantries.” Rolling her eyes, Christen doesn’t respond immediately not wanting to confirm Alyssa’s suspicions.  

“We talk” she responds stubbornly.

“So that means no” Alyssa says.

Catching Christen’s glare, “Sorry C, but you’re not exactly a confrontational person.” Ali says giving her a sympathetic look.

Before she can respond, Christen is saved by the beeping of Ali’s phone.

“Alright ladies, I’m out, I have to go met Ash” standing she waves “Be good”

Sighing, Christen flops back in her chair, studiously ignoring Alyssa’s glaze. Julie shifts in her seat, aware of the growing tension between the two best friends. Leaning in, trying to diffuse the situation, “Well, I would be pissed at her. I don’t think I could talk to her. You’re a better person than me. Actually, why aren’t you angrier?”

Closing her eyes, Julie’s words unintentionally ripping open a scar from long ago because Christen is decidedly not a better person than Julie. Julie shifts uncomfortably as the silence grows, increasing in decimals until it’s the only thing Christen can hear.

Glancing up, Christen doesn’t miss the flash of pain that flickers in Alyssa’s eyes. Facing Julie, Alyssa cautiously states “oh, I think Chris understands Tobin’s plight better than you think.”

Christen bites her lower lip in shame, as guilt radiates through her core. Her silence stands between them like a wall, as it has for a while now. Christen fears that her apologies will never be enough, can never erase the hurt she caused. She now appreciates what’s most painful is that Alyssa never heard the full story, never heard the truth from Christen’s lips. They had just tactfully moved on, Alyssa seemingly forgiving her but at times like this when it becomes a barrier between them, Christen wonders if she’ll ever be able to truly forgive her without knowing the truth. Julie glances back and forth, waiting for someone to explain, unwilling to utter another word for fear of saying the wrong thing again.

Alyssa raises her eye brow in challenge.

Grunting out a sigh, Christen sits forward, randomly picking up a sugar packet and playing with it. Alyssa’s long overdue an explanation and Christen might as well tell Jules, let her learn what type of person Christen really is. Dreadfully, Christen speaks up before she loses her nerve.  

“Even though I am angry, I talk to Tobin because I understand.” Confused Julie glances back and forth between Alyssa and Christen, increasingly getting the impression something serious happened between Christen and Alyssa. “Understand, what Press?”

“I understand why she didn’t or couldn’t talk to me over break, I know why she acted the way she did. I might not like it, but I understand” her answer barely audible, folding in on herself. Alyssa clears her throat, encouraging Christen to gaze up at her. Her face is blank but her eyes are warm. They’re the eyes that have constantly supported Christen, have always been there for her when Christen thought she couldn’t go on. Figuring she might as well start at the beginning, Christen ask “Do you know why I stopped playing soccer?” Leaning back into her chair, Alyssa offers Christen a sad but reassuring smile.

A little bewildered, Julie glances between Alyssa and Christen before speaking “you got hurt, right?"

Sighing deeply, Christen looked down at the table, she won’t get through the story if she has to see the look of disappointment on either of her friends' faces. “That’s the easiest explanation, it’s what I tell people. I mean I did get hurt, I had a stress fracture. But I could have played my senior year, I would have missed the first couple of weeks or so but I chose not to…” Licking her bottom lip, Christen dares a glance in Alyssa’s direction. Her eyes show nothing, Christen hadn’t really expected a reaction from her. Christen knows Alyssa had her suspicions this whole time. Breathing deeply, Christen prepares herself to utter the words she never wanted to admit to, not even to herself. Ali guessed at it but she’s never actually admitted it out loud. “I stopped playing because of a girl.”

“Wait, what?” Julie asks eyes wide with astonishment. Alyssa leans forward with encouraging eyes. Pausing to gather her thoughts, Christen continues, “I…dated this girl my junior year...but in secret” pressure builds behind Christen’s eyes, she shouldn’t cry, she should be past this by now. Glancing in Julie’s direction, Christen braces herself for disappointment. Except all Christen finds are blue eyes filled with warmth and open curiosity.

Glancing in Alyssa’s direction, Julie questions “so you didn’t…” before she can finish her sentence Alyssa shakes her head in the negative. “Ali and I knew something was going on but…” her voice trails off, shrugging a shoulder, “they hid it well at first.”

“Oh,” as Jules turns to look at Christen, her eyes filled with questions, questions she’s trying to find words for. Resolved Christen meets Alyssa’s gaze, hoping her story will act as her final penance, absolving her of all her sins. “We met during my junior year, she was from a different school but we played club soccer together. I dated her until the middle of my senior year when she ended things. It was a bad time for me. My grandmother got sick and I wasn’t handling that well. She tried to be there for me I guess, but it became too much. I wanted too much. She was so worried about who would see, what people would think. I tried to hold her hand in public once and she almost had a panic attack. I wanted her to truly be my special someone, but she…”

Christen pauses, catching her breath.  A sense of relief runs through her, finally telling this dark story is liberating. The truth isn’t half as painful, half as horrible as she remembers. “I convinced myself that I lost my passion for soccer, after all it’s what brought us together. But if I was honest, I would have realized I was just running away, running away from her. I started to withdraw, I kinda stopped talking to some of my friends, for a while.” The shot of pain Christen was expecting never comes, only a sense of shame, shame at hurting her friends over something that seems so silly now.

“For how long? That must have been horrible not have your friends around.” Julie’s tone laced with compassion Christen isn’t sure she deserves.

Christen can’t answer the question, she can’t work around the lump of guilt in her throat.

Softly Alyssa says “for months…we only got one word answers to text messages, she rarely answered her phone, for months. I had to call her house phone just to hear her voice.”

Eyes shining with unshed tears, Christen looks up “I’m so sorry, I don’t think I ever really appreciated how much it hurt you, not until now. I just…so much was going on and when it started you were a senior getting ready for this great adventure and then when things went bad, you were here in college and I just…” and words said not too long ago haunt her “I was too embarrassed.”

Christen staring at Alyssa, whose eyes show unshed tears glisten along her rims, “I know. I know you didn’t mean to hurt us. We were worried about you and we missed you.”

Forcing herself to continue speaking “I know…I mean, I knew…I just…I didn’t know how to tell you at first. You knew about my crushes but this was something more. It was something real. I was actually acting on my fantasy it was scary and by the time it was out of control, it was too late, I couldn’t tell you, I felt like I’d been lying to you guys. I had omitted so much. I know you and Ali tried to talk to me but I couldn’t. I was too ashamed. I’m so sorry”

“I know, you had nothing to be ashamed of, we wouldn’t have judged you.

A tear rolls down her cheek “I know. Deep down I think I knew that back then. I didn’t appreciate how much it would affect you too, how hard it must have been for you. I didn’t realize how selfish I was being.”

“I was mostly upset that you didn’t trust me,” Lys says sadly.

The words haunt Christen, hadn’t she said something similar not too long ago. “It’s not that I didn’t trust you. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t understand what was going on, so how could anyone else? I wanted to tell you so many times but the words wouldn’t come out.” In that moment, Christen has a new profound understanding of Tobin’s words. She thinks maybe Tobin was right in one regard, maybe they’re more alike than she realized. Maybe Tobin isn’t exclusive in the category of making poor decisions.

Looking at Julie “the point is yeah, I’m mad at Tobin but I understand why she did what she did”

 A silence settles over the table, Julie deep in thought, Alyssa sits with her head down and Christen stares at the book pages in front of her, not recognizing any of the words on the page when suddenly Lys speaks up, “Kelley and Alex are coming”

Groaning Christen completely forgot Kelley had texted everyone telling them to meet for lunch if they were free. Kelley wants to discuss Spring Break she’s trying to get a group together. Christen spots Alex and Allie making their way over. They’re followed by two girls from the team that Christen isn’t that familiar with.

Immediately Christen feels uncomfortable, Tobin’s absence is glaring. It’s weird for Christen to hang out with members of the team when Christen knows there’s still tension between Tobin and some of the girls. Alex and Allie took her back with open arms more than happy to have their friend back, which helped spearhead Tobin’s acceptance with everyone else. Christen is grateful for their efforts, happy that Tobin has people in her corner. Kelley is another story, she’s still annoyed with Tobin and Christen is positive she will be until Tobin completely cuts ties with the basketball player.

Everyone exchanges greetings. Christen is operating on autopilot. Her mind a million miles away partly stuck in the past and partly wondering about the future. Christen rethinks all of her actions, playing a game of coulda, woulda, shoulda, contemplating all the things she wishes she had done differently. Christen does register Kel’s question “What’s everyone’s plans for tonight?”

In typical fashion, Alex is the first to speak “I have a double date with Syd”

Shuddering, Kelley says in mock terror, “those poor boys.” Everyone laughs as Alex throws a napkin at her.

“Whatever, you’re just jealous because we have dates and you don’t.”

“I don’t know, I seriously worry about the boys that date the two of you. It’s really a hostage situation, I wouldn’t call it a date.”

“Well, I have a date also” Jules speaks up.

“Yeah and Chris has a date with Adam.  So there, all the freshmen have dates.” Alex teases making a brushing gesture with her hands. At Alex’s last statement Christen’s head pops up. She glares in Alex’s direction. Turning Christen gives Julie a questioning look one that screams “what is Alex talking about?” Yes, Christen is going to dinner with Adam but it’s hardly a date. He said he wanted to talk to her about something and Christen is willing to bet money that something is really a someone, mainly a pretty blonde sitting two people down from her. Christen knows that Alex knows this, they discussed it last night. Speaking up, “Al, it’s not a date”

“You’re going to dinner, he’s picking you up, so it’s a date, ” Alex says obviously.

Eyes narrowed in agitation, her jaw set hard, Christen holds her hand out in frustration. She’s trying to form words that aren’t mean in nature. It’s times like this, when Alex is too overbearing, speaks without thinking which causes unnecessary issues, that drives Christen crazy. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it irritates her to no end. She’s about to respond, the pressure of Jules hand on her arm stops her. Jules rolls her eyes giving Christen a “you know how Al can be” look.  

Christen throws herself against the back of her chair, sighing in defeat. Christen knows Jules is right and she’s just trying to avoid an unnecessary argument between the two of them. Christen’s isn’t a hundred percent sure why she’s so annoyed but she definitely is. Maybe’s it’s the day. Christen was forced to do a lot of self-reflection, not always impressed by what she’s discovered. Her unexpected conversation with Jules and Lys has left her a little hyper sensitive. On top of everything else, she’s getting her period, so her hormones are all over the place. Preoccupied with Alex’s words and her own thoughts, Christen missed the shared look between the blue eyed blonde and the freckled face girl with knowing hazel eyes as they watch a lithe figure walking up to the table.

“Yo”

The voice startles Christen, her head snaps up, glancing at Tobin in confusion. If Christen had known Tobin was coming to lunch, she would have walked over with her. Although maybe Tobin had other plans, there was an hour between the time they got out of class and now. Sending Tobin a questioning glance as she sits down in a random seat near the end, close to Alex.  Tobin shrugs her shoulder, nodding in Kelley’s direction as an explanation. Tuning out the conversation Christen reads the book in front of her until the sound of her name being said gets her attention “Christen” the voice annoyingly familiar.

 “Christen what?” she asks cautiously, positive she’s not going to like the answer.

“You’re coming to the fundraiser”

“What?”

“Our” motioning to Allie, “sorority fundraiser, I already put you down for…”

“Alex” her tone reprimanding “I already told you I can’t”

Looking a little deflated “I know, I just thought, maybe…”

“I can’t do it, I have to work”

“Fine…”

Christen doesn’t listen to the rest of her sentence, she’s angry again and wants to leave. She slams back into her seat again, crossing her arms over her chest. Christen is about to turn and complain to Jules when piercing honey eyes catch her attention. Tobin stares at her with eyebrows drawn down in confusion, silently she mouths “what’s wrong?”

Shaking her head imperceptible, so only Tobin would notice, Christen mouths back “nothing”

Tobin arches her brow in disbelief. Staring at Christen, Tobin silently communicates, “don’t let Alex get to you, she’s just excited about the sorority stuff”

Christen mouths back “it’s nothing” dismissively waving her hand, hoping to indicate that she knows Alex is just excited. Any other day, Christen would have handled that better.

“Christen are you in for Spring Break?” Kelley questions studying the notebook in front of her.

Shaking her head, “I can’t.” Christen’s patience is non-existent at this point and she doesn’t want to explain that her grandmother is sick. Watching Christen out of the corner of her eye Jules speaks up, “I can’t go either” Squeezing Christen’s hand hard two times, Jules watches Christen out of the corner of her eye. It’s a code they developed last semester, when they would go to parties, a silent way to ask if they were okay. Christen squeezes Jules hand three quick times indicating she’s ready to go.  

“Alright, Press and I are out,” Jules says, fluidly standing up with her backpack in hand, she quickly glances at Alyssa, nodding in Christen direction. Catching on, Alyssa continues with the conversation “Kells, you know I’m in.” Alyssa stands when Christen does, leaning over the table, wrapping Christen in an awkward bear hug. The hug settles Christen, grateful for the affection. Pulling back, she gives Alyssa an appreciative smile. Stepping around the chair Christen notice Tobin staring at her in concern, all she can manage is a one side twist of her mouth, one she hopes was friendly and communicated her being okay.


 

 Out in the light of day Christen breaths in the fresh air, instantly feeling better. She’ll have to apologize to Alex later for her short tempter. Alex honestly hadn’t done anything she hasn’t done a thousand times before. But sometimes Alex crosses invisible boundaries and Christen loses her patience. An arm links with hers, pulling her into Jules’ side.

“Don’t let Morgan get to you. She’s just really excited about this sorority thing and wants to share it with us. Syd told me she just really wants us to come out and have fun. I think she’s a little afraid she’s going to miss doing a lot of stuff with us.”

“She is… but we all do, I miss things because of work…”

“I know but I don’t think her control monster was prepared for that.”

Breathing deeply, Christen centers herself “I know, I shouldn’t have lost my patience. I think I’m getting my period, I’m blaming it on PMS.”

“Well, that makes sense. I have mine.”

Groaning… “I don’t know why women sync up, I think it’s some form of survival of the fittest”

Laughing, Julie lightly squeezes Christen’s arm “Don’t think I am done with you and your clandestine love affair.”

Making a sound of displeasure, “I assure you it wasn’t that glamorous. It sounds more exciting than it really was” Christen responds.

“Won’t lie, I didn’t think you had it in you Press”

Christen chuckles humorlessly, “yeah”

“So you just talked in secret and that was it?” her tone curious. At the question Christen glances down uneasily. For a story she never wanted to share, she finds herself telling it more and more. “It’s so silly, in the beginning I was completely infatuated with her. At first I wasn’t sure what I felt, but I knew I wanted her and not as a friend. It terrified me. I never would have thought she’d want me back. I was accustomed to operating in the hypothetical.” A warm smile graces her face “I’d accepted having crushes on girls, content to dream about it but never had the courage to act. She was different, she made me want to act.” Christen’s voice harmonious, lost in her memories.

“So you approach her first?”

 Shaking her head, a snort escapes. “No, I didn’t have the courage. If we hadn’t played together I never would have spoken to her. She def approached me first… but after that it was all me.”

“hmmm…did you by any chance happen to straddle her lap?” Julie asks, smiling her Cheesier Cat smile, clearly holding back her laughter. Christen whips her head to stare at Julie with incredulous eyes, her heartbeat hammering in her chest, heat flooding her cheeks. “wha..” Internally she’s screaming shit, shit. Jules did see her that night.

Winking “you’re a little unpredictable Press.”

“No” tripping over her words “no…I wasn’t that bold. I just knew I wanted to be around her all the time.” Sadness creeps into her tone “Maybe it would have been better if we had walked away earlier, maybe we could have been friends. Initially we were too intoxicated by the secrecy. We had this precious thing between us that no one else knew about. I didn’t appreciate how scared she really was or maybe I didn’t care. I wanted more. I think part of her truly wanted to be with me, unfortunately her fears won out. It was always harder for her than me”

“What was? The whole like a girl thing?”

Chirsten just nods her head in response.

“Did you guy…you know...” At this Christen laughs out loud

“Did we what, Jules?”

Jules blushes, causing Christen to laugh harder, breaking some of the tension around them.

“Did we …” Christen is determined to make Julie ask the question.

Whispering, as if someone is paying attention to them as they walk back to their rooms “did you guys you know, hook up?”

Giggling “we did everything that hormonal teenagers do when they really like each other.” Julie squeals and jumps around a little “full of surprises, Press”

“You’re being ridiculous”

“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell anyone”

“I am not proud of that.”

“I wasn’t judging Chris, I just…”

“I know you aren’t. I still wish I had handled it differently.”

“Why didn’t it work, the secrecy?”

“Yea, I was never really part of her world. Going to different schools worked in the beginning with trying to keep it a secret but towards the end it made everything harder. It was easier to avoid each other. We had different friends, different social groups. We were never forced to work through the hard times. If a difficult conversation came up, we’d ignore it. All that was left was stolen moments here and there, after a while it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to be present in her life. It created an unbalanced dynamic between us. I was always willing to do more, willing to abandon my friends for her, willing to sacrifice more. I would never do it again but that’s how it was.”

“Did you ever see her again?”  

Christen pauses the truth damning. “I did. She heard I wasn’t playing soccer and came to see me. She apologized for everything, how she ended things, for not trying for being a coward, her words not mine, and begged for a second chance…”

“But you didn’t try again?” There’s a long pause, as Christen considers the best way to explain this.

“Remember when you asked me why I wasn’t angrier at Tobin?”

Frowning, Julie nods the association unclear to her.

“Our situations are similar, there are difference but overall…”

“No, it’s different, Tobin’s situation wasn’t a secret, we all know….”

“There are various ways to be kept a secret, Jules. Each one hurts in a different way.”

“But…”

“Just listen for a minute” Christen squeezes Julie’s arm “We didn’t try again. I didn’t try again. I was hurt and unwilling to put myself back out there. She promised to even tell her parents but I couldn’t. I also didn’t want her to do it because of me. Everything always just felt unbalanced between us and I wasn’t willing to risk my heart.”

“Do you talk to her now?” Julie questions

“No” voice laced with sadness “that’s why I’m not that angry at Tobin. It’s simple science, fight or flight. Tobin’s a fighter, I’m a runner. It’s just that simple. So I’m angry at her, but I am so in awe of her. She was given another chance and took it. No matter what I think of the situation, no matter that she hurt me, she at least gave it another try. She fought and I respect her for that. I’ve only ever run.”

 


 

“Darlin’ hand me a glass” a deep timber drawls out.

Reaching under the bar Christen grabs two glasses “Adam, I thought we talked about this” handing one over and taking the other to the beer tap, pouring a Bud Light. Christen hands the beer over to some random boy all the while glaring at the older boy.

“Talked about what?”

“The nickname ‘Darlin’, I thought we agreed no more”

“No. You talked, I nodded and then you stopped talking. We never agreed to anything”

Rolling her eyes money in hand Christen walks to the register, “think it will be slow tonight?”

“Most likely” he agrees “Some of the guys might come down”

“Lovely” Christen smiles sarcastically.

Gently pulling on her hair “Be nice.” Christen sticks her tongue out.

“So attractive,” Adam grimaces. Laughing Christen hears coughing behind her, twirling around she’s greeted by two pairs of happy blue eyes.”

“Surprise!!” Alex yells standing next to Allie. Grinning, Christen leans over the bar to giving both of them a hug. Whispering to Alex “how did you get in?”

“I just walked in with everyone else, the guy at the door didn’t stop me, I guess he figured I was old enough” Eyeing the door, Christen thinks it’s probably more likely that Robby wouldn’t turn a pretty face away. A large mass leans again Christen’s back, rolling her eyes, she gives Allie a wink before shrugging Adam off her.

“Hiya ladies, how ya’ll doing?”

Christen chuckles at his exaggerated southern drawl. Alex opens her mouth but before she can utter a word, Christen subtly shakes her head. Christen knows Alex wants her to wait on them and she will but she’ll let Adam do his obligatory flirting to get it out of the way.

“We’ll have a picture of Sam Adam” Allie speaks up, a knowing smile on her face. Allie always accepts Adam’s overtures gracefully. After this interaction, Adam will return to his frat brothers, leaving them alone to talk. Christen was correct, when she guessed Adam wanted to go to dinner to discusses his infatuation with Allie.

Adam had taken her to the local Mexican spot. It’s not fancy but they have good burritos and beer. He said he liked to get to know all the bartenders and since he was only one of two boys, he always takes the girls out. It’s how his mamma raised him.

He really wanted Christen’s opinion on Allie. She told him in no uncertain terms that he should leave that one alone. He admitted to hearing humors that she had a boyfriend and was basically seeking confirmation. Christen assured him it was true, stressing he should move on. He admitted to enjoying the flirting party because he knew it would never really develop into anything. He’ll flirt with her for a bit, and it will be harmless, he won’t be inappropriate.  Christen doesn’t think Adam is capable of not flirting. He can’t help himself, it’s all just a part of his southern charm.

Placing the pitcher down in front of Allie, “this one’s one the house” winking, he walks away.

“That was short. I think I’m a little disappointed.” Allie says following Adam’s retreating form. “I mean, it was only a matter of time before he gave up but I enjoyed the banter” a small pout on her lips.

“I think he’s trying to be respectful, he heard about Jose”

“He really can be a good guy, huh? Oh well”

“What are you guys doing here?”

“Our fundraiser ended and Allie and I convinced some of the girl to come here with us”

“Nice, good job Al” Smiling, Christen thinks Jules was right, maybe Alex is just learning how to juggle her new social responsibilities. She’ll have to make sure she makes time for Alex so she doesn’t feel left out.

“I’ll be back, I’m gonna take this pitcher to the table” placing a twenty on the bar, Allie winks at Christen before walking to the far concern where a group of girls have gathered.

“Looks like it might be a good night after all” Adam whispers in her ear, reaching around her for another pitcher. Christen sees two girls at the other end of the bar waiting, turning to Alex “I’ll be right back” Alex nods, texting away on her phone. After making two Alabama Slammers, it’s a fun fruity drink, too sweet for her taste. Turning back around, she’s surprised to see who’s leaning against the bar next to Alex. 

“Hey!” she calls out “what are you doing here?”

“The blonde sisters requested my company” a sly grin on her face.

“How nice of you to grace them with your presence” Christen laughs.

“Don’t believe her, she begged us” Alex jokes standing, “I’ll be right back” and she walks towards the both where the majority of her sisters are sitting.

Chuckling, Tobin leans against the bar “how have you been?”

“Good, busy, you know the usual, working a lot”

“Oh, really?

“Yeah,  I’ve been working here more than I thought”

“Why?”

“I’m the only non-athlete, so apparently my social calendar doesn’t matter” sighing dramatically.  At this Tobin raises her eyebrows in surprise “I’m playing, two of the bartenders happen to be away this weekend, Alyssa already had plans so…”

“She gets to work with her favorite bartender” comes a male voice from behind her.

Rolling her eyes “Your ego, it’s getting too big. Soon I won’t be able to fit back here with you.”

Chuckling, Adam nods in Tobin’s direction, “Good to see you”

“You too,” Tobin smiles. Narrowing her eyes, Christen thinks there’s something off about Tobin’s smile, it seems forced.

“I have to change a keg, you good?”

Christen scans the whole bar, it’s half-filled and everyone has a drink. Sarcastically Christen says “hurry back, I don’t know if I can manage without you”

Laughing “Don’t miss me too much”

Smiling Christen catches a fleeting look skimmer across Tobin’s face. Brows pulled in confusion “you okay?”

Giving her lazy smile, Tobin nods her head “yeah, can I get a PBR”

Christen widens her eyes in fictitious horror. Tobin raises her hands in surrender “obviously, you know I like cheap beer.”

Shaking her head, Christen grabs a pint glass and pours a PBR making faces the whole time, acutely aware of Tobin’s gaze never leaving her.

Placing the pint in front of Tobin “It’s on the house, it’s compensation for drinking shitty beer”

Laughing, a full grin on her face “it’s not that bad. You should give it a try”

“I have. That’s how I know it taste like horse piss”

“We can’t all have refined taste like you” Tobin chuckles.

“How about just taste?”

“Rude”

Laughing, “as long as it makes you happy?”

Smiling, gazing at Christen with hooded eyes “it does”

Simultaneously, two yells come from different directions “Tobs, over here” “Darlin’ hand me glass, I need to check the tap”

“I guess I should...”

“I’ll see you…”

Both laughing, Christen turns away holding the pint glass just out of Adam’s reach, “Adam, we talked about this, no more darlin’’

Dramatically sighing, “Yes, dear” Adam grins.

Christen’s back is facing Tobin, so she doesn’t notice the peculiar way she watches their interaction, her mouth pulling down in displeasure at the word “dear.”


 

Throwing her head back in disappear, Christen’s hair dangles over the edge of the chair. She can’t think of an ending for her paper. Actually, she’s not even sure what point she’s trying to prove anymore. The only thing she’s certain of is that it’s due in a day and she has limited free time tomorrow. She basically has to finish this paper tonight.

Glancing at her watch, Christen realizes Tobin’s ten minutes late. Irrationally, Christen is immediately annoyed.  She knows it’s illogical, she’s not planning on leaving the library any time soon. Her irritation stems from the fact that she hasn’t seen or heard from Tobin since last Saturday when she stopped by the bar to hang with Alex and Allie.

Things had been relatively good between them. It was nowhere near where it used to be but it wasn’t as awkward either. Christen thought Tobin had been at ease when she was at the bar. Later, Alex and she had come back over to chat. Tobin sat quietly, sharing a knowing look with Christen, as they listened dutifully to Alex who told them every detail about the fundraiser her sorority had. Alex had joined the planning committee and was extremely proud that the event was deemed a success. They had stayed for another two hours or so before moving on to another bar. When they left, Tobin leaned over the bar giving her a quick hug. Everything seemed okay to Christen.

Then Tobin missed a full week of class and of course Christen has no idea why. She wouldn’t allow herself to text Tobin, it felt all too familiar. Christen worried Tobin wouldn’t respond if she had reached out and that was something she didn’t want to live through again. Causally she mentioned to Alex that she hadn’t seen Tobin in class.

If Alex knew Christen was fishing for information, she politely didn’t call her out on it. Alex was confused though, she didn’t think Tobin had class during that period. Nonchalantly shrugging her shoulder, Alex said Tobin was working with a trainer, something about rehab for her injured ankle. In that moment Christen is irrationally jealous of Alex. Irrational emotions are becoming a constant when it comes to Tobin. There was a time when Christen would have known that, she wouldn’t have had to rely on Alex for information. Not knowing about Tobin’s injury was disquieting, reminding her that things were still imperfect between them. So when Tobin texted her that morning, asking to copy her notes, Christen readily agreed.  Now, she regrets it. It’s late, she’s running off of four hours of sleep and her nerves are frazzled.

“Hey” her favorite voice calls out. Christen’s traitorous body’s response to the voice only increasing her irritation.

“Sorry I’m late”

Christen forces a smile, handing her notes over to Tobin.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, my paper is just taking longer than I’d like” Christen stiffly answers.

“Oh…well, you’ll finish it and it will be great”

“Don’t have a choice”

Silence engulfs the table. Christen pretends to be entranced by the paper that won’t write itself, although she’s acutely aware of Tobin’s eyes on her. Forcing herself to concentrate on the screen before her, she let’s slip out as casually as she can “Oh, we might have a quiz next week”

“Really?”

“Yeah, something about the attendance being low” Christen’s unable to keep the bite out of her words.

“hmmm…you’re sure everything is okay?”

Sighing, Christen’s annoyance apparent, “you missed class, I was just telling you”

“Yeah, well it was the only time the trainer could meet this week”

“I didn’t realize you were hurt”

Head down, eyes glued to the notes, Tobin rubs the back of her neck “it happened over break. Obviously it’s not serious but I need to rehab it.” her voice sheepish.

“Oh” Christen audible exclaims, thinking the words “over break” explains why Christen didn’t know.

Shrugging a shoulder, Tobin states carelessly, “it’s not a big deal. I didn’t think it was worth mentioning.”

Christen hackles raise, she’s not entirely sure why she’s being so combative but something about Tobin’s wording infuriates her.  “Why is that?”

“It happened, didn’t think you’d concern yourself” Tobin shrugs her shoulder again.

“I wouldn’t have concerned myself?” leaning back in her hair, crossing her arms over her chest, Christen glares at Tobin. She’s not going to allow Tobin to blame her “or it would have required you speaking to me? Because you know you weren’t, right?”

Pausing in her typing, Tobin’s gaze remains on the notes before she matches Christen’s glare “Finally”

Christen raises her eyebrows in question, she has no clue what Tobin means, which only notches her irritation up another level.

“Finally, the reason you’re mad at me all the time,” Tobin whispers harshly across the table.

“I’ve not mad all the time.” Christen resolutely dismiss the comment, not willing to inspect its possible validity. “Besides, Tobin you knew this, you knew your ignoring me was a problem.”

“Yea, but we never finished our conversation”

Shaking her head “that wasn’t a real conversation, I mean you didn’t really explain…”

Sitting up, leaning over the table towards Christen attempting to keep her voice low “then let’s talk about it”

“What? Now? I have…”

“A paper…yeah…Okay” sitting back in defeat, Tobin’s eyes focused on the pages in front of her again.

The anger that Christen knows is unfair and unjustified has reached a volcanic level. Unable to stop herself, she baits Tobin some more. “I do have to finish this paper, some of us need good grades to stay here.”

Rolling her eyes, Tobin snorts, “have you even gotten less than an A? It’s fine. I know you’re not concerned about me. I get you have someone now.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your date with Adam” Christen stares dumbfounded at Tobin, she’s rendered speechless. Shaking her head for clarity, Christen stutters out “I don’t know what you’re talking about”

“I didn’t think lying was your thing”

“I’m not. What are you talking about?” her voice rising in decimals. Glancing around she makes sure she hasn’t interrupted any of the other students.

Glaring at Christen, a callous smirk on her face “What, did you think I wouldn’t find out? Alex made sure everyone knew about it.”

Christen licks her bottom lips, eyes narrowing as understating overcomes her. “The date” with Adam. Her non-fucking-date with Adam, this is what Tobin is upset about it. Christen leans in whispering harshly, anger evident in her tone “what do you care?” Tobin leans forward supporting her torso on her arms on the table, Tobin’s eyes blaze, her nose slightly flared, her jaw clenching and unclenching but no words come.

Sticking her neck out, mouth twisted into a sneer, Christen continues when Tobin remains silent, “it wasn’t a date.”

Tobin visibly scoffs “Don’t do that” shaking her head

“Don’t do what?

“Don’t say that…it was different”

“How?”

“He asked you, right?” Reluctantly Christen nods her head, slowly moving away “but…”

Tobin continues, as if Christen wasn’t about to talk “he picked you up, he took you to a restaurant and he paid, right?” Tobin smiles self-satisfied taking the silence as confirmation “like I said…”

“It wasn’t a date….no you spoke my turn” Christen rushes her words, she saw Tobin’s mouth open in protest. “He just wanted to get to know me better” Tobin gives Christen a look, hands raised up in exasperation. “We spent most of our time talking about Allie. It wasn’t a date. Ask him. And you’re one to talk, from I understand you had plenty of going out, getting coffee, cooking meals and having dinner. And those weren’t dates. So how is it any different than what you did?”

Arms crossed over her chest “You know how.”

Sighing deeply, Christen licks her bottom lip, biting it gently. In that moment, Christen knows the difference. Tobin not just saying, it wasn’t a date because she believes it but because she was constantly told that. A profound wave of empathy rolls over Christen, “Those were dates Tobin” pausing a sad smile appearing on her face.

“Those were dates…even if she wouldn't call them that.” Tobin glances to the right, not looking at her and before Tobin can say anything, Christen decides to leave. She’ll just have to finish the paper tomorrow. “Not that it’s your business but it wasn’t a date. Truly not a date, unlike yours. I’m leaving, I’ll get the notes from you later.” Christen grabs her stuff and walks away.

 


 

Walking into the house, Christen is greeted by two somber faces. Sighing, Christen already knows.

Sitting at the dining room table, Alex leans to the side so she can see Christen’s face. Julie leans against the kitchen doorway, simply says, “you have a guest.”

Closing her eyes, Christen's head falls back in exasperation. Why, oh why? She hadn’t gone straight home. No one was home yet and Christen she wasn’t in the mood to be alone with her thoughts. Texting Ali, she met her at her house where they sat and just chatted about nothing in particular. Ali could tell Christen was agitated but thankfully she didn’t push her. Somehow Christen managed to enjoy their time together, enjoyed catching up with Ali, until Christen noticed the time. She has to get up early for her morning shift at the gym, so she left, hoping to come home to a quiet house. She should have known better. Glancing around she notices Tobin isn’t downstairs, which means “is she in my room?”

“Yeah” a voice raspier than normal supplies “she came back with me from the library and just walked up stairs, I didn’t…”

“I know,” Christen says, her gaze meeting Alex’s. “I know” Biting her bottom lip, she takes a calming breath. “How long have you guys been home?”

“Maybe twenty minute or so”

Shaking her head. “She’s been upstairs the whole time?”

Julie and Alex share anxious glances. “Basically” the voice rasps out “she said something about notes, we just…”

“I’m not mad” Christen says in defeated, thinking maybe she’s not that surprised either.

“I started to go upstairs…” Jules starts

“it’s really okay you guys, it’s not your problem”

“Why is she here?” Julie ask her tone harsh.

Christen shrugs out of her coat, walking to the dining table she drapes it over a chair. Pushing back wasp of her hair, “I have an idea…” She glances back and forth between the two anxious faces, smiling at their expressions “I’d better go upstairs”

“Press…” Julie starts

“It’s fine” but she can hear Julie moving, meeting her concerned eyes “No, really, it’s fine. We need to talk”

Christen slowly walks up the stairs. She’s still not sure what happened in the library. She realizes Tobin was upset at her, but she doesn’t exactly understand why. She’s even more confused about her anger towards Adam. Christen loves the him, he’s kind of become the big brother she doesn’t have. She’s extremely grateful for his friendship but that’s all. Now that she’s on the landing, standing outside her room, Christen’s not sure she wants to enter. She’s honestly not in the mood for another argument with Tobin, especially when’s she’s not positive about what they’re arguing about.

Standing in the doorway Christen watches Tobin. Tobin stares at the wall over her desk. Christen’s can’t tell if Tobin is truly preoccupied and didn’t hear her coming up the stairs or if she’s ignoring her. Stepping into the room Christen drops her bag near the door before clearing her throat. Tobin doesn’t move.

“These are new” her voice creaky from being silent for so long. Christen moves to Julie’s side of the room, leaning against her desk.

“A lot is different” comes her reply, but she knows exactly what Tobin is referring to.

Tobin smiles looking back at her wall her gaze continues to the pictures now hanging over her bed.

Christen patiently waits for Tobin to comment on her absence from the pictures which is so glaring to her right now. Although she has a feeling Tobin won’t be surprised.

Point to the pictures hung up on her wall, “I like this, it’s really nice” Tobin says plaintively.

“Thanks”

Leaning against the desk, Tobin points to the wall “Where did that come from?”

Christen notices her pointing to the right, sighing Christen takes a deep breath.

“I loved you at your darkest?” her tone questioning. Tobin shakes her head.

“It’s from…

“Romans, I know”

“My grandmother gave it to me my senior year when I had my rough patch. I brought it here after break” Tobin shakes her head as if it makes perfect sense.

“Your grandmother sounds awesome”

“She is, a little sentimental in her old age” chuckling “She’s be livid if she heard me say that.”

 “I’m sorry about earlier…I don’t…”

“Not that it should matter but he’s just a friend. He’s practically an older brother to me.”

“I know, and I know it’s none of my business”

“Why did you get upset?”

Cracking her knuckles, “It reminded me of another situation…it’s my issue I shouldn’t have put it on you.”

Christen knows exactly what Tobin is refereeing to, she saw it herself that night at the frat house. She’d watch the girl let Tobin walk away, as she pursued the boy, whom Christen assumed was her ex-boyfriend. It all makes sense.

“She left you for him”

Startled Tobin glances up, “Every time”

“I’m sorry.”

Snorting, “I allowed it.”

Christen runs her foot in an arc over the floor. There’re a million questions she dying to ask. Tobin came here. She was willing to talk in the library, ready to talk now. It’s up to Christen. She can initiate the conversation between them, allow them to truly move forward. Glancing up, she finds warm honey eyes staring neutrally at her.

“Why don’t you leave her?”

Sighing, Tobin sits on the desk, running a hand through her hair, she plays with the hair tie on her wrist. “The more I think about it, it seems so stupid.” Smiling, ruefully, bitterness tinting her tone “I stayed because she said she needed me. Me and only me.” Pausing, glancing away “Pathetic, I know.”

Keeping her face neutral, “it’s not pathetic” Christen hesitates before asking, “did she make you happy?”

Chuckling humorously, “I use to think so,” pausing for a long moment “In the beginning yes but not for a while now.” Tobin barely whispers.

“What exactly happened between you two?”

Sighing deeply, “That’s a long story”

“You don’t have to tell me but it might help to talk about it. It’s helped me.”

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It’s a messed up story, a lot of it's my fault.”

“Tell me about it, start at the beginning and tell as much as you want.”

Rubbing her hands over her eyes “in high school I was a star soccer player, in the popular crowd, I had good friends. I just…wasn’t good at dating.” Looking at Christen, “I didn’t know what I wanted or who I was. I was confused, really confused. So I tried to do the normal thing but I learned early on boys aren’t for me, not that way at least.  

My interactions with girls…were complicated. I wasn’t ready to admit I was into girls, like legit into girls. I don’t know if it was because I was popular but I never had a hard time meeting girls. I was always meeting someone new who was interested when I was hanging out. That’s how I started the whole naming thing in my phone. But I could never give them what they wanted. I never felt I was enough. So I didn’t date the rest of high school.” A blush creeps up Tobin’s neck, “there was a lot of experimenting which would have been fine expect it became too much. I was defined by those two things, being an ill soccer player and the girl who was good at well...other things” Tobin glances down embarrassed “I started to believe that was all I was good for.”

“I can see that. You know it’s not true, right?” Christen’s tone empathetic.

Shaking her head, Tobin continues “College was supposed to be my fresh start. Didn’t work out exactly how I thought it would” Tobin is lost in her own mind, as if she’s trying to talk her way out of a maze.

“How did you meet her?”

Tobin chuckles sardonically. “I don’t remember. One day she was just there, always around, always enthusiastic. She was determined to be my friend and I welcomed the attention, it made me feel worthwhile. Overtime, she convinced me she was the only one who would make me happy. No one else would ever get me like she did. I believed her. It felt amazing to be connected to another human like that, to be with someone who understood” Tobin gazes at Christen, “at least I thought she understood.”

Sliding off the desk, Tobin stretches her back studying Christen’s wall again “I didn’t know about the boyfriend, never guessed she’d dated guys” Tobin glances over, her eyes beseeching needing Christen to believe her.

“I know, I know she didn’t tell you”

“I should have walked away then I couldn’t understand how she kept that from me. But she promised it wasn’t real. She said she only cared about him as a friend, that she stayed with him because he was a piece of home in a strange place. I was able to justify it, her explanation made sense and I chose to believe her.”

“So that’s why Adam bothered you so much” Christen says in mater-of-fact voice.

“I know you only see Adam as a friend, I know you too are just friends. I shouldn’t have gotten upset. Like I said, bad memories.”

Christen nods, accepting her apology, “what happened to make it go bad, if it wasn’t the boyfriend?”

“That’s the strange part, she forced me to accept that I was attracted to girls. She normalized my feelings, didn’t make it seem strange but I was always an anomaly to her. Even to this day, she still swears she doesn’t like girls like that”

“What?”

“She just liked me, not girls, just me.” Tobin says with a shrug “At first it was exciting, I was the only girl she ever liked, the only person she ever loved” Tobin tone condemnatory.  “That should have been another warning but it wasn’t. I was addicted to the way she made me feel. When it was just us it was awesome. You have to understand, the highs with her were so high. Even the lows were addictive. And like most addictions it became harmful.”

Christen shifts, moving to sit on Jules’ desk. She appreciates what Tobin is saying, only she thinks Tobin’s relationship with the girl was incendiary in a way hers never was.

“I ended things between us once, after my red card last year." Pausing, Tobin twists facing the print on Christen’s wall. “There have always been two constants in my life, soccer and my faith. I sacrificed my faith for her. I stopped reading my bible, didn’t going to church. That game I felt soccer slipping away from me also. It was a wakeup call.”

“I didn’t realize you were religious” Christen’s tone shows she not sure that’s the appropriate word to use.

Smiling reassuringly “I am, my faith is a part of me, I lost sight of that for a while, and unfortunately I lost myself. Took me a while to realize that. I knew I had to get those two things back on track. So I dedicated myself to soccer, giving my all on the pitch, eventually coach started me again. I made time for my faith, reading my bible daily ignoring her teasing. I went to church with teammates. It wasn’t every week but it was enough to realign myself.”

“That’s good, that you refocused on the things that mattered to you. Sometimes we get so busy we forget to take care of our souls” Christen says soothingly.

“It would have been better, if I’d never strayed in the first place”

“Don’t do that. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You saw something was wrong and you tried to correct it. That’s all you could do. What happened next?”

“Once the season was over, she came back. She’d broken up with her boyfriend again. Kelley told me that they broke up after she heard I was dating. It wasn’t even true. But I welcomed her back. Things were awesome for a little bit. As you can imagine, it didn’t last long. She made fun of me for reading the bible. She never respected my faith, always made fun of me for reading the bible and going to church. That should have been my final warning.” Tobin shakes her head self-deprecatory. “but….it wasn’t. It was at night when I was most vulnerable that she knew all the right things to say, all the right things to do. I felt valued in a weird away” Steadily avoiding Christen’s gaze, Tobin swallows hard, “it was different, in the light of day, it was never enough, I wanted more. I don’t know if it’s because I was finding my way back to who I truly am but I noticed the subtle things. The way she would purposefully distance herself from me when we walked. She was always careful with her touches in public. Never overly affectionate. The summer was a rollercoaster. I made the mistake of calling her my girlfriend one night at Ash’s. She freaked, so mad at me, she left me that night. I couldn’t get in touch with her for two days, everywhere I looked for her, she wasn’t there. I eventually found out she went back to her ex.”

Pausing, Tobin leans back, staring at the ceiling. “That was in the middle of the summer. I threw myself back into soccer, trying to heal myself that way. Then classes were starting” biting her thumb, a smirk forms on her face “and Alyssa was introducing me to her best friend from high school. I remember feeling something hopeful for the first time in a while.” Tobin’s eyes land on Christen, truth radiating from their depths “from the moment we met, I knew I wanted to get to know you better. At first I didn’t think you’d like me then I realized you were just nervous and not just around me but in general when hanging with the team. You always clung to your roommates. Then things got interesting.” laughing when she catches the heat in Christen’s cheek. Christen thinks “interesting” is a nice way of describing some of their interactions.

Smiling, “I know I shouldn’t have gone back to her, everyone told me that. But like I said, she was addictive. I was a mess. Still am. I wish I had sorted through all of this before I meet you. I wish so many things.” Working through her embarrassment, Christen felt the same thing Tobin did. From the moment they’d met Christen wanted to know Tobin better. Christen never would have guessed all that she’d been through, the emotional manipulation she with stained, her eyes sympathetic.

“Don’t make that face. I’m not a victim. I allowed this to happen. I only regret bring you into the middle of it. It’s all I’ve been thinking about lately, how I fucked everything up” Pausing Tobin drops her head back, eyes closed. Christen shifts uncomfortably on Jules’ desk, when she hears “I was trying to get out of something that I shouldn’t have been in. And you came along and you made me believe and I was self-ish. I loved being around you because in those moments I thought if I had you I would have the strength to walk away….” Tobin trails off

“You thought you could leave her for good”

Tobin’s eyes are full of regret when she says “yes, I thought you could… you did make me forget about her but that was just a band aid and well, it clearly didn’t work. I need to finish this on my own. I need to take some time for me. As crazy as it sounds, I still need to figure out who I am. Concentrate on the things that are my core”

“Makes sense” a sense of dread coming over Christen.

Eyes filled with sorrow, Tobin stands taking a few steps in Christen’s direction. Holding her arms out wide, “come here.” Christen, doesn’t immediately go but eventually she eases off the desk, and walks into Tobin’s warm embrace. From the way Tobin is clutching at her, Christen knows she won’t be seeing her for a while. It brings a sadness to Christen but a new sadness. The type that come with saying goodbye to someone you care about you, knowing it will be a while before you see them again, but knowing you will see them again.

“I’m not going to see you for a while, am I?” Christen’s words muffled, her face pressed into the nook, where Tobin’s neck and shoulder meet.

Holding her a little tighter, Tobin slowly shaking her head, “I’ll be around. Look, I’ve thought long and hard about this. I don’t see another way…”

“You don’t have to explain.”

Pulling back a little bit, Tobin presses a quick kiss to her forehead.

“You still going doing Spring Break?” Christen ask, wondering how soon Tobin’s self-imposed exile will start.

“No, I’m going home. I need some time away from everything, you know? What about you?  You still going home?”

Christen nods “yeah, my grandmother isn’t doing so well, so I’m going to visit”

Empathy in Tobin’s eyes “I’ll keep her in my prayers”

“Thank you, she’d like that”

They pull apart a little bit, Tobin’s arms falling down, encircling Christen’s waist. They stand awkwardly, “If you ever need anything…”

“I know, and if you…”

“I know”

Silence engulfs them, standing still they stare at each other, neither wanting to move first. Christen doesn’t like this but she understands and honestly thinks this is necessary for both of them. Eventually, Tobin, who is clearly reluctant to leave squeezes Christen’s arms one last time. “I’ll see you around?”

Nodding her head, Christen can’t think of anything else to do. Because, she won’t be seeing Tobin for a while and she knows it. Christen steps back, allowing Tobin to pass, she doesn’t trust her voice to say goodbye. Tobin, walks to the corner, picks up her backpack and jacket and with one last small smile, she quickly turns and exits out the door. Christen can hear her feet pounding on the steps, she closes her door because she can hear the front door opening and closing, signaling Tobin’s departure.

 

Chapter Text

I’m so into you, I can barely breathe
And all I wanna do is to fall in deep
But close ain’t close enough ‘til we cross the line, hey yeah
So name a game to play and I’ll roll the dice, hey

Oh baby, look what you started
The temperature’s rising in here
Is this gonna happen?
Been waiting and waiting for you to make a move
Before I make a move


 

Tobin can’t help but think that Alyssa was right, her friend, Christen is nice and tipsy. She and Alex are barely holding each other up, as the group makes their way to the next frat house. Tobin tried to keep a general eye on them, but it was futile. Every time she turned around Alex had a drink in her hand. So now they are the most inebriated of the group. They’re at Tobin’s least favorite frat house, not that she’s a fan of any of them, but this one…this one she tries to avoid. But Alyssa works with one of the guys and Allie will shamelessly flirt with him, so obviously they come here often. Tobin will admit they’re treated like queens in comparison to some of the other girls.  

Watching Alex slip on a drink, Tobin leans in “How much have you had to drink?”
She doesn’t want to seem like the concerned big sister but Alex’s eyes have that glassy look to them. Squinting her eyes in concentration and after two failed attempts, Alex holds up six fingers.

“You had six drinks?” Tobin asks confused, pretty sure she’s seen Alex handle more than that.

“Nooooo” the raspy voice drags out “shooottttss”

“You had six shots?” Alex nods her head happily, “Yeeessss” slurring her word.

Tobin’s brow furrows in concentration, she knows that Alex had at least one drink at the frat house before this and if she’s only counting shots, Tobin would guess that’s she’s had at least four drinks on top of that.

Before Tobin can question her anymore, Christen skips over. Tobin might be concerned about Alex but she has to admit that the skipping is cute, her eyes drifting to Christen’s legs. Christen throws her arms around Alex’s neck, almost toppling them both over. Cursing under breath, Tobin reaches out trying to steady each girl. Alex is oblivious to her nearly becoming acquainted with the floor. Hugging Christen back, she squeezes her before she sees Allie. Wiggling out of Tobin’s grasp she shouts “I’ll be back.”

“Nooo” Christen protest drowned out by the loud music blasting through the room. Christen’s face falls as she watches Alex’s retreating form “but I have to pee” Christen moans. Apparently unaware of Tobin’s hand on her elbow, she twist around searching, “have you seen Jules or Syd?”
“Not lately”

Turning back to face Tobin, her eyes twinkling, her tone jovial “Lys?” Tobin shakes her head, a smile forming.

“Where is everyone?” Christen pouts, her lower lip sticking out. In that moment, Tobin has the unreasonable urge to bite the younger girl’s lip. Shaking her head trying to clear her mind of her wondering thoughts, Tobin guesses she’s had more to drink then she’s realized. Peering at Christen “what’s wrong?”

“I need to pee and I don’t know where the bathroom is” Christen says indigently. Tobin can’t help the grin that spreads at Christen words, she sounds so distraught. Grabbing her hand, Tobin leads her away, throwing over her shoulder “this way.” Unfortunately, she’s extremely familiar with this house, she’s been dragged all over it numerous times. She knows exactly where one of the single bathrooms is located.

Leading Christen to the second floor, she finds one of the “VIP” bathrooms, opening the door for Christen. Christen enters and when Tobin would let the door close, she turns around “come in.”

Tobin can’t help but think under different circumstances those are exactly the words she would want to hear. “I’ll be right here.”  Shaking her head, Christen pulls on Tobin’s hand. Rolling her eyes, Tobin enter the bathroom. She will never understand drunk girls desire to go to the bathroom in packs. At this point it’s easier to oblige the younger girl then stand there and argue. 

Moving into the single bathroom, Tobin faces the mirror, studiously ignoring the girl behind her. Only, Christen bumps into her side, causing Tobin to reach out. She wraps an arm around her waist to steady her “you okay?”

“Uh huh” Christen breathes out but she doesn’t move. Tobin can’t help but glance to the left, looking at Christen. Her eyes, piercingly green are surprisingly clear unlikely Alex’s.

Before Tobin can react, Christen threads her fingers through her hair, pulling her in for a soft, lingering kiss. It’s light, airy, nothing more than a press of their lips. She pulls away before Tobin can really register the kiss. Tobin stares in surprise.

Christen breaks into a small smile, leaning in she runs her tongue along the curve of Tobin’s ear, whispering “I’m not drunk like Alex.”

Tobin can’t control the involuntary shudder that runs the length of her body. Reaching over, Tobin carefully tucks a lock of hair behind Christen’s ear. Tobin allows her hand to linger around Christen’s neck, briefly running a finger along the smooth column of her neck, whispering back “oh no?” Biting her lower lip, Christen shakes her head slightly back and forth.

“Do you have to use the bath…” her words are cut short by Christen moving. She pushes herself forward, coming to lean against the bathroom sink in front of Tobin. Eyes hooded she shakes her head no again.

Tobin stares at the girl, a little confused. She’s had a couple of drinks but she’s not drunk. But what her mind is teller her doesn’t make sense. Christen isn’t falling down drunk and she’s purposeful wants to be alone with her. Then she remembers Lys’ words from earlier. Titling her head to the side, she leans in whispering into Christen ear, “in that case, I dare you to kiss me again”

Christen’s eyes widen in delight, she pulls herself up, sitting on the counter top of the sink, Christen slowly pulls Tobin towards her, slotting her between her legs.

“What type of real kiss are you talking about?” she asks, her voice like silk over Tobin’s heated skin. 
Smirking, Tobin leans in, her breath tickling Christen’s ear, “What type do you think?” her smirk deepening as she feels a shiver run through Christen’s body.

Tobin’s lips part when Christen presses into them, she can’t contain the moan when a tongue sweeps through her mouth, blazing a trail of exploration. Mimicking Christen’s movements Tobin extends the kiss, sweeping her tongue into Christen’s mouth. Tobin’s hips begin to move of their own accord. She rips her mouth away taking deep shallow breaths.

Her breath hitches as she watches Christen trace a path down her chest, making circular movements until her hand is over her breast Christen’s fingers finding her erect nipple. Lightly pinching it, Christen smirks as Tobin’s hips jerk forward urgently. Tobin tilts her head back slightly, aware of the wetness pooling in her panties. She wonders if she’s the only one to feel like this. 
Snapping her head back, she grins devilishly at Christen. Slowly running her hands up Christen’s leg, running her fingers onto her inner thigh. Eyes glued to Christen’s, she continues the path of her fingers higher and higher, until Tobin can feel the heat pouring from her core. Slipping inside her shorts, she rubs her fingers up and down Christen’s core. Her thumb, skims across Christen’s clit, making small circulars movements. Tobin watches in delight as Christen throws her head back in pleasure. Her hands planted on the sink counter, Christen lifts her hips up, desperately seeking more pressure, trying to push herself against Tobin’s fingers.

Taking a steadying breath, Tobin easies the pressure, pulling back, slowly easing her fingers away from Christen’s core. She fights her desire to feel the girl’s heat, to feel her warmth enclose her fingers. She leans her head against the younger girl’s shoulder. Desire overwhelms Tobin for a moment. She tries to collect herself but she can feel Christen’s fingers running up and down her back, one hand slipping to her neck, massaging her. It does nothing to diminish her burning desire.

Turning her head, leaning back a little, Tobin’s about to ask Christen what’s going on when she feels Christen move, her thigh pushing between Tobin’s legs, her finger landing on her lips. Christen shakes her head, lifting her thigh a little higher. Tobin’s lips part slightly, an inaudible gasp leaving her lips. Not wanting to be bettered, she leans over and takes Christen’s finger into her mouth, slowly sucking on it. She grins, tasting the lime and lemons from earlier and a uniqueness sweetness that is all Christen. She thinks Christen is her own little margarita. She slowly runs her tongue up and down the length of Christen’s finger. Gently taking her hand, Tobin slowly pulls another finger into her mouth, relishing in the sweet taste, dying to know what her core taste like.

Christen eventually, slowly, pulls her fingers from Tobin’s mouth.  Christen leans back against the glass, visibly panting much to Tobin’s joy.

Christen’s position shows off a part of her smooth stomach and Tobin just has to know how it taste. Leaning down, Tobin briefly runs her nose along Christen’s core, breathing in her intoxicating smell, groaning. She places a gentle kiss, grinning when Christen’s hip jerked. She slowly continues her path up, placing kisses along the smooth contours of her stomach, right above the waistband of her shorts.

Christen entangles her fingers in Tobin’s hair, keeping her lips against her warm skin. Tobin, slowly runs her hands up Christen’s sides, dragging her finger tips along her ribs, moving up and down, pushing her tank top up as she goes. Eventually, the swells of her breast are visible as are her nipples, straining against the cotton of Christen's black bra.

Licking her lips, Tobin gently cups a breast, slowly circling her thumb over the hard peak. Loving every gasp that comes out of Christen’s mouth. Tobin gages Christen’s response by the tightening of her fingers’ in her hair, It’s all the encouragement Tobin needs. Slowly leans forward, sucking a peak into her mouth, wetting the fabric of Christen’s bra. Christen’s arches her back, her head rocking back and forth against the glass. She’s about to progress upward, taste her sweet skin, when there’s banging against the bathroom door. Tobin’s determined to ignore it when her name stops her.

“Tobin!!!” It’s followed by more banging.

“Tobin, wake up, we’re going to be late” this is accompanied by three loud bangs on her door. Through her haze, Tobin clearly registers Alyssa’s voice.

Groggy, her voice filled with sleep, she calls out “coming”

Rolling over, Tobin buries her face in her pillow. If only Alyssa knew what she’d been dreaming of. Tobin can’t help but think this might be a good semester after all.

