I think I want you more than want
I know I need you more than need
I want to hold you more than hold
When you stood in front of me
I think you know me more than know
And you see me more than see
I could die now more than die
Every time you look at me
When it's right it's more than right
'Cause you feel it more than feel
I could take this moment now
Ride into the grave with me
In your eyes, oh in your eyes
In our hearts, yeah in our hearts
Sometimes words just ain't enough
For this love that's more than love
But I've never seen anything quite like you tonight
No, I've never seen anything quite like you tonight
(Christen - “Never Seen Anyone ‘Quite Like You’” by The Script)
Take my eyes, but take it slow
And my demise is finding home
And someone’s questions can you know
That people are looking for something
They think they lost long ago
And when the heat blows over from my head now
And I see you’re holding all of me together now
For all those hours I waited for nothing
I wanted something like this
Yeah, I got burned where I stand
But it was harder then than now to understand
How to bleed until you’re empty, how to open what is full
But I hope I know when I am capable of loving you
(Tobin - “Something Like This” by Gordi)
Christen threw another top onto the bed, huffing in frustration. She’d tried on every outfit in her closet, even the unseasonable ones. She’d tried sweaters, button-downs, blouses, tank tops. She’d tried dresses and jumpsuits and skirts. But nothing felt right .
So, it was time to call in reinforcements, knowing she would regret it later but too desperate to care.
“You need to promise me two things, Kelley O'Hara,” Christen grumbled, narrowing her eyes at her phone when Kelley answered her FaceTime.
“Hello to you too,” Kelley laughed on the other end of the line.
“One, you will ask NO questions,” Christen continued, breezing by pleasantries since she had exactly thirty minutes before Tobin would be here.
“Ooooh, where are we hiding the body?” Kelley teased, not fully realizing how stressed out Christen actually was.
“Kel, I’m serious,” Christen pleaded, sinking down onto her bed and holding the phone up in front of her face.
“Okay, fine. I’ll try not to ask questions,” Kelley grumbled, wiping sweat off of her forehead and stopping her Peloton workout.
“The second thing is...you have to tell me if I look hot or not,” Christen said, knowing there was no going back now. She’d opened the door and Kelley was about to come crashing through it.
“It’s 6:30. You aren’t going to a club,” Kelley worked out to herself. “You’re going on a DATE!” Kelley gasped, her eyes going wide.
Christen immediately blushed and looked away from the phone. “I need help picking out an outfit that is the right combination of sexy but sweet.”
“Okay, where are you going? Is this a casual place or really fancy?” Kelley asked, leaning forward and resting her elbows on the handlebars of the Peloton.
Christen walked the phone over to the dresser and propped it against a stack of books. She walked back over to her bed, standing in front of her huge pile of clothes.
“It’s...in between casual and fancy.”
“So are we thinking pants or dress?” Kelley asked, looking more serious than usual.
“I was thinking a dress, but I don’t know,” Christen sighed. She grabbed a pretty, bright yellow sundress from the bed and a tighter fitting pale blue dress. She turned back to the phone and held them up. “These were my first two choices.”
“Do you want to sleep with this person tonight?” Kelley asked seriously, her eyes flitting between the two dresses.
Christen cleared her throat, feeling her blush deepen. “I, uh, I mean, eventually. Not that I’m avoiding it, because I’m not. We just- we haven’t talked about that yet. Not that I’m talking to someone,” Christen rambled.
“Right, of course not,” Kelley laughed, rolling her eyes. “I mean do you want the date to end in sex tonight?”
“No,” Christen responded automatically.
“Then go for yellow,” Kelley said, leaning back up and starting to pedal again. “Yellow is sexy but a little sweeter. The blue says take me off. The yellow says think about what’s under me but be respectful.”
“You got all that from a brief look at those two dresses?” Christen chuckled, feeling a bit better now that Kelley had helped her pick an outfit.
“Tobin seems like she’d like the color yellow too,” Kelley smirked.
“I- what- no,” Christen scoffed, far too quickly. “I’m not-”
“Have a great date, Pressy! Enjoy yourself and be safe!” Kelley called before hanging up the phone.
Christen groaned and collapsed back onto the bed. She and Tobin weren’t actively avoiding telling people that they were exploring things between them, but they’d decided that one of the first people they wanted to tell was Scottie. If they made it that far. So she wasn’t going to tell Kelley anything, not without checking with Tobin first.
After laying there for a moment, Christen pushed herself off of the bed and grabbed the yellow dress. She slipped it on, the color instantly brightening her mood and making her feel a little calmer about the prospect of going out with Tobin tonight.
Wear your black sandals. They match that cute purse you got in L.A.
Tobin hugged Scottie for the third time. As much as Scottie was independent and loved staying with Glennon and Abby when Tobin had a night out, she didn’t love saying goodbye. Tobin often wondered if it was because Scottie could remember being left, or maybe she was just projecting on Scottie.
“My heartstring is gonna be pulled far,” Scottie mumbled, tightening her arms around Tobin’s neck.
“Mine is too, little bit, but then I’ll come right back, and our heartstrings won’t stretch at all,” Tobin promised, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s cheek.
“Promise?” Scottie asked quietly.
“Pinky promise,” Tobin said, holding out her pinky finger for Scottie’s.
Scottie linked her pinky with Tobin’s and beamed. “Pinkies!”
“Be good for Glenny and Abbs, okay?” Tobin said, lowering Scottie to the floor and brushing a hand through her hair.
“Okay, Mommy. Have fun wherever you’re going!” Scottie replied, throwing up the shaka sign just like Tobin had taught her.
Tobin copied the shaka sign and watched as Scottie ran into the living room where Glennon and Abby’s kids were playing a board game.
