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Been waiting for you...

Chapter Text

Look to the clock on the wall

Hands hardly moving at all

I can't stand the state that I'm in

Sometimes it feels like the walls closing in

Oh, Lord, what can I say?

I am so sad since You went away

Time, time, ticking on me

Alone is the last place I wanted to be

Lord, what can I say?

Trap all my troubles away

Drowns my sorrows the same way

Seems no matter how hard I try

It feel like there's somethings just missing inside


How many rules can I break?

How many lies can I make?

How many roles must I turn?

To find me a place where the bridge hasn't burned

(Christen - “What Can I Say” by Brandi Carlisle)


Last night had a crazy dream

You were everywhere it seemed

You were filling up my soul

Doin' everything to make me whole

Read about you in the Sunday paper

Saw your face on the evening news

When I woke everything was gone

And I remembered we were through

Don't come 'round here no more

Hey get out of my mind

Then you tell me we got things to say

You come around here looking so fine

Makes it so hard to walk away

Oh, get out of my head

Because that look there could leave me dead

(Tobin - “Get out of My Mind” by Hootie and the Blowfish)


“Is that...cinnamon?” Christen wondered, taking another sip of her latte and fixing Tobin with a curious look. This was the fourth coffee she’d gotten from the brunette over the course of a week and a half, and each one had been different. One day she’d gotten a cappuccino, one day a macchiato. And today’s was a latte with just this slight hint of spice that Christen wasn’t sure she identified right.

“Yep,” Tobin nodded, taking a sip of her own coffee. 

“Hmm,” Christen hummed. “You’re getting warmer,” she said as she set the coffee down on the bench and grabbed the bags of pinnies from the grass. 

“Good to know,” Tobin smiled, slipping her sunglasses onto her face. 

“You could just ask me, you know,” Christen sighed, narrowing her eyes at Tobin as she put her hands on her hip. “And I’ll tell you how I like my coffee.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Tobin laughed. She couldn’t deny that she was enjoying trying to figure Christen out...well the coffee order at least. It was a fun game, and she liked seeing how Christen reacted to each new drink she brought. One thing was for certain, Christen loved coffee. She’d finished each one that Tobin had brought, even though none of them had been her preferred drink. 

Christen ignored the slight flutter in her stomach at Tobin’s question. She rolled her eyes and walked over to the field, setting down piles of green, blue, and red pinnies in their designated grids. This was safe, the pinnies and the drills and soccer. Whatever glint was hiding within those brown eyes of Tobin’s was not safe. Especially since she was coaching Tobin’s kid, especially since she had no idea if Scottie’s dad was in the picture, especially since she was a walking trainwreck and the Heaths were too good for that.

“That’s a lot of coffees,” Kelley sing-songed, knocking her hip into Christen’s. 

“You’re getting some every training too,” Christen replied, moving away from Kelley.

“Yeah, but she isn’t trying to figure out what I like to drink,” Kelley hummed. 

“Maybe because I didn’t tell her my order after rudely assuming she’d buy me one,” Christen shot back.

“Come on, Pressy,” Kelley whined. “She comes to every practice and just sits there, watching.”

“Yeah, watching her kid,” Christen shrugged, moving backward toward the small pop-up nets she had to unpack and set up still.

“Oh, trust me,” Kelley scoffed, “she is not just watching Scottie.”

“Agree to disagree, Kel!” Christen called out.

“My gaydar is on point!” Kelley yelled, her voice echoing across the field. 

“Your gaydar’s been broken since Sonny rejected your ass,” Becky quipped as she walked by, throwing the comment out so nonchalantly it made Christen laugh.

“She did not reject me. She said maybe at a later date,” Kelley corrected. 

“Let us know when that later date comes,” Christen teased, opening the bags with the pop-up nets and unfolding them. She handed a few to Becky, who walked them over to the other side of the field.

“All our adorable little kids are going to be at the game on Saturday, and Emily is going to see me interact with them, and she’s gonna have no choice but to fall in love with me. It’s science,” Kelley said, putting her hands on her hips. 

“It’s flawed,” Christen rolled her eyes. “What about Emily Sonnett screams maternal?”

“You of all people should know that women with children are irresistible. It’s MILF science, and since I don’t have a kid, I’ll borrow our Academy kids,” Kelley grinned. 

Christen’s cheeks flamed and she refocused on the task at hand, unfolding the nets. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Christen grumbled.

“Pressy, I have eyes. She’s hot. I get it,” Kelley said, nodding over to where Tobin was sitting, helping Scottie tie her cleats. 

“Nothing in life is that simple, Kel. I can’t get involved with her. With them,” Christen shook her head, her eyes holding on the Heath family on the bench. She’d been so swept up in their goodness and light for the past week and a half, and it was easy to forget that she was anything but good and light. She couldn’t get involved, she shouldn’t.

“Not with that attitude!” Kelley chirped, poking one of the balls into the now set-up net. 

“I’m going to grab some waters from the locker room for the kids,” Christen huffed, getting to her feet, needing to vacate this field. She needed to get away from Kelley’s antics and from the not-safe feelings begging for attention within her.

“Yeah, I’ll bet you’re thirsty,” Kelley mumbled. 

“Shut the fu-” Christen went to reply but bit her tongue when she saw Scottie running over.

“Coach Christen!” Scottie said, bounding up to Christen’s side. 

“Hey, kid, want to go on a field trip?” Christen asked with a smile.

“Sure! To the zoo?” Scottie asked, reaching her hand up and taking Christen’s in her own. 

“To the locker room,” Christen said, adding emphasis to her words to make it sound like someplace way cooler than the zoo. 

“Do you have a fancy locker with your name on it?” Scottie asked. 

“I do,” Christen laughed. “And I bet you’ll get to see it before the game this weekend. Right now we’re just going to the lounge for some waters and Gatorades. But we can bring it all back on a big cart, and maybe I’ll let you ride on the cart too!”

Scottie wiggled her finger at Christen to bring her down closer so that she could whisper something to her. Christen crouched down, her hand still in Scottie’s loose grip. 

“You’re my favorite,” Scottie whispered, squeezing Christen’s hand tightly in her own. 

Christen felt the shattered bits of her heart in her chest painstakingly fuse back together just a bit. She grinned over at Scottie, blinking away the burn of tears behind her eyes.

“We probably shouldn’t tell Coach Kelley or Coach Becky; they’d be jealous,” Christen replied softly.

Scottie shook her head with a serious look on her face. “No, we shouldn’t.”

“Ready to go?” Christen asked, standing back up.

