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“I’m not saying you can’t date who you like.” Rebecca finds these words spilling, hideous, out of her mouth when Sassy stops by her office before a girls’ lunch and drops the colossal bomb on her life that is Sassy And Ted Lasso Are An Item. “Obviously, you can.”

Keeley is watching from the sofa, eyes giant and amused. She might as well be flicking popcorn into her mouth. (And somehow, she’s already taken her shoes off. What’s she thinking? They’re meant to leave in five minutes.)

“Wow. Thanks for being so magnanimous. And I don’t know if I’d say ‘date.’ It’s more that we seem to keep falling into bed together.” Sassy gets that look on her face, the one that promises she’s about to diabolically overshare.

“No—” Rebecca holds up her hands. “Nope, nope, nope! That’s all right. I don’t need the details. Please, spare me anything even remotely like a detail.”

“So you don’t want me to do you a little sketch of him naked? You want me to repress my incredible gift for drawing a penis from memory with sterling accuracy?” Teasing, Sassy reaches for the notepad on her desk. Keeley cackles.

Rebecca throws the notepad across the room.

“Oi!” Keeley yelps.

“You’re fine,” Rebecca says, unbothered.

Keeley flips her off.

“I just don’t know if I see him for you,” Rebecca adds to Sassy. “You’re so … well, you. What man can possibly deserve all that?”

Sassy bows. “Thank you.”

“—and Ted can just be very—”

Then she realizes that she’s falling back into that old habit, the urge to twist things to suit the lie she’s trying to sell the world and herself. Not anymore. Not even in the depths of a waking nightmare so bad she’d never entertained the possibility until reality spat it in her face like Ted trying a new beverage.

“—lovely,” she relents. “He’s completely lovely, I’d trust him with my life. Even the impromptu singing gets disturbingly endearing after a while. (You should hear his Adele; it shouldn’t work, but it does, and he always picks the non-single tracks, which really are very underrated.) He brings me homemade biscuits every morning, and I’m just his boss. I can’t imagine the special treatment his lady friend would get.”

“Lady friend?” Sassy repeats.

“Well, he’s definitely going to call you his ‘lady friend’--” Rebecca attempts an American drawl, terribly, “--sooner or later if you keep this up, so if you don’t like it, you’d best dump him right now. Ha ha. Kidding.”

Keeley lets out a ‘Character falling off a cliff in a cartoon’ whistle.

“I hadn’t realized the two of you were so tight, Stinky.”

We’re not, Rebecca thinks. The words that come out of her mouth are, “Well, we are.”

Sassy lifts her eyebrows, gaze gleaming with amusement. “Noted.”

“And I know I’ve still got a truly astronomical amount of shit to make up to you, but if you hurt him, Sass, I will kill you a little bit.”

“Got it.”

“I’ll make the same threat at him about you the next time I see him,” Rebecca adds as an afterthought. “Obviously.”

Sassy sighs. “I don’t know if you’ve even got much to worry about.”

“I’m not worried,” Rebecca insists, and then finds she can’t help adding, “What do you mean?”

“I just don’t know if I see this turning into any sort of long-term thing. He’s a complete sweetheart, like you said, but I dunno. Sometimes I just get the sense that he’s somewhere else.”

Some slumbering thing in Rebecca twitches, suddenly awake and interested.

“That’s to be expected. He’s just gone through an awful divorce,” Rebecca reminds her.

“Not somewhere sad, necessarily,” Sassy says. “Just somewhere … else.”

Again, that twitchy feeling. Rebecca’s eyes wander to the empty pink box on her desk.

“Say, he’s around here somewhere, isn’t he?” Sassy asks, glancing out into the hallway.

Rebecca pulls herself out of her trance. “I’m sure you’ll be able to find him with very little trouble. Just follow the distant sound of Adele B-sides.”

Sassy beams. “Great! Meet you ladies at the car in fifteen.”

Rebecca gets up from behind her desk and puts on the blazer slung over her chair, her arms feeling oddly numb. Her heart is thundering in her ears like something apocalyptic’s just happened, which is ridiculous, since it clearly hasn’t. Two wonderful people having sex with each other is, all in all, a good development in the world. Maybe it’s just that she’s had so much bad news from people she’d been stupid enough to trust that any news about anyone she cares about makes her want to curl up in the fetal position on the floor and try out scream therapy.

