Actions

Work Header

there's a fine line between love and in love (sometimes I can't tell which side I'm on)

Chapter Text

March 2011. Spring Break, Sophomore Year. The week that Tobin realizes she’s in love. (The week that Alex denies it.)

 

“Go to San Diego with me,” Alex requests, as if it's the simplest thing in the world.

Tobin tilts her head to the side. “Right now?”

“No, silly,” Alex shakes her head and stands from where she was at the desk to sit next to Tobin on the bed. “For spring break! Neither of us have plans, our families won't care too much, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather spend my time with.”

Tobin nods slowly as she feels Alex rest her head against her shoulder. “Alright, sure. Let's go to San Diego.”

 

---

 

“Packed?” Tobin asks, wheeling her suitcase so it's next to the door.

“Almost!” Alex calls through the apartment from her bedroom.

Tobin rolls her eyes. She'd be awfully annoyed with the fact that Alex waited until the last minute to finish packing, if it wasn't so endearing. (Everything Alex does is endearing.)

Tobin steps into the bedroom and Alex looks up at her from where she's attempting (and failing) to zip an over-stuffed suitcase.

“Can you hand me my toothbrush? It's in the bathroom.”

“I packed all your toiletries this morning, after you got out of the shower.”

“Did you get my straightener? Extra hair ties? Extra flossers?”

“Got it all, Lex. We're ready to go, as soon as you are.” (Tobin rolled her eyes when she was helping Alex go through her To Pack list and saw the item Straightener .)

-

“Lex,” Tobin sighed, holding out the list and pointing to the item with a pencil. “You're not going to need a straightener.”

“Uhm, yes I will Tobin. You've witnessed my bed head firsthand.”

“We'll be camping, no you won't.”

“Yes, I will. Aren't there bathroom things with outlets?”

“Well, yeah, but--”

“Then we'll be fine.” Alex pressed a kiss to Tobin's cheek who was rolling her eyes and dropping the list to the table.

“You're difficult,” she muttered, resuming her scan of the list. “Also you forgot bathing suit.”

“You love me,” Alex argued, leaning into Tobin and placing a hand on her thigh, angling her neck to look at the list. “Can you add it for me?”

Tobin clenched her jaw at the sudden contact (Alex hand was positioned extremely high on her thigh), “Sure, Lex.”

“Thank you!” Alex leaned in to kiss Tobin cheek one more time before standing from the table. “I'm gonna go shower.”

“Okay, I wanna leave at eight thirty-ish, so--”

“Yeah yeah, don't take forever. I've got it.”

“You say that now," Tobin sighed. "Have you even packed yet?”

Alex rolled her eyes as she bounded towards the bathroom. “I'll be done soon!” She shouts in lieu of an answer, disappearing behind the door before Tobin can say anything else.

-

Alex sighs in relief as she finally manages to zip the suitcase. “You're the best,” she steps forward and places a hand on Tobin's chest, kissing her cheek.

“I know,” she jokes, a smile spreading over her face. “Ready to go?”

“Yep!” Alex pulls her suitcase off of the bed and it hits the floor with a loud thud.

“We're gonna get evicted due to noise complaints,” Tobin deadpans.

“Please, if we were going to be evicted for noise complaints, I'd make sure our noises were louder. And probably more high pitched. And a few names would be screamed.”

“A few?”

“Well, just yours and mine.”

Tobin feels her mouth dry and even though she knows it's just a joke (it's a joke, right?) she still finds her cheeks growing hot. “Y'know, in the years I've known you, I’ve learned that for a straight girl, you're awfully gay.”

Alex laughs as she hands her suitcase off to Tobin, opting to instead carry Tobin’s (much lighter one) to the car. “Whoever said I was straight?” She winks before walking out the door, leaving Tobin standing in their apartment with a smile on her face and a flutter in her heart.

 

---

 

“I have to pee.”

“We've been on the road for fifteen minutes, Lex.”

“I have to pee.”

“I could probably still see the apartment from here.”

“I have to pee.”

Tobin sighs and turns on her blinker to pull into a gas station. “You're a lot of work.”

“You love me.”

 

---

 

“Are we there yet?”

“About halfway.”

Alex sighs, slumping further in her seat on the passenger side. “We've been in this car forever .”

“We've been in this car for an hour.”

“We should get something to eat.”

“We ate right before we left.”

“But I’m hungry .”

Tobin rolls her eyes but turns on her blinker, gesturing to a building a little more down the road. “Denny's alright?”

“Perfect.” Alex leans across the center console and kisses Tobin's cheek, then pulls her hand off of the wheel to intertwine their fingers.

 

---

 

“Is it odd that she brought us two straws?”

Tobin shrugs. “Maybe she thought we were going to share.”

Alex nods understandingly before taking a long drink of her strawberry smoothie. “Do you want some?”

“I'm fine, Lex.”

“You sure?”

Tobin smiles and picks up her glass of ice water, taking a swig. “I'm sure.”

 

---

 

“Try this,” Alex holds a forkful of her omelet out to Tobin.

Tobin hums in content. “That’s good.”

“Mhm,” Alex agrees, leaning forward as Tobin holds her burger out to Alex. “Why'd you get lunch food?”

“Because I already ate breakfast.”

“But it's only 10:30.”

Tobin nods. “And I ate breakfast an hour and a half ago, we were gonna get lunch when we got to San Diego.”

Alex picks up one of Tobin’s own fries and throws it at her. “Why are you being such a grump?”

Tobin looks up from her plate and gives Alex a half-hearted smile. “Headache,” she lies, massaging her temple.

Alex reaches across the table and rests her hand on Tobin’s. “Tobs,” she sighs. “I know when you're lying to me.” She begins rubbing her thumb against the back of Tobin's hand. “You don't have to tell me what's wrong, but please don't lie to me, okay?”

“Okay,” Tobin agrees as Alex intertwines their fingers. “There's just a lot on my mind.”

“Like?”

You. All the time. School. You. How out of shape we'll be by the end of this week. You. The traffic we're going to be stuck in soon. You. The music we’ll listen to in the car. You. A lot of you. Tobin sighs and Alex squeezes her hand comfortingly. “Traffic. Traffic that we could have avoided if someone hadn't insisted on stopping,” Tobin gives Alex a playful smile and Alex reacts to it with a mock-offended look.

Alex lets go of Tobin's hands and crosses her arms with a huff. (She knows it's not what's really bothering Tobin, but she'll let it go, because if her best friend doesn't want to talk about it, she isn't going to make her.) “This is unfair.” She sighs dramatically before continuing. “You're ganging up on me.”

Tobin laughs. “There's one of me, and one of you,” she argues through a mouthful of fries. “How could I possibly gang up on you?”

“You're cheating.”

“How?”

“You cannot use outside factors to prove yourself right. It's not my fault the traffic’ll be bad.”

Tobin rolls her eyes, but she's grinning and Alex is happy to see that. “It's your fault we'll be on the road when the traffic hits.”

Alex sighs dramatically again, uncrossing her arms then crossing them back over the other way in lieu of a response.

Tobin’s grin grows wider and Alex is smiling at her with a look of such love that Tobin's heart skips a beat. “You're a dork.”

“I'm your dork,” Alex counters immediately and Tobin feels a lump in her throat.

“Yeah?” Is all she can manage to choke out but Alex just smiles, uncrossing her arms to reach across the table and squeeze Tobin's hand.

“Yeah.”

 

---

 

When the check comes, the waitress walks over and places two receipts in front of them (taking the hint after they didn't share the smoothie, Alex assumes).

“Ready to go?” Tobin asks, sliding both towards herself and standing.

“I can pay,” Alex argues, incapable of losing the smile that spread over her face from the gesture.

“I got it, Lex.”

“Let me pay,” Alex reaches her hand out, but all she does is hold Tobin's forearm for a moment.

“You can tip,” Tobin offers, looking to Alex who's still sitting in their booth.

Alex rises and kisses Tobin's cheek quickly. “Thank you.”

Tobin’s heartbeat quickens and she feels her palms begin to sweat. “Anytime,” she whispers, almost too quiet for Alex to hear, before making her way to the register.

 

---

 

“How much longer on the road?”

Tobin glances to the dashboard clock and repositions her hands on the wheel. “About thirty minutes.”

“That's too long,” Alex whines, stretching across the car so her feet are on the dashboard and her head is on Tobin’s shoulder.

“That can't be comfortable.”

“It's not.”

“Then why are you sitting like that?”

Alex shrugs. “It's the most comfortable that I can sit and be in contact with you.”

Tobin laughs and glances to Alex before refocusing on the road. “I'm right here, Lex.”

“I know.”

She holds her hand out and Alex takes it gladly, intertwining their fingers but not adjusting her uncomfortable position. “I love you,” she says quietly, rubbing her thumb along Tobin’s.

“I love you,” Tobin agrees, squeezing Alex's fingers without looking away from the road.

 

---

 

“We're here,” Tobin nudges Alex’s head as she turns the car off. “Lex, come on.”

Alex leans up from her awkward position and squeezes her eyes tightly before opening them. “My neck hurts.”

“Maybe you should've lied down in a decent position.”

Alex rolls her eyes before stretching and straightening in her seat. “You loved it.”

“I love you.”

“And everything I do.”

Tobin leans her head from side to side before answering. “Fair enough.”

Alex looks out the windshield and raises an eyebrow. “Where is here?”

“Seaport Village,” Tobin gets out of the car and closes her door, waiting for Alex to follow suit. “We can't check-in to the campsite for a few hours.”

Alex nods, meeting Tobin at the front of the car and sliding an arm around her waist. “Okay,” she leans her head against Tobin’s shoulder with another yawn. “I'm tired.”

“Really?” Tobin laughs and looks down to where Alex is leaning against her. “I couldn't tell.”

“Shut up,” she hits Tobin's chest playfully before straightening and kissing Tobin's cheek. “Carry me?”

“No,” Tobin rolls her eyes with a laugh.

Pleeease?”

“No.”

Alex pulls away from Tobin, crossing her arms and pouting. “Why not?”

“You're a grown woman.”

“I'm your grown woman.”

“Oh my god,” Tobin sighs, crouching down so Alex can get on her back.

“You're the best,” Alex drapes her arms over Tobin’s shoulders and places a kiss behind her ear.

“I know,” Tobin rolls her eyes with a groan, and Alex just laughs.

“I love you!” She sing-songs as Tobin begins her way through the parking lot.

“I love you too,” Tobin smiles as she feels Alex begin to trace patterns on her bicep, using the other hand to hold Tobin’s.

 

---

 

“We should go somewhere for lunch,” Alex leans against Tobin on the bench they're sitting on, overlooking the ocean.

“We ate three hours ago.”

“Yeah, three hours ago .”

“You're unbelievable.”

“You love me.”

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees with a simple nod. “I do.”

 

---

 

“This place okay?” Tobin stops in front of a building with more palm trees outside of it than windows and a large blue and orange sign that reads Dave & Buster’s .

“What's here?”

Tobin rolls her eyes as Alex moves from an arm around her waist to them holding hands. “How am I supposed to know?”

“You suggested it,” Alex begins swinging their hands back and forth between them.

“I'm sure they have a menu we can look at.”

“That's logical.” Alex begins forward, nearly bouncing up the steps to the door and pulling Tobin by the hand behind her.

“Hi,” Tobin smiles as a hostess approaches them.

“Good afternoon, how may I help you two ladies today?”

“Can we see a menu?” Alex asks politely, shining a brilliant smile that Tobin feels her heart melt merely at the sight of.

“Of course,” the woman turns around and pulls one from behind the podium, holding it out to Tobin who takes it graciously with a nod.

“Pizza, sushi, ribs, chicken,” Tobin lists as she flips through the pages. “Hear something you like, Lex?”

Alex shrugs. “Can I see it?”

Tobin nods, passing it over and opting instead to read from over Alex’s shoulder.

“This looks good,” she points to a picture of a smoking Kebab with onions, peppers, chicken, and something Tobin couldn't name if she tried.

“Wanna eat here?”

Alex nods and Tobin takes the menu back, passing it over to the woman.

“Thank you so much.”

“How many, two?”

“Yes, please,” Tobin smiles and the hostess begins to walk them through the restaurant.

“Table, booth, bar?” She gestures to their options and Tobin looks to Alex.

“Where do you want to sit?”

“Bar?”

Tobin nods in agreement and turns back to the woman, “Bar, please. Thank you so much.” She smiles as the woman nods, pulling the stools out for them before walking away.

The bartender approaches them a moment later and holds out two glasses of ice. “Can I get you anything?” He asks with a smile and Tobin only looks at him for a second before deciding she doesn't like him. (His teeth are too white, his smile’s too fake, and he looks to Alex with a glint of something in his eyes that she doesn't want to name.)

“Want a drink, Lex?” Tobin asks, glancing over to Alex who was too busy to notice him, grazing her fingers across Tobin's right hand, tracing lines between a scar on the back of her hand, her knuckles, and her ring that's nothing but a solid black band with the words My one love. inscribed on the inside that Alex got for her birthday a year before.

-

“And what do you say my one love is, Lex?” Tobin teased after she tried on the ring. (It fit perfectly. Of course.)

“Me, duh,” Alex smiled, intertwining her fingers with the hand Tobin was wearing the ring on and pulling it towards her so she could kiss the knuckle the ring rested next to. “Or soccer. Or anything. That was the great thing about the phrase, honestly.” She paused to start spinning the ring around Tobin's finger with her thumb. “Your love can change, and the ring’s still relevant. It's still yours.”

Tobin nodded and looked at the ring. “That’s true.” She looked up to Alex and felt herself getting lost in her eyes. “I think you're right, though.”

“About what?”

“You're my one love,” Tobin said simply.

“And you're mine,” Alex agreed, putting a hand under Tobin's chin and pulling her close to kiss her nose.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

-

“Uhm,” Alex shakes her head. “Just an iced tea, unsweet. Can you order for me? I'm going to the bathroom.” She rises from her seat, not letting go of Tobin's hand until she's so far away that she absolutely has to.

Tobin smirks as she turns back to the bartender, trying not to laugh at the fact that Alex had completely ignored him. “Two unsweet iced teas, please. With lemon.”

He nods and turns away, clearly upset with the lack of attention.

 

---

 

“Can I try yours?” Alex picks up her fork to gesture to Tobin’s grilled salmon.

“Of course,” Tobin squeezes a bit of lemon on the corner, then sections it off and holds it up to feed to Alex from her own fork. “Like it?”

Alex nods, savouring the flavor as her eyes drift shut. She pauses for a moment before answering. “That is so good.”

“I'm glad,” Tobin smiles and Alex reaches across to Tobin’s plate, taking a bite of her salad. Tobin rolls her eyes. “Didn't you have a salad of your own?”

“You used a different dressing.”

Tobin grins, looking down to her plate before back to Alex. “No, I didn't.”

“Hmm. Then why does it taste better than mine?” Alex reaches across and takes another bite.

“Probably because you’ve already eaten yours,” Tobin points out, gesturing to Alex’s empty plate.

“Ah,” she nods. “Fair enough.” She reaches to take a bite of Tobin's salad, once again.

Tobin rolls her eyes with a laugh and slides the bowl closer to Alex. “Just take it, Lex.”

Alex laughs, leaning forward on her bar stool to kiss Tobin's cheek. “You're the best.”

“I know.”

 

---

 

“You can set up the tent, right?” Tobin drops a duffel bag and the tent bag on the ground. “I'm gonna go grab more stuff.”

“Uhm, maybe,” Alex sets her gym bag with nothing in it but two water bottles on the ground.

Tobin looks to Alex after taking off her backpack over-packed with towels, bathing suits, and a soccer and volleyball. “Is that seriously all you took from the car?”

Alex bites her lip. “Maybe.”

“Lex,” Tobin huffs as she attempts to crack her back.

“What?”

“You're unbelievable.”

Alex walks towards her and wraps her arms around Tobin, hugging her tightly. “I looove you,” she sing-songs before kissing Tobin's forehead.

Tobin rolls her eyes but she's smiling (it's hard not to when Alex is around, if she's being honest) and even if she does have to carry everything, and plan it all, and pack half of Alex’s things for her, it’s definitely worth it for the smiles Alex gives her.

 

---

 

“What do you mean you can’t set up the tent?” Tobin asks, dropping the last of the bags with a sigh of relief.

“I can’t, ” Alex replies, grabbing one of the poles that launched back to nearly hit her in the face. “It’s impossible.”

“Lex,” Tobin chuckles, stepping closer. “Yes, you can.”

“Obviously not.” Alex drops the pole with a sigh.

“Haven’t you been camping before?”

“Yeah, like, in an RV. Like a civilized individual.”

“But we borrowed this tent from your parents.” Tobin begins to pace across the area for their campground to kick away rocks and smooth out the sand.

“They bought it when you asked if they had one,” Alex laughs and begins to help, shaking out the tarp.

Tobin looks to Alex, dropping her jaw. “You’re kidding.”

“No,” Alex laughs. “Right before they came down for the weekend, when you called my mom to ask if they had a tent they could bring, she went and bought one. The air mattresses, too.”

“You’re kidding,” Tobin repeats, shaking her head.

“Nah,” Alex rolls her eyes and walks to Tobin, brushing the hair out of her face. “They love you, Tobs.”

“Wow,” Tobin laughs and wears a grin as Alex gives her a hug.

“Not as much as me, though,” Alex reminds her.

“Hmm, I’m not sure about that. Your parents bought me a tent. And air mattresses.”

“Oh shut up,” Alex slaps Tobin’s arm playfully as she pulls away.

“So you’ve never been camping?”

“Yes, in an RV,” she reiterates.

“Nah, Lex. I mean real camping.”

“Will you shut up and help me set this thing up?”

 

---

 

“Are we making a fire tonight?” Alex asks, leaving the tent to meet Tobin who is lying on the sand.

“If you want,” Tobin shrugs, adjusting her sunglasses but not moving from her position. “It's up to you.”

“What are my options?”

“We could go in the water, we could set up a fire--” Tobin yawns as she sits up, leaning back on her hands and glancing to Alex. “We could go out for dinner, if you want.”

“The tent’s all set up, right?”

“The mattresses are inflated and the sleeping bags are in there, so, yeah that's about it.”

“Let's get in the water,” Alex steps forward and holds her hands out to help Tobin up.

“Okay,” Tobin nods, pulling herself up and brushing the sand off of her shorts. “Our suits are in the backpack right outside of the tent,” she points to the right then twists so she can continue to brush off the sand.

“Here you go,” Alex holds out a pair of swim trunks and a bikini top to Tobin before skipping off to the bathroom near their campsite so she can change.

Tobin laughs to herself. “She could've just changed in the tent,” she says to no one in particular, stepping inside and zipping the door shut so she can change.

 

---

 

“You gave me the wrong top,” Tobin says when Alex finally returns.

“I realized. It's cool though, I like yours.” Alex looks down at the bikini top she's wearing with a shrug.

“I like mine, too,” Tobin laughs as Alex throws an arm around her waist, grazing at the bare skin on her side and pulling her towards the waves.

 

---

 

Tobin is resting on her back, floating on the water when Alex finally decides that that's boring and takes matters into her own hands.

She tackles at Tobin's torso (her hand hurts a bit when she pushes on what's left of Tobin’s abs from their unhealthy diet and lack of exercise over the last day or so) and Tobin dips underneath the water, feeling her feet dig through the sand as she pushes back up from the ground.

Tobin’s head bobs back above the water and she spits the water she accidentally sucked in at Alex. “You're the worst,” she coughs a bit and rubs at her eyes. “And a total dick.”

Alex shrugs with a smile. “Yeah, kinda. But you were being totally lame.”

“Then you could've said, Hey Tobs, stop being lame! instead of trying to drown me!”

Alex laughs because Tobin is merely faking her anger (her smile shines through her eyes), and it's always fun to tease her. “Oh yeah? What are you gonna do about it?”

Tobin smiles devilishly and launches towards Alex, pushing her under the water, then going underneath her and grabbing her legs. She comes back up for air at the same time as Alex, still holding her legs, and they're both laughing too hard to speak.

“That was your grand plan to get back at me?” Alex teases.

“You interrupted my relaxation,” Tobin tugs on Alex’s legs so she floats closer towards her. “So you're going to help me relax again.” She bounces out of the water, leaping and attempting to lie on Alex’s torso, resulting in them both dipping underneath the water and kicking up sand from the bottom.

Alex grabs Tobin’s hands and pulls her to the surface, laughing once again. “I love you,” she says, kicking her feet and wrapping an arm around Tobin's neck so that she's in an easy position for Tobin to carry her.

“I love you,” Tobin gives her a sloppy kiss on the forehead, Alex (or maybe it's just the moment, she can't be sure) tastes like salt and love and happiness, and she wraps an arm underneath her legs, beginning their trip back to the tent.

 

---

 

They dry off and change into actual clothes (which to them means Alex threw on a tshirt and some ripped jean shorts, and Tobin just threw on a shirt) so they can go out to dinner.

Tobin drives them until they're far enough from the beach that you don't see sand on the sidewalks, and the entire time Alex has Tobin's hand clasped in her own, resting on her thigh.

“That place looks good,” Alex points to a small taco stand that doesn't have anything but a building that looks like it'd fall if she took too deep of a breath near it and a few picnic tables haphazardly placed around it.

“It...looks alright.”

“It has character.”

“Where?” Tobin scoffs. “It doesn't even have parking.”

Please, Tobs?” She gestures again, this time using the hand she's holding Tobin's with and pulling both of their arms towards the window. “Let's go there,” Alex squeezes Tobin's fingers and Tobin sighs with a smile, making a U-turn so they can park on the road next to it.

 

---

 

“This is so good,” Alex nearly moans before shoving the taco in Tobin’s face, who pulls back with a laugh to dodge anything that may fall from it.

“I'll pass, Lex,” Tobin chuckles before scooping up a bite of her own food (Taco Rice, that the nice Japanese man had strongly suggested she get, and Tobin learned really all it is is a taco, but on rice instead of in a shell). “I'm set,” she takes a bite and moans herself, opening her eyes to Alex holding out her hand for Tobin’s fork expectantly. “Here,” Tobin offers, scooping some more and holding it out to Alex who takes the bite graciously.

“Thank you,” Alex says through a mouthful of rice. “I should've gotten that.”

Tobin slides the bowl a bit closer, smiling up at Alex who’s already working on her second taco. “You can have more, if you want.”

Alex swallows and wipes at her mouth with a napkin before speaking. “Have I ever mentioned you’re the best?”

Tobin nods with a smile before taking another bite. “Maybe once or twice.”

 

---

 

“I can't believe we missed the sunset,” Alex pouts, slumping onto the air mattress as Tobin zips up the tent door.

“We have all week, Lex,” Tobin turns to her with a smile. “We'll catch it one night, I promise.”

“Thanks,” Alex stands and moves so she's sitting next to Tobin instead. She leans her head against Tobin's shoulder and sighs quietly. “Today was a good day.”

“I'm glad.”

“I had fun.”

“That's good.”

“Thanks for doing this for me,” Alex moves her hand so it's laying across Tobin’s lap and she brushes her fingers against Tobin's. “I love you.”

“Anytime. I love you, Lex.”

 

---

 

“Tobin,” Alex whispers from her side on the tent.

“Yeah, Lex?”

“Are you asleep?”

“Yes, Alex,” she answers sarcastically, and Alex doesn't have to be able to see to know she rolled her eyes.

“I miss you.”

“I'm right here.”

“Yeah, but,” she pauses to search for the words. “You're not right here.”

“Lex,” Tobin sighs and reaches her hand across so she can rest it on Alex’s back. She starts tracing a soothing pattern across her shoulder blade before speaking again. “You okay?”

“Today was so great,” she whispers, almost too quiet for Tobin to hear. “I love you so much. Can't I just freeze time here, in this week, forever? With you, forever?”

Tobin's heart skips a beat and she's not sure how to answer, so she just continues rubbing Alex’s back.

“I love spending time with you. Can't it just be you and I forever?”

Yeah , Tobin thinks to herself before she can will the thought away. It could. It could be you and I. We could date and get married and buy a nice house on the outskirts of LA with a big yard and a chocolate lab like you've wanted since you were a kid. You could keep a garden and I’d mow the lawn and we could have a couple kids that we love more than anything in the world and we'd be happy. So happy. And in love. So in love. Tobin chooses not to respond because she's worried if she opens her mouth the idea of a future with Alex will be the first thing that leaves, and she can't do that. She can't say that to her best friend. She can't put Alex in that position.

“Wouldn't that be great, Tobs?” Alex asks, shifting her weight so they're facing each other.

“Yeah, Lex,” Tobin whispers. She's straining to say it and Alex can tell (her voice does that thing where it drops before the end of the sentence and sounds scratchy, that Alex always recognizes) so she scoots herself over and lies next to Tobin, wrapping her arms around Tobin’s waist.

“I love you,” she whispers, tucking her nose into Tobin’s neck and Tobin tries to ignore how Alex’s breath makes goose bumps rise over her skin.

“I love you,” Tobin agrees, falling back asleep moments later with Alex’s fingers grazing across her spine.

 

---

 

The rest of the week passes and it feels like absolute happiness, to both of them. Alex is overly affectionate (similar to the first day, but too out of the ordinary for it to be normal ) and Tobin chooses not to question it. (If all Tobin gets is this fleeting week where Alex holds her hand everywhere they go and they share ice cream cones and Alex kisses her cheek every time there's an opportunity, and sometimes when there's not, she'll take it.)

 

---

 

They waited to leave until the Sunday morning of spring break because Alex’s parents drove to meet them for dinner Friday night. Tobin offered to just let Alex go out with her parents and all three of them told her “That's silly, you're family, Tobs,” so she went with them and enjoyed a great evening. (To be fair, Tobin can't think of a single time she regretted time spent with a Morgan. Even that one time Alex talked Tobin into going with her back home for Thanksgiving and Alex’s sisters took Tobin shopping, dragging her across the mall for a multitude of hours while Alex stayed home to play Monopoly with her parents.)

-

“Tobin just go, they wanna spend time with you!”

Tobin rolled her eyes. “Why exactly are you staying home? And you know I hate shopping, Lex.”

“I'm playing Monopoly with my parents.”

“Lex, we see your parents all the time. When's the last time you hung out with your sisters?”

“When's the last time you hung out with them?”

Tobin sighed because even if it wasn't valid logic (they were Alex’s sisters, not hers) it would make sense in Alex’s head. “Fair enough,” she agreed reluctantly. (Tobin never really liked fighting with her anyway.) “Do you know where they're taking me?”

“Just the mall, I think.”

Just the mall?” Tobin sighed again. “Do you really have to play Monopoly of all games? Can't you play, I don't know, Uno or something? And meet us in twenty minutes?”

“I haven't played in forever,” Alex whined, grabbing Tobin’s hand. “Please?”

“We played last weekend.”

Alex thought for a moment, searching for a way to rephrase. “I haven't won in forever.”

Tobin frowned, but Alex was right so she resigned. “Alright,” she heard the car honk from the driveway and sighed as Alex stood from her spot at the table to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I love you,” she said and Tobin could hear the smile in her voice.

“I love you,” Tobin turned to the door and began to leave. “I'll probably see you in about a million years, if I'm still alive.”

Alex laughed as Tobin shut the door and jogged to the car.

Looking back on it, Tobin wonders if the ring of Alex’s laugh in her ears for the rest of the day is part of what made the day so great. (Alex’s laugh is her favorite sound.)

In reality, she knows it was just something about how charming all of the Morgans are. And it's always fun for Tobin to hang out with Alex’s family and see the different parts of who she is represented in someone else. (She doesn't love any of them like Alex. Tobin wonders how it was possible for all of the best things from each of Alex’s family members to end up in her, but Tobin decides she's just happy she gets the privilege of loving her.)

-

Their late departure (hosting Alex’s parents was her main excuse for not packing ahead of time, but Tobin knows she wouldn’t have packed on time either way) made for a Sunday travel day on the way there, and their conditioning the next Sunday afternoon (to make up for the break, which Tobin and Alex would definitely need) would mean a Saturday travel day on the way back, leaving them only five days in between.

Those five days are glorious.

Tobin thought she might have had a crush on Alex before-hand, but after this trip? Tobin is in love.

Tobin is in love and and all she can do is hope to God that Alex loves her too.

Alex loves Tobin, she really really does. She thinks for a brief moment that maybe she's in love with Tobin.

The thought scares her.

Alex looks at Tobin and her heart flutters and Tobin’s smile makes her smile and Tobin’s eyes are her favorite color.

But Tobin’s her best friend. Alex doesn't want to change what feels so right . She can't risk losing Tobin as a friend just because she's not sure of her feelings. (She's pretty sure. But she's also scared, and Alex never dealt with fear well.)

 

---

 

The drive home isn't awkward, it's wonderful.

Alex holds Tobin's hand and they sing with the radio and the wind blows through their hair and they find that they're happiest when it's just the two of them.

Tobin rests her left hand on the steering wheel and her right hand is held in Alex's.

Alex flits between controlling the radio or recalling a memory from the week that she loved or kissing Tobin's cheek.

They get stuck in traffic on the way home and Tobin audibly sighs.

“What's wrong?” Alex asks, squeezing her hand.

“It's hot, I'm tired, and we won't get home for another hour and a half at this rate.” Tobin rests her head in the hand that was previously being used for the steering wheel.

“I don't know about you, but,” Alex pulls Tobin's hand to her mouth and places a kiss on the ring. “I'm okay if it takes a little longer. I don't want this week to end.”

Tobin turns to Alex who's looking at her with love and a hint of something she can't place in Alex's eyes. (Hurt? Worry? Fear?) “Me either, Lex,” Tobin squeezes her hand. “You alright?”

Alex shrugs, slumping back in her seat. “I'm gonna miss this.”

“What?”

“It being just us.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Tobin doesn't know what else to say (she has a few ideas including I love you, I'll miss this too, and I wish it could be just us forever , that come to mind, but she doesn't mention them) so she just stays silent until the traffic begins to clear when she mutters “Finally,” under her breath.

Alex squeezes her hand and readjusts to change how their fingers fit together.

Her grip tightens and it feels as if she's hanging onto Tobin for dear life.

(It's odd, Tobin always thought that when it came to things like this, she'd be the one more scared to leave. But here they are.)

“I love you,” Alex says nearly every ten minutes.

Tobin replies with a simple “And I love you, Lex,” each time without fail. Sometimes it's accompanied by a reassuring smile or blown kiss, if the road traffic allows.

 

---

 

“I'll miss you,” Alex says as they turn on the road to their house.

“I'll be right here, Lex.”

“It won't be the same.”

Little does Alex know how right she is.

 

---

 

Tobin doesn't want to admit it, but things do change.

The stolen touches aren't as long and the cheek kisses aren't as frequent and the love isn't as vibrant.

The love is never the same as that week.

Neither of them know it at the time, but spring break, sophomore year of college, will always be their week.

 

---

 

They walk in the door (Alex carrying Tobin’s bag and Tobin with Alex’s, because Alex's is heavier and when she smiled at Tobin and said Pleeease? Tobin found herself powerless to say no) and drop the bags in the opening walkway.

“This was an amazing week, Tobs,” Alex pulls her into a tight hug, and Tobin feels herself melt at Alex’s touch. “I had so much fun. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” Tobin whispers into  the side of Alex’s head.

Alex pulls back after placing a long kiss on the corner of Tobin’s mouth. “So much?”

It's not really a question, but Tobin confirms anyway. “So much.” Tobin sighs, looking at Alex’s eyes, then the floor, then her eyes again. “I--” I'm in love with you. The words catch in her throat and suddenly the room is hot and she can't breathe.

“What, Tobs?”

“I was gonna say, I think we should get some rest, before tomorrow,” she lies once regaining her composure.

Due to traffic and a late departure from the campsite (Alex took a long time to repack, even though Tobin attempted to convince her to not unpack in the first place), they hadn't arrived at their apartment until after dark and at this point it's nearly 7:30pm.

“You're right,” Alex nods sadly, looking to the ground. She leans forward to rest her head on Tobin's chest. “Lay down with me?”

“Do you want me to?”

“Of course.”

Tobin nods. “Sure, Lex.”

They begin to move to Alex's bedroom when Tobin thinks she feels an ounce of courage.

“Wait,” she calls to Alex who's a few steps in front of her, their arms stretched between them to hold hands as they walk down the hallway.

Alex turns around expectantly and tilts her head to the side. “Yeah, Tobs?”

Tobin feels her voice catch in her throat and realizes she cannot do this. She can't risk losing their friendship, she can't risk hurting or scaring her best friend, and she realizes why she's so utterly petrified at the thought of admitting she loves Alex.

She shakes her head no and pushes her feelings down for not the first, not the last, and not even the most painful time, but one of the most important times she ever does it, and she knows why.

She can't risk losing Alex.

 

-------

 

June 2011. A party celebrating recent grads. The day Alex meets Servando.

 

“Tobiiin,” Alex whines, walking over to to the table and threading their fingers together.

Tobin looks up from her laptop and tries to ignore how warm Alex feels. “Yeah, Lex?”

“Please come to the party with me?” She lets go of Tobin's hand and picks up her laptop, setting it on the table.

“I was actually doing homework on that, y'know.”

Alex sits on the table next to Tobin's chair and nods, “But now you're talking to me. And that's more important.”

“Oh really now?” Tobin smiles and stands up as Alex slides her arms around her waist, pulling her into a hug. Tobin tries not to let herself relish in the intimate contact (things have always been intimate with them, they're best friends) but she fails. She fails miserably.

“Always,” she whispers into Tobin's chest. Alex lets go and Tobin backs away so she can get off the table. “Come to the party with me?”

Tobin sighs (but she's smiling) and nods as Alex puts her hands on her arms and slides them down so they're around Tobin's wrists. “I suppose, if you really want me to.”

Alex's eyes brighten tenfold (saying yes to Alex is always worth the smile on her face) and she kisses Tobin on the cheek. “You're the best,” she says as she pulls away.

Tobin smirks. “I mean, obviously.”

 

---

 

“We don't even know anyone here,” Tobin says as they walk through the door.

“That's the point, Tobin, to meet new people.” She guides them through the loud room and they settle next to each other on a couch.

After about an hour of talking to only the people that would pass by them (mostly trying to get in their pants), Tobin decides to tease Alex for her words upon their arrival.

“I thought you said we were here to meet new people,” Tobin jokes, leaning forward and taking a sip of her drink. (She lives to regret those words.0

Alex retracts her arm from around Tobin's waist and rests it on Tobin’s thigh instead (she tries to ignore it). “You're so right,” she picks up her drink and stands. “Come with me?”

Tobin shakes her head. “I'm okay. You go have fun.”

Alex leans down and kisses her on the cheek. “I love you! Have fun.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Sure, Lex. Be safe, okay?”

“Always,” Alex smiles and starts to turn before turning back. “And Tobin Heath, don't forget,” she grabs Tobin's hand and kisses it (it's probably the alcohol, Alex is always over-affectionate after a drink or two), causing Tobin's stomach to flip only the way Alex can make it. “The only girl you're taking home tonight is me,” she winks and Tobin's heart starts to flutter. She curses herself for feeling this way.

“Of course, Lex,” she smiles as Alex lets go of her hand. “I can't wait.” (Joking with your best friend like this is normal, isn't it? She tells herself it is.)

 

--- 

 

Alex stumbles back over to Tobin nearly two hours later with much more alcohol coursing through her system. “Tobs,” she slumps down on the couch next to her. “How was your night?”

Tobin smiles as Alex snuggles into her side. “How about we get going, Lex? It's getting late.”

Alex nods, her sense of time gone as soon as her third drink was.

They stand up, and Tobin puts her hand on Alex’s lower back to steady her. They start their walk home (they walked there, and sober, it took hardly five minutes), and stop when they reach a practice field. Alex smiles into Tobin’s neck (she's a bit hunched over, making it so that they're in an intimate position and Tobin wonders if it's on purpose, just to torture her) and Tobin pulls them to the side of the sidewalk, reaching a gate.

“Where are we, Tobs?” Alex whispers.

She simply grins. “Practice field, Lex.”

Alex shakes her head. “I am too,” she hesitates. “Tired to practice.”

Tobin laughs, “No, Lex. The stars tonight. They're beautiful.” Like you, she thinks, but keeps that part to herself.

“Oh,” she nods and takes Tobin's hands in her own. “Let's go then,” she smiles as she pushes them through the gate.

They lay on the grass silently (except for when Alex said “my hands are cold” but Tobin's only response was wrapping her own hands around them) and enjoying each other's company. After what feels like forever (Tobin could've laid there quietly with Alex until the sun came up) Alex breaks the silence.

“I met a boy,” she whispers.

Tobin almost doesn't hear it (she doesn't want to hear it). “Hmm?”

Alex turns so she's facing Tobin. They're still holding hands, and Tobin is studying the stars as if her life depends on it. “I met a boy, he was nice.”

Tobin nods and Alex takes it as an invitation.

“He's a first year law student,” she coos. She continues describing him until coming along to a certain detail that makes Tobin's heart feel like it's breaking apart. “He kissed me softly, I liked it.”

I would kiss you softly, too, Tobin thinks to herself before she can stop it.

Alex raises a hand and cups Tobin's cheek, “Are you okay?”

Tobin nods and Alex can feel her jaw clench with it.

“I mean, you're always quiet when we look at the stars, but you seem,” she pauses. “I don't know.”

“Must be the alcohol,” she lies.

Alex laughs. “Yours or mine?”

“Both?” Tobin sits up and Alex rises next to her. 

“Maybe,” Alex smiles and lets it pass. “You'd like him.”

Tobin struggles to take a breath. Is this what it feels like? To have your heart ripped out? “Maybe.”

“He gave me his number.”

Tobin stands up and brushes off her jeans. “That's cool.”

“I'm gonna call him,” Alex waits for Tobin to respond but she doesn't. “Is that okay?”

“I don't control you, Lex.”

“I know, but I care about your opinion.”

“I want you to be happy.” With me.

Alex smiles, even if it's not quite the answer she was searching for. “You too, Tobs.”

Tobin nods. “Thanks, Lex.”

“Let's go home, okay?” Alex wraps her arm around Tobin’s waist and leans into her side, even though she's sobered up enough that she doesn't need the support.

Tobin nods. “Yeah, okay, Lex.” She tries to ignore the way Alex’s touch burns, the way her words about some boy seared into her chest. She tries to ignore that she's in love with Alex Morgan. She really, really does. But she just can't.

She's not sure she ever could.

 

-------

 

January 2012. An away game. The weekend Tobin forges a friendship that will help carry her through thick and thin.

 

Lizzie boards the bus to take them to Berkeley and scans the seats. She pushes her way past a few girls that are already asleep with their feet hanging out in the aisle or standing in an attempt put a bag in the racks above their heads.

She moves to take her usual spot near the back next to her friend, Phoebe, two rows behind the two people everyone on the team looks up to.

Tobin and Alex.

Best friends. Stars of the team. They do everything together. Score together, live together, win championships together, go out to dinner together. Hell, they even play cards on long bus rides together, crammed into the seats so they can sit next to each other. If Alex wasn't straight and dating some guy (Alex says he's sweet, nearly everyone who's met him thinks she could do better) in his second year of law school, she'd swear they're in love. (She doesn't realize the irony of that until later.)

They're a couple months into the season (including training), and they finally have their first away game. (There's a rumor Lizzie’ll get the start. She's buzzing the whole way there, much to the annoyance of Phoebe.)

 

---

 

They arrive in the lobby and their coaches list off room assignments. Alex and Tobin are squeezing to fit on the same chair in the lobby (Alex is mostly sitting on Tobin's lap), whispering to each other until they hear their names.

Alex hops up when Amanda, their head coach, says “Alex and Shiloh,” and they both grab their room keys then start up a conversation.

Shiloh leaves right after the next names are called (choosing to follow through with the coach’s suggestion of Once you have your key, you can head to your room and settle in. Team dinner at 6:30, meet in the lobby. Don't be late.) but Alex sticks around, waiting for Tobin.

The last names called are “Lizzie and Tobin,” and Lizzie’s heart does a flip.

This is Tobin Heath and she hasn't even spoken to her and they're roommates . (She's excited as hell.)

Lizzie grabs her key faster than Tobin does and heads up without more than a simple wave, which Tobin doesn't really notice anyway, because she's too busy focusing on Alex who's walking over so they can head to their rooms together.

Lizzie’s in the room before Tobin is and when Tobin finally enters, she quickly tries to think of something to say.

Tobin doesn't even notice her for a moment. She opens the door then wheels her suitcase in the room, still turned to face something Lizzie can't see past Tobin.

“Yeah, bye, Lex,” Tobin says, beginning to step into the room. “I'll see you at dinner.”

Lizzie can see that she's dribbling a soccer ball and tries not to laugh because it's Tobin, of course she is.

Tobin attempts to shut the door behind her, but trips over the soccer ball because she's still straining her neck to see Alex disappear behind her own door instead of looking to see where she's going. She falls and hits the ground, stopping the door from shutting and bursting into laughter as soon as she hits the ground.

All of Lizzie’s worries about how to approach her go away as she jogs across the room, sliding Tobin’s suitcase away and holding out a hand. “Dude, you okay?”

Tobin's still laughing as she takes Lizzie's hand and pulls herself up. “Yeah, I'm fine,” she brushes herself off and straightens her black with gray and floral print Adidas tshirt. “You're Lizzie, right? Freshman? Striker?”

“Yep,” Lizzie nods with a smile and moves across the room so Tobin can do more than stand in the doorway. “And you're Tobin.”

“That I am,” she says with a laugh. “It's nice to actually meet you, we’re gonna have fun these next couple days, I can feel it.” She holds her hand out but for high-five instead of a handshake and Lizzie suddenly decides that Tobin’s probably her new favorite person.

“Yeah?” Lizzie smiles and Tobin nods.

“Totally dude.”

 

---

 

They walk down to the lobby together for dinner and meet up with Alex who's already there. Phoebe comes down a few moments later and walks over to them, meeting both Tobin and Alex a bit more formally than before.

The four of them sit next to each other for dinner, and end up getting shushed multiple times for their laughter throughout the night.

“Too bad we couldn't be roommates,” Alex says to Phoebe with a laugh as they all walk back to the elevator.

“I know,” Phoebe agrees as they board, and Tobin hits the 3 button.

 

---

 

Lizzie invites Phoebe to go with her and Alex to the beach after the game the next day, but Phoebe declines, opting to hang with some other friends (and attempt at some homework) back at the hotel. (Lizzie's excited to hang out with Alex and Tobin, but she has to admit she's nervous she'll be a third wheel. Alex and Tobin prove her wrong.)

 

---

 

“You're pretty cool, kid,” Tobin says to her before their game the next day. “Congrats on the start.”

Lizzie grins as she tightens the laces on her cleats. “Thanks,” she places her foot back on the ground and looks to Tobin. “I'm super excited.” She hesitates for a moment, biting her lip. “And nervous. So nervous.”

Tobin laughs and claps her on the shoulder. “It'll be great, try not to let the nerves get to you. Find something that helps.”

“What helps you?”

Tobin shrugs. “I like to just walk around and talk to people. Gets me in a good mindset, but I don't have a huge problem with nerves.” She gestures to Alex who’s curled in her locker space. “Alex zones out and listens to some music. Just gotta try things out till one works.”

Lizzie nods. “That makes sense. How soon do we go on?”

Tobin looks to her watch before remembering she's already removed it for the game and glances along the locker walls. “Ten minutes, it looks like.

“Alright,” Lizzie takes a deep breath and a sip of water. “I can do this.”

“Hell yeah you can.”

Almost ten minutes pass and Tobin and Lizzie chat a little bit until the coach pokes her head in with a warning of “One minute, girls!”

“I can't do this,” Lizzie says softly, rising from the bench as Tobin does and squeezing her water bottle.

“Yeah you can, I believe in you!”

“No, I--” Lizzie cuts herself off and leans over a trash can in the corner of the room.

“Dude,” Tobin hesitates, looking for someone to help but everyone else has either already left or is still zoned out. “You alright?”

“Yeah,” Lizzie nods. “A lot better, actually.”

Tobin laughs and picks up a fresh water bottle as they walk out. She wraps an arm around Lizzie’s shoulders and hands the water bottle over. “See? I told you you'd be fine.”

Lizzie laughs. “Yeah, thanks.”

“Maybe we can just do it a little less, uhm, messy next time, though.”

Lizzie laughs again with a nod as they head through the tunnel. “Yeah, I think we can pull that off.”

 

-------

 

May 2013. The night before the draft announcement, Tobin and Alex’s Senior Year. The day Tobin and Alex’s futures change forever.

 

“Oh come on, Lex,” Tobin hops out of the tree she'd been scaling and lands next to Alex, who’s sitting on the ground. “You're kidding, right?”

“Tobs,” Alex looks up at her with a smile, sweet but stained with tears. “I wish I was.”

“Alex, this was your dream, our dream!”

“I know, Tobin. I know,” Alex sighs and shuffles the textbooks on her lap. “But dreams change, y'know?”

“No, I don't know. What are you saying?” Tobin locks her jaw and shakes her head in disbelief.

“I don't want to go pro, Tobs. I want to get married, have a life! I want to be happy.”

“You could be happy! With me, we could be happy!” Tobin bites her lip and hopes Alex didn't pick up on the double meaning.

“I know, Tobin, but I think it's time,” Alex stands up and places her hand on Tobin’s arm.

“Time for what?”

“Time we start living real lives, and stop pretending we can be professional soccer players!”

"We're not pretending, Lex, we could be!” Tobin pulls away and sat down, leaning against the base of the tree.

“I'm putting my statement out tomorrow,” Alex states calmly. She leans down next to Tobin. “I don't want to be on the draft.”

“How can you even know you love him?” Tobin nearly yells, standing back up. “You never see him! He's always too busy for you, too busy with school and internships.”

“He's not too busy for me, he loves me!”

"How can you know, Lex?" Tobin drops her eyes to the ground. She hates fighting with Alex. Always hates fighting with her, but she hates the thought of losing her more.

“He's letting me choose,” Alex says softly.

Tobin feels her heart drop. “What?”

Alex looks up from the ground. “He's letting me choose. He said I can go be a pro soccer player, he’d support me. He told me we can do long distance, that he'll love me no matter what it takes. He promised he'd be at every game, he promised he would make it work for us.” Alex takes a deep breath and stands from her spot at the base of the tree. “That's how I knew to choose him.”

Tobin fights the tears pricking her eyes and turns away. “No, I-- Okay, Lex. I have to go.”

“No, Tobs,” Alex called out, but she was already gone, riding down the street on her longboard, weaving through cars with a lack of safety that makes Alex’s heartbeat quicken.

 

---

 

As Tobin arrives at the apartment she used to share with Alex, her right middle finger, the finger she wears the ring Alex gave her on, burns. She stumbles down the hall and into the room that used to be Alex's. (Technically it's a guest room, but no one’s been in there since Alex moved out besides Lizzie, and all she did was clean.)

Tobin stares at the empty room, and clenches her jaw. There's an ache in her chest and tears streaming down her face, but those are only physical feelings. Emotionally, she feels numb.

She pulls the ring off her finger and blinks away her tears so she can read the My one love. inscribed on the inside. She throws the ring and hears it hit the wall and rattle on the floor.

She doesn't know where it ends up. She doesn't care.

-

She stopped wearing it once Alex and Servando were official, but Alex questioned her about it and Tobin felt guilty. The next time they saw each other, Tobin was wearing it and Alex laughed, grabbing Tobin's hand and kissing the ring. She reminds Tobin that the ring can stand for anything, but Tobin feels like it's a betrayal to wear it for anything other than Alex.

-

Tears were brimming her eyes the whole ride home but she managed to hold them back until this moment, and Tobin collapses on Alex’s old bed, crying harder than she ever has before. The sheets smell like Alex (Even though they've been changed. The whole room has been cleaned. Tobin wonders if the smell is a trick of the mind.) and that just makes Tobin cry harder.

Lizzie comes over an hour later, and enters the room. She sits next to Tobin and strokes her back soothingly without even saying anything. (She had three missed calls and a text from Alex all asking if she'd heard from Tobin by the time her date ended.)

Lizzie sits Tobin up and coaxes her into the living room. They sit on the couch and talk about Alex and soccer and their futures. Tobin makes a few life-changing decisions (Lizzie doesn't bother trying to talk her down, there's no point) and Lizzie helps her remember that life isn't over.  

 

---

 

Lizzie goes back into Alex’s old room (doesn't matter how much time passes, it'll always be Alex's) later that night and finds the ring because she knows Tobin will want it again eventually. (When the day comes that Lizzie finally gives it back to her, Tobin’s never been so grateful in her life.)

 

-------

 

The Next Morning

BREAKING NEWS : NCAA Women's Soccer Star Tobin Heath Declines Chance for Soccer Career

 

It had been a bogus article, and Tobin despised it. It played up her knee injury from a few months before, stating that The Great Tobin Heath is incapable of facing the fear of reinjury and created rumors about her moving overseas instead of staying on home ground. (She had discussed possibilities of joining a club in France, but that went off the table after the visual growth in NWSL.) What bothered her most was the amount of time she read the words wasted potential or a variation thereof.

One of the only things she hated more than the article itself was that her mom had insisted on framing it, putting it on a shelf with her awards littered across it. Her mom loved it , claiming that, “My baby is growing up,” and was “finally deciding to settle down on a more stable, less dangerous career.”

Her sisters had warned her beforehand, telling Tobin from the beginning that by doing this, by falling in love with Alex, she would end up giving up everything. They were right, and as soon as Tobin announced to her coaches that she wanted to be left off of the draft, they both received texts from their baby sister saying, I’m sorry. You were right.

 

-------

 

June 2014. Dress Shopping. The day Tobin forces herself to, as well as she can, be the best friend Alex needs rather than the lover she wants to be.

 

“Do you like it, Tobin?”

She hates it. God, does she hate it. She hates that she put herself in this situation. She hates that Alex is marrying Servando instead of her. But most of all, she hates lying to Alex.

“You look beautiful, Lex,” Tobin replies with a half smile.

Here she is in the middle of a bridal shop, helping Alex pick out her wedding dress. The wedding is still six months away, but every day closer feels like another weight pressing against her chest. She hasn’t seen Alex happier, minus when they spent spring break together sophomore year. That was another time. A time when Tobin could have (should have) told Alex how she felt, before Alex met Servando a few weeks later. But she hadn’t and she regrets it. (She's not sure if she'll ever stop regretting it.) So now, she has to play the role of supportive best friend, while she watches the woman she loves fall more in love with the man she’s going to marry.

Of course Tobin would be lying if she said she isn’t happy for Alex. She’s more than happy. But she would be happier if she was the one marrying Alex instead of Servando.

“I think I’m going to try another one,” Alex crinkles her nose at her reflection. “I don’t think this is the one.”

The dress or Servando? Tobin thinks to herself bitterly. “Okay.”

Alex carefully climbs off of the platform, bunching the material together as she shuffles off towards the back of the store.  She returns a few moments later, wearing a new dress. Tobin can see she is practically vibrating with excitement as she steps onto the platform again, twisting her body to see as much of the dress as she can in the mirror.

“I love it,” she announces, turning to Tobin. “I think this is it.”

Tobin nods, swallowing hard at the sight of Alex in the dress. How jealous can she be? Yearning over her best friend that she doesn’t stand a chance with. Not when she has Servando. She has to blink back the tears that prick her eyes. “As long as you’re happy.”

 

---

 

December 31st. The day of Alex’s wedding. The day Tobin has to say no to what she's wanted for so long, because she knows what's right.

 

“What if this isn't right?” Alex pulls at where the dress is around her waist as she looks in the mirror. “The dress doesn't fit right. Is this a sign?”

“Lex.” Tobin stands from her chair on the side of the room. “It looks perfect, you look perfect.”

“You always say that.”

“It's always true.”

Alex nods silently.

Tobin walks up behind Alex and almost reaches out for her arm, but stops herself. “This isn't about the dress, is it?”

Alex shakes her head, looking to the ground.

“What is it, Lex?”

Alex mumbles something, still not looking to Tobin and Tobin walks in front of the mirror so they're facing each other.

“Hmm?”

Alex looks up to Tobin with tears brimming her eyes. “What if this isn't right?”

Tobin watches as a tear falls and then can't help herself as she pulls Alex into a tight hug. “Hey, Lex.” She rubs her back and turns to press a kiss to her temple. “This is what you've wanted for a long time, isn't it?”

“Yeah, but--”

“No buts.” Tobin pulls away, holding Alex's hands and looking into her eyes.

“Do you think it's right?”

Tobin attempts to look indifferent, but she can't hide the way she clenches her jaw. “It's what you want.”

“That's not what I asked.”

Tobin squeezes Alex's hands before letting go of them. “If it's what you want, it's right.”

“But what if I want--” Alex falters. You. “Someone else.”

“Lex.” Tobin grins and shakes her head. “Servando's a good man, and I've watched you two fall in love with each other, and I know it's what you want.”

Alex nods slowly. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Chapter Text

December 31st, 2014. The night of Alex’s wedding. The day Tobin meets someone who will permanently change her life, for the better.

 

“To the Bride and Groom!” Servando’s best man, Brek, raises his glass, signalling for the rest of the guests to follow suit.

Tobin raises her glass of champagne and nods along before standing up and smoothing her dress shirt with her free hand. She takes in a deep breath and exhales slowly in an attempt to calm her racing heart before speaking. She’s always hated speaking in front of large crowds.

“Alex and Servando… where do I even start?” she chuckles, clearing her throat. “I’ve known Alex since we were teenagers. We met playing soccer together and then we went off to college together. We had our whole lives figured out--until she met Servando, that is.” Tobin smirks, catching Servando’s eye. She tries desperately to push down the hurt she feels in her chest and prays that no one can see it in her features. "These two," Tobin breathes out, shaking her head with a grin on her face. "Are truly made for each other. Very few people find such a beautiful, true, and deep love so young. And even fewer let it grow and develop into something as beautiful as you two have. I wish you two nothing but the best, and forever happiness. One thing is certain, I haven’t seen Alex happier than when she’s with him. I’ve watched them fall in love with each other and I can see just how meant to be the two of you are. And as Alex’s best friend, all I ask is that you take care of her, Serv. Continue to make her happy. Continue to fall in love with her every day, even when she steals the extra blankets when it’s cold.” She looks to Alex, making eye contact and smiling at her, wider than she has in months. “I love you Alex. And I love you, Serv,” she continues, sweeping her gaze to Servando. “Make sure she’s happy for me.”

Servando is beaming as he nods to Tobin, mouthing, “I will.”

“To Alex and Servando, and their happily ever after,” her voice cracks and she wipes the tears falling as the guests cheer in agreement and sip at their drinks.

Alex rises from her seat and pulls Tobin into a tight hug, careful not to spill her champagne.

“I love you too, Tobs,” she breathes into her ear. It takes everything in her not to break down in Alex’s arms then, and by some miracle, when Alex pulls back, she manages to look like she’s handling herself.

Alex is crying and Tobin sets down her glass so she can wipe away the tears with her thumbs. “Good thing you used waterproof mascara.”

“I knew it would come in handy,” she laughs.

The crackling of speakers pull the two from their small moment. “It’s time for the couple’s first dance,” the DJ announces, welcomed by cheers and clapping from the wedding guests.

“Get out there,” Tobin smiles, gently shoving Alex towards the dance floor where Servando is waiting for her.

She watches Servando light up as he looks at his wife. Alex wraps her arms around his neck and smiles at him, eyes sparkling as the song softly begins to play. Everyone is entranced by the beautiful couple but all Tobin can feel is the familiar pull in her stomach. She needs to get out of here - soon - before she breaks down completely. Servando has everything she has ever wanted. It’s supposed to be her wedding, her first dance, her wife .

Tobin ends up in the bathroom, standing in front of the sink and staring into the mirror, beads of water rolling down her face from when she splashed it on herself just moments before.

“Get over yourself, Heath” she mutters. She knows she can’t let herself pine over Alex forever. She’s known this day was coming. Hell, she’s had over a year to prepare for it.   But she was the one that helped Alex plan the wedding. If anything, it’s more her wedding than it is Servando’s. He had let Alex decide everything. And as her maid of honor, Tobin had helped make every decision with her. She helped pick the venue. She helped choose the flowers. She helped Alex find the perfect wedding dress. What had he done?

Tobin sighs and wipes her face with a paper towel before exiting the restroom. She chances a glance at the dance floor and sees Alex dancing with her father who is looking down at her with pure admiration and pride. She smiles to herself, watching Alex and her father sharing such a personal moment together. She really does love the Morgans like her own family.

Instead of sticking around the dance floor, Tobin makes her way to the bar and plops down on one of the stools before she orders a rum and coke, deciding that the best cure for her broken heart would be none other than the burn of alcohol. Halfway through her drink, a brunette sits down in the empty space next to her.

“You look awfully glum for being at a wedding,” the stranger chides.   

“Yeah, well,” Tobin glances down at her glass before looking up at the girl. “I don’t know where the beer pong table is.” She scans the venue before looking back with a shrug. “And nobody’s doing body shots.”

The girl orders herself a drink. “For some reason, Servando doesn’t strike me as a body shots type of guy.”

Tobin nods, cracking into a smile, “Well, believe it or not, Alex is a body shots type of girl.” She smirks at the thought of what happens to Alex once she’s had one too many drinks and there’s tequila nearby.

“What about you?”

“What about me what?”

“Are you a body shots type of girl?”

Tobin laughs and shakes her head, “Don’t you think you should get my name before asking me if I like body shots?”

The girl nods as a smile spreads over both of their faces, “Fair enough.” She sticks out her hand. “I’m Christen, I work with Servando.”

Tobin nods as she takes the girl’s hand. “Hi, nice to meet you. My name’s Tobin and I’m the best friend of the bride.”

“Nice speech, by the way,” Christen takes a drink before turning back to Tobin.

“Aren’t you like, here with someone?” Tobin asks, raising an eyebrow.

Christen shrugs. “Yeah. You’re the maid of honor right?”

Tobin nods. “Kind of why I gave the speech.”

“Well you know Julie, the wedding planner?”

“Yeah, we met a few times, I think.”

“We’re here together.” Christen finishes off her drink and flags down the bartender for another.

“Not happy about it?”

“No, I’m-- We’re--” Christen sighs. “We’ve been dating for awhile, so don’t think I’m awkwardly avoiding her or anything,” she laughs as Tobin nods, attention focused solely on her. “She’s just always so busy , and she’s kind of stressed out trying to make sure everything is going well.”

“Ah,” Tobin nods with a small smile. “Well if it helps,” she glances over to Alex and Servando, “I’m pretty sure they think it’s perfect.”

“So are you here with anyone?”

Tobin shakes her head. “Nah, I’m flyin’ solo tonight.”

“Guess I’ll just have to keep you company then,” Christen teases.

“Guess you will,” Tobin agrees with a smile. “So do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Well, now that I know your name, do you like body shots?” Tobin smiles as Christen tries to hide her blush by staring down into her drink.

“I’ve been known to enjoy more unconventional methods of consuming my alcohol, yes,” she smiles up at Tobin. “How about you?”

Tobin nods as a grin spreads over her face. “Hey, word it as classy as you want, they’re still body shots.”

 

---

 

Christen looks up at Tobin. “So what do you do?”

“I'm a trainer at UCLA,” Tobin turns so they’re facing each other instead of facing the bar.

“That's cool,” she nods with fake enthusiasm. “Did you play sports or something?”

Tobin laughs. “Yeah, soccer. I was gonna go pro, but--” She hesitates for a moment before continuing. “I decided not to.”

“Oh really? Why not?”

Tobin clenches her jaw. “I blew my knee out beginning of senior year.” She sighs. “It sucked.”

Christen turns back to her drink and takes a sip, noticing the way Tobin tenses up as she begins to talk about it. “Was there any other reason?”

Tobin lets out a bitter laugh as she waves over the bartender for yet another drink and Christen realizes she's lost track of how much alcohol Tobin has consumed so far, but it’s definitely a lot.

She looks away from Christen and down at the glass, letting her tension melt away. Tobin wraps her hand around the new glass (a shot of vodka) and knocks it back. “I was in love,” she admits through gritted teeth.

“Was?” Christen asks cautiously, afraid to pry but dying to know.

“Am. I am in love,” Tobin sighs and hangs her head. “But I’m working on it. Ever been in love?”

Christen glances through the crowds until her eyes fall on Julie who’s laughing with one of the guests. “Yeah, I think so.”

Tobin nods as she lets out a laugh. “Oh trust me, you’d know. Being in love is a magical feeling.” She looks at Christen so they’re eye level. “When you see them, you’ll feel fireworks in your chest and your stomach will do a flip and your toes will tingle,” she smiles as she notices Christen hanging on her every word. “Their touch will feel like fire, in only the best way possible, and when you look at them, you’ll question just how God was capable of making such a perfect human being. But they won’t really be perfect, and you know that. Maybe they’ll steal the covers or they brush their teeth too close to the mirror or they never put their shoes away, but you love them anyway. Because all those little things make them them , and that’s a whole kind of magic on it’s own,” Tobin smiles as she looks down at her drink before bunching her eyebrows together.  “And when you do feel that way,” she looks wistfully over to Alex who is dancing with yet another guest. “Make damn sure they love you back, or you’ll end up throwing away your life, just for a chance to spend it by their side.”

Christen follows her gaze and notices who it’s focused on. She gives a shy nod and immediately feels that just by sitting there she’s intruding on some private moment between the two of them. “What happened?” She nearly whispers.

Tobin looks back at her. “I messed up. I messed up my whole life, for her.”

Maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe it’s the loneliness, or maybe it’s just the damn sparkle in Christen’s eyes, but something in that moment possesses her to tell Christen - a girl she had just met at the bar hardly an hour ago - everything.

 

---

 

Sometimes Tobin has trouble sleeping at night, wondering just how much she lost by giving up her career for Alex. She has to admit to herself though, everyday she goes to UCLA and works with the players on their technicality, she feels comfort in the fact that she is training, shaping, and growing the next generation of women’s soccer. She also likes to believe that everything happens for a reason, and maybe the reason for her staying and training at UCLA is a good one. (She emphasizes that part when she tells Christen the story.)

 

---

 

The night continues on, Christen listening ever-so intently as Tobin talks about her hardships, Tobin hanging on Christen’s every word when discussing her job or how she and Julie met. There was a bit of awkward silence, but it was quickly broken by one of them ordering another drink and cracking a joke or delving into another conversation. Everything flows with them and they pass from conversation to conversation so seamlessly, it kind of amazes the both of them.

"What's your New Year's Resolution?" Christen asks, looking over to Tobin who is still trying to catch her breath from laughing at a joke.

Tobin takes a deep breath and looks up from her drink. She glances over to the dance floor and sees Alex with a giant smile plastered across her face, catching her eye. She returns the smile in spite of the ache in her chest (Alex being happy is, admittedly, all she's ever wanted). "I'm gonna get over her. I'm gonna let her be happy, I'll branch out. I'll be me for me again."

Christen smiles and places an arm on Tobin's forearm. "That's incredible, I know you can do it."

Tobin nods. "I'll figure something out. What's yours?"

Christen glances around, looking for Julie who is nowhere to be found, probably off hinting to some other couple about tying the knot. "I wanna fall in love. Real, true love that makes my heart fill with warmth and my toes tingle. I want to find my happy ending."

Tobin nods with a smile and takes another sip of her drink. "Good luck with that one."

"Why?"

"Love's not a choice, y'know. Hell,” she laughs in spite of herself. If it was, don't you think I would've stopped a long time ago? You can't make it, you can't stop it, you can't choose it. Love is raw and real, or forced and fake."

Christen nods as she really listens to the words. "Do you thinks she loves him?"

"Who, Alex?" Tobin looks back over to the dance floor as Servando spins her. She clenches her jaw. "I know she does."
"Does he love her?"

Tobin smiles, one of those rare smiles that's a toothy grin and a heartfelt expression all at once. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life."

 

---

 

Christen looks at her watch, noticing it’s just three minutes until midnight. "Sorry, I should go find my girlfriend, it was really nice talking to you though."

Tobin's smile softens as she realizes that Christen is leaving. "That's alright. Good luck with 2015, I hope you fall in love," she chuckles as she lifts her drink to Christen.

“I'm sorry you don't have anyone to kiss at midnight," she says sympathetically.

"I'll be alright," Tobin waves the bartender over. "I'll take one shot of vodka, please."

The bartender nods as he obliges, pulling out a shot glass and filling it nearly to the brim.

"I'm kissing this tonight," she says with a wry smile. "Go find your girl, go be happy."

Christen nods and rises from her seat at the bar. "Can I find you here after midnight?"

Tobin’s smile grows again. "Not like I have anywhere else to be."

 

---

 

Christen finds Julie, half asleep on a bench right outside of the tent where everyone is gathered. "Hey, it's almost midnight," she whispers, reaching for her arm and trying to pull her up.

Julie rises off of the bench and sleepily follows Christen as the countdown starts. "Happy New Year baby," Julie mumbles, leaning forward as the shouts reach zero.

"Happy New Year," Christen whispers against her lips. When she pulls away, she feels doubt filling her stomach. She didn't feel the fireworks or the warmth or anything Tobin had talked about, but she smiles shyly and gives Julie a hug anyway.

"Are we ready to go, then?" Julie asks.

Christen sighs because of course Julie wants to leave already. "One second, let me go grab my jacket," she lies. She jogs back under the tent, going to the bar to see Tobin. "Hey, let me get your number," she says quickly.

"Was your midnight kiss that bad?" Tobin teases as she pulls out her phone.

"No," Christen laughs because it actually was, but Tobin doesn't need to know that. "We're leaving and I don't want to lose touch with you."

Tobin nods as she enters her phone number. "Why me?" She asks as she hands back the phone.

"What do you mean?"

"Out of all the people here, why'd you come talk to me?"

Christen offers her a warm smile. "No one should look as sad as you did for their best friend's wedding. And I made a deal with myself, every time I could make you smile, that was one more drink I could have."

Tobin laughs. "Well you're not very drunk now, are you?"

Christen leans forward and picks up Tobin's scotch on the rocks she had sitting in front of her, knocking it back. "You just smiled," she explains. "That's my third drink of the night, but I can hold my liquor well," she winks as she starts to turn away.

"Wait, Christen," Tobin calls, sliding off of the bar stool as she starts to leave.

“Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For letting me enjoy this, for helping me be happy."

Christen smiles and closes the distance between them, pulling Tobin in for a tight hug. "Thanks for letting me." She places a kiss on Tobin’s cheek before stepping away, “I hope that’s better than the vodka.”

Chapter Text

The next week had been pretty uneventful for Tobin. There were a few girls she drunkenly hooked up with to pass the time, but it wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary for her. With the team finally coming back to campus, things were picking up again. Meanwhile, she had spent the start of her new year trying to get over Alex. Trying to really get over her. It helped a lot that Alex and Servando were still on their honeymoon, even if they should be getting back any day now.

 

---

 

She doesn't expect it to happen, but when it does, she's not exactly complaining.

“Oh, shit, I’m-- Oh, hey,” Christen smiles as she looks up and sees the girl she'd accidentally hit with her cart. “Tobin,” she says. “From the wedding, right?”

“Oh yeah! Hey, it's Christen, right?” Tobin smiles as she walks over to her to shake hands. “Long time, no see,” she jokes.

Christen laughs softly. “It’s hardly been a week.”

“I know, sarcasm, Chris. It's supposed to be funny.”

“Chris?”

“Yeah, short for Christen. Duh , Chris,” she teases.

“I like it,” she agrees with a nod. “Why didn't you call me?”

Tobin laughs before she can stop herself. “You really wanted to hang out with me after that night? I was drunk and emotional, gross.”

Christen smiles. “Oh please, of course I wanted to hang out with you! Do you wanna go get lunch or coffee?”

“Uhm, right now?” Tobin looks down at Christen’s nearly empty cart. “Aren't you grocery shopping?”

Christen shrugs. “I can take care of that later. I don't really know what I'm doing anyway, Julie usually does all the shopping.”

“Alright, sure, let's go.”

 

---

 

“Do you drink coffee?”

“Yeah, a lot of it,” Tobin smiles as they walk up to the counter. “I'll take a mocha and whatever she's having,” Tobin gestures behind her.

“Oh, you don't have to do that,” Christen shakes her head but gets cut off.

“I want to, Chris.”

 

---

 

“Didn't you say you’ve lived here your whole life?”

Christen nods. “Except for when I was at Stanford, yeah.”

Tobin nods and takes another drink of coffee as she glances out her window.

“Where are you from?”

“Small town in Jersey, nothing impressive.”

“How'd you end up here?”

Tobin smiles and looks at her cup before making eye contact. “I was recruited by UCLA.”

“Recruited?”

“Yeah, for soccer. They'd known about my history on the youth national teams so I guess they wanted me,” Tobin shrugs and shakes her head. “It's not a big deal.”

“It's totally a big deal. So you're really good, right?”

Tobin shrugs again. “I'm alright I guess. Well, I was anyway.”

“Which one is soccer? They kick in that one, right?”

“Oh you've got to be kidding me.” Tobin rolls her eyes. “Soccer's pretty much the best sport ever, which rock have you been under?”

“I know a lot about football! They don't use their feet and score touchdowns and every time the score changes it’s by a different number, or something. Also there's free goals.”

Tobin raises an eyebrow. “ Field goals, Chris. Hell, I understand football and even I don't know what you just said.”

Christen shrugs. “I don't know, Julie tries to tell me about it but sports are just so boring.

Tobin raises a hand to her chest in mock offense. “That hurts my heart, Chris.”

Christen rolls her eyes as her phone begins to go off. “I'll be right back.” She walks back over to the table a few minutes later with a frown plaguing her features. “Hey, I'm sorry but Julie just got off work, so I've gotta go.” She smiles sympathetically as she picks up her coffee. “Also I told her I finished all the shopping, so I've gotta do that.”

Tobin laughs and smiles, standing up to follow Christen. “It's alright, but yeah, you should probably do that.”

“I had a really great time!” She smiles and pulls Tobin into a hug. “Wanna meet for lunch later?”

“Uhm, sure. I should be free most of the week. What day?”

“How's Thursday work for you?”

Tobin thinks for a second before nodding. “I've got work, but you could meet me at the UCLA campus maybe? I know a Chinese place that is to die for just down the road. Sound good? I can text you the address for where I'll be at.”

“Yeah, sounds great,” Christen smiles before turning towards the door. “I'll see you Thursday!”

“See you Thursday, Chris.”

 

---

 

Thursday rolls around and Tobin is running drills with the girls. They’ve only been back for a few days but their first game is scheduled for the next day, so the coaching staff has decided extra conditioning is in order, especially after the holiday season.

Christen wanders through campus, trying to navigate the unfamiliar paths and find the field Tobin and the girls are practicing on. She finally (after at least ten minutes of being lost) spots Tobin standing in the middle of a field, shouting commands at the group of girls. She watches in amazement as soccer balls zip back and forth across the grass between the players. After a few more minutes, Tobin blows her whistle and congratulates the girls on a great practice. Christen makes her way closer and Tobin is packing her things into a drawstring bag.

“Hey Tobin,” Christen calls out as she gets closer.

“Oh, hey Chris.” She looks down at her watch in confusion. “You’re a little early, I still need to pack up some stuff. Do you mind waiting a bit?”

“Right, sorry. I was worried I’d be late because I’ve actually never been on this campus, so I got here early. But I don’t mind waiting.”

“Cool,” Tobin replies, dropping her bag back onto the ground. “It should only be ten minutes, tops.”

“Take your time,” Christen smiles and it’s so infectious that Tobin finds herself automatically smiling in return.

She nods and turns to start gathering the stray soccer balls, another coach coming over to help her as well. Christen watches Tobin laugh at something the man says and can’t stop the smile that spreads across her face. It was such a dramatic change from the first time she had seen Tobin. At the wedding, she was the polar opposite of the girl jogging around on the field, kicking soccer balls towards the benches. There, she was sad and pretending to hold her composure, but here-- here she was actually happy and carefree.

After returning the balls, Tobin jogs back over to where Christen is waiting by the fence. She hands Tobin her bag that she had picked up after Tobin left to take back the equipment.

“Thanks. You ready?” She asks.

“Whenever you are.”

“Cool. It’s just a short walk. That okay? If not, I can drive us.”

Christen looks over at Tobin who’s already started walking towards the parking lot. “Yeah, that’s fine.”

 

---

 

"So what were you doing out there? It looked really great!

"They were just," Tobin laughed. "They were literally just passing the ball."

“Are you serious? No way, stop lying to me.”

“I’m serious,” Tobin continued. “We were just working on passes.”

Christen took a bite of her spring roll and nodded. “Yeah but it was like, going right to the other girl!"

"You know Christen, that's kinda the whole gist of soccer. Well, besides scoring goals of course. But you usually need to pass the ball to be able to score."

Christen lights up at the mention of scoring goals. "Oh I like scoring goals! Everyone cheers! Isn't that the only important part?"

Tobin has to take a second because how could this girl be so adorable but so oblivious at the same time? “You're lucky you're cute, because you are so bad at sports.”

Christen blushes before dipping her head and taking another bite and carefully chewing it.

Tobin shakes her head. "Hey listen, there's a game Friday, why don't you come so you can see some real stuff?"

“This Friday? Like, tomorrow Friday?”

“Yeah, I know it’s kind of last minute,” Tobin palms the back of her neck. “No pressure or anything.”

“No, no, I’d love to. I already know Julie is going to be working late, so I have no plans. I’d love to come,” Christen replies sincerely.

“Cool.”

“I’m going to be really confused though,” she laughs.

“How am I not surprised?” Tobin teases, finishing off her food.

Christen smiles but shrugs her shoulders at Tobin. “You can try to explain it to me, but I can make no promises that I’ll understand or retain any of it.”

Tobin rolls her eyes at the girl sitting across from her. “I wouldn’t expect you to. Kick-off is at six thirty but you’ll have to show up a little early so I can give you a ticket to get in.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Christen says. “I can pay for my own ticket.”

“Chris, I get tons of free tickets as a coach and I hardly use them. You’d be doing me a favor,” she laughs. “Please, just take one of my tickets.”

“Fine,” she smiles. “What time should I be there?”

 

---

 

Chris: I’m in the parking lot

Tobin: Be there in a few mins

 

“Hey stranger,” Tobin calls out as she walks through the gate to a waiting Christen Press leaning against the chainlink fence.

“Hi,” Christen smiles at Tobin dressed in a UCLA polo. “You look official.”

“Oh haven’t you heard? I’m kind of a big deal around here,” she teases.

Christen purses her lips and stares at her in contemplation for a second. “I don’t see it,” she finally decides, earning her a scoff from Tobin.

“I don’t know, you might have to pay for your own ticket now.”

“No fair,” Christen pouts. “You said I’d be doing you a favor by taking your stupid ticket.”

“I did say that,” she chuckles and pulls out a ticket from her pocket. “Here you go.”

Christen happily takes the ticket and half skips to the ticket booth, handing it over and getting a stamp on her wrist in return.

“Hey Mel,” Tobin waves at the girl behind the window. “Are you going to be able to actually watch the game at some point?”

“Do you really think I’d miss it?” Mel laughs. “I convinced Ben to take over just after kick off so I can go watch.”

“Nice. See you out there,” she smiles and places her hand on Christen’s lower back to lead them towards the stands.

“You’re not going to sit with me?” Christen asks as Tobin explains that she has to go.

“I’m a coach, Christen, I have to be on the sidelines.”

“Oh. Right, no I understand,” she begins, trying desperately to hide the hurt in her voice. “I just thought you could try to explain it all to me,” she jokes.

“I’ll come find you after the game though. And I’ll be sitting right there,” she points the the bench closest to where Christen is sitting on the front row of the bleachers. “And if you really need me, you can shoot me a text. I always have my phone with me in case of emergencies.”

Christen nods and Tobin leaves to meet with the team who is warming up. She watches them pass back and forth like they did when she saw the tail end of practice and immediately feels embarrassed that she had mistaken simply passing the ball as something extraordinary. Soon after, the girls line up and eventually take the field. Mel passes by right before kick off and offers a smile and wave to Christen who returns it before looking back at Tobin who’s watching the pitch intently, her expression unreadable. She wonders if it’s her missing playing soccer or if it’s just her way of coaching. Regardless, she finds herself lost in the game, watching the ball travel from player to player.

Christen thinks watching this game is one of the most exhilarating things of her entire life , she studies the way the ball bounces from player to player and finds herself increasingly intrigued with every touch made. She tries to pay close attention to everything Tobin is yelling (she could hear almost all of it) and texts her every time she’s completely floored by something. Resulting in what is probably (definitely) more texts than necessary, hardly any of which could deemed emergency worthy.

Chris: What’s a card??? And why is it yellow?

Tobin: Other team did an illegal foul, they get a card and we get to kick the ball

Chris: Illegal? That’s bad, what’s gonna happen to her?

Tobin: Illegal just means against the rules

Chris: OH okay

Christen feels her heartbeat calm back down as she realizes there are no actual legal problems happening on the field. She makes a mental note to ask Tobin if there were any cards besides yellow, maybe a green one for the girls who played really fairly.

Chris: That was so close to a goal!! Go team!!!

Tobin: Yeah, almost a goal for the OTHER team

Chris: Oh

Christen glances at the stands surrounding her and hopes no one noticed the way she nearly cheered for the other team. She repeats to herself in her head again, Okay, UCLA is blue. Only cheer for the blue team.

She finds herself confused as she watches the clock count up and when it hits forty-five, there is no whistle.

Chris: Why did they add more time?

Tobin: For when the ball was out of bounds and stuff

Chris: Oh. Is it over after this?

Tobin: There’s one more half

Christen smiles down at her phone at the thought of another forty-five minutes of her experience, looking up as Tobin as the girls file past her and head towards the locker room, Tobin flashing her a smile.

Chris: Tell the girls I said good luck!!

Tobin: Will do :)

The game picks back up immediately, UCLA coming out with a new sense of fire burning through them and Christen can feel the passion coursing through their veins. When a goal is finally scored, breaking the 0-0 draw that it had been so far (it was definitely for UCLA, she double checked) there’s no doubt in Tobin’s mind that Christen is the loudest person in the stands.

Chris: Goal!!!!!!!!! Definitely for us this time!!!!!!!

Chris: We’re winning!!!!!

Tobin: We?

Chris: It’s my team too now, I’m claiming it

Tobin: Welcome aboard :)

UCLA wins 1-0, continuing their undefeated streak. As soon as Christen sees Tobin, she squeals and pulls her into a lung-crushing hug.

“That was so good! They did so well,” Christen yells as she releases Tobin.

Tobin nods with a smile. “Yep, they’re pretty great, aren’t they?”

“I mean, they do have a pretty great coach,” Christen smiles as she notices Tobin start to blush. “How could they not be?”

Tobin smiles as she starts walking Christen to her car, “Yeah, I guess so. I’m super proud of them, though. Those girls, they always give one hundred and ten percent, I swear. I don’t know how they do it, day in and day out.”

Christen smiles as she notices the passion in Tobin’s eyes. “Well, like I said, they’ve got a pretty great coach. How long have you been coaching them?”

“Technically I’m just a trainer, but it’s pretty much the same thing. This is my second year, I started the year after I graduated,” she pulls to a stop as they reach the door.

“That’s insane ,” Christen shakes her head in disbelief. “So you must be really close with them, right?”

Tobin nods. “I played with some of them, but yeah we’re all really close. They’re my family.”

Christen’s smile grows. “That’s adorable.”

Tobin chuckles and returns the smile. “Guess so.”

“Hey, uhm, Julie won’t be home from work for a few hours. Do you maybe wanna go grab dinner, or a drink?”

Tobin ponders for a moment, “Actually, I need to talk to the girls a bit. Make sure they’re good for the night and all, shower, but then--”

“I can wait,” Christen says quickly. “I can just wait here for you, if you want.”

Tobin smiles. “I’d love that, Chris. But you don’t have to wait out here, you can come sit in my office.”

“Yeah!” Christen turns to her car, “Just let me grab my book and I’m good to go.”

“Sounds great,” Tobin smiles and after Christen gets out of the car with her book, she leads them to the building.

 

---

 

What Tobin thinks would maybe be twenty minutes to get back to her office turns into almost an hour. Christen tries to read for about a minute before she catches a glimpse of a picture frame sat on Tobin’s desk. She closes her book and sets it on the dark wood before looking up at the glass frame. It’s a photo of Tobin and Alex laughing and Tobin’s smile is so large that Christen can’t help but smile in response.

She spends time looking around the small office, running her fingertips along the cool bricks. To the right of her desk is a collage of photos on the wall. There are pictures of Tobin and Alex, Tobin and some of the girls on the team, Tobin graduating. She moves on, looking at the bookcase settled behind the desk that’s filled with binders and books. Christen decides against looking at them because that’s probably breaking some sort of rule, right?

Instead, she sits back at Tobin’s desk and peels open the pages of her book and tries to read, but finds herself reading the same page over and over again without retaining any of it. She closes the book with a sigh and pulls out her phone instead and checks her email, replying to a few about setting up meetings the next week.   Finally, Tobin emerges, rushing into the office with wet hair and a shy smile on her face.  

“Sorry, the girls were extra rowdy tonight,” she apologizes, walking up to her desk.

“You sound like a mom,” Christen laughs.

“Trust me, sometimes it feels like it with them,” Tobin replies, looking out the door towards the locker room. “Are you ready?”

Christen stands up and pushes the chair in. “Yeah, let’s go!”

 

---

 

“How about that goal!” Lizzie (the striker who made the only goal of the night) yells, slamming down her drink on the bar and sliding onto the stool next to Tobin.

Tobin rolls her eyes but smiles. “It was pretty nice.”

“Pretty nice? Pretty nice?” Lizzie asks in mock disbelief. “It was beautiful.”

Tobin waves her off and picks up her glass to take another drink.

“I thought it was awesome,” Christen pipes up, leaning forward to make eye contact with Lizzie and smiling.

“See!” the forward grins, looking back at Tobin. “Someone gets it. I’m Lizzie, by the way,” she offers, looking back at Christen.

“Christen,” she offers back.

“Don't feed her ego,” Tobin warns, earning her an elbow to the gut.

“My ego is starving after hanging out with you,” Lizzie smiles and holds out a hand to Christen. “You, I like you. A friend of Tobin's?”

Christen nods as she takes it, suppressing a laugh when she sees Tobin wipe off her shirt, the drink spilling after Lizzie bumped her.

“You're buying me another drink,” Tobin says, earning an eyeroll from Lizzie.

“My tab’s open, I offered drinks for the team tonight. Well, those who are 21, because underage drinking is bad.”

“Please, like you never called for a Tobsmobile before your birthday this last fall,” Tobin fires back, finishing off the little that was left of her drink.

“Tobsmobile?” Christen asks, raising an eyebrow.

Tobin groans, realizing what she did as Lizzie hops off her barstool to walk over to Christen. “Ah, a Tobsmobile.” She slings her right arm over Christen’s shoulders and raises her drink with a smile.

“Shut up ,” Tobin says, dropping her head into her hands.

“You see, my beloved coach here is a total softie for the team. Like, warns us if it's gonna be cold out and tells us to wear a jacket so we don't get sick, level softie. Like a mom.”

Christen starts giggling as she remembers Tobin's mention of they're my family and her own teasing of you sound like a mom after the game.

Tobin glares up from the bar. “I'm gonna kill you.”

“You love me,” Lizzie shrugs and turns back to continue her story. “So, when one of us gets drunk, she has us call her to give us a safe ride back when we need it. One night, Jen, she's an attacking mid, called her up and said - Hey Tobs, we need an au-to-mo-bile - stretching out all the syllables like that. She was drunk as hell . Anyway - We need one from you Tobs, like a, a tobsmobile! - and ever since then, it just stuck,” Lizzie starts laughing at her own story, and Christen quickly joins in before she can stop herself.

“That is,” Christen pauses to laugh again. “That is hilarious , I love it.”

Tobin nods. “Yeah, yeah. It's great ,” she says sarcastically. “Can we talk about something else now?”

Sure , anything for you. So Christen, single?”

Bro , she's like three years older than you,” Tobin rolls her eyes and turns away from them.

Christen blushes with a giggle, quickly realizing she may have already had too much to drink. “No, taken, but I'm flattered.”

Lizzie shrugs. “Never said I was asking for me , but thanks for answering.”

“Lizzie, you're the worst. Can you just leave Chris and I alone?” Tobin shakes her head and places a hand on Lizzie’s shoulder, trying to pull her away from Christen.

“Chris?” Lizzie raises her eyebrows at Tobin who just drops her head in her hands again. “Fine, fine,” she raises her hands in innocence. “But don't let Stitch fool you, I'm her favorite.”

“Stitch?” Christen asks.

Lizzie smiles at Christen, shifting her weight and wrapping an arm around Tobin’s shoulders instead of Christen's. “Yeah, Stitch, from Lilo and Stitch. You know? Because she's always there to hold me together, well, everyone really. Like Stitch does.”

Christen smiles back at her. “That's so sweet. Guess you're right, she is a softie.”

 

---

 

Several drinks later (for Christen, someone had to drive them home), Tobin finally closes out her tab.

“Just one more drink, Tobin,” Christen whines.

“Chris, I've gotta get you home eventually. Also, you've ignored at least three calls from Julie so far. Don't you think she's worried?”

Christen nods. “Yeah maybe, but I'm having so much fun .”

Tobin just offers a small smile, waving at the bartender. “I'm sure you are.” She pulls on Christen slightly and helps steer her out of the bar.

“Hey, Tobin? I think I need a--” Christen starts giggling wildly as she reaches her car. “A tobsmobile.

Tobin rolls her eyes, muttering something under her breath but leading Christen into the passenger seat and sitting down in the driver’s, starting the car. “Don’t worry, I've got ya, Chris.”

“I'll set up directions,” Christen offers, pulling her phone out and inputting an address as she plugs it into the auxiliary cord.

“Proceed to the route, then turn right,” the automated voice calls through the speakers.

Tobin drives Christen to her house, met at the door by Julie, who Christen called when they turned onto the road.

“Hey, thanks for making sure she got home safe,” Julie says, taking Christen’s hand as they walk up the steps.

“Anytime,” Tobin offers a nod and a smile.

“How are you getting home?”

“I just called an Uber a few minutes ago, it should be here soon.”

Julie nods and leads Christen in the house before coming back outside. “So did you guys have fun?”

“Loads,” Tobin nods as the car pulls up. “Well, I hate to cut this short, but that's my ride.”

Julie shakes her hand, “Nice to meet you again. You were Alex’s friend, from the wedding, right? Maid of Honor?”

Tobin nods, “Yeah, we met a few times during the planning.”

Julie smiles before turning back to the house, “Well, goodnight.”

“Night,” she calls back, jogging to the street for her car.

 

---

 

“Where to?”

“Uhm, can you run me by the bar in town? I've got a few friends to pick up.”

“Sure thing.”

 

---

 

Stitch: I'll be there with an Uber in fifteen, meet me outside with the few teammates left

Lilo: Sure thing, party pooper

Stitch: It’s 3am

Lilo: And you're pooping on my party!

 

---

 

Tobin calls Lizzie as they pull into the parking lot. “Hey, we're right outside.”

“Alright, we’re on our way.”

Hardly a minute later, Lizzie, Phoebe, and Lara (a junior with Phoebe and Lizzie, but a new transfer just this year), all scramble into the car.

“Where's yours, coach?” Phoebe asks, settling in the spot where Tobin had been before switching to the front.

Tobin tells her address to the driver before turning around to face the girls. “The field, Chris and I took hers.”

Ooh , you guys took the same car?” Lizzie teases.

“Who's Chris?” Lara looks to Lizzie for answers, who is happy to oblige.

“Chris is Tobin's new friend ,” she says.

“Friend. Just friend. Not friend , just friend,” Tobin corrects, rolling her eyes for what feels like the millionth time of the night.

“It's totally friend ,” Lizzie says, Lara and Phoebe nodding in agreement.

 

---

 

“Dibs on the guest room.” Lizzie lets herself into the house with a spare key as Tobin pays the driver.

“Not fair,” Phoebe says, following her. “You always get it.”

“I always call dibs!”

“But I don't want to share the pullout couch with her.

“We've had sex,” Lara says with a straight face.

“We were drunk.”

“We're drunk now.”

“There will be no sex on my pullout couch,” Tobin cuts in, dropping her keys and wallet in a bowl by her door.

“Promise, coach,” Phoebe raises her hands in innocence.

“I'm going to bed, night guys. Love you!” Lizzie calls out, walking to the guest room.

“I'm going to sleep too. You know where the extra pillows and blankets are, and you can figure out the sharing bed, no sex situation on your own,” Tobin says, shutting her door behind her.

“No sex,” Phoebe says again.

“I got the message.” Lara rolls her eyes. “Just don't steal all the covers, alright?”

“No promises.”

 

---

 

When she wakes up at eight in the morning, the first thing Lizzie does is realize the utter regret she has for not closing the blinds before falling asleep. Luckily, she notices the water and ibuprofen on the bedside table and thanks whatever higher power put Tobin in her life.

She pulls on one of the clean shirts stacked on the dresser, left by the many teammates who'd abandoned a shirt here before, and walks into the kitchen.

Tobin smiles at her, gesturing to one of the empty mugs next to the coffee machine. “Help yourself, I've gotta flip these.” She turns to the griddle and starts shuffle pancakes and slices of bacon around.

Lizzie fixes her coffee before heading into the living room, yanking the covers off of the two girls curled into each other on the couch and tossing two clean shirts onto them. “Up and at ‘em, Tobs made breakfast.”

Lara lets out a long yawn as she leans up and changes into the shirt, “Coffee?”

“There's coffee too.”

It only takes a few minutes for the smell to wake all three of them and soon enough, they're sitting on bar stools at Tobin's kitchen island, waiting for their plates.

Tobin turns around and places a plate in front of each of them, Lizzie digging in right away.

Mmm , that feels like an orgasm in my mouth.” She takes a drink of her coffee before cutting off another piece of blueberry pancake.

“Please never describe my cooking like that again,” Tobin says, sliding forks to the other two as Lizzie goes on.

“You've gotta share your recipe.”

“The secret is you have a hangover, everything tastes good,” she jokes. “Speaking of hangovers,” she walks away to the bathroom and comes back, Ibuprofen in hand. “You two need to take these.” She slides it and two glasses of water over to Lara and Phoebe.

“Thanks Tobs, ever told you you're the best?” Lara asks through a mouthful of bacon.

“Oh I know, but you won't be saying that at training tonight,” she smiles as she slides a glass of water to Lizzie as well, who immediately protests. “Better stay hydrated.”

“But tonight’s Saturday .”

“Sucks, we've got a game Wednesday.”

“Ugh, you're the worst.”

“I know that too.” Tobin winks before heading back into her room, grabbing her phone and sending a text to Christen.

Tobin: Hope that hangover isn't hitting you too hard! Stay hydrated!

 

---

 

Tobin sees the girls out at nearly noon, telling them to enjoy their few hours of freedom before the laps, drills, and ice baths they'd have to deal with tonight.

Chris: Just woke up…..and it's noon. But I'll be alright, JJ’s spending the day with me :)

Tobin : Sounds awesome :)

 

---

 

Tobin busies herself until it's time to leave for work, cleaning the house and remaking the bed for the pullout couch and guest room.

At five she dials Lizzie who lives in an  apartment just a few blocks over, and says to meet her for five-thirty. Half an hour before practice instead of twenty minutes, remembering that she has to run by the field to get her car.

“Yeah alright, I'll be there. Also you're telling me more about Christen.”

“Nothing to tell,” Tobin says, hanging up the phone.

