They won the Gold, of course. Doug figured it must’ve taken the Olympics officials at least ten minutes to clear the ice after their skate. The crowd just went wild: cheering and stomping, throwing flowers, stuffed animals and homemade banners. Nobody could hear the announcement over the loudspeaker, but everyone could read the scores on the board.
Kate was a consummate professional, smiling for the cameras and graciously answering shouted questions. He just followed along, watching her with what felt like a goofy smile on his face. It was totally sappy, but he didn't care. She'd said she loved him. It was the best day of his life.
Afterwards things were quieter but still chaotic. There was the medal ceremony, then another press conference. More photographs. Kate had to re-reschedule her flight home, and then Jack took them out for a celebratory dinner that probably cost more than Doug would've made in a month back in Minnesota. Everyone was talking and laughing; there was good food and even better champagne. But all Doug really noticed was Kate, how happy she looked, how beautiful. And how she was holding his hand like she’d never let go.
It was so late it was almost early when they got back to the house, but Doug was floating pleasantly somewhere above his exhaustion. Jack hadn’t mentioned the kiss on the ice, just told them both to get some sleep. Anton kissed their cheeks, still beaming with pride and more than a little vodka. “Sleep well, Katya. Sleep well, Douglas. Spokojnoj noči.”
Then they were alone for the first time in what felt like days. No crowds, no coach, no cameras. The silence seemed somehow very loud.
“I feel as though I’ve been talking all night,” Kate began, “but we’ve hardly talked at all. Just you and me, I mean.” An enormous yawn crept up on her and she raised both hands to cover her mouth, looking startled.
Doug laughed, feeling light and slightly giddy. “We won a gold medal today. We should probably save something for tomorrow.” He caught her hand again and they made their way upstairs, swaying and stumbling with fatigue, giggling at themselves and each other. Doug wondered how he could have known Kate this long and not discovered that she had the most adorable snort-laugh.
When they finally made it to her room, she opened the door and Doug stood in the hallway stupidly.
"Don't you want to come in?" she asked.
"Yes," he said emphatically. "But it’s probably better if I don’t. We're both really tired and..." He trailed off as Kate's smile faltered.
"I feel like we’ve had this conversation before," she said.
“Yeah, but this time it’s different. This time you love me, too.”
“I already loved you when we had this conversation before, which is why we had the conversation in the first place. But you didn’t love me then. And now you do.” Saying it out loud made him smile goofily again. He couldn’t help it; he’d lost all control of his face.
Kate shoved him. “You’re an oaf.”
Still grinning, Doug used her motion to pull her into him and wrap his arms around her. She went very still for a moment before relaxing against him. He let his head rest on top of hers and just stood like that for a while. It felt really good to hold her.
"This is nice," he said into her hair. In response, she made a little humming sound in her throat that he took to mean she agreed.
Eventually she must have remembered they were standing in the open doorway to her room because she pulled back. She pushed some hair behind her ear and looked almost shy. "Well, good night."
He touched her cheek and leaned down to kiss her softly. Their first kiss had been in celebration, spurred on by adrenalin and triumph. Already he could hardly remember what it'd been like. This time he was determined to pay more attention. All her lipstick had worn away and she still tasted a little like the champagne they'd been drinking. She smelled faintly of hairspray and sweat, and underneath that her particular Kate smell, both familiar and exciting. Everything about her was so soft—her hair, her skin, her mouth.
The kiss was sweet and lush, and when it was over he had to lean in and do it again. When her tongue slid against his it was as if all the nerve endings in his mouth had rewired directly to his groin. Sweet gave way to hot and wet and God, Kate and suddenly he was very, very awake.
When he finally pulled away, she looked like something out of a painting, all flushed cheeks and slightly parted mouth. Doug had to fight not to kiss her again, just keep kissing her until they couldn’t stand up anymore. He forced himself to step back just as she opened her eyes and blinked.
"Good night, Kate," he managed, his voice gone to gravel. He backed out of her room, shutting the door as he went.
Then he went into his own room, shut himself in it, and gave his head a few solid thuds against the door.
Watching American TV dubbed in French was weird. Of course, Kate was fluent in French and understood every word. She was half-heartedly translating for him, but he was mostly just watching her.
Both Jack and Anton had been mysteriously absent when Doug hauled himself out of bed sometime around noon. Kate appeared while he was making breakfast for himself, so he made some for her too. Now they were cozied up in front of a truly enormous TV screen, the remnants of breakfast scattered around them. Everything felt very decadent and slightly surreal: no training, no schedule, nowhere they had to be.
"So I'm guessing we have the day to ourselves," Doug said during an ad break. French commercials were really weird. "Anything you want to do?"
"I don't know. We could visit some of the medieval buildings. They date back to the 14th century."
"Okay, let me rephrase that. Anything you want to do that's fun?"
"It's called culture, Doug," Kate said, but without the full force of her customary disdain. "You should give it a try. You might even like it."
Doug pulled on her ponytail. "Is that how Hale asked you out the first time?" He affected a snobby voice. "Kate, would you like to go see some culture with me?"
"You're impossible." She pushed his hand away and crossed her arms over her chest, feigning interest in the TV again.
Leaning forward, Doug studied her profile. She was really cute when she sulked, not that he'd ever tell her that. He was in love, not stupid. But a few things suddenly added up for him. “You’ve never been on a date, have you?”
Kate stiffened and glanced at him quickly, and he knew he’d hit the mark. When she turned back to the TV, her face had taken on that prim expression she wore when she was feeling defensive. "Hale and I dined at many exclusive restaurants both at home and in London, and we regularly attended performances of the ballet and opera. But if you’re asking if I’ve ever been groped in a movie theater or the back seat of a car, then no. I haven't."
