Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind
Tethered to another and you're worried all the time
You always knew the melody but you never heard it rhyme
She's fair and she is quiet, Lord, she doesn't look like me
She made me love the morning, she's a holiday at sea
The New York streets are as busy as they always used to be
But I am the mother of [Scottie]
The first things that she took from me were selfishness and sleep
She broke a thousand heirlooms I was never meant to keep
She filled my life with color, cancelled plans and trashed my car
But none of that is ever who we are
They've still got their morning paper and their coffee and their time
They still enjoy their evenings with the skeptics and their wine
Oh but all the wonders I have seen I will see a second time
From inside of the ages through your eyes
You were not an accident where no one thought it through
You're nothing short of magical and beautiful to me
(Tobin - “The Mother” by Brandi Carlile)
I haven't seen my father in some time
But his face is always staring back at me
'Cause he taught me how to walk the best that I can
On the road I've left behind
I haven't heard my mother's voice in a while
But her words are always falling out my mouth
My mind and spirit are at odds sometimes
And they fight like the north and the south
But I still care enough to bear the weight
Of the heaviness to which my heart is tethered
She taught me how to be strong and say goodbye
And that love is forever
But most of all
She taught me how to fight
How to move across the line
Between the wrong and the right
And when I'm turned out in the darkness
And the pushing comes to shove
To remember what comes back
When you give away your love
Give away your love
When you give your love away
Give away your love
And remember what comes back to you
(Christen - “Most of All” by Brandi Carlisle)
“Why are we here on a Thursday?” Scottie asked, looking around at Gio’s and how busy it was.
“The food is good, and we talked about coming here for a Mommy-Scottie dinner,” Tobin said, drumming her fingers on the table. She was nervous. No. She was so far past nervous that she felt eerily calm.
Scottie had been asking where Christen was all day, causing Tobin to almost spill the news earlier. She wanted this to be special and right. She wanted Scottie to feel comfortable to ask questions and have an actual conversation about Christen, but it took all of her strength not to just blurt it out.
“But we never come here on Thursdays…” Scottie mumbled, her brow furrowed slightly as she tapped her fingers across the tablecloth, mimicking Tobin.
“Do you want to go somewhere else?” Tobin asked, worried that maybe Scottie wasn’t in the mood for Italian food.
“That’s a silly question,” Scottie rolled her eyes, turning to wave at Gio who had just stepped out of the kitchen. “I love it here.”
“I know you do, buddy,” Tobin said, starting to worry if this conversation was going to ruin the restaurant for Scottie if it went poorly.
Scottie grew thoughtful and turned to face Tobin again. She started to tap her finger against her nose, seeming to be thinking really hard.
“Are you getting me a puppy?” Scottie asked.
“No,” Tobin laughed. “Not until you’re older.”
“Are we moving out of our house?”
“Of course not.”
“Am I in trouble?” Scottie wondered, continuing to rattle off questions as she tapped away at her nose, now choosing to mimic Christen.
“No, little bit,” Tobin sighed. She knew she was acting weird. She knew she needed to tell her now before she jumped to any crazier conclusions.
“Then what Mommy? You have that serious look on your face,” Scottie sighed. She got up from her chair and walked around to Tobin’s side of the table. She threw her arms around Tobin’s neck and pulled her in for a tight hug.
“You’re the best hugger,” Tobin mumbled, squeezing Scottie tightly.
“Not as good as you,” Scottie sing-songed.
“Agree to disagree,” Tobin smiled.
“Do you feel better? Or do you want a longer hug?” Scottie asked, rocking Tobin back and forth slightly.
“I feel so much better. Can I have a longer hug later?” Tobin asked.
“Of course, Mommy,” Scottie replied, skipping back over to her seat and sitting down.
“You’re right that I’m acting a little weird,” Tobin started, working up the nerve to tell Scottie.
“Hmm...you have a secret,” Scottie said, tilting her head to the side, smiling at having finally figured out why Tobin was acting so odd.
“I do have a secret,” Tobin nodded. “And I want to tell you about it.”
“Okay,” Scottie shrugged.
“You know how Abby and Glennon care about each other a whole lot?” Tobin asked.
Scottie nodded. “They love each other,” she replied.
“Yeah, they do. Well, before they got married and moved into their cool house, they had to date,” Tobin said, trying to make what she had to say understandable.
“What’s a date?” Scottie asked innocently.
“It’s when you go to dinner with someone or maybe see a movie or just spend time together,” Tobin explained.
“So...is that like when we go to dinner or ice cream with Christen?”
“Yeah, sort of,” Tobin nodded.
“Oh,” Scottie realized. “It’s an adult thing.”
“Yes,” Tobin nodded, thankful that Scottie was basically helping her with this explanation. “Adults go on dates with other adults.”
“So you could go on dates with Christen?” Scottie wondered, reaching out for a piece of garlic bread and taking a big bite of it.
“Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Tobin said.
“You’re not doing a whole lot of talking, Mommy,” Scottie grinned, diving back into her piece of garlic bread.
“You’re right,” Tobin chuckled. She took a few deep breaths, preparing to admit this whole thing to Scottie. “So...Christen and I have actually been on a couple dates,” Tobin said honestly.
Scottie grew quiet, her gray eyes moving away from Tobin and focusing on the city streets out the window next to their table. Her fingers started to tap across the table again.
Tobin’s stomach dropped immediately at Scottie’s reaction. She had no idea how to describe anything better since she’d never been in this situation before. She had no idea how to make Scottie look at her again, to make her smile big and bright again.