 

---

 

“So,” Lizzie says as Tobin gets into the front seat.

“So?”

“Christen?”

“Oh please,” Tobin turns the radio up. “We're just friends.”

“Fine, fine. I still wanna know everything though, how'd you meet?”

“Alex’s wedding,” Tobin says, clipping it short and clenching her jaw.

“Sorry for bringing it up. Look, I love Alex, but what she did to you--”

“It's not what she did, it's what I didn't do.”

She chose him over you, Tobs. You just followed your best friend.”

“I wasted my career.”

“Do you really think of it like that?” Lizzie looks over as she pulls up to a stoplight. “A waste?”

Tobin thinks for a moment before shaking her head. “No, no I don't. Just sometimes I think of what could've happened--”

“Then don't. It didn't happen, so why worry about it?”

“Good point,” Tobin nods.

“Live in the now, Stitch. And worry about how you're gonna repay me for this.”

“You crashed at my place last night, and I made you breakfast this morning,” Tobin starts laughing over the music as Lizzie just smiles.

“Don’t hold onto things from the past.” Lizzie shakes her head and refocuses on the road. “Thought we were living in the now, remember?”

Chapter Text

“Christen” Julie calls, gently shaking Christen. who groans and turns to bury her face into her pillow.

“Leave me alone Jules, I wanna sleep.”

“Babe, it’s already noon,” she laughs, rubbing Christen’s back. “I brought you water and painkillers.”

Julie watches as Christen’s hand escapes from under the blankets, palm up. “Gimme.”

She laughs but hands them over as Christen slowly sits up. “Did you at least have fun last night?”

“Yeah, it’s been awhile since I’ve had that much fun.”

“I’m glad,” Julie smiles at Christen, who crawls over and puts her head in Julie’s lap after handing back the glass of water. “Aw, are you gonna be alright, Stanford?”

“Shut it,” Christen mumbles against her legs.

“Come on,” she says, combing her fingers through Christen’s hair. “I’ll make you something to eat.”

Christen lifts her head slightly. “Pancakes?”

“Pancakes.”

 

---

 

Christen is laying on the couch, Khaleesi curled up on the couch next to her, while Julie makes pancakes in the kitchen. By this point, she’s had upwards of three glasses of water but her mouth still feels dry and her head feels fuzzy but at least she’s out of bed.

“Do you want to eat in there or the kitchen?” Julie calls out.

“I don’t really want to move,” Christen admits sheepishly.

She hears Julie laugh from the kitchen and the sound of drawers opening and closing. She emerges from the kitchen with two plates in hand and a Gatorade tucked under her arm.

“Up,” she says softly, waiting for Christen to settle before she hands her the Gatorade. “Drink that.”

Christen doesn’t respond, but instead cracks open the bottle and takes a large drink. She sees the blonde smile at her and hand over her plate of chocolate chip pancakes. “Thank you.”

“I’ll be surprised if you actually keep it down,” she teases.

Christen sticks her tongue out at her but takes a bite of the pancake, relishing in the taste the second it hits her tongue. “These are so good.”

“Good,” Julie says, a pleased smirk gracing her features. “So what do you want to do today?”

“Sleep.”

“Christen,” she chides. “You can’t just sleep all day.”

“Not with that attitude,” she replies, popping another bite of pancake into her mouth.

Julie rolls her eyes but leans forward to grab the remote and turn on the television. “Want to watch movies all day?”

“You don’t have any work things?”

“Not today,” Julie looks over at her. “I thought we could spend the day together. Besides, someone needs to take care of you,” she teases.

“You really mean it? It’s just been such a long time since we’ve really had a day to ourselves.”

“Of course, babe. It’s just you and me today.”

Christen nods and goes back to eating her pancakes while Julie looks for something for them to watch. She settles on some Lifetime movie and the two spend the entire movie making fun of how predictable it is. When it ends, Julie gets up to clear their plates and wash the dishes.

“Jules,” she calls out, petting Morena whose head is in her lap. “Did you walk the dogs this morning?”

“No. You know I hate walking them.”

Christen sighs. “Did you at least let them out?”

“I’m not an idiot, Christen, of course I did. They were in the back yard for about an hour before they wanted back in.”

“Well I’m going to take them for a walk then,” Christen says, going into the kitchen so they aren’t yelling back and forth. “Want to go with me?”

Julie stills for a second before she continues to rinse off the plate in her hand. “Do I have to?”

“No,” Christen answers, slipping her arms around Julie’s waist and leaning her head against her shoulder. “But I really want you to.”

Julie dries her hands with a towel and Christen can feel her muscles moving. Julie turns around and settles her hands on Christen’s waist, pressing a kiss against her forehead. “Well if you really want me to, how can I say no?”

 

---

 

After walking the dogs, Christen and Julie settle back onto the couch to continue their movie marathon. Julie makes popcorn and Christen grabs her favourite blue blanket from the closet to drape over them while they cuddle on the couch. They’re halfway through the second movie when Julie’s phone rings and she moves to answer it.

Christen sighs, knowing it’s likely that something has gone wrong with a couple’s wedding plans. She sits up and brings her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around them as Julie answers the phone.

“This is Julie,” she answers. Christen can hear someone talking on the other end of the line but tries to focus on the movie instead. “Mhm… Okay. I completely understand, they shouldn’t try and make you change your order last minute like that… If you’d like, we can meet within the hour to resolve the issue.” Christen takes a deep breath and wills herself not to overreact. “Of course… See you soon. Bye.”

She looks over to see Christen staring straight ahead at the television set, her expression unreadable.

“What?” Julie sighs.

“Nothing.”

“Christen,” she starts. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing, Julie.”

“Please tell me,” she tries again, turning her body so she’s facing Christen.

Christen looks over at her quickly before looking down at the coffee table. “You said it was just me and you today.”

Suddenly, it clicks. “Shit, you’re right. I’m sorry Christen.”

“No, whatever. It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not. I told you we’d spend the day together.” Julie reaches for her phone again. “Let me call someone else on the team and ask them to meet with the Holts.”

Christen remains silent as Julie scrolls through her contact list. She always feels guilty acting like this when Julie gets a last minute call into work, but she hates feeling like a second choice more. She can’t really help the way her stomach drops when Julie’s phone rings and she just knows it’s something work related because it’s always work related. She can’t really help the ache in her chest when she goes to bed alone because Julie’s working late, and she can’t really help the hurt she feels waking up alone some mornings.

“I’m sorry,” Julie whispers against Christen’s hair after she hangs up with one of her colleagues. “I know you don’t like it when I get called in like that.”

Christen shrugs and tries to contain her emotions. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not. Let me make it up to you,” Julie says, pressing a kiss to Christen’s temple.

“How?” Christen asks quietly.

“Well,” Julie stops to think. “I could take you out to dinner tonight?”

Christen shakes her head no.

“How about we go to the beach?”

“Did you forget how cold it is outside?”

“You’re right,” Julie agrees. “Well what can I do to make it up to you?”

Make me feel important, she thinks to herself. “Don’t laugh at me,” Christen starts and Julie cracks a smile but draws a small cross over her heart. “But maybe we could just go for a drive like we used to back when we were in school.”

Julie’s smile grows wider. “You want to go on an old late night adventure? At,” she pauses to check her watch. “Five pm?”

Christen grins back but nods her head.

“Alright Stanford. Let’s get ready.”

 

---

 

Nearly five hours later, they finally arrive home, much to the dogs’ delight.

“I had such a good time, Jules, thank you,” Christen smiles as she changes for bed.

“I’m glad,” Julie replies. “I can’t believe it’s been so long since the last time we did that.”

Christen climbs into bed next to her and lays her head on Julie’s chest. “You’ve been busy with work. It’s not like when we were in school.”

She feels Julie shift beneath her and for a moment, she feels bad for saying it. For as much as she hates Julie working all the time, she knows Julie hates spending so much time away from her.

“I’m sorry,” Christen whispers, but Julie presses a kiss to her forehead and starts to run her fingers through her hair.

“No, you’re right. The company has been picking up a lot lately, but that’s not an excuse. I should be spending more time with you.”

“You shush.” Christen leans up to kiss her. “Your work is important. I understand.”

“Babe, you’re important to me too,” she defends, pulling her in for another kiss. “I’m sorry if I don’t make you feel that way.”

“You can make me feel important right now,” Christen smirks.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“How?” Julie asks, a small smile gracing her lips, watching as Christen moves to sit on her lap.

 

---

 

“Tobin!” Alex shouts, throwing her arms around Tobin the second she opens the door.

“Hey, Lex,” Tobin laughs while Alex tightens her grip.

“I missed you so much.”

“I missed you, too,” Tobin replies and she tries to ignore the feeling that being in Alex’s arms is like being home . “Tell me all about it.”

“It was absolutely amazing,” she gushes, pulling Tobin through the door and into the living room where they plop onto the couch. “Hawaii is so beautiful. There were so many people surfing, you would have loved it, Tobs.”

“Yeah, probably,” Tobin forces a smile, forcing down the thought of It could’ve been our honeymoon . “Are you ready to go grab something to eat?”

Alex returns the smile and nods. “Let me grab my purse.”

 

---

 

“So where’s Servando?” Tobin asks as she pulls out of Alex’s driveway.

“He had to go check in at work. Something about a big case coming up.”

Tobin nods. “He’s doing really well at the firm, right?”

“Yeah, he is. Considering he’s only been there for a few years now, he’s climbing up the ranks pretty quickly.”

“Servando Carrasco, hot shot lawyer,” she jokes and Alex laughs. “And the new Alex Carrasco, trophy wife.”

“Something like that,” Alex starts. “He’s been getting a lot more work lately, so he’s pretty happy about that.”

Tobin stays silent as she exits the freeway. “Are you happy about that?”

“About him getting more work? Of course. He loves working there and I want him to be happy, so I’m happy for him.”

“I asked if you are happy,” Tobin says again, knowing all too well what it feels like to force yourself to be happy because the person you love is.

Alex focuses on gathering her purse and taking off her seatbelt as they pull into the parking lot and Tobin stops the car. “Yeah, I’m happy,” she smiles at her best friend.

“Promise to tell me if you’re not?”

“Promise.”

 

---

 

“Table or booth?” The server asks them.

“Booth,” Alex calls out happily before Tobin can answer.

Tobin just smiles at the server who leads them to a booth and places down two menus in front of them.

“Can I start you two off with something to drink?” the man asks as soon as they’re settled.

“I’ll have a rum and coke,” Tobin answers before looking over at Alex.

“Can I have an iced tea, please?”

The server nods and leaves to turn in their drink order.

Tobin narrows her eyes at Alex who has a sheepish look on her face. “You always order a glass of wine when we eat out.”

Alex squirms in her seat and opens her menu. “I may have something to tell you,” she says, trying hard to suppress a smile.

“What?” Tobin questions hesitantly.

“I’m pregnant,” Alex announces.

Tobin feels her stomach drop. “What?”

“Well, remember how I didn’t get my period before the wedding but I thought it was because I was so stressed out? Usually I’ll get it a few days later, but I still haven’t gotten it. I told Servando and he thought I should take a test just in case, so I did and it was positive. We’re pretty certain that we’re expecting,” Alex beams. “I have an appointment tomorrow morning to confirm it.”  

We’re expecting , she thinks to herself. What a lousy way to word it. Servando doesn’t have to carry the baby. “That’s great, it’s,” Tobin sighs, forcing a smile. “That’s really great, Lex. I’m really happy for you.”

Alex tilts her head and reaches across the table, resting one hand on Tobin’s. “You alright?”

Tobin nods and pulls her hand away. “I’m great, just, maybe a little under the weather, y’know? It’s been cold and all.”

Alex nods and pulls her hand away, “Do you wanna go home? We could just go back to my place or yours or something, if you want.”

“No, I,” Tobin struggles to take a deep breath as she slides out of their booth. “I’m just gonna try and get some air-- fresh air. Order for me, alright?”

“Alright, Tobs.”

Tobin walks outside and begins to pace back and forth in front of the restaurant, her mind racing. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. She just had to watch her best friend (the girl she’s in love with) get married, now she has to watch her have his kid too? She tries to take another deep breath and finally resigns to do the only thing she can think of to calm down. She calls Lizzie.

“Resident asshole, at your service,” she answers.

“Hey Lizzie, I uhm--”

“What happened, you okay?” Lizzie asks, adopting a serious tone.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Well, physically at least.”

“What happened?”

“Alex is back from her honeymoon, and we’re out to eat,” she begins explaining but suddenly loses all ability to speak coherently. “She didn’t drink. Iced tea, the wine, she-- she’s not, alcohol.”

“Huh? I need you to speak clearly.”

“Alex is, you can’t tell anyone--”

“Swear on it.”

“Alex is pregnant,” Tobin nearly whispers into the phone.

Lizzie nods slowly until she remembers Tobin can’t actually see her. “Right, okay Tobin.”

“I’m not-- that’s her kid, Lizzie. She’s gonna have a kid.”

“Yeah, she is, Tobs and you’re gonna be okay.”

“No, I--” Tobin draws in a sharp breath. “She’s gonna have a baby, she’s married and she’s gonna be a mom and I--” Tobin chokes on her own words and she suddenly finds herself very glad that it’s dark outside. She walks over to the side of the building and slumps next to it while Lizzie patiently waits for her to continue. “I’m not gonna get that, Lizzie. I don’t get her-- I don’t get the girl.”

“Tobin, don’t--”

“I lost my chance. I had my chance with Alex, and I lost it. I threw it all away. I let her get swept off her feet by some fancy guy who was already in graduate school and had broad shoulders and tanned skin. Mr. Perfect swooped in and was good enough , he was good enough for her family and her parents, except not her, Lizzie. No one could ever be good enough for her.”

“Shh, Tobs,” Lizzie whispers soothingly through the phone. “You’re gonna do me a favor, okay?”

“What’s that?” Tobin clenches her jaw and wonders how in the hell she’s supposed to manage the rest of her life as nothing more than Alex’s best friend.

“Take a deep breath, that’s all you’ve gotta do.”

“I can do that.”

“Now take another.”

Tobin cracks a smile. “You said that was all I had to do.”

“I didn’t say how many times.”

“Smartass.”

“Now listen to me. You’re gonna go in there, and you’re gonna be happy for your best friend, okay?”

“Okay,” Tobin says softly.

“And then tonight, if you need someone, I’ll be right here for you. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Alright, now go be the best friend Alex has ever had.”

Tobin nods, “Alright, I can do that. Thanks, Lizzie.”

“You’re welcome, I love you!”

“I love you too.”

Tobin walks back into the restaurant, sliding into the booth and smiling at Alex. (Still forced, but you’d have to look at her eyes to tell.) “Sorry, guess it’s just kinda stuffy in here. I needed some fresh air, but I feel better now.”

“Are you sure?” Alex reaches her hand across the table to grab Tobin’s soothingly again, but this time Tobin is careful not to pull away.

Tobin tries to ignore the burning sensation in her hand (the kind of burning that can only come from a platonic gesture made by someone you’re in love with) and smiles again. “Positive, Lex. Besides, we need to celebrate don’t we?”

A brilliant smile spreads over Alex’s face at Tobin’s response. “Yeah, we do!”

“So aside from the news,” Tobin clenches her jaw and looks down at the table before finishing her sentence. She attempts to take a deep breath (remembering Lizzie’s soothing words, that’s all you’ve gotta do ) and looks up. “How was your honeymoon?”

 

---

 

“Oh, Servando’s home!” Alex replies happily as Tobin pulls up to her house. “Do you want to come in and say hi?”

“Uh,” Tobin thinks for a second. As much as she wanted to get out of there and to a bar, she knew it would make Alex happy if she agreed to go inside. “Yeah, I’ve got some time.”

Alex squeals in delight before unbuckling her seatbelt and gathering her things. They make their way inside to find Servando in the living room with a football game playing in the background while he looks over some papers he has spread across the coffee table.

He looks up when he hears them walk in and matches Alex’s smile. “Hey babe,” he greets her, standing up to kiss her cheek. “Hey Tobin,” he smiles.

“Hey Serv. Heard you’ve got a big case coming up,” she glances over to the coffee table.

“Yeah! Yeah, it’s supposed to be huge. We’ve been prepping for a month already and there’s still so much to do.”

Tobin nods and looks back at Alex who’s watching him with so much love in her eyes that it makes her feel sick. “Alex told me the good news.” (She has to practice telling that lie sooner or later.) “Congratulations, man.”

Servando lights up. “Thanks, we’re really excited,” he gushes, settling a hand on Alex’s abdomen, despite the fact that she’s nowhere near showing yet. Tobin has to try really hard not to roll her eyes.

“Well, I just stopped in to say hi. I should get going though,” she gestures to the door.

“Well it was great seeing you,” Servando beams. “You should come by for dinner soon.”

Alex eagerly nods at the suggestion. “Yeah, we can talk details later.”

“Er, yeah, that’d be great.” Alex pulls her in for a hug.

“Thanks for hanging out with me today. I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too, Lex.”

“Alright,” she pulls back. “I’ll call you later this week so we can set up a dinner date.”

Tobin nods and waves to Servando before leaving and climbing into her car. She takes a deep breath and exhales before digging in her pocket for her phone. She goes to her call log and taps on Lizzie's name again.

“Are you alright?” Lizzie asks anxiously.

“For the most part. But I really need to go out tonight. Wanna come with me?”

Lizzie scoffs. “Do you even know me at all?”

Tobin rolls her eyes but laughs. “Meet me at my place in twenty. We’ll take an Uber.”

 

---

 

Lizzie gets out of her car and walks up to meet Tobin. “Alright, Stitch. Where we headed?”

Tobin shrugs. “Somewhere with a lot of alcohol.”

“Well if you’d told me we were just staying at your place, I wouldn’t have gotten all dressed up,” Lizzie teases, gesturing to herself.

“You’re wearing a stained UCLA Soccer jersey,” Tobin rolls her eyes. “How is that dressed up?”

“Hey, the ladies love soccer players,” Lizzie fires back, earning a laugh from Tobin. She looks up seriously at Tobin, noticing the way she’s anxiously tapping her fingers against the hem of her shirt and how her eyes are cold. Something’s wrong. She softens her tone immediately. “You sure you don’t wanna just stay in?”

Tobin hesitates for a second as if she’s considering it, but then their car pulls up in front of them. “Positive,” she says finally, opening the door for Lizzie. “I need to get laid.”

 

---

 

Tobin smirks as her quarter flies into the cup. “Another one for you, babe.”

The girl next to her sighs, but it’s only to mask the fact that she’s giggling (which is probably from how much alcohol she’s had). “I guess so,” she picks up the glass and chugs it, turning it over so the quarter falls out onto her palm once she’s done. “Play again?” She asks as she beckons for the bartender.

Tobin looks around the bar for Lizzie, but she’s nowhere to be found. I came here to drink, not play (and win) drinking games. “Nah, let me buy you a drink though,” she offers, glancing up the bartender.

“You’ve already bought me three ,” the blonde says as she starts giggling again.

“Actually,” Tobin points to the empty glass and raises two fingers to the bartender, who nods understandingly. “I’ve bought us three drinks, and you just suck at this game.”

The girl starts giggling again and Tobin closes her eyes, willing herself not to groan at the sound of it. Too high pitched, too airy, and done too often.

I really, really need you to stop doing that. And to stop talking. Tobin pulls her phone out of her pocket to shoot a message to Lizzie before making plans for the night.

Stitch: If you don’t text back in five minutes, I’m gonna assume you’re getting it on and leave without you

Tobin smiles at the bartender as he sets the two glasses down in front of them and she immediately takes a large drink, relishing in the warmth as the alcohol burns its way down her throat. She smiles at the liquid courage and leans in, kissing the girl who seems a bit caught off guard at first, but quickly begins kissing back.

Tobin slides one hand to her waist, kissing harder and more passionately until the girl pulls away for a moment.

“Do you wanna,” she sips at her drink before giggling again and Tobin clenches her jaw. “Do you wanna get out of here maybe?”

Tobin checks her phone for a response from Lizzie, there is none, but decides to give her the full five minutes for a chance. “Yeah, in a little bit,” she takes another drink. “I wanna enjoy this first though.” She kisses the girl again, hoping she won’t notice that this was in reference to her drink.

Five minutes comes and goes (with a little drinking and a lot of kissing), still no response. She rolls her eyes and hopes that Lizzie is off somewhere having more fun than she is (it’s her own fault Lizzie isn’t with her, she’s the one that told her to go get drunk and have fun). “How about we get out of here now?” She suggests, handing two twenties to the bartender as he walks over to collect their glasses.

The girl nods excitedly and grabs her hand, pulling them out of the bar. As soon as they hit the cold air, she slides up to Tobin’s side, underneath her arm.

“You’re so warm ,” she says, kissing Tobin’s neck.

Tobin just nods as she waves over a cab before leaning down to kiss her. “Lucky you, babe,” she says, only adding the babe because she realizes she doesn’t remember the girl’s name. Amber, or Ashley, or something with an A. (It’s Erica.)

“Your place or mine,” she whispers as the car pulls up.

“Uhm, mine’s kinda far away,” Tobin lies as they get in the car. “Let’s go to yours.”

Erica nods, leaning forward to tell the driver the address and then sitting back, adjusting so she’s practically on Tobin’s lap. She starts kissing her neck again, and Tobin tries to enjoy ( God , she wants to enjoy it) but just finds herself thinking about the situation as if she was on the outside looking in.

She’s physically there, sure. But dipping her fingers just underneath the girl’s waistband or dragging them across her lower back has become such second nature to her, she doen’t even need to mentally be there.

Thoughts of Alex and Servando and Alex’s baby consume her mind as they ride to Erica’s house. Alex is so happy, why can’t I just be happy for her? This kid isn’t even born yet, and they’re already causing me so much pain. What if it’s a boy, and he looks just like Servando? Or a girl, and just like Alex? What if… What if I can’t stand to look at them? What if I find myself resenting the kid? It’s not their fault Alex isn’t in love with me. Tobin clenches her jaw and tries to push the thoughts from her mind. She tilts her neck and tries to lose herself in making the girl in her arms fall apart. She quickly starts to work her neck and digs her fingers into her hip. She grazes her teeth across the gentle skin, and Tobin’s pretty sure she hears a moan.

When they finally arrive at Erica’s house, there’s nothing romantic about it. Or even passionate really, at least not for Tobin. It’s calculated movements and tricks she’s used dozens of times before to make girls squirm.

After they’re done, Erica tries to cuddle with her and Tobin can’t find it in her heart to say no. Tobin can feel her breath against her cheek, and she briefly wonders if the girl has bad morning breath. (Not that she’ll be there to witness it, but the thought crosses her mind.)

After Tobin’s sure the girl has fallen asleep, she carefully eases her way out of the bed. She pulls her clothes on and checks her phone for the time, 1:45. She notices that she has a text from Lizzie from nearly an hour after she left the bar, but calls an Uber first, softly shutting the front door behind her.

Lilo: I’m crashing at your place, but I figured you wouldn’t mind. Find someone to have fun with?

Stitch: Yeah, but fun’s a strong word. I’ll be home soon

 

---

 

When Tobin finally wakes up, it feels like her head is going to explode, but she quickly realizes it’s because there are loud banging sounds coming from the kitchen. She swings her legs over the edge of the bed and the sudden movement causes her stomach to churn, so she braces herself until the feeling passes. She hears a metal bowl hit the ground, followed by a muffled “fuck,” and tries again to get up, carefully lifting herself from the mattress and making her way to the door. She opens it and sees Lizzie, covered in flour and dishes surrounding her.

Tobin laughs, causing her head to pound more. “What are you doing?”

Lizzie snaps her head up at the sound of Tobin’s voice. “Look who’s finally awake!” Tobin winces at the loud noise and Lizzie smirks, but lowers her voice. “I figured since by some miracle, I’m not hungover, I’d make you breakfast for once.”

“How thoughtful of you,” Tobin remarks, pouring herself a cup of orange juice and moving to sit at the kitchen island. “But I hope you’re cleaning that up.”

“I’ll get to it,” she waves her off, stirring the pancake batter. “So, did you get some last night?”

“Yeah.”

“Was it good?”

“Not really,” she chuckles. “But it was a distraction.”

“That’s fair,” Lizzie points the whisk at her. “Are you feeling better about… y’know, Alex?”

Tobin swallows hard and sets her head on the counter, thankful that it’s cold. “I hadn’t really thought about it until you brought it up.”

“My bad.” She pours some batter into the pan before moving towards the sink. “Oh hey, you left your phone on the counter last night. You got a few text messages.”

Tobin looks up to see Lizzie holding her phone out towards her, which she accepts, pressing the home button. She sees two texts from the group text for the UCLA coaches and one from Alex. She swipes right on her screen to open the text from Alex and she feels sick as the message pops up on the screen.

Lizzie watches as Tobin drops her phone and rushes to the bathroom looking like she's going to throw up, then picks up the phone and reads the text for herself. 

Alex: It’s official! Baby Carrasco coming August 2015!! :)

“Fuck.”

Chapter Text

“Alright girls, bring it in!” Tobin calls out and the girls jog in to form a half circle around the coaches.

Amanda, the head coach, reads over her clipboard as she speaks. “Great practice today ladies. As you all know, we have a game in two days against Cal. It’s an away game, which means we’re bussing up north. I expect you all in the parking lot on Friday at five am sharp so we can get out of here by five thirty. Any questions?”

The girls shake their heads collectively and Amanda releases them from practice. Tobin helps put back the equipment and makes her way to her office, changing into jeans and a UCLA sweater. She’s checking her email when she hears a quiet tap on her door. She looks up to see Hannah Elliott, one of the centermids, standing in the doorway.

“Come on in, Elliott.”

“Hey Tobin, I was wondering if you had time for a quick chat.”

“Of course,” she replies, gesturing for Hannah to sit down. “What’s on your mind?”

“Well, I was just wondering if you’ve been seeing any improvement in my footwork. I know we’ve been working on it every practice and I’ve been practicing on my own time, but it still feels sloppy to me.”

Tobin nods and leans back in her chair. “You’ve certainly been getting better. It can feel like you’re not improving a whole lot, but you definitely are. You’re not going to pick it up overnight, y’know? You’ve got to be patient. And keep practicing.”

“Okay,” Hannah smiles. “Thank you. I think I just needed a second opinion.”

“No problem. Amanda and I have been talking actually and we’re thinking about starting you against Cal.”

Hannah lights up at that. “Really?”

“Really,” Tobin smiles. “You’ve improved so much these last few months alone, and we all agree that you deserve more playing time.”

“Oh my gosh, thank you so much!”

“Don’t thank me,” she laughs. “It’s all you. The lineup isn’t finalized yet, but it’s looking like you’re going to start. No promises, though.”

“I understand,” Hannah grins, unable to contain her excitement.

“Was there anything else you needed?”

“No, that was all,” Hannah says, standing up. “Thanks for the pep talk.”

“Anytime,” Tobin laughs.

Hannah leaves and Tobin goes back to answering emails and packing up for the day. She’s about to walk out of the office when her phone rings, so she shuffles around the bags in her arms and digs her phone out of her pocket, answering it without checking who was calling.

“Hello?”

“Hey Tobin, it's Christen!”

“Oh, hey Chris, what's up?”

“I was just calling to see if maybe you'd want to hang out tonight. Julie and I were going to go out with some friends--well, some of her coworkers, and I wanted a familiar face there,” she laughs.

“What time?”

“Around eight o’clock.”

Tobin checks her watch, which displays 5:48 pm. “Sure, I'm not really busy. Text me the address?”

“Yeah, I will. Thank you for saving me from listening to wedding planning for a few hours.”

“No problem,” she smiles. “I’ll see you later.”

“Alright, bye,” Christen says before ending the call.

 

---

 

Tobin walks into the restaurant and scans it for Christen, who waves her over.

“Tobin! You made it,” Christen smiles, getting up to lead Tobin over to their table. “This is Mark,” she gestures to a broad-shouldered guy with sandy blonde hair. “And Alicia,” a girl with long dark hair and a bright smile waves.

“Hi, I'm Tobin,” she smiles as she sticks out her hand.

“Nice to meet you,” Mark returns the smile as he shakes her hand and Tobin takes note of the strong grip.

Tobin turns to shake Alicia’s hand, but she's sitting on the inside of the booth next to Mark and turned away, already discussing something with Julie. She awkwardly pulls her hand back and sits next to Christen, who pulls her down so they're sitting next to each other, sharing the seat with Julie.

They order their food and Tobin and Christen stay relatively quiet as Julie, Mark, and Alicia discuss back and forth various options for one of their new projects coming up.

Once they have their food, a lull in the conversation finally comes and there's silence at their table until Mark breaks it.

“So Tobin, what do you do?” He asks.

“Oh, I'm a trainer at UCLA.”

“Oh that's cool, what sport?”

“Soccer,” she nods with a smile. “And you plan weddings with Julie?”

Mark laughs, “Yeah, I guess you could say that. I'm more of an organizer than a planner, Julie’s the mastermind behind it all.”

Julie nods, pulling out of her conversation with Alicia. “Yeah I guess so,” she agrees.

“Weddings are great, aren't they Jules?” Christen asks, leaning into Julie’s side.

“They're okay,” Julie shrugs. “I'm around them all the time, so they get kind of tiring.”

Tobin notices the way the light in Christen’s eyes drifts away and how she pulls away from Julie a little bit. It's a minute change in her appearance, but Tobin notices. “You guys did a really great job with Alex’s wedding, I know she loved it,” Tobin offers.

“Alex, Alex…” Alicia purses her lips as she tries to remember. “Which client was that?”

“The one on New Year’s Eve, we all ate dinner together a few days before the wedding,” Julie explains.

You did? Tobin thinks to herself and she notices Christen raise an eyebrow in confusion as well.

“Oh, right. Right, Alex ,” Mark nods in understanding. “With that guy, Servando was it? They were nice people, that's going to be a beautiful family.”

Tobin feels her throat tighten at the word Family , and she has to attempt a deep breath. “I'll be right back,” she says quickly, getting up from the table and rushing to the bathroom.

No one at the table notices anything odd except Christen, who follows Tobin with her gaze as she disappears behind the door.

Tobin is splashing water in her face, looking in the mirror, and trying to regulate her breathing when Christen walks in.

“You alright?” Christen asks carefully, walking up to the counter next to Tobin.

“Yeah, just, Alex,” she trails off and sighs. “Don't worry about it.”

“I wanna worry, Tobin. You're my friend,” she says, looking into Tobin’s eyes which reflect nothing but hurt.

“You don't have to, Chris,” Tobin squeezes her eyes shut for a moment and looks back to the mirror before opening them. “I'll be fine.”

Christen places a hand on Tobin’s bicep. “You don't have to be, though.”

Tobin smiles. “Thanks, Chris.”

“Come on,” Christen offers, opening the door to the bathroom. “Let’s get back out there.”

The night passes relatively quickly, with Julie, Mark, and Alicia deep in conversation the entire time, which gave Christen and Tobin time to talk.

“Oh, hey,” Christen says suddenly. “Julie and I are having a Super Bowl party. You should come, Tobin.”

Julie looks over at the two, hearing her name being said. “Oh, yeah,” she says. “There probably won’t be too many people you know, but you’re more than welcome,” Julie explains but there’s something in her tone that tells Tobin that she’s trying to persuade her not to go.

“I invited some people from the firm,” Christen replies, turning to Julie and resting her hand on her forearm. “I think Servando and Alex are coming.” She looks back at Tobin expectantly waiting for an answer.

“Sure, I don’t really have anything planned next weekend,” Tobin nods, taking another drink from her glass.

“Awesome,” Christen lights up. She leans over to whisper to Tobin while Julie goes back to her conversation. “It’s mostly going to be Julie’s work friends.”

“I thought you said Alex and Servando were going?”

“Yeah, they might, but a lot of the people I invited from the firm already had plans.”

“Got it.” Tobin picks up her glass and finishes it off. She checks the time and sees that it’s getting late, so she stands up. “I think I’m gonna head out.”

Christen’s face falls slightly, dreading the idea of being stuck there by herself, but quickly recovers. “Alright, let me walk you out.”

Julie feels Christen get up and looks over to see Tobin pulling on her jacket. “Are you leaving already?”

“Yeah, I have a lot to do tomorrow for the team. It was nice meeting you,” Tobin smiles at Mark and Alicia, who offers waves instead of standing up. Julie waves and gives Tobin a tight smile.

They walk outside to Tobin’s car and Christen pulls her into a hug. “You’re a lifesaver.”

Tobin returns the hug and laughs. “Mark and Alicia seem kind of…”

“Like jerks?” Christen smiles.

“You said it, not me,” she raises her hands in surrender.

“They really are though,” Christen crosses her arms to keep warm. “I hate hanging out with them. Alicia is the worst.”

Tobin notices Christen shivering so she tries to speed up their goodbye. “Call me again if you ever need rescuing,” she jokes. “But you should get back inside, you look cold.”

Christen waves her off. “I’m fine.”

“Nope, inside,” Tobin smiles at Christen being stubborn. “I really need to get home anyway.”

“Alright,” Christen nods and Tobin thinks she can see her pout a little bit. “Text me when you get home so I know you got there safe?”

“Sure, Chris.”

“Cool. Drive safe,” she says, pulling her in for another quick hug and Tobin can feel how cold her arms are when she wraps them around her neck.

Tobin gets in her car and Christen watches as she pulls out of the parking lot. She takes a deep breath and prepares herself to go back inside so she can listen to the others drone on about weddings again until she and Julie leave.

 

---

 

Tobin takes a sip of her coffee, relishing in the warmth as it fills her body. For as many games that she’s had to wake up early for in her entire life, she never really got used to the cold, especially when it was at 4:45 am and the sun wasn’t even up. A few of the girls had shown up already and had taken to sitting in their cars with the heat turned on. Unsurprisingly, Lizzie had yet to show up with Phoebe and Lara in tow, as they usually carpooled to campus when it came to soccer.

“Yo!” Tobin calls out as the three girls emerge from her car.

“Are you mad, Tobs?" Lara asks, jogging over to where Tobin's leaning against her car.

Tobin smiles and hopes that the year so far has been enough to allow Lara to understand her sense of humor. “I'm just gonna give you a quick vocab lesson; what's an eight letter word that could describe most of this team, but lacks the capability to describe you three?”

They look at each other until Lizzie decides to speak up. “It's five in the morning, Tobin.”

Tobin glances at her watch and takes another drink of her coffee. “Not quite, actually. Any guesses?” The girls shake their head and Tobin laughs, “Punctual.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes with a groan and turns to the bus pulling in a few parking spots down. She begins walking towards it, dragging her suitcase behind.

“Are you riding our bus or driving?” Lara asks as Phoebe starts to follow Lizzie with her own bags.

“Bus, I never drive,” Tobin says simply.

“Why not?” Lara asks.

Tobin sets her travel mug on top of her car and opens the trunk. “Those bus rides are long, maybe I just like bonding with you guys.”

Lara turns to see Phoebe and Lizzie making their way to the bus, but decides to wait for Tobin. “Is that really it?”

Tobin nods but can see the genuine curiosity in Lara’s eyes. “What do you really wanna ask me?”

Lara bites her lip, “I don't wanna offend you or anything, and Lizzie told me I shouldn't worry about it but--”

“Just ask, Lara. I'm an adult, I can handle it.”

“Why didn't you go pro?”

Tobin finds herself stunned for a moment but quickly regains composure. “I blew my knee out, wasn't on the same caliber anymore.”

“But you are ,” Lara says, leaning against the car. “Even if you couldn't go back to the senior national team right away, you could've been in the NWSL.”

Tobin nods, and tries to come up with an answer for her, but there wasn't a good one. I did it for love. I did it because I was in love. Don't ever follow your heart like that, follow your head. Don't fall in love. She clenches her jaw and sighs, “You've got a good point.”

Lara nods even though she doesn't really understand. “Well, not to push or anything, but are you at least happy?”

“Hmm?” Tobin pulls her suitcase out of the car and looks up. “What do you mean?”

“With your decision, are you at peace with it?”

Tobin smiles, “Being a pro would've been awesome, sure. But there's not a day in my life where I regret choosing to coach you girls.” She puts a hand on Lara’s shoulder. “Even when you piss me off, or you're late, or you get drunk off your ass in a bar and need me to come get you. I still love you all.”

Lara reflects her smile. “Really?”

“Definitely. Now let's get on the bus before they leave us.”

 

---

 

Christen wakes up just after seven and quickly realizes Julie’s already gone. She sighs to herself and gets out of bed, opening the bedroom door to let the dogs in before doing anything else. (Julie hates when they try to sleep with them in bed.) Morena and Khaleesi rush into the room, Khaleesi jumps up on to the bed and Morena finding a home right between Christen’s legs. She smiles to herself as she struggles to make her way through the room, tripping over Morena nearly every step of the way.  

She finally changes into something that’s work-appropriate and makes her way to the kitchen, checking her phone for messages from Julie. There aren’t any, and she tries not to be disappointed about it. After all, what did she expect?

She calls Julie, who doesn’t answer, and leaves a quick message. “Hey babe, I was wondering if you could get away from work today, could we go out to lunch? Can’t wait to see you, I love you!”

She sighs and starts the coffee machine, then moves to get the leashes from by the door. “Jules didn’t let you guys out, did she? Come on, come on!” She coos as both dogs excitedly make their way over to her. She takes them out for a short walk, and makes it back inside with fifteen minutes to spare before she needs to leave for work. She pours coffee for herself into a travel mug and yawns before raising it to her lips.

Christen eventually walks over to the door, picking up her purse and grabbing a light jacket. “I’ll be back soon, babies!” She calls to her dogs as she shuts the door behind her. As she starts her car, she tries to ignore the nagging feeling in her chest from the night before. She’s not sure why, but she just feels sad . Maybe it’s about the way Julie and her friends were so engrossed in their conversation. Something had to be going on at her work, which meant Christen and Julie wouldn’t be getting to see much each other for the next few weeks.

 

---

 

She tries to push off her lunch break for as long as she can, but once 1:30 rolls around, Christen knows she can’t wait any longer unless she wants to get chewed out by her boss. She tries one last time to call Julie as she walks out of the building, but surprise it just goes to voicemail.

It didn’t used to be this way. When they first moved to Los Angeles after graduation, Julie would always stop by for lunch or at least call her just to say hi, but that was before Julie got promoted to lead her team. Now, Christen is lucky if she gets to have dinner with her girlfriend more than twice a week. She knows she should be happy for Julie and she is , because Julie has worked so hard to get where she is, but it still hurts to have their relationship take the hit for it.

Christen ends up grabbing a sandwich and coffee from the cafe down the street and eating it there before she goes back to the firm. She has a mediation scheduled at three and it goes smoothly for the most part, minus a small hiccup over visitation, but the entire time she feels off. She feels off until she gets home and sees Julie sitting at the kitchen table with binders stacked around her, glasses in hand, and her phone pressed to her ear.

“Hi sweetie,” she greets Christen, moving her phone away from her ear for a second. She sets down her glasses and reaches her hand out towards Christen, silently asking her to move towards her.

Christen obliges, setting down her purse on the couch and moving closer to Julie, who pulls her onto her lap and presses a kiss to Christen’s temple. She relishes in it and suddenly, the knot that had been in her stomach all day slowly starts to unravel itself and she feels almost relaxed. She nestles her face into Julie’s neck, who’s talking again about color schemes and flowers, and tries to let the feeling of Julie’s hand rubbing her back ease the tension she’s been carrying all day.

Finally, Julie hangs up and kisses Christen’s hair. “How was your day?”

“You didn’t call me back.” The words slip out before she can stop them and she instantly feels her stomach drop before Julie even responds.

“I’m sorry, we all got caught up. I listened to your message though.”

Christen pulls back and looks at Julie. “You couldn’t even shoot me a text saying you couldn’t make it?”

“Make it where? We didn’t have any plans, Christen.”

“Yeah, because you never called me back, Julie.” Christen stands up and makes her way to the bedroom.

Julie sighs but stands up and follows her. “Are you mad?”

Christen stops in front of the dresser and drops her head. She knows Julie is behind her, leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed, like she always does before a fight. “No.” The word is clipped and Julie knows she’s in for it. It’s always like this.

“Babe, why are you mad?”

“I’m not,” Christen grits her teeth and pulls open the drawer. She takes a deep breath before continuing. “I’m just upset. I’ll get over it.”

Julie feels her heart sink and pushes off of the wall to move closer to Christen. She reaches out and places a hand on Christen’s lower back, but is surprised when she feels Christen flinch.

“Please don’t touch me right now, Jules,” Christen whispers.

“What do you want me to do?”

Christen has to stop herself from laughing at the question. “Just give me a few minutes to change and relax and I’ll be fine,” she promises.

 

---

 

It’s not fine. Julie keeps her distance and keeps an eye on Christen from the kitchen table but she can tell that it’s not fine. Christen is rigid and robotic in her movements, but for the life of her, Julie can’t think of what she did wrong. She makes dinner while Christen goes over some paperwork and can’t help but think that Christen is being unusually quiet. Even the dogs are silent, staying at Christen’s feet while she works.

She clears the table and plates their dinner, carefully placing them on the table, before entering the living room where Christen is. She sees Morena’s ears perk at Julie approaching, but she makes no effort to move from Christen’s side. Christen is engrossed in the document, and Julie recognizes the look on her face. She’s anxious. Julie can see the way Christen is holding herself: jaw set, slight frown, and her eyes rapidly moving across the pages she’s holding in her hand. She starts to reach out to touch Christen’s shoulder before remembering Christen pulling away from her earlier.

“Christen?” Julie tries carefully, but Christen is too far gone in the words she’s reading. “Baby,” she tries again, a little more sternly.

Christen’s head snaps up and Julie can see the split second of hurt in her eyes before she looks back down. “What?”

“Dinner’s ready. If you’re hungry.”

Christen pauses for a second, as if debating on whether or not she should agree. She picks up the rest of the papers and stacks them before putting them away. Julie watches as Christen slips past her without another word and sighs to herself for having fucked up so badly.

Dinner is quiet, if not uncomfortable as they sit across from each other. After five minutes, Julie is reeling and she can’t stand the quiet anymore. She drops her fork with a clang and Christen willingly meets her eyes for the first time since she got home.

“Will you tell me what’s bothering you?” Julie finally asks.

“Nothing’s bothering me, Julie.”

“Oh, cut the crap, Press. What did I do that’s so terrible?”

Christen shrugs and it just pisses off Julie more.

“Just tell me,” she almost growls.

“I don’t know, okay? I don’t know why I’m so upset, I just know that I am and trust me, it’s pissing me off more than it is you.”

Julie laughs bitterly and shakes her head. “Is this because I didn’t call you back? I told you I was sorry.”

“You can only say you’re sorry so many times before it’s worthless,” Christen shoots back.

“What do you want me to do, Christen? Drop everything at work so I can hang out with you?” Julie spits out and Christen instantly recoils.

“No,” Christen says after a moment. “I want you to actually give a shit about me. Do you know how often I see you anymore?”

Julie opens her mouth to reply but Christen cuts her off.

“I hardly even get to eat dinner with you.”

“Then why are you ruining this one?”

“Oh my god,” Christen rolls her eyes and stands up to clear her plate.  

“I’m serious,” she continues. “Why can’t you just enjoy the time we have together?”

Christen freezes the second it leaves Julie’s mouth. “I do. The real question is why can’t you show me you’re actually committed to this relationship?”

Julie groans. “Are we having this fight again? Christen, I’ve already told you, we’re not ready to settle down yet.”

“Yeah, you’re not! But I am,” Christen yells back and tries not to cry. She focuses on the paint covering the wall in front of her.

Julie drops her hands onto the table louder than she means to, causing Christen to jump slightly. “I’m tired of having this fight, Christen. We’ll get married when the both of us are ready, and right now, I’m not ready.”

“Will you ever be?” Christen asks, turning to face her.

Julie hesitates for a moment and Christen feels her stomach drop. “I don’t know,” she finally admits.

Christen bites her cheek and nods quickly before walking to the hall closet and pulling out a jacket. “Let me know when you do.”

“Christen!” Julie calls out and follows Christen to the front door. “Where are you going?”

“I’m leaving before I say something I regret,” she harshly replies.

Julie remains silent while Christen picks up her purse and fishes out her keys. She doesn’t bother looking back at Julie before closing the door behind her.

 

---

 

The second Christen closes her car door, she breaks down. Julie doesn’t follow her, which isn’t a surprise, but it still hurts. For as many times that they have this fight, it doesn’t hurt any less. If anything, it just seems to hurt even more the longer it goes on.

Christen starts the car and starts to drive with no clear plan in mind. She pulls over after driving for a while and puts the car in park, grabbing her phone from her purse. She unlocks it and scrolls through her contacts until she finds Tobin’s. Christen turns down the radio and taps on her number. The line rings a few times before Tobin answers and she can hear cheering in the background.

“Hello?” Tobin answers loudly.

“Hey, Tobin,” Christen starts, suddenly feeling like it was a bad idea to call. “Is now a bad time?”

“Uh,” she pauses. “A little bit. We just finished a game, actually. What’s up?”

“Oh. It’s nothing really, I should let you get back.”

Tobin can hear the way Christen’s voice cracks so she decides to push. “It doesn’t sound like nothing,” Tobin’s tone softens.

Christen plays with her steering wheel before she replies. “Julie and I got into a fight and I left before I could blow up at her and I was wondering if I could come over.”

“Chris,” she sighs. “I’m not home right now. I’m sorry.”

“I know you’re not home, you’re at a game,” Christen laughs. “I can go meet you on campus.”

“No, like I’m in Berkeley with the team.”

“Oh.” Christen feels her heart sink a little bit. “That’s okay. I’ll figure something out.”

“I-hold on,” Tobin says and Christen can hear some shuffling and suddenly it’s a lot quieter on her side of the phone. “Okay, sorry, it was really loud out there. I won’t be back until tomorrow afternoon, but you can hang out at my place, if you want.”

“Tobin, you don’t have to. I’ll be fine,” Christen begins to protest.

“It’s no problem, Chris. I don’t mind. The spare key is under the flower pot below the living room window. I’ll send you the address.”

Christen feels her eyes sting with tears. “Thank you,” she breathes out, unaware that she was still feeling so upset.

“You’re welcome. I can call you back in a bit when we get back to the hotel, if you want. The girls will be out celebrating, but I can stay in if you need to talk.”

“No,” Christen says, wiping away the tears that had started to fall again with the sleeve of her jacket. “You go have fun.”

“I want to make sure you’re okay,” Tobin replies and it’s so genuine that Christen feels her chest tighten.

Christen stays quiet and Tobin takes it as confirmation.

“I’ll call you when I get back to the hotel. I promise. Now go inside and stay warm.”

“Thank you, Tobin.”

“You’re welcome. I’ve gotta go,” she says and Christen can hear the girls yelling again, meaning they had finally made their way into the locker room.

“Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Bye, Chris.”

 

---

 

Christen finds the key with ease and slides it into the lock, opening the door. She instantly thinks that it smells like Tobin and she’s not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that she can recognise her scent at this point, but it she can feel herself relax as she sinks into the couch. Not long after, her phone lights up and she sees Tobin’s contact on the screen, causing a smile to spread across her face.

“Hey,” she breathes out, accepting the call.

“Did you get in alright?”

“Yeah,” Christen looks around the living room. “It’s very you.”

Tobin laughs at that. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well for starters, there’s soccer stuff everywhere. And it smells like you.”

“It smells like me?”

“Yeah,” Christen smiles.

“Fair enough,” Tobin chuckles again before getting serious. “So what happened with Julie?”

Christen sighs and starts to run her fingers along the material of the couch. “I don’t know, we just… I just want her to commit, y’know? I called her this morning to ask if she wanted to get lunch and she never called me back. And then when I got home, she was on the phone, and we had a small argument over her not calling me back. And everything was fine until dinner where she flipped out because I was upset and I don’t even know how it happened, but we got onto the topic of marriage again and how she doesn’t want to settle down and it made me so mad. I couldn’t be there anymore.”

Tobin listens carefully and tries to stay objective about the entire situation, but hearing how broken Christen sounds about it, that doesn’t last long. “I’m really sorry, Christen. You deserve better than that.”

“Can we just… talk about something else?” Christen asks quietly.

“Yeah. Yeah, we can. We won the match 3-1,” Tobin explains excitedly and Christen can feel her mood lift immediately. “Lizzie scored two of them, once on a PK. And one of our mids Hannah scored the last one.”

“That’s great!” Christen smiles. “What’s a PK?”

Tobin laughs but explains it to Christen who mostly gets it, but doesn’t ask too many questions. They talk about the bus ride to Cal and how Lizzie felt compelled to put the first two High School Musical movies on the bus television and somehow convinced the entire team to sing along. Christen talks about her day at work and somewhere along the way, Christen begins to feel herself get tired. Tobin doesn’t say anything (even though she notices) and eventually, both of them fall asleep, the sound of each other’s breathing the only thing they can hear, until Tobin’s phone dies. Christens manages to curl up on the couch until her phone rings, waking her up.

She shoots up and scrambles around, her hand finally finding her phone under one of the pillows.

“Hello?” she answers without looking at the contact.

“Hey, where are you?” Julie asks and she sounds annoyed.

“Julie?”

“Who else would be calling you from my phone?” Julie rolls her eyes even though Christen can’t see it.

“Sorry,” she yawns. “I must have fallen asleep.”

“Where are you?”

“At a friend’s.”

“Do you plan on coming home at any point?”

Christen pulls back her phone and looks at the time, a little after 2 am. “Shit, Jules, I’m sorry. I’m leaving right now.”

“I’ll leave the door unlocked,” Julie softens before hanging up.

Christen rubs her eyes, trying to wake herself up. She slips on her shoes and scrawls out a quick thank you note for Tobin before she  locks up the house and gets back into her car.

 

---

 

When Christen gets home, the door is unlocked, just like Julie said. She quietly locks the door and turns off the lights along the way to the bedroom. Julie is already in bed and Christen feels her heart ache at the thought of going to bed still fighting. After changing into her pajamas, she climbs into bed and slides over next to Julie.

“Are you still awake?” she whispers after a moment.

“Yeah,” Julie answers softly.

“I’m sorry I keep pushing.”

Julie looks over at Christen whose face is illuminated by the moon peeking through the blinds. “Come here,” she whispers, lifting her arm for Christen to cuddle into her side. “Please be patient with me,” she admits after Christen is settled.

“I’m trying,” Christen squeezes her. “I just need to know you care more.”

“Of course I care about you, Christen. I love you more than anything,” Julie explains, feeling her own heart clench at the thought of Christen thinking she didn’t.

“I love you, too.”

“I’ll try harder,” Julie promises.

“Thank you,” she yawns before nuzzling into Julie’s chest and falling asleep.

 

Chapter Text

Lizzie wakes Tobin up the next morning with a phone call she begrudgingly accepts.

“It's six thirty ,” Tobin says sternly. “Report time is at eight.”

Please , Tobin,” Lizzie knocks on her door but speaks through the phone. “I know you're in there.”

“What could you possibly need this early in the morning?”

“We want to go get coffee and need a chaperone,” Lizzie explains.

“That's a flat out lie,” Tobin yawns but pulls herself out of bed. “You are a 21 year old woman, and we do not have a chaperone rule.”

“Okay, we want you to come with us,” Lizzie says. “Just come on?”

Tobin groans. “Fine. Give me five minutes to change?”

“Will do, Stitch.”

 

---

 

When Tobin finally steps out of the room, she's abruptly hit with icy water from five different directions. As soon as the water touches her skin, she instantly closes her eyes, and is met with fits of giggles from the different girls. She calmly takes a deep breath, releasing the tension in her shoulders and loosening the fists she made in response to the freezing water.

“Okay,” Tobin says once the giggles fade away. She opens her eyes and scans the group of girls. “Who do I have to kill?”

Everyone points to Lizzie who just rolls her eyes. “Okay, it may have been my idea, but you all went along with it!”

Shiloh, the team’s keeper and ever the responsible individual, steps forward, holding up her hands and water gun in surrender. “After going for drinks last night, Lizzie suggested we do something to fuck with you for being lame and not going out with us.”

Christen needed me . Tobin keeps the thought to herself and nods for Shiloh to continue.

I suggested a wake up call, and Phoebe said we should get the water guns.”

Phoebe nods a bit guiltily and starts to fess up, but points to Lauren to add more blame. “ Lauren said we should put them in the fridge.”

Lauren nods and shrugs. “Yeah, can't argue that one.”

Tobin nods and looks to Lara, the only one who hasn't said anything. “And you?”

Lara grins. “I just wanted to be in on the fun.”

Tobin nods and smiles, pulling Lara into a wet hug. “Ugh, I hate you guys. Wait-- love , yeah, that's the right word.”

Lizzie shakes her head and laughs as Lara pulls away from the hug. “Can we go get coffee now?”

“I have to go change!” Tobin argues, turning back to her room.

“Thought you didn't have to go with us,” Lizzie teases as Tobin opens the door.

Tobin rolls her eyes and props open the door, the girls following her in. “I'm still allowed to.”

 

---

 

When Christen wakes up the next morning just after ten, she can't tell if she's surprised or not that Julie isn't in bed next to her. For a moment, she lets herself be bitter over it, but then she smells coffee and pancakes and can't stop the smile from spreading over her face.

“Jules?” She calls out, poking her head out of the bedroom.

“Hey babe,” Julie smiles as she flips a few pancakes onto a plate. She walks over and pulls Christen into a hug, wrapping her arms around her waist and kissing her on the forehead. “Sleep well?”

Christen leans into the hug. Sometimes it’s easier to just let herself be happy. “I was sleeping next to you, wasn't I?”

Julie intertwines her fingers with Christen's and pulls her into the dining room, pulling out a chair for her. “Let me get my beautiful girlfriend some pancakes, yeah?”

Christen blushes and nods. “Yeah, I'd love that.” She pulls on Julie’s hand before she can walk back into the kitchen and gives her a long kiss before letting her go. “I love you,” she whispers against Julie's lips.

“I love you too, honey. More than anything,” Julie smiles. “Don't forget, okay?”

“Okay,” Christen nods as Julie goes into the kitchen grabbing two plates.

“Coffee?” Julie walks back in and sets the plates down before turning back to the kitchen.

“Sure, babe.”

Julie comes back in a moment later and gives Christen her coffee before sitting in a chair diagonal from her. “I'm sorry for last night,” she mutters, looking down at her plate.

Christen reaches out and rests a hand over hers, rubbing the thumb along her knuckles. “Don't be,” she says. She picks up Julie's hand and pulls it to her lips, leaving a soft kiss. “I really appreciate this.”

Julie shrugs. “Glad I could do something right.”

“Baby,” Christen sighs. “Don't dwell on it, okay? I'm over it.”

Julie nods but doesn't look up until Christen raises her a fork to her lips. “Mm, this is so good, Jules. And chocolate chip, my favorite.”

Julie smiles at that and meets Christen's eyes. “Of course.” She adjusts her hand so that they're fingers are interlocked. “Only the best, for my best.”

Christen crinkles her nose. “That’s cheesy.”

“You love it.”

“I love you . Your sense of humor, on the other hand,” she trails off, but the smile on her face betrays what she said.

 

---

 

When Tobin finally gets home, (they hit traffic, what felt like every red light, and as always, she felt obligated to stay until every last girl was safely on their way home) the first thing she notices is a note that Christen left her from the night before.

 

Hey Tobs! I'm heading home now, I think Julie and I are okay. Thank you again for letting me stop by (even without you here!) and I hope your ride back wasn't too bad! (more high school musical?) Tell Lizzie I said congrats on the goals! (it's the important part) Call me when you're home?

-- Christen <3

 

Tobin marvels at the loopy handwriting (messy, but elegant) and smiles, folding up the note and setting it by the door with her keys.

Stitch: Chris says good job with the brace!

Tobin dials Christen’s number and can't ignore the feeling that fills her chest as Christen answers the phone.

“Tobin!” Christen says excitedly. “Home?”

“Yeah,” Tobin looks at her watch and realizes it's almost seven and she hasn't eaten since an early (10 o’clock) lunch. “We hit a lot of traffic and I stayed after to make sure everyone had a ride and all.”

“Aw,” Christen smiles. “How sweet of you.”

“Yeah, I guess so. How are you and Julie?”

“We're good! She made me breakfast this morning and we spent some time together before she went in late to work.”

“That's good, I'm glad to hear it.”

“Yeah, well you're probably tired. I'm gonna let you go. Are you still good for the Super Bowl next weekend?”

Tobin chews on her lip as she remembers Julie’s cold attitude about the whole thing. “Uhm, maybe Chris. I'll have to double check my schedule, alright?”

“Yeah, no problem Tobs. I hope you can make it!”

“Yeah, me too,” she lies.

After her call with Christen ends, she fidgets with the phone and walks into her kitchen. Leaning back against the counter, Tobin glances over her calendar, taking note of her (lack of) plans for the weekend.

Her stomach growls again as she glances over to the time (6:30) and she decides to make another call.

“Have plans?” She asks as Lizzie answers her phone.

“Obviously not, because I schedule my life around you,” she responds sarcastically.

“Awesome, what do you say we go out to dinner with some of the girls? I'm buying, consider it me making up for ditching you guys.”

Lizzie grins. “Well how could I say no? You know how much I love to spend your money.”

“I'm pretty sure every restaurant in town knows that,” Tobin jokes. “Alright, well call up some of the girls, upperclassmen, and we can meet at your place, I'll drive.”

“Sounds good Stitch, see you in ten?”

Tobin remembers the note Christen left for her (she wanted to bring it by the office, but that probably wouldn't happen tonight) and nods, “Fifteen maybe. I've gotta change.”

“Alright, we'll be here.”

Tobin changes into dark skinny jeans, a white t-shirt, and her leather jacket before heading out the door. She grabs the note on her way out, and once she's in the car, she slips it into a binder with (unorganized) work papers in it so she remembers it.

 

---

 

Tobin wonders if it's a coincidence that the girls Lizzie invited are the same girls that shot her with water guns the morning after (except Lauren, but she hasn't really been accepted into their friend group yet), and decides it's not.

“So nice to see you all,” she greets as they start to squeeze in her car.

Lizzie gets in the passenger seat (surprising no one, Tobin assumes she called shotgun as soon as her car was in sight) and immediately leans forward to change the radio station.

Tobin groans as Top 40 starts blasting through her speakers. “Will I ever get to choose the music in my own car?” She asks.

Lizzie shrugs. “Passenger seat chooses, so maybe if you ever let me drive it.” Lizzie reaches over, placing a hand on the steering wheel.

“Never, not in a million years,” Tobin says, smacking her hand as Lizzie pulls away.

“Then nope, you don't get to choose the music.”

Phoebe finally shakes her head and speaks up. “If you weren't such a reckless driver, she might consider it.”

Lizzie flips around. “ Excuse you, I drive plenty safe.”

“Yeah, safe if you're compared to Nascar Drivers.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and turns back around. “I am plenty safe. I've only ever gotten like, two tickets.”

“I've never gotten a ticket,” Shiloh says, smirking.

“Me either,” Lara offers.

“Neither have I,” Tobin agrees.

“That doesn't count. I was there, you talked yourself out of a ticket,” Lizzie turns to Tobin. “So it's basically like getting a ticket.”

“Is not,” Tobin argues, glancing over to Lizzie as they reach a red light.

“Is too .”

“Oh please,” Phoebe leans forward from her spot in the middle seat. “How many tickets would you have if you'd never talked yourself out of one?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and slumps in her seat. “Irrelevant.”

“How come it counts for me but not for you?” Tobin asks with mock offense.

“Just because.”

“You're impossible.”

“You love me,” Lizzie argues.

Everyone else in the car groans, resulting in laughter from the five of them.

“On occasion,” Tobin adds.

Lara nods. “I'm with Tobin.”

“It's a love-hate thing. Mostly hate,” Shiloh teases.

“Yeah, there's a graph somewhere showing how your level of annoying for the day directly corresponds to my love for you.” Phoebe adds.

“Ugh, math majors,” Lizzie says with a groan, turning up the music.

 

---

 

“Remind me again why you’re dragging me to dinner at Alex and Servando’s?” Lizzie complains while Tobin merges onto the freeway.

“I didn’t want to go alone,” she states simply, checking her blind spot before moving into the fast lane.

“You really don’t have any other friends do you?” she teases.

“First of all, rude. Second, this is the second dinner in a row that you’re getting for free, and third, she actually recommended you come. I think she wants to tell you she’s pregnant.”

“But I already know she’s pregnant.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Yeah, but she doesn’t know that you know.”

“Why didn’t you just tell her and save me the pleasure of accompanying you to this lame dinner?”

“You’re going to have to forgive her one day, kid. I did.”

Lizzie scoffs. “She ruined you, Tobin.”

“No, she didn’t,” she looks over at Lizzie before flicking her eyes back to the road in front of her. “I made the decision all by myself.”

“She really did,” Lizzie challenges. “ I’m the one who saw you all broken up about it. I’m the one who helped piece you back together.”

“Can we not talk about this again,” she sighs. “It’s nothing I haven’t heard before.”

“You know I’m right, Stitch,” Lizzie adds before leaning over and changing the radio station.

The rest of the car ride to Alex’s passes in silence, except for Lizzie singing along to the songs on the radio. When they arrive, Lizzie whines again about having to come as they walk up to the front door, a bottle of wine tucked under Tobin’s arm.

“Why did you bring wine?” Lizzie asks. “She’s pregnant.”

“That doesn’t mean we can’t drink,” she grins.

The door swings open and Servando greets them, clad in a button up and nice dress pants. “Hi!”

Lizzie and Tobin smile and say their hellos before being ushered into the living room by Servando, who ventures off into the kitchen to grab wine glasses. He returns with three in hand and Alex on his arm.

“Tobs,” Alex squeals in her raspy voice, pulling her in for a tight hug. “And Lizzie! It’s been forever,” she smiles, pulling her in for a group hug that Tobin gets stuck in the middle of.

“Hey Alex,” Lizzie replies, much less enthusiastically, earning her an elbow to the ribs from Tobin.

“How’s the season going?” Alex asks after she lets the both of them go and settles onto the loveseat across from the two of them.

“Good,” Lizzie answers and Tobin sees her light up at the mention of soccer. “We just played Cal actually. We won 3-1.”

“Lizzie here scored two of those three,” Tobin nudges her with a look of pride.

“Wow, that’s great, Lizzie. I’ll be sure to try and make the next home game.”

Tobin nods and graciously accepts the full wine glass that Servando passes her, taking a large swig that goes unnoticed by Alex. After some more catching up, Alex finally leads them to the dining room to eat dinner, which goes smoothly for the most part, considering Tobin is the only one who seems to notices Lizzie’s offhand comments.

“Actually Lizzie, there’s something I wanted to tell you,” Alex says after they’ve all finished eating. She glances at Servando who offers her a large smile and wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Servando and I are pregnant!”

“Wow.” Lizzie leans back in her chair with a look of mock surprisal on her face. She feels Tobin kick her under the table and she quickly kicks her back. “Congratulations.”

Alex looks like she’s glowing and Servando is looking over at her with so much love and adoration in his eyes that Tobin picks up her glass and takes another drink of wine.

“But didn’t you two just get married? How’d you find out so quickly?”

Alex’s expression quickly changes to sheepish as she looks back at Lizzie. “We actually found out while we were in Hawaii. At the appointment the other day, our doctor estimated that we conceived in late November.”

“That’s really exciting,” Lizzie continues, hoping that her fake excitement is up to Tobin’s standards. “You must be so excited.”

“We are,” Servando answers for the both of them. “We talked about starting a family, but we didn’t think it would be this soon. I just can’t wait for this little one to arrive,” he gushes, placing a hand on Alex’s lower abdomen (which at this point is more likely a food baby than an actual baby).

Alex eagerly nods her head in agreement. Lizzie’s phone rings and she quickly excuses herself to go answer it.

Alex looks over at Tobin who’s polishing off her glass. “I’m glad she took it so well. At this point, I thought she was starting to hate me.”

“Why would she hate you?” Tobin asks, suddenly worried that Lizzie had said something to Alex.

“She’s just seemed a little standoffish to me for the past few months,” Alex starts, but trails off when she hears Lizzie’s footsteps coming back into the dining room.

“Hey, I hate to cut this short, but there’s an emergency with one of the girls and I need to get going,” Lizzie frowns.

“Oh, no problem,” Alex stands from the table. “It was great seeing you. We’ll walk you to the door.”

Lizzie quickly gathers their things and grabs the keys from Tobin (who had a glass or two too much) before ushering her outside. Tobin tries to grab the keys back from Lizzie.

“It’s too expensive for you to drive, you’re going to hurt my car!” Tobin slurs, but only slightly. Lizzie only has to shove her lightly for Tobin to drop her hands to her side dramatically before walking towards the car.

“Thanks so much for dinner and congratulations again,” Lizzie says, pulling Alex in for a quick hug. “Sorry for leaving so abruptly.”

“It’s alright. I hope everything is okay. Text me when you get home,” she says, turning to Tobin who’s sulking against the passenger door.

“I will, Lex. I’ll talk to you later,” she waves.

It isn’t until they’re on the freeway that Tobin speaks up.

“What’s the emergency?”

“Us being there.”

Tobin looks over at Lizzie who has a blank expression on her face. “What?”

Lizzie sighs and turns down the radio. “I had one of the girls call me so it looked like we had to leave. I couldn’t stand you sitting there looking so… mopey.”

“I wasn’t mopey,” Tobin sulks, crossing her arms.

“Uh, yeah you were, and it looks a whole lot like that,” Lizzie motions towards her.

“Whatever,” she grumbles, turning to look out the window. “I can’t believe you’re driving my car.”

Lizzie looks over at Tobin and grins. “Well maybe someone shouldn’t have gotten wasted and we wouldn't be in this predicament now, would we?”

 

---

 

Tobin is sitting in her office the next day, planning out drills for practice when she hears a knock at her door. When she looks up, she’s surprised to see Christen standing in the doorway with a paper bag in her hand.

“Knock knock,” Christen smiles, holding up the bag. “I hope you’re not busy.”

Tobin glances down at her clipboard but moves it to the side, opting to finish it before the girls start filing in.”Not really. That for me?”

“Both of us,” Christen nods before walking in and taking a seat across from Tobin’s desk. “I got you turkey and swiss, I hope that okay.”

“One of my favourites, actually,” she smiles.

Christen pulls out the sandwich and hands it over, along with a small bag of chips.

Tobin unwraps it and takes a bite, nearly moaning. “I was starving.”

They eat in silence, mostly because Tobin devours her meal in under ten minutes.

Christen laughs when she sees that Tobin’s already done. “You can keep doing whatever it was you were doing before I interrupted, I don’t mind.”

Tobin waves her off and tosses her trash in the waste bin next to her desk. “It’s not super important. Just drills for practice.”

“I don’t know, that sounds kind of important.”

She shrugs. “We don’t have a game this week, so not really. We’re looking pretty good, so we’ll actually go easy on them today.”

Christen fidgets with the sandwich wrapper. “Thanks again for letting me hang out at your house the other day. It means a lot.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be here to help you out.”

Christen shrugs and Tobin can see that she’s still looks slightly uncomfortable. She takes a second to really look at Christen and even though she looks better rested than normal, she still has an air of uncertainty surrounding her.

“Is everything okay, Chris?” Tobin asks slowly.

“Yeah,” she sighs and set her sandwich down. “Yeah, it’s just… can I tell you something?”

“Anything.”

Christen pauses for a moment, as if debating on whether or not to tell Tobin what she’s really thinking. “Julie’s actually been really great for the past few days. Like she’s been affectionate and she calls me throughout the day and she makes sure to be home for dinner.”

Tobin nods, waiting for Christen to continue. Until she doesn’t. She’s wringing her fingers and she won’t meet Tobin’s gaze. Tobin reaches out and rests her hand on top of Christen’s, causing her to look up at her. There are tears forming in her eyes and Tobin’s breathing catches, unsure of what to do.

“Chris,” she trails off, standing up and walking around the desk to pull her into a hug. She feels Christen bury her face in the crook of her neck and her body begin to shake and Tobin can feel her heart breaking for her friend. Tobin rubs circles into Christen’s back and waits for her breathing to even out again. “Sweetheart, look at me.”

Christen hesitantly pulls back and Tobin tucks a stray piece of her hair behind her ear.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“No,” Christen shakes her head, pulling back to wipe at her tears. “It’s just really stupid and I don’t know why I’m crying.”

Tobin waits for Christen to compose herself and continue.

“She’s been so good . I feel like any day now it’s going to end and we’ll be right back to where we were before that fight.” She takes a shaky breath in an attempt to steady herself. “I just want it to last this time. I want to stop feeling like I’m second to everything else in her life.”

“You shouldn’t be second,” Tobin whispers. She can see the tears filling her eyes again, so she wraps her arms around her and lets Christen break down in the middle of her office.

 

---

 

By the time Christen gets back to work, she manages to make herself look like she hasn’t been crying, which she’s thankful for. There’s nothing on her schedule for the rest of the day and because she’s obligated to spend the rest of her shift in the office in case of any walk-ins or last minute appointments, she tries to distract herself with mundane tasks. Christen’s halfway through organizing her desk (really it turned into her finding a remarkable amount of lost pens and loose change) when Servando walks by on his way in from his lunch break.

“Hey Servando,” Christen calls out, almost desperate for human interaction to end her suffering.

“Christen,” he smiles. “How are you?”

“Insanely bored,” she grins. “How was your honeymoon? I haven’t really gotten a chance to ask.”

She watches as a huge smile breaks out on his face before asking. “It was really great. We had an amazing time, I’m almost sad to be back here,” he jokes.

“I’d pick Hawaii over here any day,” she half-whispers.

“Who wouldn’t?”

Christen laughs and nods in agreement. “Hey, are you and Alex still coming to the Super Bowl party this weekend?”

“Yeah! She seemed pretty excited about it when I told her. Also, we have an announcement to make since some of the people from the firm are going to be there.”

Christen tilts her head at his words and can almost swear she sees his cheeks flush but her phone ringing stops her from asking. “I’ve gotta take this, but I’ll see you at the party. I have a few days off this week so I won’t be around. Oh, and we invited Tobin too, remind her about it!” she rushes out, accepting her call before it ends.

“Hey baby,” Julie answers and Christen can practically hear the smile in her voice, filling her stomach with butterflies.

“Hey Jules. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Julie assures her. “I know you already had lunch but I’m on my break now and I thought I’d give you a call. Are you busy?”

Christen groans. “The exact opposite. I’m cleaning my desk, Jules. I’m so bored .”

“Think I can come keep you company for a bit?” Julie asks and Christen swears she can feel her heart trying to break out of her chest.

She’s too busy smiling to remember that she was supposed to respond.

“Christen?” Julie laughs. “Are you still there?”

“Yeah, sorry, I’m still here. I’d love for you to come by.”

“I’ll be there in five.”

Christen does her best to clean up her desk before Julie gets there, which is mostly her shoving everything back into the drawers. Julie texts her letting her know she’s there and she rushes outside to find Julie waiting with two coffees and a sandwich.

“How’d you get me a coffee so quickly?” Christen asks with a grin.

“I may have picked it up before I called you,” Julie returns the smile and kisses Christen.

Julie spends her lunch break with Christen and for a while, it feels a lot like it used to. They laugh and talk about their days and for the rest of her shift, Christen feels giddy and a little bit foolish that she had been feeling so insecure just a few hours before.

 

---

 

Later that week, Tobin's strolling through the produce, searching for the right type of apples (the ones Lizzie likes), when she notices Julie by the deli, waiting on something.

She pushes down any thoughts of Christen crying because of her and opts for a polite approach. “Oh, hey,” Tobin smiles and waves to her.

Julie turns and offers a polite wave without a smile. “Hi, Tobin.”

From the new angle Tobin notices she's in the middle of a call. Her smile fades and she instantly feels intrusive. “Oh, sorry, I didn't see you were on the phone,” she raises her hand in innocence.

“It's just Christen,” Julie shrugs.

“Oh, cool,” Tobin’s smile comes back as she slips a hand into her pocket. “Tell her I said hey.”

Julie rolls her eyes but obliges. “Tobin says hi.”

“Tobin! Tell her I said don't forget about the super bowl party!”

Julie nods and turns to Tobin again. “Christen said to remind you that she wants you to go to the super bowl party.”

She wants you to go. Not we, but she. Julie doesn't want me to go. Tobin smiles politely and nods. “Yeah, I'll try.”

“Okay, well I have to go,” Julie says, taking a veggie tray from the lady behind the counter. “Bye,” she starts pushing her cart away.

“Alright, bye Julie,” Tobin says, but Julie walks away so fast she's not even sure she heard her.

“Were you nice to her?” Christen asks through the phone as Julie walks away.

“Of course , babe,” Julie lies, turning down another aisle. “What kind of chips do we need?”

“Just, whatever works,” Christen says. “Did she say she could go?”

Julie sighs. “She said she'll try. Dip or no dip?”

“Are you going all Shakespeare on me?” Christen teases.

“No,” Julie chuckles.

“Get dip,” Christen says. “Worst case scenario, no one eats it.”

Julie nods. “Alright babe.”

“Don't forget the veggie tray!”

“Already done, but really?”

“Really what?”

You are trying to remind me not to forget something?” Julie teases.

“Oh hush,” Christen says with a laugh.

“Alright, well I'm gonna check out then I'll be on my way home. I love you, Stanford.”

“I love you, Jules. Drive safe, okay?”

“You know me, daredevil extraordinaire,” Julie jokes. “I'll be home soon babe, wanna start on dinner for us?”

Christen hesitates, “Uhm…”

“I know, I know. Over two years and you still can't cook,” Julie smiles and Christen can hear it in her voice. “Just order in, we can watch a movie when I get home and we'll worry about decorating tomorrow.”

“Okay, I'll do that. I love you, again,” Christen says with a laugh.

“I never stopped,” Julie smiles as she walks up to the register. “Okay, I really have to go now baby, goodbye.”

“Bye, drive home safe.”

Julie hangs up the phone without a response and starts unloading her items from the cart.

“Super bowl party?” The cashier asks.

“Oh, you bet,” Julie grins. “You watching?”

“Of course,” the guy laughs. “Who isn't?”

“Fair enough,” Julie nods as she puts the bags in her cart. “Hope you enjoy yourself Sunday,” she offers as she starts to pull away.

“You too, Miss.”

Chapter Text

Christen hears her phone ring and rushes into the kitchen, nearly tripping over one of her dogs on the way. “Julie?”

“Hey baby, I've gotta stay late today,” Julie says and Christen can hear people talking in the background.

She sighs. “I thought you could get off early to help me set up for tomorrow?”

“I know, I'm really sorry but we had some stuff blow up and the wedding is next weekend. They're gonna need me there, and they need me here right now.”

“But, we were--" Christen stops and rubs her temple; this wasn't the first time Julie had bailed on her. "Alright."

“I'm sorry, but I can take off tomorrow for the Super Bowl party!”

Christen sighs again. Of course she can get off for the Super Bowl. “It's fine, I'll just,” she hesitates, searching for a solution. “I'll just call someone else to help me.”

“Sure babe, I'll probably get home around eleven or so, I'll see you then!”

“Should I save some dinner for you?”

“I'll probably just eat out with some of the people here," Julie says.

“Alright,” Christen paces through her kitchen where she had just been about to start on dinner. “I'll probably just order in then.” (Probably for the best, anyway.)

“Good luck setting up, love you!”

“I love you, too,” Christen says, and Julie hangs up before she can hear the sigh accompanied by it.

 

---

 

Christen calls Tobin, pacing back and forth in the kitchen because for some reason, she’s nervous. “Hey, can you come over and help me set up?”

“Set up for what?” Tobin asks.

“The Super Bowl party tomorrow, you're coming right?”

“I dunno, Chris. I don't think Julie exactly wants me there,” she admits, thinking back to their meeting in the supermarket. She wonders if Julie even noticed how standoffish she had been to her.

“But I want you there, who cares what Julie thinks?”

“She's your girlfriend, and I care what she thinks.”

“Well you're my friend, and I don't. Please come tomorrow?”

Tobin sighs, it's getting harder and harder to say no to her. “Alright.”

“And pretty please, come tonight to help me set up?”

Tobin laughs. “You and Julie can't handle it yourselves?”

Christen chews at her lip. “Julie has to stay late at work, I'll be all alone setting up for the party if you don't come help. So as my best friend, you're kind of obligated to.”

Tobin laughs again. "Well, I guess I can't argue with that logic.”

“Yay! And don't eat, I'll order something in.”

“I'll just pick up something on the way, I'm already out,” Tobin says quickly. “What do you want?”

A smile grows on Christen's face. “Surprise me.”

She ends the call and Lizzie looks at her. If looks could kill, she’d be six feet under with a grave labeled Disappointment .

“You know, you could pretend you have a life outside of me,” Tobin says, rolling her eyes.

“Hey, I do have a life outside of you,” she defends. “I’m just waiting for you to admit you’re in serious like with this girl.”

“I’m not in serious anything , except friendship. Besides, she’s taken,” Tobin says, rising from their shared table directly outside of a coffee shop.

“So was Alex,” Lizzie says, her voice low and tone serious.

“Low blow.” Tobin looks over at Lizzie, clenching her jaw to mimic the serious expression. “And she wasn’t when I started to-- whatever.”

“I’m just saying Tobs, don’t get hurt.”

Tobin pulls her into a hug. “Thanks for looking out for me, but I think I’ll be alright.”

“Also why wasn’t I invited to this party?” Lizzie asks, pulling away from the hug.

“You’ve met Christen once, and all you did was drunkenly hit on her,” Tobin says with a straight face. “Besides, you don’t even like football.”

“It still would’ve been nice to be invited ,” Lizzie says. “And for the record, she was flattered.”

“I was there, she was tipsy.”

“Tipsy, flattered, same thing.” Lizzie shrugs, gesturing to the bar they were going to go to. “Guess you're not getting laid tonight.”

Tobin rolls her eyes as she begins walking to her car. “Guess not.”

“Go have fun with your friend ,” Lizzie teases, turning so she can go to the bar they were going to visit.

“Friend! Just friend,” Tobin calls out. “Not friend , just friend!”

Lizzie turns around, smile on her face. “Alrighty Tobs, sure.”

 

---

 

Tobin arrives, ringing the doorbell with a box of pizza and coffees she’d picked up for the two of them in hand.

“Ugh, Tobin, you are the best,” Christen says, taking the coffee graciously.

Tobin just smiles nervously. “Sure, I guess so. What’re we working on?”

Christen leads them into the house, gesturing to the table for her to leave the pizza and taking her to the living room. “Well, everything’s clean, I just need help putting out all the decorations and everything.”

Tobin nods, picking up a roll of streamers from the coffee table. “Why don’t we get started then?”

 

---

 

A few hours later (it’s pushing 8:30), Tobin and Christen find themselves falling over each other in a fit of giggles with almost all of the decorations finished. The dogs sit on either side of them, trying to get attention but they’re too lost in each other to really notice.

“Chris, I can’t believe you licked a streamer ,” Tobin resumes laughing hysterically as Christen just pouts, trying to hide a smile.

“My sister told me to!” She defends. “She told me that I should because it was one of those things you just have to do in your life, so I listened.”

“Older sister, right?”

“Yeah, so I figured she’d never fool me like that,” Christen laughs to herself. “I’m the middle kid, so I learned pretty quickly. Do you have any siblings?”

Tobin nods with a smile. “Yeah, I’m kind of the middle too. I’ve got two older sisters and a little brother.”

Christen smiles. “That’s cool. Did your sisters ever convince you to do anything like that?”

Tobin shakes her head. “No, but my brother and I played pranks on them all the time. Have you ever licked a nine volt?”

“You mean like the battery?” Christen asks, laughing again.

“Yeah, the battery. You’ve gotta try it.”

“Hmm,” Christen thinks to herself for a moment. “I will, but only if you lick a streamer.”

Tobin starts laughing. “You just told me about how bad it tastes!”

“True,” she shrugs. “But it’s only fair for you to.”

Tobin rolls her eyes, not even trying to hide the smile. “Sure, Chris. Bring it on.”

 

---

 

After twenty minutes of searching for a battery, Tobin and Christen sit at the dining room table, staring each other down. The pizza lies on the other side, cold (but not bad) from the neglect, seeing as Tobin and Christen were too busy with each other to notice their hunger.

“Alright, on three, Chris.” They both raise their respected items (Tobin with a piece of leftover streamer, Christen with the nine volt) slowly to their mouths.

“One, two, three.” They say together, neither of them making a move.

“You didn’t do it!” Tobin yells accusingly through her laughter.

“You didn’t either!” Christen says as the dogs come running in, curious about the loud noises.

“Okay, sure, but still!”

“Still nothing!” Christen says, laughing. “Okay, let’s do it for real this time.”

Tobin nods and raises the streamer back up to her mouth. “Ready Chris?”

Christen nods and they count together, “One, two, three!” Christen touches her tongue to the battery and immediately jumps up.

“Ow! It shocked me!”

Tobin starts gagging as she pulls the streamer away and runs to the kitchen, spitting into the sink. “ That is the nastiest thing I’ve ever tasted.”

“Well, my tongue got shocked!”

“You completed the circuit Chris,” Tobin rolls her eyes good naturedly and reaches for her glass of water, rinsing out her mouth and spitting into the sink again. “What did you think would happen?”

Christen shrugs. “I don’t know , but you still could’ve warned me.”

“You didn’t warn me what the streamer would taste like.”

“I told you it was bad.”

“Fine, fine,” Tobin resigns. “Fair enough, but at least now we’ve done it, right?”

Christen thinks to herself. “I don’t know, I probably could’ve gone without ever licking a battery.”

“Alright, I guess I could’ve gone without licking a streamer.” Tobin smiles to Christen as she leans against the counter. “We’re idiots, aren’t we?” She asks with a wry smile.

Christen returns the smile, “Yeah, you could say that. But at least we’re idiots together.” She walks back toward the living room and while passing through the dining room, realizes something. “Man, I am so hungry.”

“Oh right, I totally forgot about the pizza!” Tobin says, following her.

Christen nods, picking up the box and taking it with them. “When do you have to leave?” She asks as she takes a seat on the couch.

Tobin shrugs, looking at her watch with a yawn. “Not too late probably, why? Trying to kick me out?” She teases.

“No, no,” Christen laughs. “Trying to see if you want to watch a movie, actually.”

“Sounds great, Chris. What should we watch?”

“Uhm,” Christen reaches for the remote and begins to flip through her Netflix selection. “Any suggestions?”

“Ooh, we could just watch Parks and Rec?” Tobin says, noticing it under the My List section.

“Yeah, that works, have an episode preference?”

“Just anything after the first season,” Tobin says with a shrug. “Took me awhile to get into it.”

Christen nods, playing the sixth episode of the third season (it’s the next after the one she last saw with Julie, so she tries not to think about that) and the dogs jump onto the couch with them. One sits on Christen’s side, opposite of Tobin, and the other chooses the spot between them, resting her head on Tobin’s leg.

“She likes you,” Christen says with a smile, gesturing to Morena.

“Well I’m glad,” Tobin smiles up at Christen. “The two best things you can get approval from are little kids and dogs.”

“Agreed,” Christen returns the smile as they settle into a comfortable silence, the only noises being made by the tv and the dogs softly snoring.

 

---

 

“Julie’s on her way,” Christen sighs as she checks her phone. “She’ll probably be here in twenty minutes.”

Tobin nods, gently shifting her weight and sliding a pillow under the dog’s head so as not to wake her. “Guess I should be going, then.”

“Oh no, you don’t have to,” Christen yawns as she gets up to follow Tobin. “I was just saying.”

“Nah, it’s cool Chris.” Tobin checks her watch, 10:45. “I should be getting home anyway.”

“You sure? You can spend the night here, if you want,” she offers, gesturing into the house.

“Really,” Tobin flashes a brilliant smile. “I’m good. Thanks, though. I had a lot of fun tonight.”

Christen returns the smile (Tobin’s is contagious). “Me too, even if you did try to electrocute me.”

“It was a battery , you were fine,” Tobin says with a laugh. “Goodnight, Chris.”

Christen opens the door and follows her out, walking her to the car. “Goodnight.” She pulls Tobin into a hug and relishes in the warmth, silently cursing California for its winter weather. “See you tomorrow?”

Tobin flashes another smile (Christen immediately returns it). “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

 

---

 

When she gets to her house, she notices a few texts.

Alex: See you at the super bowl party tomorrow, Christen’s hosting!

Alex: I’m glad you two have become such good friends :)

Lilo: Made plans for tomorrow, when I call you tomorrow night totally wrecked, just know I’m trying to say “I need a ride”

Lilo: I’ll message you a pin when I get there, but it’s one of the frat houses on East side of campus, not too hard to find

Tobin smiles for a moment, but her stomach sinks as she remembers what tomorrow would be. The party. Alex told me, she was gonna announce her pregnancy at the party.

She shakes her head and tries to take a deep breath, replying to the messages.

Tobin: Yeah, I’m glad we have too :)

Stitch: Alright lol, I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t sleep with anyone whose name you won’t remember

Tobin slips into something more comfortable than the jeans she’d been wearing and as soon as she’s in bed, she falls asleep.

 

---

 

Christen wakes the next morning to a kiss on the forehead from her face-painted girlfriend.

“Wake up babe, people are gonna start coming over in a few hours,” Julie says, pulling the blanket off of her and taking her hands.

“I’d say let’s take a shower together, but it looks like you’re already ready for the game,” Christen jokes.

“Yeah, sorry but I knew I was gonna get caught up with the food, so I went ahead and got ready.” Julie pulls on Christen’s hands so she’s sitting up. “And you don’t have to worry about a thing , I’ve got all the food under control.”

“Really?”

“Yep, I wanted to show how grateful I was that you fixed everything up last night, so I decided I’d just do all the food and let you sleep in!”

“The whole waking me up part of the morning counteracts the letting me sleep in thing,” Christen teases.

“Fair enough, but I figured you’d want enough time to shower and get ready. What kind of girlfriend would I be if I let you wake up twenty minutes before people got here?”

Christen turns and pulls Julie into a kiss, “You’re forgiven for waking me up.”

“I’d hope so,” Julie smiles and rises from the bed. “I’m gonna go back to the food, but I’ll see you when you’re done in the shower, okay?”

Christen nods and gets up as Julie leaves the room. She starts looking around, picking through clothes when she notices that it’s already 11:00. I must’ve been really tired , she thinks to herself as she heads to the bathroom. She picks up her phone and shoots a text to Tobin before turning on music for her shower.

Chris: Thanks for all your help last night!

 

---

 

When Tobin arrives, Christen makes a beeline for her.

“Thank God you’re here, most of my other friends had their own things, and the ones who didn’t are crowded in front of the television, so I’ve been surrounded by football loving jocks.”

“What makes you think I’m not a football loving jock?” Tobin teases, raising an eyebrow.

“You like the real kind of football,” Christen says, leading them into the kitchen.

“Don’t let anyone hear you say that, Chris,” Tobin laughs. “To Americans, this is real football.”

“But they don’t even use their feet?” Christen turns to the counter and starts to mix drinks for her and Tobin.

“Oh trust me, I know,” Tobin says, shaking her head.

“Drink this,” Christen holds out the glass and Tobin peers into it carefully.

“How do I know you didn’t slip something in my drink?” She teases. “You take a drink first.”

Christen rolls her eyes as she takes a sip, “Happy?”

“Immensely so,” Tobin laughs as she clinks glasses with Christen before taking a drink. She scans the living room and her eyes catch Alex, sitting in Servando’s lap on the couch. She clenches her jaw and sets the drink down.

“What’s wrong?” Christen asks, following her eyes to see what had upset her. “Oh.”

“Yeah, no, it’s fine. I mean, she’s happy, y’know? I’ve gotta be happy for her.”

“It’s okay to be sad, Tobin.”

Tobin nods, but her expression doesn’t change. “Yeah, I know. I’m fine, really.”

“No you’re not,” Christen argues, resting one of her hands on Tobin’s.

“That’s not for you to decide,” Tobin snaps, pulling her hand away. She sees the look of shock on Christen’s face and immediately softens. “I’m sorry Chris, I don’t know where that came from.”

“It’s alright,” Christen rests her hand back over Tobin’s. “Wanna sit down?” She offers, gesturing to the dining room table covered in various finger foods.

“Yeah, sure.”

 

---

 

Just before the game is starting, Alex stands up in the living room. “Guys, I have an announcement to make!” She clinks a plastic fork against her solo cup filled with ice water, getting a laugh out of some guests. The people from the firm turn the attention to the couple but it takes a little bit longer for the others who were invited to quiet down and eventually listen as well. “Servando and I are pregnant!”

Tobin nods and looks down at her drink as Christen glances at her.

“Did you know?” She asks after the clapping and “Congratulations!” dies down (even the people who don’t personally know Alex and Servando clap because they’ve already had a few drinks and the excitement for the game transfers over to their excitement for the couple).

“I mean, yeah,” Tobin looks up at her. “She's my best friend.”

Christen nods, then laughs. “Of course they're the type.” She scoffs and takes another swig of her drink.

“What type?”

“The type to say we’re pregnant. I mean, Servando's great and he's fun to work with, but that's just douchey."

Tobin laughs as she realizes that she thought the same thing when Alex told her.  “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It's kind of annoying.”

Christen smiles as she realizes she was able to cheer Tobin up, even if only a little bit. “Exactly, who says that? We’re pregnant ,” she mocks. “Disgusting.”

 

---

 

“Oh, come on!” Julie yells at the television after the offense fumbles the ball. “Get it!”

Tobin looks over to see players scrambling to regain possession, but it’s turned into a dogpile of players instead, the ball out of vision. Tobin stands and walks closer to the couch and stands behind it, watching the referees pull players off of each other to see who’s clutching the ball.

When the refs point to the offense and declare it a second down, the entire living room erupts into cheers, Tobin included. She moves around to the front of the couch and sits down next to one of Julie’s friends. The game goes to commercial after the defense fails to convert a field goal and Julie stands from the couch.

“Anyone need another beer?” she asks, draining the rest of her bottle.

Servando and Tobin both raise their hands and she goes off the kitchen to grab them from the fridge.

“You’re a traitor,” Christen laughs from behind the couch. “I leave for ten minutes to make a phone call and you’re here watching football.”

“They fumbled the ball, I got worried,” Tobin defends.

“Uh huh, sure. You were just waiting for me to leave so you could watch,” Christen teases.

Julie wraps an arm around Christen’s waist from behind and pulls her against her. “You can watch too, you know.”

Christen rolls her eyes but leans back into Julie. “I don’t really think I have a choice now.”

Julie pulls her over to the couch and hands out the beer before sitting down and pulling Christen onto her lap, making her smile. Julie is usually hesitant about PDA, but the beer she’s  been drinking since before the game started has definitely loosened her up. Christen cuddles into Julie’s chest and laughs at the commercials playing. “This is definitely the best thing about the Super Bowl.”

“The commercials?” Julie groans and shakes her head. “Remind me again why I’m dating you,” she teases.

Christen mumbles a, “shut up,” and pecks her cheek before turning back to the screen.

 

---

 

By the fourth quarter there is far too much happening on the screen for Christen to follow, so she decides to abandon the living room. (With the way everyone was bouncing and yelling at the tv, the incapability to understand what was going on became less of a reason to leave the living room and more of an excuse to go somewhere quiet.)

Tobin joins her in the kitchen a few minutes later and leans against the counter, bumping Christen’s shoulder with her own as she massages her temples. “Want water or something?”

Christen opens her eyes and looks over, noticing the caring expression on Tobin's face and slight concern in her eyes. She turns around and leans so her back is against the counter and Tobin is to her right. “Maybe, or some painkillers?”

