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gave me the blues (and then purple pink skies)

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Ted tapped his fingers on the table anxiously, trying to focus on what Coach Beard was saying. As Beard continued on, explaining the nuances of their upcoming schedule, Roy shot him a dirty look, looking down at his fingers. Ted instantly retracted them from the table, cracking his knuckles one by one. Anything to avoid clenching his fists, anything to detract his brain from the bad feeling that was starting to swirl around inside him.

The coaches had each headed off on their respective summer journeys for the month of June - Ted heading back to spend the month in Kansas and Beard heading off with Jane to explore parts of Asia. Of course, Roy had also gone to Marbella for a few weeks, finally taking a much needed getaway for practically the first time in his life. But now it was August and the trio was trying to grasp the complications of a football schedule during a World Cup year.

Ted’s summer had been exactly what he needed. At this point, Ted considered Richmond his home, but spending a full month with Henry in Kansas still felt like home too. The end of last season had been soul-crushing to Ted despite his best efforts to hide it. Nate’s betrayal had hit Ted harder than he let on to anyone, and Henry (alongside a heaping spoonful of truth soup from Dr. Fieldstone) had seemed to be the remedy. Ted had filled many summer days with trips to the local community pool, wandering the halls of the few museums in Kansas City (leaving him longing for the culture in London), cheering for the Royals at baseball games, backseat coaching at Sporting KC games, and of course supporting their new women’s soccer team, the KC Current.

In the time between their long summer days, the days where Henry was with Michelle or off with friends, Ted spent his time trying to work on his own mental health. 

However, having time off in September was throwing a wrench in his mental health journey. For the first time in as many years as he could remember, Ted wasn’t going to be able to throw himself into work on September 13th. Both American and British football played in September, and for the past twenty years he had been able to rely on games, training sessions, meetings, and general team commitments to distract him on that horrible day.

“Coach, you with us?” Beard called out, snapping Ted out of his reverie. 

“So you’re tellin’ me that a few weeks into the season we take a break?” Ted squinted at the schedule, rubbing his mustache in thought.

“Right, Coach,” Beard nodded, “It’s World Cup year, bay-bay!”

“But ain’t the World Cup normally in the summer?” Ted inquired. Although he didn’t know nearly as much about the sport as he should, given he was a coach in one of the biggest leagues in the world, he had followed both the men’s and women’s US teams for years.

“Generally speaking, yes,” Beard responded, “But with Qatar being the host, they moved the Cup two months to avoid the heat.”

“Makes sense to me,” Ted nodded, “So we don’t have any games in September?”

“Matches,” Beard and Roy answered at the same time. 

Ted leaned back in his chair, nodding back at the duo. Although he knew they wouldn’t have a game on September 13th this year, given that it would fall on a Tuesday, normally the general hullabaloo of the season starting would help keep him distracted from focusing too much on the date.

“Right, right right right, matches,” Ted nodded manically, eyes darting between the two, “And so what do we do during this ‘break’?” 

“Well, coach, I’m planning on going to Qatar,” Beard explained, “But I’d imagine whatever you want to do. A lot of the boys will be gone.”

Ted’s brows furrowed in thought. His head swirling. He could go see Henry, but Henry would be in school and busy. Plus, he didn’t particularly want to spend September 13th in Kansas. He could go with Beard to Qatar, but he wasn’t sure that he was mentally in the place for one of Beard’s trips. He could stay around Richmond, but he worried the lack of structure would cause him to slip into a more negative headspace.

And then it hit him. A place he hadn’t been in thirty one years. Not since July 1991. 

Ocracoke Island.

It physically pained Ted to ask others for what he needed. He knew this about himself. He knew that some would consider it to be a toxic trait. This feeling, this visceral reaction to the potential of inconveniencing anyone, was what fueled his anxiety. It was what led Nate to completely turn on him. It was what caused his panic attacks throughout the past two seasons.

Over the summer, Ted spent time each week working on this with Doctor Fieldstone. Despite her moving away from Richmond, when she heard about what happened with Nate and the press she was more than willing to continue working with Ted virtually. Twice a week, Ted would set his laptop up on his mom’s large back porch and the two would work through more of his traumas and insecurities. 

Sometimes the sessions would leave him feeling invigorated to the point he would go on a three mile run to process his feelings. Sometimes the sessions would leave him feeling so depleted that he would crawl into bed for the rest of the day, no questions asked from his mom or Henry. 

But there was, of course, one person (other than Henry and his mom) who kept him tethered to the ground after these tough sessions. Rebecca.

Ted knew that he and Rebecca had drifted far apart during the second half of the previous season. He felt it each day, the rift growing larger and larger, yet he was powerless to stop it. He could hardly get himself out of bed some days, could barely get himself dressed. He knew that Rebecca was concerned about him and he just couldn’t cope with dragging her into his downward spiral. 

But this summer, Ted’s summer of healing, had also been a summer of healing for their friendship. One rainy afternoon, three days into his summer Kansas trip, Ted sat out on his mom’s screened in porch and dialed her number to apologize for his distance - the first step towards fixing the rift.

From that day on Ted and Rebecca communicated every single day during his time in Kansas. Some days it would be a quick check in text. Some days it would be a selfie he took of himself and Henry. Some days she would Facetime him as she sipped an evening glass of wine, recapping whatever had happened in Richmond that day.

Throughout the texts and calls, Ted and Rebecca found themselves not only back amidst their easy friendship, but maybe even a step further. Neither were willing to say it out loud, but their friendship was slowly shifting, day by day, into something that felt even greater. 

Ted took a steadying breath, knowing he was ready to ask Rebecca for what he needed. 

“Knock, knock,” Ted smiled, waltzing into Rebecca’s office with an air of confidence that he certainly wasn’t feeling inside, “Mornin’ boss.”

Rebecca looked up, matching his smile, “Good morning, Ted.”

Ted silently handed over a pink biscuit box, just as he did every single morning without fail. As always, Rebecca inhaled the scent of vanilla and instantly grabbed a biscuit, taking a large bite. Instead of sitting down across from her like he did most mornings, he stood behind the chair.

“So this international break comin’ up is a pretty long one,” Ted began, cracking his knuckles in an attempt to distract himself from what felt like an inevitable spiral.

“Yes,” Rebecca nodded in agreement, “The International break for the World Cup is always a bit longer than the normal breaks.”

“Well I was just wonderin’ what you were expectin’ from the coaching staff during the break?” Ted asked sheepishly, staring down at his shoes. Suddenly the thought of making eye contact was daunting.

“We are giving the boys who aren’t going on international duty two weeks off,” Rebecca explained, “Sorry I haven’t run this by you yet. That would mean that the coaching staff could theoretically have those same weeks off if need be. Do you have somewhere you need to be?”

Ted took a deep breath, grounding himself. He shook his hands out and looked up at Rebecca, “Well Boss, September is generally a pretty tough month for me personally. And ya see, as far back as I can remember I’ve been coaching games in September. American football is usually just kickin’ off. Here we’ve had games in September. So I’ve been able to take my mind off of personal stuff. But this month we are gonna be off, so I was hopin’ you’d be okay with me leavin’ Richmond for a week.”

Rebecca tried hard to react neutrally, thinking about her own personal anguish deeply rooted in the month of September, “Of course, Ted. Not to be nosey but can I ask where you’re going?

“My uncle owns a beach house in North Carolina. I haven’t been there since I was sixteen, but that house used to mean a whole heck of a lot to me when I was growin’ up and without gettin’ into the whole personal story I think it’s a place i need to make peace with.”

“Well that sounds… lovely,” Rebecca chose her words wisely, unsure of how to approach the obviously sensitive topic. She knew that Ted was in a constant battle with his demons, and she knew that some of them stemmed from his divorce and his anxiety, but she also knew there was more that she didn’t know that he would share with her when he was ready.

“And well this is probably inappropriate,” Ted’s voice was practically shaking with nerves, “I don’t know what you plan to do while the boys are away. I’m sure you got plans. Hell, you could go to that fancy yacht of yours. I know I’m probably the last person you wanna–”

“I’m going to cut you off right there, Ted,” Rebecca said pointedly, “Are you- are you trying to ask me to come with you? To the beach? In America?”

Ted could feel his cheeks turning bright red, he rubbed at his neck, breaking eye contact, “We’ve been gettin’ closer and I just thought that maybe you could use a little break too.”

Rebecca paused, contemplating the offer.  Her heart was fluttering at the prospect of spending time with Ted outside of the club. Hell, outside of the country. The two had gotten so close over the summer, their relationship back to an even better place. It finally felt like they were closing in on the next step, and this was only solidifying the feeling. 

At that moment, she didn’t care about the optics. She didn’t care how it would look for the gaffer and owner to fly across the Atlantic during the World Cup. She only cared about Ted getting to make whatever peace he needed to make with his past. If it were up to her, Ted Lasso would have everything he ever wanted.

“I would love to.”

“So let me get this straight,” Keeley gawked at Rebecca, grabbing a pillow from Rebecca’s bed, hugging it to her chest, “You’re taking your jet to America. With Ted. Ted Lasso. And going to his family’s old beach house? The two of you? Is this a Nicholas Sparks novel?”

