The kiss probably cost them the gold medal.
From the silver medal podium, Kate can’t stop smiling.
“Look at all those teeth,” Doug mutters next to her, a smile in his voice.
She hasn’t looked at him since coming off the ice and receiving the scores that guaranteed them the silver. She’s not disappointed in them, or their performance; but she doesn’t want to see it in his eyes. She remembers clearly his frustration after Nationals, when it looked as if they wouldn’t get their shot at the Olympics.
Doug keeps his hand entwined in hers the whole time they listen to the scores, as her father hugs them, as Anton wipes tears from his bearded cheeks and kisses their brows. She cannot meet Doug’s gaze but he is watching her always.
Finally, on the medal podium, she meets his gaze. His eyes are warm, crinkling at the corners.
“I can’t seem to stop,” she whispers.
Doug gives her his classic half-smile, crooked and endearing. His hand tightens around her. “Is it the medal or me?”
“Which answer will make you less egotistical?” she parries.
He chuckles. “I’m just matching you tit for tat, sweeatheart.”
Her toes curl. She likes the nicknames he has for her. She wonders what he will call her, now that he has permission to go all in.
“Are you disappointed?” she asks as the Russian anthem begins.
He looks only at her. “Not on your life.”
Kate decides to stay in Albertville. In the house. With Doug.
Her father kisses her on both cheeks and hugs her for a long time before he gets in the car to head to the airport.
“It was always about making you happy, Kate,” Jack Moseley murmurs into her hair, rocking her gently.
She is 24 years old but feels much younger, clutching at her father’s wool coat. “Are you disappointed?” she asks him.
She is asking a lot of men that lately.
“Never,” Jack says. He has her silver medal, packed safely away. When she arrives home in Connecticut, she’s sure it will be in its glass case in his office, where it belongs.
Kate watches his car as it leaves the driveway, arms wrapped around herself. There is a quietness within her that is new, as if the voices of disappointment, regret, and judgement have settled. They’re not gone, of course. Medals are just things. But they are quiet.
Those voices sound like Rick, her father, or herself, alternately. She hates having Rick in her head.
In the spacious entryway, she runs into Anton, decked out for the evening, sweater vest and jacket and all.
“Don’t you look smart,” she says lightly.
Anton smiles through his beard, a fur hat perched on his head. “I am out for the night, Katya. Be good.”
She blushes and receives his kiss on her cheek as he departs. The house is empty, but for her and Doug. She lets out a slow breath, tucks her hands into the cuffs of her oversize sweater, and heads upstairs.
Kate finds Doug in his bedroom, pulling on his blazer from the day before. The sun is setting in the trees behind the house, orange light glinting off his light hair. She lingers in the doorway, wetting her lips with her tongue nervously.
“Going out?” she asks after a moment.
Doug jumps and she can’t help but smirk a little. “Jesus Christ, Kate.”
“I’ve been right here for ages,” she says wryly.
He grins, smoothing down the arms of his jacket. “Oh, I’ve seen you, sweetheart.”
She wrinkles her nose at him and he laughs. “We’re going out.”
“Are we? Do I have any input on this?” she asks archly.
He saunters over to her, tucking his hands into his jeans pockets. She has a sudden flashback to finding him in her father’s office during the New Year’s Eve party, when he was uncomfortable around all her father’s rich friends. On the ice and when they train, he is always comfortable even when he’s in out of his depth; but there, in a tuxedo suit and surrounded by those who has immense privilege, he was nervous. She remembers wanting to ease him.
Now, he is all at ease, filling her personal space, bowing his head over hers as she lingers in the doorway.
I’m saying I love you, and I’m saying it out loud.
“Do you have a nice dress with you?” he asks, voice low.
Shivers run over her skin. “How nice is nice?”
Doug grins. “Dress up for me, Kate.”
“Where are we going?”
He sighs. “Can’t you ever just be surprised?” he asks, reaching out to skim his hands over her arms.
“You know I don’t like surprises,” she says primly.
“Which is hilarious, given how much of your time is dedicated to surprising me at every turn,” he says. “I’m ordering us a fancy dinner and we’re going to eat in here. I thought – well – “
He turns sheepish, stumbling, as he clasps her hands in his. The rough texture of his skin brings her back, grounds her. He works so hard, for everything. He works so hard, even now, for her.
“I think that sounds wonderful. I have the perfect outfit,” she says softly.
Doug smiles as wide as she’s ever seen, leaning down to kiss her lightly on the mouth. “Cool. Be down in that giant fucking dining room in thirty minutes.”
Kate settles on a white button-down blouse and a black velvet skirt. She loosens her hair and lets it settle in waves around her face. Her face is clean of the aggressive stage makeup and she leaves it be.