Tobin bites her lip and turns to face the walkway, noticing Julie (and everyone else, but mostly Julie) screaming at the tv. (Christen’s pretty sure a commercial is on, so she has no clue what they could be screaming about now, but her head hurts and she just knows she wants it to stop.) “Is it them?”

Christen nods and leans forward against Tobin who pulls her into a hug, rubbing her back soothingly. She swears she can feel the tension melt away with Tobin's touch, but she decides to keep that thought to herself. After a minute or so of them standing like that (Tobin feels a bit awkward because they're just standing in the kitchen, hugging for seemingly no reason, but if it makes Christen feel better then she won't be the one to stop it) until Christen pulls away, her arms falling so they're around Tobin's wrists. “Can you get me some water?”

Tobin nods, turning as Christen releases her hands. She opens the cabinet above the sink to the right (she remembers from when she was here the night before) and fills it halfway with ice, then nearly to the brim with water. She hands it over and Christen drains it, taking a deep breath when she finally pulls the cup from her lips.

“Thanks, Tobs. Could you grab me the bottle of Advil out of the bathroom too?”

Tobin turns and walks towards the hallway before turning back around, “Uhm, where?”

“Behind the mirror, to the right.”

Tobin walks in the bathroom and when she opens the cabinet, she feels like she's crossing a line. She notices some half-empty bottles of cough medicine, an old prescription for some sort of cold, and two prescriptions with labels she recognizes (though she’s not sure from what), Acamprosate and Naltrexone. She studies the labels for a moment (prescribed to Julie) before feeling herself blush deeply (this was definitely crossing a line) and averts her eyes to search for the Advil.

“Here, Chris,” Tobin hands over the bottle and takes Christen's empty cup to refill it for her.

“Thank you so much,” Christen pulls her in for another hug as the living erupts into another round of yelling (some good, some bad). It makes Tobin wonder what's happening, but she quickly decides that being here for her friend is far more important.

“Don't mention it,” Tobin pulls back and hands over the cup so Christen can take the medicine. “I'm happy to help.”

Christen smiles at Tobin after taking her medicine. “You can go be a dumb jock in there, if you want,” she offers then rolls her eyes. “My girlfriend is, so not like I'd have any right to judge you.”

Tobin returns the smile (something about Christen always makes her smile) and puts a hand on her forearm. “I'd rather be in here making sure you're okay than in there being a dumb jock any day.”

Christen bites back the thought of Julie wouldn't, and lets herself enjoy the idea of being picked first (for once).

 

---

 

They spend the rest of the game (there wasn't all that much of actual playtime, but with the combination of “football time” and everyone insisting on watching the celebration, it ended up being quite a while) in the kitchen with each other while everyone else in the place (including Alex, who Tobin notices is glued to Servando’s side) is connected to the tv.

“Thank you,” Christen says quietly, leaning into Tobin's side as they lean back against the counter.

“For?” Tobin looks to her left and smiles as she notices Christen resting her head on her shoulder.

“Helping me.”

“We went over this Chris, you don't have to thank me.”

“You didn't have to help me.”

Tobin nods. “That's fair. But I'm your friend, and I don't want you to hurt.”

Christen nods for a moment before saying what she'd tried to keep inside for the past half hour. “Julie didn't help me.”

Tobin bites her lip, not sure of what to say. “Well, in her defense,” (should she be defending Julie? Or just letting Christen rant?) “You didn't exactly tell her anything.”

“I didn't have to tell you anything.”

Tobin swallows and tries to come up with a response, but all she can manage is a feeble nod and another, “That's fair.”

“Just,” Christen stands up straight and pulls Tobin into another hug (she doesn't usually hug this much, but then again, Julie isn't a huge fan of hugs or anything that's a display of affection when there's people around, and until Tobin there weren't a whole lot of people she wanted to hug this much). “Thank you, for being a great friend.”

“Anytime, Chris,” Tobin doesn't pull away from the hug until a chime goes off from her phone.

Lilo: it s noot late butt I nned a ride

Tobin laughs at the message and shows Christen, who raises an eyebrow curiously. “Lilo, so, Lizzie?”

Tobin nods and slips her phone back in her pocket. “I've gotta go Chris, but thanks for a great time today.”

“I'm glad you could make it!” Christen walks her out of the house (and all the way to her car). “Thanks again, for everything,” she says as Tobin starts to get in her car.

“No need, Chris,” Tobin flashes a brilliant smile which Christen instantly reciprocates. “I'll see you later?”

“I'm free on days that end in ‘y’,” Christen laughs at her own joke as Tobin shakes her head, closing the door.

Stitch: On my way, don't die

Tobin sends a quick text to Lizzie before waving and backing away, ready to go save her from whatever trouble she could've gotten into at a frat house before 7:00.

Chapter Text

“Christen, you've gotta come,” Servando says, leaning on her desk. “Alex specifically asked for you.”

Christen rolls her eyes. “I'm not sure your wife even knows my name.”

Servando smiles. “My wife, I like the sound of that. But anyway, of course she does!”

“What were her exact words?”

Servando sighs. “She asked for, Julie and her wife, the one that works with you. Christine or something .”

Christen’s face falls. “Julie and I aren't married.”

“I know,” Servando nods quickly. “That's already been explained.”

“Also, Christine? Really?”

Servando laughs, joined by Christen after a few moments. “Hey, she was close.”

Christen nods understandingly. “Will Tobin be there?”

“Uhm,” Servando thinks to himself. “If it means you and Julie will come, she will be.”

“Why do you want us to come so badly?”

Servando sighs. “Alex wants to hang out with Julie and she didn't want to invite Julie without you because you and I are friends. Also it's always fun to hang out with you.”

Christen smiles, “Alright, we'll be there. What's this party for, anyway?”

Servando reflects her smile with his own toothy grin on his walk out of the office. “Nothing, actually. I think Alex just wanted to invite people over.” He shrugs, turning back in the doorway to face her. “Something about a baby announcement, but anyone that’s going was either at the Super Bowl party or has already heard.”

Christen laughs. “You two just love your parties don't you?”

“We do.”

“Is married life any different?”

Servando smiles. “It's amazing, Christen. I feel so settled now. So...at peace. Dating Alex, living with her, it's not the same. But now? Married to her and with a kid on the way,” his smile grows wider, which Christen didn't think was possible. “It's incredible.”

Christen offers a small smile in an attempt to be happy with him rather than sad at her own ever-dwindling chance to get married. “That’s great, Serv. Really. I'm so happy for you.”

He nods as he ducks out of her office. “Party, be there!”

“We will!”

 

---

 

“Christen, Julie!” Servando smiles as he swings the door open, taking a pot of flowers from Julie. “I'm so glad you made it! What’s this for?”

Julie rolls her eyes good-naturedly. “Christen said we needed to bring something, but we couldn't bring wine because, you know,” she moved her hands in a circular motion in the space front of her stomach.

“We got it, Jules,” Christen leans over and kisses Julie on the cheek. She scans for Tobin who's in the kitchen with Alex, looking kind of upset. “I'm gonna go mingle.” She makes her way over to the kitchen where Alex and Tobin (who look fresh out of an argument, with Tobin droopy-eyed and Alex’s features still stern) are. She opens her mouth to speak but is cut off by Alex.

“Hi, Christen.” She offers a small polite wave accompanied by a grimace before continuing. “Where's Julie?”

Christen points back to the front door where it looks like Julie and Servando are actively engaged in a conversation, bright expressions, hand gestures, and all.

“Thanks.” She walks out of the kitchen without a glance back.

“You alright?” Christen rests a hand on Tobin’s arm. “You look--”

“Sad?” Tobin looks up at Christen with an apologetic smile.

“Yeah,” she says softly, putting a hand on Tobin’s arm. “What was that about?”

“Alex is worried because apparently I'm not myself around Servando.” She slumps against the counter and sighs. “How can I be myself around the guy who's married to the love of my life?”

Christen pulls her into a hug. “There can be more than one love in your life, y'know.”

“But I think she's the one. Was . I think she was the one.”

“Then find the next one.”

“You make it sound easy.” Tobin pulls away from the hug and drops her head in her hands. “How many times have you been in love, Chris?”

Christen glances over to Julie then drops her head without an answer.

“Exactly,” Tobin says harshly.

Christen looks up at Tobin with an expression that makes Tobin’s heart twinge and she pulls Christen into a hug.

“Hey, Chris, shh,” she coos. “Look, I'm sorry I'm being a dick.”

“It's okay,” Christen mumbles into her shoulder.

“It's not.” Tobin pulls away, holding Christen at arm’s length. “I shouldn't take my anger out on you.”

“That's ok--”

“No. It's not,” Tobin says in a voice so low it’s nearly a whisper. “And you've gotta know that too, okay? You don't deserve to be stepped on because of other people’s problems.” Tobin slides her hands down so she's holding Christen's wrists instead of her shoulders.

Christen nods. “I'm here for you, though. If you wanna talk about it more.”

Tobin nods, releasing her hands and turning to grab a cup. “Want something to drink?”

“Depends,” Christen walks over so they're looking at the counter and standing next to each other. “Are you any good at making drinks?”

Tobin smiles as if it’s a challenge. (It is.) “Only when I'm making them for pretty girls.” She winks and Christen giggles as she bites her lip.

“So I bet you make great drinks for yourself then, huh?”

Tobin’s taken back for a moment, then regains her composure. (She had been a bit worried about how Christen would react to some harmless flirting, but the answer was very very well.) “That I do,” she responds coolly. “But I bet this drink for you will be even better.”

 

---

 

They spend the next couple hours moving from one group of people to the other, neither of home venturing towards Alex and Julie, who have been locked in conversation since Alex saw her. Christen mentions something about it being a little hot so Tobin nods understandingly, makes them both new drinks, and leads her to the back of the house.

“Where's Lizzie? Christen asks as they step outside.

Tobin closes the door and smiles, hardly concealing a laugh. “Doing homework, supposedly. But she wouldn't have been caught dead here.”

Christen tilts her head. “Why?”

“Well,” Tobin sighs. “You know, my past with Alex, right?”

Christen nods and takes a sip of her drink.

“Lizzie was the one who was there for me through it all.”

Christen cuts in. “Are she and Alex not friends?”

Tobin shrugs. “Depends on who you ask, really. Alex would say yes, Lizzie would say no. They knew each other when Alex and I were still in school, but Lizzie was always more my friend than Alex’s. Alex doesn't really know that I am--” Was? Am. Definitely still am. “In love with her, so she wouldn't know why Lizzie doesn't like her.”

Christen nods as Tobin continues to lead the way so that they're practically walking laps around the backyard.

Tobin turns to Christen and breaks the silence as their arms brush. “Are you cold? You feel cold.”

“I'll be fine.” Christen’s eyes dart to the ground but she smiles sheepishly, giving herself away.

“Well, maybe,” Tobin steps forward, placing her hands on Christen's arms. “But I don't want to know you will be fine, I want you to be okay now.” She slips out of the jacket she's wearing (Adidas, and Christen assumes that it probably belongs to a set of training gear or something and Tobin most likely has a million other things that match it exactly with the black sheen and white stripes down the side) and pulls it over Christen’s shoulders. “Better?”

Christen nods, slipping her arms through the sleeves and zipping it. “Definitely, thank you.”

“Of course,” Tobin dismisses it with a wave of her hand. “So how are you?”

Christen thinks for a moment. “Good, now that I'm with you.”

Tobin nods with a smile, taking note of the way Christen’s eyes sparkle in the moonlight and how her smile shines with the stars. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Christen agrees.

 

---

 

“You should go join Serv,” Alex pokes Tobin's bicep and leans closer to her.

“You mean go play my game?”

“Yes, with Servando.”

Tobin looks at Alex seriously. “What's the problem, Lex?”

“I want you to get comfortable around him.”

If it's been this long and I haven't, what makes you think anything is changing? “Why?”

“I want you two to be friends.” Alex places her hand on Tobin’s bicep and tilts her head. “Please? For me?”

Tobin stares back at Alex, silently pleading to God or the universe or whoever may be listening to stop this and save her. This has to be some cruel joke. Tobin clenches her jaw, but before the words are even out of Alex’s mouth, she knows she can't say no to Alex. (She never could.)

 

---

 

Tobin's leaning against the couch, watching Servando and one of his friends face off in a battle on Super Smash Bros, and despite the trash talk from both sides, Servando’s pulling far ahead.

“I'll play winner,” Tobin adds nonchalantly as Servando glances back.

A smile breaks out on his face before he turns back to the tv, and it takes him no more than a minute to crush his opponent.

“Come join, Tobs!” Servando pats the now vacant spot on the couch as Tobin circles around. “How many lives?”

Tobin looks to the screen as she picks up the controller.

“Ten?” He asks before she says anything.

Tobin purses her lips. I don't know if I can stand playing with you for ten lives.

“Oh come on,” he shoves her shoulder playfully. “Go big or go home, right?”

Tobin nods, locking her eyes with the screen. “Right, go big or go home,” she says under her breath.

They select their characters (Tobin with Lucario, as always, and Servando with Marth) and the brawl hardly goes on for three minutes before they’re drawing in a crowd.

Christen leans on the arm of the couch next to Tobin, switching between studying the screen (none of it makes sense, but there's explosions sometimes, and that's cool) and studying Tobin's hands (Christen finds the way Tobin looks so intently at the game and how tightly her hands are clenched around the controller to be some kind of beautiful).

There's more than one occasion where Tobin hears an “ooh!” or “good job!” and feels Christen nudge her shoulder. When that happens, Tobin feels a sudden sense of pride in her ability (glancing to their life levels doesn't hurt either, considering Tobin has nearly double Servando’s amount) and a renewed drive to win.

Alex comes over not much longer and stands behind the couch in between Servando and Tobin. She puts a hand on both of their shoulders with a smile and Tobin doesn't have to look back to know who’s touching her (it always burns when Alex does, she assumes it's some sick joke from God or maybe a punishment for falling in love with her best friend), taking the opportunity where Servando does to kick him off the edge, ending their match.

“Tobs! You won!” Christen wraps both arms around Tobin's shoulders.

“Yeah,” she smiles and tries to ignore the pain in her chest (whether it's from Alex who's probably staring daggers into her back for being unsportsmanlike, or Christen who seems to have that effect on her sometimes, she's not sure she wants to know).

 

---

 

After everyone who wanted to play gets beat by Tobin, she starts trying to teach Christen how to play. Christen’s either a slow learner, or just really likes when Tobin puts her hands over her own (Tobin gives her the benefit of the doubt, and decides it's the former). After about five minutes of (not very productive) teaching, Julie walks over with a smile.

“Hey Stanford,” she leans over the side of the couch and puts a hand on Christen’s shoulder, kissing her cheek. “We should probably head home.”

Christen nods, handing back Tobin's controller while trying to suppress a yawn. “This was fun Tobs, we should play again sometime.”

“Yeah, sure.” Tobin gets up to follow them out of the house, as if she was the one throwing the party and escorting her guests.

“It was nice seeing you Tobin,” Christen says with a yawn as Julie (with a mostly blank but mildly pissed off expression) wraps an arm around her.

“You too.” She nods politely but the glare Julie’s giving her makes her clip it short. “Bye Chris, bye Julie.”

 

--

 

“I can’t believe you’re spending Valentine’s Day alone , what a loser,” Lizzie teases through the phone.

“Well, if someone had invited me on their hiking trip this weekend, that wouldn’t be a problem,” Tobin says back. “Besides, don’t word that like you’ve got some hot date. We both know you only invited Lucas because you wanted to get on his good side before using him to tutor you.”

“Hey, just because I’m resourceful does not mean I’m using him. I just--”
Tobin cuts her off, “Like to get to know the people you exploit?”

“You’re the worst.”

“You love me,” she says smugly.

“Hey, at least I have plans this weekend,” Lizzie reminds her. “What were your plans again? Something about feeling sorry for yourself?”

“Have I ever mentioned you’re annoying?”

“Pretty much daily, but my day wouldn’t be the same without hearing it from you,” Lizzie jokes, blowing an obnoxious sounding kiss into the phone.

“Whatever,” Tobin laughs, unable to stop herself. “Go learn about integrals and differentials with your boy toy.”

Lizzie groans. “It’s a bad sign that I don’t know what those are, right?”

“You better hope he’s as good at teaching math as you are at climbing a mountain,” Tobin says, trying (and failing) to stifle another laugh.

“He better be,” Lizzie says, joining in with a laugh. “Well I’m gonna go, enjoy your sad loneliness.”

“I will. Bye Lizzie, call me so I know you didn’t die or anything, and wear a condom.”

“How do you expect me to wear a condom?”

“You know what I meant.”

 

---

 

Tobin slowly paces in front of the refrigeration unit that typically holds flowers at the supermarket. There’s only a few left (not that she really expected there to be much of a selection) to choose from and she wants to make sure she gets the best one. She reaches out and grabs the small glass swan with a single yellow rose placed inside and makes her way to the freezer section to pick up a box of cherry popsicles. She’s waiting in the checkout line when her phone vibrates in her right pocket. She shuffles the items in her hands and slides her phone out to check her messages.

Alex: Serv’s still at work :( but he said he’d be home in time for our dinner reservation later

Tobin: Sorry Lex! Are you home right now?

Alex: Yep, just cleaning the house

Tobin steps forward and sets the popsicles and flower on the belt while the person in front of her makes small talk with the cashier. At this point, it had become routine. Since Tobin first met Alex, they almost always spent Valentine’s together. When Servando came around, it didn’t change much. Tobin still insisted on buying Alex a gift for Valentine’s Day and they would spend part of the day together (if not all of it) hanging out.

When she gets to Alex’s, she pretends to be annoyed at the surprised look on Alex’s face.

“How could I not get anything for my favorite girl on Valentine’s Day?” Tobin says, handing Alex the rose while simultaneously pushing down the hurt she feels from spending another platonic holiday with Alex.

“You really didn’t have to, Tobs,” she chides, but her smile grows even wider once she takes in the scent of the flower. “Oh! Are those popsicles? I’ve been craving them so badly!”

“Isn’t it too soon for cravings?” It still hurts to think about Alex being pregnant.

“The baby wants what they want,” Alex defends, gently patting her lower stomach.

Tobin hands over the box but laughs along anyway. It’s been a lot easier to try and accept the pregnancy than it had been before. She's gotten pretty good at faking enthusiasm at this point. “Well then it’s a good thing I thought to buy some.”

“You’re the best, Tobin,” Alex smiles, planting a gentle kiss on Tobin’s left cheek and she tries desperately to mask the warmth that explodes in her stomach at the gesture. She ducks her head and moves around Alex to get to the living room, mostly because she doesn’t want Alex to see the blush that has spread across her neck, and partially because if she doesn’t, they may have just spent Tobin’s entire visit in the doorway.

“So,” Tobin starts once Alex is curled up on the couch next to her with a cherry popsicle in her hand. “What do you want to do, Lex?”

“Servando probably isn’t going to be home for a few hours,” Alex pouts. “Want to watch a movie?”

“Whatever you want,” Tobin offers, trying not to mentally harp on the fact that Alex is thinking about Servando while they’re spending time together. She’s married now, Tobin. She’s not yours. She never was.

Alex picks the first thing she sees on Netflix (which happens to be a rom com that Tobin tries not to dwell on) and snuggles up next to Tobin, leaning her head on Tobin’s shoulder. “Thanks for hanging out with me,” Alex whispers while the opening credits start.

“We’ve spent Valentine’s Day together every year since we met,” Tobin replies.

“I thought that maybe you wouldn’t want to anymore now that I’m married,” Alex admits.

Tobin can feel her heart beating faster. Alex’s words put their situation into perspective for her. Before, they had always been a chance, no matter how small, that Alex could be her’s. But the marriage had only solidified the ache in her chest. Alex would only ever see her platonically and any chance she had had with Alex has been wiped away once they said the words, “I do.”

Tobin shrugs and turns to the screen, hoping Alex would drop it.

But she doesn’t.

“You know I love you though, Tobin,” Alex says genuinely, repositioning herself so she can look Tobin in the eye. “You’re such an important part of my life.”

Tobin swallows thickly, willing herself not to cry over the girl she’s been desperately in love with since college. “I love you, too, Alex.”

Alex smiles brightly and makes herself comfortable against Tobin’s ribcage again. Tobin hopes that Alex can’t hear the way her heart begins to hammer when Alex so much as brushes against her, much less folding herself into her.

Throughout the movie, Tobin tries to focus on the story in front of her but can’t help but be distracted by the way Alex moves against her, sometimes brushing her fingertips across Tobin’s exposed skin from her t-shirt riding up as a result of Alex’s constant need to readjust. For as long as Tobin and Alex have known each other and for as many times as Alex has cuddled with Tobin, one would think that Tobin would have mastered the art of calming her heartbeat, but every time over the past few years that Alex has so much as grazed Tobin’s body, she would be overwhelmed with the same hopeless desire to give Alex everything she’s ever wanted (she could only pray that that included her).

More than halfway through the movie, Alex falls asleep with her head on Tobin’s lap, mostly because the movie had proved to be boring, and partially because she begged Tobin to play with her hair.

“I like when you do it,” Alex whined.

Tobin just shook her head but gave in because she’d give Alex the moon if she asked her to. She waits for the movie to end completely before gently waking Alex.

“I fell asleep?” Alex asks, her raspy voice thick with sleep. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

Tobin shrugs and watches the way Alex tries to rub the sleep from her eyes. There’s always been something special about watching Alex wake up and Tobin finds herself distracted until the sound of the front door opening and closing catches her attention. Alex immediately perks up and breaks into a smile when she sees Servando poke his head into the living room with a bouquet of roses in his hand.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, baby,” he says, opening his arms up for Alex to step into them. He wraps his arms around her waist and kisses her, not noticing Tobin sitting on the couch, awkwardly checking her phone.

Tobin clears her throat and stands up. “I should get going.”

Servando glances over Alex’s shoulder and offers a genuine smile to Tobin. “Hey Tobs, I didn’t realise you were over, I’m sorry.”

Tobin pockets her phone and starts to move towards the door. “Yeah, well Alex and I usually spend today together and she told me that you were still at work so I thought I’d keep her company.”

“Thanks for keeping her entertained,” he laughs. “She’s quite the handful, isn’t that right, babe?”

Alex playfully slaps Servando’s chest and buries her face in his neck. “Be nice to me,” she mumbles against his skin.

Tobin nods in agreement and continues her slow escape towards the front of the house.

“I’ll walk you out,” Alex offers, seeing Tobin trying to leave.

Servando leaves to put Alex’s flowers in a vase while Tobin and Alex walk out to Tobin’s car. Alex pulls Tobin into a tight hug and nuzzles into her neck as they lean against the driver’s side door.

“I’m glad you came over.”

“I had to keep up our tradition.”

Alex pulls back but takes hold of Tobin’s wrists. Her phone vibrates in her pocket but she ignores it in favour of Alex. “You didn’t have to, but I’m really glad that you did.”

“I am, too,” Tobin smiles. As long as she’s happy. That’s all that matters. “Well I should get going so you can get ready for dinner.”

“Okay,” Alex replies, pulling her in for another hug. She kisses her cheek again and they say their goodbyes as Tobin climbs into her car. Her phone goes off again as she starts her car, reminding her that she has an unread text message.

Chris: Are you busy?

Tobin: No, but aren’t you?

Chris: No, sadly

Tobin: It’s Valentine’s Day, didn’t you and Julie have something planned?

Chris: Yeah, we did.

Tobin sighs as she checks the time (5:30) and decides to call Christen.

“Hey,” Christen answers in a soft voice, a bit scratchy, giving away that she had been crying.

“Hey, Chris. You alright?”

“No,” she laughs bitterly and Tobin feels her heart twinge. “Julie got called into work, but why am I not surprised?”

“I’m sorry, I wish I could do something,” Tobin says, trying to figure out if what she feels is sadness for Christen or anger towards Julie.

“You can,” Christen whispers into the phone, wiping away at a tear that she’s glad Tobin can’t see.

“What is it?”

“Come here?” Christen asks. Her voice is soft and delicate, with a pleading tone but no trace of a whine and Tobin wonders how anyone could ever dream of saying no to her. Her eyes flick back towards Alex’s house and she thinks about Alex and Servando inside getting ready to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day and how she’s sitting in her car sulking over the fact that she can never have Alex. It only takes her a few seconds to decide that she can at least make Christen’s day better like she had done with Alex while Servando was busy with work.

“I’ll be there in fifteen.”

“It takes twenty minutes to drive here, Tobs.”

“Just trust me.”

 

---

 

Christen’s not sure how she manages it, but sure enough, fifteen minutes later Tobin’s standing at her door. Not only that, but she also has Chinese food, a bottle of cheap wine, and the Super Smash Bros game. (Christen had been dying to play it again ever since she attempted to at Alex and Servando’s, so Tobin decided why not bring it now?)

“It’s probably not quite what you had planned with Julie,” Tobin says following Christen into the house and setting the wine and Chinese food on the table. “But it was the fastest I could get.”

As soon as Tobin sets everything down, Christen pulls her into a hug. “It’s perfect,” she whispers, losing herself in Tobin’s warmth.

Tobin smiles as they pull away from each other and holds up the game, “So, ready to get your ass handed to you?”

 

---

 

A few drinks (an entire bottle of wine, they used large glasses) and far too much Chinese food later, Tobin and Christen find themselves nearly falling asleep as they attempt to beat the other in a brawl.

“No, Chris, you have to-” yawn “-you have to pick up the item, not shoot at it.”

“But I’m already holding the gun!”

“I know , you’ve gotta let go of the gun.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

Tobin glances at their damage percentages and tries not to laugh at the stark differences between them. “Here, just don’t worry about the gun and keep fighting.” Tobin moves her character and begins to attack before Christen has a chance to react and her character goes flailing off the edge of the screen.

“That’s not fair!” Christen pouts as the screen announcing Tobin as the winner flashes on the tv.

“It’s just a game, Chris.”

“Yeah, a game I can’t win.”

“You beat me earlier!”

“Once, and that was because you self-destructed, not anything I did.” She glances over to the clock and yawns, realizing how late it is.

Tobin follows in suit and glances over. “It’s 1:30, you should get to sleep and I should get going.”

“Don’t be silly,” Christen says, reaching out to grab Tobin’s wrist as she rises from the couch. “And you’re not driving, you’re drunk. Just stay here.”

“Won’t Julie be home soon?”

“Who cares?”

Tobin tries not to laugh, She’s just saying that because she’s drunk. “I do, Chris.”

“Well Julie ditched me, so I say you can stay here as long as you want, and I want you to spend the night here.”

Tobin nods. “Guess I’ll spend the night here, then.”

 

---

 

Right before they go to bed (nearly 2:00), Christen walks into the living room one last time to make sure Tobin has everything she could possibly need for the night. (Two pillows, an extra, one blanket, and an extra blanket. Christen wanted to make sure Tobin was as comfortable as possible, considering she refused to take the bed.)

Christen pulls Tobin into a tight hug, trying to ignore the way her cologne smells or the wine on her breath or how Julie could walk in the door at any second. (She wasn’t doing anything wrong, she was just hugging her best friend, but that didn’t mean Julie would understand.)

“Thanks for making Valentine’s Day special, this year,” Christen whispers.

Tobin tries not to read into it too much (but how could she not?) and finds herself repeating in her head this year, this year, this year. She suddenly gets an unnerving feeling that this wasn’t the first time Christen was bailed on on Valentine’s Day and she feels her heart sink in her chest. How could anyone ever let you be sad? “Anytime, Chris,” she whispers back.

 

---

 

The next morning, Tobin wakes up just after five thirty, nearly groaning at the sunlight peeking in through the window. She quickly remembers where she is and rises from the couch, rubbing at her eyes and taking slow, deep breaths to calm her pounding head. She folds the blankets, stacking them on one side of the couch and setting the pillows on the other.

Tobin picks up her phone from the coffee table, checking it for the time and noticing two missed calls and a text from Lizzie.

Lizzie: Guess you found something (or someone) to do after all ;)

Tobin laughs softly to herself as she picks up her keys and wallet from the table as well, quietly walking over to the door to let herself out of the apartment. (She leaves the game, she figures she can pick it up some other time.)

On her drive home, Tobin calls Lizzie, knowing she’ll still be asleep this early in the morning, and leaves a message. “Hey, sorry I missed your calls but Christen ended up needing a friend last night. Hope your hiking trip and studying went well last night. Call me when you get a chance, love you!”

When she finally gets back to her house, she chugs three glasses of water, takes as many painkillers as the prescribed dosage will allow, and moves immediately to her bed, opting to sleep until just after seven when Lizzie returns her call.

 

---

 

When Julie wakes up the next morning, she glances towards the living room and notices the vacant couch before meeting Christen in the kitchen.

Christen greets her with a smile “How was the wedding, Jules?”
Julie just waves her off. “It was good. Why was Tobin asleep on the couch when I got in?”
“Oh,” Christen shrugs. “She came over and we played video games but had a little too much wine so I let her sleep over.”
Julie raises an eyebrow. “You two spent Valentine's Day together?”
Christen scoffs. “We played video games. It was a friend equivalent. Besides, you were busy.”

“I was working, what did you expect me to do?”
“I don't know, take off work so you can spend Valentine's Day with your girlfriend of three and a half years?”
“Christen, baby,” Julie steps forward and placed her hands on Christen's shoulders. “I'm sorry, okay? I'll make it up to you, what about I take you out to a really nice dinner tomorrow?”
“Uhm,” Christen pulls away and turns back to the coffee machine. “I actually have plans.”

“Oh, let me guess,” Julie rolls her eyes. “You're going out with Tobin.”
“Julie, you have no right--”
“No right to what? Get upset when I want to spend time with you?”
“No! Get upset when you bail on me, I find someone else to hang out with, and then you try to take my time that I have already planned to spend with someone else!”
Julie bites back her response and can tell that Christen has made a good point. She sighs, “I'm sorry, babe.”
Christen shakes her head. “Yeah, whatever.” She pours what was left of her coffee into a travel mug, tops it off, and turns to the door.
“Wait, where are you going?”
“Out,” she responds curtly.
“Oh, let me fucking guess, you're gonna go see Tobin!”
Christen turns back in the doorway, seething. “Why the fuck do you care? You're gonna leave for work in about five minutes anyway, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek and throwing out a bye babe until I see you late tonight, if I see you. I'm going to spend the next few hours until I have to go into work with someone who appreciates the time we spend together, and you have no say in it!” Christen slams the door behind her before Julie has a chance to respond.

 

---

 

Christen does end up going to Tobin’s house, but she decides Julie doesn’t need to know that.

When Tobin hears her doorbell ring, she glances at her watch and wonders who would be showing up at her house just after eight in the morning. “Hey Lizzie, I’ve gotta go, someone’s here,” she says as she starts walking to the door.

“What do you mean? You don’t get visitors,” Lizzie teases, earning an eyeroll from Tobin. (She doesn’t have to see it to know it happened.)

“I know I don’t, now go pretend to study while you ogle your tutor,” Tobin laughs to herself.

“Sounds like a plan, love you Tobs.”

“Love you too.”

“Hey,” Tobin opens the door to see Christen standing there, a mixture of hurt and anger on her face. “What happened?”

“Julie and I had a fight. Can I come in?”

“Of course,” Tobin pulls open the door and leads her into the house. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“Alright, you don’t have to. Don’t you have work today?”

“I don’t have to go in until noon,” Christen walks into the living room, sitting on the couch. “Are you busy?”

“No,” Tobin looks at her watch and tries to remember if she has anything or not, but then remembers they cancelled practice for that night. “Definitely not.”

“Then can we just,” Christen sighs and drops her head in her hands. “Can we just watch Disney movies or something?”

Tobin walks over to the couch, wrapping a comforting arm around Christen as she uses the remote to turn on netflix, clicking through until she sees Hercules and clicking play. “Anything, Chris,” she promises as Christen looks up and settles into Tobin’s arm.

 

---

 

Christen leaves Tobin’s house for work and pulls her into a hug, thanking her profusely for letting her cool off.

“I just, I couldn’t stay at the house, she was pissing me off so much.”

“Anytime, Chris. Really, I’m here for you.”

“You’re the best,” Christen says, dropping her head to Tobin’s shoulder before pulling away.

Tobin offers a wry smile. “Yeah, I’ve been told. I hope you have fun at work.”

“Thanks, I hope you have fun--”

“FaceTiming Lizzie,” Tobin finishes. “She had some hot date this weekend, and wants to tell me all about it,” Tobin jokes.

Christen smiles warmly, “Have fun FaceTiming Lizzie, then.”

 

---

 

When Christen gets home, she’s surprised to see Julie already there.

“I ordered in,” Julie says softly. “I'm sorry I've been such an ass lately. You deserve better.”
Christen sighs and drops her purse on the couch. “You didn't have to do this.”

“I wanted to,” Julie offers and she looks so genuine that Christen almost feels guilty for her reaction this morning. “I got some wine and I was thinking that maybe we could take a bath together after dinner or something. You know, like we used to when we first got this place.”

Christen is incapable of stopping the smile from spreading over her face as Julie walks up to her. “I’d love to, Jules.”

Julie smiles back and pulls Christen into a hug, “And I love you .”

“Cheesy,” Christen giggles as she hugs Julie back.

“Does this make up for being an ass?”

“You’re definitely off to a good start.”

Chapter Text

Christen is surprised to return to her desk after a two hour mediation to find a note from one of the secretaries. Julie called , it says in small messy writing. Told her you were in a meeting, but it sounded important. She feels her pulse quicken and she opens the top drawer of her desk, already fearing the worst. When she clicks the home button, the screen lights up to reveal two missed calls, a voicemail, and a text that says Call me .

She swipes open the missed call notification, prompting her phone to dial Julie’s number. She lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding when she hears Julie answer.

“What’s wrong?” Christen asks before Julie has a chance to say anything.  Julie laughs and Christen feels irrationally angry. “Why are you laughing?”

“Nothing’s wrong, Sweetie.”

“Are you serious?” Christen collapses into her desk chair and leans her head back, closing her eyes. “I thought something happened.”

“The only thing that happened , is that your mom called and invited us to dinner tonight. Well, she tried calling you but you were in a meeting--which, over an hour? Really? How hard is it for people to talk to each other?” She laughs again and Christen feels herself relax. “Anyway, she said she misses us and would love to have us over but, she needs an answer soon.”

Christen rubs her face and nods before realizing Julie can’t see her. “Yeah, that sounds good. Are you off early?”

“Yeah,” Julie answers and it sounds like she’s smiling. “I got off a few hours ago and I’ve been cleaning the house.  Are you done for the day? I want to make something to take over for dessert but I’d love for someone to help me.”

“You only love me for my superior baking skills, don’t you?” Christen teases.

“Among other things. I can wait for you to get home and we can go to the store together, unless you just want to relax at home for a while before we head over.”

“And pass up spending time with my favourite person? No way. I just have to clean up and then I’ll be home. Do you mind calling my mom and telling her to expect us?”

“‘Course not, babe. Drive safely, I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Christen cleans up her desk and finishes up the paperwork from her latest mediation with a smile on her face that doesn’t go unnoticed by her coworkers.

“What’s got you so happy today? Especially after a two hour mediation? Wow,” Scott notes.

Christen shrugs and pulls her purse onto her shoulder. “Just excited to go home.”

“Date night?” He grins.

Christen shakes her head but feels herself blushing anyway, simply because she’s so  excited to spend time with Julie. “Actually, we’re having dinner at my parents’ tonight.”

“Oh,” he says, surprised. “Well have fun.”

Christen smiles and nods at him. “See you later, Scott.”

Her drive home is short thanks to the lack of traffic (which is unusual for a weekday afternoon) and when she pulls into the driveway and opens the front door, she’s pleasantly surprised to see Julie unclipping Khaleesi and Morena’s leashes.

“Hey babe!” Julie greets cheerfully, straightening up into a standing position and hanging up the leashes before planting a kiss on Christen’s cheek. “How was work?”

Christen tilts her head at Julie, who appears blissfully happy and unaffected by the fact that she appears to have taken the dogs on a walk. “It was good. Did you take them on a walk?”

Julie nods happily. “Yeah, I just wanted to make sure we had enough time to go to the store and all of that.”

Christen smiles and pulls Julie in for a real kiss this time. “Thank you,” she mumbles against her lips.

“Anything for you, babe. Now,” she starts, tugging on Christen’s blazer. “As cute as you look right now, do you want to change into something more comfortable before we go shopping?”

Christen laughs and kisses Julie one last time before heading into the bedroom and pulling on a pair of jeans and one of her Stanford hoodies.

 

---

 

The run to the grocery story is enjoyable; Julie asks about Christen’s day and talks about her latest clients while they shop. She doesn’t pull away when Christen reaches for her hand and even kisses her forehead when Christen leans against her while they wait to checkout.

Baking itself is even better than grocery store. Julie spends most of the time behind Christen, her arms wrapped around the brunette’s waist, while Christen mixes the ingredients.

“What time did my mom say to be over?” Christen asks, dipping her pinky into the batter and offering it to Julie.

“Six.” Julie tastes it and lets out an appreciative sigh. “That’s so good. How are you so good at baking but awful at cooking?”

“They’re not the same thing,” Christen chuckles, turning in Julie’s arms so she’s leaning against the counter. “And you’re one to talk, you’re awful at baking.”

“That’s why we work so well then, isn’t it?” Julie smiles and kisses Christen’s nose.

She hides her face in Julie’s neck and gently presses a kiss against the base of her throat. “You’re a sap.”

Julie hums in response. “You better get these cupcakes in the oven before we end up being late, Stanford.”

“Wouldn’t you rather be late?”

“Or,” Julie takes a step back and looks at the cookbook that’s opened on the counter next to them. “You can put those in and we can make use of the next fifteen to twenty minutes while we’re waiting for them to be done.”

Christen pouts slightly. “That’s not nearly long enough, but it’s better than nothing.”

 

---

 

Somehow, Julie and Christen make it to Christen’s parent’s house a few minutes before six (the cupcakes only slightly overdone). Stacy, Christen’s mom, pulls them both into a hug before they can even step inside.  

“Cody, they’re here!” She yells over her shoulder once she finally lets them go. “Honey, you look exhausted. Long day at work?”

Christen glances over at Julie who busies herself with taking her jacket to hide the grin on her face. “Yeah, I had a mediation that lasted two hours. That’s why I wasn’t able to answer your call. My phone was in my desk.”

“Oh, that’s okay. Julie and I were able to talk for a few minutes. I’m so glad you two could make it. It’s been so long since we’ve seen you.”

“We’ve both been pretty busy with work. We hardly even see each other,” Christen replies while they walk into the dining room. Her dad is pouring their drinks but he sets down the wine bottle as soon as they enter. “Hi Dad!”

He pulls her into a bear hug and lifts her off of the ground, causing her to laugh. “Hey kiddo. How’ve you been?”

“Good,” she answers, but her voice is muffled against his shoulder.

Julie watches the moment between Christen and her father and can’t help but smile. Christen’s so small compared to him, that she’s instantly reminded of the photos Christen’s mother has shown her over the years while Christen grumbled beside her, clearly embarrassed.

They all sit down for dinner and Stacy steers the conversation towards Julie’s recent(ish) promotion. Christen watches as Julie’s eyes light up while they talk about the weddings she’s planned and ones she has coming up. She’s glad that her parents like Julie so much, she hadn’t had as great luck in the past with other people she had brought home to meet them, but from the first time Christen brought her home during spring break, they seemed to absolutely love her. Christen eats quietly and her father joins in on the conversation, easily fitting into the flow they’ve created.

“So, have you two thought about marriage yet?” Stacy asks. She’s giddy and Christen can see that, but she feels her own body shrink at the idea. Julie’s eyes flicker over to Christen and she can see how uncomfortable she looks so she lays her hand on Christen’s thigh and feels her relax at the touch.

“Actually, we have discussed it. It’s definitely in our future,” she smiles politely.

“Ah, I can’t wait,” Stacy gushes, apparently not picking up on the fact that it’s not happening any time soon. At least according to Julie.

“Mom.” Christen says after she takes a drink from her wine glass. “We’re going to wait. It’s probably not going to happen for a while.”

“Oh. But it’s still going to happen!”

Julie squeezes her thigh reassuringly and answers for her. “Yeah, it’s going to happen.” Christen looks back at Julie and can see a smile on her face. Julie meets Christen’s gaze and her smile grows even more. “This one’s getting a ring at some point.”

 

---

 

“Thank you so much for having us over,” Julie says. She has an arm around Christen’s waist and a small stack of tupperware full of leftovers that Stacy insisted they take home. “It was great seeing the both of you again.”

“Of course, Julie, we love having you over,” Stacy smiles. “Hopefully it won’t be another three months until we see you again.”

“Mom,” Christen whines. “We’ve been busy since my birthday.”

“It’d just be nice to see you more often,” Cody interjects and his wife nods in agreement.

“We’ll try. I have a crazy work schedule,” Julie tries to explain. “Sometimes I’m not home until late at night. And I get called in a lot. Christen hates it.”

Christen shrugs because she knows that if she says anything now, it will probably start an argument between them. “We should get going.”

They say their goodbyes and climb into the car. Julie starts the engine and the heater before turning to Christen, letting it warm up. “Are you alright?”

Christen takes her phone out of her purse and checks it. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“The whole marriage thing. I know you’re still upset about the last fight we had about it.”

“I’m fine, Jules.”

“Are you sure?”

She looks over at Julie, only the glow of her phone and the radio illuminating her face. “I’m sure.”

Julie looks hesitant but decides to drop it and leans in to kiss her.

When they get home, the dogs are anxious to see the both of them, especially after the walk they had with Julie earlier in the day.

“Do you want to walk them?” Julie asks, dropping her car keys in the bowl near the door.

“No, I’m just going to let them out in the backyard. I’m kind of tired,” Christen replies, calling for them to follow her as she makes her way to the sliding door.

“Christen,” Julie says reluctantly, following her to the back of the house. “Are you sure nothing’s wrong?”

“I’m fine, Julie. I just want to go to bed.”

“You don’t seem fine,” she tries again, placing a hand on Christen’s lower back.

She turns and rests her head on Julie’s shoulder. “It just still hurts,” she whispers. “I’m trying to be patient and wait for you to be ready, but it’s still going to hurt when it gets brought up. I’ll be okay though. Just give me a little bit of time to get over it.”

“I’m sorry,” Julie offers, kissing the top Christen’s head. “I know you don’t like it.”

The dogs run back in and rub against Christen’s legs for attention. “I think they’re ready for bed, too.”

 

---

 

Christen stands outside of Tobin’s office door and knocks lightly. She decided to surprise Tobin with lunch, knowing how hard she had been working for the upcoming game. Tobin opens her door and she looks tired, her hair pulled into a half bun and wearing an Adidas hoodie.

“What are you doing here, Chris?”

Christen raises the bag in her hand. “Lunch.”

Tobin glances at the watch on her wrist and is startled to find out that’s it’s past noon already. She had come in early--seven am--to work on drills for practice and look through film. “Huh, I didn’t realise it was so late already. Thank you.”

Christen smiles at her and steps into the office, taking a seat in the chair in front of Tobin’s desk. She pulls out their sandwiches and chips, placing Tobin’s on her side.

“You’re a lifesaver,” she laughs. “I probably would have forgotten to eat.”

“No problem. What are you working on?”

“We play Stanford on Friday,” she says around a mouthful of chips. “I’ve been looking over some game footage from their last few matches.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Christen asks, only slightly offended.

“Tell you what?”

Christen sets down her sandwich and looks at Tobin in disbelief. “That you’re playing Stanford.”

“I didn’t think you’d really care, because you don’t know a whole lot about soccer,” Tobin admits. “Do you want to come?”

“I don’t, but it’s Stanford! That’s my school. Playing your school. I have to go now. I’m going to try and get the day off so I’m out early enough.”

Tobin takes a drink from her water bottle and smiles. “I thought you said UCLA was your team now.”

Christen’s jaw drops. “Okay, I did say that, but my heart will always belong to Stanford.”

“Well if you want to come, you can. But you’ll be in UCLA territory,” she smirks.

“Oh please, Stanford is going to crush UCLA.”

“Wanna bet on it?” Tobin laughs.

“Isn’t that illegal?”

Tobin rolls her eyes and tosses a few chips into her mouth. “Only if you bet for money .”

Christen finishes her sandwich and takes a sip of her soda. “What do you want to bet then?”

Tobin sits up and taps her chin. “How about if we win, you buy my drinks after the game?”

“Oh my god,” she laughs. “Fine. What if we win?”

“What do you want?”

Christen thinks for a moment before answering. “You have to wear one of my Stanford hoodies to work for a week .”

Christen swears she sees Tobin’s face pale at the thought. “Well it’s a good thing we’re going to kick Stanford’s ass, huh?”

“It’s a good thing I have a ton of shirts from college still.”

“You’re not going to win,” Tobin laughs. “Are you going to bring Julie, too?”

Christen shakes her head and eats the last few chips from her bag. “She has a wedding on Saturday so she’s going out of town, she'll be gone till Sunday morning. Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?”

“What’s tomorrow?”

“Wednesday.”

Tobin nods and balls up her trash to throw away. “Nothing. It’s a rest day.”

“Want to go to the beach? I have the day off.”

Tobin smiles and finishes off her water bottle. “Yeah, that sounds like fun. Can we take the dogs?”

 

---

 

“But what if I break it or something?”

“It’s a soccer ball , Chris, you’re not gonna break it, I promise.”

Christen shrugs. “If you say so. I wanna do that thing you can do!”
Tobin raises an eyebrow. “You mean... kick the ball?”

She rolls her eyes. “No, the thing where you bounce it over and over again.”

Tobin nods, kicking the ball up as she begins to juggle it. “This?”

“Yeah! How do I do that?”

Tobin has to suppress a laugh, because of course this is what she wants to learn first. “We’ll work you up to it,” Tobin passes the ball to Christen across the sand and one of her dogs begins to run after it.

“How do I stop it?”

Tobin can’t contain her laughter now. “Just tap it, Chris. Here, let me show you.” She moves to the side, closer to the water so that Christen can pass it to her, away from the dogs. “Pass it over.”

“How do I do that ?”

Tobin rolls her eyes in annoyance, but the smile on her face betrays it. Unbelievable , she thinks. “You’ve really never played soccer? Come on, you’ve gotta at least know the basics, don’t you?”

Christen kicks at the ball and it flies in the opposite direction of Tobin, who has to go jogging after it. “ Clearly not, that’s why you’re teaching me,” she bends down to pet Morena as Tobin walks back up, ball tucked under her arm.

“Alright, well the first step is control,” she drops the ball down to her feet and turns to Christen. “Okay, so--” she cuts herself off when she realizes that Christen isn’t even looking at her. “ Chris , you’ve gotta pay attention.”

Christen looks up and smiles before crouching down and continuing to pet her dogs. “I’m watching!”

“Alright,” she begins to tap the ball lightly from foot to foot. “See what I’m doing?”

Christen nods as she stands up. “Yeah.” She steps closer to Tobin, “Let me try.”

Tobin passes the ball over and Christen begins to knock it between her feet until she hits it too hard, bouncing it out of her reach.

Tobin chuckles as she goes to retrieve the ball. “Just a little lighter, okay? But you look like you’re getting the hang of it.”

“This is silly,” she sighs. “I just wanna score goals.”

“You can’t score goals when you haven’t learned the skills,” she points out. “Let’s just try passing back and forth a bit again, alright?”

“Okay.” She kicks the ball over to Tobin who traps it with ease.

“Was that so hard?” Tobin passes the ball back with a teasing smile.

“If you're gonna make fun of me then you should at least let me win.” Christen kicks the ball to Tobin again with far too much power and sends it rolling towards the waves.

“We're just passing, there's nothing to win!” Tobin calls back as she runs after the ball again, the dogs chasing after her.

Christen smiles at the sight of it. I could get used to this. Spending time with Tobin, being happy. She shoves the thought from her mind as Tobin jogs back to her, smile on her face with the dogs nipping at her heels.

“Nice try, Chris,” Tobin lets out a laugh. “You're getting better! Let me help you, though,” she walks over and stands next Christen, placing her left leg against Christen’s right. “Here, kick with me,” Tobin extends her leg against Christen’s. “Like, that . See? Not too much power, and hold control.”

Christen looks over at Tobin. “You’re a great teacher.”

“You haven’t actually done anything yet.”

“I already feel better about it,” Christen smiles and lightly shoves Tobin away. “Look,” she passes the ball to Tobin and it lands right at her feet.

“Yeah, that was pretty good!”

Christen laughs and begins to adjust the hat she’s wearing, when she notices Tobin smiling at her. “What is it?”

“I wasn’t kidding, y’know.”

“What?”

“When I posted that picture. You do look better in that hat,” Tobin laughs to herself. “It’s kind of ridiculous.”

-

They stopped at Tobin’s house, dogs in tow, before heading to the beach because they needed the cooler.

“Did you remember the cooler?” Christen asked as they pulled out of her driveway.

Tobin laughed. “Did you remind me to remember the cooler?”

“Well... no.”

“I didn’t remember the cooler.”

“Okay, we’ll just go back to your house then.”

“Alright.”

When they got to Tobin’s house, Christen came inside to help her and Tobin stopped to glance in the mirror. “Hold up Press, I’ve gotta fix my hair.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it.”

“It’s messed up.”

Christen sighed as she paused, waiting for Tobin to fix her hair and tapping her foot in mock annoyance.

“Here, hold this,” Tobin took off her hat and set it over Christen’s head before turning back to finish with her hair. When she finally turned back and reached for her hat, Christen stopped her.

“Nope, dibs. It’s mine now.”

“What? Chris, give me my hat.”

“You put it on my head!”

“But that one is my favorite , please?”

“Nope, besides, you have like a million anyway.”

Tobin sighed and trudged back to her room to grab a different hat. When she came out a few moments later she had her phone in hand.

“What are you doing?”

Tobin raised her phone so the camera focused on her, “Catching the moment.”

“What moment?”

Tobin smiled as she dropped her phone back down and opened up instagram. “You being adorable.”

 

---

 

After nearly another hour of various soccer drills (Christen just wanted to play one on one or something but the coach came out in Tobin as she proved just why she was meant for the job she had) Christen rolls her eyes. “Yeah, alright. We should do something else now.”

“Like what?”

“I dunno, let’s just-- ooh!” Christen drags Tobin over to the where the small waves are breaking as the dogs follow them, one of them accidentally kicking the soccer ball underneath Christen's feet.

“Shit, Tobs!” She reaches out for Tobin but she doesn’t catch her in time, so she trips over one of the dogs just as another wave comes in.

Tobin bursts into laughter. “Chris, are you okay?”

Christen tries to act annoyed but can’t seem to wipe the smile off of her face as Tobin helps her back up. “I’m fine, just my shirt is soaked,” she groans.

“I can just drop you off at your place, then.”

“No, I wanted to have lunch with you.”

“Well we could run by there so you can get changed?” Tobin offers.

“No, what if Julie’s there? She won’t want me to go back out.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, it’s alright though, I’ll just wear my bathing suit.”

“But what about when we go back to my place?”

“I’ll just wear this, I guess.”

“Don’t be silly, Chris. I can just let you borrow some clothes, if you don’t wanna go home.”

“Alright,” Christen smiles and pulls Tobin into a hug, laughing when she pushes her away to avoid getting wet, as the waves continue to break at their heels. “Sounds perfect.”

 

---

 

The dogs push past Tobin’s legs and into the house the second the door opens and Christen has to reach out to steady her.

“I don’t know what it is, but they love my house,” Tobin laughs once they get inside.

“Yeah, well, so do I.”

Tobin has to turn away from Christen and busy herself with straightening up the living room as she’s reminded just how much she likes having her around, especially when they’re at Tobin’s. They spend most of their time at Christen and Julie’s house, but the atmosphere here is just different . Tobin doesn’t have to worry about Julie waltzing in and feeling Christen pull away from her. Mostly, she just has to worry about the dogs knocking something down or Christen falling asleep on the couch when she’s here.

“Hey, can I take a shower while you order the food?”

“Sure, let me grab you something to wear first.” Tobin walks into her bedroom and rummages through her dresser, looking for a UCLA shirt. She finally finds one and grins to herself. “Here,” she says, handing Christen the shirt.

Christen groans. “A UCLA shirt? You don’t have anything else?”

“I do, but you’re getting that.” Tobin points to the blue shirt.  

“Tobin, I went to Stanford. I refuse to subject myself to this kind of torture,” she turns her nose up at the shirt and looks away.

Tobin smiles, “Oh come on Chris, think of it as cheering on the home team or something!”

“I went to Stanford .”

“Yeah, heard you the first time.”

Christen rolls her eyes. “Fine, but you can bet that I'm gonna wear anything red I can find Friday night.”

“Does that mean you're coming?” Tobin smiles because she had invited Christen to the UCLA versus Stanford game, but she didn't know if she would actually come.

“Yeah, I called in when I got home last night. Are you going to be doing coach things?”

“I mean,” Tobin laughs to herself. “To some degree, yeah.”

“So I can't sit with you?” Christen’s face falls with disappointment and Tobin finds herself immediately wanting to fix it.

“Well, no,” she hesitates for a moment. “But I can get you a ticket for the front row near the coaches and players, like last time. And I could drive you there with me.”

Christen smiles at the offer, “I'd love that.”

“I can only let you meet my players though, can't risk you talking to the competition,” she teases with a smile and Christen looks offended.

“I don't even know anything about soccer, what would I tell them?”

Tobin shrugs. “Just stick with me and you'll be fine. So does this mean that you're coming?”

“Well if I'm getting the VIP Tour, how could I say no?” Christen smiles as one of the dogs begins to wrap itself around her legs. “I'm gonna go shower.”

“Yeah, sounds good.”

 

----

 

Tobin ordered their food - pizza from down the street - and just as it was arriving, Christen finishes her shower.

Christen walks around Tobin’s living room in a pair of Tobin’s old U.S. Soccer shorts and the UCLA shirt she begrudgingly accepted. “How long were you on the national team?” She asks, glancing at the trophy case that's nearly overflowing.

“Uhm,” Tobin walks over to join her. “Well I was on the youth teams for what seemed like forever,” she thinks for a moment then glances over the trophies. “I was only on the senior team for a few months. I went to about four camps and then blew my knee out.”

Christen sighs, remembering the conversation they had when they first met. “Why'd you throw it all away like that?”

“You know why, Chris.”

Christen nods and turns to Tobin, pulling her into a hug. “Yeah, I know. I just wish I could've been in your life to tell you how foolish it would be to throw everything away.”

“You can finish the sentence, y'know.”

“What do you mean?”

“For her,” Tobin shakes her head. “I threw it all away for her.

Christen nods slowly but grabs Tobin’s hand and just smiles at her.

"What is it, Chris?"

"Nothing, just," Christen smiles as she reaches out to touch Tobin's arm. "I'm really proud of you."

"For what?"

"You haven't talked about Alex once today, except for just now, but I brought that up.”

Tobin smiles as one of the dogs walks over between them. "Yeah, well," she reaches down to pet the dog before looking back up at Christen. "I've got good company."

Christen smiles and turns back around, this time trailing her finger along the shelves on a bookcase, filled with old, worn novels and dozens of DVD cases, blank except for a date printed on the side. “What are these?”

“Game footage,” Tobin answers simply.

“Can we watch some while we eat?”

“Sure, if you want.”

 

---


“Oh my god… Oh my god, Tobin !” Christen yells, smacking her with the back of her hand. “How did you do that? You just--just… made the ball go through both of those players’ legs!”

Tobin laughs at Christen, who seems to be glued to the screen. “Uh, yeah. It’s called a double nutmeg and I’m actually not sure how I pulled it off after tripping over my own feet.”

Christen doesn’t even seem to register what Tobin is saying because less than a minute later, Abby is running in the box, pulling back with her left foot and sending the ball into the bottom right corner, just past the keeper’s fingertips.

Christen is on her feet now, cheering while the players are crowding around Abby. “That was really her 100th goal?! You were there for that?”

Tobin nods, remembering how much fun that game ended up being, winning 1-0 in Abby’s hometown. “Yeah, that’s me on screen, Chris.”

Christen rolls her eyes at Tobin. “Obviously that’s you. I still can’t get over that double nutshell thing or whatever.”

Nutmeg, ” Tobin laughs.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. You’re a superstar .”

Tobin groans at Christen. “No, I’m not.”

“Excuse me, are we watching the same game?”

“Chris,” she whines.

“Nope, too late, Superstar.

“Is this going to be a thing?”

“Yep,” Christen smiles, popping the word. The players reset and the game picks up again. “Did Alex ever play on the national team?”

“No,” Tobin starts to play with the remote, thinking back to when Alex told her she didn’t want to go pro. “She was really good. Like, we were going to be top picks in the draft that year, but she decided she wanted to marry Serv instead. We played on the youth teams together though and then we were both scouted by UCLA.”

“Why’d she pick Servando? I mean, I know I work with the guy, but he’s not that great, to give up a promising soccer career.”

“She told me that she wanted to get married and be a mom. I think she was more insecure about her own talent, because I got the call up and she didn’t. But the thing is, Alex was a forward and I played midfield. And we had great forwards on the team already, but we really needed more mids. The team wasn’t ready for Alex yet.”
Christen nods, unsure of what the different positions meant, but makes a mental note to ask about the difference later.

“She knew Servando was a sure thing--well, to her at least-- and she said that he would support her regardless of what she chose, to play professionally or otherwise.“

“And she chose him.”

“Yeah.”

“You never told her how you felt about her?”

“I had thought about it, but by the time I thought that maybe she felt the same way about me, she met Servando.”

“Right,” Christen says, encouraging Tobin to continue but her phone on the coffee table begins to ring. She sighs, upset that the conversation was being interrupted, and looks at the screen. “It’s Julie, give me a sec… Hello?”

“Christen,” Julie breathes out. “Where are you?”

“I’m with Tobin. We took the dogs to the beach. Why, what’s up?”

“Oh. I’m at the house. I came home for lunch. Did you want to grab something to eat?”

“I’m sorry Jules, Tobin and I already ate.”

“Oh… Alright. I guess I’ll see you at home later?”

“Will you actually be home early tonight?”

Julie sighs. “Yes, Christen. I don’t have a lot going on today, which is why I came home for lunch. I thought we could spend my break together, considering I’ve been working so much this past week and I'll be out of town this weekend.”

“Then yeah, I’ll see you at home tonight.”

“Okay. Tell Tobin I said hi.”

“I will.”

“Alright, I’ve gotta go then. I love you, Christen.”

“Love you too,” Christen replies before ending the call. “Julie says hi. She wanted to grab lunch with me.”

Tobin nods but gets up to put the dvd back into the case since the game had ended. “Want me to take you and the dogs home?”

“No,” Christen pets the dog that’s asleep, curled into her side. “I told her we already ate.”

“But you’ve hardly seen Julie this week, and she leaves soon, right? Don’t you want to spend time with her?”

“By the time I get home, she’ll already have to leave to get back to work. I’ll see her tonight when she gets home. And besides, I’m spending time with you.”

Tobin smiles, setting the case back on the shelf.

“Tobs?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we watch another?”

“Sure, which do you want to watch?”

“Did you ever score goals? I wanna see that.”

She grabs the case labeled March 5th in her own distinct, rounded, all-capital-letters handwriting and puts it in the dvd player, pressing play. “So this was my first international goal.”

Chapter Text

“Chris!” Tobin jogs over to Christen’s car as she gets out of it.

“Hey, Superstar ,” she jokes as she locks the car behind her. “When’s the game start?”

Tobin shakes her head with a smile. “Kick off’s in about half an hour, come with me and I can take you through the locker room real quick.” She holds her arm out and Christen laughs as she locks arms with Tobin, clinging to her in a way that makes Tobin’s heart warm with a feeling that she can’t quite put her finger on.

 

---

 

“Christen!” Lizzie runs to her and nearly tackles her with a hug as they enter the locker room.

“Lizzie!” Christen laughs as Lizzie detaches herself from her. “It’s nice to see you too.”

Tobin laughs as Lizzie pulls away. “Don’t get too close to her, look at her sweatshirt.”

Lizzie turns back to Christen, noticing the red and Stanford Soccer emblazoned across her chest. “You couldn’t even spell soccer a week ago, now you have a Stanford soccer sweatshirt?” She rolls her eyes and looks to Tobin with disappointment. “How could you let her wear this here?”

“I don’t own her,” Tobin laughs as she puts an arm around Christen’s shoulders. “If she wants to make bad clothing decisions, she has to live with it.”

Christen drops her jaw in mock offense and smacks Tobin on the arm with the back of her hand. “ I am here with dual support.” Christen raises her sweatshirt to reveal the UCLA shirt Tobin let her borrow a few days before. “And a friend gave me the sweatshirt, back in college. I went to a few of her games that she invited me to, and she wanted me to have something.”

“That’s cool, Chris,” Tobin smiles before leading her the rest of the way through the locker room. “This is Lara,” Tobin gestures between the two of them. “She’s a new transfer this year, but it’s like she’s been here since the beginning.” Tobin smiles proudly as she puts a hand on Lara’s shoulder.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” Lara looks up from where she was trying to fix her shinguards.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Christen smiles as they shake hands.

Tobin pulls her phone out of her pocket and sees a new text from Alex.

Alex: Just got here! I’m where we used to sit together watching the guys’ games :)

“Okay, they’ve gotta get ready. Let’s go Chris.” Tobin leads Christen out of the locker room and towards the stands. “Alex is here, I told her you guys could sit together, that alright?”

“Of course,” Christen smiles as Tobin grabs her hand out of instinct to lead her through the crowd.

“Alex, I’m so glad you could make it!” Tobin can’t stop the smile that spreads over her face as Alex stands up to hug her.

“I’m glad I could too,” Alex kisses Tobin cheek and Christen watches as she clenches her jaw and her eyes go from sparkling to hollow.

“Well I have to get back to the girls before we go out on the field,” Tobin pulls away from Alex and gives Christen a small smile. “I’ll see you guys after the game.”

“Go kick some ass!” Alex says with a small fist pump and a grin.

“Yeah, you got this,” Christen pulls Tobin into a hug. “Kick some ass, and don’t let Alex put you in a bad mood,” she whispers before pulling away. “You’ve got this, tell the girls I said good luck!”

“Yeah, tell Lizzie I said to score for me!” Alex calls out with a laugh. She turns to Christen and sits back down as Tobin leaves. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been alright,” Christen sits down, turning to the field. “You?”

“Pregnant,” Alex says simply.

“Ah,” Christen nods, feeling a certain sense of awkwardness settle between them.

 

---

 

They sit mostly in silence except for Christen asking Alex the occasional question about what’s happening on the field. The game is mostly under UCLA’s control, Lizzie taking possession for the majority of the first half with several incredible shots on goal. Everytime the ball hits the other goalie’s gloves with a “thud” that Christen can swear she hears all the way in the stands or bounces off the crossbar, both Alex and Christen groan louder than anyone in the stands.

Stanford gets a lucky break in the stoppage time of the first half, one of their forwards racing down the field and their defense attempts to stop her, but doesn’t manage it. The forward weaves through the defenders until she’s just left with Shiloh, UCLA’s keeper, standing between her and the goal. She sends a rocket into the upper right hand corner, brushing over Shiloh’s fingertips as it flies in.

Christen and Alex’s half of the stands is silent - to watch a whole half go so long and with UCLA doing so well only to fall behind from a lucky break for the other team? Christen feels as if her heart is breaking as she slumps down in her seat, Alex doing the same next to her.

The whistle blows seconds after the next kickoff and both teams file towards the locker room, Stanford girls cheering and UCLA with heads hung low.

“Do you want something from the concessions?” Alex asks, standing up and sliding by her to the aisle.

“Hmm?” Christen looks up from where her hands are knotted in her lap and shakes her head. “No I’m alright.” She pulls out her phone and texts Tobin, hoping she gets a chance to check her phone before the girls are back on the field.

Chris: Tell the girls I said they can do this and I believe in them! Go Lara and Lizzie and everyone else!!

 

---

 

Tobin doesn’t get a chance to text back, but she does glance at her phone and makes sure to mention that even a Stanford alumni was cheering them on, making all the girls giggle before they leave for the field.

All of the girls jog out to their bench and Tobin pulls them in for one last talk before they head to the field. “Alright, come on! I wanna see some smiles! Now let’s go out there and let’s win this!” Tobin yells. “Lizzie, call us off!”

“What team?” Lizzie yells, loud enough for the people in the stands to hear her.

Tobin rolls her eyes and the entire team starts laughing. “Bruins!” They yell back.

“What do we want?”

“To get our head in the game!”

Tobin groans and Lizzie smiles a little too proudly.

“Bruins on three, Bruins on three! One, two, three!”

“Bruins!” They all yell together, breaking apart to go to their positions.

Tobin turns to the stands, giving Christen and Alex a thumbs up before turning back to the field.

 

---

 

The second half starts with a kickoff for UCLA, taken by Hannah, a center mid, and passed to the right where Lara is on the wing. Lara dashes down the field, dribbling through defender after defender with ease and Christen is on her feet screaming as Lara approaches the box. Lara looks for someone who is open but quickly realizes that everyone is either covered or too far back to do anything with the ball. She looks to Lizzie who already has two defenders on her and is frantically pointing to the goal.

“Watch behind, take the shot!” Lizzie points again as Lara can hear a defender approaching from behind her.

Lara looks to the ball at her feet as she crosses over the 18 yard line and then back up to the net. She falters for a second (she hardly ever takes shots, it’s not really her thing) and sets herself up for a decent angle. Lara launches the ball into the top left corner with a rocket from her right foot hardly a second before the defender that was running at her clashes into her back. She can hear Lizzie yelling as the defenders move away from her to set up for kick off, and looks to her left just in time to see Lizzie jump into her arms.

“You did it!” Lizzie yells, dropping to her feet. “I’m so proud of you!”

Lara nods slowly as she finally begins to process what happened. “Yeah, I did,” she smiles to herself. “I scored my first goal here.” She high fives Lizzie as a large smile spreads over her face.

“That was incredible !” Lizzie claps her on the back and they begin to jog to the center of the field.

Lara gets back into position and scans the field to check her spacing. She sees Phoebe behind her, a large grin on her face and two thumbs up. “That was for you!” She calls back and blows a kiss as Phoebe rolls her eyes with a larger smile than the one she had before.

 

---

 

“So your sweater’s a lie then, huh?” Alex teases as Christen sits back down.

“I’m here for both teams,” Christen sticks her tongue out as she lifts up her sweatshirt to reveal the UCLA shirt underneath.

Alex nods as she takes a drink of water and turns back to the field. “Where’d you get that?”

“This?” She pulls on the sweatshirt. “An old friend gave it to me back in college.”

“No,” Alex shakes her head with a laugh. “The shirt.”

“Oh, Tobin.”

“You guys are sharing clothes? I didn’t realize you were that good of friends.”

Christen opens her mouth to argue but opts for a deep breath instead. She can’t decide if she imagined Alex’s snarky tone or not but chooses not to comment on it. “Yeah, we are.”

 

---

 

The game continues on with fairly equal possession from both sides and a heightened sense of competition. It gets much dirtier throughout the game and at one point, Lizzie goes down. Tobin feels her heart skip a beat but before she can even blink, Lara and Hannah are at her sides, pulling her up and brushing her off.

The last five minutes of regulation are simultaneously the fastest and the slowest of the entire game. In the 87th minute, Katie French, one of the centerbacks, goes in for a slide tackle at the top of the box and trips over her own feet on the way down. She collides into the other team’s forward with what is definitely an illegal tackle. The referee’s whistle blows and Katie feels tears spring to her eyes as she helps the other player back up. She sees the yellow card and starts to back out of the box (attempting to get back into game-mode rather than self pity-mode) when she feels an arm wrap around her shoulders.

“It’s alright, kid,” she hears Phoebe say as the referee sets up for the other team’s penalty shot. “Happens to the best of us.”

Katie nods as she stretches her ankle (that she’s pretty sure she heard crack on the way down). “Thanks, I just feel terrible. We can’t lose to Stanford .”

“We won’t,” Phoebe laughs. “Your ankle okay?”

Katie nods as she continues stretching it. “It will be.”

“Good, we can’t have our star Freshie getting injured.”

Katie laughs with a smile. “You’re the best.”

We ’re the best,” Phoebe corrects. “Now look, Shiloh’s about to be a badass.”

Phoebe points to the goal, and sure enough, their keeper guesses correctly and catches the ball. She kicks it to Hannah who runs with it as Phoebe and Katie get back in position. Hannah passes the ball to Lara who sets up a shot for Lizzie and misses it just wide. Lizzie groans loud enough for Tobin to hear her on the sidelines and everyone in the stands can feel her frustration.

 

---

 

“Do you think Lizzie’ll get a goal before it’s over?” Christen asks as one of the sideline referees signals for two minutes of stoppage time.

Alex ponders for a moment before nodding. “She’s awfully relentless, I’m sure she can.”

Christen spends the next minute and a half switching between nervously checking her watch and looking at the field intently, waiting for something to happen.

Shiloh stops yet another of Stanford’s shots and then rolls the ball to Phoebe. Phoebe has a forward on her before she can even take a breath and gets the ball taken, the Stanford player running to the goal box. Katie cuts her off and recovers the ball just as the other girl is setting up for a shot and volleys it to Lara. Lara runs with it, making it nearly to the box before a defender begins to run at her. She hits it through the defenders legs at the perfect angle for Lizzie to intercept it and launch it into the top left corner of the goal.

Before the ball can even fall to the ground, Lizzie is turned and running into Lara’s arms who catches her on impact.

“That was such an amazing service!” Lizzie yells, putting a hand on either side of Lara’s face. “I’d kiss you but Phoebe probably wouldn’t like that very much.” She grins as Lara rolls her eyes and they both run to reset positions.

 

---

 

Christen is on her feet from Lara’s first touch on the ball and screams louder than anyone else in the stadium when Lizzie scores.

Stanford kicks off, making a quick run to the goal but Katie clears it to the other side of the field as the referee blows their whistle for the last time.

As Lizzie hears the whistle, she turns and runs to Tobin who catches her with a look of nothing but pride.

“I knew you could do it,” Tobin laughs as she lets go of Lizzie and she drops to the ground.

“I knew you knew I could do it,” Lizzie turns back to the field to see Phoebe and Lara walking off together, then decides they can get a moment alone and turns to the stands. “Where’s Christen?”

“With Alex,” Tobin points to them and briefly thinks to herself that if Christen smiled at her like that after every win, she would make sure her team never lost a game again.

“Alright,” Lizzie nods then goes to join her teammates in the lineup. She takes the spot behind Lara and begins poking her friend in the side incessantly until she turns around.

“What do you want?” Lara turns away from Phoebe with a laugh and Lizzie whispers in her ear.

“What did you say to Phoebe after the game?”

She rolls her eyes. “I’ll tell you later.”

Lizzie groans but decides it’s good enough as they begin passing by the other players to tell them “good game”.

 

---

 

Superstar: Someone owes me drinks ;)

Superstar: Also tell Alex that you guys should come by the locker room

Christen laughs and looks to Alex. “Tobin said we should stop by the locker room, if you want to do that before you leave.”

“No, I really should get going, Servando should be home soon and I wanted to start dinner.”

Christen holds back the thought of lame and opts for a polite smile instead. “Alright, I’ll see you around I guess.”

“Yeah, don’t you want to get home to Julie?” Alex asks as if it’s the most obvious thing to do.

“Uhm, Tobin and I are going out for drinks after the game,” she says, bothered by her sudden need to defend herself.

“Oh, okay,” Alex walks away without another word and Christen groans before walking to her car to drive it closer to the locker room.

 

---

 

“Alex said she had to get home,” Christen says as she walks into Tobin’s office.

Tobin sighs before biting her lip. “That’s fine, I was just gonna say hi. We can probably leave here in about twenty minutes, but I’m taking Shiloh and Lara to the bar with me, at least. I’m buying them drinks.”

“And I’m buying you drinks,” she jokes. “But alright, we can take my car too if you want.”

“Yeah, that’d be cool,” Tobin smiles up at her from the piece of paper she was writing on at her desk. She stands and walks around her desk, pulling Christen into a hug.

“You alright?” Christen asks, stroking Tobin’s back.

“Yeah,” she lies, pulling away.

“Is it Alex?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t worry about her tonight.” Christen kisses Tobin forehead then pulls her into another hug and hears someone wolf whistle behind her.

“Christen! I thought I heard your voice!” Lizzie walks into the office in nothing but Adidas sweatpants and a matching sports bra. “Where’s my hug?”

Christen pulls away from Tobin then turns to hug Lizzie. “You actually smell good,” she comments.

“I have record shower time for this team, as well as constant dibs on first shower,” she explains.

“Not to mention an entire locker devoted to your obsession with Axe,” Tobin teases, met with a slap on the arm from Lizzie.

“That too,” she agrees and turns back to face Christen. “I wanna ride with you to the bar.”

“How long were you outside of the door?” Tobin asks with a laugh.

“Long enough. Who’s buying my drinks?”

Christen laughs and rolls her eyes. “Let’s make a bet. From now on, I’ll buy a drink for every goal you score.”

“Nice!” Lizzie high fives her and turns to Tobin. “Why are you buying Lara and Shiloh drinks?”

“Lara scored her first goal for this team, and Shiloh saved a PK. Those are drink-worthy.”

Lizzie nods understandingly. “Fair enough, but you didn’t buy me a drink for my first goal!”

“You were nineteen,” Tobin claps her on the shoulder with a laugh. “Besides, I buy you drinks all the time.”

Christen smiles and checks her watch. “Do you wanna see who’s ready to go so we can get out of here?” She asks, looking to Lizzie.

“Sure, I’ll meet you guys at the cars.”

 

---

 

Lizzie walks out a few minutes later with Shiloh, Phoebe, Lara, and Hannah all in tow. “Phoebe, Lara, and I with Christen and Hannah and Shiloh with Tobin,” she announces as they break into two groups.

Christen nods as she moves to get in her car. “I’ll follow you, okay?”

Tobin gives her a thumbs up and everyone piles in before she leads the way out of the parking lot.

Lizzie sits in the passenger seat as Christen starts her car. “Do you have an aux chord?”

“It’s a two minute drive,” Christen argues but hands it over anyway.

Lizzie plugs it in and “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled starts blasting through the speakers. Lizzie, Phoebe, and Lara all sing along at the top of their lungs and Christen even swings back and forth a bit on their drive to the bar.

 

---

 

“Okay, you can’t wear that in,” Tobin says as she opens Christen’s door.

“Definitely not,” Lizzie agrees as she unplugs her phone and slides out of the car.

“It’s cold , guys.”

“You’re a wimp,” Tobin teases. “I’ve got something you can borrow, though.” Tobin goes back to her car and grabs one of her many team-issued Adidas jackets. Christen pulls it on after locking her car and tries to ignore how incredibly good it smells (in a different way than Lizzie did).

Lizzie jogs over to where Lara is waiting for Phoebe to pull her jacket on and taps her shoulder impatiently. “So?”

“So what?”

“What did you say to her?”

Lara rolls her eyes and hopes the streetlight above them isn’t enough for Lizzie to see her blush. (It totally is.) “I asked her if she’d hug me like that if I got a yellow card.”

Lizzie begins to laugh (much harder than what the situation calls for) and keels over.

“Shut up !” Lara says, pulling her from the ground.

“You’re getting laid tonight,” Lizzie says as she finally regulates her breathing.

“Go away,” Lara pushes her with a laugh and Lizzie stumbles to where Tobin and Christen are brushing arms on their walk into the bar.

Lizzie pushes herself in between them to walk, putting an arm around both of their shoulders. “How about we get wasted, yeah?”

 

---

 

Tobin knocks back a shot (she lost count of how many awhile ago) and slams the glass onto the counter.

“You know you're not driving anyone home tonight, right?” Christen teases, taking the next glass from her before she can drink it.

Tobin nods with a large smile. “Yeah, you takin’ care of me Chris?”

Christen laughs as Tobin places a hand on her arm. “Sure, Tobs.” Christen picks up Tobin's hand and Tobin threads their fingers together.

“Good, I wanna spend time with you. I like it.” She leans in, grabbing Christen in a hug that feels awkward due to the fact that Tobin never let go of her hand. “You should spend the night at my place,” Tobin says with a hint of a slur in her voice and Christen begins to realize just how drunk Tobin is.

Christen smiles and pulls away from the hug, checking a clock hanging on the wall near them that displays 1:57. “I can do that, Julie won't be home till Sunday.”

“Not in a sex way,” Tobin clarifies as her eyes fall shut and she yawns. “Just like, in a friend way.”

“Do you wanna leave now?” Christen asks, holding Tobin up underneath one arm.

Tobin continues as if she didn't hear her. “Not that I wouldn't have sex with you, but I imagine you don't want that.” Tobin turns to Christen, raking her eyes up and down immodestly. “I mean, I definitely would.”

Christen laughs and feels her cheeks flush as Tobin wraps an arm around her waist for support. “Maybe not tonight,” she jokes, reaching over to pull Tobin's phone out of her pocket.

“Damn Chris, trying to get in my pants while we're still at the bar?” Tobin starts laughing at her own joke and Christen merely rolls her eyes as she attempts to unlock Tobin's phone.

“Passcode?” She holds it out to Tobin who squints at the screen.

“Alex,” she says simply.

“Hmm?”

“Alex,” she repeats and Christen notices the smile fade from her face. “I don't know the numbers for sure, but it spells Alex.”

Christen frowns and feels Tobin tighten the grip on her hip.

“Why didn't she say hi to me after the game, Chris?”

Christen brushes back a piece of hair from Tobin's eyes. “She was just busy Tobs, you know she loves you.”

“Yeah,” Tobin mutters but it's clipped short. “Let's get out of here.”

Christen nods as she looks back to the phone, finding Lizzie’s contact and hearing it ring from a booth on the other side of the room.

“Stitch?”

“Christen,” she corrects. “We're leaving, Tobin's drunk. I can take three of you back to Tobin's if you guys want to leave now.”

Lizzie looks to Phoebe and Lara across the bar from her and nearly gags at the way they’re lost in each other's eyes. “You two coming?”

Lara feels Phoebe’s hand rest on her thigh and smiles involuntary. “Nah, we'll catch an Uber or something to my place.”

Phoebe whispers in Lara’s ear and begins giggling as her face flushes.

“You guys are gonna bang, gross.” Lizzie stands up from their booth as she hangs up on Christen. “Congrats, but gross.”

Christen smiles as Lizzie walks up to meet them at the door. “Hey, nice night?”

“It was alright. You guys look awfully, uhm, cozy.”

Tobin grins as she looks over to Lizzie. “Chris is tryna get in my pants.”

Lizzie raises an eyebrow as she looks to Christen for confirmation.

“I took her phone out of her pocket,” Christen explains, holding Tobin’s phone up.

“Ah,” Lizzie nods as she holds the door open for Christen and Tobin. She walks to the other side and puts an arm under Tobin’s other shoulder. “Sorry, Tobin’s a shitty drunk.”

Christen laughs as Tobin drops her jaw in mock offense. “I am a splendid drunk, and this is a privilege for both of you,” she argues.

Lizzie rolls her eyes as Christen unlocks the car. “She doesn't really sound drunk, but clearly ,” Lizzie attempts to gesture with the arm she's holding Tobin up with. “She is.”

Tobin begins laughing to herself as Lizzie and Christen help her into the passenger seat. “Chris is spending the night.”

Lizzie raises an eyebrow and looks to Christen once again for confirmation.

Christen shrugs, “She asked me to.” She debates mentioning that Julie is out of town anyway, but it feels sort of irrelevant to the conversation.

They drive in silence for nearly the entire ride home as Tobin snores softly in the passenger seat. (Christen wonders if Tobin always snores, or just when she's drunk.)

“I have a key,” Lizzie offers as Christen turns the car off.

Christen turns from where she was looking Tobin over and smiles. “Good, I’d feel uncomfortable raiding her pockets while she slept.”

Lizzie laughs and briefly wonders if Christen was bringing back the joke about getting in her pants on purpose. “I'll go unlock the door, then come back out to help with her.” Lizzie jogs up to the door and opens it, turning on a few lights and walking through to Tobin’s room, making sure there's nothing to trip over. She glances to the guest room and decides she'll offer it to Christen. Or maybe Christen really does want to get in her pants. Lizzie walks back so that she’s standing in the doorway and watches for a moment as Christen helps Tobin out of the car, noticing how easily she places a hand on Tobin's hip or threads their fingers together.

“Hey Christen, need help?” She slides an arm under Tobin’s shoulder as they walk through the door.

“You're lucky, Chris,” Tobin mumbles as Lizzie leads the way to the bedroom.

“How so?” She asks, turning to face Tobin.

“Usually when I take a girl home I don't know her name,” Tobin admits, squeezing her eyes shut as they walk into the bright room.

Christen chuckles, not sure if it was a joke or not (it wasn't) and letting Tobin sit on the bed.

“Here,” Lizzie closes a drawer and hands over a pair of Adidas sweatpants and an NCAA Champs 2012-13 shirt. “You can change in the bathroom, second door on the right down the hall.”

“Oh, thanks,” Christen takes the clothes and goes to change as Lizzie opens another drawer to get clothes for Tobin.

“What am I going to do with you?” Lizzie asks as Christen shuts the door.

Tobin shrugs. “You sound like me.”

“Then stop acting like me ,” she teases as Tobin raises her arms to change her shirt. Lizzie tosses a shirt and pair of shorts at Tobin's face. “If you think I'm helping you change, you are out of your damn mind.”

Tobin shrugs again. “Worth a try.”

 

---

 

Christen walks into the bathroom, closing the door behind her and takes a deep breath. She tries not to laugh as she realizes Lizzie has no idea that she showered in this exact bathroom hardly a few days ago and looks at herself in the mirror.

She wipes at her (not-so) slightly smudged makeup with some coconut oil she finds behind the mirror and then washes her face. (She figures Tobin won't mind, she's already used the girl's shampoo.)

Christen looks at the clothes Lizzie handed her and realizes that the shirt is from Tobin’s senior year (underneath Champs it says Back-to-Back and Christen wonders how many years UCLA has won the championship) and the sweatpants were most likely team issued. She pulls off the jacket (also Tobin’s, also Adidas) (she wonders to herself if Tobin owns anything without an Adidas symbol on it) and sets it on the counter next to what looks like some sort of high-end cologne. She changes shirts and as she does, her hand brushes against the spot where Tobin repeatedly grabbed onto her for support. It still feels warm from her touch (which is physically impossible) and Christen shakes her head in an attempt to clear it.

She reopens the mirror and finds a bottle of Tylenol, taking two with a water bottle she finds on the counter. Christen has noticed that Tobin’s house seems to always have a sense of clutter, which she finds adorable (especially compared to Julie’s insistence on constant cleanliness), but she tries not to think about that.

She hopes the Tylenol will help put her quickly-forming headache at bay (alcohol paired with late nights and close touches never end well) and takes another deep breath before changing into the sweatpants.

Christen notices that she smells like Tobin (it's odd, the smell isn't of cologne or anything specific, the only way she can think to describe of it is like Tobin ) and pulls her hair into a tight bun, wondering what the cologne smells like.

She looks herself over in the mirror once again before leaving the bathroom and laughs, noticing that she, too, is wearing entirely Adidas clothing.

 

---

 

“Alright, be real with me, Stitch.”

Tobin looks up at Lizzie on the other side of the room. “What?”

“What's the deal with you two?”

“Nothing.”

“Do you want there to be?”

Tobin shrugs.

“Talk to me, she'll be back in here soon.”

“I'm in love with Alex.”

Lizzie nods slowly and walks over to Tobin, placing an arm around her shoulders. “I know, buddy.”

“I don’t wanna love anyone else. Just Alex.”

Lizzie sighs and squeezes Tobin's arm before rising from the bed. “I know, buddy. You'll be alright.”

Christen knocks on the door then lets herself in. “Hey,” she looks straight to Tobin who has a blank expression on her face. “Thanks for helping with her.”

“I should be saying the same to you,” Lizzie laughs as she picks up Tobin's dirty clothes. “If you weren't here it would've been just me helping her.” She makes her way to the door and stops in the doorway. “There's a guest bedroom, I can take the couch if you wa--”

“No, no,” Christen shakes her head. “I can take the couch, it's fine, really.”

“Or you could sleep in here,” Tobin mumbles from where she's sitting on the bed.

“Hmm?” Christen turns back and walks closer to Tobin.

“You could sleep in here, with me,” she repeats.

Lizzie wiggles her eyebrows from behind Christen's back and Tobin glares at her. “Well, I'll let you two go to sleep. Night, Christen. Night, Stitch.”

“Night Lizzie!” Christen calls out as she shuts the door.

“You don't have to sleep in here,” Tobin says as Christen turns off the light.

“Do you want me to?”

“I don't want to be alone.”

“Then hey,” Christen sits on the bed next to Tobin and finds her hand in the dark. “I'm not going anywhere.”

“Thanks, Chris.” Tobin shifts so that she's lying under the blanket more comfortably and Christen follows suit, adjusting next to Tobin. “You're warm,” she mumbles as Christen rests a hand on her back.

“Is that a good thing?” She whispers, stroking Tobin's upper back slowly.

Tobin nods, adjusting again so that her forehead hits Christen's chin when she does so and she tries to ignore how it feels as if all of her tension is melting away at Christen’s touch.

“Goodnight, Tobin,” Christen mumbles into the top of Tobin's head.

“Goodnight, Chris.”

 

---

 

Tobin wakes up the next morning, reaching for the other side of the bed only to find it cold and unoccupied. She blinks hard a few times and then squints at the sunlight pouring in her window.

Tobin reaches for her phone on the bedside table and checks the time, 9:27. She grabs her glasses and slides them on, taking a deep breath. Pushing the blanket off of her, she lets her feet hit the ground and rubs at her temples.

“What the hell happened last night,” she mutters to herself, trying to remember why she was expecting to wake up with someone in her bed.

Tobin changes into a new shirt and a pair of Adidas sweatpants, then leaves her bedroom and heads for her kitchen, finding Lizzie and Christen standing over two mixing bowls with confused expressions and a pile of what looks like thin hockey pucks next to them.

“Stitch!” Lizzie yells and Tobin flinches at the noise level. “Good thing you're up, we can't cook apparently.”

“I noticed,” Tobin nods as she picks up the plate of what she now realizes are very, very burnt pancakes. “What happened?”

“Well,” Lizzie starts, taking the plate from Tobin and dumping it in the trash. “Chris and I got up pretty early so we thought we'd make you breakfast.”

“And,” Christen continues, holding up a bowl of half mixed batter. “We suck at it.”

Tobin takes the bowl from her and picks up a whisk from the counter. “It's not that difficult, guys,” she chuckles as she begins to stir the batter.

“Well the batter wasn't the problem,” Christen pouts. “The thing was getting hot too quickly.”

Lizzie glances to the griddle as Tobin rolls her eyes. “What temperature is it supposed to be at, anyway?” She twirls the dial all the way down, then all the way back up before Tobin pulls her hand away from it.

“Three seventy-five,” she says, changing it to that temperature. “Can one of you grab me the blueberries from the fridge? Do you like blueberry pancakes, Chris?”

“How come you never ask me what I like?” Lizzie frowns, setting the blueberries on the counter.

“Because I don't care,” Tobin deadpans, earning a laugh from Christen and dramatic sigh from Lizzie.

“Uhm, I've never had them,” she admits.

“Ah, well I can make some regular pancakes if you want?” She offers, measuring out a cup of blueberries.

“No, no,” Christen smiles. “I'll be okay, I'm sure.”

“Awesome,” Tobin returns the smile as she stirs the batter with the added fruit.

“Yeah,” Lizzie puts an arm around Christen's shoulders. “Blueberry pancakes are Stitch’s specialty. She says they only taste so good because I'm usually hungover when I eat them, but I'm okay with that.”

Christen laughs and Tobin shakes her head with a smile.

“Wanna grab the bacon for me?”

Christen and Lizzie look to each other with a questioning glance.

“Which one of us?” Lizzie asks, gesturing between Christen and herself.

“It doesn't matter,” Tobin shrugs as she begins flipping the pancakes. “But you probably know where it is.”

“Good point,” Christen nods. “If you'll excuse me, I have to use the restroom.”

“I'm sure Chris needs to learn eventually,” Lizzie says as soon as Christen’s out of earshot, mocking Tobin’s inflection on the nickname.

“Shut up,” Tobin groans. “And get me the damn bacon already.”

Chapter Text

Alex peeks around the corner into the office to see her husband sitting at the desk, scrolling through a PDF file on his laptop.

"Servando," she sing songs, walking up behind him and massaging his shoulders.

"Yes, Esposa?"

"So, I've been thinking," Alex trails off.

Servando spins around in his chair, careful not to knock over Alex, and pulls her onto his lap. "Oh no," he teases.

Alex playfully slaps his chest before planting a kiss on his cheek. "It's kind of lonely with you at work all the time, and I think it'd be cool to get a puppy?" she shrugs in attempt to look indifferent.

"Is that so?" Servando smiles, tickling Alex to make her smile as well.

"Stop it," she laughs. "You're going to make me pee. Your unborn child already spends all day against my bladder to begin with."

"Alright, alright," he surrenders. "You really want to get a puppy?"

"Pleeease," she begs, batting her eyelashes dramatically.

Servando shakes his head playfully. “And how exactly are we going to take care of a puppy and a new baby?”

“With lots and lots of love?” Alex asks cutely.

“How can I say no to that face?” He asks rhetorically, pulling her in for a kiss.

Alex returns the kiss and pulls back quickly. “So that's a yes on the puppy?”

“How about this,” Servando says, checking his watch. “We stop by the animal shelter on our way home from our appointment--which we should leave for soon, love.”

Alex squeals in delight and climbs off of Servando’s lap. “You're the best,” she exclaims, kissing his cheek and rushing out of the office to grab her purse.

 

---

 

Servando scrolls through his emails, strategically choosing which to read and respond to while they wait. Alex sits next to him, bouncing her leg up and down while she flips through a water-stained parenting magazine.

“¿Qué pasa?” he asks, gently resting his left hand on her bouncing leg while still reading his emails.

Alex is silent for a moment, unsure of whether or not she should share her worries. When she glances at him, he's looking at her with a slightly concerned expression. “Okay, just nervous,” she admits.

“I know that ,” Servando teases. “Why?”

She closes the magazine and chews on her lip. “What if something's wrong?” she finally whispers.

“Everything will be fine. Our little one is perfectly healthy,” he says confidently.

“Servando.”

“What? I'm sure of it. I can feel it in my bones.”

Alex sighs and leans her head on his shoulder. “You're right.”

Before Servando can reply, a nurse walks into the waiting room and calls out “Carrasco,” which Alex quickly responds to, already by the nurse’s side before her husband has a chance to stand up.

 

---

 

“Look,” Servando points at the screen with his free hand as soon as the picture shows up. “That's our baby.”

The ultrasound technician glides the wand across Alex's abdomen to try and find a clearer picture. When Alex doesn't respond to Servando's comment, he somehow manages to tear his eyes away from the screen and looks down at his wife, who's staring at the monitor with tears streaming down his face.

“Babe?”

“Sorry,” Alex sniffles, wiping her face with her sleeve. “I'm just really happy, Serv. That's a little us in there.”

“Yeah,” he smiles, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

The tech makes a noise of satisfaction and turns the monitor so the couple can have a better look. “Here you go. The baby looks right on schedule,” he smiles. “Would you like to know the sex?”

Servando turns back to Alex and shrugs. “What do you think, Esposa?”

Alex glances back at the monitor for a moment before turning back to her husband. “I think we should wait and have it be a surprise.”

