“Did you hear them? Like I was sixteen again, everybody all tone-deaf, ‘He’s here, he’s there’—”
Keeley laughs, her stomach under his head shaking. “Shush, you, it’s a good song.”
He growls, and she laughs some more. His leg hurts, just a little but enough and in the way that he can tell it’s not going to rehab right this time. He knows his body. It did the one last thing for him, and he’s grateful, but it’s finished now. His career, for which he gave up most of the things he could have ever done otherwise, is over, and he’s just waiting to hear it from someone else. But. But she’s here, gorgeous and brilliant, laughing at him and singing the stupid song he hadn’t heard for years before last night. Her hands are dragging through his hair, scratching at his neck, giving him something like the shivers but in the best possible way.
“You meeting with Ted tomorrow?” She sounds — she doesn’t sound worried, exactly. He’s not sure what she sounds like specifically. Something on the worried spectrum, but not quite worried-worried. “You know, if football doesn’t work out, there’s always rap. You have experience, don’t you?” She grins down at him, and he can’t not grin back for a heartbeat. A playful bite to her belly, just enough to tickle, gets her laughing again. Gets her talking. “I’ve got to try and wrangle some of the new lads, whatever idiot they’ve got doing intake interviews is absolutely worthless, can’t get a read on their marketing points at all. And I specifically told them to—“ her hands have stilled in his hair.
He growls, nudges her with his head. “Didn’t say stop, did I?”
“Bossy, bossy,” but it pushes her back to laughing a little. Gets her hands back in his hair, those same shivers of calm, smooth, safe. She keeps talking, but quieter and slower, about nothing at all now. He blinks, longer each time, until time slips away in sleep.
He dozes, coming in and out to hear her breathing slowing. Fuck, he’s missed this: being touched, close comfort, the heat of another person, their soft hands on him. Waking up to her snores is even better. He pulls her down onto the couch, lets her grumble at him, curls around her. They’d sleep better in bed, but they’re here for now. “Back to sleep,” he whispers into her hair. Listens to her snort and settle. It’s going to, probably, be all right. Maybe. Who knows. Feels good right now, though.
A long silence hangs in the air after Ted finishes his digression-filled monologue. Two instances of breaking into musical theater lyrics is a new record, Roy notes absentmindedly; he hadn’t thought Ted would know Matilda all that well. “You don’t—there’s no second assistant,” he grits out. “You don’t make enough, and the club doesn’t.” Roy knows the finances of the club better than people think, benefit of being here so long. “And I could still take over in the States, one leg or no.” It’s probably true. At least for a while. “Don’t need your pity.”
Ted’s always-open face opens even further. “What pity?” He blinks twice. “You telling me I’ve got the longest-running, most consistent franchise player the club’s ever had right here, a decade plus of experience and knowledge, the team’s respect already baked in?”
“Press terrified of him,” Coach Beard, who Roy had believed to be engrossed in some big fuck-off technical manual, pipes up.
Ted points behind him at Beard, snaps. “That too! I got all that sitting here, looking for a job, and I oughta do anything in the world besides snap him up for myself before some other team catches their breath?” Shakes his big dumb American head. “Nah, I believe I’ll make the smart play. Come on, Roy.” His voice gets a little quieter, his accent a little softer, the way it does when he’s being even more genuine than his annoyingly genuine usual. Roy scowls, looks at the floor. “Help me out. You know I couldn’t tell a midfielder from a banana if Beard here didn’t memorize everything he could buy back home, make his name here as the guy who kinda half understands what the heck is going on. And of course he yells the best.”
“Damn straight,” Beard mutters.
“And I got Nate the Great for trick plays and impromptu roasts, but I got nobody to help me take this team in hand and steer ‘em.”
“Gonna be a great captain one of these days. Middle of the season, probably. But right now this team just got its spine ripped out like, uh,” snaps behind himself again at Beard.
“Sub-Zero.” Roy less than willingly looks up, interrupts before Beard can. Beard nods once, his highest compliment, and goes back to his book.
