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peaceful in the deep

Chapter Text

 

*

It was Tessa’s turn to do the shopping this week anyhow, which is a small enough mercy by itself. It hadn’t even taken her that much more time to stop at the drugstore after getting the groceries, for once - she’d lucked into one of the lulls in the day and had just gotten a parking space and then walked right into the store without concern. Just that much is enough to quell her nerves a little - it’s almost like this is a normal day again, and all she’s doing is running a normal errand. Even though this isn’t a purchase she’s made before she knows exactly which aisle she needs. The last time she visited this aisle it was to accompany a fellow skater a few years ago. Before that, her sister when she was still at university. 

She makes her choice quickly and tucks the box under her arm. On her way to the checkout she grabs a few other things on impulse - some crackers, a bag of chocolate-covered almonds. Morgan’s been eating more of their snacks lately and a few more treats never hurt.

The fatigued-looking cashier rings up her purchase with only a cursory glance at the items, another small mercy. If she recognizes Tessa she doesn’t say anything about it, only accepts payment and bags up her items without any additional fuss. Tessa glances back at the nearly empty store on her way out and thinks how nice it will be when the pace of life returns to something like normal. They’ve all gotten too used to all of this. 

The drive back is short and eventless. She pulls into the garage and lets herself have a moment to just briefly sit in the quiet. As expected, she doesn’t see any sign of Morgan yet - a glance at her watch tells her he should still be on the team call as planned. 

“Okay, Virtue,” she tells herself, half-under her breath. “Let’s get to it.” Tessa pushes the button for the trunk, lifts out of her seat, and opens the car door in one fluid motion. Then she manages to grab most of the bags in the first trip but ends up needing a second to finish the job. As she packs away the refrigerator items, all the while she can hear Morgan’s voice resonating from the office. It sounds like he’s getting close to finishing up. She texts him a quick note to say she’ll let him pack away the rest of the kitchen items like he usually does - adding a heart and a wink emoji at the end - and then takes the remaining handful of items upstairs with her, heading for the main bathroom. 

They’ve been using this bathroom for storing overflow supply for a while now, rather than the master ensuite - they realized early on that it helps retain a sense of normalcy if the rooms they spend the most time in don’t feel like a stockpile. But she drops the new packages of tissue and toilet paper with little ceremony, her attention only focussed on the drugstore bag in her hands. The real reason she’s tucked herself away in here and not in their bathroom. 

She removes the box and examines the package instructions carefully, even though she already has a good estimate of what’s involved in this process. It’s just never been something she’d guessed she’d have to do for herself. When she starts opening the box she lifts her head a little and catches sight of herself in the mirror and can’t help wincing. She hadn’t realized she’d been wearing her concern that openly at the moment. 

“Come on, Virtch,” she mumbles to herself. “You’re doing this or you’re not.” It’s just peeing on a stick, after all. Compared to all the drug testing protocols she’d gone through during competitions, this is easy. Just do the thing and then wait a few minutes. Except, it doesn’t feel easy at all. 

They’ve talked about this possibility, of course they have. Much earlier in their relationship than some might expect, even. It had been early last fall when they’d gotten to know each other more and had started to spend more evenings - and mornings - together, and suddenly all of the ‘life’ conversations had started to flow freely. It was like a tipping point, getting everything out on the table between them. 

Morgan had told her he hoped he’d be a father one day, have one or two awesome kids to run around with. But not before he’d had the chance to do everything he wanted to with his NHL career. Tessa had nodded, and said at best she was still a ‘maybe’ as far as kids and family. She hadn’t ruled it out completely, but if it happened at all it certainly wouldn’t happen in the next few years. And if he needed to be with someone who gave him a different answer than that, she wanted him to know in case that was what he needed to do. 

But he didn’t. He wanted her. And she wanted him, too. She still wants him, more than ever. Living with him in these last months, sharing all of her days with him and all of her quirks and foibles - it’s only made her feel more loved by him. How incredibly possible it is to make a life together with just the two of them, and have that be enough. And Morgan’s shown her over and over how much he feels the same way. She feels it in the simple things - like when he has her coffee ready the minute she’s finished her workout with Jordan, even though she’s never asked him to do that - on up to the bigger things, the harder emotional moments that come without warning. So many of those have cropped up in the last few months, for both of them.

If this isn’t one of those moments, I’m not sure what is, she thinks to herself ruefully.

Using the test actually does turn out to be quite simple. That part is done in a matter of seconds, and then she’s dressed again and washing her hands like a pro. She lets out another breath and then sits again, this time on the edge of the bathtub. Before long she feels herself fidgeting, her fingers twisting in her lap. She looks at her phone and barely a minute has passed. She’ll make sure to give it the full time listed on the instructions, maybe more just to be sure. 

