Trent Crimm (independently) sits at a small table in the corner of the Crown & Anchor, his pen hovering over his notebook. He is just about to scrawl the word that has been eluding him for the past three minutes (rictus) when a group of people walk into the pub. He isn’t normally so easily distracted. If he stopped writing every time a group of people walked into the pub, he would absolutely need to find a new place to work on the book he's writing.
To be fair, this group is more eye-catching than most. There’s a tall woman in impossibly high heels but also a souvenir jersey that is improbably sparkly, a shorter woman in a flannel and jeans, and three men of various heights but all attractive in their own way. Two of the men have their arms wrapped around each others’ waists, and Trent can see rings on their fingers. Several more adorn the hand of the taller man, but they both definitely have gold bands on their left ring fingers.
It doesn’t take his journalistic skills to work out that they are married, though it does cause his heart to skip a beat or two. He can barely admit to himself that there is someone he wants to wrap his arms around, so feeling a pang at seeing a married couple is a bit much. He is very happily divorced, thank you very much. No regrets there, he got his gorgeous daughter out of the deal, after all.
In spite of her shoes, the taller woman skips over to the table next to his, which is barely big enough for the whole party. Trent looks down at his notebook. “Ted,” she calls. He freezes, and can feel the tips of his ears reddening, like he’s some kind of teenager with a crush. (More like a middle-aged man with a crush, he thinks.)
Raising his head slightly, he looks up to see who she’s calling to. Surely it can’t be…
No. It’s not. The wedding ring-less man from their group weaves his way through the tables towards her with a giant smile on his face. “Oh good, you got a table. I’m so hoppy to see that!” The woman groans at that, and Trent tunes them out. Just another American named Ted who also happens to be a fan of puns. Not His Ted sits next to the woman and they whisper to each other, giggling.
Ugh. People in love. One of them being called Ted is just adding insult to injury.
Before long, the group is all squeezed around the table with their drinks in front of them. They seem reasonable, for Americans at least.
So he picks up his beer and sits back in his chair, opening himself up to conversation, if they want to initiate. He’s a writer, after all. He likes to hear people's stories. And now he really does need a distraction, or he’s going to end up moping into his pint, and Mae would notice, and he really doesn’t need that.
When he slides his chair back to go up to the bar to get a refill, it makes a screeching noise across the concrete floor. Everyone at the adjacent table stops talking and looks over at him. He smiles apologetically, and brings his empty glass up to the bar to get a full one. Mae nods at him and indicates he can go sit down and she’ll bring it to him. He gives a quick nod and goes back to his table to wait.
By this point, the group is back to chattering amongst themselves. He sits down and opens his notebook yet again when the tall, dark-haired man leans over to speak to him.
“I have that same notebook at home,” he says, gesturing to the table.
Trent pulls his glasses off and gives what he hopes is a welcoming smile. “Are you a writer?”
The man shakes his head. “No, I use it as a sketchbook and a journal.”
Trent raises an eyebrow. “So you are a writer,” he insists.
The other man shakes his head and chuckles, “I assure you, I am not.” Trent shrugs a shoulder. “David Rose,” he says, his hand on his chest.
“Trent Crimm,” he replies. “Until recently, a journalist with The Independent.” Remembering that he’s talking to someone from another country, he clarifies, “it’s a newspaper.”
David nods. “I know, this isn’t the first time I’ve been here.” Trent tilts his head in acknowledgement and takes a sip of the beer that Mae had placed in front of him.
“So what are you doing in London, then? On holiday?”
David nods and strokes the arm of the man on the other side of him. “This is my husband, Patrick. We’re here on our honeymoon.” Trent looks at the other people at the table pointedly then then back at David, skeptically.
“How romantic,” he deadpans.
David rolls his eyes and scoots his chair back so Patrick can join the conversation. David’s hand moves from his husband’s thigh to the back of his neck after he has moved closer to the conversation.
“Sorry, I missed your name,” Patrick apologizes.
“And I fear I’ve made an assumption about your group,” Trent replies.
David raises an eyebrow at that, and for a moment Trent forgets what he was going to say. And he thought Roy Kent had expressive eyebrows.
“I had you pegged as Americans, but now I can see,” he pauses and tilts his head slightly, “or hear, that is not true at all.”
Patrick chuckles, and David smiles fondly at his husband before turning back to Trent and acknowledging their Canadian roots.
And then their conversation pauses at the commotion as the doors to the pub are flung open and about a dozen more people spill into the bar.
Alexis Rose is bored. Pubs have never been her scene, really, and they’ve just been to a soccer or football game or whatever, and had sat most of the time, and now she is going to be sitting in a chair while Stevie scrolls through her phone and David and Patrick talk to the guy with frankly gorgeous hair over at their end of the table. Ted is, since his return from the Galapagos, happy anywhere as long as he’s with Alexis. She still can’t really believe that they are back together. Again. She is thrilled about that. But she'd be more thrilled if they were anywhere but this dark bar.
