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“Boss, I’ve got a proposition for ya.” 

Rebecca looked up from her laptop and pulled her glasses from where they sat on her nose. “Ted, do I need to get HR on the phone?” 

Ted smiled and fell back into the chair that had become his unofficial assigned seat in her office. He had been occupying the same chair for three years now, during countless ‘Biscuits with the Boss’ meetings, among other club-related meetings as well, although those were never quite as fun. “Okay, maybe ‘proposition’ was too bold of a word,” he said with a quick shake of his head. “I’d like to offer up my services to you.” 

He heard it the second the words left his mouth and now she was fighting hard to stifle a laugh. “Do you hear yourself when you say these things?” 

“Not nearly enough to learn my lesson, I guess.” 

Rebecca smiled at him. “What services are you offering me, Coach Lasso?” 

“Well, I’d like to join you for your Christmas tradition again this year, if you’ll have me,” he told her. “But I don’t wanna just help with delivering the gifts. No, I wanna help ya shop and wrap the presents before they’re delivered too.” 

She frowned at him. “Ted, you’re already quite busy, I’m sure I can handle that on my own.” 

He smiled back at her. “I know you can, but that doesn’t mean you have to. C’mon, it’ll be fun. We can pick up peppermint mochas and take those lists you get to the mall and pack your car full of presents.” 

Ted watched her consider his offer for a moment before she was nodding. “Alright, fine. We’ll start this weekend.” 

“I’m all yours, Rebecca.” 

The rest of his week passed by in a blur. After Rebecca accepted his offer to help, he decided to cancel training for Saturday morning and give the team the entire weekend off. They had been working hard enough as it was, and he figured they could use the extra time. After all, it was the holiday season now. 

Rebecca had asked him to be ready by ten Saturday morning, which gave Ted enough time to get dressed, choosing a rustic orange sweater, navy blue pants, and a pair of white and sky-blue Nikes, before he walked down to the coffee shop just around the corner from his building to get two peppermint mochas for them to enjoy on their morning out. Ted took a sip from his drink while he waited outside, keeping Rebecca’s cup balanced atop her pink box of biscuits. Just because they weren’t in the office didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy them today. 

He was only outside for a minute or two before Rebecca pulled up in her SUV, parking in a spot near the curb. Ted walked over and handed her cup and box through the now-rolled down window. “Mornin’ boss,” he greeted. 

Rebecca smiled. “Good morning, Ted. Are you ready to head out?” 

He nodded, opening the door to slide into his seat, while Rebecca rolled the window up from her side, a biscuit already half-eaten. “I appreciatcha lettin’ me tag along today.” 

“It’s my pleasure,” she replied as she finished the biscuit before she pulled out of the spot and back onto the road, reaching for her to-go cup once they were on their way. “It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had someone willing to help me with this.” 

Ted smiled. “Well, you can bet that as long as I’m around, I’ll be the best dang elf you’ve ever met.”

“Thank you, Ted,” she said, and he could hear the smile on her face. 

There was soft Christmas music coming from the radio, and he noticed her car smelled like an evergreen tree. He wondered if Rebecca loved to go overboard for Christmas, or if she kept things subtle. He thought maybe she could enjoy decorating, surrounding herself with the warmth and the colors of the holidays, just like he used to do. 

Before the divorce. 

Now, spending his Christmas over four thousand miles away from his son for the second year in a row, while Henry celebrated with Michelle and her family, he opted for the bare minimum. He thought maybe that could be Rebecca’s method too, following the divorce. 

But maybe this year could be a turning point for them both, a way for them to find joy again. 

Together. 

“Y’know, shoppin’ for gifts has always been one of my favorite parts of Christmas,” he told her. “I used to love goin’ overboard with presents for Henry, only for him to care more about the cardboard boxes and Styrofoam that was inside.” 

Rebecca laughed. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? How kids find so much enjoyment out of something so simple.” 

Ted smiled and nodded. “One day they’re pretendin’ laundry baskets are row boats and the next day, they’re walkin’ around pretendin’ they can’t hear ya over their music and video games.” 

“Have you done any shopping for Henry yet?” she asked as she turned towards a large shopping center. 

“I was kinda hopin’ to start today, if that doesn’t get in the way of our plans,” he explained. “I felt bad last year, ended up orderin’ most of his gifts online and just shipped ‘em over. I just wasn’t in much of a holiday spirit.” 

He saw the smile on her lips now. “Wherever we need to stop, we can. I’m all yours, Ted.” 

Rebecca parked the car and they stepped out, entering the shopping center side by side. The space already looked like one of Santa’s Workshops, with decorations covering every inch of the place. Different Christmas songs could be heard from each store entrance, and there were even a few that smelled exactly like Christmas, an enjoyable combination of sugar cookies and candy canes and even hot apple cider mixing in the air. It reminded him of home in a lot of ways, watching people bustle around, arms full of shopping bags, even though it was still a few weeks until Christmas. 

Their first stop was a toy store, the walls and aisles lined with board games, Lego sets, and just about every type of doll or toy car you could imagine. Ted let out a low whistle when they stepped inside. “Oh boy, remind me not to let Henry into this place the next time he’s here.” 

