Here is one truth that Tessa has never hidden from the press: Scott has always been cool, and she never has.
Your body, they tell her, as young as she can ever remember, is the performance. It’s a tool, she thinks, while she shaves and waxes and watches makeup tutorials. Just like the gym, just like five am practices, just like the nosejob. She makes lists and develops a preference for fine tipped pens, the noise they make against the paper. It’s a different pitch than Scott’s, his tongue sticking between his teeth while he scrawls in cheap ballpoint ink. She syncs with him, her writing looping over the page to his lead.
“It is weird,” Scott said once, after an hour watching their old videos and picking out mistakes.
Tessa is frowning at the screen, their twizzles not quite in sync. “What is?”
She is maybe twelve, maybe fourteen. He is maybe thirteen, maybe sixteen. They’ve had so many conversations it’s hard for her to remember, a blur of years and the ebb and flow of Scott in her life.
“How good you are at acting when we dance. You’re all... confident and bold.” He’s eating chips with his mouth open and there’s half a salad in front of her and homework waiting at home. “You’re just not like that in real life.”
Tessa is gripping her pen so tight her fingers ache. “So?”
He shrugs. “Nothing. It doesn’t matter, I guess.” He grabs his bag from the floor. “See you tomorrow.”
He was a kid, she thinks now. Kids are dicks, that’s just how it is. He didn’t know he was taking every worry about herself and throwing it back in her insecure tween face. And they’ve changed so much since then. Now he tells her she was amazing after every dance and helps her tweak facial expressions at dry practice.
“You always said I was good at acting,” she reminds him with a grin, stretching out at cooldown.
He blinks. “I did?”
She waves a hand, grimacing slightly as her hip complains. “When we were kids.”
“Huh,” he says, and gives her his water bottle when she reaches a hand out for it. “Well I am always right, so that checks out.”
It doesn’t mean anything, she thinks. Just another conversation about nothing, two people who’ve been in each others pockets for decades. Her memory has always been better than his.
Tessa doesn’t know if she’s genuinely a good actor, or if she just works harder to make up her inherent deficit. Playlists for each characters, background knowledge, bookmarked pages. Each turn means something, each smile is different. The costume has to match, she’s become famous for insisting. The costume has to fit the story the way the music does, the way their dancing does, the way they touch each other does.
And for almost two years, she listened to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack on repeat. She thought about Satine and Christian and how Satine would think about Christian, the earnest boy with the floppy hair who wore his heart on his sleeve. Satine with a bloodred dress and a body that failed her. A sweeping love story about two people who never ended up together.
Scheduled meals, scheduled workouts, her sleep graphed on paper for a team of doctors to pour over. Therapy and rehearsal and staging and working out again. And their promise: no distractions, no dating. Only gold.
So Tessa loads her phone with the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and closes her eyes and goes through the program step by step. Ten thousand hours to mastery. She hums in the shower, she dreams the twizzle sequence.
And on the days they get off practice early, before she goes to sleep. Her headphones in, her eyes closed. Her vibrator pressed against her through her underwear. How many times, is the game she plays. How many times can she go through the program in her head before her toes curl up and her breath hitches and she can feel herself clench wetly against the buzzing.
Tessa might not be a good actor, but she is an excellent performer.
“You ever wonder,” Scott asks her once during a water break, “if you should have stuck with ballet?”
Tessa wipes the back of her glove across her sweaty forehead, distracted by her own thoughts. “What?”
He shrugs. “If you did ballet instead of ice dance. You think you’d be at The National Whatever instead of Pyeongchang?” They’re looking at each other now, and Tessa doesn’t know what her face looks like exactly but she can see by his change of expression it’s not great.
“Why would you ask that,” she snaps, clenching her water bottle in her hand. “What the hell, Scott?”
“Woah,” he’s already saying before she’s finished, “Hey, T, I only mean--”
“I know what you meant,” she says harshly. “We should get back out there.”
“We need a minute,” she hears Scott call across the ice, and then his hand on her hip, steering her back to the boards. She knows him too well to try and disengage from his grip. She turns to let her back bump up against the plastic and frowns over his shoulder. “Hey,” he says, and she flicks her eyes to his for just a second before averting her gaze again. “You wanna call JF?”
“No,” she says, short and clipped. This isn’t a therapy level problem. It’s not a problem at all. “It’s fine. We’re fine.”
Scott’s silence speaks volumes.
“It’ll be fine,” she amends, but both her voice and her body are too rigid, betraying her.
Scott lets the pause drag out. “I,” he says, and Tessa has flashbacks to mental performance coaching and years of therapy and reminders of I Statements and extending the benefit of the doubt. “Don’t know what I said to make you so upset. And I’m sorry that I’ve upset you, even if it was an accident.”
He’s not supposed to try and add a modifier, but Tessa remains stiff and silent. Scott pokes her in the side, making her yelp, and she smacks his shoulder in retaliation. He raises a significant eyebrow. “I,” Tessa drags out with a sigh. “Thought you were questioning my dedication to--” she trips over her words a little bit, but forces it out. “-to us.”
She makes herself look at him, watch him process. Then he smiles, tugs her in for a hug. “You nerd.”
“You’re sweaty,” she grumps against his chest.
He rubs his cheek over her hair. “You’re the most committed, driven ice dancer the world has ever seen.” He slides his (sweaty) hand up the back of her neck, catching slightly in her hair. “And you and me are gonna run the world.”
If you cut me, Tessa thinks. Scott’s hand in hers and her flag above her and the anthem playing and their names echoing out in language after language and the way his voice catches when he says we did it, T, and Tessa thinks: If you cut into the scars on my legs and the ache in my hip and the base of my nose, I would bleed gold onto this podium.
There’s a moment, at a party. Scott’s in an armchair, beer drunk and beaming laughter and she’s had too much wine and two tequila shots with an American curler with pretty eyes and a cute smile. She touches his shoulder and he says her name with a soft undercurrent of awe and they clink red solo cups like they’re underage at a college party instead of double gold medal winners, world medalists, grand prix winners, all the other accolades listed on their resumes and the trophies on their mother’s mantles. His grip on her hand switches and she knows he’s going to twirl her, going up on one foot to make it look good. He laughs and she laughs and the three figure skaters he’s chatting with laugh and she twirls herself away to the kitchen for another shot.
A few nights later and Come What May in her ears and her vibrator slipping in her sweaty hand and she can’t quite--she braces her feet on the bed and rocks harder and lets her mind go where she’s studiously and conscientiously never let her mind go before. That night, that chair, except they’re alone and he tugs her closer by her wrist, his eyes dark. She could touch him, start at his knee and go up until she can palm him through his boxers and his athletic pants. Or--she shivers--she could straddle the thick arm of the chair, her hand on his shoulder, her knee pressed against his leg.
He could say her name the way he never has, rough and low and crackling, his hand falling to her hip and lead her just the way he always has, except this time instead of spinning across the ice she’s grinding hard and dirty against the rough upholstery of the chair.
Her headphones fall out of her ears and the music goes tinny but she clenches her eyes shut harder. She can see it in her mind, Scott in his Canada zip warm up jacket and his hair falling out of its gel and his throat bobbing as he swallows hard watching her.
He raises a hand to cup her cheek, swipe his thumb over her bottom lip and feel where her teeth is sunk into it, sweep her hair away from her forehead and touch softly behind her ear, reverent and careful and--no. Too sweet, too much. He raises a hand up to touch her cheek and she leans sideways and forward, chin tilted up and just like when she comes out of a turn arm outstretched and his hand is already waiting, his palm fits around her throat like they practiced it.
“Fuck,” he chokes out, almost too soft for her to hear it, especially undercut by the way she moans.
