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striving for honesty

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“Are you really cooking for me?” Keeley asked, once they’d walked a bit further down the street and she’d gotten over the adrenaline of dealing with the nosy photographer. 

“Yeah. I was hoping to avoid all the pricks like that one out in public.”

“So, we’re going to your house?”

Roy looked over at her, brow furrowed, as they stopped at the street corner to wait briefly for traffic to pass. “I can call and get a table somewhere.”

“No, no, it’ll be brilliant, I’m sure! I’d just never have guessed it.” Keeley squeezed his hand. She hadn’t meant for her shock to make him feel bad about his surprise at all. “In that case, you didn’t really have to walk over to meet me...”

Roy scoffed and shook his head. “What a shit date that’d be if I couldn’t even be bothered to pick you up. And what kind of an idiot would I look like if I just sent you a text with my address that said ‘come by at 6’?”

Keeley tossed her hair over her shoulder and laughed. She probably wouldn’t have made any assumptions, not after they’d talked, but he wasn’t wrong that it would have looked pretty stupid after all their misunderstandings in the last few days.  

“That’s a good point. Texts like that usually have blurry photos of body parts attached and it’s still never quite what you’re anticipating.”

A vaguely disgusted noise was Roy’s response, and Keeley was about to tease him - like you’ve never done it - and then she realized he probably hadn’t, at least not in the era of cloud storage, or she’d likely have seen the photos leaked online.   

The walk to his neighborhood wasn’t too far, and she’d actually already known where he lived, even though the press had stopped bothering to come around Roy’s home years ago when they realized he would rather fight them than pose for photos. It was also rather ordinary from the outside, nice but not ostentatious. 

He led her up the steps and held the door so she could go inside ahead of him. Once it was shut behind them, his fingertips skimmed her arms as he helped her off with her jacket, and she shivered at the little spark that ran down her spine. 

“I can turn the furnace up if you’re cold.”

“No, it’s fine.” That wasn’t the sort of heat she was thinking of - taking it slow like he wanted was perfectly fine, but if things went well, she hoped they could at least get in a bit of snogging later.

Roy led her down the hall and into the open kitchen and dining area, and there were two fine place settings on the dining table, and a bottle of wine with a pair of glasses set out on the bar. It certainly seemed as though he’d gone to more trouble than she had expected. He pulled out one of the bar stools for her and, after both glasses had been filled, he set about removing a variety of items from the refrigerator and cabinets. 

“So, what are we having, anyway?” Keeley asked. Moving around the kitchen seemed so natural to him, and she wondered how much time he spent cooking for himself in there. It was a pretty big place for someone to rattle around alone.

“A seafood risotto and some roasted veg.”

It was a perfectly matter-of-fact answer, but once again, whatever she’d been expecting, that wasn’t it. “Do you really know how to make that?”

“No,” he replied, deadpan, “this seemed like the perfect time to figure it out.”

Keeley was thankful she hadn’t taken a drink just then, because it certainly would have come out her nose when she nearly laughed hard enough to fall off the stool. “Oh, I nearly believed you for a second!”

He was laughing too, the sound rolling deep in his throat, and it made her a little giddy in a way that had nothing at all to do with the wine.


As it turned out, the food as well as the company were both even better than Keeley could have hoped for. It was such a different side of Roy to see when he let his walls down a little, and she loved every moment of it as they drank and ate and chatted. It still amazed her how attentive and funny he could be underneath that gruff exterior. 

“You’ve truly managed to impress me, Roy Kent,” Keeley said in a somewhat exaggerated tone when he rose from his seat to clear the table, save the glasses that had just been refilled from a second bottle. “Well done.”

“Glad to hear it.” He started to rummage around in the refrigerator again. “So you don't want dessert?” 

“What? Did you actually?” Apparently he had, because he returned with two plates of what looked like a sticky toffee pudding. He must have spent most of his afternoon on this whole thing, she thought. “Wow, you were really committed to this plan.”

“Well, begin as you mean to go on, and all that.” Roy gestured at the doorway on the other side of the dining area. “Come on, the view out the back’s decent now that it’s dark.”

Keeley gathered up the glasses and followed, and it turned out that ‘decent’ was an understatement. The sitting room had a large window out that overlooked the back garden, which was nicely lit. It made for a rather romantic setting, especially once they were sat on the couch and he took out his phone for a second to set a scene with warm lighting and quiet background music.

“Oh, come on,” she teased, and elbowed him lightly in the side, “now you’re just showing off.”

“I know what it looks like,” Roy said in a pitifully half-hearted protest, “but this really is the only other good spot to sit downstairs.”

She thought about teasing him a bit more, just for fun, but it was too easy, and besides, it really was a nice atmosphere. Instead, she took a bite of the pudding and looked over at him, surprised. “You know, whenever you’re through being a footballer, you really ought to consider a career in food.”

“I’ll spruce up my CV for the Bake Off,” he replied dryly, a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth, and the idea of him on reality television was a funny thought given that she knew exactly how little he liked having cameras shoved into his face when it wasn’t strictly necessary. 

“That might be a problem since I don’t think they let you say ‘fuck’ on Channel 4.”

“Right.” He gave a faux-serious nod that made her giggle. “Suppose that’s out then.”

There was a brief lapse in the conversation while they finished off the desserts and the rest of the wine, and Keeley fiddled absently with one of her bracelets. Roy kept gazing at her in a curiously peculiar way that made her wonder what was going on in his head. 

Finally, as though he’d decided something, he put his arm around her shoulders without bothering to shroud it in any sort of pretense, and she chewed at her lip to stifle her grin as she settled against him. 

It was a few moments longer before Roy broke the charged, but not uncomfortable, silence. “I’m glad we got all this worked out,” he said, making a vague gesture with his hand between the two of them, and then frowned. “Jesus, that sounded fucking stupid, didn’t it.”

If it had been anybody else, Keeley might have agreed with them. But somehow, coming from him, it was such a hit of sincerity that felt as though her heart had skipped a beat. “It’s not stupid at all.” She tilted her head up enough to kiss his cheek and felt him smile. “I’m glad too.”

He made a contented-sounding hmph noise and took her hand, twining their fingers together, and then he was kissing her again, sweeter than he’d been in the street earlier, but it still made her toes curl regardless. He was full of surprises, and thoughts flashed through her mind of what he might be like when they did go to bed together. However, when they got to the point of her nearly clambering into his lap, she realized it might be better to change the topic, figuratively speaking, if they were still going to be putting that off.

Once they’d parted and she sat back a bit to look at him again, it was gratifying to see the restraint shown in his expression. He reached out to brush some loose strands of her hair out of her face, and she nearly leaned in to kiss him again when his fingers grazed her cheek, but she knew that if she did that, she'd likely end up abandoning all her self-control. 

“You know what else we could do?” She asked as an idea came to her, and smacked his arm lightly when he shot her a suggestive look. “Hey, no sex on the first date was your idea, remember.”

“I only implied that,” he grumbled, and he only sounded half-sarcastic about it. “But for the sake of argument, let’s hear yours.”

“Want to check out what else is on that memory card?”