Rebecca smiled. “Well, you’re in luck. This is a temporary shop that only opens during the holiday season. But there are plenty of other permanent toy stores you can take him to at any time if you feel inclined.” 

Ted laughed. “I’ll remember that for next time. Alright, Boss, what’s first on the list?” Rebecca opened her bag to pull the stack of handwritten lists out for them to consult. She handed them over so he could take a look before they started. “Lead the way, little lady. Let’s find Mister Cameron his Lego Batmobile. Hey, you and I are a little like Batman and Robin, ain’t we?” 

Rebecca smiled as she started towards the wall of Lego sets. “I think that might depend on who you think is who.” 

“Oh, you’re obviously Batman. I’m just the plucky sidekick in this situation,” he told her simply. “Besides, you’re always the star of the show, Rebecca.” 

He watched her cheeks turn the faintest shade of pink while she tried hard to bite back a smile, as she turned towards the toys to search for what they were looking for. He followed her slowly down the aisle, watching her while she searched up and down, her perfectly manicured finger out tracing her line of vision while she read the boxes. 

“Ah ha!” she exclaimed, poking at the box with a picture of a Batmobile made of blocks on the front. “Found it.” 

Ted reached forward to grab one, holding it in his arms. “Oh hey,” he said, pointing at the box in front of him. “Look at this.” 

Rebecca stepped just a bit closer. “A rocket launcher center?” she questioned, and he nodded. “For who?” 

“Henry’s been real into space and rockets lately. He even asked me for a couple of books for Christmas, but I wonder if he knows about this.” 

Rebecca smiled. “You should get it for him, Ted. I know he’ll love it.” 

Ted smiled back and added the box to his arms. “Okay, what’s next?” 

Ted’s stack grew by four as they progressed through the lists, and eventually Rebecca grabbed a basket so they could continue. After finding a few more things for the children, another smaller Lego set for Henry, and even one thing for Nora that Rebecca swore she could not leave without, they left the store with two very full tote bags, both of which were in Ted’s hands. “Ted, you don’t have to carry everything.” 

“Oh, I don’t mind.” 

She smiled. “You know, there’s a bookstore just up here on the right, maybe they’ll have those books Henry is wanting?” 

Ted knew it wasn’t the first time Rebecca had mentioned Henry, and it probably wouldn’t be the last based on their tasks for the day. But it was the way she did it so casually, like thinking about Henry was something she did every day, that made his heart skip a beat. He had tried so hard to continue to swallow down his feelings for her, to keep them from getting in the way of this job and this new life he was living, but she was making it so damn difficult. 

Especially today. 

He followed her down a corridor towards the bookstore, this shop much less busy than the toy store was. Rebecca reached for a basket once they were inside and then immediately led him towards a table near the front, a table full of kids books. “Help me pick a few of these?” 

Ted looked through the different titles, along with their covers, reaching for a few while Rebecca did the same. He slipped them into the basket as they wandered further into the store, keeping one eye out for any sign of books about space. “Hey Rebecca, can I ask you something?” 

“Of course,” she answered easily. “Anything.” 

He waited until she stopped to look at him before he asked his question. “What’s on your Christmas list this year?” 

She smiled and rolled her eyes. “Ted, I’m too old to make a list.” 

Ted scoffed. “No way, because I’m not even too old to have a list, and we’re nearly the same age. C’mon, we’ve all got something we wanna ask for.”

“Okay, tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.” 

He smiled. “Ah, you want a top five? Or one thing?” 

Rebecca smiled at him and leaned against a shelf, her back to the books. “Tell me the number one thing you want for Christmas this year.” 

It would be so easy to answer ‘you’ in the moment. Just him and her, no one around, like it could be their little secret. But he was scared. He was worried he might scare her off, or that she’d laugh in his face. And honestly, keeping his secret felt like the safest option, and the easiest way to keep her in his life for years to come. 

So he lied. 

“Honestly, I’d love to find a way to get Henry out here for a couple of weeks while he’s on winter break,” he told her, and truthfully, that wasn’t a complete lie. He had been thinking about having Henry here for the holidays, even if it wasn’t for Christmas day. “Thought it might be nice to have him around for a match or two, maybe do some sightseein’ just him and I.” 

Rebecca was still smiling at him when he finished, so he thought maybe he was a better liar than he realized. He couldn’t help but smile back, the curve of her lips contagious. 

And also a bit dangerous. 

“Okay fine,” she began, and he leaned against the opposite shelf, giving her his full attention. “But you have to promise not to laugh.” 

Ted held his hands up. “I promise, no laughin’ here.” 

Rebecca took a deep breath before she continued. “I have this bin in my closet, and it’s full of these old t-shirts from concerts that Sass and I saw together. Most of them don’t fit anymore, because I got them when I was like, nineteen or twenty, but I never wanted to get rid of them. Anyways, I’ve seen where people will turn them into blankets, and I’ve always wanted to do that for myself. And I know that’s something I could pay to have done and send those shirts off somewhere, but they’re important to me, and I guess I worry about them being taken or just never getting the finished product back.” She sighed before she continued. “So anyways, there’s this sewing machine I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years, but it seems like such a ridiculous purchase, seeing as I’d probably never actually use it. I just thought maybe having that machine would motivate me to make a blanket for myself.” 