“Tighter,” Tessa whispers in bed, her free hand coming up over her mouth.
The Scott in her head tightens his grip, the flex of his long fingers and the brushing of his thumb, the ripple of bones and tendons and veins under the delicate skin on the inside of his wrist. His breath comes faster and she’s panting now, her rhythm jagged, hips pistoning. “Like you mean it,” she breathes at him, and his eyes flash. No one gets to the Olympics without a mean competitive streak, and suddenly her lungs are shuddering empty and her eyes are rolling back in her head.
She floats out of her orgasm, her breathing evening out, her tank top sticking, sweat drying. Her vibrator is buzzing against her leg where it fell when she came and dropped it. Her phone is still playing music. “Fuck,” she breathes, and it sounds loud in the empty room.
Tessa loves being on tour. It’s not the same as competition, which gets her blood pumping in a way nothing, not even sex, ever has. But it’s dancing and music and the company of people who understand her more than anyone she ever went to school with put together.
And Scott’s hands on her body, the cut of their skates into fresh ice, the way it feels to execute a routine perfectly and the roar of the crowd.
“Tess,” he stage whispers to her, lurking outside the women’s locker room. “C’mere.”
“We’re alone,” she points out, and he rolls his eyes at her. Don’t be a stick in the mud, he tells her without saying a thing. Come and play with me. So she drops her bag against the wall and lets him tug her dramatically into an empty hallway and make a show of checking for eavesdroppers.
“I got a hotel room,” he says, and then leans back against the wall, arms crossed and looking triumphant.
Tessa leans in, rocking up on her toes. “Are you serious? Is it a double?” Her eyes narrow. “It better be a double.” Actually she might not care if it isn’t. She’s slept slumped on him in airplanes, buses, vans. The back of his mom’s Volvo.
Scott retrieves two cardkeys from his inside jacket pocket. “Tired of that bus life, Virtch?”
“You’re my favourite,” she tells him. “Dinner’s on me.”
The plan was to shower in the room and then go looking for some food, but Tessa stretches out onto the first double bed and makes a downright filthy noise of pleasure. “I’m never leaving this bed,” she exhales into the duvet. “Dance with sandbags for the rest of the tour.”
He pokes at her leg. “Yours is the other one.”
“What? Why? I’m already here.”
“This one’s closer to the door. You should take the other one.”
“What’re you gonna do at an attacker,” she mumbles, already half asleep. “Flip your hair at them?”
She feels his fingers around her ankle, tugging playfully, and is vaguely aware of his hands under her. Even drowsing, her body moves on muscle memory, adjusting so he can lift her smoothly up and carry her the few steps to the other bed. He braces her against his side with one hand to pull down the covers, and she makes a grumpy noise at the firmer grip his hold requires. She feels the pillowcase under her check and sighs, snuggling in. “M’hair,” she slurs, and his hands wind gently through her ponytail, unwinding the elastic and smoothing it out of her face.
She doesn’t dream about him, which is nice. Sex dreams about her best friend would make her a deviant, and she’s not a deviant. She’s one half of the best ice dance team in the whole fucking world.
In her most dramatic moments, Tessa thinks about those studies of babies dying from touch starvation, and she thinks--. Hand holding, skating grips, shoulder bumps, cheek kisses, those quiet early morning moments when it’s just him and her and the music. And she thinks if Scott ever stopped touching her, she’d die. And sometimes---just sometimes, just fleeting before she can shut it down, that side of her brain that locks everything down into boxes and is brutally calculating--she thinks about how Scott is nothing if he’s not a serial monogamist. That the only reason he gave up Kaitlyn was Tessa and Pyeongchang. He’s picked her for twenty two years, almost. And she thinks that if she fucked him the way she thinks maybe he’d like her to she could be sure that he’d never leave her.
Sometimes, when she initiates physical contact between them when the cameras are rolling, he looks surprised. It pricks at her, or maybe that’s the guilt, of her mean thoughts and her jealousy or the fact that she only comes now when she thinks about his hand in her hair and his forearm across her throat.
“I worry,” she says at therapy, perfectly poised and ramrod straight spine, “that I don’t--” she stumbles, even though she’d practiced that morning in the mirror while she blowdried her hair. Her jaw flexes, her back teeth pressed too tightly together. “Or, that he thinks, thinks…” She swallows hard, takes a steadying breath, pushes through. “That I don’t value his presence in my life.”
“That’s stupid,” Scott says immediately, almost before she’s finished speaking.
Tessa can’t help her glare or the prim tone to her voice. “You’re not supposed to call my genuine feelings stupid.”
“Teacher’s Pet,” he whispers, which at age twelve would have caused her to fall asleep sobbing into her pillow.
Nearing-Thirty Tessa snorts and pinches him in the spot up on his hip that makes him flinch and squeak every time. “I don’t mean skating,” she clarifies, after they’ve been gently redirected. “I just meant that he--”
Jean Francois raises a pointed eyebrow.
“That you,” Tessa corrects with only a faint twitch of one eye. She refuses to look directly at Scott. “Mean a lot to me outside of dancing.” She knows he understands what she means, that tiny sliver of themselves that exists outside of skating.
Scott has gone still beside her, and she holds her breath with him, automatic. “I know,” he says carefully, “that Tessa--” he catches himself, “that you struggle sometimes with sharing your feelings. And it makes you think that people don’t know how much you care about them.” He touches her knee, deliberate and still so careful. “But I’m really good at reading you. Twenty years of practice, eh?” He winks. “And we have JF. So you don't have to worry.”
Tessa’s face feels numb. He’s right; no one knows her like Scott does, no one ever could. But that’s not what she meant, she almost says. She meant that she doesn’t know how she feels sometimes, everything knotted up in her chest and stuck up in her throat and she can feel it when she swallows sometimes. “I love you,” she says helplessly.
He squeezes her knee. “I love you too.”
“Hey,” he says, at their post therapy dinner, balling up his straw wrapper and tossing it at her water glass. “Do you think it’s true about the French?”
“Which French,” Tesa asks, and then: “Probably.”
“You know,” Scott says significantly, and wiggles his eyebrows. “You know.”
What Tessa knows is that Scott knows that goofy what-ifs and do-you-thinks cheer her up. She flicks the wrapper into his beer to make him pull a face. “The sex on the ice thing, you mean.”
Scott pouts a little, fishing out the soggy paper with her spoon. “Yeah.”
Tessa considers. “No,” she decides. “Too much sliding, the rinks are never that empty.”
“There’s no romance in your soul,” Scott declares, and it might be the most insulting thing he’s said to her since high school. “And the obvious real reason is that it’s too cold.”
“Too cold for sex?” Tessa reconsiders her stance on the issue. “What if it’s just after training? We literally steam.”
“There’s being sweaty,” Scott says, “and there’s a cold draft on your cock when you’re trying to look your most impressive.”
Tessa neatly logs what it sounds like for Scott to say cock deep in her iddy mind for later appreciation. “It’s headed to a warm place. Maybe you need to work on your quickdraw.”
“Miss Tessa Virtue,” Scott gasps, faux-scandalized and clearly delighted. “The mouth on you right now.”
Every time she makes him laugh it warms her from her toes to her fingertips. He giggles, goofy and sweet and open, boops his knuckle against her nose. Tessa sticks her tongue out at him.
The next time she’s gone some alone time and her vibrator she doesn’t think about Scott naked. She’s not sure anyone or anything is keeping score, but she wants points from the universe for that. She has never thought about Scott naked.
