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Rebecca falls in love with Ted Lasso the same way she fell in like with him in the first place - unwittingly, involuntarily and absofuckingcompletely.

It’s not an event, a moment she can put her finger on and say this; this is when it all changed.

Instead, it happens like this.

*

It happens after their match against West Ham.

 

The first time they play against Rupert’s West Ham, they lose 2:0 in a shocking defeat.

Rupert winks at her and says something predictably hurtful and demeaning, the twat, but Ted isn’t there to see it and Rebecca doesn’t care anymore.

It’s Nate that gets to them.

"Ted Lasso is an amateur, plain and simple,” he tells the cameras after the match. “I feel sorry for that team, I do. Sooner or later they’ll come to realise just as I realised, that underneath all that big talk of friendship and believe," he spits the word out. "Is just a small man who as you can see simply isn’t up to the task. He knows nothing about the game and doesn't care how that affects his players. I’m grateful to have moved on to the club that —”

Roy switches the telly off and shouts something very passionately, and there are reassuring murmurs from the rest of the team.

Ted’s shoulders sag and she watches him shuffle off, his head down.

She thinks a drink in her office is a good idea, a way to lift his spirits, but the man who comes to her door later that evening is something altogether different than the one she left downstairs. He sees through it, of course, but allows him the dignity of pretense.

“Oh we’ll get them next time, don’t you worry about that, Boss,” he seems to think she’s the one in need of a pep talk. “The main thing though is saving Nate, that’s what we need to focus on.”

“Ted,” she thinks of recent events, of Nate’s further descent into slimery. “I’m not sure that’s a battle we’re going to win.”

“We’ll just have to see about that.”

“Ted,” she cautions gently.

“Nate’s just lashing out, I know a tantrum when I see one.”

She makes a face; she knows a dickhead when she sees one. “Be that as it may.”

“I don’t give up on people, Rebecca,'' he says, shaking his head fervently. “That just ain’t who Mamma Lasso labored for twenty-three hours.’ He smiles, all teeth and no substance. "No siree."

"Maybe not. But sometimes people give up on you and there’s not much you can do about that, unfortunately."

"Well Nate ain’t dead so that’s just quitter talk!" Ted shoots up so suddenly, it startles her. He rubs his forehead, his eyes wild and haunted. She’s only seen him like this once before and it worries her. He notices. "I’m sorry. Crap, Rebecca. I’m sorry."

"You have nothing to apologise for, Ted." Reaching out, she touches his hand, wraps her fingers around his. "Is everything alright?"

Shaking his head, his brows knitted tightly together, he mutters, "No. Everything is not alright."

"Come on," she tugs gently. "Why don’t we sit down."

He’s reluctant, she feels the tension roll off of him in waves. Rubbing her palm over the back of his hand, the edge of his wrist, she feels his pulse racing.

"Ted," she pleads. "I’m here. We can just sit here together. What do you say?" She tries to catch his eye. "You don’t have to explain, we don’t have to talk at all. It’s okay."

He looks at her finally, his eyes still haunted but without the edge of panic that was there a moment ago. His voice is raspy and lost. "I want to tell you." His fingers grasp hers back as he nods. "I want to tell you everything."

They sit down, side by side, holding hands. He tells her about his father.

(They hold onto each other as she strokes his hair and cries silently for the boy whose father quit on him.)

*

It happens on a cloudy Thursday morning.

 

It’s weeks later that she tells Ted about her own dad.

She’s not sure why she tells him in the first place; she feels like she’s made peace with it at the funeral. But she hasn’t stopped thinking about what Ted told her, has been carrying his story close to her heart, acutely aware of his pain and her privilege to be allowed to witness it and she feels she wants to offer a piece of herself in return.

That’s what friends do, isn’t it.

His eyes are sympathetic and warm and maybe she’s not as good at sharing as he is because she immediately minimises the fuck out of it.

Tucking a pen between her fingers, she waves it all off. "Men are cheating pigs and that’s all there is to it. I should have realised that at sixteen and saved myself a lot of hassle down the line."

He nods in that way he does when he sees her point but doesn’t agree with it at all.

"And don’t say not all men. I know not all men."

"I would never use that phrase," Ted scoffs. "I read the comment section of the Guardian, I watch Parks & Rec."

"Well. Good."

"Rebecca," he leans forward, his mouth set in a sympathetic line. "First of all, I’m real sorry to hear that happened. No girl should witness a betrayal like that from someone who’s meant to show you what love is supposed to be all about.”

Ted knows exactly what to say. It's unnerving. It's endearing.

"As for Rupert," he pauses. "Well, he’s just a nasty piece of horse dung, there ain’t no nice way of going about it." Rebecca sucks in her cheeks to keep from smiling. He smiles back, dimple and all. "What I'm trying to say is, don’t lose hope just yet, huh. There’s a guy out there just waitin’ to sweep you off your feet.”

She smiles. "Thank you, Ted. I’m not sure you’re right on that one, but thank you."

"Oh I know I’m right," he smiles wider, his eyes twinkling. "Right then," he slaps his hands on the arms of his chair. "I hate to leave but I promised little Dana Higgins I’d let him run practice today."

She doesn’t even ask.

"Hey! Here’s a thought! How about you join us for movie night tomorrow? Everyone is coming, it’ll be great, what do you say?”

She comes along. Ted saves her a seat and shares his popcorn and blushes furiously all through Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in the diner. Harry and Sally get their happy ending and he grins at the screen, “How about that.”

(After, she overhears Jamie complaining about having to “fucking cancel on a sure shag because the stupid yank sprung that shitty movie night on them last minute, can you believe he made it mandatory, don’t he know some people have fucking plans on a Friday night".

Rebecca goes about her weekend smiling.)

*

It happens on Christmas Day.

 

Henry is visiting and Ted isn’t sad and she’s glad, really she is. She makes plans that don't involve him and convinces herself she doesn't mind.

He texts her just before 10 on Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas. Where are you?

Merry Christmas to you, too. I’m home. How’s it going? Henry awake yet?

Since quarter to 5!

He sends her a selfie of him and Henry in front of the Christmas tree, Henry holding the present she got for him. A text follows immediatelly. Come on, I’m not letting him open it without ya.

Her heart is beating wildly and she cares. She cares a lot.

I’ll be right over.

Hurry! Little boys aren’t known for their patience. I’m worried he might turn feral any minute now. He follows it up with emojis of wild animals and a vampire.

She chuckles at the screen.

They spend the day together much like they did the previous year, delivering presents and singing Christmas songs, and Henry grabs her hand and Ted smiles at her and she thinks she could get used to this.

 

*

It happens over a hundred little moments until she suddenly realises she’s thought about what it would be like to kiss Ted seven times already this week.

At 6 am. On a Tuesday.

Well. Fuck.

*

It’s been weeks since she came to her little realisation. Weeks of watching Ted (weeks of looking away) wondering if this is a passing infatuation or something she should actually pursue. Weeks of waiting for the feeling to simply go away. It doesn’t.

Sassy visits and they don’t hook up -

"I think you’re just swell, Sassy Smurf, but maybe we just keep this PG from now on, what do ya say?" He extends his hand and she shakes it, raising her eyebrows at Rebecca from over his shoulder.

Your turn ;), Sass texts her later.

and she tries not to read too much into it but. It’s really fucking hard not to.

Especially when she turns down Luca - and Chris and Josh and Kevin - for a night alone in her bed, thinking about Ted. The wanker isn’t even there and he’s still the best orgasm she’s ever had.

In the end, she goes to see him because she's tired of overthinking it. She’s annoyed with herself, for being a coward; with him, for being lovable.

(She goes to see him because she thinks maybe she owes it to herself to try.)

*

She doesn’t go to his office with any particular plan, per se.

She does remember last year, of course - her “see you next year” and his “can’t wait.” She thinks Ted would probably appreciate the parallel, or whatever.

But she doesn’t have a plan, it’s more testing the waters, seeing if there’s anything there, part of her hoping if she just stands there and lets herself be seen, he might just guess - he’s incredibly astute after all.

He’s sitting in his office, hunched over his computer. At first she thinks he’s on a call to Henry but soon realises he’s reading something, and very intently by the way his chin is propped on his hand, his thumb worrying his bottom lip.

She’s tempted to leave - any excuse to run away, she’s well aware - but he sees her before she manages to turn around.

Closing the screen shut, he waves her in.

"Hey, Ted."

"Hey, Boss."

"You got a minute?"

"I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘em for you," he smiles, leaning back in his chair.

She closes the door behind her and leans back against it, her hands still cradling the handle. Ready to flee. She recognises just how pathetic that makes her but doesn’t move away from the door.

