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Pickles

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 He picks up on the video call immediately, and Jo takes a deep breath.

“Hi, Teddy.”

“Josephine March, I am offended,” he says, a forced brightness in his voice, and she can see it in his eyes, that spark of mischief that is so utterly Teddy dimmed by so much pain

And then his words hit her, and her heart leaps into her throat.

“Offended?”

“Yes, offended, because I am not pickles! I don’t even like pickles, Jo! If anyone out of us two is pickles, that would be you!”

She blinks.

“So you saw the video already?”

“Of course,” he says, much like she’d asked him if he had noticed that the sky was blue.

“Oh God – Teddy, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to–”

“Jo,” his voice is soft, and it makes her shut up, because Teddy being quiet?

He clears his throat. “Jo. Stop. There’s nothing to apologise for.”

“I wasn’t even going to tell you over this,” she shook her head, watching a rueful smile form on his face. “I wanted to do it face-to-face.”

His eyes narrow a little. “Yeah, I mean, there’s nothing quite like breaking someone’s heart in person, is there?” Teddy says, the smile widening, showing off sharp canines, and Jo sucks in her breath. A second later, he looks shocked at his own words, and his eyes drop from the camera.

“I’m sorry,” he says, twiddling his thumbs. It’s his tell, his guilty tell, the way he looks whenever their bickering has gone too far.

“Teddy – Laurie,” Jo says, unable to stand the way his face brightens at the way she uses the nickname. “I never wanted to–”

He looks into the lens again, locking eyes with her. And those brown eyes that are normally so steady and kind and laughter-filled are now filled with regret.

Hopefully at the words he’d just said, because the idea of Teddy regretting their friendship is so painful that Jo gasps, feeling her heart wrench.

“I know, Jo,” he says. “You feel what you feel. I just thought…” he trails off, looking at his hands again. “Never mind.”

“Teddy,” she says, “your friendship means the world to me. I could never stand screwing that up.”

“We wouldn’t, for the record,” he replies, looking her dead in the eye. “We would be amazing together. But if I’m a friend to you, then...so be it, Jo March. And I will be the greatest best friend to walk this planet to you.”

She lets out a long, relieved breath. “You already are,” she says, simply, not like the characters in the screenplays with passion and eloquence. The moment is too raw and real for any kind of speech.

Laurie’s lips quirk into a pleased smile. “Jo, are you resorting to flattery?”

“No more than you do,” she retorts.

Laurie chuckles, then sobers for a moment. “Look, Jo–" her panic must show in her face, because he gives another soft laugh. "Relax, this will be the last thing I say about this, I promise: say the word, and I’ll be there. However you want me.”

She feels a lump in her throat, at the way this boy offers himself to her so freely, despite the pain lingering in his eyes.

“That generosity will get you in trouble on of these days.”

Teddy smirks. “No, Jo, that’s your job.”

Jo laughs, feels the remaining awkwardness shatter.

They are Jo and Teddy, and they’ll find their rhythm again.