Chapter Text

Baby don’t you know
All of them tears gon’ come and go
Baby you just gotta make up your mind
That every little thing is gonna be alright
Baby don’t you know
All of them tears gon’ come and go
Baby you just gotta make up your mind
We decide it
We’re gonna be alright

We’re in slow motion
Can’t seem to get where we’re going
But the hard times are golden
Cause they all lead to better days


 

Kidnapped, that’s what she’s is. She’s being held hostage by the dirty blonde sitting in front of her. They slowly roll up the driveway. Alyssa drove to campus that morning because she was running late for class. After class she offered to drive Christen home. Without pause Christen immediately accepted and now she’s being punished for her laziness. She should have braved the cold. If Christen is honest, it’s not even that cold it’s been a mild winter. If she hadn’t been lazy, she’d be home in the safety of her room. Instead, Alyssa picked up Jules and Alex and now the car is idling in front of the Big house. Eyeing it warily, Christen wonders if Alyssa had ever intended on taking her back to her dorm.

Alyssa has been pestering her about visiting the house, she still hopes Christen will move in next year. Christen consistently avoided the conversation. Gazing at the house, it feels like a life time ago since she was last here. It’s different now, she’s different. She's no longer the slightly naïve girl from last semester. She'd taken a few knocks but she's still standing, a little stronger than before.

Pressure on her leg interrupts her thoughts. Christen acknowledges Jules, who supportively squeezes her quad. Winking, Jules offers her an encouraging smile “it’ll be alright, Press.”

Blindly nodding her head, Christen continues to stare apprehensively out of the Ford’s window. Everyone has piled out of the car but her. Christen remains seated. Silently protesting. Eventually, her car door is jerked open and Christen finds herself face to face with her capturer. Alyssa stands there trying to contain her growing smile. “Coming in?”

“No”

“Well, this is the final destination.” Christen just continues to glare at the traitor. “You plan on staying here all afternoon?”

I’d plan on going home"

"This could be home"

"But it's not" Christen hisses, rolling her eyes.

Rubbing her forehead in exasperation “Chris…just rip the Band-Aid off”

Leaning back into her seat Christen crosses her arms over her chest, refusing to budge. Sighing, Alyssa leans against the car door, her arm resting on top of it, “How long do you plan on avoiding this?”

“Indefinitely”

“Why?”

Glancing down, Christen does not have a judicious answer. She’s being ridiculous but she can't seem to help it. She doesn’t like being surprised and Christen is convinced Alyssa wasn’t just being generous this afternoon. Alyssa has alternative motives. Groaning, Christen admits Alyssa’s question is fair. Christen lacks a sound reason for not visiting anymore.

Things have been good lately. Spring Break came at the right moment. The time away did everyone good. Alex is a thousand times more relaxed which means her meddling has been minimal much to Christen’s delight. Syd and Jules are as bubbly as ever. Kelley came back a little more freckled and a little more focused. The best part, there’s no tension between any of them, not even with Tobin. The few times Christen has seen her, Tobin appeared to be relaxed, rested and most importantly, happier. She doesn’t look as haggard. Tobin even joined the group for lunch twice. A grin gracing her face, she and Kels joking around like old times. It warmed Christen’s heart to see it.

“You’re being a little childish,” Alyssa says interrupting the growing silence.

“Maybe…” her tone petulant. Sighing, Alyssa straightens, crosses her arms, continuing her staring contest with Christen, eventually furrowing her brows in mild irritation.

“Fine.” Christen exclaims in defeat. Grabbing her bag Christen slowly makes her way out of the car, it’s not as if she really has a choice “but I’m mad at you.” “I’ll take that,” Lys says throwing an arm around her shoulders.

Entering the house, Christen’s ears immediately registering a happy chorus of tones coming from the living room. Stopping in her tracks, Christen would recognize those voices anywhere. All of her roommates are here which is more damning evidence that she's been setup. Christen stalks into the living room her displeasure apparent. Kelley jumps up the minute she sees Christen, ignoring the scowl on her face, running over to give her a hug.

“Great!! You're here, let's talk about next year”

Allowing Kelley, to drag her into the dining area Christen sends Alyssa an accusing glare. Shrugging, Alyssa follows them.

Sitting at the dining table, Christen is preoccupied, only partially listening to Kelley’s animated speech. Alyssa and she are presenting their best cases for moving in next year. Christen originally assumed Alyssa was the only one who really cared. She was wrong. Christen knows it will be fun living here with the girls. Not to mention it saves her from the horrifying prospect of living with a complete stranger next year. Her roommates already know where they will be living next year.

Alex is going to move into the sorority house with Allie. Jules is moving into the other side of the house. Syd will be taking one of the bedrooms on the second floor on Alyssa’s side of the house. This means there is one empty room available. Alyssa is moving down from the attic to take the senior goalkeeper's room and apparently, Tobin is indeed moving up.

Tobin. The real reason Christen won’t say yes. She won’t admit it, not aloud at least. Alyssa figured it out, it's the main reason she wanted her to come by. She's tried reassuring Christen that Tobin thinks it’s a great idea. The problem is Christen and Tobin haven’t really talked. Christen doesn’t know where she stands with her. As a group everything is better but things still feel unresolved between them.

Kelley slams her hand down on the table, snapping Christen to attention. “So what do you think?” Biting her lip, Christen stalls trying to recall anything Kelley might have said. Sighing, “I’m thinking about it okay, just give me a little more time.” Christen loves the basement. She doesn't want to admit it now but she’s seriously considering moving in. She not sure what else she would do next year, all the alternatives seem a thousand times worse than living here. Besides, Christen is enjoying making Kels and Lys grovel a bit.

Accepting Christen’s promise to give them an answer by next week, Alyssa got up saying she had something for Christen and went to her room. Coming back downstairs, Lys presented Christen with a five-hundred-piece puzzle, offering it as compensation and part of her apology for abducting Christen. Christen is delighted. She’s literally bouncing in her chair, her hands clasped together in pleasure. It’s something they use to do in high school. Kels looks between the two of them, eyes wide in horror.

“You guys are such nerds” she exclaims, “who enjoys this?” she questions truly perplexed.

Opening the box, a grin fixed on her face, “We do it, it’s kinda our thing.” Christen responds, completely unfazed by Kels words.

“Come on Kels, you have to admit it fits them” a voice says moving towards the table. Christen glances up, looking directly into dancing whiskey eyes. Returning the smile, she blindly pours all the puzzle pieces onto the table.

“I’ve never done a puzzle this large,” Tobin says peering over the kitchen counter, looking down at the table.

“That’s because it’s for nerds” Kels responds, quickly adding, “well, it’s too nerdy for me” noticing the glare Christen is sending her.

“Of course it is Kels” Lys says laughing, “it requires you to concentrate for more than ten minutes”

“Whatever, Tobs come next door I want to show you something”

Nodding her head in agreement, Tobs moves to follow Kelley out of the room but not before she turns back to stare at Christen. She regards Christen contemplatively but Tobin leaves without saying anything. Christen lets out a little sigh, she’s gotten use to this. Tobin always looks like she’s about to say something only to change her mind. Christen wouldn’t say it’s awkward between them but it’s definitely different. Christen can’t shake the feeling Tobin is purposely keeping her distance from her and only her.

Glancing back over, she finds Alyssa staring at her, her smile understanding.

“Give her time, she’s coming back around”

Head down, embarrassed that her thoughts are so transparent “I know”

“She’s better” Christen can’t prevent the smile that forms at the corners of her mouth “I know I am happy for her”

“I know”

Sticking her tongue at Alyssa “Enough, turn the top over and let’s begin.” Chuckling, Lys glances at the top one last time. Flipping the cover over with one hand Alyssa starts shifting through the pieces. Christen finds an end piece, anticipatorily glancing up "ready?"

Christen isn't sure how long they've been working on the puzzle but it's about half way done when goosebumps break out along her arms. Christen glances up, looking around until her vision lands on Julie, Alex and Syd. They’re sitting in the living room, heads together, deep in conversation. Christen narrows her eyes, warning bells sounding in her head. She doesn’t know what they’re planning but it can’t be good.

Alex glances up feeling Christen’s eyes on her. Elbowing Jules, Alex’s eyes dart back and forth between them, eventually locking on Julie, silently communicating with her. Christen sees them exchange a meaningful look. Focusing on Syd Christen hopes her face will give something away, it doesn’t. Jules nods briefly causing Christen to ask nervously, “What are you guys up to?”

Facing forward, Jules starts “Zack and some of the guys are going to Barcade…and they want to know if we want to come.” Three hopeful girls stare at Christen. Alex and Syd are practically bouncing up and down on the couch. Groaning internally, Christen doesn’t want to go. It’s not that she doesn’t like Barcade, it’s just that prelims are soon and she doesn’t feel prepared. Not to mention it will be packed tonight, Christen is not in the mood to deal with crowds. She deals with enough drunk college students as it is. Her last experience at Barcade was unpleasant. Tobin had been different then, hadn’t been with them and Christen can’t seem to forget it.

“What’s going on?” Allie asks walking into the room.

“Some of the guys are going to Barcade, we’re trying to decide if we want to go” Alex supplies.

Allie looks at the freshman, “I’ll go if you guys go”

“Great, we’re going” Alex chimes in before looking at Christen “I think…”

Christen turns to Alyssa for help but she shakes her head smiling “Might as well give in, you can’t win against them all” holding up her phone she shows Christen a text message.

Tell, darlin’ I’ll let her ride in the bed, if she comes ;-)

Rolling her eyes, “he would make that sound sexual.”

Laughing Lys, puts her phone down, “you’re out numbered, you know”

“If only I was home as I had planned,” Christen says disgruntled. Lys chuckles again choosing not to address Christen’s last statement. The front door bangs open, the sound of the door slamming vibrates along the walls.

“We’re seriously going to Barcade? It’s been forever!!” Christen hears before a very excited Kelley darts into the room. Tobin’s behind her, laughing at the antics of the smaller girl.

“Kels, didn’t you go like four weeks ago?" Tobin ask

"Right, forever ago!"

Kelley's excitement is contagious, as Christen watches her roommates practically jump off the couch. All of them have pleading looks on their faces, Syd even has her hands pressed together in a prayer gesture. Christen throws her hands up in surrender. "Fine." A chorus of cheers reign out, Kelley and Syd join hands doing a little jig of sorts. Christen rubs her eyes thinking next time she’ll walk home, a little exercise never hurt anyone.

 


 

Barcade is bar downtown. It is popular because it is eighteen to get in. Half the bar is adorned with old school video games such as Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, and Donkey Kong. The other section offers old school games like skee ball, darts, pool, foosball and beer pong tables. It even sports an area that substitutes as a dance floor at night. The bar is known for craft beers from local brewers but also offers college staples such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and Rolling Rock. They’ll even host a local DJ for a couple of hours on the weekend.

True to his word, Adam arrived with his pickup. Shaking his head, he helped Christen climb into the back. “It’s safer in the cab you know?”

“The view’s better from back here” she flashes him an appreciative smile, a pile of blankets awaits her towards the back of the bed. She’s making herself comfortable when someone else stumbles into the back. Pleasantly surprised, Christen is confused to see Tobin climbing over the side.

Shrugging, “I haven’t done this in years” her only words of explanation. Tobin moves to the back, slowing sliding down, sitting next to Christen. Leaning her head back against the wall of the cab, closing her eyes Tobin is peacefully silent. Christen can’t help but turn and stare. A wave of longing hits Christen, she wants to reach out and touch Tobin. She’s really missed her, more than she was willing to admit even to herself. Overtime Tobin’s presence became a comfort to Christen and she’s missed it lately.

Rolling her head to the side, Tobin meets Christen’s eyes. They stare at each other, eyes moving back and forth searchingly. Christen can’t read Tobin’s eyes and she wonders if her eyes are guarded too. She wonders if they’ll ever let their walls down again, ever trust enough to let each other back in.

Eventually a smile breaks across Tobin’s face, indicating up with her chin, muttering “Red skies at night, sailors delight.” Reluctantly, turning away Christen cranes her neck back as instructed, admiring the view.

The scene is beautiful, tress fly by, the clouds dance above them as the heavens change colors. The blues of the day give way to an array of pinks, oranges and yellows as the sun begins its descent. The colors coalesce in a red hue far in the horizon as the sun bids its farewell for the day. Christen hears Tobin whisper reverently “beautiful” Christen is not sure what Tobin is referring to. If she talking about the scenery, the moment or something else? “Beautiful” Christen agrees, appreciating the vivid colors above her but it’s nothing compared to the girl sitting next to her. The moment so much more, it’s beyond beautiful, it feels magical.

It’s the first time they have been this close, this alone since before Spring Break. Christen wants to ask a thousand questions but she’s afraid to break the spell, the silence comforting in a weird way. Then again, maybe it’s the presence next to her. Tobin’s aura is serene and peaceful. So unlike before when it was tinged with fire and rage. Almost as if reading her thoughts, she feels a hand barely covering hers, a pinky hooking with hers. Christen fights her initial reaction to look down, instead she leans her head back, starting at the same sky as the girl next to her, a matching smile on her face.

They’ve been at Barcade for about an hour and Christen’s patience is wearing thin. It’s her own fault. Her eyes are locked on Tobin, following her every movement. She felt so close to Tobin when they’d arrived but now it seems like miles separate them.

That’s all Christen can think about, how different everything is now. Christen forced herself to respect Tobin’s need to take time for herself. Keeping her distance, the reality of Tobin’s exile hitting her when Tobin stopped showing up for class. The first time Christen told herself it was a fluke. By the third class, Christen sorrowfully accepted the fact that Tobin wasn’t coming back. It had stung at first, but as she saw her getting stronger, smiling more, happier Christen decided it was worth it. She used the free time to do what she originally planned, to focus on herself. She’s proud to say she’s in a much better place and she knows her friends can see it. She figures that once they’ve both fully healed, she and Tobin can rebuild their friendship.

In the meantime, Christen find herself at a bar she doesn’t want to be at, dismally watching as Tobin maneuvers her way to the bar, Alex in tow. Various friends and acquaintances constantly delay Tobin’s journey. All of whom Christen is jealous of because they can do what she cannot. It seems as soon as Tobin finished one exchange, there was someone else waiting to steal a kiss from her cheek or ask her how’s she’s been doing. She wants to know what perfume Tobin is wearing or which pheromones she’s releasing because Christen swears girls are flocking to her like a moth to a flame. Only Christen knows she’s exaggerating the truth, almost everyone she greets is simply a friend, her jealousy completely unfounded. It defies logic. But then again, she’s never been rational when it came to Tobin, why start now. The desire to be near Tobin overwhelms Christen with its ferocity.

  Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh

 Eventually, Alex and Tobin make it to the bar where they engaged in an animated conversation, they find the weirdest things entertaining. A chuckling noise breaks Christen out of her trance. Humorous eyes regard her as Kelley peers over the top of a cup. She’s trying to hide her smirk, failing miserably. Christen knows it’s there. Glancing down, the situation reminiscent of first semester, when Christen couldn’t hide her emotions. Always following Tobin with her eyes, always aware of her presence. It’s not the same this time, she’s not the same girl. She has more control, at least that’s what she tells herself.

Forcing herself to look away, Christen searches the room for Lys or Adam. Astutely avoiding the freckled girl across from her, Christen misses Kelley scrutinizing her and Tobin.

Smirking at Christen’s embarrassment, Kelley takes advantage of her position. She has a clear view of the bar. Completely unsurprised by what she sees. Of course, Tobin is staring at their table. Alex is talking, Tobin is doing her signature head bob, her eyes fixated on the brunette girl at the table. Kelley knows Tobin is barely paying attention to whatever Alex is saying.

Leaning back, Kelley continues to watch the two girls in amusement. As soon as one turns away the other one looks, it’s an impressive game of cat and mouse they have going. The amazing part is that neither Christen nor Tobin ever catches the other. Kelley wonders how long they’re going to keep this up, how long before the two of them give in to their obvious attraction.

Movement in Kelley’s peripheral vision draws her attention away from her two hopeless friends. Recognizing the body, a bigger grin breaks across her face. She doesn’t remember the approaching girl’s name but she knows what or rather whom she wants. Kelley is positive that whatever happens in the next couple of minutes is going to be exceedingly entertaining, well for her at least.

“Hey, you guys,” a random girl says, leaning on their table. Christen guesses from her posture she’s either a junior or a senior, she has the confidence that comes from feeling superior. Christen also thinks she’s entirely too perky. “Don’t mean to bother, but is Tobin here tonight? One of my friends is curious.” Christen notices Kelley arching her eyebrow in disbelief at the last statement. Before anyone can answer, Christen is on it. Her patience is non-existent at this point. “She’s right over there” she indicates the bar with her head “Tell your friend there’s a line, it starts to the left and there will be a survey after.” Kelley eyes go wide, choking on her sip of beer. The response better than anything she could have anticipated. The girl looks taken back, she glances around but no one says anything, “oookayyy” stepping back from the table, she moves on. Holding her laughter in, a surprised Julie slides Christen a cup of beer saying “come on Press, let’s go play a game in the back.”

“Yeah, sure, perfect” Christen says as she stands and stalks to the back, where the dartboard and pool tables are located. She needs something to relieve this irrational frustration. They leave so quickly Christen misses the exchanged looks between the other girls, in particular Kelley’s grin “Oh twenty bucks she’ll kill someone before the nights up.”

 Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh                                                                                                                 

“Who’s killing who?” Tobin asks coming back to the table, placing a pitcher of beer down. Shaking her head, Kelley bites the edge of her plastic cup. Glancing around, Alex asks, “Where’s C? This is one of her favorite songs.” Kelley looks pointedly at Alex, slightly inclining her head towards Tobin before responding, “She and JJ are in the back playing games.” Kelley bites her cup again, desperately trying to contain her joy as she sees Tobin swing her head in that direction.

Alex stares at Kelley for a bit trying to decipher her meaning but her eyes go wide with realization as a girl walks up to Tobin placing her hand on her back. “Oh” Alex mouths, “I’m gonna go find JJ and C.” Alex chuckles to herself as she watches Tobin politely greet the girl, giving her a brief hug, only for her focus to immediately return to the back of the room. Alex doesn’t even have to look for Christen, she simply follows the direction of Tobin’s gaze. Tobin’s brows are furrowed and she’s pushing her hair back. Alex has come to recognize it as a nervous gesture, something she does when she uncomfortable. Alex is convinced that’s why she wears hats so often, not just for aesthetic purposes. Alex also thinks it’s not Tobin’s fault that she’s like catnip to half the campus when she does wears a Snapback.

Making her way to the back, Alex sees Christen standing with Adam and a girl by the pool tables. Adam looked like he was about to explain something to Christen when the girl steps in. She tries to show Christen the proper way to hold the cue. Alex can’t contain the giggle that escapes her lips. Christen looks bored out of her mind. Christen must be desperate if she’s trying to distract herself this way. Alex knows that Christen is more than confident with a cue stick, in fact, Christen is a little bit of a pool shark. Glancing over her shoulder, she sees Tobin’s lips are thinned in displeasure. Alex briefly meets Kelley’s mirthful gaze. The little trouble maker had been right, bringing both of them here tonight was pure entertainment.

Frowning a little, Alex unlike Kelley doesn't think either girl is going to give in that easily. Kelley might know most of Tobin's story but she doesn't know anything about Christen’s past. Alex knows she, herself doesn’t know everything about her roommate. Something happened in her past that hurt Christen, this she’s positive of. It’s made her guarded. Unfortunately, Tobin made her even more so. Christen has this wall around her, one she thinks is invisible but Alex sees it every day. Originally, she thought Tobin would be the one to break through it. Only, that didn’t happen and now …she just wants her friends to be happy. Alex doesn’t know what's going to happen between the two of them but for once, she's content to let them figure it out on their own.

 


 

Head down, vision blurry Christen isn't even sure where her feet are taking her. Her thoughts are so frantic. Her mom didn't want to tell her but Christen was insistent. Demanding answers right there and then. She couldn’t take the suspense, her heart rate increased by the nano second until she was barely breathing. Her mother uttering words she had hoped never to hear. Christen’s breath hitched, a sob caught in her throat never to escape. Christen knows the only reason her mom gave in was because she was afraid Christen would hyperventilate otherwise. Once her mom stopped speaking, Christen quietly disconnected the call telling her she had to get to class. Phone in hand, her arm dangles loosely by her side, she was unable to move, shocked. Christen didn’t know what to do. Her mom was clearly concerned, she said she would call her back immediately after the class ended. Christen has no intentions of going to class.

Now scurrying across campus Christen tries to focus. She’s positive that Alyssa has class in the agricultural quad, which means she should be there. Barely able to see her phone’s screen through her watery eyes she shakily types out a message.

A Dawg: Where are you?

She’s not expecting a response. In fact, no response means Alyssa is in class, right? On the other hand, is she just away from her phone? Cursing, Christen tries to reassure herself that Alyssa is in class. Lys should be if Christen remembers correctly, which of course she isn’t sure she does. Christen doesn't know why she didn't pay more attention to her schedule. Rolling her eyes, she knows exactly why she didn’t. Christen hadn’t thought it necessary, it felt weird keeping track of her that way. Christen tries to thinks of where else she could be, drawing a blank.

Christen runs down Alyssa’s schedule again, recalling it as best she can. In case she's wrong she quickly goes through Alex’s. Alex is free. Christen is positive because Alex and her crush meet every week during this period. Christen shuts her eyes, allows a few tears to roll down her cheek before she wipes them away harshly. She's almost there. She's takes the shortcut behind the library, following the step path down the precipitous hill. She's in autopilot, not cognizant of her movements. Later when she's calmed down, when her mind isn’t in a whirlwind, she won't be surprised by her actions but right now Christen isn’t capable of logical or rational thought. Christen only knows that she needs her, has to get to her.

Once Christen sees the back porch, she jogs up the steps. She doesn't even check to see if the door is unlocked. She goes straight to the back window, jimmies it open with surprising strength. Slamming against the top of the windowsill, the glass shakes in the window panes. Throwing her bag through the window, Christen’s leg quickly follows. In her haste to get through she almost falls, barely regaining her balance before she fell flat on her face. Once she’s safely in the house, she slams the window closed again. Grabs her bag and walks towards the kitchen.

Standing in doorway, the kitchen is empty Christen feels uncertainty roll up her spin. Panic starts to settle in her belly. Maybe this isn’t a wise decision. Not that Christen knows what is right or wrong anymore. Everything seems to be spinning out of control. Her world is completely upside down and this is where her body and mind brought her. The words “time” and “space” formulate in the back of her consciousness. She’s about to run when she hears movement, it propels her father into the room. The living room is empty too. Christen wonders if everyone is on campus. Uncertainly she moves deeper into the house, listening for any sign of life. Noise from below startles her, her feet coming to life as they seemingly of their own accord make a sharp right, flying down the stairs to the basement.

She doesn't knock on the door. She doesn't pause for a minute. Doesn't stop at go to collect two hundred dollars. She just barges into the room. Her watery eyes landing on startled warm honey ones. Staring at each other, Christen can’t formulate a sentence. Blinking twice, Tobin sits up. Her expression quickly moving from shock to confusion to concern “Chris, what's wrong?”

Christen opens her mouth but all that escapes is a heart-wrenching sob as she shakes her head. Moving to the edge of the bed, completely bewildered Tobin asks again, forcefully “Christen, what's wrong?”

Forcing herself to swallow, Christen wipes the back of her hand across her face, trying to formulate a coherent sentence. The only words she can stammer out are “stroke…hospital…. critical” and as Christen feels her legs about to give out two strong arms envelope her, holding her up.

“Shhhh, I am so sorry…shhhh…I’m here….shhhh…I have you” and in a strange moment of clarity Christen thinks this is why she's here. Because she knows, Tobin wouldn't give her empty platitudes. Tobin isn’t going to say it’ll be okay, she won't lie to Christen, not about this.

Christen wraps her fists into the fabric of Tobin’s shirt. Holding onto Tobin like her life depends on it. Tobin holds her back tightly, rubbing her back and slowly rocking them back and forth.

Christen spits out what words she can form “sorry...you need…space…where to go”

“Shhhh….I’m glad you came” Tobin whispers, tucking Christen's head under her chin, holding her impossibly tight. Tobin’s grip borders on painful but Christen doesn’t mind, she only tries to snuggle closer. Christen doesn’t know how long they have been standing there when Tobin pulls back. Wiping tears from Christen’s eyes, she adjusts their positions so she can place her arm under Christen’s legs, lifting her up. As gently as Tobin can manage she lays Christen down on her platform bed. Pulling a blanket over her, Tobin gazes down adoringly. Squatting near the edge, Tobin gently swipes some of Christen’s stray hairs out of her eyes. Leaning in Tobin gives Christen a kiss on the forehead before standing up.

Aware of Tobin moving away, panic over comes Christen, she doesn’t want Tobin to leave. Shooting up right, “Please don’t go. I’m…”

Eyes full of understanding Tobin squats back down again, “I’m not, I’m going to get you some water, I’ll be right back.”

Christen nods her head, sniffling. Tobin gently pushes her back down, pulling the blanket up. Christen snuggles her head into the pillow and though her nose is stuffy she inhales deeply enjoying the unique scent of Tobin, part feminine and masculine, fresh and clean. All the while unaware of the affectionate smile that cross Tobin’s face as she watches Christen snuggle into her pillow. Christen isn’t cognizant of Tobin picking her phone up, texting away as she leaves the room.

The minute Tobin heads up the stairs, the calm is broken, a new wave of tears make tracks down Christen's cheeks as she replays her mother words over and over in her head “gma had a stroke, they rushed her to the hospital.” The funny thing is individual she knows what each of those words mean but when put together in a sentence the meaning is incomprehensible to Christen. The possibility of being in a world where her grandmother isn’t causes Christen physical pain.

The touch of a hand on her back breaks Christen out of her private hell. Tobin hands her a glass “drink a little” obediently Christen does as she is told. Next Tobin hands her a wad of tissues, gently she pushes Christen over, sliding in next to her. Wrapping an arm around Christen, Tobin hugs her into her side.

Clutching the tissues, Christen’s tears renew their earlier efforts, earnestly running down her face again. Tobin holds her tighter, rubbing her back. Christen tries to get closer to Tobin, which would be a feat as she is practically seared to her side.

Sitting up a little, Christen adjusting her position until she laying more of her chest across Tobin torso, throwing her leg over Tobin's. Lost in the tempest of her emotions, Tobin is her anchor.

Tobin continues to rub her back, not saying anything and maybe it's the quiet or maybe it's because she has to say the words out loud to fully believe them, Christen finds herself saying “my grandmother had” her breathing sputtering “had a stroke” and she can't continue because even now the truth is still to horrifying. Tobin squeezes her, whispering compassionately “I'm so sorry.” Christen realizes she gripped Tobin's shirt again, relaxing her fingers, she going to let go when Tobin’s hand covers hers, stopping her motion. “Do you…you know how she's doing?” Christen shakes her head, “No. My mom is supposed to call me after class, she sounded really worried though.” Christen feels Tobin stretch, she’s angling for her phone and for a moment Christen feels guilty. What if Tobin had other plans? Tobin hadn’t expected her to show up hysterically crying. Christen goes to pull away when Tobin's arm tightens around her “stay” there's pleading in her voice. Moving to face her, Christen regarding her thoughtful, trying to gage if Tobin really wants this or if she’s just being polite. Then a small miracle happens, for the first time in so long, Christen can read Tobin’s eyes. They’re the windows to her soul again and all Christen sees in return is open honesty, so when Tobin starts to say “if you want…” Christen snuggles into her side, laying her head in the nook of her neck, before Tobin can finish her sentence because yes, Christen wants to be here.

Tobin's phone vibrates again, she looks over and quickly types out a message before putting the phone on the floor. Clearing her throat, she starts out hesitantly “do you want to say a prayer?” It catches Christen off guard a little bit. She's not big on saying prayers that's was always her grandmother. In this particular moment Christen thinks yes, a prayer would be perfect, something her grandmother would appreciate “I don't know…” taking a deep breath “can you please? Can you say one for us” the last thing Christen wants is to feel inadequate in her prayer, especially not one so important.

“Of course” pressing another kiss to her forehead. Christen listens as Tobin elegantly ask for strength, healing, understand and the end of suffering. Her tone confident and warm, her words bring solace to Christen. Christen knows her grandmother would appreciate it if she could hear it. Tears spring up again but this time in appreciation because everything about this moment feels right. Her grandmother would love that she found someone, had a friend, girl or guy who took the time to pray for her and her family. When Tobin gets to the end Christen joins her in saying “Amen”

It's then that she realizes the pounding sound of feet on the steps outside Tobin’s door. Christen peeks at the door. The last thing she needs is someone asking her if she’s okay. She not in the mood to talk with anyone, not yet. Not until she knows more about what's going on. Her mom should be calling her soon then Christen will reach out to people.

The door bust open and in strolls Alyssa. Christen stares wide eyed before she burst into tears and scrabbles from Tobin’s bed to throw herself into the arms of her best friend. Alyssa grabs her and hugs her tightly. Over her head, Alyssa looks Tobin in the eyes, mouthing “thank you.” Things haven't been great between them but in this moment Alyssa never been more grateful for her teammate or the fact that she cares about Christen.

Christen pulls away “how did…” Alyssa gives her an affectionate smirk “a little birdie told me I needed to come home right away” Turning Christen finds Tobin glances down a little uncomfortable with their attention focused on her “I figured Lys would know what to do” Tobin mumbles. Before Christen can tell Tobin she did just fine on her own Lys speaks up.

“I called your mom. Told her we were coming home tonight and…”

Christen eyes widen brimming with tears, she's quietly thinks her body has to be running out of water, in wonderment she exclaims “we are !?!”

Lys smiles “yeah and Jules is packing a bag for you now.” Christen was wrong. She has plenty of tears left, as they escape but this time in gratitude.

“I’m going to pack a bag, I’ll meet you upstairs in ten” with that Alyssa is gone and running up the stairs.

Slowly walking, Christen comes to a stop in front of Tobin. She can’t even find the words to express her gratitude. She throws her arms around Tobin’s neck, hoping to communicate everything she’s feeling because the simple “thank you” she breaths out isn’t enough. Tobin wraps her arms around her middle, pulling her flush against her body, squeezing her. “I’ll keep her in my prayers” Nodding her head, Christen bites her lower lip, she’s never been more grateful for her friends than in this moment. Pulling away, she places a kiss on Tobin’s cheek. “Thank you” Tobin squeezes her one last time, “go, I’m sure Lys is waiting for you.” Placing a kiss on her other cheek, Christen turns and runs up the stairs not saying anything because her words are so insufficient.

It's sometime later, Christen is sitting in the front seat of Lys car when her phone lights, she’s a little surprised to see Tobin’s name show up on her screen but she’s thrilled.

T-bird: 2 Kings 20:5
T-bird: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears I will heal you.
T-bird: For your grandmother

Thanks Tobs, I’ll be sure to share with gma.

T-bird: cool

By the time, Christen goes to the hospital to see her grandmother Tobin had sent two more. Over the next couple of days, Tobin sent a total of seventeen bible verses and Christen dutifully read each one to her grandmother. They all vary on the theme of healing, strength and faith. Her grandmother delighted in hearing them, they visibly seemed to lift her sprits. She insisted Christen bring her bible to the hospital. Christen complied and ended up texting Tobin back with twelve scriptures that her grandmother thought her nice friend would enjoy. Christen couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact her grandmother hasn’t even meet Tobin and she’s already falling prey to her charms.

T-bird: How is your grandmother doing? Much better. Your versus really helped, she loved them

T-bird: awesome. I’m glad she’s doing better. When do you come back?

Tonight. I can’t miss any more classes.

T-bird: I took notes for you

Really!?!

T-bird: yeah, I know how much you hate missing class

You’re a lifesaver.

Chapter Text

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Causes tonight is the night the world begins again


 

“Kels, I swear if we are late…”

“We won't, we have plenty of time”

“You said that twenty minutes ago”

“Still true”

Glaring at the freckled girl for what seems like the hundredth time, Christen inhales deeply, exhaling slowly she counts backwards from five. It's a calming technique she used in high school to settle her nerves before a big game. Now she exclusively uses the calmative exercise to keep herself from strangling the aggravating girl across from her.

They have their second and hopefully last prelim in Oceanography today. Kel relentlessly hounded Christen about studying together for the test, ignoring the fact that she’d only been to a handful of classes. Kel convinced herself much to Christen’s chagrin that all she need was Christen, Christen’s notes and last year’s questions to pass the test.  

Christen caved earlier in the week, it was easier than trying to avoid her. Kels was surprisingly very diligent with her studying. Christen will never admit it to her but she was the main motivating force behind their study sessions, without her Christen wouldn’t have worked as hard. Julie and Alex had joined them a couple of times but found Kelley’s studying methods too intense. Syd didn't even bother, she only studies with Kelley for finals, otherwise they bicker all the time. Everyone wants to pass this prelim, no one wants to have to actually continue going to class.

Christen is worried about the test. She's only memorized the information, she doesn’t truly know what any of it means. Kels promised they didn't actually need understand they just needed to get the answers correct. So this afternoon when Kels suggested meeting to review, Christen readily agreed. Unsurprisingly, Kels was late, so now they’re running late and if the arrive late for the test Christen will kill her.

“We can even stop for…”

Glancing down at the time on her phone “Kelley!!!” Christen exclaims exasperated, her patience at an all time low. For some reason, Kelley posses the unique skill set of getting under Christen’s skin like no one else ever has.

Looking at Christen with wide eyes “or we can go straight to the room, yeah that sounds like a better idea” Kelley rushes to say, haphazardly throwing her belongings into her bag. Shaking her head, Christen walks on, refusing to wait for Kel. Christen already has test anxiety the last thing she needs is to worry about being on time.

Walking into the room Christen sighs in relief, pleased to see her usual spot is empty. Quickly making her way to her seat, she breathes a sigh of relief. She knows it’s silly but the familiarity will make taking this test easier for her. Looking around Christen realizes she must be the first of their group to arrive. Right on her heels, Kels plops into the seat in front of her, the spot she claimed the handful of times she actually showed up for class. Per usual, she’s texting away, unconcerned and completely calm. Christen doesn’t understand how she’s not more nervous. Christen knows it's a past fail course but the fear of having a fail on her transcript has her on edge.

“You’re working tonight, right?”

Staring at the back of Kelley’s head Christen’s eyes narrow suspiciously, hesitantly answering “yeah I open...that’s the second time you’ve asked what you are planning over there?”

“Nothing” turning around in her seat, she’s practicing her most innocent face but Christen knows better.

“Kels” Christen’s tone warning, afraid of whatever shenanigans Kelley is planning. Kelley is a little like the Mad Hatter, a tea party is never just a tea party with her.

“I’m not planning anything. If you finish before me just wait for me, okay?

“And if you finish before me?”

“I'll wait for you, deal?”

Christen eyes her dubiously, eventually shrugging her shoulder, cautiously acquiescing “deal.” Christen has her reservations, she doesn't believe that Kelley doesn't have anything planned but figures she can make some excuse up if she needs to.

Jules, Syd and Alex arrive a few minutes later. Jules and Syd slide in taking the two spots to the right of Christen. Alex slides into the right of Kelley.
“Ready for this, Press?”

“Sure am, Johnston” Christen can’t help but laugh at the face Julie makes.

“That sounds so weird coming from you”

“Yeah, JJ sounds so much better” Syd chimes in. Syd been relatively quiet, not her usual animated self. Peeking around Julie, Christen noticed Sydney bent over her desk staring at a piece of paper. Christen figures she's still cramming, it never works for Christen but it’s Syd’s mod operandi, more annoyingly it works for her.

An hour later Christen rolls her neck, the only thing standing in her way is this short answer question. She's read and reread the question a couple of times and is still nowhere near formulating a response. Double checking her work, Christen is confident that she will get at least a 75 on the test which is all she needs to pass the test and subsequently the course, best of all one less test to worry about during finals. Glancing up quickly, she notices Kelley drawing figures along the margins of test paper, it looks like a line of aquatic animals. Kelley has either finished the exam or she also gave up on the last short answer question.

Christen quietly packed her belongings, standing to exit the row she taps Kelley on the shoulder as she walks by. Kelley noisily throws her things into her bag, eventually following Christen up the auditorium steps. Christen patiently waits for Kels outside the door checking her phone.

“What did you think?” comes the bored voice behind Christen.

“I didn’t know the last question at all.”

“Yea…I don’t even think we covered that”

“We didn’t, I’m positive of that”
“It’s probably from the next reading, he’s awarding the people who take the class serious” Kels says making air quotes around the “class serious” part.

Laughing “you mean the people taking it for an actual grade. I’m so glad we’re only taking it pass fail.”

Nodding her head in agreement, Kelley tries to ask nonchalantly “You’re free until you work, right?”

Slowly turning her head, eyebrows raised in question “What gives, Kels?”

“I’m just asking a question”

“Uh huh, you’ve never asked me about my schedule. You’re normally just bossy and overbearing.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about”

“Kels, what gives?”

Stopping abruptly, “Are you free right now, before you have to go to work?”

Christen silently regards Kelley as she ponders her answer. If Christen didn’t know better she would think Kelley was asking an innocent question but the twinkle in her eyes says otherwise.

Chris!!”

Jumping, sighing in resignation “alright, yes, I’m free.”

“Great!” Kelley continues walking towards the main entrance of the building. Christen is about to open the main door when she feels a hand pulling on her arm.

“I’m going to run to the bathroom just wait outside for me”

“Kels…what?” Christen hates the whine in her voice.
“Just wait!” and before Christen can utter another word Kelley disappears around the corner.

Rolling her eyes, Christen pushes through the broad exit stepping into the glaring light of the day. Holding a hand up to cover her eyes, Christen’s hand roots through her bag looking for her sunglasses, walking towards the side of the building.

“Hey” a cheerfully familiar voice from behind her.

Spinning around her mouth a jar, Christen takes in the sinewy figure in front of her “uhhh…”

The smile that breaks across the unexpected newcomer’s face cause Christen to blink twice, shaking her head “oh, hey.” Christen looks over her shoulder, towards the front entrance “Kels should be out in a second and I’m not sure Alex is done yet but she should be….” Christen trails off as she sees Alex, Syd and Jules walking down the side path away from the building. Squinting her eyes Christen, swears Alex is dragging Julie after her and Syd. Julie keeps trying to peer over her shoulder in the direction Christen is standing next to Tobin, “actually Alex is done and apparently running away” Christen’s confusion apparent in her voice. A hand at her elbow leads her farther to the side.

“Kel, didn’t ask you, did she?” comes the bemused voice. Tobin is staring in the direction where Christen’s roommates have just disappeared. She must have seen Alex urgently ushering them from the building.

“I’m sorry what?”

Shaking her head, Tobin doesn’t immediately answer her. “I should have known better.” Shuffling her feet back and forth, Tobin looks uncomfortable. Christen is trying to put all the pieces together. The immediate though that comes to the front of her mind is where is Kelley? Christen is positive the missing pixie is somehow involved. Tobin said something about Kels asking her a question. Christen can only thinking about Kels interrogating her about her schedule.
“She asked me if I was free right now” Christen supplies absent mindedly.

Tobin subtly straitens, standing taller a smiling pulling at her mouth “But she didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?” annoyance leaking into her voice, Christen knew Kelley had been up to something. “She didn’t mention meeting you but she should be here by now” Christen scans the thinning crowd, fury starting to burn hot in her, she doesn’t understand what’s going on. She’s convinced Oceanography has robbed her of all cognitive processes. It doesn’t help that per usual things between her and Tobin are…complicated. They haven't really seen each other and Christen can’t decide if it’s because their schedules have been busy lately or if it's by design because that’s the way Tobin wants it. The latter thought so unsettling Christen won’t truly entertain it, except for the moments when her insecurities take over.

“I’m not here to meet her”

“Oh….okay….so” Christen pauses, realizing she and Tobin are the only two people still standing outside the building. “Me?... I don’t…”

Pointing to Christen’s phone, “I tried to text you earlier but you didn’t respond so I text Kelley and she said...”
Christen’s eyes briefly close in understanding “I had it on airplane mode, right” unlocking her phone, she turns airplane mode off. Twelve new message notifications come in. Her brain fully working now, “So that’s why she was asking all the questions about my schedule.” Glancing around, searching for the pixie,”
Nodding her head, “yeah, I was hoping we could get lunch if you don’t already have plans” 

Christen pauses before she finds herself echoing words similar to Tobin’s “so Kels didn’t tell you?”

“She only said that you had to work tonight” Christen can’t help but roll her eyes at this, Tobin is right she should have known better than to trust Kelley. The ever present troublemaker of course wouldn’t tell either one of them what was really going on, she would sure it was an awkward encounter. Scanning the area again, she wonders if Kelley is somewhere nearby watching, probably laughing her ass off.

“If you can’t, it’s no big deal, we…”

“No, I would love to. I’m free.”

“Are you sure, you looked, I don’t know…”
“No really, I would love to get dinner. It’s just…” at the worried look that passes across Tobin’s face Christen rushes to explain “Kels made sure I was free, I thought she would have told you.”

Shaking her head, Tobin ruefully laughs, “I need new friends” before breaking into a grin that would rival that of kid who just won the biggest prize “is there any place you want to go to in particular?”
Looking at her watch, “we can just go to Staler, it shouldn’t be too busy right now”

Frowning, biting her lip, “I borrowed Allie’s car, I thought we could go someplace downtown, you know away from campus.”
Startled Christen studies Tobin, fully taking in her appearance. Tobin doesn’t have her backpack nor is she wearing anything athletic. Christen tries to process everything, her equilibrium has been turned upside down the last couple of minutes. As many times as they’ve had lunch together they’ve never gone downtown, it’s either been on campus, the big house or her dorm. This is the first time Tobin’s ever mentioned going anywhere else. Christen’s heart skips a beat, a root of hope grows within her. If she didn’t know better, she would say they were going on a date. She watches as worry over comes Tobin, the lines on her forehead deepening, her jaw stiffening. She’s about to say something when Christen rushes to beat her “that would be great. I don’t care where we go.”

“Yeah !?!” The hope evident in Tobin’s voice “you sure, because we….”

“No, it will be great to get away and there’s amazing food downtown.”

“Okay, great. I’m parked back in the lot” Tobin points over Christen’s shoulder, somewhere behind the building. Then she does what she hasn't done in forever, her long fingers reach down, encasing Christen's within the safety of her hand, pulling gently as she leads them to the lot. 


 

 

The car ride downtown is quiet, the radio playing softly in the background.

Cause if I want you, then I want you, babe
Ain’t going backwards, won’t ask for space
Cause space was just a word made up by someone who’s afraid to get too…
Close

 

There’s an uneasiness to Tobin’s demeanor, increasing Christen’s anxiousness, it’s been a crazy afternoon. Christen doesn’t know what any of this means, so she sits quietly, taking the time to evaluate the situation. As usual things between them have been stagnant. Since her grandmother’s scare they text each other all the time but their conversations are pedestrian, cautious. It’s clear neither of them wants to cross the invisible line of civility that’s been constructed. Unfortunately, the pleasantries haven’t been conducive to the progression of their friendship. Christen is never certain of how to act around Tobin, tempering her instincts always waiting for some signal. The last thing she expected was Tobin asking her to dinner. But that’s where she finds herself, sitting in the passenger seat a bundle of nerves, a mixture of hope and doubt.

Tobin parks in front of the small Italian restaurant. Christen smiles excitedly she’s been dying to come here, everyone raves about the food. Her roommates came one night but she’d been stuck at the bar. Jules let her have the rest of her leftovers and it was delicious.

“Is this okay? The other day you said you’d never been…” turning slightly in her seat, Tobin expectantly watches Christen with tense eyes. Shaking her head, Christen works to steady her voice. Tobin’s thoughtfulness is only adding to Christen’s growing hope but she doesn’t want to get too excited. After all, Tobin’s proven she can be extremely nice and thoughtful, it might not be anything more than that. “It’s perfect.”

Tobin opens her door, rushing over to Christen’s side, opening the door with a grin “here” holding her hand out which Christen immediately takes. It’s early enough when they arrive that the restaurant isn’t busy. Tobin requests a table towards the back, in a secluded corner. Smiling bashfully at each other, Tobin’s nervous energy manifest itself in different ways, the most noticeable is the bouncing of her leg, accompanied by her constantly pushing errant strands of hair behind her ear.

Christen can’t keep the smile off her face, she finds Tobin’s jumpiness endearing. Under difference circumstances Tobin would simply be a girl nervous about her first date. Fastidiously Christen reminds herself that’s not the case here, things are never that simple between them.

“Get anything you want, they have a pretty decent selection, Lys said you…”

“Tobin…” glancing up, Tobin’s iris are slightly larger than normal “this is perfect, I love Italian food.” Nodding her head, Tobin licks her bottom lip before starting back down at the menu. Christen sees Tobin’s shoulders relax, tension visibly leaving her shoulders but her leg continues to bounce much to Christen’s amusement, she’s never seen Tobin this flustered before. Christen is a little relieved to know she’s not the only person affected by the moment. Christen easily picked out her dinner choice, she’s waiting on Tobin, whose eyes are glued to the menu, resolutely avoiding making eye contact. Unable to take the silence anymore, Christen blurts out “Oh, I have notes for last week if you need them.” It’s the least she can do. The day after returning from home, Alyssa handed her note for her psych class for the days she missed. They were handwritten notes, handwritten notes in Tobin’s less than elegant penmanship. Tobin, who always takes notes on her laptop, made time to write out her notes. It was one of the most precious things Christen has ever received. Lys laughed at her as she reverently tucked the papers into her note book. The significance not lost on Christen, it touched her heart in a way she wasn’t prepared for, in a way she wasn’t sure she liked. If she wasn’t careful, she’d fall for the girl with the fancy feet all over again, only this time it would break her.  

Pausing in her perusal of the menu, Tobin glances up confused, “notes?”

“Yeah, for psych. I know you missed last week, so…”

“Oh, I don’t need notes but thanks” Tobin says absently.

“But we have a prelim on Friday”

Staring at Christen Tobin’s frown deepens, “What? I don’t have a test on Friday”

“Yeah we do, the psych test” anxiously Christen tries to remember if any announcements were emailed out. She can’t think of one. “Did they move it? I don’t remember…” she stops her rambling at Tobin’s head shake.

“Oh, no, the test is still Friday.” Tobin answers nonchalantly, her eyes once again glued to the menu.

“Did you get notes from someone else?” Christen cringes hearing the hurt in her own voice, hoping Tobin didn’t notice. It’s silly but it hurts to know Tobin might have gone to someone else.

“No”
“Did you drop the class?” Christen can’t understand Tobin’s indifference. Tobin has never missed a test, not even when she was eligible for an extension, so her laidback attitude is baffling, unless of course like Christen suspects she’s not in the class anymore. Yes, Christen is aware that’s it about more than just the class or test. It would mean something if she dropped the class, the only class they had together and not in a good way.

Tobin rolls her bottom lip inward, biting just below it, her jaw clenching and unclenching before running a hand through her hair. Christen gets the distinct impression that Tobin is determining the best way to answer her question. Reluctantly, Tobin warily eyes meet Christen’s confused ones. Christen swears she sees embarrassment in her eyes.  

“Not exactly”
“Are you taking the test another day?”

“No”

“Did you get an extension?” It’s the only other reasonable explanation Christen can imagine.

“No” Tobin hesitantly answers fidgeting in her seat. It’s evident this isn’t a conversation she wants to have but Christen won’t drop it. She just wants to understand. If she’s learned anything over the last couple of months is that she and Tobin don’t communicate well. She’s determined to fix it, she wants them to be friends and communicating effectively is a necessary step.

“I don’t understand” Christen admits “if you didn’t drop the class and…”
“I wasn’t in the class” Tobin interrupts her

“Yeah you were, you sat next to me…remember” it’s clear Christen is missing a piece of the puzzle, it shouldn’t be this difficult to understand.

One corner of Tobin’s mouth twitches, “I was never enrolled in the class” she explains bashfully.

Processing Tobin’s words, Christen sits back, “never enrolled” it would account for all of her absences. What it doesn’t explain is the four weeks Tobin was in class. Sure, people shop around but staying more than a week is excessive. “You never enrolled in the class?"

Tobin shakes her head understanding Christen’s perplexity. Sighing, she reluctantly continues “I followed you.”

“You followed me?”
“I was in the building when I saw you enter the auditorium so I followed you, sitting in the seat next to you. I didn’t even know what class it was…” Tobin does her best to shrug off the information like it’s no big deal, avoiding the greater implication.

“So you only came to the class because of me?”
Nodding her head, Tobin regards her warily.

“The coffee and pastries?”

“Your cup was almost empty the first day. I know your addiction, so I figured you didn’t have time between your classes. I remembered when I was in Collegetown bagels, I know you like their coffee so I got you a cup and a snack. It just became a thing, I guess…” a sneaky smile appears on her face emerging from behind her discomfort “I'm still going to figure out your favorite.”

Christen furrows her brows opening her mouth to tell Tobin but instead a giggle sneaks out as Tobin throws her hands over her ears, singing out of tune "la la la la"

Holding her hands up in surrender, "fine I won't tell you.” Tobin slowly lowers her hands, quietly laughing with Christen. Christen should probably leave it alone but she ask another questions before she can stop herself “but the notes you gave me…”


“I didn't have to meet with the trainer that week and I knew it was important to you”

“Tobin…thank you so much, I don’t know what else to say”

“You don’t have to say anything. Look, I didn’t really have a plan, I just…” shrugging her shoulder again “it’s actually kind of the reason I wanted us to have dinner…”

The waitress comes at that moment, secretly grateful, Christen takes the time to gather herself. The knowledge that Tobin came to her class for four weeks straight just to be near her is overwhelming and unsettling at the same time. What if Tobin is content to just be near her, keep their friends at the distance it current is.

Christen automatically orders the penne alla vodka, her favorite. Tobin orders the chicken fettuccine alfredo. Two waters with lemons are deposited on the table. Tobin takes her time in squeezing the lemon into the glass, using her straw to mix the juice in. Christen sips her drink patiently waiting for Tobin to continue with her confession.

“I've wanted to talk to you for a while but I promised myself I wouldn't until I was in a better place. I didn’t want to keep dragging you down with me.”

“You weren’t dragging…” Tobin’s knowing look halts Christen’s words.

“I did…but I want to move past that. I’ve spent enough time focused on the past. I’m glad I took time for myself. There were things I had to work out on my own but I thought about you all the time. I’ve always known I wanted you in my life, only this time I wanted to make sure my feelings were for the right reasons, not just because…”
Tobin doesn’t finish her sentence but Christen knows exactly what she means, Tobin wanted to make sure she wasn’t simply reacting again, looking for a distraction. Tobin didn’t want a repeat of last time and Christen appreciates the fact that Tobin didn’t want to use her again. Christen wonders without Tobin needing the distraction if she’s still enticing.

“So sitting next to you was the best I could hope for at the time, I was still near you, I was still able to see for myself you were okay.”

“Tobs…”

“You’ve always been there for me, I needed to be someone who was also there for you, someone you could rely on. I wanted our friendship to be more even.” Tobin rushes to finish.

“Tobs…you’ve been there for me, more than you probably know. Just recently, you really helped me when my grandmother got sick…”

“And I’m so thankful for that. You coming to me when she got sick, it’s what helped me realize I was ready, that things are different this time.”

“Are they? Different this time?”
“Yeah, they are…” Tobin breaks into a grin and before Christen is even aware of it she has a matching grin on her face. The food arrives at that moment, Christen allows herself to take a deep steadying breath. The interruption couldn’t have come at a better time. She needs a break from their conversation. Something about Tobin’s tone sends warning bells to Christen’s brain. She doesn’t think it’s only friendship Tobin’s talking about. The thing is Christen spent the last month preparing herself to only ever be Tobin’s buddy. She’s denied herself any other options. Now with the possibility of more on the horizon, Christen feels fear running along her spine. It’s a familiar fear, one she hasn’t felt since last semester, the fear that she could lose herself loving the girl across from her. As if sensing Christen’s anxiety, Tobin navigates them to neutral topics, until dessert. Somewhere between forks filled with Tiramisu a mischievous grin breaks along Tobin’s face “So I've been dying to ask.” Christen looks at Tobin expectantly.

“Strip tease?”

Covering her eyes with her hang, Christen groans all aware of the heat creeping up her neck.

“So it really is true?” Tobin laughs “I didn’t believe Allie or Kels”

Shaking her head “I’m going to kill Lys”

“For someone who meditates, you have violent tendencies”

“Don’t forget it”

“So…you like actually danced and everything?” humor alight in her eyes

Christen cannot believe their having this conversation. “Tobs, seriously?”
“I don’t know I feel like I got shortchanged.”

“Tobin!!” Christen harshly whispers her name, her eyes wide in astonishment.

“What? I’ll never forget that night.”

“I can’t believe we’re talking about this…”

“It was the first time I realized you might be attracted to me also, I also learned you’re not that shy” pausing for a dramatic effect, Tobin leans in whispering “or that innocent.”

Blushing furiously, “You didn’t complain”

“No, it was awesome. Any chance for a repeat performance?”
Licking her bottom lip, Christen steadies her voice, “maybe, if you’re a good girl”

A slow sensuous smile breaks across Tobin’s face “I’ll do my best”

Christen works to keep her laughter at bay, Tobin’s right Christen isn’t that innocent but she never claimed to be. Christen tries to explain, “I was dared for the record and Lys is right, I rarely back down. But I have this side of me that just likes to do fun and wild things. I’m not careless or reckless…just free.” Christen stares at Tobin to see if she understands, her face doesn’t give anything away, she just stares back interestedly. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I get into moods where I just go after what I want, do what I want. I never hurt anyone. It’s the same side that loves rollercoaster and things that go fast.”

Tobin sits back, deep in thought as she considers Christen’s words. “I don't think I have a side like that. I like to have fun but I don't think I have that wildness or free-spiritedness”

“Yes, you do.” Captivated, Tobin stares at Christen as she explains, “when you're on the field. You have this energy. It's palpable. It's like you're more alive, there's a passion there. It's always there but you just express it on the field best, you have no doubts or inhibitions. It’s breathtaking to watch, you playing soccer is beautiful.” There’s a long moment of silence. For a moment Christen is afraid she’s said the wrong thing, revealed too much, more than Tobin wanted to know. Christen is about to apologize when Tobin surprises her by saying, “I think I get what you mean. This will sound weird but when I’m on the field with a ball at my feet, it’s like…I can feel my soul. Actually, honest-to-God feel it sort of burning inside me. I feel so alive.” There is a long moment of silence, “like I said, it would sound weird” embarrassment coloring Tobin’s voice.

“No, it makes perfect sense. Your faithful and your love of soccer are a part of you. The closest to that I’ve felt is when I meditating.” Christen admits.

“I’ve never told anyone that before” Tobin responds

“Me, either, it can be our secret”

 “Thanks.” Tobin smiles and in that moment, Christen feels something important pass between them. It’s not the first heavy discussion they’ve ever had but there’s something about this weighted exchange that she isn’t sure she wants to move out of. There’s openness, a newness to it that is welcoming. It feels comfortable and yet so very not at the exact same time.

“We should head out, you can get changed for work and I'll drop you off” Tobin says flagging the waitress down making the universal sign for check.

“You sure? Does Allie need the car?”

“Nah, she said I could have it for the rest of the night”

“Tobs are you sure? I don't want to inconvenience you”

“Are you trying to get rid of me already?”

“Get rid of you? I just got you”        

The smile she gets in return almost makes Christen reveal the secret of her heart, almost. But something stops her, an instinctual pulse tells her that it's too soon, they aren't ready, she’s not ready, she might never be ready to admit it either.


“Thanks again for dinner” Christen says turning on the light in her room.

