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that's when we grab a hold of whatever it is we fell into

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It should go without saying but Morgan really, really likes his girlfriend.

He likes that she is such a nerd. 

She’s gorgeous and intelligent and talented and graceful but also, truly, a big fucking nerd. 

She is a beautiful dancer, trained and honed in the art, each muscle in her body knows exactly how to move to make everything she does lovely and meaningful, but she also does things like the running man unironically. 

She makes him laugh, and in his mind that’s at least half the battle in a relationship. Trust, honesty, compatibility, they all have their place, but humor is special. It bridges gaps and opens hearts; it carries people through all manner of events, including building a relationship while apart. 

Sometimes he’s in Toronto and she’s in Toronto, but sometimes he’s in Vancouver and she’s in Paris. Later, when they’re looking back, she points out that while it wasn’t easy, in the end it probably helped them. Their base was solid quickly because it had to be; they had to learn to communicate, they didn’t have a choice.

Internally he agrees with her, but outwardly he insists that all he’d needed was to hear her big honking goose laugh a few times a week. She flushes but smiles, and gives him that look that tells him she’s happy and feels safe with him, and in the end that’s all he needs.

He likes that she is somehow both exactly what he thought she would be and nothing like it at all. 

It’s not like he didn’t know who she was, she’s Tessa Virtue. Any warm-blooded human in Canada who said they didn’t know who she was - or that they weren’t attracted to her - was lying. But he’s pretty sure she couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup before July. He can’t imagine he would have been anything more than another guy in blue with a stick any of the other times she had been around him. She insists otherwise, but he’s not so sure. 

So when they start dating, he thinks he has an advantage in that he knows a few things about her, and to some extent he does. There are parts of her public persona that are who she is, but really he learns that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

The first time he leans in to kiss her he finds himself thinking holy shit I’m about to kiss Tessa Virtue . He freezes, his stomach twisting unpleasantly, knowing full well how he would feel if he knew that a girl he liked was thinking only about him being ‘Morgan Rielly, Leafs Player’ when they were in this situation. She is more than just ‘Tessa Virtue, Olympic Ice Dancer ’ and he knows it better than most. 

She’s looking at him with a little confused crease in her forehead, worry growing in her eyes, and he feels sick at the thought that he put it there. He closes the distance quickly, and as he feels her lips move softly against his and her hand come up to tangle in the collar of his shirt, he’s pretty sure that he’s a goner.

He reminds himself then to never minimize her accomplishments, but always remember that she’s more than them. At the end of the day she is Tessa Virtue, Five TIme Olympic Gold Medalist, and Canada’s Sweetheart, but she’s also just Tessa, and he’s lucky enough to get both, which he’s starting to realize is not something many people do.

He never forgets it again.

He likes how competitive she is. 

He’s not going to lie, he thinks it’s hot. 

Though, in retrospect, he probably shouldn’t have introduced her to Mario Kart. 

He has her for a whole three days in a row, and on night two, after a day of possibly the best sex of his life, she’s too energetic to read, but not energetic enough for a run (also sore - very, very sore), so he decides the best middle ground is to teach her to play a video game. 

It doesn’t start well. Tessa can do many things, but she is not a natural when it comes to playing video games, and t’s not as though she has a whole childhood of experience behind her, letting her move gradually from the NES through the GameCube to land here with the Switch. He’s struggled with the tiny controllers himself off and on, so he won’t blame her if she’s frustrated, and if he’s honest, he’d probably find it cute even though he imagines Tessa’s frustration at not being good at something likely has a 80/20 chance of ending badly. 

He’s proven wrong. 

She is frustrated, he can tell, but rather than it ending badly - or at all - that night ends up being the first time he really sees Tessa learning to do something. Her focus becomes absolute, her will strong, and her patience eternal. 

She doesn’t beat him that night, but there is something calculating in her gaze when he cuts her off, managing to distract her just enough with soft kisses to the back of her neck, that he doesn’t fully register. 

At least not until she gets back from tour.

It’s casual the way she brings it up as they make their way into the living room after dinner. (He’d cooked, she’d cleaned up, it was all very domestic in a way he’s trying not to think about.) He laughs and throws her a controller, not quite catching the glint in her eye. 

She absolutely destroys him.

In the time she’s been gone, she not only became an expert at playing Mario Kart, she became an expert at talking shit during Mario Kart. Phrases like ‘fuck you and your blue shell!’ and ‘if you hit me with that red shell I am breaking up with you’ and (his favorite) ‘beep beep motherfuckers’ when she slipstreams past him, especially when it means she wins at the last second, flow freely from her lips. 

It’s hot, because of course it is, but it’s also mildly terrifying. 

That’s the key to her, he’s starting to learn, is that she’s a walking contradiction. She looks like an angel, but she has a wonderfully wicked mind. She’s kind and genuine and generous, but she’s also ambitious and intense and relentless. What has become apparent is that he likes all sides of her whether it’s the side that spends forty-five minutes talking to the three senior citizens who stop her outside of the restaurant they were just about to eat in, or the one that had no issue with tripping Jordan so she wouldn’t lose a bet against her six minute mile. 

He doesn’t think he’d want to end up on her bad side, but he’s starting to realize more and more that he’s incredibly proud to be by her side.

He likes her freckles. 

It’s hard not to spend his time tracing them with his eyes, but one of his favorite things is that he can . She has a tendency to cover her freckles - with clothes or more often than not, makeup - and he doesn’t really know why; he’s sure it has something to do with growing up with them or being made fun of, but when she’s with him, she never does. He gets an unimpeded front row seat to the ones sprinkled across her face, the ones lining her shoulders, and the ones that trickle down between her breasts. 

They’re sexy, it’s undeniable, but it’s more than that. It’s a part of her that not everyone sees. 

One day, when Toronto is giving its last gasp of summer, they decide to go for a run. Afterward, they’re both hyped up on endorphins and silly from the sunshine, and they find themselves in the kitchen, rifling through his kitchen for snacks. He still has his head in the fridge, but she’s snagged the box of fresh strawberries and hopped up onto the counter, her heels playfully bouncing into the wood of the cabinets beneath her. 

He can’t help but look at her. She has her back to him, and he can see the little dance she’s doing as she eats. She looks so free. Her hair is up in a messy ponytail, sweat still drying on her skin, clad in a (surprisingly) mismatched Adidas sports bra and leggings, and she’s glowing. She’s happy, and the fact that he has any part in making that happen makes him proud. 

He decides after spending just a touch too long admiring the shift of the muscles in her back, that it’s high time she share the strawberries, so he comes up behind her and tries to reach into the box in her lap without her noticing. He really should have seen the swift slap to his wrist that smacks the fruit back out of his hand, but he doesn’t and shakes his hand at the quick hit of pain as he laughs and comes around the counter to stand facing her between her legs. 

