Roy scowls at his phone as he scrolls through the headlines, setting off from the locker room in step with Isaac, Dani, and Sam. “Did you all see the news?”
Isaac looks at him warily. “...about you being benched?”
“No, you arse,” Roy grumbles, not bothering to hide his irritation.
“I heard Coach Lasso talking to Coach Beard about bringing Jamie back,” Sam offers.
Roy had heard that too. He’s more pleased than he’d like to admit, but, “yes, that’s also news, but that’s still not what I’m talking about.” He passes his phone to Dani. “Rebecca’s smug bastard of an ex-husband is engaged.”
Dani looks up from the phone, eyes wide. “And pregnant!”
“Yup.” Roy pops the ‘p’.
“Man, what a prick,” Isaac says.
Sam nods in agreement. “No wonder Ms. Welton seemed so upset earlier. How long has it been since their divorce?”
“Not long enough,” Roy says. “And that girl is forty fucking years younger than him. Disgusting.”
“That sucks,” Isaac says. “Why do you bring it up, though?”
Roy chuckles as they head into the cafeteria, where the rest of the room is already eating their post-practice meal. “I think it’s time for a little team bonding.”
Jamie doesn’t expect for Roy Kent to be the first person he hears from when he gets back to Richmond, but he’s barely within the city limits when his phone rings. He clicks the ‘answer’ button on his car’s touch screen. “Long time no see, wanker.”
”Fuck off, twat.” But Roy is laughing, just a bit.
“You’re saying Tartt wrong,” Jamie digs.
”Ha, ha. Are you really coming back to Richmond?”
“I’m here already,” he says. “Well, almost.”
”Then how do you feel about a little team building?”
Jamie frowns. “Is Lasso behind this?”
”Fuck no. He can’t find out.”
The frown slowly turns to a delighted grin. “Alright, I suppose I’m in.”
”Great. Meet us at the Tesco just past the club.”
“A Tesco? What the fuck for?”
”You’ll see. We’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Jamie scowls at the screen, annoyed by Roy’s stubbornness. “Yeah, yeah. See you in twenty.”
When he gets to the parking lot, the rest of the team is loitering outside the Tesco, but they jump into celebration when he pulls in. Jamie yells back, fist-bumping and accepting one-armed hugs and thumps on the back.
“Glad to have you back!”
“Manchester doesn’t deserve you!”
Jamie laughs, smirking as he gets to Roy at the front of the pack. “Captain,” he says, but it’s not as mocking as usual.
Roy claps him on the shoulder. “About damn time.”
“What are we doing at a fucking Tesco, anyway?” Jamie asks.
“Grocery shopping,” Roy answers. “It was Isaac’s idea.”
Even more confused, Roy turns to his grinning friend. “What is going on?”
Isaac beams. “We’re egging Rebecca’s ex’s house.”
Jamie laughs. “Why?”
“Football is life!” Dani interjects helpfully. “And team is family!”
“It just seemed like a nice thing to do,” Sam says.
Roy, who looks ridiculous pushing a grocery cart, nods. “Rupert Mannion is a smug bastard. It’s time to wipe that look off his face.”
They buy nearly all of the eggs the store has to offer, and then head for the lone register open at this time of night. The gangly, tired-looking kid at the counter is staring as he rings them up.
“I’ve only got 54 cents,” Isaac grumbles.
“How?” Roy demands. “You’re a professional athlete.”
Isaac ignores him, turning to Sam. “You know what that means?”
Isaac, Sam, and most of the rest of the team are laughing as they finish together. “I don’t have enough money for chicken nuggets!”
Jamie scoffs at them and then throws an arm over Roy’s shoulder, knowing it’ll annoy him. “You know who we are, kid?”
“Stop it,” Roy grumbles.
“Yeah,” the kid answers, “but why is AFC Richmond buying eggs at midnight?”
“It’s a mystery,” Jamie says with a shrug. “Do you want a selfie?”
The kid’s gaze flicks over the team. “Um, yeah, totally. If you guys have the time.”