He could sense there was more she wanted to add, but he didn’t want to push her. “Boss, I’m not too sure why you thought I might laugh at that. Honestly, I was thinkin’ you might say you wanted a fancy pair of those heels you wear, or a new watch maybe.” 

Rebecca smiled at him. “I usually just buy those things for myself, Ted.” 

He nodded. “Yeah, I get that. So what kind of sewing machine are ya lookin’ at?” 

She rolled her eyes but retrieved her phone from her pocket anyways, tapping the screen a couple of times before she showed him a picture. He made mental notes of the make and model, as well as the color, a very familiar shade of light pink. “It’s so silly, because I would have absolutely no reason to have it other than making that blanket. And that would require time and patience, neither of which I have much of lately.” Rebecca’s eyes landed on his as she returned her phone to her coat pocket, and he could see it again in her face that there was something more she was holding back. “My grandmother, my dad’s mum, she taught me how to sew when I was a little girl. She’d let me sit on her lap while she fixed my grandfather’s work clothes, or sometimes my own dresses if I had ripped them. And I always had this vision of teaching my own children how to sew just because I knew I could, and I wanted to pass something down to them, you know?” 

Ted smiled softly at her. “It’s not silly, Rebecca. Heck, even if you just bought the machine for the memories, I think that makes it worth the money, doesn’t it?” 

She nodded slowly. “I guess so.” 

He hated seeing her sad like this, hated how Rupert had taken so much from her. She deserved to be a wife, a mother, and most of all, she deserved to be loved unconditionally. He wished there was a way he could take all of that pain from her heart and make it disappear forever, make her understand that she’s so much more than what he made her believe she was.

Ted wanted to be the one to show her how she deserved to be loved. 

“Thank you,” she said quietly. 

He raised an eyebrow at her. “For what?” 

Rebecca smiled. “For always listening to me. Believe it or not, before you started our little ‘Biscuits with the Boss’ meetings, I never felt very inclined to share things about myself with anyone. But now I think maybe I just didn’t have the right people surrounding me.” 

Ted nodded. “I know what you mean. But it’s nice to have good people, isn’t it?” 

Her smile grew wider, if that were possible. “Indeed it is. Come on, we’ve still got a lot of shopping to do.” Ted followed her up and down the aisles, and he wasn’t even sure either of them were looking for anything particular at this point, but it was somewhere between Historical Fiction and Fantasy that he realized he would follow her anywhere she might lead him. 

And not just around this bookstore. 

They both found books that they were looking for the longer they walked around, Ted finding a few books on outer space for Henry, including the ones he had asked for as well as a few others both he and Rebecca deemed ‘cool enough’ to add, and Rebecca finding more than enough books to include for the children, plus one for her mother, and two for Nora. Once they had paid and stepped back out into the large corridor, Rebecca turned to look at him. “Ted, how do you feel about soft pretzels?” 

His enthusiastic answer followed by a short story about him spending exactly three weeks working at a soft pretzel stand his senior year of high school brought them to the food court in the mall, nearly every table full of groups of all sizes enjoying a quick meal in between their shopping trip. They stood in line to order behind a younger couple, the shorter blonde with her head resting on the shoulder of her slightly taller brunette boyfriend, their hands joined between them while they waited. He couldn’t help but smile, his mind flooded with the idea that one day, he and Rebecca could look just like that, although never that young again. But he didn’t mind. 

He’d certainly trade the time missed for the time they could still have together. 

“Ted!” 

His head snapped to his left when he realized Rebecca was trying to get his attention. “I’m sorry, Rebecca, I got lost in my own head.” 

She smiled at him. “I asked if you preferred cheese or mustard for your pretzel.” 

“Oh, cheese please, yes ma’am. Not really a fan of mustard unless it’s on a hot dog at a Royals game in the middle of summer,” he answered. “Hey, you ever been to a baseball game, boss?” 

Rebecca nodded. “Just once, quite a few years ago. Rupert had some friends who were looking to invest in a team, so they invited us to join them in a private suite. Baseball isn’t quite as popular here as it is in the States, so there’s not nearly as large of a following around here. It’s really just an excuse to hang out with friends or colleagues and drink beer all night.” 

Ted smiled. “Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s pretty much how it is back home too. You’ll get people who enjoy watchin’, but it’s mostly just hangin’ out and drinkin’ too much.” 

They shifted forward with the rest of the line, waiting now on the younger couple to order. “I just can’t understand why people would spend that kind of money on tickets and drinks when you could do that at home or at a pub for much cheaper.” 

He laughed. “I think it’s the atmosphere, or maybe the experience for some people. Look, if you ever find yourself in Kansas for whatever reason, I’ll change your mind and take ya to a Royals game. We’ll even get you one of those baseballs that say ‘My First Game’ for you to remember.” 