“Thanks, you guys,” Tobin said, straightening her silky, navy blue tank top and making sure that the French tuck she’d perfectly poked into her black jeans was still intact.
“We’re rooting for you!” Abby called out with a smile.
“Hope she makes it to the appetizer this time!” Glennon added, blowing Tobin a kiss.
“You and me both,” Tobin answered, throwing a wave over her shoulder and heading down the front steps. She checked her watch and decided to hail a cab when she realized that saying goodbye to Scottie had taken a little bit longer than she’d originally planned.
When she pulled up in front of Christen’s apartment building, Tobin could feel her stomach churning with nerves. Sure, she’d been alone with Christen a few times now, but none of them had been real, planned, intentional dates. She slid out of the taxi, making sure that she had her wallet and phone and keys, that she wasn’t forgetting anything important, before buzzing up to Christen’s apartment. She made the quick trip up the elevator and to Christen’s front door, knocking softly and making sure to wipe her palms on her jeans before Christen came to the door, since she was absolutely certain that her palms were sweaty.
Christen pulled open the door with a radiant smile, feeling every nerve and worry fade away the moment she laid eyes on Tobin. “Hi,” Christen whispered.
“Hi back,” Tobin breathed out, her lips turning up into one of her biggest smiles.
Christen simply smiled, content to look into those warm brown eyes. But then she realized they were standing in silence, with her apartment door wide open and Tobin still in the hall.
“Oh, come in,” Christen said quickly, an embarrassed flush creeping up her neck. She stepped to the side and pulled the door open wider. “Sorry.”
“No need for sorrys,” Tobin said quietly as she walked past Christen into her apartment.
Christen blew out a short breath and closed the door, wondering why her nerves had come back full force. She’d felt wonderful the moment she’d opened the door but now she was nervous all over again, tripping over her words and feeling a bit jittery.
“You look beautiful,” Tobin murmured, not fully trusting her voice not to shake with the nerves and excitement she’d been feeling since the date had been planned. It didn’t help matters that Christen looked effortlessly stunning in her yellow dress that made her dark, curly hair even more striking and showed off just enough of her muscular legs to make Tobin’s mouth go a little dry.
Christen’s blush deepened as she leaned back against the apartment door, letting her eyes trail over Tobin’s outfit, loving the way her strong, toned arms were left exposed by the tank top and her jeans hugged her in all the right ways.
“Thank you...you look- I mean, you look good- great. You look great ,” Christen stammered, mentally kicking herself for losing any and all ability to be smooth. She’d wooed many a woman with her words and her eyes, but this felt different. She felt giddy and excited and nervous all at the same time and she could see that Tobin felt the same way.
“Thank you,” Tobin hummed, glancing around the apartment again, since the last time she was there she hadn’t really gotten a chance to see it before they were digging into deep confessions and topics. She grinned at the huge, expensive, complicated coffee machine on Christen’s kitchen counter, a sign that her love of coffee was an everyday affair. Tobin wanted to walk across the studio to look at the books and the framed pictures on Christen’s bookshelf, but she stayed rooted in her place, not wanting to overstep.
Christen took advantage of Tobin’s momentary distraction and walked to the kitchen, opening her fridge and taking something out. She kept it behind her back and stepped up next to where Tobin was standing near the kitchen counter and bar stools lined up against it.
“Here,” Christen said, pulling a single orange tulip from behind her back. “It kind of matched the goofy orange in the painting Scottie gave me, so I grabbed it. I probably should have gotten a whole bouquet...which would have been more romantic than just one flower, but...here,” she added a little bashfully, sliding the stem between her fingers as she waited for Tobin to take the tulip.
Tobin couldn’t think of anyone ever giving her a flower other than maybe her parents for her birthdays. She hadn’t really been romanced; she was typically the romancer. Now, with Christen holding a flower in front of her, she felt like she didn’t even have the words to explain how she felt. There was gratitude and awe and this soft warmth that she couldn’t fully describe.
“No, that’s perfect,” she whispered, taking the tulip and holding it between her fingers. She suddenly wished she’d dropped Scottie off at Glennon and Abby’s earlier and stopped by a florist before coming over. “Thank you.”
Christen ducked her head shyly for a moment at the reverent whisper. “No problem,” she murmured, lifting her head back up with a smile.
Tobin leaned forward and placed a light kiss on Christen’s cheek, not feeling like she had words to properly thank her for being sweet and making her feel special.
Christen felt her heart hammer in her chest as Tobin’s lips lingered. She swayed into Tobin just a little bit, going weak in the knees at the emotion behind the kiss being pressed against her cheek.
“Thank you,” Tobin repeated when she leaned back.
“You already said that,” Christen hummed, unable to force herself to take a step back. She couldn’t put any space between them, she didn’t want to.
“I repeated for emphasis,” Tobin winked, her smile growing a little bit bigger.
Christen’s smile mirrored Tobin’s. “Are you as nervous as I am?” she asked, reaching out to brush her fingers against the back of Tobin’s free hand.
“I might bet that I’m more nervous,” Tobin said, huffing out a shaky breath.
“I think we should both agree to stop being nervous. To leave the nerves here, in my kitchen, and not take them out with us,” Christen replied.
“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Tobin smirked, holding out her hand to shake Christen’s.
“That's not how you seal a deal,” Christen corrected gently, her stomach fluttering slightly at the playful glint in Tobin’s eyes.
“I’m traditional. I don’t know where this fist-bump business you’ve taught my daughter comes from,” Tobin teased.
