Actions

Work Header

It's Psychology! (No, its not.)

Work Text:


 

Keeley

 

 

It starts off as something seemingly innocent. 

 

A red heel here, earrings with a blood red stone there. It's not that Rebecca doesn't wear bold colors to work. Although she prefers to stick to her more neutral, subdued palette while dressing for work, she has been known to mix things up with a bright cheery (or as Rupert would call it- youthful ) piece every now and then. 

 

It's just that she has never worn red in quite as much volume as she has been doing recently. And it's the middle of August. Too far from February to be a leftover streak of Valentine's enthusiasm (she’d barely had any during the actual month, let alone have any of it survive six months), and still a bit too premature for early Christmas celebrations. And Keeley knows for a fact that Rebecca prefers green to red as her go-to color for the winter holiday. 

 

All in all it's pretty obvious there's Something going on with Rebecca when she shows up to work one day dressed in a red pantsuit, broad stripes of two different shades of the color alternating over the entire set, a deep red coat draped over her shoulders and a bold red lip and patent Louboutin heels to match exactly. The only part of her outfit that isn't red is her black bag. Honestly, Keeley thinks the outfit is more appropriate for a red carpet (excuse the pun) than it is for the office. On anyone else, the ensemble would look garish and tacky, but if anyone can pull off red on red on red on red, it's Rebecca Welton. She manages to make it look elegant and classy. Just like her. 

 

It's the third day this week she's worn the same eye-grabbing color, and it's only Wednesday. Monday’s choice had been a deep red silk blouse with a collar that kissed her long dangling earrings and Tuesday’s, a gorgeous maroon dress that clung to her every curve, and had Keeley drooling over her quite literally (Rebecca had had to hand her a tissue from the box in her desk to clean her face with). 

 

Three consecutive days. Three red outfits. Which makes it more than just a simple coincidence, especially with Rebecca. Nothing is ever so with that woman. Keeley thinks the time for some serious girl talk has finally arrived.

 

 

She waits until Rebecca has wished her an uncharacteristically cheery “Good morning!”, deposited her purse and coat in their respective places and has finally come to occupy her chair with a steaming cup of tea set in front of her before she begins her interrogation.

 

“So…are you going to tell me what’s going on or should I start guessing?”

 

Keeley was never one to beat around the bush, and she wasn’t about to start now.

 

“Pardon me?”

 

“You've been acting all weird for the last few weeks and you've worn nothing but red since Monday. What are you up to?”

 

A slight blush graces Rebecca's cheeks and that's enough to let her know her suspicion is not unfounded. Something is definitely up.

 

"I could start guessing, but you and I both know what my guesses are like." She wiggles her eyebrows playfully at Rebecca, but before she can get another word out they're interrupted by a cheery voice. 

 

“Knock knock!”

 

Ted's voice makes itself known before he does and it's the way Rebecca's eyes widen slightly and the blush on her cheeks intensifies significantly that give her away, really. Well, that and the way she slams her cup down back onto the saucer and stands up so quickly, it's a miracle she doesn't trip on those towering heels.

 

“Ted!”

 

Keeley whips her head around to look at Ted just as he's pushing the door to Rebecca’s office open and stepping in, customary biscuit box in hand. It's the way his step falters as he takes in the sight before him and the way his throat bobs as he swallows harshly. It's how his eyes rake across Rebecca's suit clad form, whatever morning anecdote he had been intent on regaling them with, dying unfinished on lips. 

 

Oh.

 

“Lookin’ good there Boss. You're wearing the heck outta that suit.” He says, tugging at the collar of his shirt, his face the color of the box he holds in his hand. 

 

“Oh, this old thing?” Rebecca's attempt at nonchalance fails spectacularly, and Keeley pins her with an incredulous look, not that Rebecca notices- she’s busy eyeing the gaffer. She's been through Rebecca's closet more than once. She knows for a fact her suit is brand new. 

 

“Well, old or new, it was certainly made for you.” Keeley watches his cheeks color further and she wouldn’t be surprised if he matches the color of her suit within the next few minutes. 