When the large group walks in, her eyes light up at the sight of the two women amongst them. One is very tall, and they are both blonde and clearly very good friends. They are in their own world, chattering and laughing and looking far too glamorous for this place, and Alexis knows immediately that she has found her people.
She turns to Ted. “I’m just going to go to go see what’s going on over there.” She points vaguely in the direction of the group. “Why don’t you join this conversation?” she asks, indicating her brothers and the man with the hair. Ted nods and leans in for a quick kiss.
"I might go play pinball. It's been a while. See if I'm still a wizard." He snickers to himself. She hums at him and boops his nose as she stands up and walks over to introduce herself as a fellow girl boss.
As she approaches, their laughter dies down, but the smiles don’t leave their faces. The smaller one greets her with a friendly, “hallo!” Alexis relaxes a bit. She’s good at this, meeting people. David had told her once, in a rare moment of sincerity, that she’d “never met a stranger.” But this is a different country, and she had felt uncharacteristically nervous going up to them.
“Hi, I’m Alexis Rose,” she says, pointing at her ubiquitous initial necklace that sits in the hollow of her neck. “I’m just in town with some friends, and as soon as you walked in, I knew I needed to introduce myself.”
“Keeley Jones,” the shorter one replies, “and this is my best friend Rebecca,” she says, wrapping her arm around the tall and very elegant woman next to her. She looks Alexis up and down, appraisingly. “I love your shoes, and you have the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen, aside from his,” she points her thumb towards the man her brothers are talking to.
Alexis laughs and leans a bit closer to Keeley. “I noticed it too. I’m sure my brother is grilling him for product recommendations as we speak.”
“Oh, is he that gorgeous tall one, or the hot curly haired one?”
Alexis grimaces. “Ew. That’s my brother and his husband you’re talking about. But my brother is one with the eyebrows.”
Rebecca chuckles at that, and Alexis feels delighted that she was right - these are her people. “So what do you do when you’re not visiting us in Richmond, Alexis?” Rebecca asks. A mustachioed man places a glass of champagne gingerly in her hand. She mouths “thank you” at him before he turns and walks away.
“I actually have my own PR firm,” she replies, and immediately feels a stinging slap on her arm.
“Get out!” Keeley screams at her, delighted. “I do too!”
As they trade stories about their respective companies, Rebecca interjects every so often to give accounts of Keeley’s successes, to which Keeley counters with an equally impressive story about Rebecca. Alexis loves seeing their supportive and loving friendship, and makes a mental note to send a postcard to Twyla tomorrow.
As it turns out, Rebecca owns the team, so it isn’t a surprise when the mustachioed man comes back with an armful of champagne flutes, which he distributes to the three women. But this time he sticks around to chat.
“Alexis, this is Ted Lasso, the manager of the team,” Rebecca offers.
“Ted!” Alexis is delighted by the coincidence. “That’s my boyfriend’s name!” She points over to the pinball machine where her Ted is attempting to get his initials on the board. Stevie is nowhere to be seen.
“Cuuuute,” Keeley remarks.
“Oi!” a raspy voiced man comes up behind Keeley and wraps his arms around her. “Who’re you calling cute?”
She rolls her eyes and looks back at him, craning her neck. “That guy over there.” She gestures with her head. He looks over, thoughtfully.
“Fair enough.” He kisses her noisily on the neck and saunters off.
“So, Ms. Alexis, it sounds like you’re from my side of the world,” Ted Not-Mullens observes with a broad smile, and Alexis is so tickled by his unexpected accent that she has to swallow a giggle.
She takes a sip of her champagne and explains, “well, I live in New York now, but my brother and everyone else live in a small town in rural Ontario.” She’s kind of hoping they’ll ask what it was called. She has a feeling this Ted would get a kick out of it. But they don’t, and Not Her Ted excuses himself extremely politely to talk to some other men, and she loses her chance and then Keeley and Rebecca sweep her into a conversation about PR disasters and crow attacks.
“Do I look like I’m joking?”
“Well, we’ve only just met. I really have no idea, David,” Trent says, drily.
Patrick feels like he and David had made a new friend in Trent Crimm. All the way in a small pub on the other side of the world from his home! Maybe he is a little buzzed from the beers. They are big beers.
He loves watching his husband have conversations with other people. When he talks, he uses his hands to punctuate, and when he is listening, well, the expressions that flicker across his face are a show in themselves.
He doesn’t have much to add to the conversation, really, which is kind of surprising since Trent used to be a sports journalist, and David holds very strong opinions when it comes to sports. (Well, really just one, and it’s dislike, unless Patrick is playing and wearing something tight.)
