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You Look So Fine

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Chapter 1

Amelia Jones' day began like most did. Swear at the alarm clock, before jumping out of bed. Run down the hall to get the coffee going so it would be ready when she came out of the shower. Then after some twizzlers and a graham cracker for breakfast she was off to start her day. It wasn't was Amelia had envisioned for herself growing up. There was no glory in teaching four year olds beginning ballet. But it was her life and she was damn proud that she'd gained this much when she'd almost lost it when things had spiraled out of control two years ago. Besides, who didn't enjoy being a heroine to those bright eyed kids when they got a move right or watched you perform a demonstration that they'd have mastered before they were up to your chin? Naw, she missed the excitement sometimes. But at the same time things were pretty nice.

"Real nice girls," she said grinning like a proud mama hen. Man this year's spring recital was gonna kick ass! The routine was fun, the kids would look cute in their costumes, and the parents would be entertained seeing their little girls up on stage. "Alright let's do some quick stretches before your parents come to pick you all up."

One by one the girls were collected by various adults until the only one who was left was little Natalie.

"Big sis should be here soon," Amelia assured the little girl when a few more minutes had gone by.

"Big sis had an appointment," Natalie said sounding out the last word carefully. "Big brother is coming today."

"Might take him a few minutes to find the right room," Amelia shrugged as she hefted her satchel from one shoulder to the other.

"Like Marta's papa. He gets lost a lot," the child stated.

"Yeah pretty much Nat," Amelia agreed.

Natalie was of course adorable but unlike the other girls she could be kind of intense. Her temperament seemed to be almost the opposite of her guardian and sister Katyusha who was just about the nicest person.

"Vanya!"

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the presence of what looked like a freaking giant who Natalie skipped towards. She guessed this was said brother whom Natalie's hand slipped into quite easily. The guy had the same silver blonde hair as Natalie's and violet eyes unlike anything she had ever seen spared his sister a brief smile as Amelia approached them with her bag slung over her shoulder.

"Hiya! I'm Nat's teacher," she said by way of introduction.

"That much is obvious," the older brother "Vanya" stated with a bored expression on his face.

"I uh," she said momentarily taken aback by the brush off as she tried again. "Glad you found your way here. We were starting to wonder if you got lost."

He blinked at her before turning to his sister, speaking to her in what sounded like Russian as he led her out. At least Natalie had the manners to say goodbye on her way out.

XX

She didn't give the guy much thought as she returned home. Other than thinking he was a weirdo jerk as she walked into the kitchen to grab a snack.

"Amelia?" her father called as she stepped in the back door. "Home from class darling?"

"Yeah dad," she called snagging a carton of milk and cookies from the pantry before taking a seat at the table. Yes she still lived with her parents except for the two years she'd been part of an actual ballet troupe. Living on her own had proved to be part of the problem. She'd been only eighteen when she'd gone off to rent a place with another dancer. That experience hadn't ended well.

"Papa still working?" she said as her father joined her with his reading glasses on his face.

"He's obsessed with getting the menu just right," he replied putting the kettle on the stove. "Been in a tizzy as soon as he woke up."

"You'd think with two restaurants under his belt a third would be a piece of cake," she said popping a whole cookie into her mouth.

"And my day was fine thank you," he said wryly in his English accent as she got up and kissed his cheek.

"Good. Looks like we've touched base," she said snagging two more cookies until her father looked at her critically and she felt that same shame fill her as she put them back. She felt the need to look away and pick at her nail, a habit that seemed to rise to the surface only when she had her dad's attention.

"So, I heard Maddie and Raoul are back from Montreal," she said to change topics and get him off her case.

"Yes. She called around noon when their flight landed in Miami," Arthur said distracted by the tea kettle whistling as his youngest daughter relaxed.

"Why did she had to move all the way across the country?" she complained with a pout. "She always said she loved living here."

"I suppose she did it because she fell in love dear," her father said smiled to himself. "Tea?"

"No thanks," she said crossing her arms. "I mean I get it. You and papa moved too, but you both found a different place to be. Somewhere between your two homes to start over. It's just weird packing up everything when the other person is still in their home and you're starting over just for them."

"If it's for the right person it can be worth it," Arthur replied gently, looking up at the ceiling when muffled French swearing travelled down to the kitchen. "He's been stuck on poached pears or flambé for nearly an hour."

"God help him if he screws up and picks the wrong dessert," she snorted before drinking down her milk in a long, loud gulp.

"Any plans for the weekend? Matthew will be back in town. I thought we could go to the opening of the restaurant as a family," Arthur said pouring hot water into a mug.

"Hey Matt's back? Alright!" she said excitedly. It felt like it had been just her and her parents in the house for the longest time. Even though it had only been a week since her older twin sister had started her honeymoon. But her two brothers Matthew the hockey legend, and Alfred the up and coming politician had long since moved out to live their lives. She tried not to let herself feel like she'd been left behind but it did sometimes feel that way. Even if all of them had rallied around her when she'd been hospitalized.

"I'll take that as a confirmation," Arthur said bringing his daughter back to reality. "You know what would look nice? That what lace dress we got you at Christmas."

"Maybe," she said while thinking, 'hell no'. "I'm gonna go play some video games. Unless you guys need help with dinner?"

"We're having take away. Enjoy yourself love," Arthur said with a brief smile as he watched his daughter walk off. Oh how he worried about her.

Class ended early the next day so Amelia could line the girls up to the bathrooms and let them try on their costumes for the spring performance. Just to be on the safe side and make sure all the measurements were done.

XX

"Good, good, good," Amelia said nodding to three girls who had stepped out so she could check their outfits. "Now change into your leotards again."

Man sometimes when they weren't following instructions they ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.

She shook her head and noticed a figure approaching her and found herself looking up at Natalie's brother. Jesus had he been that hot yesterday? She probably didn't notice with him acting like a jerk. But to be fair maybe he was just shy. Natalie had certainly been even quieter than her usual self when she'd started the class.

Deciding to give him the benefit of the doubt she waved him over with a smile before declaring another girl ready to go change.

He nodded when he saw her. Well he at least recognized her enough from the other day.

"Natalia is where?" he asked impatiently.

"Changing into her outfit for the spring recital. You're the first parent here," she said putting on her best smile. "I don't think we got the chance to introduce ourselves. I'm Amelia. Miss Jones to the kids."

He leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, grunting.

"In most polite societies we exchange names and greetings," she couldn't help adding in a voice sweet as sugar even if her eye was twitching.

"Katya says you are good teacher," he said looking at her blankly, his expression and face cold. "I suppose I will see when I am dragged to spring recital."

"Actually I studied ballet growing up," she said, smiling so cheerfully her cheeks hurt. He wanted to be like that? Well she was not gonna take his attempts to insult her lying down. "I danced with a troupe for two years."

"Hmm," Ivan said in a tone that left her with the impression he thought she was lying.

"It's true."

"Ah."

"Will you stop that?" Amelia exclaimed, stamping her foot as Ivan looked at her in amusement.

"Throwing tantrum like five year old is not attractive quality in a young woman," he said before Natalie stepped out, grabbing her brother's hand and marching off with him while Amelia stood sputtering and glaring at the back of his head.

What an asshole. She hoped this wasn't going to be a regular thing or she might slip and bitch him out in front of god and a group of impressionable preschoolers.

"Do you like Miss Jones big brother?" Natalie asked as they waited for the bus in the late summer day.

"Not particularly," Ivan said honestly. He had more important things on his mind then some peppy dance teacher. Though he would admit he was glad his sister liked her. She kept to herself and did not like many people. But somehow the blonde woman had earned a place in Natalie's tiny heart.

He had nothing against Amelia in particular. He simply did not enjoy small talk for the sake of politeness. Nor did he think he had anything in common with her aside from his sister. Although, seeing her temper spike had momentarily caught his interest. It was rare to see a glimpse of fire or spark in people.

"She is very pretty and dances well," the little girl went on. "If I study from her I will become prima ballerina."

"If you study hard and love what you do Natalia," he said smiling down at her softly. "One day big brother and sister will be greeting you after your first triumphant performance with roses."

That made Natalia beam in a way that few but Ivan ever witnessed. Her brother was the best in the world.
XX
I'm new here to AO3. I hope you guys enjoy my story. All reviews appreciated greatly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

"Maddie why are all the hot ones jerks!" Amelia whined on the phone.

"Mia," her twin said quietly, trying to hold back her laughter. "Just because the first man you found attractive turned out to be um…an assface? It doesn't mean they're all like that. You know that."

"Why do you always have to be so sensible? And so far away," she said leaning against the wall in the kitchen. "I miss you. It's not the same without you here. I know…that's pretty selfish right? But I mean it's just…I don't have anybody else to hang out with. Unless you count dad and geez is that not a good idea. I keep feeling like I'm walking on egg shells around him so I just play video games or haul ass to my room."

Madeline sighed on her end of the phone and bit her lip. Part of her did feel guilty for leaving, but the rest of her was too incredibly happy to let it get to her. She loved her sister but Amelia was strong. She was going to pull through.

"I know you're having a tough time right now. It's okay to get your bearings and just take a little while to take it easy," Madeline began. "I know that's not your style but even the heroine's need a break once in awhile. I'll be even Eleanor Roosevelt took a vacation once in awhile."

"Yeah right," Amelia said breaking into a smile. "Shit I've been talking your ear off nonstop. How's Miami?"

"I really like it here. You should visit soon. There's plenty of room," Madeline offered.

"Sure. Maybe after I take that break to figure stuff out," Amelia agreed. No way was she gonna crash her sister's home when she was still in the honeymoon period of her marriage. "Raoul's treating you good right?"

"Mia you know he is. He's been nothing but wonderful. He comes home every day when he's out of the bank to ask me about my day and how my new business startup is going," Madeline said defensively. "I know you don't like him but come on."

"It's not that I don't like him," Amelia said furtively. She had known when she'd seen the Cuban romancing her sister and making her eyes sparkle that he was gonna take her away from their home. "How is work going?"

"Pretty good. Lots of work but I think there's a market for a landscaper over here," Madeline replied excitedly. "I'm finally living what I always dreamed of doing. And I even got a husband and the chance to move somewhere new. It's…its just wonderful."

"I'm happy for you," Amelia said with a sad smile as Francis stepped in, arms laden with groceries. She moved to take a bag from his arms and grinned. "Papa's here. I'm gonna hand you over to him okay?"

"Is zhat ma petite Madeline!" he gasped in delight as he took the phone and started cooing over the girl while Amelia laughed and started unpacking groceries. It was the way he got whenever one of his children living away from home called. It was as if they ceased to be grown adults and were his babies all over again.

It was nice seeing her French father looking a little relaxed. He was still nervous about the restaurant opening tomorrow night but he'd done everything he could for the preparation. So tonight would be a quiet night at home before the big premiere of another restaurant with the Williams touch opening up.

"Amelia would you be a dear start peeling zhose potatoes?" Francis asked before resuming his conversation as he began putting away the groceries.

"On it," she said rolling up her sleeves as she heard the front door open. "Dad you're just in time. Maddie's on the phone."

"Guess I'll talk to her after dad then," the voice of her brother Matthew called back.

"Matthew!" she yelled making Francis wince as she ran out of the kitchen and attacked her brother in a hug, giving him just enough time to drop his bag and gear.

"Mia!" he yelped as she squeezed him tightly while he managed to return the hug. "How's it going sis?"

"Eh so so. How's life as a big hockey star?" she asked with a grin as she finally let him go.

"I'm not a star yet," he said bashfully as he let himself be led into the living room onto the couch. He sighed happily at the sight of the warm cream colored room with its familiar smells and old couch. "Training kicked my ass but I loved every minute of it. We've got a great line up this year. Once the season starts we're gonna be unstoppable."

"Dude I'm so glad. You're really doing it Mattie," she said excitedly as she sat with her legs sprawled out. "Are you guys gonna train in town? Can I come watch?"

"Yes and yes," he laughed wrapping his arm around his sister's head to give her an affectionate noogie while she groaned and tried to push him off. "We've all got memberships to this new gym that opened up. I can get you a discount if you wanna join up. Then we could head over together."

"Yes!" she nodded enthusiastically. Hitting the gym hard, putting some muscle back on and having an excuse to be somewhere kind of social was sounding pretty good. "When can I get that membership?"

XX

"Vanya?" Katya called in her thick accented voice as the front door opened.

"Privyet," he called back, before draining a bottle of water as he stepped into the small apartment. He had been living here between hockey training with his two sisters. It was a bit cramped but it was all his sister had been able to afford when they moved here. And besides, they had made it feel like home with warm colors, flowers among the sparse furniture and possessions they owned.

Still things were good. Katya had a better job now, Natalie was old enough for preschool, and he had been drafted in a hockey team. It had been hard, tiring, and lonely dedicating himself to his life ambition but he was doing it.

"I will not be here for dinner sis," he said heading to the bathroom to shower off the sweat from an intense work out. "I was invited by one of my teammates to some kind of restaurant opening."

"Really?" she said clapping her hands together in delight. "You made a friend."

"Da he is okay," he conceded pulling off his t shirt and putting it in the hamper neatly.

Matthew Williams was vicious on the ice, almost as much as he was. Both of them preferred to destroy their opponent with body checks, using their physique to intimidate as much as to glide on the ice. Of course Ivan was the tallest on the team but what Matthew lacked in height he made up for with the hard game face he always wore. A look that said he would fuck anyone who crossed his path up. Ivan could appreciate that.

They had talked a little bit and perhaps he could concede that they were slowly becoming friends. And that…would be nice. He loved his family and hockey but sometimes it became hard to bear staying to himself.

"It makes me happy to hear that," Katya said kissing his cheek.

"It is not that big of a deal. I will bring you and Natalie something back from dessert menu," he promised as he broke out of his thoughts. As he turned on the water he wondered with his violet eyes going wide and a little panic welling up just what he would wear?

XX

"Darling if I had known you were bringing someone along, I would have tried to find someone for your sister to bring," Arthur said he and his two children were seated in Café Emile.

The restaurant was located downtown and sleek with glass walls and sparse décor in favor. The effect was quite chic and the menu upscale French food as Francis returned to his cooking roots for this endeavor.

"Whoa whoa! Amelia needs no setting up thanks," the young woman huffed as their menus were set in front of them.

"Dad it's not a date," Matthew insisted. "Just one of the guys from the team. He's kind of new to the area and I thought it would be nice to bring him along."

"Oh look at that. Papa decided on chocolate soufflé instead. Go papa," Amelia chuckled.

"Well it's very nice that you invited someone nonetheless," Arthur said before looking at his daughter. "Young lady I know some very nice young men I'll have you know. Some of whom would be perfect to go out with."

"Does papa know about these young men?" Amelia mock whispered making Matthew almost snort into his water glass.

"Not amused," her father stated with a sigh. "You barely go out any more dear. It doesn't mean you have to get married but perhaps someone to go out and do things with is just-"

"Matt," Ivan said in relief when at last he had found the other man, taking a seat beside him as Amelia very slowly looked up.

"Oh hell no…." she muttered under her breath as her brother made introductions.

Ivan nodded a greeting to Arthur before his eyes fell on Amelia with mild surprise.

"And that's my little sister Amelia," Matthew said oblivious to the change in the atmosphere.

"We've met," Amelia muttered with disinterest as she grabbed some bread from the basket.

"Really?" Matthew said looking between his friend and sister while Arthur shot his daughter a questioning look.

"His sister is one of my students," she shrugged with her mouth full of bread. "Pass the butter."

"I did not realize you had such a tempestuous sibling," Ivan replied with a smile that did not reach his cold eyes. "And one with a different last name."

"It's a long story," Matthew laughed as Amelia glared at the Russian. "Arthur is my adopted father and Francis, the man who brought us here for the opening is my biological father."

"I was widowed and Francis' partner had left him when we met," Arthur explained at Ivan's curious look. "Matthew and my son Alfred we boys when we married. After sometime we decided to bring more children into the family."

"Two squirts and nine months later, my twin and I were born," Amelia added clicking her tongue as she finished off her bread.

"Amelia Jones," Arthur said looking at her sternly.

"It's alright. I find it amusing," Ivan replied with a giggle that made Amelia stare at him and mutter, 'creepy' under her breath.

And why the hell was he wearing a scarf in August for Pete's sake? It could have looked fashionable in winter but right now it was kind of failing. The dress pants and blue dress shirt were okay but it was his face that really kept it together. She could admit the guy had a nice face but that didn't really matter when he opened his mouth did it?

Ivan caught her looking and smirked, making her stick out her tongue in retaliation before lifting he menu up and blocking him out of her sight.

She looked quite pretty with sparkling hair clips holding her bangs back and a red v neck dress. But beyond the physical sense there was not much he found especially captivating about her. She was the all American girl, and he had little in common with such a person. But goodness that temper was fun.

"Firecracker," Ivan thought in amusement as he looked at the menu, feeling his stomach turn.

The words were in French and English. Neither of which he could read.

"I have not eaten French food before," he stated hiding his nerves behind a bland expression. "I will have whatever you suggest."

XX

The next morning Amelia got up late and shuffled into the living room with the morning paper and some coffee in hand. Café Emile had been hailed as a success of course. Francis Williams has done it again declared the food critic. It did make her smile sleepily as she cut out the article meticulously so she could past it in her family scrapbook for later. For now, it was gaming time.

She was just entering the game when she heard the heavy steps of her brother moving slowly through the kitchen before heading in her direction.

"You got back late. What is he your boyfriend now?" Amelia said grumpily from the couch as she pounded the game controller in her hand with her thumbs. Her brother groaned and sat down with a cup of coffee in his hand.

"Ivan invited me back to his place to meet his family. There was vodka," he said scrubbing a hand over his face. "So much vodka."

"So what you get drunk and have a sleepover?" she said rolling her eyes as she continued trying to shoot the shit out of all the zombies coming at her.

"His sister drove me home," he said and Amelia did a double take when she realized he was blushing. "She was so nice. I kind of want to see her again."

"She's been single ever since Natalie started coming to dance classes," Amelia told him and shrugged. "We talk about a lot. She's a friendly lady. But you gotta remember she's got a kid she's raising if you think you wanna go for it."

"I'm your brother," he said with a frown before taking a long grateful sip of coffee. "What kind of a guy do you think I am?"

"Sisters before misters," she shrugged, her mouth quirking into a smile as she returned her attention to the tv screen. "But I'll be totally cool if you decide you want to take her out."

"You do realize that means Ivan's gonna be around from time to time if we hit it off," he stated looking at her skeptically. "You looked pissed all night when he showed up."

"There is a perfectly good reason for that. Dude pisses me off. But honestly Matt, what difference does it make? I teach his sister ballet, talk with his other sister and you two play on the same team. Not much I can do but suck it up right?"

Chapter Text

Ch 3

The town's ice rink was pretty modest but it was still big enough that Matt's team could practice well enough as they got ready for winter. And luckily for Amelia the concession stand had hot dogs while she waited.

She pumped some mustard on from the bottle at the front before taking a seat, her eyes glued to the ice and the dudes who were racing across the ice. Taking a seat on the stands she licked some mustard off her finger and found her brother among all the uniforms. Of course he was kicking ass, sailing over the ice with the puck.

"Go go go," she chanted under her breath, almost getting up from her seat to cheer when he landed the goal. "That's how we do it in the Jones Williams house!"

She liked all the seasons but she really couldn't wait for winter. She'd go to every single one of Matt's home games, snow would be falling, hot chocolate would be made, fires built. And best of all Christmas. The entire family would be coming back home which meant all her siblings back together again finally!

She smiled to herself as she finished her hot dog in two bites and automatically rose to get another before stopping herself with a frown on her face. Was she actually hungry or did she just want to eat? In high school she used to eat about five in one sitting with all the condiments and fries. She took a deep breath and knew it was perfectly fine to get a second one of course but there was still that tiny voice of doubt. The one that was a lot quieter these days but all the same…

She sat down and closed her eyes, counting to ten to clear everything out of her head.

She opened her eyes and sat up straight at the sound of footsteps to see Ivan walking past her to sit on the opposite end of the bleachers. It looked like he'd just come out of the showers, his hair damp with a white t-shirt and some black sweat pants on. Dammit she hated that he was such a looker. Having the hots for someone who thought you were a moron was pointless.

"Matthew will be along shortly," Ivan said without looking in her direction, before starting to do some stretches against the stands.

"Do you really think I didn't dance ballet professionally?" Amelia suddenly blurted as she watched him the question that had been bothering her ever since they'd met.

He didn't bother looking up at her but was a little surprised by the question. "Your brother did not mention it when he spoke of your family and what they do."

"Well yeah but-"

"Besides you are young. Prime age to be ballerina. Most do not retire at such an age," he stated as he stretched his hamstring. "Either you exaggerate or you were simply not good enough to remain in a ballet troupe."

That last comment stung like a slap to the face as her cheeks turned pink with anger and she opened her bag to pull out her slippers. Grunting as she yanked off her sneakers and socks. Good thing she always brought a pair with her wherever she went.

