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Bury the Hatchet

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Where do you go with your broken heart in tow?
What do you do with the left over you?

And how do you know when to let go?
Where does the good go, where does the good go?
Look me in the eye and tell me you don't find me attractive
Look me in the heart and tell me you won't go
Look me in the eye and promise no love is like our love
Look me in the heart and unbreak broken, it won't happen
It's love that leaves and breaks the seal
Of always thinking you would be real
Happy and healthy, strong and calm

Where does the good go?
Where does the good go?

Where do you go when you're in love and the world knows?
How do you live so happily while I am sad and broken down?
What do you say? "It's up for grabs now that you're on your way down?"
Where does the good go, where does the good go?

("Where Does the Good Go" by Tegan and Sara)

 

Christen had learned one very important thing about love. She’d learned that love was the most terrible thing ever invented in the history of the world. 

Love was painful and masochistic and self-sacrificing. Love was debilitating and infuriating and excruciating. 

Love was ignoring the fact that her best friend since elementary school, the one she’d pined after for two decades , was getting married in a few days. 

Love was ignoring the fact that the person she loved more than anything, loved somebody else. 

Love was realizing nothing she did was going to change things. 

Love was the most painful secret she’d ever kept. 

Christen grumbled and took another sip of her cider, wishing for the slightly sweet tasting bubbly drink to take away the knot that had been in her chest ever since Lily had waltzed into her apartment and showed off her obscenely huge, Marquise cut emerald engagement ring. But the cider wasn’t strong enough for that. Nothing Christen had tried for the last 358 days was strong enough to dull the ache in her heart. 

“Come on, just throw one !” Lily begged, throwing her arm around Christen’s shoulders.

Christen stiffened and forced a small chuckle from her lips. She awkwardly shimmied Lily’s arm off of her shoulders and shook her head. 

“Alcohol and sharp weapons shouldn’t mix,” Christen replied, her eyes taking in the rest of the very drunk bridal party who were taking turns throwing axes at a wooden target. 

“Lily, you’re up!” Crystal called, handing a free axe to Lily and taking the spot next to Christen. 

You are taking a turn after me, Cece,” Lily grinned and waggled her brows before stumbling over to their lane, aka Target One.

Christen just raised her glass of cider in acknowledgment and took a healthy sip of it, feeling the alcohol burn her throat. The fake smile on her face felt harder to maintain tonight for some reason. The carefully crafted mask she’d painstakingly constructed over the course of years was slipping, and it was slipping right when she needed it most.

Crystal knocked her shoulder into Christen’s gently. She’d known that something was going on for months. She could tell in the way Christen answered phone calls and talked about wedding plans with a more strained voice. Crystal could see it in the dark circles under Christen’s eyes and the picked cuticles on a few of Christen’s fingers. Her best friend was stressed and sad, and she could tell. She just didn’t know why. 

“You want to stay at my house tonight? We can do a girls’ night just you and me,” Crystal offered. 

Christen watched as Lily set the axe down and pulled her short, auburn hair into a ponytail. She watched as Lily picked the axe back up and then threw it with all of her might at the target, the axe hitting the wood and bouncing off of it. Lily just laughed, the sound loud and boisterous and bubbly. It made Christen’s chest ache. 

“We have an Airbnb with plenty of rooms so the bridal party can stay together. Wouldn’t want to miss out on all the fun,” Christen replied, her voice a little tight.

“All I’m saying is if you need a girls' night, I don’t think Lily needs us to sleep under the same roof. We can just join her in the morning for mimosas and makeup,” Crystal said, watching Christen carefully to see if her reaction revealed anything about her recent mood. 

“I-” Christen started to say, but then she caught sight of the rest of the bridal party ogling Lily’s ring. She caught sight of the love on Lily’s face and the happiness in her eyes and Christen couldn’t just sit here any longer. “I need to pee,” she announced abruptly. 

She didn’t wait for Crystal’s response, getting up from the table and elbowing by other patrons and Portlandians as she rushed toward the bathroom. As tears blurred her vision, Christen suddenly realized that whatever tenuous control she had over her feelings was slipping away.

~

Tobin had already mixed dozens of fruity drinks for the bachelorette party in the corner at Target One, pulled three stubborn axes out of the wall thanks to some recently graduated frat guys, and repaired a leaky faucet in the bathroom. She loved her bar, she loved her city, and she loved the people she worked with, but nights like these sometimes made her wonder if she should have gone into accounting or picked a normal nine-to-five job. 

She handed a tray of drinks to A.D. with a quick nod toward the bridal party before spinning around to check the kitchen’s counter for the shareables that the parties at Target Three and Target Seven had ordered. 

“Pinoe, do you have Target Three’s order?” Tobin called over the counter to her pink-haired friend, who was currently plating some food and rushing around the industrial-sized kitchen. 

“It’s coming, it’s coming!” Megan sing-songed, grabbing two plates of her infamous Pinoe Party Wingz™ and rushing them to the counter. Before handing them over, she pulled a face when she noticed something over Tobin’s shoulder. “Boss, if I ever get married, and that’s a fat if, don’t let me wear that kitschy bullshit,” she muttered, nodding at Target One and the gaudy, matching sashes the bridal party was wearing

“If you keep calling me Boss, I’ll buy you that kitschy bullshit and make you wear it for work. You literally own ten percent of this place, so I refuse to be the boss of anything around here,” Tobin huffed. 

“Whatever you say, Boss,” Megan winked.

Tobin shot her the bird before turning around with the plates of food and sending Kling to the parties that had ordered them. 

“Excuse me?” one of the women from Target Four interrupted. 

“What can I get you?” Tobin asked, ready to whip up whatever drink she wanted. 

“You’re out of paper towels in the restroom,” the woman replied. “And- you know what? Never mind, not my business. You’re just out of paper towels,” she added, spinning on her heels and walking back over to Target Four, wiping her hands on her jeans.

Tobin was too busy to even wonder about what the woman had meant, about what wasn’t her business. She was cruising at top speed, just waiting for the next group of patrons to leave, so she could go home and leave the keys with Kling to lock up for the night. She waited for A.D. to come back from the bridal party with a few empty glasses and bottles before she left her spot behind the bar and grabbed a package of paper towels for the bathroom. 

Once she’d pushed open the door to the bathroom, ripped open the plastic wrapped around the paper towels, and pulled the top off of the dispenser, she heard what that woman had to have been referencing. 

Sobs were coming from one of the stalls, and they weren’t quiet, delicate sobs. They were choked, gut-wrenching, loud, chaotic sobs that made Tobin worry about how the person in the stall was getting a breath in. She was tempted to close the dispenser and leave. She was so tempted to do just what that other patron had done and just say it wasn’t her business because...it really wasn’t her business. But Tobin couldn’t help that her heart ached at each sniffle and hiccup and intake of breath. 

So, instead of leaving, Tobin reached into the paper towel dispenser and grabbed a couple of paper towels before putting the top on it. Clutching the two paper towels, she walked a little further into the bathroom awkwardly, staring down at her sneakers and wishing she were already home with some dinner and a mindless HGTV show. 

“Get it together,” Christen managed between sobs. “You’re- you’re Christen Press. You can do- do this,” she told herself, her voice cracking and breaking. She was sitting with her knees bent and her back against the wall of the stall, her face buried in her crossed arms. As she rocked back and forth, wave after wave of tears left her tightly shut eyes and broken gasps for air left her lips.

“Excuse me?” Tobin mumbled, blowing a few baby hairs away from her face. 

Christen went still, completely freezing at the sound of someone else in this restroom with her. She had thought she was alone. She had thought she had a moment to break down. But now she had an audience right when she was desperate not to have one.

“Um...Christen?” Tobin asked, having heard the woman’s pep talk to herself. The door to the bathroom swung open, revealing two of the frat guys, but Tobin quickly shook her head. “This one’s occupied. There’s another one on the other side of the bar.”

Christen wiped at her eyes and blew out a long breath before getting up from the floor. She sniffled and took a final moment to prepare herself to leave this stall and face the music. And then she remembered that this stranger had called her by name.

“Do I, um- do I know you?” Christen asked, her hand hovering over the lock of the stall door. 

“No, I don’t think so. I mean, I haven’t actually seen what you look like, but I don’t think I do. You said your name,” Tobin said lamely, pressing the heel of her hand against her forehead. The woman likely thought she was some kind of stalker who knew her name and had followed her into the bathroom. 

Christen pulled open the stall door and kept her eyes down, not wanting the evidence of her breakdown on display for a total stranger. 

“Didn’t know anyone heard that horrible excuse for a pep talk,” Christen said, cringing at the hoarse sound of her voice.

“It sounded pretty good to me, but I can pretend I didn’t hear it,” Tobin said, lifting up her hand to give Christen the two paper towels she’d been holding.  

Christen looked from the paper towels to the slender fingers holding them, to the tanned, muscular arm that flexed slightly as the awkward silence stretched on, to the red, checkered flannel this person wore. Christen then let her eyes lift to this stranger’s face and she almost wished she hadn’t. 

This woman was...well, she was really fucking hot. This absolutely gorgeous stranger, with warm brown eyes and tousled wavy hair, was seeing her with mascara under her eyes and snot dripping from her nose, and if at all possible, Christen’s embarrassment grew.

“Thanks,” Christen choked out, taking the paper towels. She let herself linger for a mere moment, too caught up in those brown eyes and the way they were looking at her before she quickly walked over to the row of sinks along the wall. 

“No problem,” Tobin hummed, following behind her and busying herself by washing her own hands. She didn’t really need to. She could have left then and washed her hands in the kitchen or at the bar, but there was something about the watery green eyes and the dark, curly hair that had clearly been pushed away from her face as Christen had cried that made Tobin want to stay in the bathroom and make sure this woman would be okay. It was the first time in her life that Tobin had seen sadness and hurt on someone so beautiful, and as much as she wanted to deny it, Tobin felt this strange urge to make her smile, to make the tears disappear. 

“Whoever he is...he’s probably an asshole,” Tobin said, turning off the tap and reaching for a paper towel. 

Christen felt a bitter laugh leave her lips as she wiped away the last of the runny makeup from underneath her eyes. 

“She’s not. That’s...that’s the whole fucking problem,” Christen managed, the admission leaving her easily. Too easily. She shouldn't be saying anything, not to a stranger. A complete and total stranger who, while really hot in that I don’t know your name but I’d really like to be screaming it later kind of way, was still a stranger. She had no business opening up and telling this woman anything.

Tobin froze with the paper towel crumpled in her hand. She liked to imagine that she was open-minded, that she held few prejudices, but she had to admit that she’d completely pegged this woman as straight. She was wearing a tight, dark green dress and black heels, which didn’t really seem conducive to throwing axes. And just as Megan had said, she was wearing one of those kitschy ‘Maid of Honor’ sashes that sat somewhat twisted on her shoulder, likely due to the bathroom breakdown she’d just had and was still in the middle of. 

She looked like the girls Tobin had crushed on in college, the ones who hadn’t given her the time of day or had slept with her experimentally a couple of times. Christen definitely didn’t look like a woman who went down on other women or broke down over women in bar bathrooms, but who was she to even wonder about that. This was a complete stranger. A beautiful, slightly teary, not straight, out of her league stranger, and Tobin just needed to get out of the bathroom. 

“It’s probably her loss,” Tobin finally said, searching for words to comfort the woman in front of her. 

“How can it be a loss if she doesn’t even know?” Christen sighed, her voice still tinged with bitterness and regret. She balled up the paper towel and turned to toss it across the bathroom, the ball sinking easily into the trash can. 

“In my experience, they usually know, but I don’t know this person. Maybe you just need to tell her. Some people are dense and need it spelled out,” Tobin suggested. 

Christen felt her body physically reject that suggestion. She had thought about it, of course. She’d spent twenty years of her life thinking about it. She’d almost done it too, more than once. But every time she tried, every time she opened her mouth to declare her undying love for Lily, the words died on her tongue. She’d been ruled by fear and doubt...and then Lily had met Simon. And then Simon had proposed. And Lily had said yes. And there was no way she could say anything now. 

“I, uh, appreciate the advice,” Christen replied a little evasively. She looked around the bathroom, totally unsure of what to do. She didn’t want to go back out there, but she also didn’t really want to stay in here either. She didn’t want this kind stranger to keep telling her things she’d already told herself a million times, but never actually listened to. 

“Yeah. Uh...anytime,” Tobin nodded, tossing her paper towel into the trash can. “Plus throwing sharp objects tends to help,” she added with her signature goofy smile. 

Christen wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Yeah...I don’t think so. It wasn’t my choice to come here, so.”

“Have you tried it?” Tobin asked, lifting an eyebrow challengingly. 

“No, and I don’t plan to.”

“I’ll make you a deal,” Tobin grinned. “If you throw one axe tonight and hit the target, literally anywhere on the target, any drink you choose from the menu is on me. You don’t even have to enjoy throwing it.”

Christen narrowed her eyes a little bit at the offer, at the kindness in this stranger that was simultaneously putting her off and putting her completely at ease.

“Maybe another time,” Christen replied. She made a move to skirt by this stranger and leave the bathroom, an awkward grimace making its way onto her face. 

Tobin stepped back to let Christen leave but not without one last word. “Are you afraid you’ll miss?” she asked cockily, hoping that the challenge would get Christen to actually try and throw the axe. And maybe she’d actually enjoy it and feel better, sending Tobin home feeling like she did something worthwhile today. 

Christen’s jaw clicked as she ground her teeth together. She turned back around to face the stranger, feeling a flash of competitiveness race through her. 

“No,” Christen all but growled.

“I don’t know. You sound pretty scared,” Tobin smirked, crossing her arms over her chest. “I hear the margaritas here are pretty spectacular.”

“I’m not- I’m not scared,” Christen replied quickly, her eyes flashing with an unspeakable pain, with the years of torture and torment she’d put herself through.

Tobin shouldn’t have done what she did next. She should have let Christen walk out, but there was something about those magnetic green eyes and the tiny flash of competitiveness in them that set Tobin’s heart beating a little faster. She leaned forward, surprised that Christen didn’t step away, and whispered softly, “Then prove it,” before moving past Christen, opening the bathroom door, and slipping back into the loud axe-throwing bar. 

Christen felt those three words hit her right in the heart, and in places far lower than her heart. She gulped and forced air back into her lungs, affected not just by the proximity of the stranger and the spicy notes of her perfume, but by the challenge in the woman’s words. It felt like more than a challenge to throw a stupid axe at a stupider target. It felt like a challenge to prove she wasn’t scared of her feelings, that she wasn’t going to let them keep her holed up in the bathroom and hiding for the rest of the night. 

With one final deep breath, Christen set her shoulders and opened the bathroom door, intent on not being scared.

~

Tobin couldn’t keep her eyes off of the bridal party now. She was overflowing beer glasses and ignoring Kling’s jokes. She was glued to the sad woman with the green eyes sitting at the table at the end of the lane at Target One, and Tobin was willing her to stand up and take a freaking turn. 

“Head in the clouds, eyes on the broken-hearted beauty at Target One? Is that how the saying goes?” A.D. chuckled as she grabbed two beer bottles and uncapped them.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Tobin sighed, rolling her eyes and finally pulling her gaze away from Christen. 

“Mhm, sure, Tobs,” A.D. replied, nodding like she believed Tobin, even if she was only pretending to.

“They ordered shots,” Tobin said, lifting up a tray of shots, lime wedges, and salt and handing it to A.D.

“Fucking bridal parties, man,” Kling sighed, sagging against the bar. “Bottomless pits of lace and sunshine and happiness. And that blonde with them has asked for my number four times! She won’t take no for an answer!”

“She showed me a picture of her husband and kid before asking me for mine,” A.D. said with a laugh. 

“I’d be downing shots and asking hot women for their numbers too if I were about to sign my life away to a man,” Tobin said with a wink. 

“Um...Kling, wanna go do that thing?” A.D. said, her eyes sparkling with mischief. 

“What thing? You guys are closing up tonight,” Tobin asked, suddenly feeling very protective of the alone time she’d scheduled for herself and HGTV that night. 

“Won’t take us more than a minute. But...we won’t be able to take the shots over to Target One,” A.D. replied with a smile. 

“Oh, yeah. The thing. The super important thing. Sorry, Tobs!” Kling chuckled.

“You guys are being dumb,” Tobin mumbled, taking the tray back from A.D. and making her way out from behind the bar. She rolled her eyes at her two friends’ antics, trying to push down any awkwardness that she felt about going up to the bridal party and seeing Christen again. On the way to Target One, Tobin pushed her shoulders back and took a few steadying breaths, not wanting to seem flustered when she got there. 

“I didn’t realize you worked here,” Christen said under her breath, immediately reaching for a tequila shot and taking it, without the salt or the lime. She swallowed the burn and welcomed it, and then finally looked over at the still very hot stranger from the bathroom.

“Oh, yeah. I told you that the margaritas are spectacular,” Tobin smirked. 

“Tooting your own horn a bit there,” Christen observed, taking another shot from the tray and shooting it, cringing a bit as the tequila slid down her throat.

“It’s important to know your own strengths,” Tobin said quietly. 

Christen blew out a short breath and looked over at Lily and Crystal and the rest of the bridal party still crowding their lane, having way too much fun finding creative ways to throw the axes at the target. 

“I’m going to throw one,” Christen mumbled, suddenly feeling the need to defend herself.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Tobin challenged. 

That flash of competitiveness ran through Christen again, mixing with the tequila and creating a deadly combination. 

“Why don’t we up the ante then, stranger whose name I still don’t know,” Christen replied, arching her brow and leaning slightly into this woman’s space.

“What did you have in mind Christen Press?” Tobin grinned, deciding that Christen could learn her name after throwing the axe. 

“Cece!” 

Christen blanched and immediately retreated out of the other woman’s space, feeling the competitiveness and the brazenness from the tequila leave her. She ducked her head and looked down at the table, away from those warm, honeyed brown eyes and that challenging yet sweet smile. 

“Shots?” Tobin asked, realizing that Christen wasn’t about to respond to this woman. She had an odd, completely inappropriate urge to protect the woman in front of her, and for some reason, the very drunk bride seemed like a threat. 

“Looks like Cece got started on them without us,” Lily pouted, throwing her arms around Christen and rocking them back and forth.

Tobin narrowed her eyes at the body language of both of the women in front of her. The bride was touchy and overly friendly, but Christen seemed to be sinking into herself. As soon as the bride had appeared, Christen had shut down. Tobin wasn’t a gambler by any means, but if she were to make a bet, it would be that the bride was the reason Christen had been crying. 

“There’s definitely more tequila where that came from, so don’t worry,” Tobin said, wishing that the women would take the shots off her tray now and let her retreat back behind her bar. 

“Is there more you where that came from?” the flirty blonde asked, batting her eyelashes as she took a shot glass from Tobin’s tray.

Tobin used every ounce of her willpower to keep from rolling her eyes. 

“Sorry, she’s very drunk,” one of the women in the bridal party offered with an apologetic smile.

“She’s not the first person to get drunk here,” Tobin said. 

“But I bet my bestest friend in the whole world is the only person to come here and not throw an axe,” Lily giggled, pressing a sloppy kiss to Christen’s burning cheek. 

“She does seem to be one of a kind in that regard,” Tobin replied, weighing her options about possibly leaving the tray and the remaining shot glasses and just going back to the bar without it. 

Christen’s eyes immediately shot up. She eyed the stranger curiously, wondering why she was saying things like this, especially when she barely knew her. She also wondered why it felt good to hear those things. 

“Take your shots, guys. I’m going to go throw,” Christen said in a slightly shaking voice, awkwardly maneuvering out of Lily’s embrace and pushing Lily away, toward the tray of shots.

“It’s all in the elbows and wrists,” Tobin offered, her smile growing as she watched Christen pick up an axe. She wanted her to hit the target. She wanted Christen to win their challenge because she wanted to make Christen a drink and talk to her and take the sadness out of those green eyes. Even though she was a stranger and Tobin didn’t have a chance in hell with her, she wanted her to hit the stupid target. 

“Yas, Christen!” Crystal yelled, gassing Christen up after taking her shot of tequila.

Christen blew out a long breath and thought of everything she could. Every missed chance, every squandered opportunity. Every moment where it felt like her heart was being ripped out of her chest because Lily gushed about her date with Simon or how he was the one. Every moment where it felt like her heart was being Frankenstein'ed back together because Lily held her hand or cuddled with her while they watched a scary movie. She remembered it all, two decades worth of love, of the worst thing she’d ever experienced. 

Drawing her arm back, Christen put all of that pain and heartbreak and stupid fucking hope that she still clung to into her throw and released the axe, sending it shooting toward the target.

It hit the bullseye. Dead center. It was the perfect throw and it gave Christen a momentary rush of adrenaline, a high that felt so good she forgot what had made her throw it in the first place. But then she remembered and the rush was gone.

“Well, shit,” Tobin thought, dropping the now empty tray to her side. She’d seen a lot of people throw axes before. She’d seen people come for parties, graduations, bachelorette or bachelor celebrations, breakups, and birthdays. Tobin had seen hundreds of people throw axes, but no one had thrown with as much heated rage as Christen Press. No one had made Tobin worry about being able to actually get the axe out of the wooden target. No one had hit the target with such deadly precision and made Tobin pause to watch in awe. If anything, watching Christen throw the axe had made her both more devastatingly attractive and more intimidating. 

Christen looked at the axe embedded in the target and felt like she couldn’t breathe. She’d released everything into that throw and it had left her feeling empty. It left her so empty she felt like she couldn’t stand any longer. So, she turned, grabbed her purse from the table and walked away, ignoring Crystal’s and Lily’s voices echoing behind her. She also chose to ignore the prickling across her skin, the one that told her the gorgeous stranger who’d challenged her, who had seen her with puffy eyes and mascara running down her cheeks, who worked in this stupid place where you threw sharp things whilst drunk, was watching her go.

Chapter Text

 

Up in bed, all alone
Wondering where you've been
Ten past three
I know the club closed at two A.M
I've already been through about seven scenarios
'Bout what it was that changed your mind
Knowing very well that you told me you'd come home
And it happens every time

Wish I had no expectations
I wish that I could get it through your head
With no confrontation
I really wish we could talk about it instead
All these tears that I cry while I'm turned to the side
And you're in the same fucking bed
Wish I had no expectations
But I expect, you expect, we expect

("Expectations" by Lauren Jauregui)

 

“I just don’t understand how you managed to get the basket stuck in the deep fryer,” Tobin grunted, trying to un-wedge the basket and also not burn herself with hot oil. 

“Weirder shit has happened in this kitchen, Boss,” Megan sighed, sitting on the counter and fixing her hair as she gazed into the shiny surface of a pan.

“Sue isn’t picking you up for another two hours. You don’t need to primp. You could help,” Tobin groaned. 

“I’m not primping , asshole. I don’t primp. Primping is for teenagers at prom and elderly women before church. I don’t primp ,” Megan glowered, her mouth turned down in a frown as she lowered the pan to the counter.

“I’m sorry. You’re right. You don’t primp. You just break shit that I have to pay for,” Tobin huffed, finally hearing the basket snap from where it had been stuck and nearly splashing oil onto her legs. Tobin lifted the basket out of the deep fryer and tossed it into the sink. 

“You’re a godsend, Boss!” Megan whooped, jumping off the counter and clapping Tobin on the back.

“There’s an extra basket in the cabinet near the fridge. We have three tables waiting for fries, so I’d step on it,” Tobin sighed. 

Megan offered Tobin a jaunty salute and quickly got back to work. Tobin couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face at Megan’s dorkiness. She pushed through the swinging door and slid back behind the bar, ready to fill a few pitchers of water and serve some old fashioneds to a couple of guys at Target Six. 

Those plans flew out the window when she saw who was standing at Target Two. 

“She’s back,” Kling grinned as she skirted around a frozen Tobin and grabbed a handful of napkins.

She was back. Christen Press was back. But this time, she was covered in atrocious pink tulle and had kicked her heels off in favor of throwing barefooted. Her hair had been straightened and swept up into an intricate bun, and Tobin suddenly had a flashback to when she had made out with the prom queen during her senior year of high school. 

“For your drool,” Kling whispered, waving a napkin in front of Tobin’s slack-jawed face.

“Fuck off,” Tobin whispered back, closing her mouth and looking down at the counter. “Did you take her drink order?” 

“She asked for our ‘famous margaritas.’ But when I tried to explain to her that we don’t make margaritas, she just glared at me, and I got the hell out,” Kling shuddered.

“I’ll make a margarita,” Tobin mumbled, walking over to the blender and getting out the ingredients. 

“But we don’t-” Kling tried to protest.

“We do now that Tobs has her eyes on a pretty girl,” A.D. chuckled, steering Kling out from behind the bar.

“I’M SORRY I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS!” Tobin yelled, turning on the empty blender so that she could work in peace. She quickly mixed up the margarita recipe that her grandmother had taught her as a kid, silently thanking herself for keeping the ingredients in the bar, even though margaritas weren’t on the menu. When she was finished and had tried a sip to make sure it was perfect, she set a large margarita glass on the counter. 

“You can take it to her,” Tobin said, calling Kling over to deliver it. 

Kling kept her back turned to Tobin, pretending like she couldn’t hear Tobin. She started walking over to Target Seven.

“Kling,” Tobin called, letting out a sigh when she realized that Kling had no intention of taking Christen her drink. 

Kling sauntered up to the couple at Target Seven, chatting them up about the hazy IPA flight they’d ordered.

“A.D. would you take this over to Target Two?” Tobin asked, suddenly feeling desperate to avoid the angry, axe-throwing beauty who she’d never thought she’d see again. 

A.D patted her pockets and then pulled out her silent cellphone. She pretended like it was ringing and put it to her ear, a shit-eating grin on her face. 

“Hey, wifey. Nope, not busy at all,” she said, shooting Tobin a wink and then walking away from the bar, toward the front doors.

“Goddammit,” Tobin mumbled, picking up the margarita. 

~

“Stupid. So fucking stupid,” Christen grumbled, sending another axe flying at the target, letting out a huff when the handle hit the wood and the axe fell to the floor. She ran her hands over her hair, smoothing it down as she felt her anger continue to burn through her.

“You tell it. I’ve always hated this target in particular,” Tobin said, swallowing down the slight nerves she felt and trying to act like she would with any other customer. 

Christen whirled around in surprise, though she shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Even if the super hot bathroom stranger hadn’t been behind the bar when she’d walked in ten minutes ago, it didn’t mean she wasn’t here. Christen also shouldn’t be surprised at the slight flutter of nerves in her stomach that chased away her lingering disappointment at not having seen the stranger up until now. 

“I heard you didn’t make those,” Christen observed, lowering her eyes to the margarita on the table and then looking back up at those warm brown eyes.

“They’re new employees,” Tobin lied, trying to pretend that this wasn’t some sort of special treatment, even though she’d never made a margarita for a customer in the six years she’d owned this place. 

“A woman who owns a percentage of this place is new?” Christen clarified, arching a brow. The woman who had come to take her order, whose name tag maybe read something like Kline or Kling, had assured Christen they didn’t make margaritas here, and that she’d know since she owned ten percent of the place.

“They’re really bad at their jobs. It was purely an investment opportunity for them,” Tobin mumbled, scratching at the back of her neck. 

“You might suck at lying more than I do. Which is really saying something,” Christen tried to joke, but it didn’t land. Her eyes dimmed and her shoulders fell, a haunted look crossing her face. Her hands fidgeted at her sides, messing with the scratchy pink tulle of the bridesmaid dress she still wore.

“Well, if you like this, maybe it’ll end up on the menu, okay?” Tobin said, wishing that she knew what to say to make Christen smile, to get rid of the deep sadness in her eyes. 

“Sounds good,” Christen replied.

“Okay. I’ll leave it here then. Do you want anything to eat? Any small plates?”

Christen’s mouth twitched up into the ghost of a smile. “I never say no to french fries,” she sighed.

“Absolutely,” Tobin nodded, spinning on her heel and hurrying back to the kitchen where Megan was putting the finishing touches on some Pinoe Party Wingz™. 

“Okay, no pressure, but I need you to make the best basket of fries you’ve ever made in your life right now,” Tobin said a little breathlessly. 

Megan scoffed. “Every basket I make is the best,” she retorted, vaguely offended at the insinuation that she’s ever made a bad basket of fries.

“No, I need this to be the best of all of those bests. I’m talking top-notch, crispy, perfect fries,” Tobin insisted. 

“Am I allowed to ask why?” Megan countered.

“Your fries are about to keep the woman at Target Two from crying...maybe. I’m not sure if she loves fries that much, but they’ll definitely help,” Tobin sighed. 

Megan gave Tobin an odd look but just shrugged, turning around. “I’m about to hand-cut these babies. She better be worth it!” she tossed over her shoulder.

“You’re doing great! Thank you,” Tobin said, moving back to her place behind the bar and serving the few patrons who had walked up to get refills. 

Back at Target Two, Christen sent an axe straight into the bullseye with a huff. She turned around and grabbed the margarita, taking a large gulp of it. 

“Oh my god ,” Christen mumbled, immediately going in for another gulp. This was the best margarita she’d ever tasted. This might be the best drink she’d ever had. She sank into the chair at the table at the end of her lane, cradling the margarita to her chest.

Letting out a long breath, Christen dropped her forehead to the sticky wood of the table, not caring what she was resting on or when this thing was last cleaned. 

She couldn’t forget this day if she tried. No matter how many of these magical margaritas she drank, she’d never be able to forget how she’d finally bucked up the courage to say something only to have it all thrown back in her face. 

