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“No.”

“Tobin-”

“No.”

“Tobin!”

Exasperated, she lets the ball she’s juggling fall to the ground before looking up to her friend.

“Christen’s a nice girl. I think you two could really get along if you tried.”

“Jay,” Tobin sighs deeply, “I’ve told you a million times now that I’m not interested.”

“And I still don’t understand why,” Jayden presses.

“She’s uptight,” Tobin mutters under her breath.

“Tobs…”

“What?” she questions defensively whilst turning to flick her ballup again. “Can’t I just be happy being single? I don’t know why you and Viv keep insisting on this.”

“Because we love you both and really think you could be great together, T. I’m not trying to say that you aren’t happy being single. I just want you to give it one shot and if it doesn’t work, that’s fine.”

“It won’t work, Jay. There’s no point in even trying.” Tobin shakes her head, beginning to juggle the ball quicker.

“How can you say that? You’ll never know until you try,” Jay counters.

“We’re so different, dude” she speaks through an exhale, forcefully trapping the ball under her foot and looking up at him seriously. She quickly glances to the house behind him where Vivian and Christen were inside to make sure no one was listening before lowering her voice and explaining, “She likes to read books and use a planner and dress nice and go to the spa with Viv and that’s fine! But I don’t! I hate those things! I like this,” she gestures to the ball wildly, passing it to him before continuing. “I like sports and beer and burgers and beanies and no shoes and I- I’m not anything like her. I mean, dude, she’s an event planner and I’m a sports photographer. In what world does that make sense?”

Jay stands with the ball trapped under his own foot, staring at her intently with his hazel eyes. “You do understand that the phrase ‘opposites attract’ is a thing for a reason, right?”

“Jay,” Tobin groans, bringing her hands to her face in frustration.

“Well?” He chuckles. “Do you think I like to sit at the nail salon with Viv? No. Or do you think that I enjoy getting up for Sunday Brunch with friends? No. That doesn’t mean I don’t love her. Relationships are a compromise, Tobin. Viv and I are different in so many ways but I love her for who she is. There are a ton of things she likes to do and I don’t, and vice versa, but you make it work and you learn that you love seeing them happy so much, those things you don’t enjoy barely even matter anymore.”

“Yeah but you and Viv also enjoy a lot of the same things. It’s different.”

“If you gave Christen a chance, you might find things in common with her too,” Jay replies as he passes the ball back to her.

“Oh my god,” Tobin mutters to herself as the ball rolls to her feet. She stares at it in silence for a few moments before flicking it up to catch in her hands and reverting her attention back to Jay. “Why Christen? You’ve never brought up another girl before.”

“Sure I have!”

Tobin nearly asks for names, but instead she bites down onto her lip and sucks in a deep breath.

Jay watches her closely, noticing the way she rapidly taps her fingers onto the ball in her hand and squeezes her eyes shut tight for a moment.

“One date,” she exhales. “I’m not planning a thing. Tell me when and where and I’ll be there. Just so you can finally shut up about it.”

A slow grin spreads itself thin onto Jay’s lips as Tobin stomps past him towards the house, dropping the ball at his feet.

Christen sits at Jay and Viv’s kitchen island staring curiously at the side of Tobin’s face as she hops up to sit on the kitchen counter, noting how tense her jaw seems to be. The woman plays with the cap of the plastic bottle that sits between her thighs before bringing it to her lips, taking a swig, gulping, and then burping quietly to herself, causing Christen to grimace.

“That’s disgusting,” she says quietly, not thinking Tobin heard her, but-

“You’re disgusting.”

“Tobin!” Viv scolds lightly, her eyes wide.

“Real mature,” Christen sends her a fake, tight-lipped smile.

“My specialty, princess.”

Tobin,” Jay chastises.

He and Tobin exchange a look, his eyes warning and hers peeved, before Tobin settles back and screws her bottle shut.

“Anyway,” Viv begins, “we called you guys over because we wanted to talk to you both together and we have a question to propose to you.”

Tobin’s stomach flips nervously, assuming they’re going to bring up the date then and there. “Jay?” she questioned, sending him a worried glance.

Jay rolls his eyes and shakes his head at her. “No, not that.”

“Not what?” Christen and Viv question at the same time. A quick, simultaneous “Nothing,” falls from Jay and Tobin’s mouths in response.

The room remains quiet as Viv and Christen search Jay and Tobin’s faces, ultimately deciding to let the matter go when Jay says, “Honey? Should we…”

“Yeah! Yeah,” Viv replies enthusiastically, her cheeks blushing slightly as she turns back to Tobin and Christen, tucking her brown wavy hair behind an ear. “Okay, well as I was saying, we called you both here today because we have something we want to share with you…”

Jay steps closer to his wife, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling something out from his pant pocket, sliding it onto the kitchen island as Viv bites her lip in anticipation.

A loud gasp and an “Oh my god!” escape Christen, causing Tobin to hop off the counter and rush toward the island.

Tobin’s eyes shoot wide as she lets out a stunned chuckle. “Holy shit!”

Jay and Viv laugh, embracing each other and smiling brightly at their two friends. “Surprise!” Viv says softly, her eyes growing watery. “We’re having a baby,” Jay finally says out loud, his smile bright and his eyes full of adoration as he looks at his wife.

Christen rushes out of her seat and around the counter to wrap Viv up in a warm hug, her own eyes filling with tears as she softly expresses her congratulations to her best friend. Tobin follows suit, doing the same to Jay and clapping a hand on his back a few times before they switch. Christen runs an affectionate hand up and down Jay’s back a few times as they embrace, telling him he’s going to be an amazing father, and Tobin wraps Viv up in a bear hug, pressing a big kiss to the side of her head and then resting a hand on her belly and laughing.

“How long have you guys known?” Christen says through a watery laugh, rushing to pluck a paper towel from the roll nearby to wipe her eyes with.

“A few months,” Viv smiles, “I wanted to tell you so bad but we wanted to wait until we had sonogram pictures and until we felt confident in sharing the news.”

They all stare grinning at each other in silence, Christen and Tobin too shocked to come up with words and Jay and Viv just finding their reactions so amusing.

“Oh my god, you’re having a baby…” Christen whispers, like the fact was just now hitting her.

Tobin laughs through her nose, shaking her head lightly at the other woman’s reaction, but also completely understanding the state of shock Christen was in.

“Do you know what you’re having yet?” Tobin asks.

Jay shakes his head. “Viv wanted to wait,” he explains, smirking because he knows it was just as much his decision to wait to find out as it was hers.

Viv lightly smacks a hand to his chest, rolling her eyes but still smiling. “We decided to wait, but we already have some names in mind in any case.” Jay smiles down at his wife, pulling her in front of him and resting his hands on her stomach, lightly caressing her over her shirt with his thumbs.

“Is that a secret too?” Christen jokes, but her eyes pleading for Viv to share as everyone shared a laugh.

“We’ll see how long I can keep it to myself,” Viv jokes back, winking at Christen and earning a playful groan in response.

“Tobin’s a good name for either sex,” Tobin says, her lips curling up at the corners smugly.

Christen rolls her eyes slightly, hoping in her head that her friends won’t take the suggestion seriously.

“We’ll see about that, Tobs,” Viv chuckles, Tobin smiling warmly at her.

“Well, we also had another thing to share with you…” Jay trailed off.

“More like ask you,” Viv continues for him, Jay nodding in agreement.

“What, already asking us to babysit?” Tobin quips.

“If so,” Christen chimes in, “absolutely yes. Whenever you need me.”

“No,” Viv chuckles.

“Well, kinda?” Jay says, semi-unsurely. “Either way, good to know,” he laughs.

“We wanted to ask you guys…” Viv begins slowly, “if you would be the baby’s godparents?”

Tobin chokes slightly on her water, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth, as Christen’s eyebrows shoot up and her eyes grow wide.

“Us?” Christen squeaks.

“Together?” Tobin continues, still coughing lightly.

“Is that a no?” Viv grimaces awkwardly. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, of course. It’s just-”

“You’re our best friends,” Jay inputs.

“And we love you both a ton.”

Jay nods. “You're the first people we thought of to trust with our baby. No pressure. You can think about it…”

“And godparents aren’t even couples most of the time!” Viv continues, causing both Christen and Tobin to choke this time, seemingly on air.

“Viv,” Jay whispers warningly.

“Sorry! No! That’s not what I meant! Just-”

“Just think about it?” Jay cuts his wife off, his eyes hopeful.

The room falls silent for a few seconds.

That is until Christen clears her throat and speaks up, “It’s a yes from me.” She glances between her friends, a closed-lipped smile spread thin on her face, trying to act like she hadn’t totally been caught off guard by Viv and Jay’s question.

Tobin’s eyes shoot up to Christen, meeting her gaze and holding it. The two women speak without words, their gazes intense as Christen’s eyes push Tobin not to make this a big deal.

“Me too,” Tobin finally says, still staring at Christen for a second before averting her gaze to Jay and Viv who are beaming with joy and relief.

“Yeah?” Jay asks hopefully, Viv’s hands squeezing his as they await final confirmation.

“Of course,” Christen says for the both of them, Tobin nodding along, her eyes boring into the side of Christen’s head.

As Jay and Viv rush to embrace them again, Tobin wonders if her friends’ plan to set her and Christen up on a date again had anything to do with them being the baby’s godparents.

“I promise we’ll behave around the baby,” Christen jokes as she hugs Viv tightly, staring at Tobin over Viv’s shoulder with more serious eyes than her tone conveyed.

Viv chuckles and responds, “Just start behaving now. For practice, you know?”

Tobin quickly puts on a smile as Viv turns to hug her too. “We’ll try our best,” she replies lightheartedly.

“I’m seriously honored you’d even ask, Viv,” Christen promises later that evening as she and Viv wash the dishes together, a while after Tobin had gone home and Jay had gone upstairs to prepare for work the next day. “I can’t make any promises for Tobin, but I seriously promise I’ll try to get along with her more from now on.”

“Yeah?” Viv asks gently, her eyebrows lifting slightly in response to Christen’s promise as she passes her another dish to dry.

“Of course,” she assures. “I mean she’s frustrating but we’re adults, right?” Christen sounds sure of herself as she places a plate into the cupboard after triple checking that there were no more water spots left on it.

“Right,” Viv mimics, handing Christen one last dish. “Thanks, love,” she says quietly as Christen puts away the dish, waiting for the woman to face her again.

Christen turns back to Viv with a smile on her face as she dries her hands and then passes her friend the dish towel to do the same with.

“On that note,” Viv starts, “can I ask you another question and you have to promise not to get mad at me?”

“You’ve got a lot of questions today,” Christen says, eying her skeptically. “Can’t say I can make any promises. You’re making me nervous.”

“No, no! Nothing to be nervous over,” she assures Christen.

“Well?” Christen chuckles. “Just go ahead and ask me then.”

Viv takes a deep breath, unsure of what Christen’s reaction is going to be granted that the last time she had asked Christen to consider going on a date with Tobin, Christen laughed in her face thinking it was a joke. “You know how you just said you promise to try to get along with Tobin better from now on?”

“Mhmm…”

“Well, Jay and I were thinking… you two should go on a date-”

Christen chokes on air, sending her into a coughing fit that cuts Viv’s proposal off. Viv quickly moves to pass Christen a glass of water and pat her back, her eyebrows furrowing in concern.

“A date?” Christen chokes out. “With Tobin?”

“Yes?” Viv replies, slightly unsurely.

“No.”

“Christen-”

“Viv, what the hell?” Christen laughs incredulously.

“Chris…”

Tobin?”

“Yes!” Viv says, fully confident this time. “I know you two have your differences, but Jay and I really think you two would be great together! I know I’ve brought it up to you before-”

“Yeah and we were wine drunk and I thought you were messing around!”

“I wasn’t! I mean, yeah we were a little tipsy but I was serious and you kinda just laughed it off and I didn’t bring it up again.”

“And I’m glad you didn’t,” Christen makes clear. “How in the world would Tobin and I be a good match?”

“If you got to know her, you’d see she’s not who you think she is.”

“Mmm,” Christen hums sarcastically, nodding her head. “Tell me, what’s beyond the loud, disgusting burps and the seemingly always bare feet and the constantly wrinkled clothes and the-”

“You seem to pay a lot of attention to her with all those details you’ve noticed,” Viv challenges lightly.

Christen shoots her a glare, her mouth hanging open with no response coming out.

“Listem, Chris. I wouldn’t be suggesting this if I didn’t think it would work out. She has a really good heart and when she loves, she loves hard. I don’t know a single couple that doesn’t have their differences, but you grow to not care about those little things when you really get to know the person.” If Christen had heard Jay’s words to Tobin earlier, she would laugh at how they were basically the same person now. “We want both of you to find someone that will love you the way you deserve to be loved and I would never suggest this if I thought Tobin wasn’t right for you, or vice versa. We love you a ton, babe. That’s why we picked you both to be the baby’s godparents. We couldn’t imagine picking anyone else.”

“You picked both of us with the idea of setting us up together too?”

“No, Christen! Absolutely not. We picked you because we trust you guys more than anyone to be there and care for this baby, especially in the god forbidden case that we couldn’t-”

“Stop.” Christen cuts her off, shaking her head at the thought. She takes a moment to herself, twisting the rings on her fingers as she leans against the kitchen countertop with her eyes trained on the ground. “What if… What if it doesn’t work out? What if we end up despising each other after this date or what if it works out for a while but at some point we end up in a messy break up? Then what? I don’t want that for this baby. I want them to have two godparents that can at least try to get along.”

Viv laughs softly, shaking her head and rolling her eyes slightly over the typical way Christen seems to be overthinking this. “We trust you.”

“Viv…”

“I told you that, Chris. We trust you guys more than anyone and, like you said, you’re both adults. We think you guys should at least try, and if it works out, it’s even better! The baby will have godparents that are together! And besides, Tobin’s not the type to be a petty asshole with things like that. Especially not around kids. Hell, have you seen her with kids?”

Christen shakes her head no.

“She may sometimes act like a kid herself but she’s actually quite the baby whisperer,” Viv chuckles.

A small smile etches its way onto Christen’s face at the sound of her friend’s laugh and the obvious adoration that she has for Tobin. She knows that Viv’s words are true. She trusts Viv and Jay to the point that they were always the first call when something went wrong and knows they wouldn’t put her in situations that they would think would end poorly.

But she also knows Tobin. Or rather, she knows of Tobin. The girl is the polar opposite of her. She does things just to annoy Christen. She chews too loudly and she laughs at the dumbest of things and is overly obsessed with sports. She gives Christen weird stares when she speaks of anything that Tobin doesn’t seem interested in. She never brushes her hair and always throws a cap or beanie over it. She never wears anything but hoodies and-

“Chris?”

“Hm?” Christen turns her attention back to Viv.

“Is that a no?” A small crease sits between Viv’s eyebrows as she awaits Christen’s response.

The sound of deep breath fills the kitchen before Christen’s voice speaks, “Fine, but you owe me.”

Viv lets out a loud squeal and rushes to pull Christen into a hug, repeatedly saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” as she sways them back and forth.

Christen laughs at her enthusiasm and allows herself to be swayed in the embrace before pulling back and pointing a gentle finger into Viv’s belly. “And you, little one,” she says sternly, “you better be the gosh dang cutest, sweetest kid when you come out of this belly if I’m doing this for you.” Viv and Christen share a laugh before a gentle smile spreads onto Christen’s lips and she continues, “But I have no doubt you will be, especially with such amazing parents.”

///

“Yo?”

“Are you on your way yet?” Jayden hisses through the phone.

“What?” Tobin asks, racking her brain for something she may have forgotten. “On my way where?”

“Jesus, Tobin!” Viv exclaims. “To Christen’s! You were supposed to pick her up 20 minutes ago!”

“Oh shit!”

Yeah,” Jay says in a ‘duh’ tone. “‘Oh shit’ is right.”

“Tobin, she’s already upset. Just hurry up and try to make it up to her, please?”

“Well, maybe she should just cancel then…”

Tobin.”

“I’ll pick up flowers and everything…” Tobin groans at the sound of Viv’s scold.

“Please at least try, dude,” Jay asks softly.

Tobin simply hums in response and says, “Alright, well, if I stay on the phone any longer I'll be even later, so…”

“Go!” Viv urges, “And treat my girl right, please?”

“Mhmm!” Tobin hums again, much too chipper to be serious.

 

Another 20 minutes later, she’s standing at Christen’s doorstep in her typical outfit of a hoodie and skinny jeans, but this time with dress boots instead of sneakers.

“Shit, the flowers,” Tobin whispers to herself in realization as she steps up to Christen’s door, whipping her head around and running to a nearby bush to pick a rose off before running back and ringing the doorbell. Just as she the door creaks open, Tobin accidentally pricks herself on a thorn and hisses another, “Shit!”

Tobin looks up from her bleeding finger to see Christen staring at her, dressed in a silky beige blouse, tight black jeans and heels, both annoyance and confusion apparent on her face.

“Are you okay?”

“Uh,” Tobin stammers. “Yeah. This is- this is for you. Sorry I’m late.”

Christen stares at the rose in Tobin’s outstretched hand for a moment before sighing and grabbing the woman by the wrist, tugging her into the house and straight to the restroom.

Christen plucks the flower carefully out of Tobin’s hand and places it on the counter beside them before opening the mirror cabinet above the sink and pulling a small box out. “Hold still,” she mutters, taking Tobin by the wrist again and applying some hydrogen peroxide to the cut. Tobin hisses at the sting, but ultimately bites down on her lip to keep quiet at the sight of Christen’s hard glare.

“Next time just leave the flower on the bush,” Christen speaks quietly as she closes a band-aid around Tobin’s finger, grabbing the flower off the counter and turning to leave Tobin to follow after her.

“Next time?” Tobin mumbles in wonder, watching the woman walk away.

“Where are you going?” Christen breaks the long lasting silence that made it difficult to breathe comfortably in Tobin’s Jeep.

“Hm?”

“I mean, we probably lost the reservation anyway, but the restaurant is in the complete opposite direction, Tobin.”

Tobin’s eyes flick back and forth between Christen’s face and the road in panic. “The restaurant… right. Uh...”

“My god,” Christen whispers to herself in disbelief, turning her head to face the window and leaning her elbow against the passenger door, her fingers weaving into her hair angrily.

“Okay. Okay, my bad. I’m sorry,” Tobin hurries to apologize. “I know you’re upset-”

“Tobin if you didn’t want to come, you should have just said no.”

“Oh, and you wanted to go on a date with me?”

“No! But our best friends seem to believe that we’d be a great match and it was impossible to tell Viv no!”

Tobin huffs out a hard laugh. “Right.”

Another wave of silence washes over them, but Tobin never turns the car around. Her right hand grips the top of the steering wheel to the point that Christen can tell her knuckles are white, even in the dark of the night.

“Where are you going?” Christen repeats herself.

“I don’t fucking know, Christen,” Tobin huffs. “The movie theater? Is that alright with you, princess?”

Christen’s jaw clenches at the nickname she hates so deeply. She wants to scoff at the fact that Tobin is picking a date where they wouldn’t even be able to have a conversation, but she can’t say she minds the fact, so she simply mumbles, “Just peachy.”

Tobin lets Christen pick the film. In any other case, it never would have happened. Instead, she sits through some chick flick that she would never be caught dead watching if it were her choice.

She pays for the tickets and the snacks. She lets Christen pick the seats. She contains her groans at every goddamn cheesy scene. She thinks she does everything she can to not get on Christen’s last nerve.

But on Christen’s end, every last pet peeve gets checked off her list.

Tobin rattles the M&Ms and crumples the bag too loudly. She noisily shakes her ice around in her drink before every sip. She burps quietly to herself on a few occasions. She bounces her knee so much, Christen can feel her own seat shaking.

She is the exact Tobin that Christen expected she would be.

That’s not even to mention the fact that Christen had to face the questioning glances of everyone in the movie theater wondering why she was so overdressed. Or the way her heels clacked on the tiled bathroom floor and the other women snickered amongst themselves. Or the way she absolutely hated theaters because they were always so cold, but she wouldn’t dare ask Tobin for her sweater.

What she would do, though, is give Viv an earful the moment she got home.

“Look, Christen-”

“Just save it, Tobin.” Christen sighs quietly, reaching for the car door handle.

“Stop.” Tobin grabs her forearm, looking behind Christen to her house, then back to her. “Just give me a minute.”

Christen’s eyes fix themselves on Tobin’s hand on her arm until the other woman lets her go, then settles herself back into the leather seat of the Jeep.

“I am sorry.”

Christen huffs, amused at even the idea of Tobin being sorry for the eventful, or rather uneventful, night.

“Whatever, don’t believe me,” Tobin rolls her eyes. “But I am. I don’t do this,” she waves her hands around, gesturing at nothing in particular. “I don’t date. I’m sorry I forgot about tonight and I’m sorry I was late and I’m sorry for whatever else I did to piss you off tonight because I’m sure there was more.”

Christen watches her carefully, hating that the other woman couldn’t make eye contact and instead preferred to look at her lap.

“Viv asked me to treat you right tonight and I know I probably didn’t, and I’m sure you deserve more than a lousy date at the movie theater, so I’m sorry.”

Christen waits a moment, wanting to agree with Tobin and explain why any girl deserves more than what their night had entailed, but she says a quiet, “Thank you,” anyway.

Tobin nods softly, finally looking up to meet Christen’s eyes for a second before looking away.

“I think we can both agree this won’t work, right?” Christen asks after a few seconds.

Tobin laughs more audibly and genuinely than she has all night. “I have no fucking clue what they hell Viv and Jay were thinking.”

“Oh, thank god we can agree on at least one thing,” Christen laughs along, sending them both into a fit of hysteric laughs over how disastrous the night had been.

“Right,” Tobin chuckles as they settle down. “Well, I’m sorry again.”

“Apology accepted,” Christen smiles softly. “And me too. I’m sorry if I did anything that… annoyed you tonight.”

Tobin smiles slightly, laughing to herself over their truce before nodding. “Thanks.”

“I hope that when the baby comes, we can be more civil?”

“We don’t have to wait til the baby comes, Christen,” Tobin laughs.

Christen raises an eyebrow in challenge, surprised that Tobin is being reasonable. “Okay then. Well, in any case, I hope can at least be civil for the baby, whether that starts now or later.”

“Okay,” Tobin agrees softly. “Uh, I can walk you to the-”

“It’s fine, Tobin,” Christen chuckles. “Don’t have to try to treat me like a princess after we’ve established this won’t work,” she jokes.

Tobin smirks at the mention of the nickname, watching Christen pull the handle and swing the door open.

“Whatever you say, princess.”

“Oh, god,” Christen groans, rolling her eyes as she jumps out of the Jeep, wobbling on her heels a bit but catching her balance before she seriously stumbles.

“Alright there, princess?”

“Fine,” Christen squints her eyes in a glare, trying not to laugh at herself. “Goodnight, Tobin,” she sings as she shuts the door.

Tobin quickly rolls down the passenger door window and calls out, “Night, princess!”, laughing as Christen gives her the finger over her shoulder without turning around.

///

“Tobin, no-”

“I’m doing exactly what you asked me to, Christen!”

Viv and Jay watch their two friends bicker over how to put up their baby shower decorations from the entryway of the living room.

“I told you to center it!”

“This is centered!”

“I’m telling you that it’s not!”

“Now?” Jay whispers to Viv.

“Mhmm.”

“Tobs?” Jay calls, watching Tobin’s head snap over to him before continuing, “Come help me get something from the truck real quick?”

Tobin hops off the chair in the and rushes towards the door faster than Christen can process, Jay just behind her.

“Wha- Nuh uh. No. Viv…” Christen protests, turning to her friend for help. “We have to finish-“

“Nope,” her friend shakes her head, walking up to Christen and taking her by the hand as Tobin and Jay make their fast exit. “Relax.”

Viv.” Christen complains as she gets pulled across the room and shoved down to sit on the couch. “Why couldn’t you just let me bring my crew? This would have gone so much more smoothly.”

“Because I didn’t ask you to help me throw this shower as my event planner, babe,” Viv chuckles. “I asked you as my best friend, and Tobin is here helping as our other best friend, and both of you as godparents.”

“But this is literally my job, V,” Christen groans.

“And you’re not working right now,” Viv laughs. “Am I paying you?”

“Oh come on, you know I would never ask-”

“My point is you’re not working,” Viv interrupts gently. “You’re just my best friend who happens to have experience. So cut Tobs a little slack, yeah?” She winks, her mouth curling at the corners at the sight of Christen rolling her eyes.

“It’s not that hard to center a banner on the wall,” Christen mumbles.

Viv hums in amusement. “Civil, huh?” Viv jokes, earning a groan from her friend. Ever since their failure of a date, Viv had constantly been using Tobin and Christen’s truce to ‘be civil’ against them every time they fought.

“I tried. All I asked was for her to move the banner so it was centered and she-”

“Alright, alright,” Viv laughs, running a hand over her baby bump. “What are we gonna do with them, baby?” She joked to her stomach.

Christen closes her mouth gently, suddenly feeling guilty for not keeping her promise to her friend to get along with Tobin. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to ruin your day.”

“Oh,” Viv waves a dismissive hand at her. “I’m just playing, Chris. I don’t know what I’d be doing if you weren’t here. I know T can be a bit frustrating, but take it easy on her and she’ll be more help if she’s not so frustrated.”

Christen smiles softly at her friend and nods, watching as her hand caresses her own stomach gently. “Do you need anything? Do you want some water? Or to go lay down for a bit? Or-”

She’s cut off by Viv’s sweet laugh. “You sound like Jay.”

“Sorry,” Christen giggles sheepishly, grinning at the thought of Jay taking such good care of her friend, even to the point of smothering her.

“Stop apologizing, Chris,” Viv reaches over to squeeze her hand affectionately. “Just sit and relax with me for a minute while Jay and Tobs go do whatever they had to do.”

But just as Christen and Viv settle in their silence, a loud thump comes from the doorway, startling them both.

“Shit!” Jay curses, Tobin laughing behind him as they carry in a table from outside. “Sorry, babe! Ignore that!”

Christen snickers as the man rushes Tobin away from the situation.

“Really was only a minute, huh?” Viv jokes, earning an amused hum from Christen. “Alright,” she groans, struggling to sit up with her belly weighing her down, “Help me up so we can go make sure those fools aren’t about to break anything.”

“How goes it, princess?” Tobin asks, smug as she startles Christen who is unboxing the cake.

“God, Tobin. You can’t sneak up on me like that,” Christen scolds. “Grab that cake platter for me please?”

Tobin lazily hands over the very expensive, very fragile cake platter, sending Christen’s anxiety through the roof.

“Need anything else?” Tobin asks.

“Nope!” Christen chirps.

“You sure?” Tobin presses, watching Christen struggling to carry the cake and set it down carefully.

Christen doesn’t answer, rather choosing to struggle on for a few moments before huffing and muttering, “Just hold the damn platter.”

Tobin sucks her lips between her teeth to keep herself from laughing, rushing over to hold the cake platter still for Christen to set the cake on.

“Thank you,” Christen speaks quietly as the task is finished.

“No biggie,” Tobin dismisses. “Want me to carry this out there so you can get the cupcakes?”

“Would you? Just be careful not to drop it please?”

“Got it, princess.” Tobin confirms, easily picking up the platter. “Anything else you need?”

“For you to stop calling me princess.”

Tobin lets out a chortle as she walks away from Christen. “Only when you stop acting like one!”

Tobin watches Christen easily converse with the guests of the baby shower as she leans against the staircase railing with a beer clutched loosely in her hand.

“Whatcha staring at?” Tobin is startled by the voice of her long time friend, Ashlyn.

“Oh, nothing. What’s up dude?” Tobin pulls a hand out of her pocket to dap Ashlyn’s. “Hey, little man! What’s going on buddy!” She reaches a hand up to tickle Ashlyn and her wife, Ali’s, one year old son, Hudson. The small boy with wavy, dirty blonde hair giggles, shoving his head into his mother’s shoulder.