“I wasn’t talking about a fist bump, either,” Christen murmured, her heart starting to race in her chest. She knew she would never be able to leave all of her nerves behind if she had the pressure of a first kiss hanging over her all night. It wasn’t that she wanted to get it out of the way, because she didn’t. She just wanted to enjoy it now, when they were still shy and nervous, when they wouldn’t get carried away. She wanted to kiss Tobin Heath in her kitchen in front of her expensive coffee maker before taking Tobin out for dinner.
Tobin’s eyes immediately dropped to Christen’s lips, and her stomach started flipping rapidly. Sure she was nervous but more than anything she was dying to finally kiss the woman she’d been entranced by for almost two months. She reached out slowly, letting her hands land on Christen’s waist so that she could pull her a little bit closer.
Christen tentatively lifted a hand and settled it on the corner of Tobin’s jaw, her thumb tracing along her cheekbone gently as she drifted impossibly closer.
Tobin tilted her head slightly, leaning in until her nose met Christen’s. She took one last steadying breath before pressing her lips against Christen’s for the first time.
Christen had never believed those people that said they saw fireworks when they kissed someone. She’d never experienced anything like that before. Sure, kissing was nice and not entirely unpleasant, but she’d never understood the way a kiss could make sparks flash behind your eyes, or make you weak in the knees. She’d never understood it until she felt Tobin’s lips on her own.
Even though she desperately wanted to forget about dinner and kiss Christen for the rest of the night, Tobin didn’t linger too long, not wanting to push the first kiss longer than it should be.
Christen was the first to pull back, a shaky breath leaving her lips as she pressed her forehead against Tobin’s, her thumb still caressing Tobin’s cheek. She nuzzled her nose slightly against Tobin’s and felt a small smile make its way across her face.
“Still nervous?” Tobin asked softly, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist so that her hands were on Christen’s back.
“Not one bit,” Christen whispered, leaning her head back so she could look into Tobin’s eyes. She could still feel the ghost of Tobin’s lips pressed against hers, soft but firm and a little chapped. She was sure there had never been a more perfect first kiss in the history of the world. “You?” she asked.
“Nope,” Tobin shook her head, a lopsided smile gracing her lips.
“Are you sure? Because I could do it again?” Christen teased, her eyes crinkling.
“Oh, wait. I’m actually feeling really nervous,” Tobin lied, her eyes shining playfully at Christen’s teasing.
Christen chuckled and leaned back in, kissing Tobin with a little more confidence this time, now that the first one was behind them. If possible, this second kiss was better. It was still innocent and sweet and a little tentative, but it was also a tiny bit more confident and with a skosh more oomph behind it.
“I really like your kitchen,” Tobin mumbled when they broke the second kiss.
“It’s my new favorite place,” Christen beamed, moving her hand from Tobin’s jaw and swiping her thumb across Tobin’s bottom lip, removing the bit of lipstick she’d left behind. “And now we don’t have anything to be nervous about. We can just go enjoy the date and not have the pressure of a first kiss hanging over us.”
“Just the third kiss,” Tobin teased.
“I have a feeling that’ll be a good one too,” Christen winked, stepping back from Tobin, causing Tobin’s arms to fall away from her waist. “We should probably get moving; we have reservations,” she added, reaching out for her purse on the kitchen counter.
“Sounds good,” Tobin said, trying to shake off the trance she’d been put under as soon as Christen’s lips had met her own.
“If you keep looking at me, you won’t look at the menu, and then what will you order?” Christen teased, arching her brow at Tobin, who sat across from her.
“Easy, pad thai. Every Thai restaurant has that,” Tobin countered, keeping her eyes on Christen.
Christen rolled her eyes in amusement and dropped her gaze back to her menu. “Must be nice to not be cripplingly indecisive about ordering,” Christen chuckled lightly.
“All you have to do is close your eyes and run your finger down the menu,” Tobin suggested. “Whatever you land on is dinner.”
“Hmmm…” Christen hummed. Finally, she sighed closed her eyes, dragging her finger across the menu and then picking something at random. She opened her eyes and shrugged at what she’d landed on. “Pad thai it is,” she grinned, shutting her menu and putting it down on the table.
“Copycat,” Tobin whispered.
“I just closed my eyes and let my hand do all the work like you told me to,” Christen smirked, reaching forward for her water glass and taking a small sip.
“That’s pretty suggestive for a first date,” Tobin deadpanned, keeping a serious expression on her face.
“It just slipped out,” Christeen shrugged with a slight blush in her cheeks. “I can’t help that you’re a really good kisser and my mind went places.”
“At least I wasn’t the only one,” Tobin hummed.
Christen choked slightly on her next sip of water and coughed slightly. If Tobin’s words hadn’t done it to her, the way her brown eyes seemed to darken would have. “Good to know,” Christen rasped, taking another sip of water to clear her throat before setting the glass down.
“You okay?” Tobin teased, her lips quirking up into a smirk.
Christen narrowed her eyes. “I think we should call a truce right now because this could get dangerous, and I would hate to miss out on this Pad Thai.”
“Are we sealing this with a kiss too?” Tobin grinned.
“Smartass,” Christen chuckled with a slight shake of her head.
“I think you like it, though,” Tobin shrugged.
Christen held up her pointer finger and her thumb, showing just a little bit of space between them.
“Just that much?” Tobin laughed.
Christen shrugged and dropped her hand back to the table, closer to Tobin’s than where she’d had it previously. Tobin reached her hand across the table to hold onto Christen’s, missing contact, even though they were sitting across from one another, their eyes glued to each other.
They held hands the entire meal. They held hands as they ordered, as they spent time talking about the city and their collegiate soccer years, as their food came and they each elected to eat one-handed. They held hands as the restaurant quieted down and the candles at their table started to get lower and lower.
They were only forced to separate when their waiter came around with their check.