“So you’re getting married?” Scottie asked, jumping to an unreasonable conclusion in the way only a kid could. She turned back to look at Tobin curiously.
“No, no, no,” Tobin shook her head.
“But you said people date to get married,” Scottie pointed out.
“A lot of people need to date for years before they decide to get married. Christen and I haven’t dated that long,” Tobin clarified.
Scottie nodded and grew quiet again, staying quiet for a lot longer this time. Her hand stilled on the tablecloth and her eyes stayed stuck on the cars moving along the busy street.
“I know you love Christen,” Tobin said softly, resting her hand in the middle of the table and hoping that Scottie would take her hand. “I don’t want you to think that me spending time with her will change how she feels about you or how the three of us are together because it won’t.”
After a moment, Scottie slid her hand into Tobin’s and finally looked away from the window.
“How long?” she asked softly.
“What?” Tobin asked, not having planned that this would be a question that Scottie asked her.
“How long have you been dating?”
“Uh...about two months,” Tobin said, her throat feeling a little thick. “I really wanted to make sure that Christen and I both wanted to keep dating before I told you. You’re the most important person, and I never want you to feel disappointed about things not working out.”
Scottie nodded and then shrugged, smiling across the table at Tobin. “Cool beans,” she said.
“Cool beans?” Tobin asked, her eyes growing wide at the response.
“Yeah, cool beans,” Scottie replied. “I love Christen. I love spending time with her, and so do you. So, cool beans.”
“And you’re okay that Christen and I spend time together, even on our own?” Tobin asked, having expected some kind of response other than cool beans.
Scottie grinned, her signature toothy grin. “I just want you to be happy, and she makes you happy, Mommy.”
Tobin could feel her eyes starting to sting at Scottie’s ‘way too mature’ response.
“Did you think I’d be mad?” Scottie asked, her brow furrowing at the tears gathered in Tobin’s eyes.
“I didn’t think you’d be mad, little bit. I just haven’t dated someone seriously. It’s just been you and me for a long time,” Tobin hummed.
“Yeah but Christen promised she would always come back to us. So we don’t have to be alone anymore,” Scottie replied thoughtfully.
“She did,” Tobin nodded, tears threatening to slip from her eyes at Scottie’s words. “You know that you’re never alone, even if it’s just the two of us, right?”
Scottie quickly got up from her chair and hurried over to Tobin. She jumped into her lap and hugged Tobin tightly.
“I know, Mommy. I love you,” Scottie mumbled.
“I love you so much,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead. “I’m so in the mood for Tiramisu now.”
“Can Christen come eat it with us?” Scottie asked quietly, leaning back to wipe a little too hard at the tears on Tobin’s cheeks.
“You can definitely call and ask,” Tobin said, pulling her phone out of her pocket.
Christen had all but paced a hole in her rug. She kept muttering under her breath, chewing on her thumbnail, as she made lap upon lap around her studio, under the watchful gaze of Becky and Kelley.
“My money’s on Mini Tar Heel losing her shit she’s so happy,” Kelley whispered, sipping her beer.
“You never know with kids,” Becky mumbled under her breath.
“But it’s this kid. She looks at Christen like she’s the best thing since sliced bread,” Kelley pointed out.
“Sure, but that doesn’t mean she wants Christen and her mom kissing and going out without her,” Becky shrugged. “All I’m saying is we can’t predict what she’ll say.”
“We gotta be prepared either way,” Kelley grumbled, knocking her beer against Becky’s.
“Did you get ice cream?” Becky whispered.
Kelley hooked a thumb over her shoulder, pointing at the fridge. “Four pints.”
Christen stopped her pacing, starting to scratch at the corner of her jaw as she shot worried looks between Becky and Kelley.
“Guys, what if she hates the idea? What if she hates me ?” Christen asked in a tight, wobbly voice.
She’d been stressed all day. In the moment, when Tobin had asked her about telling Scottie, she had full faith that it was time. They felt solid in their relationship and in where they were headed, so the natural step was to finally tell Scottie.
But now the moment had arrived and Christen was scared shitless. She knew Scottie loved her as Coach Christen. She knew Scottie loved her as Christen, the woman who hung out with them for Disney movie nights and family barbecues. But she didn’t know if Scottie would love her as the woman dating her mom. That was a different dynamic than the one Scottie had become accustomed to.
She couldn’t help but jump to the worst-case scenario, she couldn’t help but let every fear and worry and anxiety inside of her plague her. She might be doing better and feeling better than she had in a long time, in no small part thanks to Scottie and Tobin and their light. But she still had to wonder if the other shoe was going to drop. If how easy and right this all felt would blow up in her face. Telling Scottie had the chance to do that, especially if Scottie had a problem with her dating Tobin.
“Christen, Scottie loves you. She could never hate you,” Becky sighed, wishing her words could actually help her friend.
“No matter what she thinks about you and Tar Heel together, she’s not going to hate you,” Kelley added, smiling in a hopefully reassuring way.
The room grew silent, filling with tension and nerves, as Christen continued to pace and Becky and Kelley wondered if there was anything more they could do.
And then Christen’s phone rang.
Christen all but sprinted over to the counter, grabbing it. Seeing that it was Tobin calling, she immediately picked up, her heart in her throat.
“Did you tell her? Is she mad? She’s probably mad right? Why else would you be calling me so soon? Just tell me fast, Tobin, I can take it,” Christen rushed out, covering her eyes with her hand and forcing deep breaths into her lungs.
“Christen?” Scottie said, confused about why Christen’s voice sounded so strained and different from its normal calm, slow tone.
