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i could stare at your back all day

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Her office breathes in the sound of silence; an unsettling sigh within the endless hours of the day, filling the gaps with its quiet heaviness, nestling into her ribs.

With Keeley off at her own firm, and Higgins sequestered into a new office, filling his drawers with the latest premiership contracts, Rebecca finds herself staring out the window, looking only to her reflection for a response. It’s quiet, too quiet, without her friends around, once pushing their elbows into her couch and parsing her words for moments of laughter, comfort, an overwhelming warmth of familiar love.

But the silence of now does not compare to the one that sweltered in June’s heat, growing with the rising hours of the sun. It began months earlier when her legs would entangle with sheets and Sam, and he—Ted, barely ever Coach Lasso these days—filtered into the locker room before she could even thank him for his biscuits. She didn’t notice the distance at first; one day, he was there, and the next, his shadow fused into the dimming light at the end of her tunnel. There were glimpses of him: the funeral, the day they made their way back to the Premier League, a former fleeting Christmas Day. But glimpses merely blur a person, not sharpen them into focus.

Here is the ultimate truth: they would be in the same room, but he might as well be in Kansas.

And then, June 10th, he was. And she was in her office. And she listened to the ticking of her clock while her fingers flitted with the idea of sending him a text.

She never did.

He left voicemails.

She couldn’t find the words.

He was always best at that.

Ted comes back three days earlier than he was supposed to. The biscuits he gives her are in a blue box because he couldn’t find the right shade of pink. She thinks they taste a bit salty, but at least he sits across from her. He tells her about Henry and his fervent love for (British) football. She tells stories of Nora and Keeley’s latest PR adventures. It’s not normal, but it’s not terrible either. 

At least her office isn’t so quiet.

September rolls around, falls as slowly and then all at once as rain. She thinks he starts to notice her loneliness, suddenly asking her to lunch and drinks and some film he is dying to see. “No” begins to form at the tip of her tongue, until she sees him smile. Merely a hint, a tilt of his lips; yet to her, it’s enough to know. That’s something Rebecca still finds herself getting used to: she knows Ted. She knows what sets him off and what keeps him coming back.

She may even know how to ground him.

They’re sitting at a small Indian restaurant when Ted goes into a story from his college days—“So here I am, fighting a nasty hangover like it’s the Thrilla in Manila and my professor—nice guy, all of five foot five—wait do y’all know how feet work?—anyways, and he had’a mustache like mine too—though, I pull it off better if I do say so myself,”—and she puts her hand over his. His eyebrows flick up, a word still caught between his teeth, and she feels the warm bath of crimson on her neck. He might pull away, she thinks, and I’ve ruined something I’ve spent months retracing.

She doesn’t. He squeezes her hand and lets his voice drop to a whisper: “I missed you, Rebecca. More than a voicemail could ever say.”

Rebecca almost kisses him that night. And again when they see the latest Bond film at the theaters, and he splits his KitKats with her. She looks at her half while he thoughtfully chews on his. Two parts making a whole—it makes her wonder why she can no longer handle him being more than a few steps away from her.

In November, Keeley proclaims that Rebecca and Ted are dating when Rebecca accidentally slips how much time she spends with Ted. Any time he’s not on the pitch, he’s bounding up the stairs, asking Rebecca about her recent meetings and reporting on the club’s standing. When he goes into his own tangents, she finds herself staring at him: the lone strand of hair that seems impervious to gel, the line of his jaw, the extra spark to his eyes when their gazes meet.

“You’re falling for him,” Keeley says matter-of-factly.

“I’m not,” Rebecca sputters.

“You’re fit, he’s fit, you’re best fucking friends—when I’m not around, of course,” Keeley buttons with a grin. She pats the back of Rebecca’s hand. “Babe, it was inevitable. Really.”

Rebecca steels herself with a breath and imagines the feeling of his mustache against the top of her lip. “Maybe so.”

It suddenly feels so clear and simple—she, Rebecca Welton, has feelings for Ted Lasso—and perhaps, if she lets herself wander into a daydream, he feels the same. The biscuits and the dinners and the way his thumb touches her upper lip after she takes a wild sip of Guinness. It all must mean something. She feels Beard’s glance when she steps into Ted’s office, and even Roy sends his vote of confidence.

(Well, really, it was a text that read: “Just fucking go for it.”)

Rebecca swears she isn’t insecure, but there is something about Ted—something inscrutable, maddening, nearly offensive in how charming and kind he is—that she fears to wreck whatever they have purely out of the teenage need to kiss him. They stumble into a dance instead, lined with the bite of his American coffee and her offensive—in his words—tea that they share each morning with her opened pink box. The color has been right for months now, matching the rosy sunset that falls over Nelson Road when he lingers near her door and she almost asks him to stay.

Someday, she will.

 

 

And then someday, she does.

“Ted,” she says, words fraught, “stay.”

She had said this once to him a year ago, needing him as an emotional buffer the moment Sam stepped into the room. But now, she sees him. Sees his eyes and grin and a spot of hope to his expression.

He quietly walks back to her couch, sitting next to her, letting their knees press.

“Yes, Boss?” he asks.

She shakes her head. “Not boss. Rebecca.”

His eyes fall to his hands like they’re on the verging of shaking. Her fingers cover his.

“Rebecca…” her name haunts the air.

And what she thought would be agonizing becomes an easy decision: she leans forward, lets herself do so, and her lips press into his. It’s short, chaste, a touch of a beginning. She ducks back, checks his face under the protective cover of her eyelashes when she finds him leaning in this time. His hand catches her cheek, tilting her face to kiss her more deeply, letting their mouths move with intention.

“I’ve wanted to do that for months,” he admits, his breath moving softly against her face.

“Me too.” Her voice quiets: “I was just afraid of ruini—“

He cups her chin and makes her eyes reach his. There is a cast of seriousness to his gaze. “I don’t wanna hear that word. There is never no ruining. Just making our lives better.”

She brings him home and laughs when they barely make it past the entryway. He pries her open with his tongue alone, moving from her mouth to her neck and downwards as each button is undone. He talks, mutters, and sighs, mouths his affections against her flushed skin. She wonders if he knows every synonym for beautiful. Gorgeous at her collarbone and stunning at her stomach and irresistible at her chest. 

Only is he rendered speechless when she starts to strip off her pants.

She presses her hands to his skin, peeling off the layers of his day: his sweater, his polo, his undershirt. Her fingers carve out constellations on his back, reveling in the fact that she gets to know him like his. Bare, open, hungry for more. A sense of fondness blooms in her chest.

He has her under him before she can reach back for him. A bruise starts to form right under her collarbone—easily covered by a sweater, but enough of a mark to know he was here, and it meant something. Under the sheets, he holds her like she’s precious and to be admired. There is adoration to his touch, care to his gaze, and if she lets herself put a word to it, love. The nightly hours slip away with the movement of their bodies.

In the morning, she is the first to wake up. The sun casts golden lines against their bodies, and her eyes can't help but fall to him. He remains gently asleep, his hair strewn across his forehead in a way that makes her fingers itch to brush it away. It makes her throat clench, how easy it all feels when life seems to make all of her relationships deceptively difficult.

But with him, she simply watches. It’s nice not having to look away.