After two decades of silence, Christen had chosen the morning of the wedding day to say something. She had shitty timing and she knew it. But she also knew she’d never be able to watch Lily walk down the aisle, to watch her say ‘I do’ to someone else with all of these feelings still inside of her.

So, she’d broke the news over mimosas and mini muffins, as Lily sat in bed and glowed because it was her wedding day. With every word that left Christen’s mouth, that glow had dimmed. With every confession and apology, Lily had pulled away.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that Lily knew . Lily had known for a while. Lily had known for almost ten years and just hadn’t said anything. She didn’t see Christen like that, and she didn’t see the point in losing her best friend over a silly crush. 

Only it wasn’t silly. Not to Christen. It wasn’t silly and knowing that Lily thought so somehow made it worse. It made it nearly impossible to watch Lily walk down the aisle and say ‘I do’ , to watch her marry Simon and not even give her a second glance.

Christen had been able to tough it out for the ceremony, but there was no way she’d survive the reception. So...she’d left, assuaging Crystal’s concerns, and somehow had found her way here, back to “Bury the Hatchet,” the stupid axe-throwing bar.

She’d found her way back here for reasons she didn’t even fully understand. But she’d found her way back, and with every axe she threw, she expected to feel better. She expected that momentary rush she’d felt the first time that had chased the heartache and the hope away. But she hadn’t gotten it yet. She hadn’t been able to quiet her mind and silence her heart, no matter how many sharp things she threw.

“I’m told these are special too,” Tobin said, setting the plate of fries down with a small basket that held a few bottles of assorted condiments that Christen might want. 

Christen lifted her forehead off the table, cringing when it took a bit of force to unstick herself from whatever monstrosity was on the surface of the wood. She lifted her hand to her forehead and swiped at the stickiness, her fingers coming away with something blue and sweet-smelling.

“Uhhh...here,” Tobin offered, pulling a napkin out of the condiment basket and handing it to Christen. 

Christen grumbled under her breath and took the napkin, wetting it with her tongue and then wiping at her forehead, relieved when she was able to get whatever that blue stuff was off.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” Christen joked weakly, waving the napkin in the air a bit in reference to the paper towel exchange during their first meeting.

Tobin offered a bright smile in response to Christen’s joke, tucking her hands into her back pockets awkwardly. 

“Well, um- If you need anything else, just wave one of us down,” Tobin said feeling incredibly uncool in her “Bury the Hatchet” t-shirt and her grease-stained jeans. 

Christen didn’t even get a chance to respond before the stranger, who was becoming less of a stranger with every trip she made to her table, was hurrying away and back toward the bar. 

~

“That’s it?” Megan hissed, smacking Tobin with a dishtowel.

“What do you mean, that’s it?” Tobin asked, trying to dodge Megan’s second swing. 

“Green-eyes over there is in a bridesmaids dress, looking like she’s feeling fifty feet below shit, and you just drop off my world-changing fries without making her feel better?” Megan countered.

“What am I supposed to say? I run an axe-throwing bar. I don’t help people feel better,” Tobin sighed. 

“What does your heart tell you to do, Boss?” Kling called into the kitchen as she walked by, earning her a smack from Megan’s dish towel. 

“I hate that you guys call me that,” Tobin grumbled. 

Megan rolled her eyes and put her hands on Tobin’s shoulders. “Take her another margarita, unpack her emotional baggage with her, and then take her back to your place and show her a good fucking time,” Megan advised.

“She’s definitely not going to find that helpful,” Tobin scoffed. 

“The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else,” Kling offered with a wink as she poked her head into the kitchen. “And her glass is empty, so...”

“I’ll give her the alcohol,” Tobin relented, walking out of the kitchen and behind the bar. 

“And the sex!” Megan yelled, far too loudly. “Beautiful strangers don’t walk into this bar every day! Live a little!”

Tobin ignored Megan’s words, blending more of her family’s secret margarita recipe before pouring it into a pitcher and carrying it across the room to Christen’s table. Megan was right. Beautiful strangers definitely didn’t walk into the bar every night, especially not beautiful, single, non-straight strangers. Although, Tobin had to admit that while Christen was single, she was definitely not available. Not when she was carrying around the baggage of an unrequited love. 

“You’re running low,” Tobin said, placing the pitcher on the table. 

“How much is that going to set me back? I...I don’t even have my wallet,” Christen realized with a start. The only thing she’d left the wedding venue with was her cellphone. Her sweater and purse and wallet were in the bridal suite, right where she’d left them before she’d fled.

“We made a deal three nights ago, and you won, so it’s on the house,” Tobin shrugged. 

“Oh, right,”  Christen nodded, leaning her hip against the table and crossing her arms over her chest.

“I don’t remember the fries being a part of that deal, but it isn’t every day that someone hits a bullseye on their first throw, so I can be amenable,” Tobin smiled. 

“I remember upping the ante, but we never actually decided on what we were adding,” Christen shrugged. “So, fries might have been on the table.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Tobin said, glancing at the poofy dress that Christen was wearing and the bits of hair that had fallen out of her bun with each throw of the axe. 

Christen held a hand up and huffed out a pained chuckle. “Don’t. I know it’s very Glinda from the Wizard of Oz. I already know but it- it wasn’t my choice.”

“It is very Glinda,” Tobin nodded. “I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, that’s for sure.”

“Nobody can. I think that’s the point,” Christen replied, her eyes falling to the heinous dress in question.

“No, you’re doing a pretty good job considering what you were given to work with. I never got the whole bridesmaids’ dresses thing. Why not buy something people can wear again after the wedding?” Tobin asked, not even caring about what she was saying as long as she was carrying on some sort of conversation with the woman in front of her, as long as Christen wasn’t alone. 

Christen felt her cheeks flush at the casual, off-hand compliment. “This could have been the nicest dress in the world and I’d still want to burn it,” she admitted quietly, her fingers toying with the tulle.

“You want a change of clothes?” Tobin asked, making Christen’s head shoot up. “I know, that sounds really weird and forward, since you don’t know me, but we have tons of these t-shirts, and I have sweats in the back somewhere,” Tobin offered. 

“Um…” Christen trailed off, suddenly feeling like this bubble-gum pink dress was suffocating her, like the memory of the day was suffocating her. She wanted this dress off and she wanted it off now . “Sure. Why not?” she replied, her arms crossing over her chest again.

“All right, I’ll get clothes, and you can change,” Tobin nodded, feeling awkwardness creep across her skin again. Before she could embarrass herself, she made her way back through the kitchen and into the back office. She pulled a t-shirt out of a cardboard box and grabbed her clean sweatpants from her gym bag, rushing past her coworkers and toward Christen. 

Christen accepted the shirt and sweats and took two steps toward the bathroom before stopping. Remembering the effort it had taken to get this dress on, Christen realized it would take that much if not more to get it off. It wasn’t a one-woman job and unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, she didn’t have anyone else to ask.

Turning back, Christen sighed. “I need your help with the zipper,” she grimaced, shooting a pained half-smile in the woman’s direction.

“My help? Oh, yeah- Yep. I can do that,” Tobin nodded, mentally kicking herself for being weird when this woman just needed to burn the dress and get over the bride. Tobin led the way to the bathroom that she’d met Christen in, holding the door open for Christen to walk through. She turned the lock on the door, not wanting any other patron to walk in on Christen changing. 

Christen ignored the prickling across her skin again, only this time it came from standing so close to the stranger. She could feel the other woman hovering close behind her and it made a strange sort of feeling swirl around in her stomach. 

“You have to give it a sharp tug,” Christen mumbled, clutching the borrowed clothes tight to her chest.  

Tobin stepped closer, forcing her breathing to remain steady, even though this perfect stranger was asking her to unzip her dress. This perfect stranger was trusting her in a vulnerable moment, and it felt way too intimate for having just met. 

Tobin reached out and held the top of the dress with her right hand, nearly yanking her hand back when she felt the warmth of Christen’s skin. There was something about that warmth that made her want to reach out with both hands and touch, but she refrained. She ignored the sudden feeling of desire that flooded her stomach. She breathed slowly, focusing on the task at hand instead of the woman in the dress. She reached out for the zipper with her left hand and prepared to tug it down.  

Christen nearly sighed when she felt the first brush of fingertips across her back, when she felt the sharp tug and the zipper being pulled down. 

With a sudden start, Christen recognized the strange feeling inside of her. It was want . It was foolish and illogical want. It was the kind of want that didn’t care about names, about finding common interests and making small talk. It was the kind of want that was quick and hot, that was deliciously intoxicating and just a bit dangerous. It was also the want that carried the promise of forgetting, forgetting her broken heart and everything that had happened before she walked into the bar tonight.

Tobin pulled the zipper all the way down before retracting her hands, pretending not to notice that Christen was definitely not wearing a bra, pretending not to notice that her back was perfectly smooth and muscular and inviting to touch. 

“Thank you,” Christen murmured, an unrecognizable husk in her voice, one she’d never heard from herself before.

“Anytime,” Tobin murmured before she could realize what that actually meant. 

Christen shot a look over her shoulder, an amused, surprised half-smile on her face. “Anytime? You say that a lot.”

“I guess...I mean…I doubt we’ll be in this situation again, but if you ever need to borrow clothes and need help getting out of an awful dress, I’m your girl,” Tobin hurriedly said, as if she could backtrack. 

“How did you know?” Christen asked softly, turning around to look at Tobin, a thoughtful look on her face.

“How did I know what?” Tobin asked, a little lost in Christen’s new topic and completely lost in the green eyes that were now staring at her. 

“You said-” Christen took a deep breath. “You said ‘in my experience, they usually know’, and I guess I’m just wondering how you knew that... she knew? Before I did. Before I opened my mouth and made things a million times worse.” 

Tobin ran a hand through her hair, wishing that she hadn’t said that, since clearly Christen had told the bride and figured out that the bride knew about her feelings already.  “It’s hard to hide your feelings from someone when you’re close, especially if you love them. Usually, they know. It wasn’t a prediction. I was just speaking from experience,” Tobin shrugged. “I am sorry that I was right,” she added. 

Christen smiled, almost sadly. “I am too,” she mumbled, swallowing thickly. “I don’t...I don’t know what to do now. Now that it’s out there and that I ditched the reception and probably ruined this bridesmaid's dress...I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, on the bright side, it’s out there. You don’t have to carry a secret anymore because it’s there in all its messy glory, right?” Tobin offered. “And now you get to put the pieces back together, put on a dress or suit that you actually like or sweatpants, whatever you want, and move on.”

“Is that how you did it?” Christen asked, reading between the lines, reading the story behind this woman’s wise words.

“Ice cream helped, and friends were a necessity. But yeah, eventually I realized that I loved the love I thought I could have. I loved the person, but I wasn’t in love with them. You can’t be in love if they don’t love you back,” Tobin shrugged. 

“This ache in my chest disagrees with you,” Christen mumbled, subconsciously holding the borrowed clothes tighter to her chest.

“You weren’t...or aren’t in love with her. I think you love her, but the two of you were not in love together. To be in love with someone, you have to be in love with them, not alone,” Tobin said, confident in her theory. 

Christen blew out a long breath, shaking her head slightly. “Wow that’s...heavy. And makes me feel like I’ve wasted two decades of my life,” Christen admitted with a self-deprecating laugh. 

“I don’t think that’s fair. How is it a waste if now you know what you want from someone? And now you know you’re strong enough to say it, hopefully, sooner the next time,” Tobin murmured. 

Christen tilted her head to the side, wondering how this stranger, whose name she still didn’t know, had helped her more than hours of therapy, more than dozens of manicure trips with her mom, more than hundreds of sleepless nights spent meditating. Somehow, five minutes in this bathroom had helped her process years of pain and heartbreak. Somehow, despite the ache in her chest and the pain in her heart, she didn’t feel as empty or angry as when she’d walked into the bar earlier tonight.

As she watched the woman scratch at the back of her neck, her tanned arm muscles flexing with the motion, Christen subconsciously wet her lips. She was reminded of that feeling in her stomach, of that want. That dangerous, delicious want that she should ignore. But for reasons she wasn’t ready to unpack just yet, Christen didn’t want to ignore it.

“Where does meaningless sex fit into your ice cream and friends theory? Or does it not?” Christen wondered, feeling heat prickle beneath her skin. 

“Uhh...I mean I did some of that too,” Tobin said honestly, remembering the gay bars that Megan and Kling had dragged her to. 

“And did it help?”

“It certainly didn’t hurt,” Tobin laughed. 

Christen wet her lips again, clinging to the last little bit of brazenness from the tequila swirling around within her. With one hand holding the top of her dress, she discarded the borrowed sweats and the t-shirt on the floor beside her. She then took one final deep breath, mentally psyching herself up for something she wasn’t even sure was all that good of an idea. 

Her eyes never falling from the other woman’s, Christen released her hold on her dress, letting the horrible pink fabric drop away from her and fall to the tiled floor. 

Tobin’s mouth went completely dry. She’d been trying to make Christen feel better, not get her naked. She completely supported meaningless sex, but she hadn’t expected Christen to want it now. She expected Christen to change her clothes, go home and have a good cry, and then find someone to hook up with in a week or two. 

That being said, Tobin was not about to complain about the sight in front of her. She’d never seen a body as perfect as the woman’s in the bathroom with her. Her eyes raked up and down Christen’s body. The only thing covering her was a light gray thong, but everything else was completely uncovered, leaving nothing to the imagination, not that Tobin could imagine something better. 

Christen ignored the urge to cross her arms, to cover up. She instead latched onto the desire clouding the other woman’s face, onto the way her breathing noticeably picked up, onto the way the woman was looking at her like she was the most exquisite work of art in the world.

“I think you look better without the dress, but that’s just my opinion,” Tobin mumbled, wetting her bottom lip with her tongue. 

Christen felt the words wash over her, carrying her further away from the land of logic and reason. She was headed straight for anonymous, meaningless sex in a bar bathroom and she wanted it. Even if there was a small voice that told her this wouldn’t be meaningless, not after what they’d shared with one another.

“I think things are a little uneven,” Christen husked.

Tobin hesitantly pulled her shirt up and over her head, letting every single reasonable thought in her brain fly away. She wasn’t a casual sex person, not really, and she knew this would likely not work, that she’d think about it way more than she should after Christen left. But Christen was looking at her with so much need and desire and want, and she suddenly realized that she couldn’t deny the woman anything. She’d put margaritas on the menu and give her the most meaningful meaningless sex she could if Christen just kept looking at her like that. Tobin slowly unbuttoned her jeans, shimmying them down her legs as she toed off her sneakers.

Christen felt her brows lift high on her forehead and her heart all but stop in her chest as eyes drank in the sight of this very hot stranger who had just gotten even hotter. Standing there in just a Calvin Klein sports bra and Supreme boxers, plus a pair of socks with cartoon dinosaurs on them, this woman was an absolute vision. She was all tanned skin and the right mixture of hard muscles and softness. She was easily the most attractive woman Christen had ever seen, and it had heat pooling low in her stomach.

She took one small step forward, pausing for just a moment as every reason in the world not to do this ran through her mind. There were so many of them, so many reasons to pull those borrowed clothes on and leave, to never come back to this bar and never see this woman again. But...Christen didn’t want to do that. She wanted those clothes to stay on the floor; she wanted to stay; she wanted to see this woman and feel this woman pressed against her. She wanted things, things she wondered if she should even want. But she wanted them anyway. She wanted them, and after everything that she’d been through, she wasn’t about to deny herself anything else. 

It took three more slow, sure steps for Christen to be standing just a breath away from the other woman. She kept looking into those brown eyes, finding herself getting just a bit lost and more than a little bit carried away by the emotions swirling around within them. 

Feeling the charged energy of the silence around them, Christen decided not to break it. She decided to break the physical barrier between them instead. With a hesitant touch, Christen traced the fingertips of her right hand across the hard lines of this woman’s abs, her eyes falling to watch her movements.

Tobin’s eyes fluttered closed without her permission, her abs tightened and twitched, and goosebumps rose on her arms. It didn’t matter that she’d been touched more intimately by other women. It didn’t matter that she’d only just met this woman. Her body reacted to Christen’s touch the second they made contact. It was overwhelming and intoxicating, and Christen had hardly touched her. 

Gaining confidence at the small sigh that left this woman’s lips, Christen put both of her hands on her, moving them up her sides, exploring the soft, warm skin beneath her touch.

Tobin reached out a hand, brushing it gently over Christen’s ribs. She couldn’t handle how effortlessly her body was reacting to this stranger. She couldn’t handle how her mind felt foggy with each touch, how she suddenly felt delirious because Christen’s hands were on her. She ran her fingers along Christen’s waist, wanting to explore the newly revealed skin and wanting to ground herself in this moment, to feel Christen beneath her fingers. 

Splaying her hands across this beautiful stranger’s sides, Christen looked back up to meet her eyes. Her breath caught in her throat at the force of the want she found there, which reflected her own. Without thinking, since she’d spent her whole life thinking and it had led her nowhere, Christen pulled this woman closer, bringing their bodies flush together. She was done thinking, she was so very ready to stop thinking and start doing .

Tobin wrapped her arms around Christen’s waist, practically melting into the feeling of Christen’s body against her own. Her touch felt warm and confident, and Tobin couldn’t get enough already, and they’d hardly let their hands explore. Tobin leaned her forehead against Christen’s, dying to kiss her but wanting to make sure that Christen made the first move, that she wanted it. 

Christen didn’t hesitate to close the last gap of space between them. The first touch of their lips was like a thunderclap, bringing with it unexpected heat and an immediate shift in energy. It was no longer tentative, no longer exploring. It was now frenzied and furious, passionate and purposeful. It was everything Christen needed and wanted and more.

Tobin kept up with each and every one of Christen’s movements. Their tongues swiped against each other’s lips, desperate for more, and their hands trailed over hot skin. Within minutes, Christen had her hands under Tobin’s bra, begging for Tobin to lift her arms up and help divest of the article of clothing. And again, Tobin realized that she wanted to do anything this woman asked. 

With the bra gone, Christen wasted no time. She gently pushed the woman back against the locked bathroom door. She moved her lips across this woman’s sharp jaw, down her throat, across her collarbones, her lips and teeth leaving small, reddish-purple bruises in her wake. When she finally took a nipple between her lips, letting her tongue swirl around it and flick against it teasingly, she heard a sound she immediately wanted to hear again. A strangled, guttural groan that could be mistaken for a desperate whimper left the other woman’s lips and it only served to spur Christen on. 

She alternated back and forth, her teeth and tongue lavishing one breast while her fingers paid attention to the other. And all the while, she got to hear more strangled, groan-like whimpers, each one hitting her right between her legs.

Tobin knew she was wet. She could feel heat coursing through her body, and she could feel her underwear between her legs sitting uncomfortably and letting her know that she wanted them off. She’d come into this bathroom with good intentions. She’d wanted to help the woman in front of her feel better. She hadn’t come here to get laid, but if sex was what Christen wanted or needed, Tobin could do that. 

Tobin placed her hands on either side of Christen’s face, her fingers resting on the underside of her jaw as she led her back up. She kissed Christen thoroughly, exploring Christen’s mouth with her tongue and running her hands over her bare breasts. Tobin left a trail of hot kisses down Christen’s throat and over her collarbones. She returned the favor, lavishing both of Christen’s breasts with attention, sucking on each nipple and leaving marks in the valley between her breasts. 

Her hands had a mind of their own, moving over Christen’s hips and over her ass, gripping onto the muscle there and pulling her body even closer. Christen’s hands were tangled in her hair, and the most glorious noises were slipping from her lips, making Tobin that much more desperate to make her feel as good as possible. 

After a particularly loud moan, Tobin hooked her thumbs over the waistband of Christen’s thong and glanced up at her. “Can I take this off?” 

Christen barely managed to choke out a gasping, “Yes,” before her thong joined the other clothes on the floor. 

Tobin stood back up, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips before she backed Christen up toward the counter where the two sinks were. She kept her hands on Christen’s ass the whole time, only moving them when they were right in front of the counter. Tobin slid her hands lower and lifted Christen up onto the counter, almost moaning when she looked down and saw just how wet Christen was. 

Tobin took her time. She went slowly, despite the urgency that seemed to roll off of Christen. Tobin took her time because she knew this was the only time she’d get. She kissed Christen’s knees softly, ignoring the way Christen tugged at her hair, begging for her to move between her legs. She ran her tongue along Christen’s inner thighs, stopping before she got too close to the apex of her legs. She sucked gently on her hips, grazing her teeth along the skin there before soothing it with her tongue. 

“Please,” Christen rasped, trying once more to guide the woman between her legs, feeling like she would unravel with just the smallest touch of her tongue.

“What do you want?” Tobin asked, pressing another soft kiss to Christen’s abdomen. 

“I want-” Christen faltered at the way the woman’s teeth were running teasingly right above where she needed her. “I want you to fuck me,” she whispered, too far gone to even blush at the way the filthy words rolled off of her tongue.

That’s all Tobin needed. As much as she wanted to take her time, as much as she really didn’t want this moment to end, she could see that Christen was moments from coming apart. So, Tobin pushed Christen’s legs even further apart and ran her tongue through Christen’s molten heat. She buried her face between Christen’s legs, relishing in the way Christen’s legs wrapped around her back and twitched with each brush of her tongue. She knew it wouldn’t take long. She could feel Christen shaking. She could feel Christen’s grip tightening in her hair. And she could definitely hear her, gasping and moaning above her. 

Tobin leaned back, ignoring the whimper that left Christen’s lips because she realized she forgot one important thing, one thing she’d promised to do if Christen hit that target. 

“My name’s Tobin by the way,” she grinned, not wasting another moment. She slipped her head between Christen’s legs again, moving her tongue exactly like she had been, only this time with a steadier, quicker pace, with a little more confidence, with a little more anticipation. 

With a stuttered moan, Christen’s head smacked back against the wall as she felt herself get tantalizingly close to the edge.

“Oh fuck- I- oh god, Tobin ,” Christen gasped, the name leaving her lips right as she hit her peak. A symphony of moans and repeats of Tobin’s name spilled from her mouth as waves of pleasure rolled through her.

Tobin smirked against Christen, helping her ride out her orgasm with slow, lazy swipes of her tongue. She hadn’t meant to forget to tell Christen her name. She’d planned on telling her earlier but forgotten in her own nerves. She didn’t regret forgetting, though. Hearing Christen say her name for the first time while coming on the bathroom counter was a memory Tobin would never forget. 

Christen could still feel her hips jumping under Tobin’s gentle touch, she could still feel her insides twitching and clenching, she could still feel her breaths coming in short, quick pants. She’d never come that fast and that hard, or with someone else’s name on her tongue. That had never happened before. 

“Verdict?” Tobin mumbled, wiping her chin with the back of her hand. 

“Helpful,” Christen panted, still catching her breath. She forced her eyes to open, to look down at the woman- at Tobin , still between her legs. It was that sight that had Christen moving away from the hazy pleasure of her orgasm right back into the arms of desire. She wanted to make Tobin feel like this. She wanted to touch and taste, to tease and torture. She wanted to make her name fall from Tobin’s lips right as Tobin careened over the edge of desire. 

With a strong grip, Christen pulled Tobin up, crashing their lips together in a messy kiss. Christen moaned at the taste of herself on Tobin’s lips, on Tobin’s tongue. She kept the kiss a little sloppy and a little desperate, leaning into the burning passion and shying away from any softness. 

With her legs still wrapped around Tobin’s back, Christen kept one hand buried in Tobin’s hair and started to trail the other down her stomach, her fingers teasing at the waistband of the Supreme boxers.

As her tongue ran across the roof of Tobin’s mouth, Christen slipped her hand under the waistband. As much as she was certain about wanting to tease and torture, at the first feeling of how wet Tobin was, Christen knew she couldn’t. She wouldn’t be able to hold back and hold off, knowing how much Tobin had enjoyed making her come. 

“You’re wet,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips, sliding two fingers through her.

“Well, you’re really hot,” Tobin husked, swallowing thickly at the way Christen seemed to be able to affect her. 

Christen couldn’t stop the delighted and somewhat surprised laugh that bubbled up in her chest. She moved her lips across the hard line of Tobin’s jaw, sucking gently at Tobin’s pulse point as her fingers found a spot that had Tobin’s hips jolting.

“How?” Christen mumbled, wondering how Tobin wanted to be touched, where she wanted to be touched. She just needed a direction, a simple instruction, and she could run with it.

“You don’t want to take the time to find out on your own?” Tobin huffed, smirking at Christen. 

“I don’t think I’ll need time,” Christen husked, running her tongue across the purple bruise she’d worked into Tobin’s skin as she pushed two fingers inside of Tobin, her touch meeting absolutely no resistance.

Tobin let out an embarrassingly loud moan at Christen’s educated guess. Christen’s fingers curled perfectly inside her, and Tobin felt like her legs were seconds from completely giving out with the way Christen’s fingers were moving. 

“Like I said,” Christen chuckled, moving back up Tobin’s throat, across her jaw, and back to her lips. She captured Tobin’s kiss-swollen lips with her own as she changed the angle of her wrist, pushing deeper and curling her fingers even more.

When Tobin wrenched her lips from her own, keeping their foreheads pressed together as her entire body trembled, Christen tightened her legs around Tobin’s back to keep her upright. It only took a few more thrusts and a handful of well-timed curls for Tobin to tense up, for her brow to furrow and her lips to part. 

“Chri- Christen,” Tobin panted. “Don’t stop,” she groaned, knowing that one more perfectly placed touch would undo her. Her toes were curling, her legs were shaking uncontrollably, and her eyes were screwed shut. When Christen curled her fingers one last time, she felt herself slip over the edge. She knew she was loud, louder than she should have been in a public bathroom, but Tobin didn’t care. She let out another whine, a few moans, and Christen’s name over and over again. 

Once the breaths hitting her lips were softer and more spread apart, once Tobin’s grip on her waist had loosened, Christen slid her hand out of Tobin’s boxers, letting it fall to the counter by her side.

“Um...thank you,” Christen murmured, a slightly embarrassed flush creeping up her neck as the haze of pleasure lifted, leaving her naked and realizing she had just had sex with a woman she barely knew in a public restroom.

Tobin grinned at Christen’s words, holding back the laugh that threatened to slip from her lips. “Anytime,” she replied, taking her hands off Christen’s waist and resting them on the edge of the counter. 

The look in Tobin’s eyes chased away any fleeting embarrassment. In its place was that same rush she’d gotten when she’d hit the bullseye with the axe for the first time. It was a rush that had her forgetting things she wanted to, and remembering things she was desperate to cling to. Things like the way her name sounded leaving Tobin’s lips when she fell apart, things like the feeling of Tobin between her legs. It was an addicting rush, and one she wasn’t sure she wanted just once.

“I just might take you up on that,” Christen replied with a smile of her own.

Chapter Text

Everybody wants to have their taste
I'm no different, I am just the same
But she helped me find a different kinda love
Made me feel like I was finally enough
But there's more going on behind the scenes
She needs this love just as much as me
She's cold, she's dark, she's cynical
She's forever angry at the world
She's no angel, but she is my religion
Always finding ways to numb the pain
She's mad and she will never change
She's no angel, but she is my religion, religion

("She's My Religion" by Pale Waves)

 

Tobin hadn’t been able to get those green eyes out of her mind for the past week. She’d daydreamed about them during work and during her down time at home. She’d thought about them on long runs and during bike rides around the city. Those green eyes seemed to haunt her in the best way possible, torturing her with the knowledge that she would likely never see them again. Christen had been in Portland for a wedding, and the odds that she actually lived in Portland were slim, especially since Tobin knew absolutely nothing about her other than her name and her broken heart. 

“I think that glass is clean,” A.D. observed, her tone full of amusement.

“Yeah,” Tobin mumbled, rinsing the glass for the fourth time and putting it on the drying rack. 

“All right, Boss. Come on,” A.D. said, clapping her hand on Tobin’s shoulder.

“But I have work to do,” Tobin muttered, pointing at the three groups that were throwing axes in the bar. 

“Kling and Pinoe can do it. We’re taking the evening off,” A.D. replied, leading Tobin out from behind the bar.

Tobin sighed and put down the sponge she was holding, following behind A.D. and ditching her dishtowel as she went. 

They made their way down crowded tree-lined streets and over to Salt & Straw , each of them getting ice cream before settling down at a small table outside. 

“Speak,” A.D. instructed, scooping a bite of chocolate gooey brownie ice cream into her mouth.

“Hello?” Tobin offered, not really wanting to tell her what was actually going on, not when it involved obsessing over a stranger who she’d never see again. 

“Hilarious, Tobs. Come on, tell me what’s up. You have been in this fog for a week now. If I have to clean up one more broken beer bottle you’ve dropped, I’m going to ask for a raise,” A.D. replied, raising her eyebrows expectantly, a reassuring smile on her face.

“Remember the bridal party last week?” Tobin mumbled. 

A.D. bobbed her head, waiting patiently for Tobin to continue as she scooped another bite of ice cream into her mouth.

“I kind of had sex with the maid of honor when she came back by herself,” Tobin blurted out, hoping that A.D. would misunderstand or just move to a different topic and save her from this torture. 

A.D. smirked and bobbed her head again, silently communicating that this wasn’t brand new information. 

“We might have been closing for the night, but we definitely weren’t unaware of the locked bathroom door and the sounds coming from behind it,” A.D. chuckled. “What I don’t get is why you’re so tripped up about it?”

“I don’t know,” Tobin sighed. “I haven’t done casual in a while, and I guess...I guess it didn’t feel casual.”

“Ah, I see. So you caught feelings for the green-eyed goddess,” A.D. supplied, a knowing smile on her face.