Rebecca couldn’t even deny how it looked. Frankly, she didn’t care how it looked. Mainly because internally, her feelings for Ted were so strong that she wanted it to turn out the way it looked. But no one else had to know that.

“I know how it looks,” Rebecca frowned, sifting through her closet in an attempt to find appropriate clothes for the trip, “But it isn’t like that.”

“You don’t sound convinced by your own words,” Keeley rolled her eyes, smiling at her friend, “Babe, you and Ted are inevitable. You know this, right?”

Rebecca paused, a pretty yellow sundress in her hands, “Ted and I drifted apart last season and it hurt. It hurt really badly. And I am just so scared of drifting apart again. Of losing him entirely.”

“Ted loves you, babe,” Keeley patted the spot next to her on the bed in an effort to get Rebecca to sit down next to her, “I am confident about this. And I know you love him, no matter if you won’t admit it. Ted isn’t going to hurt you.”

“The last thing that man needs is someone with my amount of baggage,” Rebecca sighed, “He’s gone through so much, he needs someone easy to be with.”

“Maybe it’s not up to you what he needs. Everyone has baggage, Rebecca. Ted included. Maybe you should let him decide what’s too much for him,” Keeley suggested.

Rebecca paused, soaking in Keeley’s words. She knew she was right. At this point, Rebecca was just making excuses to guard her own heart.

“You’re right,” Rebecca said softly, “Can we drop this?”

Keeley nodded her head in agreement, changing the subject.

“I hope you’ll at least take that yellow dress. It makes you look like ACTUAL sunshine.”

Ted sat aboard Rebecca’s jet, trying his best to keep his body still, but the restlessness he always felt on airplanes was rolling through him. The TV was on, a random movie that he couldn’t even name was playing, but he wasn’t paying an ounce of attention.

He took a moment to take stock of his body, something that he had worked on over the summer with Doctor Fieldstone. 

He first checked in with his hands. Still. Steady. He looked down at his legs. Although he wanted to bounce them, they were also still. He took a moment to analyze the particular brand of anxiety that he was feeling at the moment. It felt like a combination of nervousness and excitement. Nervous to be back at a place that had once meant so much to him. Excitement because he would get to share that special place with Rebecca.

Before he could spend any more time analyzing his emotions, Rebecca stirred from her seat across the aisle where she had been fast asleep, “Watching anything good?”

Ted couldn’t help but notice how soft she looked as she stirred awake. Her nose was scrunched up, her eyes were rapidly blinking to adjust to the light. She was wearing casual clothes, a pair of flowing pants, sneakers, and a sweater. Her hair was pulled back in a casual low ponytail, taking away the sharp edge she sometimes presented in her office.

It took all his self control to not lean over and grab her hand.

“To be honest with ya, I have absolutely no clue what I’m even watchin’,” he shrugged, moving his body so he was facing towards her.

“Did you sleep at all?” she asked, “You are going to be jet lagged.”

“I don’t ever really sleep on planes,” Ted shrugged, “I’m like the energizer bunny from the moment I step aboard, always ready to jump outta my skin.”

Rebecca frowned, her face concerned, “Scoot over.”

Ted obeyed instantly, moving into the seat closer to the window. Rebecca crossed the aisle and sat down next to him.

“Do you trust me?” she asked softly, jade eyes meeting brown.

“Not sure I trust anyone more,” he responded quietly. 

“Put your head on my shoulder,” she commanded. 

Without further thought, Ted gently placed his head on her shoulder, taking a giant breath that he didn’t even know he was holding. Rebecca’s arm snaked around his shoulders and her hand landed on his back. Her hand began circling his back in a comforting motion.

“I know you’re anxious, Ted, but try to sleep,” she whispered in his ear, “We’ll be there soon.”

And for the first time that he could remember, Ted Lasso fell asleep on an airplane, lulled to sleep by the soft, circular motions against his back mixed with the soothing lavender scent of Rebecca Welton’s shampoo.

Every summer from the time Ted was just a baby to the summer he was sixteen, the Lasso family would pack their car, filled to the brim with suitcases, snacks, boogie boards, and all the other beach essentials, and would slowly trek halfway across the country to the coast of North Carolina.  The drive typically would take about two to three days, but Ted’s dad, Robert Lasso, would always make the time pass with ease.

Ocraoke was like heaven on Earth.  Accessible only by ferry, Ted could still remember the rush he would get when they would finally drive the family car on to the large vessel. While many passengers chose to stay in their cars and read or listen to the radio during the ride, Ted always found himself out on the observation deck with his dad, feeling the sea breeze against his cheeks and watching the land roll further away. The two, only occasionally accompanied by his mom, would stay on the observation deck until they saw the first signs of the island ahead.

The island itself was a magical place where time in the summer seemed to stand still. The beach itself was protected, so the majority of the houses sat along the sound. In the center of the town was a large marina where many families and residents kept their boats during the summer. Around the marina sat a small village, complete with shops, a few restaurants, a seafood market, a very small grocery store, and of course Ted’s favorite ice cream shop on the planet. 

Ted could remember summers spent in Ocracoke, one of the most magical places on Earth. Ted would spend weeks traipsing the island with his cousins but so many of his memories were directly tied to his dad. Until this summer, Ted hadn’t been able to face them, but recently the memories had started to feel pleasant again. 

He remembered the summer of 1982, seven years old and still unable to ride a bike without training wheels. Ted was horribly embarrassed by this, seeing as both his cousin Donny, who was his age, and his younger cousin Caroline could ride. Ted was jealous. To this day he could remember the heat rising to his cheeks as his cousins suggested he join them for a ride up and down the quiet street in front of the house. 

Ted’s dad watched the scene unfold in front of him, instantly aware of how his son felt. The next evening when Donny and Caroline’s family went out to dinner by themselves, Ted’s dad grabbed one of the many bikes from the garage and took him out on the street. The two practiced riding for what felt like hours until Ted was, albeit shakily, riding on his own. 

“Thanks for helping me, dad,” a young Ted said, looking up at his dad like he was a superhero.

“That’ll be our little secret, Teddy,” his dad grinned, “You can go riding with them tomorrow.”

He remembered the summer of 1985, ten years old and filled with a sense of independence for the first time. The adults at the beach house had all agreed to let the kids have a little more freedom on the island. Ted’s cousins were more than excited to take their bikes into town to explore, but Ted himself was a little hesitant. The first day that his cousins suggested they bike to the marina, Ted faltered and made up an excuse to stay home. 

Sitting on the porch, kicking his feet, he overheard his dad, “Teddy, buddy, what’s goin’ on?”

“I just don’t wanna go to the stupid marina,” Ted frowned, crossing his arms in a huff, “It’s boring.”

“You love the marina,” his dad gently reminded him, “You wanna tell me what’s really goin’ on?”

“I’m scared,” Ted admitted, throwing his hands in the air, “I feel so silly being scared. Donny and Caroline aren’t scared and Caroline is only eight. I just don’t want something to happen.”

“Teddy,” his dad paused, kneeling down so they were face to face, “There is no shame in being scared of being safe. Your fears aren’t a weakness, your fears are a strength. How about tomorrow you bike to the marina and I’ll follow behind where you can’t see me? That way you can feel some independence but I’ll be right there? It’ll be our little secret.”

“Sounds great, dad,” Ted sniffled, hugging his dad tight.

He remembered the summer of 1989, the first time he and his cousins decided to sneak wine coolers from the “grown-up” fridge downstairs. It was the first time Ted had tried a sip of alcohol, and even though he wasn’t too interested, he so desperately wanted to be cool like his older cousin Donny. The two, who were the two oldest Lasso cousins, grabbed the wine coolers and snuck them down the dock, ready to try the beverages. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t account for the fact that the bottles would need a bottle opener. Before the two could go back to the fridge it was Robert Lasso who caught them. 

Instead of telling the other parents, ensuring the two would be grounded for several days, his dad calmly took the bottles from the boys and put them back in the fridge.

“That’ll be our little secret, boys,” his dad winked at them, “But if it happens again it won’t be a secret anymore.”

“Yes sir,” the two nodded in unison.

It was the summer of 1991 where his dad found him sitting out on the dock and handed him his first beer.

“This’ll be our little secret,” his dad nudged him, sitting down next to him on the dock and clinking his beer to Ted’s, “Figured you’re old enough to have one. Just don’t tell your mama.”

Ted hadn’t been back to the Lasso beach house since the summer of 1991. Of course the family had always invited Ted and his mom, but the two couldn’t bear to face his dad’s family, suddenly feeling like outcasts.

Rebecca and Ted had finally made it onto the island after a long day of traveling. Their plane had landed in Wilmington, a city near the coast of North Carolina, and after clearing customs the two had grabbed a rental car. They drove another hour until they reached the ferry terminal, where they drove onto the ferry and rode for two more hours. The two were exhausted but happy to finally be at their final destination.

Pulling up to the house for the first time in thirty one years, Ted was hit with an unexpected wave of nostalgia that ran right through his core. He visibly shivered, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves. He knew that this trip wouldn’t be easy, he knew that despite his readiness to make peace with the past, that it wouldn’t be short of demons and hard feelings.