Truthfully Ivan would have believed she had danced professionally before. He was only speaking the truth when he said that most ballerinas remained dancing until a certain age that Amelia had not yet reached. He had not meant to be mean, but honest. The ballet world was cutthroat and if dancers did not measure up they were cut or got out of the business. If his words offended her it was not his problem.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by a pair of legs attached to two laced up beige ballet slippers stepping in front of him. His eyes traveled up, lingering on how long her legs were before he looked at her face with an almost bored look, one eyebrow raised in question.

"Get ready for a private recital Braginsky," she said with a tight smile as she carefully went through all five positions first to warm up. "Hang onto your scarf."

He crossed his arms and watched, mildly amused that she picked La Bayadere. Nothing extravagant, no jumps or leaps, as she danced through Entrée de Nikiya. Her movements were controlled and graceful he thought as someone who had admired and studied ballet as a child himself. She made a point to dance in front of him on her pointed toes as some of the other hockey players stood around to watch the performance after their showers looking impressed and others wincing as they looked the angle her feet had to make for the moves.

Then the dance was done as she ended it a few feet from him with her arms extended in the air. A few of the hockey players clapped, one even wolf whistling as Amelia grinned, pink cheeked and catching her breath. Ivan caught her attention with a quiet laugh.

"My but you always have something to prove don't you?" Ivan asked with a cruel smile.

Her eyebrows knit together and she opened her mouth before snapping it shut.

"Oh yeah? Well your face has something to prove," she called angrily as she stomped off and grabbed her bag. She walked right out of the rink, fuming as Matthew caught sight of her taking off.

Standing up Ivan shrugged. She had done a lovely job of course but what had she expected? For him to go doe eyed and tell her that she was sensational so she could get a big ego? Nyet. She had the wrong man if that was what she expected.

XX

It was Friday night and with the only person who could be considered her friend Katya, was going out on a date with her brother, and the big hulking jerk off Ivan out doing what the hell ever, Amelia volunteered for babysitting Natalie. She'd gone all out, bringing make up, hair stuff, and ordering in pizza.

Kat and Matthew had thanked her on their way out, looking flustered and blushing at one another cutely. It made her grin as she waved them off and promised she had both of their numbers in case an emergency came up. When they were finally out she smiled at Natalie who was playing with her doll in the cozy small living room.

"Katya rented a movie for later," the little girl explained.

"I am so up for a movie," she said with a smile as she set the pizza box down on the table and her other supplies on the counter. "Let's get some food in you for right now then we'll watch the movie. Can you wash your hands for me?"

Natalie nodded, the blue bow in her headband bouncing before she got up and scurried into the wash room.

Amelia had never actually seen the apartment before. Sure, she and Kat were friendly but the Ukrainian woman was so busy between work and caring for a child that the most they managed were coffee dates once in a blue moon.

She took the opportunity to snoop as she walked into the kitchen to find plates. Lots of herbs and veggies so Kat was cooking a lot she guessed. The color scheme included lots of reds, oranges, yellows and blues making the space vibrant.

Setting the plates at the table she realized there were a few pictures hanging up too. Lots of Natalie when she was a baby to the present with her big blue eyes looking up at the camera curiously.

And then were was a collection dedicated to Ivan. She had to smile at the first one. He couldn't have been more than three years old. His chubby cheeks were pink and he was dressed up for the cold laughing as someone snapped his picture.

The next one showed him looking serious and only a bit older in…a leotard and ballet slippers?

"Holy shit," she said before looking over her shoulder guiltily to make sure Natalie hadn't heard before going back to her investigating. So that jerk had taken ballet when he was younger?

The next picture was of Ivan as a teenager clutching a backpack over his shoulder, looking awkward and uncomfortable in a big goofy sweater. He had been a cute little thing if on the chubby side.

Lastly a picture of him with his baby fat gone, a slight smile on his face as his sharp violet eyes looked at the camera raising a shot of something in salute. If she didn't know him in person, she would have thought he was a babe.

"Done!"

"Sweet," Amelia jumped as she turned around. "Let's eat."

After lots of carbs were consumed the two girls had moved onto giving make overs. She'd given Natalie's hair a French twist and some sparkly eye shadow before it was her turn. Amelia was patiently sitting with two uneven pony tails in her short hair as bright green eye shadow was applied when the door opened.

Ivan stared as the two women looked over at him, before ignoring him in favor of returning to their cosmetics. He shook his head before walking in and walking into the kitchen to rummage through the fridge.

"There's pizza left. If you want some help yourself," Amelia called with her eyes closed as her eyes were finished up and Natalie selected a bright red lipstick for her teacher. "We couldn't eat another bite."

Ivan looked at the box before his stomach growled and made the decision for him. Practice always made him ravenous.

"Spasibo," he said grabbing a slice, eating it standing up right from the box. "Are you having fun Natalia?"

"Yes," the girl said before finishing her work. "Okay now you are done."

"Thanks Nat," she said taking her hand mirror and lifting it up. Her eyes widened as she tried to bite back a laugh. She looked like she could walk into a circus and pass for a clown. "Wow I look beauuutiful!"

Ivan laughed quietly as Amelia arched a brow at him. She was gonna play nice for one reason and one alone, the little girl putting the cosmetics back in the bag. After that she was back to hating his guts.

"I will put her to bed after I am finished," Ivan told her grabbing a second slice.

"No," Natalie said with a frown. "We have not watched the video sister rented!"

Amelia looked from the little girl to Ivan before nodding. "It's true. I promised we'd watch it together. Wouldn't be too cool if I broke a promise right?"

"Suit yourself," he shrugged pulling out his phone and checking it as he sat at the table while the movie started.

Amelia was sitting back on the couch with Natalie nestled against her as the movie ended, the princess saving the day and lots of little trolls dancing around. She could tell the kid could barely keep her eyes open as she used the remote to turn it off as she looked down at her and stroked her hair. "Time for bed Nat."

The girl nodded sleepily, getting up to go brush her teeth. Amelia got up and stretched her arms over her head, feeling ready to call it a night too. Ivan walked past her, tossing the pillows aside to unfold a mattress from the couch as she gathered up her things.

"Would you like a washcloth for," Ivan said pointing to her face.

"That's alright. I'll just wait til I'm home. At least it should scare off predators," she said with a wide grin and she swore she heard a quiet huff of laughter from him.

Nat called out for her brother and he obediently walked in to tuck her in while Amelia laced up her converse.

"Big brother will you date Miss Jones?"she heard Natalie say to Ivan.

Her eyes widened and she heard a choked noise from the room.

"You want me to date Miss Jones Natalia? Her brother said finally in a strained voice.

"If you did then I would see her a lot."

"Sister if you are good girl then she will come back to babysit you again. There is no need for the two of us to d-date."

It was silent after that so Natalie must have accepted the answer. She was just putting her bag over her shoulder as Ivan closed his sister's door behind him.

"I heard that," Amelia stated as he laid back on the couch and sighed.

"Da," he said looking uncomfortable while she rolled her eyes.

"Don't worry. I'm not attracted to douche bags," she said walking off and closing the door before he could say anything.

Damn did it feel good to get the last word in.

Chapter Text

Ch 4
Saturday was lazy and as much as she tried to think of something cool to do there wasn’t much point in doing anything without people to hang out with. Flipping open the paper she checked the movie times at the theatre in the next town over, nibbling her bottom lip as her papa poked his head into the kitchen.
“And what are you going to get up to on your night off?” he asked going to their wine rack to select something that would pair well with dinner.
“Je ne sais pas,” she murmured in thought before sighing and giving up on the movie. “Not much of anything. How about I help you with dinner?”
He arched an eyebrow as they both recalled the time she’d tried to make cookies which had ended up a blackened mess.
“Prep work only. Chopping, dicing, chilling, dressing,” she clarified with a sheepish smile.
“D’accord,” he said as she hopped off her seat and rolled her sleeves up to wash her hands thoroughly. “Your cooking skills resemble Arthur’s more zhen mine.”
“I’ll say. How’s the new restaurant going?” she asked wiping her hands off on a paper towel.
“It goes. But I am thinking of driving up to Buffalo with your father in the near future. I want to check on Glacee,” he said referring to the swanky wine bar he owned.
“You should. You two haven’t gone out of town in awhile,” she said thinking it over as Francis tied his hair back and looked at her with a hesitant smile.
“Papa I’ll be fine if you guys leave the house. I won’t have any wild parties, shoot heroin through my eyeballs, or even use the basement for a cult ritual,” she said trying to lighten the mood.
“Oui. I worry too much,” he said shaking his head, washing up at the sink. “I know I ‘ide it better then Arthur but I cannot ‘elp it. I worried about everything from the bath temperature to the material of your diapers when we brought you and your sister ‘ome from the ‘ospital. It does not change now zhat you and the rest of mes bebes are grown up.”
“I know. Well I don’t know but I guess what I mean is thanks,” she said as he bent to kiss his daughter’s cheek before moving to pull fillets from the refrigerator.
Her parents were a lot alike but in many ways so different. Francis she felt like she could come to and talk with about anything no matter how light or dark the matter. Whereas Arthur always made her feel like she had to choose her words carefully.
XX

“Are you excited?” Amelia cooed the next morning over Sunday brunch Francis topped off her French toast with berries. There was less than a week until the long awaited home hockey game for Matthew’s team the Tundra Bears and it was on everyone’s mind.
“Frick yeah,” Matthew said eagerly as he poured a generous amount of maple syrup on his breakfast.
“I’m filming the entire game. Then your brother and sister can watch it when they’re in town,” Arthur said proudly as Francis took a seat beside him and kissed his cheek.
“I’m so pumped,” Amelia said cutting into her food and taking a big bite. “Two more weeks and we get to see you kick ass and take names.”
“As your sister charmingly put it, we are all looking forward to it cherie,” Francis replied in amusement.
“You guys should go out and celebrate after you cream them,” Amelia said between bites of foods. “And I am totally gonna make a banner. If you’re embarrassed too damn bad. I’m going all out for my big bro.”
“Whatever you wanna do Mia,” Matthew said with a smile as he basked in his family’s love and support. “Oh and I won’t be in for dinner tomorrow. Kat and I are going out so we can see one another before the big game.
“Ooh I wonder if I can babysit Nat and have her help me out with the banner,” Amelia grinned before spearing a berry with her fork.
“Or maybe you could find yourself someone to take you out for some fun,” Arthur said before sipping from his cup of Earl Grey.
“I don’t mind dad,” she insisted with a shrug.
“Ma petite, zhis is your father’s way of telling you zhat ‘ee is going to set you up on a date,” Francis said in amusement while Arthur looked pointedly at his husband and Amelia groaned.
“Come on dad! No way!”
“Now don’t be like that. You haven’t dated anyone since…since New York,” Arthur said as Amelia steadfastly avoided eye contact. “Don’t you think it would be good to try someone new? Just have a nice meal together and see how the evening goes? You might actually like him.”
“Maybe I’m not interested in dinner. Maybe I just wanna fuck and then skip cuddling to play video games before I fall asleep,” Amelia muttered stabbing a piece of fruit with her fork hard.
“Oh honestly Amelia why must you be so difficult!”
“Why do you have to butt into my life all the damn time?”
“Well someone has to! If we hadn’t you would have probably died,” Arthur shouted before covering his mouth with his hand, tears welling up in his eyes as Amelia pushed her chair back and set her plate in the sink.
“Amelia,” Francis said sadly standing up to rest his hand on her shoulder. “We just want to see you ‘appy.”
“I need some freaking air,” she declared shrugging off his hand. Before marching to the front door and yanking on shoes. She heard her parents quietly bickering and shook her head in disgust. With angry tears in her eyes as she booked it.
XX
She didn’t care where she was walking as long as there was sidewalk in front of her and plenty of tread left in her converse shoes. She just needed air and sometimes to be far away from home.
Sniffing from all of her crying she wiped her running nose on her sleeve. Gross.
Her troubles had started two years ago. She had been living in New York, one of many talented ballerinas working in a dance troupe. One night the lead had gotten sick. That’s when Amelia had stepped in. All eyes and lights had shone on her that evening. It had been wonderful, the elation and praise. Knowing she had succeeded. It was almost like a drug.
But that meant she couldn’t slack off. She had to keep going and pushing herself for better. Sometimes she felt like she had no control over herself. Always dancing, practicing. Each routine again and again until she could achieve near flawless dance moves.
That was around the time when she’d stopped eating. It had been casual. One morning she’d gone to rehearsal with nothing but coffee for breakfast. But soon it was spiraling out of control. The more her nerves worked on her the harder she came down on herself to be disciplined when it came to her food intake.
She’d assured her family that she was fine. Having the time of her life. When her oldest brother had come to see her, he’d been shocked. He kept telling her that he didn’t recognize her. Little had she known that he’d phoned their parents and then the questions had started.
For a brief and dark point in her life she’d shut them out. How dare they try to get in the way of her success? Her father had signed her up for ballet when she’d been ten. Saying she needed a disciplined outlet for her energies. Looks like his plan had gone too well.
Finally her sister had phoned her up and left a voice mail; crying as she pleaded with Amelia to get help before it was too late. That had snapped her out of it long enough to check her into a rehabilitation clinic for eating disorders.
The months and days had stretched on as she slowly learned to accept the bites of food she put in her mouth that she wouldn’t fail if she ate and took care of herself. She had been lucky and gotten help before any permanent problems or health conditions arose because of her sickness.
She shakily scrubbed her hand over her face as she walked deep in thought. Her father as much as she loved him pushed for things she didn’t want or need.
Her stomach chose to growl loudly, alerting her that she’d missed breakfast and would need to put a halt to her brooding for some food.
Spotting a café across the street she changed her course, pulse racing too fast and her throat tight. Without looking she stepped off the curb. A horn honked and before she could even comprehend what was happening rock hard arms locked around her waist and spun her away from the street sending her backwards as the car sped by in a blur.
She stared dumbly as it drove away before looking up into the face of one pissed off Ivan Braginsky as he stared down at her angrily. She swore she felt a physical chill just from looking up into his eyes. He was swearing in a quiet, intense voice and in Russian she thought as tears suddenly began to burn in her eyes all over again.
“ты чё, сука, охуел, бля?” he growled down at her as her chin jutted out, while tears streamed down her face.
“Screw you!” she said flipping him off before moving to walk past him.
“I do not think so,” he said grabbing her hand in his and dragging her over to a bench.
“Get the hell off of me!” she bit out, trying to yank her hand away.
“I am thinking you need to calm down,” he said dryly as if he were talking to a toddler as he sat down and pulled her arm. Shit the guy was strong, she thought as she was forced to sit hip to hip beside him.
“Now. Sit,” he said looking over at her coolly.
She hiccupped and wiped her face, the tears refusing to stop as she sat silently beside him. He reached into his jacket and she thought he was going to offer her a tissue. He produced a flask to her surprise and held it out to her.
She sniffed and took it from him, twisting the cap off and drinking it down. Vodka burned her throat and she coughed as he took the flask from her. He drank with one hand while the other patted her back firmly until she was slumped forward, breathing shakily.
They just sat together for a few minutes not saying anything. Gradually she became aware of the breeze, the sounds of driving cars, people chatting as they walked by.
“Thanks,” she said finally, not looking at him. “Please don’t tell Matthew about this.”
“Its forgotten,” he said with a shrug as he watched her curiously out of the corner of his eye.
“You’re being pretty nice,” she said with her eyes closed. “I mean for you because you’re not very nice.”
“False smiles and small talk just to appease people for the sake of politeness. I find it distasteful,” Ivan stated looking up at the sky.
She snorted and rolled her eyes. “Big bad Braginsky. Too busy to say howdy neighbor, how are you today?”
“And little Jones is as sweet as can be unless you piss her off. Then watch out,” he said with a scoff.
“Hey! At least I give people the benefit of the doubt,” she said pointing her finger in his face. “I try to be a good person. It’s not easy to put a grin on your face when you don’t feel like it or pretend everything’s just dandy but sometimes you do for the people around you and you just freaking deal with it.”
He looked at her seriously, with pity? It made her feel sick to her stomach. The uncomfortable silence had managed to get even more uncomfortable.
A few minutes later he finally swore softly as he decided to break the silence.
“It would be a good idea to pretend we do not dislike one another quite as much as we do. For the sake of our siblings. At least to keep up appearances. Something you are quite good at.”
“Having a lot of trouble with that lately when I’m around you,” she stated crossing her arms. “Let’s not make this a regular thing.”
“Agreed.”
XX

Chapter Text

Ch 5

Having a near death experience usually made you reevaluate your life. Amelia had two such experiences to date and produced different results.

The recovery from anorexia had been about making sure her head and body got healthy again. It was a work in progress but for the most part she was kicking the eating disorder's ass.

After the whole stepping off the curb thing it had given her a lot to think about in her down time.

What the hell did she want? She kept turning the thought over and over. The more she tried to decide what she wanted the more her brain hurt and she came up with nothing.

She flopped down on her bed, the worn American flag quilt bunching under her as she reached for a memo pad and tapped it with a pen.

She wanted to move out eventually. That was one thing. She used to love being home but lately she'd been realizing that it might be easier to love being there if she had her own place and became a visitor.

Things weren't the same as when she'd been a kid growing up in the house. As much as she wished she could pretend otherwise, wanting to keep her whole family close and together it wasn't the way things were going to go. So it was up to her as the last one to leave the nest figure out how to fly on her own.

Trouble was she needed a roommate because being a teacher a few times a week for ballet wasn't the most lucrative career. Soooo that would be listed in the column for future goals for now.

She definitely wanted to get out more. It would give her an excuse to dodge her dad when he tried to coax her into being set up again. She needed people to hang out with; that one she listed under immediate goals.

So how could she get out and interact more? What was the answer to filling up her social calendar and fast?

XX

"What the hell is that thing?" Matthew said staring at his sister as she led in a dog into the living room.

"This is Gemini. Terrier, shepherd, spaniel, and something else mix," she said proudly as she crouched down and snuggled into the dog with her arms around her. "Isn't she great? I picked her up from the shelter today. I am such a dog person I wonder why the hell I didn't think of it before?"

It had practically been love at first sight when she'd seen the pooch. She wasn't the cutest or the youngest but Gemini had been the friendliest with the biggest eyes looking up at her hopefully. It had pretty much been a split second decision to bring her home with her.

"Because dad and papa would kill you," Matthew said rubbing his temples and bringing Amelia out of her puppy love thoughts.

"She's already house broken. As long as I keep the hair under control it should be just fine right?"

"Uh yeah sure."

XX

"Thank god you got me that discount," Amelia said as they hopped off the bus and walked over to the gym. "After buying all that crap for Gem I am going be living fruitfully."

"Do you mean frugally?" he said as he scanned his id at the front desk before walking on ahead with his sister right behind him.

"Whatever. Same difference. I'm gonna pump some iron," she said as he nodded and walked off.

In her list of immediate goals was the desire for a total body overhaul. Thinking of how scrawny and unhealthy she'd looked not too long ago made her long for long toned muscles. She wanted some bulk and it was as good a time as any to start here at the new gym.

She headed over to the weights in her old beat up sneakers, yoga pants and t-shirt and tested out the hand weights before deciding to push herself a little. She became aware that one or two guys was checking her out, but ignored it as she put earbuds in her ears. She was here to work out, not get asked out by some dude huffing and puffing while he flexed.

Sure sex was in her list of immediate goals, highlighted with three exclamation points behind it but she'd never understood why anyone would want to meet up at the gym. People were sweating and showing off their weirdest faces as they squatted and burned calories. Didn't exactly scream hot to her.

"Bitch is pretty hot," a guy said as he tossed the medicine ball to his friend while they watched Amelia.

"Hell yes. Wouldn't mind jumping her in the locker room am I right?" he laughed before both men had a very firm hand clamp down on their shoulders.

"Hey man wh-what?" one of them said looking up into the terrifying and smiling face of Ivan Braginsky.

"Was I interrupting conversation?" he inquired as his smile grew and the two men stared up at him breaking out into a cold sweat. The guy radiated menace and from the grip he had on their shoulders, it felt like he could easily send them flying at the mats before they had time to blink.

"C-conversation? N-no we weren't talking about anything. Just working up a sweat eheh…"

"If ever I hear you talking like that again," he said as his violet eyes widened and he stared at them steadily. "You will not like the end results."

"Kay!" one of the men said an octave higher than usual.

"Glad we understand one another," Ivan said squeezing their shoulders painfully before walking off to silently begin lifting weights a few feet down from Amelia.

She looked over at him through the mirror in front of them and he back at her. Acknowledging one another before going back to doing their own thing. Now that she looked around she recognized a few other guys from the hockey team working out before her attention returned to the one standing close to her.

She appreciatively watched the way the big Russian jerk lifted the weights effortlessly. The muscles in his arms contracting with every lift made her mouth dry and her thoughts run into the gutter. Oh crap she needed to get laid and badly.

