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at the end of the day, i will carry you home

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Thirty-five days after AFC Richmond is relegated, Ted Lasso calls up his favorite chauffeur to ask about scheduling a ride to Heathrow Airport. He doesn't expect Ollie to object so quickly.

“No, Coach, don’t tell me that you’re already going back to America—a lot of the wanker chants are meant to be kind, they really are,” he says, before Ted cuts him off.

“Ollie, don’t worry, I’m not quitting,” Ted says. “Let me reassure you, I will be sticking with Richmond until the day the queen herself pulls me off the pitch—or I am fired, which is always a distinct possibility.”

Ollie’s sigh of relief is audible.

“It’s actually not me who’s traveling at all,” Ted continues. “You see, I’ve got a little boy, Henry, and he’s coming to spend some time with me this summer. We counted out the days together, and I told him that he’d be arriving one month and eight days after that darn Man City game. We’ve got four days to go—I’m not too proud to say I’ve been counting ‘em down—and I figured it would be nice to pick him up in style. If you’re free on Saturday, I would just love it if you could meet him.”

“Absolutely, Coach,” Ollie says. “For you, I would clear my schedule.”

Four days later, and ever a man of his word, Ollie shows up to take Ted to the airport. The car is gleaming, and Ollie shows Ted the sign he brought. “Welcome Young Lasso,” it says, real official-looking, and Ted just knows how special it’ll make Henry feel. Ted’s heart feels like it’s grown three sizes, like it’s about to burst right out of his chest.

He hears Rebecca’s gentle chastisement in the back of his head—Relax, Ted, keep breathing, you’re no good to your son if you stop taking in oxygen—and tries not to think about why he likes it so much when Rebecca calls him by his first name. No more than ten or twelve complex emotions at a time, he tells himself, and today is all about Henry.

The drive to Heathrow goes perfectly, and even Ted gets a chance to ask Ollie some questions he’s been wondering about, like why British people talk about weight in stones. Henry’s flight arrives right on time, and Ted feels like he’s hit a series of lucky branches on an entirely new lucky tree when his son runs into his arms. Ollie steps forward to introduce himself, and Henry beams at Ollie’s celebrity treatment, going back and forth quickly between delight and bashfulness.

It’s everything Ted has been waiting for, and he just about levitates off the ground when Henry practices his best adult manners, giving Ollie a solemn handshake outside Ted’s flat.

“It was very nice to meet you,” Henry tells Ollie, who’s smiling too. “My dad says your family makes wonderful food, but that I can’t eat it, because it’s so spicy that my stomach would explode into a hundred million pieces, or maybe even more.”

“Ah, shucks, Henry,” Ted says, but Ollie brushes Ted off, laughing.

“Your dad is exactly right,” Ollie says. “Boom! That’s precisely what your stomach would do, because you are a small white boy, and maybe a picky eater. But once you’re older, like your dad, you’ll be able to eat anything in the world. He’s got a stomach of steel, you know. You’ve just got to give it some time.”

Ollie leaves, still chuckling, as Ted tries not to think about Henry getting older. Luckily, Henry is ready to assist. “Can we get new kinds of candy, Dad?” he asks. “Can we visit the queen? Does she know that you got relegated? Does she know you’re going to win next time?”

“Let’s take things one at a time,” Ted says, smiling. Before candy, they’ll need to deal with jet lag. The Lasso men do not weather time changes easily. So first, a nap—there will be time enough for everything else, later. Thirty days, to be precise. 720 hours.

Not that Ted is counting.

 

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The first two days of Henry’s visit are just about perfect. Ted takes his son to the London Eye, and the zoo, and even the National Portrait Gallery, where they look at each painting to see if there are any particular mustaches that Henry might want to emulate when he gets a little older.

“I think your mustache is probably the most regular of them all, Dad,” Henry says, and Ted nods thoughtfully. “I appreciate that, son,” Ted says, “but you know what they say—new ideas are like flavors of potato chips. No such thing as too many. It’s always nice to cast a wide net for mustache-related inspiration.”