“That’s the one. Jeez, that game’s violent, huh? Fun, though.” A long pause, as Roy tries to figure out what cheesy Americanism Ted’s going to throw out next. “Anyway. I want you on the staff. You don’t wanna be assistant with Beard, that’s fine, we’ll put you on profiling other teams, or conditioning, or — you stood in the goal for a minute, didn’t you?”
Roy growls, more out of habit than actual feeling. “Shit at it.”
“Mmm, agree to disagree. Hey, Beard, how much goalie experience you got?” Beard holds up a hand, shaped into a circle. Without looking, Ted nods. “Me too. You’re miles,” he chuckles to himself, “meters ahead of us.”
“Kilometers,” Beard interjects.
Roy can’t help a snort of laughter. “Still. Feels like fucking pity.”
“Roy, you gonna pity anybody, pity me. I got three guys in the office smarter than me now ‘stead of two. We get Beard promoted one of these days, put you in his spot, get you stepped up, get Nate in as assistant?” He whistles through his teeth, and Roy wants to punch him - not as much as once upon a time, but it seems the impulse won’t ever go all the way away. “I got a whole legacy planned out, buddy.” The light of conviction in Ted’s eyes is blinding.
“Trial basis.” He grits it out, reluctance written in every line of his face and body, hoping against hope it covers up the relief that’s really there.
Ted holds up two hands in submission. “Drives a hard bargain, too, huh? ‘Course we knew that. Get him in a room with some prospects, set him loose.” Stands, holds out one hand to shake. “Roy, I think—“
“Don’t,” Roy shakes, “quote Casablanca.” A hard blink or two, just to get his eyes clear; Ted notices but, in his way, just grins wider.
“You sure? I do a mean Claude Rains, don’t I, Beard?” He doesn’t look behind him to check, but Roy catches Beard shaking his head vigorously. “Damn right. Gonna be good, I can feel it.”
His kit is spotless and fresh, ready for him to get out there in a world in which he hadn’t done what he’d done. Nate’s a good lad. “Who moved my fucking socks?” He roars into the empty room, just to make some noise. He can half-hear Nate drop something, begin to scurry like a mouse. “Fucking new kit man!” There — Nate stops scurrying, remembers about the promotion. Lasso had done right by him. Roy lets himself smile just a little; no one will see.
“You smiling?” She’s there. How is she—
“How are you always here?” He groans, pulls her over to him. “And no. I never smile. Everyone knows that.”
She grins. “Aw, babe. You’re every-fuckin’-where, I’m just trying to keep up.”
He laughs so hard he has to lean on her to keep from tipping over. When he finally stands back up, she’s in the aftermath of her own giggle fit, wiping tears from under her perfect makeup with one careful finger. “You think of that just now?”
“Planned it. Ages ago.”
“Typical.” Roy has kissed a number of people. He wasn’t ever the playboy like fucking Jamie Tartt, never multiple women at once or any notably bad business. Worse judgment than some, maybe, but nothing anyone could throw a fit about, nothing anyone carried hard feelings around after. But he’d done just fine. Keeley’s had her own past, sure, and kissed enough people for the both of them, and yet. He suspects that, like him, she’s surprised at how good this is. Kissing’s fun almost regardless of who you’re kissing, but this is something special. Not just good, though it’s very good obviously, but just…more. That first kiss had been, too, been more, had been the reason he’d fucked it up right from the beginning. “You,” he breaks away, panting a little, “are terrifying. Get out of here, you’ll get me fired.”
“Wise man,” she says, breathier than her normal, eyes wide. “You have a good day at work, honey!” Now she’s making fun of him, and he can’t not laugh. “Play nice with the other children.” She starts to back up, trips over someone’s bag, catches herself. “Fuck! New kit lad?” Roy turns his laugh to a self-mocking scowl, waves her out.