All morning before she picked up the test she’d been having a debate with herself back and forth about whether or not to even do this. She’s late - well, more late than she’s been before, sure - but who’s to say she couldn’t just wait it out another couple of days and see? For all she knows the ups and downs of the last few months would be enough to throw off anyone's cycle, let alone hers. But she can’t take the not knowing anymore. If it’s a negative, she’ll be able to put it behind her.

And more than that, she knows that if it’s positive, they might not have a lot of time on their side to put wheels in motion, to...make that decision. She knows they’ve been saying the lower mainland is on target to lift the lockdowns in the next couple of weeks, and hospitals and clinics are supposed to be back to accepting more patients for non-essential procedures, and who’s to say this wouldn’t still qualify as essential, but…

She feels nauseous just contemplating all of it. She's become so accustomed to buying only the necessary amounts of things it hadn't occured to her to get a second test in case. I should have bought two, she thinks then. Why didn’t I get two?

“Two what?” Morgan asks, ducking his head inside the room. She startles, only just then realizing that the door has been ajar this whole time. “I thought we just needed the one pack of toilet paper…” 

“Oh, I…” she looks around at the items she still hasn’t put away, and then at the counter where the test waits. 

Morgan’s gaze follows hers. “Oh, wow. Is that…?” Instead of freezing in place he steps forward, closer to her. 

Tessa nods quickly. “Yeah. Sure is,” she answers. And then she feels herself relax just slightly, feels her heart release now that he’s here sharing this with her. She feels foolish, having tried to do this without him. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be here. “Another minute and it’s done,” she answers. Truthfully the test is probably ready by now. It’s her that needs another minute. Or ten. 

“Okay,” he nods. He reaches his hand out towards her and she takes it, pulling him to sit next to her. He perches on the edge of the tub next to her. They stay like that for a moment and then he lets go of her hand to put his arm around her instead. She relaxes a little more and leans closer. When he plans a kiss on the side of her head she releases a strange noise, a sort of part-sigh, part-moan. 

“I’m sorry,” she says then.

“What for?” He’s being genuine, she can tell, like he wasn't expecting her to say that. 

Tessa shakes her head. “For not telling you I was doing this.” She lifts one hand to his knee, rubbing back and forth a little. “We said we wouldn’t keep things from each other,” she adds, more quiet now.

“Is this a thing, though? I mean, are you...How long have you been waiting to do this?” His voice is wavering a little, enough to make her heart sink this time. She wishes she could do this over again from the beginning. Wait for him to get off the call and unpack the car with her. Make jokes about how many types of leafy greens she picked up and the number of eggs they each think is a reasonable quantity to get them through two weeks. And then show him the box. Let him come upstairs with her, sit with her from the beginning.

“A few days,” she answers. She feels more than hears his slight gasp. “I thought maybe I’d just keep waiting and I wouldn’t need it. And then it was my turn to go out this morning anyway and there weren’t any line-ups this time, and…” She stops, shaking her head and shrugging at the same time. 

“Okay,” he says, holding her with both arms now. “It’s okay, Tess, you don’t need to apologize. I promise,” he adds. “We’ll see what it says first, right?”

‘Thank you,’ is what she wants to tell him, but she can’t quite get the words out. So she nods again, taking in a breath and letting it out again, and then another, and another. When she lifts her head again a minute later she’s looking back at him. At the open love and compassion on his face, mixed with worry and confusion - that she realizes he must be trying hard to put aside. Then she looks at her phone and sees it’s well past time to see the result, now. 

“Okay,” she repeats. “I’ll look now.”

Morgan nods, and stands with her. She’d left the test flipped face down on purpose, not wanting to leave herself the option to look any sooner than she needed to. With one hand still in his, she just reaches out with the other one and turns the test over, and they both see the result at the same time. 

A negative result stares back at them. 

Oh,” she reacts, a palpable wave of relief flowing through her. “Oh, thank goodness.” She feels him let out a sigh, too, and it’s enough to nearly erase all of the remaining tension in her body. She sinks against him, letting him envelop her again in both arms.

“Yeah,” Morgan answers. She can feel his heart racing in his chest, and then calming a little more as he tries to steady her. “I know this isn’t what we were planning for right now,” he says, both relief and emotion in his voice, too. 

Tessa shakes her head against his chest, and then suddenly she’s crying, tears spilling and falling without anything else left to hold them back. She can’t even fully explain why she’s crying, either, just knows that the release is what she needs. She’s probably needed it for the last couple of days, but had been so focussed on keeping things feeling normal. And judging from Morgan’s surprise when he’d walked in a moment ago, it looks like she’d been doing too well at that job. For his part, he only holds her tighter, letting her cry it out. 