Jamie grins, pulling out his phone and waving the others over. “Alright, everyone, squeeze in.”
It’s dumb, how much fun they’re having just shopping at night, coming up with nefarious schemes. It’s also dumb how much he’d missed this band of semi-athletic losers.
The photo stays as Jamie’s lock screen for months after, anyway.
“Alright, team, let’s be quick about this,” Roy says, keeping his voice down as he eyes the mansion before them. They’re not idiots, they’d parked a good ways away, but two dozen eggs each is a lot to carry. He’s lucky they haven’t broken any yet. “I have a feeling it wouldn’t be great if anyone caught us here. Isaac? Any advice for the actual egging process?”
“I dunno, man, you just…” Isaac steps forward, opens his carton, and chucks the first egg at the shiny exterior of the house. “Throw ‘em.”
Roy chuckles, sets his extra carton down, and takes out his first egg. “Well, alright then.” He hurls it. It feels satisfying to put so much force behind the throw, to hear the crack of the shell and see the yellow goo dripping down the wall. “Fuck yeah.” He throws another one. “This is fun.”
“Here goes nothing…” Sam lobs his egg higher, so it cracks against the second floor.
Jamie’s loud, obnoxious laughter fills the air. “Here we go! Take that!”
Apparently, Dani’s throwing arm is as fast as his feet. “Football is life!” He’s nearly through one carton.
“And team is family,” Isaac finishes, hurling his own eggs.
For a while, it’s just good, clean, illegal fun. They laugh and cheer as they hurl eggs, and even Roy forgets to be quiet after a bit. The house gets nicely coated in sticky, dripping eggs… but they hardly have a chance to open their second cartons.
“Excuse me!” Rupert Mannion doesn’t exactly look like an imposing figure as he blusters out into the yard, wearing only a bathrobe and an almost comical expression of rage. “Who the bloody hell are you lot!?”
Roy lobs an egg in his direction. It splats on the pavement. “What, your eyesight going? We’re the football team you don’t fucking own.”
The team goes up in cheers, half “yeah Richmond!” and half just yelling. Rupert seems to be mad beyond words, which is pleasing.
And then he finds his words, which are less so.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed your juvenile prank,” he snaps, “because you don’t seem to grasp the concept of an infrared alarm system. The police are on their way.”
Roy stiffens. Around the lawn, the others turn to look at him. “You’re bluffing,” Jamie tries.
Sirens squeal in the distance… but they sound like they’re coming closer.
“Roy, what now?” Sam asks.
“We could scatter,” Isaac offers.
Roy considers it. He knows the rest of the team is taking their cues from him right now. They’re all fast, obviously, they could get out of here. But meeting up again could be an issue, and there’s always the possibility that Rupert presses the issue.
As it turns out, he thinks too long. Rupert really has called the cops.
“You’re right, Beard,” Ted sighs. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” He laughs a little. “Guess I can’t see the forest for the trees, huh?”
Beard shrugs, sipping his beer. “Your heart’s in the right place.”
Before Ted can keep going-- conversation is his natural state of existence-- his phone rings. It’s a number he doesn’t recognize, and a London one, at that. He frowns as he picks it up. “Hello?”
”Ted, it’s Roy,” comes Roy’s voice over the phone. ”We need a favor.”
“Sure thing,” he says easily. “Who’s ‘we’?”
There’s a silence on the end, like Roy is choosing his words carefully. Ted squints as he listens to the clamoring in the background, unable to place the type of noise.
”Uh, the whole team,” Roy finally answers. ”We took it upon ourselves to… do some team bonding. And, uh. We need your help.” A beat. ”We need you to bail us out of jail.”
Ted blinks, processing.
“Roy,” he says, “are you really calling me, at, uh--” he checks his watch-- “11:53 at night, two nights before the most important game of the season, to tell me I need to bail my entire team out of lockup?”
”Yes. That is… exactly what is happening here.”
He sighs. “Alright, I guess there’s no other option. I’ll see you soon.”