“Right.” Deep breath. No boots, no number, but he’ll wear the colors still. “No fucking tie, either,” he says to himself. Looks up at the shitty handmade poster Ted always hits. It is, apparently, an American football thing. Roy looks both ways, listens hard. No one’s here, not even Keeley the Invisible Woman. “Fuck!” He doesn’t have to jump up to hit it, but he does anyway; a soft tap, just enough to get the impulse out. His leg holds, when he lands, and it’s — it’ll be all right. He can do this. One step, then another.
The pitch is beautiful and green and waiting for him, the place he’s felt most at home since he was four years old. If it had been empty, he’d maybe have tried a jog. It wouldn’t have worked; he’s not supposed to run yet. But he wouldn’t have been able not to try if the team wasn’t there. However, the team’s there indeed, stretching, chattering about someone’s date with someone’s sister’s friend, and when he makes his way up to them, the lads look just this side of wary and worried. “All right, Roy?”
Sam’s a good lad. Solid, too nice by half but a good lad. “All right, Sam.” He looks over at the others, their faces up at him like flowers. “Never one for public speaking. Since our coaching staff doesn’t know a goal from their arses,” he glances up, “Nate excluded,” looks back down, “I’m sticking around for a bit. Make sure you lot aren’t lost little lambs. Get you in shape.”
“You’re the assistant?” Isaac’s frowning, the one that means he’s lost the plot a bit. “What about Beard?”
Roy takes a deep breath, like Irina at yoga’s always on about. In through the nose, out through the mouth. “Beard’s the assistant. Nate’s his assistant, and doing some analysis and that bullshit. I,” he lets a feral grin widen on his face, “am your conditioning coach, and your goal coach, and the guy who’ll kick your ass to Sunderland and back if you don’t do your goddamned jobs.” A pause. “With aplomb.” The team’s frozen for a long minute.
“Fuck me, you’re running drills now?” Colin groans, lays back on the grass. “We’re all gonna die, lads, call your mums.” The laughter breaks whatever spell they had going, and they finish up stretching.
No one dies, but it is close for some of them. Roy’s — not enjoying this, it’s a joke, it’s a pity job for a washed-up wanker. But it’s satisfying, it is, to see Isaac rally the team behind his bulk, to yell at O’Brien not to wimp out on his torn butt, to hear Richard swear in French while Roy taps his good foot waiting for another lap. Sam smiles wide the first time he passes where Roy’s standing, and Roy makes him do the drill again. “Don’t grin at me,” he shouts in his old captain voice, “fucking run!” The lads are wiped and winded at the end, but Roy feels better. Easier. It wasn’t that different from training, really, other than him not being in kit with the others. As they shuffle off to the showers, he can just hear a few complaints, good-natured and thick with relief. It seems like they’re happy that he’s here.
He has to sit down for a second at that. They’re happy that he’s here. Even Zoreaux, the bastard, gave him a fist-bump on his way off the pitch. The sun’s setting over the far side, now. Maybe he’ll just stay here for a second. “No,” he says, “no, your turn for dinner.” His voice echoes around the pitch a little more than he expected, and it’s a jolt.
He’s tired, too, nearly as tired as he’d ever been after training, but he manages to get inside and on Keeley’s couch before he collapses. He’s supposed to ice it, or maybe heat, he can’t be fucked to get up and get whatever pack is correct. When his pocket starts vibrating, he assumes it’s Keeley. “Yeah, sorry, I’m doing gnocchi once I get off the couch—“ the photo on the screen is not Keeley. It’s not at all the shot of Keeley wearing one of his old shirts, brandishing a curling iron like a weapon, threatening him with disembowelment if he takes the picture. It’s instead the picture of Ted asleep on the bus, a copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle cracked open to cover his eyes so that it looks like his head is a book with a mustache and a snoring mouth. “Fuck!”
“Gnocchi sounds awesome, Roy,” Ted’s cheery voice rings out. “I would hope I’m invited, but I’m sure you thought I was someone a lot cooler, huh?” He laughs, and Roy grimaces. “Anyway, wanted to check in on your first day! The team looked tired as all get out, so I’m betting you put ‘em through the wringer. Good man! Wanna tell me how it went?”