Scott is fully dressed in her head when he pins her on the mattress, pulls her knees up to her chest and tells her to keep them there. She clicks on her vibrator at the same time he does. He talks dirty to her, this image of her best friend she’s created in her head to jerk off to because whatever, maybe she is a deviant. Tells her he wants to see her panties soaked through and ruined and promises that vibrator isn’t going anywhere until he’s tired of holding it there, no matter how she much she could beg him to stop. Talks about her cunt and rests his fingertips on her throat, heavy with promise, and she comes faster and harder than she thinks she has ever in her entire life.
“Same five,” Scott is sighing, tugging on his own zip jacket before reaching out to help her get hers on. “Same five.”
Same five questions, is what he means. “Do you really want them all to ask different questions? That’s a lot of thinking on the fly.”
“We’ll demand we get them ahead of time,” Scott decides, settling the jacket over her shoulder and smoothing the wrinkles out of the arms. “Zipped?”
“Please,” Tessa says, and moves her hands out of the way so he can zip her jacket to the perfect height on her chest. “That’s a pretty big diva move.”
“Triple gold,” Scott reminds her. “Let’s start making a reputation for ourselves. We can warn Patch first, Marie would understand.”
“Only if you put on a French accent,” Tessa decides.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Scott says, in a truly painful carcrash of an accent. It makes Tessa laugh until tears form in her eyes. “But why are you so sad,” he continues, and she turns away, trying to wipe at her eyes without destroying her makeup.
“Stop it,” she giggles, and looks back just in time to see him waggle his eyebrows, which sets her off again.
“Hoh-hon-hoh,” Scott faux-laughs into her ear, just before they turn the mics, and her exploded out giggle makes the speakers squeal.
Tessa smiles her apology out to the crowd. “You’re dead to me,” she says to him without moving her mouth, the mic carefully nudged aside.
“Pass me ze coffee,” Scott responds from behind his own smile. Speaking without moving his lips makes the accent even worse, and her snickers make no logical sense. She reaches under the table, and hidden by a cloth and a banner, pinches the inside of his leg as hard as she can.
He jumps, barely biting back a yelp as his knee smacks the table from underneath. The entire room looks at him. “Just revved up,” he says, with a quick smile.
“Dirty move,” he whispers into her ear, and snags her hand under the table before she can withdraw it. Tap the center of her palm with a fingertip and then settles their clasped hands on his thigh. She leans her cheek on his shoulder and leaves it there until the interview starts.
“What do you want for dinner,” he whispers twenty minutes in.
Tessa gives him a Look. Then her stomach makes a low grumbly noise. “Pay attention,” she whispers, during a lull.
“Triple gold,” he mumbles, pretending to be involved in passing her his water bottle. “We should only do solo press.”
Tessa takes a sip, then hides her mouth from the camera with the bottle. “Is that what you really want?”
Scott’s faces freezes in the horror of imagining more (all) questions directed at him. He takes the bottle back to drink deeply. She pats his knee comfortingly under the table and fields the next two questions directed their way.
“A drink,” he says, while they’re shuffling around and waving goodbye and hearing the camera shutters click continuously. “I need a drink. Or five.”
Tessa’s hand was on his leg the entire time, their shoulders pressed together, his mumbled side comments, his breath on her neck and her hair and the curve of her ear. What she thought about him last night, his sleepy smile that morning when he brought her a breakfast burrito and she let him drink half her coffee.
“Yes,” she says, and ignores his clear surprise. She is definitely not forming any plans. “I need a drink.”
Tessa’s never gotten so drunk she’s blacked out. She reminds Scott of this when he’s being grumpy during a hangover, because it always makes him wink and say not yet, kiddo, no matter how nauseous and irritated he is. But the truth of it is that Scott is cool because he’s so at home in his own skin, and she is decidedly not cool, because even while drunk she spends half her time thinking about if she’s out of control, thinking about if she looks like she’s out of control.
I’m on vacation she thinks to herself, when she says yes to the third glass of wine at dinner with Scott, celebrating brand new sponsorship contracts.
We’re taking a cab back, she justifies when he asks if she wants to stop at a bar for a nightcap and she accepts.
I just want to, she realizes, when he’s in her hotel room and offering her a tiny bottle from the minibar.
All of Tessa’s wants, in order: to ice dance, to be the best, to win worlds, to be able to take a single step with agonizing lancing pains shoot up her legs, for Scott to bring her a teddy bear in the hospital, to skate again, to win gold twice. She thinks, when she gets self-reflective about it, that her success rate is pretty good. All but one.
And now she’s not sure what she wants, except that Scott feels good against her when she stumbles into his lap and he tastes good when he kisses her with cheap lemon vodka on his tongue. And of course she’s thought about it. Not in the concrete, not the nitty gritty details, just--of course she has. Of course they both have. What position, if he’d touch her waist when he kissed her before he took her to bed.
He did, she thinks, and then oh he is, present tense. Touching her waist. Taking her to bed. His teeth in the hollow of her throat and she could tell him now, if she wanted to. Tell him that she wants to hear what noises he could drag out of her chest if he held her down and made her take it. Take him.
“Scott,” is what comes out of her mouth, and it’s too soft, too raw. She kisses him before he can respond, and feels the backs of her knees bump against the edge of the mattress. He lowers her, slow and careful and her hands are on his stomach, above his belt. She can feel his muscles tense and flex under her fingers.
He’s murmuring her name wetly against her throat, over and over, the consonants cracking and the vowels dragged out, and she stares at the ceiling, dizzy from the way he cups her through her panties and drags a finger over the growing dampness. “Hey,” he whispers, leaning their foreheads together. “Are you with me?”
Tessa is so present in the moment she might stroke out. She declines to answer in favour of leaning up enough to lick his throat from chest to chin, and finds his low choked curse satisfying enough that she tugs at his shirt. “Take it off,” she says hoarsely, and he scrambles to obey, gracelessly standing to undo his belt and kick his pants off.
Tessa’s pulling her dress over her head, hearing the seams rip as she doesn’t take enough care, and when it’s tossed aside he’s naked. She feels almost a little cheated at the reveal, the first time she’s ever seen his dick. His chest is flushed all the way down, the chain at his neck glinting dully in streetlamp light filtered through the curtains. “Tess,” he says softly, and oh, it’s the first time he’s seen her topless. He doesn’t seem as cheated by the reveal.
He touches the curve of one breast, thumbs over the peak of a nipple, and her breath stutters. She holds her hand out to him and he takes it, crawling back atop her. Her legs part for him and his hand is shaky on her hip and she realizes he’s still wearing socks and she’s still wearing panties but he’s kissing the center of her chest and then his hands are under her hips, shifting her position and almost manhandling her, even if it’s gentle. She wants to tell him that she’s thought about this exact scenario, except he was fully dressed and choking her out with the ribbon of his silver medal. “Oh,” is what comes out of her mouth, breathy and high pitched.
“Yeah?” he asks, and curls his body to lick just under the almost non-existent swell of her belly, above the elastic of her panties. “You like that?”
He does something clever with his fingers on her right breast and slides down to tease his teeth against her crotch, suckling the fabric into his mouth. She makes another high pitched noise, hooking a leg up around him.
He licks her again, harder, tongue pressing in and when he says “I asked you a question,” she can feel the growl of it all the way through her.
“Yes,” she gasps out, and presses her heel into his back. “Stop talking,” she says next, which is rather the opposite of what she actually wants, but she thinks that having her eyes roll back into her head while she faints would ruin the moment. So she shoves him, noting that his eyes do a little rolling of their own when she wrenches him hard by the hair, and rolls onto her belly, one hand gripping the slats of the headboard.
“Jesus Christ,” she hears him groan, but one hand is tracing up her spine and the other is pulling her panties to the side, not even down, and she’s slick down her thighs before he’s even touched her skin to skin. He’ll probably finger her a little, she thinks, open her up a little bit, get her ready. She thinks she’d rather he not. She rests her forehead on her arm, braced in front of her, mouth sunk into her wrist.