When he hangs up, Beard is staring at him, mouth slightly open. “Tell me that was a prank call.”
Ted chuckles. “Uh, nope.”
“Ted.” Beard looks dismayed, which is about the most emotion he ever shows. “I don’t think we can pay to bail them all out.”
He nods slowly, thinking for a moment. “So we call Rebecca.”
“Who, according to you, is having a really, really bad day.”
“Ted, how did this even happen?”
He sighs. “I have no clue! I didn’t even set up any team bonding for tonight, they took it upon themselves.” He smiles, remembering how grouchy and individualistic the team had been when he’d met them. “That’s some good growth.”
“They’re in jail, Ted.” Beard is unamused.
Ted nods, looking down at his phone. “They sure are. Locked up. In time out. Paying their dues.”
“You’re stalling, aren’t you?”
“Well, nobody likes to be called, this time of night.”
“Ted. Just do it.”
He frowns as he looks at his friend. “Yeah, I mean, I guess it can’t wait…”
“Just rip the band-aid off.”
Ted nods in resignation and picks up his phone.
Keeley is about to change into pajamas when the phone on the dresser in front of her rings. It’s Rebecca’s phone-- the simple blue case and lack of any pop song ringtone prove that-- but she picks it up anyway.
“It’s Ted,” she tells her girlfriend, “and I’m going to answer, because Ted always has nice things to say.”
Rebecca, though clearly still exhausted, has begun to bounce back from the sorry state she’d been in when Keeley had found her. “Why is he calling at midnight?”
Keeley frowns, already having answered. “I dunno.” She clicks the speakerphone button on the screen. “Hey, Ted,” she says softly. “You’re on speaker. Rebecca can hear you.”
”Uh, hey, Rebecca,” Ted says, sounding oddly hesitant. ”Listen, I’m really sorry I have to call you this late, but, uh… I need your credit card.”
Keeley makes a face, giving Rebecca a quizzical look. Rebecca reaches out to grab the phone. “Sorry, what?”
”Uh… well, the thing is… the team is sort of… in jail…”
Oh, this is going to be fun.
“Jail?” Rebecca’s tone is one of disbelief. “Ted, what the hell happened?”
”Well, see I don’t really know,” he admits. ”All Roy would say is that it was team bonding gone wrong.”
Keeley would be laughing if she wasn’t so shocked. She watches Rebecca gape at the phone incredulously. “What sort of team building did you even have them doing?”
”I didn’t have anything to do with it!” Ted swears. ”I’m at the pub with Beard trying to figure out the game lineup.”
Rebecca leans forward and pinches the bridge of her nose. “Alright, alright. You’re not in trouble, Ted.” She heaves a sigh. “Roy Kent, on the other hand…”
Keeley finally does laugh at that.
Tonight is a really long, crazy night.
Rebecca doesn’t bother to change out of her comfortable, borrowed ensemble when they leave to head for the jail. In fact, she adds a hoodie from Keeley’s closet emblazoned with an AFC Richmond logo and a number that tells her it once belonged to one Jamie Tartt. She should feel weird about that. She doesn’t.
Keeley is watching her with an amused half-smile, and Rebecca doesn’t say anything about it, but at least it’s better than the worry she’d gotten from her girlfriend earlier that night.
“You should probably drive,” Rebecca says. “I’m not sure the wine is entirely out of my system.”
“Alright, but I don’t know where we’re going.”
Keeley is physically incapable of silence, Rebecca knows. Sure enough, they don’t even make it five minutes.
“What do you think they did?”
Rebecca shakes her head. “I can’t even begin to imagine. I just hope it’s only a fine to pay and not anything worse.”
Keeley shudders and nods. “This’ll be a hell of a headline.”
It will be, but the funny thing about carrying the world on her shoulders like this is that eventually she just can’t stack anything else on it. Rebecca smiles and laughs a bit. “Well, that’s what I have you for.”
Ted and Beard and, surprisingly, Nate are already waiting when they get there. Nate catches sight of Rebecca in casual clothes and immediately averts his eyes. She almost laughs.