The emotion he was feeling at the moment wasn’t anger, it wasn’t sadness, it was melancholy, a longing that he worried would settle into his bones. The last time he pulled up to this house he was in his parents’ old Volvo station wagon, sitting in the backseat in the seat behind his dad, cheering at the sight of the house after the long drive.

As much as that memory hurt, there was something especially settling about Rebecca sitting next to him. As if it was always meant to be this way.

“Welcome to the Lasso Beach House,” Ted smiled softly, looking over at Rebecca and gently squeezing her hand. Rebecca squeezed back, returning the smile but not saying anything.

Swallowing the melancholy feeling down for the moment, Ted opened his car door and stepped out onto the driveway.  Before he could even move to unload their things from the rental SUV, he watched as Rebecca rounded her side of the car, bypassing the open trunk and suddenly enveloped him in her arms.  

“I know this isn’t easy for you,” Rebecca whispered in his ear, still holding him, “Please let me know what you need this week. And please don’t feel like you have to hide away your feelings on my account.” 

Ted nodded against her hair, trying his damndest not to let any tears slip. Ted took a deep breath, straightened up, and reluctantly let go of Rebecca’s grip.

“Tomorrow mornin’ we can go into town and pick up some provisions,” Ted suggested, heading around the back of the car to grab both of their bags, “My uncle told me that there’s a great new bakery and coffee shop that we can walk to. For now, why don’t we get our bags up to the house and I’ll give ya the grand tour.”

Yawning, Rebecca smiled, “Sounds great, Ted.”

Rebecca and Ted made their way up the outdoor stairs which led to the front door. The house itself was on stilts, a precaution due to the proximity to the ocean and the likelihood of hurricanes during the late summer and fall. 

Ted took a moment to grab his phone and check for the code his uncle had sent him, which opened up a box containing two keys to the house. Once he unlocked the door, the two stepped inside to the large living area. 

“Our humble abode,” Ted smiled as he walked further into the living area, setting their bags down, “They sure have spruced this place up since I’ve been here.”

The beach house was a quintessential east coast vacation home practically pulled out of a brochure. The large living area featured a giant couch with a chaise lounge on the end. Next to the couch on either side was an overstuffed armchair and a rocking chair with an old blanket folded over it. The coffee table was glass, filled with different shells. A large TV was mounted on the wall and was surrounded by built-in bookshelves stuffed to the brim with a large collection of both paperback books and board games.

The kitchen looked newly updated. It featured all stainless steel appliances and a large kitchen island, complete with padded barstools. There was a large kitchen table with room to seat at least eight people. The kitchen sink overlooked the ocean.

Downstairs there were two bedrooms, which Ted and Rebecca chose to use instead of messing up the upstairs. The master bedroom had a large king-sized bed and a giant bay window that overlooked the ocean. The bathroom had a large soaking tub, dual sinks, and a large shower. Ted dropped Rebecca’s bag on the bed before she could debate their sleeping arrangements.

Ted quickly dropped his bag in the other downstairs bedroom, a serviceable room with a queen sized bed and attached bathroom.

“I gotta show ya the best part of this house,” Ted smiled as he watched Rebecca take everything in, “Come out here.”

Ted led Rebecca through a door towards the back of the living room, which first led out to a beautiful screened in porch. The screened in porch had a lovely outdoor couch and two matching chairs with string lights hanging all around. Through the screened in porch, Ted led them out onto a massive wrap-around deck. The deck had a porch swing, an eclectic variety of rocking chairs, two chaise lounges, and a bench. There was a set of stairs that led down to a sandy path to the beach.

“I don’t know what I expected when you told me we were coming here,” Rebecca laughed, “But I think I expected it to be more rustic. This house is beautiful.”

“It sure is,” Ted whistled, “They basically completely redid the whole thing since I was here last.  It’s the same, but different.”

The two stood on the porch for a minute in silence, taking in the ocean views. The sun had already set leaving a purplish haze behind as the stars began to come out.

“I wanna say somethin’,” Ted began, taking in the late evening sky instead of making eye contact, “Well, I wanna thank you. Thank you for comin’ with me. I know that wasn’t an easy trip but havin’ you here just- it just means the world to me Rebecca.”

Rebecca smiled softly, even a little sadly, and placed a hand on his shoulder, “I just like to see you happy. If coming here and making peace with the past is going to contribute to your happiness, if having me here is going to help- well of course I’m going to do it.”

Without saying anything else, Ted reached his hand up to where her hand was resting on his shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze.

Sun streamed into Ted’s bedroom in the morning, slowly waking him from his slumber. For a moment, still in his sleep-induced haze, Ted couldn’t remember where he was. It didn’t take long for him to remember that he was finally back at the beach house. 

Sitting up slowly, Ted could hear the faint sound of crashing waves in the distance. He had fallen asleep with the window open, a tradition for him at the beach house, and he could feel the gentle breeze from outside. Although it was only September, a time of year that was generally still quite hot in North Carolina, there was a chill in the air that morning. 

Peeling himself out from under the covers, Ted quickly completed his morning routine in the bathroom. Instead of changing into his regular clothes, he opted to throw on a pair of gray joggers, the slippers he had brought with him, and a Richmond hoodie, part of their new Nike collection that he was excited about.

Padding out of his room, Ted instantly noticed Rebecca sitting on the back deck, curled up on the double porch swing. His heart stuttered as he noticed that she was in his tie-dye hoodie that he had left on the couch the night before.

He quietly walked out onto the porch, moving behind Rebecca, placing his hands on either side of the swing to still the rocking motion. Rebecca looked over her shoulder and smiled that painfully soft smile in his direction.

“Mornin’ Becca,” he smiled back, his voice gravelly with sleep, “How’d ya sleep?”

“Perfectly,” she responded as he sat down next to her on the swing, gently nudging her so that he had space. Without thinking, she curled her body against his. He seemed to relax as her head fell to his shoulder, no words between them for a few moments, both of them taking in the ocean views.

In Richmond, Ted and Rebecca had walls up all around them. Walls to protect themselves from the press, walls to protect themselves from the nosy neighbors, walls to protect their hearts from each other. Somehow, this neutral ground on the other side of the Atlantic seemed to take away all of their walls. All of their armor. From the moment the jet touched down on North Carolina soil, Rebecca had been physically drawn to Ted like a magnet. 

“What do ya say to walkin’ down the road and findin’ us some coffee and breakfast?” Ted suggested, wrapping his arm around Rebecca’s shoulder, “I’d love for you to see a little bit more of the island in the daylight.”

“Well as long as they serve tea I think it’s a perfect idea,” Rebecca responded, nuzzling further into Ted’s touch. Personal space be damned. 

“I’m gonna go throw on a pair of sneakers and then I’ll be ready to roll,” Ted explained, pulling his arm away from Rebecca.

Ted sighed softly as he walked back into the house, still feeling warmth where Rebecca had laid her head on him. He knew that comfort would last him the rest of the day.

To Ted, Ocracoke Island always felt a little bit like the end of the Earth in the best possible way. Completely isolated from the rest of the state, Ocracoke sat at the southernmost point of the Outer Banks, an expansive stretch of barrier islands off the coast. On one side, it bordered the Pamlico Sound with its calm, shallow waters and abundance of wildlife. On the other side it bordered the Atlantic Ocean with its large, crashing waves and deep blue waters.

The middle of the island was filled with large, overgrown trees surrounding beach cottages, seafood restaurants, ice-cream shacks, and a variety of eclectic shops selling anything from t-shirts to crystals. 

There was also a harbor in the middle of town where both yachts, sailboats, and fishing vessels existed in some sort of symbiosis. As a kid, Ted could remember sitting on the public dock, a dripping ice cream cone in hand, watching the boats with his dad. 

As the pair made their way down the front stairs of the house, Ted took stock of the island with more daylight. Although he hadn’t been here in over thirty years, things on the outside hadn’t changed much. The dirt walking path that led to town had been paved in an effort to make it easier for cyclists. The trees around the house were more overgrown, although some were missing due to years of hurricane damage. 

He knew that over the years the island would have changed significantly, so he had done his research before leaving. This morning, he chose a coffee shop overlooking the marina. The walk was about ten minutes from the house, allowing both of them to stretch their legs after barely any movement the day before.

Ted glanced over at Rebecca, who was walking on his left. Her hair flowed down naturally, brushing her shoulders. She still wore his worn out tie-dye hoodie and a pair of leggings. She didn’t seem to be wearing any makeup and looked more relaxed than he had maybe ever seen her.

“Beautiful,” Ted muttered, the word slipping out of his mouth without permission. His face instantly flushed.

“What’s beautiful?” Rebecca asked, the slightest smirk on her face as if she knew exactly what he was talking about.

“The island,” Ted recovered quickly, smirking back, “Such a beautiful island.”

The two walked in an amiable silence, their pace a slow meander, occasionally bumping shoulders, fingers grazing.

After about ten minutes, the two reached their destination: Island Coffee Company. The building was nestled in the greenery but still overlooked the marina. There was a large deck with various types of seats where a few people were sitting, enjoying their breakfast.