“Again, my pleasure” Tobin responds, moving into the room, coming to a stop by Christen’s bed, leaning against it “I hope I didn’t overwhelm you”

“You didn’t” Sighing, Christen figure the least she can do is level with Tobin. “I was beginning to fear you were avoiding me that maybe” shrugging a shoulder “you didn’t want to be around me anymore, I was pleasantly surprised tonight, that’s all”

Catching her hand, Tobin rubs her thumb across the back of Christen’s hand “No, that wasn’t it. I’m sorry”

“Stop apologizing, tonight was great, thank you”

Tobin looks at Christen smiling a peaceful and content look on her face. In that moment Christen hopes she’s part of Tobin’s new found happiness, but she’s worried also. Christen is all too aware that Tobin’s never really seen her, not her as a person, never acknowledged all of her faults. Tobin has always had this idealistic notion of whom Christen is, it’s a burden of sorts. Tobin has put her on a pedestal and ultimately she’s never going to live up to that standard. Christen is terrified that one day, Tobin will realize the real Christen isn’t who she wants.

Moving around her room, Christen subtly tries to straighten it up, she wasn’t expecting to have company. Christen senses Tobin’s eyes following her every movement. Unable to ignore the scrutiny anymore, Christen turns her head, smirking at Tobin “What are you smiling at?”

Tobin shakes her head, reaching for Christen, she brings her closer, encircling her waist, “I really did miss you. I’m just glad I’m spending time with you again. I really like you Christen”

Christen stares back in bewilderment. She doesn’t think she’s ever seen anything more beautiful than Tobin right now. Her eyes are sparking and her happiness is wonderful to view. In that moment, Christen feels herself slipping down the rabbit hole, she always wants Tobin to be this happy, knows she’ll do almost anything to keep her smiling.

“Sorry, I didn't mean…”

Christen pushes a strand of Tobin’s hair over her shoulder, her hand skims along Tobin's collar bone grazing up her neck. She briefly kisses her unable to stop herself, “you aren't, stop worrying”

Grinning Tobin leans in to steal another chaste kiss. Christen weaves her hand into Tobin's hair, she's about to deepen the kiss when she hears coughing behind her.

Standing in the doorway is a miserable looking Alex. Her eyes are watery, her noise is slightly red and she's sniffling. Christen groans internally. Alex is sick which means Christen will be on nursing duties.

“How ya feeling? Getting sick?”

Alex is in the process of shaking her head when a sneeze interrupts her, Alex bring the tissue in her left hand to her noise, she whimpers “too much studying, not enough sleep”

“Is it a cold or do you think it’s something more?” Christen ask

“Just a cold”

“Oh, right. Allie gave me tea to give you I forgot it in the car” Tobin says her voice sympathetic. Hugging Christen, Tobin places a kiss to her forehead before moving around her. “I'll go get it, I’ll be right back”

“Thanks Tobs” Alex moves into the room allowing her to pass.

“Take my keys, they are on the dining room table” Christen yells after her.

Alex and Christen enter into a staring contest. Christen knows Alex is dying to say something but debating the merits. Another sneeze forces Alex to look away, rendering Christen the victor for a small period of time.

“Can I ask a personal question” Alex’s voice raspier than normal. Christen debates saying no but she knows it will be useless. Instead she asks a question of her own “have you taken anything yet?” Shaking her head, Alex meaningfully stares at Christen, she’s not letting her off the hook that easily.

“Go lay down, I’ll bring you something and I’ll answer your questions, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks C”

“I’ll be there in a minute”

Entering Alex’s room, Christen hands her a glass of juice and two cold pills. Alex takes the pills and sits on her bed next to box of tissues Christen placed there. Leaning against the end of her bed, Christen regards Alex cautiously.

“What’s up Al?”

“Don’t get mad at me,” she pleads “I’ve been working really hard to stay out of whatever is between you and Tobin, and you know how hard that is for me...but…you’re two of my closest friends, I care about you guys.”

“I know Al, so does Tobin”

“It was really hard seeing you guys so unhappy. I don’t know exactly what happened and I don’t need to know …things were bad, I know you both hurt each other”

Frowning, Christen interrupts her “I never hurt Tobin”

Alex pauses for a moment, “Not intentionally, no” Alex sees the defensive scowl and rushes to say “I know, I know you were hurt a lot more by her but…I overheard you two tonight, I didn’t mean to, I promise but… I just wonder, Chris have you ever told her how you really feel about her? Have you ever told her you like her?” Alex’s gentle eyes temper the sting of her words.

Christen immediate reaction is to respond “of course,” on the verge of a defensive rant when she stops, really considering Alex’s questions. Has she actually ever told Tobin she likes her? That she always wanted more than friendship from her?” No, no she hasn’t. She’s begrudgingly admitted it when confronted by others but no, she’s never had the courage to tell Tobin herself. She hoped, assumed her actions spoke for her, that they showed the depth of her feelings.

The silence is all the confirmation Alex needs. “You might want to consider telling her, she needs more reassurance than you’d think.”

“I’d never really thought about it before, I just assumed she knew like everyone else”

“No, I think she was too afraid to believe you did, you never admitting it gave her doubts. She convinced herself you didn’t want her at least not like that”

“Yea, in hindsight I can see how that might have happened, it wasn’t my intentions”

“I know, but I think it’s partly why Tobs went back to…” Alex doesn’t need to finish her sentence Christen knows exactly whom she’s referring to. “but even then she couldn’t stay away from you. I don't know everything, I don’t want you to tell me and it's not about blame so please don’t get angry at me it’s just…you two were so afraid of the same thing, you never saw what was right in front of you. I don’t want that to happen again”

Taking a deep breath, Alex pauses to blow her noise but she’s trying to gage Christen’s reaction. Alex is aware that Christen isn’t fond of talking about personal matters. They both hear the front door open at the same time. Yelling out, “Tobin?” Christen moves towards the door way.
“Yeah, I’m going to make her the tea”

Christen looks over her shoulder at Alex, who nods. “Okay, make sure you use the pink mug”

“Seriously?” Tobin’s laughter tumbles up the steps.

“Yep, you have to use it when she’s not feeling well”

“Yeah, Tobs” Alex tries to yell but it barely makes it past Christen.

“Chris…” Alex says in a hushed whisper
“I’m not angry Al, I promise.” Christen moves back to her previous spot, mostly so she can hear Alex, her voice is fading fast. “I worry about you too. You don’t trust easily, you have this wall around you all the time.” Alex gives her a small smile “you don’t even realize it, but you do” Christen is startled, she knows exactly what Alex is talking about, she does try to keep a small barrier between her and others, it’s her own form of self protection. 

“You only let in certain people. It use to drive me crazy. I tried not to take it personally and I don’t now.” Alex says to comfort Christen. “But I was jealous of your friendship with Tobin. It was effortless for the two of you. You just opened up to each other, at least in ways you never did with me.  Your defenses were always lowered around each other, maybe that’s why you hurt each other because you let each other in more than anyone else.

Anyway, that’s not the point. I love you, you mean the world to me, but so does Tobs and well, just remember actions and words are important to her. I know you wouldn’t think so but she’s learned not to trust singular acts or words. That bitch really did a number on her, so I know you think she should know you love her but Tobin doesn’t trust her own judgment half the time. Everyone once in a while, she needs someone else to say what she thinks is right or true. So maybe tell her that you like her. I know she comes across as confident but she has deep rooted insecurities, deeper than maybe even I realize. I think she's afraid she’s going to end up in the same situation as before.”

Christen closes her eyes briefly, she should have realized that Tobin’s learned to not trust actions. Tobin’s learned the hard way that extreme attentiveness, loving actions, and caring words aren’t always true.  Christen knows firsthand that actions can be misleading, knows how it feels to be on the outside, the coldness that comes from the distance created by the absence of words. “Oh” Christen whispers out loud, "she said she wanted to move forward, not focus on the past"

"And she does, but we both know that's easier said than done"

Christen licks her bottom lip, she's off kilter, Christen never considered her inability to express her feelings hurt Tobin, never considered the fact that Tobin was looking for her own reassurance. Christen had always assumed she was transparent, easy to read like an open book.

Mournfully she glazes up at Alex, “I don’t know if I can…”
“Do you like her?”
“Yes”

“As a friend”
“Yes”

“As more than a friend”
“Yeah”

“See you can. She’s already told you, she likes you. There’s no vulnerability there.”

“Al, I don’t…”
“It’s just something to think about C, don’t panic. I just…I think it will be important later on”

“I don’t want to hurt her”

“Then you won’t”

“Al…”

“You won’t, I have faith in you”
A yell from down below startles both girls, “I don’t see the pink mug”
“Coming” Christen yells

“I love you C, you’ll be okay?” it’s moments like this that Christen truly appreciates what an amazing friend Alex is and why all of her over meddling and overbearingness is worth it in the end.
“Do you want soup? I can make you some before I head to work”

“Do you have time?”
“Yeah, no prob, lie down, I’ll send Tobs up with the tea”

“Thanks so much”

Standing in the doorway of the kitchen, Christen watches Tobin searching the cabinet for the pink mug. Christen moves to stand behind her, gently not wanting to startle Tobin, she wraps her arms around  Tobin’s middle, laying her head between her shoulder blades, Christen squeezes her gently. Tobin places a hand over Christen’s interlocked ones, “everything okay?”


“Yeah” Christen leans back a little giving herself enough room to place a kiss to Tobin’s back. She opens her mouth, but the words never leave. She wants to tell Tobin, she really does, she wants to admit she likes her but she can’t. She can’t explain it, not even to herself, but it not just fear that’s stopping her. It’s an all-encompassing feeling, a looming sense of doom. She’s not sure why but Christen knows that if she utters the words things will change and she just can’t convince herself it will be for the best.

“Chris…”
“The mug isn’t in there.” Christen moves to the other cabinet waiting for the sense of foreboding to pass.  

 

Chapter Text

If I had it my way, I would take the lead
And if I had it my way, I would take you deep
If my body had a say, I’d get it off my chest

My mind is getting in the way
Can’t feel what my body say
I’mma tell you anyway


 

Slouched over her book, sighing in distress, Christen pushes the book away. She can’t find the information she needs for her essay. She should have started sooner but she didn't have the time. Scanning another book, she's so preoccupied with her search for the perfect quote she doesn't sense the figure walking up behind her.

"Hey” the gentle greeting brings a smile to her face. “You look like you could use a break," Christen sighs as the voice of her favorite person washes over her. Instinctually Christen leans her head against the toned stomach of the girl standing behind her.

“Definitely” Christen groans out pulling herself upright, rolling her shoulders, raising her hands above her head stretching her back and rib cage. “I should make a coffee run, look for a snack, do ten jumping jacks or something.”

Chuckling softly, “it’s going that good, huh?”  long slender fingers appear depositing a coffee cup directly in front of her. Whimpering, Christen reaches for the caffeinated nectar “you’re an angel.” A hand brushes her hair aside, applying gentle rhythmic palpitations along the tight muscles in her neck. Dropping her head forward, Christen can’t prevent the moan of ecstasy that escapes from the tender ministrations. Soft chuckles the only other sound. With one longer squeeze the hand retreats, leaning her head back again Christen says “I’m going to walk and stretch for a bit, want to come?”

Warm breath caresses her cheek, a husky voice whispers in her ear “I was thinking of a different kind of break.”

Turning around, Christen stares into warm eyes, darkening with a mixture of questions and promises.  Eyebrows raised Christen wonders if she heard the insinuation properly. Christen is honestly just too tired to comprehend anything at this point “Yeah?”
The lean form gracefully moves to the other side of the table, placing her backpack down on the floor, she slowly takes her laptop out setting it softly on the table in front of her, opening the lid. Lounging back confidently, a smirk pulling at the corners of her mouth “Yeah, come here for a sec”
Christen searches the face of the girl across from her, taking in her hazy gaze, the smug smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. Christen highly doubts anything on her laptop will help her finish this paper but the longer she stares, the more confident the grin gets, the more Christen’s curiosity grows.

With a roll of her eyes Christen gives in, standing up she slowly walks towards the figure. Rounding the table Christen watches Tobin pushes her chair further away, parting her legs slightly. When she’s close enough Tobin’s hand grips her wrist, navigating Christen down onto her lap.

Startled, Christen looks expectantly at the grinning girl. Not that Christen minds being on Tobin's lap, actually she loves it, it’s one of her favorite places. Christen doesn't want to get too comfortable, she still has work to do. Securing Christen with an arm around her waist, Tobin leans back more, slouching further into the chair, lazily gazing up through her long eye lashes. There’s something about Tobin’s demeanor that causes Christen’s pulse to quicken, she can feel a need growing within her, a stirring deep in her core. She hopes her growing arousal isn’t as apparent as it feels.

“Relax for a little bit” Tobin says, running her fingers up and down Christen’s back. Christen willingly gives in, burying her head in the nook of Tobin's neck. Tobin’s finger’s work the small knots along her shoulder blades. Christen inhales deeply, reveling in the unique smell that is Tobin. It's an amazing scent, clean and crisp, a wonderful combination of masculinity and femininity. Tobin’s hand starts to wander around her back, raising higher and roaming lower, which only heightens the growing desire in the pit of Christen’s stomach. Sitting up, twisting, a question on the tip of her tongue that immediately fades as Christen’s gaze is immediately drawn to Tobin's mouth. Christen watches as her smile grows into a knowing smirk.

Finally, tearing her eyes away she looks up into whiskey brown eyes darkening with passion. Tobin’s gaze flicks down to Christen’s mouth and back up to her eyes before she closes the small space between them, gently kissing her.

Christen sighs against the soft lips. After a few seconds, Christen’s mouth becomes firmer, more demanding as she kisses her back. When they finally pull apart, they’re both noticeably breathing harder. Christen has no concept of time, no idea how long the kiss lasted. She wonders if she’ll ever get tired of kissing her.

“I’ve been wanting to do that all day” Tobin admits running her hands up and down Christen’s sides, every once in a while her hands graze against the contour of Christen’s breasts. Each time, the brushes become stronger, longer, until she basically covering them. Christen closes her eyes, pressing her lips together, locking a groan in, her nipples are hard and tingly. Smirking, well aware of the effect she’s having, Tobin leans in again for a kiss, slowly savoring the moment, relishing her exploration of Christen's mouth before ending it with a kiss to the corner of her mouth, leaning back, her eyes heavy with desire.

Staring, Christen works to steady her breathing. She’s aware they’re in the library but if Tobin keeps looking at her like that she’s won’t be responsible for her own actions. As if reading Christen’s thoughts, Tobin pushes the laptop back on the table, “here” encircling Christen’s waist Tobin lifts her off her lap. Vaguely understanding Christen helps her, until she’s sitting on the edge of the table, facing forward her legs straddling Tobin’s. Tobin’s eyes are heavy lidded and infuriatingly sexy grin on her face. Christen’s pulse is thrumming through her body, wetness damping her underpants. In the recess of her mind, she worries about leaving a wet spot on the table but she’s not really concerned about it because nothing matters but the girl sitting in front of her.

Tobin, gently takes her left hand, sliding it up Christen’s leg, over her calf, up until she reaches her thigh and then back down again. “How’s the paper?” running a path up and down Christen’s leg, taking time to knead her calf muscles. Tobin’s eyes are glued to Christen’s, gauging her reaction. Christen’s not sure if its delirium or the fact that her body has never been more alive so she wouldn’t ask Tobin to stop, can’t. “What paper?”

Embolden, Tobin runs her fingertips up and down, slowly working her way to Christen’s inner thighs. With each pass Tobin’s hand creeps higher and higher. The sensation is incredible. Christen stares down at Tobin, desperately working to keep her breathing steady, she doesn’t want to give in to Tobin just yet. Placing her palm down on the table Christen prevents herself from moving forward, from forcing Tobin’s fingers where she desperately wants them. Christen wants to see how far Tobin is willing to go.

Smirking, Tobin’s fingertips skate farther up over the tops of Christen’s thighs until she meets the cotton at Christen’s hips. Brushing her knuckles back and forth against her pelvis, briefly slipping inside the cotton, briefly making skin to skin contact. The unexpected contact causes Christen to gasp otherwise she stays perfectly still. Tobin resumes the path of her finger, running it along Christen’s covered slit, her fingers become damp as Christen arousal soaks through her panties. Tobin continues to lazily run the tip of her finger up and down, every once in a while pausing to circle around Christen’s clit. This time Tobin applies extra pressure, causing Christen’s hips to involuntarily jerk. Christen watches as something avaricious pass through Tobin’s eyes, swallowing hard, “open your legs” comes the rough command.

Christen’s body immediately obeys, her thighs parting, giving Tobin more room. Licking her bottom lip, Tobin’s starts the process over again with her right hand, slowly messaging Christen’s calf muscles, her fingertips grazing up until it’s resting on Christen’s thigh. She managed to keep eye contact the whole time, her eyes molten pools of chocolate and desire, as one hand runs up and down her inner thigh, the other grazes her fingertips across Christen’s abdomen, occasionally dipping lower. Christen’s now positive she’s leaving a wet spot on the table.

Smiling devilishly, Tobin scoots her chair closer to the edge of the table whispering “move closer to the edge” the huskiness of her voice makes Christen shudder, as desire runs through her body like a bolt of electricity.

Scooting forward Christen remembers they’re in the library but they’re in the basement, in the stacks, no one else is here. At least that’s what she tells herself before returning her undivided attention to the girl in front of her. Christen’s awareness of their surroundings is nothing compared to how much she wants Tobin. Breaking from her haze Christen realizes Tobin has slowly removed her shoes. “Rest your feet on my legs”

Chewing on her bottom lip Christen hesitantly follows her instructions. Doing so lifts her knees higher and pushing her legs even farther apart. She has mixed feelings of being exposed and of being audacious. Christen doesn’t think she’s ever wanted someone’s touch as much as she does right now. Never ever wanted anything in her life more than this.

Tobin slowly, carefully slides her skirt up, leaning in. Christen stills, holding her breath. Tobin glances up, concern in her eyes. Christen nods her head imperceptibly, licking her bottom lip. Returns her attention to Christen’s open thighs, Tobin’s hands work their way to Christen’s ass, gently massaging the muscles, bring her a little closer until Christen is half off the edge of the table. Tobin leans in slowly trailing a path of kisses up Christen’s leg, until she's at her core. Reversing her moments, she slides her tongue back down towards Christen's knee, gently biting along the way. Tobin switches legs, biting and kissing her way along Christen’s inner thigh, pausing her face inches from where Christen wants it most. Running her nose against her core, Tobin inhales deeply groaning at Christen’s intoxicating smell. Tobin presses her tongue gently against Christen’s covered bundle of nerves. Shuddering again, Christen’s hands grasp the edge of the table as air soundlessly spills out of her lungs.

Tobin starts a slow rhythm with her tongue, even strokes from the tip of her clit to the growing wet spot on her panties. She languid strokes for a minute, before circling her tongue around her tip, pressing harder, letting up, pressing harder. The feeling of her tongue pressing the cotton into Christen's most sensitive spot is a new sensation, one that is slowing driving Christen crazy.

Pulling back, she works a hand forward, slowing pulling the fabric aside, as her other hand gentle lifts her ass of the table, allowing the fabric to be moved “I want to taste you” At her words Christen’s eyes slam shut, lips sealed together stifling a moan.

Tobin starts her stokes again this time continuing until she reaches Christen’s dripping wet opening. Tobin sighs in appreciation as she tastes her. Her hands have worked their way back to Christen’s ass, her grip tighten as her tongue dips into her core, pushing into her. Christen hips slowly undulate against her mouth, unable to stop. Christen’s movement find a rhythm, when Tobin shifts her tongue, slowly circling around her clit again, never touching the tip, swirls around and around, working Christen into a frenzy. Christen prays she’s not moaning out loud but she’s so far gone, she’s not sure. Tobin shifts her focus again, flicking her tongue back and forth right over her most sensitive spot. Christen releases her death grip on the table, bringing a fist to her mouth, biting, as her hips are no longer thrusting but moving to a frantic beat. It’s a frenetic race to the edge, she can feel her orgasm building within until it crashes over her causing her to bit down hard on her fist leaving teeth marks.

Tobin stands up, her eyes burning, her mouth shinny with Christen's desire. Uncramping her other hand, Christen grasps the back of her neck, bringing her in for a hungry kiss, moaning the rest of her orgasm into Tobin’s waiting mouth. Slipping her tongue into Christen’s mouth, shuddering as Christen jolts from tasting herself. Briefly pulling back, Tobin rests her head against Christen’s, staring into her eyes, as her fingers are instantly where her tongue just was. She avoids Christen’s over stimulated clit but slides her fingers up and down either side of her opening. Christen can still feel her muscles clenching but she needs Tobin inside of her, now. Forcing her eyes open, she looks into Tobin’s questioning eyes. Nodding, Christen manages to get out “yes.”

Tobin’s smile before Christen shuts her eyes again, as one finger slides into her. The finger slowly pumps in her one, twice, instantly it’s drenched. Tobin pulls out. Christen's eyes spring open, she’s about to protest when she feels two enter her. Her head falls to Tobin’s shoulder, her breathing ragged. Tobin feels incredible. Her muscles clench around her, trying to pull her in deeper.

Her movements are slow and smooth, working to make Christen want to come again. Christen wants to speed her hips up, fuck her fingers but she keeps Tobin’s pace, enjoying the slow burn, a fire slowly building within her. Lifting her head up, Christen’s hand clutches Tobin’s muscled bicep. Tobin is starting at her, a look of intense concentration on her face. There’s satisfaction too, a smugness, like nothing please her more than having this effect on Christen.

“More, please” Christen whispers.

A slow smile appears at Christen’s request. It’s self-satisfied and so sexy. On her next thrust, she adds a third finger. Stifling a groan, Christen bites down hard on Tobin’s shoulder, causing the other girl to involuntarily jerk, forcing her fingers impossible deep. Christen opens her legs further, wrapping her legs around the backs of Tobin’s hamstrings. Tobin takes her free hand, grabbing an ass cheek holding her still while thrusting into her again and again, deeper with each thrust.

Her fingers start to move in earnest now. Pushing her fingers in so deep, Christen can feel the pressure of her knuckles against her pelvic bone. Christen rocks back and forth against her, trying to match her speed, desperate to come and desperate not to.

Rotating her hand slightly, she brushes her thumb against her most sensitive spot while simultaneously circling her fingers.

Christen loses all rational thought. All she knows is no one has ever touched her like this before. Each thrust is expertly paired with an upward stroke. It’s exquisite. Somewhere in the background she hears a beeping sound. She doesn’t care what it is, nothing could make her pull away now.

A pressure that has been building within her starts to erupt. The quivering in her core pulses outward. Every nerve ending in her body sparks alive. The beeping sound, becomes louder, pulling at Christen’s subconscious, as she twists.

And at once Christen is aware of two things. Her alarm is going off as a moan escapes her lips. Pleasure raced along her spine like flash fire exploding as she bites down on her pill, her hips jerking off the bed. Her fingers frantic movements slow, gently bring her down. Christen hides her face in her pillow, grateful that Julie wasn’t in the room. Christen has never had such a vivid dream before. Her body tingles as if she had truly been touched by another. Rolling over onto her back, eyes closed, breathing hard, Christen has no idea how she’s going to be able to face Tobin today.


 

It’s early afternoon, normally Christen would be meeting some of the girls for lunch but amazingly enough her morning class was canceled giving her a free day. Tobin suggested they hang out by themselves and Christen had readily agreed. That was before the dream. Now she’s laying on her bed unnecessarily on edge, a fact that is not lost on Tobin. Tobin has sent Christen a couple of concerned glances but otherwise she’s hasn’t mentioned Christen’s peculiar behavior. So Christen is staring at the ceiling because it’s better than the alternative. The hue that colors her cheeks whenever her eyes stray to ardently roam over the girl currently sitting at her desk. Christen’s discomposure is both annoying and nonsensical. She had a dream, she should be able to function rationally around Tobin but she can’t.

“Christen”

“Huh?”
“Are you okay?”

“Yea, I’m sorry what…” Rolling over Christen ignores the look Tobin gives her. Wishing she wasn’t so distracted, knowing it’s glaringly apparent since she’s never like this around Tobin. Mentally berating herself Christen order’s herself to focus. Tobin studies her intently choosing to remain silent rotating the laptop so Christen can see “What do you think of this one?”

Glancing over Tobin’s shoulder “It’s nice, why are you getting a new one?”
Shrugging, “The bed frame is technically Carli’s and she’s taking it with her when she graduates, so…” 

Other than the fact that Carli is one of the seniors moving out of Lys and Tobin’s side of the house, Christen isn’t familiar with her. Glancing back at the screen “you don’t want another platform bed?”
“I don’t know, I was thinking about getting something different”
Making a noncommittal sound Christen rolls over onto her back. The combination of Tobin and beds is the last thing Christen needs to think about. Instead she focuses on the rest of her week. Classes are almost over and luckily Christen only has three finals this semester. She should have plenty of time to pack her room up. Christen makes a mental note to confirm with Adam that he is helping her move. Lys said she can store some of her stuff in the attic until they’re able to move everything around. Most of the seniors are leaving right away which helps. The warm touch of fingers against her arms causes Christen to jump.

“You’re sure everything is okay?”
Lazily Christen rolls her head over, eyebrows furrowed, “Yeah, why?”
“I was calling your name. You’ve been distracted, extra quiet, I don't know…something seems wrong.” Christen feels wretched, she hates the alarm in Tobin’s eyes, mostly because it’s all her fault, all because she can’t act like an adult. She can’t even contemplate how to describe the way she feels, can’t think of words to explain any of this to Tobin.   

“No, I’m fine. I’m sorry.”

“Okay” disbelief apparent in Tobin’s tone.

Lying on her side, Christen faces Tobin, trying to ease some of the growing tension, Christen asks “when are you moving?”

Shrugging, “Sometime after the seniors leave. Alyssa is waiting for the room on the second floor, when Carli moves out, I’ll help Alyssa move to the second floor and then bring my stuff to the attic. Are you leaving stuff at the house?”
“I was going to leave some stuff in Lys’s room”

“Just leave it in mine, it’s going to be yours anyway”

“You sure?” it’s a decidedly better plan than moving her stuff all over the house, “you know I have a lot of stuff”

“I hadn’t noticed” as she scans the room, a sarcastic smirk on her face.

Reaching out, Christen runs her fingertips through the ends of Tobin’s silky strands, moving enough hair so she can press a kiss to Tobin’s neck, “thanks.” Moving back, balancing her head on her hand “Besides a bed, what else do you need?
“Nothing. I am taking the desk and dresser from the basement…”

“Right, I’m the one who has to get all new furniture” Christen grumbles as if she’s truly annoyed only her smile gives her away. Tobin’s lips graze the skin on Christen’s cheek, “yeah, sorry.”

“It’s fine, I’m actually kind of excited. My parents are taking me to IKEA.”

“When?”
“I don’t know, sometime before I start working. Are you staying for senior week?”
“No, I’m going home but I’ll be back for graduation. You’re staying right?”
“Only for senior week I won’t be here for graduation”

“Are you here for reunion week?”
“No”
“But you’re still here for the summer, right?”
“Yes, Tobin.” chuckling, it’s only the hundredth time she’s asked this question. “I haven’t changed my plans. The professor I’m working for emailed me saying that I don’t have to be here until the second week of June, so I’ll come back a couple of days before to get settled in.”

“Wait, you’re going to be gone that long?” Tobin’s voice is a mixture of anxiety and sadness. It’s the anxiety that bothers Christen. Alex’s warning is still fresh in her mind. Maybe because of that, Christen is hyper aware of when Tobin seems worried or uncertain. With each passing day a dread grows within Christen because she wonders if there is a limit, if there is some invisible point in time when Tobin will give up, decided she’s not worth it. The worst part is, if Tobin does, she’ll have no one else to blame but herself, all because she was too afraid to express her feelings. Christen’s never really considered herself a coward but her flight instincts are starting to take over.

“It’s only two weeks Tobs, we’ll be back before you know it”

“Are you quoting me?”
“You? Couldn’t be? You give sage advice?” Rolling her eyes, Tobin turns back to the laptop, quickly clicking through pictures of different beds. Christen’s ninety-nine percent sure Tobin’s just going leave her box spring and mattress on the floor. Christen’s just grateful she won’t be alone this summer. Tobin will be around for most of the summer. She and Kelley are working at the sports camp thrown by the Athletic department, and Lys is coming back to work the second session.

“When does camp start?”

 “Right after reunion so I’ll only be home for about a week.”

“So we’ll be back around the same time”
“Sounds like it”

“That’s a thing good?” Christen questions there’s still something off about Tobin’s tone.

“It is. I’m glad you’re here this summer, it would suck otherwise.” Leaning in Tobin places a light kiss to Christen’s lips, her eye lashes fluttering against her skin like butterfly's wings. It’s a sweet and simple gesture, and quickly becoming Christen’s favorite type of kisses.

Smiling Christen gazes at Tobin, who looks comfortable, even at home sitting at her desk. The spark that flickers deep within her, reminds Christen why staring at the ceiling is safer. There’s something about Tobin sitting at her desk, her long slender fingers flying across her keyboard that shortens Christen’s breath. She’s easily sidetracked by the sight in front of her, wetness growing between her legs. Visceral memories come forth, her skin tingles as if being touched. Her face aflame Christen turns away, inhaling deeply, calming herself. It’s not like she’s never thought of Tobin in a sexual manner but there’s something now where everything just feels more heightened.

To distracted herself, Christen examines her collection of pictures. One thing about next year, she’ll have more wall space to work with. She already had to add another row of pictures after Tobin kept pouting, saying her wall was incomplete without a picture of her.

Christen surprised her by rearranging all the pictures in a semi chronological order adding a few of her favorite pictures of Tobin. The smile she got when Tobin realized it was amazing. Making Tobin smile is quickly becoming one of Christen’s favorite hobbies.

Although Tobin did protest her absolute favorite picture, it’s a frowning Tobin sitting at a dining table with a halo of blue glitter on her head. Alex busted out laughing when she saw it, much to Tobin’s annoyance, who kept muttering something about it being on purpose. Her next favorite picture is of Tobin and Alex asleep in the library. Christen wasn’t with them that day. Julie had texted her the picture the message read “they’re lost without you.” It’s an innocent picture, they look adorable and even then Christen can’t stop herself from recounting parts of her dream. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to go to the library with Tobin again.  Preoccupied Christen doesn’t register that the click clacking sounds of the keyboard have subsided. She’s completely oblivious to the bed dipping under Tobin’s weight.

“Chris? You’re not listening are you?” Christen stares back guiltily, she hadn’t even registered Tobin’s voice, she was so lost in her thoughts. There’s no way she can pretend otherwise. “I’m sorry what did you say?”

“Want to tell me what’s wrong?”
Softly smiling, Christen shakes her head “nothing”
“Come on Chris, you’re completely out of it”

“I didn’t sleep well, that’s all”

There’s a pregnant pause Tobin’s eyes doubtful, she’s on the borderline of distrust. “It’s more than that”
“Tobin, it’s nothing, I promise”

“Did I do something?”

“What !?! No!!” Tobin’s mouth pulls, it’s not exactly a frown but she’s not happy. Tobin heard the shock in Christen’s voice but she’s like a dog with a bone, she won’t give up.

“Something is wrong”

Groaning Christen expels her growing frustration fueled by her embarrassment. Frustrated that Tobin won't leave it alone and embarrassed because she doesn’t want to have to explain this. Grabbing her pillow Christen cover her face. She’s aware that she only making matters worse. Pulling at the pillow, Tobin pleads with her "Chris, please talk to me. Did I do something?"

With a death grip on the pillow Christen shakes her head, no.

The pulling stops followed by a deep exasperated sigh, “Please talk to me”

“Tobs, please it’s nothing”

“Then why can’t you tell me?”
Christen is silent, she has no plausible excuse, only other than she’s embarrassed and a coward and she’s doesn’t want to admit that.

“Okay, if you can't talk to me I'm going to go.” This time Christen is aware of the bed spring popping up when Tobin stands.

Panicked Christen removes the pillow sitting up grasping for Tobin’s arm, desperate to keep her near. "No please don't go"

The mistrust in Tobin’s gaze causes Christen heart to constrict. She’s handling this all wrong, the last thing she wants is Tobin hurt or doubting her.

"What's wrong. I feel like I did something wrong” Christen closes her eyes in self-loathing, despises the fact that she’s caused any self-doubt within this beautiful girl standing in front of her. It’s not Tobin’s fault that her dream was so vivid, felt so real. Shaking her head earnestly, “You didn't do anything I promise. Can we please just forget it, it's embarrassing”

Taking a step away, Tobin gently but firmly pulls her hand from Christen’s grasp, crossing her arms across her chest, "did something happen I don't know about?"

Christen realizes she’d be the worst poker player ever, she can’t bluff for the life of her. Tobin doesn’t believe her and with good reason. Christen worries about what Tobin must be thinking, the scenarios she’s creating in her mind. She needs to clarify the situation before this get more out of hand before Tobin’s imagination runs wild. Unfortunately, she’s sure Tobin’s been in a similar position once before, where the cause wasn’t a simple dream. Despite her disconcertion Christen’s only priority is to assuage Tobin’s fears.

Flopping back on the bed, holding her pillow to her chest, she slowly pronounces her words “I…had…a…dream"

There’s silence, Christen can’t see her but senses Tobin moving closer "You had a nightmare?" she asks clearly perplexed.

A bubble of hysterical laughter breaks through Christen’s lips. Whatever she experienced it definitely wasn't a nightmare, not even close.

"Christen," Tobin does her best to sound stern.

Christen allows Tobin to push her over towards the wall, perching along her side. Unable to meet Tobin’s gaze Christen continues stumbling over words, barely able to get them out “...we...were...in the library...and…" closing her eyes, trying to find the appropriate way to explain.

"The library? You had a dream about finals?” A nervous bubble of laughter is Christen’s only response.

“Chris I don't understand" frustration apparent in her tone. Head still turned away Christen flushes darkly, once again forcing herself to continue "you were touching me, it felt real" she finishes, incapable of uttering another syllable.

The ensuing quiet is awkward, Christen’s tries to roll over to hide her mortification but she stopped by an arm wrapping around her waist. Climbing over her, Tobin traps her, placing a hand on either side of Christen’s shoulders.

"So you had a dream" Tobin drawls out leisurely as if Christen had told her the sky was blue. Christen doesn’t miss the undercurrent of amusement Tobin’s trying to hide, "about us in the library ..."  

Towering over Christen on all fours, Tobin patiently waits for Christen to admit what she already knows to be true. Since Tobin determined to torment her Christen figures she might as well go out in a blaze of glory. Biting her lip, gathering her resolve, Christen meets Tobin’s amused eyes. "About you fucking me in the library. Happy?" The strangled noise that escapes Tobin, her eyes wide with shock is gratifying, bring immense pleasure to Christen.

Tobin opens and closes her mouth, clearing her throat before huskily asking "You had a dream about us being” pausing she searches for the appropriate word "intimate?" Christen swears Tobin sounds breathy but she’s not sure because she’s resumed her previous staring contest with the wall. Spoiler alert, the wall always wins.

Shaking her head in the affirmative, Christen reaches for her pillow, sliding it up to cover her face. She attempts to roll over but her path is blocked by Tobin who is using her body as a barricade. "Hey" her tone coaxing, pulling at the pillow, "hey, look at me please?"

Instead, Christen burrows further into her bed, shielding her face as best she can. She can't believe they're having this conversation.

"Is this something that could actually..."

“Tobin!” Christen cries out trying to dislodge Tobin from above her. Regrettably, Christen’s upper body strength is no match for Tobin's. She’ll have to add weight lighting to her gym routine. Amidst the pitiful struggle, the pillow slid to the side, causing Christen's outraged eyes to meet mirth filled ones. "There go my green eyes, they were hiding."

Slowly lowering herself Tobin pins Christen to the bed with her weight, supporting herself on her forearm a hand holding Christen's face steady. "You know there's nothing to be embarrassed about"

Christen's only response is a dubious grunt. Smirking Tobin leans down whispering, "it's a good thing, you being attracted to me.”

Grumbling, Christen sarcastically denies it “I never said that.” Something flickers within the depths of Tobin’s eyes, her body stiffening, she pulls back, “does being attracted to me embarrass you” Tobin asks truly concerned.

Christen stares at Tobin horrified “oh gosh no!! Not at all. It’s nothing like that.” Relief visibly passes across Tobin’s face. Steadying herself, Christen is going to have to explain to the best of her ability why the dream affected her so much. “It's not what we were doing, it wasn’t the…intimacy. I think it's a combination of where and how real it felt. I feel like I accosted you, made you an unwilling participant in my lewd dream.”

Tobin says seriously, “I promise you I would've been a willing participant.”

“AND in the library, the library Tobin, I could never actually… I'm not that brazen.”

Sitting up Tobin pulls Christen up with her. “Would it help you to know you’re not the only one?”

Pouting, eyes downcast “you’ve had dreams about me?” Christen asks

Laughing Tobin pulls Christen into a hug, “you could say that”

Christen makes eye contact with Tobin, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you and I’m not embarrassed by you, never would be” The resulting smile, almost releases Christen of all her guilt, almost.

“I really like you,” the hope in Tobin’s voice isn’t lost on Christen. She knows she needs to say something, she doesn’t want Tobin to think this is a one-sided attraction nor does she want Tobin to think she's only playing with her but the words won't form. 

It’s a constant with her lately. She’s constantly tongue tied and it’s driving her crazy. It’s also creating this uneasiness between them. They’re always apologizing to each other, afraid that they’ve said something wrong, afraid they’ve managed to insult the other unintentionally.

At least that’s how it is for Christen. Sometimes she's afraid to joke or make an off-hand comment, always afraid she'll end up unintentionally hurting or insulting Tobin. 

“I’m sorry…”

“Please stop” Christen sighs “we have to stop apologizing to each other all the time”

Tobin opens her mouth and quickly shuts it close, smiling ruefully.  

“You were going to apologize weren’t you?”

Shaking her head, Tobin scratches at her nose, she seems lost and Christen knows this is just as hard for Tobin as it is for her.

Embracing Tobin, their limbs entwining with each other, she clings to her, absorbing the strength that radiates from her. Words have never been Christen’s strong point, she’s always been better showing her emotions. But Christen wants Tobin, wants her in a way that terrifies her, in way she doesn’t even understand. It’s beyond just the physical, the more time they spend together, the deeper she feels herself falling, the greater her fear grows. She once dared to dream, to have hopes for more and it had been disastrous. Christen doesn’t want to put either of them through that.

Inhaling deeply, enjoying Tobin’s sent, “We’re still learning each other, what we like and what we don’t. At times I am going to do things you don’t like and say things you won’t appreciate but I’ll learn. We have to stop tip-toeing around each other. Friends joke with each other, give each other compliments and its okay.  We’ll never truly know each other if we’re always apologizing to each other. I don’t know about you but I want to be friends, true friends…"

“friends…you want us to only be friends?” Tobin asks cautiously

Staring at Tobin, Christen can’t say the words, can’t say “no, I want to be yours, all yours and only yours” but what she can say is what she believes to be true.

“My grandmother always says date your best friend. I want to become your best friend. I want to know everything about you and I want to tell you everything about me, the things I haven’t told anyone else. I want to be someone special to you because you’re already special to me.”

It's not perfect, it's not even close to what Christen owes Tobin, what she wants to tell her but Tobin seems to understand that this is all that she can offer in that moment, that this isn't just a phase for Christen that she's serious about what's growing between them. 

“I want that too” Tobin whispers looking up through her long eye lashes. Smiling gratefully Christen cups Tobin’s cheek, the kiss startes out simple and sweet, it’s not long before it’s a clash of lips and tongues. Hands wander, looking for purchase, grazing over curves. Breaking the kiss, breathing hard Christen starts to unwraps herself from around Tobin, “we should probably do something, something away from the bed.”

Collecting herself Tobin stands, head down she adjusts her pants “Okay, want to go to the library?”

 "Tobin!!" 

Making Tobin laugh might just become Christen's second favorite hobby. 

 

Chapter Text

But as the scenery grows, I see in different lights
The shades and shadows undulate in my perception
My feelings swell and stretch I see from greater heights
I understand what I am still too proud to mention to you

You’ll say you understand, but you don’t understand
You’ll say you’d never give up seeing eye to eye
But “never” is a promise and you can’t afford to lie


It’s Sunday evening after the first week of finals. Christen is exhausted but thrilled she’s done with all of her exams. She finished her last paper this morning having already turned in two. She’s looking forward to just chilling, relaxing all cool, before senior week where she’ll be working every night. Instead, Christen finds herself at the Big House.

They’re having a mandatory meeting to pick out rooms. Christen’s side of the house had no problem with their room selections. The process had been stress-free and straightforward. The ease with which everything was decided comforts Christen. She heard about some of the arguments that have taken place on the other side of the house and after having a relatively easy first year as far as roommate drama goes, she doesn’t want to have to worry about it next year.

Squished between Syd and Jules on the couch Christen disinterestedly watches the other side continue their laborious discussion, alright argument about who gets the master bedroom. The seniors are watching with mild amusement but it’s quickly turning to annoyed exasperation. Kel is in a death match with another Junior for the room. Truthfully, none of the rooms are bad, so Christen doesn’t understand what the big deal is. She gives it another ten minutes before someone makes an executive decision and she doesn't think Kel is going to like it.

“Kelley, just let Becky have it, she’s the most responsible one” a graduating senior, everyone calls HAO groans out.

“I can be responsible”

“Be serious” someone else chimes in.

“I am” Kelley counters seriously. Leaning against Syd, Christen stifles an amused chuckle, she’s not sure Kelley’s definition of “responsible” is the same as everyone else’s. Truthfully, Christen’s attention is solely focused on the girl sitting on the floor partially leaning against her leg and the couch. Christen idly listens to the debate, as she lazily runs her fingers through the ends of Tobin’s hair, fanning it across her knees.

Frowning, Christen wonders if Tobin even likes it when she plays with her hair. Tobin is constantly pulling her locks from Allie’s and Alex’s grasps, protecting it with some kind of hat. Given either girl is usually trying to run a brush through Tobin’s mane or trying some new hairstyle out. Tobin never moves when Christen touches her hair, she’s even allowed her to braid her hair. It was a small braid but it was a braid and Tobin let her do it.

Tobin clearly isn't paying attention either. She’s running her fingers up and down the outside of Christen’s ankle, slowly driving her crazy. Christen actively keeps herself from squirming, otherwise, Julie and Syd would tease her mercilessly - more than they already do. Studiously ignoring the smirks of her roommates, Christen is cognizant of their shared glances. Syd’s arm sneaks behind her, tapping Jules on the shoulder, drawing her attention to either something either she or Tobin is doing and Christen couldn’t care less.

An angry cry draws her attention to the front of the room. “Seriously, how are you two still arguing about this? You have five more minutes to figure this shit out before we choose for you” one of the seniors says storming into the kitchen leaving a stunned room in her wake. The room is silent for a few seconds. Everyone looks around uneasily but eventually a couple of people stand making their way out of the living room. Tobin bends her head back “I’m getting up, want anything?” Staring down at Tobin, Christen shakes her head no. Christen’s eyes roam over Tobin’s body as she rises from the floor, stretching her arms above her head, smiling down at Christen. Gazing up, Christen can’t help but smile back she doesn’t know how anyone could resist. “Sure?” “Yes but thanks” Christen responds, eyes trained on Tobin’s back as she makes her way to the kitchen.

The heat of breath against her ear startles Christen, as Syd whispers “You sure you don’t want something?”

Confused, Christen turns her head slightly to get a better view “huh?”
“You look hungry.”

“What are you talking about?” the minute the question leaves her mouth Christen is positive she’s going to regret it.

“You were looking at Tobs like she was good enough to eat.”

“Was not.”

“You should have told her you wanted a bite of her.”

Half coughing and half laughing Jules tries to hide her amusement by hiding her face behind Christen’s back.

“Oh hush” Christen admonishes.

“Just saying, you could have asked her to break you off a piece of that kit…”

“Shut. Up.”

Chuckling, Syd leans back clearly pleased with her little comedic performance.

“Alright, what’s the decision?” the intimidating senior calls from the kitchen.

“We haven’t decided…” Kelley starts to answer.

“Alright, Brunn you get the room, Kel you can try next year. Now someone order pizza there’s no food”

Kelley immediately plops to the floor pouting. Christen isn't surprised at all, actually she would be terrified if Kelley was responsible for maintaining the house. Christen watches as HAO pulls Kelley from the floor, turning her in the direction of the door, calling over her shoulder “make sure you order a cheese pie.” The meeting unofficially adjourned, people quickly disperse from the room. Some go back next door but the majority have gathered in the kitchen where the sounds of friendly banter can be heard. Spreading out on the couch Christen rest her feet on the coffee table. Syd leans back against one end of the couch, placing her feet in Christen lap. Julie braces her back against the other end sitting cross legged, causally she ask “are you all set for Wednesday?”
“Huh?” The question catches Christen off guard, pulling her gaze from the kitchen area she meets Julie with confused eyes “what are you talking about?”

“Your date with”
“Oh that…sorta” Julie skeptically eyes Christen before sharing a knowing look with Syd, “have you asked her yet?”
Biting her bottom lip, Christen shakes her head as her eyes return to Tobin, sitting on the kitchen counter laughing. Christen isn’t even aware of the corners of her mouth twisting into a smile.

Snapping her fingers in front of Christen’s face, Syd ask “What are you waiting for?” Christen doesn’t have a response. It’s impossible to explain her irrational fear because it’s well irrational. Ultimately Christen hasn’t asked because she’s afraid Tobin will say no. Fear has become a constant in her life, alongside her roommates growing frustration with it. They don’t understand it and consider it completely unreasonable, nonetheless Christen is afraid.

Poking Christen in the ribs “You know she leaves soon, right?”

“I know” annoyance creeps into Christen’s tone.

“Isn’t she leaving Thursday?”
“Friday morning”
“And she’s not here for her birthday…”
“I know that…” Christen hisses back, she glances around but doesn’t think anyone is paying attention to them.

“So…”
“I’m going to ask, okay?”

“When? You’ve been planning this for over a week” Julie reminds her. It’s true, ever since Al reminder her at the beginning of the month, Christen began to brainstorm possible things to do for Tobin. Christen has conceived the perfect night, but it starts with asking Tobin out. To pull the rest off she needed Alex’s help, who made a huge deal out of it until both Jules and Syd knew about it. The downside to being this close to her roommates is that they can gang up on her from time to time. She knows they mean well but it’s overwhelming and annoying at times.
“Chris, if you don’t…” Julie starts again

“You know I do”

“Then, you’ll have to ask her”
“I know” Christen sighs in frustration. Frustration at herself because she never considered herself a coward until recently.

Hugging Christen’s side, Syd chimes in “She’s going to say yes”

“How do you know?”
“When has she ever said no to you?” is her flippant answer.

But that’s the thing Tobin has never had to. Technically Syd is right, Tobin has never said no, she’s never truly rejected Christen because she never asked her, never put herself out there. As much time as Christen and Tobin have spent together, it’s not because Christen requested it, it’s almost exclusively a matter of circumstance either initiated by chance, others or Tobin. Christen has never personally asked Tobin to just hang out with her and just her. Part of it is that Tobin hurt her but it’s also she’s learned that if you don’t ask, you can’t get rejected. Even though everyone seems confident that Tobin will say yes, there’s always the nagging thought that sometimes the thing you desire most in the world is the one thing you can’t have.

Hugging her other side, Jules whispers “You can do it, Press.”

“Even though you guys are extremely annoying at times; I love you”

Chuckling, “love you too Press”

“Speak for yourself, JJ”

Half an hour later Christen is still sitting in the living room, too tired to move. Tobin is sitting at the dining room table a defeated Kel next her as she shovels her third slice of pizza into her mouth. There’s something about it, the way Tobin eats with gusto, the enjoyment she takes in her food, it’s not particularly attractive not in the least but there something utterly adorable about it, enduring and it’s moments like these that Christen feels herself getting drawn further in, falling down the rabbit hole into the labyrinth that are her feelings for Tobin. Christen wonders if liking and loving someone is always this complicated or if she’s making it so. Tobin glances up from her meal, winking before taking another bite, answering Kel’s question with her mouth half full.

The overwhelming sense that time is working against her, overcomes Christen. It’s a feeling she’s growing accustomed to. Christen doesn’t want to miss the possibility of an opportunity between her and Tobin all because she’s stuck in this strange limbo. She isn’t able to express her true feelings appropriately, words always choking her. And the fear of the past and the fear of the future basically immobilizes Christen, freezing her in time, unable to do what she knows needs to be done.

Christen also knows the flip-side, what happens when you wait too long. How second chances aren’t always granted and third and fourths even less likely. Standing on the cusp of action and inaction Christen decides to take the plunge because she has enough regrets as it is, she doesn’t want this opportunity to be another. Biting the inside of her cheek, Christen quickly types out a message before she can stop herself.

Are you free Wednesday night?

With bated breath Christen watches Tobin check her phone, a slow smile breaking across her face as she types out a reply.

T-bird: Yup, my last final is that morning.

Want to do something that night?

T-bird: Sure

Dinner?

T-Bird: Cool. I think ppl are going to grill in the back

Groaning internally Christen shakes her head. Of course, Tobin would choose this moment to be completely oblivious when Christen is struggling as it is.

No, dinner just you and me?

Christen keeps her eyes fixed on her phone, she can’t bear to look up. The dawning realization hits Christen that maybe Tobin already has plans, that Tobin might not want to go out, maybe she’d rather hang out with everyone else. After all,Tobin leaves Friday and will be gone next week so this might be Tobin's only time to say goodbye. Vibrations draw her attention back to the phone lying in her limp hand.

T-bird: like a date?

Rolling her eyes, of course, Tobin would make this difficult, make her spell it out.

Yes, will you Tobin Heath, go out on a date with me? Christen bites her lip so hard she’s positive she can taste blood. A minute goes by and no response, two minutes, then three and still no response. Christen can feel the blood draining from her face this is what she was afraid of. She knew this was a bad idea. She briefly looks up and warm honey eyes catch her attention, the joy in them apparent. “Yes,” Tobin mouths. Christen’s relief is so immense she automatically breaks into a grin. Leaning back into the couch, she releases a breath she hadn't been aware she’d been holding.

T-bird: What are we doing?

It’s a surprise

T-bird: I don’t like surprises

Too bad, you already said yes

T-bird: you’re not going to take me to the woods and kill me, right?

Now that you mention it ;-)

Tobin’s eyebrows draw together, looking up she stares skeptically at Christen. Tobin’s eyes go soft, a childlike quality overcomes her features and she mouths “please?” A pouting Tobin might just be Christen’s newest weakness but staying with her resolve, she shakes her head mouthing “no”, unable contain her smile. Hopefully, Wednesday will be wonderful.


“Why do you have to go? Can’t you stay?” Christen whines from the floor. She's unhappily agreed to help Julie with her packing. Her task is to help fold some of Julie’s clothes carefully packing them in the suitcase in front of her.

“I’ll be back in August. You won’t even have time to miss me?”

“Yeah, besides you’ll have Tobs to keep you entertained” Syd supplies cheekily from her position near Christen’s desk. Christen only response is to flash her middle finger.

“Leave, Press alone”

“So are you guys official yet?” Syd ask completely ignoring Jules.

Christen pretends she didn’t hear the questions, placing another sweater into the suitcase which in retrospect was a mistake. Syd’s not one to be ignored, with a mischievous smirk, “Chris, are you and Tobin sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g?”

Christen throws the first thing she grabs at Syd, “Oh hush”

“Hey, that’s mine don’t throw it,” Jules says with fake indignation, unable to keep a straight face. Syd throws the shirt back at Christen.

“Hey!! What did I just say? If you are going to sit in here at least help”

“She did it first and I’ve done enough packing” Syd whines

Chuckling, Christen smooths the shirt out, holding it up for Julie to inspect “it’s fine.” Grunting, Julie returns to sorting through her clothes on the bed.

“Don’t think I forgot,” Syd says “so you and Tobs, what’s the deal?”

“Do people think we’re dating?” Christen asks as she thinks about the answer.

“Well, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know…” Christen doesn't have to look up to know two pairs of eyes are trained on her.

“You don’t know?” Syd asks incredulously. Christen can picture the look she’s giving Julie.

“I don't know, we haven't discussed it”

A stumbling noise comes from the other room quickly followed by Alex’s angry cry “Dammit, Sydney!!!!”

Closing her eyes Syd whispers “Shit.” Jumping up Syd runs out the doors towards the other room yelling “SORRY.”

Jules shares a knowing look with Christen “she left her shoes in the middle of the room again” Nodding her head in agreement Christen continues with her chore hoping Julie will drop the subject. Some wishes are just pointless.

“You're not getting off that easy Press.” Sighing, Christen looks up to meet Julie’s gaze “you and Heath haven’t talked about dating, yet?”

“No”

“Why, not? You seemed pretty close from what I walked in on…”

“Oh please! We weren’t doing anything” Christen glares at Jules indignantly.

“That’s not what I saw”

“We were in bed, talking…”

“Is that what the kids are calling it now a days?” Jules signature Cheshire Cat grin in place.

“And how many times have I walked in on you and….” Christen counters

“Alright, point made. You guys were just talking” Jules faces away but not before Christen catches the blush creeping up her cheeks. Smirking Christen looks down, paying with the tag of Julie’s shirt.

“We haven’t… you know, yet”

“But you want to?”

Christen doesn’t even respond, she just gives Julie a look, it’s a stupid question.

“Just making sure” Julie’s tone is joking but she leans against her bed, her features pulled together in deep concentration. “Is it because you haven’t discussed your relationship?”

Shrugging one shoulder, Christen knows that despite how much she wants Tobin and how Tobin seems to want her, there’s a lot of water under that bridge. It’s Tobin who is actually more reluctant, usually the first to pull away.

“Seriously, why haven’t you discussed it Press? Is it because it really hasn’t come up or because you haven't allowed it?” Christen mutely stares back at Julie, crossing her arms across her chest.

“We haven’t discussed it”

“Uh huh”

Sighing, “what does that mean?”

“I know you Press. You like to avoid things and Heath might be oblivious at times, a little lost in her own world but she's usually direct. I can’t imagine this is something she would purposefully avoid. But she knows you and I don’t think she’d force the issue. So if you haven’t discussed it, it’s because you don’t want to and Heath knows it”

“It's never come up, honestly”

“Hmmm, what’s holding you back Press? And don’t say ‘nothing’ because I don’t understand this time and I can usually understand your crazy”
Frowning at Jules’s choice of words “I just…I can’t.”

Julie levels Christen with an assessing gaze, her tone gentle and patient “Why can’t you?”

“I don't want to be rejected. I don’t…it didn't…” sighing in frustration. “The last time I wanted more I lost everything. I am scared, I can’t go through that again”

“Your high school crush? She was stupid and it was high school, this is different.” Jules says dismissively.

“Exactly, it was high school and it wasn’t just her, I lost more than a single person. I lost friends, I lost….” Licking her bottom lip, Christen takes the moment, right now her thoughts are a jumble of emotions and she wants to organize them into coherent sentences, “I know, I should be able to move on, grow past this but I have more to lose this time. It’s not just her, it’s my world, what my life has come to be. I thought I was in love back then but…” Christen stops, her breath catching. She walks to her bed staring at the pictures on the wall, “it would be so much worse this time. I don’t want to go through that”

“I get you’re terrified because you love her. I get that, it’s not just that she might say no, it’s not just about rejection. You’re afraid of losing her” Jules says understanding coloring her tone “but there’s something else, you're afraid of losing something else, aren’t you?”

“Jules, look how intertwined out lives are. I'm living in the Big House for goodness sakes. If something were to go bad…so many of her friends, her teammates are now my friends but…”

“Oh Chris, you wouldn't lose us” at the teary eyed look Christen gives her Julie quickly crosses the room, gathering Christen into a hug, she continues, “You’re one of my best friends here, wild horse couldn’t drag me away.” Despite everything, Christen can’t help but giggle, this particular lyric has been stuck in Julie’s head for weeks. She uses it all the time. “But seriously, try not to worry about the what ifs, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Worst case scenario, it will be a little awkward in the house but that’s it. You’ll always have Alyssa and I don’t think Alex or Syd will let you go easily.”

“Thanks, Johnston," Christen tighten her hold.