“Damn girl,” he says and she giggles. “I just wanted a strawberry in an uncivilized world.”

She smiles, her mouth pink with strawberry juice. “That’s a shame, because these are mine.”

“Have you ever heard of sharing?” 

She raises an eyebrow playfully. “Nope, not once have I shared anything in my life. Not my career, or my hopes or dreams, nothing.”

“I knew it,” he says and she bites into another strawberry, chewing cheekily and he leans forward to nip at the bit left at her hand, but she pulls it up and out of reach so he settles for placing sloppy, silly kisses to her lips and cheeks, his hands coming up to tickle at the backs of her knees. 

“No, no, no tickling,” she laughs, twisting away from him. He knows from experience that she’ll give and she does, grabbing at his hands and saying, “Fine, fine! Here.” She holds the strawberry to his lips with a smile. 

There’s something about the golden light of the afternoon shining on them through the kitchen window, that highlights her skin and the freckles dotted across her sternum. He leans in and presses kisses across her collarbone, muttering, “You’re so pretty.” She flushes ever so slightly, and it surprises him yet again that a compliment like that from him can make her blush. He continues, “It’s true! Look.” He reaches up to run a finger across the freckles there, playfully connecting them into shapes that only he can see. 

She leans back slightly and says, “They’re just freckles.”

He looks up at her in mock exasperation. “These are not just freckles, how dare you?”

She giggles again. “They aren’t?”

“Nope. Actually, hold on,” he gets an idea and reaches around her to grab a pen off the counter. “Look.” 

He leans in to press the pen to her skin and she grabs his hand, “What are you doing?”

“I am trying to do science to prove that these aren’t just freckles.” 

She laughs loudly, the big unrestrained one that he can feel under his skin, and lets go of his hand. “Sorry,” she says through her laughter. “Continue with science.”

“Thank you,” he says. He presses the pen to her skin and connects the freckles on her right shoulder into a star - or at least a vague approximation of what a star should look like. “See? Not just freckles - it’s a star.”

She tilts to look down and hesitates. Then - “is it though?”

He laughs. “Listen, I’m a hockey player .”

“I’m aware,” she says. “Do you wanna try again?”

He says, “That star there doesn’t need a redo, but I’ll happily make it some friends. C’mere.” 

In the next twenty minutes he adds a maple leaf, something he hopes is actually the Big Dipper, a pyramid (she insists it’s just a triangle, but he assures her that it is in fact a special triangle) and, somehow, an apple. 

He can feel her humming with the same joy and lightness he is, and he sees for a moment the kind of life that he never imagined he would get to have. She can’t stop laughing, and he feels like he’s never smiled so much in his life. It feels like they’re made of that golden afternoon light. 

He spots something on her side and tells her to hold still as he tries to connect the five dots. It’s shaky given her laughter, but when he pulls back there’s an unmistakable ‘M’ on her side. He grins at her playfully, “I think that’s my favorite so far.”

She smiles at him, her eyes soft. “Yeah, I wonder why.”

“I don’t know, there’s just something about it.” 

She pauses for a moment, grabbing a strawberry and rubbing it over her lips thoughtfully. 

“What?” he asks. 

She looks back up at him and says, “You’re not the only one to have found an ‘M’ there.” 

Of course , he thinks. He’s Morgan, and he is Moir. He hesitates, unsure of what to say, but she just smiles again, her eyes clear and untroubled. “I think both are good. I have room for both.” 

He finds himself leaning in to give her a soft kiss. “Both is good. Or,” he adds, shifting to the side to find a sixth dot and reaches out to draw two quick additional lines turning it into a heart, “it doesn’t have to be an ‘M’ at all. You don’t need one.”

She tilts her head thoughtfully, and responds, “And if I want one?” 

He leans his forehead against hers and says, “Well you’ve got one here.”

He likes how she is with his family. 

They make it out to Vancouver for a long weekend, and after completely captivating his father, she leaves his brother dazed and enchanted in her wake. He actually feels a little bad for Connor. He knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of her full attention, and it can be bewildering - but he doesn’t feel bad enough not to tease him.

He’s watched her charm the hell out of literally any person that has crossed her path (himself included), but the way she charms them is different. It’s not that she’s disingenuous with anyone else, there’s just something that sets this apart, something he can only think to describe as hope. Or at least he hopes that it’s hope, because if it is that means that she’s in this the way that he is, that she’s hoping they will like her the same way he wanted hers to like him. 

After several rounds of small talk (and, against his will, two baby pictures of him) have broken the ice, she and his mother spiral into a conversation that not only doesn’t include him, it doesn’t even concern him at all. They have enough in common to click, but not so much that it becomes creepy. When they show no signs of letting up, he wanders into the living room to watch the game with his dad and brother, but he knows that he’s entirely useless at hiding his happiness at how well they’re getting along. He can’t get enough of the way her cheeks flush each time she catches him looking at them from where he’s supposedly watching TV. 

Connor catches his grin in their direction and nudges his leg. “You’re so fucked.”

He laughs, bringing a hand up to scratch self-consciously at the back of his neck, which he knows is bright red. “I know I am.”

He notes that Connor is continually taking what he appears to think are quick glances in Tessa’s direction, and adds, “Clearly so are you.”

“What?” Connor says distractedly. 

Morgan shoves his shoulder. “Stop looking at her like that.”

“Man, I can’t help it, she’s like a fuckin’ siren or something,” he says his eyes wide. 

“Believe me, I know,” he says with a smile. He feels a fizzle of warmth slide down his spine when it occurs to him that while she comes off as some kind of mythological creature of distraction and allure to others, to him she’s Tessa. She certainly distracts and allures him, there’s no doubt about that, but that’s not all she is to him. He sees her in the morning with her hair a mess and her mood sour or when she has a cold and won’t admit it despite the fact that she’s lost the ability to say half of her consonants to her stuffy nose. It’s not just that he gets to be witness to those things, it’s that she still, even then, distracts and allures him.  

“How do you get anything done?” Connor asks, breaking his train of thought. 

“Uh, I don’t really,” he jokes and the other two men laugh. 

After a moment, his dad catches eye and gives a subtle nod. He doesn’t need to say anything else. 

A few weeks later when he’s getting ready to make another quick trip home, she hands him a book, just like it’s nothing, as he’s packing. He does a double take when he grabs it from her and asks, “Why am I packing this?”

“It’s for your mom,” she says distractedly as she tries to find a matching pair of socks in his drawer. “I just finished it, she’ll love it.”

He pauses for a moment to process what she’s said. “You’re giving this to me to give to my mom?”

She looks at him, slightly confused. “Yes?”

He stares at her for a beat before wrapping his arms around her. “What is this for?” she asks. 

“Because you’re giving me a book to give to my mom.” 

“And I get a hug for that?” she asks.

“Yes,” he says simply. 