Christen’s head snapped up, her hand falling away from her face. She looked between Becky and Kelley, her mouth opening and closing for a second, while she tried to formulate a response to the one person she was not expecting to be on the other end of the phone.
“Did you drop the phone?” Scottie asked. “Mommy, I think she accidentally hung up,” she mumbled to Tobin on the other end of the line.
“No,” Christen choked out, clearing her throat. “No, I’m here.”
“Oh, she’s here,” Scottie said, her voice brightening. “Christen, Mommy told me that you’re dating.”
Christen felt her stomach drop, trying not to read too much into the excitement in Scottie’s voice.
“She did? That’s- that’s great...unless it isn’t?” Christen replied slowly, already preparing herself for the worst.
“It’s cool, but I thought it was kind of weird,” Scottie said.
“Um,” Christen replied, her brow furrowing. “Cool but weird?”
Kelley and Becky silently celebrated on the other side of the kitchen counter, high-fiving and hugging.
“Because you aren't here. I thought since you’re dating Mommy you’d want to be at Gio’s with us,” Scottie explained.
Every bit of stress and anxiety and panic that had previously been trapped within her chest immediately disappeared. Christen felt tears prick at the corners of her eyes as a slow smile spread across her face.
“I’d love to come join you at Gio’s,” Christen hummed, earning herself another round of silent high-fives and hugs from her teammates.
“We only had garlic bread, but I saved you a piece, and I told Gio to make you something,” Scottie continued.
“That is very sweet of you, cutie. I’ll be there as soon as I can, okay?” Christen replied, her smile growing impossibly wider with how normal it felt, how Scottie still sounded like Scottie, and how it didn’t feel like anything had changed, even if everything had.
“Hey, Christen?” Scottie asked, a giggle escaping her lips.
Christen felt a small chuckle escape her lips in response. “Yes, Scottie Heath?”
“Thanks for making Mommy all smiley,” Scottie hummed.
Christen let out a shaky breath, her hand rising to rub at her sternum, right over the ball of warmth that was growing in her chest.
“Thank you for letting me make her all smiley, even if it’s cool-weird,” Christen replied.
“It’s only weird because you aren’t here, silly,” Scottie laughed.
“I’ll be right there. Give Tobin a hug for me okay?” Christen asked, feeling her heart all but bursting in her chest.
“Bye,” Christen whispered, dropping the phone down on the counter and immediately sinking down to the floor. She dropped her head into her hands and stayed crouched down.
“That sounded positive,” Becky said, walking around the kitchen counter.
Christen didn’t reply, too overcome with everything. Scottie wasn’t mad or upset. Scottie didn’t hate her. Scottie thought it was cool and wanted her to come to Gio’s.
“...unless we read that wrong,” Kelley mumbled.
Despite the tears making her throat thick and threatening to spill from her eyes, Christen looked up at Becky and Kelley and managed a small smile.
“She thinks it’s cool and wants me to join them for dinner,” Christen said in a quiet voice.
“So, why are you still here?” Kelley teased.
“I just- I need a second,” Christen replied, dropping her head back into her hands as she felt the last few broken, shattered bits of her heart start to heal. She felt Becky and Kelley join her on the ground, their arms wrapping tightly around her. She felt her tears fall and deep sobs leave her lips. She felt everything all at once, and then she felt peace. Completely and totally at peace.
Scottie raced outside as soon as she saw Christen through the window, moving past waiters to throw herself into Christen’s arms on the sidewalk.
“Hey, cutie,” Christen hummed, swinging Scottie back and forth as she hugged the girl tighter than she ever had before.
“Hey!” Scottie greeted, pressing herself close to Christen.
“So what’s this I heard about garlic bread?” Christen said, leaning back to fix Scottie with a smile as she set Scottie down.
“I saved you a piece and wouldn’t let Mommy eat it,” Scottie said triumphantly, taking Christen’s hand and pulling her into the restaurant.
“You’re the best,” Christen replied, picking up her pace so she could keep up with Scottie who was practically dragging her back to their table. The moment she stepped into the restaurant, her eyes found Tobin’s and an easy smile made its way onto her face. Her stomach tightened and her heart fluttered and that feeling of peace made her chest all warm and fuzzy.
“Hi,” Tobin called out softly, lifting her hand up to wave at Christen.
“Hi back,” Christen replied, waving back, a little shyly.
“You can sit between us,” Scottie said, ushering Christen to the closest seat that Scottie had clearly been sitting in earlier.
“Are you sure? You love sitting between us,” Christen replied, running her hand over Scottie’s wild hair.
“It’s okay,” Scottie nodded, hopping into the other seat and grinning at both Tobin and Christen.
Christen dropped into the chair Scottie offered her, sharing a quick smile with Tobin.
“So...I have a few questions,” Scottie said, her face getting oddly serious for an almost eight-year-old.
Their smiles quickly morphed into panicked looks as Christen and Tobin whipped their heads around to look at Scottie.
“Do you two come here on dates?” Scottie asked.
“No,” Christen quickly assured with a shake of her head. “This is your place with Tobin. We wouldn’t mess with that.”
“Do you kiss?” Scottie asked, tilting her head to the side curiously. “Anna and Kristoff do, and Glenny and Abbs do too.”
Christen blushed furiously and reached out to nudge Tobin’s arm, silently asking her to take this one.
“Sometimes we do, buddy,” Tobin nodded. “Is that okay with you?”
Christen fought off the urge to duck her head or scratch the corner of her jaw. She just smiled tightly over at Scottie and prayed this wouldn’t be the deciding factor to make Scottie decide this was actually not cool.
