She knows something is wrong the minute she walks into her office on a Wednesday morning to see Ted, Leslie, and Keeley - who definitely does not have a reason to be in the building - all waiting for her.
“Who died?” She asks, because they all look so somber that someone must be dead or in peril. At those words, Leslie makes a noise like he very well may be the one dying.
“No one’s dead, boss.” Ted says reassuringly, holding out a biscuit box to her. “There’s just been a bit of a… snafu.”
“A snafu?” She raises an eyebrow as she takes the box, moving to sit at her desk, feeling like she needs the familiarity and power that comes with that position.
“It’s kind of a funny story, really.” Ted is always an optimist. Leslie makes another sound like he’s being tortured.
“Look, babes,” Keeley takes over, straightforward and to the point, “remember that game show Higgins booked you and Ted on?”
Rebecca rolls her eyes. “As if I could forget.” She says, but the exasperation she tries for misses the mark, landing squarely in affection instead. She never would have agreed to such a thing if not for Ted’s utter delight at the idea. But he had been so excited and she hadn’t been able to say no. She had pointed out that there were plenty of other people that could go on the show with him, but he’d looked at her with those big brown eyes and said, “yeah, but none of them will be nearly as fun as doing this with you,” and that had been that. Plus, it was for charity and Leslie had assured her it would be good publicity for the team.
“Well, it turns out that Higgins misunderstood the show.”
“Misunderstood how?” She asks suspiciously, taking a bite of biscuit. “Because if it’s some kind of scavenger hunt or obstacle course…” She doesn’t finish that sentence, because the truth of the matter is that if Ted asked her to compete in one of those, she’d probably say yes too.
“Well, you see… it turns out…” Leslie swallows hard while looking at her “theshowisactuallycalledsoulmatesanditsforcouples.” He says the words altogether in a giant rush.
“What the bloody hell did you just say, Leslie?” She frowns.
Ted steps forward to pull her attention. “The show is still about seeing how well we know each other. It’s just that Higgins missed a key detail.”
“The show is called Soulmates .” Keeley says, also stepping forward. “It’s for couples.”
“You thought a show called Soulmates was for fucking friends, Leslie?” She snaps, because it’s all she can manage.
Leslie makes another dying whale noise. “I thought it was Sole… like the bottoms of trainers and Mates… like friends.” He offers vaguely. “People who enjoy sport and are friends.”
Rebecca rolls her eyes but manages to bite back calling Leslie a fucking idiot, only because of Ted’s influence. Instead she straightens her back and takes on her ‘boss’ tone. “Well, obviously you’re going to have to cancel our appearance as Ted and I are not a couple.”
There is silence in the room, save for more noises from Leslie.
“Oh for Christ’s sake, do I need to handle the canceling? It isn’t that difficult!” She leans forward to grab her phone, but Keeley’s hand covers hers.
“Babe, the reason we realized Higgins’ mistake is because the show called to tell us who the other couple competing is.”
And she knows, suddenly, without anyone actually telling her, because of fucking course it would be. It couldn’t be anyone else.
“Rupert and Bex.” She says in disgust.
“Got it in one.” Ted says, trying to be supportive.
“And he knows that Ted and I are the other… couple?”
“More than likely, yes.”
“Shit.” Rebecca rubs her hands over her temples, trying to figure out what to do.
If they cancel now, Rupert will surely find some way to leak it to the press, to make her and Ted look stupid. And the absolute last thing Rebecca wants to do is back down from anything having to do with Rupert. But if they go on the show… well, that’s not really an option is it?
“Look, it isn’t as bad as it seems.” Keeley says, taking a page from Ted’s book.
“Ted and I being booked on a game show for couples, of which we are not one, competing against my ex-husband and his new wife is not as bad as it seems? Because the way I see it, we only have two options and both of them bloody well suck for me.”
Leslie makes yet another noise and it snaps the last bit of Rebecca’s patience. “Out! Get out! Now!” He quickly turns tail and runs. Keeley and Ted, however, remain.
“Look, boss, I know that this isn’t an ideal situation,” Ted says, and she scoffs a laugh, hating that he frowns just a bit at the harshness when she does it, “but I want you to know that I fully support whatever you decide to do. If you don’t want to do the show, no one would blame you.”
“Except Rupert, all over the press.”
“And if you do want to still do the show -”
“You’ll what? Pretend to be my lover? Because everyone would certainly believe that!”
Ted takes her bitchy mood in stride, even as his expression sobers somewhat. “I’ll do whatever it is you need me to do. Coupon for life, remember?” He says with a smile that somehow looks sad. “But right now, I think it’s best if I leave you ladies to talk this over and strategize.”
She watches him walk away with a pain in her chest. “Fuck.”
“I know that this absolutely sucks in your eyes,” Keeley says, once Ted is gone, “and no one blames you for reacting the way you are. But when you think about it, you’re actually pretty lucky, Rebecca.”
Rebecca scoffs again, but Keeley continues, undeterred. “Look, we got the heads-up so yeah, you’re blindsided, but at least it’s now and not on the day of filming. That gives us some time to prepare. And you’ve got someone who is willing to do this with you. And he’s a pretty great someone, isn’t he?”
“The best.” Rebecca whispers, thinking of how you holdin’ up? and you know you may think that you’re the only one who can see who he really is, but you’re not and I believe some folks call it white knightin’ and divorce is hard and our run ins and all the ways Ted has stood with her against Rupert in the past. “But Keeley, you cannot actually be suggesting that Ted and I go on this show and what? Pretend to be a couple?”
“Why not? It’s not like there’s not buzz about you two already.”
“The show asked you to be on because they thought you were a couple and they could get the first public appearance. Your agreeing was basically confirmation.”
“What in god’s name made them think we were a couple?”
Keeley looks at her for a moment, as if trying to decide if she’s being serious or not. “Well, anyone who knows the two of you knows how close you are. And there have been pictures of the two of you in the papers this season and people have been speculating on social media for a while.”
“About Ted and me?” Rebecca is surprised. She knows that there have been various articles about Ted in the paper - some not so kind, but many of them positive about his opening up about his mental health - but she hasn’t seen any mention of her and Ted. And she certainly wasn’t aware of any social media speculation.
“Look, you’re both fit and single and spend lots of time together. Neither of you are dating other people. It’s not that unusual that people would think you’re together. And so far, the reception has been mostly positive.”
Rebecca rubs her hands over her face. “I can’t ask this of Ted.”
“Pretty sure he offered, babes.” Keeley reminds her. “Look, if you want my advice, as a PR boss, I say go on the show with Ted, kick Rupert’s ass, and let the press say what they want. They will no matter what and this way you get the joy of sticking it to Fuckface.”
Rebecca lets out a laugh. “I love you, Keeley.”
“I love you too. Now, you better go find your loverrrrrr.”
She rolls her eyes and moves toward the window to call down to the pitch. “TE-ED! Come up to my office after training!”
“You got it, boss!”
“So?” Ted asks as he settles onto the couch beside her. “What’s the verdict?”
Rebecca takes in a deep breath, letting her head fall to his shoulder in a way that has become second nature to her recently. “It is insane of me to ask this of you, Ted.” She whispers.
“Pretty sure I’m the one who asked you to be on the show in the first place, boss. If anyone is to blame for this mess, it’s me.” Ted counters her argument easily.
She makes a bit of a noise of protest, ready to throw Leslie under the bus where he rightfully belongs, but Ted cuts her off.
“Now, don’t you go tryna blame Higgins. I was the one who jumped on this chance faster than Black Friday shoppers on a discounted toaster oven at Walmart. It’s just that I’ve always wanted to be on a game show, ever since -“
“Your uncle’s neighbor’s cousin was on Press Your Luck when you were nine.” She finishes the thought for him.
Ted looks utterly delighted. “See! With knowledge like that, we’ve got this win in the bag! No Whammys!”
“Wrong show, Ted.” She says with amusement. “And I think Rupert and Bex being our competition is quite the Whammy itself.”