“No- Uh, no- Definitely not,” Tobin spluttered. “I just think she’s pretty, and I won’t be forgetting the sex anytime soon.”

“Or her it seems like. She really got to you, huh?” A.D. said, leaning her arms on the table and growing a bit more serious. 

“It was meaningless sex for her, and that’s what it needs to be for me too. She’s a complete stranger. She probably lives in L.A. or Nashville or something,” Tobin sighed, taking a bite of her ice cream. 

“...or she lives in Portland,” A.D. laughed, nodding her head behind Tobin with a shit-eating grin on her face.

“Oh my fucking god,” Tobin hissed, covering her face with her ice cream cup. Christen Press was staring down at her phone, walking at a quick pace past Salt & Straw, completely unaware of Tobin’s existence next to her. She was in a pair of scrubs, her hair loose and curly around her shoulders, and she had a big purse slung over her shoulder, and Tobin’s stupid heart started to race at the sight of her. 

“It’s your lucky day, Boss,” A.D. grinned.

“It is absolutely not my lucky day,” Tobin groaned, burying her face in her arms on the table after Christen turned a corner and moved out of sight. 

“Go after her, you moron!”

“Absolutely not! I’m going back to work. She wanted one-time, meaningless sex. Running after her is not meaningless,” Tobin huffed. 

A.D. sighed and shook her head, sitting back in her chair. “You, my dude, are a fool.”

“Well, I’m a fool who doesn’t plan on embarrassing herself today,” Tobin said, tossing the rest of her ice cream into a nearby trash can and heading in the opposite direction of Christen’s destination. 

~

Christen worried her lower lip, leaning against the brick wall of some art studio, her eyes trained on the front doors of “Bury the Hatchet.”

She’d come to this exact spot more times than she could count this past week. She’d come by after work, stuck to this brick wall, trying to convince herself to go inside. She wanted to; she desperately wanted to. She wanted the rush she’d gotten a taste of; she wanted the rush that came from strong hands and warm brown eyes and the most talented tongue. She wanted the rush because the rush helped her forget.

The return to normalcy after the wedding had done nothing to quell the embarrassment of admitting her feelings to Lily or the ache in her chest or the sinking feeling in her stomach. Getting to see Percy the poodle for his monthly check-up and helping deliver a litter of orange tabby kitties hadn’t helped one bit. She was haunted by the look in Lily’s eyes, by her words, by the entire wedding itself. 

The only time she wasn’t haunted by everything was at night when her subconscious replayed those glorious, hot, steamy thirty minutes she’d spent in the bathroom of the axe-throwing bar with Tobin. The ghost of Tobin’s touch and her lips helped chase away her embarrassment, the ache, the pain.

But as much as Christen yearned for that touch, she hadn’t managed to do more than look at the doors to the bar for seven days straight. She couldn’t convince herself to go inside. 

It wasn’t that she was afraid. She had spent her whole life afraid and it had ended in catastrophe. She’d spent two decades walking on eggshells and silently hurting, terrified for the truth to come out. So she was done being afraid, she was done being ruled by fear. 

But even after so many visits spent stuck to this brick wall, unable to move, she was still stumped. She was still unsure why she couldn’t cross the street, go through those doors, and ask Tobin to fuck her against the bathroom wall and make her forget things she was desperate to. 

And then she saw Tobin step through the doors, a spray bottle and a rag in hand. She was whistling, some off-key tune that Christen shouldn’t have been able to hear, but she could. She was captivated, listening to the happy whistle and watching as Tobin cleaned the windows of the metal doors, bobbing her head to some beat only she could hear. 

Suddenly, it didn’t matter if Christen couldn’t figure out why she’d struggled to cross the street for the past week. She didn’t feel that same hesitation any longer. It was 9:45 on a Friday evening and for the first time in eight days, Christen pushed off the brick wall. 

As Tobin slipped back into the bar, Christen all but jogged across the street, dodging cars and pedestrians. She threw open the front door and stepped inside, her eyes immediately taking in the now-familiar surroundings of the bar. 

It was busy tonight, packed with far more people than Christen had seen the last two times she’d been in. She quickly scanned the space for Tobin, for those light brown waves tucked under a PDX snapback, but came up empty. 

Undeterred, Christen politely brushed by some patrons and headed for the bar, seeing a familiar person moving around behind it.  

 “Welcome to “Bury the Hatchet.” Are you meeting a group or wanting to-” Kling said robotically, cleaning off a few menus with a rag and spray bottle. As soon as she lifted her eyes to see who’d stopped in front of her, she froze, her sentence left fragmented in the space between them. 

“Hi,” Christen managed. She lifted her hand up in an awkward little wave, recognizing Kling as the woman who’d politely informed her they didn’t sell margaritas during her last visit.

“Helloooo,” Kling sing-songed. “We’re gonna need to develop a valued customer card or something for you. We don’t usually get repeat customers this often in two weeks.”

Christen felt her cheeks fill with a slight blush. “Oh, um, that’s not necessary. I’m not here for the axes,” Christen replied. Her eyes widened when she realized what her response sounded like. “Not that I’m here for something in particular,” she rushed to add, her blush deepening.

“You’re here for the margaritas right?” Kling smirked, shoving the menus under the bar counter. 

“Yes, totally. The margaritas,” Christen replied with a tight smile.

“Well, unfortunately, Boss doesn’t share the recipe with us, so I’ll have to get her to make them for you,” Kling chuckled, knowing that Christen came here for Tobin and not for the drinks. 

“Boss?” Christen clarified, her brow arching. She had just assumed Tobin worked here. She had no idea she owned the place.

“About this tall, brown hair, puppy dog eyes, deep voice. I thought you saw her last time,” Kling teased. 

“I- I did, I just- I didn’t know she ran the place,” Christen stammered, running a nervous hand through her curls. She was starting to regret coming in. Tobin was off being the boss of this bar, a bar she’d made fun of and ridiculed and also had sex inside of. Tobin was busy and she’d clearly made a mistake by coming in.

“This is Tobin’s brainchild. She owns 70% of it and talked us into paying for the other 30%,” Kling said matter-of-factly. 

“Right, well I think I’m gonna go…” Christen trailed off, leaning away from the bar.

“Tobs is in the office. You can totally go back there,” Kling said, pointing past the door to the kitchen toward a hallway. 

“I don’t- I don’t know if-” Christen tried to reply, searching her brain for a response.

“I’m sure if you ask nicely she’ll mix up a margarita for you,” Kling added with another smirk, moving around Christen to collect the check from Target Six. 

Feeling her blush grow infinitely darker, Christen backed away further. “Thanks, I’ll uh- I’ll see you around,” Christen offered with a tight smile, moving away from the bar. She should have walked right through those front doors and away from this place. But that’s not where she walked. 

Christen found herself moving past the kitchen, toward the door to the office. Her feet had a mind of their own as they carried her closer and closer to the closed door. When she reached it and raised her hand to knock, she hesitated. She hesitated for a single second. And then she remembered the rush, the pleasure, the dulling of her senses and her broken heart, and she knocked on the office door, feeling her stomach tighten with anticipation.

“Yo!” came Tobin’s voice from inside the office, making Christen’s mouth twitch up into a smile. She took the single-word answer as permission to enter, so she twisted the doorknob and pushed the door open. 

She took in the small space with a quick glance - the handful of filing cabinets along one wall, a small bookshelf along the other, sports posters, and framed photographs littering the walls, making the space feel homey. And then Christen spotted the hunched-over figure sitting at the desk along the far wall. Tobin’s back was to her, her focus on some kind of paperwork spread out on the cluttered desk in front of her.

Realizing that Tobin assumed she was probably an employee, and thus was not turning around to greet her, Christen cleared her throat, shutting the office door behind her with a click and locking it.

Tobin turned around, confused as to why Kling, Megan, or A.D. wouldn’t just walk in and start talking. None of them would be hesitant or polite. It wasn’t in their nature, and it wasn’t how they all worked together. She ripped the thick-framed glasses off of her face and dropped them on the desk, feeling like her heart was seizing up and heat was already pooling low in her stomach. 

“You don’t work here,” Tobin mumbled, completely caught off guard by the green-eyed woman in front of her who she'd been thinking about for a week. 

“That I don’t,” Christen replied smoothly, stuffing her hands into the front pockets of her jeans and rocking on the balls of her feet.

Tobin spun around in the swivel chair she was in and crossed her legs, staring at the woman in front of her with a mix of complete awe and total confusion. She had no idea why Christen was here, but she would absolutely never complain. This was like one of her daydreams come to life, and Tobin wasn’t about to interrupt it with questions. 

A million little things ran through Christen’s mind, things to say and justify and explain, things to ask or answer. She thought things like I can’t stop thinking about you and I want to touch you again and I want you to touch me again . But she realized that everything she thought wouldn’t suffice. There were no words to ask for what she wanted, to explain why she wanted it.

Instead of words, Christen relied on something else. Dropping her purse unceremoniously to the floor, Christen crossed the few feet between them with a confidence she didn’t actually feel. She smoothly sank into Tobin’s lap and kissed her, hard. 

Tobin had hundreds of questions. She had dozens of things she wanted to clarify. She had tons of words she wanted to say, but she pushed everything down. Christen was back and wanted meaningless sex, even if it wasn’t one-time sex. She needed meaningless, and Tobin could do that. She was sure she could do that if Christen needed it. Tobin wrapped her arms around Christen, immediately slipping her tongue into Christen’s mouth, making the woman in her lap moan into the kiss. She’d missed this. Seven days without this woman’s skin against her own had felt torturous, and Tobin felt her skin seemingly light on fire with each touch. 

“You definitely don’t work here,” Tobin murmured against Christen’s lips, slipping her hands under Christen’s shirt and tracing her skin with her fingertips. 

With a hum of agreement, Christen moved her lips down to the side of Tobin’s neck, her hands already finding a way under the cut-off shirt. Her nails raked down Tobin’s stomach as she sucked none-too-gently at Tobin’s pulse-point, feeling it flutter and race beneath her tongue.

Tobin moaned at the feeling of Christen’s tongue pressing against her throat. She shivered at Christen’s touch and reached for the hem of Christen’s shirt, wanting fabric to be gone. She wanted to feel her again. She wanted to verify that the daydreams she’d been having were accurate. 

Christen shook her head against Tobin’s neck. “Stays on this time,” Christen husked, moving her fingers to the waistband of Tobin’s joggers as her lips blazed a trail up and down the side of Tobin’s neck. 

“Okay,” Tobin rasped, trying to ignore the slight disappointment at Christen’s words. She moved her hands away from the hem of Christen’s shirt, instead wrapping them around Christen’s thighs and pulling her further onto her lap, adding a little bit of friction where Christen likely wanted it. 

Christen groaned at the pressure provided by Tobin’s rolling hips. “I wanna taste you,” she admitted, pressing her lips one final time over the blossoming bruise she’d sucked into the side of Tobin’s throat. She crawled out of Tobin’s lap, dropping to her knees to the carpeted floor in front of the desk chair. 

Tobin let out something between a groan and a gasp, surprised by Christen’s desire to go down on her. She hadn’t expected Christen to come back again, and she certainly hadn’t expected Christen to want to do this. 

“I’ll take that as a green light?” Christen murmured, her voice soft like velvet and her smirk full of promise. She teased along the waistband of Tobin’s joggers, using her elbows to push Tobin’s legs apart.

“Yeah,” Tobin panted, lifting her hips slightly, so that Christen could pull her joggers and boxers down in one swift motion, leaving them pooled around her calves. 

Christen smoothed her hands across tanned skin, wetting her lips slightly at the sight before her. She hadn’t been in this office for more than two minutes, and yet, Tobin was already dripping. Offering one final look up, feeling a thrill run through her at the wrecked look already on Tobin’s face, Christen settled between Tobin’s legs and finally fulfilled her want. 

She tasted and licked and sucked, finding a rhythm that had Tobin’s hips jolting and her fingers tightening almost painfully in her curls. 

“Fuck, Christen,” Tobin groaned as Christen sped up her pace and made Tobin’s legs start to twitch. 

The combination of the way Tobin tasted, the way Tobin’s body responded so intoxicatingly to her every touch, and the way her name sounded when it was wrenched from Tobin’s lips had Christen feeling that rush she’d been craving. She was no longer the heartbroken veterinarian hopelessly in love with her best friend, who hadn’t spoken to said best friend since she ditched her wedding. She was just Christen, the person currently propelling the sweet, sensitive, seductively hot bar owner toward the precipice of pleasure. She was just Christen and she was going to do everything in her power to cling to that. 

Tobin’s entire body was burning. She could feel her legs tightening around Christen’s body, her hands tangling in the curls at the back of Christen’s head. Within minutes of barging into her office, this woman had her practically begging for release, and Tobin was intoxicated by it. 

“I’m gonna co-” Tobin choked out, not finishing her sentence before her body was tensing and spasming under Christen’s deft swipes of her tongue. 

Christen wasn’t satisfied. She wanted more. She wanted to hear her name again. She wanted to hear that deep, guttural moan. So instead of slowing down, her tongue kept up its feverish pace and she slid two fingers inside of Tobin, curling them in the way she remembered Tobin liking. 

“Oh my g- Chri- Fuck- Christen,” Tobin groaned, tightening around Christen’s fingers immediately. 

Christen fought through the ache in her jaw and the awkward angle of her wrist, chasing the next gasp, the next moan, the next broken utterance of her name. With every flick of her tongue and pump or curl of her fingers, she got what she wanted. She made a broken, beautiful mess out of the woman above her and Christen never wanted it to end.

Tobin crashed, harder than she ever had before. Her hips crashed down into the chair, continuing to jerk and twitch, despite how sensitive she now was. Her legs clenched and tightened, despite needing a break from Christen’s onslaught of perfect touches. She’d never come as hard as she was right now, and suddenly her daydreams seemed insignificant in comparison to the woman kneeling in front of her. Tobin blinked slowly as Christen’s fingers stilled, willing herself to defog her brain and pull the woman back into her lap, so she could return the favor. She needed to return the favor. She needed to feel Christen come apart in her arms. 

Christen sat back, licking her fingers clean of the addictive taste she’d just spent minutes falling for, and then wiped her chin with the back of her hands. She stood up from the ground and took a small step away from Tobin, away from the wrecked, blissed-out mess she’d made of her.

“Uh...where are you going?” Tobin husked, staring at the new space between herself and Christen. 

“I’ll see you around, Tobin,” Christen replied with a coy smile, lingering just for a moment to take in the sight of Tobin’s pants around her ankles, her snapback askew on her head, and her chest heaving with every breath she took. And then Christen grabbed her purse from the ground, unlocked the office door, and left, closing the door behind her.

“Well, shit,” Tobin sighed to herself, pulling her clothes back up her legs before collapsing back into her chair. She might as well have just had a fever dream, considering she knew just as little about the woman as she had before. Well...that wasn’t entirely true. She now knew that Christen Press was just as skilled with her tongue as she had been with her fingers. 

~

Christen finished off the bottle of wine, pouring the last of the deep red liquid into her glass. 

“Rough day?” Crystal asked, watching her friend start her third glass of wine. 

Christen shrugged and sank back into her couch, her eyes falling shut as she balanced her very full glass on her stomach. 

“Rough year,” Christen replied quietly. 

“Yeah…” Crystal cringed. “Candace told me what you told Lily.”

“Fucking Candace,” Christen grumbled, squeezing her eyes shut even further, wishing that if her eyes were closed she wouldn’t have to deal with this conversation, one she’d been dodging ever since the wedding.

“Well, fuck Lily for telling fucking Candace,” Crystal huffed. 

“I’ll drink to that,” Christen replied, opening her eyes and taking a hefty sip of wine. “Even if it’s a Tuesday and I have work in the morning. I’ll drink to all of that.”

“Just stay sober enough to save all the puppies,” Crystal grinned. 

Christen chuckled and shot her friend a smile. 

“For the record, I think Lily’s shitty for not saying anything sooner. And I think she’s an asshole for being as touchy-feely as she always was when she knew how you felt,” Crystal said, not beating around the bush any longer with Christen. 

Christen’s face darkened at Crystal’s words, her smile slipping. She took another sip of wine, her eyes moving back to the TV screen where the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy was paused.

“Yeah, well. Whatever,” Christen sighed.

“It isn’t whatever. It’s completely awful, and you deserve to be upset about it. I just want you to know that I’ll be your ice cream supplier or your wing woman or whatever you need, okay?” Crystal promised, offering a soft smile to Christen. 

Christen felt her lower lip tremble as she looked over at Crystal. “Thanks, Crys. I’m glad I got you in the best friend divorce.”

“You’ve always had me. Ever since Lily kissed my brother in eighth grade, I’ve gotten bad vibes. You’re my day one,” Crystal said, knocking her shoulder into Christen’s. 

Christen leaned her head on Crystal’s shoulder and let out a long breath. The wedding had happened 11 days ago, and it still hurt to get up in the morning. It still hurt to breathe, but it was getting better. It was better on wine nights with Crystal and any time she was with...Tobin, who she hadn’t had the courage to seek out again after Friday night, despite desperately wanting to. It was becoming addicting, kissing her and touching her and fucking her. It was addicting and Christen was not a strong enough woman to walk away from that. Not when it was helping her ignore the jagged, broken bits of her heart rattling around in her chest.

“And since you’re my day one and best friend, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about all things Christen,” Crystal hummed. 

“So knowledgeable. All the knowledge,” Christen agreed, her eyes falling shut as her mind unwittingly drifted back to the way Tobin had felt underneath her tongue.

“Yeah, so who are you fucking?” Crystal asked point-blank. “You’ve got that obnoxiously perfect, glowy skin you always get when you’re getting laid.”

Christen shot up, immediately moving off of Crystal’s shoulder as her mouth opened and closed in shock. 

“I’m not- I mean, I- I’m not- no,” Christen stuttered, saving herself from further embarrassment by taking a few gulps of wine.

“You sure? Because you’ve also got those dopey eyes you sometimes get when you’re sex life is good,” Crystal grinned. 

Christen just kept right on drinking her wine, but she knew the dark red flush creeping up her neck and coloring her cheeks was giving her away.

“You’re such a bad liar,” Crystal laughed, putting her wine down and grabbing a handful of popcorn. 

Christen took one last sip of wine before setting her wine glass down as well. She took a deep breath and dropped her eyes to the knitted throw blanket she had draped over her lap.

“It’s the bartender,” Christen whispered, her fingers toying with a frayed string of the blanket.

“Doe eyes?” Crystal asked, thinking about the bartender who’d been completely distracted by Christen during the bachelorette party. 

Christen just nodded, still hyper-focused on the loose string.

“She’s super hot. If I were into women, I’d totally go for her. She must be good in bed too if she’s got you all dreamy-eyed and smiley,” Crystal smirked. 

“I’m not going for her,” Christen clarified quickly, her eyes snapping up to meet Crystal’s. “We’re just- well, I mean we’re kind of- I don’t even know what we’re doing, honestly.”

“So...she’s a rebound? Does she know that?” Crystal asked carefully. 

“She can’t be a rebound because there’s nothing to rebound from,” Christen replied with a heavy sigh, leaning back into the couch cushions. “It’s just sex and it’s only happened twice, so…”

“Are you gonna make it happen again?” Crystal pried, raising her eyebrows excitedly. 

With a shrug, Christen reached for her wine glass again. “So what if I do? Is that really so bad?”

“It isn’t bad at all! Have fun with her. She sounds a whole lot easier and more fun to be around than Lily if you ask me, and if she makes you feel good where’s the harm in that?” Crystal shrugged. 

“Exactly! There’s no harm in it, right? I’m an adult. I can have meaningless, casual sex with a somewhat stranger in her weird bar,” Christen nodded, feeling a slight weight lift off her chest now that Crystal not only knew but was supportive of whatever the hell she was doing with Tobin.

“Sounds good to me,” Crystal nodded, wanting to be as supportive as possible of her best friend. “I’ll mom you for a second and say be safe, but other than that, enjoy. She’s hot!”

“So hot, right?” Christen chuckled, shaking her head slightly in disbelief at just how insanely attractive Tobin was. 

“And she’s good?” Crystal asked with a smirk. 

Christen groaned and nodded. “So, so good,” Christen replied, feeling heat pool low in her stomach with the admission.

“Is she the best you’ve had?” Crystal gasped, living vicariously through Christen now that she was in a committed relationship with Pierre and wouldn’t be hooking up with strangers in bars. 

“Honestly?” Christen murmured, a smile growing on her face. “I don’t think it’ll ever be as good with anyone else. It was...I don’t even know how to describe it.”

“Why the hell are you drinking wine with me?” Crystal laughed. 

Christen flushed and dropped her attention to her wine glass, running the stem between her fingers. “The bar’s closed on Tuesdays,” she mumbled, hating herself just a little bit for knowing that.

“Text her. I’m sure she has an apartment,” Crystal sighed. 

“I don’t even know her last name,” Christen shrugged, finding solace in a sip of wine.

Crystal burst into another round of laughter, nearly flopping off of the couch. “Maybe ask her that next time and swap phone numbers. Have you just been having sex at the bar?”

Christen nodded with a deep flush heating her cheeks.

“Oh my gosh! You’re my hero right now,” Crystal snorted, reaching for her wine glass and clinking it against Christen’s. 

“I guess I’ll drink to that too,” Christen chuckled, sipping her wine and starting to count down the minutes until tomorrow night.

~

Tobin was confused. She was beyond confused. It was now Wednesday. She hadn’t seen Christen since last Friday, and the woman had left immediately after giving her the best orgasm she’d ever had. Tobin was preparing herself for another week of radio silence, trying not to let it bother her, trying not to let those green eyes knock her off balance the way they had last week. She already had enough for her friends to tease her about, without completely sucking at her job. 

She didn’t want to admit it, but she’d been watching the door. She’d been glancing at it since she and Megan had opened at noon, but now that it was thirty minutes to closing, she was starting to lose hope. The ball was in Christen’s court and it always would be, since Christen didn’t seem intent on telling Tobin anything about her personal life. Christen had all the control, and as much as Tobin was trying to be cool with that, she was secretly dying to be able to call her or drop by her place or surprise her the same way Christen had. 

“You can leave, A.D.,” Tobin sighed, wiping down the bar one more time. 

“You sure, Boss?” A.D. asked, dropping a tray of dirty glasses on the bar top.

“Yeah, Megan’s already packed up, and the bar’s closed. I can get the last group’s checks and lock up. Plus, you’ve got a wife to race home to. HGTV is set to record on my TV,” Tobin grinned. 

“You gotta get a life, Boss,” A.D. chuckled, offering Tobin a smile before backing away from the bar.

“I have a life. I have all these glasses to wash,” Tobin said, keeping her lazy smile on her face. 

“See ya tomorrow,” A.D. tossed over her shoulder, heading for the front door.

“Get home safe,” Tobin called back, piling the last few glasses from the bar onto the tray and carrying them into the kitchen. She put the last dishes and glasses into the industrial dishwasher and set it to wash, glancing out at the last group of people who’d just finished throwing axes. They were piling bills onto the table and slipping on their jackets when she pushed her way back out of the kitchen. She offered them a wave and collected the money before slipping behind the bar and focusing on the cash register. 

Each night, one employee emptied the cash register and moved the money into a safe in the back office. There wasn’t usually that much money, since most people used credit cards, but there was still enough to warrant using a safe and depositing it into the bank once every week or every two weeks. It was in the middle of slipping the money from the cash register to a small bag that Tobin heard the door to the bar open. 

“We’re closed, sorry,” she called, zipping up the small bag. 

“Are you closed in the same way you don’t have margaritas? Or are you closed closed?” Christen called back, her voice soft and tinged with amusement. 

Tobin’s head whipped up to stare at the woman who she’d been waiting all day to see. Really, she’d been waiting the entire weekend and beginning part of the week to see her. And now that she was here, Tobin felt like she was dreaming all over again. 

“The first one,” Tobin said as she leaned her hip against the side of the bar and watched Christen walk toward her. 

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Christen replied, coming to a stop behind one of the bar stools.

“I should probably lock that, so no one else comes looking for margaritas,” Tobin said, pointing at the front door. 

“That’s probably smart,” Christen hummed, a small smile playing at her lips.

Tobin shoved the cash register’s contents under her arm and walked to the door, flipping off the neon sign that read open and locking the two metal doors. She took this moment to take as many deep breaths as she possibly could. She didn’t want this to be a repeat of last time. She didn’t want Christen to fuck her and leave. She’d wanted to make Christen feel good and had been left feeling a tiny bit disappointed, alone with her pants down in her office last Friday. 

“Do you really want a margarita?” Tobin asked, as she made her way back to the bar. 

“No, I don’t,” Christen said, her arms crossed over her chest as she leaned back against the barstool, her eyes tracking Tobin’s path back to her.

“And here I was thinking they were addictively good,” Tobin sighed, shaking her head slightly. 

“Oh, they are,” Christen replied with a shrug.

“Just not good enough,” Tobin tsked. “My grandma’s gonna cry when she hears that about her famous recipe.”

“I just got a taste of something better, that’s all,” Christen murmured, her green eyes darkening just a bit. “Probably shouldn’t tell her that, though.”

Tobin’s jaw clenched tightly at Christen's words. This green-eyed woman just seemed to be able to completely knock her off her feet without much effort, and Tobin found herself scrambling to say something. That being said, this was her bar, the place she felt most comfortable, and she knew how to at least fake confidence in her place. 

“You probably shouldn’t,” Tobin hummed, walking away from the bar and down the hall to the office without another word. 

Not needing an invitation, not after the charged look Tobin had given her, Christen immediately followed, going down the familiar path toward the back office just a few steps behind Tobin. By the time Christen stepped into the office, Tobin already had the money in the safe and was quickly locking it with practiced ease. 

“You were pretty greedy last time,” Tobin sighed, tucking a strand of hair behind her own ear and just barely perching herself on the corner of her desk.

Christen suppressed a shiver at the timbre in Tobin’s voice. “Are you expecting an apology?” she quipped, swallowing thickly at the heat already pooling low in her stomach.

“You don’t seem like the type,” Tobin smirked. “I just think it’s my turn.” Tobin slid off the edge of her desk and crossed the room toward Christen. She didn’t hesitate when she took Christen’s purse off of her shoulder and tossed it onto the closest chair. She didn’t hesitate when she hooked a finger in one of Christen’s belt loops and tugged her close. And she didn’t hesitate when she latched her lips onto Christen’s pulse point and walked her back toward the door to the office, lavishing the side of Christen’s neck and her jaw with kisses. 

Christen gasped and felt her eyes flutter shut at the raw hunger behind Tobin’s lips and touch. She slid one hand into Tobin’s hair, yanking the hair tie and loosening Tobin’s messy bun, while the other slid around Tobin’s lower back, pulling her impossibly closer.

As much as Tobin wanted to pull Christen’s shirt up and over her head, she remembered Christen’s hesitation last time. As much as she longed to feel Christen’s skin against her own, she wouldn’t do anything without asking. 

“You want this on still?” she husked, tugging at the hem of Christen’s shirt. 

“I don’t- I don’t know,” Christen rasped, her hips jolting against Tobin’s.

“You want these off?” Tobin mumbled, tucking her thumb into the waistband of Christen’s jeans. She wouldn’t take anything off if the answer was ‘I don’t know.’ 

“Yes,” Christen choked out.

Tobin made quick work of yanking Christen’s jeans down to her ankles. A groan slipped from her lips when she looked up and saw the very thin, very see-through black underwear Christen had chosen to wear. 

“You are impossibly sexy,” Tobin murmured against Christen’s knee, pressing a kiss there as she stared up at the black lingerie. 

Christen was thankful for the door against her back because she felt like she was going to collapse at the sound of Tobin’s voice and the desire dripping from every word.

“Those can go too,” Christen managed between deep, heaving breaths as she threaded her fingers between the honeyed waves at the nape of Tobin’s neck.

“Not yet,” Tobin whispered, trailing her tongue up and down Christen’s thighs. 

Typically, Tobin was patient. With other women, she liked to tease, but there was something about Christen, or maybe about the situation they were in, that made her feel like she was running out of time. She kissed every single inch of Christen’s legs that she could reach, smirking as Christen tried to tug her head up to where she needed her. 

Tobin knew Christen was turned on. She could hear Christen’s breath hitching and see how wet the thin underwear was becoming. She could feel her hips jerking up and heard the disappointed sighs when she didn’t find any friction. She knew Christen was getting more and more desperate, so Tobin pressed her lips over the wettest part of the black underwear, desperate to taste Christen on her lips. 

“Tobin-” Christen choked out, her hips jumping off the door as pleasure ran through her.

“Christen,” Tobin replied, pressing a few more kisses to the apex of Christen’s legs, relishing in just how soaked the underwear already was. 

“Stop teasing,” Christen rasped, pressing her head back into the door as her fingers tightened in Tobin’s hair.

“It kind of seems like you like it though,” Tobin husked, hooking a thumb in the waistband of the underwear and pressing her lips to Christen again. 

“I- yeah, I just- fuck, just take them off ,” Christen all but whined, pushing her hips into Tobin’s hand and mouth, desperate and pleading and not caring in the slightest that she was.

Tobin slowly pulled the underwear down Christen’s legs, immediately letting her tongue sink into the wetness between Christen’s legs. She moaned at the taste of Christen on her tongue and the way Christen’s hips bucked up into her mouth. Tobin licked and sucked and tasted, sending Christen careening toward the edge. She could tell that Christen was close. She knew that it would only take a few more swipes of her tongue, so Tobin kissed her way down Christen’s legs, leaving her trembling and searching for friction that was no longer there. 