“Sure,” Scottie shrugged. “You guys don’t listen to Frozen on dates, right?”
“Absolutely not,” Tobin shook her head, a smile sliding onto her face again.
“Christen, do you want to marry my Mommy?” Scottie asked, needing to ask the same marriage question to Christen that she’d asked Tobin.
Christen’s mouth flopped open in shock and looked frantically between Scottie, who looked so goddamn innocent Christen couldn’t even be upset, and Tobin, who was flushing a dark shade of red.
“Mommy said people date before they get married, but she said you guys aren’t getting married,” Scottie continued.
“We- um, I mean- I think- well,” Christen stammered, wondering how the hell she was going to even remotely attempt to answer this question. It had been a little under two months of dating, far too soon to consider something as heavy and serious as marriage.
“I think you’ll have to ask her that again when you’re eleven,” Tobin interrupted, hoping that would be enough.
“Yup, what Tobin said,” Christen squeaked out, reaching for the water glass on the table and taking a long sip.
“Okay,” Scottie shrugged. “Do you want Tiramisu?”
Christen’s shoulders sagged at the easy question. She put the water glass back on the table and nodded. “I’d love some,” she replied with a smile.
“You know what’s cool?” Scottie hummed, bouncing up in her seat a little bit.
“What’s that?” Christen asked, her breathing slowly returning to normal after the marriage question and the sudden divergence in topics.
“A huge box came to the house today, and Mommy said it’s for my birthday,” Scottie grinned.
“You’re supposed to pretend you didn’t see it,” Tobin grumbled, glad that Scottie hadn’t actually seen inside the box and found the bike frame that she’d had custom painted with a design that included orange, purple, and yellow flowers.
Christen chuckled and slid her hand onto Tobin’s knee beneath the table, giving it a small squeeze. “I bet that big box has a really cool present inside,” Christen said. “Something like an avocado, or a soccer ball,” she added with a wink in Scottie’s direction.
“No, silly! Those are small,” Scottie said, rolling her eyes.
“Oh right, duh!” Christen replied. “Is it okay if my present doesn’t come in a box, though?”
“Sure,” Scottie said, her mind still reeling with all the questions she wanted to ask. “Do you guys hold hands?”
“We do,” Tobin said, taking Christen’s hand in her own and lifting it up for Scottie to see.
“But we don’t have to if it makes you...feel uncool?” Christen asked, arching her brow in Scottie’s direction.
“No, you can hold hands. I like holding hands and so does Mommy,” Scottie said, sitting up in her seat as soon as Gio came out of the kitchen with plates.
“My three favorite people!” Gio greeted, passing out the plates of pasta with a warm smile. He noticed Tobin and Christen’s clasped hands on top of the table and shot a wink in Tobin’s direction. “Proud of you, my friend,” he said, quiet enough for only Tobin and Christen to hear.
“Thanks, dude,” Tobin said, a blush spreading across her cheeks. A blush that matched the one Christen currently wore as well.
“Gio,” Scottie said, sitting up on her knees, her fork already poised over her pasta dish.
“Yes, Scottie?” he replied.
“They’re dating,” she said, nodding her head toward Christen and Tobin.
“And I think the world is a better place for it,” Gio replied, pinching Scottie’s cheek affectionately.
“Me too,” Scottie grinned, scrunching her nose and pulling her face away from Gio.
Christen squeezed Tobin’s hand in her own and shot Tobin a quick look, one full of so many emotions all at once. Emotions of awe and gratitude, of delighted surprise and relief, but most prominently, of happiness.
Tobin lifted Christen’s hand off the table and pressed a very light kiss to the back of Christen’s hand, her own chest feeling tight with the emotions coursing through her. She was suddenly overwhelmed by how much she loved Scottie, by how much she’d wanted her to be happy about this, by how quickly she was falling for the woman sitting next to her.
“I think we’re going to need three pieces of Tiramisu,” Scottie declared, grinning up at Gio.
“Three pieces coming your way,” Gio said, rubbing Scottie’s head and messing up her hair before making his way back to the kitchen.
“Are you capitalizing on the happiness?” Tobin asked, winking at Scottie across the table.
Scottie attempted to wink back, offering her awkward double blink instead. “I just think we should celebrate!” she replied with a smile, digging into her pasta.
And celebrate they did, with Tiramisu and boisterous laughter and a happiness that felt untouchable.
“Mommy?” Scottie whispered from underneath her blankets.
“What’s up, little bit?” Tobin asked as she placed the book they’d been reading on top of the shelf near her bed.
“Can Christen sleepover tonight?” Scottie asked quietly, jutting her lower lip out in a pout. “It’s my birthday week.”
Tobin glanced over at where Christen was leaning against the doorframe, feeling a nervous, excited flutter in her chest at the idea of having Christen stay and wake up with them in the morning.
“Uhh...if she wants to, but I don’t think she’d like sleeping in your bunk bed,” Tobin said awkwardly.
“We have lots of places to sleep, she doesn’t need to be in here,” Scottie shrugged. “I just want her to be here for pancakes.”
“I guess you’ll have to ask her,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Scottie’s forehead.
“CHRISTEN,” Scottie said, raising her voice and peeking around Tobin to smile at Christen, who still stood in the doorway.
Christen narrowed her eyes just a bit, a playful smile on her face as she looked between Scottie and Tobin.
“What’s up, cutie?” Christen replied.
“Will you sleep here?” Scottie asked, propping herself up on an elbow.