“Okay,” she replies, her smile evident in her voice as she tries her best to hug him back with her hands awkwardly pressed between them holding several mismatched socks.

He likes that he feels like he can understand what makes her tick. 

There’s been something he’s wondered for a while if she might enjoy in bed. She’s such a people pleaser, she never wants to let anyone down, and she’s never happier than when she’s good at something. So why wouldn’t that be true about this too?

He goes for it one late night after they’ve gone to Mill Street with some of the guys before heading home, happily buzzed. He grins when she nuzzles into him in the Uber; her comfort levels have been rising and the fact that she’s curled into his side in public means more than a little. 

He unlocks the door, enjoying the knowing sparkle in her eyes as she slips past him into his apartment. He catches her by the hips just before she makes it around the corner into the hallway and feels her giggle more than hears it he pulls her body back into his before turning her and pressing her to the wall, trapping her between his arms as he leans against it, thankful yet again for their height difference. 

“Hi,” she smiles breathlessly, reaching up to run her nails across his beard. She likes his beard and she’s not exactly shy about it. 

“Hi,” he says, moving one hand to push a strand of her hair out of her face. 

“Is there something that I can help you with?” 

“I think there might be,” he responds with a grin. 

“And what is that exactly?”

“That depends,” he says. “Are you going to be good?”

He can see her weighing her options, trying to decide which answer he wants - or for that matter which one she wants to give, but he leans in closer and says, “Are you going to be good for me, Tessa?” He sees her pupils dilate and knows he’s got her. She nods slowly and he smiles. 

“That’s what I thought.” 

He leans into her, pressing his body fully against hers, burying his face in her neck and finding that soft spot in the curve of her shoulder that makes her whimper. He nips at her earlobe and lets his heavy breaths echo against her ear, feeling her body rock up into his. 

He takes his time with her, placing lingering, wet kisses across her chest and shoulders, sucking marks into her collarbone that he knows she will have to hide. When they first started sleeping together he would always feel guilty when he left any kind of mark on her, but now he knows that she likes it. He’s caught her more than once going over her skin in the mirror, cataloging those places where he had sucked or nipped or scratched, running her fingers over them reverently. 

She likes carrying them with her out into the world. 

The thick wetness that coats his fingers when he undoes her jeans and buries his hand between her thighs just re-confirms it. 

“So good, baby,” he murmurs. “You’re so wet for me. You’re doing so good.”

Her nails dig into his back and she lets out a strangled moan at his words and he grins, triumph running through his chest at how wrecked she already sounds. 

He rubs two fingers over her clit in slow, deliberate circles, the way her jeans are constricting his movement just providing more pressure, and works her up to the edge. He stills his hand as he feels her legs start to shake and she lets out a desperate cry bucking up against him impatiently. He gives her a deep kiss, his other hand pinning her hips to the wall, stopping her from rocking against him. 

“I thought you were going to be good,” he says quietly against her lips. She swallows hard and takes a deep breath before nodding. 

"I'll be good, I promise," she rasps and he feels himself twitch in his pants. 

He works her up again, studiously monitoring her reactions to him, peppering his actions with praise, only to stop when she nears her peak again. 

Then he does it again. 

And again. 

By then, she is panting against his lips, a beautiful sheen of sweat sparkling across her skin that he just can’t help but taste. 

“Please,” she gasps. “ Please.

“Please what?” he murmurs into her ear. 

“Need -” she stops herself, swallowing thickly. “Want to come for you.” 

He grins into the skin of her neck.

“One more, baby. I need you to take one more for me, okay?” he asks, monitoring her face for any shadow of doubt, any hint that she’s doing something she doesn’t want to do, but is faced with nothing but dilated pupils and fierce desire. She nods, her chest heaving.

He builds her up again, keeping his eyes on hers so he can see the exact moment she realizes that he really is going to let her come this time, and he murmurs, “Are you going to come for me, pretty girl?”

"Yes," she pants.

"You're gonna be good and come all over my hand?"

She slams her head back against the wall and whimpers another yes.

It happens fast and hard after that, a guttural moan escaping her throat as she trembles. 

She sags a little against the wall so he pulls her legs up around his waist and presses soft kisses to her throat as she clings to him. He walks them into his room and drops her to the bed, smiling at the breathless laugh she gives as she bounces on her back, before pulling her jeans and underwear off hastily and throwing them behind him. 

It strikes him again in that moment how fun sex with her is. It’s satisfying and passionate and all the things a person would want sex to be, but beyond that it’s truly fun . The joy they take in being around each other extends into the bedroom, and he wonders how he’d never noticed how rare that is before.  

She pulls her shirt over her head before pushing up to her elbows so she can unhook her bra and pull it off too, while he stands above her, enjoying the sight of her flushed and eager in his bed. He keeps his eyes on hers as he shucks his t-shirt over his head and pushes his pants to the floor. He kneels between her legs and runs his hands up her thighs, across her stomach, flicking her nipples lightly before taking her hands in his and pushing them up above her head, pinning them to the bed. He spreads her legs with his and manages to line himself up to push inside her without using his hands (something he will gloat about to her later), and gives several shallow thrusts before pushing in fully as she arches her back, her fingers squeezing his tightly. 

With a quick nod from her, he starts to fuck her evenly, gradually building up speed. He can hear the sound of his skin meeting hers mixed in with her moans as he uses his hands on hers as leverage both to keep her pinned down and to look down at her while he fucks her. 

He can feel her wetness dripping down his thighs. “Does it feel good, baby?”

She whimpers a yes and he redoubles his efforts.

Fast, hard - the only thing left is deep. He switches both of her hands to one of his and reaches down to pull one of her legs higher up on his waist, tilting her hips so that he can slide deeper into her. 

“Look at you, you’re taking it so good,” he murmurs, feeling vindication at the loud moan that escapes her and the sharp clench of her around his cock. He can see her getting close, but he wants just a little more. 

“Can you take more for me, baby? Just a bit more? You’re taking it so well, I just need you to take a bit more.”

"I can take it," she whimpers, nodding feverishly, no hint of hesitation on her face, so he shifts the leg around his waist up over his shoulder and leans into her, stretching her wide. She gives a guttural moan as he reaches the new angle deep inside of her and begins to fuck her in earnest. 

"Yeah you can, look at you," he says, panting. "You can take it all can't you, babe?"

"Yes I - fuck," she stumbles over her words as she clenches around him. "I want it, gonna - gonna take it all so good for you."

He moans loudly, tightens his hold on the leg over his shoulder and cups her face with the other hand, his fingers falling around her neck, thumb over her bottom lip.

"So good," he murmurs. "So, so good." 

"So good for you, just for you," she starts to babble mindlessly. "Gonna come, fuck - fuck me, gonna take it all for you." 