Ted stepped ahead of Rebecca, holding the door open, “After you.”

The two stepped into the shop and were instantly inundated with the smell of coffee and cinnamon whirling around in the air. The shop itself was quaint, with mismatched tables, dim lights, and kitschy artwork on the walls.

“Good morning!” an older woman greeted them from behind the counter, “What can I get for you?”

Rebecca and Ted took a moment to browse the case filled with decadent looking pastries and breakfast items. 

“I’ll take a hot tea, English Breakfast if you have it, and a cinnamon roll,” Rebecca told the woman.

“Not from around here, huh?” The lady smiled, grabbing a mug from the shelf, “Can I ask where you’re from?”

“We’re from London,” Rebecca responded politely, “Richmond, more precisely.”

“Can I please get an iced mocha latte and a chocolate croissant?” Ted asked, his accent clearly confusing the woman.

“And you’re also from London?” she laughed, grabbing their pastries from the case.

“I am now,” he answered with a shrug, taking the snack from her as she handed it over, “Originally from Kansas.”

Rebecca felt a little twinge in her stomach at his words. At his referring to Richmond as his home. She smiled to herself, thinking about the implications of his statement.

After enjoying their coffee and pastries while chatting about the team, the island, and any gossip back at home, the two wound their way through the town, lazily strolling through the marina area, observing the boats and shops. They stopped at the market to grab some basic groceries for the house as well.

“What do you wanna do today, Rebecca?” Ted asked. Rebecca took note of the way he didn’t use the term ‘boss’. 

Somehow, being on the other side of the Atlantic from Richmond, it felt like they could be two completely different people. Not two people who worked together to run a professional sports team. Not Ms. Welton and Coach Lasso, two public figures constantly dodging the press, meeting specific expectations. Just Ted and Rebecca.

“What if we go back and just take a walk on the beach?” she suggested, noting the blue skies and warm sun, “Get rid of our jet lag while enjoying the sun?”

Ted gulped, picturing Rebecca on the beach. Pushing those intrusive thoughts deep down in his belly he responded, “Sounds perfect to me.”

Later that day, after finally making their way back to the house, Ted and Rebecca found themselves walking barefoot along the beach at low tide, shoes long left behind, searching the shoreline for shells and shark teeth.  The waves were exceptionally calm, gently rolling to the shore instead of crashing.

No words were needed between them. When Ted was alone with Rebecca, he never felt the need to fill the silence. Ted’s talkative nature, his storytelling and his anecdotes, often came from a place of his inherent fear of the silence. Silence meant that the internal noise of his anxiety could grow louder. He found that with Rebecca that the silence was just that, silent. Quiet. Peaceful.

“Do you wanna maybe sit down for a second?” Ted suggested, taking a deep breath. He knew that on this trip he wanted to finally tell Rebecca about his dad. He had hardly opened up to anyone in his life about what happened, but with her he knew that he was safe. 

“Sure,” she responded easily, taking a seat in the sand where her feet could still touch the water, “It really is beautiful here, Ted.”

And, well, something about Rebecca acknowledging the beauty of one of his favorite places made shivers run through his body. Ted took a seat next to her, close enough where he could reach out and touch her but far enough to put a little space between them.

“I wanted to-” Ted paused, staring out at the ocean, running his hands through the sand to ground himself, “I wanted to tell ya about my dad.”

Rebecca took an audibly deep breath next to him, grabbing his hand, giving it a quick squeeze before releasing it. The quick squeeze was exactly what he needed to carry on with his story. Her slight touch was like a safe haven. 

“I already told you that my dad died when I was sixteen, but I haven’t told you the whole story,” Ted began, “Quite frankly I’ve barely told anyone the whole story. Other than family you’re the third person I’ve told. Just Beard and Doc.”

Rebecca nodded softly, not wanting to say anything but taking note that he didn’t name Michelle. 

“It was Friday the thirteenth, and I had just gotten home from school. I was plannin’ on going over to a buddy’s house to watch the Jason movies, as one does,” Ted chuckled sadly, staring up at the sky. 

“I was in my room gatherin’ up the movies when I heard the loudest sound I’ve ever heard in my life come from downstairs. I thought somethin’ exploded so I ran downstairs to see what it was. I checked the kitchen first thinkin’ maybe it was a kitchen appliance but I couldn’t find anything. I checked the living room, my parents room and then ran into my dad’s den…” Ted felt Rebecca’s hand slip into his again. This time she didn’t let go.

“My memory gets blurry from this point on but the one thing I can remember is how much blood there was,” Ted shuddered a bit, “One bullet hole sure produces a lot of blood.”

The two sat in silence for a moment, Ted gripping onto Rebecca’s hand for dear life. Rebecca didn’t dare move from her spot, her heart racing as he told the story. 

“He shot himself. Right there in his den. I didn’t even know he was home and I like to think he didn’t know I was home either. I can’t really remember the moments after but I do know I grabbed a beer from the fridge, called my mom, and then called 9-1-1. He didn’t even leave a note.”

Ted took a moment to take stock of his body. He was shocked to find that his free hand was still steady. His heartbeat was normal. A few errant tears had slipped down his cheeks but he was surprisingly calm, all things considered. 

“Ted,” Rebecca started, not really knowing what to say, “Oh, Ted. I am so deeply, deeply sorry.” 

Rebecca desperately tried to keep her own emotions at bay, feeling her stomach turn. Rebecca had met many wonderful people in her life, but none quite matched Ted Lasso. Her heart cracked at the thought of a young Ted running into that room only to have his world completely altered forever.

“I can count on one hand how many people know that story,” Ted sighed, “Not even Michelle knows that story.” 

Rebecca couldn’t stop herself. Without a warning she pulled Ted closer to her, grabbing his head with her hand and cradling it against her chest. 

Ted’s voice was muffled against her chest, “And well that’s why this week is so hard for me.”

It didn’t take long for the pang of realization to hit Rebecca. He had said Friday the thirteenth. He had also said that this week was difficult. 

September 13th. 

“Can I ask a question?” Rebecca gently prodded, trying to not get emotional, “What year did this happen?”

Ted sniffled a little, looking up to meet her eyes, “1991.”

Rebecca drew in a sharp breath. She couldn’t help it. What were the chances that both of their lives unraveled on the same day of the same year?

“You know, Ted, I’m not going to take away from your story and your feelings whatsoever,” Rebecca began, now gently scratched Ted’s scalp, his head still against her chest, “And it’s a story for another time, but September 13th is also a really tough day for me too. And every year I dread it. That’s part of why I wanted to come here with you. To escape.”

“And what was the other reason?” Ted questioned, turning his head so their eyes could meet. 

“You,” she shrugged, simply, “There isn’t really anyone else I would want to escape reality with.” 

The two sat silently for a moment, the heaviness of Ted’s confession seeping over them like a blanket. 

“You make me feel so safe,” Ted whispered, still nuzzled against her chest, “I have worried for years about tellin’ people that story. Worried that they’d pity me or somethin’. But with you? With you I knew that you’d still look at me the same.”

“You’ve made me feel safe and seen since the day you first strolled in my office,” Rebecca admitted, “Even while I was trying to sabotage you and the team, you still meant everything to me.”

“The reason I told ya about my dad today was that i’ve been tryin’ to let go of the anger I’ve felt towards him,” Ted explained, finally sitting up, “I’ve been so angry for so long that it isn’t healthy. I have so many great memories with my dad here and I stopped comin’ once he died. I wanted to come back and see if I could reclaim some of the memories and make a few new ones.”

“I have an idea,” Rebecca said shyly, “Tomorrow is September 13th. I know it’s a sad day for you, for both of us really. Why don’t we try to reclaim it? It doesn’t mean we can’t be sad, it just means that maybe we can try to make some new memories together? Maybe do something that honors your dad’s memory?”

Ted felt tears start to roll down his cheeks, “I think that’s the perfect plan.”

Softly, the two sat, eyes focused on the ocean, distant memories rolling through their head, invading each other’s personal space. 

After a few minutes Ted stood up, shaking the sand off his shorts and reached his hand out to Rebecca, “What do you think about going to dinner tonight?”

Rebecca froze looking up at Ted expectantly, “Dinner like… just dinner? Or dinner like… a date?”

Ted instantly flushed, rubbing his neck in embarrassment, “Well I was thinkin’... I just thought that we- There is this cute little-”

“Ted, if it IS a date you’re asking me on? The answer is yes. If you just want to go to dinner as friends? The answer is also yes.”

“Well then Rebecca, I know I just kinda trauma dumped all over ya and this must be giving you some sorta whiplash, but I think I’d really like to call it a date, if that’s alright with you?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Rebecca smiled, grabbing his hand and pulling him back towards the house.

Ted waited until he heard the shower turn on in Rebecca’s room before grabbing his phone and rushing out onto the porch. 

He truly hadn’t meant to ask Rebecca out on a date in this way. He had thought about how it might happen thousands of times, and none of those scenarios included him crying in her arms, telling her his deepest, most painful secret beforehand. 

Sitting down on the porch swing he scrolled through his contacts before clicking on Beard’s name. He held the phone up to his ear and let it ring. 