“I can get it,” Tobin said, reaching into her back pocket for her wallet.
“You can get the next one,” Christen replied smoothly, sifting through her purse to find her wallet.
Tobin’s heart thrummed quickly at Christen’s words. No one she’d been out with in the past year had wanted a second date, and even though she knew Christen was different, that the entire scenario was different, she couldn’t help but feel caught off guard by those words.
“Okay,” Tobin nodded, letting Christen pay.
Christen looked over at Tobin after the waiter left with her credit card. “Oh, scary. You don’t sound so sure. Did I bore you with my story about the NCAA tournament and my first time playing in snow?” Christen teased, just the slightest bit of hesitation in her eyes.
“No,” Tobin hurried to say, not wanting Christen to think she wasn’t interested. “Not at all. I...I haven’t done a second date in over a year,” she mumbled, feeling her cheeks flush a little at the admission.
“Me neither, but just not for the same reasons as you, I don’t think,” Christen replied, her tone a little self-deprecating and sheepish.
“Is yours because you have a child that people don’t want to get close to?” Tobin attempted to tease, her tone not quite as light as it would be for her typical jokes.
“Good guess,” Christen replied with a tight smile. “But no. I was more of the self-destructive loop of meaningless one-night-stands kinda gal.” She swallowed thickly at the admission, having never actually talked about that part of her life with Tobin before. It wasn’t a secret and it wasn’t information that was all that hard to find. All Tobin had to do was Google and it was right there at her fingertips. But, Christen had a feeling Tobin knew enough.
“But not anymore,” Tobin hummed, no question in her voice, since she’d heard Christen use the past tense.
“Not anymore,” Christen agreed, sliding her hand back to the middle of the table. “And not anymore for you either.”
“That sounds really nice,” Tobin said, reaching out to take Christen’s hand. “In all honesty, I do have to tell you that I may or may not have googled you at one point, so I did have an inkling.”
“I could kinda tell,” Christe grimaced.
“Sorry,” Tobin cringed, hating that she’d possibly made Christen feel judged for it.
“You don’t have to be. I did what I did and got a lot of heat for it, none of it deserved. Even if I can own it, it’s still not my proudest moment.”
“I would have totally picked you up in a bar,” Tobin admitted with a shrug.
“I wouldn’t have wanted you to,” Christen replied seriously, flipping her hand over to tangle her fingers with Tobin’s.
“I think I prefer the second date idea,” Tobin said softly.
“Me too. One night wouldn’t have been enough if we’d met at a bar, and one night still isn’t enough,” Christen replied, equally as soft.
“You’re pretty smooth,” Tobin smiled, feeling her heart thud with each word that Christen said.
“I know, and I let other people tell me I am,” Christen teased, her lips twitching up into a large smile.
“Okay, okay, I guess I’m out of practice,” Tobin replied, rolling her eyes a little.
“I strongly disagree,” Christen whispered, her voice going deeper with those words.
“That third kiss is looking really good right now,” Tobin murmured.
Christen’s smile grew infinitely bigger as the waiter finally returned with her credit card. After sliding it back into her purse, she inclined her head toward the door.
“Want to take a walk with me?” she asked.
“Yes,” Tobin nodded, standing up from her seat and taking Christen’s hand.
Christen had taken four months to come to Central Park after moving to New York. She’d been so busy with the team and practices, she hadn’t really had a chance to explore her new city. But a few days off in her first season gave her the perfect opportunity to do some sightseeing, and she’d immediately fallen in love with the long stretch of grassy hills and trees and lakes and bridges in the middle of the concrete jungle she called home.
And tonight she found herself falling a little more in love with the park. It was moments after the sun started to set, the warm summer day bleeding into a warm summer night, and the sky was still bright enough for the oranges and pinks to make the world around them seem magical. With her arm looped through Tobin’s, their steps slow and unhurried, their voices soft and low, Christen loved Central Park and was really liking her company in it.
“Am I allowed to ask a question that is definitely too serious for a first date?” Christen hummed, leaning into Tobin’s side just a bit.
“I think we passed serious a while back,” Tobin laughed, thinking about the night of the MoMA event and how Christen had cried on her suit.
“You still have to send me that dry cleaning bill by the way,” Christen chuckled.
“That’s not going to happen,” Tobin hummed.
“Hmm...what if I power posed?”
“I don’t think I’ll crumble that easily,” Tobin grinned.
“You say that now,” Christen teased, knocking her hip gently into Tobin’s as they continued to stroll. “But, um, I was wondering more about how you got Scottie,” she asked softly. “I understand if you don’t want to go into any more detail, but I just thought I’d ask.”
“Sure,” Tobin nodded, an easy smile on her lips. “I always knew I wanted a family at some point. I didn’t necessarily plan to have one when I was quite so young, but I told you, the person I was with said she really wanted to settle down. We didn’t have a ton of money at the time, so adoption was pretty expensive. I mean we were doing well enough to take care of a kid obviously, but it’s not like we had money to burn,” Tobin rambled a little, trying to do the story justice.
“Anyway, the most cost-effective way to adopt is to foster first, so we both got licensed. We took all the classes and did the background checks, and a couple kids were placed with us before Scottie for super short periods of time. The whole foster system’s goal is to put kids back with their birth parents, so the two kids before her came and went back to their families pretty quickly,” Tobin continued, remembering the ten-year-old boy she’d fostered for a few weeks before he went to a more permanent foster home and the baby she’d fostered for a month before she went to live with her birth mother again.
Christen nodded, hanging on to every word. She loved the way that with every word, she felt like Tobin was opening up to her, showing her another piece of herself that she’d kept hidden.