“No,” Roy says.
“Fair enough!” Not even a pause. What the hell is Ted up to? “Well, staff meeting in the morning, you can go over it with Beard and Nate and me, we’ll work it all up. Beard’s got some harebrained scheme he wants Nate to look at, and me and you gotta talk about a backup for the Z-man, so we’ll get our ducks all lined up in the morning.”
“Lemme know how the gnocchi turns out! I had some in Virginia once made out of sweet potatoes, and while I can’t say they were authentic, they tasted all right with some extra salt on ‘em. See you in the morning, Coach!” A click, and Roy is still staring at his phone, bewildered, when he hears Keeley’s key in the lock.
Given the way she beams, she must have just barely caught him muttering, “Coach?”
“Ooh, Coach Kent,” she plops her bag and coat down on his chair, kicks off her heels and is suddenly four inches shorter. “Sexy.”
“Shut it, you,” no heat at all, though. “Good day?”
“Yeah,” she strides toward the kitchen, hopping the one creaky floorboard he keeps meaning to fix. “Whipped the new bird into shape, she’ll do, just needs a strong — hey, you want wine?” Without waiting for his response, she continues, “and anyway I’m really fucking good at this, so.”
“That you are.” He stands, unsteady but upright, and manages to work his way over to the bar to sit. “It’s fine. Just overdid it a bit,” at her concerned glance.
“Are you supposed to ice it or use heat?” She puts a glass of red in front of him; at his shrug, she does a big exaggerated frown. “‘I’m Roy Kent, integral member of the coaching staff for Richmond FC, and I can’t be arsed to know petty things like what to do when my heroic injury hurts’, that’s you, that is.” She’s looking it up on her phone, he knows, and he eases himself into the pleasure of being bossed and scolded, drinks the wine she brought and nods when she announces they’re getting delivery, lets her pay and plate the fucking spicy Indian food from Ted’s friend’s father-in-law’s place, because apparently he now lives in a web of people’s relationships despite pointedly trying not to do that for a fucking decade. She, of course, eats the spiciest thing they have, and so he has to as well, obviously, and soon enough they’re both weeping and euphoric. Endorphins are magic.
The sex is great. It’s always great. His leg feels notably better, whether from the ice or the mild painkiller or the wine or the food or all of it, and she’s so beautiful and warm and laughing on top of him. He does the thing with his hips and she screeches, wordless and high, and he loves her. Stutter-stop, his breath catches in his throat, and she looks down at him, suddenly all concern. “No, ’s good, keep,” and he moves again, uses all that yoga core strength to pull himself up to her, holds her there as she takes what’s hers. Fuck, he loves her. When did that happen?
“Phoebe,” he says, head in hands. “I need your advice.”
“I’m so glad you asked,” she says, mouth full of margarine and toast. “The brown socks are a bad color on you.”
He blinks hard at her. “Rude. Not wrong, but rude. No. I need your advice about a,” he takes a long pause. “A friend of mine.”
“A friend of yours?”
“Yeah.” Lying to a schoolchild now. Great. Wonderful. “He’s got a friend—“
“A friend of your friend.”
“Yes. His friend is a girl, and he, they are…do you know about dating?”
She rolls her eyes dramatically. “Uncle Roy, I’m nine years old.”
“That’s the problem. When I was nine I had a job, I don’t know what nine-year-olds know.”
“So your friend has a girlfriend, yeah?”
“Yeah. And he just realized that he, uh. He loves her? Or at least he cares more about her than he realized. And he thinks he should probably tell her. But,” he starts to speed up, a tell to end all tells. “But he doesn’t know how, because he doesn’t often feel like that about people he’s, you know, dating, and what if she doesn’t feel the same way? And he doesn’t want to push her or try to make her feel a way she doesn’t feel, and he doesn’t especially love being vulnerable at all so going, ‘hey, I love you,’ feels like putting a fucking neon target on his—“
She looks him dead in the face and interrupts. “Uncle Roy?”