Then she pushes up onto her knees, presses her heel into his leg, and arches her back. “Now,” she bites out, the pulse in her wrist fluttering against her tongue, her voice muffled.
When he slides in it hurts and he’s not going slow but it’s nowhere near fast either and she can feel it, how he stretches her, how he fits in her. Her head tilts up, panting, her mouth slack and dripping moans. His hips bump against her and he’s not choking her but she can’t breathe, her chest spasming. “Tessa,” he whispers, and it’s so low and shocked and reverent that her lungs remember how to work and she sucks in a huge gulp of air.
She slumps back down, exhaling hard, and his hand slides around to catch her. He lowers her down and hitches her hip up higher, her knees apart farther. Then he starts to move, and her brain dissolves. She’s hyperaware of where he’s touching her, where the sheets are touching her, the painful bite of her panties in her hip where they’re stretched, his heavy breathing and the little noises he knocks out of her throat against her will with every thrust.
Tessa can feel her legs start to shake, a pressure building in her core. Scott reaches a hand under her to thumb at her clit and she growls at him. “No! Don’t.”
His lips touch the back of her neck. “Want you to feel good,” he grunts, his pace starting to go jagged and offbeat. She can smell the vodka on his breath. “I want…”
Tessa’s body locks up, every muscle gone rigid, right on the edge of too much, and then she slumps down, her elbows completely giving out, still clenching around him but otherwise melting into goo and the rush of endorphins. She hears him curse again and think maybe he’ll come but he just stills over her instead, chest to her back, pressing her into the mattress. She mumbles a questioning noise that dies halfway out of her mouth. Her toes are still curling and uncurling.
“Let me just,” he pants, and then his fingers are around her ankle and he’s pulling one leg up and suddenly she’s doing the splits in bed, which is new and surprising to her orgasm-addled brain.
Then she’s on her back with her legs wrapped around his waist and she’s looking up at him, still hard inside her.
“Yeah,” he breathes, with a short shallow pump of his hips. Then again, but longer, almost all the way out and all the way back in with a snap. Again, and again, keeping himself out of a rhythm, and she’s only just stopped coming but goddamn if she isn’t already starting to feel ramped up again. “Tee,” he murmurs, and grip is starting to falter, his thighs trembling. She can feel his hair dripping sweat onto her chest. “Talk to me.”
“Scott,” she says, and he shudders. She likes it. “Scott…”
“More,” he begs.
Tessa can barely remember her own name. Every single nerve is tingling, her blood is singing in her veins. And he’s moving inside her, over and over. It short circuits the barrier that keeps all her deviant thoughts neatly tucked away. “Come on my chest,” she hears herself say.
He chokes on whatever it is he was about to say, his eyes huge and his throat working. Then he pulls out, her body flinching at the sudden emptiness. His fists himself, and it’s almost like a dream, because she can see her arm moving, her fingers over his, but she can’t remember deciding to do it. She can smell the sweat on his skin, the slick of his precome. She can hear his ragged pants and her soft noise of encouragement. And then she can feel the splash across her chest, spurting and hot.
“Please,” he’s saying, when she can hear him again. Her legs part obediently when he tugs at them gently and she feels just the tip of him against her, the slow intrusion of just the head of his cock. The heat of the last few weak spurts going straight inside her.
She wakes up with a hangover, and a heavy arm slung over her side. When her eyes open she’s on her side facing him, his face lax with sleep. The room stinks like sex and they’re both naked in the wet spot. Her thighs feel sticky and sore and her mouth tastes disgusting. And, she realizes suddenly, they didn’t use a fucking condom. We are, Tessa thinks not for the first time, the biggest morons on the planet.
Then Scott’s eyes open and she can watch him realize all the things she’s just realized. Before she has to watch him wake up after sex with her with dawning horror she slides over on the sheets and kisses him, sleep breath and all. Reaches under the sheet and feels him get hard in her hand. His hand is pretty quick to go to her hip, and then grope lower and slide two fingers in her, so she doesn’t think he’s that put out by her initiation. But then his fingers withdraw, and go to his mouth, and he looks straight at her while he sucks them clean with an absolutely obscene noise.
He’s tasting her, she thinks, and then: oh god, he’s tasting himself from last night. “I didn’t get to see you,” he says while she’s still rebooting. “Last night.” He’s rising up, moving over to settle on top of her. “I want to see you.” He blinks, tousled bedhead first thing in the morning, her teeth indents still in his lips. “Is that okay?”
Tessa’s breath hitches. “Yeah,” she whispers, and winds her fingers in his hair. “It’s okay.”
He fucks her soft and slow and too sweet, until there’s tears clinging to her eyelashes. She comes easy, like a ripple, undulating through it and feeling him come inside her again, for the second time ever.
He touches her chest after, when they’re cheek to cheek and breathing hard, coming down from the rush. Fingertips over her heart. “Hey,” he says quietly, hesitantly. “T--”
“I have to go to the bathroom,” she blurts.
They’re so close that when he blinks she can feel it on her cheek, each eyelash. “Oh.” He rolls off, suddenly awkward. “Okay.”
“Okay,” she repeats, and scrambles out of bed, almost falling on her face when her foot tangles in the sheet. When he touches her to free her she flinches; the second she’s clear she bolts for the bathroom.
Slams the door behind her and gets a look at herself in the mirror over the sink. Marked up, fucked rosy, make up a complete disaster. “Shit,” she says, pressing a palm into her right eye socket, then the left. She’s tearing up and she can’t stop it and she doesn’t even understand why.
She turns the shower on as hot as she can stand it and stays under the water until it goes cold. When she slowly opens the door, wrapped in a towel and dripping from the ends of her hair, the room is empty.
They’ve started practicing for the next tour. Tessa skates the entire two hour block without once looking Scott straight in the eye, and they’re still doing well enough that no one asks if everything’s okay. Twenty years of practice really does count for something.
He squeezes her wrist when she turns for the locker room. “We need to talk. Dinner, if you want it.”
Tessa’s mouth twists up at the corner. “And a conference call?”
“If you want it.” Scott taps her chin and she looks at him properly for the first time since he came inside her the morning before yesterday. “You’re okay, right?”
He’s nervous, she realizes, because she’s shut down so tightly and completely even he’s having trouble reading her. She softens her expression. “Yes. I’m fine.” It’s stilted and awkward and the words come out of her in separate sharp bursts. “How are you?”
His grip tightens, preventing her from pulling away. “You’re doing the thing where you shut down.”
“I’m allowed to shut down if I feel like it.”
Scott’s jaw tightens. “You’re doing that thing where you shut me out.”
This is why, Tessa thinks, you shouldn’t get messy with people who’ve known you your entire life. Or attend therapy sessions with them, where they first understand that you shut down as a defense mechanism and learn how to read the signs. And you also shouldn’t continue therapy until they go on to understand you now do it passive aggressively so they know they have something to do with why you’re upset. “Dinner sounds good. Your place?”
He exhales, posture stark with relief. “Yes. I’ll pick something up.”
He gets her a fancy salad and a fancier wine, which is definitely a sign he’s trying to smooth her mood. He got himself two large pizzas, which is a sign that he’s so nervous he needs to carboload.
They sit as the card table that also functions as his dining table and pick at their respective meals. Tessa takes only the smallest sip of the wine, uncorked with a combination of his shoe and her keys and glugged unceremoniously into a coffee cup.
“I think we should,” Scott starts, when it becomes obvious she’s not going to. “Talk?” His voice goes up at the end of the word, his palms rubbing nervously at his thighs.