“Tobin, what-” Christen groaned, her eyes flying open at the sudden lack of contact.

Tobin stood up in front of Christen with a smirk. She loved the almost angry, frustrated look on Christen’s face. She loved that Christen’s chest was heaving and her hair was a little wild now that she’d been getting worked up and running her fingers through a few strands. 

“What?” Tobin asked, her smile only growing at the way Christen’s mouth had slightly flopped open. 

Narrowing her eyes slightly, Christen removed her hand from Tobin’s hair and wrapped her fingers around Tobin’s left wrist. She pushed their joined hands between her legs, silently challenging Tobin to touch her.

“Don’t make me finish what you started,” Christen whispered hoarsely. 

Tobin knew where Christen wanted her. She knew exactly where to put her fingers, even without Christen’s guidance, so she did. She ran a finger slowly between Christen’s legs, smirking when Christen’s hips started rocking against her hand again. Tobin watched Christen’s face morph and change as she easily slid two fingers inside. Christen immediately tightened around Tobin’s fingers, and that alone made Tobin even wetter. 

“Fucking hell, Tobin,” Christen husked, wrapping a leg around Tobin’s waist and pulling Tobin even closer. She rolled her hips into Tobin’s touch, encouraging Tobin to move, to go hard and fast and unhindered. “Don’t stop,” she breathily pleaded, her arms encircling Tobin’s shoulders.

Tobin curled her fingers and increased her pace, doing exactly what Christen had asked. She let Christen grind down into her palm, all the while moving her fingers, knuckle-deep into Christen. With each stroke, Tobin watched Christen throw her head back in pleasure. With each touch, Tobin could feel her own thighs becoming wetter, evidence that she was officially dripping with desire for the woman in front of her. Tobin leaned forward and sucked a bruise onto Christen’s neck, feeling the vibrations of each moan against her lips. 

“Oh god, don’t- don’t stop- Tobin, don’t-” Christen mumbled, almost incoherently in between choked moans and strangled gasps. She could feel her orgasm building; she could feel it in the way her back arched off the door and her toes curled and her stomach clenched. She was moments away, almost toppling over the edge, and she had every confidence that Tobin would get her there. 

“Come for me,” Tobin whispered, against the shell of Christen’s ear, curling her fingers one last time. 

With a litany of expletives interspersed between Tobin’s name, Christen did as she was told to. She came and she came hard, so hard she saw stars behind her closed eyes and briefly wondered if she’d transcended out of this world.

“Now, if I were you, I’d be greedy and go again, but based on how you’re reacting, I’d say you’re really sensitive right now,” Tobin husked. 

Christen shivered at the warmth in Tobin’s voice. “You’re a better person than I am,” Christen huffed, still trying to catch her breath and return to her body.

“Well, maybe you can come by tomorrow and I’ll go for round two,” Tobin shrugged, taking her fingers from Christen and slipping them into her own mouth to taste. 

Christen let out a strangled sigh at the loss of Tobin’s touch, at the sight of Tobin’s tongue licking her fingers clean. 

“Same time, same place?” Christen wondered, wetting her lips, swearing she could already taste the promise of another earth-shattering orgasm in the air.

“Sounds good to me,” Tobin hummed, stepping away from Christen and busying herself with getting her bag ready to go home. 

Christen pulled her underwear and jeans back up, her legs still trembling slightly. The casual tone of Tobin’s voice and the way she moved around her office as if she hadn’t just rocked her world would have felt dismissive, but the flush creeping up Tobin’s neck and her slightly labored breathing gave her away. This was as intoxicating and distracting and wonderful for Tobin as it was for her. 

“Do you have a last name?” Christen found herself asking, recalling her promise for last names and phone numbers that she’d made last night with Crystal.

“Yes,” Tobin laughed.

Christen felt her cheeks burn, somehow more embarrassed to be asking a somewhat personal question than about anything far more intimate they'd already done. “Okay, obviously you have a last name. That was a...bad question. Unless you’re like Cher or Rihanna or something and just go by your-”

“It’s Heath. I’m Tobin Heath,” Tobin said gently, offering a lopsided smile to Christen. 

“Tobin Heath,” Christen repeated, rolling the name around her on her tongue. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, Tobin Heath.”

“I’ll be here, Christen Press,” Tobin nodded, slinging her bag over her shoulder and leading the way out of the office.

Chapter Text

Baby really hurt me, crying in the taxi
[She] don't wanna know me
Says [she] made the big mistake of dancing in my storm
Says it was poison

So I guess I'll go home
Into the arms of the girl that I love
The only love I haven't screwed up
She's so hard to please, but she's a forest fire
I do my best to meet her demands, play at romance
We slow dance in the living room
But all that a stranger would see
Is one girl swaying alone, stroking a cheek

They say, "You're a little much for me
You're a liability
You're a little much for me"
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I'm a liability
Get you wild, make you leave
I'm a little much for e-a-na-na-na, everyone

("Liability" by Lorde)

 

Christen had never really had a bad habit. She didn’t gamble, she did engage in the occasional drink but it wasn’t too often or too much, and she hadn’t even smoked pot, which as a Portlandiand was basically blasphemous. The only bad habit she’d ever had was hiding her foolish love for someone, someone who she hadn’t actually thought of in weeks. 

But now...now she had a new bad habit. She had found a way to fill the bad habit void, and the bad habit was named Tobin Heath.

Two months. It had been two months of showing up at closing time, sometimes once a week, sometimes five times a week. Christen would show up and she and Tobin would do a dance they’d been perfecting. 

They did it in the office, in the bathroom, behind the bar, one time against the wall next to a target with an axe still buried inside of it. They always did it in a frenzy, fast and wanting and desperate. Clothes were rarely discarded, if ever. Orgasms were traded back and forth with enthusiastic ease, both of them having become finely attuned to each other’s wants and likes and secret desires. 

It was easily the best sex of her life, that much Christen could recognize. There was just this innate way Tobin knew how to touch her, anticipating her wants before she whispered them, her desires before she brokenly begged for them. Tobin knew just how to build her up and bring her down, how to leave her wanting more, how to deliver that rush that Christen kept on chasing. 

So when she waltzed into ‘Bury the Hatchet’ tonight, very ready to continue doing this dance, Christen was surprised to find Tobin wasn’t there. 

“Welcome to ‘Bury the Hatchet.’ Are you meeting a group or wanting to reserve your own target?” a tall blonde asked, holding a few menus in her hands. 

Christen’s forehead furrowed at the sight of this employee she’d never met before. She’d slowly become acquainted with A.D. and Kling and Megan over these past two months, but she’d never seen this young blonde woman before. 

“Um...is Tobin in?” Christen asked, suddenly feeling extremely ridiculous in a short, tight black dress and wedge bootie heels and smokey eye makeup she’d spent an hour getting just right.

“She has the week off. Pinoe forced her to take her vacation time. She’s in town, though,” the blonde said. “Are you a friend of hers?”

“Um…” Christen said again, her hands fidgeting with the high cut hem of her dress. “Kind of?” she replied, her mind reeling not just at the new face, but at the reveal that Tobin wouldn’t be in all week.

“You could totally give her a call then. She’s probably bored out of her mind,” the blonde laughed. 

“I don’t actually have her number,” Christen chuckled weakly, already backing toward the door. “Thanks for the help, though.”

“Sammy, you should go take care of Target Six,” Kling interrupted, sending the blonde away and smirking at Christen. “That’s a nice axe throwing dress.”

“Thanks, Kling,” Christen said with a tight-lipped smile.

“You must be really good because she left a note,” Kling rolled her eyes, handing Christen the slip of paper Tobin had left behind just in case Christen showed up. 

Christen immediately brightened, her stomach fluttering as she took the paper from Kling. She looked down, her eyes tracking across messy, scrawled handwriting.

 

Meant to tell you the other night, but I’m off for the week. I’m still in town at 452 NW Glisan St. Come by if you want.

 

Christen offered Kling a grateful smile and walked out of the bar, ambling slowly down the street. She shivered slightly at the cool breeze, signaling that fall was fast approaching. She dropped her eyes back to the note in her hand and worried her lower lip.

The bar was safe. It was neutral ground. It was comfortable and vaguely anonymous, without too many personal details. It was casual. But if she went to Tobin’s place...maybe they would lose that anonymity. Maybe they would lose some of that casualness which Christen desperately clung to. 

But she couldn’t fathom not seeing Tobin for an entire week. It wasn’t just that she was really horny and needed Tobin in that way…which she definitely did. 

But over the past two months, she’d developed a need for Tobin in other ways too. She needed her lopsided grin and her warm brown eyes. She needed her deep throaty chuckle and her easy demeanor. She needed these things even if she wasn’t ready to admit it to herself just yet.

 She wasn’t ready to think about how not meaningless, how not casual things were starting to become, especially if she showed up at 452 NW Glisan St. tonight. She wasn’t ready to open that door, but she also wasn’t about to miss Tobin for a week. So she pulled out her phone and called an Uber.

~

Tobin had nearly called it a night. She’d put away leftovers from the dinner she’d made herself, relieved to not be eating bar food or takeout from down the street for the first time in a while. The TV was off and her sweats were on. 

She hadn’t really expected Christen to use her address. She’d hoped, but she hadn’t expected it. 

Christen was unpredictable. She didn’t show up to the bar every night, picking and choosing when she wanted to see Tobin. She didn’t always want to sit down for a drink beforehand, but sometimes she did take something Tobin offered. Sometimes she wanted her shirt to stay on, and other times, she’d drag Tobin’s hands under her shirt, desperate for her to touch. 

Christen was unpredictable, so Tobin had no expectations. And that’s why when the doorbell rang and Tobin realized that she was in loungewear, her heart practically stopped in her throat. It only made matters worse when she peeked through a window and saw that Christen was in fact at her door in the tightest black dress she’d ever seen, looking perfect and calm and confident. 

Tobin didn’t have time to change. She ran a hand through her still damp hair from a recent shower, trying to make it look a little more brushed and jogged down the stairs to the front door. 

“Hey,” Tobin said when she opened the door and cursed herself a little more for wearing fuzzy, blue socks down the stairs instead of taking them off or slipping shoes on. 

Christen let her eyes trail down Tobin, taking in the wet spots the ends of her hair were leaving on her white t-shirt, the loose-fitting sweats and the blue fuzzy socks on her feet. 

“Cute socks,” Christen smirked, her eyes lifting to meet Tobin’s.

“Thank you,” Tobin replied, trying to keep her voice even so that Christen didn’t realize that she was slightly embarrassed about how she looked comparatively. “Cute dress,” she added with a grin. 

Christen laughed, the sound rich and warm. “Thank you,” she parroted, the corner of her mouth pulled up into a teasing half-smile. “I, uh, heard you were on vacation.”

“It’s a staycation, but yes,” Tobin nodded. 

“In that case can I come in?” Christen asked.

“Of course,” Tobin said, stepping back and opening the door a little wider for Christen to walk through. She silently sent up a thank you to the universe for giving her the day off, which she’d spent cleaning her house, so it didn’t look messy. 

Even if there was plenty of space, Christen purposefully brushed close to Tobin as she entered, the spicy notes of Tobin’s perfume filling her head with a haze she was already struggling to fight through. She let her fingertips trail across the soft material of Tobin’s white shirt as she moved by her, stepping into the house.

“You want something to drink?” Tobin asked as she shut the door.

“Got any margaritas?” Christen teased, waiting in the hallway to follow Tobin wherever Tobin was going to lead them.

“Yes,” Tobin answered seriously. 

“Water’s fine,” Christen replied with a smile.

Tobin moved around Christen, letting her hand brush against Christen’s as she passed, and led the way to the kitchen. “Ice or no ice?” she asked, reaching into a cabinet for a glass. 

“Ice, please. Thank you,” Christen hummed, drifting over to the chairs lining the countertop and sitting daintily onto one, her focus solely on Tobin.

Tobin busied herself with putting ice in the glass and filling it with water, going slower than she normally would, in order to relax just a little bit. Having Christen in her home was exhilarating and nerve-wracking, and Tobin suddenly had no idea where to go from here. She set the glass in front of Christen and then leaned against the counter, watching the other woman in all of her overly-dressed glory. 

“I hope I’m not intruding,” Christen murmured, her fingers toying with the water glass.

“I don’t think anyone else is here,” Tobin hummed, teasingly peeking around the fridge and into the living room. 

Christen’s eyes crinkled as a small chuckle left her lips. “Still, I...thanks for letting me come in.”

“I wouldn’t have left the note if I didn’t want you coming in,” Tobin admitted.

Christen nodded softly, her eyes dancing between Tobin’s. “Speaking of that note, who’s the new girl? At the bar?”

“Sam, she only fills in sometimes. She’s a student at UoP, so her schedule’s too busy to be a full-time employee. She picks up shifts when one of us is off,” Tobin answered. 

Christen hummed in response, taking a small sip of water just to have something to do.

“Did you have a nice night?” Tobin asked, nodding to the fancy dress that Christen was wearing. 

“Oh- um, yeah. Super fun. Drinks, no dancing. Downtown. Um, at a...karaoke bar,” Christen stammered, trying to lie on the spot even if she was a horrible liar. She was dressed up for Tobin, this whole outfit and ensemble was for Tobin. It always was. 

“Well whatever it was, I’m glad I get to see you in that dress,” Tobin said, trailing her eyes up and down what she could see of Christen across the counter.  

“You can see what I put on underneath it as well, if you want,” Christen murmured, a coy smile playing at her lips as they returned to the safety of their flirty banter, of the sexual chemistry that always existed between them. 

“I always want that,” Tobin murmured. “Pick a room.”

“I’m at a disadvantage, I can only see the kitchen,” Christen replied, her coy smile melting into a smirk.

“You’re allowed to wander,” Tobin grinned, her eyes crinkling a little. “You can explore and get back to me.”

Christen couldn’t deny the excitement that swirled around within her at the offer, at the ability to walk this gorgeous space and pick a room where Tobin would take this dress off and make her see stars. But she also had been thinking about something, something that had never really been on the table until Tobin extended the invite back to her place. 

“Counteroffer,” Christen breathed out, leaning a bit closer to Tobin, close enough to catch the golden flecks in her eyes. 

“Are you a lawyer because I have a rule about sleeping with lawyers,” Tobin laughed. She knew that Christen wasn’t a lawyer. She’d seen her in scrubs. She’d seen her briefly dressed for whatever job she did, but she wasn’t going to assume what that was, and she wasn’t going to guess. She’d wait for Christen to tell her, if that day ever came. 

Christen just shook her head and leaned even closer to Tobin, close enough that it would only take a slight tilt of her head to press their lips together. 

“Counteroffer,” she repeated, her voice growing just a little deeper. “I’ll pick a room after you take me to bed.”

“I can do that,” Tobin husked, taking Christen’s hand and leading her up the stairs to her bedroom. She wasn’t about to waste time when Christen was here, in person, in her house, dressed like that . She turned on her bedroom light, once again grateful that she’d done laundry and cleaned, that the bedsheets were fresh and her floor was spotless. 

“Is this staying on?” Tobin asked, running her hands over the smooth fabric of the black dress covering Christen. 

“No, not tonight,” Christen husked, her skin already prickling in anticipation.

Tobin turned Christen around and pushed her hair out of the way, so that she could tug the zipper down, much like their first time in the bathroom at the bar. Only this time, she pressed kisses along Christen’s shoulders and down her spine as she unzipped the dress. This time she touched and she took her time, slightly less frenzied than usual. 

Tobin spun Christen around, so that she could see those green eyes again. She helped shimmy the dress down over Christen’s hips, squeezing her ass with both hands as she moved it down and pulling Christen’s body even closer to her own. When the dress was on the floor and Christen was left in her heels and a matching black lingerie set, Tobin nearly let out a groan. Christen’s body was by far the most perfect body in the world, and she rarely got to see all of it. 

“This is even better than the dress,” Tobin husked, bending down and taking one of Christen’s nipples into her mouth over the lace fabric of the bra. 

Christen’s moan spilled from her lips, reckless and unfettered. She arched into Tobin’s mouth, her fingers tangling in Tobin’s tousled waves.

Tobin lavished both nipples with kisses and soft tugs, all the while keeping Christen’s lingerie on, much to Christen’s obvious annoyance. Tobin smirked each time Christen tugged at the back of her neck or her hands, but she didn’t move any quicker. She wanted the woman in front of her, and she wanted her for as long as Christen would allow. 

After kissing nearly every inch of Christen’s body, Tobin finally put her out of some misery. She knelt down on the floor and helped Christen out of her heels before she stood back up and lifted the woman onto her bed. 

“How do you want it?” Tobin asked, looking down at the woman splayed out on her bed. 

Christen forced herself to breathe, to stay grounded in the moment. She forced her eyes to stay open, to look up at the cocky smirk on Tobin’s lips, at the soft look in her eyes. 

“I just want you,” Christen husked, snaking her hands beneath Tobin’s shirt and raking her nails down Tobin’s sides gently. “However, whatever. I just want you.”

“I know that you like my fingers inside you,” Tobin hummed, watching Christen squirm a little on her bed, clearly getting wetter by the second. “I have something else if you want to use it.”

Christen felt her breath catch in her throat at the whispered offer. She didn’t think it could get better, the sex with Tobin. She was beyond satisfied with Tobin’s talented hands and gifted tongue. But the idea of this ...it had Christen almost coming at the thought. 

She ran her tongue across her bottom lip, her eyes moving down to Tobin’s hips, imagining how they would look in a harness. Her own hips twitched at the thought.

“Fuck, Tobin. Get it. Get it please ,” Christen begged, not caring about the whine in her voice or the want in her words. She hooked a hand around the back of Tobin’s neck and pulled her down, crashing their lips together. Christen had to kiss her. She had to. Tobin Heath was about to get out a strap on and Christen had to kiss her.

Tobin pressed one final, lingering kiss to Christen’s lips and slipped off the bed. She opened a dresser drawer and pulled out her harness, the blue toy already in its place. She then turned around to show it to Christen and gauge her reaction. 

Tobin smiled at the way Christen swallowed thickly and wet her bottom lip, at the way she could turn Christen on. Tobin worked her clothes off at a torturously slow pace, tossing her sweatpants, socks, t-shirt, and underwear onto the floor with Christen’s dress and heels. 

Not only was this a new place for the two of them to have sex, a new way for the two of them to have sex, but this seemed to reveal a new side to Christen. She was less frenzied, more focused on watching Tobin, and Tobin couldn’t get enough. She kept her eyes glued to Christen’s as she stepped into the harness, pulling it up her legs. 

When the strap-on was in place, Tobin stalked toward the bed, crawling onto it and joining Christen. She bent down to leave a few kisses across Christen’s chest, fully aware that as she sank lower and reached around to unclasp the bra, the tip of the toy pressed against Christen. 

Christen hissed at the contact, her hips jolting up and off the bed. She had never been this sensitive before. She felt like every nerve ending was firing, like she could feel Tobin everywhere except right where she needed her. 

“God you’re hot,” Christen rasped, feeling Tobin swirl her tongue around her nipple before taking it between her teeth gently. Moaning, Christen pushed a hand through her curls, the other fisting in the bedsheets at her side. “It’s criminal. You shouldn’t-” Christen faltered, feeling the toy press against her again. “- and now with that- god, Tobin. So hot ,” Christen panted, pushing her hips up, seeking contact from anything she could find.

“You are the sexiest woman I’ve ever met,” Tobin whispered, tugging on Christen’s earlobe with her teeth. 

With another keening whine, Christen pushed her hips up. “Please,” she whispered, beyond the point of caring if it sounded like she was begging.

Tobin pulled away, sitting back on her knees and staring at the complete mess of a woman on her bed. “I can take this off?” she asked, although she knew she didn’t need to, thumbing the waistband of Christen’s underwear. She wanted to hear Christen again. She wanted to hear her beg, to hear her ask for release. 

“Yes, off. Take it off,” Christen gasped, her hands tightening their grip on the sheets.

Tobin pulled the underwear off, tossing it to the floor. She quickly ran a finger through the dripping wet heat between Christen’s legs, getting a broken gasp out of Christen for her efforts. Christen was wet, wet enough that Tobin really wouldn’t need to do anything else before sliding the toy inside of her. 

Tobin brought her dripping finger up to her mouth, swirling her tongue around her finger. The taste of Christen Press on her tongue would never get old, and she planned on tasting her as many times as Christen would let her. 

Tobin ,” Christen groaned, the sound a little broken and very desperate. It was a plea, a choked out beg for Tobin to stop stalling, to start moving. 

Tobin smirked and moved to hover over Christen’s body. She kept her eyes glued to Christen’s as she used one hand to guide the toy to her entrance, teasing for a few moments before gently sliding it inside of her. Tobin moved slowly, not wanting to do too much too fast, hardly moving her hips at first. 

With a low, drawn out moan, Christen’s hand fisted the sheets so tightly she was certain she was ripping them. 

“Oh...fuck,” Christen choked out when she felt Tobin push the toy further inside of her. “Slow, Tobin, slow...yeah, like that,” Christen rasped, riding every wave of ecstasy that rolled through her as Tobin followed her instructions to the letter, going achingly, devastatingly slow. 

Once she was used to the feeling, the weight, the pressure, once Tobin’s hips were flush with hers, Christen didn’t want slow anymore. She wanted to see what Tobin could do with this, wanted to see how Tobin could make her feel.

Loosening her grip on the sheets, Christen used one hand to grasp onto Tobin’s hip and the other to cradle the corner of Tobin’s jaw. She pulled Tobin close, their lips almost brushing. Christen felt her hips twitch involuntarily, a groan leaving her parted lips at the small wave of pleasure that rushed through her. 

“I’d- I’d really like you to fuck me now,” Christen husked, her eyes fluttering open to meet Tobin’s.

“Anytime,” Tobin smirked, placing a hand on either side of Christen’s body and rolling her hips once, experimentally. At the delighted gasp that left Christen’s lips, Tobin grinned and did it again. And again. And again. She relished the gasps and sighs and moans each slow roll of her hips wrenched from Christen. 

She increased her speed as Christen began to push up into her and tug at her hips. Holding herself steady with one hand and exploring Christen’s body with the other, Tobin pulled one of Christen’s legs up and around her back, trying with each thrust to get closer, to go deeper, to make Christen completely overwhelmed with pleasure. 

All the while, Tobin kept her eyes on Christen’s. She watched Christen’s pupils dilate when she hit the right spot. Tobin saw Christen’s eyes screw shut and her eyelids flutter open with each brush of her hands over smooth skin. The woman underneath her was intoxicating, and Tobin couldn’t help but watch her every response and reaction. 

Christen felt the pressure building quickly, so quickly that her hips started to twitch and her back started to arch. She was close, impossibly close, and she knew how she wanted to come. She wanted to come with Tobin buried inside of her and Tobin’s lips on her own. 

“Kiss me,” Christen practically begged, tangling her hand in the hair at the back of Tobin’s head, tugging none-too-gently.

“Also anytime,” Tobin whispered, taking Christen’s bottom lip in her own and kissing her with as much passion as she possibly could. She pulled Christen slightly closer, almost up off the mattress, changing the angle just a bit as she kept thrusting, as her hips jerked down into Christen’s. 

Tobin slipped her tongue into Christen’s mouth, kissing her sloppily, with every ounce of desire she’d been feeling for the past two months of sex in the bar. 

This was different. This kiss and this night and this moment was different, and despite knowing that it was going to hurt her, that Christen could destroy her, Tobin kissed her with everything she had. 

It was with Tobin’s name on her tongue that Christen toppled over the edge, when she felt her whole body ignite and her orgasm roll through her over and over and over again, seemingly never ending as Tobin continued to roll her hips. 

It took her almost a full minute to come back to Earth, to do more than pull in shaky breaths and forcefully expel them into the small bit of space between their lips. 

But when she finally recovered enough to open her eyes, Christen was met with the softest look in Tobin’s brown eyes she’d ever seen. 

It was a softness that shouldn’t exist in a moment so saturated with sex and desire and an almost animalistic want. But it was a softness that did exist, a softness that seemed to speak right to the broken bits of Christen’s heart.

“Like I said,” Tobin murmured, her hips finally stilling. “You are the sexiest woman I’ve ever met.” 

Christen had the audacity to blush, covering her flushed cheeks with her arm as she flung it across her face. 

“I think you have me confused with someone else,” Christen hummed, feeling her stomach twitch and twist as aftershocks pulsed through her.

“Nope, I’ve seen a lot of you,” Tobin chuckled, still holding herself up right above Christen. 

Hidden away from those soft brown eyes, Christen could sink back into what she was comfortable with: the fire between them, the chemistry, the sex. She didn’t want to unpack the look in Tobin’s eyes right now, she couldn’t. So instead, she reached down and gently pushed Tobin’s hips so that Tobin slowly pulled out of her and flopped onto the bed by her side.

Once she could focus on something other than the emptiness she now felt, Christen removed the arm from across her face and rolled over. She looked down at Tobin, her eyes skirting away from those brown eyes and drinking in the sight of the harness still around Tobin’s waist, the slight sheen of sweat across her chest and between her breasts. 

“Can I take that off?” Christen asked, smirking at Tobin and letting go of everything except for the raw desire she had for the woman next to her.

Tobin lifted her hips, offering a nonverbal yes in response to Christen’s question. Christen made quick work of the harness, removing the last barrier between them. She threw her leg over Tobin’s hips and brought their bare skin into contact for the first time. 

Not letting herself sigh and sink into how right it felt to have Tobin’s naked body pressed against her own, Christen caught Tobin’s lips in a bruising kiss and lost herself to the hazy desire settling in her mind. 

She made Tobin fall apart with just her fingers, and then with her mouth, and then with both until Tobin was a stuttering, stumbling mess. 

Once they’d thoroughly enjoyed all that the bed had to offer, they explored. Tobin made her fall apart pressed against the wall of the hallway, two fingers buried inside of her. She made Tobin sigh and moan her name sitting on top of the kitchen counter, with her head buried between Tobin’s legs. They came together on the couch, their hands trapped between their bodies as Tobin tumbled over the edge first and Christen quickly followed.

And once they’d returned to the bedroom, they’d collapsed into the bed, with Christen promising she just needed to shut her eyes for five minutes and then she’d leave. 

~

Hours later, Christen slowly came out of slumber, feeling peaceful and safe nestled within a warm embrace.

But when she peeled her eyes open and realized where she was, and whose arms had found their way around her, Christen didn’t feel so safe and peaceful anymore. 

With Tobin’s face pressed against the back of her neck and Tobin’s arm slung low across her waist, with Tobin’s bare chest flush against her back and their legs tangled together, Christen felt trapped and slightly suffocated. 

As gently and slowly as she could, Christen wiggled out of Tobin’s arms, sliding out of the bed. She got dressed quietly, having to search around for her bra and underwear, but eventually finding them, as well as her dress. She grabbed her heels and then hesitated at the bedroom door, turning to look back at the woman she’d left in bed. 

She looks younger like this , Christen thought to herself as she gazed at Tobin. She watched Tobin’s lips part and small puffs of air escape them, she watched her forehead furrow slightly and her arm flex against the bed, almost as if it were searching for Christen. 

Something about the vulnerability in Tobin’s face as she slept gave Christen pause, making her wonder for the millionth time if this was as meaningless as she was leading herself to believe. 

If she were honest...it hadn’t been truly meaningless for a while for her, and that utterly terrified her. It also wasn’t something she wanted to think about or fully admit to herself, least of all to Tobin. She couldn’t do meaningful. She wasn’t ready. 

So instead of staying like she desperately wished to do, Christen walked out of Tobin’s bedroom and headed downstairs. As she grabbed her purse from the kitchen counter, she spied a pile of sticky notes nearby. Convincing herself there was no harm in it, Christen quickly scribbled a note and stuck it on the fridge, leaving before she could second guess herself. 

~

It wasn’t the first time Tobin had woken up alone. Most mornings were spent on her own, waking up sprawled across her mattress with no one else beside her, so this wasn’t abnormal. It wasn’t even the first time that Tobin had woken up alone after falling asleep with someone else. That had happened multiple times in college, and she’d definitely been the girl who left someone else alone in bed before. 

That being said, this was the first time that Tobin had woken up alone and felt her heart clench in pain at the cold mattress beside her. She rolled over onto her back, rubbing her eyelids with the heels of her hands, trying to force her emotions back down. She didn’t need to get emotional about someone who would and could never be emotional about her. 

Tobin had seen it last night. She’d seen Christen’s hesitation. She’d seen Christen pull back when she’d looked at her a little too long, a little too tenderly. She’d seen Christen freeze, and she’d realized just how much Christen’s feelings hadn’t changed. 

She slipped from her bed, feeling much more naked and vulnerable than she had the night before when Christen had been staring at her body and touching her in all the right ways. She pulled on sweats and a sweatshirt, hoping for the lump in her throat to go away, desperate for her emotions to settle down. 

“You said you could do meaningless. Don’t freak out now,” Tobin thought to herself, making her way downstairs for her coffee machine. It took two sips of coffee for Tobin to actually notice the bright green sticky note on the fridge, and when she did, no matter how hard she tried to keep it in check, her heart thrummed with something that resembled hope. 

 

Tobin,

It’s my turn to leave a note! I’m sorry, I had an early start at work so I left while you were asleep. I’d love to stop by tonight and see you again if you want. Here’s my number in case that doesn’t fit with your super fun staycation plans: (971) 569-2343. Hope to hear from you.

-Christen

 

[Tobs 9:23AM]

When a girl gives you her number, how long do you wait to text?