Ted gives a gentle shrug, her head rising and falling with his shoulder. She lets out a low groan. “God, I shouldn’t care! I shouldn’t care what he’ll say or what the press will write. I shouldn’t be dragging you into pretending to be a couple just so that I don’t have to back down from him. I hate that he still has a hold on me, even now.” She looks up at him and he can see the wetness of frustrated tears in her eyes. “Why do I still care, Ted?”
Ted wraps his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer to him. “Whether we like it or not, that man was a part of your life for a long time. And you know just as well as I do that as much as we want to simply move on from the past, that isn’t always as easily said as it is done. It’s a process, to get that hold on us released. But we’re getting there. You’re getting there, Rebecca. And heck, maybe this is what you need to finally be done with him once and for all.”
“I hope you’re right.” She murmurs, her head turned towards his neck, her words spilling on his skin.
“And as for the press, and what they may write, I do believe that a very wise woman said, more than once, fuck the haters.”
She laughs at that. “Yes, she did.”
“Can’t argue with that.” He winks at her. “So, I think that’s what we’re going to do. We’re gonna go on the show, we’re gonna have fun, and whatever happens, whatever the press decides to write, whatever Rupert decides to say, we just say fuck ‘em. I get to be on a game show and you get to trounce Rupert on live TV. Seems like a win-win to me.”
She lets go of the last of the tension she’d held, her body sinking against Ted’s. “You really think we can win?”
Ted just hugs her tighter. “You and me? There ain’t nothin’ we can’t do together.”
They have a strategy meeting with Keeley on Thursday afternoon to get their basic story straight - when they started dating, those sorts of things. It is surprisingly easy to come up with a plausible story about how they had been friends since almost the beginning - from Day 1 if you asked Ted, even knowing what he knows about those early days now - and how after a few failed attempts at dating other people - they both manage to wince only once at that description of their previous relationships - they had found themselves growing closer.
They agree that they’ll say they started officially dating after Ted returned from Kansas that summer and that they’ve been keeping it private for obvious press-related reasons and not for any kind of impropriety on their parts. They also agree that they’ll tell the team after training on Friday to see what their reaction is.
Rebecca is sure that they’ll see right through the charade. Ted is silent on that front, although he does give her a nod of encouragement when she mentions possibly pulling Sam aside and speaking to him privately.
“Right,” Keeley nods once she feels that their story is good, “now, do we need to do any practice?”
“Practice?” Rebecca asks.
“You know, going over possible questions, going over likes, dislikes, that sort of thing.”
“Oh, well -“
“Nope.” Ted says decisively before Rebecca can finish her response.
“Ted,” Keeley and Rebecca say at the same time.
“Ladies, the whole point is for this to be what we organically know about each other. If we start listing all our likes and dislikes, it’s all just gonna get jumbled and make things worse. Plus, it’ll feel like we cheated.”
“Well then, I guess that answers whether or not you want me to see if I can find out the actual questions they’re going to ask.” Keeley frowns just a bit.
“Oh god, do you think Rupert -“
“Hey now. Stop that train of thought right there. We’re going to be fine. We’ve got this.”
Rebecca is sure that Ted, who seems to remember every bit of information he’s ever learned about every single person he’s ever met, will be just fine. It isn’t him and his answers she’s concerned about. He knows her almost too well - better than she knows herself sometimes. But she doesn’t think she can say the same for her own knowledge of Ted, no matter how much he may protest. Knowing one or two folksy anecdotes he’s told her over the years does not equate to the knowledge she should have of a lover. And speaking of that -
“What do we do if they ask us about our sex life?”
Ted chokes on air at that question. Keeley looks completely amused and like she is trying very hard not to laugh out loud.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing they’ll do.” She says, trying to be serious.
“Well, they say that the best lies are rooted in the truth.” Keeley grins. “And from what we’ve heard from Sassy, Ted isn’t a slouch in the bedroom by any measure.”
“Keeley.” Ted says, his face red.
“And Rebecca, you pulled Luca and Sam, and both of them came back for more.”
“Keeley.” Rebecca says, her own face flushing at the reminder.
“And you’re both mad fucking fit, so why wouldn’t you two be going at it like rabbits any chance you get?”
“Keeley!” Ted and Rebecca shout at the same time.
Keeley shrugs with a smirk, looking not the least bit sorry. “What? It’s the truth.”
“If something comes up, we’ll be discreet, as it’s really not anyone’s business.” Ted says. “And if we have to answer, we’ll just be general.”
“Yes.” Rebecca nods. “Good. Moving on.”
“Actually, uh, while we’re on the topic…” Ted’s face goes red again, “I just thought maybe we should talk about PDA.”
“Just, you know, what you are and aren’t comfortable with. I mean, I understand if you want to keep this completely platonic.”
Keeley barks out a laugh at that, which makes Rebecca glare at her.
“Or I didn’t know if you’d want to, for example, hold hands or…”
“I think we should just do what feels natural.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds good.” Ted nods, his head going up and down rapidly. “Only… if we’re going to… I just want to make sure… you know, consent is important and I wouldn’t ever want to do something that would make you uncomfortable so…”
“Ted,” Keeley has managed to calm her laughter and she leans forward and takes his hands, soft, yet serious. “What if we agree to let Rebecca take the lead on what kinds of affection you show? Then you know that she’s comfortable with it and you don’t have to worry. So long as you think you’ll be comfortable too?”
Ted smiles at that, looking relieved. “That sounds perfect, Keels. So long as that’s ok with you, boss?”
Rebecca nods, her expression soft too. “That sounds just fine, Ted.”
“Well, alright then.” Ted claps his hands and then rubs them together. “I think we’re all set!”
Rebecca wishes she was as confident about all of this as Ted.
Rebecca realizes, when Sam walks through her door the next afternoon, that it is the first time they have been alone since they had officially called things off. Since earlier than that, really, as Ted had stayed like the lifeline she’d needed then, to get through hearing Sam’s decision. And it was, without a doubt, the right decision for all of them. But it still strikes her, as he comes in, that since then, they have not been alone together, and honestly, as lovely as he is, she hasn’t exactly missed him as she once thought she might.
“You wanted to see me, Ms. Welton?”
She considers correcting him for a moment, telling him he can call her Rebecca, but realizes that perhaps this is a boundary he’s drawing for himself, and so she merely offers him a smile and gestures for him to take a seat. “Yes, Sam. Coach Lasso is going to be talking to the whole team shortly, but I thought it better if I told you privately first.”
Sam’s brow furrows. “Coach is not leaving us, is he?” He asks in concern.
“No, no, nothing like that. It has nothing to do with the team. It’s more… well… I don’t know if Ted has told you about the game show we are going to be on this weekend - ”
“Ah, yes.” Sam nods in recognition. “Coach is very excited about it. It’s been his dream since he was a boy to be on a game show.”
“Yes,” Rebecca nods, a fond smile stretching across her face. “Well, you see, what no one knows yet is that the game show is called Soulmates .”
There is silence for a moment as those words sink in. Then, before she can say anything else, Sam offers her a genuine smile.
“Congratulations, Rebecca.” He says, standing up and moving to hug her.
“What? But - no, Sam, Ted and I aren’t -“
He pulls back, shaking his head. “It’s ok. I appreciate you wanting to tell me yourself, instead of me finding out with the rest of the team. And while I will always wish that things could have been different between us, I understand now that we both made the right decision. It would not have worked between us in the long run. But I still think you deserve someone wonderful, Rebecca, and I’m glad that you’ve found that in Coach.”
Rebecca just blinks, unable to understand exactly what is happening. “Sam, I -“
“To be honest, it is obvious how you feel about one another. And it has been for some time.” His eyes flit briefly to the spot on the couch that Ted had occupied when he’d come to tell her about staying to open up his restaurant. “I truly am happy for you and I wish you the best, both on the game show and in the rest of your lives together.”