She catches sight of Keeley, who’s Watching Her. Capital letters.

“What are you looking at?” she demands.

“Nothing,” Keeley protests, then immediately gives up. “Ooh, you hate the idea of them shagging, don’t you?”

“Who wants their best friends to fall for each other?”

“Harry Potter,” Keeley says without missing a beat.

“Touché,” says Rebecca.

“It’s cute how Ted’s on your BFF list,” Keeley remarks as she gets off the sofa. “I mean, I suppose I can settle for being a distant third. But only because I’m so brilliantly well-adjusted, yeah?”

“Please.” Rebecca offers an arm, and Keeley loops hers through. “It’s a three-way tie. And between you and me, you’ve currently got an advantage over those lust bunnies.”

“Threeway, huh?” Keeley grins, nudging her. “Now, there’s an option for your new and confusing best mates situation! If you can’t stop ‘em from hooking up, join ‘em?”

“Shut up,” Rebecca says. To her mortification, she feels her face redden.

“Oh, come on. You can’t say you haven’t wondered about our Mr. Lasso, especially after all that! You flung the bloody notepad across the room before she could draw Ted like one of Leo’s French girls! Almost took my eye out!”

“You’d look dashing with an eyepatch.”

“I know,” Keeley says, “like, a really rhinestones-y one.” But her mischievous gaze makes it clear that she’s not letting Rebecca escape from this topic yet.

“He’s the human equivalent of Paddington Bear. Can you really even begin to imagine him …” Rebecca can’t even say it.

“Sure,” Keeley says easily. “I think he’d be, like, surprisingly great. Not just conscientious — obviously he’s going to be that — but I think there’s a little ‘Grrr’ in there. Not a dark side, necessarily. Just that zest for life coming out in whole other avenues. Like, you know he’s not one of those man-babies who only goes down on you out of obligation for like three underwhelming minutes and calls it good before it’s all about his cock again. That man absolutely goes at it like you eat those biscuits of his.” She moans in what absolutely cannot be an accurate representation of Rebecca eating Ted’s biscuits (oh, that sounds wrong), then does a dramatic chef’s kiss.

“Oh my God,” Rebecca says, mortified, and lets go of Keeley so she can bury her face in her hands.

“And I could totally see him being one to, like, sweep all the stuff off a flat surface and ravish you on it. If you two were hooking up--”

We’re not!

“I know; it’s a hypothetical, yeah? If you two were going out, that desk would be in danger. But, like, he’d check with you first to make sure there’s not anything important on there. He wouldn’t jeopardize your paperwork or your laptop. He’s not an animal. But, you know, he is a bit.”

“Stop,” Rebecca pleads, her voice muffled.

“I can’t believe you’ve really never thought about this. I think about how I’d seduce every new friend I meet. You might not think it, but it’s a really great mental icebreaker.”

“I remember,” Rebecca says dryly from between her fingers.

“Oh yeah! The lady pool!”

Rebecca finally lowers her hands. “I suppose I’ve never really thought of Ted as a man.”

“He is suspiciously decent for one. But if you think about it, a lot of the boys around here are. Including Roy, who’s gotten seriously better about the whole grunting-instead-of-having-emotions thing. Do you think there’s something in the water? Have you been sneaking Respect Women juice in?”

“Obviously he’s a man. Just not a man with a romantic life.”

“What’ve you thought of him as, then? A monk? I think they’d make him shave his moustache. Aw. Usually I’m not pro-moustache, but I’ve just imagined it, and that would make me really sad, actually.”

Rebecca ignores her. “It’s strange, isn’t it? Seeing someone one way, having them play this really specific role in your life, and then being confronted with the reality that they—“

“Eat pussy like a god,” Keeley says solemnly, nodding.

“Holy shit, that’s it, I’m either flinging myself out the window or you’re getting pushed—“

“Heya!” It’s Ted, swinging the door open and walking right into her. They both stumble, adjusting to being so close together.

“Hi,” Rebecca says breathlessly, looking into his eyes.