“Yes,” Scottie nodded, walking quickly to keep up with Christen’s longer strides, their hands swinging between them. 

Tobin settled into her bed, having finally finished one of her commissioned pieces, and turned all the lights out in the house. Scottie was sleeping soundly in her bedroom, letting out little puffs of air when Tobin peeked into her room. She was exhausted from her Development Academy training and her fun trip to the locker room with Christen, which she couldn’t stop talking about the entire ride home. 

Tobin hadn’t given much thought to letting Scottie spend time with Christen. Christen seemed sweet, always giving Scottie pointers and supportive words. She was also clearly hardworking since she’d managed to make it as a professional soccer player. Tobin really couldn’t imagine that someone who volunteered to coach kids would be a bad role model. And then...she typed her name into Google. 

She wanted to believe that she was just being a protective mom, but deep down, she knew that she was interested in knowing just a little bit more about the beautiful, green-eyed coach who had captured her daughter’s, and maybe even her, attention. 

The first thing to pop up on Google was Gotham’s roster, nothing surprising there. The second thing to appear was the USWNT roster. Tobin paused for a second, wondering if Christen was on the USWNT poster hanging in Scottie’s room. She’d bought it, mainly as a joke because Abby was on the front, and she hadn’t looked more closely at the rest of the team members. 

The third link on Google was about New York City’s favorite party girl, and Tobin hesitated before clicking, hoping that there was another Christen Press. It was possible in a city this big. The picture proved otherwise. 

Christen’s eyes were glassy and glazed over in the picture. Her cheeks were flushed, and her dress was...well Tobin didn’t know if she’d call it a dress, since the length seemed more like a shirt. A blonde woman had her arms around Christen and her lips pressed against Christen’s neck, and Christen’s hand was raised, clearly trying to block the camera’s view. "Since when did you become such a prude?" Tobin chastised herself, shaking her head and moving on to another link. 

A few more clicks and Tobin was falling into a downward spiral of worry. There were videos of Christen stumbling and laughing down the sidewalk, singing at the top of her lungs from a roof-top bar, dancing with woman after woman after woman. Tobin didn't want to admit it, but there was an odd tightness in her chest when she looked at the pictures of each woman hanging on Christen's arm or waist. She didn't want to admit that that tightness in her chest felt a lot like jealousy. 

A few more clicks after that, and Tobin’s mouth was dry. Christen’s naked body, albeit tastefully posed, was staring back at her on the cover of ESPN’s Body Issue. She wanted to tear her eyes away, but there was something about the way Christen was staring at the camera that seemed to have Tobin frozen in place. 

“Mommy?” Scottie mumbled, rubbing at her eyes and shuffling into Tobin’s bedroom.

“Scottie Katherine Heath!” Tobin yelped, shutting her computer as quickly as she could. 

“Why’d you full name me?” Scottie yawned, crawling up onto Tobin’s bed.

“You scared me, buddy. Why aren’t you in bed asleep?” Tobin sighed, pulling up the sheets for Scottie to join her. 

“Sorry, bad dream,” Scottie replied, jumping beneath the covers and curling up against Tobin’s side.

“What was it about?” Tobin asked, turning off her bedside lamp and scooting down in bed to wrap her arm around Scottie. 

“Someone was gone and I couldn’t figure out who. I kept looking and looking, but I couldn’t find them,” Scottie mumbled, pressing her face into Tobin’s shoulder.

Tobin’s heart ached for the little girl in her arms. She often wondered if Scottie could remember a time when Roni lived with them, even though she’d left when Scottie was four. They talked about her sometimes, but she wasn’t a constant presence or a typical conversation topic.

“And then aliens came and I woke up,” Scottie added.

“That sounds pretty crazy,” Tobin whispered. “It’s a good thing you woke up and that we both have each other.”

“For forever and ever,” Scottie whispered, laying her hand on Tobin’s.

“Forever and ever,” Tobin nodded, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead and preparing herself to talk to Scottie until she managed to fall asleep again. 

Christen tapped her fingers across her knee, her eyes stuck on the parking lot near the training fields, looking for a particular Audi to show up.

“I wonder who Pressy’s waiting for,” Kelley teased, tossing a few pinnies to Becky. 

Christen huffed and got up from the bench. It was silly to wait around like some schoolgirl, hoping for her crush to show up. She wasn’t a schoolgirl, and she most certainly didn’t have a crush. 

“I’m going to set up the grids,” Christen said, grabbing the cones from the ground.

“I’m sure they just hit traffic,” Becky said, trying to make Christen feel better. 

Christen ignored Becky and continued out onto the field. She went on auto-pilot, marking out four, ten by ten grids for the possession drills they’d be taking the girls through. 

“Bye, Mommy!” Scottie called, waving at Tobin before she jogged across the field to join some of the other girls who’d already arrived. 

Christen’s head shot up, Scottie’s voice carrying all the way over to her. She immediately felt the small knot of worry in her chest loosen at the sight of the metallic gray Audi in its usual parking spot. She smiled a bit as Scottie made her way onto the field and waited for Tobin to head over as well, but she didn’t. 

Christen stood in the middle of the field, a stack of cones in hand, watching as Tobin got back into the car and didn’t reappear. After a few moments, the Audi purred to life and pulled out of the parking lot. Christen ignored the flare of disappointment within her and stalked back over to the bench, setting the cones down a little more forcefully than entirely necessary. 

“Coach Christen?” Scottie asked, appearing behind Christen. 

Christen forced a smile onto her face and turned to face Scottie. “Hey, Scottie,” she replied, her voice a little tight.

“Can I tell you something and you promise not to laugh?” Scottie asked. 

Christen felt whatever disappointment she’d been feeling melt away. Any negative feelings always did whenever Scottie was around. “I’ll try my best not to laugh, okay?” Christen replied gently.

“I don’t know how to tie my shoes,” Scottie mumbled. “I mean, I do...I just am not very good at it. It’s always way too loose, and I don’t want my cleat to come off when I kick.”

Christen crouched down and gestured for Scottie to sit in the grass. “Did Tob- I mean, did your mom not tie them for you today?” Christen asked innocently, reaching out for Scottie’s right cleat.

“She did, but she forgot to double-knot them, and they came undone,” Scottie said. “We slept in and had to hurry this morning.”

Christen quickly tied the cleat, giving Scottie her requested double knot, before doing the same for the left cleat. 

“So that’s why you guys were just on time today?” 

“That...and I spilled orange juice on the floor,” Scottie shrugged. 

“That’s not where orange juice goes,” Christen teased, brushing her hands on her shorts and fixing Scottie with a small smile.