Ashlyn smiles at her son before smirking at Tobin, her gaze shifting to Christen for a moment and then back to the woman next to her. “Just saw you hanging over here by yourself… staring at… nothing…” she says slowly, a teasing grin spreading thin on her lips as she speaks. “You guys did an amazing job,” she changes the subject quickly, “you and Christen. You know, with throwing this shower for Viv and Jay. It looks great.”

“Oh, it was mostly Christen,” Tobin dismisses, continuing to play with Hudson as a distraction. “You know me, I don’t have the eye for this stuff. I just put stuff where she told me to since she, y’know,” she waves her hands around in a gesture, laughing kind of awkwardly, “does this for a living.”

“Sounds like Ali,” Ashlyn laughs along. “Just do what they tell you and there won’t be any issues, right?”

“Right,” Tobin chuckles, only then realizing that her response was implying that she and Christen were a couple like Ashlyn and Ali. “Wait, no-”

“Hey, there you guys are!” Ali interrupts, coming up behind her wife with a hand on her back and smiling at their son. “Oh hey, Tobs! I didn’t get to say hi to you earlier!” She says gleefully upon noticing Tobin, pulling her into a tight hug. “Great job with all this! It looks so good!”

Tobin chuckles, deciding this time just to go with, “Thanks, Als,” instead of putting herself in another situation like the one with Ashlyn.

“Viv seems really happy,” Ali smiles, glancing over to where the pregnant woman is being led to the gift table by Christen.

“Let’s check back with her about a month after that baby comes out,” Ashlyn jokes, “because if that kid is anything like you, mister,” she points a finger into the child’s belly, eliciting another giggle from him, “that momma will not be sleeping!”

Both Tobin watch the interaction adoringly, Ali’s eyes shining much brighter than Tobin’s though.

“You giving your mommas a hard time, Hudson?” Tobin asks the boy who was still laughing from his mother’s tickles.

“Yeah, you wanna take him, Tobs?” Ali jokes.

“Are you kidding? Tell me when! You know I love to hang with the little guy!” Tobin smiles bright as Hudson reaches for her, trying to get away from his mother’s persistent tickling fingers. She gladly takes him into her arms, melting when the boy wraps his arms around her neck and hides his face from Ashlyn.

From the living room, Christen watches Tobin and the young boy interact, the small smile on her lips threatening to turn into a full on grin.

“Chris?”

“Hm?” Christen’s head snaps to see Viv and Jay’’s expectant gazes.

“You gonna get Tobs so we can do the gifts?”

“Yeah! Yeah, sorry, let me bring her over. Just get yourselves comfortable!”

She really doesn’t want to disrupt Tobin and the child or their friends, especially not in that moment, but she needs Tobin to help with the gifts so she could keep a log of everything the couple was receiving and from whom for the thank you cards that would be sent out after the shower.

“Hey…” Christen says gently as she approaches the group.

“Hey!”

“Chris!”

Christen smiles warmly at Ali and Ash’s greetings, accepting the hugs they both approach her with.

“Hi, cutie pie!” Christen smiles at Hudson as she pulls away from their hugs.

“Hi,” Tobin jokes, a smug grin plastered on her face.

Christen scoffs, laughing awkwardly as both Ali and Ashlyn watch the whole exchange closely. “I was talking to Hudson.”

To Christen, it seemed Tobin had been taking immense satisfaction in being able to get under her skin with the small, slipped-in, flirty comments she had been making since their failure of a date. Sensing Christen’s discomfort, Tobin takes pity on her and chooses not to reply, simply letting her grin linger as Christen reaches a hand up to rub the boy’s arm.

“You busy?” Christen finally asks her in a quiet voice.

“Whatcha need?”

“Viv wants to do presents now and I need you to pass them to her and Jay so I can write everything down.”

“Write everything down? What would you have to write down?” Tobin asks, her eyebrows scrunching together in confusion.

Ali laughs at Tobin’s perplexed expression. “So they can write thank you letters later, Tobs. Just go. She’s not making it up.”

“We went over this during the planning process,” Christen reminds her, an eyebrow raised as she points out that Tobin likely wasn’t paying attention.

“Just do what she tells youuu…” Ashlyn teases through barely separated lips and clenched teeth as if to hide the fact that she was talking.

Tobin chuckles at their friend, remembering the phrase from their earlier conversation. She turns her head to look at Hudson with a pout. “Tell Christen I was just barely getting to hang with you, little dude.”

Christen gives a lopsided grin, watching the boy’s hands come up to hold Tobin’s cheeks.

Ali decides to help Christen out, reaching for her son with a bright smile. “C’mere, baby. Tell Tobs you’ll see her later,” she winks at the woman as she takes her son. “Go, T,” she laughed. “I promise he’ll still be here when you’re finished.”

Tobin sighs, looking to Christen’s expecting eyes and then back to the boy with an even more dramatic pout. “Don’t fall asleep on me, kid,” she points a finger at him accusingly, smiling when he giggles again even not knowing exactly what she’s saying to him.

Christen mouths a “thank you” to Ali as Tobin ruffles the boy’s hair, receiving a grin and a wink in response.

Rolling her sleeves up and inhaling deeply, Tobin follows Christen over to their pregnant friend, smiling at her as she approaches and excited to have that godchild of hers in her arms soon.

///

“Tobin, let me hold her!”

“You just held her!”

“For two seconds! You’ve had her this whole time!”

Viv and Jay laugh quietly from their spot on the loveseat, watching their two friends bicker in hushed voices as to not wake their sleeping newborn.

“Tobin, just let her hold the baby for a bit,” Jay bargains, trying to convince his friend to play nice.

Tobin groans softly, looking down at the newborn sleeping on her chest. “Fine,” she finally gives in, “Just for a little bit though.”

Christen rolls her eyes, immediately standing and attempting to gently take the sleeping baby from Tobin’s chest, wary of waking her.

“Shit, I don’t-”

“Do you want me to-”

“Just-”

“Christen just sit down and let Tobin get up and hand her to you,” Viv laughs, very amused by how the two women are trying to navigate moving the baby from one of them to the other.

“Right…” Christen says, moving to sit back down on the couch, her arms up and ready to take the baby, her grin wide at the sight of the newborn approaching her.

Tobin holds the baby girl close to her chest with one hand cradling her head and the other under her legs. She leans down slowly, carefully settling the baby into Christen’s awaiting arms and sliding her own arms out from between them. She quickly stands up straight, the close proximity to Christen making her squirmish, and returns to her previous seat.

Christen, unfazed by Tobin’s odd demeanor, looks down at the newborn with eyes full of affection and a smile so wide, Viv’s eyes tear up at the sight.

“Hi there, sweet baby Avery,” Christen coos in a hushed voice. “Look at you, beautiful! I missed you!”

Tobin can’t help but smile at the one-sided interaction, completely understanding the obvious love that leaks from Christen’s voice.

Baby Avery, now a couple weeks old, was born in the late hours of the night on February 17th at 7.3 pounds and 19 inches. Jay called both Tobin and Christen as soon as Viv was checked into the hospital after her water had broken that afternoon. Both women waited anxiously throughout the evening, waiting for the call that the precious baby had arrived, and both women rushed to the hospital as soon as Jay texted them a photo with the message “It’s a girl! Baby Avery can’t wait to meet her godparents!

Avery was already the perfect mix of Jay and Viv - she already had Viv’s nose and Jay’s lips and eyes; she had a head full of light brown hair, exactly like Viv’s baby photos of herself; she scrunched her nose up in her sleep, the same way Jay did when he was really focused.

Christen uses the back of her pointer finger to run up and down from Avery’s forehead to the tip of her nose, loving the way the baby’s lips twitch at the corners every so often from the soft sensation.

“I don’t think I could ever get tired of this sweet face,” she speaks loudly enough for everyone to hear.

Jay chuckles quietly, rubbing his eyes as he sinks further into the couch and against Viv. “Me either. Not even at four in the morning when she’s screaming because she wants what only Mommy can give her.”

Tobin smirks up at her friend. “Tired, Jay?”

“No,” he lies through a yawn, earning an equally as tired laugh from his wife.

“Go take a nap or something, you guys,” Christen proposes. “I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon so I can watch her for a bit and you can rest.”

“Same here,” Tobin agrees. “I can stick around too.”

“No, that’s okay you guys. I don’t wanna keep you stuck here-”

Viv.” Tobin and Christen interrupt at the same time and with the same tone, catching each other’s eyes for a moment before turning back to their friend.

Viv shuts her lips between her teeth, embarrassedly tucking her chin into her collarbone at the gentle scold from her friends. She looks at them with big innocent eyes, quietly saying, “I feel like I’ll miss her too much.”

Jay laughs affectionately at his wife, understanding the feeling but also desperately needing a lick of sleep after such a rough night with the baby. He runs a loving hand up and down her arm a few times, placing a gentle kiss to the crown of her head before quietly asking her, “You don’t even wanna just lay down? She’s sleeping anyway. We can’t be missing all that much.”

“Yeah, Viv, she’s out hard. She’s not even being that cute right now,” Tobin jokes.

Viv, mama bear in full effect, gives Tobin a small glare and says “Don’t say my baby isn’t cute. She’s always cute.”

“My bad.” Tobin puts her hands up defensively.

Christen chuckles, shaking her head and looking down at the child with a grin. “You’re right, she is always cute. But Tobin has a point - she’s deep asleep. You guys just go and I’ll wake you if she needs something I can’t give her,” she jokes, referring to the feeding time that Jay had mentioned earlier.

“Godparent duties,” Tobin smiles warmly at her friends. “Now gooo. Baby sleep clock is ticking, you guys.”

Jay and Viv smile lazily from the love seat before pulling themselves up from their comfort and walking over to Christen to give the baby a kiss on the head. Both of them express their thanks to their friends before heading up the stairs hand in hand and leaving the two women alone with the sleeping child and nothing to talk about.

Tobin and Christen sit in an awkward silence for a few moments, not even having the baby awake to entertain them. Tobin immerses herself in some basketball game on TV, keeping the volume low enough to not disturb Avery. Christen tries to entertain herself with the child, but it only lasts so long with the baby not being reactive in her sleep. At some point, she begins paying attention to the game, trying to follow what the commentators are saying so she could apply it to the game.

“What’s happening?” Christen finally asks, trying to get rid of the awkward tension between them.

Tobin’s head snaps over, slightly startled by the sound of Christen’s voice. “You’re watching?”

Christen shrugs a bit. “Not really much else to do with this one sleeping,” she laughs awkwardly, gesturing to the baby in her arms.

“Sorry,” Tobin mumbles. “Here,” she pushes the remote over to Christen. “You can change it.”

“Oh, no! It’s fine. I didn’t mean I wasn’t entertained or anything-”

“So you are entertained?” Tobin raises an eyebrow at her.

“Well-” Christen stammers, not one to lie. Instead, she says, “Just explain something to me and we’ll see.”

Tobin chuckles breathily, turning her attention back to the screen. “Okay, well right now this guy is taking free throws. Basically that means he got fouled by the other team and he gets to take his shot from the free throw line now. It’s like kinda similar to the general idea of penalty kicks or free kicks in soccer if you know that. You get fouled, you get a shot kinda thing, but a different sport and some different rules. Here, he got fouled as he went to shoot and he still made the basket. So basically now he gets to keep the two points for making the shot, but he also gets another shot from the free throw line.”

Christen hums softly in acknowledgement. “Why do they sometimes get more free throws than other times?”

Tobin smiles despite herself, surprised that Christen had paid attention long enough to notice that. “That depends on the type of foul that was committed and how the play finished. So like, if this guy had missed the shot when he got fouled, he would have been given more free throws.” Tobin decides to keep it simple, not wanting to overwhelm Christen with more information than necessary at the moment.

Christen hums in understanding again. “Interesting.”

“Yeah?” Tobin asks, surprised and with a bit of a smile.

Christen looks over to her, not quite able to contain her own grin at the sight of Tobin’s. “Alright,” she chuckles, “let’s not get too excited. I’m only watching this because Avery isn’t awake to entertain me.”

“Mhmm.” Tobin rolls her eyes lightheartedly. “Sure. We can go with that.”

This time, they fall into a more comfortable silence, both quite pleased that they were able to have an easy-going conversation.

Not too long later, Avery begins to whimper. Both women are a bit startled by her small cries and Tobin rushes to pass Christen the pacifier that the baby had spit out mid-sleep so that Jay and Viv wouldn’t wake up. Thankfully, Avery takes the pacifier without issue, her cries quieting down and her eyes remaining open.

“Good morning, sleepy girl,” Christen whispers to the child in her arms. “It’s so nice to finally see those beautiful eyes of yours.”

“I wanna see,” Tobin whines, scooting over closer to Christen. Neither woman pays any mind to their close proximity this time. “Hi, Aves,” Tobin coos at the baby, pulling her hand up to give Avery’s little hand her pointer finger. The baby immediately clutches onto the finger, squeezing tight enough for Tobin to let out a surprised “Woah!” and Christen to laugh in response.

“You’re so strong, babe!” Christen tells the baby.

But yet again, Tobin, smug as ever, takes advantage of the situation and says, “Thanks. I lift on the regular.”

Christen’s head snaps to her right where Tobin sits, her eyes squinted tight in a glare. “Really?” she says, unimpressed.

Tobin’s eyebrows raise as she chuckles. “What?” She asks innocently.

Christen rolls her eyes, turning back to the child in her arms. “As soon as you're big enough, you’re gonna help me beat her up,” she fake whispers to the baby jokingly.

“Wow!” Tobin says through her laughs, this time her amusement much more audible than the other times. “Aggressive.”

“Tell her, ‘don’t mess with us!’ Huh, Aves?” Christen continues to speak to the baby, picking up her hand, moving it around in little punching motions and making small ‘pow’ sounds with every punch, trying to keep a serious face despite being able to feel Tobin’s eyes boring into the side of her head.

“Noted,” Tobin says, grinning at the sight of the newborn’s arms flailing around.

“Just for that,” Christen stands from her seat on the couch, turning back to Tobin with mischief written all over her face. “Smells like someone needs a diaper change. You can have her back now.”

Tobin’s jaw hangs slacked open as the baby is gently placed in her arms. “Oh my god, Aves! What the heck is in mommy’s milk?!” she exclaims as soon as she gets a whiff of the stench coming from the baby’s bum.

Christen giggles, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. “Better hurry, Tobin. Don’t want her to have a blowout.”

Tobin’s eyes shoot wide open as she stands quickly. “Going!”

“I’ll be in the kitchen to take her back when you’re done!” Christen calls after the two as Tobin walks away rapidly.

“Pshh, yeah, okay,” Tobin says sarcastically over her shoulder. “I change baby, I keep baby!” she calls back definitively. “My lord, kid! You stink!” she says to the child. Despite the smell, Tobin lifts the baby high enough to reach her chubby cheeks with her lips, pressing a few kisses to the soft skin as she walks up the stairs, still in Christen’s line of sight. “You’re lucky you’re cute!”

The only thought Christen is left with is, Well, Viv was right about one thing. She is very good with kids.

“Hey, Tobs, did Ash tell you about that surf competition that she’s gonna go watch in a couple months?” Jay asks as he prepares dinner for the four of them.

“Yeah!” Tobin nods excitedly. “I actually got a press pass after she told me about it so I’ll be there too. I haven’t shot a surf comp in a bit so it should be fun.”

“That’s great, Tobs,” Viv smiles warmly from where she’s sitting at the kitchen island, feeding baby Avery.

“Yeah,” The photographer smiles back, “Thanks, V. I was thinking of heading out to the beach and scout out some surfers to practice a bit before it comes around, but we’ll see.”

“We should catch some waves too, T,” Jay says, his eyes shining with excitement. “It’s been so long!”

Tobin chuckles, nodding along. “It has been a minute. I’m probably so out of practice that I won’t know how to balance anymore when we head back out,” she jokes.

“Just do some yoga,” Christen inputs, feeling like she finally had something to contribute to the conversation, having been quiet since Viv and Jay returned from their nap. “There are certain poses that really help with balance.”

Except when Tobin looks over at her, surprised that she had spoken, and then scrunches her nose up and says, “Not my thing,” she feels silly for suggesting it at all.

Viv sends a sympathetic smile to Christen as Tobin and Jay continue rambling on about planning a surf day, acknowledging that she was just trying to make a friendly suggestion. Christen gives her a small smile back, shaking her head as if to say ‘It’s fine.’

“You better not be getting my husband into anything dangerous, T,” Viv says teasingly when she turns her attention back to the pair, raising an eyebrow at Tobin.

“Me?” Tobin feigns innocence, bringing a hand up to her chest. “Never, V. I’m always safe. I don’t look for trouble.”

Viv hums, “And those scars on your knee?”

“Trouble looks for me?” Tobin jokes, knowing full well that the time she got scraped up on a reef left her with some pretty nasty marks to last a while.

“Babe,” Jay groans, setting a plate in front of her and then leaning down to press a kiss to Avery’s head now that she’s being burped, “I’ve been surfing before. It’s fine.”

“What happened to your knee?” Christen asks Tobin, still feeling left out of the conversation.

Tobin, again surprised by Christen, glances over and merely replies, “I, uh, went on a surf trip with Ash and a few others and got scraped up a bit when I got a bit too close to the reefs and wiped out.”

Christen winces.

“Yeah, that and she didn’t have her wetsuit on,” Viv chastises.

“We were just going to catch a few waves,” Tobin defends.

“It was practically dark out.”

“There was still light out!”

“You were dripping blood.”

“It barely even hurt!”

Jay laughs at the way Christen’s eyes bounce between the two women going back and forth as he sets a plate in front of her. “Momma bear over there, am I right?” he jokes quietly, earning a quiet chuckle from Christen in return.

“Thank you,” Christen says with a small smile as she accepts the plate. “It’s just who she is,” she continues affectionately. “Always taking care of everyone.”

Jay smiles back at her before walking over to his wife to take the baby and place her in her swaying swing.

///

When Christen heard the phrase “life can change in an instant,” she never imagined it would hit her as quickly as it did.

It’s a phone call.

That’s how quickly her life changes in an instant.

It’s a phone call, then heartbreak like she didn’t know was imaginable.

She was settling down on the couch with a cup of tea and a movie to end her night, then her phone rang, then someone was telling her that there had been an accident and her best friends were gone, then her world stopped, but the first words that flew out of her mouth were “And their baby? Avery. Was she- Is she-”

“She wasn’t with them, ma’am. She’s okay.”

“Oh my god,” her voice shakes.

“We have Avery here at the station with us. She was with a babysitter for the night.”

“I’m her godparent,” She rushes out. “Well not officially but can I- am I allowed to come get her?”

The officer is hesitant, but replies, “Why don’t you come on over and we’ll go over some logistics when you get here. Again, I’m really sorry, ma’am.”

She can’t even choke a response out before the line is static and she’s breaking down into sobs. She barely remembers pulling herself off the couch, or slipping shoes on, or grabbing her keys, or any of the red lights she hits on the way to the police station… but she’ll never forget rushing through the doors to find Tobin seated on the floor against a wall, already holding a sleeping Avery against her shoulder, meeting her tear-filled eyes, and not being able to do anything but slide down next to her and grasp her hand for dear life.

They’re told that in most cases, a child in Avery’s case would have needed to stay with Child Protective Services overnight, but they pulled some strings to grant emergency temporary custody to the two of them so long as a case worker made an emergency visit in the morning, so they numbly go through some necessary paperwork that neither of them can fathom having to sign in the moment. Tobin eventually hands the baby off to Christen, first pressing a long kiss to the side of her head, her tears falling onto the baby’s blanket, and then moves to install the carseat into the back of her car.

Christen watches through her own tears, holding the baby close to her and keeping her lips pressed to the side of her head the entire time. She doesn't want to let go when Tobin is finished, so the other woman tells her to sit in the back with her, mentioning returning for Christen’s car in the morning.

Christen nods, handing the baby over to Tobin slowly, and rushes around to the other side of the car to climb into the middle seat. She helps Tobin buckle the baby in from inside the car, and then grabs onto a few of her fingers before she can pull away. Tobin glances up quickly, moving to hold Christen’s hand fully, and bites her lip to hold back a sob and nods when the woman asks her to drive safely.

It doesn’t hit either of them that they’d have to unlock the doors to their best friends’ home with their own spare keys when they arrive; or that they’d be forced to soothe a crying three month child in the dark of a kitchen they’d only ever associated good memories with; or that when they’d find the last of Viv’s milk stored in the fridge, that it would shatter them; or that when Avery was finally asleep in her crib, neither of them would know where to turn.

“I’ll take the guest room downstairs,” Tobin whispers, not turning to face Christen, but running a hand over Avery’s hair.

Christen can’t find herself able to protest or offer to let her use the room upstairs, so she nods bleakly and responds with her own hushed “Goodnight,” after Tobin says the formality first, then watches her leave the room and walk down the stairs from the open doorway.

Hours later, when Christen can’t bring herself to sleep, too aware of the familiar scent of Viv and Jay surrounding her and the fact that their bedroom neighbors the guest room she’s in, she slips into Avery’s nursery, standing over the crib and watching the baby sleep for a while before settling into the rocking chair.

Not long later, when Tobin finds herself in a similar situation, she isn’t surprised to find Christen asleep, her arms folded across her chest and her head tilted to the side. She grabs the biggest baby blanket she can find and drapes it across the woman’s body gently, careful not to wake her. After checking on the small baby sleeping, she resorts to the sitting on the ground, her back against the crib.

When Christen wakes at some point in the night to Avery’s quiet gurgles, she’s surprised to find the blanket across her, but less so when she sees Tobin asleep on the ground in a sitting position. Just as the baby begins to whimper, Christen rushes out of the rocking chair, pulling the baby into her arms and hushing her as to not wake Tobin, but to no avail.

The woman on the ground snaps awake, ready to rush to soothe the baby, but Christen has beat her to it. Tobin watches as Christen settles herself back into the chair, pulling the blanket further over the baby, immediately beginning to rock back and forth and cooing at Avery as she attempts to give her a pacifier.

When their eyes meet after Avery’s cries have been calmed and all that’s left are the quiet sounds of the baby sucking on her pacifier, neither has the heart to move.

///

Tobin sets a cup of coffee in front of Christen as the woman feeds Avery, both waiting for Jay and Viv’s attorney to arrive to deal with the legalities that followed the events of the night before.

“Thank you,” Christen says quietly, receiving a small nod in response.

Both of them are quiet at the kitchen island for some time before Christen speaks up, “I know you travel a lot for work. I can take her. I’ll find a bigger place with room for her and you can come visit when you want but-”

“Wait, what?” Tobin interrupts, shocked that Christen seemed to already have a plan for Avery without asking her for input.

“Well all who’s left besides us is Viv’s dad, Tobin, and I highly doubt that he can take care of a newborn child from a nursing home.”

“No- that’s not what I-” Tobin is uninterrupted by a knock at the door. “That’s not what I meant,” she says when she turns back to Christen. “Like hell I’m going anywhere and leaving that child alone.”

“She’s not going to be alone if I’m taking her, Tobin,” she replies after the woman who is already walking to open the door and let the attorney in.

Their conversation is only picked back up when the attorney gets to the point of Viv and Jay’s will that regards Avery.

“They’ve left you both guardianship of Avery in the event that they shouldn’t be able to care for her any longer,” the lawyer comments and he reads through the paperwork, glancing up to both women nodding in acknowledgement. “Seeing as you’re not surprised, I’m assuming you knew this would be the case.”

“They asked us to be her godparents before she was born,” Tobin replies.

“Jay never had a relationship with his parents and Viv only has her dad left, but he’s in a nursing home and in old age now…” Christen continues.

“We’re all she has left,” Tobin says through the lump in her throat.

The attorney glances between them both, nodding as what they’re saying aligns with Viv and Jay’s will. “Very well. In that case, I assume you’ll be moving in here?”

“Oh no,” Christen replies quickly. “I couldn’t afford this place. I was just going to look for somewhere bigger for myself and Avery-”

“And Tobin?”

Christen stops, glancing to meet Tobin’s tear-filled eyes. “Uhm, no. We’re not… we’re not together.”

“Avery’s guardianship has been left to the both of you, Miss Press.”

Christen swallows harshly, fighting back her own tears.

“I’m not going anywhere, Christen,” Tobin shaking her head and wiping her tears away roughly.

“If you two don’t plan to move into the house or together, you’re going to need to figure out a custody agreement for Avery.”

Both women are quiet, neither knowing what to say.

“You are aware that Vivian and Jayden also left the house to you, correct?” The attorney asks carefully.

Both Tobin and Christen’s heads snap up, surprised.

“I’ll take that as a no,” he sighs. “The house is nearly paid off and the next topic we would have covered would be their finances, which they have also left to the two of you to manage, with Avery’s care and future in mind, of course” he explains. “They’ve explicitly stated in their will that they bought this home knowing they wanted their children to grow up here and they would still prefer that Avery grow up here, if anything should happen to them. With the two of you being the beneficiaries of their property and finances, I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t be able to afford living here.”

Tobin and Christen both hastily flip through the rest of the copies they were provided to follow along with what the man in the suit was saying.

“Listen,” the man sighs, setting his pen down and sitting up straight. “They’ve left you nearly everything, and most importantly, their daughter. They were stable and left you with the same stability...” they both want to scoff, “Should you choose to sell the property and live separately, then we must begin the processes for Avery’s sake, because they have made clear that their daughter should be the main priority in this case.”

Both women nod, taking deep breaths and turning to each other.

“I’m not going anywhere, Christen,” Tobin repeats herself, her voice firm. “If you don’t want to live together, I get it, but they would have wanted-”

“I know,” Christen says quietly. “I know. I just-”

“I know.”

The room is silent for a moment, only the sound of Christen’s breathy “My god,” filling the void.

They’re left with a quiet house and a heavy stack of papers, the name and phone number of a case worker that would be visiting them very soon to start the adoption process of Avery written on a sticky note pressed to the top of the pile.

Avery is asleep in her room, leaving Tobin and Christen to process the turn of events that they were struck with. They both busy themselves for a while, neither ready to talk. Tobin excuses herself to shower and Christen picks up around the kitchen, taking her turn to shower when Tobin returns and takes her time to call her family.

After they've done just about everything they could to avoid having a conversation with each other, they know that they don’t have long before Avery wakes up to be fed.

“I’m gonna head to my place tomorrow to start packing. I’ve called off for the week and can take Avery with me if you need to be somewhere.”

Tobin sighs, tossing her unfinished take out dinner into the refrigerator, closing the door with force. “Why do you seem to think that I’m not going to be here for her?”

Christen sighs, dropping her fork to her plate, a loud clink filling the space between them. “I’m just trying to figure out a plan, Tobin.”

Tobin huffs.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Tobin mutters.

“Let’s not do this, Tobin. Tell me why it’s so wrong for me to figure out a plan.”

“No,” the woman shakes her head. “That’s not it.”

“Then what?” Christen asks, growing frustrated, her head pounding and her heart not able to handle anything heavier than what life has already thrown at her.

Tobin looks up at her from across the kitchen island, her hands gripping the edge and her body leaned forward. “You assumed that you should be the one to take her. You were planning to move in somewhere else. You’re assuming that I’m just going to go back to normal life tomorrow and not be around. Why do you think that I don’t care enough to be here for Avery when her parents just fucking died, Christen?” She bites out through her tears.

The woman seated on the stool is stunned, her lips barely parted, no words falling out. She wipes her own tears away after a moment. “I’m sorry.”

They’re struck by silence once more, neither being able to talk through their tears, until Tobin says, “I have no clue why this is happening or how it’s happened, but Viv and Jay told us that they trusted us more than anyone to take care of her and I refuse to let them down.”

Christen nods, wiping her eyes and nose with a napkin Tobin had passed her. “I’m not trying to fight with you.”

“I’m not saying you are,” Tobin replies, her voice raspy and raw. “But I keep telling you I’m not going anywhere and I need you to understand and believe it if we’re going to make this work for Avery. She’s three months old and left with only what we can continue to give her and if I have to move mountains to give her the world, then for fucks sake, I will.”