When she levels out again, he’s there gently wiping the tears from her cheeks, more relief crossing his face when she offers him a faint smile. “Is it okay if I make us some lunch?” he asks, and it’s such a normal thing to ask that she just bursts out laughing this time.

“Yes, I would like that,” she says, her voice ragged.

“And maybe we can talk about this some more?” he adds, that same patience and affection returning. 

She’s nodding before he even finishes. “Yes, definitely. Let’s talk about lots of things.”

“Okay. Good,” he says, relieved again but for new reasons this time. “I agree this isn’t for us right now. But maybe we can talk more about if it’s not now or...not ever? I think...I think I’d like us to talk about that,” he gets out. It’s not just affection but vulnerability that he’s wearing in his expression now. She wonders if that’s been the case this whole time and she’d just missed it before. 

Tessa’s just looking at him, feeling more clear and open than she has all morning. Possibly all week. “I would love that,” she tells him, and nods at the same time that he does. She lifts up on her toes to kiss him on the cheek, and then he kisses her back again quickly, on the lips. 

They take each other’s hands and walk down into the brightly lit house. She’s not entirely sure she has all the answers right now. But she knows she wants to figure them out with him. Together. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

*

“Tess. Tessa?”

“Hm?” She looks away from the television screen in front of them. Next to her Morgan’s looking at her with a curious expression. “What, what did I miss?” She freezes, wondering if he’d been trying to get her attention for longer and she’d completely ignored it.

His smile is gentle. “You’ve been zoned out for like five minutes. Are you even paying attention to the movie?”

Tessa blinks at the screen. She really hasn’t been, she admits. They started the movie with their dinner but their plates have been sitting empty on the coffee table for a little while. She’s hardly touched her wine glass. “Sorry,” she says. “I’m here, I’m back now.” She brushes a hand through her hair.

Morgan’s still looking at her, the same expression on his face. “No, you’re not,” he shakes his head. “Come on, what are you really thinking about?”

She takes in a breath. “Okay,” she starts, wondering how to say it, and then just decides there’s only really one way to do it. And the sooner she says it out loud, the sooner it will be something real. Might be something real.

Even just the change in her tone of voice is enough to have Morgan adjusting his posture, sitting up straighter next to her and reaching for the remote to pause the video. The screen freezes in the middle of an urban car chase. 

“I bought a test,” she tells him. 

It’s his turn to blink, just looking back at her and paying close attention, waiting for the rest of it. “A test?” he asks, not following.

“Yeah, a test. I...I’m late,” Tessa adds. “I bought it a couple days ago but I didn’t want to take it without you.”

She almost had taken it by herself, truth be told. He’s been away a little over a week travelling with the team and she’s had more than enough to keep busy with now that her consulting agency is entering its second year. Not to mention all of the wedding arrangements.

The various envelopes and boxes coming into the house filled with all manner of documents and samples over the last several months had started out as a gradual trickle, and now it feels more like a mild flood. They’re two months away from the ceremony date, now, and only just managed to get all the invitations out the door a couple of weeks ago. Not to mention dress fittings, bridal party arrangements, table seating charts, and then they’d had to change the reception venue because it turns out a New Year’s Eve Eve wedding date had been a great idea for getting friends and family all in the same place together, but a near nightmare for actual bookings. And between Morgan’s away games and her business travel they've been lucky to get more than a couple of days each month in the same place at the same time. 

She’d finally started to feel like they were turning a corner, checking off more details and milestones each week. They’re on the home stretch now, they’d told each other last week. 

And then a few days after Morgan’s departure she’d been staring at the calendar and realized she was late. Then a few more days went by and she was still late. She’d bought the test and had almost taken it herself right then and there. But then she remembered the way it had felt three years ago, when he’d found her halfway through and she’d taken him by surprise. She didn’t want that kind of moment for them again this time. So she’d waited, thinking it was just as likely she wouldn’t need it by the time he returned - but that hadn’t turned out to be the case yet either. He’d gotten back to Toronto just in time to return a few phone calls and order takeout for them for dinner, and now here they are.  

“How late are you?” Morgan’s fully tuned in, now, understanding what she means. She wonders if he’s thinking about that same time, too, back in Vancouver when they’d had a moment not unlike this one. Except, this doesn’t feel like that moment at all. 

“A week,” she admits, and his lips part in a shallow gasp. She can tell he’s rapidly cycling through several emotions right now, and not trying very hard to hide them. Mostly what she sees is surprise, then hope. Then a different expression like he’s trying to think about twelve things at once. 