“Mommy said the same thing,” Scottie giggled. “She said another word too, but I’m not allowed to say it.”

Christen poked her tongue against her cheek, holding in her laugh at the thought of Tobin swearing in front of Scottie, especially after making such a fuss about swearing in front of children on the first day they met. 

“Probably best not to repeat it,” Christen agreed, standing up and holding out her hands for Scottie so she could help her up. “Did she not want to stay and watch today?” Christen asked, getting Scottie back on her feet.

“She did, but she said she really needed to talk to Glenny,” Scottie said, brushing grass off of her legs. “I don’t know why she doesn’t just wait for family dinner.”

“Huh, family dinner,” Christen thought, adding that to the pile of information she’d been acquiring about Tobin Heath. Christen had no idea who this Glenny person was, or how he or she was related to family dinner, but it made her heart sink just a little bit. But it wasn’t like she cared that Tobin wasn’t there, that Tobin had a Glenny, that there was family dinner. She was just curious about Tobin and nothing more. Just curious.

“I feel like you need to take about five deep breaths,” Glennon observed, eyeing Tobin from behind her square-framed glasses. She pushed the paperwork she’d been looking at away from her and sat back in her desk chair.

Tobin sank down into a chair and took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m cool. I feel completely calm and collected,” Tobin sighed. 

“Sweetie, you’re none of the above. Want some cake?” Glennon asked with a small smile.

“No, I don’t want your distraction cake,” Tobin murmured. 

“It tastes just as good as pity cake, I promise. Even has rainbow sprinkles on top,” Glennon teased, fixing Tobin with a curious look, wondering what had brought one of her best friends to her office this afternoon.

“You let Gotham FC’s ‘party girl’ volunteer to coach my kid,” Tobin said, lifting her hands up and bending two fingers into quotation marks to show that she was quoting one of the articles she’d read last night. 

Glennon raised a brow in Tobin’s direction, the judgment and slight hostility in Tobin’s words not sitting right with her. It didn't sound like the Tobin she knew and loved. “Want to try that one again?” Glennon asked stiffly.

Tobin sat up in the chair and looked at Glennon a little sheepishly. “I'm sorry. That was rude. I googled Christen Press,” she mumbled. 

“Why?” Glennon wondered. “Do you google all of your kid’s coaches?”

“Of course not. I- Don’t turn it around on me, please,” Tobin begged, knowing Glennon was going to psychoanalyze her. 

Glennon held up her hands in surrender. She removed her glasses and rubbed at the bridge of her nose. 

“This Development Academy is my fourth kid. I love this program more than anything. And while I’m aware of whatever reputation the media has disrespectfully bestowed upon her...Abby knows her. She played with Christen in Rio and Canada and swears up and down that she’s a good egg. Just a little lost right now. So I trusted my wife and let my boss tell me to bring her on as the third coach,” Glennon replied.

“Scottie loves her,” Tobin said, hating how judgy and hostile she’d sounded when she’d raced into Glennon’s office. She wasn't a judgy person, and as much as she tried to convince herself that she was doing this for Scottie, she knew she was also curious for more information about the woman who kept making her heart speed up. This was just not the way to go about it. 

“Scottie’s a good judge of character,” Glennon smiled. “And I’ve seen nothing but good things from Christen. Those tabloids never give the full picture, and I’m wondering if they’ve even gotten any bit of the picture.”

“I’m freaking out for no reason, right?” Tobin asked. “It’s not like Scottie will google her.”

“What is it that’s really bothering you?” Glennon asked, cocking her head to the side.

“Nothing,” Tobin said, gripping the edge of the chair with her hands. 

Glennon just stayed silent, her expression open and patient, as she waited out her fidgeting friend.

“I maybe think she’s kind of a cool person,” Tobin shrugged. 

“Which in Tobin speak translates to…” 

“She’s in Scottie’s world, and just because I think she’s easy to talk to and really, really nice to look at doesn’t mean that I would ever be able to do more than sit on a bench and watch her coach my kid,” Tobin blurted out. 

Glennon chuckled and slid her glasses back on. “Sounds like you’ve written the whole story out for yourself there, sweetie.”

“The person I googled last night would never date someone like me, and honestly, I don’t know if I’d bring someone who likes to party like that home to hang out with Scottie,” Tobin said, her voice soft. 

“Maybe the person you googled isn’t the person you’ve been getting to know,” Glennon observed. “Come to dinner tonight. I think Abby can give you a little more clarity on things.”

“You don’t need to tell Abby. She’ll bully me,” Tobin grumbled. 

“With love,” Glennon replied with an easy smile. “So dinner, seven o’clock?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be there,” Tobin nodded. “Sorry for barging into your office and being bossy and rude.”

“It was worth it to see you blush over Christen Press,” Glennon hummed, grabbing the stack of papers she’d discarded and looking back at them. 

“I wasn’t blushing,” Tobin mumbled, standing up from the chair and walking to the door. 

“You were blushing!” Glennon yelled after her, her melodic laughter echoing around her office as Tobin left.

Christen jumped around in goal, only half-attempting to block the shots the kids were taking to finish up practice. When Scottie stepped up for her shot, Christen grinned. 

“Let’s see what you got, Scottie Heath!” Christen called out, moving her arms around at her sides playfully.

Scottie poked her tongue out of her mouth in concentration, something that Tobin did as well. She stepped back and looked toward the goal. She stepped toward the ball, planting her left foot and swinging her right leg, this time hitting it with the right part of her foot and sending it to the back of the net. 

“And she scores! What a goal!” Christen cheered, clapping and winking at Scottie as she kicked her ball back to her.

Becky blew her whistle then, signaling the end of training and sending the girls back over to their bags near their bench.

“Yeeeees coffees!” Kelley cheered, jogging across the field. 

Christen stopped grabbing the balls from the back of the net and looked over to where Kelley was running to. She was a little surprised to see Tobin there, holding a carrier with four coffees in it, a shy look on her face. Despite her desire for the coffee, Christen took her time pulling the balls out of the goal and bagging them up. If she kept looking at Tobin out of the corner of her eye, that was purely coincidental. 

“Mommy, did you see my goal?” Scottie asked, jumping up and down between Tobin and Kelley. 

“I did. It looked amazing! Coach Christen showed you how, didn’t she?” Tobin asked, sending Scottie into a story about learning how to strike the ball with the right part of her foot. 

Christen slung the ball bag over her shoulder and made her way to the bench, which was in the complete opposite direction of where Tobin, Kelley, and Scottie stood. She dropped the bag and said goodbye to the few girls that had stuck behind to say goodbye to her. She then dropped down onto the bench and bent down to unlace her cleats.