“Anyway, I got a call from our caseworker about a little girl who’d just turned three and really needed a place to stay for a few months; they said probably only four or so. Roni wasn’t even in New Jersey when I met Scottie for the first time. By that time, she’d started taking long weekend trips with friends pretty often, and the caseworker called me on a Sunday. They dropped her off, and she was just this tiny, terrified little kid who barely had any stuff with her.”
“I can’t imagine her like that. She seems so strong and...confident in herself, in a way that I definitely wasn’t at seven,” Christen interjected softly.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Tobin chuckled. “She was strong then. She wailed for days. I’m talking full-on screaming through the night for days. I thought I’d broken her or something. Her stamina and lung capacity were off the charts.”
Christen laughed, leaning in a little closer to Tobin. “Now that I can imagine.”
“She liked the car and the dryer,” Tobin mumbled. “The first few months, she couldn’t sleep unless I drove her around or turned the dryer on and sat on top of it and held her in my arms.”
With an adoring smile, Christen reached up and ran her thumb across the smile line beside Tobin’s wistful grin, just wanting to immortalize the way Tobin looked right now, talking about Scottie as the sun set behind her.
“You were good with her, even then,” Christen hummed.
“I think I called my parents or my sisters every single day,” Tobin admitted.
“So you were on your own?” Christen asked, her voice a little strained and vaguely angry.
“At first not so much. I mean, Roni had a nine-to-five job, so she didn’t get up with her at night. She was in charge of breakfasts and such, but I was at home trying to make art a job and taking care of Scottie,” Tobin hummed.
“You succeeded, on both accounts,” Christen pointed out.
“Yeah, but she left after a year,” Tobin added softly, “even if she stopped showing up within the first six months, she still left.”
“I’m sorry,” Christen whispered, feeling her chest tighten with a quick flash of anger at some woman she’d never even met before for doing that to Scottie, to Tobin.
“I’m not,” Tobin said honestly. “I was really really mad for a long time, but who wants someone to pretend to care? She didn’t deserve Scottie.”
Christen nodded, hearing the conviction in Tobin’s words and finding herself agreeing. Scottie deserved the world, not this woman who was willing to walk out on something spectacular, on two spectacular someones.
“What about her- I mean, her birth parents? Is that the right way to say it?” Christen wondered, a small flicker of embarrassment running through her, worried she was saying it wrong.
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded, squeezing Christen’s arm gently. “Scottie still calls them tummy parents because that’s what I told her when she was really little,” she added with a laugh. “I don’t know a ton about them. I know that her dad left before she was born. I’m not sure what kind of trouble her mom was getting into, but Scottie kept being taken away. She’d go to a foster home and then back to her mom for a bit and then back to another foster home. Her mom actually passed away while Scottie was with me for what was supposed to be a few months,” Tobin said softly, remembering how hard it had been to get that phone call, how gut-wrenching it had been to explain to Scottie, as best as she could, why she was going to stay at her house and not her birth moms.
Christen pulled them gently over to a park bench when she heard the change in Tobin’s voice. She settled them down close to one another, taking a hold of Tobin’s hand in her own and threading their fingers together. Her heart ached for Scottie and for Tobin, having an idea of just how hard it had been to get that phone call.
“They tried to contact her birth father and see if he’d take her, but he gave up his rights to custody. He said he couldn’t take care of a kid, which was probably the best thing he could have done for her,” Tobin sighed. “She didn’t have anybody else. They told me they were going to start the adoption process, that a family in Connecticut was interested in her, and I told them that I wanted her. The rest is history, riddled with caseworkers and paperwork and a really long wait to actually become her mom, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” Tobin whispered.
Christen let the story wash over her, adding another dozen or so things to her stores of information about Tobin and Scottie. It wasn’t a happy one, but it had a happy ending and for that, she was glad.
“You changed that girl’s life,” Christen said quietly, squeezing Tobin’s hand in her own, her eyes tracking across Tobin’s profile as Tobin gazed out at the sunset.
“She’s changed mine more,” Tobin mumbled. “I think I’d be really bitter if I didn’t have her. I think I’d be a trainwreck.”
“As the resident trainwreck, I can guarantee you wouldn’t be,” Christen joked lightly.
“I wouldn’t call you a trainwreck,” Tobin said softly.
“And I don’t believe for a second you would have been one. You’re too good,” Christen replied.
“I’m really not,” Tobin shook her head. It wasn’t that Tobin wanted to disprove Christen. She wanted to be too good. She wanted to be amazing and enough and everything that Scottie...and now Christen deserved. That being said, even the most perfect-looking people, even people who had their lives together enough to raise a kid could have pasts riddled with bumps in the road.
Tobin was no stranger to bumps in the road. She was no stranger to jagged edges and breakdowns, and because of that, she knew she could never be too good. She’d made unforgivable mistakes in her life, mistakes that she knew would gnaw at her heart until it stopped beating. She’d hurt people who only ever loved her, and at one point, she’d handed over the only bit of light in her life.
This was the first date, though, so as much as Tobin wanted to spill her guts and tell Christen exactly what she was getting into, as much as she wanted to convince Christen that she was far from perfect, she tucked darkness away and smoothed down the jagged edges, opting for easier, flirtier conversation. Someday she’d tell Christen everything. She was sure of it. She was sure that those green eyes would be the pair she wanted to pour her soul out in front of. But for now, for tonight, she steered the conversation away, she put her best foot forward, and she let Christen think that she was good.
“Do you know what comes up when someone googles you?” Tobin asked with a cheeky smile, swallowing down every thought she’d just mulled over.
Christen winced. “Unfortunately, yes. Articles, pictures, lots of things since the internet is forever.”
“I’m talking about one thing in particular,” Tobin smirked.
“I’m not a good guesser, remember,” Christen replied with a small, half-smile.
