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well worth the wait

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Ilderton, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

People are always asking about their relationship. And not just the media: their friends, their families, their coaches and trainers also ask. Everybody asks. Spend enough time with them and eventually THAT question is gonna pop up. "Are you friends? Best friends? Lovers? Friends with benefits? Dating? Hooking up?" Scott understands why. He knows why. Contrary to what most people might think, he’s not stupid nor he is completely oblivious. It’s this thing between them, whatever you want to call it, chemistry, sexual tension, friendship, partnership, attraction, love. How do you even boil that down to just one word, one thing, one term that would perfectly express and encompass what they have?

And they play with it. The confusion. The not knowing for sure. The wondering. It’s good PR. It’s good marketing. Tessa is cunning about these kind of things. She understands how it works and she’s willing to play the game. She relishes in it a bit. He does too. And if they’re completely honest with themselves, they’re not even hyping it up. The way they play is the way they are. The words, the whispers, the touching, the hands, the hugs, the dancing and their programs. It’s just what they always had. Cameras are just picking up on it, magnifying what is there for the world to see. 

What do you even call spending every day together from sun up to sun down for the last 20 years? Well, almost every day. How do you define that kind of relationship? How do you even begin to try to explain it to the outside world? The joys, the pains, the heartbreaks, the elation, the depression, the work, the highest highs and the lowest lows. 20 years spent holding hands. 20 years of growing together. 20 years spent skating and dancing with and around each other. 

It boggles Scott. What are they supposed to answer to that question? There's not enough words in the English language to describe what they have. How do you even fucking try?The closest word would be soulmates. But then again it has that Disney happily ever after connotation that their story never had.

It boggles Tessa too. So they came up with a party line from which you try your hardest to never deviate: business partners, business relationship, platonic skating partners, friends, actors, storytellers. Or any combination of those words put together. And they're also flattered. Very flattered that people would actually care about them so much to think they're actually together. And proud. So proud. It's a testament to a job well done. Yes, very flattering. A nicely canned prepped answer ready to be drawn every time someone asks THAT question. The Virtue Moir word bingo. He's pretty sure his brothers have gotten hammered on that drinking game. It's easier to always repeat the party line rather than actually asking themselves the very same question. 

It's actually a little annoying they both think. Mostly because people and journalists don't have any idea how fucking hard it is. The work, the pain, the dedication, the sacrifices, the self denial. But then again, how would they, when they're not even able to put it into words.

It's a funny little relationship that they have.  

It's complicated. 

Scott ponders this as he stares at the ceiling of his childhood bedroom. Last night, his parents and his relatives threw him a big welcome home party and after a few beers, he wasn't in any state to get himself to his own house. After months and months of a strict no alcohol regimen, it took very little to get him completely sloshed. It's well past 12 pm and his head is still hurting. 

He knows he has to come down at some point and face the music. He's sure his mom has already prepared him a giant glass of orange juice with a side of two Tylenols.

His phone vibrates and he has to make a genuine effort to roll himself over to the nightstand to get it. 

Hey there sleeping beauty!

That's Tessa. There's actually four more follow up messages. 

Missed you this morning. 

The kids did as well.

Oh fuck. Yep. He has completely forgotten that he was supposed to go meet and talk to kids with Tess at her sister-in-law's school. Fuck. She even sent pictures. Well, at least it seems like they had a good time. And she looks good for someone who just travelled for 24 hours straight just the day before. But then again, she always does. 

"Well hello there Scott," she picks up on the first ring.

"Hey T, I'm so sorry. I completely forgot," he starts apologizing. She giggles on the other end of the phone. "Why didn't you call me?"

"No worries. I called your mom actually." Of course she did. "She told me you were out like a light and I'd rather you just sleep it off, party man." She giggles again. She seems in a good mood. 

"It looked like you had fun, eh?" he notes, finally gathering enough strength to sit up and rub his eyes. "How's the cold?" She was so sick after the free dance, at the gala and on the plane, he can't imagine she's feeling 100% today.

"It was so so much fun. The kids really had interesting questions and they loved the medals. I told them you were still sleeping by the way. They had a good laugh at that. The cold is getting better. Slowly. The drugs have started working, so that's good," she replies and he can hear the smile in her voice. 

"I bet they did and I'm glad you're feeling better."

"How's the head?"

"Could be better," he yawns. "Hey, have you eaten yet? You could stop by," he offers. He knows his mom would love to have her over. 

"Oh, that's nice but my brother is taking me out to lunch and I have another school visit this afternoon. Remember?" 

"I vaguely seem to recall." God his head is pounding. His body needs to get used to alcohol again. "Do you want me to come to this one?" he asks, even though he's in no rush to get out of bed and see the light of day. 

"No that's fine, you just nurse that hungover," she says and pauses. There's a bit of a silence. 

"Tess?" he asks, wondering if she's okay.

"It's weird, eh?" she finally sighs. "This morning, waking up alone and not going to breakfast with all of the team. Not going to practice with you."

"I know what you mean," he says softly. "I feel like I can't come down off this high."

"Yeah same," she says. "I miss you though," she pauses again, "which is crazy because we've been stuck to each other for the past month. It's just weird. It's only been one day," she rambles.

People often thinks he's the emotional one and Tessa's the cerebral one. But truth is, he knows that's only a facade. Tessa is overly sensitive, she feels too much and internalizes everything. That cold front is just there to protect herself from feeling too vulnerable and exposed. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He couldn't be guarded even if he tried. 

"I miss you too, Tutu," he replies tenderly. "How about you come over to my place to eat tonight? We could talk, watch a movie," he suggests. They are so codependent, it's not even funny.

"Sure, that'd be nice. I'll bring food," she says. "I have to go, my brother's calling me. See you tonight."

He barely has the time to reply back and she has already hung up.

Tessa. Tess. T. Tutu. 

How did they end up here, with five fucking Olympic medals?

What the fuck are they going to do now? 

*

Ilderton, Ontario, Canada - 1998

Tessa still can't believe they actually paired her up with the youngest Moir boy. His aunt Carol thought they would be a good fit and they are. They're almost the same size and he really loves to skate. He always tries to go as fast as he can. He has to be reminded at least once a day that he's an ice dancer now and not a hockey player.

But that's okay. Scott is really nice and outgoing. He makes her feel at ease. She doesn't really like all the other skaters, she's kind of a loner. But he's the best. He talks a bit and holds her hand. It was quiet at first between them, but now it's better. His mom told him to make an effort because she's so shy. It's your job to protect her now, she had said, Tessa is two years younger than you, it's up to you to look out for her. She's happy about that. She knows she can count on him.

They've been skating together for almost a year now. They even dated for a bit. He kissed her and everything. That felt nice. Their parents thought it was so cute, their little love story as they called it, but Tessa didn't think it was cute at all. It made her hands sweaty and her heart race. And sweaty palms are a no-go when you're an ice dancer. Eventually, they broke it off. Well, he did. She thinks it's mostly because his friends made fun of him. She doesn't care all that much. The kissing was nice. But she wants to win. And she still gets to hold his hand every day, so that's fine. And they dance. 

If there's one thing that she loves most in this world, it's to dance. She takes so many dance classes. She could be a ballerina if she wanted to. She has even been accepted to the National Ballet School this summer. That's going to be weird: spending a summer outside the skating rink and without Scott. 

"Hey Tutu," Scott starts with a worried tone in his voice, one morning before practice, "you're not really mad that we don't date anymore, right?" 

Tessa finds the question weird, she thought she had been pretty clear on the phone. "No, Scott, it's okay. We still get to skate together, that's all that matters to me." 

"Me too," he says, obviously relieved. "That's all that matters to me too. You're the best partner I've had."

"I'm the only partner you've ever had, Scott," she giggles. 

"That's why you're the best one," he says with a smile as he takes her hands into his to bring her closer and then engulfs her in a hug. 

"Promise me something Scott," Tessa says gravely. She's still in his arms. She likes it here. She's always cold and everything about Scott is warm. 

"Anything T," he replies, his voice muffled against her scarf. 

"We need to promise each other that if one of us falls or trips or makes a mistake that we won't be mad and won't hold it against the other. Never ever. We need to." Her voice is a little shaky and even if she's only 9 and he's 11, Scott knows she means business. 

"Of course Tess, I promise. No anger, no blame, no grudges," he says pulling back from the hug and looking straight into her eyes. He's never noticed until now how green they are. 

"No anger, no blame and no grudges," she repeats, holding his gaze firmly. 

They don't even need to pinky swear. These words are binding. 

*

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada - 2002

13 and 15 is an awkward age. While other teenagers their age are probably busy with their homework or thinking about their first kiss, Tessa and Scott are waiting for their turn to skate at the Canadian Skating Championships.

All the regular friends they don't have, all the parties they never went to, all the outings that they missed. Normal stuff sacrificed for a common goal. They don't even feel like they missed much to be honest. And this moment, this is it. The first time. 

"Ready, Tess?" Scott asks, warming his hands with his breath so they're not too cold before laying them on her back. 

"First championship," she replies. "Can't believe it."

"It's only novice level," he says with a smile, but she knows he's nervous. 

"I know," she says. He keeps stroking her back reassuringly. The feel of her bare skin under his hand brings a comfort and a quietness to his mind that no words can explain. 

"It's gonna to be okay, you'll see," he answers with a confidence that nears cockiness. 

"No anger, no blame, no grudges," she promises.

"No anger, no blame, no grudges," he repeats back to her, kissing her on the cheek. 

When they're finally done skating, the only thing they can hear is the loud cheering of their families. They won bronze. Third place. It almost brings tears to Scott's eyes. All the more so when he looks at Tessa. Even though she hides it well, he knows she's almost on the brink of tears herself. Her hands are shaking.

"We did it!" she exclaims joyously, falling into his arms.

"We did it!" he concurs, holding her tighter. 

They keep talking about their performance backstage while they remove their skates and gather their things. They can't seem to stop talking about it. Excitement is high and contagious. They don't even notice when two figures enter the room. 

"That was a very good skate," the woman says with an accented voice. 

"It really was," the man agrees, the same accent in his voice. 

When Tessa looks back up, her eyes widen and her mouth nearly hangs open. That's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. And they look even better in real life than they do on TV. They just won the silver here at senior level. 

Tessa and Scott exchange a look of utter wonderment. Is this real life? 

They can only mutter some thank you and some words about how much they love and admire them. How much they want to be just like them when they're older.

"You keep working hard and you keep skating clean and you have a bright future ahead of you," Marie-France says. 

"Thank you so much," Tessa says. 

"It means a lot," Scott carries on.

"There is a lot of potential inside of you. We can see it. You keep at it," Patrice says finally before coming to squeeze their hands and kiss their cheeks. 

"Can you believe that just happened?" Scott asks once they're gone. 

"Not really," Tessa says shaking her head. "Can you imagine how cool it would be if they were our coaches?"

"Haha, dream on, Tutu," Scott laughs as he rubs her head, messing her hair. "Those two are not retiring any time soon."

"You want a snack?" Tessa asks, rummaging through her bag and handing him a protein bar. "I'm always famished after skating."

He grabs the bar quickly and starts inhaling it. "What would I do without you, T?" he laughs, his mouth full. 

"Well, obviously, you'd starve," she smiles back.

 *

Ilderton, Ontario, Canada - March 2018 

"I brought snacks," Tessa yells as she lets herself into Scott's house with her key.

She hears a rumble and curse words being uttered from upstairs and can't help laughing. He's been going to bars with his brothers all day and probably isn't quite ready yet. Even though she told him what time she would come at. 

She moves towards the kitchen to put away the groceries and she notices on the way how messy the house is. He's just been back one day and there's already clothes, hockey gear and suitcases all over the place. 

She shakes her head. Plus les choses changent… the more they stay the same. She hears quick footsteps coming down the stairs. 

"I need to get dressed and then I'm all yours," Scott says as he appears in the kitchen's archway only dressed in a towel. 

All the years of seeing him half naked, feeling his body through cotton, lycra and mesh, putting her hands on his body and him putting his on hers have not desensitized Tessa to the sight of Scott. It brings back memories from an ancient time. Especially when he's half naked with only a towel knotted at his waist and dripping water all over the place. Even his hair is wet. His thick gorgeous hair. 

Tessa's mouth almost hangs open. "No problem," she manages to say, trying to keep her composure. "I'll just get started on dinner." 

Why does this feel so fucking different? She has seen him half naked more than a thousand times. How many dress fittings did they have in their whole careers? A fuck ton, that's how many. Why does her heart keep skipping a beat? 

"Dinner's already heating up, Tess," Scott says as he points to the oven. "I went and got take out from my uncle's restaurant."

"Oh, that's nice. Well, I'll just put the groceries away in your fridge and start setting up the snacks," she answers as Scott disappears back upstairs to get dressed. 

She needs to get a fucking grip. Like right fucking now. What is happening? Everything feels different now. Maybe it's all the recent questions about their relationship status that are finally messing with her head. 

Her hands put themselves to work on the snacks but her mind is elsewhere, analyzing and overanalyzing everything. She had gone unhealthy on the snack front: they earned it. Tonight, they celebrate with chips, popcorn, gummy bears and beer. 

Snacks in colorful bowls and ice cold beers go onto the coffee table as Tessa settles into the comfy couch and turns on the TV. The mindless chatter of the latest news helps her keep a clear head. She spies a little pile of DVDs next to the player and just realizes now how much thought Scott actually put into this evening. Is this a date? Oh my fucking God, is this a date? Of course it's not. They had their chances in the past and they always blew it.

Tessa doesn't have time to ponder more on the subject because she hears padded footsteps coming down the stairs and up behind her. She feels Scott's body leaning into the couch, into her, from behind and his lips kissing the side of her neck. He loves that spot.

"Hi T," he whispers gently against her skin. The kiss is light and airy. Like a warm summer breeze coming through the curtains on a scorching night to land on sweaty overheated skin. A delicious shiver makes its way up her spine. And then… his lips are gone. 

"Hey," she whispers back, her breath a bit caught in her throat. "What's up?"

She watches him plop himself next to her on the couch, a handful of gummy bears in his hand. He's wearing dark blue sweatpants and a tight grey shirt. No man should be allowed to look this good in sweatpants. 

"Not much. I slept half the day and then went to drink some more with my brothers. Let me tell you, my liver is not very happy with me at the moment," he jokes, a smile on his face. "I got a call from Sam, though."

"Oh yeah? So did I!" Tessa cries out. "He was so so happy and so excited for us."

"Yeah, he spent fifteen minutes reliving every step of the program on the phone with me. And he got interviews lined up for the next two weeks at least."

"Yeah, that's crazy. I caught him on Salut Bonjour but I couldn't follow everything he was saying. French Canadians speak so fast." 

"I'm sure he only said good things," Scott says with a smile. They exchange looks and Tessa knows that Scott knows that they asked Sam that question. 

"I need to get used to French again," Tessa says, helping herself to some popcorn. "We have to get back to Montréal at some point."

"I know," Scott sighs, "this is gonna be so weird. I know Sam is excited about choreographing for Stars on Ice. He's already full of ideas. It just can't compute that competition is over for us."

"I'm going to miss it so much," Tessa agrees, "but it's not like it's the end of our careers. We're still going to skate together. We're always going to skate together." Tessa looks at him softy. "And I don't know if you've had a look at our spring/summer schedule lately but it's jam packed. You're gonna get sick of me."

"Hasn't happened in 20 years, T," he says snuggling closer to her on the couch and putting his arm around her. "Not gonna happen now."

"Nivea's going to announce the partnership any day now," Tessa says, changing the subject. "I'm kinda scared and super excited at the same time."

"It's so great for you!" Scott says squeezing her shoulder. "First Canadian brand ambassador! You should be proud," he continues, locking eyes with Tessa. "I'm so proud of you."

"Yeah…" she says softly. "Plus, a ton a free skincare," she laughs. "You can't say no to that."

"True," Scott concurs. "So, what's your schedule like in the next few days? I know we have that media tour in Toronto soon. That I haven't forgotten," he laughs. 

"I have to go to Toronto on Tuesday for some PR and marketing meetings, Wednesday I have press all day and then that Nivea event. Remember, I told you about that."

"I remember you asking me to be your plus one…" Scott replies rolling his eyes. 

"Would you? Pleaaaaaase?" she whines softly, batting her eyelashes and smiling wide. It makes her dimples appear. Oh, she's good. She knows exactly what she's doing. She knows he can never resist her when she's like this, smiling up at him like he hangs the moon and the stars.

"I love you Tess, I do, but there's not enough smiles you can throw my way that will make me attend a skincare event," he laughs. "Even for you. Plus, all the spotlight should only be on you. That's not going to happen if you take me."

How weird to hear those three little words. Tessa has heard them at least a thousand times coming from Scott. He's always been very open and profuse with the way he feels and his displays of emotions. But tonight, with their bodies so close together and their shared warmth, it plays tricks on her mind and body. Her pulse races and her palms get sweaty like they used to do when they were kids and had to hold hands for the first time. So weird. She hasn't felt that way for Scott in a long time. A time that's never spoken of. A time that's best left in the past and should only be remembered in the dark solitude of a locked bedroom.

"It was worth a shot," Tessa shrugs with an impish smile. "Want a beer?" she asks as she leans towards the coffee table to get two bottles. 

"Sure," Scott replies, his hand lightly stroking her back. 

He is so handsy she's not sure her heart can take it. At some points in their career, dark points, they had both become completely desensitized to the other's touch, it didn't feel like anything special, they had lost their 'magic' for a little while. Thinking about such times seems so ridiculous now. Every touch seems amplified, multiplied by a thousand. She feels his hand stroking her back all the way down to her toes. The electricity between them… it's real. It's tangible, you can taste it in the air. She's sure it could fuel a small city for a month.

She hands him a beer and watches him closely as he uncaps the bottle on the side of his coffee table before handing it back to her and doing the same for this own bottle. God, how is he so sexy in every moves he makes… Does he also feel the tension in the air?

"You know, I don't think we'll ever have to pay for a drink again in our lives. I got free beers all day today," he smiles clinking his bottle with hers.

"That's certainly a perk. We should enjoy it while it lasts," Tessa replies with an underlying seriousness in her voice.

"So, I'll meet you in Toronto for the press tour after your little beauty convention? Sound good?" he asks in between gulps of beer. 

"It's a plan," she agrees, making note to remind him of the dates at a later time. 

The timer in his kitchen goes ding and he immediately gets up and goes to the kitchen. Dinner's ready. Tessa can smell all the deliciousness from afar. It smells like indulgence embodied: pizzas and cheese and chili nachos that he sets on the coffee table in front of them. 

"So, movie?" he asks getting the DVDs. "I got some of Audrey's best work for you here." 

Tessa is in no mood for Audrey tonight. "How about something a little more action packed?" she suggests. 

Scott's eyebrows raise in surprise. In 20 years, he has rarely seen Tessa refuse to watch some Audrey. Does she feel the electricity in the air between them? He can still feel his hand tingle from where he touched her earlier. Does she know? Does she know how crazy she drives him? 

"Sure," he replies while looking for another movie. "Jackpot!" he cries out. "How about some Tarantino?" he offers, holding a Kill Bill DVD.

Her heart skips a beat.

"Great, I love Kill Bill," Tessa answers somewhat truthfully. "Put it on and come back here, I'm getting cold."

"Here, I have some extra blankets," he says, getting up to get one from the closet. 

The opening credits have already started rolling as Tessa makes herself more comfortable on Scott's couch. How will she go through this night without hyperventilating?

"There you go," he says manipulating her body, her back, off the couch to wrap a cozy white blanket around her. 

Satisfied with how she's currently swaddled, Scott sits back on the couch and nestles himself closely against her body wrapping himself with what remains of the blanket.

He brings back her body to his. "You good?" he checks, putting his arm around her and letting her head rest on his chest. 

"I'm good," she nods. 

Tessa lets herself sink into the warmth and the clean, just showered, scent of his body. Scott's arm around her shoulder feels like a hot poker and his hand drawing circles on her arm does not help the matter. 

Does he do this on purpose? Does he remember?

He has to.

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - 2003

Tessa doesn't like Canton: she doesn't like her host family who is kind of mean, she doesn't like their new coaches, she doesn't like the city, its people nor the other skaters at the rink. 

She knows that Marina Zoueva is the best there is. She knows she will help them get that medal. She will help them get better, they will learn so much. She knows all of that. But that doesn't stop her from being sad. She's sad a lot these days. Everything is hard and cold here. When they were training back in Canada, everything and everyone was warm and nice. It's not the same here. She has no friends and she's pretty sure that none of the other Canton skaters like her. 

Everybody likes Scott though. He's the goofy outgoing Canadian skater that everyone just seems to love. Tessa can't blame them for loving him though. He is nice, funny and extroverted. Nobody likes a loner… And that's exactly who she is. 

She's so lucky she has Scott to rely on. He got his driving licence not too long ago and he drives her everywhere: the grocery store, the mall, to school, to practice and home. He doesn't even seem to mind. She's a bit clingy she supposes but he really is her lifeline in an ocean of strangers. 

They just got back from Eastern Europe when they had their first Junior Grand Prix. They even placed in the top 10. She's still jet lagged but the work never stops and that's why even on a Friday night, she's still practicing at the rink while Scott is doing cardio upstairs.

"Hey Tess," he kind of yells as he gets down to the rink. She almost doesn't hear him over the music. "It's almost 8 already, I need to get you home." 

Tessa skates over to the edge to talk to him properly. He's still all sweaty. "Don't you want to practice a bit more? We could skate together for a little bit," she says softly, looking down.  

"My legs are fried," he starts to say but he notices right away the way her face falls. "What's wrong?" 

"Nothing," she shrugs, "I just don't really want to go yet. I'd like to practice a bit more."

"I can tell something's wrong, Tess," Scott notes. "And you don't need to practice that much. You've been here since 7 this morning. You train harder than any other skater here."

She fiddles with the edge of the rink, her head still down. "You can never practice too much, Scott." 

His hands gently cover hers, mostly to stop their fiddling but also, a little bit, to comfort her. "C'mon, tell me what's wrong." Her hands are freezing underneath his, she never wears gloves to practice no matter how many times he tells her to.  

"I just don't want go 'home' to them," Tessa finally confesses. 

"What are you saying? Are they being mean to you?" Scott asks in a grave tone. His mother gave him a big speech before their parents agreed to let them move to another country: he's older, he has to watch over Tessa and protect her. He takes this very seriously.

"Well, they're not exactly being kind or welcoming… They have two daughters who skate competitively and they don't like me. I don't even know why. I'm nice to them, I promise!" Tessa says, a tremor evident in her voice.

His hand goes up to her face and awkwardly brings her closer to him for a semi-hug. "I know you are Tutu. You're the nicest."  

"It's just… It just… It doesn't feel like home. Canada is home. This is… This is just sad," she mutters still pressed against him. He smells like sweat: sweet and acrid at the same time. But she doesn't mind: she has grown to love that smell over the years. His smell.

Scott feels so bad for Tessa. Of course he misses home, his parents and his brothers but he thinks Canton is actually nice. He made some friends at the rink. A few are even ice dancers. It's cool to have people to talk to about this kind of stuff, people who go through the exact same thing you're going through. He knows that Tessa is a loner and has trouble connecting with people sometimes, but he didn't think it had gotten this bad. He didn't think she was sad and he feels so guilty because he should have been able to tell. He knows her better than anyone else and he's the only one she has here. 

"It's gonna get better, Tessa, I promise," Scott says. "You just need to get used to Canton. You'll make friends." 

"I don't need friends," Tessa protests. "I have you. You're all I need," she blushes a little at that and he decides not to comment on it. 

He knows she has a crush on him. And he kind of has a crush on her too. But they can't act on it. Ever. If they broke up or if something bad happened, that would be the end of both their careers. They both know it. Romance is not worth losing their partnership or their shot at an Olympic medal sometime in the near future. But that feeling between them when they touch… It feels like it's never gonna go away.

"Don't be silly Tessie Tess," he smiles. "Of course you need other friends. You need girl friends just like I need guy friends. It's okay to have other friends outside of us. We'll always have our bubble. But it's nice to have other people too," he explains. 

And he knows it's true. Tessa had her first period last summer… They were training hard and she must not have noticed or felt it, but after a lift, his hands were all red and bloody. When he got her down, he stopped right in his tracks he was so freaked out. At first he thought he had cut them on her blades but he quickly understood that was not the case. When Tessa finally got what was actually happening, she literally ran off the ice to lock herself up in the bathroom. She was mortified. He had to have Marina calm her down through the door and then call her mother. When she got back to the ice after having changed clothes, she looked like a warrior ready to take on the world. She looked so beautiful. He handled the whole situation like a champ, he thinks. It's the least he can do. He's sure Tessa has felt his erections pressed up against her A LOT in the last two years. And she never said anything or made fun of him. 

"How about we go get something to eat and then go see a movie?" Scott suggests.

"We have to get up really early tomorrow to train, that's not really responsible."

"Come on! We're allowed to have fun once in a while. The new Tarantino is out," Scott pleads with her. "It's gonna be fun, I promise." 

His smile is so earnest Tessa can't possibly say no. He helps her off the ice and they momentarily go their separate ways to shower and change out of their training clothes before getting into his car. Scott loves that car, he feels like such a grown-up when he drives it. He loves driving Tessa everywhere: they can talk about everything and anything and listen to any music they want. It's a small taste of freedom in their very regimented lives. 

When they finally make it to the showing, the trailers have already started and they rush to find good seats before the movie starts. Scott's hands are full of popcorn and sodas, it's self-indulgent but he knows it will cheer up Tessa for sure.

"So, what's it about?" Tessa whispers in his ear so as not to disturb the other movies goers. 

"It's about this woman who wakes up from a coma after a few years and she goes on a revenge spree killing to avenge the death of her husband and baby," Scott explains his voice low. His breath tickles her neck and makes her feel warm all over. 

Tessa nods and reaches over to Scott's lap to get some popcorn. Her hand grazes his thigh and she can feel him stiffen in the seat next to her. 

"I'm sorry," she whispers, "I was just trying to get to the popcorn," she explains. Their thighs are touching, it's very distracting. Which is weird because their thighs touch all the time in practice. But in the dark, everything seems heightened.

"No worries," he shrugs. It just felt like a lightning bolt went through his whole body, but you know, no worries. It's not like his heart is about to explode out of his chest. Not really.

Kill Bill is so engrossing. It's one of the best things Tessa has ever watched. She's not usually one for this kind of movie but it's really really good. The story is great and Black Mamba is so badass. She's glad Scott suggested going to the movies even if they're a little bit tired tomorrow. Maybe they could even skate to the music? It's really good and catchy. Marina would hate it though. 

She looks over to Scott and he seems completely captivated by the movie as well. She had gripped his hand through the whole Gogo and the Crazy 88 scene and they are still laced together. Like in practice when they get out of dance hold. As if he can feel the heat of her stare, Scott turns to look at her. 

"You're still liking the movie, T?" he asks, stroking their intertwined hands with his free one.

"Yeah," she replies excitedly, putting her hand on top of his. 

His first mistake is locking eyes with her and losing himself in her green eyes. Her gorgeous green eyes. The lights of the screen reflect in her irises giving them an eerie and almost dreamlike quality. 

Scott clearly hears her gasp and sees Tessa's eyes darken. The electricity between them crackles and what's happening in the movie is long forgotten. They both are in their little bubble. In the dark, only the both of them seem to exist. In the dark, everything is magnified. Scott swears he can almost hear the sound of her heart beating over his own. 

Their heads slowly come together at the same time. They move as one like they do on the ice. Scott's hands lazily cup Tessa's face, brushing his thumbs on her jawline along the way and he gently brings her face closer to his. He can see her eyes widen and he wonders if it's her first kiss (well her second first kiss, he already had that privilege a long time ago). He can hear his own heart drumming inside his ears and a fiery warmth is rapidly spreading throughout his body. He knows it's a bad idea. He knows it's a mistake. But he just can't help himself. He loves her. He wants her. With every fiber of his heart, mind and body.

Their lips finally press together in a small, closed mouthed, kiss. Tessa cannot believe what's happening. Scott is actually kissing her. It's not a dream. It's not a fantasy. It's not something she dreamed up just before going to sleep. Somewhere deep down inside, she knows they will both regret it once their minds clear but at the moment, she doesn't care one bit. The only thing she want is for Scott to keep kissing her. And he does. 

Something seems to snap inside of him: his hands come down to her shoulders and he presses her firmly against him, as much as he can with the armrest in between them. Scott gently coaxes her lips open with his tongue and quickly deepens their kiss. Tessa's heart cannot possibly sustain this kind of emotion. She feels hot and tingly all over. Her heart is bursting inside of her chest. Their tongues touch for the first time and softly learn their way around one another. Their kiss is soft and wet, all deep strokes and gentle moans. Scott can't stop his hands from running all over her body; from her thick hair, to her cheeks, to the curve where her shoulder meets her chest and all over her hips. 

It's heaven and hell all rolled into one and he never wants it to stop. It's so wet and hot and deep at the same time. The kiss grows more and more frenzied as their tongues keep caressing each other with more and more passion. Tessa's hands are clasped tightly in his hair and around his neck. It hurts him a little bit but the sting also feels kind of nice. Scott likes it when she drops the ice cold front and just lets herself go, whether it be on the ice or right now. She's uncharacteristically vocal in her appreciation and all those littles moans, groans and sighs are only turning him on further. And he's 16, it doesn't take a lot for him for be turned on. But Tessa, here, finally in his arms, letting him know how much she loves their kisses, it's the best feeling ever. It's almost too much. 

After what seems like an eternity, Tessa is finally the one to break their never-ending kiss. She is wildly out of breath and her cheeks are bright red. She looks like she's just finished skating a 10-minute program. Scott can barely keep up with his beating heart. Their gazes lock again full of tenderness mixed with disbelief. 

"That was…" Scott begins, completely breathless. 

"That was really… Wow," Tessa manages to say in between gasps. She can feel the redness of her cheeks. They're burning hot.

There is no need to say anything more. They both feel it, this inexpressible thing between them. Tessa pulls up the armrest as high as it will go and cozies closer to Scott. He manages to put his arm around her and her head now softly lays against his shoulder. This feels right.  

They don't know how they're able to go back to the film in between furious bouts of scorching kisses and wandering hands but, in the end, they still manage to get the gist of the plot. 

The ride home is unusually quiet. Scott's free hand has been on her knee and thigh as much as his driving allows him to do so and, every time, every single time, Tessa feel electricity zinging through her whole body. Can someone explode from feeling too much? 

"Look Tess," Scott starts as he pulls up in front of Tessa's host family house.  

"I know," she interrupts him right away. 

"What?" he asks.

"The kissing and the making out, it was amazing, but it can never happen again," she states calmly. "That's what you wanted you tell me, right?"

Scott is completely astonished. He didn't want to tell her that. He wants them to keep kissing forever but that's not exactly the responsible thing to do. They have to remain friend to keep their partnership safe. It's too precious to lose. He's so relieved that she seems to be in agreement.  

"Yeah," he nods, "that's exactly what I was gonna say. I mean, I love you, you know that right?" 

Tessa feels like someone just hit her with a crowbar. Right in the ribcage. This is the first time he has said those words. The first time anyone outside of her family has said something like that. 

"Yeah," she stutters, "I know."

"But it's better if…"

"I know," she interrupts him again. "We can't jeopardize our partnership. If something went wrong between the two of us, it could ruin everything. I know that."

"Exactly," he begins, "I mean, I want to, believe me, I want to, but skating is too important for the both of us to let romance interfere with it."

"Agreed. We have to be committed to what we want and give ourselves the means to get it," she states matter-of-factly. 

She is so grown up right now, Scott can't believe she's two years younger than him. This is one of the things he loves about her: her drive and her ambition. She's not going to let anything or anyone stand in her way. 

Tessa unbuckles her seatbelt and lays her hand on the handle. "Thank you for the night though. You were right, it was fun," she teases. 

"You're welcome, Tess." As she exits the car and goes to close the door, Scott can't help himself. "No anger, no blame, no grudges?" he checks. 

"No anger, no blame, no grudges," she reassures him before running up to the front door.

That night, in their respective beds, they both keep replaying their kisses in the darkened theater like it's their own personal movie. The same way you would replay a favorite scene over and over again. Sleep is elusive and their hands roam freely to the flows of their thoughts like waves crashing on a white sandy beach on a stormy night.

Who would have thought their little mantra would actually be easier said than done…

*

Ilderton, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

It's 4 am when Scott wakes up. The numbers shine bright red in the darkness of his living room. They fell asleep watching the movie last night and during their sleep, Tessa somehow managed to end up on top of him. They're completely entangled in the blanket and Scott can feel Tessa's soft breathing against his chest. He wants to beat himself up for thinking how right and amazing it feels. 

He gently strokes her arm and shoulder. "Tess, wake up Tess," he murmurs softly tickling her nose. Their backs are going to kill them if they keep sleeping like this.

She starts to move, tightening her grip on him before slowly blinking. "What… What time is it?" she whispers, still drowsy with sleep.

"A little after 4," he informs her.

She goes to sit up and stretch as he moves his legs over to help her along. "I'm so sorry I fell asleep on you. That must not have been comfortable for you," she says.

Scott lays his hand on her thigh. "It's okay, I didn't mind. I fell asleep too. I know I'm a good pillow," he smiles. 

"We didn't even get to watch the whole movie," she notes, sleepy eyed.

"We didn't the last time either," Scott smirks.

She blushes immediately just thinking about it. "You do remember!" she accuses him, jokingly hitting him on the chest.

He full on belly laughs now. "Of course I do, Tess! Did you really think I didn't?" 

"I don't know, you didn't seem particularly nonplussed last night," she chuckles. 

"Oh I remember it," he keeps laughing. "I remember it in perfect full color HD."

"Yeah well… So do I," she shakes her head. His hand on her thigh feels warmer by the minute.

"I remember all the other times too, you know," he confesses, a naughty grin on his lips. 

"Scott…" Tessa whispers. His hand is now slowly moving toward her hip. 

The tension between them is almost too much. It's the same as feeling a thunderstorm coming. Every hair on your body stands on end and you feel the electricity in the air all around you.

"You know you want to, Tess," he breathes.  

Scott can't believe these words are coming out of his mouth. He doesn't know what's going on with him. He feels daring and rash. The darkness surrounding them has certainly emboldened him. And she looks so beautiful in the moonlight, that might help too.

"Scott…" It's the only word she can get out. Her heart is beating like crazy. She wants it as much as she dreads it.

Scott firmly grasp her hips and moves her over to his lap. Her legs surrounds him on each side and he can feel her warmth soak into him. He doesn't need any more than that to get aroused. Her hands land on his shoulders and their darkened eyes connect.

"I know you feel it too," he says softly. Scott lets his hands wander all over her back, shoulders and sides; he feels her shivering underneath his fingers. Her breasts are right there at eye level but he doesn't dare look at them for too long or even touch them. She has to be the one to take the next step. 

Her body is throbbing under his hands and he's barely even touching her. She can feel her heart beating in her groin and a delicious warmth spreading in her belly. "I'm definitely feeling it right now," she jokes but her hips tell a different story as they press her body closer and closer to his. She wants him and he wants her. She can feel him hot and hard between her thighs as she rubs herself against him. Her body knows this dance. She knows its movements, its ebb and flow, it's a choreography their bodies remember well. They've done it before.

Scott grips her ass tightly and grinds her against his erection. "You know that's not what I meant, Tess." His voice is raw with desire as he looks at her straight in the eyes, a lustful smile on his lips. His hand lazily travels to her jawline and his thumb grazes her lower lip, pressing it open. She rubs her nose against his and finally takes the plunge, joining their mouths together.  

Muscle memory is an amazing thing. It feels exactly just like the last time they did this. The kiss is deep and frenzied as their tongues devour each other. Tessa's arms are locked around his neck, her hands fisting his hair. Scott reaches the bottom of her sweater and swiftly takes if off. She's not wearing a bra; he knows she doesn't usually but it's a little fact that never fails to turn him on. 

He can't stop looking at her. He's seen her naked before but it's like the first time every time it happens. It never seems to lose its appeal. His mouth captures a perfect pink nipple and she moans softly. Her hands push his face against her breasts to urge him to continue. She needs more. She needs it faster, harder. And she needs it now.

"Don't stop," she warns in a groan. His mouth is still doing delicious things to her breasts, licking, sucking and nipping his way from one to the other and then doing it all over again. Is it possible to get off with only his mouth on her chest? His hands don't stay idle for long; they move lower until they reach her waistband. He quickly unbuckles her belt and reaches her zipper. He tries to be smooth about it, especially with a writhing Tessa and one of her nipples in his mouth, but at some point, he knows they're going to have to unglue.

"Take off your pants," he orders breathlessly. His eyes are dark with desire and hers are not much better. 

She unlatches her hands from his hair, climbs off of him and just stands there, half-naked under his adoring gaze. "Take off your pants," she retorts with a cocky half-smile. 

Oh, so they are at this portion of the main event, Scott thinks, the one where sexy flirty confident Tessa is there to win it all. Her eyes are on fire.

"Actually," she smirks, "why don't you take off your shirt first? So we're on an even playing field, you understand." She puts both her hands on each side of her hips, clearly expectant. 

She likes ordering him around. And he likes to do her bidding. How can he say no when he knows what's going to happen next? He hastily takes off his shirt and sends it flying halfway across the room. 

"That's better," she says approvingly. With her hand, she motions for him to keep going.

He stands up and, under her watchful eyes, takes off his sweatpants as well. He's gone commando underneath and Tessa's eyes are immediately drawn to him. He's still as perfect and well built as ever. All those B2Ten training sessions were definitely worth it. Ever so slowly, her eyes never leaving his, daring him to say or do something, she slips off her jeans and her panties.

Scott sits back down on the couch and puts his hands around her waist. "Come here," he murmurs sultrily. He both wants to keep looking at her naked form for the rest of his life and get on with the program.

Tessa takes his hands in hers and moves them up to her breasts. He loves it when she's this forward. "Condom?" she moans as he tweaks both her nipples at the same time.

"Bathroom cabinet," he replies, stroking her skin and moving one of his hands lower and lower until his fingers reach between her legs. She's already all wet and sloppy just the way he likes it. 

She climbs in his lap and laces her arms around his neck. "Let's go then," she whispers licking his ear lobe. 

Tessa yelps as he grabs her ass with both hands, crashing their bodies together, her thighs holding him firmly in place. She can feel every inch of him up against her center. Scott gets up quickly and carries her all the way to the bathroom.  

He brings her up to the sink. "Drawer," he nods towards it. His hands are clearly full so she grabs the box and notices with a smile that it's brand new and has never been opened.  

She kisses him deeply as much as she can in this position and grinds her hips into his as if to tell him to get going. Which he does. He carries her all the way back to the living room as if she weighs nothing. Practicing lifts as much as they have in the last 20 years definitely has its perks.

He lets himself fall into the couch with Tessa on top of him. His fingers find her again and he starts to rub her gently in circular movements. She moans and bucks her hips for more. His fingers lower, play at her soaking wet entrance and enter her slowly. He keeps his eyes on her face, he loves seeing the pleasure take over. His fingers gently pump in and out of her, so agonizingly slow, to make it last. He's making her work for it. His fingers go deep and slow; they curl perfectly inside of her and hit that sweet spot every time they enter.

Her eyes are closed, her legs quiver and she clutches his shoulders, her nails nearly making him bleed. "Inside me, now," she orders, her voice shaky, as she feels around for a condom, eagerly ripping the box open. She takes him inside her hand and strokes him languorously. She delights in the way his face hardens and his grip on her tightens. He feels like steel encased in velvet. With a little maneuvering, she opens the foil packet with her teeth and finally slides the condom onto him. 

"Come here, T," he says softly. 

Tessa guides him to her entrance and slowly slides him inside, effectively impaling herself on top of him. She doesn't dare move at first, it's been a long time since the last time and she needs time to adjust to the feeling of Scott inside of her. Their eyes lock and there's so many emotions in his irises that she can almost hear his stream of consciousness inside her own head.

His hands come up to cup her face tenderly. "You're okay?" he asks softly. He needs a minute to gather his thoughts and feelings. Being back inside of her is heaven and hell combined. Hot and tight. And so fucking wet. He feels like he's going to explode any moment. It feels good, it feels right. It feels like winning two gold medals: the closeness of their bodies, the choreographed movements and that rush of adrenaline they're both addicted to.  

"Yeah," she says, encasing his hands in her own, "I'm good." She moves one of them to her breast and the other to her waist and Scott squeezes her gently. 

Tessa puts her hands on his chest to brace herself and finally starts rocking into him. The first thrust is always the best one. That perfect moment when she can feel every inch of him sliding in and out of her. He feels oh so deep inside of her this way. There's a feeling of completeness creeping inside of her, one that she hasn't felt in a long time. She bounces up and down on him, undulating her hips slowly and languidly, as she watches him. His face is twisted from pleasure and she can clearly tell he wants her to go faster but she's definitely enjoying riding him nice and slow, building up to their climaxes lazily. Scott's hips buck up against every thrust she makes and she can feel him getting closer. She knows this deep and slow rhythm must be driving him out of his mind. His hands are gripping her hips so tight, accompanying each of her movements, that she's sure he's going to leave marks. His eyes are semi-closed in pleasure.

She is hot everywhere and so wet that she feels like she's dripping all over him. And she's pretty sure she's screaming her head off. Curses fly all around them. She hears Scott grunt and groan each time he sees himself entering her completely. His eyes bounce everywhere: from her face, her breasts, her navel to the place where they're joined. There is just too much to take in all at once.

She can feel herself start to spasm and she knows she's going to come soon. She decides to put them both out of this slow torture and starts slamming herself harder onto him. She can feel Scott twitching inside of her and he grabs her ass to thrust deeper into her. With him so deep inside her, from this angle, he's hitting that sweet spot over and over again as she rides him erratically. The rhythm is gone, this perfectly choreographed dance becomes pure chaos and their thrusts are now feverishly uncoordinated. The time for slow enjoyment is over, they just want to come as fast as possible.

Tessa is pretty sure her heart is exploding; her throat is hoarse, her whole body is shivering and her legs feel like they're having a seizure. She slams herself hard onto him repeatedly, Scott's hands guiding her and pressing her closer, and then, the light explodes behind her eyes. She can't even hear herself yelling his name over and over again as she clutches his shoulders tightly. Every muscle inside of her tightens. She shudders on top of him for what seems like an eternity as she rides the waves of her orgasm before her body goes limp. Scott has to steady her, encircling his arms around her waist, as he thrusts roughly once, twice, thrice inside of her before he releases with a final roar. Their muscles are wobbly and they're just a wet and sweaty tangle of limbs on the couch now. Their hearts are hammering inside their chests.

"Fuck, Tess," he says, winded. Her legs are still wrapped around him and he's still inside of her. 

She raises her head to him, a huge smile on her reddened face. "Yeah… So… We did that," she laughs, catching her breath.

Scott laughs with her at the absurdity of the situation. They just fucked on his couch like a couple of horny teenagers. He gently pulls out of her and disposes of the condom as she climbs off and flops next to him, snuggling into his side. 

His mouth is immediately on her neck, pressing soft open mouth kisses. "Bed?" he asks, gesturing to the ceiling with a nod.

Scott is stroking her arm as he kisses the spot he likes so much. She is so over sensitive right now she feels like she could have another orgasm just from his touch. "Yeah," she agrees, "this couch is gonna ruin our backs."

With whatever strength he has left, he gathers her in his arms and carries her all the way upstairs to his bedroom. It's a miracle he doesn't trip on the way. It's kind of weird to be this comfortable naked with someone who has literally seen you go through puberty. But then again, not really. 

The bed is rumpled and undone and Tessa is not the least bit surprised. He throws her ungracefully on the bed and she yelps. He goes to his dresser and takes out one of his hockey jerseys that he hands to her. 

Tessa quickly puts it on as Scott slips into a t-shirt and a clean pair of boxer briefs. She gets under the covers and he joins her. She curls up against his side, her ear pressed against the crazy beat of his heart as he gently strokes her hair.  

"So, this was not part of the plan," she murmurs after a few moments of silence.

"Yeah…" he says. Are they seriously going to have that talk now? 

"Last time we did this was quite a while ago…" she notes, looking up at him and Scott wonders if there's a point or a meaning she's trying to convey.

He opens his mouth to speak but she beats him to it. "I missed it," she says. "Us like this, I mean."

Scott wonders if he's dreaming. Tessa is not usually that forthright about her feelings, especially feelings in regards to all of their little 'slip-ups'. "Yeah," he replies, "I missed it too."

"We're good together. Really good. We fit," she whispers in a yawn, rubbing her eyes.

"Yeah we do, Tess," he agrees, still playing with her hair. "How about we get some sleep now T, eh? It's almost 6 am and we have a busy day today." 

She yawns again and nods her head. "Goodnight Scott."

"Night Tutu," he replies, kissing her forehead softly. 

She nestles deeper against him and he wraps his arms around her, holding her tight. She falls asleep almost instantly. She's still sick and he must have really worn her out…

Fuck.  

Fuck. 

How is he ever going to sleep now? Scott wonders as he is left, once again, wide awake staring at his ceiling.  

Round and around and around and around we go.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter Text

Ilderton, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

When Tessa wakes up the next morning, she can tell that that the sun has already been up for quite some time. The light filtering through the blinds is strong. Still sleepy-eyed, she feels around on the other side of the bed; the sheets are cool and there is no Scott to be seen. She sits up abruptly, heart racing, looking around before her eyes falls onto a folded piece of paper on Scott's pillow and on the alarm clock. Shit, it's almost 12 pm already. She slept like a log. It's not really surprising when you consider how strenuous last night's activities were and the time they actually went to bed at. 

She picks up the note and Scott's messy scrawl is there to greet her. 

My gorgeous Tess, 

Currently 10:30 am. 

Waited as long as I could, didn't want to wake you up, you were so peaceful and you needed the rest. Went for a run. Shower and towels are all yours. Feel free to borrow some of my clothes. Panties currently drying in the bathroom. Food is waiting for you downstairs. 

Be back soon. 

Love, 

Scott

This reads more like a telegram than an actual note but it's so quintessentially Scott that it just makes her smile. And she can't believe he actually hand-washed her panties this morning… 

She enters the bathroom attached to his bedroom and indeed finds her panties on the edge of the bathtub. They're not dry yet so she'll have to go without for the moment. She steps underneath the steaming jet of the shower. God, do her muscles need this. She already misses the daily physio courtesy of B2Ten.

Of course Scott doesn't have a hair dryer… Wet hair in a bun it is then. She finds a pair of his sweatpants and socks to wear with the hockey jersey from yesterday, and makes her way downstairs. 

"Scott?" she calls out. She knows he's not there but just in case. He has made her watch way too many zombies movies.

Tessa makes a beeline for the kitchen and sits at the bar. She's famished and thank God for Scott, he has put the pizza leftovers on the counter. How he knows her well. There's nothing better than cold pizza for breakfast. 

She has to stop at one slice even though she's hungry for more. She knows Scott is going to come back any minute and he'll, most likely, be starving and wanting to eat lunch together. 

The blinds are open in the living room and, in the light of day, she can see how much of a mess they actually made last night. Scott is not the neatest person there is, but she can't stand to see his place this trashed. Empty beer bottles are littering the coffee table as well as nachos, popcorn and candy leftovers. Their clothes are scattered everywhere around the room. It looks like a hungry sex tornado came through here. 

She starts tidying up the living room: food stored away in its rightful place in the kitchen, table wiped clean and their clothes neatly folded in a pile on the couch. She brings Scott's t-shirt up to her face and inhales deeply. Fuck, are her hormones all out of whack? His smell is intoxicating and makes her heart stutter. She has to calm down and get a fucking grip. Right now. They need to have a calm discussion about this. 

In 20 years, they've had a lot of slip-ups and they were always able to somewhat overlook it and put their partnership and competition above everything else. Competition and skating together was what mattered the most but now that competition seems to be definitely off the table, what now? Does she even know what she wants? Does she want to explore this? Should they? Is it really prudent? What if it all ends terribly wrong? They are very different people after all. 

She needs to take a deep breath and ground herself. She closes her eyes, inhales and exhales deeply, feeling the plush carpet underneath her socked feet. Her breathing is already a lot calmer after a few inhalations. 

She hears the key in the lock and turns in the direction of the front door. Scott is literally dripping with sweat and he's also holding a cup of coffee that smells absolutely heavenly. That must have been a long run. Maybe he needed to ground himself as well after last night. Well, this morning.

"Oh hey, you're awake," Scott remarks when he notices her standing in the middle of the living room, his shirt in her hand. 

What does he do now? Should he just go and kiss her? On the cheek? On the lips? There's still a lot of tension between them in the room. He doesn't think that this electric current between them will ever stop running. 

"Hey," she replies. "Yeah, I woke up not too long ago." She closes the space between them and gently kisses the corner of his mouth. 

"Here, I got you some coffee," he says, offering her the Starbucks cup he's holding. "Double cappuccino with almond milk, did I get that right?" he checks.

He is a godsend. She needs at least two liters of coffee right now. "Yes, that's exactly it!" she replies gratefully. "Thank you you so much for the coffee, that's really sweet of you. And for the note also, and for the pizza breakfast. The greatest thanks go to you!" she exclaims happily, making a funny worshipping gesture with her hands.

He smiles widely and that's the best thing she's seen since she woke up. "I didn't want you to wake up alone, I'm sorry, but the hours were passing and I needed to go for a run," he explains, taking all of her in. She's wearing his clothes and her hair is still noticeably wet. He should be able to see her like this every morning. He wants to.

"No worries," she says, drinking some much needed coffee. "I cleaned up a bit, we made a mess last night."

"You didn't have to do that, I would have cleaned up the place." 

She gives him a look. "No, you wouldn't have," she raises her eyebrows, deadpan. 

He laughs. "No, I wouldn't have," he admits with a smile and engulfs her in a sweaty hug, kissing the top of her head. "Thank you, T."

"How about you go take a shower and I'll take care of lunch?" Tessa suggests, relishing in his embrace. 

"I don't know what I'd do without you Tess," he smiles, heading upstairs. 

"Well, obviously you'd starve," she yells so that he can hear her from all the way up.

She's glad she brought groceries last night, they need to eat healthy after last night's indulgences. Grilled salmon and green beans it is. She's not the most amazing cook out there but that she can do in her sleep. She has done this dish so many times that her hands move automatically to carry out all the steps of the recipe. Her mind is completely elsewhere… So many questions… They really do need to have a talk. Or should they just leave it at that? Do they really need to talk this through after all? Their relationship is so messy and undefinable in the best and worst ways possible. All of their therapists would probably yell at them to talk and communicate. Don't keep everything bottled up Tessa, they've always said.

She's still deep in thought when Scott comes down from his shower and wraps his arms around her from behind. "What's cooking, good looking?" he asks, raining kisses down the side of her neck. He smells divine: clean and citrusy like a sunny summer evening. She melts into his warm scent surrounding her.

He just can't get enough of her. Especially after last night. He feels like everything has changed. For the first time, he feels like they can finally be honest with their feelings. Tessa is not a risk taker, not with her feelings anyways, he knows that. He knows she'll need a great deal of convincing before whatever this is is allowed to continue. 

"The Tessa classic," she answers, fiddling with pots and utensils. 

"I do love the Tessa classic. Had it last night. Tasted great," he grins. She knows he's not talking about the dish and can't help but chuckle a little. He never fails to make her laugh, that's one of the things she loves about him. 

"I'll set the table," he says ruffling through drawers and cabinets. Tessa cannot believe how domestic this all feels. Just being near him is a comfort and helps quiet her mind. Just like when she concentrated on feeling the carpet underneath her feet, Scott keeps her grounded. He keeps her here, in the present, in the moment. 

When the food is finally done and they take their seats right across from each other, the silence is both comfortable from years of being together in the same enclosed space and unsettling from all the unsaid things floating in the air around them. 

Scott decides to try small talk first. "So, what's your plan for the rest of the week?" he asks. 

"Oh, not much. Spending as much time as possible with my friends and family, answering the 10 000 emails that are waiting for me in my inbox and getting my house in order before leaving for Toronto and Montréal. What about you?" 

"Pretty much the same," he says. 

Silence is back as they finish eating their plates. Tessa is becoming more and more nervous by the minute. It's never been this awkward after sex. The last times, it was implicitly accepted that it was a one-time deal (however false that turned out to be) that would never happen again and that no discussion was ever needed. They were on the same page. They had goals. Romance and sex and feelings stood in the way of those goals so it was never on the table. But now… Now their competitive skating days are most likely over. 

"I'm sorry…" she starts. "I don't know why it's so awkward right now." She forces herself to look at him in the eyes, to connect, to try and decipher what he must be thinking and feeling. 

"I'm sorry too," he also says. "It does feel really weird right now and I can't explain it. We've had sex before and it's never felt that way the morning after." 

"I think we need to talk," she admits. She needs all the tools she has learned in therapy to be able to have this conversation. She knows they need to be honest and truthful with each other. They need to communicate. And they've learned how to do just that. She almost has to force herself to talk about her feelings, it's not really a comfortable place for her. She doesn't like her emotions and her most inner self to be on display that way. It makes her smile a little that Scott is the exact opposite: he wears his heart on his sleeve and he needs to talk through and sort through every single one of his thoughts and feelings. 

"I like you Tessa," he says, reaching across the table to cover her hand with his. She opens her mouth to speak but he's faster. "I mean, I love you, I've loved you for 20 years. You're my best friend. The one person who knows me better than I know myself. But I also really really like you," he rambles. "Not in a platonic way even though we say that all the time to everybody who asks. I really like you in a 'slam you against the door and have my way with you' way. Or in a 'Netflix and chill and could kiss you and touch you for hours on end' way," he finishes his eyes locked with hers. 

She has to have a moment to take all of that in. That's a lot of information and emotions being thrown her way. "Netflix and chill already means watch Netflix and have sex. It doesn't actually mean chill," is the only thing that comes out of her mouth. She has years of media training behind her and that's the only thing she can come up with. She wants to slap herself. 

"What?" Scott asks completely taken aback. 

"Netflix and chill. It means come over to have sex. You just pretend you want to watch Netflix. It's a euphemism. I looked it up on urban dictionary." Man, she is digging herself into a hole that will lead her straight to China. She's looking for oil at this point. 