It’s only a matter of time before she comes and he can’t help but follow quickly after, emptying himself inside her as she clings to him. He shifts his weight, planning to collapse off to her side so as to avoid crushing her with his weight, but she wraps herself around him more tightly, pulling him against her. He can tell that there’s some level of vulnerability that she’s wrestling with after what they’ve just done and he holds her close, making sure she knows that she’s not defenseless or alone. 

“Holy fuck ,” she lets out after a moment, and he laughs.

They catch their breath between soft kisses before they both slip out of bed to clean up and get ready to to sleep. He returns quicker than she does and slides between the sheets to watch her finish her nightly routine. He knows he should probably let the blankets air out a bit, but the smell of them around him leaves him feeling heady and languid.

It’s then that worry catches up to him, lingering in the recesses of his mind. He knows that she had enjoyed everything they’d just done, knows that she knew she was ultimately always  in control and fully able to say no anytime she wanted; it’s not that that has him concerned, it’s something else. 

She walks out of the bathroom wearing only a t-shirt (his) and underwear (the cute ones with the black lace edges and cartoon dinosaurs rawr-ing all over them) and sits down next to him, rubbing lotion into her hands and says, “So?”

He looks up at her. “So?”

“How did I do?” she says with a tongue-touched smile. 

He laughs. “Excellent. A+. Gold star.”

“I don’t do gold stars, I do gold medals,” she jokes as she flicks off the light and slides under the blankets next to him. 

He curls into her back, tugging her toward him so he can wrap his arm around her and bury his face in her hair. 

After a moment he can’t help but voice the thought that’s been caught in the back of his mind. “You know I would be here even if you didn’t gold medal in anything, right?”

He can feel her tense slightly.

He continues, “You don’t need to be good at everything to be good.” He holds his breath, hoping he hasn’t gone too far, but she slowly relaxes against him. She doesn’t answer, but she reaches down to tangle their fingers together and pull him against her more tightly. He places a kiss to the back of her head and waits until he hears her breath even out before letting himself roll over and drift off.

He likes Scott.

Tessa has tried to define their relationship for him, but all she has managed to convey is that it’s complex and layered and difficult and important. They have been many things to each other, from friends to lovers to the insufficient label of ‘business partners’ but in the end he’s family, so he treats him like it.

He thinks that part of being in a successful, healthy relationship with Tessa is to not get spooked by Scott. He comes to realize that there’s a balance to strike between not fearing Scott’s relationship with her and not letting it overwhelm the one that he is building with her. 

He knows that the two of them are trying to consciously separate themselves from one another, knows that it’s important to them both to maintain their history and their career and their love for each other while at the same time carving out a place in the world that isn’t shared between them, but he also thinks it’s disrespectful to disregard Scott’s relevance in her life.  

Regardless, Tessa’s told him all he needs to know. She has spelled out who Scott is, was, and will be to her, and made it clear that whatever feelings that have existed or continue to exist have no bearing on her feelings for him or what he is and will be to her. Scott’s importance doesn’t need to take away from his own. 

Tessa knows how she feels. All he has to do is trust her, and he finds that easy. 

He’s met Scott before. They had actually bounced around in the same circles a bit in the last several years, never particularly friends but something slightly more than acquaintances. They had always gotten along in the past, but there’s a firmness to Scott’s handshake when they greet each other this time, and from the look in his eye he can’t quite tell if it’s protectiveness or jealousy. 

She re-introduces them backstage in Mississauga and tells Scott not to embarrass her by asking for his autograph, grinning prettily at the unimpressed face the other man gives her in response before she gets called away by the wardrobe assistant. After peering down the hall to make sure Tessa’s out of earshot, Scott turns to him and says quietly, “Tessa doesn’t need me to protect her.” 

“I know,” he replies. 

“But that doesn’t mean I won’t destroy you if you hurt her.”

“I know that too.” 

Scott gives a curt nod and after a pause says, “So what do you think about Aberg and Agostino?”

In the end, he thinks the only thing Scott is jealous of is the fact that he would absolutely kick his ass at hockey.

There are things he doesn’t like. 

It’s bound to happen, really. Nobody is perfect, though sometimes he thinks if anyone was going to manage it, it would be her. 

Most of them don’t mean much, they’re simple things like how she insists that she can’t cook but doesn’t even try to learn, or how even though she is possibly the most organized person on the planet she will lose her keys the moment she walks in the door nearly every time.

But one of them does mean something - she doesn’t fight. 

There are three steps to conflict with her - silence, overt but insincere politeness, and disappearance. When she comes back, it’s as though nothing happened, whatever had upset her shoved somewhere into the back of her mind where it will linger what he imagines is forever. 

He can’t imagine that it’s healthy. The way he was raised you talk about things. If you’re hurt or pissed off, the first thing you do is talk. Sometimes you yell, and sometimes it makes things worse, but more often than not it makes things better. He can’t say if it's necessarily always the best way to deal with conflict or not, but it has to be better than her eternal refusal to engage. Sometimes he wonders just how many fights she has bottled up inside of her. 

He knows as soon as he walks in the door that she’s upset.

Not only does she not greet him, she doesn’t even look up, just mutters a quick ‘hi’ and keeps her eyes on her laptop. As much as he truly wants this to be workaholic Tessa, he knows the difference between that and this, and this is upset Tessa. 

“Hey,” he says, cautiously walking up behind her where she’s sitting on the couch and squeezing her shoulder for a moment and kissing the top of her head. She doesn’t acknowledge either gesture, just keeps typing quickly, eyes focused on the screen in front of her. 

“What’s up?” he asks. 

“Nothing,” she replies simply. 

He rounds the side of the couch so that he can see her face and says, “No, something is up.”



“Morgan.” She still has yet to look up. 

“You won’t even look at me,” he points out. She looks up then, probably for no other reason than to prove him wrong, but her face is impassive. 

“Come on,” he says, annoyance leeching into his voice. “Don’t be like this.” 

“Like what?” she asks, her voice the picture of innocence. 

“This,” he replies, gesturing at her vaguely. “You’re clearly upset, just talk to me.”

“I’m not upset,” she says calmly. “You wanted me to look at you and now I’m looking at you.”

He takes a breath then answers, “Yes, and you’re looking at me like we’ve never met.”

She gives a humorless chuckle, moving her laptop to the couch beside her and pushing to her feet, saying, “Oh we’ve met.” 

She starts to walk into the kitchen and he notes that they have moved rapidly through the Tessa Stages of Conflict, arriving at disappearance faster than he’d expected. 

He sighs as he trails after her and says, “Oh my god you are so stubborn.” 

“I am not stubborn,” she replies over her shoulder.

“Oh yes you are,” he replies, then mutters, “It’s like the fucking keys.”

“Oh my god, they’re just keys, Morgan!” she snaps, turning around.

“There is a bowl by the door,” he replies, frustration raising his voice. “You put it there - it’s your bowl , Tessa! How can you not -”

“I am not fighting with you about keys!” she says, matching his volume. 