He leans forward to press a soft kiss to her cheek.
“The rest of our -“ Rebecca shakes her head in disbelief. She can’t exactly tell Sam that she and Ted are just pretending to be a couple - not when he’s basically just given his blessing to them. So she closes her mouth and gives him a nod. “Thank you, Sam.”
“Now, I think I’d very much like to be there when Coach tells the others. Shall we?” Sam offers her his arm, and still in a bit of a daze, she takes it.
Ted, Keeley, Roy, Beard, and the boys are all in the locker room when she and Sam enter. He had let go of her just before they entered the room, holding the door for her to go in front of him. She moves to Ted’s side, still not quite able to process Sam’s reaction.
“Everything ok?” Ted asks, his eyes fully on her, concern written across his face.
“Yes.” She nods, the words quiet. “He - he thinks it’s real.” She says.
Ted’s eyebrows lift for a moment, before his face is back to being neutral. “Well then.” He offers her a small smile. “Let’s see what the rest of the boys think.”
“Hey, Coach, you said you wanted to talk to us?”
“I did indeed.” Ted nods, turning his attention back to his players. “I wanted y’all to hear it from us. As you know, Rebecca and I are gonna be on a game show for charity this weekend.”
The boys all let out a cheer at that, happy for their coach.
“And the name of that game show,” Ted continues, once they’ve all calmed down a bit, “is Soulmates. It’s a game show for couples and Rebecca and I -”
He doesn’t get to finish his thought. The entire team erupts in shouts of congratulations and excitement and Rebecca watches as money begins to change hands as well.
“About bloody time!”
“I told you. I told you!”
“Pay up, boyo!”
“Mum and Dad are actually Mum and Dad now!”
“Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” Ted calls, trying to get them to refocus, a smile on his face as he chances a glance over at Rebecca.
“Oi!” Isaac calls out, causing silence to fall over the locker room. “Gaffer.” He locks eyes with Ted before gesturing to Rebecca. “You treat her right, innit? Otherwise, you deal with us.”
All the boys nod and murmur in agreement. Rebecca feels her eyes mist over at those words and the protective nature of the boys.
Ted nods along with them. “I will. I promise all y’all, I will.”
“Hey.” It’s Jamie’s voice that rises above the murmurs then, his eyes locking on Rebecca. “The same goes for you. You treat him right. Or you deal with us.”
Rebecca sees it written all over his face just how serious Jamie is. It makes her heart swell, to watch as the boys all nod along with him, ready and willing to defend their coach just as quickly as they are to defend her.
“I will.” She says, her voice just above a whisper, unable to go any louder for the emotion that is rising up. “I will.”
Ted smiles widely at this, bumping his shoulder against hers gently.
“What were you saying before, Coach?” Dani asks then, looking eager. “About you and Ms. Welton?”
“Oh. I was just gonna tell y’all that the couple we’re competing against are Rupert and Bex.” Ted says to cover up the fact that he was going to admit that they were simply pretending to be a couple and not actually together.
Instantly, the mood in the locker room shifts. Instead of shouts, there are now boos.
“You’re fucking kidding, bruv.”
“You’re gonna absolutely cream ’em, just the way we did to West Ham!”
“Give him what he deserves!”
“Now, now, gentlemen.” Ted calls out, calming them down. “It is just a game show and it is for charity, so we’re going to be good sports - when we win.” He gives them a wink and the cheers go up again.
They manage to mostly steer clear of Rupert and Bex backstage. There is a brief interaction as they somehow all manage to arrive at basically the same time, but Keeley is with Ted and Rebecca - for PR purposes, she keeps saying - and she makes sure things stay quick and civil.
In the few moments of interaction they do have, Ted is his genuine self, asking Bex about Diane and smiling at a picture she pulls up on her phone to show him. Rupert says nothing, just stares at all of them. When Keeley begins to usher them towards their dressing rooms to get ready, that is when Rupert calls out to their backs, “You know, I almost didn’t believe it when they told me you were the other couple competing against us. I just couldn’t see you stooping so low as to having to employ someone to fuck you, Rebecca. But here we are.”
Ted spins on his heels so fast, it nearly knocks her over. A growl escapes his throat and it is only Keeley, wrapping her hand tightly around his arm that stops him from actually reaching Rupert. He could easily break free of her hold, but he won’t, because he respects women and would never hurt one. Unlike Rupert, who does it for sport.
Rebecca moves to his other side, placing her hand on his back and leaning forward, so that she’s whispering into Ted’s ear. “It’s alright. Ignore him. Come on.” She slides her hand down to cover his clenched fist, and is pleased when he releases it to grasp hers. “It’s alright.”
She turns him and leads him down the corridor, towards their dressing rooms. Keeley stays standing, just staring at Rupert. “You watch your fucking mouth, you absolute piece of shit, or the next time, I’ll be the one coming at you, and no one will be able to stop me.”
“Keeley!” Rebecca calls for her and she gives him one last glare before she goes.
She makes it to the dressing room that says ‘Ted & Rebecca’ on the door - and Keeley makes a mental note to take a picture and post it to socials later, once she’s calmed down a bit - to see that Ted is sitting on a small chaise lounge, looking down at the floor. “I’m sorry.”
Rebecca kneels in front of him. “Sorry for defending me?”
“Sorry for making a scene.”
Rebecca’s hand comes up to cup his cheek, just like it had that night in Liverpool. “Oh, darling, that wasn’t a scene. That wasn’t anywhere close to a scene.”
“You were brilliant, Ted.” Keeley assures. “And don’t worry. I put Fuckface on notice for the both of us.”
“Keeley.” Rebecca sighs, but there is gratitude there.
Ted lifts his head up and smiles at Keeley. “Thanks, Keels.”
“You know I’ve got your backs. Always.”
“Hands?” Rebecca asks quietly, still kneeling in front of Ted. He straightens up and shows her his hands, steady and not clenching. “Okay?”
“Okay.” He nods, blowing out a breath.
“Good!” Keeley claps. “Now, let’s get you dressed and ready to go kick Rupert’s ass! Ted, I’ve got a surprise for you.” She motions to a black garment bag hanging on the wall. “Go on.”
Ted helps Rebecca stand before he walks over and unzips the bag to reveal a gorgeous black Tom Ford suit. “Tom Ford!” He exclaims, his eyes lighting up. “Is this really a Tom Ford suit?”
Rebecca smiles at his excitement and mouths ‘thank you’ to Keeley. Keeley grins. “Yep! He agreed to dress you and Rebecca for this. I’ve already cleared it with production. But you’d both better get dressed. Hair and makeup will be here shortly.”
Ted glances around the room, looking slightly embarrassed, before catching sight of a room divider and pulling it out, ducking behind it. Rebecca and Keeley share a fond smile as Rebecca shakes her head. “Thank you,” she whispers, as Keeley motions to her own garment bag.
“Course, babes. Gotta make sure you both look fit, yeah?”
And look fit they do.
Ted lets out a whistle when he sees Rebecca in a long-sleeved midi dress that falls just above her knees and is the exact same color as her biscuit boxes. “Holy smokes, boss. You look incredible.”
“Well,” Rebecca says as her eyes roam over the perfectly tailored black Tom Ford suit, complete with pink tie that perfectly matches her dress, “right back atcha, Coach.”
Ted beams as he comes to stand next to her, looking in the long mirror at the picture they make. “I have to say, I think we make a pretty handsome couple, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Rebecca nods, not even caring as Keeley snaps pictures. “We do.”
They’re waiting in the wings, Keeley having gone to her seat in the audience with quick cheek kisses and well wishes, when Rebecca grabs his hand in hers. It hits her then, just before the hosts - Christopher and Jennifer Heller, a couple themselves - introduce them. They’re actually doing this. They’re about to go on live television and declare to the whole country that they’re a couple, with her ex-husband sitting on the other couch. She has well and truly lost her mind.
Ted gives her hand a squeeze and smiles. “It’s okay. We got this.”