"Tessa, are you seriously giving me a vocabulary lesson right now?" he asks with a small smile. Years ago, that would have pissed him off to no end and he would have gone off on her. Now he knows that's just the way she copes, one of her defense mechanisms. For this to work, he has to keep his temper in check and she has to let her walls come down a bit. He just has to be patient and not relent. 

Tessa needs a moment to process and organize her thoughts.

"I really like you too," she says after a few seconds. "I'm sorry," she rambles, "about the Netflix and chill thing. I love you too and I really really like you too. In the same ways you do," she finishes. 

He brushes his thumb over the back of her hand. "I'm glad to hear that." He pauses and their eyes connect. "What do we do now?"

"What do you want to do?" she asks, afraid to be the first one to put themselves out there. 

"I want to try," Scott says. "I think we deserve to try to see where this goes. We were always afraid in case something went wrong and didn't want to take the chance and that's understandable but at some point, we need to face the facts."

"What facts?" She is genuinely curious. She doesn't know where he's going with this. 

Scott takes a deep breath. This is 20 years in the making. "The fact that neither of us have managed to make one single long-term relationship work ever since we were teenagers. The fact that there is never going to be anyone who will be happy to date us while the other one is around knowing they'll never be able to come between us. All our memories, all the history, the private jokes, our own little language and keywords. The fact that there is never going to be anyone who will be able to compete with what we have with each other. Understanding our bond, our connection, our love, all the successes and the hardships we've been through. I'm always comparing other girls to you, Tess, and they've always come up short. That's not fair to them, that's not fair to us. We've been emotionally married with each other for a fucking long time, Tessa," he explains. Time to lay it all out there. Rip his beating heart out of his chest and lay it at her feet. For her to stomp onto or cherish forever. 

"Yeah, you're right…," she admits somewhat reluctantly. "I think we were able to push through it and suppress it before when we had competition or the possibility of competition. We sublimated it, in a way. To make our skating partnership the number one focus. To reach our common goal. We knew we could never jeopardize that. Maybe that wasn't the healthiest but we made it work."

"We would have been a disaster all those years ago. We weren't ready. We just wanted to win. There was never room for more than the few encounters we allowed ourselves to have," he carries on. "That's not the case anymore, T, we've both grown a lot in these last few years."

"I'm so scared it won't work and that we are going to ruin a 20-year friendship," she confesses, her head down. "What if that happens, what then? I'm never going to able to not have you in my life."

"There is no reason for this not to work. We're older now. We have changed a lot since we first came together. We're the best version of ourselves right now. We're better for each other now. We learned to communicate better and more effectively. We basically had marriage counseling before getting married. It's the best way to start a relationship." 

"Scott…" she whispers. 

"I'm scared too, T. So fucking scared. But do you really want to carry on like before, like last night never happened and go back to the way things used to be? I know I don't. I like having you in this way. I like you being mine and me being yours. I like the sex and the intimacy. I want to wake up next to you every day and be able to touch you and kiss you every time I fucking want to. I want to stop from having to constantly refrain myself around you. What do you think?" he finally asks.

"I think it sounds amazing. We're not looking back, we're not going there. No anger, no blame, no grudges, remember?" she smiles. 

"I remember," he says softly. "Okay, so now that we've both decided to try this 'let's really be together' thing, what do we do?" Scott asks, a huge grin on his face. The weight of the world has been lifted off of his heart and shoulders. 

"We do the exact same thing we were doing before but, you know, we add sex and a lot of kissing to this thing," she says, a cheeky tone in her voice. 

"I approve of this plan," Scott replies, smiling back at her. "Listen," he continues, "I know you're scared Tessa. I know huge displays of emotions are not your thing and that you probably want to puke right now, but listen, we'll make it work. I promise. We have all the tools to make it work and most importantly, we both want to make it to work." 

Tessa laughs. He does know her so well. "Scott, there is no one on this planet I trust more than you. I know you'll do anything for me. And I hope you know that I, too, will do anything for you. I know I'm not the most open person, but I hope you know you much you mean to me," she finishes. 

If he's not able to do it for himself, he'll always do it for her. "I know Tess," he reassures her. "So, it's all business as usual, right? Do we tell people?" he asks. He knows she's the boss of this kind of thing. He knows she understands the game better than anyone else. 

"We are going to do exactly what we've been doing these past few years: avoid answering the question and pivot back to the things we really want to say. This doesn't concern anyone but us. No one has a right to this part of us. The off the ice part of our life is ours and ours only. Let them speculate," she simply says. 

"Look, it's not that I'm not enjoying all these little games we play with the media, I am, but we both know I have a severe case of 'no brain to mouth filter', so I'm not sure we can trust me on this one," he laughs. 

"We'll make bullet points and we'll repeat those and not deviate until we're blue in the face. Don't worry about it, I've got you," she pats his hand. "Plus, the whole 'will they/won't they' 'have they/haven't they' is kind of our brand. It's good PR and marketing to avoid answering this question for as long as we have."

"That's cold, Tessa," he remarks. He loves it when she's like this. Business Tessa is a sight to behold. 

"Look, they don't get every part of us. We give them enough already. This is for us. We're doing this for us," she repeats. "Agreed?" 

"Agreed," he says. "Should we shake on it?" he laughs. 

"How about we kiss on it, Scott?" she suggests, throwing a flirty smile his way. 

He leans across the table to reach her. "That's even better," he says pressing his lips against her in the softest kiss possible. 

As soon as their mouths meet and their kiss deepens, electricity and tingles spread throughout their bodies. Sometimes they can't believe how lucky they are to have found each other. People search their whole lives for someone that special. 

What were the odds?

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - 2005

Scott's temper has always determined the mood of the day. He's all emotions and she's all about control. She usually absorbs a lot of his anger. When Scott isn't happy with his day, Tessa's day is not going to go well either. That's just the way it is. Everyone at Canton knows this. They balance each other out. 

"This is so fucking stupid!" Scott exclaims after another failed lift. "It's not fucking working!" he yells. 

He puts Tessa back on the ice, on her skates, and they both stop in the middle of the rink. "I'm sorry, Scott, maybe I should use my core more, to make it more fluid," she suggests. 

"It's not you Tess, it's this fucking move. I hate Latin! It's not working!" he gets angry. 

"You need move to work," Marina Zoueva yells from the edges. "Move very pretty. You need work to make perfect." 

"It's not fucking working Marina!" Scott yells back. "I'm sick of this. We've been at it for two weeks and we can't get it right!" 

"Scott, you need to calm down," Tessa says softly, laying her hand on his arm. 

"Don't tell me what I need to do Tess!" he gets worked up, flinching at her touch and violently snatches his arm away from under her. "I know what I fucking need to do! Do you? It's this move!"

Hurt spreads through her chest. She knows she shouldn't take it personally. She knows that. She knows that he has a temper and that he doesn't mean it. But the idea that her touch is unwelcome is unbearable. "Scott…" she tries again softy. "Let's do it again, ok?"

"Do you understand that we're competing as seniors for the first time in one week, in London, our hometown by the way where all of our families and friends will be watching, and that we're not fucking ready? Do you get that Tess?" he yells again.

"I do know Scott, I do know what it means to us both. Please, let's just try again," she pleads.

He's not even listening anymore and skates back to the edge of the rink and storms off to the changing rooms. "Scott, come back!" she skates after him. 

"Let him have break," Marina says having watched the whole thing unfold. "He need alone and calm." She lays a comforting hand on Tessa's shoulder. 

Tessa hates this. She hates feeling like this. Like one part of her is hurting. Nothing feels right when Scott doesn't feel right. She hates being alone on the ice. 

"I'll go take a break too, okay?" Tessa says as she puts her guards back on and goes to put on a coat and a scarf. A little fresh air will do her some good. 

When she steps out of the rink, she finds Scott on the bench next to the entrance. He's bent over, his head in his hands. Tessa immediately comes to a halt, but only hesitates a second before going to sit next to him. 

Scott can feel her presence as soon as she sits next to him, their thighs touching. "I know you probably want to be alone, Scott," she says. "I won't talk, I promise. I just don't want to be alone right now. I need you close. I'm sorry, I'll shut up now," she says softly. 

And she keeps her word. Scott feels like shit. He can't get his temper in check and sometimes he's way too harsh. Tessa is a lot more fragile than she appears. He knows she takes everything to heart, internalizes it and then thinks she did something bad. He knows that. He never means to hurt her. Sometimes, his emotions get the best of him and he can't get a handle on them. They're always boiling near the surface.

He straightens up and puts his arms around her, pressing her close. For once, she's the one who warms him up. "I'm sorry, Tess," he finally says. "I shouldn't have talked to you that way, I'm sorry. I shouldn't take my anger out on you. You did nothing wrong."

Her whole body feels warm again at his words. "It's okay, Scott. I know where it comes from. I know you didn't want to be mean."

"It's not okay, T," he says, looking at her. "It should always be us against the world not me yelling at you," he apologizes. 

"It's not the first time and it won't be the last, Scott. You just…," she hesitates, "you just need to learn how to control your emotions a little better," she finishes, laying her hand on his thigh.

"I know," he agrees. 

"Listen, I know you're scared of making a fool out of ourselves as seniors in front of basically everyone we know, but it's not going to happen," she reassures him. 

"We're not ready, Tess. I can't with this lift, I can't," he sighs.

"We'll get ready. And we'll get this lift off the ice, I promise," she says assuredly. 

He shouldn't be surprised but sometime she amazes him. "What's got you so confident?" he asks with a small smile. 

His smile gives her the boost she needs. "Don't you realize?" she asks. "Don't you realize how fortunate we are to have found each other? We've been skating together for 8 years and in those 8 years, there is nothing we couldn't achieve together. I know you're not superstitious and that you don't believe in this kind of stuff, but I know, in my heart I know, that we were meant for each other and that we were written in the stars. It wasn't just luck that made me meet your aunt, fate brought us together. And we owe it to ourselves to fulfill what it has planned for us. It's not going to go wrong."

Scott is stunned by her speech. Tessa is the most rational person he knows. He has trouble believing she's really buying into this crap. "We make our own destiny, Tess," he says. "It's not luck, it's not fate. It's work and sweat and pain. We work our asses off for this."

"You think what you want, Scott," she shrugs. "Of course we train for it, but I truly believe that some kind of higher power put us together in the first place. When you think about it, really think about it, what were the odds we would find the perfect partner? Skaters often search for years and years before finding it. We found each other on the first try. How rare is that? Have you heard of another story like ours? If that's not fate, I don't know what is," she smiles. 

Her smile is contagious. "You're getting soft on me T," he says, finally getting up and offering her his hands to help her get up as well. 

He engulfs her in his arms as soon as she's up. "You're lucky to have me and you know it, Scott," she grins. 

"I know I'm lucky," he kisses the top of her head. "Thank you for putting up with me," he says. 

"I'm lucky too," she says softly. "You're the best partner ever," she says with a smile. 

"I'm the only partner you've ever had, Tess," he notes. 

"That's why you're the best," she explains. 

"Ok, let's go try that lift one more time, Marina is going to be pissed," he says taking her hand, lacing their fingers together and walking back into the rink. 

"As long as we're together, there's nothing we can't do," she offers cheerfully. 

*

London, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

"We can't do that!" Tessa exclaims after listening to his suggestion. 

It's Saturday late at night and they're laying in bed, laptop in front of them, browsing through YouTube for good songs to skate to.

"Come on!" he pleads. "The audience would LOVE it!" 

"I'm not skating to Baby Got Back, Scott!" she says, giving him a look. "And you're not going to convince Sam to do it either."

"It would be so much fun," he carries on. 

"This is one of your worst ideas yet, just for the record," she points out, clicking on another video. "I'm vetoing this. We're not going from Moulin Rouge to men who love women with giant asses. What about Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel?" she suggests. 

Now he's the one giving her a look. "How you still think I don't know you by heart after 20 years is beyond me," he shakes his head with a laugh. "We're not Center Staging this, Tess."

"I don't know what you're talking about," she says innocently. 

"Yeah you do T," he insists. "You've made me watch this movie literally a hundred times. We're not doing it." 

"You can't say no to Michael Jackson," she cries out. "It's a great song. It could make for an amazing choreography." 

"I'm not saying no to Michael Jackson, I'm saying no to this particular song. How about You Rock My World?" he suggests. "The beats are amazing."

"Hmm," she says typing the song into YouTube's search bar until the clip appears and starts playing. "That's actually really really good," she says after a few bars. 

"My life will never be the same 'cause girl, you came and changed the way I walk, the way I talk. I cannot explain the things I feel for you but girl, you know it's true. Stay with me, fulfill my dreams and I'll be all you'll need," he sings along to her as he's so used to doing when they skate. 

"I didn't know you were such a Michael fan," she notes with a smile. 

"I'm a Tessa fan," he replies, closing the distance between them and kissing her enthusiastically. "The lyrics speak to me on a personal level, you understand," he smiles.

Her arms immediately lock around his neck and she goes to deepen the kiss, sinking them both more into the bed. Kissing Tessa should be an Olympic sport. Scott would win every damn gold medal. He can't get enough of her. Being free to do it whenever he wants to is even better. He will never get over the feeling of their tongues dancing around each other and their breaths melting together. 

"You don't think the lyrics are a bit too transparent? For us I mean," she asks in between impassioned kisses. 

"More than when we did Stay?" he raises his eyebrows. 

"Point taken," she admits.

Tessa goes back to kissing Scott deeply, laying her whole body on top of his. He makes quick work of her pajama top, letting his hands wander all over her body, still marveling at the fact that she has basically given him the key to Wonderland. The feel of her naked breasts pressed up against him is amazing and enough to get him aroused in half a second. She makes him feel like a teenager again. Her mouth nibbles and licks its way from his lips, to his jawline and finally to that spot behind his ear. Scott grips her hips tighter as Tessa reaches the hem of his t-shirt and quickly removes it. Her head goes down to his chest, peppering it with wet open mouthed kisses. He has to refrain from fisting her hair in his hand as she continues to go down and down until she reaches the waistband of his pajama bottoms. 

"Wait, wait, wait, Tess," Scott stops her, putting his hands on top of hers, effectively stopping her on her way. She straightens her head up and looks at him confused. 

"Something wrong?" she asks looking at him through her eyelashes. That does things to him. And she knows it does. He can see it in the little smirk that plays on her reddened lips. 

"Aren't you hearing this?" he asks and pauses. 

The automatic shuffle is on on YouTube and the next video has started playing. Listening closely, Tessa can hear the smooth croon of Coldplay's Fix You.

"Oh my God, it actually is that song," she smiles, pulling herself up to be on his level. "Brings back memories," she notes. 

"I know! It was so weird when Alex and Maia chose that song as part of their program. We had to listen to it so many times during competitions, I thought I was going to go crazy," Scott says. 

"Yeah, me too," she agrees. "It's a good song though. Very sad but really emotional. Do you remember that party?"

"Yeah, that was crazy. I couldn't believe I actually convinced you to come to a party with me," Scott reminisces. "What year was this again? 2004?"

"2005," Tessa affirms with certainty. "Halloween 2005. You went as Robin, I went as Britney Spears in her Baby One More Time days."

"Oh yeah, I remember that. You looked hot," he grins.

"I looked like jailbait," she points out.

Scott kisses her nose. "You looked cute," he says softly. "How about a dance for old's time sake?" he suggests, getting up and offering her his hand. 

Tessa turns up the volume on the laptop and takes his hand. Scott's arms encircle her waist and pull her close as she locks her arms around his neck and they slowly start dancing. 

Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - 2005

The party is going strong on this Halloween night. Everyone from the ice rink is here: it's the party to be at. And everyone is drunk. Except Tessa. She has had the one drink that she allowed herself to have and not one sip more. The Canadian Championship that would determine if they made the Olympic team for the Turin games is only three months away and she is not going to ruin her strict regimen with booze and junk food. The Pussycat Dolls are loudly screeching Don't Cha and she almost regrets being the only one sober. Sober surrounded by drunk is not a very joyous state of mind. Scott has been dancing and grinding with every girl that came in his vicinity for the last hour. At least he's having fun. He is such a happy drunk though: all loud laughs, chaotic dancing and jumping around.

She cannot believe she has let herself get dragged into this. Scott worked his magic on her and she just couldn't say no to his puppy eyes and his sweet smile. She's even in costume: schoolgirl Britney Spears was the best she could do on such short notice. It's short and sexy and reveals way too much, but she's not ashamed of her body. She works for it, she knows she looks good. A lover of all things Halloween, Scott has gone all out and has bought himself a Robin costume. This late in the evening, only the top half remains now, he's somehow changed back into a pair of jeans. He looks silly and goofy but it fits his personality to a T. He's extroverted, outgoing and everybody's best friend. All the more so when he's liquored up. 

Kaitlyn has been talking her ear off for quite some time now but, at this point, she's just tuning her out. Is this supposed to be fun? Is that how regular teenagers enjoy themselves? If so, she's pretty glad she's a competitive skater. This just seems pointless. 

"Are you listening to me?" Kaitlyn asks, touching her arm. 

"Yeah, sure," she replies, pulling herself together. "You should definitely ask him out, he's hot." She was talking about a boy she liked, right?

"Maybe I should just wait for Truth or Dare, it's going to come sooner rather than later, everybody is wasted. I'll get my chance if I play my cards just right," she says with a suggestive smile. 

Tessa laughs at that. They'll have to handcuff her to the table to make her play Truth or Dare. She's not going to be exchanging saliva or doing other things with perfect strangers. Yuck. She knows how these games end. Skaters don't let loose a lot, but when they do, like tonight, it's no-holds-barred and she's not here for that. 

"Speaking of hot," Kaitlyn says slyly, "look who's coming over here." She points at Fedor who is making his way toward them.

He's not dressed up, but it's not surprising. He's at least 7 years older than the rest of them, it's not really his thing anymore. Tessa really likes Fedor. First of all, he's Marina's son and second he is really handsome. All tall, dark and well built. He's got those amazing blue eyes that Tessa can just get lost in. He's got a bit of a reputation, but Tessa wouldn't be opposed to kissing him. In a game of Truth or Dare, let's say.

"Hi Tessa," Fedor says smoothly as he moves to stand a little closer to her. "Are you having fun? You look gorgeous." 

"Hi Fedor. Thank you," she replies, blushing like crazy. "Yeah, it's a fun party." Ok, maybe she overstated this a little bit, but maybe if he keeps talking to her, the night could get better. 

"Would you like to dance?" he offers. Rihanna's Pon de Replay is blaring, that could get interesting. 

Just as she's about to agree, Scott appears out of nowhere, grabbing her arm and pulling her toward the dance floor. "Come on Tess," he says, "dance with me!"

Scott presses her close against him, his hands automatically going to her hips to guide her movements. The rhythm is not hard to follow, it's all undulating hips and body rolls. She's so used to having his body near her, in her dancing space, that following his lead is like second nature. No matter how cross she is with him.

"Scott!" she cries out. "What are you doing? I was just about to dance with him!" she says irritated. 

He presses her even closer to him; their bodies are completely aligned and in perfect synch to the music. "I know, I don't like that guy," he whispers in her ear. "He's creepy. He's 23 years old, he shouldn't want to hang out with a bunch of teenagers."

"Stop it, he's nice!" she counters. "He told me I looked gorgeous," she says, blushing a little and Scott realizes how much of a crush Tessa has on Fedor. He doesn't like it one bit.

"You are gorgeous, Tess," he sighs. "But still, I don't like him. He only wants to hook up with you. Plus, I don't like seeing you dance with anybody else. You're my partner."

Tessa blushes even harder if that's possible. "He does not want to have sex with me, Scott!" she cries out. 

He only raises an eyebrow at her, giving her a 'do you really think I'm dumb' look.

"And what should I say?" Tessa asks. "I've been watching you dance with other girls all night."

"That's not dancing, that's jumping around and being silly," he explains in the crook of her neck. "We are dancing. And you're the only one I'll ever dance with, Tess."

Their gazes lock and she feels her anger melt away. He has a way with words and a way with her. He knows exactly what to say. And he does say the sweetest things sometimes. 

She vaguely murmurs her agreement against his chest and keeps on dancing with him. 

They don't notice it, they're lost in their own little bubble, but everyone around them is watching them closely. They're mesmerizing. Their chemistry is off the charts and them being together simply calls everyone's attention. It's impossible to not watch and observe when they dance, on or off the ice. They move as one. They invite you in and yet you feel like you're watching something you shouldn't; a private moment.

The tune changes to a slow song, it's Coldplay's Fix You, and Tessa tries to detach herself and move out of his embrace but he grips her hips tighter and takes her arms up and puts them around his neck. 

"We can't be at a party and not dance at least one slow dance," he explains, tightening his grip and pressing her closer. She smells like vanilla. She smells like home and comfort.

She nestles her head against his chest and, from the corner of her eyes, sees that Fedor has found a new dance partner in Tanith. Well, that's that then. She lets herself be swayed gently by Scott as the song comes to an end. 

"Guys, Truth or Dare in 5 minutes! Get over here!" Meryl yells loudly over the music. She's even more peppy and cheerful when she's this drunk. 

"Ugh," Tessa groans as they pull away from each other and move to sit on one of the couches. "I'm so not doing that," she says, crossing her arms over her abdomen. 

He puts his arm around her shoulder. "Come on, Tess, please," he pleads. "I'm not playing if you aren't. Please. It's gonna be fun." 

"How drunk are you right now?" she asks, looking straight at him trying to determine the level of redness of his cheeks and the dilatation of his pupils. 

"Not drunk enough," he smiles. "Come on, T. Let loose and live a little. It's one night," he tries convincing her. 

She sighs. "Okay, okay, I'll do it for you. But I'm vetoing anything gross or that involves too much nudity," she warns, waggling a finger in his face. 

"I promise I'll look out for you," he says with a smile. And he's not lying. He's not going to let anyone take advantage of her. 

Meryl turns the music to a lower volume and people start sitting in a circle on the living room carpet. "Come on, guys," she motions to Tessa and Scott, "come sit down with us."

Scott and Tessa sit next to each other in the wide circle. There are at least 25 people playing and they all know and train with each other. It's gonna end badly. Or in tears. Or both.

Tess does not feel comfortable and she thanks her good star that she has Scott next to her, keeping his hand on her knee to calm her down. They've been playing the game for some time now and nothing really outrageous has taken place. A lot of eating and drinking disgusting stuff, taking off one item of clothing, revealing some badly kept secret or doing ridiculous things like hopping on one leg and spinning at the same time. That's a relief.

"Your turn, Tessa," Meryl says with a smile. "Truth or dare?" 

"Dare," she says and she can feel Scott's disbelief seep into her. She's been lured into a false sense of safety and she's about to pay the price dearly.

Meryl's smile turns predatory. "I dare you to spend 20 minutes in a dark locked closet with Scott and then come back to tell us all about it."

Tessa cannot believe the gall of that little snot. What is she expecting to happen exactly? Tessa's face hardens and Scott can feel just how pissed off she really is. And he feels a bit guilty about it. He made her play that game.

"Come on Meryl!" Scott cries out. "That's not fair! We're not playing 7 minutes in heaven, it's Truth or Dare."

"It's a dare!" Meryl retorts. "I get to choose Tessa's and I'm choosing this one."

"You don't have to do it, Tess," Scott warns gently. 

"I don't mind," Tessa replies in a saccharine sweet voice. Scott knows her enough to know that's a bad omen. You don't play with Tessa, Tessa plays you. It's a mistake to think otherwise and Meryl is going to pay for that one day or another. "What's the worse that could happen anyway?" 

She stands up, takes Scott's hand almost aggressively, pulls him up and drags him toward the hall's closet. Everybody hollers and laughs at them. He can only follow her. He knows she's pissed. They enter the small darkened closet and hear Meryl lock it behind them. It's so small there's almost no space between them. It's so dark in there he can barely see her features.

"She is such a bitch," Tessa exclaims. He can feel the fury radiating from her body in waves.

"I'm sorry Tessa," he apologizes for putting her in this situation. His hands find hers and he just holds them in his gently. 

"She's trying to stir shit up," Tessa says after some time. Her voice is more even-keeled now. "She's just jealous that you're a way better skater than Charlie and she knows it." 

Scott feels both elated and uncomfortable at her praise. Even though they do compete against one another, Charlie's his friend. He came as the Batman to his Robin to this party.

Music suddenly comes from the outside. Someone very nicely decided to replay Coldplay's Fix You right against the door. What a mood. Tessa can feel cold fury bubbling up again. 

"This is really stupid," Tessa says, her voice low in case someone is listening in, after a few moments of silence.

"Yeah," Scott agrees. 

The darkness is unsettling. It's wrought with tension. They can barely see each other but they can feel each other's presence. It's electric. She knows his body by heart. She could reach out and touch him now. The closet feels stifling and their breaths are ragged. Tessa can smell the sweetness of alcohol on Scott's breath. 

"I'm sorry," Scott repeats after a time. 

"Don't worry about it," Tessa says, letting go of his hand and blindly trying to feel for his face. "There's no one I'd rather be stuck in a small and dark closet with."

She reaches his jawline and cups his face with one hand. He leans into her touch, closing the gap between their bodies. 

"Tess," he breathes. The electricity crackles. 

She brings his face closer to hers and their foreheads touch. Their mouths are millimeters apart. "I just want to," she stutters. "I want to…" She rubs her face against his like a cat, her lips finding his jawline and his cheek. She kisses him softly there. 

"Tess, please," Scott pleads. His hands are gripping her waist, pressing their bodies together. "Please, don't," he begs. He doesn't have the strength to resist her tonight. 

"We're not doing anything," she assures him, her mouth moving dangerously close to his. 

"Yes, we are," Scott pants. It takes everything he has in him to not lift her up and wrap her all around him. She's still raining kisses all over his face, stroking his neck with her fingers. 

"It doesn't count," she says. If it happens in complete darkness, does it really happen? In the obscurity, reality and fantasy are just one and the same.

It doesn't take more than that to completely break his self control. Scott grabs her ass and slams her against the door. The door rattles a little but they're so engrossed in each other they don't even notice. Her thighs instinctively part and her legs wrap around his waist. Her skirt is so short, Scott is basically gripping her underwear. It does things to his imagination. He can't see it but he can feel the soft cotton. He can feel the heat and the smoothness of her skin. 

Scott devours her neck kissing and sucking the soft skin there. He can hear her gasp and moan over the drumming of his heart in his ears. Her whole body is shivering. Finally, he presses his open mouth on hers, tangling his tongue with hers. She feels so good. 

Tessa cannot contain her moans. There's just too much to feel right now: his hands, his lips, his tongue and his hardness pressed against her center. It's overloading her brain. She can only make sense of the pleasure and the need for more. Her whole body is overheated, a delicious ache settles in her lower abdomen and she can feel her panties becoming increasingly wet. She hopes he can't feel it. 

"I want you so fucking much, Tess," Scott murmurs against her heated skin. His hands are caressing her ass and gripping the seams of her panties.

His words send an army of butterflies to her stomach. "Then take me," she simply says. 

Scott feels like he just got knocked over the head. How many times did he hear her say exactly those words in one of his fantasies? His whole body feels tight. Their lips disconnect and he grazes her cheek with his fingers. He can't see her but he can feel her seriousness. 

"Don't say that if you don't mean it," Scott warns, tracing his tongue along her lips, licking them softly. 

"I mean it," she assures him as she unwraps her legs from around his waist and gets back on solid ground. "Touch me," she urges him. "I want you to."

Scott doesn't need to be told twice. He cups her face with one hand, nestles his face in the crook of the neck, lavishing it with wet kisses. She smells like sex and vanilla. She smells like sin and temptation. That's a heady combination. His other hand grabs her breast through her shirt and gently kneads it. Fuck, he can feel her nipple hardening under his touch and he hears how broken her breathing is. 

He moves his hand lower and lower until it reaches the hem of her skirt. He wants to look into her eyes to see the want and the desire he's sure to find there. He wants to see her face twisted in pleasure. He would carry that image with him forever. He hikes up her skirt around her waist and plays with the elastic of her panties. He silently wonders if she's ever done this before. Slow and gentle it is then.

He slips his hand under her panties and is immediately struck by how hot her skin feels there. His fingers gently part her and she's already sloppy wet. He hears her moan and feels her thighs tightening around his hand. Fuck, she's going to be the death of him. She is so responsive. Tessa has touched herself before, mostly out of curiosity, but having Scott's hand down there is a whole different experience. She feels everything times a thousand. Scott's hand feels so much better, like he flipped the switch of her whole body. It's like hot water flowing all over her. She will never look at his hands the same way ever again. She's always going to imagine them stroking her this way. She moves her hands up to his hair, tugging slightly, trying to refrain herself from fisting it too harshly, and pushes his face against her neck. She wants more. 

Scott's hand cups her and he starts stroking her softly. Tessa's breath hitches and she groans. Fuck, how does this feel so good? He can feel her getting wetter and wetter against his finger. He hasn't done this a whole lot but he knows that's definitely a step in the right direction. He parts her gently and rubs her slit for a few moments before slowly inching one of his fingers inside of her. She gasps and her whole body stiffens. 

"Are you okay?" he asks concerned.

"Don't stop," she moans. "Keep going," she pleads in a whisper. 

She feels so hot, wet and tight, he's sure he's gonna explode at any moment. She's everything he imagined her to be. He starts thrusting his finger inside of her as she cries out. His wrist is pressing against her in the most glorious way as he starts pumping his finger in and out. He can feel her muscles clamp around him at every move. It's driving him crazy.

"Fuck, Tess," he whispers against her lips, devouring her mouth in a deep kiss. 

His finger pushes deeper inside of her. Her hips are bucking under his hand as she tries to press herself closer to him. His palm pushing and rubbing against her at every thrust is the best feeling ever. Her legs are stiffening and a scorching heat is making its way up her spine.

"Don't stop," she moans. She feels like she's on the edge of a cliff and the slightest breeze is going to throw her into the water below. She's shuddering all over and she has to hold onto him to keep herself from falling in a heap to the floor. Her fingers tighten around his neck. 

Starting to understand what she seems to like, he slides his finger out of her and concentrates on rubbing her in that place she seems to love. He can feel the change in her immediately: her thighs are squeezing his hand in place and her moans are getting louder. He slips his tongue in her mouth to swallow her sounds and just rubs her faster and faster. 

Tessa feels herself falling over the edge. Her whole body contracts, convulses and shatters into a thousand pieces. His mouth absorbs all of her pleasure as she bites his lip to keep herself from screaming. Her muscles keep fluttering inside of her. She has never felt anything like that before. Not to this extent. Is this what all the fuss is about? This glorious feeling of warmth and adrenaline rushing through her body? Her skin is covered in a thin layer of sweat, her heart is beating madly. How do people go out and do things when they could be doing this all day?

Their kisses slow down as Scott removes his hand from her panties. "Did you just…?" he asks almost shyly. He's pretty sure he's made her come but he just wants to check.

Tessa runs her hands all over him, caressing his chest, his hips and cupping his face. "Yeah, I think I did. That was amazing." She closes the gap between them and kisses him deeply. 

She presses her body closer to his and feels him hard against her stomach. His erection is pushing almost instinctively against her, trying to find relief. She slides her hand down to his crotch and cups him. He feels oh so hard. She's never felt a man like this before and while she has a general idea of what to do, she's pretty new to this thing. 

Scott can feel himself getting harder under her touch. It's the best feeling ever. "Tess," he groans. "You don't have to…"

"I want to," she breathes. "Show me how," she asks. He feels a rush knowing he's going to be the first man she touches this way. 

Her hands go to his waistband and start to unbuckle his belt. She reaches around to his ass, giving him a firm squeeze for good measure and pulls down his jeans a little. She slips her hand into his boxer briefs and takes him out. 

She gives him a tentative stroke and pleasure submerges him. Fuck, fuck, fuck. It feels so good. "Show me how," she repeats. 

He puts his hand on top of hers and guides her around his hard length. "Just like this," he groans as he moves her hand up and down. "You can grip harder," he moans. 

Tessa catches on quick and she buries her face in his neck licking the skin behind his ear, pressing herself into his side as she tightens her fingers around him and starts stroking him. He closes his eyes; this is all too much for him. Her breath and her tongue on his skin, her breasts pressed against his ribs and her warm hand around him. He's not going to last much longer. Scott's hips instinctively push into her hand and she grasps him even tighter. She keeps moving up and down his length faster and faster, her fingers encasing the very tip of him on each downstroke. 

"Don't stop," he begs, gripping her hips. He feels so close. "Oh fuck!" he cries out.

She feels him tense and stiffen and he finally releases in her hand. She doesn't quite know how to deal with this so she just wipes her hand on her skirt. She can feel his ragged breath against her skin. 

"Fuck, Tess," he cries out, taking her face into his hands and kissing her deeply. How is he ever going to stop?

Their kisses are sweet and soft as they both rearrange their clothes and their hair. They still can't see a thing but they're sure they're both red, sweaty and look freshly fucked. 

"Guys," Meryl yells as she pounds on the door and unlocks it. "Your 20 minutes are way up! Come out, come out, wherever you are." 

They can hear the smug tone in her voice and Tessa's cold fury is back in full force.

"She's the Wicked Witch of the West," Tessa mumbles. She fixes her hair one more time and goes to fix Scott's as well. "We should be decent now," she says. They won't get a chance to check the mirror but she trusts it'll do the job. Everybody is sloshed anyway, they won't remember a thing in the morning.

Scott doesn't have a single clue as to how she's so composed right now. His heart is still racing and so is his mind. He can't believe they actually did that. Fuck. How is he ever going to forget that? He can still feel every single touch.

Tessa opens the door and the light momentarily blinds them. She grabs his hand as they get back to the living room and sit in the circle under the cheers of their 'friends'. 

"So, have fun? Spill," Meryl asks, her voice shrill. Or maybe it just grates Tessa's nerves. 

"We just talked about our programs," Tessa shrugs. Scott cannot help but be in awe of her. She's is such a good liar. Her face is completely stony and she looks perfectly poised and relaxed. He feels like what they just did is written on his forehead. 

Meryl sighs extra loudly. "Ugh, should have figured. I don't know what I expected out of Ice Queen Tessa," she says, shaking her head in a derogatory manner. 

Tessa and Scott exchange a look. If only she knew. That doesn't stop Scott from jumping to her defense. People don't perceive Tessa the way she really is. Maybe he's the only one who's able to see through her layers. 

"Yeah well, maybe you should talk about your programs a little bit more, Mer," Scott states slyly. "You know, if you ever wanna win something one day." 

Meryl's face turns ashen as the others howl with laughter. Scott and Tessa fist bump. That's what a real partnership looks like.

It's almost 3 am when Scott drives Tessa back home. The alcohol has already left his system and he feels stone cold sober. The silence between them is comfortable. They are bone tired. 

"Do you think we're gonna get to go to the Olympics next year?" Tessa asks as he's just parking in front of her house. 

Okay, so they're definitely not talking about what happened. "Yeah of course, we've skated really good all season," Scott replies immediately. "I feel like we really have a shot." 

"Where do you think Olympians keep their gold medals once they're back home?" Tessa asks with a smile.

The question surprises Scott. Her mind works in mysterious ways. "I don't know, but I'll tell you where I'll keep mine: in a giant glass display in my future house's living room. So that everyone who comes in can see them," he laughs. 

"Pick me up bright and early tomorrow," she says, "we need all the training we can get." 

Scott knows she's not a morning person but her drive more than makes up for it. "6 too early for you?"

"6 is perfect," Tessa replies, getting out of the car. "See you tomorrow, Scott." 

"See you tomorrow, Tess. Dream of the gold," he replies back with a smile.

That night, in their respective beds, it's not about Turin, Italy or gold medals that they dream about. 

They dream about Coldplay's Fix You.

When you're too in love to let it go

If you never try you'll never know

TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter Text

London, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

Their houses could not be more different, Scott ponders as he lies on her bed, watching her flutter all around him, packing for Toronto. While he's messy and just lets chips fall where they may, her house is neat freak clean with everything in its place and a place for every thing. When he's all dark wood and shades of blue, grey and green, she's all light: white, cream, butter and every hue in between. Even her sheets are white which is mind-boggling: why would girls own white sheets?! Maybe they just like living life on the edge. 

Tessa has just gotten back from a pilates class and there's nothing quite like feeling two feet tall after a good session. She feels stretched, lengthened and strengthened all the way down to her toes. It's an all encompassing warmth of quiet and feel-good. Which is exactly the right state of mind to do some packing. She's going to be in Toronto for five days, it will require careful planning. 

"So, this dark blue sweater or this royal blue one?" she asks Scott, holding the two items of clothing for him to see. She knows he couldn't care less but, still, she'd like his opinion. 

Her voice brings Scott back out of his thoughts and he looks closely at the sweaters. "They look exactly the same to me Tess," he shrugs after a while. 

She smiles. "They're not even the same shade, but okay… Which one would suit me best?" she asks holding one sweater in front of her and then the other. 

"You'll look great in either of them," Scott says with a smile. 

She sighs. "You're no help. You do know it's not a trick question, right? You're allowed an opinion here," she lets him know. 

"I really don't have an opinion on this. You look great in everything you wear. Just pack one and be done with it," he laughs. 

"Pack one?" she cries out in fake shock and indignation. "Do you know me at all?" she throws herself onto her bed and snuggles into his open arms. 

He kisses the top of her head as she squeezes him tight and breathes in his scent. "I'll just pack both," she decides. 

"You always overpack," he points out, "and you never wear half the stuff you bring."

"I like having options," she smiles.

Scott cups her chin with his hand and brings her close for a kiss. Their tongues dance for a few minutes before they break for air and she nestles even closer. She's like a cuddly kitten. All warmth, purrs and asking to be petted. 

"Don't forget to pack all of your bling," he reminds her. "Where do you keep your medals anyway?"

"In my sock drawer," she says, hiding her face in his chest. "Not really glamorous, I know. Where do you keep them?"

"I keep them in my downstairs bathroom," he replies, "so that when people come over and go to the bathroom, they're within reach and we don't have to have that awkward conversation where they ask if they can see them. They're already there! So they can touch and wear them. And since there's a mirror too, they can practice singing the national anthem and take selfies." 

Tessa's mouth hangs open. "Are you for real?" she asks. This is such a Scott thing to do. Kind and generous are his middle names. He amazes her.

"Yeah. I mean, other people should get to enjoy them too," he grins. "I should totally put a camera in that bathroom to record what they do with them."

"That camera would have picked up some interesting things a few days ago…" she laughs, a teasing smile on her lips. 

"Yeah, maybe not, on second thought," he laughs as well. "We don't need that kind of thing leaking online."

"Agreed. And also, according to the Internet at least, we don't even need to have a sex-tape of us, we can just rewatch our skating programs. Apparently they were trending on a few dedicated porn websites," she giggles. 

"Get out of here!" he exclaims, both delighted and somewhat horrified. "How did you find that out, eh?" he says, wiggling his eyebrows in a suggestive manner. 

"Jordan saw an article about it online and texted it to me. She was rolling on the floor laughing," she tells him. "I'll send you the link. I think we should be flattered, right?"

"Yeah, we should!" Scott exclaims. "This is epic! I'll send that to every one of my buddies. This is gold!" he laughs wholeheartedly.

"Speaking of gold," she says, changing the subject, "those PyeongChang medals weigh a ton, eh? I think I read somewhere they're the heaviest ever made."

"Yeah, they are. Those two golds are like 4 lb. My neck gets tired after a while." 

Tessa giggles and kisses his neck lightly. Scott grips her hips tighter and brings her body closer to his, aligning them perfectly on their sides so that there's almost no space between them.

"I'm going to miss you," he whispers softly against her lips. 

"You'll be so busy with your buddies you won't even have time to miss me and we'll see each other on Thursday night. It's going to be fun," she whispers back.

"I'll miss waking up with you," he says, kissing down her neck. "I love how grumpy you are in the morning," he adds, moving his hands to her breasts. 

She laughs and moans at the same time. "Think of it as the perfect occasion to get up super early without getting a pillow thrown at your head," she suggests. 

He flips them over so that he's on top on her. She instinctively parts her thighs so that he can rest comfortably between them. "I'll definitely take that under advisement," he murmurs in between kisses. 

Tessa wraps her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. She is still amazed at how comfortable this is. It's like nothing has changed and everything has changed at the same time. Having your cake and eating it too. Hanging out with your best friend and getting to kiss and touch him every time you want to feel his skin underneath your hands. 

"We still have time before I have to drive you to the train station," he points outs, lowering his head and kissing her stomach.

"Oh yeah?" she flirts. "What exactly did you have in mind?" His tongue is playing with her navel piercing; tickling and eliciting luscious sensations. 

"Where's your sock drawer?" he smirks before getting up and going over to her dresser. 

For half a second Tessa wonders what kind of kinky sex game Scott is up to, but when she sees him rummaging through her drawers to get his hands on her most recent gold medal, she grins widely. He can feel her eyes on him as he removes all of his clothes slowly. He has the most gorgeous ass and shoulders. She marvels that she's the only one who gets to see him that way. She has shared him so many times before, she's not sure her heart could take it again.

"Are you serious right now?" she roars with laughter as he crawls back on the bed toward her, medal in hand, completely naked.

He drapes himself over her body and quickly gets rid of her sports bra, leggings and panties. Well, that was fast, Tessa thinks as she sees an eager glimmer in his hazel eyes.

"Representing Canada," he says in his best commentator voice, "Tessa Virtue, two time Olympic champion." He slips the medal around her neck and the cold metal between her breasts makes her shiver deliciously. 

"Where's yours?" she breathes, impatient. "I didn't win all by myself."

She's a vision: sparkling eyes, reddened cheeks, jagged breaths and hardening nipples. He can't believe she's his. Finally his. "Oh, I don't want anything getting in my way…" That sounds like a promise she can get behind. 

Scott kisses her deeply, gliding his hands everywhere but never really stopping anywhere for too long. He moves his kisses down her neck, licking lightly at the skin there, before moving down to her breasts, sucking her nipples into his mouth. Her hands are in his hair, tugging lightly. 

His head goes down and he licks a path from the middle of her breasts to her bellybutton. Oh, she hopes he's not stopping there. It's been far too long since they've done that and she has missed the feel of his tongue against her. His nose rubs along the line between her belly button and where the edge of her panties should be. The anticipation is killing her. He knows exactly what he's doing to her. 

He spreads her thighs as wide as they can go and lowers his head in between them. She is already slippery wet, just the way he likes her. The first touch of his tongue feels like a rainy fire spreading throughout her lower abdomen. Her whole body tightens and curls upward. 

Her hands burrow in his thick hair and press his face closer. "Fuck," she moans. 

She can feel him smile against her and it drives her crazier. Her hips buck and undulate for more against his mouth; he has to put a hand against her stomach to stop her from moving too much. His tongue laps, circles and sucks at her until he can feel her body convulsing under him. 

Tessa feels a wave taking her under as her thighs unintentionally contract around his head. The world around her disappears, only they exist in the confines of this existence. She feels like she's losing all sense of self; Scott is only an extension of her own body. Every atom of her body, every breath, every heartbeat, every thought is concentrated in the place where they're so intimately connected. Her orgasm wreaks havoc on her body like a tornado blowing everything standing in its way. She shivers wildly, her legs stiffen, her toes curl; she is overtaken with feelings and sensations. It's wet and hot at the same time, it's deep and it shakes her to the core. It feels a lot like unconditional love.

Scott gently strokes her thigh to help her come down from this high. Her body is still seizing from his touch. After a few moments, her legs unclench and he pulls himself up her body. Their medal is the only thing between them. How appropriate, he thinks.

He strokes her cheek gently as he captures her mouth with his. Is this what bliss feels like? Being happier about somebody else's pleasure than his own? Is this what love is supposed to feel like? He wants to spew every romantic line he's got in his book but he stays quiet. He runs his fingers along her face, brushing sweaty strands of hair from her face, and keeps on kissing her softly. He doesn't want to make her run for the hills.

"Are you okay, Tess?" he asks after a few moments. 

"I can't feel my body anymore," she smiles against his lips. "I think you ruined me."

"I think it's just the oxytocin running through your body," he says. 

"I believe the medical term is 'blissed out,'" she adds, wrapping herself around him, locking her legs on his ass. She can feel his hardness rubbing against her as she squeezes him tighter.

"Condom?" he asks, nibbling on her earlobe. She rummages quickly through her nightstand and hands him a foil packet that he quickly rolls onto himself. 

Scott slides into her swiftly. She feels amazing; she's still contracting all around him from her orgasm and he knows he's not going to last long when her body seems to be pulling him in deeper and deeper. She wraps her legs around his waist as he buries his head in the crook of her neck. Tessa can feel his uneven breath against her skin with every thrust he makes. Her hips accompany every one of his movements, welcoming him into her, pressing him closer. The feeling is consuming, the energy between them is overwhelming, almost suffocating. The room feels like a million degrees. He moves briskly and furiously inside of her now, chasing his pleasure. It comes in the form of one last hard thrust, melting away, as he releases inside of her with a groan. 

His body goes limp and she softly strokes his hair. "I feel like I'm 18 again when I'm with you," he remarks. 

"That was a lot of foreplay and anticipation," she says. "I didn't last long either."

"I feel like all of our partnership has been a giant ball of foreplay and anticipation," he smiles. 

"I still remember practicing for those risqué Carmen lifts," she reminisces as he gently pulls out of her and disposes of the condom. "I loved that program so much," she hints, hoping he'll catch her drift.

"You were the best Carmen," he says lying his head on her chest, listening to the wild beat of her heart. "I wish we could have had time to skate together before you left though, I miss it." 

"Yeah, I miss skating with you too," she says, still gently stroking his hair. 

*

Gothenburg, Sweden - March 2008

Umbrellas of Cherbourg is Tessa's favorite program of theirs so far. Of course, she also loves the movie so that certainly helps. It's so French and desperately romantic. She wishes she could actually visit Cherbourg! 

Scott was not convinced at first, but she brought him around. Now, he loves it as much as she does. They've been working so hard at it for the past year. Training for hours on end until both of their muscles shook with exhaustion. They've been driving themselves to exhaustion. But it's all for a good cause. It's how it's supposed to be, isn't it? They're supposed to be in pain, aren't they?

They missed qualifying for the Olympics two years ago and it nearly broke their spirits. Tessa spent at least two weeks bawling every time she found herself alone. Scott was not much better… The next games are in Vancouver in two years. In their country. They have to make it. They have to have a solid program. Umbrellas is a good first step toward that Olympic podium. It won them the free dance and the silver in this year's Worlds. No other team had even done that before them.

Except that Tessa's legs have been hurting her for a while now and she hasn't told anyone. Not her mother, not Marina, not Fedor and most certainly not Scott. Every time she skates she feels like her legs are burning. They cramp and she's always afraid she's going to crumble on the ice and take Scott down with her. She has nightmares about it every night. 

But who can she tell? She's not about to crush Scott's dream of the Olympics. And what if it's serious? What if she can never skate again? What then? She didn't train this hard and suffered so much just to give up now. Mind over matter. 

"Hey Tess," Scott calls her as she finishes putting her stuff away in her bag. "Your mom's waiting for us to get back to the hotel."

"Sorry, I'll hurry up," she apologizes. Her legs are hurting so much right now… Every movement is a challenge. She just has to grind her teeth and take it. 

"Are you okay?" Scott asks, getting closer to her. Did he see her wince? She hopes not.

"Yeah, I'm okay," she reassures him. And trying to convince herself while she's at it. "I'm just exhausted," she says, zipping up her gym bag. Was it this heavy this morning?

"We had an amazing skate today, eh?" he says joyfully. "Silver, Tess!" 

"Yeah," she agrees with a smile. "I found a penny today in the hotel lobby. I knew it was going to be a good day for us!" 

Sometimes she wonders if he's not the one who leaves pennies laying around. He knows how superstitious she is about these kinds of things and how happy she gets when she finds them on the ground. 

"Are you sure you're okay?" he asks again, coming closer. "You look really pale, Tess," he says worried.

She grinds her teeth. "I'm fine," she says, forcing a smile. "I just need some food and some rest." And some fucking Vicodin. A lot of it. 

"Here, let me take that," he says, grabbing her bag and carrying it for her.

She is in so much pain and she is so tired that she could just kiss him for doing this. He is so nice she could cry. Literally cry. This is not like her, but she has been on the verge of tears all day and if he keeps being this sweet, she's not sure she's going to be able to hold them off for very long. 

Bag thrown on one arm, Scott pulls his other one around her shoulders and presses her against his side. She grabs his waist and holds on. She just needs to lean on him a little bit. To help her walk. 

Scott isn't stupid. He knows something is wrong. And that something has been wrong for quite some time. He doesn't know what it is because she skates just as good as she used to, even better, but there is definitely something the matter with her. 

"Come on, Tess," he says, squeezing her shoulder affectionately, "dinner and then bed. We can even get your favorite."

He feels her tight grip on his waist. He doesn't know what's wrong but he can feel she needs it. She needs him. It's the same way he knows the moment she enters a room: he feels her, her presence, in his bones. 

Tessa has been quiet all through dinner, even her mother noticed it. But you don't break through Tessa the easy way. You have to poke and prod until it hurts so much that she is left with no other choice than to let out all of what she's been bottling inside. And now that Scott is back in his room and she's back in hers, it's the perfect time to do just that. He knows he needs to go to her. 

"Tess?" he gently raps on her door. "Are you awake?" he asks through the wood.

He hears padded feet coming to the door and some muffled curse words. The door flies open and Tessa appears completely disheveled and only wearing a thin white t-shirt and even flimsier panties. First, what is she doing answering her door like that? And second, does she want him dead? Her t-shirt is very transparent and, as per usual, she's not wearing a bra so he can actually see everything. And by everything he means her perfect breasts and their even more perfect pink nipples. He remembers the last time his hands were on them. They seem to be looking right at him. 

"Oh, hey Scott," she slurs, "wanna come in?" she asks, opening the door wider and letting him through. 

"Are you drunk?" he asks, watching her closely. Her gait is stumbling as she makes her way to sit on the bed. Good God, now he can see her ass… He remembers the last time his hands were on it too.

"What?" she cries out, almost offended. "Of course I'm not drunk!" she defends herself, but she doesn't sound very convincing. Something is definitely off here. 

He sits next to her on the bed. "I just wanted to check that everything was fine with you," he says softly, laying a hand on her knee. A move he immediately regrets because her skin is really warm and silky. "You were really quiet at dinner," he notes, trying to catch her gaze.

Scott looks a little blurry but Tessa assumes it's pretty normal after two Vicodins. The pills have started to work their magic and Tessa can't even feel Scott's hand on her knee. Which is kind of sad because she loves the feel of his hands on her. 

"Oh no," she says, feeling like her mouth is filled with cotton balls, "I was just tired. I'm fine now. I'm happy. So happy we won silver. That's so silver." 

She has a hard time maintaining eye contact and Scott notices how glassy her eyes look. They're not their usual shade of bright green. They look murky. 

"You don't look happy, Tess," he points out. "You actually look really really fucking sad." 

Tessa's breath catches in her throat. "What?" she denies, her voice croaky. "I'm not sad. I'm so so happy we won, Scott. We were amazing, you were amazing and I love Umbrellas."

"If you're happy, then why are you crying right now?" Scott asks, looking straight at her and trying to keep his voice soft even though he wants to shake her and yell at her to tell him what's wrong.

Tessa's hands immediately go up to her cheeks and find them wet. She didn't even feel the tears streaming down her face. She can't actually feel her face. She quickly wipes them off with the back of her hand.

"I'm sorry," she says, and the tears keep on flowing. "Today was just a lot of emotions," she lies. 

"Don't lie to me, Tess," he says, his jaw clenched tight. "Just don't fucking lie to me," he warns her.

He waits a moment for her to respond, but she keeps on wiping the tears away from her eyes.

"Are you high right now?" he asks, concerned. "Is that it?" he keeps badgering her. "Because that's the only explanation possible. You should be floating on cloud nine right now. What's going on? And don't you dare lie to me," he threatens her, his voice low, barely able to contain his anger. 

"No," she croaks. 

But she is. She is high. And for the first time since she's started taking (perhaps a little too much) Vicodin to help with the pain in her legs, she feels shame. Raw, deep and soul crushing shame. For what she's doing. But most of all for lying to Scott. 

"Is this…" he hesitates. They don't talk about these kind of things. They have a tacit agreement to never speak of these things. "Is this about Fedor? Has something happened? Did he… Did he do something?" he finally asks. 

He's actually afraid to hear the answer to that question. Maybe that's why they never ask. 

"What?" she exclaims, a bit shocked. "No, it's nothing like that," she says and the tone in her voice actually convinces him that the problem doesn't lie with her current boyfriend. 

"What is it then?" he asks again. 

"Could you…" she pauses. "Could you just hold me please?" she whispers. 

"Tess…" he whispers back. "I don't think this is a good idea," he says. 

And really it's not. He's spent two years avoiding being in this kind of situation with Tessa. The one where she's half naked and they're both alone in a darkened room with a bed. Their lips almost touched today at the end of their program and he's not sure his heart can take much more. 

"We're not doing anything wrong, Scott," she pleads. "Please, could you just hold me?" She looks at him with her sad eyes and he feels his resolve crumble. He's never been good at saying no to her. Especially when she's looking at him like that.

He sighs and pulls his arm around her shoulders. She curls up into his side, encircling his waist with both her arms and nestles her head against his chest. She's so warm. 

"Scott?" she asks after the longest time, looking up at him. 

He tenderly cups her face with his other hand, gently stroking her cheekbone. "Yeah Tutu?"

She takes a deep breath. "What would you do if you weren't a skater?" she asks in a grave tone. 

"What do you mean?" he asks, staggered by her question. 

"I mean, what would you do if you could never skate again? As a job, I mean," she carries on. 

She leans into his hand, rubbing her face against it, and turns to gently kiss his palm. His heart is hammering in his chest. What is she doing?

"I don't know what I would do if I could never skate again, Tess," he replies honestly and he can tell by the hiccups that shake her that it wasn't the right answer to give. 

She tightens the grip of his waist and climbs lazily into his lap, nuzzling her face into the crook of his neck. He can feel her warm breath and the wetness of her tears against his skin. It makes him shiver. 

He lowers his hand to her neck and keeps it there. "Tess, please," he says. "We shouldn't be doing this," he tries to reason with her. 

"We're not doing anything," she murmurs.