Doug grinned and sat back, delighted. "You don't know what you've been missing."
"Really," she said, with a roll of her eyes.
He took her bowling.
Kate was characteristically less than enthusiastic. "You expect me to wear shoes that other people have worn?" Her expression could have been printed in a dictionary to illustrate the word 'aghast'.
"They spray them with disinfectant, Kate."
"I don't care. There's no telling what sort of bacteria is growing in that kind of warm, moist environment! I feel sick just thinking about it."
Doug grabbed the shoes off the counter and shoved them into her hands. "Then don't think about it."
He'd had a cat once, as a kid, before his parents died and left him on his own with Walter. Well, a kitten probably, he guessed. She was a scrawny, scrappy little thing who'd spit and claw at him one moment, then curl up against his shoulder and fall asleep the next. Kate reminded him a lot of that cat. Maybe he was prone to loving irascible females. Stubborn, argumentative, volatile females.
It would explain a lot.
"This is a stupid game!" Kate yelled, after bowling her third gutter ball. Doug tried not to laugh, but her petulant stomping on the way back to the ball return made her look like a cranky three year old. At least the projectiles they were playing with this time were aimed away from his face.
"Would you like some help now?" he asked, mildly.
Kate glared at him, then sighed and her shoulders slumped. "All right, Mr Expert Bowler. Show me how to do it."
Since there was only a little sarcasm in her tone, Doug let it pass and walked her to a position about halfway to the foul line. "See these dots here?" He pointed at their feet. "Those and the arrows in front of the pins are for guidance. They help you target your shot." Kate watched him intently as he explained how to aim, approach, extend and follow through. With her next ball, she hit five pins.
Her smile nearly knocked him off his feet.
When she bowled her first strike, she did a wiggly little victory dance back to her seat, then leaned over and kissed him soundly.
Doug wondered if he’d ever get the goofy smile off his face.
On the way home she convinced him to make out a little in the back of the limo. "Just to make it authentic," she told him. As he put up the privacy screen, Doug decided there was definitely something to be said for chauffeured travel.
They got back to the house only slightly dishevelled. Once they were out of the car, Kate took hold of his hand again. It was kind of odd and wonderful, he decided, how happy it made him to have her slide her palm against his and lace their fingers together. They’d probably held hands hundreds of times while skating, but it had never been intimate like this before. It had never been just for the pleasure of touching.
"I suppose we have to go inside now," Kate said with a little sigh as they stood staring up at the ornate façade of the house. The sun had almost set and the exterior lights were on, lending the stone a soft glow.
“Would you rather stay out here?”
“Not really. It’s just so pretty at this time of day.”
So are you, he wanted to say. Even in his head it sounded corny and inadequate. With her flushed cheeks and dark curls, she looked like something magical. But there was no way he could say that when just thinking it made him feel ridiculous.
She caught him watching her and turned, sliding her arms around his waist. "I had a really nice time, Doug. Thank you."
“Even though you had to wear other people’s shoes?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Okay, except for that part.”
Doug laughed and hugged her. "You know, technically our date isn't over yet."
"No. Traditionally a date’s not over until the guy walks the girl to her door and they kiss goodnight. If it's been a good date, and a good kiss, she might invite him inside. For coffee," he added.
Kate nodded solemnly. "Well, I wouldn't want to break any dating traditions.” She slid her arms up behind his neck and rose on her toes in a single fluid motion. “Would you like to come in for coffee, Doug?”
Her body was pressed lightly all along the length of his, and even through the bulk of both their winter coats Doug was aware of every lovely inch of her. “We haven’t kissed goodnight, yet,” he said foolishly.
In response she brushed her mouth against his once, twice, and he felt his thoughts grow fuzzy. As Kate sank back onto her heels, he couldn’t help but follow her down, leaning in so he could kiss her again.
That’s when the front door opened.
“Kate? Doug? What are you doing out here in the cold?” Jack Moseley’s voice hit Doug like an electric shock, jerking him away from Kate so quickly that he stumbled. He had a brief flashback of falling flat on his face and Kate saying “toe pick” at him in a maddening singsong.
“We’re just admiring the house, Daddy,” Kate said.
“Well come inside before you catch a chill, honey. It’s freezing out here.”
Doug followed Kate up the steps feeling very much like he was 17 again and had just been caught with his hand up Mindy Swenson’s sweater by Mr Swenson.
As they passed through the doorway, Jack clapped Doug on the shoulder with just a little too much force to be jovial. “Doug,” he said.
“How about some hot cocoa?” Kate said brightly, between them. “With marshmallows.”
At some point, Doug knew, he and Jack were going to have The Talk. About how he was sullying Jack’s baby girl. About how he was good enough for her to skate with, but not to date.
Doug decided discretion—or rather retreat—was the better part of valour just then and shook his head. “Not for me, thanks. I’m still pretty wiped from yesterday, so I think I’ll just head to bed. Night,” he said, with a nod to Jack.
Jack nodded in return and turned toward the kitchen.
Doug looked at Kate and tried not to let his disappointment show. “Good night, Kate.”
“Good night,” she said. Then she glanced at the retreating form of her father and whispered, “I’ll come up to your room later. For coffee.” She flashed him a quick smile, then she was gone.
Doug whistled cheerfully as he climbed the stairs.
An hour later he’d almost given up on her when there was a soft tap at the door. He opened it and there she stood in Bobby Hull’s game sweater.
And nothing else, as far as Doug could tell.
There were absolutely no words in his head.
“Can I come in?” she asked. “For coffee?”
This time when he shut his door, they were both on the same side.