"What can I do you for?" he asks enthusiastically, getting up off his seat. She doesn’t miss his eyes flicking over to the Mac on his desk or the fact his heart doesn’t seem in it.

She waves her hand in its general direction. ‘If you're busy, I can --"

"Don’t be silly. Never too busy for our fair and fearsome ruler."

She lets out a polite laugh because it"s expected. He raises his eyebrows at her in question.

‘I don't quite know how to say this.’

"In my opinion, words are usually the most efficient way," he suggests. "Although, miming is an often overseen form of communication. Unfairly, I might add."

"I think I’ll give it a miss this time, thanks."

"Suit yourself. Words it is."

They stare at each other in silence for a long moment and she realises her plan to just stand there and have him guess how she feels about him is incredibly fucking stupid, of course. Hindsight is 20-20 as they say.

The silence stretches and she’s drawing a blank and just say something, Rebecca, anything.

“I slept with Sam." Her hands fly up, and she adds hastily, "And then I broke it off. As you know."

He cocks his head, looks at her funny. "I do know. That was last year, right?" he frowns at her, checking.

"Yes, that's right."

"Unless you…" he cocks his head.

"Oh, no, no," she waves her palms at him. "No, no, no, no, no, definitely not. That was ah, that was a bad idea from the start."

"Sure, yeah, I can see that."

"No, what I meant was. Well, you see, the reason it didn’t work out," and she touches her temples and trails off because she didn’t want to bring Sam into this at all and now he’s the topic and this is just going much worse than she feared. "And I've given this some thought -‘

"Always a good idea."

"And what I’ve found,” she starts. “Look, the truth is," but how on earth is she meant to finish that sentence? I think I’m crazy about you seems way too dramatic for a woman her age and mental acumen. She’s not a teenager with a secret crush. No, Rebecca, you’re a middle-aged woman with a secret crush. Much better.

She must have been silent for a long time because Ted prompts, “The truth?”

She shakes her head. What the fuck is she doing? They are friends, for fucks sake. And yes, sure, they had their moments of intimacy; of looks that lingered for too long, of vulnerabilities shared in hushed tones, of hands brushing in a gesture that could have been interpreted as something more if that’s what one wanted to do. And she did, she did, and now here she is, spurred completely by her own fabrication because Ted is frank and straightforward and earnest and if he liked her that way (and she does a really huge mental eyeroll at that particular turn of phrase) then surely she would have known by now.

She’s an absolute fucking moron and this can only end very very awkwardly. She doesn’t have a lot of real friends and Ted is way too important to her to risk over some made up fantasy of a love-starved woman.

Rebecca is so caught up in her own thoughts, she doesn’t notice Ted’s somehow moved closer and is now standing within arm’s reach.

"Someone very wise told me the truth will set you free," he rocks on his heels, hands in his trouser pockets. Frowning, he adds, "She did also say it would piss you off first." He chuckles to himself and shakes his head in fond memory.

Rebecca nods in agreement. Realising that somewhere along the way and completely against her better judgment she has fallen madly in love with Ted Lasso of all people, was at times absolutely infuriating, yes.

Sure, he was generous and kind and all around a wonderful man who made everything and everyone around him better - herself included. But he was also generous and kind and all around wonderful, and she had no fucking clue what to even do with that. She never had a man like that in her life before, certainly not romantically; the fucker had her completely thrown. And then there was also the fact he was working for her. Working abroad. For a finite amount of time.

Finite. She hated that word.

“You know what," she says brightly, her smile wide and utterly fake. "Forget about this."

"Boss?" he asked, confused.

"No, really, I thought I was going somewhere with this but then I just completely," she looks for words and finds none. She finishes awkwardly, "Lost track of where I was going with this." Rebecca grimaces. Ted is just looking at her, calm and steady, and she feels out of depth. She hates feeling out of depth.

Taking his left hand out of his pocket, he reaches for her hand. "Rebecca?"

She looks down at where his finger is hooked around her wrist, his thumb hovering over her pulse. Her heart is beating wildly in her chest and god, he must be able to feel it.

He doesn’t say anything though, just looks at her, his eyes imploring and she finds that she was wrong. She’s not a lion. Not when it comes to this.

She snatches her hand away.

“I have to go."

Opening the door, she almost runs into Beard. "Sorry," she mumbles while they do an awkward coming-in-going-out dance until he finally just steps to the side. "Thanks."

She doesn’t look back so she doesn’t catch Ted’s face.

"Boss seems in a hurry."

"Hmmm," is all Ted says in return before she’s mercifully out of earshot.

Well that went fucking terribly.

 

**

 

It’s been three days since her disastrous would-be truth bomb and Rebecca hasn’t been down to see Ted once.

It’s almost the end of the season and he has work to do. They’re so close to winning it all - against all odds, the Ted Lasso effect seems to have taken them to third place with two games to go, their last one predictably and frustratingly against West Ham - and Ted is busy and she would only serve as an unwelcome distraction in the changing room.

Rebecca is as good at bullshitting herself as she is others.

Ted still does his morning visits, of course, biscuits in hand and a smile on his face. But she gets the feeling he’s been watching her a little more closely over the last few days. Of course, that could simply be her paranoia; it’s very hard to tell.

She’s browsing through the news and biting her fingernail when he knocks on her open door.

"Hey, boss."

"Ted, come in," she waves him over.

Walking over to her desk, he takes a seat. She eyes the pink box he doesn’t put on her desk, instead twirling it in his hands.

"Ted?" She gives him a pointed look, her gaze dropping to the box. "Something on your mind?"

"No. Well, yeah, kinda. I dunno." He gets up. "I guess there is."

"Okay?"

He gives her a long look and Ted Lasso is usually an open book but if he’s trying to convey something, she’s not getting the message.

"Ted?"

Pausing his pacing, he turns to look at her. "Hey, listen, what did you wanna tell me?" She frowns at this sudden change in topic. He waves his hand, "The other day, in my office. You wanted to tell me something?"

"Oh. That." She sighs. This really isn’t the time to be having that conversation, she reasons with herself, not with Ted all keyed up and out of sorts. "I honestly can’t remember," she lies, tapping the side of her laptop.

"Right," he eyes her, nods. Rubbing his jaw, he repeats, "Right."

She could swear he looks disappointed.

"Ted?" He looks up. "Is everything alright with you?"

He takes a breath and goes very very still. "I got offered a job."

Her heart drops. "A job.""

"Back in Kansas."

Of course. She should have seen this coming.

"Nothin’ flashy, not anything like this gig," he chuckles nervously, rubbing his neck. "But I suppose those folks don’t wanna run their team to the ground, you know what I’m sayin’." He looks at her and she can see he's hoping for a smile. She’d humour him if she felt she was in any way in control of her body. It feels like she’s vacated it.

He goes on, "I guess they’re just after some of that believe magic we got goin’ on here, you know.”

She knows. Right now, she wishes she didn’t.

"Anyway," he continues. "It’s closer to Henry which is the only reason why I’m even considering it. I feel like I have to at least consider it, you know. I owe it to —"

That seems to do it. She finally snaps out of her catatonic state, "Of course," she exclaims, overzealously. She puts her palms up, forces a smile. "Of course, I completely understand."

"Rebecca, I -"

"No, no, Ted, say no more." She gets up, too; needs to regain some control of this situation and it seems like her height might do the trick.

"I actually want to. Say more, that is. You see, the thing is," he stops, shakes his head. "What I wanna say is that — well, you know, this, what we have here —"

And she can’t bear it, can’t stand there and listen to him placate and reassure. The it’s been special and the we’ll keep in touch and the hey there’s always facetime; lines that ultimately mean nothing.

She spares them both the misery of a long goodbye. “Listen, this makes perfect sense for you."

He stops. "It does?" he sounds genuinely confused.

She’s undeterred. "Of course," she exclaims again, hopes Ted can’t hear the edge of panic in her voice. "Henry needs you more than those guys," she points at her window, chuckling. Her throat feels dry.

Ted sighs and nods, eyes on his shoes. "I guess you got a point there." Looking back up at her, he asks, "And you?"

Swallowing, she tries and keeps her features schooled. It’s almost effortless; she’s had years of practice after all. It’s sad really; she never thought she’d need it with Ted.

But for whatever reason, he seems to be after her blessing and her absolution and she is not petty enough (not anymore; he’s changed her) not to give it. "I’ll be absolutely fine." And because she catches something like hurt crossing Ted’s face, she demures, "You’ll be missed, of course you'll be missed," she smiles tightly through a lump in her throat. "But I have Keeley and Roy and Higgins and the guys, you know," she waves a hand between them. "I’m not the woman you found when you first got here." And that, at least, is the truth. The fact most of it is due to him she doesn’t even want to touch right now.

