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boxing day

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On the morning after Christmas, once the traditional breakfast of leftover gingerbread and mashed potatoes had ended, Scott gave his mom a hug and slipped out the back door, jumping into his car. He pulled up in front of her house and rolled his eyes at the perfectly decorated tree in the window. White. Of course. Though if he had to guess he’d say there were at least two more in the house and let out a chuckle as his eye caught on a small tree twinkling happily just inside her bedroom window.

Climbing the stairs to her front door, he rang the bell and kicked the railing to shake some of the snow from his boots. The door opened, revealing not the Virtue he was looking for, but one he was happy to see all the same.

“Hey Jordan.”

She smiled widely and reached out for a hug. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed tightly for a moment before letting go.

“I’d ask what you’re doing here, but there’s no point,” Jordan said as she stood back to let him into the house.

He gave a half-hearted one shoulder shrug and a wry smile. He made his way through the foyer and around the corner to the living room, finding a ball of fluff curled into the corner of the large, comfortable L-shaped couch that wrapped around the room. The ball of fluff had a messy bun, flamingo pajamas, and a pair of green mildly confused eyes that appeared over the top of the book that it held in its hands.

“Hi.”

“Hey,” he replied, collapsing ungracefully to the corner of the couch opposite her. Jordan slid past him and into the kitchen.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Merry Christmas to you too, T.”

“Pretty sure it would be ‘Merry Boxing Day’ at this point. What’s up?” she pressed.

“Nothing’s up,” he said. “Just wanted to see you. Still getting used to long stretches. Makes me anxious.”

After the last three years, it had become pointless to deny that they had some sort of strange physical, mental, and emotional dependence on each other. It explained why the years after Sochi had been so difficult, and the comeback had done nothing but solidify that bond even further. Now when they spent long stretches of time apart it unsettled them on some fundamental level, leaving them on edge.

“I get it,” she answers, closing her book in her lap. He knew that she was watching him, analyzing as much of his mood as she could from his body language. He avoided her gaze - he didn’t feel like making it easier for her.

“Good Christmas?” she asked.

“Yeah. Same old. People, food, gifts. Lots of yelling, lots of kids, a little skating.”

“I’m choosing not to be offended that there was skating,” she teased and he gave a small snort.

There was a beat of silence, then, “How was Florida?”

He gave a loud sigh, his shoulders hunching. “Really, Tess?”

“Really what?”

“Why do you have to say it like that?”

“I didn’t say it like anything!”

“I didn’t go to Florida to hurt you and I didn’t do anything wrong by going. I can live my life okay?” he let out in a rush.

“Scott,” she replied, quiet but firm. “Wherever you’re getting this from, it’s not from me.”

All the tension dropped from his body as he let out a deep breath. “I know.”

“So?”

He flicked his eyes to her. “So?”

“How was Florida?” she prompted again.

“It was...fine,” he replied. “It was good.”

“Good." She paused. "I would never be mad at you for something like that, Scott."

“I know.”

There was a beat of hesitation before she pressed on. “I do worry.”

He looked at her. “About?”

“You,” she replied simply.

“Why?”

“It’s what I do,” she said with a smile.

“Seriously.”

She bit her lip gently, clearly planning a careful way to say what she wanted. “I worry that sometimes you make decisions based on how badly you want to tell the narrative to go fuck itself.”

That was something else that had happened in the last three years - they had started referring to the narrative around their relationship as if it was its own thing, an entity separate from them and often out of their control, which, honestly, especially after Pyeongchang, it had been.

He didn’t answer. She wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to admit that yet.

“It’s not about her,” she pressed on. “It’s not like that.”

“I know.”

“I just...worry,” she finished gently.

“Yeah,” he responded. He wasn't upset, or hurt, just thoughtful. He dropped his head back to the couch and sighed.

After a moment, she said, “You cut your hair.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s too short.”

He huffed out a laugh, bringing his hand up to rub over his head. “Yeah.” He rolled his head to the side so that he could look at her.

“You wanna stay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Okay,” she said with a smile.

He toed off his shoes and slumped to his back, letting his feet dangle over the armrest of the couch and shoving one of Tessa’s many comfortable throw pillows beneath his head. Jordan popped her head back in. “Scott, tea? Hot chocolate? Beer? Tequila? Maybe a Jagerbomb?”