“You won’t fight with me at all!” 

She goes still, her chest heaving as she takes quick breaths. He can tell she’s biting the inside of her lip as though physically holding back what she wants to say. She forces a deep breath on herself before turning to walk away. 

“No, hey,” he says, moving to step in front of her before she can leave. “Don’t just walk away.”

She crosses her arms over her chest, but says nothing. 

He continues, “You’re upset, and not just about the keys. I know it, you know it, why won’t you just talk to me?”

“Because it’s just going to be a fight,” she insists.

“Not necessarily,” he replies. “And even if it is, what does it matter?”

“Because that doesn’t fix anything,” she says. “It will just make it worse. It’s just easier this way.”

“Easier what way?” he prods. 

“This way. My way,” she snaps. “It’ll blow over.”

“Tessa, that makes absolutely no sense.” 

“Thank you,” she says icily. 

“I’m not trying to piss you off, but -” 

She cuts him off, “Well you’re doing a pretty great job at it anyway!”

He goes quiet for a moment, processing what she said and watching her face flush bright red. Before he can help himself, a smile spreads across his face. “Yes! Thank you! This is what I’m looking for, this is good. Well done, babe!”

He puts his hand up for a high five and the moment lingers, balancing precariously on the edge of better and worse, but then he sees her swallow back a laugh, and he knows which way it’s going to come down. He pulls her hand up and slaps it against his own. 

The tension drains from her body and she looks like herself again. He can tell that she is trying to find the words to say something, so he just waits, allowing her the time to figure it out. 

“I don’t like to fight,” she says.

“Really?” he says with mock surprise. 

She finally graces him with an exasperated smile. “No, it’s just… you have to understand that nearly my entire frame of reference when it comes to fighting is Scott.” 

“Are you trying to tell me that you didn’t fight with Scott?” he asks. 

“Yes,” she says simply. “That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

He waits for a moment, expecting her to continue and tell him the truth, but when she doesn’t, all he can manage is, “How is that possible?” 

“Well you’d be surprised,” she says with a self-deprecating sigh. 

“So what you’re telling me is that you literally just don’t know how to fight,” he responds. 

“I wouldn’t put it that -” she starts, but he cuts her off. 

“It’s interesting that this is something you don’t know to do. That probably means you’re not good at it either,” he says, his voice teasing. 

She cocks her head to the side and narrows her eyes, saying, “You really think that’s the best way to go here?” 

“Not really,” he says with a grin, reaching for her. She lets him pull her into his arms and curls around him, tucking her head under his chin. “Now do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”

She gives a small shake of her head and he worries for a moment that there really wasn’t as much progress made as he’d thought, but then she says, “But I guess I should anyway?” 

“Yeah,” he says rubbing his hand up and down her back. “That would probably be a good idea.”

He likes it when she dresses up. 

He doesn’t need her to be all the time, he just knows how much she enjoys it. It changes her, when she puts on something beautiful, it changes how she stands and moves; he’s seen something similar happen when she’s on the ice or on camera, those moments where she becomes someone else, but this isn’t that. She isn’t becoming a character or playing a role on the nights when she gets dressed up, her hair and makeup done up just so, she’s allowing another part of who she is to come out. 

She’s sleek and confident, fully aware of the fact that she’s beautiful and strong, turning heads and stopping traffic. It’s not ego if it’s true, he thinks. 

He likes to fuck her when she’s all dressed up, though he knows he should probably think of it as getting fucked by her. She’s in charge, and it’s clear from the moment she starts to get ready. He lingers when she’s having her hair and makeup done for her, but his favorite is when she’s getting ready on her own, because that’s when he gets to watch her unabashedly. He gets to see her take her time with each brush of eyeshadow or swipe of lipstick, gets to see her twist her hair between her fingers as she straightens or curls it, whichever the evening and the outfit calls for. 

Tonight’s event is certainly important, and they are there to give their support, but in the end, for them it doesn’t matter what it is.  

She ignores him while she gets ready, fully focused on the process. He’s pretty sure that she would be doing that whether he were there or not - she’s doing it for her and not him after all - but it’s captivating, and by the time she’s done he’s entranced by her and stays that way for the rest of the evening. 

When they get home, she lets him help pull her coat from her shoulders and hang it up. She turns to lean back against the door, her eyes dark, and he moves to kiss her, but her hand against his chest stops him. She raises an eyebrow at his eagerness and tugs playfully on his tie. He smiles bashfully and half-shrugs, muttering, “If you could see you, you’d understand.”

With a sinful smile, she lets one of her hands slide slowly up the length of his tie, wrapping it carefully around her hand. She pulls him toward her, stopping him just a breath away from her lips and waits. He can feel her soft breath against his, and a groan builds in his chest when she wets her lips with her tongue. She closes the distance and kisses him, slow and deep, in control at all times. She shifts her head to the side and guides his kisses along the angle of her chin to her neck, letting him nip and suck at the tender skin there.

She nudges him backward and tugs meaningfully on his tie, the glint in her eyes confirming that she wants him on his knees. He complies easily and looks up at her as she watches him for a moment, seemingly happy to just take in the sight of him knelt before her. The dress has been torturing him all night, but it’s particularly wicked from this angle. It may as well be negligee the way mesh and lace curl around her stomach and chest, covering her just enough to tease, the skirt swirling delicately around her legs, tapering to her knees in soft thin layers. 

She opens her legs slightly, and pulls him toward her, the gentle nod of her chin letting him know he can touch, and he wraps each of his hands around her ankles and lets them slide all the way up her legs, pushing her skirt up. He places a soft kiss at the band of her underwear - lacy and black to match her dress, - she’s nothing if not thorough - before he slides them off, running his nails along her thighs as she steps out of them. She lifts one of her legs over his shoulder, making sure that the sharp heel of her shoe digs into his back. He gives a gentle lick up the length of her, but when she twines her fingers into his hair and pulls, she makes it clear that she’s not in the mood for slow. He makes her come once with his tongue and again with his fingers before she pulls him to his feet, letting the leg over his shoulder wrap around his hip. 

She takes his lips, letting her taste herself on him as she reaches between them to unzip his pants and pull him from his boxers. She rubs the tip of him against her, letting her swollen wetness coat him, before lining him up and urging him to thrust into her. He intends to give a shallow thrust to make sure that she’s ready, but she doesn’t let him pull out, just keeps pressure on his hips until he bottoms out in her. He pulls back from kissing her, panting, and she tugs on his bottom lip with her teeth as she languidly rolls her lips. 