Tessa takes another microscopic sip of wine. “We talk everyday.”
“Not yesterday,” he says lowly, and she winces.
“I’m sorry,” she says, because she is. And then she says “I don’t know how to talk about this,” because that’s true too.
“We can do it,” Scott insists. Then he grins. “It’s not like it’s the Olympics.”
It makes her smile. “Do you regret it?” she asks, because it’s what she really wants to know. It might be the only thing she really wants to know.
He hesitates, and she can feel her heart start to crack open. “No,” he says, and she covers her mouth with her hand, bowing in relief.
“That’s good,” she says weakly, bent almost double and still trying to force through the conversation. “That’s… good.”
“Hey,” he says, and he’s kneeling in front of her. “Breathe with me.”
Breathing with him is the easiest thing in the world. She could do it asleep, she’ll be able to do with when she’s eighty, she could do it dead in her grave. So they breathe together, slow and even, and when she can look at him without feeling like her chest is caving in she does.
“I don’t regret anything,” Scott says quietly. “Not one thing about you.”
So they fuck now, sometimes.
Most of the time.
Almost every night, actually. And each time is better than the last, sweeter. And every time, before the sweat’s even cooled on their bodies, she says I have to go to the bathroom.
She runs the water. She ran the shower the first few times, but he kept offering to join her and she felt like a frigid bitch lying about hating sharing showers, spouting fake statistics about bathroom slip and falls. So now she just runs the tap, flushes the toilet after a few minutes. And sits on the rug in a small ball and cries for no reason, no fucking reason at all.
She switches positions, blows him instead of fucking him, convinces him to pin her down by the wrists and go until they’re shaky from the exertion of it and need hot showers in the morning just to get their muscles moving again. But every time, before they’ve even caught their breath and felt their sweat cool, she can feel them rising in her chest, sobbing wracking tears. So she wriggles out of his hold and hides in the bathroom until she can scrub the tears off her cheeks with a washcloth.
She does like that he’s still there now when she comes back out. That she can slip back in bed beside him, have him tug her closer and let her stick her cold toes under his leg. That part is nice, Tessa thinks. Almost as good as the sex, to be cradled against his chest and feel his sleepy mumble against the back of her neck. Almost as good as when he touches the small of her back with more promise than he used to, or when he takes her hand while they're walking down the street, just because he misses the way it feels in his own.
“Where do you go?” Scott asks on a lazy Wednesday evening. “I mean, what do you do when you go in there?”
Tessa is slumped on his chest, pretending to read but mostly dozing; Scott is watching a rerun of a hockey game on the television, which is something she will never understand. He already knows how it’s going to end. Every so often he drops a kiss to her hair and they both melt a little further into the couch. “What?” she mumbles. “I’m awake.”
He snorts a little, his chest shaking with mirth under her body. “When you go the bathroom, after. What do you do?”
Tessa flaps a hand at him. “Gimme your phone, I’m going to order you some audiobooks on human physiology.”
He laughs, then pinches her side gently. “Grumpy. Good slam with the audiobook, though.”
She smiles, pleased with her own joke and her redirection.
“Really though,” he presses, and her smile slips away. She can feel herself tense, and his hand smoothing down her arm only makes her more prickly. “Tessaaaa,” he says, and she knows he’s resigned to a fight if need be, he knows how much that annoys her. He’s escalating, not backing down.
“I don’t know,” she deflects. “No,” she adds preemptively, “I do not want to talk about this with Jean-Francois, don’t even.”
He shifts under her and she pushes back. She doesn’t want to have any of this conversation face to face. “Talk to me,” he requests.
“I feel,” she starts, stops. “I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet.” She wiggles further into his embrace and tucks her foot under his calf. “Really.”
He knows how she is. “You will,” he says, and when she tilts her face up for a kiss he obliges, letting her set the topic aside. For now.
Tessa keeps creating hypothesis, and Scott keeps fucking them all to pieces. It’d be annoying, if it wasn’t the best sex of her life.
She thinks about how she never burst into ugly tears after she used her vibrator, worries that Scott would think she’s insulting his prowess if she suggested it. But he grins, wiggles his eyebrows, and makes her come three times in twenty minutes. She cries so hard in the bathroom she throws up.
It comes to her at a luncheon for charity, Scott whisper complaining about the quality of champagne and making her giggle inappropriately during the commencing remarks. It’s a far cry from formal, and Scott is wearing a simple polo shirt that shouldn’t distract her as much as it is. They’re waiting at the valet, leaning back against the wall, and his hand is on the small of her back, as it usually is. Her hand has similarly found its way to the small of his back. Her sunglasses are big on her face and his grin is even bigger, cracking another joke to make her laugh.
And without really thinking about it, she slips her hand under his shirt and touches his bare skin.
He twitches, his grin freezing, his eyes going wide. “Um,” he says, and is completely at a loss as to what he was just talking about.
She raises an eyebrow.
“Miss Tessa Virtue,” he murmurs, low and dark with promise. “The hand on you right now.”
“The hand on you,” she jokes, and his laugh is delighted. So she rests her nails on his skin and drags, a slow movement down his spine. Then she drops her hand down to her side.
He’s staring at her mouth with the fixation of a dog staring at a steak. “You are starting something that can’t be finished, Virtue.”
“Rise to the challenge, Moir.”
His grip on her wrist tightens. “I’ve got a dinner meeting,” he reminds her.
She hasn’t forgotten. “Cancel it.” Her phrasing is deliberate: it’s not a request. It is, however, a test.
Scott almost drops his phone in his rush to dig it out of his pocket off and fire off a few texts. “Done.”
Scott’s car pulls up, the valet extending the keys. Tessa takes them from the valet and gets in the driver’s seat. She has another hypothesis to test.
Scott looks good spread out underneath her. He looks good most of the time, but she has to admit this was a good idea even if she does end up crying in the fetal position on the bathroom rug later. Scott naked under her on the bed, his hands flat on the mattress where she put them and told him not to move. Straddling his waist and tracing the planes of his chest. Watching the way he strains not to thrust up when she slides down on him, slow slow slow.
“Jesus,” he says, not for the first time. “Jesus fucking Christ.”
“Not yet,” she tells him, her hands braced on his chest, her toes pressing into the mattress. “Not yet.”
She can see the tendons in his neck flex, his eyes clenched shut; she can feel his legs quake. He’s so close, she thinks. So close.
She gives him a nudge. “You feel good,” she says, low and throaty. “You make me feel good.”
He sucks in a sharp breath, then breaks. “Please. Please, Tessa.”
“Almost,” she whispers, and shivers when he whimpers. Then she stops moving.
He whines, tears welling up in his eyes. She falters, but: he smiles, his fingers flexing. “You’re gonna be the death of me,” he rasps.
“Are you saying it’s a bad way to go?” She’s breathing harder than she thought she was.
“Never. Put it on my tombstone.”
Tessa snorts. “Yeah I’m sure that’d be a special service for Alma.”
He thumbs at her cheek. “You okay?”
She nods, her hair hopelessly tangled around her face. “You?”
“I’m on record saying this is how I want to die,” he reminds her, and then wiggles a little. She clenches around him automatically at the shift and he chokes on his own spit.
A little bit more of that, Tessa thinks, is what she wants. She settles her weight a little more firmly, resting her weight down. “As you wish.”
“No fair,” he groans, as she starts to clench around him, deliberate and paced, but refuses to move any other way.
“The only word I want to hear from you is please,” Tessa murmurs, and can feel him twitch inside her, groaning again.