“Hmm...I believe you did it for ESPN at some point.”
Christen’s eyes widened comically and her mouth dropped open. “Um- you- that was- you saw- that?” Christen stumbled over her words, her cheeks flaming and her skin prickling at the sudden and drastic change in tone and direction of their conversation.
“Briefly,” Tobin admitted, her cheeks flushing a little at the memory. “I may have seen a few of those pictures.”
Christen sat back against the bench and suddenly wished for a cooler night. She was feeling too hot, almost uncomfortably so. She could not believe that Tobin Heath, the patient and impossibly sweet single mom she’d chanced into meeting had seen her...in a state of undress that was very undressed.
“It was really tasteful,” Tobin mumbled.
“I am whole ass naked in that,” Christen blurted, shaking her head still as she tried to wrap her mind around this.
“The posing was tasteful,” Tobin assured her with a shrug.
“Oh, I know, I made sure it was. But…Jesus, Tobin,” Christen husked, her voice deep and gravelly, her skin on fire. “You’ve been sitting on this information for how long?”
“Um...” Tobin hesitated, feeling a little embarrassed that she’d googled in the first place. “Since before I knew your coffee order,” she admitted, covering her face with her free hand.
“I...I have no idea what to say,” Christen laughed, still flushed and embarrassed and bothered in a very hot way.
“I mean I rationalized it and said I was being an overprotective parent,” Tobin mumbled into her hand.
“You looked at pictures of me naked because you’re an overprotective parent?” Christen replied, starting to laugh a little harder now.
“It wasn't intentional, but it was hard to look away,” Tobin admitted softly, lowering her hand but not yet looking right at Christen.
Christen blew out a shaky breath and shook her head slightly. She looked over at Tobin, taking in her red cheeks and her shy yet coy smile. She could see the fleeting embarrassment and the muted intrigue, the same sorts of things she was feeling swirling around inside of her.
So instead of saying anything, of putting her foot in her mouth or stumbling through an awkward response, Christen used her free hand to turn Tobin’s face toward hers with a gentle grip on her chin.
She leaned forward and kissed Tobin without the same softness their first kisses had held. She moved her lips confidently against Tobin’s, keeping her hand on Tobin’s chin. She couldn’t keep this kiss gentle, not when she knew that Tobin had seen her Body Issue cover, not when she knew that Tobin hadn’t wanted to stop looking at it. She kissed Tobin with enough simmering passion and purpose to get her message across: I’m glad you saw it .
Tobin hadn’t felt this attracted to someone...maybe ever. She’d never wanted to make out with someone in public. But Christen was confident and sweet and ridiculously sexy and didn’t mind if people knew that she liked her. Obviously, they were taking that slow because of Scottie, but Tobin was sure, without a doubt, that if things progressed, if Christen really wanted this, if everything went smoothly and they told Scottie, she’d want to hold Christen’s hand and get kissed senseless by Christen every single place they went.
So, while she was a little caught off guard when her tongue brushed against Christen’s bottom lip without her permission, she wasn’t really that surprised.
It was the moan that threatened to wrench itself from her chest at the feeling of Tobin’s tongue dancing along her bottom lip that finally had Christen breaking the kiss. She abruptly pulled back, her chest rising and falling quickly as she forced air back into her lungs.
“You can’t- you can’t just say things like that and then kiss me like that and-” Christen stopped, wetting her lips as she looked deeply into Tobin’s eyes.
“Sorry?” Tobin offered, catching her own breath, unable to not glance down at Christen’s lips.
“I’m not. Not at all. Please don’t stop doing all of-” Christen broke off and gestured at Tobin in a general sense, “- that . But I don’t want this to be just a one-night thing. You’re important, so important that I need to physically put some space between us right now because you’re giving me that look again…” Christen chuckled hoarsely and slid across the bench, putting a few inches of space between them. But she kept their hands clasped and resting on the bench between them.
“You’re important to me too,” Tobin whispered back. “And I will try to stop looking at you like that ,” Tobin teased.
“Just for now,” Christen hummed, wiping away the lipstick she’d gotten on Tobin’s lip for the second time that night.
“That’s a good plan,” Tobin nodded, knowing that her self-control was good but maybe not phenomenal enough to kiss Christen like that, especially when both of their houses were empty and Christen was wearing that dress. Especially since Tobin hadn’t actually had sex in over a year and was...eager. She wanted to respect Christen and their brand new possible relationship, and Christen was right. Respecting it included giving it time to develop.
“So now I think I should let you walk, or cab, me back to my apartment, let you give me a not-so-chaste kiss outside my door, and then promise me you’ll text me when you get home,” Christen replied, hating that their night was drawing to a close but knowing that it had to.
“I can do that,” Tobin smiled, standing up from the bench and leading the way out of the park, their hands never leaving one another’s.
They marked the next few blissful weeks of June with lots of moments like the ones on their first date.
With more meals, where Tobin paid the next time, then Christen, then Tobin, and sometimes split evenly down the middle. With more kisses, so many they started to lose count, some soft and sweet, others anything but. With more admissions and talking, of getting to know one another as individuals outside of being a parent or a professional soccer player. With late nights spent talking on the phone, since Christen had been kept late after practice doing extra shooting drills, or Tobin was kept late in the studio finishing a commission. With more and more and more difficulty keeping their hands off of each other whenever Scottie was distracted or left the room.
By the first day of July, they’d been doing this dance of spending time together, of falling for one another and enjoying every new facet of their budding relationship, but still holding out on telling Scottie. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to tell her or that they were afraid.