But now he is happy to sit back and let them talk about the town where they live and the people that live there.
“Wait, seriously?” Trent looks over the top of his glasses for effect. “Roland Schitt? No. Mutt Schitt? Absolutely not.”
David nods, gravely. “I couldn’t make this up.” Trent shakes his head, grinning, and takes a sip of his pint.
After a few minutes, Patrick notices that Trent’s attention has wandered from David to a group of people standing near their table. It’s a group of three men, who Patrick assumes are the team’s coaches. They look too old to be players, and they just have that look about them that he recognizes from years of playing sports. One is frowning, with his eyebrows furrowed, one has a beard, and the third man has the kind of thick mustache Patrick associates with Magnum, P.I.
He can’t tell which one of them Trent is looking at - the tallest one, maybe? He does have eyebrows that could compete with his husband’s. The beardy one looks a bit too scruffy to be of interest to the well-groomed man he was sitting with, though Patrick knows he and David appear to some people to be an unlikely couple, so he really shouldn’t judge.
But when Magnum P.I. suddenly looks towards their table, Patrick can see Trent stiffen and then awkwardly raise a hand in greeting.
He’s standing with Beard and Roy, but hell if Ted has any idea what they are talking about. Something about the game, he reckons. But the only thing he cares about at the current moment is sitting at a table across the pub.
He feels a little like he was back in high school, when he’d go to the diner in town on a Friday night after the football game, hoping to see Michelle there. His heart would race the whole way there, he felt like he was going to throw up until he walked through the door and could see for himself if she was there, sitting in a booth with her friends. Not that they’d been at the game, no sir. Michelle didn’t care for sports back then, so it really was hit or miss whether or not he’d see her. But once he laid eyes on her, a calm would come over him.
He didn’t actually make a move on her until the summer after they graduated, but the feeling of that crush, well, a man doesn’t forget that. And he feels it now. And he loves it. He loves coming to the Crown & Anchor after a game, hoping his favorite ex-reporter will be there. Sometimes they’d talk, sometimes Ted was pulled aside by too many people to make his way to the table before Trent left. But the post-game adrenaline, just this side of too much, always drained away when he set eyes on the other man. He felt right just laying eyes on him.
It’s enough, for now. Ted is in uncharted waters.
Tonight Trent seems to be sitting with some friends of his own, ones Ted has never seen before. Trent catches him looking over, and raises his hand in greeting. Ted raises his glass back to acknowledge it, but he can feel the blush heating his cheeks. He hopes it’s dark enough so that no one will notice.
He’s not sure if it’s an invitation to come to the table, but if Trent has friends, Ted wants to meet them. He’ll lap up any morsel of information he can get about the other man.
As he approaches the table, Trent gives him a small smile. The other two men look at him, expectantly. He sees that they are holding hands on the table, a feeling that gives him a funny pang. Envy? Trent catches him looking at the entwined hands, then speaks up to introduce them as David and Patrick from Canada, on their very romantic honeymoon.
"Oh, you must be with the young lady I met a few minutes ago." Ted doesn’t think it’s likely that there is another group of Canadians in the pub, but you never know. But one of the men confirms that it is his sister he’d been speaking to. “Shucks, I wish I’d known y’all were honeymooners, we’d have gotten you some better seats, maybe in one of the fancy boxes or something.”
The man sitting next to Trent (Patrick?) has eyebrows that would put Roy’s to shame, and that’s really saying something. He grimaces at that, and his husband rubs his arm in apology. “Next time, babe.”
“Oh, Patrick, no. There won’t be a next time.” Okay, so that’s David. He looks up at Ted. “No offense.”
“Oh, none taken, not at all,” Ted assures him.
Patrick points to the chair next to Trent and invites Ted to sit with them. Should he? He really wants to. He had developed a theory about the scent of Trent’s shampoo, or maybe cologne, and this was a perfect chance to test it. That’s perfectly normal, right?
He can’t help but notice in the dim light that Trent’s neck is a bit red as he slides into the chair next to him. Trent turns his body to look at him, and gives Ted another smile, butterflies coming to life in his stomach.
Patrick studies the coach’s face. It’s safe enough to do, Ted only has eyes for one person at that table, and it is not him and it isn’t his husband either. (Which is fine with Patrick - facial hair beyond his husband’s occasional scruff really isn’t his thing.)
Patrick feels a jolt of recognition at the look. It’s the look that he used to give David before that fateful birthday. When he was feeling drawn to David but didn’t really understand why. When he just needed to be in his orbit. Patrick feels like he is intruding on a private moment. He and David may as well not even exist, as Trent and Ted fall into an apparently amusing discussion of the offsides rule. And maybe pornography? They’re laughing, in any case, so while they’re distracted, he gets David’s attention by tapping on his phone and raising his eyebrows.