With a deep groan he realizes that now she’s ready for slow. He grips her hips tightly, careful not to ruin the fabric, but hard enough that he knows there will be marks in the morning. She slides one hand into his hair, tugging lightly as she sets a pace so deep and slow that he feels like he is going to lose his mind, and mixes deep kisses with pants and moans into his mouth as she gets tighter and tighter around him. In the end, as hard as she tries, she always loses control when he’s inside her so the louder she gets, the harder he fucks her. He fucks her until she comes all around him, moving his head away when she tries to kiss him to bury her moans of his name in his mouth, ensuring that should anyone be listening they are fully aware of who is making her feel so good. 

As soon as she finds herself able, she grabs his head and whispers into his ear roughly. “Fuck me until you come.” 

He doesn’t really have a choice at that point and does what she asks, reminded yet again that she’s in control even when she’s out of it.

He likes that she’s unapologetic about what she wants. 

She’s incredibly nice - sometimes too nice - but has no qualms about getting what she wants and deserves. He supposes that’s something she’s had to develop given her chosen career up until now. She wanted to be the best and so she was, but it came at a price. 

The more time they spend together, the more the double standard that before had remained somewhere in his periphery becomes clear. To some extent, he can be himself in public; he needs to maintain some sense of decorum, but if he’s pissed off about a game or a penalty or annoyed at a question he gets asked and he shows it, then it’s okay. It might cause a ripple or a joking callout on TSN, but that’s the extent of it. 

It’s not the same for her. 

She’s always so careful and precise about what she says and how she looks and how she comes off and he realizes that it’s because she has to be. She doesn’t get the leeway that he, or Scott, or any other male athlete gets. 

He’s seen what it takes for her public persona to come off, and he’s watched her throw it right back on, but it’s not until he sees what people start saying about her when news about them dating starts to spread that it really clicks.

It really pisses him off. 

The Saturday after the Blue and White Gala, she’s dozing lightly on his chest as he scrolls aimlessly through his phone when he stumbles on what feels like a barrage of comments about her and them, but mostly her. Ridiculous things like she’s clearly only using him to get back at Scott for getting married or how she’s a golddigger (as if she doesn’t have plenty of her own damn money) or how she’s using him to get attention and positive press (because she has a lack of that?). None of it makes the tiniest bit of sense. She had warned him that people tended to react strongly about her and Scott, particularly when other people entered the picture, but somehow he hadn’t expected this. And it’s only targeted at her, not himself.

He tenses more and more as he scans the words in front of him and before he realizes what he’s doing he’s in the middle of composing a less than polite, thoroughly curse-filled response in defense of her.

He’s so caught up in what he’s doing that he doesn’t notice that she’s made the gentle leap from easy dozing to awareness until her hand comes up and pulls his phone away from him and slides it face down on top of his nightstand.

“But -” he starts and she shakes her head before resting her chin on his chest and looking up at him. She looks strangely peaceful considering what they’ve both just seen. 

“It happens,” she says steadily, with a half-shrug. 

“But it shouldn’t,” he insists. 

“But it does.”

“But it shouldn’t .” 

“But it does .” She shifts up onto her elbow so that she’s looking at him directly. “I appreciate that you want to defend me, but it’s only going to make things worse.” He opens his mouth to respond, but she holds up her hand. “Trust me. Everyone that matters knows what’s really going on, and the rest is just noise.” 

“How do you keep that kind of noise out?” he asks incredulously.

“Practice?” she jokes lightly, but it doesn’t take away the weight on his chest. She can clearly tell, so she continues, “Besides, you do it all the time!”

He scoffs. “No, I don’t. I don’t get this kind of noise.”

“Yes, you do,” she insists.


“Every game you play,” she says. “There are thousands of people yelling at you every time you’re on the ice. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but in the end it’s just noise.” 

“It’s not the same thing,” he replies quietly. “And I don’t think you think it is either. You don’t need to make it okay for me or something. It’s not okay.”

She looks at him thoughtfully for a moment before replying, “You’re right. But this isn’t new for me. It’s a skill I didn’t want to have to learn, but I did and now I can make the good things audible and the bad things noise. Well, for the most part I can, anyway.”

“I hate it,” he replies. 

She lets out a bitter laugh. “Yeah. Me too.” 

He tangles the fingers of his right hand with her left, and rubs them together nervously. He knows that as upset as he is, he really has no idea what this actually feels like for her, and that his anger on her behalf might actually make things harder, but he doesn’t know how to reconcile the desperation to defend her with the peace she’s made with it. 

In the end, she does it for him. She tugs on his hand to get him to look at her and once his eyes meet hers, she says firmly, “I don’t need you to defend me. I can do it myself. And this is how I choose to do it.”

It feels like a revelation and something he should have already known all at once. He also feels something shift inside him; he understands her just a little better, but more than that, his experience of the world has been tilted ever so slightly on its axis. She smiles at him like she knows what he’s thinking and leans up to kiss him quickly. 

“It’s all good, babe,” she says against his lips before sliding out of bed and yanking the sheets off of him. “Now feed me.”

He laughs and gets to his feet, “Yes, ma’am.”

He comes to realize that the noise never really quiets, and in fact has a tendency to get even louder, and sometimes he finds himself seconds from a response, but he stops. He knows that it’s not something she would want, and in the end she’s the one that matters.

He loves her.

It happens quicker than he’d expected it to. Rather than a gradual descent into love, he feels like he tripped and fell over a cliff into it. He knows that he’s there before she is, and that’s okay. 

He’s happy to wait.

He loves her in his bed. 

He loves the way she looks curled up in his sheets. He loves how the pillows always smell slightly of strawberry after she’s been there and how she falls asleep curled tightly into a ball on her side but wakes up on her back, limbs akimbo. He loves that having her in his life makes him use words like ‘akimbo’. 

He loves that her favorite thing to sleep in is her underwear and one of his t-shirts. In fact, he’s pretty sure it’s her favorite because he likes it so much which just ends up making him love it even more. 

He loves that for someone so motivated and unable to stay in one place, she hates getting up early, because he hates it too. 

He loves the rare, lazy morning, where she has nowhere to be and he gets to have her without a deadline. 

One morning when they’ve disappeared to her cottage together, he wakes to her gentle breath against his neck as she sleeps, and rolls to his side to wrap his arms around her, his palms sliding just under her tank top to run lightly across the muscles of her back. He waits until he feels her move, until she wakes, until he knows for sure that she knows what’s happening and is into it before he leans in to place a soft but purposeful kiss to her lips. He feels her hands slide into his hair and pull as she rolls to her back and lets him settle heavily in the cradle of her thighs. 

She rolls her body into him and he rocks down to meet her, her breath hot on his lips before she nips at them lightly. He kisses her deeply as they grind against one another, letting her feel every inch of him as he grows hard against her. He pushes the shirt she’s wearing up over her chest, groaning at the feeling of her soft skin against his. He slides his hands down her sides and grasps the straps of her underwear, hooking them under his fingers and pulling up rather than down, letting the fabric pull tightly against her, spreading her open just enough for it to fit between her lips. She lets out a low moan and he shifts his hips and glances down at her, finding her red and swollen, her wetness soaking the white fabric as she bucks up against it. He moves his eyes greedily back up her body from where the straps are digging into the skin of her hips, over her toned stomach, to her chest, the freckled skin flushed as it heaves with each breath she takes. His gaze shifts past where the t-shirt is bunched deliciously above her breasts, to her face. Her body makes him hard, but her face nearly makes him come. 