“You mean you haven’t taken it yet?” he asks.

She shakes her head quickly. “I was waiting until you got back.”

“Tessa,” he just reacts, his eyes wide. “Babe, how did you not tell me this two hours ago?”

“I don’t know!” She’s lifting her hands and shrugging, genuinely at a loss for any explanation. And she has enough awareness to wonder if her lack of mental clarity might actually be a relevant physical symptom right now, which just spins her head even more. “I was just glad you were back and it’s been so nice to just sit with you for a little while, before….before dropping all of this on you,” she explains, letting out another breath. 

“Okay,” he nods, still very alert. He puts one hand on her knee, and she rests one of her hands on his. “So how about now, then? You still want to take it?”

“Okay,” she repeats, nodding too. “You’re sure?”

“Super sure,” he answers, a little incredulous that she’s even asking. He squeezes her knee. “You want me to come with you?”

She smiles in reaction, quickly and broadly. “No, that’s okay, I’ll just go do it really quick. It doesn’t take long.”

“Yeah. I remember.” His voice is soft, now, making her love him so much all of a sudden. 

Tessa clasps his hand again and kisses him quickly on the cheek. “I’ll be right back. I promise,” she adds even though she doesn’t need to. When she stands up he does too, letting her walk away but keeping their hands together and his gaze on her as long as possible. Finally she lets go, with one more “right back,” just for good measure. She heads upstairs quickly, hearing the sound of Morgan clearing their dishes as she does. It’s better than just sitting and fidgeting, she reasons, which is what she knows he’d end up doing otherwise. 

She gets to the bathroom and lets the door mostly close behind her, focussed only on the box that’s been sitting on the shelf for the last couple of days. Truth be told she’d wondered if he’d notice when he was in here earlier, but she can’t blame him for having limited powers of observation after a week’s worth of away games. 

As she tears open the box she’s met with the memory of how it felt the last time she did this, how very different their world feels now. Two and a half years ago neither of them had been ready for this. But their conversations that followed had made them realize that they did both want a family, down the line. And it hadn’t taken very much soul searching at all for her to recognize he was someone she could see playing that kind of role in her life. The someone. By the time he proposed to her the following summer they’d both known for a long time they were headed for that path - marriage, family, everything. 

Tessa hadn’t quite figured on the order of operations happening quite like this, necessarily. But if it happens now then at least they both know it’s something they want. Now she mostly feels dazed, on the verge of anticipating and hoping but wanting to hold all of that at bay until she knows for sure. Until they know for sure. 

After she takes care of the test she dresses again quickly and washes her hands, and then pauses, taking in a breath and letting it out again slowly. Her stomach feels like a thousand butterflies all flying around at once, and there’s a breathless feeling in her chest like she’s just gotten off the treadmill, except she hasn’t. It’s like her heart and body are trying to send her every possible signal and she needs them to just be quiet for a few more minutes. When she opens her eyes again the reflection she sees staring back at her is much calmer than she felt a moment ago. And maybe a little bit excited. 

Tessa picks up the test stick and heads downstairs again. When she finds Morgan again he’s where she left him in the living room. The television is turned off and their glasses are the only evidence left of their dinner. He stands when she comes in, his face hopeful. 

She smiles, a breathless half-laugh escaping her. “I don’t know the result yet. It takes a couple of minutes, remember?”

“Right,” he says, nodding. His cheeks redden a little, and she feels hers doing the same. They’re ridiculous, she thinks. If her sister were here she’d tell them to stop being so cute for the thousandth time. 

“Sit with me.” She settles into previous spot and he does the same, next to her, as she places the test face down on the coffee table in front of them.

“Okay,” he says, half to her and half to himself. He runs a hand across his face and then through his hair, and then just rests both hands in his lap, clasping them. 

For another minute they just sit quietly, waiting. She turns to look at him again and that hopeful expression is back, and it’s enough to make her feel the same thing. If it’s a negative result they’ll be fine, she knows they will be. They’ll have months to try for this, once the wedding is behind them and his season is over. 

But if it’s positive...Oh, if it’s positive...She feels herself welling up a little, daring to wonder if now is really when they’ll be doing this. She thinks he must be doing the same thing, taking in the intent wonder on his face.

She reaches out to touch his face, brushing along the curve of his cheek with the back of her fingers, then running across his beard. He leans into her touch and then turns to look at her. When she lifts her face to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth, she feels his lips curve up again, and she’s almost-laughing again. Then he’s the one leaning in and kissing her, clasping one hand at her chin. 