Rebecca was laughing now, and he admired the way her head tilted back, the way her eyes crinkled at the corners, the sound that left her mouth quite possibly his new addiction. He wished he could bottle it up and listen to it when he was feeling sad, or lonely, or just found himself missing her. Which seemed so silly, considering he saw her nearly every day, but that didn’t feel like enough sometimes. He wanted more than just moments with her at the club. He wanted Saturdays out shopping for Christmas presents, or even just birthdays. He wanted lazy Sunday mornings, although he doubted she spent any time for herself relaxing. She always seemed to be in work mode. But maybe he could help her slow down, help take care of her so she didn’t have to do it herself. 

Ted’s train of thought was interrupted by Rebecca’s hand on his elbow as she pulled him forward to the cash register. He stepped up next to her and listened as she ordered for them: two soft pretzels, a side of cheese for him, sweet honey mustard for her, and two Diet Cokes. They both reached for their wallets at the same time, and while Rebecca insisted she pay, Ted won out and handed the employee some money. They stepped aside to wait on their food and he noticed her cheeks were flushed just a touch. “Ted, you didn’t have to do that.” 

He smiled. “I wanted to.” 

“Except you also paid for coffee this morning. And brought fresh biscuits!” she exclaimed. “Don’t even think for a second I didn’t notice it was a new batch.” 

Ted laughed and they accepted their food and drinks from the employee before they searched for a table they could sit down at. He ripped a piece of the pretzel off to dunk in the warmed cheese when he noticed Rebecca was staring somewhere just over his shoulder. She caught him just as he caught her, and her eyes dropped to her snack while he turned to see what had caught her attention. 

A family of four surrounded a table, sharing slices of pizza and breadsticks. The older boy and his father giggling at his younger sister, whose face was covered in pizza sauce, while the mother was trying to clean her up. 

Oh. 

He turned back around and Rebecca had her lips wrapped around her straw, an almost-embarrassed look on her face. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled around the piece of plastic. 

Ted raised an eyebrow at her. “Sorry for what?” 

“I thought it would be easier, after so many years,” she said softly, releasing the straw from her mouth. “It’s why I surround myself with buying and wrapping and delivering gifts to the children every Christmas. Rupert hated it, he couldn’t understand why I’d put all of my energy into spoiling children that weren’t my own. Mind you it was him who kept me from having my own children to spoil. And now I’m afraid it’s just too late.” 

He shook his head. “It’s not too late, Rebecca.” 

She gave him a sad smile. “It’s alright if it is. I’ve got Nora to spoil again, and someday, Keeley and Roy will have little ones running around. I may not have my own children, but that’s okay.” 

“You wanna borrow Henry for a long weekend?” Rebecca giggled at his offer. “It won’t be the same, but it might make you feel better. He’s got his dad’s sense of humor, and he loves board games.” 

Rebecca laughed and ripped off a piece of her own pretzel. “I appreciate that, Ted. But I promise I’ll be okay.” 

He nodded, despite knowing this would never be okay for her, and took another bite. “Hey, for the record, you don’t ever need to apologize for lettin’ yourself feel anythin’, alright? Especially in front of me. No matter how big or how small, I’ll listen, Rebecca.” 

“You really are a wonderful man, Ted Lasso,” Rebecca told him. “I’m very grateful for your friendship.” 

Ted gave her a wink as he took a sip of his own drink. “Coupon for life, boss. Don’t forget it.” 

They finished their pretzels and decided to call it an afternoon, despite Ted’s desire to keep their day together going until the sun went down. Rebecca drove him back to his flat and helped him get his bags from the trunk, but he politely declined her offer to help him carry them upstairs. “I’ll be fine, boss. I promise.” 

She huffed. “Fine. Thank you again, for today. For coming with me and for listening.” 

Ted smiled. “I had fun today. I had almost forgot how fun Christmas shoppin’ could be.” 

“Would you like to do this again?” she asked softly. “Maybe one night this week. We could leave from the club. I just don’t want to run out of time before we get the rest of these gifts.” 

He nodded. “Just tell me when and where, and I’ll be there, Scout’s honor.” 

Rebecca rolled her eyes and then, as if it were something they did all of the time, she leaned in and kissed his cheek. She made it feel almost like a habit, like it was the way they said goodbye before they went their separate ways each day. His skin tingled where her lips had touched. “I’ll see you at the club. Have a good rest of your day, Ted.” 

He felt a little dumbfounded but managed a “You too, Rebecca” before she got back into her car. Ted carried his bags upstairs in a dazed state, toting them straight into his bedroom to drop to the mattress before he made his way back to the living room. He pulled his phone from his pocket and scrolled through his contacts, looking for the K’s. He tapped on Keeley’s name and listened while the phone rang through. 

Her bubbly voice was in his ear and it pulled him from his thoughts. 

“Keeley, hey, look, I need your help with somethin’.” 

***

Christmas Eve had arrived sooner than he had anticipated. It seemed like every day had passed in a blur. Between training and coaches meetings during the day, to working on Rebecca’s gift and Facetiming Henry at night, his days were absolutely packed. They had thrown in two more shopping trips together to finish off the lists Rebecca had for the children, and then he made one trip on his own to do some shopping without her around. Because, well, he certainly couldn’t shop for her if she was there. 