Christen felt her brows jump high on her forehead. “Um…” she trailed off, a little thrown by the question, even if it was the second time she’d heard it.
“You can borrow Mommy’s pajamas, and we have brand new toothbrushes that we got from the dentist,” Scottie said, adding some convincing details to her request.
“Do you want me to stay over?” Christen asked a little hesitantly, her arms crossed over her chest.
“Yes,” Scottie nodded. “If you stay over, you can make pancakes with us and watch cartoons. It’s my birthday week.”
Christen looked to Tobin, arching a brow in question, silently wondering if this was okay.
“If you want to,” Tobin said, not wanting Scottie’s begging to make Christen do anything she didn’t want to.
Christen ran through her schedule tomorrow, trying to figure out if this was even possible. She had nothing until the late afternoon, so this was actually feasible.
“Well I do love pancakes, and cartoons,” Christen said with a small smile.
“Yes!” Scottie cheered, pumping her fist at her side.
“You need to sleep,” Tobin laughed. The calm mood she’d managed to get Scottie to sink into was officially gone, replaced by a grinning, excited kid whose favorite soccer player was staying at her house.
Christen seemed to pick up on the same thing, so she pushed off the doorframe and came to sit next to Tobin on the bed. She ran her finger down the bridge of Scottie’s nose and then poked the tip of it gently.
“The sooner you go to sleep, the sooner I can show you how to flip a pancake,” Christen whispered, wiggling her eyebrows a little in Scottie’s direction.
“Okay, okay,” Scottie nodded, wiggling down into her sheets and closing her eyes to prove that she was going to try and sleep. “I love you. You’re the best Christen in the whole, wide world. Good night.”
“I love you, you’re the best Scottie in the whole, wide world. Good night,” Christen replied softly, her heart clenching at the adorable good night she’d now heard quite a few times. She had a feeling she’d never get tired of hearing it.
“I love you, Mommy. You’re the best Mommy in the whole, wide world. Good night,” Scottie mumbled.
“I love you, Scottie. You’re the best kid in the whole, wide world,” Tobin whispered, pressing one more kiss to Scottie’s forehead before standing up and turning off the bedroom light. “Good night.”
Christen followed Tobin out of Scottie’s bedroom, automatically heading for the stairs, assuming they’d go back down to the living room like they always did. But then Tobin’s arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her away from the stairs.
Tobin guided Christen down the hall, past a bathroom and an office, and toward her own bedroom, flipping on the light switch.
“You want pajamas?” she asked quietly.
Christen turned in Tobin’s arms to face her. “Only if you're sure it’s okay that I’m staying? I can just leave and then come back super early before Scottie wakes up.”
“I think it’s okay. I haven’t read the handbook, but it seems fine,” Tobin teased. “If you don’t want to, though, or don’t feel comfortable, then you don’t have to stay.”
Christen silenced those worries with a gentle kiss, one hand running through Tobin’s hair while the other settled against her neck. “Let me see those pajamas,” Christen whispered, kissing Tobin once more before stepping back.
Tobin moved away and pulled open the top drawer of her dresser with a flourish. “Take your pick,” she said, stepping back and bouncing down onto the foot of her bed.
Christen grinned and approached the dresser. She ran her hands across the neatly folded t-shirts, taking in the names of cities and soccer teams and National Parks. She grabbed a faded, UNC soccer shirt and a pair of black and white, striped boxers.
“You wore my Stanford shirt, it’s the least I can do,” Christen said with a small wink.
“Oh my god,” Tobin said, rolling off of the bed and grabbing her camera from the top of her dresser. “I have to capture this for posterity.”
“Babe, no,” Christen protested, walking up to Tobin and holding a hand in front of the camera.
“Please,” Tobin pouted.
Christen pursed her lips, feeling her resolve crumble at the sight of the pout. “Fine, but only a few,” she sighed, tossing the pajamas to the bed and dropping her hands to the hem of her shirt. “And no in-progress pictures, Tobin,” she added with a raised brow.
“Of course not,” Tobin promised, keeping the lens cap on her camera. “I’m not ESPN’s photographer.”
“Ha ha, very cute,” Christen quipped, removing her shirt quickly, and then her jeans. She tossed them at the foot of the dresser.
“Although, damn if I had been…” Tobin added quietly.
Christen’s eyes darkened as she pulled the UNC soccer shirt over her head, making sure to tousle her curls just a bit more than normal after slipping the shirt on. “If you had been what ?” she asked innocently, pulling on the boxers and dropping her hands to her hips.
“This would have happened sooner,” Tobin shrugged. “I also probably would have been fired from ESPN for staring.”
Christen chuckled and stepped into Tobin’s space, careful not to crush the camera. “You won’t get fired for staring now,” she whispered, pressing a quick kiss to Tobin’s lips. “And I get to take some of you once you’re done with me.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Tobin nodded.
Christen sealed the deal with another kiss and then hopped onto Tobin’s bed, sighing at how soft the mattress was. “Damn, babe. You’ve got a great bed,” she complimented, leaning back against the headboard, bending a knee and tilting her head to the side with a small smile on her face.
Tobin was already looking through the viewfinder, snapping pictures every few seconds.
“Beautiful, it’s like you’ve posed for pictures before,” Tobin teased, knowing full well that Christen had to take photos for Gotham and all kinds of USWNT publicity.
Christen rolled her eyes and pulled at the UNC logo on the t-shirt. “None in something as horrible as this,” she teased with a wink.
“Be careful, that’s a low blow. I happen to think you look amazing in Carolina Blue,” Tobin smirked.