And whether she believes him or not, she doesn’t have time to think on it, because Christopher and Jennifer are introducing them.
“Our first couple are what we could call football royalty as the manager and owner, respectively, of Premier League football club AFC Richmond. Making their first public appearance as a couple, please welcome Ted Lasso and Rebecca Welton!”
They walk out onto the set, hand in hand still, and when they are finally visible to the audience, a wild cheer goes up that is so raucous it can only mean one thing. With wide eyes, Rebecca scans the audience, and sure enough, right there, in a large section in the front center of the audience, sits the entirety of the AFC Richmond football club, not just Keeley. The players, Roy, Beard, Higgins, they’re all there and they’re all cheering like mad.
Ted beams and the hand that Rebecca doesn’t have clasped with Ted’s rises up to her chest to cover her heart as she feels tears prick her eyes. Her whole club - no, their whole club - is here to support them.
Ted makes sure she settles on the couch that has been designated as theirs before he sits down next to her. She leans in close and takes his hand again, still smiling and trying not to cry at the cheers that are still happening from their team.
“Well now,” Christopher is saying, “that is quite the cheering section you’ve got there.” Rebecca is sure a camera is trained on the team as they continue to cheer. She laughs and blows a quick kiss towards the audience as Ted grins and waves.
“That’s our family, right there.” Ted declares, finally making a little motion like he had the day before to calm them down. Rebecca’s heart swells.
“I suppose that answers our question of whether or not they were all aware and approve of your relationship.” Jennifer smiles, which leads to another round of cheers.
“Alright, let’s bring out your competition then, shall we?” Christopher smiles, a wide, fake television smile. Rebecca tightens her grip on Ted’s hand. “In a true Premier League match-up, our second couple consists of the former owner of AFC Richmond - and Rebecca’s ex-husband - the current owner of West Ham United and his lovely new wife, Rupert and Rebecca Mannion.”
There is a smattering of applause from the audience as Rupert and Bex walk out, but the entirety of the Richmond team is stony silent. Rebecca has to bite her tongue, hard, to stop from laughing. Ted leans over and whispers in her ear, “I’m amazed they aren’t booing”, and a small giggle does escape before she can stop it. She turns to hide her face in Ted’s neck for a moment to compose herself.
“Welcome, welcome.” Christopher is saying. “It is such a pleasure to have you both here, and for this, which is quite a match-up, I must say.”
Bex looks uncomfortable, sitting up incredibly straight next to Rupert, trying to smile. Rupert has his teeth bared in what could be a smile, but Rebecca knows better. “It certainly is.”
“Mm, but it almost doesn’t seem fair,” Jennifer’s smile is saccharine, “as your team isn’t here tonight.”
“My team doesn’t concern itself with such frivolities. They’re focused on winning football matches. And besides, this isn’t a competition between teams. It’s between couples.” Rupert remarks.
“You know,” Ted says with his easy charm, “Rupert is right. This ain’t about our teams competing - we’ve already seen how that went once this season.” At this remark, the boys again kick off in shouts and cheers. “This is about us two couples havin’ some fun and raisin’ some money for charity, and I personally cannot wait to get started.”
“Right you are, Ted.” Christopher takes over. “For all those who aren’t familiar with Soulmates , the game consists of two rounds. In each of those rounds, we will ask one half of our couples to respond to five questions in the way they think their partner will respond. The team at the end of the night with the most correct answers are our winners and will take home a lovely prize of twenty-five thousand pounds. Since tonight’s edition of Soulmates is being played for charity, the winning couple will be donating that money to a charity of their choosing. Ted, Rebecca, why don’t you tell us about the charity you’re playing for tonight?”
“Tonight, we’re playing for the Lasso Project,” Rebecca says with a proud smile, “which is a part of the Richmond Foundation that sets out to increase understanding and awareness of mental health in sport, especially in young players.”
The audience cheers loudly at that.
“That’s lovely.” Rupert says. “And speaking of, how are you feeling, Ted? Any nerves about tonight? Live television and all that? Not feeling panicky, are you?”
Rebecca wants to slap that goddamn smug look right off Rupert’s face, but Ted handles the needling beautifully. “Thank you for your concern, Rupert. I appreciate you. But it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be on a game show. And getting to do it with Rebecca by my side? Well, what more could I ask for?”
The audience awws at his response and Rebecca leans over and presses her lips to his cheek gently in return.
“Wonderful. Wonderful.” Jennifer smiles at them, looking more genuine than before. “And Rupert, Rebecca, what about your charity?”
“Bex, please.” Bex says after a slight wince. “And tonight we’re actually playing for For The Children, which is part of the Richmond Foundation.”
“My, my, playing for the other team in a way, hmm?” Christopher says.
“Well, For The Children always meant so much to me when I was the owner of Richmond.” Rupert says, an absolute lie that makes Rebecca’s blood boil. “And when Bex and I think of our own lovely daughter, Diane, we couldn’t think of a better cause than to help children who aren’t as lucky as she is. Besides, the West Ham United Foundation is doing just fine without any help from us.”
“Fabulous. Fabulous.” Jennifer claps her hands. “And on that note, what do you say we start the game? Rebecca, Bex, we’re going to send your partners off with Christopher, while we take a quick commercial break. And when we get back, we will start Round One!”
The audience claps as the show cuts to commercial and Rebecca feels her heart rate speed up. This is the part that scares her, where she makes a complete ass of herself on live television because she gives all the wrong answers and shows just how little she actually knows about Ted, while Rupert condescendingly points out that she’s always been more concerned about herself than others.
Her thoughts are interrupted by a squeeze of her hand and Ted’s lips pressing gently against her temple. “It’s okay. We’ve got this.” He whispers before standing up and following Christopher off set.
“Go, Rebecca!” Keeley shouts from the audience once Ted is gone, while they’re still in that limbo of commercial break, which is quickly followed by a chant of “Welton! Welton! Welton!” that the audience wrangler has to try to quash as they’re about to go back on air. Just as the cameras start rolling, the chant stops and changes to cheers and claps, as though that little pepup was just for her.
“Welcome back to Soulmates , the show where we see just how well our couples really know each other. I’m Jennifer Heller and I’m here with Rebecca Welton and Bex Mannion, about to start Round One where they’ll answer questions about their men, who are currently off with my man, Mr. Christopher Heller, far away from hearing their answers. Ready, ladies?”
Rebecca forces herself to nod and smile and not look at Bex.
“Alright. Our first question is what will your partner say was the first concert they ever attended?”
Rebecca blinks as the question sinks in and then bursts out laughing, because there is no way that the first question Ted ever asked her at Biscuits with the Boss was now the first question she was being asked on Soulmates . Has this all just been a giant prank on her? But no, everyone is looking at her in something that looks like concern, including Jennifer.
“Everything okay, Rebecca?”
“I’m sorry.” She says, quickly bringing her hand up to her mouth. “I just - I’m a little nervous and wasn’t expecting that to be the first question. Sorry.”
“Of course, dear.” Jennifer smiles. “But since it is our first question, do you have an answer for us?”
“I do.” Rebecca nods. “The first concert Ted ever attended was by The Gambler himself, Mr. Kenny Rogers.”
“You sound sure of yourself.”
“I am.” Rebecca smiles, suddenly feeling all the nervousness just disappear. Ted was right. They do have this. She does know him. And even if this is the only answer she knows, she knows it. And the significance of that to Ted will be everything. “Of course, that’s not to be confused with the best concert he ever attended, which was, in fact, the Beastie Boys at something called Hordefest 1995.”
A cheer goes up from the RIchmond crowd, including a rather loud whistle that she’s sure came from Leslie, and Jennifer looks amused.
“Well, sadly we can’t give bonus points for that, but it’s adorable that you know that. Bex, what about you? What was the first concert Rupert ever attended?”
Rebecca does chance a glance over at Bex then, still sitting rigidly, her expression one of utter confusion. “I have no idea.” She admits with a shrug, to which there are a few chuckles from the audience. “I suppose it would be something old… fancy… a symphony?”