It seems all Christen can do is nod in response in Tobin’s words, and all Tobin can do is take a deep breath before moving to wrap the woman in a hug upon seeing her tears. Neither of them are used to this side of each other, but they’re both in pain and only they can understand what each other is going through.

Tobin’s chin settles onto the top of Christen’s head and Christen’s hands clutch the back of Tobin’s sweater, thankful for the only real comfort she’s experienced since she received the news. Both of them hold on tight, not willing to let go until Avery’s cries can be heard from the baby monitor. Christen could feel Tobin’s shaky breath throughout their embrace from where her head rested on the woman’s chest, but she’s left with the feeling of a heavy sigh and Tobin saying, “I got her,” pulling away from her quickly, rushing to wipe her tears away as she goes.

///

By the time the funeral rolls around about a week later, they both feel like they have no tears left to cry. They spend their time after the ceremony switching between playing hostess in the house they’ve now moved into and taking over Avery duty. They receive hugs and condolences from quite a few people that they barely recognize, they say their ‘thank you’s when people offer their support. They gratefully accept an unimaginable amount of flowers and comfort food.

And by the end of the day, they’re left to themselves in the dim light of the living room with a half-finished bottle of wine, the quiet murmur of a television, the pain of their best friends gone, and a sleeping baby upstairs.

///

“Can you hand me her pacifier, please?” Christen requests over the loud shrieks that Avery lets out as Tobin walks into the nursery to find the baby against Christen’s shoulder being rocked and swayed and hushed.

Tobin reaches for the first pacifier she finds.

“No, not that one.”

“What’s wrong with this one?”

“She doesn’t like that one, Tobin,” Christen groans, rocking the baby back and forth.

“What do you mean she doesn’t like this one? It’s just as much a pacifier as all the oth-”

“Tobin could you just pass me the green one please?”

Tobin sighs, reaching for the green pacifier Christen had requested, passing it to the woman with one hand and rubbing her tired eyes with her other.

“Here, Aves. C’mon, babe, I know you’re tired,” Christen tries to coo Avery into taking the pacifier, desperate to get the baby to stop crying.

“She’s probably hungry,” Tobin says, leaning against the wardrobe.

“She just ate.”

“Diaper?”

Christen shakes her head no.

“Gassy? Constipated?”

“I don’t know, Tobin,” Christen snaps, her eyes welling up with tears.

“Hey, hey,” Tobin rushes to take the baby from Christen’s arms, suddenly wide awake at the shrill that pierces her ears as she guides Christen to sit in the rocking chair. “It’s okay. I got her. C’mon, I can’t have two girls crying on me at once, now…” she tries to joke.

Christen can’t bring herself to laugh, instead covering her face with her hands to hide her tears.

“Christen,” Tobin sighs, bouncing in attempts to soothe the baby, “It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.”

“She won’t stop crying, Tobin,” Christen says through her own tears.

“She’s a baby. Babies cry all the time,” Tobin tries to reason.

Christen shakes her head. “All week. We’ve done everything. Fed her, changed her, burped her, swaddled her, walked her, put her in her stroller…”

“Okay, okay. Just- go ahead and go downstairs or go to bed or something. I got her,” she offers, knowing Christen had just returned to work and picked up most night duties with Avery that week.

Christen looks up at her as if to ask ‘Really?’

“Go,” Tobin urges.

Christen sighs, pushing herself up from the rocking chair and over to Tobin to rest a hand on Avery’s back and kiss the back of her head, ignoring the way Tobin stiffens as she approaches. Tobin gives her a small smile as she pulls away, clamping her eyes shut when Avery lets out an exceptionally loud shriek.

“Tobin... “

“It’s fine. Just… go ahead.”

Christen nods, turning to leave the nursery, the sounds of Avery’s cries breaking her heart as she descends the staircase.

“Chris.”

Christen startles awake, her head shooting up from the kitchen island.

“Hey, it’s okay.”

She’s met with a gentle hand on her shoulder and tired eyes.

“I finally got her down,” Tobin says, retracting her hand.

Christen sits up, rubbing her eyes and running a hand through her hair. “What worked?”

Tobin gives a half-hearted laugh, pulling out a stool a few seats away from Christen to sit on. “I think she just tired herself out from crying so much and knocked out.”

Christen makes a pained face, breathing in a deep breath before tentatively asking, “Do you… Do you think she knows?”

Tobin glances up, her brows slightly knitted. “About…” she trails off, knowing Christen understands what she’s referring to.

The curly-haired woman nods. “She just… she can’t stop crying and I can’t help but think…”

“Maybe.”

Christen feels a lump forming in her throat. “God, I just wish things were different.”

Tobin nods, shifting in her seat. “I know.”

“She spent 9 months in Viv’s stomach. I think she knows neither one of us is her mom.”

“We can’t really help that.”

Christen shakes her head. “Do you think we should start letting her sleep in one of our beds? So she can get used to us?”

Tobin sighs. “You know that’s just gonna make it harder for us in the long run.”

“I just can’t stand hearing her cry like that,” Christen whispers.

“I know.”

They sit in silence for a few minutes, neither being able to think of a solution to helping Avery sleep better.

“We’ll figure it out. I’ll call my sisters and mom and ask if they have any tips.”

Christen nods. “I’ll ask Ali too. She and Ash said Hudson had some trouble sleeping for a while so they might know.”

Tobin hums, pushing herself off her stool. “Mkay. Well, I’m going to bed. I have to head out early to make it to the stadium on time for the game tomorrow.”

“Shit,” Christen says, remembering that Tobin would be returning to work for the first time the following day. “I’m sorry. I completely forgot-”

“S’fine, Chris,” Tobin waves her off. “Go to bed.”

Christen nods, giving Tobin a small smile as she begins to walk away.

“And change your sweater. You have spit up all over you,” Tobin calls without turning around.

Christen glances down, indeed finding stains all over her cotton crewneck. “Asshole,” she says loudly enough for Tobin to hear.

The woman laughs, finally glimpsing over her shoulder to meet green eyes. “Night, Chris,” she sings before turning the corner into the hallway and the last thing Christen is left with is the soft click of her bedroom door.

///

“Ow. Owww. Ow, baby,” Christen winces as Avery’s tiny hands pull at her hair. “How are you so strong for being such a tiny thing?” she marvels aloud, pulling her hair out of the baby’s grasp with a soapy hand. She’s been running around the kitchen all morning, picking up the disaster that raising a child causes, and waiting for Tobin to return from work.

“When Tobin gets home, you better give her the stinkiest diaper you can for being late today,” she sighs, talking to the baby who refuses to be put down.

Like her timing could not be more perfect, the sound of the front door opening and Tobin’s “Yo!” echoes into the kitchen. Christen hums a sarcastic laugh, quietly saying “Now’s your time,” to Avery as she rinses a plate off with one hand in the sink.

“Hey, princess,” Tobin calls, slightly out of breath as she approaches the two girls.

Christen stiffens, her head snapping to the side, only to see Tobin leaning down to press a kiss to Avery’s cheek, taking the baby from her arms. When Tobin glances up, she’s smiling a bit and her brows are furrowed. “Sup, princess,” she chuckles lightly.

Christen rolls her eyes, turning back to finish the dishes now that her hands are free. “You’re late.”

“The lady isn’t here yet, so I think I’m good.”

“I asked you to be home early to help me clean. I barely have enough time to get ready now.”

“Why didn’t you just put her down?” Tobin asks, pulling their water pitcher out of the refrigerator and pouring herself a glass, not bothering to put the pitcher back.

“Oh, I don’t know, Tobin. Maybe because she cried every time I tried?” Christen snaps.

Tobin raises her eyebrows, leaning down to the baby’s ear. “I think she’s grumpy, Aves,” she says in a mock whisper.

Christen turns over her shoulder to give the photographer a hard glare, irritated and not in the mood to put up with Tobin’s teasing.

Tobin raises her free hand in surrender, her eyes avoiding Christen’s and muttering a “Sheesh.”

Christen shuts the tap off with force, drying her hands quickly and then pulling her curly hair into a messy ponytail. “The case worker is going to be here in 45 minutes and I still have to shower. Can you watch her and finish cleaning up?”

“Nope.”

Christen’s head lulls to the side in frustration and her jaw opens to ask why, but Tobin is smirking at her before she gets any words out.

“You only have 44 minutes now.” Tobin raises an eyebrow, settling herself into a seat at the dining table and settling Avery down on her lap.

Christen stomps off, huffing her way up the stairs and into the shower as quickly as possible.

“Christen,” Tobin shouts up the staircase after the ring of the doorbell.

“I’m coming!”

“Hurry up!”

“Well, get the door, Tobin!”

“I’m going!”

Christen is rushing down the staircase, one hand on the rail and one trying to straighten out her jeans, as Tobin answers the door.

“Hi!”

“Hi,” Christen comes up behind Tobin, greeting a blonde woman at the door before Tobin can even get a ‘hello’ out. “I’m Christen.” She sticks her hand out for the woman to shake.

“Megan Rapinoe,” the woman dressed in a knitted cardigan, jeans, and sneakers responds with a smile, taking Christen’s hand.

Tobin follows suit, offering her hand and a polite nod. “Tobin.”

“Nice to meet you both,” Megan responds cordially.

“Please, come in,” Christen invites the woman, tugging Tobin out of the doorway by the arm to allow the woman to enter the house.

“Where are your shoes,” Christen hisses at Tobin after glancing down whilst Megan is giving the entry of the home a look around.

“Shoes? We’re at home…” Tobin stares at Christen, perplexed.

Christen goes to answer Tobin, but she realizes that Megan is staring at them, waiting for them to finish up their exchange. “Sorry! We can sit in the living room, if that’s okay?”

“Sure,” The case worker replies. “But, uh, where’s…” she glances down to her paperwork, “Avery?”

“Right!” Christen confirms quickly, turning to Tobin with wide eyes.

“Tummy time! She’s just- She’s… I’ll go get her…” Tobin stutters out, pointing a thumb over her shoulder awkwardly.

Megan nods with an unsure smile.

“I’ll give you a short tour while Tobin goes to grab her,” Christen tries to laugh off, urging Megan in the opposite direction, turning over her shoulder to mouth “Put shoes on!” at Tobin.

Tobin comes back with a ratty pair of untied sneakers and a gurgling Avery in one arm, cradled against her hip like some sort of doll.

“Hey, sweet girl!” Christen rushes out of her seat to take Avery from Tobin, shooting Tobin a warning glare as she does.

Tobin allows the baby to be taken from her arms, watching a frazzled Christen rush back to the couch and set Avery on her lap, handing the baby a toy to play with.

“This is Avery,” she says to Megan, “and she currently likes to eat, poop, cry, and sleep.”

Tobin snorts as she takes her seat next to the pair.

“Right,” Megan chuckles, “as most babies do. Hello, Avery. It’s nice to meet you,” the blonde woman says to the child in a soft voice, well aware that she likely wouldn’t be obtaining the attention of the three-month-old. “Alright, let’s get started, shall we? I've got a long list of visits I’ve got to make today, so this shouldn’t take long. ”

Christen and Tobin nod, the former adjusting herself in her seat uncomfortably, earning an odd stare from the latter.

“Let’s just start off with the basics. I’m your assigned case worker from social services that will be here for both scheduled and surprise visits to ensure that the two of you, as guardians of Avery, are fully caring and providing for her. I’m not here to scare you and I’m not here with hopes of failing you,” she assures them lightheartedly, earning a small chuckle from Christen, “I’m just here to make sure that the little nugget right there has everything she needs from you two, okay?”

The two women nod again, earning a laugh from the case worker.

“Not much of talkers, are you?”

“No!” Christen rushes to say, “No- I mean, yes. Yes, we do talk. I’m sorry, we just-” Both Megan and Tobin stare at her, watching as she squirms. “Go ahead,” Christen says quietly, sitting back into her seat and readjusting Avery on her lap, the baby getting restless in her current position.

Megan offers a kind smile before glancing down to her paperwork. “I’ve already read over her case and know the situation,” she glances up to them, “I’m very sorry for your loss.”

The two women respond with quiet ‘thank you’s, Christen squeezing Avery a little tighter in her arms.

“Today will just be getting to know the two of you. So, Tobin, why don’t you go ahead and start and tell me a bit about yourself.”

Tobin, slightly surprised to be put on the spot, sits up a little straighter, glances to Christen and then back to Megan, and says, “Oh, uh, sure. I’m Tobin,” she chuckles nervously, “I, uh, I’m a sports photographer but I work with some other styles of photography and art too. And, uh, I’m one of Avery’s godparents and… guardians…” she says, drifting off and feeling like she’s just introduced at some business mingling event.

“Very cool,” Megan muses, jotting down notes. “Do you freelance or…”

“Yeah! Yeah, I don’t work for a newspaper or magazine or anything like that, though sometimes I sell to them independently. But I manage to get around with some major local and national sporting events, so…”

“Oh, so you travel often, then?”

Christen winces at the question.

“Uh, sometimes, yeah. I’m not jetting off every weekend or anything, but…”

Megan raises her eyebrow slightly, then returns to her notes and says, “How about you, Christen? Tell me about yourself.

“Right! I manage my own event planning business,” Christne smiles carefully, watching Megan taking notes closely. “We do weddings, birthdays, community events, whatever you need.”

“I’m turning 25 next month, are you free to hire?” Megan quips, Christen and Tobin laughing a bit more freely at the joke. “Mkay, well, I have written down here that you two are the named guardians of Avery and you are both single...:”

“Yup.”

“Mhmm.”

“Okay, so you are not involved, then.”

Tobin raises an eyebrow, “Involved…”

“You’re not sleeping together.”

“No!” They both rush to say, trying to laugh off their frantic answers.

“Nope! Been there, tried that,” Tobin says awkwardly, Christen snapping her head towards her in shock over the statement.

Tobin,” she hisses.

“Oh, so you have been together then?” Megan glances between the two women.

“No!” Christen rushes to clarify. “No, uhm, Viv and Jay tried to set us up on a date once and it… didn’t work out. Just one date. Didn’t… try anything. Just a movie and home and that’s it. Better off as… us,” she says, avoiding the word ‘friends’ because it feels out of place.

“Yep,” Tobin says, exaggerating the pop of her ‘p’.

“Okay, good.” Megan says, jotting down her notes. “Not to sound rude. I just mean in the best interest of Avery, of course. Right now, you’ve been thrown into raising a baby together under a new roof and she’s been thrown into being raised by two new people. If the two of you were involved, it could get messy and… you know. For Avery’s sake, it’s better that you’re not involved and that you keep that added element apart from her home life.”

“Right,” Tobin says.

“Nothing to worry about there,” Christen adds.

Megan glances between the two of them, sensing the tension that the topic brought up. Sighing, she closes her folder and crosses her legs. “Listen. You two are likely going to be my easy case, okay? I’m going to be honest with you, with some of the things I see with this job, you two are like a nice little vacay for me. Now, the only thing that could make my vacation stressful is the two of you becoming involved and potentially messing all this up. So, let's make this a nice easy stroll by the beach and hopefully by the end, I can sign you off and we can celebrate with piña coladas, capeesh?”

All that Megan receives is a gulp and a nod.

///

“What are you doing?” Tobin asks through a mouthful of fruit loops, milk dripping down her chin.

“Planning.”

Tobin hums, watching as Christen writes something onto a sticky note and then pressing it onto a giant calendar that she’s hung up on the wall. “I can see that… and what are you planning exactly?”

Christen takes a deep breath and turns around, her face scrunching up in disgust at the mess on Tobin’s face. “Our shifts. We’ve been at this for a month now and it’s driving me insane that I don’t have your schedule written out somewhere.”

Tobin laughs as she slurps another spoonful. “I don’t even have my schedule written down somewhere.”

“Yep, well, now you will,” Christen gives a sarcastic sweet smile before smacking a sticky note to Tobin’s forehead and walking past her.

“Write down your events that you know of by tomorrow please!”

When Tobin pulls the sticky note from her head, she’s met with a message that says, “You smell like shit,” in big letters, then “try wiping Avery’s poop off of your shirt next time,” in smaller print on the next line down.

///

“Your turn,” Tobin passes Avery to Christen the moment she walks through the doors after arriving home from work.

Christen is immediately met with a stench coming from a now 6 month old Avery’s diaper.

“Nope! No!” Christen flicks her heels off at the door, immediately chasing Tobin and holding Avery at arm’s length. “I’m still in my work clothes. I am not getting this blouse dirty because then I’ll have to dry clean it and- here. No.”

Tobin groans, Avery being shoved back into her arms. “I’ve changed like 20 diapers today already!”

“And I did yesterday! You’ll live!” Christen calls back as she races up the stairs.

Tobin sighs, looking down at the baby who is making her typical poop face. “Oh great. Sure, go ahead. Get it all out because we are going to have some issues if I have to change another poopy diaper tonight, missy.”

By the time Christen is finished changing out of her work clothes and into a comfortable t-shirt and leggings, she checks Avery’s nursery in search of Tobin and the baby, but instead she hears Tobin’s voice down the hall and turns to the restroom.

“Hey,” she calls softly from the doorway. “Blowout?”

Tobin glances over her shoulder with a disgusted face as she peels Avery’s onesie off with careful fingers. “Nasty.”

Christen chuckles at the sight in front of her. “My goodness, babe, you made a mess.”

“Tell me about it.”

“You shouldn’t bother sticking her in the water like that. It’s gonna turn gross.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do, rinse her in the sink?” Tobin gives a tired laugh, standing up as she holds Avery away from her body by her armpits.

Christen shakes her head, finally walking into the restroom and pulling the tap lever to turn the shower head on. “Bring her closer.”

“What are you-”

“Tobin, she's gonna pee everywhere you if you don’t hurry up.”

“Coming,” Tobin rushes over, holding Avery over the tub and allowing Christen to rinse the baby off with the handheld showerhead. “Ugh, that’s disgusting,” she complains, watching Christen rinse off the baby’s poo from her body.

Christen rolls her eyes, a smile playing on her lips. “Almost done,” she says as she moves around the baby’s body to make sure she reached everywhere, but Tobin lets out a surprised gasp when Christen accidentally sprays her with the water.

“Oh!” Christen laughs, “Oops, I didn’t mean to get you there,” she says innocently as she quickly sprays Tobin again.

“Oh,” Tobin laughs incredulously, “you’re such a-”

“Hmm?!” Christen cuts her off, raising the showerhead in her hand to remind Tobin of what she could do. “Such a?”

Tobin sucks her lips between her teeth, still holding a kicking Avery in her hands above the tub. “Princess,” she says finally, knowing Christen hates the nickname.

“Oh, really?” Christen laughs.

Tobin hums affirmatively in response, earning herself another spray from the showerhead, this time closer to her face, and a giggle from Avery.

“Oh, you think that’s funny, Aves?” Christen laughs, looking at the baby with wide eyes. “You think it’s funny when I spray Tobin?” She purposefully points the shower head at Tobin a few times, laughing along with the giggles that erupt from the baby as the woman tries to dodge the water.

“Alright, alright, you two. I think I’m good now,” Tobin says in surrender, laughing despite herself as Christen continues to soak her shirt. “All clean, Aves. Thank you,” she says to Avery in a baby voice, smiling at her, her chin and cheeks covered in dripping water droplets.

“Oh, no, I think I missed a spot,” Christen says, once again spraying Tobin and earning another laugh from Avery, but to her surprise, Tobin takes the showerhead from her grasp quickly and turns it on her, fully soaking her freshly changed clothes in water.

Christen lets out a squeal, putting her hands up defensively in attempts to block the water, but she can’t help laughing along with Tobin and Avery over the silliness of the situation.

“I think Christen needed a shower after work, don’t you, Avery?” Tobin asks the giggling child, laughing as Christen squirms around. “There we go,” she says, a lopsided smirk on her face as she moves the showerhead all around Christen’s head and body.

“Avery!” Christen yelps as she’s sprayed. “You were supposed to be on my side!”

“Kid doesn’t pick sides,” Tobin grins mischievously, finally hanging the showerhead back up and turning the tap off. “You made a mess.”

Christen glances around as she tries to catch her breath, noting the soaked floors and dripping cabinets. “I think you made the mess.”

“You started it,” Tobin laughs.

Christen bites her lip to hide her smile, taking Avery from Tobin’s arms with a shrug to set her down in the tub. “Worth it.”

///

“C’mon, Aves. Look, it’s some yummy carrots! I made it just for you!”

Avery cries, thrashing around in her high chair to avoid the spoon of orange mush that Christen is trying to feed her.

“Look, it’s so delicious!” She attempts to try the food herself, groaning inwardly because carrots have never been her favorite food. “C’mon, babe. Try one more time,” she tries to coax the baby into eating.

Avery is having none of it. She pushes the spoon away from her, splattering a mess all over herself and the exhausted woman trying to feed her.

Tobin decides to walk into the kitchen then, setting her camera bag down on the island and laughing at the sight of the two girls covered in food. “Having fun?”

“Funny,” Christen mutters, “She won’t eat any of the fresh food I try to give her and I don’t want to give her any of the stuff that’s in containers. It’s better that she eats it fresh.”

Tobin hums, digging through the fridge.

“How about some bananas? Does that sound good?” Christen tries to sound excited as she peels a banana and smashes some into a small bowl. “Try this one, Aves!”

Avery, tired of being in her high chair, again pushes her food away and turns her head, kicking her feet in protest.

Tobin walks up to them, inspecting Christen’s tired and food-covered state with amused eyes, before pulling Avery out of her high chair, settling the baby onto her hip.

“Tobin-“

Tobin pays Christen no mind, instead bringing her fingers holding a small piece of watermelon up to the baby’s mouth. Miraculously, to Christen, Avery takes the fruit with wide eyes and no problem, smiling with watermelon covered lips when Tobin makes a funny face at her.

“You were saying?” Tobin smirks at Christen, feeding Avery another tiny piece of watermelon.

Christen sighs, shaking her head at the two. “Unbelievable.”

“Sorry she’s chosen a favorite!”

“Kid doesn’t pick sides,” Christen mocks Tobin in a deep voice, standing up with the bowls of abandoned food that Avery refused and walking to the sink.

“Oh,” Tobin laughs, “I do not talk like that.”

Christen walks back to the pair with a wet cloth, reaching up to wipe herself free of the mess Avery made and then wiping Avery’s cheeks clean as well. “Sup, bro,” Christen says in the deep voice again, picking Avery’s hand up in an attempt of some handshake that Tobin can’t make sense of. “I really like your bib, dude, it’s pretty dope.”

Tobin watches Christen, her eyebrows knitted and a laugh threatening to escape her. When Christen looks back up at her, her lips are curled at a corner and her eyes are teasing.

“You done, bro?” Tobin finally laughs.

“All good, yo.”

///

Both women are plenty busy through the summer - Tobin with back to back gigs with soccer in season and Christen with prime party season in full effect, but somehow they manage a schedule where a babysitter is only needed a few times. On occasion, Tobin has had to take Avery with her to her less serious gigs, sticking her in her baby carrier on her back and wearing her camera gear on her front. Christen protested at first, arguing that a baby should not be on the sidelines of sporting events where she could get hit and hurt, but after Tobin sent her a picture that a fellow photographer snapped of Avery asleep, cheek squished against Tobin’s shoulder, hand clutching the camera strap whilst Tobin carried on with her job like nothing, Christen allowed it when necessary (and insisted the photo be printed to be hung up in the house.)

Their toughest phase with Avery is without a doubt the teething phase. Granted that the two women were hardly around at the same time, Avery became extra clingy and extra cuddly with the both of them, even crying when one of them left the room if they were around at the same time.

So when Tobin comes home to find the two girls in Christen’s bedroom, Avery trying to catch her breath on Christen’s chest, small hands clutched into her t-shirt and sucking on frozen fruit in her mesh feeder, she knows it’s been a rough night. Christen has her laptop open at her side, but both of her hands are running over Avery’s back and she’s pressing small kisses to the top of her head.

“Hi, nugget,” Tobin says softly from the door, gaining the attention of both the girls on the bed. Christen is slightly startled, but Avery immediately picks her head up from Christen’s chest and reaches a hand out to Tobin, whimpering quietly.

Both of their hearts melt a little bit and Tobin rushes to the edge of the bed, taking Avery’s sticky hand in her own and sitting down. Christen scoots over slightly to make room for Tobin, allowing the woman to fully lay down, facing them with one arm tucked under her head and the other hand not letting go of Avery’s.

“You okay, angel?” Tobin coos, rubbing her thumb along the back of Avery’s hand, noting her pink cheeks and red eyes from crying. Avery’s no longer shrieking in pain, but Tobin can tell from the left over tears on her cheeks and the way she’s hiccuping that the poor child had a bit of a meltdown.

“She just started to calm down,” Christen says quietly. “Frozen watermelon did the trick,” she chuckles, catching Tobin’s amused eyes when the woman notices the puddle of watermelon juice forming on Christen’s shirt under Avery’s mouth. After the day Tobin introduced Avery to watermelon, it quickly became the baby girl’s favorite fruit in any form: smashed, frozen, juiced, you name it.

The pair give Avery a few more minutes of silence and affection before Tobin nods her head to Christen’s laptop. “Busy?”

Christen glances over, sighing. “Uh, just playing a bit of catch up since I missed a meeting with a new client and my assistant took over, but it’s fine.”

“I can take her so you can work, if you want.”

Christen glances down to the baby, noticing her eyes fighting to stay awake. “I guess you can try before she falls asleep.”

Tobin nods, sitting up to take Avery, effectively waking the baby fully and causing her to start whimpering again. “S’okay, Aves. C’mon, let’s go cuddle downstairs and let Chris work,” she says, reaching to take Avery from Christen’s chest, but Avery tightens her hold on Christen's shirt, crying louder when Tobin tries to pick her up. Tobin has to pry Avery off of Christen, at which point the baby’s screams have returned and she’s reaching down for Christen who is willing herself to take deep breaths.

“It’s fine, Tobin. It can wait,” she says quietly, reaching up to let Avery take hold of her again.

“Chris…”

“It’s okay,” she says to her, shaking her head and pulling Avery back down, but the baby then cries for Tobin. “Shh, it’s okay, sweet girl.”

“Mind if I stay?” The woman asks.

Christen nods, knowing Avery isn’t going to calm down if she leaves. Tobin settles herself down on the bed again, Avery grasping onto her quickly, crawling off of Christen enough to lay her head in front of Tobin’s and rest a hand on her cheek.

Christen can’t help but smile at the sight, watching as Tobin turns to press a small kiss to the baby’s wrist without moving her head too much.

Tobin engages in a quiet, mostly one-sided conversation with Avery, asking her questions like “What did you do today?” and “Did you miss me?” as she runs her hand through the baby’s soft light brown curls, just like Viv’s. Avery replies in quiet gurgles, trying to run her own hand through Tobin’s hair, but just getting the photographer's face and hair sticky with watermelon juice instead.

Christen watches in silence, smiling at Avery’s attempts to respond, running her hand up and down the baby’s back, knowing that’s the quickest way to soothe her to sleep.

At some point, she’s able to pull her computer closer and catch up on some work whilst Tobin entertains the baby. One hand stays on Avery’s leg the whole time, rubbing her soft skin softly as the other hand scrolls and types, but she’s so focused on her work that she hardly notices the room grow silent. It’s not until some time later that she finds her head bobbing, so she forces herself to sit up, a yawn sneaking its way out of her. She glances down to Avery, but notices Tobin’s eyes closed instead, her jaw slacked open and Avery’s hand still resting on her cheek. Quietly chuckling to herself, Christen leans over Avery to get a peek at her face, also finding the baby sound asleep, the mesh feeder now resting on Christen’s comforter, a small pink stain beneath it.