“Still sounds weird coming from you” Laughing Julie pulled away and looked Christen directly in the eye “It will be okay just don’t wait too long to talk to Heath, you should probably tell her how you feel, you don’t want her to get the wrong impression.”

“What do you mean?” but Christen knows exactly what she means, it’s one of her greatest fears that she’ll take too long.

“Just don't give her a reason to doubt what you feel for her.”

Before Christen can ask another question, Alex barrages into the room followed by Syd.

“So you finally asked her?”
“Syd!?!”

“What? It’s a miracle, I thought we would have to do it for you”
“We?” Alex ask disbelievingly “you mean me?”

“Same diff”

Rolling her eyes, Alex turns to Christen “you have everything planned out, right? Do you need anything else?”

“No, I think I got it. Adam finally said I could use his truck. If anything I might need extra blankets. I’ll try to grab one of her sweaters, it will be chilly out there.”

“You’re going to the drive in place right?” Julie ask

“Yeah, I figured it was something different?” uncertainty clear in Christen’s tone.

“And Harry Potter is playing Wednesday?” Alex’s tone is soothing.

“Yes, it’s a double feature, they’re playing the Deathly Hallows part one and two, the first part starts at 7:30 pm, there is a thirty-minute intermission and then part two starts. She’ll like it right?”

“It’s perfect. She loves Harry Potter and it's outdoors and it’s with you, she’ll be thrilled” Alex smiles encouragingly

“Aren’t those movies long?” Syd questions

“Yeah, kinda. Do you think it’s too much, we could try to leave”

“It’s perfect,” Julie and Alex say at the same time, glaring at Syd.

Ignoring both girls, Syd continues “How far away is the drive in?”

“The one showing Harry Potter is about an hour away”

“What time does the place open?”

“An hour before show time, so 6:30 p.m.”

“Are you going to get there at 6:30?”

“I think so, I figured I would pack dinner and we could eat it before the show?”

“Wait, do they have snacks? You have to get popcorn if you go to the movies” Syd declares in an unusually authoritative voice.

Smiling bemusedly, “yeah, they have popcorn and stuff, I figured between the movies I would get something as a snack, I’m sure Tobin will be hungry by then”

“Wait, I thought you were bringing dinner” Syd questions

“I’m am. I still need to figure out what to bring”

“Then how can she be hungry, already?”

“She’s always hungry,” Alex and Christen say at the same time.


I don’t know what, what
I was afraid of, I was afraid of
Monsters take me somewhere
Where I can see my breath in the air
We walk in shadows, monster lead me home

Music waifs from the radio on the night stand. Unconsciously biting her lip Christen examines herself in the full-length mirror, trying to convince herself that her outfit choice is appropriate. It’s casual but not too casual but not over the top dressy either.

“I feel like a proud mama” Ali exclaims clasping her hands together in joy.

Christen looks at Alyssa wide eye silently begging her for help. Lys just rolls her eyes and smiles “You know how she gets”

“You know this isn’t my first date ever”

“It’s your first college date, it’s the first time you’ve ever asked someone on a date” Ali counters “that’s big. Wait it is the first time, right?” Ali gives Christen a questioning look.

“No, you’re right, it’s the first time I’ve asked someone” Christen admits still staring into the mirror.

“Don’t think I missed that. You went on a college date and didn’t tell me?” Ali says, her voice indicates she’s slightly affronted.

“Yes, maybe, I think so”
Ali turns to Lys, clearly looking for a translation of Christen’s gibberish answer. Lounging against the headboard a magazine in hand, Alyssa was only supposed to be here for moral support. Rolling her eyes, “Chris, complete sentences, please.”

“Tobin kinda took me to dinner, to that Italian place in town but she didn’t ask me out, so I don’t know if it counts”

“Oh, it was a date but not surprising”

“Huh?”

“You two, it’s not surprising. It’s about time you got around to asking each other out.” Ali says before she returns to rummaging through her closet.

Christen had escaped to Ali’s house earlier this afternoon because she was afraid she was going to kill Alex and Syd. They were making such a fuss about this evening that Christen’s nervousness was nuclear. They both insisted that Christen get dressed up, Alex even suggested a dress. Even Syd agreed that a dress was completely impractical, however, neither girl was impressed with her choice of clothing. Which made Christen start to rethink the whole movie night, she thought it would be perfect, everything that Tobin loves in one place. But now Christen thinks maybe she should have done some different, more formal, something more dressed up, like taking her to the fancy seafood restaurant on the outskirts of town. Julie caught on to her anxiety and kicked both girls out of the room claiming she needed to study. Alex tried to coax Christen into her room, full of doubts Christen texted Ali asking if she could come over to get dressed.

An hour later and an hour before she’s supposed to pick Tobin up, Christen stares into Ali’s mirror. She’s settled on her black combat boots, skinny black jeans and Ali’s electric blue top, it’s short sleeved, and has small slits on the side, so it will be appropriate for when the sun is still out and once the sun goes down she’ll have to add a light jacket or sweater. “Do you think I’ll get cold later? Maybe I should wear something long sleeved” Fiddling with the hem of the top, Christen glances at the reflections of her laughing audience.

Ali shakes her head, “No, that color goes great with your complexion. Besides, if it does get cold, you’ll have a reason to snuggle, always works for me”

“What if she doesn’t want to snuggle with me and I freeze” Christen sounds serious but her eyes are alight with mirth.

“Oh, she’ll want to snuggle, look at you, you’re hot”

“And is that the reason you snuggle with Ash because she’s hot?” Lys ask with a smirk “actually don’t answer that, I don’t want to know”

“Sure you don’t want to know?”
“Positive”

“Speaking of snuggling, Ali do you have blankets I can use for tonight?”

“Yeah, sure, you don’t have any?”

“I do, but I’m taking Adam’s pickup and the bed isn’t all that comfortable at least not for hours.”

“Oh you should take, my yoga mat”

“OMG, you’re a genius, I have two at home”

“I might have one at the house. Chris, I’ll gather some more blankets and help you arrange everything” Lys chimes in.

“This is a good idea, right?” She’ll like it? Maybe I should have done something else?”

Alyssa smiles encouragingly, “No, this was a good choice, it’s different but very Tobs, she’ll appreciate it.”

“I just want it to be perfect”

“Why, because you think she’s perfect?” Ali chuckles, she’s currently going through her jewelry, holding up different necklaces but frowning at each one.

“No, she’s not perfect but she’s good. She’s good for me”

“When she’s not scaring you half to death?” Ali says with a knowing look.

“She doesn’t scare me” Christen cautiously answers

“No, just your feelings for her do”

“Al, leave her be, she’s already terrified” Lys warns abandoning her magazine.

“I am not. I just want her birthday to be special!!”

“And it will be” Lys tries to reassure her

“Did you get her a gift also?” Ali asks placing a feather pendent necklace over her head. She examines Christen before shaking her head and taking it off

“Yeah, I got her something small. Kel and Allie warned me she’s not big on celebrating her birthday so I didn’t want to go overboard”

“Oh, I have this lipstick that would be perfect, let me go find it” Ali rushes out of the room“She’s making me nervous. I wasn’t going to wear makeup”

“She’s making me nervous. I wasn’t going to wear makeup”

“So don’t wear it” Lys shrugs

“I told Tobin it was casual and comfortable, she might show up in sweats and I’ll be all dressed up”

“If you think Alex or Allie are going to let her wear anything remotely close to sweatpants, you’re wrong”

“Oh no, do you think they’ll make her get dressed up”

“Christen! Breathe! It’s still Tobin, she won’t be wearing a formal gown but she won’t be in her pajamas either”

“Okay, okay. I’m being silly, aren’t I?”

“A little, but I get it, you want it to be special for her. It’s cute” Christen sticks her tongue at Lys at the word cute. “Just be careful”

Pausing Christen regards Lys seriously. Lys is now the second person in as many days to warn her. Julie’s words sound hauntingly similar. Christen vaguely recalls Lys warning her to not play games. At the time Christen thought the warning was to protect her but now she thinks maybe it was a warning to protect both her and Tobin. Lys knows something about both of their past issues, after all, it is clear Tobin is used to having people and girls in particular play around with her emotions.

Heart sinking Christen ask “what do you mean?”

Alyssa regards Christen seriously. They stare at each other, Christen’s eyes are anxious, they almost beg Lys not to say anything. Lys eyes are assessing wondering where the tipping scale is between divulging the right amount of information and revealing too much. Slowly she starts out “be careful with each other, you’re both…” Glancing out the window, Christen knows Lys is looking for the right words “scarred but in a different way. Wait, let me finish. We’re all scarred, we all have our own battle wounds but you and Tobs, you’re like polar opposites. You were hurt similar but the damage was different, your fears are the opposite of hers and you don’t know her fears. It can work, you can heal each other.” Lys says with a smile but Christen knows the words she’s not saying, “you can also cause more damage.” It’s the constant theme of her nightmares. The notion that they’ll hurt each other and not on purpose but immeasurably, the type of hurt people don’t get over.

“Just have patience with her, have patience with yourself and it will be good”

“Found them” a slightly breathless Ali runs into the room brandishing two lipsticks.

“No,” Alyssa and Christen say at the same time.


“Your chariot awaits you”

Tobin makes her way down the front steps eyeing the pickup truck curiously, “We need a truck?”

“hmm-mmm” Christen hums

“What’s in the back?”

Opening the passenger side door Christen attempts to block Tobin’s view of the inside of the bed, “a shotgun and a shovel” she answers smiling angelically.

Standing on her tippy toes Tobin strains to look through the window “Are those blankets? Why do we need blankets?”
“To wrap your body in”

Smirking, something flashes in Tobin’s eye that beguiles her teasing tone, “oh really?” Rolling her eyes Christen understands Tobin’s innuendo and chooses to ignore it, voice steady “easier to bury your body, dear.”

“Sure” still peering through the window, “where are we going?”

Sighing in exasperation Christen motions to the passenger seat, “It’s a surprise, now will you please get in the car?”

“Fine, I’m at your mercy.”
Christen closes the door after Tobin was climbed into the passenger side, before quickly making her way to the driver’s seat. Christen is relieved to see Tobin wearing her signature ripped jeans and a simple black top. Her hair is down and someone, most likely Allie put a few soft curls in along the bottom. Tobin even has light makeup on but overall she’s the perfect picture of casual and sexy.

Nervously backing out of the driveway, Adam’s pickup truck is monstrous, it’s the largest thing Christen has ever driven. Adam required her to do test drives with him until he was confident she wouldn’t cash “his baby.” He also mentioned Christen should keep the car for the summer. Adam will be in Texas until pre-season in late July. He claimed Christen would take better care of his baby then his fraternity brothers. After a lengthy debate, Christen accepted, figuring it would prove useful.
“What’s that smell?” Tobin questions glancing around. Hoping Tobin doesn’t notice the cooler or food carrier on the floor in the back hidden under a blanket, Christen says “it’s Adam’s, who knows what the boys do in here.” Tobin stares, her mouth twisted into a grimace and a smirk, almost as if she can’t make her mind up. “Promise you’re not going to hurt me?”

“I promise you’ll have a good time now buckle up, I’m still learning how to drive this thing”

“Christen!” Tobin exclaims but her eyes dance with humor, the corners of her mouth twitch, failing miserably at containing her smile.

Laughing cathartically, Christen releases all of her pent-up tension, the stress and worry melts away with each passing minute. She’s no longer preoccupied with making this the perfect night. She’s confident that night will be great because they’re together.

“Whataya want to listen to?” Tobin asks playing with the radio.

“I don’t care, whatever you want.” Tobin settles on a seemingly random station, leaning back she stares out the window. Except for the soft melody coming from the radio, it’s quiet, they don’t talk at first, and although it should be awkward it isn’t. It’s clear they’re just enjoying each other’s company.

“Can you at least tell me how long before we get wherever?”

“Why, you don’t trust me?"

“You know I do, I just want to know if I can take my sneakers off?”

“You’re ridiculous but yes, we’ll be on the road for a little while”

Toeing off her shoes, Tobin says with an air of indifference that contradicts her fidgeting “I’ve been looking forward to this all week.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I enjoy spending time with you,” Tobin says so simplistically like it’s the most obvious thing.

Flashing a grateful smile, “So do I.” Internally, Christen breathes another sigh of relief. Christen doubts Tobin realizes how important those words are to her. Despite reassurance from others a part of Christen still can’t believe Tobin is interested in her. It’s not that Christen doesn’t think she’s good enough, it’s deeper than that They’re so different, almost complete opposites, only connected by similar pain but maybe that’s why it works. Their shared experiences are as important as their differences. Whatever the reason Christen is ecstatic that Tobin wants to be there as much as she wants her there.

After, excessively scanning the radio for the first twenty minutes of the ride Tobin gives up on finding a radio station leaving it on the first one that’s not playing a commercial. Given the farther they’ve traveled the slimmer the selection has gotten. Feet propped up, Tobin’s seat is reclined to its full extent. They’ve been making small talk, briefly talking about their exams, senior week and this summer but Tobin’s eyes are softening, her lids becoming heavier. Her words increasingly become tangled until her eyes are completely closed. Christen doesn’t think her last sentence was actually English. “Tobs go to sleep”

“Stay up with you”

“Just sleep, you had a long night”

‘M’kay” the last tangible thing Tobin utters. The only sound emanating from her are deep rhythmic breaths.


Pulling into the drive-in movie theater, Christen isn’t surprised to see they’re one of the first to arrive. Quietly escaping from the driver’s side, Christen leaves the car running. Lowering the tailgate, she hoists herself up. Silently, Christen prepares the bed of the truck, laying down yoga mats, covering them with a sheet. Christen brought a few LED tealights to add light for their dinner. Because as beautiful as the sky is, it is dusk and the heavens are a wondrous mixture of blues and purples as the sun says its farewell for the day but soon it will be dark, variants of indigo and black with only the stars to illuminate the night.

Christen almost doesn’t want to wake Tobin, she looks peaceful curled in on herself. Leaning on the console Christen brushes a few strands of Tobin’s hair back “Tobs?” There’s absolutely no response, Tobin doesn’t move a muscle. Raising her voice an octave Christen tries again “Tobin” but still she sleeps on.

Gently cupping Tobin’s cheek, “Tobin” Christen runs her thumb across her jaw. Tobin’s eyes flutter before completely opening. Christen watches consciousness return to her eyes. In this light, Christen can’t help but think Tobin’s eyes are a sparkling deep amber, kind of like, “whiskey”

“Huh?” Tobin questions voice laced with the effects of her nap.
“Your eyes remind me of whiskey” Christen answers bashfully
“Good”

“Good?” Christen quirks an eyebrow

“It’s your favorite,” Tobin says as if the answer should have been apparent. “Where are we?”
“At your surprise”
Stretching Tobin sits up fully. She glances around, taking in her first view of the open field until she turns and sees the screen.
“What….is this a…”
“Drive in movie theater” Christen supplies helpfully.

“Really?”
“Uh-huh”
“Awesome, what are we watching?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“I don’t like surprises.”

“You have so far.”
Shaking her head in fond exasperation, Tobin leans in quickly kissing Christen on the lips.

“Is there a bathroom? I have to go and I’d rather not…”
“Yes” pointing over Tobin’s shoulder, “it’s in that building.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back”
Christen makes sure Tobin is half way to the main building before scrambling out of the cab. Hurriedly she wrenches open the rear door, she’s aware that she has a small window of opportunity. Grabbing the small cooler in one hand and the food in another Christen makes her way to the back of the pickup truck.

“Chris, do you want anything to eat….” Tobin’s voice carries from around the front of the truck, “where are you?”

“In the back”
Coming around the back, Tobin stops dead in her tracks. Tobin’s eyes widen in amazement, her mouth slightly ajar. Standing, a bouquet of wild flowers in her hand Christen says “Surprise.” There’s something about the moment that keeps Christen from yelling, it’s a special moment one only meant for them. Seconds tick by as a stunned Tobin who’s momentarily speechless, stares. Eventually, she stammers out “this is for me?”
“Happy early birthday”

Clumsily climbing up, Tobin pulls Christen into a crushing hug. Caught off guard by Tobin’s momentum Christen stumbles until she feels the solid mass of the cab wall behind her. The hug is almost painful but the feeling of Tobin’s arms around her outweighs any discomfort. Leaning back, Tobin cups Christen’s jaw, rubbing her thumb along Christen’s bottom lip “thank you” then the briefest touch of Tobin’s soft lips, “so much” a harder press as Tobin’s arm sneaks around Christen’s waist pulling them closer together. Christen’s hand slides up and around Tobin’s neck, her hand knotting in Tobin’s hair. There’s no more pretense, the kiss stops being gentle, all rational thought is gone, their mouths are passionate and fierce. Christen has wanted to kiss Tobin since she picked her up and now she glorifies in doing so. Christen loses herself in the taste and feel of Tobin, exploring her mouth, her tongue clashing with Tobin’s. Bracing her hands on either side of Christen’s shoulders, Tobin pushes back, her erratic breathing in crescendo with Christen’s. Taking three deep breaths, Tobin smirks “I smell food.”

Head foggy, Christen stutters out “Are…are you hungry?”
“Always”
“Let me feed you then”

Bending down, Christen does her best to quickly arrange the food as elegantly as she can. Christen has packed a modest but complete dinner of fried chicken, pasta salad, corn and biscuits. Tobin's eyes go wide at the arrangement.

“This was all in the car?”

“Yes, is it okay? I wasn’t sure what you’d want if you don't like it we…”

“It's perfect, thank you”

“I have water and sparkling apple cider to drink. If you don’t want that we can get a soda.”

“Sparkling apple cider? Is this a celebration or something?” Tobin asks cheekily

“Nothing special”

“Nothing, huh?”

Christen shrugs a shoulder, feigning an indifference she doesn't truly feel, “Nope, nothing special just your birthday and …” Christen doesn't know how to continue because the word that pops into her head is “love” but it won’t leave her lips.

“Best friends?” Tobin suggests. Offering a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes, that she doesn’t feel, Christen nods her head but she glances down in disappointment. She so disappointed with herself, “best friends” is completely inadequate, it’s not what she means but she’s not sure what the right thing to say would have been. Christen feels Tobin’s eyes on her, knows she’s trying to assess her current mood. Determined to not blunder the evening more than she already has Christen opens the cider, pouring the amber liquid into plastic champagne glasses and with as much enthusiasm as she can muster “cheers.”

“Cheers” clicking glasses Christen doesn't miss the flash of concern in Tobin's eyes.

“What can I get you to eat?” Christen will admit she’s shamefully using food to distract Tobin.

“Everything, it all looks good”

Christen prepares a plate of food handing it over to Tobin. Christen doesn’t have much of an appetite, so she’s slowly munching on the chicken. But she watches in amusement as Tobin attacks her food vigorously, expressing her delight with intermittent exaggerated groans of pleasure. It’s peaceful, they’re just two girls in a back of a pickup truck eating friend chicken. Christen absently wonders if there is some country song about this.

Glancing over, Christen can’t help but chuckle, either Tobin doesn’t care or she doesn’t feel the crumbs at the corner of her mouth. Leaning over Christen wipes them away, letting her finger linger by Tobin’s mouth longer than she should. Eyes trained on Tobin’s lips, Christen slowly moves her thumb over her bottom one. Christen gasp in surprise when she feels a gentle kiss to the pad of her finger. Something stirs deep within her, mindful of the remnants of their meal, Christen stalks towards Tobin, using her body to lower them. Smirking at Tobin’s look of surprise, Christen kisses her. The kiss is slow and deep, Christen enjoys the taste and heat of Tobin’s mouth. Christen tries to keep her body still but Tobin’s hands find her exposed skin, smoothing her hands up and down Christen’s sides. No longer able to stay still, Christen shifts to straddle Tobin’s waist, gently but firmly pushing down. With one hand, Christen caresses Tobin’s neck, her shoulders, onto her chest. Christen’s hip undulate of their own accord, her movements are becoming aggressive, her tongue demanding, giving Tobin no choice.

Pulling back, Tobin gasp for air. Raking her teeth down Christen’s neck, Tobin licks a path back up, catching an earlobe in her teeth, tugging at it. “Chris, Chris, we should…”

Pressing her forehead to Tobin’s shoulder, Christen forces herself to breathe, desperately she tries to clear her head, struggling to get her body back under control, she nods her head in agreement, “Yeah, yeah, okay.” Moving off Tobin’s lap Christen distracts herself with organizing the remaining food. She can’t believe she lost control so quickly, unfortunately, it’s not the first time Tobin has halted things, slowed them down. Christen feels the piercing heat of eyes following her every movement. Glancing up she questions “Do you want any more?”
“No, thank you, it was delicious though” Tobin’s tone is a mixture of wariness and something else.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it” Tobin attempts to help her but Christen shoos her away, “No leave it, just sit back and relax”
“I don’t mind…”
“Tobin this night is for you, you’re only job is to enjoy it”

“Okay,” Tobin sits facing the screen her eyes trained on the stars above. Thankful for the silence, Christen quickly tries to recollect herself, she’s never had great impulse control, especially not around Tobin, and it’s getting worse. She’s terrified that she might be pushing Tobin away that maybe Tobin doesn’t want her that way.

“Do you regret the first time you had sex?” the question comes out so quietly and so unexpectedly, Christen almost wonders if she’s imagined it. Whipping her head towards Tobin she stares in disbelief.

“Do you?” So she didn’t imagine it. Christen wants to ask the point behind this line of questioning but there’s something about Tobin’s demeanor that calms her outrage. Christen knows Tobin doesn’t ask meaningless question, the answer must really matter to her.

Hesitantly she answers, “no, I don't.”

“Why?”
“Why don’t I regret it?” Christen ask incredulously. Nodding in the affirmative, Tobin won’t meet Christen’s gaze. There’s a hint of color to Tobin’s cheeks that Christen won’t blame on the cold. Tobin’s legs are pushed against her chest, arms wrapped around her knees as if protecting herself. From what? Christen isn’t sure.

“I just don’t.” The deep sigh she receives tells Christen that her answer isn’t satisfactory. Tobin is serious, the question is important to her. Breathing deeply Christen tries her best to explain “I guess it’s because my first time was with a friend, there was no pressure, it was with someone I trusted implicitly, someone to this day I still respect. Someone I’m still friends with.” Pausing, Christen doesn’t really want to ask but knows there has to be something more behind Tobin’s seemingly random question. “Do you? Regret your first time?”

“No, not my first…but after that? Yes, I’ve regretted someone of the girls I slept with. We weren’t friends…and…it was for all the wrong reasons.”

Understand dawning on Christen “and you don't want to regret it this time?”

“No, it’s not that. I know I won’t regret anything we do but I’m afraid you will. I don’t want to be something you wish you could take back because you can’t. You can’t take it back. I don’t want you to regret anything we do” and almost inaudible “I couldn’t handle that.” Christen isn’t even sure if the last words leave Tobin’s mouth or if she imagined them.

“What makes you think I’ll regret it?”“You don’t trust me,”

“You don’t trust me,”

“That’s not…”
“You don’t” unfurling herself, Tobin turns to look at Christen directly, offering her a sad smile “at least not completely and I know a part of that is my fault. But it’s important. You have to trust me before we can do anything intimate before I can touch you the way I want, you have to trust me because it won’t just be another passing moment for me.” There’s an urgency to her tone that takes Christen by surprise. Does Tobin think this isn’t serious for her? That Tobin’s just a passing moment? Maybe Julie was right, maybe Tobin doubts her intentions.

“It wouldn’t be a passing moment for me either” Christen whispers, wondering how she could have given Tobin that impression.
“I’m not saying ….” Crawling towards Christen, Tobin gently takes her hand, “I’ve messed up a lot in the past, rushing into things, I don’t want to do that again”

Grasping Tobin’s hand between hers, Christen forces Tobin to make eye contact “I don’t want to ruin…this, I’m not in a rush, I don’t want there to be any regrets, ever” but as the words leave her mouth there’s a prickling along her spine, a sense that she can’t control this, can’t control if they end up regretting anything or everything.

“Okay, so we just…” squeezing Christen’s hand tightly Tobin’s eyes are wide and vulnerable.

“We take it slow, talk to each other, okay?” Christen supplies rubbing her thumb along Tobin’s knuckles, the irony not lost on Christen.

“Okay, okay, cool.” Smiling devilishly, “but we can still kiss. I happen to be a very good kisser.” Rolling her eyes, Christen pushes Tobin. Grabbing a large blanket from the corner, “here can you help me?” Tobin stands, helping Christen lay the blanket down before settling herself back against the cab wall. Christen hopes it will provide enough cushioning. The temperature has dropped considerably in the last hour. Pulling out two sweaters, Christen hands one to Tobin, “here.” She places two smaller blankets between them, “in case you get colder.”

Smiling gratefully, “you’ve thought of everything” Winking, Christen pulls her sweater over her head. “The movie should be starting soon. Are you comfortable? If not I have another blanket, we can …”

“It’s perfect.” Tobin pulls her down to sit next to her. Settled Christen hands her a bottle of water, asking “Do you need anything else?”

Shaking her head, “I’m good. What movie are we watching?”

“You’ll find out soon enough”

Pouting, Tobin takes the smaller blanket, laying it across her legs. As far as Christen can tell, it’s comfortable, she can’t feel the ridges of the bed at all. Suddenly, music blares from the speakers as the opening credits roll across the screen. Tobin’s eyes are glued to the screen her mouth slightly open in anticipation. Christen stares at her profile, the lights reflecting off the planes of her face. Words come rushing to the tip of her tongue and she opens her mouth but her vocal chords won't comply. Nothing comes out. Only in her head do the words echo “I love you”

“Oh, Harry Potter!” Tobin gasp, grinning like a school kid.

Instead of whispering the words she knows to be true, Christen whispers out “Happy birthday babe”

Slowly, Tobin turns her head, eyes blazing, she searches Christen’s face, “say it again”

Eyes furrowing in confusion Christen doesn’t understand at first, then with a small smirk “babe?”

Grinning, “I like the way that sounds” and then Tobin’s lips are pressing lightly into hers, then harder. Her tongue runs across Christen’s bottom lip, asking for entrance. Her kiss is languid, Tobin kisses her as if there is all the time in the world as if she plans on doing this forever, and it’s that thought that stops Christen, she pulls back abruptly, a little out of breath. All she can think is forever is such a long time. “You’re missing the movie.”

Grinning, Tobin pulls Christen closer, “this is a great birthday”

“Early birthday celebration”

“It’s the only celebration that matters”

Christen doesn’t say anything because well, there isn’t any reason to, the moment was sort of perfect. Tobin avidly watches the movie. Christen isn’t a big a fan of Harry Potter but she’s enjoying the movie, mostly she’s enjoying being with Tobin, knowing she’s brought her joy.

“Oh,” Tobin suddenly gasp, pulling away from Christen. She struggles to her feet, kicking the blanket away, her eyes never leaving the screen. Glancing from the screen to Tobin, Christen is confused. She’s seen the movie once before but doesn’t remember anything happening that is worthy of a standing ovation.
“Come” she hears Tobin whisper her hand held out. Bemused Christen takes it, allowing Tobin to pull her to her feet. She stands glancing back between the screen and Tobin’s anticipatory face. Slowly, Tobin gathers her into her embrace as the characters on the screen do the same, music begins to play, blaring through the field. Tobin slowly starts to sway their bodies, barely shuffling her feet. Christen’s breath catches as she realizes they’re dancing under the moonlight. They stay swaying long after the characters on the screen.

Eventually, Tobin pulls back gently kissing Christen on the side of her mouth. Wordlessly Tobin moves to sit back down, pulling Christen with her. She arranges Christen so she’s resting against her chest, in between her legs. Sighing Christen leans back into her warm embrace. They don’t stay that way for long. Tobin’s way too excited, she’s constantly shifting behind Christen. So Christen finally moves to the side, laying on her stomach, leaning on her elbows, her head propped in her hands, her smile hidden from Tobin has Tobin places a hand on her leg.

When the credits end the field burst with the sounds of people talking and moving around. Christen is embarrassed to admit she’s dozed off towards the end. Sitting up, it’s almost pitch black outside but she can see Tobin’s face clearly, her joy and happiness illuminates off her. Sleepily Christen ask “Did you enjoy it?”
“Yeah, that was awesome, thank you” and after a pause, and almost a whisper “babe”

“I’m glad you liked it” Christen chuckles “What treats do you want?” Christen ask, pulling her boots back on. At some point during the movie, Tobin had pulled them off.

“I’ll go, you’ve already done enough”

“No, you stay, it’s my pleasure besides I have to use the bathroom.”

“Are you sure, I really don’t…”

“I really have to go and I don’t want to the leave the truck alone. Popcorn?”

“Yeah and a Coke, please”

“Okay, I’ll be right back.”

Fifteen minutes later, Christen returns, popcorn, Coke and M&Ms in hand. Tobin eyes the M&Ms with raised eyebrows. “What? I like sweet and salty.” Shrugging, Tobin munches on the popcorn, completely oblivious to what Christen is doing. Laying a few of the tealights down, Christen arranges them in a circle, illuminating a small patch of the blanket before placing a gift bag in the middle. “Open your gift”

Tobin freezes with a hand of popcorn midway to her mouth, her eyes dart back and forth between Christen and the bag “Chris, I can’t…”

“Don’t argue, just open it”

Slowly Tobin reaches out for the bag, Christen can’t see her expression exactly but a row of pearly whites shine in the darkness. It’s nothing big, nothing spectacular but it’s something Christen figure they can work on together. Tobin pulls out a box, gazing at it speculatively until she registers what it is. Glancing up, she holds the box up, almost as if offering it back to Christen. “Are you sure? I know this is yours and Alyssa’s…”

“It is, but you said you’d never done a puzzle that big, so I figured it was something else we could do over the summer, but if you don’t…”

“No, this is amazing.” Tobin says gazing down at the thousand piece puzzle, “is this Paris?”

“Yes”

“I love Paris”

“I remembered”

Tobin leans in, over the lights placing a gentle kiss at the corner of Christen’s mouth, breathing “thank you.” Christen isn't sure what happened in the next moment, but the moment after that, she’s on her back, her fingers are tangled in Tobin’s hair, their tongues are dueling, completely lost in each other. Christen has every intention of keeping her hands passively on Tobin’s back, so she gasps as her body registers the feeling of Tobin’s hands grazing her sides, slowly pushing her sweater and shirt up. Maybe it’s the total darkness, or maybe it’s the fact that Christen’s body has been aflame since their first kiss. Whatever the reason, Christen hooks her leg around Tobin’s waist, until the heat of her core is pressed against Tobin’s. Her fingers follow Tobin’s lead, finding purchase on Tobin’s back, stroking her feverish skin. Christen arches her back, as more of her skin is caressed, aware that her flesh is making contact with Tobin’s flat and firm stomach. Christen loses sense of time, completely absorbed with the sensations Tobin is causing in her body. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knows she should stop this, slow it down, but she can’t, doesn’t want to.

Pulling back, gasping for air, Tobin pushes herself up, hovering over Christen. Placing a kiss to Christen’s forehead, Tobin moves to the side, before gently pulling down Christen's shirt, smoothing it out. Tobin won't make eye contact. Guilty, Christen covers her eyes with her hand. They’d just discussed this, just agreed to take things slowly and here she is again, rushing things. No matter how right it might feel to her, it’s clear Tobin isn’t ready. Christen respect that and she wants to show Tobin, show her she respects and honors her wishes. Instead, she’s constantly overstepping, moving too fast. “I'm sorry,” Christen says rolling away.

The movie is about to play and they should just watch it. It’s the second time today Tobin’s stopped them, pulled away. Christen should have gotten the message earlier. Christen reaches for the other blanket, keeping her face down, although it’s dark, her face is like a blaze of fire, bright for everyone to see.

Sighing, Tobin throws a portion of her blanket over her legs. Her arm sneaks out, wrapping around Christen's waist. Christen initially resists, out of a mixture of desire and embarrassment. “Chris…don't” Tobin brings Christen into her side, hugging her, she kissing the side of Christen’s head. Tobin takes a corner Christen’s blanket out of her hands spreading it out so it over both of their legs. Tobin gently takes Christen's hand, kissing it. Tobin brings their joined hands under the blanket and before Christen can register what Tobin's going to do, she pushes both their hands down her jeans. Christen gasp as she makes contact with silky heated skin and an undeniable warm wetness that makes her moan. Tobin is so wet. Leaning in, brushing her lips against Christen's outer ear, she huskily grits out “this is what you do to me. I want you all the time.” Gently Tobin tugs at her earlobe with her teeth. Christen instinctually tries to flex her fingers, they desperately want to seek Tobin’s heat out, to be enveloped by her. Tobin's wetness drenches her fingers. But Tobin holds her hands still, “but not before you trust me.” Tobin slowly brings their hand above the blanket. Closing her eyes, Christen pants, her fingers are dewy with Tobin's passion, she needs to taste her. Leaning forward she sucks her first her pointer and then her middle finger, unable to stop the groan of please that escapes. A shiver runs through Tobin, her hand involuntarily jerks, before she slowly pulls her finger away. Hugging Christen tightly Tobin whispers “please don't apologize for wanting me.”


“Come on sleepy head” Christen groggily sits up, her head is pillowed against Tobin’s shoulder. Christen tried to hide her yawns but halfway through the second part Tobin, pulled her onto her lap, telling her to sleep. All warm and snuggly in Tobin’s embrace Christen put up no fight, gladly she closed her eyes and slept.

Voice scratchy from lack of use, Christen ask “Movie over?”

“Yeah, just ended”

“Sorry babe, I didn’t mean to fall asleep”

“Don’t apologize”

“Ready, to head back?”

“Yeah, I need to get you to bed”

“Okay, I’ll pack up everything and we can go”

“Okay, let’s pack up”

“No, go sit in the cab, I’ll be right there”


“Babe, you’re half asleep, I’m helping” Honestly, Christen is too tired to argue. They roll the blankets and sheet back up, stuffing them into a bag. Christen already packed the food up, so they just make sure there is no garbage that can fly away. Tobin helps Christen down from the bed and closes the tailgate. Christen is about to climb into the driver’s seat when Tobin stops her, “Let me drive”

“It’s okay I can drive”

“No, you can’t. You’re half asleep”

“It’s not my truck, babe”

“I know, but I’m sure Adam wouldn’t mind, especially if it means you don’t fall asleep and crash.

“I don’t know, it’s big”

“I use to drive tractors I think I can manage a pickup truck”

“Tractors?” Christen questions her tone disbelieving. Although, maybe she shouldn’t be surprised, Tobin’s full of surprises.

“I’ll tell you the story if you’re a good girl and let me drive? You can barely keep your eyes open”

“I’m fine”
“Did you open the gym this morning?”
“Maybe”

“So you’ve been up since 5 am?”

“Maybe”

“I’m driving, I’ve had two naps today”

Acquiescing Christen hands Tobin the keys, “Fine, you can drive” Honestly it’s safer to allow Tobin to drive, Christen isn’t sure she wouldn’t fall asleep while driving and she honestly doesn’t think Adam will mind.

They switch places, with Christen climbing into the passenger seat, while Tobin takes her place behind the wheel. Smiling, Tobin points to the console, motioning for Christen to lay her head down “Rest”

“I’m okay” Tobin gives her a dubious look but doesn’t say anything as she slowly makes her way out of the lot. Tobin reaches over, picking Christen’s hand up, she entwines their fingers. Christen last about ten minutes before her head finds its way to the console, completely against her own volition. She really is tired. Eyes closed, she’s about to drift off into a deep slumber when she hears whispered words she knows weren’t meant for her ears “I’m going to fall for you Christen Annemarie Press” a soft chuckle “already am” her hand is gently placed on a strong thing, as a thumb rubs the back of her hand, “don’t break my heart”

Heart racing, Christen works overtime, using every mediation exercise she’s ever done to keep her body still. She doesn’t want to move a muscle, giving herself way and alert Tobin to the fact that she heard her because Christen has this horrible feeling that’s a promise she won’t be able to keep.

I don’t know what to believe in
You don’t know who I am
But “never” is a promise and I’ll never need a lie


Chapter Text

If it hurts and you can’t take it no more
Lay it all on me

No you don’t have to keep it under lock and key
Cause I will never let you down
And if you can’t escape all your uncertainties
Baby I can show you how

Let my love in, let my love in
Lay your heart on me
If you’re hurting, if you’re hurting
Lay it all on me, you can lay it all on me

 


Feeling around the bed Christen desperately tries to find the source of the obnoxious ringing. Groaning, Christen swears under her breath, she’d been looking forward to sleeping and is positive she turned her alarm off last night. Christen has been back at the Big House for ten days and she’s been forced to wake up at five in the morning for seven of them in order to open the gym on time at five thirty. So when the alarm sounded a few seconds ago Christen instinctually knew it was early in the morning, too early for her to be awake.

The alarm still blares in the background as Christen’s mind slowly begins to regain consciousness, her body pulsing with life. Mostly awake now two things become obviously apparent to Christen, the ringing isn’t coming from her phone as she first thought and the other side of the bed is empty. Frowning she opens one bleary eye but Tobin is nowhere in sight.

Heaving herself onto Tobin’s side of the bed Christen grunts as she reaches out, her hand fumbling around the nightstand until she finally manages to silence the offending phone. Flopping back on her pillow she breathes a sigh of relief. Gingerly wiping the rest of the sleep out of her eyes, Christen stares up at the small windows near the top of her ceiling. She watches as the beginnings of daylight slowly streams through the window, lightening the corner of her room the sun rays dancing along the wall. Christen’s room is mostly dark except for these few beams of light and from the slight contrast in light and darkness Christen guesses it’s about six in the morning. Leaning back over Christen finds her phone on the nightstand, tilting it so she can read the display. It’s six thirty in the morning, her phone is blank, no new notifications. Christen wonders where Tobin is.

There are certain things Christen has learned about Tobin in the last couple of days most of which center on her peculiar sleeping habits. Tobin loves sunlight, actually she revels in it, it’s one of the main reasons she wanted to move to the attic. She claimed the basement was too dark.

So Christen hadn’t thought too much about the text message she received from Tobin the first night she was back home with her family. In fact, she couldn’t help but chuckle as Tobin asked if she could sleep in the basement until Christen returned. At first, Christen assumed it was because she missed the basement, after all, it had been her room for a year. A small part of Christen hoped it was because Tobin missed her and wanted to sleep in her room. Whatever the reason Christen quickly let Tobin know she could to stay there whenever she wanted. Christen never asked but she suspects Tobin slept in the basement often because when Christen returned to the Big House she was pleasantly surprised to find her pillowcases held the linger smell of Tobin’s unique scent.

The truth is Tobin might love daylight but she basically needs complete darkness to sleep. A day or two after Christen had returned a tired Tobin stumbled into the kitchen, plopping down into a chair, laying her head down on the dining room table swearing she was never going to get enough sleep because the attic wasn’t dark enough. She adamantly claimed the light woke her up earlier than necessary, wreaking havoc on her sleeping schedule.

Christen tried to help Tobin darken her room. They’d attempted to hang various curtains and sheets across the expansive windows but no matter what they did, light always pierced through the meaningless covers, illuminating the room with natural light. Christen reminded Tobin she was welcome to sleep in the basement whenever she wanted as long as Christen getting up early didn’t bother her.

Placing a quick kiss to her lips, Tobin smiled gratefully, assuring Christen that she wouldn’t be woken up by any noise Christen made. She wasn’t lying. Tobin sleeps like a log, an adorable log all curled in on herself, tucked under the sheets. Christen tried to be considerate the first two days Tobin slept in the basement. She’d tiptoed around the room as quietly as she could. One day she accidentally dropped her bag, glancing over at the bed Christen was afraid the noise would wake Tobin but she never even moved. She didn’t even stir when Christen placed a kiss on her cheek whispering goodbye.

Over the course of a week, they’d settled into a comfortable routine in which Tobin sleeps every night in the basement. Christen falls asleep listening to the steady rhythm of her breath and Tobin sleeps through the morning peacefully undisturbed and completely unaware of when Christen leaves for work. So the fact that Tobin isn’t next to her is beyond confusing.

Slowly dragging herself from the bed Christen looks around the room but there’s no evidence of where Tobin could have gone. She checks her phone again but there's still no message. Sighing Christen opens her bedroom door, heading towards the stairs when she steps on something akin to paper and cloth. Looking down, Christen notices a pile of clothing and a folded piece of paper.

Picking the note up, Christen leans against the door frame trying to make sense of everything.

Morning Babe,

Sorry, I’m not there but I had to pick something up for our day. I’ve left a few things for you to wear, I should be back soon. XOXO

Examine the pile of clothing, she realizes Tobin has picked out one of her sports bra, athletic shorts, and a T-shirt. Beyond confused Christen stares at the clothes. Tobin wants her to work out with her? Isn’t that what Kelley is for? Christen knows the girls go running every morning before they go to the camp and then usually again before their afternoon naps. Not that Christen would mind working out with Tobin but did it have to be so early and on the one day she could have slept in? Sighing she can’t help but wonder what Tobin has planned. Picking the garments up Christen makes her way upstairs to the bathroom. She’ll wash her face, brush her teeth and change before laying back down again and waiting for Tobin to get home.

Just as Christen is heading into a deep slumber, she feels pressure against her cheek. Trying to get away, she burrows deeper, pulling the sheet up further around her neck. She vaguely registers wetness against her ear, as Tobin’s licks it. Grunting Christen tries to shrugs Tobin away, moving farther into the bed, seeking distance from Tobin’s roaming lips. It’s futile Christen is drawn completely from the grasp of sleep by small kisses and nips across her face, along her jaw. A hand insistently pulls the sheet down, lips nipping and kissing their way down the column of her neck. “Chris?” another sloppy kiss to her neck, “Ch…ris…ten” a nip at her jaw “I know you’re up.” Christen remains passive within the cocoon of her sheet, Tobin’s ministrations feel amazing and Christen doesn’t want Tobin to stop so she keeps her eyes closed, her breathing even. Amidst a chuckle Tobin sits back heaving out a deep and tortuous sigh “Fine, you leave me no choice.”

Popping one eye open Christen stills apprehensively, Tobin isn’t going to do what Christen thinks she’s going to do, is she? There’s a shift of weight on the bed. Christen feels cold air across her back as the sheet is lifted but the chill is quickly replaced by the heat of Tobin’s body. Tensing Christen prepares herself for whatever Tobin has planned, but she only feels the pleasant gentle touch of Tobin’s finger across her back, onto her shoulder, tracing an invisible pattern. Relaxing Christen is about to snuggle into Tobin when she feels the sensation of fingers working their way down to her underarms quickly followed by the explosive feeling of pleasure and discomfort, as Tobin’s fingers work their way to her side tickling along her length. Shrieking Christen instinctively wriggles and tries to slither out of Tobin’s grasp.

“TOBIN!!!” Christen half yells, half laughs out, “Ok, Ok, I’m up.”

Chuckling, Tobin stops, wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist bring her closer, “morning babe,” leaning over Tobin quickly kissing her on the lips.

Fully rolling over, Christen nestles her face into Tobin's neck, inhaling deeply. There’s something about Tobin scent that Christen loves, it’s comforting, clean, fresh and welcoming. Tobin smells like home. Smiling into Tobin’s shirt, “morning babe,” leaning back Christen kisses the underside of Tobin’s jaw. “Where did you go? I missed you.”

Tightening her arms around Christen, Tobin places a kiss to her forehead, “Sorry, I had to pick a few things up.”

“I would have gone with you.”
“I know but you looked so peaceful sleeping”

“You watched me sleep?”
Vibrations under Christen’s cheek makes her smile “Yep” Tobin laughs out.

“Weirdo”

“Hey, like you’ve never watched me?”
“Not the point”
That’s when a wonderful pungent caffeine-laden aroma tickles Christen’s nose. Scooting back Christen braces herself on her forearm, she glances at Tobin with hopeful eyes, quickly scanning the room “Do I smell coffee?”

Rolling her eyes Tobin gets up walking to Christen’s desk and picks up a takeout cup and a bag. Sitting up Christen braces her back against the wall, holding her hands out expectantly “you’re the best.”

“I knew I couldn’t get you up this early without coffee”

Holding the cup reverently with her two hands Christen inhales deeply taking in the enticing smell before sips the magical brew closing her eyes in pleasure. Sipping her own cup Tobin watches Christen adoringly.

Buzzing on the nightstand draws Tobin’s attention as she peers at the phone on the night stand “it’s your mom.” 

Making a face, Christen wonders why her mom is calling her this early, taking the phone “Hi Mom…no, I was up”

Sipping her coffee, Christen nods again “yeah, I’m with a friend.”

Rolling her eyes Christen glances up at Tobin “my mom says hi.” Tobin smiles back, sipping her coffee.

“That’s what I just said…” rolling her eyes harder in exaggerated annoyance Christen makes direct eye contact with Tobin, “my mom says ‘Good morning Tobin.’ Happy now?” Christen inquires of her mother.

Christen watches in amusement as Tobin’s eyes go wide, mumbling out “hi.”

“She says good morning…uh huh…” sipping her coffee again Christen doesn't notice the way Tobin shifts her weight uneasily from one foot to the next. “No, I’m staying here for the fourth… I think we’re going to the state fair that weekend” Christen looks to Tobin for confirmation, who nods her head affirmatively. Christen listens for a period of time before pulling the phone away from her mouth, smiling up at Tobin, “My grandmother is complaining, she says you haven’t sent her any bible verses lately, it’s your turn.”

“Oh…” Tobin arches an eyebrow looking a little abashed. “tell her I will.” Christen smiles at the perplexed look on Tobin’s face. Her grandmother every once in a while would make Christen’s mother send her a text message with a bible verse. Christen always shared it with Tobin who would reference a verse she liked in return. Christen understand that Tobin probably didn’t realize it had become a thing for her grandmother. “She says she will and tell grandma no.” Face scrunched in concentration Christen is silent as she strains to hear her grandmother in the background. Shaking her head Christen says in exasperation “because she’s mine that’s why.” The conversation continues for another couple of minutes with Christen only giving short answers in an attempt to rush her mom off the phone. Sighing in relief Christen mutters “love you too,” bringing the conversation to an end. Off the phone, Christen glances over to Tobin, who is still standing near the edge of the bed playing with the lid of her coffee cup.

“Did your mom really say ‘Good morning Tobin?”

“Yeah, why would I make that up?”

“But she said ‘Tobin?”

“Yes, she likes using people’s name, says it makes the greeting personal.”

“How did she know you were with me?” Tobin asks cautiously.
“Who else would I be with?” Christen ask puzzled. Lowering herself to the bed, Tobin stares at the cup in her hand, her eyebrows are drawn in. Christen knows this looks. This is Tobin’s, I want to ask a question but not sure how to, look.

“Hey, I’m sorry about that, about them, it’s just…”
“No, it wasn’t them. I just didn’t realize you talked about me? That your mom knows my name?” They should be statements but the way Tobin says it makes it sounds like she’s asking questions. 
“Oh…do you not want me to?” Christen asked concerned.
“No, it’s not that. I just…I just didn’t know” shaking her head Tobin offers her a small smile “…it’s nothing. Ignore me.”

Frowning Christen wonders why this seems to bother Tobin so much. Tobin knows she’s close to her mom, her family, in general, they talk all the time, so why wouldn’t she talk about Tobin with them? Tobin who has quickly become the most important person to her, her best friend, the person who makes her happiest, of course, she talks about her. Looking down at her cup Christen feels like she should apologize but she’s not exactly sure for what. “I’m sorry, it’s just you matter to me so I…”

Reaching out Tobin takes Christen’s cup from her hand. She places it on the floor next to hers before crawling over and settling herself on Christen’s lap. Leaning down Tobin crushes her lips into Christen’s, her mouth hungrily exploring hers. Momentarily stunned Christen takes a second to catch up with Tobin’s demanding lips. Then one of her hands is finding her way to Tobin’s hip, squeezing, trying to bring Tobin closer, gentle rocking Tobin against her. At the same time, Tobin’s hand it way to the back of Christen’s neck, entwining her fingers in her hair as she devours Christen’s mouth. As usual, Christen completely loses track of time, the only thing Christen is aware of is the sweet taste of Tobin’s mouth and the heat radiating from her core.

Before Christen is ready, Tobin breaks the kiss, breathing hard Tobin gasp for air as she braces her forearms on either side of Christen’s head against the wall. Eyes closed, Christen licks her lips, savoring the taste of Tobin on her lips.  

“Don’t apologize,” Tobin puffs out, falling to the side and half off Christen’s lap, grinning up at Christen. Taking a minute to steady herself, trying to regain control of her overheated body Christen trains her eyes on Tobin’s legs, which does nothing to diminish her arousal. Christen knows this is something they should probably discuss she wants to know what she did to make Tobin uncomfortable. But one glance at the grinning girl and Christen knows she won’t push. Unfortunately, the list of things she and Tobin should discuss is starting to grow. It’s not unmanageable but it is getting dangerous and Christen knows most of the blame lays at her feet. “Hey,” reaching out Tobin plays with Christen’s fingers, “don’t frown we’re going to have a great day, just you and me.”

Sighing Christen turns her face to the side, silently asking for another kiss which Tobin happily complies with. Somewhat satisfied Christen decides to the little the matter drop for now, she tells herself she doesn’t want to ruin the day, tells herself they can discuss it later, at the right time. Although Christen knows there’s never the “right time”. Detangling herself from the sheets, “where are we going?” Christen asks as she crawls over Tobin prone figure to pick first Tobin’s cup of coffee up handing it over and then her own.

“It’s a surprise,” Tobin says cheekily.

“I don’t like surprises” Christen deadpans before sipping her coffee. It’s not true at all, she loves surprises just preferably not first thing in the morning.

“Too bad, you promised to spend the day with me”
“Shucks,” Christen quickly bites the lip of her coffee cup to hide her smile.

“I also got you a bagel sandwich but can you eat it in the car? We should get going.”

“Sure,” Leaving the bed Christen stands up glancing around “Should I bring anything?”

“Like?”

“I don’t know, I guess it depends on where we’re going.” Christen shrugs with as much indifference as she can muster.
Smirking, Tobin shakes her head “Nice try. I have everything we need” Christen stares skeptically at Tobin but doesn’t say anything. It’s not that Christen doesn’t trust Tobin to plan and pack effectively it’s more that they require different things. Tobin’s daily needs are simpler than Christen. Tobin can walk out the house with literally only the clothes on her back and be fine. Things like a phone, wallet and keys are optional to Tobin, whereas Christen sees them as necessary essentials for daily survival.

Christen tried to do the same once, to just walk out the house armed with nothing but her wallet (because what if something went wrong, she would at least need some form of legal tender) and felt naked the whole time. She learned she can’t leave the house without at least her phone and wallet. She’s managed to leave the house without a bag a couple of times. Although, she felt naked the whole time. Giving Tobin the benefit of the doubt and mostly because she doesn’t have a choice, Christen slips into a pair of flip flops. Grabs her phone from the nightstand and follows Tobin up the stairs and out the house.

Walking towards Adam’s truck, Christen notices that Tobin has purposefully parked so Christen can’t see into the back, heightening her suspicions. Glancing over at Tobin, Christen notices the smile she’s trying to contain. Tobin swipes her hand in a welcome gesture, “Your chariot awaits you”

Frowning, Christen ask “You’re not going to kill me are you?”
Bouncing down the stairs, Tobin calls over her shoulder “now that you mention it.”

Holding the passenger side door open for her Tobin attempts to wait patiently but she’s a ball of energy, bouncing on her toes in anticipation. Christen would be lying if she said Tobin’s energy wasn’t infectious. It helps push aside any of Christen’s lingering doubts. Settling into her seat Christen sneaks a peek over her shoulder trying to see if there’s anything in back that would alert her to what’s going on. Noticing two pairs of cleats on the back seat, Christen tries to glance into the bed but the driver’s door is opening. Christen quickly faces forward before Tobin can catch her sneaking a peak, Christen doesn’t want to ruin her excitement.


Christen’s fingers are interlocked with Tobin’s as she watches the passing scenery with a growing apprehension. A sense of dread washes over Christen as she realizes where Tobin is taking her and quietly kept she’s not surprised but she’s not happy about it either.

Christen should have seen this coming honestly, it was only a matter of time. Tobin has increasingly become more determined, constantly asking Christen why she doesn’t play soccer anymore. It’s become a thing between them, always ending the same way with an irritated Christen inevitably snapping and an admonished Tobin looking guilty.

It started innocently during finals week a couple of the girls were in the backyard kicking a ball around. Tobin had wanted Christen to play but she’s resolutely refused no matter how much Tobin pleaded with her. From there it escalated to request to just pass the ball with Tobin, to intermittent questions about how her school team, what position she played on her school team in contrast to her club team. Christen knows Tobin isn’t being malicious that she is genuinely interested but it hits a nerve for Christen and consequently, the conversation are never productive.

It also explains why they had to get up so early, the public soccer field hosts a youth league around eleven and she thinks set up starts before that. Christen knows this because a lot of the girls in Tobin’s summer camp group are in the league. Looking over at Tobin there’s something about the exuberance on her face, the way she taps her fingers against the steering wheel, humming off tune that causes Christen to fight the overpowering desire to pull her hand from Tobin’s and pout. If she did it would hurt Tobin’s feelings. The thought of hurting Tobin is so abhorrent that Christen doesn’t even truly consider it.

Putting the truck in park, Tobin eyes Christen warily, “surprise?” Christen can hear the hesitancy in Tobin’s voice but she doesn’t look at her. Instead, Christen stares at the empty field, silently she opens the door and walks to the edge of the pitch. The field is beautiful and green, it used to be the land of dreams and promises but now when Christen gazes over its plains and all she sees is lies and broken promises.

Feeling Tobin’s presence behind her Christen asks harsher than intended, “why are we here?” unable to mask her bitterness.

“I thought we could pass the ball around for a bit?” Tobin says carefully. Even through her anger Christen can hear the worry and anxiousness in Tobin’s voice

“Why? You know I don’t play.”

“Why not? Why won’t you?” Christen doesn’t respond, she just bites her lower lip glaring at the green expanse in front of her. When there’s no response, Tobin continues “I’m not saying join a team but why won’t you even touch a ball?”

“I don’t want to” Christen hisses.

“Why not?”

“I just don’t” Christen whispers furiously. Christen’s fury a mask for her true feelings; the anxiety, the pain, the ridicule and mostly the remnants of her broken heart and forgotten dreams.

“Why don’t you talk about it?”

“I don’t like to.”

Taking a deep breath, Tobin rubs her eyes harshly to the point it looks painful. Tobin wipes her mouth with her hand and Christen knows she’s choosing her words carefully, “I know you don’t like to talk about it, I know. You don’t like to talk about your past at all but I just thought maybe this could help you move on.”

Setting her jaw Christen ask stubbornly “Move on? Move on from what?”
Giving Christen a hard look, “From what? I don’t know from whatever it is that you’re holding onto, whatever it is that keeps you from talking about this?” Tobin answers her voice rising in exasperation.

“I’m not holding on to anything”

Taking a deep breath, Tobin tries again “okay, then why don’t you play soccer anymore? It’s a simple question Chris, you should be able to answer it.”

Christen isn’t sure if this is Tobin’s attempt at tough love but she doesn’t like it, not one bit. She’s trying to control her emotions, trying to keep from lashing out at the one person who doesn't deserve it. “What does it matter?”


“It matters because you can’t answer the question because you can barely stand to watch us play, because you flinch at the sight of the ball, because when you think no one notices you tear up. I don’t care if you actually play or not. What I do care about is the way you completely shut down whenever the subject comes up. I care about how it’s clearly something that hurts you and I just…” sighing in frustration, “I don’t know, I just don’t want you to hurt anymore. I love soccer, it’s basically my life. I want to be able to share that with you but I can’t if it’s something that hurts you.”

Christen wants to argue, wants to deny every astute observation Tobin mentioned, wants to say it’s all but that would be a lie and Christen doesn’t want to start lying again. Besides, deep down she knows Tobin’s right and maybe she’s avoided the subject long enough.