“Going with a symphony. Alright. Wonderful. Now for our second question. Bex, why don’t we start with you this time? What was the name of your partner’s first pet?”
Again, Bex looks completely unsure. Rebecca feels just a touch sorry for her, fumbling for answers as she thought she would be. “Oh, um… Rupert isn’t really the pet type. I don’t know that he ever had pets growing up. Although he would’ve had horses, I suppose. Um, I’m sure they had a posh name.” She bites her lip for a moment and then says, “Lord-Admiral Mannion?”
Rebecca has to bite her own lip to stop from laughing at the response, mostly because while it is wrong, it is ridiculously close to the truth about the names of Rupert’s horses.
“Lord-Admiral Mannion.” Jennifer repeats, sounding like she too is trying to hold back laughter. Rebecca finds that she likes this woman, as much as she can like a game show host. “And what about you, Rebecca? Do you know the name of Ted’s first pet?”
“I don’t know if it was his first pet,” she admits, truthfully, “but I do know that he had a dog named Hank that was very dear to him. So I’m going to say Hank.” She doesn’t say that Rupert got a puppy for Christmas when he was six that he named Alfie and then very promptly left to the staff to raise after Alfie chewed up his slippers. The only reason she knows that is because Rupert’s mother had told her the story one Christmas after a few too many glasses of wine.
“Third question, ladies. What would your partner say is the best vacation he’s ever taken? Rebecca, we’ll start with you this time.”
“Oh. Well, I think Ted would say that the best vacation he’s ever taken was when he and Michelle took Henry to Disney World when he was 7.”
“And Michelle and Henry are?” Jennifer asks, and Rebecca starts to rethink her liking.
“Ted’s ex-wife. And his son.”
“Lovely. What about you, Bex? What would Rupert say is the best vacation he’s ever taken?”
This time, Bex seems at least a little more confident when she says, “Our honeymoon. We went to a private island in the Bahamas.”
“Ooh. Fancy. Alright, fourth question… if your partner’s home was on fire and he only had time to save one thing, what would he save? Bex?”
“I think we’d both save the same thing.” Bex says with a smile, finally sounding fully confident in her answer. “Our daughter, Diane.”
The audience, even the Richmond players, awww at that, and Rebecca can’t blame them. She manages not to wince, but mostly because she is trying to figure out what it is that Ted would save. She thinks of Ted’s flat and all the knick-knacks in it. His bobblehead of The Queen that he adores because he says it’s the first gift she ever gave him, even though she’s told him that it had been some intern somewhere who had ordered the gift basket - she had just told them to be sure it said ‘Tim Lasso’ instead of Ted. His Believe sign, taped on the bathroom mirror. The Lego double-decker bus that he and Henry built together. So many pictures and drawings. So many things that Ted would say are irreplaceable. But what one thing would he save?
“Rebecca, what about Ted? What would he save if his house was on fire?”
She’s not sure what makes her say it; the words just come out when Jennifer asks. “His green army men.”
“I beg your pardon?” Jennifer says, looking confused.
“His green army men. They were a gift from Henry, to keep him safe. He would save them.” Rebecca says, with more confidence in that answer than she actually feels after Jennifer’s questioning.
“Green army men. Haven’t heard that one before. Okay. Final question. Let’s get a little more personal, shall we, ladies?” Jennifer wiggles her eyebrows then, in a way that makes the crowd go ‘ooooh’. Rebecca feels her stomach turn, because she knows that this is the sex question. “What is the silliest thing your partner has ever done in an attempt to put you in the mood for love?”
Rebecca breathes out a sigh of relief, because the question isn’t nearly as terrible as it could’ve been. Heck, it involves the word ‘silly’, which is right in the Ted Lasso wheelhouse and which Rebecca is sure Rupert has never been a day in his life. But she still doesn’t know what she’s going to say. And then she thinks of Keeley’s words from her office. They say that the best lies are rooted in the truth.
“Rebecca? What is the silliest thing Ted has ever done in an attempt to put you in the mood for love?”
“Well,” she chuckles softly, “Ted certainly loves his puns.” She hears a murmur from the audience, which she knows is the boys agreeing with her. “But I would say, the silliest thing he’s ever done in an attempt to put me in the mood would be having his players spell out a message to me on the pitch.”
A murmur goes up in the audience then and Jennifer’s eyebrows raise. “Oooh. And what was this sexy message?”
Rebecca smiles and shakes her head, unwilling to answer.
“Alright, that’s fair. But boys, I’ll be checking in with you at the commercial break. Bex, what is the silliest thing Rupert has done to put you in the mood for love?”
Bex offers what Rebecca assumes is supposed to be a sexy look as she says, “Role play.” Rebecca swallows down the bile that is suddenly rising in her throat.
Another murmur goes up in the audience, although Rebecca thinks she can pick out some vaguely disgusted sounds, which make her smile just a bit.
“And that is the end of our questions for Round One!” Jennifer says with a smile. “Now we’ll toss it to commercial break to get those boys back out here and see how well they do. We’ll be right back on Soulmates .”
The audience claps and someone runs over to Rebecca with cards where her answers to the questions have been written out for her, but Rebecca focuses her attention to the area off-stage where Ted had disappeared. She lets out a breath when he appears, walking over to her with a smile.
“Okay?” He asks as he sits down next to her and she slides closer, snuggling into his side a bit, reveling in the feeling of him next to her again.
“Wait until you hear the first question.” She teases with a smile. “I know for sure I got it right.”
“Oh you do, huh?” He grins, but doesn’t have time for anything else, as the break is over.
“Welcome back to Soulmates . The men have rejoined their partners - and it looks like a happy reunion for Rebecca and Ted -” Jennifer grins, looking at them, still cuddled up, whereas Bex and Rupert are still just sitting side by side, their shoulders barely touching, “and they are now ready to see just how well their ladies know them. Gentlemen, we’re going to ask you the same five questions we asked your partners and we’ll see if you can give us answers that match theirs. Alright? Each correct answer will be worth one point. Ted, we’ll start with you. What was the first concert you ever attended?”
At the question, Ted’s eyes light up and he lets out a laugh. “That’s really y’all’s first question?” He sounds utterly delighted.
“You seem just as delighted by this question as Rebecca was. I feel like there’s a story there.” Jennifer says.
Ted glances over at Rebecca with a wide smile. “Would you believe me if I told you that that was the first question I ever asked Rebecca when we were getting to know each other?”
The audience erupts in awws again, and even Jennifer gets in on the action. “So I’m hoping she remembered that my first concert was Kenny Rogers.”
“Rebecca, show Ted your answer.”
Rebecca holds up the first card, ‘Kenny Rogers’ written across it in bold letters. Ted laughs joyously and hugs her.
“One point for Rebecca and Ted. And Ted, while I told her that we couldn’t give any bonus points, Rebecca did tell us that the best concert you ever attended was the Beastie Boys.”
“Hordefest 1995.” Rebecca says proudly as Ted’s head whips over to look at her with complete awe.
“Rupert, what about you? What was the first concert you ever attended?”
“Ah,” Rupert nods, looking superior for all the world to see, “that would be The Beatles at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1965.”
“Bex, what did you say?”
Bex holds up the card that says ‘the symphony’ on it. Disdain flashes across Rupert’s face for just a second before he schools it. “Now, darling, I thought for sure I’d told you the story about me going to see The Beatles. But thank you for thinking I have such refined taste.” He leans over and kisses her gently.
“Alright, question two. Rupert, we’ll start with you. What was the name of your first pet?”
“That would be my dog, Alfie. Got him for Christmas when I was six.” Rupert smiles.
Bex frowns as she holds up her card. “I thought it would be a horse.” She says, ignoring the grimace when Rupert reads the name written on the card.
“No points so far for Bex and Rupert. Ted, what about you? What was the name of your first pet?”