And he does give it to her, when they’re both sweating heavily for so little movement actually happening between them, when her head is tipped back and her chest heaving, when he’s shuddering between every squeeze of her muscles, when she’s dragging her index fingernail across one pectoral over and over until the capillaries burst. A chanted moaned whispered stream: please, please, please.
She kisses him, opens her eyes to watch him come. Waits, thinking: maybe, maybe. Maybe this time. But she can feel it balling up in her belly and starting to rise. “Bathroom,” she mutters, and rolls off him and away before she can see the disappointment in his face.
And as she leaves, out of the corner of her eye, she can see it starting to bruise: a ‘T’ scratched into the skin just above his heart.
“Maybe I could go with you,” he says during a water break where they’re mostly tucked away from everyone else.
Tessa’s mind is still on the ice. “What? To where?”
Tessa’s head whips around to look at him. “What? Ew, Scott.”
He rolls his eyes, “Not like that. Just, you know. After.” He makes Significant Eye Contact. “You know.”
If this conversation is being recorded, she’s not sure how he expects his Super Secret Code to slide under the radar, instead of making everything sound one thousand times weirder than it actually is. “Not here,” she says, and then bumps her forehead against his shoulder to show she’s not blowing him off. She feels his muscle flex under her cheek and pulls away, surprised, to see his jaw go tight and his eyes flatten out.
He thinks she’s blowing him off.
“We’ll talk about it,” she promises, sliding her fingers to the back of his neck and applying pressure.
“Okay,” he says with a sigh, and tilts his head to the side to give her more room to work. “I just--”
“Boop,” she says, and smushes his nose in with her thumb.
He stares at her, then shakes his head when she dissolves into laughter. “You,” he says, trying for grumpy and only achieving fond. He kisses her temple, which kicks her off an another round of helpless giggles. “Back to work, chuckles.”
“Cheat day,” Tessa declares, clambering into the passenger seat of Scott’s car. “Cheat day, cheat day.”
“You know the Olympics are over, right? Every day can be a cheat day.”
“I still have to fit in my costumes,” Tessa says, like she always does, and ignores his eyeroll. “Breaaad,” she says, dragging it out and wiggling imperiously as she buckles her seatbelt. “Feed me bread, Scott.”
He drives to a grocery store and she groans, dramatically slumping against the door. “Noooo,” she whines, and glares when he reaches over to flick her ear.
“Princess Tessa,” he teases, coming around the car to open her door. “C’mon.”
“I don’t want to cook,” she grumbles, but lets him tug her out of the car and towards the store. “What about that Italian place down the street?”
“You’re not going to cook,” Scott says, hooking an arm over her shoulders and tugging her into his side. “What did you think I brought you here for?”
Tessa should be on her second basket of garlic knots, is what Tessa thinks. She lingers by a garden hose for sale, making it clear she’s considering orchestrating his untimely demise. No one else would even realize the joke, but Scott cracks up, pressing his smile to the back of her neck.
“I’m going to cook for you,” he declares, and Tessa perks up.
He tugs her ponytail, then moves smoothly out of her reach before she can retaliate, picking up a can of tomatoes and examining the label. “Go get dessert, I’ve got big sauce decisions to make.”
Dancing in Scott’s kitchen in a tanktop and workout tights, her hair in a messy bun, her phone clutched triumphantly aloft as it blasts Hall and Oates. Scott’s familiar complaining about her taste from where he’s stirring red sauce on the stove in baggy shorts and a thin worn t-shirt, mismatched socks. Wooden spoon microphones when he gives in and joins her in the sing-along.
Garlic bread and butter on pasta, second helpings and lava cake for dessert. Loading the dishwasher together. It’s not anything she’s seen on television or in movies, this incredible ordinaryness of everyday life with another person. Something she doesn’t quite understand yet.
“You said,” he reminds her, when they’re getting ready for him to walk her home.
She sighs. “I know, I know.”
It’s nice outside, crisp but not freezing. And Scott waits, until she sighs, tucks herself up against his side, and mumbles something intelligble.
“One more time,” he coaxes, his hand squeezing reassuringly at her hip.
“You make me feel things,” she mumbles, slightly more audibly.
“Good to know I haven’t lost the magic,” he says, and she laughs even as she socks him in the ribcage. “I hope you haven’t been only dating people who didn’t make you feel things.” His tone has gone slightly protective, and she kisses his bicep through his jacket. Dating, he said, which is not something that’s been explicitly said before.
“It’s different with you.”
They walk in silence for a few moments, processing. Then he tugs her into a doorway and leans his forehead against hers. “It’s different with you too. Important.”
“I--” Tessa says. She swallows. “I have trouble with that. With things that are… big and important. And different.”
He kisses her, soft and lingering. “T, that’s okay. That’s why you got me; my excellent problem solving strategies.”
“Beer and pool?”
He smiles against her cheek. “Don’t knock what works.”
“It’s new,” Tessa says quietly, “but it’s not bad. I don’t mind it.”
They kiss again, and then again, harder. Her breathing picks up, he presses her flat against the wall. “Can I--” he starts, and then chokes on the rest of his sentence when she palms him.
“You’re staying over,” she says, and waits until he nods, his eyes dark and pupils blown, before taking his hand and leading him out onto the street towards her apartment.
“I have to tell you something,” she mumbles against his lips. Her legs are hooked around him; he’s lifted her up to pin her against the door, his knees bent to brace her, one of his palms searing hot on the inside of her thigh, through her workout leggings.
“What,” he asks, voice punch-drunk and sex-drenched. His eyes clear a little bit, and crinkle at the corners when he smiles at her.
“I have to tell you something,” she repeats, and the way his hair is falling in front of his eyes is distracting, so she twines her fingers in it to hold it back. The way his hair feels in her fingers is similarly distracting.
“I, um,” he’s swallowing and his eyes flick to the sides. It’s what he does when he’s nervous and trying to hide it. “I think I have to tell you the same thing.”
Tessa blinks. “No,” she says, after a few seconds thought. “I don’t think it’s the same thing.”
His smile melts into confusion, and then, oddly: hurt. “Oh.” He leans back, but she twines her arms around his neck and tugs him back into kissing distance.
“It’s not bad, I just--um. It’s embarrassing, I guess.”
The hurt melts into hesitant hope. “You can tell me anything.”
She fixes her gaze in the hollow of his throat, where she can see his pulse flutter and the dip of his collarbones, and blurts: “I cry after sex sometimes. It’s not a big deal.”
His brow furrows. “What?”
“In the bathroom,” she says, her words slightly clipped. “You wanted to know…”
He drops her abruptly, but even upset he knows to give her enough to time get her feet under her. “When you go into the bathroom after we have sex, you’re crying?”
“Sometimes,” she says, but it’s a lie and he knows it. Her palms flatten on the door behind her, nervous and pressing.
He’s still boggling at her. “What--do I--” he looks heartbroken. “Are you crying because of me?”
“No!” She says, and then looks guilty. “I mean…”
He steps back. “I, uh. Jesus, Tess.”
“It’s not like that,” she insists, reaching out and trying not to be hurt when he doesn’t immediately take her hand. “It’s not you, I just--”
“Please,” he says, dragging a hand over his face. “Don’t ‘it’s not me it’s you’ me.”
“But it’s true, Scott, really.”
“I need a minute,” he says, fumbling to pat his pockets for his keys. “I need some air.”
Tessa wipes furiously at her eyes. “No, please. Let’s talk, I--”
“I need a minute,” he repeats, not looking at her. “I’ll… I’ll text you, okay?” He touches her shoulder, but shies away before she can take his hand in hers. “Just a minute, I promise. I’m coming back.”
He doesn’t come back.
Tessa calls in sick to practice, then panics about calling in sick and shows up anyway. “Feeling much better,” she tells anyone who asks.