He can feel the thin cotton of her panties rubbing against his pants and the side of her breast pressing against him. She's going to drive him mad. 

"You should put on your pajamas, Tess," he suggests. "You're gonna get cold." 

Their gazes connect and Tessa starts pushing him to a lying position on the bed. 

"Tess, stop," he begs. "We're…" he stutters. "We're not doing that," he states firmly but even he can hear the desperation in his voice. 

"You can keep me warm, Scott," she slurs, lying down on her side on the bed. Her shirt rides up and he can see her pale muscled stomach and the navel piercing she got six months ago. Her nipples are pebbled and so visible through her shirt. Her hair is splayed around her and against the pillow like a halo. She looks like a painting. And the worst is that she actually has no idea how sexy she looks right now; it's killing him.

"You always keep me warm. You're like my own personal sunshine," she continues, her speech getting more and more slurred by the minute.

Fuck. His mouth is dry. His palms are sweaty. His heart is hammering against his ribcage. 

"Tessa…" he starts, rubbing a hand over his face. He needs to regain control of himself. 

"Stay with me," she asks, moving over so there's some space for him on the bed. "Please," she pleads. "We won't do anything," she promises. "We'll just sleep."

Her hand is on his shoulder and gently starts inching its way to his lower back, grazing her fingers along his spine. "I'm not sure that's such a good, idea," he shivers. 

"I promise. We'll just sleep," she insists drowsily. "I just don't want to be alone right now."

He knows it's a bad idea. He knows it, but that doesn't stop him from nodding his head in defeat.

"Okay," he sighs. "Move a bit," he says, going over to her side of the bed, gathering her legs together to put her under the covers. 

She turns on her side and nuzzles her head into the pillow as he slips underneath the covers as well. 

"I'll stay until you fall asleep, okay Tess?" he says, more for his benefit than hers. 

He presses his body against her, spooning her gently. Weirdly enough, this is way more intimate than all the other things they've done. He wraps an arm against her waist and she wiggles her ass into the curve of his hips, snuggling closer.

He lays his head on the pillow next to her and softly strokes her hair. "Try and sleep now, Tess," he whispers in her hair. "I'm here," he kisses her cheek.

As he keeps stroking her hair and brushing his fingers along her face in a gentle caress, he feels her falling into a deep sleep. Her whole body relaxes, her breaths become even and her eyelids start fluttering. 

He's in so fucking deep it's not even funny. 

When he wakes up the next morning, he's alone and she's already gone down to breakfast. 

Yeah, so they're not going to talk about it.

Reste, mon amour ! (Stay, my love!)

Ce n'est pas encore l'heure ! (It's not time yet!)

Je m'éloigne de toi. (I'm walking away from you.)

Ne me regarde pas ! (Don't look at me!)

*

Ilderton, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

We should find a Korean restaurant in Toronto, I'm craving Bibimbap like crazy!

Nevermind, found one!

This is the last of at least a hundred messages that Tessa has sent him in the last few days. She's been off doing press and having meetings in Toronto for two days and evidently she's having the time of her life. He can feel her excitement shine through every single one of her messages and pictures. 

Do you think a grey pantsuit might be too much?

I'm definitely doing a messy braid. 

If anyone asks, you love the Nivea cream because it's not greasy and you can get a good grip on me. 

A good what? What the fuck? What are they talking about in there? Scott shakes his head at his phone as he enters his house dropping his skating gear somewhere near the living room. He's been skating with kids this morning and while he does love teaching them some cool tricks and giving them advice, they're exhausting. 

He also needs to start packing for Toronto because he has postponed doing that for the longest time and his train leaves in two hours. When he gets his suitcase out of his closet, he notices that it's definitely heavier than it should be. He lays it onto his bed to open it and yep, there it is inside: a huge Banana Republic bag with a bow tied around it.

He knows exactly who's responsible for this. Tessa is so sneaky. He peaks inside the bag and sees a dark blue suede jacket and a navy striped t-shirt. There's no note, just a small piece of paper with a tiny red heart drawn onto it. 

He puts the paper inside his jean pocket for safekeeping and takes out his phone. She picks up on the first ring. "So, are we going to talk about this?" he asks with a smile. 

"About the Bibimbap?" she asks and he can hear the smile in her voice as well. 

"Well, first about the Nivea grip thing, then about the little gift you left inside my suitcase and finally about your Korean cravings," he lists.

"Hey!" she protests, "It's hard to come up with a link between ice dance, you and Nivea body cream. I had to get creative," she explains herself. 

"And the best you could do was 'so Scott can get a good grip on me'? Remind me how many hours of this tedious media training thing you made us take? And that's what you come up with?" he laughs. 

"Technically, I think it was 'so that Scott doesn't slip off of me'," she points out. 

"Not much better," he laughs. "Do you hear yourself? You're really asking for it when you say stuff like that." 

"I'm not going to let you lecture me on hearing myself talk. You're not much better mister 'if you get to sleep you're so restless,' 'gorgeous green eyes,' and 'fell in love with each other,'" she reminds him, laughing heartily as well. 

"True," he concedes, "but then again, I was always the one with the 'foot in mouth' disease so it's not really surprising coming from me. But don't worry, I'll swear allegiance to that Nivea body cream. Now about that little surprise present," he says.

"Did you like it?" she asks excitedly. 

"Well, yes, it looks nice," he replies somewhat reluctantly, "but, I do know how to dress myself, you know," he mentions. 

"Do you though?" she deadpans. He imagines her raised eyebrow and the look she'd give him if she were here. 

"I take offense to that statement, just so you know," he points out. 

"Come on! You're going to be so handsome wearing that! And they're really comfortable too," she says. 

"I'll trust you on that," he says. "It was really sweet of you to do that. You know how much I love opening gifts." 

"Promise you'll wear it on Friday," she asks, using that extra sweet voice of hers. The one she uses when asking for favors. 

"Of course I will, Tess. If that makes you happy," he sighs. "Now about your cravings…" 

"Bibimbap," she hums to the rhythm of Justin's Dirty Pop, popping the last p for special effect, "can't stop."

"Every damn fucking time, Tess," he laughs. "It's gonna get stuck in my head for the rest of the day now," he grumbles. 

"Dirty pop, that you can't stop. I know you like this dirty pop. This must be pop," she sings a little louder in his ear, giggling at the same time.

"I'm warning you Tess," he laughs, "if you keep singing this song, I'm taking you out clubbing tonight and we're singing karaoke."

"The only thing I want to do tonight is a bubblebath, a comfy bed and eventually you," she says, impish. 

He chokes a little on his saliva. "That's more than all right with me. So Korean, tonight?" he checks.

"Yeah, Korean tonight," she confirms. "I found this great little place where literally no one will recognize us. It's a hole in the wall. What time do you arrive? Do you want me to come and get you at the train station?" she asks.

"My train gets in at 6 pm, but don't come get me. I'll get my rental car and meet you directly at the hotel," he says. "What room are you in?" he asks.

"601," she replies. "You're in 602. And my mother has already gone back to London," she says in a suggestive tone.

"That sounds promising," he answers in the same tone. "Listen, I've already agreed to go to this club, The Boat, on Kensington Market, with my buddies. You're more than welcome to come, but I know it's not really your thing. It's a little too hipster for my tastes, but I haven't seen them in a long time and I'm sure it's gonna be fun."

"You go have fun, Scott," she smiles. "I'll be waiting for you in bed," she pauses for effect, "completely naked."

He gulps. "You have no idea how much I would love to continue this conversation, but I have to go pack. I'll see you tonight, okay?"

"Sure," she says. "Ugh, they're calling me. I have to go back to do some more press. Love you, bye," she ends the conversation and the phone call. 

He doesn't even have time to say it back. 

*

Toronto, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

"Room service!" Tessa hears his voice through the door after a brisk knock. 

She jumps to her feet and goes to open the door. He's there looking tired but gorgeous and she grabs the front of his shirt to pull him in. The door slams behind them as she draws him in further into the room. 

Her lips attach themselves to his almost immediately as she wraps herself around him, leaving no space between their bodies. Her hands are fisting his hair and his go down to her waist to grab her hips. 

"That's probably the best greeting in the history of greetings," he says against her lips in between kisses. 

"I missed you," she whispers softly. "It was so weird doing interviews without you. I kept looking to my left and you weren't there."

Scott cups her face in his hands and goes to deepen the kiss, tugging gently on her hair. It's only been two days but now that the floodgates are open, they can't keep their hands off of each other. They roam and stroke everything, eliciting delicious shivers and not so quiet moans and groans. 

"So, did you have fun babe?" he asks, once their kisses have slowed down and they're both sitting on the bed. 

"Babe?" Tessa frowns. "Really? I'm not sure I'm a 'babe' kind of person," she says. 

"I was just trying it out," Scott laughs. "Don't you like it?" he asks, kissing the frown between her brows away.

"Not really," she shrugs. "It sounds weird, eh?"

"Would you prefer sweetie, honey or darling?" he suggests, his hand gently stroking her throat, his thumb brushing her jawline.

"I'd rather you stick to Tess, T or Tutu to be honest," she admits. "I'm not really a pet name kind of girl." 

He shakes his head. "No problem, baby," he smiles. 

Okay. It did tug at her heart strings. Maybe, just maybe, she could get used to 'baby'. 

"So, you had fun doing press and stuff?" he repeats still stroking her neck with his fingers.

"Yeah, it was amazing," she says excitedly. "I met so many people and we talked about all kinds of things. Everybody was so nice and their questions were really interesting, too!"

"And yet," he smiles, "you still found a way to talk about me, eh?"

"You were brought up once or twice, yes," she says coyly. "I did a 'who's the most likely' and obviously had to talk about you and your strong karaoke game."

"A detail that, clearly, everybody should be made aware of," he points out, pressing a soft kiss on her mouth. 

"I run out of original answers after some time," she admits. "We should get prepared for tomorrow though, I have a feeling we're going to be playing a lot of games and I can't have you answering 'Tessa' to the question 'what's the last thing you ate,'" she laughs. 

"We would have a hard time explaining away that one, eh?" he grins. "Can you imagine everybody's reactions? We would literally break the Internet." 

"If you ever feel like you want to answer Tessa to any question other than 'who's your skating partner?' just say cherry pie instead," she giggles. 

"Speaking of cherry pies," he says, a rakish smile on his gorgeous lips as he pushes her further on the bed.

"I'm not sure if you're talking about sex or food right now," she giggles. 

He laughs. "I was going for sex, but now that you mention it, I'm starving," he says before kissing her deeply. He's never going to get tired of that feeling.

"Come on," she says, her lips red and swollen from their passionate kisses. "Let's go get something to eat. You're driving."

She gets up, holding his hand to make him stand up as well. He's grinning at her like a kid.

"What?" she asks, smiling.

"Put some Nivea on those lips, Tess. Be a good brand ambassador," he laughs. "You look like you've been sucking face with a jellyfish."

"You realize that you're calling yourself a jellyfish, don't you?" she shakes her head, bringing her hand to her lips. 

"I delivered that joke over the finish line and you know it," he shrugs with a smile.

As she's about to put on her coat, he stops her. "Wait, Tess," he says, his eyes twinkling with mirth and flirtation. 

Scott grabs her tightly and hoists her up against him, wrapping his whole body around her. His mouth descends upon hers in a series of deep wet kisses where their tongues devour each other. He trails his hands all over her back and wishes he could actually feel her bare skin underneath his fingertips.

They're both wildly out of breath and noticeably flushed by the time they finally separate. "Since we're not going to be able to do that while in public, I'd thought I'd stock up," Scott grins.

"I wish we could always hold hands," she whispers softly against his lips. "I love the way your hands feel in mine," she confesses, lacing their fingers together, her pinkie between his index and middle finger.

"I've felt the same way for the last twenty years, Tess," he says, kissing her gently one last time before helping her put her coat on. 

The tiny Korean restaurant that Tessa has found is quite a way from downtown Toronto, but it's probably better. There's a row of tiny shops and restaurants and a lot of free parking space. It's perfect. On a Thursday night, there won't be a lot of people and they will most likely be able to eat there incognito. They even put on disguises: baggy clothes and baseball caps. 

The hostess doesn't seem to recognize them and they're placed in a tiny corner booth where they both order the beef Bibimbap as soon as they're seated. 

"So, what's the planning looking like tomorrow?" Scott inquires. He knows she has told him literally a hundred times before, but this is not the kind of stuff he remembers.

"At least five tv interviews, some games, a surprise visit to The Social and a meeting with our publishing house to discuss the new chapters of our book and sign some copies," she lists, counting on her fingers. 

"That's… a lot of interviews," Scott sighs. 

"I know," she agrees. "It's going to be a long day of answering the same questions." 

"So, we're not a couple, right?" he checks with a knowing smile. 

"No, we're not. We're honored, flattered and proud. We take it as a compliment to our prowess in storytelling. It's heartwarming to feel people's support. I mean, let's try to avoid saying directly that we're not, at least for the moment. Let's just pivot back to the talking points and we should be fine," she explains. 

"Duly noted, oh captain my captain," Scott jokes, doing a saluting sign with his fingers. 

"We just have to mind our body language as best we can," Tessa adds. "It's always the thing that people notice the most." 

"I can't both control what's coming out of my mouth and the way my mouth is saying it," Scott points out with a sigh. 

"I know," she touches his hand briefly. "Try to stay still as much as possible. Don't fidget, make eye contact. Your mouth's not the problem," she smiles. "Well, it depends on what's coming out of it." 

"I'm not promising anything. I know I suck at this, Tess," he says. "I'm sorry." 

"You don't suck," she defends him. "You're just open and you wear your heart on your sleeve. It's one of my favorite things about you. Never be sorry about that."

"It's just tiring that they always go to the romantic side of our partnership. Like it's all we amount to," he says, frustrated. 

"It grates on my nerves too," she agrees. "But they don't understand what it's like, what we're like and they're never going to, so really there's no point in explaining ourselves to them. Or in trying to make them understand," Tessa shrugs. 

"Yeah, I know. It's just… You're just so amazing Tess. All you've been through… People should realize how brave you are, how much strength and determination it took to do what you did," he explains. 

"Scott, you're amazing too. And all I've been through with my legs, I would have given up if it weren't for you. If I were a single skater, if I had never met you, I would have quit. But you were there and you held my hand. You held me up. We did this, the both of us," she says softly.

Scott opens his mouth to say something back, but the waitress arrives with their steaming bowls, preventing him from doing so. It smells delicious. It smells like the Olympics. Like victory.

"Mmmm," Tessa moans. "So, so, so good," she says as she dives into her dish. "Bibimbap, can't stop," she giggles. 

"It reminds me so much of the Olympics," Scott says, eating some as well. "February was the best month. I wish it could have lasted forever." 

"So do I," she replies with a smile. "Oh by the way, I've been invited to an Arkell concert on Saturday night, after the hockey game. Wanna come with?" she asks. 

"Not really," he shrugs. "To be honest, I'm not really as into them as you are," he says. "Plus that guy definitely has a crush on you and I don't want to get in the middle of that. I don't want to have to punch him in the face," he jokes. 

"Are you jealous?" she asks, a pleased grin on her lips. 

"Tess," he says, giving her a pointed look. "You've been mine for the last twenty years. I know I have nothing to worry about. You have fun at that concert. I'll get some beers with the boys after the game." 

"Just wanted to make sure," she says, returning to her noodles. 

Scott smiles knowingly. "Are you jealous?" he asks, a genuinely surprised tone in his voice. He knows how to read between her lines. "Are you actually scared about me going out clubbing tonight? Is that why you brought up the concert?" he follows up.

"Of course not," she denies, avoiding his gaze. 

She actually is anxious. And maybe even a little jealous. How unlike Tessa. "Because, you know, before, when I said that you've been mine for twenty years… Well, I've been yours too," he says softly. 

"I know that," she says, locking eyes with Scott. 

"Just wanted to make sure," he repeats with a knowing grin. "So, are you done or do you want some dessert?" he asks once they're finished gobbling up their bowls. 

"How about some ice cream from that place next to the funny thing?" she suggests, not remembering the name but knowing that Scott will.

"Sure," he says as they walk back to his car. He turns on the radio and settles on an oldies station he knows Tessa will like. 

"Listen," she says, "about Montréal…"

"I wanted to talk to you about that," he says interrupting her because he's going to need all the courage in the world to say this and it needs to be now, before she says anything else. "We'll only be staying there for a few days before going back to London and then to Stars On Ice. So, how about instead of packing and unpacking, I just left my stuff at your place?" he says, getting it all out really fast. 

"What do you mean? Then all of your stuff would be at my place and you have a lot of stuff," she shrugs, not really understanding what he's trying to get at. 

"Well… what if all of my stuff was there? What would you think about that?" he asks softly. 

"Then you'd be going back and forth all the time. I mean, I know we live in the same building, but that doesn't seem very practical to me," she replies confused.

He smiles. "Okay… What if we live together and you understand what I'm saying?" he says, going for the direct approach this time. 

Tessa's mouth hangs open from astonishment. She did not expect this. "Are you serious?" is the only thing she can get out. Her mouth is dry and her heart is beating two hundred beats per minute.

"Yeah…" he replies. "I mean, it's a waste of money when we're only going to be in Montréal for a limited amount of time for the rest of the year with all that we have planned."

"This is really fast, Scott. I'm not sure this is a good idea," she says. "And the money has never been an issue before." 

"Okay," he sighs, "forget about the money. I want to live with you when we're in Montréal. I want to wake up every morning with you in my bed." 

"We don't have to live together for that to happen, Scott," she says, still not recovering from the massive news he's just hit her with. "This is really fast," she repeats. 

"I want to live with you Tess," he insists. "I want us to live together, share the same space, go about our lives and always come back to each other at night. We've known each other for more than twenty years, this isn't fast. We know everything there is to know about each other," Scott finishes, parking in front of the ice-cream parlor.

"Listen, this is a big thing…" she starts, fidgeting with her hands as she speaks. He can tell he's made her nervous and uncomfortable. He never wants to be the one to make her feel this way. 

"I don't need an answer right now, Tess," he says, laying his hand on her knee. "Just think about it. I'm not asking you to live together all the time, just in Montréal. To try. And see how we like it, okay?"

"I'll need to think about it," she says, still in shock. "We also need to talk about what we're going to do after the summer, you know."

"I know," he replies. "Let's take it one step at a time. First: ice-cream!" he says happily, holding the door open for her as she gets out of the car. Their hotel is close enough that he can just leave it here before going to Kensington Market later tonight.

Scott gets bubblegum and Tessa gets dulce de leche. It suits their personalities well: constant child-like joy and sweet and complex elegance. Tess holds his arm and presses their bodies close as they wander the streets somewhat aimlessly, slowly enjoying their treats.

"I want to hold your hand so bad," she says softly as they're about to arrive in front of their hotel. 

"Me too, baby," he whispers softly, kissing the side of her head. 

"I might get used to the baby thing," she smiles. "So this is me," she says as they arrive at the entrance of the hotel. 

"This feels like a first date," Scott jokes. "But not really because we're staying in the same room."

"If this is a first date," Tessa whispers, locking eyes with him, "are you going to kiss me now?" 

"I wish I could," Scott sighs. "So you're just going to have to visualize it in your mind," he continues, tucking a wild strand of hair behind her ear. "Me pressing my mouth against yours and licking your lips open. And my tongue dancing with yours. My hands would grasp your hips and yours would lock in my hair. And there would be moaning," he whispers lowly in her ear. 

Scott's voice is deep and husky. Tessa can feel his warm breath blowing on her earlobe. It makes her shiver deliciously. And his words… Scott should always murmur those kind of things in her ear. The filthier the better in her opinion. It feels like liquid fire being poured all over her body and settling deep in her lower abdomen. 

"I bet you taste like bubblegum," Tessa whispers back, electricity crackling between them. "I'll be waiting to check that out for myself later," she teases as she slips her keycard in his hand, making sure to slowly stroke the palm of his hand with her fingers. 

"I know exactly how you'll taste, Tess," he says with a deep longing sigh. 

Scott shakes his head to snap out of it and puts some much-needed distance between their bodies. He feels like his heart is going to explode out of his chest and he won't even mention what's going on down there. 

"Goodnight, Tess," he says a little louder, kissing her cheek. 

"Goodnight, Scott," she smiles back, her lips lingering on his cheek for a little too long. "Have fun."

When Tessa goes back to her room (their room?), she almost crumples down on the floor. She feels like she's sixteen again. Too many emotions are swirling inside of her. Want, desire, questions, love… She's not used to feeling so intensely. She doesn't know how Scott deals with it on an everyday basis. He's so passionate about everything. How does he not not combust from the inside out? How does he contain the fire?

To clear her head, she decides to organize and lay out all the outfits she has prepared for tomorrow's media tour. She knows Scott will most likely tease her mercilessly about her number of outfits, but that he'll lovingly carry her huge bag for her anyway. When she's done, her mind is still going a hundred miles a minute, so she decides to make flashcards with every talking point they need to hit tomorrow. She clearly underlines bullet points, bridges and pivots. Scott is going to need all the help he can get. He has no poker face. 

It's almost 1 am when she finally starts to feel sleep calling her. Her lids are heavy, her heart has significantly slowed down and her mind feels somewhat at peace. She crawls under the covers and lets Morpheus take her in his arms. 

It seems like she's only closed her eyes for five seconds when she's woken up by the thudding of shoes and clothes being dropped on the carpeted floor. 

"Scott?" she blinks drowsily, trying to feel around for her phone to see what time it is. The room is dark and she can only see his shadowy figure.

"Yeah, baby, it's me," he whispers, slurring his words slightly. "It's past 2," he replies to her silent question when he sees her fumbling with her phone. "I'm sorry I woke you up." 

He slips under the covers behind her, running his hand slowly from her ankle to her hip, making her whole body quiver underneath his touch.

"Fuck, are you actually naked here, Tess?" he asks, lining up his body against her, stroking her side. 

"Told you I would be," she says and he can hear the smile in her voice. "You smell like a brewery," she notes. And sweat. He smells like sweat and alcohol. "How much have you had to drink?" she asks, covering his hand with hers and guiding it to her breast. 

"Lost count after a while," he answers, kneading her breast and pinching her nipple. "Fuck, Tess," he grunts when he feels her nestling into the curve of his pelvis and wiggling her ass against his growing erection.

They've barely started and Tessa is already done with foreplay. She takes his hand and shoves it between her legs. Scott can feel her hot and slick against his fingers and he wastes no time pumping them in and out of her quickly. Her hips buck and undulate against him like she's dancing to latin patterns.

"You need to fucking stop moving, Tess," Scott hisses in her ear. She can almost taste the bittersweetness of alcohol on his warm breath.

In one quick move, he removes his boxer briefs and pushes her, belly first, into the mattress. 

"Scott," she moans and she feels the anticipation build up in every cell of her body. 

Tessa knows Scott likes to lead. She can feel it every time they skate together in the way he firmly holds her hand, grasps her wrist; in the way his hand cradles her hip tightly, encases her ribcage and digs into the soft flesh on her inner thighs when he lifts her. She likes this side of him. It never fails to make her wet in an instant. 

"I'm going to fuck you so good, baby," he promises, taking a condom from the nightstand and rolling it on. 

His inhibitions are down. She loves drunk Scott. Drunk Scott is pure raw unrestrained passion. He grasps her hips from behind and lifts her ass, bending her spine forward, making her support her weight on her elbows. She wished the room wasn't so dark. She would have looked at him over her shoulder, seen him completely unchained, and kept that image burned into her mind's eye for the rest of her life.

He slowly drags one finger down her spine until he reaches her lower back. The room feels like all the oxygen has been sucked out of it and yet it seems like the slightest spark will light it on fire. She wants its flames to consume them. 

He thrusts roughly inside of her, making her whole body jolt forward on the bed with the sheer force of it. 

"Fuck, Scott," she grunts, fisting the sheets. She can feel his grasp on her hips tighten. She's going to have his hands imprinted on her skin for weeks to come.

Scott's fingers dig into her hips and ass as he slams relentlessly into her. She can only react to that onslaught of passion. He's not holding anything back as he keeps moving roughly against her, in her, his breathing harsh and ragged. She can only push back so much but he's not letting her control this one. This one is for him. 

Their skin slaps wetly together as their groans fill the room. They're going to be hoarse tomorrow. Tessa feels herself falling toward the edge, inner muscles fluttering around him. Scott can read her body like an open book and he can feel her pulling him deeper inside of her. He knows the end is near and he can't hold off for much longer anyway. His hand goes between her thigh, where they joined, and he rubs lazily, loving hearing her keen under his fingers. 

Tessa feels her body stiffening and quivering as he thrusts deeper into her and keeps on stroking her mercilessly. She feels his wet breath on her spine and his fingertips digging into the flesh of her ass and she's done for. In a curse, she detonates, clamping tightly all around him. Her body feels like butter and she falls down onto the bed, her head resting on the pillow. She can't even feel her legs anymore. Scott grasps her breasts hard, and, in one last powerful stroke, comes inside of her with a grunt. 

Scott collapses against her, flattening her against the bed. She can feel his whole weight on her back. He's still twitching inside of her and she can taste his jagged breaths on her skin. He's everywhere. He surrounds her like warm water. He sweeps her hair off her shoulders and kisses her neck and spine, licking the sweat off her body. 

She reaches around to stroke his side and his back for a while and after his heart has regained a semblance of calm, he gently pulls out of her and flips them over, bringing Tessa's body close to his. 

"I feel like I should need a cigarette after that," she jokes, nuzzling his chest. They're all sweaty but she doesn't care. She wants to drown in his scent and the warmth of his skin. 

"I can't even feel my knees anymore," he laughs, stroking her hair. 

"Worth it," she says. "Did you have fun at The Boat?" she asks, yawning and fighting to keep her eyes open. 

"Yeah, it was fun," he says, kissing her temple drowsily. "I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, mkay? We need some sleep if we don't want screw up tomorrow's media circus."

"I made some flashcards," she yawns. "With bullet points. And bridges. And pivots." 

"Of course you did," he laughs. "Sweet dreams, T," he whispers, kissing her one last time. 

"Sweet dreams," she slurs, closing her eyes and snuggling against him. 

L'amour est enfant de bohème (Love is a gypsy child)
Il n'a jamais, jamais connu de loi (It has never, never known the law)
Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime (If you don't love me, I love you)

Si je t'aime, prends garde à toi ! (And if I love you, you'd best beware!)

TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter Text

Canton, Michigan, USA - June 2008

Scott finds her puking in the bathroom for the fifth time this week. At first, he was a little shy about going into the girls' bathroom, but now he's sadly used to it. She doesn't like it when he follows her there, but it's not like he has a choice. She's his partner. It's literally in his job description to take care of her. He finds her sprawled on the floor, head in between her knees. 

"Are you okay T?" he asks, leaning against the door. 

She raises her eyes at him; they're completely bloodshot. Her jaw is clenched tight and she's shivering all over. 

"I'm fine," she says, looking down. 

"Tess, you're not fine. You're the opposite of fine," he states. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong? You've been off for the past three months." 

They've been off for the past three months; everything has been off for the past three months. Every time he tries looking at her, she averts her eyes. They're not as connected. Everyone can feel it. He can feel it; it feels like he's missing a part of himself. They don't talk a whole lot anymore except to talk about skating. They don't hang out anymore. She packs her days full of dance classes, gym and physio. It's like she wants to cancel him out.

"Please go," she whispers. 

"I'm not going anywhere," he says assuredly. "And you should be used to it by now." 

He pauses before continuing. "Is there something you want to tell me?" he asks, unsure. He doesn't quite know how to approach this delicate subject. 

"About what?" she asks, on the defensive. 

He takes a deep breath. "About maybe why you've been getting sick every day for the last two weeks. Is there… Are you and Fedor… I mean… Could you be…maybe…pregnant?" he stutters.

They never talk about it. They never talk about their sex lives. It's commonly agreed between them that this particular subject is never broached. He doesn't want to think about what she does with her boyfriend. It makes his heart drop into his stomach. And it's pretty much the same for her.

Tessa chuckles. It's not her usual happy Disney Princess laugh. This one is dark and cynical. "I appreciate the concern, but I'm not pregnant," she says. 

"Are you sure?" he asks indelicately. He doesn't want to overstep, but it's kind of his business if she were.

"I'm on the pill," she shrugs. "I'm not pregnant. Are you happy, now? Can you leave?" she asks dryly. 

"I'm not leaving until you tell me what's wrong, Tess," he enunciates clearly. His voice is firm and Tessa knows he won't budge. He's almost as stubborn as she is. "You haven't talked to me in three months," he says. "You're going to fucking talk to me now!" 

She's not moving so he goes to take her arm. "Come on, get up!" he says, trying to get her to her feet. 

She resists and snatches her arm back. She's never seen him this offended. There's sadness in his eyes and she curses herself for being the one to have put it there. 

"Stop playing, Tess," he says, his voice getting louder. "Get up so we can go talk about this somewhere else! Like adults!"

There's a long silence. His eyes never leave her face. He tries to lock gazes with her but she avoids looking directly at him like she's been doing for what seems like the longest time.

"Tess," he insists. 

She takes a deep breath. "I can't," she says in a small shaky voice. 

"What do you mean, you can't?" he asks more confused than ever. 

"I can't get up, Scott," she confesses. 

"I don't understand," he says disconcerted. 

"I can't feel my legs anymore," she says, looking down and gesturing at her legs. "Or rather, I feel them too much. I can't stand up. My legs won't carry me." 

Scott feels like all the warmth has left his body and like his whole world is crumbling down around him. 

"You can't feel your… Tess! Did you have a bad fall? We have to call 911!" he cries out. "Let me go get Marina!"

"Scott, no!" she exclaims. "Please don't. It will pass. It always does," she shakes her head sadly. 

"What the fuck do you mean it always does? How long has this been going on? What the fuck is going on?" he rambles furiously. 

"Could you…" she stutters. "Could you help me please?" Their gazes connect and he can see the sadness, the shame and the distress in her green eyes. "Help me up, I mean," she clarifies. 

Scott can feel all his emotions in his throat. There are too many questions swirling in his head right now. 

"I need to get out of my skates," he says. "Wait here."

As if she could move… 

He comes back five minutes later and kneels down in front of her. He removes her skates first, taking care of handling her legs with the utmost care. He grabs her by the armpits and hoists her up against him. 

"Can you walk even a little bit or do you need me to carry you?" he asks softly, pushing stray strands of hair out of her face. 

"I can put my feet down," she says, "but you'll need to help me support my weight."

"Lean on me, Tess," he says softly. "I'm here." 

He presses her against his side, pulling his arm around her waist while she does the same. He can feel her whole weight pushing into his as she needs the support.

"I'm taking you somewhere quiet," he says, steering her in the direction of the resting area. They're lucky there aren't a lot of people and they don't seem to pay them any attention. He helps her sit at one of the tables and brushes her hair out of her face one more time. "Spill," he orders. 

Tessa has no clue on how to approach this issue. She's been keeping quiet for so long, she doesn't even know what it feels like to not lie anymore. 

"I…" she starts, unsure, and closes her mouth again. 

"I'm serious, Tess," Scott says and his voice certainly seems to indicate that. "I'm not going anywhere, I'm not moving, I'm not leaving until you tell me what the fuck is going on. You are talking to me right the fuck now."

"It's complicated," she says softly, ducking her head down. 

He takes his chin in his hand and makes her look at him. "You need to talk to me now. I'm your partner," he says. "I love you, Tess. There is nothing you can say that will ever change that. Trust me with this."

She takes a deep breath hoping to calm the wild rhythm of her heart. "My legs have been hurting for a while now," she spits out. 

"How long is a while now?" Scott asks, suspicious of every interaction they've had in the last few months. 

"At least six months," she confesses. "It's gotten worse in the last few weeks. At first I could ignore it, but now… That's why I puke after every skate. It's the pain."

"Six months?! Why the fuck didn't you tell me this sooner? This is not something you fucking keep to yourself. I'm your fucking partner! We're both in this!" 

She drops her head. "I know, I'm sorry…" she says shamefully. "I didn't want to ruin anything. The Olympics are in two years, I didn't want to ruin it. I know how much you want it."

"Tess! I want to go to the Olympics with you! Only with you. If you're not healthy, I don't give a fuck about them. I wouldn't want to go," he says, trying as much as he can to keep his voice calm. "What's wrong with your legs? Have you even told anyone?" 

He can't believe he didn't even notice it. Her skating never faltered. He thought he knew her by heart, that he could read her like an open book, that she could never hide anything from him. Guess he was wrong. It makes his heart ache. But most of all, he aches for her. For all the silent pain she must have skated through all alone.

"I don't know what's wrong," she admits. "It's a burning and cramping sensation in my shins. And when I skate too much, it's like pins and needles and I can't feel anything; my legs can't hold me any longer. It passes and comes back every time. I haven't told anyone…" she whispers quietly. 

"Tess, this is serious, you need to go see a doctor. Right now. You could have badly injured yourself. What if your legs had crumpled out of a lift? You could have cracked your head on the ice. This is dangerous, Tess. And I know you know how dangerous it is."

"I know…" she mumbles. "I just… I didn't want to disappoint you. And I thought that if I ignored it, maybe, it would go away. Mind over matter and all that." 

"Tessa!" he cries out. He can't believe her. "You can never disappoint me. I don't care about skating if you're not there skating with me. I don't care about any medals if you're not healthy."

"I'm so sorry I lied…" Her voice is trembling. "I never meant to hurt you. I promise. I'm so so sorry, Scott," she pleads. "I never meant to shut you out or stop talking with you."

The shame is too much for her body. It feels too big, too encompassing. It feels like a creature trying to break free out of her ribcage and infect everyone around her. 

He is so furious. He wants to yell at her. He wants to curse at her. He wants to sulk, get out of here and scream until he doesn't have a voice anymore. He wants to shake her. He's never going to. 

"I know you are, Tess," he says, taking a deep breath. "I know you are. Come here," he says pulling her into his arms. 

"I'm never going to lie to you ever again," she promises. 

He chuckles. "You know that's not true, Tess…" he sighs. "Come on, I'm taking you to Marina right now and you're going to a doctor. Today. I'm not kidding."

"I'm so scared, Scott," she murmurs against his shirt. "What if I can never skate again?" 

There so much sadness in her voice. Scott doesn't even want to entertain that possibility. 

"It's going to be okay, Tess," he says. 

He helps her get up and guides her to Marina's office. 

This is not going to be an easy talk. 

But at least they're talking now. 

He thought not being selected for the 2006 Olympics was rock bottom. 

They haven't seen anything yet. 

Honey, I know, I know

I know times are changing

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - August 2008

They should be choosing music and elaborating choreography right now. They should be developing their programs, creating their costumes and having a ton of meetings with their technical coaches. 

They should be doing a lot a of things.

And the thing they should be the most is together. 

But they're not. 

They're apart.

"They have to run more tests, but they think I'm going to need surgery," she says one afternoon when he visits her apartment. 

This doesn't seem like good news. A surgery is a big deal for athletes. Recovery and physical therapy alone could take months. 

"What kind of surgery?" Scott asks. 

"It's called a fasciotomy. Basically, they open the muscles' casing to allow the muscles to swell and relieve the pressure in my shins," she explains. 

She looks composed, but her hands are fidgeting and playing with a blanket. He can see right through her. 

"That sounds serious," he remarks. 

"It's the last option apparently…"

"What's the recovery time?"

"Could be as short as six weeks," she replies, shrugging. "As long as fourteen weeks."

"We're not going to be able to skate this season," he states. "We'll have to withdraw from the Grand Prix events." 

"I know," she says. "I'm sorry." 

"Stop apologizing," he says, laying a hand on hers. "No anger, no blame, no grudges, remember?" 

"I remember," she says. "But I know how angry and disappointed you must be…"

"I'm not angry or disappointed at you, Tess. I promise."

She's not sure she believes him. 

He's not sure he believes himself. 

It's time we all reach out

For something new, that means you too

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - September 2008

They do run-throughs in their minds. And visualization. A lot of visualizations. Tessa is only allowed to skate one hour a day for the next month. It's the best hour of their days. She spends the rest of her days resting and in physiotherapy. 

Pink Floyd isn't their best program. They barely had the time to develop it and train for it. It's too bad because Scott loves Pink Floyd and they're not really doing them justice. The program is not bad per say, it's got a lot of potential, it's just… not the best it could be. Tessa and Scott know it. Marina and Igor know it. And worst of all, all of their competition knows it. 

Scott spends his days skating around the rink or training at the gym all by myself. It's not enjoyable. Skating is no longer fun. Sure, he loves to skate, but, really, it was finding Tessa that made it so engrossing. They pushed each other to be the best. What is he supposed to do without her? He looks like a lost soul skating around aimlessly and training for patterns that were meant to be danced in a pair when he's all alone. He knows he has to train. He has to practice as much as possible so that when Tessa comes back, he'll be ready. He'll be ready for her. 

When she comes back and not if. There's been talk, mean rumors and gossip being spread all around the Arctic Edge skating rink. That Tessa is never going to come back and even if she does, she's never going to be able to skate as well as she did before. And nowhere near good enough to do well at the Vancouver Olympics. 

Scott tries his hardest not to believe anything he hears. He knows Tessa. She's never going to give up. She will fight until she makes everyone eat their words, he's sure of it. Even though lately, Tessa has really not been herself. She's only 19 and she feels like the weight of the world lays on her shoulders. The doctors have diagnosed a bout of mild depression and have put her on medication. It does seem to help her a little bit. But still, she's not his Tessa yet. 

"How was physio today?" he asks when he swings by her apartment after his day. 

"Painful," she replies. She's on her couch, swaddled in a blanket, an open book laying next to her, surrounded by an army of drugs. "How was training?" she asks. 

"Lonely," he shrugs. "Are you getting ready to open a pharmacy with all of those?" he asks, gesturing to the scattered pill bottles on her coffee table. 

"Anti-inflammatories, pantoprazole to prevent the anti-inflammatories from destroying my stomach, pain medication, anti-depressants, muscle relaxants, anxiolytics… Pick your poison, I've got everything you could ever need," she says, making a dismissive motion. 

"Are you being careful?" he asks, a bit worried. He remembers the time she was high on Vicodin, he never wants to see her that way again. 

"I'm respecting the doses that were prescribed to me, don't worry," she says softly. 

"Did you hear back from the doctors?" he finally asks. 

"Yeah, they still aren't sure what's causing my pain, so we're going to go ahead with the surgery. It's been scheduled for the beginning of October." 

"Are you sure?" he asks, getting closer to her on the couch. 

"I'm at the end of my rope here. It's definitely worth a shot," she shrugs. She doesn't seem entirely convinced either. "I literally have nothing to lose anymore. I can't stay this way."

"Are you scared?" 

"Yeah," she admits, lowering her head. "But the doctors are hopeful so that's good. I just repeat to myself over and over that I'm just going to get the surgery, do PT and then come back to you. That's the plan. I'm sticking to the plan. And the plan will not go wrong," she says with a tentative smile. 

"You're the strongest person I know, Tess," he says, smiling back at her. "If someone can do it, it's you."

"I'll have to go back to Canada for the surgery though…" she informs him. 

"What?!" he cries out. He had not expected this. He thought he would be able to visit her every day. Now she's going to be three hours away and he's going to be stuck here all by himself. "Why can't you get the surgery here?"

"Because I'm Canadian and the healthcare system here sucks," she says. "Plus, Skate Canada has made some arrangements with some of their official doctors or whatever. In any case, I'll be going home to London. I'm going to need help for the recovery and it's not really feasible here."

"I'm going to miss you so much, Tess," he says, pulling his arm around her shoulders and tucking her against his side. 

"You'll visit, right?" she asks softly. "Because I'm going to miss you too."

"I'm never leaving you, Tess," he says, kissing her temple. "Get used to it. You're never getting rid of me." 

She hopes it's true. 

She never wants to leave him either. 

I only wanted to one time to see you laughing

I only wanted to see you

*

"Scott, this is Hannah," Marina says one morning, introducing him to a medium height blond-haired and blue-eyed girl. She looks about 16. "She skate with you today." 

The girl, Hannah, extends her hand, smiling widely at him and he shakes her hand half-heartedly. Her palms are sweaty. 

"Hi," she says in a peppy voice. "It's so nice to meet you! I can't wait to dance with you!" 

"Excuse me?" Scott asks, looking straight at Marina. "I already have a partner," he says curtly.

"Hannah partner for you today," Marina says sternly. "You need practice with real girl." 

There is no way he will ever skate with someone other than Tessa. There is no way Marina would do that to him or to Tessa. He can feel his anger rising.

"Marina, can I talk to you for one minute?" he asks, taking her arm to lead her somewhere more private. "Excuse us," he says to the girl. "Marina, what is this?"

"You need training," Marina replies. "You need partner for ice dance. Here is partner. Hannah is very nice girl. She replace Tessa for today." 

"Nobody can replace Tessa, Marina," Scott says. "I'm not skating with her. I'm not skating with anyone else." 

"Scott," Marina says sharply. "Just try. You need partner for ice dance to get better. For when Tessa come back, yes? Hannah is good skater, she will be good for you." 

"I'm not comfortable with this. I need to skate with Tessa, not some random girl." 

"I don't care if you are comfortable. You need partner to train and you try it with Hannah. Now you go!" she says a little louder. 

Scott sighs. He knows Marina will not relent until he does what she wants. "Okay," he concedes reluctantly. "I'll try to make you happy, but no one is telling Tessa, you hear me? She never knows about it!" he warns. 

"Tessa not know, okay," Marina replies with a shrug. "No problem." 

Scott goes back to Hannah. "Yeah, so I'm Scott," he says coldly. "Did you already stretch and warm up?" he asks. 

"Yes," she says excitedly. "Should we go?" she asks, offering him her naked hand. 

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not holding hands with you if we're not on the ice," he states as he starts to walk towards the rink. 

"Oh okay," she says a little disappointed as she runs to catch up to him. "Should we try some lifts or some Charleston?" she asks as she gets to the boards. 

Scott is already on the ice and putting on some gloves. "Don't get ahead of yourself," he chuckles ungraciously. 

He takes her hand and it feels all wrong. They skate around the rink a few times, trying to get used to one another. But it's not just her hand. It's everything: she doesn't feel the same, he doesn't like feeling her body this close to his, and they don't even skate that close. That's another problem; you could fit two people in the space between them. She doesn't bend her knees enough, her edges are not deep, her body is too forward, she doesn't turn well. And he cannot get used to the blond hair flowing so close to his face. It doesn't look, smell or feel right. And she talks. Oh my God, does she talk. 

"So, I hear you've been without a partner for a while," she starts, smiling up at him. 

"I'm not without a partner," he answers tersely.

"Well, she can't really skate with you with her legs like that," she replies matter-of-factly. 

"Her legs are fine and so is she. She's going to be up and skating in no time," he says. 

"Oh, yes of course," she replies, but he can hear the thinly veiled pity in her voice. "How about we work on the pattern?" 

Oh, he's going to have fun with this one. "Sure," he smiles slyly. 

He takes her hand and starts to glide, but he's too fast, too smooth and she simply can't keep up. After a minute, she's totally lost and she toe-picks, falling on her hands. He doesn't even help her up. 

"You skate way too much on two skates and too often a on flat," he points out. "You lack speed and depth," he observes. "Your knees are too stiff and your back isn't even worth mentioning."

"You were going too fast on purpose," she accuses him angrily, getting up. 

"Going fast is the purpose; I don't know if you noticed," Scott smiles, a cocky smirk on his lips. "If you can't keep up with this basic Charleston pattern, you need more practice and I'm not going to play teacher with you." 

Scott feels very satisfied with himself when he watches her furiously skate away. He goes back to the boards where he can see that Marina is not happy. 

"You were not nice," she says, shaking her head. 

"She's not a good skater," he shrugs. "You saw her. She can't keep up." 

"You did not give her chance to try be good," she replies. 

"I don't care. I don't like her. I didn't like skating with her and I'm not going to anymore," he says clearly. 

"You should think. Her parents very rich. They could make life easy for you," Marina says slowly. "If Tessa cannot come back." 

"What is that supposed to mean?" he shouts out, anger and shock flowing through his system. He can feel himself starting to shake from the adrenaline. 

"They offer to pay for apartment and food and extra if you skate with Hannah," Marina states. 

"What am I?! A hooker?!" he yells. "Tessa is my partner and she's coming back! And there's nothing anyone can offer me that will make me break what we have! Do you understand?" he asks angrily. 

"Okay, Scott, calm down," Marina says. "I think you should know it's all." 

"I am going home, Marina," Scott says and he's not asking for her permission. 

Scott never thought Marina would try something so underhanded. Did she just pimp him out? Is she actively looking for a new partner for him? Does she think that Tessa won't be able to recover from her injuries? 

Tessa can never hear about this. 

He never wants to dance with anyone other than her. 

Baby, I could never steal you from another

*

He doesn't want to, but he does. He's tired, sad and Marina has been hounding him. He gives in to make her happy. She is a great coach after all and she's been with them for so long. She must have their best interests at heart, right? She parades a new girl every day for him to skate with. They're all the same: mediocre skaters with filthy rich parents. And most importantly, they're not Tessa. They all feel wrong. He doesn't want to touch them, be close to them or look at them. It feels like skating with a millstone around his neck. When he skates with Tessa, he feels like she's an extension of his body, he can feel her footwork, her edges, her knees and her turns like they are his own. He can feel her breathing, her heartbeat in his body, like they are his own. You don't replicate that kind of feeling. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal. There is no other partner down the road for him. She's it. 

Even his mother phones him one night, telling him she has been receiving endless calls and emails from a lot of people, wanting him to try out with their daughter. She opens his eyes: he's being wooed. He's getting offered a lot of money, he receives expensive gifts and promises of houses, allowances and various perks. He finally understands that what Marina told him about just finding a 'stand-in' partner while Tessa is on bedrest has actually been more of an unofficial try-out to find him a new partner before the Olympic season. 

The end of September is near. 

"We need to talk," Scott says one morning when he enters Marina's office. 

"Did you find new partner you like?" Marina asks point blank. 

"No, and actually that's what I wanted to talk to you about," he says. "I'm not doing it anymore. I'm not skating with anyone else. I don't care what you think or what everybody else thinks. I'm not training with anyone other than Tessa. So you can stop getting a new girl for me everyday. I'm not interested." 

"Scott," Marina tries to reason with him, "you need partner." 

"Tessa is my partner," he states. 

"Tessa maybe doesn't skate again," Marina replies, irritated. 

"Tessa will skate again, Marina. She will come back and we will win that Olympic gold in Vancouver."

"You don't know," she says, shaking her head. 

"I know Tessa, that's enough for me. I'm not skating with anyone else. I don't care what you do or how I'm going to train, but I'm telling you right here and now, I don't want to have anything to do with any other ice dancer." 

"Scott, you are too loyal. It will end you one day," she rolls her eyes. "You are best skater of your generation. You should not waste talent like yours if Tessa cannot skate."

"Tessa is my best friend, my partner and the most important person in my life," he says simply. "I'm not leaving her. Ever. If she can't skate anymore, I won't either."

"You know she would not want you to do that for her." 

"I know and I don't care. I'm not doing this for her. This is about me: I'm not a skater if she isn't skating with me."

"Okay, Scott," Marina sighs, resigned. "You hope she will skate then." 

The conversation is over. 

Over the next weeks, Marina and Igor make him train with hockey sticks, buckets and sandbags. 

It's not ideal. 

But it's better than any of the girls Marina made him skate with. 

It's better than nothing.

You say you want a leader

But you can't seem to make up your mind

*

London, Ontario, Canada - October 2008

Tessa is two Xanax in when she hears someone knock on her bedroom window. Well, it's not really her bedroom, she's been relegated to the downstairs guest room. She can't climb stairs anymore. At least, it offers her privacy; all the other bedrooms are on the second floor. 

"Scott," she whispers, opening her window and letting the brisk wind come through. It makes her shiver. "What are you doing here?" she asks, completely shocked. He should be three hours away in Michigan right now. 

He climbs through her window without much difficulty or noise. "Your surgery is tomorrow," he says simply. 

"I know," she says. "Did you drive all the way up here?" 

He takes all of her in. It's been so long since he's last seen her. She's dressed in flimsy white cotton pajamas and her hair is all messy. He's not used to seeing her this way, just before bed. He doesn't know when she stopped being little Tutu with her freckles and her pigtails and became Tessa with her long legs, bright green eyes and mischievous smile. When did she grow up? When did they? She's 19 and he's 21. It seems like a lifetime ago when they were just two kids skating quietly and being shy about holding hands. 

"Yeah," he says, going to sit on her bed. "I wanted to see you." 

"You're crazy," she says with a smile, sitting next to him on the bed. 

He looks so good. He's clearly been training a lot, he looks much more in shape than he did the last time she's seen him. He doesn't have any gel in his short hair and it's spiking everywhere. He smells citrusy. He smells like home. She wants to nuzzle her nose into the crook of his neck and inhale deeply. He has the most comforting scent. 

"I missed you," he says softly. "So much, Tess," he adds, taking one of her hands inside his own and bringing it to his lips to kiss it. 

She wraps her arms around his neck, pressing her body closer to his. She has missed this. She has missed the closeness, the warmth, their connection and their touches. And yet, it doesn't feel like it usually does. There seems to be a nervous tension between them. A heady combination of awkwardness, anticipation and anxiety. It almost feels like they're about to compete. 

"Are you okay?" he asks, relishing in her warmth and closeness. 

"Yeah," she replies softly, rubbing her nose against the skin of his neck. She wants to soak up his scent. 

"You don't seem very nervous," he observes, stroking her knee. He can't stop touching her. It's been such a long time since he's felt her underneath his fingers. 

"I've taken two Xanax to calm my nerves," she explains. "Doctor's orders."

He tickles her nose "Are you all loopy Tessie?" he smiles. 

"You make me all loopy," she replies. 

"So yes," he laughs. 

"I've missed you so much," she says lowly. 

Their eyes lock. Green against hazel. Light against dark. Tessa feels like she can't breathe. How can her heart, her whole body be so full of him? How does it contain all of him and all of her at the same time? 

"Everything is going to go great," she says. "I'm going to get my surgery and in six weeks, I'm coming back and we're going to kick ass. Win Worlds."

"Yes," he says. "Everything is going to be okay, Tess." 

They don't even know if they truly believe it or if they're just trying to convince themselves at this point. 

"I don't want to lose you," Tessa says after a while. 

"You're never going to lose me," Scott promises. 

Her heart skips a beat. 

"I love you, Scott," she says suddenly, gripping his hands. 

Scott stops breathing for an instant and feels his heart going into overdrive. She certainly doesn't mean it in the way he wants her to mean it. Although he wants her to mean it in all the ways. 

"You know, just in case something… happens tomorrow," she adds, stroking his middle finger. 

He cradles her face into his hands and presses their foreheads together. "Nothing is going to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow you get better." 

They can feel each other's breaths on their lips. Their heartbeats are slowly getting in sync. 

"I love you, Tess," he whispers. She can feel the vibrations from each word echoing against her mouth. 

They don't know who makes the first move, but one of them does and the other follows. Suddenly, their mouths are devouring each other, their tongues are dancing, stroking, sucking, licking their way down to naked skin. 

Everything is a haze. Scott lays Tessa down on the bed and quickly removes her pajama top and bottom. He realizes he has never seen her entirely naked before. Just bits and pieces over the years. And now she's lying here, completely bare in front of him, underneath him, for him. She burns bright in his mind.

Tessa should feel shy. She should feel anxious and insecure. Her breasts are too small, her shoulders are too wide, her hips are not full enough. But she doesn't. This is her and she loves it. Skating has molded her body the same way it has molded his. It's in every curve and in every sharp angle. Naked and bare in front of him, she's not afraid. She's with Scott. She can never be afraid when he's with her. 

Scott's eyes roam her body slowly and he takes in her breasts, her pink nipples, her toned stomach, her navel piercing, the triangle of curls where her hips meet her thighs and her legs. Her damned legs. Tessa sees him swallowing hard, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. She can see his eyes darkening and his heartbeat quickening.

"Scott," she says softly, bringing him back in the moment. 

He blinks slowly. "We shouldn't do this, Tess," he whispers.

"I know," she whispers back. 

"You have a boyfriend," he points out. 

"I know," she says. "I don't care."

She doesn't say it doesn't count this time. They both know it does. 

He quickly removes his hoodie, his jeans and his boxers and lays his naked body on top of hers. Tessa barely has the time to look at him. She knows his chest. But the last time she touched him so intimately, they were in a dark closet, she didn't have time to properly stare and gaze.

Head buried in the crook of her neck, sucking her skin in his mouth, inhaling her scent, Scott lets one hand wander down her body from the curve of her shoulder to the hollow of her knee, opening her up to him. He lets his body find its place between her parted thighs as she wraps her legs around his. 

He trails his mouth all the way down her body, sucking a nipple, nibbling down her ribcage, biting her hip, committing her to memory. Learning the way she smells, the way she tastes, the way she moves, the way her heart beats against his tongue. The only thing he hears is her whispering his name over and over again, her fingers tangling is his hair, begging him silently to never stop. 

Tessa can feel him in every fiber of her being. Her whole body vibrates. All of her is connected to him. His hands spread her thighs and his arms lock behind her ass to keep her in place. She finds his hands and knots her fingers with his. She feels the rough wetness of his tongue against her and her mind goes burning bright white with pleasure.

Scott hasn't done this a whole lot, but this is Tessa. He can read her most minute body cues. He learns that she likes it when he sucks her softly into his mouth and when his tongue laps lazily at her. So he keeps doing that for a while until he can feel her hands fisting his hair and her thighs nearly squashing his head. 

"C'me here," she moans softly, encouraging him to crawl back up. 

He presses his lips against hers and slides his tongue in her mouth. She can taste herself on his lips and she can feel his hard length pressing against her. She reaches in between them and takes him in her hand, stroking him softly. His mouth opens against her, their moans melting together as she pumps him faster. He has to stop her before this ends prematurely. 

"Do you have anything?" she asks, rubbing herself over him. She can feel him sliding up against her deliciously and she knows that, in one move, he could be inside of her.

He brushes a sweaty strand of hair off her forehead. "Would you think I was cocky if I said I had some?" he laughs against her lips. 

"I can feel your cockiness from here," she chuckles, undulating her pelvis against his. 