“I don’t know if I got warmer this time. I took a long shot,” Tobin said, lowering the carrier with one remaining coffee toward Christen. 

Christen looked up, squinting just a bit at the sunlight shining behind Tobin. She reached out and grabbed the coffee. 

“Didn’t think I’d be getting one of these today,” Christen observed, holding the coffee cup in her lap.

“I just had to bother a friend earlier,” Tobin shrugged, trying not to think about Glennon teasing her about having a crush. 

Christen relaxed further at the sweet smile playing on Tobin’s lips, ignoring thoughts of family dinners and this Glenny person. “You’re so good at it, I’m sure they loved you dropping by,” Christen teased, finally taking a sip of the coffee.

“Oh, am I annoying you?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side. 

Christen couldn’t answer. She was still savoring the flavor of Chai on her tongue. She took another long sip and held back a moan. 

“How the hell did you guess this?” Christen asked, shaking her head slightly as she gazed up at Tobin.

“Was it right?” Tobin asked, her smile growing even bigger. 

“That cocky look you’ve got definitely qualifies as annoying,” Christen replied with a smile of her own, cradling the coveted coffee to her chest.

“But the cocky look comes with a free coffee, so I think it balances out,” Tobin hummed, sitting down next to Christen. “You liked the cinnamon, so I thought long and hard about spices.”

"A dirty chai tea latte is not your run-of-the-mill drink order,” Christen pointed out with a laugh.

“It was a long shot, but I like long shots,” Tobin said, her shoulders bobbing up and down with another shrug. 

Christen felt that damn fluttering in her stomach again as she looked deeply into Tobin’s warm brown eyes. She knew they were talking about coffee, but a part of her wondered if they’d left coffee behind.

“I get to see Coach Christen’s locker with her name on it tomorrow!” Scottie cheered, hopping onto the bench between Christen and Tobin. 

“Oh, really?” Tobin asked, having heard Scottie talk about this for the past few days nonstop. 

“She does,” Christen laughed when Scottie leaned into her side and shot her the biggest smile. She ruffled her hand across Scottie’s head, messing up some of the curls. 

Christen had also managed to swing one more surprise, well, two more surprises. She couldn’t help herself. Scottie had wormed her way into Christen’s heart, and she was finding it increasingly difficult not to go out of her way to do things to make the girl smile or laugh. She was falling for this kid and she knew it was a dangerous thing to do, but she couldn’t help it. She was a moth to the Heath flame, unable to stay away, even if she knew she should. 

“And she also gets to do something else pretty fun,” Christen added, looking briefly up at Tobin. 

“What’s that?” Tobin asked, watching the way Scottie got as close to Christen as possible. 

Christen looked down at Scottie and wrapped her arm around the girl’s shoulders. “How would you like to walk out with me before the game and then be a ball girl?” she asked gently, feeling her own excitement about the game tomorrow growing.

“Are you serious?!” Scottie asked. “I get to walk out with you this time?”

Christen felt her shoulders slump a little bit. This time meant Scottie had done this all before, making her surprise a little less special than she’d hoped. 

“Um...yeah! If you want to? I didn’t know you’d already done it before,” Christen replied, trying to keep her bright smile on her face.

“Abbs took me when I was tiny, so I can’t remember it. Mommy took a picture though and put it in my room. This time I’ll remember, and this time will be with my favorite player!” Scottie gushed, the excitement clearly not lost on her. 

Scottie’s energy was infectious and had Christen’s enthusiasm building up once more. She briefly wondered if this “Abbs” person was Abby Wambach, who’d been part of that inaugural group of Gotham players with her, as well as an old U.S. teammate of hers, but she didn’t want to derail the kid’s elation with questions. Instead, she just pulled Scottie closer to her.

“I- well, you’ll be walking out with me, yeah,” Christen replied, not wanting to accept the ‘favorite player’ comment completely. 

“Mommy,” Scottie said, tugging on Tobin’s sleeve to pull her down to the same level. Tobin obliged, letting Scottie whisper softly in her ear, an easy smile slipping onto her lips at whatever Scottie had asked. 

“I think we can do that,” Tobin nodded, smirking at Christen’s confused expression. 

Christen narrowed her eyes in suspicion as she looked between Tobin and Scottie. “What?” she asked with a small chuckle. 

“It’s a secret. You’ll see tomorrow!” Scottie sing-songed. 

Christen just shook her head and took a sip of coffee, a smile still on her face. As she looked between Tobin and Scottie, letting her eyes linger and hold with Tobin’s, she found that she was maybe just as excited for the game as she was for whatever secret the Heath girls were planning.

Scottie was already parading around in her PRESS jersey that she’d begged Tobin to buy her before the game. Tobin had called in a favor from Abby, who still had the pull to request jerseys from Gotham. Now, though, she wished she hadn’t gotten it, since Glennon and Abby had begun to give her shit as soon as Scottie had run through the door in the black jersey. 

“Dude, you blushed? That’s lame,” Abby snorted, sipping her beer with a shit-eating grin on her face.

“I didn’t blush. The weather’s been warm lately, and I was flushed from being outside,” Tobin grumbled. 

“That lie was even lamer,” Abby replied.

“Fine, it was a slight blush, but have you seen her?” Tobin huffed. 

Abby slid her eyes over to her wife who sat by her side. Glennon also looked at Abby, and the two burst out laughing. 

“We’re married, not blind,” Glennon said, leaning her head against Abby’s shoulder.

“Right?! She’s hot and clearly into women since I saw a dozen pictures of her with women in clubs,” Tobin sighed, running a hand through her hair. 

“Fucking reporters,” Abby grumbled, her hand tightening around her beer. “They should just leave her alone.”

“I’m sure it’s obnoxious,” Tobin nodded, taking a sip of her cider. 

“It’s intrusive and rude,” Abby corrected, her face hardening. “Nobody deserves their privacy invaded like that, especially her.”

“What do you mean, especially her?” Tobin asked, her brow furrowing a little at the way Abby was talking so protectively. 

Abby hesitated. “Um, she’s had a rough six months. She just came back to Gotham four weeks ago.” 

“What happened?” Tobin asked, her curiosity getting the best of her. 

Glennon dropped a hand to Abby’s knee and squeezed it gently. Abby took a deep breath.