“You all right there, boss?” He puts a concerned hand on her shoulder. Damn it, she never would have noticed that before. Keeley’s definitely going out the window.

“Giddy,” she says, trying to slide out from under his touch casually. Sassy comes into the office after him.

“Now that, I love to hear. It’s a good look on you. Although what isn’t?” He gestures between Sassy and Keeley. “I don’t gotta tell you ladies that. We’re the Rebecca Fan Club up in here. Haven’t figured out all the official positions yet, of course.”

“What’s your favorite position, Ted?” Keeley asks, shooting Rebecca a diabolical look. Rebecca wishes those cute little exposed toes were close enough for her to stomp on.

“Not to be a cliche, but I’ll rock-paper-scissors y’all for President.”

“President,” Keeley muses. “Doesn’t that come with a lot of oral responsibilities?”

“Well, a) I seldom met a public speaking situation I didn’t like; somebody call the Allman Brothers Band, ‘cause I was born a ramblin’ man, and b) I’m starting to feel like I’ve walked in on a Sex and the City girl talk sesh.”

“You haven’t,” Rebecca says. “You really haven’t. In fact, we were just discussing … adult onset acne.”

Keeley gives her a ‘what the fuck?’ look.

Rebecca gives an ‘I don’t fucking know! I panicked!’ look back. She’s suddenly realized that, despite her inability to see Ted as anything but her Ken-doll-anatomy’d business associate-slash-guardian angel, she really doesn’t want him thinking she’s covered in spots in weird places.

“I am … a sufferer of adult onset acne,” Keeley says with a weary sigh. “The stress of modern existence and all that. Roy’s been very supportive.”

“I’d expect nothing less from the Kentster. And hey, aren’t we all going through new adolescences all the time in the crazy nonstop journey of life? How can we blame our skin if it gets confused every once in a while?”

“So true,” Keeley says sweetly, and then flashes Rebecca a homicidal grimace.

“Give it time and lots of water, and I bet the situation’ll turn right around.”

“Thank you, Ted,” Keeley answers. “You’re a real Paddington Bear.”

Ted looks sincerely touched, the daft man. “That may be the most beautiful compliment I’ve ever received.”

Rebecca can’t help chuckling.

Until she notices that, even though Keeley’s clearly the freak in this situation (bless her), Sassy is looking between Ted and Rebecca with new curiosity.

“What are we still doing here talking about Keeley’s skin ailments?” Rebecca says with a nervous laugh. “We’ve got a reservation to get to! Ted, would you like to join?”

“Wouldn’t dream of interrupting the she-shindig. You gals have fun.”

“There we have it, then. Let’s go.”

“Wait,” Keeley says, looking down. “What's happened to my fucking shoes?”

Rebecca sighs.

While Keeley and Sassy begin a surprisingly complex search for Keeley’s fucking shoes, Ted comes closer.

“I’m sorry we sprung this on ya,” he murmurs, briefly touching Rebecca’s elbow as he leans in for a tete-a-tete. “I wanted to tell you earlier, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it, so I just kept putting it off. No excuses -- that’s on me. Are we cool? It’s cool if we’re not.”

In the midst of the neverending breakdown this afternoon has become, Rebecca feels something relax in the center of her.

“Two of my favorite people making each other happy?” Suddenly, saying it, if feels true: “ What could be cooler than that?”

“What could be indeed?” He sounds a touch softer than his usual effusive self, almost as if he really is asking a question. “Thanks, Rebecca.”

“I’ll kill you if you hurt her, of course.”

“Oh, good. You should. Otherwise, what have the Spice Girls even been singin’ about all these years?”

Rebecca laughs, and Keeley finds her shoes on opposite ends of the office, and Ted doesn’t question it when he discovers her notepad on the floor, and Sassy has mercy enough not to kiss Ted goodbye in front of them, and thank God, they’re finally off to lunch without any additional disasters.

 

+

 

As soon as Rebecca excuses herself to the loo at lunch--maybe to try to drown herself in the toilets after Keeley’s cursed her with the concept of Ted Lasso, Sexual Being--Sassy leans over the table to Keeley, snatches a chip off her plate, and says, “So, it’s not just me, right? Rebecca and Ted are …”

“I don’t think either of them has any clue, and based on what they’re both like, there probably won’t be any progress for, oh, four to seven years. But … yeah. I see it.” Keeley winces. “I’m sorry, babe.”