Ivan might have looked her way once or twice and thought she did not look unattractive with her face flushed from the exercise. But the physical was not the only aspect of a person that interested him he thought. She was someone he tolerated and would look after for sake of his ties to her brother. Nothing else.

XX

"Be sure to give these to your parents before the end of the week girls," Amelia said as the little ones hurriedly took permission slips before rushing off to their waiting parents.

Finally the recreation center had gotten a little funding and she could finally plan her first fieldtrip. She wasn't necessarily a teacher in the school sense but why not? Ballet was educational and it would be cool for the girls to see a real production up on stage. Seeing their instructor demonstrate moves and sometimes indulge them by showing off elaborate routines was not a replacement for the real deal with lighting, music, and a whole troupe of people.

Plus it gave her an excuse to see a show. Way to go Mia, getting your butt out of the house even if its kind of cheating as a fieldtrip.

"Bye!" Natalie called running off.

"See you Friday Nat! We're baking Halloween cookies," she called with a grin as she gathered up her things.

Life was the same but it felt like she was taking steps towards something big.

"One small step for a woman, one giant leap for Amelia Jones," she said to herself before hauling ass to the bus. She had to make it home to take out the dog or dad was going to go ballistic.

She got inside and took it as a sign of the universe smiling down on her to find Gemini greeting her with her tail wagging. Just a happy dog and no puddles in sight. Nice save. As a reward after potty time they walked off to the nearby dog park to enjoy the fall day.

"Who's an awesome girl?" Amelia said letting her off her leash as she patted the fur around her face while Gemini's tongue lolled out happily.

"Yeah it's you alright," she laughed producing a ball from her pocket. "Oh holy cow what's this? It's a ball!"

She watched Gemini take off and come back with her tail wagging.

"Good girl! Who's a good girl? Yup it's you!" she laughed as she took the saliva covered ball and pitched it again, this time hitting a passerby in the head.

"Oh crap," she said thanking god it had just been a harmless rubber ball as she jogged over.

"Hey! Real sorry about that," Amelia said to the cutie with brown hair as he rubbed his forehead.

"No no I'm fine!" he said as Amelia looked at him worriedly. "Besides getting hit in the head is worth it. It brought you over."

"Wow that's pretty flirty for a guy who might have a concussion," she laughed as he smiled up at her and took her hand in his lightly.

"What's your name pretty angel?"

"Amelia," she said more amused than charmed. Well maybe a little of both. "How about you Casanova?"

"Feliciano but you can call me Feli," he said with a friendly smile. "I have not seen you here before."

"Gem and I just got partnered up," she explained before looking down at her dog who was sniffing at Feli's brown Havanese dog that was yipping. "But I think we're gonna make it a regular thing."

"Molto bene!" he said bending down to retrieve her rubber ball and hand it to her. "Maybe the next time we meet you and I could go out for some coffee and leave out the getting hit in the head part si?"

"Sure. Let's exchange digits," she laughed shaking her head as she pulled out a pen and took his hand in hers to write hers out.

Chapter Text

Ch 6

"How was it?" Katya asked eagerly when Amelia admitted she'd had a coffee date.

"Pretty good," the younger woman shrugged. "He's a cutie but a total flirt and someone I think I see myself as friends with if anything you know?"

It was the night of the long awaited first hockey match of the season for the hometown Tundrabears. The two women had arrived to support their two family members along with Francis, Arthur, and Natalie. The air was charged with energy and everyone was hopeful that the new amazing line up would ensure a victory for the Tundrabears.

"We can girl talk about you too you know," Amelia teased her. "Just as long as it's PG. I don't mind hearing about how you and Matt are doing you know. The guy's been on cloud nine ever since you two started going out. It's nothing but Katya, hockey, food, sleep, and Katya with that guy."

"He is the sweetest," she said blushing as she looked down. "I never thought I would meet a man who made me feel so special."

"Sounds like you two are gonna be for keeps," she laughed when the other woman bit her lip. "I know you've only been dating a few weeks but I've got a good feeling about the two of you."

The announcer started to introduce the visitor team as Amelia looked around with a bored expression until she noticed a familiar face in the crowed as her eyes widened and her smiled grew. She nudged Francis from beside her and pointed in the direction she was looking until the confused Frenchman saw the person she was pointing out.

"Alfred!"

The All-American golden boy and oldest child of the Jones William family laughed and waved as he made his way up the bleachers.

"Surprise," he said as his parents and sister stood up to pull the man into a tight group hug before the people behind them started to protest when they couldn't see.

"What are you doing here? I thought you said you couldn't possibly make it," Arthur said as his son sat between him and Francis.

"Oh I managed to pull some strings," Alfred grinned as Amelia rolled her eyes.

"Nice use of power Mr. Representative," she said shaking her head, the announcer introducing the home team as she glued her eyes to the ice. Everyone erupted in cheers as the players came out, one by one skating to the center of the rink then back to their side as their names were introduced.

The entire family plus Katya stood up to cheer as Matthew skated out. The two women holding up the banner that said "Go Matt!" He shook his head as he waved up at them before skating to the sidelines. Ivan followed him out, making the girls flip the sign over to say "Go Ivan!" as they all cheered obnoxiously until he looked up at them. He nodded in their direction, a little smile on his face that none of them could see from the stands.

"I see you stole my wardrobe after I took off," Alfred said loud enough to be heard about the cheers as the puck was dropped.

"Hey man hands off. Finders keepers. You know how many boxes I had to look through to find this thing?" Amelia said wrapping her arms around herself in the vintage bomber jacket.

He held his hands up in defeat. "Just kidding. Besides it looks cooler on you anyway."

"You better believe it does hero," she laughed watching the players rush around the ice. Thinking of her sister-in-law and nephew she spoke up. "Sakura and Tony with you?"

"Just me. Tony had a sleepover he's been planning for a month and Sakura was gonna take the opportunity to have a night out with girlfriends," Alfred said avoiding eye contact.

Something was up. But as someone who'd been hounded for information and pestered by her family she backed. Checking in on the action on the ice in time to see one of the players get tripped by the visiting team. Which resulted in Matthew body checking an opposing player into the glass with a thud and some of the other players trying to get into a fight on the ice.

"Fight! Fight! Fight!" Amelia and Alfred chanted with the crowd as her parents looked on worriedly and Kat with her face buried in her hands.

XX

The match went to the home team 4 to 2. After that the winning team and a few crowd goers headed over to a local bar with a loud jukebox, cheap beer, and a pool table.

"First round is on me!" Alfred shouted as the team cheered.

"Good to see you're taking time off work for the important things in life," Arthur said sipping from a beer bottle.

"Oh come on dad," Amelia said nudging him as they watched Matthew and Alfred talk and laugh. "It's almost like having the whole family back together again. You've got to admit this is kind of great."

"Yes yes alright," he said shaking his head as Francis wrapped his arm around his waist.

"You are too tense," he purred in his ear causing Arthur to blush and Amelia to head far away from the parental flirting.

She grabbed a beer, taking a long drink before walking over to the jukebox. Her red lips turned up into a smirk when she noticed a few guys giving her double takes. She had definitely felt a whole lot of confidence after her coffee date with the cute, charming Feliciano. Why she couldn't line up another one while she was on a roll?

Sliding a dollar in she punched in the songs she wanted and sashayed off as Joan Jett began belting out a song with heavy drums and bass.

"Do you wannna touch! Do you wanna touch!" Amelia lip synced as she sat down on a stool and surveyed the bar for the next likely candidate she wanted to take for a spin. Then she saw the hottie sitting at the bar with glasses, piercing ice blue eyes and chiseled good looks.

Hopping down she walked over, wiggling her hips and moving with confidence. Or at least she did until a young man sat down beside him and started talking to him as the hunk put his arm around his waist.

Shit. She made up for it by making it look like she'd been headed to the ladies room the whole time as he gulped down more of her drink.

That was about the time that she noticed Ivan trying to disentangle himself from a female fan who was trying to coax him into the men's room with the ends of his scarf wrapped around her hand as she batted her eyes. His body language was screaming that he wanted to get the hell out of there and he even quietly told the woman that he did not do that kind of thing.

"Oh come oooon! This is what all you guys want," the woman slurred drunkenly as she tried to walk back in.

No way could she walk away even if she'd wanted to. He was trying to let down an inebriated woman and didn't want to have sex with her so bonus points to him for being a decent guy.

"There you are stud!" Amelia said walking up to Ivan and then staring the woman down.

The woman looked at her in drunken confusion. "Who the hell are you?"

"I'm his booty call. Who the hell are you?" she said puffing up her chest and slapping the woman's hands as she got her to let go of the scarf.

"Bitch," the woman said shoving her against the wall and making her spill what was left off her beer on her shoes.

"Oh you are so dead!" Amelia grimaced, taking a step forward to go after her until Ivan set his hand on her shoulder.

His face was red and he looked uncomfortable but he patted her shoulder reassuringly.

"Let her go. If she gives us more trouble we tell bar owner and have her kicked out yes?" he said, his words rushed and his accent thicker.

"Yeah fine," she said with a frown as she followed Ivan to the bar and took a seat beside him. "You guys were incredible tonight."

"Da," he said with a mild shrug in agreement as he motioned for the bartender with twenty bill. "You kill yourself working hard and it pays off."

"Yeah," she said uncomfortably as the bartender poured him two fingernails of vodka.

"What are you drinking?" he asked without looking at her before slamming down the drink and turning his shot glass over on the counter.

"Why you trying to get me liquored up so you can draw penises on my face?" she asked cracking a grin and making him look at her with an amused expression on his face. But he quickly sobered when he realized what he was doing. "Yours spilled when you were uh…coming to my aid. It's the least I can do."

"Rum and coke," she said deciding she wanted something sweeter as she rested her cheek on her hand. "And you're welcome."

"So," Ivan said the corner of his mouth turned up. "Booty call was that it?"

"Shut up jerk," she said shaking her head, smiling and wondering how long it would be before she lived that one down.

They looked over their shoulders when the bar suddenly erupted loudly at the sight of Alfred being held upside down to do a keg stand.

"My brother," Amelia groaned in embarrassment. "Sometimes I wish he'd act his age. Which is pretty sad when the youngest Jones is saying that."

Ivan turned away from the scene with disinterest and laid more money on the bar. "Is not so bad. Foolish but forgivable."

"Unless he pukes on papa's rug when he comes in. Then his ass is getting disowned," she quipped as her drink arrived.

She was so thirsty she ordered a few more drinks and by that point had no problem being more chatty, not really caring if Ivan was disinterested or not.

"You're not the type of person I figured would take ballet," she slurred as she looking at him with her face scrunched up in thought.

He looked at her in surprise before tilting his head. "I would not think someone like you would be ballerina either. You are-"

"What? Ballet is tough as hell and I am tough as nails!" she declared as he looked torn between laughter and exasperation. "Plus I can be delicate and graceful when I want. Just cause I didn't become a leading lady doesn't mean I suck at my job. And how come you got out of ballet huh?"

He hummed as he thought it over. "Ballet is not for chubby boys. I did not have physique for life as dancer," he said wistfully. "But on the ice I can unleash everything. The grace, anger, brute strength, and use everything I possess to win.

"Uhuh, uhuh," she said nodding emphatically as she listened. "You're built like a brick shithouse. You could totally own everyone you came up against."

He grunted in agreement and looked up in surprise to find Alfred sitting next to him.

"Oh man you hockey guys know how to party," he said before belching loudly. "Aww there's my seeester. My baby, iggly, bibby, baby sister!" he said trying to lean in front of Ivan to give Amelia a hug.

"You smell like you took a bath in a keg," Amelia said placing her hand on his face and pushing him back as Ivan leaned back and rolled his eyes.

"Alright let's get you home," Amelia said hopping off her stool and wobbling as she rested a hand on the seat. "Whoa there."

"Do you require assistance?" Ivan inquired neutrally as she slowly made her way over to Alfred.

"I've got this," she said grabbing Alfred around the waist and almost falling on her face as his weight landed on her full force. "Oh sweet christ I don't got this. Matthew help me!"

"Al," Matthew sighed walking over to his siblings. "Oh shit you're wasted. You both are."

Chapter Text

Ch 7

It was the morning after a second victory for the Tundrabears. Ivan was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of strong tea and the real estate listings in the newspaper spread out before him.

Things were going well. He and Katya had talked the night before. She would be just fine covering rent and expenses on her own. So there was nothing stopping him from getting his own place.

His wish for his first new place was that it be nearby so that he could be near his family and bus system. It would be prudent to have a roommate also. He would like to continue saving money. A habit of someone whose family had lived hand to mouth or sometimes barely at all.

He frowned when there was a knock at the door and walked over to open it, finding Amelia on the other side bouncing on the balls of her feet.

"Cool. I hoped you were in," she said with a grin, walking right in with a bag filled with something that smelled wonderful. "You eat yet?"

"Not exactly," he said staring at her with a puzzled frown. "Remind me why you are here again?"

"You saved me from death by Mazda remember?" she explained going to the kitchen to find plates. "I figured I owed you one. So we have some fancy but honest to god delicious hot breakfast sandwiches."

"I do not know if breakfast quite covers such a high debt," he said with a smug smile as he selected a wrapped croissant.

"Oh great you're going drag this out aren't you?" she grumbled leaning across the table to take one for herself as he laughed quietly. She glanced at the paper quickly before turning her bright blue eyes back up at him.

He felt an uncomfortable thump in his chest as he took a bite of the food. "There is tea in the kitchen if you like that kind of thing."

"Sounds good," she said getting up and searching for a cup as she stood on her tip toes.

Her shirt was riding up enough for Ivan to see the tattoo of a heart high up on her rib cage. God if she reached any higher he'd see the underside of her breast. The thought made him have to adjust his track pants.

He'd never denied she was an attractive person. Like a ball of sunshine, something that was nice from a distance but up close too bright. But lately more often than not he had found himself looking towards her rather than away whenever she was near.

Perhaps once he had a place of his own and could jerk off in peace it would help the situation.

Amelia sat back and snapped her fingers in front of his face as he was brought back to the present.

"You looked like you were a million miles away," she said pulling the paper towards her without invitation looking at the ads that had been circled. "Okay here's my final offer. You're looking to move? Well I'll help. Then we're even buddy."

"There is not much to move," he confessed.

"Fine fine then I'll assist in any way I can. Help you pick out crap and what not. I mean house warming gifts alone could seriously boost the number of items you own," she said before sipping her tea. "Unlike you I actually lived on my own for awhile."

"The debt will be repaid when you devote your energies to helping me make moving experience more pleasant then," he said with a small smile, unsure if it would drive him crazy to be around someone like her during such a stressful event.

All he wanted in life was to take care of his family as much as it had cared for him. Play hockey, then maybe coach. And also to be able to settle down and find companion to be with.

That last part had always been the most unattainable and he convinced himself that one day it would happen but it never did. Either he had people approach him like that woman who wouldn't take no for an answer at the bar or he sat like a wallflower unable to get up to approach anyone who caught his eye.

"I'm sorry but I just have to ask. What's with the scarf?" Amelia said looking at him pointedly, his face grim and cold as he stare back at her and she fought the urge to shiver. Man he was good at that.

"It was present," he said flatly. "Why would you move out and then return to living under your parents roof? Does that perhaps have something to do with your short lived ballet career?"

"It was just a question okay?" she said feeling herself getting riled up. "I wasn't trying to piss you off. Geez Ivan lighten up."

In a weird way she was starting to like him. No more like hanging around him. She could be herself and for the most part open and sometimes at her worst and it was incredibly comfortable. She didn't want to royally anger the guy when she'd just started figuring out how to be near him. Between Kat and Nat they were seeing a lot of one another during the week.

"I have to make some calls before apartments are snatched up," he said paying her no heed as he got up with the paper clutched in hand. "I will tell Katya you visit."

"Fine. I'm gone," she huffed irritably, snatching up her sandwich. "Call me when you decide when to move jerk."

Ivan was surprised that he felt a bit of regret when she left.

XX

"Happy Halloween ladies," Amelia said watching as the last child stepped out after grabbing a candy from the plastic pumpkin seated on a chair by the door.

Let's see, papa was home and had promised to let Gemini out. Dinner wasn't for another two hours and all the kids were scurrying off to put on costumes and load up on sugar.

Indulging herself she went over to the portable stereo and pulled a cd out of her case. She searched through the songs before quickly standing up as Act I of Giselle began to play.

She had the whole room to herself and she used it to her advantage as she romped around and curtsied. Arms extending, legs and feet light as she landed on them between fluid steps.

It was a beautiful solo piece and one she had only ever practiced for the lead part. But that was okay. It was a lot more enjoyable these days to perform for just herself. At least that's what she said to herself.

She turned and spun, smiling as if an audience really was in front of her. So absorbed she didn't notice the actual person watching her performance.

XX

Ivan had only circled back to the rec center when he realized Natalie had lost one of her shoes on the way back to the car. It had made him realize it was an excuse to see Amelia and apologize for the way he'd acted. But when he'd peeked his head in there she was dancing by herself.

He had never gone professional but he could believe she had at one point. Her movements were not perfect by any stretch but she was very good and her passion as obvious as the smile on her face while he watched her thin black skirt over her leotard fan out with her movements.

He slipped away just as she came to rest on one knee and end the dance none the wiser.

XX

Ivan rode the bus across town to get Natalie home. Then he took another line a few blocks down to meet a man who had advertised a want ad for a roommate.

He checked the address again outside the place; a pleasant brick building with bushes in the front. Every window to the apartments showcased the personalities within and he wondered which one could be his as he rang the electric buzzer and was let in.

He headed up the stairs, turned left and in front of 2C, knocking before the door quickly opened by the man awaiting him.

"Feliks," the short blond man said leaning against the door frame as he surveyed the man who was at least a head taller.

"Ivan," he said in greeting as the short blond continued to stand in the doorway.

"So here's how it goes. I need plenty of beauty sleep when I am home so keep it quiet. I'm a graphic designer with crazy important deadlines and I need to be left alone in my room. Rent is due the day before so there's no way screwing around on that. Also I'm gay, got a problem with that?"

"Not at all," Ivan said letting the other man ramble on about having allergies, not touching his imported snacks and looking at Ivan expectantly.

"I am quiet and keep to myself," Ivan explained truthfully, suddenly feeling as though he was interviewing for a high ranking position as he tried to remember all of his credentials. "I play hockey and keep my gear clean and out of way. I do have two sisters who will come by from time to time, one is four years old but she will not bother you."

Feliks fixed him with a stare as his eyes narrowed and his lips puckered up.

"You'll do. Sign this lease thingy and move in."

Chapter Text

Ch 8

Amelia arrived home with Gemini on her leash, tail wagging happily. It was a chilly day but the two of them had warmed up plenty after a brisk walk. She unhooked Gemini's collar in time to look up and spot her brother, fresh from practice as he limped in front of her.

"Holy shit what happened?" she said shutting the door and the late afternoon chill out behind her and ignoring her dog's enthusiasm. "You never come home looking like that."

"Eh its no big deal. One of the guy's body checked me by accident when we went for the puck. I landed hard on my hip," he grunted. "Just gotta ice it and I'll be fine. You know how sports are. Injuries happen."

"Yeah I know," she said with a pout. He was one of the few people who seemed to realize just because there weren't points or tackles in ballet, it didn't mean it wasn't hella hard. It took a lot out of the human body. Things happened, sprains, pains, muscles were strained, feet bled, and you had to take what little down time you had to put yourself together and will your body to function.

"Anything I can do?" she called as she marched into the kitchen to refill her pet's food bowl.

"Grab me an ice pack?" he called back immediately sending her to the fridge as he hobbled to the couch.

She happened to look at the calendar hanging up as she worked. Oh boy Thanksgiving was coming up fast! Last year they hadn't even celebrated. Arthur hadn't wanted to deal with that much stress after just receiving Amelia home from her recovery and she truthfully wouldn't have been able to handle it fresh out of rehab.

"Matt? What's happening this year on turkey day?" she called back as she finished packing the ice.

"Eh? Not sure. Dad and papa haven't really mentioned it," he responded.

Something in his tone told her that they had mentioned it and were avoiding talking about it around her. Well great.

Her mood a little sour she headed into the living room to find him lying on his good side with pillows under his head.

"Thanks," he said holding out his hand.

"Why do we never mention what happened?" she said handing him the pack.

"Talk about what?" Matthew asked, genuinely confused as he hissed quietly when he laid the ice on his bruised body.

"It's like we refuse to talk about the brief stint of anorexia I had until someone ends up calling me out on something I'm doing. Everyone holds it against me when it's convenient. If I do something that worries people its back to, 'oh but Amelia you starved yourself don't you remember? You should do this, don't do that'. After that we just clam up about it!"

"Maybe you could talk to a therapist about it?" he said as Amelia let out a sharp laugh.

"I don't need a therapist Matt. Christ I just…maybe you guys need therapy. I mean I had support and someone to talk to when I was going through that hell. None of you ever saw someone you could all spill your guts to who could help you go through it."