[Kling 9:24AM]

This a hypothetical or…

[Tobs 9:24AM]

Asking for a friend

[Kling 9:25AM]

Oh I see...Just text Christen you dork. You’re already sleeping with her!

[Tobs 9:25AM]

But I don’t want to seem like I care

[Tobs 9:25AM]

I mean...my friend doesn’t want to seem like she cares…?

[Kling 9:25AM]

But you do care. Don’t deny it. Just text her, Tobs, and ask her on a date and tell her you want more

[Tobs 9:25AM]

I know that I care. I’m very aware, but she doesn’t want me to care, so I have to act like I don’t. How do you act like you don’t care?

[Kling 9:26AM]

Not possible, bro. If you care, you can’t hide it for long. Might as well tell her now!

[Tobs 9:26AM]

I’m gonna ask Pinoe

 

~

 

[Heath 9:27AM]

When a girl gives you her number, how long do you wait to text?

[Pinoe 9:27AM]

Depends, you booty calling her?

[Heath 9:27AM]

I mean...we’re having sex, yes

[Pinoe 9:27AM]

Grow a vagina and text the green-eyed goddess. You’re such a child! Text her and enjoy your vacay, bitch

 

~

 

[Tobin 9:29AM]

When a girl gives you her number, how long do you wait to text?

[A.D. 9:29AM]

I’m offended I’m third on your list, considering I’m wifed up and way better at this stuff than Kling and Pinoe

[Tobin 9:29AM]

They sleep around...also you obviously care about your wife and I’m trying not to care or whatever

[A.D. 9:30AM]

Mistake #1, Boss. You can’t do casual when you don’t want casual

[A.D. 9:30AM]

I say don’t text her. Call her and ask her to dinner and ask for what you want. Stop beating around the bush...

[A.D. 9:30AM]

Literally 

[Tobin 9:30AM]

But maybe if I can do casual long enough she’ll want something more at some point

[A.D. 9:31AM]

Maybe...but either way, I’ll have the ice cream ready.

 

Tobin took a deep breath and put her phone down on the counter. She’d never been this nervous to text another woman. It was the balancing act that she was worried about. She suddenly needed to act like she was a decent fuck buddy who didn’t care about feelings, while also proving that she was emotionally available for whenever Christen was ready to take that step with someone. And none of her friends seemed to get that. 

 

~

 

Christen rubbed the sleep from her eyes and took a long sip of coffee, focusing back in on the paperwork in front of her. She’d had the busiest morning ever. She’d had to perform an emergency surgery on a puppy who’d swallowed their owners keys, which had really set her back. Then she had routine check-ups and a problem customer who didn’t understand why she wouldn’t take a look at his pet iguana, because she didn’t specialize in exotic pets. 

Right now was the quietest her day had been so far, so she finally got a chance to pull out her phone and turn it on. 

When she saw a text come in from a number she didn’t have saved, she felt her heart jump into her throat.

 

[(971) 814-6354  11:42AM]

I don’t have any staycation plans. It’s the beauty of a staycation

 

Christen felt a smile make its way onto her face, the first one all day. She abandoned her paperwork and took another sip of coffee, saving Tobin’s contact information and then trying to figure out the right response.

 

[Christen Press 11:44AM]

Are you opposed to making plans?

[Tobin Heath 11:45AM]

Definitely not opposed. Anything in mind?

[Christen Press 11:45AM]

We didn’t explore your bathroom...or the bathtub I definitely saw in there

 

Christen’s cheeks flushed at her own text. She felt like a teenager, sending salacious texts when she shouldn’t be. She looked around the office for someone, for anyone, who would catch her. But her vet techs were on lunch and the receptionist was pretending not to be FaceTiming his boyfriend instead of filing paperwork. 

When she felt her phone buzz, Christen dropped her attention back to it.

 

[Tobin Heath 11:47AM]

That’s very true. Those sound like good plans. Are you working late?

[Christen Press 11:47AM]

I’m off at 5:30. 

[Christen Press 11:47AM]

No more guesses about my profession?

[Tobin Heath 11:47AM]

Dentist?

[Christen Press 11:47AM]

I like sweet things too much for that

[Tobin Heath 11:47AM]

Hmm...model?

[Christen Press 11:47AM]

Ignoring that one. Guess again

[Tobin Heath 11:48AM]

Yoga instructor? *whispers* you’re very flexible

 

Christen blushed and ran a hand over her hair, smoothing it down and tucking an escaped flyaway into her bun.

 

[Christen Press 11:48AM]

I do yoga, but I don’t instruct it. You’re getting colder...

[Tobin Heath 11:48AM]

I was warmer with model wasn’t I? Dang...

[Christen Press 11:49AM]

Cute. No, your closest guess was dentist shockingly

[Tobin Heath 11:49AM]

Doctor? Like the female McDreamy?

[Christen Press 11:49AM]

YOU WATCH GREY’S ANATOMY?!

[Tobin Heath 11:49AM]

I don’t know if I can call it watching if I look at it through watery eyes and only make out a few characters as I sob. Is that watching?

[Christen Press 11:49AM]

That’s how I do it too. Shonda owns my ass

[Tobin Heath 11:50AM]

So...you are a female McDreamy?

[Christen Press 11:50AM]

More like McVet

[Tobin Heath 11:50AM]

YOU WORK WITH PUPPIES ALL DAY?!

 

This was her third time letting out a giggle, an honest to god giggle, and her receptionist Nathan wasn’t about to let her off this hook again.

“Who’s the lucky lady?” Nathan smirked over his own phone. 

Christen blushed and rolled her eyes. “Paperwork, Nathan. It won’t file itself. Say goodbye to Jordan and get back to work, yeah?”

“You’d think she’d be more amenable after getting a lady lover,” Nathan teased, blowing a kiss to Jordan and hanging up the FaceTime call. “But really you’re seeing someone, Doc?”

“Paperwork, Nathan,” Christen repeated, getting up from her desk chair and sliding on her white coat and grabbing her phone and wallet. “I’m getting more coffee. Want anything?”

“A vanilla iced coffee with an espresso shot and two pumps of hazelnut,” Nathan said with a grin, knowing just how much Christen hated complicated orders. 

Christen rolled her eyes again, walking out of her office. Once she was on the curb and headed for Dutch Bros, she pulled her phone back out and saw Tobin had texted her again.

 

[Tobin Heath 11:51AM]

How do I know which breed won’t eat the furniture in my apartment? Also how do you train a dog to bring drinks to people? I hope you know you’ve now opened the floodgates of any and every animal related question. 

[Christen Press 11:54AM]

No, I don’t always get to work with puppies. Even if I had to take car keys out of a puppy this morning... 

[Christen Press 11:54AM]

You own a bar where people throw sharp things around. A dog might not be a good idea, Tobin

 

Christen’s eyes were on her phone as she walked the short distance from her office to Dutch Bros, thankful there were no major streets or crosswalks between them, because she certainly wasn’t paying attention to anything except texting Tobin Heath.

 

[Tobin Heath 11:54AM]

You had to cut open a dog and take car keys out of it?!

[Christen Press 11:54AM]

Sugar is a piece of work, but I got the car keys out in time for the owner to make it to her class on time

[Tobin Heath 11:55AM]

You are very impressive and intimidating now...Also you’re telling me I can never have a dog because of the axes?

[Christen Press 11:55AM]

That is my professional medical opinion, yes

[Tobin Heath 11:55AM]

I’m going to be alone forever because I refuse to get a cat

[Christen Press 11:56AM]

What happened to our bathtub plans? Doesn't sound like you’ll be alone tonight...

[Tobin Heath 11:56AM]

I am veeeery ready for you to be off of work

 

Christen sighed, feeling that familiar warmth pooling low in her stomach as she read Tobin’s message. She was ready to be off work as well. She quickly ordered her coffees and paid, grabbing them from the barista before making the short walk back to her office. 

She handed Nathan his iced coffee and stifled another eye roll when she saw Jordan back on Nathan’s phone. But at least Nathan was filing paperwork.

Retreating to her desk, she sank into her chair and pulled open her texts with Tobin, trying to think of an answer. But before she could, a new message came in.

 

[Lily 11:58AM]

Heeeyyy ladies! Long time, no messaging in our group chat. I know I’ve been a little distant with the honeymoon and the first couple months of married life, but I have some amazing news…

[Lily 11:58AM]

ATTACHMENT: 1 IMAGE

 

Christen felt the world start to tilt, her vision blurring at the edges. She forced herself to read the text message again, to click on the photo and zoom in on the picture Lily had sent.

It couldn’t be. It wasn’t. 

But it was . There, prominently featured in the picture, was a pregnancy test with a stupid little plus sign.

Christen’s stomach rolled and she immediately shot up from her desk, racing into the staff restroom nearby and locking herself inside. She sank to her knees in front of the toilet and relived the bagel she’d had after surgery this morning. After getting sick again and then dry heaving a few times, Christen leaned back and sat down on the tile floor, wiping her hand across her mouth. 

Lily was pregnant. Lily was pregnant . It suddenly felt like every bit of progress she’d made had been rendered moot, like every newly formed scar on her heart had been ripped right open. 

She hadn’t thought about Lily in weeks, in months. She’d stopped waking up with a pain in her chest and an ache in her heart. She’d stopped dreaming of what if’s and if only things were different’s. She’d stopped torturing herself for wasting so much time, for falling for Lily in the first place. Instead, she’d been preoccupied with a beautiful bar owner and all the incredible sex they’d been having. 

But here Lily was, sneaking back into her life right when she didn’t need it. Right when it felt like she was rounding the corner, Lily pulled her back in.

Christen dropped her head into her hands, ignoring the constant buzzing from the phone in her pocket, which she was sure were texts of congratulations and well wishes from the bridesmaids’ group chat, wishes she didn’t share in. 

As her stomach continued to roll, as her heart fractured and fissured in her chest, the one thing that surprised Christen was that she didn’t cry. She didn’t cry right now and she really didn’t know when she would.

 

~

 

Tobin tossed all of her shoes on the floor for the third time that day, staring at the empty shoe racks in her closet and thinking about which shoes should go where this time around. It wasn’t that she didn’t have a life...she did. It was just that her life was the bar. She’d poured every dollar she had and every minute of her life into that place, and whenever she took days off, she realized how much she didn’t have to do outside of it. She’d already been on a run, watched a few episodes of Marriage or Mortgage , caught up with some of her family members, and reorganized her closet. 

She was willing to do anything to distract herself from the fact that Christen hadn’t texted back in nearly five hours, which either meant another puppy ate keys or Christen was really serious about her meaningless sex plan. And although she’d deny it if anyone ever asked, Tobin lunged across the room when her phone buzzed on top of her dresser. 

 

[Christen Press 4:40PM]

I got off early. Can I come over?

[Tobin Heath 4:41PM]

Sure. See you soon

 

Tobin raced to stack her shoes back on the shoe rack, running a hand through her hair and straightening the short-sleeved henley she had on with her ripped jeans. Because, no matter how hard she tried to hide it or tried to keep pace with Christen, Tobin was desperately excited to see her again. 

“Hey,” Tobin grinned, as soon as Christen appeared at her door in a pair of yellow scrubs with cartoon puppies on them. 

Christen didn’t bother with pleasantries. She brushed right by Tobin and turned back around quickly to push Tobin against the now-closed front door. She fused their lips together in a bruising kiss, her hands desperately grasping for purchase anywhere she could find, on Tobin’s hips, on her sides, under her shirt.

Tobin’s lips were slow. Her mind was fuzzy, confused about why Christen hadn’t done their usual, slightly flirty dance. So, as much as she loved kissing Christen, as addicting as her lips were, Tobin pushed her hands against Christen’s hips softly, breaking the kiss, so that she could look at Christen’s eyes. 

“You okay?” Tobin asked, trying to catch her breath. 

Christen held it together for all of five seconds. Five seconds where she just gazed into those warm, soft brown eyes and tried to pretend like everything was fine. But then the five seconds passed and her eyes filled with the tears that had stubbornly refused to fall all day. Her lower lip trembled and she felt like she was moments from collapsing under the weight of it all. 

Tobin immediately reached out and wrapped her arms tightly around Christen’s trembling shoulders, the action completely instinctual. Despite her whiplash at going from being kissed to seeing Christen crumble in a matter of seconds, Tobin pulled Christen close and felt her chest tighten with worry.  

She didn’t know what had upset Christen or what she could possibly say to her to make things better. She didn’t know if she could. So instead, she just held Christen securely in her arms and rubbed her hands up and down Christen’s back. 

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Tobin cooed, softly, feeling the woman in her arms let out a shuddery breath. 

Christen clung tightly to Tobin, her arms wrapped around Tobin’s waist as she buried her face in the crook of Tobin’s neck, her tears spilling from her eyes with no signs of stopping. Stuttered breaths and wet gasps left her lips as she felt sob after sob wrack her frame.

“Do you want some water? We could lie down. I can make tea or something,” Tobin offered. 

“I- I don’t- I don’t know- I’m sorry,” Christen managed between shaky breaths, keeping her face tucked into Tobin’s neck.

“You don’t need to be sorry,” Tobin whispered, tightening her grip on Christen as the woman completely shattered. Without any prior experience in this department, Tobin decided that she could at least help Christen get more comfortable. She kept one hand around Christen’s back and used the other one to scoop Christen’s legs up off the ground. 

Tobin slowly carried Christen up the stairs to her bedroom, letting Christen bury her face in her neck the entire way. When she reached her bedroom, she set Christen down on the edge of the bed, keeping her arms on her as much as she could. 

“Do you want to borrow some sweats?” Tobin asked gently. 

Christen nodded, almost robotically. She loosened her grip on Tobin’s shirt and let her hands fall to her lap, silent tears streaming down her face.

Tobin pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt for Christen to borrow. She quickly pulled Christen’s scrub top and pants off, making sure to keep her eyes on Christen or the clothing. She’d seen her naked dozens of times but never in this kind of situation, never when Christen was this vulnerable. She then shimmied out of her own clothes, pulling on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

When clothes were changed, Tobin pulled the comforter back on her bed and helped Christen slip under the covers. She quickly crawled into bed beside her, opening up her arms for Christen to sink into if she chose to. 

With absolutely no hesitation, Christen moved into Tobin’s embrace, tucking her head beneath Tobin’s chin and wrapping her arm around Tobin’s waist. She let her eyes fall shut, tears leaking out from behind closed eyes and dripping onto the t-shirt Tobin wore. 

“I didn’t- I didn’t know where else to go,” Christen whispered. She tried not to think about how this was the opposite of meaningless, the opposite of casual. She tried not to think about it because Lily was pregnant and she’d fallen back down to rock bottom because of that. She tried not to think about it because even if it hurt like hell, it actually stung a little less right now with Tobin’s arms around her.

“That’s okay. Here is fine. I’m glad you came here,” Tobin murmured, pressing a kiss to the top of Christen’s head and running her hands up and down her back. Tobin had no idea what was going on, but her heart broke with each tear that slipped from Christen’s eyes and into the collar of her t-shirt. 

“I’m sorry,” Christen mumbled, sniffling a bit and willing the tears spilling from her eyes to stop falling.

“Don’t apologize. You’re not doing anything wrong,” Tobin said, running a thumb underneath one of Christen’s eyes to try and catch a few tears. 

Those soft, sweet words and that gentle touch set off a fresh wave of tears, making Christen angle her head and bury her face back in the crook of Tobin’s neck as she finally let herself completely break.

~

When Christen came to, she was still in Tobin’s arms. She must have dozed off, crying herself to sleep and falling into a restless slumber at some point, but she woke up in the same position that she’d fallen asleep in. Tobin’s arms were around her and her head was on Tobin’s chest. She could feel the occasional brush of lips against the top of her head, the slow rise and fall of Tobin’s chest. 

This time, the embrace didn’t move toward stifling or suffocating. It remained peaceful and safe and wonderful. This time, Christen didn’t leave, didn’t roll away. She instead tightened her hold on Tobin’s t-shirt and burrowed closer, too tired and too in pain to deny herself the comfort that came from Tobin’s arms around her.

Tobin could feel Christen squirm closer. She could feel her twisting her fingers in her t-shirt, and it made Tobin’s heart become warmer and warmer with each touch. She’d been dozing in and out of sleep for the past eight hours, holding tightly to Christen and letting her crash into a deep sleep. 

Now, though, Tobin could see on her watch that it was past 1:00AM. Her stomach was begging for the dinner she’d missed, and she had a feeling that Christen was also hungry, considering her stomach had grumbled in her sleep a few times.

She didn’t want to get up. She didn’t want to break whatever alternate universe they were suddenly in or scare Christen away. But she also wanted to take care of Christen as much as she possibly could, and that included making sure that she ate. 

“Chris?” Tobin whispered, rubbing Christen’s back softly with her fingers. 

Christen didn’t trust her voice. She could feel how raw her throat was from spending so long crying and sobbing and gasping for breath. She knew whatever words she managed to string together were going to come out raspy and hollow. So instead she just let out a soft hum, the sound quiet and vulnerable.

“I think we should probably eat before we fall asleep again. I can make us pizzas or something else,” Tobin offered. 

“Pizza’s nice,” Christen whispered hoarsely, her arm tightening reflexively around Tobin, not wanting to fathom letting Tobin get up, not wanting to fathom getting up herself.

“You can stay in bed if you want, and I can bring it up, or you can come with me,” Tobin murmured, reaching up to brush some baby hairs off of Christen’s forehead. 

Staying up here while Tobin left was the most unfathomable. With a sigh, Christen pushed off of Tobin’s chest and sat up, her head immediately starting to pound. Her eyes ached and her heart ached and it felt hard to breathe, but Tobin’s hand was on her back and that touch kept her grounded. 

“I think an Aspirin and some water would be good too,” Tobin hummed, pushing the covers off of her own legs. She kept a hand on Christen the entire time she got up and out of bed, almost like she was skittish and Tobin didn’t want her to bolt. 

Christen let herself be led out of the bedroom and downstairs to the kitchen. She sagged against Tobin’s side, finding just a bit of solace in the strong hand against her back and the occasional kiss Tobin pressed against her temple.

Tobin moved awkwardly around the kitchen with one arm and a woman pressed against her side. She thanked whatever karmic powers were looking out for her and had made her go grocery shopping earlier the day before, as she put pizza crusts onto sheet pans and spread sauce over them. 

“What’s your topping of choice?” Tobin mumbled against Christen’s skin. 

“Whatever you have is fine,” Christen replied softly, her head still tucked against the side of Tobin’s neck and her hand fisted in the back of her t-shirt. She didn’t question their closeness, their proximity. She didn’t question why the thought of leaving Tobin’s side sent a debilitating wave of fear and pain crashing through her. She didn’t question anything, she just stayed pressed against Tobin’s side.

“I have everything. What’s your favorite?”

“Tomatoes, mushrooms, and green peppers,” Christen hummed. 

“Interesting choices,” Tobin smiled, reaching for each of those toppings for the pizza that she was making for Christen. 

“What about you?” Christen asked.

“Hmm...I’ll be honest, I don’t like when tomatoes are hot, so that’s a no for me. I do like mushrooms though and olives. Sometimes I’ll put banana peppers on it when I’m feeling adventurous.”

Christen wrinkled her nose. “You lost me at olives,” she replied, her voice still a little hoarse, but getting stronger by the second.

“I won’t put olives on yours then,” Tobin grinned, pressing another kiss to Christen’s temple. “Were you the kind of kid who put ranch dressing on your pizza?”

“Sacrilegious to even ask me something like that,” Christen murmured.

“Agreed. I was really worried for a second that I was making a pizza for a ranch dipper,” Tobin teased. 

Christen felt the first smile in hours tug at her lips, a light at the end of the tunnel that Tobin and her pizza and her silly teasing were ushering her towards. 

“You’re good at that,” Christen observed candidly, too tired to filter herself or actually think about the words leaving her mouth.

“Spreading toppings? It’s all in the thumbs,” Tobin hummed. 

“Making me feel better,” Christen replied with a small shake of her head. 

“Is it my dorky charm, my comfy bed, or the homemade pizzas?” Tobin smirked. 

“I’ll let you know once I’ve tried the pizza,” Christen murmured with a teasing lilt in her voice now. 

Tobin gently put both of the pizzas in the oven, finding herself suddenly free to wrap both of her arms around Christen. She was glad that she was able to make Christen feel a tiny bit better. But that didn’t mean that she wasn’t curious about what exactly had propelled the other woman into her house and her arms and her bed. 

“I hope it’s really good pizza then,” Tobin chuckled. “How’s the key-eating dog?”

“Sugar’s fine,” Christen replied, dropping her forehead to Tobin’s shoulder as her arms encircled Tobin’s waist. “We sent her home at the end of the day.”

“Do you have your own dog?” Tobin asked, trying to keep Christen talking comfortably, trying to keep their conversation in safe waters. 

“Not yet. I’ve just always been too busy. Busy with life and then the- the wedding and then the stuff post-wedding,” Christen mumbled, feeling a shaky breath leave her lips as they skirted closer to the heart of the matter, to the reason Christen had come to Tobin’s doorstep tonight in tears.

“What kind of dog do you want?” Tobin asked, noticing the way Christen’s voice got tighter when she mentioned the wedding. 

“A shelter dog...I want to adopt.”

“Not a tiny yappy one though, right?” Tobin asked, thinking about the tiny dog her sister had bought and brought to Portland when she last visited. 

Christen huffed out a laugh. “Hell no,” Christen replied, a small shudder running through her. “No small dogs for me. I’d like one who can run with me.”

“Can I play with it?” Tobin asked softly. 

“I don’t even have it yet, Tobin,” Christen murmured.

“Yeah, but a vet today told me my lifestyle isn’t conducive to a dog. Can I play with yours?” Tobin repeated. 

Christen turned her head and pressed her smile into the crook of Tobin’s neck. “Sure,” she hummed.

“Are you gonna teach it tricks? I heard about people teaching dogs to get them a cider out of the fridge,” Tobin grinned. 

Christen leaned back and fixed Tobin with a curious look. “Do you ever run out of questions?”

“Never,” Tobin winked. “I just really love dogs. I grew up with a chocolate lab.”

“I think you’re just trying to keep me talking about dogs so I don’t break down on you for a third time,” Christen replied, her smile shaky and her green eyes suspiciously wet. 

Tobin’s heart ached for the woman in front of her and the obvious pain she was experiencing. She wanted to make things better, not worse, and asking about what was upsetting Christen seemed like it would only do the latter. She didn’t want Christen to leave, as selfish as that was. She didn’t want her to get angry, unload everything she felt, and leave. 

“I mean...I really do love dogs, but if you want to talk about something else we can,” Tobin offered, pushing down whatever selfishness she was feeling and trying to be there as much as she could for the woman in her arms. 

“I think I do want to talk about it,” Christen admitted quietly. “Not talking about things is what got me into this mess in the first place,” she added with a wry smile.

“I’m all ears, and pizza is the perfect pick-me-up after talking,” Tobin answered gently, running her hands up and down Christen’s back, like she’d been doing all night. 

Christen swallowed thickly, her eyes falling to a small hole in the collar of Tobin’s t-shirt. 

“Do you want to lie down on the couch or something? I can set a timer for the pizzas,” Tobin suggested, filling in the silence with soft-spoken words. 

“Lily’s pregnant,” Christen blurted, surprising even herself with the abruptness of her words. She hadn’t meant to ignore Tobin’s offer, she just felt the words bubbling up within her and she couldn’t stop them. She was glad she wasn’t lying down though. If she was, it would be too easy to curl back up on Tobin’s chest and break down again.

Tobin’s heart sank a little at the admission. She didn’t care that Lily was pregnant. She really didn’t give a shit about Lily, but she did care that Christen cared. She cared that Christen’s eyes were teary, that her bottom lip wobbled, that her cheeks were splotchy because Lily was married to someone else and pregnant. 

Tobin had realized early on that this situation wasn’t meaningless for her, and lately, she’d thought that maybe it wasn’t as meaningless to Christen as she’d planned. But now, Tobin felt like a stand-in, a substitute for what Christen really wanted. She wasn’t Lily, and she never would be. 

“And do you want to know the worst part?” Christen mumbled, her eyes still fixed on the collar of Tobin’s shirt.

“What’s that?” Tobin asked, trying to keep her voice from breaking or sounding raw. 

“I was finally able to wake up in the morning and breathe again. I could go through my day and not feel this gigantic weight on my chest anymore. I was happy. I wasn’t even thinking about her anymore. And then she popped up in a stupid group text and tried to drag me right back down…” Christen trailed off, chancing a look up at Tobin. 

Christen knew with absolute certainty that the woman still holding her, the woman standing in front of her who’d just made them homemade pizzas, was the main reason she’d been so happy lately. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that Tobin was the reason she could breathe, the reason the weight was gone. She just wasn’t ready to admit that to herself just yet. 

“That’s pretty shitty,” Tobin hummed, forcing herself to play the part of a supportive friend, if they were even friends and not just fuck buddies. “Sending it in a group text.”

“Yeah...do you ever feel like you were just totally blind to something you should have seen?” Christen asked, her brow furrowed.

“Yeah, that’s happened to me before,” Tobin nodded, thinking about how naive she’d been about Christen wanting more than just good sex. “What do you feel blinded by?”

“Love, or what I thought love was. It made me think better of her than maybe she is. I deserved better than that,” Christen replied, working it out for herself in real time.

“You do deserve better,” Tobin agreed softly, suddenly feeling like she needed air, like she needed to step outside because Christen probably deserved more than just coming over for sex and leaving, that she herself deserved more. Tobin felt this weight in her chest when she thought about all that she wanted, all that she wanted outside of sex. “I think it’s okay for your definition of love to change.”

Christen stepped back into Tobin’s space, her arms tightening around Tobin’s waist as her head found it’s usual spot in the crook of Tobin’s neck. 

“Thank you,” Christen mumbled, her hands tightening in the back of Tobin’s shirt.

“Save the thank you. You haven’t even tried the pizza yet. You might hate it,” Tobin murmured, trying to shy away from any thank you that Christen tried to throw her way. She wasn’t doing anything more than being a decent person. 

Christen huffed out a laugh and shook her head. “That’s not what I’m thanking you for, but I’ll say it again after I try that delicious pizza you made.”

Tobin tightened her own grip on Christen, letting her face rest against the side of Christen’s head and breathing in the floral scent of Christen’s hair products. 

“Are you working tomorrow?” Tobin asked softly. 

“I gave everyone the day off,” Christen murmured. “Including myself.”

“You’re a super smart lady. That means we can watch a movie,” Tobin grinned, pressing the hundreth kiss against Christen’s temple that night. 

“Or Grey’s Anatomy ?”

“Woooow you know how to turn me on,” Tobin teased. 

Christen chuckled and ghosted her lips across the side of Tobin’s throat. “We already knew that,” she hummed, feeling desire shoot through her quickly.

“Pizza and Grey’s Anatomy and maybe more if you’re not falling asleep afterward,” Tobin said, feeling her smile grow at the slightly more content, way less teary, Christen in front of her. 

“Best staycation ever,” Christen replied with a matching smile. 

Chapter Text

You can find me on the extra night

You could talk me off the ledge tonight

If you wanted to

Don't you want me to

Please don't find another love

Please don't find another love

Please don't find another love when I'm away

Now our signals breaking up

A satellite is not enough

Please don't find another love when I'm away

I could promise you're the only one

We could walk into the setting sun

If you wanted to

I'll follow you

Take a little and you turn away

Such a wicked little game to play

And I'm just a fool

How could you be so cruel

("Don't Find Another Love" by Tegan and Sara)

 

Grey’s Anatomy and pizza became a weekly affair, as did daily texting and finding excuses to see each other outside of the bar or Tobin’s apartment.

Christen knew some sort of unspoken line had been crossed that night in Tobin’s kitchen, after she had broken down and come to the realization that even if Lily had reduced her to rubble once again, that was going to be the last time. As she sat eating some of the best homemade pizza ever, listening to Tobin tell some story about how Kling had almost accidentally chopped off the top of Pinoe’s pink hair with a wild axe throw, she had realized that Lily didn’t have a hold on her anymore if she didn’t want her to. It was time to start choosing herself again, to start being happy, to stop letting Lily dictate her life and her happiness. 

So, she’d let herself cross the line between casual and not casual with Tobin, consciously and unconsciously. She let herself spend more time with Tobin, where they’d grab a meal on her lunch break or they’d go on a morning run before her shift. Time where they weren’t having sex or hooking up or fucking. Time where they were getting to know each other, where they were talking and bonding and laughing

Tobin made her laugh harder than anyone she’d ever met. It didn’t matter if they were at a new restaurant Tobin wanted to try before their Grey’s Anatomy viewing or if they were getting drinks with Crystal and the “Bury the Hatchet” crew, Tobin made her laugh and forget about the broken bits of her heart. The broken bits that were healing and fusing back together. 

It was almost halfway through October, almost a full month since Lily’s text, and Christen was feeling better every single day. She woke up and could breathe easy, she didn’t feel that elephant sitting on her chest anymore. She knew it had everything to do with Tobin’s goofy, lopsided grin and warm brown eyes. She knew it had as much to do with everything Tobin did outside of the bedroom as she did inside of it. 

The sex was still amazing, more than amazing. Whether they were at Tobin’s place or her own or one really unexpected but incredible time in her office, the sex was as amazing as ever. It maybe was even more amazing because it was starting to feel different too. 

It wasn’t just about sexual chemistry anymore. It wasn’t just about the heat and the tension between them. There was more there now. There was something deeper, something intangible and messy and slightly terrifying. Something that Christen couldn’t spend too long thinking about or she’d start to spiral and freak out. 