 

“Thank you, Ted.”  

 

There's something wrong about this whole interaction. Something completely wrong yet perfectly right. It takes her a few more seconds to piece it all together, and really, she’s ashamed at how long it's taken her to come to this conclusion, but she gets there in good time and oh .

 

Holy shit , these idiots are in love with each other. 

 

It's the hardest thing she's ever done in her life, to sit still in her chair and not leap out squealing and rushing to hug them both. 

 

She continues to observe their interactions, each taking a metaphorical step forward before running two steps back. It's both amusing and surprisingly heartbreaking to witness two of her favourite people dance around each other and be so afraid to go for what's right in front of them. 

 

She watches Rebecca's manicured nails tap a furious rhythm against the table top, sees the way her pupils widen so as to not miss a single thing about Ted, notes the way her lips are set in a seemingly permanent smile around him, a laugh bubbling up each time he says something even remotely humorous. She watches Rebecca cradle her small pink biscuit box delicately with her fingers like its precious cargo, her face constantly matching its shade. 

 

She thinks she’s figured it out- why Rebecca is wearing so much red and she feels inclined to tell her Ted would notice her even if she showed up wearing a jute sac. But she's not one to intentionally stop what's beginning to look like a promising few days of awkward fun between these two. She'll hold on to her words for now and simply watch what unfolds. 



She waits until Ted's finally left the office and Rebecca has spent exactly two minutes and forty nine seconds staring fondly at the door behind which he had vanished before she draws attention to herself. Rebecca still looks like her mind is quite obviously far away, her fingers lightly caressing the pink box sat on the desk before her. 

 

It takes her two loud throat clearings to finally get Rebecca to look at her. Who, by the expression on her face, had already forgotten that there had been a third person in the room with her and Ted. 

 

“So… you wanna tell me what all this is about?” Keeley asks, gesturing vaguely between Rebeca's face and the box of biscuits. 

 

“W-what?” But before Rebecca can begin to form any excuses, Keeley raises a challenging eyebrow at her, stilling her attempts. 

 

Rebecca huffs out an annoyed breath. “Fine. I just..you know… Ted..”

 

She's floundering and her face is once again dangerously close to rivaling the color of her top. Keeely takes pity on her and puts her out of her misery. 

 

“You're in love with Ted. That's what this is about, isn't it?”

 

Rebecca’s jaw snaps shut, a surprised look on her face. “How’d you- you know what, I don't even care how you guessed that. But yes. Yes.” 

 

She nods once to herself as if reminding herself of the fact.

 

“I’m stupid for even trying, aren’t I?” She whispers suddenly, her face falling and taking on a somber expression. “God, I knew it. Ted doesn’t- he could never- But I went for it anyway and now look, I've embarrassed myself. How fucking stupid.”

 

“Oi! Don't make me come over there and smack you. You know none of that is true, babe. Ted is mad for you, surely you've noticed?”

 

Rebecca only shrugs, her self-depreciation replaced with uncertainty. 

 

“Well, let me tell you that he is. And you need to get those eyes examined if you can’t see the way he looks at you. Is this why you’ve been wearing so much red of late?”

 

The blush that had cleared itself from her cheeks climbs up again. 

 

“Is it that obvious?” She asks, a little embarrassed.

 

Keeley scrunches her nose debating whether to be placating or honest. She decides to play with her strengths and goes for gentle honesty. 

 

“Yeah, babe. It's pretty damn obvious there's something going on with you.”

 

Rebecca drops her face into her hands, muffling her voice. “Oh God! What an absolute idiotic plan this was.”

 

Keeley hums sympathetically. “At least you know for a fact that Ted's noticed.” She tries to be cheery but it falls flat. Rebecca rolls her eyes at her.

 

“You could put on your big girl pants and ask him out.”

 

Rebecca looks horrified at the suggestion. 

 

“Yes, and make a complete arse out of myself when he says no.”

 

“Rebecca, you know he’s not going to say no.”

 

“No, I don't know that.”