“Hard to say. Nobody really knows,” Abby shrugged. “It was enough for her to pull back from soccer and spend her days in the tabloids and nights in seedy bars or clubs. I tried reaching out to her a few times, but…”

Tobin nodded softly, wondering what had hurt Christen enough to leave Gotham and avoid her teammates. She suddenly felt extremely guilty for racing into Glennon’s office and judging Christen because of a few pictures in tabloids and videos on the internet. Christen didn’t deserve that, especially not from Tobin, especially not when she was treating Scottie with so much love and care. She deserved respect and privacy, and Tobin promised herself at that moment, at Glennon and Abby’s dining table, that she’d give her that. 

Christen had expected some nerves for her first game back in the Gotham jersey. She’d expected the fluttering inside her chest and stomach, the slight clamminess of her palms. She’d expected nerves, she hadn’t expected to feel like this.

Christen forced herself to take deep breaths as she crouched down in the furthest stall in the locker room bathroom.

This wasn’t just her first game back at Gotham, this was her first game back since...everything had happened. She thought she’d be ready. She’d had a month to prepare for it, a month of hard trainings and long fitness sessions and meetings with Amanda. But right now, leaning against the cool tile of the bathroom wall, she didn’t feel prepared. She didn’t feel prepared because her parents weren’t going to be watching and she had no idea if she could handle that.

“Hey, you good?” Kelley asked, knocking softly on the stall door. 

“Yeah, I just need a sec,” Christen sighed, pressing the heels of her hands against her burning eyes, her hands trembling slightly.

“The kids are going to be here in a few minutes,” Kelley murmured, wishing she could open the stall door and take her best friend into her arms. 

“I said I just need a sec!” Christen snapped, immediately regretting her hard words and harsh tone.

“Okay, I got it,” Kelley said, stepping away from the stall and leaning over one of the sinks. 

“Kel...I’m sorry. Will you- will you have Scottie wait for me at my locker?” Christen asked, taking a deep breath. She needed to get it together. She needed to put a smile on her face and pretend like everything was okay. She didn’t just have a team counting on her, she had a little girl waiting for her to show up and be her favorite player as well.

“Sure,” Kelley sighed, leaving the bathroom and stepping into the locker room again, the music loud but not quite as explicit as it usually was. 

“Coach Kelley!” Scottie said, skipping into the locker room behind a few other ball girls. 

“Hey, Mini Tar Heel!” Kelley greeted, bending down to give Scottie a high-five.

“Where’s Coach Christen?” Scottie asked, practically vibrating with the excitement she felt to show Christen her new jersey. 

“She’s just finishing getting ready. Why don’t you come check out her locker with me?” Kelley offered after giving the other ball girls high-fives as well.

“Okay!” Scottie said, following after Kelley and climbing into Christen’s padded chair as soon as she got to the locker. 

“Is that Scottie Heath?!” Morgan Brian called from across the locker room. 

“Auntie Moe Moe!” Scottie shrieked, jumping off of Christen’s chair and sprinting over to Morgan.

“Who?” Kelley asked, turning around to look at Morgan. 

“This little peanut right here is the best Go Fish player I’ve ever met!” Morgan said, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s cheek. 

“Auntie Moe Moe taught me how to play!” Scottie grinned, holding tightly to Morgan’s waist. 

“Her mom is one of my old teammates,” Morgan explained, winking down at Scottie.

“You know Tobin?” Christen called out, walking into the locker room as she twisted her hair up into a bun. She shot Scottie a small wink.

“Coach Christen!” Scottie beamed, squirming out of Morgan’s arms and hurrying across the room to give Christen a hug. 

“I do know Tobito, and you seem to know my favorite almost 8-year-old!” Morgan laughed, dropping back down into her chair to chat with the girl who would be walking out with her for the game.

Christen prepared herself for impact and then wrapped her arms loosely around Scottie when her small body collided with her own. She blew out a short breath as she tried to maintain her grasp on whatever semblance of composure she’d found in the bathroom a few moments ago. It was all threatening to come undone with the force of the hug.

“Your uniform is so cool,” Scottie gushed, squeezing Christen’s waist. 

“Not as cool as your jersey,” Christen replied, pulling back a bit and nodding down at the black Gotham FC jersey Scottie was sporting, which matched the black snapback on her head and the black Nikes on her feet.

“Mommy got it for me,” Scottie said, letting go of Christen and turning around to show her the number 23 and PRESS on the back. 

“Of course she did,” Kelley mumbled with a teasing smile on her face.

Christen took in her last name and number on the back of the jersey and felt her chest warm at the sight. 

“You rock that,” Christen grinned, sitting down in her locker chair.

“I slept in it last night, so you should have a lucky game. Mommy told me she used to sleep in her jersey before big games,” Scottie hummed, reaching out and taking Christen’s hand in her own. 

God, this kid. Christen felt her throat tighten, her composure failing with every innocent smile and sweet word that Scottie sent her way. But with every smile and word, Scottie was also helping that ball of guilt and grief in her chest loosen just a bit. It had Christen scrambling for solid ground.

“Thank you for doing that. But you’re walking out with me; that’s the best good luck charm ever,” Christen replied, squeezing Scottie’s hand in her own.

“Speaking of, it’s time to go,” Kelley said, knocking her shoulder into Christen’s and nodding at where Becky, Morgan, and the rest of the starters were heading for the tunnel with the ball girls by their sides.

Christen nodded and reached back into her locker. She grabbed a roll of tape and a Sharpie. 

“Can I have my hand back super quick?” she asked Scottie.

“Sorry,” Scottie said, blushing a little and pulling her hand away from Christen’s. 

“No need to be sorry. Will you rip this for me?” Christen said, wrapping the tape around her left wrist and then holding it up for Scottie.

Scottie narrowed her eyes and stuck her tongue out in concentration, ripping the tape as evenly as she could. 

“Great job,” Christen grinned, dropping the tape back into her locker and uncapping the Sharpie. She began to write on the tape encircling her wrist.

“Did you hurt your wrist?” Scottie asked, never having seen her mom or her mom’s friends do that before a game. 

“No, I just- I started doing this about a month ago. It reminds me of why I’m playing. Why I’m here,” Christen replied, lifting her wrist and showing Scottie the 11-16-2020 written on the tape. She hoped Scottie wouldn’t ask too many questions, wouldn’t wonder about the date or the meaning behind it. She didn’t think she’d be able to keep it together if she started talking about that right before they walked out onto the field.

“Mommy reminds me about why I play before games too,” Scottie said softly, recognizing the seriousness in Christen’s voice. 

“Why do you?” Christen asked, waving off Kelley who beckoned them both over. She stayed rooted in the moment with Scottie, not letting anyone hurry them along.