Rather than being upset about it, Christen simply picks the feeder up by its ring, leaning over to place it onto her bedside table along with her computer. When she turns back to the pair, she contemplates waking Tobin to go to bed, but she can’t bring herself to disturb the woman in her sleep, knowing that all three of them have been exhausted lately. She then contemplates going to sleep in Tobin’s bed, but she’d rather not without asking. There’s no way she’s sleeping in Jay and Viv’s room, not even having opened their door since moving in, so instead she stands, grabbing her throw blanket from the end of her bed and draping it over Tobin and Avery before shutting the lights off and climbing into bed alongside them.

To say Tobin is surprised when she wakes up is an understatement. Avery, being the early riser that she is, spots Tobin first when she wakes, so she becomes the victim of the hair pulling and eye poking that Avery decides would be fun to wake up to.

Tobin winces as her eyes are prodded by small fingers, catching them with her own hands as she adjusts to the light flooding in from behind the nearby curtains. “Goodmorning, Aves,” she croaks out, smiling at the babbling baby, but the rest of her face otherwise contorted in confusion.

The next thing she immediately notices is Christen asleep behind the baby, lips slightly parted and soft puffs blown through them.

Avery decides to let out a gurgle a bit on the louder side, Tobin immediately hushing her and earning a giggle.

“Someone’s in a good mood this morning,” Tobin whispers to the baby with a grin, glancing up to make sure Christen was still asleep. “C’mon,” she says to the baby, standing from the bed and plucking Avery up too. “Let’s let Christen sleep, hm?”

Before she leaves the room, she makes sure to pull the comforter a little higher up Christen’s shoulders.

“Go Aves! Go Aves! Go! Go!” Tobin sings to the baby bouncing and squealing in her jumper, hyping her up by bouncing along in front of the stove.

Christen watches from the entryway to the kitchen, trying to not to laugh.

Upon waking up, she relished in the comfort of the warm sun and the silence of an empty room. That is, until she turned to find the leftover pink watermelon stain and rumpled sheets at her side and remembered the events of the night before. She panicked over Avery not being in bed with her for a fraction of a second, then quelled her racing heart when reasoning that Tobin likely took the baby with her when she woke up.

And, indeed, Tobin did have baby Avery with her, seemingly having a dance party in the kitchen whilst making breakfast.

Avery let out a loud squeal when her eyes landed on Christen, her arms shooting up and a little finger pointing towards her, causing Tobin to turn around, her cheeks turning pink in realization that she was caught.

Christen’s eyebrows are raised and she’s suppressing a grin as she holds Tobin’s gaze. “Morning, baby,” she says, finally looking down to Avery, receiving a big, gummy smile in response, just a couple small teeth making their way out.

“Good morning, Tobin,” Christen chuckles, walking her way over to greet Avery properly. “I think your food is burning.” She points to the stove where the pancakes Tobin was cooking are sizzling and smoking.

“Shit!”

“Language!”

///

“Make sure you get behind her ears.”

Tobin turns over her shoulder to look at Christen, one eye squinted to shield the sun. “I got it.”

“I’m just making sure!”

Tobin chuckles, shaking her head as she turns back to applying sunscreen to Avery’s small body. “Tell Christen to stop being such a worry wart, Aves.”

Tobin feels a smack on the back of her shoulder after she speaks to the baby.

“I’m just trying to make sure she’s protected from the sun, jerk.”

“And I’m putting sunscreen on her, aren’t I?” Tobin laughs, gesturing to the baby covered in white sunscreen lotion.

Christen huffs behind Tobin’s shoulder. Tobin makes sure to get behind Avery’s ears (twice).

“Alright, missy,” Tobin says, groaning as she lifts the baby up from the back seat of the car. “All ready for the beach!”

“Oh my gosh,” Christen says adoringly. “Look at you, gorgeous! You look so cute in your bathing suit and your little hat!”

Tobin grins at Avery, pressing a loud kiss to her cheek before passing her off to Christen. She sputters for a moment, trying to get the oily sunscreen off her lips whilst Christen shakes her head and wipes the spot on Avery’s cheek where Tobin had kissed smooth with her thumb.

“Alright. What do you need me to grab?”

“Uh,” Tobin looks around the trunk of the car, “just that bag of the towels and toys and stuff, please?”

“That’s it?”

“And Avery.”

“That's it?” Christen repeats herself.

“Mhmm.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay,” Christen says warily, swinging Avery onto one hip, swinging Avery’s diaper backpack onto her other shoulder, and then pulling the beach bag onto the same arm.

Tobin tugs their ice chest out of the back of her Jeep, then her own backpack, then another bag of snacks, then her boogie board, then an umbrella, and by the time she reaches for their chairs, Christen is looking at her like she’s crazy.

“How are you going to carry all that?”

Tobin stands straight, exhaling loudly. “I got it,” she shrugs, leaning down again to start organizing everything.

“I can carry something else you know.”

“I got it,” Tobin says again, sounding sure of herself.

Christen turns her head to look at Avery, unimpressed. The baby seems just as curious to watch Tobin as Christen does.

It’s comical - the way Tobin waddles her way onto the beach, carrying a million things at once. Christen ends up having to pick up the boogie board from where it falls off the ice chest by the time they get to the sand, not even bothering to argue with Tobin about who should carry it.

“Did you pack the whole house or what?!”

Christen holds back her laugh as she watches Ashlyn rush to greet them.

“Hey, Chris! Hey, cutie pie!” Ash gives the woman and the baby a kiss on the cheek each, taking the boogie board from Christen before rushing to take the ice chest off of Tobin’s hands. “The heck are you doing with all this, bozo?” she asks Tobin, pushing her by the arm slightly. “Did Chris make you pack all this shit?”

“Nope,” Christen is quick to deny, making a face at Ashlyn for her choice of words around the baby. “I only packed the diaper bag and my own stuff. This one went a little crazy.” She sticks her thumb out towards Tobin.

“Did not. Aves needs all this,” Tobin defends, huffing as she pulls the umbrella bag higher up her shoulder, trekking the last few steps to where Ali is sitting in a beach chair with Hudson at her feet, leaving Ashlyn and Christen trailing behind her.

“Hey, Als,” Tobin greets the woman through a sigh as she drops everything to the sand.

“Hey, Tobs,” Ali laughs, standing to hug her. “What in the world is all this?”

“Their whole damn house and then some,” Ashlyn jokes as she walks up to their setup.

“She’s not lying,” Christen adds, softly putting down the beach bag she had been instructed to carry.

“Chris!” Ali exclaims, rushing to hug the woman. “Why hello, miss Avery!” She coos at the baby, quick to pluck her from Christen’s arms, Avery giggling as Ali tickles her stomach.

Christen and Tobin watch with small smiles, knowing that Ali and Ashlyn got along with Avery very well from the few short times they had interacted before.

“Little man!” Tobin exclaims at the feeling of a small body crashing into her and two little arms hugging her legs. She bends down to pick Hudson up, throwing him into the air and then catching him. “Wassup, my dude! You’re so big! You gonna go swimming with me today?” Hudson nods emphatically, exclaiming a loud “Yeah!” and sticking his arm into the air excitedly.

“No troublemaking with my kid, Tobs!” Ali warns as Christen walks over to Tobin to greet the small boy as well.

“Oh, I heard about that,” Christen says, chuckling before looking at Ashlyn with raised eyebrows. “That you two knuckleheads decided surfing at sundown was smart and that’s how Tobin ended up with that nasty thing?” She points to the scar surrounding Tobin’s knee.

“It’s barely there anymore!”

“It was nothing!”

Ali and Christen exchange a look that has Ashlyn groaning, “They’re already ganging up on us, dude!”

Tobin is shaking her head, laughing and putting a squirming Hudson down so he could return to his toys. “No fun,” she says, immediately moving to set their towels and blankets down onto the sand and get settled.

“You two can’t be so reckless anymore now that you have kids,” Ali says as she sits back down in her seat, Avery content on her lap.

Christen hums in agreement, but Tobin tenses and the curly-haired woman definitely notices. When Tobin catches Christen’s questioning gaze, she gives her a small smile and quickly goes back to setting up their area.

“You’re gonna burn.”

“M’not gonna burn.”

“You’re already turning red.”

Tobin groans, peeking down her body to find that Christen was not wrong and it was indeed already blushed in certain spots.

“Listen to the girl, Tobs,” Ashlyn sing-songs quietly as she watches over Hudson and Avery on their play mat, giving Avery the assistance she needs to sit up properly whilst she plays. Christen glances over at her curiously.

Begrudgingly, Tobin takes the bottle of spray sunscreen from Christen’s already outstretched hand and begins to coat her body, reaching as far as she can. All three women watch her struggle to reach her back for a moment before Christen sighs and pushes herself up, taking the spray can from Tobin’s grasp and turning the woman around by her shoulder.

“Can’t take you anywhere,” Christen jokes, spraying her back without warning, Tobin jumping in surprise from the cold sensation.

“Gah, Chris! It’s cold!”

Ali and Ashlyn snicker at Tobin’s child-like pout.

“It’s hot out here, Tobin. How is this too cold for you?”

“Exactly, it’s cold compared to how warm it is out here.”

“It should just be cooling you down,” Christen argues, spraying some sunscreen onto her hand and then quickly rubbing it behind the woman’s ears. Tobin tries to dodge Christen’s quick hands, but before she knows it, she's already gotten to both of her ears and is sitting back down into her seat.

“Don’t forget your face,” Christen glances up at Tobin once more before re-opening the book she had been reading.

When Tobin turns to find Ashlyn’s raised eyebrow and smirk, she pretends she doesn’t see it at all and instead stuffs the sunscreen back into their bag (but only after spraying her face).

It’s only a matter of a few minutes after Tobin and Ashlyn take Hudson to play in the water until Ali says, “Well it didn’t take long for you two to start acting like an old married couple.”

Christen’s head snaps up from where she was focused on feeding Avery in her lap. “What?” she asks, laughing in disbelief.

Ali laughs. “You and Tobin. It’s like you’ve been together your whole lives or something.”

Dumbfounded, Christen says, “We’re not together.”

“Oh I know,” Ali continues to chuckle.

Christen keeps herself busy with Avery, too uncomfortable to look Ali in the eyes. “So why do you say that, then?”

“C’mon, Chris,” Ali tilts her head. “You can’t tell me there’s nothing between you two.”

Christen finally glances up. “Ali, you know that’s not how it is.”

“Right,” the woman says, unconvinced, but deciding to let that particular matter go. “You can’t at least tell me that she’s not as bad as you used to think she was, though.”

Christen is stunned, Viv’s past words flooding her mind. “Uh, no, I guess not.”

“So you’re actually getting along now then?”

“I mean, she’s still a slob and doesn’t pick up after herself until I ask her to in most cases, but she’s good with Avery and that’s all I can really ask or expect of her.” Christen shrugs, wiping Avery’s mouth with a damp napkin before giving the baby a small sippy cup of watermelon juice that Tobin had packed for her, helping her hold it up.

Ali feels like there’s something more, but she hums in acknowledgment. “You two are doing an amazing job with her. Don’t forget to give yourself credit too, Chris.”

Christen gives her a shy grin. “Thanks, Als.”

“Of course,” The woman smiles in kind. “Seriously, you two picked up with her like you had experience already.”

Christen laughs. “I don’t know about that one. We struggled with her for a bit - still do, sometimes. But thankfully, I think we’re all used to each other now.”

“‘Used to each other…’” Ali repeats with a small snort. “You make it sound like you’re having so much fun,” she says sarcastically.

“Sorry,” A guilty smile works its way onto Christen’s face, “I don’t mean it like that. It just is what it is, you know?” Upon seeing the worry wash over Ali’s face, she hurries to continue, “I don’t mean that to like say that I’m miserable or anything. I love this little one more than I can fathom sometimes and I’m so grateful for her everyday… but it’s also not what I imagined my life being right now. She just looks so much like them sometimes… and we were kind of just thrown right in that sometimes it feels like trying to stay afloat.”

“Chris…” Ali drawls sympathetically. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up something so serious right now.”

Christen shakes her head, waving Ali off. “Don’t apologize. We haven’t drowned, so it’s all good,” she tries to laugh off, but Ali still looks concerned. “Seriously, Ali. It’s no biggie.”

Ali softens at that. “Well, if it’s any consolation, I think you’re swimming just fine.”

Christen chuckles at the continuation of her metaphor.

“In fact, I’d say the three of you are probably all each other’s life jackets.”

She has to roll her eyes and laugh at that one. (And if her cheeks redden, she’ll blame the heat).

“You like that, Aves?” Tobin excitedly coos, “Does the water feel good?”

Christen is holding Avery under her arms, dipping her feet into the small waves that wash up shore.

The first few times Christen tried to dip her, it was clear that Avery couldn’t decide how she felt about the ocean, her legs lifting to avoid the water and her body stiffening enough for Tobin to take notice and laugh. But after Tobin squatted in front of her, slightly splashing the water and giving the baby a big smile, Avery was all for it.

“She’s having the time of her life,” Christen laughs as the baby kicks into the water, squealing when she sees the splashes.

“That’s my girl,” Tobin grins proudly. “You gonna be a little water baby, squirt? Are you gonna let me teach you how to surf?”

“Watch it,” Christen warns, knowing Tobin is trying to get a rise out of her. “You think I’m gonna let you teach her how to surf when everyone is telling me horror stories about you and the ocean?”

Tobin glances up, biting her lip to keep her laugh in. “It seriously wasn’t that bad, Chris.”

Christen looks like she doesn’t believe her.

“I swear!”

Christen hums, still not entirely convinced. She lifts the baby up onto her hip, laughing when Avery tries to lean back down to the water. “Take a chill pill, babe,” she says to the baby, straightening her bathing suit out. “My arms were getting tired.”

“Well then I’m gonna go get my camera before you give out on us, grandma,” Tobin teases, kicking a splash towards Christen, earning herself a small yelp and a glare in response.

“You brought your camera?”

“Couldn’t let Aves’ first beach day go by without it,” Tobin cheeses, walking past Christen and the baby, “Be right back.”

Christen nods as Tobin goes, excited at the thought of having new pictures to put up around the house.

She entertains Avery for the time being, allowing her a few more dips into the ends of the waves while they wait for Tobin to return.

“Cute baby,” she hears, her head turning to find a woman grinning at her and Avery.

“Oh,” Christen chuckles, surprised, “thanks.”

The woman, brown wavy hair dripping wet over her shoulder, bikini clad against her skin, paddleboard tucked under her arm, nods kindly. “How old is she?”

Christen is slightly caught off guard, not quite understanding why this stranger is so curious about a child. “Just turned 7 months,” she replies politely, picking Avery up to carry on her hip again.

“Sorry,” the woman laughs, sticking her board in the sand and her hand out to Christen. “I’m Cameron.”

Christen takes Cameron’s hand tentatively, shaking it and dropping it quickly. “Nice to meet you,” she gives the stranger a small smile.

Cameron is quiet, holding Christen’s gaze before smirking. “I would say nice to meet you, too, but I’m afraid I don’t know your name.”

“Oh!” Christen’s eyebrows raise, “Sorry,” she laughs, feeling her cheeks warm in embarrassment. “It’s Christen.”

“Christen,” Cameron muses, her eyes charming. “Pretty name for a pretty girl.”

Oh.

“Hey, sorry, Ash was just-” Tobin cuts herself off when she glances up, noticing Cameron at Christen’s side. “Yo,” she says, eyeing the woman cautiously.

“Oh. Hey, sorry,” Cameron shifts on her feet, holding her board up and offering Tobin her other hand to shake. “Cam.”

Tobin shakes her hand with a tight grip, her face unreadable.

Christen watches the interaction closely, confused by Tobin’s odd demeanor.

“I was just, uh, saying that Christen’s baby is really cute,” Cameron speaks again, pointing to Avery with a smile, trying to ease the tension.

“Thanks,” Tobin says, almost curtly, letting the woman know that Avery is also hers with only a single word. She gives Cameron a tight-lipped grin, not offering anything else to the conversation, if you could call it that.

“You, uhm, surf?” Christen finally asks, gesturing to the board at Cameron’s side.

“That’s a paddleboard,” Tobin answers first, ignoring Christen’s slight glare.

“Yeah,” Cam confirms awkwardly. “The waves are pretty calm out here so I like to take the board out and chill when I get the chance.”

“Cool” Christen smiles kindly, Cam grinning back.

Christen hears a click behind her shoulder, turning to find Tobin impatiently already taking pictures of Avery from behind her.

“I’ll, uh, let you guys get back to it,” Cam nods her chin toward Tobin. “It was nice to meet you, Christen.”

“You as well, Cameron,” she replies quietly, offering a warm smile.

“Bye, Avery,” Cam says to the baby sweetly when she turns her head. “Later,” she nods once at Tobin, not having caught her name.

Tobin offers the nod back, quickly going back to retrieving Avery’s attention and snapping away, but not missing the small wave Christen offers the woman as she goes.

Just as Christen is about to ask what the hell that was all about, Tobin says, “Ready? I wanna make sure I get some before the sun is gone.”

All she can do is nod.

///

“Yo!” Tobin calls into the dark house. “We’re back!”

She lets the groceries fall down at her feet the moment she gets to the kitchen. “Chris!” She calls again, noting that the kitchen lights are also turned off and the house is silent. “You here?”

Avery’s head falls to Tobin’s shoulder, the baby pouty from having been taken out of the car just before she could fall asleep. “I know, Aves. Let’s just go find Chris and then we’ll get you to bed, okay?” She says, kissing the baby on the head.

She flicks the lights on as she walks through the house, still finding no sign of Christen. “Chris!” she calls once more as she ascends the staircase.

“I’m up here!”

Avery’s head picks up slightly when she hears Christen’s voice, causing Tobin to grin.

“Hi!” Tobin hears from down the hall as soon as she reaches the top of the stairs, turning her head to find the door to the bathroom open, only Christen’s feet perched on the edge of the tub visible from where she stands.

The closer she gets to the restroom, the more she notices what’s going on. All of Avery’s bath toys are thrown haphazardly onto the bath rug, a robe is hanging on the door, soft music is playing from a speaker, a few candles are lit, and Christen is sitting deep in a bubble bath, a glass of wine cradled in her hand.

“Hi, my love!” Christen exclaims, beaming when she sees Avery.

The baby picks her head up from Tobin’s shoulder, turning to look at Christen, giving her no reaction other than her lingering pout, and then looking back at Tobin who simply shrugs at her and then turns her attention back to the woman in the tub, trying hard to ignore the fact that Christen left the door wide open for her to walk in. “Enjoying yourself?”

Christen leans her head back, her body dipping further into the water. “Feels so nice, Tobs.”

“Is that so?” Tobin laughs, her eyebrows raising both in shock and amusement over the nickname that Christen had yet to use.

“Mhmm,” the woman in the tub hums. “Y’know,” she starts, pausing to sip her wine, “I had a shitty week at work, but I’m damn good at my job.”

Tobin’s eyebrows raise higher and she nods her head towards the baby on her shoulder, smirking over the fact that Christen swore in front of the baby.

“Shit! Sorry!” Christen says, her eyes growing wide. “Shhhoott!” She says, realizing she did it again and stopping herself from slipping the word once more by slapping a hand over her mouth.

Tobin is nearly in hysterics at the doorway. “Alright, drunky. This one is about to get cranky, so I’m gonna go put her down. Also before you start dropping f-bombs in front of her and somehow yell at me for it later.”

Christen sets her wine down on the side of the tub quickly, reaching her hands up towards the baby. Tobin takes the last few steps to the edge of the tub, leaning slightly and holding Avery out low enough for Christen to reach for a goodnight kiss.

Christen holds the baby’s cheeks with her bubbly hands, pressing a kiss to her nose and saying, “Nuh-night, honey! I’m sorry for saying bad words. Don’t listen to them.”

Tobin chuckles, pulling the baby back up and wiping her soap sud covered cheeks with the sleeve of her sweater. “Don’t fall asleep in there!” she warns as she turns to leave the restroom, grinning when she turns to find Christen taking a long sip of her wine before she shuts the door softly.

After changing Avery’s diaper, putting her pajamas on, reading her a quick story, and setting the baby in her crib, Tobin rushed down the stairs to put the groceries away before they went bad.

Normally, she would teasingly give Christen a hard time about having to pull all the weight when she had to do this, but knowing that the woman had just survived a long few weeks of work with an especially complicated client, she figured leaving Christen to have a night on her own couldn’t cause any trouble.

But, when the doorbell rings and Tobin looks through the peephole to find none other than Megan standing outside, she might have to reconsider that thought.

“Shit!” She hisses to herself, turning to run up the stairs quickly. She trips the last few steps up, stumbling her way onto the second floor and straight towards the bathroom.

When she barges in, she’s lucky to find Christen still in the water, but she’s less lucky when Christen gets scared and spills her wine into the tub, earning herself a hard glare and an angry, “Tobin!”

“Megan’s here! Get out and get dressed and,” she rushes to pull Christen’s toothbrush from its holder, spreading some toothpaste onto it quickly and shoving it into Christen’s hand, “get that wine smell out of your mouth!”

“What do you mean Megan is here?” Christen slurs a little, sitting up in the tub, causing Tobin to avert her eyes quickly out of respect for her naked state even though nothing is showing. “Megan, our case worker Megan?”

The ring of the doorbell sounds through the house again, forcing Tobin to pull a towel off the rack and say, “Yes! Now, get out of that tub before your whole body smells like wine!”

Christen quickly moves to stand, but both of them realize that wouldn’t be the smartest idea, so Tobin turns fully to face the door and sticks her arm out, letting Christen grab the towel without having to expose herself.

“Kay, I’m good,” Christen says, letting Tobin turn around after she’s wrapped in her towel, but she trips on one of Avery’s toys, dropping her toothbrush to the ground and stumbling towards Tobin who is forced to catch her.

Pressed for time as the doorbell rings again, Tobin wraps an arm around Christen’s waist and lifts the woman over the mess of toys on the ground. Christen yelps, taken by surprise, but giggles as Tobin practically runs through the hallway and sets her down in her room.

“Get dressed and put some perfume on or something!”

“Kay!” Christen grins, holding her towel closed at her chest and looking dopey from the wine.

Just as Tobin is about to leave, she quickly turns around again, pulling a pack of gum that is always in her pocket out and throwing it to Christen. “Chew like ten of those, dude.”

“You got it, dude!”

Tobin doesn’t even have time to laugh at Christen’s Full House reference, instead practically flying down the stairs and running to the door. She stops before she opens it, pulling her hair from it’s messy bun, ruffling it and then taking a deep breath.

She slowly pulls the door open, running a hand over her face and pretending to yawn. “Oh, Megan!” she says, “Hey, sorry I was taking a nap and didn’t get to the door very quickly.”

Megan eyes her carefully. “You sleep in jeans?”

Tobin drops her head to look at her pants. “Uh, fell asleep after a long day,” she lies, trying to smile politely.

Megan nods, not looking convinced. “Well, can I come in?”

Tobin quickly opens the door wide, stepping aside. “Sorry! Of course, yeah, come on in!”

The case worker enters the home, looking around to find all the lights still off except for upstairs and in the kitchen. “And Christen?”

“Oh, she, uh,” Tobin glances up the staircase, “I think she was showering so she should be down soon.”

Megan nods in acknowledgment. “Avery’s asleep, I’m assuming?” she asks, glancing down at her watch.

“Yep,” Tobin confirms. “Put her down before I went to sleep, myself.” When all she receives is a nod and awkward silence, she’s quick to ask, “Would you like some water or something? I just bought some sparkling water at the store earlier if you want some.”

Just before Megan can answer, a squeak is heard from the staircase and both women at the door turn to find Christen gripping the rail tightly.

“Hi, Megan!” Christen exclaims, immediately being hushed by Tobin.

“Aves is asleep, Chris.”

“Whoops,” the woman giggles, taking the last few steps down the stairs carefully and then loudly whispering “Sorry!”

“Hello, Christen,” Megan gives her a curious smile, tucking her folder of paperwork under her arm.

Tobin grips the back of Christen’s shirt just as the woman is about to stumble into the case worker, holding her back. As she does, she notices that Christen has put the clothing on backwards, a picture of Yogi Bear doing a yoga pose staring right at her.

“Chris, would you mind going to grab the bottle of sparkling water from the fridge and a few glasses while I show Megan to the living room please?” She requests with a tight smile, still gripping the cotton shirt from the back loosely.

“Why can’t you go get it?” Christen asks, her eyebrows scrunching.

“Uh, I have a few questions for Megan that I wanna ask.”

“Is everything okay?” Megan asks.

“Keeping secrets from me?” Christen frowns.

“Yeah! Everything’s fine! No, no secrets. Just- would you please, Christen?”

Christen pouts for a second, but finally nods.

“Cool, thanks!” Tobin breathes out a sigh of relief. “Megan? We can go sit in the living room, if that’s okay?”

The caseworker nods, already turning to the direction of the living room, knowing her way around from her prior visits.

Tobin takes her chance then, pulling Christen close by her shirt and leaning in close to her ear. “You put your shirt on backwards, doofus. Fix it.”

Christen peeks over her shoulder, trying to get a peek at the front of the shirt, but ultimately realizes that the tag sticking out in front of her chin is a better indication of her mistake. “Oops,” she giggles. “I’m still a little tipsy.”

“You don’t say,” Tobin sighs. “Drink some water before you come back, please?”

Christen nods, almost tripping when Tobin pushes her softly towards the kitchen.

She turns with a scowl, but Tobin is already breezing past her to catch up to Megan.

Tobin ends up coming up with some random question about the adoption process to ask Megan, somehow receiving a lot more useful information than she thought she would by the time Christen returns.

The curly haired woman lets herself fall back into the sofa beside Tobin whilst still holding the bottle of sparkling water, so Tobin takes it and the cups with an embarrassed smile, setting them onto the coffee table and quietly saying, “Let’s just let that settle for a minute.”

Megan raises an eyebrow, her eyes flicking over to Christen. “Is everything okay, you two?”

“All good!” Tobin rushes to answer.

“Christen?” Megan asks.

“Everything is fantastic,” she smiles brightly.

“Okay,” the caseworker lets the matter go. “Well on that note, why don’t you two tell me how everything has been going lately. Fantastic, I assume?”

“Oh, yes!” Christen responds enthusiastically. “We took Aves to the beach last weekend and we had a great time. You shoulda seen her in her little bathing suit. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” she gushes. “Except this one,” she points her thumb at Tobin dramatically, “wanted to take her surfing and I had to tell her no.”

“Surfing?” Megan asks. “With a baby?”

“No!” Tobin is quick to clarify. “I just made a joke about maybe taking her surfing when she’s older because she was having so much fun in the water, is all.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Christen laughs. “Silly me.”

“Well it sounds like you enjoyed yourselves,” Megan smiles politely, quick to move on. “And how has Avery been doing here at home? Any developmental issues?”

“Uhm, she was getting a little clingy for a while and wouldn’t let us leave without crying, but she’s been teething a lot. I don’t know if that has much to do with it,” Tobin responds, feeling a bit insecure.

“Oh, that’s pretty natural. It’s perfectly okay to give them some snuggle time when they need it, you know?” Megan assures her. “Has it only been when she’s teething, or does she cry all the time when you guys leave?”

“She cries a lot,” Christen inputs.

“When we’re leaving,” Tobin adds on, trying to clear the air once again. “I think she’s getting better, but she did like it better to have us both around at the same time for a bit. It’s just not always easy with different work schedules and all.”

The social worker nods, jotting down what Tobin is telling her. “As long as you guys are showing her that you’ll come back, she’ll get used to it. She was young when her parents died, but babies are smart and she likely recognized that they weren’t around anymore and that’s where the separation anxiety is coming from.”

Tobin nods, her brows furrowing in worry.

“Anxiety?” Christen repeats, pouting. “I don’t want our baby to have anxiety.”

Megan glances up from her notes. “It’s okay for her to be a little anxious about it right now, especially because she’s growing and becoming more aware of things. But like I said, just keep showing her that you’ll come back and she’ll start getting used to letting you go.”

“I don’t want her to let me go,” Christen frowns harder, her eyes getting a little watery.

“Chris,” Tobin whispers, trying to calm the woman down. “It’s fine. We’ll do what Megan’s telling us and she’ll start seeing we aren’t going to leave her.”