"Mia please," he said tiredly as he sat back, pressing the ice to his hip.

"You should probably get that x rayed if it keeps hurting," she said crossing her arms. "I can drive you if you need to."

"Thanks sis," he said looking at her worriedly.

"And make sure when you tell dad and papa about this conversation," she called back on her way out. "Let 'em know you guys aren't fooling anyone!"

XX

Luckily Amelia didn't have time to stew for too long when Ivan called in Amelia's debt for the move. She borrowed her dad's car and dropped by Katya's place so they could load it up in one go and then head over.

The car ride was silent with the exception of the radio which provided some much needed background noise between the brief instructions Ivan gave her to drive towards.

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes and wondered if it was necessary to apologize for their last encounter. It was not as if they were friends and he'd said far worse things. Why did it begin to matter to him this last time around?

"What the hell are you looking at?" Amelia said offhandedly finally as she pulled into the parking lot for the apartment complexes residents. If he thought he was being subtle newsflash, he wasn't.

"It would be easier if we backed in. Less of a hassle," he said chickening out when she called him out.

She grunted and turned the car around before backing up slowly and putting it in park.

Then she was out of the car in a flash, popping open the trunk and grabbing a bag with linens.

"Bet you're glad I helped now huh?" she said smiling smugly, taking another bag in her free hand. "Especially after Katya loaded you up with kitchen supplies."

"It is appreciated," Ivan said simply, truly meaning it though he tried to sound casual. "Spasibo."

He had to lengthen his strides to keep up with her. For someone shorter then him she made up for it with energy and determination to clear out the car quickly.

Between the two of them the car was unpacked and everything stored in Ivan's new bedroom in no time.

It was a nice place. Lots of sun coming in from outside, small but made up for by how the space was used. And the huge kitchen was a pretty big plus she thought leaning against one of the counters.

"I knew I'd find a way to fit interval training in," Amelia declared wiping some sweat from her brow. Ivan let a tired smile slip on his face. Suddenly it wasn't just the stairs responsible for her fast heartrate.

"Going to gym never made me want to nap for hours," he replied turning on the faucet in the kitchen, letting the water run cold before filling up a glass.

Amelia tugged on the hem of her shirt, flapping it in and out to cool her off. Even in the early November weather she'd managed to heat up.

He held the glass of water in front of her and she quickly grabbed it and drank deeply. She sighed happily, her big thirst quenched. He did the same thing with his head tilted back, his adam's apple bobbing.

"I wanna lick it," she thought biting her lip. Also she could so appreciate his butt. Getting to watch it walk on ahead of her and up the stairs had been totally worth helping with this move. Like damn.

"What the hell are you looking at?" Ivan inquired, catching her in the act. He surprised her when his serious expression broke into a teasing smile and she chuckled.

"This seems like as good a time as any to give you my housewarming gift," she said taking a seat at the kitchen table.

"You brought me a gift?" he asked in mild surprise.

"Oh yeah," she said pulling her cell phone out. "The gift of your first take out meal in your new place. I'm starving."

"Naturally," he said in amusement. "Most people give tea cozies or house plants."

"You should know me better than that by now," she said shaking her head wishing she could take back the words as soon as she said them. The way he was looking at her with those big violet eyes was too intense, too intimate and her words had done it.

"You want Chinese, Italian, or Mexican?" she said pretending to search through her numbers.

"Italian," he replied at last, moving to refill his water and regretting that the moment between them had passed.

He liked her. There was no getting around it now. She made him crazy. Sometimes she was exhausting, tiring or annoying like a yipping puppy showing off. She could get so riled up or angry but she kept up with him. He did not make things easy for her to get away with which he thought could be a good thing. It was very different from past attractions. This was more…compelling. Not always the sweet and soft feelings.

"Then we will be going with Ferdie's. The best Italian beef's in town," she said in a chipper voice and he nodded as if he had been listening. "We could go with pizza but you have not lived until you've tried these."

"Then by all means I must order one for myself," he said watching her as she grinned and nodded.

She'd just finished ordering on the phone when Feliks returned home from work, depositing his bag at the door with a dramatic sigh.

"I need snacks," he declared marching in wearing stylish slacks and a crop top. After he'd grabbed what he needed from the cupboard he finally noticed Amelia and looked her over.

"This is Amelia. We just brought my things in," Ivan explained. "My roommate Feliks."

The Polish man approached her slowly and tilted his head before seeming to come to a decision.

"Everything going on here," Feliks said waving his hand in front of her face. "So working."

"Oh uh thanks," Amelia said with an unsure smile as she sat down at the kitchen table. "You too."

"Thanks. I condition," Feliks said flipping his blond locks as the Russian joined Amelia at the table.

"It shows," she said earning a nod of approval from him. "You two have a nice place here. Well a nice kitchen and living room cause that's all I've seen so far."

"Thanks. You seem pretty alright so you can use the bathroom if you need to," Feliks said with a nod as he walked off.

Amelia looked at Ivan once the other man had taken off. "He's a hoot. I like him."

"Is that so?" he said in amusement, crossing his arms. "Is that all it takes? Permission to use the bathroom and a compliment?"

"It doesn't hurt anyone's chances," she said as they looked at one another. "Works better than your method."

He rolled his eyes and let his head fall back. "He seems to have no issue with telling people if he approves or disapproves. I am indifferent and was when I met you. Did it make such a difference in your life that one person did not greet you with a smile and fall over themselves to compliment you with polite empty words they did not mean?"

"It mattered because you didn't go away. You weren't just some random person," she said scrubbing her hands over her face. "You stuck and wouldn't go away."

"How flattering," he said pinching the bridge of his nose. "I cannot decide if you are more fixated on telling me to go to hell or winning my admiration."

"Yeah right," she said flushing a little. "I am not fixated! You just…you get under my skin and-and then I can't stop thinking about you-it!"

He didn't really know what to say to that as he went wide eyed and still.

"Don't say anything. I can't win with you," Amelia mumbled putting her head on the table with her arms to cradle her face.

"I was not aware you had lost," he said staring at her in confusion as she peeked up at him.

Feliks chose the moment to walk in and grab a bottle of water from the fridge.

"How long you two kids been together for?"

Amelia's eyebrows shot up while Ivan stared at his roommate with a frown.

"She is not my girlfriend," Ivan said quickly.

"We're just…friends," she said after hesitating looking back at Ivan as he caught her eyes before looking away.

"Not for long," Feliks said with a knowing smile as he grabbed a drink before departing. "This kitchen is filled with more sexual tension then food right now."

This was not the first time Ivan wished a hole would open up in the ground and swallow him whole. His entire face was red and he had no idea what to do.

Amelia looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, taking note of his uncomfortable expression.

"I like your roomie," she declared, barreling ahead to break the awkward silence. Someone sure as hell had to. "But man he is way off right? I guess the whole we're only friends because of Matthew and Natalie added to that being exhausted and kind of cranky makes it look like we wanna rip each other's clothes off."

Oh god it had started out so good. Shit she had just said that and the only thing to do was to laugh really loudly like it was the most absurd thing she'd ever heard and certainly not true for her. Hysterical!

Her laughter finally died down and still Ivan sat with a blank expression. He didn't know what to feel except very much not good.

"Amelia," he said softly and it made her go silent as she looked back at him.

For the first time since she'd met him she decided retreat was the only option here.

"You know I should go," she said standing up, grabbing some money and setting it down on the table. "For the food. It's still my treat. And uh this makes us even just for the record. My debt is repaid."

"Always keeping score. We could use you at away hockey games," he said trying to put some humor into his words. He stood up and jammed his hands into his pockets as she grabbed her keys.

"Stay," he thought watching her with a bit of sadness as she headed to the front door.

"I'll see you," she said looking back at him and biting her lip before walking out

Chapter Text

With the Tundrabears off at an away game Amelia had some much needed time to not run into Ivan Braginsky. But she also didn't have her brother around to hang out with during her free time either. Drag.

But maybe it was just what she needed. A little downtime to focus on her and those future plans.

She yanked open the attic door and the ladder creaked down until she could climb right up. It was November and darnit it was about time she got started on decorating for Christmas. After Halloween was over it was fair game to start hanging tinsel and wreaths as far as she was concerned.

Besides it would help keep her mind off the ominous lurking Turkey day coming up in a few weeks.

XX

Arthur nearly tripped over the field littered with cardboard boxes that had once been his living room. He stared in amazement. His daughter had once again singlehandedly brought down all of the decorations. Blast was it that time of year already? He'd been so caught up he'd completely forgotten.

"Oh hey. Can you pass me that box?" Amelia called from in the middle of the room, pointing to the box closest to his feet. "I'm pretty sure that one has the garlands."

"Amelia this is out of control," he said trying to figure out which box she was pointing to before lifting one up.

"I'll have it all out of here by supper. Ten at the latest," she promised with such a hopeful look in her eyes and he relented and rolled up his sleeves. So much for a relaxing evening he thought as he began to help his daughter put everything together.

"Do you think dogs can be around Christmas trees or should we just get a fake one?" she asked as her father sat down to unravel the garlands.

"I do not know. But we still have a month and a half to figure it out," he replied optimistically.

"And I'm going to need every day I've got to get everything going," she said determinedly as she pulled out red bows and fluffed them. "I want Maddie to really feel a big welcome back when her and Ricky Ricardo visit."

"Amelia that's tacky and beneath you," he chided her over the rim of his glasses as she pouted.

"You're right," she said glumly. "I know I should like the guy but he took her away and I'm still not over it. I'm not a shut in and I'm doing more stuff but nothing's ever going to be able to take her place dad. She's my best friend."

"I know love," he said sympathetically as she took a seat beside him. "Perhaps you should take some time off at work and go visit her in the Spring. In fact your papa and I were thinking some sun in Florida might do us some good when the winter becomes unbearable."

"Winter is great. It's just too bad you oldies can't handle a little snow and frost," she said before laughing when he father tried to tickle her ribs in retaliation.

XX

Thanksgiving Day she played hooky. It wasn't too surprising when her parents texted her asking where she was. She ignored them for a minute before typing in a response. "Hanging out with a friend."

She had thought she could handle the big day of food, food, and more food followed by football but not this year. Amelia did feel a little disheartened that something so small, a holiday that she'd celebrated from a young age could shake her up so much. But the fact was that she just couldn't handle being in the house all day ignoring the holiday unsuccessfully.

She thanked god, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that the bar was open and walked in to find her company waiting at one of the tables watching a soccer game. With a fresh cold beer and a bowl of pretzels in hand she joined him.

"Oh you're here," Feliciano said smiling softly as she took a seat beside him.

"Wouldn't miss it," she said her mouth quirking a smile. "Thanks for meeting me. I hope I'm not pulling you away from a family dinner or anything."

"I never really adapted to American holidays. I forget every time it comes around," he said with an easygoing shrug.

"Alright if you're sure I'm not keeping you," she said when the match ended and he'd ordered another beer.

"No not really. I'm all yours," he said with a smile and she swore she saw him flutter his lashes at her.

Of course then the little flirt took the opportunity to ogle the new bartender, a strapping blond thing with muscles that looked prime for picking someone up and throwing them on a bed.

"And hottie with a body's too," she teased as he laughed a little. "Why don't you go talk to him?"

"Because I'm here with you cara," he said finally turning his eyes away.

"Dude you're killing me. You've got the perfect opportunity to get laid and you're going let it pass right by?" she muttered in disgust as she munched on a pretzel and he blushed a little.

She ran a hand through her hair before sighing. "Sorry. Lack of sex has made me a bitter, bitter shriveled up spinster."

"Mia you are adorable. You could have any guy in this bar!" he said reassuringly.

"Well my brother has some pretty sexy guys on his team but how do you sleep with someone your brother works with? Well I did sleep with that intern in my other brother's office but the guy was so hot I'm pretty sure he was a Kennedy or something. I was so ready and willing," she said grinning to herself at the memories.

She looked up when she felt eyes on her. Looking around before seeing Ivan standing by the door staring from her to Feliciano with a furrow between his brows.

It was the first time she'd seen him since the die of embarrassment moment back at his place. Shit he looked good. Black jeans and a white sweater looked snug and warm on that big frame. She met his eyes and felt her face heat up before he broke the contact and walked to order a drink.

XX

Ivan refused to look at her after that, drinking alone by himself at the bar as he watched the tv. It was peaceful, calming he thought as he gritted his teeth and felt his jaw tighten every time there was that annoying female laugh from across the room. When the man with her got up eventually, he watched him go through the glass mirror behind the bar.

Then the peace was broken when Amelia let herself sit right down next to him, clearly a little inebriated as she used his shoulder as a prop to lean against.

His fist tightened. Amelia's companion had left without making sure she got home safe? At least he hadn't been the sort to try to take advantage of a woman like that. If Ivan had suspected that happening he would have strangled the bastard with his scarf.

"You could have joined us you know," she said looking up at him with a raised brow while he refused to say anything and threw back another shot.

"I would not have wanted to interrupt your date," he replied coolly, saying the last word with distaste.

"Like I'd come here for a date," she said loudly as she shook her head emphatically.

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye to see her watching him pointedly.

"I'm having a rough day. He's a dog walking friend," she explained while he remained impassive. She didn't know why she felt the need to explain herself instead of telling him to go to hell. "He was the only one I could think to call and hang out so I could get out of the house on Thanksgiving day."

"Ah," he said somewhat comprehending her. "Your family does not celebrate?"

"Not really," she muttered before drinking down the rest of her beer then letting out a loud belch.

Ivan muttered something about being lady like as she gasped.

"Oh shit is that the time?" she said staring at the new watch on his wrist.

"According to central time zone," he said in amusement as he watched her get up.

"I should head back. The holiday is over and I'm prolly safe," she said hopping down before leaning heavily against the bar.

He swore softly before laying money down and wrapping an arm around her waist to support her.

"Don't need your help. Whoa you are tall," she said looking up at him as he started to walk them slowly out the door, catching her when she nearly stumbled a few times. "Kay maybe I do."

"Someone cannot handle their alcohol," he teased when they were outside in the brisk cool air.

"Only because I'm little so it goes right to my head. You could prolly drink a whole freaking lot and not feel it," she slurred making him chuckle.

"It does take a lot," he conceded walking her down the sidewalk before looking down at her when she rested her head against his side. "It was not date?"

"No not a date. He wants to bang the bartender," she giggled before nearly stepping on her own foot as he wrapped his arms around her tightly to keep her up. She turned her head up to look at him and grinned. "And I need to bang something quick before I lose it!

"Da perhaps after the explosive headache and hangover tomorrow you will be ready," he laughed as he kept them moving.

"Like your laugh," she admitted as they reached her front door.

"Spasibo."

"Mmm like the way you talk too. If you weren't such a jerk I'd-"

"Amelia thank god," Francis said as the door burst open and he looked at Ivan in relief.

"I saw her at the bar and wanted to see her home safely," he explained under the protective papa's scrutiny.

"Thank you," he said reaching out to grab Amelia and lead her towards the house. "We are all very grateful. Amelie!"

Francis wasn't quick enough to catch his when she started to walk away in Ivan's direction, a look of determination on her face. Unfortunately her feet chose the moment to trip over themselves as Ivan leaned forward to grab her, keeping her from landing on her face as he stared down at her in worry.

"That was a close one," he sighed as he tried to set her upright. "You are a handful."

"You have no idea," she grinned at him before sobering a little as she leaned in and placed a kiss as soft as a snowflake on his cheek and made him feel as if he was melting from the gentle touch. He blushed and helped her back inside, nodding to Francis before walking off with his face buried in his scarf and a blush on his face even when he returned home.

Chapter Text

"So what do you think?" Madeline asked impatiently over the phone.

"Huh?" Amelia said focusing in her twin's voice once more as she broke out of her thoughts.

"About my idea for papa and dad on their anniversary," her twin sighed on the other side of the phone.

"Oh yeah it's great," she said hastily. "I can help with whatever you need me to do. Honest! Give me any job and we're gonna make this anniversary party rock."

"Something else is on your mind," Madeline said knowingly.

"It's kind of complicated," she said laying back on her bed, rubbing Gemini's belly as she spoke.

"Complicated is what sister talk is for," her sister said with a smile in her voice as Mia took a breath.

"Okay are you ready for this? I kind of have a thing for this guy. Aaaaaaaand he just so happens to play hockey with Matt. I think about him a ton. I used to spend way too much time thinking about what a jerk he was. But now it's gotten to thinking about how cute he is with his sister, that he looks real freaking good in a hockey jersey….I am in such trouble! I mean I think I like him but he's for sure not interested in me. So why do I have to get a stupid crush on some guy who's never gonna think of me as anything but a ditzy blonde Sandra Dee?"

"You're more hyper and less poised than Sandra Dee," Madeline said in amusement.

"Yeah you're twice the Sandy I am," she conceded rolling her eyes. "Back on topic here?"

"You really think there's no chance?" Madeline asked while Amelia nodded emphatically before realizing she actually had to verbalize her answer.

"Not a snowball's chance in hell," she said glumly.

She could still remember the other night when he'd helped her home. Granted anyone who wasn't a total creep would do that but it had just felt nice. The talking and walking. It made the physical attraction she'd always felt deepen and stir into the beginnings of something she wasn't sure she could stop.

"If I could just bang him one time I'm 87% sure I'd just move on," she said before her sister made an 'ewww' sound. "So where's my sisterly advice on how to deal with this?"

"This is huge. You're never shy about letting a guy know how you feel," Madeline murmured deep in thought about her sister's plight. "In fact I still remember before I asked Raoul out you told me to stop being a pussy and just tell him I liked him. And it worked."

"But Raoul actually liked you! Plus I'd seen him totally checking you out whenever you two were coming out of conferences together," Amelia pointed out before glumly rolling over on her bed. "Ivan isn't impressed by anything I do. Trust me I know."

"Maybe you should let dad set you up on a date," Maddie suggested hating the note of defeat in her twin's voice.

"Et tu Brute?" she said in a choked voice. "Maddie you know that's the last thing I want. I've been avoiding that for about a year and a half."

"Hear me out. It would help you get out and move on. At least see there are other guys," Madeline explained. "Plus you could always mention it to this guy and if he gets jealous you'll know there might be a chance. What have you got to lose?"

"I really hate it when you give good advice."

"Love you too sis."

XX

Of all the times that Amelia felt like disowning her family, having them try to give their opinions on how she should dress was climbing the charts for the coveted number 1 spot.

"This is classic and sensible," Arthur said holding up a dress with lace that looked like something Cyndi Lauper would have worn; if she had been a nun.

"She is not going to finishing school. She is going out with someone 'oo could potentially give us grand babies," Francis said dismissively as he sat on the bed, ready to shoot down any other choices that he deemed too dowdy for his petite.

"Okay you two are done," Amelia declared as she rummaged through her closet before pulling out a few choices and laid them out on the bed. Her parents stopped bickering just long enough to take in the outfits before they started up again.

"Amelia you can't wear that it's December. You'll catch your death."

"She 'as 'eard of coats ma cher," Francis said in exasperation as Amelia turned on them with a growl.

"Get out!"

XX

Matthew sat playing their game system in the living room as his sister headed downstairs and flopped down on the couch. Her fathers were under strict instructions to stay upstairs and out of sight when she took off. In fact Amelia had told her English father it was one of her conditions for this little date and it was non-negotiable despite his protests.

"You look nice," he said looking up at her before returning to the game.

"Thanks," she said looking around before frowning. "So Ivan couldn't come over?"

"He said he had other plans when I asked if he wanted to do something," he shrugged.

"Oh what a shame," she said moodiy, crossing her arms as she waited for her date to arrive.

She'd begged her brother to ask the Russian over to hang out and not ask questions or say that it was her who wanted him over. All so she could gauge how he felt when she came downstairs looking amazing and headed out for dinner with a guy. But it looked like that part of the plan had fallen through. Hell if he had plans maybe he was on a date too. The thought made her pout and tap her foot in irritation.

"Does he ever talk about me?" she blurted finally, grasping for straws.

"Not really," he said looking at her before returning to the game. "Why?"

"B-because I hate him duh. And I wanna know if he's talking shit behind my back," she stuttered worrying her bottom lip. As much as she wished she could tell Matt about her weird crushing it was just too complicated given him dating Kat and working with Ivan.

"I don't think he'd do that. In my experience on the team when he has something to say it directly to your face," he said admitted reloading his ammunition.

"Great," she said flatly picking some lint off her skirt. There goes plan A down the toilet she thought as the front door bell rang and Gemini started barking excitedly.

This sucked. Usually she had no problem getting the attention of her crush. She was a pretty girl, friendly, and outgoing. Just being herself was normally enough to attract the object of desire. Then Ivan had come along and completely thrown her off of her game.

With a sour look on her face she opened the door to be greeted by a nervous looking man an inch taller than her with brown hair framing his face as he held a carnation in hand.

"Amelia?" he asked with a smile, fidgeting just a little under her scrutiny.

"The one and only," she said forcing a smile on her face. Not this guy's fault he'd caught her during a weird mood. And now getting out of the house sounded very good to her.