“No, it’s fine. Thanks for being honest. I meant what I told her earlier; I’ve been feeling how he isn’t all there.”

“Oh,” Keeley says casually, “do you mean, like, sexually, or—“

Not sexually,” Sassy says, wiggling her eyebrows.

“Ha! Knew it! Um. Sorry again.” Then, figuring when’s she going to get another opportunity?, she goes on, “Say, has he ever, like, knocked a bunch of stuff off a table and ravished you on it?”

“He never stops knocking a bunch of stuff off the table and ravishing me on it. He’s doing it right now.”

“See, you’re giving me sass, which makes sense considering, but I want answers. Facts.”

Sassy rolls her eyes good-naturedly. “You pulled this with Rebecca when I left you two in her office, didn’t you?”

“How’d you know?”

“I could feel the poorly suppressed hysteria radiating off her. You know, just best mates telepathy stuff. So, what went on?”

“I’m not super keen on the idea of her defenestrating me,” Keeley says diplomatically, “so I’m going to say I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Sassy laughs, and Keeley takes that as an invitation to pluck a tomato off of her plate. But when she looks up again, Sassy’s eyes are suddenly bright with tears.

“Oh, shit. What have I done? Here, I don’t need it--” She tries to put the tomato back.

“No, nothing. It’s just—” Sassy wipes beneath her eyes to try to salvage her makeup. “I fully realize how strange the situation is, to say this about the man I’m dating, but oh--I really like him for her.”

“Right? Me too!” Keeley puts a hand to her heart, zero-to-teary.

“Talk about the universe making up for fucking Rupert.”

Keeley reaches across the table and presses a hand over Sassy’s, feeling this sudden sharp closeness to all the years of pain she wasn’t around for.

“What are you two … weeping and holding hands about?” Rebecca asks, eyeing them suspiciously as she returns to the table.

“Adult onset acne,” Keeley deadpans.

“Right. Forget I asked.”

All the same, Keeley can’t resist kissing her cheek as she sits down. Aww, Rebecca.

 

+

 

“So, I expect you boys have been coaching Ted in the ways of wooing my best mate,” Rebecca remarks the next day, spotting said boys convened in Ted’s office without Ted himself. (She’s been trying to make good on Ted’s invitation to see her down here more often.)

Coach Beard, Nate, and Higgins exchange round-eyed glances.

“I’m sorry,” Nate says with somber authority, “but the secrets of the Diamond Dogs don’t leave this room.”

“I’m in this room.”

“--don’t leave this room, or the lips of the people who were there during the meeting when our hearts’ secrets were spilled.”

“What is this,” Rebecca demands, “Anne of Green fucking Gables?”

“I wish,” Nate says. “I love that one.”

“Who doesn’t?” Beard says.

“My wife read it to each of our boys,” Higgins says. “She said she wasn’t missing out on Anne Shirley just because we didn’t have a daughter. And you know what? There are some good life lessons in there for everyone.”

“When we create a needless gender divide in literature, we lose so much,” Nate says thoughtfully.

“Tell me about it,” says Beard. “Two words. Jane Austen.”

“Terry McMillan.”

“M.C. Beaton--”

“Obviously Anne of Green Gables is a timeless treasure,” Rebecca says impatiently before this becomes a full-blown feminist book club. “That wasn’t the point.”

“And the point is?” asks Beard.

“You’d--you’d better not be steering him wrong with your romantic advice.” Rebecca waves a threatening finger to make up for how awkward she feels. “She’s newly divorced and doesn’t need any male nonsense, or--or being dragged about by someone who can’t commit.”

The Diamond Dogs (God, now she’s thinking it like it’s a valid group moniker) share another round of panicked glancing. They seem to reach a silent decision.

“Just between you and us,” Nate says gently, “we’re not sure Sassy is the one for Ted, incredible though she sounds. And she does sound incredible.”

Rebecca crosses her arms in a way that’s historically made people fear her. “Why?”