Scott appears halfway through the skating block, for the group ensemble practice. When she comes out of the rink he’s leaned up against her car. “I uber-ed.”
“Then you can uber back,” Tessa says, and throws her stuff in the backseat. “Choreography practice tomorrow at eight.”
“Tess,” Scott says, scrubbing his hands briskly over his face. “C’mon. Give me a ride.”
“Sure,” Tessa says, jabbing at her keys to make the front door unlock. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
She drives home.
Scott knocks at ten minutes before midnight. “It’s late,” she says, forehead pressed against the closed door just above the peephole.
“Not for you,” he says, muffled through the door, and she sighs again before she opens it.
“You could have let yourself in.”
He shrugs. “I’m respecting your boundaries.”
“Therapy has made you really annoying,” Tessa mutters, and stalks to the kitchen. “Wine?”
He accepts a glass of red, and doesn’t comment on the passive aggression that has caused her to pick that over white, which he knows she knows he prefers. “I should have called.”
“Yes,” Tessa acknowledges, and sips from her glass.
“I kept thinking,” Scott says, slow the way he gets when he’s really focusing on articulating his feelings. “About… what I’d do to a guy if you told me you cried every time you had sex with him.”
Tessa sucks in a quick breath, absorbing the subtext of his statement. “You should have let me explain. It’s not like that.”
“I needed to process.” Tessa scoffs at him and his shoulders square. “Quit it, Tessa. You knew how I’d take it. It’s why you put off telling me for so long.”
“I was processing,” Tessa snipes back, and it makes him scoff in return.
They both turn away, to take a calming breath and a deep drink of wine. Then Tessa sighs, and holds her hand out for his glass. “Thank god,” he mutters, passing it over.
Tessa pours him a glass of white and takes both cups of red for herself. “I was,” she insists, pouring one into the other so she doesn’t have to double-fist like a fratboy. “It’s--I wasn’t shutting you out.”
“But you did wait, after you knew. To tell me.”
Tessa frowns into her wine. “Yes.”
“You shouldn’t have.”
Tessa refuses to look at him. “Yes.”
Scott touches her shoulder, so soft and tentative. She hadn’t even seen him move across the space between them. “Did I pressure you into anything you didn’t want to do?”
Tessa snorts. “You haven’t been able to make me do anything I don’t want to do since 1998.”
He rubs at her shoulder blade, coming a little closer. “Then help me out here, kiddo.”
“I don’t know,” she mumbles miserably, and when she turns and uncrosses her arms he lets her lean into his chest, his arms solid and warm around her, cocooning her from the world. “I don’t.”
“Okay,” he says, bending to nuzzle at the hair behind her ear. “I believe you. We’ll figure it out.”
They end up snuggled on her couch with a blanket wrapped around them, Tessa’s cheek on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she says into his chest, her face smooshed into his warm bulk, his fingers carding lazily through her hair.
Scott hums, tugging lightly at her hair. “Me too. I should have realized something was up.” He grimaces at himself. “I did realize.”
Scott At Twenty, Tessa thinks glumly and maybe a hair resentfully, would have concluded that she was overly emotional and would already be at a bar drunk on cheap beer and making eyes at brunettes with good legs and flat chests. “My fault,” she reminds Grown Up and Quite Possibly Her Boyfriend Scott. “And it’s not--it’s not a terrible thing. It wasn’t ruining my life. I like my life.”
“I like your life too,” Scott says, and kisses the curve of her ear. She nips his shoulder through his shirt in retaliation. It makes her remember: Scott’s body locked up underneath her thighs, riding the motions of his body; the way her name sounds when he chokes it out while he’s coming.
She tugs the collar of his shirt down, peering at his chest. “Did you put concealer on? You didn’t blend it.” She licks her thumb and starts to rub at his skin.
“I did my best,” he protests mildly. “Did you want me to ask the makeup desk to help me with it?”
No, Tessa thinks, her finger slowly erasing the coverup, no she doesn’t want anyone else to see the ‘T’ she’d scratched into the skin above his heart. It’s starting to fade, less red and dark purple, more faded green and gently ringed with yellow. She really gouged him. “Sorry,” she repeats. “I really got you.” She taps a fingertip to the mark and his breath catches.
“I didn’t mind,” he says, and she likes the way he sounds when he’s fighting to be unaffected and losing.
She rests the tip of one french manicured nail on the cross of her initial.
“Tess,” Scott starts, but she applies pressure and his voice cracks around the shape of her name. She can see his pulse fluttering faster in his throat. She traces the edge of her mark, digging in to make him shiver.
Then his hands come up, covering her, gently easing her away and removing her touch even as he wraps her up in a full body embrace before she can feel rejected. “Do you think,” he asks, ignoring her glare and huff of displeasure at the redirection. “That… it’s like what you said before? That it’s too different. Too much.”
“Maybe,” she hedges, after a pause. “Is that what you think?”
“It’s kind of weird, but it’s like it’s not different.” He frowns. “I mean, it is, of course it is, I just thought if we ever--you know--it’d feel huge.”
It feels like an easing, Tessa thinks, exhaling a breath you’ve been holding too long. The crack of your back after a long bus ride. Stripping away sweaty clothes to put on soft warm ones. “Yes,” is what she says. “I think so too.”
Scott is tense around her. “We could stop.”
“No,” Tessa says immediately, and he exhales in relief. “Not unless you want to,” she amends, snuggling into him.
“Well. Not right now, anyway.”
She bites him again, to make him smile.
“Maybe not ever,” he amends in a soft murmur, later when the sun’s completely disappeared and she’s hungry but not hungry enough to leave the couch and her Scott Pillow. They’re still holding hands.
“Maybe,” he says, after a meeting and before a gym session. “I can pick you up for dinner tonight.”
Tessa goes into a lunge, humming as her muscles stretch. “We carpooled here.”
“Right.” Scott scratches the back of his head. “I meant. Maybe I could drop you off, and then come back later to pick you up for dinner.”
Tessa shrugs, scooping up her bag and slinging it around her shoulder. “Sure, if you want.”
He waits until they’re both in the car before speaking again. “To be clear, I’m asking you out on a date.”
Tessa looks at him guilelessly. “Why?”
Scott’s jaw flexes. “Because you deserve a guy who takes you to nice restaurants where other people can appreciate your dresses.”
Tessa frowns. “So now I have to get dressed up for this.”
“No,” Scott blurts, “I meant--” he sighs. “You’re fucking with me.”
Tessa giggles out the window. “Still want to date me?”
He snags her hand in his, they rest over the gearshift. “I do.”
After dinner, he kisses her goodnight outside her door and then sticks his hands in the pocket of his jacket when she invites him in. “I was thinking we could get drinks tomorrow night, after dry practice.”
Tessa tries valiantly not to feel jilted. “I see,” she says, and winces at the stiffness in her tone.
“I want to do it right,” he says, ducking to kiss the frown off her face. “Maybe it’ll help the--you know.”
Tessa sighs. “Not a do-over?” she asks, voice small. And maybe there is something to be said for dating someone she’s known her entire life, because he understands her immediately.
“Not a do-over,” he promises, kissing her again and staying right up in her personal space. “I don’t want to give up anything we’ve done. Just try something new.”
“Drinks,” Tessa says, testing the concept. “No sticky tables.”
“No promises,” Scott, Connoisseur of Dive Bars, responds. He winks at her before he leaves.
Drinks end up with Tessa straddling Scott on his sofa while late night television drones on in the background. “It’s getting late,” he rasps weakly, Tessa suckling gently at his throat.
“I’ll tell Alma you’re a gentleman,” she murmurs, low and throaty. She lets her weight settle more firmly into his lap.
