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Christen found herself standing next to Kelley, the anchor of her 5 woman team, cup lifted and matched up with Ali across from her. Her side was down 1-3 and while the truths and dares had remained tame, the atmosphere of the bar’s back room was clearly becoming more sexually tense with each round. What the teams built up to was always, on the surface, harmless, but history had shown a dare or a few truths could really sparked something between players. Christen could name a time almost every teammate had caught herself in a limbo flirtation as a result of a particularly risky confessional at the end of a flip cup round. 

 

Herself excluded, of course. Christen had set those boundaries after her first night with the team.

 

When the cups were filled and ready for the next round, Kelley turned to the end of the table and tried to rouse up some competitive fire in her teammates. “Let’s go, Al! First flip, first flip! You got this!” 

 

Becky, the appointed ref, counted down, each girl leaving their cups untouched on the table. The captain had a strict “no hands on the cup before your turn rule,” one that often cost a player a game or two once the teams were rounds deep and full of beer. 

 

“Three, two, one!” Allie and Tobin grabbed their cups, tapped them on the table, then against each other’s, then the table again before chugging and places the empty cups on the edge to flip over. Both sides of the tables, plus the teammates who’d opted to watch in amusement, cheered on their respective sides. 

 

“Yes, Al! That’s it! You da man!” Kelley clapped loudly when Allie’s cup face down on her first flip. The freckled girl focused next on the girl after her. “Yes, HAO! Soul sister! This is YOUR game! You got it! It’s all you, baby!” HAO’s cup landed solidly and the attention turned to Mal. “Baby Mal! Welcome to 21! Do it, do it! You got this!” When her cup landed on it’s side, Christen joined in on the cheering. 

 

“You got it, Mal! Again, again, you got it!” She anxiously checked the other side and saw that Rose was also struggling to land her cup. She instructed Mal to take a deep breath. “You got this little lady.” 

 

“Go, go, go, Mal! It’s on you Mal! Come through!” Kelley was almost screaming and Mal made a high pitched squeak. 

 

“AHHHHHHHHHH YOU FRICKEN CUP, LAND BUDDY, LAND!” And it did, two flips later, prompting Christen to pick up her cup, chug, and set it precisely halfway off the table. With a quick curl of her finger she had the cup upside down and it was Kelley’s turn. 

 

Kelley, buzzing with excitement, had her cup emptied and flipped in two seconds and the table let out simultaneous cheers and groans at the result. Kelley motioned to her teammates to circle up. “Huddle up, huddle up!” 

 

They all bent their heads in. “Okay, who we pickin’?” HAO licked her bottom lip and raised her eyebrows at Kelley, gauging how risky their resident truth-or-dare task maker was about to get. There was a glint in Kelley’s eye as she picked up her head to scan the girls on the other side of the table.  

 

“Hmmmmmm.” She looked back to the group mischievously. “We haven’t initiated Tobs yet, have we?” 

 

“Yes! Harry time.” Allie rubbed her hands together conspiratorially. “She’ll probably pick truth. Think up something good.” She winked animatedly.  

 

Allie was unaware that the team had a designated “initiation” truth and dare that had been used on every new player, a tradition Kelley shared had been around since she’d joined the league three years ago and figured went back even further than that. Christen was not looking forward to Tobin’s initiation truth answer. 

 

“Okay!” Kelley popped her head up to command the room’s attention. The circle of girls around her disbanded and everyone’s eyes settled on Tobin. 

 

“Oh, no ,” Tobin groaned good naturedly, rolling her head back, but there was a small smile on her lips. 

 

“Oh, yes, Harry!” Allie cried. 

 

Kelley nodded and placed her hands on the table to lean across toward the brunette. “Tobs, truth or dare?”

 

As predicted, Tobin sighed. “Truth.” 

 

Christen’s heart rate picked up. 

 

“Tobin, look around the room,” Kelley suggested. Her subject eyed her warily but slowly looked around at her teammates before settling back on Kelley. 

 

“Okay...” 

 

Kelley smiled serenely. “Of all your teammates in this room,” she gestured around them, “who do you wanna take home with you tonight?”

 

Christen held her breath as Tobin laughed. “Seriously?” 

 

“Seriously.” 

 

Tobin sucked in a deep breath. Christen did, too. 

 

“Well, Allie, obviously.”

 

Oh. Of course. She’s got an easy out. 

 

“Tobin, your roommate doesn’t count!” 

 

Tobin laughed. “It’s my honest answer!” 

 

Ashlyn clapped Kelley on the shoulder and shook her head, smirking. “What did you expect, Kel? She’s a taken woman.” 