 

“Fine, but how about you think of some other ways to go about it? Something that involves less red and more-” At Rebecca's raised pointedly eyebrow she backtracks quickly. “Not that you don't look absolutely stunning in red, but maybe something a little less teenage girl and a little more forty-year-old-woman appropriate flirting?

 

Rebecca sighs. “You're right. I'll think of something better.”

 




Later that night while scrolling through the app that failed her the first time, Rebecca decides to be a little more judicious of her choices. Perhaps something a little less garish and obvious, and a little more subtle and intellectual would be the right way to go. 

 

 

 

 

Roy

 

 

They're having their weekly drinks at the Crown and Anchor as they had begun doing sometime soon after being relegated. What started as a way to theorize and strategize had quickly turned into a fun tradition, sometimes just to blow off some steam and other times to discuss official Diamond Dogs business. Which Roy was absolutely not a part of. 

 

Although he refused to be roped into Diamond Dog business, Roy never missed a single one of their nights out. 

 

So yes, it was officially Diamond Dogs’ day (technically night) out, and it was turning out to be one of the strangest ones so far. And that's saying something because between the lot of them, let’s face it, there have been some really weird nights so far. The nights in question were the ones that usually ended with Roy aggressively chugging the remainder of his drink and leaving them with a “ fuck ” loud and agressive enough to be heard three tables away. 

 

What had started off as a boys hangout slowly began to include the occasional visit from Keeley and the even more occasional visit from Rebecca. These days those occasional visits had become somewhat permanent, the girls always joining them unless of course they had a girls night pre-planned. So having Rebecca there wasn't the strange part at all. It was something about the way she was interacting with them all that made the evening seem like he was living in a stage parallel world where his boss and long time friend- one of the smartest most socially presentable people he knew- had suddenly lost the ability to behave normal in a social setting. 

 

He wishes he could figure out what it is about her that’s ticking him off, then he could finally enjoy his pint in peace and appreciate the way Keeley is leaning into him for support in her tipsy state. 

 

But no. 

 

The change is subtle enough to avoid blatant detection but glaring enough to be extremely obvious to those that knew her. Yet no one else seemed to be bothered by this. Keeley is lounging away half on him, half on her seat, watching her favourite people interact, smiling at them through the haze of a few drinks. 

 

Higgins is laughing quietly with Nate, and Ted, well, Ted wouldn't be able to tell the difference between his arse and his mouth with Rebecca around. He grunts into his drink, which catches Keeley's attention. 

 

“You alright babe?”

 

“Fine.” He drawls back, playing discreetly with the ends of her incredibly high ponytail to assure her that he was fine. 

 

He’d talk to her about this later. No need to ruin her evening by giving her a problem she can't solve. Although he suspects this information would only serve to increase her entertainment for the evening. His eyes and ears are drawn back to Ted and Rebecca who are sat at one corner of their usual booth, heads bent together, almost completely oblivious to the other people at the table around them. He wonders if they realise the way their bodies automatically turn to each other, the way Rebecca leans forwards almost unconsciously whenever Ted talks, the way Ted’s eyes roam Rebecca’s face and linger on her lips as he watches her, enrapt with attention as she quips something he knows is either funny or witty or both. 

 

Probably not. 

 

"Boy, I tell ya Boss. You do not want to be caught in that kind of heat. No siree! Although, I must say it’s a great excuse to eat some ice cream. And by some I mean a lot. Because once you start, there's really no way you can stop. And with that kind of heat even your cute little behind wouldn't make it out for a walk-” he sees Rebecca splutter into her drink, “- or run to burn all of it off so ultimately, you're just sitting there eating more and more ice cream, your only exercise being the walk to and from the freezer, until its the end of Summer and suddenly you've spent nearly a month’s worth of rent on ice cream and your pants are two sizes too small!" 

 

"Not at all Ted. Wouldn't want to be caught in that kind of heat. N-no siree!" 

 

Hearing those words in Rebecca's accent feels strange. And completely wrong.

 

“And to eat so much ice cream and not be able to work out? No thank you. My trou- pants wouldn't fit me anymore!” She laughs awkwardly, still wiping remnants of her drink off her chin. 