"It's Toris right?"

"Yes that would be me," he said offering her the flower.

"Aw look at that. Matches my dress," she said taking the red flower with a hint of a smile.

XX

"What exactly did my dad tell you about me?" Amelia couldn't help asking as they were seated and given menus at the high end restaurant.

Her dad had been trying his hardest to get his little girl set up and Amelia could only imagine how he'd embellished his descriptions of her. If she was going to try and date this guy she needed to know the things her parent had spilled to the unsuspecting guy so she knew where to go from there.

"He did not tell me much accept that he thought we would get along well," Toris replied honestly. "And he did not exaggerate when he said you were beautiful."

"Smooth," she said as a smile threatened to fill her face. "Thanks for the compliment. You have no idea how much I needed to hear one."

"Long week?" Toris inquired as they peered at their menus.

"You could say that," she said before deciding now was a good point to leave her disappointments and expectations for the night behind. "Dad didn't tell me much about you either. Except that you're a teacher."

"Yes I teach middle school math," he explained perking up at the topic. "I never thought I would end up going to school just to spend the rest of my days teaching others but I like it. There's something very satisfying about helping students through equations and figuring out how to make it click. When you see someone struggling and then suddenly their face lighting up as they get it. It's why I'm in this job."

She smiled at him over the cutlery and water glasses. It was kind of corny but he seemed so genuine about it.

She already kind of liked the guy. He was pleasant, said nice things, and loved working with kids. This could go well as much as she was going to hate admitting it to her dad.

"What about you? I heard you were a teacher also," Toris prodded to keep the conversation going.

"Well yeah, but not like you. I teach beginning ballet at the local rec center," she explained lifting her water glass for a sip.

"I have no sense of rhythm. You have my admiration," he said making her shake her head.

"Hey I couldn't do what you do. I needed a tutor for most of high school math. We've all got something we're good at."

He shrugged and nodded. "It does feel that way. The world of dancing sounds very interesting. Not that I know much about it."

"Yeah we've got our own world alright," Amelia chuckled. "The pace is a little slower with preschoolers but I still like it."

"You found your calling. That is wonderful," he complimented her as her smile fell a little.

"Uh yeah I guess so," she said taking a sip of water. This was a first date and he was trying to be nice she reasoned. Not his problem you're in a funk with your career and life choices right now.

"I've never been to this place. My papa the foodie says the escargot is out of this world. But I don't know if I'm feeling like going heavy on the garlic and the butter tonight."

"I was too nervous to eat much," Toris confessed before turning his menu around. "Have you ever ordered every dessert on a menu before?

"No," Amelia admitted with a grin. "But I'm thinking we need to remedy that."

Their table had been filled up with every tart, bombe, and ice the restaurant had as they whiled away the time speaking about the kids they taught and the usual stuff about life dreams and their taste in music.

She had fun talking and getting to know the cute Lithuanian until he dropped her off at home and promised to call him. The night had ended on a good note she told herself as she toed off her flats and flopped down on the couch where Matthew was still engrossed in his game.

It was the calm before the storm when her parents would inevitably descend and beg for details like girlfriends rather than fathers.

"You have a nice time?" her brother asked hopefully as she rested her cheek on her arm and nodded a little bit.

"Yeah we're going to try heading out next weekend if he isn't swamped grading," she told him managing a brief smile.

She'd stick it out and see where it was going. He was nice. He didn't immediately make her gut twist or her heart pound. But there would be time for all of that to develop right? It's not like two people were introduced and just ready to jump one another in a frenzy.

She told herself to stop overthinking as he headed up to bed, ignoring the part of her that wanted a guy that made her temper flare and her body pop like a fire cracker.

XX

Chapter Text

It was late when the bus finally arrived back in town to drop off the hockey team. Ivan was tired, and a little sore from sitting on the tiny bus for several hours but his spirits were high.

"You played well," Ivan commented to Matthew as all of the players wearily gathered their gear and bags.

"Thanks I know," Matthew replied matter of factly as he hoisted his bag and shrugged. If they backed up their words and made the shots why pretend otherwise? "But so did you. We were on fire."

"Da, we are," he said with a tired smile. "And once I rest for a few whole days I will take you up on that offer to grab a drink."

"Cool. We should try this new bar in downtown. They serve alcohol and have videogames going," Matthew said with a hint of excitement in his weary features. "See you."

"Goodnight," Ivan replied making his way to the bus stop on his line.

A short while later he was home. After a long hot shower he felt somewhat human again as he curled up in bed and checked some of his messages.

Tomorrow would be a day of rest and recovery before he returned to his dedicated schedule. And there would also be family time slipped in so that he could cook for his two sisters in his flat. Perhaps Natalia would even indulge in another reading lesson.

It embarrassed him badly that his now five year old sister could read English better than him. He knew that he needed to go to a class to learn. Every day he told himself he would go, find the resources and pursue higher learning so that he would finally blend in better with American culture. Some other day he told himself.

He checked his contacts, pausing when the Russian words for dance teacher came up. He had of course put Amelia's number in his phone in case an emergency arose with Natalia.

He stared at the number and felt a desire to call her. He missed her more than he liked to admit.

No, too soon. They were not nearly familiar enough for him to simply call her out of the blue. His hopes and desires would lead to nothing if he overstepped boundaries.

He settled for renaming the contact something more appropriate. Solnyshko he thought smiling at the endearment. Yes that suited her well.

XX

On the second day Ivan hit the gym early. It was not as crowded as the afternoons when people came during their lunch hours, but there were still plenty of dedicated individuals who rose before the sun to use the equipment.

He started with the free weights, unashamed of starting with something light for his weight group. He was here to work out, not show off without a spotter and end up injured.

The Russian was almost done working his arms, when he noticed out of the corner of his eye as Amelia sauntered over. She looked at him and he watched her take a sudden step as if deciding whether to retreat or step forward.

But of course as bold as she was, she put on a little smile and walked over to him.

"I heard you guys kicked some ass on the away game," she said with a grin, crossing her arms with her hip cocked out as he continued curling his arms.

"You heard well," he huffed as he set the weights down. "The team has fought long and trained hard to be in such harmony on the ice. It has paid off for us."

"Ain't that the truth," she said nibbling on her bottom lip. "Thanks for last time. Getting me home safe. It was kind of dumb of me. I was in a weird mood that night and didn't think much about the heading home part."

"We have all gotten shit faced at some point in our lives," he said arching an eyebrow as he watched the conflicted look on her face.

"Yeah I wasn't really thinking of that so much as how the night ended," she said closing her eyes and shaking her head. "So sorry if I made you uncomfortable at all."

She had but not in the way she would have guessed; leaving his heart fluttering like the wings of a bird in his chest; the spot her lips had touched on his cheek warmed against the chill in the air.

"You didn't," he said shaking his head before heading over to the stairmaster. Amelia followed at his heels deciding on a whim to join him.

By the end of a half an hour, he was covered in sweat. Amelia was beside him, using the equipment with ease as she breathed through her nose.

"What you think the ballerina can't take a little climbing? I've got thighs of steel," she said proudly as his eyes quickly darted to those muscular thighs before he could help it. "Well okay maybe my gams aren't what they used to be but nothing to laugh at. Ballerinas are tough as nails."

"In my experience tough and show offs," he stated teasingly making her snort and shake her head.

"You're tall as a house. You show off just by standing up," she quipped right back as he laughed quietly.

"Would you like to grab some breakfast after you're through here?" he asked suddenly, blinking sweat out of his eyes.

"Uh sure," she said after a moment with a shrug. "I'm usually starving after a good work out."

"As am I," he replied turning off the machine and hopping down. "I will shower and see you near the entrance in fifteen minutes."

"Sure thing big guy," she called back. Was it the endorphins or her dumb ass crush making her feel a little giddy?

XX

"I have been coming here for a few weeks," Ivan told Amelia as they took their seats at the café. It was an intimate place with warm colors just a block from the gym where

"Right?" she said with a nod as she grinned over at him. "They've got some good grub. Almost makes me feel healthy with the fresh baked stuff and bits of green things in my food.

"Variety in the diet is always a good thing. I will have you over sometime and cook a traditional Russian meal. Hearty and filling," he said while tapping his foot a little, the only indication of his nerves in extending an invitation to her. "Katya taught me everything I know in the kitchen."

"My papa tried the same with the four of us. All three of the sibs are decent but I tend to burn anything that doesn't go in the microwave or on the grill," she said sheepishly as he shook his head.

"Then perhaps you could learn how to prepare meals for yourself that do not require heat," he suggested with a sly smile. "Cooking does not have to mean adding heat to everything da?"

As he ordered Amelia wondered if this was considered cheating. It didn't feel romantic she reminded herself. Toris and her technically hadn't talked about exclusivity but still that didn't make it right.

"Do you need another minute?" the waitress inquired waking Amelia from her thoughts.

"Oh uh strawberry protein shake and a spinach cheese omelet," she said hastily when it was her turn.

She handed over the menus and shrugged. "Lucky for me I have all the best delivery places on speed dial when papa's not home to cook," she blurted.

"We did not…." He broke off looking at her considerably before deciding to let himself open up a little to her. If he intended to make things move forward it was time. "We did not have much money growing up. Home cooked meals were cheaper than McDonald's sometimes."

"That's a shame. Every kid should have a happy meal once in a while," Amelia said no iota of mocking in her voice as she smiled sympathetically over at him. "What were you like back then?"

"Chubby from what you saw in our family photos," he said with self-deprecating humor as he raised his eyebrows. "But aside from that quiet. Intense. At least that is what I overheard my teachers saying at parent teacher conferences when they did not know what to make of me."

"Still holds true today," Amelia said with a shrug. "Not a bad thing I guess as long as you're not a dick about it."

"Such high praise!" Ivan said sarcastically as he leaned back in his seat with his arms crossed.

"Why sidestep around what I think right?" she said with a nonchalant shrug.

"Speaking of sidestepping. How are your classes?" Ivan inquired patiently as she stared back at him with a surprised expression.

"Did you just ask me how the beginning ballet is going?"

"Unless your profession has changed since the last time I picked up my sister from your class."

"It is what it is," she said running a hand through her hair, still damp from the showers. "Temporary until I figure a few more things out. Whenever that may be."

"That is surprising," Ivan admitted after a moment's pause as their food arrived. "You have always struck me as the sort of woman who is direct in knowing what she wants."

"Not as much as you'd think," she said evenly as she looked across the table at him unflinchingly. "One of the many reasons I downgraded from dancing with a troupe to where I am now."

He stared back at her curiously for a few moments.

"Who can say where you will end up or if it was the right decision," Ivan said after a moment's thought. "But I know that my sister thinks the world of you. Whenever I stop by for a visit she proudly demonstrates her dance lesson from the week."

"Yeah that part is pretty great," Amelia said with a grin. "Thanks. That was nice to hear."

"It is the truth. Nothing more or less," he replied with a shrug as Amelia watched him unabashedly over the table. Yes he didn't lie or shy away from it but he wasn't harsh or a prick like he had been when they'd met.

It wasn't a flat out compliment but it was nice. And it wasn't helping her with her moral dilemma about being out with another guy.

"Maybe you should train little kids at hockey camp or something when you're past your prime," she replied making him laugh and shake his head.

"I do not think I would be the best teacher to children," he confessed as she cut into her food and rolled her eyes.

"Yeah right. I've seen you around Nat. It's always 'big brother this. Oh Miss Amelia did I tell you about my brother? Remember my cool older brother?'" she said teasingly as he scoffed bashfully. "You're great with her and she adores you. I think you'd be a big hit with the younger demographic big guy."

"It might be more fulfilling than opening up a sports bar or launching a cologne line," he murmured in amusement. "Assuming that I am signed on to a bigger team. Then I can contemplate such lofty goals."

"I don't think that's something you guys are going to have to worry about. Not if things keep going the way they are," she admitted before tearing into her food hungrily.

"I am buying our meal," Ivan announced suddenly as he lifted a spoonful of yogurt to his lips. "You bought twice already. It is my treat today."

"If you insist," she said before adding cheekily. "I'm not gonna argue if you want to keep me fed."

The tall Russian attempted to shift his long legs without bumping her beneath the table and found himself accidentally nudging her feet that were splayed out.

"S-sorry," he said pulling his legs in, bumping the table top and as Amelia looked at him and bit her cheek to keep from laughing.

"I don't mind accidental footsie," she said reassuringly with a friendly wink. And darn if he wasn't the cutest thing when he blushed. Not that she'd been trying to do that. "So when is the home cooked Russian meal going to take place?

"I will call you when I am free," he said looking over at her with a brief smile before quickly focusing on his food.

He was proud of himself for making the invitation. Now he had an excuse to call her sometime. It had been a very good week he decided smiling to himself as he looked up in time to see her gazing at him before hurriedly pretending to look at something in the café décor.

Chapter Text

"Alright ladies that was great," Amelia said beaming at her class on the snowy mid-December day.

She cut the music off as the girls stood in their resting positions. They had added a few more moves to their routine as she led them through the choreography that they were practicing for the upcoming spring show.

"So this is it. The next time I see you girls will be after Santa visits everyone," she told them grabbing a bag of candy canes to pass out. "I'm really proud of all of you. I know you're parents are gonna love seeing what we do this spring. You've all worked really hard and everyone is going to be blown away when we show what we can do."

She moved along the line to give everyone the candy one little girl shook her head.

"Oh sorry. Don't like candy canes Michelle?" Amelia said offering the next girl one.

"I don't want to eat too much sugar. Mama says when she eats too much it makes her fat," the little girl confided in her teacher.

Amelia's smile fell as she tried to think of what to say. Damn she thought she'd had it bad getting her body issues when she was in her teens. She'd been lucky she realized.

Some of these little girls who were barely in preschool were already thinking about their bodies and measuring them up to impossible standards. Some of them might even develop eating disorders one day. It would only get tougher as they got older with everything happening.

As parents came in and grabbed up their little ones to prepare for the holiday festivities she stood in her leotard and red and white Santa hat feeling angry. These girls were hers to teach and take care of while they were learning something that they enjoyed once a week. Like hell was she just going to sit by and do nothing while body image issues started cropping up.

"Happy holidays Miss Mia!" Marta said giving her a quick hug before walking off to be collected by her papa.

"See ya Marta!" she waved with a tight smile as Katya stepped in to retrieve Natalie.

"Hello Mia," the Ukrainian woman said flushed from the cold and offering her a smile as she worked on bundling her little sister up.

"Hey lady," Amelia said turning off the stereo system. She didn't much feel like having her own private dance afterwards today. "I heard Matthew invited you to come over for Christmas after Nat opens her presents from Santa."

"Yes!" she nodded as she wrapped a scarf around the girl. "There is still so much to prepare but I am very happy to be coming over. Your family is so kind."

"The more the merrier. The other two sibs are bringing their spouses. One more just adds to the party," she assured the two with a grin. Her spirits lifting a little at the thought of her favorite holiday.

"We will see you later," Katya said leading Natalie off as they waved to her.

Amelia returned the wave before formulating a plan. It had never been clearer to her what she had to do.

XX

"Come on its dinner. Papa made your favorite jerk," Matt called as he wrapped his knuckles hard on his sister's door.

"Hello dear bro of mine!" she called before emerging from behind the door. "Nice pjs."

She nodded to his candy cane long johns with a snicker.

"You've been in there all day. It was kind of weirding everyone out," Matt admitted as she headed downstairs in her own lounge wear. "Usually at this time of year you're blasting Christmas music and helping assist in the Christmas card mail out."

"I was still blasting music. Just in the comfort of my room. I kind of have a different project this year in addition to the holiday greatness," she admitted. "It's something I'm doing for my students."

"Oh," Matthew said looking curious as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

"It might turn out crappy but I gonna try it anyway," she explained with a shrug.

"I hope it turns out how you want it then," he told her with a slight smile. "Kind of cool that you're doing a project."

"What about you?" she asked taking a seat at the table where her parents were waiting. "How's it feel with only one more game before a two week break?"

"Going through withdrawals as we speak," her brother told her dryly as Arthur chuckled and served everyone the food. "I still have to train. Plus some of the guys are going to hang out and drop by after the holidays."

"You all seem close. It's quite nice actually," Arthur commented as his son shrugged.

"I guess training that intensely and giving shit to the other team makes for some tight bonding," Matthew said making Francis snort.

"Shedding blood and jerseys together. What fraternity," Arthur said shaking his head.

"To keep everyone up to date. Alfred will be 'ome on Christmas Eve. Madeline and Raoul will be flying in on Tuesday," Francis told them all hungrily taking a bite of his cooking. "Hmm not enough salt."

"The whole gang back together again," Amelia said before taking a bite of food from her plate. "Naw its fine papa."

"It has been too long," Arthur agreed reaching for his husband's hand. "All of our brood under one roof again."

The kitchen was quiet warm and full of good vibes. So naturally Amelia decided it might be a pretty good time to bring up another random topic.

As you all know it's almost Christmas," Amelia said while the others dug into their plates. "And February is gonna be right around the corner."

"Mmm you and Toris already have any Valentine's day plans yet?" Francis inquired as his daughter looked at him and shrugged.

"Well probably. But uh you guys know that it's also National Eating Disorder Awareness month right?"

"Oh is it?" Arthur said casually, his hand clenching in his husband's.

"Did you want to do something to observe it this year?" Matthew asked her while her parents stayed quiet.

"Yeah. I think maybe I'm ready to start talking about this," she admitted watching her family. "Or I feel like I should at least. Just share what I went through maybe help someone else out who's going through recovery or about to get really sick."

"Perhaps you're right," Arthur said after a quiet pause as Francis and Amelia looked at him in surprise. "There might be a support group or high school you could speak at."

"Whoa I didn't even think about talking to high school kids," she admitted nodding eagerly as her thoughts raced. "That could seriously work. I need to figure out if there are any meetings nearby or what!"

"Amelia Liberty Jones Williams stay down," Francis chastised her when she made to get up from her seat. "We 'ave not seen you all day. Your project will be waiting even after your belly is full."

"Haha right," she said sheepishly. "Busted."

"It's a great idea," Matthew assured her with a grin and Mia felt pretty validated with her family's support.

XX

There was less than a minute to go before the end of the final period. The scores were tied, and the Tundrabears needed a goal.

Ivan chased after the puck as it traveled with the rival team's players; until it was passed to the unfortunate man who was promptly shoved into the glass divider by the Russian. It left Matthew free to scramble for the puck and take possession. He skated fast with the other team in hot pursuit.

To be on the safe side and get the visiting team off his teammate's back, Ivan decided psychological warfare was best.
"Kolkolkolkolkolkol," he panted as he closed in on one of the players, his violet eyes wide as the other man stared at him fearfully and Ivan brushed past him to skate just behind the others, making them hesitate just long enough for the Canadian player to land the goal.

Ivan smirked as the buzzer sounded and the crowd cheered. Perfect.

The winning team engaged in jovial shoves and pats on the back and ass as they finally ran through the locker room. The season was progressing nicely. They'd had only a single defeat so far and it looked like they could be looking at the championships if things continued the way they were.

"Anybody going for drinks tonight?" one of the men asked as they made their way out, the crowds filtering out of the stands.

"I'm out," Matthew said waving at Kat as she made her way over. The two exchanged hellos before shyly kissing.

Ivan looked on approvingly as the couple talked. Matthew was a good man, he had no worries for the outcome of their dating. Katya was happy and even less stressed as of late. Their younger sister had approved of Matthew ever since he'd brought her a giant stuffed Polar bear after his and Katya's first date.

"Great game," Amelia said suddenly sidling up to him, giving him a playful nudge in the side. "I think you've got the championship in the bag."

"We will have to see how the rest of the season goes," he replied simply nudging her back and making her take a step or two; his playful push having more force then hers.

"Watch it!" she warned him, the smile never leaving her face. "Or I won't do my famous cheers when you come out on the ice from now on."

"Oh heavens to the Betsy, we would not want that!" he teased making her laugh as another man walked up and took her hand in his.

"You guys were wonderful," Toris said with a friendly smile. "Amelia can't stop talking about the way you play."

"Uh this is Toris. Toris, this is Ivan," Amelia said feeling a little awkward standing between the two guys.

"Hmm," Ivan said smiling widely and resting a hand on Toris' shoulder making the smaller man go a little wide eyed.

"Is nice to meet you. Word of advice? She has siblings. Treat her well," Ivan said with a childlike smile that didn't match the frost in his voice.

"Oh I kn-know she has two older brothers," he said with a weak laugh.

"I was not talking about them. There is nothing more formidable then a big sister," Ivan replied with a brittle smile.

Amelia stared after Ivan when he walked off in a hurry. Yeah that answered none of her questions.

"He's a little intense isn't he?" Toris said finally shaking off his fright.

"You get used to it," she said as her shoulders slumped.

She felt kind of bad about the whole thing as she looked into Toris' green eyes. He was a nice guy and she liked spending time with him. Why was she being such an idiot about this whole dating thing?