She finds Doug in the cavernous dining room, setting up plates. There is cheese fondue, raclette, an endive salad, potatoes, some sort of chocolate cake. She clears her throat as she comes in and he looks up and grins.
“Right on time.”
She nods towards the table, towards the crackling fire in the hearth, the candles. “This is quite the show.”
He plants his hands on his hips, watching her as she walks further into the room. “Well – we deserve a do-over.”
“Of what?” she asks, startled. She rests her hands on the back of one of the ornate wooden chairs, watching him as he comes nearer.
“Our first date,” he says.
She flinches, thinking of what she can – and can’t – remember from her introduction to tequila. “Doug –“
“A do-ever,” he says again, wrapping his hands around her upper arms and leaning into kiss her quickly. “We don’t have to talk about it.”
But they never did talk about it. And it is a wound between them.
She swallows and sits, just as he pours them champagne and sits adjacent to her. The room is warmly lit with candles and the fire, and she feels cocooned. Safe.
“It’s funny, I think we know all the first date basics,” she says between bites of fondue and salad.
“So you’re saying we should get a little weird?” he teases, his eyes warm. His knee touches hers under the table.
She smiles slightly. “I’m sorry your brother couldn’t come with us.”
Doug shrugs. “He didn’t… He wasn’t thrilled about it, at first. But he called after Chicago, and we straightened it out. They had it on at the bar today, and I called a little while ago. He was real happy for us. He’s my big brother, he’s protective. It’s just been the two of us for ages.”
“It sounds nice,” Kate says softly.
He looks at her, assessing her, as if he can see right through her. Since the first day, he’s looked at her this way. “I guess you always wanted siblings, huh. They’re a real pain in the ass,” he says lightly.
She looks down at her lap for a moment. Everything about her that isn’t skating feels like taking apart her armor, revealing an underbelly she herself doesn’t understand fully. With Doug, it doesn’t seem as scary as it could be.
“I do think being skating partners with your sibling is just weird,” Doug adds.
“Doug!” she says through a laugh.
He throws up his hands. “I know, I’m a cretin. I just can’t imagine doing what we do with someone I’m related to.”
She tilts her head, taking a sip of her wine. “There’s a reason why it looks and feels the way it does with us,” she says.
He keeps his gaze on her, warm and focused. “I know, Kate.”
The two of them are alone in this big, empty house. And she can’t bring herself to make a move. Sometimes, she is a real coward.
“My mother had trouble conceiving,” she blurts out, sipping again at her wine. “I was… an exception.”
Doug is quiet for a long moment. Then, he reaches out to cover her wrist with his hand. “A gift.”
Tears threaten the backs of her eyes. “What a smooth talker you are,” she says huskily.
“Depends on who I’m talkin’ to,” he says with a crooked grin. Then, he sobers. “I’m sorry about your mom. She’d be real proud.”
“I like to think so,” Kate says softly. “I’m sorry about your parents, too.”
He rubs the back of his neck, shrugging. “I – thanks.”
She eats a bit of salad, assessing him as he looks down at his plate. They talk all the time, and yet it feels like they don’t talk at all, at least about things that matter. And yet, she still feels like she knows him inside and out.
“I’m sorry for what I said that night in Chicago,” she says at last.
He stops with his fork halfway to his mouth, blinking at her. “We don’t have to – “
“We do,” she says as he shoves potato into his mouth and sets his fork down. “I was out of line. You did the right thing, and I – “
“Kate – “
“I don’t know how to be open,” she says over him, staring into the reflective light of the candles lit along the table. “I’ve spent so long trying to control everything, and vulnerability was a weakness people would exploit.”
Doug reaches out and takes her hand as it rests on her thigh under the table. She glances at him and smiles slightly.
She squeezes his hand, his large lovely callused hand – the hand she mocked at the very beginning of it all. Sometimes, she really hates herself.
“With you – once I knew you – I thought – I could tell him anything. And he wouldn’t run. He wouldn’t shrink. He would stand next to me and help me figure it out. When you didn’t have to, when I had been so mean –“
“Kate, please. You don’t have to,” he butts in, voice tight and raspy.
“And then I did. I let myself be vulnerable, and you stood tall. You were there to help. And then I was so, so mean - “
Her voice catches and she blinks quickly. “I’m sorry. I just had to – “
“Protect yourself,” he says quietly.
She nods, braving a glance at him. He looks pale but steady, gaze soft on her face. His hand is steady on hers.
“I did the same thing, with – you know,” he adds. “Protection.”
“Yeah,” she says, a knot in her stomach unwinding slightly. They understand each other perfectly. Chicago will still sting, but the air is clear.