Tobin was almost certain that Scottie would be floored with the news, but they wanted to make sure that they were stable and steady, that they had a label for their relationship, that they were ready to take the next steps that a kid would inevitably bring, and honestly, that the sex was good, which they hadn’t yet explored.
That was something that Tobin had been thinking about a lot more. Especially now, as she prepared three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Somehow, she could even think about sex with Christen while doing this mundane activity.
“Mommy, look!” Scottie called, juggling the soccer ball and trying to catch it with her shoulder blades. She managed to get it onto her back, but the ball bounced off of her, making Christen give chase and intercept the ball before it bounced up and hit the TV.
“You’re getting close,” Tobin said, spreading some jelly on Scottie’s sandwich. She couldn’t help but glance up at Christen’s long, bare legs that her soccer shorts really weren’t covering much of. She couldn’t help but think about how a couple of nights before, after Scottie had gone to bed, they’d kissed on the couch, their hands lingering a little more than usual-
“Remember to arch your back a bit, Scottie. And cradle it down,” Christen instructed, handing the ball back to Scottie and running her hand across Scottie’s wild hair. “Try it one more time, okay?” she added, moving to the kitchen after catching a certain look on Tobin’s face, one that had her stomach tightening and fire prickling across her skin.
“You’re going to drool into the jelly, Tobin,” Christen whispered, getting close enough to Tobin in the kitchen so that Scottie wouldn’t hear.
“Hey, buddy?” Tobin called out, clearing her throat a little.
“Mommy?” Scottie answered, still bouncing the soccer ball off of her knees.
“Why don’t you run downstairs and practice on the turf. I don’t want any paintings to get knocked down,” Tobin suggested. “We can bring sandwiches down there.”
Seeing Scottie’s momentary hesitation, Christen decided to add her voice to the mix. “I’ll meet you down there in five minutes, okay? Get those 100 juggles and I’ll be there before you know it.”
“Okay,” Scottie shrugged, picking up the ball and climbing down the stairs to the studio, and then opening the door to the garage. Tobin waited to hear the basement door slam shut in the garage before she turned her attention to Christen.
Resting a hand on Tobin’s shoulder, Christen dipped her head to meet Tobin’s eyes. “Hey, is everything, oof-” Christen gasped, completely caught off guard when Tobin quickly captured her lips and backed her up toward the solid surface of the fridge. Christen’s back hit the fridge and the impact knocked a few magnets off, but Christen didn’t care because Tobin was kissing her all hot and needy and it lit something inside of her that she’d been trying her best to tame.
Tobin had been wanting to kiss Christen since she’d said good night in front of Christen’s apartment after a date at the movies two nights ago. She’d been keeping her hands to herself in front of Scottie, but she felt like there was a burning need coiled up inside of her, something that she couldn’t dislodge until she could touch Christen and feel her gasp against her. She let her hands wander more than she probably usually would in her house, especially with Scottie two floors down, and with each touch, Christen’s words and soft noises made that desire coil even tighter.
“Tobin- she’s- Scottie’s-” Christen tried to protest, but her words were swallowed by Tobin diving back in for another kiss. A kiss she eagerly returned, with her hands buried in Tobin’s messy bun and any and all thoughts of Scottie flying from her mind.
When Tobin realized she wanted even more, that she couldn’t have it here or now, that she needed to splash water on her face and go downstairs and be a responsible parent, she finally managed to pull away. She was more than a little breathless as she kept Christen pinned to the fridge, their foreheads pressed against one another's.
Christen moved her hands to cradle Tobin’s face between her palms, her thumbs running over her cheekbones and beneath her hazy brown eyes. She was so affected when Tobin did something like this, when she kissed her and touched her desperately. It made her feel like Tobin wanted this as bad as she did.
“That whole thing was... very nice,” Christen hummed, a slight flush in her cheeks.
“Just wait until a night when Scottie’s not waiting for us downstairs,” Tobin huffed, starting to feel a little guilty that she’d kissed Christen in her house with her daughter downstairs, that she’d told Scottie to run downstairs, in order to kiss Christen.
Christen couldn’t help herself. She pressed her lips against Tobin’s again, silently expressing how excited she was for that and how so very okay this had been.
“She’s definitely gotten to 100 juggles by now,” Christen murmured after disconnecting their lips.
“She usually loses count, though,” Tobin laughed, turning around to put sandwiches together.
“Oh I know,” Christen chuckled, bending down to pick up the magnets and put them back on the fridge.
“Can I ask you something that you can totally say no to?” Tobin asked, piling the sandwiches onto a paper plate.
“Um, sure. What’s up?” Christen asked as she put the last magnet back up on the fridge and turned to look at Tobin.
“Well, first what are you doing on the 4th of July?” Tobin asked, leaning her hip against the counter.
“We’ve got a few days off. A small summer hiatus, as Amanda called it,” Christen replied with a smile. “Why?”
“Are you going out of town?”
“I don’t- I mean, I don’t really have anywhere to go out of town to,” Christen replied gently, her smile dimming just a bit.
“I didn’t know if you were going to visit your sisters,” Tobin mumbled, not wanting to dredge up bad feelings.
“We only see each other for Christmas,” Christen shrugged. “So I’m free. Why?”
“Um...my mom does a 4th of July barbecue kind of thing, and Scottie and I always go,” Tobin explained.
“Do you need a ride or something? Someone to come watch the apartment while you’re gone?” Christen asked, cocking her head to the side in thought.
“I want you to come,” Tobin said, surprised that Christen thought she’d want her to drive and not join.
Christen’s brows lifted high on her forehead. This wasn’t clandestine, secret date nights, or stolen kisses while Scottie was in the basement. This was a barbecue with other people around. This was a barbecue with family around.
“Are you sure?” Christen asked, scratching at the corner of her jaw.