"How about we grab something greasy from the concession stand before we take off?" she offered before kissing her date's cheek. "My treat."

XX

"You're not eating," Katya said raising a brow as she sat across from her brother. Piroschki were his favorite and yet he had barely touched it.

"My mind is on other things," he admitted as Natalie tilted her head up at him.

"You have seemed occupied the last few times we have seen you," his older sister said thoughtfully as he ducked his head. "But it is alright if you don't want to talk about it."

The two adults looked to the little girl.

"If you are done Nata why don't you clear your plate? After you wash your hands you can pick out a picture book for me to read along with you," he said.

The girl nodded, clearing her empty plate as she got up.

"If I have to finish my food then so do you Vanya," she told him matter of factly.

"You are right," he said shaking his head as he cut into his food and took a big bite until she was satisfied. "It is the rule."

As the child walked off Katya fixed her vivid blue eyes on her brother. He was a grown man she had raised from child. If he had something that was bothering him, she wished to console him.

"I don't really have the words," he said playing with the ends of his scarf. "I have developed feelings for Amelia."

"Oh," Katya said as her eyes widened in surprise. "I knew that you were getting along better together. I thought the two of you had just become better friends."

"We are friends I think," he said crossing his arms with an amused smile. "Against all odds."

"You know she is seeing someone don't you?" Katya replied knowingly as the young man gave a resigned nod. "So what now?"

He thought of her smile, her stubbornness, the way she would become furious with him, how she danced, and how she would let Natalie play whatever she wished when she babysat. The way she had defended him at the bar after the first hockey game.

"I am no less interested in her beyond friendship," Ivan mused as he thought it over. "But that does not mean I do not value what the two of us share now. If our friendship grows I would be happy. If one day the timing was right I would ask her out in a heartbeat. But I will not make her uncomfortable with advances while she is seeing someone else."

No matter how much it sucked and he wished things were different it did not mean that a friendship with Amelia was without reward. She made him laugh, enjoy himself, feel lighter and challenged. He had everything to gain by deepening their platonic relationship.

"For now I simply wish to spend time with her as I would with her brother," he concluded with a small smile.

"That is a relief to be honest," Katya said as he got up to clear her plate. "I also wanted to let you know that Matthew's family invited us to spend Christmas day with them. All three of us."

"Then all three Braginsky's will arrive on their door," Ivan stated before taking another bite of his food.

Katya smiled and kissed the top of his head.

"People break up and get together all the time. We never know what the future holds," she said walking into the kitchen.

Chapter Text

"It is bloody insane out there," Arthur huffed, overloaded with shopping bags that he deposited in the foyer.

"Oh my brave English gentleman venturing out into ze treacherous shopping mall," Francis called out as his husband walked into the kitchen.

"They were out of whole cloves but I managed to find the ground sort," Arthur said blandly as he held up the plastic container.

"It will 'ave to do zhen," Francis shrugged and turned to look back at his youngest child's progress at the kitchen table. "It is not brain surgery ma petite chou."

"Right. Dad said the same thing about dancing," Amelia said with a snort. "I'd like to see a neurosurgeon do a pirouette without passing out."

And with that she returned her attention to painstakingly decorate her gingerbread house. Gemini had gotten into the first one so she only had one more shot left. But it was still a heck of a lot of fun.

Busy in the warm kitchen she was surrounded by the smells of sugar and cinnamon. In fact the entire house smelled like a big bakery as Francis turned his attention to mass producing baked goods to fatten his family up during the long anticipated holiday break.

With the rec center closed it was time to chill. In other words decking the halls and marathon watching Christmas movies.

Maddie and Raoul would be landing at the airport soon. Alfred would drive in with Sakura and Tony from D.C. For a few precious days it was going to be the Jones Williams family time plus a few spouses and kids thrown in.

She'd decided a tin of cookies would be Toris' gift this year. They'd been dating for less than a month so she had no idea what the hell he'd like. But it was cool.

The two of them weren't exchanging big gifts but they'd make up for it. On New Year's Eve they were going to ring in January first with a big night on the town. It would be fun she told herself. Flashy dress, some dancing, cocktails and appetizers. Stereotypical kiss at midnight.

"Hey no eating!" Amelia snapped when Gemini started to look like she was going to try and make a go for the gingerbread. The dog let out a high pitched whimper. "Oh you need to go potty?"

She hopped up and opened the sliding door for her dog just as Matthew walked down from upstairs.

"There's a couple of gingerbread people if you wanna get in on the icing and candy button palooza," Amelia told him cheerfully.

"I think I'll pass," he said in favor of taking a decorated cookie and biting into it. "You want to come with me to pick up Madeline?"

"Sure thing. Just let me clean this sugary crap up," she said setting her house on a cake stand far up on the island where it would be safe from canine clutches.

Before they could pull on winter gear the front door opened.

"Whoa something smells good," Alfred called shutting the door behind him and stomping the snow from his shoes.

"Get down Mr. Congressman!" Amelia shouted rushing at her brother with Matthew in hot pursuit.

"Uncle! Uncle" Al yelped as he was tackled back against the door in an unbreakable hug from the two siblings. "Geez where's the damn fire?"

"Welcome home Mr. Jones," Matthew smirked as he let go of him. "Does Sakura need any help with the bags?"

"Oh uh no not really," Alfred said with an uneasy smile as he nervously ran a hand through his hair. "She's not going to be coming this year."

"Why because dad got drunk during the Christmas speech last year and spilled mulled wine on her skirt?" Amelia said trying to joke as Matthew looked at their sibling intently.

"We're separating okay?" Alfred said not looking at them as he picked up his bag and carried it through the house.

"Why would you do that? What did you do?" Amelia called after him.

"Oh thanks for the support," Alfred yelled back angrily as he climbed the stairs.

"Smooth Mia," Matthew sighed before heading up the stairs after Al.

"Bah humbug," she muttered.

XX

"Maddie!" Amelia shouted running to greet her sister the minute she spotted her. She grabbed her in a hug, laughing and not letting go until her sister insisted they were blocking foot traffic. "It's been way too long. An entire season went by without seeing you uterus roomie."

"It is nice to be back," Madeline agreed with a sweet smile as her husband came up alongside her. "It's just not Christmas with palm trees and sun all the time."

"I'll just bet it's so tough," Amelia scoffed noting her sister's glowing tan and happy demeanor.

"You wouldn't believe what a burden it is working on the laptop by the pool just to get my projects finished before dinner," Maddie sighed shaking her head as her sister rolled her eyes.

"You're fooling nobody lady."

"Hey chica," the broad Cuban man coming up from behind greeted.

"Hi Raoul," she said with a nod.

She was never going to be best friends with her brother-in-law but nothing was going to dampen her mood now that everybody was back together.

XX

The scene on Christmas Eve was just about perfect. All four siblings decorated the tree while Arthur built a fire in the mantle and Francis set out a few snacks for everyone. Raoul was satisfied setting up in the corner stringing popcorn.

"So what did you guys get me in exchange for the gift of my heroic presence?" Alfred snickered while Madeline rolled her eyes and strung up the popcorn garland.

"Yeah right you gotta give up some presents and loosen the purse strings first," Amelia said nudging him in the ribs. "Santa doesn't like skinflints Al."

"Fine fine let me just go pull out all six bricks of fruit cake goodness," the oldest laughed before the other three erupted in boos. Matthew tossed a cranberry at him in retaliation.

"Children how many times have I told you not to play with your Christmas decorations," Arthur said in amusement as he sat down next to Francis.

"Remind me why Sakura and Tony will not be joining us?" Francis said resting his head on Arthur's shoulder.

"We separated. She's staying with her folks. Says I don't spend enough time at home," Alfred said quietly while Raoul snorted.

"A little forewarning would have been nice," Arthur said arching a brow at his son.

"Sure dad next time I'll be sure to have my secretary type you up a memo when my marriage falls apart."

"Tony is still our grandchild," Francis said looking at their eldest steadily. "I think what we meant was it would 'ave been nice to send it to 'im. We are still sorry for your loss."

"It's been a long time coming," Alfred shrugged as he sat back. "Our lifestyles are incompatible."

"She deserves better," Madeline said finally making the whole family look to her. "She told me what's been going on. All the campaigning. Barely seeing you except through your secretary during the week. She's a woman Al, not a constituent you get to pencil in."

"Look Maddie-"

"You're the golden boy but only on the outside," she said looking at him sadly. "You're not the same person we all idolized growing up. You've changed Al. Definitely not in a good way."

He stared at her in shock and no one said anything for a while. It was a good thing there were Christmas carols playing to break the awkward silence.

XX

Bright and early Christmas morning Katya brought her family over. The breakfast dishes had only just been washed and presents were ready to be opened. Little Natalie was delighted to find that she had a present from the family as Katya pulled Matthew under some mistletoe for a holiday kiss.

"Thank you for the invitation," Ivan said with a brief polite smile setting down a wrapped up parcel on the table along with a shopping bag. "It is a poinsettia. We wished to bring a little something for your family's kindness."

"Ow lovely," Francis said unwrapping it to reveal the white flowered plant. "Merci."

"It's a real beaut," Amelia agreed as Ivan sat down

"Spasibo. You as well," he said without thinking about his words, sitting on the opposite end of the sofa.

"Oh don't I know it," Amelia chuckled winking at him and watching him turn bashful when he realized his mistake.

"Relax," she said leaning back on the sofa. "I know what you meant big guy. Just sit back and enjoy the party."

"We don't have any other family so it's good that my sisters have somewhere else where they are welcome today," he admitted.

Amelia frowned and poked him in the side making him wince.

"What's with this 'they' stuff?" she said pointedly as she looked at him. "You weren't just invited because of them you know. Like it or not you've been welcomed into the heart and home of the Jones Williams family."

He his expression softened as he slowly nodded, looking into her blue eyes for so long that eventually she looked away. With a soft blush dusting her cheeks he noticed.

She gratefully accepted the refill on her drink from her papa and enjoyed the warm cozy scene, hyper aware of the man sitting a foot away.

Madeline had known he was the guy her sister was crushing on when Matthew had informed her and Alfred of the guests who would be coming over. She couldn't help curiously looking him over. She felt the need to maybe meddle a little. It was her sisterly duty after all.

"Aren't you going to introduce me to our Matt's teammate?" Madeline inquired innocently.

"Oh right! Maddie this is Ivan. And this lady is my absent twin sister," Amelia said finally.

"Nice to meet you. I'm sorry I haven't been able to see any of your games," Madeline said politely. "Mia says they're really something. But I get a play by play every time she goes to a match. It feels like I'm almost there."

"Oh that is nice," Ivan replied, clearly a little unsure of what to say. He felt as if he was being assessed by the pretty girl who looked so much like Amelia and yet still different. Fraternal twins then.

"I think we should hook her up with some Thunderbears merchandise before she heads back to sunny ole Miami," Amelia admitted with a shrug. "At least she can support you guys financially if not in person."

"That would be nice," Madeline replied. "I'll take a jersey and whatever else you guys have. Anything to do my part."

"Then the presents I brought should come in handy," Ivan said sheepishly. "I did not know what else to bring for gifts so I brought over jerseys and- "

"Oh my god I want a jersey!" Amelia exclaimed, leaning towards him eagerly. "Seriously can I try it on?"

Madeline sat back and watched as the Russian called her sister an over eager puppy. The ballerina replied that he was a tall dumb jerk and that at least people liked puppies.

Madeline cuddled up to her husband as he sat beside her. Well at least now she'd met the mysterious hockey player her sister had such a thing for. Whatever happened in the future he seemed like a nice guy and she'd be okay if he was part of the family in one way or another.

Chapter Text

"Still sick huh?" Amelia asked on the phone. Her reply was a hard coughing fit. New Year's Eve plans with Toris were definitely cancelled. "Uh do you want me to bring you soup or something?"

Shit it was still so early in the relationship, or at least that's how it felt to her. She didn't know if it was appropriate for her to insist she come over and ply him with chicken broth, tissues, and company.

"No its fine," Toris said in a hoarse voice. "Talk later."

Come to think of it he probably shouldn't have been talking either. Oops.

She'd so been looking forward to going out. But now her options were limited on such short notice.

Maddie and Raoul had headed home the day before to beat the craziness at the airport. Al was going to some sort of swanky fundraiser that cost about as much as her monthly salary to attend. Matt was hanging out with the Braginsky girls just ordering in a pizza. And her dads were even planning on going to have a nice midnight supper out on the town.

"I'm going out dammit," she mumbled determinedly as she hit another contact on her phone. "Hey Feli! Ooooh this is your voicemail. Plan C."

XX

"Welcome to the party," Feliks greeted Amelia as he opened the door. They looked one another over approvingly. They were both dressed up and looking great even for a night in.

"Any party is better than nothing," she said with a grin stepping in with a six pack of beer under her arm. "Nice to know I'm not the only one stuck without a plan tonight."

"Of course I had plan. Sit at home and eat snacks while checking out televised action at Time Square. When I find someone cute enough to be my boyfriend I am dragging his ass there on New Year's," he said shutting the door behind him. "Now that you're here you can do my hair and give me a pedicure. Roomie refuses to do such things. He needs to loosen up."

"Oh the tall one definitely needs to loosen up," Amelia agreed as she peeked into the living room where Ivan lounged on the couch.

He cracked a small smile when she waved at him. Tall, fair and handsome she thought setting her six pack on the dining room table.

"Beer. That is cute," Ivan said with a giggle as he walked past her to the freezer and pulled out a bottle of vodka.

"Russian American drinking vodka," she said rolling her eyes. "Stereotype much?"

"I drink vodka not because I am Russian, but because I am not a pussy and have good taste in booze," he replied teasingly.

"Okay but you guys at least have some juice to cut that with right?" Amelia said as the two men shook their heads and laughed.

"Girl cannot handle her hard liquor huh?" Feliks teased walking off to retrieve his collection of nail polish.

"There's hard liquor. And then there's stuff that tastes like nail polish remover," she said shaking her head as she snapped open a can of beer. "I'll stick to barley and hops."

The Russian watched as she took a long drink with her eyes closed. He liked her outfit. She wore a glittery silver top, rhinestone hair clips winking in her curling hair, and black pants that made her ass look wonderful. He could see her shimmery eyeshadow matched her shirt with lips painted red. He'd never wanted so badly to smear someone's lipstick with his mouth.

She ambled into the living room, shamelessly checking out their stuff. She hadn't really taken time to appreciate it. It was a little small but comfy, decorated mostly in neutral tones.

She recognized a hand knit throw from Katya's apartment on the back of one of the chairs and smiled. If she looked she could pick out the little touches that she guessed Ivan had added. Little warm accessories that weren't necessarily stylish or hip but cozy.

"I like your place," she admitted before taking another sip of her drink.

"Just be sure to use a coaster or Feliks will be displeased," he advised her getting comfortable with his legs sprawled out as she took a seat.

"It's okay. My papa's the same way," she replied with a nod.

"You look very nice," he added, enjoying the way she smiled in pleasure.

"Thanks. You do to," she said before realizing how silly that sounded. He wore simple dark jeans and a sweater. The guy could go around dressed in just about anything and make her pant. What no! Bad Mia! Seeing someone else, focusing on not lusting after the foxy hockey player.

"You know how to braid?" Feliks inquired sitting down in front of her.

"Not really," she confessed. "I never had much time to practice; my sister insisted on doing her own hair."

"This guy can braid like nothing else after practicing on littlest Braginsky but he will not for me," Feliks said with a pout as he looked back at his put upon roommate.

"Come on it's New Year's. Things are supposed to get wild," Amelia said waggling her eyebrows at the hockey player.

"Very well," he muttered as Feliks squealed and Amelia giggled. "But don't tell anyone. I have a reputation to uphold."

With his head next to Ivan's knees and his feet propped up on Amelia's lap Feliks was content being pampered.

"With a little more work between the two of you, you could open up decent salon," Feliks complimented them as his toe nails dried. "I would be most loyal customer."

"You do know your way around hair," Amelia admitted as she laid back on the couch checking out the pair of French braids Feliks now sported.

"I took great pride in making sure my sister looked nice before going to school. It was not fair to expect Katya to do it all every morning," Ivan shrugged as he stood to refill his glass. "So I learned."

"Now I know who was responsible for giving Nat such cute hair styles every time she had a dance class," she said with a warm smile as he shrugged it off bashfully.

"Reminds me of when Alfred and Matthew taught us how to play baseball and hockey. None of it really took but they needed teams when they played so we got roped in. Plus they liked the idea of both Maddie and I knowing how to use a bat or hockey stick to beat the crap out of anyone who messed with us," Amelia said thoughtfully. "I'd be walking to ballet lessons after school with my shoes hanging around my neck and a bat in my backpack."

"That is…good idea," he said thoughtfully rising to refresh his empty glass. He grabbed another beer for her on his way back into the living room. "I should teach Natalia. I must find a store that sells sticks for children."

"At the mall would probably be your best bet," she said cracking open the new can for a quick sip while Feliks started to give himself a matching manicure.

"Later," he nodded before sipping his vodka like it was a cocktail and not straight liquor. "Probably before I must return to practice. Then I will buy her something."

He had enjoyed the week of rest and merrymaking. However he was more than ready to return to his work and predictable routine.

That and he would also see Amelia more once their routines coincided. Perhaps even more so now that they were on friendly terms.

"I'm working on something to show the dance class when they get back from break," she announced suddenly, drawing his attention.

"Oh? A dance routine?" he inquired, his cheeks flushed from the alcohol as he returned to sit beside her.

"No. I made a video compilation," she admitted watching his expression turn questioning. "I wanted to show the girls that all different kinds of people can be good dancers. Tall, short, black, white, thin and fat."

"It is interesting idea," he said crossing his leg as he laid his head against the back of the sofa.

"You don't have to humor me."

"Why is the video important to you?" he inquired patiently, pressing her for more information.

"I think if I'd seen something like it when I was younger I'd have a few less issues," she said before swigging her beer. "I don't know. It might have saved me a few steps backward."

He tilted his head, watching her as she licked her lips. She wanted to tell him. Heck if some of her plans for the next few weeks were implemented then he'd know soon enough. There would be no hiding from her past.

But she didn't want to spoil the evening talking about her personal issues. She was tipsy and nice and comfortable by his side.

A small burst of cheers from the television alerted them that it was midnight. The moment was gone as they turned their attention and she was saved from trying to change the subject.

"Happy New Year!" Feliks grinned sashaying over to Amelia to kiss both of her cheeks. The Polish man settled for fist bumping his roommate. No need to make anything weird.

"Well at least I got some action tonight so it's not a total waste," Amelia laughed to herself while Ivan huffed.

"Something your boyfriend will no doubt appre-"

"He's not my boyfriend," she cut him off. "He's my…guy I'm seeing."

"It is the same thing," he stated impatiently, looking at his empty glass in annoyance.

"Uh no, it's not. There's no commitment yet. We're just having a good time."

Amelia felt a little defensive when he snorted and stood up from the couch.

"Do you even like him?" Ivan called back as he walked over to the linen closet to get some spare sheets. Like hell was he letting her walk home.

"Why the heck would I date him if I didn't?" she said angrily.

"Why are you being so defensive?" he replied with a frown.

She grabbed the sheets from him and started making up the couch herself.

"You're pissing me off."

"Because I have struck a chord," he stated watching her shoulders tense.

"No because it's really none of your business," Amelia replied standing straight up to glare at him.

"It is too my business!" Ivan said his voice rising just a little bit, but not for the reason she thought.

"How do you figure?"

"Aren't we friends?" he asked finally, his voice tinged with hurt while she bit her lip. "We are friends?"

Not by a long shot she thought. They were so much more. A tangle of so many different things.

"Yeah," she said softening a little bit as she nodded. "We are big guy."

He visibly relaxed a bit and she returned to making up the couch to distract herself.

"I am relieved to hear it."

XX

The down stuffed pillow lying under her head smelled like Ivan. Subtle but clean and masculine when she inhaled deeply. And he'd left her a glass of water on the end table near her head. It was stupid as hell the way that made her feel a strong rush of affection for him that had nothing to do with being friends.

She had a lot to think about before she was finally able to get some shut eye.

XX

The next morning Amelia woke up listening to the sound of the shower down the hall. She had a little headache but maybe some hydration would solve that problem. The cup beside her head was drained in no time. In need of a refill, she headed into their super sleek kitchen dressed in her pants and the over sized shirt Ivan let her borrow. Thank god she'd washed her face last night or she'd probably look freaking scary.

Figuring she couldn't do too much damage or set off any sprinklers she fired up the coffee maker.

She'd been trying to figure everything out for awhile now. And for the longest time she had thought it was all about deciding what to do for her livelihood. That had been part of it. And then last night the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. It had everything to do with Ivan.

No more denial, or trying to get over him with another guy. The direct approach was the only way she was going to get him out of her system.

Maybe it was something about the way he'd looked last night. Vulnerable in asking her to confirm that they were friends. It went straight to her heart. She cared so much about the big lug.