Christen rolled her eyes again, feeling her cheeks flush slightly at the sweet compliment. She indulged Tobin for a few more moments, smiling for one picture, sticking her tongue out for another. All the while, her blush never faltered, and her eyes remained on the woman behind the camera, not on the camera itself.
“That’s totally gonna be framed,” Tobin hummed, looking down at the picture of Christen wrinkling her nose at Tobin mid-laugh.
Christen pushed off the headboard, getting to her knees. She leaned into Tobin’s space, narrowing her eyes at the screen showing the picture.
“Hmmm...I guess you can frame that,” Christen sighed, a small smile tugging at her lips. She looked up at Tobin and inched just a bit closer, knowing she had Tobin’s complete and undivided attention. “But where would you put it?” she all but whispered, her hand slowly moving up toward the camera as she gazed into Tobin’s eyes.
“Bedside table, obviously,” Tobin hummed, feeling completely overwhelmed by Christen’s close proximity.
“Obviously,” Christen replied, snatching the camera from Tobin’s hand quickly. She fell back onto the bed with a smirk. “But only if the one I take gets to go on my bedside table.”
“I’m not as photogenic as you are,” Tobin mumbled, her cheeks flushing a little at the prospect of being photographed.
Christen shook her head, almost in disbelief that Tobin could actually think that. She lifted the camera, looking through the viewfinder and feeling her heart flutter as she gazed at the woman she was most definitely, very much so, without a shadow of a doubt falling in love with.
“You want to know what I see?” Christen asked quietly, not taking a picture just yet, not until Tobin felt more comfortable being on this side of the camera.
“What?” Tobin asked, stepping up to the foot of the bed, so that her legs bumped into the frame of the bed, and resting her hands on the blanket that was folded at the end of her bed.
Christen peeked over the top of the camera, meeting Tobin’s eyes. “I see someone comfortable noticing the beauty around her, but who for some reason, is very oblivious to her own.”
Tobin couldn’t stop the way her stomach flipped at Christen’s words. She wet her bottom lip and let her eyes wander around the room for a second before settling on Christen again. “I don’t know about that,” she shrugged.
“I know it enough for the both of us,” Christen hummed. She dropped the camera to her lap and tilted her head to the side. “You’re...you’re beautiful, and that word isn’t even enough because you’re so much more than that.”
“Yeah, that word has seemed pretty weak lately,” Tobin nodded, thinking about the number of times words had seemed to fail her around Christen.
Christen set the camera aside and moved to the foot of the bed so she was kneeling in front of Tobin. She lifted her hands to cup Tobin’s cheeks gently. “Remember when you told me that I don’t see myself the way you see me?” Christen said quietly.
“I’m about to eat my words, aren’t I?” Tobin asked with a wry grin, reaching out and putting both of her hands on Christen’s waist.
Christen chuckled and nodded. “Yes, you are. Because I look at you and…” Christen trailed off, reaching down for one of Tobin’s hands. She gently laid Tobin’s hand on her chest, right over her heart. She knew without a doubt that Tobin could feel the way her heart raced, simply because of their proximity. “Do you feel that? Just being near you does that to me.”
Tobin let out a shaky breath, unable to fully believe that she did that to someone like Christen Press. She used her free hand to put Christen’s hand over her own heart, the rhythm matching Christen’s rapid pace.
“Feeling’s mutual,” Tobin whispered.
Christen beamed and then felt her heart skip a beat at the look on Tobin’s face. She quickly moved her hand away from Tobin’s chest and reached for the camera. “Don’t move, stay just like that,” she hummed, lifting the camera up. She wanted to capture Tobin like this, with a slight blush in her cheeks and a look of wonder on her face. She wanted to remember Tobin like this, exactly how she looked in this moment. She wanted to remember it, because it seemed like based on how Tobin was looking at her, Tobin was feeling all those big, scary, messy things she was too.
“So beautiful,” Christen whispered, shaking her head just a little as she dropped the camera away from her face.
Tobin lifted her hands to cover her face, turning around to dig through her own pajama drawer. “Now I get why Scottie says no paparazzi all the time,” she grumbled, pulling out a t-shirt and a pair of boxers.
Christen laughed and moved to set the camera on the bedside table. “You were a good sport. Thank you for letting me take one picture of you.”
“That’s my one picture for the next six months,” Tobin grinned, pulling her shirt off and changing into a t-shirt she’d bought at Rocky Mountain National Park when she and Scottie had visited last summer.
“Six hours, you mean? I agree,” Christen teased, letting her eyes trail up and down Tobin as she changed.
“Someone’s staring,” Tobin smirked when she’d pulled the boxers on and saw Christen’s slightly parted lips and focused eyes.
“I guess I’d be fired as ESPN’s photographer too,” Christen shrugged with a small smile.
Tobin leaned over the foot of the bed and placed a kiss on Christen’s lips. “I know it’s early, but do you want to get ready for bed? We can watch a movie before we actually fall asleep or something,” Tobin mumbled, finally feeling a few nerves at the idea of Christen actually staying for the night.
She and Christen had been out on dates, but that didn’t mean that Christen would love the boring aspects of sleeping down the hall from an eight-year-old and waking up early for pancakes. No matter how many times Christen said she loved spending time with them, Tobin couldn’t help but wonder when the average, day-to-day stuff would lose its shine.
“I’m vetoing anything Disney,” Christen teased, kissing Tobin once more before sliding off the bed. “Do you- I mean, do you want to get ready first?” she asked.