"I see," he nods but doesn’t seem convinced. "No, I getcha. Kinda like Grey’s Anatomy, when they killed off McDreamy. We thought the show couldn’t go on but that Shonda Rhimes found a way and look at Meredith now, still out there saving lives, dancing it off, being awesome."

"Ted."

"Although I always think of you more of an Addison."

"Ted."

He steps closer, suddenly serious, and there’s a long pause where he’s just looking at her until he finally utters, his voice quiet. "You’d tell me, right? If there was something to say, you'd tell me."

He doesn’t say what but she can take a guess. If she wasn’t okay. If this was hurting her too much. And she wants to tell him but he’s one foot out the door and one foot out the country and she’s feeling too raw, too transparent, so she does the only thing she knows. She guards her heart.

"Ted, you’re a very very dear friend. And what you did with the team is just amazing, truly. Astonishing. But both me and the team will be fine. As they say, the show must go on," she waves a little fist in the air. Her eyes are stinging with tears but she manages to force another smile.

She’s unsure if he actually buys it or if he’s allowing her this; a privacy for her hurt. She suspects the latter. It’s a kindness that would be so very Ted. She appreciates it.

Whichever it is, he mercifully leaves it alone. “Of course. No, I get it. I do. Those are some fine young men out there. They’ll go on to do great things." Nodding, "Yep. They’ll be great."

"Yes."

"Leaving, though? Ho, boy, I don’t know." He chews his bottom lip between his teeth. "I’d just miss them so darn much, you know." He looks up straight at her and the air is thick with what he’s actually saying.

"They’ll miss you horribly right back, Ted." She’s surprised her voice doesn’t break but then, it’s barely above whisper.

"Mmmm," is all Ted says, goes to shove his hands in his pockets only to realise he’s still holding her biscuits. He looks down at the box, his smile sad. "Almost forgot," he taps it against his palm then gives it to her. Their fingers brush - a fucking cliché - and it feels a lot like breaking up.

"You don’t mind me mulling this over some more, do you? There’s lots to think about. It just felt wrong doing it behind your back.”

She gives a silent nod, not trusting her voice anymore. He turns to leave and she watches him go. He’s about to open the door when he turns around. They stare at each other from across the room for a beat, two; and then he’s crossing her office in long strides and enveloping her in a hug. Her arms hang limply by her side for a moment and then she thinks fuck that - just fuck all that, this is Ted- and hugs him back. Her hands are on his shoulder blades, fingers of her free hand digging into muscle, and his chin is in the crook of her neck before he turns his head just so, just enough for her to feel his stubble graze the side of her neck, feel his nose bury in her shoulder.

Rebecca closes her eyes and holds on for dear life.

They stand like that for a little while - not enough, never enough time - before his grip loosens. He’s letting her go.

“Hey, listen,” he says as he pulls away, clears his throat. "If you do remember what you were going to say. Come see me in my office, okay. I would hate a perfectly good tradition to go to waste."

She nods, mumbles a sure yes and then he’s leaving.

He closes the door behind him and she’s left standing by her desk, tears stubbornly falling when she swore she wouldn’t cry.

She’s never felt more alone.

*

The day is a blur and Rebecca gets absolutely nothing done.

She wishes for Keeley, the distraction and comfort of a friend, but Keeley is out there being a boss ass bitch in her own right and Rebecca’s so proud of her. It does highlight the fact people leave and it’s not something she cares to be reminded of.

She decides on the next best thing and texts her

Have I ever told you just how fucking much I love you, Keeley?

thinking she won’t hear back from her until much later; Keeley texts back before Rebecca puts her phone down.

whats happened????

Nothing happened. Just missing my friend. She adds a pink heart for good measure.

She sees the three dots on her screen then they disappear. A moment later, her phone is ringing.

“Who do I need to nail to a fucking cross?"

"What?"

"You text me out of the blue just to tell me you love me? Just like that, a propos nothing? You? I mean, talk about a fucking code red, alarms are blaring over here."

Rebecca laughs nervously. "Don’t be ridiculous, Keeley. Am I not allowed to express my appreciation for my best friend?"

"Yeah, you are, usually by coming over with a bottle of wine and your tits on display, yeah. This is very very weird."

"I’m going to go now."

"Rebecca," Keeley’s tone is no longer playful. "Seriously. Is everything alright?"

Rebecca looks out her window where they’re wrapping up today’s training.

“Ted has a job offer.” She closes her eyes. “In Kansas.”

“Oh, fuck. Is he going?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “It seems like a perfect fit for him.”

“Fuck, Rebecca. You don’t actually believe that, do you?”

“Henry’s there.”

“And the rest of his life is here.” She adds, “You’re here.”

“Keeley.”

“Talk to Ted, Rebecca.”

“And say what? Beg him to stay?”

“I don’t think you’ll need to do a lot of begging.”

Rebecca looks down. Ted is patting Dani on the back, explaining something with his hands. Dani is jumping up and down like a Duracell bunny on steroids, nodding his head, grin wide. She smiles despite her mood.

“I don’t want to guilt him into staying,” she sighs. “I don’t want that resentment down the line.”

“You really do not have a fucking clue, do you,” Keeley says, and Rebecca shakes her head at the implication. Keeley has always had this romantic notion of her and Ted getting together, dropping not-so-subtle-hints and Rebecca would roll her eyes but it felt good actually, kept the magic of it all going. She kicks herself now for allowing herself to get caught up in it, now that reality has smacked her across the face.

“It’s not as simple as that.” Taking a deep breath, she adds, “Anyway, nothing I can’t handle.”

Down on the pitch, the players are filing away and Ted is left standing on his own looking after them and she can’t see his face but his shoulders sag.

“Maybe not, but Rebecca. There’s more to life than just handling it, yeah?”

As if on cue, Ted turns around and looks up. They stare at each other, motionless; his finger touches the visor in a barely there salute. She nods in response.

"I gotta go."

"Okay. Want me to come over tonight? I can bring booze."

"I --" Rebecca watches Ted walk off the pitch. Just as he’s about to disappear out of sight, he turns around to look at her. He stands there for the longest time then he’s hooking his thumb over his shoulder, and she thinks it looks a lot like an invitation. She hesitates too long because he nods and turns away, and she’s left staring at an empty pitch.

“Rebecca?”

"Put a pin in that, okay? I’ll text you later."

She thinks maybe she has other plans.

 

**

She changes her mind six times in the course of the afternoon and by the time she decides to hell with it - to fucking hell with it, she’s at least going down there as a friend to have an honest conversation about him leaving instead of whatever the fuck that calamity in her office earlier was - it’s dark outside.

Looking at the clock, she gathers her things and makes her way downstairs.

Everyone has gone and it’s awfully quiet, her heels incredibly loud as she crosses the changing room.

His office is empty.

She does a full 360 as if needing to make sure but the office is small and very obviously Tedless. She lets out a sigh and closes her eyes.

“He left."

She startles at Beard coming through the door behind her. He gives her a short nod before he plops down in his usual spot, legs on desk, book in lap.

"Sorry?" Her heart is in her throat before she can really give that statement any thought.

"Ted left," he finds his page. "That’s who you’re looking for, right?"

She nods. She must look as heartbroken as she feels because Beard adds, "He’s gone home for the day."

"Oh."

She stands there awkwardly, unsure of what to do. Beard flips a page.

"So," she clears her throat. "I heard about the new job. Congratulations."

"Haven’t accepted it yet."

"Yeah but I thought," she drifts off. "You’re not going?" she frowns. Ted without Beard, it's unimaginable really.

"I don’t know yet," he shrugs, never lifting his eyes off the page. "I like it here. Good beer. Good people."

"Yes they are," she smiles.

He gives her a nod and she thinks he's including her in that. Highest praise. "And Jane is here."

"Ah, yes, Jane. Of course."

“In fact, I’m pretty sure she’s moving in with me." He looks up and smiles and her own thoughts on them aside, it’s nice to see him happy.

“Well congratulations, I guess,” she lets out a little laugh. “I hope it all works out for you both.”

Beard takes in a deep breath and nods, lifting his book.

“She might come with you to Kansas, you never know" she offers for lack of anything else to say.

"She might. Or I might stay here. I guess we’ll just have to sit down and talk about our future." He looks up at her pointedly over the rim of the book. “It’s a huge decision after all."

"Right," she says. He’s not being at all subtle, is he. "It helps that you two are, you know," she fiddles with the lint on her blouse that isn’t there. She’s horrified at an errant thought that she might just be envious of Jane and Beard. “Anyway. I better go."

Just as she’s about to walk out, she hears Beard behind her. "He hasn’t said yes yet either, you know."

“I know,” she says. “He should though, right?”

“That’s not really for me to say.”

She hangs her head, half-turning in the doorway. "He’s probably waiting for you to make up your mind."