Scottie stepped forward to where Christen was sitting in her chair and lifted both of her hands to cup Christen’s face. Christen blinked just a little and resisted the urge to pull away. She forced herself to stay put, to feel the broken bits of her heart fusing together even more at the gentle touch on her cheeks.

“Mommy does this before my games. She says we play to have fun and we play to feel free and we play because it’s easier than breathing,” Scottie grinned. “She’s silly like that sometimes,” she added with a shrug. 

Christen lifted her hands to cover Scottie’s hands on her cheeks, the image of the girl in front of her blurring just a bit as tears swam in her eyes. 

“Those are, um- those are great reasons to play,” Christen managed. She cleared her throat and forced a small smile onto her face. “I’ll try to keep those with me today. You ready to walk out there?”

“Yes,” Scottie nodded, taking her hands away from Christen’s face and stepping away. Christen snagged Scottie’s hand and walked them over to the back of the line, surreptitiously wiping at the corners of her eyes to rid them of the few tears that had gathered there.

“Pressy,” Kelley whispered, turning around to grin at Christen. 

“Yeah?” Christen whispered back, thankful Scottie was distracted with talking to the ball girl holding Kelley’s hand.

“I have great news!” Kelley grinned. 

“...What is it?” Christen asked, already cringing at the eagerness she could hear in Kelley’s voice.

“Guess who’s in the box right now with Tar Heel?” Kelley said, her voice quiet but bursting with excitement. 

“If you say Sonny’s up there, I’m revoking your title as my best friend,” Christen replied, her cheeks filling with a small blush at the mention of Tobin’s name.

“Emily’s gonna get the scoop for you! She’s gonna find out if Tar Heel’s single,” Kelley defended. 

Christen narrowed her eyes. “If Sonny so much as speaks to her-”

“She’s sitting by her,” Kelley smirked. “Operation get Pressy a MILF is in the works.”

Christen bit back the urge to drop a few expletives and felt her blush deepen. She was now extremely grateful that Scottie was distracted by her own conversation.

“So, how old are you?” Emily Sonnett asked, leaning back in her seat and eying Tobin carefully. 

“Uh...28, almost 29,” Tobin mumbled, not sure why this Emily Sonnett who she'd met moments ago was so chatty. 

“And how old is that cute kid of yours?” Emily continued, sipping whatever alcoholic fruity drink the VIP box was serving this afternoon.

“She’s seven. She’ll be eight in July,” Tobin said, watching Gotham’s team walk out onto the field and grinning when she saw Scottie stand in front of Christen. 

“Hmm...interesting,” Emily replied, turning her attention to the field. She held her fingers up to her lips and let out a long whistle. “YAS KELLEY!” she yelled down to the field, ignoring the annoyed looks she got from the other people in the box.

Tobin chuckled a bit and then turned to snap a few pictures of Scottie with her camera. She’d brought her longer lens to get a good picture from the box and loved that she could see the toothy grin on Scottie’s face through the viewfinder. 

She watched as Christen bent down and lowered her head right next to Scottie’s. She got Scottie’s attention by squeezing her shoulders and then pointed up into the stands, right to where Tobin was sitting in the box. Christen and Scottie both smiled and waved. 

Tobin’s smile grew, and she snapped a few photos, her heart fluttering without permission. There was no denying that seeing Christen being sweet to Scottie made her even more attractive, made her even harder to ignore. Tobin swallowed thickly, trying to dispel that thought. She couldn’t even think thoughts like that. Scottie came first, and Christen was Scottie’s idol right now. 

“You married, Tobin Heath?” Emily interrupted, smirking into her drink at the interaction she’d just witnessed between the woman sitting next to her and Christen.

“Excuse me?” Tobin asked, lowering her camera. 

“Can’t a girl inquire about her new acquaintance’s marital status?” Emily shrugged.

“I’m not,” Tobin said, holding her left hand up in the air before she looked back down at the field. 

“Interesting,” Emily said again, pursing her lips.

“Are you writing an article or something?” Tobin asked, huffing at Emily’s second use of the word interesting. 

“Nope, I just ask inappropriate questions at inappropriate times,” Emily grinned, practically bouncing in her seat as the players on the field walked the ball girls over to the sidelines and prepared to take the field.

“Cute, I see why Kelley likes you,” Tobin said, a bit of sarcasm in her voice. 

“She what?” Emily asked, whipping her head around, her brow furrowing.

“Oh, shit,” Tobin mumbled. 

“We’re just friends,” Emily said quickly, a little too quickly.

“Yeah, that’s what I meant. She likes you as a friend,” Tobin shrugged. 

“Good. Great. Solid,” Emily replied, taking a long gulp of her drink.

“Are you married, Emily?” Tobin asked, trying to give her new acquaintance a taste of her own medicine. 

Emily choked on her drink and laughed long and hard. She clapped Tobin on the back as she continued to laugh. 

“Oh fuck no. Marriage is not for me,” Emily replied. 

“It has its perks,” Glennon called out, joining Tobin and Emily in the front row of the VIP box. Abby followed close behind, carrying two plates of food and two beers, all of it precariously held in her arms.

“Hey, Glennon,” Tobin smiled, happy that her friends were going to save her from the inquisition Emily seemed bound and determined to put her through. 

“GlenGlen, Abbster, a pleasure as always,” Emily greeted, tipping her nonexistent hat at the two of them.

“Is one of those plates for me, Abby?” Tobin asked, grinning at her friends. 

Glennon took a plate and a beer from Abby’s hands. “Get your own wife,” Glennon teased, raising her beer in Tobin’s direction and taking a sip.

“Been there, done that,” Tobin grumbled, focusing her attention onto the field again. 

Emily choked on her drink again, her eyes widening in surprise. 

“Nice one, babe,” Abby rolled her eyes, settling down next to Glennon. 

“What? Was that inaccurate?” Glennon shrugged, diving into her nachos. “Tobin was married. Who gives a shit? That woman was the devil incarnate anyway.”

“I feel like I stumbled into a reality TV show,” Emily whispered, reaching around Tobin and snagging a chip from Glennon’s plate. 

Glennon slapped Emily’s hand away. “You can get your own, too, Sonny,” she retorted.

Emily pouted and pulled her hand back. “So rude, GlenGlen.”

Tobin quickly dissociated from this conversation, scanning the field, watching as the game got started. She spotted Scottie behind the Orlando net, a ball held in her hands. She then found Morgan and Christen easily, her eyes resting a little longer on Christen than they probably should have before she set about to actually watch the game. 

