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The New Pride of Portree by momotwins
Chapter 16 : Strength of Will
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 6


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“Anyone home?”

Fitz twisted round at the sound of Max's voice, but didn't get up. “Out here.”

A moment later Max appeared at the balcony door. “Are you sitting out here in the cold? Have you gone mad?”

“It's not very cold. I've got a fire going, anyway.”

Max sat down in the lawn chair beside him and put his feet up, near the stone fire pit. “Is that allowed up here?”

“No,” Fitz admitted. “The landlord doesn't know. I only use magical fire. Much safer.”

The small, narrow balcony was made of concrete, plenty strong enough for the small pile of stones where Fitz cast his campfire spells. He liked to sit out here, even in winter: the balcony overlooked the water, and the view was worth the chill. The gray waves were almost hypnotic. On clear days, when the water was still, it was unbearably beautiful. One of Fitz's favorite things about coming to Portree was living in Skye.

“Storm's a-brewing,” Max observed, his eyes on the thick bank of dark clouds that was inexorably rolling toward Portree. “Looks like you'll get a day off work tomorrow. Going to come by the pub?”

Fitz had already been watching the weather reports. Two days of heavy rain, high winds, and lightning were expected. It wasn't worth the danger to practice in those sort of conditions. “Dunno. Might go in anyway. I've got a pile of coaching notes from the 1990s to read still.”

“Hoping for more alone time with Molly, are you?” Max grinned at him, but it only made Fitz feel even more dour.

He shook his head. “That's all over with.”

Max's expression changed in a flash. “What happened?”

Sighing deeply, Fitz stared off at the stormclouds in the distance, wondering how to explain it. “I kissed her outside the pub, and apparently Mariah saw us and reported it to McCormack. She told me to put a stop to it, so I did.”

“I didn't think the League cared about that sort of thing. After all, you married a teammate once.”

“McCormack cares,” Fitz said shortly.

“I thought you were serious about Molly. I got the distinct impression-”

The conversation was giving Fitz an itchy feeling. He pulled his feet down from the fire, hunching forward over his knees. “You were wrong.”

“Oh, mate, I've been wrong about a lot of things in my life, but I know you pretty well, and I know this wasn't your normal run at a girl.” Max's voice was serious, and Fitz stared at the fire, watching the flames leap, pretending he couldn't hear. “Did you try to talk her round? McCormack, I mean.”

He gave a one-shouldered shrug. “I tried. It didn't work. I've got a contract, I've got to finish it out. No one's like to buy it from the Prides unless the season pans out.”

“And if someone bought it from the Prides?”

“I wouldn't be in Portree any more, but at least, maybe, things...” He shook his head. “There's no point, Max. It wasn't going to work out long-term anyway.”

“Why the hell not?”

Fitz tried to make light of it. “You know me. Yeti around women.”

“Yeah, you are,” said his friend. “But she already knew that about you and she seemed to like you anyway. Didn't you get into it a few times with her when you first met because you can't keep your temper?”

“Yeah, and she kept trying to knock that out of me.”

Max gave him a small kick, knocking his elbows off his knees and forcing Fitz to look up. “So what? You didn't mind it at the time.”

“You don't understand.”

Max was frowning at him now. “Oh, I understand bloody fine. You're a goddamn coward.”

“Screw you,” Fitz retorted, heat rising in him that had nothing to do with the fire. He wanted to tear his friend apart. A fight might make him feel better.

“This is the same sort of shit you did with Mariah when you got injured,” Max snapped back. “I didn't say anything at the time because she was a terrible person and I knew within five minutes of meeting her that it was going to end in divorce, but Molly isn't like Mariah. She isn't going to trot off to the next bloke within five minutes of you leaving her.”

Mariah had been trotting off to the next bloke long before he'd ever left her, but Fitz wasn't able to get a word in edgewise before Max went on.

“You were so sure Mariah would leave you when you got hurt that you left her first. You're so sure Molly will leave you that you're leaving her first.”

“Bullshit.”

Max gave him a look that bordered on disgust. “You could have fought for her, and you didn't. You were afraid. Well, enjoy your alone time, mate, you've earned it.”

Rage bubbled up inside Fitz, and he balled his hands into fists, ignoring the sharp jolt of pain in his shoulder. “Are you looking for a fight?”

“You are, but I'm not fighting you. Some of us have to work. I think you're an arse, though.”

“Join the club.”

Max left soon after that, leaving Fitz alone again in his flat to watch the storm roll in, the thunder booming and echoing over the water.

He had never been a man much given to introspection, before the injury. He'd spent all his energies in Quidditch, and hadn't worried much over feelings. While he'd been laid up after the attack, he'd spent all his time thinking about that. The enforced downtime had put him more inside his own head. Sometimes that wasn't a pleasant place to be.

And now... Now he couldn't stop thinking, couldn't stop playing it over in his head, wondering if he should have done it differently.