Beard makes a noise. “Maybe.” He flips a page and Rebecca wonders if he’s actually reading and having this conversation simultaneously. It wouldn’t surprise her. "And other things."

"What other things?"

"Why don’t you ask him?"

And that’s an excellent fucking point, isn’t it.

Leaning her forehead on the wooden frame, she sighs. "He’s in his flat?"

"That’s my guess."

"And I won’t make a complete fool of myself?"

"I have no way of knowing that."

She bangs her forehead gently against the doorframe. "Okay."

Turning to leave, she stops when he calls her name, “Rebecca.” She turns to look at him and his eyes are kind. “Being a fool is better than being alone.”

She thinks that over, mouth set in a pout, her eyes narrowing; she nods.

“Thank you, Coach.”

He gives her a finger salute and she does the same.

She’s halfway across the locker room when she hears him shout, "Called it!"

She laughs; it gives her hope.

 

**

He is not in his flat.

Rebecca gave him a knock, and another and now she just feels incredibly foolish for standing there at his door when there is clearly no one on the other side.

"Fuck," she mutters, rubbing her forehead with the heel of her hand. "Well this was a wasted trip.”

"I sure hope not."

Rebecca closes her eyes. She counts the footsteps behind her.

"Hello, Ted," she says without turning around. She feels in flagrante.

"Rebecca." He’s closer than she thought. "Fancy meeting you here. At my door."

She still refuses to turn around. "Yes. Fancy that."

"Would you like to come in?"

"I suppose I might as well."

He joins her then, jingles his keys between them. "Well, good. Cause I’ve got the keys."

She steps back, avoiding his eyes. She wishes she had a drink. She could really down a bottle of Prosecco right about now.

She watches him fiddle with the door for ages, is tempted to ask if he’s ever unlocked a door before but bites her tongue. She’s well aware she’s being bitchy but she’s nervous and feeling particularly on edge tonight and -- fuck, she could so use a drink.

The key turns and he gives her a sideways glance, “After you."

She steps in quickly, not wanting to linger, walks all the way in. The flat is small, much smaller than her place. She stands in the middle of his front room, looks around for the sake of not looking at Ted. It has character. It’s very…. warm and homey and inviting. A lot like Ted, she supposes.

She hears the front door closing behind her. How very metaphorical.

“So. What brings you here?" he asks, making his way over. She finally turns to look at him. He points his finger at her, "And don’t say you can’t remember or I’m gonna start worrying."

She gives him a small smile. Rubbing her forehead, she says. "No, I have a pretty good idea."

"Good," he nods, taking off his jacket. "Shoot."

She stalls instead. “You wouldn't happen to have anything to drink, would you? I think what I have to say would be much easier said over a glass of something 40 proof.”

Ted moves to the kitchen counter, opens a cupboard. "I believe I have my good friend Jack over here."

Rebecca isn’t partial to whiskey but she’ll drink bleach if it gets her to relax right now. "That will be fine, thank you."

She sits down and he gets the glasses, putting them on the table in front of her. She toes off her shoes under the table and her feet are grateful for it. Locating the bottle, he assesses it for substance then pours them each a drink. Rebecca takes hers for something to do. She gulps some down and it’s been awhile since she’s had the stuff because she half-chokes on it. “Fuck me!" she exclaims, patting her chest, and Ted’s eyes widen.

"You okay there?"

She waves him off, "Fine, just bloody fantastic." She’s not sure why there’s a bite to her tone. The man has done nothing wrong (except being born and raised thousands of miles away, but that’s really neither here nor there). “I’m sorry, Ted,” she looks at him apologetically.

“Don’t worry about it.”

He takes a seat, puts his glass down in front of him; she finishes hers.

“Whoa there,” he comments, impressed.

She pours herself another one but doesn’t drink, just runs her fingers along the rim. The warmth of the first drink spreads in her belly, gives her the courage to ask what she’s wanted to ask since she left his office. "Why haven’t you accepted the job?"

“Straight shooter,” he comments. “I like it.” Looking down at his own glass then back at Rebecca, he says, "I wanted to talk to you about it first."

She nods; she suspected as much. "That seems fair."

He makes a sound, “Fair is part of it, yeah.”

“And the rest?”

“I guess you could say,” he takes the glass to his lips. “I’m waiting to see how things pan out.”

“Beard and Jane?”

He bobs his head from side to side. “And other things.” He takes a sip of the brown liquid, watching her over the rim.

She looks down at her glass. “Beard mentioned something along those lines.” Before he can comment, she elaborates. “I came by your office earlier." She stops. "You weren’t there." And she realises that that stung. He told her to come - told her in a way that made her think there might be something there - and then when she did, he wasn’t waiting.

"I know." She looks up at that, frowning at him. "Coach told me."

"You saw him?"

Ted fishes his phone out of his trouser pocket and shakes it in front of her.

"Right. Of course." Her eyebrows lift in surprise. "Didn’t realise he was such a gossip."

Ted smiles wide at that. “Oh you have no idea! He plays all aloof an’ quiet but ain’t no one got that grapevine covered like Coach Beard.”

Rebecca chuckles at the image. Shooting him a sideways glance, she wonders how much Beard told him, almost hopes it’s everything; it would save her a whole lot of trouble. Her question is as nonchalant as she doesn’t feel,, “So, what did he say?"

"Not all that much," he shrugs. “Just that you might be paying me a visit."

"Right."

"Good thing he did too ‘cause by that time I was already pacing a mighty hole on your doorstep, so without Beard’s meddling, we might have not been sittin’ here all nice and cozy, sharing a glass of Tennessee finest."

As usual, Ted uses so many words and Rebecca has to blink a couple of times to take it all in. "Wait," she lifts a finger. "You were at my house?"

"I was."

"Why?"

"Because I wanted to see you." It’s as simple as that for him. "I didn’t like the way we left it earlier,” he says leaning forward, his voice serious.

Casting her eyes downward, she quietly admits, “No, me neither.”

"I felt like there was a lot left unsaid, you know.” She nods. “Thought we should talk.”

“Probably a good idea,” she concedes. Then it occurs to her, "Why not just come up to my office?”

“I tried that already this morning,” he looks at her pointedly.

“So you just. Came over.” He never comes over. (She wished he did.)

“It seems like something’s been on your mind lately and I thought you might appreciate the benefit of home advantage,” he seems pleased he managed to work in a football term into the conversation.

She laughs, “Did you come to spar?”

His eyebrows shoot up at the image. “I was hopin’ for something a little more amicable.” His tongue darts out and it’s distracting. She takes a drink then gets up, suddenly full of nervous energy.

He stands up with her. "Huh," he comments, looking at her bare feet.

She looks down. "Rebecca after hours.”

"I like it,” he grins.

“I was a bitch before” she blurts out, smoothing down her skirt in a nervous gesture. She takes a breath and looks him in the eye because she owes him that. “In my office, when you told me about leaving,” she shakes her head. “I should have told you how I really felt. It just came as a shock and maybe it shouldn’t have, maybe going back to Kansas and to the other football is a natural next step for you, and that’s fine.” It wasn’t. “But the truth is, your leaving would be heartbreaking for everyone.”

Scratching the back of his head, he nods.

She puts her hands up, “And I'm not saying that to guilt you into staying.”

“No, I know that.”

“I'm saying it because I don't want you to have any doubts about how special and important you are to everyone here at Richmond.”

“Present company included.”

“Present company very much included,” her voice is quiet and full of conviction.

“I had a sneaking suspicion,” he smiles. “It’s still mighty nice to hear it.”

“I'm sorry I didn't say it earlier. I think I was just — blindsided. It was easier to just, you know. Old habits die hard, I guess,” she gives a wry smile. “But you of all people don’t deserve that.”

He hasn’t looked away the entire time she’s been talking, says nothing now she’s done. She wants to say more - wants to address the other thing - she just needs a moment, a second to catch her breath. On the other hand, maybe if she just keeps talking it’s bound to eventually just spill out.

Except she’s been working up to this for weeks. Months, if she’s honest. (Years, if she’s really honest.) And she really doesn’t want to fuck it up.

He mistakes her silence for her saying everything she was going to say.

“No hey, I get it,” he says, going easy on her; he always does. “And while we’re on the subject of truth, I haven't been completely honest with you either.” Ted rubs his bottom lip, takes a step. “Now how can I hold this against you when I've been witholdin’ some vital information myself, am I right.”

She thinks she knows where this is going. "If this is about the job offer, you have nothing to apologise for. I completely understand. You needed time."

"Oh this is far more important than some job opportunity." He waves his hand dismissively and she wonders what could possibly be more important than that. “I'm talking of course - and this is something I’ve wanted to straighten up for awhile now 'cause it just don’t sit right with me that you might have it all wrong about my feelings on this particular subject.” The fucker decides to pause there. Ted rocks back on his heels; Rebecca holds her breath. “When I said Sam and Rebecca were one of my all time favourite couples? I might have skirted the truth there a bit.”