“Don’t make me start singing Carmen again,” he teases, one hand sliding onto her ass in appreciation and with vague intent.
“You never sang it to begin with.” Tessa still hears him humming nonsense off key in her dreams. It’s annoying that she finds it endearing.
He grins at her, his hair stuck up in all directions from her hands running through it. “Mean Tessa is hot.”
“Hot enough to spend the night?”
His hand travels to the back of her neck and she can feel it, the warmth of his palm and the splay of his fingers. His soft brown Scott eyes, that she’s stared into with varying levels of adoration and steady love for over twenty years. “Always,” he promises.
He finds her a shirt to sleep in, an extra blanket because she gets cold in the middle of the night. Then he refuses to have sex with her.
“I have clothes here I could wear,” she points out while definitely not pouting. He situates her under his duvet and then looks distinctly satisfied.
“Nope. That shirt was made for you.”
The shirt is a grey long sleeved tee, with a maple leaf made out of hockey sticks across the front and holes in the armpits. It smells faintly of his deodorant. “Caveman,” she accuses sleepily, and goes floppy and pliant when he maneuvers her around to be the little spoon. “We’re,” she mumbles, so he knows he’s not forgiven. “Sex… in morning. Can’t run this time, Moir.”
Scott snakes an arm around her waist and tugs her closer. He smiles against her cheek. “Big talk from someone who doesn’t speak for the first two hours of consciousness. We’ll see what you say when the alarm goes off.”
“I,” Tessa snarls in the morning, roughly toweling at her hair. “Cannot believe I let you talk me into staying over. How do you not have a blowdryer?” She cuts him a scornful look. “You could use one.”
Scott has his head stuck out of the shower curtain to dutifully receive her ire. “Yeah but I think cavemen aren’t supposed to have them.”
Tessa’s glower intensifies.
“I,” she decides in the car, gathering her hair up into a damp bun, “am going to cook for you.”
“I didn’t realize you were that upset with me.”
Tessa cuts him a look. “I’m being romantic.”
“I am excited to eat what you prepare,” Scott says with his best Gold Medal smile. It dissolves into a real one when she steps on the brake while he takes a sip of coffee.
Tessa stares into the frozen dinner items. Pizza and family sized pastas stare back. “It’s not cheating,” she tells the silver handle. “In fact, it’s practically a gesture of goodwill.” The day Scott has to call in sick to the rink because of her cooking will absolutely be the last day she doesn’t curl up into a ball and die of shame.
“Talking to yourself is a sign of weakness.” Scott has appeared at the mouth of the aisle, balancing two cartons of ice cream in one hand. “Ready to admit defeat?”
Tessa feels her eyes narrow. “Never. Go buy cheese.”
“What kind of cheese?”
“The…” Tessa makes a vague gesture. “Cracker kind?”
“I am so excited for this dinner,” Scott says with solemn sincerity, and then scampers off before she can kick him in the knee.
Tessa makes pasta. Supposedly with meatballs, but the balls all sort of fall apart mid-cook so it’s more like red sauce with loose hamburger served on a bed of overcooked noodles. Somehow the garlic bread is both crunchy and raw in the middle.
“Wow,” Scott says with a truly admirable amount of enthusiasm. He takes a bite of the garlic bread. “Oh no, that’s bad.”
“It’s not done,” Tessa says, swooping it away to stick it back in the oven. “Everything else is…” she surveys the table. “Probably also inedible.”
“You’re not that bad,” Scott assures her, and takes a big bite to prove himself right. “It’s fine.”
“Very romantic,” Scott declares, while he’s helping her load the dishwasher. “I’m impressed.”
“Yours was better,” Tessa sighs, and opens the freezer to get at the ice cream. “Give me a spoon.”
“Bowl or no bowl?”
“No bowl. I’m drowning my sorrows.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” he insists.
“It wasn’t good.” Tessa glares at the single tupperware of leftovers on the counter. “What’s the point if you’re not the best?”
“Yikes,” Scott jokes, and dips in to kiss her once before swooping back to the dishes. “That’s one for JF to unpack.”
Tessa rolls her eyes. “Don’t be smug just because you won.”
“It’s not a contest.” He leans back against the counter and she shuffles up between his legs to rest her chin on his chest and kiss him again. “Do you, um.” His breathing has picked up a bit, his hands on her waist. “Do you think everything is a contest?”
“Now who’s projecting for JF?”
“Still not me.” He kisses her again, lightly. “It’s been fun, eh? Taking it slow?”
Tessa shrugs. “I guess.” She fidgets, wanting to give more. “I just--I don’t think it’s something that can be fixed. It might just be how it is.”
“It’s not something to be fixed,” he agrees, “because you’re not broken. But I can’t pretend it doesn’t bother me.”
She hesitates. “Maybe… maybe I could stay, this time.” She scuffs a toe against the kitchen tile. “It’s not like you haven’t seen me cry before.”
When she can make herself look at him again he’s smiling the smile that lights up his whole face, his eyes crinkling at the corners, the lines around his mouth that weren’t there when they won their first gold. “I think that’s a fantastic idea,” he says softly, and kisses her breathless.
“What I really want,” he pants, one hand sneaking under her dress while they make out against the wall of her hallway like teenagers. “Is, uh--”
“Mm?” Tessa bites a hickey into the side of his throat, under his jaw. She smirks at him. “I’ll help you blend.”
“That’s so hot,” he breathes. “I’m gonna eat you out until you scream.”
And cry, Tessa thinks ruefully, but if that’s the destination for the night she might as well have fun along the way. And then she’s lying naked on her bed with her hands fisted in the sheets and he’s licking at her so good she might burst into tears ahead of schedule. “Oh,” is the only small sound it seems she’s capable of making, over and over and sometimes drawn out long and cracking in the middle. He’s got an arm over her belly to brace her, hold her down, and when she can focus her eyes long enough to look at him she can see him rocking his hips, fucking down into the mattress while his tongue and lips and fingers make obscene wet noises against her. Inside her.
“C’mon,” he’s murmuring against her inner thigh, his cheeks wet and shining with her slick, the vibration of his voice echoing through her body. “C’mon, Tee.”
She wants--she wants him inside her. She wants his fingers in her cunt, around her throat, on her chest. She wants his marks on her hips and her thighs, reminders of his teeth on the inside of her wrists and under her jaw. She wants him to take her to his house on the lake and tell her he’s never ever loved anyone else the way he loves her, she wants to make him poached eggs in the mornings until he’s sick of them and demands pancakes. Wants to hear him sing along to the radio and dance with him until neither of them can dance anymore.
Mostly right now she wants to come, and just like always, he knows what she needs. Clever tweak of his fingers and twist of his tongue and her entire body locks up for two long seconds before her mind goes comfortably blank, her entire body humming as she comes down from her orgasm in waves. For a single hanging moment, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.
Then she presses her hands to her eyes and tries to roll over, bury her face into the pillow.
“Hey,” Scott whispers hoarsely. “Don’t do that. Lemme see that green.”
Tessa’s chest feels constricting; something is rising painfully in her throat.
And then his hands are on her ribcage, gentle pressure, his forehead pressed to hers. “Breathe with me,” he tells her softly, and her lungs shudder back to life.
“Oh,” she says, five minutes and no tears later. Just his warm bulk tucked up against her and his lazy mouthing at her collarbones. His sweaty hair flopped into his eyes, this boy she’s known almost as long as she’s known herself. “Hi,” she whispers, because everything else she could say is too big and too heavy, for a Thursday night in April.
“Hi,” he repeats, and then, because he’s always been more willing to charge into the unknown than her: “I love you.”
“I love you,” she tells him. His smile is still the same it’s always been.