“You can go first,” Tobin offered, opening the door to her bathroom. “There are new toothbrushes in here. Anything else is fair game,” Tobin said, opening a linen closet and pointing to three brand new toothbrushes on a shelf.
“Thank you,” Christen replied softly, squeezing Tobin’s arm as she moved past her toward the sink.
“I’ll pull up Netflix,” Tobin said, slipping out of the bathroom and shutting the door so that Christen could have her own privacy.
Christen had picked a toothbrush, found the toothpaste, and was already brushing her teeth when she realized what came after this. After the getting ready for bed and the Netflix watching.
She’d shared a bed with women before, she’d shared one with Tobin before, but sleeping was different. Sleeping, especially sleeping without the sex part, was intimate and vulnerable. There was nowhere to hide, no way to sneak away and slip out.
After rinsing her mouth and washing her face, Christen eyed her reflection, taking in the worn UNC shirt and the borrowed boxers. She wasn’t regretting her decision to stay over, far from it. She was happy, just like she always was with Tobin. But she was just slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of sharing this form of intimacy with Tobin, with someone she was very into, someone who was quickly becoming her whole world. It was a step, a big step, and one that she was just slightly nervous about taking.
Realizing she’d spent far too long in the bathroom, Christen gave herself one last look, let out one last long breath, and opened the bathroom door. She smiled tightly as Tobin hopped off the bed and approached her.
“Small remote will scroll through Netflix,” Tobin said, pointing at the bedside table where two remotes were sitting. The large light in the bedroom was already off, but the two bedside lamps and the TV on the wall kept the bedroom well lit.
Christen nodded slightly to acknowledge what Tobin had said, staying glued to the wall right outside the bathroom door.
“In the mood to watch anything in particular?” Christen asked.
“Not Disney, but you already said that. Your choice is fine,” Tobin smiled, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek and slipping into the bathroom.
Christen leaned against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest and her lower lip pulled between her teeth. She eyed the bed, the slightly rumpled, light gray comforter and the soft white sheets, her mind still mulling over the fact that she was staying the night, that she was going to be in that bed with Tobin, she was going to sleep next to the woman she wanted to share more than just the night with.
Thirty minutes ago, accepting Scottie’s invitation to stay over had seemed simple, uncomplicated. But now, staying over felt anything but simple.
“It’s just a bed,” Tobin hummed, stepping out of the bathroom with a freshly washed face and brushed teeth. Her hair was piled into a messy bun, and a pair of thick-framed glasses sat on her nose.
Christen startled, not having heard Tobin open the door. She tore her gaze away from the bed and turned to look at Tobin, a smile tugging at her lips. Even if she was terrified at the prospect of spending the night in that bed, she still couldn’t deny the butterflies that erupted in her stomach at the sight of a ‘ready for bed’ Tobin Heath.
“Well...that’s not true,” Tobin chuckled. “It’s a very nice bed. I bought it after selling my first big piece in the city. Do you know how many mattress stores a five-year-old Scottie and I visited before getting that thing shipped here across the country? The real question is how many Scottie and I were kicked out of for excessive bouncing.”
“This is cute, what you’re doing,” Christen hummed, leaning slightly into Tobin.
“You won’t hurt my feelings if you aren’t comfortable and want to go home,” Tobin mumbled, pressing her lips against Christen’s temple.
“I don’t want to do that,” Christen corrected quickly, swallowing the lump in her throat. “I just...I haven’t done this in a while.”
“Baby, I slept over last night,” Tobin whispered, pulling Christen a little closer.
Christen huffed out a laugh, snaking an arm around Tobin’s waist. She tucked her head into the crook of Tobin’s neck and let out a long breath.
“Sleeping together and sleeping together are two very different things,” Christen mumbled.
“And you’ve never just slept with someone?” Tobin asked curiously, running a hand up and down Christen’s back.
“Not in a long time, no,” Christen admitted quietly.
“Me either,” Tobin hummed. “This mattress hasn’t seen another person. That’s how long.”
“What if I’m a horrible sleeping buddy? I could, like, steal all the covers or something,” Christen replied, her face still buried in Tobin’s neck, finding comfort in the embrace.
“We both know after last night, that I’m the one who steals covers. I know that you snore a little bit, and it’s adorable and doesn’t deter me from wanting you here,” Tobin grinned.
Christen pulled back, her nose scrunched up. “I do not snore,” she murmured with a small shake of her head.
“You snore a little bit, but it’s so cute,” Tobin laughed, pressing a quick kiss to Christen’s lips.
Christen sank into the kiss, letting the familiarity of Tobin’s lips and her embrace fill her with comfort. “It’s just a bed,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips, repeating what Tobin had said just a minute ago.
“A really comfy bed and you can leave any time you want or need to as long as you wake me up and let me call you a cab,” Tobin added.
“Okay,” Christen replied with a small nod. She let Tobin pull her off the wall next to the bathroom and lead her over to the bed. She watched as Tobin pulled back the comforter and the sheets, gesturing for her to climb in first. Christen pressed a quick kiss to Tobin’s cheek before sliding into bed.
“You know what else I found out last night?” Tobin hummed, climbing into bed after Christen.
Christen settled under the covers and turned on her side to face Tobin. “What’s that?”
“You’re a total cuddler,” Tobin whispered, a large smile sliding onto her lips.
Christen covered her eyes with her hand and rolled onto her back with a groan. “Oh god, I’m sorry, I didn’t even know I-”
“If you weren’t a cuddler, we’d have a problem,” Tobin assured her, reaching out and placing one of her hands on Christen’s hip. “I’m a huge cuddler. I can’t get enough.”