And whatever she thought he was going to say, that didn’t even make her top five guesses.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, they were great,” he waves his hands reassuringly. “But they don’t come close to the real thing, you know what I’m sayin?’’

Rebecca opens her mouth to speak but has no idea what to say.

Ted does, his voice low and conspiratory, his eyebrows lifting as he speaks, “Sam and Diane all the way, am I right."

"They are a classic," is all she is able to offer.

"They sure are," he agrees, taking another step closer.

Her heart picks up speed. “So in this scenario,” she starts, needlessly.

His eyes widen as if to encourage her to finish that sentence.

“That’s -” she frowns.

He rambles on. “I mean, if you wanna be Sam, I guess I can kinda see that, sure, the whole boss angle, you know, he owns the bar and you own the --”

His lips keep moving. She stopped listening after I mean.

Closing the small distance between them, she takes his head in her hands and kisses him. It’s hard and impulsive and he doesn’t expect it at all, the rest of his sentence lost in the kiss. He hums against her lips in surprise but it’s only momentary and then he’s relaxing into it, his hands coming up to cup her waist, his mouth starting to move. Barefoot, he’s a little bit taller than her and oh, that’s new, how if she just pressed against him a certain way- She moans into the kiss.

His eyes are closed even as they break apart. Hers, in turn, are wide, her mouth hanging open in wonder and all she can think is fucking lightning. And she could really do without Roy Kent’s voice in her head right this very moment, but god was he right. She had been so stupid, wasting her time on all that fine when this, was right there.

She watches him open his eyes, lazy and slow like his drawl, “Well, that was. I mean. I -- Wow.

Ted Lasso lost for words. Miracles never cease.

“Yes, it was.” She touches her mouth. “Shit, I’m sorry,“ and she’s not sure why she’s apologising because she’s absolutely not sorry. It’s just the first thing that comes to her mind, seems like an appropriate thing to say after kissing your friend out of the blue. Her friend. Ted. She just kissed Ted.

And it was fucking spectacular.

“You won’t hear me complaining,” he says. He aims for jovial but it comes out strangled.

“I don't even know what that was,” she whispers, closing her eyes because this is so unlike her. Not the grabbing and the kissing - she's fine with that. But the laying it all on the line.

“Well, whatever it was, I sure hope there's a sequel.”

“You do.” It’s not meant to be a question but it comes out that way somehow.

“Surprised?”

She thinks of Keeley; she’ll fucking love this. “Maybe just a tad.” She takes a step back, hands to her forehead, because this is all a bit much and she needs room to recalibrate.

“Huh,” Ted frowns. "Well color me stumped," he says, his mouth set in a way that really brings out his dimple. “And here I was, worrying I was being too obvious." He puts his finger to his mouth and chuckles. "I kept doing all these things, you know, and we’ve had these moments and I thought to myself -- whoa there Ted, might as well be shoutin’ it from the rooftops with the white knighting and the biscuits and the longing looks, ya know.”

This is insanity. She thinks she’s actually gone down the rabbit hole. "You’re," she searches for the right word and settles for the obvious. "Ted Lasso! You’re nice to everyone."

“Why thank you, I do try,” he gives her a crooked smile. “Different with you, though." He shakes his head then in wonder, "I can’t believe the biscuits weren’t a dead giveaway."

“I thought that was just you,” her hand flies up in gesticulation. “Bonding.”

"Sure, at first, yeah," he allows. "But then they became, I don’t know. Somethin else. Something ours, you know, like a ritual.”

She nods. She can’t believe she didn’t see it for what it was. “A mating ritual?” she laughs, tension dissipating.

That in turn makes him laugh; it’s a wonderful sound. “Now that you mention it.” He cocks his head, “An excuse, too, I guess.’

“What do you mean?”

“To come up and see you. Spend more time with you," Ted elaborates like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. "Make you smile."

"Make me smile."

"Yeah," he smiles himself now; there’s a sad crook to it. "I like it when you smile." His hands goes up and she thinks he might reach for her. He doesn't. He takes a step closer instead. "You deserve to be happy, Rebecca. I hope you know that."

"I —" she starts, unsure how to answer that. It’s a simple enough question. She has a niggling feeling he’s making a point.

"I really need you to know that," he bends his knees a bit, making sure he catches her eye. "Because you do. You deserve to be happy."

"Okay," she concedes but it comes out as a question.

"Loved, too." He keeps going, relentless. "And there ain't nothing wrong with asking for either."

Oh he’s definitely making a point.

“I don’t wanna be the reason you --” she waves her hand in a gesture that’s meant to encapsulate all her fears and reservations which, right now? She’s really struggling to give a shit about.

Luckily, Ted knows exactly what she means; Ted knows her.

He takes her fingers between his in a loose hold. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a heck of a lot going on here, Rebecca. A whole life. You’re just one part of it." He gives her fingers a gentle squeeze. "The fact you happen to be the most important part of that life is nothing to get yourself all worked up over, okay?” he winks at her and she shakes her head; can’t help but smile. “So whatever you’re scared is gonna happen, it won’t.” Ted’s voice leaves no room for doubt. He leans in closer until his mouth is under her ear, “But hey, if you know a better reason to stay than love, well. I would sure like to hear it.”

She stares at him as he pulls away, speechless, watches his face soften, feels her heart swell inside her chest. Her ears are ringing with the word.

With another man, it might be a line. There might be an edge of seduction in it. Not with Ted. With Ted, it’s simple and it’s honest. It’s just -- the truth. He loves her.

He takes her fucking breath away.

“You deserve to be happy, too."

Ted nods. "I sure do," he agrees, his eyes certain and unyielding. ""But how about you let me decide what that means. What do you say."

She can’t argue with that. “Okay," is all she can breathe, her heart swelling up until it feels like she’s choking on it. Ted’s lips tug at the corner and that emboldens her to say it again, this time firmer, "Okay."

His hand moves.

She feels them on her lower waist first, the fingers of his right hand pressing into the thin material of her blouse but she feels them everywhere. They’ve hugged before but this, this is different. This is Ted touching her and oh dear god, it sets her skin on fire. He’s close now, really close, his eyes restless and everywhere at once, like he’s eager to take her in and can’t decide where to look first. His other hand traces a path up her side and for a brief moment Rebecca is horrified at the thought that she might actually moan. Ted has barely touched her and she’s biting back a moan already.

She doesn’t think she’s ever felt like this. Wonders if love is the difference.

“Ted.”

His eyes land on her mouth. "Hmmm," he asks absent-mindedly and now he can’t stop staring at her lips, his eyes growing predictably cloudy. And there's comfort in that, she finds; that Ted Lasso, for all his excellence, all his divergence from anyone else she's ever been with, is after all, just a guy.

"You know what would make me really happy right now?” She’s learning to ask for it.

“Oh, I know this one." Smiling, he shifts closer, closing the remaining distance between them, his nose bumping against the tip of hers. His breath and his moustache tickles her skin. Her eyes are closing against her volition. “And I’d love to,” he says, his lips brushing her own.

Her mouth is half open as he covers it, his bottom lip fitting perfectly between hers. He kisses her once, twice, his arms going around her waist and pulling her in, palms spread wide over her back and she steps into him, their bodies flush together. She runs her hands up his chest and around his neck, burying them in his hair. Opening her mouth further, she feels his tongue in her mouth. He groans, an involuntary needy sound, and it drives her fucking crazy.

She sucks on his bottom lip, feels him growing harder against her. She lets out a moan which only seems to spur him on, his hips buckling forward, searching for friction, and she can’t help but delight in the fact that she’s doing this, she’s making Ted Lasso absolutely fucking lose it.

His hands move up her waist and over her ribcage, thumbs digging into the skin under her breasts. Her fingers are still wreaking havoc on his hair, nails scraping the scalp. His hand grabs her ass and he mumbles her name against her bottom lip.

Trailing kisses over her jaw and down her neck, she buckles against him but her skirt is awkward and fuck this, she needs more friction. He seems to realise her predicament, his leg shifting but it’s no use.

Settling for the next best thing, she reaches a hand down, cupping him through his trousers. “Fuck," she whimpers when she feels him twitch under her palm.

"Steady on, darlin’," he murmurs against the corner of her mouth, his moustache tickling her face and it’s setting her nerves on fire. The movement, the endearment, it’s overwhelming. He’s everywhere, in touch and taste and sound, and she’s wrapped in Ted Lasso. “I’ve waited too long for this to be over in a hurry."

“How long?” She’s curious now.