“Yes, Phoebe?” A little winded.
“Don’t you have any grownup friends you could talk to? Because,” she gestures at the half-built princess castle between them, “I kind of want to get this done before Mum gets home.”
“Bad word, Uncle Roy.”
“Oh, shut up, Phoebe. Hand me the fucking instructions.”
Maureen’s divorce agrees with her. She’s shaved half her head and dyed the other half what he is pretty sure was supposed to be red but has turned, on her bleach-and-grey old color, to a vibrant, weird pink.
“You look great,” he says, hugging her as carefully as he can.
She pats the shaved side of her head and winks. “Ooh, now, don’t be getting ideas, I’m too young for you, amn’t I?”
The others cackle, and Roy can’t not laugh along. Irina pulls him over to sit by her; she likes that they’re similarly dark and dark-haired, likes when people assume she’s his mum. “Gios mou,” she says in her soft voice, “you look happier and also so troubled. How can you look two opposites at the same time?”
He shrugs just enough for her to see, and turns to the others. “Ladies, I’m not free after, I’ve got shit to do, so let’s get on with it.”
The instructor ruins him, frankly; he’s told her he hurt his leg and she does incorporate the rules, eases up on some of the poses that would put weight or stress on it in the wrong way. But she’s decided, apparently, to take the chance to absolutely murder his arms, the area he most often neglects. He catches Lin’s eye in one particular sequence, and she’s only not laughing at him openly by needing to keep her breath moving. “Fuck,” he gasps out, “off,” gasp, “Lin.”
After, during cool down stretches, she slides over to Irina; they hold hands for a few moments. “I think the baby is in love,” she says, thinking he won’t understand.
“My Mandarin’s shit but I’m not fucking stupid,” he says, his heart finally slowing back down. “And I’m not a baby.”
“Sure you are,” Irina says at the exact same time as Maureen.
“Shut up,” he growls. “Oh. Uh.”
Maureen sits up, hair bound into a weird pink braid tucked under her vest straps. “Tell us, duck.”
He grimaces. “Pain of death, ladies.” They all hold up one hand, a parody of the Girl Guides. “I, may have, maybe, shut your mouths about this, met someone.”
“Ooh!” Lin perks up. “Good for you!”
“No, it’s not. Anyway, she’s, you know. She’s great.”
“What’s her name?” Maureen looks enthralled.
“No,” he shakes his head. “Not doing that. But I realized, I guess, last night. Uh. That I—“ Irina goes to interrupt, but Lin slaps one hand over her mouth and nods encouragingly. “I’m in love with her. And I don’t know how to tell her, or—“ he bites back his words. “Anyway. My leg hurts. I’m going home.”
The women whisper behind him, and he can feel his shoulders tighten up around his ears until Maureen shouts, “You’re buying next week, then, after you tell her!” He throws two fingers up and lets himself almost smile at their howling laughs.
Bonk. Bonk. Bonk.
“Hey, Coach, you okay?” Ted’s voice is chipper, cheerful, and feels almost as though he’s physically put his hand between Roy’s pate and the wall against which he’s been knocking it for…a while. Lost track of time. Oh, wait, there is actually a hand there.
“Sorry.” He blinks. The world nudges itself back into view. “Ow, fuck!”
“Yeah, you started doing it and I was all, ‘ah, man, I feel you,’ and then it kept going and I though I should step in soon if you didn’t stop, and then it kept going more and I was like, ‘nah, we’re done with this’.” His hand is still on Roy’s forehead, for all the world like Granddad checking a fever. “So I’ll ask again. Coach? You okay?”
“Don’t call me that,” he says absently, trying not to lean into the hand on his head. “I’m fine.”
“Well, that’s a lie, so let’s try one more time.” Ted looks genuinely concerned. “Want me to call the Diamond Dogs in?”
“No,” he rushes to answer, pulls away. “No. I just,” he looks around helplessly. “Can we close the door?”