“Yeah, I mean...it’s just a family thing, so it’s not like a huge group of people,” Tobin murmured.
Just a family thing echoed around Christen’s mind, making her reel just a little bit. Tobin considered her family enough to invite her to this event. It felt big in a serious and slightly terrifying way, but it also felt big in a wonderful way too.
“My mom sort of knows about you. Not in specifics, but she knows I’ve been seeing someone, and she knows we’re taking things slow with Scottie. She said you’re welcome to come, and I-”
“Okay,” Christen interrupted softly.
Tobin’s brows lifted high on her forehead as a small smile tugged at her lips. “Really?”
“Yeah, okay. It’s a little intimidating, the idea of meeting your mom and dad, but um, I’d like to go.”
“And one of my sisters will be there with her kids,” Tobin added, cringing a little at naming another person Christen would have to meet.
“...and them too,” Christen nodded, shooting a tight-lipped smile at Tobin. “Bring it on. The more the merrier.”
“You really can say no, Chris,” Tobin promised.
Christen pushed off the fridge and wrapped her arms around Tobin’s waist. “I want to spend time with you and your family. I wouldn’t have said okay if I didn’t want to,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s cheek softly.
“Okay, good,” Tobin nodded. “And seriously, if you get there and want to bail, we can bail.”
“If I say the word offsides, that means we gotta bail, okay?” Christen chuckled.
“And I will take you to a really obscenely fancy dinner as an apology,” Tobin hummed, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead.
“You got yourself a deal,” Christen replied softly.
“Way to melt my heart,” Tobin laughed.
“I do what I can,” Christen laughed right along with her.
“You ready to go down?” Tobin asked, picking up their lunch and heading to the staircase.
Christen hurried after Tobin and stole a quick kiss. She then waltzed to the stairs in front of Tobin. “As Scottie would say, last one there’s a rotten egg,” she tossed over her shoulder with a smile.
“Do you want lunch?” Tobin teased.
“Not as much as I want to beat you down to the basement,” Christen laughed, running down the stairs.
Tobin started running after her, holding the food in one hand and wrapping her free arm around Christen as soon as they got to the studio.
“Ah! Tobin!” Christen squealed, fighting against Tobin’s arm to reach the stairs to the basement.
Tobin spun Christen around, slipping past the basement door and down the stairs first as quickly as she could.
“That’s cheating!” Christen laughed, following close behind and trying to jump down the stairs two at a time.
“That’s using all of my talents,” Tobin countered. “Plus, I was holding lunch, so I was at a disadvantage.”
“Mommy always cheats,” Scottie joined in.
“I do not!” Tobin countered with a laugh.
Christen swiped the plate of sandwiches from Tobin when she was distracted by Scottie, carrying them over to the girl and sitting down on the turf next to her.
“I think we earned our sandwiches, but I don’t know if Tobin did,” Christen chuckled, handing Scottie a sandwich.
“I made them,” Tobin countered, kneeling down on the turf and crawling toward Scottie.
“You cheated,” Christen and Scottie said in unison, turning to smile at each other. Christen held up her sandwich and Scottie knocked her sandwich against Christen’s in a mock-cheers.
Tobin lunged forward, knocking Scottie softly onto the turf, lifting her shirt so that just her tummy was showing, and planted a raspberry on her skin, sending Scottie into a giggling fit.
Christen grabbed Scottie’s sandwich before it fell onto the turf, dropping them back onto the plate. She shook her head and laughed as she watched Tobin and Scottie interact, as she watched the happiness they exuded fill the space around them and completely overwhelm her.
“I think Christen needs some attention,” Tobin whispered into Scottie’s ear, smirking over at Christen.
“She does!” Scottie giggled, letting Tobin pull her up.
“She definitely doesn’t,” Christen protested, scooting backward a bit across the turf and keeping a hand held in front of her.
Scottie dove into Christen’s arms and wrapped her arms around Christen so that her fingers could tickle her sides. All the while, Tobin told Scottie she was doing a great job and pulled her phone out to take pictures, suddenly regretting that her bigger camera was upstairs.
Christen tried to wrestle away, but she didn’t actually try very hard since Scottie’s laughter was infectious and she’d do just about anything to hear it. But she did let out a few shrieks and squeals when Scottie managed to actually tickle her.
“I give! I give! No more!” Christen laughed, trying to squirm out of Scottie’s surprisingly strong grip.
“Oookay,” Scottie relented, wrapping her arms around Christen’s neck and burying her face into Christen’s chest.
Christen leaned her head against Scottie’s and rubbed a hand over her back, letting out a sigh of relief that the tickling was over for the moment. She felt her mouth twitch up into a smile when she heard Scottie whisper ‘I love you’ into her neck.
Tobin forgot trying to be subtle about taking pictures, dropping to her knees to get a closer picture, first of just Scottie, one of Scottie and Christen, one of just Christen, then an artsier one of Christen’s hands on Scottie’s back, and finally one of Scottie’s hands around Christen’s neck, tangling gently in her hair.
Christen narrowed her eyes playfully at Tobin, not loving being the subject of the camera but totally unable to do anything about it with the kid in her arms.
Scottie turned her face and caught sight of the phone in Tobin’s hand, taking pictures. “No paparazzi!” Scottie giggled.
“Yeah, no paparazzi!” Christen repeated, winking at Tobin.
Tobin rolled her eyes playfully, dropping down onto her back and sliding her phone across the turf. “Fine,” Tobin groaned. “Someday, you’re both gonna ask me for pictures, and you’ll be really happy that I took them.”
The sound of someday rolling off of Tobin’s tongue had Christen’s stomach doing somersaults and her heart beating fast. It sounded a little scary, but oh so very right.