“Oh, well, that would be my dog, Hank.” He says with a smile, remembering the old dog fondly. Rebecca bumps his shoulder as the crowd begins to cheer when she holds up her card with Hank written across it. His smile grows even wider.
“You remembered Hank?” He murmurs. She nods.
“Ted and Rebecca, two for two. Can you go three for three? Ted, what did Rebecca say your favorite vacation was?”
“Oh boy.” Ted claps his hands together. “Do y’all have kids?” He asks Jennifer.
She offers him a smile. “We do. A daughter.”
“Well, then, you know seein’ your kids happy is just the best feelin’ there is. So that’s why my favorite vacation has to be when we took my son Henry to Disney World. Seeing his eyes light up when he hugged Mickey Mouse. Phew. Ain’t no beatin’ it.”
“No, there isn’t.” Jennifer smiles. “And there apparently ain’t no beatin’ you two either. Rebecca?”
Rebecca holds up her card which reads Disney World with Henry. Ted takes it in with a look of wonder on his face. Ignoring their agreement, he tugs her in for a tight hug, even while murmuring in her ear. “I’m sorry, I just - you knew - Rebecca .”
When he pulls back, she moves her hand up to cup his cheek and offers him another smile. The audience erupts in cheers.
“Rupert, what would you say your favorite vacation is?”
“Well, we haven’t gone anywhere with Diane yet, except to away games,” he says, trying to play to the audience that is clearly not with him, “But I’d say my favorite vacation would have to be Bex and I’s honeymoon, of course. Spending time on a gorgeous island, celebrating the fact that this time I got it right. What more could I ask for?”
There is a low rumbling from the Richmond team as they take in his words, the dig at Rebecca so obvious, even as Bex holds up her card to show that they have finally gotten a match. A small amount of applause breaks out.
Ted squeezes Rebecca’s hand and she squeezes back. “It’s okay.” She mouths, and she finds that it is. Sitting here with Ted, looking at her like that, she doesn’t care what Rupert says. The hold he had on her is well and truly releasing.
“Alright, Rupert, let’s see if we can keep your answer streak going with question number four. If your home was on fire and you only had time to save one thing, what would you save?”
“Oh, well, we have so many important pieces. But of course, the most important would have to be the Lichtenstein Nude.”
An actual boo goes up from the crowd at that response, as Bex whips her head to look at Rupert in disgust as she holds up the card with ‘Diane’ written on it. “I thought you’d want to save our daughter.” She hisses.
“Oh, darling, of course I would. Of course I would. I just misunderstood the question.” He says, reaching out and smoothing down Bex’s hair in a manner that is all too familiar to Rebecca. “I thought they meant a possession, darling. Of course I wouldn’t save anything until I knew you and Diane were safe.” He’s on the charm offensive, that’s for sure, and though Bex calms just slightly, the fire still burns in her eyes.
“Ted, what about you?” Christopher says, after looking at Jennifer, who is still just staring at Rupert, fire in her eyes too. She’s back on Rebecca’s liking list for that look.
“Oh.” Ted blinks, shaking his head just a bit. “Well, my son doesn’t live with me, so knowing he’d be safe…” Ted says it like it’s completely natural and not a dig on Rupert, “well then I’d have to say my green army men. They were a gift from him to keep me safe, so I’d probably grab them first.”
Richmond roars again as Rebecca holds up her sign. Ted’s eyes mist over as he takes in those words. “Wow, boss.” He whispers, sounding awed.
“An incredible four for four from Ted and Rebecca. Can they do something that no one in the history of our show has done and make it a perfect round?” Jennifer is bursting with excitement. “Ted, what did Rebecca say is the silliest thing you’ve ever done to get her in the mood for love?”
Ted’s eyebrows raise at that and he glances over at Rebecca, even as he feels his face flush. Rebecca just looks at him, hoping he thinks of Keeley’s words.
“Uh, I don’t like to kiss and tell, Jennifer.” He says, adjusting his tie just a bit. “But, well… I guess I’d say…” he looks over at Rebecca again and then out towards the audience, “I guess I’d say having my boys spell out a message to her?”
And just like they had that day after Rebecca’s “HIIIIIIIIII”, the boys all jump up, cheering and high-fiving. Rebecca doesn’t even need to hold up the card for him to know he’s said the right thing. He laughs at that as he pulls Rebecca back in for another hug. “Well, hot dog!”
“Hot dog indeed. This is a first for Soulmates . A perfect round!” Jennifer looks completely smitten with the whole thing and Christopher has to take over to remind her that they still need to check in with Rupert, who does manage to get this answer correct, although you wouldn’t really know it for the celebrating that Richmond is doing. They toss quickly to commercial, where the audience wrangler has his work cut out for him, and Jennifer does as well, at least in terms of getting Rebecca to leave Ted’s side to come with her.
“That was amazing. You’re amazing!” Ted keeps saying to her. For her part, Rebecca just keeps laughing and shaking her head. “I can’t believe I knew all of that.”
“Rebecca, we really must pull you away from Ted now so that we can finish the game.”
She is sure she gives a little pout and is gratified to see the same pout on Ted’s face as she finally stands up. “You’ve got this.” She assures him, before finally following Jennifer and Bex off camera.
She disappears from Ted’s line of sight just as they come back on the air. “Well, after a history-making first round, we’re here to see if Ted can live up to Rebecca’s standards, or if Rupert will come roaring back. Gentlemen, you know how the game is played. Are you ready for your first question?”
“Absolutely.” Ted grins, rubbing his hands together.
“Ted, we’ll start with you then. Your first question is, if your partner could be any animal, what animal would she be?”
Ted chuckles gleefully as he responds. “Well, Christopher, I’ve got it on pretty good authority that she would be a lion.”
“A lion, huh?” Christopher grins. “Pretty wild beast.” He wiggles his eyebrows.
“Hey now,” Ted says quickly. “Lions are powerful and majestic. That’s why Rebecca is a lion.” A shout goes up from the audience that Ted knows is Keeley.
“Rupert, what about you?”
“Well, unlike my ex-wife, I’d have to say that Bex is a tiger.” He gives his own lecherous look to the camera. Ted clenches his fists once and does a quick round of 4-7-8 breathing, just so he doesn’t do something that would get him in trouble, as Christopher and Rupert laugh together.
“Alright, question number two. Rupert, we’ll start with you. Who is your partner’s celebrity crush?”
Rupert chuckles at that. “Well, that should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Bex’s celebrity crush is me.”
There is more laughing between Christopher and Rupert, a real old boys’ club that makes Ted want to roll his eyes. He also wants to point out that Rupert Mannion is not really a celebrity, but he keeps his mouth shut. He does hear some gagging noises from the crowd that he’s pretty sure belong to Keeley though.
“Ted, what about you? Who would Rebecca’s celebrity crush be?”
Ted ponders that for a second before he smiles. “Well, that would be Daniel Craig,” he says and a cheer goes up from the audience before he adds, “and Rachel Weisz.”
“My, my.” Rupert says. “I always knew that Rebecca could be randy but a woman too? Isn’t that interesting?”
Ted bites down on his tongue for a minute before he says, “I’ve found that those people who are truly secure in their sexuality can admire and desire all beautiful people, regardless of gender. And you gotta admit, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz are two of the hottest people your country has to offer. Can’t say I blame her one bit for wanting to get in on that action. Heck, if I wasn’t so far gone on Diane Sawyer and Matthew McConaughey, I’d be right there with her.”
Richmond erupts at Ted’s proclamation, including a shout of “I’d fuck both of ‘em!” from Jamie that he hopes is too muffled for the mics to pick up. It does make him laugh though.
“You do have a point, Ted.” Christopher nods. “Jennifer herself would probably tell you that Idris Elba would be on my celebrity crush list, and I am not afraid to say it. Too right. Now, for question number three. Ted, what would Rebecca say her comfort food is?”
A wide smile spreads across Ted’s face as he responds instantly with “biscuits.”