“Ted?” Beard answered the phone, sounding almost worried about his friend, “Is everything okay?”

Ted appreciated his friend’s worry, “Everything is peachy. But I do need to talk somethin’ through with you quickly.”

“Coupon for life.”

Ted glanced inside, triple checking that Rebecca wasn’t near before diving in. “I’m taking Rebecca on a date tonight. Nothin’ fancy, just to a local spot on the island. I’m just feelin’ really nervous and suddenly realizin’ that a date at a fish spot in North Carolina isn’t close to what she deserves and I’m just feelin’ feelings because tomorrow is September 13th and—”

Beard cut him off before he could continue to spiral out of control, “Take a deep breath.”

Ted paused, inhaling slowly but deeply. After feeling instantly calmer he continued to listen to Beard.

“It isn’t fair of you to assume that Rebecca only enjoys things if they are fancy. Just because she has money, just because Rupert was her husband and imposed that life on her, that doesn’t mean that she won’t have fun with you. Dates are about the person you’re with, not the place. You and Rebecca have been inevitable, Ted.”

“I don’t know if I would say inevitable,” Ted said bashfully, feeling his face flush against his will.

“Inevitable. I said what I said. No further explanation needed,” Beard responded, “As far as tomorrow goes, how are you feeling about that?”

“I told Rebecca today. Sitting on the beach. I told her the whole story.” 

Beard didn’t respond for a moment, clearly in shock of the revelation, “The story you never even told Michelle? What was that I was saying about inevitable?” 

“Oh hush. Second to you, there ain’t any other person I’ve ever felt so comfortable around in my life.”

“Look Ted, if you need me tomorrow call me. Anytime, anywhere, any place. No matter the time zone difference. Enjoy tonight and don’t stress. Just be you, Rebecca already loves the you that you bring to her office every single day.”

“I don’t know about love ,” Ted flushed.

“I do,” Beard smiled into the phone, “You deserve it. I’ll talk to you later, Coach.”

“I appreciate ya.”

Ted placed his hands on the railing of the deck, looking out at the vast ocean. He thought about how somewhere, miles and miles across that ocean was Richmond, his home.  He thought about the two years he had spent there. He thought about the players, his friends, Nelson Road, Crown and Anchor, his favorite coffee shop. He thought about Henry spending summers in London. He thought about Rebecca.

And somehow, with this renewed life he was finally waking up to, he was ready to face September 13th.

After hanging up the phone and taking a few moments of introspection on the deck, Ted headed up to his room to get ready for dinner.

In Richmond, Ted had a uniform. It didn’t matter if Ted was coaching a game, heading to practice, or going to Tesco on Sunday, he always wore different versions of the same outfit. Collared shirt, sweater over top, khakis on the bottom, and some pair of Nike sneakers. On cold days, a blue puffer jacket, sometimes branded for Richmond and sometimes plain. On occasion he would lose the collared shirt and would just wear a sweater, but otherwise he stuck to the same, prescribed outfit.

If asked to analyze why this was, Ted would guess it had something to do with choice. When his head was already swirling with so many thoughts, whether decisions about the team, questions about Henry, anxieties he had to unpack, the uniform outfit allowed for one less thought process. One less decision.

Tonight, however, Ted decided to go against his usual uniform. With their feelings out in the open, Ted felt he himself could find ways to be more open. It started here.

Ted stared at himself in the mirror, examining his outfit choice. He was wearing a short sleeve button down chambray-colored shirt that fit him perfectly. On the bottom, he wore a pair of navy blue shorts that landed two inches above his knees. Instead of his usual Jordans, he wore a pair of white and navy Nike Killshots which gave the outfit a more beachy feel. 

He opted against shaving his stubble, allowing himself to look a little untamed. He only ran a small amount of product through his hair, leaving it fluffier and less slicked back than normal.

Gazing at his appearance, he had to admit that the change in outfit and hair routine made him look a few years younger. Despite his natural proclivity to be self-conscious, Ted couldn’t help but feel happy with the person he saw staring back at him.

He had a good feeling about the rest of the trip. A hopefulness that settled over him like a warm blanket.

Ted poured himself two fingers of whiskey neat as he waited for Rebecca to finish getting ready. He sat on the couch and tapped his fingers on the edge of his glass, trying to make himself busy as he anxiously waited.

Moments later the door to Rebecca’s room opened slightly and she stepped out.

Ted sucked in a breath, trying not to audible gasp. Rebecca was sunshine. He was right during the first truth bomb. She DID liven up every place she was ever in.

“You look,” Ted started, pausing and taking a moment to drink her in, “You look absolutely beautiful, Rebecca.” 

Rebecca was wearing a pale yellow sundress with thin straps that crossed in the back and a sweetheart neckline. The dress was fitted around her waist and proceeded to flow airly below her knees. Instead of her usual heels, she wore a pair of wedges, giving her a more casual look.

Her hair, which was normally perfectly coiffed and set with hairspray, fell in loose curls around her shoulders. She wore a pair of gold hoop earrings and a few gold bracelets around both wrists.

Rebecca blushed at the compliment, taking a moment to eye Ted up and down, “And you look especially handsome.”

Ted blushed at the compliment, taking a large gulp of whiskey.

“You ready to go?” he asked, holding out his hand as an invitation.

Rebecca didn’t hesitate to thread her fingers through his. Before they started walking she pulled him close, wrapping her arms around him and giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“It would be my honor.”

Rebecca threw her head back in laughter, as she had countless times throughout their dinner.  They sat on the deck of a local seafood spot, surrounded by palm trees and twinkling lights, overlooking the marina. The sun had just set, leaving them surrounded by the purple and red colors of dusk. On the table sat the remnants of fish tacos and tortilla chips as well as an almost empty margarita pitcher.

Ted felt warm. Sure, it was warm outside and he had already drunk two margaritas, but the warmth he felt had nothing to do with the temperature or tequila. The warmth he felt had to do with the completely undone version of Rebecca that sat across from him. The way she sparkled under the twinkle lights, the way her eyes crinkled as she laughed at his frankly stupid jokes, the way her hair fell on her shoulders.

It felt like, for the first time, he was seeing Rebecca Welton herself. The silly, carefree Rebecca that had been torn down time and time again.

“This has really been a wonderful evening, Ted,” Rebecca smiled, leaning her cheek against her propped up hand.

“It’s really nice to see ya like this, Becca,” he responded, surprised by the way the simple nickname rolled off his tongue, “I know that I laid some real heavy stuff on ya earlier today, and I appreciate you not treatin’ me any differently since.”

“I don’t really think anything could ever make me think of you different Ted, especially something like that,” she responded, placing her elbows on the table casually.

“What do ya say we walk around a little before headin’ back to the house?” Ted suggested, taking a final gulp of his margarita, “The town is pretty magical at night.”

“Lead the way,” Rebecca responded, standing up and grabbing his hand.

The two meandered hand in hand around the marina, mesmerized by the soft lights, boats, and chatter of others walking past. The silence between them always felt comfortable, neither ever feeling the need to fill the void.

Ted led Rebecca towards the end of the marina to a quiet dock. The two slowly walked out on the dock, admiring the boats around them.

“I used to come out on this dock with my cousins when I was a kid,” Ted explained, stopping Rebecca, “We’d ride our bikes, park ‘em in town, and come out here and talk all night. My dad and I would come here to fish too.”

“That’s a sweet memory, Ted,” Rebecca smiled.

“And I wanted to bring you out here because I wanna share all my memories with you. I want you to know stories of my childhood. They used to be so painful to share but I’m findin’ with you it's a whole heck of a lot easier.”

Before he could say anything else, Rebecca stopped and tugged Ted’s hand gently, forcing him to turn around. She lightly placed a hand on his cheek, which he immediately leaned against.

“And I want to continue to make your life easier,” Rebecca said, stroking her thumb against his cheek, “I can’t wait to hear every story. Learn about every scar. Laugh at every embarrassing moment your mom shares with me eventually. I want to be here for it all.”

Ted took a step forward, closing the distance between the two, her hand still on his cheek. He placed his hand on the back of her head and tilted her chin up. Slowly, he leaned forward until their lips finally met. He opened his mouth a bit, inviting her to press harder. The two kissed languidly for a few moments before Ted pulled back and placed his forehead against hers.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time now,” Ted admitted.

“Well I respect you didn’t hurry,” Rebecca smiled, pulling him into a huge, “What do you say we head back?”

“Well I’d say anywhere you lead, I’ll follow.”

Once they finally made it back from the town, after strolling down the few streets, peering into shops and storefronts, both Ted and Rebecca changed into more comfortable clothes and met back out in the living room. 

Rebecca emerged from her room after changing, finding Ted sitting on the couch. Without hesitation, Rebecca walked over and sat directly next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder.

“I had a lovely time tonight, Ted,” Rebecca sighed, nuzzling into his neck. Ted adjusted his body so that he was leaning against the arm of the couch. He pulled Rebecca onto his chest.

“It was a long time in the makin’ if you ask me,” Ted responded, rubbing soothing circles on her back, “And I don’t wanna kill the mood, but I do wanna ask you somethin’.”