In order to move on she had to let him know. It could make things awkward, and painful given how new and tender this freshly formed friendship was but she had no choice. She was an all or nothing person most of the time.

She thought about Toris. Sweet guy, nice guy. Not the guy she wanted to be with even if they did have fun. She knew it would hurt to have to break that to him. There was no spark, no energy, just two people who went out for dinner and talked a little.

So after the poor guy felt better she'd have to do it. Cut things off so Toris wasn't getting jerked around anymore. The whole dating tryout hadn't been for nothing. It had been kind of fun. Nice to know what her options were but in the long run it wasn't going anywhere.

With her game plan set she sighed and leaned against the sink. Wordlessly Ivan walked in dressed casually as he reached into cupboard for a mug.

"There is no pussyfooting around this," she thought to herself in a stern voice; a voice that oddly enough usually sounded like her dad in her head.

"I am sorry about yesterday," he said evenly, pouring some of the freshly brewed coffee for himself.

"It's not a big deal," she shrugged, feeling queasy as she turned to look at him. "You headed out anytime soon?"

"I thought about taking a morning jog after we have breakfast," he admitted. "What would you like me to make?"

"Oh you don't have to," she said before adding quickly when he looked resigned. "Not that I'm letting you off the hook. I still want that much anticipated meal you promised me. It's just right now I need to talk to you about something."

"Alright," he said leaning his hip against the counter top as he waited expectantly and she chewed on her bottom lip. "Mia you do not have to talk if for once words are failing you."

"No I've got this. Okay so it's kind of a funny story. Which would take way too long and make me dance around the issue. In conclusion, I'm breaking up with Toris and then there's this one other thing.

"Complicated," Ivan murmured, his brow knit as he hung on her every word. Mostly the bits where she was breaking up with Toris.

"I have such a huge crush on you Ivan."

His eyes widened as he watched her carefully, his mind racing and chest tight.

"Sorry. I had to get that off my chest. I'm really not good with secrets. The ones I keep about myself I mean. I don't share shit people tell me in confidence because what kind of asshole would that make me?" she babbled when he said nothing, tapping her short nails on the counter top.

It was quiet for a minute, she avoided looking at him and it took him a minute to find his voice

"It might have been a long time before I told you that I have feelings for you too," he told her at last.

"Just so we are clear. These feelings they go beyond platonic. They are an addition to the comradery we have."

"Wow curveball," Amelia whispered, her pulse jumping like a jackrabbit. "I'm floored and I never expected this from you big guy."

His hand moved to his neck, fiddling with the collar of his t-shirt in place of his absent scarf. She stared down at the floorboards, blown away and processing everything. She looked at him and smiled shyly, making him relax.

"I need to break up with Toris. And that's going to have to be after he's not stuck in bed nursing chicken soup drowning in a pile of used tissues. It would be pretty shitty of me to get involved with someone before all of that happens."

"Curse your fair moral judgment," Ivan joked making her laugh.

"I like the guy. Not the way I like you but it's going to hurt to nip this in the bud," Amelia admitted. "So there's going to be a period of needing time to process that. Annnd I have this big project coming up that I'm taking part in."

He looked at her curiously and she sighed.

"I wish I could tell you but it's…." She said breaking off. "I can't. It's not bad or good. You'll know when it happens. Just a project I'm undertaking that means a lot to me. It's going to take a lot of my energy up. You might look at me differently when you see the end result."

"I doubt it. We both know that we are far from perfect people And yet here we are," he replied shaking his head. "So we will for the time being remain friends da?"

"Friends," she agreed meeting his eyes. "Who are very into eachother."

He sobered and looked down at the tabletop with a wistful smile.

"I will call you sometime this week if that is alright?"

"Yeah I'd really like that," she admitted. "I'll just get the bedding together and head out."

"Leave them to me," he insisted standing up when she stepped towards him.

"Before I go. I think I'd really love a hug from you," she said staring up at him like a hopeful puppy.

"Come here solnyshko," he murmured as she wrapped her arms around his waist and he rested a hand on the small of her back, the other wrapped around her shoulders.

She used to be annoyed by his height. The way he was always taller and seemed to be smirking down at her. But now it was such a good thing.

He was solid and warm as she let herself sink against him. She could feel every lift of his chest as he breathed and he seemed to enjoy the way she used the palm of her hand to rub circles on his back.

"I like you. I like you," she repeated, as he gently squeezed her and to himself.

Chapter Text

It was only a three day wait. For Amelia it felt like it took way longer for Toris to get better before they could meet up.

She wanted to spare the guy as much humiliation as possible and suggested they go for a walk together. In the cold weather it wasn't hard to find a place where they could have some privacy.

"P-pretty nippy out here," Toris commented to Amelia who felt as if her teeth would start to chatter.

"Y-yeah but there's no substitute for fresh air right?" she chirped optimistically as the man beside her pulled his jacket zipper up while they meandered on a trail frequented by cyclists and joggers in the warmer months. Off the beaten path with mostly dormant trees and the occasional dog walker they were off to themselves.

"Well at least it gives us some time alone together after being stuck in bed with a stuffed nose," Toris said finally, reaching for her hand.

She reminded herself it would have been a real dick move to break up over the phone.

"Toris I gotta tell you something. As much as I like you, I'm not really feeling like there's much romance between us," she admitted pulling her hand out of his.

"Oh really?" he said looking deflated. "It was just you then."

Ooh that one made her feel like such an asshole.

"Sorry. You're a great guy and all," she said before he shook his head.

"Please spare me the speech about how it is not me," he said miserably, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

"I'm glad we got to do this though. It was nice getting out and having someone to hang out with."

Toris winced. "You're welcome I guess. I've got to go."

Well boy didn't she feel crappy. There was no good way to break up with someone. Shoving her hands into her pockets she walked in the opposite direction.

XX

She took the long way home on the bus line, munching some fries while she rode. Still even if her mood was crappy, a weight had been lifted. One less thing that was holding her down. She could focus her energies on upcoming projects. Not to mention Ivan would be waiting for her to make the next move.

She walked into the house with a stupid lopsided grin at the thought. So yes, there was definitely an upside to this. And that upside came packaged as a hunk who smelled great and made her want to do very bad things.

"Oh hello," Arthur said looking up from his work at the kitchen table.

"You're usually in bed by now. Couldn't sleep?" she said as she tossed her greasy paper container out.

"Yes too wound up I'm afraid," Arthur said letting a steaming cup of tea steep in front of him. "You know me. Come January first I can't rest until I get the family finances in order. There's hot water left in the kettle if you'd like some."

"That sounds great actually," she said moving to grab the cocoa from the pantry.

"How was your date?" he inquired watching her shoulders stiffen before she shrugged.

"We're going to stop seeing one another," she said pouring out some water before stirring in cocoa and plenty of sugar.

"That's a shame," he said steepling his fingers as she sighed and took a seat across from him.

"Dad it's been a long day-"

"But you tried it and I'm glad you at least had the chance to go out a few times."

"I like Toris," she said with a brief smile. And she needed someone to talk about this with. Maddie was asleep on the other end of the country and her dad's ear was open. "But I like Ivan more."

He arched a brow and looked at her curiously. "Katya's brother?" he inquired as his daughter nodded. "To be honest I was under the impression that the two of you tolerated each other at best. According to the snippets of conversation I heard between you and your sister."

"Dad! You were listening to my calls?"

"Darling don't flatter yourself. You're quite loud when you speak," Arthur said wryly as Amelia pouted and stared at her cocoa. "Just be careful."

"I will," she said meaning it. "We'll see where it goes after I process this break up. I know it probably seems like we aren't best friends, Ivan and I, but I just…I'm over the moon for the guy."

"Reminds me of when Francis asked me out," he said shaking his head. "I would see him when he'd pick Matthew up from school. He usually teased me or had an innuendo waiting when I showed up. Drove me round the bend but I found myself looking forward to it each day. That and he had a nice arse."

"Father!"

"Daughter," he replied with a twinkle in his eyes. "I thought at first I was just lonely for some companionship. Three years later we had our commitment ceremony and then after that we decided we wanted to have more children together. It was a lovely and unexpected turn."

She grinned at the expression on his face. Even after all this time, stress, and the daily grind of life Arthur was still so in love. And when Francis looked at him it was plain to see he felt the same. Yeah it was pretty nice knowing if nothing else her parents were still incredibly in love.

XX

"Keep those toes pointed, arms extended," Amelia reminded the class as her little students finished up their routines. "And resting position. Nice job."

The ballet teacher quickly hopped over to the tv and dvd player she'd requested for the day. Time to implement Operation Positive Bodies.

"So for the next few minutes you guys can free style. I mean just dance however you want while I play this video," she called over her shoulder, biting her cheek as she figured out how to work the thing.

Music filled the room as the video began. Amelia grinned and decided to join her students when some of them hesitated. She landed a leap and started spinning while the tv screen showed the different dance styles carried out by women of many different builds.

Some of the girls giggled when Amelia did a duck walk before doing their own thing.

A few of them watched the video but it wasn't exactly a big to do with a bunch of four year olds. Still at least they could see that dance was for everyone and anyone could do it well regardless of how skinny or fat they were.

When the parents finally started coming, Amelia stopped dancing, breathing deeply from the playing around. She noticed a parent point to the television and whisper to another. She didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. One or two of them watched the video thoughtfully. When Ivan's head appeared above the heads of the other adults he first turned his attention to the tv screen.

She headed over to him, as he leaned back against the wall with his arms crossed. Her pulse jumped just from the sight of him.

"The critics haven't submitted their reviews yet. I'm hoping it'll be better received at an independent film festival," Amelia joked.

"Perhaps it will become a cult classic," he offered looking down at her with an arched brow.

"Naw. It's going back into the vault after this showing," she laughed shaking her head. "This was just a warm up for the big event."

He nodded, obviously curious as she backtracked and changed topics.

"Toris and me are Splitsville, USA now," she told him watching a smile fight its way onto his face.

"Good. As it should be," he said with a nod of relief as he tilted his head down. "You are alright?"

"Yeah I am," she replied with a smile up at him. "I feel ready to take on the world."

"So just another day in the life Amelia Jones Williams," he said with a chuckle as Amelia nudged his shoulder with a playful expression.

"I am ready brother," Natalie said looking between the two adults with curiosity.

"Well I'd better let you get going," Amelia said reluctantly as she started to walk off.

"We were just going to grab some dinner nearby. If you would like to join us?" Ivan inquired quickly, looking like he was holding his breath waiting for her answer.

"Sorry. I have to take care of a few things today," she said worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. "But maybe next time?"

"Next time," he replied with a brief smile trying to hide his disappointment as he took his sister's hand in his.

It was frustrating alright Amelia thought. She wanted so badly to hang out with him again. Just sitting and talking about weird stuff. And boy howdy did she want to start the other stuff. The physical contact, hands, mouths, the whole shebang.

"Easy girl," she told herself as she went to get the tv together and return it. "Bigger fish to fry."

And after that Ivan could decide if he still liked her enough to continue when her eating disorder was revealed for all to see.

XX

She yanked on sweats and a shirt over her leotard before hurrying over to a local coffee house she'd agreed to meet up at. A little early for her meeting, she ordered a drink and sat down to mentally gear herself up for what was about to happen.

When she'd been in the deepest, darkest throes of her anxiety and depression her only focus had been getting better and putting everything behind her. Now she was trying to bring everything from the hardest part of her life to light.

"Miss Jones?"

She nodded as she looked up at the stylish man with designer glasses and blonde hair.

"That would be me. Amelia's fine," she said in greeting with a tight smile. She was feeling pretty nervous and just wanted to get this thing over with. "And you're Lukas? The guy I talked to on the phone?"

"Actually no. My name's Eduard von Bock," the blonde man said with a slight smile as he sat down across from her. "Can I get you a coffee before we begin the interview?"

""I'm good," she said politely, tapping her finger on the table top. "I already polished off a red eye. Any more caffeine and I'll be bouncing off the damn walls."

"Then let's get started," Eduard suggested setting his bag on the table top as he started to pull out his laptop. "Anytime when we can get any kind of local celebrity in print it makes for a good piece. And the timing couldn't be better with National Eating Disorder Awareness Month so close," he replied bluntly.

"I haven't worked much with the press even in New York," she admitted watching him set up. "Mostly people just wrote what they wanted about me. Whatever angle you're going for, I want to know that it's not going to glamorize what I went through."

"Of course not," Eduard said breezily taking a sip from his paper cup, half getting ready, half paying attention. "Of course the article will not be subject to your editing but I'd prefer to make something that the interviewee approves of for the most part. I like to think of these things as a collaboration. Something we make together."

"Which gets tweaked by a third party and plastered on the front no I'm guessing third page of the news," Amelia added cheekily as he shrugged, adjusting his glasses.

"If you're ready I think we'll start off with some questions. Just to get things started. From there you can elaborate on anything, address things I might not think of," he stated with his hands poised above his keyboard. "Why don't we talk about the ballet before we get into the anorexia?"

"Okay here we go," she said taking a deep breath as she collected her thoughts.

Chapter Text

Practice was a little difficult that day. Ivan was bruised on his side after a run in during the last game he played. There was no injury to his ribs but he still felt the soreness as he pushed himself.

There was a game coming up against a very difficult team and he had to be on top of things. All of them were taking it seriously and he was no exception. They played well, but they couldn't get cocky.

He was sweating both from the vigorous skating and the pain when at last the team all skated off the ice to hit the showers. All he wished for was the feeling of cool water and then after a good filling meal to reload after all of his efforts.

"You guys doing anything later?" Matthew asked the men as they all stripped off, the locker room pungent from the smell of male sweat that clung to the uniforms noxiously.

Ivan set his things neatly in his locker. He dry swallowed a few pain pills as the others talked before stepping forward naked with a bar of soap to scrub himself clean. He thought of his plans. Grocery shopping, spending time at his sister's and then signing up for reading class when he was at home.

It was becoming more and more difficult to find excuses for his lack of reading comprehension. It was time to put it all behind him. He would just have to fit it in between his other commitments he thought grimly.

"We were going to grab some food after. Wanna join us?"

He blinked and looked to find Matthew showering off a stall down.

"As long as it isn't that pancake house again," Ivan replied dryly. "Then I am in."

"Sugar, carbs, and butter," Matthew said with a sly smile. "No better way to refuel after a going hard on the ice."

"You'd put that maple shit on anything if you could," Ivan grimaced. "Too sweet."

"Says the guy who thinks a little vodka is the cure all for anything. Injury, stress, sleeplessness," Matthew said counting off on his fingers Ivan stepped out of the water.

"Do not forget sore throat," he replied with a smirk wrapping a towel around his waist. "Nothing better for what ails you."

"Your medicine gives me a headache," Matthew called back as he washed up.

"Poor baby," Ivan smirked as he gathered up his things from the locker.

It was on the tip of his tongue to inquire about Matthew's sister but he did not. He had wanted to give her some space. They saw one another between practice of the hockey and ballet varieties but the brief talks were no substitute for spending real time together. He craved time with her before he had to leave for the game.

As soon as he walked out of the arena he left her a voicemail inviting her to join him for some company.

XX

Always one for the direct approach, Amelia called Ivan back the same night. She let him know that the next morning was just as fine a time as any to hang out.

Truth be told a little time outside the house would be really good. Lately she'd been more than a little anxious about the newspaper article being released. It wouldn't be come out until the paper had fully covered Valentine's day activities.

But still, it was out there now. There was no going back once it was in print. When she thought of the very real backlash she could feel from friends, her job, and the community it was enough to make her feel crazy.

Any excuse to get out and take her mind of things was fine by her. Who better to do that with then Ivan?

Gemini started yipping excitedly as she headed towards the front door to meet her fate just as the doorbell went off, sending the dog into a frenzy. That would be her workout buddy for the morning.

"Yes I know you love your walkies Gem," Amelia laughed attaching the leash to her collar before opening the door.

Ivan stood on the other side of the door dressed in a sweatshirt and jogging pants, gloves and a winter hat. He looked as if the cold didn't affect him one darn bit aside from his pink cheeks.

"Hello," he said running his eyes over her. After all there was no need to ignore the fact that he was interested in her so why not take his fill of her?

"Hi," she said perking up at the sight of him with a grin on her face. "It's real good to see you when we're both out of uniform."

Deciding privacy was better than staying warm she pulled the dog out with her to stand on the porch as he backed up to accommodate her.

"You feel like taking a walk?" she inquired as he bent down to greet Gemini with a light pat while the dog panted happily.

"We could take a jog. Skip the gym and then perhaps get some breakfast after," he suggested innocently.

"This is starting to sound more like a date then a work out mister," she said knowingly with a wink. "Heck why not? I could use some fresh air. You look like you got some already."

"I jogged over from bus stop," he said as his cheeks pink from the cold turned a deeper shade.

"For little ole me?" Amelia cooed batting her eye lashes

"For exercise," he replied smirking as she blew raspberries at him.

"You're no fun," she complained half-heartedly as she led Gemini down the walk way.

Mia broke into a slow jog that he easily matched. It couldn't have been too fun of challenging but he kept the slow pace with her. He even jogged in place when she had to pick up the special presents Gemini left along the way and didn't try to talk once. That was good because Amelia was not at the level of conversing while running without puking.

Finally they came to a stop outside a deli where Ivan ran in for coffees and pastry. She brushed some snow off a bench with her thick gloves before taking a seat.

"Breakfast for three," Ivan announced stepping out with a bag and drink carrier.

"And what are we having?" Amelia inquired tying Gem's leash to the bench.

"Bagels," he replied holding up a bag as she gave him a thumbs up. "Also I bought a treat that the owner said was safe of dogs. Is that alright with you?"

"Sure. She deserves a treat," she nodded giving him the go ahead. While he let her dog eat from his gloved hand she pulled out some sugar to pour into her coffee cup.

She took a grateful drink as Ivan joined her on the bench.

"That's the stuff," she sighed happily. "Only the promise of coffee and carbs could make me sit here outside on a cold February day."

"But not tall handsome hockey players?" he inquired teasingly balancing his coffee cup on his knee.

"No way," she laughed as he pressed a hand over his heart.

"You wound me. It's romantic. Coffee together on a bench as the snow falls."

"My butt is cold and I need a shower," she snorted around a mouthful of food before swallowing. "Not my idea of romantic."

"Please enlighten me on your Western ideas of romance," Ivan remarked in amusement.

"Nice try buddy. You're a US citizen too," she said making him chuckle.

"I am found out," he conceded shaking his head before taking a long sip of coffee. "Are you dodging the question?"

"As if," she said staring up at the sky in thought. "You know what? I'm going to show you instead. What are you doing next weekend? I'll plan it out and you can taste my brand of romance. Sound good?"

"It could be interesting," he said smiling over at her. "But unfortunately we have an away game coming up. It is why I wanted to see you today."

"So we'll put a pin in it until you get back," she said decidedly, finding his hand beside hers on the bench and giving it a squeeze.

XX

"Papa I'll be out of your hair til about eight," Amelia called on her way down the stairs. "So you and dad can get whatever gross, romance you have planned out of the way."

It was Valentine's day finally. She might have been freaking out a little bit knowing her interview would see the light of day soon. In fact Eduard had graciously emailed her the first draft to look over before it was published.

"Ooh those are nice," Amelia said stepping into the foyer where her papa held a delivered bouquet of yellow and blue Iris. "But I thought you usually got dad English roses for v-day."

"Oh zhese are not from moi," he said his lips turning up in a teasing smile. "Zhey are addressed to you ma petit lapin."

"Huh?" she said in surprise as he set the flowers in her arms. She inhaled deeply from the blooms. Despite not thinking much of the lovey dovey holiday this was a nice surprise. She pulled out the card and smiled softly. "Ivan you sly son of a gun."

"In some languages zhey iris can stand for courage and also passion," her papa informed her with spring in his step as he walked into the kitchen to prepare a special meal for him and his husband.

"Only you would know something like that papa," she called back to him, smiling like a dope. Her face flushed with happiness as she thought of Ivan picking out what to send. Wanting to do something besides the ever popular red roses everyone gave out on that holiday. It was real nice.

"I'll just get these puppies in some water and then I'm out of here," she told her parent, grabbing a vase from under the sink. "I need to figure out what to send to him in retaliation."

Something that expressed how much she adored the big guy. Something cheerful, not pretentious. Something that reminded her of him.

"Hey papa what else can you tell me about flower meanings?"

XX

Ivan had taken great care to keep the sunflowers safe from becoming crushed. Every time he looked at them he felt warm and happy as he thought of Amelia. He was falling so quickly for her. He wanted to tell her again and again how he felt as he held her and kissed. He smiled and shook his head as the bus traveled back into town. Slowly.

His teammates had teased him. Ivan's got a new girlfriend. Big bad Ivan's gonna lose his edge. He'd simply shrugged it off too content to let any of it get to him.

Matthew for his part had teased right along with them but he did not seem to object to the two of them dating.