“Shut up, Jordan,” he muttered. Then, “Hot chocolate please?”

With a laugh, she turned back into the kitchen. “You got it.”

Jordan brought their drinks back in, handing Tessa a mug of tea and curled up into the other corner of the large couch. They fell into easy conversation - who in London did that, who in Ilderton did this, who in the skating community did this and that. It was simple and comfortable.

Slowly the Virtue sisters disappeared back into their respective books and Scott pulled out his phone, scanning through the TSN hockey highlights, both grateful and bored now that he'd taken all forms of social media off his phone. A thump on his chest made him look up and he turned his head to smile gratefully at Tessa as he grabbed the remote she had thrown and turned the tv on. He kept the volume low, so that he could hear it but it wouldn’t bother the girls.

And that’s how they spent their afternoon. A pleasant quiet filled with the gentle hum of the tv and the flipping of pages. Scott felt himself relax, his muscles releasing a tension he hadn’t even realized he was carrying. It wasn’t that being with his family was stressful; he loved the loud silliness and joy that came from any Moir gathering - really he needed it - he needed that outlet, it was ingrained in him, but there was another part of him that also needed to be sated and that was the part of him that sought out Tessa. He needed to rest and rejuvenate, he needed time to just be , and she let him.

Eventually the comfort lulled him into a hazy sleep. He felt Tessa nudge her feet beneath the pillow under his head to keep them warm, and became aware that at some point he'd slid a hand up and gently grasped her ankle - softly, like a habit. On some level he registered that he was unconsciously seeking out contact with her, knowing that the simple feel of his skin on hers, regardless of where and how, had a way of settling him. He smiled to himself sleepily, refusing to let the realization fully wake him and he drifted off, rubbing his thumb lightly against the slope of her foot.

Then, all of a sudden, he was awake. He heard giggling behind him as he tried to remember where he was and rolled over to find Tessa, her foot still on his shoulder.

“Did you just kick me?” he asked.

“Yes I did,” she responded, without a hint of remorse. “Look.”

He turned to look where she gestured and found a sheet of white outside.

“Ah.” He looked back at her and smiled, “Sleepover?”

She laughed. “I guess you can stay if you have to.”

“Dibs on the guestroom!” Jordan called from the other room and he sighed, looking pointedly at Tessa.

“I have a very nice couch,” she told him.

“Not happening. I’m too old for that shit.”

“Aww, I’m sorry, gramps.”

He threw a pillow at her and laid back down. “You’re sharing.”

“I don’t think I agreed to that,” she replied.

“I don’t think I asked.”

“That’s rude.”

“Don’t care. That bed is big enough for like four people, you can deal with two.”

“I don’t know that I can.”

He rolled his eyes, hearing the grin in her voice. “Too bad.”

“Fine. But I don’t want to hear a word about my cold feet.”

“I don’t think I agreed to that,” he replied.

“I don’t think I asked,” she retorted.

He tilted his head back and grinned at her as she playfully narrowed her eyes at him and returned to her book. He grabbed his phone and texted his mom, letting her know where he was and that he was staying so she wouldn’t worry. He knew that it hadn’t really been a question of whether or not Tessa would let him sleep in her room, but it was just more fun to make it difficult.  

Later that evening Jordan disappeared into the guestroom, leaving Scott and Tessa curled up on the couch, their feet on the coffee table. The remote was in Tessa’s hand as she clicked through the channels. “Any requests?”

He opened his mouth to respond, but she cut him off. “Don’t you dare say the words ‘Die Hard’ to me right now.”

“You think you know me so well,” he responded.

“Fine, what was your request?”

“Die Hard.”

She smiled. “It’s a long walk back to Ilderton in the snow, smartass.”

“I’m not walking anywhere. I have a car.”

“It’s a long drive back to Ilderton in the snow, smartass.”

She looked back to the tv and clearly found something she liked, curling deeper into her blanket and dropping the remote to the couch. Scott turned and groaned.

“The baking show? Again?”

“I don’t know who you think you’re kidding,” Tessa said, eyes still on the screen. “There’s nobody else here, and I was sitting right next to you when you lost your mind because Rahul beat Kim-Joy.