 

Tobin scoffed. “I’m not taken!” She held her hand out to Ashlyn and Kelley, who were about to protest. “No, I’m not. Shirley isn’t my girlfriend. She’s a friend, and she’s been a really good one to me, but she’s just my friend.” 

 

Kelley’s face turned incredulous. “Right, a very good friend.” Ashlyn and Allie snickered, but Christen, for some reason, felt herself blush. She turned quickly away from the trio but made the mistake of catching Tobin’s eye. 

 

“Guys,” Tobin spoke slowly, tearing her eyes from Christen’s to address the cackling girls. “Shirley is first and foremost my friend. Sometimes we hook up. But we’re always friends as the end of the day. It’s like… practice… like we’re placeholders?” Tobin grimaced, clearly regretting her word choice. 

 

“That came out shitty but it’s not like that. It’s just, I don’t know, two friends helping each other out.” 

 

“So you’re friends with benefits?” 

 

Bless you, Ali, thought Christen. Trying to help us out here. 

 

“Uh. Uh, no, not really.” Tobin, uncomfortable, scratched the back of her neck and Christen caught a glimpse of her hip bones. Who’s tan in February? 

 

“We’re just friends. It’s just… we’ve always been friends. We’ve gone through a lot together. Kind of grew up together in school and she’s just there to…” Tobin blushed and stuttered for a second before taking a deep breath. “I don’t know, help me out.” She looked around the room and was met with clear confusion. 

 

“Does that make sense?”

 

“No.” The room chorused. 

 

“Yeah,” Christen said at the same time. Seventeen heads whipped towards her. Christen blushed deeper--she swore she felt her chest heat up and worried she’d sport that splotchy, embarrassed look the rest of the night. 

 

Ashlyn nudged Allie and cried out, “Christen!”

 

Christen swallowed slowly and tried to brush off the eyes on her. She rolled her shoulders back and faked nonchalance. “I’m just saying…” she locked eyes with Tobin. “I get it. I’ve been there.” 

 

Christen!” Ali squealed. “What?! When! With who?” But Christen just shook her head. 

 

“Nope, this was Tobin’s truth. I’m not saying any more.” And she winked toward Tobin who smiled at her, eyes shining with mirth and… appreciation? Christen wasn’t sure. “Next round!” She called out, returning to her spot at the table. 

 

“No!” Pinoe and Ashlyn whined, but Becky was already lifting the pitcher, splashing Bud Light into each upright cup. Attention was called back to the table as the girls all lifted their cups, matching up again. Becky counted down and both sides were off. The round had finished almost as soon as it had started, Christen groaning in frustration as Emily triumphantly threw her hands in the air. 

 

“PRESS! WE’RE COMIN FOR YA!” Christen’s eyes widened in shock at the exclamation when she heard snickers to her left. HAO and Allie bumped fists while Kelley ruffled Mal’s hair, and Christen’s eyes narrowed. She pointed to her teammates. 

 

“You snakes!” she called them out with an exasperated smile. “Damn, I should have known. Should’ve taken all 5 turns myself.” 

 

The whole team was crowded around the table now in anticipation of the next truth or dare, the target and ensuing contents obvious. 

 

The other side didn’t even attempt to circle up. 

 

“Christen,” drawled Pinoe. “Truth or dare?” 

 

Christen surveyed the room. Tobin, to her credit, was the only one who didn’t seem to be bouncing on her toes in anticipation. If she didn’t know any better, Christen would say the brunette looked guilty

 

She smirked at Pinoe. “Dare.”

 

Ashlyn scoffed. “Fine, Press,” Pinoe played along. “We dare you to tell us all about the friend you practice with.”

 

I knew it wouldn’t be that easy , Christen chastised herself, but took a deep breath. She didn’t mind talking about it, but she did mind being judged for it. 

 

“Okay. I’d ask you guys not to judge, but considering Emily’s tongue is practically hanging out--” she gestured to the blond who quickly shut her mouth, but kept her eyes on Christen-- “the story isn’t nearly as interesting as you’ve built it up to be.” 

 

“Oh stop,” Lindsey simply swatted at Emily. “Sonny’s just thirsty for any action.” 

 

Christen laughed shortly and heard Kelley gasp before she could quickly recover and join in on the group’s teasing. Christen eyed her best friend and caught the blush creeping up her neck, covering freckles on the way to spread across her cheeks. 

 

Before Christen could risk her own embarrassment to save Kelley, two servers appeared in the archway with plates of food. Becky caught sight of them and grinned. 

 

“Ladies! Food!” All heads whipped around as half the girls settled in at tables while the others distributed the plates of nachos and wings. Kelley caught Christen’s eye and winked, then mimed brushing dirt off her shoulder. Christen giggled and dramatically swiped her hand across her forehead, shrugging and smiling back.  