“Ted’s great love is the game. This place, this work, these people. We don’t think he can really commit to someone who’s outside of this bubble. Not right now, at least. Giving the team all he has, that’s what his heart needs to heal.”

Rebecca tries not to think about a broken-hearted Ted; it makes her stomach hurt like she’s skipped lunch. She sharpens her tone to compensate. “So, what’s he supposed to do for romance, then? Date one of you?”

“We could do worse,” says Beard.

“We should be so lucky,” Higgins agrees.

“I think anyone,” Nate says deliberately, “would be lucky to be with Ted in that way.”

Why is he looking at her like that? Has she got something on her face?

“Thank you for the confab, gentlemen,” she says, suddenly ready for this visit to be over. “If my friend cries because of some crap advice you give Ted, I’m keying all your cars.”

And with that, she sweeps gloriously out of the room.

And then ducks back in.

“... obviously I wouldn’t really,” she says.

“We know,” Nate replies.

“Under that business-attired exterior beats a soft and caring heart,” Higgins opines.

Rebecca wrinkles her nose. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

Coach Beard shakes his head very slightly. Rebecca shoots him one appreciative finger gun, clicking her tongue, then leaves that strange, strange place. (And makes a mental note to get Nora a copy of Anne of Green Gables, ASAP.)

 

+

 

A few nights later, Rebecca is working away at her laptop forty-five minutes after she’d vowed she’d put it away and go to bed when a text dings on her phone.

Hey Stinky. Just thought I’d let you know the lovely Mr. Lasso and I have called it quits. He’s an absolute doll, we just weren’t a match. Better to cast him back out into the sea for some other lucky lady friend to reel in.

Rebecca absolutely does not examine the sudden lightness that’s filled her. So sorry to hear it xoxoxo. Wallowing girls’ night soon?

NOT a wallowing situation, promise. But hell yeah! Bring Keeley and a perfect knowledge of the Frozen 2 soundtrack. Nora’s ready to duet and she’ll settle for nothing less than perfection.

Rebecca searches ‘frozen 2’ on YouTube, her fingers dancing merrily across the keyboard.

 

+

 

The next morning in her office, Ted interrupts their usual shop talk by gesturing at the biscuit in her hand. “Those taste okay?”

“They are so very beyond okay that I’m a bit insulted you’d describe them like that.”

“Just wasn’t sure. Your eyes haven’t rolled back into your head yet.”

“I can eat like a civilized person, Ted.” 

“Oh, I believe you. I bet you know what all them different fancy little dinner forks are for and everything.”

“I do indeed. Maybe one day I’ll teach you.”

“It’s a date.”

She beams, enjoying the small flush of delight without allowing herself to analyze why.

“Speaking of dates,” Ted says, “I’m guessing you heard about me and Sassy.”

“I did. I’m so sorry it didn’t work out.”

“No biggie. We both just realized it’d run its course. Sometimes people come into your life for a while, and you both get what you both need at the time, and that’s enough. I guess just because something’s not permanent, it doesn’t mean it’s a failure. Been trying real hard to convince myself of that one this past year.”

“I understand completely,” Rebecca says in the tones of the wearily divorced.

“Not everything sticks around.” Ted’s eyes brighten with thought, like he’s discovering the insight as he speaks it. “But hey, it makes the things that do that much more precious, huh?”

“It does,” she agrees, and, on a whim, reaches across the desk to take his hand. He squeezes hers with that easy, boundless affection that he always shows her: an affection that it would never occur to him to stifle, or hide, or take away because he can tell she’s grown to trust it.

When they’ve let go, Rebecca takes the last biscuit and breaks it in two, offering him half.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t. Me eating the gift I made for you? Stab me in a wall to hang a poster up, ‘cause that’s tacky.”

Rebecca prods the half-biscuit at him again. “Really. I insist.”

“Well, all right.”

She takes a bite of her own half, and allows herself an authentic reaction. It would be rude otherwise. She can’t have the man doubting himself. “Mmmph! Absolutely fucking indecent. You’re a gluten sorcerer.”

“You know I hate to buzz my own homemade kazoo,” Ted says after chewing and swallowing, “but that right there’s what I believe you folks call scrummy.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever said ‘scrummy.’”