He gets up to get the condom from his wallet and she crawls to the end of the bed, pressing herself against his back, attentively watching him over his shoulder as he rolls the condom onto his length. Scott can feel her stare, he can feel her naked breasts and their hardened nipples against his skin, her wet breath against his ear as she strokes his arms while he fiddles with the condom. He doesn't know how he manages to put the condom on; his hands are so shaky. He doesn't know if this is a dream or a fantasy but he'll take it. He doesn't even recognize this Tessa anymore and yet he still knows her better than she knows herself. But he'll take it. He'll take her. Any version of her.

He crawls on top of her and kisses her deeply. "Have you…" he asks, locking eyes with her. "Have you ever done this before?" he just wants to check. 

She smiles softly. "Yeah," she nods. Her whole body is humming with anticipation.

He's a bit relieved. His heart couldn't have withstood the knowledge of being her first. 

Tessa guides him inside of her in one stroke and wraps herself around his body, letting herself be surrounded by his weight and his scent. Her hand goes to his face, stroking his cheek gently. She can't close her eyes, she has to see everything to believe it's really happening. His are closed and he's concentrating really hard on not losing it on the first thrust. She feels like everything he's even dreamed of. She's better than any fantasy he ever had. She suffocates him like a vice; hot, tight and so wet. She doesn't know where she begins and where he ends anymore.

He cradles her sweaty face and brings their mouths together as he thrusts into her, pushing deeper and deeper. They have to be quiet, they swallow each gasp and each moan. He can feel her legs tightening against his ass as her hips buck under his.

Her back arches, her hands clutch his shoulders, leaving half-moons marks all over them as he goes faster. His pelvis brushes against her in the most shiver inducing way every time he enters her and she can feel herself get closer and closer to the edge.

"I'm not going to last much longer, Tess," he warns, licking the corner of her lips. 

"Don't stop," she moans, her voice husky. "I'm so fucking close," she sucks his tongue in her mouth.

She falls deep underwater, gasping for breath and he joins her a few seconds later.

He's unraveling every thread and stitch of her carefully woven facade. One seam, one string at a time. Something cracks inside of her. She's never going to be able to be put back together the same way. There's no going back. They'll always have chinks in their well-constructed armors. 

He rolls off of her after a few minutes and they lie naked, sweaty and legs tangled on the sheets for a few moments.

The haze has evaporated. The fever is gone.

"Should I go?" he asks, looking at her. 

He doesn't know what to say or how to act. She's going to be gone for two months and they just did that. 

"I don't want you to," she answers, tracing the strong ridge of his eyebrows with tentative fingers. She wants to memorize every single detail about him and lock it away in her mind safe. "But you probably should. You have a long drive back," she finishes. 

He nods, gets up, collects his clothes and gets dressed under her watchful eyes. "Text me after the surgery's done," he says. "Right after the moment you wake up, okay?" 

"I will," she promises. 

She watches him climb out of her window and disappear into the night. 

I never wanted to be your weekend lover

I only wanted to be some kind of friend

*

London, Ontario, Canada - November 2008

Tessa has read all the literature, she has talked to all the doctors, she has given her informed consent a dozen times. She knows what to expect from this recovery. She knows about the pain and the discomfort, the uselessness of her legs, the strict schedule of drugs that forms the pattern of her days and the haziness that ensues. She has been warned about the sadness, the depression and the frustration. This has been hammered into her by everyone including almost every member of her family. 

She was just never warned about the never-ending emptiness that would come with Scott's silence and absence from her everyday life. She never expected it. It completely blindsided her. It feels wrong. On a molecular level. Every atom of her body misses Scott. She misses his kind passionate eyes, his child-like smile, his rough callused hands and his soft yet firm touch. This sorrow goes beyond the pain in her legs. She feels like she's missing a limb when two already don't work. She feels lopsided. 

She has sent one text to tell him that the surgery went well. He has replied with a promise to talk to her later. But he never did. Then again, neither did she. What went wrong? When did they become strangers? When did their relationship become as strained as her leg muscles? Is it the sex? Did she ruin everything?

Every morning she wakes up thinking he will magically appear at her bedside, holding her hand and stroking her hair. Every time the doorbell rings, she hopes it's him showing up to surprise her. Every time her phone rings, she hopes it's him on the other end. But it never is.

She has started writing texts and emails over and over a thousand times. Her drafts are filled to the brim. She has written passionate love letters, miserable texts overflowing with grief, and hateful emails filled with rage and hopelessness. But she can never bring herself to actually send anything. She doesn't even know what to say, what's the right thing to say. He doesn't want to hear about her pain, about how she can barely stand up for long periods of time, climb stairs or walk to the bathroom by herself. He doesn't want to hear about her sadness, about how some days she can barely find the courage to get out of bed. She doesn't want to make him feel bad for her. She just wants to hold his hand and feel his arms around her again.

She has heard through the grapevine that Marina and Igor had been looking for a new partner for him. She has heard that he had skated, trained and practiced with a number of them. She has heard that he been promised the earth if only he would skate with somebody else. Someone who's not her. Someone who's healthy. Someone who can actually use her legs and skate. She cried for three days after her so-called friend delighted in passing on that information. It's unbearable. She doesn't mind that he has a girlfriend, she's never minded. But this? This is worse. He shouldn't skate with anyone else but her. He should want her to be his only dance partner. Does he not want her anymore? Don't the last eleven years mean anything to him? Doesn't she mean anything to him?

Maybe she dreamed up the last eleven years of her life.

Maybe she made it up. 

Maybe they weren't written in the stars after all. 

She keeps to her recovery routines to keep herself distracted. 

She has to relearn everything that makes her who she is.

She has to hold on.

She has to come back.

It's such a shame our friendship had to end

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - November 2008

It's not normal to miss her this much, is it? 

He's pretty sure it's not normal to feel like somebody ripped off a part of his body every time he takes the ice. 

He has to train every day with sandbags and hockey sticks while he watches Meryl and Charlie dance smugly right next to him. It's infuriating. It leaves him with such a bitter and jealous taste in his mouth. It tastes like battery acid. It's corroding him from the inside out. He's not usually like that. But he can't help himself. He feels such rage, anger at this situation. 

And a little at Tessa too even though he will never admit it to anyone and least of all to her. She hasn't called or texted ever since she told him that the surgery went well. He had replied. She was supposed to text him back. She was the one supposed to call him back. It was her turn. Why didn't she? 

He checks his phone a thousand times a day. He feels like a teenage girl. He keeps hoping to see a message or a missed call. He even entertains the idea to just drive all the way up to London, but he never does. What would he say? She doesn't want to hear him talk about training when she can't train. She doesn't want to hear about how it feels like his heart has been ripped out of his chest when she can't even use her legs. He doesn't want to make her feel awkward about skating when she's not healthy. He doesn't want to rub it in. He just wants to hold her hand and feel her in his arms again. 

Is it the sex? Maybe she regrets it. He did leave pretty quickly. That was not one of his finest moments. 

It's so awkward now. Everything is so awkward. And to say everyone praised them for their connection and their chemistry. If they could see them now…

How do you even go from there? How do you even go about making it better?

He knows she's fine from Marina. She has been keeping in contact with her at least. He knows she's doing physio and physical therapy. He knows that, apparently, it's going well and that the doctors are hopeful. But does she even ask about him?

Scott practices his twizzles one more time. Are they even called twizzles when you're doing them on your own? Every fucking time, he catches himself trying to spot her as he exits from them. It's what he usually does to see where she's at. He's always the one who goes too fast and ends up out of sync. And every fucking time, his body expects her to be there. And she's not. And every fucking time, he feels the loss. His body literally feels the loss, like phantom limb pain. She's his skyline, his anchor and he's her center of gravity.

He feels like every one is watching him, poor little Scott with a crippled partner who can't face the truth that she's probably not coming back. Like they pity him. And maybe they do. But he's not going to give up that easily. Tessa is out there fighting to regain the use of her legs, he has to be ready for her. 

He checks his phone in the changing rooms. 

No new message. 

No missed call. 

Why doesn't she call?

Why doesn't she text? 

When did they become strangers? 

When did they stop being friends? 

It's such a shame our friendship had to end

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - December 2008

Tessa never thought skating with Scott would ever feel weird. But it is. It's weird and awkward and they haven't actually had a real conversation except for small talk. And even that was strained.

Everybody welcomed her with open arms, tight hugs, well wishes and kind words, but she knows the truth. She knows most of them would have rather she never came back. She knows that no matter how many years she's been in Canton, she has never been one of them and never will be. She only has Scott. And that's what makes this return so bittersweet, she's not even sure she still has him. 

They don't talk. They used to talk non-stop while they skated. With their own little jokes and keywords; their own little language, but that's not the case anymore. They just skate. And it's good, it's not bad. It's just not excellent. Especially when she's this out of shape and he's as amazing (if not better) as before. But they don't talk, they don't connect and it's just not the same. 

His touch feels cold. 

"Okay, so," Scott explains, "I'm going to put my hands there," he motions to her hips, "and then lift you, hold the position and then go the other way, put my hands underneath your knees and hold you on my thigh. Then, you slide on my back and end up on my thigh again, holding your blade Biellmann style. Is that good?"

"I understand," she says. He never had to explain a lift this much. Usually, he just handles her the way he needs to. Usually, he just shows her. 

They try it. It's not smooth, it's not fluid. She doesn't hold herself enough on the lifts. Scott is wobbly on his skates when he has to slide her to his back. It's not clean. It needs work. He can't even look at her. 

They look at Marina over at the boards. Her eyes are dark, her mouth is pinched, her jaw is clenched. She is not happy about what she sees. 

Where did they go?

Did they take what they had for granted all these years? 

They need to fix this before it's too late. It's literally crippling them. 

Marina calls them over to the boards. "That not pretty. Scott hold her stronger. Tessa hold yourself better. And look at each other. You not connect. You need connect. Need lot of work." 

They nod their heads like two like kindergarteners being scolded by their teacher. 

They try it again.

It's not much better. 

Scott sees her leaning against the boards, completely out of breath and gulping down a whole bottle of water. She looks miserable: frail and unsure. Worse of all: she looks sad. Maybe he does too. He wants to ask her if her legs are hurting her again, but he doesn't dare. He doesn't want to hurt her feelings. He doesn't even know where to start. 

They have two weeks of awful practices early in the mornings, which is not Tessa's favorite time of the day to begin with, to allow her to go to physio and PT in the afternoons. 

One morning, after their training is over, he's just lingering under the hot jet of the rink's showers when he hears two very familiar voices come in. 

"I'm telling you, man," Fedor's lightly accented voice says. "Tessa's not going to last another month. She is done," he finishes unkindly. Scott hears the sound of the shower being turned on.

"You think so?" Charlie's voice asks softly. "She's skating barely two months after major surgery, I wouldn't call that done." Scott hears another shower being turned on and a curtain closing.

"She's skating, but have you looked at how she's doing it? She looks like Bambi trying to take his first steps. She's miserable all the time. And I don't think things are going well with her fuck buddy. They can barely stand to be in the same room together nowadays," Fedor laughs. 

Scott can feel his blood boil and he has to refrain himself from punching the tiled wall. He knows Marina wouldn't approve of him beating her only son to a bloody pulp. Although he'd deserve it.

"You're harsh, man," Charlie replies. "And I don't think she and Scott are actually… you know… fucking. They're just friends." 

"Maybe that's why she looks so miserable then," Fedor says. "I mean, I break up with her and I barely get a reaction out of her. Maybe she's not fucking Scott, but she's fucking someone. And lemme tell you, poor guy, she is not a good lay. I don't know why I fuck virgins. They're useless." 

Scott's forehead is pressed against the wall, his fists clutched tight, breathing ragged, trying to contain himself. He has to keep his temper in check. Prison would not be a good fit. He's too pretty for prison. Tessa would not want him to punch someone on her behalf. She would actually get mad at him, telling him in her huffy feminist voice that she doesn't need a man to fight her battle or defend her honor. And she doesn't. But that sack of shit is just asking for it.

"Come on, Fedor, don't talk like that," Charlie says. "Tessa's a nice girl. She doesn't deserve what happened to her legs."

"I don't know why you defend her this much," Fedor says. "With her out of the way, that leaves the field clear for you and Mer. Scott will never skate with someone else, the fucking idiot, my mother told me. If she's done, he's done. That's good news for you." 

"That's not really the way we want to win…" Charlie says. 

"Cheating is the only way to win in figure skating. Just ask Jamie and David. I'm hearing all kind of stuff about him and Tessa by the way. Miss goody goody sure moves on fast. And with a married man nonetheless," he laughs. 

He doesn't even remember ripping off the shower curtains, grabbing Fedor by the throat and slamming him against the wall, his head making a very satisfying hollow sound when it hits the tiles. He doesn't care that he's a whole foot shorter than him. Blind fury more than makes up for it. 

"Listen you fucking CUNT," Scott roars, flattening him against the wall, his forearm pressing strongly on his jugular. "Call me every fucking name in the fucking book, but if I ever hear you say another fucking word about Tessa, I will end you, you get me? If you ever look at her again or breathe in her direction the wrong way, you're a dead man, you hear me?" he continues.

"Scott!" Charlie yells and tries to get him away from Fedor. 

Charlies grabs Scott by the torso and separates them. Fedor crumples to the floor, probably because of the concussion Scott just gave him. 

"And don't you fucking dare go tattle to your mommy!" Scott shouts.

"You're a fucking idiot," Fedor yells as he tries to stand. "Go back to being her knight in shining armor, see if I care, but never forget who fucked her first," he smirks. 

Charlie can't possibly hold him off for much longer and Scott's fist connects harshly with Fedor's face, pummeling him back to the ground, effectively breaking his nose. Scott felt it crack under his punch, he knows it's broken before it even starts gushing blood everywhere. 

"That one was for Tessa," Scott spits as he frees himself from Charlie's grip. 

Scott snatches his towel on the way out and immediately goes to put some ice on his knuckles before going home. 

He hopes the fucker will remember the day a 5'10 Canadian country boy laid him out on the floor. 

*

"What happened to your hand?" Tessa cries out the next day when she sees him at the rink early in the morning. His knuckles are all red, scratched and bruised. 

"Oh, I accidentally slammed a door on it," Scott shrugs, trying to appear casual about it. 

"You accidentally slammed a door on your own hand?" Tessa asks skeptical. 

"Yes, my car door," he explains. "I didn't do it on purpose, believe me, I just wasn't paying attention." 

"Sure," she says, not looking convinced at all. "It looks painful," she points out. "Are you going to be okay today at practice?" 

"Don't you worry about me, Tess," he smiles. "It doesn't even hurt that much." 

It's another disastrous training session today with both Marina and Igor yelling at them and muttering in Russian, which is never a good omen. Scott finds her sitting on the bench outside the rink after it ends. There's a birthday party going on in the break room and he's surprised she'd rather sit out in the cold than eat cake. Her head is in her hands and she's bent over. 

"Aren't you freezing out there, Tess?" he asks, sitting beside her. She's not even wearing gloves, but he doesn't dare sit too close or touch her.

"No, it's fine," she says softly, even though her cheeks are bright red and her nose is runny. "I'm not really in a partying mood." 

"Are you…" he starts hesitantly. "Are you feeling okay?" 

"Yeah, I'm fine," she answers in a low voice. "I just know physio and PT are going to kick my ass today," she shrugs. 

"I'm sorry, Tess," he says. 

"Not your fault," she says simply. 

"No, I meant, I'm sorry, Tess…" he says, looking down at the ground. 

"Scott…" she starts, but shuts her mouth almost immediately. She doesn't know what to say to that. So many things. And yet, nothing comes out. So many things she wants to say, to yell, at him.

"You're shivering all over," Scott says and he dares to take her hands into his own. He brings them to his mouth and gently blows warm air on them. 

Tessa feels her body shudder at the sudden unexpected contact. It's the first time since forever since she's felt that tap tap tap in her heart and that warmth in her belly. Her body leans into his on instinct alone. It's been such a long time since he's touched any part of her with so much care and tenderness. His touch is warm, comforting and safe. She feels home. Her body is starting to remember it. She turns her head to look at him and meets his gaze. She reads the same confusion which lingers in her own eyes. So many questions. 

They almost forget to breathe while they stare silently at each other, afraid to shatter the moment, and when they finally inhale, they do it together. Their breaths and their heartbeats slowly synchronize and it's the first time in two months that they've been in sync about anything. It feels achingly familiar. Like some part of their bodies that's been missing has just been found and reattached. 

"We fucked this up so bad, Tess," he says after a while. "I've fucked this up so bad. I'm so sorry. So fucking sorry." 

She will not cry. She has to repeat it over and over in her head. She will not cry. 

"We did…" she replies softly. "I did. With my legs and everything that happened, the lies and the sex. I've fucked it up, Scott. I'm sorry…" 

"Listen, you never apologize about your legs," he cries out. He has to make sure she understands. "That's not your fault. And the sex wasn't either, I wanted it as much as you did." 

"Why didn't you call?" she asks, a pleading tone in her voice. "Were you this angry at me?" 

"Why didn't you?" he retorts. "I waited by that phone like a teenage girl." 

"I don't know," she confesses. "It was awkward. I didn't know what to say and after a while, I didn't even know where to begin. I know you were out there training, I didn't want to bum you out or make you feel sorry for me. I didn't want to constantly remind you of the fact that I wasn't healthy, that I wasn't there. Why didn't you call?! You could have!" 

"I didn't want to make you feel bad. I didn't want to remind you that I was out there skating and doing the thing you love most when you couldn't. When you were bedridden and in pain. I'm so sorry, Tess…" 

"You didn't want to hear about my pain…" 

"I want to hear about everything that happens in your life. I was so angry, Tess, so fucking angry. At the world and at you for dismissing me and forgetting about me!" his voice gets louder. 

"I never forgot about you!" she defends herself. "And what should I say?! You were the one who forgot about me. I know you skated with other girls. I know you trained with them. I know what their families offered you. I know everything, Scott!" 

"How did you find out about that?" he asks, taken aback. He never thought that, maybe, one of the reasons that she didn't dare call him was because she might have heard about Marina and Igor trying to find him a new partner. 

"Some girl at the rink told me when she called to check in with me," she answers. "Why didn't you tell me? Did you know how it felt learning about it from someone else? Knowing that you danced with someone else? How did you think I felt? Do you know how hurt I was? I thought you were going to leave me."

"Tess, I swear to you on my life that I never asked for any of it. I told Marina to stop parading those girls in front me. I did. I put my foot down and I…" 

"Marina did this?!" Tessa cries out. 

"YES!" he shouts out. "I never looked for another partner. I promise you Tessa, I promise. You're the only one for me. I would NEVER leave you. You're mine. I promise," he stutters, his voice full of sadness and apologies, squeezing her hands tightly in his.

"Scott…" she whispers. Tessa can feel herself on the brink of tears but she mustn't let the emotions overtake her. She must remain in control. She must never drown. 

"Tess, I promise," he says frantically. She has to believe him. She has to. "I swear, I never wanted any of it. All of those girls," he says disparagingly, "they were awful. It never felt right. You're the only one who feels right. And I told Marina, I told her, that I never wanted to train with any other girl. And she made me practice with buckets and sandbags and hockey sticks. And I told her that if you didn't skate then I wouldn't either. I promise, Tutu." 

Scott using her childhood nickname is what breaks her and Tessa can feel the warm tears streaming down her cold face. "I believe you, Scott, I believe you," she says softly. And she does. She can feel the distress and the truth in his voice. She should have never doubted him. She should have known better. 

"Don't cry, T," he says, but he can feel himself getting emotional as well. "I was so lonely without you," he cries openly now, wiping tears away with a closed fist. "So fucking lonely and miserable and pathetic. I felt so hopeless. And so fucking angry. I thought you might never come back. And I didn't have any news… I should have called, I'm so sorry. You deserved so much better." 

"It was so painful, Scott," she cries, wiping her face with one hand and immediately taking his again. "So painful. I could barely walk, I had to be helped for everything. And I was so sad… I made so many mistakes. I was so sad… I was so lonely too without you. And so scared that you were just going to abandon me, that you were going to forget about me. I'm so sorry, Scott. I should have called or texted too. I have piles of unsent drafts everywhere. I wanted to. I don't know why I didn't. I was so scared and so angry too. I'm sorry," she sobs.

"I missed you so fucking much, Tess," he dry heaves, and not being able to contain himself much longer, engulfs her in a crushing hug. He can feel her tears against his skin and he's sure she must feel his own as well. 

"I missed you so fucking much too, Scott," she weeps, locking her arms tightly around his body. She's sure she can feel his heartbeat against hers even through all of theirs layers. She can feel him again. She can feel him inside her again. 

Their gazes burn bright with intensity and unshed tears. They can't keep their hands to themselves. They touch each other's faces, necks and hips. Fingers trace each other's eyes, lips, cheekbones and jawlines. They want to be sure this is real. 

"I love you, Tess," he says, locking gazes with her and cradling her face into his hands and bringing it closer to his to kiss her cheek. How can he love her this much? How is his body so full of her? Nothing compares to Tessa.

His mouth feels like it's burning an indelible mark on her cheek and Tess leans into his touch, almost rubbing herself against his lips. "I love you too, Scott," she whispers. How can she love this much? How is he such a part of herself? She doesn't even remember her life without Scott in it. He is everything.

"Never again," he says. "We have to promise each other. Never again," he insists. "No anger, no blame, no grudges." 

He tightens his arms around her and her sweet strawberry and vanilla scent hits him. He's home.

"I promise," she says quickly. "I promise. No anger, no blame, no grudges." 

She nestles her head in the crook of his neck, inhales his clean masculine scent of citrus and sweat and hugs him tighter. She never wants to let go. She feels like she can breathe again. 

It seems like hours when they finally detach themselves. They're both a mess; bloodshot eyes, runny nose, reddened cheeks, jagged breaths. 

"I think we should see someone," he says after a while. 

"What do you mean?" she asks, stroking his hand. She will never take him for granted ever again. 

"I mean we should go and talk to someone, like a therapist or a sports psychologist. We can never let anything like this happen ever again. We need help." 

"We need to communicate better," she agrees. 

"So it's a deal?" Scott asks with a grin. 

"You want to shake on it, Scott?" Tessa asks, grinning widely back at him through her tears.

"A super secret special skating handshake is not a bad idea actually," he suggests. "We should work on one."

She throws her head back in a roaring laugh and he just laughs with her, wiping the tears away from their faces.

I never meant to cause you any sorrow

I never meant to cause you any pain

I only wanted to one time to see you laughing

*

"Have you seen Fedor's face?" Tessa asks one morning after training. Her mouth is stern, but her eyes are smiling. 

"Yeah," Scott shrugs, trying to appear innocent. "I heard he caught an elbow playing basketball."

"He's got a grade 2 concussion, a broken nose and a black eye," Tessa points out. 

"Basketball is a violent sport," Scott says simply. 

"Fedor is 6'1," Tessa says. "Who could actually reach high enough to elbow him in the nose?" she asks.

"I don't know why you're asking me, he's your boyfriend, I don't know all of his friends. Maybe he's got tall friends," he answers quickly. 

"He's not my boyfriend anymore. He broke up with me last month," she says, looking pointedly at him. 

"I didn't know that. That's brand new information," Scott smiles. "I'm sorry." Not. 

"No, you're not," Tessa says. "You've never liked him." 

"No, I'm not. I hate that guy."

"He must have said some awful things," Tessa says softly, her eyes tender, "for you to lose your shit like that." 

"I wouldn't know," Scott shrugs.

"You know how I know it's bad?" Tessa asks with a grin. "Even Charlie, who's the biggest gossip around here, wouldn't tell me what happened and he's the one who drove Fedor to the ER."

"I assure you," Scott says. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Well then, I guess I should just thank you for that thing you know nothing about and that you definitely didn't do," she says, kissing his cheek softly.

"You're welcome, Tess," he smiles.

*

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada - January 2009

They don't know how they win it. Their first competition coming back from Tessa's surgery and with almost no training, but they win it; the gold. It's probably a combination of insane good luck, raw talent, sheer determination, strength of mind and their rediscovered chemistry and connection. But they're not complaining. It's a first step in the right direction. A first step towards the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. 

They're back. 

"I'm so proud of you, Tess," Scott says, sitting next to her at the after party and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "We actually did it, we won the gold."

Her head immediately finds its favorite spot in the crook of his neck. "I wouldn't have been able to do it without you, Scott. You trained so hard for this. I know you carried me," she says. "Thank you." 

"You're my partner, we did this together," he says simply. "We need to work more on it if we want to win Four Continents and Worlds. That would definitely put us in the favorites for 2010." 

"I know," she says. "We have a lot to catch up on. But it's a good program, it can work in our favor." 

"How are your legs feeling?" he asks softly. 

"Not that great to be honest," she replies truthfully. She knows better now than to hide it from him. "It's still a bit painful, especially after a massive effort like this one, but physio helped."

"Do you want to go?" he asks. "Go back to your room, watch a movie?" he offers, stroking her knee. 

She looks over his shoulder. "You're sweet, but I don't think that's a good idea for us to leave together," she laughs. "Your girlfriend is glaring daggers at me. I don't think she likes me." 

Scott looks over at Jessica. "She just doesn't get it," he shakes his head. "They never do. She'll get used to it. Don't worry about it, I'll talk to her."

"I'm not worried," Tessa laughs. And she's not, she knows Jessica will be like all the others: she won't last. "Besides," she adds, "she should understand better than anyone. She skates pairs. With her ex-boyfriend." 

"She says it's not the same thing because they're over," Scott explains, "contrary to what we apparently have." 

Tessa chuckles. "You didn't tell her though, right?" she asks a little worried. "About the sex?"

"I'm never telling a soul about the sex, Tess," he says with a cheeky smile. "We both know it was a mistake and that it can never happen again." 

"We should tell the therapist though," she points out, giving him a look. 

"Okay, we're telling the therapist but that's it," he agrees. "He's not legally allowed to say anything to anyone, ever, so that works in our favor." 

"Deal," she says, offering her hand to him. 

"Deal," he repeats, tapping his hand with hers in a series of complicated movements. 

Their super secret special skating handshake is almost on point. 

 *

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - February 2010

Mahler is a blessing. Mahler is a wonder. Mahler is the most beautiful program they have ever skated. It's something they both agree on. Mahler is a gift Marina has given them. It's poetry on ice. It's pure raw emotion. It came together so naturally, so organically. Every movement, every glide, every turn feels like they own it. It's everything they've been working for in the last thirteen years. Of course their compulsory and original dances are also magnificent, but Mahler… They can feel it coming. The atmosphere in Vancouver is electric; they can feel the excitement and the support of all the Canadians there. Mahler will win them the gold, they're sure of it. It's a feeling deep inside their bodies.

If Tessa's legs can hold on for long enough that is. If they're able to carry her for three perfect programs, she knows she can do it. She just needs to suck it up. These are their Olympics, in their home country, they cannot lose. It's not even worth considering. Mind over matter. 

"Stop fidgeting," Scott says in a terse voice as he lays a hand on her knee to make it stop bouncing. 

They're waiting their turn. It's a strong program, perhaps the most powerful free dance of the competition, but it makes no allowance for mistakes. It's their hardest program to execute. Everything has to be clean, precise and on point. Everything has to go perfectly. 

"I'm sorry," Tessa says, laying a hand on top of his. 

"Do your legs hurt?" he asks in a whisper. 

Tessa's legs are in such a state that she has to endure five hours of physio every day to be able to skate for five minutes. She has to count the steps to go to the cafeteria. She's in constant pain. And they have to keep quiet about it. 

"They won't once I start skating," she said assuredly. 

"Tess…" Scott whispers. 

"I know," she says.

"Get up," he says, taking her hand and pulling her against him. "Remember what Dr. Gordon said, we have to stay in the moment, ground ourselves." 

They wrap their arms tightly around each other and try to find their inner peace, to stay in their little bubble. Tessa's hands lock low on his waist.

"Together," he says, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply. 

"Together," she repeats, burying her head in the crook of his neck. 

Their breathing synchronizes slowly, their heartbeats melt into one another, their minds tune to the same wavelength. They can feel their whole bodies relax. Together, there's nothing they can't achieve. She's his anchor, he's her center of gravity. 

"One step at a time, Tess," he whispers against her skin. 

"One step at a time, Scott," she repeats softy.

Représentant le Canada, representing Canada, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. 

They glide. 

They float. 

They love, they lose, they find. 

Scott ends up facing the wrong way. 

The crowd is deafening around them, but they only hear it once they've finished skating their program. 

Scott tells her "thank you so much" as they hold their final position. 

Tessa tells him she thinks they "just won the Olympics."

They try to take it in as much as they can while they take a bow. They did it for themselves, but they did it for Canada as well. And they just made Olympic and ice dancing history.

And when their score, 110.42, is announced, Scott cannot contain his emotions anymore. They're too big for his body. He almost forgets Tessa and jumps to his feet, yelling in victory. He saw someone do it once and he wants to feel just as cool. It's not official yet of course, but he knows. Deep down, he knows, the other teams won't be able to catch up. 

When they finally find each other, everything around them melts away. They squeeze each other so hard, their ribcages hurt. His fingertips dig into her skin as she leans deeply into his embrace. They don’t need to say anything. His hands slide to her waist, he buries his nose into the crook of her neck and tightens his grip on her hips. She smells like sweat and vanilla. She smells like home. Tessa can feel his warm breath tickling her skin as she presses their bodies tighter; closer, together, leaving no space between them.

Pure euphoria. 

Pure ecstasy. 

Pure adrenaline.

She never felt something like this before. It's almost better than sex. Almost. 

Gold. 

Everything they've worked for the last thirteen years. All the pain, sweat, the tears, the blood, the hurt. All those hours spent working, training and bruising their bodies to the point of exhaustion.

Gold. 

Once on the podium, Scott never lets go of her hand. He will never let go of her hand after this. Tessa beams up at him as they bend their heads to receive their medals. There are probably thousands of people around them, but they feel like it's just the two of them the moment they feel the cool metal slip around their necks and nestle against their beating hearts.

Gold.

They're supposed to be nervous. They're supposed to be all emotional, cry and forget the lyrics to their national anthem. But they just belt it out so loud and so out of tune their opponents can't help side-eyeing them. Tessa feels Scott's body vibrating next to her; he positively hums with excitement and pure child-like joy. It's everything they've ever dreamed about and more. And when their eyes lock before taking their medals in their hands and raising them up for all of Canada to see, Tessa feels a wave of love and gratitude rolling over her body. 

When she was fourteen, she told him that winning was more important than what could happen between them, more important than romance, feelings, dating and sex. When he was eighteen, he told her to dream of the gold. As she feels their medals clinking together between their pressed bodies, really, she thinks, winning is great, but winning with Scott, her best friend, her best partner, the person she loves most in the world, is even better.

Scott makes everything taste sweeter. 

Especially victory.

*

Everything is a haze following their win. So much champagne, some much beer, so much liquor… So many hugs, accolades and hands shaken. Tessa didn't even realize they knew that many people. But it seems that everyone wants a piece of them.

She doesn't remember a whole lot about the next day after their win. It's interview after interview and party after party. Scott literally floats on cloud nine. He's all liquored up, handsy, grinning and joking at every turn. He's pumped up Scott to the max. Tessa doesn't think she has ever seen him this happy in all the years she has known him. It almost makes her forget how much her legs still fucking hurt. She's a gold medalist athlete now and yet it's the furthest from what she feels. 

"I'm never drinking again," Scott says, his voice hoarse, as he puts on his skates before the final gala rehearsal. "My hair literally hurts."

"You always say that and you still keep on drinking," Tessa says with a laugh. "How much do you wanna bet you're drinking tonight?" 

"There is no way I'm drinking tonight if I want to hold you in that goose lift in tomorrow's exhibition," he smiles. 

"Good to know," she says. She finishes lacing her skates and winces a little before massaging her shin. 

"Are you still in pain?" Scott asks in a low voice. 

"Yeah, I didn't rest them enough yesterday," she replies, grinding her teeth as she keeps on manipulating her muscles. 

"Here," Scott says, taking her leg in his lap. "Let me." He's watched her in physio and had it done to him so many times, he has a general idea of what to do. 

He kneads her muscles firmly. "Straighten, relax and push up," he orders, handling her leg in different movements. "Am I hurting you?" he asks when he sees her wince. 

"No, it's bearable," she answers. "Keep going." 

"Other leg," he asks as he repeats the same movement and the same massage. "You have to go back to the doctor, Tess. It's not normal for the pain to be back this strongly." 

"Sometimes I wonder if I'm crazy and if the pain is just in my head," she confesses. "No one can figure out where it comes from, why it hurts and why it keeps on hurting even after the surgery, all the physio and the PT." 

"You're not crazy," he says, keeping on kneading her muscles. "Go to a different doctor." 

"I called him yesterday," she says. "He said I might need another surgery if it doesn't get better. That means another long recovery period and probably withdrawing from some championships. I'm sorry." 

"Hey, remember what Dr. Gordon said: we can't control the injuries we may sustain, we can only control the way we react to them. If you have to have another surgery, it's okay. If we have to withdraw from some competitions, it's not the end of the world either. We just won gold, Tess. Nothing else will ever beat that." 

"Except another one," she smiles. 

"Except another gold," he smiles back. 

"The next quad is going to be brutal," she says. 

"We'll have each other to help us get through it. Don't you worry Tess. I'm not letting you out of my sight if you have another surgery, I promise." 

She gets up. "I have absolutely no doubt about that," she says. 

*

While Mahler is a gift and a blessing, their performance of Everybody Dance Now in front of a home crowd after having won the gold medal is the most ecstatic skate of their life. If everything was a daze after their victory, Tessa will remember everything about this program. 

It's like someone took their childhoods, created an alternate universe in which they had never met and made them skate to it. The ballerina and the hockey player. Tessa gets to wear a tutu and Scott gets to wear a trusty pair of jeans and a team Canada hockey jersey. Could there be a program that best suits their personalities?

They're so happy they can't stop grinning through the whole thing. It's fun, entertaining, full of mirth and the crowd just eats it up. While Mahler needed their whole attention and focus, with this exhibition program, they can let loose, get lost in the moment, take in everything. 

Groove. Work me all night.

Come on let's sweat, baby.

Let the music take control

Let the rhythm move you.

Sweat, sweat.

When they bow to the loudly cheering crowd, they can hardly believe it. They're surrounded by a tidal wave of white, red and maple leafed flags. 

"Take it in, Tutu," Scott says as he bends down to kiss the ice.

They hug one last time, grinning, laughing and locking eyes. Scott can't actually believe he gets to do this with Tessa every single day. How lucky is he?

When she was sixteen, she told him they were written in the stars. That fate had a plan for them.

Maybe she was right after all.

Tessa makes everything tastes sweeter. 

Especially victory. And even sorrow. 

I never meant to cause you any sorrow

I never meant to cause you any pain

I only wanted to one time to see you laughing

I only wanted to see you

Laughing in the purple rain

TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter Text

Toronto, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

The cold morning's light shining through the semi-opened curtains bathes their hotel room in a dreamlike lilac haze. It's ethereal and magical. Tessa wakes up in what seems to be a gossamer phantasmagorical world. She feels like she's just crossed over the rainbow like Dorothy and ended up inside an impressionist painting. The light scatters on Scott's sleeping face in a myriad of interesting shapes.

Tessa is not usually the first to wake up, but clearly yesterday's day of back to back interviews and games has drained Scott of his never-ending, energizer bunny, energy. She takes advantage of the situation and just stares at him shamelessly. She slides closer to him and rolls on her side, a hand reaching forward. Her fingertips ghost over every contour and angle of his face. Her fingers brush along the strong ridge of his brow, the length of his nose; she traces the borders of his lips and the line of his well defined jaw. His foot twitches against hers and she immediately removes her hand. When she's sure he's still asleep, she slides even closer and softly rubs her nose against his. 

"Stop watching me sleep," he whispers, his voice hoarse. "It's creepy, Tess." 

Fuck. "I wasn't," she says immediately. 

"Yeah you were, I could feel your stare burning my face and I felt you getting all touchy and taking advantage," he says, blinking softly. 

"I wasn't taking…" she starts, mumbling. 

"Relax, Tess, I'm just teasing," he says, pulling his arm around her waist and pressing her body against his. "Touch me all you want." 

She kisses his mouth softly. "Hi," she whispers against his lips. 

"Hi," he whispers back, kissing her. "What time is it?" 

"Past 7," she answers, relishing in the sensation of the closeness of his body and the warmth it brings. 

"How are you up at this hour?" he asks, rubbing his eyes. 

"You know how restless I get…" she says with a cheeky smile. 

"I do," he smiles. "Is something wrong?" he asks, stroking her hip.

"No, don't worry," she reassures him. "All of the pressure is just coming down," she explains. "The last few days have just been way too many people for me. I was still all keyed up from last night. I need some quiet time."

"Well, we just have the hockey game tonight, right?" he asks.

"Yeah, I got the Arkells concert after and that's it. What are your plans?" 

"Drinks with my buddies probably and then no more alcohol. We have to be back in the studio with Sam on Monday and it's going to kick our asses."

"Tell me about it," she says. 

"How about we go to High Park this afternoon?" he suggests. "A little fresh air just the two of us. We'll bundle up at Hillside Gardens and look at the ducks."

"That sounds like a great idea," she agrees, yawning and nestling her face in the crook of his neck. 

"Try to get back to sleep, Tess," he says, bringing her closer and stroking her hair. "I'm here."

Rusted brandy in a diamond glass

Everything is made from dreams

*

London, Ontario, Canada - October 2010

"Tess, can you hear me?" Scott asks softly when he sees her eyelids fluttering open and feels her hand tightening in his. 

Her free hand goes to touch her nose as she keeps coming in and out of consciousness. 

"I'm here," he says, bringing her hand to his lips to kiss it. 

Tessa has been out of surgery and back in her room for two hours already and she has had trouble fully waking up. But he's staying right there by her side. She had to have a second surgery to relieve the pressure on her calves and this time, he's going to do it right. He's not moving. Not one inch. Not one iota. 

"Are you sure you don't wanna get something to eat?" Tessa's mother asks him from her chair. 

"I'm not leaving," Scott shrugs. "I'd like to be the first person she sees when she wakes up. I know she was a bit scared things were going to turn sour like last time." 

"Ok sweetie," she says. "I'm going to go get some lunch, you call if she wakes up. She reacts strongly to the anesthesia though." 

His eyes never leave her face, waiting for the slightest sign. She's even paler than usual and her under-eyes look like they've been stained purple. It's another hour before she moves again. 

She opens her eyes fully this time. Her green eyes are bleary, you can almost see the fog that seems to surround her. 

"Scott?" she asks, her voice hoarse. 

"Yeah, I'm here Tess," he says, squeezing her hand. 

"What are you doing in my bedroom?" she slurs. 

"You're in the hospital, T," he smiles. "For your legs, remember?" 

She tries straightening up her upper body and winces immediately. "Yeah, I remember."

"Are you in pain?" he asks. "Here, let me help you with that," he says, getting up and gently helping her sit up. He rearranges her pillow and grabs her by the armpits to lightly slide her up the bed. 

"Pain is manageable, but could you get me some ice chips, please?" she asks, her voice raw. 

"Sure," he says, grabbing the filled pitcher on the table and giving it to her. 

"Thanks," she says, sucking on two at a time. "I get so thirsty after surgery," she pauses. "Don't train with another partner while I'm sleeping okay?" she asks. "I will be back tomorrow. What are you doing in my bedroom again?" she babbles incoherently.

"You are so stoned right now, Tess," he laughs. "Don't worry, no training with anyone else for me, I'm taking a short break from skating while you heal."

"That's good," she says. "I need a break too, my legs hurt." 

"You're going to be okay, Tess," he says softly, taking her free hand in his again. 

"I hope so…" she whispers. "I'm glad you're here."

"I'm glad I'm here too," he says with a smile. "I'll come see you in London every weekend okay?" 

"Yes, that would make me happy," she smiles. "My nose itches," she says after a while, fighting to keep her eyes open. 

"Sleep, Tess," he says, kissing the top of her head. "I'm here."

*

Toronto, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

"I'm so glad we're here," Tessa says, looking at the pond. The weather is freezing, but it feels so peaceful and quiet. An oasis of nature in concrete. 

"Yeah, it feels like we're not even in Toronto anymore," Scott replies, bringing a blanket over their legs. 

Tessa's cheeks are all pinked up from the cold and her hair is messy from the cold wind blowing. He can't help but think how perfect she looks when she's this carefree. 

"I wish we could have brought some bread to feed the ducks," she says longingly. 

"Haha," he cries out and presents her with a small packet of bird seeds he gets out of his pocket. "Here you go, Tess. But no bread, it's actually bad for the ducks and for the water." 

"When did you get this?" she exclaims happily, taking the packet and immediately getting up to throw some to the ducks; they promptly start paddling over to where Tessa is standing. 

"Got them this morning while I was getting us breakfast," he says with a smile. "I knew you'd want to feed the ducks," he shrugs. "Am I not the best boyfriend in the world or what?" he laughs.

She stiffens at the mention of the word boyfriend, but casually continues to feed the ducks. "Yeah," she smiles. "You should stop being so perfect, you're making me look bad." 

He gets up and goes to stand behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist, resting his chin in the place where her neck meets her shoulder. "I'm just trying to butter you up today after all of yesterday's slip-ups," he says, kissing the soft skin there. 

"It wasn't so bad," she smiles, leaning back into his touch. 

"What's the count on the dating question?" he laughs. "I bet my brothers had the time of their lives with that."

"I stopped counting after the fifth time. I mean, there's only so many ways to say mind your own business." 

"I liked the games though," he laughs. "Can't believe you would actually tilt your head to eat a taco. Our partnership has been a lie all along," he sighs dramatically. 

"I will endeavor to tilt the taco the next time you take me out to eat Mexican," she laughs. "I can't believe those tweets though. They were wild. I mean, I scroll through them from time to time, but man, they were on fire during the Olympics."

"I wonder if we'll see a rise in babies being born or in Tessa and Scott for baby names in the next nine months," he smiles. "That would be hilarious, eh?" 

"That would be a nice legacy," she chuckles. "Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, increasing Canada's birth rate one skating program at a time. I'm sure Trudeau would call us again to congratulate us on that!" 

"I mean, we should take that as a compliment," he says. "We inspire sex." 

"It's the way you look at me," she whispers softly, laying her hands on his forearms and tightening his grip on her waist. "You look at me like you wanna eat me up." 

He presses a wet kiss against her skin. "Eat you up, eat you out, same difference," he laughs. 

"It's the lift," she laughs back. "The Carmen lift or the cunniliftus, whatever it's called now. It gave you too many ideas."

"Tess," he says pointedly. "I assure you, those ideas were already there. Carmen was just… really something." 

"Yeah, I know…" she says, her voice low. 

"Are you going to be okay tonight by the way?" he asks after a moment of comfortable silence. "I know hockey games are not really your thing, it's going to be a long night for you." 

"I'll find a way to hold on," she replies. "I'm actually 100% counting on you to entertain me, so you better bring your A game." 

"You can count on me," he says in a laugh. "I've got you." 

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - 2012

This has been a tough few years for them, both emotionally and physically. Tessa can finally feel like they're getting back to where they used to be. Back to their amazing connection, their wonderful friendship and where everything just feels perfectly right. The pain is gone. She can finally skate again and feel that pure rush of adrenaline, euphoria and complete bliss. It's been a hard journey to get there and they've both worked so hard to make it work, make their partnership and their skating better. To communicate better and more effectively. All of it seems to have finally paid off. 

It took some time for Tessa to convince Scott to skate to Funny Face, one of her all-time favorite movies. She has been suggesting it relentlessly for the last five years. She just loves Audrey Hepburn; she an icon and an everlasting inspiration. She made Scott watch the movie with her at least a hundred times. This year, he was convinced after the second watching, he could not resist the idea of embodying Fred Astaire and his debonair charm. The piece is timeless and the music is gorgeous. It's the perfect story for them to tell at this point in their careers. He's also crazy about his outfit this season and she has to admit that he does look very handsome in it. 

It's an amazing program and it has performed well both with the judges and the public. Four Continents was the first time since the 2010 Worlds Championships that they beat Meryl and Charlie and it felt good. Amazingly good. Especially with the Sochi Olympics coming up in two years.

They're back. 

She's at home on this beautiful spring day, packing for their next competition. The Worlds are held in Nice this year and it seems like the perfect omen for them. She loves France, the south in particular, and she hopes they'll have time to visit at least a little bit before going home to Canada. Take a walk in the flower market, visit the famous waterfall, gaze upon all the colors of the baie des anges, the gorgeous panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea, bordering the Promenade des Anglais, eat some good pastries, drink some rosé. Maybe even visit the Chagall museum if she can convince Scott. They're both excited and nervous, especially her, but it feels right. 

The doorbells rings and by the time she opens the door, no one is here. There's only a gigantic bucket full of rice, with a white piece of paper in the middle, waiting for her on her doorstep. She looks around to see if anyone is here, but the street is empty. 

There's a T written on the note and she could recognize that handwriting anywhere. 

It's Scott. 

Her heart skips a beat and then goes into overdrive. She brings the bucket inside and unfolds the note. 

T, 

Look at how much rice we have kiddo.

14 years worth of it.

Love, 

Scott

In training, while preparing for their programs, they've often referenced Marnie McBean's jar of rice theory. McBean likens preparing for a goal to filling a cup with grains of rice, with each grain representing some time and effort that you contribute toward that goal. The contributions could be in the areas of physical conditioning, mental awareness, emotional well-being or health. The more grains of rice you add to your cup, the greater the likelihood of meeting your objective. Sometimes, when you have bad days, you're not necessarily taking rice out, but you're not adding any… but you still have the bowl of rice.

And Scott has just given her a bucket full of rice. Not just a cup or a jar. A bucket. A ginormous bucket. Filled to the brim. 

Tessa can feel the tears burning hot behind her lids. It's the best gift anyone has ever given her. And it's no surprise that it comes from Scott, the one person that knows her better than she knows herself. He knew she needed to hear that. He knew she needed the reassurance. That she needed to hear that everything was going to be fine. And he did exactly that. Without even speaking a word. The tidal wave of love and gratitude is too much for her and she just lets the tears stream down her face. 

They have so much training behind them. 

They have so much history between them. 

They have so much love, friendship, respect and admiration between them.

There is nothing they can't do when they're together. 

They're ready. 

They're back. 

And nothing can stop them this time around.

*

"Marina," Scott says one afternoon while they're sitting down to talk about their new programs. "Are you sure about Carmen?" he asks. They've been at it for the last hour and Marina will not relent. 

"Yeah, it's been done literally a thousand times," Tessa agrees. "Do we really want to go there so close to the Olympics?" 

"Carmen good idea for you. Very classic piece. Music and story fit what you want to portray." 

Ever since Igor has been fired from the Arctic Edge Rink, things have been really weird. Neither of them expected it and it took them completely by surprise. Things had been tense lately between Marina and Igor, yes, but they had always kind of quarreled. They never thought it would ever come to this… And now, they're one coach short and almost of all Igor's teams have decided to stay with Marina. That's a lot of extra work for her, on top of the gigantic lawsuit she's being slapped with… 

"Marina…" Tessa starts. "Are you sure we should do Carmen when Meryl and Charlie are doing Notre Dame de Paris? That's a lot of French vibes…" 

"Listen you two," Marina says, getting up and gathering her papers. "Carmen is great idea. It will be beautiful. You are perfect Carmen, Tessa. No need for French, no lyrics on Carmen," she finishes as she leaves. 

Well, that's the end of conversation, Tessa guesses. She has been having a lot of doubts about Marina lately. Ever since Fedor broke off with her and Igor left, she feels like it just hasn't been the same. She gets that nagging feeling that something is wrong. It makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end every time she's in the same room as Marina. She doesn't feel like they're her team anymore. She has been spending a lot of time with Meryl and Charlie. Maybe too much time… And she has made comments about their last Worlds win. Comments that didn't seem like what a supportive coach would say.

Tessa stares at Scott who's just sitting at the table now, his head in his hands. "She just doesn't listen. She's been trying to make us skate to it for years," Scott sighs. "I'm not feeling Carmen. At all, Tess." 

"I know…" she agrees. "It's an overdone piece and I think Anna and Luca are also skating to Carmen this year…" she sighs. 

"It's a bad idea, Tess," Scott says, bringing his chair closer to hers. "Battle of the Carmens 2.0 is not a good plan."

"Listen," she says, "if we're going to skate to Carmen, we have to make it our own. We have to do something completely different and innovative. We can't do what others have already done. It needs to be really modern!" 

"Are you really telling me you're okay with doing Carmen, now?!" he asks, surprised. 

"You know she's not going to budge. Her mind is not in it," Tessa says carefully, trying to gauge his reaction. "And we're already late as it is."

"Listen, I know she has been hounding you about losing weight, but that doesn't mean her head is not in the game," Scott says. 

Tessa grinds her teeth. "You know I can't afford to get any thinner! I've had to build up muscles to not skate from my calves anymore! You know that! And she has been so cruel about it. I know I'm the bulkier skater here!" Her voice has risen two octaves there and Scott knows it's a slippery slope.

"That's not what I was trying to say at all, Tess," he replies quickly. He never wants to make her feel bad about herself. "You don't need to lose weight and you're not bulky, you're athletic. You're perfect just the way you are. You know I'm on your side here." 

"I know, I'm sorry…" she says. "It just makes me so mad. We've had to completely relearn how to skate, what muscles to mobilize just so I could skate again. I have to strengthen my core. I need to skate from my glutes and my hamstrings, now. And to do that, I have to gain muscle, that's just the way it is. I know she'd rather I look like tiny little waif-like Meryl, but that's just never going to happen." 

Scott lays a hand on her arm. "You know that breaking down the moves like we've been doing is going to make us into better skaters in the end. You know that. We just need to get used to it," Scott says reassuringly. 

Scott has had to change his skating as well to match Tessa's and make sure they still looked consistent on the ice together as a pair. He hasn't actually minded even though it felt like learning to walk all over again. They had to break down and unlearn everything they thought they knew about skating. Deconstruct every little habit to rebuild from scratch. It has been a tough and tedious process. But if that's the price to pay to be able to skate with Tessa, then so be it.

"Yeah…" she says, fiddling with her hands. 

"And I know Marina's comments are hurtful and getting on your nerves, I'm sorry about that. I don't like them either… Do you want me to have a word with her?" he asks very seriously. "Because I will."

"Don't apologize…" she sighs. "And no, it's okay, I just need to accept that it's just the way it's going to be now and move on," she says resigned. 

"You are perfect the way you are. You're an amazing athlete," he repeats, stroking her arm. 

She lays her hand on top of his and squeezes gently. "You're not so bad yourself," she smiles. "How about we each listen to Carmen and come up with a battle plan on how to make it the best and most daring Carmen program the world has ever seen?"

"It's going to be the best because you are going to be Carmen," he smiles and kisses her cheek. 

*

Marina is not convinced by what they're suggesting. Not at all. "The judges won't like it," she says sternly. "You need classic Carmen not modern." 

"Anna and Luca are probably doing classic Carmen," Tessa retorts. "We're not doing that. We need to change it up. We have to own it and we both want to do a modern, raw version of Carmen." 

"It needs to be different to be interesting, Marina," Scott adds. "We need to push boundaries here. Carmen on its own is not going to win us any medals. We need something memorable that will strike people's minds and will make a statement." 

"This too big," Marina says dryly. "You cannot finish program by killing José. ISU rules say program need be uplifting. This sad. And that move you want is too sexual, it look like oral sex. Judges won't like it." 

"We're doing it, Marina," Scott says in a tone of voice that clearly states he expects no answer. They've talked about it a lot and they've both agreed on it: they're doing it and they're not taking no for an answer. 

"This is what we both want," Tessa says. "We really feel we should be allowed to take this in the direction we want to. We want to push ourselves, test out these characters we haven't been able to play before. We want to put our own spin on it. We know José is not allowed to die on the ice."

"Carmen is going to have the power and the freedom and Don José is going to be left in ruins," Scott explains. "It will look like he dies, but he won't. We want to make a swap with the original. We want to make it contemporary. We've done lyrical enough."

"Okay, you do what you want," Marina shrugs. "It is going to be too provocative for judges, but if you insist, then okay." 

"Thank you," Scott says. "We know it's going to be amazing."

Tessa's gaze connects with his and she knows he can read her thoughts as if she had spoken them out loud. She is not going to thank Marina for this. She's got a bad feeling and she just can't shake it. 

*

"I've got you, Tess," Scott reassures her as she tries the lift again. "Hold on to me."

It's one of the most acrobatic lifts they've ever tried to perform. It's going to be tricky; it's physically demanding and it requires a lot of strength. It's been two weeks of choreographing and training for their new programs off the ice. They feel pretty confident it's coming along great. This version of Carmen, their version, everyone will remember. 

Tessa launches herself in a backflip, thighs around his head, as he catches her tightly. "That was a little wobbly there, I'm sorry," she says as he helps her dismount. 

"No, it was definitely better," Scott says, wiping his brow. "I felt I had a better grip on you this time. We have to work on the exit, though, it's still a little choppy." 

"Yeah, but I feel like it's going to be smoother once we're on the ice," she points out. 

"Yeah," he agrees. "I think we should get there as soon as we can. I feel like we're really getting this free, but the short is still problematic…" 

"I know," she says, gulping down some water. "I've tried to talk to Marina about that, but she hasn't had a lot of time to spare these last few days… or weeks." 

"Tess…" he says gently. 

He knows it's been bothering her. Tessa has been hinting at there being some problems with Marina for weeks now. He just can't see it. 

"No, listen," she explains. "I think we need to talk about Marina," she says. "I'm not feeling this."

"Tess…" he repeats. "I really don't think…" 

"How about I come by your place some time this week and we can talk about it quietly?" she asks. "Please," she adds, "it's really important." 

"Of course you can," he replies. "You know the door is always open." 

"Good," she says, getting back into position, turning her back to him. "Again?" she asks as she launches herself at him one more time and he catches her easily. 

*

They're both in Scott's kitchen, listening to Carmen as he makes dinner. All they ever do these days is listen to Carmen. And talk about Carmen. They don't even notice it anymore. It has invaded every aspect of their lives.

"I've been thinking," she says. "How about we do an upside down lift in that last sequence in the slow? That would be pretty cool and it would build momentum for the next part." 