Christopher chuckles, as does the audience. “Any particular kind?”
“Homemade shortbread.” Ted says, stopping short of saying that he’s the one who makes them for her. “She loves her biscuits.”
“Yes,” Rupert says, “I can see how much she loves them, based on her outfit today.”
“Fuck off, you bloody cock!” is shouted from the audience along with a deep “sod off, Fuckface!” and a feminine “she’s fucking fit and you know it!” that can be heard over the boos the rest of the team are letting out. Ted thinks that he owes Colin, Roy, and Keeley a hug after this is over.
“You know, Rupert,” Ted says, his voice hard, “that sounds a lot like body shaming to me, which I am not at all about. I’m of the mind that a woman should take pleasure in whatever she pleases, because seeing a woman happy and satisfied, well, that’s the sexiest thing there is. Maybe you never got the chance to see that side of Rebecca, which is a darn shame for you. But getting to see her eyes light up and hear her little noises of pleasure as she eats a biscuit, that’s one of the best parts of my day. And as for her figure, well, I ain’t in the habit of objectifying women, but y’all take a look at her when she walks back out here just absolutely rocking that Tom Ford dress and just try to tell me I ain’t the luckiest son of a gun on this planet.”
The cheers from the audience are nearly deafening and Ted just grins into the camera.
Christopher clears his throat, trying to get back on track. “Well, uh, Rupert, if it’s not biscuits, what would you say Bex’s comfort food is?”
“Salad.” He responds, sounding smug.
“Salad?” Christopher asks, sounding disbelieving. “Not ice cream or crisps or chips or pasta? Or all of the above, if you’re my wife. Salad is her comfort food?”
“Yes. It’s her favorite.”
“Well, alright then.” Christopher says. “Next question goes to you first, Rupert. What is your partner’s go-to karaoke song?”
“Bex doesn’t sing karaoke.” He says, as though the idea is ridiculous and beneath her.
Christopher waits for him to offer up a song choice anyway, but he doesn’t. “So, just to clarify, your answer is that Bex doesn’t sing?”
“Okaaay,” Christopher drawls out, turning to Ted. “Ted, what about Rebecca? Does she sing?”
Ted smiles as he replies, “She sure does. Like an angel. And I don’t know if it’s her go-to song or not, but the last time she did karaoke, she sang Let It Go .”
“Ah.” Christopher nods as the audience cheers again, “A fabulous choice. Alright Ted, it’s time for our final question. Please tell us, if you had to describe Rebecca in one word, what would it be?”
So many words fly through Ted’s head, but none of them seem like the right word. None of them are enough to describe Rebecca and all the things she is to him. Except the one he says. “Everything.”
The entire audience melts at that, all of them oohing and awwing. Rupert looks ready to spit glass, as even Christopher has taken a moment to put his hand on his heart before turning to him. “Rupert, what about you? How would you describe Bex?”
Rupert glances over at Ted before he answers. “Sexy.” There is no awwing from the audience at this response.
“And there we have it, our men’s answers. After this break, we’ll bring back the ladies and see how well they do at matching their mate’s answers. Stay tuned to Soulmates .”
An intern comes over with Ted’s cards after that, and the entirety of the Richmond team begins a chant of “Lasso! Lasso! Lasso!” which Ted enjoys for a few moments until suddenly the chant stops and shifts to a series of wolf whistles and cat calls as Rebecca steps back onto the set.
“She’s fuckin’ fiiiiit!” Keeley shouts and Ted watches as Rebecca’s cheeks flush at the attention as she slips back next to him.
“What on earth is going on?” She asks him.
“Just showin’ you some appreciation. They all mean it in a respectful way, I assure you.”
Rebecca blinks at that, but doesn’t argue. “Everything okay?” She asks, looking down at Ted’s hands. “We could hear the audience a couple times going absolutely bonkers. What happened?”
Ted shows her his hands before reaching over and taking hers in them. “Just Rupert bein’ Rupert.” Ted says. “Don’t worry. It’s okay.”
She wants to say more, to ask more, but they are coming back from commercial break, so she turns her attention back to Jennifer and Christopher.
“Welcome back to Soulmates . Our men have answered their questions and we’re ready to see if Ted and Rebecca can pull off another perfect round or if Rupert and Bex can come from behind to win it all. Ladies, are we ready to answer some questions?”
They both nod and Christopher looks at Bex. “Bex, why don’t we start with you. If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?”
Rebecca’s eyes cut over to Ted at the question, a smile slipping onto her face. She was not like Ted; she didn’t believe in spirits or fate or anything like that. But damn if it didn’t seem like fate was on their side with these questions.
“A bird.” Bex replies and Rebecca tries not to think too much about caged birds and broken wings as Rupert holds up his sign that says ‘tiger’.
Christopher makes no jokes and Bex just looks confused at Rupert’s answer. “Rebecca, what about you?”
She smiles at Ted, as well as looking out to the audience where she knows Keeley is, before replying. “I would be a lion.”
“Well, it looks like Rebecca isn’t the only one who knows her partner. Ted knew you’d say ‘lion’ too!” Christopher says as Ted holds up the card.
“Powerful and majestic.” He says again with a wink at her. She ducks her head for just a moment to hide her smile.
“Alright, Rebecca, let’s keep playing, shall we? We asked Ted to tell us who your celebrity crush is. What do you think he said?”
Rebecca glances over at him, seeing the small impish smile on his face, and she chuckles softly. “I think he would’ve said Daniel Craig… and Rachel Weisz.”
The audience erupts as Ted beams, holding up the sign. He looks so pleased, so proud of her for saying the answer. Rupert never looked at her like that.
“You know,” Christopher is saying to Jennifer, “we had a little discussion about that answer and I told everyone that you’d say my celebrity crush is -”
“Idris Elba,” Jennifer responds with a grin, “full stop.”
“Right you are.” Christopher nods. “Bex, who do you think Rupert said your celebrity crush is?”
“Well, I suppose, if we’re talking about men…” she glances out to the audience for a moment before giving a shrug, “it would be Jamie Tartt. And if it were women, it would be Kate Beckinsale… or Keeley Jones.”
Shouts go up from the audience and Rebecca watches as Rupert has to school his face to not react. She feels Ted lean closer, nuzzling into her hair to whisper into her ear. “Just wait until you see his answer.”
She looks over at him. “No.” She whispers, but Ted just smirks and nods to where Rupert is revealing the card that says ‘me’.
“You’re rich but, you’re not, like, a celebrity.” Bex is saying and Rebecca has to turn her head back toward Ted again to hide her laughter.
“You shouldn’t laugh, R’becca.” He murmurs into her hair, but she hears the laughter in his voice too. “We’ve gotta be good sports.”
And that’s when she realizes - they’ve already won the game. Even if they get everything else wrong and Rupert and Bex get everything else right. She pulls back to look at Ted and sees that he’s looking like a kid in a candy shop. “We won.” She whispers, smiling at him. She feels the same rush she did the day that Ted beat Rupert at darts. She won. With Ted by her side, there’s nothing she can’t do.
Christopher and Jennifer don’t acknowledge the fact that Rupert and Bex cannot win at this point, probably because they have to finish out the game for time anyway, and Rebecca wonders if Rupert has realized he’s lost yet. She doesn’t think he has, and she revels in the feeling of knowing that he’s lost and that he’ll have to play these next few rounds as a loser no matter what.
“Bex, for our third question, we asked Rupert what is your comfort food?”
“Oh, god,” Bex says, her eyes lighting up in hunger, “a giant, juicy cheeseburger with a side of chips. I could eat one right now.”
“Don’t laugh.” Ted whispers and Rebecca glances at him before looking over at Rupert’s card.
“A salad?” Bex’s astonished exclamation speaks for all of them. “My comfort food? Are you kidding?”