“Well, you should. It feels great in your mouth.”

Rebecca ignores the Keeley in her head and experiments, “These biscuits are fucking scrummy. You’re right, there’s something quite satisfying about that.”

He grins. “Right? Honestly, I had to build up my nerve to say that one in the presence of a bonafide Brit.”

“What?” Rebecca laughs. “Why?”

“Heard it on Bake-Off a few years back and really took to it, but you don’t want to just throw it out there. It’d be like you saying ‘cowabunga, dude’ to Bart Simpson.”

“A worry I’ve spent so many sleepless nights over.”

“Exactly. You really wanna get it right. Keep it authentic. Say, will you hit me with a ‘cowabunga, dude’?”

“Maybe for your birthday,” Rebecca says, “or a Christmas miracle.”

“I’ll hold you to that, miss.” Ted grins at her, and it’s not so different from any other Ted grin, but there’s a fizzy sort of glee in the air, like being set up on a first date that unexpectedly blooms into an actual connection. Except it’s not a first anything, is it? She’s lost count of how many mornings they’ve shared just like this, and somehow, they keep getting better instead of fading into lesser imitations of one wonderful time.

Rebecca is struck by the wild thought that she could say anything to him right now. Perhaps even ask him anything.

“Sorry to interrupt the fun,” Higgins says, rapping his knuckles against the open door.

“More like take the fun to the next level.” Ted bounces up to greet him like some sort of hyperactive Mr. Darcy. Bubble popped.

“Very cheery vibes in here this morning!” remarks Higgins.

“What are we at AFC Richmond if not cheerful in the face of the constant unrelenting fuckery thrown at us by fate?” Rebecca says, deciding she might as well get into the spirit.

Ted offers her a fist bump and a grin. “Hell yeah, lady friend.”

Rebecca knocks her knuckles against his. While he gets distracted singing her praises (“We’ve got us an inspiration right here, Higgins. If I weren’t terrified to break something, I’d stand on that desk and do a little ‘O Captain My Captain’ right about now”), she allows herself a smile that hides none of what she feels. Whatever that means.

 

+

 

Not So Long After ...

“Hiya, fellas!” Ted says, breezing into the office to find his Diamond Dogs all assembled and muttering frantically. “Wow, you sure flipped that whiteboard over quick. I hope it’s not a Burn Book situation.”

“Surprise party plan,” Beard says, getting up to stand between Ted and the flipped-over whiteboard.

“Surprise party for what?”

“Can’t tell you. That’s the surprise.”

Ted’s eyes brighten with delight.

“Welp,” he says, walking backwards, “I’ve heard enough. Which is to say, I haven’t heard a thing. Keep on schemin’ and dreamin'. La la la, la la la!” He attempts to press his hands over his eyes and ears at the same time, with minimal success, and yodels his way out of the room.

“Erase it, erase it, erase it!” urges Nate in a fierce whisper, tossing two erasers. Beard catches one; the other hits his ear and falls to the floor. “I almost had a heart attack.”

“You’re too young for that, mate,” Higgins says, concerned. “How’s your diet?”

“Fine, I think. It’s the high stakes scheming and dreaming that’ll get you.”

“It will at that,” says Beard, who lifts the eraser to the board.

“Wait! I want to get a picture first.”

Nate snaps a picture of the whiteboard with his phone, then allows Beard to erase it in hasty swipes.

+

(From the Contents of Nathan Shelley’s Phone)

TED + REBECCA?

PROS:

  • Like each other a lot
  • Biscuits chemistry
  • Good team
  • Complementary values
  • Like singing - duet potential
  • Rebecca = good stepmum, forget RM’s stupid baby (apologies to baby, not its fault)
  • Already overcame big relationship obstacle (i.e. Rebecca’s evil plot)
  • Subvert height difference gender norms, REFRESHING!
  • Divorce = :(, Finding Love Again w/ Friend = :)

 

CONS:

  • Work together
  • Awkward break up potential (unlikely but sad)
  • Different home countries
  • Not ready to love again?
  • Walking in on workplace canoodling: a real danger for the rest of us (Barfing smiley face illustration)

 

PROS = +4 💓💓💓