“You can ask me anything,” Rebecca responded, snuggling in closer to Ted.

“Earlier on the beach, when I was tellin’ you about my dad, you mentioned that September 13th is a tough day for you too, and I was wondering if you felt comfortable sharin’ that story with me.”

Rebecca sighed, leaning further into his touch, “Of course, Ted. I just didn’t want to take away from your story earlier. I just- I just feel like my story isn’t as significant as yours. That I have no right to be upset when you’ve gone through the unimaginable.”

“Whoa, hey, I’m gonna stop you right there,” Ted paused his hand on her back, turning her so they were able to make eye contact, “There is no competition when it comes to trauma, Becca. Whatever you went through, I’m not gonna compare it to my story. We all go through trials in our life and it doesn’t get us anywhere comparin’ them and tryin’ to compete for the biggest struggle. If it’s something that is difficult for you I wanna share the burden.”

Rebecca paused for a moment, drinking in his words of affirmation, “Well, it was September 13, 1991 as you know.”

Ted squeezed her hand tightly giving her permission to continue.

“My mum was out of town and I was supposed to be spending the weekend at Sassy’s house. But being the teenagers we were we snuck back to my house to try to get wine from my mum’s wine closet. We snuck back in through my room and started to tiptoe downstairs when I heard voices and noise from the kitchen. I peeked through the door and saw our neighbor, Ms. Reynolds, on top of the kitchen counter on top of my dad. He looked up and made eye contact and I just ran. He didn’t follow. He never said anything to me about it again,” Rebecca felt tears streaming down her eyes. Ted didn’t say anything, allowing her a chance to finish.

“He never said anything. I never said anything. My mom kept on blindly loving him, despite the fact he was cheating on her behind her back. I know now that she knew, but at the time I just watched as she was blissfully devoted to someone who never truly loved her. And then I grew up, jaded, and did the exact same thing to myself like a proper idiot,” Rebecca was now properly crying, head buried against Ted’s shoulder.

“And I know I should be thankful that I still physically had my dad for thirty more years, but our relationship was dead to me. He really loved me growing up. He treated me like a princess. But how could I forgive him for doing that to my mom?”

Ted had pulled Rebecca impossibly close to his chest, his arms fully encircled her, “Sweetheart I am so deeply sorry you had to witness that. But I’m not gonna listen to you take any of the blame for your marriage. The way you were treated was not your fault. Not at all. Two men in your life who you were supposed to be able to trust blindly did the unforgivable to you. It’s okay to be mad.”

“I just feel guilty,” Rebecca explained, “I should’ve talked to him. I should’ve made amends. He died and I never got any closure.”

“I know the feeling,” Ted sighed, “But you didn’t owe that to him, Becca. That responsibility sat square on his shoulders, not yours.”

“You always know exactly what to say,” Rebecca nuzzled into his shoulder, “You just being here, holding me, I just know that this is different. I would blindly trust you to the end of my days and I know you’d never do anything to hurt me. You make me feel whole again after all of this.”

Ted placed a featherlight kiss on Rebecca’s lips, holding her tightly without saying a word. 

“Tomorrow,” Ted started, taking a calming breath, “It’s you and me against the world. We are gonna get through it one way or another in the safety of each other’s arms, however we need to. Deal?”

“Deal,” Rebecca smiled softly through her tears, “Now take me to my bedroom and hold me til I fall asleep.”

Ted couldn’t help but grin despite the heaviness of their conversation, “I sure was hopin’ you’d suggest that.”

Ted woke up first, finding himself pressed against Rebecca’s back. His arm was slung over her waist lazily and their fingers were intertwined.  Before he even had a moment to revel in the warm feeling of being wrapped around her, his body, as it did every year, twinged with the pain of the date.

September 13th.

Taking a deep, calming breath, he slowly tried to detach himself from Rebecca without waking her up. All he wanted to do was stay cocooned in her warmth and safety, but his body was already vibrating with the early thrums of anxiety.  Grabbing his phone, he noted it was only 5:45, which didn’t surprise him in the least.

As he stood up, Rebecca stirred lightly, crinkling her nose and rolling over. Her eyes stayed closed but her face frowned, presumably from the lack of Ted in the bed. Ted sighed as he watched, tiptoeing out into the kitchen in just the boxers and t-shirt he had slept in.

The day before, the two had stopped by the local market on the island and Ted had slyly been able to grab all the ingredients for her biscuits. In his bag back in the other guest room he had secretly stored a few small, pink boxes.

Ted baked the biscuits for many reasons. The biscuits had started out of an innate desire to create relationships with those in his orbit. The first time he baked biscuits he never anticipated Rebecca’s reaction or the fact he would be baking them weekly. The reason for baking the biscuits shifted from the need to bond with Rebecca to the need to make Rebecca happy. From the first bite she ever took, Ted knew that the biscuits went beyond just a morning pick-me-up treat, and he never wanted to deny her the pleasure.

The final reason for baking biscuits, which felt a little more selfish, was the way that baking felt therapeutic. Baking is a science. Baking requires exact, precise measurements, specific ingredients, and diligently following instructions. As a child, Ted had spent countless hours in the kitchen with his mom, following old family recipes for all sorts of goods: biscuits (American style, that is), peach pie, cinnamon rolls, fudge brownies, all varieties of cookie, and of course blueberry muffins.

After Ted’s dad died, he noticed his mom baking significantly less. Sorrow followed his mom around like a storm cloud for months, maybe even years, and Ted, caught in his own blanket of suffering, had no clue how to help.

It was his mom’s birthday in 1992, the first birthday since that fateful day, that Ted stepped into the kitchen and grabbed the giant mixing bowl. Instead of using one of the recipes he was used to following, Ted took all the knowledge his mom had taught him and concocted a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles, all from ingredients he found around the house. As he cracked eggs, mixed batter, measured oil and water, he realized that he was, for the first time in months, out of his own head. His hands were steady. Every piece of him focused on baking.

Baking Rebecca’s biscuits gave him the same calm.

So that morning, September 13th, 2022, Ted Lasso stood in the large kitchen of the Lasso family beach house, the house he hadn’t been in for 31 years, and baked Rebecca Welton her biscuits, escaping from the complexities of what today meant for him this year.

As Rebecca woke up, she wasn’t surprised to find that Ted had already left the bedroom. While in another world, another time of life, this may have caused her to panic, she knew that Ted was likely out in the kitchen or on the deck watching the sun rise. 

As she walked into the bathroom to complete her morning routine, she was suddenly hit with the realization of what the date meant for Ted and for herself. Quickly brushing her teeth and throwing her hair back in a ponytail, she padded into the kitchen to find Ted, suddenly feeling the intense need to be close to him.

Padding into the kitchen, her heart skipped a beat as she watched Ted placing two biscuits into a pink box.  He didn’t notice her walk into the kitchen, fully engrossed in the task in front of him. Rebecca walked behind him, placing her arms around his back, resting both her hands on his chest and leaning her front flush against his back.

“Good morning, love,” Rebecca murmured into his back, rubbing her hands soothingly along his chest, “Did you sleep okay?”

Ted placed the box of biscuits on the counter and turned around to face her, “Surprisingly, yeah. Frankly I’m not sure the last time I slept so well. How about you?”

Rebecca smiled softly, “Incredibly well, all things considered.” 

“I, uh, baked you your biscuits,” Ted looked down at his feet as if he was self-conscious, “I didn’t want you to have to get through today without them.” 

Rebecca felt tears forming in the corners of her eyes, but made no effort to wipe them, “I don’t deserve you, Ted Lasso.” Reaching up, she cupped his face and gently kissed him.

“So I know we talked yesterday about, well, what today means for us both,” Ted leaned back against the counter and watched as Rebecca started to pour herself a cup of coffee instead of her normal tea, “But I know that wallowin’ in my thoughts all day isn’t gonna do me any favors. Is there anything specific that you wanna do? I had some ideas…” 

“Well, I did have an idea,” Rebecca took a deep breath, not knowing how Ted would respond to the idea, “Why don’t we have a typical Lasso family summer day? What would you and your family have done if this was a summer day in the late 80s? How would pre-teen Ted have spent a day on the island? I figured that maybe that could be, well maybe it could be a nice way to honor your dad.”

Ted took a sharp breath, errant tears falling down his face suddenly. Rebecca was instantly worried that she had overstepped and crossed a boundary, but before she had time to panic she felt herself being absolutely engulfed in Ted’s arms.

“You are everything to me, Rebecca Welton.”

As Ted got ready for the day, he couldn’t help but think how unusual the past few days had been for him. First, he invited his boss, his boss who everyone knew he was in love with, on a vacation across the Atlantic. Second, he spilled his heart to her and told her the deepest, darkest, most traumatic piece of his life. Third, he asked her out on a date while on vacation, the night before the anniversary of his father’s death.

Ted couldn’t imagine weirder timing, but somehow it felt right. Ted and Rebecca had been an inevitable force for two years, circling around each other but somehow never quite managing to collide until now. It didn’t really feel like a beginning.