Ted lights up. “Heck, are we about to have a heart-to-heart? What a treat! Lemme just sidle by you here,” goes to the door, lets Roy collapse into one of the chairs near his and Beard’s desk.
“Great young lady,” Ted says agreeably, leaning back into his own seat. “Smart as a whip, tough as nails, sweet as a,” he pauses. “For some reason I was about to say pickle, and while it’s not accurate taste-wise I do like the phrasing. Sweet as a pickle.”
“Jesus Christ, Coach, I know how great she is, all right? I know full well, all right? That’s the fucking problem, innit, because I’m in love with her, and how the hell am I supposed to—“ his voice gives out. Head into hands, yoga breaths. “How am I supposed to tell her.” It’s not a question, even, just an exhalation.
Ted’s voice, when he finally speaks, is softer and calmer than it’s been since he benched Roy last season. “You love her?”
“Yeah,” he says, muffled but loud enough to startle himself. “Yeah,” quieter now. “I love her, and I just realized it last fucking night.”
“Oh.” Soft, still, and gentle like Roy’s a fucking stray dog. “That’s gotta be a big moment, huh? How did she react?”
Looks up to Ted, confused. “To what?”
Ted blinks. “Oh, you meant you literally haven’t told her.”
“No, of fucking course I haven’t!” Roy snarls.
“Well, hell,” Ted says, sitting back again. “That’s a whole nother thing. You ever said ‘I love you’ to somebody before?”
A pause. “Sure.” He doesn’t like where this is going.
“You ever mean it?”
A much longer pause. “Once.” Ted, the wanker that he is, just sits and waits. Roy’s good at waiting, good at staring contests. He loses this one. “Fucking, fine. I was, what, twenty-one? Two, maybe? Big, tall woman. Shaved head. Beautiful.” She had been. He’d felt, looking at her, like a man who’d just found a lost city made of gold. “I meant it, she didn’t, all’s well that ends well, she’s a fucking realtor in Venezuela now.” He can still feel the humiliation, duller now but never gone. She hadn’t meant it maliciously, which somehow makes it even worse to think about now.
“That sounds like it’d make me real hesitant about saying the words, much less feeling ‘em,” Ted says, agreeable and even-tempered. “Open up like that and get punched for your trouble, makes you wanna keep it all,” he makes a motion towards the center of his own chest, “locked up tight where people can’t use it against you.”
Roy just glares.
“Me, I’m a big ol’ open book for the most part. Can’t get too hurt if you don’t keep too much close in. There’s nothing to dig too awful far in on, lookin’ at me. Now I’m not sayin’ I’m doing it right, or it’s healthy, but neither are you. Keeley’s got a defense I’d drink tea to teach the team, but she’s always looking to let people in. It’s amazing, honestly. That bravery.” He leans forward, reaches forward further. One hand, tentative and light, on Roy’s shoulder. Roy stares at it, confused. “You gotta be brave, Roy. If she’s worth it, and you and I both know she is, you can’t do anything from fear. Act outta the way you feel, not the things you worry about.”
Roy doesn’t tear up. Bite his tongue until it nearly bleeds, clench his jaw so hard it hurts, glare daggers at the hand on his shoulder, sure. No tears, though. Not here, not in front of Ted Fucking Lasso, not over something so small and stupid. The room stays quiet, still; eventually Roy clears his throat and Ted, sensitive as always, pulls his hand back. “Dani’s still dropping his left arm on breakaways,” he growls out, “you can’t let him do that.”
Ted kicks his feet up on his desk. “Walk me through it, Coach.”
Keeley is sitting on the kitchen counter, one foot tucked up beneath her. She is wearing — he’s pretty sure she’s wearing his yoga pants, the ones with the holes in one knee and the crotch, hence him not wearing them anymore. And one of his vests, way too big on her tiny frame. Her hair’s in some horrible configuration meant, apparently, to encourage growth without stressing the root matrix. Her eyes are closed, head on her shoulder, bottle of beer in one hand. She’s listening, he realizes, to a record. For one heart-stopping moment, he worries it’s that fucking “Winner, Winner, Football Dinner,” she’d tracked down an LP of it somewhere and kept threatening to play it. But it’s not, it’s the fucking Dave Clark goddamn Five. He hasn’t looked at that record in ages, and it’s like a bolt of nostalgia right to the gut. She’s humming along, doesn’t know the words, and he can’t stop himself from gathering her into his arms.