 

There it is again. The little gnawing in his belly that tells him he should be able to put his finger on the absurdity of the situation. He closes his eyes and breathes in deep trying to focus on Keeley and the way she feels against him the sound of the rest of their bizarre conversation filtering in slowly through his ears, and taking a little longer to reach his brain.

 

That's when he hears it, the thing that's been annoying him all evening like a tickle in his nose that just wouldn't translate into a sneeze. It causes him to put his glass down on the table with more force than necessary. The beer sloshes over the edge and onto his hand and the table. 

 

“Bloody hell!”

 

He's loud enough to disturb whatever conversation they had been having, causing them to spring apart like they were a pair of teenagers caught necking rather than adults having a chat in a crowded pub. Ted looks at him with a hint of concern, a sharp contrast to Rebecca’s cold glare as if to chastise him for interrupting their conversation. Not that it had been much of one if he had heard correctly so far. Keeley rubs his thigh comfortingly. He wishes it helped more than it did.  

 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” He asks Rebecca and he's pleased to see her cheeks color a little at being caught. 

 

She knows he’s onto her game, but she wouldn't be Rebecca Welton if she gave up her hand so easily.

 

Excuse me ?”

 

“Don't insult me by giving me that bullshit. You know bloody well what you're doing.”

 

Her back straightens, as if making herself bigger in order to intimidate him and tries to pin him with a threatening look he’s seen her aim at many (spineless) members of the board. Shame it doesn't work on him. 

 

“You really want me to say it out loud? Because I'll do it.” He raises an eyebrow at her, smirking at her just a little. It isn't everyday he participates in this kind of thing and he’s enjoying having the upper hand. 

 

The color in her cheeks rises some more and her glare falters.

 

He’s barely opened his mouth to speak when she stands hastily. The wine glass in her hand is unceremoniously slammed onto the table, the tissue and her purse that had sat on her lap thus far fall ungraciously to the floor. 

 

Roy .” She says sharply. “A word please.” She tilts her head in the general direction of the opposite side of the room and strides away without another glance in his direction. He's a little relieved she interrupted him when she did because for all his bravado, he certainly had no way of translating the happenings of the evening into words. 

 

He pats Keeley on the back before he gets up and follows after Rebecca. She's easy to spot, a blonde head towering well above most of the other patrons of the bar, heading out the front door with surprising speed and agility for someone that had downed three gin and tonics back to back like they were water.




It's not quite winter yet, but there's a pre-winter chill hanging about, intensified by the rain that had fallen throughout the day. Puddles lay along the sides of the road, far enough to be out of the way of any potential splashes by a passing car, but close enough that the lights of the pub reflect off of them. 

 

The cool air of the night hits him abruptly as he steps outside. His breath catches in his chest as the door swings shut behind him and before he can take a proper inhale Rebecca whirls around from where she stands a few paces ahead and jabs a finger in his chest. 

 

“Whatever you think you saw or heard, you didn't .” She raises a challenging eyebrow at him as if daring him to say otherwise.

 

“Sure, very convincing after this whole secret talk business.” He says, his voice more gruff than usual from being caught somewhere in his chest, and waves an arm around to signify their not so cloak and dagger rendezvous. 

 

She visibly deflates at that and for a moment he fears he might have taken things a bit too far as she covers her face with her hands and makes a sound he’s never heard her make before. It's somewhere between a groan and a whine and it scares him shitless.

 

“I'm such an idiot.” She says, her voice coming through slightly muffled. He’s shocked to find her eyes glistening with tears when she drops her hands to her sides. 

 

“Woah, hey. Don't cry on me now. Maybe I should get Keeley for this.” He says, alarmed. Crying women were never his forte. He never knew what to say and he was sure he would only make the situation worse. 

 

“No, no!” She says waving her hands around, blinking the tears away. “She’s already warned me once to stick to a mature approach. I don't think I could face her again with this second humiliation.”

 

“You could just bloody tell him.”

 

For a moment she looks at him like he's figured out some sort of unsolvable problem. 

 

“You know.”