Her eyes are hooded, some mixture between shaking off her slumber and desire, just watching him look at her - letting him look at her, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth. Keeping her eyes on his she shifts her legs up, trying to push his boxers down with her toes. He grins at her and relishes the soft smile she bestows upon him, pushing up just enough to shove his boxers off his legs before twisting his fingers back into the straps of her underwear and pulling them tight against her again. He leans forward to let his cock rub against her lightly and she shifts her legs up, hitching them over his hips, opening herself wider. When he realizes it’s so that she can better see him against her, he twitches. 

Purposefully he pushes the head of his cock against her clit through the fabric and fucks against her, and her nails dig into his sides as she rolls her hips to meet him. He teases her slowly, letting the wetness leaking from his tip mix with the growing wetness of her leaking through and around her underwear, and enjoying the whimpers coming from her. 

She slides her hands into his hair and tilts his head back up, kissing him deeply and biting at his lip as he pulls back, making sure he knows that it’s time. He pulls her underwear to the side and they both look back down to watch him disappear into her. He gives a shallow thrust then pulls back out before pushing back in, the sound of her wetness as she takes all of him loud in the quiet of the morning, rivaled only by their heavy breaths. He likes the sight of him splitting her open, but he can tell by her reaction that she likes it even more. 

He waits for a moment until she clenches around him before he pulls back and begins to thrust into her - slow, hard, even thrusts. He tilts his head back up to her face, expecting her to look back at him, but she keeps her eyes on where they’re joined, the intensity of her gaze taking her breath away. He pushes himself up on his hands, shifting his hips so that hers tip up, knowing that it will let her see him inside her even better. 

He proceeds to fuck her - slowly but thoroughly - until she has to look away from his cock inside of her only because she’s coming, her eyes clenched tightly, back bowed against the bed. He lets himself spill inside her as she clenches around him, one hand tangled in her hair, pulling lightly. 

They catch their breath through heavy, languid kisses, and as he shifts to pull out of her, she stops him with her hands on his hips. He looks at her questioningly and she husks, “I wanna see.”

Fuck ,” he groans, bucking into her unintentionally at her words. He knows that the flush in her cheeks is likely from a mixture of both pleasure and embarrassment at her request, so he leans into to kiss her deeply, making sure that she knows how much he wants it too. 

He pulls away from her and together they look down to watch him slide out of her inch by inch, her wetness mixed with his glistening along the length of him. She moans at the sound of him pulling out and he reaches his hand down to keep her spread so that she can see herself, swollen and open from him inside of her. 

She clenches at the sight and it pushes some of his come out of her, and he knows that both of them are tracing its trajectory down her skin. 

When she reaches down to coat her fingers in it and push them inside herself, he lifts his eyes to hers, and finds them as bare as he feels. 

It’s the most intimate moment of his life. 

Until then at least.

He loves that she needs to have flowers in the house at all times. 

He’s pretty sure he’s never been around this many tulips in his life, but she gets anxious when she doesn’t have them. 

The first time she shows up to stay with him, carrying a bouquet of lilies, he jokes that she’s not supposed to bring her own, he’s supposed to get them for her. She laughs and blows it off, distracting him with playful kisses and bad jokes. 

The next time it happens, she tries to do the same thing, but he doesn’t let her. He asks her about it and she tells him what it was like growing up in training, about how she lived in ice rinks, about how nature was a perk that was earned if she’d done well, and about how once she was old enough to realize how fucked up that was, she decided to surround herself with as much nature as she could. 

Sometimes he thinks she’s trying to make up for everything she missed out on. She jokes that she didn’t have a childhood, but he wonders if there’s a part of her that’s really bothered by it. It was an informed choice that she and Scott made together, they knew what they were doing, and he doesn’t think either of them would change it, but he worries that she carries that absence with her. There was no prom, no graduation, and, as has become glaringly obvious with every joke that has fallen flat, no Disney movies curled up on the couch with junk food and nowhere to be. 

He decides that he needs to do something to fix it, however small it might be. After all, they’ve been in isolation for almost two weeks, if that’s not the time he doesn’t know when is.

She’s disappeared into the bedroom on the phone with Jordan, so he knows he has a while to get things ready, and by the time he hears her hanging up, he’s set up an impressive array of snacks, the crown jewel of which is the large bowl of popcorn mixed with three kinds of M&Ms. 

“Tess?” he calls. 


“C’mere. I have something to show you.”

He hears her feet padding against the hardwood of the hallway. When she comes around the corner, he can tell that the smell of popcorn and the sly grin on his face are giving her pause. She stops and narrows her eyes at him, “What did you do?”

“Why do you assume I did something bad?” he asks. 

“Oh I don’t know, maybe it’s because of the time-”

He cuts her off, “I’m not going to change your phone to Mandarin again!”

“Well how am I supposed to know that?” she says. “It took me three d-”

“Just -” he cuts her off as he walks over to her and grabs her hand, tugging her after him into the living room and nudging her to sit on the couch. “I’m being very sweet so just be quiet.”

“This is very sweet?” she says with a laugh. 

Yes ,” he replies. “Stop making it difficult.”

“Right, okay, sorry.” She straightens up and nods as though ready to be serious, but he can see the glint in her eye that tells him she’s seconds away from laughing again. 

“I’ve decided that I’m tired of you not getting pop culture references,” he starts and she bursts into giggles. “Just - hush - it gets sweeter if you’ll let me get to the point. It’s not that I’m tired of you not getting them, it’s that you deserve to get them.”

“Meaning what?” she asks.

“Meaning I’ve signed up for Disney+ and we are starting with The Little Mermaid and going until we’re done.”

The skeptical giggles fade as her face softens into something he’s come to realize is her mind struggling against its automatic assumption that something he is doing is too good to be true. “Disney movies?”

“Yes,” he replies, as he steps forward and tugs lightly at the ends of her hair. “Maybe you didn’t get them then, but I’m making sure you get them now.”

Her eyes are wide and for just a moment he worries that he’s done something wrong, but then she grabs the front of his shirt and pulls him in for a firm kiss. He laughs against her lips and feels her grinning. “So you’re good with that?” he asks as he slides over to drop down next to her on the couch.

She curls into his side and nuzzles into his shoulder. “Yeah, I’m good with that,” she says softly.

He kisses the top of her head and grabs the remote. “All right then. Let’s go under the sea.”

“Dork,” she mutters with a small giggle. 