Ted had given the team a long weekend for the holiday, which meant his Christmas Eve was wide open. He and Rebecca had planned to spend the second half of the day wrapping the gifts for the children and making sure everything was ready for their Christmas Day deliveries, and he thought it might be a perfect time to surprise Rebecca with his gift for her as well. 

He was honestly shocked he had managed to pull this off in such a short amount of time, but somehow, between his determination and Keeley’s magic, it happened. 

Speaking of Keeley, he knew she would arrive any minute to help him transport the gift to Rebecca’s house. He nervously checked the wrapping paper once more, making sure each corner was taped and creased perfectly, and then the bows, making sure they were still intact. He was being ridiculous, he knew that, but it was the only thing keeping him calm. 

Because the truth was, he had gone overboard, and Rebecca was either going to absolutely love it, or completely despise him. 

He said a quick prayer that she was going to love it. 

The bell sounded and he buzzed Keeley up, letting her in through the front door when she arrived at the top of the steps. “Oi, it looks like Santa’s freakin’ Village in here!” 

Ted smiled. “Yeah, I went a little overboard this year. I guess you could say I was feelin’ the Christmas spirit.” 

Keeley smiled. “So, did you finish it?” 

He nodded. “This mornin’, while I was Facetimin’ Henry. He gave it two thumbs up, so I hope Rebecca gives it the same review.” 

“Ted, she’s going to absolutely love it,” Keeley reassured him. “It’s a very thoughtful gift.” 

Ted shrugged. “Thank you again, for helpin’ me out. I really appreciate you.” 

Keeley smiled up at him and reached for the smaller wrapped box. “Anything to help my two best friends. Now come on, I don’t want you to be late.” 

Ted grabbed the larger and heavier wrapped box and followed Keeley out the door, locking up behind them before they made their way to her car. The larger box barely fit in her trunk, so he kept the smaller box on his lap while they drove. Rebecca’s house wasn’t far, which didn’t give him much time to be nervous, but he could still feel the butterflies taking flight in his chest. 

When Keeley pulled up in front of her house, Ted froze. 

“Ted, what’s wrong?” 

He tapped his fingers slowly against the wrapping paper. “Keeley, can I confess somethin’ to you?” 

“Are you about to tell me you’re in love with Rebecca?” 

Ted turned to face her, her eyes wide when he did so. “How in the heck did you know that?” 

Keeley shrugged. “I’m very observant. And, you’re quite obvious about it.” 

“Okay, so what do I do?” 

She laughed. “I think you should tell her.” 

Ted nodded, contemplating her answer. “Alright, and if she laughs in my face, what do I do then?” 

“Ted, you’re well aware that Rebecca is in love with you too, right?” 

“No ma’am, I am not.” 

“Well, she is. And she’s too fucking nervous to make the first move because everytime she’s done that in the past, she’s been burned,” Keeley explained. “I don’t think you’d ever burn her, but I think she’s too scared to ruin what she already does have with you to try and be more. Does that make sense?” 

Ted nodded again. “So, you’re sayin’ I’ve gotta be the one who does somethin’ about this?” 

Keeley nodded now. “I mean, unless you want to be pining for her for another year, I’d say yes, it’s up to you.”

He considered her answer before he took a deep breath. “Alright, wish me luck.” 

“Do you need any help?” 

Ted smiled and shook his head. “I appreciatcha Keels, but I think I need to do this alone.” 

He retrieved the larger box from her trunk and balanced the smaller on top, making his way up the path to Rebecca’s front door. He rang the doorbell and waited on her to answer, listening to Keeley drive away from the curb. When Rebecca finally swung the door open, Ted nearly fumbled the boxes to the ground. 

He had seen her wear a lot of different remarkable outfits over the years, but he had never seen her dressed down in sweats before. Or more specifically, an oversized sweater and some leggings, her feet tucked into some fuzzy slippers. Her hair was pulled back and she had a glass of wine in her hand. Ted was certain he had never loved her more than he did right now. 

And then she was smiling at him, that big, beautiful, gorgeous smile he thought she sometimes saved for only him, and he realized he was wrong. 

He could definitely love her more. 

“Ted, what in the hell is this?” 

Ted breathed out a laugh. “Oh, well, I wasn’t sure if we’d have time for this tomorrow, so I brought your gift over. I wanna see you open it.” 

She stepped aside and let him in. “There’s two boxes.” 

“Yeah, but they go together,” he told her and then he took in his surroundings. “Holy smokes, Rebecca. Your place looks amazing.” 

She smiled. “Thank you. It’s the first time I’ve decorated since the divorce. It felt appropriate this year. Come on, the tree’s this way, though that’s certainly not going to fit underneath.” 

Ted followed her down a short hallway into a large room with vaulted ceilings, nearly every inch covered in white lights and tinsel and decorations of all shapes and sizes. He carried the boxes over to the giant decorated tree in front of the window, and set the boxes to the ground, taking notice of the small present that sat on the tree skirt, a neatly scrawled ‘Ted’ on a white tag. “No peeking,” she warned as he stood back up. 

“Yes ma’am,” he answered. “So, where should we start?” 