 

“Do I know you want to fuck the gaffer and play house with him for the rest of your lives? Of course I bloody well know.”

 

“Right, Keeley-”

 

“Keeley didn't tell me shit. She didn't have to. Anyone that spends five seconds around the two of you can automatically tell. The only knobs that don't know are you and Lasso.”

 

It comes out rougher than he intends it to, but he's had it with the pining and longing stares and his least favorite, looks that are meant to only be used in private and have no business being thrown around in the middle of a crowded locker room after a win with a bunch of other innocent people around. Unlike Keeley who will hold on to them for the rest of her life, he'll have to scrub his brain really hard to get rid of some of those heated looks. He shudders at the thought of them.

 

His words and tone seem to have their desired effect because Rebecca snaps her jaw shut and looks absolutely flabbergasted. He feels a little bad for his mini outburst because she clearly had no idea about any of this. 

 

She'll live.

 

“Look, you both deserve to be happy, preferably with each other. Okay? Ted respects you too much to say anything and potentially ruin your friendship or force you into a relationship you don’t want to be a part of or some nonsense like that. So you need to put on your big girl pants and go up to him and just say it. Or better yet, show him. go  in there and snog the living shit out of him.” It only takes him a quick moment to backtrack. “Maybe just a peck on the cheek to prove your point. No need to scar everyone more than you already have.”

 

“You don't understand, Roy! I can't just go up to him and tell him.” 

 

“Why the fuck not? What's the worst that could happen?”

 

“He could hear me!”

 

“Oh for fucks sake. And.. what, you think this..this..” He waves his hands around trying and failing to come up with an adequate description of what had been happening throughout the evening. “..this fuckery is the way to go? What even was that in there?” He settles for asking, jabbing a thumb in the direction of the closed pub door.

 

Rebecca looks at him a moment, her gaze assessing. He can see the exact moment she gives in looking slightly defeated. She unlocks her phone and taps the screen a few times, her nails clacking forcefully against the glass.

 

She turns the phone towards him after a few more taps. 

 

“Here.” 

 

It's one of those short video things Keeley keeps showing him and occasionally forces him to make with her. He loves her but he draws the line at shaking his ass for people he doesn't know. Only Keeley gets to see that side of him in the privacy of their home. And only after he's had a few drinks.

 

There's a lady on screen with the caption “ How to get your crush to notice you ”. He looks incredulously at Rebecca but she's looking resolutely at her heels, her teeth gnawing at her lip, hands fiddling with the collar of her dress as the woman talks about wearing the color red and something called ‘ the chameleon effect ’. He gapes at the screen as the video ends and struggles to find the adequate words to express exactly what he thinks of this. 

 

He settles for a loud, spirited “Fuck me!” instead.

 

Rebecca snatches the phone out of his hand and he rubs at his forehead because this needed to be talked about. Not only is it absolutely ridiculous, but it's incredibly heartbreaking for him to see her so lost, so devoid of confidence in herself, so unaware of her own charm and power that she feels the need to resort to questionable juvenile methods to gain someone's attention.

 

“Rebecca, listen to me. You don't need to be wearing red or mimicking what Ted does in order for him to notice you. His eyes and ears are on you the moment you enter any room, it's actually quite annoying when we’re in the middle of a really important strategy meeting and you show up. We literally have to wait an hour after you leave for him to stop daydreaming and resume being a productive member of the team."

 

She gives him a watery smile at that.

 

“You don't need to do anything except be yourself. Now, go in there and get your man.”

 

“Thanks Roy.” She sniffles and he thumps her on the shoulder the way he would a fellow teammate. 




They go back inside, but she decides not to “get her man” right then. She’s feeling raw and exposed and slightly embarrassed after the events of the evening. Not quite the perfect time to profess her love.

 

Ted's curious eyes scan her face for any sign of distress as she walks back to their table. 

 

“All okay, Boss? You say the word and we get the heck outta dodge.”

 

She smiles fondly at him, at his need to always make sure she was alright. She takes her seat beside him and pats his hand. “Everything is alright, Ted.”