It was easier to watch the game than it was to listen to her friends and Emily or think about ‘the devil incarnate’ she’d been married to. 

Her legs were gassed and her lungs were burning, but Christen had never felt so good on the pitch before. 

Her team was up 4-1 with nine minutes left on the clock, and Christen had scored one of their goals. It wasn’t her prettiest. She’d gotten a toe on the ball during a scrum in the eighteen-yard box after a corner kick and managed to send it into the back of the net, but she’d take it. It was her first goal back and she swore she could hear Scottie’s cheering over the roar of the crowd. 

Christen looked behind Orlando’s net and saw Scottie sitting next to the ball, her wide eyes trained on the field. She looked like she was trying to solve the world’s most complicated problem. Her forehead was creased and her tongue was poking out of the corner of her mouth as she watched the ball move around the field. Christen couldn’t remember having that level of focus on the game at that young of an age.

Christen was quickly brought out of her thoughts by Morgan’s voice drifting across the field to her. 

“Pressy, in behind!”

Christen whipped her head around and saw Morgan dribbling up the middle of the field. Knowing that Orlando’s back four was playing far too high, Christen pulled off the outside back and waited for Morgan to play the ball. 

It was a beautifully chipped pass in behind the defense, an easy ball for Christen to sprint on to. With a quick move to juke out the goalkeeper, Christen slotted the ball home for her second goal of the night. 

The stadium erupted in cheers, but again, one person’s cheers seemed to break through all of that. So instead of spinning around to celebrate with her teammates, Christen ran over behind the goal, right to where Scottie was sitting on a chair. 

With a wink for the girl, Christen held out her hand in a fist bump, one Scottie eagerly gave to her. After sending her a quick smile, Christen turned back around and joined her teammates in the eighteen-yard box, celebrating the goal with hugs and pats on the back.

“Careful, the kids are gonna know who your favorite is,” Kelley teased, wrapping her arm around Christen’s shoulders. 

Christen just shrugged, not minding it one bit. Involuntarily, her eyes lifted to the box in the stands, the one where her favorite girl’s mom was sitting.

Watching from the box, Tobin’s heart was basically a melted, mushy puddle. She could see through her camera lens the giant smile on Scottie’s face, a smile that was all due to Christen Press. Tobin took a few pictures of Scottie, knowing that she’d likely print one of them to hang up in the house. This was a moment Scottie would never forget, and Tobin was not going to miss the opportunity to document it. 

“That was adorable,” Glennon whispered, resting her head against Tobin’s shoulder. 

“Look at her,” Tobin mumbled, showing Glennon the picture she’d just taken of Scottie’s blindingly bright smile. 

“That’s the Pressy I used to know,” Abby said with a soft smile, her eyes still stuck on the field.

“Well, that’s who Scottie knows,” Tobin said, keeping quiet so that only Glennon and Abby would hear her. 

“Just Scottie?” Glennon asked, winking at Tobin and then getting up. “I’m after another beer. Anyone need anything?”

“Nachos!” Emily said, sipping from her second beer. When Glennon shot her an annoyed look, though, Emily stood up from her seat and scrambled away to get her own nachos. 

Abby lovingly waved Glennon off, her eyes tracking the players as they moved around after the kick-off. Glennon pressed a kiss to the back of Abby’s head and walked off in search of nachos and beer, steering Emily in the right direction.

“You know,” Abby whispered, slipping into Glennon’s seat and leaning close to Tobin. “Glennon and I could invite Christen over for dinner sometime.”

“I’m sure she’d love to catch up with you,” Tobin said, trying to shut the idea down before Abby got too excited. 

“I meant we’d invite the both of you over,” Abby chuckled, not letting Tobin off the hook.

“I don’t know why you’d do that,” Tobin hummed. 

“You’ve got about a dozen pictures on that camera proving why,” Abby replied.

“A dinner isn’t going to make her see me as anything more than Scottie’s mom. I honestly don’t think ‘Chosen Family Dinner’ is her speed anyway,” Tobin mumbled dejectedly. 

“How would you know?” Abby shot back.

“No one my age wants to date someone with a kid,” Tobin muttered. 

“No one your age is like her. That much was true before whatever happened, and from what I can see today, it’s still true,” Abby replied thoughtfully. 

Tobin sighed and turned away from the field. She shot Abby a pained look. “I can’t take her from Scottie, and that’s what it would be like,” Tobin argued. 

Abby shook her head and clicked her tongue. “That sounds like some bullshit Roni would say.” 

“Roni left and broke Scottie’s heart. I can’t put her in that position again,” Tobin said, her voice a lot more unwavering at the mention of her ex-wife. 

“And I don’t want that for her either. Sorry, Heath. I didn’t mean to push,” Abby said with her hands held up in the air. She got up and went back to her chair, leaving the spot between them open for Glennon. 

Tobin let out another long sigh, not loving that she’d gotten frustrated at the friend who’d picked her up off the ground and helped her piece her tiny family back together after Roni had left. Abby deserved better than that, especially since she was only looking out for Tobin’s best interest. 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get upset,” Tobin said, reaching across the seat to lightly punch Abby’s arm. 

“You don’t ruffle my feathers, Heath. You never have,” Abby chuckled, patting Tobin’s hand. “Just trust your gut. If Glennon had believed no one our age wanted to date someone with kids, we never would have gotten together. I’m lucky she found me, but that doesn’t mean the same is true for you.”

“Glennon’s a rare breed,” Tobin grinned, loving her two best friends’ love for one another and for their kids. 

“That she is,” Abby sighed dreamily. “You just got to find yours now. And maybe that’s Christen and maybe it’s not. But you never know if you don’t try, dude.”

“Maybe when Scottie’s eighteen and playing for UNC or something,” Tobin laughed. 

“I don’t know...Christen might be swaying her toward Stanford. From what I hear, Christen is her favorite player,” Abby joked.

“Don’t you dare say that,” Tobin balked, her eyes widening at the thought of having to wear Stanford gear to Scottie’s college games. 

“Say what?” Emily mumbled through a full mouth of nachos. 

“Chew before you speak, Sonny,” Abby rolled her eyes, standing up to hold Glennon’s beer so she could settle in her chair without issue.

Tobin looked down at Christen again, her stomach doing another somersault like she was a teenager with a crush. She couldn’t deny that there was a sense of hopefulness she felt rise in her chest when she looked at Christen, especially when she watched Christen light up around Scottie. That being said, there was a sense of dread accompanying it as well. Whatever she decided, whatever Tobin chose to do about that hopeful flutter, could be horrible for Scottie and their tiny family that was functioning just as it was. 