“Yeah?” Servando smiles, squeezing her hand gently.

“Yeah.”

“Alright,” he turns back to the ultrasound technician. “We'll wait.”

 

---

 

“Look at how cute they all are!” Alex gushes as soon as they walk into the animal shelter. She immediately runs towards the closest dog and coos at them. “Aw, I wish I could take all of you home.”

“Hey,” Servando playfully scolds. “We're just looking.”

“Fine,” Alex sulks, turning back to the beagle in front of her.

Servando dutifully follows Alex around the room, watching as she pets every dog and falls a little more in love the more she meets. Eventually she stops in front of a small chocolate lab and Servando watches her entire demeanor change the second she sees him.

“Servando,” she whines and it sounds like she's crying.

“What?”

She turns around with tears in her eyes. “He's so cute. I want him.”

“Are you really crying right now?” He laughs but the look on his wife's face tells him that laughing was a mistake.

“Are you really making fun of me?”

“No, no, I'm not making fun of you,” he backpedals. “I just didn't expect you to cry.”

“I'm only crying because you got me pregnant and my hormones are going crazy.”

“That's fair,” Servando agrees, rubbing her back soothingly. “He is pretty cute.”

“Yeah,” Alex nods, craning her neck to see the paper taped next to the door. “Blue is adorable. So can we get him?”

“You really want a puppy? They're not easy to take care of.”

“I know,” she rolls her eyes. “I think it'd be good for me.”

“If you're sure.”

“I am,” Alex nods eagerly.

“Alright,” he says, pressing a kiss to her temple. “Let's go sign some paperwork.

 

---

 

One adoption fee, paperwork, and an hour and a half trip to their local pet store, Alex and Servando arrive home with their new edition in tow. As soon as Alex unclips Blue’s leash, he promptly runs to the living room and begins to sniff around before squatting and peeing on the carpet.

“Blue, no!” Alex shouts, only startling the puppy and making him pee more.

Servando steps in and picks him up to take him outside. When he comes back, Alex is already placing a puppy pad down where he had done his business a few moments before. “Still think this is a good idea?”

“He's just a puppy,” Alex defends.

“Sí, a puppy that needs to constantly be watched and walked and taken care of.”

“It'll be fine,” Alex waves him off, carefully unloading the toys and bedding they purchased for Blue.

 

---

 

"Ooh, Jules look!" Christen exclaims, tugging on her girlfriend's hand. She pulls them towards a window display where there's rows of rings, earrings, and necklaces. "That one’s so beautiful," she says, pointing to a silver necklace.

"Oh yeah?" Julie asks, wrapping her arms around Christen's waist.

"Yeah," she continues, entranced by the jewelry.

"What about that?" Julie points to an engagement ring a few rows down. She feels Christen stiffen against her, likely because of the fight they had a few weeks before.

"It's nice," she nods.

"Just nice?"

Christen thinks for a moment before pointing to another ring. "I like that one better."

"Alright," Julie nods, lightly squeezing Christen's hips. She spins around so she's facing Julie and there's a small smile on her face.

"I thought you weren't ready to settle down?"

"Hey, who said I was buying it? I'm just doing my research," she winks and Christen's cheeks immediately flush.

"Come on," Christen stutters out, clearly flustered by Julie's admission. She reaches up and kisses Julie quickly before tugging on her hand again. "We're going to be late for lunch."

Julie lets Christen pull her down the street to a restaurant they’ve been meaning to try for the last year. She rests her hand on Christen’s lower back as they walk to an empty booth near the front window and nudges Christen’s knee with her own once they’re settled, giving her a smile when Christen meets her gaze.

“Are you excited?” Christen asks, opening a menu that had been left on the table.

“For?”

“Lunch with me,” she smiles.

Julie instantly feels guilty. She knows she’s been busy with work and that’s taken up most of her attention--attention that used to go to Christen. “I’m always excited to spend time with you,” Julie says, reaching out and stroking the back of Christen’s hand with her own thumb. “I’m sorry I’ve been so busy.”

“I understand,” Christen replies, but the look on her face tells Julie that it still bothers her.

“I miss having lunch with you,” Julie tries, hoping to make her girlfriend feel better.

“So do I,” she nods, scanning the menu for what to order.

A server comes by and takes their orders. Julie tries her best to make Christen smile (Christen does) and by the end of their meal, she doesn’t feel so guilty anymore. She makes a deal with herself to try and make lunch with Christen at least twice a week.

“Do you have to go in today?” Christen asks as they walk back to the car.

“No,” she says, watching as Christen’s entire demeanor changes. “We can go to the beach, if you want. It’s pretty nice out still.”

Christen stops in her tracks and turns to face Julie. “Please,” she begs and Julie has to stop herself from kissing her in the middle of the sidewalk.

“Come on, Stanford.”

 

---

 

“Hey, don’t take pictures of me,” Julie groans when she hears the shutter sound escape from her girlfriend’s iPhone.

“I’m just capturing the beautiful scenery,” Christen teases.

“Shut it.” Julie stands up from the small tide pool she was looking at and wraps her arms around Christen’s waist.

“Not that I’m complaining, but isn’t this something you’d classify as PDA?”

Julie looks around and confirms that there’s no one around. “It’s just you and me, babe.”

Christen glances around as well and settles back on Julie. “So then it wouldn’t be a problem if I kissed you, would it?”

Julie shakes her head and leans in to kiss Christen, who wraps her arms around the blonde. They continue for a moment until Christen pulls away with a content sigh.

She rests her head on Julie’s shoulder and whispers, “I love you, Julie.”

“I love you, too, babe.”

“We should have brought the dogs,” Christen says absentmindedly and Julie can’t help but laugh. “What?”

Christen pulls back and watches Julie as she nearly doubles over from laughter. “We were in the middle of a nice moment and all you can think about is how we should have brought the dogs with us.”

“Not true,” Christen counters, but she can feel her face flushing. “They just would have had a great time. You know they love the beach.”

“Uh, they love trying to knock me into the ocean,” Julie manages to get out.

“Fine, no dogs,” Christen says, pulling Julie back in for another kiss.

When they break apart, Julie tucks a strand of Christen’s hair behind her ear. “They probably need to be let out, though. We should get back.”

Christen sighs. “You’re right.”

 

---

 

Julie unlocks the front door and is instantly greeted by the dogs who quickly sniff her then rush through her legs to get to Christen. She shakes her head and steps inside, grabbing their leashes off of the hook.

“Should we take them on a walk?”

Christen lifts her head up and is surprised to see Julie holding up their leashes. “I can do it, Jules. You don’t have to.”

“Maybe I want to spend more time with you,” Julie says, moving back outside and attaching them to the dogs’ collars. When Julie straightens back up, she sees a look of adoration on her girlfriend’s face, one that she quickly puts to end with a firm kiss. “Let’s go.”

They walk around the block a few times, talking about work and what they should do for the rest of the night. Christen is surprised when Julie doesn't try to hand off Morena’s leash to her. The dogs clamber back into the house and make themselves comfortable on the couch.

“I was going to get started on dinner if you want to help,” Julie says, pulling off her sweater and putting her hair up.

“Sure, I'm just going to change first.”

When Christen finally steps into the kitchen, Julie has set up a cutting board with some vegetables for Christen to slice while she seasons cuts of chicken.

“I'm on veggie duty?” Christen groans.

“Well I can't exactly trust you to cook, sweetheart,” Julie laughs.

Christen rolls her eyes but begins to chop up the vegetables laid out on the counter. “I'm not that bad at cooking.”

Julie turns to face Christen. “Babe, you've burnt toast before.”

“That was one time.”

“What about that time you set spaghetti on fire?” Julie challenges.

“Fine,” Christen huffs. “I like when you cook anyway.”

“You'd probably starve otherwise. Or go broke ordering in every night.”

“You're lucky you're cute,” Christen grumbles at her girlfriend.

 

---

 

The next afternoon, Lizzie and Tobin are hanging out at Tobin’s house (as usual).

Lizzie looks over from the television to see Tobin on her phone, her jaw clenched and her expression unreadable. “Stitch?” She stretches her leg so she can nudge Tobin’s foot. “You alright?”

Tobin glances from her phone to Lizzie, who’s sitting on the couch, and shrugs. “Not really,” she says causally. She pushes down the leg rest on the recliner and goes into the kitchen.

Lizzie hops up from the couch to follow her. “What’s up?”

Tobin leans back against the counter with a sigh. “It’s real,” she says quietly before taking a drink of her water. “It’s really real.”

Lizzie frowns and moves closer to her. “What’s real?”

“The kid.” Tobin sets her cup on the counter and places a hand on her temple to massage it.

Lizzie stays silent for a moment, waiting for Tobin to elaborate but she never does. “What kid?” She finally asks.

Tobin bites her lip before sucking in a deep breath. “Alex’s kid, there was an ultrasound picture on Instagram. Healthy. Due in August.” She hesitates for a moment then whispers, almost too quietly for Lizzie to hear her. “Not mine.”

“Tobs,” Lizzie frowns and puts a hand on her forearm. “We should do something to, I don’t know, distract you.”

Tobin scoffs. “Like what? All I want to do right now is to get too drunk to remember that I’ll never have a part in the life of that kid. The kid of the girl I love.”

“We can make that happen,” Lizzie nods and begins to step away from Tobin. “Grab your house key, and change into something with,” Lizzie pauses to search for the right word. “Swagger.”

Tobin laughs. “Please don’t describe any part of my wardrobe with swagger again.”

“Fine,” Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Sex appeal. Seductiveness,” Lizzie wiggles her eyebrows with that one. “Desirability. Pick a noun, any noun. Just one that’ll get you laid.”

 

---

 

"Hello, how can I help you?" The older man asks from behind the counter. He's got greying hair and a huge grin that Julie can't help but return.

"I'm looking to buy a ring," she leans against the counter.

"Wonderful! Do you have any in mind?"

"Yeah, actually, there's one in the front window display I had my eye on."

"Engagement ring?" He asks, leading her over to the front of the store.

"Yeah," Julie answers nervously. "She seemed to really like it when she pointed it out."

He nods and pulls out the ring Julie points to.

"It's even more stunning up close," she gushes, examining it after he hands it over.

"She has great taste," he grins, admiring the ring as well.

"I'll take it," Julie looks up at him and she can feel the butterflies in her stomach from making such a huge decision. Even though she's nowhere near ready to be engaged, she already feels more at ease knowing she has the ring as soon as she's ready to propose.

"Great. Do you know what size ring she wears?"

Her stomach drops. She’s given Christen necklaces and earrings before, but never a ring. "Uh," she stutters. "No, actually."

He looks at her with what Julie thinks is a look of pity and she instantly feels self conscious.

"I can pull this ring to the side and you can come back in when you know," he offers.

"Thank you so much. I'll try to swing back later today," she replies, knowing that her cheeks are stained red from embarrassment.

He gives her a tight smile and wishes her luck as she slinks out of the store.

She heads home and is glad to see Christen's normal parking spot empty. When she opens the door, the dogs rush towards her and sniff her once before scuttling back towards their chew toys in the living room. She briefly thinks about letting them out in the yard but pushes the thought away when she checks the time and realizes that Christen should be home soon and that she had to hurry.

She makes her way into their bedroom and looks along the top of the dresser, praying (for once) that Christen has left something lying around, but she's disappointed to see that it's only littered with old receipts, spare change, and some stray clothing, as usual. She's nearly ready to give up until she remembers that Christen keeps a small jewelry box in her bedside drawer. She pulls it open and breathes out a sigh of relief when she sees the small mahogany box. She carefully picks it up and opens it, rifling through necklaces and bracelets until she finds a ring that she's seen Christen wear a few times. Julie drops the ring into her pocket and returns the jewelry box back to its rightful place before turning to leave.

Before she even makes it through the bedroom door, she hears the dogs running through the house and the sound of the front door opening, stopping her in her tracks.

Christen sees Julie and smiles so brightly that Julie feels her heart beat faster.

“I didn't know you were going to be home so early, Jules,” Christen says, walking towards her and kissing her cheek before walking into the bedroom to change.

“Yeah, but I actually have a meeting to go to,” Julie says quickly, hoping that Christen doesn't figure out she's lying.

When Christen's smile falters, Julie decides that that's worse.

“It shouldn't take too long. I'll be back for dinner.”

Christen nods and turns to the dresser to pull out a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt.

“Babe,” Julie sighs when Christen doesn't answer. She walks forward and wraps her arms around her girlfriend. “I won't be gone long, I promise.”

“I heard you the first time, Jules.”

“How can I fix it?”

“There's nothing to fix, it's fine. I'm fine. I'll see you later,” Christen turns in her arms and kisses her quickly. “Be careful.”

“I love you,” Julie sighs again.

“I love you, too.”

Julie kisses Christen's forehead before turning to leave, making sure to lock the door behind her. She's nervous as she drives back to the jewelry store, tapping her fingers against the steering wheel despite the lack of music playing. She checks her pocket at every red light to make sure the ring is still there and she's sure to hold it tightly in her palm as she walks from the car to the front door. A bell rings as she walks in, signaling to the older man from earlier that she's back and he smiles at her.

“That was quick,” he states, picking up the box that has the ring he put aside. “What size?”

“Well,” Julie starts, opening up her hand and stretching her palm out towards him. “I just brought one of her rings instead of asking her.”

“Smart,” he grins, plucking the ring from her hand and examining it. “Just give me a moment and I can size this one and go from there.”

Julie nods and leans against the counter while the man steps through a doorway that she assumes leads to some sort of backroom. True to his word, he comes back out just a few minutes later with a small black box in his hand. He opens it up and sets it on the counter for Julie to look at it.

“How would you like to pay for it?” He asks, taking the smile on her face as confirmation enough.

She leaves the shop some twenty minutes later with the ring in hand and her bank account significantly lower. When she pulls into the driveway, she sits in her car for a few minutes, admiring the ring and wondering how she's going to sneak it past her girlfriend, clearly not having thought this through before leaving. Julie pops open her glove department and places the box in there until tomorrow when she can take it into the house when she knows Christen won't see.

“Hey,” Christen calls out as Julie unlocks the front door. “How was it?”

“How was what?” Julie asks, worried that she already knows.

“The meeting,” Christen laughs. She closes her laptop and turns to face Julie who's standing in the archway to the living room.

“Oh, uhm, it was good. Just a few things to go over. Are you hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Wanna order take out and watch Netflix?”

“That sounds perfect. Mexican?” Christen asks, already picking up her phone.

“You know me so well,” she smiles, leaning over the couch to kiss Christen.

 

---

 

Tobin and Lizzie end up at a bar Tobin doesn’t know the name of and a few drinks in, Tobin starts hitting on a girl that’s sitting by herself. She drops a few cheesy pickup lines (the girl scoffs, but she’s blushing) and for a moment, Tobin thinks she’s going to get turned down. (The girl is beautiful and awfully straight-looking, but that’s never stopped her before.)

Tobin’s just drunk enough to stop caring, and even though the girl in front of her probably has higher standards than that, it doesn’t stop Tobin from tossing out what she decides is her last try before calling it quits for the night.

“Y’know,” Tobin glances from left to right then looks back at the girl (a blonde with blue eyes and cheekbones that make her mouth feel dry). “That dress looks great on you, but it’d probably look a lot better on the floor.” Tobin can feel the words coming out of her mouth and her mind is screaming STOP, STOP, STOP , and as soon as she says it, she tenses, waiting for a drink to get thrown in her face.

The girl just laughs, taking another sip of the drink that Tobin is sure should be spilled down the front of her shirt by now. “You’re cute.” She reaches a hand across the space between them to place it on Tobin’s thigh. “How are you here alone?”

Tobin shrugs and places her hand over the girl’s. “Well I came with my friend,” she looks around. “But I don’t know where she ended up.”

“A friend isn’t the kind of person I was worried about,” she winks and Tobin swallows despite the dryness in her mouth. She clasps Tobin’s hand in her own and begins to pull on it. “Wanna see this dress on the floor?” She slides Tobin’s arm around her waist then pushes up against her. “Put it there.”

Tobin tries not to laugh at the fact that her shitty pickup line worked as they step into the cool night air. The girl begins to shiver as she waves down a cab and Tobin pulls her jacket off, handing it over before she even realizes what she’s doing. (It feels a little bit like a betrayal, because Christen was the last one to wear it, but Tobin tries to push that thought away.)

They end up at the girl’s house (Tobin realizes she still doesn’t know her name as they step over the threshold, but the girl is pushing her up against the wall and kissing her, so she figures it’s a bad time to ask) around two in the morning and Tobin hardly stays long enough for the girl to fall asleep after they’re done. She slides out of the bed and gets dressed, briefly glancing to the dress that’s on the floor (it really didn’t look that good to begin with, if she’s being honest with herself) and Tobin sneaks out of the house, calling Lizzie.

“Stitch?” Lizzie picks up after a few rings with a loud yawn. “Where’d you end up?”

Tobin scans the lobby as she leaves the elevator, looking for some sort of sign. “I don’t see a name for the apartment, I’ll send you a pin.”

Lizzie checks the location as she crawls out of the bed in Tobin’s guest room and grabs her keys. “I’ll be there in twenty.”

“Make it fifteen and I’ll make you breakfast,” Tobin promises, but Lizzie just rolls her eyes.

“You would’ve done that anyway.” She starts the car. “And you’ll probably sleep till noon tomorrow, I can still hear the slur in your voice.”

Tobin chuckles. “I wish, but I’ve got a coffee date with Christen tomorrow at nine. Can’t be late.”

“Date?” Lizzie teases, pulling out of the driveway.

“Shut up,” Tobin says, hanging up the phone and hoping Lizzie makes it to the building before someone asks why she’s sitting in the lobby a pair of creased skinny jeans, a wrinkled Adidas shirt, and an Adidas jacket that reeks of her former date’s perfume.

 

---

 

“Julie’s birthday is next month,” Christen says casually before taking a sip of her coffee.

Tobin glances up at Christen from the pile of papers in front of her and raises an eyebrow. “Any plans?”

Christen readjusts her position and leans forward, setting her cup down. “No, she’s been so busy that I don’t know if I should just make her dinner or plan a trip,” she admits, earning a chuckle from Tobin at the mention of Christen cooking.

“Sorry,” Tobin replies when she sees the look Christen gives her. “Uhm, well, maybe you should just ask her.”

“I can’t just ask what she wants to do for her birthday,” Christen says in disbelief, picking up her coffee again.

Tobin leans forward and sets her hand on top of Christen’s, causing her to look up at Tobin. “Wouldn’t you want to do something she enjoys instead of something that will fit into her schedule?”

“You’re right,” Christen nods. Tobin’s hand is warm on top of hers and she finds herself relaxing more the longer it stays there. “Thank you.”

“I’m always here for you, Chris,” Tobin smiles and Christen instantly smiles in return.

Tobin takes her hand back and shuffles through the papers before huffing and leaning back in her seat.

“What is it?”

“Just trying to plan our next out of town trip with our budget.”

“I didn’t know that was your job,” Christen says, giving her a reassuring smile.

Tobin finishes off the rest of her cup and stands up. “It’s not, I’m just helping out Amanda. Want another?”

Christen shakes her head. “I’ve still got half.”

“Alright, I’ll be right back.”

 

---

 

“Jules?” Christen calls out, walking into the living room while towel drying her hair.

Julie looks up at Christen and smiles. “Hey, I just finished up some phone calls and I'm free for the rest of the day. Do with me what you will.”

Christen laughs and sits next to Julie who kisses her girlfriend's temple. “I actually wanted to ask you something.”

“Oh yeah? Hit me.”

“Your birthday is coming up,” Christen starts and she sees a grin spread across Julie's face. “And I wanted to do something special, but I don't know if you're working or not.”

Julie takes in a deep breath and nods. “Surprisingly, nothing is planned for that week. What did you have in mind?”

“Well if you were busy, I was going to make you dinner or something,” she says, lightly smacking Julie when she laughs at the idea. “But since you don't have to work... What do you say we go to Chicago for the week?”

Julie's body instantly reacts and she moves so she's fully facing Christen. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah,” Christen smiles. “We haven't been in a while.”

“Babe, the Cubs are playing that week.”

“I know.”

Julie takes Christen's hands in her own and looks Christen in the eye. “Are you serious? We can go to Chicago?”

Christen laughs at Julie's tone. “Yes, I'm serious, Sweetie. I want to do something special for you.”

Julie pulls Christen into a kiss that lasts longer than Christen expects, but she's not complaining. “You're the best girlfriend ever,” Julie says between kisses. “When do we leave?”

“Why don't we look at plane tickets?”

Julie jumps off of the couch and runs into the dining room to get her laptop. Christen swears she's never seen Julie so excited.

---

 

"I already miss the dogs," Christen huffs, leaning her head against Julie's shoulder. They stayed out late the night before, dropping the dogs off at Tobin’s and then the last few hours going through an absurdly long line for security.

"It hasn't even been a twenty-four hours, babe," Julie laughs and kisses the top of her girlfriend's head.

"I know," she sighs again, picking her head up and looking around. "Wanna get some coffee?"

"Please. I can wait with the bags," Julie offers.

Christen stands and makes her way to the food court area and stands in the winding line. She's only moved about ten spaces in five minutes and she can feel the fatigue setting in already. Five am is just too early to wake up, no matter what day of the week it is. Her phone chimes in her pocket and she fishes it out, smiling when she sees a text from Tobin.

Superstar: Have a safe flight :)

As she reads it she smiles, already feeling a little bit better as she taps out a reply.

Chris: Thanks! I'll let you know when we land :)

 

---

 

They land and Christen stays true to her word, sending a quick message accompanied by a selfie of her and Julie who's still snoring on her shoulder when they land.

Chris: In Chicagooo!!!

Superstar: Does Julie know she's drooling on your shoulder?

Christen doesn't have time to reply as they rush off the plane, but Tobin sends a second message while they're waiting for their bags and it’s accompanied by a selfie of her, Lizzie, and the dogs at the beach.

Superstar: Your dogs play soccer better than you can!

When Christen replies, she almost misses her bag, but Julie grabs it for her with a sigh and a “Let’s get going, Stanford.”

Chris: Well it's okay because I'm cuter ;)

Superstar: It's a close one…but I think you might be right

Tobin's reply is immediate, accompanied by a selfie of her face to face with Khaleesi, and Christen's too busy going through security to do more than glance at it with a quick smile.

Christen and Julie make it past the doors with their baggage and as soon as Julie sees her parents, she runs to them with open arms.

Christen’s happy to see Julie this happy (it's been awhile, if she's being honest) and she smiles, lugging both her and Julie’s suitcases over to everyone else.

David, Julie’s dad, pulls her into a tight hug. “Christen!” He squeezes before letting her go. “It’s been so long!”

“Since last Thanksgiving!” Kristi, Julie’s mom, chimes in, pulling Christen into a hug after finally detaching herself from Julie. “Oh and Julie, honey,” she turns so she’s facing Julie, but she still has Christen’s hands clasped between her own. “Your sister will be here later tonight, she’s driving over from New York for your birthday!”

Julie lights up again, a smile gracing her features and Christen feels as if she’s falling in love all over again. “Really?” She asks in disbelief, sliding an arm around Christen’s waist and buzzing with excitement.

“Yes, sweetie! She was gonna meet us here to pick you up, but got stuck in some traffic.” Kristi frowns before taking Christen’s suitcase and handing Julie’s off to her husband. “Let’s get to the car, she’ll meet us at the house.”

Christen and Julie walk to the car hand-in-hand, Julie incapable of wiping the smile off of her face.

“So does this mean I get to meet your sister? Is the big mystery over?” Christen asks teasingly, poking Julie in the side as they sit in the backseat of the car.

“Guess so.” Julie leans over to give Christen a quick peck on the lips.

“Are you happy to see her?”

“Melanie?”

Christen nods and Julie squeezes Christen’s hand with another smile before answering.

“Overjoyed.”

“Anything I need to know about her?” She leans closer to whisper to Julie. “How do I get her to like me?”

Julie laughs and kisses Christen’s nose. “Just be your same old adorable self,” she kisses Christen again and Christen starts giggling. “It worked for me.”

Chapter Text

Julie and Christen follow Julie’s parents parents into the house (it smells like Christen remembers it, cinnamon and pine and a certain idea of home ) and see a girl who looks to be the spitting image of Julie but instead of blonde hair that's pulled back, she has brown hair that spills over her shoulders.

“You must be Christen,” the girl, who Christen assumes is Melanie, says as she pulls Christen into a hug.

“Yeah,” Christen laughs as she pulls away and takes the fact that Melanie already knows who she is and will hug her at first meeting as a good sign.

Melanie turns to face Julie and smiles.”I haven't seen you in so long, Julie Beth.”

“Mel,” Julie groans. “Stop it.”

“Julie Beth?” Christen laughs.

“Oh yeah, she hates it,” Melanie grins, wrapping an arm around Julie's shoulders.”Isn't that right, Julie Beth?”

Julie rolls her eyes. “I hate you. And you ?” she points at her girlfriend. “Don't you get any ideas.”

Melanie just rolls her eyes and hugs Julie tightly. “Oh chill out. I'm just so happy to see my baby sister!” She yells, squeezing Julie and lifting her off the ground a few inches.

Julie sighs but she's grinning. “Could you stop doing that? I figured you finally would once I got taller than you.”

Melanie rolls her eyes as she pulls away from the hug. “You may have a few inches on me, but I have a few years and I'll never let you forget it.”

“A couple years,” Julie corrects and Melanie responds by wrapping an arm around her neck and putting her in a headlock.

“A few, a couple,” she shrugs as Julie attempts to pull her arm away. “Same diff.” She smiles at Christen and holds out the hand that isn't gripped to Julie's shoulder. “It's so nice to meet you,” she says and Christen takes her hand, smiling.

Christen watches the sisters as they continue to goof off, wrestling with tangled limbs. (She thinks that the only thing she loves more than Julie herself is watching Julie interact with her family.) (She has a missed call from Tobin in her pocket.)

---

They all eat dinner together and then Julie and Melanie play a few rounds of rock paper scissors to decide who gets to choose how they spend the evening. Melanie wins, resulting in a family movie night. She picks The Little Mermaid (because she knows it’s Julie’s least favorite) and Julie’s parents both sit in recliners, leaving the couch for the three of them. Julie sits in the middle but closer to her sister, giving Christen a quick on the cheek and I see you all the time, babe, I never get to see her! (Christen doesn’t bother mentioning how she feels like they never see each other either.)

Nearly halfway through the movie, Christen feels her phone vibrate. She notices a picture from Tobin (the thumbnail’s too small to see unless she opens the notification) and a missed call, resulting in another notification for the voicemail. She excuses herself (no one even notices) and carefully walks through the living room to avoid smashing any popcorn into the carpet. (Julie and Melanie turn into children once they see each other.)

Christen steps outside and sits in a small hammock on the porch. She checks the picture first and it’s Lizzie and Morena lying on a tile floor that she doesn’t recognize. (She figures it's Lizzie's place.)

Superstar: We’re trying to be productive…Spring cleaning season :(

Christen laughs (Lizzie’s wearing latex gloves and a facemask, she looks kind of dead, and Morena is nudging her with her nose to make sure she’s alright) and opens the other notification.

“Hey, Chris,” Tobin’s voice comes in over the recording, and Christen instantly smiles. “I just kinda missed you I guess. Lizzie and I always clean our places together, so right now we’re working on hers, and I’m stuck with her all week,” Tobin punctuates it with a dramatic sigh and then hears Lizzie’s voice in the background.

“It’s a privilege,” Lizzie argues and Tobin just laughs in response.

“But yeah, I wanted to see if you wanted to FaceTime or something,” she hesitates and Christen instantly wants to call her back rather than listen to the rest of the voicemail.

Lizzie’s voice rings in again, more muffled this time but distinct enough for Christen to make out what was said. “That’s gay, Stitch.” Christen laughs and she hears what sounds like a punch and then a yelp of pain.

Tobin’s voice comes back but it’s muffled as if she pulled the phone away and Christen can hear her say, “Lizzie, shut the fuck up.” She hears the phone being moved again and Tobin’s voice comes back, clear this time. “To like, see the dogs or something,” she adds, but it’s only an afterthought (she wouldn’t have said it if Lizzie hadn’t made a comment). “Alright, well, I know you’re busy so I’ll let you go. See ya Chris.” The line clicks and Christen finds herself just sitting there for a moment, still holding the phone to her ear.

She half considers calling Tobin back right then, but realizes over five minutes has already passed and she opts for just a text instead.

Chris: I miss you too! And the dogs :( (But mostly you)

Tobin responds before Christen even has a chance to rise from the hammock and Christen can’t stop the smile from spreading over her face.

Superstar: Lizzie says she’s jealous

Chris: What a dork, tell Lizzie I said hi and I miss her too

 

---

 

“You wanna just stay the night at my house tonight?” Tobin offers, tossing a spray bottle into a bucket. “So we can get started early tomorrow?”

“I actually, uhm,” Lizzie steps out of the bathroom to meet Tobin the hall. “Have a thing tomorrow.”

“A thing,” Tobin repeats, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, a thing.”

“What kind of thing?” Tobin grabs a rag from the floor and tosses it into the bucket as well.

“A, uhm,” she mumbles something Tobin can’t pick out then just says, “Thing.”

Tobin squints at her, then drops the bucket. “You have a date!”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Don’t call it that. I don’t date. It’s just a thing.”

“It’s a date.” Tobin grins then pulls Lizzie into a tight hug.

“Stop, would you?” Lizzie pushes Tobin and groans in mock disgust. “It’s just a thing.”

“Who’s it with?” Tobin squints at Lizzie again, racking her head for names. “It’s not that guy you took on the hiking trip, is it?”

“Lucas?” Lizzie crinkles her nose. “No, he’s a tool.”

“Who is it?”

“If I tell you you’ll get mad.”

“No, I won’t,” Tobin holds up her hand for a pinky promise but Lizzie just looks at the floor, biting her lip. “Come on,” Tobin drops her hand and shoves her Lizzie’s shoulder lightly. “Who is it?”

“Stitch,” Lizzie finally looks up at Tobin. “You’ll think it’s stupid.”

“Lizzie, I’ve made my fair share of stupid decisions.”

Lizzie tries not to laugh but she can’t help it, and she looks back to the ground.

Tobin smiles sympathetically. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me, but--”

“Promise me you won’t yell at me.”

Tobin frowns. “I won’t yell at you, or get mad, or anything.”

“Promise me.”

“I promise.”

“It’s Lauren.”

Tobin tilts her head to the side. “On the team?”

“Yeah.”

“The senior?”

Lizzie nods.

“The one that got hurt?”

“Tobin, we both only know one Lauren.”

Tobin nods. “How long have you guys been, like--”

“A thing?”

“Yeah.”

“A few months.” Lizzie kicks up the corner of the rug before looking to Tobin.

“How did you hide it from me for that long?”

“Shut up,” Lizzie finally cracks a smile.

“This is the Lauren you had--”

“We both only know one Lauren,” Lizzie says again, looking at Tobin for half a second before darting her eyes back to the ground.

“A crush on,” Tobin finishes. “For like, a year.”

Lizzie shrugs.

“Is it serious?”

She shrugs again.

“So when we went to the Berkeley game--”

“Yeah,” Lizzie laughs. “She came with us the next morning to shoot you with the water guns because she and I had been hanging out the night before.”

Tobin nods and purses her lips. “Then she got hurt.”

“Yeah,” Lizzie nods even though it wasn’t really a question.

“And you guys being together-ish...that’s why she asked you to wear the armband for her?”

“I think it was more than that, but,” Lizzie walks away and sits on the couch. “I don’t know.”

Tobin follows and sits next to her, wrapping an arm around Lizzie’s shoulders. “She graduates this year.”

“I’m aware.”

“She was our captain.”

“She is our captain,” Lizzie corrects. “And she’s sweet and kind and funny and pretty and good at soccer and--” Lizzie cuts herself off to take a deep breath. “And she thought I deserved to wear the armband.”

“Well, the coaches get ultimate say--”

“She still said it.” Lizzie looks to Tobin with a stern expression. “She still thought I deserved it.”

“Lizzie,” Tobin frowns again. “Don’t get hurt.”

“I don’t think she’d hurt me.”

“She’s leaving.”

“She's graduating .”

“She wants to go in the draft.”

Lizzie sighs. “Not yet, though.”

“No, not yet.”

“I think I love her,” Lizzie whispers, almost too quiet for Tobin to hear.

Tobin stands from the couch. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Lizzie pauses, looking at Christen’s dogs that have chosen to rest at her feet.

“Are you guys exclusive?”

Lizzie shrugs. “Kind of? I don't think she's done anything with anyone else, and I’ve had sex with other people but no one else makes my heart beat faster and no one else’s smile makes me smile and you know that there’s no way in hell I’d let anyone else hit me with their crutches.”

Tobin smiles. “Yeah, except me.”

“I didn’t exactly let you,” Lizzie reminds her. “Somehow you chased me down, while in crutches, all with a messed up knee.”

“I have mad skills,” Tobin shrugs and Lizzie rolls her eyes. “But you totally got me back for it, stealing my crutches and taking off afterwards.”

“I brought them back .”

“Yeah, after you went to your apartment and Phoebe reminded you they were in the car.”

“Fair enough.” Lizzie picks up some different cleaning supplies (she doesn't know the name of them, or care to) and starts to carry it out to the car, and Tobin follows her with more.

“So you really like her,” Tobin says as she opens the trunk.

“Have for awhile.”

“And she really likes you?”

“I mean, I want to say yes.”

Tobin laughs and puts an arm around Lizzie as they reenter her apartment. “Don’t get hurt?”

“You know I can’t promise that.”

Tobin frowns. “Yeah, I know. Keep me updated?”

“That I can do.”

“Why do you wanna try this right before she leaves?”

Lizzie hands over some more stuff to take to Tobin’s car. “I don’t know, we just got close.”

“Did you drunkenly hit on her?”

Lizzie grins. “Better.”

Tobin drops her jaw and raises her eyebrows. “ She drunkenly hit on you ?”

“Yeah,” Lizzie laughs and smacks Tobin with a washcloth. “And don’t act so surprised.”

“Story, please.”

Lizzie picks up some more stuff and Tobin clips the leashes on the dogs as they make the trip back to Tobin’s car. “We were all out celebrating the victory at the Berkeley game, and then she got really drunk and started talking to me. I’ll spare you the details--”

Tobin laughs as she closes the trunk, dogs already in the back seat. “Please, do.”

“But long story short, she tried to get in my pants.”

“And she did,” Tobin finishes as she starts her car.

“Well, yeah,” Lizzie laughs. “Have you seen her? You’d let her in your pants too.”

Tobin tilts her head from side to side. “If she wasn’t so young.”

“She’s literally only two years younger than you.”

“I guess that’s true.” Tobin thinks about it again. “Yeah, I probably would.”

“Well, dibs,” Lizzie says, just as a precaution for the future.

“Don’t even worry about it,” Tobin closes her door but they continue to talk through the open window. “Do you want this to be serious?”

“I don’t know, I guess not. It probably won't be.”

Tobin gives her a warning glance before sighing. “I just don’t want you to get hurt, alright?”

“It’s just friend stuff, honestly.” Lizzie shrugs as if it’s no big deal. “We’re just hanging out, y’know? And sex. We have a lot of sex.”

“Oh god, I’m leaving,” Tobin says with a laugh. “Don’t catch feelings, they’re the worst.”

“I won’t!” Lizzie promises as Tobin starts to pull away. (She already has.) “And take your own advice!”

Tobin flips Lizzie off through the open window as she turns onto the road. (She wishes she could take her own advice.)

 

---

 

Stitch: How's the “thing”?

Lilo: We're just getting coffee

Stitch: That's kinda gay

Lilo: You did the same thing with Christen the other day.

Stitch: Fair enough

Tobin tosses the stack of papers she was attempting to rifle through back on top he her desk. She looks at the time, 1:17, and sighs.

She woke up to a text from Christen (usually Tobin’s up first, but the two hour time difference was really messing with them) that said she had a long day ahead but might be able to call later in the night. Around five, hopefully. (Tobin was counting down the minutes.)

She realizes she hasn't eaten lunch when it's almost two and without Christen or Lizzie here, she opts to take a long lunch and head home for a little.

She opens the door and the dogs come scrambling in, pushing their way past each other and stopping directly in Tobin's walkway.

Tobin smiles involuntarily as she untangles herself from them. She briefly thinks about Alex (she sent Tobin a picture the other day of her new dog, Tobin thinks he's pretty much the cutest) but mostly her mind drifts to Christen. She decides that if she gets to watch Christen's dogs, her going to Chicago can't be too bad. (Tobin thinks Christen's dogs are cuter than Alex’s.)

 

---

 

Tobin's phone finally rings (two hours and 37 minutes after she said she would, not that Tobin was counting) and a picture of Christen fills the screen (the one she took on the day they went to the beach with Christen wearing her snapback. It's her favorite picture).

“Hey,” Tobin answers with a bright smile after the second ring. (Her phone was already in her hand, she may or may not have been momentarily distracted by the picture of Christen.) “What's up?”

Christen’s face fills the screen again (but in real time rather than a picture) as she looks at the phone. “Hey, Tobs,” she smiles and Tobin just smiles even wider in return. “Not much, hanging out at a coffee shop.”

Tobin nods slowly. “Julie not there?”

“Nope.” Christen shakes her head with a shrug then leans back in her seat, taking a long drink of her coffee before continuing. “She's with her sister, they went out to dinner.”

“Just the two of them?”

Christen nods and Tobin wishes she had a poker face because she never was good at hiding her feelings. “I know,” Christen says, ducking her head and averting her eyes from the screen.

“I didn't say anything,” Tobin defends, but she's still looking at Christen sympathetically.

Christen laughs and looks back at Tobin. “You didn't have to.”

“I'm sorry, Chris.”

“Don't be, it's not your fault.”

“Doesn't have to be my fault for me to want to fix it.”

Christen just looks at Tobin through the grainy picture on her phone (the wifi at this coffee place isn't as great as she was hoping), at a loss for words. Tobin looks so genuine and really all Christen wants right now is a hug. (A hug from Tobin, if she gets to choose.)

They sit there in silence for a few moments until Tobin finally speaks up. “Wanna see the dogs?”

Christen laughs and smiles again (she can't recall a time spent with Tobin where she didn't spend most of it smiling). “Of course I do!”

Tobin grins and rises from where she was sitting (the bar area at the window adjoining the kitchen and dining room), making her way to the living room. She turns the camera so it's facing the dogs that are both sleeping on the couch and reaches to pet them so all Christen can see is a ring and a watch on Tobin’s right hand as she scratches behind Morena’s ears. “I think they're pretty happy here,” Tobin mentions absentmindedly. “They really like when Lizzie comes over, but that's probably just because she's kind of insane.”

“Ugh, I miss them so much,” Christen whines as Tobin flips the camera back around so it's facing her. “I miss you too.”

Tobin smiles as she makes her back to the kitchen island. “I miss you too.”

“Where's Lizzie?”

Tobin glances around the room as if to look for her. “A date, I think. Well, not a date, she calls it a thing . But a date.”

“Ooh, that's fun!”

“Eh,” Tobin shrugs. “I'm a little worried. This chick’s graduating in a couple months and she told me she wants to go in the draft.”

“Aw,” Christen frowns.

“I think she's aiming for Seattle,” Tobin pauses to make a fake choking sound. “But no matter where she ends up, it'll be far away. And I highly doubt they'll do long distance.”

“Does Lizzie feel like, real about it?”

Tobin nods. “She's had a crush for awhile. I think she's pretty invested, honestly. I just don't wanna see her get hurt.”

“Me either,” Christen looks to her watch and sighs, it's already almost eight. “I should get going, Julie’ll be back soon.”

Tobin frowns (again, she wishes she had a poker face). “Okay, bye Chris.”

“Thanks for,” she pauses. “Letting me see the dogs.”

Tobin smiles and holds back the comment of Thanks for letting me see you. “Anytime.”

 

---

 

The next morning Tobin wakes up to a cold nose pressing against her neck and something putting pressure on her stomach. She blinks and rubs at her eyes before glancing to see what woke her up and once she turns a little bit to the right she remembers the dogs just in time for Morena to start licking her face.

Tobin laughs as Khaleesi wakes up and walks across Tobin's torso (she preferred the weight distribution from when the dog was sleeping to walking on her chest, but she can't bring herself to be mad over it) and flops on Tobin’s chest to start licking her face as well.

“Who are good puppies?” She coos, attempting to sit up a little bit as she reaches her left hand out to her bedside table to feel for her glasses. She grabs them and slides them on, then using both hands to pet the dogs. “Yes, you're good puppies,” she continues.

She stops for a moment to stretch (the dogs think that's stupid and immediately start nudging her with their noses) and grab her phone, noticing a few missed calls and a text from Lizzie.

Lilo: I need help ):

That text came in at just before four in the morning, and Tobin immediately calls her back (she grabs her watch from the bedside table and notices it's only 6:13, so she doesn't expect an answer).

Lizzie answers on the third ring. “Hey,” is all she says, and her voice sounds hoarse.

“Hi,” Tobin says. “You okay?”

Lizzie laughs at the question and Tobin frowns. “Define okay?”

“Come over,” Tobin says, making her way out of bed. “I'll make breakfast and you can sit with the dogs and talk about it. Or not talk about it, if you don't want to.”

Lizzie smiles and even though Tobin can't see it, it shines through her voice. “I think I should probably not get behind the wheel right now,” she admits. “Also I can't exactly leave my apartment right now.”

Tobin pulls a clean tshirt and some old US Soccer training shorts out of a drawer. “Why not?”

“I have someone over.”

Tobin pauses. “Who?”

Lizzie sighs. “Context clues, Stitch. You know who.”

“Voldemort?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and Tobin doesn't have to see it to know it happened. “Lauren.”

“What happened to just coffee ?”

Lizzie groans but she's holding back a laugh and Tobin knows it (they know each other a little too well for their own good). “Well we got coffee but then we went for a walk while we drank our coffee, then we passed Lamonica’s , the pizza place--”

Tobin laughs as she steps out of her room, the dogs following closely behind. “Dude, I took you to Lamonica’s the first time, I know what it is.”

“Whatever. Anyway, so she said she'd never been and I was like Oh you've gotta try it! so I took her and then our not-date might've turned into a D-A-T-E,” she says, spelling the word date as if it would make it less real.

“A D-A-T-E , huh? Those are serious,” Tobin teases. She puts Lizzie on speaker and sets her phone on the table so she can change. “What happened next?”

“Well we--”

“Spare me the details, please.”

Lizzie laughs. “Will do, Stitch. Basically, we ended up back at my place and I wish you could see it, but I’m wiggling my eyebrows right now.”

Tobin nearly drops the cupful of food she was getting for the dogs because she's laughing so hard and she picks the phone back up. “Thanks for letting me know,” she says, still laughing. “So is she asleep?”

“Yeah, she's,” Lizzie pauses. “Okay well you still can't see it but I’m wiggling my eyebrows because she's really tired .”

Tobin rolls her eyes as she pulls her blender out of the cabinet. “Ugh, gross. So why'd you text me that you need help? Sounds like you have,” she pauses. “Everything under control.”

“Because, well, I called you after we, y'know, bow chicka wow wow--”

“You're a child.”

“You love me. Anyway, so I called you because I was kinda freaking out.”

“Why were you freaking out?”

“Because we did,” Lizzie pauses to search for the words and Tobin starts washing vegetables for a smoothie. “Couple things.”

“Like?”

“Holding hands, cuddling after sex,” Lizzie pauses. “ Tobin.

“What?”

“She kissed my nose .” Lizzie says it as if it's absolutely outrageous and Tobin just laughs.

“Sounds adorable. Well since you don't have an emergency or anything, I should probably get going. I've gotta walk the dogs.”

“Yeah, I should go too.”

“Gonna cuddle with her till she wakes up?”

Lizzie just rolls her eyes. (For as much as she teases Tobin, she kind of deserves this.) “Spring cleaning later, my place, cool?”

“I'll be there,” Tobin laughs as she clips Morena’s leash on. “Let me know when Lauren leaves, cool?”

“Will do, Stitch. Thanks for talking to me about,” she pauses. “Stuff.”

“Of course, man. Anytime.”

 

---

 

Lilo: I made coffee for her

Stitch: You know how she takes her coffee? That's gay

Lilo: ...I know

 

---

 

Lauren leaves Lizzie’s house just before noon (Lizzie also made her breakfast, and Tobin made sure to tease her for it) so Tobin makes a salad with some grilled chicken from a few days before for the both of them for lunch and loads up the car with the dogs and enough cleaning supplies to finish up Lizzie’s apartment. (Technically it's Lizzie and Phoebe’s, but since Lara moved here Phoebe’s usually with her and doesn't do much besides pay rent.) (Not to mention, Tobin and Lizzie have been helping each other clean their places since Lizzie’s freshman year when Tobin helped her and Phoebe clean their dorm just like the RAs would want it.)

“I could kiss you on the mouth right now,” Lizzie says as she takes the container of salad from Tobin. “I am so hungry.”

“Please don't,” Tobin laughs as she opens the passenger door and the dogs hop out. “There's some more supplies in the back, can you grab them?”

Lizzie groans and opens the trunk. “Do we have to clean?”

“We both know if we don't do it this week, you'll never do it.”

“That's fair.”

 

---

 

“How does that even happen?” Lizzie steps out of the bathroom and takes deep breath of (semi) fresh air. “Why do I need that much bleach to clean a toilet?”

Tobin laughs as she looks over from where she's scrubbing the counter. “It's your apartment, you should know.”

 

---

 

“There are so many empty bottles!” Lizzie drags yet another bag of glass bottles into the living room where Tobin is working on the window.

“Well, typically, people throw away their bottles after they finish them.”

“There's no way I drank this many bottles, though.” Lizzie shakes her head to knock back a stray piece of hair that fell in her eyes. “No way. Or Phoebe, we hardly even drink here!”

“How often do you empty the recycling bin?”

“I don't know? When it needs to be?”

Tobin frowns. “Lizzie, when is the last time you emptied the recycling bin?”

Lizzie pauses to think, but a short pause turns into a couple minutes before she finally sighs. “Just, shut up, okay?”

Tobin rolls her eyes and turns back to the window. “Just take out the damn trash.”

 

---

 

“Why do we always do my place first?” Lizzie walks into the dining room (where Tobin is mopping) with (yet another) trash bag. “It's so much work.”

“That's why.” Tobin dunks the mop into the bucket and squeezes it out before continuing. “To get the hard part done first.”

“Why is yours always so much easier?”

Tobin laughs and looks up at Lizzie. “I actually clean my place relatively often, which you,” she scans the room and rolls her eyes. “ Clearly don't.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and picks the bag back up. “Whatever.”

 

---

 

The rest of the night goes by relatively easily. They finish up Lizzie's apartment, take turns showering, and then drop off the dogs so they can go out for dinner. They call Lara and Phoebe to invite them and the four of them meet at a new pizza place near Tobin's house.

They settle on a large pepperoni and eat, talking about anything that comes to mind.

“Can't believe the season’s almost over,” Lara says, shaking her head. “Feels like it's gone by so quickly.”

Lizzie laughs through a bite of her pizza and takes a long drink of her water. “It's always that way, time soars when things aren't boring, or however the saying goes.”

“Time flies when you're having fun ,” Phoebe corrects, leaning back in the booth and resting her hand on Lara’s thigh. “But yeah,” she turns to Lara and smiles. “It's been great.”

“That's gay,” Tobin and Lizzie say together, turning to high five as they start laughing.

Lara blushes and takes a drink of her tea in an attempt to hide it. “Yeah, it's been amazing. I'm so glad I met you guys.”

“Especially me?” Phoebe teases, squeezing her thigh before moving her hand to pick up her pizza.

“Especially you,” Lara leans over to kiss her cheek and Lizzie rolls her eyes.

“That's really gay,” Lizzie picks up her pizza with a laugh.

“So are you,” Lara argues and Lizzie just shrugs.

“Fair enough.”

 

---

 

Everyone ends up back at Tobin’s place (it's the closest) and split up, Lizzie in the guest room and Lara and Phoebe on the pullout couch.

“I know I've said it before,” Tobin sighs as she follows them into the house. “But no sex on my couch.”

“Promise,” Lara raises her hand with a quick nod just as Phoebe says “No promises.”

“Well, glad we have that settled.” Tobin closes the door behind her and drops her keys in a bowl by the door just as the dogs make it to her past everyone else. “Hi, puppies!” She leans down to pet them and starts talking to them too quiet for anyone to tell what's being said.

“Coach, you alright?” Phoebe asks, tilting her head.

“She always does this,” Lizzie assures them.

“Always?” Lara scrunches her eyebrows together. “When did you get dogs?”

“They're not mine--”

“They're her girlfriend’s,” Lizzie says, cutting her off.

“No.” Tobin stands and shoves Lizzie's arm. “They're Chris’s, I'm watching them for her.”

“Where's Christen?” Lara asks, making her way to the living room.

“Chicago, for her girlfriend’s birthday.”

“Oh.” Lara nods and starts to work on the couch. “I gotcha.”

“Thought you were her girlfriend,” Phoebe follows them into the dining room and the look on her face is so confused, it's almost pitiful.

“No babe,” Lara grabs her hand. “Christen's just her friend.”

“That she likes,” Lizzie cuts in.

“Just,” Tobin sighs. “Don't listen to anything Lizzie says, honestly.”

“Alright, I'm good at ignoring Lizzie,” Phoebe kisses Lara's hand then starts helping with the couch.

“Hey, it's true,” Lizzie argues, making her way towards the living room.

“Hey, wanna talk about your love life?” Tobin threatens and Lizzie turns around, going to the guest room and shutting the door without another word other than a muffled “Night, guys!”

“What's up with that?” Lara asks, looking to Tobin.

“Don't worry about it,” Tobin shrugs and heads to her own bedroom. “I'll see you guys in the morning.”

“Night, Tobs,” Lara says at the same time Phoebe says “Night, Coach.”

Tobin laughs. “Night, guys.”

 

---

 

Tobin lies in bed with the dogs for about twenty minutes before finally realizing why she can't fall asleep.

She hasn't talked to Christen all day.

She takes a selfie of herself squeezed next to the dogs with a goofy smile and sends it.

Superstar: We miss you!

Tobin starts to nod off after that and is woken up twenty minutes later when a text comes through.

Chris: Miss you too ): FaceTime tomorrow?

Superstar: I’d love to (:

Tobin falls asleep before it’s even delivered.

Chapter Text

By the time Phoebe and Lara wake up, both Tobin and Lizzie are already eating. They're also having a hushed conversation (about Lauren, who texted Lizzie late last night to tell her she liked spending time with her, so Lizzie immediately went to Tobin's room to freak out), but they stop once they hear Phoebe throw a pillow and mumble “Let me sleep, babe.”

Phoebe drops her head to the cool granite of the bar area and yawns. “I'm not even this tired after I get drunk,” she whines, leaning back up and grabbing the cold glass of water Tobin set down with her plate. “Why is cleaning so hard?”

“Sorry,” Lara frowns and starts to rub her back comfortingly. “Anything I can do?”

“Not that I can think of,” Phoebe shrugs with another yawn and starts working on her own plate. “Before I graduate you have to teach me how to cook,” Phoebe mumbles through mouthful of food.

“We can arrange that,” Tobin laughs as she dries a pan. “Good thing I've got another year with you.”

“Guess it's a good thing I failed so many classes freshman year, huh?”

Lizzie and Tobin laugh while Lara just rolls her eyes.

“I was too distracted by soccer and alcohol,” Phoebe shrugs and turns to Lizzie. “Ready for our super senior year?”

Lizzie laughs as they high-five. “Hell yeah!”

Lara looks to her, confused, and Lizzie nods before elaborating.

“Phoebe and I were roommates in the dorm freshman year, as you know, and we both got a bit too caught up with the idea of being adults and away from our families--”

Finally away,” Phoebe says and they both laugh.

“And we kinda forgot to be students.” She shrugs and looks to Tobin. “Stitch was a big help to keep us grounded and all, make sure we stayed in school.”

“That's really cool,” Lara smiles at Tobin and she just nods.

“It's nothing, I just like to look out for my girls, y'know?”

“You're a good coach,” Lara says with a laugh. “Probably the best we could ask for.”

Tobin shrugs. “Not a big deal, really. I like to help.”

“Stitch wasn't even a coach when we met,” Lizzie shakes her head. “Just a good person.”

Tobin puts a hand on the back of her neck and shrugs. “I guess.”

“Sounds pretty great,” Lara agrees and Phoebe nods.

“Yeah, Tobs is the best.” Phoebe grabs hers and Lara’s dishes into the kitchen to where Lizzie and Tobin already were. She pulls Tobin into a hug and Lizzie immediately joins. “Thanks for taking care of us, Coach.”

“I'm here for you guys, always,” Tobin nods, returning the hug, and Lara smiles at them. “Get over here, dork,” Tobin says and Lara's smile grows, making her way to the kitchen to join the hug.

 

---



Around noon, Christen calls Tobin and it goes straight to voicemail, which worries her. Tobin always has her phone.

“Hey, Tobs,” she pauses and realizes she didn't even really have a reason to call. “Jules and Melanie and I are going to a Cubs game tonight, then another tomorrow. I don't really get this sport, soccer’s cooler.” She pauses to look around. “Shit, don't let Mel or Jules hear me say that. I might be exiled.” She laughs for a moment before continuing. “Anyway, you didn't answer so you must be up to something really important. I hope everything’s alright. I miss you.” She pauses one last time, hoping to hear Tobin’s voice. “Well, anyway. I miss you. Bye.”

 

---

 

Tobin runs into her office a few hours later and checks her phone, cursing to herself when she sees the missed call. She listens to the voicemail and smiles more times during it than she has all day. She calls back immediately and Christen answers on the second ring.

“Hi,” Christen says in a small voice.

“Hey,” Tobin smiles (again). “Nothing was wrong, my phone was just dead because I guess I didn't plug it in all night so I left it on the charger in my office during practice.”

“Ah, okay. I'm glad everything's alright.”

“I think it's sweet you noticed.”

“Of course, you always have your phone.”

“Yeah,” Tobin chuckles and sits in her office chair. “You're right.”

“I miss you.”

“I miss you too.”

They're both silent for a few minutes until Christen finally says, “I really don't understand this game.”

Tobin thinks for a moment. “Baseball?”

“Yeah,” is all she says, and Tobin can tell that something is wrong.

“What's up, Chris?”

“I'm just tired, I guess.”

“It's awfully quiet on your end for a baseball game.”

Christen laughs. “Yeah, I'm not in the stands. I'm back behind, over by the bathrooms, I think.”

“You think?” Tobin smiles and leans back in her chair, closing her eyes.

“Yeah,” she laughs again. “I think. Also I'm not sure how to get back to where Julie is.”

“Sounds like you're having a bit of trouble,” Tobin teases as she pinches the bridge of her nose as she squeezes her eyes shut. “You alright, Chris?”

“Headache,” she says at nearly a whisper and Tobin frowns.

“Too loud?”

“Yeah.”

“Wish I could help.”

“Talking to you helps.”

Tobin smiles. “I think I'm having sympathy pains. Got in here and I've got a headache now, too.”

Christen laughs. “Sorry about that.”

“Or maybe talking to you gives me a headache,” Tobin teases and Christen just rolls her eyes.

“Stop it, dork.”

“Fine, fine,” she resigns and Christen starts giggling.

“I miss you.”

“I miss you too, Chris.”

It's silent for a few moments until Christen breaks it. “Who's winning?”

Tobin laughs. “You're the one at the game.”

“Well I don't really care who's winning, but you might.”

“Eh,” Tobin shrugs. “I'm not a big baseball person.”

“You're a sports person.”

“So’s Julie.”

“Yeah.”

“Her sister?”

“Oh yeah,” Christen laughs. “They probably haven't even noticed I'm gone, honestly.”

“Sorry, Chris.”

“Don't be.”

“Wish I could help.” Tobin slumps onto her desk.

“Stitch,” Lizzie's voice rings in but it's far-off. “Amanda wanted you back, we've got some drills to run.”

“How did you even know that? I thought you and Lauren were making out in the locker room.”

Lizzie blushes and her eyes widen. “Did fucking everyone know?”

Tobin just smirks. “Well I've gotta go, Chris.”

“Okay,” Christen tries not to sound upset about it, but she can't really help it. “Call me later?”

“Sure,” Tobin smiles. “When I get a chance, I will.”

“Come on, before I get in more trouble,” Lizzie says with a laugh as she makes her way over to the desk.

“You? Don't wanna be in trouble?” Tobin rolls her eyes as Lizzie pulls her out of the chair. “Unbelievable.”

“Bye, Tobs,” Christen's laughing and the small interaction between them reminds her how much she misses the both of them. “Tell Lizzie I said bye.”

“Chris says bye.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “I should've known that was who you were talking to. Bye Christen!”

“Bye Chris,” Tobin smiles.

“Bye Tobs, call me tonight?”

“Of course.”

The last thing Christen hears before she in hangs up is Lizzie over the phone saying “Of course what, Stitch? Of course what?”



---

 

The next day, Tobin does the same thing. (She was too busy texting Christen goodnight she forgot to plug in her phone, not that she'd admit it.) Christen and Tobin talk a bit in the morning, but not much, and at night, Christen goes out to a bar with Melanie and Julie.

Tobin’s phone is in her office while she's out on the field, running drills with the girls. (Literally running the drills with them, on the field and outperforming all of them despite the way her knee throbs.) (The knee injury from senior year that she never let quite heal all the way, mostly out of spite, because she figured she didn’t need it at 100% if she wasn’t going to go pro.)

It's getting late, hitting seven or so which means nine for Christen, and she's been out drinking for an hour already. The alcohol in her system combined with the neglect from Julie (who has been paying more attention to Melanie in the past week than Christen in the past month) leads to Christen realizing she misses Tobin.

 

---

 

A successful practice led to joking around with the girls which led to Tobin, Lizzie, Lauren (she and Lizzie are inseparable, and kind of grossly cute lately), Phoebe, and Lara all going out for dinner. Tobin's too distracted by her conversation that she forgets to run into her office and grab her phone, so she goes to the restaurant without it.

 

---

 

Christen walks through the bar, leaving it to walk on the sidewalk then coming back, going into the bathroom, and calling Tobin. A lot of calling Tobin, all with no answer.

Missed Call, Chris, 8:34

“Hi, Tobin. It's like,” Christen pauses to look for the time. “Half past ten. I miss you.” She takes a deep breath. “It's not late but I've been drinking pretty steadily for two and a half hours.” She starts laughing and she's not sure at what. “Okay, well, I guess you're busy. I still miss you. Bye.”

Missed Call, Chris, 9:47

Hiiiii , Tobin,” she says, stretching out the word and giggling. “It's been a long day, except not really. Julie took me to a place she used to go eat breakfast at as a kid, she said that Mel would drive her to school but stop there on the way and make her get out and go get them each a pancake and a piece of bacon. Isn't that funny?” She pauses as if to let Tobin laugh. “Anyway, then we got lunch at a diner run by a family friend of hers. In Chicago . That seems odd, right? She knows everyone here.” Christen stops talking for a moment and the sound of the bar starts to come through the phone. “But yeah. Now we're at a bar. We had dinner a bit ago, but I didn't eat a whole lot. Probably not a good idea, but it's only eleven now. Okay, maybe almost twelve. Bye Tobin.”

Missed Call, Chris, 10:23

It's silent at first, because Christen is sitting outside of the bar and leaning against the wall. She takes a deep breath before finally talking. “I'm cold,” is all she says and she looks around her to make sure no one else is around. “I bet you're warm. Or you'd give me your jacket or something, you're the best. Why can't Julie ever do that?” As soon as she says it, she regrets it. (Not that it isn't true.) “Sorry, I shouldn't compare you guys probably.” She's quiet for a moment. “I miss my dogs. Okay, I should go. Bye.”

Missed Call, Chris, 10:59

“It's almost one.” She stops there and is quiet for a moment. “I miss you, Tobs,” she steps into the bathroom and it instantly gets quieter around her. She sets her phone down on the counter then splashes some water on her face. “I want a hug. From you.” She pauses again. “I miss my dogs too, but I miss you more, I think.” She rubs at her eyes before picking the phone back up. “Why are Chicago and California so far away from each other? They both start with C.” She sighs. “Why can't America be alphabetically ordered?” She scrunches her eyebrows together before leaning against the counter. “It's silly. Okay, bye Tobs. I miss you.”

Missed Call, Chris, 11:36

“Hi Tobin. Julie said we’re leaving but I just wanted to call you because I miss you still. And I'm still cold.” She stops to make her way out of the bar and follows Julie across the intersection. “I miss you,” she says again and Julie turns back.

“Did you say something, babe?”

“Nope!” Christen smiles and whispers into the phone. “Nothing to you. Okay, bye Tobin. I hope everything’s alright. I miss you. Call me when you can?” she hangs up without another word.

 

---

 

Tobin finally makes it back to her office at almost midnight her time, two where Christen is. She listens to all of the voicemails (she can't stop smiling, but she also wishes she could've given Christen her jacket) and finally texts her a quick text (that Christen doesn't see until the morning, because Julie made sure she went straight to bed when they got to the house).

Superstar: I miss you too ): The dogs are great! Stay safe, okay?

She hesitates because that's definitely enough to say, but she can't resist sending another message.

Superstar: And of course I would've given you my jacket, there's one here with your name on it for you once you're back (:

 

---

 

Chris: Sorry for all the calls… Julie took care of me so I'm all good now (:

The message comes in after Tobin's already been awake for a few hours so she just glances over it before clicking her phone off and putting it in her pocket.

“What's the plan?” She asks, looking up at Lizzie.

Lizzie looks away from her phone and turns to Tobin, straw sticking out of her mouth but drink still on the table. “Lo and I were gonna hit the gym then get lunch, probably.” She turns to pick up her orange juice so she can keep drinking it and face Tobin. “You?”

“You guys train together?” Tobin rolls her eyes. “Disgustingly adorable.”

Stop ,” Lizzie rolls her eyes. “You're the worst.”

“Sure sure,” Morena walks into the kitchen and starts to paw at her foot. “Have you fed the dogs?”

“No?” Lizzie turns back to the table, away from Tobin. “Not my dogs.”

“You love them like they are.”

“I love all dogs, Stitch. Dogs are the coolest.”

“Fair enough.”

 

---

 

“Well hey, babe,” Julie says as Christen walks into the kitchen at nearly eleven (nine for Tobin). “Nice of you to join us.”

“Oh hush,” Christen rolls her eyes as she pulls Julie into a hug. “What's the plan for today?”

“You, Mel, and I are all gonna go out for lunch and then Mel leaves tonight.” She turns to whisper in Christen's ear. “Then tomorrow, in our hotel, that's when the real fun happens.”

Stop ,” Christen pushes Julie away and slaps her arm playfully. “Your parents are right there ,” she whispers, pointing to the next room over.

“Oh come on,” Julie rolls her eyes. “They know we have sex. They're probably very grateful that we haven't done it in there,” she nods to the room Christen came out of.

“I know I am,” Melanie chimes in. “Considering we share a wall.”

“Listen,” Julie turns to Melanie. “We shared that same damn wall all through high school, I don't wanna hear it.”

“Jealous?”

“You had sex with my first girlfriend’s older brother.”

“So that's a yes on the jealous thing?”

Julie rolls her eyes and turns back to Christen, putting her hands on Christen's waist. “Go get dressed, babe. We'll leave in twenty, okay?”

Christen smiles, giving her a quick kiss. “I can be ready in fifteen.”

“So, thirty.” She turns to Melanie. “We've got thirty minutes till we leave, what do you wa--”

Christen slaps Julie's arm playfully. “You be quiet. I'll be out in fifteen.” She gives Julie another quick kiss before disappearing behind the same door she came out of.

Melanie turns to Julie. “My money’s on twenty minutes.”

Julie smiles to her sister with a small laugh. “She'll be done in fifteen, especially because I teased her about it.”

“You guys are pretty cute.” Melanie walks over to stand next to Julie. “When are you gonna put a ring on it?”

Julie smiles nervously and just gives a small shrug. “Not sure.”

“She's a good girl, Julie Beth. And you guys have been together for a long time.”

“I know , I just.” She pauses. “I want it to be perfect. I want both of us to be ready.”

“Don't fuck it up, Julie Beth.”

Julie groans. “Stop calling me that.”

“Then lock it down,” Melanie challenges.

“Why do you care so much?”

“Because,” Melanie slings an arm around her baby sister. “She makes you happy. And knowing you, you'll find some way to fuck it up,” she teases.

Julie shakes her head and laughs. “Why do I put up with you? But if it makes you feel better, I actually do have a ring.”

Melanie instantly recoils and the serious look on her face makes Julie roll her eyes. “Let me see it.”

“I don't have it here.”

“Why not?” she whines. “How do you expect to propose without the ring?”

Julie shoves her lightly in an attempt to get her to quiet down. “I didn't want her to find it. She always ends up using my bag since she packs so much. And we actually just fought about it again not too long ago, so I don't want her to think that I'm doing it just to make her happy.”

Melanie is quiet for a moment, taking in her sister's words. “How often do you fight about it?”

Julie leans against the counter and tugs at the loose string on the hem of her shirt. “It's happened a couple times.”

“Julie.”

She glances up to meet her sister's gaze (she knows from experience that avoiding eye contact will just make things worse) and she can't help but feel guilty. It's not a new emotion for Julie, in fact it's quite common, especially when it comes to the topic of marriage. Whether it's Christen or Christen's parents or even her parents, she's heard it before, and if anything, it makes her feel worse every time.

“It's okay if you're not ready.”

Melanie must notice the confused look on Julie's face because she laughs .

“You're still young.”

Julie lets out a sigh of relief and Melanie laughs again. “You have no idea how much of a relief it is to hear you say that. Everyone else says otherwise.”

“As long as you're happy, that's what's important.”

“Christen's happiness is what's important to me. And if this makes her happy, then it makes me happy.”

Melanie shakes her head slightly. “Don't sacrifice your happiness for someone else's. No matter how hot they are.”

Julie squeezes her eyes shut. “Please don't hit on my girlfriend.”

“Hey, I don't see a ring,” she teases, nudging Julie's shoulder with her own as the bedroom door opens to reveal Christen, zipping her purse closed and walking into the kitchen.

Julie gives her sister a knowing look and smiles before pushing off the counter and wrapping an arm around Christen's waist.

“You look beautiful,” she tells her, kissing Christen's forehead.

Melanie makes a fake gagging noise from behind them. “Get a room, you crazy kids.”

“We will as soon as you leave,” Julie shoots back with a teasing smile. “So let's get this lunch over with.”

 

---

 

Tobin looks up when she hears a knock at her office door and smiles when she sees Alex standing in the doorway.

“Hey, Lex,” Tobin grins, standing up and pulling her into a hug. “How are you?”

“Good,” she laughs into Tobin's neck. “Getting huge, though.”

“I can see that,” Tobin teases despite the ache in her stomach.

“Wanna grab some lunch? I've been going crazy with Servando working all the time.” Alex's face falls slightly when she says it and Tobin can't help but feel upset over it. She gently squeezes Alex's arm and feels a little guilty herself. (It doesn’t help that Tobin pulled away and separated herself once she found out Alex was pregnant.)

“Sure, let me just grab my things.”

They walk out to Alex's car (she insists it's closer) and Tobin can only assume that Alex got a dog as soon as she opens the passenger door and sees chew toys and treats scattered across the backseat.

“Dog?” she asks, tossing a chew toy into the backseat and climbing in.

“His name is Blue,” Alex gushes, showing Tobin her lockscreen. It's a picture of a small chocolate lab chewing on a running shoe. “We adopted him.”

“He's adorable.”

“Thanks,” Alex smiles again before setting her phone down and pulling out onto the road. “So how have you been? I haven't seen much of you lately.”

Tobin can hear a slight sadness in Alex's voice and it makes her sink a little lower into her seat. “I've been alright. I spent a lot of time focusing on the girls.”

Alex nods. “And Christen?”

“Huh?”

“I had lunch with Julie a while ago and she told me that you and Christen hang out a lot.”

“Oh,” Tobin says, glancing over at Alex who has her eyes trained on the road. “Yeah, she comes to games sometimes and we grab lunch every once in awhile.”

Alex nods and stops at a red light. “We don't hang out a lot anymore.”

Tobin cringes. “Sorry, Lex.” She reaches out for Alex's hand. “We can, if you want. There's that game coming up.”

Alex squeezes Tobin's hand. “I know!” She grins and Tobin can instantly tell how excited she is. “We should totally go, I'm so ready for the World Cup.” She sighs and glances to Tobin before looking back to the road. “I miss soccer.”

“Playing or watching?”

“Both.” She hesitates before continuing. “With you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

 

---

 

“Have you been thinking about names?” Tobin asks, taking a drink.

Alex looks up at her, confused for a moment, then smiles. “Servando’s only got boy names,” she rolls her eyes. “He likes Ethan, Sebastian, and Adrian.”

“What do you like?”

“I think it'd be cool to have a Servando Junior,” she shrugs. “Name them after him, y'know?”

Tobin clenches her jaw and instantly regrets bringing up the topic at all (it hurts). She looks up from her plate. “So you don't know the sex yet?”

“Nope.”

She watches as Alex plays with her food. “When do you find out?”

“We're waiting.”

“Ah,” Tobin sets her fork down and looks at Alex. “What do you want, Lex?”

Alex smiles and looks up. “A girl. I've been looking at a few names, but I think Serv really wants a boy.”

“Well,” Tobin chuckles. “He doesn't have a whole lot of choice, does he?”

“You're right.” She shoves her food from side to side on her plate. “I like the name Michaela. And Riley.” She pauses and looks to Tobin for whether or not she should continue and Tobin just nods and smiles. “Taylor, I really like the name Taylor.”

Tobin purses her lips. “I like Taylor.”

“Me too, it's my favorite name so far.”

“Name the kid after me,” Tobin grins and Alex rolls her eyes. Tobin Carrasco , she thinks and she cringes because she doesn't want to live in a world where Alex’s kid has the last name Carrasco.

“Sounds perfect ,” Alex smacks Tobin's arm playfully. “You're not helping.”

“Hey,” Tobin drops her jaw, offended. “I said I like Taylor.”

“Fine, fine.” Alex can't stop smiling as she looks at Tobin. “I've missed you too.” She reaches her hand across the table and Tobin interlocks their fingers.

“I've missed you too.” She pauses and squeezes Alex's hand. “Any middle name ideas?”

Alex laughs. “None, yet.”

“Powell,” Tobin says right away. “It's a good one, not that I'm biased or anything.”

“I've missed your cheesy ass smile you always get when you tease me,” Alex says, nearly replicating Tobin's smile from across the table.

“I've missed teasing you,” Tobin says without missing a beat.

“Do you need to get back to work?”

Tobin sighs as she checks her watch. “Yeah, probably.” She picks up the check as she rises from the table and Alex reaches for her arm.

“Let me get it, Tobs,” she stands and tries to take it from her.

“You can tip,” Tobin offers.

“It's like we're in college,” she rolls her eyes.

“It's like you expected anything different,” Tobin teases with a smile.

Alex leans to kiss Tobin's cheek. “You're the best,” she whispers.

Tobin shrugs. “I'm alright.”

“You're the same sweet, incredible, amazing girl that I’ve loved since we were barely teenagers.”

Stop ,” Tobin rolls her eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you,” Alex kisses Tobin's cheek again.

“I'm gonna go pay.”

“I'll tip.”

Tobin grins. “Just like college?”

Alex nods in agreement. “Just like college.”

 

---

 

Julie and Christen check into a hotel that night to save Julie’s parents the hassle of the airport early in the morning (and have some alone time with walls that aren't paper thin).

“Julie Beth?” Christen teases as she walks into the bathroom.

Julie spits out her toothpaste and rinses her mouth before turning to Christen. “Hush, babe.” She gives Christen a quick kiss and attempts to pull away, but Christen interlocks their fingers.

“What's wrong?”

“It's an old nickname, she should just let it go.” Julie frowns and leans into Christen. “I'm tired,” she mumbles, wrapping her arms around Christen's waist.

“Who gave you the nickname?” Christen pushes, giving Julie a quick kiss on the forehead.

“Babe, I'm tired , let's just go to sleep.”

“Why does your sister still call you Julie Beth?”

“Because she hates me,” Julie deadpans, turning into Christen's neck. “Let's just go to sleep.”

“Why don't you like it?”

Julie crinkles her nose and pulls away so she can look at Christen. “It's so white.”

“You're so white,” Christen leans forward and kisses Julie. “And I still love you, so why do you hate the nickname?”

Julie rolls her eyes with a laugh and finally meets Christen's eyes. “My grandfather, back in Arizona, he always called me Julie Beth.”

“So why do you hate it?”

“It's so,” she pauses. “I don't hate it, but, growing up we'd visit them for like summers and stuff, and it was just so southern. I don't know. It felt so,” she pauses again. “It wasn't Chicago. It wasn't me.”

Christen starts rubbing her back. “Why does Mel still call you Julie Beth then?”

Julie chuckles. “She enjoys watching me suffer.”

“Don't you think she'd stop if you really asked her to?”

“She would.” Julie brushes a piece of hair out of Christen's face and gives her a quick kiss. “But it makes me think of him, and I miss him.”

“Who?”

“My grandfather.”

Christen frowns. “When's the last time you visited him?”

“He died.” Julie says it so calmly that Christen isn't sure how she should react so she just frowns and starts rubbing Julie’s back again. “It's cool, though. I mean. It's been awhile.”

“When?”

“Freshman year of college. He got really sick so I flew out and stayed with him for Christmas, then he died shortly before I left.”

“I'm sorry, Jules.”

“Don't be.”

Christen kisses Julie's temple and grabs one of her hands, pulling her to the bed. “Let's do something else,” she suggests, grabbing a bottle of expensive wine off the table as Julie sits on the bed.

“And what do you suggest?”

Christen smiles, setting the bottle of wine on the table and straddling Julie. “You still have one more birthday present.”

“Yeah?” Julie’s grinning and Christen would kiss her but she can't remember the last time Julie was this happy and she wishes she could capture this moment forever.

Christen finally leans down to kiss her but it's not hot and seductive like Julie’s expecting. It's long and warm and filled with passion and so much love that Julie, too, wishes she could stay in this moment forever.

That night, both Christen and Julie feel more in love than they have in their entire lives, and it's magical. (The people in the next room over just think it's obnoxiously loud.)

Chapter Text

When Christen and Julie get back from Chicago, they spend a few splendid days together and they're both relieved that they decided to take more days off than they needed. Tobin offered to keep the dogs for an extra night so they could have some more alone time (Lizzie yelled “wink wink, nudge nudge” into the phone and made both Christen and Julie laugh).

Christen makes a few comments about how it feels like they're young and in love again, like college, and Julie just kisses her and promises that it can always be like this. (Christen can't bring herself to believe her.)

 

---

 

Christen gets caught up with work, trying to make up everything she missed, and she ends up not getting to hang out with Tobin until she finally takes the afternoon off of work early to meet Tobin and Lizzie for dinner.

“Hey, Tobin,” Christen smiles as she walks up to where Tobin is loading balls into a bag.

“Hey, Chris,” Tobin looks up to Christen despite the sun in her eyes. “What’s up?”

“Isn’t your birthday soon?”

“Hmm?” Tobin sets the bag down and straightens her back. “Oh, yeah.” She'd almost forgotten about it without Alex to remind (or, for a better word, force ) her to celebrate it. “Two Wednesdays from now, I think. Why do you ask?”

“Have you made a plan for it yet?”

Tobin shakes her head. “You say that as if I’m going to.”

Christen raises an eyebrow as a few of the girls on the team begin to jog over. “Are you not?”

Not without Alex , she thinks to herself before she has the chance to answer.

Lizzie walks up and throws an arm around Christen’s shoulders. “I’d ask what’s the occasion, but, you’re always here.”

“Am not,” Christen rolls her eyes and shoves Lizzie's arm off of her. “You're sweaty.”

“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

“And we were just talking about Tobin’s birthday.”

Lizzie drops her arms to her sides with a laugh. “Stitch doesn’t do birthdays.”

Tobin nods, picking up the bag and grabbing a water bottle from the bench. “She’s right, I don’t.”

“Why not?” Christen frowns and picks up one of the bags next to Tobin so they can leave the field.

Tobin shrugs. “Never really wanted to,” Not since Junior Year. “There was always something more important going on.”

“Well this year, you're the most important thing.” Christen smiles as Tobin rolls her eyes.

“I have work , Chris, I can't just drop everything because--”

“The season literally ends this weekend,” Lizzie chimes in, rooting for Christen.

Christen's smile grows and Tobin realizes that trying to say no to her will mean she stops smiling, and Tobin never wants to be the reason she's not smiling. She stops to think back to her New Year’s Resolution (and Alex, always Alex). “Fine,” she resigns. “We can do something, but nothing too big!”

Lizzie stops in her path, staring at Tobin with her jaw dropped.

“What?” Tobin asks, noticing her idiotic expression.

“Alright, that's it.” Lizzie throws her hands up in surrender. “From now on, whenever I want something from you, I'm having Christen ask.”

Tobin opens her mouth to argue, but she can't find anything to say.

Christen feels herself begin to blush and looks to the ground as Lizzie continues talking, oblivious to (or possibly choosing to overlook) their responses.

“Seems like you're incapable of telling her no.” She turns to Christen, “Do you know long I've been trying to get her to celebrate her birthday? Do you know how long Alex has been trying to get her to celebrate her birthday? It's been, what, four years?”

Tobin clenches her jaw and Lizzie notices, making a mental note of how it seems like smoke is pouring out of her ears. (It's funny, mentioning Alex used to make Tobin smile. Lizzie wonders if Christen has anything to do with that.)

(She's almost entirely sure she does.)

Lizzie bites her lip and wonders to what extent Christen has this ability over Tobin. “Hey Christen, can you ask Tobin if I can drive her car?”

“I'm right here, and no you can't.”

“I can't ask you or Lizzie can't drive it?” Christen teases with a smile that Tobin returns almost immediately.

Tobin rolls her eyes before picking up the bags back up and turning towards the building. “Neither.”

 

---

 

“You have to help me plan Tobin’s birthday,” Christen says as soon as Tobin leaves the table.

“Why?” Lizzie wipes her mouth with a napkin before continuing. “You know Tobin.”

“You've known her longer,” Christen explains. “And I don't know how she'd celebrate a birthday.”

“Me either, no one does.” Lizzie pokes her food with her fork before looking up. “I mean,” she pauses and looks back down.

“What?”

“Alex told me that her freshman and sophomore year, they celebrated Tobin’s birthday. And a little bit the years before at camps and stuff. But I wasn't here for those.”

“So no one knows.”

“Yeah,” Lizzie answers, even though it wasn't a question. “Well, Alex does. But Tobin hasn't celebrated her birthday in the years I've known her.”

“So no one knows,” Christen repeats, and Lizzie laughs.

“Have something against Alex?”

“No!” Christen defends, but with the way her eyes drop to the table Lizzie knows she's lying.

“I mean, I do too, so don't feel bad.”

“It's not that, I just,” Christen sighs. “I don't think she likes how close Tobin and I are. And she's friends with Julie.”

Lizzie laughs after taking a swig from her drink and sets it down. “To be fair, you are stealing her best friend.”

“I'm not stealing anyone,” Christen defends.

“Sure, sure,” Lizzie waves her off and continues. “Want me to talk to Alex?”

“Don't you hate her?”

“Yeah,” Lizzie shrugs. “But I love Tobin.”

“Hey guys,” Tobin takes her seat next to Lizzie before taking a long drink of her water. “Did I miss anything?”

“We were talking about you,” Lizzie says with a shrug.

“Well, obviously. What was it? Chiseled abs? Impeccable sense of style? Birthday?”

“Killer jawline,” Christen answers without missing a beat, and they all laugh.

 

---

 

“Hey, do you have Alex’s number?”

“Of course I have Alex’s number.” Tobin looks from her spot in the recliner opposite of Lizzie in her living room. “Why?”

“I need it,” Lizzie adjusts so that she's sitting on the couch normally instead of hanging off of it upside down.

“Why?”

“I accidentally deleted it,” Lizzie lies, looking across to Tobin who's staring at her suspiciously.

“No you didn't.” Tobin sets her phone down and moves so that she's sitting in the recliner rather than lying across it. “You deleted it the same day you deleted it from my phone, when Servando proposed,” she says with a straight face.

Lizzie’s heart sinks, remembering how heartbroken Tobin was. Who the fuck lets their best friend find out they're engaged by stumbling across it on Instagram? She thinks bitterly. Alex didn't even have the heart to tell her in person .

“So what do you need her number for?”

“I was gonna try and grab lunch with her one day.” Not a total lie , she thinks to herself. “Thought maybe she and I should catch back up.” Okay Tobin’ll never believe that.

“No,” is all Tobin says as she picks up her book and relaxes, lying back across the recliner.

“Stitch,” Lizzie whines and crosses her arms.

“You're just going to harass her.”

“That is not true.”

Tobin peers over her book to look at Lizzie, who's already staring at her with a defensive expression. “I'm not giving you her number.”

“Fine,” Lizzie resigns, sinking back into the couch and picking up her phone. “Whatever,” she sighs dramatically. “Guess I'll just go...forever,” another sigh. “Without reconciling with the girl who,” she places a hand over her heart and begins sniffing and fanning her eyes over a fake tear. Another sigh. “Broke my best friend’s heart.”

Tobin picks up a pillow that's fallen and throws it at Lizzie with her right hand, missing. “That's not gonna work.”

“You need better aim,” Lizzie picks up the pillow that landed next to her and tosses it back to Tobin.

Tobin catches it and throws it back. This time it's a rocket with her left hand directly to Lizzie’s face, that she isn't ready for. “You need to shut up.”

“That was such a childish comeback.”

“You're a childish comeback.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Stop or I'll kick you out of the house.”

“This is my house.”

“Well I guess you better stop then.”

Tobin rolls her eyes and turns back to her book. (She wouldn't put it above Lizzie to attempt to kick her out of her own house.)

 

---

 

Lizzie pulls into Alex’s parking lot and turns the car off. “Christen better love me for this,” she mutters, sliding out of the car.

She jogs to the porch then rings the doorbell, which is answered by what sounds like a dog barking and scuttling across the floor.

“Blue! No!” She hears Alex yell from somewhere deeper inside the house.

Lizzie laughs to herself. Whose grand idea was it to get a dog with a baby on the way?

Her thoughts are cut short by Alex swinging open the door with a cheery smile and a chocolate lab puppy (who she assumes is Blue) squeezed between her legs. “Lizzie!” She sounds surprised but pleasantly so and Lizzie takes that as a good sign to start the visit. “Come in!”

Lizzie steps over the doorway and sidesteps to avoid Alex, who is still caging Blue between her legs.

“It's so nice to see you,” Alex shuts the door then leads Lizzie through the house to the living room with Blue right at her feet the whole way. “What's up?”

Lizzie follows Alex until she's awkwardly standing in the living room next to Blue who has taken to sniffing every inch of her body he can reach.

“You can sit,” Alex laughs and gestures to the couch. “Or over here, if you'd like,” she moves to gesture to the loveseat as Lizzie nods, sitting on the couch.

Blue jumps up next to Lizzie and starts smelling her thigh, her torso, and then finally her hand. She begins petting the top of his head and he immediately snuggles closer so she can pet his neck and back.

“When did you get a dog?” Lizzie finally asks, the first words she's spoken since arriving (except for the Christen better love me for this in the driveway).

“About a month or so ago!” Alex smiles brightly before sitting on the loveseat so she's facing Lizzie at an angle. “So what brings you here? I haven't hung out just you and I in,” she spends a moment to try and remember, but she can't really remember a time where it was just the two of them. At least not on purpose. “Forever!”

“I was just,” Lizzie shrugs and scratches Blue behind the ears one last time before looking up and making eye contact with Alex. “So Tobin's birthday is coming up,” she starts, pausing to look for any change in Alex's demeanor.

“I know.” Alex doesn't quite cut her off, but she sounds defensive and Lizzie wonders if Alex knows that she's the reason Tobin stopped celebrating her birthday. “I wouldn't forget.”

“Again,” Lizzie says before she can stop herself. She shoots her eyes to the ground and can see Alex clenching her jaw in her peripheral vision. “Sorry,” Lizzie mutters, even though she isn't, really.

“I don't have any plans this year, if that's what you're asking.”

“It's actually not what I'm asking,” Lizzie says, looking back up.

Alex looks offended. Hurt even, maybe. “I love Tobin,” she says, even though nothing prompted it.

“Yeah, me too,” Lizzie agrees with a nod. “Tobin loves you,” she says in a tone that probably reveals more about the true meaning behind her statement than the actual words do.

“I wouldn't hurt her.”

The word again comes to Lizzie’s mind but she bites her tongue instead of speaking.

“I wouldn't,” Alex insists, and Lizzie decides she needs to leave before she says something to Alex she regrets (although the Tobin loves you probably fits in that category).

“I'm gonna go,” Lizzie stands from the couch and Blue perks his head up, tracing her every movement with his nose and ears that are a bit too big for his head.

“Wait,” Alex stands up as well and reaches out for Lizzie's arm.

Lizzie looks back and notices that Alex has tears in her eyes.

“Does Tobin really love me?”

Lizzie wonders what Alex means by the question. If she knows the weight behind it. (Alex definitely knows, and the uncertainty of what Lizzie’s answer will be scares her.) Of course , is the first answer that comes to mind, but that's too reassuring, and after what happened between them, Alex doesn't deserve that level of softness (or at least Lizzie doesn't think so). She always has and She always will , also come to mind, but those sound too cliché, and as much as Lizzie would like to be famous, this isn't a damn movie.

“Yeah,” is all Lizzie says before shaking Alex's hand off and leaving the house.

She gets to the car and starts it, waiting for a moment to see if Alex will follow her out.

She won't. Alex is too busy cuddling on the couch with Blue and sulking about the realization (she’d known all along, really, but this was confirmation) that she hurt her best friend.

 

---


Lizzie pulls out of the driveway and starts up the road. She turns the radio too high and rolls down her window and slams her hands on the wheel. She can't understand how Alex has the hold over Tobin that she does (of course she can, love does stupid crazy things, she knows that first hand). For a minute she lets herself be upset over getting angry at Alex and not getting the information she needs, but then she realizes something.

If she tried to give Tobin the birthday Alex always did, it would only remind Tobin of Alex. Tobin deserves better than that.

Lizzie glances to the setting sun and notices the street that she knows is Christen’s (Tobin pointed it out while they were driving once). She doesn't give herself time to think before turning and looking for Christen’s car.

It takes her almost ten minutes but she finally spots a house with a car that looks exactly like Christen's (she's only been in it once, but she's pretty sure) and a yard that's big enough for a dog or two.

She parks in the driveway in the empty spot next to Christen's (she takes note that Julie isn't home, but with what she's heard from Tobin, she's not surprised) and makes her way up to the door, ringing the doorbell.

The way Christen greets her is a stark contrast to Alex. She hears the same scuttling feet from a dog, but no barking and Christen opens the door with the dogs sitting rather than squeezed between her legs.

“Lizzie!” Christen nearly squeals in excitement as she ushers her into the house. “How are you?”

“I'm,” Lizzie pauses, not really wanting to lie. “Eh. You?”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Christen leads them into the kitchen, making a glass of water for both of them.

“Not really, I'm not a big talker. At least not about the real stuff.”

Christen laughs at that and nods in understanding. “Me either.”

“Alex can't help us.”

“Hmm?” Christen looks up as she hands over the water.

“Alex isn't going to help us.”

“Why?”

“I'm an asshole,” Lizzie shrugs.

Christen laughs as the dogs start to bombard Lizzie to smell her. “Morena, Khaleesi!” She tries to push them away but they're determined. “I don't know why they're doing this, sorry.”

Lizzie laughs and bends down to pet the dogs. “I know why, Alex got a dog. I probably smell like him.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, chocolate lab, name’s Blue.”

“Purebred?”

Lizzie nods and Christen crinkles her nose in disgust. “I know, gross,” she agrees. “But basically, Alex was jealous because I kind of said I wasn't inviting her to the party and then I brought up the time she forgot Tobin’s birthday--”

“She what ?” Christen asks, jaw dropping in disbelief.

“Yeah. Well, I guess she brought up forgetting and I brought up it happening before, anyway, long story short, she’s not gonna help us.”

“What happened? How did she forget Tobin’s birthday?”

 

Lizzie chews on her lip, not sure if this is her story to tell. “Basically what happened is Alex had plans with Servando and forgot that weekend was Tobin’s birthday.”

“Oh,” Christen frowns. “Well, we can figure something out.”

Lizzie hums in agreement. “Besides, we don’t wanna give her an Alex birthday, we want to give her a Lizzie and Christen birthday.”

“Why does your name get to be first?”

“I’m cooler,” Lizzie states as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

“But I’m hotter ,” Christen says with a wink.

Lizzie leans back and rakes her eyes up and down Christen’s body shamelessly, causing Christen to giggle and roll her eyes. “Fair enough,” she shrugs. “ Christen and Lizzie it is.”

 

---

 

They set to work immediately, Lizzie not having anything better to do and Christen glad for the company. Both dogs like Lizzie immediately (not as much as they liked Tobin right away, but more-so than for most people) and Lizzie realizes how much she likes dogs.

“Y'know I never had one of these,” Lizzie says absentmindedly, sitting on the couch as she scrolls through a website.

Christen raises an eyebrow and looks from Lizzie to the laptop (Julie’s) that she's borrowing. “A laptop?”

“No,” Lizzie laughs and closes the laptop, setting it on the coffee table before turning so she can pet Morena (whose wet nose has been bumping Lizzie’s thigh throughout the whole visit) with both hands. “A puppy. I always wanted one.”

Christen smiles and closes her own laptop, setting it on the coffee table and rising from the recliner so she can sit on the couch with Morena between her and Lizzie. “Well if you ever wanna hang with the dogs, you can come here.”

“Thanks,” Lizzie looks up with a smile. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“And you'll be honest?”

“Of course.”

Lizzie nods and looks down to the dog for a moment before looking back up. “What's going on with you and Tobs?”

Christen’s expression softens. “I'm not gonna hurt her,” she promises.

“That's what Alex said.”

Christen places a comforting arm on Lizzie’s shoulder. “I'm not Alex, alright? Tobin and I are friends, and I absolutely promise you that if she gets feelings for me that I don't reciprocate, I will not lead her on.”

Lizzie nods, but she doesn't seem quite convinced. She seems to sink into herself and looks up at Christen with an expression that makes her look like she’s just a kid . “Am I gonna have to hate you too?”

Christen smiles sympathetically with a small laugh. “I sure hope not.”

“Okay, now for the real question.”

“It gets more real than that?” Christen asks with another laugh.

Lizzie nods solemnly. “Okay, answer honestly, remember?”

“Mhm.”

“Promise?” Lizzie holds up her hand with her pinkie sticking out.

“I promise!” Christen insists, rolling her eyes with yet another laugh but grabbing Lizzie's pinkie anyway.

“If you weren't taken by whatsherface--”

“Julie.”

“Whoever,” Lizzie rolls her eyes. “And Tobin and I both hit on you, who would you go home with?”

Christen starts laughing so hard that Khaleesi wakes up and walks over to the from the other side of the room. She slaps Lizzie on the shoulder playfully. “I'm not answering that.”

“You promised!” Lizzie starts laughing and slaps Christen back, riling up Morena who stands up and starts looking from Christen to Lizzie anxiously.

“Fine, fine,” Christen rests a hand on Morena’s back to calm her down and Lizzie starts petting her neck to do the same. “Tobin.”