 

He turns his palm to meet hers and loosely threads his fingers through hers. She bites back a face splitting smile and holds on tighter. Maybe the evening wouldn't end in such a bleak manner after all. 

 

She doesn't let go of his hand until it's time to leave. 

 

 

 

 

Rebecca

 

 

It's Ted's underhanded, subtle psychological trick that finally gets to her. 

 

Those insipid Believe signs- she was going to tear each one of them down, the first chance she got. They were always there, drilling their message into her subconsciousness against her will, forcing her to believe and keep hope. Ugh. She should take them down immediately, she thinks, as she runs a finger across the one taped to her desk.  

 

She remembers that morning very well. It had been a long hard week for everyone at Richmond- the coaching staff brainstorming under pressure to come up with new and improved strategies and plays for their upcoming match against Everton FC, while their team trained in horrendous weather conditions and tried to avoid injuries. But being the owner meant that Rebecca took on double the stress and workload of anyone else on her team- tying up loose ends in budget reports, firing the concerned individuals that had let those loose ends occur in the first place and looking for a suitable replacement for said individuals, all while trying to please and pacify all members of the board who, she as beginning to realise were just a bunch of children pretending to be wrinkly old men. 

 

All in all, it had been a harrowing week (month, if she’s really honest) and on that day in question, she was just at her wits end headed straight towards a proper emotional melt down. She’d overslept- something that she rarely did. Her alarm had betrayed her in the most inopportune of times and as a consequence she was running over an hour late for everything, including but not limited to, Biscuits with the Boss. 

 

She remembers walking into her office that day, one minor inconvenience away from tears to find her cherished pale pink box sitting next to a yellow piece of paper with a singular word written in blue.

 

Believe

 

She’ll deny it till her dying day, but that was what ultimately perpetuated her first crying session of the day. Ted’s thoughtful gesture, his kindness and ability to be there for her even when he couldn't be. She had never felt more loved and cared for in her life, no matter if Ted did it out of friendly obligation. Later when he had stopped by to drop off some paperwork, she had pretended to be annoyed by the newest addition to her desk. But by the soft smile he gave her throughout her reprimand, she knew he had seen right through her act.

 

Another one of those signs had eventually showed up taped up to the back of her door, so that when it was shut, it was directly in her eye line. “ For when you have a particularly difficult meeting with some of those knuckleheads in suits and want nothing more than to leave .” He'd said as he taped it off-center and tilted slightly to the left. She had sat there stuffing her face with his biscuits as he regaled her with the story of the pet snake he’d had for a week when he was seven, while putting up the new sign in place. 

 

All done without her explicit permission of course

 

All done for the sole purpose of making sure he never strayed far from her mind, she was sure. 

 

Not like she needed much help in that department. He was always there, lingering at the edge of her thoughts- a calming, comforting, often infuriating presence. She’s being unfair. She knows Ted had no ulterior motives apart from wanting to remind her to believe in herself and to never lose hope. 

 

Either way, it's Ted that really finally gets through to her.



She's fingering the Believe sign taped to her desk, aimlessly scrolling through her Instagram feed when another one of those “ How to get your crush to notice you ” posts pop up. She knows she shouldn't use any of these hacks after the way her attempts so far have fared, yet she can’t seem to tear her eyes away from what's proving to be another asinine trick to garner attention.

 

It's pathetic. She's being pathetic. 

 

She throws her phone onto her desk with the force only someone who can afford to buy more than a million of them can, and closes her eyes. She breathes in deep, her fingers still running across the slip of paper taped in front of her. It's going to need replacing soon, she thinks idly. The edges have small tears and its surface is dirty from the number of times she traces the word with her finger in a day. She opens her eyes and stares at the sign on the back of her door, willing herself to just believe

 

And by some miracle, she finally does. 

 

A part of her has known it all along. Her friends have told her nothing else, but still it has been difficult for her to put her insecurities aside and just go for it. Because really, the only way to achieve something was to go for it with both hands, an open mind and full heart. The thought sounds suspiciously like something Ted would say. But Ted thoughts aside, she simply needed to believe in herself, strap on her pack of self confidence and grab hold of the metaphorical bull by its metaphorical horns. Or perhaps in this case, grab the man by the moustache. Not literally of course. Although…

 

Right. She needed to get on with it and go have an honest chat with said mustachioed man instead of daydreaming about him.