Turning from Tobin, Christen glowers at the green land of doubt and fears. She can’t remember the last time she placed a booted foot on a pitch, can’t remember the last time she stepped on a playing field in general. Playing soccer use to be such a joyful thing but she lost that a long time ago. It's just become a painful memory of all she thought she had and all she knows she lost. Or is it?

Looking back on it now Christen reluctantly admits maybe she didn’t lose anything, at least nothing compared to what she might gain now, in the present. A small voice in the back of her mind whispers that maybe she hasn’t played because she’s been holding on to the pain, that the familiar was comforting in a way she didn’t want to examine. Maybe she’s been afraid to move on, afraid of what the unknown would bring, reluctant to create new memories in case they ended badly.

“Chris…Look, I’m sorry…this was”

“Don’t,” holding her hand up “just give me a minute…just a minute.” Tobin is right Christen knows this, knows that she’s only trying to help. This is something Christen needs to face because, despite the fact that she’s steadily working on moving on from her past, she still harbors too much of the lingering pain, anger and fear. Christen knows this is one of the many hurdles she must get over if she every truly plans on being free of her past. Necessary if she plans on having a future with Tobin. A future she knows she wants with Tobin even if they haven’t discussed it yet.

More importantly shouldn’t Christen cross this hurdle with the person who has come to mean the world to her, who continues to break her barriers down, the person she loves. After all, Tobin has done for her, isn’t this the least she can do? Put aside all her anger and commendation and enjoy the game Tobin loves so much? Yes, she should, she owes it to Tobin but most importantly she owes it to herself.  Christen wants to Tobin to share her world with her, wants their worlds to completely immerse and in order for that to happen Christen has to start meeting Tobin half way, maybe even more than that but she needs to at least start making the effort.

Turning to face Tobin, she offers her an apologetic smile. “You have nothing to be sorry about. I’m the one who should be apologizing”

“No, I shouldn’t push you…”

Chuckling humorously, “yeah, well sometimes I need to be pushed,” Christen says her eyes trained on the pitch. Sighing she tries to find the best and quickest way to explain. “Soccer stopped being fun for me, it was just a reminder of everything I poured my heart into that didn’t work out. My ankle was hurt, grandma was sick, I was broken hearted, losing friends and it just became too much, too painful.”

“I’m sorry…”
“Don’t be sorry. I keep refusing to play for all the wrong reasons. You’ve helped me see that.” Turning to face Tobin, Christen quickly crosses the distance between them, firmly but gently taking Tobin’s hands within hers “I need to work on new beginnings, making new memories and there is no one else I’d want to do this with. I’ll only be able to do this with your help.”

“Are you sure, I didn’t…”

“I’m sure.” It’s time to let go of it all, just let go Christen thinks. Smiling ruefully, “you just have to promise not to make fun of me. I haven’t played in a while.”

Bringing Christen into the warmth of her embrace Tobin buries her head in Christen’s neck “I was afraid you’d be furious at me”
“Did you really?”
“I thought it was a possibility,” pulling back, holding Christen loosely within her embrace Tobin answers honestly.

“And still you did it?”

“I thought it was important” Tobin stares at her with uncertain eyes.

Smiling reassuringly, “You’re right, it is.”

“So you’re not angry?” Tobin asks placing a kiss on one temple than the other.

“I was at first but I don’t think I can stay mad at you for long especially not when you do things like that” Christen says as Tobin trails a line of kisses down her cheek to her jaw, onto her neck, where she sucks gently at Christen’s apex.

“Good to know” briefly letting her lips linger at Christen’s pulse point but Tobin pulls back before either of them can escalate things. “I brought cleats for us” Tobin points to the boots laying a few feet away.

“Okay, let’s do this. Remember, no making fun of me.”

“I would never,” Tobin says with a mischievous grin that beguiles her words.

Standing at the halfway line the ball between her and Tobin, Christen feels the long forgotten anticipation grow within her. It’s been so long since she’s stood here, so long since the thought of playing has brought her anything but unpleasant memories and she knows it all because of the smirking, ultra-confident girl across from her.

“Okay, so we can take it easy at first…” and before Tobin can finish her sentence Christen kicks the ball between her legs, running around the stunned Tobin, bounding after the ball. She doesn’t get far before Tobin tackles the ball away from her. Securing the ball under her foot, Tobin stands in front of Christen's hands on her hips, mouth ajar, staring at Christen in disbelief, “did you just…?”

Christen steps forwards, smiling sweetly she places a kiss to Tobin’s cheek, “maybe I’m not that out of touch”

Huffing, Tobin objects, “You cheated, I was talking”

Running a hand along Tobin’s shoulder, gently skimming her fingers along her neck, Christen whispers “maybe you just can’t keep up.” Tobin gasp indignantly. Taking advantage of her momentary lapse in concentration, Christen steals the ball back and takes off towards the goal, Tobin in hot pursuit.

And that is how it continues, Christen stealing the ball whenever Tobin is momentarily distracted, only to have her steal it right back. The majority of the time Tobin is dribbling circles around her. She’s managed to nutmeg Christen a total of ten times. Christen has a sneaking suspicion Tobin is going to continue until she gets to seventeen.

Christen’s competitive side comes out and she’s had enough. Christen swears she tried to play fair but she’s out of shape and can’t keep up with Tobin. So Christen does the only thing she can think to do, distract Tobin by any means.

She starts out slowly, purposely brushing against Tobin, allowing her hands to roam and linger on Tobin’s ass and sides, brushing along the contours of her breast. Tobin appears to be completely unfazed, all she does is smile at Christen with knowing eyes, shaking her head, kissing Christen’s sweetly on the lips, “you’re going to have to do better than that.”

Has Christen ever mentioned she loves a challenge because she loves challenges? Christen decides it’s hot, after all it is June and even though it’s early in the morning she’s sweating, sweating enough to justifying stripping down to her sports bra. She’s aware of eyes on her, as she throws her shirt to the side. The smirk she gets back in response is mischievous, “you’re right, it’s hot.” Tobin slowly raises her top, taking her time as she strips down to her sports bra. Staring at Tobin’s tone body, Christen thinks maybe this wasn’t the best idea. But determined to win, she walks towards Tobin, once close enough to touch Christen reaches out skimming her fingers along Tobin’s taunt stomach, enjoying the way her muscles rippling under her touch. Tobin’s breath hitches, her eyes focused on Christen’s hand. Seizing the opportunity, Christen blatantly pushes Tobin away from the ball, kicking it she runs forward. Without a second thought, she shoots and watches in joyful adulation as it swishes into the back of the net. 

Christen knows in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal, she’ scored multiple goals before and into a net guarded by a skilled goalkeeper but this is one goal she’ll never forget, one that will mean the most to her and all because one person, the most important person helped her move past a difficult part of her past.

Arms in the air, “Tobin! Tobin did you see?” Christen races towards her and as if she’s done it forever, Tobin opens her arms wide and Christen flies into her. “Awesome babe,” Tobin whispers, arms wrapping around Christen holding her tight Tobin lifts Christen a few inches of the ground, spinning her in a half circle.

Tobin slowly lowers Christen to the ground, her joyful laughter mingling with Christen as their bodies press together and arms entwine. “You’re amazing.”

Shaking her head Christen whispers, “No, you’re the amazing one.”

 


“Jules!!!”

“Press!!!”

Running into the living room Christen tackles Julie onto the couch. They shriek in that way only exuberantly happy girls can, hitting a pitch only recognizable by dogs as they deathly hug each other. Wincing, Alyssa and Tobin watch the reunion in amusement. Moving off Julie, Christen adjusts herself so she’s sitting at one end of the couch. “How? When did you get here?”
Laughing Julie sits up, “Lys picked me up this morning. I’ve just been waiting for you to get out of work.”

“I had no idea you were coming”

“That’s the point of a surprise” Julie laughs.

Narrowing her eyes suspiciously Christen glares at Tobin and Alyssa accusingly, “both of you knew?”
Grinning at each other, they shake their heads, “and you kept it from me?”

“That’s the point of a surprise babe” Tobin grins at Christen, who despite herself finds herself grinning back. So focused on each other, neither Tobin nor Christen notice the surprised look Julie shoots Alyssa. Rolling her eyes, Alyssa mouths back, “you have no idea.”

Breaking free oh Tobin’s gaze, Christen’s body is practically vibrating with happiness and excitement, “are you here for the rest of the summer?” Christen's hope apparent in her voice.

Offering an apologetic smile Jules shakes her head, “just for the weekend,” pulling Christen into a hug, “but I’ll be back in August.”

“Fine” Christen sighs, “I guess that will have to do, are you coming with us to the fair tonight?”

“Yeah and I'll be here for the fourth after that I'm going to head back with Zack for a little while before returning home.”

“Oh, Zack is here ? Is he coming to the fair also?”

“Yeah, he has something to do at the frat house. I'm not sure if he'll want to go but I'll ask”

“I’m going to head upstairs”, Tobin says walking over kissing the top of Christen’s head.

“Nap time?” Christen asks.

Shaking her head Tobin heads towards the stairs, “yeah, are you tired?”

“No, I’m good”

Hesitating in the doorway, Tobin opens her mouth and closes it, Christen knows she wants to argue. Tobin knows how grumpy she gets when she tired. Tobin tries to remind her they have a long night ahead of them “we’re going to be out late and you were up early.”

“I know but I want to catch up with Jules” Christen replies.

“Okay, well wake me up when it’s time.”

“Sleep tight, Heath!” Jules calls after her

“Later guys” Tobin calls from the stairs.

The group is silent as Tobin makes her way up the stairs, the minute Julie is sure she’s out of earshot, she turns to Christen, “So how have things been?”
“They’re good” Christen responds neutrally.

“Living in the house okay?”

“I haven’t killed Kelley yet so that’s good”

“How much trouble could she have been” Jules laughs out.
“Have you seen Tobin’s room?” Christen ask as Alyssa burst into a fit of laughter.

“No, why?” Julie asks curiously, glancing between Christen and Lys.

“Well, I came home to find them covered in blue paint. Apparently, Tobin wanted to paint her walls, so they went and got paint but I swear more of it ended on the floor and on them then the walls. So if you go into Tobin’s room, there are” Christen makes air quotations marks “blue clouds on her floor.” Pulling her phone out Christen shows Julie a picture of a grinning Kelley and Tobin with various shades of blue covering them. Julie burst out laughing shaking her head Julie ask “how long did it take to get the paint out of their hair?”

“Forever” Christen grunts.

“That’s not so bad I mean Heath could have done that on her own.”

“There’s also a tent in the back yard now”

“Really?” Julie ask with a mischievous grin, “how did that happen?”

Looking a little guilty Christen licks her bottom lip “Tobin and Kelley might have gone to Walmart by themselves.”

Julie burst into laughter barely getting out “how did that happen?”

“It’s Adam’s fault, he told Tobin she can drive his truck”

“Don’t blame Adam,” Lys chimes in “it’s not his fault you’re whipped. I’m sure Tobin asked and you said yes.”

“I didn’t know Kelley was going with her”

“Is that all they got?”
“That I know of. I haven’t been to your side of the house I’m afraid of what Kelley might be hiding.”

Smirking Jules ask “So you don’t know about the hammock in the back room?” Lys sitting in the loveseat tries to stifle her laughter. Turning to face her, Christen asks incredulously “You knew?”
“Kel showed me last week when I got here. She’s very proud of it”

“Why in the back room? How did she even secure it?” Face falling; horror creeping into her voice Christen reluctantly ask “Please tell me it’s not secured to the wall, please?” Christen says, glancing back and forth between Jules and Lys.

Shaking her head, “you don’t want to know” Lys offers unable to contain her grin.

“Oh no,” Christen says falling back against the armrest of the couch.

“Brunn is gonna be pist” Jules laughs stretching out on the couch.

“Yep” Alyssa chuckles

“Wait, does Tobin know?”

Neither Lys nor Jules answer but their faces say it all, Tobin knows.

“She didn’t say anything” Christen exclaims in annoyance.

“Yeah, I don’t blame her on that one” Lys says once she sees the look on Christen’s face “Why would she want you mad at her for something Kelley did?”
Huffing, Christen cross her arms over chest looking upwards, almost as if she could see into the attic, “She still should have told me”

Kicking Christen’s foot “Speaking of telling someone something?”

Christen stares blankly at Jules, she knows exactly what she’s asking but she doesn’t want to admit that she still hasn’t actually told Tobin verbally that she likes her much less loves her.

“No, she still hasn’t told Tobin” Lys’s bored tone carries from the other side of the room.

Scowling at her, Christen turns back to Jules “it just…”

“Hasn’t come up” Jules finishes slightly shaking her head, all too familiar with Christen’s excuse by now. “Well, you guys seem to be happy, I guess it working for you ladies.”
Lys snorts diversely “That’s one way to put it” but otherwise she doesn’t elaborate, although her look is clearly disapproving. 

“Can we not, please? I just want to spend time with two of my best friends.” Christen whispers, she knows they’re right but she doesn’t want to focus on that now. Things have been going so well between her and Tobin, she’s been so happy lately that’s all she wants to concentrate on. “You two can lecture me another day.”

Jules shares a look with Alyssa, who raises her eyebrows and rolls her eyes. Clearing her throat, Julie distinctly changes the subject, kicking the bottom of Christen’s foot again “Speaking of Wal-Mart, are you up for a run?” Jules says with an air of innocence as if it just occurred to her but Christen knows what she’s thinking. “I haven’t been to Wal-Mart in months and we haven’t made cookies in forever” Jules continues saying.

“You mean I haven’t made cookies in forever.”

“You do make the best cookies” Lys chimes in, excitement tinting her tone. Looking back and forth between the hopeful faces of two of her best friends Christen knows she won’t say no.

“Fine but I’m not driving and we’re only picking up the necessary ingredients.”

“I’ll drive,” Lys says bounding from the couch “we should also look at hammocks”

“NOT HAPPENING” Christen yells after her.

 

Chapter Text

Show me to a higher place
Take me to outer space
I want you to be my friend
We’ll make it till the world ends

I want a love that will last
After this world is our past
A love that no time could erase
A love in a higher place


Like two kids on Christmas, Lys and Jules sit on opposite sides of the counter, swinging their legs back and forth, their eyes riveted on Christen mixing the cookie dough. Hunched protectively over the bowl Christen concentrates on making perfect size disks on the cookie sheet as she waits for the oven to finish heating. Smacking away another greedy hand with her spatula Christen glares at Julie, “no more if you keep eating there won’t be any cookies.”

Pouting Julie rubs her hand. Taking advantage of Christen’s lack of concentration, Lys sneaks a little more cookie dough. “I saw that Lys” Christen declares swirling towards Lys. “Anymore tasting and I won’t make cookies again.” It’s an empty threat and they all know it. Christen enjoys baking and even though they’re annoying her right this moment, Christen will bake for them again. In an attempt to contain themselves Julie and Lys both clasp their hands in their laps.

Bending down to place the cookies in the oven Christen misses the look Alyssa and Julie share and the fact that Alyssa points towards Julie.

Clearing her throat Julie squirms a little “Press, can I ask you something?”

“Yeah, what’s up” Standing up Christen checks the temperature on the stove before turning to face Julie. Immediately Christen recognizing Jules’ serious face and she knows she's not going to like what comes next.

“Why haven’t you talked to Heath? I mean, I know you were scared before but you have to know how she feels about you now, right?” Julie bluntly starts a conversation she knows Christen doesn’t want to have. 

“Fine, I know she likes me, she’s told me that but…” With soft eyes Lys gently interrupts Christen “C she more than likes you, you’d have to be blind not to see that.” Christen shakes her head in denial. Smiling sympathetically Lys continues “Not saying it doesn’t make it any less true.”

“It’s true Press, anyone can see how Heath feels about you and how you feel about her. You were happy to see me today I know that but you were happier to see her.”

Face falling Christen knows Jules is telling the truth. Christen was excited to see Jules but it doesn't compare to the complete adulation she feels whenever her eyes land on Tobin. Tobin’s physical presence is euphoric.

Shaking her head Christen knows Tobin's feelings aren't the problem. Christen has never questioned the joy Tobin brings her. Secretly Christen will even admit that it seems like Tobin really likes her, like a lot but that’s just it, seems to. The true problem is that “it’s not me that she likes,” Christen whispers out.

Pausing Jules and Alyssa share a confused glance, “what do you mean?”

Miserable looking Christen’s tone is devastated, “She doesn’t know me. She sees me…she has this image of me and that person is perfect, that person makes no mistakes but that’s not me. I’m so imperfect, I’m damaged and eventually she’s going to realize that, eventually I’m going to let her down…” Christen’s eyes are trained on her hands as she worries her fingers, her voice barely audible Christen forces herself to continue “then she won’t want me but the thing is I’ll still want her. I'll still love her. I know how this sounds, it sounds stupid and I know it’s stupid but I can’t shake this feeling… I don’t want to be like this, I hate being this afraid. I want to tell Tobin the truth, I want to tell her I like her, that I love her.” Looking up her eyes pleading for understanding, Christen continues “I’ve wanted to tell her so many times and I almost have, so many times but the minute the words come to mind, the moment they’re supposed to leave my lips, I swallow them down. I imagine all these different scenarios and they all…the just all end badly.” Tears lining the rims of her eyes, Christen slumps against the counter.

Jules brings Christen in for a hug, holding her tightly. Sighing Julie holds Christen at arms-length looking directly into her watery eyes. “Press, you gotta have more faith in yourself and in Tobin. You can’t keep comparing everyone and everything to what happened in the past, it’s not fair to you or her.”

“It’s just…”

“Chris, it seems like most of your fears stem from Tobin not knowing who you are, that you'll disappoint her somehow?” Lys intervenes. Christen nods her head, sniffing a little. “I don’t agree C. Just consider this for a moment. You two have spent almost all of your free time together this summer. You don't think during that time she learned more about you than you’re giving her credit for? That maybe she knows you better than you’re willing to admit?”

Eyes full of doubt Christen tries to explain, “sometimes I think so, sometimes I feel foolish for doubting her. But other times, she’ll look at me, or she’ll say something and no, I don’t think she does.”

“Press, I have to agree with Lys, I think she probably knows you better than you think” Julie says, “but if you truly feel that way, there’s a simple solution.”

Looking up hopefully Christen looks at Jules likes she’s a modern day prophet come to solve all her. “Just show her the person you want her to know. "You make it sound so easy” Christen groans.

“It is, all you have to do is be you,” Jules says simply.

Smiling apologetically Lys continues “But C, you need to work on your fear and that’s not something we can help you with. I know where it comes from but…I’m afraid you’re going to allow your past to ruin your future.”

“I know” Christen’s tone admonitory.

“It’s time to put your big girl panties on Press”

“I know, I know, I am trying, I really am. I don’t want this to come between us, I don’t want to lose her.”

“You haven’t yet and I don’t think you will,” checking the timer on the stove, Lys offers “you have choices to make. Make the choices that work best for both of you.” Glancing back at Christen, Lys points at the stove, “how much longer?”

“They should be done in about two minutes”

Hugging Christen again, Julie whispers “you’ll figure it out just include Tobin she knows you better than you think.”

The alarm on the stove goes off and Julie jumps, “Cookies!!” Lys turns the stove off, opening the door she reaches for the cookie sheet with a mitt.

“Be careful, don’t burn yourself”

“I won’t”

Watching her two best friends picking at the steaming cookies Christen knows they’re right. She’s been her own worst enemy for a while now. She can’t figure it out but there’s something, something that won’t let her move on, something about her past she won’t let go of. Frustrated with herself Christen knows it’s time to build a bridge and move on.


Tiptoeing up the last couple of steps to the attic Christen notices that Tobin’s bedroom door is ajar. Peaking inside the room Christen is surprised to see Tobin in bed propped upright on pillows reading a book wearing a large shapeless T-shirt with a faded club soccer logo. Her hair is messy, half in a bun, half falling around her face indicating she napped for a little while.

Leaning against the door frame Christen takes advantage of being unobserved her gaze languidly roams over Tobin. Christen’s eyes explore Tobin’s bare legs, appreciating the toned expanse of tanned skin, up to her smooth stomach, caressing Tobin’s taunt perfect breast barely outlined under her shirt, until finally lingering on Tobin’s long slender fingers. Standing there Christen realizes why she can't move on. It’s more than some intangible fear that Tobin doesn’t know who she truly is. Christen might actually be afraid of love itself.

It’s hard to explain why, why she’s afraid but Christen thinks love isn’t a simple thing. Yes, Love can be wonderful and exciting. Christen knows being in love is amazing, thrilling, breathtaking, one of the best feelings in the world. For love isn't supposed to know reason, it’s supposed to be blind, it defies all logic, it has no bounds and cannot be confined by any worldly thing. Loving and being loved can be outta this world. Christen has heard people say love is the purest emotion but she knows that there are two sides to love.

She knows firsthand that for all of love’s joys it can be damaging too. Love has a side no one ever really talks about. No one ever wants to admit that love can be painful and overwhelming. That it can hurt to lose yourself in loving someone. To be so infatuated with them, to love a person to the point of distraction and Christen is terrified that she’s at that point. That she's reached the point of no return. Christen feels like she's standing on the edge of a cliff, seconds from losing herself all over. A line from the French film Alex made her watch comes to mind, “it’s so good to love someone that it winds up hurting,” and like in the movie Christen doesn’t know how she’ll survive it.

Tobin glances up as if hearing her thoughts, a beautiful smiling spreading across her face, “hey.”

Pushing away from the door frame Christen stomps down her rolling torrent of fear. Christen forces her feet forward, towards Tobin ignoring her instinctual desire to flee, “hey you” she says slowly entering the room, “I thought you were napping?”

“I woke up a little while ago” Tobin’s eyes immediately land on the plate in Christen’s hand “what’s in your hand?”

“Oh, this? Nothing special, just something I made.”

“You made cookies again?” Tobin asks hopefully

“Shhhhhh…do not tell Jules I’ve been baking without her”

“Too late, you know Kel is going to say something.”

“Oh, that reminds me…” standing at the edge of Tobin’s mattress Christen holds the plate out of her reach. As Christen predicted Tobin never got a bed frame, instead her mattress rest on top of a box spring on the floor, “is there anything you want to tell me?”

Sheepishly, Tobin raises her arms interlocking her hands behind her head, “like?”

“Like something a little squirrel did next door?”

“So you found out about it, huh?” Tobin grins

“Yea, Lys and Jules told me about the hammock,” Christen says indigently

“Hammock?” Tobin asks confused as recognition slowly overcomes her face “right, the hammock! My bad.”

Eyes wide Christen stares at Tobin in horror, “that's not what you were talking about, is it?” Smirking Tobin doesn't say anything. “You know what? I don't want to know,” shaking her head Christen thinks Kelley is going to have a lot of explaining to do.

Tobin lowers her arms, “that's why I never mentioned it.” Tobin suddenly lunges forward stealing a cookie from the plate.

“Hey,” Christen exclaims pulling the plate away too late. Taking a bite “hmmmmm” Tobin smirks triumphantly.

“No more for you” Christen declares finding shelter for the plate on top of Tobin’s dresser. Checking the clock Christen sees they have a little over an hour before it’s time to leave. Climbing across the bed Christen settles herself onto Tobin’s lap, “good?” Christen ask in amusement as Tobin stuffs the rest of the cookie into her mouth. Chewing Tobin nods her head affirmatively, her hands sneaking under Christen’s shirt lightly rubbing along her sides. Sighing in fond exasperation Christen wipes crumbs from the corner of Tobin’s mouth with her thumb, gently rubbing it across Tobin’s bottom lip. One side of Christen’s mouth quirks upon feeling Tobin’s lips pucker against the pad of her finger. It’s such a simple gesture but Christen feels it down in her depths as her stomach rolls over pleasurably.

Effortlessly Tobin sits up her hands spanning the expanse of Christen’s back. She placing a kiss to the hollow of Christen’s neck, brushing her lips along Christen’s collar bone muttering, “lay down with me, we still have time. I missed you.” Reclining back Tobin doesn’t wait for a response, she tugs Christen down with her. Heartbeat increasing Christen willingly follows her down. Adjusting herself Christen pillows her head against the soft contours of Tobin’s breast, her bare legs intertwining with Tobin’s.

Christen’s lips automatically seek out the spot where Tobin’s heart beats steadily. Christen places a reverent kiss where Tobin’s thudding muscle beats. Resting her ear against Tobin’s chest, she listens to the steady thuds of Tobin’s heart, the rhythmic sounds announces Tobin is alive and well.

It’s something Christen does each time they’re close like this much to Tobin’s amusement. She once asked Christen why she did it. Unable verbalize the importance Christen shrugged a shoulder simply replying it was her way of saying thanks. Tobin had given her a dubious look but didn’t say anything else. What Christen couldn’t verbalize was it was her way of saying thanks to whatever gods may be for blessing her life with such an amazing person.

Wiggling them further down the bed, yawning Tobin ask, “tired?”

“No, not really” Christen replies slipping her hand under Tobin’s shirt, “go back to sleep, I’ll wake you up when it’s time”

“Can you read to me?” Tobin asks between yawns. Detangling herself from Tobin, Christen kisses Tobin’s heart one more time sitting up, “of course.” Switching positions with Tobin, Christen leans back against the pillows, picking the book up Christen finds the page Tobin dog marked, “where were you?”

“Just read, it doesn’t matter,” Tobin mutters easing her body partially on top of Christen, wrapping an arm around her middle, snuggling into her. Christen’s free hand automatically finds the base of Tobin’s neck, tenderly needling the muscles along the column of her neck.

Christen tries to concentrate on reading but the sensation of fingers running along her outer thigh to the edge of her shorts keeps distracting her. Christen works to keep her voice steady. Dreamily Tobin skims her fingers up Christen’s body, slipping her hand beneath Christen’s tank top, tracing patterns on her stomach. Christen enjoys the soft touches, unable to stop the hitch in her voice, forcing herself to continue reading happy she didn’t lose her places. Christen circles her hand lower, down the stretch of Tobin’s back until her fingers find soft warm flesh where Tobin’s T-shirt has pulled up in the back. Fitting herself closer to the curve of Christen’s body, Tobin nudges her thigh between Christen’s, pressing her core against Christen’s thigh, rubbing her cheek against Christen’s breast. Tobin closes her eyes as an onslaught of ardent emotions course through her body. Christen appreciates the feel of Tobin’s heat, her wetness leaking through her boybriefs onto Christen’s thigh.

“Babe? Everything okay?” Tobin cheekily husks out, her voice a sexy mixture of sleep and arousal. Trailing her hands up and down Tobin’s spine Christen raises the hem of Tobin’s shirt a little higher each time, exposing her bare back. Clearing her throat Christen mumbles “sorry, I was a little distracted,” attempting to read again Christen swears she repeated the same sentence three times as Tobin’s insistent hands push her tank up exposing her cloth covered breast, placing a kiss just above her heart. Sighing Tobin rests her cheek between Christen’s breasts, slipping a hand under Christen’s bra cradling one of her breasts in her palm.

Groaning in delight, the book slides from Christen’s hand completely forgotten landing on the floor with a thud. Tobin’s breath tickles Christen’s skin as she chuckles “what happened, babe?”

“Shut up” Christen demands shifting her thigh, leisurely rocking into Tobin’s core, pressing harder against her heat. Christen is exultant when Tobin whimpers, her hips jerking.   

Breathing hard Tobin circles her thumb around Christen’s hardening nipping, alternating between tugging and rolling the sensitive peak. Hastily Tobin pushes Christen’s bra out of the way. Christen throws her head back murmuring, “oh god,” followed by a string of curses as Tobin’s hot mouth sucks at her nipple. Christen is all too aware of her chest heaving, pushing her mound further into Tobin’s mouth. The moans of pleasure emanating from Tobin’s mouth push Christen closer to the edge. Christen can’t take it too much more, her body is wildly out of control. Christen doesn’t know what to do but she has an innate desire to feel Tobin pressed against her. “Babe, babe...” wrapping Tobin’s hair in her fist Christen pulls trying to get Tobin’s attention, “come here, kiss me.”  

Reluctantly Tobin releases Christen’s nipple sliding up Christen’s body, she placing kisses along her neck. Tobin braces her weight on her forearm, staring down at Christen Tobin knows exactly what she needs. Tobin curls her fingers behind Christen’s neck, pulling her mouth closer to hers. Christen’s mouth opens, letting Tobin’s tongue inside her mouth, the kiss is hard and demanding. Gradually Tobin allows her full weight to rest against Christen. Her groans mingle with Christen’s as her core pushes harder against Christen.

Pulling away Christen gasp for breath, her heart beating wildly in her chest. Panting Tobin buries her head in the safety of Christen’s neck, stilling her body. Christen runs her lips along any expanse of skin she can reach moving Tobin’s head aside. Licking and biting her away along the sensitive skin of Tobin’s neck. Christen starts lightly licking and nipping until she find’s Tobin’s pulse point. Christen sucks and sucks harder until her tongue is moving in tandem with the pulsing beat under lips. The noises emanating from Tobin urge her on.

Pulling back, Tobin sits up mumbling, “my turn” nudging Christen’s bra up completely, exposing both of her perfect breasts to Tobin’s greedy eyes. Biting her lower lip, Tobin stares at Christen, “you’re so beautiful” she whispers reverently, “just so perfect.” Tobin draws her leg up over Christen’s thighs straddling her. Murmuring appreciatively Christen's eyes are glued to the apex of Tobin’s thighs. Christen strokes her fingers over the hollows of Tobin’s hips, along the counter of her bones, before letting her fingers dip down, capturing Tobin’s heat in her palm Closing her eyes, Tobin rocks against Christen’s fingers, head thrown back in ecstasy. Fingers firm, Christen allows Tobin to set the pace.

Christen loves the feel of Tobin’s wetness seeping through cotton, drenching her fingers and as much as Christen wants to stroke Tobin with her fingers, she refrains. Christen’s finger ache to push the thin barrier aside and slip deep within Tobin, her warmth enveloping her. Christen has been doing her best to allow Tobin to set the pace between them. It’s clear Tobin physically desires her, Christen’s fingers are evidence enough but it’s become equally apparent that Tobin isn’t ready to take the next step. Christen has theories as to why and it’s more than waiting for Christen to trust her. No matter the reason, Christen is content to wait forever if she has to. 

So Christen isn’t surprised when a few seconds later Tobin lifts up, breaking contact with Christen’s fingers, Tobin falls to the side breathing hard. Immediately missing Tobin’s heat, Christen distracts herself with fixing her bra. Christen has never desired anyone the way she wants Tobin, never loved anyone the way she does Tobin and because of that she will respect Tobin’s need for time. Especially consider how patient Tobin has been, allowing Christen to sort through the jumbled mess of her emotions, never angering never pushing her. The least Christen can do is the same, giving her as much time as she needs. Swiping hair off her forehead Christen thinks it’s a good thing they’ve allowed each other grow individual and together. It will strength the base of their friendship, which can only help any growing relationship.

“Sorry, ….” Tobin begins to stutter between deep breaths. Rolling onto her side, Christen gathers her within her arms “shhh….don’t,” their limbs entwine. Rubbing Tobin’s back, Christen assures her “there’s nothing to apologize for.” Placing a kiss to Tobin’s nose, “I’m going to go shower, I smell like cookie dough.” Christen says sniffing her shirt.

Running her nose across Christen’s collar, Tobin whispers “You smell good, edible.” Christen’s body involuntarily shudders. Letting out a shaky laugh Christen detangles herself from Tobin, standing on shaky legs Christen says “eat your cookies. I’ll be back.”


Kelley and Jules are out of the cab before Christen can put the truck in park. “Think they’re excited?” Christen jokes. “It’s pretty much all Kels has talked about, so yeah,” Tobin says exiting the truck. Lagging behind the group Tobin wraps an arm around Christen’s shoulder, bringing her in for a hug “what do you want to do first?”

The whole ride all Kelley would talk about was the rollercoaster. It’s small in comparison to the ones at amusement parks, Kelley and Jules couldn’t have been more excited. Christen loves rollercoasters there’s something about the speed that excited her. Christen would love to join the girl but she suspects Tobin will want to do something else first. Christen might enjoy rollercoasters but she loves spending time with Tobin more.

“I don’t care. We can do whatever. Anything you want to do?”

“It’s your first time to the State Fair there must be something you want to do?”

“I’m doing it, ” Christen responds honestly.

Scanning the area “What? Hanging out in the parking lot?” Tobin questions sarcastically.

Pinching Tobin’s side Christen rolls her eyes “No, I mean being here with you.”

“Well, I’m honored that you’re allowing me to take your fair virginity.”

“Tobin!!” Christen tries to push away, blushing slightly but amused by Tobin’s horrible attempt at a joke.

Laughing Tobin wrestles Christen into a hug, holding Christen against her front, “I joke, I kid, I kid.” Placing a kiss to Christen’s temple “I wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else.”

Giving Tobin a side eye, “better not” Christen grumbles out, “but seriously what’s your favorite?”

“The Ferris Wheel”

“Okay so let’s go to the Ferris wheel.”

“You gonna sit with me?” Tobin asks playing with Christen’s fingers.

“Nope, I think I’ll go with Lys or Jules.”

Pouting Tobin slows her steps, pulling on Christen’s hand “but that means I’ll have to go alone.”

Breaking Tobin’s grasp Christen walks on thankful Tobin can’t see the smile she couldn’t hide if her life depended on it. “Go with Kelley,” Christen calls over her shoulder. Mouth agape, frozen in place Tobin calls out, “Chris…” Christen doesn’t turn around even though she’s dying to “Christen…” Tobin’s voice deflates “but Kels hates the Ferris wheel.” Composing her face Christen turns around sighing dramatically “Fine, I guess I’ll go with you…”

Grinning Tobin jogs towards Christen, sweeping her into her embrace, kissing Christen’s cheek “you better.” Mouth inches from Tobin’s, whispering “no one else I’d want to go with,” Christen sweetly and lovingly kisses her.

Once inside the fairgrounds there is a lively conversation about what to do first. Breaking up into groups seems inevitable. Lys and two other players don’t care but Kelley won’t be dissuaded from riding the roller coaster first. She made the valid and logical argument that she didn’t want to do it after she eats. Christen isn’t really paying attention to the argument, she’s left Tobin to figure this out. So she’s started when an arm wraps around her front holding onto her shoulder. Quickly Christen recognizes the amused voice as she places her hand on Jules’ arm, “marked your territory I see.”

“Huh?” Christen asked perplexed. Subtly Jules points at Tobin’s neck whispering “I’m talking about that mark on Heath’s neck, pretty sure it wasn’t there earlier today.” Blushing furiously Christen clears her throat, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Laughing Jules hugs Christen from behind, “sure, you don’t.”

“Jules, let’s go!! It’s rollercoaster time, baby!!” Kelley calls out “these losers” pointing at Tobin and Christen “are going to the Ferris wheel.” Christen rolls her eyes, it’s not a loser thing, besides Tobin said she wanted to watch the sun set from the top of the wheel and who is Christen to say no.

“Shut up Kelley,” Tobin says dismissively “we’ll meet up with you guys later.”

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do” Jules whispers in Christen’s ear before catching up with Kelley and the group.

“Ready?” Tobin ask.

“Lead the way” Christen responds bumping into Tobin’s shoulder. Bumping her shoulder, “lead the way” Christen responds. They walk side by side, bumping into each other accidently and purposefully, their giggles and laughs trailing after them as they make their way through the fairgrounds. Online for the Ferris wheel Tobin asks for the fifth time “how have you never been on a Ferris Wheel?”

Rolling her eyes, Christen shrugs, “I’m more of a rollercoaster type of girl.”

“Oh, we could have gone with Kel and ‘em if you’d rather…” Tobin says looking around as if searching for the girls.

Smirking, Christen leans in whispering huskily “I thought you were going to take…”

Coughing, Tobin shifts a rosy hue creeping up her neck. It’s hard to make Tobin uncomfortable, hard to embarrass her, she’s normally so cool seemingly despondent to the point of not caring. Watching her now, like a kid in a candy store, her face alight with joy Christen realizes Tobin’s harden demeanor is an act. Part of the persona she’s perfected over the last couple of years, her personal armor. Anytime Christen is able to crack that hard exterior she revels in it.

It’s also the reason Christen isn’t overly bothered by the fact that Tobin has dropped her hand twice. It could simply be an unconscious action caused by Tobin’s excitement. The act seems innocent enough but a part of Christen can’t help but wonder if it was something else. Sometimes public displays of affection can make Tobin uncomfortable but at other times it’s like she doesn’t realize they’re in public. It’s a precarious balance one that Christen hasn’t figured out yet. It’s possible she won’t ever because it’s a subject Christen won’t address. She's afraid it will lead to a serious conversation about the status of their relationship or friendship or whatever this is. She’s afraid it will bring forth questions Christen might not have answers to. Christen wasn’t lying to Julie earlier they’ve never discussed their relationship. Tobin never once broached the subject and wouldn’t she if it was truly important to her? Unless of course Tobin can smell Christen’s fear and that's why she hasn't? Shaking her head Christen admits that at the end of the day it always comes back to her and her fears.

“What?”

“What?” Christen looks up catching Tobin’s gaze.

Warm fingers encase hers, pulling gently “You looked troubled. Everything okay?” Tobin asks with warm concerned eyes.

“Yeah, sorry, I was just thinking about something,” glancing up she sees they've reached the front of the line, “we’re next.”

“Yeah, ready?” Excitement returning to her whiskey-colored eyes and all Christen can do is smile at her, as always Tobin’s enthusiasm contagious. Facing forward Tobin continues to hold Christen’s hand, her thumb rubbing over the back of Christen’s knuckles. And just like that, with one simple touch Christen’s doubts dissipate into the air.

Next to Tobin watching the world unfold as they ascend into the skies. Christen can’t help but wonder if Tobin is happy. Tobin appears to be happy but there is so much unsaid between them.

“Happy?” Christen hesitantly ask.
Grinning, “Yeah, look how beautiful” Tobin responds. That’s not the question Christen meant to ask but it’s the best she can do. Christen considers the conversation she had this afternoon wondering if there is more than one way to say, “I love you.” Is it possible to verbalize love without words? Lys’ comment from earlier circles in her mind, if not saying it doesn’t make it any less true, does saying it make it true?

Staring at her hand encased in Tobin’s Christen can’t help but wonder if all the little things, all the little touches, the thoughtful gestures, all the nonverbal words they’ve spoken for weeks, is that enough? Do they spell out love?

Is it enough that Christen knows Tobin prefers the left side of the bed but switched to the right just so Christen didn’t have to climb over her in the morning? Is it enough that Christen hates whole milk but buys it every week so Tobin can have it with her coffee? Is it enough that Christen only makes blueberry pancakes on the weekends because those are Tobin’s favorite although Christen prefers strawberries? Is it enough that Tobin comes to the bar every night Christen works and walks home with her? Do all of these countless, selfless acts add up to love? Is it love that Christen changed her schedule, so she could get home a half hour after Tobin rather than two? Is it love that she has a drawer in Tobin’s dresser for some of her clothes and Tobin has one in hers, even though they live in the same house? Is it love that whenever they have candy, Tobin saves Christen’s favorites eating all the “yucky” ones? Christen wonders if all the small things, all the little details add up and equal “I love you.”

Tugging on her hand “you okay?” Tobin questions.

Smiling Christen nods her head, sincerely hoping all the little gestures are enough.

“It’s so beautiful,” Tobin says again pointing towards the sky, “don’t you think?” It is pretty, the sky various yellows, oranges, and reds. It reminds Christen of a time where the two of them sat in the back of a pickup truck, barely speaking to each other. The sky had been beautiful then, it's beautiful now but still, nothing compared to the girl sitting next to her.

Leaning her head against Tobin’s shoulders Christen sighs deeply. Tobin’s hand rest on Christen’s leg, “Are you tired?”

“No, I am just enjoying being with you.” There’s an obvious silence causing Christen to look over only to find Tobin staring at her with a peculiar look on her face. Before Christen can ask what’s wrong Tobin cups her cheek leaning over she pulls Christen’s mouth to hers, kissing her slowly and lingeringly. It’s a relatively chaste kiss but Christen has the distinct impression Tobin was trying to communicate something with that kiss. The kiss only wet Christen’s appetite, she wants more so distracting herself she ask, “why do you love the Ferris wheel so much?” too aware of Tobin’s hand sliding up and down the inside of her thigh.

Tobin’s silent for a moment, “because it reminds me how big the world is. Look, look how far we can see. There’s so much out there to see, to experience, just so much to discover. We’re such a small part, almost insignificant but important at the same time. It reminds me that there is a big picture but it’s actually the small things that matter. That there wouldn’t be a big picture without the small things.” Glancing over bashfully, “does that make sense?”

“Yes,” Christen kisses Tobin passionately, hoping her kiss conveys all she feels because yes, she does know it’s the small things that matter most.


Slightly dizzy Christen focuses on her phone, “hey guys, Tobin wants us to meet them by the food trucks. Kel is hungry and threatening mutiny if she doesn't get food soon.” After two rounds on the Ferris wheel and one on the swing ride, Tobin and Christen split ways. Kelley claimed Christen had hogged Tobin enough as it was and that it was her turn to spend time with her friend. Taken aback Christen hadn’t meant to monopolize Tobin’s time. Frowning Christen was about to apologize when she caught Kelley’s wink before the little ball of energy dragged an amused Tobin away, yelling something about the Fun House.

Looking for a little more speed and daring in her life, Christen dragged Jules and Lys to her favorite ride, the Spider, making them ride it twice. Then, Jules somehow convinced Lys and her to try one of the centrifugal forces rides. Smoothing her hair down Christen remembers why she hates those rides. Although it was fun to watch Julie turn herself upside down, her long hair everywhere. Christen’s stomach still hasn’t settled.

“Why did we do that again?” Lys moans out. Christen can’t help but chuckle at her disheveled look, her hair suffering from static electricity. Pointing towards the grinning blonde, “blame her” Christen says running her hand over her hair praying it isn’t as staticky as Lys’.

Laughing at them Jules ask “where are the food trucks?”

“To the left” Lys grumbles hand on her stomach as she leads the way “never again JJ.”

“What? Come on admit it that was fun!” Jules calls after her, shrugging “well, I enjoyed it, how about you Press?”

Sliding her eyes to meet Julie’s, Christen’s tone ominous “never again.”

“You guys are no fun.”

Christen locates Tobin standing next to Kelley near the food trucks. Walking up Christen wraps her arms around Tobin’s neck giving her a quick hug.

“Miss me?” Tobin teases.

Smirking Christen deadpans, “Not really, it's just that I’m hungry and you have my money.”

“Sure, sure” Tobin laughs.

“Press! Heath!” Jules calls out, “Over here.” She standing near a picnic table.

Christen plops down on the bench with a sigh, grateful for the sold non-moving mass.

“What do you want to eat?” Tobin ask

“I don’t know”

“Are you hungry?”

“Kinda” Christen responds sheepishly.

Eyes wide Tobin stares at Christen a little exasperated, “So what can I get you?

Grimacing Christen ask “I don’t know, what is there?”

“Everything, I saw pizza, pasta, sandwiches, burgers, tacos…”

“Oh, tacos!?!”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah!”  

 “Are you thirsty?” Christen doesn’t respond she just twister her mouth to the side staring up at Tobin.

“Tobs let’s go” Kelley yells.

 “Okay, I’ll be back”

Thirty minutes later Christen has devoured the carton of food Tobin returned with. The chicken tacos were amazing. Sucking on the last bit of her lemonade, Christen wonder’s what time it is. It feels like they’ve been at the fair all day. “What time is it?”

“Time for you to get a watch” Tobin replies sarcastically

“Funny, very funny” “Rolling her eyes Christen says “That’s why I have you.”

“So I can be your timekeeper and bank?” Tobin asks grinning.

“Hey, that’s your fault. You told me not to bring a bag and my shorts don’t have the appropriate pockets.” Tobin takes a moment to run her eyes over Christen’s legs and as goose bumps break out long her skin Christen swears she’s being touched.

“You in those shorts, totally worth it.”

“Don’t look at me like that”

“Like what?” Tobin smirks, completely aware of what she’s doing.

“Like that!” Christen exclaims exasperated.

Leaning in, Tobin runs her nose against Christen’s neck, nipping at her ear lope, her voice deep, “can’t help it, you look good babe.” An involuntary shiver runs the length of Christen’s body as Tobin’s words ring in her ears.

“Not nice” Christen whispers. Tobin laughs placing a kiss on the spot right beneath her ear.


 “What are Pinky and the Brain” up to? Lys ask sliding into the spot next to Christen.

Looking up Christen sees Tobin and Kelley standing to the side their heads bowed deep in conversation. Frowning Christen shakes her head “I have no idea, world domination?”

Chuckling, Julie leans over the table, “I think the world is safe tonight”

Yeah, but the fair might not be”

“Oh hush, they’re not that bad”

Jules and Alyssa give Christen an incredulous look, “damn, you really have it bad”

Narrowing her eyes suspiciously Christen is positive she’s not going to like the answer to her question, “What do you mean?”

“You just said Tobin and Kelley weren’t that bad. You have the love bug bad” Jules explains.

“Do not,” Christen says with no conviction

“One-word C, ‘hammock” Lys snickers.

“Okay, so maybe they’ve been destructive…” Christen stops as Kelley jumps on Tobin’s back. Tobin stumbles and they knock over one of the garbage cans.

“What were you saying?” Lys ask with a straight face an impressive feat.

“Never mind that I need your help.” Christen says standing up, she calls out “we’re going to porta potties”

Kelley and Tobin glances over from their conversation, “okay, we’ll catch up with you guys later, I’m going to beat Tobs’ ass in a couple of games.”

“You can try,” Tobin says as she pushes Kelley away.

“Okay, we’ll text you guys” Jules calls over her shoulder as Christen literally drags her away.

“Where’s the fire,” Lys ask coming up behind them “ and what are you guys up to?”

Christen explains “I want to try and win Tobin one of those bears, she’s been eyeing them all night.”

“You mean the big stuffed bears at the carnival games?” Jules asked with an arched eyebrow. It makes her look rather intimidating.

“Yes, those. She keeps looking at them.”

“Press, those games are almost impossible to win, it would be easier to just buy her one,” Jules says.

“Not if you guys help, I’m sure we can do it,” Christen says eagerly.

“You know,” Lys chimes in, “it would be easier if you just told her you love her then you wouldn’t have to buy, I mean win, a bear to say it.” Christen reaches out and pinches Lys arm “owww” Lys whines, rubbing the sore spot.

“Just help me, please. I really want to do this.”

“Okay, lead the way our fearless leader” Jules says, not really caring, a game is a game and well they all love to play.

The game Christen wants requires a degree eye-hand coordination which admittedly isn't any of their strong points. But Christen settles on the ring toss game because she's positive Tobin kept eyeing the huge black teddy bear with red accents.

“Okay we each have a bucket, all we have to do is get a ring on the gold cap in the middle,” Christen says dubiously, “and we won.” It sounds so simple but after watching three other people fail she's not so sure.

Julie leans in whispering “can't we just bribe the kid, I'm sure we can charm him into giving us the damn bear.”

“Charm? The way he's been staring at Chris, I'm sure all she has to do is ask.”

“We are winning this. I want to tell T it was won and I’m not lying” motioning to the bottles in front of them “it can’t be that hard. Just aim straight.”

To say it's a poor showing is probably an understatement. They’re each on their third buckets, laughing hard as Julie has managed to completely miss the bottles altogether, hitting a boy passing by. Down to their last rings, Christen wonders if they could bribe the kid. He switches from watching her to eyes Julie for the last couple of minutes. Lys throws her last one and miss. Julie goes next, only to have hers bounce off a bottle. Feeling defeated Christen just throws her ring, not even looking sure her fate will be the same. “Winner, winner, winner” the boy shouts. Lys shakes her by her shoulders and Jules clapping her hands is jumping up and down. She won, Christen actually won Tobin the bear. Yes, Christen knows it’s silly, that in the grand scheme of things it’s not important, but it matters to her. Christen thinks it will matter to Tobin also because after all, it’s the small things that matter.

Point to the large black teddy bear, “Can I have that one?” The boy nods. After fishing it down he hands the bear over, “congrats.”

“Kel just texted, they’re online for the go-go carts,” Lys says looking up from her phone, “you guys want to join them?”

“But we’ve already done…” Jules starts to say but stops when Alyssa not so gently nudges her in the side. Rolling her eyes, she holds her phone up so Jules can read. “Oh” Julie mouths, “yeah, I love go-go carts”

Exhausted Christen stares at her two friends baffled. Christen should ask them what that was about but honestly, she just doesn’t care. Stifling a yawn Christen shrugging a shoulder, “I don't really care.”

“You okay?”

Smiling bravely, Christen nods “yeah, I just don't care what we do.” It’s almost eleven and they’ve been at the fair for over four hours. Christen is ready to go home.

“Okay, so let’s go meet the girls by the go-go carts” Jules suggest.

“Do you know where they are?” Christen asks looking around.

“This way” Lys starts walking towards the right.

Walking slightly behind Alyssa Christen is doing her best to hide the bear but it’s nearly impossible. The bulking mass peaks out no matter what Christen does. Concentrating on holding it has far behind her as possible, she gradually registers that Julie and Lys are chuckling.  

“What are you laughing at?”

“You’ll see” Julies sings out shoulders bunched with amusement.

Christen hears her before she sees Tobin “Where is Chris…”

Lys and Julie part in a rather dramatic fashion, arms and hands pointing towards Christen “Ta-da”

Before she can roll her eyes at the antics of her friends she lets out a strangled laugh. Because standing in front of her holding a huge brown teddy bear is a laughing Tobin.

“Okay, it's official you guys are ridiculous!” Kelley exclaims, pointing back and forth between the two ears “who even does this?”

“Shut up, Kelley” Lys orders as she nudges her away from the two girls. They’re standing to the side of the go-go carts. The fair is closing soon and Christen doubts they’ll get to go but she doesn’t care, all of her attention is focused on the gorgeous, caring, thoughtful grinning girl in front of her.

“I saw you looking at the bear so…”

Chuckling “I thought you were looking at the bears” Christen explains. Shaking her head, “no I was trying to figure out which one you wanted” Tobin says her voice tinted with embarrassment. Grinning at each other, neither moves until Christen decides that Tobin looks so cute, her eyes alight with delight she leans in kissing Tobin briefly on the lips.

Uncharacteristically uncertain, Tobin motions towards the black bear in Christen’s hand, “so you won me a bear?”
“I won you a bear” Christen repeats, hoisting the bear on her hip “and you won me a bear?”

“I won you a bear” Tobin confirms holding the bear in her hands out uncertainly, “I hope you like it.”

“I love it, does she have a name?” Christen reaches for the bear, grasping it tightly, she brings it to her side, resting her head on top. Shaking her head, “you have to give her one.”

“Oh, here she’s for you” Christen offers the black bear tucked under her right arm, “I know you didn’t want one but…”

“I love it,” Tobin says cutting her off, hugging the bear.” Christen is sure that to anyone passing by they seem likely silly teenage girls and she doesn’t care. These are the small things, the things that matter and she hopes that they always do the small things for each other.

“So what are you going to name her?”  Tobin asks

Holding the bear out Christen takes in the tawny sable coloring of the bear Christen says simply, “Whiskey Rose.”

Tobin holds her bear out, “I like Thorn”

“Thorn?”  Christen ask with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah, Thorn kinda sounds like a superhero or something”

“Whiskey Rose and Thorn’ I like it,” Christen says, hugging Tobin around the bears.


 “I want them in the cab” Christen stubbornly demands.

Alyssa rolls her eyes as Julie exhales deeply. Under different circumstances the vision of Christen struggling to hold the two oversized teddy bears under each arm would be adorable, endearing even, definitely a little funny. However, that’s not the present situation at hand as Julie and Alyssa stare at Christen warily.

They’ve been arguing with her for the last ten minutes, about placing the bears in the bed of the truck. Christen steadily refuses. They’re both aware that Christen can’t be reasoned with in her current state. They both have first-hand experience dealing with a tired Christen and to say it’s terrifying is an understatement. Even Christen herself will admit she might be a little, okay a lot stubborn, grumpy and the worst part completely unreasonable when exhausted. Christen suspects that Jules and Lys wish she had taken a nap when Tobin first suggested it earlier in the day which only services to heighten her irritation and combativeness.

“Chris…”, “Press…” Alyssa and Julie begin to speak at the same time, stopping, hoping the other would finish as Christen set’s her jaw, eyes narrowing dangerously. Glancing at Alyssa Julie whispers “not it.”

Sighing, Alyssa attempts a welcoming smile, although it resembles a grimace which is appropriate for the situation, slowly she tries again in her most soothing voice “Chris the cab is full, remember? There won’t be enough room for,” pausing Alyssa glances down at the bears precariously balanced under Christen’s arms “for everyone in the cab. The bears would be uncomfortable.”

“They’re not going in the back” Christen states defiantly.

Sighing in defeat Alyssa nudges Julie. Julie glances around desperately looking for Tobin and Kelley. Slowly turning to face Christen, Julie offers her the most pacifying smile she can muster. Jules opens her mouth to speak when she hears the voice of an angel.

“Yo, everything okay?”

“Thank god” “Praises” Alyssa and Julie mutter respectively watching h with grateful eyes as Tobin and Kelley round the front of the truck. Approaching Tobin gives the trio a questioning look. Slightly behind Tobin, Kelley scans the faces of each girl coming to land on Christen’s last. Kelley recognizes the stubborn set of Christen’s jaw, her eyes hard and determined.

“Oh no. I’ve seen that look before” Kel says pointing at Christen “that’s her scary look.” Shaking her head “I’ll be in the truck, seeking refuge” and with a wave, Kelley quickly makes her way to the waiting truck.

Both, Julie and Alyssa turn to Tobin with pleading eyes Alyssa whispers quietly, “you got this?” Grinning, a chuckle escapes Tobin’s lips, she beyond amused that everyone is afraid of Christen, “yeah, just give us a minute.”

“Braver woman than me” Alyssa mutters stalking to her Ford. Julie squeezes Tobin’s hand encouragingly as she walks past her to join Kelley in the cab.

Silently Tobin follows Julie with her eyes before swing back to smile at Christen. “They looked petrified, did you yell at them?”

Making a face, Christen bites out harshly, “no.”

Struggling to contain her laughter Tobin chokes out, “what’s wrong, babe?” Petulantly Christen stares at Tobin, pursing her lips into a pout. Tobin pretends to wipe her mouth in an effort to erase her growing smile. Tobin realized Christen was tired an hour ago when she had to drag her around the state grounds. Christen figures Tobin appropriately guessed that she’s beyond exhausted which explains her current mood.

Sighing, Christen repeats herself, “I want them in the cab.” Confused Tobin wordlessly stares at Christen trying to understand her words. Realization dawning on her a smirking Tobin awkwardly hugs Christen around the two Teddy bears, “there’s not enough room but they’ll be safe in the back.”
“No, they won’t” Christen whines “they might bounce and fall out.” Through her fog of lassitude, Christen is cognizant of how ridiculously she’s being unable to help herself. Christen tells herself that during their fairly long car ride back home it is very possible that one of the bears or both might fall out of the bed. Alright, the probability is negligent almost nonexistent but still it could happen.

“We’ll make sure they’re safe” Tobin offers.

“How?”

“We can buckle them in, they’ll be fine”

“Buckle them in?” Christen asks questioningly a bit of hope in her voice.

“Come,” Tobin starts to reach for her bear when Christen takes a step back, keeping it out of reach “Babe, that’s my bear.”

“I don’t want them in the back.” Christen mutters and she swears she can feel tears line her rims as delirium settles over her. Biting her lower lip Tobin closes her eyes briefly. Christen knows it’s not out of exasperation. Tobin swears that “bratty Christen” as she affectionately calls Christen when gets in these moods; at least Christen hopes it’s affectionate, is one of Tobin’s favorite things. Tobin swears Christen is adorable when she’s pouting, it always causes Tobin to laugh which only infuriates Christen more. Calmly, Tobin holds her hands out expectantly, “Babe, you gave me Thorn, I wouldn’t let anything happened to her.”