“Roy!” She’s so happy, surprised, and he kisses her until she puts down the beer and melts against him. “You’re in a good mood.”
“Can I tell you something?” Oh god, oh fuck, he’s going to tell her.
“Sure,” her eyes serious and wide, tipped to one side; she’s laying her head on his chest, on his shoulder, her hands on his waist. At this height, her on the counter, him standing, they’re just right for a slow dance, and he half-heartedly sways her for a couple of beats. “Cute.”
“Listen,” he stammers, stops. “Keeley.”
“Yeah?” She closes her eyes again.
“Look at me, will you?” She does, and he opens his mouth before he can talk his chickenshit self out of it. “I love you. I mean I’m in love with you.” A breath, shakier than his fucking leg, “and you don’t have to say it back, ever, and you don’t have to feel the same way obviously, I’m not, I just. I realized it, and I wanted to tell you. Because you’re amazing, and,” he chokes. “And I’m trying to be braver. I love you.” Goes to step away, suddenly boiling hot and freezing cold at the same time, but her strong hands hold him there.
She searches his face, her mouth tight, brows furrowed. “You love me?” At his scowling nod, her whole face blossoms. “You love me!”
“Of course I fucking do, have you met you?” He can’t tell what she’s doing with her face but it seems on the happy side. “You’re fucking great, everyone loves you. But I’m in love with you.”
“Yeah, you are,” she laughs. “Good thing, too. Since I’ve been in love with you for, I dunno, a month? Two? Bout time you caught up.”
He blinks once, twice. She’s not joking. She’s happy, yes, and half-laughing with a big goofy grin, but she’s serious as a heart attack as well. “Fuck,” he says, soft and reverent. “Fuck, Keeley.”
“I know, right?” She quiets down, nestles her head back on his shoulder. “I love you, Roy.”
He kisses the top of her head, pulls her face up to him. Kisses her nose, her brows, her cheeks, just below her ears, her neck, until she’s impatient and hungry and pulls him to her mouth. The beer gets tipped, who cares, he’ll get it fucking later, he’s busy right now.
Nate pops his head into the office. “Roy?”
“Yeah.” Not looking up; the scouting report for the kid up in Suffolk is a mess. “What.”
“I just wanted to say, I’m glad you and Keeley have, you know. Worked it out. Whatever it was.”
Roy slowly raises his gaze. “What.”
“Not, I mean,” Nate begins to shake like a rabbit. “No one told me anything, you know, I’m normally a good ear for that sort of thing but no one told me a thing, I just knew—“ his mouth gapes like a fish for a second. “I have to go talk to, uh, uh, Higgins? About something? Bye!”
The scouting report can wait. He could go chase Nate down and get the name. It wouldn’t eve be hard. But—he glances over at his phone. Four texts: dinner idea, no let’s go see a movie, question about where her jade ring is, never mind she found it. All signed with x’s and love you’s. All perfect. All aimed at him. “Fuck.” He’s going to kill Ted, or whoever, but not right now. Right now he’s going to finish this bass-ackwards (fuck, a Lasso-ism, fuck!) report and then go home to his girlfriend, who loves him, and take her to see some horrible movie about car thieves, and then they’re going to go home, where they’re in love, and he’s going to come back to work the next day.
A life. Silly, and little, and of no import to anyone outside of this part of the world; a letdown, from the outside, to someone like Roy had been once. Just a girlfriend, just a house, just a small job, just a leg that in the rain hurts like the dickens, just a yoga class with three old women he adores. A good one. Worth it. He hums to himself, a little Dave Clark Five, as he turns back to the pages before him.