 

-- 

 

The table was littered with near empty plates and crumpled napkins, the girls leaning back to rest after gorging themselves on the food. Ali was topping off everyone’s beers from the communal pitcher when Kelley piped up, “So there’s a warm front coming through this week.” She swallowed her mouthful of food while eyes settled on her. “Let’s go camp.”

 

There were murmurs of agreement around the table until Tobin interjected grudgingly. 

 

“I’m outta town all next week.”

 

“Aw, Tobs, you gotta see the Poconos, though.” Kelley pouted, to which Tobin just chuckled.  

 

“I’ll see them next time. And even though Christen has painted me a pretty great picture of Bear Mountain--” She winked in Christen’s direction, to which the forward playfully rolled her eyes then batted her lashes while Tobin continued,  “--it’s a work trip. Can’t bail.” 

 

“Ugh, I wanna job that pays me to go on work trips,” Emily grumbled into her pint. 

 

Ashlyn patted her head. “Where ya, goin’, Tobs?”

 

Tobin smiled, almost wickedly, at the short haired blond. “Chapel Hill. Covering the UNC/Duke game.” 

 

“Oh, man! Take me with you. I miss the Hill. I can’t remember the last time I was back there.” Ashlyn looked up to the ceiling and smiled wistfully. “Come back with some stories. I want to feel aaaaallllll the FOMO. Maybe it’ll give me the kick to finally visit this fall.” 

 

Lindsey wiggled her fingers at Tobin and raised her eyebrows. “Chapel Hill, huh? Gonna go see you friend and get some more practice? ” 

 

The table burst into laughter while Tobin’s jaw dropped, eyes pleading with Allie for some help. But her friend, intent to join in on the teasing, ignored her. “Well, duh, Emily. Why do you think she begged for the assignment?” She stuck out her tongue and waggled her eyebrows at the table. 

 

Christen did not like this turn in conversation. 

 

Kelley was intrigued, though, and pushed Tobin to share more. “Shirley will be there?” 

 

Tobin paused for a minute and glanced at Christen, but the raven-haired girl had gone quiet and was studying her beer, oblivious to the conversational lull.

 

She’s a friend. You don’t have sex with friends anymore. Even if Tobin has sex with friends and makes it work. She wouldn’t just be a placeholder, and you know it. Please don’t do that to yourself. 

 

Christen made a soft “hmph” and nodded curtly, like she’d made up her mind on something that she’d been wrestling with. She looked up to catch Tobin staring before settling her gaze on Kelley to answer. 

 

“Yeah, she works in the athletics office. We’ve got plans to meet up and do some behind-the-scenes stuff.” 

 

“Ooooooh, I’d love to be a fly on the wall during that ,” Emily taunted. 

 

Lindsey tsked. “Em, that would not be sexy. I don’t think you really want to see Tobin naked.” 

 

Tobin, exasperated, responded disapprovingly at the two friends while Allie simultaneously tried to come to her best friend’s defense. 

 

“Oh my God, stop it--” “Harry looks good naked!” 

 

Tobin, shocked, looked at her friend as if scandalized. “Allie!”

 

“It’s been a few years, but yeah, you do,” Kelley nodded. “Or you did.”

 

Ashlyn nodded too. “Can you still see your abs?” 

 

“Oh my God .” Tobin repeated, lightly shoving Allie’s shoulder. “What have you started?” 

 

“So,” Emily clapped her hands together. “It’s agreed then. We all want to see Tobin naked.” 

 

Lindsey scoffed. 

 

“Just to experience it Linds. You know, like a fine piece of art.” Kelley and Pinoe’s laughter was just egging Emily on. Ali shot Christen and Lindsey sympathetic looks and draped her arm over Kelley. 

 

“Okay, Kelley, so since Tobin is busy this weekend--”

 

Very busy-- ” 

 

Ali shot Emily a scalding look. “Why don’t we pick another weekend. How long’s it gonna be warm?”

 

Kelley shrugged and pulled out her phone. “I don’t know, my weather app only goes til the Tuesday after next weekend.” 

 

Ashlyn sat up straighter and sighed. “Well I think we can handle some cold weather. Just pack layers. And we don’t even have to camp in tents! We can rent a couple rooms at the lodge and do, like, a long weekend, snow or shine.” 

 

“Snow hiking could be fun,” Christen offered. Hiking with Tobin, my friend, actually there would be fun, too. 

 

“Yeah?” Kelley looked around the table to find the girls in nodding in unanimous agreement. 

 

“Okay, two weeks from now, we camp. Pack your long johns and wool socks, ladies.”