Lizzie drops her jaw with an offended look and crosses her arms. “You're just saying that because I'm here.” She rolls her eyes and sighs dramatically. “If Tobin asked you, you'd say me, wouldn't you?”

“Nope,” Christen says, popping the ‘p’. “I'd choose Tobin.”

“Why though? Have you seen me?”

Christen laughs and rolls her eyes. “Tobin is sweet, and strong, and an incredible person.” She pauses to smile at the thought. “Also have you seen her eyes? Or her smile? Or her body? Incredible.”

Lizzie starts laughing again, prompting Morena to rest her head on Lizzie’s thigh. “Someone has a cru-ush !” She teases, leaning over the dog to push Christen on the shoulder.

“Do not ,” she argues, not able to get rid of the smile on her face. “Besides, I'm taken.”

“By who?” Lizzie looks around the living room before continuing. “Honestly, with the way this place looks, I’d be more likely to believe that you live by yourself than with someone here.”

Christen frowns and looks around, nodding in agreement. “Feels like it sometimes, too,” she admits.

“Where is whatsherface anyway?”

“Julie,” Christen corrects again, but she chuckles a bit whenever Lizzie says whatsherface , so Lizzie knows it doesn't bother her. “And she's at work.”

“Still?” Lizzie looks at her watch. “It's already half past eight. When does she go in?”

Christen shrugs. “Usually before I'm up. Today I think it was around five thirty, then I got up at six, left for work at seven, had lunch with Tobin around noon, and got home just after four. Then you came over a little after six.”

Lizzie nods. “So you've seen Tobin more than Julie today?”

“Yeah,” Christen admits with a shrug. “It's not a big deal.”

“It kind of is,” Lizzie places a comforting hand over Christen's and Christen smiles at the gesture. “Tobin would treat you right, y'know--”

“Tobin and I are just friends,” Christen cuts her off, but her tone of voice isn't stern or rude. Just kind of sad.

“Yeah. I know. I'm just saying, alright? She'll be a great friend.”

“She already is,” Christen nods.

“Yeah. Don't hurt her, okay? She'd never hurt you.”

Christen thinks that the word never is awfully strong, but with Tobin, she believes it. “Alright, thanks.”

“I'm here for you too, Christen.”

“Thanks, Lizzie,” Christen smiles up at her as her phone starts to ring. “Speak of the devil,” she says, checking the caller ID.

“Tobin?”

“Tobin's an angel,” is all Christen says before answering the phone and moving to the next room to talk. (Lizzie takes the opportunity to glance around the living room and notices that there are in fact pictures of Julie and Christen along the walls and on the table, but the house is spotless and doesn't really feel lived in , which Lizzie has never liked. Feels too much like her parent’s house.)

Lizzie hears some sighing and Christen’s voice crack once or twice, but Christen comes back in with dry eyes and a straight face. “What's up?”

“Julie’ll be a few more hours,” Christen laughs and Lizzie just smiles sympathetically.

“I've got an idea,” she offers, pulling her own phone out of her pocket.

“Yeah?”

Lizzie turns her phone to Christen just long enough for her to notice a picture of Tobin posing with a person dressed up as Stitch in front of the Disneyland sign.

“Tobs,” Lizzie says as the call goes through. “Have you eaten yet?...Why am I not surprised?...Have plans?...Awesome, I'll be at your house in,” she pauses and turns to Christen who mouths fifteen minutes . “Fifteen minutes. Awesome. Bye...Oh and I've got a surprise for you...No, if I told you it wouldn't be a surprise...Yeah, yeah, love you too...Yes I will drive safely...I love you too...Bye.”

“Do you guys always say that you love each other twice?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes in lieu of a response.

“And does she always tell you to drive safely? That's adorable.”

“Just come on, let's get in the car. Tobin’s gonna make dinner.”

“Does she know I'm coming?”

“You're the surprise.”

 

---

 

“Chris,” Tobin smiles as she opens the door, ignoring Lizzie entirely.

“You're welcome for your surprise,” Lizzie says, rolling her eyes and walking past Tobin so she can enter the house. “What's for dinner?” She turns to the right to enter the kitchen and begins to inspect the different pans on the stove.

“Don't touch it,” Tobin warns, making her way into the kitchen.

“You have no faith.” Lizzie rolls her eyes before leaving the food and grabbing three plates and three cups out of the cabinet. She moves to begin setting the table and Christen joins Tobin in the kitchen.

“So what's for dinner?” Christen asks, sliding up next to Tobin who’s dishing pasta into a serving bowl.

“Lemon chicken, sort of. Served over pasta.”

Christen nods approvingly. “Any way I can help?”

Tobin hands over the bowl of pasta and a utensil to serve it with. “Set that on the table, please?”

Christen nods and makes her way to the dining room, setting out the dish and met a few moments later with Lizzie who has already made two trips and grabbed silverware for them. “So what's the occasion, Tobs?” Christen asks as Tobin enters the dining room setting down a cutting board full of chicken and a pitcher of tea.

“No occasion,” Tobin goes back into the kitchen momentarily to grab a pitcher of water. “I was just gonna make something small for myself but Lizzie said she'd stop by so I made something a little better.”

“Why so much?” Christen sits down once Tobin and Lizzie do and begins to serve herself from a bowl of steamed broccoli.

Tobin laughs and waves her off. “Unless I'm having dinner for just myself, I usually make full size. That way I can bring it for lunch or have for dinner again later in the week.”

Christen nods understandingly as she bites into a piece of chicken, squeezing her eyes shut in delight. “That's so fucking good,” she mumbles with her mouth full.

“Thanks,” Tobin smiles brightly, incapable of stopping herself from doing so. “Means a lot.”

Lizzie sets down her fork and knife with a sigh of frustration. “How come when I compliment your food you say It's only because you're drunk, Lizzie , or You only like it because it's free, Lizzie , but when Christen compliments you she gets a Thanks, means a lot ?” Lizzie asks in false annoyance, making sure to drop her voice to a lower pitch to mock Tobin's.

Tobin’s smile shines even brighter as both Lizzie and Christen break into a fit of giggles. “Christen's special,” she says simply, looking to Christen who's already looking at her over the top of her drink, attempting to hide her smile behind her glass.

 

---

 

“Stitch,” Lizzie calls as she heads into the kitchen with a stack of dirty dishes. “Excited for the game?”

Tobin lights up. “Hell yeah! I texted Kell last night and she said she was gonna meet us for drinks after it.”

Christen, still sitting at the table, raises an eyebrow at the familiarity of the name.

“Awesome,” Lizzie smiles as she sets the dishes to soak. “Get in touch with anyone else?”

Tobin shrugs and shifts her balance from left to right before answering. “Not really, I talked to Abby a couple weeks back--”

“Wambach?” Lizzie asks, her jaw dropping.

“Yeah,” Tobin walks into the kitchen and shoves her lightly. “Don't act like that around her. Freaks her out.”

“She freaks me out! Like, in a good way.”

“Keep washing dishes,” Tobin rolls her eyes and makes her way back to the dining room.

“Anything I can help with?” Christen offers, rising from her chair.

Tobin purses her lips and scans the room. “Nah, I don't think so. Are you busy like two days from now?”

“The 17th,” Lizzie calls from the kitchen.

“The 17th?” Christen asks, chewing on her lip. “I don't think so. Work, but I can take off. Why?”

“The game ,” Lizzie says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. “The national team is playing for a friendly before the World Cup.”

“Right,” Tobin nods to Lizzie before turning back to Christen. “Wanna go?”

Christen smiles. “I’d love to!” She pushes her chair in before making her way into the kitchen. “And you have a game tomorrow, right? Can I go to that?”

Lizzie laughs and sets down the plate she was washing. “Are you asking permission ?”

Christen rolls her eyes. “It's a home game, right? Five,” she hesitates for a moment, chewing on her lower lip. “Thirty? I think that's what the schedule said.”

“You checked the schedule?” Tobin makes her way into the kitchen. She sounds surprised but she's smiling and Christen loves how she looks with a smile on her face.

“I did ,” Christen walks over to Tobin and wraps her hands around Tobin’s wrists, swinging their arms. “Can I go to the game?”

“Of course,” Tobin smiles as she looks into Christen's eyes and feels her heart begin to melt because Christen is just so, well, she can't think of a better word to describe it than perfect .

Christen releases her wrists and wraps her arms around Tobin's waist, pulling her in for a tight hug.

Lizzie clears her throat. “Yo. Lovebirds. Can you chill?”

They both laugh as they pull away and Christen places a quick kiss on Tobin's cheek. “I should probably get going.” She glances briefly to her watch. “It's kinda late.”

“Where's my kiss?” Lizzie pouts and Christen makes her way across the kitchen to kiss Lizzie on the forehead.

“Better?”

“Much.”

“Good,” Christen laughs. “I'll see you guys tomorrow, at the game, probably.”

“Alright,” Tobin waves as she goes to the front door. “Bye Chris.”

“Bye Tobs.”

“Bye Christen!” Lizzie yells obnoxiously from the kitchen.

“Bye Lizzie,” Christen says with a smile before disappearing behind the door.

“That was gay,” Lizzie teases, gesturing between Tobin and the closed door.

Tobin picks up a roll of paper towels and throws them at her. “Shut the fuck up.”

 

---

 

Chris: Hereee

Tobs: Be there in a minute :)

 

“Hey,” Christen smiles as Tobin walks up to her. “You look professional, I like it.”

“Oh yeah?” Tobin readjusts her collar so it's sticking up instead and she slides her sunglasses from her forehead so they're over her eyes. “Better?”

“You're a dork,” Christen rolls her eyes and shoves Tobin shoulder lightly.

“You're the one who spelled here with three e’s,” she teases and Christen shoves her shoulder again as they begin to walk through the parking lot.

“Oh hush.”

 

---

 

Unbeknownst to Christen, this game is actually the championship game for the year. It has a strong start, Lizzie getting a goal only a few minutes in, followed by an innumerable amount of shots, and Hannah nets a second one in the 30th minute. Lara even gets a few shots in before the half, but Duke’s keeper is able to block all of them.

Christen sits by herself, but Tobin makes sure to turn and smile at her every time there’s a lull in the action on the field. (Christen’s heart flips each time.)

 

---

 

The second half tests UCLA’s defense a few times, but not enough to make Shiloh even break a sweat. Lara finally scores in 57th minute, followed by another goal for Lizzie in the 65th, making the score 4-0.

Lizzie scores one last time in stoppage time, giving her a hat trick and she runs the length of the field, jumping into the arms of Tobin who’s cheering from the team’s bench. Tobin catches her and spins her, and Lizzie nearly cries.

“Hat trick,” she whispers into Tobin’s hair before Tobin lets her down. “I got a hat trick.”

“You did.” Tobin smiles and gives her one more tight hug before shooing her back on the field.

“That was awesome, babe!” Lauren pulls her in for a kiss and Lizzie feels drunk at her touch.

Lizzie begins jogging backwards into position, nearly tripping over herself before regaining her balance and giving two thumbs up.

Christen cheers louder than anyone in the stands and sends a quick text to Lizzie.

Tobin's Christen: So proud of you!!!!!!!!!!!! For a hat trick I'll buy your drinks all night ;)

 

---

 

Christen makes it back to Tobin’s office before Tobin even does, and when Lizzie and Tobin finally do make it, they're both covered in champagne.

“Why didn't you tell me this was the Championship ?” Christen demands, arms crossed. “I definitely would have come then!”

Tobin shrugs. “Forgot to mention it, I guess.”

Lizzie ignores the question, instead opting to tackle Christen with a hug and soaking her in champagne. “We won!” She yells and Christen hugs her back, ignoring the fact that she'll have to change before they go out.

Lizzie and Tobin are both in 2015 Women's Soccer D1 Champions shirts and Lizzie has a gold medal around her neck.

She picks up her medal and kisses it then pulls Christen in and kisses her forehead. “We won,” she says softly and her realization begins to settle in. “We fucking won.” She falls into a chair smiling like an idiot and starts laughing. “I scored a fucking hat trick. In the fucking final. Who does that?” She looks up to Christen and Tobin before laughing again. “I mean like, great people sure. Like Carli Lloyd, I bet she could score a hat trick in a championship game. But not me.”

Tobin briefly thinks back to her time on the Senior National Team spent with Carli and laughs to herself. “Y'know, Carli Lloyd would probably say the same thing about herself.” Lizzie looks up at her with disbelief and Tobin nods encouragingly. “Even the greatest people sometimes can't see how incredible they are, and Lizzie, you're one of the greatest.”

Lizzie looks up at her with a small smile. “You think so?”

“I know so.”

Lizzie stands up and hugs Tobin, and just as Christen begins to feel as if she's infringing on their moment, Lizzie pulls her into the hug too.

“My parents didn't come,” Lizzie says absentmindedly as Christen and Tobin pull away. “I mean, I didn't expect them to. But. Still.”

Tobin puts a hand on Lizzie’s shoulder and offers a sympathetic smile.

“Alex didn't come.”

Tobin frowns and pulls Lizzie into another hug.

Lizzie pulls away and turns to Christen. “You came.”

Christen smiles as she feels tears pricking at her eyes. “Of course I came.”

“Thank you, Christen.” She pulls Christen into a tight hug and Tobin smiles at the two of them. “You're the best. Both of you guys. I love you guys.”

Tobin joins the hug and when Lizzie pulls back, she laughs with tears streaming down her face. “You alright, kid?”

Lizzie laughs at the nickname because Tobin hasn't called her kid in a while, but she kind of feels like one right now. “Yeah.”

“Even without your parents?”

“Yeah. You guys are better than my parents anyway.”

Tobin smiles then looks to the ground before back up at Lizzie with a sad expression. “Even without Alex?”

Lizzie nods. “I don't need Alex. I love her,” she admits. “And she was an important part of my life. But I don't need her.”

“Neither do I,” Tobin agrees.

Christen immediately feels as if she knows them both more intimately, and she loves it. She feels as if she's part of their odd little mismatched family, and she wouldn't want it any other way. (Tobin and Lizzie feel exactly the same.)

 

---

 

They go out for dinner that night then drinks a few hours after, and Christen buys for Lizzie who, surprisingly, doesn't have that much. (She seems off and Christen’s not sure why, but she assumes it has something to do with the fact that she keeps checking her phone, which she assumes has something to do with the girl Lizzie was trying to talk into coming with them.)

-

“Come on,” Lizzie interlocked their fingers and pulled on Lauren’s arm. “Come celebrate.”

“I didn't win that game,” she said, looking to the ground. “You guys did.”

“Babe.” Lizzie stopped pulling and stepped closer to her. “Look at me.”

Lauren looked up and Lizzie leaned up to kiss her.

“You are just as much a part of this team as I am.”

“Not really.”

Lizzie sighed and let go of Lauren’s hand but placed both hands on Lauren’s waist. She pulled her closer for a long kiss and when Lauren finally pulled away, she was smiling. “Yes you are.” Lizzie put a hand under Lauren’s chin to tip her head so she could kiss her nose then leaned on her tippy toes to kiss her forehead. “This championship,” she paused and took hold of the medal around Lauren’s neck. “This medal? They're ours. This shirt?” She looked down at her shirt then pulled on it before looking back up. “This year?” She leaned in and gave Lauren a long kiss. “Ours. All ours, baby.”

Lauren smiled and Lizzie smiled in response. “All ours,” she echoed. Lauren placed a hand on Lizzie’s waist so she would stand flat-footed. “Fine,” she rolled her eyes but she was grinning so Lizzie knew that she'd at least done something right. “I really can't go though, I need to study for my exam.”

Lizzie put a hand on Lauren’s waist and frowned. “Want me to stay in and help you study?”

“Thought you wanted to celebrate?” Lauren teased.

“I'd take a dirty you over a dirty bar any night.”

Lauren dropped her jaw and started laughing, then slapped Lizzie's arm playfully. “ Babe , hush! Go party with Tobin and everyone.”

Lizzie pouted so Lauren just gave her a quick kiss.

“Stop, dork. Go have fun.”

“Won't be as fun without you.”

“You're sweet.”

“Honest.”

Lauren rolled her eyes and gave Lizzie one last kiss. “Keep me updated so I know you're alive.” She slid her hand into Lizzie's pocket and grabbed her phone to tap it on Lizzie’s chest. “Stay safe. Keep it in your pants. Love you.”

Lizzie rolled her eyes and took her phone from Lauren. “Okay, okay.” She grabbed one of Lauren’s hands and pulled it up to kiss her knuckles before leaving. “Love you too, Lo.”

-

“I wanna be able to enjoy tomorrow,” Lizzie explains, after she turns down a third beer.

Christen smiles. “But that's not even a drink for each goal! We made a deal.”

Lizzie laughs and puts a hand over the hand Christen was trying to use to call over the bartender. “Fine. You can owe me one.”

Christen, who's already downed too many drinks to count on one hand, leans forward and gives Lizzie a sloppy kiss on the cheek. She moves so she can whisper into Lizzie's ear and Lizzie winces when Christen laughs too loudly in her ear. “I may have said I'd choose Tobin over you, but you're not bad yourself,” she whispers in a tone that's supposed to be seductive but instead just makes Lizzie roll her eyes.

Lizzie pushes Christen so she's back on her own barstool and notices Tobin attempting to make her way from the bathroom. “You're still taken by whatsherface, incase you forgot. Maybe we should get out of here, yeah? You're pretty drunk,” she says with another laugh.

Tobin walks up and places a hand on Christen's lower back. “Ready to go guys?”

Christen nods and lets Tobin steer her out of the bar with Lizzie following closely behind.

Christen falls asleep in the car and Lizzie helps Tobin carry her into the house.

“I feel awkward undressing her,” Lizzie whispers. “I think she tried to make a move on me earlier,” she adds with a laugh.

“Really?” Tobin feels something in her chest (the word jealousy comes to mind but she pushes it away) that she doesn't like as Lizzie nods.

“I think she was joking, she's pretty drunk. Do you know why she got so drunk? Not like she's celebrating, y'know?” Lizzie laughs again at the irony.

Tobin nods solemnly. “I think I know why.”

“What is it?”

“Julie left for the weekend, with pretty much no notice. She called Christen while at work and said she wouldn't be home tonight and probably wouldn't be back till Tuesday.”

“Wow,” is all Lizzie says.

“Yeah. Come on, help me pull her pants off.”

“At least buy her dinner first, damn,” Lizzie jokes.

Tobin rolls her eyes. “I bought you both dinner earlier, for the record. And shut up.”

Chapter Text

Lizzie wakes up, already with a headache and she thanks God that she didn't have any more to drink than she did. She makes her way to the kitchen where Tobin has two plates with pancakes and bacon, two glasses of orange juice, and a bottle of Tylenol already waiting on the kitchen island.

“Tobin, you're the best,” Lizzie says, hopping on a stool and immediately noticing the design of her plate. There's three pancakes (Christen only has two) and the bacon is broken, positioned to spell out HAT TRICK on the lower half of the plate. She looks to Tobin (who has a stupid grin on her face and looks far too proud of herself) and rolls her eyes. “And a total dork.”

 

---

 

Christen joins them twenty minutes later (Tobin has to reheat her plate), her hair an absolute mess and wearing a pair of sunglasses she found on Tobin's dresser. She's dressed in the same clothes Tobin and Lizzie changed her into so she could sleep (one of the many 2015 Women’s Soccer D1 Champions shirts they got from the game and a pair of Adidas sweatpants).

“Rough night?” Tobin teases, and Christen slumps onto the bar, taking some medicine before answering.

“Better with you,” is all she says and both Lizzie and Tobin start laughing.

“Eat up, we’re meeting some girls on the team for a few hours before the game and leaving soon.”

Christen groans and begins to chew on a pancake without an actual response.

Lizzie claps Christen on the shoulder with a laugh. “Is this what I look like in the morning?”

They both look at her and Christen smiles for the first time that morning (except a small smile from when she woke up in Tobin’s bed). “Yes,” they say together.

 

---

 

“Come on ,” Tobin groans as she sets the cooler filled with fruit, water bottles, and beer next to door. “You guys are taking forever .”

“You can't rush perfection,” Lizzie says as she slides a snapback (one of Tobin's) down over her head.

“You're literally wearing a bikini under gym shorts and a baggy tshirt with a snapback over unbrushed hair. I think I can rush that.”

“I was talking about Christen ,” Lizzie defends as Tobin rolls her eyes.

“Sorry!” Christen says as she finally makes her way out of the bathroom, still putting an earring on.

“Chris,” Tobin laughs and picks the cooler back up, opening the door. “We're going to the beach .”

“There will be people there!” Christen argues, following Tobin to the car.

“Shotgun!” Lizzie yells as they reach the doors.

“Dang it!” Christen takes a step back and opens the back door.

“Really?” Tobin asks as she loads the cooler into the trunk. “You can make her sit in the backseat.”

“You've gotta respect shotgun,” Christen says with a shrug.

“I knew there was a reason liked you,” Lizzie says with a laugh, sliding into the passenger seat and plugging her phone in.

 

---

 

On the way to the beach, they listen to music with such stark contrasts from each other (Drake to Carly Rae Jepsen to Lana Del Rey) that Christen makes a joke about getting whiplash and Lizzie just rolls her eyes and claims that they're lucky she has good taste in music.

When they arrive, Tobin makes Lizzie carry a cooler as well as making sure everyone has sunblock and assigns Christen to carrying their towels.

“This is how we know you're her favorite,” Lizzie whispers, making sure it's loud enough for Tobin to hear her. “You’re only in charge of the towels.’

Tobin just rolls her eyes and leads the way to the rest of the girls that decided to go the game with them (Tobin’s pretty sure that everyone is going, but not everyone wanted to pregame with the team, in other words, not everyone wanted to get shitfaced before the game as well as the inevitable drinking afterwards).

Lara and Phoebe are already there, lying on towels next to each other with their hands just barely brushing on the sand in between them.

Shiloh’s there as well, sitting in a chair with a book resting on her chest, and Hannah’s a few feet away, napping on a towel.

“Alright losers,” Lizzie says as she drops the cooler and a soccer ball. “Who’s ready to have fun?”

Lara and Phoebe both shoot up immediately, pulling their hands away from each other. Shiloh and Hannah also wake up, both looking considerably less guilty the other two.

“This cooler,” Tobin lets go of one of them. “Is just beer. This one,” she lets go of another one, letting it hit the sand, “Is just water. That one,” she points to the cooler Lizzie set down. “Is a few waters, a few beers, and mostly fruit. And this bag,” she lets go and it hits the ground. “Has crackers and stuff in it. Enjoy.”

“Who's up for some soccer?” Lizzie asks, tossing the ball at Phoebe who catches it and rushed a bit of the sand off.

“Or volleyball,” Tobin suggests. “Chris has a ball.”

Christen nods and waves with her free hand.

“Oh guys, this is Christen by the way. She's my friend.”

Friend ,” Lizzie corrects, wiggling her eyebrows and earning a laugh from her teammates.

Christen just laughs as she tosses the volleyball to Shiloh, who holds her arms out for it.

“Yeah, let's do that,” Hannah agrees, getting up from her towel and stepping onto the warm sand.

All the girls make their way to a net that's off to the side and Christen and Tobin choose to stay back and lie in the sun for a bit. They stay silent for awhile, Tobin reading and Christen (still wearing Tobin’s shades from this morning to fend off a headache) just laying on the towel, until Christen gets up to go to the cooler.

“Are you drinking today?” She asks, opening the one with fruit in it and grabbing an apple for herself.

“Nah,” Tobin closes her book and lays it across her lap. “Get me a water though, please. You drinking?”

Christen walks back over to her towel and hands over Tobin's water bottle. “After last night?” She pauses to laugh. “I never wanna drink again.” (That's a lie.)

 

---

 

More girls from the team join them (Lauren goes straight to Lizzie’s side and Lizzie welcomes her with a kiss on the cheek and a blinding smile) over the next few hours and Tobin eventually receives a text from Alex.

Lex: Lunch before the friendly? :)

Tobin: I’d love to :)

She decides not to mention that she’s bringing Christen and Lizzie, and calls both of them over from where Christen had joined the girls playing volleyball. (Lizzie takes a minute longer than Christen, considering she paused to give Lauren a hug and a quick kiss before jogging over.)

“We’re going to lunch, get your stuff together,” Tobin says, shaking the sand out of her towel and rolling it up.

“Lunch?” Lizzie picks up her towel (still rolled up, considering she hasn’t taken a break all day) and begins to dry some of the saltwater in her hair. “It’s almost 3:30.”

“Late lunch,” Tobin grabs two coolers, hands the bag off to Christen, and another cooler off to Lizzie. “With Alex.”

Lizzie drops the cooler in time with her jaw dropping. “You’re kidding.”

“No.”

“She hates me.”

“No she doesn’t.”

“I hate her.”

“No you don’t.” Tobin sets down one of the coolers and wraps Lizzie in a half hug. “You’ll be alright, I promise.”

Lizzie nods, but she doesn’t look entirely sure, and Christen offers her a silent fist bump as an attempt to console her. (For Lizzie, that’s just as good as a hug.)

 

---

 

Alex is a bit surprised when Tobin walks in with both Christen and Lizzie, but she recovers quickly and offers them both a bright smile. “Nice to see you all!” she says with so much false cheer in her voice that it takes all of Lizzie’s willpower to not groan and disgust. (She rolls her eyes though, and Tobin kicks her under the table for it.)

They sit so that Tobin is next to Alex and Christen and Lizzie are across from them. The conversation flows fairly well (Christen stays silent for most of it) and Tobin makes sure to bring up Lizzie’s hat trick and championship from the day before as often as possible. (Lizzie rolls her eyes and scoffs, but Tobin knows how much she loves to be bragged about.)

They discuss a bit of their own predictions for what will happen in the game (Tobin feels strongly about Leroux, and Lizzie is just hoping to see Wambach in action) and Christen finds herself entranced by their discussion. (She thinks that one day she’ll have enough knowledge to keep up beyond Oh yeah, she scores goals, right? I like her! )

 

---

 

They make it to the match an hour early and when Tobin checks twitter, she and Lizzie high-five when they see that Sydney is starting.

Tobin makes sure to go to Sydney’s twitter and Instagram, filling Christen in a bit on who she is (a forward, one of the best, quickly becoming face of women’s soccer, ex-canadian), what her personality’s like (she and Alex tell a few stories from their time at youth camps together, and both Lizzie and Christen find themselves dying of laughter), and the most important things her life (Boss, her dog, and Dom, her husband. In that order.).

 

---

 

The game begins and everyone’s eyes are glued to the field, distracted by the action (and world class talent) in front of them. Sydney opens the scoring in the 28th minute, and Tobin and Lizzie cheer so loudly they’re given a few dirty looks. The next goal comes from Ariana Calderon, one of the girls on the Mexican team, in the 39th minute, and then the action is fairly back and forth for the rest of the half.

Abby gets subbed in and Lizzie can’t stop smiling. She assists the next goal (a stunner for Chalupny) and Lizzie immediately begins hitting Christen on the shoulder, mumbling a jumble of words and really all Christen can make out are game changer and incredible!

Abby then scores a goal of her own in the 58th minute, and Lizzie starts cheering again.

Not even three minutes later, Sydney gets a second goal, giving herself a brace and she runs and jumps into Abby’s arms after the shot.

“She's really good,” Christen says absentmindedly, pointing to the field.

“Syd?” Tobin asks, turning to Christen as they reset for kickoff.

“Number,” she squints her eyes as she looks at the field. “Two, I think. I like her. She's my favorite.”

Tobin smiles proudly. “I figured you would.”

“Why do you say that?”

Tobin does her best to mock Christen, using a higher tone of voice that’s a bit breathier and punctuating her sentences with giggles. “ I just wanna score goals .”

“Shut up,” Christen rolls her eyes and shoves Tobin lightly, but they're both laughing. “Watch the game.”

Christen runs to the bathroom (“Why didn't you go during the half, Chris?” “The line was long then.”) when Kelley subs in and Tobin and Lizzie both cheer for her.

The last goal of the match is a few minutes later. It's an absolute beauty by Abby, and all of them cheer for it. Abby replicates what Sydney had done before and they run and embrace on the field.

“She's good too, number twenty,” Christen says and Lizzie lights up.

“She's one of my favorites.”

“One of? How many do you have?” Christen asks, turning to Lizzie.

“Chances are, if a girl plays professional soccer, she qualifies to be my favorite,” Lizzie says and they both laugh.

Mexico has a few chances on goal in the last twenty minutes, and every time Tobin tenses up, Christen places a comforting hand on her thigh and she visibly relaxes.

The game ends with the USWNT winning 5-1, and Christen finds herself having a new love for the sport (and a certain forward with the nickname the kid ).

They file out of the stadium, and Tobin texts Kelley to let her know where they'll be when she finally gets away.

Brobin sent a pin with their location.

Brobin: We’ll be at this restaurant. Should be just a bit up the street from your hotel. Drinks after?

Kell: I'll be there

 

---

 

Everyone (Alex, Lizzie, Tobin, and Christen) all arrive at the restaurant after fighting a bit of traffic from after the game.

“I'm gonna run home, alright? I need a jacket.” Christen says as they begin to move into the building.

“Alright, Chris. We'll be here. Oh and if you want, you can just run to my house. It's closer.”

Christen smiles and laughs before answering. “I actually meant your house. Sorry, didn't mean to call it home .”

“Don't be,” Tobin smiles as she pulls Christen into a hug before she leaves. “Drive safely, alright?”

Christen smiles and gives Tobin a quick kiss on the cheek. “Always.”

 

---

 

Christen gets to Tobin's house and let's herself in with the key underneath the pot. She walks into the living room then makes a right turn into the hallway followed by a left to Tobin's bedroom. She digs through some clothes lying askew across Tobin's desk (a mix of both hers and Tobin’s but if she's being honest, she's not entirely sure whose is whose) and finally comes across her tattered Stanford Soccer sweatshirt.

She decides it's good enough (Tobin will probably scoff and say something about I have so many nice jackets in there, Chris. You could've taken one of those! but it's funny to watch Tobin roll her eyes and pretend to be annoyed) and starts to head out. She stops in the kitchen to grab a water bottle and notices Lizzie’s plate from breakfast still sitting in the sink with syrup smeared across the bottoms so she sets it to soak with a shake of her head and a laugh, then leaves.

 

---

“You can't be not coming to the World Cup! You're like my biggest fan!” Kelley drops her hands on the table with a sigh. “What'll you be doing anyway? You don't have friends besides this one.” She points to Lizzie who's sitting next to her. “Or Alex, but she's about to pop.”

“I'm only six months,” Alex rolls her eyes but she's laughing with the rest of them.

“Come on, Tobs. You too, Alex!” Kelley turns so she's facing Lizzie. “And what about you? You've gotta go.”

“I want to go,” Lizzie says with a laugh. “I've been trying to convince Tobin to go with me forever.”

“Let's talk about this later,” Tobin rolls her eyes and looks up to the door. “Oh, Chris is here.”

“Who's Chris?” Kelley turns around so she can see.

“My friend I was telling you about,” Tobin laughs as she starts to stand up.

“Kelley!” Christen yells then runs forward and they embrace.

“Yeah,” Tobin frowns in confusion. “This is Kelley.”

“Christen!” Kelley squeezes her as they hug.

“And this is Christen,” Tobin shrugs, still frowning. “So I guess you guys know each other.”

They pull apart and Kelley starts laughing. “That's my sweatshirt.”

“It,” Christen pauses to look down at it. “Most definitely is.” She starts laughing. “You gave it to me Freshman year.”

“I did, and you still have it,” Kelley’s grinning and she finally turns to face everyone else.

“You guys know each other? Small world,” Lizzie says with a shrug.

“Yeah, we knew each other freshman year of college,” Christen says with a laugh as she pulls up a chair to the table.

“Here, I'll take the chair.” Kelley gestures in front of her to offer the seat next to Lizzie on the booth.

Tobin rolls her eyes and takes her seat next to Alex. “You're awfully chivalrous for a douche.”

“Shut up,” Kelley laughs and shoves Tobin's shoulder. “God,” she turns to Christen. “It's been so long, what have I missed?”

“Uhm, I don't know. Tobin and I are friends now.”

Kelley laughs. “I figured that one out for myself, thanks.” She pauses. “Man, I miss so much.” She gestures to Alex, “You're married and pregnant.” She gestures to Tobin, “You've got like, a real job and all.” She gestures to Lizzie, “You exist and you're pretty cool.” She finally looks to Christen. “And you're hot as hell , when did that happen?”

Christen blushes and slaps Kelley’s arm. “ Stop , dork.”

“I'm kidding, you've always been hot.” Everyone at the table laughs except Christen, who's still rolling her eyes and pretending to be annoyed. “Why else would I give you my sweatshirt and beg you to come to my soccer games?”

“Nothing ever happened ,” Christen clarifies, though she's not sure who she's clarifying for (she's looking at Tobin).

Tobin just clenches her jaw and calls the waitress over. “We're ready to order,” she says, mumbling her order then passing the menu over as Lizzie, Christen, and Kelley all engage in a conversation.

 

---

 

“I should really get going,” Alex yawns as Tobin moves out of her way to leave the booth. “Servando will be home soon.”

“Gross, marriage,” Kelley crinkles her nose and Lizzie laughs. “We're going to the bar, right? I've gotta buy you some drinks,” she says, pushing on Tobin's shoulder as they all rise.

“Why do you have to buy me drinks?” Tobin grabs the check for all of them (Alex reaches to stop her but Tobin just mouths you can tip and Alex rolls her eyes, letting go of her arm) and heads to the counter.

“It's your birthday soon, and I'll be busy then so I've gotta give you something now.” Kelley follows her and wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Plus, it'll be fun for us all to go drink together, right? Or are you on babysitting duty?” She looks to Lizzie and frowns. “You can drink, right?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “I'm not that young.”

“Practically a child,” Kelley shrugs. “Do you have homework?”

“I did it before the game, if you must know.”

“When?” Christen challenges. “We were at the beach all morning.”

Tobin laughs as Kelley and Christen start to lecture Lizzie on the importance of homework and getting good grades. (Tobin thinks it's cute to watch Christen act like a parent, especially to someone she loves and cares about so much, but Tobin pushes that thought away.)

Alex pulls her into a tight hug as she makes her way to the counter with the rest of them. “I'll see you,” she pauses. “Soon. Okay?”

Tobin nods and Alex kisses her cheek. “Okay.”

“Bye, Kell,” Alex pulls her into a quick hug and Kelley pretends to struggle with fitting around Alex’s belly.

“I'll see ya, Al. At the World Cup. I better see you!”

Alex just rolls her eyes. “Sure, Kell.”

“And bring the husband.”

Alex laughs. “Will do. Bye Christen, bye Lizzie!” She pulls Lizzie into a hug and offers a small wave to Christen as she leaves.

“Bye Alex,” Lizzie returns the hug and Christen offers a weak smile.

“So, drinks?” Kelley asks as they make their way to the door.

“Drinks,” Tobin agrees with a nod, clicking her key to unlock the car. “Let's go.”

 

---

 

Lizzie decides to give the three of them time to reminisce and abandons them for the first girl that winks at her five minutes in. (The name Lauren slips her mind as she downs her first drink.)

Kelley can hold her alcohol better than Tobin remembers, and Tobin's struggling to keep up. Christen is a little drunk, but not nearly as much as Kelley or Tobin.

Kelley has just enough alcohol to give her the courage to start hitting on Christen, and Christen loves the attention.

“You're prettier than I remember,” Kelley says, squinting at Christen. “I didn't think that was possible.”

“I'm flattered,” Christen looks to the ground and chews on her bottom lip. “You're sweeter than I remember.”

“You're hornier than I remember,” Tobin deadpans, looking at Kelley. “God, keep it in your pants.”

“You're just jealous.” Kelley grins and looks from Tobin to Christen. “So you guys,” she hesitates and squints. “What's up with that?”

Tobin clenches her jaw and picks up her drink in lieu of an answer.

Kelley rolls her eyes and takes it as an invitation, leaning forward toward Christen. “So how have you been? Really? You look so,” she pauses. “Happy.” She glances to Tobin. “Does a certain someone have something to do with that?”

“I need another drink.” Tobin rises from their table and makes her way to the bar.

“I do too,” Kelley says, picking up her nearly full glass and draining it. “Christen?”

“I'm fine, thanks” She picks up her glass to swirl the ice cubes and alcohol before taking another sip.

“Tobin,” Kelley walks after Tobin and speeds up as they approach the bar. “Tobs, listen to me.”

Tobin finally turns to her. “Yeah?”

“I see the way you look at her.”

Tobin clenches her jaw. “She's my friend.”

“Yeah, so was Alex.”

“Fuck,” Tobin slams her glass on the counter. “Can I have one conversation that doesn't lead to fucking Alex?”

“Can you chill?” Kelley places one arm on Tobin's bicep. “I just don't want you to get hurt.”

Tobin looks to the bar to avert eye contact. “I won't get hurt.”

“You said that about Alex.”

Tobin tenses and Kelley can feel it through the tshirt she's wearing. “This. Isn't. Alex.”

“Then don't let it be,” she says simply.

“Christen and I are just friends.”

The bartender walks up to grab their glasses and Tobin finally looks up at Kelley.

“Just friends,” she reiterates.

Kelley nods as the bartender hands back their drinks. “Fine. Then I'm gonna hit on Christen.”

“You've been doing it all damn night anyway.”

“Why’s it bother you?”

“It doesn't.”

“Fine,” Kelley shrugs and begins back to their table. “We'll see.”

 

---

 

Tobin (after three more drinks and a lot more flirting between Christen and Kelley) decides to match Kelley drink for drink.

She excuses herself not long after that, and stumbles into the bathroom.

“Actually, I've gotta go too. I'll be right back Kell,” Christen lies as she leaves to check on Tobin. She walks into the bathroom to find Tobin leaning against the counter for support and walks up, tapping her on the shoulder. “You alright, Tobs?”

Tobin glances to the left and struggles to take a deep breath. “Yeah, I'm-- I'm fine.”

“You don't look fine.”

“I dunno, Chris.” Tobin shrugs and nearly loses her balance.

“Hey,” Christen pulls her into a hug and leans to kiss her forehead. “I'm here for you.”

Tobin nods and reopens her eyes.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Tobin shrugs again and Christen presses their foreheads together.

“Let me know if there is, okay?”

Tobin bites her lip as she looks into Christen's eyes. She gets lost in the swirls of hazel and hints of a warm brown and decides she has a new favorite color. “Chris,” she whispers, trying to ignore the way Christen's perfume smells or how she can detect the hint of alcohol on Christen's breath or how she can feel a stray curl of Christen's hair tickling the side of her face. Tobin closes her eyes and leans forward, closing the gap between them and can feel Christen's lips soft against her own. Christen doesn't pull away immediately (instead she returns the kiss) and Tobin takes that as an invitation, putting one of her hands on Christen's hip and deepening the kiss.

They continue like that for a few seconds, kissing with Tobin pushing Christen up against the counter until Christen stops them.

“You are,” she pauses and puts a hand on Tobin's chest to push her away. “ Really drunk.”

“Yeah,” Tobin whispers, out of breath (from the kissing or the abundance of alcohol in her system, she's not sure).

“We probably shouldn't do this,” Christen says softly.

“Yeah,” Tobin agrees, resting her forehead back against Christen's.

“Do you wanna go back out there?” Christen asks, not pulling back but moving her hands from Tobin's waist to her wrists.

“Yeah, sure,” Tobin nods and swallows, still trying to regulate her breathing. “We can do that.”

Christen nods, threading her fingers through Tobin's and pulling them out of the bathroom.

They get back to their table, where Kelley is waiting for them.

“Uhm, Christen?” Kelley asks as they walk up to her.

“Mhm?”

“You've got a little,” she gestures to her own lips and Christen’s eyes widen as she looks to the floor.

“Thanks,” she mutters, letting go of Tobin's hand to wipe at her face. “Good?”

Kelley nods as Tobin takes a seat next to her. “So are you guys--”

“Thirsty?” Christen cuts her off, waving over the bartender. “You bet.”

Tobin nods, ordering a shot and downing it immediately. Her mind is still fuzzy from the alcohol she's had so far, but she decides that the burn from the alcohol on her lips doesn't hurt as badly as the seconds after Christen pulled away from her.

 

---

 

Christen wakes up around three am to the sound of someone falling. She blinks and looks around the dark room for a few moments before remembering where she is. Tobin’s room.

Christen looks to her left to make sure Tobin is okay (she's snoring, so obviously that's not who fell) then starts to make her way out of the bed as quietly as possible. She walks down the hall and steps into the entryway to see Lizzie pulling herself off the floor.

“Are you okay?” She rushes over and starts helping Lizzie.

“Mentally or physically?” Lizzie asks, next to no emotion in her voice.

Christen frowns. “Both.” She leads Lizzie into the kitchen and turns the light on. “What's wrong?”

“I think I'm still drunk,” she says with a hint of a slur in her voice.

“Talk to me.” Christen puts her hands on Lizzie’s shoulders. “Why are you stumbling in at three in the morning? What, Lauren doesn't know how to cook breakfast?” She laughs at her own joke and Lizzie just cringes and mumbles something. “What did you say?” Christen asks, leaning closer.

“Not Lauren,” she says, looking to the ground.

“Not,” Christen pauses then sighs, pulling Lizzie into a tight hug. “Lizzie, what happened?”

“Something really bad.” Lizzie mumbles into Christen's shoulder. She pulls away and leans against the counter for support, looking up at Christen. “I need some advice.”

“Shoot.”

Lizzie sighs and Christen frowns. “When's the last time you did something really bad?”

Christen chews on her bottom lip and decides that if she wants Lizzie to be honest with her, she has to be honest with Lizzie. “I need to tell you something.”

“Okay, me too. At the same time. Ready? Go.”

“I hooked up with someone that wasn't Lauren.”

“Tobin kissed me.”

“What? You first,” they say together, then laugh.

“Who made the first move?” Christen asks, placing both hands on her hips and she looks like such a mom that if Lizzie didn't feel so awful right now she would laugh.

Lizzie sinks into herself. “I did. I wasn't even drunk. It was stupid. All she did was smile at me and then next thing I remember was waking up around two am in a bed I didn't recognize.”

“Fuck, Lizzie.” Christen raises her hands to her temples. “What are you going to do?”

“We'll worry about that later.” Lizzie just waves her off. “What happened with you and Tobin?”

“She kissed me.”

“Yeah,” Lizzie rolls her eyes. “I got that part.” Lizzie looks Christen up and down and raises an eyebrow. “Is that, uhm,” she pauses as she takes note of Christen's clothes (baggy tshirt of Tobin's, underwear, and nothing else). “All you did?”

Christen looks down, confused and instantly feels embarrassed. “ Yes , that is all we did.”

Lizzie nods and raises her hands in defense. “Okay, okay. Elaborate?”

“I was drunk and she was,” Christen pauses. “ Really drunk, and she went to the bathroom and I went to check on her and then...bam.”

“Bam?”

“Bam,” Christen echoes with a nod.

“I don't think you know how to kiss”

“Shut up!” Christen hits Lizzie's arm.

“Did you kiss her back?”

Christen looks at the ground.

Lizzie drops her jaw and shoves her. “ Christen.”

“I may have,” she starts chewing on her lip. “A little bit.”

“Dude, what the hell.”

“I know.”

“Did she pull away? Did you pull away?”

“I pushed her away.”

“Fuck, Christen.”

“I know.” Christen pauses. “What do I do?”

“That depends,” Lizzie purses her lips. “How drunk was she? Sometimes she'll black out.”

“She was really drunk.”

“Just,” Lizzie leans back on the counter. “Don't say anything. It's better if she doesn't know.”

“But,” Christen frowns.

“Are you going to call Julie right now and break up with her?” Lizzie challenges.

“No.”

“Then leave it. It's better if she doesn't know.”

“I--”

“Leave it.” Lizzie gives her a stern look and Christen knows she can’t win this argument.

“Okay. What are you going to do about Lauren?”

“Fuck, I don't know.” She rests her head in her hands. “Probably not tell her anything and pretend everything's fine, like normal.”

“Normal?”

“Yeah. When things go bad we just kind of ignore it,” she admits. “So, like normal.”

Christen nods and knows that neither of them are in a place to delve into that. “Alright.” She rests her hand on Lizzie’s back comfortingly “You should get some sleep.”

“You too.”

“Yeah,” Christen sighs. “I can't believe we fucking kissed.”

“I can't believe I fucking cheated.”

“Fuck, same.” Christen cringes, then laughs in spite of herself. “Goodnight.” She turns to head back to Tobin's room.

“Goodnight.”

 

---

 

Tobin walks into the kitchen to discover both Christen and Lizzie, covered in flour and having a hushed conversation.

“What?” Tobin interjects. “Worried I’d hear you talking about how bad of cooks you guys are.”

Christen pulls away and blushes. “No,” she defends.

“Yes,” Lizzie chimes in, shooting Christen a side glare. “We just didn't wanna wake you.”

“It's all good.” Tobin places both hands on Christen's waist to slide her out of the way and get to the ingredients. “Also,” she pauses, turning the skillet to the correct temperature. “I thought after the last time this happened, we agreed to leave the cooking to me?”

Christen giggles as Lizzie rolls her eyes. “We were gonna surprise you with breakfast!”

“Instead you surprised me with,” Tobin pauses, sweeping some flour from the counter into her hand. “A mess.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes, again. “Whatever, Stitch. How are you even alive right now? Didn’t you drink like, a lot?”

Tobin nods. “I don't know. I hardly even remember anything, to be honest.”

“Really?” Christen asks, and she sounds more upset than anything.

“Yeah,” Tobin nods and purses her lips. “I think I remember,” she squeezes her eyes shut and rubs her temples. “Kissing someone? Maybe?”

Christen feels her heartbeat quicken and Lizzie starts to chew on her lip nervously.

“Probably just some random chick. Just like any other night, right?” She slaps Lizzie on the back with a laugh and Lizzie watches as Christen's face falls.

“Yeah, probably,” she agrees with a nod.

“You guys go sit down, I'll start breakfast.”

Christen and Lizzie begin to make their way to the kitchen island, but Lizzie stops her. “Actually, can you help me with something in my room real quick?”

Your room?” Tobin teases.

Lizzie just rolls her eyes and places a hand on Christen’s lower back. “Come on.”

They enter the guest room and Lizzie closes the door behind them.

“What did you need--”

“Stop,” Lizzie cuts her off. “Stop with the mopey face when Tobin doesn't remember you guys kissed, stop with the blush when she touches your hip, and stop with the giggle when she makes a joke.”

“But--”

“No, Christen.” Lizzie clenches her jaw and looks Christen dead in the eye. “Stop it. Tobin’s not yours, and you’re not Tobin's. You're with Julie.”

“I know, I--”

“So stop. Because I know Stitch, and she deserves,” Lizzie pauses, but she can't find a less hurtful way to word it. “Better than this. Not better than you , necessarily, but better than a girl that is with someone else.”

“I care about Tobin.”

“So did Alex.”

Christen falters. “Are you really comparing me to Alex?”

“Yes,” she says, without skipping a beat. “I am.”

“How can you--”

“Because you're fucking acting like her.” Lizzie looks down at the ground before back up to Christen. “Because Alex loved Tobin, too. And Alex cared about Tobin, too. And Tobin treated her well, too. And Tobin got feelings that were--” she pauses to take a deep breath because she loves Tobin so much and it hurts to think about Tobin in pain. (To think about Alex.) “They were fucking mutual , but Alex was scared of change and scared of something being different and you're acting like the same damn thing.” She pauses to give Christen a chance to speak, but there's nothing to say. “So stop. Stop, before you hurt her.”

“I won't hurt her.”

“You can't promise that.”

“But I can, Lizzie. I'm not going to hurt her. I'll be careful, I'll stop with the touches and I'll stop with the giggling and I'll watch myself. I'll be careful. We won't get too attached. We’ll just be friends.”

Lizzie doesn't want to trust her but with the look in Christen's eyes she can't help but do so, and she nods. “Okay.”

“Okay.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Don't be, you're just watching out for your friend. Our friend.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.” Christen pauses before cracking a smile. “Wanna go eat breakfast and tease Tobin about her drunken night some more?”

Lizzie chuckles. “I'm always up for teasing Tobin.”

Chapter Text

“I wonder what Chris is doing here.” Tobin frowns as she looks over to Christen waiting by the building.

“Oh she’s here for me,” Lizzie says before taking a swig of water. “Practice is over right?”

“As long as you did your laps,” Tobin says with a shrug.

“Duh.”

“Why are you two hanging out?” Tobin glances over to Lizzie as they walk from the field.

“Christen and I are friends, too, y’know,” Lizzie defends, rolling her eyes. “What, jealous?”

No , why would I be jealous?”

Lizzie shrugs. “That’s a question for yourself, Stitch.”

“Whatever,” Tobin shrugs off a bag as they reach the locker room. “I’m gonna go back to my house, I’m facetiming my parents tonight.”

“That’s fun,” Lizzie nods and they both turn to smile at Christen when they walk up to her. “What for?”

“They want me to come back to visit this summer, but if we go to the World Cup, I don’t know if I’ll have the time and all. Plus, you and I are already going back for Christmas and New Year's this year.

“Ah, I gotcha.”

“Yeah, they want you to come back this summer too, actually.”

Lizzie laughs and breaks into a grin. “Of course, I'm a delight.” She winks at Christen for added effect.

“My mom says she misses you and apparently they watched the stream for the championship.”

“Really?” Lizzie smiles and feels something in her chest that makes her feel at home.

“Yeah,” Tobin laughs. “My dad says he expects four goals from you in the championship next year.”

Lizzie can't help but grin. “I love your family.”

“Our family,” Tobin corrects, pulling Lizzie into a hug. “So my sisters vote that we go to the World Cup, but my mom thinks that’s stupid,” she laughs to herself.

“I knew I always liked your sisters.”

“Whatever,” Tobin rolls her eyes and turns to head to her office. “I'll let you know the verdict. Have fun hanging out with Chris.”

“Will do, tell them I said hi and I love them more than you do.”

Tobin rolls her eyes and smiles. “Will do.”

 

---

 

Julie comes home about an hour after Lizzie and Christen get to the house. “Hey Stanford,” she says, leaning down to where Christen’s sitting for a kiss. “Can I talk to you in the kitchen for a second?”

“I’m kind of in the middle of something, actually. Can it wait?”

Julie glances to Lizzie and nods in acknowledgement before looking back to Christen. “I’d really rather talk to you now.”

“Jules--”

“It’s cool,” Lizzie cuts in. “I can leave.” She sets the laptop on the coffee table and starts to stand from the couch.

“No, Lizzie, you don’t have to. This’ll just be a minute.” Christen stands and follows Julie into the kitchen.

“Do you wanna have her leave so we can spend some together?” Julie asks as soon as they’re out of earshot.

“No?” Christen raises an eyebrow. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious.”

“Why would you even say that?” Christen shakes her head.

“Oh come on,” Julie rolls her eyes. “You guys can hang out any other day.”

“You’re being really rude.”

“I came home early to spend time with you, Christen.” Julie opens a beer and downs half of it before continuing. “Something you always beg me to do.”

“Well I don't like spending time with you when,” she looks at the beer in Julie’s hand before continuing. “When you're acting like this.” Christen doesn’t even realize that they’re practically yelling until she hears the front door open. “Lizzie?”

Lizzie’s standing in the doorway with a guilty expression. “It’s really not a big deal, I can just go,” she offers, but she won’t meet Christen’s eyes.

“Please don’t,” Christen says, mostly because she doesn’t want to let Julie win.

“If she wants to leave, let her,” Julie snaps.

Christen ignores her and instead walks over to Lizzie. “Are you okay?” She rests a hand on Lizzie’s forearm but she still won’t look up.

“Yeah,” she lies (and she’s not a good liar). “Totally good.”

Christen turns to see Julie looking at them, probably expecting Christen to just let Lizzie leave. “We’re going to take the dogs out for a bit,” Christen says, and Julie just rolls her eyes.

“Fine.” Christen hears Julie open another beer before leaving down the hallway. “Bye.”

Christen grabs the dogs, attaching their leashes and harnesses and leading Lizzie to the car. Once they’re on the road, Christen finally breaks the silence. “You alright?”

Lizzie shrugs.

“Wanna tell me what’s wrong?”

Lizzie shakes her head.

“Wanna go to the beach?”

“Sure.”

Christen drives them to the beach and once they’re sitting in the sand, petting the dogs, Lizzie visibly relaxes. (Which is good, because Christen has never seen Lizzie so closed off and it was really starting to worry her.)

“Hey,” Christen starts. “You don’t have to talk to me, of course, but I just wanna let you know I’m always here for you.”

Lizzie nods, only focusing on the dog in front of her.

They stay silent for a little while, the offer hanging in the air between them.

“My parents,” Lizzie finally says quietly. “My parents weren’t always, well, the best.”

Christen looks to Lizzie who still won’t make eye contact.

“And they fought a lot, about me. They weren’t the most supportive or the most caring or anything like that.” Lizzie pauses for a moment but she finds herself wanting to continue (which is abnormal, because she never wants to talk about her parents). “They hated that I want to play professional soccer, and they really hated that I’m bisexual.”

Christen reaches a comforting hand out to rest it on Lizzie’s knee.

“I guess,” she pauses again, looking for the right words. “I guess it was like that all growing up. I was the middle kid, so I was really overlooked. I wasn’t the golden kid, like my older sister. I was a straight C student, I got in trouble in school, I couldn’t hold a boyfriend.” She shrugs with a small laugh. “Then I got a girlfriend freshman yearl, and oh boy, that was not okay. They grounded me and sent me to a bible camp for the whole summer. Not to mention the only thing I was really passionate about was soccer, and they thought soccer was kind of a joke. Especially women’s soccer.”

Christen doesn’t know what to say so she just keeps her eyes trained on Lizzie, wishing she could do something.

“So my parents fought a lot. About where they went wrong, about how I turned out so badly, about how they wouldn’t make the same mistakes with my younger brother. So I didn’t have the best childhood, and now whenever people I look up to start yelling or fighting, I just,” Lizzie shrugs. “I start to feel like a kid again, all boarded up in my room to stay away from my parents who are yelling at something that’s my fault for some reason or another.”

“I’m really sorry, Lizzie,” Christen finally says but Lizzie just shrugs.

“Then when I could come to UCLA on a full-ride soccer scholarship, I jumped at the chance. And they hated me for it.” Lizzie laughs again but it’s hollow. “Soon after I got here, I met Tobin and, well, let’s just say I don’t know where I’d be without her.”

Christen can see it now, clearer than she ever has before. The roots of the dynamic between Tobin and Lizzie. They’re not just friends, they’re family.

“Tobin became the family I never really had,” Lizzie admits just as Christen starts to realize it. “She became the role model that I needed so badly.”

“So when Tobin said you guys are going to New Jersey together for Christmas,” Christen says slowly.

“Yeah,” Lizzie nods and glances up from the dog to look at Christen. “I always spend holidays with Tobin and her family. Her parents kind of adopted me as their own, and honestly, I fit in better with the Heath family than I ever did with my own.”

“Thank you for talking to me,” Christen says with a smile. “I hope you know I’m always here for you.”

“Thank you Christen, really.” She offers a small smile before returning her attention to the dog. “Can we just stay here for a little while?”

“Of course.” Christen considers texting Julie to let her know that she’ll be awhile longer, but it doesn’t seem worth it. “We can stay as long as you want.”

 

---

 

Lizzie and Christen end up back at Christen’s house a few days later to finalize the details of the birthday party. “So what’s our full plan?” Lizzie asks as Morena joins her on the couch. “Tobin’s birthday is hardly a week from now.”

“Well,” Christen purses her lips and opens a different tab on her laptop. “We wanted to take her out Friday night, just you, Lauren, Tobin, and me, then do the beach house for the weekend with the whole team.”

Lizzie nods as she scratches behind Morena’s ears. “Sounds good.” She looks around and notices a picture of Julie and Christen, looking happier than ever at the beach sometime after sunset. She picks it up and purses her lips. “How old is this?”

“Uhm,” Christen thinks for a moment. “A year or so, I think.”

“Is it professionally done?”

“No,” Christen laughs as she takes the frame from Lizzie and looks at it. “Jules used to be really into taking pictures, so I got her this expensive camera and tripod thing for our anniversary and she'd take it everywhere .” She smiles, reminiscing. “One night, late, we were cuddling on the couch, her cold feet pressing into my legs and an arm wrapped around my shoulders with my head resting on her chest.” Christen rolls her eyes but she’s smiling. “We were watching some movie and there was a scene on the beach. I kind of frowned, because I remembered how long it had been since we'd gone to the beach, and she noticed immediately. She kissed me on the forehead and started to play with my hair, asking what was wrong. I told her and she pulled me off the couch, grabbed her keys, and led me to the car.” Christen pauses to laugh. “I protested, because we were in pajamas but she just kissed me and told me it would be fine. We went to the beach and she took,” Christen laughs again, smiling as she looks down to her lap. “So many pictures that night.” She traces a finger along the outline of her and Julie’s silhouettes, intertwined on the picture and clenches her jaw. “We were so happy,” she mumbles quietly.

“I'm really sorry, Christen.”

“Don't be,” she looks up to Lizzie and wipes at her eye, trying to hide a tear. “You didn't do anything.”

Lizzie nods, rising from the couch. She points to a different picture, hanging on the wall. “Where was this one taken?”

Christen gets up to see which picture she’s pointing to, and it’s one of Julie and Christen wrapped in scarves and warm clothes, kissing at a park while it snows behind them. Christen smiles and looks at Lizzie. “That one’s pretty recent, actually. We took a vacation to Toronto over Thanksgiving to celebrate Julie’s promotion.” She smiles but it’s bittersweet and Lizzie can tell by the look in her eyes. “She had just finished her first project after the promotion and it went so well.”

“Was that her camera, too?”

“Mhm,” Christen nods. “Last picture she’s taken with it, actually.”

Lizzie frowns. “Why?”

“She's been so busy with work.” Christen tilts the frame to straighten it. “We don't really go for late night trips or take pictures together anymore.”

“That's really shitty,” Lizzie says simply with a nod and Christen has to laugh at how blunt she is.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Where's Julie gonna be Tobin's birthday weekend?”

Christen shrugs and turns to the kitchen. “Hell if I know. She might be going out of town. Not like she'd tell me ahead of time, though.”

Lizzie follows her and leans against the counter casually. “You sound like you wanna punch something.”

Christen laughs. “Not really, no.”

“Need a hug?”

Christen shrugs and that's enough of an answer, so Lizzie steps forward and pulls Christen into a strong hug.

“Better?”

Christen nods. “You hug like Tobin,” she mumbles into Lizzie's shoulder.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Christen pauses to search for the words as they both lean back. “It's all strong and comforting. Makes me feel safe.”

Lizzie laughs and tilts her head. “Hmm. Wonder why.”

“I don't know.”

“Might be because we work out together. So a lot of our shoulder and back workouts are really similar. Plus, Tobin’s been hugging me for years, so it’s almost like I learned from her. She's good at consoling people.”

It seems like an oddly factual answer, but Christen just smiles to herself. “I guess that would make sense,” she says with a nod. “You guys work out?”

Lizzie laughs. “Literally every day.” She shrugs. “Life of an athlete, I guess. But here, check it out.”

Christen nods as Lizzie flexes and gestures for her to feel the muscle. “Are Tobin's arms like that?”

Lizzie pouts. “Better, actually. I kind of hate her for it.”

Christen laughs. “You poor thing.”

“But I mean, you don't see Lauren complaining.” She smirks and Christen just rolls her eyes. “You should hit the gym with us sometime. Tobin's been whining because I take Lo with us now, so she says she needs a new gym buddy.” Lizzie laughs and Christen smiles.

“I probably wouldn't be able to keep up.”

“Don't you do the,” Lizzie pauses. “The stretching thing.”

“Yoga?”

“Yeah! Yoga. Don't you do that?”

“Well, yeah.” She pulls down two glasses for water for her and Lizzie. “So my core’s really strong but my endurance and strength aren't all that great. At least compared to you guys.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes, taking the cup from Christen and filling it. “You'll be fine.”

“Probably not.” She laughs with a shrug. “But yeah, maybe I'll come with you guys sometime.”

“Tobin would love that.”

Christen rolls her eyes. “Just let me know when.”

 

---

 

“When do I get to learn about these mysterious birthday plans?” Tobin asks, rolling her eyes.

“When it’s time to celebrate your birthday.” Lizzie hands over her sweaty tshirt as she strips down.

“It’s already Tuesday , my birthday’s tomorrow!”

“Yeah but we aren’t celebrating till this weekend.” She walks through the locker room of the gym and they end up at the showers. “Side note, we should do more upper body. I want nicer arms.” She pauses as she opens the stall to a shower. “Also Christen wants to feel your arms.”

“What?” Tobin laughs and takes her own sweaty shirt off, tossing it on a bench with Lizzie’s. “Where’d that come from?”

“When we were hanging out the other day. I made her feel my arms and she asked if yours were like that.”

Tobin smirks. “Did you tell her mine are better?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and enters the stall, closing the door behind her. “It’s not a competition, Stitch.”

“It kind of is.”

 

---

 

The next morning Christen calls Tobin as she's getting ready for work.

“Happy birthday!” She yells through the phone.

“Thanks, Chris,” Tobin smiles and relaxes into her couch.

“Of course! Any special plans?”

“Thought all the special stuff was happening this weekend?” Tobin teases.

“It is ,” Christen says, drawing out the word.

“Okay, okay.” Tobin ties her other shoe before standing and stretching. “Nah, nothing really. Probably inviting a few girls from the team over tonight, but nothing big.”

“Can I come visit you for lunch then?”

“That,” Tobin pauses to smile at the thought. “Would be perfect.”

“Great! I'll see you then.”

“I'll be looking forward to it.”

“Happy happy birthday!” Christen says one last time. “Okay, I really have to go now, it’s supposed to be hectic at work today.”

“Okay, bye Chris. Good luck!”

“Thanks, Tobs.”

Tobin smiles as the line clicks and she shoves her phone in her pocket. She grabs her keys and flicks the lights off before jogging to her car. She smiles as she starts it and notices the sun overhead. “What a good start to my birthday.” She sighs to herself as she pulls onto the road. “Best one in awhile.”

 

---

 

Christen opens the door to see Alex and Tobin, eating lunch at Tobin's desk. “Oh, sorry.” She smiles apologetically. “I didn't realize you were here.”

“I didn't realize you were coming,” Alex says back almost immediately. “Why are you here, exactly?” She asks in a tone of voice that makes Christen feel awful for even showing up.

“Lex,” Tobin frowns to Alex before looking at Christen. “Sorry Chris, Alex stopped by with lunch and I couldn't, y'know, send her away.”

“I was on time,” Alex says and Christen feels her heart sink.

“Sorry,” she says quietly, looking to the floor. “My meeting ran late.”

“No, really,” Tobin stands up as Christen begins to back out of the doorway. “It's cool, you can just join us.”

“I wouldn't wanna intrude,” Christen says, closing the door and walking away before Tobin has the chance to stop her.

“I was on time,” Alex says again, using the same I'm better than you tone of voice as when she had said it to Christen.

Tobin glares at her. “Chris was working , you're a fucking housewife,” Tobin says before leaving the office. She jogs after Christen, who’s already halfway to her car, and stops, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Chris--”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

Christen wipes at a tear and Tobin puts her other hand on Christen’s other arm.

“Chris, you have nothing to be sorry for, okay?”

“I just, I’m sorry.” A few more tears fall and Tobin pulls her into a hug. “I had,” she pauses in an attempt to take a deep breath. “Just. A bad day at work. Long, and tiring, and--” she cuts herself with a sob as Tobin strokes her back.

“It’s okay, you’re okay,” Tobin coos as Christen buries her face in Tobin’s neck. “I’m sorry about Alex--”

“Don’t be.” Christen takes a deep breath and pulls away. “Not your fault.”

Tobin wipes the tears on Christen’s cheeks away with her thumbs and kisses her forehead. “You shouldn’t be sorry either.”

“Okay.” Christen nods and Tobin pulls her in for another hug. “I should get back to work.”

“You can stay--”

“No, really.” Christen pulls away and shakes her head. “It’s alright, I have more to do anyway.”

Tobin frowns and takes Christen’s hands in her own. “Are you sure?”

She hums in agreement and squeezes Tobin’s fingers. “I’ll be alright.”

“Okay.” Tobin nods but she doesn’t seem convinced. “I’m gonna grill at my house later tonight. Maybe have a little fire in the backyard, you should join us.”

“Who’s us?”

“Phoebe and Lara, Lizzie and Lauren, Shiloh said she might stop by. Just like, the gang, y’know?”

“I might.” Christen nods and Tobin smiles. “I think Jules is getting off early, so,” she trails off but Tobin just clenches her jaw and nods.

“Yeah, I get it. It’s cool.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” Tobin looks from Christen, back to her building, and then to Christen again. “I should go back in there.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Christen gets in her car and Tobin hesitates to walk away. “Let me know how the rest of your day goes. Call me later?”

Christen smiles and Tobin mirrors it. “Sure thing. Happy birthday, Tobs.”

“Thanks, Chris.”

Tobin walks back towards the building and waits for Christen to leave the parking lot before going in.

“I’m sorry, Tobin,” Alex says as soon as she enters the office.

“I’m not the one you should apologize to,” is all she says, sitting back down in her chair.

“I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I know.”

Alex sighs and looks up at Tobin. “How can I fix it?”

Tobin looks at her from across the desk and scrunches her eyebrows together. “It doesn’t need to be fixed , Lex. Just,” she shakes her head. "Don't make me choose between the two of you." 

“Okay.” She checks her watch and sighs again. “I should go.”

“Okay.” Tobin rises from her chair to hug her and open the door.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Happy birthday, too bad we didn’t get to spend it how we used to together.”

Tobin finally drops the hard expression and looks at Alex with love in her eyes and a small smile. (It’s Alex’s favorite smile. Small, like she doesn’t really want it to be there but she can’t help it.) “Thanks, Lex.” Alex kisses her on the cheek before leaving and Tobin offers another small smile in return. “I love you.”

Alex turns around before leaving the building, a bright smile shining on her face and love in her eyes, as usual (at least for when she's looking at Tobin). “I love you.” She looks down to her belly and grins. “The baby loves you too.”

Tobin laughs, leaning in the doorway to her office. “I love the baby too.” She leans down so she's eye level with Alex's belly and whispers just loudly enough for Alex to hear her. “More than their mom.”

Alex rolls her eyes and hits Tobin's arm playfully. “Bye, dork.”

Tobin grins as she stands up straight. “Bye, Lex.”

 

---

 

Christen thinks she likes being friends with Lizzie.

She decides that she really likes being friends with Lizzie when she tells her about what happened with Alex.

Lizzie: I'm gonna fight her. Just say the word and it’s done

Tobin’s Christen: Haha, don't do that

Tobin’s Christen: But thanks for the offer

 

---

 

Christen finally gets home a few hours after normal and the sun is already setting. “What a fucking day,” she mutters to herself bitterly. She lets herself into the house and the dogs immediately rush to her feet. She drops her keys into the bowl and bends down to pet them without even shutting the door.

“Christen,” Julie walks into the entryway with her arms crossed.

“Hmm?” She stands and shuts the door before turning back to Julie.

“Just once.” Julie gestures, walking into the living room and Christen follows her. “Just once, I would like to come home to a clean house.” She picks up a cup from the coffee table. “No clutter.” She picks up a book from the arm of the couch. “No mess.” She looks at Christen and clenches her jaw. “Just. Clean.”

Christen opens her mouth to speak but Julie cuts her off.

“I spend all day, working my ass off for my job. I've lost the hope that I'll come home to dinner made,” she laughs bitterly and it feels like daggers to Christen. (Julie always claimed it was cute that she couldn't cook, but apparently that wasn't true.) “But I would just like to come home to a clean fucking house.”

“Stop,” Christen says sternly.

“What?”

“Stop,” she pauses to take a deep breath. “Yelling me at me, stop acting like I ruined your entire day, stop saying things as if you're the only one who works all day.”

Julie instantly softens and reaches an arm out. “Christen--”

“No. Stop acting as if you're the only one who can have a rough day at work, okay? When's the last time you asked me how my fucking day was?”

Julie lets her arm fall and her heart hurts. “Babe--”

“No.”

“I--”

“I'm going to go.”

Julie follows Christen to the door but stops in the doorway as she walks off the porch. “Baby--”

“Julie, stop. Let me cool off. Let me go.”

Julie nods and slumps against the doorframe as she watches her leave. “I love you.”

Christen gets into her car without a response and Julie sinks into herself as she drives down the road.

The dogs begin pawing at her feet for her attention and Julie crouches down to pet them. “I know,” she sighs and walks into the house, slamming a door and falling onto the couch. The dogs jump on to sit with her and Julie just looks forward, little to no expression on her face. “I fucked up.”

 

---

 

Christen goes to Tobin's house and sits in her car for a few minutes before finally working up the courage to go in. She rings the doorbell and Tobin can hardly hear it from where she's laying in the hammock on the back porch.

Lizzie and Lauren are in the recliner and Phoebe and Lara are cuddling on the couch (both of which were dragged from the living room). They're all positioned around the fire and Tobin tilts her head as the doorbell rings.

“Did anyone else hear that?” She asks, moving so her feet hit the wood of the deck.

“Nope,” Lizzie mumbles through a mouthful of a s’more and Lauren, who's tucked into her side, shakes her head.

“Maybe,” Lara readjusts herself so she's lying more comfortably on Phoebe’s chest as Phoebe simply shrugs.

Tobin jogs through her house to the front door and opens it to see Christen standing there, shoulders slumped and her cheeks stained with tears. “Chris,” she says breathlessly, reaching an arm out and ushering her inside. “What happened?”

“I can't,” she pauses to wipe her eyes. “I hope I'm not intruding.”

“No, no, not at all.”

Christen nods and Tobin leads her into her bedroom.

“Do you want a change of clothes? You've been in those all day.”

Christen smiles and wraps her arms around Tobin's neck. “I'm so grateful for you,” she whispers and Tobin just laughs, wrapping her arms around Christen's waist.

“Just trying to help, Chris.”

Christen smiles and pulls away. “You're my favorite,” she says softly.

Tobin raises an eyebrow in confusion and smiles. “Favorite what?”

“Anything,” she pauses to study Tobin's face. “Ever.”

Tobin smiles and looks to the ground. “I just want to help, Chris.”

“You do so much for me.”

“I care about you.” She looks back up to Christen. “So, clothes?”

Christen laughs and takes a step back. “Clothes, right.” She nods and pulls off her blouse, turning her back to Tobin.

“Okay,” Tobin turns to her dresser to look for something. “Here is,” she opens a drawer. “Sweatpants. And,” she pauses and grabs something that's been tossed on top from the last time she did laundry. “An adidas shirt. It should be kinda big on you, so it'll be comfortable.” She turns back, clothes in hand and drops her jaw as she sees Christen's bare back. “So, yeah.” She tosses the clothes on her bed and averts her eyes. “I'll wait for you in the kitchen.”

Christen emerges a few moments later and pulls Tobin into a hug. “Are you sure I'm not intruding?” She studies Tobin's face as she pulls back.

Tobin smiles and kisses her forehead. “I'm happier with you here anyway.” She turns to the counter where there's a platter of grilled patties and hot dogs Tobin had made before the sun set. “Hungry? Did you get a chance to eat?”

“No,” Christen bows her head. “I never even ate lunch, work was awful.”

“Hey,” Tobin moves to put an arm on Christen’s back and strokes it as she gets a plate with her other hand. “You're alright. Burgers? Hot dogs? Both?”

Christen laughs and feels her stress melt away at Tobin's touch. “I think just a hot dog for now.”

Tobin grabs two hot dogs and turns to the microwave. “Come on,” she smiles, grabbing a bag of buns from the top of the fridge. “Have two, I've got a bunch of athletes in my backyard and they're all trying to watch their diets. You have hardly eaten all day, and can handle two hot dogs.”

Christen rolls her eyes with a smile as Tobin grins at her from across the kitchen. “Fine, two hot dogs. But I don't need any more than that.”

“Fair enough.” She grabs the plate from the microwave and hands it over to Christen. “Chips, too?”

“I don't need those,” Christen protests, turning away from Tobin to face the counter.

“Chris,” Tobin walks so she's standing next to Christen and sets the chips down. “What happened?”

“I--” she looks down at the counter. “Julie.”

“Hey,” she rests a hand on Christen's lower back. “You don't have to tell me if you don't want to.”

“I just.” Christen squeezes her eyes shut and leans back into Tobin’s touch. “I'm sorry.” Christen turns to face Tobin and looks into her eyes. “I just couldn't be there.”

Tobin nods. “You can come here anytime.”

Christen smiles. “Thanks.”

“Let's go to the back.” She grabs Christen's plate and readjusts her hand on Christen's back to guide her to the porch.

“Christen,” Lizzie smiles as they step onto the porch.

“Hey, Lizzie, Lauren,” she nods then looks to the couch. “Phoebe, Lara.” She follows Tobin and sits next to her on the hammock. “I like what you guys have done with the furniture. It's really,” she pauses to think of the word. “Open.”

Everyone laughs and Tobin just rolls her eyes. “Dork.”

 

---

 

As it starts to reach midnight, the fire begins to die out and everyone’s yawning.

“I should go,” Lauren says, standing from where she had been lying next to Lizzie.

“Lo, you can spend the night,” Lizzie says, rising from the chair as well. “It's really no big deal.”

“Yeah,” Tobin nods. “There's the guest room and as long as Lizzie washes the sheets tomorrow, you can do whatever you want.”

Lizzie smirks and moves her hand from Lauren’s hip to a little bit too low on her back to be considered back anymore.

Babe ,” Lauren takes Lizzie’s hand in her own to move it and kisses it. “I really do have to go. Exams.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes but kisses Lauren's cheek. “I'll walk you out.”

“Goodnight,” Lauren says, placing a hand on Lizzie’s hip as they reach the door.

“Night, Lo.”

“I love you.” She leans down to give Lizzie a long kiss.

“I love you, too,” she mumbles against Lauren’s lips. “Call me so I know you got home safely.”

“Okay, baby.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

When Lizzie returns, she notices that she's the only one without someone to cuddle with and curls on the recliner, pouting.

All alooone, no one heeeeere, besiiiiide meee ,” she sings, off key, in her best Donkey from Shrek impression.

“You're dramatic.” Tobin rolls her eyes and rises from the hammock. “I'll be back.” She yawns as she heads to the bathroom and Lizzie faces Christen as the door closes.

“You should totally cuddle with me,” Lizzie says with a serious face.

“Why?” Christen asks, leaning up from the hammock, still half asleep.

“Because Tobin'll freak,” Lara chimes in and Phoebe nods in agreement, stroking her hair.

Christen laughs and makes her way over to the hammock. “That's a good enough reason for me.”

Tobin returns a few moments later and as soon as she notices Christen half asleep in Lizzie’s arms, she pouts. “You guys are assholes.”

Lizzie grins and blows Tobin a kiss. “You love us.”

“Can't believe no one wants to cuddle with me.” Tobin sighs dramatically.

Before anyone has a chance to say anything, Lara raises her arms in a hugging gesture. “Join us,” she says, beckoning Tobin over.

“Guess we all know who really loves me,” Tobin says, walking over and settling on the couch with Phoebe and Lara.

“For the record, I didn't ask for this,” Phoebe says, adjusting to make room for Tobin.

Tobin just rolls her eyes and looks at Phoebe. “Good thing you're whipped by the girl who did.”

Lizzie and Lara both laugh (Christen’s too close to being asleep and Phoebe's too busy pretending to be offended) and Lara presses a kiss to Phoebe’s cheek. “Yep, good thing.”

 

---

 

Not long after that, Julie calls Christen and she steps inside to answer it.

“Hey, Stanford,” Julie says in a tone that sounds sweet and apologetic.

“Hi,” Christen toes the corner of the carpet and sighs.

“Are you coming home?”

“I don't think so. Not tonight.”

Julie sighs and Christen resists the urge to follow suit. “Can you at least tell me where you are? I'm worried.”

“I'm,” she pauses, afraid to say Tobin's because that might just cause more problems. “With Lizzie.”

“Lizzie?”

“Yeah, my friend from the other day.”

“Okay.” Julie pauses and clenches her jaw. “I miss you.”

“Okay.”

Julie’s heart hurts at the simple dismissal and she's at a loss for what else to say. “I'll see you tomorrow?”

“Sure.”

“Goodnight, baby.”

“Night.” Christen hangs up and when she goes back outside, everyone is getting ready to come in.

“Hey Chris, let's go to bed.” Tobin rests a hand on Christen’s lower back and leads her back into the house.

Christen follows with a nod and Lizzie stays back to help Phoebe move the couch inside for her and Lara to sleep on.

“Night guys,” Lizzie mumbles as Lara and Phoebe begin to set up the mattress. “I'll see you in the morning.”

“Night Lizzie,” they say, practically echoing each other.

Lizzie knocks on Tobin’s door and pokes her head in to see Christen cuddled up against Tobin in her bed. “Night guys,” she whispers and Tobin just nods, waving her off.

She enters the guest bedroom and changes, then calls Lauren as she flops onto the bed. “Hey, Lo.”

“Hi baby,” Lauren smiles as she closes her textbook. “Shouldn't you be asleep?”

“Shouldn't you be studying?” Lizzie counters and they both laugh.

“Fine, fine.” Lauren leans back in her chair and stretches. “It's nice to hear your voice,” she says absentmindedly.

“Yours too. That's actually why I called.”

“Hmm?”

“Your voice,” Lizzie smiles and rolls over. “Relaxes me. Helps me fall asleep.”

“You're a dork.”

Lizzie hums in agreement. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Lizzie smiles and she falls asleep as Lauren continues to study, muttering notes to herself under her breath. (If she could, she'd listen to Lauren talk about economics all day.)

 

---

 

By the time Christen makes it into the kitchen next morning, everyone else is already awake. She walks to Tobin who's already slaving away at the skillet and pulls her away momentarily for a hug.

“Thank you, again,” she whispers into Tobin's neck.

“Anytime, Chris.” Tobin smiles and Christen resists the urge to pull her in for another hug. “I'll be right back, can you watch these for me?” She gestures to the skillet before disappearing down the hallway.

“So how was your night, Christen?” Lizzie asks, leaning across the kitchen island.

“Great, actually.” Christen smiles to herself. “Best sleep I've gotten in a week.”

Sleep ,” Lizzie raises her eyebrows and nods. “Sure, that's the S word you were looking for.”

Christen drops her jaw and blushes as Lara chokes on her orange juice. Phoebe’s laughing as well, but nearly doubles over as she notices Lara, who's still coughing orange juice.

Christen squints at Lizzie and Lizzie just raises her hands in defense. She half considers saying You know I'm right , but that seems too risky, and instead opts for “You love me.”

“Hmm?” Tobin enters the kitchen and looks around. “What'd I miss?”

“Nothing,” Christen and Lizzie say together and Tobin looks to Phoebe and Lara for answers, but Lara’s too busy choking, and Phoebe’s too busy with pretending to help her to answer.

“Whatever,” Tobin rolls her eyes and turns back to the pan. “Second batch is ready.” She holds out a plate and Christen gladly takes it from her, moving to the table to set it down.

Christen steps into the kitchen to grab a plate and forks for Tobin and herself and Tobin stops her before she she goes back to the dining room.

She places her hands on Christen's hips. “I'm still here, okay? If you wanna talk or rant or anything, I'm here for you.”

“Thank you,” Christen smiles and nods and Tobin just shrugs, removing her hands from Christen's waist.

“It's what I'm here for.”

Christen presses a kiss to Tobin’s cheek before pulling her into the dining room to sit with everyone else. “I appreciate it,” she says as she takes a seat next to Tobin. (The rest of the spots were taken, and Christen wonders if that's on purpose or not.) (It totally is.)

 

---

 

“Hey Stanford,” Julie smiles as Christen drops her keys in the bowl.

“Shouldn't you be at work?”

Julie frowns. “I called in. I wanted to say I'm sorry.”

Christen rolls her eyes. “Where was your apology last night?”

Julie feels her heart sink. “I'm sorry for that, too.”

Christen just nods and walks past Julie as she enters the bedroom. She goes to her dresser where there's usually a bit of clutter and instead it's spotless. “Where's my stuff?”

Julie leans against the doorframe to their bedroom, bowing her head. “I cleaned up. So you wouldn't have to.”

Christen turns back to Julie and takes a deep breath. “I like the clutter.”

“Sorry, Christen.”

Christen just turns back around and starts digging through her dresser to find something to wear.

“Whose clothes are you wearing?”

Tobin's. “A friend’s.”

Julie clenches her jaw. “Whose.”

Christen turns around and drops her jaw in offense. “Do you not trust me?”

“That's not--”

“Answer the question, Julie.”

“I don't know.” Julie shrugs and her expression softens.

Christen turns back to her dresser without a response.

“I'm sorry.”

“You're the one that's never here,” she mutters, hardly loud enough for Julie to hear.

“I wasn't trying to insinuate that--”

“Yes you were.” Christen pulls a new shirt out of her dresser and turns back to Julie. “Leave. So I can change.”

“You act like I haven’t seen you change before.”

“Julie.” Christen drops her arms with a sigh. “Please. I have to leave for work soon.”

Julie nods and begins to retreat into the hallway. “I'm sorry.”

Christen follows her to close the door. “I know.”

Chapter Text

Christen shows up to the UCLA campus Friday afternoon, dressed in a cocktail dress and her favorite pair of flats, and lets herself into Tobin's office.

“Tobs,” she smiles as she walks up to Tobin's desk and leans on it. “Ready to go?”

Tobin's jaw drops when she sees Christen, who blushes before Tobin has a chance to recover. “Sorry,” she closes her eyes and shakes her head. “You look really fucking good.”

Christen giggles and walks around the desk to take Tobin's hands in her own. “Th aaanks . We should go, though.”

“Right, right.” Tobin stands from her chair and scans the desk. “I think I’m pretty much ready.” She pulls away from Christen to lean down and shut her computer off and when she stands back up, Christen pulls her into a hug.

“Ready for the best birthday of your life?”

Tobin grins as she wraps her arms around Christen's waist. “With you? I can't think of it being anything but.”

 

---

 

Christen and Tobin go to Tobin's house to meet Lizzie and Lauren, who are already there with bags packed.

“Where exactly are we going this weekend?” Tobin asks as she walks into the house to see Lizzie and Lauren cuddling on the couch, both dressed to the nines (in dresses that make it hard for them to keep their hands off each other). “No making out in my living room, by the way.”

“We christened your bedroom for you,” Lizzie says with a shrug.

A chill goes down Tobin’s back, even though she knows Lizzie is joking. (At least, she hopes Lizzie is joking.) “Why--” Tobin sighs as she drops her keys in the bowl. “Why would you even have been in my room?”

“You say that as if we weren’t.” Lizzie smirks and Lauren giggles as they both walk towards the entryway, Lauren hanging on Lizzie’s arm.

“It’s my fault.” Christen shrugs and Tobin turns around in disbelief.

“Did you tell them to have sex in my room?”

“Nobody had sex in your room!” Christen laughs as she looks to Lizzie who just shrugs. “I don’t think. I had them pack a bag for you for this weekend.”

“I could have packed my own bag, Chris.”

“Then we would have had to tell you what the plan is.” Lizzie goes back into the living room to grab a duffel bag packed with both hers and Lauren’s stuff (mostly Lauren’s stuff, because she just kissed Lizzie on the neck every time she tried to protest about something being added). “Yours is on the dining room table.” She gestures and Tobin looks to see a UCLA Duffel nearly bursting at the seams.

“Some of my stuff is in there, too.” Christen shrugs and Tobin laughs, shaking her head.

Tobin picks up bag and staggers dramatically as she lets it fall from the table. “Damn, Chris.” She picks it up from the ground and groans as she heaves it over her shoulder. “Exactly how long do you think we’ll be gone?”

Stop , dork.” Christen hits Tobin’s arm playfully then ushers her down the hall. “You need to get dressed, hurry!”

Tobin rolls her eyes and goes into her room, closing the door behind her. She slides everything in her closet to the left so she can see her dress clothes, trying to make a decision. She slides the few dresses she owns out of the way and purses her lips. (She never liked wearing them anyway. Last time she wore one was Alex’s wedding, but even then she changed out of it before the night was over.) She pulls out a white dress shirt, vest, and dress pants to match and tosses them on her bed, then turns to her dresser and opens a drawer. She stares at it for a few moments until Lizzie finally enters without knocking.

“What’s taking you so long?”

“A tie.” Tobin raises a hand to her chin and frowns at the drawer. “Which tie?”

Lizzie nods seriously and walks over to look at the options. She finally points to one and picks it up for Tobin. “Bow tie, always go for the bowtie.”

“Thanks.” She takes it from Lizzie and takes off her shirt to change.

“Plus,” Lizzie smirks as she grabs the door to pull it shut behind her. “The yellow matches Christen’s dress.”

Tobin takes off her shoe and throws it at Lizzie in mock annoyance, but she shuts the door in time. “ The yellow matches Christen’s dress ,” she mutters to herself, buttoning her shirt angrily. “Fuck off, Lizzie. It looks good.” She glance to the mirror as she begins to tie it and smiles to herself. “Fuck, it looks good.” She looks down at her outfit, then back up to the mirror to straighten out the bowtie. “And it does match her dress.”

Tobin emerges from her room, still straightening her bow tie (it's a habit she gets when she's nervous, but usually it only happens when she’s dressed nice to go somewhere with Alex, so she can't imagine why she's doing it now) and Christen drops her jaw similar to how Tobin did when she saw Christen earlier.

“Do I look okay?” She asks, pulling on both ends of the bow tie and looking to Christen.

“Perfect.” Christen smiles and reaches out to grab Tobin's wrists. “Happy birthday!”

Tobin grins. “Thanks, Chris.”

“Alright come on, the stuff is already loaded in Christen’s car.” Lizzie takes Lauren’s hand in her own and leads them towards the car.

Christen slides her hand into Tobin's and drags her through the doorway, kissing her cheek. “Yeah, we have a reservation!”

Tobin can't stop herself from grinning as she turns to lock the door, Christen still pulling on her arm. “Okay, okay, Chris. Want me to drive?”

“You can if you want.”

Tobin turns away from the house and slides her keys into her pocket before heading to the car. “Do you want to?”

Christen shrugs. “Not really.”

Tobin smiles and holds her hand out for the keys. “Hand them over.”

Christen puts a hand on Tobin's chest as she leans back against the car door. “You don't have to.”

“I know.”

“It's your birthday.”

“My birthday was Wednesday.” She grins as Christen pouts over her invalid point. “Hand them over.”

Fine ,” she drops the keys in Tobin's hand and makes her way around the car to get in the passenger seat.

“Don't take all that sexual tension into the car ,” Lizzie groans and rolls her eyes. “There isn't enough space for the four of us.”

Lauren giggles and leans against Lizzie, tilting her head to kiss her cheek. “Babe, stop.”

Tobin just flips Lizzie off and Christen laughs, reaching out to rest a hand on Tobin’s thigh. “She's kidding.”

“No she's not,” Tobin says, checking her mirrors before backing into the road.

“No I'm not,” Lizzie agrees with a nod.

Christen and Lauren both laugh and Christen leans over to kiss Tobin's cheek. “Just go,” she sets her phone up with directions on the dashboard. “I just won't let her have aux cord privileges.”

Lizzie drops her jaw in mock offense. “I always have aux cord privileges.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Then learn how to not be an asshole.”

 

---

 

They settle at the table the waitress brings them to, Lizzie and Lauren next to each other and Christen and Tobin seated on the opposite side.

“This place is,” Tobin pauses. “Really nice. You guys didn't have to do this.”

“Uhm, of course we did,” Lizzie says, rolling her eyes. “You're like, the best, and you deserve an awesome birthday.”

“Thanks,” Tobin smiles and looks to Christen. “You really didn't have to do this.”

Christen just smiles and takes Tobin's hand in her own to squeeze it. “I wanted to.”

“We're paying, by the way,” Lizzie says, gesturing between herself and Christen.

“Chris,” Tobin tries to protest but Christen just rolls her eyes and smiles.

“It's your birthday, relax. Let Lizzie and I take care of it.”

“Yeah,” Lizzie nods and rests a hand on Lauren's thigh. “It's like a date night, except Lo and I are the only ones getting laid.”

“You're awfully sure of yourself,” Lauren challenges and Lizzie just grins and moves her hand up on Lauren’s thigh.

“You've always said my confidence was attractive.” She leans over for a kiss and Lauren can't help but oblige.

“Gross.” Tobin rolls her eyes and picks up her glass for a drink. “So what's the plan for the rest of the weekend?”

Christen smiles and leans over to kiss Tobin's cheek as a waiter approaches. “It's a surprise.”

 

---

 

Tobin protests when Christen swipes the bill from the table before she even has a chance to look at the price, but Christen just swats her arm and settles her card into the slot before setting it back on the edge of the table.

“Hey, be glad we didn't tell them it was your birthday,” Christen teases.

Tobin groans and Lizzie pipes in. “Yeah, Chris made me promise not to say anything.”

“Thanks,” Tobin says, turning back to Christen. She smiles and Christen feels herself smile back in response.

Christen’s not sure if it's the glass of wine she had with dinner or the amount of people that are in the restaurant or Tobin's knee settled against her thigh, but she feels warm. “Ready to get out of here?” Christen asks. Tobin nods and the girls agree while Christen signs the restaurant's copy of her receipt.

They all stand up and make their way towards the door. Christen can feel Tobin's hand ghosting over her lower back, only resting against her body when Lizzie stops short in front of Christen, causing her to stop abruptly. They make their way into the parking lot, thankful for the warm air. Summer's coming soon and it's more than evident in the light breeze that wraps around them.

Much to Lizzie's (and Christen's) amusement, Tobin grumbles all throughout the car ride. She's confused until they pull up in front of the house they rented for the weekend.

“Wait,” she starts but falls silent and looks at Lizzie in the back seat and then Christen to her right. “A beach house?”

“For the weekend,” Lizzie says.

Tobin purses her lips for a moment. “This seems expensive.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and lightly smacks the back of Tobin's head, earning a laugh from Lauren and Christen. “Shut up, Stitch. Let us do something nice for you.”

You ? Doing something nice ?” Tobin teases. “This had to be all Christen.”

“That's it, we're turning this car around. Christen, take us all home.”

“Nope, it's non-refundable.” Christen laughs and pops the trunk. She grabs the bag containing hers and Tobin's things and hands Lizzie and Lauren their bags. Christen digs around in her purse and pulls out the keys to the house, handing them over to Tobin.

“You do the honors,” she insists, nodding towards the front door.

Tobin sighs dramatically, but walks up the pathway with a grin on her face nonetheless. She easily slides the key into the lock and turns it, feeling the deadbolt unlock underneath her hand. When she pushes open the door, she can't stop the smile that spreads across her face. To her left is a dining room table and in front of her is a kitchen with a sunken in living room. There's a sliding door along the back wall that leads to the back porch and she can already see the waves through the curtains. She walks in slowly with the group trailing in behind her. To her right are two bedrooms with a bathroom in between them and past the dining room and kitchen is a master bedroom and en suite.

“Well,” Lizzie walks through the beach house as she rests a hand on Lauren’s lower back. “Lo and I are gonna bang.”

Lauren hits her on the chest, dropping her jaw as Lizzie just laughs. “She's kidding,” Lauren mumbles, turning into Lizzie's shoulder to hide her face.

“No I'm not.” Lizzie flips on a few of the lights as Tobin and Christen start touring through as well.