"Oh a long ol' while," she feels him smiling against her cheek. "This is so much better than I imagined."

"So you’ve given this some thought, have you?"

"Oh heck yeah," he offers easily, his thumb skimming her jaw.

"And," she cocks her head. "In your fantasies. What happens now?" She can’t help but smirk.

"Rebecca Welton," he pulls back, eyes wide in mock outrage. "Are you asking me to talk dirty to you?"

He takes her by surprise and she lets out a laugh and it suddenly hits her, the lack of awkwardness here. Her insecurities completely at bay, she feels a sense of ease she’s never felt before, not at the beginning of something serious. With Rupert - and before him, too - she was always fraught with uncertainties, never quite knowing where she stood.

She knows exactly where she stands with Ted.

Unbuttoning the top buttons on her blouse and taking a step back, Rebecca cocks an eyebrow at him. “I wouldn't mind you showing me, actually."

Ted grins, "I can do both."

 

*

It’s dark in his bedroom but there’s still enough light from the street that she can avoid tripping on anything. They stop kissing for long enough for her to pull his shirt and jumper combo over his head, runs her hands over his naked chest. They stop when she feels the foot of his bed at the back of her knees. Her blouse is out of her skirt and halfway undone, Ted’s mouth kissing down her neck, leaving a hot trail with his tongue and his bristles. She whimpers when his tongue dips in the hollow of her throat, his teeth grazing her collarbone. Her hands fly to his head, holding him to her, pushing him down.

Stubbornly, he slows down, stopping just inches from the edge of her bra. He breathes her in, his nose nuzzling into her skin, his mouth open and lazy between her breasts. She feels his hands on her thighs, fingers skimming the back of her legs, her skirt riding up with the movements. If his fingers go any higher, he’ll be able to feel exactly how incredibly fucking wet she is.

She really wishes he’d hurry up and do so because as it stands, she’s one timely suck on her tit away from coming and he hasn’t even touched her yet.

Ted has no such plans, however. Instead, he pulls back until he’s standing in front of her, his hands changing direction, roaming the front of her thighs and up, landing on her hips. She feels the loss acutely, lets out a groan in protest.

“Ted," she whines, "I swear to god -"

"I thought you wanted me to show you."

Oh.

He hooks one finger at the top of her bra, pulling the lace down, excruciatingly slowly. She watches him watching her, the moment her nipple is exposed, the feel of fabric scratching against it and then the cool air making her shiver.

"Holy crap, Rebecca," Ted chokes out, meeting her eyes. "You’re so beautiful."

He looks at her in benediction. She closes her eyes.

"No, hey," he murmurs, his thumb starting lazy circles around her hardening nipple. "Look at me."

He sounds pleading and so she does, opening her eyes to him and what she sees there is everything she’s ever wanted; it’s terrifying.

"I love you," he says, his eyes dancing between her own. "Just in case I wasn’t clear before." Ted moves his hands to the buttons on her blouse, unbuttoning the rest without taking his eyes off hers. "And I just wanted to say, before this goes any further," her blouse falls open and his hands are on her waist. "That no matter what happens, I’m in this for the long haul, if that's all the same to you."

Until just now, Rebecca didn’t even realise how much she needed to hear him say that. She nods in agreement.

He nods back, goes to move but she halts him. “Ted,” she says, her voice hoarse. “What I wanted to say -- What I came to tell you the other day," she pauses. “And earlier tonight.” He goes still. She lets out a frustrated huff. “I’m not very good at this,” she admits because she isn’t.

“Okay,” he accepts this without reservation, his voice low and patient. “What if I tell you what I was hopin’ you were going to say and you tell me if I’m right," he asks and she doesn't think she’s ever loved anyone more.

“Okay.”

“Let’s see,” he presses a kiss to her throat, speaks into the freckles along her collarbone. “I was hoping you might wanna tell me that you like me."

She winds her fingers through his hair and she shakes her head. “No.”

“No?” he mumbles, turning his head, his cheek pressed against her chest.

"No." She listens to her gut. She checks in with her heart. She lets him know. "Actually," and it helps that he's not looking at her. "I was going to tell you I’m in love with you."

She feels him still and for a moment he doesn't move. Then he’s standing up to look at her, his eyes darting between her own, taking her in and even in the half-dark Rebecca’s never felt more exposed. Strangely and against all her past experience, it doesn’t make her feel vulnerable. Raw and open and seen yes - god, yes - but not vulnerable.

It empowers her. That never happened before either. Like he said, the truth will set her free. So she says it again.

“I love you, Ted."

The smile spreads across his face, his eyes alive with it. Rebecca can’t help but mirror it. She’s happy after all.

"Good,” is all he says, cupping her jaw and kissing her lips, and she’s so glad he isn’t turning it into something huge, her confession; isn’t shining a spotlight or making a faff. She’s still easing into all this earnest honest Ted Lasso way. He smiles into the kiss. “Talk about a truth bomb, huh. And right on schedule.”

“Wrong place, though.”

“Hmmm,” he hums, rubbing his nose along hers. “Can’t do what we’re about to do in my office, so all in all a win methinks.”

“Who says we can’t,” she raises an eyebrow and he pulls back.

“My my my, aren’t we full of surprises.”

“You have your fantasies, I have mine.” And it’s too dark to know for sure but she’s almost sure he’s blushing.

“We’re gonna go back to that," he sounds nervous and excited and oh yes they are.”Speaking of fantasies.” He pushes the silky material of her blouse over her shoulders. "Now, for the showing."

Before she has time to respond, his mouth is on her tit, his stubble scratching at her skin; she grabs a chunk of his hair and pulls him closer. He gets the hint, rolling her nipple between his lips, following it up with his tongue, flicking the sensitive bud until it’s hard, until her breath is coming out in hot puffs. She feels his right thumb teasing the other nipple through the lace, pinching it gently between his fingers and jesus fucking christ on a stick --

Rebecca suddenly feels way too passive for her liking, her hands reaching down for his belt. She manages to undo it and ubotton his trousers, feeling his cock hard and full under her fingers.

Ted bucks against her, hands stalling her ministrations. Rebecca smirks.

Pulling away, he’s looking down between them, his breath laboured, his hair an absolute mess.

“You didn’t think you’d get to have all the fun, did you?" she asks, pulling the zip down slowly over his hardon.

"Wouldn’t dream of it," he pants out.

Rebecca sits down on the bed, her face inches away from his erection. Biting her lip, she pulls his trousers down and cups him over his underwear. She watches as his head falls back, eyes firmly shut. She’s about to take him out when he stops her. “Don’t tell me this isn’t part of your fantasies," she teases.

"I could say it isn’t but that would be a big fat lie.”

"Speaking of big and fat," she goes to stroke him, but he shakes his head, stopping her.

“As much as I would love that," he drops to his knees in front of her, laying his hands on the outside of her thighs. "And oh boy, I sure would love that," he raises his eyebrows. "I think we need to focus on you first."

"Ever the gentleman."

He tips an imaginary hat at her and she rolls her eyes. He is such a wanker. She smiles all the same.

He kisses her until she’s lying on her back, sprawled out on his bed. Propping himself up above her, he shakes his head in disbelief. "Absolutely stunning," like he can’t believe he actually gets to do this.

That makes two of them.

Ted makes his way down her body, painfully slow - reverent in its attention - leaving a trail of open-mouthed kisses over her tits, her sternum, his moustache tickling her stomach. Reaching the top of her skirt, he kisses along the edge of it, his hands bunching up the fabric. Pausing, he mumbles, “This ain’t gonna work," before he moves her to her side, unzipping the garment. She lifts her hips and he pulls it off. "Much better."

She’s sprawled out in front of him, her bra barely covering anything at all, her knickers lacey and see-through, and the urge to take control is overwhelming. Lying there idly isn’t something that comes natural to her, she finds. She’s certainly not a prude and she’s very comfortable with her sexuality but this isn’t about sex. Running his hands up and down her inner thighs, Ted is looking at her like that again - like he wants to see every little piece of her, every fantastic achievement or forgotten-about dream; every hidden-away hurt or long-harboured insecurity - the awful and the wonderful combined. Like he wants to see her, all of her, and she knows it's Ted, knows it's safe --

She foregoes the but that would inevitably follow, fights the instinct to protect her heart; she’s so fucking tired of being afraid.

She leans into it instead.

Opening her legs wider for him, she lets him look, let’s him take his time.

She feels one finger running over the lace, a barely there touch sending a wave of pleasure through her, her hips buckling at the contact. His eyes darken and he does it again. She’s so incredibly responsive to him and she has a sneaking suspicion that's exactly his intention.

He kisses her knee, his fingers getting bolder. Kissing up her inner thigh, he pulls her knickers aside and she can feel his breath left of her centre, his thumb rubbing slow circles over her clit.