They sit together for a long quiet spell, their hands joined on her thigh, the candles flickering.
“Kate?” he queries after a moment.
She tilts her head curiously.
“Rick was a real asshole to you, huh.”
Her throat tightens and her muscles tense under his touch. “Yes.”
“And not in the motivating way,” Doug continues, voice low.
Nodding once, he slides out of his seat and drops to his knees next to her. Startled, she looks down at him, at the light brown hair she knows smells of Head & Shoulders and nothing else, that Doug is all clean woodsy soap and hard work.
“You don’t need me to fight your battles for you,” he says, clasping her hand in both of his and looking up at her. “But if I ever see that guy again, I’m gonna break his damn legs.”
She laughs abruptly, pulling him off his knees and up as she bolts out of her chair. “You cretin,” she whispers as she wraps her arms around his neck, pulling herself to him. His blazer is comfortably scratchy under her hands. “I’m fine. Really.”
Doug’s hands are there on her back, holding her steady, holding her close. He presses his nose into her neck and huffs out a breath. “Just sayin’. Fuck that guy.”
“Fuck that guy,” she repeats, shutting her eyes and holding on.
He lifts her off her feet and twirls her around. She laughs. Laughing is easy with Doug.
“Kate – are you done? With dinner?” he asks against her neck.
She shivers. “Yes.”
“Clean up with me.”
Doing dishes doesn’t sound quite as romantic as racing up to his bedroom and stripping off all their clothes, but she can work with it. She nods and he sets her down, sliding her along the hard front of his chest and stomach before her feet touch the floor.
“Jerk,” she mutters, glaring up at him.
He grins and grabs his plate. “C’mon, get your hands dirty.”
They are remarkably well-behaved in cleaning up, only splashing each other with dishwater a few time (and he avoids her velvet skirt, like a gentleman). When they reach the top of the stairs, where normally they would separate to their own rooms, they stop and watch each other. Kate’s skin vibrates, her fingers twitching against her skirt.
Doug runs a hand through his hair, rubbing at his neck as is his habit when he’s nervous. “Well.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Well?”
His beautiful mouth twists faintly. “I’d ask if you want to come in, but you’re already in.”
“Not in your room,” she points out.
The apples of his cheeks flush. “Er – “
“Give me five minutes,” she says, leaning up on her tiptoes to kiss him lightly.
“Go to your room, I’ll be there,” she calls as she turns away and walks to her door.
“Kate, are you sure?” he hollers after her, voice choked.
She just laughs as she enters her room and shuts the door. As if the months and months of foreplay weren’t enough, the conversations over the past few days and weeks have been quite enough to make her sure.
His bedroom door is open when she pads down the hall ten minutes later. Barefoot and bare-legged, she leans against the doorframe, watching him as he tosses a hockey puck from hand to hand. He’s stretched out on his bed, legs dangling off the sides. It’s endearing to no end. Kate tucks her hands inside the sleeves of her oversize jersey and smiles, her chest warming.
“I guess I have to figure out hockey now,” she says at last.
He jolts up to a seat, hockey puck clutched in his left hand. His eyes travel her as his jaw goes slack. “Oh shit, Kate.”
She looks down at the jersey, which hits at her knees, and back up at him. “I sleep it in pretty often. It was a great gift.”
Doug jumps to his feet and comes near her, dropping the hockey puck to the carpet. It thuds hollowly as she edges inside the room and together they shut the door with force. He crowds her against it and she shivers, back pressed to the heavy wood. She looks up at him, at the heat in his bright eyes.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined this,” he murmurs, one hand curving in at her waist, hot through the knit fabric. His other hand cups her cheek.
“What, this?” she asks, slightly breathless. Hale had been thoughtful and kind but there was never this heat, this intense urge to touch and taste and feel.
Doug smirks. He presses kisses to the line of her jaw, the arch of her throat. “You in this old jersey, in my bed. Just the thought of it makes me hard.”
Shivers run through her again as she tilts her head back against the door. His mouth is warm and damp against her skin. Everywhere he touches her is a spark of electricity, heat. It is pairs skating times one-hundred-thousand, and she is sunk. Her hands slide over his blazer-covered back and up, fingers twining in the short hairs at the nape of his neck. Her nails skim over his scalp and she feels the answering quiver in his skin.
“Kate – god, damnit,” he mutters, leaving presses and bites against her throat. He noses at the neckline of the jersey to get at more skin. The hand at her waist slides up to cup the shape of her breast through the knit. Her nipple pebbles under his thumb and she arches off the door, inhaling sharply.
“Are we headed to the bed anytime soon, hotshot?” she counters, voice shaky.