Scott turns to look at her. "Like in Farrucas or Hip Hip Chin Chin?" he asks, wanting to check if she wants to do it the same way. "If we can hold it at this point in the program, then yeah, that would be really amazing. We need all the points we can get. Other teams don't do lifts like that, that would play in our favor." 

"No, not like those programs. Not on your thigh this time. Skating face to face," she says, coming closer to him and turning his body towards her. "Then, I put my head on your shoulder," she nestles her face where his neck meets his shoulder, demonstrating the move. "You grip my thigh," she says placing his hand there. "And then, I slide my shoulder on yours and use it to support my weight. Swing forward and…" 

"Wait, wait, wait," he says frantically, putting some distance between them. "I'm never going to be able to hold onto you if you're wearing that," he warns, gesturing at her loose sweats. They're both wearing sweats. "You're just going to slip right off." 

"True," she agrees, immediately taking off her sweatpants, leaving her in black lace panties and a hoodie. "We can go now," she says, closing the gap between them. 

Scott's mouth goes dry and he swallows with difficulty. "Hmm, Tess," he says, moving away from her embrace a little bit. "Are you sure you should…" he starts, eyes feasting upon her legs and that little black lacy number. 

She rolls her eyes. "Please, like you haven't seen all of it before," she points out. "Shall we go?" 

Scott chokes on his saliva. "Sure," he nods, readying himself for that skin to skin contact he knows will make his heart race a hundred different ways. 

She nuzzles her head in the crook his neck as he grips her thigh, swinging her upside down, letting his shoulder support hers. He grips the back of her thigh tighter as she works her core to stay upright. 

"You good?" he asks after seven seconds precisely. 

"Yeah," she says, her voice muffled against his skin. 

He helps her get down, letting his hands linger on her thighs a little longer than appropriate. She feels warm all over and he can see her chest rising and falling with the exertion of the move they've just done. Electricity crackles as their gazes connect. It feels like they will never be able to get away from the tension and chemistry that sparkles between them. It's like touching a naked live wire every time their eyes meet. 

Scott's hands are still on her hips and Tessa's are clutching his shoulders. Their bodies are so close, they might actually be touching. 

"So, what do you think?" she asks softly, not averting her gaze. 

Scott gulps. "That could work," he says, clearing his throat. "And you know," he says slowly, "that move near the beginning, when I slide my hand down your thigh, maybe you could cover my hand with yours?" he suggests, turning her over a little roughly, her back to his chest. 

She can feel the bulk of his body pressed up against her. He surrounds her. It makes her heart go into overdrive. He grips her hips and slides a hand down the front of her body, grazing her nipples on his way. Her thighs part on their own, almost instinctively. Her body remembers the choreography, but most of all, it remembers his touch and how it should react to it. His hand slithers down her leg, brushing her lace covered center on the way, and grasps the skin of her inner thigh in a lingering touch. 

"You're supposed to stop me," he breathes against her neck. "And cover my hand with yours." 

Carmen is still playing in the background. "I'm not sure I want to," she breathes back. 

His hand slithers back up assuredly and he cups her center. He can feel her heat through the lace. "Tell me to stop, Tess," he says. "You know it's a bad idea." 

"I know," she says, finally covering his hand with hers and pressing it harder between her legs. "You have a girlfriend." 

"I do," he says, pushing his fingers against her, rubbing her roughly, feeling her get wet. "And you have a boyfriend."

"I do," she nods, grinding herself on his fingers.

His other hand goes up across her body, underneath her hoodie and tank top, to grasp her naked breast. "Tell me to stop, Tess," he repeats, kneading the flesh there. 

"I don't want you to stop, Scott," she says, suddenly out of breath. 

It's been four years. Four years since she felt his fingers on her this way. Four years since he felt her heart beating into his hand. She grabs his wrist and moves his hand against her, rubbing herself roughly with his hand, like a puppeteer would; the lace creating delicious sensations. 

"Look, we're not doing anything wrong," she whispers. "I'm actually touching myself," she smiles coyly.

"You really don't want me to lose control, Tess…" Scott warns, his eyes burning with intensity. 

Tessa removes his hand from between her thighs and turns around to face him. Never leaving his eyes, she slips her fingers on each side of her panties and lazily slips them off, placing them on his shoulder with a provocative smile. She reaches the hem of her hoodie and tank top and pulls them off as well, leaving her naked under his eyes.

"Actually, that's exactly what I want," she smiles. 

"Fuck, Tess," Scott says, running his hand over his face and having trouble swallowing. She's just as beautiful as he remembered. He knows it's wrong. He knows it's a mistake. He just can't help himself. She's his worst weakness. 

She seems to enjoy seeing him on the verge of totally losing it. That coy smile never leaves her face when she drops to her knees in front of him, her hands going to the drawstrings of his sweatpants. 

She lowers them just enough and grasps him into her hand, lazily stroking him from base to top, tightening her grip when she feels him stiffen. She looks up at him through her eyelashes, flirtatious, her gaze never leaving his. She knows what she's doing to him. She's Carmen and he's Don José, completely under her control. He's drowning in green.

"Tell me to stop and I will, Scott," she says, blowing on his length. 

He tightens his fists at his side. He has to fight not to tangle his hands in her hair. "You're killing me, Tess," he groans. 

"I'm going to take that as a yes," she smiles, closing her lips around him. He feels like velvet encased steel against her tongue.

All he feels is warmth and wetness and Tessa. He can smell her all around him. That distinctive smell of vanilla, vetiver, strawberry and a little bit of sweat. He's grown so used to it now, it's addictive. His eyes roll to the back of his head and his mouth hangs open as she sucks him deep into her mouth, still stroking him with one hand. 

"Tess, Tess, Tess," he chants as she laps, licks, sucks and swallows him whole. 

His hands grab her hair and Tessa lets out a moan that reverberates in his whole body. She covers one of his hands with one of hers and makes him tighten his hold on her head. He quivers all over. 

Tessa looks up at him while her tongue circles him. She's never seen him like this. So out of control. His jaw is clenched tight, making it even more deliciously prominent, his stomach is contracted, his breathing is jagged; she can clearly see the rapid rhythm of his heart against his ribs. His hands are holding oh-so-tightly onto her. He's mesmerizing. 

He cannot help his hips thrusting into her mouth, accompanying her movements. "Tessa," he warns, his voice raw. "I'm gonna come."

"I know," she says simply as she keeps on sucking him, hollowing her cheeks around him. She has never felt more powerful in her entire existence.

She feels his body shudder as his hands fist her hair roughly. He grunts and she feels a rush of warm tangy saltiness in her mouth. She swallows quickly and wipes her lips with the back of her hand. She looks up at him and finds his gaze. He burns with intensity. He looks untethered, ruined. 

"Come here," he orders, his voice rough, as he pulls her up and against him. 

His mouth devours hers feverishly and his hands grip her hips so hard he'll definitely leave bruises. His tongue dances with hers for what seems like the longest time. When they finally break out for air, he presses his forehead against her, their noses touching. His eyes roam her face: her lips are red, raw and swollen. How can he ever reconcile this Carmen-like Tessa with the freckle-faced tutu-wearing girl she used to be? 

"I think we burned dinner," she whispers, her breath tickling his lips. 

Now that this feverish haze has lifted, he can smell his stir-fry being burned to ashes.

"Fuck!" he cries out, running to the stove, dumping the ruined pan into the sink and opening his window wide. How did they not see the smoke rising around them?

"Shower?" she suggests, wanting to get rid of the burning smell that is sure to permeate her hair and skin. 

Scott takes her hand as she leads him to the bathroom. He removes all of his remaining clothes while she turns on the faucet, waiting for the water to heat up. He presses himself against her back, snaking his arms around her waist, one of his hands reaching between her legs. He feels her wet and sloppy already and the idea that sucking him off has turned her on this much is enough to make him lose his mind. 

Tessa leans back into him, surrendering herself to his touch, as he rubs her in tight circular movements. She gasps, breath catching in her throat, when he easily slides one, two, then three fingers inside of her, stretching her lusciously. He pumps them roughly, making sure to press the brunt of his wrist against her on each pass. He places wet open-mouthed kisses along the column of her neck as his other hand crawls to her breasts, tweaking her nipples into furiously red rosebuds. Her ass wiggles against his pelvis, trying to get closer, press herself tighter, make him touch her rougher. She can feel him getting harder against her ass. 

"Get in the shower," he murmurs heatedly against her skin. 

He places his hands on her hips, guiding her into the shower, pressing her against the tiled wall. The sudden coldness makes her shiver and her nipples harden even more as steam billows out around their bodies. 

"Spread your thighs," he orders, sliding his hands down to her ass. "Hands flat on the wall."

She widens her stance as Scott grips her hips and lines himself up against her, entering her in a rough thrust, flattening her body against the tiles. 

"Fuck," she moans. 

Her heart is hammering inside her chest, blood pulsing hot and heavy through her body. His teeth graze her neck as he relentlessly slams himself inside of her, over and over again, picking up the pace.

"Are you close, Carmen?" he asks, a cheeky smile on his lips.

"So fucking close," she moans, grinning as well. "Don't stop."

When he starts to feel her contract all around him, he slides a hand between their bodies and rubs her quickly to help her along. Her moans get more and more high-pitched until, eventually, it's just too much sensation for her body to handle and she feels herself unravelling. And so, she shatters, taking him with her as he releases inside of her with a grunt. 

She can feel his warm breath on the skin of her neck. His breathing is ragged. "Should we actually get clean now?" she asks, giggling. 

He pulls out of her and turns her body around, brushing wet strands of hair off her face and kissing her deeply. "Fuck, Tess," he says against her lips. "I'm sorry, I should have pulled out. We didn't use a condom." 

"Don't worry about it," she says, stroking his face. He's so sweaty and the room is so steamy, he's literally dripping. "I'm on the pill and I'm clean." 

"I'm clean too," he says. "I always use condoms, I promise."

"I trust you," she shrugs, moving under the hot jet of the shower. "Pass me the shampoo?" she asks. 

"How about you let me do that for you?" he suggests, squeezing some of his citrus-scented shampoo in his hands and going to wash her hair, massaging her scalp softly. 

"You better not get it all tangled up," she warns, a teasing tone in her voice. "I know you don't have conditioner here."

Half an hour later, they're still a wet tangle of naked limbs lounging on his bed. 

"We're going to get your mattress all wet," she says, letting her head rest on his shoulder and stroking his chest. He's still so warm. 

"Don't care," he says, kissing the top of her head. 

"So…" she starts, drawing circles around his navel. "Marina," she says. 

He sighs deeply. "Come on, Tess," he rolls his eyes. "You really want to talk about her right now?" 

She pushes herself up on her elbow, looking straight at him. "Yes," she says. "You said you would listen, so please, listen." 

"Wait," he says suddenly. "Did you literally suck up to me so that I would be more receptive?" he asks, laughing. 

"The only reason I sucked you off was because I wanted to, Scott," she smiles suggestively, running a finger from his shoulder to his hip. 

"I'm listening," he chuckles, but he knows he'll have the hardest time concentrating on what she's saying when she's saying it naked. 

"I can feel that your attention span is going to be very short here," she smiles. "You want the short brutal version directly?" 

As if she could be anything other than brutally honest. "Sure," he says. "Go ahead, lay it all on me." 

"I think Marina is going to screw us over and that we should leave while we still can," she says gravely, locking gazes with him. 

He straightens up immediately. He had imagined she would vent, but he never once imagined she'd actually go that far. "Are you serious right now?" he asks, astonished. 

"As a heart attack," she says. 

"Tess," he says carefully. "We can't leave Marina or Canton. She's been our coach for almost ten years. That's almost as long as our partnership."

"We can and we should, Scott," she says. "Look, let me explain. We both know she's the one behind Igor's firing. She got all of his teams now, including Meryl and Charlie. She barely has time to dedicate to us. We're missing a technical coach. She's being sued by Igor for a fuck ton of money. If they don't settle, it's going to be long and costly. And guess who's paying for it? The USFSA is. They're paying for all of the costs. They're literally buying her loyalty! Skate Canada can't do shit about it, they don't have the resources or the money to help us." 

His brain can't compute with all she's saying. Does she really think Marina would actually do that to them? "That's a lot of speculating, Tess," he says calmly, not wanting to anger her. "Look, I know you're not on the best terms with Marina right now, but don't you think you're reaching a little a bit?" 

"I think I'm actually being very conservative here," she says, serious. "I have a bad feeling about this, Scott. Deep in my gut, I know something is wrong. We should leave, now. Go to Igor in Novi or to another coach entirely. Pasquale Carmerlengo has always been interested in us." 

"Tess," he says, completely shocked. "You actually thought this through." He feels like he's been hit on the head by a falling house. 

"I've been thinking about it since Worlds 2012 in Nice when she said Meryl and Charlie should have won the gold."

"Tess, you know she didn't mean it that way," he replies. 

"I don't actually. I think she meant it. I think her loyalty has been swayed and that she doesn't have our best interests at heart anymore." 

"Marina has been with us since we were kids. We're her team. I know things are weird right now, but it's going to get better, I promise," he says. "We can't leave her. She's our best hope for Sochi." 

"And I'm telling you that if we don't leave now, there's isn't going to be a gold at Sochi for us. The judges will already be against us. They don't like giving two gold medals in a row. And the USA has never won a gold in ice dance yet, they'll feel it's their turn." 

"You're being awfully pessimistic," Scott says, still stunned. 

"I'm being realistic. Marina is not in our corner anymore. If we don't leave Canton now, it's going to be too late for the Olympics." 

"We can't leave Marina less than a year before the Olympics, Tess," he says. "You talked about the judges before, what do you think they'll have to say about that? It'll make us look weak." 

"Maybe," she ponders. "But at least, we'll have a real shot. The only shot we have if we stay in Canton is the silver in Sochi. If we skate clean." 

"Tess," he says, defeated. "Marina would never betray us. There is no way that's ever going to happen!" 

"You are way too loyal, Scott. It's going to be our downfall," she warns. 

"Funny you should say that," he says, irritated now. "Marina said exactly the same thing when I told her I didn't want to consider skating with another girl or starting to look for a new partner when we didn't know if you would ever be able to skate again. You didn't mind me being loyal then, Tess." 

"I'm glad you're comparing your loyalty to me with Marina's loyalty to us. That's really heartwarming, thanks," she says sarcastically, her voice cold. "But really, shouldn't that have been the writing on the wall for you? When she actively tried to remove me and find a new partner for you?" she asks. 

"That's not what I meant at all, Tess, and you know it," he says angrily. "Don't twist my words. Listen, she only had my best interests at heart. I'm sure she wasn't trying to be mean or hurtful. No grudges, remember?" he says, taking her hand in his. 

"That only applies to you," she says, squeezing his hand. "I'm never going to forgive her for that."

"Tess…" he cajoles softly. 

"I'm not kidding," she says somberly. 

"I know you're not," he sighs. "Listen, I know it's not the answer you hoped to get, but that's a decision we should take together and I don't want to leave." 

She sighs deeply. "I so wish we hadn't banned name calling between us, because trust me, right now, I have a few choice words to throw at you," she says, grinding her teeth. 

He smiles. "I feel that way every time your temper comes out to play, Tess." 

"My temper?!" she asks, a huffy note in her voice. "I'm not the one who punched Fedor and broke his fucking nose!" 

"I never actually admitted to any of that," he reminds her. 

"Please," she says. "Like I'm a fucking idiot." 

"I don't want to leave, Tess," he says firmly. "I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but there it is. And you need to respect that." 

"I still have time to convince you," she says slyly. "I'm not giving up. I know I'm right." 

She leans into him and kisses him deeply. 

"How about we go back to the kitchen and get something to eat? I'm starving," he says, changing the subject. This lovely naked bubble of theirs can only last until sunrise and he's not going to waste another minute of it talking about Marina. 

"Sure," she says, getting up and slipping on her hoodie. "But, when we're on the second step of the podium in Sochi in a little over a year, I want you to remember this conversation."

"I love you when you're this vindictive," he says, kissing her again. 

"I love you when you're this foolishly loyal," she replies, kissing him back deeply. 

Time is made from honey slow and sweet

Only the fools know what it means

*

Montréal, Québec, Canada - March 2018

"Home sweet home," Scott sighs as he pushes the door to Tessa's condo open, rolling both their suitcases inside. He never thought he would ever call Montréal home or love it as much as he does, but this city has conquered his heart.

It's Sunday afternoon and they both feel like they've run a marathon. This week has been crazy and now they need to get ready mentally to start training again for their Japanese Stars On Ice tour. 

"I want to sleep for a month straight," Tessa says, closing the door behind them and turning the lights on. "And I'm starving."

"Same," Scott says, flopping down on her couch. "Tomorrow is going to suck ass."

Tessa joins him on the couch, pulling his arm around her and nestling against his side. She doesn't want to move. Ever. 

"I'm hungry," she whines softly. "Feed me." 

"Poached eggs on toast sound good to you?" he suggests, getting up and going to open her fridge. "Because that's the only thing you have in your kitchen right now. You need to go shopping."

"I don't want to move from this couch," she says, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. 

"I'll go grocery shopping for you, baby," he says, taking the last four eggs in the carton to poach them. He better not mess one up. "Come on, get up and make the toasts," he says, taking a saucepan to boil some water.

She sighs deeply and finally gets up after a few minutes. She goes to hug him from behind, lacing her hands on his chest and nuzzling her face in the soft cotton of his tee-shirt. "Pass me the bread," she says, but doesn't actually make a move. 

"If you keep hugging me like this, I'll screw up the eggs and you'll probably starve to death," he jokes, stroking the arm around him. 

"You smell good," she says, her voice muffled as she rubs her nose against his back. 

"I probably smell like airplane and cab," he laughs. "Your hormones are out of whack, Tess."

"You smell like home," she replies, kissing his back before releasing him and grabbing the bread to put it in the toaster. 

"Speaking of home, I should start unpacking and doing laundry after dinner, otherwise I'll never get to it and we're back in London in a week. I need to go grocery shopping too," he says. 

Tessa takes a deep breath. "How about you stay here? For the week I mean. Keep cooking for me and I'll do your laundry."

Scott feels like time has suspended. "Are you serious?" he asks. He has not dared broaching the subject ever since she told him she needed time to think about it. He knows she needed to be the one to start the conversation. She had to be the one to make the move. And she just did. 

"Yeah," she says with as a smile. "We should try it. Don't go home." 

He wants to say he's already home. Home is wherever she is. But he knows that Tessa is not quite ready to hear those kinds of things yet. Those are forever, happily ever after kind of words and he knows he should not rush her no matter how much he wants to. 

"Are you sure?" he asks again. "I don't want you to feel pressured into doing something you don't want to or that you're not ready for." 

"I'm sure," she reassures him. "Stay here, don't unpack. But you should go grocery shopping for us though. What do you say? Deal?" she asks, reaching her hand forward. 

His smile could not get any bigger even if he tried. "Deal," he says, tapping her hand in the patented series of movements from their super secret special skating handshake. 

"Toasts are ready," she says. "Pass me the butter," she requests and he rolls his eyes before opening the fridge and giving her the tub. "How are those eggs coming?" she asks, looking over his shoulder.

"One minute and they're done," he answers, looking for a skimming ladle.

"You're actually really good at that!" she wonders. "Look at them! They're perfectly swirled around. I'm really impressed." 

He flexes his chest jokingly. "I watched some Jamie Oliver on YouTube. The trick is to spin the water before dropping the eggs in it. The inertia of the water wraps the white around the yolk," he explains.

"I love it when you talk dirty to me," she jokes, giving him a look. 

"I know you do," he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. "Come on, pass me some plates, those babies are done to perfection."

She places two pieces of buttered toasts in the middle of each plate and passes them to Scott where he arranges one perfectly cylindrical poached egg on top of each one. 

"A little salt, a little pepper," he says, sprinkling some on top. "Do you have any Parmesan?"

"Who are you right now?" she laughs, but goes to check in her pantry.

"Don't mock the genius," he smiles. "It's going to taste great." 

She hands him the brick of cheese and watches him cut it into shavings before peppering them over their two plates. 

"Dinner is served," he proclaims, taking their two dishes, placing them on the table and sitting down in front of Tessa. 

The eggs are soft and gooey just the way she likes them and Tessa literally inhales her food, swallowing the two pieces of toast and the eggs with gusto. "This was really good, my compliments to the chef," she says, wiping her mouth on her napkin. 

"Did you even have time to taste any of it?" he asks, blown away. "You swallowed that thing whole," he says, still working on his own plate. 

"I was starving," she shrugs. "You can stay forever if you keep on feeding me like that," she laughs.

"I know you're joking," he smiles, "but don't push me cause I just might."

"So…" she starts. "Should we talk about Tout le monde en parle and Ellen?" she asks. The French Canadian show has been planned ever since their win but they've only received the official invite to be guests on Ellen's show yesterday and they still can't believe it. It's huge. Especially for two Canadians skaters. Who would have thought they'd end up there? Certainly not them.

"What is there to talk about?" he asks, taking a mouthful of his water. "Platonic business partners, long standing friendship, biggest fans, so proud and honored, great storytellers, blah blah blah. Same shit, different day." 

"Yeah, that's not going to fly with Ellen and you know it," she points out. "She's going to grill us like a medium rare steak on barbecue night at your parents' house." 

"Deny point blank?" he suggests. 

"We deny point blank. No, we're not dating. And we need to do it at Tout le monde en parle first so that Ellen isn't the one to get the straight answer, so to speak, when we've basically avoided answering it for the last month." 

"Tout le monde is going to be hell. I hate understanding half the things being said and then waiting for the rest of the translation in my ear when everyone has already reacted to it. We'll need to keep it even closer to the vest," he says.

"I know," she says. "How about we practice saying it in French so we'll have it ready when they eventually ask us? I'll get Marie and Patch to help us." 

"You want me to lie in French?" he asks, skeptical. "I'm barely believable in English…"

"I'll take this one, don't worry," she says. "Plus, is it really lying if you lie in French? It's not even our first language," she ponders with a smile. 

"Yeah, it still is," he laughs. "And we'll have to keep repeating it on Ellen, in English this time. You know it's what the whole interview is going to be about." 

"Yeah, I'll take this one as well. You can't lie for shit, you have no poker face," she says. 

"I know, I'm sorry," he says softly. "I'm throwing you to the wolves there with all the hard questions…" 

"You'll make the jokes, be your charming charismatic self and I'll lie my ass off on primetime tv and sell the party line. That's fine by me," she laughs. 

"We should ask Sam to choreograph a killer intro dance for Ellen," Scott suggests. "How great would that be? This show is huge. On one hand, I know it's great exposure for us, but at the same time, I wish we could just stick to our little Canadian shows. I like our bubble." 

"Yeah," she sighs. "I feel exactly the same. But you don't say no to Ellen. We'll get to go to LA for a few days. The sun, the ocean, it's going to be amazing. And even though she'll roast us, she seems really nice and she's hilarious. It's going to be okay. And I'm definitely on board for a little pas de deux with you," she finishes. 

"Drake?" he suggests. He knows she's been thinking the exact same thing. They only need one look and one word between them. 

"Drake," she confirms. 

"That's actually going to be the best part about this whole thing," he says. "Sam is going to love this."

"Yeah," she agrees. "He seems really excited to see us both. He's offered to take us to lunch Tuesday or Wednesday, I think." She sees the pointed look he's giving her. "You haven't opened your phone since we've landed, have you?" she sighs. 

"Nope," he says. He knows he probably has a hundred messages and calls since the last time he's checked it, but he couldn't care less. "That's the best part about being a team, you can do all the agreeing for the both of us. I know you're on top of it." 

"Then, as your official life assistant, we also have dinners to plan with Mathieu, Jamie and Scottie," she lets him know. 

"You are my favorite person in the entire world for taking care of this. I will literally love you until the end of time. And I'm agreeing to everything as long as I don't have to deal with it," he says gratefully. 

She knows he loves her, but hearing it from his lips always seems to make her heart skip a beat. "I sure hope so," she laughs.

He gets up and takes their plates to load the dishwasher. "So I know we need to do some boring adult stuff like unpacking and laundry, but how about some Netflix on the couch first?" he suggests, taking her hand and leading her into the living room.

"I'm so exhausted that I might not even care about the state of our suitcases right now," she smiles, flopping down on the couch. 

He collapses next to her and brings her tighter against him, pulling an arm around her shoulders. "The Office?" he asks. 

"The Office," she agrees, turning on the TV and booting up Netflix.

"Also, Tess," he says after a while, once she's nestled close to his side, all softened up with a full belly. "If I'm going to live here, we need to add some colors to this place. It's freakishly white."

"Shut up," she whispers sleepily. 

"Come on, Tess," he says. "Your condo looks like page 50 of the latest Pottery Barn catalogue. You need something to brighten it up."

"Does Pottery Barn even have catalogues any more, grandpa?" she chuckles. "The Internet is a wonderful place, go forth and explore, my love," she laughs and he can feel it resonate in his ribcage.

"Tess," he insists softly. She's called him 'her love,' his heart has pretty much stopped beating in his chest. It's the only thing he can concentrate on. 

"Okay," she sighs deeply. "You can have the bedroom and the bathroom," she relents. "Go crazy."

"I actually have no idea how to decorate," he confesses. 

"I know," she says. "That's why I told you to go crazy."

"You're mean," he points out. "I'm getting you ten red pillows the next time I go shopping. I'm not sure I want to live with someone so devious," he smiles.

"You love me and you know it," she yawns. "Get me all the pillows you want. I don't care, you're my new official pillow," she says, nuzzling her face in the cotton of his shirt. 

He strokes her hair gently as he feels her drifting into drowsiness. "You hide it really well, but you're so soft, Tess."

"Yeah, still not as soft as you though," she points outs. "So, I've made my peace with it."

*

Canton, Michigan, USA - 2013

Carmen is a give and take: José chasing, Carmen running away, José pining, Carmen pursuing, seducing, José being driven mad, out of control, Carmen triumphant, José in ruins. It's the nature of the storytelling they chose to enact. But it never used to be the same way for their relationship, they used to pull and push each other. Now, when Scott pulls, Tessa pulls in harder and when Tessa pushes, Scott pushes back harder. It's a strange case of life mimicking art. They just can't stop fighting. Constantly. 

And fucking. It goes hand in hand with the fighting. Now that they've started having sex so often, it's impossible to stop. Carmen doesn't help. The program is so raw with sexuality and their chemistry is so palpably overflowing in every training session, every performance, that they just can't help themselves. It's the first time in their lives that they feel like they have no control over anything. Logic and rationality have gone out of the window. The only things that remain are their feelings and that unbearable sexual tension between them that needs to be resolved. Every fight ends the same way, it's bordering on foreplay at this point.

"We need to get higher levels," Tessa yells at him after a tense training session. "Meryl and Charlie are crushing us for NO fucking reason. You know their programs suck! We're not getting any of our levels in our programs, it's a fucking mess!" They just got the silver in the Grand Prix Final behind the Americans and it's completely unacceptable.

"Don't you think I fucking know that?!" Scott yells back. "They don't like Carmen and they're letting us know very clearly."

"It's not just about Carmen! It's the short too! It's everything! It's Marina! We need to get out of Canton!" she says, her voice rising. He knows she's beyond pissed. Tessa is usually all cold anger, today she is 'thousand burning suns' fury. "Igor is not here, we're never getting our levels without him. We need a better technical coach!" 

Scott grinds his teeth, his jaw is clamped with intensity. "We are not leaving in the middle of the fucking season, Tess! How many times do we have to have this conversation?"

"I don't know, Scott," she hisses. "How many fucking times do you need to hear it in order to get it through your thick skull that Marina is screwing us over and that we need to leave?" 

"We're not leaving!" he yells. 

Her jaw clenches hard and so do her fists. He's insufferable. She wants to hurt him. "You are such a fucking…" she starts, before doubling back and taking a deep calming breath. 

He closes the gap between them. "A fucking what, Tess?" he screams. "A fucking what exactly?" 

"You are so fucking lucky we've agreed to no name calling," she seethes, pushing a finger into his chest.

"You don't even need to say it, I can read your mind like it's my own!" he says angrily, grabbing her hand. 

"I want to slap you so bad, you have no idea," she warns. "Don't push me! And let go of my hand!" 

He squeezes her hand even tighter and pulls her arm toward him, pressing their bodies together. "Don't push you?" Scott snorts ungraciously. "What are you going to do about it? Nice, sweet and innocent Tess who never gets mad? Are you going to rise above, walk away and slam the door? Is that the best you can do?" he antagonizes her. Maybe he does it on purpose. He likes seeing her all riled up.

She can feel the warmth of his ragged breath tickling her face. "You need to shut up right the fuck now!" she cautions him. 

"Or what?" he dares her. His heart is hammering in his chest. She is so gorgeous when she's mad.

Tessa grabs his head with both hands and slams her mouth against his, biting his lower lip, opening him up to her and thrusting her tongue inside. Scott's hands grip her waist tightly and he returns her kiss feverishly. They swallow each other's grunts and groans as they keep on kissing roughly. They're trying to bruise and mark each other. 

She moves to unbuckle his belt quickly and lowers his pants just enough to get him out. He's already hard and she strokes him quickly. He fists the tight fabric of her pants and rolls them down in one swipe, panties included, before grabbing her ass and hoisting her up against him as she wraps her legs around him as much as she can with her skates still on. He turns them around and pins her against the wall to help support her weight. She grips him tighter, making him hiss, and guides him at her entrance as he slams inside of her. 

There's no need for foreplay, Tessa is already slippery wet and he thrusts roughly inside of her over and over again with ease. Her hands are locked in his hair, tugging it harshly and her mouth is attached to his neck, sucking wildly at the skin there. He's pretty sure she's covering him in hickeys. 

He keeps pushing and pushing her into the wall, bruising her back, as he picks up the pace in a merciless rhythm. She rolls her hips under his, trying to push back as much as she can, but there's only so much she can do when she's in this position. He grasps her head in his hands and kisses her hard, his teeth pulling at her lower lip. He thrusts on and on and Tessa starts to feel the pleasure filling her up to the brim. She stiffens, quivers and convulses around him as he swallows every bit of pleasure she breathes into him. He feels her walls clamping tightly around him, sucking him in, milking him as he empties himself inside of her. 

"Fuck," he roars, pressing his forehead against hers and kissing her more gently. 

Her pants and panties are ruined. They ripped halfway through and they didn't even notice. He puts her back on the ground and she slides down in a sitting position against the wall.

"Are you okay?" he checks, sitting down next to her. They're both wildly out of breath and completely disheveled. 

"We need to change that lift at the end of our free," she says, taking his hand in hers, tracing along each vein on the back of his hand and stroking his palm with her middle finger.

"Is this what you were thinking about?" he laughs. "Seriously?" 

"I had an epiphany," she shrugs, grinning. "Instead of the lift on your thighs, I should just slide down your body and wrap my legs around your waist, like we just did," she finishes, impish. 

"I'm glad sex inspires you," Scott smiles. "With the amount we're having right now, Carmen is going to be the best program we ever skate." 

"If we can actually skate it clean and get our levels," she says somberly.

"We need to stop fucking around, Tess," he sighs. "We both know it's not a good idea."

"Yeah," she exhales. "I know." 

Well I know that he is made of smoke

But I've lost my way

*

Osaka, Japan - 2013

"It's okay, Tess, it's okay. It's okay," he reassures her softly when they get back to his hotel room. 

She looks about ready to punch a wall. "We were in the lead," she says, anger burning hot. "We were in the fucking lead and I had to stop because of my legs…"

"Marina said it was the downgrades in both the step sequences that cost us points, not the interruption," he says.

"Don't talk to me about Marina, Scott," she warns him. 

"Tess…" he says softly, cradling her face into his hands and kissing her tenderly. 

"I'm so sorry," she whispers against his lips, pressing herself closely against him. 

"You don't have to apologize for anything. You cramped and you didn't feel well, it happens," he comforts her. 

"Still…"

"We're a team," he states simply. "No anger, no blame, no grudges. When good things happen it's because of us, but when bad things do, it's because of external circumstances, remember?"

"Yeah," she says, nuzzling her face in his neck. 

"We need to stop having sex, Tess," he says. "It's killing our skating. Judges and Marina issues notwithstanding, we haven't skated one clean program this year." 

"I know," she says. 

"It's messing with our heads. We're not 100% into this."

"I know." 

"The Olympics are a year away." 

"I know."

"Tess, I'm serious," he insists. 

"I know you are," she shrugs. "It's just… I know we're not going to get gold in Sochi, so why shouldn't we give this a try?" she asks. 

His heart explodes in his chest. It's both everything he wants to hear and everything he doesn't. Anger starts coursing through his body when he realizes that Tessa genuinely believes they won't be able to win another gold. And that it's the only reason why she would want to be with him. 

"That's not the way I would want to be with you, Tess," he whispers. "Not because you don't think we can win. Not because I would be the next best thing to a gold medal to you."

"You know that's not what I meant at all," she says quickly. 

"It kinda felt like it though," he points out. "And I'm never going to stop wanting gold, Tess. And you shouldn't either. We can do this."

"I want the gold. You have no idea how much I want the gold," she says harshly. "I'm ready to leave everything I've ever known to get that gold. And, actually, the best thing would be winning the gold and being able to keep having sex with you without skating like trash all season," she says, shaking her head. 

"Yeah, it doesn't look like that's going to happen this year, Tess…" he says. "Come on," he continues. "We have a Worlds in London to win in a month. Think of the crowd, they'll lift us up." 

"Right," she says. "That's definitely going to be the highlight of the year."

"We agree then? No more sex?" he asks, locking gazes with her. 

That's his first mistake. He can feel the oxygen burning between them as both their breaths hitch at the same instant. 

"No more sex," she says, leaning in and kissing him softly. Her tongue slowly traces the edges of his lips, coaxing his mouth open.

He immediately deepens the kiss and pulls her against him. "I thought we said no more sex?" he whispers against her lips as her hands reach the hem of his shirt and start to remove it. 

"I don't see you stopping me," she says, removing her own shirt and pushing him on the bed, climbing on top of him. 

His hands go to her breasts, pinching her nipples, making her moan. "No more sex," he says, bucking his hips when he feels her palming him through his pants. "Starting tomorrow."

He is there waiting for you

My will has disappeared

*

Montréal, Québec, Canada - March 2018

The warm evening light shining through the wide bay window bathes the living room in a glowing golden light. The sun is setting over the Lachine canal; its waters glittering like diamonds, scattering the pinkish orangey twilight all over the white walls and on Tessa's sleeping face in a constellation of bright tiny stars. He feels like he's walking on a paradisiacal beach at sunset.

"Wake up, Tess," Scott tickles her nose as he tightens his grip around her. "Wake up, wake up," he whispers softly. 

As restless as she can get, Tess has the amazing ability to fall asleep almost anywhere. On top of him seems like her favorite place at the moment. 

"I'm watching, I promise," she says drowsily, straightening up and rubbing her eyes. 

"No you weren't," he laughs. "I'm halfway through season one and you fell asleep on me by episode four." 

"I'm sorry," she says. "What time is it?"

"Almost six," he replies. "You were tired."

"Ugh, we have to be productive now," she groans. "I need to unpack, do laundry and reply to literally a thousand emails."

"I'll go grocery shopping," he says, turning off the TV and getting up. He pulls her up and engulfs her in his arms. Will he ever get enough of her? 

"Takeout tonight?" she asks. "I don't feel like cooking and you've done enough for the day." 

"Mexican?" he grins. "I'm teaching you the proper way to eat tacos tonight."

"So many jokes," she laughs. "So little time." 

"Well, I do know how to eat a taco perfectly," he grins suggestively. "You can attest to that," he says, kissing her nose and lips.

"Car keys are in the bowl by the front door if you'd rather take my car. You still have your copy of my key for the front door, right?" she asks, moving away from his embrace and going to take care of the dreaded suitcases still waiting for her in the entrance.

"Yeah, it's on my Montréal bunch of keys," he replies, putting on his coat and slipping her car keys in his pocket. 

He looks at her opening his suitcase first, separating the whites from the colors and rolling her eyes the whole time. His suitcase is a complete mess. He never folds anything. This feels so domestic, so right, it makes his heart hammer. 

"Hey, Tess?" he calls out to her as he's about to pass the threshold. 

"Yeah?" she replies, not even looking up. 

"Did you ever think we would end up here?" he asks softly. 

He sees her raising her eyes to look at him. Her face is relaxed, her smile wide; she radiates happiness. She's never been more gorgeous to him than right now. 

"I hoped," she smiles. 

"So did I," he smiles back. 

Now my confusion's oh so clear

Temptation, temptation, temptation

I can't resist

TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter Text

Canton, Michigan, USA - 2013

Everything from the bridal photoshoot to their reality tv show has been done to try and build momentum for the Sochi Olympics in a few months. Scott really didn't like both of those ideas to be honest, but he knew he owed Tessa after the Marina cluster fuck. For not believing (in) her. She was right and he got it so, so wrong. He was convinced Marina would never betray them, that all the years they've had, all the years she had coached them from kids, to teenagers and to adults would prevail. He'd been wrong. So fucking wrong. He should have learnt his lesson. He should have known better by now. When you think you're right and Tessa thinks she's right, chances are Tessa's right. Maybe he hadn't wanted to see it. Maybe he hadn't wanted to believe it. The writing on the wall… 

And now, here they are. Struggling to improve their programs, struggling to be coached, struggling to get the emotional support they so desperately need. It's them against the world now. They know it. They've come to accept it. So, bridal photoshoot and docu series it is. Ice dance is an image based sport, they need to present themselves together as much as they can. Sell their natural chemistry, their story and most importantly sell the programs to the judges. Maybe it'll help. They certainly feel like the judges are not on their side this season. No one is. Certainly not Marina who has clearly chosen her side, flying with Meryl and Charlie to their Grand Prix and not to theirs, and choosing to march with the American delegation at the opening ceremony. It's now clear where her allegiances lie and Scott cannot believe he's been so stupid and so loyal as to believe that she wasn't capable of that. 

Thankfully, they had Marie-France and Patrice to talk to. They've become part of their support system when Scott had called them one night and the flood gates had opened about everything that was going wrong. Scott had been particularly distressed that night. Tessa never got the full story out of him, but she's pretty sure he cried on the phone with Marie-France for at least forty-five minutes. They had been so nice, telling them to call whenever they needed it. They've unintentionally become their coaches. And they're certainly doing a better job than Marina right now. Tessa won't even sit next to her in the Kiss and Cry anymore. She can hold a grudge and this is one she will never let go of. Marina is screwing them over and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. It's too late to change coaches now. There's nothing they can do about it anymore. They're alone.

"That was good, eh?" Scott says after the latest rehearsal of their not touching step sequence for their short dance. They've trained so hard with a ballroom dancer to help them get their form, their moves, their hold right.

Tessa wipes her forehead with the back of a hand. "Yeah," she says, catching her breath. "That was definitely better. They need to be clean. We're going to need all the points we can get." 

"It definitely feels more ballroom-y with those hand movements," Scott agrees. "All the way down to the fingers. Our hold is better too," he analyzes. "How are your calves?" 

"Burning, but not in an abnormal scary way. What about yours?" she jokes. 

"Same," he replies with a smile. "We need to hold on, especially at the end." 

"Agreed," she nods. 

"We're skating better than we did in 2010, Tess, and you know it," he says. "Your legs are fine now. You're not in pain anymore, you don't have to count steps. The gold is definitely within our reach." 

"I know we are," she says, "but you also know it's not always enough."

"I have to believe it is, Tess. I want that gold," he states, his jaw set tight in pure determination.

"I want the gold too, Scott, you know I do. I'm just… preparing myself. Of course we can still win it, but the stars would have to be pretty fucking aligned for that to happen, no matter how well we skate." 

"We'll go out there, do everything we can and dare them not to put us first," Scott says, trying to simultaneously convince and reassure her, laying a hand on her shoulder. 

"Look, we're doing everything in our power to be prepared as best we can. The rest is out of our control," she says. 

"Again?" he suggests. 

"From the midline," she nods. 

Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you

But in your dreams whatever they be

Dream a little dream of me

*

Montréal, Québec, Canada - March 2018

"Kiss me," Tessa asks as Scott parks the car in front of the Gadbois complex. "We'll have to be very careful and super professional the whole day."

"And how is that different from the last twenty years?" he smiles. "Being professional is not really an issue we have."

She gives him a pointed look. "Remember Carmen and all those changing room sexcapades?" she asks and she can see in his eyes that he remembers them as well as she does. "Yeah, those can't happen again." 

"We were kids when that happened," he says. "We have better control of ourselves now." 

"You were 26 and I was 24," she raises an eyebrow. "We were already adults," she says. "Even if we certainly didn't behave that way." 

He leans towards her and cradles the nape of her neck to bring her closer and kiss her softly over the center console. Their mouths meet tenderly, taking the time to savor one another before what they both know is going to be a long day of practice. 

"You don't think taking one car will be too suspicious?" she asks between kisses. 

"Every other team will be too preoccupied by the Worlds in Milan to even remotely pay attention to what we're doing and if someone asks, just tell them that you have car troubles," he shrugs, going back to kissing her deeply. 

She breaks their embrace and presses her forehead against his, rubbing her nose on his in a gentle Eskimo kiss. "Have a great day, Scott," she says. "I'll go first and I'll see you inside in five minutes?" 

"Have a great day, Tess," he smiles. "Five minutes and counting. I'll go get another coffee, do you want one?" 

She gets out of his car and takes her massive gym bag from the back seat. "Cappuccino, please," she says, blowing him a kiss before walking to the entrance. 

When Scott enters the dance room with three coffees in hand, Tessa is already in training clothes, on the floor with Sam, in front of a computer. You Rock My World is blasting out from the speakers.

"Hello all!" he greets enthusiastically and both Sam and Tessa's heads rise simultaneously to look up at him. 

"Hello favorite person in the entire world!" Sam greets him back, engulfing him in a hug and clapping him on the back. "Congrats on the gold medal!"

"Hey!" Tessa fake protests. "You just said that to me five minutes ago!" She gets up and goes to hug him quickly as well. "Hey, Scott," she says. 

She locks her arms around his neck and he barely has the time to grip her hip before she's already out of his embrace. Her cheeks are bright pink and Scott can't believe how transparent she's being. She's usually so good at keeping her composure. As per usual, every time they find themselves in the same room, there's an immediate electric current running through the room. Everyone feels it, but today, it's like it's been amped up by a thousand. 

"I've brought coffee," he announces, giving Tessa her cappuccino and a plain black to Sam. "What were you so engrossed in in front of that screen?" he enquires. 

"We were just listening to the song," Tessa answers. "If you ever read your emails, you'd know that I copied you in one telling Sam about our music choice for Stars On Ice so that he could think about it."

"I do read my emails," he protests weakly. "Sometimes," he pauses. "I definitely read that one though." Over her shoulder when she was typing it up in bed a couple of days ago.

"Are you guys ready?" Sam asks, sipping his coffee. 

"I have to get changed first," Scott says, "but then we're all yours. Rock our world with Michael Jackson," he smiles. 

"Tessa told me about Ellen by the way, that's great!" Sam mentions.

"Yeah, we'll need you to whip us up something short and cool on some Drake if that's okay," Scott adds. 

"I know, Tessa told me. You have no idea how excited I am to choreograph something for Ellen," Sam replies excitedly. 

"Why do I even bother coming to these things when you're the one who gets to tell him all the good stuff?" Scott jokes, eyes smiling and looking tenderly at Tessa.

"You still need to learn the choreo," Tessa points out with a grin. "We don't want a repeat of the Olympic Gala on our hands." 

"That was one time!" he protests. "And you said you didn't mind."

"Just go change!" she laughs, drinking her coffee as Sam stares at her pointedly. "What?" she asks, once Scott is out of the room. 

"I don't know," Sam says, still staring at her. "I'm getting a weird vibe between you two."

Tessa feels her heart beating against her ribcage. "Weird, how?" she asks, hoping to appear casual. 

"I don't know," Sam repeats. "I can't quite put my finger on it. Something just feels… different." 

Tessa laughs. "It's because we're Olympic champions now," she grins. "It gives us a special aura." 

"That must be it," Sam laughs and Tessa feels relief coursing through her body. 

"You rock my world, you know you did and everything I own I give," Scott sings excitedly as he moonwalks back into the room in his practice clothes.

"Yeah," Tessa laughs, "we need to work on that."

"Come on," Scott says, sliding over to her, lifting her up and swirling her around. "It's not that bad. You rock my world, you know you did," he keeps on singing, looking straight at her.

Sam stares between the two of them. "Oh," he chuckles, "I see." 

Scott puts Tessa back on the ground. "What?" he asks, still smiling at her as she rolls her eyes, half-smiling half-weary.

"Let's just say you guys are lucky Marie and Patch have a confidentiality clause they make you sign when you come to work for them at Gadbois. This," he says, waving a finger between them, "is extra loud."

Tessa shakes her head, still smiling. "Let's just start to warm up, okay?" she suggests, getting down on the floor and beginning to stretch. 

Scott takes his spot next to her. "I think this is going to be an amazing show program, I'm so excited," he says, grinning like a kid. 

"I've got the best series of arm movements for you. You're gonna work that upper body," Sam informs them, going over to the computer to check on the music. 

"Oh, this is going to kick our asses," Tessa says. "I can already tell." 

"I'm sure you two got some kind of workout during your little break," Sam says slyly. "I'll be gentle, I promise." 

"We are so busted," Scott whispers lowly to Tessa. 

"Shut up and stretch," she smiles. 

Dance with me

I want my arm about you

The charm about you

Will carry me through to heaven

*

Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia - February 2014

Seasons is not a bad program by any stretch of the imagination. It's just not their program. They never really fully connected with it. They never owned it, made it completely theirs in every way like they had done with Mahler. It was supposed to be a continuation of the story they told in his Fifth Symphony and Marina liked the Russian connection because of the games being held in Sochi this year. It's a good program and they've prepared as much as they can to perform it to the best of their abilities. It just…never came as organically as Mahler did. It never flowed. Everything about Seasons was a struggle from the choreography they had to change at least a thousand times, the technical aspects of their grade of execution, the transitions they had so much trouble ironing out and getting their lifts to actually work seamlessly. The program is backloaded on purpose. It's physically demanding. Backloading doesn't earn them more points like it does in singles, but they felt it was necessary to show the judges exactly what they were made of. But those two rotational lifts at the end… They need to put their backs and their skates into it. They need glide. They need power. Power they've both gained from learning to mobilize their glutes when skating. Power they've earned when Tessa came back from her injuries a better skater than ever and therefore made him skate even better as well. 

This time, everything is different. They're not young, naive and filled with wonder anymore. Even if the games still hold a special kind of inexpressible magic, a magic you can feel coursing in your veins as soon as you step into the village; they're going into this with their eyes wide open. They get to enjoy the Olympic feel a lot more this time around, wandering around in the village and even attending other competitions in support of their fellow Canadian teammates. Everything isn't overwhelming or brand new anymore. They're veterans now, they know how this works, what to expect. Younger Canadian skaters actually come to them for advice now. 

Those programs, while the result of the hardest struggle, the hardest work in their entire careers, are sound and clean on the technical and artistic fronts. They know they'd deserve to win in a fair competition. They're proud of what they've accomplished despite this being a very independent year for them. They're proud of the way their skating and their style have improved. They know they deserve the gold, but they expect to not get it if the team event they just skated in is any indication.

"That is complete bullshit!" Scott says angrily once they're alone in Tessa's room. "Those skates were good, Tess," he exclaims, talking about their recent team event where they won the silver. "There is no way that warranted a seven point difference! That's complete madness. How can our self-perception be so off?" 

"I know," she says, taking a deep breath. "Look, the only thing we can do is keep skating the best we can. The rest is political and out of our control. We can only do our job. Let the judges do theirs."

He understands it on a logical level, but right now his emotions are in the driving seat. He's out of his mind with madness. "It's so fucking unfair, Tess," he says, sitting down on her bed and putting his head in his hands.

The judges have made their choice in the team event when they placed USA first and that'll most likely carry through the individual performances. He knows he needs to accept that.

"I know," she says, sitting down next to him and laying a reassuring hand on his thigh. 

"How are you so fucking calm?" he asks, looking at her. Her green eyes are a combination of determination, strength and sadness. 

"I've made my peace with it," she says. "I know it's rigged. But that's not going to prevent me, prevent us, from skating our best in the next few days. Because even if the judges won't acknowledge it, everyone else will know. They'll know we deserve the gold. Because we're just that good." 

Scott sighs deeply. "I'm so sorry I didn't believe you when you first told me, Tess. I was so fucking naive."

Tessa puts her arm around his shoulder, pressing him against her side. "If it makes you feel any better, I honestly don't think it would have made a difference now. We can't have any regrets. We did the best we could with what we had and we're going to have the best skates of our lives in the individual." 

"I don't know what I would do without you, Tess," he says softly. "Every day I wake up and I think about how lucky I am to get to skate with you every day." 

"I couldn't do it without you either, Scott," she whispers. 

They move at the same time, lips find each other in a tender kiss, hands tangling in their hair. For a few minutes, only they exist; their heartbeats, their breathing, their connection. 

"We shouldn't," she says, pulling back from their kiss. 

"I know, I'm sorry," he says, sitting a little farther from her. 

"Don't apologize. We slip-up so many times, I never know who actually makes the first move half the time." 

"Yeah," he smiles. "We just can't quit each other, eh?"

She sighs. "We're really bad at this platonic best friends thing." 

"We always have been," he points out. "Ever since I kissed you at the Ilderton carnival fair." 

"I remember," she chuckles. 

"But we have to skate so…I think I'm going to go hang out with Patrick now," he smiles, getting up. "Practice bright and early tomorrow morning, T?" he checks. 

"You know it," she says with a smile, watching him leave and close the door behind him. 

She lays down on her bed, staring at the ceiling. She can't think about this. She can't think about him. He has a girlfriend. And they have to skate. They can't screw it up by going down this road again. She knows they can't ruin what they have. Someday, they'll be able to be normal and fully functioning adults. 

Stars fading but I linger on dear

Still craving your kiss

I'm longing to linger till dawn dear

*

Stars shining bright above you

Night breezes seem to whisper 'I love you'

Birds singing in the sycamore trees

Dream a little dream of me

Scott is pumped up when they finish their short program. It was the best they ever skated it for sure. Everything felt right, every move felt perfect, it was all clean glide and deep edges, their midline step sequence was so in synch it almost felt like they were one person, one body on the ice. And Tessa can feel Scott's happiness permeate every inch of her as he does a little fist pump and a little jig after their final position. And she's happy as well. They skated that program to perfection. If someone had told her a few months ago that she wouldn't actually care about the points and would enjoy the journey more, she would have thought they were crazy. But it's the truth; after everything they've been through in the last few years, all the pain, the tears, the sweat, the hardships and the struggles, it just feels so good to have skated the way they did. Perfectly. To skate a clean program pain-free to the best of their abilities and to know deep down in their souls that they couldn't have done it any better. Everything feels perfect about this skate: the journey that got them there and the pure joy to be able to enjoy skating in front of an Olympic crowd without anything holding them back. Maybe it's also a gift in its own right as much as Mahler was. Maybe it's just a different part of their story now. 

"That 76.33 is low," Scott says as they sit down in his room to debrief over what they just went through, "but I wasn't kidding in the Kiss and Cry, Tess, I don't care. I don't care that we're not first, that was a great skate. I'm not crazy, it has never felt this way before, right?" 

Tessa smiles gently. "I know you meant it. It felt amazing. There's nothing like skating on Olympic ice. I love that feeling," she agrees. 

"It was the best we've ever done that program," Scott exclaims. "That was such a rush! It was the moment we wanted to have and we had it." 

"I know," she replies. "We couldn't have skated it any better."

"Meryl and Charlie are leading by 2.5 points with a new world record," Scott says. "We both know how consistently they skate. We're not catching up to that with those judges."

"Yeah, I know," she says, looking down. 

"I mean, it's not done until it's done and you never know, but yeah…" he rambles. 

"It's okay," she shrugs. "I told you. I want that gold so bad, but I've kind of made my peace with it at the same time. We're skating for each other and for Canada tomorrow and that's it."

"Everything will go great, T," he says, laying his hand on hers. 

"I know it will," she nods. "You'll be with me. Nothing can go wrong when you're with me."

Say nighty-night and kiss me

Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me

While I'm alone and blue as can be

Dream a little dream of me

*

Montréal, Québec, Canada - March 2018

Training for the last three days has been going great. They've missed skating together so much while they were off doing other things, it's a joy to be back on the ice again. Every other team is going crazy with Worlds and they're just enjoying being close to each other and holding each other with no other pressure than putting on a good show. And if there's something they know how to do, it's putting on a good show. On the ice. Off the ice is a completely different question and while they're really happy to be on a French Canadian show, it's been nerve wracking preparing for that interview and rehearsing their answers over and over again, in English and in French with a little help from Marie-France and Patrice. 

"I'm really nervous about this, Tess," Scott says as he's driving them toward the tv studios. 

"I'll be right next to you the whole time," she reassures him. "Everything is going to go great, you'll see. We're prepared for this." 

He lays his hand on her thigh and she covers it with her own. 

"Remind me again why we're putting ourselves through that again?" he asks.

"Because we love Montréal, it's a great way to thank the people who live there and who have been so welcoming to us. And so supportive. It's great exposure, it's going to be laid back and humorous. Everything is going to go fine. We'll deny, make a bit of small talk and we'll get wine and dinner with Mathieu afterwards." 

"That part, I'm quite looking forward to," he smiles. "How much you wanna bet they're going for the dating question less than five minutes into the interview?" 

"I'm not taking a losing bet. If they make it past two minutes, that'll already be a victory," she laughs. 

Scott parks his car in the lot behind the studio and as soon as they enter the building, they're being led to a room where they'll be able to watch the first part of the show before they come on. When finally an assistant comes to lead them to the set, Scott can feel his nerves settling deep into his stomach. It almost feels like they're about to compete if not for the fact that he's actually more comfortable competing on the ice and skating than he is doing interviews. 

"Hey," Tessa says, sensing his anxiety and grabbing his hand before they come on. "Together," she whispers. 

"Together," he repeats back to her, squeezing her hand. 

He lets go of her hand and they step into the light to the sound of a French cover of Abba.