“Shit," she moans, trying to move her hips just so, trying to get that maddening mouth where she wants it.

He doesn’t tease, doesn’t draw it out. Instead, he indulges her instantly, his mouth covering her clit, his tongue flat and firm as he laps at her, long delicious licks and oh this isn’t going to last very long at all. He switches it up, only the tip now flicking over the sensitive flesh and jesus christ.

She keens desperately when he moves his mouth away but then he’s hand is there, one long finger inside her then two, probing and stretching. He pumps them slowly a few times before inserting the third, and she feels spectacularly full. He picks up the pace and then his fingers crook inside her and she cries out, her arm flying to her eyes, her other hand squeezing his shoulder.

Her breath comes in sharp gasps as his fingers pump in and out of her, his thumb rubbing hard circles on her clit; she grinds down against him.

“That’s it. Let go, Rebecca. Whenever you’re ready, sweetheart.”

He’s coaxing her in words and touch, his right hand holding her hip down and steadying her as she buckles up, his mouth suddenly back on her clit, the slightest pressure of his tongue just there at the top and she’s falling apart, teeth digging into her lower lip but it doesn’t stop the string of curses flying out of her mouth.

fuckssakeshitgodfuckingsoddingfuck

ted

It’s a mantra.

He teases the orgasm out, his fingers slowing down and his mouth moving away to kiss the soft flesh at the crook of her thigh, softly, carefully, mindful of how sensitive she is. Rebecca takes a moment to recover, smiling at the ceiling as her breath slowly evens out.

“That was --" She looks down to see his head pop up between her legs, his mouth glistening wet, his hair a complete state, his eyes eager for praise. "Fuck me," she exclaims, dropping her head back on the pillow.

"As the lady wishes."

He must have killed a couple of hundred of her brain cells with that orgasm because it takes her a moment to understand what he means. She laughs then, a loud happy sound, and she hears his own deep chuckle as he makes his way up her body.

Her fingers around the back of his neck, she brings him down for a kiss. "Mmmm," she murmurs against his lips.

"I couldn’t agree more," he says, tongue darting out to lick his lips.

She smacks his bicep, laughing, "That’s not what I meant."

"Hey, you’re entitled to your wrong opinions. I happen to think that," he bobs his head, an errant strand of hair falling over his forehead. "Was lip-smackin’ delicious."

Rolling her eyes, she looks down between them, noticing that somewhere during him going down on her, he’s divested himself of his underwear. "That looks painful," she comments innocently, her hand sneaking down.

"No pain, no gain," he says, the second part coming out strangled as she wraps her fingers around his cock.

"Better?"

"Infinitely, yes, thank you," he rambles on and she notices he’s trying really hard not to thrust into her hand.

She gives him a long stroke, her fist firm around him. "Ted?"

His answer is an unintelligible groan.

She brings her mouth to his ear, her voice deliberately husky when she says, "I would very much like you to fuck me now."

"Jesus Christ," he exclaims, his hips bucking involuntarily, his dick thrusting forward and she’s delighted. She’ll make him swear yet, she’s certain of it.

Turnaround is fair play after all.

*

She gives him a gentle shove and he’s finally naked on his back, half sitting propped up by the pillows, and she runs a gentle hand over his chest. He covers it with his own, places it over his heart.

He is a sentimental fool. She loves him for it.

Taking her knickers off, she hooks her leg over until she is hovering over him. Slowly and without breaking eye contact, she reaches behind her and takes her bra off. Ted watches her mesmerised, barely blinking, his hair falling in ridiculous strands over his forehead, his tongue coming out to lick his lips, his eyes wide and gentle and loving. He’s the most beautiful man she ever laid eyes on.

Lowering her hips, she rubs her pussy over the length of his dick, deliberate motion making him twitch beneath her. His eyes are hooded now, desperate to close, but he’s refusing to take his eyes off her.

“Touch me, Ted,” her voice is low and intimate, her own hands on his stomach, her nails gently scraping his abdomen.

"Mmm, yes, please," he answers softly, and from anyone else that would sound overly courteous but nothing about Ted is anything like anyone else. His hands go up to her hips, "Like that?"

She nods as his thumbs brush over her lower belly, "More."

Hands splaying over her stomach, tips of his fingers are at the underside of her tits and she gasps. "Better?"

She bites her lip, continues rocking on top of him. Taking his left hand in hers, she places his palm over her nipple. "Perfect."

"Tell me what you want, darlin’," he says, his fingers playing with her nipples, rolling them between his thumb and middle finger, tugging gently.

"You," she moans, her movements becoming less deliberate, more frantic. "Inside me," she manages to get out.

Arms going around her, Ted sits up so their chests are flush together, and kisses her, fingers splayed on her back, tugging at the tips of her hair. "If that's what you want, you’re going to have to stop doin' what you’re doing there."

Groaning, she kisses him again to shut him up, lifting off enough for him to position himself at her pussy. He thrusts up, his tip sliding along her clit, once, twice, and she thinks he’s doing it on purpose.

"Ted," she reaches down between them, exasperated, and maybe he wasn’t doing it on purpose after all because she’s so wet and he’s leaking precome and fuck, she’s so horny she thinks she might combust if he doesn’t fuck her right the fuck now.

“Well okay then," he mumbles into her mouth and she realises she said that out loud. No matter, she’s way beyond caring.

She feels the tip of his cock slip inside her, stretching her, feels him throbbing as her muscles clench around him. Threading her fingers through his hair, she cradles the back of his head as she slowly sinks down the length of him.

His breath is hot, his eyes unwavering; she starts to move.

“That’s it, sweetheart. You take whatever you need." He’s looking at her hungrily, eyes glazed over, and it’s not just that this is him being generous; turning her on is turning him on.

Moaning, Rebecca fuses their lips together and doesn’t hold anything back. She starts moving in earnest now, sliding up and down his dick, and he feels so fucking good. His hands travel down to her ass and he shifts them just so and then he’s hitting that place inside her with each stroke. Her head falls back and his lips are on her exposed throat instantly, sucking at the base, groaning into her skin.

She hopes he leaves a mark.

“That feels incredible, you’re incredible, does that feel good," he mutters nonsense into her skin. “Feelin’ so good.”

"Yes, there, shit." Rebecca lets out a needy cry as he bucks up at the same time that his hands bring her down on his cock. "You’re going to make me come again," she manages between gasping breaths.

"Fuck, Rebecca," is all he seems to manage and she’d gloat if she wasn’t so fucking close.

Suddenly, she’s on her back and she can’t believe he just flipped her - just like that, not a sign or a word of notice, and actually --

“Jesus, Ted, that’s hot."

He looks down at her, looking as surprised as she is. "Good, I just needed," and he’s thrusting into her, and she thinks he has much better leverage this way, his arm stretched out and holding him up, his left hand grabbing her thigh and lifting her leg until her knee is practically at her chin. "Better angle."

And yes, oh fucking yes, this is the better angle.

She grabs his shoulder for leverage and he sneaks a hand between them, his fingers clumsy on her clit but they’re doing what they’ve set out to do and -

"Yes, Ted, god I --" she throws her head back. Her muscles contract as the orgasm hits her and she clings to him, her fingers pressing into his muscles as she comes around him, and he's pumping harder until it’s just her name and love you, over and over and over again, the room echoing with it as he comes inside her.

 

*

They don’t move for the longest time. She feels him growing soft, enjoys the intimacy of it. Her fingers move idly at the nape of his neck and he hums in relaxed pleasure, dropping a kiss behind her jaw.

Finally, he rolls away but pulls her with him, her head nestling in the crook of his arm.

She can’t remember the last time she felt like this. Safe. Loved.

Taking a satisfied breath, she looks up at him. “I would kill for a fa-- cigarette," she corrects herself in time.

"I appreciate your choice of language there.” He nuzzles her temple.

"So," she begins, tracing her fingers over his chest. "What happens now."

“We sleep together. The ol’ fashioned way.”

She smiles. “And after?”

"Well, the way I see it, there’s only one way this can go."

"Is there."

"Mhmm," he says, yawning.

"What’s that?"

He’s quiet for a few moments then gives a happy little huff. "And they lived happily ever after."

She doesn’t say anything, mulling it over. "That easy?"

"Remember what I told you? If you got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothing you can’t get through together." He shifts so he’s looking down at her. "Well, I’ve got a whole lot of love for you in this ol’ ticker," he takes their joined hands, pats them against his chest. "And I think you got some of the same in yours."

Rebecca gives a quick nod against his skin, settling back down to look at where his thumb was brushing over her knuckles.

"Yeah," he says and she feels him settle back down on the pillows. She thinks he’s smiling. "Yeah."