Ted checked his appearance in the mirror one more time before walking out into the living room to meet Rebecca. Despite sharing a bed the night before, he wanted to give her space to get ready on her own accord. Both had agreed on a dress code of beachwear and cover-ups, perfect for any adventure that they would end up on. 

“I probably shoulda asked you before headin’ out here, but how do you feel about ridin’ a bike?” Ted asked as the pair made their way down the outside stairs, hand in hand.

Rebecca froze, loosening her grip unintentionally, “Bikes? Like two wheels and pedals? Those type of bikes?”

Ted chuckled a little, “Well, yeah. That’s what I was picturin’, but if you aren’t comfortable ridin’ a bike we can do something else. No harm, no foul.” 

Ted wanted to slap himself in the forehead. Growing up in middle-class Kansas, riding a bike was just something every kid did to pass the time. Although he had learned a little later than a lot of his peers, he always forgot that riding a bike wasn’t a skill that everyone possessed. Based on Rebecca’s horrified expression, riding a bike wasn’t in her extensive repertoire. 

“What if I told you-” Rebecca trailed off, her cheeks turning red, “What if I told you that no one ever taught me to ride a bike?”

Ted’s heart sank in his chest. Despite the amount of wealth Rebecca clearly had, it was easy to forget that just because she had financial wealth didn’t mean she had grown up with emotional wealth.

“Well what if I told ya I was a great coach?” Ted teased, trying to change the mood, “No time like the present for learnin’ something new. Besides, it was actually here on this same road at this same house that my dad taught me to ride a bike. Talk about a full circle moment.”

Rebecca gazed into his eyes so softly that he thought he might melt, “I’ve always wanted to learn.”

A few minutes later, Ted and Rebecca stood out on the driveway, both donning helmets. One bike was placed to the side and one was in front of Ted. 

“I feel absolutely ridiculous in this,” Rebecca motioned to her head.

“Well too bad pretty lady because the helmet is the most important part of this whole mission,” Ted grinned, bopping her head, “It’s gonna protect that big, beautiful brain of yours.”

Rebecca rolled her eyes, “Alright, teach me how to ride this thing, Coach Lasso.”

“Alright, first I need ya to stand next to the bike with your hip next to the seat,” Ted explained as Rebecca did as instructed. When she wasn’t quite lined up properly, Ted grabbed her by the hip and moved her to where she wanted to be. And if a slight groan came out of her mouth against her will, so be it.

“Just makin’ sure that we have your seat at the appropriate height,” Ted explained, fiddling with the bike, “Alright, there we go.”

“So the first thing you’re gonna wanna do is get yourself on the bike. Go ahead and toss your right leg over so you’re straddlin’ the bike,” Ted explained, noting the choking sound Rebecca made at his choice of words. 

Rebecca did as instructed, standing with her legs on either side of the bike but feet still firmly on the ground, “I feel so silly. I am in my bloody forties yet standing here like a knobhead not knowing how to ride a bike.”

Ted paused, placing a warm hand on her shoulder and squeezing gently, “It ain’t ever too late to learn somethin’ new. It ain’t ever worth bein’ ashamed of learning somethin’ new either. Better late than never. Plus, you’re safe here. I won’t let anything happen to ya.”

“I know you won’t,” Rebecca smiled, “You’ve always made me feel exceptionally safe. But anyways, enough sap, what’s next?”

For the next twenty minutes, Ted taught Rebecca how to balance on the bike, and the general functions of the bike. He had her sit on the seat and glide with the bike as well. He wanted to make sure she was fully equipped and ready to actually start pedaling. 

“Alright, I think you’re ready,” Ted cheered, clapping his hands in delight, “First off you wanna make sure the pedal of your dominant foot is in the air and the pedal of your nondominant foot is closer to the ground.”

Rebecca did as instructed, closely watched by Ted.

“Next, place your right foot up on the pedal and leave your left foot on the ground. Place your hands on the handlebars and make sure your hands are hoverin’ over the brakes.”

Ted paused to make sure that she had followed his directions.

“You’re gonna push up with your left foot til it’s on the pedal. From that point you just start pedalin’ to your liking. Use the brake as needed. You ready to try?”

Rebecca took a deep breath, “I’m honestly a little nervous, which sounds silly. I think I might- I might need a kiss for good luck?”

Ted beamed, his cheeks rosy, “Now that I can do.” He leaned forward awkwardly, both helmets bumping each other, and gave her a sweet kiss, “Now I’ll run alongside ya the entire time, I won’t let you fall.”

The next thirty minutes of Ted’s life would be ingrained in his memory forever.  Sure, he had taught Henry how to ride a bike when he was six, but there was something so absolutely pure about watching the childlike joy that graced Rebecca’s face as she finally started pedaling on her own.

“I’m doing it!” she shouted to Ted on her fifth attempt, “I’m riding a bike!” 

Ted couldn’t stop smiling, the memory of his own bike riding lesson on this exact same road so many years ago now. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he felt feelings of joy at the memory. Somehow, reliving the childhood memory with Rebecca made it a happy memory again, instead of one that inflicted pain. 

“Of course you are!” Ted shouted back, “You can do anything!” 

After another thirty minutes of riding around gleefully, Rebecca finally got off the bike, sweat dripping down her forehead.

“You’re a pretty decent teacher, Coach Lasso,” Rebecca teased as she took off her helmet and hung it on one of the handlebars, “I guess that’s why I hired you.”

“I think ya hired me to sabotage the team and to get relegated, but it’s the thought that counts,” Ted teased back, pulling her into his arms and planting a kiss in her hair.

“I know today is supposed to be spectacularly shitty for us both,” Rebecca mumbled into his shoulder, “But somehow, just being with you, it doesn’t feel so bad after all.”

“I think this is the first time in thirty one years that I’ve actually been able to breathe today,” Ted admitted, “I’m always just surrounded by a cloud of darkness. But with you, Becca? There ain’t ever any darkness. You’re sunshine whenever you’re around. You just make everything a little bit lighter.”

Rebecca pulled Ted impossibly close, giving him a kiss but then just relishing in the feeling of his arms around her.

“Well bike ridin’ was a good homage to my daddy,” Ted said, “But I wanna make sure today is about your dad too. Anything around here that might be a good honor to him?

“When I was a little girl, we would go to the beach,” Rebecca began, “Not very often, but occasionally. Later we would go on fancier vacations, but as a little girl I loved our trips to Brighton. Honestly, my favorite thing to do there with my dad was swim. He was an avid swimmer.”

“Well lucky for you,” Ted smiled, pointing, “The Atlantic is about 500 yards that way.”

Rebecca pulled away from the hug, a mysterious gleam in her eye. The two already had bags packed with towels, sunscreen, water, and snacks that they planned to take with them all day. Without skipping a beat she grabbed her bag and proclaimed, “Last one to the beach has to buy ice cream later!”

Ted and Rebecca both ran down towards the beach, leaping through the sand and giggling as they continuously passed each other. As they got closer to the shoreline Rebecca tried to cut in front of Ted.

Instead of letting her win, Ted came up behind her as she ran and picked her up off the ground, spinning her in circles in a version of his famous Henry helicopter hug.

“That’s cheating!” Rebecca exclaimed, kicking her legs, “I was going to win the race fair and square!”

“Is it cheatin’ if you didn’t set the rules?” Ted questioned, finally setting Rebecca on the ground gently, “I don’t remember you sayin’ that wasn’t allowed.”

Rebecca huffed and rolled her eyes fondly, “Cheaters buy ice cream.”

“I didn’t expect anything less.”

The two laid out their towels on the sand, close enough to the waves that they could jump in quickly, but far enough that their things wouldn’t get wet in the event the tide was rising. 

Rebecca first peeled off her cut-offs, leaving the oversized button down cover-up on. Slowly, she unbuttoned each button revealing a low cut, black one piece that didn’t leave any room to the imagination.

Ted took a deep, stilted breath in as he watched her peel back her layer, “Holy smokes, Rebecca.”

Rebecca just turned and flashed him a megawatt smile, “Holy smokes yourself, Ted.”

Ted had on plain navy blue swim trunks that settled a bit above the knee, not dissimilar to the shorts he had worn the day before. He was certainly a little bit self-conscious of his self-proclaimed “dad bod”, but based on Rebecca’s staring he had no reason to be worried at all.

“Wanna go in the water?” he asked, trying his best to maintain eye contact and not let his eyes wander. Rebecca reached over and grabbed his hand in response, pulling him towards the water. 

For the next two hours, it was as if every single worry that burdened either of them was completely lifted away. The two swam in the ocean, dunking each other under waves, competing in handstand competitions, and splashing each other like they were ten years old again.

In between splashes and giggles, Ted would pull Rebecca to his chest and kiss her deeply, wrapping himself around her amidst the waves. Every so often, the pair would leave the water and go lay in the beating September sun on their blankets, snacking on chips, fruit, and water.

“Ya know,” Ted began as he popped a grape into his mouth, laying back on his towel, “It’s been a long time, and sometimes my memory of him fades, but I think my daddy woulda loved you, Becca.”

Rebecca felt her heart skip a beat inside her chest, sending chills through her body. She decided to push the conversation, “What was he like?”