She couldn’t let this meaningless sex turn into something meaningful. She couldn’t risk her heart again. She couldn’t give Tobin permission to hurt her. She couldn’t give Tobin her heart and beg her not to break it, since the last person she’d done that to had all but shattered it. 

So instead, Christen ignored the soft look in Tobin’s eyes every time they were in bed together. She ignored the flutter in her stomach when Tobin would give her that special smile reserved only for her. She ignored the way her newly mended heart seemed to beat for Tobin now.

She ignored it every minute of every day. She especially ignored it when she was at work and had to maintain some semblance of professionalism, so that she didn’t lose focus and zone out, thinking about the warm huskiness of Tobin’s laugh or-

“Hey, Nathan,” Tobin huffed, pushing through the front door of the vet clinic. 

At the sound of Tobin’s voice, Christen jerked out of her spiraling thoughts, spilling the medicine she’d been filling all over the counter.

“Shit,” she grumbled under her breath, scooping the small white pills back into the orange bottle for one of her client’s cats. 

“Is Chris- uhh...Dr. Press here?” Tobin asked awkwardly, having only been in the vet clinic a few times. She knew how much Christen liked keeping the office as professional as possible, and even though calling her Dr. Press felt awkwardly formal, she was willing to do it. 

“You’re adorable. She’s in her office,” Nathan chuckled, clicking away at the computer and giving Tobin a knowing smirk.

“How’s Jordan?” Tobin grinned as she moved past the desk toward Christen’s office. 

“Way too good for me. Hoping he never realizes it though!” Nathan called over his shoulder.

Tobin shot him another big smile before stopping in front of Christen’s slightly cracked office door and knocking softly. 

“Uh, come in,” Christen said, going for nonchalant as she arranged a handful of pill bottles on a tray, getting it ready for one of her vet techs. She gave Tobin a small smile as the other woman breezed into her office. 

“Hey, I don’t mean to ambush you, but I’m dying,” Tobin sighed, leaning against the corner of Christen’s desk. 

“I’m not qualified to treat you,” Christen chuckled, crossing her arms over her chest and tilting her head to the side. She bit back the large smile that threatened to break out across her face.

“You actually are, though. You’re a fashionable woman,” Tobin sighed, her eyebrows furrowing in thought. 

“I wear these every single day,” Christen replied, pulling at the purple scrubs she wore today, the top of which was decorated with cartoon hedgehogs.

“You rock the scrubs, and outside of work, you’re a very fashionable woman. I need you,” Tobin said, poking her bottom lip out in a slight pout. 

Christen felt her eyebrows climb high on her forehead. She tried not to get distracted by the way her heart jumped into her throat or the way her stomach tightened at Tobin’s breathy I need you . Even if things might be changing for her, that didn’t mean things could change. They couldn’t. They shouldn’t .

“Um...for what?”

“My brother’s opening a photography studio, and he’s throwing a party for its big opening, and I have nothing nice to wear,” Tobin frowned, the crease between her eyebrows deepening. 

“What about the navy suit? That one’s nice,” Christen offered, thinking about the many nice outfits she’d seen in Tobin’s closet during her various stays and visits.

“I wore that to my sister’s wedding,” Tobin said, nixing that option. 

“Are you against repeating outfits?” Christen asked with a small laugh, moving away from the tray of medication and joining Tobin at her desk. She leaned against it, her shoulder brushing against Tobin’s.

“For big occasions, yes. My mom’s going to take a thousand pictures, and then she’ll use them for Christmas cards and send them to relatives, and last year, my grandma noticed that I had the same pants on in the year prior and called me to point it out.”

“So you want me to go shopping with you...at 1:45 on a Wednesday?” Christen said, making the jump as to why Tobin was here.

“I can wait for you to finish,” Tobin said, grimacing a little at the request. She hadn’t fully thought it through. She hadn’t taken into account that Christen might be busy or that she might not want to go shopping. 

Christen quickly thought about the rest of her day. She didn’t have any appointments that her vet techs couldn’t handle. She’d filled the medications she needed to and was ahead on paperwork, so the only thing keeping her from going was the fact that she was in scrubs and definitely not dressed to go shopping.

“Give me five minutes to change? I don’t want to wear the hedgehogs out into the world,” Christen said with a wink, pushing off the desk and walking over to the small closet in the corner of her office. 

“You look pretty cute in the purple, though,” Tobin smirked, taking in the entire outfit, including Christen’s blue stethoscope and the sneakers she wore every day to work. 

Christen shucked off her white coat and pulled the stethoscope off from around her neck. 

“Out, I’ll meet you outside,” Christen threw over her shoulder, reaching into the closet for the change of clothes she kept on hand just in case.

“But I’ve seen it all before,” Tobin pouted, feeling her body heat up at the prospect of seeing Christen out of her clothes, just like it always did. 

Christen looked over her shoulder and arched a brow in Tobin’s direction, a smile playing at her lips. “And if you’re good you’ll see it tonight, but right now I’m going to change so we can go because you’re dying , remember?”

“Now, I’m dying for a different reason,” Tobin grumbled, following Christen’s instructions and heading to the door of the office to wait in the hallway. 

~

“Sooo...this party is black tie. You think this’ll work?” Tobin asked, a goofy smile slipping onto her face as she lifted up a Hawaiian shirt. She was willing to be silly, to act a little helpless if it meant making Christen smile or laugh. There was no feeling better than being the person who made Christen throw her head back in laughter. 

“Absolutely not, put it back,” Christen shook her head with a laugh, pointing back at the rack of clothes Tobin was standing next to. They were in their third store of the day, and were having very little success mainly because everything Tobin wanted to try on wasn’t appropriate or a good option, and everything Christen suggested, Tobin shot down immediately. “Stop picking up Hawaiian shirts, that’s not the move here,” she added with an affectionate eye roll.

“My brother really likes Hawaii though,” Tobin shrugged. “Are those overalls?” she gasped making her way across the room to a new rack of multicolored overalls. 

Christen bit back a laugh and followed in Tobin’s wake. “A Hawaiian shirt would be better, Tobin. These are...not the move either.”

“At this rate, I should just borrow your hedgehog scrubs,” Tobin teased. 

“They would be better than anything you’ve chosen up to this point,” Christen said with another laugh, her cheeks aching from her ever-present smile.

“Okay, fine I’ll try to be serious,” Tobin said, trying to keep a straight, serious face. She perused a few racks of dress pants, making faces at the ones with wide, flaring legs and obnoxious patterns. “I don’t know if this store is the move.”

“Indulge me,” Christen whispered, looping her arm through Tobin’s and pulling her over to the rolling racks of dresses. “Maybe you’ll see something you like that’s not a Hawaiian shirt over here.”

Tobin scanned the rack until she saw her favorite color, a bright spot of orange peeking out in a sea of blacks and dark blues. She pulled it off of the rack and spun around to show Christen. 

Christen covered her smile with her hand. “How are you so bad at this?” she chuckled.

“It’s not that bad,” Tobin whined, holding the bright orange jumpsuit up again. 

“That is a summer-y, daytime outfit. This is an evening event. You’re going to want something else,” Christen replied.  

“But it’s my favorite color,” Tobin pouted, holding the jumpsuit up to herself and glancing down at the very unfitted, blob of an outfit. “I’m a lot better at picking casual clothes.”

“If only flannels were appropriate attire, then you’d be set,” Christen teased, thumbing through a fw dresses on hangers.

“I’m not even that into flannels actually. It’s all about branding. Business school really beats that into you, and ‘Bury the Hatchet’ has a big lumberjack vibe,” Tobin shrugged, putting the orange jumpsuit back on the rack. 

“You guys embody the lumberjack lesbian vibe,” Christen agreed, pulling out a green and blue dress and getting an immediate fake gagging face from Tobin. Rolling her eyes, she put it back on the rack.

“Straight girls love it,” Tobin winked. “...so do straight guys actually.”

“It may be versatile, but it’s still not appropriate so...find something else,” Christen chuckled.

“I don’t know...it worked to get you. Maybe flannel works for me,” Tobin teased, shooting a dorky grin in Christen’s direction as she browsed the dresses. 

Christen felt her heart flutter and forced herself to look away, to focus on the dress options in front of her and not on the lopsided grin on Tobin’s face.

“Find anything, lumberjack?” Christen asked after a few moments of trying to look at a few dresses and failing because she was still caught up in Tobin’s smile.

“No, but I guess I’ll just try this one,” Tobin huffed, giving up and grabbing the first thing she could reach: a short, silky black dress. 

Christen felt her eyes widen and her mouth go dry at the selection. “Um, yeah, that’s- that should work,” she stammered, stuffing her hands into the front pockets of her jeans.

“What? Too summer-y still?” Tobin sighed, taking Christen’s arm and leading her to the dressing rooms. 

“No,” Christen answered weakly, her eyes stuck on the dress in Tobin’s hands, her mind supplying images of what Tobin would look like in it, how much skin she’d be showing off. 

“Okay, well I guess you can sit out here or whatever,” Tobin shrugged, unaware of Christen’s actual feelings about the dress. 

“Great. I’ll be here,” Christen replied, dropping down onto one of the small couches near the dressing rooms. She toyed with the hem of her white and black striped t-shirt, willing her mind to empty of images of Tobin Heath in that dress. But her mind wasn’t listening to her today. Her mind tortured her with how that low neck-line would look, how the short dress would reveal Tobin’s long, tan legs. 

Christen shifted around uncomfortably on the couch, a familiar prickle making its way across her skin as she looked at the door to the dressing room that currently separated her from Tobin.

Tobin changed quickly. She’d already tried on dozens of outfits, and she was starting to feel exhausted. Shopping had never been something she really enjoyed. It was better with Christen, but changing her clothes over and over was getting old. 

She quickly tossed her v-neck and her jeans on the chair in the changing room and slipped on the dress. Once it was zipped, it was tight in all the right places. The silky fabric hugged her hips, the hem of the dress ended a few inches above her knee, and the spaghetti straps at the top showed off her muscular arms. She scratched at the back of her neck, glancing at her out of place messy bun. The dress would work. She could wear a pair of heels or some heeled boots and a blazer or coat, and the entire thing would be very appropriate. 

“I think it’s fine,” Tobin said, pushing open the door. 

Christen immediately choked on air, coughing a few times to try and recover. Tobin looked good . No, she looked more than good. She looked stunning and sexy and sinful, all at the same time. 

“Honestly, if that’s a no, I think I’ll re-wear the navy suit,” Tobin sighed, running a hand over her eyes. 

“No!” Christen protested, cringing at how weak and deep her voice sounded. “It’s- I mean, it’s- you look- you know. You should, um- you should get the dress,” Christen stuttered, her cheeks flaming slightly at the way she tripped over her words.

“Oh...okay,” Tobin nodded with a slow smile, finally clueing into Christen’s response to the dress and to her in the dress. She loved the way Christen reacted to her. Tobin loved the way she could tell when Christen was turned on, and she absolutely loved that she could turn Christen on. “I mean...I could probably look a little more. There might be something better at the next place.”

“You don’t need to,” Christen assured quickly, too quickly.

“I might need to take it out for a spin before the actual studio opening.”

Christen subconsciously wet her lower lip, her eyes trailing across the amount of tanned skin on display thanks to the dress. “That’s uhhh- that’s a good idea. Take it for a spin,” Christen parroted, starting to feel uncomfortably hot sitting on this couch with Tobin standing there in front of her like that. 

“Can you get the zipper for me?” Tobin asked, smirking at the way Christen’s eyes kept traveling up and down her legs. 

Christen felt a smile make its way across her face as she jumped to her feet, following Tobin back into the dressing room. 

“Does this one take a sharp tug?” Christen wondered, flicking the lock of the dressing room door behind her.

“I don’t think so,” Tobin laughed, turning around for Christen to get the zipper that she definitely could have gotten on her own. 

Christen stepped forward, pressing her front to Tobin’s back gently. She trailed her fingertips over the dress, moving across Tobin’s hips and settling her palms against Tobin’s waist. She lifted her eyes to meet Tobin’s in the reflection in the mirror, loving that she could see the same fire she felt reflected back at her in Tobin’s eyes.

Without breaking their charged eye contact, Christen dropped her lips to the slope of Tobin’s neck. She left barely-there kisses and brushes of her lips as her hips involuntarily rocked into Tobin, as her fingers splayed across Tobin’s waist.

“This is a really great dress on you,” Christen murmured, her hands moving slowly down Tobin’s thighs, nearing the bottom of the short dress. She kept her lips moving up and down Tobin’s neck, from the sensitive spot behind her ear down to her shoulder. All the while, she watched Tobin. She watched Tobin’s eyelids flutter, she watched Tobin’s lips part and heard a shaky exhale leave them, she watched Tobin’s cheeks fill with a pretty blush. 

Christen gently tugged the bottom of the dress up tantalizingly slow. With every inch of skin she uncovered, she sucked harder on Tobin’s pulse point and watched as Tobin’s breath grew more labored, as her eyes screwed tightly shut. When she’d gotten the tight skirt of the dress bunched up around Tobin’s hips, a ragged breath left Christen’s lips. 

“You did that on purpose,” Christen husked, referencing the complete lack of underwear she’d found when she’d pulled Tobin’s dress up.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Tobin choked out. “I’m doing laundry today.” 

Christen chuckled and walked them forward a few steps, pushing Tobin gently against the mirrored wall. She reached down with one hand to tangle her fingers with Tobin’s, pulling their clasped hands above their heads and pushing them against the wall. With her other, she dragged two fingers through Tobin, relishing in the choked gasp it earned her.

“You’re a terrible liar,” Christen hummed, nipping gently at Tobin’s earlobe.

“So are you,” Tobin countered, using her free hand to reach back and pull Christen’s hips closer, wanting as much contact as she could get. This was the first time they’d done this in public. They’d had sex in Tobin’s bar and even in Christen’s office, but that was after closing hours, and those public spaces were theirs. This was public , and Tobin couldn’t help the shiver that ran through her body at that thought. 

Even though this was still a friends with benefits situation, even though Tobin had that deep pit in her chest because Christen still wanted meaningless, this was real and public. She wanted Christen to take anything she wanted in public, to want her as her own, to make things even more meaningful, despite how messy it would likely become. 

“I am...so I won’t try and deny what seeing you in this dress does to me,” Christen whispered, pushing their clasped hands more firmly against the wall. She didn’t waste time, she didn’t prolong this even if she was desperate to. She quickened her pace, moving her wrist and her fingers in the way Tobin always loved, in the way that made Tobin weak in the knees and loud. Very, very loud

“I definitely have to buy it now,” Tobin whimpered, her hips bucking into Christen’s hand as it moved in between her legs. 

“If you don’t, I will,” Christen replied, pushing her two fingers smoothly inside of Tobin. A cocky smirk grew on her face at the way Tobin’s mouth flopped open, at the way a broken gasp left her lips. 

She went back to watching Tobin. She leaned back just enough to watch Tobin move from pressing her forehead into the mirror to turn toward her. She watched Tobin’s brow furrow as she leaned the side of her face against the reflective surface, as her choked breaths ghosted across the mirror and fogged it up.

“Fuck- Oh, God. Don’t stop,” Tobin hissed, biting her lip to keep her voice down in the dressing room. The mirror was cold against her temple, offsetting how incredibly hot her body was against Christen’s. 

Every single time with Christen was somehow better than the time before. Sex with Christen was the best she’d ever had, and it wasn’t getting old or less exciting. Every single time sent heat coiling low in Tobin’s stomach and shivers moving down her spine. 

Christen’s smirk grew as Tobin continued to unravel in front of her eyes. She moved closer, her front fully pressed against Tobin’s back once more, her lips brushing across Tobin’s cheek as her hand continued to move between Tobin’s legs.

“Can you be quiet for me?” Christen hummed, whispering the words into Tobin’s skin. She curled her fingers slightly, not enough to usher Tobin to her peak, but enough to at least tease her in that direction. “If I don’t stop, will you be quiet?”

Tobin let out another puff of air, her jaw clenching tightly to keep any and all reactions in her chest. She nodded softly, loving when Christen took control, even though she’d never admit it. 

“Good,” Christen husked, curling her fingers the way Tobin wanted her to. “You can come now, Tobin.”

Tobin’s jaw fell open, but she swallowed the moan that was threatening to rip itself from her throat. She kept quiet in favor of rocking her hips a few more times before her whole body tensed in Christen’s hand. Her throat felt raw, and her forehead was slightly clammy from how hot Christen was making her, but her entire body felt sated. She was blissed out and it was all because of the woman behind her, the woman smirking at her through the reflection of the mirror. 

Christen waited until Tobin stopped clenching around her fingers to remove them gently, bringing them up to her lips and licking them clean with her tongue. She stepped back, leaving Tobin pressed up against the mirror, her hair mussed and the dress slightly wrinkled.

“Yeah, that dress is a keeper,” Christen grinned.

“We need to go home,” Tobin husked, pushing herself off the mirror and stepping closer to Christen, wanting to take her turn as soon as possible. 

“I’m actually kind of hungry. Maybe we could go get some dinner first,” Christen shrugged with a coy smile, moving back toward the door of the dressing room.

“You’re going to torture me all night, but you should be aware that you’re opening yourself up to a world of teasing,” Tobin hummed, stepping out of the dress, so that she was completely naked in the dressing room. 

Christen’s eyes darkened as her eyes trailed across Tobin’s body, as she took in the flush in her chest and the hickey she’d left at the base of Tobin’s throat. 

“I’m counting on it,” Christen replied in a low voice, having to force herself to turn around and walk out of the dressing room before she did something foolish like try to have her way with Tobin one more time in this dressing room.

~

Tobin hung the new dress in her closet, glancing over her shoulder at Christen sprawled out on her bed, her chest still heaving and her skin still slightly damp with sweat. 

Tobin had kept her word. She’d teased more than she ever had in her life, relishing in each and every moment that Christen had begged for her to touch her. And now, she couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful woman waiting for her in her bed, the beautiful woman who she’d bought dinner for, the beautiful woman who was going to stay over for the rest of the night, just to sleep. 

“You know you can see the dress again if you want,” Tobin said, broaching the subject she’d been thinking about all night...actually even longer. She’d been thinking about asking Christen this question for a few weeks, but she’d been too worried about scaring her off with something serious, something other than sex or dinner or watching TV or sleeping over. 

Christen felt a slow, sleepy, sated smile make its way across her face. She propped herself up on her elbows and arched a brow in Tobin’s direction. 

“Oh really?”

“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, slipping back into bed beside Christen. “I mean I wasn’t planning on staying long at my brother’s thing. We could always stop by and then get dinner and come back here.”

Christen tilted her head to the side and looked at Tobin with a little surprise and a lot of curiosity. 

“You want me to go with you to your brother’s studio opening?” Christen asked, feeling her heart flutter in her chest at the prospect of Tobin wanting her there.

“Yes,” Tobin answered honestly. “If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, but he said I could bring whoever I want.”

Christen dropped off of her elbows and turned her head so she could look over at Tobin. “And you don’t want to bring any of your other friends?” Christen wondered, hating the taste that the word friends left on her tongue, but knowing that it was there for a reason. They were friends, they were friends who slept together a lot . That was it. That was all it could and should be.

“None of my other friends would enjoy the dress as much as you would,” Tobin answered, trying to keep her response uncomplicated, unserious, meaningless, despite every single part of her body screaming, “I’m not falling for any of my friends. You aren’t just a friend.”  

“That’s true,” Christen replied with a small smile. Shrugging just a bit, Christen looked away from Tobin and up toward the ceiling. “Well, I can’t say no to that dress.”

“It’s on Saturday. If you need to buy clothes for it, I can totally help you peruse some stores,” Tobin smirked, dropping an arm over Christen’s hips. 

With a loud laugh, Christen started tracing her fingertips across Tobin’s arm. “I actually have the perfect outfit for it, no shopping needed.”

“At least I get to take it off, though,” Tobin hummed. 

“So presumptive,” Christen teased.

“Should I not be presuming that? I’ll buy you dinner again if that will sway you,” Tobin offered. 

Christen angled her head so she was looking at Tobin again, a smile playing at her lips. “Presume away, but I’m buying dinner next time and you’re going to love the sushi place I picked out.”

“You’re speaking to my soul,” Tobin sighed, pulling Christen even closer. She couldn’t ignore the way her heart raced at the serious undertones of what Christen was saying. Tobin couldn’t help but think about how easily Christen had agreed to come to a family event, how easily she’d agreed to get dinner after. A pesky, heart-aching sense of hope was bubbling in Tobin’s chest, and she was too weak to stop it. 

She knew this could hurt, if things went poorly, but she was too far gone, too entrenched in hope and desire and something that felt a lot like love. Her friends had been right. She couldn’t not care. She couldn’t even pretend to not care anymore. So instead, she tightened her arms around Christen and let the green-eyed woman’s steady breaths lull her to sleep. 


Tobin ran a hand through her hair, just like she always did before knocking on Christen’s apartment door. She had that obnoxious, jittery, hopeful feeling that she always developed on the way over to Christen’s apartment. It was at its worst on Thursday nights, though.

On Thursdays, Christen invited Tobin over for Grey’s Anatomy , which felt way more like a date than just coming over to fall into bed with tangled limbs and hot skin. On Thursdays, Tobin left work early, and she and Christen sat on the couch for an hour, under a shared blanket with takeout. They’d watch and talk during commercial breaks, catching up on each others’ days. 

A couple times, Christen had dozed on Tobin’s shoulder, waking up just in time for the end of the episode and for a heated rest of the night for both of them. Regardless of how the night went, something about Thursdays felt domestic and natural and hopeful, and Tobin’s nerves grew with that hope. 

She reached up and knocked, knowing that no amount of tousling her hair would make it look better. Nothing would make it easier to have that talk with Christen about possibly expecting more from one another. 

“Oh thank god you’re here,” Christen sighed when she opened the door, looking beyond exhausted, still in her scrubs. 

“I love that greeting. What did I do?” Tobin laughed. 

“Nothing yet, but you will,” Christen replied, tugging Tobin into the apartment and shutting the door. 

“Did you just get off work?” Tobin asked, looking down at her watch, confused about why Christen wasn’t more ready to veg on the couch. 

“Not exactly,” Christen threw over her shoulder, walking down the hallway and further into the apartment. “Sugar, stop that!” she called out.

“KEY PUPPY?” Tobin cooed, hurrying to catch up to Christen as soon as she saw the puppy jumping on Christen’s legs. 

Christen picked the small, white, black, and light brown Mini Aussie puppy and handed her to Tobin.

“Tobin, meet Sugar. She’s joining Grey’s night because she ate a few pot brownies and needs to be monitored for 24 hours,” Christen announced with slight annoyance in her voice, but the love in her eyes when she scratched Sugar’s head gave her away. She loved this puppy.

“We’ve all been there, Sugar,” Tobin said in a baby voice, letting the dog sniff her shirt. 

“Not all of us,” Christen mumbled, leaving Tobin with the puppy and walking into the kitchen. 

“That’s right, Christen Press was too busy being smart in vet school to party and eat pot brownies, but I can definitely fix that,” Tobin said, sinking her face into the dog’s fur. 

Christen chuckled and set out opening a bottle of wine, in dire need of some after such a long day. She poured two glasses and then leaned against the counter, watching Tobin interact with Sugar. She smiled at the way Tobin made adorable faces at Sugar and pressed kisses to Sugar’s nose.

“Can we keep her?” Tobin asked, holding Sugar in one arm and scratching her ears with her free hand. 

“We can’t, no. Mae will come get her tomorrow from the office,” Christen replied, taking a sip of her wine.

“Sad,” Tobin hummed. “We would have so much fun.”

“We have her all night, so go crazy,” Christen chuckled, picking up the other glass of wine and handing it to Tobin.

“Thank you. Have you been giving Christen a hard time?” Tobin asked, taking the wine from Christen’s hand and looking down at Sugar. 

Christen leaned forward and let Sugar lick her nose, scrunching her nose up a bit before leaning back. 

“Not on purpose. It was just a long day, you know?” Christen sighed, rolling her shoulders and moving her head from side to side to crack her neck.

“Okay, that was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Tobin said, her bottom lip poking out in a happy pout. “Also, I can order dinner and let you change. I’ll even throw in a foot massage during Grey’s if it was a really long day.”

“So long. The longest. I have never had a longer day in my entire career,” Christen hummed with a small, tired smile playing at her lips.

“It’s a good thing they had a massage therapy class at business school,” Tobin laughed, smirking at Christen’s cute sarcasm. 

“I’m sure,” Christen rolled her eyes, instinctively leaning forward to press a kiss to the corner of Tobin’s mouth, not letting herself second-guess the gesture or overthink it. “I’ll be back in five. Thank you,” she added before quickly walking toward her closed bedroom door, a light blush heating her cheeks.

“Food genre?” Tobin called after her, putting her wine down and pulling her phone out of her pocket, all while holding a squirming puppy. 

“We got Chinese last week, so maybe Indian? I’d kill for a Mango Lassi right now,” Christen called back, shutting her bedroom door behind her and walking over to her dresser for some sweats.

Tobin sat on the floor, throwing a tiny tennis ball across the floor, so that Sugar would retrieve it. She’d quickly put in hers and Christen’s orders on her phone, having eaten Indian food with Christen before. It was supposed to be delivered in twenty minutes, right before Grey’s started, and in the meantime, Tobin was enthralled by everything Sugar already knew. 

“You’re so smart, sweet girl. You’re the coolest, speediest, smartest puppy in the whole world,” Tobin cooed, tossing the tennis ball across Christen’s living room again. 

“She’s got you wrapped around her finger already,” Christen observed, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed over her chest. She had donned a pair of sweats and a long-sleeve Stanford shirt and had let her hair out of its high bun so it fell in loose curls around her face. 

“Just wait until I have my own. I’ll be that person who carries her dog around strapped to her chest,” Tobin laughed, reaching out for Sugar to shake her hand. 

“You say that like it's a bad thing,” Christen chuckled, crossing the room and falling down onto the couch. She watched Sugar bound across the carpet and launch onto the couch, walking over to her and settling down in her lap. 

“You’d look pretty cute strapped to Tobin’s chest, wouldn’t you? Yeah,” Christen cooed, scratching Sugar’s ears.

“You look cute in my sweatpants. I was wondering where those went,” Tobin smirked, looking up at Christen from her spot on the floor. 

Christen’s brow furrowed, looking down at the light grey Nike sweats she’d put on. “Um...these are definitely mine,” Christen replied.

“No way! Those are mine. Reach into the left pocket. There’s a hole,” Tobin laughed, lifting herself up onto the couch to sit next to Christen. 

“That’s ridiculous. These are mine, and there’s no-” Christen stopped, having reached into the left pocket and felt the hole Tobin had mentioned. 

“You took them from the bar the uh...first time,” Tobin mumbled, a tiny blush spreading across her cheeks. 

“Oh my god I did,” Christen laughed, lightly tapping her forehead. She’d totally forgotten all about stealing the sweatpants. She hadn't forgotten anything else, couldn’t forget anything else. She couldn’t forget the way Tobin’s lips had felt against hers the first time, the way the cool tile of the bathroom counter had made the heat between her legs and the warmth of Tobin’s tongue feel even hotter. The only thing she’d managed to forget was the fact that she’d stolen a pair of sweatpants from Tobin four months ago and they’d slowly become her favorite pair to put on after a long day at work.

“Clearly, I didn’t miss them that much, since I didn’t ask for them back,” Tobin grinned, secretly liking Christen in her clothes, even if Christen hadn’t known that they were hers when she’d put them on. 

“Well, they’re mine now. I invited you to play with Sugar, so we’re even,” Christen winked, setting her wine down on the coffee table so she could pay better attention to the wiggling dog in her lap. 

“You hear that Sugar? You’re as good as a pair of sweatpants,” Tobin said in her baby voice again. 

Christen ran her hand across Sugar’s belly once the puppy flopped onto her back. “How was your day?” Christen finally asked, having been too distracted by the puppy to ask earlier.

“I don’t like college students,” Tobin said, her voice finally giving way to the exhaustion that she’d felt from the few hours of work she’d done that day. 

“What did these ones do?” Christen wondered, her brow furrowing at the tired look on Tobin’s face. She ached to reach out and smooth the worry wrinkle between Tobin’s brows but she held herself back.

“Let’s just say, I have to order a new neon sign,” Tobin said, remembering how a group of very drunk frat guys had thrown axes at the sign to see if it would spark when hit. 

“Oh, not great. I’m sorry,” Christen sighed.

“I also ordered a camera system. Apparently I need more than the one that watches the cash register for when I’m in the office. I still don’t know how Kling and A.D. missed it though,” Tobin grumbled. 

“Missed what?”

“The four very drunk college guys walking to the front of the bar and throwing axes at our open sign,” Tobin groaned. “I also really think ordering a breathalyzer is a good idea.”

“I think the cameras are a good idea. Be careful, yeah?” Christen murmured, using one hand to keep scratching Sugar’s belly and moving the other to the back of Tobin's neck, using her thumb to massage the tense muscle she found there.

“Why was your day long?” Tobin asked, trying to stop her heart from fluttering at the concern in Christen’s voice, at the care she was showing. 

Christen shook her head and shrugged. “Lots of appointments, lots of personalities to deal with. The animals are the easy part, it’s the humans that are challenging sometimes.”

“Everybody thinks their pet deserves the best and takes it out on you?” Tobin guessed. 

Christen stopped scratching Sugar’s belly so she could tap the tip of her nose, signaling Tobin had hit the nail on the head. When the dog whined, Christen looked down at the puppy in her lap and resumed the belly scratches, her other hand still working gently at the knots in Tobin’s neck.