Rebecca hitched a thumb over her shoulder. “Dinner, I’m fucking starving.” He laughed and followed her lead towards the kitchen where she had an array of different pastas and breads and salad set along her kitchen island. “I couldn’t decide what sounded best, so I ordered a few different things we could share. I hope that’s alright.” 

Ted nodded. “Absolutely. This looks amazing.” 

She smiled and handed him a plate. “It’s from my favorite little Italian place a few blocks from here. I don’t order from them often because I have a tendency to go overboard, like tonight. Except usually, I’m eating alone.” 

“Is that ravioli?” Ted asked, his finger pointed at one of the dishes. 

Rebecca nodded. “Three cheese. And covered in cheese.” 

“Rebecca, please promise me you’ll always invite me over when you feel like you’re cravin’ Italian.” 

She giggled and took a sip of her wine. “I promise. Now please, take whatever you’d like.” 

Ted loaded his plate with probably a little bit too much food, but it all looked so good and he had only just now realized he had been too nervous all day, that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. He slid onto one of the chairs that sat at the end of the island, and watched Rebecca reach into what appeared to be a liquor cabinet. “Are you thirsty? I’ve got wine or whiskey or some emergency Diet Coke in the fridge.” 

He smiled. “Whiskey’s fine.” She pulled a bottle from the shelf and Ted nearly choked on his first bite. “Whoa, Rebecca, do you know how much that bottle costs?” 

She shook her head and set it on the countertop. “No, do you?” 

Ted nodded. “Back home? A thousand, easy. You don’t need to waste that on me.” 

But she ignored him, instead pulling the wrapping back and unscrewing the top. “You are not a waste, Ted Lasso. Honestly, I don’t even know where this bottle came from, but I’ll certainly never drink it. Someone might as well enjoy it.” Rebecca grabbed a glass from the cabinet and poured just enough inside before she slid it to him. “Consider this bottle yours,” she said with a soft smile. 

Rebecca made up her own plate of food before filling her wine glass and then joined him at the island, taking the seat beside him. They ate in a comfortable silence, and he tried not to be distracted by the way her knee felt pressed against his, but he failed miserably. Being with Rebecca like this felt safe, the way they could exist together in complete quiet, like they had been sharing meals for years now. There was a familiarity there, and he hoped they’d never lose this. 

“Ted, I have to confess something,” she said suddenly, and he felt his stomach drop. 

He cleared his throat and turned to face her. “Wrong time and place for a truth bomb, boss.” 

Rebecca smiled. “Well, I can assure you I’m not trying to sabotage you again, and I’m certainly not seeing another one of the boys on the team,” she told him. “But I did go a little overboard last night and I wrapped most of the gifts we’ll be taking with us tomorrow.” 

Ted let out a sigh of relief. “You really know how to bury the lede there, Rebecca. But hey, if there’s nothin’ for us to finish up tonight, I can always get outta your hair.” 

“No!” she exclaimed, and her quick response set something ablaze in his chest. “I mean, not unless you want to. I just thought maybe we could still spend the evening together. Plus, like you said, it might be a good time to exchange our gifts for each other.” 

He smiled and gave her a nod. “Well, alright then, I’m all yours.” 

They finished their dinner and Ted helped Rebecca clean up, packaging leftovers to be placed in the refrigerator only after he agreed to help her eat them after they delivered gifts the next day. 

He’d be stupid to turn down that offer. 

Once the kitchen was cleaned, she led him back to the living room where the tree was, each of them with a fresh glass of wine or whiskey, and he followed her onto the couch across from the fireplace, where he now noticed she had started a small fire before he had arrived. “So, were you able to speak to Henry today?” 

Ted nodded, the glass of whiskey wrapped in his hands in his lap. “He was tellin’ me all about his and Michelle’s plans for the weekend, and what he was hopin’ was under the tree for him to open. Michelle said the ones I sent over arrived a few days ago, so she’ll be sure to hold those aside for him to open up with me tomorrow mornin’.” 

Rebecca smiled at him and lifted her glass to her lips, swallowing the white wine before she replied. “You’ll have to tell me what he thinks of that Lego set. I wish I could see his face when he opens it.” 

Ted wished she could too. 

“Speakin’ of gifts,” he started. “I think maybe it’s time for you to open up yours, because I’m tired of keepin’ a secret.” 

Rebecca laughed and Ted stood from the couch to bring the wrapped boxes over for her. “Alright, now you can choose whichever one you wanna open first, but they do sorta go together, so keep that in mind.” 

She shifted the smaller box to the couch between them and immediately tore through the paper on the larger one. He watched her face go from confusion to shock and awe in a matter of seconds when she realized what the box contained. She studied the box before her gaze shifted to him, and he could see the tears starting to gather. “My sewing machine?” 

He nodded. “The exact make and model. I found a shop just south of town that had one left in stock.” 

Rebecca smiled at him. “Ted, thank you, truly. You’ve no idea how much this means to me.” 

Ted just shrugged and handed her the smaller box now. “I’ve got an idea. Now, c’mon, open the other one.” 

“I’m gonna have to dig those shirts out of my closet,” she mumbled as she untied the ribbon and ripped open the wrapping paper. She lifted the top of the box off and peeled back the tissue paper and staring back at her was the front of her old and tattered Backstreet Boys tee. “Ted,” she whispered. Rebecca stood from the couch and pulled the blanket from its box, each square a different one of her old concert tees, contained in a border of light pink fabric, to match her sewing machine, and her biscuit boxes. 