Henry nods, giggling, and then goes to ask the security guard if there are any trap doors to explore. Ted looks at his watch and realizes it’s almost dinner time. It’s been a great day, but he’s not sure if he wants the whole summer to go quite this fast. Twenty-eight days to go, Ted thinks to himself, before pretending that it hasn’t crossed his mind.

When Henry reports that there are no trap doors available to the general public, Ted scoops him up off the ground, into a hug, so that they can be disappointed together. Ted will not think about the fact that Henry has gotten just a little too tall to be picked up easily. He will not think about how rapidly Henry is growing and changing, every day.

“Don’t worry, Henry,” he says. “We can ask Rebecca about trap doors later—if anyone knows this country’s secrets, it’ll be her, that’s for sure.”

“Can we ask tomorrow, when you take me to work?” Henry asks. Ted lowers his son back down to the ground.

“Absolutely, and you can count on that,” Ted says. “But for now, let’s go home and eat some dinner.”

Dinner is great, smooth as the top of an ice-box pie, and the rest of the evening goes by quickly, as Henry explains all the different ways that robots would be good at soccer and basketball.

“They wouldn’t be any good at hockey, though, because it’s too cold,” he explains to Ted, as Ted assembles the dough that will eventually turn into tomorrow’s biscuits. “When robots get too cold, their wires freeze up.”

Henry tries to stifle a yawn, and fails.

“Well, we might have to think about getting those robots some coats,” Ted says. “But in the meantime, sounds like it’s just about bedtime.”

Henry nods, reluctantly, and heads to the bedroom to change into his pajamas.

“Can I give the biscuits to Rebecca tomorrow?” he shouts from down the hallway.

“Absolutely,” Ted says.

“Can I play out on the field the whole day?”

“You betcha.”

“Even if I have summer math I have to do?”

“Absolutely, partner, and—wait, hang on,” Ted says, but Henry turns on the bathroom sink, putting a temporary end to the conversation.

Ted hadn’t really thought about math worksheets, or any other summer assignments. What’s he been doing, dragging Henry all over the city? Did he even ask about homework? Has he completely forgotten how to parent—is he a bad dad—is he trying to distract Henry with fun and games, to make up for the fact that isn't around during the school year?

The sounds of rushing water in the bathroom come to an abrupt stop, and Henry returns to the kitchen to say goodnight. Ted tries to calm his thoughts, practicing that yoga breathing that Roy shared with Keeley, and Keeley eventually taught the whole team.

“Henry,” he says. “Should you be—are there things you need to take care of, while you’re here, for school?” he asks.

Henry doesn’t seem too concerned.

“It’s just a few worksheets, Dad,” he says. “Not very much. What’s most important is that I want to practice my kicking, and I also want to practice running, so I can get even faster before I go home.”

Ted nods, trying to keep calm, trying to ignore the twisting feeling in his heart that comes with the knowledge that the place his son calls home is an entire continent away.

“Alright, buddy,” he says. “I’ll talk to your mom about it. In the meantime, your main job is to have sweet dreams, okay?.”

“Yes, sir,” Henry says, smiling again.

It’s cute, and everything about Henry is perfect, but Ted’s pretty sure that Henry didn’t say “yes, sir” last summer. Ted’s actually never heard him say it, before, as charming as it is.

He wonders what other phrases Henry's picked up this year, while Ted’s been in Richmond, learning about off-sides and tubes and lifts. While he’s been making biscuits and spending his days with another group of young men, who have families of their own.

Ted thinks of all of them as his boys, if he's being honest. Henry, his first-born, the youngest of them, carries his heart. But Dani still lights up, shines brightest, when he gets to speak in Spanish, and Sam misses Nigerian food every single day.

They're all changing, Ted thinks, every one of them. So is he. Trying to get it right, even thousands of miles away from home.