“But how can I complain when every animal I take care of is this cute?” Christen hummed, smiling down at Sugar.

“You have to have some animal clients that you don’t like,” Tobin scoffed. “They can’t be as cute as Sugar.”

“They are. I love them all,” Christen replied, her smile growing.

“Do you work with snakes?” Tobin asked, making a face at the idea. 

“No snakes. Just small, fluffy animals, mainly cats and dogs. The occasional squirrel or raccoon that needs some help. I took care of a chinchilla once and that was a bit different but still cute,” Christen chuckled.

“You are the coolest person,” Tobin grinned, looking down at Sugar. “I wish I had adorable animals coming through my door every day.”

Christen moved her hand a little higher on Tobin’s neck, making the other woman groan, Tobin’s head lolling forward as she continued her gentle ministrations.   

“I will offer you a foot rub every day if this is what happens,” Tobin sighed, her eyes fluttering shut at Christen’s touch. 

“You don’t have to, you just looked like you needed it. We both had a day ,” Christen said with a sigh as well, one that matched the exhaustion in Tobin’s. 

“Foot please,” Tobin said, waving her hand, gesturing for Christen to lift her legs up onto the couch. 

Christen hesitated, not wanting to move the blissed out puppy in her lap.

“I guarantee that I had a better day than you, and Sugar will fall asleep again as soon as you get situated. I promise,” Tobin said, turning toward Christen. 

Christen sighed in defeat and repositioned on the couch, leaning against a few throw pillows. Sugar immediately curled up in her lap once she got comfortable, proving Tobin right. Christen gently placed her legs in Tobin’s lap, her hands falling to Sugar so she could give the puppy belly scratches again.

“Why was your day better? I thought we established I have all the fun with the cute animals,” Christen teased, leaning her head against the back of the couch.

“You do have all the fun with cute animals,” Tobin agreed, taking one of Christen’s feet in her hands and starting to knead her thumbs into the arch. “But I got a call this morning about franchising. I’m not really planning on doing that, but it’s a nice ego boost.”

“Tobin, that’s incredible,” Christen gushed, leaning forward so she could reach out and squeeze Tobin’s arm, a beaming smile on her face and a swell of pride in her chest.

“I don’t know. Some people really don’t like axe throwing bars. Some people refuse to throw axes,” Tobin grinned, remembering how she’d had to challenge Christen into picking up an axe. 

Christen playfully narrowed her eyes and leaned back against the throw pillows again.

“That was the Christen of the past, we don’t know her anymore,” Christen replied with a grin. “I’m all about mixing alcohol and sharp weapons now. Full support.”

“I’m so excited that you said that because Kling throws an annual Halloween party, and you’ve been summoned,” Tobin laughed. 

Christen wrinkled her nose. “Hmm...alcohol, sharp weapons, and costumes? You’re pushing it…”

“I guess I’ll have to wear a very small amount of clothing on my own then,” Tobin sighed, moving her hands to the heel of Christen’s foot. 

Christen wasn’t sure whether the quiet moan that left her lips was in response to the pressure from Tobin’s fingers massaging her foot or from the mental image of Tobin Heath scantily clad in some kind of Halloween costume.

She didn’t have the mental fortitude to unpack it, so she just turned her face into the couch cushion, hiding her slightly blushing cheeks.

“Two can play at that game,” Christen mumbled into the cushion, her voice slightly muffled.

“Not if you don’t dress up and join me,” Tobin smirked, loving the effect she seemed to be having on Christen. 

Christen angled her head so she could shoot a playful glare in Tobin’s direction. “Fine. But I draw the line at fishnets.”

“Well, that’s just a challenge,” Tobin snorted, tossing her head back with laughter. 

Thankfully, Christen was saved by the bell. Literally. The buzzer of her apartment went off, signaling that their food was there. Not so thankfully was the fact that the buzzer woke up a peacefully asleep Sugar, infusing her with chaotic energy once more. She jumped out of Christen’s lap and started barking, racing around the apartment.

Christen sighed and fixed Tobin with a look. “You want the dog or the door?”

“The puppy!” Tobin chirped, hopping up from the couch and getting another toy from the bag Sugar’s owner had dropped off. 

Christen chuckled and walked to the door to get their food, the flutter in her heart getting harder and harder to ignore as each day went by. It was especially hard to ignore after falling into each other’s arms and immediately passing out at 2 in the morning, too tired to do anything else but fall asleep, with Sugar still running laps around the apartment. It wasn’t the first time they’d chosen just to sleep together without sleeping together first, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. 


“I thought you were bringing a date,” Cindy said, snapping another candid photograph of Tobin worrying her bottom lip and glancing at the front door. 

“Mom, you don’t need another picture of my face. You’ve got enough to send to the rest of the family to prove that I’m alive,” Tobin sighed, pulling her eyes away from the door and taking a deep breath. 

“Yeah and she’s got that kicked puppy look still. You’ve documented the pitiful pout enough,” Jeff teased, slinging an arm around Tobin’s shoulders.

“It’s not a kicked puppy look. If she comes then cool. No big deal if she doesn’t,” Tobin huffed, shrugging Jeff’s arm off her shoulder. Christen had been right. She was a bad liar. She did care, and Christen not showing would probably make her eyes water or send her over to A.D.’s house for a hug and a very full glass of wine. 

Cindy and Jeff shared a look and a laugh. “Whatever you say, dear. I’m going to go get some wine. Want anything?” Cindy offered, looking between her kids.

“I’ll take a beer,” Tobin said, trying to focus on one of her brother’s pictures instead of the door. 

“Yes, daughter of mine. Jeff, sweetie, holler real loud if she shows up, okay?” Cindy instructed Jeff with a wink for Tobin.

“Will do,” Jeff laughed. He squeezed Tobin’s bicep in a tiny show of solidarity. “She’ll totally show. You’re a catch.”

“She’s not always predictable,” Tobin mumbled. 

“But it looks like she keeps surprising you,” Jeff murmured, nodding at the front door of the studio and giving Tobin’s arm another squeeze.

Chapter Text

We're all bored, we're all so tired of everything

We wait for trains that just aren't coming

We show off our different scarlet letters

Trust me, mine is better

We're so young, but we're on the road to ruin

We play dumb, but we know exactly what we're doing

We cry tears of mascara in the bathroom

Honey, life is just a classroom

'Cause baby, I could build a castle

Out of all the bricks they threw at me

And every day is like a battle

But every night with us is like a dream

Baby, we're the new romantics

Come on, come along with me

Heartbreak is the national anthem

We sing it proudly

We are too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet

Baby, we're the new romantics

The best people in life are free

("New Romantics" by Taylor Swift)

 

Tobin turned to look toward the door, her jaw dropping as soon as she saw Christen in a tight, black, silk crop top and a matching long skirt. It didn’t matter that Tobin had seen Christen completely naked. It didn’t matter that she’d undressed Christen before. Christen always looked amazing, and tonight, she looked exceptional. Tobin’s feet felt like they were glued to the floor, too stuck in her own awestruck moment to step forward. 

Christen nervously tucked a few curls behind her ear, her eyes moving around the packed studio for a familiar face, one familiar face in particular. 

She knew she was late. She’d gotten caught up at work, which had left her with barely enough time to hurry back to her apartment and change. She hadn’t gotten a chance to straighten her hair like she’d wanted to. She hadn’t gotten a chance to do her make-up as much as she’d wanted to. She had only managed to throw on the crop top, skirt, and bootie heels and rush out the door, running about thirty minutes behind schedule. 

After making a full pass over the crowd and failing to find Tobin, Christen’s brow furrowed. She nervously fidgeted with her purse and wondered what she should do next, if she should try and text Tobin or-

“You broke my sister,” a nicely dressed man stepped forward waving at Christen from the corner of the room. 

“I’m sorry?” Christen replied politely, her brow still furrowed in confusion.

“I’m Jeff Heath,” he introduced himself, stepping to the side to point at Tobin, still trying to collect herself behind him. 

Christen felt a smile grow on her face as she finally caught sight of Tobin. She barely managed to remember social cues and etiquette and take Jeff’s outstretched hand, too entranced by Tobin in that little black dress she loved so much.

“Looks like she broke you too,” Jeff laughed, smirking at Christen’s similarly gobsmacked reaction to his sister. 

Christen snapped out of it and finally looked over at Jeff, her hand falling back to her side. 

“I, uh-” Christen stuttered, unsure how to reply to such a comment.

“Let me get Mom,” Jeff grinned, stepping away from Christen and Tobin and heading to the back of the studio where Cindy was getting some wine and chatting with one of their many family friends. 

Christen’s heart stopped in her chest at the mention of Tobin’s mom, at the idea of meeting another member of Tobin’s family. She’d just assumed she’d be dealing with a slew of photography enthusiasts and Tobin’s brother. She hadn’t prepared for a family affair. 

“You look amazing,” Tobin said, finally finding her voice. 

Christen felt a blush immediately heat her cheeks, but she was still too hung up on the fact that she was moments away from meeting Tobin’s mom. She reached out and punched Tobin lightly in the arm.

“You could have warned me!” Christen hissed under her breath, conscious about the other people around them.

“Excuse me?” Tobin laughed, rubbing at her arm. 

“I didn’t know your mom was going to be here! I would have worn something way more appropriate,” Christen protested, wrapping an arm around her stomach to cover the inch of bare skin visible between the bottom of her crop top and the waistband of her skirt.

“I literally told you that my mom would take a picture and use it as a Christmas card, hence the need for a new outfit,” Tobin defended, a goofy smile still on her face at the unnecessary panic on Christen’s face. 

“I didn’t- I didn’t understand that’s what that meant!”

“My mom’s seen skin before. You’re not gonna scandalize her. I’m showing more skin than you,” Tobin said, pointing at the spaghetti straps and the miles of leg showing beneath her dress. 

“Yeah but you look beautiful and I was in such a rush I don’t even remember if I put deodorant on,” Christen grumbled, stepping into Tobin’s arms and dropping her forehead to Tobin’s bare shoulder to hide her flushed cheeks.

Tobin leaned forward and sniffed comically, trying to make Christen smile and take away her worry. “Nope, you smell amazing as usual. And you look beautiful, and you don’t look like you rushed at all. I love your curls by the way,” Tobin added, knowing that Christen had planned to straighten her hair. 

Christen leaned her forehead off of Tobin’s shoulder and fixed her with a look. “You’re not just saying that because I’m buying you sushi after this?”

“I’m saying it because you look beautiful and have nothing to worry about,” Tobin said, quickly squeezing Christen’s hand in her own.

Christen’s blush deepened as she got a little lost in Tobin’s brown eyes, as her fingers involuntarily tangled with Tobin’s. She let herself indulge in this moment, in the way her heart raced in her chest and the way her stomach twisted with not just want, but with feelings she still wasn’t ready for.

“Thank you,” Christen whispered with a small smile.

“Anytime,” Tobin winked. “I am excited about the sushi after this, though.”

“You made it!” Cindy called, holding two glasses of red wine. 

Christen whipped her head around, immediately stepping out of Tobin’s space and dropping Tobin’s hand.

“I’m Cindy, Tobs’s mom.”

“Christen. Nice to meet you,” Christen replied with a polite smile.

“It’s nice to meet you. Do you like red wine? I wasn’t sure what you like to drink, but Jeff can always run back for something else,” Cindy offered, making Jeff roll his eyes behind his mom’s back. 

“No need, I say yes to all wines,” Christen grinned, taking the offered glass from Cindy’s hand. “Thank you so much.”

Jeff handed Tobin her beer and sent Christen an ‘I’m sorry’ look that looked so similar to Tobin’s. 

“When are Katie and Perry getting here? They’ll be jealous we met you first,” Cindy winked. 

Christen choked a little bit on her wine, recovering quickly and shooting daggers across the top of her glass at Tobin. She subconsciously tugged at the hem of her crop top to try and cover just a bit more of her stomach.

“Who?” Christen asked, her voice slightly hoarse, her eyes fixed on the sheepish look on Tobin’s face.

“Tobin Powell Heath,” Cindy chastised. “You didn’t tell this girl about your sisters?”

“I mean...their names didn’t come up,” Tobin shrugged. It wasn’t like she could tell her mom that their relationship or lack thereof was much more physical than verbal...or at least that’s how it had started. 

“Please forgive my daughter and her lack of manners,” Cindy teased, squeezing Tobin’s arm gently. 

“It’s fine. I love surprises,” Christen replied, arching a brow in Tobin’s direction before taking another sip of wine. 

“Sorry,” Tobin mumbled. “Family picture for the holiday card, remember?”

“Right,” Christen said with an amused smirk, shaking her head a little in Tobin’s direction.

“Eyes on the sushi,” Tobin grimaced, knowing she’d be apologizing later for not properly preparing Christen for the whole family. 

“Oh, sushi? Are we all going out after this?” Jeff asked excitedly, clapping his hands together.

“Actually-” Tobin started, taking a swig of her beer and wishing she could escape this moment with Christen sending anxious looks her way and her mom squeezing her arm tightly in excitement. 

“Jeffy, let the girls go on their date night. Don’t be lame and invite us along,” Cindy tsked, rolling her eyes affectionately at her son.

“YOU MET THE GIRLFRIEND BEFORE ME?!” Katie yelled, her voice directed at Jeff. 

Christen felt her stomach drop, her entire body freezing up at the word girlfriend . She and Tobin weren’t dating. They weren’t girlfriends. They were...well most days Christen didn’t know exactly what they were, but they certainly weren’t that. They couldn’t be. She couldn’t date Tobin, she couldn’t risk her heart again. She especially couldn’t do it when Tobin already had a stronger hold on her than Lily ever did. 

She had thought she loved Lily, that she was in love with her. But everything she felt for Lily paled in comparison to the feelings she harbored for Tobin, and that was the most terrifying thing of all.

“I’m sorry, if you’ll excuse me for a second,” Christen said tightly, moving immediately away from the Heath family and toward the restroom at the back of the studio.

“Katie,” Tobin groaned, running a hand through her wavy hair. 

“What?” Katie asked, slightly breathless from moving across the studio so fast. 

“I’m confused,” Jeff observed, his forehead furrowed. “Are you not together?”

“Not technically. I don’t know,” Tobin shrugged, feeling uncomfortable with three sets of eyes on her.

“Then what are you?” Cindy asked curiously.

“Complicated,” Tobin sighed. “I mean, she doesn’t want a relationship. Or at least she didn’t. I do but...”

“What the hell are you talking to us for? Go after her!” Katie instructed, shooing Tobin away.

“Yeah, okay,” Tobin sighed, handing her beer to Jeff and making her way back to the bathroom. 

Tobin wished that she could freeze time, that she could call A.D. or talk to her mom a little longer or ask someone for advice. She wished that she could press pause and just take a few deep breaths because she was about to say things that she’d been putting off throughout this entire messy, complicated situation. 

But, she couldn’t pause the moment or take a breather. Instead, she pushed through the bathroom door and into the whirlwind that was Christen Press. 

“Such an idiot. You’re such an idiot,” Christen whispered to herself, pacing the length of the bathroom, a hand held over her eyes.

“I don’t think you’re an idiot,” Tobin said, locking the door softly behind her. 

Christen’s head shot up, her hand falling to her side. “Yeah, well I feel like one,” Christen sighed.

“Why?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows furrowing at what Christen could possibly feel idiotic about. 

Christen looked like she wanted to say something, something that put a sparkle of fear into her eyes, but it passed quickly. Instead, she crossed her arms over her chest and hardened her gaze. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because your family shows up and starts calling me your girlfriend, but somewhere along the way, that message didn’t get delivered to me.”

“They just made an assumption,” Tobin said, her chest suddenly feeling tight at the way Christen’s words made her heart ache with longing. The word girlfriend left Christen’s mouth with so much vitriol, with disdain, and Tobin suddenly felt a weight pressing against her throat, threatening to cut off all air supply. Christen doesn’t want this. She doesn’t want you like that. 

“Well they assumed wrong.”

Tobin’s throat felt too thick. They hadn’t had this conversation because she’d known exactly how it would go. She’d imagined Christen saying she didn’t care, that sex was fun but meant nothing more than the physical pleasure it brought, that being with Tobin was better than being alone but nothing more. Tobin hadn’t brought up feelings because she’d been afraid of Christen saying something just like that. 

“Right,” Tobin nodded, clenching her jaw a few times and trying to focus on that instead of the nausea that rolled through her stomach. 

“I thought we were on the same page,” Christen mumbled, hiding behind her words and her crossed arms, hiding from her feelings because they were the most terrifying feelings she’d ever felt and she wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready for this to be more than what it was.

“Clearly we weren’t,” Tobin huffed. “You don’t just go out to dinner and the movies and have weekly TV nights and sleep over with someone you’re just fucking to fuck.”

Christen recoiled at the bite in Tobin’s words, caught a little off guard at the sudden shift in the woman standing in front of her. 

“We’re friends. Friends they- they do that,” Christen defended, the words feeling weak as they left her tongue, the words feeling weaker when they made Tobin clench her jaw and shake her head.

“Maybe you and Lily did that, but I don’t think I can,” Tobin sighed.

“That’s a really shitty thing to say to me,” Christen replied, her heart fracturing just a bit in her chest at the insinuation that what she and Lily had was at all similar to what she and Tobin shared. 

“Why? She’s the reason we even started this in the first place,” Tobin groaned, running a hand across her forehead. She suddenly hated that Lily had been the reason. She was suddenly furious with herself for agreeing to this arrangement when she and Christen both deserved more. 

Christen felt her anger rising in time with Tobin’s, her frustration building right alongside Tobin’s. Her heart hurt and her head was pounding and it all felt like too much .

“Well maybe we shouldn’t have started this then,” Christen shot back, regretting her words immediately, but unable to take them back. They were out there. Her words, dripping with lies and masked feelings, were hanging in the air between them and there was nothing Christen could do to recall them.

Tobin’s eyes snapped to Christen’s for the briefest moment before lowering down to look at her own feet and the uncomfortable heels she’d paired with the dress. She knew Christen had seen the hurt in her eyes, despite the brevity of the glance. She could tell Christen had seen it by the uncomfortable silence that surrounded them. There wasn’t anger anymore. The tension had deflated, and a deafening silence was left in its wake. 

“I didn’t- I didn’t mean that,” Christen managed, her voice quieter, wavering ever so slightly.

“I’ve been someone’s phase before, someone’s experiment, someone’s rebound, and I can’t do that again,” Tobin whispered. 

“That’s not what this is,” Christen protested weakly. This was more than a phase or an experiment or a rebound. This was more than that in every way. Even if it was undefined, even if they’d gone into this under the guise of meaningless sex, this was more than the twisted, toxic thing that had existed with Lily, than the history of heartbreaks in Tobin’s past. The fact that Tobin even questioned that made those fractures in Christen’s heart widen and worsen.

“I don’t want to be your second choice or the Band-Aid that holds things together,” Tobin said, her voice growing a little wobbly. “And I think I’ve been kidding myself a little, thinking that you felt more. That’s on me,” she added, looking up at the ceiling, her jaw clicking as she clenched it even tighter closed. It was starting to hurt. She was starting to worry that she might crack a tooth, but she had to hold it together, she couldn’t let everything spill out. She couldn’t let Christen see her fall apart. 

“But-” Christen tried to protest, her voice failing her a bit and Tobin’s voice continuing, undeterred.

“But I can’t fall any harder if you aren’t falling too. I don’t want to just love you. I want to be in love with you. This was never meaningless to me,” Tobin whispered as her chest tightened, constricting around her heart. 

Tobin couldn’t let the tears fall here and now, and she knew they were coming. She needed to get out of this bathroom, to leave while she still could, while the honest words were still floating in the air. She wasn’t far from home. She could get in bed and fall asleep and pretend like everything was okay. But the sheets still smelled like Christen, and the two coffee cups in her sink would remind her of waking up that morning with the other woman on her chest. 

So instead of going home, Tobin fled the bathroom, told her family she’d see them tomorrow for dinner, and slipped her heels off, racing to her nearest friend’s house to crash. 

Kling didn’t ask questions. She didn’t say I told you so. She made up her couch and left Tobin to finally let the floodgates open, let the tears fall, let the weight of every feeling she’d shoved under the bed for the past four months wash over her all at once. 

~

Christen threw her purse across the apartment, sinking onto the couch and dropping her head into her hands.

The words kept replaying over and over in her mind. I don’t want to just love you. I want to be in love with you. This was never meaningless to me.

Tobin loved her. Tobin was in love with her. 

Christen would be kidding herself if she said she was surprised. She’d known it; she’d seen it in the soft looks Tobin gave her; she’d felt it in the kisses Tobin pressed to her forehead when Tobin thought she was asleep. It was in every word and every action and every gesture. 

Christen would be kidding herself if she said she didn’t feel the same way. She’d known it, she’d felt it every time Tobin laughed or shot her that lopsided grin that made her stomach flip. She’d felt it in every touch and kiss and embrace between them for the past few weeks, if not longer.  

Christen loved Tobin. She was in love with Tobin.

Letting out a ragged breath, Christen started to rock back and forth on the couch, pressing the heels of her hands against her closed eyes. 

She couldn’t love Tobin, though. She couldn’t, not when the last time she’d loved someone it had ended so poorly. It had ended with her crying, alone, on the bathroom floor. It had completely removed her from any comfort or security; it had reduced her to almost nothing. It had left her in a free fall, with nowhere safe to land.

But...that love, if she could even call it that, had led her to Tobin. It had led her to the safest place to land. 

It had led her to the one person who could make her smile or laugh no matter how horrible her day had been. It had led her to the one person who never treated her like a commodity or took her for granted. It had led her to the one person who she wanted to spend her days with and her nights with and every single moment in between.

But when Tobin had expressed the same wants and desires, Christen had frozen. She had remained silent, her fear making any possible response die on her tongue. She had watched Tobin walk out of the restroom and realized that she hadn’t actually ever known heartbreak before. 

She thought she had, with Lily. She thought she’d learned the ins and outs of misery. She thought she’d become a pro at taking blows, shaking them off, and forging on. She thought she’d understood, at a deep, visceral level what pain and hurt and anguish felt like. 

But watching Tobin walk away from her, watching Tobin believe that she was the only one falling in love here and that this was still meaningless to Christen, that had been pain. That had been hurt. That had been anguish. 

Four months ago, Tobin had said something to her. She’d said: “Now you know you’re strong enough to say it, hopefully sooner the next time.”

But she hadn’t said it sooner. She’d been ruled by fear once again, her love sitting on the back of her tongue and remaining unvoiced. She hadn’t learned her lesson. She hadn’t done things differently this time. And that was possibly the most heartbreaking thing of all. She’d had a chance to do things differently, because this thing with Tobin was different and wonderful, and she’d squandered it.

Christen blindly reached for her purse, pulling out her phone. She quickly called Crystal, needing someone to talk to, someone to help her work through what to do next, someone to hold her hand and tell her that it was okay to be scared but she shouldn’t let it continue to rule her life.

And that was exactly what Crystal did. After coming over and pouring them each a glass of wine, after hearing Christen recount everything, not just from tonight but from the entire saga of their not-so-relationship, Crystal fixed Christen with a look that oozed tough love.

“It was obvious you two loved each other when you came over for wine night two weeks ago,” Crystal said gently. 

“How?” Christen asked, her voice rough after spending so long explaining things.  

“She looks at you like everything you say is the most important thing in the world, and you look at her like she’s the funniest person on the planet, even when her jokes are total dad jokes,” Crystal answered. 

Christen nodded thoughtfully, dropping her gaze down to her fidgeting hands in her lap. 

“I fucked this one up too, didn’t I?”

“I think this is a very different situation,” Crystal said honestly. “You and Lily were never gonna work. She’s the straightest person I know, and she’s kind of an asshole. Tobin actually loves you back. So, yes you totally fucked up, but I don’t think it’s comparable, and I don’t think it’s a lost cause.”

Christen reached out and clung to Crystal’s offered hand like a life line. “I’m so scared, Crys. I don’t know if I can be broken like that again. I don’t know if I can do that again,” Christen whispered fiercely, her eyes filling with tears.

“Unrequited love hurt you, but that’s not what you have with Tobin. Unless...you don’t feel the same way about her. In that case, you need to cut Tobin loose,” Crystal sighed. 

“I didn’t want to feel the same way. I never wanted to love anyone ever again because love was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. But...now it’s not,” Christen admitted, her voice quiet but sure. 

“Are you over her?” Crystal asked. 

“Lily?” Christen scoffed. “Very much so.” 

“Good because you can’t keep being scared and mourning the life you didn’t get. It’s keeping you from living the life you could have. And I’m just gonna go ahead and say that it seems like your silence and the way you pretended not to care probably made Tobin feel like a fun distraction for the Lily feelings, and no one wants to feel like the backup plan.”

Christen took a second to ponder that, the sick realization that Crystal was right washing over her quickly. She recalled Tobin using the words second choice and Band-Aid earlier tonight and her stomach rolled at the thought. 

“But that’s not what it was. It might have started that way but...it hasn’t been that way for me in a long time. I never- I never thought she thought that,” Christen said, her heart tightening painfully in her chest. 

“Sweetie, she was clearly too freaked out to tell you about her feelings, so her sister had to bring them up for her and force you two to talk,” Crystal said, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. “I just think she needs to hear that from you. She needs you to tell her that she’s not the backup plan, that she’s the main course not the side dish...do you need more metaphors?”

Christen shook her head and blew out a long breath. “She’s not a backup plan or a diversion. She’s...she’s the plan for me, Crys.”

“And it sounds like she wants you to be her plan,” Crystal said, wishing she could wave a wand and make the sad look on her best friend’s face disappear. 

With a nod, Christen shot to her feet. “You’re right. I should go talk to her. I can fix this. I need to fix this.”

“Do you know what you’re going to say?” Crystal asked, rising to her feet to meet Christen’s eyes. 

“I’ll wing it,” Christen shrugged.

“Or you could sleep on it,” Crystal suggested, thinking about how many times unplanned conversations went wrong. 

Christen didn’t want to wait. She didn’t want to sleep on it. She wanted to fix things and clear the air and kiss Tobin with everything she felt inside, instead of kissing her and praying Tobin couldn’t feel how much it meant to her.

But then she paused and took Crystal’s words to heart. Maybe she should wait. Maybe she should sleep on it so she could go into the conversation fresh and rested and prepared. 

“I can fix this right?” Christen asked softly, her voice slightly trembling and very vulnerable.

“If you tell her everything you just told me and if she actually listens, then...yes, I think you can fix this,” Crystal nodded. “Do you want me to stay here tonight?” 

“It’s okay. I know you have work tomorrow,” Christen replied, waving off Crystal’s offer. 

“I don’t care. Your couch is huge, and I’d honestly prefer knowing you’re holding it together and not chickening out on going after what will make you happy,” Crystal said.  

“My bed is also huge, and I changed the sheets today so,” Christen chuckled.

“Lovely,” Crystal grinned. “The two of you have insane endurance. I really thought the almost daily sex would end after the first month, but damn,” Crystal chuckled, taking Christen’s hand and tugging her toward her bedroom. 


“I can feel you guys staring at me,” Tobin said, emptying the cash register and stacking the bills on the counter. 

She’d woken up at 9:45 that morning on Kling’s couch to all three of her friends hovering over her with coffee and breakfast and tissues. Despite their sweet intentions, Tobin had felt suffocated, like at any minute, she’d break all over again, this time with an audience. It hadn’t gotten better at work. She’d spent most of her night locked in the back office and filling out paperwork and order forms for new axe-throwing targets. But any time that she’d stepped out to help a customer or wait a few tables, her friends had trailed behind her with worried expressions on their faces, with pity in their eyes. 

“We’re just concerned, Boss,” Megan shrugged.

“And we’re here if you want to talk,” A.D. chimed in, offering Tobin a reassuring smile.

“What’s there to talk about? I shot my shot, and she didn’t feel the same way. It happens all the time,” Tobin said, keeping her voice even and steady, despite the tightness in her throat. 

“Are you sure she doesn’t? Because the way she looks at you-” Kling tried to interject, only to be shot down by Tobin.

“She said my family assumed wrong when they assumed we were together, so I’m gonna say I’m sure,” Tobin huffed, shoving the bills and random coins into the small bag she was holding. 

Kling looked like she wanted to argue, to say more, but A.D. grabbed onto her shoulder. 

“I’m sorry, Tobs,” A.D. sighed, hating the hurt she could see written on her friend’s face. “We’ll get out of your hair.”

“I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” Tobin said, mindlessly stacking a few clean glasses and putting them on a shelf under the bar. When she heard none of her friends move away, she glanced up, feeling slightly bad for basically telling them to leave her alone. “I’ll text you all when I get home safe and sound tonight, okay?” 

“We’re holding you to that,” Megan said, wagging her finger in Tobin’s direction. “If we don’t get one, we’re gonna kill you ourselves.” A.D. and Kling nodded along with Megan’s empty threat.

“I will take a selfie when I’m curled up and watching an HGTV show,” Tobin promised, holding up two fingers in a scout’s honor salute. 

Her three friends gave her salutes back and then headed for the front door, throwing worried looks over their shoulders as they left Tobin alone in the bar.

Tobin grabbed a bottle of beer from the small fridge at the back of the bar and quickly popped the cap off of it, taking a swig and letting the bubbles tickle her throat on the way down. 