Oh! I love to climb a mountain, 

And to reach the highest peak,

But it doesn't thrill me half as much

As dancing cheek to cheek

*

It's late when they get back to Tessa's place after this eventful day. Between training for their programs on the ice, this long interview and the dinner with Mathieu, they're just about ready to keel over.

"Okay, that wasn't so bad," he says, removing his shoes and hanging both their coats in the closet. 

"Told you," she replies with a smile, dropping on the couch.

"I mean, I think it showed I was a little nervous, it got a bit awkward at some points, but that guy was funny with that sharpening your skates question. I think it went well overall. No slip-ups from me. Aren't you so proud, baby?" he asks, sitting down next to her and puckering his lips, waiting for a kiss. 

"So proud, so honored, it's such a compliment to our skating," she jokes. "Oh, I'm sorry, what were you talking about?" she laughs wholeheartedly.

"People have no idea how funny you are, T," he laughs. "They're missing out big time." 

He pulls her toward him and kisses her softly. It's become almost natural to kiss her like this now. It's something he'll never take for granted: the knowledge that she allows him to kiss her like that every time he wants to. He can touch her, kiss her and hold her tight as freely as he wants to without fear of jeopardizing everything for the first time in twenty years.

She pulls back and looks deeply into his eyes. "I have drunk way too much wine tonight," she says. "Tomorrow is going to kick our asses."

"We have that dinner with Jamie and Scottie tomorrow night as well," he reminds her. 

"That's going to be fun though," she says. "Have you booked your flight for LA yet? You didn't want me to take care of it and it's already Thursday." 

"I know," he replies. "I have to go back to London on Saturday to sort stuff out and I'm having trouble coordinating with Cara for Sunday. I don't think we'll be able to make it until mid-afternoon, I'm sorry."

"That's okay, we literally spend all our days together," she laughs. "A little air will do us good. I'll have fun with Kelly and you'll join us when you arrive." 

"I know, but I kind of wanted to explore LA a little bit with you," he says. "And go to the beach." 

"We can still do that. Bring your bathing suit," she smiles. 

"I don't think the ocean will be warm enough for us to actually go in there without freezing, but the sun will be nice."

"I know we never really talked about it," she starts slowly. "Especially with all the excitement of the Olympics and the tours that are about to start soon, but I'm not planning on leaving Montréal. When we get back I mean. And I know you're planning on getting involved with Marie and Patch and with B2Ten."

"Tess," he says softly. He won't lie and say this hasn't crossed his mind: her going to live in Toronto like last time. 

"No, I wanted to reassure you. I'm not leaving. I'm in Montréal if you're there. I can do all the stuff I want to do here." 

"I know this won't be like last time. Everything is different now. We're different. Ever since we've decided to come back, it's been different. Better." 

"Yeah. I just wanted to make sure you knew. It's not going to be like after Sochi." 

"I had no worries about that T," he says, cradling her face. "I know you're in this as much as I am." 

"I love you," she says, covering his hands with hers. "You know that right?"

His heart quickens. There's a string somewhere under his left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in her. And if she were to leave, he's afraid that string would snap and he would be left bleeding inwardly.

"I love you too, Tess," he says, pressing his lips against hers. 

Their lips separate and she closes her eyes, inhaling deeply. "I mean, I'm in love with you," she whispers. "It's not like the other times we've said it."

"I know," he smiles tenderly. "I'm in love with you too," he replies. Sometimes, Tessa is so sentimental; it's so rare it makes him cherish those moments even more. 

"Actually, I think I've been half in love with you ever since I was seven," she confesses. 

"So have I," he says. Well, he was nine, but still, he knows deep down in his soul that it's true. 

"In all my life, I've never thought I would be so lucky as to fall in love with my best friend," she murmurs, her bright green eyes glistening as she locks gazes with him. 

Scott can feel his emotions bubbling over. They're always so close to the surface. "Every day I wake up knowing I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have you as my best friend, my partner and my better half."

Tessa joins their mouths together, kissing him deeply, as she grips the hair at the nape of his neck. 

"You're such a softie when you drink too much wine, T," he whispers against her lips. 

"I just wanted you to know this," she whispers backs and he can feel the heat of her blush on his own cheeks.

"I always love to hear you say those things," he says. "You always keep them just for me."

"They're not for anyone else," she says, climbing on top of him on the couch. He's already half hard and she can feel him against her.

Scott lowers his hands to her hips, pressing her down on his length. "I want you so fucking much, Tess," he rasps, his voice husky. 

"Then have me," she says, her eyes burning dark green, rubbing herself against him. 

He removes her jacket and her black silky top in one go and just stares at her lace covered breasts. She's wearing green and it makes her eyes even brighter. 

"Since when do you wear a bra under anything?" he asks, his hands going to her back to try and remove it. 

She laughs. "Since my green blouse was so low cut," she replies, chuckling when she feels the band snap back against her skin one too many times. He's clearly struggling.

"I'm not really used to removing those things. You've never worn them much," he laughs. "Aha!" he cries out after a few seconds, victorious as he finally succeeds in removing the offending garment. 

He skims his palms over her ribcage, almost tickling her, and up to her breasts, tweaking her pink nipples. Her breath hitches and she leans into his touch like she always does. She always wants more of his hands on her. 

"Bedroom?" he asks, gripping her ass and hoisting her up against him before she even has the chance to answer. 

She wraps her legs tight around his waist as he carries her through the apartment. "I don't have any more condoms here," she says. "Please, please, please, tell me you bought some when you were out." 

"I bought some," he smiles, crossing the threshold of her bedroom and dropping her unceremoniously on the bed. "I noticed we were out."

He removes his pants, boxers and shirt and gets on the bed, hands immediately going to the waistband of her jeans. 

"Off, off, off," he chants with a smile, opening the zipper and rolling her jeans down her legs. "Fuck, Tess, do you have to wear jeans this skinny?" he asks, tugging hard to get them to come off. 

"Just give them a hard yank," she laughs and he does just that, removing her panties at the same time. 

His eyes roam her naked body. "Well, at least it was time-saving," he smiles. 

Tessa lies on her back on the bed, lashes low, watching him with dark, seductive eyes that make his whole body throb and his blood pulse hot. Scott crawls over her, grazing a finger from her ankle to her shoulder, before kissing her deeply. He slips his hands beneath her head, holding her tenderly, as their tongues stroke and swirl. Her hands delve into his hair, tugging and fisting. 

He slides down her body, sucking at peaked pink nipples; her back arches and her legs spread as he slides lower, kissing and licking his way down to her center. He grips the back of her thighs to hold her in place as he licks and sucks at her until she's just a whimpering and writhing mess, hands clutched tight in his hair to press him closer. When he feels she's just right on the edge, he slips back up and kisses her with all he has. Her pelvis grinds against his. 

"You need to slow down, Tess," he smirks against her lips, dipping a hand between their bodies, opening her up to him and rubbing her with two fingers. "You are so wet," he marvels, pressing his fingers into her. 

"I know," she moans and she covers his hand with hers, pressing him deeper. "And you're about to be too," she smirks back, removing his hand and flipping them over so he's the one laying on his back now. 

"What are you going to do with me?" he asks, his voice sultry as he strokes his length under her watchful gaze. 

"I'm going to have some fun," she grins, nuzzling her way down his body until she finds exactly what she's looking for, her breath blowing hot and wet against him. 

His whole body stiffens and he groans as she takes him into her mouth, licking him up and down and humming while doing so, obviously thoroughly enjoying herself. His hands twist in her hair as her lips wrap tighter around him, mouth suckling and tongue rubbing, until all he can see behind his lids is bright white light and her gorgeous green eyes. There is nothing left in his brain but her; she has sucked every other thought straight out. 

He strokes her hair more gently now and cups her jaw. "Come up here," he moans. "I'm not going to last much longer if you keep on doing this," he warns. 

She releases him with an audible pop and the sound makes him shiver all the way down to his toes. She lazily slithers up his body, licking every inch of his skin on her way. He grabs her head and devours her mouth, teeth clicking and tongues thrusting roughly. She can feel him, all slick and hard, grinding against her center, all wet and hot. She slides a hand between them and strokes him a few times before guiding him inside of her as she slams down on his body. 

"Tess," he groans. "Condom," he says, grasping at her breasts nonetheless and raising his head to suck a nipple into his mouth. 

She fists his hair, pressing him against her harder. "You know what, I rescind what I said before. I don't actually care about condoms, I want to feel all of you. Bare." 

Scott doesn't have the strength to care or reply coherently to that when all he can feel is how wet and snug she feels clamping down all around him. He replaces his tongue with his hands on her breasts and lays back down on the bed. The sensations are overwhelming and he needs her to move. He grips her hips and guides her forward and back, slowly, moving her up and down over him, before settling his hands on her thighs, letting her take over. 

Tessa rides him nice and slow at first, hips swiveling and spine curling. He grips her breasts tighter and she starts slamming herself onto him more roughly. Her breaths come harsher, her heartbeat pounds against her ribs, her body shudders as she chases the peak for them both. He can only look, stare and gaze upon her. She's gorgeous in her passion: hair bouncing wildly around her face in tempo with her thrusts, teeth biting her lower lip, jaw clenched and eyes rolled back. He feels amazing inside of her this way. So deep and so hard. She can feel his skin inside her skin, every inch of it, rubbing in and out of her in the most luscious way. 

He knows she's close when her hips start to lose their rhythm and her body shudders and jerks all over the place. She braces herself against him, hands splayed flat against his chest and nails biting into his skin. Her thighs tremble, her knees dig into the bed and he pinches her nipples, loving the keening sounds it elicits from her. 

"You're going to come all over me, Tess," he purrs, hands tight on her hips now, accompanying her erratic movements and thrusting up against her. 

A high-pitched sound escapes her throat. "Fuck," she says, riding him harder. 

"I know you're close, baby," he rasps. "I can feel you tightening all around me. You feel so good." 

His hands stroke her hips as she keeps on bouncing up and down on him. He grazes a finger down her back, resting it at the top of the cleft of her ass and presses down on the spot. 

"Fuck!" she shouts and all she can see is white as she clenches around him tight. 

He can feel her clamping down on him like a vice, her body spasming and stiffening on top of him as she rides the wave of pleasure that surrounds her. He thrusts up inside of her as she keeps on rolling her hips and he joins her with a grunt, pulsing inside her over and over again. 

She collapses against him and lays her head on his chest. "You should always say filthy things to me when we have sex," she laughs. "I like that." 

He laughs, stroking her hair. "I know you do," he smirks, cocky. "You get so much wetter when I talk dirty to you, it's impressive." 

She raises her head to look him in the eyes. "It's years and years of having you whisper stuff in my ear while we were skating. You've ruined me for other men." 

He brushes her damp hair back from her face with a loving hand. "I sure hope so," he smiles. "That was my goal from the get go." 

She kisses him softly. He tastes like wine, her and sweat. It's a heady combination. "Let's get under the covers and get to sleep," she suggests, rolling over him and to the side to untuck the quilt. "We have a long day tomorrow." 

They're all sweaty, sticky and messy as they snuggle for warmth and tangle their legs together under the sheets. It's not really the most comfortable position, but neither of them cares. The closer the better.

Heaven, I'm in heaven, 

And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak

And I seem to find the happiness I seek

When we're out together dancing, cheek to cheek

*

Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia - February 2014

Heading into Sochi, they don't think they could have been any more prepared, they skated their programs the best they ever did and they tried to enjoy the process, the journey as much as they possibly could. They had come here wanting to take it all in… These were, most likely, going to be their last Olympics. They had to make the most of it. And they definitely feel like they did. While not as thrilling as some of their other programs and while they definitely didn't connect as much with it, they still feel like they honored Seasons in the best way possible. They wanted to be present in every moment. And they did that. That's nothing to be ashamed of. They skated Seasons clean and to perfection.

They should be happy and proud about their silver. 

And they are. In some way. 

That doesn't stop Tessa from being drunker than he has ever seen her before. He would be impressed if he wasn't so worried. He has seen her happy, giddy and tipsy, but never full blown crazy drunk like this. This is not like her to lose control like that. She is way too much of a control freak to let loose this way, especially in public. Canada House is packed tight tonight and the speakers are blasting the latest pop hit. Even though they didn't place first, which they expected to happen, they still won the silver and that deserved some kind of celebration. And obviously Tessa celebrated with Russian vodka. A lot of it. 

"Hey, Scott," someone from the skiing team shouts out over the music. "Come collect your girlfriend, man!" 

He knows he's not talking about Cassandra who's somewhere around here. He follows him to a corner of the dance floor where Tessa has slumped over. He kneels in front of her and she raises her hands like a kid asking to be carried. 

"You're heeeeeeere!" she cries out. "Come and dance with me," she slurs. Quite a few people have gathered around her. 

"I don't think you're up for dancing, Tess," he says softly, brushing her disheveled hair out of her face. 

"Yeah, I am," she carries on as she tries to get up and ends up collapsing in his waiting arms. 

"How about I get you back to your room so you can sleep it off," he says, encircling an arm against her waist and letting her lean against him. 

"What happened to 'no matter what we're together, no matter what I love you, no matter what we're going to enjoy this?' I love you. I want to enjoy this and dance together," she says a little too loudly, drawing other people's attention on her.

Scott hears cackles around him. "She gets overly sentimental when she drinks," he explains to the people surrounding them with a smile and starts to walk her to the exit. "Come on, Tess, we're going to bed."

"That's an idea I could get behind," she grins. "It's been way too long." 

Scott cringes as he keeps on guiding her through the packed crowd inside Canada House. "A little fresh air will do you some good," he says as they finally get outside. 

"I'm so hot," she says. 

He lays his hand on her forehead to check her temperature. "You are a little hot, Tess," he says worried. "Are you feeling okay?"

"My head hurts," she whines softly. 

"I bet it does," he smiles, tucking her closer to him as they arrive at the shuttle stop. "You drank half the vodka in Russia."

"Everything is spinning," she says, laying her head on his shoulder as they sit on the bench.

"It's going to be okay, T," he whispers. "I'll take care of you." 

He feels her starting to nod off. A few minutes later the shuttle bus arrives and he half carries her inside, her feet barely touching the ground. 

"I wanna dance," she says once he's seated her. 

"It's too late to dance, Tess," he replies, stroking her cheek. "We're going back to our rooms."

"We danced really well today," she slurs. "We should have won. Those skates were perfect. We deserved the gold." 

He's surprised to actually hear her say this. She's been the one to tell him to be prepared for silver for two years. She expected this. And yet… Here she is. "I know we did, Tess. We were amazing," he says. "You were amazing." 

"It's so fucking unfair," she cries. "I'm so done. We deserved this. We've worked so hard," she sobs. 

He takes her in his arms and engulfs her in a hug. "We did. I know we did. I know it's unfair. But I thought… I thought you were expecting this. Don't cry, please," he tries to comfort her. 

"I guess I still hoped," she confesses and he can feel the stream of her tears soaking the collar of his coat. 

Every time she drops her walls and lets her feelings show, he feels like he discovers a new Tessa. She was so adamant about it for so long. She hammered into him that they weren't going to get the gold. She warned him multiple times over the last few years. He never thought it would affect her this much. He thought she was prepared. But apparently, a little part of her, a part that she probably kept locked away and safe in the back of her heart and mind thought they could overcome this. She had thought there was a tiny chance they could beat the odds stacked against them and win this thing. He had grossly misjudged her. 

She was the heart behind Seasons despite trying to convince him that he needed to prepare himself to not be on the first step of the podium. Maybe she had done it and avoided talking about her own feelings to protect him. Maybe because she knew the blow would be softer if it came from her. That he needed more time to process his emotions and get used to it to avoid being completely broken by this. She had kept him together while she was falling apart inwardly. Deep down, secretly and silently, she had still hoped. How lonely that must have been for her. How heartbreaking. To be torn between those two sides of her. 

She has nodded off again. "Wake up, Tess," he says, gently stroking her shoulder. "We're here."

She blinks drunkenly and rubs her nose. "We are?" she says happily. "We should go dancing! I wanna dance with you Scott!" 

He's not even going to try anymore. "We are going dancing," he says, grabbing her underneath her arms to get her up. 

"I love dancing!" she cries out, leaning into him as they make their way out of the bus. 

"I know you do, T," he smiles, entering the dorms. 

He walks her back to her room and gets close to bodily searching her to find her key. He opens the door with one hand, wrangling a sleepy Tessa with the other one. When he finally gets them inside, he sits her on the bed and goes to close the door behind them. The room has two singles and Tessa shares hers with Kaitlyn who, luckily, is not here at the moment. 

He goes back to Tessa's bed where she has slumped over. He sweeps off the hair from her face and checks her temperature. She is hot and clammy. He straightens her up and tucks her to his side. She's shivering all over.

"Tess, are you okay?" he asks, trying to nudge her into consciousness. 

"I don't feel so good, Scott," she croaks. Her mouth sounds dry and she speaks like she has swallowed cotton.

She dry heaves. "Do you need to go to the bathroom?" he asks, but doesn't even wait for an answer to get her there, opening the toilet's lid.

He has the presence of mind to hold her hair back while she vomits what looks like the entire content of her stomach. That is to say a lot of vodka. After what seems like the longest time, she collapses against the wall. 

"I'm sorry," she says, her voice still raw. "You must think I'm disgusting."

"I'm not afraid of a little vomit," he replies, giving her a bottle of water. "And you can never be disgusting to me, Tess." He brings the bottle to her mouth. "Come on, rinse and spit," he says. 

"I'm sorry," she says, gargling a few times. 

"Stop apologizing," he says. "I don't mind taking care of you," he carries on, closing the lid and helping her sit on it. 

He rummages around her toiletry bag to find the products she uses to remove her makeup. Her eyes are currently looking very panda-like as she's kept her Seasons skate makeup on before going to the party. He finds some wipes he assumes are for this very purpose. 

"Okay, T, don't move," he says, pressing the wipe on each of her lids to dissolve the waterproof mascara he knows she wears before gently wiping it away. "I'm not used to doing this kind of thing." 

He's not sure if he's being very efficient about this as he uses two whole wipes to remove everything from her eyes and another two to remove all her foundation. He wets a cloth and cleanses her face with hot water before dabbing at it with a towel. 

"That feels good," she slurs, head bobbing.

"Come on, arms around my neck," he says, bringing her arms around his neck and grabbing underneath her legs to carry her back to bed.

"I'm sleepy now," she says, eyes fluttering. "I don't want to dance anymore."

"Stay with me for one more minute," he says as he moves her body around like a ragdoll's to remove her heavy Canada jacket. 

"I don't think I'm in any condition to have sex with you right now," she smiles, half-assedly removing her sweater and her t-shirt on her own, leaving her torso bare. "I want to, though. I always want to." He tries not to look at her breasts but his eyes are always drawn to her. He tries not to listen to her too much either. She is sloshed. In vino veritas, but still… not an avenue he wants to go down right now. 

"I'm just trying to get you into your pajamas," he says softly. 

He manages to slip her into a t-shirt that's laying around and smells like it's hers. He lays her down on the bed, removes her shoes, socks and gently tugs on her jeans. She's only wearing a flesh colored thong underneath and he prays to God that she won't turn around as he finds her pajama bottoms and struggles to put them on her. 

"Okay, you're all good now," he says, rolling her over to get her under the covers. He hands her a bottle of water and two Excedrin he found in one cabinet. "Take this, you'll thank me tomorrow."

She swallows them quickly and lies back down. "Won't you stay with me?" she asks softly, nuzzling her face into the pillow. 

"I don't think this is a good idea…" he says. Cassandra is probably waiting for him. 

"Please, I don't want to be alone," she pleads. 

He can never resist her. He can never tell her no. Especially when she's this vulnerable. He removes all his clothes except for his t-shirt and his boxers. "Scooch over," he says, moving her to her side.

It's going to be a tight fit. He lines himself up against her on his side and wraps an arm around her waist, effectively spooning her. He hopes Kaitlyn won't come back and find them like this.

"You're still a little warm," he notes, stroking her hair gently. "Sleep, Tess," he says, kissing the top of her head and tightening his grip around her. 

He wakes up the next morning when he feels her stirring against him. It's a million degrees underneath the covers and they're all tangled up in each other. Kaitlyn's bed is still made. Thank God she hasn't slept here. They would have never heard the end of it.

"I feel like elephants stampeded on my head last night," she whines, her voice hoarse. 

He laughs. "If the elephants were named Absolute, Beluga, Grey Goose and Smirnoff, then you might be onto something."

She rolls over to face him and hides her face on the pillow as he stares at her. She looks even paler than usual. "How much did I actually drink last night?" she asks. "And did I do anything I should be ashamed of?"

"You were already pretty hammered by the time I got to you," he replies. "I'm pretty sure you told everyone at Canada House that you loved me." 

"Shit, I'm sorry," she says, her voice muffled by the pillow. "I know how Cassandra gets. She must not have been happy you spent the night with me." 

He rubs his face. "Actually I wouldn't know about that, I haven't talked to her yet." 

She opens her mouth and closes it immediately. "Thank you for taking care of me last night. I'm so sorry," she simply says.

"You're my partner," he shrugs. "You're my number one priority. She knows that." 

"She might know it but she doesn't get it," Tessa says. "None of them do." 

Scott doesn't even want to begin to talk about that. "How are you feeling?" he asks, reaching a hand out to stroke her cheek. 

"Apart from the hangover, fine," she replies. 

"Don't lie, Tess," he says, a warning tone in his voice. "You were rambling last night. You were sad. You must have been really fucking heartbroken and angry to have drunk yourself into such a stupor. Talk to me." 

She cannot believe she embarrassed herself this way. Drinking this much in public, letting her emotions get the better of her and having to have Scott pick up the pieces. "I don't know what you want me to say," she says. 

"I want you to tell me the truth. I want you to talk to me about what you feel. Stop bottling everything up. You've seen what happens when you do that."

"I just had this…rage inside of me. I thought it would burn me from the inside out. It ate away at me. I chose to drown it. With a lot of vodka apparently. And it felt good for a while too… Then I woke up hungover." 

He sighs. "You still held out hope we could win," he says, choosing the direct approach. "When you've been telling me for months that I needed to prepare myself for the silver."

"Yeah…" she sighs. "I know it's stupid, but there was this tiny part of me that thought that if anyone could actually beat the odds, it'd be us. Guess not." 

"Tess…" he whispers. 

"I know, I know," she says. "I just… didn't want to jinx it and then it didn't happen. Or rather it happened the way we both knew it was going to go. And even though I tried protecting myself, I still felt really sad."

"Are you still sad?" he asks. "You know you can tell me. I'm sad too."

She strokes his jaw. "You're so sweet to me," she says. "I'm going to be okay. And so are you. We didn't lose the gold, we won the silver. It's still an amazing thing. We had the moment we wanted to have. We skated the way we wanted to," she rationalizes. It's a lot easier to do when her blood alcohol level is not through the roof.

"It's going to be okay," he says reassuringly as he covers her hand with his own. 

"I know," she says. "What do you want to do now?"

He lowers his hand and strokes her hip. They're in their little cocoon of warmth and cotton. "What do you mean?"

"What happens now?" she asks seriously. "Because I'm telling you right now, I'm not going back to Canton. I'm never going back to Canton. I'm done." 

"I know," he sighs. "And I agree. We're done with Canton."

"Are we done?" she asks carefully. 

Scott takes a deep breath. "We'll never be done, Tess. We'll always skate together," he replies, knowing he's skirting around the real issue, but telling the truth at the same time. He cannot imagine never skating with Tessa again. 

"That's not what I meant and you know it. Are we done with competition? Do you want to go for another quad?" she asks point blank. 

"No, I don't," he finally says after a time. "And I think you don't either or you wouldn't have asked." 

"You're right, I don't," she agrees. "I think we need a break from skating. To see what else is out there. We still have shows and we'll still skate together, but for now, I think I want us to be done with competitive skating. I can't… deal with it anymore."

"So, we're in agreement then? We're retiring?" he asks, the weight of the world dropping in his stomach. What is he going to do if he doesn't skate competitively anymore? Who is he going to be if he's not skating with Tessa anymore?

"Not retiring," she says. "Taking a break. Exploring other possibilities. I think we need to go our own ways for a little while. Stop being Virtue and Moir and just be Tessa and Scott, individually." 

The anxiety grows deep in his stomach. "So, this is it, then? No more us?" he says, put out.

"We'll still do Stars On Ice," she reassures him. "We'll still skate together, but we won't be glued together 24/7 like we have been in the last sixteen years. Think about the possibilities! I can finally finish my degree, we can have amazing opportunities, explore different things, actually have hobbies or a social life." 

And she doesn't say it out loud, but maybe Scott and her could actually give it an honest go this time around. She knows he has a girlfriend right now, but maybe, just maybe, in a few months, maybe they could try. They could actually be in each other's lives without having to skate together. They could be together without jeopardizing their partnership anymore.

All that Scott hears is that Tessa wants to branch out on her own, without him and be able to enjoy her life like any regular twenty-four-year old. And he can't blame her. He knows he has a girlfriend. That he shouldn't expect her to wait for him in any way or to keep skating with him just so that they'll keep seeing each other and be in each other's lives. He knows it's not healthy to be this codependent. But he doesn't know what life is without Tessa in it. He guesses he'll have to figure it out eventually.

"We've achieved everything we've set out to do," he says proudly. "We can't ask for anything more. If it's the end, then it's a good way to go out." 

"Yeah, I agree," she says. "God, I can't wait to get out of Canton." And away from Marina, Meryl and Charlie.

"Where are you going to go now?" he asks, resigned to what's going to happen once they're back on Canadian soil. 

"It's way too early to tell," she says diplomatically. She wants to wait and see where he's going to live before making her decision. "I think I'll stay in London for a while though. What about you?" 

"Yeah, I think I'll stay in Ilderton too," he replies, glad that she will stay close for at least a little while. 

And even if he's a bit sad that they didn't get the gold and that they're taking a break from competitive skating, he knows that Tessa will always be part of his life. She will always be a part of him. And nothing, not even semi-retiring, can change that. They're a forever kind of deal.

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you

Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you

But in your dreams whatever they be

Dream a little dream of me

*

All along it was a fever

A cold sweat hot-headed believer

I threw my hands in the air, said, 'Show me something'

He said, 'If you dare, come a little closer'

Round and around and around and around we go

Oh now, tell me now, tell me now, tell me now you know

They chose Stay as an exhibition program when they were doing Carmen. They immediately connected to the lyrics. Maybe because they weren't their best years. They needed an outlet. All the anger, the sadness, the longing, the love, the darkness… All the overflow of emotions had to go somewhere. It went into Stay. Two broken people, a couple who's madly in love and longing for each other, but they keep missing each other, and they just can’t get their timing quite right to make it work in the end. Two very vulnerable, emotionally disturbed people whose underlying story is that longing to be together. Scott doesn't even try to hide the fact that if he had to choose a song that best represents them, it would be this one. 

They're bringing it back to the Sochi Olympic Gala. It seemed appropriate. 

Tessa is wearing a light pink dress so low cut in the back that it would surely drive Scott to distraction if his heart wasn't already so busy grieving. He broke up with Cassandra last night, but that's not who his heart is mourning.

They're next to go and Scott watches Tessa stretch to keep her muscles warm. "That's probably our last Olympic skate," he says, looking at her. 

"I know," she sighs and he can the see his sadness reflected into her eyes. "I can't believe it."

He holds out his hand and she reaches to take it, lacing her fingers with his. "One last time, Tess," he says. 

"One last time," she says, her voice quivering with emotion. 

Silver medalists in ice dance, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. 

The ice rink is bathed in purple light. It's a haze. Purple is the color of magic and devotion they say. 

They take their opening positions, laying side by side on the ice, and the music starts.

It's not much of a life you're living

It's not just something you take it's given

Not really sure how to feel about it

Something in the way you move

Makes me feel like I can't live without you

It takes me all the way

I want you to stay

He takes her hand. 

He pulls her close.

He holds her waist.

He lifts her up. 

He grazes her cheek. 

He grips her inner thigh. 

Hazel meets green. 

Ooh, ooh, ooh, the reason I hold on

Ooh, ooh, ooh, 'cause I need this hole gone

Funny you're the broken one but I'm the only one who needed saving

'Cause when you never see the light it's hard to know which one of us is caving

She grips his hand. 

She lays on his back. 

She chases.

She reaches for him. 

She pleads with him. 

They dance. 

They embody. 

They do more than skate. 

They tell their story. 

Even if he doesn't think she realizes it.

Not really sure how to feel about it

Something in the way you move

Makes me feel like I can't live without you

It takes me all the way

I want you to stay, stay

I want you to stay.

Their hearts beat as one. 

They move as one. 

The rink is deathly quiet. You could hear a pin drop. Only they have that breathless quality. The ability to suck all the oxygen out of the room and make the audience stop breathing for three and a half minutes.

He kisses the Olympic ice. One last time.

They take their final positions, laying side by side on the ice, Tessa's hand almost reaching for him, and the music stops.

He wants her to stay. 

*

Ilderton, Ontario, Canada - April 2014

We were born before the wind

Also younger than the sun

Ere the bonnie boat was won

As we sailed into the mystic

"I don't think I'll ever tire of that song," Tessa says, swaying gently to Van Morisson's crooning of Into The Mystic.

"Me neither," Scott agrees. "We listened to it so much before Sochi… It brings back so many memories." 

They're in Scott's kitchen. He's invited her over for dinner and he's currently cooking a stir fry that smells delicious.

"It does," she agrees. "Did you hear from Marie-France and Patrice?" she asks. "Are they happy with what we've done with the improvements they've suggested last week?" 

"I had Patch on the phone this morning," he replies. "He seemed really happy with the newest version of Top Hat and Tails. Filming us and sending it to them was a good idea when we can't really go to Montréal right now."

"That's one show program down at least," Tessa says. "We'll need to practice it a bit more tomorrow so it flows better, what do you think?"

"Sure," he answers quickly. 

Nowadays, skating with Tessa is lot rarer than it used to be. It's not hard to be when they used to see each other almost every day and it's more of a once every two weeks kind of deal now. 

And when that fog horn blows

I will be coming home, mmm mmm

And when the fog horn blows

I want to hear it

I don't have to fear it

She lets herself get carried away by the music, closes her eyes and moves her arms up as her hips sway. 

"Feeling good, T?" Scott chuckles. 

"Hmm hmmm," she moans, eyes still closed and dancing around. 

Scott grins wildly as he looks at her. To her core, Tessa is a dancer through and through. She just feels the music resonate into every inch of her body. He drops his cooking utensils, lowers the heat on the stove and slides over to her, gathering her in his arms. He pulls her close and she instinctively locks her arms around his neck, their hips gently swaying to the languorous beat of the song.

Hark, now hear the sailors cry

Smell the sea and feel the sky

Let your soul and spirit fly

Into the mystic

He turns her a few times and his hands grip her undulating hips, accompanying her movements. He strokes her hair and grazes her cheek softly before lifting her up and twirling her around. Tessa's body remembers how to react to his when he's in such close proximity and she slithers down his body easily as he grabs the back of her neck. 

"We should skate to this song," Scott suggests, rocking their bodies together before turning her around so that her back is pressed against his chest. He lazily sways their bodies to the rhythm of the song.

His hands are on her waist and she feels like she's been electrocuted. "You're sure? Isn't it a little too… soothing?" she asks, reminding him that it was their go-to song this season to relax. 

"I think it would make a great program," he says. "We both love the song and we connect to the lyrics and the feel of the music." 

He twirls her again and she ends up facing him, her arms around his neck once more. "We should choreograph it ourselves," she offers excitedly. "We've never done that before." 

"It would be a great first piece to choreograph," he agrees, liking that idea more and more. "And look, we're already doing it right now," he smiles.

I wanna rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old

Then magnificently we will float

Into the mystic

"Your kitchen is surely a magical place for choreographing," she smiles. "All of our best ideas come to us there. Remember Carmen?"

Oh, he remembers. He also remembers perfectly well what happened in his kitchen in Michigan after they were done fine-tuning Carmen's choreography. "Yeah," he snickers. 

"It should come easy," she smiles. 

He knows something else that comes easy… Or rather someone. He brushes her hair back behind her ears, and, without even thinking about it, grabs her face in his hands, bringing their faces closer, and presses his lips against hers. He swallows her gasp when she opens her mouth underneath his, mingling her tongue with his in a searing kiss. She raises herself on her tippy toes and presses her body closer to his, wrapping herself around him, losing herself in the kiss. 

When that fog horn blows

You know I will be coming home

And when that fog horn whistle blows

I gotta hear it

I don't have to fear it

He's the one to break away first. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that," he apologizes. "I don't know what came over me." 

"Scott," she says, touching her lips with her fingers. "Is that really so bad?" she asks.

"I have a girlfriend," he says, a little bit ashamed to be so weak and to possess so little self-control whenever Tessa is involved. 

"I know," she says. "But…I always kind of thought that…we would," she hesitates, wanting to tread carefully, "you know…be free to explore this thing between us when we stopped skating competitively." 

His heart drops in his stomach. "Tess," he says shocked. "I thought… You were the one who said we needed time apart. You were the one who wanted to see who we were as individuals. Explore different things, have hobbies and a personal life. You told me that in Sochi."

Her face falls a little bit. "No," she starts. "I mean, yes, you're right. I did say that. I just thought that…well, that you were kind of going to be in my personal life. That's all. But I guess I just got my signals crossed." 

"Tess," he says. "I didn't know that's what you meant. I thought…I thought you wanted us to find out who we were outside of this partnership." He never wanted any of it. He never thought she wanted him. He never thought she would want this. She certainly never gave him any clear indication of that. Did he misread this completely?

"Don't worry about it," she says, softly. "I get it. I did say that we should find an identity outside of us." They never did get their timing quite right… 

"I'm sorry, T," Scott apologizes. "I'm dating someone new," and while she's not you and she never will be, he wants to say, "and I really like her," he ends up saying instead. He cannot get pulled into Tessa again. Not right now. No matter how much he wants to.

"I get it, don't worry, Scott," she says, swallowing with difficulty. "It's probably for the best anyway. We should explore the world and its possibilities on our own. Become less co-dependent. It's healthy." 

"How about I get back to cooking so we can eat and we can talk more about that Into The Mystic choreography?" he says, trying to plaster a smile on his face. 

"Yeah," she agrees, "that's a good idea. I'm famished and I have a ton of ideas!" 

He's got a new girlfriend and he really likes her, she dwells on inwardly. She thought this could be it. Guess she was wrong. Maybe it is for the best. She's always trusted fate and it has not disappointed her thus far (not too much anyway). Maybe it isn't their time yet. Maybe someday. 

And I wanna rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old

And together we will float

Into the mystic

Come on girl

Will they stop now

*

Montréal, Québec, Canada - March 2018

It's late on Saturday morning when the doorbell rings and Scott has to drag himself out of Tessa's bed to open the door. 

"Did you forget something?" he yells through the door. "Like your keys for example?" he says as he opens the door expecting to see Tessa. 

Except it's not. It's Patch. And he's giving him the up and down stare, taking in his state of undress and his messy hair. 

"Hi Patch," Scott greets him awkwardly. "What are you doing here on a Saturday?" he asks, opening the door and silently inviting him in. 

Patrice enters the apartment, surreptitiously looking around for Tessa. "I was worried," he answers slowly. "I've been calling and texting you and you didn't answer so I came around to see if everything was fine. When you didn't answer your door, I came here to see if Tessa might know where you were. And clearly she does." 

Scott rubs his head. "Yeah, sorry, I probably turned it off," he shrugs. "Do you want something to drink?" he asks. "Coffee, tea?" He gestures to the kitchen. He's not sure he's doing a good job of convincing him he doesn't actually spend all his time here.

Patrice keeps looking around and his eyes find their shoes neatly put away by the door, his gym bag in the corner near the couch, his Tigers cap on the back of a kitchen chair and his favorite brand of beer stacked near the fridge. "No, thank you," he replies. "Where's Tessa?" he asks after a moment. 

"She went for a run and to get breakfast. Well, brunch…" Scott says truthfully. "Did you want to see her?" 

"No, it's you I wanted to see." 

"Look, Patch, this isn't what it looks like," he says, his voice catching in his throat and he immediately cringes. He can hear how contrived it sounds. In the history of 'that's not what it looks like,' how many times has it actually not been what it looked like? Less than 1%, he'd reckon.

"That's none of my business," Patrice shrugs in that casual unaffected way that French Canadians master so well. 

"So, what did you want to see me about?" Scott asks, clearly uncomfortable. He's been half-naked in front of Patch dozens of times before, but never in Tessa's apartment. He keeps fidgeting.

"Skate Canada sent over some paperwork for you to sign from the Olympic committee," Patch says and he hands him over the stack of papers he was holding in his hand. "We leave for Milan today and you leave for London today too, yes? This was urgent."

"Yeah, that's right. Listen, I'm sorry about the phone thing. I've been busy," he starts and frantically backtracks. "Occupied I mean, not busy, occupied. With stuff," he rambles, cringing again. He is not good at this.

"You look like you've been busy," Patch says snidely. "Both of you." There's an awkward pause and Scott feels Patch's intense stare burning through his eyes, like he's daring him to say something back. "Well, you have the papers now, so I'll see myself out. Say hi to Tessa for me." 

Patrice turns on his heels and Scott sees him to the door. "Thanks for coming by to drop off the papers. I'll sign them and get them back to you as soon as possible," Scott says in lieu of goodbyes. 

"Oh and Scott," Patrice, says, his eyes twinkling with mirth. "Congratulations," he finishes. Scott can almost hear the unsaid 'on finally figuring your shit out' at the end of that sentence. Not saying it is actually louder than if Patch had actually spoken the words.

He closes the door behind Patch and bangs his head on the hard wood several times. 

They are so fucked. 

He is so fucked. 

Tessa is going to kill him when she finds out. 

TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter Text

Los Angeles, California, USA - March 2018

The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue, the air is salty against his skin, and he can hear the soft and rhythmic swish swish of the ocean when he gets to the hotel Tessa has chosen for their stay in Los Angeles. Everything from the settings to the decor and the general vibe is gorgeous. He feels like he's on vacation even though that's clearly not the main goal of this short trip. 

His cousin Cara, who simply could not pass up an opportunity to go to LA for a couple of days is already getting settled in her room while he waits for Tessa to get back from her day of sightseeing with Kelly. The pool deck, where he's currently laying on a chaise lounge, is drenched in sunlight; the white sand beach stretches as far as his eyes can see, the sun reflecting off the Pacific, as the gentle ocean breeze caresses his skin. He closes his eyes, lulled by all the soothing sounds around him. 

"You're here!" Tessa cries out, waking him up, as she lies next to him on the chaise lounge. "And you're already a bit red," she points out, laying a hand on his forehead and poking his nose with a finger.

"I am?" he asks, blinking slowly and rubbing a hand over his face. His face feels hot, but not tender so he should be okay for tomorrow's filming.

"That'll teach you to wear your cap backwards," she tuts. 

"What time is it?" he asks, straightening up a bit. 

"Almost six," she replies. "Kelly went to her room to change and we're planning on a light dinner and some champagne on the deck later on. That's okay with you and Cara?"

"Sure," he says, "but I need to change too. I didn't have the key to your room so my luggage is still with Cara. I didn't want to ask the front desk. We're supposed to be inconspicuous, you know." 

She rummages through her bag and hands him an extra keycard. "Does Cara know?" she asks. 

"I haven't told her directly, but I mean… I think it was pretty clear when I didn't get my own room," he shrugs.

She shakes her head. "So that means our entire families must know by now."

"Yeah, probably," he says. "But at least, it saves us the trouble from actually telling them. So that's that." 

"True," she grants. 

"And you know they're not going to go blabbering about it." 

"Yeah, I know," she sighs. 

"Did you have a good day?" he asks, covering his eyes from the glaring sun with one hand. 

"Yeah," she replies excitedly. "We had some much fun. We walked around Venice for a bit, did some sightseeing, had some amazing shrimp tacos and smoothies on the beach, and I bought a lot of cute stuff. There were so many little boutiques."

He groans. "Don't you have enough clothes already?" he teases. "You do remember we have to share a closet in Montréal now, right?"

"I bought some stuff for you too," she singsongs, a huge grin on her face.

"Share the closet, share it, not fill it," he smiles.

"I know you're curious," she states. "Come on, get up, we'll go to our room and I'll show it to you," she says, holding out her hand.

He likes the way she says 'our' and he takes her hand to get up before following her to their room. It's gorgeous: there's a huge window that leads straight to a little balcony right on the beach. He bets he can see the ocean when he's lying on the bed. That will be a treat at sunrise. 

"Wow!" he exclaims as he closes the door. "That's a view!"

"I know, right?" she says distractedly, trying to find her way through the massive pile of shopping bags. 

He eyes her. "Um, Tess," he says. "Don't you think you went a little overboard here?" he asks gesturing to the pile. 

"You can never have too many clothes," she retorts. 

"Actually, I think you can," he smiles. "And I think you've reached that point. Clearly. How are you even going to fit all of it in the one suitcase you have?" 

"Well," she draws out. "I was kind of hoping that you would be nice enough to let me put some of it in your suitcase. I know it's always half empty," she finishes with a huge pleading smile she knows he can't resist. 

"Tess," he whines, throwing himself on the bed.

"Come on," she says. "Please. You're not going to use it anyway. And don't you want to see what I got you?" 

He sighs. "Okay, you can have the rest of my suitcase," he relents. "Now, show me what you got," he asks, straightening up on the bed. 

Tessa squeals happily as she goes to grab his face and press a kiss to his lips. "I love you," she says. "So, I've got you two nice dress shirts," she rummages through the bags and shows them to him. "Light blue and slightly off white." 

"It's white," he says, looking pointedly at her. 

She cocks a brow in defiance. "It's off white," she replies, looking right back at him. "I also got you a new blazer. Your old one was getting a bit tired."

He doesn't even ask how she knows his sizes. She knows everything. "Thank you," he says. "That's very sweet of you, T. What else you got?" 

"Some tee-shirts with funny prints on them," she replies, showing them to him one by one. "You can never have too many tee-shirts," she points out. 

"Again, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one," he laughs. "But thank you for thinking about me. You're the nicest."

He puts his arms around her waist, pulls her down on the bed with him and kisses her softly, pressing his body against hers. 

"I was just trying to butter you up," she smiles against his lips, leaning into his embrace. "I knew I needed the extra room in your suitcase." 

"Well, it worked," he says in between kisses. "I missed you." 

"You literally saw me yesterday," she laughs. 

"I missed going to sleep and waking up with you."

"You are such a sap," she shakes her head. 

"You like it, don't even try to deny it." 

"I like almost everything about you," she jokes. 

He pinches her side jokingly. "You know what, I'm going to let that slide because I know how badly you slept last night too. And I know it's because you missed me too." 

She knows he can read her like an open book, but this is straight up witchcraft. "How the hell do you know that?" she asks, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. 

His lips curl into a smirk. "Well, this, for one," he says, grazing a knuckle under her eye. "You look a bit more tired than usual. Two, I know you and I know how restless you get before flying anywhere and third, Cara told me you were up liking Instagram pics in the middle of the night," he finishes, trailing his hand down her cheek to cup her jaw.

She covers his hand with her own. "I'm very impressed," she smiles. "Your sleuthing skills are unparalleled." 

"So…" he drawls. 

"So what?" she teases. 

"Tell me you missed me," he says, his voice almost carrying a daring tone to it. 

She smiles at him tenderly and sees the same emotion reflected in his eyes. "I missed you last night," she says softly, pressing her lips against his. "I like having you in my bed. My sheets and my pillows smell like you; it's the most comforting scent." 

"See," he replies, kissing her a little deeper. Her hands delve into the hair on the nape of his neck, tugging on it lightly. "That wasn't so hard." 

"How about tomorrow after Ellen, we do a little exploring of our own?" she suggests. "Walk around, go to the beach, eat at a nice restaurant?"

"It's a plan," he says. 

"When's your return flight tomorrow?" she asks. "I don't think we're on the same one. I'm stopping in Toronto to spend the night at Jordan's and I'm back in London on Wednesday afternoon."

"Tuesday morning," he replies. "I'm on the 11:45 am."

"Yeah, we're not on the same one. I'm on the 1:15 pm. Are you going back to Ilderton directly?" she asks. 

"I have a layover, but yeah. So I'll see on Wednesday?" he checks. 

"Yeah and we have a massive amount of stuff to do before we leave for Japan," she says, sighing softly. "We need to keep training as much as we can to perfect the program and we have those radio interviews."

"I have a charity hockey game with my brother on Saturday night too," Scott informs her. 

"Oh, that's nice," she replies. "It's going to be busy, busy, busy before Osaka," she points outs. 

"You wouldn't have it any other way, Tess," he laughs. "You don't like empty." 

"That's true," she smiles. "Should we stay at your place while we're in London? Since we stay at my place in Montréal?" 

His smile is smug and pleased. "Well, well, well, look at you T," he teases. "And to think that you were the one who needed convincing about us living together."

"Technically, we're not living together," she reminds him with a mischievous smile. "We're just staying in the same place."

"All the time," he points out. "We also share a fridge, a closet, and a Netflix account."

"Because it's practical," she winks. "I'm just being pragmatic here."

He laughs. "You tell yourself whatever you want, Tess. We're living together. And you want us to live together in Ilderton too." 

"I like your house," she shrugs. 

He cocks a brow. "You hate my house," he states. "And you love yours. You spent a fortune renovating your house. You want us to live together," he repeats the last sentence in a singsong voice. 

"I don't hate your house, Scott," she defends herself. "It has you in it and it's so quintessentially you, I could never hate it. You could tidy it up a little bit though," she gently mocks.

"It's clean and I can find my stuff without looking for it too much," he laughs. "I know it's not Tessa clean, but that's good enough for me."

"Tessa clean?" she asks, puzzled. 

"Neatly, freakishly, OCD, coaster under your beer, whiter than white, seeing your reflection in the kitchen cabinet clean," he explains. 

"Isn't that what clean means?"

He roars with laughter. "Oh baby," he says, stroking her shoulder. "No it's not. Should we just split it? So you can get your things in order before we leave?" he suggests, wanting to ease her in. 

"We can split it," she agrees, deciding not to pursue the clean thing any further. "I'm doing an Instagram takeover for The Kit on the 22nd so I need to be at my house. I also need someone to help me take pictures…" she not so subtlety implies. 

"Tessssss," he whines, hiding his face in the crook of her neck. 

"Come on!" she pleads. "Please, please, please. I don't want to have to ask my mom. You're the perfect Instagram husband!" 

He straightens up immediately, heart racing and palms sweaty. "Instagram what?" he asks, his voice getting caught in his throat. 

"Oh no, no, no," she backtracks frantically. "Not like that. At all," she affirms until she sees his face fall a little. "Not that I wouldn't want you to be my…" she rambles and she can feel his pulse hammering against her skin. "I mean, it's just what people jokingly call men who take pictures of their girlfriends or their wives for Instagram." 

Scott lets out a long exhale. "That makes more sense," he admits. Hearing the words 'you' and 'husband' in the same sentence coming from Tessa is more than what his heart can take. 

"I know we're not there yet," she says. "Don't freak out."

He swallows with difficulty. "Yet?"

"I said don't freak out," she points out. 

"I'm not freaking out. I'm just curious," he says. And it's true. He's not. He's just completely astonished. She's usually the one who needs convincing and gentle nudging in the right direction. She's the one who spooks easily. And now she's talking about marriage? 

"I mean, I'm in this for the long haul. Aren't you?" she asks, a bit nervous now. 

"You know I am," he says softly, tucking a stand of hair behind her ear. 

"Then we agree: not yet," she says simply, like it's the most natural thing in the world. 

And in a way, it is. This whole thing with Scott, this couple thing, this being together, this let's-really-give-it-a-try thing has been the most organic and effortless endeavor of her life to date. Maybe it's because they have already put twenty years of work and therapy into it. And now, it's just…so innate and familiar. Perfect. 

"Not yet," he agrees, gently stroking her cheek and bringing her face closer to his to kiss her. 

"Plus," she says in between kisses, "you owe me."

He pulls away from her and looks into her eyes. "Excuse me?" he laughs. 

"Have you already forgotten the Patch incident?" she laughs. "Because I haven't." 

"How is this my fault?" he defends himself. "He's the one who came knocking on your door."

"You were half-naked," she points out. "In my apartment," she pauses for extra dramatic flair. "On a Saturday morning."

"How should I have known it was him?" he asks. 

"Not turning off your phone for one? Looking through the peephole for two?" she laughs. "I mean, I don't know, I'm just throwing out ideas here."

He chuckles. "You know what, those are not actually bad ideas, T."

"I know. You owe me," she states. "Marie has been texting me since yesterday thinking she's being sly and subtle about it."

"I owe you babe," he says in a soft voice. "Do with me what you want."

She rolls them over, pinning him to the mattress as she settles on his hips. "That's a very interesting offer."

His hands immediately go to her waist, stroking the warm skin there. She's wearing a flowing pink skirt that makes waves all around her when she's sitting on top of him like that. 

"I'll take all the pictures you want if you keep on moving like that," he groans. 

"That can definitely be arranged," she says sultrily, moving her hands to his hair and throwing his hat to the other side of the room. 

He bunches her skirt up to her waist. "Do we have time?" he asks, breath already ragged. 

She checks the time on the alarm clock next to his head. "We'll have to be quick," she says tantalizingly. 

"I don't think it's going to a be problem," he laughs, pressing her hips into his roughly so she can feel his growing hardness.

Her eyes are sparkling. "I wanna try something," she says in a seductive voice.

"All the best things in my life have started with this sentence," he laughs. "So please, go right ahead," he says, letting his hands roam her collarbone, her breasts, her spine, and to her waist. 

She takes off her t-shirt and her bra in one swift move and lifts herself up just enough to get rid of her panties as well, leaving her only in her skirt. "Don't move," she orders. 

His hands digs deeper into her sides as he watches her. "Trust me baby, I'm not going anywhere."

She leans forward and cups his jawline, kissing him deeply, letting their tongues get reacquainted with each other. She licks the roof of his mouth softly, grazing his teeth. 

"Fuck, Tess," he groans, his hands grasping her ass and slipping a hand over to her center to rub her wet. 

"Keep going," she whispers against his lips, letting her mouth trail his cheek, his jaw, and bury itself in the crook of his neck. She deeply inhales his slightly citrusy and sweaty scent before sucking at the skin of his throat. 

He parts her with two fingers and strokes her slowly until he feels her getting all slick and sloppy underneath his touch. Her uneven breathing melts into his mouth with their kisses. 

She pulls away and stares at him. "I want to sit on your face," she whispers lowly, her eyes dark with desire.

His heart stops in his chest and he's pretty sure all the blood that was being pumped there is now redirected to his groin. Could she be any sexier? Could he want her more? All his body is burning and aching for her and he can feel himself getting even harder against her wiggling hips. He reads a lot of provocation in her gaze and a little of nervousness too.

"Come here," he murmurs, his voice raw, his hands going to her ass to guide her up his body.

She slithers over his body, bracing herself against the headboard as she bunches her skirt in her hands and her open thighs hover above his face.

He can feel the heat emanating from her on his face. "You smell so sweet, baby," he groans, his voice rough. "I know you taste just the same."

She lowers herself gently, being careful to hold as much of her weight off him as she can, until she feels his nose against her and his tongue parting her. She clutches the headboard tighter as he grabs her ass firmly and presses her right against his open mouth.

Her thighs are quivering. "Fuck, Scott," she moans. 

Tessa has never known such a heady rush — this feeling of complete power and pure bright white pleasure. She can't even see his face anymore. He has completely disappeared under the pink ruffles of the flimsy fabric of her skirt. But she can feel him. Boy, can she feel him. Scott is all over her, his tongue, mouth, and lips are everywhere at once. Sucking, nipping, grazing and licking his way up and down and paying special attention to that sweet spot she loves so much. 

His nose is pressing against her in the most interesting manner, rubbing her just right there in just the right way. Her hips sway over his mouth intently, grinding herself on him, chasing her pleasure. His working mouth makes the filthiest and most delicious sounds, wet and sticky. She feels like water flowing over him, like the ocean's waves crashing on the sand; swish goes the rustle of her skirt, ripple go her hips. She's pretty sure she's soaking his whole face, but she's way past the point of caring. 

"You are so wet, T," he hisses against her, his voice muffled. 

She can feel his lips moving against her and it makes her rub herself even rougher against his mouth. Her hands are clutched onto the wood of the headboard while his roam all over her thighs and ass, alternating between squeezing her tightly, fingers digging into her flesh, and lightly brushing her skin with his knuckles.

"Wait, wait, wait," she whimpers and he stops sucking her into his mouth immediately. 

His hands leave her thighs and raise her skirt up to her waist so it's not in his face anymore. "What?" he asks, out of breath and a little worried something has happened while he was blinded.

"I have an idea," she says and he can hear the naughtiness in her voice. 

"Of course you do," he laughs as he waits for her to make her move. 

As carefully as she can, she swings her legs over his head so that she's facing the other way. Her breasts graze his stomach as she settles over him this way, her delicious ass now literally in his face. She's still glisteningly wet, pinked up, swollen and parted from his previous ministrations. His mouth finds her again in this position as he pulls her hips toward him to make her sit on his face again. 

"I like this angle too," he groans in between deep kisses. And he does; he can feel her breasts and their hardened nipples rub against his stomach with each undulation of her hips under his tongue. 

"Just you wait," she says, her voice low and husky. 

Scott stops in his tracks and his grip on her waist loosens when he feels her unbuckling his belt, unzipping his jeans, and tugging them down at the same time as his boxers. He groans when she closes her hand tightly around him and starts pumping him. 

He buries his face in the warm flesh of the back of her thigh from the rush of pleasure that courses through his body as soon as her hands touch him. He feels himself twitch in her hand and get harder, if that's possible. 

"Tess," he grunts. 

He has completely lost his rhythm between her thighs. How can he even concentrate on licking her right when he can feel the warm wetness of her breath blowing on him and her mouth engulfing him whole?

"Don't stop, Scott," she moans around his length. "I was so close before," she whines. "Lick me."

His blood runs hot and his spine tingles from hearing her talk like this. It's an out of body experience. He can't believe this is happening and yet he feels everything: from the way her hand grasps and tugs him, to the slick warmth of her mouth and the roughness of her tongue. His head is spinning from the rush of sensations. He feels the deafening beat of his heart pumping in his ears.

She takes him out of her mouth with an audible pop. "Scott?" she laughs. 