David gets the hint and pulls his own phone out of his pocket.
Patrick puts his phone down on the table and coughs lightly into his fist. The other two men remain oblivious. David rolls his eyes at the terrible acting. Patrick gives him a look that says, “excuse me, I have acted in several local musical theater productions,” while David’s face replies with, “excuse me, I’m Moira Rose’s son,” to which Patrick can only wordlessly respond, “fair enough.”
So this time, David gives a very convincing fake cough, and Ted and Trent immediately look at him, concerned. David gives Patrick a smirk. God, Patrick loves his husband .
Oh right, Patrick is supposed to be taking the lead here.
“So, Coach Lasso,” Patrick begins, and is immediately interrupted by Ted, insisting Patrick calls him by his first name, “Right, um, Ted, I…” Patrick trails off. He does not have a plan. He needs to get another beer. “I’ll be right back.”
Ted and Trent stare at him for a beat, then Ted nods quickly. “Okey dokey, cherry cokey,” and Patrick slides out of his chair, pulling David out of his to come with him to the bar.
“Okay, seriously, what was that?” David asks, exasperated, once they’re out of earshot.
“I didn’t actually have a plan,” Patrick confesses.
“You don’t say!” David rolls his eyes, then gives Patrick a “bless your adorable heart” smile and kisses him on the temple before leading him to the bar so they can get another round of drinks.
Stevie sidles up to the bar, and David stares at her, his eyes narrowed.
“Where have you been?”
She gives a sly grin, her eyes cutting over to where a group of guys are standing. Judging by their shapes, probably not players.
“Turns out being obsessed with a sports team makes a man very appreciative of a woman’s company.”
“British randoms. I approve,” David decides.
They nod at each other, only mentally giving high fives because they would never .
“What are you two up to?” Stevie eyes Patrick, who is picking a full pint glass off the bar. She snatches it out of his hand before he can get his (according to David, clean) mouth on it.
He knows better than to try to get it back, so he immediately turns back to the bar to order another.
Once he has his own beer again, he explains to Stevie what is going on. “Oh hell no,” she mutters. “I’ve had enough of this pining bullshit with the two of you, I am not watching it happen again.”
David looks at her, offended. “Excuse me?”
“Oooh, he’s so cute and hot with his great arms and butt, he’d never like me, so let me invite my friend on our first date!” Stevie mocks.
Patrick chuckles and nods. It never gets old.
“Don’t even start, Brewer,” she snipes. Her voice drops. “Ooh his hair is so great and he’s so hot and his sweaters are so sexy and those rips in his jeans.”
Patrick looks at her, considering. “Okay, yeah. Fine. That is actually what I had been thinking.”
Stevie rolls her eyes. David is delighted.
But before he can tease his husband about any of it, Stevie slams her glass down on the bar and marches over to the table. She pulls out a chair, turns it around, and straddles it, facing the two men at the table.
Patrick and David can’t hear what she’s saying, but she jerks her thumb back towards where her two best friends are standing. Ted and Trent look at them with wide eyes. Her hands are waving about as she tells them, presumably, how David and Patrick had gotten together, and what hard-headed ding-dongs they were in the beginning.
David can see the softening on the two men's faces as she goes on and on. He sees hands on the table inch towards each other. He even thinks he can see two pinkies entwining, but his contacts are kind of dried out by this time of day, so he isn’t one hundred percent sure.
By the time Stevie has stood up from the table, they are turned towards each other, both blushing. Their chairs have magically moved closer together, and they are practically gazing into each others’ eyes. David feels like he is intruding on a very private moment. In the middle of a crowded bar.
Triumphantly, Stevie declares, “my work here is done.”
With that, she plucks her pint glass off the bar where she’d left it, and downs it in one.
It’s closing time, and everyone is filing out of the bar. Ted had ended up talking to one of the coaches for a while about chess, weirdly enough.
“Ugh, no Ted, you have to stop with the puns,” he hears someone groaning, good-naturedly. Wait, what? He hadn’t said anything! It’s a shame, too, he’d thought of a bunch more he could have used tonight. Alexis is walking next to him, her hand in his. She shrugs.
“No more, Ted, please!” another voice pleads.
He turns to the people who are asking this impossible feat of him. “Hey, I barley got to use any of the puns I was saving for tonight,” he argues.
Half a dozen heads swivel towards him. The mustachioed man who is holding the hand of the one with all the hair gives a huge grin and points at Ted with his free hand. “Other Ted, that was a good one, you’re really raising the bar with that,” he says. A collective groan goes up.
Ted chuckles. “I hop you can come up with another one, Ted.”
“Ooowee, that was brew-tiful.”
“No, really, you have to stop.”
“Ale stop, I swear.”