“Hmmm,” Ted began, sitting up on his towel and looking at Rebecca through his aviators, “He was real patient. He was a great teacher, he taught me to swim, ride a bike, all the things we’ve done today. He wasn’t really that chatty, unlike myself. No, that’s all mama Lasso. He worked a lot, and he wasn’t always as present as he could’ve been, but when he was present he really made those moments count. He never yelled, he was calm. He loved throwin’ baseballs in the backyard and watchin’ Royals games with me. Most of my memories up until that day are very fond.”

“He sounds lovely, Ted,” Rebecca smiled, squeezing his hand. 

“He was,” Ted smiled back sadly, “And I’ve been mad at him for a really long time. I never quite understood how he could just leave us to fend for ourselves. How he could be selfish. But as I get older, as I’ve become a father, as I’ve started workin’ with the good doc I’ve realized that it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about my mama. He was sick and I didn’t know. At this point I’ve forgiven him but I just really wish he coulda seen all that I’ve become.”

“I didn’t know your dad,” Rebecca responded, pulling Ted’s arm so that they were sitting flush on her towel, “But I know for a fact he would be SO proud of you Ted. I know this because I am so proud of you.”

“And I’m proud of you too,” Ted smiled lightly, “And I’ll keep bein’ proud of you as long as you’ll let me. There ain’t no way that our paths didn’t cross for a reason. What are the chances of us havin’ this horrible date in common? If that ain’t fate I don’t know what is.”

The two sat in silence, occasionally exchanging slow, lazy kisses, hair wet and messy from the waves, content to just watch the ocean tide roll in together. 

As they finally decided to make their way up to the house, Rebecca noticed something. Right as the two hit the footpath that led the deck of the house, two butterflies started fluttering around them. Rebecca took a sharp breath, freezing and watching the two creatures dancing around them.

“What are the chances?” she asked Ted, motioning in the direction of the butterflies.

Ted felt tears streaming down his cheeks. He was never one to believe in signs, and was really never one to believe that his dad was in heaven, but at this moment he couldn’t deny that it was his dad saying hello. He felt a shift in the air, a chill through his body.

“Hey dad,” he smiled through the tears, “Meet Rebecca.”

The two were starving after choosing to only snack during their beach day. After coming in from the sun, they lounged around the house, pulling out cards and various board games, scrolling through the TV channels.

Despite the revelations and happiness of the day, both felt a little more emotionally drained than normal and opted to cook dinner at the house in lieu of finding another restaurant. Ted had taken time to Facetime his mom and Henry both, which had taken a lot of energy from him.

“When we were at the beach when I was a kid, we always used to have a big summer shrimp boil,” Ted explained, stretching as he stood up from the couch, “Before I go any further, do you like shrimp?”

“I do,” Rebecca nodded, “But I’ll admit I have no idea what a shrimp boil is.”

“Well you are in for a treat,” Ted exclaimed, feeling a burst of excitement, “Normally you make it in a big pot, but I’ll just make it on the stove for the two of us. It’s when you cook shrimp, corn, potatoes, sausage, and onions all in one big pot, dump it on the table, and eat it with your hands.”

“That sounds very American,” Rebecca giggled, “I can’t wait to try it.”

Ted prepped dinner, denying Rebecca’s requests to help no matter how many times she offered. Rebecca sat on a barstool, watching Ted move gracefully through the kitchen, grabbing ingredients and utensils with ease.

“I could get used to this,” Rebecca said dreamily, her cheek propped on her hand.

“Get used to what?” Ted asked coyly, stirring something into the pot.

“Watching you cook,” Rebecca grinned, “I’ve never really had someone who cooked for me before.”

“Well as long as you’re gonna sit there bein’ beautiful and keepin’ me company, I’ll cook for ya every single night,” Ted responded, swiftly moving to her side and planting a quick kiss on her lips.

After Ted prepared the food, he poured the ingredients into a big bowl, opting against the normal method of table dumping. The two sat at the table, opening a bottle of wine, and began reaching into the bowl with their hands, eating the various items.

“This is fucking delicious Ted,” Rebecca grinned, biting into a potato, “Americans do it again.”

“I’m glad ya like it,” Ted responded, taking his own bite out of a corn cob, “I’ll continue to feed you American food for as long as you like.”

The two chattered away through dinner, skewing away from any heavy topics. The air around them felt lighter than it had for most of the day, and the two couldn’t help but relish in the easy conversation.

As the two cleaned up the dishes together, Rebecca looked up at Ted and asked, “What are your thoughts on ice cream?”

“Well my thoughts on ice cream are pretty great,” Ted chuckled, wiping down the inside of the pot he cooked with, “You wanna go get some?”

“I don’t know about you, but I ate ice cream a lot as a child,” Rebecca explained, “Always with my dad. It was one of our little routines we always did together. Two scoops of chocolate chip ice cream for me, in a cone of course, one scoop of vanilla in a bowl for him.”

“Well I can’t really think of a better way to honor your dad than a coupla scoops,” Ted winked, placing the pot back on the counter, “Feelin’ confident enough to bike into town to grab some?”

“With you by my side? Absolutely,” Rebecca nodded, “Let me grab my shoes.”

The bike ride had been slow and a little bit wobbly, but Rebecca made it into town with no major incidents.

“Look at her! First stop ice cream, next stop Tour de France!” Ted cheered, throwing his hands in the air. Rebecca rolled her eyes, leaning up to give him a chaste kiss.

“When we get back to Richmond, you’ll have to help me order a bike,” she smiled softly, “I quite enjoy it actually.”

Ted smiled at the implications of their connection in Richmond. He hadn’t really had the capacity to think beyond Ocracoke, but just a simple statement of their life beyond the beach house sent flutters through his chest. A future he couldn’t wait to start.

Ted and Rebecca strolled up to a wooden shack by the marina advertising the best ice cream on the island. Ted stepped forward, looking at the menu, and proceeded to order, “Two cones with two scoops of chocolate chip each, please.” 

Rebecca felt a tear prick at the corner of her eye and wiped it quickly. Taking stock of her mood, she noted that the tear was due to Ted’s thoughtfulness, not due to any bad feelings.

The young ice cream clerk handed Ted the dripping cones, napkins wrapped around the bottom. He, in turn, handed one to Rebecca, “Here’s to the dads that raised us as best they could. Here’s to us learnin’ from them and becoming better versions of ourselves through those lessons. And, lastly, here’s to us finally figurin’ it out.” Ted reached forward and tapped his cone against hers gently.

“Can I add to that?” Rebecca asked, licking the side of her cone to avoid getting the stickiness on her hand, “Here’s to many years of happiness and growing together. Now that I’ve finally got you I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

Without hesitation, without even a moment’s thought of whether it was too soon, Ted leaned forward, kissing her and tasting the sweet ice cream on her lips, pulling back he stared straight into her eyes, “I love you so much.”

Rebecca’s heart threatened to burst out of her chest. No one in her entire life had ever uttered those words in such a way. She had never, never in her entire life, felt the love that she felt radiating off Ted that very moment, “Oh Ted, I love you too. So much.”

After finishing their ice cream and slowly biking back to the house, the two found themselves heading towards the bedroom.

“Ted, I love you, but tonight can we just sleep?” Rebecca asked softly, hanging her head down, “I don’t want today to be our first time. There is already too much attached to this day as it is.”

Ted pulled a soft t-shirt over his head, walking over to where Rebecca was taking off her earrings, “Anything you want. Anything at all. And anyways, I’m inclined to agree with you. Let’s just allow ourselves to feel the remnants of this date and tomorrow, well tomorrow brings with it a whole world of new opportunities. A rebirth.”

Rebecca couldn’t help but start crying. He always said the right thing, made her feel better. Instead of saying anything, Ted felt his own tears form in his eyes as he grabbed her and lightly pulled her towards the bed.

The two laid silently, wrapped up in each other, allowing the tears to flow. September 13th was never going to be easy, but somehow today they were able to shoulder some of the burden for each other.

“As long as we’re livin’ Rebecca, you’ll never be alone on this day,” Ted promised, pressing a kiss into her hair, “Even if, God forbid, we break up, I’ll be there, next to you, doin’ whatever it is we need to do.”

“I wouldn’t normally ever believe a promise like that,” Rebecca responded softly, “But somehow, from you, I believe it all. I know you’d never let me be alone.”

“We’ve got a lot to talk about when we get back and out of this bubble,” Ted acknowledged, “We’ve hurt each other a bit, we’ve got some baggage unrelated to today that we need to unpack. But we are gonna do that together. Okay?”

Rebecca smiled, wiping the last tears from her face as she laid her head on his chest, “We will. Someone wise once told me, ‘ If you care about someone and you gotta little love in your heart, there ain't nothing you can't get through together.”

“Sounds like a real romantic sap if ya ask me,” Ted laughed in response. Rebecca giggled.

“Oh hey, look at the time,” Rebecca pointed to her phone, “12:01.”

Ted smiled, “We did it, Becca. Just like we knew we could. Together.”

And so came September 14th, 2022, a day of new beginnings. 

Deep in his heart, Ted knew that they were going to be okay. That at the age of 47, somehow their lives were finally, for the first time, just beginning.