“Yeah, look who’s talking there, babe.”

He loves that his dog loves her. 

He’d thought about marrying her the first time she met Maggie. The thought had shocked him and he’d pulled himself back quickly. They definitely weren’t there yet and he could already imagine the terrified look in her eyes before she bolted if she knew what he’d been thinking. She was good at bolting. She’d done it after their first real date, after the first time they slept together, and, if he hadn’t woken up and grabbed her wrist softly as she tried to slip out of bed and leave the first time she was staying with him at his place in Toronto, she would have done it then too. 

Trust has been a process with her, but he realized early on that she is more than worth the effort. The more she trusts him, the more she opens up, and the more she opens up, the greater his understanding of why she doesn’t trust people grows. 

Which is why he loves that Maggie trusts her. It shows him that his faith hasn’t been misplaced. 

However, his love becomes reluctant acceptance when his dog essentially becomes her dog whenever she’s around. He knows that Maggie loves him, it’s just that she loves Tessa more. 

“She does not ,” Tessa groans when he mutters it for what is likely the fiftieth time as the dog flings herself into Tessa’s lap and tucks her head under arm, tail wagging wildly. “She loves you more, I’m just new and shiny.”

“Tessa, it’s been nine months. You are no longer new. Or shiny.” 

“I’m pretty shiny,” she says with a grin. He can’t argue with that. 

One morning he wakes to find both her and Maggie gone. 

He sits up and rubs his face roughly, trying to come to consciousness as best as he can before he stands and pads toward the kitchen, hoping but not remotely expecting to find his girlfriend, his dog, and a nice home-cooked meal. 

He’s hoping that at least there’s coffee.  

Just as he is about to round the corner down the hall, he hears the door open and the familiar sound of Maggie’s claws clicking against the tile of the entryway. He pauses and hears the quiet sound of Tessa's heavy breaths, followed by the tinny sound of music being played loudly through headphones. 

The music cuts off, and he hears water being poured into the bowl by the door followed by his dog’s heavy licks as she drinks thirstily. 

Tessa hums slightly and he hears her kick off her shoes and walk into the kitchen. After several more slurps of water, Maggie follows. He steps carefully out of the hallway toward the kitchen, pondering the pros and cons of scaring her this early in the moring, when he hears her voice quietly say, “Good run, huh, Mags?” 

He stops at the sound and smiles. 

Tessa continues, “Now I think we’ve earned a good breakfast what do you say?” There is, of course, no response from the dog, but Tessa doesn’t let that deter her. “I agree. Problem is, the best that I can do for both of us right now is scrambled eggs and toast unless I wake up your dad.” 

He peeks around the counter to see her kneeling on the floor in front of Maggie, talking to her at her level. “So what do you think? Can you handle that?” She puts out her hand and Maggie reaches up to paw at her before rubbing her face on it. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Tessa says with a smile and scratches her behind her ears and under her chin. 

He knows he should probably let her know that he’s watching, but seeing her cook breakfast for herself and his dog while doing a silly dance to whatever song she’s humming is too good to give up so soon. Once the eggs are scrambled and the toast is toasted, she makes her way toward the living room, Maggie at her heels. She drops cross legged to the floor in front of the couch, and leans back into it. She sets one plate of food in her lap and another one in front of her at Maggie’s feet. 

Maggie, well-trained as she is, sits patiently, though her tail is wagging eagerly. 

“Now, what does a dog say before breakfast?” she says and pauses as though waiting for Maggie to speak. “That’s right - ‘bone appetite.’” 

She snickers to herself and he has to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from laughing. She really can be so ridiculous sometimes. “You know,” she adds, “if you understood English I really think you’d support me and my joke. I just know it.”

She nudges the plate of food toward Maggie and says, “Okay, come eat!” and the dog immediately begins to scarf down the small bits of toast and eggs that Tessa has left for her. “Good girl,” Tessa says with a smile, rubbing the dog’s ears before picking up her fork to join her. 

“I see how it is,” he says, finally breaking his silence. 

She doesn’t startle the way he thought she would, but she looks up quickly, her eyes lighting up when she sees him. “Hey,” she says softly.

“Hey,” he responds, moving to step over her and sit behind her on the couch, kissing the top of her head as he does. 

She leans back into him and he rubs his hands up and down her arms. “How’d you sleep?” she asks.

“Fine,” he says. “Until I woke up to find that my girlfriend had dognapped my family’s beloved pet.” 

“I didn’t ‘nap’ anything, she came willingly,” she says. 

“Well yeah, if I knew you were going to make me breakfast, I’d follow you too.”

She looks up at him and grins. “You’d follow me anyway.”

He can’t really deny that, and she knows it. She lifts a forkful of eggs up to him and he lets her feed it to him. “I see now that you’ve been buying her love,” he says as he chews. 

She scoffs. “I haven’t had to buy anything. She loves me as much as you do, and I certainly don’t cook for you.” 

He pauses for a moment to see if she’s going to acknowledge what she said. They’ve said it before, murmured before sleep or during sex, but never out loud in the daylight, and never by her first. He knows that she loves him, he doesn’t doubt it, but hearing her say it to him, clearly and with conviction, that’s something he wouldn’t exactly say no to. 

Almost as if she knows what he’s thinking, she lays her head on his knee and says, “It’s fine, I love her too.”

He huffs out a small laugh. Before he really knew her, he would have assumed she was unaware of the games she’s playing, but now, well, now he knows that she knows exactly what she’s doing. So he tugs on her hair playfully and mutters, “Brat.”

She bites at the inside of his knee before rolling her head back so she can look up at him. “I love you.”

“Oh yeah?” he says. 

“Mm-hmm,” she answers, looking back down at her food like nothing happened. 

“Good to know,” he says. 

She pinches his foot and mutters, “‘I love you too, Tessa.’”

He wraps his arms around her and leans his head on hers. “You already know that I love you. You don’t need me to tell you that.”

“Maybe I do.”

“Well then I love you.”

“Okay,” she says. “Good.” 

“Very good,” he mumbles into her hair.

“Say it again?” she asks. 

“I love you,” he repeats.

“Good,” she replies, nuzzling into his arms. “Just wanted to make sure.”


“Because now I know you won’t leave me when I tell you that I lost my keys.”

He drops his hands. “Tessa, oh my god there is a bowl-

“I broke the bowl okay?” she says with a laugh. “I broke it. It never did anything for me, and I think it was actually working against me.” 

“You’re blaming the bowl now?”

“I’m not blaming it, I’m just suggesting that its intentions may not have been pure,” she says primly. 

“I think it’s intentions were to hold stuff inside it,” he replies. 

“Well then it wasn’t very good at it, now was it?” she says, picking up the plates as she stands. “Right, Mags?”

She walks into the kitchen, the dog following her happily, and all he can do is stare after them. 

God, he loves her.