Christen peeked between her fingers and felt a small smile make its way across her face. “Really?”
“Really. The sex was amazing last night,” Tobin said, lowering her voice even more. “But as soon as you latched onto me like a koala in your sleep...that was the game-changer.”
Christen let her hand fall away from her face, her smile growing. “The game-changer, huh?”
“It was a big deal,” Tobin nodded, hoping that her honesty, even if a little silly, would make Christen feel more comfortable. “I’m a big fan of cuddling. I love being a spoon, big or little.”
Christen grabbed Tobin’s hand from her hip and lifted it to her chest, right over where her heart was beating so very fast.
“You did it again,” Christen hummed.
“Feels like cuddling is a game-changer for you too,” Tobin said softly, her heart keeping pace with Christen’s.
“I didn’t even know,” Christen admitted. “I didn’t know a lot of things before you two.”
With a huge smile and a soft blush, Tobin pulled Christen’s hand to her own chest. “We like you,” Tobin hummed.
“I am so glad she took it so well,” Christen replied, marveling a bit at the way Tobin’s heart was beating so fast beneath her palm.
“She scared the crap out of me,” Tobin admitted with a soft laugh.
“How?” Christen chuckled.
“She just kept staring out the window while I talked,” Tobin sighed. “Admittedly, Scottie and I haven’t had many serious conversations like that. She asked me if I was getting her a puppy and then jumped to the conclusion that we were moving.”
Christen’s face brightened. “Oooh, a puppy?” she asked, completely honing in on that part of Tobin’s response.
“Of course that’s what you heard out of all that I just said,” Tobin laughed. “Do not get her excited about that. The rule is she gets one when she’s twelve.”
“My lips are sealed,” Christen promised, miming zipping her lips and throwing away the key.
“You want to know something cute?” Tobin asked, remembering her conversation with Scottie and how quickly Christen had come up.
Christen pointed to her closed mouth and arched a brow, silently reminding Tobin she couldn’t actually reply. She simply smirked, moving her fingertips across the soft material of Tobin’s shirt, right over her heart.
Tobin leaned in and kissed Christen until both of them were a little breathless. “Unzipped?”
“Not yet,” Christen replied, with an easy smile, her hand fisting in Tobin’s shirt to bring her back down.
“Okay, I’ll try again,” Tobin murmured, rolling even closer to Christen and taking Christen’s bottom lip between her own. When Christen’s fingers started to tangle in her hair, Tobin pulled back slightly. “Unzipped?”
Christen forced herself to take a deep breath, to ignore the slight fire beneath her skin. “Unfortunately,” she whispered, loosening her hold on the back of Tobin’s head.
“At some point, I’ll definitely continue this, but the first night might not be the best idea, especially since the door isn’t locked, and Scottie’s still in a nightmare phase,” Tobin sighed. “Super sexy, I know.”
Christen felt her eyes narrow a bit at the slight insecurity in Tobin’s words. “Just getting to kiss you a little bit is super-duper sexy. I don’t need anything more than that tonight,” she murmured, running her fingertips across the back of Tobin’s neck.
“I had to explain what dating is,” Tobin grinned, returning to their discussion about Scottie.
Christen felt a laugh bubble up out of her chest. “That’s absolutely adorable.”
“I told her what people usually do on dates, and Scottie’s first response was that we do that with you,” Tobin said, tracing her fingers along Christen’s side.
“She’s not exactly wrong,” Christen replied with a smile.
“No, she isn’t,” Tobin agreed. “I was nervous at Gio’s the first time she invited you,” she added, a blush spreading across her cheeks.
Christen leaned up to kiss Tobin’s blushing cheeks. “I was too, as evidenced by my quick escape to the bathroom,” she admitted with a slight laugh.
“Oh, so that’s what the racing from the table was about,” Tobin hummed.
“Kind of,” Christen shrugged before racing to change the subject. “So, I hear Netflix has a new serial killer documentary-”
“Kind of?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side.
“Well...you know,” Christen replied evasively, finding the baby hair around Tobin’s head very interesting.
“I don’t, but you don’t have to tell me anything until you feel like you’re ready,” Tobin said.
Christen sighed and lifted a hand, wiping at the corner of Tobin’s mouth, mirroring exactly what Scottie had done to her in Gio’s the first night they’d all gone there together.
“Toothpaste?” Tobin asked, completely missing the gesture and its importance to Christen.
“No,” Christen replied with a small smile. “Scottie did that to me at Gio's, the first time we were there together. Without even thinking. She just wiped away whatever bit of garlic bread I’d gotten on my face, like-” Christen let out a stuttered breath. “-like a kid does for their parent. Like I used to do for my mom.”
“And it made you miss your mom,” Tobin said, no question in her voice. She brushed Christen’s hair away from her forehead.
“Yeah, and it made me realize how deep in I already was,” Christen nodded.
“You weren’t in the deep end on your own,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead.
Christen felt her heart flutter in her chest as a happy little sigh escaped her lips. “I’m really glad Scottie asked me to stay,” she breathed out, tightening her arms around Tobin’s back.
“Me too,” Tobin smiled. “Especially since I can now watch serial killer documentaries with someone. I obviously can’t with Scottie, and I’m too afraid to watch by myself.”
“I’ll protect you,” Christen assured with a wink.
“You’re like my dream woman,” Tobin grinned, flopping down onto her pillows and reaching for the remote. She opened her arms for Christen to crawl into, her heart thrumming at the possibility of cuddling with Christen and falling asleep with her in her arms not just tonight, but for many nights to come.