Doug raises his head, face flush and full of desire. She swallows hard, her fingers twined in his hair.
“Soon enough,” he says, and then leans into kiss her full on the mouth.
He kisses her as if she might disappear, full and intense and hot. Her eyes close and she sinks into it, into the feel of his mouth on hers, the taste of champagne on his tongue, the sensation of their bodies moving as if they are dancing. His hands slide over her body, tracing the shape of her in ways that are familiar but are irrevocably different after tonight. Partner takes on new tones, new shades. She shivers, heat pooling low in her belly and between her thighs.
His mouth leaves hers to skim over her throat. He breathes her name and she smiles.
And then, he drops to his knees again.
Her eyes fly open and she looks down. His hair is a rumpled mess from her hands, his lips are red and damp, and he has a look in his eyes that she doesn’t trust and which also turns her on.
“Are you going to promise to slay another dragon for me?” she asks, voice low.
He barks out a laugh and skims his hands over her thighs. “Nah. I have better ideas.”
His hands press gently at the insides of her thighs. Her bare toes curl against the carpet and she bites her lip. “Doug – “
“I hoped you weren’t wearing anything – fuck, Kate, I love you,” he blurts out as he slides his fingers over the join of hip and thigh, finding her open and bare to his touch. She is wet and waiting and he touches her gently, finding the places where she sighs and moans and arches up on her feet. His thumb teases her clit as he slides one, then two fingers inside her, all the while kissing up along her knee and thigh, the hem of the jersey lingering at his forehead. Her body tenses, coils, as pleasure swells within her.
And then, he replaces his thumb with his mouth.
Kate shrieks and slams her hands against the door, palms down. “Doug - “
His hand holds her thigh in a gentle grip, pulling it over one shoulder, his head disappeared beneath the jersey. Kate writhes against the door and reaches down to grip at his head through the knit. His tongue searches her, determined to get it right just as he is with her on the ice. She wants traction, needs pressure, arching into his mouth as his two fingers slide and twist inside her. Her muscles quiver with pleasure and tension.
When she comes, she cries out low, smacking her hand against the door behind her. Her thighs are clenched tight and she can feel Doug breathing against her, heavy and satisfied. She shudders and leans back, sweaty at her brow and neckline. Her skin is oversensitive, twitching at the knit jersey.
Doug kisses along the line of her hip and down her thigh, ducking out from the jersey’s hem. His hair is a wreck but he looks aggressively satisfied, his mouth wet from her. She looks down at him and feels a violent need to mark him even more.
“Well,” she says hoarsely, reaching for him.
He jumps up easily and takes her in his arms. They weave unevenly to the bed, tumbling into it eagerly. She strips him of his blazer, his button-down. He struggles out of his jeans, cursing as his erection is freed from the zip. It tents his boxers and she reaches out to touch, to pass her hand over him. He curses and tugs at her jersey.
“Don’t rip it!” she laughs.
“You’re driving me crazy,” he responds, pulling it over her head and tossing it to the floor. She’s naked and he’s all but naked and they kneel on the bed together, breathless and smiling.
Kate grins and crawls over to him. Doug drops to his back on the bed and she straddles him, her hands tugging at his boxers. All the while, his hands are everywhere; they touch her breasts, her stomach, the lines of her muscle and bone. Hers is a body he knows, just as she knows his; this, though, is different. Consecration, almost.
She touches him, strokes his cock, makes him groan and moan. Her mouth travels the length of his ribs, his chest, the hard strong line of his throat. She treasures the sounds coming out of his mouth, the power of his body banked beneath her. He presses a condom into her palm with shaking fingers, murmuring her name. When she guides him into her, angling her body over his, he lets out the slowest breath she’s ever heard from him, an exhale full of relief and pleasure. His hands skim over her back and settle at her hips, but she takes the lead. He frames her against his body, but she is in charge. The whole time, their gazes are locked, and she can’t help but smile.
After, once she’s used the bathroom and brushed her teeth, she retrieves her jersey from the floor and slips it on. Doug wolf-whistles from the bed and she snorts.
“Settle down, hotshot,” she says, climbing back into his bed. She is sore and tired but content. Her mind is quiet.
He curls a strong arm around her, kissing her lightly. “I love you,” he says with a grin.
Kate curls into his chest, smiling. “I love you.”
“Now that I’ve said it, I just want to keep saying it,” he says quietly, voice warm.
She hums and smooths down his wild hair. All of her feels light. “I won’t fight you.”
“My god, I’ve done it,” he says. “I’ve won.”
Kate elbows him in the gut and he groans out a laugh before kissing her. She can’t help but kiss him back. It’s a kiss – and a love – worth more than gold.