Her eyes were locked on his again, and this time, the tears had fallen free. “I, uh, I couldn’t stop thinkin’ about what you said at the mall, so I had Keeley help me kidnap your collection.” 

“Did you make this yourself?” 

Ted nodded and stood with her. “I did.” 

She launched herself into his arms and he caught her quickly, wrapping his arms around her tight. He felt her press her face into his neck, felt her sniffle against him as she tried to calm herself. He smiled to himself, her reaction more than he could’ve hoped for, holding onto her until she started to pull away. She wiped at her eyes quickly as she stepped back, pulling the blanket back up to examine the squares more closely. “God, I forgot I even had some of these.” She looked back at him. “Thank you, Ted, really. This is wonderful.” 

He shrugged and sat back on the couch, pulling his glass to his lips. “You’re welcome, Rebecca. I can’t take all the credit though, it may have never happened if it weren’t for Henry keepin’ me company some nights.” 

Rebecca moved over to the tree now, reaching for the small box on the ground that he knew was labeled for him. She handed it over before joining him on the couch once more, her new blanket thrown across her lap. She pulled her wine glass from the coffee table and took a sip. “I’ll make sure to thank him the next time I see him. Now go on, open yours.” 

Ted lifted the box to his ear and gave it a quick shake, a silly little tradition he and Henry had every year while opening presents. “Ted, it’s not going to speak to you.” 

“I was hopin’ it might sing,” he replied before he started to tear away the paper. He pulled the lid off and folded back the tissue, just as Rebecca had, before he noticed what was in the box. “A plane ticket to Kansas? Rebecca, this is a real weird way of tellin’ me I’m fired.” 

Rebecca laughed and scooted closer on the couch. “It’s not a plane ticket to Kansas,” she told him. “It’s a plane ticket from Kansas.” 

He looked up at her. “You’re losin’ me, boss.” 

She pointed at the paper ticket in front of him. “Look at the name, Ted.” 

Henry Lasso. 

Oh. 

  1.  

“Rebecca,” he breathed, and then he noticed the date. 

December 26th, 2022. 

“He’ll be here Monday afternoon, and Michelle’s agreed to let him stay through the new year. He’ll fly back on the 8th,” she told him softly. 

He looked up at her now, and he knew he had tears in his own eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered. 

Rebecca smiled and wiped at one of the loose tears with her thumb. “And before you start to worry, he’ll be accompanied the entire time. He’ll fly from Kansas to Chicago, and then from Chicago to here. He’ll be able to watch our matches from the owner’s box with me, and I’ve already spoken to Coach Beard and Roy, who’ve both agreed to run training so you get extra time with him.” 

Ted pulled her into a hug now, a surprised gasp escaping her lips as he folded his arms around her. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around the trouble she had to go through to make all of this happen, but he vowed to spend the rest of his life thanking her for it. Their embrace was cut short by Rebecca’s phone ringing from its spot on the coffee table and she giggled as she swiped across the screen. 

He was a little startled when Henry’s face appeared. “Merry Christmas, dad!” 

Ted turned himself towards the phone as Rebecca held it in front of them. “Merry Christmas, buddy.” 

“Merry Christmas, Rebecca!” Henry added. “Did dad like his gift?” 

Ted laughed. “I shoulda known you were in on this. How long have you been keepin’ this from me?” 

Henry laughed. “Becca only told me last week! But mom’s known for three.” 

He turned towards Rebecca now. “Oh, Becca huh? Y’all are on a nickname basis already?” 

Rebecca gave him a wink before she turned back to the phone. “Your father was very excited about his gift. And I’ve heard I owe you a thank you, otherwise, my gift may have never been finished.” 

“Yeah, I kept dad company most of the nights he was working on it,” he answered. “He wasn’t sure he’d finish it in time.” 

Rebecca knocked his shoulder with her own and he felt that fire in his chest again. “Hey Hen, do me a favor? Go under the tree and find the gift I sent ya that’s wrapped in the superhero paper, will ya?” Henry disappeared from their view and Ted turned to Rebecca. “You wanted to see him open it, yeah?” 

Henry appeared on the camera again, the present in his lap as he looked at them. “The tag says it’s from you and Becca.” 

“Yeah, we picked it out together. Go ahead and open it.” 

He could feel her eyes on the side of his face but he stayed focused on his son as Henry tore the paper away to reveal his gift. Henry’s eyes grew wide when he realized exactly what it was. “A Lego rocket?!” 

Rebecca giggled beside him while Henry flipped the box over to remove the rest of the paper and read the details. “It’s a whole rocket launch center. Your new best friend and I found it while we were shoppin’ a few weeks ago, and she thought you might like it.” 

Henry looked up at them now, a wide smile on his face. “I don’t like it, I love it!” Michelle’s voice echoed through the background for Henry, and he frowned. “I gotta go now.” 

Ted smiled. “That’s alright, bud. I’ll talk to ya in the morning and we’ll open the rest of our presents, alright?” 