“I love you,” she murmurs, because no matter what else happens in the next minute she still wants him to know that. 

“I love you,” is his immediate answer, punctuated with another kiss, this one long and lingering. 

They separate again and each glance at the clock at exactly the same time. 

“Do we look yet?” Morgan’s hand is at her knee again. 

Between the minute or two upstairs in the bathroom and the time they’ve been waiting together down here, she knows it should be ready by now. 

“Yeah, I think so,” she nods. “Let’s look.” She takes his hand in hers, and leans forward, flipping over the test. 

There’s no mistaking the plus-sign staring back at them in dark blue ink. It’s positive. 

Tessa hears his gasp at the same time as she feels her own in her chest. “Oh,” she says almost on reflex, her other hand flying up to cover her mouth.

“Oh my God,” he says. His voice is wavering a little, like he can’t quite believe it’s real. But there’s no doubting the way they both feel right now. When they look at each other again there’s only amazed joy - she sees it him and feels it in herself, like it’s rooted deep within her. 

He reaches for her, arms closing around her so gently at first. Then she leans into the embrace and holds him back tightly, so he does too. Her arms clasp around his waist and she buries her head in his shoulder. She can feel his hand stroking her hair, resting at her head. For a moment she’s still almost stunned that this is happening, and now of all times. There are tears welling up in her eyes, spilling all the way now that she’s not trying to hold anything back. She shudders a little as she lets them out but there’s no mistaking that they’re tears of happiness. 

Eventually Morgan pulls back, checking in just quickly enough before kissing her again, so firmly this time. “I love you,” he tells her again, and she can hear the emotion in his voice too. Then he’s kissing her on the corner of her mouth, and her cheek, and her nose, and then her other cheek and her forehead and then all the rest of it all over again, each one punctuated with another “I love you,” until she’s laughing through her own tears of happiness. 

“I guess this is a good thing, then?” She manages, still laughing.

“Oh my God, Tess,” he repeats. “It’s so good. I mean, we know we want this, right?”

Tessa’s nodding so fast. “Oh, yes, yes .” She blinks as a fresh wave of tears starts. Then she just leans against him, her head on one shoulder as they both sit back and relax against each other. There’s not a lot of other thoughts in her mind right now but it’s enough to just be here with him and process this. Except she can practically hear the wheels turning in his mind and she thinks he might be a few steps ahead of her there. 

“Do we postpone the wedding?” he asks first, sounding genuinely curious. 

“What?” Tessa exclaims, incredulous. She can’t believe that’s the first place his mind went. If anything she’s trying to count back to figure out when she might be due, and her brain can’t seem to manage it. “No, no we are not postponing anything,” she says, brushing her cheeks dry. “Why would we do that?”

“Well, I don’t know, I mean...you’ve spent so much time getting your dress just right,” he says, so thoughtfully and rationally that it makes her laugh out loud again. 

She kisses him in answer, loving him for caring about the details he knows have meant so much to her in the last few months. And then she shakes her head, cupping his face with one hand so she can make sure he’s looking at her when she reassures him. “We are not postponing anything,” she repeats. “The dress will be fine. I’ll be fine. As long as you’re there and our friends and family are there I’ll be more than fine,” she adds. 

“Good,” he answers, his smile a little giddy. “Me too.”

“I guess I won’t be drinking much of that champagne, though,” she thinks ruefully. She’d spent so long planning the wine list, too. 

“We’ll save you a bottle,” he answers quickly. “A whole case . Two cases.”

“Okay,” she nods. “Yes, okay.” She’s smiling again, like it’s an involuntary reflex at this point.

“And we don’t have to tell anyone else before we decide to, deal?” 

She’s nodding again, already agreeing. It’s been one of the things he’s cared for the most in their relationship - her need to share the parts of her life she wants to share, with the people she chooses. And she’s done the same for him, and his decisions. 

“I’m sorry we won’t get more of a honeymoon period,” she tells him. “I know we talked about this, but not for a little while later.” The thought of moving right from a planning a wedding to planning for a baby is making her head spin in an entirely new way. But underneath it all is still that feeling of joy, that won’t be shaken. 

“But we’ve had that time together already,” he reasons. “Over and over.” She knows he’s thinking about Vancouver, and then the few months they’d spent in Toronto after that. 

When she thinks about it she can name countless more times they’ve spent together, enjoying and getting to know each other. Loving each other. And that’s never changing, she knows, too. She wraps her arms around him one more time, as he does the same. She can feel the quick, steady heartbeat in his chest, and the warmth of him surrounding her. She doesn’t know exactly how all of this will go, but she’s so happy she’ll get to find out, with him. Both of them together. 

 

*