Listen,” he started. “Rahul should have been sent home weeks before the final!”

Tessa laughed.

“Don’t make me watch this. I can’t go through the heartbreak again.”

She sighed and picked up the remote. “Fine.” 

Click. “Friends?”

“There’s only so many times Ross and Rachel can take a break. Next.”

Tessa snorted and clicks again. “How I Met Your Mother?”

“Still not over the finale.”

“There are eight other seasons, you know.”

“Nope,” Scott said, loftily. “It’s dead to me.”

“You’re a child.” Click. “The Good Place?”

“I swear to god I will watch the show, Tess. I will. Just not right now.”

“Your loss,” she said. “One day you will realize you’re 70% Jason and 30% Eleanor, but apparently not today.”

“You can’t say things like that! I don’t know if it’s an insult or not!”

“Well then maybe you should watch the show,” Tessa pointed out. Click. "Bones."

“No."

Downton Abbey.”

“You mean Pride and Prejudice: 1912 Edition? No.”

Tessa laughed. Click. “Sex and the City?”

“That’s a big no.”

“Fine. X-Files? Breaking Bad? Lost?”

“Scary, intense, confusing. Next.”

She laughed. “You still think the X-files is scary? Are you still ten years old?”

He looked at her seriously. “The truth is out there, T.”

“Is it?”

“How else do you explain Twitter? And unicorn frappucinos.”

“Okay so you're not ten, you're seventy and bitter.”

“If I'm seventy, you know what that makes you?” he asked.

“A saint?” she asked.

“Nah,” he responded. “It makes you sixty-eight. You could get a discount at White Spot. Maybe your age will finally match your hair color.”

Tessa dropped her head back to the couch with a sigh and said, “You know, one of these days I will actually get tired of you.”

“Doubt that,” he said with a grin.

“What about Brooklyn 99?” she asked.  

“There it is. That’s perfection.”

“Have you learned nothing, Moir? Perfection is not the answer - search for excellence."

He rolled his eyes as Tessa smiled and flicked through the seasons on Netflix, picking a random episode from season two. By the time the first episode ended, Tessa had dozed off against his shoulder, but he found himself increasingly drawn into the plot of the next one. He’d seen it before, but for some reason it struck him differently that night. Jake had convinced the precinct to compete in another Jimmy Jab Games, and Scott found himself tempted to nudge Tessa awake and point out that Amy’s intensity about winning - and beating Jake in particular - were very...Virtue, but something stopped him. As the episode played out, he felt his stomach twist in recognition.

--

You’re still into Amy .

What? That’s crazy. I just spent the entire day fighting for another girl’s number.

You spent the whole day flirting with Amy.

Yeah, we’re joking around because we’re friends now that I’ve moved on.

Then prove it. Beat Amy and don’t flirt with her at all.

--

By the time it was revealed that Jake had let Amy win just to make her happy, he felt strangely exposed and raw.

“Shit,” he muttered.

Three episodes and a minor existential crisis later he elbowed Tessa in the side and followed her as she stumbled sleepily to her room. Within seconds of sliding into bed, she was asleep again and Scott found himself lying awake watching the snow falling softly outside and trying to pretend that his emotions hadn’t just been cracked open like an egg.


Early the next morning, the room still mostly dark, Scott woke to ice cold feet tucked under his ankles.

“God damn it, Tess,” he grumbled, nudging her feet away.

“Rude,” she muttered sleepily, eyes still closed.

After a moment, he turned to her. “Tess?”

“Mm.”

“Do you really think I make decisions just to fuck up the narrative?”

“Yes,” she replied through a yawn.

“I don’t like that.”

“‘Kay.”

Slowly, as though she thought he couldn’t tell, Tessa had begun shifting her feet back under his legs.

“Tess.”

“Mm.”

“I think I just spent the entire day fighting for another girl’s number, but flirting with you.”

“‘Kay.”

“So if I let you win, that means something right?”

“Mm.”

He rolled his head back to look at the ceiling and felt her feet fully slide beneath him.

“Tess.”

“Mm.”

“You win.”

“‘Kay.”

“Are you awake?” he asked, smiling.

“No,” came her response.

“That’s what I thought,” he replied. “We’ll talk about this later when you’re a functioning human.”

“‘Kay.”