 

She stands and smooths her skirt, getting rid of any wrinkles or pesky crumbs from her earlier biscuit session. She gives herself a once over in the small mirror she keeps tucked inside her desk drawer, makes sure her hair is perfect and lipstick unsmudged. Satisfied with her appearance, she strides out of her office, but not before giving the Believe sign on the back of her door a light tap. 






Turns out all she'd needed to do all along was ask him a simple question. 

 

"Ted, would you be amenable to dinner with me sometime this week?" 

 

She's glad her voice holds steady and doesn't betray the way her nerves are jangling under her skin or the way her heart is pounding in her chest like she's run a whole marathon. 

 

“Boss, if this is about us renaming the training centre without checking in with you first, I’ll tell ya, you ain't gotta butter me up with dinner before you lay into me about it. As your employee, I apologise for the overstep, but as your friend I ain't sorry one bit. We don't wanna have a lick of Rupert Mannion around here no more. No ma'am.” 

 

She gulps, mentally shaking herself to get rid of any images of her buttering him up and licks and laying into him. Did he always use this kind of ambiguous language around her? How had she never noticed before?

 

“No, Ted. This isn't about that. Although I must say, I appreciate your efforts to rid this place of that man's taint.”

 

“Anytime, Boss. Coupon for life, remember?”

 

She nods fondly.

 

“Right, so if it isn't to discuss my punishment…what's the occasion?”

 

Just one word, and once again her brain has conveniently conjured up images of exactly how she'd like to punish him. It's enough to take her completely off track, and for her voice to come out a little choked.

 

“Excuse me?” 

 

“The dinner. What's the occasion?” He pauses for a moment, his head tilts to the side like a puppy trying to understand what a mirror is. His eyes scan her face for a moment and he adds, “You sure you're feeling alright there, Boss?  You’re looking awfully flushed.” 

 

Wonderful. 

 

She grimaces, but doesn't bother answering his question. Instead she tries to collect herself and the few brain cells that have survived these last few minutes of conversation. 

 

“The occasion, Ted, is nothing really. Not yet anyway, but I was hoping that maybe it could be the first of many dates?” 

 

Ted stares at her for a moment too long, unblinking and unmoving, and she thinks she's read their interactions thus far completely wrong. But then he seems to snap out of whatever trance he'd been in and rocks on his heels, humming under his breath. 

 

“A date, huh? You and me? Dinner? Alone?”

 

“Well, that's typically what a date is, but if I misread and you don't- just forget I said anything.”

 

“Oh no no, just making sure we were on the same page here. For a moment I thought I was dreaming again because this only ever happens in my dreams, but then I smelled your perfume- which is so great by the way, is it custom made?- anyhoo, well, everyone knows you can smell when you're asleep, so I figured this had to be real.” 

 

“It's real, Ted.”

 

He nods once. Then a second time, more resolutely. 

 

“Yes. Well, in that case I'd love to go out on a date with you, Rebecca.”

 

The way he beams at her and the deliberate use of her name sets off the fluttering in her belly. 

 

“You can take me out to dinner, but only if I get to plan our second date.”

 

The promise of a second date without even having gone on their first one has her grinning so wide she's afraid she's going to pull a muscle in her face. 

 

“You have yourself a deal, Coach Lasso.” 





And just like that, with just a little belief and a whole lot of love in her heart, she manages to accomplish what she had failed to do for weeks. 



(They go out on those two dates and then a third one, and a fourth and soon standalone dates turn into general dating, except there's nothing remotely general about it. They're in it for the long haul and they're not shy to make it clear from the get go. 

 

At the end of their second date when she's lying sated and content and thoroughly spent in her bed, Ted snoring softly next to her, she reaches for her phone that lays on the bedside table and unfollows the page that she didn't need anymore. That she probably hadn’t needed to begin with. 

 

Because all she had needed was to believe.)