“Promise?”

Holding a hand over her heart, Tobin says seriously, “promise, let me help you.” Taking her bear under one arm Tobin wraps her other around Christen’s shoulders leading her to the back. Tobin gently places her bear down in the bed. Tobin turns reaching for Whiskey Rose but Christen hesitates, pulling the bear slightly behind her. Unhappily Christen stares at Tobin’s out stretched hand.

“You don’t want Thorn all by herself do you?” 

Shaking her head, Christen reluctantly hands her bear over. “Wait here” Tobin commands.

Hoisting herself into the bed Tobin takes the two bears towards the back of the truck. Laying them down, she places one of the ever-present blankets over them, making sure they’re covered on all sides.

Adoringly Christen watches the care with which Tobin handles the stuffed animals, her heart warming. Tobin could’ve been like everyone else and dismissed her ridiculous concerns. But Tobin wouldn’t, she understand that no matter how asinine the request it was important to Christen. So, of course, Tobin took the time to “buckle” Thorn and Whiskey Rose in just to make Christen happy. Nevermind they could have left ten minutes ago that much closer to home still Tobin took the time. It’s at that moment Christen is positive that the small things do show love, she just wonders if it’s enough.

Lowering herself down, Tobin declares reassuringly “it’s okay, they’ll be safe” and in that moment Christen knows she trust her and not just with the bears but somewhere else deeper and despite or maybe because of her intentions Christen feels a part of her protective wall come crumbling down. 

Rushing into her Christen catches Tobin off guard. Stumbling a little Tobin works to steady them. Christen wraps her arms around Tobin’s lean waist, resting her weight against Tobin’s able frame, snuggling into her Christen place a kiss at the spot where Tobin’s heart rest. Christen hugs Tobin fiercely almost painfully, “thank you.”

Chuckling Tobin rests her head on top of Christen’s “you’re welcome, I’m glad they’re safe”

“No, not for that”

Tobin furrows her brows in confusion “For what then?”

“For being you,” Christen replies simply.

Tobin’s about to say something when Christen shakes her head, “just thank you.” Christen smiles when she feels a kiss planted on the top of her head “silly rabbit.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Settle down with me
Cover me up, cuddle me in
Lie down with me
And hold me in your arms

And your heart’s against my chest
Your lips pressed to my neck
I’m falling for your eyes
But they don’t know me yet
And with a feeling I’ll forget, I’m in love now

Kiss me like you wane be loved
You wanna be loved
This feels like falling in love
We’re falling in love


Exiting her co-worker’s sedan Christen calls over her shoulder, “thank you.” Pulling up the hood of her yellow raincoat Christen doesn’t even bother to open her umbrella there’s only a light shower, a welcome break from the torrential downpour of the week. The constant rain has been a nuisance it’s made getting to campus an ordeal and Christen is tired of it. Happy she wore her goulashes Christen splashes her way up the saturated puddle riddle driveway. She might have tolerated the rain better if it had brought some type of relief but instead of combating the already humid air it’s made it worse; the air is so stifling.

Through the curtain of mist the Big House sharpens into clear focus. Sighing in disappointment Christen notices the empty parking space in front of the house, only Adam’s pickup truck remains which most likely means everyone is out. Today was one of the few times she got home early from work and she’d hoped some of her roommates would be around to hang out with. Christen vaguely remembers Kel mentioning something about going to the mall or even the lake, both locations are more than an hour away. This means that the house will be empty for hours. Christen hopes Tobin stayed home but it’s unlikely, as she prepares herself for the reality that Kelley and Alex; who is back in town, dragged Tobin with them.

Stepping into the entryway Christen is immediately hit by a wall of heat, the house is sweltering. In an attempt to save energy but mostly money the house doesn’t turn the air conditioning on during the day since it’s basically empty. Even on the weekends they only turn on the central air if two or more people are in the house. The practice has been effective in saving them money, the downside is that if you’re the first one to return the house can be overwhelmingly hot. Christen can feel perspiration on her back.

Toeing her rain boots off Christen calls out, “hello?” her disappointment is acute as she’s greeted by silence, there’s no indication of life within. The house is only ever this quiet when it’s completely empty. Meandering into the dining area, Christen drops her bag in a chair, shrugging out of her raincoat she hangs it over the back of a chair to dry. Christen makes a mental note to wipe up the raindrops later.

Opening the refrigerator, the blast of cold air is a welcome relief from the heat of August. Grabbing a bottle of water Christen notes they’re running low. Leaning against the closed door Christen takes stock of the kitchen and figures it’s time for a Walmart run, maybe she’ll go later. She’ll have to check the rest of the house to see what other basic necessities they need.

Checking her phone Christen strangely doesn’t have any notifications. Normally, someone; Tobin, Kelley and now Alex; would text her telling her where and what they were doing. Christen guesses petulantly that they’ve forgotten about her in their fun. Christen decides to double checks the second floor, calling out, “anyone home?” Her voice reverberating off the walls is her only response.

Holding onto a fragment of hope Christen climbs the stairs to the attic. Frozen Christen was prepared to be disappointed she, however, wasn’t prepared for what she finds. Christen stares wide-eyed at the disarray that is Tobin’s room. She’s not surprised to find it empty but cleats, sneakers, and various flip-flops are scattered around the room. A large pile of clothing sits in the corner and Christen can’t tell if they’re clean or dirty. Strangely Tobin’s bed has been stripped bare, her sheets and blankets missing. Tobin might not be the tidiest person but Christen has never seen her room in such chaos.

Lips puckering in unjustifiable annoyance Christen admits she’s being a brat. She was really hoping Tobin would be here. The problem is Christen has gotten used to coming home to Tobin. Her irritation is fueled by the fact that this week was the week from hell. She’s barely been home much less spent any quality time with Tobin. It’s no one’s fault, they’ve both just been busy. Christen bounced from one job to the next putting in extra hours finishing her project with her professor and covering a couple of shifts at the gym. Tobin was preoccupied with making this the best week for her campers and preparing for pre-season. Shaking her head at herself, Christen knows she’s being unreasonable, she’s just gotten spoiled. She can’t always expect Tobin to be here when she gets home and the thought causes a twinge of pain in her chest.

The attic is burning, as the sun streams through the windows. Fanning her tank top, Christen is reminded once again that she’s sweaty and gross. Trying to find a silver lining, Christen decides to take advantage of the empty house and take a peaceful shower. The way the house is laid out both full bathrooms are on the second floor. Christen could go downstairs to the basement for clean clothing or she can try to find something in Tobin’s. Normally she would have clothes here but she hasn’t replenished her stash in a while since they’re usually in the basement. Rummaging around Tobin’s dresser Christen finds a clean pair of shorts and a shirt. Entering the bathroom she shares with Lys and Tobin, Christen runs the water while stripping down. Checking her phone one last time and still no messages. Christen could text everyone and ask where they are, but she thinks better of it. Honestly, the house is never this quiet and probably never will be again, so despite how much she misses Tobin she is going to take advantage of this rare moment of peace and quiet and enjoy her alone time.

Under the water, Christen reflects on her summer. It’s truly been amazing summer, it was better than anything she could have imagined, she’s loved every minute of it. The random trips to the gorges, barbecues in the back yard, getting to know some of her roommates better, even Kelley. Lys and she finished another puzzle, she loved working with her professor and learning new things. As much as she loved her summer, she knows it was harder and more exhausting than Tobin anticipated. Having never worked with kids before Tobin and Kelley elected to work with the youngest age group under the misconception they’d be easier. Christen couldn’t help but laugh at them after the first days as they wearily dragged themselves home beyond exhausted. Kelley kept swearing her campers where demon children and swore playing an additional ninety minutes of soccer would have been easier. Christen suggested they give it time that once they adjusted to the kids it would be easier. A week later both Tobin and Kelley were madly in love with their campers, constantly trying to think of fun and exciting things to do with them. Even though Kelley stopped referring to them as demons, the girls were still tired at the end of their day. Never mind Tobin was pushing herself hard to get into better shape, constantly practicing, she wanted to be in top form for the upcoming season. Tobin would nap until Christen woke her up for dinner. So as much as she misses Christen, she doesn’t begrudge Tobin for escaping for one last adventure.

Nice and clean Christen peaks her head in Tobin’s room one last time but it’s still unoccupied. She’s about to head downstairs when her eyes land on the offending pile of clothing tucked away in the corner. Rolling her eyes Christen picks up the pile without inspecting it, it will be easier to just wash everything. Stopping just outside her room Christen smiles ruefully as she sorts through Tobin’s and her clothing. Even she’ll admit their sharing clothing has gotten out of hand, she almost can’t remember what was originally hers and what was originally Tobin’s. Throwing dark colors into the washer machine Christen pushes open her door.

Stunned Christen stares at the huge mass in the middle of her room. Astonished Christen moves towards the mass cautiously. Inspecting it closely she is able to distinguish the various articles as a combination of sheets and blankets. Perplexed Christen wonders what happened in the last five hours that would explain the heap in the middle of her room. The sheets are construed in such a peculiar manner they sort of resemble.... “Oh,” Christen exclaims as all the pieces of the puzzle start to fall together.

Camp was forced indoors all week because of the storms. Kelley and Tobin claimed the kids had cabin fever but Christen suspects they were the ones who truly hated being cooped up. They came up with the ingenious idea to build a fort out of chairs and whatever else they could find. The kids loved it. Each day they tried to make the fort bigger and better until it resembled an obstacle course. Tobin was jubilant each night telling her all about it and Christen remembers making an offhand comment about never building a fort as a kid. Smiling uncontrollably the last thing Christen imagined was Tobin building her one in the center of her room. Glancing around Christen wonders where the builder could be.

Peering inside the tent Christen is ecstatic to see a brown hair sleeping beauty wrapped in an orange and yellow knitted blanket resting peacefully amidst a collection of comforters. Lately, Tobin has started taking her naps in the basement mumbling something about the attic being too hot. Not that Christen minds, not even close, she loves coming home to find Tobin all wrapped up and snuggly on her bed. Christen hopes that even if the attic had been cooler Tobin still would have sought refuge in her room. That she sleeps in the basement because she misses Christen as much as Christen misses her when they’re apart. Hopes that Tobin also seeks out any tenuous connection to ease the longing.

Crawling through the makeshift entrance Christen is careful not to disturb Tobin as she gazes down at her lovingly. It’s during these few private moments, these sacred seconds when she’s not observed, when Tobin’s eyes are closed that Christen doesn’t veil her true emotions, when she allows herself to show the full force of her love, allows her love to shine through her eyes. The words “I love you” are on the tip of her tongue, she’s half way to telling Tobin, half way to trusting herself enough but she’s just not ready to take the last couple of steps, not yet at least. Soon, soon she’ll tell Tobin, soon she’ll bare her soul, make herself vulnerable but for just a little bit longer she’s going to protect herself.

Lifting the knitted layer Christen smirks as her eyes land on Tobin’s sleeping form. Of course, Tobin is wearing one of Christen’s tanks top and a pair of her shorts. The effect is to present Christen with a canvas of toned and tanned skin for her fingers to brush over reverently. Carefully arranging her body so she’s spooned behind her, Christen conforms her supple curves to Tobin’s muscular but soft contours.

Tentatively Christen runs a finger around the exposed parts of Tobin’s back absent mindedly creating patterns. Absorbed with the sensation of Tobin’s skin under her fingertips Christen doesn’t immediately realize what she’s done. Freezing, her fingertips rest lightly against the warm skin of Tobin’s back. Christen stares at her traitorous fingers in stupefaction, she can’t believe she just did that. Only it felt natural, natural and good, so good to finally express herself. Except she really hasn’t, it’s cowardly and Christen knows it, she’s excruciatingly aware that she still hasn’t said the actual words, not out loud and definitely not to an awake and cognizant Tobin.

Moving her fingers again Christen draws a test pattern on Tobin’s back waiting to see if it will wake her up but Tobin doesn’t move a muscle. Shakily Christen allows her skin to glide over Tobin’s repeating the same movements as before this time down the length of her arm, carefully, painstakingly spelling out “I love you.” Christen sighs deeply with relief, both at the liberation and relief at not being discovered. She’s about to repeat the motions when a sleepy voice rings in her ears.

“Sleep babe” comes Tobin’s creaky and hushed voice. Terrified Christen’s breath catches as her hand halts it’s movement, curling around Tobin’s elbow. Christen’s heart thuds wildly against her ribs, her stomach drops uncomfortably. Intensely studying the back of Tobin’s head she looks for any signs of awareness from Tobin, did she know what she just did? Holding her breath Christen watches with wary eyes as Tobin’s hand covers hers. She tugs until she’s pulling Christen’s hand and arm under the blanket and across the expanse of her flat stomach muttering drowsily, “sleep.” Adrenaline running high Christen tries to assure herself that she wasn’t revealed by matching her heartbeat to Tobin’s steady rhythm. She convinces herself with each passing second Tobin didn’t know what she was doing, didn’t recognize the words brushed across her skin.

A small part of Christen wonders if it would have been a bad thing if Tobin had known what she was doing. The answer is unequivocally yes because that’s not how Christen wants to tell Tobin. Tobin deserves better than that, she deserves to hear the words spoken directly with love and honesty and not randomly scribbled on her arm. Relaxing she places a kiss on Tobin’s shoulder as Christen rest her head on her pillow, entwining her legs with Tobin’s and the blanket. Willing herself to sleep she’s not even aware of her fingers still lightly tracing patterns on Tobin’s stomach.

Christen promises she planned on napping, she really did but she’s never been a good napper, her mind is always in constant motion. So Christen doesn’t usually take naps and she definitely doesn’t take naps with Tobin. It’s not for a lack of want, it’s that she literally can’t. Early in the summer, Christen realized it was nearly impossible for her to fall asleep next to Tobin, especially at times like now when Tobin’s near naked body is flushed against hers is distracting and comforting in the best way.

Tobin didn’t suffer from the same affliction. She would whisper goodnight and place a kiss to Christen’s temple instantaneously drifting off to sleep. Christen, on the other hand, lay awake for hours sometimes watching Tobin sleep, listening to her harmonious soft breaths but mostly Christen would stare at the ceiling deep in thought, contemplating the future, wondering about the unknown, worried that it would all come crashing down. After a couple of days of Tobin commented on the fact that Christen always seemed tired in the morning no matter what time they went to sleep.

The problem is Christen can’t bluff, she tried to brush Tobin off but she wouldn’t be dissuaded. Tobin relentlessly pestered Christen until she reluctantly admitted that sometimes she has a mild case of insomnia. Christen didn’t explicitly say it was Tobin’s fault because she wasn’t sure it was.

She’s always had a hard time adjusting to new environments Christen has never been able to sleep properly. The thing is her sleeping habits ordinarily returns to normal after a couple of days, so when that didn’t happen, Christen was forced to consider her lack of sleep had something to do with the other person in her bed. It’s not because she’s uncomfortable around Tobin, actually, it’s the opposite. IT is so calming, so familiar to have Tobin sleeping next to her that it frightened Christen. It’s as if Tobin was meant to be next to her as if she’d always been there and Christen worried about the day when she wouldn’t be, the day Tobin decides she doesn’t want to be there. That day will break her. So most nights Christen lay awake with nothing but her doubts and fears to lull her to sleep.

Christen told Tobin it was the new environment, unable and unwilling to put into words her true reason. As always Tobin knew better. She tried to apologize but Christen wouldn’t hear it, firmly insisting that she would sleep even worse if Tobin wasn’t there but one day after watching Christen yawn for the third time Tobin made the executive decision that the nights before Christen had to wake up early she would sleep in her own room.

Christen didn’t last a night. Alone in her bed she couldn’t shake the explicit sense of loss that overcame her. Tossing and turning for hours Christen’s hand kept sneaking to the right side of the bed, feeling the empty space. She desperately missed the comforting heat and presence of Tobin but there was something else, something more than just the absence of Tobin’s physical presence, it was almost as if Christen was missing a part of her, she felt empty and incomplete inside.

Slipping from her bed Christen stealthy made her way to the attic. Quietly opening Tobin’s door Christen studied the brunette laying in the middle of the bed, rolled up and tucked under her blanket. Tobin looked so snuggly and serene Christen considered going back to the basement and suffering alone. Trying to sneak out Christen stopped when peripherally she saw movement on the bed. Seconds later she found herself staring into heavy-eyed but awake brown eyes. Lifting the blanket up with her arm Tobin patted the space in front of her. It was a silent invitation one Christen willingly accepted. Quickly crossing the room Christen burrowed into Tobin’s side whispering, “I told you, I couldn’t sleep without you.” Tightening her arm around Christen’s waist Tobin let out a sigh of relief, kissing her temple “neither could I.” Christen doesn’t know if they drifted off to sleep together but she does know that within seconds she passed out and never slept so well. Since that night they’ve haven’t slept apart.

Christen has gotten better it only takes her about twenty minutes to fall asleep now but napping with Tobin is futile. Due to their schedules, Tobin arrives home before her and is deep asleep by the time Christen starts to drift off. Inevitably Tobin wakes up before her and because Christen’s body is so attuned to Tobin’s, she instinctually wakes up even if Tobin hasn’t moved. The consequence is that Tobin is fully rested and Christen is left feeling groggy, grumpy and in desperate need of coffee. She only experimented twice before deciding to use her time more productively. So while Tobin naps she runs errands, makes dinner, reads a book, anything to keep her preoccupied until Tobin awakes. Today she’s home early enough that Christen decides to take advantage of the moment, delighting at the novelty of actually napping with Tobin. As her lips find unencumbered patches of skin to kiss she admits she’s still not good at nappy. It’s not her fault she’s easily distracted by the tan skin in front of her. Sighing deeply with resignation Tobin squeezes Christen’s fingers as she rolls onto her back her eyes barely open Tobin says “hiya babe.”

Propping herself up on her elbow Christen responds sheepishly, “hi, babe.” Leaning down Christen kisses Tobin briefly on the lips, breathing out “sorry for waking you.” “Is okay,” Tobin yawns her eyes closing, “missed you”, a smiling playing at the corners of her mouth. “Missed you too” Christen whispers feeling shy for some inexplicable reason. It’s not like she hasn’t said the words a thousand times before but this time Christen really appreciates it, the way it settles in her soul. Lately no matter what she’s doing Christen is painfully aware of Tobin’s absence, she feels it deep within her bones and it scares her. Swallowing thickly Christen pushes back her anxiety, silencing the alarm bells ring in her head, taking a long steadying breath she asks, “Where is everyone?”

“The lake,” Tobin mumbles shifting closer her hand squeezes Christen’s hip.

“You didn’t want to go?” Christen asks leaning down to kiss Tobin’s cheek, brushing some of her stray hairs back.

Running her hand down the length of Christen's leg, her hands hooks behind Christen’s knee, pulling until Christen is half on top of her, “nope, I wanted to wait for you.” Tobin says as her arm snakes around Christen’s shoulder, a hand running through the ends of her still damp hair. “You’re wet. Did you get caught in the rain?”

“No, it’s only drizzling. I took a shower.” Rubbing her nose along Christen’s neck Tobin inhales her scent, “you do smell good.”

“I would hope so” Christen chuckles, pushing her hair back. She only left it out because it was still wet.

Pulling on Christen’s shoulder, Tobin mumbles, “lay down with me.” Christen can’t contain the smile on her face, sleepy Tobin is one of her favorites, she’s a mixture of adorable and sexy, she looks so soft and cuddly and Christen couldn’t resist her if she wanted to, which she doesn’t. Kissing Tobin’s heart Christen puffs “okay” laying her head on Tobin’s shoulder, she hitches her leg up higher, slinging an arm across Tobin’s middle.

“How was your day?” Tobin asks running a hand along the curve of her thigh.
“Good, I finished everything I had to. How was your last day of camp?”
“Sad, I’m gonna miss them” Tobin yawns again.

“Remember, when you thought they were little demons?” Christen chuckles

“That was Kelley. I thought they were little terrors” Christen can hear Tobin’s smile.

“Oh, my mistake” Christen says contritely tracing the logo on Tobin’s tank top.

Chuckling Tobin places a kiss to Christen’s forehead, “you were right, they weren’t that bad after all.”

“Speaking of camp,” Christen glances up “have a busy afternoon?”
“No, not really” is Tobin’s simple response.

“Do anything special?” Christen ask, sneaking her hand under Tobin’s top satisfying her persistent need to touch her. Tobin shakes her head but the vibrations under Christen’s cheek is a clear sign of her amusement. Sitting up Christen stares down at Tobin, “really? Nothing at all?”

Laughing earnestly Tobin just grins up at the sheets above them “well, you did say you’d never been in a fort before.”

“So you built me a fort?”
“Something like that” Tobin answers
“I would have helped you,” Christen says seriously

“I wanted to surprise you” Tobin answers truthfully.

“Yeah, but it could have been fun, to do it together,” Christen says.

“Next time, we’ll do it together” Tobin assures her.

“How long did this take?”

“Uhh…Lex and Kels helped me, it was the only way I could get them to go to the lake.”

Giggling Christen can only imagine the production it must have been with Alex and Kel as her helpers. “Thank you, I appreciate it” Christen says scattering kisses around Tobin’s face. “You’re welcome” she chuckles.

Christen ask quietly, “but what does one do in a fort?”

“Anything,” Tobin says pulling Christen down, “nap, whatever.”

Christen snuggles into Tobin’s side. It’s then, with their body’s fused together, under a fortress of cloth an unsettling thought overcomes Christen, it’s the realization that summer is quickly coming to an end. By Sunday almost everyone will be back. That means the house will be buzzing and full of people at all times. It also means the end to the quiet domesticated life Christen has become accustomed to. It means her summer routine with Tobin is going to be upended and the thought terrifies her.

Christen is a creature of habit, she might have moments of spontaneity but overall, she enjoys schedules and routines. Wordlessly they stumbled into this organic routine, lost in their own world they naturally adjusted themselves to each other and it’s what gets Christen through the day knowing exactly when she’ll see Tobin again. As much as Christen likes school and misses her friends, she’s dreading the start of the school year. Christen dreads the start of the school year. Their schedules will be hectic and sporadic. Most of Tobin’s time will be dedicated to soccer, inevitably they’ll have less time together and Christen doesn’t know how she’s going to survive it.

Bunching the fabric of Tobin’s top in her fist Christen tries to bring herself closer, an impossible feat. Sensing Christen’s distress Tobin tightly wraps her arms around her and in a soothing voice she asks, “everything okay?” Unable to find the appropriate words to express her feelings Christen nods her head. For the moment she’ll take solace in Tobin’s solid form and steady heartbeat, proof that she’s here right now. She won’t let the unknown ruin her now. Kissing Christen’s forehead Tobin whispers, “you sure?” disbelief evident in her tone.

Loosening her grip on Tobin’s top Christen wraps an arm around her waist, pushing her thigh higher between Tobin’s, needing to feel tethered, “I’m going to miss this.”

“What, naps? You don’t take naps.” Tobin says absently.

Faced pushed into Tobin’s chest Christen inhales her scent before mumbling out, her words barely audible, “no, not that. This. Coming home to you, knowing when you’ll be home, knowing where you are, and being able to spend all afternoon and night with you. When school starts, it won’t be like this, you’ll have soccer, and we won’t…”

“Babe” Tobin interrupt her rambling. Shifting so she can see Christen’s face, “look at me, please.” Pushing harder into Tobin she doesn’t want her to see just how afraid she really is, how much the future scares her. Tobin waits patiently but when Christen doesn’t move, she place a finger under her chin, tipping her face up, forcing Christen to make eye contact. “You’re right our schedules are going to change but that’s the only thing that will change. We’re not changing.”

“Tobin,” Christen whispers urgently “everything is going to change.” Clasping Christen’s jaw with her hand Tobin rubs her thumb across her cheek, “no, it’s not. Look, I’m not going to lie, you’re right we won’t have as much free time but that’s the only thing changing. You’re going to be busy too and you know it.” Tobin says with a smile “but you’ll still know where I am and when I’m home, that won’t change. Maybe we won’t be able to spend all afternoon together but we’ll make time for each other. We won’t change.” Tobin says confidently leaving no room for arguments.

Christen's eyes penetrate Tobin’s, looking for any signs of doubt because Christen wants to believe her, needs to believe they’ll be okay. “What if we can’t, what if it becomes too much? School, jobs, soccer, what if it’s just too much?” Christen does her best to vocalize her nightmare.

“Does this matter to you? Do you want this?”

“Of course it does, of course I do” Christen responds automatically. She’s actually pretty sure there isn’t anything else she wants more and as silly as it is, she need confirmation that it matters to Tobin, that even when things are hard and difficult, she’ll still want this because without a doubt Christen knows she will.

“Then we’ll find a way. Obviously, it won’t always be easy but we’ll find a way” Tobin promises.
“Yeah?” Christen asks encouraged.

“Yeah, it will be different and a little challenging but I’ll always be here at night. Unless we have an away game and then you’ll have Thorn to keep you company until I get back.”
Christen can’t help but chuckle at that relaxing Christen says “Yeah, okay, it will be okay. It’s just...I got spoiled this summer, I’ve basically had you to myself.”

“I know, it’s been awesome. I was worried you’d go home to visit and leave me here alone and bored.”

“You wouldn’t have been alone.” Christen meant the words innocently but Tobin’s body noticeably stiffens. “What do you mean?” Tobin asks cautiously. Christen announces her words slowly, unsure what she said to upset Tobin “People were here, Kel was here all summer.”

“Not the same, and Kels would have annoyed me or gotten me into trouble,” Tobin says dismissively.

“My mom wanted me to come home,” Christen admits shyly.

“When? You didn’t mention it.” Tobin says surprised.
“Before Lys came back. She wanted me to come for the weekend and ride back with Lys.”
“Why didn’t you?”

Instead of responding Christen pushes Tobin’s tank up, her eyes focused on her smooth skin, only stopping when Tobin’s hand covers her. Sighing Christen slides her hand free of Tobin’s restraining grasp admitting, “I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave you.”

“You should have told me. You could have gone, I wasn’t going anywhere. I would have been here when you got back.” Tobin says. Although her voice is gentle and reassuring Christen thinks she hears a bit of annoyance in her tone and Christen imagines it’s due to her not discussing this with Tobin. The bit to her tone has been appearing more frequently a constant reminder that Christen still needs to work on opening up to her, that she sometimes keeps too much hidden from Tobin.

Running a hand along Tobin’s collar bone Christen sighs, “I know, I should have but I didn’t want to go… I would’ve miss you too much,” and the familiar panic that comes with the thought of being away from Tobin starts in her chest again. Pulling away Christen lies on her back, staring up into space, unsure of when she became the type of person who spooked easily, a person constantly terrified of the unknown, almost strangled by her own fear. Christen can’t shake the sense that time has played a trick on her, the fates have conspired against her giving her a false sense of security. Christen recognizes that they’ve been living in this bubble of their own creation, a fantasy world completely untested by outside forces and Christen has this uncanny premonition that their bubble is going to burst at any minute.

Supporting herself on her elbow Tobin peers down at Christen as she traces the outline of Christen’s lip with her finger, “I’m glad you didn’t go, I would have missed you.” Tobin says reassuringly as her hand slips under the hem of Christen’s shirt Tobin rubs soothingly along Christen’s side, her voice lazy and confident, “babe, I don’t want you to not go because of me.”

Hiding her face in the curves of Tobin’s breasts Christen mumbles out “You didn’t go home, why?”

“Home for me is where…” Tobin begins to explain, pausing as she runs a hand down Christen’s back, “home for me isn’t one place, it’s usually where I am, where my family and friends are. It’s not one place. I’ll see my family soon enough. But babe, if you want to go home, you should.”

A part of Christen does want to go home, she misses her family, would love to see them but not at the expense of being away from Tobin. The thought startles her, she wonders when Tobin became more important than her own family. Or is it something else? Is it the fact that Christen doesn’t doubt her family will always be there for her but despite her hopes and what Tobin says, Tobin might go? Unlike her family Tobin isn’t compelled to stay, so Christen stays because the thought of not seeing much less losing Tobin is so unthinkable, it’s not an option. Needing to change the subject before she’s consumed by all her questions Christen says, “I don’t know maybe I’m just not ready for summer to be over.”

Rubbing comforting circles along her back “I know, neither am I,” Tobin agrees. Sliding her hand higher Tobin’s hand falters, “babe?” Her fingers span Christen’s back.
“Yeah?”
“You’re not wearing a bra” Tobin whispers out.

Amused Christen leans back kissing the underside of Tobin’s jaw, “I know” she says just as hushed.

“Babe” Tobin groans, pushing Christen onto her back, bracing herself on her forearms, nudging Christen’s thighs apart with her hips, Tobin slowly lowers herself down letting Christen adjust to her weight, “you know what that does to me.”
Shaking her head Christen says with as much innocence as she can muster “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Involuntarily Christen giggles at Tobin’s unconvinced look. Rolling her eyes Tobin kisses Christen on the mouth her lips soft and slow, “yes, you do.” “I didn’t know you where home” Christen responds between kisses. Smoothing down Christen’s hair, Tobin stares intently at her, “have I ever told you that you’re beautiful?”

Smiling softly Christen shakes her head no and not because Tobin’s never told her, it’s just the opposite, she does all the time and Christen loves hearing those words. When Tobin says it Christen feels it, believes she’s beautiful, she feels desired in a way she’s never felt before. Giving her a knowing look Tobin only smiles, “you’re very beautiful.”

Brushing her lips against Tobin’s she whispers, “not as beautiful as you.”

“Silly rabbit,” Tobin says tenderly kissing her. It’s a long kiss full of affection, desire and promises. Pulling back Tobin studies Christen intently through unreadable pensive eyes. Christen has never seen Tobin look like this and it excites and scares her a little, making her squirm, “Babe?” Christen asks pressing a hand to her back, hoping to bring her back to the present, “babe, what's wrong?”

Hands bracing Christen’s face Tobin ask seriously, “do you trust me?”

“Yes,” Christen says without hesitation and it’s true. Christen knows it in the way her mind, body and soul responds to Tobin.

“Do you really?” Tobin asks hopefully, her eyes cautious but bright with excitement. “Yes, completely,” Christen responds her voice strong and certain. Something about the way Tobin ask upsets Christen, it triggers all of her insecurities. Frowning Christen contemplates Tobin, gazing at her trying to figure out why Tobin asked. Anxiously Christen ask “Did something happen?” Tobin shakes her head, her eyes still uncertain but growing with confidence. “Do you trust me?” Christen ask, she assumed Tobin did but maybe she shouldn’t have. She knows Tobin said she did but that was a long time ago and time can change things.

“Absolutely” Tobin responds immediately.

“Are you sure?”

“Very” Tobin breaths out pulling Christen into another searing kiss. Christen’s mouth falls open, her tongue finding its way into Tobin’s mouth. There’s something different about the kiss, an added element, an otherness, something more that excites Christen. Tobin’s hips press harder against Christen’s who circles one of her legs around Tobin trying to bring her closer, pushing their cores together. Christen hears the subtle change in Tobin’s breathing, little gasps coming through their joined lips as their hips roll together, again and again. It’s becoming too much, their pace frenzied.

Christen’s mind screams for her to slow things down, it feels like they’re on a runaway train, completely out of control. Christen tells herself to pull back but she forgets all rational thought, except the enticing sensation of Tobin’s tongue plundering the recesses of her mouth. Moaning, Christen relishes the sweet and rich taste of her mouth, her tongue dueling with Tobin’s.

Weight braced on one arm Tobin’s fingertips skim down Christen’s other leg wrapping it around her waist, spreading Christen’s legs wider, opening her to Tobin more. Eagerly Tobin’s hand trails a path along her hamstring, slipping closer to the edge of her shorts. Christen mews as Tobin’s hand slips under the edge of her shorts coming into contact with the bare smooth skin of her ass. Ripping her mouth away Tobin pants into the curve of Christen’s neck, “babe” as her hand rhythmically massages Christen’s ass, “you don’t have underwear on.”
“No” Christen answers self-satisfied, Tobin’s voice gravely with her arousal.

Tobin’s hand wanders along the dip in Christen’s hip, brushing her knuckles along her pelvic area until her finger dips down running a single finger along Christen’s sopping wet slit. “Fuck” they moan together as Tobin slides through Christen’s folds, letting the silky wetness coat her fingers. Straining Christen gathers Tobin’s hair with her hand, “babe!” Tobin’s touches feel amazing but this is farther than they’ve ever gone and as much as Christen wants to continue she’s worried that they might be moving too fast. “Tobin...babe” the words tumble out of Christen as Tobin’s fingers run through her wetness again. “Fuck, Tobin” Christen urgently tugs Tobin’s hair, she knows she needs to stop this but she can’t think straight with Tobin’s hands on her. Tugging again Christen sighs with relief as Tobin’s hand retreats. Christen’s body thrums with desire as she tries to collect her thoughts her mind blanks as Tobin whimpers “I need you.”

Swallowing thickly Christen mummers “I'm right here” The muscles in Tobin’s arms stand out as she braces herself above Christen, shaking her head she tries to explain, “I want you. I need to have you.” Then without preamble Tobin pushes the hem of Christen’s shirt up sliding it over her naked torso, biting and kissing each expanse of smooth skin revealed to her.

Something feels different, maybe it’s the intimate confines of their fortress that is mystical or the fact that it seems like a dream but there’s an intensity to Tobin’s words that excites her. Christen desires Tobin almost painfully but she needs to check in with her has to make sure she truly wants this. The absolute last thing Christen wants is for Tobin to regret this later because it would kill her if they have sex and Tobin wishes they’d waited. Christen doesn't want to rush this, doesn’t want to ruin things between. Christen would be content to just hold Tobin forever if that’s all she ever wanted.

Pushing Tobin’s shoulders Christen attempts to dislodge her but she won’t budge as her tongue circles Christen’s belly button. Christen’s mind is a fuzzy haze, “T, Tobin, please…” she pleads. Gazing at her with heavy-lidded desire Tobin repeats “I want you.” Christen groans, “Babe, are you sure? Because we…” she never finished her sentence because the next minute Tobin’s lips crush into hers, their tongues sliding over each other, seeking a union, mating with each other’s.

Tearing her mouth away Tobin struggles to draw breath, her heart flutters in tandem with Christen’s. Cupping the side of Christen’s jaw Tobin says determinedly, “yes, I am sure. I've been for a while. I …” shutting her mouth, Tobin’s eyes cloud over before slowly shaking her head. Offering an almost sad smile, Tobin continues, “I dream about you at night, I dream about being with all the time. I want you, I’m positive. Do you? Are you?”

Rendered momentarily speechless Christen’s chest heaves, nodding she finally manages to work around the lump in her throat, “you’re so strong, I feel so safe with you. I just don’t want you…I need you.” Christen answers as truthfully as she can. Wrapping her legs around Tobin to the best of her ability Christen wants her body closer tries to bring her body in, desperately seeking more contact. Running a finger close to Christen’s bottom lip Tobin silently asks for entrance. Christen couldn’t deny her even if she had had the willpower to.

Mouth open Christen welcomes the heat and taste of Tobin as her tongue sweeps into the recess of her mouth. The kiss is soft, languid but there’s a building urgency, Christen can feel it growing. Tobin's mouth becomes more demanding, her kisses bruising as she takes Christen’s bottom lip between her teeth biting slightly. Christen's hips jerk involuntarily, her leg pressing on Tobin’s.

Gazing triumphantly at Tobin’s lips swollen from their kisses Christen moans as Tobin’s hand squeezes her hip bone. Her other hand slides under Christen’s shirt, cupping the soft swell of her breast, delighting in each touch. Christen grabs the hem of Tobin’s tank sliding it up her back mumbling, “Off, I want this off.” Kissing down Christen’s neck Tobin sits back, kneeling in front of Christen she raises her arms above her head, smoldering eyes stares at Christen expectantly.

Christen kisses Tobin’s stomach, licking and biting her away up Tobin’s defined muscles as more of her bare skin is displayed. With Tobin’s help, she pulled her tank off, letting it fall to the side. Tobin’s soft moan turns into a groan as Christen covers both her breasts, squeezing them, teasing them, rubbing the harden nipples into her palms. Christen replaces one hand with her mouth, sucking Tobin’s nipple into her warmth, circling the hardened peak with her tongue.

A litany of curses escapes Tobin, her head falls back, her fingers tangle in Christen’s hair, holding her closer, urging her to take more of her breast into her hot mouth. Christen kisses her away across Tobin’s breast bone switching breast, biting down hard on her nipple. “Oh god,” Tobin groans out, her hands grasp Christen’s shirt, pulling and tugging until Christen is reluctantly forced to let Tobin’s nipple fall out of her mouth. Struggling to breathe, perspiration forming on her skin Christen raises her arms as Tobin hastily discards the shirt.

Lowering them Tobin’s strong hands cover Christen’s breasts again, moving over them slowly, and thumbs rubbing hard nipples, “you feel so good” Tobin breaths into the curve of Christen’s neck. “Babe,” Christen breaths out, “lay down, please.” Tobin easily falls to the side complying with her wishes.

Straddling Tobin’s hips Christen stares down at her beautiful breasts, she looks so perfect, so delicious. Fingers flick and tease her nipples, beyond turned on Christen licks her lip, rolling her hips into Tobin’s. Leaning over her Christen pushes back Tobin’s dampening hair, kissing both her cheeks, her nose, briefly grazing her lips, “okay?” she asks. Everything tells her Tobin is ready but Christen wants to check one last time before they go too far. Tobin nods her head frantically, grabbing Christen ass, massaging her as she slides Christen up and down her stomach, “I’m sure…please…I need more” Tobin moans. Their breath comes quickly Christen draws Tobin closer, kissing her softly then more eagerly, her hands playing at the waistband of Tobin’s shorts. Christen slowly works her shorts down to her thighs before breaking the kiss, moving to take them completely off.

Slipping in between Tobin’s thighs, she can feel Tobin’s wetness through against her belly through the layer of her underwear. Eyes fixated on Tobin’s wet spot tentatively reaches out, fingering the darkened spot with her thumb, closing her eyes in ecstasy as Tobin sighs deeply. Christen’s touches are light, barely contacting Tobin’s harden clit. Teasing Tobin, Christen’s hips gyrate in space seeking her own relief. “Please, please” Tobin whispers, her eyes pleading with Christen, “more.” Practically salivating Christen’s tongue wets a trail along one thigh, pulling part of the last barrier between her and Tobin’s center down, and then up her other thigh as Christen makes quick work of ridding Tobin of her underwear, throwing it over her shoulder.

Christen guides Tobin’s hand down her body, whispering “show me, show me what you want.” Siting back Christen pushes Tobin’s leg wider, spreading her open, presenting her swollen sex to Christen’s hungry gaze. “You look so good,” Christen groans, her pupils dilated with want, she glances up noticing Tobin’s flushed skin, the rosy hue rising up her neck, “please, show me, babe.”

Barely nodding Tobin’s trembling hand tightens her hold on Christen’s, closing her eyes she guides their hands to the apex of her thighs, arching her back Tobin’s groan mingles with Christen’s as their fingers run along Tobin’s most sensitive part instantly drenched. Tobin’s hips jerk as they move across her swollen flesh, she set a slowly but steady pace. Christen navigates their hands away from Tobin’s clit, wanting to tease her, prolong the sensation of her silky flesh against her fingers. Tobin’s movements become uneven, rough, her breathing laborious as her hand moves faster, pressing harder, dragging their joined flesh frantically towards her swollen clit, her hips move in tandem, whispering “so good, so good.”

Entranced Christen has never seen anything more spectacular, more beautiful than Tobin in the throes of pleasure. Her eyes are glued to their fingers teasing Tobin’s center, their fingers dripping with her dew. Christen doesn’t want Tobin to come yet, not when she has the undeniable desire to taste her. She has to know if Tobin tastes as good as she looks and smells. Tobin is pressing her hips down harder against them, desperately seeking relief.

Painfully Christen pulls their hands away from Tobin’s entrance, ignoring Tobin’s grunts of protest, “please, babe, please.” Bending over Tobin she purposely doesn’t touch her stimulated flesh, Christen’s tongues Tobin’s ear, bathing it, making Tobin squirm, “I want to taste you, can I taste you?” Christen begs, “I want my tongue inside you, can I do that?” barely managing to get the words out Christen has never been more turned on in her life. Tobin frantically shakes her head, “yes, yes, yes, “her hands pushing down hard on Christen’s shoulders. Smirking she descends slowly, ignoring Tobin’s frantic pleas. Christen licks a path from Tobin’s ear, nipping at her pulse point, slowly down to her breasts, lavishing each with attention before moving lower. Trembling, Tobin lifts her hips in offering, a string of unintelligent words escapes her mouth.

Reverently Christen’s mouth moves across the hollow of Tobin’s hips, lowering herself to her stomach, she holds Tobin’s thighs further apart, cupping her hips Christen tentatively licks through Tobin’s opening. Christen moans deeply at her first real taste of Tobin, mumbling “you taste so good.” Christen’s tongue moves into Tobin’s wetness, delving inside her, teasing her, plunging her tongue in and out thoroughly fucking her. Tobin’s hips spasm wildly Christen wraps her arms around her legs as Tobin pushes harder against her face, forcing her deeper. Christen switches sucking Tobin’s clit, taking her fully into her mouth. “So good, don’t stop, don’t stop” Tobin repeats over and over, her voice raspy from her cries. Christen wouldn’t doesn’t want to as she devours Tobin with her mouth, feasting on her like a starved woman, loving Tobin’s aching clitoris in her mouth, heavy and full. Christen takes all Tobin has to give, licking and sucking her, and in that moment Christen knows she will never get enough of Tobin, she would do this forever.

Tobin’s fist hold on tight to the comforters as she strains, struggling to breathe, her thighs quake and her scream of release comes too soon for Christen who wants more, who hasn’t even begun to satisfy her hunger. She continues to languidly lick until Tobin cups her cheek gently pushing her away, “no…more…come…here.” Chuckling in pleasure Christen traces the lines of Tobin’s abdomen with her tongue, nipping and biting her way up, her senses overloaded by Tobin’s sweaty sweetness. Christen would happily lose herself in Tobin’s body, she could spend hours, days worshiping her.

Tobin’s hands grip the waistband of Christen’s shorts “take…off” she pants, trying to shimmy the fabric down Christen’s legs. Sloppily kissing Tobin, her tongue plunging carelessly into her mouth Christen helps, kicking her shorts off the rest of the way. Tobin tugs insistently at Christen, trying to bring her forward but their bodies are slick, the blankets enveloping them in warm desire. Her core bumps pleasurable, almost painfully against Tobin’s. Trying to support herself with her arms Christen ignores the way her body is shaking, pressing down harder into Tobin mumbling as her wetness comes into contact with Tobin’s, slick and dewy she rubs against her.

Tobin reaches between them briefly brushing her knuckles against Christen’s straining clit opening herself more, slotting her aching clit against Christen’s pulsating flesh. Christen throws her head back, eyes closing in ecstasy as her swollen flesh rocks and circles against Tobin’s, they grind against each other finding an innate rhythm. Tobin holds on to Christen’s hips with bruising strength, opening her legs wider, raising her hips up she tries to meet each of Christen’s thrust, tries to bring her in closer, further in. The muscles in Christen’s arm strain, she’s not sure how much longer she can support herself but she never wants the moment to end. Pressure is building deep within in and it’s the sweetest agony Christen has ever experience, the pleasure threatens to consume her.

Tobin must recognize the subtle change in Christen’s breathing, the frenetic movements of her hips, as Christen's hips move faster and faster, her hips rolling harder because Tobin takes Christen’s earlobe into her mouth, biting she whispers in her deep husky voice “come for me…fuck…come with me, come with me” it pushes Christen over the edge, she spirals downward, her arms give out as her orgasm consumes her. Vaguely in the back of her mind she register’s Tobin’s legs contracting again, keening her release. Christen isn’t even sure if she yells out loud, she’s not sure if she speaks but a single thought runs through her mind, “so good, Tobin.”

Bodies damp with perspiration they lay together Tobin pushing back Christen’s hair, placing a kiss to her cheek “incredible.” Tobin gently runs her hand up and down Christen’s back, waiting for her racing heart to slow down. Hugging Christen, she slowly rolls them over. On top Tobin’s piercing gaze hold’s Christen’s captive. A small part of Christen worries, afraid that Tobin might regret this after all, that even though it was the most amazing moment of her life, Tobin might have regrets.

“That was amazing, you’re so amazing” Tobin whispers before capturing Christen’s bottom lips between her teeth, biting down. She soothes the sting with her tongue and like that all of her fears disappear and she left with nothing but a deep satisfaction. She pleasured Tobin and that is all that matters.

Tobin’s hands gently slide her legs wider, making room for her, and Christen knows she’s going to be sore tomorrow, wonderfully so. Tobin flicks Christen’s taunt hard nipple with her tongue, enjoying the taste of Christen’s skin. Rubbing her cheeks over the sensitive peaks of her breasts Tobin asks “I want you, can I have you?” Arching her back Christen pushes her breast closer to Tobin mouth, sighing “yeah,” she would give Tobin anything she wanted, doesn’t know how to deny her. Lingering with her lips around Christen’s nipple, Tobin massages the firm breast in her palms, tugging and pulling until she’s reward with gasps. Sucking a mound into her salivating mouth, as her hands slips between Christen’s parted thighs, “so wet” she murmurs, her breath tickling Christen’s heated skin.

Tobin crushes her lips against Christen’s, her tongue slipping inside her mouth. Tobin’s tongue coaxing Christen’s to duel with hers, as her hand gently cups her intimately. Christen pushes against her hand, wanting to feel Tobin’s fingers on her, inside her. Fingers move through Christen’s wetness, teasing her. Wrenching her mouth away, Christen gasp for air, “Tobin, please,” she pleads.

Several fingers slowly slip inside her but Tobin holds her hand still, letting Christen adjust to being filled. “Show me baby, fuck my fingers,” Tobin coaxes. Moaning Christen can feel herself gushing at Tobin’s words, feels herself dripping down her fingers as her hips surge up. Sitting back on her haunches Tobin watches as Christen takes her deeper, “so beautiful,” she says humbly. Christen starts out slowly, setting a pace, rolling up and then down, her hips rising and falling into a rhythm, each time taking Tobin a little deeper, each thrust accompanied by a soft moan. It becomes too much but not enough at the same time, she needs more, she needs Tobin. Head rocking back and forth, “more, more” Christen pleads. Moving over her, Tobin’s thumb rubs her clit, her fingers diving deeper, thrusting harder, faster into Christen’s heat. At the tell-tale sign of Christen tightening around her fingers, Tobin pushes herself down, her mouth joining her fingers, groaning as she sucks Christen into her mouth, her fingers persistent, curling as she pushes deeper.

The pleasure is almost unbearable as Christen entangles her fingers in Tobin’s hair, holding her against her, encouraging her to suck harder. She can feel the pressure curling up her spine, it’s almost painful. Panting Christen cries out as another orgasm rips through her. Spent Christen lies languidly, barely breathing her hands flutter at Tobin’s back as she licks sloppy at her entrance. “Babe” is all she can manage. Of course, Tobin understands placing one last kiss to Christen’s still pulse flesh, she kisses a path up Christen’s body, circling a nipple with her tongue. Christen’s wraps her hand around Tobin’s neck, urging her up, every nerve in her body is hypersensitive. Tobin rest her head on Christen’s shoulder, placing a hand between her breasts, they lie quietly until Christen’s breathing finally slows.

Kissing the top of Tobin’s head Christen is overwhelmed by her feelings, she loves her so much and not just because they had sex, fucked, made love but because Tobin has been everything she’s ever needed, has been everything all summer long. She’s been patient, kind, caring and more understanding than Christen deserves. Surprised by the tear that rolls down her cheek Christen is grateful Tobin can’t see it. But Tobin moves, her slick body slides further up, she supports her body on one arm, gently brushing the tear away. “It’s okay, babe, it’s okay.” Crushing Tobin to her Christen holds on tight, unable to express her feelings. As always Tobin seems to understand as she awkwardly turns them so they’re both on their sides, soothingly she rubs Christen’s back. Pulling back Christen kisses Tobin urgently, willing Tobin to feel all of her love, to appreciate that she’s never felt this way before. Tobin kisses Christen back with a matching passion and Christen wonders, hopes beyond all hope that Tobin feels the same.

Their kiss turns tender, their mouths meshing together in understanding, until they’re just pecking each other. Christen kisses Tobin’s cheek lightly and smiles. Grinning back Tobin pushes the comforters, rearranging them into a base again. Reclining onto her back Tobin pulls Christen to her, “sleep babe.” Shaking her head fondly Christen curls into Tobin’s side, her head resting right above her breast, her hand laying on the smooth naked skin of her stomach. Christen isn’t sleepy at all, in fact she wants to taste Tobin again but she can wait. She’ll let Tobin rest for a little bit before she has her fill again. Closing her eyes, Christen listen’s as Tobin’s breathing, deep and regular steadies into sleep. Enjoying the soundtrack of Tobin’s heart, Christen kisses the patch of tan skin in front of her, whispering “I love you Tobin.”

Christen is still awake when Tobin’s wandering hands rolled Christen underneath her. Smiling seductively, Tobin kissed her slow and deep, their tongues meeting in a familiar dance of intimacy and seduction. Losing themselves in the kiss, their bodies fused together, thigh meeting thighs, breasts pressing close they began their dance all over again.


Standing on the back porch next to Alex Christen scans the crowd looking for Tobin. The backyard is teeming with people. Christen doesn’t know why she’s surprised by the volume. Kelley said she wanted to throw an end of summer celebration and that's exactly what she's done. She invited all staff members from the summer camp and since almost all staff members were athletes they inevitably brought teammates so it's really no surprise the backyard is brimming with people.

Christen doesn’t find Tobin but here eyes land on Adam and one of his frat brothers laughing near the grill. She really did miss the meathead. With Jules’ help, they were able to convince Zack and Adam to man the grill with a few of other volunteers from their fraternity. Jules then sweet talked them into donating a couple of kegs, at least that's what she said. Christen has sneaking suspicion it's more that Zack was under duress. Although the Sig Nu boys love the gals so who knows. .

“This has to be a fire hazard,” Alex says. Glancing over Christen is gratified to see her look of shock, so maybe she’s not the only naïve one. “Are there two beer pong tables?” Alex asks in disbelief. “Yep,” Christen responds. She noticed the addition earlier in the day but if there is one thing she learned this summer, it was to never ask Kelley too many questions.

“Where did she even…”

“I don’t know, don't want to know and neither do you”, Christen says sagely. Alex gives her an incredulously look as she points towards the two tables. Cutting her off, Christen insists “just trust me, it’s better if you don't know.”

Shaking her head Alex just sighs, “Have you seen Allie?”
“No, have you seen Tobin?”

“It’s like trying to find fucking Waldo back here,” Alex says and Christen can’t help but giggle at her frustration.

Christen see Allie towards the back of the yard standing with some girls she doesn’t know. Turning to tell Alex when a piercing glare stops her. Stunned Christen finds herself starting back at her. She looks different somehow and it’s not just that her hair is shorter and lighter, or that she seems older but there’s something off about her. The last time Christen saw her was at the frat house she’d been angry, mean and manipulative, content to use Tobin as a pawn. But tonight there’s almost a kindness about her it seems foreign as if she’s wearing someone else’s clothing. Christen wants to look away but she can’t. The girl’s eyes soften infinitesimally but her stare is defiant, a smug smirk on her face. She radiates superiority and it pisses Christen off after all this is her house, her yard, and her…girlfriend? But Tobin’s not and a sick feeling overcomes Christen as she realizes it’s all because of her, all because Christen was afraid, all because she wouldn’t ask Tobin about what they were, and Christen has the horrifying feeling that she knows it. Christen doesn’t know how she knows but she does. Spinning around Christen frantically searches for Tobin.

“What’s that bitch doing here?” Alex whispers vehemently in her ear. Shrugging her shoulder Christen really could care less about her as long as she stays away from Tobin. Voiced filled with alarm she bites out, “where’s Tobin?”

Alex looks at Christen for a minute, her eyes widening before she also searches frantically for the brunette with captivating whiskey eyes. They don’t see her but they hear her. Her laughter rings loud from the left side of the yard. Breathing sighs of relief Alex looks at Christen “it’s okay, she’s fine, she’s safe.” Christen smiles, wordlessly heading in the direction of Tobin's humorous voice because she has a sneaking suspicion that it’s not okay, that everything is not fine and that this is not the last time she'll see her.

Chapter Text

Say you love me to my face
I need it more than your embrace
Just say you want me, that’s all it takes
Heart’s getting torn from your mistakes

Cause I don’t wanna fall in love if you don’t wanna try
But all I’ve been thinking of is maybe that you might
Baby it looks as though we’re running out of words to say
And love’s floating away


 

“C, you’re free Sunday night, right?” Alex asks her eyes glued to her phone. Rolling her eyes, her patience waning Christen responds, “yes, I’m free.” It’s the second time today and approximately the tenth this week that Alex has asked her this exact same question. Sharing a knowing look with Jules, Christen mouths the now brunette’s next words, “great, roommate dinner.” Shaking her head Christen hears Alex finish with an air of authority “Syd is also in.” Glancing at Christen with wide amused eyes Jules mouths back, “O-M-G.”

“Jules…” Cutting Alex off Jules responds dramatically, sarcasm evident in her tone, “yes I’ll be there, I wouldn’t dream of missing it.” Christen’s chuckle catches in the back of her throat as she and Julie lean back in their seats, away from Alex’s piercing glare. “Don’t give me that tone this is the first weekend we’re all free and you guys promised” Alex emphasizes her words by pointing at them, “we would do roommate dinner once a month and September is almost over,” she finishes in a huff.

Actually, it’s only the second week in September but Christen understands Alex’s concerns. It’s only the beginning of the school year and already schedules are chaotic. The girls are away next weekend and Alex is right, the end of the month will be here before they know it.

Jules elbows her in the side, they share a sideway glance, silently agreeing not to mention the fact that they were supposed to have dinner last weekend but Alex got sidetracked by sorority duties. Which explains Alex’s sudden urgency to plan this dinner, she feels a little guilty. Christen reminds herself that as much as Alex loves her sorority, she’s struggling to manage her time and is still learning to balance her priorities and they need to cut her some slack. Alex’s “control monster” as Jules calls it, isn't used to having so many responsibilities, isn’t use to being away from them for so long and she’s doing her best.

“Okay, so if we’re having a roommate dinner Sunday night what are you going to do?” Jules questions with faux innocence, sucking on her straw to hide her smile. Knowing where this is going Christen lowers her head, pretending to check her phone trying to hide her own smile. Julie loves to use every opportunity she can to east Alex. It’s Jules’ way of saying she misses her.

Eyes narrowed suspiciously Alex responds calculatedly “I’ll be having dinner…”

“Well, you said roommate dinner and since technically only Syd, Chris and I are roommates, I was wondering…” laughing Julie dodges the french fry Alex throws at her.
“Oh shut up, I see my absence hasn’t made you any funnier”

“It was funny,” Jules says around her straw, a self-satisfied smirk on her face, “look, Chris is laughing”
“She’s laughing at you, not with you,” Alex says her eyes downcast, dragging a French fry through ketchup.  

 

Christen shoots Jules a warning look. Christen knows the teasing is good-natured and that Jules loves to constantly remind Alex that she’s left them for bigger and better houses. In a way, Christen thinks Julie truly means just that, Alex has left them for grander things. The house that Alex lives in now is beautiful. All of them had helped her decorate her new room and by help, Christen means they followed Alex’s precise instructions. Even though Jules is sincerely happy for Alex and maybe a little bit jealous, the teasing bothers Alex more than she’ll ever admit.

 
“Seriously, where do you want to go Al?” Christen ask changing the subject to safer ground.

Shrugging a shoulder, “Syd suggested sushi and saki bombs”
“Okay, sounds good. Do you want to meet us at the house or the restaurant?”
“Probably the house, I’ll come down after chapter”


“Awww, look at our baby horse being all responsible” Kelley chimes in. Startled Christen forgot she was sitting at the table, she’s been uncharacteristically quiet. Actually, Kelley’s been distant for a while now and Christen can guess why. Christen knows they’ve been mutually avoiding each other. Even now their eyes briefly meet before darting away.
 