"Are we really doing this?" he laughs backs, biting one ass cheek playfully before licking and kissing the very same spot. 

She gives him a long and lazy lick, teasing him. "Are you afraid you won't be able to do two things at the same time?" she chuckles, wiggling her ass in his face.

"Watch me," he says, his voice taking that competitive driven edge she loves so much. 

"I'll be too busy making you come to watch you, but please, get back to work."

He locks his arms around her thighs and pulls her down on his face, tongue plunging inside her. 

"Fuck," she cries out, her thighs quivering around his head and her body flattening on top of his. 

He can feel every single inch of her pressed and rubbing against him. Her heat and her scent surround him, making him drunk on her. He can't barely keep it together and keep pleasuring her when he feels her sucking and humming around him, perfectly hollowing her cheeks for maximum effect. She drives him crazy. She always has. But this…this is next level. And she knows it. She keeps rubbing the very tip of him on the inside of her cheek, where the tissue is oh-so-soft and oh-so-wet.

He focuses on licking and sucking her the way he knows she likes, paying special attention to her clit and it's not too long before her hips ride his mouth in a relentless rhythm. He knows she's close when he pops out of her mouth and her whole body stiffens. 

"Oh fuck, fuck, fuck," she chants. "Yes, right…fucking…there. Don't stop," she moans. "I'm gonna come."

She's dripping all over his face and he nuzzles his nose against her just the right way before lapping and flicking her faster. His hands roam her thighs and her spine and everything about his touch drives her that much closer to the edge. And…in the space of an instant, she's right there, shattering in a million pieces all over his tongue, her body convulsing under the burning pleasure that makes its way from the tip of her toes to the top of her head.

She collapses against him, seeing bright yellow stars underneath her closed lids. Her heart is racing and she can still feel her inner walls fluttering and her body shivering. After a few seconds, her grip tightens around him again and she puts him back in her mouth, stroking and sucking him faster and harder. He's almost at the back of her throat when she takes him like this. He grips and strokes her ass so tight he's sure to leave handprints; he can't get enough of her or the feeling of her skin underneath his hands. 

"Fuck, Tess," he grunts. "I'm going to come." 

He always warns her and she never cares. She wants all of him, always. Her merciless tongue is the end of him with a few well placed licks and she feels him twitch, contract, and come inside her mouth before quickly swallowing his salty tang. 

"Come up here," he says, slapping her ass playfully. 

She swings her legs over his face and drags her sleepy body into his waiting arms. They're both sweaty and out of breath. She snuggles against his side, nuzzling her nose close to his armpit. He smells like sex, sweat, and her. It's a heady combination. She loves that scent. It triggers so many memories and yet it feels new and comforting at the same time. 

He feels floppy all over. She has literally sucked off all his energy. "That was something," he laughs, stroking her arm. 

"That was so good," she hums contentedly, rubbing herself against him like a purring kitten. "We should do that more often," she says, tangling her legs with his, stroking the sole of his foot with one toe.

"No protest from me," he smiles, tightening his hold on her. "You do that whenever you feel like it." 

She raises her head and looks straight at him. His face is red and swollen and his hair is a complete mess of sweat and…her, she guesses. But his eyes are happy and they crinkle softly on the outer edges. "I love you," she says, moving to press her lips against his. 

"I love you too, T," he replies, kissing her deeper. They can taste one another on their tongues as they dance together. They let themselves fall into a half-sleep before they're woken up by loud knocks on the door. 

"Tess?" Kelly's voice calls her through the door. "Are you in there? Do you know where Scott is? We've been waiting for you two for the last fifteen minutes and Cara has no idea where he is!" 

She needs to buy Cara at least two flutes of champagne for this. "Fuck," she curses as she jumps out of bed to slip a bathrobe on. "Quick," she whispers, motioning to Scott. "Hide!"

He laughs. "Are you fucking serious?" he whispers back, holding his laughter in as best he can. 

"Get your ass in the bathroom!" she whisper yells as she goes to open the door. "Coming!" she says to Kelly. 

"Yeah," he chuckles, getting up and going into the bathroom. "You already did that." 

"Shhh," she tuts him, hand on the door handle. When she's sure he's out of sight, she opens the door partially. She can't let her in or she'll see their clothes scattered all over. "Hey, I'm so sorry, I fell asleep." 

"Are you okay?" Kelly asks, looking at her intently. "You look flushed." 

She runs a hand over her face and brushes some sweaty strands off her forehead. "Yeah, I just woke up from a power nap and I'm not used to the LA heat yet. I'll be down in a moment." 

It's barely 60 °F at this time of day and her skirt is sticking out from under her bathrobe, but Kelly is nice enough not to mention it. "Okay," she replies, slightly bemused. "Do you know where Scott is? Cara can't find him and he doesn't answer his phone either." 

She swallows slowly and clears her throat. "Oh, he must have gone for a walk. He always puts his phone on silent on the plane and forgets to turn it back on once he lands. I'll get dressed and go find him and we'll join you," she says quickly. "Why don't you order us some champagne in the meantime?" she suggests. 

Kelly raises a perfectly manicured brow in her direction. "Sure," she says with a shrug. "See you on the deck in a little while," she says, turning around and walking in direction of the front desk. 

Tessa leans her head on the door as soon as she doesn't hear Kelly's footsteps in the hallway anymore. 

"The coast is clear?" Scott laughs, peeking his head from the bathroom door. 

"That was so close," she says, relief coursing through her body. 

Scott laughs loudly. "You're not fooling anybody Tess," he points outs. "You look so well fucked right now. She knows."

"Shut up," she says, hiding her face into her hands. "We're so bad at this. We didn't use to be it. What happened?" 

Scott gathers her into his arms, holding her close and swaying their bodies softly. "We stopped giving a fuck," he says simply. 

She shakes her head. "Probably true," she says. "Come on, we have to take the quickest shower in existence. They've already been waiting fifteen minutes for us."

He takes her hand and pulls her towards the bathroom. "Well, you have to look for me," he grins. "You can look for ten minutes. Or fifteen."

"Scott…" she protests with a moan as he starts kissing her and pressing her against the shower wall. 

"In and out, Tess," he jokes as he turns on the water. "I promise."

"I know you're lying," she says, hands going to his hair as she pushes him under the cascading water. 

"And yet, you're not stopping me," he notes, pressing her against him, lining up their bodies as close as he can, losing himself into her mouth. 

*

Toronto, Ontario, Canada - September 2014

Toronto is hot and muggy this time of year and the giant ballroom Jeffrey booked for his wedding feels stuffy. Scott is already melting, nudging and fidgeting with his collar, loosening his tie. The party is going strong all around him. Everyone is pleasantly liquored up and while he should be joyously buzzed right now, he's not. He's actually feeling quite sad. And he should be happy. Taking a break from competitive skating was the best decision either of them made in a long time. He is just done with it. Thank God Tessa is there with him on the few occasions they do skate, because he can't find the joy in it anymore. He used to feel such a rush standing in that opening position with Tessa, but ever since Sochi and their last tour, it's no longer the case. It's such a weird inexplicable feeling: being both happy and sad about having stopped skating. 

At first, he thought that stopping skating would give him the opportunity to do all the things he never did before: go out every night, watch a movie, party like crazy and drink his weight in alcohol, finally have a stable relationship with a nice girl, be close to his family and buddies, settle in one place, put down roots. But it has not been what he envisioned. At all. All the things he thought would make him happy are actually making him pretty miserable. He doesn't even recognize himself. He used to be so driven. He used to have such a regimented life; he used to know what his life would be like every hour of every day for the next year. Now… he follows his girlfriend around and just stays on his couch, doing nothing. Well, almost nothing. He's always up for skating with Tessa in any shape or form it takes: teaching classes, meeting and talking to kids, attending events, or skating in tours. 

But it's such a contrast to what Tessa is doing. She seems to be having the time of her life, saying yes to everything; she always has some kind of new project or new endorsement on top of actually going to university part time. She seems to be handling this much better than he is. He's been completely off the grid and she's been as put together, as stable and consistent as she's always been. She seems to have kept some sort of structure in her life while he just has none. She has a boyfriend too, a pretty serious one. She seems happy with this new stage of her life. He shouldn't be surprised though. He always knew Tessa had so much more than skating to offer the world, that she was always going to be hugely successful in whatever endeavor she chose to put herself into. She possesses a relentless drive and such an impeccable work ethic; it could not have gone any other way. He knows she is meant to be happy and successful. 

What is he doing wrong? He should be ecstatic. He's doing all the things he said he was going to do. Why is he so unhappy? Why isn't this working? What's wrong with him? It seems he's only happy about 10% of the day; the rest is just spent in his head. And his head is not a good place to be right now. It's pretty dark. 

He watches Tessa dance her way to where he's sitting — on the outside, looking in. It seems to be a habit nowadays. "Where's Kaitlyn?" she asks a little too loudly. She's barefooted, sweaty and disheveled from all the dancing she's been doing. "Why are you here sulking in a corner?" 

He shrugs. He doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't want to bring her down with him. "She's off having fun, dancing somewhere," he says, gesturing to the crowd with his hand as Tessa sits down next to him to catch her breath. 

She knows something is wrong with him and she's been able to feel it for a while now. That's the burden of spending seventeen years holding his hand: she knows him better than she knows herself; she can feel his emotions inside her soul like they are her own. 

She lays a hand on his thigh. "Why aren't you dancing with her?" she asks, genuinely concerned. "You're usually the life of the party. 'Can't-stop-won't-stop' Scott." 

"I'm not really in the mood for dancing," he shrugs again. He's not in a mood for much of anything these days. 

"Are you okay?" she asks, crossing one leg over the other to rub the sole of her foot. 

"I'm just tired," he says softly, looking down. "Go back to the dance floor," he smiles. 

"I'd rather stay here with you if you don't mind the company," she smiles back, still massaging her foot and calf. 

"I never mind your company, Tess, you know that," he says sincerely. He looks at her legs. She's wearing a gorgeous gauzy green dress that makes her eyes pop and her legs look like they're a mile long. "Are your legs okay?" he asks concerned, his eyes never leaving her hands and the way they move. He misses seeing her move, even in the slightest way — she moves like no one else he knows. 

She waves her free hand in the air in a dismissive manner. "They're fine," she replies. "I've just danced way too much in high heels for way too for long. My feet hurt." 

It's so Tessa it brings a fond smile on his face. "Give it here," he says, bringing her legs into his lap and kneading her calves and her feet.

"That feels so good," she moans. 

"Always happy to help," he jokes as he keeps massaging her, paying close attention and pressing deeper where he knows she needs it.

She takes a deep breath. "So, are you going to tell me what's the matter?" she asks in a very gentle tone. 

He won't even try to lie. "I don't really want to talk about it," he simply says, focused on the task at hand. 

She covers his hand with hers. "You know I'm always here if you want to talk, right?" 

It feels like she's drifting farther and farther away, but he can't tell her that. He can't hold her back. "I know," he replies plainly. 

"I know I've been busy," she admits. "But you can always come see me, come stay with me anytime you want. You can call, text, email. I'm there." 

His heart feels full. He'll never stop thinking how lucky he is she's part of his life. "I know." 

"I mean it," she reaffirms. 

"I know you do," he says, hands still working on the sole of her feet. "Why didn't you bring Ryan to this thing?" he asks after a moment. 

"With literally all my skating colleagues? Where he'll get grilled?" she asks, raising a brow. "No, I'm not crazy. I'm not subjecting him to that and I'd rather keep things private. You know me." 

"I do," he says. "But you have no one to dance with." 

"I can have fun by myself," she laughs. "Don't worry about me. And if I feel the need to dance with someone, I have you." 

He smiles. "You do have me, Tess. Always." 

She moves her legs from his lap and back on the ground. "How about a dance then?" she asks, getting up and holding out her hand. 

"I told you," he shrugs. "I'm not really in a dancing mood." 

"Come on, Scott," she insists. "You just said I had you if wanted to dance with someone. I want to dance with you. Please. For me? I love this song," she pleads. 

Sam Smith's Stay With Me is playing and everyone is slow dancing to it, Jeffrey and his new husband included. Tessa is looking at him with puppy dog eyes; they're so green he could get lost in them. He doesn't even look around for Kaitlyn before taking her extended hand and following her to the middle of the dance floor as she tugs him along. He can never resist her. He can never say no to her, especially in the moments he needs to the most.

She locks her arms around his neck and he encircles her waist, pressing her close. He sways their bodies lazily to the crooning voice of Sam Smith. They were made to dance together. No one can tell where he ends and she begins. They flow and ebb to the gentle rhythm of the song. People around them start to give them some room and even stop dancing just to look at them. It feels intimate. Tessa's head rests on his shoulder as he tightens his grip on her. He leads and she lets her body follow his. 

It's natural; they don't even think about it. Their bodies instinctively know what to do when they're in such close proximity. Muscle memory is an amazing thing. Heart memory is even more amazing. If anyone else attempted to dance this close together, they would walk all over each other; toes would be hurt. Not Tessa and Scott. They're dancing like water flows, like fire crackles. They're not aware of anything except each other. When the song comes to an end, Tessa raises her head a little as Scott looks down into her eyes. They stay there, standing still and looking at each for a few seconds before coming back to their senses. Some guests are openly staring at them now and they finally put some distance between them, their hands still intertwined. 

"Wanna go for a walk?" Scott asks, not even bothering to wait for her answer before pulling her away from the crowd and leading her outside. 

He stops at the bottom of the giant staircase and sits on a step. He loosens his tie even more, unbuttoning the first three buttons of his crisp white shirt. They can still hear the music booming from upstairs.

"You don't want to go for a walk anymore?" Tessa asks, sitting down next to him, gathering the hem of her dress so it doesn't touch the ground and get dirty. 

"I remembered you had no shoes on," he says, gesturing to her bare feet. 

"Oh," she says, wiggling her toes. They're painted bright red. "True. Probably not a good idea." 

"I've missed dancing with you," he says. "That was nice. Thank you for dragging me to the dance floor." 

"I didn't have to drag you that much," she smiles. "You came pretty willingly," she says, playfully nudging his thigh with hers.

"You always did know how to convince me," he smiles and it's the first real one he's had all day. 

"I'm glad to see you smile," she says. "You put on a good front, but I know you, Scott. I can feel you in me. I know something is off."

"I know you can," he says, locking gazes with her. "I can feel you in me, too. I could find you in the dark in a room full of people." His eyes burn bright into her own.

"Still don't wanna talk about it?" she asks, patient and careful. 

He shakes his head. "Not really."

"Is this…about Kaitlyn?" she presses. "I know we don't usually talk about these kind of things. Especially after how we've left things… But you can if you want to."

"No, it's not about her," he says and his tone of voice convinces her. Tessa actually likes this one which is kind of surprising. She's never liked any of his girlfriends before.

"Okay," she says after a moment of silence and getting up. "I'm not pushing you any further, but I'm here." 

"I know you are." 

The first bars of Rita Ora's I Will Never Let You Down start to play and Tessa's face lights up as her body starts to move to the beat of the music. He's entranced by her every time she dances; he loves her body and the way she moves. She feels the music deep down in her soul and everything that comes out of her body is pure magic — half instinct and passion, half training and dedication. She's a dancer through and through. She closes her eyes and raises her arms above her head, hips swaying to the tempo. 

"I will never let you down," she sings, opening her eyes suddenly and looking straight at him. "When you're feeling low on love, I'll be what you're dreaming of. I will never let you down."

She takes his hands in hers and waves them and his arms around rhythmically, trying to transfer her bubbling energy to him. 

He shakes his head and smiles slightly. "Tess," he chides, a tender edge in his voice. 

"Come on!" she says, pulling on his arms a little stronger to make him get up. "Dance with me!" 

He lets himself be pulled up and watches as Tess starts jumping around and turns herself using his arm. His smiles gets bigger watching her childlike joy. She laces her fingers with his and raises his arms, making them move as much as she can. 

"Come on," she entices him. "I know you want to," she smiles. 

He rolls his eyes and shakes his head again, but finally lets himself drown in her happiness and her sunshiny presence. Her smile is contagious and he soon finds himself grinning at her and jumping up and down to the up beat of the song. He twirls her around a lot, making her dizzy as she keeps on singing every word to him, off key of course. They keep dancing around, making crazy moves like the electric slide and the MC Hammer and just enjoying being silly while no one is watching. The songs quickly comes to an end and they let their bodies calm down, catching their breaths. 

He pulls her close and engulfs her in a tight hug. "I needed that, I think," he smiles, breath uneven against her clammy skin. 

"There's nothing a little dance party can't solve," she smiles back. 

"I think the key factor was you in this dancing equation."

"I missed dancing with you too," she admits, burying her face in the crook of his neck, rubbing her nose against the skin there, making him shiver even though the temperatures are sweltering. 

"Tess," he says tenderly and she raises her head to look at him. 

They feel the electricity crackle between them as they look deeply into each other's eyes. The raw magnetism they share is ever-present even when they don't spend every minute of every day together like they used to. Their heads lean into each other at the same time, their lips meeting in a feverish kiss. It feels familiar and comforting as well as electrifying and shiver inducing. He engulfs her in his arms, stroking the nape of her neck, playing with the little hairs there before digging his fingers softly into each dip of her spine, all the way down to her lower back. Her hands tangle in his hair as she presses her body into his. 

Boisterous laughter coming down the stairs makes them jump away from each other with just enough time to spare to wipe their swollen mouths. As if nothing had happened, they sit back down on the stairs, eyes looking down and staying silent until the guests have passed them. 

"I'm sorry," Tessa says first. "I shouldn't have done that."

"I feel like we're always repeating the same thing to each other," Scott points out matter-of-factly. 

"Yeah…" she agrees. 

"We always slip up, we always end up in the same place, and we're always apologizing for it. It's tiring." 

"I know. We have boundaries issues."

"We do." 

"I'm sorry," she repeats. 

"Don't apologize," he says. "We both know this isn't one-sided. I want it as much as you do. It's just too messy. It's always been too messy."

"I know."

"You're happy," he says simply. "You have a boyfriend and I have a girlfriend. We should try to be normal for once, don't you think? Pretend like we're not completely dysfunctional. Maybe it'll stick." 

She knows their relationship is a mess. She knows it's not normal by any standard and that no one except them will ever get it. But it is what it is. And she agrees, they have to try to be at least somewhat fully functioning adults. It's time.

"Yeah, maybe it'll stick this time," she says softly, trying to convince herself of that fact. "Come on, let's go back inside. I'm sure Kaitlyn is looking for you and the cake is probably going to be served soon." 

Without even thinking about it, she takes his hand as they climb back the stairs to rejoin the effervescent party upstairs. His fingers twine with hers and he squeezes her hand.

This is going to be a very hard habit to break. 

How do you even begin stopping something that's so deeply rooted within you?

How do you even try? 

*

Los Angeles, California, USA - March 2018

Coldness wakes Scott up from his agitated sleep. The chilly salty air brushes against his skin and blows in his hair as he blindly feels for Tessa next to him. His eyes open when he realizes she's not there; he only feels the tepid sheets under his hand. He straightens up and rubs his eyes as he looks for her. 

His eyes immediately find her even in the semi-darkness of the room. The patio door is open and he sees Tessa on the balcony, her long wavy hair cascading down her back as she stares out at the rolling ocean. She's only wearing one his shirts and he can see the paleness of her legs gleaming in the moonlight. He slips out of bed and into a pair of boxer briefs before padding across the room and onto the balcony. If she hears him, she doesn't let it show; she doesn't turn around when he gets closer and she doesn't flinch or startle when he wraps his arms around her from behind. She simply leans back into his chest, melting into his embrace. 

"It's 4 am, what are you doing up?" he asks, kissing the side of her neck and hugging her tight, lining his body with hers. 

"I can't sleep," she shrugs, head tipping back against his mouth. "You know how restless I get."

"I do know," he smiles against her skin. "Nervous?"

"Yeah," she nods. "I don't even know why. I have this knot of anxiety in my stomach." 

"Me too," he admits. "It feels like we're about to compete, isn't it?" 

"It's exactly like that," she agrees. "Except, it's crazy to feel that way because it's just an interview."

"On arguably the most watched show in America," he points out. 

"Thanks," she says dryly. "That doesn't make me feel any better."

He strokes the skin of her abdomen. "I meant that I think it's normal to be nervous. It does feel like it did before the Olympics." 

"This is big." 

"I know it is, but everything is going to be fine. We are so ready for this," he reassures her. 

"Are we?"

He laughs. "Well, you made us practice for thirty minutes last night so I think we're as prepared as we can be."

She sighs against him when he licks the skin where her neck meets her shoulder. "It's so pretty here," she says after a moment of silence. 

"Come back to bed babe," he says, tightening his grip on her and pulling her toward him and back into the room. "We have to be up in four hours."

She follows him back to their room where he tucks her into bed and gets in behind her, spooning her tightly, wrapping himself around her like a vine. He knows she needs to feel swaddled and surrounded to soothe her nerves.

He strokes her hair softly. "Sleep, Tess," he says, kissing the top of her head. 

*

Ackergill Castle, Scotland, United Kingdom - June 2015

"I know they said a castle," Scott comments, looking out the window as their bus arrives in front of the huge structure. "But this is truly a real medieval castle."

"What did you expect? A fake one?" Tessa laughs as she stares at it as well. "This is Scotland, they do have real ancient castles here." 

"And we're going to sleep in one for the week apparently. Do you think it's haunted?" he asks, creeping a hand up Tessa's back to spook her. A shiver makes its way up her spine, and it has nothing to do with fear.

"Don't joke about that!" Kaitlyn interjects. 

Tessa gently slaps his hand away. "I hope not," she replies. "Can you even imagine the history in those walls? It's crazy. How many people must have lived there, what their lives were like, their hopes, their dreams." 

"You're getting nerdy on me, T," he laughs. 

"This is going to be the best week!" Kaitlyn cries out excitedly as she gets up to get out.

Tessa and Scott exchange a long pointed look before getting up as well, gathering their stuff and joining the line of people waiting to get off the bus. Tessa doesn't know what came over Scott when he had this idea of inviting his girlfriend along on their trip — their semi-business related trip. Scott is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, insightful and caring person Tessa has ever known. But he's also one of the most oblivious. She knows it comes from a good place. He is all heart and kindness. 

But this… This is just dumb. 

It's a catastrophe waiting to happen. Putting the three of them for one week in such close proximity, with no exit possible, reminds Tessa of The Hunger Games. She knows it's not going to end well. But Scott seems somewhat happy and excited about this trip, and that's the most positive she thinks he's been in a long time so she's not going to rain on his parade. And she likes Kaitlyn, genuinely likes her. She's an Olympic athlete so she already has more in common with her than any of his other girlfriends. She seems nice and intelligent. She's also very talkative and peppy which is apparently what Scott needs right now. He's been so gloomy at times that's it's a nice balance.

But Kaitlyn doesn't understand anything about ice dance or figure skating. She's come to watch them perform in shows a few months ago. They did Good Kisser, Say It Right, and Man-eater and she was right there. Tessa was sure Scott was going to get himself into a domestic dispute after their performances, but that was not the case. So, clearly, she doesn't understand the first thing about ice dance. She must think everything they do on the ice is normal. Sweet summer child… She's in for a rude awakening. 

When they're on the ice, they can pretend that their relationship isn't messy and fucked up all they want, they can pretend they're playing characters, that they're amping it for the audience — and they are to a certain extent — but now that she's going to be with them for two weeks, almost non stop, off the ice. She's going to notice that some things are not right. She's going to see and feel this…thing between them — the electricity, the tension, the chemistry, whatever they're calling it these days. Tessa knows Kaitlyn is going to notice it at some point and it'll be game over. Because that's what happens every time one of his girlfriends starts to open their eyes to the reality of Tessa and Scott and what it means to always play third wheel.

Scott carries Tessa's bags as well as his own, like he always does, as they're led toward the castle. Tessa doesn't even know where to look. Everything is breathtaking. She has never seen something like this. It looks like something out of one of her fantasy novels. Like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials — it looks magical and phantasmagorical. The castle is surrounded by fields of green, a wild part of the world, rampant nature untouched by men, all green, stone, and deep blue. The castle faces the raging sea and they can hear it loudly crashing over the dark rocks. It's both frightening and soothing. The wind is strong and salty, and yet, pure and refreshing; Tessa can't help inhaling deeply and it burns her lungs almost pleasantly. She's going to love it here. It's rough and cozy, untamed and dreamy, unyielding and timeless. It's perfect. May the odds be ever in her favor. 

The inside of the castle's atrium is everything she hoped it would be: grand, decadent and plushly decorated. It's all woods, stones and warm colors. It's the pure definition of Scottish cozy. She can already see herself curled up in that green velvet armchair by the roaring fire, reading a good book, wind howling and sea rolling outside.

She's still in the middle of admiring the giant gold chandelier hanging over her head when Scott's hand slips around her waist and squeezes her hip gently. "I checked us in," he says, handing her a key. 

She can feel Kaitlyn's stare prickling the spot where Scott just touched her and she puts some distance between them. "You're sweet," she says, head down to hide her blushing cheeks. "Thanks. I think I'll go unpack now," she finishes, taking the key and her suitcases and going to get settled in her room. 

Her heart is racing and she slides to the ground against the door as soon as she closes it. She takes a deep breath in and lets it out slowly, her hands stroking the carpet beneath her fingers, grounding herself. When she picks herself up from the floor, she can fully appreciate the wonderfulness of the room that's going to be hers for the next two weeks. It's perfectly garish and overdone in that retro on-purpose way, a jolly mismatch of bright pink floral wallpaper, tartan pillows and throws, and dark woods. There's even a working fireplace in front of her bed and a little makeup table right in front of a small bow window. Despite the room's flashy display of pink that she's going to need to get used to — how is she going to sleep in a room this colorful? — she can already tell that she's going to feel right at home here. 

After putting all her clothes away (and she's brought a lot to fit every occasion that could possibly arise) in the little wardrobe and dresser tucked away in the corners of the room, she goes to the bathroom to freshen up a little. After nine hours on a plane and a seven-hour time difference, that's the least she deserves. The bathroom is more modern looking and has both a shower and a bathtub and she wastes no time in drawing herself a hot bath and soaking in it to her heart's content. 

When she opens her eyes again, the water has turned cold and she can hear Scott calling her name and his feet padding across the room to the bathroom. The unlocked bathroom.

"Tess?" she hears him call her again through the door. 

"Don't come in!" she cries out frantically as she straightens up quickly, spilling water everywhere. "Fuck!"

The door handle rattles. "Tess? Are you okay in there?" he asks. 

"I said don't come in," she repeats. "I'm naked in there." 

He chuckles. "Nothing I haven't seen before, but you know I won't come in if you don't want me to."

"You're hilarious," she says dryly as she rinses herself and carefully gets out of the bathtub to avoid slipping and breaking her tailbone. Or worse, a leg. 

She slips into a bathrobe and puts two towels on the floor to mop up the mess she's made. When she gets out, she sees him waiting for her, lying on her bed, his shoes still on. She tightens her bathrobe around her more firmly as she comes closer. 

"Do you mind?" she scolds, gesturing in his direction and her eyes lingering on his shoes.

"Wow," he scoffs. "You're in a mood, eh? I forgot how you get after traveling all day and getting hit by jet lag."

She rolls her eyes. "I'm not in a mood," she denies. "Please remove your shoes before getting on my bed if you're just going to squat in here." 

He immediately toes his sneakers off and looks at her with a provocative twinkle in his eyes and a smirk on his lips. "You are so grumpy, T."

Her patience is wearing thin. She's not in the mood for his games. "Are you just going to stay there? Why are you even here?" 

His face falls a little bit and she feels immediately guilty for being this short with him. He straightens up and goes to sit on the edge of the bed. "Are you okay?" he asks. "You've disappeared for three hours and you didn't answer any of my calls. I got worried and came to check up on you. Dinner is in one hour."

She sighs and sits down next to him. "I'm sorry," she says, her tone a little softer. "I'm tired and I fell asleep in the tub. Thank you for checking up on me."

"They've put me and Kait three doors down from you," he informs her. "Who did you piss off on the Golden Plate Committee to get a room this pink though?" he laughs. "Don't they know you at all?" 

She narrows her eyes. "What do you mean?" she asks. "Aren't they all like that?"

He can barely keep his laughter in right now. "I mean, I got the kitschy floral wallpaper too, but mine's white."

"Well," she smiles. "I'm just going to have to get used to it."

He stands up and fidgets with his wrinkly shirt. "I'm gonna go, let you get dressed, and get ready for dinner too. I'll come get you at… say five to eight?" he checks. 

"Sure," she replies, letting herself fall on the bed. 

"Hey now," he warns, hovering over her so that his face is the only thing in her field of vision. "Don't lay down. You're going to fall asleep and you should try to get on this timezone as quickly as you can. Get dressed!" he finishes, swatting her on the leg. 

It's five to eight on the dot when she hears him lightly drumming against her door. She's glad to see him dressed as casually chic as she is when she opens the door. They're wearing the exact same outfit: jeans, a white shirt, and a blazer. 

"Hey," he cries out happily. "We match! We've known each other for too long, eh?" 

She laughs. "We do and we have. Let me get my bag and we'll go," she says, taking her purse and locking the door behind her. "Where's Kaitlyn?" she asks looking around in the hallway. 

"She's already downstairs. I told her I'd get you and we'd meet her there directly," he says, taking her in. She looks beautiful and not at all like she's spent half the day traveling. 

"You what?" she asks, eyes rolling to the sky. "Scott, you can't just…" 

"I can't just what?" he asks, a bit confused and apparently not seeing the issue.

Leave your girlfriend alone, waiting for you in a room full of strangers while you make an entrance with your (not so) platonic business partner. "Never mind," she sighs, choosing to keep her thoughts to herself. "Let's go," she says simply. 

He makes her take his arm and while she sighs wearily at his clueless behavior, she chooses to let it go and just enjoy his warm presence next to her as she feels their bodies grazing each other with each step they take. 

Is he really this oblivious to the dating norms?

Well, at least he seems to be in a good mood. 

It's going to be two very long weeks. 

*

Scott's good mood doesn't last. He's still a joy to be around for the guests and all the group activities, but Tessa knows him like she knows her own heart. He's pissed. She's seen the way his jaw is clenched after every conversation he has with Kaitlyn. The tightness of his jaw is the measuring stick for his anger level. The more clenched it is, the more furious he is. She's tried to give them as much leeway as she can, but even from afar, she can tell. They all went shooting this morning and he was fine as he showed her how to load and shoot, even though Kaitlyn kept glaring at them every time his hands lingered on hers a little too long when he helped her hold the riffle. They had disappeared after lunch and when Scott came back, alone, for the afternoon's activities, he was not happy. 

Tessa is in deep conversation with Miku near the roaring fire when she feels him enter the room, head raising immediately, eyes looking for him. 

"That's weird how you do that," Miku points out as Tessa waves Scott over. 

"Do what?" Tessa asks, eyes never leaving Scott's body as he comes toward them, stopping to have a word with every person he meets on the way. 

"Know exactly when the other is near," Miku explains. "You both do it. It's like you can feel it."

Tessa laughs. "I can actually. There's always a sort of tingle that goes up my spine and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when Scott is near."

"Yeah, that's weird," Miku laughs. 

"Is it?" Tessa wonders aloud. 

"That's not a very common reaction to someone else's presence."

"When you spend almost every day holding hands and skating closely with someone for the last eighteen years, it's not that weird I think."

"You're so attuned to each other. Your bodies are so attuned to each other." Miku continues. "When he moves, you move. Always toward each other. Even in the slightest way. I'm sure you don't even notice it. It's like magnets." 

"We need to be attuned to each other. When we skate, I need to know — my body needs to know — where he is at any given time. It's the way ice dance works. I need to be able to find him in the dark. I need to not even have to think about, just instinctively know where he is."

"It's kind of romantic when you think about it."

Tessa rolls her eyes. "It's really not. It's years of training, skating, and therapy. It's second nature by now." 

"That's what's romantic about it," Miku laughs. 

Tessa sighs and laughs at the same time, shaking her head. It's not like she hasn't heard the exact same thing from literally everyone — including her friends and family — all her life.

"What's romantic?" Scott asks, dropping down on the couch next to Tessa and laying a hand on her knee. His hands are cold and she knows he's trying to warm them up by direct contact. 

"The fact that we're so in sync," Tessa shrugs. 

He laughs. "That's not romantic, that's work. Or rather a by-product of work." 

"That's what I told her," Tessa says. 

Miku's head tips back with laughter as she stares at Scott's hand rubbing Tessa's thigh and knee. "I sing about love for work with my husband. Trust me, I know the difference," she says, getting up. "If you'll excuse me, I'll go look for him now; we have a set to prepare for."

As soon as she leaves, Scott drops the facade he was putting on and gets comfortable on the couch, his eyes staring vacantly into the crackling fire. 

"Are you okay?" Tessa asks after a while. 

He looks at her and he knows she knows. She can always read him like an open book. "Yeah, don't worry about it," he shrugs it off. 

Tessa's hand cups his jaw tenderly. "I worry about you all the time. You're so tense. What's bothering you?" she asks.

Scott sighs deeply and grabs the hand that was cradling his jaw, squeezing it gently. "Kait and I have been fighting a little more than usual lately," he finally gets out.

Tessa nods. "I see," she says carefully, knowing the conversation is a slippery slope. "Has she asked yet?"

He turns his face towards her. "Asked what?" 

"Come on. You know what I'm talking about." Tessa says, shaking her head. "What they always ask. Whether we ever had sex or not." 

He smiles a little bit as he looks down. "Yeah, she asked." 

"What did you tell her?"

"The same thing you probably told Ryan," he answers coyly. 

"Believe it or not, men don't actually care whether or not we've fucked. Ryan never asked. And we're no longer together."

"I should have known that," he says. "I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it," she shrugs. 

"I lied," he finally says. "I always lie when they ask. But I don't think she was convinced."

Yeah, no shit, Tessa thinks. No one ever believes them and Scott has the worst poker face. "Is that the reason you guys were fighting?" she asks after a beat.

"No," Scott says. He really didn't want to talk to Tessa about it, but he can feel the weight on his heart becoming lighter as he starts to speak. She's his best friend first and foremost. "She's been asking, I guess, for more commitment. She wants us to live together." 

Tessa's breath hitches in her throat and her heart starts racing as she has trouble swallowing. "That's big." 

"Yeah," he nods. 

"She's a curler. That means you'll either have to move to Winnipeg or she'll have to quit her team, move to Ilderton with you, and find another team."

"I know." 

"Is she really willing to do that?" Tessa asks. "Are you?" She knows he loves Ilderton. He loves living close to his friends and family. She can't imagine him uprooting his whole life to go and live in Winnipeg. 

"I think she'd do it…" he says. "But, I… I don't know if I want her to do it. I don't know if that's something I want." 

"You've been together for more than a year," Tessa points out. "That's the natural progression for these kind of things." 

"I know."

"Scott," Tessa says seriously. "If that's not something you want, you should tell her."

He laughs dryly. "Why do you think we've been fighting? Because I told her."

"I see," Tessa says. 

"She told me I had commitment issues, that we couldn't sustain this long distance thing forever, that love was an 'everyday thing, not an every once-in-a-while thing'," he says, doing actual air quotes on the last words. "I told her I had no problem with commitment, that I've been committed to skating with you for the last eighteen years. And she just… went off." 

Tessa has to restrain herself not to audibly gasp at that. "Oh Scott, please tell me you didn't actually say that." 

"What?" he asks, a little defensively. "It's true." 

"I know it is, but you can't compare a romantic commitment between two people who are dating and a business commitment between two friends," Tessa explains gently. "That's not how it works. You can't expect her not to get mad when she wants reassurance about your feelings for her and you mention me. Mention us." 

"We're not just friends, Tess. We're not just business." he says gravely. "And you know it. You're my most serious relationship and my number one priority. Always." 

Her mouth goes dry and if she didn't have a good grip on her emotions, she would cry right now. "I know that, Scott," she says, her voice a little shaky. "But she doesn't. And you can't say stuff like that to her. You can't expect it to work that way." You can't have your cake and eat it too, she wants to say. God knows it's what she's always done as well. 

"I tried to be honest here and she just bit my head off," he says, jaw and fists clenched tight. 

"Sometimes honesty is not the best policy," Tessa says as gently as she can. 

"So that's my life now? Lie about how I feel?" he asks, his voice getting angry. 

"You have to figure out what you want," she says. "Do you want to live with her? Do you want to make this relationship work? And then proceed accordingly." 

"That's the thing, T," he sighs. "I don't know what I want." 

"Do you love her?" she asks, not believing she's actually asking him that question. It's like she's trying to split her own heart open with a blunt rusty axe. 

He looks straight at her. Not like I love you, he almost says. "Sure," he finally chooses to say, sounding somewhat unconvinced. He does love her though. Kaitlyn is an amazing woman. He's just not sure he loves her enough. He knows true love… and Kaitlyn is not the one he feels it with. 

"You don't sound very sure about that," she points out. 

"I…" He stops to gather himself. "I'm not sure I'm happy, Tess." 

She lays a hand on his and squeezes tightly. "Scott…"

"I thought I'd be happy," he finally confesses, his voice overrun with emotions. "I thought it'd be everything I dreamed about. I was so done with skating; it stopped being fun for me. I thought if I did what normal people did, I'd be happy. But I'm not. I don't think I am."

She wants to climb into his lap, wrap herself around him, lock her arms around his neck, nuzzle her face in the crook of his neck, and never let go. But she can't. So she stays quiet and keeps on squeezing his hand. 

"This was not a good year," he continues. "I miss skating. I miss you. And I know you've been so happy with your new life, and I'm not trying to make you feel guilty or bad…" 

She takes a deep breath. "I'm not happy either, Scott," she confesses, emotions bubbling over. "I haven't been truly happy in a long time." 

"What?" he asks, surprised. "But… You never said anything. You have so much going on. You're always so busy. I thought you loved your life in Toronto. Why didn't you say anything?" he asks, moving a hand to the nape of her neck and stroking her softly. He knows people can see them, but he hopes they'll think it's just the way they always are. 

"For the same reasons you didn't say anything. I didn't want to make you feel bad. Or guilty. I knew something was up with you and I didn't want to bother you about my issues."

"Tess…" he whispers. 

"I know," she says. They've both been so stupid. They've both been miserable and not talking to each other about it hasn't helped one bit. 

"I thought you were happy about this. About our break."

"I only wanted a break from competitive skating. I never wanted a break from you. Not the way you thought I meant it anyway," she explains. "I miss you and I miss skating with you too." 

The warm touch of her hand is the only thing he needs right now. "We should be better at communicating with each other by now," he smiles. 

She smiles back. "We should, yeah, but we're not. I'm sorry, I should have been more honest." 

"If anyone should apologize, it's me, Tess, and you know it."

"No anger, no blame, no grudge, remember?"

"I remember," he smiles and he gets lost in her eyes. They look so green and so soft. "What do we do now?" 

"Well you need to figure out what you want and I need to find something that will make me as happy as competitive skating used to make me." 

"Tess, I think we should…" he starts to say, but cuts himself off when he notices Kaitlyn entering the room. He immediately lets go of her neck and puts some distance between them 

Tessa instantly sees the change of mood in his eyes and turns her head, seeing Kaitlyn coming toward them. She lets go of his hand and tries to piece herself back together. 

"We'll talk more later," she says, smiling. "Hi Kaitlyn," she says, greeting the blond woman as she gets up from the couch. "I'm going to go get a glass of wine. Do you guys want anything?" 

"Beer for me kiddo," he says, locking gazes with her. 

Kaitlyn looks at Scott staring at Tessa. "A beer for me too, please," she says as Tessa tears herself away from his intense gaze. 

"I'll be right back," she says, making her way quickly to the bar. 

She looks back at Kaitlyn and Scott while waiting for their orders. Scott's jaw is level 10 on the clenched scale and he's gesturing a lot with his hands. She can't hear anything, but from the way his eyebrows and his lips are moving, she knows it's not a good conversation. 

She juggles the three drinks and her purse as best as she can and she takes a deep breath as she makes her way toward them. She stops near when she can hear their conversation.

"Why are you like this?" Kaitlyn asks softly yet firmly. "Why won't you talk to me?"

"I talk to you all the time," Scott defends himself. 

"Not about the things that matters," Kaitlyn retorts. 

"Kait…" Scott says. 

"Don't Kait me," she says a little angrily. "Why are you like this? Why are you so different when you're with her?" 

"Don't make this about Tess," he warns, his voice taking a dangerous tone. 

"I'm not the one making it about her, you are!" Kait responds instantly. 

"You're the one who keeps asking me all these questions about her," he points out.

"Because I know you're lying! Why can you talk with her and not with me? You've been moody ever since we got here. Tell me what's wrong." 

He grinds his teeth and Tessa knows Kaitlyn won't get anything else out of him this way. "What's wrong is that you keep badgering me about Tess and about this moving together thing when I've told you a dozen time that I'm not ready!" 

Kait stands up abruptly. "I'm sorry for wanting to make this relationship work, for wanting to see you more than once every two weeks, for wanting you to start opening up to me. For expecting my boyfriend to communicate with me!" she finishes angrily as she storms off. 

"Kait!" Scott calls after her, getting up to go after her before seeing Tessa standing there. "Let me help you with that," he says, taking the two beers. 

He sits back down and she takes a seat next to him. "Dare I ask?" Tessa says, taking a large gulp of her wine. 

"I know you heard that," he sighs, drinking his whole beer in one go.

"Not all of it," she shrugs, watching his Adam's apple bob up and down as he swallows. It's impressive and weirdly arousing.

"Same shit, different day," he says, taking the beer that was supposed to be Kaitlyn's and taking a large gulp. 

"Maybe you'll want to slow down there?" she advises gently. "You don't want to get drunk before dinner." 

Scott sighs and puts the beer back down. "You're right." 

"Aren't you going to go after her?"

"I'm waiting for her to cool down a bit." 

"If she stormed off, she wants you to go after her. If you don't, she'll think you don't care."

"I hate playing these games," Scott says as he gets up, obviously taking her advice. 

"It's not a game, Scott," Tessa says simply. "She really loves you."

"Why don't you take my side for once, eh?" he asks, moving his stormy eyes onto her. 

"I'm always on your side. You know that. I just want you to be happy." 

"She's not the one who's going to make me happy," he says, looking straight at Tessa, but going to look for Kaitlyn. 

*

Tessa didn't think Scotland in June could actually be colder than Canada, but it is, even with the bonfire going strong. She's bundled up in at least four layers of clothes and she still feels the wet cold seeping into her bones. The humidity from the sea is piercing. She holds out her hands toward the fire to warm them up. Music from bagpipes surrounds her and all the guests as they merrily assemble on the beach. It's freezing, but the atmosphere is warm. Everybody seems joyful about this very Scottish themed evening.

"I'm going to need three weeks on some tropical island after this to forget the cold," Miku says as she sits next to Tessa, rubbing her gloved hands together. 

"You just need to get used to it," Tessa says, laughing and trying to convince herself at the same time. 

"I forgot who I was talking to," Miku laughs. "You must be used to the cold." 

"Not like this though," she says. "It's really humid here; an ice rink is pretty dry actually."

"Thank God for the bonfire." 

"Yeah, you can say that again." 

"Where's your man?" Miku asks with a sly smile. 

Tessa shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "He's not my man." 

"Whatever helps you sleep at night, baby girl," she keeps on laughing. 

"Last I saw him, he was bundled up with his girlfriend near the bagpipe players," Tessa replies as her eyes go to look for him, but can't find him. Kaitlyn is in deep conversation with a group of people, but Scott is nowhere to be found.

"So," Miku starts, a smile on her face. "We've been here a week already and we get on pretty well, so I don't feel too weird for asking this, but did you ever hit that?" she asks. 

Tessa sputters and chokes on her saliva and she almost gives herself whiplash by turning her head so quickly in Miku's direction. "Excuse me?" 

"You heard me," Miku says, her eyebrows wiggling. 

She calms her racing heart and gets in the zone. "It's not like that. Scott and I. It's never been like that," she replies in her best interview voice also known as lying her ass off.

Miku just stares at Tessa until her cheeks burn bright pink and her eyes lower. "You need a better poker face," she says. 

"It's the cold," Tessa protests meekly, patting her cheeks with her gloved hands.

"It's not just the cold," Miku points out. "I'm going to take that as a yes by the way," she continues. "Was it during Carmen?"

Tessa doesn't even know what to say anymore. No one except her sister has ever been that forward in their line of questioning. "What?" is the only thing she manages to get out. Does everyone suspect about Carmen? Surely they can't. 

"I mean, after seeing you two interact here, I watched some videos on YouTube to understand what the fuss was all about and, man, you weren't underselling it. Carmen was hot!" 

"I…" Tessa stutters. "Listen, Scott and I… We tell stories when we skate. Yeah, Carmen was hot because it needed to be hot and sexy. It was what the story we wanted to tell required, but that's just what it was: a story. We're just friends. Best friends," she finishes, hoping to be convincing enough. 

Miku shrugs. "All I'm saying is that if you haven't hit that in however many years you've known each other, then you need to get your head checked," she finishes with a laugh.

Tessa laughs too. "My head is fine."

"Then it's your heart you need to get checked," Miku says a little more seriously as she stares at her. 

Tessa shakes her head. "You don't understand," she says. "No one does. We've been told all our lives not to date, not to be together. There is a history of ice dancing pairs disintegrating after they tried dating and broke up. The partnership had to come first. Always. We could never jeopardize that. We knew that. Everybody around us knew that. They literally hammered it home for years." 

Miku rolls her eyes. "You're talking about dating, I'm talking about sex." 

"It's the same thing," Tessa shrugs, trying to sound convincing. 

"You know it's not," Miku simply says. 

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," Tessa says, forcing a smile on her lips, "but nothing ever happened. It's just not like that." 

"It wouldn't be the end of the world if it was like that, you know," Miku says softly. "Not that that's any of my business."

"He has a girlfriend," Tessa shrugs, hoping to stop the conversation from going down a very slippery slope. She's not going to pour her heart out to someone she barely knows, no matter how well they get along.

"Like that's ever stopped anyone." 

"It's not like that," Tessa repeats a little more forcefully. 

An arm grazes her hair and her shoulder, making her spine tingle, and a fuming cup appears in front her. "Not like what?" Scott asks, offering Miku a cup too. "Hot chocolate for the ladies."

Tessa takes the cup eagerly, smelling the delicious aroma of chocolate emanating from the hot beverage and warming her hands at the same time. "The cold in an ice rink," Tessa says. "It's not like the cold here." 

"Yeah, no kidding," Scott agrees, taking a seat next to her. "Having fun?" he asks, slapping her thigh playfully.

"Sure," Miku replies, looking at them intently. "It's a nice way to end the day." 

"What did you do?" he inquires. 

"We went cave exploring," Tessa says excitedly. "It was so neat. Everything is rough and wild here." 

"We froze our butts off, but it was beautiful," Miku agrees. "What did you do?" 

Scott shrugs. "We went fishing, it was nice." He turns to Tessa. "You're shivering, babe," he points out, rubbing a hand down her arm. 

She takes the time to examine his eyes. His pupils are blown wide, darkening his hazel stare; Scott only calls her lovey dovey pet names when he's liquored up. "The hot chocolate is helping. Thank you," she says, gripping the cup a little tighter. 

He removes his own wooly scarf, fastening it around her neck. "Here." 

The scarf smells just like him and it's even more intoxicating than the hot chocolate. "You don't have to do that, you'll get cold." 

"I could see you shivering from all the way over there," he says. "Keep the scarf. You need it more than me." 

She rubs her nose in the soft material. "Thanks." 

"I can still be a good partner sometimes," he says. 

"The best," she reassures him, but he looks at her pointedly, thinking she's widely overstating this. She takes a sip of her hot chocolate and her mouth is coated in bitterness. "Did you put alcohol in this?" she grimaces. 

"Just a tiny bit," he smiles. 

"Scott…" she scolds gently. 

"Come on T," he huffs. "You're not my mother." 

She looks purposefully at Miku, not wanting to say something untoward in front of her. "I should go," Miku says after a time, glancing between the two of them. She raises an eyebrow at Tessa before getting up and disappearing to talk to some other people. 

"Scott," Tessa starts, putting the cup down on some rock — she can't afford to get tipsy right now. "You need to stop drinking." 

"I'm not drinking," he says defensively. It's too bad she can read him like a book — and smell the whiskey on his breath. 

"Don't," she starts. "Don't lie to me. We've done too much of that already." 

"Tess," he whispers, looking down and avoiding her eyes.

"I'm serious, Scott," she whispers back. "You're going to kill yourself. Stop drinking. This is a work event. And stop trying to get me drunk too," she smiles a little at that. 

"Everything is fucked up," he confesses. "I fuck up everything I touch." 

"You don't," she says immediately, laying a hand on his knee. "But you need to get your shit together." 

"How do you do it?" he asks, locking gazes with her. She's surprised by the distress she sees in his eyes. 

"I don't," she shrugs. "I'm just better at hiding it than you are."

"Sure fooled me," he says, a little hurt shining through his voice.

"We don't see enough of each other for you to have guessed otherwise. I hate university. I hate the classes I'm taking. I hate the homework. I hate the mundane boring stuff. Every day, when we trained or when we competed, I used to get this rush of adrenaline and euphoria, even on the bad days. Now, I'm just bored." 

"What did you expect?" he chuckles. "It's university." 

"I don't know," she sighs. "I expected this amazing experience of learning and making friends and socializing. And it's just… not the case. It's been a letdown from the beginning." 

"Tess," he says carefully. "You know you have a tendency to…" he pauses to find the right word, "glorify stuff, right?" 

"I do not," she protests weakly.

"You do and you know you do. You always have this little perfect movie of how things should happen and when they don't go according to plan, you end up disappointed."

She cocks a brow. "Maybe you're right," she grants. 

"Like that crush you used to have on me when we were teenagers?" he smiles, shaking his head at the memories. "It was so big. Bigger than you. You used to think I hung the moon and the stars. The way you looked at me, Tess," he says wistfully. "It was like I was the coolest, most awesome guy you ever met." 

She roars with laughter. "You were the coolest most awesome guy I ever met," she says with a grin. "You were so popular, so well-liked, made friends so easily, and everyone was sucking up to you, saying you were a once-in-a-generation talent. I worshipped the ice you skated on. It was so embarrassing. And you knew about it too. Everybody knew about it. My mom, my brothers, Jordan, and even your brothers talked to me about it," she says, rolling her eyes at her younger self. 

"Don't be embarrassed, it was the sweetest thing. I loved the way it made me feel. It made me feel invincible, like I, like we, could do anything. It made me want to be better. For you. To be worthy of everything you thought I was, when I knew I wasn't." 

"If it makes you feel any better, I still think you hang the moon and the stars," she smiles softly. 

"I don't see how you could," he says, lowering his head. 

"Just because you're having a hard time right now doesn't mean I still don't think the world of you. You are the most amazing man I have ever met, the best partner ever, and my best friend. No matter what. You're more than a few months of rough patches," she comforts him, squeezing his hand. 

"I don't want to let you down," he admits. 

"You could never," she reassures him forcefully, putting her other hand on top of their intertwined ones. 

"When did we get this unhappy?" he asks, eyes sad and cast down. 

"A while ago," she shrugs. "I think we got used to it."

"I don't want to feel this way," he confesses, his voice rough around the edges. "I want to feel the way we used to when we were about to take the ice."

"I miss that feeling more than anything else," Tessa says, her voice unbelievably tender. 

"We should try to get it back," he suggests, eyes burning bright with childlike excitement.

"Do you mean…" she starts, not wanting to let the words leave her mouth for fear of jinxing the whole thing. Hope is the worst of evils. "Is that what you want?" she asks. 

"I want you," he replies with intent. 

"Scott…" she chides him. 

He shakes his head. "I'm sorry, that was a little intense."

She's almost afraid to ask. Her voice is small. "Did you mean it?"

"Yeah." The 'I always want you' that would be sure to follow, hangs in the air between them like a sledgehammer. It tastes metallic. 

"We should talk about this when you're a little less buzzed," she recommends. 

He suddenly squeezes her hand tightly. "Do you remember the last time we slept together?" he asks, his feverish voice warming her from the inside out. 

She wants to reprimand him. She knows it's a slippery slope. But she doesn't have it in her anymore tonight. "No, I don't," she sighs, laid bare in front of him. Honesty has a way of doing that to you. 

"Me neither," he exhales. 

"Somewhere in 2013, during Carmen, I think?" She tries to remember, but the details are fuzzy and this era of their lives gets hazier and hazier with each passing year. "God, has it already been more than two years?"

"If I had known," he starts, swallowing with difficulty. "If I had known the last time would be the last…" 

"Don't go there," she cuts him off. 

"There are so many things…" he stammers, "so many things that I would have done differently. So many things that I would have told you." 

"Please," she begs. "Please, don't do this to me. Not here. Not now. Not like this. Please," she pleads. 

His hand moves closer to her face and she closes her eyes instinctively. "I should have been nicer to you, T," he whispers, stroking a strand of hair. 

"Scott," she murmurs, stopping his hand. There are so many things she wants to tell him. So many things she won't. "Please stop. Not here." She takes his hand, returns it to his lap, and gets up. She's shivering like a leaf, a deep weight settling in her stomach. "I need to go."

"Tess!" he calls out softly, getting up as well, but she's quick on her feet and he watches her intensely as she walks swiftly in the direction of the castle. He knows better than to follow her.

Scott turns his head to the left, feeling a prickling glare on him and notices Kaitlyn out of the corner of his eyes. He can tell she's seen the whole scene unfold, but makes no move to look towards her. He sits back down on the rock Tessa vacated, puts his lips where hers were on the cup of hot chocolate and stares at the black rocky sand underneath his feet. 

*

Tessa is not proud of the fact that she managed to avoid him for the rest of the night. She should be more mature than this. She knows this, but, she can't help herself; she hates conflict and confrontation. She's safely tucked underneath the covers and halfway through her book when she hears a knock and the door handle rattling. She knows it's him before his head full of hair appears in the doorway. 

"Hi," he says sheepishly, closing the door behind him. 

"Is that how it is now?" she teases. "You just let yourself in?" 

He chooses to ignore the jab. "Can I hang out with you tonight?" he asks softly. 