He arrived home feeling light and wondering if sleep would come to him that night. All he could think about was when he could see her next. Showering and unfolding himself entirely in his bed he checked his messages and emails.

The center for learning had emailed a list of dates for the reading classes. He nodded, the Russian translated words on his screen easily read. Perhaps eventually, he would read his emails in the English alphabet and not Cyrillic letters.

Before he signed off he realized that he had another email from Amelia. Smiling a bit he opened it before tilting his head. She had forwarded something, a newspaper article it seemed from someone at the local newspaper. He clicked on the attachment as the document opened. It was titled, 'Local Ballerina Breaks Silence Regarding Eating Disorder'.

Chapter Text

Amelia rolled over and curled in around herself. Sleep had escaped her that night. Anxiety had been building inside of her ever since Eduard had interviewed her. But now that Ivan knew, it made her sick to her stomach just thinking about it.

Maybe she should have told him straight to his face instead of sending him her words in pdf format. Still, the article did a pretty good job up summing everything up.

She was so afraid that Ivan would reject her. She'd tell him it was his loss if that's what he decided, and she'd move on. But she didn't want it to be like that. She wanted to be with him and for him to accept all of her. What if he didn't?

She rolled over and looked at the clock. Five a.m. definitely late enough she thought grabbing her phone and hitting the contact named Hockey Hunk.

Lying on her side she bit her lip as she listened to the ring tone. The first thing she heard was a heavy sigh.

"Hello?"

"Did you read it yet?" she blurted out as he muttered something. She wasn't sure if it was Russian or just sleep talk.

"Amelia?"

"Yeah it's me."

"I read it da.

The line was quiet and she took a deep breath before pushing ahead.

"You're the only other person I've shared the interview with. Nobody but you and me have seen this."

She broke off taking a breath, her throat tight and nerves shot as she tried to stay calm.

"Are you alright?" he asked in concern.

"I like you so much. I just need to know if you like me enough after this to keep going Ivan," she told him, her voice wobbling as she wiped at her eyes. "Or if you want to call it quits."

The line was silent for a second before she heard him yawn quietly.

"Come over for breakfast. Let us discuss this today," he said finally in decided voice. "I am sorry if I gave you cause to worry. Because I do not wish to make you uneasy and I still want you. T-to be with you I mean."

She smiled at his stammer and tried not to giggle as he sighed.

"Breakfast will be ready when you arrive."

"You don't-"

"I said I would cook for you. Now is as good a time as any yes? I will see you soon."

XX

He buzzed her into the building and was waiting at the door, opening it before she had the chance to knock. She wore sweat pants and a hoodie, no less beautiful than usual. But she looked so tired. As if she had she been up all night worrying.

Unceremoniously she dumped her messenger bag at the door and turned to him.

"You sure you're not going to back out?" she asked her brow knit in worry. She wanted him to be totally, absolutely on board and sure. In her sleep deprived state it could never hurt to make sure a second time.

"Nyet. My mind is made up solynyshko," he replied firmly, trying to catch her eyes.

"Good. Hug please," she said holding her arms open. She seriously needed some reassuring physical contact right about now.

Without another word he wrapped her in his arms, pulling her against his chest. Her arms were so strong for such a small woman, holding onto him for dear life. He bent his head to murmur a few Russian words meant to comfort and sooth her. She sighed in relief and loosened her hold a little, rubbing her cheek against his shirt. It reminded him of a kitten.

"Sorry if I woke you up. But thanks for letting me come over," she said breaking the silence and pulling back just enough to peer up at him.

He nodded seriously, his eyes soft as he broke the embrace slowly until only his arm was around her waist.

"Come. We will eat and talk," he told her as she allowed him to steer her into the kitchen.

"And what are we having?" she inquired inhaling a few unfamiliar smells as she took a seat where a steaming mug of coffee was waiting for her.

"Traditional Russian breakfast. Katya would make this on slow days when we could sit down together without rushing to jobs, school."

She relaxed in her seat feeling warmed a little just from being with him. Shit he was going to make her act like a lovesick nerd and totally tease her about it.

"Kasha. It is like Russian oatmeal," he explained setting the bowl in front of her. "I prefer mine simply with cinnamon and milk but there is sugar if you would like to add some."

"Thanks," she said picking up a spoon while he sat beside her.

She still didn't have much of an appetite, but took a bite. It was warm, and comforting.

"This is good," she admitted watching him smile to himself, clearly pleased. She realized as she looked him over that he had on an apron he'd forgotten to take off. It was actually pretty cute. It didn't take anything away from all that masculinity, just kind of softened him up.

"It is very simple. On game days I make something with a bit more protein," he replied with a small smile. "But I thought for today this was what you needed."

"I'll say. You might have just turned me on to Russian cuisine. Better watch it or you'll never get rid of me."

"Now why would I want to do that?" he replied setting his hand on hers, comforting and warm.

She flushed and smiled a little before sobering up. As nice as this was, she wanted them to get to the reason for their meeting so early.

"What are your thoughts about my interview big guy? I'm dying to know," she admitted tapping her spoon idly.

"When I read it last night," Ivan began, trying to sort his thoughts out. "I was surprised. In disbelief. And yet I understood everything so clearly."

The projects, her drive to prove to him that she was a wonderful dancer, her care and desire to look after the little ballerinas in her class. Suddenly everything came together as he read about the struggles she had faced.

"Did you know I scrap book?" she said getting up suddenly.

"Nyet," he replied a little confused as she retrieved something from her bag. A book, which she brought over.

"Oh yeah. This here is the legacy of the Jones Williams family," she informed him, resuming her seat. "I started it when Al won the national track meet. I was five so it was kind of sloppy when I started. Every triumph and tragedy clipped and pasted for us to remember. This is my section."

She opened the book to a section at the back and slid it across the table to him.

Ivan's smile warmed as he looked down at the first picture of a little girl with her hair curled blowing a kiss at the camera in a green leotard and tutu.

"Was this your first recital?" he inquired as she leaned in a little closer and nodded.

"Yup. My most excellent and graceful debut at age six."

The page turned to show her growing up, her form and dancing improving with each shot as she smiled a little but looked more disciplined and serious then the cherub cheeked little girl she had been in the first picture.

He turned the page looking at the newspaper clipping, the headline, 'Up and coming talent burns brightly.'

"That was the best night of my life," Amelia said with a wistful smile. "I was the Firebird that night."

In the photograph Amelia looked poised, radiant and aflame at the still that captured her in the middle of a performance.

"I wish I could have been there," he replied staring at the picture. It was Amelia, and everything about her, the raw passion, audacity, and defiance brought to the surface. He would have been besotted by her on sight.

"Keep going big guy," she urged him with a brief smile.

He nodded and turned the page. There was the last chapter of her life in the limelight.

'Ballerina admitted to clinic after rumors of debilitating eating disorder surface,' read the headline beside a photograph. Amelia looking drawn and tired, her face pale and harsh in contrast to the purple bruising underneath her eyes. But the spark was still in her gaze as she flipped off the camera.

"That's everything. One chapter in my story from a really hard time," she said pulling back from him a little. "I didn't even realize how deep I'd gotten; it all just seemed like a part of my routine you know? Oh did I skip breakfast today or was that yesterday? Whoa I didn't land that move just right, no eating; first I have to nail this routine. Sounds crazy huh?"

"Not as much as you would think," Ivan replied quietly. "We are told to push ourselves. That perseverance pays off. And sometimes the price is high for the things we dream of. But we feel compelled to try."

"Yeah," she said in agreement as he looked back at her and she shrugged. "Do you have any questions?"

"It is still difficult? Day to day?" he inquired. "The interview talks about rehab and getting help. I um…did some searching online. It says that even with treatment those suffering from an eating disorder are at greatest risk of relapse within a year of leaving."

"Do a little fact checking?" she inquired, her smile growing. "Oh boy you totally like me!"

"I care very much about you," he replied honestly as she rested her hand over his large one. "Amelia this part of you is something that does not change how I feel. Except perhaps I have a better understanding of your courage and strength now than I did before."

"You've got to be kidding me. That's the most amazing thing you've ever said to me. Thank you Ivan," she said furiously blinking back a few tears as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "So this is it big guy. We have entered the dating stage. You ready for this? Because I sure as hell am."

"Yes," he agreed smiling down at her as she grinned up at him. "I am most impatient to begin. But you did not answer my question."

"Some days are better than others. Mostly I overthink sometimes," she said as she thought it over. "But I feel like this whole campaign to talk things out in public is helping. I'm gonna be a ball of nerves when this thing hits the fan but somethings you just have to do it."

"I think I understand," he murmured sipping his tea while she found herself eating more of the food. "I loved receiving those sunflowers."

Her mouth quirked up in a smile as she shrugged. "Yeah well you did pretty good yourself surprising me and all. Maybe I'll make that a thing. Surprise gifting. Getting the jump on you with goodies and little things out of nowhere. Not just on Hallmark holidays. If someone's special then you should show it all year round."

"Promises promises," Ivan murmured as she looked up at him with a pout to realize he was smiling faintly.

"It's true. I'm going to court you so I hope you're secure enough in your masculinity for Amelia Jones style dating," she stated, her eyes switching from his face to his mouth.

"I look forward to it," he assured her quietly, his eyes studying her intently.

The mood in the quiet warm kitchen was suddenly different. She had butterflies in her stomach as she reached up to brush some of his bangs back from his face.

"Kiss me," he whispered tilting his head, his eyes half-lidded and so close as she stared back at him.

She wet her lips with her tongue before closing the distance as his hand cupped the back of her head, his fingers splayed in her hair. She brushed her lips over his, feeling the full bottom lip as he responded, the pressure soft. It made a gentle warmth travel from her belly to her limbs. It was light but loving, sweet full lips moving over hers as he made quiet hums of happy pleasure.

Chapter Text

"You did what?" Madeline said in surprise over the phone line.

Amelia fidgeted and shrugged before once again remembering her twin couldn't see her gestures.

"I said I gave a month's notice. It'll give me just enough time to get the kids through the recital. After that I'm done at the rec center."

"Is it because the newspaper interview?" Madeline inquired as her sister remained silent. "Mia?"

"It's not the only reason but yeah," Amelia admitted lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling

"The people who sign my pay checks told me they had several calls from concerned parents. I was told I should tone down my 'activism' and pretty much stick to teaching. You know me. I don't do well with people telling me what to do."

"I'm sorry. It must be hard but screw them sis," Madeline sighed.

"Sure it's a little bittersweet. But on the bright side it made me realize I actually don't want to teach ballet right now. I'm not in a teaching part of my life. I'm in the part where I wanna dance," she replied honestly. "I've only got a few more years where I'm in my prime and I want to do something about it. Maybe not the same way I did before in New York but I want to be dancing in some way, shape, or form. It's not something I can just give up try as I might."

"That's the sound of Amelia Jones Williams with her mind made up. You have to go for it," Maddie replied decidedly.

"Thanks sis. I figured I could count on that kind of thing from you. So, you and Al talking at all?"

"I don't really have anything to say to him. He seems happy enough figuring out how to adapt to single life in D.C. concentrating on what matters most to him. His image."

"Ouch. That was kind of harsh," Mia admitted with a wince. "I feel bad. He's a dumbass who doesn't realize what a good thing he's throwing away. And poor Tony. He'd better bring that kid around. If he turns into a weekend only type of dad I will bitch him out."

"Agreed," Madeline said icily.

"Anyway with so much free time in my upcoming schedule I can finally take you up on that offer to visit," Amelia said changing the topic.

"To tell you the truth, I'm kind of surprised you'd want to head down for a visit. What with your big boyfriend and you finally getting things going. Any more make out sessions?"

Amelia cleared her throat as Matthew came in to start watching a movie.

"Uh negative. Not recently," Amelia said with a satisfied smile on her face thinking back to the kisses they'd shared. Just remembering the scene from a few days ago made her feel warm and dopey. "We haven't had a lot of alone time."

"Oh I get it. One of the dads or Matthew in the room," Madeline replied knowingly.

"You got it," Amelia said nudging her brother with her foot. "Maddie says hi."

"Hi back," Matt mumbled as he focused on the tv screen. "Hey would you watch Natalie this Saturday?

XX

"So adorable," Francis cooed the next night wiping off dinner plates as Natalie took a dainty bite of her dessert. "We should 'ave another baby amour."

"No no absolutely not!" Arthur declared as Francis pouted and tried to talk him out of it. "I've changed my last nappie until our grandchildren visit."

Amelia smiled to herself, rinsing her plate at the sink. She had babysitting duty for the night. Currently it felt more like Francis and Arthur were doing the sitting, content to spoil little Natalie.

The next day Ivan would take charge of his little sister while Kat and Matthew took some much needed alone time for themselves. Probably banging like rabbits right now she thought a little jealously like the sex starved harpy she was turning into.

"Oh but think of another petite all our own to love and bring up," Francis practically whined as Amelia was brought out of her envious thoughts. Very dirty thoughts about the positions and activities she was going to try when her dry spell finally broke.

"Well my darling Amelia it seems your biological clock is ticking loud and clear in your papa's ears," Arthur said dryly.

"Nice try. You guys can get me to start dating but that is so so not happening," Amelia snorted while Natalie giggled.

"You all talk funny," the little girl said frankly.

"Yeah we're a funny bunch," Amelia said shaking her head as Natalie watched Francis sneak a kiss from his husband. "Anyway talk to my elders. As the youngest I should be excluded from procreating. I don't have my own place, not married. I'm the least likely candidate."

"But you are very good with children," Francis couldn't help teasing his child as he sat next to Natalie, giving her a glass of milk. "What do you think petit lapin? Do you like Amelia?"

"Yes Miss Jones is the best," the girl agreed with a vigorous nod.

"Wouldn't she make a good mama?" he said with a smile as Amelia rolled her eyes and shook her head.

"Yes but she and brother have to get married before they can have babies," Natalie said matter of factly.

"I hate you both," Amelia mouthed at her parents they laughed.

XX

"This is boring," Natalie piped up grumpily as she and Amelia sat in the stands watching the hockey team wrap up their practice before the rink was opened to the general public.

"Yeah boring," Amelia agreed, her eyes glued on the action. Her guy sure had the moves. Maybe not the most graceful, but tall, fair, and Russian definitely made up for that with the way he handled that stick and the momentum he put behind his body. He was lethal and damned if she didn't love watching him do what he was so good at. It kind of made her hot. Oh who was she kidding? He could probably brew coffee and it would make her excited.

"It's almost done," Amelia promised her little companion with a goofy smile on her face as her blue eyes followed Ivan's movements.

"Can we skate? Brother takes forever in the changing rooms," Natalie said adamantly.

"Forever huh?" Amelia said looking at the ice as it was smoothed over by the Zamboni machine. "I uh guess you could go out while I watch."

"But I'm a little girl. I should have an adult with me," she reasoned with a sly smile as Amelia followed her down the stands.

A few pairs of rented skates later Natalie was skating on the ice confidently, almost stumbling before correcting herself.

"Looking good Nat! You're doing great," Amelia called, standing on the ice, her legs wobbling as she clung to the wall, shooting a dirty look at an ice skater that laughed at her as he went by.

"Douchcades on Ice," she muttered keeping an eye on Natalie. She could dance on solid ground but this was a totally new thing. It reminded her of eighth grade when she'd faked being sick to get out of a birthday party being held at the skating rink.

"Oh just go for it," she muttered with a huff, pushing off from the wall. And one foot, other foot, one foot and cue landing flat on ass.

"Having fun?" Ivan inquired cheerfully as she dusted the ice shavings off of her sweater.

Getting to her feet she was pretty pleased that she only turned a little red in the face.

"Totally," she assured him turning to shoot a grin at him where he stood off the ice holding his gear.

"Did Natalie behave?" he inquired taking a seat as he began to slip on his skates while she struggled to stay balanced. He'd changed out of his sweaty practice clothes she noted. Freshly showered and in record time she thought feeling a little smug hoping he'd done it so he could see her.

"Of course. When is she ever any trouble?" she inquired moving her skates to push off a few steps, nearly wiping out as she caught herself on her mittened hands on the ice.

"Oh crap," she said feeling her feet skidding. She didn't know how the hell to get back up, bent over like this. It was all going to end in an ugly face plant. "Ivan! I need some assistance!"

"One moment!" he called stepping onto the ice. He quickly skated up beside her while she tried to stay up on all four limbs. She looked like a fawn learning to walk, all awkward and limbs.

With one hand he caught her around the waist securely, pulling her up from her precarious position.

"You are a dancer. Is it really that much trouble?" he asked trying to keep the amusement out of his voice and failing.

"Uh yeah it is," she muttered happy to lean against him while she got her bearings. "And thanks for coming to the rescue. It would be a shame to face plant. Especially if you never let me live it down."

"Oh I would only laugh about it for a day or so," Ivan replied casually, brushing her hair back from her face.

She laughed and shook her head. "Come on. Let's see how long I can stay vertical," she said before they started out at a slow pace on their skates.

"It is nice. Relaxing when you learn to glide," Ivan said looking down at her. The look on her face said she was clearly unconvinced.

"I feel like I've got to concentrate too much for it to be relaxing," she replied as he nodded sympathetically.

"I bruised my tailbone often enough when I began that I became good out of necessity to spare my backside," he admitted as she laughed.

"Labor of love. Like all the crap I had to go through to get good at dancing," she said shaking her head. "But hey, it paid off for both of us right?"

"Oh yes you are a wonderful dancer," he replied thinking of her private recitals by herself after dance class.

"Yeah I guess if you think hopping around with little ankle biters is sophisticated dancing," she said with a shrug. "Then I'm the Gene Kelley of teaching four year old ballerinas.

"Always so dramatic," he muttered playfully.

"You love it," she replied in a singsong voice, nudging him in the side, her arms wrapping around him when she almost went down again.

"Da," he replied letting her adjust, his cheeks turning redder from the contact.

"Sorry," she said letting go after a second only to take his hand in hers. When he didn't pull away she assumed this was a level of pda he was fine with.

"There is something you should know," he said suddenly, looking away uncomfortably while Mia just concentrated on making sure her skates landed on the ice.

"What's up?" she inquired when he hesitated and grew solemn.

He had thought of telling her the other day in his kitchen. But that morning had been about her, focusing on her confession about the eating disorder. It had allowed her to share her experience, letting him be a part of. It would not have been right to redirect the conversation to his own problems.

"Hey," she said looking up at him trying to put on her best supportive smile. "I'd like to think you can tell me whatever's on your mind. It's never stopped us before and I'm all ears big guy."

"I can't read," he blurted suddenly, turning bright red. But it was only fair. She was incredible. Fighting every day to overcome a horrible disease. She had shared this with him, trusted him to support her and now he wished to show his trust.

"But wait," she said skidding to a halt, hanging onto his shirt as he steered them towards the wall. "Like you can't read at all? Because you text me all the time so what's with that?"

"Russian Cyrillic I can read. And it is easy to use technology to translate such things," he stated leaning on the divider with his arms on the top. "But I am not literate in English writing."

She stood beside him as she mulled everything over. It was kind of hard to believe. Strange to think anyone could get by like that. But that was stupid. Immigrants came at all different ages to America. There were technologies and other aids to help out when translation failed.

"But you went through the school system right?" she inquired making him nod with a faraway expression.

"Yes. The town library was a good place to translate everything from my native tongue to English. I passed high school with average grades because of it," he stated. "Reading comprehension always escaped me. Katya had difficulty but overcame such things earlier. At that age it was not something of priority to me. However, I am working this out for myself now."

"Yeah?" Amelia said with a smile as he continued to look away. He looked ashamed.

"Hey now, there are tons of stats out there about this kind of thing. I think a couple odd million people can't read," she said daring to rest a hand over his. "Heck I'm proud of you. You've got so much happening and you're still fitting in time to take care of something like this."

He dared to look at her out of the corner of his eyes. She was not mocking him. Of course not, she was not like that he thought as his shoulders sagged in relief.

"Thanks for telling me," she said watching him relax by degrees. "I don't know if there's anything I can do but I understand if you're busy and can't hang out a whole lot. I mean that. Even if what I really want is to hang out with you whenever we have the chance."

"I am not too busy to see you during the week. For you I will make the time solnyshko," he said offering her a warm smile. He let his hand take hers, holding it firmly within his own. "We are still on for this weekend yes?"

"Oh yes," she said perking up with a big smile. The big awaited first date. The week was crawling by too fast til that big day arrived.

"What?" he inquired looking down at her curiously and watching her shrug.

"I just really want to kiss you right now baby," she admitted closing her eyes and laughing shakily. "Here's hoping we get some in the near future."

He nodded and smiled at her as she stood behind the divider. He was too shy for much affection and she herself was of the opinion that it was kind of gross to plaster herself over someone in front of other people. But that didn't mean there wasn't longing to do those things.

"I too look forward to 'getting some' also," he told her leaning towards her like a planet drawn to the sun's orbit.

"Not soon enough for me," she said settling for a wink and a smile before heading off to take off those damn skates.