Glaning down Christen frowns at her watch, noticing the time. Tobin be here by now. Turning to ask Alex if she knows here Tobin is, Christen’s words die in her mouth as she witnesses Alex and Kelley whispering urgently. Kelley’s eyebrows are drawn together, lips smashed together in a thin line. Christen can only see Alex’s profile but she’s also clearly unhappy. Resigned Kelley shrugs a shoulder, holding her hands up in supplication as Alex glances over her shoulder, her features are contorted in a mild rage, her blue eyes glacial. Surprised Christen follows her line of vision only for her breath to catch, her eyes widen in disbelief. Suddenly all Christen can hear is her laughter. It sounds around the room as if in stereo and Christen wonders exactly how long Tobin has been standing there, laughing and talking with her.

 

Hurt and dismayed Christen can’t tear her eyes away. Christen’s stomach drops at the realization that her intuition was right. Christen just knew she would see the girl again. What she can’t believe is that Tobin is talking to her again and didn’t mention it. But then again, why would she? It’s not like Christen is her girlfriend, a fact that Alex has been harping on lately, a knowing glint in her eyes. Christen is about to turn around and pretend like she didn’t seem them when the girl casually touches Tobin’s arm and Christen’s vision goes red with anger.

 

Christen doesn’t like or trust the girl and she’ll never understand what Tobin saw in her, not even on her best days. The worst part is Christen knows she has no right to be upset, she really shouldn’t be mad. After all, she helped create the whole situation. Christen started the whole avoidance as a way of communication and it’s easy to understand why Tobin never mentioned the girl to her, it’s a sore spot for them.

 

“I knew she was here this summer but I didn’t think she’d dare. First at the house and now this, really…” snapping her head around Christen stares at Alex, whose mouth is still moving but Christen can’t hear anything over the roaring in her ears, they’ve gone hot with a mixture of hurt and disbelief. Christen had hoped it was a coincidence that she was at the house that night, thought maybe she had come with her teammates but it never occurred to her that the girl had been here on campus all summer long. Christen hadn’t seen her once but then again she hadn’t been looking for her either. Christen hates herself for the next question that pops into her head, but she can’t prevent herself from wondering, “has Tobin been talking to her all summer?”

 

Christen shakes her head as if she can physically chase away the doubts and fears forming in the back of her mind. Wonder what else she doesn’t know, what else she missed all because she was content to be ignorant, never willing to ask the hard questions, always afraid of what the answers might be. It was faulty thinking and Christen knew it then and now she has to deal with the consequences.


Watching the girl laugh at something Tobin said, Christen’s heart drops, she can only imagine Tobin’s face, her eyes narrowing with pleasure, her grin wide and strong and it hurts Christen’s heart plain and simple. It’s a reminder of all the things she and Tobin haven’t discussed, all the issues they didn’t broach over the summer, they’ve finally reached their breaking point, they’ve crossed into the danger zone. Mentally correcting herself Christen admits they’ve been in the danger zone for quiet sometimes, ever since that night, the night Tobin dared to speak up.


A light touch draws Christen back to the present, glancing to her right she attempts to offers Jules a small tentative smile but it doesn’t reach her eyes. Christen wants to assure Jules she okay, even if it is a lie when a wave of blinding anger washes over her. Why lie? Overpowering any sense of hurt and indignation is the building sense of betrayal. Undoubtedly Christen feels betrayed by Tobin but she’s not here. So Christen glares accusatorily at Kelley. Sighing through her grimace Kelley at least as the good grace to look uncomfortable. Her eyes are remorseful but undercut by a current of annoyance. Reluctantly she says in a low voice, “we barely saw her, she spent most of her time on north at the basketball courts.” Christen can feel the pressure building behind her eyes, blinking she continues to stare at Kelley silently begging her to explain. Hesitantly Kelley confirms her suspicion, “she worked at the camp this summer.”

 

Swallowing hard Christen ask Alex “did you know?” Alex’s eyes widen in horrified realization, she won’t meet Christen’s pleading eyes instead she glances past her to Julie. “Did everyone know but me?” Christen ask of no one in particular. Shifting closer, Julie places a hand on her thigh, bending down she whispers so only Christen can hear, “I thought you knew Press. I’m so sorry.” Christen glares at Kelley again because she’s positive Kelley knew better.

 

Kelly meets her glare with hardening eyes, clearly frustrated herself she bites out , “it wasn’t my place. You’re not even…” Alex lays a hand on her wrist subtly shaking her head. Snapping her mouth shut Kelley sends Christen a challenging look, simply repeating, “it wasn’t my place.”  There’s something about her tone, the way she’s chosen her words carefully that lets Christen know Kelley is mad at her, that she knows what happened that night and it makes Christen squirm uncomfortably.

 

Christen feels lost and out of place. It’s a harsh reminder that Kelley is forth most Tobin’s friend and teammate. This is exactly what Christen fear, to be surrounded by people who ultimately were loyal to Tobin, who ultimately didn’t have to stand up for her. Christen searches for the face of home, of the two people she trusts more than herself and their not here yet. Maybe it’s for the best, she might actually fall apart if they were here, she might show how vulnerable she really feels. As if reading her thoughts, Julies whispers in her ear “Press, don’t. I would have told you. You’re my friend.”

 

Christen smiles appreciatively at Jules’s words but she keeps her eyes trained on her hands, she doesn’t dare look up. Christen feels unbalanced, her whole summer feels like a lie. It ultimately comes down to the omission. The fact that Tobin didn’t tell her. Christen had honestly thought they were past this. Snorting Christen admits that was naïve, after all, she’s omitted so much. Christen acknowledges she can’t truly be angry at Tobin, after all, she was just following her lead. Christen now realizes she was always the one who refused to discuss important personal matters, such as her feelings and if she’s being unduly honest with herself, isn’t that an omission.

 

“Yo, what’s good?” Christen hears as Tobin slides into the spot on her left side. Some of her teammates offer hellos, but Christen is cognizant of the subdued greeting from Kelley and Alex. She and Jules don’t respond and Christen sincerely hopes Julie isn’t glaring at Tobin. “Okay….” Tobin drawls, her gaze warming Christen’s face. Christen knows when those eyes search out Kelley and Alex in confusion.

 

Zoned out Christen hears the soft mummers of conversation around her when an arm wraps around her shoulder pulling her into the warmth of a body. Immediately her senses are overwhelmed by a familiar scent. Christen fights the urge to rub her nose along Tobin’s neck, inhaling her.  “Hey, you okay?” Leaning into Tobin’s warmth, Christen nods her head but she doesn’t meet Tobin’s concerned eyes. She tries to force a smile but Tobin isn’t fooled. Peering through her eyelashes Christen watches Tobin lick her lips, opening her mouth only to falter. Head still bowed Christen feels Tobin lean in, lips grace the side of her hairline, near her temple. Christen doesn’t respond, she sits stiff as a board, tuning out the conversations around her. Sighing deeply Tobin drops her arm sitting up straight.

 

Oblivious to everything around her Christen notices when Tobin’s hand lightly grips hers where it lays on her thigh. Christen doesn’t think it’s a conscious act on Tobin’s part, it’s just something she’s become accustomed to doing, they always hold hands when they’re next to each other. Christen studies their hands, hers pacify laying under Tobin’s and she knows she has a decision to make. She can ignore Tobin’s hand, pull hers away or she can accept it for what she hopes it is, an olive branch. Turning her hand over Christen entwines her fingers’ with Tobin’s, squeezing gently. Truthfully there was no choice to be made, Christen had to do it because no matter what is going on, no matter how upset she might be Christen is always going to take any little touches and connections with Tobin she can get.

 

Appetite gone Christen can’t fight her growing need to get away. She just can’t be here right now she needs a moment of peace where she can process everything away from inquisitive. Awkwardly with one hand Christen text Alyssa and Ali letting them know she left and will catch up with them later. Untangling her hand from Tobin’s , she ignores Tobin’s probing glance as she stands abruptly, “I have to go, I need to catch my profession before class,” the excuse sound weak even to her own ears and one sweep of Alex’s and Jules’ face confirms it but she just doesn’t care.

 

Tobin’s eyes flicker to Christen’s half eaten food her lips pursing in displeasure,  “I’ll walk you.”

“It’s okay, you haven’t eaten yet,” Christen says indifferently, ignoring the fact that Tobin always walks her to her next class. Jaw clenched Tobin stands up stubbornly and says in a low voice, “I always walk you.” Not looking at Tobin Christen shrugs her shoulder, calling out generically, “bye guys.”

 

Throwing a strap of her backpack over her shoulder, Tobin chucks the deuces and quietly follows Christen out the dining hall. They’re both very mindful of the many pairs of eyes following them out. Christen, in particular, can’t seem to ignore the ones across the room, coming from a different table, staring with interest.

 

Silently they walk side by side. Tobin’s head is down and Christen is too preoccupied with her thoughts to truly appreciate how awkward this has become. Christen almost wishes Tobin had stayed which only makes her feel worse because she can’t remember the last time she didn’t want to be near Tobin. Christen hates the girl. The reality is that it was probably nothing as Kelley insinuated but still, now they’re here, walking awkwardly beside each other for the first time in what feels like forever and Christen hates it.  She also detests the fact that the girl isn’t to blame, the fault lies with her and Tobin.

 

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong” Tobin finally if not hesitantly asks.

Stumbling Christen trips over her own feet, she wasn’t expecting the question. Her automatic response is to say “nothing” but her mouths shuts as she hears Tobin say those exact words. Annoyed Christen glares at Tobin arching her eyebrow.

“You were going to say ‘nothing’ but this is the first time you’ve looked at me in the last twenty minutes,” Tobin challenges, “so something is wrong.”

“It’s nothing Tobin, it’s fine. I’ll get over it” Christen answers.

Groaning Tobin roughly grabs her hand, pulling her across the Arts’ quad until they’re in front of one a bench outside Morrill hall. Tobin silently points to the wooden structure and Christen plops down, crossing her arms over her chest. Slightly bemused Tobin sits across from a pouting Christen. “What’s wrong,” Tobin asks again.

“I don’t know what you want me to say?” Christen replies, she’s positive Tobin knows exactly what the problem is.

“I want you to tell me what’s bothering you” Tobin responds seriously, there’s a hardness to her voice “I want you to talk to me.”

Gazing at Tobin this is exactly what Christen was hoping to avoid. This is exactly whey she needed to leave.

“Chris…” Tobin sighs in exasperation. Shaking her head Tobin gaze out at the slopes, her eyes running over the mountainous hillside, her eyes unfocused not really seeing anything.

Groaning Christen knows she needs to try and meet Tobin half way. Clearing  her throat Christen sits up, “Fine, why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m sorry,” Tobin says immediately, her face still turned away, still gazing out at the land beyond them.

“Okay,” Christen says annoyed, gathering her bag in her hand she’s about to stand when Tobin’s hand on her thigh stops her.

Turning to meet her glare Tobin’s eyes are remorseful, “I’m sorry.  I just…I didn’t know where we…I wasn’t sure….” Pausing Tobin runs a hand through her hair, pushing back a few of her stray hairs. 

“I don’t know what…., I wasn’t” Tobin pauses again, rubbing a hand across her eyes. Sitting up straight Tobin makes sure she has Christen’s undivided attention before she tries again “I should have,” cupping Christen’s check, running her thumb along Christen’s cheek bone, “I wish I had. I just, I didn’t want to make it something bigger than it was. I know you hate her, would’ve hated her being here and I didn’t want to spoil our summer, I wasn’t even sure ….” Tobin mumbles the rest of the words so Christen can’t hear them. Even though Christen might not be able to recite the exact words Tobin said but she can figure out what the gist was. Profound guilt flares within Christen's chest, it mostly stems out of embarrassment, she’s created this situation, always knew this would happen.

“I know, I was just surprised and maybe a little hurt,” Christen says weakly, hates admitting she was hurt. Hates making herself vulnerable in any aspect. It's not that vulnerability is necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, some people try to take advantage, they see it as a weakness and try to use it against you. Christen knows that first hand. If she was talking to anyone but Tobin she wouldn’t have admitted that. At the end of the day she trusts Tobin. Tobin has had her vulnerabilities used against her and would never do that to another person.  

Smiling softly Tobin whispers “I know, I’m sorry. I …” Christen silences Tobin the best ways he knows how to by pressing her lips to the only girl she’s truly ever loved. She can’t stand to hear Tobin apologize for something she knows she’s partially responsible for. Christen just won’t let her do it.

The smile she’s rewarded with tells Christen she did the right thing, tells her she needs to let this goes that she can’t dwell on her, not even sure the girl is the problem. Christen focuses on what’s important what matters and that’s the fact that Tobin is here, with her now and she doesn’t have to be here but she is. Maybe Christen needs to take a little more faith and as always she needs to do more.

“We’re okay, we’re good” Christen breathes out. Tobin’s smile falls, her eyes grow serious again “Chris, you have to, we have to …”

“I know, I know. I’ll try to do better. Okay?”
Tobin shakes her head smiling, “yeah that sounds good,” standing she pulls Christen into a bear hug. Grabbing her backpack Tobin takes Christen’s hand, “come one, let’s go to the Red Barn, I’m starving.”

“My professor” Christen starts but giggles as Tobin throws her a knowing look practically dragging her across the quad.

 


Leaning against her bedroom door frame Christen gazes lovingly at the brown haired beauty curled up on her bed. It feels like an eternity since the last time she came home to find Tobin napping, their schedules are so different this semester. Rolling her eyes, Christen smirks at her own dramatics. Truthfully it's probably only been two or three days since the last time this happened. It's just that sometimes it's hard for Christen to remember there was a time when Tobin wasn’t in her life, a time when Tobin didn’t take naps on her bed, it seems like a different life.

Like Christen predicted things are different. Tobin and she don’t spend as much time together as they did over the summer. Only Christen is starting to realize different isn’t necessarily bad. Luckily for them, it’s made their limited time together more precious in ways Christen hadn’t anticipated. They’ve become creative with their free time, finding ways to optimize every second they have together.

Christen rest her bag against her desk next to Tobin’s backpack. Smirking, an involuntary blush creeps up her cheeks as she vividly remembers what happened on that desk. Christen blames the glasses, it’s not her fault Tobin in glasses is her kryptonite. Unconsciously rubbing her thighs together Christen can feel wetness pooling at her core. So lost in the memory, painfully turned on Christen almost forgets about what happened next but the flood of decisively unpleasant images racing through her mind catches her off guard. Shaking her head, she tries to forcefully shake the images from her mind, to stop herself from reliving that moment, unwilling to dwell on how she potentially ruined everything.

To this day Christen isn’t sure how they moved on. Originally Christen was grateful that Tobin seemingly was unbothered that she was able to shrug it off. In retrospect, nothing is ever that simple, Christen knows this will come back to haunt her. The worst part is Christen can’t explain to herself why she reacted the way she did. She just wishes she could erase the whole incident, go back in time and take it back, do it over again but she can’t. Her only option is to focus on the here and now and hopes she has time in the future to fix it.

Glancing at her bed a fond smile pulls at the corners of her mouth. Trying to chase the gloom away Christen chants her mantra, repeats over and over her personal resolve to show Tobin at every chance she gets how much she loves her and to tell her before it’s too late. Christen tries to silence the alarm bells sounding in her head, warning her that time to tell Tobin has already come and gone and that hitting snooze is only delaying the inevitable . But Christen ignores it, tells herself she still has time. She’s gotten good at lying to herself.

Checking the time Christen has a couple of hours before dinner with her roomies. Quietly walking to her dresser Christen shimmies out of jeans, pulling out a large worn out t-shirt, she chuckles to herself as she realizes it’s one of Tobin’s old high school champion shirts. Taking the rest of her clothes and bra off Christen quickly pulls Tobin’s shirt over her. Christen crawls behind Tobin, snuggling her face against Tobin’s warm athletic back. Gingerly she wraps an arm around Tobin’s waist Christen inhales Tobin’s scent. Her unique aroma has quickly become Christen’s favorite fragrance. It represents home. This is at least one thing that hasn’t changed. Tobin being her home and in her bed, her scent and presence lulling Christen to sleep each night just as Tobin promised.

Dozing off Christen first feels the heat of a hand on top of hers. It takes another moment for Christen to realize the hand is dragging hers slowly up the soft flat planes of Tobin’s stomach. Slipping under her shirt the journey continues until she’s palming Tobin’s supple breast, her hard nipple pebbling against the skin of Christen’s hand. Christen slips a leg between Tobin’s, rocking her core against Tobin’s ass. Tobin’s hand squeezes Christen’s fingers around her breasts a silent plea for more. Her thumb and forefinger close on Tobin’s nipple rolling it. Moaning Tobin writhes back against her, pushing down against Christen’s thigh.

Leaning on her forearm Christen presses her thigh seeking the heat she can feel radiating from Tobin’s center. Using her cheek Christen pushes Tobin’s air away from her neck, making a path for her lips to brush kisses along the sensitive skin of her column. Switching breast Christen rolls Tobin’s other nipple between her fingers, gently twisting and pulling in time with Tobin’s ragged breaths.

Done with snacking on Tobin’s neck Christen needs to kiss her, needs to see her, she moans, “babe.” That’s all it takes for Tobin to roll onto her back, pulling Christen on top of her, slotting a thigh between Christen’s outstretched legs. Christen marvels at the fact that Tobin always seems to know exactly what she wants, always seemed to know exactly how to touch her, bringing her to heights of pleasure Christen hadn’t known existed.

Smiling hazily, her eyes fuzzy with desire Tobin says softly “hi babe.” Leaning down Christen’s lips ghost over Tobin’s whispering “hi”. Christen feels immensely powerful and desired, knowing that Tobin’s eyes are dark with arousal because of her. Pleased to know that Tobin wants her as much as Christen needs her. Pushing down on Tobin’s hard thigh Christen grunts. Christen yearns to have Tobin. Her hungry catches her by surprise. She always wants Tobin but this feels different. Maybe it’s because she’s been turned on since she entered her room or maybe it’s because she’s trying to chase her demons away but whatever the case Christen needs to have Tobin now.

Lightly Christen brushes her lips over Tobin’s. Once. Twice. “Babe?” It’s a plea, it’s a declaration of need, it’s a request to continue and as always Tobin seems to understand. Pulling Christen down Tobin explores the hollow at the base of Christen’s throat with the tip of her tongue, kissing her way up the column of Christen’s neck. Raising her head Tobin kisses Christen’s mouth, “I’m yours, babe. Do what you want.” Shuddering Christen kisses Tobin harder, teasing her tongue over Tobin’s moaning deep into her mouth. Tobin's hands slip under Christen’s shirt, caressing her hips, slowly sliding up her sides, over Christen’s rib cage, pushing Christen’s shirt up as she goes.

Breaking the kiss Tobin insistently pulls the shirt over Christen’s head, throwing it to the side of the bed. Sitting up Christen's head drops back as Tobin’s hands cover her swollen breasts. At the first touch of Tobin’s tongue against her sensitive nipple Christen swears she sees stars. Breathing hard Christen straddles Tobin’s thigh pressing her center against Tobin’s tight thigh, knowing she’s wet, not caring if she soaks through her panties. Tobin’s mouth against her heated skin feels amazing but it’s not what Christen wants, she wants to lose herself in Tobin. “Babe, I need you” Christen stutters out, the pleasure at her breasts is building in her core. Whimpering Christen knows that if Tobin keeps up her ministrations, along with her hips rocking against Tobin she’s going to come soon but she doesn’t want to, she wants to make Tobin come.

Sensing how close Christen is, Tobin’s hand grabs her hip, pushing her leg up harder against her core, encouraging Christen to ride her thigh. Tobin’s mouth is ravenous as she feasts on Christen’s breasts, switching back and forth between, nipping, biting, soothing the sting with her tongue, using her free hand to pull and twist Christen’s taunt nipples. Christen’s eyes slam shut “more, more” she begs. Reaching down Tobin thumbs Christen’s clit, as Christen’s movements become more and more excited. Pulsing against Tobin’s finger, Christen cries out as her body explodes in bliss. Falling forward her chest heaving Christen lays her head against Tobin’s shoulder.

Christen kisses Tobin’s cheek, “sorry, I didn’t mean for that to happen.” Kissing the tip of her nose Tobin says in a hushed tone, “you’re so beautiful, I love touching you, love watching you come.” Christen’s hip jerks and Tobin chuckles self-satisfied. Falling to the side Christen pulls beseechingly at Tobin’s shirt, “Off, please.” Her orgasm did nothing to diminishes her need, her overwhelming hunger to have Tobin.

Chest vibrating with her amusement Tobin pulls her shirt off, settling back against the pillows. She arches an eyebrow at Christen. Tobin’s silent way of saying checkmate. Leaning over Christen kisses Tobin on the mouth, playing with Tobin’s tongue and sucking on her lower lip. Taunting her with little nips before plunging into her mouth again. They kissed until they were both breathless. Christen stares down at Tobin, she doesn’t know how to communicate to Tobin her needs. It’s not just that she wants to sleep with Tobin, it’s not just that she finds her attractive, it’s that she loves her. But Christen can’t think of how to tell her that, not after, not after what she did.

“You okay, babe?” Tobin asks, studying Christen seriously.“I want you so much” Christen whispers back

“You can have anything you want,” Tobin answers again. Kissing her gently Christen sends a silent prayer that it’s true, that it will always be true.

Kissing her again Christen puts everything she can into that kiss, wills Tobin to feel all of her love, she doesn't rush through the kiss, makes sure to take her time, to go slowly, she wants to explore Tobin's, needs Tobin to explore her mouth, needs Tobin to feel her love. Slotting her mouth down the side of Tobin’s neck, Christen licks a path down her abdomen, briefly playing with the lines of Tobin’s muscles.

Christen grasp the waistband of her cotton sweatpants, hooking her fingers in Tobin’s underwear, dragging the clothing down. As she bares Tobin’s thighs Christen looks up saying again “I need you.” Tobin nods, helping her out by kicking her pants off. Grabbing them Christen throws them off to the side as she stares down in wonderment at the beautiful visage that is Tobin’s body.

Parting Tobin’s legs Christen slides onto her stomach between Tobin’s toned thighs. Slowly and deliberately she runs her thumb along the length of Tobin’s clit, massaging her rhythmically. Tobin moans softly, almost in exultation. Still Christen needs more, she needs to taste her, to have her. Lowering her head Christen leans forward to taste her, slowly licking her way through Tobin’s heat, moaning as her sweat thickness coats her tongue. Tobin’s hand painfully squeezes Christen’s shoulder. The curses that fall from Tobin’s mouth are a song to Christen's ears, encouraging her on.

Still, it’s not enough, tasting Tobin is simply just not enough Christen wants to devour her. Tenderly circling her lips around Tobin’s clitoris, Christen sucks slowly until she has her all the way inside her mouth, flicking her tongue back and forth. Crying out Tobin arches her hips, pushing against Christen’s mouth. Christen tries to make it last, sucking gently, careful not to work Tobin too quickly or too hard but it doesn’t matter, soon, too soon for Christen’s liking Tobin is coming undone, exploding in her mouth. It’s heaven on earth for Christen. Pressing harder Christen licks and swirls her tongue and takes all Tobin has to offer, rapidly pushing her to another peak. Thrilled when she hears and feels Tobin fall off the ledge again, tumbling down in delight. Christen would have kept going but Tobin gently pushes her away, “babe, I can’t again,” caressing Christen’s cheek whispering “come here.”

Christen rest her face against Tobin’s thigh, their bodies dewy with perspiration, Tobin's breathing is ragged. Sighing contentedly Christen presses her lips to Tobin’s still trembling flesh. Running a finger up and down the length of her other thigh Christen hopes Tobin understands the hold she has over her. Wonders if Tobin truly appreciates how much Christen loves her and immediately she knows the answer is no and it’s her own fault, always is.

Just a second ago Christen was flying high on love and joy but is freefalling with her realization. Anxious to keep her connection, to keep her natural high Christen kisses a path up Tobin’s leg, enjoying every taste and feel of her body. Murmuring in appreciation, Tobin's hand circles her neck encouraging her up. Christen’s mind constantly echoes the same words over and over, I love you, I love you, “I love you,” as if she could infuse the words into each one of her kisses.

So lost in the feeling of the smooth pliant body underneath her Christen doesn’t immediately recognize the stiffening of Tobin’s muscles. It takes Tobin roughing pulling at her hair for Christen to realize something is wrong. Worried Christen glances up unprepared for the wide startled eyes something akin to panic surfacing in the depth of Tobin’s beautiful brown eyes. Immediately terrified she’d hurt her, Christen pulls back bracing her weight on her hands, she quickly scans Tobin’s body, looking for any signs of scars or bruises. Little did she know the wounds she caused aren’t visible, the damage incomprehensible. “What did you say?” Tobin’s strangled words barely float to her ears.

Freezing Christen’s heart stops beating, her breath caught in her throat. Reluctantly Christen maintains eye contact with Tobin as a sense of impending dooming chills Christen to her bones. She didn’t say anything, she’d only been thinking, oh shit. The emotions swirling in Tobin’s eyes is all the confirmation Christen needs to know she fucked up. Swallowing against the rising bile in her throat, sitting up Christen is completely conscious of her nakedness, she feels bare beyond belief as she stares in horror at the distressed and rapidly disintegrating Tobin beneath her. This is definitely not how she had planned on telling Tobin. Weakly, barely able to force the words past her lips Christen breathes “I love you.”

Paralyzed Tobin doesn’t blink, her chest doesn’t move with incoming and outgoing breaths. Her once pliant and fiery skin is now icy and cold as stone. Tobin’s eyes are fathomless pools of emotions, moisture gathers along her rims, a trail leaking down her face disappearing into her hair. Appalled by what’s she done Christen only prays that one day she’ll forget the haunted look in Tobin’s eyes. Even as she makes it Christen knows it’s a futile wish, her nightmares will forever be filled with memories of Tobin’s devastation and the destruction she created. Christen will never forgive herself for putting that look in Tobin’s eyes. Shutting her lids, Christen can’t take it anymore. It’s definitely not how she imagined this moment.

“Chris…I…Christen…what?” Tobin stutters unable to form a coherent sentence. Christen has rendered Tobin speechless and not in a positive way. A strangled laugh bubbles in Christen’s chest only to escape her lips as a tormented cough. There’s no other response to have. They’re both naked, their souls stripped and exposed and a moment that should have been joyous is ruined, leaving destruction in its wake as they stare at each other in dismay. Warily Christen studies Tobin loathes the hurt she sees in those whiskey brown spheres but what actually ruins Christen, is the doubt, the fear and mostly the regret that has taken residence in Tobin’s eyes. “I…”

“I know, I know” Christen quickly cuts her off, afraid of what Tobin might say, knowing she won’t survive a verbal rejection. Tobin’s eyes have always been the gateway to her soul, to her core, to her inner emotions and now is no different. Christen is also painfully aware of what Tobin hasn’t said, her unspoken words a clear confirmation, there's no mistake; Christen has been rejected. Tobin doesn’t love her.

Tobin might want to spend time with her, maybe even date her but she doesn’t love her. The worst part is Christen knows she’s to blame, knows she wouldn’t allow Tobin to love her. Never allowed Tobin to believe it was a possibility, never gave her hope. She couldn’t even answer Tobin’s simple question.

Tobin pulls harshly at the sheets in a feeble attempt to cover her body, pulling further away, scooting back, shrinking into the corner, Tobin draws her knees to her chest, trying to protect herself, to put a barrier between her and Christen’s senseless words. Tobin’s body trembles, tears continue to stream down her now pale and blotchy face, shaking her head back and forth so forcefully Christen is afraid she’ll give herself whiplash, the whole time muttering. To Christen’s ears, it sounds like a string of “no”.

Christen desperately wants to reach out to her, to comfort her, offer some words of comfort, give her a soothing touch, anything to keep Tobin from hurting. Only Christen doesn’t know how to, doesn’t know how to repair the damage she’s already created. Instead, Christen is forced to look on helplessly as Tobin comes undone before her. Strong, beautiful, considerate Tobin who was honest with her all summer, who was patient with her, who kept them afloat every time Christen flounder is clearly unraveling right before her and Christen has no remedy. Christen has nothing to offer her but declaration and promises that are too late and sound false. There’s no cure for this, no simple apology that will make everything okay. She’s broken Tobin and that realization almost knocks her over. If she hadn’t already been on her knees, Christen is positive her legs would have given out, they tremble as it is.

“She was right. This is all people want from me. All I’m good for,” Tobin grounds out harshly through her clenched jaw, angrily wiping at her tears. It’s clear she didn’t intend on Christen hearing her but Christen does anyway.

Recoiling as if she’s been slapped Christen blinks rapidly, keeping her tears at bay, demanding her heart to beat on. All the warnings, all the knowing looks Christen got over the summer, people telling her to act before it was too late, ring loud in her ears an ominous premonition come to fruition. How had she fucked up so royally? Guilt and regret build like an inferno in Christen, threatening to consume her. Her chin quivers with her efforts to keep her emotions in check, she doesn’t get the luxury of falling to pieces, not now, not in front of Tobin. Christen never wanted, never intended to treat Tobin badly, never wanted to do anything but love her in her own way. She never stopped to consider what Tobin need, how Tobin wanted to be loved, never thought she had been anything like her, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…I wish I had…” Christen’s voice dies in defeat, unable or unwilling to carry the rest of her words.

Tobin’s hazy gaze suddenly focuses sharply on Christen, her gaze penetrating, flaying Christen, laying waste to the remains of her soul. Christen maintains eye contact, she won’t look away from the devastation she’s created, ignores the way her heart literally constricts at the sight of Tobin, huddled in the corner, desperately trying to protect herself. She looks so small, so wounded and in that moment Christen knows without a doubt she loves Tobin, loves her probably more than she loves herself because she would do anything, give anything earthy or other to take Tobin’s evident pain away, to restore her. Even if that means breaking her own heart. Christen would take her words back, she would say it was a mistake, all a joke that everything was okay if she thought it was a solution, but it’s not, that’s not enough. The problem is Christen doesn’t know what is, doesn’t know how to fix this.

Pushing herself to the edge of the bed Tobin detangles herself from the sheets. Frantically Tobin searches the room for her clothing. Locating her things on the floor Tobin quickly pulls her underpants on. Hastily shoving one leg into her sweatpants Tobin pauses, spinning around, almost falling down in the process. Christen instinctually reaches out, forbidding herself from crying, refusing to let a tear slip past her lashes when Tobin flinches away from her outstretched hands.

Tobin’s eyes focused on Christen shirtless on the bed. They stare at each other. Christen tries to recognize the Tobin standing in front of her, looks for the parts she familiar with but she can’t, she can't find them. Christen doesn’t know this stranger, can’t recognize the terrified being in front of her. Tobin gazes at Christen a vague look of recognition on her face as if seeing Christen for the first. Standing upright, Tobin’s sweatpants fall to the ground as if realizing for the first time what she’s about to do.

Christen momentarily hopes that Tobin will change her mind, that she’ll realize that Christen loving her isn’t a game, isn’t like all the other times. Hopes Tobin remembers that Christen isn’t anything like her. Gathering what little courage she has left, Christen moves closer to the edge of the bed, on the peak, praying she doesn’t crash, Christen has to make Tobin understand, “I do, I have for so long, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, I love you…” Christen stops her words dying on her tongue as fast as they came rushing out as she catches the withering look Tobin sends her. Silently she finishes, “I will always love you,” it’s true, Christen knows it like she knows she needs oxygen to breathe.

Tears forming in her eyes, Tobin bends down, pushing her other leg into her sweats, pulling them up completely. Tobin continues to gather her belongings with haste, picking her shirt up and violently pulling it over her head. The whole time Christen watches Tobin’s frantic retreat, one single thought forms in her mind; she never knew three words could cause so much pain and damage, that’s until she heard four. Tobin’s mouth moves furiously and she might be saying actual words but Christen can’t make them out, her ears go death after “I’m sorry, I…”

Christen doesn’t say anything. What does one say to that? Turning away from Tobin, she looks for safety, needing to protect herself. Anything to stave off the pain she can feel building deep within her but all she sees is her shirt. Slowly picking it up she pulls it over her head. A splintering noise rings in Christen's ears and she glances around the room, searching for the source of the noise only to realize it’s the sound of her heart breaking.

Refusing to allow herself to cry, Christen blinks back the moisture she can feel gathering along her rims. Christen berates herself for not being better, for having glimpsed Tobin’s soul only to commit the same sins as those before her. Tobin is so special and Christen can’t believe she took that for granted. That she treated her the same as so many others. So many people failed to see Tobin for who she truly is, failing to see all of her intricacies, instead choosing only to focus on what they wanted; the soccer player, the beauty, the experiment, or whatever else they desired at the time but always failing to see Tobin. Christen would never have guessed she’d be one of them.

A profound sadness washes over Christen as her first tear rolls down her face. She’s crying for all the mistakes along the way. Another tear falls and Christen is crying out of anger, out of the fact that she was too much of a coward to confess her feelings when she had the chance. Christen wishes she could take it all back, go back to the first and only time Tobin had dared to ask the hard questions. When Tobin asked what they were doing, when she found the courage to say what she wanted, actually requested out loud to make this fledgling relationship real, official. Tobin had found the courage to ask her to be her girlfriend and Christen’s only response was to stare in surprise, sputtering intelligible words, trying to ignore the way Tobin’s face fell.

Covering her eyes with her hands Christen plunges onto her haunches, bending over Christen hates herself. Hates that she didn’t answer Tobin, hates the look of hurt and confusion on Tobin’s face as she gracefully changed subjects never daring to repeat her questions again. So of courses Tobin is surprised, thrown off guard by Christen’s unintended revelations because it must seem contrived.

Fully dressed, her bag packed Tobin continues to earnestly search the room and Christen can’t take it anymore. “What are you looking for?” It comes out harsher than she intended but she’s literally watching Tobin run away from her. Tobin looks at her for a minute, “I’m not even sure, I just feel like I’m leaving something behind” she says tears running down her cheek.

Briefly closing her eyes Christen attempts to hold back her sob, an onslaught of tears threatens to break through the dam of her lashes. Christen breathes through the tightness of her chest, past the pain that resonates with each puff of air. There’re no words to be said. They both know what Tobin is leaving behind. It’s not a tangible item, it’s not something she can collect off the floor, it’s not something she can take with her. Trying to spare them, voice wobbly Christen says, “you can come down whenever you want and look for it.”

“Chris I’m sorry, I have to go, I just…” Tobin mutters through trembling lips, she holding her arms across her chest, squeezing herself, working hard to keep her tears at bay but her chin quivers and Christen knows Tobin’s about to break. Watching Tobin in such distress is the worst sight Christen has ever seen in her life and the knowledge that she did it to her, is indefensible.

“Please don’t” Christen whispers as more tears roll down her cheeks, “just…don’t, please don’t apologize. This isn’t your fault. You have to go, I get it… I shouldn’t…not that way…” Christen can’t finish her sentence. The list of things she shouldn’t have done is endless, almost as long as the things Christen wishes she had. Taking a deep breath, Christen tries again. “I love you, I really do but this, this isn’t how I wanted to tell you. I shouldn’t have done it like this.”

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Tobin bites out, her voice harsh and scratchy. “It only shows that you don’t know me, that you can’t possibly love me, you don’t love someone you don’t know. I’d hoped you’d be different, I thought you were, but you’re not. I was fitting perfectly into your world, I was doing everything you want me to do and now you love me.”

Amazingly Tobin’s anger is comforting, Christen is able to gather herself together, push her tears back. Christen can handle an angry Tobin, she deserves an angry Tobin. Christen doesn’t know how to comfort a scared and panicked Tobin, especially not when she’s the one who has caused the pain.

This summer” Tobin’s voice cracks, her breathing unsteady, tears pouring down her cheeks in earnest now. Sighing deeply Tobin continues, her voice barely audible, “this summer when I wanted more, when I asked for… when I wasn’t so convenient you didn’t want me. Now suddenly you love? That’s not….” Tobin’s tone harsh, devastated, running her shaking hands through her hair. Tobin’s words bounce around Christen’s mind like blows to her body. Christen wants to yell out it’s not true, that’s not how it was, wants to explain that she was a coward but she can’t. Shaking her head is the only objection Christen offers, she doesn’t want to offer excuses. Tobin is speaking her truth and even though her words cut along Christen’s skin like razor blades. Christen doesn’t blame her, understands why Tobin feels the way she does. Christen knows that’s exactly how it looks and she can’t think of words to convince Tobin otherwise. Ultimately Tobin is right, that’s not how you love someone.

Christen called it a long time ago in the library, Tobin’s willingness to sacrifice part of herself, her feelings, her needs, to keep the ones around her happy. Tobin never wants to disappoint or hurt someone. Christen had been no different, she allowed Tobin to make sacrifices without stopping to consider the cost to Tobin, never wondering if Tobin was hurt. The guilty that washes over is like a tsunami threatening to bring Christen to her knees. Slumping down on her bed Christen still can’t believe she fucked this up so badly.

Head bowed Christen won’t look up. Quietness overcomes the room, the frenetic energy emanating from Tobin has disappeared and all that remains is the hollowness of love gone wrong. Christen can feel Tobin’s burning gaze but the thought of meeting those wide brown eyes, to look into them, to see the hurt resonating in their depths, to see the condemnation swimming in them, nauseates Christen, it would break her.

The door opens but footsteps don’t follow. Standing Christen readies herself for the beat of Tobin’s feet, a clear sign of Tobin leaving her. Christen’s inner voices begs her to look up, to try to one last time, to fight for once. The silence has become so poignant Christen has no other choice but to glance up. It was a mistake. Tobin’s gaze wrecks her, there’s no hate but Tobin’s hurt, confusion, and regret are crushing. Christin’s self-constructed fort is moments from crumbling, a flood of tears are moments away from washing down her face but she won’t, not in front of Tobin, she won’t make her feel worse, won’t let her know how absolutely devastated she is, not when Tobin is the innocent one, not when Christen is the villain. Trying one more time, as passionately as she can, “I love you.”

“I have to go” she hears Tobin say and it’s almost as if Christen is watching from another body the way her mind only registers the simple fact that Tobin needs to leave. It doesn’t dwell on her unspoken words. Christen expects gut wrenching pain but her body must have shut down because numbness and hollowness are all she knows. At the same time Christen isn’t sure her heart is beating, not sure her lungs are drawing air in, not sure she’s alive.
“I understand” she manages to get around the lump in her throat.
“I…so…
“Please don’t” Christen whispers, staring down at the floor, one tear after another slowly running down her cheeks, the dam is broken, it’s only a matter of seconds before she’s reduces to a pile of nothingness, “just…don’t.” Tobin can’t apologize, it would only further crush Christen’s heart. It would be cruel to have Tobin apologize for her mistakes. Christen doesn’t deserve any type of sympathy or empathy, she definitely doesn’t deserve a “sorry.”

Exiting Tobin’s feet pound up the stairs, her bedroom door closing with a resounding thud. Christen stands still, she thinks she hears the back door open and slam shut but it might just be the sound of her body shutting down. The only thing she knows for certain, the only thing that resonates through her body with a deadly finality is that nothing will ever be the same again. The certainty almost chokes her and all she can think is she misses the simple days, the days when she just had a crush on Tobin, the days when she and Tobin were at least friends, the days when she hadn’t broken the love of her life. She just misses the simple days.

Distractedly Christen pulls a pair of sweatpants from her drawers, pulling them on when the logo catches her eyes. The pants don’t belong to her, they’re Tobin’s. It’s the straw the breaks the camel’s back. Leaning against her bed, Christen slides to the ground, an animalistic sob escapes from deep within her chest, deep within, from her soul. The terrible sound rings around the room. Mocking Christen with its echoes.

Sobbing uncontrollably Christen mourns, mourns for herself but mostly she mourns for Tobin, mourns that she loved her so imperfectly but mostly she mourns for damaging such a beautiful soul. It’s all too much, her emotions, numerous thoughts swim around her head, a constant loop of regrets and admonishments. This happened all because she was afraid of this, afraid of not being enough, for disappointing Tobin. Christen thinks maybe she doesn’t deserve to cry because after all she always knew it would end like this.

Christen has no sense of time, has no idea how long she’s been on the floor but on the ground is how Julie finds her when she comes to get her for dinner. Christen completely forgot about it. Maybe if she had she would have tried to pull herself together but it’s doubtful.

Christen isn’t even aware of the tears still slowly making tracks across the planes of her cheeks until she feels Julie’s thumb wipe at them. “Oh baby girl, what happened?” Jules asked concerned. Christen can’t find the words, sobbing again, Jules concern only heightens her guilt and self-loathing. Jules should be worried about Tobin, not her. Eyes closed, Christen shakes her head for the thousandth time, she can’t tell Julie what she did. Christen can’t admit after all of her reassurances to the contrary, after lying to herself and friends for weeks, she can’t admit she did exactly what everyone said she would do. She can’t admit she hurt Tobin, that she drove her away.

Sitting on the ground, Julie braces her back against the bed. Pulling Christen onto her lap, Julie envelopes Christen with her arms, rocking them back and forth. In a soothing tone, she asks “Chris, what happened?” Christen doesn’t respond, can’t find adequate words to explain the mess she’s made. “What happened, Press?” Christen smile faintly, the simple use of her last name grounds her, offers an ounce of comfort, comfort she doesn’t deserve but she’s already proven she’s too selfish to decline it. “Chris, is it Tobin? Did she do something?”

Christen stiffens at the name, pain rippling through her body with such a force she involuntarily gasps. Rubbing her back, Jules continues her soothing movements, “did you get into a fight? Through the flem and congestion that has formed in her mouth Christen manages to mumble out “No. It’s my fault.” Eyes sliding shut Christen buries her head in Julie's neck, bawling, repeating over and over “I’m sorry.” Christen prays her mind and body are merciful and shut down again, she wills her mind to go blank, wills the vision of Tobin so broken and blundered from her mmory. But of course, all she sees is whiskey brown eyes, blurry with tears mumbling “I can’t”.

Chapter Text

I’m not loving you, way I wanted to
What I had to do, had to run from you
I’m not loving you, the way I wanted to
What I had to do, hand to run from you
I’m in love with you but the vibe is wrong.
And that haunted me, all the way home
So you never know, never never know
Never know enough, ‘til it’s over love
f Till we lose control, System overload,
Screaming, “no, no, no, n-noooo
I’m not loving you, way I wanted to


Back at the bar, eyes unfocused Christen idly wipes a finger through the condensation on her beer bottle. Her mind is peacefully blank for once. She’s alone. There’s no one watching her this time, just a stream of nameless faces, unconcerned strangers.

Memories are interesting things. They remind and they deceive. They’re easily distorted by time. For Christen, everything still seems so fresh. It was just yesterday that she escaped to the library, fled from her troubles, running away from Tobin and there is no mistake, she ran. Ran like she always does.

The ugly truth; reality is much harsher. It’s been two weeks since that night and time is slipping away. Days are passing by and the distance between her and Tobin continues to grow. Christen doesn’t know how it happened. In the beginning, Christen excused herself. Held on to the feeble excuse she gave Tobin. She honestly did have a paper to finish. Then the days stretched on and she didn’t see Tobin, convincing herself it was just a coincidence. She ignored the chasm erected between Tobin and her, denied she was in hiding. Shaking her head Christen takes a long pull of her beer, she’s still good at lying to herself.

Scanning the bar Christen is glad to see that Adam has everything under control. There’s only a handful of people in tonight, slow even for a Sunday. Christen is supposed to be working, it would be her fourth straight night. So, she didn’t protest when an hour ago Adam silently handed her a beer nodding towards a stool. Exhausted Christen smiled gratefully before rounding the bar and sitting in the nearest seat. Christen can’t remember the last time she slept for more than an hour, not since the night she made her unforgivable mistake.

Her lack of sleep is partially self-inflicted, a punishment but mostly she can’t sleep because she misses Tobin terribly. The house is no longer welcoming. Everywhere she looks Christen feels and sees Tobin’s presence. Everything about her room reminds her of Tobin. Her dresser is still filled with some of Tobin’s clothing, her sheets still smell like Tobin and Christen can’t bring herself to wash them, to take away the lingering remnants of Tobin. Christen’s half empty bed taunts her, reminds her that a warm loving body use to sleep there.

The worst part is when Christen delirious, barely able to stand does finally fall into bed, she’s haunted by the ghost of Tobin, her scent surrounds Christen like a cloak, threatening to suffocate her as she sleeps, fueling Christen’s nightmares. So Christen stopped sleeping, she stopped going home. She’s studying harder, she added another class, she works extra shifts, anything she can think of to keep herself preoccupied. She wearing herself thin and she knows it. At first, she tried to hide it, pretend she was fine. Lately, she too tired to care, she doesn’t even try to conceal the bags under her eyes anymore. It was pointless, she wasn’t fooling anyone.

Christen hoped this weekend would be different. She prayed that she finally get some rest since the girls had an away game. She hasn’t. The house is eerily quiet. Its emptiness weighs down on her, leaving her with nothing but a hollowness and the sound of loneliness and memories of her past to keep her company.

“How ya doing Chris?” blinking Christen glances up into the friendly face of Adam leaning against the bar.

Blinking again to clear her mind of its gloom Christen says, “hey, you didn’t call me darlin’” Christen might have hated the nickname but she’s grown accustomed to it. The lack of the familiarity is unsettling Christen would have preferred if he had called her darling’.

Adam smiles gently a concerned look on his face, “I know. I’m serious, how are you doing?”

Voice strained Christen whispers “Fine.”

Cocking an eyebrow Adam studies Christen, “yeah?” Crossing his arms across his expansive chest, Adam looks at her pointedly before he finally says, “honestly, Chris you look like shit. Like you just lost your best friend.”

Slowly nodding her head, her eyes trained on the wood of the bar, a single tear silently rolls down the flesh of her cheek while her fingers spell out the words “I love you” on the smooth worn surface of the counter. Quirking one side of her mouth up, Christen barely manages to choke out around the tightening of her throat “too late I already did.”

Adam tries to make eye contact with her but Christen won’t, she doesn’t want his sympathy. Holding her hand up, “don’t.”

“Tobin?”
Christen looks up surprised. She hasn’t heard that name said out loud in so long. It’s become a curse no one dares to say it around her. Everyone knows something’s wrong but no one risks asking what and it’s not as if Christen is exactly encouraging.

Smiling Adam answers her unasked question “Darlin’, it’s obvious, only women can make you look that miserable. What happened?”

Shrugging a shoulder Christen mumbles “I…made a mistake, said something I shouldn’t have and…it’s all come crumbling down,” emphasizing her words with her hands.

“hmmm,” Adam steps away from the bar only to return with two glasses filled with a dark amber liquid. Sliding one of the snifters towards her, “figured you might need something a little stronger.”

Smiling “thanks,” Christen swirls the bourbon around in her glass. Sighing, she doesn’t want to talk, she doesn’t want to remember, she wants the oaky elixir to ease the pain, to make her forget. Forget her careless words and the devastation they created.

Christen wishes she could just go back to happier times, but she can’t. Her mind is plagued with visions of Tobin hurt, in distress. Christen can’t even remember the last time she saw Tobin. Then it comes to her, it would have been in the dining hall last week, the day after she had run from the bar.

Julie had been waiting for Christen outside of her class as she always did. In a daze Christen had blindly followed Julie without hesitation, completely unaware of which day of the week it was. Christen only half listened as Jules rambled on. She wasn’t even cognizant of what Jules was talking about, Christen barely managed to make the appropriate sounds at the right times. Luckily for her, Jules never once interrupted her monologue.

It was the noise, the loud boisterous sound of hundreds of students yelling and chatting that alerted Christen to their surroundings and reminded her which day of the week it was. Mentally cursing Christen realized it was Thursday. Scanning the dining hall nervously Christen reached for Julie’s arm but before she could grab her and pull Jules out of the eatery, Christen found herself staring into chocolate brown eyes. Rooted, Christen gawked at Tobin. Christen’s hands were clammy, her heart thumped painfully in her chest, her pulse raced through her body at an alarming speed and suddenly she's forgotten how to breathe. Tobin’s eyes softened, her mouth twitched, the corners pulled into a small smile.

It was the smile, as small as it was, it was still warm and friendly and the guilt that crept its way through Christen’s body wouldn't allow her to accept it or appreciate it. Instead, Christen seized Julie, an excuse on the tip of her tongue but one look into her bright blue eyes wide with alarm told Christen she understood. Jules hadn't realized what day it was either; she’d been operating on autopilot also. They’d both forgotten it was lunch day. Spinning on her heels Christen almost ran Syd over. Steading Christen with her hands, a simple glance between Jules and Christen’s panicked face informed Sydney of the situation. Sighing deeply, Syd took Christen’s hand and led her out the hall. With her free hand, she called Dom telling him to save them three seats.

That was last week. Since then she's begged off from lunch in general. Hating the fact that she was separating the group, that she was keeping her roommates from their teammates especially during their season. She understands the importance of team bonding. Instead, Christen has mastered the art of being unavailable. Lunch is now anything she can grab and eat while walking. Once she had lunch with a couple of girls from her psych class but it just wasn't the same, it made her feel lonelier.

Sipping the fiery liquid Christen winces as it burns its way down her throat. “Feeling better?” Adam asks breaking through her thoughts.

“No” Christen simply says.

“Did you guys break up?”

“Nope,” Christen says, rounding her mouth, emphasizing the last syllable, “that would have required us to have been together, ” Christen says bitterly.

“But, weren’t you two together?”

Looking away Christen says quietly, “not exactly, not officially, no.”
“So what, she didn't want to…” Adam says shrugging a shoulder, suggesting that Christen knew what he meant.

“No, she did”

“You didn't want to?” Adam asks perplexed.

Christen is silent. This is the part of the story she hates, hates to admit her own culpability, her stupidity. Christen leans back against the stool, crossing her arms across her chest, gathering courage for her admission. Sighing Christen forces herself to tell the complete truth. “Tobin did ask me to be her girlfriend” Christen starts hesitantly, already knowing what Adam is going to ask.

“You said no?” Adam guesses.

Shaking her head Christen picks up the glass, swallowing long and hard, allowing the amber liquid to slide down her wrecked throat to the bottom of her empty stomach causing a welcome burning sensation. In fact, Christen readily embraces any sensation other than guilt even the emptiness and numbness that has overcome her lately. She avoids making eye contact, unwilling to come face to face with Adam’s confused stare.

“So, you said yes? And she what, changed her mind?”
Slowly shaking her head again, Christen bites her lower lip. Adam patiently waits for Christen to explain the situation. Sighing, Christen looks up and sighs “I didn’t say anything, I looked at her like a deer caught in headlights and just stared at her. I never said anything.”

A second goes by and then another and still Adam remains quiet his face blank. Glowering at him, Christen motions for him to say something, anything at this point.

Clearing his throat Adam eventually says, “I’m a guy and even I have to admit that was cold.”

Groaning, Christen braces her forehead against the cool surface of the bar, “I know, I know.” Adam hasn’t said anything new or surprising, Christen knows how fucked up it was.

“I don’t understand I thought you liked Tobin”

“I do, I really do.” Sitting up straight, Christen peers at Adam through her eyelashes, almost willing him to understand. She just needs someone else to understand. “I can’t explain it, I don’t know why I didn’t say anything. I should have. I wanted to but…I don’t know I just didn’t say anything.”

“Well, what did she say?”

Eyes wide with regret Christen says “She didn’t. She frowned, looked a little embarrassed for a minute and then she changed the subject and we never discussed it again.”

“Never? So you guys have never talked about this?”

Christen glances at Adam with knowing eyes, only able to shake her head.

“Oh,” Adam says his tone a mixture of surprise and confusion. “So, why didn’t you say anything?” he eventually asks.

“I don’t know”
“Hate to tell ya Chris but there has to be a reason.”

Bobbing her head up and down Christen reluctantly agrees with Adam. It's something she's been trying to explain to herself since that night. Why she froze, why she didn’t say yes. When she was first getting to know Tobin, being her girlfriend had been a dream of Christen's, something she hoped for but never thought would come to fruition. They each had their own baggage and being Tobin’s friend had seemed good enough. Christen accepted she was infatuated with Tobin, started to believe that was all it would ever be. So even when things changed for them it took Christen’s mind a little longer to play catch up and then there was the problem of her fear.

Adam hits the bar with his hand, calling over his shoulder, “we’re not done yet” as he walks to the other end to refill a pitcher. Music begins to blare from the speakers overhead. Someone must have put money in the jukebox and like most songs lately, it seems to understand her pain.

I feel unhappy
I feel so sad
I lost the best friend
That I ever had

Christen listens to the words, the sultry voice of the singer soothes her soul with his own heartbreak, she feels less alone. Someone else out in the world understands her pain. Taking a final sip Christen pushes her now empty glass away.

She was my woman
I loved her so
But it’s too late now
I’ve let her go
I’m going through changes

Christen snorts just as Adam walks back giving her a peculiar look.

“I’m so stupid, I had a crush,” Christen snickers unamused. “When I first met her, I had a crush, I was completely infatuated with her, and I never thought she would be interested in me. Then miracles of miracles she was and it all seemed too much, too good to be true. Which of course it kind of was. She had her own things to work through and I…I was always worried, always afraid.”

“I wasn’t here for most of the summer but when I did see you guys, it looked real to me, looked like enough to me, so there’s something else you’re not saying,” Adam says.

Christen raises her eyes brows, unnerved by how close to the truth Adam was.

“Four sisters, remember? I've learned a thing or two”

“Doesn't always show” Christen replies cheekily.

“We can discuss my shortcomings another day, tonight we’re talking about your,” Adam says seriously.

“But I don't want to” Christen moans.

“Yeah, I get that but we’re going to, as soon as I finish this order.”

Christen follows Adam with her eyes. She could get up and go, she knows Adam wouldn't tell Pep, wouldn't get her in trouble but he'd be livid and rightfully so. It would also be juvenile and Christen can't stand to alienate herself from another friend. She's been so lonely. Avoiding Tobin comes at a hefty cost. Lys, Jules, Alex, and Syd are all now collateral damage. Christen texts with them daily but with her avoiding the house and none of them having class together she can go days without seeing them.

Placing a glass of water in front of her, Adam ask “what exactly were you afraid of?”

Christen fights her initial urge to brush his question aside. Instead, she forces herself to consider his question, to examine it, look deep within herself for the answer. “Of getting hurt, not being enough, putting myself out there only to be left alone.” Trying to shrug it off Christen says “sometimes when it seems too good to be true it is.”

Adam’s quiet, his face scrunched in thoughtfulness and Christen refrains from making a smartass comment about not hurting himself. She wants to make sense of everything, wants to understand it all and maybe Adam can actually help, give her a different perspective.

“Something like this happened before, then? It seemed good, but it ended up badly?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Were you afraid then too?” Pausing Christen tries to think. Yeah, of course, she’d been afraid. She liked a girl, it was new and exciting but no, she’d been afraid for different reasons. She was never afraid then like she is now. In the past, she’d been too caught up in the wonderment of it all. More afraid of what it all meant than anything else. What she has now is a bone crushing, despairing type of fear.

“No, not really.”

“So it went bad once, you put yourself out there and got hurt and now you hide, use fear to protect yourself? If it had been someone else other than Tobin would you have believed her feelings were real? Do you really think Tobin doesn’t know you or have you convince yourself?”

Christen flinches involuntarily at the sound of Tobin’s name. Adam’s face tells her he noticed but he’s in big brother mode and he’s not backing away from the tough subjects.

Mystified, Christen answers honestly. “I don’t know. She needed me at one point to help her, to help her move on from her past. She eventually moved on and then I was afraid I wouldn’t be the right person for her, the person she needs. Maybe not even the person she truly wanted. Maybe she was just staying because she needed me once, needed this person she imagined me to be, but not the real me. Not the imperfect me.”