“This is,” Tobin sighs and drops her hands to her sides. “Beautiful. You guys didn't have to do all this.”

“We wanted to.” Christen wraps her arms around Tobin's waist and pulls her into a hug before crinkling her nose. “You smell like alcohol.”

“Expensive wine,” Tobin corrects and Christen just rolls her eyes. “Why didn't you drink more?”

Christen laughs, sliding her hand into Tobin’s and leading them through the next room. “ Someone had to be responsible.”

Lizzie turns to them and squeezes Lauren's waist with a smile. “Well, like I said before.” She pauses to wait until Tobin and Christen turn their heads. “We're gonna go have sex.”

“Fine.” Tobin shrugs as Christen interlocks their fingers. “Where can we go in this place to be as far away from,” she pauses to look to Lizzie before back to Christen. “ That , as possible.”

Christen laughs and squeezes Tobin's fingers. “There's a balcony, and we can see the water from there.”

They make their way to the balcony without a word and Tobin relaxes as she settles into a chair. She sighs with content and lets her eyes fall shut as Christen releases her hand to move to the other chair.

“You really didn't have to do all this,” Tobin says absentmindedly.

“I wanted to,” is all she says in response and she looks over to Tobin. “You okay?”

Tobin shrugs with a sigh.

“Really, Tobin.” She rises and stands over Tobin, wrapping her hands around her wrists. “I'm happy to.”

“Thanks, Chris.”

“What's wrong?”

“I feel,” Tobin looks up to Christen with a frown. “Off.”

“Why?”

Tobin just shrugs again so Christen takes her hands in her own and pulls her off the chair.

“Let’s go down to the beach,” she suggests and Tobin follows Christen down the stairs with their fingers still interlocked.

They both rest on the beach in silence for awhile, their arms wrapped around their legs and their toes just barely dipping in the waves.

Tobin eventually breaks the silence with a loud sigh. “I'm sorry, Chris.”

“For what?”

“Being,” she pauses, looking out over the ocean. “Weird, I guess.”

Christen scoots closer in the sand so that their arms brush against each other, but neither of them look over. “Happy birthday,” she says, leaning slightly to bump Tobin's shoulder with her own.

Tobin cracks a smile and looks down at her feet. “It's just weird to celebrate a birthday, y'know?”

“Why?”

“Not in general, but like,” she pauses, chewing on her lip. “Without Alex,” she whispers, almost too soft for Christen to hear over the waves.

“Well,” Christen places her hands in the sand and leans over to rest her head on Tobin’s shoulder. “Most of the team is coming out tomorrow. I can invite Alex, if you want.”

“No no,” Tobin shakes her head and looks to Christen who leans up a bit. “I'm happy. This is great, this is perfect.”

Christen relaxes back against Tobin’s shoulder with relief and feels Tobin adjust comfortably against her.

“I'm happy here, with you.”

Christen tries to hide the smile that spreads over her face as Tobin says it, but it's a lost cause and Tobin moves to intertwine their fingers.

They sit in a comfortable silence for a few moments, save for the sound of the waves crashing at their feet and the wind rustling palm trees off in the distance.

“You can tell me about it, y'know.”

“About what?”

“Your past stuff, with Alex.” She rubs her thumb against Tobin's hand and tilts her face more into Tobin's neck, putting much more weight on her.

Tobin pulls her hand away to wrap an arm around Christen's torso and leans back so they're both lying in the sand, looking into the sky so Tobin's arm is around Christen and Christen is cuddling up to her chest.

“I'm here if you wanna talk,” she whispers again, beginning to trace patterns along Tobin's forearm.

Tobin nods, and takes a deep breath. “I never liked birthdays. My sisters always loved the people and the noise and the attention, but not me. I never celebrated a birthday. At least, not really. I’d get a few presents, maybe, but I wasn't much of a birthday person. I've celebrated my birthday five times in my life. The first time, I was at a spring camp for one of the youth national teams in 2007. About two and a half years before starting college.” She sighs and Christen notices the way her voice falters before continuing. “That was the camp I met Alex.”

And then Tobin tells Christen the full story of her birthdays. The story that she hasn’t told anyone. (Except Lizzie, who knows everything.)

-

One.

“Guess we're roomies.” Alex beamed a smile as the door swung shut behind her. “I'm Alex. Alex Morgan.” She held her hand out for a formal introduction but Tobin cracked a grin instead.

“Tobin Heath.” She slapped a high five against Alex's outstretched hand and then moved back for a fist bump. “Some people call me Tobs, but you can just stick to Tobin if you'd like.” She moved across the room before bouncing onto one of the beds and stretching across it. “I was gonna let you have the bed closer to the bathroom, because I figured,” she paused, not sure where to go with it. She leaned up from where she was lying and looked at Alex. “Actually I don't know.” She hopped out of the bed and pulled her shirt down in a (futile) attempt to smooth the wrinkles. “You can have whichever bed you'd like.”

“Thank you, Tobin.” Alex looked from one bed to the next before turning to the closer one and dropping her duffel on top. “I'll stick with this one.”

“Cool, cool.” Tobin wiped her palms across her jeans (she felt nervous for some reason that she couldn't quite put a finger on).

“Know anyone here?” Alex asked, looking back to Tobin after opening her bag.

“Uhm, a few, yeah.” Tobin looked left to right as she stood a few feet behind Alex. “First camp?”

“Ever,” Alex confirmed with a nod.

“You'll catch on quick, it's all good. Everyone's really cool.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah.” Tobin bit her lip and looked from Alex's back to the door. “Have plans for the night?”

“No,” Alex laughed turning around to face Tobin. “I don't know anyone, remember?”

“Right, right.” Tobin nodded as she teetered back and forth on her bare feet. “Wanna join my plans?”

“What are your plans?”

“I was gonna grab dinner with a couple girls I know from camp before. Syd and Kell. And probably their roommates or maybe a few others. Not a huge thing, but not like, invite only.” She bunched her eyebrows together in confusion. “Not that it would matter, even if it was invite only, because this is me, inviting you. I guess.”

Alex giggled and nodded without a response.

“Wanna come?”

“I could eat.” She turned around to grab a change of clothes and zip her bag shut. “Let me change real quick, then we can head down?”

“Yeah, yeah. That works. Totally cool.”

-

They all met in the lobby, then headed to the restaurant where Kelley spills that Tobin’s birthday is in a few days. On a double-session training day, much to their dismay.

“Well we've gotta do something,” Sydney insisted, reaching across the table to poke Tobin's arm.

“We really don't.”

“But you're away from home!” Sydney frowned and looked to Kelley for support. “Right Kell?”

“She's made it this long without celebrating.” Kelley shrugged and picked up her glass. “Why do you think it'd change now?”

“What about you, Al?”

Alex looked up, surprised (but pleasantly) to be included in the conversation. “I guess. But she doesn't have to.”

Tobin rolled her eyes as Sydney groaned.

“Just drop it, Syd.” Kelley leaned to the side to elbow Sydney. “Really.”

“Fine.” Sydney crossed her arms and slumped into her seat. “Whatever.”

-

They made it back to the hotel that night and Alex, who had done her best so far not to prod, couldn't take it anymore.

“So are birthdays like, a touchy subject? Bad memories?”

Tobin turned to look from where she had been leaning over the desk. “Uhm, not really. I'm just not big on celebrating them.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.” Tobin turned back to her homework.

“Sorry for asking.”

“Nah.” Tobin spun the chair around to face Alex. “Don't be, it's cool.”

“So, you don't do anything?”

“I mean, sometimes I'll have presents with my family, but nothing real.”

“And you can't even do that this year?”

“Not a big deal.”

“You haven't had a party?”

“Never.”

“You don't want one?”

“No.”

Alex frowned and closed her book. “Do you wanna do anything?”

“I don't want anyone to worry about it.”

“Well,” Alex paused. “Would you be mad if someone did something?”

“Of course not.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.” Tobin turned to her homework again before spinning back around. “Alex?”

Alex looked up from her book. “Yeah?”

“Are you gonna do something?”

Alex shrugged with an innocent smile that Tobin couldn't help but smile back at.

“You don't have to.”

“I know.”

-

The day of Tobin’s birthday, a hurricane hit. There was rain and thunder and wind and tornado warnings, and overall, it was kind of awful.

Scheduled scrimmages turned into weights in a stuffy gym, and the cake Alex convinced one of their coordinators to order for Tobin, got cancelled. Of course.

So Alex had to fix it. Of course.

(The way Tobin's eyes light up when she tells this part of the story hurts Christen for a reason she can't bring herself to name.)

“I'll be back.”

“Alex, it's pouring. Also we just got back from the weight room, aren't you tired?”

“Yeah. But there's something I've gotta do.”

“Is this because of me?”

Alex opened the door with a grin and a wink in Tobin's direction. “I'll be back.”

-

When she returned, Tobin wasn't in the room (probably with Kelley, or Sydney, or someone) which was kind of the perfect opportunity.

Alex stripped down (that rain was no joke, and the store that had been only a block away felt like an eternity’s walk) and dried herself off before changing into a pair of sweatpants and a sweater and setting to work.

It took two hours for her to bake a cake, let it cool, and frost it. It was strawberry, because that was all the store had, and it broke in half because the pan that came in the hotel room was not non-stick, and she burnt it, because apparently the temperature wasn't accurate. But it was still a cake.

The only frosting available was chocolate, and she opted for frosting over the whole cake (extremely sloppy, but all she had was a plastic butter knife) then dragging the knife through the top to say happy bday! underneath the candle (only one, because apparently small town stores don't know how to restock).

Tobin came back into the room hardly fifteen minutes after Alex finished, opening the door to a shirtless Alex trying to figure out how to get the DVD player to work.

“Uhm,” she took a step into the room before noticing Alex and freezing. “I can just go back to Kell’s, if you want.”

“No!” Alex turned from the tv to Tobin and raised her hands in a stopping gesture. “Sorry, sorry.” She made her way to the bed to get a shirt out of her duffel and pull it on. “Sorry, I got frosting on it.”

“Frosting?”

“Yeah. For the cake.”

Tobin raised an eyebrow and Alex dropped her hands to her sides.

“Oh. I baked you a cake.” Alex stepped towards Tobin and gestured to the sorry excuse for a kitchenette. “It might not be very good, but, the ordered one got cancelled for the weather.”

“Ordered?”

“Yeah.” Alex looked to the ground. “I got the trainers to order you one, but the storm came in and,” she cut herself off and looked to the ground. “Sorry.”

Tobin smiled and put her hand on Alex’s bicep. “Why are you sorry?”

“I don't know.” She kicked at the carpet, refusing to make eye contact. “I wanted to give you a great birthday.”

“But,” Tobin frowned. “We just met.”

“Yeah.” Alex finally looked up to Tobin. “Also I rented some crappy romantic comedies from the lobby, and I thought maybe we could watch those together.” She moved toward where the cake was sitting on the counter, and Tobin followed her. “Was this weird?”

“No,” Tobin shook her head and pulled Alex into a hug. “It's sweet. It's wonderful.” She pulled away and held Alex at arm's length to study her face. “Thank you, Lex.”

-

Tobin pauses the story to look at Christen, who seems to be listening intently besides the fact that she looks exhausted.

“You can sleep, Chris.”

“You're telling me a story.”

“Yeah.”

“What was the second time?”

-

Two.

Tobin and Alex were at camp again, and they'd seen each other for many camps in between. They kept in touch and were very, very quickly becoming best friends. (And practically inseparable.)

“So,” Kelley said, looking up at her friends across the table. “Any plans for the off day?”

“It's Tobin's birthday.” Alex looked up at Sydney and Kelley while she felt Tobin’s leg stiffen against hers.

“So?” Kelley rolled her eyes as she shoved a forkful of eggs into her mouth. “When's the last time she celebrated? I swear, this is like déjà vu.”

Alex looked to Tobin who was staring at her coffee a bit too intently. “Right.” She nodded and dropped her hand to rest on Tobin’s knee. “Good point.”

-

Sydney opened the door to let a few more people from the camp into hers and Alex's hotel room before turning to Alex. “How did you get this approved?”

Alex pursed her lips, debating how to answer the question. “I, well,” she sighed as she heard another knock on the door, moving to open it. “Didn't.”

“Didn't?”

Alex shrugged as she opened the door to let Tobin and Kelley in.

“Lex,” Tobin scrunched her eyebrows together as she scanned the room. “When you invited me over for my birthday, I thought it'd be just like, you and and me. Maybe Kell and Syd, not,” she gestures to the room pulsing with music and people and just too much for Tobin to handle. “This.”

“Tobin.” Alex frowned and reached out to place her arms on Tobin's shoulders. “Sorry, I just thought you might want a party for once.”

“But I don't, Lex.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Tobin shook Alex's arms off of her and stepped a bit deeper into the hotel room. “Didn't we discuss this last year?”

Alex nodded and Tobin rolled her eyes, walking away with Kelley following quickly behind.

Sydney placed a comforting arm on Alex's shoulder and sighed. “I'm sorry, Lex--”

“Don't call me that.”

“Huh?”

“Only Tobin calls me that.”

-

Alex walked up to Kelley who was in the middle of a game of truth or dare with a few defenders that she normally wouldn’t be talking to. “Have you seen Tobin?”

Kelley turned away from her new-found friends. “What?”

Alex grabbed Kelley's hand and pulled her away from the circle. “Where's Tobin?”

“Dude. She was totally about to dare me to make out with her.”

“Who?”

“Look at them. Any of them. It doesn't matter who.”

“Kelley, focus!”

“Fine.”

“Where's Tobin?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know? Probably just about anywhere but here.”

Hurt crossed Alex's face and Kelley clenched her jaw.

“You know she doesn't like big things.”

“Yeah, but--”

“No, Alex. No but. You know.”

“Yeah.” Alex looked to the ground.

“Can I go back now?”

“Sure.”

Kelley nodded and began to go back before stopping and turning to Alex.

“Here's my key. Tobin's my roommate. Maybe check there.”

Alex looked up with a small smile. “Thank you--”

“Fix this. She might be in the lobby too, or the other day we were scoping out around this place and there's a park just across the road. It'll be quiet there.” Kelley sighed as Alex took the key. “You're her best friend. This hurt her. Fix it.”

-

Alex cut a piece of cake (ordered this time, meaning not burnt and not broken, thank God for sunny weather) and checked Kelley's room first, to no avail. She called for the elevator but that was taking too long so she jogged down four flight of steps, carefully holding the plate with cake. She did a quick survey of the lobby before leaving the hotel.

She squinted her eyes and managed to see someone sitting, on the ground, near a bench. Of course Tobin would be at the park. With a soccer ball.

She walked up and silently sat down next to her, setting the plate between them. Tobin didn't move closer, but didn't move away either so that was a good sign.

“This is for you.”

Tobin stayed silent, not even glancing over and just drummed her fingers on the ball in her lap.

“I'm sorry.”

Tobin stretched her arms and picked up the ball, then turned away from Alex to stretch her back.

“I shouldn't have--”

Tobin stood up and Alex cut herself off, standing as well.

“Tobin.”

Tobin froze, still no response.

“I'm sorry.”

Nothing.

“I shouldn't have invited everyone over.”

Tobin bit her lip and sighed.

“I know you're upset.”

“Yeah, Lex.” She turned around and made eye contact. “I don't like parties or loud music or too many people at once. You know that. I don't like celebrating with people that don't mean much to me, and you know that. I took a chance last year and celebrated for the first time and it was you and it was,” she cut herself off with a sigh. “Perfect. It was great and now you mean the world to me and Syd and Kell are some of my closest friends and I thought it'd be just us.”

“I'm sorry.”

“I know.”

Alex sat down next to the cake and leaned back, planting her hands in the grass. She looked up to Tobin with a smile that could hardly be made out through the crappy streetlight, yet Tobin couldn't help but reciprocate it anyway. “It can be just us here.”

“Yeah.”

Alex picked up the plate and held it out. “This one'll probably taste better than last year's.”

Tobin relaxed her stance and stepped back over to Alex.

(Tobin admits that this was the first, and definitely not the last time she failed to say no to Alex, even though maybe she should have. Christen just wants to hug her.)

“Last year's was perfect, Lex.”

-

“So we ate cake in silence in the park, until Alex asked for a bite. I obliged, which resulted in her smearing an icing covered finger over my cheek and me chasing her around the park.” Tobin pauses with a huge grin on her face at the memory, and Christen feels her heart sink. “She tripped over a root and fell into a bunch of leaves, which gave me the perfect opportunity to tackle her, but instead I just lied down next to her for about an hour and we talked about,” she pauses again but this time trying to discern the best way to word it. “Just, life. Kell and Syd cleared the room and we made it back just five minutes before curfew.”

Christen nods, her face pressing against Tobin neck and Tobin laughs.

“Wanna go back?”

“I'm okay,” she insists but the sleepiness in her voice betrays her.

“Are you sure?”

“No.”

Tobin laughs again and gives a sigh of content.

“What about the third?”

-

Three.

Alex facetimed Tobin on her birthday at 8:00am, and Tobin answered immediately.

“It's five in the morning for you.”

“It's your birthday!”

“Go to sleep, dude.”

“No.” Alex rolled her eyes. “You're not the boss of me.”

“I'm the birthday girl.”

Alex sighed obnoxiously. “Exactly. Happy birthday.”

“Go to sleep.”

“I woke up at five so I could call you!”

“You also stayed up till midnight to text me.”

“So? It was only nine for me.”

“You texted me again when it hit midnight for you, I saw the message when I woke up.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Sleep.”

“Tobin Heath.”

“Yeah?”

“Stop telling me to sleep and pick something on Netflix so we can watch a damn movie together.”

Tobin laughed and rose from her bed to grab her laptop. “Fine, fine.”

“Any plans for the day?”

“Told my parents I wanted to take it easy. Not big on celebrating, and they were cool with that.”

“Guess we're facetiming all day, then.”

Tobin grinned. “Guess so. Thanks, Lex.”

Alex grinned to match Tobin's. “I love you.”

Tobin nodded in agreement. “I love you.”

-

“We literally facetimed all day.” Tobin laughs and Christen smiles at Tobin's happiness. “I only got out of bed to pee and eat, and my phone was with me when I went to eat.”

Christen joins Tobin's laughter and it tickles Tobin's neck, just making her laugh harder. She rises so Tobin can stop laughing before relaxing back into position and absentmindedly drapes an arm across Tobin's torso. “Fourth time?”

-

Four.

It was freshman year. Because they're both athletes for UCLA, they get to the school earlier than most students, as well as the option to room together.

Which they take.

Of course.

The day of Tobin's birthday happened to fall on the weekend after they lost the championship, which is kind of bittersweet. (But helps Alex, because it means all either of them want to do is lie in bed all day.)

The day before, Alex made a run to the store where she bought far too much junk food and soda, a dozen cupcakes, and a bunch of B-quality rom coms she didn't recognize from the clearance bin.

They lied in Tobin's bed, ate, and watched movie after movie, making fun of them with each other.

At one point, Tobin fell asleep and slumped over on Alex's arm, prompting her to snap a few selfies and smile, happy with where she was in the world.

Tobin woke up halfway through the next movie and apologized, to which Alex just laughed grabbed a cupcake for her.

“Thanks, Lex.”

“Of course.” Alex smeared the icing on her cheek before letting Tobin grab it causing laughter followed by pouting from Tobin.

“You're so mean to me.”

Alex rolled her eyes. “You're fine.”

“Clean it.”

Alex leaned over and wiped the icing away, then kissed her cheek. “Better?”

“Loads.” Tobin took a new cupcake from Alex and smashed it into her cheek. “But now we're even, and that's even better.”

“You're a child.”

“Kinda sorta, yeah.”

Alex rolled her eyes but smiled anyway.

Tobin decided that she wouldn't wanna be with anyone else in that moment. Tobin stared at Alex's face, icing smeared from her cheek to her eyebrow and it felt so unfair. Unfair because Alex looked so so beautiful. And the world had to be playing some cruel joke on her, by putting Alex Morgan in her life because she looked oh-so beautiful. Tobin's heart ached because this feeling in her chest was something that she could actually name for once. (She definitely didn't want to. Love is funny and painful like that.)

No one should look that beautiful with icing smeared on their face. No one should look that beautiful period.

-

Tobin briefly considers mentioning how that was the year Alex gave her the ring, but she got rid of that ring a long time ago, so she decides not to. She ends her story as she feels Christen's breath evening out against her neck. “Chris?”

“Hmm?”

“Wanna go back in?”

Christen blinks hard and leans up from Tobin, placing a hand in the sand to support herself. “Isn't there one more time?”

Tobin grins. “I'll tell you on the way.”

-

Five.

They won the championship. (Alex scored the winning goal, on an assist from Tobin, and that one play pretty much described UCLA’s seasons for the four years the two of them were there.)

Alex thought about offering for them to go out to celebrate for her birthday, but figured that after all the celebrating from the week before, it's the last thing Tobin would want. (She's right.)

A storm happened to roll in, probably as some sort of cruel joke of history repeating itself, considering Alex was incapable of getting a decent cake or having any sort of plans follow through for Tobin. (Alex felt like she was having déjà vu from the first birthday they celebrated together as she walked through the rain, hoping to find a cake mix for Tobin.)

The cake mix aisle was entirely sold out, and Alex decided that the city of LA needed to sort out its priorities as far as necessities go for when a storm blows in. On a whim, she headed to the toy aisle, looking for an easy bake oven because she needed a cake for Tobin, dammit.

She made it back to their apartment (significantly less soaked in rain then how she was a few years ago, considering that the box for the oven was big enough to cover her and shield some of the water) and Tobin was napping, so she immediately set to work. She cooked a 5 inch diameter cake under a lightbulb, and iced it with the small packet provided. ( Bday was all that would fit, but she was sure Tobin would understand.)

When Tobin woke up, Alex cut the cake in half and they sat on the floor of the living room to eat it.

Tobin thanked her profusely, because “You really didn't have to do this, Lex,” but Alex just brushed it off.

“I wanted to.” She kissed Tobin's cheek and then they curled up on the couch to watch movies until they both fell asleep.

-

“It was the best birthday I ever had,” Tobin admits as she starts up the steps into the beach house. “But I mean, I said that every year.”

“Well,” Christen takes Tobin's hands in her own and pulls her forward to press a kiss to her cheek. “Maybe you'll say that this year too.”

Tobin smiles. “I'm pretty sure I will.”

They settle back out on the balcony (because Tobin heard something from Lizzie and Lauren’s shared room, and decided to give them more time) when Christen finally asks what she's been dying to know since Lizzie said the words Stitch doesn't do birthdays.

“Why'd you stop?”

Tobin looks over from her chair a foot or so away from Christen. “What do you mean?”

“Celebrating.” She pauses to look study Tobin's face, searching to make sure she isn't upset. “Why'd you stop celebrating with Alex?”

“Well,” Tobin pauses, looking out over the ocean. “The next year, she was busy.”

“What do you mean?”

“She met Servando a couple weeks after my birthday, and then the next year, I guess they were at the weddings together stage. Servando and Alex went to Servando’s cousin’s wedding that weekend. I got a text saying shit, Tobin, I'm sorry   when I asked her if she wanted to come over and then another saying I'm a two hour’s drive away. I forgot.

“Fuck.” Christen looks down at her feet. “That's fucked up.”

“Yeah.”

“I'm sorry.”

“It's cool.”

“Not really.”

“I guess so.” Tobin looks down to the soccer ball at her feet, then back up over the ocean. “I hated her for it.” She sighs and let's out a bitter laugh. “That's a lie, but I wanted to. Lizzie hated her for it.” (If Tobin was capable of it, she would hate Alex Morgan with every fiber of her being.) “She tried to celebrate next year, but I wasn't really in the spirit of it. Or the year after. Or, ever again, if I'm being honest.”

“I'm sorry for forcing you to.”

Tobin looks over to Christen with a serious expression. “You didn't force me to.” She notices the sincerity in Christen's eyes and smiles. “I told Lizzie I’d never celebrate a birthday again, and definitely not without Alex.” She reaches out to touch Christen forearm and Christen sets her other hand over Tobin's. “This is healing.”

They go to sleep after that, in two seperate bedrooms much to Christen's dismay.

Lizzie doesn't mention it, but she knows what Tobin meant when she said that she would never celebrate without Alex again. She sees the similarities. Tobin didn't celebrate until Christen came along, and Lizzie knows why it's different.

(Tobin meant that she wouldn't celebrate again until she meets someone else that she looks at like they hung the damn stars in the sky.)

(Until she's happy again.)

Lizzie keeps that thought to herself.

 

Chapter Text

Christen wakes up the next morning and rubs at her eyes, scanning the bedside table and grabbing her phone. She squints at the screen and notices it’s not even seven yet, which seems unfair considering the sunlight pouring in her window that’ll undoubtedly keep her from falling back asleep. She notices a text from Julie ( Got to my hotel safely. Love you! ) and swipes it to mark it as read, then sets her phone back down.

Rubbing at her eyes hardly did anything to wake her but the blinding sunlight did and she swings her legs over the bed, admitting defeat. Christen rummages through the small backpack that got tossed to the side of the room, searching for something to wear, then figures that needing a shirt would be a good enough excuse to wake Tobin up. She decides on ripped jean shorts before tiptoeing from her room to the one Tobin’s staying in and swinging the door open.

Tobin immediately wakes up, squeezing her eyes shut and yawning as she sits up in bed. “Chris?”

Christen looks up from the duffel on the chair and smiles. “Good morning, Tobs.”

“What’re you doing?”

“I told you.” She rolls her eyes and pulls out a US Soccer shirt that looks like it used to have sleeves but no longer does (which Lizzie probably did, because she can’t imagine Tobin would cut off her own sleeves). “Some of my stuff is in here, too.”

Tobin nods. “That shirt’s not yours, though.”

Christen just smiles as she nearly skips to the bathroom attached the the room and Tobin laughs, falling back on her pillow.

 

---

 

“Good morning!” Christen practically sings as she sits down at the table across from Lizzie.

Lizzie looks up from her phone, unamused. “Someone slept well.”

“Someone didn't.”

Lizzie smiles weakly before looking back down at her phone.

“What's wrong?”

“Lo and I were fighting last night.”

“About?”

Lizzie sets her phone down and rubs at her eyes before looking to Christen. “Future stuff.”

“Those fights are never fun.” Christen nods understandingly and rises to move to the kitchen.

“No fights are ever fun.”

Christen looks over and notices the way Lizzie is slumped over the table, her posture resembling the sadness in her voice. “Let's go get breakfast.”

“What?”

“Come on.” Christen grabs her keys from a bowl she assumes Tobin tossed them in the night before and moves over to where Lizzie is at the table. “Girl time.”

“That sounds,” Lizzie pauses as she stands from the table and turns to follow Christen. “Awfully heterosexual.”

“Oh hush.”

 

---

 

They take Christen's car to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts (which is closer than either of them expected) and each get coffee, a donut, and split some hashbrowns.

“So what's the deal,” Christen finally presses, mumbling through a bite of her boston kreme.

Lizzie takes a sip of her coffee (hot, despite Christen's eye roll when she ordered considering the temperature outside) and clenches her jaw. “Just like,” she exhales as she sets her coffee back down. “Lo’s graduating this year.”

Christen nods, hoping she'll continue.

“And her injury is pretty much healed. She's been doing,” Lizzie pauses to smile. “ Really well during our workouts and all. I'm so proud of her.”

“That's really good,” she smiles but watches as Lizzie's expression dissolves and she slumps into a position similar to how she looked this morning. “Not good?”

“No, it's great, really.” Lizzie looks down at her hands and sighs. “I just. I love her.”

Christen looks down at her coffee. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Lizzie drums her fingers on the table before taking another drink. “The draft is in two weeks. She wouldn't stop talking about it last night. She's excited.”

Christen waits for her to continue but Lizzie just takes a bite of her chocolate glazed donut instead. “How're you feeling about it?”

“I'm happy for her.”

“But?”

“That's the problem.” Lizzie chews on her lip before looking up to Christen. “There's shouldn't be a but, I shouldn't be allowed to say but .”

“You're allowed to have feelings.”

“I guess.”

“Lizzie,” Christen reaches across the table to rest a hand over hers comfortingly. “You're human. It's okay to feel things, and it's okay if they differ from your girlfriend’s.”

“I love her,” Lizzie whispers again and the way her voice sounds, Christen can tell it's almost as if she's admitting it to herself.

“That's okay.”

“She wants to do long distance. I don't know if I can, I can hardly manage a relationship when she's here .” Lizzie drops her hands to the table, exasperated. “How can I stand her being gone?”

“You can do it.” Christen squeezes her fingers before pulling away. “I know you can.”

“Thanks for this.” Lizzie looks up to Christen who has so much compassion in her eyes Lizzie swears it's tangible.

“Of course.”

“Really, I appreciate it a lot. Just getting me out of there for a little bit.”

Christen smiles sincerely. “Anytime, okay?” She glances to her watch and notices they've been gone for well over an hour. “The rest of the house should be waking up now, though. We should get going.”

Rest of the house .” Lizzie laughs as she grabs their trash and pick up her own coffee. “You say that as if it's more than just our baes.”

Christen rolls her eyes. “Tobin's not my bae .”

“Oh yeah?” Lizzie looks Christen up and down before following her out of the door. “Nice shirt.”

 

---

 

“Where'd you guys head off to?” Tobin asks as Christen and Lizzie walk through the door, giggling at something Tobin didn't get the chance to hear (the whole way back, Lizzie explained her grand plan to get Tobin to agree on a World Cup trip, including dirty jokes wherever she could fit them).

“Breakfast!” Christen sets a box with a dozen donuts on the table in front of Tobin. “Enjoy.”

Tobin grins as she pops the box open and immediately goes for a plain glazed. “You guys are the best,” she mumbles through the donut.

“We know.” Lizzie sets a coffee next to Tobin and continues to walk by, another in her hand that Tobin assumes is for Lauren.

“Since when are you two friends?” Tobin asks, following Christen into the kitchen.

Christen turns to Tobin, dropping her jaw in offense. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Uhm,” Tobin pulls her eyebrows together and swallows the bite she was chewing. “Nothing bad of course, just that, I don’t know--”

“I’m teasing.” Christen laughs as she steps forward to press a kiss to Tobin’s cheek. “Planning this really brought us together, actually. Plus Lizzie was feeling kinda down this morning, so I took her out for girl time.”

“Girl time?” Tobin looks to her, disgusted. “Sounds like something straight people do.”

Christen rolls her eyes and begins walking towards the balcony. “You guys are the same fucking person, I swear.”

 

---

 

Lauren welcomes Lizzie into the room with a long kiss before taking the coffee.

“Good morning to you, too,” Lizzie says, grinning as Lauren pulls away, coffee now in hand.

“Can you help me pick a shirt?” She takes Lizzie’s hand and drags her closer to the bed to show Lizzie her options.

Lizzie wraps both arms around Lauren’s waist from behind and kisses her neck. “I don’t know about you,” she pauses to pull Lauren’s bra strap off of her shoulder and kiss the new skin. “But I’m okay with you not picking a shirt.”

Babe ,” Lauren protests, turning around in Lizzie’s arms and gives her a quick kiss on the cheek before pushing her away gently. “I’m serious, come on.”

“Fine, fine.” Lizzie raises both hands in defense and moves to Lauren’s side so she can see the options. She picks up a white Adidas tank top with a light blue and pink design. “Isn’t this one mine?”

“Probably.” Lauren shrugs and takes the shirt from Lizzie. “Thanks babe.” She gives her a quick kiss before turning away and picking up her coffee. “And thanks for the coffee. I’m gonna take a quick shower.”

“Alright, cool.” Lizzie turns towards the door to leave the room. “Chris and I brought donuts back. Tobin’s got them at the table, so you better hurry before they’re all gone.”

“You better save me some!” Lauren disappears behind the bathroom door before swinging it back open. “Oh! I was talking to Tobin earlier, we’re leaving for the draft in a week and a half! I’m so excited!”

Lizzie welcomes the hug that Lauren pulls her into but can’t help it as her face falls.

“You should go with us baby!”

Lizzie nods and tries to replicate Lauren’s grin as they make eye contact. “I can try, yeah.”

Lauren pulls her in for a long kiss before turning back to the bathroom and Lizzie can feel her excitement (it only makes her more guilty for not wanting Lauren to go). “Remember to save me a donut!”

“Will do, babe.”

 

---

 

“When’s everyone supposed to arrive?” Tobin starts juggling the soccer ball and kicks it over to Christen, who yelps but catches it anyway.

“Eleven I think.” She sets the ball down on one of the chairs and walks over to lean on the railing of the balcony, next to Tobin.

“I love the beach,” Tobin says absentmindedly.

Christen nods in agreement as she and Tobin brush arms. “Me too.”

They stand like that, looking at the horizon in the silence of nothing but the waves crashing until Lizzie finally interrupts them.

“Come on, losers.”

“For what?”

“Lo and I got Stitch a birthday present for before everyone else gets here.” Lizzie pales immediately, looking to Christen. “Shit, I mean, just,” she pauses. “Before, uhm, lunch. Because no one else is coming.”

Christen laughs as she turns to head into the house. “She already knows, don't sweat it.”

“Oh, cool.” Lizzie wraps an arm around Tobin's shoulders as they follow Christen through the door. “Well,” she leads Tobin to the table. “Ta da.”

“You didn't.”

“I did.”

“No you didn't.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Lizzie. No you didn't.”

“I obviously did, Stitch, so can you shut up and accept it?”

Tobin laughs and pulls Lizzie into a hug before turning back to the table where Lauren is grinning. “Come here, dork.” Tobin hugs her too before finally looking at the longboard on the table. She picks it up to examine it, first glancing at the top then scanning the bottom and spinning one of the wheels. “I literally haven't been on one of these in a year .”

“No time like the present for a present, or something.” Lizzie shrugs. “I’m bad with idioms. And I know you haven't, but you've been wanting one for awhile, you were pretty torn up after it broke.”

Tobin grins at the memory; racing Lizzie down one of the steepest hills on campus. She was winning until she hit a pothole, crashed, and snapped her board. “I would've been fine , though.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “I don't care. Plus, I've missed cruising with someone. And I offered to teach Lo how to do it, but she thinks it's a death trap.”

“Almost as bad as the motorcycle you want,” Lauren cuts in and Christen nods in agreement.

“Yeah, can't you get hurt on those? Skateboarding is dangerous.”

“Chris,” Tobin shakes her head. “One, it's a longboard, and two, it'll be okay.”

“But what if it isn't?”

Tobin shrugs. “Then blame Lizzie.”

“Hey now.” Lizzie raises her hands in defense. “Why've we gotta play the blame game?”

Tobin turns to look at Lizzie. “Do you see that look in her eyes?” She gestures to Christen who's still looking at them disapprovingly. “I don't wanna be on the receiving end.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and looks to Christen. “I'm not scared of you.”

Christen raises one eyebrow. “Maybe you should be. If Tobin gets hurt, I'm coming after you.”

“Feisty.” Lizzie smirks. “I like it.”

“You're taken,” Lauren reminds her, walking over and wrapping her arms around Lizzie's waist before pressing a kiss to her cheek.

“I didn't forget, babe.”

“Just checking.”

“I’ll be fine, Chris. Really.”

“Okay.” Christen nods. “You don't want a motorcycle though, right?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes, because she already knows Tobin's answer.

Tobin grins. “Have you seen my car? Do you know how much I paid for that thing?”

“Too much,” Lizzie cuts in, but Tobin just ignores her.

“I'll stick with it and this,” she raises the board in her hand. “No motorcycle for me.”

 

---

 

Tobin hears Lizzie’s phone ring as she jogs over to their stuff to retrieve the ball (from a wild kick from Christen) and picks it up to answer it. “Hello?”

“This isn’t Lizzie,” Phoebe says.

“Really? I didn’t notice.”

“Shut up, Coach. Where’s Lizzie?”

“We’re playing pick up at the beach and I just happened to hear the phone ring. Why?”

“I’ve gotta talk to her.”

Tobin glances over her shoulder to notice Lizzie walking over and she waves for her to come closer. “About what?”

“An assignment,” she hears Lara say.

“Oh, that’s a good one, babe,” Phoebe says after pulling the phone away. “An assignment.”

“I heard all of that.”

“Oh. What’s with the third degree? Can I just talk to Lizzie?”

Tobin rolls her eyes but hands over the phone anyway.

“What’s up?”

“We’re here.” Phoebe glances around. “I think. Also, the rest of the team will be here in like five minutes, so you guys should head up.”

“Alright, cool,” Lizzie nods and turns to where everyone else is, already refocused on their match. “We’ll be up in a minute.” She ends the call and jogs back over. “Come on guys! We’re gonna head back up.”

“You just wanna go back up because you don’t want to lose.” Tobin passes the ball to Christen then crosses her arm. “You’re such a sore loser.”

“We’re tied .” Lizzie rolls her eyes. “I’m not losing, and more importantly, you’re not winning.”

Christen kicks the ball in between two shells that they had placed there and immediately starts jumping up and down. “We won Tobin!”

Lizzie drops her jaw. “The game was paused!”

“You never said that.” Christen skips over to where Lizzie is standing as a grin spreads over Tobin’s face.

“Fine, fine.” Lizzie drops her hands to her sides. “Lo and I lost, happy?”

Lauren rolls her eyes. “Not really, no.”

Tobin laughs and wraps an arm around Lauren’s shoulders. “Well I’m overjoyed. Good job, Chris.”

Christen smiles sweetly and claps for herself, which Lizzie can’t be mad at because it’s so adorable. “Yeah, good job Chris.”

 

---

 

“I'm a little upset that you weren't surprised, if I'm being honest.” Phoebe sinks down in her spot squeezed next to Lara on the recliner. “That was the whole thing. A surprise party.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Lizzie totally let it spill earlier today.”

“Christen said you knew!”

Christen raises her hand to draw attention. “Yes, yes. I told Tobin you were all coming over.”

Shiloh walks in from the kitchen. “Can you guys stop acting like children ?” Phoebe and Lizzie both immediately throw pillows at her, but she just rolls her eyes. “All the stuff’s ready to be carried down to the beach.”

“Am I included in all the stuff ?” Lauren asks, sliding over on the couch so she can lean her head against Lizzie's shoulder (even though she's much taller, which Lizzie will flip you off for if you point it out). “I'm tired.”

Shiloh shakes her head. “Are you asking if you're going to be carried down to the beach?”

“Dibs,” Lizzie says without missing a beat, planting a kiss on Lauren’s forehead.

 

---

 

“I can help grill, y'know.” Tobin bumps her hip against Lara’s, who just pushes her away. “Come on , it's my grill anyway.”

“And your birthday. Go have fun!”

“I am having fun.”

“Where's Christen?”

“I can have fun without her.” Tobin rolls her eyes. “She's out in the water, with everyone else.”

“Why are you not there with her?”

“Be cause .” Tobin crosses her arms. “I wanna help grill, I like cooking!”

“You like Christen more.”

“Chris and I are just friends.”

“For now .”

“She's taken .”

“Okay, okay.” Lara raises her hands, one empty and one with a spatula. “Still, go have fun with her!”

Tobin looks over to the water just in time to watch as Christen’s hit with a wave, missing the ball she was reaching for and spurring laughter from Lizzie, Shiloh, and Phoebe as she wipes at her eyes. She hears something along the lines of Whatever, we’re still winning! as she and Hannah high five and Shiloh tosses the volleyball to Lizzie for a serve.

Lizzie tosses it up and Christen hits it back so it lands right in front of her, splashing and giving Lizzie a mouthful of salt water. Lizzie starts coughing as Christen and Hannah high five again.

“Are you gonna stare or are you gonna go play?” Lara teases as Tobin turns back to face her.

“I don't know, I don't wanna interrupt.”

Lara rolls her eyes. “One, it's your birthday, two, every single girl that came today loves you, and three, they need a sixth person anyway. Go!” Lara pushes on Tobin’s shoulder as she grins, stripping her shirt to reveal a bikini top underneath and pulling her phone and keys out of the pocket of her swim trunks.

“Okay, I'm going.” She jogs down to where they are, waist deep in the water and looks from Christen to Hannah. “Isn't beach volleyball supposed to be played,” she pauses to look to the other team. “ Out of the water? And with a net?”

Christen laughs as she wades over to where Tobin is to grab her arm and pull her to hers and Hannah’s side of the imaginary line. “Tobin! Now we have even teams!”

“You guys are already winning.” Lizzie tosses the ball to Hannah and crosses her arms. “That's not fair.”

“How bad is the score?” Tobin holds her hand up for the ball and Hannah obliges, tossing it to to her.

“Eleven to seven?” Lizzie looks to Shiloh who nods in confirmation.

“Well,” Tobin stretches her arms before moving to prepare to serve it. “Then it shouldn't take us too long to put you out of your misery.”

 

---

 

They don’t go back to the beach house until after they’ve watched the sunset, and when they do, Christen orders enough pizza to feed an army (but with this soccer team, that still might not be enough).

Phoebe pulls out the cake that she brought while they wait for the pizza and gets ready to cut it for everyone. “Sorry I forgot the candles, but I can just hold up a lighter while we sing, cool?”

Tobin laughs as Phoebe pulls a lighter out of her pocket. “You don’t have to do that.”

“Nah, it’s cool.” She holds her hand over the cake. “Also, sorry it’s not super pretty or anything, Lara and I made it last night.”

“It’s awesome.” Tobin grins as she feels Christen walk up behind her chair and rest a hand on her shoulder. “Thank you, guys. All of you.”

Phebe lights the lighter and everyone erupts into a chorus of Happy Birthday in the most obnoxious way they can manage. When they finish, Phoebe pulls her thumb off the lighter and sets it on the table. “That was fucking hot.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “I told you you didn’t have to hold the lighter.”

Lara rolls her hand and grabs Phoebe’s hand, pulling it up to kiss her thumb. “Cut the cake, babe. Hannah and I will get the gifts.”

“Gifts?” Tobin shakes her head. “No, you guys really didn’t have to.”

“We knew you’d say that.” Lara walks back out of the kitchen with Hannah following her. “So we had everyone on the team draw out their favorite moment from the season and write a little note to you, instead of actually buying something.” She and Hannah set the stacks of handmade cards in front of Tobin.

Tobin smiles and Christen leans down so her head is resting on Tobin’s shoulder. “This is,” she pauses, picking up a few of the cards and glancing over them. “The best thing I’ve ever gotten.” She looks around at all the girls crowding the table and wipes at her eye. “Thank you, so much, really.”

Lizzie laughs. “Are you crying, Stitch?”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Shut up.” She pauses as she picks up the one from Lara.

Sorry, I couldn’t pick just one. Thanks for being such a big, positive impact on my life. You’re an incredible role model. Love Lara, the new kid that you made sure never felt like a new kid. is written across the bottom and the rest of the card is sectioned off with a bunch of little boxes, each depicting another moment from the season. (Tobin’s favorites are Tobin recruiting Lara from Duke, Tobin introducing Lara and Phoebe, and the morning before the away game at Berkeley where Lara asked Tobin if she was happy with her job.)

Tobin wipes at her eye again and she feels Christen squeeze her shoulder comfortingly. “Maybe a little bit.”

She looks at Hannah’s and notices four boxes, one with the sun setting and two stick figures, each with a crudely drawn soccer ball next to them and a clock that’s blank except for the word late where the hands are pointing, then an arrow pointing to the next one that has two stick figures standing in a room that resembles her office (she notices by the picture collage hanging on the wall and the desk with various papers strewn across it), one with another arrow pointing to it, with a stick figure on the field, wearing a crown that says first start next to it and a stick figure on the sidelines with both hands in the air that says best coach ever underneath it. The last is the smallest box, and all it has in it is a rectangle that reads FranceWNT Roster at the top, followed by a list of squiggles with the name Hannah Elliot amongst them. At the bottom of the card it reads I can never thank you enough for all the extra hours, extra work, and extra encouragement you put in for me. Without the hope and faith you gave me, I would’ve never come back from that injury last year, and I would’ve never known what I was capable of. And I definitely would never have made the Olympic Roster for France this summer. Thank you for helping me become my best me. Love Hannah, the girl who couldn’t be where she is without you.

Tobin wipes away another tear and folds the card shut. “I’ll read the rest of these tonight, thank you all so much. What a great gift.”

Shiloh points across the table. “It was all Lara and Hannah’s idea, a hundred percent.”

I should’ve known. Tobin turns in her chair to face them. “Thank you, guys.”

Phoebe sets a plate with cake and ice cream in front of Tobin. “Well, water works aside, let’s eat!”

The doorbell rings and Lizzie jumps from her chair. “I bet that’s the pizza!” She runs to the door to help with Christen following closely behind.

“I’ll put on a movie.” Lara begins walking to the living room and stops when she feels Tobin grab her arm.

“Thank you.” Tobin says softly.

Lara turns around and pulls Tobin into a hug. “Thank you .” She pulls away and looks Tobin in the eyes. “ You went the extra mile last summer to make sure all my transfer papers went through so I could come here, you spend hours of unpaid time working with me and all the other girls, purely because you’re just a good person. You are the one that has inspired every single girl that’s in this beach house right now, giving them something to put in those cards. You deserve so much happiness, and love, and such a good life, because when you go through a day in this awful world, you still make people smile, and you always put people’s needs above your own.” Tobin’s tearing up, for what feels like the millionth time, and Lara just smiles. “And not to sound cheesy, or like a kid, or anything,” she pauses to take a breath. “But I hope that I’m just like you one day.”

Tobin pulls her into another hug and they break away as everyone joins them in the living room. “You’re a good kid, Lara. Thanks for helping me see the impact I make.”

Lara opens her mouth to say something but Christen walks in with two plates of pizza in hand and wraps her arm around Tobin’s waist to pull her away, and Lara just smiles again, moving to set up the movie as Phoebe walks up behind her, nearly mirroring what Christen did to Tobin.

“Lo and I are gonna make drinks,” Lizzie offers, backing out of the living area.

“Why do we have alcohol?” Tobin asks, looking around the room.

“And why did no one tell me?” Christen stands from the couch, squeezing Tobin’s hand. “I’ll be back with drinks for us.”

Tobin rolls her eyes as Christen walks away and various girls move in and out of the living room to get their own drinks. Christen comes back with two solo cups in hand and passes one to Tobin who looks down at it and raises an eyebrow. “What is this?”

“Lizzie said it’s a surprise.”

Tobin rolls her eyes and takes a sip. “Well that can’t be a good thing.”

 

---

 

About halfway through the movie, Christen excuses herself to the balcony and makes a call.

“Hey baby,” Julie answers and Christen can hear the smile in her voice.

“Hey, sorry for not replying this morning.” She cringes as she turns so she isn't facing through the glass doors and walks down a few of the steps to the sand. “I saw it but then I was getting ready and the whole day started getting hectic and I got distracted, sorry.”

“Don't apologize.” Julie laughs and it's so light and calm that it makes Christen smile. “It's nice to hear from you. How's the birthday bash going?”

“It's so great. Tobin loves it and she loved the beach house and we played soccer on the beach--”

“You? Playing a sport?” Julie laughs. “That's rich.”

Christen rolls her eyes but she's still smiling (she loves Julie's playful banter). “A little bit, Tobin's really good so that evened the teams out.”

“Well I'm glad you're having fun. You said the whole team was going?”

“Yeah! Pretty much everyone, at least. We came last night after a nice dinner with Lizzie and her girlfriend, then spent the night here just the four of us. Everyone’s staying tonight, which is probably smart considering the amount of alcohol we've already gone through,” she pauses because she hears Julie laugh, and it's her favorite sound. “And then tomorrow morning I'm thinking I'll wake up to go grab donuts for everyone, I found a Dunkin Donuts that's really close to here!”

“You're gonna get a house full of athletes donuts for breakfast? That's sounds like it'll go over well.”

“Oh, Jules,” Christen laughs. “They eat like pigs, you wouldn't believe it. It's insane!”

“Really?”

“Well, I mean,” Christen chews on her lip. “Not all the time, but when they splurge.” Christen laughs. “Let's just say I bought more pizza than we did for the Super Bowl party, and I was worried it wouldn't be enough.”

Julie laughs. “So donuts are a yes, then?”

“Definitely.”

“That's great, babe. Really.” They're both silent for a moment, Julie relaxing against the headboard of her bed in the hotel room and Christen sitting on one of the steps, leaning against the wooden railing. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too.”

“I'm sorry I've been an asshole lately.”

“It's okay.”

“Not really.”

Christen doesn't know what to say to that, so she just watches the moon’s reflection ripple across the water.

“What time will you be back tomorrow?”

“I'm not sure yet, probably some time after one. I think a few of us were going to head to lunch on the way back.”

“That's cool.” Julie nods and picks up her schedule for tomorrow from the bedside table. “I've got to sign a few things off in the morning around nine, and I'm gonna head home after that, so I'll probably beat you back.”

“Okay, drive safely?”

“Yeah yeah, of course.” Julie yawns and rubs at her eyes before swinging her feet off her bed and walking towards the bathroom. “Well, I should probably get some sleep, so I'm gonna hang up unless you wanna hear me brush my teeth.”

Christen laughs and rolls her eyes (because she knows for a fact that Julie would keep her on the phone while brushing her teeth). “Okay, bye Jules. I love you.”

“Love you too honey. I'll see you tomorrow.”

“Text me when you leave and when you get home?”

“And when I stop to pee halfway through.”

Christen laughs. “Bye, Jules.”

“Goodnight, Stanford.”

Christen hangs up the phone and starts walking back up the steps. She feels a slight breeze that brushes by her hair as she stares through the glass door where Tobin seems to be having a heated conversation with Lizzie, while everyone is laughing and the movie is nearly forgotten.

That's why Abby Wambach is going to bring home the golden boot this year,” is the first thing Christen hears when she walks into the house.

“You're kidding me!” Tobin drops her hands in exasperation. “Look, I love Abby, obviously, but Carli’s got the golden boot in the bag!”

Lizzie crosses her arms. “Abby is the GOAT.”

“Sure, yeah, but she's out of her prime!” Tobin rolls her eyes as a few of the girls nod in agreement.

“My money’s on Syd.” Phoebe slaps a ten dollar bill on the coffee table.

“Pinoe.” Lara slaps a ten next to Phoebe’s.

“Are we really doing this?” Lizzie pulls her wallet out of her back pocket and pulls a ten out. “Abby, obviously.” She turns to Lauren for back up. “Babe?”

“I'm not getting in this.” Lauren kisses Lizzie on the cheek, which she just rolls her eyes at.

“Fine. Come on Tobin, cough it up.”

Tobin rolls her eyes but pulls out a ten and tosses it on the pile with everyone else’s. “Anyone else?”

A few different people step forward, tossing their own tens down with name after name, mostly bouncing between Abby and Pinoe. (Tobin mutters that Carli is being grossly underrated)

It's quiet for a moment until Hannah finally steps up. “Amandine Henry.” Hannah tosses her own ten on the table and shrugs. “I've gotta root for the home team.”

“That's fair.” Tobin nods. “Any other bets for a different country?”

Hannah rolls her eyes. “Just watch. She's gonna kick ass.”

“Dunn.” Shiloh tosses her own ten on the table. “She's got this one down.”

Tobin picks up all the bills and shuffles them together in one neat stack. “Okay, who's gonna hold it till July?”

“I can,” Christen offers, walking up from behind Tobin with her own ten in her hand. “And my money’s on Syd, too. She did so well in that game we went to awhile back.”

Phoebe nods and raises her hand for a fist bump, which Christen walks through the living room and leans down to meet. “We can totally split it when Syd pulls through.”

Christen laughs. “Definitely.”

“You'll all be regretting this when Carli shows up.” Tobin hands over the cash to Christen who takes it and counts the bills.

“Alright, almost two hundred.” Christen folds the stack in half. “Everyone got who it was for memorized?”

Lizzie holds up her phone with the notes section open. “I've got it. Already sent to both you and Tobin, too.”

“Awesome. I've got an envelope in my bag, so I'll put it there.” Christen leaves to put the money away and after she does, she grabs the backpack from the room she slept in the night before and puts it in Tobin’s room. She comes back out and sits next to Tobin on the couch, cuddling against her and notices that someone must've rewound the movie while she was gone.

Tobin downs the last of her drink (Christen has no idea how many she's had) and drops her head to Christen's shoulder. “Thanks for doing this, Chris.” She interlocks her fingers with Christen's. “This is the best birthday I've ever had.”

Christen smiles with a certain sense of pride and squeezes Tobin's hand. “Glad I could help.”

 

---

 

After the movie ends, everyone begins claiming any sort of space to sleep in that they can find. Lizzie and Lauren take the same room from the night before, just the two of them on the full size bed. Lara and Phoebe take the room Christen had been in and offer to put up Shiloh and Hannah too, in the King size bed. Three more girls squeeze on the pullout couch, two of them pass out on the rug in the living room, one of them takes the hammock on the balcony, and two more sleep in the loveseat. The rest of them squeeze where they can, a few more on the floor, two on the recliner and one girl (who had a bit too much to drink) even passes out in the kitchen, thankful for the cool tile against her burning face.

“Come on.” Christen wraps an arm around Tobin’s waist and pulls her into the bedroom, closing the door behind them. “Let's get ready to sleep, okay?”

Tobin nods, rubbing at her eyes and yawning. She strips her shirt and shorts as Christen tosses her some clothing from their shared duffel.

“I'm gonna change in the bathroom.” Christen grabs a shirt that actually belongs to Julie and a pair of sweatpants that she assumes are Tobin's due to the distinct stripes down the side, marking them as Adidas. When Christen re-enters the room, Tobin’s already in bed and snoring softly. She crawls in next to Tobin, trying not to wake her, but it's to no avail and Tobin rolls over to face her.

“Thanks, Chris,” Tobin mumbles, merely inches from her face.

“Of course.” Christen tries not to think about how close they are or the way Tobin's breath tickles her nose or the way she can feel Tobin's fingers ghosting against her side.

“You're the best.”

“Thanks.”

Tobin adjusts her position and moves her pillow, then moves her hand back down to practically rest it on Christen's hip.

Christen rolls closer to Tobin, tucking her head against Tobin's head and Tobin moves her hand more comfortably on Christen's side.

“I think I'm a little drunk,” she whispers and Christen laughs (her breath is warm against Tobin's neck, but Tobin tries not to think about that).

“No kidding,” she mumbles and Tobin nods her head.

“I'm tired.”

“Then sleep.”

Tobin nods again. “Okay.”

“Goodnight, Tobin.”

“Goodnight, Chris.” She pauses as she adjusts to rest her head against Christen’s. “Thanks for the best birthday ever.”

“Anytime.”

“Are you gonna do it again next year?”

“Of course.” Christen laughs and rubs her nose against Tobin's neck. “I’ve gotta top this year, don’t I?”

“Sweet. Okay, goodnight for real now.”

“Goodnight, Tobs.”

Chapter Text

Christen wakes up the next morning, tucked into Tobin's side. She blinks and feels Tobin stretch her arm, which makes her notice that Tobin's arm is draped over her waist. Tobin takes a deep breath and Christen feels her chest expand then relax again, and she realizes that at some point she must've shifted from resting on Tobin’s neck to her chest. Christen feels the hair on her forehead pushed from Tobin's breath so she tilts her head to look up at Tobin, who's still sound asleep.

“Tobs,” Christen whispers, pulling away and sitting up a little bit in the bed. She reaches over Tobin to the bedside table and grabs her phone to check the time, realizing it's hardly seven. Christen rubs at her eyes and slides out of the bed, taking extra caution so she doesn't wake Tobin, and grabs a pair of jean shorts and a shirt, double checking to make sure they're both hers and not Tobin's.

Christen slips into the bathroom to change and when she comes back out, Tobin's already shifted her position so she's laying on her stomach rather than her back. She smiles at the way Tobin's face is pressed into the pillow and how her hair seems to be pointing in every direction except the one it should be and she can hear a hint of a snore, which is probably only because she drank so much the night before.

“Hey Christen,” Lara whispers, taking a sip of water as Christen walks into the kitchen.

“Hey.” Christen laughs and leans against the counter. “Everyone else still passed out?”

“Definitely.” Lara nods and then turns her head as she hears a door open and shut, followed by Hannah joining them.

“Hey guys.” She nods and they both offer a quiet wave. “What's the plan?”

“Some of us are going for lunch later.” Christen picks up her keys from the counter. “And you both are obviously invited. But first, wanna catch breakfast?”

Hannah grins and Lara nods eagerly.

Lizzie quietly lets the door click behind her and then practically tiptoes her way into the kitchen, falling flat-footed when she sees she isn't the only one awake. She looks to Lara, then Hannah, then Christen. “Dunkin Donuts?”

Christen rolls her eyes with a quiet laugh and nods, grabbing her purse as she leaves the kitchen, the other three following her.

 

---

 

“It's totally not fair.” Lizzie crosses her arms as they enter the Dunkin Donuts. “Why did Lara get to sit shotgun?”

“She called it?” Christen shrugs and opens the door for everyone. “Plus, she's nicer than you.”

Lara and Hannah both giggle at that, and Lizzie just rolls her eyes. “Unfair.”

Christen insists on paying for their coffees and donuts, then they grab a table and Christen loves how seamlessly she can join their conversation.

“I don't think you understand.” Hannah shakes her head, setting her hand on the table. “I could you beat you in a game of one-on-one basketball any day.”

Lizzie shrugs. “I'm good at everything.”

“You're cocky about everything,” Christen corrects, earning a high five from Lara and Hannah, and an elbow to the ribs from Lizzie.

“That too, but for a reason .”

“Oh please.” Hannah rolls her eyes. “Name it, time and place.”

“I'm not gonna do this with you.”

“Because you're scared you'll lose .”

Lizzie takes a long drink of her coffee before answering. “Fine.” She sets the cup down. “Tonight, 7pm, at the gym. What are the stakes?”

Hannah grins. “I win, you have to wear my French National Team jersey to school every day till graduation.”

Lizzie pretends to gag before finally rolling her eyes. “And if I win?”

Hannah shrugs. “Your choice.”

Lizzie purses her lips to think and finally smiles.

“Oh no, what is it?”

“When I win, you--”

“Wait.” Christen puts a hand on Lizzie's shoulder. “Say it to me first.”

“Why?”

“Because it's probably inappropriate.”

Lizzie laughs and turns to whisper something in Christen's ear.

“Yeah, no.” Christen shakes her head. “You're not allowed to say that.”

“Fine.” Lizzie slumps in her seat. “Let me think of something else.”

“What was it?” Hannah squints and looks from Lizzie to Christen, who just raises her hands in defense. “Tell me!”

Christen shakes her head. “You'd thank me if you knew.”

“What?” Hannah pouts and Lizzie rolls her eyes, trying not to think about how cute it is.

“It's really dirty,” Lizzie admits.

“I still wanna know .”

Lizzie looks to Christen who just shakes her head. “Sorry, my advisor says I can't.”

Christen laughs. “You have a girlfriend, anyway.”

“So? I can still appreciate a--”

“Stop.”

“Fine.” Lizzie taps her finger against her chin and nods. “Alright, I’ve got it. You have to buy and eat lunch with me every day till graduation.”

“Geez.” Hannah takes a drink of her coffee and rolls her eyes. “If you wanted a date that badly, you could've just asked.”

“That's not what I meant!”

“Uh-huh, sure.” Hannah smiles teasingly and Lizzie can’t help but smile in response.

Christen checks her watch and rises from the booth, coffee in hand. “We should get going.” She moves to the counter and the girls follow her, Hannah still bugging Lizzie about what she was originally going to say.

“How many do you think we need?” Christen turns away from the counter. “Four dozen? Five?”

Lara nods. “Four dozen, probably.”

“Ten dozen.” Hannah nods seriously and Lizzie grins in agreement.

“Twelve dozen, I can eat two on my own.”

“Fifteen dozen.” Hannah looks to Lizzie. “I can eat three on my own.”

“I can eat four.”

“I can eat five.”

“Wanna bet on this too?”

Lara rolls her eyes and puts a hand on Christen’s arm, turning them away from the two bickering behind them. “Four should be plenty.”

 

---

 

They make it back to the beach house at half past eight, and by then everyone is awake.

Lara practically skips through the house to the recliner on the far side of the living room, taking a seat in Phoebe’s lap and pressing a kiss to her cheek.

Phoebe smiles and interlocks her fingers with Lara’s hand in response, continuing her conversation with Shiloh.

Christen walks to the kitchen to greet Tobin and rests her hand over the one Tobin is using to lean against the counter. “What's up?”

Tobin looks up and pulls her hand away to point to the phone, mouthing Alex, sorry .

Christen offers a small smile and shakes her head, mouthing back no big deal and instead going to meet Hannah who's setting the donuts down on the table. (Everyone offered to help her, but she insisted on carrying all four boxes.) (Lizzie offered twice.)

As soon as they're in the door, Lizzie splits away from Hannah and goes to find Lauren. She opens the sliding door to the balcony where Lauren’s by herself, leaning against the railing and staring out to the ocean in silence. “Hey Lo.” She slides her arms around Lauren’s waist from behind and kisses her neck.

“Hi baby.” Lauren moves her hands to rest over Lizzie’s and leans her head to the side, resting it on Lizzie’s.

“What's on your mind?”

“You,” she says simply, tracing her fingers across Lizzie forearms.

Lizzie hums in agreement. “What about me?”

Lauren bows her head and chews on her lip. “How much I'm gonna miss you.”

“Lo.” Lizzie frowns and pulls away, instead moving to stand next to Lauren. “We still have like, ten days.” She leans on the railing and turns her head to face Lauren. “Let's make them last, okay? And we'll see each other again. Of course we will.”

Lauren nods and takes Lizzie's hand in her own. “Yeah, of course.” She kisses Lizzie’s knuckles and nods. “We’ll make the best of it.”

“Are you ready to graduate?”

Lauren laughs. “I'm ready for exams to kill me, and I’m hoping I'll graduate.”

“You'll do great, baby.” Lizzie leans forward and kisses the corner of her mouth. “I know it.”

 

---

 

By the time noon hits, most everyone has left and the only ones left are Christen, Tobin, Lara, Phoebe, Lizzie and Hannah. (Lauren left with a kiss, an apology, and an excuse about studying.)

They work together to put the house back from the shambles it was left in (drunk college students and expensive furniture were a bad combination, and really, Christen should've planned better). They then pile into Christen and Phoebe’s cars to make their way to the nearest Denny’s, where the waitress smiles and seats them in a booth that's tucked into the corner and shaped like a circle (much to Lizzie’s disappointment, because what if I have to pee? Then everyone has to move, earning her a spot near the end).

“So, Coach.” Phoebe takes a bite of her bacon, nodding. “Opinions on your birthday weekend of fun?”

Tobin sets her glass of water down and leans back in the booth. “One, it was awesome.” She scans the table and smiles. “Thank you, guys. And two, when will you stop calling me Coach? You're pretty much the only one that does.”

“I've always called you Coach.”

“We were literally on the team together for two years before I became a trainer. You didn’t call me coach then.”

Phoebe shrugs. “Fair enough, Coach.”

Tobin shakes her head, still smiling and everyone else laughs. “Whatever, Phoebe.”

Lara takes a piece of bacon from Phoebe’s plate. “It's one of the things I love about you.” She leans forward to kiss Phoebe’s cheek. “One of your quirks, like how you get breakfast at one in the afternoon, or how you always kiss my nose before we go to sleep, or how whenever the time hits eleven after, you text people to let them know how many hours until 11:11.”

Tobin grins and Lizzie just rolls her eyes. “Gross, couple stuff.”

“You'd be the same way if Lauren was here.” Tobin gives Lizzie a pointed look. “And you know it.”

“Sure, yeah, maybe.” Lizzie picks up a french fry and turns to Hannah. “So do you know how to make these?”

Hannah smiles and takes a bite of the french fry. “One,” she mumbles before swallowing. “French fries are Belgian, they're only called French because of the guy’s last name. And two, these are literally so easy to make that if you don't know how, there's less hope for you than I thought.”

Lizzie grins and tosses the rest of the fry in her mouth. She turns back to Tobin on her left and wraps an arm around her shoulders. “So, how was the birthday weekend? Incredible? Phenomenal? Unforgettable?”

Tobin looks to Christen before answering and Christen just gives her a small smile in return. She faces the rest of the table and raises her glass, gesturing for everyone to follow suit. “All of the above. To a great weekend, with great friends, and the best birthday ever.”

Everyone smiles and Christen bumps Tobin to catch her attention before making one quick addition. “To Tobin.”

There's a chorus of “Cheers” and Tobin just shakes her head as Christen giggles, leaning against her.

 

---

 

As they leave the restaurant, Tobin and Christen start heading to Christen’s car before realizing Lizzie isn’t following them.

“Lizzie.” Christen unlocks her car as she turns around. “Coming?”

“Actually,” Lizzie juts a thumb behind her, pointing to Phoebe’s car. “Hannah and I have that game of basketball in a few hours, so we figured the four of us would just hang today.”

“Basketball?” Tobin looks to Christen for an answer. “What game?”

“We made a bet.” Hannah explains as Tobin glances over to her.

“I’m gonna kick her ass.”

“No she’s not.” Hannah looks from Lizzie to Tobin with a laugh.

“Sure I am.” Lizzie nods assuredly. “Hannah’ll buy me tacos for a week.”

Hannah crinkles her nose. “If I’m buying you lunch, it’ll be healthier than that.”

Phoebe honks the horn and everyone looks over to see Lara laughing in the passenger seat as Phoebe is waving them over.

“Guess we should go.” Lizzie shrugs and she and Hannah get in the car and Tobin makes her way to the passenger side of Christen’s.

“That was weird, right?” Tobin buckles her seatbelt as Christen starts the car. “Since when are they making bets and teasing each other?”

Christen shrugs. “I’m not sure Lizzie’s ever met someone she hasn’t made a bet with.”

Tobin nods and purses her lips. “Yeah, I think you’re right.”

 

---

 

Christen drops Tobin off at her house and finally arrives back at her own home. She lets herself in the door and before she even drops her keys in the bowl, the dogs are already at her feet.

“Jules?” Christen starts to drag her carry-on sized suitcase down the hallway and pulls to a stop by the laundry room. “Julie?” She glances around as she opens the door to the room. “I'm gonna start a load of laundry, do you have anything that needs to go in?”

Julie sighs and drops her head in her hands. She swings her legs over the bed before finally pulling on a robe and poking her head out of the bedroom door. “No, you can just start it.”

Christen turns to look at her and smiles. “Hey, Jules.”

Julie returns the smile and walks down the hall to meet Christen in front of the washing machine. “I missed you,” she mumbles before placing her hands on Christen's waist, pulling her in for a long kiss.

Christen pulls away momentarily and Julie just leans forward for another kiss. She places her hand on Julie’s arm with a laugh that makes Julie smile involuntarily. “I can tell.”

“What do you say we,” Julie pauses, tilting her head to the side to glance to the washer. “Wait to do laundry, maybe?”

“I think we can manage that.”

Julie interlocks her fingers with Christen’s and starts pulling her to the bedroom, Christen unable to stop herself from giggling as Julie sneaks a kiss with every step.

“What has gotten into you?”

Julie pushes the door open with a mumbled “you soon, hopefully,” before continuing to kiss Christen’s neck.

“Babe.” Christen looks in awe as she notices the candles placed throughout the room and the rose petals sprinkled across the floor and the bed. “What is all this for?”

“Just to say that I missed you.”

Christen leans forward, kissing Julie again as they make it to the bed and Christen starts working at the knot in the robe, pulling the flaps open and dropping her jaw, raking her eyes over Julie's body unashamedly. “Since when do you wear lingerie?”

“Found it when I was in San Diego this weekend.” She pulls Christen down for a kiss before continuing. “Thought I would give you something to come home to.”

Christen hums in agreement, not wanting to stop kissing Julie long enough to actually say anything but finally pulls away so Julie can pull the bralette off. “Maybe we should both go out of town more often.”

Christen hardly has time to laugh at her own joke before Julie pulls her down again, kissing her and working at the clasp on her bra.

 

---

 

The first thing Tobin does once she's back at her house is take a shower (which she wishes she had gotten a chance to do at the beach house). After, she brushes her teeth and gets ready to leave, pacing around the house nervously until almost six, when she finally gets in her car. A twenty minute car ride later, she's on Alex’s doorstep.

“Tobs!” Alex opens her arms for a hug that Tobin gladly accepts and the dog immediately feels left out, forcing his way in between their legs. “I'm so excited for your pseudo-birthday dinner!”

“Hey, Lex.” Tobin holds on to the hug for a moment longer before pulling away and bending down so she's eye-to-eye with the dog. “Hi Blue!”

He starts wagging his tail excitedly as she pets him and Alex can't help but laugh at the scene.

“You're jealous of our bond,” Tobin says as she stands up.

“Oh, yeah.” Alex nods, trying to suppress a smile. “I'm sure that's it.”

Tobin grins and Alex takes her hand to pull her through the house.

“I'll be ready in just a minute, I have to finish up my makeup.” She drags Tobin into her bedroom and sits in front of a mirror to work on her eyeliner. “Five minutes, tops. I promise!”

“Take your time, Lex.” Tobin smiles as she leans back on the bed, trying not to be nostalgic of all the times she's sat down, patiently waiting for Alex to be ready. “No rush.”

 

---

 

Phoebe, Lara, Hannah, and Lizzie all arrive at the gym and head to the locker room together. Phoebe and Lara split away immediately to do their own workout while Hannah and Lizzie head to the court, starting to trash talk each other before they even grab a basketball.

“You're gonna look so good in a French jersey.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “You're gonna look so good paying for my lunch.”

“You're gonna look so good getting your ass kicked.”

“I mean,” Lizzie grins as she bounces the ball over to Hannah. “As long as you're the one kicking it.”

 

---

 

Their game of first to fifteen goes on (Hannah gave Lizzie the first possession, promising her she'd need it) and Lizzie would argue that it's pretty neck in neck, when in reality, it's 14-7 and emotions are running high. (Lizzie can't be beat. Hannah would never let her live it down.)

Lizzie regains possession and launches a shot but it bounces off the backboard and to the right of the court, where Hannah jogs over to grab the ball before it can bounce out of bounds and they both run to the free throw line.

Lizzie raises her hands in an attempt to skew Hannah's shot but Hannah just dips her shoulder and shoves her side into Lizzie's chest. Lizzie slides back across the floor (dramatically, of course, because Lizzie can't lose and she loves being dramatic) as Hannah sinks her shot.

“Winnaaaaa!” Hannah raises her arms and flexes, kissing her right bicep, then her left, and then looking to Lizzie.

Lizzie pouts, still sitting on the floor, and she crosses her arms. “Not fair. That was a foul.”

Hannah laughs and walks over, reaching an arm out and Lizzie takes it, pulling herself up. “Sure, let's just ask the ref.” Hannah turns to the side of the court dramatically where no one is standing. “Oh wait, there is no ref.” She looks back to Lizzie with a smug smile. “And I won.”

“It was a foul . If we redo that play, I could totally win.”

“Oh please.” Hannah waves her off. “I was leading by seven anyway.”

“I could've caught up!”

“I had double your score.”

“Whatever.” Lizzie sighs dramatically.

“Don't worry.” Hannah slings an arm over Lizzie's shoulders and begins to lead their way to the locker room. “You'll look good in blue.”

“And with Elliot on my back?” Lizzie asks, doing her best to fake disgust.

“It'll look hot, trust me.”

“You're just saying that to get in my pants.”

“Eh.” Hannah shrugs, not confirming it but not denying anything either. “Come on.” She pushes the doors to the locker room open. “I'll buy you dinner.”

 

---

 

“Thanks for coming out with me, Lex.”

“Of course.” Alex smiles and reaches across the table to squeeze Tobin's hand. “Thank you for spending time with me.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Of course, Lex. You know I love to spend time with you.”

“How was the weekend?”

“Great!” Tobin lights up and it makes Alex’s heart hurt a little. “So much fun, Chris and Lizzie rented a beach house and the whole team came out.” She shakes her head with a smile on her face. “It was awesome.”

“That's good.” Alex drops her eyes to the table. “I'm sorry we don't spend your birthday together anymore.”

“It's alright.”

“No it isn't.” Alex looks up and squeezes Tobin's hand. “Really, I'm sorry.”

“It's okay, Lex. Really.”

Alex sighs. “I know you're just saying that.”

Tobin nods, not sure how to respond.

“I still love you, Tobin.”

“Yeah,” Tobin smiles. “I know.”

“More than anything.”

Tobin feels her throat tighten as she holds back her comment of not quite and takes a drink of her water. “I love you too, Lex.”

Alex reaches across the table so they can clink glasses and squeezes Tobin’s hand again. “Happy birthday, oldie.”

“I’m hardly older than you.” Tobin tries to look annoyed but she can’t imagine being anything but happy with Alex’s hand in her own.

“Still older.”

 

---

 

“I gotta take this, I’ll be back.” Lizzie excuses herself from the table as she answers her phone, stepping outside of the building. “Hey, Lo.”

“Are you busy?”

Lizzie glances back through the glass door where Hannah, Lara, and Phoebe are all sitting at their table together. “Uhm,” she chews on her lip. “Sorta. Why, what’s up?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it.” Lauren rubs at her temple, staring down at what feels like the millionth study guide she’s gone over. “I was just--”

“Lo,” Lizzie cuts in. “You alright?”

“Just tired. I wanna see you.”

“I can make that work.”

Lauren hesitates before answering, flipping over one of the pages in her textbook. “You don’t have to.”

“I want to, Lo.”

“You sure?”

“Of course, babe.” She glances back through the door again to where Hannah is smiling at her and she smiles back immediately in response. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Lauren smiles at the thought of seeing her girlfriend. “Where are you, anyway?”

“Taco Bell by the gym on campus, I was hanging with some friends.”

Lauren laughs. “Babe, it should take you almost fifteen minutes to get here.”

“I’ll be there in ten. With dinner.”

Lauren just rolls her eyes. “Drive safely, I love you.”

“I love you too.” Lizzie goes back into the building and stops by the table with her friends. “I’m gonna head out, guys.”

Phoebe nods understandingly as Lara just rests against her arm. “Us too, probably. I think Lara’s tired.”

Hannah tries not to frown at the news, simply nodding and taking a drink of her soda instead. (She likes hanging out with Lizzie. A lot .)

“So, I’ll see you guys around?”

Hannah nods with a small smile. “I’ll run that jersey to you before first period.”

Lizzie groans with false annoyance. “Alright, fine.” She glances to her friends with a nod as they start to rise from the table. “See you later.” She makes her way to the counter to get something for Lauren and checks her watch. (She’s at Lauren’s apartment eleven minutes after they got off the phone.)

 

---

 

“Tobin!” Servando pulls Tobin into a hug before she can protest and doesn’t pull away until Tobin finally hugs him back. “Happy birthday, man. How’s it feel to join the old club?”

Tobin rolls her eyes with a smile. “We’re really not that old.”

“Oh just embrace it, it’s not that bad.” He smiles, taking Alex’s hand and pulling her into the house then widening the door to usher Tobin in. “Come on, have a drink with me.”

“No, I really should--”

“Come on .” Servando lets go of Alex’s hand to wrap an arm around Tobin’s shoulders and pull her through the doorway. “One drink. Between working extra hours and this one ,” he points a thumb to Alex who just laughs, following them through the house. “I never get to drink anymore.”

“Fine, fine.” Tobin begrudgingly walks into the kitchen with him and takes the empty glass offered as he turns towards the liquor cabinet.

“Any preferences?” Servando pulls a few bottles out, lining them along the counter. “Do you like dark liquor? I don’t remember the last time we drank together.”

Tobin shrugs (she’s not sure they’ve ever drank together) and looks to Alex who smiles and mouths thank you . Tobin turns back to Servando and leans against the counter. “Surprise me.”

 

---

 

“I missed you,” Julie says absentmindedly as she stretches her arms over her head, bumping against the headboard.

“Really? I couldn't tell through all the screaming.”

Julie laughs and rolls her eyes. “I'm serious, Christen. I missed you.”

Christen hums in content, turning from lying on her back to her side so she can face Julie. “I missed you too, baby.” She reaches an arm up to cup Julie’s face, pulling her in for a kiss as Julie rests a hand on her waist above the blanket.

Julie pulls away from the kiss, losing herself in Christen’s eyes as she brushes a bit of hair away from her forehead. “I love you,” she mumbles, leaning forward for another kiss.

“I love you too.” Julie starts to kiss her again and Christen just pulls away, giggling. “I was hardly even gone, babe.”

“I didn’t just miss you,” Julie admits, pulling away and rolling to lie on her back. She stares up at the ceiling and takes a deep breath before continuing. “I missed us.”

Christen nods and starts tracing a pattern into Julie’s bicep. “I missed us too.”

Julie glances over to Christen before looking back up again. “I don’t wanna lose you, Stanford.”

“I don’t wanna lose you either, Jules.”

“You don’t have to.” Julie looks over and places a hand under Christen’s chin to pull her closer for a kiss. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Julie gives a small smile as Christen rubs her thumb across her cheekbone. “We’ll be okay,” she whispers and Christen moves her hand to the back of her neck, closing the distance between them.

“We will,” Christen mumbles in between kissing Julie’s lips, then jawline, then her neck. “And in the meantime,” she pulls away to look into Julie’s eyes. “You can show me how much you missed me again.”

Julie grins, sliding her hand down to Christen’s hip and rolling them over so she’s practically straddling her. “I like that idea.”

 

---

 

“Oh, babe,” Lauren stands from her desk to pull Lizzie into a hug as she walks through the door.

“Hey, Lo.” Lizzie smiles as she attempts to hug Lauren with the bag of food in one hand and a grocery bag in the other. “I just let myself in,” she pulls away from the hug and smiles at Lauren. “I hope that’s alright.”

“Of course.” Lauren puts a hand under Lizzie’s chin to tilt her head up for a quick kiss.

“I got you Taco Bell,” she raises the bag in her right hand. “And chocolate, soda, chips, and a few other things I thought you might like.” She raises the bag in her left hand and Lauren just grins, leaning her forehead against Lizzie’s.

“If there was an award for best girlfriend ever,” she closes the distance between them for another kiss. “You would be the reigning champion.”

“Oh yeah? Does that come with a reward?” Lizzie smiles, leaning up on her toes for another kiss as Lauren pulls away. “I love you.”

“I love you too. You’re a lifesaver, honestly.” Lauren takes the Taco Bell bag from Lizzie and then takes her now free hand, pulling her over to the couch. She sets the bag down and leans forward, nearly crawling into Lizzie’s lap. “Also,” she places a hand on Lizzie’s hip and starts kissing her neck. “I’m sure I can think of something for a reward.”

 

---

 

“Tobin.” Alex reaches across the car, jostling her shoulder in an attempt to wake her up. She sighs and leaves the car, moving to the other side and opening the door. “Tobin, come on.” She unbuckles Tobin's seatbelt then leans down to press a kiss to Tobin's forehead. “Tobin, I'm too pregnant to try and carry you.”

Tobin finally begins to wake up, opening her eyes and smiling as she sees Alex leaning over her. “Hey, Lex,” she mumbles, starting to stretch in the limited space of her seat. “Why'd you drive? I always drive.”

“You're drunk, Tobs.” Alex slides her arms underneath Tobin's shoulders and pulls her out of the car. “And you should probably get some sleep, come on.”

Tobin follows Alex up to the door, nearly tripping up one of the steps (Alex is there to catch her) and fumbling to fish her key out of her pocket. Tobin hands the key over and Alex unlocks the door, supporting her until they get to Tobin’s bedroom where she finally collapses.

“Tobin.” Alex strokes the side of her face for a moment before sitting next to her on the bed. “Tobin, honey, you've gotta change into some new clothes.”

Tobin shakes her head and turns away from Alex, burying her face in the blankets and sheets on the unmade bed. She mumbles something that Alex can't hear and Alex reaches out for her arm in response.

“Tobs, come on.” She rolls Tobin over onto her back and leans down to kiss her forehead. “I’ll get you some clothes to change into then grab a glass of water, okay?”

Tobin nods as Alex tosses a pair of sweatpants and a UCLA shirt on the bed next to her.

“I'll be back in a moment, get dressed.”

Tobin stretches again before changing into the clothes Alex got her and she sits on the bed for a moment, rubbing at her eyes and waiting for Alex to come back in. She hardly sits there for more than a minute before rising from the bed and making her way to the kitchen. “Lex,” she calls as she walks down the hall.

“Hey,” Alex turns to look at her and smiles. “What's wrong?”

“I missed you.”

“Aw,” Alex laughs and shakes her head. “I told you I'd be back soon.”

“Yeah, but,” Tobin takes a shaky breath as she walks over to meet Alex, wrapping her arms around her waist and tucking her face into Alex’s neck. “I miss you everyday. All the time.”

Alex feels her heart ache as she starts to trace patterns into Tobin’s back. “I love you, Tobs,” she whispers before pressing a kiss to Tobin's temple.

“I love you too, Lex.” She pulls away but hesitates before continuing. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

“Of course.” Alex grins and pulls Tobin closer to kiss her forehead. “Anytime, that's what best friends are for.”

The words best friends sting a little bit, but as she stands in her kitchen, hugging Alex, she knows she wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

“Come on,” Alex pulls away and smiles at the sleepy look on Tobin’s face. “Let's get you to bed.”

Tobin nods and lets Alex lead her to her room, pulling the blankets back and crawling under the covers. Alex moves to kiss Tobin on the forehead, whispering “I love you, goodnight.”

“Stay,” Tobin says so quietly that Alex almost doesn't hear it. “Please,” she adds with a light tug on Alex's wrist.

Alex feels her heart clench and can't deny her. “Until you fall asleep,” she whispers back. Carefully, she turns off the light and climbs onto the bed next to Tobin, who snuggles as close as she can. Alex starts to stroke Tobin's hair and feels her relax at her touch.

“I'm glad you stayed,” Tobin slurs quietly. “I've missed this.”

“We cuddle all the time,” Alex chuckles.

“No, sleeping with you,” she replies, squeezing Alex’s bicep for emphasis.

Alex feels her pulse quicken and hopes that Tobin is too drunk to pick up on it. Suddenly, she finds herself back in college, spending lazy mornings with Tobin when they had afternoon practice or stargazing on practice fields they snuck into or sharing a tent on the beach over spring break. (She misses those times with Tobin. Sometimes, she wishes she could rewind and live in those fleeting moments forever.)

She's pulled back into the present when she feels something similar to butterflies in her stomach. It happens again a few seconds later and she finally realizes that it's the baby kicking.

“Tobin,” Alex smiles. “I think the baby is kicking.”

She looks over at Tobin, who's already asleep, and feels her smile grow even wider. She feels comfortable and loved and happy.  Alex scoots down a little so she's actually lying down next to her best friend.

“Goodnight,” she whispers again, pressing a kiss to Tobin's cheek and settling in for the night.

Chapter Text

“Good morning!” Hannah jogs up to Lizzie who’s sitting alone at a table outside of the building, two coffees on the table in front of her. “Why’d you take off so early last night?”

“Lo needed a little pick me up after a long study session.” She takes a long drink of coffee before gesturing to the other chair. “Go ahead, sit,” she glances to her watch and grins up at Hannah. “We’ve got about ten minutes before class starts.”

“Thanks!” Hannah takes the seat and drops the jersey on the table. “And I'm actually surprised you're here this early, figured you'd still be asleep. You're never early.”

“You say that like I'm always late.”

“You are.”

“Not true!” Lizzie drops her jaw in mock offense.

“When was the last time you made it before class is supposed to start?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Time doesn't even matter. I am almost always there before the professor.”

“Whatever.” Hannah raises her hands in defense. “Ready for the test?”

Lizzie shrugs and takes another drink of her coffee. “I’m gonna wing it, as usual.”

Hannah rolls her eyes but she’s grinning. (Lizzie’s too cool attitude is oddly endearing, and she’s not sure what to think about that.) “Well we can have a study jam.”

“Study jam?”

“Yeah!” Hannah nods excitedly. “We’re gonna do a quick study before the test. Jam out some answers. A study jam.”

Lizzie takes another long drink of her coffee before making eye contact. “You’re a dork.”

“I know.” Hannah smiles and points to the other coffee on the table. “Do you really need two? A caffeine crash will be bad for your scores.”

“Nah, the other one was for Lo.” Lizzie taps her fingers on the table and Hannah patiently waits for her to continue. “She needed extra study time. You can have it, though.”

“I shouldn’t.” Hannah shakes her head. “I’m not a big caffeine person. And it was for Lauren, anyway.”

“Really, come on.” Lizzie pouts, sticking out her bottom lip. “Like you said, I shouldn’t have  two.”

Hannah shakes her head again but Lizzie crosses her arms and sinks in her chair.

“Please?”

“It's bad for you!”

“Exactly why I shouldn't have two! But I can't let it go waste, can I?”

Hannah rolls her eyes and takes a sip of the coffee. “Happy?”

“Overjoyed.”

Hannah slides her French National Team jersey across to Lizzie. “Say hi to your best friend for the next week.”

Lizzie picks up the jersey and rolls her eyes. “Phoebe’ll be so upset.”

Hannah laughs as she relaxes back in her chair. “I'm sure Lara is willing to fill the void.”

“And a few other things of hers,” Lizzie says under her breath but Hannah opts to ignore it.

“Speaking of Lara, is she always such an early riser? Or was that just this past weekend?”

“Nah,” Lizzie shakes her head before taking another sip of coffee. “She's always up early. Some nights she and Phoebe will stay with us at Stitch’s house, and you know Phoebe, she'd sleep through just about anything, and Lara will wake up early and just sit there with her, waiting for her to wake up. It's grossly adorable.”

“I want that.” Hannah nods then looks up to make eye contact with Lizzie. “I want grossly adorable. I haven't dated anyone since I started college here.”

“Really?” Lizzie sets her cup down, attempting to avert a possible spit take. “That's a long time to go without sex.”

Hannah crosses her arms. “I’ve had sex.”

“You don't strike me as a sex without relationship kinda gal.”

“Well,” Hannah shrugs and takes a sip of the coffee (she's a little upset with herself for how much she likes it). “Guess there's a lot you don't know about me.”

Lizzie nods, leaning back in her chair with a smile. “I guess so.”

 

---

 

When Tobin finally wakes up the next morning, she can smell Alex already cooking in the kitchen, and she's thrown. She always makes breakfast. It's such a role reversal that for a second, Tobin thinks she might be in an alternate universe. (An alternate universe where she gets to wake up to Alex cooking after a night with Alex in her bed sounds like a universe she wants to live in.)

“You didn't have to stay last night, Lex.” Tobin yawns as she takes a sip from her coffee. She practically collapses onto a bar stool before looking up at Alex. “I would've been alright.”

“Really?” Alex raises an eyebrow in disbelief as she slides a plate of eggs and bacon across the kitchen island for her. “Because drunk you thought otherwise.”

“Well,” Tobin takes a bite before continuing. “Sober me knows it would've been alright.”

Alex nods as she takes a seat next to Tobin and starts eating.

“Drunk me was glad you stayed, though.”

Alex smiles and looks to Tobin. “What about sober you?”

“Of course.” Tobin nods, replicating Alex’s smile.

“It had been awhile since I'd seen drunk you. How's she doing?”

Tobin laughs and takes another bite, practically moaning (she doesn't know if it's really that good or she's just really hungry, but either way, she knows she's missed Alex’s cooking). (If she was in an alternate universe, she'd have Alex's cooking everyday.) “Drunk me is alright. She was happy to see you again.”

Alex nods and takes a drink of water before turning to face Tobin. “And sober you?”

“Lex.” Tobin turns on her stool and places a hand on Alex’s thigh, looking up to make eye contact. “I'm always happy to see you.”

Alex leans forward to kiss Tobin's cheek. “I love you.” (If she was in an alternate universe, that kiss would've been an inch to the left.)

Tobin nods, looking to her plate then back to Alex. “I love you.”

“What's your plan for today?”

“I don't know yet. Season’s over so I don’t have a lot to do. I'm thinking I'll take off. You?”

“Well, Servando’s working.” (If she was in an alternate universe, she'd never have to hear the way Alex's tone drops off at the mention of Servando working again. She'd never have to hear about Servando again.) “So I'm not busy.” Alex stands to clear her plate and then turns back to Tobin. “Is it alright if I hang out here?”

A grin spreads over Tobin's face before she can even process what Alex said and she nods. “Of course, Lex. We can watch movies and--”

“Cuddle and order takeout and relax with each other?” Alex finishes as she walks back over to where Tobin is sitting. “I'll be back in a minute, queue up a movie for us.” She pauses, smiling at Tobin for a moment. “This will be fun, I’ve missed you.”

“I've missed you too.” (If she was in an alternate universe, they'd never have to say they miss each other.)

Alex leans forward and kisses Tobin's cheek, then turns to move down the hallway. “Get ready for an entire day stuck with me!”

Tobin grins as she watches Alex walk away, and she can't imagine a better way to spend her time. (Maybe she is in an alternate universe.)

 

---

 

“Always nice to see your smiling face,” Lizzie says sarcastically, dropping into the seat next to Lauren at the computers.

Lauren shushes her as she glances over. “Be quiet babe, people are trying not to work.”

“Alright, sorry,” Lizzie whispers back. She reaches out and sets a brown paper bag on the table next to Lauren’s hand. “Brought you lunch. I know you're in super-study mode, but you've gotta power that big beautiful brain of yours.”

“Thank you.” Lauren closes her textbook and slides it out of the way so she can clear a space for the bag Lizzie brought her. She glances over as she pulls out a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel with hearts and I love you! s on it in Lizzie’s handwriting. “What’s with the jersey?”

Lizzie pulls on the collar as she looks down. “Oh, yeah, right.” She looks back up to Lauren with a laugh. “I lost a bet with Hannah so I’ve gotta wear it for the week.”

Lauren nods and mumbles something Lizzie can’t understand through a mouthful of the sandwich.

“Babe.” Lizzie takes the napkin she packed out of the bag and leans forward to wipe the corner of her mouth. “Slow down, you have time.”

Lauren nods, setting down the already half-eaten sandwich and pulling out a bag of carrot sticks. “Vegetables? You don’t eat healthy. Where did you even get these?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Just eat your lunch. Made with love by the way.”

“I’m sure it was made with love, I saw the paper towel.” She reaches into the bag to pull out a folded piece of paper addressed to my love in Lizzie’s handwriting. “And the note. Seriously though, where did you get the carrots?”

“If you must know,” Lizzie crosses her arms and leans back in her chair. “I stole them from Stitch.”

“Of course you did.”

“You love me.”

“I do.” Lauren reaches out to hold Lizzie’s hand and pulls it closer to kiss her knuckles. “So do you think you can be the best girlfriend ever--”

Lizzie coughs to interrupt her. “Already am, but keep going.”

“If you’d like to continue to be the best girlfriend ever, you’ll come over tonight and give me a neck massage while I study.”

“Of course.” Lizzie grins and leans forward, leaning up in her chair to kiss Lauren’s forehead. (The height difference between them is enough to make forehead kisses fairly awkward.) “And for now,” she relaxes back in her chair and squeezes Lauren’s hand comfortingly. “I’ll just sit here and hold your hand, watching your beautiful face as you try to understand,” she pauses and squints at the textbook, trying to read the title. “Whatever the hell it is you’re trying to understand.”

“You really are the best girlfriend, you know that?”

“Of course I am.”

 

---

 

“Have you seen Christen?”

Servando stops in the hallway, smiling and sliding the files to one hand so he can pull Julie into a half-hug. “Hey Julie! How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been alright!” Julie hugs him back then pulls away, glancing around. “Have you seen Christen? I wanted to take her out to lunch.”

“Uhm,” Servando looks down at the files in his hands. “She was going to help me with some of this, but that can wait.” He glances to his watch then looks back at Julie and smiles. “She was in a meeting, but she should be out in almost twenty minutes. You can wait in her office, if you'd like.”