“It may even help to start teaching her to self soothe at some point,” Megan adds. “Maybe after the teething phase because she’ll be in pain for a bit and you don’t want her to suffer through it alone. Start off slow, though. You can let her cry for a little, but show her that you’re around so she takes comfort in seeing you. Eventually, you’ll want to work into letting her calm herself down if she’s crying, especially if it happens at night. There are some websites I can email to you that are helpful with the process.”

“Okay,” Tobin makes sure to take note of the instructions in her head. “Thank you,” she says appreciatively.

“Absolutely,” Megan gives her a warm smile, sensing that she’s overwhelmed. “It’s what I’m here for.”

“You’re a nice social worker,” Christen says, leaning back into the couch with a lazy smile. “I expected some mean old lady to show up and tell us we were doing everything wrong, but I like you.”

Tobin can’t help but chuckle along with Megan at Christen’s random thought spoken aloud.

“They don’t call me the cool case worker for nothing, Christen,” she jokes with a wink.

“Goodnight, Christen,” Megan says kindly as from the doorway. “Get some rest.”

“Thanks, Cool Case Worker,” Christen replies with a tired smile as she starts to climb the staircase, leaving Tobin to see Megan out. “Nuh-night, Tobs.”

Tobin closes her eyes, laughing slightly at Christen’s antics.”Goodnight, Chris,” she says softly before turning back to the social worker. “Sorry about her. She’s just-”

“A little tipsy?”

Tobin’s eyes shoot wide. “Uh…”

Megan laughs, placing a comforting hand on Tobin’s arm for a second. “It’s fine, Tobin. I’ve worked a lot of cases and seen a lot worse. This was nothing.”

Tobin chuckles a little awkwardly, feeling embarrassed for something that isn’t even her fault.

“She’s a funny drunk,” Megan adds. “She had a night off?”

Tobin nods. “Hard few weeks at work,” she explains.

Megan hums and raises her chin in understanding. “I get it. Sometimes a little wine helps. You guys are allowed to be adults, too. I’m sure you probably had a heart attack when you saw me here though, hm?”

Tobin laughs, her frantic state coming to mind. “Just a bit,” she downplays with an easy smile.

“Not sure I believe that,” Megan jokes. “I’ll let you get to bed since I showed up late and unannounced. Make sure Yogi Bear up there made it to bed alright, okay?”

Tobin snorts and shakes her head at the name, thinking she may have to use it on Christen at some point. “Will do. Goodnight, Megan.”

///

“You were drunk?!”

“I was tipsy.”

“Christen,” Ali laughs, in shock. “You were drunk when your social worker showed up!”

“I wasn’t that drunk!” Christen defends. “I was just enjoying myself with some wine, is all. I couldn’t have known she was coming!”

“She was drunk and Megan knew it,” Tobin adds in, walking up behind the pair with Avery in her arms, Ashlyn beside her holding Hudson.

“Did you get candy, bubba?” Ali coos at the boy while Christen gives Tobin a slight glare.

When Ali called Christen to invite the three of them over to spend Halloween together, the woman was a bit hesitant, not wanting to leave the house unattended for long, but as soon as Tobin walked by hearing Ali say, “Our neighbors give out the best candy, Chris! You guys have to come,” on speaker, it was a done deal.

So, they ended up in Ali and Ashlyn’s neck of the woods for the holiday, Tobin dressed as a pizza delivery person because it was easy enough and she was able to stay comfortable, Christen dressed in all black with triangle kitten ears and last minute whiskers drawn on her face, and Avery dressed as a little penguin in a fuzzy onesie suit with a hood pulled over her head to keep her warm. Ali, Ashlyn and Hudson were all dressed as sharks (per Ashlyn’s demand).

“Who’s Megan?” Ashlyn questions as Hudson shows his mom his candy.

“Our case worker who has to sign us off so we can officially adopt Avery,” Tobin explains, handing Avery’s candy bag to Christen to set in the stroller.

“You were drunk in front of your case worker, Chris?” Ashlyn laughs, surprised. “Wow, I didn’t know you were such a rebel.”

“It was a surprise visit,” Christen rolls her eyes, grinning guiltily despite herself. “I had just finished dealing with a bridezilla at work and needed some wine. Can you blame me?”

“Can’t say I can,” Ali shakes her head.

“Was she pissed?” Ashlyn asks, putting Hudson down and holding his hand as he walks alongside her, his steps much smaller than hers.

“No. She’s a Cool Case Worker, right Chris?” Tobin smirks.

“Hush, you.” Christen squints her eyes at her. “I think it was okay,” she replies to Ashlyn. “Tobin said she mentioned it was funny as she was leaving, but you know me… I still feel guilty.”

“Aww,” Ashlyn chuckles, hugging Christen into her side. “It’s okay, drunky. We all have our days.”

Christen laughs, elbowing Ash in the ribs slightly. “Whatever… You guys taking them to the next house or are you ready to switch?”

“Switch,” Ashlyn groans, handing Hudson’s candy bag over to Ali and taking over stroller duty. “I can only take so much more ‘trick-or-treat’ before I go crazy.”

“Oh, quiet, you big baby,” Ali says, rolling her eyes and taking Hudson’s hand. “C’mon, handsome. Mama’s being a buzzkill.”

Tobin grins at the couple before handing Avery off to Christen, pulling the baby’s penguin hood up when it falls. “I know you have a sweet tooth but don’t go stealing all her candy, alright?” She tells the green-eyed woman, smirking.

Christen’s jaw drops in offense as she reaches for the candy bag from the stroller, “You’re the one she should be looking out for! As soon as you heard Ali say their neighbors give out the big bars, you were practically tugging me out the door.”

Tobin laughs, tugging a chocolate bar out from her hoodie pocket and beginning to unwrap it while Christen watches.

“Case in point,” the woman shakes her head, beginning to walk away and cooing something to Avery about getting her more candy (even if she couldn’t eat it).

Ashlyn watches Tobin grinning at Christen and Avery as they leave. When Tobin turns mid-bite of a chocolate bar to find the woman staring at her, she says a muffled, “What?”

All Ashlyn can do is shake her head and huff a laugh in disbelief.

“Alright, babe,” Christen says to Avery who is growing tired in her arms, kissing her cheek softly. “Just a few more houses for you and your buddy Hudson and then we’ll get you home, okay?”

Avery buries her head into Christen’s shoulder, her face barely visible with her penguin hood pulled up.

Ali catches sight of the two as they walk the path to the next house, strolling up to the line waiting for candy. “She tired?”

Christen nods, smiling softly and she leans her cheek lightly against the top of Avery’s head. “She’ll probably like it better next year when she can actually walk and talk,” she chuckles.

“I thought this one would be beat by now,” Ali nods down to Hudson adoringly, “but he’s loving it, so you’re probably right.”

Christen smiles at the sight of the toddler eagerly trying to get a peek past the line. “I can’t get over that little shark onesie.”

“Please,” Ali laughs, “Ash showed me like 15 different ones and had trouble deciding between a final three before I just went ahead and ordered this one on my own. It helps that he’s just as shark obsessed as his mama is.”

“I think you guys look cute,” Christen gives her a warm smile before moving up the line for Avery’s turn at the house.

She pulls at the baby’s onesie a little bit, gently scratching her on her stomach as she walks up to the door, saying, “You wanna say trick-or-treat, baby?”

“Christen?”

Christen glances up at the call of her name, surprised to see none other than Cameron standing at the door dressed in a Hawaiin shirt, khaki shorts, flip flops and a sun hat.

“Hey! Uh, Cam, right?”

Cameron laughs, nodding her head. “Yeah! I’m surprised you remembered. Hi, little Miss Avery,” she says to the baby, crouching to get a better look at her face.

“Sorry,” Christen gives a shy smile as she pulls Avery’s hood back a bit, “she’s getting a little tired.”

“No worries,” Cameron grins, standing straight again.

A quiet “trick-or-treat” that sounds more like “twicka twee” comes from just beside Christen.

“Hudson,” Ali whispers harshly at the boy, looking back up to Christen and Cameron with wide eyes. “Sorry.”

“No worries,” Cam smiles politely, crouching down to Hudson’s height. “Hey, little dude! I love your shark costume!”

Hudson tucks himself into the side of Ali’s leg, suddenly shy. The three women chuckle, finding his slight blush endearing.

“How about I make you a deal, Mr. Shark? If I give you some candy, do you promise not to bite me when I go surfing?”

Hudson nods, excited at the proposition of candy.

“Awesome,” Cam grins at him, sticking the bowl of candy she’s holding out to him. “Here, you can pick which one you want.”

Christen watches with a small smile as Hudson detaches himself from Ali, slowly walking up to the candy bowl and taking his time to carefully pick what he wants.

“Ooh, Milky Way. Good choice, dude.”

“Can you say thank you, bubba?” Ali says to him, running a hand over his hair when he tucks himself back into her side.

The sound of Hudson’s quiet “thank you” is heard before Ali is glancing over to Christen saying, “I’ll wait for you back there?”

Christen nods with a smile and turns back to Cam.

“What about you, cutie pie?” She says to Avery, taking a quick glance at Christen and winking. “What’s your favorite candy?”

“Almond Joy,” Christen answers, grinning at Cam when their eyes meet again.

“That’s yours or hers?”

“Granted that she’s not even a year old and can’t eat candy… mine.”

Cam laughs, glancing behind Christen to a few kids waiting for candy. “Can you hang on a sec while I…”

Christen glances over her shoulder to where Cam gestured, quickly moving out of the way for the kids to take their turn, saying “Oh! Sorry!”

Cameron passes the candy out quickly, eager to get back to Christen without any interruptions.

“So, uh… where’s…”

“Tobin?” Christen supplies.

“Is that who was with you guys at the beach?”

Christen nods, remembering Tobin’s odd behavior that day. “She’s waiting for us with our friends back on the street. Sorry for her being so… you know.”

Cam waves her off politely. “Nah, no biggie. I’d be a little weirded out too if I walked up to someone trying to chat up my baby and… girlfriend?” She takes a quick glance down to Christen’s left hand, taking note of no ring.

“What?” Christen laughs. “We’re not… She’s not my girlfriend.”

“Oh?”

Avery squirms in Christen’s arms, whining slightly at the lack of movement or entertainment.

“It’s just a little… complicated,” is all Christen can bring herself to say, feeling out of place explaining her situation to someone who is still essentially a stranger.

Cam hums, nodding her head once before looking at Christen with hopeful eyes. “I get that... She’s yours though, right?”

Christen nods, almost saying “and Tobin’s”... but she doesn’t.

“Well she certainly gets that cute face from somewhere,” Cam tries to flirt, Christen having to hold in her laugh at the line. “Uh, I have to ask… does that mean if I go write my number on an Almond Joy wrapper and drop it in that candy bag that I might have a chance then?”

Christen smiles wide, chuckling a bit as she nods and says, “Maybe.”

Cam raises an eyebrow in shock, holding a finger up. “One sec. Don’t go anywhere.”

Christen laughs as she watches her run off into the house in a scurry, then laughs harder when she returns with a full sized Almond Joy with a piece of paper taped to it.

“I was gonna play it off and put it in Avery’s bag, but then I decided you can keep this one and she can have her own,” Cam jokes, handing Christen the candy bar and then grabbing the candy bowl again, dropping a handful into Avery’s bag.

“Charming,” Christen jokes, smiling up at Cam through her lashes.

“I try,” Cameron cheeses back.

“I better get back before they start wondering where I am,” Christen says, giving her a sympathetic smile. “I’ll text you or something?”

“Or something, yeah, sure,” Cam laughs. “Have a good night, Christen. Happy Halloween. Bye, Avery!”

Christen walks off with a grin after saying her own goodbyes, ignoring Ali’s demands for details when she walks back up to her.

///

“You’re going out with who, again?” Tobin asks for the millionth time, following Christen into her bedroom as she gets ready.

“I told you, Tobin,” she sighs, “Cam, the girl from the beach.”

Tobin grunts quietly, turning to look at Avery who is in her arms. “Do you know a Cam? I don’t know a Cam.”

Christen has to roll her eyes because she’s quite certain Tobin knows of Cam.

Avery giggles a bit, causing Tobin to grin and blow a raspberry onto her cheek.

Christen watches through her mirror as Tobin makes the baby laugh, bending her backwards so she’s hanging upside down before pulling her back up and blowing against her cheek again.

Since telling Tobin about going out that night, the woman had immediately begun to question her.

“Where you going?”

“Who with?”

“Hot date?”

“Will you be out late?”

“Should I not wait up to finish watching that Fixer Upper episode we started last night?”

To say it was weird was one thing. To admit she wasn’t completely surprised is another.

“You gonna follow me around the whole time I get ready, or?” Christen asks as Tobin follows her out of the bedroom

“No,” Tobin denies, making a quick detour to go down the stairs instead of following Christen back to the bathroom. “We’ll be watching Doc McStuffins if you need us!”

“Doubt it!” Christen calls back, shaking her head as she leans into the mirror to put her mascara on.

“You look nice.”

Christen glances up from the bottom of the staircase where she’s slipping her heels on to meet Tobin’s close gaze. “Thanks,” she says, giving her a small smile. “You gonna be alright with her tonight?”

Tobin snorts from her place on the couch, Avery at her side leaning into her. “You act like I haven’t taken care of her alone before.”

“Well, she’s been acting weird all day. I’m just making sure.”

The now 9 month old had been going back and forth all day between being her normal, giggly self with Tobin and then seeming like she was drained. Christen, trying not to worry too much, played it off as just her imagination. Tobin didn’t seem very concerned and she had a date later that night, so she let it go, telling herself it was just in her head.

“I think we’ll be alright,” Tobin tells her, then looking down at Avery and squeezing her leg. “Right, princess?”

“I thought I was princess?” Christen finds herself saying before she can stop herself.

Tobin looks back up, slightly shocked by the question, but before she can come up with some witty response, there’s a knock at the door and it seems like Christen is taking advantage of the fact that she has an out of the situation. She quickly stands up to follow Christen to the door, taking Avery with her.

“Hi!” Christen says as she swings the door open, Tobin just a few feet behind her.

Standing outside is Cameron, a bouquet of roses in hand, dressed in a short sleeved henley shirt, practically gawking at the sight of Christen in her little black dress and tall heels.

“Hey,” she manages to get out. “You look… wow.”

Christen feels her cheeks warm at the compliment, looking down to her feet in a shy manner.

“These are for you,” Cameron mumbles quietly, holding the roses out and still looking dazed.

Christen gives a quiet, “Thank you,” as she takes them, giving Cam a warm smile as she does.

“Yo,” comes Tobin’s voice from behind Christen’s shoulder, breaking the moment.

“Oh, hey,” Cam nods, “Tobin right?” She sticks her fist out towards Tobin, waiting for her to bump it.

Tobin eyes her hand for a moment before giving in and giving it a light tap with her own.

“Hi, Avery!” Cam coos at the baby.

Christen takes the baby from Tobin’s arms, swapping her for the roses and pressing her lips to a soft cheek, slightly worried by how warm it is, but kissing it anyway and squeezing the girl tight. “I’ll see you later, mkay, babe? You gonna be good for Tobin?”

Avery babbles in response to Christen’s question, giving her some baby nonsense.

“Oh yeah?” Christen laughs, handing her back to Tobin saying, “She said she’s gonna give you a stinky one in a hot minute.”

Tobin laughs as she takes the baby back. “Whatever.”

“Do you mind setting those in water for me? I’ll fix them up later when I get back,” she says, feeling a bit awkward.

“Yeah, no problem,” Tobin gives a tight smile in response, cradling Avery in one arm and holding the roses in the other.

Christen thanks her and then jokes, “The house better not be a tornado wreckage when I get back,” earning a sarcastic laugh from Tobin, then turns back to Cameron who is watching their interaction closely and asks, “Ready?”

“Yeah! Yeah, let’s go.”

Christen gives the baby’s foot one last squeeze and Tobin one last smile before she’s out the door and Cam is saying, “I didn’t know you two live together.”

“So,” Cam wipes her mouth with a napkin after a bit of her food, “what’s motherhood like?”

Christen chokes a bit on her wine, setting her glass down quickly and bringing her napkin up from her lap to cover her mouth. She had never considered herself a mother, even if that may have been the exact role she stepped into for Avery. “Sorry,” she says bashfully, embarrassed under Cam’s curious gaze.

The two had been having a quite pleasant dinner with only a few awkwards lulls that first dates often bring. Cam was charming and provided everything Christen always thought she should want from a first date: being picked up and given flowers, dressing up a little, flirting a little, having a nice dinner and taking your time with your wine.

But she also knew she had to explain her situation to Cam at some point in the night, the woman obviously curious.

“You okay?” Her date asks, slightly worried. “Yeah! Yeah, I’m just not used to that question, I guess,” Christen chuckles.

Cam gives her an odd look.

Christen opens her mouth to explain, then closes it and sighs. “It’s… kind of a complicated and heavy story. Are you sure you want to do this tonight?”

Cam sets her elbows on the table, leaning forward slightly. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable and force you into talking about something you don’t want to talk about. But if you do want to talk about it, I’m all ears.”

Christen gives a bit of a coy smile. “You’re way too nice, you know that?”

Cam sits back in her chair, laughing off the compliment. “Nonsense. There’s no such thing as being too nice.”

Christen wants to debate the claim, having had her fair share of encounters with people who were overly nice - fake nice - but she focuses on the topic at hand instead. “Alright, I’m just warning you that it’s a lot…”

“Hit me,” Cam says, sending her a comforting smile.

Christen takes a deep breath before she begins, hoping that opening up about her situation might help her feel better about it somehow. “Avery is my best friends’ daughter. Vivian and Jayden,” she smiles softly at the thought of her friends. “I’d known Viv since our college days, even before she met Jay and they fell in love and got married. She was my best friend. Jay was Tobin’s, which is how we know each other and are… in this situation. Anyway… they were some of the best people I’ve ever known. I think I could probably say they are the best people I’ve ever known.” Cam smiles at the obvious adoration in Christen’s voice. “So when they told me that they were having a baby, I don’t think I’d ever been so excited for something. I mean some of my favorite people ever who were so obviously in love with each other were going to bring new life into this world and there was no doubt that they would raise Avery to be the most amazing human, just like they were… And then they asked me to be one of her godparents, and Tobin her other,” she explains, waving her hands around in gesture, “and my heart was even more full. They kept telling us that they didn’t trust anyone more than us two to be there for their baby and I was honored. Like, seriously, so honored that they would even think of me to be that for Avery.”

She takes a deep breath before she continues onto the hard part. “One day, Viv was explaining to me that she chose us as her godparents because she knew that if anything had ever happened to her and Jay, Avery would be taken care of with us. It was one of those things that I kind of brushed off, not even wanting to consider that it could potentially be reality, you know?” Cam nods, sticking her hand out on the table, palm up, for Christen to take. Thankful for the comfort, Christen gives a small smile and places her hand in the woman’s, feeling a gentle squeeze. “But then a few months after Avery was born, I got a call that there had been an accident,” her voice chokes up and she swallows her emotions down. “They had been out for their first date night since Avery was born and they were driving home afterwards when someone hit their car. The person had been texting and ran a red light as Viv and Jay were crossing an intersection. It was death on impact for everyone involved.”

“Christen,” Cam whispers sympathetically, caressing her hand. “I’m so sorry.”

“That’s okay,” Christen smiles, taking her hand back to wipe her tears with her napkin. “Thank you, though.”

Cameron nods, pulling her hand back to herself when Christen doesn’t take hold of it again. “So you and Tobin ended up with Avery, then?”

Christen nods, one of her fingers pressed into the corner of her eye to stop more tears from falling. “Yeah,” she laughs a bit. “It’s weird, sometimes. Being so happy with Avery and loving all the joy she brings me but knowing that I’m only in this position because her parents aren’t here anymore is just such a weird thought to grapple with.”

“I can only imagine.”

“I do love her more than anything, though. I mean, don’t get me wrong I was so not prepared to be thrown right into this and start raising a baby, much less my dead best friends’ baby, but Tobin reminded me that they had chosen us for a reason and I knew then and there that we had to give that baby girl our everything because that’s what Viv and Jay wanted.”

Cameron hums, suddenly seeming off. “You two seem to make a good team.”

Christen laughs, picking up her fork to busy herself with her food. “I guess we can be. We’re the only ones who truly understand what the other is going through, so I think we just understand each other in that way and fell into a system to raise Avery, thankfully.”

“Is Tobin single too?”

Christen glances up from her plate, face twisted in confusion. “Why? Are you interested?” She chuckles.

“No,” Cam shakes her head quickly, trying to crack a smile at Christen genuinely. “Not in her anyway.”

Christen can't help but do anything other than huff out a laugh.

“Just wondering how that works between you two since you live together, I guess,” she explains. “Do you guys switch off on watching Avery when you want to go out and date or sleep over at someone’s house or something?”

Christen raises her eyebrow. “No… I mean we switch off on watching her because of work commitments and we have a whole calendar in the house to keep up with each other but… that’s beside the point. Is there a reason you're asking?” She asks, almost defensively.

Before Cam can answer, Christen’s phone is buzzing in her purse and she’s pulling it out in a hurry.

“Sorry, one sec, it’s Tobin.”

Cameron makes some small noise in response, closing her mouth in resignation and leaning back into her seat. Christen looks up at her, about to make a comment, but she swipes ‘answer’ on her phone quickly instead, not wanting to miss the call.

“Hello?” She sighs into the phone.

“Hey,” Tobin’s voice is breathy on the other end of the line. “Sorry, I know you’re on a date. I wasn’t gonna call you because I didn’t want to interrupt, but I figured you’d be more upset if I didn’t so-”

“Tobin, what’s going on?”

“Uh, I’m currently in the waiting room at Urgent Care with Aves.”

“What?!”

“Is everything okay?” Cameron asks, interested in what Christen’s hearing through the phone.

“We need to go,” Christen says abruptly, already standing and pulling her purse off her chair.

Cameron is in shock, quietly complaining about their unfinished dinner, but Christen pays her no mind. So she sighs and gets up, pulls a few bills out of her wallet, and then follows Christen who is already halfway out of the restaurant.

The first sign of something potentially being wrong should have been Avery sleeping in. The baby was nothing if not consistent, always waking up bright and early at 6:30 a.m., but she didn’t wake up that morning until Christen forced her to by 7:45. The second sign of something potentially being wrong was how flushed her cheeks were at random points throughout the day, especially considering the house was chilly with the season’s changing. The third sign of something potentially being wrong was how fussy the baby became when Christen left for the night. Tobin initially didn’t think much of it, assuming that the baby may have just been becoming clingy again, but as the night went on, she noticed that Avery was sweating through her onesie and her cheeks were redder than they had been all day.

She immediately called her mom, beginning to panic over how warm the baby felt against her hands. Cindy Heath assured her everything would be okay, instructing her to find their baby thermometer and to give Avery some water in a sippy cup for the time being. When the baby’s temperature came back at 102.8°F, Tobin only fell further into panic mode.

Her mother gave her simple instructions to keep checking the baby’s temperature, give her a lukewarm bath, dress her in light clothing, and then give her a bottle before trying to set her down for bed in order to keep her hydrated. Her most important words, though, were absolutely: “Call the doctor’s office if her fever isn’t going down and you’re still worried. They’ll tell you what to do.”

So, a few hours later, when she had gone through everything her mom recommended and the baby’s fever was still just above 102°F, that she did.

She told the nurse on the phone everything she could remember about Avery from the day, including how fussy and restless the baby had increasingly become. The kind lady on the phone assured her that everything would be okay, but that if she felt more comfortable taking Avery into Urgent Care to get checked, she was welcome to.

Tobin packed a small bag quickly, Avery crying in her arms and refusing to be let down the entire time, making sure she had the baby’s insurance card and all important paperwork tucked in her wallet before she was strapping the baby into her carseat and taking off. The entire drive to the Urgent Care, Tobin was stuck between trying to soothe a crying Avery and worrying about finding a way to tell Christen that the baby was ill. She refused to touch her phone in the car ever since the accident, but she especially refused to when Avery was in her backseat.

Upon arriving at Urgent Care, Tobin was required to fill out a load of paperwork and only got the chance to call Christen after she was finished with it, wincing when she was reprimanded over the phone for not calling right away.

Christen only arrives once Tobin and Avery have already been called into a room to wait for the doctor, rushing in and straight to the bed to cradle the baby into her arms, holding her close.

“Hi, my love,” Christen whispers against the baby’s head, kissing it twice. “I’m so sorry for leaving, baby. I’m here now.”

Avery snuggles deep into Christen’s embrace, taking a handful of the woman’s hair into her fist just to hold in comfort.

“She’s so warm,” Christen says to Tobin with worried eyes, rocking the baby in her arms.

Tobin nods despondently, standing to let Christen sit in the visitors chair, feeling a little self conscious of being dressed lazily in a hoodie, baggy shorts, shin length socks and slides, and a beanie when Christen is in a dress and heels.

She recounts the events of the night to Christen, trying to calm the woman down everytime she grows more worried. Avery somehow falls asleep in Christen’s arms, so she is naturally not happy when she’s woken up by the doctor on call when he comes in to check on her.

Tobin keeps a hand on Avery’s back the entire time the doctor visits, then feels silly when he mentions that the fever likely would have broken overnight but they would give her something to help anyway.

“I would’ve come too, Tobs,” Christen says to her quietly as the doctor leaves the room for a moment to grab some paperwork with recommendations for the pair in the case of Avery’s fever returning after it broke, the baby already asleep again on the patient bed. “Don’t worry about him. He was kind of an ass.”

Tobin lets herself laugh a little bit, blinking lazily at the woman through tired eyes.

Christen approaches her slowly, rubbing her hand up and down her arm and then pulling her into a loose hug. Tobin allows it, her head falling to Christen’s shoulder, but her arms staying limp at her sides.

“You did good, kid,” Christen jokes, feeling Tobin shake with a laugh in her arms.

“I had to call my mom.”

“Yeah?”

Tobin nods against her shoulder. “I felt guilty I didn’t catch onto her fever earlier and I was scared I was gonna mess something up. I didn’t know what to do.”

“You could have called me, you know?”

Tobin pulls back from Christen’s embrace. “You were on a date. I wasn’t going to interrupt.”

“Well, when our baby is sick, I would like to know, even if I’m on a date,” Christen says matter of factly.

Tobin’s stomach churns slightly when Christen refers to Avery as theirs, just as it did the first time she said it to Megan when she was drunk, and just as it did when Avery was referred to as hers by Ali at the beach.

“Well, hopefully it won’t have to happen again,” Tobin replies, trying to sound lighthearted as she moves to face Avery again.

“What, Aves getting sick or me going on a date?” Christen is smug when she knocks her knee into Tobin’s leg gently.

Tobin turns to her with a raised eyebrow. “Avery getting sick while you’re on a date,” she clarifies, smirking a bit when she continues, “She totally cockblocked you tonight, didn’t she?”

Christen scoffs, pushing Tobin by the arm. “No need to be so gross.”

“Okay, princess,” Tobin replies sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

“Whatever, jerk,” Christen says, squinting her eyes at the woman. “And to answer your question, no. She didn’t.”

Tobin hums. “Bad date?”

“No,” Christen shrugs. “She was nice. Probably everything I would usually want to be honest, I just don’t think I’m ready to date someone right now. I think I’m happy with how things are, just the three of us.”

Tobin can’t stop her grin at the sound of those words, nor can she stop it from growing wider when Christen tucks herself under her arm, claiming she’s cold and Tobin’s sweatshirt is warm.

(Christen calls Cameron later on that night to tell her the same thing, save for the last part).

///

Before they know it, Thanksgiving comes and goes and they’re suddenly overwhelmed with the rest of the holiday season fast approaching. Christen is at work late most days, busy throwing holiday parties left and right before everyone sets off for vacation, but thankfully Tobin’s work is slow just when Christen’s is picking up and she’s able to take over Avery duty when needed.