She’s tired, her eyes heavy and her bones pleasantly melting into his side and he’s here, solid and real and permanent, talking about forever; she decides to just leave well enough alone.

She dreams of dimples and little boys and happily ever after.

 

*

 

She wakes up to his soft breath on the nape of her neck and his hand low on her belly. She stays like that, in his arms, drawing nonsensical patterns over his forearm, looking at the day breaking outside. It’s going to be a sunny day.

She’s in no hurry to get up. It feels nice to be held.

“Mornin’," he murmurs against her skin, his voice gruff from sleep.

"It’s early. Go back to sleep."

Ted pulls her closer. "Miss you."

He’s a ridiculous man. "I’m right here."

"Good," he kisses the top of her shoulder. "Not a dream then."

She laughs, "That’s so cheesy, Ted."

He smiles into her skin, kisses the crook of her neck. "Have you met me?" he asks against her shoulder blade. "I enjoy romantic comedies and believe in soulmates."

"Yes, I’m familiar," she chuckles, his moustache tickling her back. It turns to a gasp when she feels his tongue dart out, his teeth scraping her skin.

His hand sneaks down and between her legs, cupping her. "And I happen to think you’re mine." Planting an open mouthed kiss in the middle of her spine, he elaborates. "Soulmate, that is."

Rebecca opens her legs, giving his hand more room to move. "Actually," she breathes. "It works either way."

She is his after all.

He seems to like that because she hears him groan, his dick twitching against her thigh and who knew Ted Lasso had a possessive streak.

Flipping her over on her belly, her arse in the air and her legs spread wide, he shows her exactly how much he appreciates having her.

*

They come up for air eventually, deliciously spent. Twice, in her case.

"You’ve got some moves, Coach Lasso," she says, playing with his hair, his head resting on her stomach.

"Why thank you, ma'am, I aim to please."

"So I’ve heard," she says before she has the time to think about it. She’s not without her faults and jealousy - or is it insecurity - unfortunately seems to be one of them. Comes from being cheated on so spectacularly and so publicly, she supposes.

“What’s that now?" he asks, turning his head up to look at her.

"Nothing, forget it."

"Hey now," he pulls himself up until he’s lying beside her, resting his chin on her shoulder, nudging her. His hair is a mess from her fingers and his smile is loopy and his lips are swollen and he looks thoroughly content. Thoroughly hers.

She shakes her head and decides to trust him. “It’s just something Sassy said," regrets it immediately. "It’s nothing, I’m being ridiculous, it doesn’t matter, forget it." She covers her face with her hands.

He pries them away with his fingers. "You’re not ridiculous," he says simply. "It was nothing though."

"I know, I do know that."

"Good. Cause yeah sure, Sassy is a hoot," he says, and she grimaces, plopping down on the pillows. This was so not a conversation she wanted to be having the morning after, or ever.

His fingers on her jaw make her look at him. "Hey," he says, brown eyes on hers, making sure she’s listening. "Every time we, well you know —"

"Yes," she says firmly, cutting off any potential elaboration.

"Yeah. Well, you know, it felt a little like I was, I don’t know. No, I do know.” He's rambling. "Well, to be honest, it felt like I was cheating on you.” He shakes his head. "Now even i know that’s just nuts."

"I suppose it is," she agrees. She looks at him and his face is so earnest, with his hair covering his forehead and — hang on a second. "Wait, every time?"

"Mhmmm."

"Liverpool?"

"Yep." he shrugs. "I texted you, and then there was a knock and," he trails off.

Rebecca covers her mouth. "Oh my god. You thought it was me?"

Ted nods. "I did yeah. I guess you were on my mind. You kinda stayed on my mind too."

Her eyes go wide at the implication and she’s not sure if she should be horrified or flattered.

Ted puts his hands up. "Now wait, I don’t mean. Well yeah, okay, I guess I kinda mean that too, but not, I wasn’t pretending, I didn’t use her to -- Or use you to -- I wouldn’t do that, it was just that, well once the thought was there,” he taps his temple and she’s laughing, she’s actually laughing - at his bewildered expression and his stammering and the whole fucking thing, really, is absolutely mental. Ted fixes her with a look, "I see you get the picture and well anyway --"

"Ted?" she interrupts him with a hand on his arm.

"Yeah."

"Let's just not talk about this anymore, okay." she scrunches her face up, still chuckling. "Preferably ever."

"No, yeah, I can definitely do that, yeah." He settles back on his side next to her, right arm going around her waist, his left one folded under his head. He draws her nearer. "My point was," he starts, getting the words out before she has the time to stop him. "I’ve wanted you for a long time. And I wasn’t always clear on the how and the when and the where," he pauses, his fingers deftly stroking her lower back, gently, gently. "But I was never confused about the who. Whom? Who."

Rebecca swallows, feels the emotion in the back of her throat, the corners of her eyes. She lets out a watery laugh, her hand cradling his cheek, thumb brushing along the corner of his mouth.

"I was," she whispers. "For a moment there, I was confused. Not anymore, though" she says with absolute certainty. He moves his head, kisses her thumb.

"I’m mighty glad to hear that."

Looking up, she muses, "I thought about coming to see you that night, you know."

"Oh?"

"Not like that," she chuckles then turns serious. "I was worried about you, really worried. But back then, I was still, well you know, plotting," she enunciates and he murmurs his understanding. "It just didn’t feel right. It would have felt too deceitful."

"I get it." And the beautiful thing is, he really does. "Timing is important."

She thinks that over. "As is geography."

"Yep, that too, sure" he answers readily. Then, quieter, "I don’t wanna be away from you, Rebecca."

"You don’t wanna be away from Henry, either," she points out, finger running along his jaw.

"No, I don’t, it sucks."

"That’s a problem." It’s a statement of fact and she marvels at the lack of panic she feels. It could be that his hand is caressing her side and his eyes are solemn on her face and she can see he's not dismissing it; he’s actually thinking this through. It’s strangely reassuring.

"I’ll need to speak to Michelle. And Henry. See where they’re at, you know." He pouts in thought and she watches his moustache moving. "I think he might find private tutoring in foreign land exciting. I could sweeten the deal, offer him assistant coach," he chuckles.

"Beard’s job?" she feignes shock.

"I don’t think he’s working out," he says seriously and she laughs. Brushing an errant strand from her forehead, his eyes turn softer. ""What about you?" he smiles. "Would you ever consider moving to Kansas, Dorothy?"

She lets out a laugh, "And live on a farm?"

"You know it’s not all farmland, right? We have roads now and all. And not just the yellow brick kind, either."

She thinks about that; after all, if they’re gonna figure this out, they're gonna have to do it together. “I’d consider it," she says and means it. A thought occurs to her, "Who would run the club in my absence?"

A beat then, "Higgins," they say it at the same time.

Ted smiles, his finger brushing the shell of her ear. "There you have it. We have options."

She nods, leaning into the touch, "I suppose we do."

"Yeah. That’s good. Cause you see, sweetheart," and it takes her breath away, the endearment, again, still. "I don’t do this a lot, this falling in love business?” He moves his hand to cradle the side of her neck. "For me, this is it. Capital I." His thumb brushes her jaw. "So whatever we need to do to make it work, I’m fine with that."

She can’t imagine loving anyone else. She grabs his face and kisses him hard, feels his surprise then his smile as he relaxes into her, kissing her back.

His hand moves down to her waist, snakes around to her lower back, pulls her closer. “We’re gonna be just fine."

"You really believe that, don’t you."

"I don’t know if you heard but believing’s kinda my thing," he cocks an eyebrow at her and she rolls her eyes. "I do, Rebecca," he says, more somber now. "I believe in us."

"Believe," she tries the word out for size, traces its shape, considers the taste it leaves in her mouth. Her fingers are at the nape of his neck, playing with the soft hairs there. It’s her favourite place to be, she finds.

"It got us this far," he murmurs and he has a point there. He widens his eyes, "Might even win us the whole fucking thing."

She chuckles. She hired this man to ruin the club and he might actually have them winning the Premier League. Funny how life turns out sometimes.

The truth is, if someone told her three years ago that she was going to fall madly in love with a man who says gosh darn it and wears a ridiculous moustache and the biggest purest heart on his sleeve - that he was going to know the worst version of her and love her right back - she would have sent them to have their head examined.

Maybe it’s time for her to reassess what’s possible.

Ted seems to catch all that just by looking at her. “This is gonna be cheesy, so consider yourself warned." She listens anyway. “But I wasn’t a whole person until you brought me here.” He leans in closer, whispers against her lips. “The trick is in letting go.”

He smiles and she smiles back and they stay like that, in the morning sunlight, in his bed in that tiny flat, staring at each other like two lovesick fools.

Ted looks at her like she’s his forever.

She believes.

fin.