“That would be great.” Julie nods as Servando pulls her into another quick hug. “I’ll see you around?”

“Of course!” Servando gives Julie a large grin and rests a hand on her shoulder as he pulls away. “Christen’ll be so happy to see you, I know it. The other day we went out to lunch and she was just bubbling , talking about,” he pauses, trying to remember. “Something about a movie marathon?”

Julie tilts her head. “What movies?”

“I think that part might’ve been a surprise, oops.” Servando looks down the hall where someone is waving for him to hurry. “I have to go to a briefing, though. We should get together sometime, Alex and Christen and all. A double date.”

“Yeah, yeah. That’d be nice.” Julie nods as Servando steps away to follow the woman trying to get his attention down the hall and decides to go into Christen’s office instead. She sits down in Christen’s chair and checks her watch, noticing it’s already thirty minutes into her lunch break. “Twenty more minutes,” she whispers to herself, deciding whether or not it’s worth it to stay, but then she remembers Servando talk about how Christen would be happy to see her and she feels a twinge of guilt for even thinking about leaving. Julie twists in the chair to stretch her back and then leans over Christen’s desk, telling herself she’ll close her eyes for just a moment, and she’s asleep within seconds.

Christen’s surprised when she gets out of her meeting and sees her door closed, but when she lets herself in, she can’t stop the smile that spreads over her face. “Jules?” She steps forward and rests a hand on Julie’s shoulder, then leans down to press a kiss to her temple.

“Hmm?” Julie leans up from the desk and looks to Christen with a smile. “You’re out of your meeting,” she mumbles, rubbing her eyes.

Christen hums in agreement and reaches to interlock fingers with Julie. “What are you doing here?”

“Came to surprise you for lunch.” Julie stands up from the chair and pulls Christen into a hug. “I wanted to see you, that's all.”

Christen leans back on her heels to look into Julie’s eyes. “Have I ever mentioned how much I love you?”

“Maybe once or twice.” Julie grins and leans forward to kiss Christen's nose. “But it's always nice to hear.”

 

---

 

“Another movie?”

Tobin smiles as she walks back into the living room. “You should probably head home.”

“Probably.” Alex frowns as she looks down at her hands in her lap. “But I love spending time with you.”

“I love spending time with you too, Lex.” Tobin drops down into the spot on the couch next to Alex. “But I bet Servando misses you.”

“I see him all the time.”

Tobin laughs and reaches out for Alex’s hand. “Come on, you should head home. I've got some paperwork stuff to do, anyway.”

“Okay.” Alex stands from the couch with Tobin and pulls her into a tight hug. “Happy birthday, again.”

“It's been almost a week by now.” Tobin laughs as they pull away but the look Alex is giving her makes her never want to let go. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Alex leans forward to kiss Tobin’s nose before turning to walk to the door. “Walk me out?”

“Of course.” Tobin steps ahead to open the door for Alex and laughs when she realizes it's pouring .

Alex steps closer to Tobin who wraps an arm around her waist. “Maybe I should stay here.”

“You've really gotta get home, Lex. Servando already called me once to make sure you're alright.”

Lightning strikes off in the distance followed immediately by a loud roar of thunder and Alex pushes herself up against Tobin for comfort. “You can't make me drive home in that, can you?”

Tobin sighs (with the look Alex is giving her and the tone of her voice, Tobin assumes that Alex made sure there was a storm so she could stay longer). “Fair enough, one more movie.”

“Yay!” Alex wraps her arms around Tobin’s waist for a hug as the door swings shut.

“Find something to watch, I'll call Servando to let him know you'll be a few more hours.”

Alex pulls away, squeezing Tobin's hand before making her way back into the living room and sprawling out on the couch.

“Hey Serv, weather’s crazy for some reason and I don't really want Alex trying to drive in it. I'll drive her home in a few hours, but for now everyone should just stay off of the roads…..I'll see you then, man…..Yeah, I'll tell Alex you love her…..Alright, bye.”

Tobin makes her way back to the living room where Alex is lying across the couch half asleep and Princess Diaries is already playing on the tv. She grabs a blanket from the recliner and throws it over her then moves to sit next to Alex's head, and Alex immediately adjusts her position to rest in her lap.

“I love you, Tobin. Always.”

Tobin smiles and starts to stroke the side of Alex’s face, tangling her fingers in her hair. “I love you too, Lex. Always.”

 

---

 

“I see you have the jersey again.”

“Kind of part of the bet.” Lizzie settles next to Lauren in the booth. “I've gotta wear it everyday this week.”

Lauren nods, looking away from her girlfriend and to the food in front of her.

“You alright, babe?” Lizzie rests a hand on Lauren’s thigh and she immediately pulls away.

“Fine. I'm fine.”

Lizzie takes her hand back and palms her neck instead. “Alright, sorry, Lo.”

“You don't have to be sorry.” Lauren’s tone drops off and Lizzie can't even bring herself to be upset with how genuine she sounds. “I'm just stressed.”

“Yeah, I know.” Lizzie frowns and starts to reach out for Lauren again, but just drops her hand on the space between them instead. “I'm here for you, alright?”

“Thanks.” Lauren brushes a piece of hair behind her shoulder and turns to look at Lizzie. “I'm sorry I've been so on edge.”

“It's okay, really.” Lizzie gives a half-hearted smile and reaches a hand out to interlock fingers with Lauren. “You're just stressed. You're worried. Give it a few days and exams will be over and you'll be graduating and we'll be great.” She leans forward to press a kiss to Lauren’s cheek which prompts a smile.

“You're right.” Lauren squeezes her hand and visibly relaxes in her seat before looking across the table at Lara and Phoebe, who are trying to pretend they weren't listening to the brief argument. “I should go.”

Lizzie frowns as Lauren pulls her hand away and she looks to her plate in an attempt to hide the dejected look on her face.

Lauren looks up to Lara and Phoebe and gives a weak smile before starting to slide out of the booth. “I'll see you guys later?”

“Sure, sure.” Phoebe nods and looks to Lizzie once Lauren steps away. “What's that all about?”

“Hell if I know.” Lizzie leans back in the booth and looks at her food. “I think she's just been stressed but,” she sighs. “It seems like it's more than that.”

“I don't know man, but we're here if you wanna talk about it.”

“Yeah, of course.” Lara nods in agreement. “Definitely here for you.”

“Thanks guys.” Lizzie gives a small smile and slides out of the booth. “I think I'm gonna head out, maybe meet up with Stitch. It's loud in here and I've got a headache.”

“Cool, cool.” Phoebe nods before nodding over to where Hannah is entering the opposite side of the building. “She here for you?”

Lizzie winces because she assumes that the growing closeness of her and Hannah is part of what's been upsetting Lauren. “I don't know, tell her I'm busy or something? I think I need a nap and some alone time. Or something.”

“Alright, sure man.”

Hannah stops by their table a few minutes after Lizzie slips out of the building and takes a seat. “Have either of you seen Lizzie?”

“Think she went to take a nap in Coach’s office.” Phoebe tilts her head in the direction that Lizzie left. “I wouldn't bug her though, she said something about a headache.”

“Alright, sure, yeah. I was just gonna ask how she thought she did on the test yesterday. How are you guys feeling about your exams?”

“Pretty chill.” Phoebe shrugs as Lara nods in agreement, leaning her head against Phoebe’s arm. “Any plans for the summer?”

“Well I’m playing in the World Cup,” she says with a laugh and Phoebe and Lara nod as they remember. “Then I’m heading back to France to spend about a week with my family, but I'll be back in LA after that probably.”

“Oh, babe.” Lara turns to Phoebe, placing a hand on her arm and giving a sweet smile. “We should go to France together!”

“Sure, we can do that someday.” Phoebe bends down a bit so she can kiss Lara’s nose and Lara rests her head back against Phoebe’s arm.

Hannah laughs and starts to rise from her seat. “Well if you guys do head out there sometime, hit me up and I'll let you know all the best spots.”

“Thanks,” Lara grins and turns from Hannah back to Phoebe as she starts to walk away. “We should go to France, it's so romantic .”

“Just us?”

“Lizzie and Lauren could go too.”

“After today, do you really think Lizzie and Lauren would want to go on a trip together?” Phoebe says with wide eyes. (Hannah hangs back for a second as she hears that, not sure what to make of it, then continues on her way out.)

Lara nods. “Fair point. Lizzie could still come, though. And Hannah could, she'd be our guide. And Tobin!”

Phoebe tilts her head from side to side before nodding. “I think Coach actually took a few French courses when she was a student.”

“Awesome. And Christen could go! Christen seems cool, I like her.”

“Yeah, she's cool.” Phoebe picks up her cup with the hand Lara isn't already holding. “Doubt she'd wanna drop everything to go on a trip with some friends, though. Doesn't strike me as the type.”

The type ,” Laura mocks, rolling her eyes. “ Anybody can travel!”

“Fine, fine.” Phoebe takes a drink before setting her cup down and squeezing Lara’s fingers. “When do you plan on making this trip?”

Lara chews on her lip before finally shrugging. “Next year spring break?”

“Maybe.” Phoebe turns to kiss her forehead. “Let's revisit this thought in a couple months then, alright?”

“But we will revisit it, right?”

“Of course.”

“Then okay.” Lara smiles and rests her head against Phoebe’s arm. “A couple months.”

 

---

 

Lizzie bursts into Tobin's office without so much as a knock and immediately drops into the chair in the corner, tossing her bag to the floor and resting her head in her hands.

Tobin taps her upper lip with her pen, looking at Lizzie for a few moments before finally breaking the silence. “Wanna talk about it?”

“No.”

“Alright.” Tobin turns back to the papers she was filling out as Lizzie slumps deeper into the chair and let's out a heavy sigh. “You sure?”

“It's just Lauren,” Lizzie mumbles, not adjusting her position.

“What happened?”

“I don't know. I messed up, probably.”

“You didn't mess up.”

“You don't know that.”

“I do.”

Lizzie doesn't say anything in response so Tobin stacks her papers together and rises from her desk, making her way over to the chair.

“You haven't done anything wrong.”

Lizzie stays silent but adjusts her position so she's facing away from Tobin and closes her eyes.

“Listen to me,” Tobin reaches out to hold Lizzie's wrists and Lizzie stands from the chair. “You haven't done anything wrong. Lauren is just stressed with exams and graduation and the draft, okay? You are okay, and she is okay, and you guys are gonna be okay.”

“You don't know that.”

“You're right.” Tobin shrugs, not releasing Lizzie's wrists. “I don't. But I know that if you both really want it, and if it's what's right, then it's true.”

They're both silent for a moment and Lizzie just leans forward to rest her head against Tobin's shoulder.

“And I know that no matter what,” she pauses to let go of Lizzie and instead wraps her arms around Lizzie's shoulders in a hug. “You are a smart, funny, talented, dependable, amazing girl that deserves the world. And you're gonna get it one day.”

Lizzie feels like she's going to cry so she turns her head into Tobin's shoulder to hide it and mumbles a “thank you, Stitch” into her shirt.

“Anytime, Lizzie.” Tobin rubs her back as Lizzie squeezes her arms around her waist and Tobin can't help but smile. “You're a good kid.”

“I don't feel like it sometimes,” she admits, not pulling away from the hug.

“I know, but that doesn't make it any less true.”

“You really are the best.”

Tobin grins and presses a kiss to Lizzie’s temple. “I know.”

 

---

 

Tobin’s Christen: Do you know where Tobin is? I tried calling her but didn’t get an answer.

Lizzie: I think she’s at the school still. Maybe on the practice field if not in her office.

Lizzie: Why, is she okay?

Tobin’s Christen: Just wanted to meet her for dinner

Lizzie: Oh okay

Christen sees Tobin’s car in the parking lot when she gets to the school, but her office is empty. She follows the hallway past the locker rooms and onto the field, where she can make out someone lying on the ground at half-field.

“Hey, Tobs?” Christen asks softly as she walks up.

Tobin glances over for a second but looks back up to the sky without saying anything.

Christen kneels down next to her. “What's wrong?”

Tobin shrugs again, not taking her gaze away from the stars.

Christen lays down next to her instead, resting her head on Tobin's shoulder and draping an arm across her torso. “You can talk to me, y'know.”

Tobin nods slowly and Christen shifts her weight so she's looking at her.

“You don't have to talk, either.”

Tobin nods again and this time mumbles, “Thanks Chris.”

Christen shifts closer to her and starts tracing patterns across her hip bone.

Tobin shifts her weight and smiles for what feels like the first time since Alex stayed over the other night.

They lie there for so long they both lose track of time, Tobin studying the sky and Christen entranced by Tobin's fascination. Eventually, Tobin sits up and leans back on her hands, Christen leaning up next to her.

“Why were you here, anyway?” Tobin asks, looking at Christen.

“I came to see if you wanted to go out to eat.”

“Oh,” Tobin nods. “Sorry, you're probably starving.” She laughs to herself. “Bet you didn't think you'd end up dealing with me and my sadness, lying on the grass. Sorry.”

Christen shakes her head. “Stop saying sorry, you're not an obligation.”

“But don't you feel obligated to spend this time with me? You could've been with Julie or something.” She says it in such a matter-of-fact tone that Christen can’t help but frown.

“Julie was working late, again. And besides, I came her because I wanted to spend time with you, Tobin.” Christen smiles and reaches out for Tobin, resting her hand on her knee. “I want to be here for you.”

“Thanks, Chris.” Tobin glances at her watch and sighs. “It's getting a little late, but do you still wanna go out for dinner?”

“I'd love to, Tobs.”

 

---

 

“Let's do something this summer,” is the first thing Christen says when she gets home.

Julie looks up from the binders on the table she was scanning and turns in her chair to look at Christen. “Any suggestions?”

Christen smiles and walks out of the kitchen, a bowl in hand for each of them (with box macaroni and cheese, which is one of the few things Christen can successfully make). “The World Cup?”

“Like, soccer?”

“Yes, soccer.”

Julie chews on her lip as she closes one of the binders and starts to slide things out of the way. “Is that what you want?”

Christen nods, smiling at Julie and reaching out to hold her hand. “It really is.”

“When would we go?”

“Well,” Christen interlocks her fingers with Julie's and pulls her hand up to kiss her knuckles. “Tobin said she’s planning on taking Lizzie for the quarter and semifinal, so probably the 25th to the 31st of June?”

“Only two weeks away?”

Three weeks.”

Julie nods slowly before squeezing Christen’s hand and looking up to make eye contact. “So we'd be going with Tobin?”

“Well, yeah.” Christen frowns. “Is that a problem?”

“I just--”

“She's my friend , honey. And she invited us to go.”

“Yeah, alright, I know.” Julie nods and raises the hand that isn't holding Christen's in defense. “Yeah,” she smiles, rubbing her thumb against Christen's hand. “Let's go to the World Cup.”

Chapter Text

“Lunch in here again?”

Lizzie drops into the chair without a word and Tobin just nods, turning back to her computer.

After about five minutes of sitting in silence, there's a knock at Tobin's door. She looks to Lizzie who just shrugs and Tobin rolls her eyes. “Come in.”

Christen walks in with two bags for lunch for her and Tobin and frowns when she sees Lizzie who's curled up in the chair, half asleep. She walks over to take a seat at Tobin's desk, setting the bags down, and juts a thumb in Lizzie's direction. “What's up with her?” She whispers, hoping not to disturb her.

Tobin shrugs. “Girl trouble. A headache.” She takes a sandwich out of the bag Christen bought for her and takes a bite before continuing. “I'm just letting her stay in here to chill out a little.”

“You're such a good person.”

“I try,” Tobin mumbles through a mouthful of food.

“I talked to Julie about--”

“Nothing!” Tobin cuts her off, reaching out to put a hand over Christen's and shaking her head.

“What are you--”

Tobin takes her hand away, nodding over to Lizzie who's leaning up in the chair and she mouths the word surprise .

“Talked to Julie about what?” Lizzie perks up.

Christen nods in understanding before turning to Lizzie. “About dinner! Julie and I were wondering if you and Lauren want to go out to dinner with us one night.”

Lizzie raises an eyebrow, unconvinced, but settles back in the chair. “Maybe, sure. When?”

“What's good for you?”

“Tomorrow, probably. Graduation is Saturday and she'll be studying tonight, most likely.”

“Alright, awesome.” Christen turns back to Tobin with a smile and Tobin laughs.

“So Julie was cool with,” she pauses and glances to Lizzie before looking back to Christen. “Dinner?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Christen shrugs and starts tapping her fingers on Tobin’s desk.

“You alright?” Tobin reaches her hand across the desk again and rests it back over Christen's.

“Yeah, I mean,” she pauses, shrugging and looking down at the desk in front of her. “Don't worry about it.”

“Chris,” Tobin frowns and squeezes Christen's hand. “I'm gonna worry.”

“Thanks for caring. Just that Julie seems stressed about work and then even more stressed about being gone all the time.” Christen sighs before continuing and Tobin squeezes her hand in an attempt to comfort her. “And I don't think she wants to go,” she pauses to look to Lizzie who has fallen back asleep in the chair. “To dinner plans because I think she would prefer it to be just us, y'know? And obviously I'm excited to go with everyone that's going, but I'm worried Julie’s just, I don't know.”

“Jealous?”

“Maybe.” Christen shrugs. “And I don't know how to fix it.”

Tobin frowns. “Sorry Chris, I don't know what to tell you.”

“It’s alright.” She looks up at Tobin and smiles. “Thanks for letting me rant, though.”

“Anytime.”

There's a knock on the door and they both turn their heads.

“Come in?”

Hannah opens the door and steps in. “Hey, Tobin.” Hannah waves with a small smile. “Hi, Christen,” she adds, looking to Christen, confused.

Christen smiles, turning in her chair to face Hannah more comfortably and offering a small wave.

“Hey Hannah.” Tobin smiles and relaxes back into her chair. “What's up?”

“Just stopped by to check on Lizzie, I heard she wasn't feeling well, so,” Hannah holds up a bag. “I brought some soup and a coke. The caffeine helps headaches.”

Lizzie smiles as she leans up in the chair and stretches. “You didn't have to do that.”

“I wanted to.” Hannah smiles as she hands the bag over. “Phoebe said she hadn't seen you all day and I hadn't either, so I was a little worried.”

“You don't have to worry about me.”

“I know.” Hannah shrugs. “But you're my friend, and I care about you. So I worry anyway.”

Christen smiles as she watches Lizzie scoot over in the chair so Hannah can sit next to her and Tobin taps her arm.

“Hmm?”

“Am I,” Tobin nods her head in the direction of Hannah and Lizzie who are squeezed together on the chair, with Hannah trying to feed Lizzie soup and Lizzie laughing too hard for her to be successful. “Missing something there?”

“Don't spill on my jersey!”

Lizzie rolls her eyes as she puts her hand over the one Hannah’s using to hold the spoon. “Then don't shake the spoon!”

“You’re laughing and it shakes me !” Hannah defends as Lizzie guides their hands so the spoon doesn't drip.

“Great.” Lizzie gives a dramatic sigh as some of the soup drips on the front of the jersey anyway. “Now I have to wash it before tomorrow.”

“Have you not washed it all week?”

“Nope.”

“Ew.” Hannah crinkles her nose and faces away from Lizzie.

“Whatever, I still smell great .”

“Says you .”

“Smell me.”

Hannah shakes her head, still facing the opposite way.

“Smell me!” Lizzie challenges, leaning forward and pressing her chest against Hannah’s shoulders, eliciting laughter from both of them.

“Fine, fine.” Hannah turns and leans towards Lizzie's neck, taking a deep breath. “You smell great.”

“As always.”

Hannah laughs again, rolling her eyes. “Yes, as always.”

Lizzie grins triumphantly, relaxing back in the chair and checking her watch. “We should probably get to class, yeah?”

Hannah leans over Lizzie to look at her watch and nods in agreement. “You're probably right.” She stands from the chair, taking the thermos from Lizzie and grabbing the coke from the floor. “Come on.” She reaches a hand out to pull Lizzie up and Lizzie takes it gladly.

“I'll walk you to class, cool?”

“Aren't our classes pretty far from each other?”

Lizzie shrugs. “No big deal.” She walks over to the door and opens it, gesturing for Hannah to walk through. “Bye Stitch. See ya, Chris.”

They both wave and Hannah yells a “bye guys!” behind her before leaving the office.

“I swear I'm missing something,” Tobin says the second the door clicks shut. “Do you know anything?”

Christen just shrugs. “I'm sure if there was anything worth knowing, Lizzie would tell you.”

“Yeah, alright.” Tobin nods, still looking at the closed door. “I guess that's true.”

Christen nods and taps on the stack of papers in front of them. “Now eat your sandwich so you can get back to this mountain of paperwork.”

 

---

 

“So,” Christen smiles as she walks into the entryway where Julie is coming in the house. “You're not busy tomorrow, right?”

Julie raises an eyebrow as she looks away from where she was dropping her keys in the bowl and turns to Christen. “Not really, no.” She continues into the house until she and Christen are moving into the kitchen. “Why, what's going on?”

“I made dinner plans for us.”

“Dinner plans,” Julie repeats, making sure she heard her girlfriend correctly.

“Yeah.” Christen waits to see if Julie will say anything else but she doesn't, just moving to the freezer and pulling out a bag of frozen vegetables. “That alright?”

“Sure.” Julie shrugs, not turning to face Christen. “With Serv and Alex, right? He said something to me about it the other day at your office.”

Christen frowns. “No, Lizzie and her girlfriend, actually.” She leans against the counter, looking at Julie who is busying herself with dinner. “Did we have plans with them?”

“No, he just mentioned that we should.”

“Ah, alright. Well we can invite them, if you want.”

“Sure.”

“Are you alright?”

Julie finally looks up to meet Christen's eyes and offers a weak smile. “Just stressed, babe.”

“You're always stressed.”

“Trust me, I know.”

Christen frowns and steps closer, rubbing circles into Julie’s back. “What is it?”

“There's just a wedding coming up in a couple weeks, and it interferes with our World Cup plans.” Christen tries not to look upset but she can't help it, dropping her hand back to her side and Julie immediately closes the distance between them, placing a hand on Christen's forearm. “But I can put someone else on it. I already made plans with you.”

“I love you,” Christen says before she can stop herself, pulling Julie into a hug.

Julie just smiles, turning her face into the side of Christen's head and taking a slow breath before responding. “I love you too.”

 

---



“Dinner tonight ?”

Christen nods. “I know it's last minute, sorry, but Jules and I are heading out with Lizzie and her girlfriend, and she said you guys wanted to get together anyway, so I figured why not!”

Servando nods, smiling. “Yeah, sure, Al and I can make it. She'll be happy to see Julie again!”

Christen rolls her eyes. “I'm glad I mean so much to your wife.”

“Oh come on, I didn't mean it like that.” Servando laughs, pushing on Christen's shoulder playfully. “Al loves you.”

“I definitely wouldn't go that far.”

Servando shrugs. “Okay, you're probably right, not that far. But still!”

“Yeah, yeah. I get what you're saying.” She crosses her arms and sighs dramatically. “Julie's just better than me.”

“Whatever, I think you're cooler than Julie.”

“I'm glad someone does.”

Servando rolls his eyes and Christen just laughs.

“So you'll come?”

“Sure, sure. Al and I will be there. Text me later to let me know times and all.”

“Will do.” Christen smiles as Servando pulls her into a hug. “I know Jules really wanted to see you guys.”

Servando laughs at that and just smiles in the gorgeous, flashy way that he always does. “I'll let Alex know, I'm sure she's been dying to see Julie too. So who else is gonna be there?”

“Lizzie, she was Alex’s friend in college, and her girlfriend, Lauren.”

“Ah cool, cool. Well we'll be there.” Servando flashes his grin again and walks down the hall to get to whatever’s next on his over-booked schedule.

 

---

 

“No studying today?”

Lauren shakes her head as she walks up to Lizzie, reaching out with both hands to intertwine their fingers. “Nope, only one more test and I was free this morning, so I studied then.” She leans down for a quick kiss before smiling. “I'm all yours, baby.”

Lizzie grins involuntarily, pulling one of her hands away to wrap it around Lauren’s waist. “So how do you wanna spend your free time?”

“Whatever you wanna do.” She turns to kiss Lizzie’s forehead and Lizzie squeezes her fingers.

Whatever I wanna do?”

“Anything,” she promises.

Lizzie moves the hand she has around Lauren’s waist to hook a thumb through one of her belt loops. “Well it's been awhile since we've--”

Lauren cuts her off with a laugh. “How did I know that was what you were going to say?”

“You know me so well?”

“Or you're just predictable.”

“Also possible.” Lizzie leans up on her toes to kiss Lauren on the mouth then moving down to her jawline and her neck before finally pulling away with a mumbled “so what do you say?”

“I say yes,” Lauren says, leaning down so their foreheads rest against each other and she places a hand on Lizzie’s waist, sliding it into her back pocket and Lizzie leans up for another kiss. “Where?”

“Tobin's office?”

Lauren pulls away, crinkling her nose. “No, she's like, your best friend.”

Technically , Phoebe’s my best friend.”

“Fine. She's like your sister.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “So?”

“Isn't she in her office?”

“No, she's out to lunch with,” Lizzie pauses because she can't remember if it's Christen or Alex (it's Alex, she knows it's Alex, but she doesn't really care to remember right now because she has her very hot, very horny girlfriend standing in front of her) and she just shrugs. “Someone. But we're good, I promise.”

“You promise?”

Lizzie nods. “I promise.”

Lauren bites her lip, thinking. “Fine, just this once.”

Lizzie grins. “Just this once.”

 

---

 

“You can answer it.”

Alex looks over to her phone on the table that’s hit its third ring before back to Tobin. “I'm at lunch with you.”

“And your husband’s calling.” Alex slumps in her chair a little and Tobin just smiles. “Really, it's all good. Just answer.”

Alex nods, grabbing her phone and answering it as she steps away from the table.

Tobin can only hear a few words but the ones she does hear ( dinner in a surprised voice, Lizzie and Julie both in an excited voice) lets her assume that it's Servando calling about how Christen invited them to dinner for a triple date. (She tries not to think about how Christen’s quick cover up so Lizzie wouldn't find out about a possible World Cup trip turned has turned into a full on affair that she wasn't invited to.)

“Okay,” Alex sits back down with a smile. “So where we?”

“I think you were trying to get me to help with baby names again.” Tobin smiles as she picks at her food. “I already told you, Tobin Powell. They're great first and middle names.”

Alex rolls her eyes but she's grinning at Tobin because the more Tobin suggests it, the more they do sound like great names. She isn't sure how much of that is the name and how much of that is the person suggesting it, but if she's being honest, she doesn't want to know. “Well everyone I've ever known with them has been amazing.”

Tobin grins and before she can say anything, Alex is continuing with something that makes her heart twinge.

“If my kid is even half as great as you, I know they'll be better than I could ever ask for.” Alex reaches across the table to squeeze Tobin's fingers and Tobin smiles, trying to hide how she feels like she's going to cry.

“I love you, Lex. And I'll be the best aunt that kiddo could ever ask for, raise them to be just like me.”

Alex smiles sweetly and Tobin’s heart flutters in return. “I couldn't ask for anything better.”

 

---

 

“If I'm late for my exam, I swear to god.”

“You won't be late.” Lizzie pauses buttoning her shirt to make sure Lauren can see her dramatic eye roll. “You have like twenty minutes.”

“To be on the opposite side of campus.” Lauren turns to look at the couch, then Tobin's desk, then back to Lizzie with a frown. “Where's my bra?”

“It is not the other side of campus.” Lizzie tosses it to her and grabs her own jeans from the arm of the chair. “You'll be fine, babe. I promise. Usually it only takes you like five minutes to get there anyway.”

“But it's an exam .”

“So?”

“I should get there early .”

Lizzie finishes with her shirt and looks up to see that Lauren actually looks nervous. “Hey.”

Lauren doesn't say anything in response, just looks down as she pulls on her jeans.

“Lo.” Lizzie takes a step forward and rests her hand on Lauren's forearm. “It'll be okay, you'll get there in time and you're gonna kick that test’s ass.”

Lauren finally looks into Lizzie’s eyes and Lizzie leans forward to kiss her forehead.

“I promise.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“Honestly,” Lauren sighs. “Just being around you helps me calm down.”

“Yeah,” Lizzie nods in agreement. “They say that sex is a stress reliever.”

Lauren slaps her on the arm playfully. “Not what I meant, dork.”

“I know, I know.” Lizzie grins and leans forward for another quick kiss. “Now finish getting dressed so you can go get an awesome grade.”

Lauren rolls her eyes and tries to push Lizzie away from where she's kissing her neck. “Stop distracting me then.”

“Then stop being so prettyyy ,” she says, drawing out the word and leaning forward for another kiss.

“Stop being so horny,” she says, pushing Lizzie away again but she's grinning.

“I'm always horny around you.”

“We just had sex.”

Lizzie shrugs and just rests her hand on Lauren’s back. “Oh, by the way, we're having dinner with Christen and her girlfriend tonight.”

“Tonight?”

“Tonight.” Lizzie nods and rubs her back. “It'll be fun, come on. I think Chris could use a night out. You could too.”

Lauren nods, leaning into Lizzie’s touch. “Only if you promise to hold my hand all through dinner.”

“When did you become such a sap?”

Lauren shrugs and tilts her head so she's resting against Lizzie. “I only have so much time to hold your hand before the--”

“Yeah,” Lizzie cuts her off because she's pretty sure that if she hears someone mention the draft (aka, her girlfriend moving really far away), she'll punch something. “Yeah, okay. I'll hold your hand. All night.” She reaches with her free hand to grab Lauren’s hand and squeezes her fingers. “I promise.”

“I love you.”

Lizzie grins. (She really likes hearing Lauren say that.) “I love you.”

“And you have to come with me to get my parents from the airport tonight.”

“I'm meeting your parents?”

“Yep. Dress nice, be respectful, and don't talk about sex.”

Lizzie grins. “I can handle that.”

They move to start walking in the direction of Lauren’s class before she breaks the comfortable silence they always manage to fall into. “Excited to meet my parents?”

“Of course.” Lizzie kisses her cheek. “So we're going to the airport to meet your parents. Deal.”

“And you're driving.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “I get extra kisses for that one.”

Lauren squeezes her hand. “As many as you want.”

“Okay,” Lizzie smiles and leans over to claim one of the many kisses she plans to cash in. “Deal.”

 

---

 

“You ready?” Julie pokes her head in the bedroom but pauses and leans against the doorway instead when she realizes that Christen is definitely not ready. “Come on babe, we're gonna be late.”

“We won't be late.” Christen tries for the third time to hook her necklace until she finally turns to Julie. “Can you help me?”

“Yeah, of course.” She walks into the room, standing behind the chair that Christen’s sitting in in front of the mirror. She hooks the necklace then moves to start massaging Christen's neck and shoulders. “That all?”

Christen practically melts at her touch, relaxing back in the chair as Julie works the tension out of her shoulders. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, babe.” Julie leans down to kiss Christen's forehead before pulling away. “Now come on, we should get going. Alex already texted to say they're on the way.”

“Really? Dammit.” Christen looks to the mirror to check her makeup and then leans down to grab her shoes. “Wait, you're not lying are you?”

“Babe.” (She totally is.) Julie looks to her with a serious expression. “Would I lie to you?”

“To get me to get ready faster? Probably.”

 

---

 

“Almost ready, Lo?”

Lauren leans closer to the mirror to touch up her makeup before pulling away and turning around to smile at Lizzie. “To spend a wonderful evening with you?” She rises from the chair and walks over, placing her hands on Lizzie’s waist. “Of course.”

“We still have,” Lizzie wraps her hands behind Lauren’s neck then glances to her watch over her shoulder. “Fifteen minutes before we should leave. Plus longer because knowing Christen and knowing Alex, they're both going to be late.”

Lauren nods, swaying back and forth and pulling Lizzie with her. “We should dance.”

“Or we could make out,” Lizzie suggests but Lauren just rolls her eyes.

“Dance with me.” She leans her head against Lizzie's chest and Lizzie begins swaying from side to side, trying to follow Lauren's lead.

“There isn't any music.”

“We don't need music.” Lauren tilts her head up for a moment to press a quick kiss against Lizzie jawline. (Lizzie's really glad she wore heels and Lauren wore flats, otherwise, Lauren would be towering over her.) “I love you.”

“I love you,” she whispers back without hesitation.

“I'm gonna miss you. I'm gonna miss you a lot.”

Lizzie lets her eyes drift shut as Lauren practically mumbles into her chest.

“I wish I didn't have to go. I wish I could have you and soccer. I wish I could stay here for you.”

“No, babe.” Lizzie pulls away and looks into Lauren’s eyes. “You've gotta make the right decision for you . Not us. You're most important.”

Lauren nods and rests her head back against Lizzie’s chest. “Thank you for understanding.”

“Of course.” Lizzie presses a kiss to the top of her head. “But for now, we're here, and we have each other.” She pulls away a little so Lauren’s standing on her own before she starts swaying from side to side again. “And for now, we should dance.”

Lauren grins and leans back against Lizzie's chest, still swaying with her. “The only rhythm I need is the beat of your heart.”

“My heart beats for you.”

Lauren pulls away, crinkling her nose. “Now who’s the sappy one?”

Lizzie just rolls her eyes and pulls Lauren in for a kiss, mumbling an “I love you” before closing the distance between them.

 

---

 

“Al.” Servando sighs as he takes a seat on the bed. “How soon do you think you'll be ready?”

“Don't rush me.” Alex turns to glance at him before looking back to the mirror. “I'll be ready when I'm ready.”

“Sure, yeah.” He nods and looks down at his tapping feet before back up to Alex. “You look beautiful.”

“This dress almost doesn't fit.”

Servando rises from the bed and walks over so he's standing over his wife from behind the chair. He makes eye contact with her through the mirror and gives a small smile. “You always look beautiful.” He closes his eyes and leans down to kiss the top of her head. “Absolutely amazing, and that dress looks perfect.”

“I changed five times.”

“Nothing wrong with that.”

“The others didn't fit.”

“Alex, honey.” He laughs and crouches down so he's level with her. “You're carrying a baby, our baby, and you're doing an amazing job. You're gonna gain a few pounds, and that's okay.” He places a hand under her chin and kisses her on the forehead. “I love you.”

Alex smiles as Servando pulls away but she grabs his forearm to pull him in for a real kiss. “I love you too.”

“Good to know.” He gives a cheesy grin before pretending to check his phone. “Christen says they're on the way.” (He’s lying.)

“Shit.” Alex turns back to the mirror to check her makeup. “Are we good to go? Can you get my shoes?”

“Sure, which shoes?”

“The ones that go with this dress.” She gestures herself up and down. “You know the ones.”

Servando looks from Alex to the closet and back to Alex with a lost expression. “I really, really don't.”

Alex sighs and pushes past him to open the closet. “These!” She holds them up before turning to sit on the bed so she can put them on. She stands from the bed as Servando leaves the room.

“Anything else I can grab for you?”

“My purse?” She asks, following him through the hall and into the entryway.

“Where is it?”

Alex rolls her eyes, grabbing her purse from where she always puts it and opening the front door. “Are you good for anything?”

“Orgasms?”

“Not as good as you think you are,” is all she says before leaving for the car.

“What?” He drops his jaw, offended. “What do you mean?” He follows her out of the door and looks at her before locking it, then looks back to her and follows her to the car. “Al, what does that mean?”

 

---

 

“Sorry we're late.” Lizzie takes a seat next to Christen and Lauren sits in the only other open seat, next to Servando. “Lost track of time.”

Julie and Alex continue to talk to each other, not even acknowledging that Lizzie and Lauren have joined them.

“It's fine, I'm sure you were doing more fun things.” Christen teases, taking a sip of her wine.

Lizzie just shrugs (she'd really rather not explain that she got sidetracked dancing in Lauren’s bedroom, because the teasing for that would be even worse) as Lauren interlocks their fingers under the table. “Yeah,” she smiles as Lauren squeezes her hand. “More fun things.”

 

---

 

The dinner goes by smoothly for the most part. Alex talks to Lauren about the draft and Julie asks her about graduation and Servando absentmindedly makes a comment about how fast time goes by, and at that point Lizzie's heart starts to beat so quickly she has to excuse herself from the table.

Christen notices, following her into the bathroom and resting against the counter next to her as Lizzie tries to even out her breathing. “Wanna talk about it?” She asks, crossing her arms and glancing to Lizzie who's looking down at her hands under the faucet.

“Why do things have to change? Why does so much have to change?” Lizzie pauses to take a deep breath and wipe her eyes. “Why does she have to leave?” She whispers in an almost defeated voice, and Christen adjusts her position to rest a hand on Lizzie’s back.

“I'm sorry, I know it's gotta be hard.”

Lizzie turns towards Christen and Christen pulls her in for a hug.

“But it'll be okay, everything's gonna work out like it's supposed to. A wise person once said that if it's meant to happen, it will.”

Lizzie pulls away with a laugh. “Was that wise person Tobin? Sounds like something Tobin would say.”

Christen rolls her eyes. “No, it wasn't Tobin.” She pauses to think about it and laughs. “It does sound like her, though.” They're both silent for a moment until Christen leans over to bump shoulders with Lizzie. “And she would tell you the same, y'know. She would remind you that God has a plan, and that we're all just a part of it.”

“What do you think?”

Christen shrugs. “I don't know how much of the God part is true, but I do trust Tobin. And I would like to believe that there is some sort of plan that makes sure we all end up where we're supposed to.”

“Why would God take her away from me?”

Christen shrugs. “It's hard to fathom that an all-loving God could allow so much pain, huh?”

Lizzie nods, leaning her back against the counter and crossing her arms to replicate Christen’s position. “Yeah, it really is.”

“But it's okay for things to not make sense. And it's okay to be confused, and it's alright to be sad when the bad things happen.” Christen pauses to see if Lizzie wants to say anything. “And I'm here for you, and Tobin's here for you, and Phoebe and Lara and Hannah are all here for you. We all care about you, and trust me, Lauren is here for you. That girl loves you. Her eyes sparkle when she steals a glance at you and she smiles involuntarily every time you look at her and she, without a doubt, loves you.”

Lizzie smiles. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Trust me, kid.”

Lizzie crinkles her nose. “Did you just call me kid? Nobody calls me that anymore.”

Christen laughs and holds back her comment of except Tobin, huh? “You and Lauren, though. You guys are adorable. Reminds me of when Julie and I first got together.”

“When did it stop?”

Christen doesn't know quite how to answer, so she doesn't.

“Sorry, was that crossing the line? I shouldn't--”

“No, no.” Christen shakes her head. “It's fine, really. It stopped soon after she got her promotion. She started to put work above everything, her friends, her family, herself.” She pauses, chewing on her lip. “Me.”

Lizzie pulls Christen into a hug, rubbing her back. “I'm sorry, Chris.”

Christen pulls back with a laugh. “You're a lot like Tobin, y'know?”

Lizzie grins at Christen before she can help herself. “That's not a compliment, by the way.”

“Sure it isn't.” Christen rolls her eyes and places a hand under Lizzie’s chin. “You smudged your makeup.”

“Oh well.”

Christen grabs a paper towel and starts to dab at the corner of Lizzie's eyes to fix it. “There, perfect. Now let's go back out to our hot dates.”

“Mine’s hotter.”

“It isn't a competition.”

“Nope,” Lizzie holds the bathroom door for Christen as they leave. “Just a fact.”

They take their seats at the table and Lauren immediately places a hand on Lizzie’s thigh with a worried expression. “You alright?”

Lizzie smiles and leans forward for a quick kiss. “Perfect.” She moves to hold Lauren’s hand under the table and looks up to see Servando and Julie engaged in a conversation about some case he has coming up.

“Really? That sounds so interesting.” Julie glances to Christen before rolling her eyes. “Press never tells me anything about her job.”

Christen leans forward to whisper “not like she gives me the chance” and Lizzie has to stifle a laugh.

Lauren glances to her watch to realize they've been there for almost two hours. “Babe,” she whispers, trying to catch her attention but Lizzie has turned the other direction to talk to Christen. “Babe.” Lauren lets go of her hand and waits for Lizzie to turn but she doesn't, instead, she turns to Alex who has joined hers and Christen’s discussion from across the table. “Babe.” Lauren slides her hand up Lizzie's thigh and she finally grabs her attention.

“Yeah?”

“I swear, you only pay attention when it comes to possible sex.”

“Possible sex intrigues me.”

Lauren rolls her eyes but leans closer to press a kiss against her cheek anyway. “My parents will land in almost an hour and it's a thirty minute drive, plus traffic.”

“Shit, right.” Lizzie nods and slides her chair back. “I'm sorry,” she turns to the rest of the table with a nod of her head. “We've gotta head out. Lo’s parents are flying in.”

Christen wiggles her eyebrows up and down and mouths meeting the parents but Lizzie just rolls her eyes as she pulls Lauren's chair out for her.

Lizzie drops a few bills on the table (which is more than enough for both of their meals and quite the tip) before grinning back up at everyone. I'll see you all around?”

There's a chorus of of course! s and definitely s and Lauren slides her hand into Lizzie’s as they make their way from the restaurant.

“You're driving,” Lauren reminds her as they walk up to the car.

“I remember.” Lizzie opens the passenger door for Lauren and wraps an arm around her. “But first.” She pulls her closer for a kiss and Lauren happily obliges.

“Plenty more where that come from,” Lauren promises and Lizzie just laughs, shutting the door for her.

Lizzie gets in on the driver's side and starts the car and Lauren immediately reaches over to hold her hand.

Lauren pulls on Lizzie’s hand and kisses her knuckles before relaxing it back on the center console. “I love you.”

Lizzie looks over with a grin before glancing back to the road so she can pull out of the parking lot. “I love you.”

 

---

 

“That's them!” Lauren practically jumps up and down as she spots her parents recovering their bags on the other side of the do not cross line. “They're here, babe. They're here!”

“Yeah!” Lizzie smiles and feels her heart swell as she watches her girlfriend get so excited.

“I haven't seen them since the summer.”

“I know,” Lizzie leans forward to press a kiss against Lauren's cheek. “But they're here now.”

Lauren's parents walk through the glass doors and Lauren immediately rushes over, hugging them both.

“Hi Mr. and Mrs. Torres.” Lizzie grins, holding out her hand to shake it but Lauren’s mom pulls her into a hug instead.

“So you're the girl that's been making my baby so happy,” Lauren’s dad says proudly, wrapping an arm around his daughter.

“I suppose so, yeah.” Lizzie holds her hand out and Lauren’s dad shakes it with a comforting smile.

“Oh, baby girl!” Lauren’s mom pulls her into another hug. “We've missed you!”

“I've missed you guys too!” Lauren can't wipe the smile off of her face and neither can Lizzie. (She loves seeing her girlfriend this happy.)

“I'll take your bags, sir.” Lizzie takes a backpack and one of the suitcases from him and Lauren pulls away from her mom.

“How nice of you, isn't she so nice?” He looks to his wife and she just nods, smiling.

“I'm happy to help.” Lizzie looks over to her girlfriend who mouths thank you and she grins. “Now let's get you guys to a bed.”

 

---

 

Lauren shuts the door to her bedroom quietly and walks over to Lizzie who's sitting in the dining room, leaning over the table, exhausted.

“Hey baby.” Lauren leans over her half-asleep girlfriend, placing a hand on her shoulder and kissing the top of her forehead. “What's wrong?”

“Just tired.” Lizzie slumps so her head is on the table and Lauren leans farther over, pressing kisses to the side of her face. “I should get to my apartment,” Lizzie mumbles, pushing herself up.

“Stay.” Lauren starts twirling her fingers in Lizzie's hair then moves so she's rubbing her shoulders. “Stay, with me. I'll make tea and we’ll cuddle on my uncomfortable pull-out couch and we can list all the things we love about each other.”

Lizzie smiles as she stands from the chair and she turns around in Lauren’s arms. “That could take all night, and you need some sleep.”

“Spend the night. We only have so much time.” Lauren leans forward so their foreheads rest against each other.

“I don't even have any clothes here.”

Lauren rolls her eyes. “You've slept over enough that we both know that isn't true.” She walks over to a basket of clean clothes and pulls out a pair of training shorts that could belong to either of them, and a tshirt that's definitely her own (Lizzie isn't complaining, she likes to wear Lauren’s clothes) and tosses them to her.

Lizzie shrugs and starts to change out of what she wore to the dinner and the airport. “Worth a try. Won't it look bad to your parents if I spend the night?”

Lauren pulls the couch out into the bed and Lizzie walks over to help. “Not even a little bit.” They finish fixing the bedding and Lauren turns, draping her arms around Lizzie's neck and leaning forward for a kiss. “They love you.”

“Do they really?”

“They really do.” Lauren pulls her closer for a long kiss and moves her hands down to Lizzie’s waist. “Stay the night,” she whispers against her lips. “Please.”

It sounds almost desperate and tugs at Lizzie’s heart in a way that makes it impossible for her to say no. “Anything for you.”

Lauren pulls her so they fall onto the mattress together, laughing and kissing.

“I'm so--” Lizzie gets caught off with another kiss which just causes her to laugh more as she pulls away. “I'm so proud of you.” She looks up at Lauren with a small smile on her face and Lauren laughs.

“If you don't wipe that smile off of your face I'll kiss it off.”

“I wouldn't complain.”

Lauren leans down for a long kiss.

“I'm so privileged to love you,” Lizzie whispers, almost breathless as Lauren pulls away.

“What happened to I'm tired and I should go home ?” Lauren mocks in a whiny voice with a grin on her face.

“I didn't say home,” Lizzie corrects with a straight face. “I said my apartment.” She pauses before continuing, trying to gauge Lauren’s reaction but between the dim light and the odd angle, it's hard to tell anything. “You're my home.”

Lauren eases from her position so she's cuddling with Lizzie rather than straddling her. “I love you so much,” she whispers, angling her head so her lips brush against Lizzie’s neck.

Lizzie moves her arm so she can stroke Lauren’s back and she nods. “I love you so much too.”

Chapter Text

Lauren walks up behind Lizzie who's standing in front of the stove and wraps her arms around her waist. “What's all this for?”

Lizzie shrugs and uses the hand that isn't holding a pan to lace her fingers with Lauren's. “Just a little surprise for my favorite girlfriend. Favorite by default, of course, but still favorite.”

Lauren rolls her eyes and pulls away to pour a cup of coffee. She steals a blueberry pancake from the stack and Lizzie slaps at her hand.

“Stop! We're going to eat breakfast with your parents, when they wake up.”

“It's one pancake!” Lauren just sticks her tongue out before she takes a bite, practically moaning. “Who taught you how to cook like this?”

“I'll give you one guess.”

“Is there anything you didn't learn from Tobin?”

Lizzie just gives her a knowing look and Lauren laughs.

“I love you, baby.” Lauren presses a kiss to Lizzie’s cheek. “I'm gonna go hop in the shower, if my parents are out before I am, good luck.”

“Good luck? What do we talk about?”

Lauren just shrugs and blows a kiss before disappearing behind the bathroom door.

 

---

 

“Hey Lo,” Lizzie grins as Lauren, still running a towel through her hair, walks up to where her parents and Lizzie are sitting at the table.

“Hi baby,” Lauren tosses the towel onto her counter and grins as she sits down in the vacant seat next to Lizzie, across from her parents. “Good morning, Mom and Dad. How'd you guys sleep?”

“Oh, it was good!” Her dad smiles as he sections off another piece of the pancake on his plate and her mom nods along with a smile on her face.

“She cooks, better than you! You picked a good one, mija!” Her mom nods to Lizzie who rests her hand on Lauren's lap with a large grin.

“Hear that babe?” Lizzie leans closer to bump Lauren with her elbow. “I'm a good one.”

“The best,” Lauren agrees, resting her hand over the one Lizzie has on her lap and giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Do you have to go?” Lauren checks her watch. “I know you wanted to catch up with Tobin before you guys went to graduation.”

“Right, right.” Lizzie nods and squeezes Lauren’s fingers. “I should head out.” She looks to Lauren’s parents and smiles. “I hope you guys enjoy the pancakes, I'll see you at graduation?”

“Oh, we will!” Lauren's dad assures her as her mom rises from the table.

“It was so nice to meet you!” Lauren's mom pulls Lizzie into a hug so tight that she isn't sure she'll make it out of the apartment.

“You too, Mrs. Torres.” Lizzie gives her a large grin and before she can pull away, Lauren’s mom is pulling her in for a kiss on the cheek.

“You hold onto her.” Lauren's mom says, reaching out for Lizzie’s arm and smiling at her daughter. “She's a good one.”

“I'll try, mama.” Lauren hooks arms with her girlfriend, practically dragging her out of the apartment and once they finally get outside, she breathes a sigh of relief. “I'm sorry.” Lauren leans closer and rests their foreheads together. “They're suffocating.”

“They're sweet.” Lizzie smiles and closes the distance between them for a quick kiss. “They love you. A lot.”

Lauren moves to rest a hand on Lizzie's waist and Lizzie leans in for another kiss. “They're,” Lauren sighs, trailing off and shaking her head. “What did you guys even talk about?”

“You. How great you are.”

“Hush.” Lauren rolls her eyes but she's smiling.

“We talked about the draft.” Lizzie threads their fingers together and pauses, not sure how to continue. “They hope you get drafted to Houston. Closer to them.”

Lauren nods. She's heard it from them a dozen times before. “What did you say?”

“I said I wish there was an LA team.”

Lauren nods. (She's heard that a dozen times, too.) “I'm sorry, baby.”

“You don't have to be.”

“I know.”

They're both silent for a moment until Lauren leans forward for one last kiss.

“You should get going.”

“I should.”

“I'll see you after graduation?”

“Of course.” Lizzie nods and looks into Lauren’s eyes with a reassuring smile. “I'll be the cute one that can't take my eyes off of you.”

“There's a lot of cute girls with their eyes on me.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “You're getting a tattoo that says only Lizzie gets to bang me on your forehead.”

“I'm not sure that'll fit, babe.”

“We’ll figure something out.” Lizzie squeezes her fingers and leans in for another kiss. “Your parents are probably waiting for you.”

“Probably. Tobin is probably waiting for you .”

Lizzie nods and starts to walk with Lauren to her car. “Probably.”

Lauren leans against the side of Lizzie’s car as she unlocks it. “See you after graduation?”

Lizzie settles in the driver's seat and starts her car without an answer, rolling down the window. “I'll be there, I promise.”

“I'll be waiting.”

Lizzie pulls away and Lauren stands there in the lot, watching as she drives off. She considers texting Lizzie I miss you right away, but that feels cheesy and she's never been one for cheesy. (If Lauren were going to be cheesy for anyone, it would be Lizzie.)

 

---

 

“When do you guys leave for the draft?”

Tobin stays silent for a moment, not sure how to answer the question. “Are you coming with?”

“Haven't decided.” Lizzie falls back on Tobin’s bed and sighs. “What should I do?”

“I don't have all the answers.” Tobin squints at the mirror as she fixes her top button and then reaches to where her bow ties are sitting on the dresser. She pauses, her hand hovering above the selection. “UCLA or black?”

“UCLA, obviously.”

Tobin nods and grabs it, flipping her collar up so she can tie it.

“I wish we had an answer key. The rule book, something .”

Tobin nods in agreement and Lizzie stands, stepping forward to be next to her in the mirror.

“How do we know what's right?”

“We don't,” she says simply, looking in the mirror and attempting to straighten the tie.

“It isn't fair. How do we know if the love is real, or if it's meant to be?”

“We don't,” Tobin says again, pulling too much on one side and making the bow tie lopsided.

“How can you handle it?”

Tobin pulls on the bow tie, making it lopsided again and she sighs in frustration.

“Let me get it.” Lizzie places her hands on either side of Tobin's shoulders and spins her so they're facing each other. She fixes the tie and before letting go, she looks into Tobin’s eyes. “How can you handle it, Stitch? I don't understand.”

Tobin purses her lips. Part of her wants to ask handle what? but she knows. Lizzie always asks these kinds of questions, how do you deal with not knowing? How can you live without Alex? How can you stand the thought of not being happy ever again? Lizzie's always asking question after question after question, and Tobin loves having all the answers.

It started when they first met. Simple questions like is there a game this weekend? Can you teach me how to juggle the ball like that? Have you ever been late to a practice? and each time, Tobin could give an assuring nod. It put a smile on both of their faces. As they got closer, it got deeper, and it got harder. How did you know you love Alex? When did you know you wanted to pursue soccer as a career? Why do you believe in God?

As time went on, Lizzie had more and more questions and Tobin had fewer and fewer answers. (Tobin hates not having the answers.)

“Stitch.”

Tobin finds herself pulled back into reality and she clenches her jaw. “Sorry, I was,” she pauses to take a breath. “Lost for a second.”

“I just don't understand, Stitch.”

“I don't either, kid. And that's alright.”

Lizzie nods at that and she can appreciate Tobin’s honesty of the situation. “I miss the days when you had all the answers,” Lizzie pouts, mostly as a joke, and Tobin gives a half hearted smile.

“Me too, kid.”

“Stop calling me that.” Lizzie crosses her arms and Tobin just reaches up to straighten the strap of her dress.

“Never. Now let's go, or we'll be late for graduation.”

Lizzie nods with a grin and leads Tobin out of the room and then out of the house. “Can I drive?”

“Have I ever let you drive my car?”

“Yes.”

“When I was sober?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes, splitting from Tobin to go to the passenger side. “Fine, whatever.”

“It's nothing personal.”

“It totally is.”

Tobin nods with a laugh as she starts the car. “You're right, it is.”

 

---

 

“Lizzie!” Lara runs up to her and Tobin as the large camera issued to her for being on the campus paper staff bounces around her neck. There’s a sense of urgency in her tone and Tobin picks up on it immediately. “Hey, Lizzie. Glad I caught you.”

“Yeah, what's up?” Lizzie grins and glances up to the stands as Lara fiddles nervously with the camera.

“The paper, the one that comes out tomorrow.”

Tobin notices the way that Lara won't make eye contact and she instantly feels worry settle in her chest and a protective instinct kick in. “Yeah, it'll be awesome!” Tobin cuts her off with a fake grin and wraps an arm around Lizzie’s shoulders. “Now that you're on the staff, I'm sure it'll be great.”

“No, that's not--” she falters and finally looks up at Tobin.

“What is it?” Lizzie asks, ignoring the urge to shake Tobin's arm off. It feels heavy and mixed with the Los Angeles heat, it’s almost suffocating.

“Well there's this article, one about the championship--”

“Isn't that great? You made the paper!” Tobin cuts her off again and tries to steer Lizzie away from Lara. “Let's go, or we'll be late.”

Lizzie nods with a smile and starts to walk with Tobin to go watch the graduation.

“No, Tobin.” Lara reaches out to grab her arm and Tobin lets go of Lizzie and turns so she's facing Lara again. “This is serious,” she says at almost a whisper but with the crowd milling around them, Lizzie wouldn't be able to hear anyway.

“What is it?” Tobin asks under her breath.

“Her,” Lara falters again. “Her parents. Phoebe explained a little, but--”

Tobin's expression grows cold and she shakes her head. “Not right now, cool?”

Lara frowns, not sure how to continue.

“Just later, trust me.” Tobin looks to Lizzie who’s chatting with an older couple that she doesn't recognize. “Make sure I'm there when you tell her. We’ll do it tomorrow.”

Lara nods and Tobin turns back around, placing a hand on Lizzie's shoulder and smiling at the couple.

“Ready to head up to the stands?”

“Yeah!” Lizzie nods as she looks to Tobin before back to the people she was talking to. “Mr. and Mrs. Torres, this is is Tobin.” She gestures between the two of them. “She's the soccer coach.”

“A trainer,” Tobin corrects with a small smile. “I work on technical stuff with the girls. And who are you here for?”

“Oh, we're Lauren's parents!” Lauren's mom smiles as she takes one of Tobin's hands between her own and smiles. “It's so nice to finally meet you two!”

“Oh, her parents! I probably should have picked up on that,” Tobin grins and moves to shake Lauren’s dad’s hand. “Nice to meet you, when did you two get in?”

“We flew in last night,” he explains. “Lizzie here drove our girl out to meet us and then took us back to the apartment.”

“She did?” Tobin looks over and Lizzie elbows her for the half surprised, half impressed expression. “Well I'm glad you had a safe flight. We should go grab a seat though, would you guys like to sit with us?”

“That would be very kind of you,” Lauren’s dad says as he follows them to the stands.

“It's no big deal.” Tobin shrugs with another big smile before leaning over to whisper in Lizzie's ear. “So you met the parents last night? Nice.”

“Lo dropped it on me last second.” Lizzie rolls her eyes and Tobin laughs. “But they're nice, really sweet. They kept saying good stuff about me, and Lo’s mom told her I'm a keeper.”

Tobin laughs again and Lizzie elbows her, again. “You, a keeper.” She nods as if she's thinking about it before laughing again. “ That's believable.”

 

---

 

Lizzie tears up when she watches Lauren  cross the stage, and Lauren's mom reaches a hand over to comfort her. (Tobin leans forward but before she gets the chance to say anything, Lizzie flips her off.)

 

---

 

Tobin sways in her path to bump Lizzie’s shoulder with her own. “You cried.”

“It wasn't quite crying. I teared up. Maybe .” Tobin laughs and Lizzie rolls her eyes. “You sob at the draft every year, so, shut the fuck up.”

 

---

 

“There's my graduate.” Lizzie grins as Lauren walks up to her and hands off her diploma to Tobin.

“Here I am.” Lauren smiles and wraps her hands behind Lizzie’s neck, bending over slightly for a kiss.

Lizzie rests her hands on Lauren’s waist. “Have I mentioned I'm proud of you?”

“Maybe a few times.” She pulls Lizzie in for another kiss then leans their foreheads together. “But it's great to hear.”

“It's great to say.”

Lauren's smile grows to the point where her nose crinkles and Lizzie has to fight the urge to lean forward and kiss her again. “I love you.”

“I love you.”

“Okay, guys. Stop the cute stuff and split. You've got parents, two o’clock.”

“Thanks.” Lauren laughs as they pull away and turns to Tobin to take back her diploma. “Really.”

She pulls Tobin to a hug so tight that Tobin has to worry about the safety of her ribs and doesn't pull away till Lizzie gives a subtle cough and says “ my girlfriend.”

“Ah yes, you'd be so jealous if I stole Tobin from you,” Lauren says, rolling her eyes.

“You know I meant you're my girlfriend.”

“Sure, sure.” Lauren turns away to see her parents still approaching and Lauren jogs a few steps to close the distance between them.

Tobin turns to Lizzie and lowers her voice. “Whatever happens between you two, know it happened for a reason, alright?”

Lizzie nods absentmindedly so Tobin taps her on the arm until she looks over.

“I'm serious, okay?”

“Did Chris say something to you?”

Tobin shrugs. “I have my sources. Just trust me, cool?”

Lizzie nods. “Yeah, Stitch. Cool.”

 

---

 

“It was nice to meet both of you.” Tobin uses the grin she usually wears when she talks to parents (she hates talking to parents, they expect her to act like them when she's far closer in age to all of the girls on the team and it makes her uncomfortable) and shakes their hands. “Really.” She glances to Lauren before moving back to make eye contact with her parents. “You raised a wonderful daughter.”

Lauren’s parents spend a few minutes telling Tobin how grateful they are that she's involved in their daughter's life, and it takes everything Lauren and Lizzie have to not roll their eyes. (Tobin's ego really doesn't need the help.)

“Alright Mom, Dad.” Lauren steps away from her girlfriend to hook arms with her parents in an attempt to pull them from the conversation. “Let's go out to dinner?”

“Oh yes!” Lauren's mom pulls Tobin into a hug before Tobin finally is able to excuse herself with a wave to Lizzie and a tight hug and whispered congratulations to Lauren. “Is Lizzie coming?”

“Oh, I don't have--”

“Of course she is!” Lauren's dad cuts her off before she can deny the request. He pulls away from his daughter to fall behind next to Lizzie and wraps an arm around her shoulders. “You're coming, aren't you?”

“I don't wanna intrude--”

“Nonsense.” He shakes his head and his bright smile doesn't fade at all. “We want you to come.”

“Okay,” Lizzie nods with a growing smile. “I'll come.”

When they get to the car, Lizzie insists on driving and Lauren gives her a quick kiss before finally giving up and going to the passenger side.

“Where to?” Lizzie asks as Lauren reaches over to rest a hand on her thigh and Lizzie feels her chest tighten because she knows that her parents can see them.

Lauren notices the tension and grazes her hand up and down Lizzie's thigh in hopes to relieve it (which most definitely does the opposite but Lauren likes the nervous face Lizzie makes every time her hand starts going up on her thigh). “It's the new place we wanted to try. Remember the construction they've been doing down the road from you apartment? It's there.”

Lizzie nods as she tries to focus on the parking lot and all of the cars (which is hard considering all she can really think about is how infuriating and adorable her girlfriend is being at the moment) to get them onto  the road. “We’ll go there then.” She looks to Lauren’s parents in the backseat for a moment. “When is your flight?”

“Tomorrow morning, kind of early. Isn't it early, dear?”

Lauren's dad pulls his wallet out of his back pocket and takes out a folded copy of their itinerary. “Nine tomorrow, so we need to be there even earlier.”

Lauren's mom sighs and looks to Lizzie. “Will you be making us a wonderful breakfast again?”

“Mom, Lizzie has plans--”

“Sure, I can do that.” Lizzie looks over to Lauren with a smile.

“Aren't you meeting up with Alex and Tobin?”

“And Chris. So that'll be fun,” she says sarcastically and Lauren's stifles a laugh. “But that isn't until later. I can make you guys breakfast.”

“Oh, what a sweetheart.” Lauren's mom reaches forward to place a loving hand on Lizzie’s shoulder for a moment.

Lauren smiles and slides her hand up further on Lizzie’s thigh. “Yeah, she is.”

“If you move that hand any higher you're going to have to propose,” Lauren’s dad warns and Lizzie immediately freezes, both hands on the wheel and her shoulders locked with tension.

Lauren just laughs, taking her hand off of Lizzie's lap and moving to take one of Lizzie's hands off of the wheel to intertwine their fingers. She pulls Lizzie's hands closer and kisses her knuckles before saying “calm down, dad.”

“I'm serious,” he says but there's an air of lightness in his voice that makes Lizzie relax (and the way Lauren is holding her hand doesn't exactly hurt either).

 

---

 

The dinner goes by smoothly, for the most part. There are a couple mentions of marriage that make Lizzie uncomfortable but Lauren just squeezes her hand and the tension eases away. When their waitress brings the check, Lauren's dad takes it before Lizzie can even look at it and she insists on leaving the tip. (He tries to protest but Lizzie won't take no for an answer and leaves the overly generous tip despite his efforts.)

“Driving us home?” Lauren asks, taking Lizzie's hand in her own and swinging their arms between them.

“Well, I drove you guys here.” Lizzie shrugs as if she's not sure. “But I thought you could walk it.”

“Oh hush.” Lauren rolls her eyes as she leans over to kiss Lizzie's cheek. “Thank you,” she whispers before pulling away. “For being the perfect girlfriend. They love it.”

Lizzie grins and squeezes Lauren's hand, not quite sure how to respond. She settles for “and I love you,” which leaves Lauren giggling as they get to the car.

 

---

 

“Are you going back to your apartment?”

Lizzie nods as Lauren joins her on the couch. “Want me to drive you guys to the airport tomorrow?”

“You don't have to do that, babe.” Lauren leans closer to press a quick kiss to Lizzie’s temple. “But I'd love it if you would.”

“I will then. Leave at a quarter after seven?”

“Sounds perfect.” Lauren squeezes Lizzie's hand and leans to rest on her shoulder.  “That's so early, just stay here tonight.”

“I stayed last night.” Lizzie laughs and rests a hand on Lauren’s thigh. “And I'll be back in the morning.”

Lauren adjusts her position and pulls on Lizzie so they lie against the back of the couch. “But I love waking up next to you.” She turns her face into Lizzie’s neck and starts to pepper kisses in a way that makes Lizzie's eyes roll into the back of her head.

“You're doing that thing again.”

Lauren pulls away momentarily to ask “what thing?” in the most innocent way possible before returning to kissing along Lizzie's jawline.

“That thing,” she pauses as Lauren moves a hand to her waist and moves so she's straddling her. “That you always do.” Lauren pulls away to let her finish. “To get me to stop talking.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

Lizzie grins, leaning up and obliging without another word.

 

---

 

“I'll be back tomorrow morning, I promise.” Lizzie gives Lauren a quick kiss as she stands in the doorway.

“You really don't have to go to your apartment.”

“Well we definitely aren't having sex with your parents in the next room over.”

“Fine.” Lauren rolls her eyes and pulls away from where she was practically clinging to Lizzie's side. “But you owe me an orgasm. Or three.”

Lizzie laughs and gives her one last quick kiss before turning to go to her car. “You can count on it.”

 

---

 

“Why do you sound like you're still asleep?”

“I am.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and unlocks her car. “Why? You're always up this early.”

“I'm always up before noon. Not,” Tobin pauses to pick her watch up from the bedside table and squints at it in the dim light. “Six in the morning. Why are you up?”

“To surprise Lo. I'm gonna cook her breakfast then take her parents to the airport.”

Tobin nods as she sits up in her bed and stretches. “Cool, cool. Why are you calling?”

“You texted me around midnight saying urgent. We've gotta hang and talk about some shiiiiiiiyyyyeeeeeetttt. That's verbatim, by the way.”

“No it's not.”

“Totally is. Would I make something like this up for fun?”

“You definitely would.”

Lizzie starts her car with a shrug. “Okay, I totally would. But anyway, what do we need to talk about? Does it have to do with Lara being so weird yesterday?”

Tobin rubs at her eyes before replying through a yawn. “It does, when will you be back from the airport?”

Lizzie moves her phone to the other ear so she can click her seatbelt as she tries to calculate the times. “Probably ten or so. Maybe a little earlier.”

“Alright, brunch?”

Lizzie waits for Tobin to form more of a question but it's obvious the exhaustion is getting to her. “What about brunch?”

“Do you want to brunch?”

Brunch isn't a verb, Stitch.”

“Oh shit.” Tobin pauses to try and comes up with a coherent question. “Wanna meet with me and Lara and Phoebe for brunch?”

“Sure,” Lizzie laughs as she turns the phone on speaker and sets it on top of her radio. “I'll be there. Text me time and place and I'll meet you guys, cool?”

“Sure,” Tobin yawns again and Lizzie just laughs.

“Go back to sleep dude. You sound like you need it. I'll see you later, alright?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Tobin mumbles and Lizzie can tell she's already laying back on her pillow.

 

---

 

That morning Lauren wakes up to the smell of bacon and she rolls her eyes because she told Lizzie she didn't have to come over. (Not that she thought it would stop her. If Lizzie hadn't come because of that, she wouldn't be Lizzie.)

“And what is my beautiful girlfriend doing here, cooking amazing food in my kitchen this early?”

Lizzie grins as she turns around and welcomes a hug from Lauren. “Surprising you.”

“I love waking up to you,” Lauren mumbles into her shoulder.

“Waking up to my cooking ,” Lizzie corrects with a toothy smile that makes Lauren want to kiss it off of her.

She does just that, leaning forward for an anxious kiss that Lizzie isn't quite expecting but reacts to quickly, placing one hand on Lauren’s hip and the other on the counter behind her to steady herself. After a few moments (just long enough for Lizzie to think she could gain control of the situation), Lauren pulls away, leaving Lizzie breathless with a much smaller, much sweeter smile on her face. “The cooking’s a nice touch.”

 

---

 

“Thank you for driving us to the airport.” Lauren’s mom takes Lizzie’s hands in her own with a sweet smile.

“It was really no big deal.” Lizzie grins as Lauren’s mom pulls her into a hug. “I was happy to do it.”

“And see, that ,” Lauren's dad turns to  Lauren but points to Lizzie. “Is why she's a good one.”

Lauren rolls her eyes as her dad pulls her into a hug. “I know, I know.”

He pulls away and steps back over next to his wife. “It was nice to see you, sweetie. We are so proud of you.” He turns to Lizzie with a warm smile that makes her feel more comfortable than she has in awhile. “And nice to meet you.”

“You too, sir.” Lizzie shakes his hand before moving so she's next to Lauren and wrapping an arm around her waist.

Lauren's mom steps forward to pull Lauren away for a quick hug and she kisses her cheek. “Until next time. And it'll be soon, okay?”

Lauren laughs as relaxes against Lizzie's arm again. “Of course, mama. As soon as possible.”

Lauren's mom starts talking to Lizzie about how she hopes they can see each other again while Lauren's dad places an arm on his daughter’s shoulder.

“Lauren,” he gives her a serious look and lowers his voice. “There are going to be a lot of great people on your life, and a lot of bad ones.” He glances over to Lizzie before back to Lauren and sighs. “I really do think she's one of the greats--” he cuts himself off and pulls his hand away. “But don't let one great keep you from other things you could have, other great people that could be in your life.” He starts absentmindedly twirling his wedding ring and he looks to the floor. “You have so much; your life, your career. You have so much going for you, don't let one thing, one possibility,” he pauses and looks back up to make eye contact with Lauren. “One person, drag you down. You're young, and you have more time and more chances. If something in your life isn't honest and good, let it go. Don't stay involved in anything that isn't letting you reach your full potential as a person. Don't hold onto anything that's negative. Don't get attached to someone who could hold you back. Put yourself first, or if you're worried you can't, then don't get attached. Don't stay attached.”

Lauren wants to push him away. Tell him to leave and say that his advice isn't needed or even wanted . Insist that Lizzie is good for her and that they are good for each other and that any hardships with her are worth it. But she doesn’t. She stays silent and nods obediently. “Thank you, dad.” (She feels this tug in her chest through his whole speech and it makes her feel absolutely awful and guilt. She isn't sure what it means, but she knows it can't be good.) “I love you.”

“I love you too.” He pulls her into a hug before moving back over to his and his wife’s suitcases. “Don't be a stranger.”

“Of course not.” Lauren smiles at her parents and they smile back before starting on their walk to go through security. She turns to Lizzie and buries her face in her shoulder to hide a tear.

“It's okay, babe.” Lizzie rubs at her back and whispers into her hair. “You'll see them again soon, okay?”

Lauren nods but clings where Lizzie’s jacket is pooling around her waist anyway. “I'm gonna miss you so much,” she mumbles into Lizzie's neck and Lizzie just pulls away and presses a kiss to her forehead.

“I'll miss you too, baby. It'll all be okay, though. Let's go back to your place, alright?”

Lauren pulls away and wipes at her eyes, forcing a nod.

“Then I've gotta go to brunch, but tonight I'm all yours, okay?”

Lauren reaches for Lizzie’s hand and squeezes it. “All mine?”

Lizzie grins and turns to give Lauren a quick kiss on the cheek. “One hundred percent.”

 

---

 

Lauren spends the rest of her day feeling guilty.

She flips through her Netflix queue filled with shows she and Lizzie were supposed to watch together, and it makes her roll her eyes. (Lizzie's never been one to sit down and binge a show.)

She reaches for a glass and the first thing she sees is a coffee mug that Lizzie brought over, because she was tired of using styrofoam cups, which was all Lauren had. (Lizzie's a stickler for having her own designated mug.)

She looks to her fridge and sees a crinkled piece of paper where Lizzie wrote I love you! You're gonna be a great soccer star, I can't wait to be your biggest fan ;) with a bunch of hearts doodled in the margins, and it makes her heart swell. (Corny notes are kind of her thing.)

Everywhere she looks she sees Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie and her dad's words echo in her head. Don't get attached to someone who could hold you back. Put yourself first, or if you're worried you can't, then don't get attached. Don't stay attached.

She wants to throw up because Lizzie is this pure, good force in her life but all of a sudden she's questioning everything and she isn't sure that she can be in a relationship with anyone . She isn't sure she could risk a relationship holding her back from reaching her full potential. (She isn't sure about anything anymore.)

 

---

 

Brunch strikes me as a fancy restaurant where you feel weird about being single. Not bacon in a messy living room.”

“It's not that messy,” Lara defends but Phoebe just laughs.

“It's pretty messy, babe.”

“Not that messy.”

“It's not that messy,” Tobin says, raising her voice above their bickering. “Can we get to what we came here for?”

“Yeah,” Lizzie agrees, falling onto the seat of the couch opposite of where Lara and Phoebe are cuddling. “Why am I here?”

“There was an article in the campus paper,” Lara starts, leaning up from where she was nestled into Phoebe’s chest. “About the championship game and your hat trick and all, and I guess the guys covering it wanted some words about you from people not on the team.” She pauses and looks to Phoebe who rubs her back and nods, leaning up from where she was slouched against the couch.

“They wanted to talk to your parents.” The words hang in the room as soon as they leave Phoebe’s mouth.

Lizzie nods and knots her hands together, staring at them silently.

“So I guess they found out your parents only live like half an hour from here,” Phoebe pauses, taking a bite of her bacon and wrapping an arm around Lara’s waist. “And the guys went down to ask them about you.”

“Okay,” Lizzie says hardly above a whisper.

“And your parents said some,” she pauses, trying to find out a good way to word it. “Not so nice things.”

“Some not true things,” Tobin cuts in. “We just wanted you to know before someone, well.” She looks to Lara who's staring at her own lap and Phoebe who's wearing an encouraging half-smile. “Someone else told you.”

“I found it when it was going through the print,” Lara admits, still staring down at her lap. “I tried to stop it, but,” she falters and Phoebe presses a kiss to her temple.

“It was too late,” Phoebe finishes.

Lizzie doesn't look up from her hands, squeezing them then relaxing and watching the blood rush back to flush the skin, only to squeeze them again.

Tobin tries to break the silence. “Lizzie?”

“Where's the article?” She glances to the table. “I want to read it.”

“You don't have to,” Tobin rises from her chair and walks over to Lizzie, outstretching an arm. “Your parents--”

“I want to.”

Tobin looks down at Lizzie who still can't bring herself to meet Tobin's eyes. She looks at Lizzie and she sees the same, poor girl she met in her junior year who had so much talent yet no praise. So much love yet no family. So much strong-will, and no fight left. She sees the girl who was broken by unloving parents, and she wants to do nothing more than protect her. (Tobin doesn't want Lizzie to read the article because she never wants her parents to hurt her again.)

-

It took six months. Six months of arguing with her parents, negotiations with her future coaches, and working her ass off. Doing her best to make sure she was the absolute best soccer player she could be.

And it all paid off. She had a full ride scholarship to UCLA and a fresh start.

And no family.

The day she left (her father's words echoed in her head every day for a full month after) her parents told her to never come back. That she wasn't a part of the family anymore. That she never would be.

She was called a disappointment, a disgrace, a sorry excuse for a daughter. For years and years, her parents told her girls don't play soccer . They told her girls don't like girls . They told her can't you just be anything but...yourself? They broke her.

By the time she was at UCLA for Summer training, she had convinced herself it didn't bother her. The only people that saw otherwise were Phoebe, who'd come from a similar, but not nearly as bad, situation and, of course, Tobin.

Tobin taught her it was okay to still love someone who hurt you. That it was okay if you couldn't let go of someone who was a big part of your life. That it was okay to feel this way.

Tobin understood.

Tobin vowed that Lizzie would never be alone again, that she was her family. Phoebe was her family. This team was her family.

Tobin saved her.

-

Tobin looks down at Lizzie and her heart aches because she would give anything to take away Lizzie's pain, to make her not want to read the article, to make the words in it not affect her. (There's nothing she can do, and Tobin understands that, and she thinks that’s why it hurts so badly.)

“I want to read it,” Lizzie says again, sounding significantly less helpless this time.

“Okay.” Phoebe looks to Tobin for confirmation before handing it over.

Lizzie takes the article and glances over the front page. There's a picture of her in Tobin's arms right on the corner of the cover and a page number for the full article. She flips through until she sees a headline that makes her heart sink.

Trouble at Home: The Dark Past Behind UCLA’s Soccer Sweetheart

(Tobin remembers a time where she and Alex were UCLA’s soccer sweethearts . It makes her heart ache with nostalgia.)

Lizzie skims the article but she can only read the words burden , mistake , and failure so many times before her eyes start to well. She blinks any tears away and tries to power through but then she comes across a direct quote from her mother. We don't talk about her. She isn't a part of this family. And she feels her throat begin to close up, and she squeezes her eyes shut.

“Okay,” she struggles to say and Tobin rests a hand on her shoulder. “I'm done. Can someone please,” her voice cracks and she shakes her head, not sure if she can continue.

“I'll drive you home,” Tobin offers, reaching her free hand out and Lizzie takes it, pulling herself up and holding herself together surprisingly well. (The paper is still gripped tightly in her hand, and she's not sure she could let go of it if she tried.) Tobin mouths thank you to Lara and Phoebe because this was definitely easier with them here and she walks Lizzie to her car, getting on the driver’s side.

They drive to Lizzie's apartment in silence and Tobin leads them through to her bedroom. She turns around to look at Lizzie who collapses against her chest immediately, sobbing.

“Why do they hate me?” She muffles into Tobin's chest and Tobin just rubs her back soothingly, trying to think of anything she can do to make it better.

“They don't--”

“Yes they do.”

Tobin nods and pulls away from the hug, helping Lizzie to her bed. “You should lay down. You haven't slept a lot this weekend and you need some sleep, okay?”

Lizzie nods and wipes at her eyes before falling back on her pillow.

“Do you want me to stay?”

“I think--” she cuts herself off and looks down at the paper still in her hands. “I don't know. I think I want to be alone. I think I want to see Lo.”

Tobin nods understandingly. “I'll text her for you. Call me when you're feeling better? I want to know that you're okay.”

“I will,” Lizzie promises with a smile that doesn't reach her eyes.

“And give me that.” Tobin takes the paper from Lizzie, looking it over for half a second before dropping her hands to her sides. “You don't need it.” She starts to leave the room and turns back when she gets to the doorway. “And by the way, your parents are fools for not realizing how great you are.”

Lizzie gives another half-hearted smile, a little more real this time. “Thanks, Stitch.”

Tobin leaves the room and pauses in the living room to check her phone, dropping the paper on the arm of the couch as she feels a text coming in.  

Phoebe: You guys get there alright? Is she okay?

Coach T: As okay as she can be.

She typed out the quick reply then opens Lauren’s contact to message her before she forgets.

Tobin: Lizzie got some bad news, but I can't share. She should be the one to tell you about it. She's asking for you.

 

---

 

The second Lauren gets the text, she feels guilty. She's spent her whole day practically looking for reasons to break up with her wonderful, wonderful girlfriend and now she wants to drop everything and run to her, and that shouldn't be fair. It shouldn't be this confusing.

Don't hold onto anything that's negative , echoes in her head again but she ignores the thought and gets in her car, stopping only to pick up Chinese food (Lizzie's favorite) on the way.

 

---

 

She lets herself into the apartment with a spare key Lizzie gave her awhile back and she looks for anything that could hint as to the reason behind Tobin's vague text.

She sees the newest copy of the campus paper and skims it as she makes her way to Lizzie bedroom. She flips to the page written next to the picture on the cover and smiles at Lizzie, who's lying down in her bed.

“I’m so proud of you, y'know?” Lauren looks down at the article detailing Lizzie’s three goals, and laughs when she notices that she's mentioned in an article at After her third goal, she celebrated by running off into the arms of her coach and sharing a kiss with her girlfriend. Definitely a celebration for the memories. She keeps flipping through until she reaches the article about Lizzie's parents and reads it as she walks over, sitting on the bed next to Lizzie.

She reaches over to place a hand over Lauren's. “We don't have to talk about it.”

Lauren’s heart clenches as she skims the article back over. (She's had so many questions and suspicions because Lizzie is so, so secretive about her past and this answers far too many of them.) She turns her hand over under Lizzie's and interlocks their fingers. “We do.”

“No.” Lizzie shakes her head. “It's fine, I'm fine.”

“Baby.” Lauren grazes her thumb across the side of Lizzie's hand as she searches for the words. “We need to talk about stuff, okay?”

“We talk about plenty of things.”

Lauren sighs and shakes her head. “No, I mean the real stuff. I know it's nice to try not to think about, but I'm about to go pretty far away for a long time, and if we can't handle having conversations like these in person,” she falters because this feels like a stupid explanation but she can't figure out another way to word it. “How can we handle them a country apart?”

“We're okay, there aren't any problems.”

“No, baby.” Lauren clenches her jaw and wills the tears that she can feel rising to go away. She looks up to Lizzie with a small smile. “You're not okay, I can tell.” She squeezes Lizzie's hand as she looks into her red, puffy eyes. “And we can't be okay if you aren't. And especially not if you're not honest with me.”

“It's nothing worth talking about Lo,” Lizzie's voice cracks as she forces the words out. “Really.”

“You know I can't believe that.”

Lizzie nods silently.

Lauren stands from her spot next to Lizzie on the bed and drops her hands to her sides with a shaky breath. “I just,” she falters. “How, through the distance and the insecurity and the fights, am I supposed to handle us-- are we supposed to handle us, when you can't even handle yourself?”

Lauren’s words sting, and the worst part of all, is Lizzie feels like they wouldn’t even be having this discussion if the article hadn’t been posted. Lizzie moves so she’s sitting on the edge of the bed before answering. “Lo, I--”

“Don't say my name like that.”

Lizzie shakes her head, looking up at Lauren. “What?”

“When you say my name like that, it makes my heart melt a little bit and it feels like all the bad is gonna go away because I--,” Lauren cuts herself off to take a deep breath and try to hold back her tears. “I'm in love with you. But the bad doesn't go away, we still need to deal with this, and we need to talk --”

“You're in love with me?”

Lauren stays silent for a moment because everything was going through her head too quickly for her to realize what she was saying but as Lizzie says it back to her, she realizes it's true. “Yeah,” Lauren says at nearly a whisper, nodding her head.”Yeah, I am.”

Lizzie's not sure what to say because she wants to say it back but she also wants this fight to end and a part of her just wants to live in this moment forever with the realization that Lauren's in love with her and how Lauren is looking at her like she's the only other person in the world. She wants to pull Lauren in for a kiss and hold her hand and stay here forever.

But this is the real world, and this is a real fight about a real problem. And this is something they need to talk about, whether Lizzie likes it or not. (She definitely does not like it.)

Lizzie stands so she's in front of Lauren and takes a shaky breath. “I’m in love with you,” Lizzie finally says back at nearly a whisper and Lauren nods, taking Lizzie's hands in her own.

“And that makes me so, so happy baby, but part of me being in love with you means I want to talk about the hard stuff too. I want to love all of you, not just the great parts, like surprise presents and late night calls and your amazing hugs.”

“I can't--,” Lizzie falters. “I can't talk about this, Lo, you know I can't.”

Lauren closes her eyes for a moment as she lets the words wash over her. When she reopens them, she reaches out to wipe the tears off of Lizzie's cheeks. Her dad’s words hit her like a pound of bricks. You're young, and you have more time and more chances. If something in your life isn't honest and good, let it go. “Then I'm sorry,” her voice shaky but her words sure. “But if you can't handle this, then I don't think we should try to handle us. We need to fix ourselves before we can try to handle something like a relationship with as many miles between us as there will be.”

Lizzie continues to cry, shaking her head because somehow Lauren is managing to say all of the right things and all of the wrong ones at the same time. She leans forward, practically collapsing against Lauren's chest and sobbing as Lauren just wraps her arm around her and rubbing her back slowly.

They stand like that for a few minutes, Lizzie crying in Lauren's arms and Lauren doing everything she can to stay strong.

Lizzie finally pulls away, looking up at Lauren who slides her hands down to rest on Lizzie waist and stares into her eyes.

“Don't go,” she whispers in a voice that sounds defeated and Lauren just pulls Lizzie a little bit closer, leaning down to kiss her forehead.

“I'm sorry,” she says as she pulls away. Lauren looks into Lizzie's eyes for one last time before whispering "I love you" in a way that sounds almost like a promise and leaving Lizzie in her apartment, crying.

(If Lizzie had to rank her worst days ever, this would be at the top of the list.)

Chapter Text

Tobin still hasn't heard from Lizzie by almost six, and she's worried.

“What's wrong?” Christen frowns as she notices Tobin's incessant tapping speeding up and she reaches out to place a hand over Tobin's shaking one.

“Just,” Tobin sighs heavily because she doesn't know where to start. “Lizzie. Some bad stuff happened and, I don't know. She's supposed to be with Lauren right now but she hasn't called me and I told her to let me know that she was doing alright.”

“Maybe they're just,” Christen blushes, not sure how to finish the sentence. “Busy.”

Tobin chuckles and Christen watches as some of the tension eases out of her shoulders. “Maybe. I'm gonna call her though. Just to check.”

Christen nods and Tobin steps away from the table, putting her phone up to her ear. Christen watches Tobin through the glass wall of the coffee shop and she realizes Tobin's been sent to voicemail.

Tobin frowns, pulling the phone down to look at the screen and instead calls Lauren, who hangs up after two rings. She sighs, shoving her phone into her pocket and going back inside to the table.

“No answer?”

“I'm gonna go check on her.” Tobin grabs her jacket that's practically useless at this point in the season and looks to Christen. “Alright?”

“Wait.” Christen reaches out to grab Tobin's forearm. “Is there anything I can do? Any way to help?”

Tobin shrugs and Christen frowns.

“Please?”

“Alright.” Tobin holds a hand out to help Christen up from her chair. “Just come with me.”

 

---

 

“Hey.” Christen reaches across the center console and pulls Tobin's hand off of the steering wheel, squeezing it comfortingly. “She'll be okay.”

Tobin nods but she looks unsure and Christen wishes she could do anything to make her smile.

“Really,” Christen laces their fingers together and rests their hands in her lap. “Lizzie's strong, and you're pretty much the best person ever. I'm sure she could get through anything with you by her side, I know I could.”

Tobin finally relaxes a little and glances over to Christen with the hints of a smile on her face. “Thanks, Chris.”

Christen grins in return and squeezes Tobin’s hand. “Of course.”

When they get to Lizzie’s apartment, Tobin looks defeated. “Lauren’s car isn't here,” she says at practically a whisper, unbuckling her seatbelt.

“Why wouldn't she be here?” Christen starts to get out of the car and waits for Tobin who's still sitting in the driver’s seat, confused.

Tobin finally gets out of the car and locks it behind her, walking to the door with Christen next to her. “I don't know.”

Tobin leads them up to Lizzie’s apartment and lets herself in. “Lizzie?” She starts through the apartment, walking around a little before finally reaching Lizzie’s doorway. Tobin frowns as she notices the hurt on her friend’s face and walks in, taking the spot on the bed next to her. “What happened? Where's Lauren?”

Lizzie wipes at her eyes and wills herself to keep from crying again. (She just stopped, this isn't fair.) “She left,” is all Lizzie can manage to say before her tears start to well up and she turns to bury her face in Tobin's chest.

“Hey, hey,” Tobin rubs Lizzie's back and adjusts positions so she can hold her at a better angle. “It'll be alright, everything’s okay.”

Christen makes her way to the bedroom and stops in the doorway, leaning against the frame and watching Tobin who so naturally takes over with a caring role. (It's awfully adorable, not that she'd say that out loud.)

Christen decides that just standing there watching might seem a tad odd, so she moves the kitchen to see what she can do (which isn't much, considering her lack of cooking skills).

She looks through the cabinet but mostly just finds paper plates, plastic utensils, and empty shelves. She rolls her eyes but tries to take into consideration the fact that this apartment hasn't been lived in a whole lot for the past couple months (thanks to Phoebe, who's mostly living with Lara by now and how much time Lizzie’s spent with Lauren, this apartment’s mostly been used for the occasional midday nap or a place to crash after a fight). Christen goes back to Lizzie’s room where she's calmed down a bit (the crying’s stopped at least) and now she's just lying next to Tobin.

“Are you guys hungry?” She asks and Lizzie nods tentatively.

Lizzie realizes that she is hungry (between breakfast where she was focused on getting Lauren’s parents to the airport on time, brunch where she didn't eat anything but half of a piece of bacon when she arrived at Lara’s apartment, and simply crying for the rest of the day, she realizes just how little she's eaten) and she nods enthusiastically.

Lizzie thinks to herself that she never wants to fight over an empty stomach, and definitely not break up over one, again. (The light humor behind the thought makes her smile for a second but the smile reminds her of how happy she shouldn't be, and she sinks back in on herself.)

“I'm gonna go grab something, then. That kitchen’s a wasteland.”

Tobin tosses her keys to Christen and smiles in a way that makes her heart flutter. (She tries not to think about it.)

 Christen unlocks the car and takes a seat on the driver’s side (she feels privileged, because Tobin hardly lets anyone else drive her car, but she didn't even protest when handing over the keys) then takes a deep breath before starting it. She sits there for a moment, not sure of where to go or what to get and decides to call Phoebe, who probably knows what Lizzie likes. (She thanks her past self for getting the number while they were at the beach house for the weekend.)

It rings about three times before Phoebe answers it, entirely out of breath.

“Yeah?”

“Hey, Phoebe, right?”

Phoebe sucks in a deep breath of air, still trying to even out her breathing before replying. “Yep, what's up?”

“Are you busy?”

“Uhm,” Phoebe looks around. “Well, Lara and I--”

“Ew, gross, gross.” Christen cuts her off and squeezes her eyes shut. “I don't need details. A simple yes would've sufficed.”

“No,” Phoebe pauses to laugh, followed by another deep breath. “We're at the gym, not,” she trails off, trying to figure out a decent way to word it. “Doing the horizontal nasty.”

“Horizontal nasty?” Lara asks as she walks up behind Phoebe, taking the bottle of water from her hands. “I'm down.”

“I said we aren't doing the horizontal nasty,” Phoebe corrects, rolling her eyes and taking the water bottle back.

Lara leans in to kiss Phoebe’s cheek and whines “but you're so cute after a workout,” with no acknowledgement from Phoebe.

“No one’s doing the horizontal nasty!” Christen sighs and rests her forehead in her hands, quickly wondering if this was a bad idea after all. “Why kind of food does Lizzie like?”

“Who is that?” Lara asks, pointing to the phone.

Phoebe shakes her head at Lara, turning away and covering her other ear in hopes of drowning out some of the gym noise. “What?”

Lara raises an eyebrow and puts a hand on her hip, giving Phoebe a look that makes her regret her dismissal.

Phoebe gives a small smile and says “just wait, babe, don't worry about it,” and even Christen, who's only getting a fraction of the conversation, knows it was the wrong move.

Lara takes the water bottle away again and turns promptly, leaving before Phoebe gets in another word.

Phoebe sighs into the phone and shakes her head. “What did you need?”

“What kind of food does Lizzie like?”

Phoebe hesitates for a second. “Why?”

“She's mopey? I'm not quite sure but Tobin and I went to check on her and she was upset and so Tobin's with her now and I'm trying to get food and,” she cuts herself off as she realizes she's ranting. “I don't know what kind of food she likes.”

“Mopey,” Phoebe repeats, trying to think of what would be best for the situation. “Wasn't Lauren there?”

“No.”

Phoebe gets a sinking feeling in her heart (everything was going so well for them but between Lizzie’s hesitation to discuss her problems and Lauren’s need for every last thing to be perfect, she had a feeling they would end) and just nods before remembering Christen can't see her. “Okay, you'll want Chinese-- Lara and I can meet you there to pick it out. Her favorite place is a few blocks from the east side of campus, I'll text you a pin, alright?”

Christen sighs in relief that Phoebe was able to help and nods. “Awesome, great.”

“Okay, cool. I've gotta go, I think I upset Lara.”

Christen laughs. “Alright, sorry for drawing attention away that you should've been giving to her.”