Christen often comes home to find Tobin asleep on the couch, the TV still on in front of her and the baby monitor on her stomach or in her hand. As a result, Tobin wakes up most nights to Christen standing above her dressed up in her work clothes, gently shaking her shoulder to wake her and telling her to go to bed in a soft voice.

But on the days that they do both have off, they make sure to make the most of it with Avery and get their Christmas shopping in, whether that be in the malls or online.

“What about that one?”

“She’s not even one, Tobin. She’s not gonna be able to use tricycle for a while,” Christen laughs beside her as they’re both settled on her bed whilst Avery naps in the next room over, Tobin having come in a plopped herself down after Christen put the baby down.

“I wanna get her something cool,” Tobin groans, knocking Christen’s sock-covered foot with her own.

“We already have a ton of stuff for her. I don’t even know why we’re still looking,” the curly-haired woman says with a chuckle. “She probably won’t even understand what’s going on or use most of the toys that we’re giving her.”

“That Santa is giving her,” Tobin corrects, earning an eye roll. “And who cares? It’s her first Christmas. Let’s have fun with it.”

“We could just get her more clothes,” Christen tries to persuade.

“Nuh uh. Any more and her closet is going to be overflowing. I can see that when she’s like ten, maybe, but no baby needs that much clothes, Chris,” she laughs.

“Whatever,” she huffs, elbowing the woman at her side. “You just want these toys for yourself.”

When Tobin doesn’t completely deny it, Christen grins as she watches her scroll happily through an array of different toys online, shaking her head when the woman clicks on ridiculous options just for the heck of it. After watching for some time and not seeing anything worth adding to their cart for the baby, Christen slides further down her bed and out of her sitting position, laying her head onto Tobin’s arm at her left and then letting out a deep sigh.

“Tired?”

Christen shakes her head ‘no’. “Do you…”

“Hm?” Tobin hums when Christen drifts off.

“Do you ever just miss them?”

Tobin stops her scrolling, looking down at Christen from where she’s seated. “All the time.”

“Viv loved Christmas,” she continues, reminiscing. “I think she would have loved being her for Aves’ first Christmas. Or all of them, I guess.”

Tobin sighs, pushing herself down the bed enough to where she can rest her head on top of Christen’s. “Jay used to ask me what to get her every. single. year,” Tobin laughs.

“Yeah?” Christen chuckles along, “What would you tell him?”

“Lingerie,” the woman snorts.

“Tobin!” Christen can’t help but laugh, smacking her leg.

“I was never serious!” Tobin defends, laughing too before settling down. “The first few years he asked me for help, we must have gone into every single shop in the mall twice before he could find something.” Christen smiles, noting how accurate the story seemed granted that Jay was always looking to be as close to perfect as he could for Viv. “One year he got her these earrings that came in this little black velvet box…”

“Oh my god, I remember this,” Christen laughs. “She actually found that gift in their bedside drawer by accident and freaked out, calling me crying about not being ready for marriage yet. Then they were engaged by the next year.”

Tobin shakes her head with a grin. “You’d think he would’ve been smarter about where he hid things for how much thought he put into everything.”

“No kidding,” Christen laughs. “Would’ve saved me an hour long phone call and having to deal with a Viv breakdown.”

“Nah,” Tobin muses. “She wasn’t that bad.”

“No,” Christen agrees. “Not at all. I’d give anything to hear her voice again… even on the phone.”

Tobin moves her hand off her own leg to grab Christen’s on hers, squeezing it gently and running her thumb over the back of it a few times. “Yeah… me too.”

“Do you ever feel guilty like… living here and raising their baby?”

“I did at first,” Tobin responds honestly. “But I always have to remind myself that everything happens for a reason, even if I don’t understand it at the moment.” Christen makes a sound in acknowledgment. “Sometimes when I look at Aves, I remember them telling us how much they trusted us with her and I get so overwhelmed wondering if I’m doing things right. If we’re raising her how they would have wanted…”

“And what do you think?” Christen asks quietly, beginning to play with Tobin’s fingers.

Tobin takes a deep breath before replying, “I think we make a pretty good team, if I’m honest.”

Christen lets out a bit of a chuckle at her words.

“What?” Tobin laughs along, sounding confused. “Do you not agree?”

“No, no. I just-” Christen pauses to look up at Tobin. “I was just telling Cameron about this on our date.” She stops to bite her lip to hold in a laugh when Tobin’s hand stiffens in her own. “I was telling her that sometimes it’s hard to be okay with accepting the joy that Avery brings me given the circumstances, but that you always used to remind me that this is what they would have wanted for us… to show their baby love and joy, and I learn to be okay with it. I wouldn’t want us to let them down.”

Tobin smiles down softly at her. “Isn’t it kind of funny thinking about how we used to treat each other before and what they would always tell us about trying to get to know each other better? Now look at us.”

Christen laughs, her eyes bright as she considers the thought. “I hadn’t even thought of that.”

“No?” Tobin asks, surprised. “I actually think about it a lot.”

“Oh yeah?” Christen says, her eyebrows raising. “You like me now or something?”

“Pshh,” Tobin scoffs jokingly as she retracts her hand from Christen’s to go back to her computer. “No.”

Completely contradicting Tobin’s claim, her laptop lights up with a photo of Christen and Avery from their beach day as her screen saver. The photo is taken from behind Christen’s shoulder, Avery staring right into the camera and Christen’s nose against the side of the baby’s head, a smile evident on her face. Sun rays can be seen behind them, a couple of orbs are floating between their heads, and Avery is giving Tobin what looks like one of her biggest giggles ever.

“Tobs,” Christen whispers in awe. If she had been caught with this screensaver earlier on in their journey, Christen might have thought it was weird. But things were different now and she wasn’t afraid to tell Tobin how absolutely stunning the photo was because it was the truth.

Tobin blushes at the compliment, mumbling a “thank you” and quickly typing her password into her computer to get the photo out of sight as fast as she could.

Christen grins up at her, teasing, “You know, I never used to believe Viv when she would call you a softie.”

“I’m not a softie,” Tobin huffs, scrolling through web pages mindlessly.

“Oh,” Christen laughs, “you so are. Aves has you wrapped around her finger.”

When she doesn’t get a response, Christen pokes the outside of Tobin’s thigh with her finger and quietly asks, “Do you have more pictures?”

Tobin looks down at her in shock, but nods nonetheless.

“Can I see them?”

She realizes at the sight of green orbs staring into hers hopefully that there’s no way she can say no to the woman.

Another nod.

A few minutes later, Christen is gushing over a new photo from their beach day every time Tobin clicks the ‘next’ button.

“You are seriously so talented, Tobin,” she tells the photographer sincerely. “I’m surprised you don’t do more work like this,” she says, gesturing to the laptop.

Tobin shrugs. “I don’t mind this kinda stuff, especially not for family, but I like the exhilaration that comes with sports photography.”

Christen smiles wide at the mention of family. “Well, I think these are amazing and I’m sure the sports ones are too.”

Tobin blushes, mumbling another bashful “Thank you.”

“Can I ask a question? And you can feel free to say no. I won’t take offense or anything.”

Tobin turns back to Christen once more, still feeling overwhelmed by the events of the past few minutes, but also curious. “Hm?”

“I have a client who I actually know from high school who’s been looking hard for a photographer for her wedding because the one she originally hired bailed on her, but she can’t seem to find anyone that she thinks will truly give her the types of pictures she wants. It’s just… the ones you just showed me seem pretty spot on with what she described wanting, so…”

“You want me to take pictures at one of your events?”

“Not if you don’t want to,” Christen is quick to say, finally sitting up from where she had been leaning on Tobin, the other woman following suit.

She really has a hard time saying no to those eyes.

“Uh, when is it?”

“Next weekend,” Christen makes an ‘eek’ face.

Tobin coughs a bit, surprised. “Her wedding is next week and she doesn’t have a photographer yet?”

Christen shakes her head. “The one she hired bailed on her with some lousy excuse a few weeks ago so we’ve been scrambling to find her a new one ever since, but her wedding photos were high on her priority list of things she cares about for the wedding so she didn’t wanna hire just anyone.”

“Chris, I’m kind of ‘just anyone,’” Tobin says. “My portfolio is pretty much all sports stuff.”

“Yeah, but the ones you just showed me now were so good and those weren’t sports ones!”

Tobin chuckles a bit at Christen’s enthusiasm.

“Sorry! Sorry, I’m not trying to pressure you at all. You can think about it if you want-”

“Next weekend, you said?”

Christen bites her lip hopefully and nods, grabbing onto Tobin’s hand again in anticipation.

“I’ll have to double check the calendar to make sure I’m free but I think I’m good to go,” she gives in.

“Yeah?” Christen squeezes her hand.

Tobin nods, laughing at her excitement. “As long as we can find someone to watch Aves.”

The curly haired woman squeals, throwing herself to hug Tobin tight, practically tackling her on the bed.

Tobin grunts, laughing as Christen exclaims joyous and repeated ‘thank you’s in her ear.

///

Tobin wakes up the morning of the wedding to a quiet house, figuring that Avery and Christen are still asleep, but when she walks out of the hallway in just her boxers and a t-shirt, her hair disheveled, she’s surprised to find the pair awake in the living room.

She’s quiet, noticing that Christen is trying to do some yoga in peace, even if Avery is slightly rattling and banging some of her toys around just beside her. She watches for a few minutes, but the moment she sees Avery start crawling towards Christen, settling herself just under the arch of the woman’s body, and trying to mimic her in a downward dog position, Tobin immediately runs back to her room to grab her camera, returning just in time to snap a shot of Christen smiling down at the baby who was trying to be like her.

At the soft shutter sounds of Tobin’s camera, Christen glances up in surprise to see Tobin bashfully peek out from behind the lens, lowering her camera with a small smile. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” the woman says warmly, taking note of Tobin not having pants on, but holding in her laugh and standing up as the curly hair in her ponytail falls behind her shoulder. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” Tobin smiles back at her.

The two women had become increasingly more curious of each other since opening up with one another that night in Christen’s room a couple of weeks prior. Tobin, Christen learned, was very affectionate, and not just with babies. Tobin had figured Christen was a touchy-feely person granted that she had pulled her into more than a few hugs since Avery’s doctor's visit, so, naturally, she returned the affection. She started to hold Christen a little tighter in their embraces, place a hand on her back or arm or hip anytime she walked by her, rub her legs or feet after long days at work when they lounged on the couch, reason it was okay to get a little (or a lot) closer to her when she was holding the baby…

Christen was a little surprised at first, not used to that side of Tobin, but Viv’s past words about getting to know the real Tobin were once again stuck in her mind every time the woman did something that might shock her.

Along with the physical affection came a lot more of what they would call teasing or joking, but anyone else would flat out call flirting. Tobin would make some stupid remark to get a rise out of Christen, which often worked, but then immediately follow up saying she was kidding and add a compliment, maybe even lock the woman into a hug until she forgave her.

If Christen was honest, she’d admit that she’d pretend to be mad a little too long just to see how far Tobin would go for her forgiveness.

If Tobin was honest, she’d admit she’d come a little too close to crossing the line of friendship more than a few times.

If they were both even aware of it, they’d admit that this new dynamic between them was only inevitable considering the progress of their relationship during their co-parenting journey.

“Want me to take her so you can finish?”

Christen smiles down at Avery at her feet, bending to pick the baby up in the arms. “It’s okay. I was just about finished anyway,” she tells Tobin. “Breakfast?”

Tobin nods, watching the pair walk past her and into the kitchen, snapping one last shot of them in the soft morning light.

“Cute underwear,” she hears as Christen pulls some fruit out of the refrigerator, looking down abruptly with a blush before she rushes off to put her camera away to charge (and then barely even remembers to put some pants on before returning).

Tobin doesn’t know why she’s surprised. It’s not that she doubted Christen would be amazing at her job, but to see both how stunning the small wedding turned out to be and Christen in her element is another thing.

The pair had ridden to the venue together, Christen in a long sleeve, short olive green dress that flowed perfectly in the gentle wind & matched her eyes perfectly and Tobin in navy blue slacks & a white dress shirt with her sleeves cuffed up, her camera hanging from her wrist by it’s strap.

Upon arriving, Christen immediately introduced Tobin to the bride, Crystal, who gave her a tight hug and thanked her profusely for filling in as their photographer for the big day.

Tobin finds herself incredibly busy throughout the day, running back and forth between the bride and groom’s dressing rooms to capture the pre-ceremony moments, and Christen’s plate is just as full as she’s busy directing the set-up process for everyone involved.

Christen does, however, find the time to make sure Tobin has what she needs through the day, even if it’s something as simple as water, but by the time the ceremony is over and dinner and dancing have commenced, the two women feel like they’ve barely seen each other all day, even despite having snuck in smiles and small lingering touches in passing with each other throughout the day.

But when Tobin catches Christen standing off to the side, away from the party, she takes a moment to escape from her photographer duties granted that she had more than enough shots of the couple and their guests having a great time on the dance floor.

“Sup, princess,” she greets with a grin as she sneaks up behind the woman, placing a hand on her hip and causing her to jump a little and put her hand to her chest.

Christen chuckles, crossing her arms over her chest and shaking her head softly as she leans into Tobin for a moment before stepping away, mindful of being at work. “Taking a break?”

Tobin nods, clicking her camera off for a moment. “Wanna take a really quick walk? I found a garden over that way earlier.” She nods her head to gesture behind her.

Christen glances over to Crystal and her now husband, Pierre, for a moment. “Shouldn’t you be taking pictures?”

Tobin snickers at her obvious worry. “They’ve been dancing all night. I think I could go home now and they probably would think I had been taking pictures the whole night,” she laughs.

Christen laughs along, catching Crystal dragging another few members out of their seats to dance. When she turns back and sees Tobin grinning at her with an outstretched hand, palm up, her resolve breaks. “Really quickly,” she says, loosely placing her hand in Tobin’s.

“If we hear something exciting happening, we’ll rush right back,” the photographer promises as she tugs Christen away from the party by a few hooked fingers.

“You did a really dope job with this whole thing, you know,” she continues as they walk into the garden and she feels Christen’s hand slip away from her own. “It looks great. Crystal seems really happy with it all.”

Christen smiles sheepishly. “Thank you… and thank you for coming to the rescue today. I don’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t.”

“I just hope she likes the pictures,” Tobin chuckles as she rubs the back of her neck. “It’s been a while since I’ve been to something like this, so it’s nice to get out and feel like an adult for a bit, even if I’m working.”

Christen hums, keeping her pace leveled with Tobin’s. “Tell me about it.”

They fall silent as they stroll through the pathway in the garden for a minute or two, the music from the party behind them growing more distant as they walk.

Tobin takes a couple glances at the woman beside her, trying to work up the courage to tell the woman what’s on her mind. With a deep breath, she catches the hem of the sleeve of Christen’s dress between her fingers and quietly says, “Have I told you that you look stunning tonight?”

Surprised, Christen’s breath catches in her throat. She glances down to where Tobin is playing with the hem of her sleeve and then up to the nervous honey eyes that are waiting for a response. After a beat, she slips her fingers between Tobin’s and gives her a coy smile. “Not that I remember, no,” she says, willing herself to look away and keep her eyes trained to the ground.

Tobin surprises her once more by lifting their hands and giving her a twirl as they continue to walk the path. Christen is giggling when Tobin stops her spin with a hand on her hip. “My bad,” she whispers to the woman in the dress. “You look stunning tonight,” she says earnestly, forcing herself to look straight into those green eyes.

Christen’s hand is on Tobin’s shoulder for support and her breath is cut short when she realizes Tobin has slipped her arm completely around her waist and pulled her close. “Tobin…”

Tobin gives her a questioning hum as she brings their conjoined hands to her chest and places her cheek at the side of Christen’s head, beginning to sway them back and forth with small steps.

“What are we doing?” Christen asks quietly, laughing a little nervously.

“Dancing.”

“We’re working.”

“We’re taking a break,” Tobin corrects, squeezing her hip gently.

Christen laughs in Tobin’s arms, allowing herself to be swayed. “You don’t look so bad tonight either,” Christen says quietly right beside Tobin’s ear after a few silent moments.

“Not so bad?” Tobin chuckles, finally pulling away from Christen to keep walking but keeping her close when she doesn’t let go of her hand.

“It’s certainly different from your usual hoodies and sneakers,” Christen replies playfully, taking a moment to look Tobin up and down, catching her eyes when she looks back up. “You clean up nice.”

Tobin grins, squeezing her hand before giving her thanks. “They just have the cake left?” She finally changes the subject, relieving Christen of a heart beating hard.

“Yeah,” Christen confirms softly, glancing down to her watch to check the time, “just over an hour left til the party’s over and we start break down.”

“Mkay. I can help with whatever you guys need, I just need to pack my gear up into the car first probably, but it shouldn’t take long.”

“You’re sweet,” Christen says, her chest feeling warm. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I’ll be here waiting for you so we can go home anyway,” Tobin laughs. “May as well put me to work.”

“Oh,” Christen laughs, joking, “so only because you’ll be bored waiting on me then, huh?”

“Not what I meant,” Tobin grins, slowing them down to leisurely pace as they approach the party again. “Thank you for taking a walk with me,” she whispers, bringing their hands up to her mouth and placing a gentle kiss to the back of Christen’s hand, smirking as she sees the smile tugging at the corner of Christen’s mouth and she lets her hand go slowly.

Christen, now completely caught off guard by how charming Tobin is being, saves herself from making any rash decisions by pushing Tobin by the arm gently and saying, “Get back to work, Heath.”

“Yes, Boss!”

“That it?” Tobin asks, dusting her pants off after returning from having helped the DJ pack his equipment up.

“Think so,” Christen confirms through a sigh, glancing around to make sure everything is in order. “I just have to grab my bag from-”

“I grabbed it and dropped it off at the car with my gear earlier.”

“Oh,” Christen says. “Thanks. Then, yeah, I guess that’s it. The venue will break down tables and chairs, so our job should be done.”

“Cool,” Tobin says, unbuttoning the top few buttons of her dress shirt, smirking when she catches Christen’s eyes watching her. “Ready?”

Christen’s eyes snap up to meet Tobin’s. “Mhmm! I’m ready to get out of these heels and into bed.”

Tobin chuckles at Christen’s dramatic way of falling limp as they make their way out of the venue. “Don’t forget that we still have a baby to pick up from Ash and Ali’s, Chris.”

“Ugh,” the woman groans as she throws her head back. “You’re driving?”

Tobin shakes her keys in the air. “It is my car.”

Christen straightens herself up at that. “Okay, then. Let’s go get our baby.”

Tobin cheeses hard when Christen slips her hand into her arm.

By the time Tobin pulls into the driveway, both Avery and Christen are knocked out hard in their respective seats. She pulls the key out of the ignition as she glances to the woman in the passenger seat with a grin.

“Chris,” she calls softly, setting a hand on Christen’s leg and shaking it a bit. “Hey, we’re home.”

Christen stirs awake slowly, her tired eyes finding Tobin in the dark car. Suddenly, it feels like deja vu from the night of their date over a year ago, but this time, things are a whole lot different.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” Tobin whispers with a soft smile, squeezing Christen’s leg. “We’re home now.”

Christen lets her head thump softly against the headrest behind her. “I’m so tired.”

“I know,” Tobin sympathizes, caressing the soft skin of her thigh with her thumb and smiling when she feels Christen’s hand rest on top of her own. “I’ll get Aves out. Can you unlock the door?”

Christen nods, willing herself to unbuckle her seatbelt and hop out of the car, no matter how exhausted she is. By the time Tobin gets around the car to take Avery out of her car seat, Christen is barely grabbing her bag and Tobin’s out of the vehicle. When she wobbles on her feet, Tobin laughs, holding Avery against her shoulder with one hand and sticking her empty hand out to Christen. “Gimme your shoes.”

“What?” Christen asks, brows knitted.

“Your heels, take them off before you eat it before you can even get to the door.”

Christen looks down at her feet with a tired pout. “But the ground is so dirty.”

Tobin rolls her eyes lightheartedly. “It’s two seconds, princess.”

Reluctantly, Christen sets the bags back down in the car and holds Tobin’s outstretched hands for stability and she unstraps her heels. “Thank you,” she says quietly when Tobin takes hold of them by the straps.

“Of course. C’mon,” Tobin urges the woman to the door with a nod of her head.

Christen sets their bags down on a nearby chair before following Tobin up the stairs and into Avery’s room quietly. She stops the woman before she can set the baby down in her crib, walking up close and setting her lips to the baby’s cheek before taking her heels from the woman’s hands. Tobin smiles at her as she pulls away before pressing her own kiss to the top of Avery’s head, lowering her down into the crib, and then pulling her blanket over her small body.

She meets Christen just outside the baby’s room, shutting the door with a soft click and then grins at the woman who looks ready to fall asleep right then and there.

“C’mere.”

Christen doesn’t hesitate to walk straight into her arms and wrap her own arms around Tobin’s waist loosely.

Tobin presses a soft kiss to the hair beneath her lips, her arms circling Christen’s shoulders, before telling her, “I had fun today.”

Christen pulls her head up from where it was nestled in Tobin’s neck and smiles sleepily at her. “Me too. Thanks for pulling me away for a minute.”

“My pleasure,” Tobin grins back, moving her arms to hold Christen by the waist.

Christen shifts, hesitating for a fraction of a moment, and then leans forward to press her lips to Tobin’s cheek softly. When she pulls back, it’s obvious that the woman’s cheeks are flushed, even in the dim light of the hallway, so she simply smiles and retracts herself from Tobin’s arms, saying a quiet “Goodnight.”

///

She’s happy.

Christen is so damn happy snuggled under a blanket on the couch with a cup of coffee watching Tobin help Avery unwrap her presents on the floor beside the tree, she can barely handle it.

She has to laugh at herself, thinking that if Viv and Jay were there to witness it, she’d never be able to live it down. She can hardly believe it herself, but everytime Tobin looks up at her with eyes as excited as Avery’s, she’s reminded that she’s not dealing with the Tobin she used to know anymore, and that perhaps it’s okay for her to let herself fall now.

Tobin has her camera by her side, quick to snap moments of Avery as she tears wrapping paper apart with her small hands. When the baby makes excited sounds at the sight of her gifts, Tobin laughs every time and says something like, “You like that one, angel? I picked it out for you!”

Christen shakes her head when it happens, rolling her eyes a bit because they both know damn well how long they shopped together to make Avery’s first Christmas a good one, even if the baby wouldn’t remember it when she was older.

“That box right behind you is yours, Tobs,” Christen tells her after she’s finished helping Avery unwrap all her presents.

Tobin is quick to glance behind her, surprised to find another gift left, and then looks back to Christen when she pulls it onto her lap. “What’s this?”

“Open it,” Christen chuckles. “It’s nothing major, but I hope you’ll like it.”

Avery, excited by the sight of yet another present, crawls her way over to Tobin, eliciting a laugh from the woman. “

“Here, Aves,” Tobin sticks the box out to her after breaking the wrapping paper open, “Pull it for me.”

Avery grasps the wrapping paper to the best of her ability, taking a few tries to tug all of the paper off and needing some assistance from Tobin when she gets to the taped sections that are too hard for her to pull. Tobin bends down to kiss her on the cheek and tell her thank you for the help before she sits back up and carefully lifts the lid off of the box. She peels a few sheets of tissue paper away with gentle fingers, glancing up at Christen with a curious gaze as she does, and then looks back down to find what could only have been a hefty priced leather camera strap sitting before her.

“Chris, holy crap.”

“Language, Tobs,” Christen warns lightly, chuckling to herself as Tobin pulls the gift out of the box to examine it.

The moment her eyes land on the engraving, her jaw drops. In typewriter font, Tobin’s initials are engraved into the camera strap on one end and on the other end are Avery’s initials in the same fashion.

“This is so dope, Chris,” she says in awe as she flips the camera strap around in her hands, careful not to let baby Avery’s curious hands tug too hard on it. “I love it,” she tells Christen honestly as she looks back up. “Thank you.”

Christen gives her a warm smile, hands wrapping tight around her mug as she nods. “Of course. Merry Christmas.”

Tobin sets her gift back down in the box, carefully rewrapping it in the tissue paper and then closing the lid before she gets up. “I’ll be right back,” she tells Christen before rushing off to her room.

Christen and Avery watch her leave the room in a hurry, the former confused and the latter interested in where she’s going, but Christen immediately chuckles when Tobin returns with a wrapped gift in her hands.

“This is from me and Aves,” she tells Christen as she hands her the gift. “Merry Christmas, Chris.”

Both of them laugh at the sound of that sentence before Christen says, “Thank you,” and sets her coffee down to unwrap the present.

As soon as she tears the first piece of the wrapping paper open, she thinks she knows what it is. Her thoughts are only confirmed when she fully uncovers the front of the gift, her eyes immediately welling up.

“Tobs…”

“Chris!” Tobin laughs. “Why are you crying? You haven't even opened it up yet!”

“I already know what’s in there!” Christen defends as she pulls a homemade scrapbook out from the wrapping paper. “Am I gonna lose it if I go through this now?”

Tobin shrugs with a smile, picking Avery up from the ground and taking her with her to settle beside Christen on the couch. Christen lifts the blanket for them, feeling warmth spread throughout her as the three of them cozy up together.

“Open it,” Tobin urges, holding Avery on her lap and holding her little hands back from the scrapbook.

Christen takes one last look at the cover that holds the same picture that Tobin had set as her computer’s screensaver before she takes a deep breath and flips the book open.

The first few pages of the book wreck her, given that they are full of photos of Avery’s first few months of life with Viv and Jay. Christen takes her time with each image, wiping away her tears every time she flips a page.

“Look, baby,” she tells Avery, leaning the book towards her. “You were so small!”

Avery points at herself in the images, babbling on some nonsense that neither woman understands but both laugh at anyway.

“And that’s your mama and you dada,” Christen says, pointing to Viv and Jay as she does. “Can you say that? Say ma-ma.”

Avery watches her lips closely before attempting to repeat the sounds to Christen. After a few seconds of focusing, the baby finally gets it, repeating, “Ma-ma-ma-ma” and making the two women beam with pride.

“Good job, Aves!” Tobin coos, running a hand through her soft hair. “You’re so smart!”

“Was that her first word?” Christen asks, eyes wide in realization.

Tobin laughs when she fully understands what just happened too. “Maybe? She kind of just repeated ‘ma’ to you like five times but, I mean, she said it?”

Christen lets out a guffaw. “How about da-da, Aves? Can you say da-da?”

Tobin repeats the sound a few times for Avery to try to grasp onto, but the baby only repeats one “da” before moving back to more “ma-ma” sounds.

“Good enough,” Tobin laughs, “Great job, squirt.”

Christen smiles at the pair before turning back to her gift and continuing to look through the photos.

She never realized that Tobin took as many photos of her with Avery as there were in the scrapbook, but she’s thankful for them nonetheless. There are even a few photos dropped in here and there of Tobin with Avery, most of them being selfies or mirror pictures of them goofing off together, but she does also include that picture that her friend took of Avery asleep on her shoulder while she was working at a game.

Christen is back to crying when she notices just how many precious moments she’s had with the baby. There are photos of Christen and Avery asleep together, playing together, having meals together, and every other imaginable activity that she could possibly think of, but her new favorite pictures are the last couple in the book from the morning that Tobin found them doing yoga together in the living room.

The first photo is a moment captured perfectly. There’s light peeking in through the window behind Christen, she’s dressed in a cropped sweater and yoga pants with bare feet, she’s smiling at Avery attempting to mimic her pose beneath her body, there are toys scattered all over the room, but it is exactly what she would call home.

The second photo is the one that was snapped just moments after the first. It’s taken from behind Christen as she walked away from Tobin and into the kitchen. She has Avery on her hip and her head is turned to face the baby who is smiling at her. Their foreheads are nearly touching and, similar to the last photo, the kitchen is glowing in the soft light of the morning. It’s a simple photo, but it’s one that showcases a moment that Christen and Avery share at the start of nearly every day.

Christen wipes the last of her tears and turns to face Tobin, who is already watching her carefully.