Adam bounces his head to no particular beat, “Whoever said those were two different people? Maybe to her, imperfect you was always what she need. Did you ever tell her this? Explain your fears to her?” At Christen’s crestfallen look, Adam tries to make a joke, “aren’t girls supposed to like doing that sort of thing, you know talk about their emotions and shit?” Adam says with a playful smile.

“Not all girls are like that”

“All the ones I know do, ” Adam says with an air of wisdom.

Rolling her eye at his tone Christen ask “How do you tell someone that you think they only like the idea of you? That the real you isn’t good enough, that you’re just going to disappoint them.”

Adam opens his mouth but shuts it. Regarding her steadily Adam shrugs a shoulder, “I don’t know, but did you ever try?”

Christen doesn’t have to respond, they both know the answer. No, she never even tried.

“My suggestion darlin’, stop using your fear as a blanket and try to talk to her. She always seemed reasonable enough to me.” Adam studies her but he doesn’t look as though he expects a response.

Gesturing to a group of guys in the corner, “It’s slow, once they’ve finished we can close early and I’ll take you home” Adam declares.

Shaking her head Christen is going to say she needs to go to the library when Adam levels her with a glare, “you need sleep, I’m taking you home.” His tone leaves no room for argument.

Whispering “okay” Christen stands. Behind the bar, Christen walks to shelves where they store the glassware. Mechanically Christen performs the closing down ritual. Removing the glass mats from the shelves, she quickly washes them, wipes down the shelves before placing down the clean mats. Methodically, absently she stacks the clean glasses, making sure none of them have chipped over the course of the night. All the time her mind races, playing and replaying her conversation with Adam over and over in her mind. Had she really convinced herself that she wasn’t good enough?


Reluctantly Adam agreed to drop Christen at the back of the house. Christen hadn’t missed the tightening of his jaw but she insisted, arguing it was closer to her room. It’s not and he knows that but it is easier for her to slip down into her room without being noticed. Eventually, Adam gave in, only because he was afraid that if he left her in front of the house she would simply walk around and up to the library. At least from here he can watch her enter the back door.

Peering down the steps to the house Christen does contemplate turning around, heading towards the library but she can still hear Adam’s truck idling. She knows he won’t leave until he sees her enter the house. A honk from the truck makes Christen jump. Turning around Christen flashes her middle finger. Grinning, Adam motions for her to get a move on. Sticking her tongue out Christen turns, taking a deep breath she rushes down the stairs before she can talk herself out of it. Hopefully, everyone is already asleep.

Using her key Christen quietly enters the back door, stopping at the first-floor bathroom she washes her face and brushes her teeth. Scurrying past the kitchen Christen quickly covers the last few feet to her room. Outside her bedroom door Christen stands nervously, a part of her doesn’t want to enter. What lays beyond that door is no longer a sanctuary but a prison of her own making. Broken and depleted Christen pushes the door open, she has no other choice.

Shedding her clothing, she throws her top into her laundry basket. Warily she opens a dresser drawer, pulling the first large shirt her hand touches. Blindly Christen roughly pulls the shirt over her head praying it’s hers. To her relief, she’s only greeted by the smell of detergent, looking down Christen is pleased to see that the shirt belongs to her. Christen takes a deep breath, mentally preparing herself for the hardest part; getting into her bed.

Christen stares down at the bed for what seems like an eternity. She’s barely touched it since that fateful night. The bed reminds her of everything that was and everything that won’t be. That night is still so vivid in her mind. Julie’s finding her on the floor, cradling her, rocking her, eventually managing to calm her down. Jules brought her next door to her room. Syd and Alex joined them armed with chocolate and other sugary snacks. They never went to dinner. They spend the whole night camped out in Julie’s room.

Luckily for Christen no one questioned her and no one offered words of comfort. They’d simply just been there, glancing at her with concerned looks but trying to be cheerful, trying to be as normal as possible. They knew Christen wouldn’t want to talk. Christen had been so thankful for them because even if she’d wanted to talk Christen didn’t have the words to explain. They’d stayed up all night, watching random Disney movies until they’d all drifted asleep sprawled out across Julie’s bed. That was the last time Christen remembers sleeping soundly.

Her body feels beaten as if she went twelve rounds in a heavyweight fight. Adam’s right, she needs rest, she won’t be able to continue much longer at this pace. Closing her eyes, Christen draws in a deep breath, holding it she repeats over and over that she can do this. Exhaling Christen carefully lays down on top of her comforter, not daring to pull the cover back and slip under her sheet. Christen can’t stand to have the fabric run over her skin, it’s just a remind of gentle hands that used to caress her. Cradling the edge of the bed Christen meticulously clings to her side of the bed, unwilling to cross the invisible barrier she’s created between her and Tobin’s side. Christen wills her mind to go blank, prays for dreamless sleep to consumer her. Only slumber doesn’t claim her. Her mind clouds over with images, nightmares dancing along the edge of her consciousness.

Slowly her hand drifts to her right side the empty space taunts her. The emptiness within her grows with each passing day, pulses through her, a living creature. It demands to be felt; it demands to be nurtured. It forms itself as a growing need to smell Tobin, to remind herself, torture herself a little also. Groaning Christen gives in to the overwhelming need, rolling over she buries her face in the pillow that once supported the head of a beautiful brunette. Inhaling deeply Christen flushes. Immediately she’s overwhelmed by the visceral memories flooding her mind. Her body tingles with the remembrance of a warm body near hers, a heartbeat beating steadily, light caresses across her skin, fingers massaging, lips licking and biting, warm and wet. Tobin’ scent is both welcoming and damning.

Pulling back, her loneliness and emptiness nourished, Christen folds in on herself. Facing right Christen allows herself this much, this much relief against the onslaught of remorse. She deludes herself into believing the space won’t always be empty, that someday everything will be right again. Her lids heavy, they lower and lower until finally her eyelashes touch the flesh of her face.

The nightmares don’t come immediately. Instead, she enters a strange land between wakefulness and slumber, lost somewhere in her unconsciousness. She has the strangest dreams. Pressure against her back resonates with her, it’s familiar and comforting but strangely distant and unusual at the same time. A warmth creeps through her a wondrous sense of rightness permeates within her. Christen swears she a feels an arm around her waist bringing her towards a firm but supple body. Snuggling her head further into the pillow, Christen tries desperately to keep this strange sense of home. She knows she doesn’t deserve it but she needs just one night, one night away from all the torment and she’ll be okay. She’ll make it.

She feels more pushing and pulling, swears a leg slips between hers, tethering her to this subconscious state of bliss. Christen wants to wake but she doesn’t at the same time. Her dreams have never been so intense, so life like, she doesn’t want it to disappear, she needs it for tonight. When she feels the realistic wetness of a mouth against her neck, Christen’s mind rest, her body relaxes, her soul sighs. Christen wills herself to stay in this respite away from the horrors of her reality and the hell of her making, this place where she’s found fleeting moments of peace. With a contented sigh, Christen slips into a deep slumber that has escaped her all these days.

Christen knows the minute she comes awake because even with her eyes closed Christen immediately recognizes the now familiar sense of emptiness and loneliness. Tears slip past her eyelashes, a mixture of gratefulness and remorse. Grateful that she finally had a night of peace, a night free of suffering but she dreads opening her eyes to realize it was only a dream. It felt so real, felt like the past like Tobin had been with her. Reaching across to the empty space Christen jumps, sitting up abruptly, a strangled cry of fear and surprise escapes her lips as her hand brushes against a fur like substance.

Heart pounding Christen stares up in mystification at the huge black bear with red accents to her right. In rapid succession, Christen becomes aware of her surroundings. She laying in the center of her bed, not on the left side as she started. That’s not so bothersome, Christen has been known to move in her sleep. What is alarming besides Thorn on her bed is the fact that she is under her comforter. There’s no way she did that last night. So it must mean that her dream wasn’t a dream.

Christen glances around, looking for more proof that she’s not losing her mind. There’s nothing obvious, nothing that screams Tobin was here. But it’s all the small subtle things. Her phone on the docking station, her bag by her desk and not in the doorway where she had dropped it last night. Christen scrutinizes her room, desperately seeking any other indication that Tobin had been there but there’s none. Everything else is as it was but still she knows she was, her body tingles with recognition ofTobin’s presence.

Christen has the overwhelming need to get up, run upstairs and see Tobin because her being here had to mean something, right? But as quickly as that thought comes is also the harsh realization that she didn’t stay. But then again, why would she? Why did she come down? Turning back to look at Thorn, Christen leans into the bear, trying to feel Tobin through the bear. Music sound from her docking station, the base sounding through her room, her heart beating in tandem. Christen doesn’t want to get up, she doesn’t want to leave her bed, it’s a foreign concept for Christen. But as the words sound, Christen realizes she’s going to be late if she doesn’t get up.


It’s hard to deal with the pain of losing you everywhere I go
But I'm doin' it
It’s hard to force that smile when I see our old friends and I’m alone
Still harder getting up, getting dressed, livin’ with this regret
But I know if I could do it over,
I would trade, give away all the words that I saved in my heart
That I left unspoken.

Hugging Thorn, her emotions mixed, Christen glances at her phone, it’s only at fifty percent which means it hasn’t been charging for long. Tobin couldn’t have left long ago. She quickly gathers her clothes, running up the stairs to the bathroom, the music following her up the stairs. Christen’s waited long enough, maybe it’s time to end her nightmares.


Christen sits on her bed packing her overnight bag. In the background music plays softly but low enough that Christen hears footsteps coming down from the kitchen. Listening carefully, she identifies the distinctive foot pattern on the stairs. One thing about living in the basement is that Christen has learned the different walking rhythms of her more frequent visitors and because of that Christen doesn’t have to turn around to see who is coming. She knows exactly who it is and she can hazard a guess as to why they’re coming.

“Hey Press,” Christen hears from behind her, “how ya doing?”

“Hi Jules” Christen answers avoiding Julie’s question. Christen should have seen this coming. She already argued with Alyssa about her decision and had sincerely hoped to avoid another contentious discussion but the fates have been against her for some time now. Back still turned Christen is aware of Julie softly walking towards the bed. Stopping by her side, Julie silently watches Christen as she meticulously and methodically folds and arranges her clothing in her duffle before demanding in a hushed tone, “what are ya doing?”

Fighting her instinctual urge to snap back with a sarcastic response. Christen slowly peers up examining Julie. Her face is open, neutral and friendly; her eyes clear and free of judgment. Christen ponders her question, wondering how much Julie already knows. Christen decides to answer truthfully but without as little details as possible, “I’m packing my overnight bag.”

Rolling her eyes Jules clearly isn’t amused by the answer “I can see that. So it’s true?” Jules knows plenty.

Nodding her head Christen says reluctantly, “yes.” Christen suspects Lys sent Julie down after her numerous objections feel on deaf ears. Folding her arms across her chest Julie sighs deeply, “for how long?” as she slowly scans over Christen’s room, as if the answers are hidden somewhere amongst Christen’s things.

Christen grimaces this conversation is going to be just as unpleasant as her earlier one with Lys. Christen answers, “just for a little bit.” Jules’ shoulders stiffen as she gazes at the far corner of the room. Julie glances back and forth between the object stowed there and Christen before fully turning to face the corner her eyes fixated. Cocking her head to the side, Julie seems mesmerized by what’s before her. Christen swallows nervously, hoping Jules’ won’t mention her new discovery. Calling over her shoulder, her tone grave, “why exactly are you going to stay with Ali?”

Christen watches wearily as Julie walks towards the big black bear. “Because it’s what’s best right now. I thought it would be better for everyone if I was gone for a little bit.”

Spinning back around Julie pins Christen with a glare “better for whom, exactly?”

Christen rolls her eyes and shrugs a shoulder, it’s as if Julie and Lys are following the exact same script. “Better for everyone, Jules. I need a little break. It’s not…I’m…it’s hard for me to be here, Jules,” Christen breathes out painfully.

Jules' eyes soften, “Chris, you’re still wanted here. I know things have been…” pausing she searches for the right word, but ultimately Julie shrugs “difficult, ” the look on her face says she knows it’s an inadequate term but it’s all she can think of, “for you lately but no one wants to see you leave.”

Christen raises her eyebrows disbelievingly at Jules. She had been there when Kelley had glared and hastily pushed past Christen into the house never saying a word. “Okay, some people might be a little…confused and ornery but no one wants you to go.” Jules says confidently.

“Jules, I’m not moving out permanently, I need a break, the house is full of tension and I hate that it’s because of me. This doesn’t feel like home to me,” Christen bites out, losing her patience. It’s not Julie’s fault she’s nescient of Christen’s plight. Christen never mentions it, she never explained her troubles to Julie. Christen wouldn’t know how to approach it at this point. They don’t even discuss Tobin. Not that Julie hasn’t tried. She has, it always ends horribly. Julie gets frustrated because Christen won’t say what happened and Christen has emotionally violent outbursts that end with her either irate or sobbing. So Julie stopped asking.

Only Adam and Ali truly know about Christen’s demons. Christen hadn’t wanted to confess everything to Ali but it was necessary for Ali to understand the dire situation she was in. Ali had told her she didn’t need a reason, she could always stay as long as she wanted. Christen’s story only serviced to point out how truly lost she was.

In the last week Christen has gotten better. Well, she’s better at masking her emotions, burying her gloom. Christen’s learned to sell her lies better. It’s easier to convince people she’s fine, as long as they don’t look too closely. Of course, she won’t allow them too. Putting on a brave face, smiling a little too brightly Christen always hurries away from the intrusive questions, claiming she has another event, she always has something to do. Christen has even learned to hide her exhaustion and she’s covering the dark circles under her eyes again.

Christen understand some of Lys and Jules confusion about her wanting to leave the house. To them, Christen is only upset about Tobin, and it doesn’t make sense to leave when the other person is actively trying to avoid you also. They don’t know about her sneaking out after everyone has gone to sleep, her all-nighters at the library, they don’t know that it’s been days since she’s slept a full night since she woke up to a bear in her bed. But Lys has always been too observant for her own good and now she’s started asking harder questions Christen doesn’t want to answer. Another reason Christen needs to leave the house.

Eyes still trained on her, Julie points to the black bear leaning against Christen’s wall, abruptly asking incredulously “Does that have something to do with this? Is it because she gave you Thorn back?”
Shaking her head Christen internally groans as pressure builds behind her eyes, “No, T…Tobin” Christen frowns as she stutters over the name, knowing Julie would notice it, “didn’t give her back.” Jules walks even closer to inspect the bear making sure the object is exactly what she thinks it is. She reaches out touching it before nodding, turning to glance at Christen, “it wasn’t here the other day. Did you take it back?”


Christen glares witheringly at Julie not dignifying her question with an answer. Jules is right the bear wasn’t here the last time she came to visit. Christen doesn’t want to tell her exactly how the bear came to be in her room. Christen had left Thorn sitting on the right side of her bed for a couple of days but soon Christen tucked her in the corner. Thorn had been both a blessing and a curse. Christen had slept better the next few nights, only waking up a couple of times taking comfort in having a symbol of Tobin near her but it was also just that, symbolic and with that came the crashing realization that Tobin wasn’t there and might not come back. Rolling her eyes at Julie, “No, I didn’t take her back, Tobin left her.”

“So she did give it back to you?”


“No, well not exactly” pausing in her task, Christen glance up trying to think of the quickest explanation to give, “she left Thorn on the right side of the bed,” Christen say simply as if this should explain everything. At Jules’ perplexed look Christen continues “She normally slept on the right side, so I think she placed …” Christen pauses working around the lump forming in her throat, swallowing hard she continues, “she left Thorn as a sort of replacement, so I could sleep.”

“So, she gave it to you almost as a present?” Jules asks skeptically. Actually, Tobin is loaning her the bear, precisely so Christen could sleep better, at least that’s what the note said. The note Christen will not mention to Julie.

Unenthusiastically Christen continues, “it’s been a while since I’ve slept by myself and I don’t usually sleep well when I’m alone and Tobin knows that, so I think this was her way of being nice, trying to help me out.”

“Oh Chris…” Jules starts to say sympathetically but one look from Christen and her mouth shuts. Glancing around Jules clears her throat and ask directly, “Why is Thorn in the corner then? And where is Whiskey?”

Choosing to ignore Jules’ first question Christen answers the second, “I moved her.”

“Oh” is all Jules say, almost as if she understands. Cautiously, Jules ask again, “and Thorn?
“She’s in the corner because I don’t deserve her,” Christen says simply.

“Chris….what happened? Why…“pausing Julie looks for the right words “Why are you being so hard on yourself? I don’t get it, did you, I don’t know cheat on her?” Jules voice clearly indicates she doesn’t believe this.

Rolling her eyes Christen shakes her head, “no, that’s not what happened. I…I…messed up.”

Sighing in annoyance, “Press,” Julie waits for Christen to make eye contact with her “I love you, you know that, right?” Reluctantly Christen nods her head again already knowing she’s not going to like where this is going. “I don’t understand and I’m really trying here but it doesn’t make sense. You’re hurt, she’s hurt” Julie pauses, her face softening as she noticed Christen flinch at the last part “She won’t talk and you won’t talk. But you’re running away again, so something big must have happened.”

Christen opens her mouth to say she’s not running away but she stops herself. It would just be an insult to both of their intelligence. “I made a mistake and it hurt her, and now I just need time to figure everything out, figure out if I can fix things?”

Exasperated Jules asks, “What did you do? What could you have possibly done that was so horrific Tobin won’t forgive you?”

Annoyed Christen focuses on the shirt in her hands, she just wants this conversation to be over with. She doesn’t want to tell Julie that she’d been reckless with Tobin’s heart, her emotions just as people predicted. Nothing Julie says is going to change her mind. She’s going to stay with Ali until fall break and then afterward she’ll reevaluate things. Ali had agreed with her but Lys had been quite as understanding, and apparently, neither is Jules. “Some things just aren’t forgivable, Jules”

“Christen” the use of her full name startles her, makes her look up Julie with wide eyes.” A small self-satisfied smirk pulls at Julie's face before she’s serious again. “She left you Thorn to make you feel better, whatever you did, it’s forgivable.” Biting her lip Christen shakes her head.

Sighing in frustration Julie’s head falls back. Minutes pass before Julie straightens, offering a small smile she asks, “Hey Press, I know believe in the fight or flight response to situations?” Cautiously Christen nods, this is a different approach.

“And you said you always flee?” Another nod.

“Have you ever reconsidered that? Stopped to think if fleeing has ever served you? That maybe you would have gained more by staying and fighting?” Julie asks hesitantly,

Shoulders slumping Christen doesn’t respond immediately because she has considering this. It’s one of the many things that keeps her up at night, what if she had just gone after Tobin, explained, apologized, done whatever she could do to right her wrongs. But then she remembers Tobin’s distraught face and knows no words created would have been suitable.

Bending down, staring warmly into Christen’s eyes “I thought you were past that?”

Eyes filled with sorrow Christen whispers, “I thought so too”

“Press, sometimes people just want to know that you’ll stay. That you’ll stay and fight, especially during the tough times. All anyone wants is for someone to stay and fight for them.”

Tears glisten in Christen's eyes but she has no response. Julie sighs, “it’s just a thought.” Christen knows she’s being a coward but she did try. Only her life seems like a comedy of errors because when she had gone to find her, Tobin wasn’t there.

Softly and resigned Jules says, “You’re not changing your mind, are you?”

“No” Christen admits.

“I’m not going to pretend and say I understand because I don’t, but I’m here for you. Whatever you need. I am here to listen whenever you’re ready to talk.” Leaning in Julie gives Christen a hug.

Tension visibly leaves Christen’s body as she leans into the strong frame of her friend, feeling a little less alone than before, “Thank you.”
“Do you need my help” Jules ask, Christen has already filed one bag and is working on a second.

“No, I’m basically done,” Christen says.

“Are you walking to Ali’s?”
“No, Adam is going to pick me up before work and drop me off after.”

“Okay, that’s good.” Julie glances around the room aimlessly and there’s nothing for her to do. Standing up, Jules says “I’m gonna go,” walking towards Christen’s door but there’s a hitch in her voice that Christen can’t ignore.


“Hey Jules” Christen waits for the blonde to turn around and face her “thanks for being a great friend,” taking a deep breath, Christen utters the three words she’s come to hate and revere “I love you,” Christen tries to ignore the waiver in her voice.

Jules smiles sadly, her blue eyes a little too bright, moisture lining her dark lashes. Swallowing thickly, Jules nods as she opens the door, calling over her shoulder “I love you too. See ya around Press.”

Christen closes her eyes, running a hand over her hair, the thudding of Jules’ feet on the steps the only sound to be heard. Christen hadn’t missed the distinct sound of tears in Julie’s voice and she wonders how many more people she’ll hurt with her selfishness before she ends up losing everyone.

In Jules’ wake, the silence around her is stifling, it reminds her that she did this, she created this. Glancing towards the corner Christen gets up and walks towards Thorn. On her way she turns the volume up, she needs to quiet the voice in her head, the one that is screaming at her to not do this, to go find Tobin but she tried that already and she wasn’t there. She can’t do it again, can’t risk her finding everything changed but she can drown out the noise.

And I keep saying wait just one more day
But days slowly drift away
And I can hold to the memories
But they won’t hold me in the same ways as you

Slumping to her knees in front of the bear, Christen reaches around hand fumbling for the note she left back there. Pulling it out, she looks at Tobin’s imperfect scribble, gently rubbing her hand over the envelope and the bold strokes that grace its front. Slowing opening the folded piece of paper Christen attempts to read the note, through bleary eyes. “Dear Chris, thank you for Whiskey Rose, I promise to take good care of her and keep her safe. I’m giving you Thorn so you can have sweet dreams at night.” The sob that escapes her surprises even Christen, as she leans forward, leaning into the bear, hoping for a tenuis connection with Tobin, however, minute it might be. She can’t get any further, this is the point in which she always breaks down. Closing the note, she unable to read the rest through her watery eyes. Leaning back Christen folds the note up, placing it back in its hiding spot, promising herself that soon, soon she’ll force herself to read the rest. Honestly, she hasn’t because she’s afraid of what it will say.


And this distance between us
Has come and cut as clean as, a sharp blade
And this distance between us
Has made my heart as weak as silk that’s frayed


Sighing in relief Christen leans back against her bedroom door. Coming home was a mistake. Drained from constantly hiding, constantly pretending to be okay Christen eagerly jumped at the opportunity to go home when Ali mentioned it. Christen hadn’t been home since before summer and she missed her family, maybe more now than ever. She needs the comfort of the familiar. Home sounded perfect.

Only it isn’t. Christen hadn’t stopped to consider the downside of familiar. She forgot how much more observant her parents are, how well they know her, how they would see right through all her faintly veiled attempts at normalcy. It’s exhausting. She can’t fool them easily like her friends, especially not her mother. The minute Christen walked through the door her mother had studied, immediately declared her too skinny and noted the dark circles under her eyes. These observations of course, lead to a round of twenty questions.

Christen sends a silence prayer of thanks that her sisters aren’t home. They were still away at school. Christen purposefully hadn’t told them she was coming home because Christen can’t hide anything from them and she’s never lied to them. If they had been home this trip would be unbearable. It’s already been more taxing than Christen anticipated.

Pushing away from the door Christen aimlessly wanders around her room. Stopping by her bookshelf Christen picks up the framed picture of Ali, Alysa and her. It was taken after they’d won state. It was probably one of the happiest nights of her life. As Christen stares at the picture it’s almost as if she’s staring at a stranger. Christen wouldn’t recognize that girl now, doesn’t know who she was. She’s changed so much since then and the problem is Christen isn’t sure all the changes have been for the better.

Putting the picture back Christen walks to her bed, replaying the last hour over in her head.

Ali had come over to visit and initially Christen had been grateful. The benefit of having childhood friends is that your parents treat them like one of their own. Her mom had taken a break from questioning her and instead it was Ali suffering through the Spanish Inquisition. Ali hadn’t seemed bothered by it at all, in fact, she seemed to enjoy it. Only Christen should have been more engaged in the conversation. If she had been she would have steered the conversation away from soccer. Completely in her own head, Christen barely registered when Ali mention that she and her mom were going to Alyssa’s game on Saturday.

Rubbing her neck Christen still feels the remnants of her whiplash as she snapped her head towards Ali. Christen had no intentions of mentioning the game to her mother, knowing what would happen. Glaring at Ali in horror Christen almost missed Ali’s little smirk but she didn’t, she caught it. Ali had purposefully mentioned the game. Which would have been fine except as Christen expected her mom’s eye lit up with pleasure. Of course, she wants to go, of course, she wants to see Lys play and then smiling widely she tries to casually drop it will be good to meet the rest of Christen’s friends. Christen is no fool, she knows exactly whom she really wants to meet. Christen should have known better than to come home.

Sitting down on her bed Christen stares at all her old pictures. Christen had listened to Ali and her mom had taken a small trip down memory lane. Talking about all their games, all the road trips, and the inordinate amount of orange slices her mom had to cut. It was fun, it was nice to remember when times were simple when friends and good times were plentiful before Christen realized the cold harshness that life could be.

Slowly her eyes glide over her wall, taking in picture after picture, memory after memory assuages her. Then she moves to the section of new pictures, pictures taken last year. A smile pulls at her mouth as she looks at the vision of Julie and her in their room, of Syd standing with a pot of burned pasta in her hands, of Alex and her smiling brightly after having just taken a shot. There’s a tightening in her throat, as she continues to pursue the wall Christen knows what comes next. Pictures of her at the Big house, the picture of her and Tobin when they were still speaking, when they were just friends. Christen use to think of those days as bittersweet but now she would willingly go back, anything to see Tobin grin, to hear her laughter, to watch her body shake with amusement, to just know she was happy. Anything to just be her friend again.

“Alexa play Spotify” Christen commands. As a soft beat fills the room Christen crawls off the bed and walks to where her school bag rest against the wall. Rummaging through Christen eventually pulls out an unmarked envelope.

I’d like to say we gave it a try
I’d like to blame it all on life
Maybe we just weren’t right
But that’s a lie, that’s a lie

Laying on her bed, she slowly pulls out three of her favorite pictures of her and Tobin. They were taken over the summer when she was hopelessly in love. This is her guilty pleasure. She doesn’t pull them out often, only from time to time, when she’s feeling especially low. Running a finger over the glossy print it’s bittersweet, a form of torture in of itself. This is how Christen learned to combat her nightmares, feasting on various memories. Reminiscing of the time when Tobin was hers and she was Tobin’s.

So close to being in love
If I would have known that you wanted me
The way I wanted you
Then maybe we wouldn’t be two worlds apart
But right here in each other arms
And we almost, we almost knew what love was
But almost is never enough.

There’s a soft knock at her door. Rolling her eyes Christen wants to pretend she’s sleep but she suspects that won’t stop the matriarch of the house. “Come in”

“Hi honey,” her mom peeks her head around the door, “do you have a moment?”
“Sure,” Christen says, placing the pictures to the side as she sits up, “Alexa volume two.” It was only a matter of time before her mom cornered her. She’d been trying to avoid this but her mother is a force to be reckoned with, there is no dissuading her when she’s on a mission. Unfortunately for Christen, she’s the mission.

“I was hoping we could talk,” her mom smiles but Christen sees the seriousness in her face. Shaking her head, “okay,” Christen agrees. There’s no point delaying the inevitable.

Her mom walks to her bookshelf, picks up the same picture Christen had examined earlier. “It was good seeing Ali. She looks good, happy. School must be agreeing with her.”

“Yeah, she is. She’s loving it” Christen tries to respond neutrally, not sure where her mom is going with this.

“That’s good” Christen watches carefully as her mom walks closer to her bed. “How about you? How are things going at school?” her mom asks clearly concerned and it makes Christen feel guilty. She’s a mess and she knows it but she doesn’t want to her parents to worry unnecessarily about her. She’s just going through a rough patch; it’s happened before and like before she’ll get through it. Before she can answer her mom adds almost as an afterthought “and how about you tell me the truth, this time?”

Christen doesn’t know how to respond. She was going to say fine and it really is, school is not the problem. Taking her silence as an unwillingness to speak, her mom continues, “I know you want to double major and I think that’s great sweetie but maybe we should talk about all of your extracurricular activities, you look so tired. I don’t want you working yourself too hard.”

“Mom, it’s okay, really. Last week was just a little stressful, I had a paper due and a project I had to work on, that’s all. School is fine, really.” Christen definitely doesn’t want to tell her mom that she’s purposefully run herself down. That she exhausted herself to the point of no return to prevent herself from being plagued by nightmares.
“Are you sure? You could cut back on one of the jobs, we can help you out financial for a little bit if you need it?” Her mom offers tentatively. “Mom, really, I’m doing well. It was just a hard week.” It’s been a couple of hard weeks but she doesn’t think she can tell her mom about that, doesn’t know how to tell her she’s basically broken her own heart and the heart of the person that she fell in love with.

“I just want you to be happy and healthy,” her mom says with a little uncertain laugh as she looks at the pictures on her wall.

“I know that mom…and I am” Christen says with as much enthusiasm as she can muster.

Her mom turns and stares, coming to sit down next to her on the bed, her tone oddly serious, “Do you?”

Studying the framed picture in her hands, a smile pulls at her lips “you were so happy this night, all of you girls were. Just so happy. The last time I remember you being this happy was over the summer.”

Slowly blinking Christen stiffens, she forces herself to breathe normally. Whatever Christen suspected her mom to say this was not it. She sorta expected a lecture on eating right and sleeping more, but she’s positive she’s not going to like where this is going. They’ve danced around the subject of her being unhappy for a while now. Christen always presenting what she hopes are convincing excuses, it’s not that she’s unhappy, she’s just tired. Christen doesn’t want to travel down the path of her unhappiness because eventually it’s going to run into a roadblock known as Tobin. Her mom has already mentioned Tobin, insisting on asking questions about her and all Christen can offer as responses are generic answers. She honestly doesn’t know the answers to some of the questions, anymore.

Trying to prevent the conversation she’s afraid they’re going to have, forcing humor into her voice, “you didn’t even see me this summer mom, how do you know I was happy?” Christen tries to joke.

“I could hear it in your voice,” Her mom says with a knowing look. Turning towards Christen’s wall again, she examines the old high school pictures Christen keeps up on her wall. A small montage to her soccer days.

“I was always surprised when you quit soccer. I know your ankle injury was worse than we originally thought but…I don’t know, you were always such a fighter, nothing kept you down if you didn’t want it to. I think, I expected you to fight, bounce back like you always had.” Facing forward eyes intently focused on Christen, “but you didn’t. You were so determined to quit, that’s when I thought that maybe there was more to the story, that it wasn’t just about your injury?”

Head bowed, Christen plays with her fingers, her palms are becoming clammy, her heart racing. Her mom has never talked to her like this, never questioned her reasoning for quitting. Christen had known she wasn’t pleased about it, but she’d quietly accepted it and had never pressured Christen. But this, had her mom known?

As if reading her thoughts, her mom continues once it’s apparent Christen has nothing to add to the conversation. “You were so unhappy that year. At first I thought it was because your best friends were gone. I always worried about you having friends a year older, I knew it was going to be hard when they graduated. Originally I thought socc…” shaking her head, Christen’s mother continues “it doesn’t matter. I thought you missed them and well, I was hoping with time, you would adjust that things would get better.”

Licking her lips Christen blink fighting against the growing pressure building behind her eye sockets, her mind screams a thousand questions but most importantly why is her mom bringing this up now. If Christen is being honest, she knows why.

“It didn’t get better did it?” Her mom asks a small hitch in her voice. Not looking up Christen shakes her head. There’s no point in denying it. She was miserable for so many reasons. She did miss her best friends, she did miss soccer and even though she still had friends in high school it just wasn’t the same. They didn’t know her the same way Lys and Ali did. Her mother is right, it was always more than just missing her best friends but Christen never wanted to talk about it and her mom had always respected her wishes.

“You never wanted to talk about it, so I never pushed. Your father and I thought you just needed time. We told your sisters to give you space. I regret that now. It was a disservice to you.” Christen tilts her head to the side, looking at her mom through her lashes. Tilting her head down, her mom makes eyes contact with her, her eyes a little brighter than normal and Christen bites her bottom lip. “I am sorry,” Her mom says after beat, her voice wavering.

Startled Christen squeaks “For what? Why?”

“For not being there when you needed me, for letting you think you had to keep everything to yourself. I am afraid that you thought you couldn’t talk to me, that I wasn’t here for you.” Pausing her mom shifts uncomfortable on the bed, “You were so unhappy your senior year, I honestly thought you missed soccer, you missed your friends and those were things I couldn’t fix for you. I felt helpless, I’m your mom and I couldn’t make your problem better, so I never pushed.”

Capturing Christen’s gaze again, her mom continues her voice a little unsteady, “Alyssa and Tyler must have put it together first, I’m not sure. Tyler eventually helped me figure it out... even then I’ll admit it took me a little while to really understand. But you were so determined, so adamant about not taking. I’ll admit it was a relief, I didn’t know what to say” Shaking her head, swallowing hard, her mom lays a hand on her thigh, “and for that, I’m so sorry. I should have handled it better. I should have told you I was here to talk whenever you were ready. Your father and I should have tried harder. Maybe, we all should have.”

Wiping a tear away Christen focuses on her mom’s hand, she studies the line of her veins, remembers all the loving touches she’s received over the years and yes, if she could do it again, she would try to talk to her mom, her sisters, then maybe then wouldn’t have hurt so much, maybe it wouldn’t have felt so wrong. Squeezing her leg, her mom continues, her voice wavering a little bit, “But I want you to know now, I will always be here for you, no matter what. I will always love you. You can talk to me about anything.”

Tears in both their eyes Christen nods her head, she hadn’t realized how important those words were to her. Christen never realized how much she needed her mom to say she would always be there for her, that she would love her always. It seems so silly but she never wanted to disappoint them and this was definitely something that could.

“You know, your father and I just want you to be happy, right?” Her mom says after a moment. Nodding her head Christen doesn’t trust herself to speak. “We want you to be happy and find someone to love, whomever that may be and I want someone to love you back for the beautiful, wonderful girl that you are. I can’t wait to meet the person that’s special enough to capture your heart.” Christen hears the tears in her mother’s voice, which only spurs the ones that fall from her eyes.

Her mother’s use of gender neutral pronouns hasn’t escaped Christen’s notice. This is the closest she and her mom have ever come to talking about her sexual orientation. It’s evident her mom has thought about this long and hard. This isn’t some radon talk because her daughter happens to be home. Her mother’s words were measured and carefully chosen and they were near perfect. A weight Christen hadn’t known existed lifts from her chest. Christen has always assumed her parents would be okay with her liking girls but having it confirmed is liberating. Christen assumed her mom knew something when she stopped asking if she was dating any cute boys and just asked if she’d had met anyone special.

Pulling Christen towards her, they shift awkwardly for a minute until Christen is leaning against her, her head on her mother’s shoulder. “We love you, always okay?” From her position Christen can feel her mom take a deep breath, almost as if steadying herself for what was coming next.

“You were so happy this summer and I think I know who I can thank for that. Despite the brave face you’ve been sporting, I know you’re miserable again. You can talk to me. I might not get everything but I am always willing to listen.”

Burying her head in her mother’s neck Christen cries long and hard. Her tears are a mixture of happiness, relief, love, anguish, sadness and regret. Christen regrets never broaching this subject with her mom before now, sadness that she had to suffer, that suffering was necessary for them to reach this point. Anguish that she ever doubted her parents love for her. Love that her parents are so amazing. Christen has no doubts that her mother and father will always be there for her, cheering for her, rooting for her and not just in sports. Relief and happiness that she can finally discuss this, not that she wants to right now but that she can.

Pulling back, her mom’s shirt is soaking wet from her tears, “sorry I made a mess” Christen mumbles out, wiping the back of her hand across her running nose. Her mom chuckles and gets up to grab a box of tissues from her desk bring it back to the bed. Taking a tissue her mom hands the box to Christen before reclaiming her spot. Pushing some of Christen’s stay hairs back her mom asks softly, “Do you want to talk about it? Am I right to assume this has something to do with Tobin?”

Shaking her head Christen plays with the tissue, “was it that obvious?”


Laughing her soft melodic laugh, her mom smiles brightly “yes, she was all you ever talked about and when you talked, there was just such lightness to your voice, I swear I could picture the way your eyes would light up. You were always with her. It’s was obvious she wasn’t just any friend.” Pausing Christen’s mom, shift again, a frown creasing her brow. “I kept hoping you would mention it but while you were happy I was content to wait. Now you and I barely speak and when we do you never mention her anymore.” Gesturing at Christen, “and I’ve seen this look before and I don’t like it when my baby isn’t happy, so I decided it was time we talked.” Taking a deep breath, “so let’s talk…”

Christen takes a moment to consider her words, slowly she tries to articulate what she’s managed to do “I…we…” sighing in frustration Christen decides to just rip the band aid off. This won’t be easy for either of them, at least not right now but her mom is trying and the least she can do is meet her half way. “We were dating but she wasn’t my girlfriend. I did something I shouldn’t have and accidently hurt her. I didn’t mean to but as soon as it happened I knew I had and now I don’t know how to fix it, I don’t know how to make it better. We don’t even talk right now.” Christen prays her mom doesn’t ask for more details. She doesn’t think she can do that.

Her mom is quiet for a bit before she speaks, slowly, her tone suggesting she taking this very seriously. “I’m going to assume the not talking is partly you’re…doing?” Subtly Christen shakes her head. She is the one who started the whole avoidance as a way of dealing with their problems. Tobin had tried to talk to her on more than one occasion but Christen had always fled. So it only seems fitting that the one time Christen hadn’t absconded, the one time she managed to gather the courage to seek Tobin out, Tobin was gone. There wasn’t a trace of her in her room, almost as if she vanished into thin air.

Clearing her throat her mom says quietly, “This might seem silly but have you tried to apologize?”

“I don’t think this is something a simple ‘I’m sorry’ will fix, mom,” Christen says a little exasperated.

“Fix? No, maybe not but at least it is a start. Sometimes people just need to hear you’re sorry. It might take a while for her to forgive you but have you said “I’m sorry” to her?”

Looking down in shame Christen shakes her head. Her mother is right, saying I’m sorry, would at least be a start. Christen knows she needs to apologize, find a way to right everything but how do you apologize for loving someone? Scolding herself Christen admits loving Tobin was never the problem. It was always her timing, it’s the how and when, which is almost worse because who wants to apologize for being so inconsiderate, for causing harm when she didn’t have to. That’s what she doesn’t know how to fix. She knew better. Maybe her mother is right, maybe it really is just as simple as saying I’m sorry, even if it is to apologize for being careless and thoughtless.

“You’re going to have to talk to her sweetie”

“I know mom”

“Maybe this Saturday, at the game,” her mom says standing up.

“Wait, what?” Christen asked startled, staring at her mother’s back.

“This Saturday, we’re going to Alyssa’s game. She’ll be there right?” her mom asks with a patient smile.

Blinking, trying to clear the fog away, Christen manages to croak out “uh…yeah, she’ll be there.”

“Great, I can’t wait to meet her”

Annoyed Christen starts, “Mom, I don’t know if that’s going to happen, I can’t ask her to do this, not now”
“I’ll talk to Alyssa, I’m sure it will be fine.”

“MOM!!!” Christen says in exasperated annoyance.

“Dinner should be ready soon. You need to eat” and with that she closes the door. Groaning Christen leans back against her pillows, covering her eyes with her hands. Saturday is going to be an absolute nightmare.


Exiting the bathroom Christen stops dead in her tracks. Eyes narrowing Christen scowls at the figure indolently leaning against the opposite wall. There is no one else on the earth, hell in the universe that Christen wants to see less than her. Deep down in her gut Christen knows this isn’t a coincidence. She thought she had seen her earlier in the stands but never thought they'd be near each other. Eying her suspiciously Christen doesn’t speak. They stare at each other in silence until a cough from behind Christen reminds her that she’s blocking the exit to the bathroom.

Head held high, her eyes forward Christen starts to walk past the girl, back to her seat where her mom and grandmother wait for her when a self-righteous voice stops her. “You’re fucking up, you know that right?” The girl sings out her tone filled with pleasure.

Closing her eyes Christen tries to reign in her temper, stretching her exiguous patience to its limits. She’s been snappier lately, meaner and her capacity for bullshit is none existent. The list of people she’s nice too is limited and of all the people Christen would consider being polite to the girl behind her is absolutely not one of them. Licking her lips Christen wipes her mouth slowly turning around her eyes are rocks of green ice, “Really? This coming from you?”


Looking forward, away from Christen the girl tilts her head in acknowledgment, smirking scornfully she says blithely, “touché, I’ll give you that.” Adjusting her position so she’s facing forward but still leaning against the wall, the girl looks bemusedly at Christen “Look, you and I,” gesturing between the two of them with her finger, “we’re not friends…in fact we’re never going to be friends, actually I doubt we’ll ever speak again. So listen up or don’t, I really don’t care…”

“Then why the fuck are you here?” Christen asks bitterly. Christen isn’t sure of a lot these days but one thing she’s positive of, has known since the first time she laid eyes on her, is that she doesn’t trust the girl currently standing in front of her. Christen is half tempted to walk away but she’s curious and after all, curiosity killed the cat. Her grandmother’s voice whispers in the back of her mind, and satisfaction brought it back. “Why are you talking to me at all? Like you said, we’re not friends.” Christen ask coarsely. It’s inconceivable to Christen that the girl is truly being nice, actually trying to be helpful. Christen assumes there’s an alternative motive but if the girl is trying to push her and Tobin further apart she really needn’t bother. Although Christen has no intentions of admitting that out loud.

Sighing exaggeratedly the girl takes time to pronounce each of her words, “Because. You. Are. Fucking. Up,” pausing she levels Christen with a scathing glare “She’s hurting.”

The anger that builds within Christen is blinding. The last thing she needs is a reminder that she hurt Tobin, that Tobin is hurting because of her and she especially doesn’t need a reminder from this self-righteous girl. Through gritted teeth, Christen bites out, “You’re one to talk. Haven’t you done your fair share of hurting her?”

Giving a tight lipped smile, the girl swallows and for the first time she looks away. Even through her anger Christen would say the girl looks uncomfortable, even a little vulnerable but Christen doesn’t care, she doesn’t like her nor does she trust her. Christen has seen the girl’s skillful manipulation first hand. Christen knows the girl is a good actress when she wants to be and this might just be one of those times. This could simply be a performance to throw Christen off. Having gathered herself, the girl faces Christen staring at her with dark unfathomable eyes, her tone terse as she says, “this isn’t about me. I’m only here because I care about her” her last words are soft, laced with sincerity.

Under different circumstances Christen would have appreciated the subtlety of her voice, she would have noticed the nuance of her words, might have appreciated their authenticity but circumstances aren't different. This isn’t the type of situation where Christen is going to be understanding.

Christen has been living off a slowly burning rage for too long. She’s like a caged animal that’s been stuck and prodded and finally sprung free. Christen is out for blood and for once she wants blood from someone other than herself and like a freed animal she lashes out at the first sign of danger, the first thing to cross her path.

“You care about her?” Christen’s tone drips with disbelief and sarcasm. “Since when? Your freshman year? When you took her for granted? When you gave her nothing but false hopes and broken promises? Then?” Christen stares at the girl with a barely concealed hatred but she knows she projecting, these are all the things she angry at herself for. It feels so good to direct all that anger at someone else for the moment. Christen studies the girl as she speaks, notices when the girl’s eyes widen as surprise and hurt registers in their depths. Instead of the girl's clear discomfort tampering down Christen’s anger it only fuels it more.

Stepping closers Christen continues, her voice harsh and condemning, “No, not then. So it must have been last year? When you lead her on? When you were blatantly using her? Then you cared? Or was it when you were fucking someone else behind her back? That’s must have been when, right?”

“Enough!” the girl’s word comes steadily and quietly but it’s almost as if she’d shouted it, her anger matching Christen’s. Halting Christen is surprised to find herself slightly out of breath, she’s underestimated just how angry she’s truly is. There’s no mistake Christen knows the girl indirectly played a part in Tobin’s melt down and for her to now stand in front of Christen, smug and superior has taken Christen’s rage to heights she didn’t know existed. Honestly, Christen cannot believe the girl's unmitigated gall.

The girl swallows convulsively before stepping closer. She and Christen are within arms distance of each other, they’re both breathing hard. The girl is silent as she examines Christen, clearly searching for something. Christen scrutinizes her with the same intensity, expecting to find hate in the girl’s eyes but she doesn’t, there’s only an undercurrent of regret and an inkling of respect. Sighing, the girl resumes her previous position against the wall, an air of nonchalance surrounds her and as if bored the girls says slowly, “Tobin is good. She’s a really good person. Yeah I messed up and maybe everyone was right, maybe she was always too good for me. Whatever, I don’t know.”

Christen’s eyebrows immediately raise in disbelief, ignoring her the girl continues “but yes, she deserved better than what I gave her” Staring down her nose, her eyes roam over Christen in distaste “and she’s probably too good for you, I don’t know but you’re who she wants, lord only knows why, you’re definitely nothing special but you’re what she wants, or so she says” the girl sneers “so get over yourself, pull your head out of your ass and forgive her for whatever it is your mad about because trust me, speaking from personal experience, she won’t wait around forever and you and I both know, she shouldn’t have to. She deserves better.”

The girl speaks with such passion it renders Christen speechless. They stare at each other a little longer, neither moving, sighing again the girl pushes off from the wall, “Like I said, take it or leave it, I really don’t care.”

Scoffing Christen shakes her head, “and I’m supposed to believe you? Believe that out of all the people she could have turned to, of all the friends she has, she went to you? I don’t think so…I don’t believe you.”

The girl regards her coolly as if trying to decide how much to admit. Christen can practically see her internally weighing what needs to be disclosed and what doesn't. Finally, on a deep sigh, she leans back against the wall not meeting Christen’s eyes, her head down she plays with her fingers.

Rolling her eyes, the girl reluctantly admits, “She didn’t exactly seek me out. We ran into each other one night in Collegetown, she was upset, more than I’ve ever seen her. She asked me a lot of questions.”

“Questions?” Christen says incredulously.

“Yeah, questions about things I had said to her when…about some things I had said to her once.” It makes sense. Christen remembers Tobin huddled in the corner whispering, “She was right. This is all people want from me. All I’m good for.” At the time Christen had been so preoccupied with her own hurt and guilt she hadn’t stopped to consider the significance of Tobin’s words. Christen realizes that maybe she never genuinely understood Tobin’s damage, didn’t know how broken Tobin is. Christen had always focused on her faults, her own scares that it never occurred to her that Tobin was just as damaged because to Christen, Tobin was perfect.

“What did you say to her?” Christen ask accusatorily, again misdirecting her anger and frustrations.

The girl is unusually quiet, a chink in her armor falls away and Christen can see through her bravado for the first time. She's nothing more than a girl, a girl who made mistakes. A wave of sympathy over comes Christen, she understands the remorse and pain that comes with hurting someone you love. The only problem is Christen’s still not convinced the girl cared about Tobin.

“I said a lot of things, mean things, things to make her stay, all of which I wish I hadn’t, none of which I can take back.” She finally croaks out, “a lot of my words, comments, had nothing to do with her. It was always about me, I tried to tell her that…” the girl looks up directly at Christen and there’s a pleading in her eyes, almost as if she needs Christen to believe she never intended to hurt Tobin, understand that she just was too weak to prevent it.

Shrugging a shoulder Christen hates to consider that maybe they’re more alike then she’d like to admit. “So what? She asked you a question and then bared her soul to you? That’s not Tobin.”

Rolling her eyes again the girl answers resignedly, “Not exactly but she needed someone to talk to and I was there. It’s not like I knew you and she doesn’t care what I think anymore …it just happened.” Christen pushes aside her uneasiness she can’t blame Tobin, it’s not as if she’s was around willing and able to talk and she understands Tobin not wanting to go to their mutual friends.

Shaking her head Christen is still doubtful, she wants to believe the girl, wants to believe that she’s just here to help Tobin, but that just seems too good to be true. “Honestly, why are you doing this? Why talk to me? Shouldn’t you be happy? Isn’t this your big chance? You could try to win her back, come in and be Tobin’s knight in shining armor?”

“This isn’t a fairy tale my dear, there’s no happily ever after,” the girl says giving Christen an unimpressed look. “And you don’t listen well do you?” Stepping towards Christen the girl’s eyes flash dangerously, “I care” she bites out, “more than you can imagine and more than she’ll ever know.”

Steadying her breathing the girl steps back, her bravado back in place, as she stands insouciantly holding her hands wide “think of this as my atonement, my recompense. She doesn’t want me anymore and I care enough to admit that I’m not right for her. I don’t think you are either but she didn’t ask me.”

Dropping her arms, “And if I didn’t care…trust me, I wouldn’t have approached you and this never would have happened. So like I said, forgive her while you still can…” the girl stares long and hard one last time, leaving the rest of her words unsaid, as she side steps Christen and starts to walk away.

“What do you mean forgive her?” Christen ask, hating the desperation in her voice but despite herself she finds herself believing the girl. Everything about her, from her tone to her body language says she being honest, and if she’s truly looking for recompense she wouldn’t lie. The problem is Christen can’t for the life of her figure out what she has to forgive Tobin for.

The girl stops, she takes a few seconds before spinning around, her eyes wide with surprise and confusion, her mouth pulls into a one side smirk as she studies Christen. Walking back, eyes narrowed, “What do I mean? I assumed…” her words trailed off questioningly, as if she’s trying them on to see if they fit and they don’t. Standing up straight clearly perplexed, “why aren’t you talking?” She demands in a such a way that Christen knows she doesn’t know but whatever the reason is she’s going to think it’s stupid.

“Tobin wouldn’t tell me. I thought it was because…she’d done something…but she hasn’t, has she? She must have been trying to protect you.” The girl isn’t looking at her anymore, she’s staring off into space as if trying to solve a mathematical equation but the algorithm doesn’t add up. “She thinks…but you’re not mad at her, you’re the one…huh” It’s not a question, it’s a revelation as if the solution to her mathematical question as suddenly appeared in front of her eyes. “Well that’s interesting” with a shrug of her shoulder she moves to turn around but stops, meeting Christen’s gaze, there’s an urgency in her eyes that catches Christen off guard.

“Last words of wisdom. Beg, bribe, steal, do whatever it takes to get her back. Don’t wait because if you do, you’ll regret it and she’ll be gone and she won’t come back. You'll be forced to watch her move on because she will eventually. Then one day if you’re lucky, she’ll still be nice to you because that’s who she is. Then against all odds, she might even talk to you from time to time but that’s it. You’ll never know her again, you’ll never be her friend, ever. You’ve lost that for good. So whatever it is, whatever stupid thing you’re holding on to, the reason you’re upset, get over it. Pull your head out of your ass, apologize, do whatever it takes. Because there’s no going back once she’s gone.” Nodding stiffly the girl turns and walks back towards the bleachers as if nothing had happened.

Before she gets too far, Christen ask seriously this time, “Is this the truth? Are you being honest? Why tell me this?”

With a deep sigh, the girl looks back at Christen but doesn’t move closer, “I told you, penance.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just ask her to forgive you?” Christen doesn’t need the girl to quirk her eyebrow to understand the irony of her statement.

The girl shakes her head as a small sad smiles pulls at her mouth, “no, because she would” the girl simply says.

Her words haunt Christen but there’s still one thing she doesn’t understand. Christen can’t help it, she calls out again “forgive her for what?”

Raising her hand in the air waving bye the girl calls over her shoulder “you better do something soon or you'll lose her for good.”

Moving to lean again the wall Christen doesn’t even know what just happened expect for she’s learned that Tobin thinks Christen is mad at her, not the other way around. She thinks about the note, the note she couldn’t bring herself to read, unwilling to deal with the commendation she thought would be there. Clearly, she’d been wrong. The list of things she’s been wrong about is piling up and it’s threatening to topple over and crush her. A tear sneaks down her cheek and all Christen can think is, she’s done. Done doing things like she always has. She needs to talk to Tobin, doesn’t know how she can face her but she needs to if for no other reason than maybe forgiving herself one day.

Chapter Text

I’m halfway gone
Sleepless, I’m battle worn
And you’re all I want
So bring me the dawn

I need the sun to break
You’ve woken up my heart
I’m shaking, oh
My luck could change
Been in the dark for weeks and I’ve realized you’re all I need
I hope that I’m not too late
I hope I’m not too late.

 

 


Worrying her bottom lip with her teeth Christen stares at the dress laid out on her bed. Her mother brought her a simple but elegant violet dress. She should be wearing it. Her makeup and hair should be done but instead, she stands paralyzed at the edge of her bed.

Christen tenderly touches her lip where she’s bitten down too hard. There’s no blood but the pain serves as a warning. It proves tonight is a bad idea. Flopping down next to her dress Christen throws an arm over her eyes wondering for the hundredth time, how’d she get into this mess?

For all the destruction Christen’s created with her inability to face her fears, her constantly running away and her unwillingness to speak, tonight isn’t her fault. She could blame Ali, Lys, Julie, even her mother but they’re mitigating factors. It’s the echo of brutally honest words, you’re fucking up that ultimately kept Christen from refusing.

Christen can’t believe it was just last weekend. She’s replayed the conversation with the girl over and over and each time she comes to the same conclusion; no more running, no more hiding. It’s time to mend things with Tobin. The problem is she doesn’t know how.

“I told you she wasn’t getting ready,” Alyssa says. Christen had been so lost in her thoughts she hadn’t heard their footsteps.

“Chris honey, why aren’t you dressed?” Ali asks.

“Because this is a mistake. I shouldn’t go,” Christen answers from beneath her arm. “I’m not on the team,” she reminds them. It’s quiet and Christen can imagine the look Ali and Alyssa share.

“I’m going and I’m not on the team” Ali offers helpfully.

“It’s a mistake, I can’t go,” Christen mumbles

Alyssa sighs deeply as if she’d expected this, “Why are you afraid to go?”

If Alyssa had asked any other question Christen would have ignored it, shrugged it off but Christen loathes the word afraid and she won’t allow fear to rule her anymore. Sitting up Christen smiles as she takes in her two best friends. Ali is wearing a beautiful flowy red dress and Alyssa in a formal black sheath. “You guys look pretty.” They smile their thanks but Alyssa regards Christen seriously waiting for a response.

Glancing at her own dress Christen explains, “Things are awkward enough, I don’t want to ruin this night for her.” Everyone knows exactly who Christen is referring to, she doesn’t have to say the name. “I don’t want to make things worse than they already are.”

Alyssa and Ali share a look which earns them an eye roll from Christen. “You won’t, besides you promised you’d go…” Alyssa says.

“I didn’t,” Christen interrupts briskly with a shake of her head, “I didn’t, I was ambushed.”

Ali rolls her eyes, “You weren’t ambushed”

Glaring Christen bites out, “yes, I was.”

Going to the game had been hard for Christen. She was happy to see the girls play but it was also a reminder that she’d been avoiding everyone for weeks, at times completely ignoring her friends. Christen felt like the worst type of person, a traitor of sorts but what she really dreaded was the end of the game. Her mom wanted to meet Tobin and Christen felt guilty because it wouldn’t happen. She probably could have text Tobin and asked her to come over but Christen couldn’t bring herself to do it because Tobin probably would’ve said yes. And after everything, after the way she’d acted, it would’ve been an unfair request, even if it was for her mom.

Julie, Syd, and Alex came over after the game to say hi. Christen only realized Lys wasn’t there when her grandmother asked where she was. That should have been Christen’s warning.

She scanned the crowd looking for Alyssa. Freezing, her heart momentarily stopped beating as Christen’s eyes widen in disbelief because behind the approaching blonde goalie was a decidedly uncomfortable Tobin. Mouth slightly agape Christen couldn’t believe what she was seeing, it must be a dream. She was startled by her mother whispering, “is that Tobin? She is pretty.”

Before Christen could formulate a sentence, Lys was introducing Tobin. Christen stood by mutely as Tobin was pulled into a hug first by her grandmother and then her mom, who whispered some