Phoebe returns the laugh. “At least that's what she thinks. I'll see you at the Chinese place.” She hangs up the phone and texts the pin before going to the locker room to look for the mildly upset (overly dramatic) girl who took her water bottle.

 

---

 

Phoebe’s already ordering everything when Christen finally gets to the restaurant, and she jogs up to the counter just in time to hear Phoebe say “and five egg rolls.”

The guy behind the machine nods and taps it onto the screen in front of him. “Anything else?”

Christen looks to Phoebe who's shaking her head and pulling out her card.

“I got it,” Christen cuts in, reaching up to pull Phoebe’s hand back. She hands her card over to the cashier and Phoebe smiles.

“You're really nice for doing this,” she says to Christen and Christen just gives a slight smile as a blush spreads over her cheeks.

“I just wanna help.”

“I know,” Phoebe nods as Christen takes the receipt and her card back from the guy. She leads Christen over to the table where Lara’s been waiting, nose in her phone (she's still giving Phoebe the cold shoulder for blowing her off in the gym). “Just, you're a good friend. You're a good person.” Phoebe nods because she's not sure how else she should follow up her statement. “I'm just saying, Tobin needs that right now. She needs someone she can count on.”

Christen smiles again, ignoring the ache in her heart and the echo of Lizzie saying don't hurt her and her own promise of I won't in her ears. (She'll never hurt Tobin, she probably couldn't live with herself if she did.)

“Babe.” Phoebe reaches across the table to take Lara’s hand in hers but Lara pulls her hands back and turns to face Christen instead.

“How are you?”

Christen laughs as Phoebe sinks in her seat with an over-exaggerated frown and crosses her arms. “I'm alright, what about you?”

“Not involved with anyone.” She glances to Phoebe for half a second before looking back to Christen. “Single, ready to mingle. Looking for some fun.”

Phoebe drops her jaw as she watches Lara reach across the table and rest her hand over Christen’s.

“How about you?” Lara asks, raising an eyebrow and looking at Christen with a look in her eyes that makes Phoebe feel more jealous than she has in her entire life.

“I'm pretty sure Coach called dibs,” Phoebe cuts in (Christen blushes and tries to ignore the way her heartbeat picks up at the thought), reaching over to pick up Lara’s hand and drop it on the other side of the table. “And you can have plenty of fun with me, no one else.” She intertwines her fingers with Lara’s and gets up to move so she's sitting next to her. “Just me.”

“Oh, so now you pay attention to me?” Lara pulls Phoebe’s hand up and presses a kiss against her knuckles. “Nice to see that you remembered I exist.”

“Baby,” Phoebe says at practically a whine, leaning against Lara and pressing kisses to her cheek. “I'm sorry for blowing off your sexual advances at the gym.”

Lara continues to look forward, not acknowledging her.

“And for ignoring you while I was on the phone.”

Lara smiles and turns to face Phoebe, giving her a quick kiss before pulling away. “Thank you.”

Christen sits there, completely oblivious to the conversation between Lara and Phoebe, still reeling from the thought of Tobin calling dibs . She feels guilty. She told Lizzie that she would back off, the touches wouldn't be as long and the hugs wouldn't be as intimate and yet-- she's pulled out of her thoughts as she hears their number called throughout the restaurant and she rises from the table.

“I'll take it,” Phoebe offers, holding her hand out for the bag as they head to the parking lot. “Coach’ll be pissed if it spills and her car smells like Chinese food.”

Christen nods in agreement. “Good call, thanks for helping me.”

Phoebe laughs and nods. “Anytime. You're part of our little group now,” she gestures between them. “Coach and Lara and Lizzie and all. We're all here for each other.”

Lara walks up behind them, placing both hands around Phoebe’s waist and pressing a kiss to her ear. “But I'm here for you most.”

Phoebe rolls her eyes. “Yeah, sure. I'll see you at the house,” she takes the bag from Christen and walks to her car, pausing to open the passenger door for Lara before heading to her own side.

Christen smiles because she wants that, she really really wants that. (She wants someone who will go the extra mile for her, and she's waiting for Julie to become that person.)

 

---

 

They make one more stop before the apartment (for ice cream and wine, because those plus Disney movies and Chinese food are the key to healing a broken heart), and when they arrive, Lizzie is most definitely feeling better, and very, very hungry.

“I think I'm in love with you,” Lizzie says without a hint of a joke in her tone as Christen sets the ice cream and wine on the table. Tobin elbows her and she just rolls her eyes in response. “She knows I'm just kidding.” Lizzie turns to Christen with a half smile. “I'm kidding, Chris. You know I'm kidding.”

“I get it,” Christen says with a nod and she immediately loses attention when the smell of the Chinese food hits.

“Okay, wow. Nevermind. I love you .” Lizzie stands from the table and walks to where Phoebe is standing by the doorway with two bags of food in hand, pulling her into a hug.

“You don't get any food if you don't let me set it down,” Phoebe threatens, trying to work her way out of the hug. “I'm serious.”

“Fine, fine.” Lizzie steps back to let Phoebe and Lara through, closing the door behind them. “Thanks for doing all this guys. I really appreciate it.”

“No thanks necessary,” Tobin insists as Christen moves to stand next to her. “We're here for you.”

“Thanks, Stitch.” Lizzie nods as she heads into the kitchen to search for paper plates. “You're a life-saver. I'm glad I have you.”

“Me too, kid.”

 

---

 

Several helpings of Chinese food, two Disney movies, and three bottles of wine later, Christen feels something nudge her side. She leans up from where she's laying on Tobin's chest and turns to look at her. “What's up?”

“Thanks for doing all that, Chris.”

Christen shakes her head with a small smile that Tobin can hardly see in the dimly lit room (it makes her heart flutter anyway). “I was happy to. I am happy to. I'm happy to be a part of this close-knit group with you guys. I'm happy to have you guys.” Christen stops, waiting for Tobin to respond.

“I'm happy to have you too, Chris.” She just looks into Christen’s eyes for a moment and gets lost before realizing what she said. “ We are. We're happy to have you.”

Christen smiles before settling back into her position squished against Tobin on the right side of the couch with Lizzie and Phoebe cuddling on the left and Lara residing by herself on the recliner. (Lara understands that sometimes, you just need a friend. And right now, Lizzie just needs a friend that happens to be Phoebe.)

 

----

 

A couple hours later, Christen pulls her phone out and hops up from where she's sitting next to Tobin, heading to the kitchen to take the call. Tobin follows a few minutes later, walking in on the tail end of the conversation.

“No, I can--” Christen stops like she was cut off. “I can be there soon, I'll leave now.” She pauses again, waiting for whoever she’s on the phone with to finish talking. “You don't have to if you don't want to.” She pauses again. “No, it obviously upsets you so I'll just go.”

Tobin leans against one of the counters, waiting for Christen to realize she's there (and hoping she isn't upset when she does).

“No, it's fine. It's decided. I'll head home.”

Tobin hears the other person say something that Christen doesn't respond to, hanging up the phone instead.

“Oh, sorry.” Christen turns around and frowns when she sees Tobin. “Was I too loud? I should've gone outside.”

“No, no.” Tobin shakes her head and walks closer to Christen. “You're okay, Chris. You're good.”

“Alright.”

“Who was that?”

Tobin can hardly make it out in the dim lighting, but Christen rolls her eyes. “Julie. She said she was waiting up for me and wanted to know if she should just go to sleep or not.”

Tobin nods silently before saying, “so, guess I'll take you home then?”

“No, you don't have to.” Christen shakes her head. “I don't want to be a bother.”

“You're not,” Tobin insists. “Really, please let me take you home.”

Christen nods, welcoming a hug from Tobin and wrapping her arms around Tobin's waist. “Thank you.”

“Anytime Chris.”

They make their way through the living room to get to the door, whispering a goodbye to Lara (Phoebe and Lizzie are already fast asleep on the couch) and go to Tobin's car.

“You really don't have to.” Christen walks to the passenger door and waits until they're both in the car to finish talking. “I can just call an uber or something.”

“I insist.” Tobin pulls onto the road and starts the way to Christen's place. She turns the radio on low then pulls back to rest her right hand in the area between them.

After a minute or so, Christen reaches her left hand to intertwine fingers with Tobin’s. “You make me feel safe,” she mentions absentmindedly, staring out the window.

Tobin glances over to Christen for a second before back to the road and squeezing Christen’s hand comfortingly. “I'm glad. I always want you to feel safe.”

They spend the rest of the ride in silence, not counting the almost-too-quiet-to-hear radio or the hum of the engine. When they finally get to Christen’s house, Tobin pulls in the driveway and the second she touches concrete, Christen is squeezing her hand.

“You okay Chris?”

Christen nods but it isn't convincing and Tobin frowns.

“If you need me, I'm just a call away, okay?”

Christen nods again, a little more reassuring this time.

“Do you want me to walk you in?”

“No,” Christen shakes her head and finally releases Tobin's hand. “I'm okay. I'm good.”

Tobin sighs, wishing she could bring herself to believe her. “Alright. Goodnight, Chris.”

Christen reaches over the center and pulls Tobin into a hug. “Thank you, again. Really.”

“Anytime.” Tobin smiles and tries to just push down the feeling of how badly she wishes she could just bring Christen to her house instead.

Christen gets out of the car, doing a small little wave after closing the door and making her way up the driveway. Tobin stays in the driveway until Christen finally disappears into her house, turning around to give Tobin one last wave.

 

---

 

Christen shows up at Tobin’s house just after eight the next morning.

“Chris,” Tobin smiles as she answers the door. “You're a lifesaver, really. Also,” Tobin glances to her watch. “A little early, do you wanna come in for some coffee or something? Or I made breakfast, if you want.”

“I already ate, but I could definitely go for some coffee.”

They walk into the house and Christen sees that Tobin has her suitcase and bag already packed, sitting on the table. (She half wonders if the only reason they're not leaving already is because Tobin wants to sit down and drink coffee with her, but she's not sure if that's what feels true or what she hopes is true, so she pushes the thought away.)

 

---

 

“Here, take this.” Tobin holds out an extra copy of her house key. “You're there all the time anyway,” she pauses to laugh. “And sometimes if Lizzie's upset, she likes to hang at my place. Says it feels more homey and lived in than her own.” Tobin shrugs. (Christen can't help but realize she thinks the same thing.) “But yeah, so just, keep an eye on her. Okay? I love her a lot, and if I could, I wouldn't even go on this damn trip.”

“It's important to you, Tobs," Christen says with a small smile. “Don't you always go to the draft with the girls? And you love being there when they sign on.”

“But still.” Tobin clenches her jaw. “Lizzie needs someone to be there.”

“Lizzie's strong, and I'll be here. Go take care of your stuff, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I'll keep you updated.”

“Okay,” Tobin nods and looks to the ground. “Thanks for driving me to the airport.”

“Of course.”

Tobin plays with the name tag hooked on the strap of her suitcase. “I just want her to be okay, y'know?”

“I know.”

“Yeah.” Tobin sighs and looks up as she notices a few more girls and Amanda, the head coach, arriving. “I should go, we have to get through security and all.”

“Okay.”

“Thanks again, Chris.” She pulls Christen into a strong hug and Christen relishes in it, knowing it'll be the last for a couple weeks.

“Don't mention it. Stay safe, okay?”

“Promise.”

“Text me when you land?”

“I'll call.” Tobin smiles and squeezes her hand before moving towards everyone else going.

Christen smiles and turns the key over in her hand. It's attached to weathered UCLA Women's Soccer lanyard and Christen has to roll her eyes because she couldn't think of a more Tobin way to do it. She assumes it's one of Tobin's old lanyards (she has hundreds) and wraps the fabric around her wrist as she walks out of the airport.

She starts her car and checks the time. It's only a few after ten and she decides to call Lizzie, because why start the bonding later rather than sooner?

Lizzie answers on the third ring with a “Resident asshole, at your service,” and it hurts Christen a little bit because she remembers the night at dinner when Lauren told her she should stop answering the phone like that.

-

Lizzie sighed. "But babe, it's my thing."

"It's rude." Lauren kissed Lizzie's cheek. "Just say your name, honey. Or hi . That's what everyone else does."

"Exactly." Lizzie rolled her eyes dramatically. "Everyone else does that!"

"Baby," Lauren frowned and Lizzie finally nodded.

"Fine, fine."

-

Lizzie hasn’t answered it like that since then.

"Hi, Lizzie. You busy?"

"Does a fish shit in the woods?"

"What?"

"I'm bad with idioms."

“Clearly.” Christen laughs and rolls her eyes. "Are you busy or not?"

"Nah, why?"

"Wanna hang?"

Lizzie contemplates for a moment. "Why?"

"Because I want to hang out with you?"

"Did Tobin put you up to this?"

"Lizzie," Christen frowns. "No, she just said for me to keep an eye on you. But really, meet  me for brunch?"

"Maybe. Where?"

"I'll text it to you. See you there!"

"Fine, see ya, Christen.”

 

---

 

Tobin wonders if the way she and Lauren are awkwardly avoiding each other is on purpose or not, but she finally decides to make the first gesture. When they arrive at their gate, it's not quite time to board yet so Tobin goes to the coffee shop within eyeshot and when she comes back, she sits right across from Lauren. She doesn't say anything, just carefully looks at her to watch for any change in expression as she sits down.

“I'm sorry,” is all Lauren says, and it's the only words she thinks she can manage to say.

“Don't be.” Tobin takes a deep breath, looking down at her coffee. “You're just doing what's best for you, and Lizzie may not be in the right state of mind to appreciate that right now, but I know Lizzie. I know you. So trust me,” Tobin pauses and finally looks up to see that Lauren looks fragile. She looks scared and upset and like she's hurting just as much as Lizzie is. (She looks like she did what was right and hated every second of it.) “Don't be sorry.”

Lauren nods as Tobin takes a sip of her still too-hot-to-drink-coffee. “Thank you,” she pauses, biting her lip. “For not hating me and all.”

Tobin grins in a way that makes Lauren feel a million times better. “Of course, who do you take me for?”

 

---

 

“You don't have to babysit me,” Lizzie says as she meets Christen in a booth at Denny’s.

“I'm not babysitting, I'm just hanging. We're friends, aren't we?”

“Yeah but this isn't just,” Lizzie sighs. “I'm fine. I'll be fine.”

Christen smiles. “I do like hanging out with you, y'know. We're friends. We can be friends.”

“Well I like hanging out with you too, but I don't like knowing Tobin put you up to it.”

“She didn't.” Christen gives Lizzie a serious look. “I care about you. I'm here for you because I want to be, okay?”

“Alright.”

“Now let’s order,” Christen looks up as a pretty waitress with dark brown curls walks up to them. “Lunch is on me.”

 

---

 

About halfway through the flight, Tobin pulls an earbud out and looks over to Lauren, whose leg hasn't stopped shaking the whole time. “Are you alright?”

Lauren laughs bitterly and shakes her head, doing everything in her power not to cry. “I just lost my best friend. Out of everything Lizzie was,” Lauren pauses, trying to steady her voice. “She was my best friend.”

“You really loved her, didn't you?”

“Love,” Lauren corrects. “I love her.”

“Then why did you,” Tobin cuts herself off and frowns, thinking back to how Lauren and Lizzie both retold the breakup. “Why did you make it seem like you don't?”

Lauren wipes a singular tear away before turning to meet Tobin’s eyes. “Because I know Lizzie. I love her, and I know her. And I knew we couldn't last being apart and I knew it was best for both of us to break up and,” she cuts herself off and Tobin reaches out to squeeze her hand comfortingly. “I knew it would be easier for her to get over me if she hated me.”

Tobin feels her heart sink and she just wants to pull Lauren into a hug (she probably would, if it weren't for the armrest in between them).  “You're a good person, and you did the right thing.” She wraps an arm around Lauren’s shoulders and pulls her into a half-hug. “And if it makes you feel any better, Lizzie doesn't hate you. I don't think she could if she tried.”

Chapter Text

Los Angeles, California

 

“I don't need a babysitter,” Lizzie insists for what feels like the millionth time since Tobin left.

“I'm not a babysitter, I'm a friend.”

“Then stop treating me like a baby.”

“Then stop acting like one.”

Lizzie crosses her arms and pouts, not helping her case as Christen sits across from her.

“It's okay to hurt, or need a friend, or anything. It's okay to need someone, and I can be that someone, if you want.”

Lizzie finally looks up to meet Christen’s eyes, staring at her warily. “Okay. Maybe that would be,” she pauses and takes a drink. “Maybe that would be cool, or something, I guess.”

Christen laughs and reaches a hand across the table to interlock fingers with Lizzie’s. “Or something, huh?”

“Or cool,” Lizzie defends with a nod. “It'd be cool if you could be my someone.”

“I'll be your someone,” Christen promises. “I've got you.”

 

Washington D.C.

 

“Alright girls,” Tobin calls down the hallway, knocking on the hotel doors. “Come on, we've got the draft in a few hours!”

Lauren walks out of her room, still clad in her pjs and messy hair. “Do I have to?”

Tobin rolls her eyes, walking over to meet her in the doorway. “Yes, you do. Now get dressed.”

“Why?”

“I said so.”

Lauren rolls her eyes and lets the door swing shut. She makes it over to her bathroom and she sees her phone plugged in on the counter where she must've left it the night before. She picks up her phone and opens her messages app, scrolling to find her mom’s name and update her on the weekend so far.

Without thinking about it, she scrolls right past her mom, and her dad, and finally stops when her finger is hovering over Lizzie's name. She notices there are still emojis next to her name. A heart-eye emoji followed by the two pink hearts swirled together and then the emoji with the tongue out. (Lizzie added that one.)

-

“It works,” Lizzie nods, handing the phone back.

“Two emojis wasn't enough for you?”

“Well the tongue emoji because,” she sticks her tongue out and moves it up and down, “you're used to seeing me with this face. Y'know. From all the sex.”

Lauren rolls her eyes but she's laughing as Lizzie settles back into her chest. “Fair enough, baby.”

-

The thought of it makes her smile and she feels a tear fall at the thought of what was once a happy memory, now ruined. She clicks on the name and the messages fill her screen. Their last message thread is so pure, so nice. (They broke up in person. They haven't texted since.)

 

Lizzie: I miss you my loveee

Lo: I miss youuu my sweet

Lizzie: When will you be back?

Lo: Meet me at my apartment in 20

Lo: ;)

Lizzie: Nooo not for thatttttt

Lizzie: Just cuddles

Lizzie: And kisses

Lo: Okay baby

Lizzie: See you there

Lizzie: I'll bring the cheap wine and pizza

Lizzie: :)

 

Lauren laughs to herself, wiping away another tear. They had cheap wine and pizza dates more often than anything else. It was kinda their thing. They were so nice, so good together. (During the good times, anyway.)

She wonders if they could have lasted. She wonders if they could have been happy forever.

She briefly wonders if Lizzie eats pizza anymore. (Lizzie can’t even look at the stuff.)

 

Los Angeles, California

 

“Are you up to watching the draft?”

Lizzie practically freezes, tensing from her shoulders to her toes. “I haven't thought about it yet.”

That was a lie. She hadn't stopped thinking about it.

“You don't have to,” Christen shrugs. “But if you want to, we can watch together.”

“You wanna watch it, huh?”

“Only if you do.”

“You're just hoping for a glimpse of your stud.”

“My stud?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Tobin, duh.”

“Tobin's not my anything.”

“Sure she isn't.”

“She isn't.”

“You wish she was.”

Christen freezes, almost as tense as Lizzie was when the topic originated.

She's silent for what feels like hours before Lizzie finally says that she's only kidding.

Lizzie swallows back a laugh makes Christen know she isn't, but she appreciates the courtesy of her pretending. “Do you wanna watch the damn draft or not?

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Sure, where?”

“Not my place,” is all Christen suggests, and she doesn't have to say why for Lizzie to know that it's because Julie would be upset about it.

“Tobin's?”

Christen nods, “Sure, yeah. Four? It's starts at five.”

“That works.”

“I'll bring pizza?”

“I actually,” Lizzie bites her lip, not sure what to say. “I'm kinda sick of pizza. Are you cool with something else?”

“Yeah, sure.” Christen shrugs, not taking it to mean anything. “Subway?”

“Perfect.”

 

Washington D.C.

 

“You can't cry out there.”

Lauren nods, wiping at an eye and looking up to Tobin. “I miss her,” she admits before dropping eye contact. “She should--” Lauren cuts herself off. “She should be here with us.”

“No, no.” Tobin shakes her head and takes Lauren’s hands in her own. “Don't do this, would she want you to cry before this? Before one of the biggest moments of your life?”

Lauren shrugs. “Probably. She hates me.”

“She doesn't.”

“Prove it.”

Tobin rolls her eyes but knows that the look on Lauren’s face means she doesn't believe her. She fishes her phone out of her pocket and shows a string of messages.

 

Lilo: I miss her.

Stitch: It's okay to miss her

Lilo: I shouldn't.

Stitch: You're allowed to be hurting

Lilo: I hate her.

Stitch: No you don't.

Lilo: You're right.

Lilo: I couldn't hate her if I tried.

 

Lauren reads the messages and then reads them over again, willing herself to believe them. “She doesn't hate me,” Lauren whispers, shaking her head ever-so slightly.

“She doesn't.” Tobin holds the phone up for a second before sliding it back into her pocket. “Now are you good to go in there? Do you want a hug or will you cry again?”

Lauren laughs and shakes her head, wiping away a tear.

“Happy tears,” Tobin warns. “Only happy tears today, kid.”

 

Los Angeles, California

 

Lauren’s taken as the fifth pick overall in the draft, and Lizzie tries her hardest not to be happy for her. (It doesn't work.) She crosses her arms and clenches her jaw as soon as the name is called.

“And with the fifth pick in the draft, the Orlando Pride takes Lauren Torres.”

The camera pans to her, beautifully done makeup and slightly bloodshot eyes no one could see unless they were looking for them. (Lizzie was looking.)

Lauren turns to her right and it looks as if she was expecting someone to be there. Her face goes blank and she stands up, fixing her dress and taking a breath that Lizzie knows she's only taking to try to steady her hands.

Lauren has tells. There's a certain way her eyes fall when she's expecting to see something and she doesn't. There's a certain way she clenches her jaw when she's holding back a tear. There's a certain way she breathes when her anxiety is through the roof. There's a certain way she tugs at her fingers when she wishes someone could be there to hold her hand. (That someone used to be Lizzie.) Lizzie notices all of these things in the seconds (it feels like years) that the screen displays a close up of her ex girlfriend.

The camera follows her up the stage where she shakes hands with Orlando’s coach and then turns to smile into a different camera. Her smile is wide but her eyes give it away (in a way only Lizzie can tell) and she wipes away a tear.

Lizzie gives her the benefit of the doubt (happy tears, those have to be happy tears) and ignores the way her heart feels like it's sinking. (Whether it's because she's sad that Lauren seems sad, or because she's sad that Lauren seems happy without her, no one could tell.)

“We can turn it off,” Christen offers, pickling up the remote, but Lizzie just shakes her head.

“No, leave it. I'm fine.” She relaxes back from the position where she was leaning forward on her knees, completely attentive since Lauren’s name was called. “I'll be back.” Lizzie gets up and walks into the kitchen for a glass of water. She leans against the counter and steadies herself, taking a deep breath in and out before squeezing her eyes shut (willing for tears to come because maybe if she could cry, the pain would stop).

“Lizzie?” Christen calls into the kitchen, lowering the volume on the tv and Lizzie realizes she must've been standing here for a few minutes because she can already hear them calling for the next player.

“Coming.” She fills the glass with water and takes one last deep breath before going back to the living room (where Christen can tell something’s wrong, but knows not to push it).

The camera pans to Tobin who's smiling proudly towards the stage and Lizzie can't tell if it makes her feel better (that someone she loves so much is so happy) or worse (that the reason she's happy is because of the success of someone who hurt her so badly). Worse. “Turn it off.” Lizzie nearly slams the water on the coffee table and leans back into the couch. Definitely worse.

“Okay, okay,” Christen clicks the remote to turn the tv off and sets it on the table. “You good?”

“Just peachy.”

Christen rolls her eyes. “Can I help?”

Lizzie raises an eyebrow, looking at Christen. “Remember when you said you wanted to go to the gym with Tobs and I sometime?”

Christen nods as Lizzie stands from the couch.

“Let’s hit it. I'll show you the ropes.”

 

Washington D.C.

 

Tobin and the the UCLA team (or what's left of the team, after the first four picks) are in their designated seats and Lauren is practically vibrating with anxiety, despite Tobin’s calming hand on her knee.

“And with the fifth pick in the draft, the Orlando Pride takes Lauren Torres.”

She can practically feel the cameras on her, displaying every pixel of her makeup-clad face. (She looks beautiful. She knows she looks beautiful.) Her first instinct is to turn to her right, (half of her expects Lizzie to be there giving her a long sweet kiss like they always talked about how this moment would be, the other half knows she's delusional) but her face falls at the sight of an empty seat.

She briefly wonders if her eyes are still bloodshot from crying before they got there, and she stands, clenching her teeth to hold back a tear.

She fixes her dress, hoping the mindless action will steady her hands and then tugs on her fingers, wishing to god Lizzie was here to hold her hand.

Lauren makes her way past Tobin and her teammates and follows the path to the stage where she only begins to realize the amount of applause for her. She shakes Tom Sermanni’s hand and cracks a wide smile (forced, but you can't really tell). She wipes at a tear that she can't ignore and hears Tobin’s voice in her head. Happy tears. Only happy tears . She takes a deep breath and wonders if anyone can see the fact that these aren't happy tears.

There's a few moments of exchanging pleasantries and she gets a purple scarf, then goes back to where her team is and takes a seat next to Tobin.

“Are you okay?”

Lauren continues to look straight forward at the stage, blank expression on her face.

“You don't have to talk about it, but don't just shut me out. I want to help.”

Lauren turns to Tobin and takes a slow, deep breath. “If I talk,” she pauses for another breath. “I may cry. I don't want to cry.” She turns back toward the stage, clenching her jaw and feels a consoling arm around her shoulders as Tobin leans against her forehead.

“Alright, kid.” Tobin squeezes her in a half hug before settling so her arm is protectively around Lauren. “Alright.”

 

Los Angeles, California

 

“Where have you been spending all your time lately?” Julie asks as Christen walks in. “I texted you that I’d be home early and I made us dinner.”

“Sorry Jules.” Christen shrugs off her purse and sets it near the door. “Lizzie just went through a bad breakup and she’s really needed a friend.”

Julie rolls her eyes. “You're always trying to fix people, Christen. You always want someone who's broken . Someone you can take care of .” She groans.

Christen shakes her head. “Whatever Julie, just don't ask next time if you don't want me to talk about it.”

“No babe, that's not what I meant. You should just worry about yourself every now and then.”

It was Christen's to turn to roll her eyes. “Maybe I want to worry about Tobin.”

“Lizzie,” Julie corrects.

“What?”

“You said you were helping Lizzie.”

Christen feels her cheeks grow hot. “I was. I don’t know why I said Tobin.”

“Either way.” Julie laughs bitterly. “You always want someone to fucking fix, can't you be happy when things are okay? Can't you want someone who's not broken?”

“You're not broken.”

Julie attempts to take a deep breath to calm herself but it’s futile and she turns to Christen. “Yeah, but do you even want me?”

Christen's breath catches in her throat. “I'm not doing this with you tonight.”

“Then when are you doing it?”

“When you're not fucking drunk.”

“Whatever, Christen.” Julie makes her way to the bedroom and slips under the covers.

Christen comes in nearly an hour later, after she's cooled down. She climbs into bed, thinking JJ is already asleep, but she's spent the last hour staring at the ceiling.

“Where did I go wrong?” Julie whispers. Christen almost doesn't hear it.

“Hm?”

“We were happy once.”

Christen sighs. “Yeah.”

“But now you're not.”

“Neither of us are as happy as we were.”

“Is it my fault?”

“No, Julie. It's both of us.”

“Oh.” She's quiet for a few moments. “I want us to be happy again.”

“Go to sleep, Jules.”

"Okay.”



---

 

Nearly a week has passed, with the same daily calls from Tobin (one to Lizzie, to check in and catch up; one to Christen, to ask if everything’s okay with Lizzie; and another one to Christen, to say sweet things and make sure she's having a good day) and Lizzie’s doing better. (Way better than she thought she would be at this point, if she's being honest.)

Hannah comes over pretty often. She brings ice cream and movies and food and love and even with Lizzie's constant insisting of I'm fine , Hannah ends up at her apartment more days than not. (When she shows up with a sappy movie and a tub of ice cream, Lizzie feels helpless, because who could turn that cute face away?)

Christen and Lizzie start going to the gym nearly everyday, usually followed or preceded by a coffee break.

“I really needed this.” Lizzie slumps into her chair with a blended coffee in hand. “Really, really needed it.”

“Happy to help,” Christen laughs and settles in the bar stool next to her.

“Endorphin rush, now sweet caffeinated goodness?” Lizzie hums and lets her eyes drift shut, giving an expression of complete bliss.

“That's great,” Christen says in a clipped tone, dropping her phone to the table. “Just great.”

“It is,” Lizzie nods in agreement, still floating along in her own world before catching the look Christen’s trying to hide. “Wait, sarcasm, got it. We're not talking about me. What's wrong?”

Christen glances to her phone before looking up at Lizzie who's intently looking at Christen while sipping on her frappucino. “Julie cancelled on dinner. Again.”

“You knows who's good at eating dinner?”

Christen rolls her eyes, knowing the answer already. “Tobin?”

“Well,” Lizzie frowns. “Yes. But not who I was going to say.”

“Who?”

“Me, duh. I'll take you out tonight.”

“You really don't have to do that.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes and stands up from the table, coffee in one hand and the other outstretched to help Christen from her chair. “Oh, but I want to, m’lady.”

Christen giggles and takes Lizzie's hand, following her out of the coffee shop with their fingers interlocked.

 

Washington D.C.

 

“Have everything settled?”

“Yep,” Lauren nods, rocking back and forth on her feet. “I'm going to fly to my parents, and then they'll go with me to Orlando to start adjusting my life and everything.”

“You're a good kid,” Tobin says, shaking her head slightly and trying to deny any tears she can feel creeping on. “You've handled a lot. You'll be great out there.”

“Thank you, Tobin.” Lauren nods and goes for a handshake but she's pulled into a hug. “Thank you for everything,” she mumbles into her shoulder. “I couldn't have done,” she stops, not sure if she can force herself to choke it out. “Any of it without you. Really. I couldn't ask for anyone better to be my mentor.”

Tobin give her a token smile as they pull apart. “I was happy to do it, kid. Really, my honor.”

“Don't forget about me?”

Tobin laughs and claps Lauren on the shoulder. “I could never, I'll be your biggest fan.”

“Yeah?”

“I'll have to get my hands on a Pride jersey somewhere,” Tobin shrugs. “But I'll make it work. You should get to bed now, pro athletes need loads of rest.”

Lauren grins and nods in agreement, retreating to her own hotel room. “Night Tobin, thanks again.”

“Night, Lauren. Go to sleep.”

 

Los Angeles, California

 

“I’m serious,” Lizzie laughs. “Reservation for two.”

“That’s like,” Phoebe pauses, shaking her head. “The finest restaurant in town. How’d you get a reservation there?”

“Let’s just say,” Lizzie shrugs and palms her neck.  “I’ve got, like, connections or something.” ( Connections is a nice way of saying that the reservation was Julie’s and Christen’s, and Lizzie just changed the name.) “Let’s just call this a nice anniversary present for the two of you, from me, cool?”

“Incredible,” Phoebe says with a small sigh. “Wait, is our anniversary coming up?”

“Why does Lara even stay with you, dude?”

“What can I say? I’m a hottie with a body.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Your anniversary is awhile away, but I think six months is coming up. I don’t know, just consider it a present for being the cutest couple I know.”

“Cool. Thanks again, man.”

“Anytime.” Lizzie clicks the line and calls Christen almost immediately afterwards. “We’re still on for tonight, right?”

“The dinner date? You were serious?”

“Of course, do you take me for a liar?”

“Of course not.” Christen rolls her eyes and shrugs. “This place is fancy, you’ll have to bring your A Game ,” Christen teases with a laugh.

“As if I have anything but an A Game . I’ll pick you up at five? We have a reservation, hot stuff.”

Lizzie hangs up the call before giving Christen a chance to even realize what was said, much less comment on the use of hot stuff .

 

---

 

Lizzie lets herself into Tobin’s house to find a nice tie and while raiding Tobin’s drawer stumbles across something she feels like she wasn't supposed to find.

Tobin,

I’ve missed you so much lately. With the baby coming and Servando overworking, it feels like there simply aren't enough hours in the day. I had a few extra minutes today and I thought maybe I could write you a letter, like we used to do.

I’m still thinking about names. I’d ask you again, but I know you'll just suggest “Tobin” and laugh about it. It is a good name. The best person I know has it.

I hope my kid is half as great as you.

Have fun at the draft. I hope you all have fun and I know the girls are gonna do great, they've got someone incredible in charge of them. Maybe it wasn't so bad we decided to stay back and focus on our lives. I wouldn't be pregnant and you wouldn't be coaching the next generation.

We should get together for lunch sometime. I miss you. I miss being around you all the time.

Please keep in touch.

Alex

 

The letter is worn at the creases, hinting to Lizzie that it's been unfolded, read, and refolded dozens of times. It's dated a couple weeks ago, and Lizzie feels unsettled at the thought that Tobin’s still wrapped around Alex’s finger. She wonders if Tobin wrote one back.

She folds the paper again, careful to leave it exactly where it had been placed and grabs a red necktie that looks like it'll match the shade of Christen’s dress. (She’s thankful for the sneak peak picture Christen sent her through snapchat earlier.) She slides the drawer shut and makes her way out of the house, grabbing the bottle of champagne she's had chilling and picking up Tobin’s keys along the way.

She takes Tobin’s car instead of her own, (the gas mileage is better, plus, if Tobin isn't here she can't stop her, right?) and arrives at Christen’s house in no less than fifteen minutes.

“Well,” Lizzie calls through the rolled-down passenger window. “Are you getting in or not?”

Christen laughs, taking her seat and deciding not to comment on Lizzie’s sunglasses that totally do not go with her outfit. “Do you have the directions to this place?” She starts to pull her phone out of a clutch that match to the gold of her earrings and her shoes. “I have a pin saved, I think.”

“It’s cool,” Lizzie waves her off as she pulls out of the driveway and starts down the road. “I’ve got something else in mind.”

“You told me to dress nice.”

“It’ll be nice.”

“How nice?”

“Chris, you're perfect.” Lizzie glances over to Christen for a quick glance before back to the road and Christen’s heart skips a beat in the likeness to Tobin (and how much she likes it, in a kind of scary way).

 

-----

 

“This,” Christen pauses to laugh as they pull into the parking lot for In N Out . “Is not fancy.”

“It’s perfect.”

“It’s not this level of clothing.”

“It’s also not Julie, and you've needed a break from that. Don’t worry, the reservation is being put to good use.” Lizzie turns off the car and hops out, nearly jogging to the other side to open Christen’s door. “We can make anything fancy, if we’d like to.” She reaches for Christen's hand and helps her out of the car, kissing her knuckles as she does so. “See? Fancy.”

Christen rolls her eyes but laces her fingers with Lizzie’s nonetheless, following her into In N Out where Lizzie requests “the finest booth you have, with a window for viewing pleasure.”

Either the staff is in on it, or going along to fulfill the sheer hilarity of it, and they're led to a booth already set up with nice glass dishes and a tablecloth.

“This is ridiculous.”

“I’m ridiculous,” Lizzie counters. “What else did you expect?”

Christen nods in agreement and can't help but chuckle when their waitress starts pouring them glasses of champagne.

The rest of the meal continues like that; everyone acting like normal while ridiculous, unnecessary, and out of character things happen.

Eventually Lizzie takes the check (dropping a serious tip and a scrawled out thank you note on the receipt). She leads Christen to the car, opening her door for her and continuing the chivalrous act. She drives them to a park where Lizzie leads Christen over to a few swingsets and sits down in one, Christen following suit.

“Can we talk?” Lizzie breaks the silence after a few moments, looking down at the sand spilling into her dress shoes.

“Of course.”

“I just wanted to say, uhm,” Lizzie hesitates, not moving her gaze from the ground in front of her. “Thank you. For being here.”

Christen shifts her weight on the swing so she bumps hips with Lizzie. “Lizzie.” She reaches out to interlock fingers with her friend. “Of course. I’m always here.”

Lizzie nods and glances to meet Christen’s eyes, pondering whether or not to ask her question. She thinks of what she and Christen are (practically besties by now); she thinks of what she and Tobin are (closer than family); and she thinks of what Tobin and Christen are (far more than just friends, but neither of them would admit it till the day they die). “Are you and Julie, uhm, I’m not sure how to ask this.”

“Right now--” Christen sighs, pushing off so she sways back and forth a little. “I’m not sure what we are either.”

Lizzie nods solemnly before asking one last question. “How do you get over heartbreak?”

Christen feels her own heart break with that question and finds herself searching for that answer. Heartbreak is so broad. Being dumped? Sure, that’s heartbreak. Losing a loved one to circumstance, yeah, I guess. She tries to think of if she's had her heart broken. There was that boy that broke up with me, sophomore year of high school. The girl that decided we should split up senior year because we were going to different colleges. A few others here and there. She pauses, and wonders what Lizzie is making of the long silence. This, she thinks. This...not knowing what I have with Julie? And even worse, not really caring? This is heartbreak. “Let me tell you,” Christen says, glancing to Lizzie and squeezing her hand. “I’ll let you know when I do.”

“I’ll do the same,” Lizzie promises.

They sit in silence for a little longer, fingers intertwined and swaying back and forth with their toes dipping in the sand below the swingset they've claimed for the night.

 

------

 

Washington D.C.

 

“Curfew,” Tobin says in a false warning tone, tapping her watch.

Lauren rolls her eyes and leans against the doorframe of her hotel room. “Oh please. Like I’d be worried about that even if there was a curfew.”

Tobin nods and shrugs. “You're getting kind of drunk, and we have an early flight tomorrow. Get some rest.”

“I only had like two beers.”

“Two beers? Try seven. At the least.”

“How would you even know?

“It was my tab. Also, no one hits on their coach that much after two beers .”

“Sorry, you're just so much like Lizzie.” Lauren freezes and shakes her head. “That came out wrong. Not what I meant.”

“What else could you possibly have meant?”

Lauren shrugs and shakes her head. “I don't even know.”

Tobin thinks about her friend who's seemed nothing but lost since the breakup and sighs. “Maybe you should call her?”

Lauren looks up with a hopeful expression. “You think so?”

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

Lauren smiles and nods. “You’re right. Thank you.”

“That’s what I’m here for, also, make sure you get a glass of water and some painkillers before you fall asleep. Leave them on your bedside table.”

Lauren rolls her eyes. “Just always taking care of me, huh?”

“You know it,” Tobin says with a smile and a wink, disappearing behind her own hotel door.

 

---

 

“Hey, your phone is ringing,” Hannah calls out to Lizzie, who has just paused their movie marathon for a bathroom break.

“It's probably Stitch,” she waves her off. “You can answer it if you want.”

A quick glance at Lizzie's phone tells her it is not Tobin, and she feels her stomach drop when she sees a photo of Lauren lighting up the screen. She hesitates, unsure of whether or not to say anything until Lizzie peeks her head back into the living room.

“Is it not Tobs?”

Hannah simply shakes her head and lifts the phone for Lizzie to see.

“Oh,” Lizzie chokes out, taking hold of her phone and answering it without really thinking before it can go to voicemail. She takes a steadying breath before saying anything. “Yeah?”

“Lizzie,” Lauren exhales. There's a slight drawl in her tone and Lizzie feels her stomach tighten just hearing her voice. “Can we talk?”

Lizzie turns her head and notices the way that Hannah seems to have withdrawn into herself. Before she can stop herself, she finds herself saying no. “Now’s not a good time. I'm hanging out with Hannah, actually.”

“Oh.” Lauren feels her heart ache at the mention of Hannah and tries desperately to keep the tears she feels welling in her eyes from spilling over. “Okay, uhm, yeah, that's okay. I just wanted to talk to you, I guess. I shouldn't have called, I'll just let you get back to whatever it is you're doing.”

She's rambling and normally, Lizzie would smile at how cute Lauren sounds when she's stumbling over her words, but now all she can think about is the way her stomach feels like it's collapsing in on itself. Any other time, she'd be relieved to hear her voice, but right now it just hurts.

“I'm really sorry,” Lauren tries to continue, hardly taking a breath before apologizing again.

“Lauren,” Lizzie stops her, taking Lauren's sharp inhale of breath as sign that she's listening. “Congratulations. You're going to do great in Orlando.”

Before Lauren can reply, she hears her phone beeping, signaling the end of the call. She takes a shaky breath and suddenly there are tears on her face and she feels like she can't stand anymore, so she drops down onto the bed in her hotel room.

This wasn't how the phone call was supposed to go, and she finds herself regretting calling in the first place. As soon as Lizzie mentioned Hannah’s name, she felt like she couldn't breathe. As much as she doesn't want to admit it, she hates how close Lizzie and Hannah got this year.

And then it hits her.

I’m jealous.

Not that it matters. Lauren’s heart somehow manages to be in her throat and in the pit of her stomach all at the same time.

Lizzie isn’t mine anymore.

Chapter Text

The word Landed is lit up in green next to Tobin’s flight number but Lizzie still hasn't seen any movement in the automatic glass doors with Do Not Enter plastered over them.

Eventually people start to come and Lizzie assumes it's the same flight as Tobin’s (but honestly, she’s only ever left California to go with Tobin to New Jersey, and she has no idea how airports work) and in between the opening and shutting of the doors she's pretty sure she can see Tobin’s luggage slowly moving across the line. (She knows it's Tobin’s because it's plain black with a bright pink handkerchief tied to the handle, so you can find it easier! courtesy of Christen.)

Christen’s asleep in the chair next to Lizzie (it is early and Lizzie insisted on being there half an hour before the flight was scheduled to land) and oblivious to the world (so far).

“Chris!” Lizzie starts frantically tapping Christen’s arm and stirs her awake.

Christen slowly opens her eyes and she can feel her contacts trying to unstick from her eyelids. She rubs at her eyes and allows her vision to focus out on its own and finally settles on Lizzie who's looking at her, puzzled and asking what they do.

“Do we need papers or,” she pauses, thinking. “Do we have to sign something?”

Christen shakes her head and laughs. “We're not checking her out of school, weirdo. We just wait.”

Lizzie nods and sits down again, leaning back with Christen's arm wrapping around her shoulders. Christen is warm and Lizzie presses against her side, letting her eyes drift shut for a moment (it really is early, and they only got a few hours of sleep last night).

Tobin makes her way through the double doors, suitcase in hand, and her eyes almost immediately find Lizzie and Christen. Lizzie is tucked into Christen’s side and Christen has her arm wrapped around her, both fast asleep. (Tobin’s pretty sure it's the cutest thing she's ever seen.) She snaps a picture of them and posts it with the caption my welcome party before gently waking Christen up.

Christen opens her eyes and the sleepiness is evident in the way her pupils won't quite focus. “Tobin,” she finally says in a half yawn, half smile and the cutest sleepy voice Tobin could ever even imagine.

“Yeah,” Tobin says and about that time Lizzie stirs awake, immediately bouncing out of her chair with excitement, tackling Tobin into a hug.

“I missed you,” Lizzie mumbles into Tobin’s shoulder, burying her face beyond recognition. “A lot.”

Tobin looks to Christen in hope of an explanation for Lizzie’s soft nature, but Christen looks back at her with equal confusion. Tobin squeezes her arms around Lizzie and grazes her fingers along her back. “I’m here now, don't worry kid.”

 

---

 

That night, Christen stops by Tobin’s office. “Already back to the grind?” She asks, letting herself into the room.

Tobin looks up with a laugh. “Something like that, I have to start making decisions as far as recruiting prospects for the fall.”

Christen nods and sits down on the couch in Tobin’s office. “Mind if I hang out here for a bit?”

“Of course not.” Tobin turns back to the papers on her desk and soon enough, Christen is asleep on her couch. She grabs the blanket from the other side of the couch and rests it over her.

Christen finally wakes up about an hour later to the sound of rain hitting the window next to her. She blinks and looks over to Tobin who is checking her email. “Tobs?”

“Hey Chris.” Tobin smiles and moves to the couch so she’s next to Christen. “How’d you sleep?”

“Pretty well,” she admits, resting her head so she can look out the window. “I always liked the rain.”

Tobin resists the urge to shift her position, worried that Christen will want to move from where she is lying against her.

“What about you?”

Tobin thinks for a moment before speaking. “I used to.”

The way she says it sounds like her voice is going to crack, prompting Christen to lean up and face her. “Did something happen?”

Tobin shrugs, adjusting her (slightly asleep) arm that Christen is laying on and avoiding eye contact. “It's stupid.”

“Not if it's bothering you,” Christen responds immediately.

Tobin shrugs again, risking a glance to Christen who's looking at her with so much care that Tobin realizes it's only a matter of time before she tells her anyway. “The same reason I have most of my problems, I guess.” She laughs bitterly, shaking her head.

“Alex?” Christen asks, resting a hand on Tobin's whose hands are knotted together in her lap.

Tobin can feel herself relax at the small gesture and nods before looking up. “It's not her fault, though.”

Christen nods understandingly and Tobin continues.

“When we were in college together, we roomed together for the first few years. We would always stay up together when it rained and we'd just lie together and enjoy each other's company. Even after she moved out, sometimes she would come over and we'd sit together while it rained.”

“So the rain makes you think of her,” Christen says and with the way she phrases it, it isn't really a question.

“Yeah,” Tobin answers, not knowing what else to say. “It's kind of odd. The rain always makes me feel really disconnected from the world, kind of calm but in a scary sort of way.”

Christen tilts her head. “What do you mean?”

“The rain makes me feel really calm, but that sense of serenity sort of,” she pauses to search for the words. “Leaves me to my own devices, so to speak. And then I think of Alex, which is not so great. So, I kind of like the rain. It makes me feel calm and clear-minded, but I'm never really okay when it's raining,” she explains. “Do you understand?”

Christen nods and moves her hands so they're holding Tobin's wrists. “If you ever wanna talk to me, I'm here.”

“I know.”

“Are you calm right now?”

“Yeah.”

“Even with me here?” Christen asks softly.

“Chris, you always make me feel calm.”

 

---

 

Christen and Tobin meet for coffee the next day, sitting in silence until Tobin finally sets her book down. “How should I tell her?”

Christen looks up from her coffee with confusion. “Sorry?”

“Lizzie, the world cup, the tickets and all. How am I gonna tell her?”

“Oh,” Christen nods. “Next time, lead with the important part.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Tobin waves her off with a laugh. “Anyway, how am I breaking the good news?”

Christen shrugs and takes a sip of her coffee, ruining the perfect latté art she had forgotten to snap a picture of.

They sit in silence for a few moments before Tobin finally sets her cup on the table, sloshing a bit of the coffee on her hands. “I’ve got it!”

“Hm?” Christen reaches with a napkin to dab some of the coffee off of Tobin’s hand.

“Kelley is coming here, I totally blanked.”

“Really? How long is she in town?”

“She's only coming through for a day. We were just gonna meet for lunch, but I’ll have Lizzie tag along.” Tobin pauses and laughs to herself. “I'm pretty sure she's in love with Kelley.”

“Wait, like,” Christen pauses. “Really in love?”

“No, no,” Tobin smiles. “Well, maybe. Anyway, point is that I’ve got it figured out, thanks Chris.”

Christen nods and suddenly becomes aware of the fact that they're still holding hands from when she cleaned up the coffee. She pulls back too quickly to be subtle and puts her hands in her lap. “So,” she starts to stand to leave, hoping Tobin isn't hurt by her abrupt departure. “I'll see you later?”

“Uhm,” Tobin nods. “Yeah, sure. Do you have yours and Julie’s flights booked yet?”

“Not yet,” Christen sighs, deciding to stay for a moment. “Julie keeps changing dates on me, so,” she looks to the ground.

Tobin reaches a hand out to squeeze Christen’s fingers, but Christen just pulls away again.

“So yeah, I’ll let you know.” Christen turns and exits the coffee shop without another word, leaving Tobin even more confused than before.

 

---

 

The next day, Tobin’s sitting in her office, going through footage when she hears her phone vibrate and looks over to see a picture of Kelley with her tongue out lighting up her phone. “Hey,” she answers the phone and hears a stream of voices on the other end.

“Hey man,” Kelley's voice cuts through the sound and Tobin can hear the smile in it. “Uhm, do you have a good cab number? For LA?”

Tobin sputters before finally managing to string the words “Cab? Here? What-uhm, me?”

“I’m not sure what you're saying,” Kelley looks around the airport for a kiosk of some sort. “But about that number?”

“No, no.” Tobin shakes her head and stands from her desk, grabbing her keys. “I thought your flight wasn't for another hour or so?” She locks up her office before jogging to her car.

“It wasn't, but they offered me double points if I took an earlier flight so I jumped at the chance.”

“And you couldn't let me know , Kell? I was supposed to pick you up.”

“When was that ever the plan?” Kelley walks up to a green sign that reads Taxi, Shuttle, Bus . “Actually, uh, I think I found the place, Tobs. I can get a cab I just need an address or something.”

“No, dammit Kelley, come on. Just let me pick you up.” Tobin pulls out of the parking lot and onto the road, looking for her ramp onto the highway.

“Fine, fine.” Kelley relaxes, letting herself fall onto a bench. “I’m in terminal 4, let me know when you're close.”

Tobin sighs in relief. “Alright, cool. I'll be there in twenty minutes, pending traffic, okay? Maybe less.”

Kelley nods and pulls a book from her carry-on. “Works for me.”

 

---

 

Tobin finds Kelley, getting out of the car and having a quick heartfelt reunion before a security guard waves a stick and points to the no parking sign. They break apart and Tobin takes Kelley’s bags, tossing them in the backseat and joining Kelley in the front.

Kelley props her arm up to drum her fingertips as she looks through her open window. She takes a deep breath in and lets her eyes flutter shut. “I’ve missed LA.”

Tobin smiles, glancing over to her friend and then back out the front of the car. “LA misses you,” Tobin sighs and readjusts her hands on the wheel.

“Soccer misses you.” Kelley all but avoids glancing over to Tobin, trying to ignore the way it feels when she can see Tobin's posture drop out of the corner of her eye. “I’m just saying--”

“I know what you're saying.” Tobin cuts her off and turns up the radio. The tension is palpable, and they’re silent for the rest of the ride to the school.

When they pull into the parking lot, they can see Lizzie impatiently standing outside of the building. “What happened to lunch? What happened to you taking me to lunch, huh?” She's staring daggers at Tobin until she sees Kelley get out of the other side of the car, and she literally leaps for joy. “Kelley!” She runs and jumps into her arms and Kelley laughs as she cradles Lizzie like a baby.

“Hey man, is this worth Tobs being a little late?”

Way worth it,” Lizzie agrees as Kelley sets her back on the ground. They get back in the car and Lizzie sits in the middle of the back so she can lean forward to talk to Kelley. “So, are you what I’m eating for lunch?”

Kelley would turn red if she was anyone except for Kelley, but instead she turns to face Lizzie and says “Only if I get you for dessert.”

Tobin gags and turns to them as she pulls up to a red light. “Okay, gross, disgusting, I hate you both. Just.” Tobin groans as the light turns green again. “Cut it out or I will turn this car around.”

“Fine, dad,” They say practically in unison, both falling into a fit of giggles.

The rest of the drive is filled with Lizzie and Kelley half catching up, half getting to know each other better.

While being led to their seats at the restaurant, Tobin asks them “You guys aren't, like, actually sexually attracted, right? Because, gross.”

They both shake their heads with a laugh and Lizzie turns to Kelley “Nah, but giving you an orgasm would be, like, an honor. I mean, you're Kelley O’Hara .”

“You're being weird, stop,” Tobin says, gagging again.

Kelley laughs. “No no, I think that’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten, please go on.”

Sometime in between when Lizzie orders dessert and Tobin takes the check, she turns to Kelley and asks, “Do you wanna tell her, or should I?”

“Oh god,” Lizzie sighs and slumps her shoulders. “Which one of you is breaking up with me?”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Neither.”

“Each other?”

“Nada,” Kelley replies.

“Oh my god, you guys are banging aren’t you?”

“Uhm, gross.” Tobin crinkles her nose at the thought.

“Okay, rude.” Kelley looks over to Tobin with her jaw dropped.

“Hmm.” Lizzie scratches her chin, partially in thought, mostly just for the appearance. “Am I gonna guess it?”

“Maybe.” Kelley shrugs. “Hard to say.”

“Okay, I give up.”

Kelley looks to Tobin and nods in assurance.

“Okay,” Tobin nods back before looking to Lizzie. “We are going to—“

“The World Cup!” Kelley blurts out before Tobin has a chance, the excitement just bubbling out of her.

“What!” Lizzie looks from one to the other in disbelief. “That is, this—“ she sputters through the smile on her face. “Thank you. Are we really— just, jeez. Thank you.”

The smile on Tobin’s face is one of the more genuine she’s had in awhile, and it feels good. “You’re welcome, kid. I wanted to do something fun to start this summer and we’re edging on our last year together, so, I figured it should be something big.”

“Thank you, Tobin. God, I’m—“ Lizzie jumps in her seat as if a chill went down her spine. “I’m just tingling with excitement. I can’t even think, I—“

“I know what you mean, man.” Kelley wraps an arm around Lizzie’s shoulders. “It’s all good.”

“Oh my god,” Lizzie turns so she’s facing Kelley. “And I’ll get to see you play in a World Cup .”

“Maybe I’ll score a goal for you,” Kelley laughs with a wink.

“She says that to all the girls,” Tobin cuts in, rolling her eyes.

“Maybe I mean it this time.” Kelley winks at Tobin this time and Tobin starts gagging again.

“I can’t wait till that can be my line to hit on girls. Maybe I’ll score a goal in a World Cup for you ,” Lizzie says in her best Kelley voice, following it up with a wink.

“Give it four years,” Kelley says with a bright smile. “A hell of a lot can happen in four years.”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah,” Kelley nods. “I really do.”

Lizzie grins from ear to ear and looks back over to Tobin. “What do you think?”

Tobin looks to Lizzie with so much pride that her heart physically aches. “I think you can achieve anything,” she says truthfully.

Around this time, the waitress brings the check by and Tobin slides it towards herself.

“I also think you should get packing, because we leave in just a couple weeks.”

Lizzie nods as she and Kelley slide out of the booth. She gives Tobin a bear hug and buries her face in Tobin’s neck. “Thank you, I needed this,” she whispers and Tobin just nods, grazing her fingers along Lizzie’s back.

“I’m happy to, kid.”

 

 

Tobs: You guys should really get your tickets soon :( Lizzie and I just looked at dates and prices for a couple friends and stuff is going really fast

Christen doesn’t reply to Tobin’s text, instead just ringing Julie’s office phones and leaning against the kitchen counter patiently to wait for her to pick up.

“Hey honey,” Julie answers. She sounds stressed, but then again, she always does.

“Hey, I was just gonna say we should probably look at plane tickets for Canada tonight.”

“Canada?”

Christen brushes it off, chalking it up to stress and a brief lapse in memory. “Yeah, baby, the World Cup?”

“Hey can we actually do this another time, I have a client coming in soon and I’m probably gonna have to work late again.”

“We really need to schedule soon.”

“We’ve got the hotel, we’ll be fine.”

“What, are you going to drive us to Canada?” Christen asks sarcastically, regretting the words once they’re out of her mouth.

“I can’t do this right now.” She goes to hang up the phone but then hears Christen’s voice ring through again.

“Look, I’m sorry to bring it up again, Jules, but we really need to book our flights soon or we won’t be able to sit next to each other on the plane or be there by our hotel reservation date. I really don’t understand the hold up.”

“I told you,” Julie sighs into the phone and waves away her assistant. “I already told you that I don’t know yet, sorry, but I can’t just know these things.”

“Know what ? You don’t know if there’ll be a wedding a week from now or not?”

“It’s not that,” Julie rubs at her temples, trying to work away some of the tension building.

“Then what?”

“I don’t know if I should go.”

“Wha—“ Christen cuts herself off to take a breath. “What?”

“I really feel like I should be here for the wedding that weekend.”

Christen clenches her teeth and tries to take a deep breath. She paces around the kitchen furiously with Morena and Khaleesi following her closely. “What about this? What—“ She takes another deep breath in an attempt to not say something she regrets. “What about us , do you even care about us?” (The deep breathe didn’t work.)

“There’s nothing wrong with us ,” Julie defends. “It’s my work, Christen, I can’t just leave with no notice.”

“You had three weeks to give notice. Three. Weeks. What, did you just...not? Did you just not say anything in hopes that it would all go away and you wouldn’t have to tell me that you never even planned to go?”

Julie’s assistant comes in the office again. “Sorry ma’am, but your 4 o’clock is in the waiting room.”

“Christen, I really have to go.”

“What, should I just go without you?”

“That’s not what I’m saying. You don’t have to go.”

Christen doesn’t think she could be more pissed off. “I’m going with or without you, you can decide.”

“Fine. Go without me. Go with Tobin ,” she says the name with disgust. “I don’t care. Do whatever you want.” She slams the phone on the receiver and takes a breath to regain composure before looking back up to her assistant and giving a tight smile. “Bring them in, please. Thank you.”

 

—-

 

Christen is livid. She slams her cellphone on the counter when she hears the click of the line and immediately marches into her bedroom.

She grabs a duffel out of the closet and stuffs it with a few outfits and pajamas for a few nights. She goes to the bathroom and grabs her contact solution and case and a few other essentials from behind the mirror. She hesitates when she gets to her toothbrush, afraid it will send too much of a message.

She mutters “screw it,” and grabs it anyway.

She’s ready to walk out the door when the dogs start whining, and instead of leaving, she fills a gallon bag with food and attaches their leashes and harnesses.

The dogs are ecstatic for a car ride, but they can tell Christen is upset, and do their best to comfort her. Khaleesi puts her head on Christen’s shoulder from the backseat and Morena rests on Christen’s thigh.

When she starts the car, she’s not quite sure where she’s going except for the fact that she’s going away . (When she ends up in Tobin’s neighborhood, she isn’t really surprised.)

Tobin’s car is gone, but Christen still has a key and lets herself into the house. She lets the dogs loose and while they make themselves at home, Christen shoots Tobin a text so she isn’t too shocked at the car in her driveway.

Chris: Julie and I got in a huge fight. I went to your house because I didn’t know what else to do, I hope you don’t mind

Tobin responds immediately, and Christen can’t think of a word to describe how good she feels because of it. (Relieved, happy, and loved are a few viable options.)

Tobs: I’ll come back to the house right now.

Chris: You really don’t have to do that

Tobs: I’m always here for you. Always.

Christen doesn’t feel angry anymore and instead she just feels like crying. Everything is too much and all she wants is to be held. The dogs on the couch next to her help, but she doesn’t truly start to feel better until she hears Tobin come in through the front door.

“Hey, Chris?”

Christen can hear Tobin’s keys jingle as they hit the bowl and her bag thump against the ground next to the door.

“Chris?” Tobin makes her way further into the house and stops when she gets to the living room.

Christen looks at Tobin and it all comes crashing in. Immediately she starts sobbing, willing herself to hold back but not an ounce of self control left.

Tobin swoops in, wrapping her arms around Christen and pulling her in to her chest. She brushes the back of Christen’s head with her hand and coos comfortingly, hoping to quell the girl shaking in her arms. “It’s okay, Chris. I promise. I’ve got you now, no one can hurt you. Everything is okay here. No one can hurt you.” She rocks back and forth for several minutes before Christen finally begins to manage her breathing.

“I’m sorry—“

“No, no,” Tobin cuts her off before she can say another word. “You’ve done nothing wrong, you’re okay. You’re okay.”

Christen nods, her face still buried in Tobin’s chest. She continues crying for a few more minutes before she sucks in a deep breath.

“Hey, Chris.” Tobin smiles in the way that only she can, with a heartwarming and goofy gesture all at once. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

Christen shakes her head briskly before burying her face back in Tobin’s neck.

“Okay,” Tobin pulls her closer (if that’s possible) and nods comfortingly. “That’s okay. Do you wanna stay here tonight?”

Another nod, and Tobin can feel Christen’s tears smearing against her neck.

“Okay, Chris.” Tobin judges by the larger-than-overnight bag and the presence of the dogs that there’s a good chance this is more than a one-night campout. “Do you wanna sleep in my bed?”

Christen nods again and starts to pull away so she can walk.

“Nah, I’ve got it.” Tobin slides one hand underneath Christen’s knees and cradles the other around her shoulders, lifting her effortlessly. She carries Christen all the way through the house, the dogs following protectively behind them, and lays her down on the bed. “Do you want me to go grab your bag for pajamas or just borrow something of mine?”

Christen points to the dresser, staying silent and Tobin nods understandingly.

She pulls out some old US Soccer shorts and a UCLA shirt from the most recent championship out of a drawer and walks them back over to Christen. “What do you need?”

Christen shakes her head in lieu of an answer and Tobin sets the clothes next to her.

“Okay, you get changed and I’ll go grab you a glass of water. I’ll be right out there if you need me, alright?”

Christen nods again.

Tobin walks into the kitchen and cradles her head in her hands, leaning against the counter. She calls Lizzie and gives a brief explanation of why she had to run, apologizing for the late notice. Lizzie brushes it off in a way that only someone who’s been in the situation can. She wishes luck and as the line clicks, Tobin can hear the bedroom door squeak. “Chris?” She fills a glass of water for Christen and then starts down the hallway, running into Morena halfway and smiling down at the dog. “Come on girl, let's go make Christen feel better.”

Christen gives the smallest of smiles when Tobin walks back through the door and Tobin makes her way over to give Christen the water. She sets it on the bedside table and wraps an arm around Christen’s shoulders.

“You feel up to talking at all?”

Christen shakes her head again and Tobin nods.

“That’s alright.” Tobin rubs Christen’s back for a minute before standing back up. “I’ll take the guest bedroom tonight, okay?” She flashes a smile that makes Christen’s heart melt. “You get some rest.”

“Please stay?” Christen asks in a voice that they both know will make Tobin say yes.

Tobin turns around and nods without hesitation. “Okay, I’ll stay.”

 

—-

 

When Christen wakes up, she feels the dogs nestled against her feet and reaches her arms to the empty other half of the bed. She opens her eyes and is surprised when she’s not in her own bedroom, looking around for a hint of what happened.

She rubs at her eyes for a moment before reaching for her glasses and realizing where she is. Tobin’s house. Tobin’s bed . (The worst part about it is how good it makes her feel.)

Christen makes her way down the hall and sits at the kitchen island, Tobin setting a plate of blueberry pancakes with a syrup-drawn smiley face on the top.

“Do you want to--”

“No.” Christen shakes her head and begins cutting into her pancakes.

The next twenty minutes are spent in silence.

 

---

 

After the dishes are washed and the dogs are fed, Tobin tries again. “What do you--”

“Let’s look at flights.”

Tobin nods. “Okay, alright. Do you have Julie’s schedule?”

“I don’t care about Julie.”

Tobin doesn’t know what to say so she simply goes to get her laptop, pulling up her email and checking her own itinerary. She works in silence, going to the airline’s website and begins to book a flight for Christen in the seat next to her.

Christen watches absentmindedly as Tobin books the flight. When it comes time to pay, she stands to go find her wallet but Tobin just reaches out to grab her hand.

“No worries, Chris.” Tobin smiles and squeezes Christen’s fingers. “My treat.” Tobin leans forward so their foreheads are touching and they can taste each other’s breath.

Christen thinks Tobin smells like mint and something intoxicating that she can’t quite put a name to. For a split second she feels like pushing forward and closing the gap between their lips but then Lizzie’s voice echoes in her mind. Stop it. Tobin’s not yours, and you’re not Tobin's. She remembers that night. That kiss . She remembers everything from the way Tobin’s lips tasted to the way Lizzie scolded her the next morning, likening her to Alex and suddenly she feels sick.

Christen pulls away and mutters her first words of the morning that aren’t cold. “Thank you.” She turns her head to hide a tear. “Let’s watch something.”

“Sure,” Tobin nods, standing and following Christen into the living room. (She sees the tear, but assumes that it's about Julie.) (Julie is the furthest thing from Christen's mind.) “Sure, Chris. Anything.”

 

---

 

The next week passes in silence.

Christen stays at Tobin’s house, eating the meals Tobin makes and watching the movies Tobin puts on. She goes to work, and the only person who notices anything wrong is Servando. (Julie calls Alex every night, asking if Servando knows anything about Christen. He only tries asking her about it once, and she tells him that as far as Julie has to know, she’s been calling in sick.)

Tobin can’t even get Christen’s opinion on what shoes to pack for the trip, so she doesn’t bother trying to ask about Julie. The closest she gets is two days before their flight.

“Hey, Chris?”

“Hm?”

Tobin closes her book and looks over to her friend. “What’s your plan for your clothes? I mean,” Tobin cracks a smile. “Don’t get me wrong. You look awfully cute in my UCLA shirts and US Soccer shorts, but, I don’t think I’ve got enough to last the both of us through Canada.”

“I know, I’ll work it out tomorrow, don’t worry.” Christen gives Tobin a tight smile and looks back down at her phone.

Tobin just considers herself grateful that Christen said more than four words consecutively.

 

---

 

Christen walks up to the door of the house she shares with Julie and stands there silently for a few moments. Knocking seems too formal but just letting herself in seems too casual. Julie’s car is in the driveway and she can’t decide if that’s better or worse. She spends another minute debating in her head before just letting herself in.

“Hey,” Julie says softly, looking up from her laptop. She closes it and sets it on the coffee table before standing from the couch. “I’ve been really worried.”

“Yeah, I know.” Christen nods slowly. “I just need clothes for the trip tomorrow.”

“Oh.”

Christen doesn’t say anything else. (She doesn’t know what to say.) She puts together her bag and it isn’t until she comes back to the living room that Julie says anything else.

“Wait, Stanford.” Julie spent the whole time Christen was here trying to figure out how to get her to stay, and she finally thinks she knows what it is.

“Yeah?” Christen turns around and sets her bag on the ground.

“Come here.” Julie starts down the hallway and enters their bedroom, Christen following her.

“Yeah Jules?”

“Where is it?” Julie mumbles to herself, digging into a drawer and tossing things into the bed.

“Julie what are you doing?” Christen asks, finding herself annoyed.

“Christen, just hold on,” she pleads, her voice thick with emotion. She briefly wonders if this is wrong but quickly decides it’s too late now. “Fuck, did I move it?” She spins around to start looking through the dresser.

Christen sighs. “ Julie.

“It's in here, it--I found it” She exclaims, grasping the small box. She turns around and sees Christen sitting on the edge of their bed. She looks down and opens the box with a small chuckle. “Y'know, I bought that ring for you.”

“What?”

“That ring you pointed out to me. Back in February. I went back and bought it. And I've been moving it around since so you wouldn't find it and I could propose when I'm ready.”

“Julie, please,” Christen starts to protest but Julie sinks to her knees in front of her.

“Christen, I don't want to lose you. So what do you say?” Julie asks, her voice soft as she holds the ring out between them.

Christen looks at the ring and freezes. “Jules--”

“Come on,” Julie puts a hand on Christen's. “Marry me?”

Christen tries to take a breath, but she can't bring herself to do it. “Julie, I--”

“Say it.” Julie smiles. "Just say yes. You can stay and we can get married and we can be happy.”

Christen wants to say yes, she so badly wants to say yes and tell Julie that she loves her. “I can't,” she admits. “I can't say yes, it wouldn't be fair to you. I don’t think you’re doing this for the right reasons.”

Christen meets Julie’s eyes and she can see the confusion on her face. “What do you mean?” She stands up and closes the box. “Christen, you’ve practically been begging me to propose for the last year now.”

“I know,” Christen swallows hard and looks back down at her hands. That was before everything changed . “It just doesn’t feel like it’s the right time. I haven’t even been here for the past week. You’re just doing this so I’ll stay.”

Julie scoffs. “What are you saying?”

Christen stands and tries to take a step towards Julie, but she pulls back when she sees Julie wince. “So much has changed,” she whispers.

Julie looks confused and shakes her head.

“Ever since you got that damned promotion, it feels like everything has gone downhill. You’re gone all the time, Julie. You’re always at work or out with your friends getting drunk while I’m here waiting for you to give a shit about me. About us.

Julie softens slightly when she can hear that Christen’s voice sounds close to tears. “I do care about you, Christen. You’re the most important thing in my life.”

“You’re an awful liar, you know that?” Christen scoffs.

“I’m not lying,” Julie protests, closing the space between the two of them. “You are the most important thing in my life. Would I really have bought you a ring if I didn’t think that?”

Christen shakes her head and steps around her. “You only bought it to shut me up.”

Julie rolls her eyes even though Christen can’t see it. “Well, if that’s the case, it obviously didn’t work because that wasn’t the last time you brought it up.”

“Whatever, Julie,” she sighs, massaging her temple.

“Why are you acting like this?” Julie asks and Christen knows what she really means.

Why have you been so distant lately? Why do you hardly kiss me anymore? When did we start to fall apart?

Christen squeezes her eyes shut in an attempt to calm her racing heart but it only feels like Tobin, Tobin, Tobin. When she opens them again, all she can see is the heartbreak on Julie’s face, something she never wanted to see. She knows she’s hurting. She knows that she’s the one who caused it, and she can’t help but feel her heart crumble at the sight of it.

Julie whispers so quietly that she almost doesn’t hear it. “You don’t love me anymore, do you?”

Christen feels her heart break all over again and does her best to swallow down her tears. “I’ll always love you, Julie. But maybe,” she pauses, chewing on her lip. “Maybe we can take these next few days apart to reassess where we are.”

“Are you breaking up with me?”

“No,” Christen shakes her head. “I’m just saying that we need to make sure we’re doing things for the right reasons. We need to stay together for the right reasons. Not a last-ditch proposal.”

Julie swallows the lump in her throat. “Okay.” They’re both silent for a moment before she continues. “So are you still going to Canada?”

“Yeah, I am.” Christen leans back on her heels, not sure if she should say something else or just leave.

“Okay.” Julie nods and slips the box for the ring into her pocket. (Christen is grateful for it to be out of sight.) “Well I’ll see you in a few days then, I guess.”

“Okay.”

Christen leaves without saying anything else and wonders if this is the right thing. She wonders if this will make things better or worse or worst of all, keep them absolutely the same.

 

---

 

When she gets back to Tobin’s house, Tobin looks worried. “How’d it go?” She asks, walking up to take Christen’s suitcase for her. “Did you guys talk or anything?”

“She wasn’t there.” It seems easier to lie than try and explain whatever the hell just happened.

“Oh.” Tobin palms the back of her neck as she moves the suitcase out of the way. “Chris, are you sure you wanna be running off to Canada right now?”

“I’m not running off .” Christen defends.

“I didn’t mean it like that, I’m sorry.” Tobin waits for a response but nothing comes, so she makes her way into the kitchen and gets started on dinner.

As Tobin makes dinner, she thinks to herself. She thinks about how Christen has refuses to talk to her. She thinks about their almost-kiss. She wonders if Christen saw it that way. She thinks about how Christen refuses to sleep alone. (She really, really wishes she could just stop thinking.)

 

---

 

It isn’t until she and Julie started having problems that Christen realized just how loud silence can be.

When Julie first called her, excited about the promotion, Christen didn’t realize just how little silence there was. Julie was so, so happy. She took Christen out to noisy cafes for lunch and she whistled while she made her way through stacks of paperwork and she hummed while she cooked dinner.

Christen isn’t really sure when that stopped. All she knows is that she’s spent a lot of nights eating takeout in silence.

That is, until Tobin came around. Tobin is like her saving grace.

Tobin is there on her lunch break, sharing a deli sandwich and a bag of chips in her messy office with girls from the team rushing in and out.

Tobin is there while they do paperwork together, lying every which way on Tobin’s ever-rearranging (courtesy of Lizzie) living room furniture.

Tobin is there on the lonely nights, making dinner for them or convincing her to order twice as much takeout and turn on a B-Rated rom-com.

There isn’t really any silence with Tobin, which is how it used to be with Julie. How it used to be when Christen was happy.

Which isn’t really fair to Tobin. But she doesn’t mind.

Tobin likes being there for Christen.

For all the wrong reasons.

She likes having someone to get lunch with instead of Alex and someone to watch games with instead of Alex and someone to care about instead of Alex.

Tobin’s dad used to eat sunflower seeds everyday. He ate a handful with breakfast and he ate a handful with lunch and he ate a handful with dinner and he ate a handful sometimes just because he felt like it. When Tobin was about seven, she asked why he always ate sunflower seeds.

Well , her father started as Tobin joined him on the back porch to enjoy his afternoon handful of sunflower seeds. Before your mom and I decided to have kids, I used to smoke. I was addicted to smoking, but I wanted to quit, so every time I wanted a cigarette I would eat a handful of sunflower seeds. And eventually, I became addicted to sunflower seeds.

Tobin mulled over those words for a long time, wondering if she would ever become addicted to anything. She’s not sure when she noticed it, but eventually she realized. She was addicted to Alex.

Tobin isn’t sure when she realized this part either, but she replaced her addiction, just like her dad did. Now, she’s addicted to Christen. Which, if she’s being honest, doesn’t seem like the worst alternative.

 

---

 

The next morning, Tobin calls a cab to take her and Christen to the airport. She briefly tries to start a conversation, but Christen is still silent. (Tobin gives her the benefit of the doubt and assumes that it’s just because it’s early.)

Several phone calls and some bad directions later, the whole group finds each other at their gate. Christen is tucked into Tobin’s shoulder when Alex and Servando first approach, but it doesn’t take her long to act fully functional (for the first time in a week). Lizzie, Lara, and Phoebe are soon there with them, at which point Tobin and Alex offer to make a coffee run.

“You guys excited for this trip?” Tobin asks once they break away from the group.

Alex’s whole face lights up as she turns to Tobin. “You have no idea, this is our first trip since the honeymoon, and honestly, I’m starting to get stir-crazy sitting in that house.”

Tobin smiles as they get in line. “I’m really glad you’re able to come with us.”

Alex returns the smile as she reaches out for Tobin’s arm. “Me too. Hey, Tobs? She glances back to the direction they came from to make sure that their friends out of earshot. “Do you know what’s up with Christen?”

Tobin lets out a long, slow sigh. “Honestly? I don’t.” Tobin shrugs and glances to the menu. “She showed up at my house like,” she pauses to think. “Maybe a week ago? Crazy upset and super mad at Julie. Have you heard anything?”

Alex shakes her head as they move up in the line. “For a few days Julie kept calling, asking if we knew anything,” Alex shrugs and looks down at her feet. “Yesterday she called and said everything was cool though, so I don’t know.”

Tobin looks to the barista as they arrive at the counter. “Good morning, ma’am,” Tobin offers a cheery smile before rattling off her order. (And Christen’s, Lara’s, Phoebe’s, Lizzie’s, and even Alex’s.)

Alex smiles and leans against Tobin. “I’m surprised you remember my order.”

“Iced latte with two pumps of vanilla, one pump of caramel, and an extra shot, but, decaf this time.” Tobin winks as she nudges Alex’s side. “How could I forget? And no, I won’t tease you about the extra decaf shot because you and I both know you get it to make the drink less sweet.”

Alex smiles even bigger and wraps an arm around Tobin’s waist before giving the barista Servando’s order.

Tobin hands some cash over (dropping at least twenty dollars in the tip jar) and she and Alex slide out of the way to wait for their drinks. “You’re awfully cozy this morning.”

“I feel like I haven’t seen you in sooo long. I’ve missed spending time with you.” Alex pouts but before Tobin has a chance to respond, the barista calls her name for their order.

“Hey Lex, give me a hand with these drinks,” Tobin says, doing her best to ignore the addictive effect of Alex’s voice and Alex’s touch and, well, Alex.

When they get back to their gate, Lizzie immediately zeroes in on Alex. “My almond milk latte!” She takes the cup from Alex’s hand and hugs her carefully so as not to spill the other drinks in hand. “I don’t think I’ve ever loved someone more,” Lizzie practically moans as she takes a sip from her cup.

Alex grins. “Me, or the latte?”

Tobin rolls her eyes as she continues to pass everyone their drinks. She saves Christen’s for last and opts to move Servando’s briefcase over so they can sit next to each other. Tobin rests her hand comfortingly, but discreetly, on Christen’s thigh and she noticeably relaxes at Tobin’s touch.

(Lizzie pretends not to notice, but she totally does, and she’s totally gonna ask about it later.)

Chapter Text

Their first stop after the airport is lunch, and no one is happier than Alex to see the McDonalds across the street.

“Oh my god, guys, please . Literally nothing sounds better than a Big Mac right now.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “You used to be an athlete ,” she says with mock disapproval.

“And now I’m pregnant , cut me some slack.”

 

---

 

Once she’s had her burger, fries, half of Servando’s fries, and an extra order of chicken nuggets, Alex is ready to find their hotel.

They take a shuttle to the rental car facility and soon enough, they're piling into the minivan Tobin rented for the week.

“I always knew you'd be a great soccer mom,” Alex smiles and turns to Tobin from the passenger seat, tapping her hand on Tobin’s thigh.

Christen instantly feels upset for a reason she can't quite place. (Jealousy. The reason is jealousy. But she won't listen to that.) “How soon will we be at the hotel?”

“I don't know, Lex?” Tobin looks over to where Alex is fiddling with the GPS on her phone.

“Thirty minutes?”

“Thirty minutes,” Tobin repeats, glancing back to Christen with a smile as they pull up to a red light.

Lizzie leans over to whisper in Christen's ear. “Excited to get back to the room with Tobin?”

Christen swallows as she looks to the floor of the car. She opts to text Lizzie instead of saying anything out loud.

Tobin's Christen: Shut up. We have separate rooms.

Lizzie: Not like you NEED separate rooms tho.

Tobin's Christen: Shut up.

Lizzie: I saw her hand on your thigh in the airport.

Christen looks up to Lizzie, eyes wide.

Tobin's Christen: She was just comforting me.

Lizzie: Yeah, sure.

Lizzie smirks up at Christen who just rolls her eyes.

Lizzie: Hey, I just want Tobin to be happy. You know I’m rooting for you guys :)

Lizzie: Just...don’t hurt her.

Christen glances to her phone and looks out the window, opting for silence the rest of the drive to the hotel.

 

---

 

When they get to the hotel, Tobin pulls Christen to the side. “Hey, I was just wondering if you wanted to share a room and save some cash. It’s not a big deal and--”

Christen can tell she’ll be rambling soon so she just cuts her off with a smile. “Yeah, I’d love to.”

“Cool.” Tobin walks with Christen to the front desk after everyone else is checked in and off to start finding their rooms. She waits for Christen to cancel the reservation and then checks herself in. She hands the spare room key to Christen and then they start their way towards the elevator.

“I can take the couch,” Tobin mumbles as she pushes the door open, key card between her teeth.

“Don’t be silly.” Christen shoulders some of the weight of the door as they continue into the room. “We can share the bed.”

Tobin nods as she surveys the room. “Hey, I’m gonna call Kelley real quick and make sure we’re good for tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Christen’s eyes follow Tobin out of the room before she falls back on the bed with a heavy sigh. She checks her texts from Julie (nothing since they fought and decided to go on a break, or whatever it was, the night before) and locks her phone.

Tobin steps into the hallway and dials Kelley’s number, hoping she’s free for a few minutes.

“Tobs?”

“Hey man, we’re all at the hotel.”

“Awesome, I can’t get away tonight but I’ve got your name for eight tickets in one of the family boxes.”

“Cool, cool. I’ll see you after the game tomorrow?”

“Count on it.”

Tobin walks back into the room and sees Christen lying down on the bed. “Hey Chris.” She walks over and takes a seat next to Christen. “You okay?”

Christen just shrugs and rolls so she’s facing Tobin.

Tobin lays down so she’s nose-to-nose with Christen. “You can talk to me.”

Christen nods in lieu of a response.

“Or Lizzie,” Tobin offers. “She might be kind of a jerk sometimes, but she’s a hell of a good listener.”

Christen smiles and lets her eyes flutter shut as she relaxes. She breathes in slowly, relishing in the scent of Tobin’s cologne and Tobin’s warmth and Tobin’s-- She stops herself, thinking of what Lizzie said. Her eyes jolt open and Tobin gives her a confused look.

“I think I’m gonna take a nap, I couldn’t sleep on the flight.” Christen rolls to face away from Tobin and readjusts to find a pillow.

“Okay,” Tobin nods as she rises from the bed. She checks her phone and then heads towards her suitcase to find a change of clothes.

Lilo: Wanna go for a run?

Stitch: I’ll be in the lobby in five

“Where are you going?” Christen asks, looking over to where Tobin is about to shut the bathroom door behind her.

“Changing so I can meet Lizzie for a run.” She holds up the athletic clothes in her hands. “Need something?”

“No,” Christen shakes her head and lies back on the pillow. “I was just curious.”

 

---

 

Lizzie leaves the elevator and can see Tobin who’s already warming up on the sidewalk. She pats the small box in her pocket to ensure it’s there before taking a deep breath and heading out the door. “Hey Stitch,” Lizzie grins as she starts stretching next to Tobin. “Ready to go?”

“Sure thing. Got a path in mind?”

“Yep.” Lizzie nods her head to the right. “There’s a cool looking coffee shop about half of a mile this way.” She starts jogging and Tobin falls into step with her after just a second.

Tobin’s hardly broken a sweat as they reach the front door of the coffee shop Lizzie was talking about.

“This is,” Lizzie takes a heaving breath. “So not fair.”

Tobin laughs in between slow breaths to lower her heart rate. “I’ve actually exercised since the season ended,” is all she says before heading inside.

“So have,” Lizzie takes another breath as she follows Tobin inside. “I. Just not,” another breath. “Much cardio.”

Tobin laughs again and follows Lizzie to a table. “So why this place?”

Lizzie shrugs. “Looked cute. I’ll get our coffees.” She stands to order them both drinks and rejoins the table to wait for them.

“You gonna make it back okay or will I have to carry you?”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “I’ll be fine.”

“How have you been doing since,” Tobin pauses to thank the girl who brings over their coffees. “Since Lauren left.”

Lizzie gives Tobin a small smile. “Pretty well, honestly. Christen helped a lot.”

(Tobin decides not to mention how Lauren was doing. Lizzie decides not to mention that Lauren called.)

“She seems to be good at that,” Tobin says absentmindedly.

“Good at what?”

“Just,” Tobin shrugs. “Good at being there. I’m a bit worried about her now though.”

“Why?”

“Well,” Tobin’s eyes flick to the door as if she’s worried Christen will walk in. “She had a huge fight with Julie, I guess. Stayed at my house for like a week and then didn’t even go home before we left except to pack. And even then she didn’t talk to Julie.”

Lizzie nods. “I can talk to her if you’d like?”

“Worth a try.”

“Hey, I actually have something I wanted to ask you.”

Tobin looks up from her coffee. “Yeah?”

Lizzie taps the pocket of her jacket to double check for the small box. “How are you and Alex? You two seem to be, I don’t know, better.”

A smile breaks out on Tobin’s face. “We are actually. I’m not sure when it happened, but,” she pauses to take a sip of her coffee. “It feels good.”

“Good, good.” (She doesn’t mention the Christen of it all. She’s just happy Tobin’s doing well.) “Are you ever going to be over her?” Lizzie asks, knowing that Tobin needs to have this conversation.

Tobin sighs. “No, I don't think so. Because I was in love with her, she was my first love and I think that some small part of me will always be in love with her. And that's not--” Tobin pauses to take a breath. “That's not a part that I want to lose, necessarily, because losing that part of me would mean losing her and I,” Tobin falters, looking down to the table, tears brimming in her eyes. “I never want to lose her.”

Lizzie gives Tobin a sad smile, but lets her finish.

“But another part of me knows that above all else, she’s my best friend. And she always will be.” Tobin pauses again. “And I was in love with her, but that’s the thing. I was. I’m not anymore. That part of me still exists, but I’m okay. She and I are friends, and I’m okay with that.”

Lizzie pulls the small box out of her pocket and sets it on the table. “You should probably have this, then.”

Tobin pulls the box towards her and looks at Lizzie skeptically. “What is it?”

“Just open it,” she reassures her.

Tobin pulls the top off of it and sees a ring that she would recognize anywhere. She picks it up and inspects it carefully. “Is this,” she pauses, knowing it is. “I’m,” at a loss for words , she finishes in her head. The dark black metal shines in the dim light of the coffee shop. She turns it to read the inside, and sure enough, she sees exactly what she expects to.

My One Love.

It is definitely the ring Alex gave her so many years ago. The ring she swore she never wanted to see again.

“Where did you, how did you,” Tobin finally manages to take her eyes off of the ring and look up at Lizzie. (She closes her fist around it because she’ll be damned if she ever loses it again.)

“I went back that night,” Lizzie explains, knowing exactly what Tobin is asking. “When Alex told you she wasn’t going into the draft, when you threw it in her room. I went back that night after you fell asleep and looked for it for hours. I finally found it sitting on the air vent next to the dresser.”

“I’m so,” Tobin pauses and looks down, opening her hand to see the ring again. “I am so grateful. I--” she cuts herself off to look up at Lizzie, closing her fist around it again. “How could I ever repay you?”

Lizzie shakes her head with a smile. “Tobs, you don’t have to repay me, we're family. You’ve already done more for me than I could ever even begin to thank you for.”

Tobin smiles and looks down, sliding the ring on her right middle finger, just like it used to be. “Thank you,” she says, breathless.

Lizzie smiles, glad she made the right call so many years ago. “Of course.”

 

---

 

When they get back to the hotel, Tobin goes up to her room to change. She sets two coffees on the dresser and digs through her suitcase for another set of clothes.

“Is one of those mine?” Christen asks with a smile as she rises from the bed.

“Uhm, no, actually.” Tobin chews on her lip. “Sorry, it’s for Alex. We’re going on a walk.”

“Oh.” Christen tries to hide the hurt (and jealousy) on her face. “Okay.” She goes into the bathroom without another word. (She doesn’t leave until she’s sure Tobin is changed and out of their hotel room.)

 

---

 

“Lex,” Tobin smiles as she sees Alex waiting in the lobby and hands over the decaf coffee. “Ready for a walk?”

They find a small park just down the road from their hotel and settle on a bench.

“Look at us now,” Tobin says with a sigh. “You’re married with a kid on the way, and I-- well, I was on time to this.”

“You're the same sweet, incredible, amazing girl that I've loved since we met at camp when we were fifteen,” Alex answers for her.

Tobin laughs. “When you stop being so,” she gestures to Alex's stomach awkwardly. “Maybe we can play a pickup game sometime. You, me, Lizzie, some of the girls,” she shrugs. “Just a few people. I mean, you said you miss it.”

“I do miss it.” Alex nods and looks to the ground.

“I'm glad we have soccer. Soccer brought us together.”

“It tore us apart, too,” Alex mumbles, still looking at the ground.

Tobin clenches her jaw. “Don't--”

“Tobs,” Alex finally looks up and places a hand on Tobin's waist. “I'm sorry.”

Tobin shakes her head, standing from the bench. "Don't be sorry."

“I am sorry.”

“It's too late to be sorry , Lex,” Tobin shakes her head and laughs bitterly. “Saying sorry doesn't do a hell of a lot of good when it's been this long.”

“Tobin--” Alex stands from the bench, taking a step closer.

“Two years , Alex. It's been over two years.”

“I'm sorry--”

Stop ,” Tobin pauses to take a deep breath. “Stop saying that.”

“But it's true,” Alex insists, reaching out for Tobin’s hand.

“I don’t care,” Tobin snaps, pulling away. “Where was your sorry two years ago?”

Alex lets her hands fall to her sides. “I was scared of losing you.”

“Well look at how that ended up.” Tobin crosses her arms and Alex notices an all-too familiar glint of metal on Tobin’s finger.

“The ring.” Alex breaks the silence, unable to tear her eyes away from Tobin’s hand.

“Yeah, actually,” Tobin takes a shallow breath and reaches over to spin it on her finger. “That’s what I wanted to talk about.”

“Tobin,” Alex starts, reaching out for Tobin’s hand and rubbing her thumb against the ring. “I know it’s too late, and I know it hardly means anything, but I am sorry. I am truly sorry for what I did and how I treated you, and I hope you can forgive me. If not today, then someday. You’re still my best friend, no matter what has happened.” She looks down to the ring, running her fingers over it again. “I love you, Tobin.”

Tobin look at Alex and she swears she’s never seen her best friend look so vulnerable. “I love you, Lex.”

Alex pulls her in a tight hug (well, as tight as she can between her growing belly and the coffee still in hand) and whispers into Tobin’s neck. “I thought you’d gotten rid of it.”

Tobin pulls away from the hug and palms the back of her neck, chewing on her bottom lip. “Me too, actually.”

Alex looks confused and prompts Tobin to continue.

“Well I stopped wearing it when, y’know,” she looks to Alex who nods understandingly. “And I thought it was lost. But I guess Lizzie found it and held onto it until,” she pauses, looking for the right words. “Until I was ready to wear it again.”

“And you are?”

"Yeah." Tobin falters and looks to the ground. Part of her feels like she's forgiving Alex too quickly, but really, Tobin forgave Alex a long time ago. She forgave Alex almost immediately, because Alex wasn't someone Tobin could ever stay mad at. The only thing was, Alex hadn't apologized until now. 

"I'm sorry, Tobin," Ales says again and Tobin just gives her a small smile.

"I know, Lex. It's okay. I forgave you a long time ago," she admits.

Alex pulls Tobin into a hug again and sighs in relief. “So we're okay?”

“We're okay.”

It’s a conversation that has been pushed off for far too long (two years too long), but both Alex and Tobin feel better after having had it. (They both feel like they have their best friend again.)

 

---

 

That night at dinner the seven of them are led to a circular booth in the corner of the diner. Everyone gets seated while Tobin and Lizzie excuse themselves to the restroom.

“So you and Alex talked?”

Tobin looks up from where she's washing her hands. “Yeah. Yeah, we did.”

“And?”

A smile breaks on Tobin’s face. “I'm really grateful you kept the ring. We both are.”

When they return to the table, Tobin faces a situation that she would really rather not deal with. Christen is at one end of the booth and Alex at the other, both with a spot saved for Tobin.

She glances to Lizzie for help who nods subtly and takes a seat next to Christen before Tobin has to make the decision.

“Hey, bud,” Lizzie smiles as bumps shoulders with Christen. “Whatcha getting?”

Christen is practically glaring at Tobin and Alex, who are talking over a shared menu.

“Chris,” Lizzie snaps her fingers to get her attention. “Wanna split something?”

Christen finally looks away when Lizzie steps on her foot.

“Cut it out,” she says, quiet enough for only Christen to hear.

“What?”

“Let them be friends. Let them be happy.” Lizzie gives her a warning glance and Christen leans in closer.

“Alex is just gonna hurt her again.”

Lizzie glances to Tobin and Alex, an image she's seen so many times. But it feels different. The light in Tobin’s eyes has a different energy than it used to.

“No, this time isn’t like before,” Lizzie says calmly.

Christen doesn't look convinced. “How are you so sure?”

Tobin glances up from the menu and sees Christen. She smiles and Christen smiles in response.

That. Lizzie sees the way Tobin looks at Christen and she knows that it's different this time. This reconciliation with Alex. She looks to Christen who's smiling back and has the same look in her eyes that Tobin does. That's why.

Lizzie