“Why did you have to make me cry?” Christen laughs, closing the book softly.

Tobin gives her a small smile. “I didn’t mean to. You just seemed to like the photos from the beach so much that I figured you would like more.”

“I love them,” Christen assures her, reaching for her hand under the blanket. “Thank you so much.”

“Good,” Tobin grins. “I’m glad.”

Avery crawls to lean onto Christen, both of the women making small grunting noises at the weight the baby is putting on them, but Christen detaches her hand from Tobin’s in favor of pulling Avery onto her lap fully and wrapping her tight in her arms. “Merry Christmas, my love,” she tells the baby, kissing her on the head a few times.

Tobin smiles at the pair, pulling her arm that rests between herself and Christen and laying it on the back of the couch. The curly-haired woman immediately takes the opportunity to settle herself and Avery against Tobin’s side and under her arm, grinning wide when she feels that same arm wrap around her shoulders and pull her in closer.

Tobin grabs the TV remote and flicks through the channels, ignoring the NBA Christmas Day games that are on in favor of a Christmas movie for them all to watch.

Later on, when Christen wakes up still tucked against Tobin’s side with Avery curled into her chest, she thanks her lucky stars that she’s been gifted these two humans to have in her life.

///

A few days later, Christen is waking up to a soft knock on her door and Tobin walking in with a wide awake Avery in one arm and a plate of pancakes with a lit candle stuck in them in the other.

Christen sits up in her bed, wiping her eyes and combing her fingers through her hair as Tobin slowly approaches, singing happy birthday to her. She takes Avery from Tobin’s arms as soon as she’s close enough, pressing a quick kiss to her cheek, and then moves her legs for Tobin to sit down on her bed in front of her.

“... Happy birthday dear Chriiis,” Tobin sings with a smile, “Happy birthday to you.”

Christen leans forward slightly and closes her eyes, silently wishing for life to stay as full of love and joy as it is in that moment, and then blows the candle out and reopens her eyes to find Tobin beaming at her.

“Pancakes?” Christen asks as Tobin climbs further up the bed to settle beside her.

The woman nods, setting the plate down between them on the bed. “Only the best for the birthday girl!”

Avery reaches for the pancakes from Christen’s lap, but Christen holds her back just in time before her hands become a sticky mess. “You want some, babe?” she laughs.

“You already had breakfast, you little rascal,” Tobin tells the baby, reaching a hand over to tickle her belly and elicit a giggle.

“You can have a few bites, Aves,” Christen grins down at the baby before reaching over to take the fork and cut a very small piece of the food to give to Avery. The baby has her mouth wide open and ready when she sees Christen’s hand approaching her, but Christen stops, pulling the food back before Avery can reach it, and laughs when the baby follows it with her mouth.

“You are so mean,” Tobin laughs, watching as Christen finally gives Avery a tiny piece of pancake.

“You’re sure you fed her?” Christen jokes and Avery makes a noise, signaling she wants more. “She seems hungry.”

“Little missy had strawberries and avocado for breakfast.”

When Christen gives her an odd look for the combination choice, Tobin puts a hand up defensively. “We’re low on groceries and that was the best we had. She wasn’t complaining,” she laughs.

“Fair enough,” Christen resolves, sticking a forkful of pancake up in the air. “You want some?”

Tobin opens her mouth wide, smiling as she bites off the food from the fork and Christen giggles.

“I didn’t burn them this time,” Tobin jokes, referring to the morning that Christen caught her having a party with Avery in the kitchen.

“No,” Christen acknowledges with a chuckle, “you didn’t. They’re very good. Thank you, Tobs.”

Tobin doesn’t reply, but she does smile and wink at the woman before sitting up and taking Avery from Christen’s lap so she could eat her breakfast in peace.

“You’re sure you wanna go bowling?”

When Tobin first recommended that Christen go out for her birthday and take some time away from the house, she meant it with the assumption that Christen would perhaps want to go have brunch with Ali or have a spa day or something of that sort. Christen shot down the idea pretty quickly, insisting that she was happy to stay at home. Tobin assured her that she could watch Avery for the day so she could go out and enjoy herself, giving the woman a number of different suggestions for what she could do for her birthday, but none piqued Christen’s interest.

Eventually, Tobin said, “At least go out for dinner or drinks. It’s going to be your birthday, Chris. You should enjoy it,” to which Christen responded that she would only go out that night if Tobin went with her, claiming that they both deserved a night off.

Tobin was reluctant at first, not wanting the woman to feel like she had to invite her to her birthday plans, but Christen was adamant that the only way she would go out that night is if they both did.

So Tobin agreed. She hired a sitter for the night right away so Avery was taken care of, but the first portion of the day was spent between the three of them, lounging around in bed and on the couch until it was time for the adults to get ready.

But when the time comes, Tobin sneaks out of the house quickly to buy Christen flowers (for real this time), waits for her at the bottom of the staircase, accepts a kiss on the cheek with a blush, and leads the birthday girl to the car, telling her she can pick anything she wants to do for the night.

“I haven’t been bowling in ages,” Christen smiles at her from the passenger’s seat. “It sounds fun.”

“Okay,” Tobin says, drawing the word out as if to say she’s not entirely convinced. “Bowling it is, then.”

“You suck,” Tobin laughs as Christen walks back to her seat after yet another gutter ball. “Do I need to tell them to put the bumpers up for you?”

“Hey!” The woman’s jaw drops as she sits down beside Tobin, shoving her by the arm. “You can’t be mean to me today. It’s my birthday.”

Tobin grins as she stands to take her ball “Okay, okay. Sorry, princess. I’ll be nice now.”

Christen simply gives Tobin a satisfied look before gesturing for her to take her turn. “I’m waiting.”

“So bossy,” Tobin says in jest.

She takes her ball, slipping her fingers into the slots and then turns to Christen and says, “Watch this.” She makes a show of it, taking a deep breath, getting her footing right, walking slowly up to the lane, sending her ball down the hardwood with precision. She watches with her fists clenched in anticipation as the ball rolls towards the pins, throwing her head back with a groan when two pins are left standing.

“Ohhh,” Christen teases as Tobin walks back to retrieve her ball, “Not so perfect at bowling after all, huh?”

Tobin brushes it off, laughing. “It’s fine. One missed strike. I’ll get a spare right now, just watch.”

The issue, Tobin finds, is that the pins are on opposite ends of the lane and she would have to strike one of them perfectly to knock both down.

Christen sits back in her seat with her arms folded across her chest looking smug.

Tobin repeats her earlier process before letting the ball slip from her hands and down the lane. Christen perks up at the sight of the ball nearing the gutter, but Tobin is crouched down and too focused on its trajectory to notice her.

The ball hits the pin, sending it flying towards the other pin on the other end of the lane, looking like it’s going to swipe it out, but to Tobin’s disappointment, the pin flies just behind the other, leaving her with one pin left and no spare to add to her scoresheet.

Christen hides her laugh behind her hand as Tobin drags herself back to her seat, flopping down dramatically.

“Competitive much?”

Tobin shakes her head no, giving Christen a lighthearted side-eye.

“If it makes you feel any better, you’re still beating me. By a lot,” she laughs, pointing up to the screen with score lines for “Tobs” and “Chris”.

Tobin cracks, breaking her bad-sport act and urging, “Go again,” with a smile.

“Okay, but if I throw another gutter ball, you can’t laugh at me.”

“No promises,” Tobin smirks, laughing when she sees Christen’s glare. “Just make sure you throw it straight.”

“You make it sound so easy,” Christen groans, picking her ball up.

Tobin watches her try to take her time with her throw carefully and tries not to laugh when Christen’s ball falls into the gutter just before hitting a pin.

“You’re throwing it wrong,” she says gently, standing up to grab her own ball and demonstrate to Christen. “Make sure that your hand is behind the ball when you let it go and not above it, like this.”

Christen watches as Tobin pretends to throw the ball down the lane, but stops before she can let it go, pointing out the position of her hand. She looks up to Tobin with an unsure expression.

“You got this,” Tobin chuckles, rubbing her arm before stepping out of the way and back to set her ball down.

Christen once again takes her time, making sure she has a good grip on the ball and that she’s paying attention to where her hand is placed when she lets it fly out of her hand. Both of them watch in anticipation as the ball rolls down the center of the lane, Christen with her hands on her head and Tobin with hers ready to celebrate. As soon as it hits the pins, Christen is jumping up and turning around to face Tobin as she squeals. Tobin’s arms are raised in the air and she’s beaming as the birthday girl rushes over to her.

“You did it!” Tobin grabs her around the waist as soon as she’s close enough, picking her up and spinning them around a couple of times before placing her back on her feet, but not letting go.

“I did it!” Christen exclaims, turning her head around to find a few last pins that she didn’t hit being knocked down so the lane could be reset. “I missed a few, though,” she chuckles at herself as she faces Tobin again.

“Hey, but you got some,” Tobin reassures her, eyes crinkling at the corners when she sees Christen’s smile.

“I did,” Christen gives herself some credit as she steps out of Tobin’s arms. “Watch out. I”m coming for you, Heath.”

“How did you manage to lose the last game after I had just figured out how to properly throw the ball?” Christen giggles as she takes a bit of her pizza.

“I let you win,” Tobin jokes through a mouthful, wiping her hands on a napkin before crumpling it into a ball and throwing it at Christen’s head.

“Hey!” Christen exclaims, bringing a hand up in defense a second too late. “Jerk,” she laughs, picking the napkin up and throwing it back at Tobin.

Somehow, the two ended up in the parking lot of the beach sitting in the back of Tobin’s Jeep with the trunk door open and a box of pizza sitting between them.

Just beside Christen is a decently sized stuffed bear that Tobin insisted on winning from the arcade before leaving the bowling alley. It took her a few tries and a few bills out of her wallet, but when the claw grabbed onto the bear, barely holding onto it by its ear before dropping it in the prize slot, Tobin was more than happy to have spent the money and the time to give it to Christen.

When Tobin reaches for the last slice, Christen laughs, “Where the heck do you put it all? You practically inhale your food and yet you’re still…”

Tobin raises an eyebrow in question, her mouth curling at the corner. “Still?”

“You know… fit.”

“You checking me out?” She jokes before taking a big bite of her slice.

“I’m not checking you out,” Christen denies quickly, but the grin that’s barely visible behind her slice of pizza says otherwise.

Tobin hums, unconvinced, but she changes the subject anyway. “Did you have a good time tonight?”

Christen nods with a warm smile. “I did. Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me,” Tobin replies dismissively with a confused laugh.

“No,” Christen shakes her, head, setting the crust of her pizza back down in the box and plucking a napkin out to wipe her hands, “I do. I don’t think I realized how much I missed just going out for a night, even to do something as simple as go bowling. So thank you.”

Tobin smiles. “Well, you still don’t have to thank me, but you’re welcome. You deserve a night off every once in a while, especially for your birthday.”

“Well, you do too. We are a team after all, remember?” Christen says, earning herself a grin from the woman.

“A damn good one at that,” Tobin says confidently. “She’s the best baby.”

“Yeah,” Christen smiles before her lips turn into a bit of a pout. “I miss her.”

Tobin swallows the last of her pizza before she’s quick to say, “Nope. We’re not doing that tonight. I mean, you can miss her, but we’re being adults for the night and that’s it. No focusing on missing our baby.”

Christen lets out a heavy sigh. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Tobin repeats, nodding and jumping out of the Jeep to run a couple of yards to throw the empty box of pizza away. “Now, let’s play a game or something,” she says when she returns, climbing back into the trunk and leaning against the back seats.

“What kind of game?”

Tobin shrugs. “I dunno. Truth or dare?”

“We’re not in high school, Tobin,” Christen chuckles, making herself more comfortable beside the woman.

“Okay, wanna go home then?”

Christen gives her a ‘really?’ look.

“C’mon,” Tobin laughs. “I won’t make you do anything stupid, I promise.”

“I don’t believe that, but okay,” Christen rolls her eyes slightly.

“Yes,” Tobin whispers victoriously. “I’ll go first, okay? I pick truth.”

“Boring,” Christen teases, earning herself a knock on her knee from Tobin’s. “Okay, let me think…” She raises a hand, placing the tip of her finger to the tip of her nose in thought.

Tobin smiles, finding the idiosyncrasy she had witnessed a handful of times before incredibly endearing.

“Okay, Christen says, slapping her hands onto her lap gently. “What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever tried?”

“That’s such a weird question,” Tobin laughs.

“You’re the one who wanted to play!”

“Okay, okay. Uhhh, I don’t know. When I was little I used to put Doritos in the middle of my PB&Js.”

“Cheese Doritos?!”

Tobin nods, chuckling at the disbelief that strikes Christen.

“That’s disgusting!” The woman exclaims.

“It actually wasn’t all that bad. I only tried it because I wanted to eat my lunches at school faster so that I had more time to play. It’s definitely not a normal combination, but if it didn’t taste bad, so I didn’t care.”

Christen shakes her head at the thought of a mini Tobin scarfing down her lunch just so she could go play with her friends quicker.

“I’m gonna make you try it one day.”

“No way,” Christen says in disgust. “That’s gross.”

“Yes way,” Tobin laughs. “Truth or dare?”

“Well I can’t pick truth now that you just did, so dare,” Christen teases.

“You can pick whatever you want,” Tobin says earnestly. “Okay, uhhhm…” she thinks, smirking when an idea hits her. “I dare you to call Cameron and sing happy birthday to her and then hang up.”

“Tobin!”

“A dare’s a dare!”

Christen’s jaw drops as she stares at Tobin in disbelief. “What happened to not making me do anything stupid?”

“This isn’t stupid,” Tobin grins. “It’s funny.”

Christen takes a deep breath before pulling her phone out of her jacket pocket. “It has to be Cam?”

“What’s wrong with calling Cam?”

“You know what’s wrong with calling Cam,” Christen gives her a side-eye, catching the small smirk on her lips.

Begrudgingly, Christen clicks Cameron’s contact in her phone and takes a deep breath when the line begins to ring. She catches Tobin looking smug when she looks up from her phone, so she harshly whispers, “You’re such a little shit, you know that?”

“Hello? Christen?”

Christen’s eyes widen in shock and her throat closes in panic.

Tobin gestures wildy to the phone when Cam says, “Hello?” again, this time more curiously.

“Cam!” Christen finally gets out. “Happy birthday!”

“What?” Cam laughs. “It’s not my-”

Christen immediately begins singing the happy birthday song that she had been sung earlier that morning by Tobin, trying to keep her laughs in when she sees said woman doubled over in hysterics beside her. Throughout the entire song, Cam is trying to gain Christen’s attention, repeatedly saying that it’s not her birthday, but Christen persists.

By the end of the song, Cameron is attempting to say, “Christen, it’s not my birthday,” one more time, but Christen cuts her off before she can get the words out.

“Happy birthday, Cam! Have a good night!”

Tobin lets her laughs out freely the moment Christen hangs up the phone and sinks down against the back of the seat, muttering an “Oh my god,” and covering her face with her hands.

When Tobin’s laughs don’t stop, Christen swats her hand out to her side, effectively slapping Tobin’s abdomen.

“You’re such a child.”

“I’m sorry,” Tobin manages to speak through her laughs, reaching out to place a hand on Christen's thigh. “That was just too good.”

Christen shakes her head once more, finally beginning to let herself laugh along at the absurdity of what she had just done.

“Truth or dare,” she finally asks, still pretending to sound annoyed.

“I’ll go dare to make up for that.”

“Charming,” Christen gives her a fake, tight-lipped grin.

“Hit me,” Tobin challenges.

“Alright, hot-shot,” Christen chuckles, sitting up straight. “I dare you to go run thigh deep into the ocean right now and stay in there for 20 seconds.”

“What?!”

“You heard me.”

“That’s evil,” Tobin laughs. “It’s December! Do you know how cold that water is right now?”

“A dare’s a dare,” Christen mimics her, smirk evident on her lips.

Tobin is left speechless as Christen doesn’t back down, but ultimately, she gets out from the trunk and says “Follow me.”

Christen rushes to climb out behind her, pulling her phone out once more for a flashlight when they reach the sand.

When Tobin kicks her shoes off and begins to unbutton her pants, Christen exclaims, “You’re gonna skinny-dip?!”

“Get your mind out of the gutter,” Tobin teases her, winking as she pulls her pants down to reveal her boxers. “I’m not gonna drive home in wet pants, crazy,” she explains, stuffing her shoes and pants into Christen’s hands.

“You are so gonna pay for this,” Tobin says through a shiver when a breeze blows, jumping up and down to try to keep warm.

“The sooner you go, the sooner you can get out,” Christen sings, laughing when Tobin shoots her a glare.

A few seconds later, after Tobin rubs her hands up and down her thighs and takes a deep breath, she’s running into the waves that are dimly lit by the moonlight, yelping as the ice-cold water splashes against her legs.

Christen is surprised that she actually does it, but as soon as Tobin is far in enough for the water to reach her thighs, she starts shouting, counting to twenty.

By the last few numbers, Tobin is groaning loudly into the night as her legs go numb, running back to shore as soon as the number twenty leaves Christen’s lips.

“Oh my god! You are horrible!” Tobin yells as she approaches Christen, ripping her shirt off and using the cloth to wipe her legs dry, leaving her in just her underwear.

“I can’t believe you actually did it!”

“I can’t believe you actually dared it!” Tobin says, jumping as she pulls her pants back up her legs, her teeth chattering.

“Oh,” Christen coos through a laugh, bringing one hand up to cup Tobin’s cheek and the other to rub her arm, feeling a little bad. “I’m sorry.”

Tobin relishes in the warmth that Christen’s hands bring to her body as she tries to unwad her wet t-shirt.

“Here,” Christen says, retracting her hands to shrug off her jacket and hand it to Tobin, swapping her for the t-shirt.

Tobin shrugs the jacket on immediately, wrapping it tight around her body, and says a quiet “Thank you.”

“C’mon,” Christen sticks her hand out for Tobin to take, “let’s go turn the heater on in the car and then go home.”

When Christen jumps into the driver's seat, takes both of Tobin’s hands between hers, and blows hot air into them in the car, Tobin pretends she doesn’t fall a little harder.

Somehow, Tobin convinces Christen to stop for donuts on the way home, despite being practically naked under Christen’s jacket and barely regaining feeling in her legs.

Christen calls her crazy for it, but she stops anyway because she can never resist donuts, especially not on her birthday.

So when they get home and pay the sitter for the night, they immediately check on Avery and then rush to their rooms to change into warmer and more comfortable clothes before meeting each other in the kitchen to indulge.

“Mm,” Tobin hums through a mouthful as she stands in front of Christen where the woman is seated on top of the kitchen counter, “what’s your favorite kind of donut?”

“Glazed,” Christen answers without missing a beat as she takes another bite.

“Glazed?” Tobin laughs in disbelief. “That’s so boring.”

“You’re boring,” Christen retorts, licking her thumb clean of some sticky sugar.

“Not true,” Tobin challenges, ignoring the weird feeling in her stomach as she watches Christen gently suck her fingers clean and continuing on, “I ran into the fucking ocean for you tonight. That’s far from boring.”

Christen laughs, reaching into the box to tear a piece off of a glazed twist, not wanting the whole thing for herself. “Very true. That was quite the entertainment.”

“I’m glad you found it so funny,” Tobin responds, pretending to be hurt as she leans forward to reach for another donut.

Christen, however, pushes the box away with her hand and leans her body to the side to block Tobin from reaching for another.

“Oh you wanna play that game, huh?” Tobin laughs, taking hold of Christen’s wrist and stepping between her legs as she begins to jab tickling fingers into the woman’s stomach.

“Stop! Okay! Okay!” Christen says between laughs, grabbing onto Tobin’s hands to stop the gentle assault.

“Let me have some then,” Tobin says, resting her hands on Christen’s hips and giving them a tender squeeze.

The birthday girl grins, reaching behind her to pull the box back out and open it up. “Which one do you want?”

“Chocolate.”

Christen plucks the chocolate donut out of the box and lifts it up in front of her, giggling when Tobin charges forward to tear a bite off of it. At the sight of smear chocolate on the edge of Tobin’s mouth, Christen laughs harder. “You got a little something on your mouth, Tobs,” she says, setting the donut back into the box.

“Saving it for later,” Tobin replies cheekily after she swallows, wrapping her arms further around Christen’s back and bringing them a little closer. “Get it for me.”

Christen rolls her eyes playfully, bringing her hand up to cup Tobin’s cheek and use her thumb to wipe the chocolate off of her face. Tobin watches her intensely, taking note of the way Christen focuses so intently on her mouth, but looks back up and straight into her eyes, waiting a moment before innocently bringing her thumb to her own lips and ridding it of the chocolate she had just wiped from Tobin’s face.

“Christen,” Tobin whispers, hand clutching the back of the woman’s sweater.

“Hm?”

“Truth or dare?”

“What?” Christen laughs quietly, caught off guard.

“Truth or dare?” Tobin repeats a little louder, but a lot huskier, as her eyes fall down to Christen’s lips and her hand slips under the woman’s sweater to meet her warm skin.

Then she gets it.

“Dare.”

“Kiss me.”

Tobin can barely get the words out before Christen’s hands are holding her face again, pulling her close so she can connect their lips in a heated kiss.

Tobin sighs against the woman’s mouth, her hands finding her hips again to tug her closer. Christen, for her part, has her hands tangled in Tobin’s hair and is mumbling “You taste like chocolate,” against Tobin’s lips before taking them between her own again.When she bites down softly on Tobin’s lip and then uses her tongue to trace it afterwards, she feels the woman shudder under her touch. When Tobin’s hands find their way back, just above the curve of Christen’s bum, the woman is wrapping her arms around her neck and lifting herself enough so Tobin could slip them under.

“Are you sure?” Tobin manages to get out between kisses as she lifts Christen off the counter.

Christen’s nod and tender kiss to her lips is all she needs before walking down the hall and dropping the birthday girl on her bed.

At some late hour of the night, the pair lay awake in comfortable silence. Christen’s head rests on Tobin’s chest, her fingers tracing the collarbone beneath her as a warm hand dances along her bare back.

When Christen lifts her head and drops a small kiss to the skin beneath her spontaneaously, Tobin’s heart almost bursts.

“How did our best friends know about us before we did?” Tobin laughs.

“Oh god,” Christen groans playfully. “I don’t even want to know what they would be saying right now.”

“Hey!” Tobin pinches Christen’s hip gently. “What is that supposed to mean?”

The woman lifts her head to meet Tobin’s eyes. “That if I admitted that they were right about you, I would never hear the end of it,” she says, leaning forward to kiss Tobin softly.

“And what did they say about me that made them right?” Tobin whispers when Christen pulls back, her eyes hooded when she sees Christen bite her lip.

“That whatever idea I had of you before was all wrong,” Christen answers softly, sitting up slightly and putting her elbow and hand beneath her head for support. “That you have a really great heart. That you’re great with kids. That you love hard… That you aren’t just some sport-obsessed dude-bro.”

Tobin lets out a hearty laugh at the last line.

Christen giggles along, continuing with a smile when the laughs subside. “That if I actually tried to really get to know you, I would find out who you really are.”

“And who do you think I am now?” Tobin asks, smiling when Christen traces a finger up her jaw and then brushes her hair back softly.

“I think,” Christen starts, taking a pause to cup Tobin’s cheek and rub her thumb across her cheekbone, “that you are everything they told me you are and then some. I think you’re one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. You’re incredibly creative and talented. And every time I watch you with Avery, I can’t handle it. You’re such a softy-”

“Am not.”

“Even if you don’t want people to know it,” Christen finishes, laughing as Tobin rolls her eyes.

“Keep going and I might think you’re obsessed with me,” Tobin jokes.

“Maybe just a little bit,” Christen winks, moving to kiss her once more.

Humming against her lips, Tobin grins. “Yeah, well I might have to admit I was wrong too.”

Christen raises an eyebrow, smirking to herself.

“Jay used to be on my ass about being nice to you because I was such a dick.”

“I was kind of a bitch to you, too. I think we were both at fault for that one,” Christen laughs.

“Yeah, well, I still didn’t have any reason to act that way,” Tobin admits. “I just thought we were so different and assumed that you were probably one of those girls that thought she was better than everyone else.”

“Is that why I was ‘princess?’” Christen laughs in realization. “Because you thought I thought I was better than everyone else? I thought you were just trying to get on my nerves.”

“Maybe,” Tobin smirks. “A litt of both.”

Christen rolls her eyes, but asks, “You don’t think that anymore?” hopefully.

Tobin turns to place a kiss to the inside of her wrist. “Not at all.”

Christen smiles down at her affectionately, but giggles when Tobin takes hold of her hips and flips her onto her back, immediately attacking her neck with playful kisses.

“I also think you’re kind of hot.”

“Oh,” Christen laughs sarcastically, pushing her away by the shoulder. “Charming.”

“You know what else I think?” Tobin grins, swooping down to place one more quick kiss to her lips.

“Hm?”

“That we should go eat the rest of those donuts.”

///

“Mmm,” Avery mimics Christen’s hum through a mouthful of mashed banana from where she sits atop the kitchen island in her bumbo seat, her eyes growing wide.

“Is that yummy, babe?” Christen laughs. “You know, one time, you spit banan all over me when you were upset… but now you’re obsessed with them so I’m going to count that as a win.”

Avery immediately opens her mouth for another bite as soon as she swallows, making a small squealing sound and kicking her legs slightly.

“Okay, okay. I’m going, Little Miss Impatient,” Christen tells the baby, scooping another spoonful of banana out of the bowl for her.

“Good morning, gorgeous,” Christen hears against her ear, warm arms slipping around her waist from behind as she feeds Avery.

She’s unable to stop her grin, putting Avery’s bowl down and turning her head to meet Tobin’s lips for a good morning kiss. “Hey there, sleepyhead. You’re up late.”

Tobin kisses her again, humming, and squeezes her waist. When Avery squeals loudly again, she turns to the baby with a fake stern expression and says, “Hey! It’s my turn!” before kissing Christen once more and then letting her go.

Christen smiles as she watches Tobin lean down to kiss Avery’s cheek repeatedly and say “G’morning, monkey,” to the giggling baby before pressing one last kiss to the top of her head.

“I can finish.” When Tobin takes the bowl and spoon from the countertop and takes over on feeding duty, Christen presses a kiss to her cheek and moves to finish cutting a few strawberries for Avery to eat after her banana.

“Are you gonna make it to midnight tonight, Aves?” Tobin asks the baby as she feeds her another spoonful. “It’s your first New Years!”

“She better not,” Christen laughs, dropping the strawberry slices into a small bowl.

“Buzzkill,” Tobin teases, picking a strawberry slice out of the bowl and popping it into her mouth. “Tell her you can hang, Aves.”

Christen places the bowl in Avery’s lap and takes the empty bowl of banana from Tobin to put in the sink. “Tell Tobin she can deal with you being grumpy tomorrow if we try.”

Tobin laughs as the baby focuses on picking a slice of strawberry up between her thumb and pointer fingers, bringing it to her mouth, unfazed by the women’s discussion. “She’s a food monster.”

“No kidding,” Christen chuckles as she walks back up to the pair and slips her arms around Tobin, pressing a kiss to her jaw. “Did you know you hog the blankets?”

“Do not!” Tobin laughs, pulling back to see Christen’s grin. “You’re making that up.”

“I’m not,” Christen shakes her head. “I think I woke up like four different times because I was so cold.”

Tobin huffs. “Yeah, well, you snore, so…”

Christen’s jaw drops. “You are such a liar!”

“Nope.” Tobin shakes her head. “Right in my ear. All night.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Okay,” the woman laughs, plucking another strawberry from Avery’s bowl, earning herself a swat on the hand from Christen and a whine from the baby. “I’m gonna record you, watch.”

“Not if I kick you out so you don’t steal my blankets anymore,” Christen says definitively.

“You wouldn’t,” Tobin shakes her head with a grin, leaning in to press a strawberry-sweet kiss to Christen’s lips.

“Try me,” Christen challenges. “See how you like your lonely bed now, Heath.”