Questioning Rupert that way is not, Rebecca knows, the wisest thing for Bex to do, especially not on national television. She will probably regret it and Rebecca frowns just a bit thinking of that, thinking of someone else in the place where she had been, being ridiculed and belittled as she had been. No one deserves that, she thinks, even as Ted’s hand squeezing hers brings her back to the present.
“Darlin’?” He says softly and she realizes that they’ve asked her the question and she’s missed it. But she already knows the answer.
“Biscuits.” She says with a smile.
For some reason, that answer causes an extra loud cheer to go up in the crowd, as Ted shows the sign.
“Homemade?” Jennifer reads. “Do you make yourself the biscuits, Rebecca?”
Rebecca laughs. “God, no! Ted makes them for me.” She turns her gaze on him and offers him another wide smile.
“Ted makes them!” Jennifer exclaims, her hand coming up to smack Christopher across the chest. “I can’t even get you to buy me a pack of biscuits at the store and he makes them for her!”
“I am a very lucky woman.” Rebecca says, making sure that she is looking only at Ted when she says it. He flushes and looks down at those words.
“Well, according to Ted,” Christopher chimes in, “he’s pretty lucky himself.”
Rebecca raises a brow, wondering what that particular comment is about, but she doesn’t have time to find out, because Christopher is asking her the next question. “Alright, time for our fourth question. Rebecca, what did Ted say is your go-to karaoke song?”
She’s still looking at him as she hears the question and her mind instantly goes back to Liverpool. Her hand comes up to cup his cheek without thought and she looks down at her other hand, holding his, just to check. But he is fine, looking at her with nothing short of adoration and maybe a little bit of surprise, but also, she thinks, delight, at her hand on her face.
“The only song Ted has heard me sing at karaoke so far is Let It Go .” She answers and the audience goes wild for her again, just like they had that night in Liverpool.
“Four for four!” Jennifer exclaims. “Could it happen? Could Ted and Rebecca be our first couple ever to sweep every answer?”
“Well now, before we can find out, we’ve gotta find out what Bex’s go-to karaoke song is. Bex?”
“Oh,” she says, like she’s surprised that they’re even still talking to her. She’s realized that they’ve lost. “ Take A Bow , Rihanna.”
Rupert holds up his card, his face red. He is holding his veneer together, but just barely. Rebecca would love to watch it finally crack.
“I didn’t realize you sang karaoke, darling.” His voice is tight.
“Yeah, my mates and I used to all the time before…” her voice trails off. Rebecca feels an ache in her chest, wondering if Bex sees any of those mates anymore, or if she is trapped in an ivory tower now too.
“Well, we’ve reached our final question, and while it won’t give you the win this time, let’s see if you can get one more point anyway, hmm? Bex, what word did Rupert use to describe you?”
Bex doesn’t look at Rupert, just sits up tall with her shoulders back. “The one word I would use to describe myself is ‘mother’,” is what she says.
Rebecca feels the tears gather in her eyes then, as she watches Rupert hold up the word ‘sexy’. Bex got what she never did - the chance to be a mother. But she was still trapped in a marriage with that horrible man. And Rebecca feels her heart break for the girl. Christopher tries to make a joke about a ‘sexy mother’ but it falls short and Jennifer cuts in.
“Well, Ted and Rebecca, you have obviously won tonight’s game of Soulmates , proving that you are, indeed, soulmates, and taking home that money for your charity. But, with this final question, you have the chance to do something that has never before happened in Soulmates history, and that is to get every answer correct. So Rebecca, I have to ask you. What one word would Ted use to describe you?”
She looks at him, thinking of all the words he’s used to describe her in the past, all the ways he has built her up. Strong. Confident. Powerful. What word would he have chosen if he’d only had one? She remembers a text message. ‘Thank you for being so kind. Not just tonight. But thru this whole adventure.’ Thinks of the word that Rupert would never have used and says it, owns it, because Ted believes it about her and so she believes it about herself. “Kind.”
Ted’s face falls at the word and she feels her stomach drop. She prays that one of the other words she considered are on the card. Doesn’t think she can handle seeing the word ‘sexy’ on there, even though she would very much like Ted to use that word to describe her in a different context, away from this game show. But not now, not with Rupert sitting right there, not when they’re in the middle of sticking it to him and proving once and for all that she’s better off without him, that he doesn’t have a hold on her anymore, that she can finally well and truly say ‘fuck the haters’ and mean it because Ted is by her side.
“Sorry, boss.” He breathes as he flips the card up so she can see the word.
Her breath catches in her throat as she stares at it.
“Ted?” She whispers, her eyes flying up to his.
He gives a little shrug. “Couldn’t pick just one word for ya. Not when you’re so much more than that. Not when you’re,” he glances down, wiggling the card just a little bit, “everything to me.”
She surges forward then, grasping both sides of his face and kissing him fiercely. The audience erupts in another frenzy. She vaguely hears Christopher and Jennifer trying to wrap up the show, naming them the winners, the couple with the most matched answers in Soulmates ’ history, but she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about Rupert and Bex sitting ten feet away from them or the entire team in the audience watching them or what the papers will write about them the next day. She only cares about kissing Ted.
He pulls away after a minute, a wide smile on his face. “Wait, wait,” he waves towards Jennifer and Christopher, even though he’s still staring directly at her. “This has been a dream of mine for a long time now,” he says, and she knows he means being on the game show, but the way he’s looking at her still makes her heart skip a beat at those words, “and it is for a great cause. And in honor of that and because I am the luckiest son of a gun on this planet,” here he leans in and steals a quick kiss, “I want Rupert and Bex to know that I’m personally going to be donating ten thousand pounds to For The Children in their honor.”
The audience goes crazy again, Christopher and Jennifer begin talking about how generous Ted is, how wonderful this night has been, but all Rebecca sees is him. She smiles widely, knowing exactly what Ted is doing and why. Another little dig, another way to stick it to Rupert and remind him of all his losses. The sweetest victory, Rebecca realizes, is that she doesn’t even care to look over at Rupert to see his reaction. All she cares about seeing is Ted.
“You’re a cheeky bastard, you know that?” She whispers as she leans in to kiss him again. He smiles against her lips.
“Maybe.” He murmurs against her lips, unwilling to pull away. “But you like it.”
“No.” She says, pulling away to make sure that he’s looking at her. “I don’t like it. I love it.”
“Yeah?” He asks, looking at her in awe again.
He leans in to kiss her again, but production has stopped, Rupert and Bex are slinking off the set, the entirety of the AFC Richmond Football club is chanting loudly back and forth “Welton! Lasso! Welton! Lasso!”, and Keeley is storming the set to get to them.
“Holy fucking shit!” She shouts, throwing herself onto the couch, right in the middle of them, falling on their laps. “That has to be the sexiest thing I have ever witnessed!” She hugs Rebecca first, then Ted, then turns back to Rebecca. “And Rebecca, if you didn’t already want to marry Ted, you’ll want to as soon as you see how he absolutely stuck it to Fuckface multiple times while you were away! It was so fucking brilliant, I’m gonna need to get a copy of the episode to add to my repertoire, if you know what I mean.” She gives them a wink.
Rebecca laughs as Ted goes red at the insinuation. “Uh, thanks Keels.” He mumbles.
Rebecca leans over to look around Keeley at Ted. “You stuck it to Rupert while I was away?”
“Multiple times!” Keeley reminds.
Ted just shrugs. “I just told the truth.”
“Which is that he’s so far fucking gone on you that you need to just admit this is real and get on with it.” Keeley prods. “Because after that showing, you two are the country’s new It Couple for sure!”
Ted leans forward to look at her. “In case I didn’t make it clear earlier,” he smiles, “I would be just fine if this wasn’t pretend. So, what do you say, boss?”
Rebecca looks at him and thinks of how well he knows her. How well he has always known her and how that doesn’t scare her, not even a little bit. “I’d say that it’s already real, Ted.”
Keeley squeals, even as she tumbles off their laps while Ted and Rebecca move together to kiss again. Watching them from her little heap on the floor is just fine with her.