“Can I have your jersey?” a teenage girl asked with a smile, her braces almost blinding in the stadium lights. 

Christen shook her head with a small smile. “It’s promised to someone else, sorry. How about a shin guard?” she asked with a laugh.

“OMG yes please!”

Christen’s laughter grew as she took her shinguard out from her sock and tossed it up to the girl in the stands. She finished signing a few more autographs and then made her way off the field and through the tunnel that led to the locker room. She’d asked one of the team managers to help Scottie find Tobin after the game, and then bring them both back to the locker room. She just hoped they’d be there, or else she gave away her shin guard for no reason.

“Coach Christen! Your goals were perfect!” Scottie called, practically dancing in place with Tobin’s arms around her shoulders, keeping her from running down the tunnel toward Christen. 

Christen let out a smile of relief when she saw Scottie and Tobin waiting behind the rope that kept the crowd from wandering to the locker room after games. She approached, nodding at the elderly security guard.

“You can let these two through,” Christen said, smiling at Elmer.

“Yes, Ms. Press,” Elmer replied dutifully, retracting the rope and letting Scottie and Tobin through. 

“It’s still just Christen,” Christen corrected with a soft smile, leading Tobin and Scottie down toward the locker room with a jerk of her head. Once they’d walked away from Elmer and his post, she crouched down in front of Scottie.

“I think you can call me Christen now too, kid. You gave me good luck, so we can drop that Coach thing,” Christen grinned.

“Cool,” Scottie mumbled, burying the side of her face in Tobin’s stomach. 

Christen scrunched her nose at the adorable response and then stood back up, smiling a bit shyly at Tobin and trying desperately not to let the beach waves and the snapback on her head that matched Scottie’s affect her.

“That was a great game,” Tobin said, offering an easy smile. She glanced down at Scottie’s face, her adoration for Christen easy to see. 

“Thanks. Did you have fun? I might have heard Sonny was going to be up there. I hope she didn’t bother you too much,” Christen said with a sheepish grimace.

“She was very curious,” Tobin chuckled, shaking her head a little at the personal questions Emily had asked. 

“But you had fun?” Christen repeated, her eyebrows lifting just a little with the question.

“I did!” Tobin nodded, maybe a little too quickly. “I haven’t been to a game in a while, and this was a great one to break that hiatus with. You played really well.”

Christen felt herself get a little lost in Tobin’s eyes for a second and had to shake herself out of it. She retreated to what she always did when Tobin stirred something within her, something she wasn’t ready to acknowledge. She retreated to Scottie.

“Scottie, I’ve got a question for you,” Christen said with a small smile, pointedly ignoring looking back up at Tobin, stopping herself from looking back up at those brown eyes that threatened to see too much of her.

“What’s that?” Scottie asked, tilting her head a little, the same way Tobin did when she was curious about something. 

“I know how much you love the jersey you’re wearing right now...but would you maybe want another one?” Christen asked, her smile growing.

Scottie’s mouth flopped open in delighted surprise. She looked up at Christen with wide eyes and a slow-building smile. 

“Are you serious?” Scottie asked, her voice reverent like a superhero was taking off her cape and giving it to her, which in a way, she was. 

Without giving it much thought, Christen dropped her hands to the hem of the jersey and pulled it over her head. It was a little sweaty and had a few grass stains, but it was a game-worn jersey and she was dying for Scottie to have it. She didn’t linger on why she wanted Scottie to have it, not letting herself unpack those complicated feelings. Instead, she just held out the jersey for Scottie to take.

“What do you say?” Tobin hummed, keeping her eyes on Scottie and hoping that it would hide her flushing cheeks. 

“Thank you, Coac- I mean, Christen!” Scottie chirped. 

Christen beamed at Scottie. “You’re welcome, kid. You did me a solid before the game, so this was the least I could do.” Christen resisted the urge to wrap her arms around her stomach, trying not to think too hard about the fact that she was standing in just her game shorts and a sports bra in front of Tobin.

“Mommy,” Scottie said, waving Tobin down to her height. She whispered into Tobin’s ear softly, glancing up at Christen every few seconds. 

“She’s probably tired after playing,” Tobin mumbled.  

She’s standing right here, so you could just ask her,” Christen replied with a chuckle, dropping her hands to her hips.

“Why don’t you ask her,” Tobin laughed, shaking her head at Christen’s teasing. 

“Will you come to our place with us?” Scottie asked, her bottom lip already poking out a little for her signature pout. 

Christen hesitated, her eyes moving from Scottie up to meet Tobin’s. She knew her face was full of questions, her confusion evident. 

“She doesn’t mean our house,” Tobin blurted out, her blush darkening, especially at the way she’d accidentally let her eyes travel over Christen’s abs. 

Christen was still a little confused and very distracted by the pretty blush in Tobin’s cheeks.

“It’s our restaurant!” Scottie grinned. “Mommy and I get dinner there a lot, and Gio lets me help him fold napkins.”

“Wow, that’s so cool,” Christen replied, preparing herself to turn down the dinner offer. She shouldn’t go out to eat with them. Outside of the world of soccer, outside of stadiums and trainings and fields, she wasn’t Christen Press, the soccer player anymore. She was Christen Press, resident of a current downward spiral and certifiable wreck. She shouldn’t go to dinner and run the risk of disappointing Scottie and Tobin with that. “But-” she tried to say, ready to let Scottie down easily, but Scottie interrupted her.

“We can get pasta and sometimes if I ask nicely enough, Mommy lets me eat Tiramisu, and I’d totally share with you if you wanted some,” Scottie continued, not taking the hint that Christen might not want to go. 

Christen felt her resolve slipping away the more Scottie talked and the more her pout grew. “Umm…” Christen trailed off, feeling every excuse on the tip of her tongue but unable to voice a single one.

“You can say no,” Tobin said, offering Christen a look that said ‘I’m sorry.’ “Scottie, you shouldn’t beg people to do things,” Tobin whispered, straightening the snapback on Scottie’s head. 

“I’m not saying no,” Christen replied quickly, surprising even herself. “I just, I need to change and get this grass and mud off of me super quick. Is that okay?”

“Of course!” Scottie smiled. “We can wait.”

“We can wait,” Tobin nodded, taking Scottie’s hand in her own. 

Christen let her eyes hold Tobin’s for a moment longer than maybe she should, feeling her fractured heart start to quicken in her chest. 

“I’ll be quick,” Christen replied, offering Scottie and then Tobin one more smile before turning back to the locker room, wondering what the hell she’d just gotten herself into.