Tobin grins, pulling the woman in for another kiss. “Kay, I won’t record you. I’m sorry.”

Christen rolls her eyes, knowing she’s not a snorer, but allows herself to be kissed anyway.

“Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma.”

The two women separate at the sound of Avery’s voice, both of their eyes widening.

“What about Mama, angel?” Tobin asks softly, letting go of Christen to approach the baby.

Christen’s eyes well up with tears when the baby says it again, staring right at her. “It’s Christen, Aves.”

Tobin’s head turns abruptly at that. Christen ignores her gaze, but walks up to the pair to speak to the baby more directly. “Say, Chris-ten.”

The baby doesn’t even try, instead hitting them with another, “Ma-ma.”

“Chris,” Tobin whispers, reaching for her hand, eyebrows furrowing when the woman flinches.

“She’s just- she’s just repeating what we taught her with the scrapbook. She’s not-“

“Chris,” Tobin says a little louder, but still just as soft as she tugs her near. Christen breaks down into a sniffling and shaking mess in her arms.

“I don’t-”

“Shhh,” Tobin soothes. “We’ll figure it out. It’s okay.”

Tobin shuts the baby’s door softly after putting her down for a nap before turning and walking into Christen’s room next door, running a hand through her hair.

The woman sits slouched low on her bed, the ends of her legs tucked underneath her crumpled covers.

“Hey,” Tobin says gently as she lays down beside her, immediately reaching for her hand and pulling it to her mouth to kiss.

They’re quiet for a long time, neither knowing where to start.

“What’s on your mind?” Tobin asks, rubbing the back of her hand.

Christen shakes her head, beginning to cry again, “I’m not-” She stops. “We’re not them, Tobin.”

“I know that, Chris.”

“I’m Christen. And you’re Tobin.”

“I know.”

“I don’t- I can’t take their place. We can’t. I’m not going to take their place.”

“Chris.”

“I can’t do it, Tobin.”

“Hey,” Tobin says gently, wrapping her arms around Christen’s abdomen when she feels her begin to shut down. “We’re not replacing them, babe.”

Christen barely even registers the term of endearment, too caught up in her own emotions. “She’s just barely starting to talk. That’s the only word she knows. It’s barely even a word, she’s just-”

“Christen,” Tobin says more firmly.

At that, Christen stops, turning her head slightly, to look at Tobin.

“You’re right. It’s the only word she knows how to say right now and she probably doesn’t even know what it means because all we did was point at Viv in some pictures and tell her to say ‘mama’...”

Christen nods solemnly.

“But you still freaked out when she said it and looked at you…” she says gently, not wanting to send the woman into another state of panic.

Christen takes a deep, shaky breath. “I didn’t mean to. I just… We’re already living in their house. We’re raising their kid. We’re living the lives they were meant to live and I can’t handle the thought of replacing them to the fullest extent. If all she has left of them is being able to call them mama and dada, I’m not going to take that from her.”

“So you want us to be Christen and Tobin forever then?” Tobin asks, keeping her tone even. “We’re going to be raising her for the next 18 years, and even after then, I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

“I don’t plan on that either, Tobin. I just-” She buries her face into her hands. “I don’t know.”

Tobin squeezes her side affectionately. “Can I tell you what I think?”

Christen runs her hands down her face and nods. “Please.”

“I think,” Tobin starts through a sigh, “that our plan was never to let her forget who her parents are. We show her pictures and we tell her stories and we will continue to do that and make sure she knows who they are… But I also think that what we are doing is raising her like mothers would. We stepped in when she was only three months old, Christen. Because she needed us and because her parents wanted that for her and because we love her enough to be here. We are the only living parental figures that she is ever going to know and I can’t say that I would be mad if she called us Mama or Mom or Mommy. Or if eventually she wants to call us Christen and Tobin or Aunties or whatever she wants, that’s okay too. But we are her parents, Christen. And we will be for the rest of her life, and so will Viv and Jay. Us being her parents doesn’t mean that they aren’t too. We aren’t replacing them.”

Christen nods, covering her mouth with her sweatshirt-sleeve-covered hand. “I’m just having a hard time accepting that we would be quite literally teaching her to call us her moms when she has a mom… and a dad. I know that it’s not unreasonable. I know it’s not wrong for us to be her parents. I know we’re all she has left. I just don’t know what’s holding me back.”

Tobin rubs her hand comfortingly along Christen’s side. “Are you not ready for that yet?”

Christen takes a moment, truly wanting to give Tobin an honest answer, but still not able to bring her thoughts together. “I don’t know. But this isn’t exactly something that can wait.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“What’s so different from you calling Avery your baby or our baby and Avery calling us her mamas?”

Christen is stunned. “I guess I didn’t think of it that way.”

Tobin gives her a small smile. “I promise I'm not trying to convince you to do something you might be uncomfortable with. I’m just trying to think of this from her point of view.”

“I know. I think that’s most important. She’s my main priority,” Christen says sincerely.

“I know she is. And I agree,” Tobin nods. “I’ve been thinking about it since this morning. I keep going back to the fact that if she can’t call us her moms, she might end up feeling like we’re just here because we have to be. Maybe not. I don’t know. I would hope that we would show her enough love for her to know that’s not true. But, to me, her calling us her moms tells her that we are her parents. Her calling us Christen and Tobin is just a constant reminder that Viv and Jay are gone and she won’t ever really remember them.”

Christen is quiet for a pensive moment. “I don’t want her life to be any harder than it has to be.”

“I don’t either, Chris.” Tobin moves her hand to take hold of Christen’s and sets them atop the woman’s stomach. “Maybe what I’m saying wouldn’t even be the case if she called us anything other than her moms. I don’t know. All I know is that we’re here raising a baby that we love a whole fucking lot and… I don’t know. I guess I kind of feel like her mom.”

Christen turns her head to look at Tobin again with tear-filled eyes.

“Is that okay?” Tobin asks carefully. “If you’re not ready for that or if it’s not what you want, then we can figure it out as we go or something.”

“Tobin,” Christen sighs sadly, squeezing her hand. “Your feelings matter too. It shouldn’t just depend on how I feel. That’s incredibly selfish and unfair to both you and Avery.”

Tobin gives a small smile. “I just don’t want to force you into something you don’t want.”

“And I don’t want to take away something you do want,” Christen tells her. “Or something that she may want. I don’t even think that it’s that I don’t want her to call me her mom… I think I was just in shock. And I shouldn’t have been. I should have seen this coming. It’s probably something we should have talked about before. But you know, with us not being together it felt like an odd topic…”

Tobin’s heart flutters when Christen insinuates that they are together now, but she pushes it aside knowing more important matters are at hand. “I get that. I think it’s okay to be a little shocked. It’s kind of a heavy thing.”

Christen nods. “I think I just didn’t want to make that decision for her. I would want her to be able to choose what to call us, but obviously she’s starting to talk already and is going to have to call us something.”

“And we can’t switch it up on her either. If we tell her Tobin and Christen now and then moms later, it might confuse her. Or vice versa.”

The curly haired woman takes a deep breath and then scoots down to lay down parallel to Tobin on her side so she can face her. They hold eye contact and search each other's faces for a few moments, but Christen eventually says, “We’re her parents.”

“We are,” Tobin agrees in a soft tone.

“She’s our baby.”

Tobin nods, bringing her hand up to push Christen’s hair behind her ear.. “It’s that simple to me. She’s ours and we’re hers.”

A tear falls from Christen’s eye and onto her nose, but Tobin is quick to wipe it away.

“Are you afraid that they would be upset if we let her call us her moms?” Tobin asks carefully.

“I think so,” Christen’s voice cracks.

Tobin moves forward to press a tender kiss to Christen’s forehead. “I think that they’re probably super grateful that we’re doing what we promised. That we’re raising their baby with all the love and support we can give her. I don’t think they would be upset over that, Chris. We’re just here trying to do what we promised. At the time we thought it meant spoiling the heck out of her and maybe babysitting every now and then,” she jokes, finally getting Christen to laugh a little, “but I think that our promise to always be there for her is something so much bigger now. I would hope they would be okay with letting her call us her moms if it’s just out of love… if that’s what we choose.”

Christen buries herself into Tobin’s chest, tucking her head under the woman’s chin and nodding. “I know.”

Tobin holds her for a few minutes, letting her think in the peace of silence, before she says, “You don’t have to decide right this second. You can take a little time… we just can’t wait too long because she’s probably just going to keep saying it.”

Christen finally brings her head back up and looks deep into Tobin’s eyes. “I think you’re right. I’ve been calling her our baby and I know that we’re her parents. I don’t want to confuse her and I don’t want her to grow up feeling like she has to call us something different than moms when that’s what we are. We love her like she’s ours because she is and if we teach her that now, it’ll just be natural to her.”

Tobin gives her an understanding smile. “We’ll always remind her that V and Jay loved her so much, Chris. We won’t let her forget them. But we can’t keep living like they’re going to come back.”

Christen finds her hand underneath the covers and holds on tight. “I know,” she whispers. “It might take some getting used to, but it’s what’s best.”

“You’re sure you’re comfortable with it?” Tobin asks, squeezing her hand reassuringly.

Christen nods. “We’re her moms,” she says confidently. “And Viv is her mom and Jay is her dad and she’ll always know how much we all love her. She deserves that.”

Tobin grins, bringing their hands up to her mouth to kiss Christen’s. “If it doesn’t feel right at any point, you’ll tell me?”

“I know it’s right, Tobs. I was just scared of what it all meant.”

Tobin gives her a sad smile “Okay. But still… you’ll tell me about whatever’s on your mind?”

“I promise,” Christen nods, moving forward to kiss Tobin lightly. “You will too? Tell me about anything?”

“I will,” Tobin assures her with a nod and another kiss.

Christen relishes in the comfort that Tobin brings her with something as simple as a gentle lock of lips.

“Can I ask a silly question?”

“No question is silly, Chris.”

“Can we go take a bath together?”

Tobin pulls back to meet her eyes with an amused expression.

“Not like that, you teenage boy,” Christen chuckles, jabbing Tobin’s abdomen lightly. “I just feel like I need to relax and a bath with you sounds nice…”

Tobin kisses her worries away when she sees shy green eyes. “I think a bath before Aves gets up sounds relaxing too. Come on.”

Christen’s fingers skim along the length of Tobin’s shin under the warm water as the woman presses gentle kisses to her neck and shoulders.

“Now I know why you like to take baths so much,” Tobin jokes, kissing just behind her ear and below her curls innocently. “It’s nice in here.”

Christen smiles softly, turning her head up to place a light kiss to the underside of Tobin’s jaw. “I have to say, it’s even nicer with you here with me.”

Tobin grins, leaning down to take Christen’s lips between her own just barely.

“Can I ask you a question?” Christen asks when they pull away and she leans her head back onto Tobin’s shoulder.

“Always.”

Christen’s hand cups itself over Tobin’s kneecap almost subconsciously. “How serious are you about… this?”

“About us?” Tobin asks to be sure, rubbing her thumbs along the woman’s stomach slowly.

Christen nods. “I just- I know it’s all so new and I get it if you need time to figure it out. I just don’t want to have the wrong idea and-”

“Babe, look at me.”

Christen turns her head again, her expression giving her nerves away.

“Remember what I told you the day after we got the news? I made a promise to you.”

Christen racks her brain trying to remember, but Tobin supplies the answer before she can say anything.

“I’m not going anywhere, Christen.”

“Tobin… you said that about Avery-”

“No, I meant it about both of you. At the time I didn’t know that we would end up here, but I meant it to say that I am always going to be here for you two. That doesn’t change now. I can’t tell you for certain what’s going to happen between us, but I can tell you that I think Viv and Jay, and honestly some others, were right about us. I can promise you that this feeling I have about us is a good one. There’s nothing I want more than to just be here with you two. You guys are it for me. ”

Christen feels a lump in her throat at the sincerity that pours out with every word that falls from Tobin’s lips.

“And if something happens between us, I promise you that I still won’t be going anywhere. We’ll make it work for her, but I sure hope that won’t be the case.”

“I don’t want us to mess everything up for her,” Christen says quietly, scanning Tobin’s face, “but you guys are it for me, too. I don’t want anything else.”

Tobin kisses her forehead a few times after grinning. “In case you couldn’t tell by how possessive I got with… y’know-”

“Cam?” Christen laughs. “Oh, trust me. I could tell. The fact that you still pretend to not remember her name tells me a lot.”

“Whatever,” Tobin laughs, “I was going to say… having you and Aves around all the time made me realize I don’t want to ever let you guys go. And I’m sorry if those are strong words for how early this all is, but it doesn’t feel all that new to me because we’ve been here all along. We just only figured it out recently.”

Christen brings her hand up from Tobin’s knee to pull her in for a kiss by the chin. “You can cool down the jealousy, babe. We’re all yours.”

“All mine,” Tobin grins against her lips. “I like the sound of that.”

Just then, Avery babbling from the nearby baby monitor can be heard and Christen groans into their kiss. “Our baby has the worst timing,” she says, smiling bright when the woman holding her obviously picks up on her word choice.

Tobin laughs and kisses her once more. “C’mon, mama. The water was getting cold anyway.”

“You’re gonna miss it,” Tobin calls softly into the quiet house from her seat on the couch, careful not to wake Avery who is asleep on her chest.

Moments later, Christen walks back into the room with a flute of champagne in each hand. She glances to the TV quickly, noticing there’s only a minute until the new year, and quickens her speed to return to her seat next to Tobin.

“Here. Don’t spill on her.”

“I’m not going to spill on her,” Tobin chuckles, taking the glass from Christen’s hand as the woman curls up beside her.

The house is dark and quiet, only illuminated by the soft glow of the television and filled by the faint sound of the countdown to the new year. Christen leans her head onto Tobin’s shoulder and places a hand on her leg as the count gets lower.

“Despite how shitty some of this year was, I’m thankful for a lot of it,” Tobin says. “Most of all you two.”

“Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six!...”

Christen turns her head up to meet Tobin’s gaze. “Me too.”

“...Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”

Their lips find each other in an easy lock of lips, like it was all either of them had ever known.

“Happy New Year!”

As music plays from the television speakers, the two women are lost amongst themselves. Tobin pulls her hand off of Avery’s back to bring under Christen’s chin and hold her close for a few moments longer. Christen is happy to indulge her, kissing back with a little more force before finally breaking them apart with a few last chaste pecks.

“Happy New Year, Tobin.”

“Happy New Year, Chris.”

Christen grins as she pulls away, bringing her champagne up for Tobin to clink against her own in cheers.

After a small celebratory sip, Christen leans forward to set her glass on the coffee table, then returns her head to Tobin’s shoulder and lays a gentle hand on Avery’s back. “Happy New Year, baby,” she whispers before leaning forward and pressing a featherlight kiss to the crown of Avery’s head. “I love you so much.”

///

Christen watches from Avery’s doorway with a lovestruck smile as Tobin dresses the baby in a pair of leggings and a chunky knitted sweater, blowing a few raspberries onto her bare belly mid-change while Avery sits on the changing table to get a laugh out of her.

“You have to be on your best behavior today, okay, monkey?” She tells the now 11 month old baby. “Mommy and I want everything to go perfect so we can finally make everything official. We want Miss Megan to approve us to adopt you so we can finally be an official family,” she says, standing the baby up and holding onto her hands for support. “Does that sound good to you, angel?”

Avery lets out a tiny, “Wow!”, a word (or more so sound) that she had only just learned a few days before, that has Christen laughing from the doorway.

“Hey,” Tobin grins when she turns her head to find Christen. “This one is ready and apparently approves of us being a family.”

Christen giggles as she walks up to the pair and wraps her arms around Tobin’s waist from the side, turning her head to face Avery. “Is that so, my love?”

Avery beams at Christen, leaning forward on Tobin’s hands to receive a kiss from the woman.

“Oh,” Christen laughs, pressing a kiss to Avery’s cheek and then taking hold of her by the waist. “Kiss?” She asks, tapping her cheek, grinning wide when Avery plants a slobbery, wide open mouth to her cheek.

“Hey, what about me?” Tobin pouts from beside them. “What about me, Aves? Kiss?”

Christen laughs as Avery leans over to Tobin to give her the same version of a kiss.

“Kiss?” Tobin asks once more, tapping her lips, but this time the question is directed at Christen.

The woman rolls her eyes lightheartedly, but leans forward nevertheless to peck Tobin’s lips. “Dork.”

When the doorbell rings, they separate and take deep breaths.

“Ready?” Tobin asks, taking Avery back and holding her in her arms.

Christen nods as she passes the baby a toy. “Let’s hope all goes well.”

Tobin stands just behind Christen as the door opens, smiling at the sight of the Cool Case Worker that she and Christen grew more and more comfortable with as the surprise and scheduled visits came and went.

“Hey, you three!” Megan smiles brightly as she sees the three of them dressed semi-formally, the two adults looking a bit anxious. “You ready?”

Christen nods with a smile as she invites the woman in with a wave of her hand and a, “Hi, Megan! Come on in.”

“Hello, Miss Avery,” Megan says to the baby sweetly, picking up her small foot covered in baby Nike J1s in her hand. “I love your shoes.”

Tobin grins. “You know I had to have my baby looking fly.”

Megan laughs, looking up to the woman. “I have to say, I’m proud, Tobin.”

Tobin’s eyebrows raise and eyes widen as she glances to Christen, who laughs at her. “I told you they were worth buying!”

“Okay, you two,” Megan says to the pair as they settle down in the living room and she opens her folder up, Avery on the floor with her toys just a few feet away. “How’s it going?”

“Good,” is the only response she gets from the two. She glances up curiously, but brushes it off when they both laugh awkwardly. “Are you that nervous?” she laughs. “You know I don’t bite.”

“Sorry,” Christen chuckles. “Just… random jitters, I guess.”

“No worries,” Megan assures her. “Did you have a good New Years?”

Both women tense slightly, remembering how eventful the day had been for them emotionally, but Tobin responds, “Just had a quiet night in, but it was good. How was yours?”

“I spent the night at home vegging out with my wife, so I can’t complain,” Megan laughs. “But onto the important stuff… I think I know the answer to this already, but you know I have to ask: Everything is good with Avery?”

Christen nods, grinning as she glances over to the baby girl. “Absolutely. She’s crawling even faster now and even repeating some small words here and there, so I’d say she’s great.”

“Oh! Words!” Megan says, excited. “That’s new!”

“Very new,” Tobin adds on. “It’s only like two words, but it’s early so I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more at some point.”

“What’s she saying?” Megan grins, but the question is unanticipated by the two women seated across from her and it causes knots to tie in their stomachs.

When neither of them replies, she glances up from her notes again, stopping her note-taking. “Everything okay?”

Christen glances over to Tobin nervously, silently asking if they should just go ahead and say it. When Tobin nods softly, Christen says, “I guess it’s probably important to mention that one of the words she’s started saying is ‘mama’...”

“Oh,” Megan’s brows raise slightly. “That… that would be something big, yes. Is this in reference to Vivian or to you two?”

“Both?” Tobin says unsurely. “We, uh, were showing her some pictures of Viv and Jay and told her Viv was her mama and she kind of just repeated it. But then she just kept saying it afterwards that we had to sit down and talk about what she would be calling us moving forward if she’s going to start talking soon.”

“That’s an important conversation to have,” Megan agrees, nodding. “So you agreed that she would start calling you guys ‘mama’ then?”

The women both nod.

“We figured that it’s what’s going to be easiest for her as she grows up. We of course never want to take Viv and Jay’s place, but Tobin made the point that we’re all she’s ever really going to know as her parents and having her refer to us as Christen and Tobin or anything else could perhaps confuse her or make her feel maybe less connected to us. We still plan on referring to Viv and Jay as her mom and dad too, we just thought that since we’re raising her, we’re her parents too… Is that okay?”

“I mean, she is your child,” Megan nods. “Your reasoning is totally understandable. I think that it could be a positive thing for her and agree that being able to refer to you two as ‘mama’ will likely provide more emotional stability and connection to the two of you as she grows up. I have to ask though… she’s going to be referring to you both as her moms despite you not being together? Have you thought about how you’re going to explain to her why maybe a classmate has a mom and dad or two moms or two dads that are married and living together, but you two aren’t?”

At the sight of both Christen and Tobin’s flushed cheeks and the sound of pure silence, it hits Megan.

“No. You two slept together?! You had one job!”

“It’s not like that!” Tobin is quick to say.

“That’s what everyone says when this happens!”

“It’s really not like that,” Christen tries to convince the social worker.

Megan clicks her pen closed harshly and then sets it into the bind of her folder. “So what? You slept together, after I specifically told you how many problems it could cause for Avery, and are now claiming that it wasn’t just pent up sexual frustration that you couldn’t resist?”

“It wasn’t,” Tobin says confidently.

Megan simply raises an eyebrow and sits back into her seat. “Okay, then, what was it?”

“I care about her a lot,” Christen starts, “and it wasn’t just a hookup, or just… sexual frustration. I don’t plan on this just being a fling.”

“Me either.”

“No one does,” Megan says. “Right now you two are in the honeymoon phase. You think you’re going to last forever and everything is going to be rainbows and sunshine, but life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, things aren’t always so nice and life happens and you drift apart. Or you grow to hate each other. Or you decide the relationship isn’t worth all the hardship. Or any other bad scenario that could happen which is why I warned you not to let this happen. It’s too big of a risk and your priority needs to be that baby girl right there,” she finishes, pointing at Avery on the floor.

“She is our priority,” Christen says in a small voice, feeling guilty for not having listened to Megan to begin with. “I love her more than anything in this world and I will do anything to make sure she has the life she deserves.”

“This isn’t putting Avery first, you guys,” the case worker says with a sigh.

Tobin takes a deep breath, willing herself to work up the courage to say what she needs to say. “With all due respect, Megan, I know life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. I know heartache and I know sometimes life just hits you with what you don’t expect. When I got a call that my best friends were dead, I knew then and there that life is not always nice. And then I was handed a baby to raise and it was like being put on a bicycle without ever using training wheels. We had no clue what we were doing,” she laughs incredulously, “but our main priority has always been Avery and we figured it out together for her sake. I made a promise to Christen the moment we realized that we were all Avery had left that I wasn’t going anywhere and I promised her recently that I still mean that. These two are my world and I’m going to hang onto them as tight as I can because God knows I know what it’s like to lose people that I love.”

Christen’s breath catches in her throat when Tobin meets her eyes when she says the last line.

“I love Christen-”

“Tobin, don’t say this just for the sake of convincing me-”

“I wouldn’t tell you that I loved her before I got the chance to tell her first if I didn’t think that fact was important enough to share,” Tobin says almost bitterly. “I love Avery with my whole heart too. And I’m not telling you I love Christen because I want your seal of approval on our relationship; I’m telling you so you know how serious I am about making this work for all of us, but most importantly for Avery.”

Megan holds Tobin’s deep stare for a few moments before turning her gaze to the woman beside her. “Christen? Anything you want to add?”

Christen is at a loss for words, but she takes Tobin’s hand in her own and squeezes it tight before forcing herself to talk. “Viv and Jay were always so persistent about the two of us being a great match, even before Avery was born. I hate to claim this as some sick and twisted fate that somehow gave me two of the greatest things in my life at the cost of my best friends lives, and I would have never wished for them to die for me to find what I have now, but I can’t change what’s happened. Tobin and I have already talked about this and what things would look like if for some reason we didn’t work out. We both agreed that we would do everything in our power to still give Avery everything she deserves, even if we didn’t last. She promised me she’s not going anywhere, even if we don’t work out, and I can promise the same. But if I’m being given the gift of her love and the gift of a beautiful family, it’s hard to say no to.”

Tobin picks Christen’s hand up to place a kiss to the inside of her palm softly.

When Avery crawls over to the couch and is immediately picked up by Tobin who presses a long kiss to the side of her head, Megan sighs, then closes her notebook and leans forward to rest her elbows on her knees.

“I’m going to tell you something that I shouldn’t be telling you, but you three may be one of my favorite cases ever. It’s clear you two love that little girl endlessly. But I need you to promise me that I won’t be making a mistake if I sign off on your case. I need you to really take a moment and think one last time before you give me an answer. I’m going to go grab some paperwork I forgot from my car and when I come back, we’ll finish this.”

Tobin and Christen nod as she goes and are quiet when they turn to face each other.

“I’m sorry,” Tobin says, setting Avery back down onto the floor right beside their feet.

“What are you sorry for?” Christen asks, squeezing her hand.

“I wanted to tell you, but I thought it might be too early…”

Christen gives her a small smile, then pulls her close to give her the softest kiss she can manage. “I love you, too,” she whispers against Tobin’s lips.

Tobin, for her part, can’t help but laugh against her mouth. “You do?”

“I do, honey,” Christen assures her, pulling back far enough to look her in the eyes and cradle her face in one of her hands. “You and your knee scars and your blanket hogging and your possessiveness. I love both of you so much and I’m willing to fight Megan on this until she approves us to be Avery’s moms.”

Tobin laughs heartily, her eyes crinkling at the corners. Christen smiles at her, pulling her in for one last kiss before Megan returns.

 

It doesn’t take long for Megan to return, but when she does, she thinks she knows what the verdict is when she sees Tobin and Christen’s locked eyes and locked hands.

The two quickly avert their attention when they notice Megan returning to her seat, squeezing each other's hands for comfort once more.

“Promise me I’m not making a mistake,” Megan says quietly.

“It’s not a mistake.”

“We promise.”

With a heavy sigh, Megan writes something down on the papers she brought in from her car and leaves them to suffer through an anxious moment while she finishes. One last click of a pen and shut of a folder occurs before she looks back up to them and finally allows herself to give a small grin.

“Now that I’ve signed off on your case, I want to congratulate you and, off the record, let you know that I think you make a beautiful family.”

Tobin and Christen break out into laughs and tears and ‘oh my god’s before they’re rushing out of their seats to pull Megan into a hug, Avery being picked up off the floor by Christen in the midst of it all.

///

“... Happy birthday dear Avery. Happy birthday to you!”

“Blow out your candles, baby girl!” Christen urges the now two year old.

Just as they had the year before and for each of their birthdays since the first they shared together, Tobin cooked a stack of pancakes for the three of them to share in bed.

In the months that followed Christen and Tobin’s approval to officially become Avery’s parents, they had decided that it may finally be time to open the door to Viv and Jay’s old bedroom and sort through the last of their things for a final stage of closure. The two shared memories with the baby, telling her stories about her mom and dad as they went through their belongings and packed them into boxes. Soon after, new pictures were being hung on the walls, new bedding was spread over a mattress, new clothes were hung in the closets, and new memories were being made in the room.

Avery’s little hands are held back by Christen’s so she wouldn’t burn herself, but she’s allowed to lean forward enough to huff and puff her way through both of her candles on top of the stack of sticky pancakes.

“Good job, monkey!” Tobin tells the baby as she pulls her camera down from her face.

“Can you stop growing now, my big girl?”

“Big guh!” Avery tries to repeat, pointing at herself with a proud grin.

“That’s right,” Christen chuckles. “You are such a big girl now.”

“No,” Tobin whines, setting her camera down on the bedside table and flopping down beside Avery and earning a warning from Christen for almost dropping the food. “You’re gonna be my little baby forever,” she tells Avery, pulling her down to attack her cheeks with kisses.

“Mama!” Avery says through her giggles, reaching for Christen as Tobin holds her hostage in her arms.

Christen watches the two, radiating with love. “Come on, you two. I’m gonna eat all the pancakes if you don’t hurry.”

Tobin gasps, sitting up immediately and pulling Avery with her.

“You’re such a child,” Christen laughs, cutting a few slivers of pancake for Avery to pick at with her fingers..

“I’m just making sure I get some pancakes,” Tobin grins, opening her mouth for Christen to feed her.

“I didn’t burn them,” she tells the woman as she chews on the syrupy delight.

Christen laughs, leaning forward to kiss the maple off of Tobin’s lips, thinking to herself that she’d be willing to put up with that line a few times every year if it got her a kiss as sweet as that one every time.