“I brought the team van,” Ted says, as if it needs stating when everyone can clearly see the large vehicle behind him. “Thought it would be good to stick everyone in when we get ‘em out.”
“Yes, good thinking,” Rebecca says absently. “You really have no idea what’s going on?”
He shakes his head. “None.”
They enter the station without further discussion, and if any of the men are surprised or confused by Keeley’s presence, they don’t say anything. Rebecca heads to the counter, explains who she is, and begins to fill out the required paperwork for the bail payment.
“Now, bail means they get to leave the station, but they do still have to--”
“Will they be able to play a football match in two days’ time?” Rebecca interrupts.
The clerk blinks. “Um, yes.”
“Then I could not care less,” she says, signing the paper and swiping her card. “Ted, finish up the papers here.”
Another officer appears, gesturing down a hallway. “If you’ll follow me, we can release them now.”
The five of them trail behind him, Ted still scribbling on the clipboard. The officer unlocks the cell full of chattering athletes who don’t particularly care to seem about being jailed, but they shut up when they see her. The door rattles open, but they stay in the doorway, watching her and Ted with apprehensive expressions.
Rebecca resists the urge to massage her temples. “What in the hell did you do? How could a team bonding activity possibly go this wrong?”
They all exchange glances, and unsurprisingly, Roy is the first to speak. “We egged his house.”
She blinks, confused. “What?”
“Your smug bastard ex husband. We egged his house.”
“Like they do in the teen movies,” Sam offers, mimicking tossing eggs.
Jamie Tartt, who was supposedly still in Manchester, elbows his way to the front. “How were we supposed to know he had a security system?”
For a moment, she just stands there, trying to process the explanation she’s been given.
And then, finally, after a long day of pain and tears, she nearly doubles over laughing. The rest of the group must take their cues from her, because nervous laughter ripples through the room. When she stands up, Keeley wraps an arm around her, laughing and clapping her on the back.
“Sorry,” she says to the team. “I think I’m still slightly wine drunk.”
Roy sighs. “Wish I was.”
“Thank you for bailing us out,” Sam says.
“Well, I need you all to play this weekend, don’t I?” She smiles. “One last question…”
They watch her expectantly.
“Who here likes ice cream?”
Roy will be the first to admit that tonight has not gone at all how he’d expected. A few hours ago, his plan had involved nothing but a bit of stupid petty revenge with the added bonus of the team having some fun together. Now, he’s eating a triple-chocolate ice cream sundae that his boss had bought for him.
As a thank you.
For egging her ex’s house and getting locked in jail in the process.
Now, they’ve crowded themselves into a small ice cream parlor on some random street corner, one that Lasso swears has the smoothest ice cream ever. It’s pretty fucking good.
Roy is squished in between Jamie and Isaac, which he minds less than under normal circumstances. Isaac is absolutely thrilled with his enormous amount of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, drizzled with caramel with Rolos throughout. Jamie has a banana split. Roy doesn’t know why that surprises him.
“Y’all still gotta be at your best at practice tomorrow,” Ted says. “I’ll give you an hour off to sleep in. But you’ve gotta give me everything you’ve got.” He gestures at Jamie with his spoon. “Especially you.”
“Oh, yeah.” Jamie chuckles. “I’ve been slacking off.”
“I’m not worried,” Rebecca says calmly, still eating her own waffle cone sundae. “This team is the best it’s ever been.”
Roy squints at her. His first instinct is to argue, but she’s… not wrong.
Because even if their performance is varied at best, they’re more of a team they’ve ever been.
He looks over at Ted Lasso. “I think you might be right.”
Ted laughs, shrugging. “You guys have been here longer than I have… I’ll take your word for it.”
Roy lifts his melting sundae like he’s lifting a pint. “Fuck yeah. To Richmond.”
Everyone else cheers, mimicking him. “To Richmond!”
No, laughing over midnight ice cream is not how Roy had expected to spend his night.
But as it turns out, it’s a pretty good way to spend it.