“Okay, Merry Christmas, Becca! Love you, dad!” 

The call ended before either of them could reply, and they were left in the quiet of the room, the only sound the crackling of the fire. Ted faced Rebecca again, a shy look on her face. “Thank you again,” he said softly and then she stood from her seat. Rebecca held her hand out for him, and he accepted, unsure of what exactly they were doing. “What’s goin’ on?” 

“I have one more gift for you. Close your eyes,” she instructed. 

He obeyed and closed his eyes promptly. “You gonna kiss me, Rebecca?” 

Rebecca huffed. “How the fuck did you know that?!” 

Ted slowly opened one eye and saw her still standing in front of him, her hands down at her side. “Uh, well I didn’t. I thought it might be a funny joke but now I’m realizin’ I mighta been wrong. And I’m thinkin’ maybe you were onto somethin’ that one mornin’ about havin’ to call HR. It’s just that I’ve been thinkin’ about kissin’ you for quite some time and I thought maybe you were feelin’ the same w-” 

His sentence was cut off by her lips on his, a kiss he had thought about way too many times to admit. The way their mouths slotted together felt like two parts of the same whole coming together, like their lips were made for only one another and no one else. Her hand was on the back of his neck, her fingers tangled in his hair, keeping him close to her. The feel of her sweater beneath his fingertips was so soft as he pulled her closer to him, his hips gentle at her waist. 

If he was given the chance to wish on one more thing this Christmas, it would be for this moment to never end. 

The moment felt like something out of a rom-com: their first kiss shared in front of the fire on Christmas Eve, after weeks and months and maybe even years of developing feelings for one another. Ted had never really dreamed about starring in his own Hallmark movie, although he had watched a few in his lifetime, but he knew this is exactly how he’d want the movie to play out. 

Rebecca pulled away first, but didn’t go far, her forehead rested on his while she caught her breath. He kept his hands at her waist, holding her close, his eyes still closed while he listened to her breathing. “So I was right, huh?” She hummed. “About you feelin’ the same way?” 

She laughed in their shared space. “You were most definitely correct, yes.” 

Ted smiled and pulled back just a bit. “So, what now?” 

“I know it’s awful timing, because it’s Christmas tomorrow and then your son is coming to town, but I’d really like to spend more time with you if that’s alright,” she answered. 

He laughed. “I think that’d be quite alright with me,” he told her. 

Rebecca smiled. “Thank you for today. I really can’t explain how much those gifts meant to me.” 

“I could say the same for myself,” he replied. “You really knocked it outta the park, Rebecca.” 

“You and your baseball references,” she mumbled. “You better make good on that promise, by the way.” 

He raised an eyebrow. “You really wanna go to a game one day?” 

She nodded slowly. “As long as it’s with you.”

Ted leaned in to kiss her again, slow and soft, the way he hoped to kiss her for the rest of their lives. When they pulled away, he noticed her cheeks were flushed, and there was a shy look on her face. He brushed the backs of his knuckles along her cheekbone. “What’s on your mind?” 

Rebecca smiled at him. “I wanted to do this last Christmas,” she whispered. 

“What stopped ya?” 

She shrugged and stepped back. “I think I was scared of ruining our friendship. That whole day was so magical for me, that I couldn’t stand the idea of losing that with you.” She paused. “Sometimes I think about how different last year could have been for us both.” 

Ted lifted her face to his, his finger gentle beneath her chin. Without her heels, she was just a touch shorter than him, and it was unfamiliar, but it felt right. “Hey, thinkin’ like that won’t do either of us any good. The things we went through separately and then together? It’s why we get to be here right now, yeah? And look, I know it’s probably a little early to be talkin’ like this, but Rebecca, I’m in this with you, okay? It’s been a long time comin’, at least for me, and I’m not lookin’ for somethin’ short term.” 

Rebecca smiled and he swore her smile could save the world someday. “How long were you thinking then?” 

“Well, for the rest of our lives, if you’ll have me.” 

“I think the rest of our lives sounds quite wonderful,” she whispered. 

He leaned in to press his lips to her forehead. “You’ve got me for life then, Becca.” 

She giggled and wrapped her arms around his waist, her head coming to rest on his shoulder. “You’ve been dying to use that nickname, haven’t you?” 

“I just can’t believe my little boy got a special nickname for ya before I did,” he answered. 

“Well, in his defense, he sort of just started using it and it was absolutely fucking adorable. Michelle kept apologizing as if he were doing something wrong,” Rebecca explained. 

Ted smiled. “Y’know, I still can’t believe you were conspirin’ behind my back.” 

She lifted her head suddenly. “Excuse me! You’re the one who sent Tinker Bell into my house to steal my t-shirts.” 

“Okay, you’ve got me there,” he admitted. “So, whatcha gonna ask Santa for next year?” 

Rebecca smiled and rested her forehead against his once more. “I think I’ve got everything I need right here.” 

Ted kissed her and then pulled away quickly. “I think I’m gonna ask for a dog next year.” 

She rolled her eyes and kissed him again, and he felt himself falling even deeper in love. Because Rebecca was right, they had everything they’d ever need right there, together.