This place had been normal and safe. Her spot behind the bar had been her place , but now her bar was Christen’s too. Christen had touched every single part of her life, and she couldn’t even fill out boring paperwork without thinking about the woman walking into her office. The worst part was that Tobin had done this to herself. She’d gotten into a friends with benefits situation, and even when she’d developed feelings, she hadn’t pulled away. 

Tobin walked out from behind the bar, and over to Target Seven. The axes had all been pulled out of the wall and hung at the end of the aisle. She quickly picked one up with her left hand, still holding her beer in her right and threw it as hard as she could into the target, watching as a weak spot on the target splintered and cracked. She threw axe after axe at Target Seven, letting the anger she felt toward herself and toward the entire situation, spill out. 

Tobin hadn’t fully understood Christen when she’d first met her. She hadn’t fully understood why she was so incredibly broken up about Lily. She’d empathized; she’d remembered girls in college who’d used her to experiment and tossed her aside, but that had been different. She hadn’t loved them.

She understood Christen loud and clear now. She knew exactly what it felt like to love someone and lose them, to love someone and realize that they didn’t feel the same. And suddenly Tobin couldn’t help but wonder if this was exactly how Christen had felt when she’d thrown that first axe. Because suddenly, all the emotions Tobin had been schooling all day to avoid any more pity were flowing freely through her body, propelling axe after axe into Target Seven, then Target Six, then Target Five, pausing to grab another beer before starting on Target Four.

“Shit,” Tobin grumbled, looking at the dribble of beer that had slipped from the neck of her bottle after her latest throw. 

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” came a soft voice from behind Tobin, making her freeze.

Tobin couldn’t turn around. She wouldn’t, not when that face and those perfect green eyes were taking over her brain as it was, not when her spaces weren’t safe anymore. Tobin slowly picked up another axe, lifting it slowly, so that Christen knew she was going to throw it and would get out of the way. Then she jerked her arm forward, releasing the axe with far too much power behind it. It hit the bullseye, sending a few pieces of the target falling to the ground. 

“Are you just going to throw axes all night?” Christen asked, dropping the few napkins she’d picked up for Tobin and her spilled beer onto the table near Target Four.

“I get a discount,” Tobin mumbled, taking another sip of beer. 

“I’ll just wait you out then,” Christen replied, dropping into the stool at the table near Target Four. She’d come here to say her peace, to tell Tobin everything she wanted to, but she wasn’t about to do that when Tobin had a sharp weapon in her hand.

Tobin’s next five throws were not as impressive as the last. They were off mark, a couple bouncing off the target and landing on the ground. It suddenly seemed like the wind had gone out of her sails, like she couldn’t throw with all of her bottled up emotions when Christen was sitting there watching. 

“You can keep the sweatpants. What else do you want?” Tobin asked, turning around and finally looking at the other woman. 

Christen swallowed the small flicker of hurt she felt at the harsh tone of Tobin’s voice, at the hardness in those usually warm brown eyes. 

“I wanted to apologize,” Christen replied, her hands twisting the napkins nervously.

“You’re forgiven. It was my bad,” Tobin shrugged, moving around Christen and back toward the bar. She hadn’t planned on drinking to get drunk tonight, but right now it sounded like a nice idea. 

Christen huffed and quickly trailed after Tobin. “I don’t even know what that means. I’m trying to apologize for what happened at your brother’s photography thing.”

“I know, and I accept the apology. I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have made it complicated or whatever,” Tobin said, grabbing a third beer and heading to Target Three. 

Christen felt her annoyance flare, watching Tobin walk away from her again. “If you’d stop for five seconds, you’d give me a chance to tell you that I’m sorry because this was never meaningless to me either,” Christen called out, her voice going soft at the end. 

Tobin froze halfway between the bar and the aisle for Target Three. Her heart simultaneously raced and ached at Christen’s words. She didn’t want to hope. She didn’t want to feel that warmth spreading through her chest, just for it to be extinguished and leave her with a cracking heart. 

“I’m sorry that I was scared. I’m sorry that I figured out what I wanted but I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough to say anything. I’m sorry I made you feel like you were just a distraction or a fix-it fuck. I’m sorry, Tobin. I’m so so sorry,” Christen continued, her voice as soft as ever as she slowly approached Tobin, as she hesitated a few inches away, unsure if she could broach the final bit of space between them. Tobin’s back was still to her and she had no idea how her words were landing, but at least she was saying them. She was finally saying them.

“Please don’t just say that if you don’t mean it,” Tobin mumbled, her chin and bottom lip wobbling a little, no matter how tightly she clenched her jaw. 

Christen slowly moved around Tobin, moving to face her. She took a deep breath and met Tobin’s watery eyes, feeling her own eyes start to water too. 

“The first time we talked in this bar...I thought you were full of shit,” Christen began, a wry smile tugging at her lips as her eyes watered. “Telling me that you couldn’t be in love with someone who didn’t love you back. Telling me that you had to be in love with them, together. I- I thought you were wrong,” she continued, checking her desire to reach out, to touch Tobin. Instead she forged on, needing to get this all out. 

“It took me four months to realize you were right. It took me four months to realize you were right because...we were falling in love together. I don’t just love you, Tobin Heath, I’m in love with you because you’re in love with me too. I’m not saying it to say it. I mean it. These past four months have been more meaningful to me than anything else in my entire life,” Christen finished, her heart hammering in her chest and a few tears spilling down her cheeks.

Tobin’s heart ached for an entirely different reason now. Her chest tightened because the woman she loved most was crying in front of her, because Christen looked hurt and scared, because she looked vulnerable in their place.

So, Tobin broached the space between them. She put her third beer on the floor and reached out to run both of her thumbs under Christen’s eyes, wiping away the tears that were slipping down her face, the same tears that were reflected in her own eyes. 

“I am full of shit most of the time,” Tobin admitted, remembering what she’d said to Christen. While it had been her honest opinion, it had also been a desperate attempt to make Christen feel better. 

Christen let out a wet laugh, using her own hands to wipe away the tears on Tobin’s cheeks. “Not about this,” Christen said with a small shake of her head. “You were right, and I’m sorry it took me so long. I’m- I’m so sorry.”

“I think that’s enough sorrys,” Tobin said, pressing her cheek into Christen’s hand. “I love you back, and I’m- I’m really really glad that I get to be in love with you.”

A delighted laugh bubbled up out of Christen at the way the word love made her heart soar instead of break. She’d spent two decades cursing love and hating love. She’d spent so much of her life afraid of it, thinking it was filled only with sharp edges and jagged corners and pain. She’d spent so long believing that love and happiness were mutually exclusive things. But right now, with Tobin cradling her face and looking at her with those soft, warm brown eyes, Christen realized she’d been oh so very wrong about love. 

“Say it again,” Christen whispered, a smile tugging at her lips.

“I’m in love with you, and for the past couple months, I’ve been making love to you. I’m really, really looking forward to making love to you while being in love with you,” Tobin added, a lump forming in her throat, threatening to send gloriously happy tears down her face. 

“Me too,” Christen murmured, leaning in slowly, giving Tobin time to pull away. She wanted to kiss Tobin. She wanted to kiss her with the love she felt and she wanted Tobin to kiss her with the love she felt. 

They’d kissed so many times over these past four months, but they’d all been kisses of half-truths and deceptions and hidden meanings. They’d been kisses that wished for more but didn’t think more was possible. But now, this could be a kiss that wished for more and got more, because more was possible.

Tobin forced herself to meet Christen’s slow speed. She wanted to race forward, to wrap her arms around Christen and kiss her senseless, but she followed Christen’s lead, understanding the significance of this first kiss after everything that had been shared between them. 

She met Christen in the middle, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist and pressing her lips gently against Christen’s. It wasn’t their most heated kiss, their most feverish, their most desperate, but it still made one of them whimper. Tobin couldn’t even tell who, since they were pressed against one another, both re-exploring each other slowly and carefully, with as much tender love as they possibly could. 

“Take me to bed,” Christen whispered against Tobin’s lips, repeating a request she’d made dozens of times these past few months. But this time, she let her words fill with every bit of love and want and passion and care that she felt.

Tobin kept an arm around Christen or a hand tangled in Christen’s as she flipped off lights, poured her untasted third beer down the drain, and locked the money from the register into the safe. 

“Do you have a preference?” Tobin mumbled against Christen’s cheek as she locked the front door of the bar.

“Yours. I never got the chance to take that black dress off,” Christen replied with a playful smirk, her eyebrows waggling.

“I’m in a flannel, and you’re not wearing that sexy number from the studio opening, so no dice. Maybe I’ll convince you to go to dinner with me sometime this week and I’ll do an outfit repeat,” Tobin grinned, leading Christen down the street in the direction of her townhouse. 

“An outfit repeat? For me?” Christen teased.

“Anytime,” Tobin nodded with a smile.

~

Tobin felt nerves that she’d never felt with Christen before. She wanted this to be good. She knew they were physically good together, but she wanted loving one another to be good. She wanted this to never change, even if everything had changed.

She locked her front door, took Christen’s coat for her, and hung it near the front door with her own. The two of them walked hand and hand upstairs, the silence between them comfortable but weighted with the words they’d just shared. 

“We did this so out of order,” Christen chuckled, leaning into Tobin’s side as they made their way down the hallway to Tobin’s bedroom.

Tobin let out some of her nerves with a soft laugh. “We really did.”

“I’m just glad I fell in love with someone who’s super great in bed,” Christen grinned, knocking her hip into Tobin’s, trying to dispel the rest of the nerves she could see on Tobin’s face. 

Surprisingly, Christen wasn’t nervous. They’d always managed to figure this part out, the physical stuff. It had come naturally and easy to them, so Christen wasn’t worried about it being difficult. If anything, she knew it would be even easier, now that they’d shared their feelings with one another.

Tobin shut her bedroom door behind them and slowly walked Christen backwards, so that Christen’s back was pressed against the door. “You’re a very confident woman, did you know that?” Tobin asked, smiling at Christen’s bright eyes, eyes that seemed unabashedly full of love. 

Christen slipped her pointer finger into the belt loops of Tobin’s jeans and pulled Tobin flush against her. “In some areas, yes,” Christen replied with a matching smile.

Tobin slipped her hands under the hem of Christen’s sweater, keeping her eyes on Christen’s. “This gets to come off?” she asked, just like she had dozens of times since early on when Christen hadn’t wanted to be completely naked, when she’d wanted some distance, a barrier. 

“I love that you always ask me that,” Christen whispered, lifting her arms over her head. “And I’m sorry I said no before, but I’m not planning on saying no again.”

Christen had spent four months in the gray area, trying to simultaneously hide and call out for help. She wanted Tobin to see her, but she also wanted Tobin to never get behind her walls. She had kept her shirt, and most of her clothes for that matter, on, or partially on, during a lot of their interactions as a way to protect herself, to keep distance between them. But there was no need for distance anymore. Now, there could be closeness and intimacy. Now, Tobin could see all of her, inside and out.

Tobin lifted the sweater over Christen’s head, depositing it on the floor and leaning in to capture Christen’s lips with her own. She let her hands explore the smooth skin over Christen’s back, relishing in how familiar and new everything felt. 

Christen made quick of the buttons of Tobin’s flannel, pushing it down her shoulders in an effort to even things up. She ghosted her hands up and down Tobin’s sides, her lips moving against Tobin’s with practiced ease.

“You’re beautiful,” Tobin whispered, trailing her fingers over Christen’s hips and letting a few of them slip under the waistband of Christen’s jeans. “Do these get to come off too?” 

“Anytime and every time,” Christen smirked, using Tobin’s turn of phrase and adding her own spin to it.

“Did you just expand upon my catchphrase?” Tobin gasped, popping the button of Christen’s jeans. 

“I did, and I can think of at least six different ways you can thank me,” Christen grinned, leaning back against the door for something solid to support her. She was already feeling weak in the knees and they’d barely done more than lose their shirts. With the love now acknowledged between them, things weren't just easier, things were hotter and more intense and better. So much better.

Tobin rolled her eyes affectionately and unzipped the jeans, kneeling down on the floor, so that she could pull the jeans down Christen’s legs and help Christen step out of them. She tossed the jeans aside and looked at the long smooth legs in front of her. 

Tobin planned on taking her time. She planned on loving every single part of Christen, since she finally could. So, she kissed every inch of Christen’s legs, pausing every so often to whisper something to Christen. 

“I love this scar,” Tobin mumbled, ghosting her lips over Christen’s knee. 

Christen felt a stuttering breath leave her lips, her hand at the back of Tobin’s head tightening its grip in her hair. 

“Fishing hook. I was-” Christen’s head pushed further back into the door as Tobin’s hands moved up and down the backs of her thighs, gently pushing them open. “-saving a turtle as a kid and got caught on a fishing line.”

“You’re adorable. I love this freckle too,” Tobin whispered, committing each word Christen shared to her memory and pressing a kiss to Christen’s thigh, right above her knee. 

“Born with it, no cool story this time,” Christen husked.

“I love your hips,” Tobin grinned, kissing her way across Christen’s hips. 

With a few gasps and moans, Christen tried to push her hips off the door, trying to guide Tobin just a little further down. 

“I’m not making love to you against this door, though,” Tobin chuckled. “Not for the first time since…”

Christen blinked her eyes open and looked down at Tobin, a soft, wonderstruck smile making its way onto her face.

“Then I’ll say it again, take me to bed,” Christen murmured.

“So impatient,” Tobin smirked, wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist and guiding her back toward the bed. 

“You love it,” Christen replied, reaching down to pop open the button of Tobin’s jeans, intent on keeping things very even tonight.

“I do,” Tobin agreed, walking Christen backwards until Christen’s legs hit the side of her mattress. 

“I can’t believe you do,” Christen whispered, sinking down onto the bed, an awestruck smile on her face as she toyed with the waistband of Tobin’s jeans.

“You can’t believe I love you?” Tobin asked, stepping in between Christen’s legs and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “You’re extremely lovable. You’re smart and funny and beautiful and amazing in bed. And sometimes, when you think I’m asleep, you rub my back,” Tobin added with a smirk. 

Christen leaned her forehead against Tobin’s stomach, her arms wrapping around Tobin’s waist. 

“I just...I spent a lot of time doubting those things. This all feels a bit surreal to me right now,” Christen mumbled into Tobin’s shirt.

“But it’s very real,” Tobin promised, pressing her fingers into the tight muscles at the back of Christen’s neck. 

Christen nodded against Tobin’s stomach, not entirely trusting her voice right now. 

“Can I ask you something?” Tobin murmured, scratching gently against the back of Christen’s neck. 

“Anytime and every time,” Christen replied, her arms tightening around Tobin’s waist.

“Are you free after work on Tuesday?” 

Christen tilted her head, propping her chin against Tobin’s stomach, and looked up at Tobin, a small smile making its way onto her face. 

“Yes,” Christen hummed.

“Good, because I’d really like to take you to dinner, but I need you to know that I’m considering it a date...like a ‘pick you up at your door and walk you home after’ kind of date,” Tobin said, sinking into the new warm feeling that was washing through her entire body. 

“Good, because I want it to be,” Christen grinned.

“I don’t do that with friends,” Tobin added, leaning down to press a kiss to Christen’s forehead. 

“Good times two,” Christen sighed, her eyes fluttering shut at the feeling of Tobin’s lips on her skin. 

“And now I’d like to make love to you,” Tobin whispered, pushing Christen back onto the bed and following closely after her. 

“After you take these off,” Christen replied with a smirk, pushing at Tobin’s jeans as she pulled her lower lip between her teeth. “Please?”

“For you? Anytime,” Tobin smirked, slipping off of the bed and disposing of her jeans, adding it to the pile of clothes on the floor. When she crawled back onto the bed and sank down, pressing herself against Christen’s skin, her entire body felt warm and safe and comfortable in a way that she’d never felt before. 

Tobin continued to take her time, pressing her lips to every part of Christen’s stomach and chest, arms and legs and face. 

“Can I take these off?” Tobin asked, tracing her fingers over Christen’s bra and the waistband of her underwear. 

“Yes,” Christen rasped, her eyes already screwed tightly shut, her breathing already labored.

Tobin lifted Christen into a sitting position and wrapped her arms around her to reach the clasp of the bra. Her lips trailed over Christen’s neck and shoulder as she worked to get the piece of clothing off. Once Christen’s chest was bare, Tobin focused all of her attention to Christen’s breasts, swirling her tongue around each nipple and growing wetter as she heard each of the soft noises and responses that left Christen’s mouth. 

“I love you,” Tobin whispered as she slipped her thumbs under the waistband of Christen’s underwear and dragged the fabric down Christen’s legs. 

Christen had only heard those words a handful of times, had only gotten a few chances to hear the way Tobin’s voice grew softer and slower when she said those three words. But she was certain that she’d never grow tired of hearing them. After spending far too long hating love, she was now absolutely loving it.

“I love you, too,” Christen murmured, her eyes fluttering open so she could look down at where Tobin was dropping kisses to her ankles and her calves and her knees. A beaming, blissed-out smile played at her lips as she reached out to run her fingers through Tobin’s hair when Tobin was close enough. “God, I really love you.”

Tobin lowered her lips to Christen’s inner thighs, unable to stop herself from smiling against Christen’s skin. Her heart was swelling at Christen’s words, her stomach was flipping in complete adoration and anticipation, sending butterflies fluttering all the way up to her chest. She moved her lips upward until she reached the apex of Christen’s legs. 

This was how she’d first made Christen come apart, but this time she wouldn’t be on a bathroom counter in the back of a bar with an ugly dress on the floor. This time, Tobin wouldn’t be afraid to pour her entire self into every touch and kiss and flick of her tongue. 

Tobin had been terrified of time. She’d been afraid of going too fast or too slow. She’d longed to take her time but feared seeming too serious or intentional. Now, though, she could take all the time in the world; she could move intentionally and meaningfully without worrying about scaring Christen away or not having a next time.

She sank into the warmth pooling between Christen’s legs, moaning at the way Christen seemed to taste even better now that everything had been revealed between the two of them. 

“Right there. Yeah,” Christen gasped, pushing her hips up into Tobin’s mouth. She grasped desperately at the sheets and at the hair at the back of Tobin’s head, feeling like her entire body was on fire. “Mmmm, baby, right there,” Christen added, a moan spilling from her parted lips.

Heat shot through Tobin’s body at the pet name that slipped from Christen’s lips. 

“What was that?” Tobin murmured, pausing her ministrations but keeping her face between Christen’s legs, ready to continue as soon as her heart stopped threatening to thud through her ribcage. 

“What was what?” Christen whined, bucking off the bed and seeking out Tobin’s tongue. 

“What you just called me,” Tobin whispered, pressing her tongue to where Christen wanted her most. 

Christen whimpered, her back arching off the bed as Tobin moved her tongue in that swirling motion she loved so much.

“Baby,” she repeated, too far gone to be embarrassed at the accidental use of the pet name. She had loved the way it had rolled off her tongue with ease, loved the way it made her feel. “I called you baby,” she managed to add before another moan was ripped out of her.

Tobin groaned, moving her tongue at a slightly quicker pace, wanting to make Christen feel as amazing as that one, simple word had just made her feel. She slipped two fingers inside, nearly whimpering at the way Christen clenched around them. With curling fingers and an insistent tongue, Tobin brought Christen to the edge. 

They’d been here a countless number of times. She knew Christen. She knew Christen’s body. Christen’s legs tightened around her back, her hand fisted at the back of her neck, her abdomen tensed and tightened, and Tobin knew that Christen was seconds from tumbling over the edge. She curled her fingers once more, pulling her face away to glance up at Christen. 

“Come for me, baby,” Tobin husked, pressing kisses to Christen’s inner thighs. 

With a keening whine, Christen toppled over the edge, Tobin’s name now interspersed with I love you and baby as she rode the waves of pleasure each kiss and each curl of Tobin’s fingers brought. 

“I love that too,” Tobin smirked, moving up Christen’s body while she sucked her fingers clean. 

As she tried to catch her breath, Christen felt a dreamy smile make its way across her face as her eyes fluttered open.

“What’s that?” Christen asked, her voice light and breathy, her arms rising to wrap around Tobin’s shoulders.

“Making you come,” Tobin hummed, sinking down into Christen’s arms. 

A deep blush heated Christen’s cheeks as she nuzzled her nose along Tobin’s. “Want to hear something cool?”

“Hmm?” Tobin sighed, pressing another kiss to Christen’s shoulder. 

Christen hooked her leg around the back of Tobin’s and rolled them effortlessly, settling on top of Tobin. She felt her dreamy smile morph into a smirk at the sparkling surprise in Tobin’s brown eyes.

“I love that too,” Christen husked, capturing Tobin’s lips in a soft kiss. She took her time as well, finally feeling unhurried and unrushed for the first time in bed with Tobin. She let her lips and fingertips track across previously charted territory, but tonight, she kept her touch gentle and she used her lips to whisper words of love into Tobin’s skin. 

When Tobin’s bra and underwear had joined the growing pile of clothes on the floor, Christen knelt between Tobin’s legs, her fingertips ghosting up and down Tobin’s thighs as her eyes drank in the stunning vision on the bed beneath her. 

“So beautiful,” Christen whispered, almost to herself. She didn’t say it to be heard, she didn’t say it to compliment Tobin. The words had just slipped out, an observation that she’d made so many times and had to keep inside. But now, with Tobin laid bare before her, her honey brown hair spread out across the pillows and her lips pulled up into the sweetest smile, Christen let herself say the words again. “You’re so beautiful.” 

At the delicate blush heating Tobin’s cheeks, Christen felt a smile pull at her lips. Tobin was beautiful and she was going to tell Tobin that every day. And tonight, she was going to show Tobin just how beautiful she found her to be. 

Christen lavished Tobin. Christen cherished her; she revered her; she treasured her. She fell to her knees at Tobin’s altar and worshipped her, with deft strokes of her tongue and gentle caresses of her fingers. And right as she had built Tobin up, right as she was holding Tobin at the edge of desire, she looked up at the undone mess she’d rendered Tobin and smiled.

“I love you, baby,” she whispered before running her tongue through Tobin again, and again, and again, until she heard the choked groan and felt the tensing of Tobin’s body, until she knew she’d sent Tobin over the edge with nothing but love.


They fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, sated and tangled in each others’ arms, unafraid of cuddling or kissing or whispering each and every thought that spun through their minds. 

And that’s exactly how they woke up, warm and safe, cocooned in each others’ arms, with one exception. 

“I can’t believe I love someone who leaves their phone on loud,” Christen grumbled, burying her face further in the crook of Tobin’s neck and trying to ignore the ringing cell phone nearby, the one that had woken her up from the most peaceful night’s sleep she’d had in forever.

“I don’t,” Tobin whined, pulling the covers up further over the both of them. “It’s yours.”

“Mine’s downstairs in my coat pocket,” Christen replied, squeezing her eyes shut and tightening her arm around Tobin’s waist. “It’s yours.”

Tobin let out a grumpy whimper as the phone started ringing for a third time, stretching her arm out as far as she could and just barely snatching her phone off of the bedside table. 

“Hello?” she rasped, unable to mask her morning voice. 

“Tobs! Where are you? We said 10:30 for brunch right?” came Jeff’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Shoot, what time is it?” Tobin mumbled, blinking her eyes open slowly. 

“Um...10:20?” Jeff chuckled.

“Okay, give me twenty minutes. I’ll run. Sorry, dude,” Tobin sighed. 

“Twenty minutes for what?” Christen mumbled sleepily, not realizing Tobin hadn’t hung up yet.

“TOBS, WAS THAT A GIRL?” Jeff shrieked into the phone.

“I’ll see you in twenty. Order me a coffee,” Tobin grumbled, hanging up the phone call and dropping her phone onto the mattress. 

“What’s in twenty? I want to sleep,” Christen sighed, burrowing even closer to Tobin. 

“My mom and sisters are leaving Portland today. They wanted to do brunch before they left, and I promised to join them. You can stay and sleep. There’s coffee and bagels, and I’ll meet up with them really quickly. Maybe I can skip brunch, just drop by and say goodbye.”

“Can I come?” Christen asked quietly, her face still hidden in the crook of Tobin’s neck. It wasn’t just about spending time with Tobin. She wanted to go and try to make a better impression on Tobin’s family this time after rudely running off the other night. She wanted to show up on Tobin’s arm and not freak out at the word girlfriend . She wanted everything with Tobin, and this was one of the parts of everything.

“Really?” Tobin asked, trying to look down at Christen’s hidden face. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. You can re-meet them next time they’re in town.”

Christen moved her face out of the crook of Tobin’s neck and shot her a shy, somewhat nervous smile. 

“I want to,” Christen replied softly.

“We have eighteen minutes,” Tobin sighed, unable to keep the dopey smile off her face. 

“We’re already late, what’s a few more minutes?” Christen hummed, tilting her head to press a lingering kiss to Tobin’s lips. “Good morning, by the way,” she whispered.

“Good morning,” Tobin murmured, her cheeks aching at the growing smile on her face. 

Christen moved her lips across the hard line of Tobin’s jaw, kissing down the side of her throat, her hands starting to wander across bare skin.

“I’m really looking forward to telling Jeff why we’re late,” Tobin laughed, wrapping her arms around Christen’s bare back. 

“Yeah, your girlfriend is a fan of morning sex,” Christen hummed, nipping gently at the corner of Tobin’s jaw as her hands traced lazy circles on Tobin’s stomach. 

“Oh really? I get to tell him that?” Tobin husked, her heart fluttering at the use of the word girlfriend. 

“Mhm,” Christen replied, her touch moving lower as her lips made their way back to Tobin’s. 

“I love you,” Tobin whispered between kisses. 

“I love you too, and I’m going to use six of those eighteen minutes to show you just how much.”

~

“It’s good to see you again,” Cindy smiled over her cup of coffee. 

“You’re the not girlfriend, right?” Perry asked, having missed the entire dramatic first meeting. 

“Actually, I’m the girlfriend,” Christen corrected. She smiled at the Heath family sitting around the brunch table and tightened her hold on Tobin’s hand.

“Oh, thank god,” Katie sighed, putting her mimosa down on the table. “I really thought I was gonna have to go all ‘protective oldest sister’ on you.”

“Not today,” Christen chuckled, leaning into Tobin’s side a bit and winking in Katie’s direction.

“What changed? Did Toby make you margaritas?” Perry asked, making a face at Tobin. 

Christen shot Tobin an amused, slightly confused look. “They know about margaritas?”

“Margaritas are a Heath family tradition,” Cindy said, sending a soft smile across the table at Christen and Tobin. 

“It’s how we seal the deal,” Katie said. “I sealed the deal with my now husband with the family margaritas.”

“It’s how I got this,” Perry added, holding up her hand and showing off an engagement ring. 

“I don’t have anyone in my life yet, but when I do, I’m totally making margaritas for them,” Jeff agreed. 

“So I was wooed with a family tradition?” Christen teased, her eyes crinkling as she smiled over at Tobin, who had the prettiest blush heating her cheeks.

“Take it as a compliment. We’re very selective about who gets to try the family recipe,” Tobin hummed. 

“Thank you for deeming me worthy,” Christen replied, lifting their clasped hands to her lips and pressing a kiss to Tobin’s knuckles.

“Are you kidding me? Toby’s shooting way out of her league,” Perry teased, getting a glare from Cindy. 

“Then she clearly hasn’t told you what I was wearing when we officially met,” Christen chuckled.

“Yes, I was so hoping we’d get the story!” Jeff grinned, leaning back in his chair. 

“G-rated,” Tobin whispered, hiding her face behind her coffee mug. 

Christen pursed her lips and felt a light blush color her cheeks. “Well, I showed up at her bar, for the second time, in the ugliest, most heinous, bubblegum pink bridesmaids dress ever, and somehow she still made me that margarita,” Christen replied, her thumb softly stroking along the back of Tobin’s hand as she spoke. 

“Bubble gum pink is totally Tobin’s type,” Katie smirked. 

“You brought out the margaritas that early?” Perry gasped, holding her hand over her heart like Tobin had taken some huge risk. 

“Do you see her?” Tobin mumbled, gesturing at Christen. Christen just shook her head at Tobin’s reply, feeling her blush deepen. 

“Fair point,” Perry snorted. “Continue.”

“Your turn,” Christen said with a smile, nudging Tobin and reaching out for her cup of coffee.

“Well, Chris hated the dress, so she stole my favorite pair of sweatpants out of my gym bag, and I still haven’t gotten them back,” Tobin said, taking a huge bite of her waffle to avoid having to say anymore, especially when her blush was growing at just the thought of what she and Christen had done in between taking the dress off and putting on the sweatpants. 

“They’re comfy,” Christen defended with a shrug. “Plus I let her come visit all the puppies at work, so we’re even.”

“Wait...what do you do?” Jeff asked, leaning forward with the same enamored look that Tobin always wore when puppies were mentioned. 

“She’s Portland’s favorite vet. She has her own clinic, and sometimes she gets to bring puppies home and lets me play with them,” Tobin bragged, leaning forward to match Jeff’s excitement. 

As Christen wiped away the bit of maple syrup from the corner of Tobin’s mouth, as she caught Tobin grinning over at her with that soft look in her eyes, Christen realized she’d unlearned everything she thought she knew about love. She then promptly realized that she’d learned something new.

She’d learned that love was the most wonderful thing ever invented in the history of the world.

Love was bold and brave and beautiful. Love was freeing and empowering and grounding.

Love was embracing the fact that the woman she’d spent the last four months getting to know, the one she’d been falling for, for equally as long, was her match in every way.

Love was embracing the fact that the person she loved more than anything, loved her back.

Love was realizing that nothing was going to change that fact.

Love was, without a doubt, the most perfect truth she’d ever lived.