Tessa looks at the clock; it's past eleven already. She wants to be alone and recharge her batteries after talking to so many people today, but she knows that she can have that with Scott. They can be alone together. 

"Sure," she agrees. 

She does not voice the thousand questions she has, the most important one being 'what will Kaitlyn think when she learns he's been in her room this late?' She's not sure it's a good idea to even be in close proximity right now. 

She moves to make room for him on his favorite side and hands him the remote as he lays beside her. "We had a fight," he says by way of an explanation. 

She saves him the lecture on running away from his problems; she has no legs to stand on on that one. "Okay," she nods. 

He chances upon some British romantic comedy about a time-traveling man starring Rachel McAdams and she goes back to her book. The low sounds, the flashing lights of the tv, and the rustle of pages being turned lulls him to sleep as he sinks deeper and deeper into the soft sheets and the comforting warmth of her presence. His expression is relaxed, his breathing even, and she takes a moment to admire his face and rake a gentle hand through his hair. It's one of the best nights she's had in a long time; she cherishes the fact that Scott is one of the few people she can be completely quiet with without it turning awkward. The silence is comfortable with him. His presence is enough.

She dog-ears her page — an heresy, she's aware — and reaches over Scott to turn off his light and then hers. She turns on her side, instinctively nestling her body against his, and hopes that sleep will claim her as quickly as it did him. 

It's 4 am when Scott wakes up to find himself fully clothed in Tessa's bed, but she's nowhere to be found. His eyes are bleary, but he can feel that the sheets on her side of the bed are cold. He sits up, rubbing the sleep from his eyelids, and, glancing around the room, he notices that her sneakers and her coat are missing. He knows exactly where she is; he doesn't even have to think about it for more than a minute. 

He quietly makes his way down the stairs and past the receptionist's desk, hoping she won't engage with him. The cold air hits him right in the face and he almost regrets not going back to his room to grab his coat — Kaitlyn would have woken up and he's a coward. He'd rather avoid her at the moment. The gravel crunches underneath his feet as he walks toward the beach and the little bench where he's sure to find Tessa seated. 

The stone bench looks like it belongs in another time, a more primitive time; ivy has twisted around its legs despite it being halfway buried in the sand. The night is pitch black, the stars and the moon hidden beneath a heavy layer of clouds. He hears the lapping of the water breaking against the razor-sharp cliffs. He can make out Tessa's back in the darkness and he silently comes up behind her, laying a freezing hand on her shoulder.

"I knew I'd find you there," he says, squeezing the spot where her neck meets her clavicle and sitting next to her. 

She shivers. "You always do." She can't look at him; she simply stares at the crashing waves in the distance. She came here to take her mind off of this clusterfuck they find themselves in, turn off her brain, and not think about anything.

"Can't sleep?" 

She shakes her head. 

"Are you still jet lagged?" he presses. 

"It's not the jet lag, it's you," she remarks, her tone cutting. 

"Tess…"

"You can't say all those things to me then come into my room, fall asleep next to me, and expect me not to feel things. It's not fair, Scott. You know it's not." 

"I'm sorry," he whispers, abashed. 

"Stop apologizing," she says and he recognizes the warning tone in her voice. "You have a girlfriend," she says. "You have no right to say those things to me. You have no right to make me feel like this." 

"Me having a girlfriend, or you having a boyfriend for that matter, has never stopped us before, Tess. Stop being a hypocrite."

"This is different and you know it. You're moving in with her."

"You know I'm not. Why are you like this?"

"Do you love her?" she asks again, point blank, finally turning her head toward him and looking at him. He looks miserable and she feels a bit guilty for being this harsh. 

It takes him a second for his tongue to start moving again in his mouth. "I love you." 

"That's not what I asked."

"I know it's not. That's all I got right now. Loving you is the only thing I've been sure of in my entire life."

"Why is this so hard?" 

He takes her hand in his, fingers intertwining instinctively. "Because you love me too." 

She presses herself against him, nestling against his side, and he puts an arm around her. "Some days, I wish I didn't love you this much."

"No you don't."

"It's always felt bigger than me. Like my body can't contain all of it."

"That's why my body is yours."

"Scott…" she whispers, her heart in her throat. 

"Just like your body is mine and always will be." 

She doesn't know what to reply to that. The truth of these two simply constructed sentences cuts deep within her. She burrows her head in the crook of his neck, smelling him. She has to refrain herself from sticking her tongue out and licking at his skin. 

"You have to listen to me and believe me when I say that I miss you, T," he says after a while. "I know I've been a shitty friend and a shitty partner to you, but it's the truth. I miss you. I want us to be close again. I want us to be like we used to be."

"Fucked up is what we used to be."

"Then I want a fresh start. I want to be close to you. I want to skate with you every day. I want the adrenaline, the competition, the regimented life. I want to spend every minute of every day by your side."

"Do you know what you're asking? Of me? Of yourself?"

"The Olympics are less than three years away. It's now or never."

She shakes her head. "Is that what it's about?"

"Don't play coy, you knew that's what it was about before I even opened my mouth." 

"So it's only about the Olympics then?" 

"It's about you and me too."

"There can be a you and me without the Olympics." 

"We haven't been really successful at it in the last few years though," he points out. "Think about it, wouldn't it be better if it were you, me, and the Olympics?"

"Is that really what you want? We can't make those kind of decisions lightly." 

"I want you, Tess," he says. "I want you and two gold medals around our necks. That's what I've been trying to tell you this whole time, but you don't seem to believe me so I'll keep saying it until you listen."

She shakes her head. "We need to think about this rationally. We're too emotional right now." 

"Are you really?" he asks, taken aback by her confession. She always seems so even-keeled to him. It's hard to imagine her being overrun by anything.

She disentangles herself from his embrace a little bit and looks up at him. Can't he see it? The way she burns for him? She knows she shouldn't but she can't help herself. She grabs his face — damn it all to hell — and presses her lips against his, slipping her tongue in his mouth when he gasps in surprise. 

Their kiss is feverish and sloppy, teeth clicking and tongues dancing. He grabs her waist tightly, brings her onto his lap, and lets himself be completely surrounded by her when she wraps her legs around his back, bringing their pelvises together. 

They break for air and the salt burns their lungs as she presses her forehead against his to catch her breath. "I want you so much," she whispers sultrily. "I've thought of nothing else since we got here," she confesses. "I want to feel you everywhere. I want you so fucking much, Scott, you have no idea." 

"I think I have a pretty good idea," he whispers back. "Because I feel exactly the same way. I want you so fucking much, Tess. I want to melt into you and never let go."

Her hips grind down on him as she rubs herself against him. She can feel him getting hard underneath her. She's only wearing her thin cotton pajamas underneath her coat. It would be so easy. So easy to just take him out of his pants, guide him inside of her and ride him to orgasm. She can feel herself getting wet and her inner walls fluttering just thinking about it. She locks her arms around his neck and plunges her tongue mercilessly into his mouth, devouring him with her lips. 

She wants to possess him. She wants his world to begin and end with her. It feels like a fire has started in the middle of her chest and is fighting to break free and explode out of her. She's never felt anything close to this with anyone other than him. Some days, she feels that it will completely destroy her, leaving her shattered on the ground in a million pieces. 

One hand grips her hip and the other slithers underneath her coat to land on her breast. He cups and kneads her so gently while his pelvis thrusts up roughly against her center. It's a study in contrast. 

"Tell me what you want, Tess," he utters huskily in between kisses. Her tongue feels like a caress and a stab at the same time. 

"I want you to fuck me so hard I forget the outside world exists," she whispers back, licking the roof his mouth teasingly. "Right now." 

He'll give her anything she asks for at this point, no matter the consequences. He grabs her ass with both hands and lifts her up. "People could see us, come on," he says, carrying her to a more secluded part of the beach, right against the side of one of the cliffs. 

"I don't give a fuck right now," Tessa pants in his mouth, tightening her legs around his waist. 

He swallows with difficulty. "Let's not give the receptionist a show," he groans as he feels her fingers tugging at the hair on the nape of his neck. 

He pins her against the rock to help support her weight as he unzips her coat. She's only wearing light cotton pajamas underneath. He wants to see her completely naked — it's been so long since the last time he's seen her bare for him — but he knows that's not what's on the menu this time. He sticks a hand down her pants and he almost freezes when he notices she's not wearing any underwear. He cups her with one hand, parting her, and rubbing her slit with two fingers. She's already so warm and wet. 

"Tell me what you want," he repeats, slanting his mouth in the crook of her neck, licking the exact spot he knows drives her wild. 

She shivers from his mouth — what he's doing with it and what's coming out of it. "Put your fingers in me," she orders. 

He rubs her clit a few times for good measure before plunging two fingers inside of her, getting more and more turned on at the way she gasps his name when she feels them thrust in and out. "Keep going," she moans, lifting her hips to match his rhythm. 

She wants to touch him so badly, she wants to feel him, hard, hot and slick around her fingers, but she can only hold onto his neck for dear life as he keeps on fingering her with purpose. "Press your palm harder against me," she requests.

His eyes are burning. He wants her so much he feels like there's fire spreading in his blood. He presses the heel of his wrist against her clit, rubbing hard on each downward stroke and he delights in her high-pitched moans. "Like that?" he smirks. 

"Don't stop," she cries out. Her legs are quivering and she fears she's not going to be able to keep them wrapped around his waist for much longer. 

If there's one thing that Scott is, it's hard-working. And he earns every single letter of that word tonight. He grabs her ass tighter with one hand as he pleasures her in a merciless rhythm with the other. He hears her breath catch in her throat, feels her inner walls fluttering around his fingers, and knows it's his cue for her first finale. "I love you Tess," he whispers, hot in her ear, before letting his lips trail to her mouth, kissing her deeply. "And you need to come now so that I can fuck you hard and fast." He swallows her moans and knows he just pushed her over the edge when all of her tightens like a vise around him and he feels her entire body vibrate. 

Tessa feels herself go floppy in his arms after her orgasm has finished making its way through her body. His fingers are still inside of her, rubbing gently, and it's like static electricity — little shocks making her clench endlessly. 

He kisses her so softly, his tongue licking hers lazily. "You need to put me down," she manages to say against his mouth. "I can't feel my legs anymore."

He smirks into her lips and loosens his hold on her, letting her feet touch the ground. "Good," he says, evidently proud of himself. "Turn around," he orders. 

She looks at him under her lashes seductively, removes her coat to put against the cliff and turns around, pressing herself against the stone, arching her ass. He lets one hand travel from the nape of her neck to her butt, following her spine, tracing each vertebra, and kneels behind her to slide her pajama pants down her legs. He lets her step out of them, kissing his way up her body, settling on her ass as he unbuckles his jeans and lowers them to his knees with his underwear.

His eyes feast on her moonlit body, trying to take everything in all at once. "Fuck," he says under his breath. "I don't have a condom," he groans.

She reaches behind her and finds him rock hard and already slick. "I don't care," she says, fisting him tightly and pumping him slowly. "Get inside me," she orders. 

He doesn't need to be told twice. He trails one hand back up her side, brushes her hair away from her neck, and grasps each of her breasts firmly, tweaking her nipples red, snaking his whole arm across her chest. She feels him brush against the back of her thigh and she arches back against it intuitively. He reaches a hand down her center and gently parts her, before lining himself up against her, coating his length in her wetness, and slowly pushes inside. 

"Fuck," she moans, backing up into him. 

"You feel so good Tess," he grunts in her ear, kissing and licking as much of her neck as he can. 

He thrusts so slow and so deep inside of her. It's not hard and fast like he promised her it would be. He wants to savor her. It's been so long since he's had her this way. He wants to revel in her. He knows she wants more, wants it faster — he reads her impatience in the way she wiggles her ass against him and the way her hands try to reach his butt to make him go deeper.

"Scott," she moans. She can feel every single inch of him sliding deliciously in and out of her. She's so wet that it makes the most obscene sounds. She loves every second of it — of him, bare, pushing, pushing, pushing into her. He's so deep this way, all the way in; she feels the slick skin of his stomach stick to her lower back every time he thrusts up. "Go faster," she orders. "I want to come."

She's about to unravel him in six words. "I won't last long if I go any faster, babe," he grunts, gripping her breasts and kneading them. 

"I'm so close," she moans. "Hurry it up," she backs up roughly against him. "Rub my clit," she tells him.

He almost can't take dirty-talking, assertive Tessa. He will blow his load in five seconds flat if he doesn't get a hold of himself. He slides a hand down her center and starts to rub frenziedly. It has the desired effect almost immediately; she gets so much louder as she moans and calls out his name. His thrusts are rough and fast, the sound of their wet skins slapping against each other echoing off the stone. His hips drives into her relentlessly, losing their rhythm as he gets closer and closer to the edge. 

Her voice catches in her throat with a sharp cry. "Scott," falls from her lips as she contracts all around him and goes off the deep end. White bursts behind her closed lids as her body follows his demanding rhythm instinctively.

"Fuck," he groans. She is so tight; he feels her warmth and wetness gush all around him. He grips her hips roughly. "You're pushing me out," he moans. "Stop wiggling so much," he smiles. 

He presses himself all the way against her body, skimming his hands up to cup her breasts, and drives into her hard for a few minutes before losing it completely.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," he cries out, his whole body twitching as he keeps spilling inside of her. 

Her legs can't keep her up any longer and she collapses against him. He catches her quickly and lowers them both to the sand, pulling out of her, and letting her head rest on his chest.

"Are you okay?" he checks, stroking her hair as she nuzzles against him.

She nods and looks up at him, a sated smile of her lips. "I've never had sex on a beach before," she giggles. 

He chuckles. "Well, you can cross that off your list." He strokes her arm and her side, never getting enough of the feel of her skin underneath his fingertips. "I'm sorry, I didn't pull out," he apologizes. He knows it's bad manners especially when you're not wearing a condom. 

"Don't worry about it," she shrugs. "I'm on the pill and I'm clean."

"I meant for the cleanup," he said, grimacing a little, looking at all the dark sand surrounding them.

She cringes a little. "Yeah, it's not exactly ideal," she says, wiggling uncomfortably. 

"We should get back," he suggests, drawing circles on her arm. "I don't want you to get cold."

She nods quickly and he helps her get to her feet and put her coat back on. Her pajamas pants and his jeans are coated with sticky wet sand. It's the least inconspicuous thing in the history of beach sex. He takes her hand as they walk back to the castle, the receptionist side-eyeing them hard when she sees them trailing sand through the atrium and up the stairs. 

They get back to her door and he seems hesitant. "Come on," she whispers low. "Stay the rest of the night. We both need a good hot bath and some sleep."

Scott nods and she leads him inside. The room is dark and only the moon shines through the heavy velvet curtains. They can both feel the tension building up again between them. 

"Take off your clothes," she breathes quietly.

His breath gets stuck in his chest. "Tess…" 

She smiles. "I don't mean…" she stumbles. "I mean to get them laundered tomorrow."

He nods again and he watches her hang her coat and then take off her pajamas. In less than a minute, she's completely naked in front of him. Her breasts are bigger than the last time he saw her this way — he had felt the difference when he had held them earlier, but seeing them is even nicer. She's so pale in the moonlight, she almost glows silver; in its gleam, he can see himself dripping down her legs. 

Tessa can felt the heat of his gaze all over and starts to feel a bit self-conscious. "You're staring," she points out, covering her breasts with one arm. 

"You're really beautiful," he says, drinking in every inch of her and then taking his own clothes off. 

Tessa gasps at the sight of him. His body has changed a bit since Carmen, he's softer now, but she can see the underlying tonicity every time he moves his arms. He's still the most attractive man she's ever seen. Her body always reacts to his in a deeper way. It's physiological; she can't explain it.

"I'll go take a bath," she announces, grazing him on the way to the bathroom. 

He wonders if it's an invitation as he hears the water filling the bathtub. He knows he shouldn't, he knows it's bad, but he has no willpower whenever she's concerned. She's like a drug. As much as he tries to rationalize it in his mind, thinking that they've already gone this far, a little more wouldn't hurt, he knows that come sunrise, it will be a whole different ballgame. 

He shakes his head as he pushes the bathroom door open. Some candles are lit — he knows she always travels with some — the smell of vanilla and sandalwood is strong in the air. The steam from the hot water billows around her immersed body. Her eyes are closed and her head is leaning back against the edge. She looks like one of those selkie creature he's heard so much about ever since they've come to Scotland. 

"Move over," he tells her softly as he gets closer to the tub. She looks at him intensely — he swears the green of her eyes will drown him in their heat — and makes room for him. He slides in behind her, making the water slosh over onto the tiles, and wraps his whole body around her, entangling their legs and enlacing his arms around her waist, his hands resting on her stomach.

"I like this," she whispers softly, closing her eyes. Her filter is gone, her emotions are raw, bubbling under the surface. 

He tightens his arms around her. "I like this too," he whispers back. He lets himself enjoy the hot water and the feel of her body incased in his. "We need to talk about this," he says after a while. 

"I know," she says. And she does. She knows exactly the words that will come out of his mouth next. She's heard them a thousand time before. She knows this song, knows its chorus by heart. It seems like an eternity passes before she finds the courage to disentangle herself from his embrace and get out of the tub. "I'm getting sleepy," she explains with a shrug.

His eyes are glued on her ass as she exits the bathroom, snagging a towel on the way. He exhales and rubs a hand all over his face. He needs a few minutes to collect himself before he follows her out to the bedroom. She's already in bed, underneath the covers, when he joins her, and he notices that she has laid out one his old t-shirt for him to wear. He tries not to linger too long on this piece of information, for his own sanity, as he pulls it on.

He slips next to her under the heavy blanket, facing her. "Are you asleep?" he asks, stroking a finger along the ridge of her nose. 

"No," she sighs, opening her eyes. 

He snuggles closer to her, presses his forehead again her and kisses her. "I love you Tess," he breathes against her mouth and she knows he means it in every single way. 

"Me too," she murmurs, licking his bottom lip.

"Can I be the little spoon?" he smiles in between kisses. 

She chuckles, turns on her side, wraps her arms and legs around him, kisses the place between his shoulder blades, and lets sleep overtake her. 

A few hours later, she wakes up, startled by sharp continuous knocks on her door. Half-naked, sleep-deprived, and bleary-eyed, she makes her way to the door and almost chokes on her saliva when she opens it and sees Kaitlyn on the other side. 

"Hi!" the other woman says cheerily and Tessa silently thanks every higher power there is that the bed can't be seen from the doorway. 

She prays Scott won't wake up or make noise. "Hi," she replies, rubbing her eyes. Is she looking for Scott? Is she going to barge in and demand an explanation?

"I'm sorry, am I waking you up?" Kaitlyn asks gently.

"Yeah," Tessa admits. "I'm not a morning person, sorry," she tries to smile, her hands fidgeting with the frayed rim of her sleeping t-shirt.

"I'll get straight to the point then," Kaitlyn tells her. "I think we should be friends." 

Tessa's eyes widens and her mouth drops a little from shock. "Pardon me?" she asks. 

"You're Scott's best friend and his skating partner, we've been dating for over a year, and  yet you and I have barely spent any time together. I think we should be friends. I need to hear all the kid Scott stories you have." 

This is not what she would have expected and it completely takes her by surprise. "Um," she stammers. "Sure." Anything to get her out of here as quickly as possible. 

"Do you want to do the morning's activities together?" Kaitlyn offers. "There's some fishing, some archery, and a bike ride on the program." 

She forces herself to stick a smile on her face. "Yeah," she agrees with as much fake enthusiasm as she manages. "That sounds fun!" 

"Good!" Kaitlyn exclaims cheerily. "I'll let you wake up, eat some breakfast, and we'll meet in the hall at 10?" 

"That's a plan," Tessa acquiesces. "I'll need at least two liters of coffee to survive the day," she jokes. 

She closes the door after their chat is over and slides down on the floor, exhaling deeply. She walks back to the bed on shaky legs and notices that Scott is awake, sitting with his back against the bed-frame, eyes looking down on the tartan quilt. 

"I'm sorry," he says. "I should never have put you in this mess."

"We made our bed," she shrugs. "Now we have to lie in it." 

"You don't have to do it if it makes you uncomfortable. I'm so sorry," he keeps apologizing.

"Kaitlyn is a very nice girl," Tessa says after a while. "That's what makes it worse. She doesn't deserve any of this," she continues, gesturing between them. "You need to figure out what you want."

"I know," he says, eyes downcast. 

She's not overjoyed at the idea, but she puts on her best game face on and throws herself into it. It makes her very uneasy every time Kaitlyn stares at her a little too long, but she stopped comparing herself to Scott's girlfriends a long time ago — she knows they always gauge her anyways. It goes better than she would have imagined though; they end up spending all day together, enjoying various outdoorsy activities with Jen, Miku, and some of the guests. It's a girls' day; Scott is nowhere to be seen. It culminates with them going for a dip into the North Sea, coming out half frozen but giggly like schoolgirls, and trying to warm themselves up with huge white bathrobes and hot chocolates. 

Bundled in her fluffy robe, Kaitlyn stares at Tessa's face for a minute, trying to find some similarities between them. Tessa's gorgeous, but she doesn't look a thing like her, and she's almost ashamed to acknowledge the relief that floods her whole body. "I didn't think I would like you," she says with an honesty that's not usually her style.

Tessa snorts. "Scott's girlfriends never like me," she says. And frankly, she can't blame them; Scott has cheated on every single one of them with her. 

"I didn't expect you to be so…" Kaitlyn pauses. "Nice and fun, I guess?"

"Thank you," she replies hesitantly. "I guess?" she giggles. 

"It's hard to compete with you," she admits, looking down. 

"Then don't," Tessa says simply. "There's no competition." This feels both untrue and shadier than she intended. 

"It's just hard with all the history that you two share. It's hard to believe that you've never… crossed that line." 

Tessa shrugs, sipping her hot chocolate slowly. 

"Did you?" Kaitlyn persists. 

She contemplates telling her the truth, the whole truth, and watch the world burn. It would be cathartic. "Never," she lies with assurance, almost second nature. 

They make small talk on the way back to the castle where a hot shower and warm wooly clothes await them. Kaitlyn makes her promise to meet back downstairs at seven for dinner and music; Miku is singing and they don't want to miss it. 

She's putting on her third layer when she hears a sharp knock on her door and, immediately after, Scott slipping in her room, the soft padding of his steps an unmistakable rhythm her ears have grown used to. 

"So it's really like this, eh?" she shakes her head. "I could have been peeing with the door open." 

"I've held your hair back while you were throwing up, I can handle seeing you pee." He has the nerve to wink at her. 

"What do you want?" she mumbles. 

"Did they send back my clothes from the laundry with yours?" he asks, plopping himself on the bed. "It's not in my room and I kinda need them." 

"Don't tell me you only brought one pair of jeans," she cocks an eyebrow. 

"Okay, I won't," he smiles. 

"It's on the table," she points. "Go look for yourself." 

He rummages through the laundry bag, trying hard not to linger too long on the pajamas there and the images from last night it evokes in his mind when he was peeling them off her body. 

"Got it!" he says, grabbing his clothes. "You look very pretty," he remarks, letting his eyes roam over her body. "See you in ten?" he asks, though it's not really a question, pressing his lips against her cheekbone. 

She takes a deep breath to steady herself. Everything will be fine, she keeps repeating to herself over and over in her head like a mantra. Maybe if she repeats it enough, it'll actually be fine in the end. The power of positive thinking and visualization.

It all goes to hell thirty minutes into what she can only think of as Scottish happy hours. The pub is small, cramped, and smells like wood fire and whiskey; everyone seems to be happily buzzed and their loud chatting echoes off the walls in a low hum — like white noise on the radio. Miku and Michael are doing their sound check while Kaitlyn talks her ear off about the finer points of curling, which Tessa couldn't care less about if she's being honest about it, but after fucking her boyfriend raw last night, she feels like the least she could do is listen. Scott has gone to get them drinks and she studies his back intently, watching the muscles ripple under the taut skin of his shoulder blades as she hears him shout out their order. 

There's an ear-splitting high pitched sound coming from the speakers indicating a final check and the whole pub descends into complete silence for the briefest moment. Miku's voice lifts up from the small makeshift stage and the first notes on the piano accompanying her resonate all across the room.

You must understand though the touch of your hand

Makes my pulse react  

That it's only the thrill of boy meeting girl

Opposites attract

It's physical

Only logical

You must try to ignore that it means more than that

Miku's voice makes her shiver. The song is stripped down to its bones letting the lyrics and the story shine through. It tugs at something within; she doesn't quite know what's happening with her — her heart is beating wildly in her chest, her palms are clammy, her head feels like it's wrapped in cotton, and she has trouble swallowing. As if he can feel that something is not right with her, Scott's eyes meet hers from across the room. 

What's love got to do, got to do with it

What's love but a second hand emotion

What's love got to do, got to do with it

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

Her vision goes hazy purple as she gets lost in his eyes, her breath gets caught in her throat, and her stomach tightens into knots. Some kind of weird magic is weaving itself from deep inside her and threatens to burst forward. 

Scott's head tilts to the left. Do you feel this, his eyes are asking. Yes I do, hers reply, blinking owlishly. 

It may seem to you that I'm acting confused

When you're close to me

If I tend to look dazed I've read it someplace

I've got cause to be

There's a name for it

There's a phrase that fits

But whatever the reason you do it for me

The spell is broken when Kaitlyn's hand lands on her arm. "Are you okay, Tessa?" she asks, her voice sharp, cutting through the gossamer mist of their gazes. 

She shakes her head. "Yeah, I'm sorry," she apologizes. "I mean, no. I don't feel very good. Dinner must not agree with me," she makes excuses, getting up suddenly as if electrified. 

She gathers her coat and scarf and hurries to the exit, forcing herself not to look back. She doesn't want to catch Kaitlyn's fox-like eyes. 

"Hey, wait," Scott cries out, grabbing her arm, before she can open the door. "Where are you going?" he asks, his hand skimming around her elbow to hold her hand. 

She has to fight her instincts to both lean into it and tear herself away. "I can't do this," she whispers, the music taking over all her senses. "I'm sorry." 

"Tess," he pleads. "What's happening?"

What's love got to do, got to do with it

What's love but a second hand emotion

What's love got to do, got to do with it

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

"I feel like I'm going to be sick," she replies honestly. "I'm going to back to the hotel."

"Let me get my coat. I'll walk with you," he offers. 

"No!" she cuts him off, hands flying to his chest. "You should stay, enjoy the rest of the evening." And your girlfriend. 

"Come on," he says. "Tell me what happened. You went from 0 to 100 in a split second." 

She tightens her hands against his pectorals, nails almost digging in. "I'm feeling very overwhelmed and I need some time alone," she explains. 

He knows better than to push. "Okay," he nods. "Are you sure you don't want to me to walk you home? I don't like the idea of you alone in the dark." 

"I'll be fine," she reassures him, letting her hands fall and putting them away in her coat's pockets. 

His open lips leave an invisible mark as he kisses her temple. It feels blistering against the cold of the Scottish night as her pace quickens through the moors. 

I've been taking on a new direction

But I have to say

I've been thinking about my own protection

It scares me to feel this way

She's already underneath the covers when she hears the knock on her door. She doesn't immediately put her book down, expecting him to just let himself in as he's done ever since they arrived. The knocking continues and, wondering if her spidey senses are wrong for once, she gets up to go open it. 

"Can I come in?" he asks, leaning his head against the doorway. 

"Since when do you ask?" she smiles. 

"You know you've been yelling at me to wait for you to open the door, right?" he sighs. 

"I didn't know you would actually listen," she snorts, making room for him to go come in. 

He makes his way to her bed, toeing off his sneakers. "Your book sounds boring," he tells her, putting it on her nightstand. 

"Good thing you're not the one reading it then," she looks at him pointedly. 

"She mouths off," he smirks. 

"You love my mouth," she smirks back. 

"Come here," he pats the empty space on the bed next to him. 

She knows this game, they've played it before — for all their lives really. They both try to fight it; that's what they've been told to do, over and over again, ever since they reached puberty. It's never worked. No matter the guilt and the excuses, they always find their way back to each other. She can only find true comfort in his arms and she doesn't have the strength to fight this at the moment.

She sashays to the bed and climbs into his lap. "Is that what you came in here for?" she asks, pressing her face closer to his. 

He always chews strawberry gum and she can feel his candy sweet breath on her lips. "Not originally, no," he confesses, hands grasping around her waist to steady her undulating hips. 

"Where's Kaitlyn?" she asks, licking his cupid's bow lewdly. 

His jaw clenches. "Asleep," he exhales. 

"What do you want?" she asks, her tongue licking its way to the tip of his nose. 

"You," he replies, trying to slant his mouth on hers, but failing to do so as she pulls away. 

She removes her pajama top and presses his head to her naked breasts, his mouth closing on a pert pink nipple. 

"Try again," she dares him. "What do you want?" she asks, hips grinding down on him as he suckles at her chest. 

He growls, flips them over so she's pinned to the mattress, and yanks down her pajama bottoms and her panties all in one go. 

He slips his tongue into her mouth and kisses her deeply for a few minutes. "I want to lose myself in you," he whispers against her skin, sliding his mouth down her body until it finds its way between her open thighs. 

Her hands tangle in his hair and press his head harder against her, his tongue rubbing, circling, licking, and sucking. She bites her lips to stop herself from making too much noise, but loses that fight when his hands grab her ass to tug her whole body down the mattress. 

She's soaking his whole face, dripping down his chin, the back of her thighs, and onto the sheets. "You taste like the ocean," he groans, pulling himself away from her long enough to slide three fingers in before sucking her clit into his mouth, tongue stuck firmly to the roof of his mouth. 

Her whole body tenses as it welcomes the intrusion and starts to move to the rhythm of his dancing fingers. She feels herself climbing to the top of the cliff, slowly but surely, as he works his tongue and his hand against her. 

"Scott," she moans, one hand fisting his hair and one hand pinching her nipples.

"Come in my mouth," he mumbles against her flesh. 

He dips his tongue lower, intently pressing his nose against the length of her, and suddenly her spine arches off the bed, her body seizes up, squeezing his fingers tight inside of her, and gushing all over the mattress. 

He licks her clean, slowly and lazily, like lapping chocolate cake batter off a whisk, delighting in her salty tangy taste. She drags his head to her face and sticks her tongue in his mouth, kissing him in a frenzy as she reaches her hands between them to try and unbuckle his belt and unzip his jeans. 

He pulls away from her lips, smirking. "I'm not done with you yet," he tells her, head dipping down once again and burrowing his tongue inside of her.

What's love got to do, got to do with it

What's love but a second hand emotion

*

Los Angeles, California, USA - March 2018

Scott wipes his sweaty brow as they get out of the studio. If he had known he would be this nervous in front of a comedian, he would have put on more deodorant. His white shirt is completely soaked through around the collar and under his armpits. He sneaks a glance at Tessa who's slipping on her favorite pair of sunglasses, cool as a cucumber — it figures. He goes to wipe his hand on his pants and notices a beige streak from his hand. 

"I hate makeup," he complains as he gets into the car taking them back to their hotel. 

"I have some wipes in my purse if you want to take it off your face," she says, rummaging through her bag to find her Nivea pack and handing it to him. 

"Of course you do," he laughs as he removes every trace of foundation from his face. 

"I know you," she shrugs, stretching her legs and changing out of her heels.

"I still need a shower. I'm dripping with sweat," he scrunches his nose with discomfort. "So this was a disaster, right?" he checks with her. 

She snorts. "Come on, it wasn't that bad," she tries to reassure him. 

"I was a complete mess," he shakes his head. "And we didn't even get to cheat for that game." 

"We did fine," she laughs. "Although I didn't actually know you had such a crush on JLo," she points out. 

"Who didn't have a crush on her?" he jokes. "The early 2000s were a blessing." 

"You know that tour we keep saying we'd love to do in the fall?" she asks innocently. "We could incorporate a little JLo and a little Reese in it." 

"Don't jinx it," he warns her. "We're still waiting to hear from sponsors." 

"I'm not jinxing it!" she protests. "I'm just saying, we could have fun with some of the costumes." 

"You'll handle the costumes and I'll handle the music, deal?" he offers her his hand to shake on it. 

She narrows her eyes. "I don't trust you to not make me skate to The Hip and ACDC for two hours." 

"You do know me," he laughs and he leans in to kiss her softly on the lips. 

Her hand goes to cup his cheek, grazing her fingertips along the top of his cheekbone. "Your skin feels so tight," she comments, pulling away from the kiss. 

"It is," he sighs deeply. 

She brings her hand to touch the corner of his bottom lip. "You're starting to break out too," she notes. 

"I know," he grumbles. "Stress and shaving are not good for me. I can't believe I still have to deal with this shit at thirty and you're out there looking like a porcelain doll." 

The corners of her mouth lift in a gentle laugh. "I have some things in my suitcase for that once we get back to the hotel." 

"Wait," he says, suddenly excited. "I have an idea." He taps on the window separating them from their driver to get his attention. "Hey, would you mind making a quick detour to In & Out on the way to the hotel? We're starving," he tells him.

"We are?" she chuckles. 

"We barely ate anything this morning because we were so nervous and how long until we get another shot at In & Out? We're never in the States. I'm craving a Double Double and a pink lemonade." 

"Fast food it is," she laughs. "But don't complain again about getting breakouts, you know how your skin reacts to too much greasy food." 

Fifteen minutes later, Scott is licking the melted cheese stuck to the paper while Tessa is finishing her burger. 

"This is so good," he moans, stealing a handful of her fries. 

She slaps his hand away. "Hey!" she protests. "You've already eaten all of yours, leave mine alone!"

"You're too slow T," he teases, taking a huge gulp of his pink drink. 

"I was savoring," she sticks her tongue out at him, eating the last bite of her burger and finishing the three fries Scott has managed to leave her. "Hand me that lemonade," she asks. 

"I knew you would regret getting a water," he shakes his head, handing her the cup. 

"I need something sweet after all that savory," she says in between thirst-quenching swallows. 

His eyes darkens as he takes her hand and brings it to his mouth, licking the salt off her fingers. "You're both at the moment," he says, voice low, as he sucks on her fingertips. 

She shakes her head to try and dissipate the haze of lust that seems to have suddenly engulfed the back of the car. 

"Behave yourself," she chides gently. 

And surprisingly, he does. When they get back to their room, Scott makes a beeline for the bathroom, leaving a trail of clothes behind him. 

"You just couldn't wait for that shower," she smiles as she looks at his delicious naked form behind the glass. 

"Thank God that interview is over," he says. She watches the muscles move underneath his skin as he lathers his body with soap. It's mesmerizing.

She removes her makeup and washes her face carefully. "You better get used to it, we have three more before flying to Japan." 

He peaks his head. "Yeah, but those guys we know. It's gonna be a relaxed and casual, like having a beer with friends."

She picks up a luxurious looking glass jar and slathers a layer of pink clay all over her face. "You know you're too hard on yourself; you're not that bad."

"You have to say that cause you're my best friend and you love me," he points out, getting out and knotting a towel at his waist. "I'm kinda hopeless and you know it."

"You're just… an open book, your face is so expressive. It's a good thing," she reassures him. "It's one of the things I love about you, how open hearted you are."

He turns to look at her. "Oh no, I wanted the pink one!" he whines, playfully booping the tip of her nose. 

"The pink one is to soothe and moisturize," she explains. "You get the green one," she shows him the second glass jar. "It's purifying and healing."

"Lay it on me," he jokes with a grin that makes her automatically beam at him. 

"Sit," she says, guiding him to the edge of the bathtub. 

He opens his legs to make room for her and lets his hands rest on her hips as she spreads a thick layer of green goo on his face, rubbing it in deeper on his cheeks and chin. "All done," she says, recapping the jar. She can't help running her hands through his wet hair a few times, it's glorious, almost curling on his forehead.

He looks at his green face in the mirror. "You're so much more beautiful than me. I look like the Hulk."

"Here," she says, handing him a small bottle of floral water. "Spritz that every five minutes on your face; you can't let the clay dry or it'll dry out your skin." 

He takes it and tries in. "Ooooooooh," he cries out excitedly. "Smells like roses, I love it!" he carries on, spritzing some more. 

She shakes her head. "You're such a dork."

"You know what they say, business partners that mask together, stay together," he winks. 

She snorts. "You can say couple, you know. I'm not going to bolt through the door or anything." 

The corners of his eyes and his mouth go soft. "Sightseeing in Venice and walk on the beach before dinner with Cara and Kelly tonight?" he asks. 

"It's a date," she says, kissing his nose and lips carefully. 

*

Beijing, China - July 2015

Fourteen hours of flight to China, thirty minutes on a bus, and the only thing he can think about is how much he misses the smell of an ice rink in the morning. He's been teaching classes with Tessa over the summer, but it's not the same. The first whiff of ice at 6 am when the ice has just been polished and is waiting for the blades to cut through it smoothly like butter — it's incomparable. And he craves it. He craves everything about his old life: the familiar patterns, the rigorous training, the careful and strict schedules, the delicious bone deep exhaustion after a whole day of skating and going to the gym, the unyielding pressure of competition like an iron bar across his chest, and, most of all, he misses skating with Tessa and seeing her every day. Before their little break, they used to spend almost every hour of every day together and if his body longs for one thing more than anything else, it's her. He misses the scent of her hair, the way her ribs and her hips feel cupped in his hands, the warmth of her winded breath on his lips, and her unwavering green eyes looking deeply into his. 

All of this is more painful to admit to himself than anything else: the inevitability of it all. He would slap himself for thinking — this is Tessa's thing after all — but at this point, frankly, he would have to agree with her: it feels like fate, or, rather, a cruel trick of hers. She's been weaving her cunning fingers through their lives, having her way with them. The fact that he can't quit her — that they can't quit each other really — proves that. He's thought long and hard about all of this, night after night, staring at the ceiling, Kaitlyn asleep next to him, guilt eating him up from the inside out.

Tessa and him… They're like crooked trees. They grew up together, literally, together, one with the other, intertwined — their bodies adapting, developing so they would fill each other's curves and dips. When he says he craves her, he's not being hyberbolic; his body is literally in withdrawal. It's not used to being so far away from her all the time. And there's nothing he yearns for more than the feel of her hand in his.

They've talked about it. Of course they have. Ever since Scotland, they've been texting and kind of talking about it, in careful thinly veiled words, not wanting to get their hopes up or put pressure on the other. Tick tock tick tock tick tock, he keeps hearing in his mind, time is running out. 

"Whatcha thinking about?" Tessa asks, laying a hand on his and he feels electricity prickling his touch-starved skin. 

He turns his eyes away from the moving landscape and looks at her. "I miss the smell of the ice rink in the morning," he says honestly. 

"That's an odd thing to think about on the way to the Great Wall of China," she smiles, her voice tinted lilac with melancholy. 

"I've had a lot of time to think about it," he jokes. "You fell asleep as soon as the plane took off, I had to find something to occupy my mind." 

"And a movie was out of the question?" she chuckles. 

"I could only watch Inside Out so many times," he shrugs. 

She winces. "Oh, you should have woken me up, I would have held your hand while you cried and given you some tissues." 

"Sadness has a purpose, T," he cries out, his voice getting higher. 

"I know," she says, half reassuring, half teasing.

"Do you ever think," he starts carefully — they're only one hour into this three-hour bus ride and he doesn't want to ruin the mood. "About what if? he asks. 

"What if what?" she asks, curious. What if they had won gold in Sochi? What if they had confronted their feelings back in February? What if Kaitlyn stopped being in the picture?

"What if we came back?" he finally asks, letting out a deep breath. "I'm serious. What if we did? Korea is a little more than two years away."

"I think about that every day," she admits, heart pounding behind her ribcage. "Where would we go?" she asks, already knowing the answer, but wanting to hear it from his mouth. 

"Montréal?" he suggests. 

"Would you really be willing to move your whole life there for two years?" she asks, secretly pleased they're on the same wavelength.

"Yes, of course," he replies instantly. "I can't imagine anyone but Marie and Patch coaching us. Would you? You'd need to be on board with this too." 

"I'd be on board. 100% on board. What kind of music would we choose?" she asks, delighting in this little game. 

"Metallica?" he laughs. 

She scrunches her face in disapproval. "What about Pride and Prejudice?" she asks, hopeful. She made him budge on Audrey, maybe she would on Jane too. 

"Tess! Come on!" he whines. "I will always veto Pride and Prejudice. And Hall & Oates too, so don't get any crazy ideas." 

"How about Tina Turner?" she offers. "You remember?"

He gulps with difficulty. "Yeah," he says softly. "I remember." And he does. Every single detail of what happened that night. 

"It's a beautiful song," she explains herself. 

"It is," he agrees. "What kinds of things would you want to do?" He likes this little game of theirs too. 

"The field has changed so much," she tells him. "We could really create some beautiful art, bring some versatility, change styles, move away from the lyrical, and do something edgier?" 

"We could improve the mechanics of our skating, go back to the basics like we did in 2012, but better."

"The pattern next year is going to be Midnight Blues and then Swing or Hip Hop," she adds, having looked up the information a while back.

"Sam would have a field day with this," he nods eagerly.

"Imagine the fun we could have on the ice with that?" she grins, already making a list of possible songs in her head.

"We could get that gold in 2018," Scott carries on. "We could… not miss our last shot at the Olympics." 

"We could," Tessa says coyly. "But it can't be all about revenge or redemption," she warns him. "You know what happens when we don't do it for us."

"It would be for us," he agrees. "We'd have to be sure to have that passion back. To make sure those grueling long hours of training and all those sacrifices would be worth it in the end." 

"We could make it work," she finally admits, a tinge of hope making her voice quiver. 

It's kind of funny that even after eighteen years of almost daily conversations, they can make that little game of 'we could, we would' last for the remaining of the bus ride. Time flies. They get so excited talking about what their lives could be like in the next few months that, after a few more hours trekking the Great Wall of China, the conditional melts into the future. And the mental picture they're both painting starts to feel more and more real with every step they take under the drizzling rain. 

"We'll have to polish up on our French," Scott says, out of breath, but looking at her hiking by his side. "If we're gonna live in Montréal," he says in his best accent, which makes her dissolve into laughter, "we can't expect to speak English all the time."

"We'll have to get back into shape," she responds. "That will be a lot harder than the French, you can bet on that." 

"Please," he snorts. "You're in amazing shape. Me, on the other hand… It's going to be difficult." 

"It's going to be difficult for the both of us, but we'll have each other. We need to test the waters as soon as possible with Marie and Patch. We need a new exhibition program for the spring, this could be it." 

"After what Patch said to me, you can bet your cute ass I'll be showing them I'll have it in me to do this." 

She stops in her tracks and turns fully to face him. "We're really doing this?" she asks, her palms getting clammy, sweat dripping down her back, and her pulse racing. Suddenly this feels too real. Like they're not ready for that massive leap into the unknown. The enormity of this decision feels like a kaleidoscope of butterflies taking flight in her stomach.

Scott looks at her and has the nerve to shrug. "Well… yeah," he grins. "What do you say, Virtch? Wanna make a comeback with me?" he asks, beaming at her and holding out his hand. 

He can almost smell the ice rink and the strawberry of her shampoo.

He only wants to feel her hand in his again.

Her eyes glisten aqua and she tells herself the warm tears she feels are just droplets of rain. "Let's do this," she nods fervently, taking his hand, lacing their fingers together, remembering the first time she ever did it — when she was seven and he was nine. 

It feels exactly the same.

*

Montréal, Québec, Canada - October 2015

Scott loves the feel of the leaves crunching under his feet this time of year in Montréal. The sound brings him back to when he was a kid and his mom allowed his brothers and him to dive headfirst into the huge piles they had gathered in their backyard. He looks at Tessa breathing in the crisp air and marveling at the gradation of colors in the trees.

He grazes his hand with hers. "Remind me why I'm putting myself through this?" he sighs. 

"You love Sam and it's gonna be fun," she tells him, squeezing his fingers. 

"You know I'm doing this for you and not Sam, right?" he smiles, opening the door to the dance studio and letting her go first. 

"You need to get some flexibility in those hips, Moir," she teases, pinching him in the very spot. 

"My hips are plenty flexible and you know it," he smirks. 

She laughs. "Not when you dance hip hop they're not and you know it." 

They're warming up and stretching on the floor when Sam enters the room with his laptop and cellphone in hand. 

"Ready to get jiggy with it?" he grins, cocking a brow in their direction. 

"Not even close," Scott replies, engulfing him in a quick hug. 

The first bars of Will Smith's song starts playing over the speakers and they catch each other's eyes; 1998 was a good year for them. 

"Let's go, let's go, my young grasshoppers," Sam orders them excitedly, encouraging them to get up as he goes to set his cellphone against the mirror in front of them. 

"You're gonna ruin my street cred if you post that on social media," Scott jokes. 

"You have no street cred, get to work and stop whining," she tells him, smacking his ass playfully with a towel. 

"If you smack my ass, I'm going to smack yours, babe, you've been warned," he teases her. 

Sam looks between the two of them and shakes his head. "If you two are done arguing like an old married couple, should we get to it?"

Sam's never-ending energy is contagious and even though Scott has resigned himself to the fact that his pelvis will never move like Tessa's, he's had a ton of fun today, just like she promised, and that's all that really matters. Even if, he can admit this, it does look like his hips are weighted by lead when he watches the replay of their dance on Tessa's instagram once he's back in his hotel room.

Tessa doesn't even knock as she lets herself into his room carrying two paper bags. She toes off her sneakers and plops down on the bed. 

"I got you a BLT," she tells him, handing him one of the bags. 

"No dessert?" he takes out his humongous sandwich and mimics emptying the bag on the sheet. 

"I got us two brownies," she says, taking out a plastic container with her grilled chicken and vegetables.

"You know the way to my heart," he chuckles, putting a hand on his chest. 

"We deserve a treat after all those gym sessions," she shrugs. "My legs are killing me."

"I'm sorry," he says, grabbing a bite of his sandwich with one hand and one of her legs with the other. 

"It'll be okay once we get settled into a good rhythm and I have access to regular physio appointments," she shrugs again. 

"Don't do that," he says softly. "Don't shield or diminish your pain to make me feel better. It didn't work before. We're doing this right this time. You tell me when you're in pain and I tell you when I struggle, deal?"

The corners of her mouth lift gently. "Deal," she says. "We have that Skype interview with B2Ten next week too. My legs would benefit from their help like they did during the Olympics."

He starts rubbing and kneading the muscles of her calf. "I'll take care of your legs until B2Ten takes over," he offers. 

"Never stop doing that," she moans as her calf sighs with gratitude under his firm yet gentle hand. 

He feels his whole body tighten hearing that sound coming out of her mouth. "How about you let me finish my sandwich first?" he jokes, tapping her leg gently. 

"I'm going to hold you to that," she wags a finger in his face before going back to her dinner. 

"So," he says, changing the subject. "I've confirmed ice time in two weeks at home and then with Marie and David in December here in Montréal. I think I could book some for us in January or February too so we can start working on the Midnight Blues, but we'll have to be very discreet about that. All the other Gadbois teams will be there before Worlds."

"We need to think about some kind of announcement. I'm sure Marie and Patch will tell the teams at their school, but we need to tell Kaitlyn and Andrew before we say anything to any kind of media," she says. "Did you tell your family?" she asks. 

"Yeah and half of Ilderton probably knows by now," he smiles, looking sheepish. "They won't spill the beans though, don't worry. Did you?" 

"Yeah, I called my mom and Jordan and I'm sure they passed on the info down the family tree. Did you," she hesitates. "Did you…tell Kaitlyn?" she finally asks, the question burning her lips for the last three months.

He rubs the back of his neck and looks down at his food. "Um… yeah," he confesses, tips of his ears pinking up. "We broke up actually."

A piece of kale falls on her lap. "What, when?" she cries out. "How, why? Why didn't you tell me?" she asks, her voice quickening. 

"A while back," he admits, seeming very interested in a loose thread on his jeans. "In September."

"Are you okay?" she asks, laying a hand on his. "Do you want to talk about it? I'm sorry, I have a million questions. Was she the one to break it off? Because of the comeback?" 

"No," he answers after a few seconds. "I broke it off." 

"Why would you do that?" she asks, eyes wide and mouth half open. 

He pulls his hand away from hers. "Why?! Are you seriously asking me that question? You have some nerve, I'll give that to you." 

She narrows her eyes at him. "Excuse me?" she says, her voice getting high-pitched.

"We spent that whole Scotland trip sneaking around and fucking every chance we got and you have the audacity to ask me why I broke up with her? I think the answer would be obvious enough!"

"That never seemed to bother you with Cassandra," she seethes. 

"That was a low blow, Tess, and you know it," he grits his teeth, trying to keep his temper in check as best he can. 

"I'm not a mind reader," she snaps back. "You were all ready to move in with her at the beginning of the summer." 

He pinches the bridge of his nose. "I was never going to move in with her," he growls. "Fuck, how many times do I have to say that?" 

"Tell me then, why did you break up with her?" she pesters him. "Because nothing you do is ever obvious to me."

"What do you want to hear?" he asks her, eyes ablaze. "That I broke up with her because I couldn't see this going anywhere? Because I was an asshole who cheated on her and she deserved better? Because we're coming back and any relationship would be a distraction? Because I love you?" he fires away. "Is that what you wanted to hear, Tess? That I broke up with her because I love you? That I'm doing this comeback so that I can be close to you again? You know all of that already, but you never believe me when I tell you." 

She closes her eyes tight. "I want to hear the truth," she manages to get out before her throat closes up. 

He leans in, brings a hand to the nape of her neck, and pulls her face closer. "That was the truth, Tess. All of it. I broke up with her cause I don't see this going anywhere when I'm going to pack my life away to Montréal where we'll be training 24/7 for the next Olympics."

"And?" she pushes. 

"And because I love you and I can't keep lying to her or myself about my feelings. I'm coming back to win another gold, to feel the adrenaline and the rush of competition, but most of all, I'm coming back for us, for you," he bares his soul. 

"You know we can't, right?" she says, leaning into his embrace, pressing her forehead against his. "We can't risk this. Any of this: the comeback, the Olympics, our partnership, our relationship. We can't. No distractions, remember?"

"No distractions," he agrees. "It's gonna be a long three years…" he laughs. 

"We've lived through worse," she chuckles.

"We can do this," he says assuredly. 

They're doing it. 

They're coming back.

 *

London, Ontario, Canada - March 2018

It's well after 11pm when Scott lets himself into Tessa's house as quietly as he can. He doesn't want to wake her up just in case she's already asleep. He drops his hockey gear in the living room and he knows she's not going to be happy about it tomorrow. She doesn't like it when he leaves his things laying around everywhere.

He can see the light from her bedroom as he climbs the stairs quickly to join her. 

"Hey Tess," he greets, closing the door behind him. 

She's lying on her bed, on top of the covers, dressed only in one of his hockey jerseys. She's scrolling through her phone attentively. 

"Hey Scott," she says softy, raising her head to catch his gaze. "Have a nice game?" she asks.

"Yeah, it was fun," he replies. "We won. And the kids I met were cool."

"That's great, congratulations," she says, but he can hear there's something amiss in her tone. "Come here," she beckons tapping his side of the bed.

"I need to take a shower first. I'm all sweaty," he points out. 

"I like you all sweaty," she says languorously as she crawls on the bed to grip him by his jersey. "Come here," she says as she pulls him onto the bed. 

She climbs on top of him quickly, grinding against his growing erection. He can tell she's not wearing panties. He can feel her warmth seeping into him. 

"So, anything you wanna say to me?" she asks, letting her hands roam on his chest. 

"Yeah," he gulps, "keep going." 

"No, I mean, don't you have something you wanna say to me?" she insists. "Maybe about something you said to a group of girls you took a picture with?" 

With her grinding on top of him like that, it's hard to think about anything else. "I honestly don't know what you're talking about," he replies, grasping her hips firmly.

"Oh really?" she asks, a predatory smile on her lips. "How about this?" she says, taking her phone and shoving it under his nose. He can see her Instagram feed and the picture he took with three girls at the game. "I've been getting tagged in quite a few interesting things tonight, wouldn't you say?" she asks, eyes twinkling with mirth.

"Listen, Tess, nothing happened with those girls. They just wanted a picture," Scott stutters, feeling the need to explain himself. It's weird she would actually notice something like this; she's not usually the jealous type so he knows it's not about that. 

"Oh I don't care about the picture," she says, her voice saccharine sweet. "I'm way more interested in the caption: 'when you ask Scott Moir to join you for a Brewski, but he has to get back to Tessa,'" she reads slowly. "I've been tagged and everything," she carries on. 

"Oh shit, Tess…" he exclaims. 

"'Oh shit Tess' is right!" she says, pushing herself harder on top of him. 

"It just slipped out, I'm sorry," he apologizes, his hands tightening on her waist.

"Why did we even bother saying we weren't together for last two weeks if the minute, the second, you're on your own, you go ahead and fuck it up by saying you need to get home to me?" 

"Listen, it's not a big deal," he answers. "Everyone probably thinks I was meeting you to practice for Stars on Ice," he says, stroking the skin of her thighs to calm her down.

"Right," she says sarcastically. "Because it's totally normal for two platonic business partners to meet up at 11 pm to train after you've exerted yourself at a hockey game. Sure. It's not shady at all."

"I mean, it's not impossible," he shrugs, looking impish. 

"You know what?" she asks. "Whatever," she sighs. "Do whatever the fuck you want, say whatever the fuck you want, I don't even care anymore," she finishes. 

"Come on, Tess," he pleads with his best puppy eyes as he keeps on running his hands over her stomach and breasts. "I said I was sorry."

"No, really," she insists. "I don't care even anymore. You just can't keep your mouth shut. King of slip-ups." 

"Tess," he starts saying, but she cuts him off immediately, putting her hand over his lips.

"And since you have such a big mouth, Moir," she says, her voice low and her green eyes darkening with desire, "I'm going to put it to good use." 

Scott can only watch as she removes the hockey jersey she's wearing. Naked Tessa is a glorious sight to behold. Slowly, she pulls herself up on top of him until his face is right between her opened thighs. She braces herself on the headboard behind him.

"Fuck, Tess," he groans, grasping her ass so tightly he's sure it's going to bruise tomorrow. He can feel her burning heat on his face. She's already slippery wet, just the way he likes her. 

"Shut up and get to work, Scott," she says as she lowers herself on him, sitting on his face. 

He doesn't even reply. His tongue is too busy. 

That's one way to make sure he shuts up.

TO BE CONTINUED