If he'd told McCormack that he was taking a stand, holding out for both his coaching job and Molly, would he still have had to make a choice? Should he have resigned after all, bet on a love she might not even feel?

And did she really love him enough to stay? Would she love him if he didn't change, bad temper, bad shoulder and all? Was it cowardice not to try?

Probably. He would rather not know if she didn't feel the same way he did. Asking seemed awful, as awful as not knowing, but preferable to hearing her say that she didn't love him.

Dammit, he thought savagely, rubbing a hand over his face. He needed a drink. He needed to punch someone in the face.

He probably shouldn't hit anyone, or he might be fired, and his job was all he had left. He went to the kitchen for a beer instead.

*

The storms lasted three days. Fitz buried himself in work, reading coaching notes back into McCormack's mother's days on the team. It was starting to give him ideas. There were a few things the League had moved away from, maneuvers that had gone out of fashion that he had visions of reviving and changing. He would have to explain it all with words and hope the team caught his drift, because he couldn't fly well enough any longer to demonstrate what was in his head. He could see it in his mind's eye, though, the Chaser formations and the Beater patterns.

When the team was finally able to fly again on Monday, they met in the soggy grass of the pitch, gathering around Fitz. He was so focused on his new ideas that it took a moment to register that Molly's hair had changed.

Gone was the famous mohawk, replaced by a mass of platinum blonde and purple dreadlocks, piled into a bun on top of her head. A purple scarf threaded through it, holding everything in place.

“I like the new 'do, Molly,” Zara was saying.

Molly gave her hair a pat. “Still Prides colours. It seemed time to change it up. I had that mohawk forever.”

“I liked the mohawk,” said Jinks. “It gave us distinction. Everybody remembered the mohawk. I mean, this is okay too-”

“Thanks,” she said dryly.

“-I'm just saying,” Jinks went on as if he hadn't heard her. “The mohawk was memorable. And totally wicked. Maybe I'll grow one now.” He ran a hand over his buzz-cut brown hair.

“You could rock a mohawk,” Molly told him with an affectionate smile.

Fitz scowled at them. “Get focused on work, you lot. Enough hair talk.” He sneaked a glance at her. She didn't have on a speck of makeup that he could see, and the blonde hair made her freckles more obvious against her pale complexion. He didn't think the dreadlocks would be quite as silky soft as her natural hair felt, and found himself missing her red curls from when she'd first turned up in Portree. She was still beautiful, no matter what she did with her hair. He wondered what the dreads looked like down, how long they were.

He shook those thoughts off, pulling out the sketches he'd drawn to show the new formations and patterns for the team. After an hour's explanation and enchanting a couple of wristwatches to fly for a demonstration of one of the more complex maneuvers, he sent the team up in the air to drill the new moves.

Molly hadn't looked directly at him once. He watched her flying toward the goal and sighed.

He liked coaching. The past few days in particular had brought that home for him. He was starting to think he could be good at it, too, with some more practice, and maybe wasn't so bad at it now. But as much as he liked coaching, he wanted Molly even more. Coaching felt a little empty when she wasn't beside him, laughing with him and calling him out for being an arsehole.

"Goddammit," he whispered to himself, kicking a clod of dirt.

He spent the day alternately wondering what Molly was thinking and watching his ex-wife fly, feeling angry all over again every time he saw Mariah. He'd resolved not to bring it up to her, uncertain if revealing the extent of his feelings for Molly would bite him in the arse later and fully aware that if he talked to his ex about it, she would know he was in love, but it was gnawing at him. Why had she done it? She couldn't possibly have felt jealous, after all the times she'd cheated on him. She'd barely wanted him when they were married, so he doubted she suddenly wanted him now.

Was she still angry because he'd gone through with the divorce? Was she punishing him because he'd finally reached the end of his rope with her cheating and left her?

Eventually he decided to take the risk of Mariah finding out he loved Molly. He had to know why she'd done it.

After practice, as the team headed for the locker room, Fitz grabbed Mariah by the arm to stop her. "Can I have a word?"

Mariah looked genuinely confused. "What's wrong?"

He waited until the rest of the team had left the field before speaking. Molly passed by without comment, her gaze straight ahead. Fitz made sure he didn't look at her, keeping his eyes on Mariah.

"What the hell were you trying to do?"

Mariah frowned. "What are you talking about? I caught every pass today-"

He wanted to tear his hair out. "Not that, dammit. McCormack. You told McCormack I was kissing Molly outside the pub."

"Oh, that." Her expression changed, her mouth twisting sourly. "Well, she did tell us all to keep our pants on, didn't she? You don't think the rules apply to everyone? It's not fair if you get to do what you want and nobody else does."

Suddenly it all seemed clear, and he shook his head slowly as the realization dawned. “And who did you want to do, Mariah?”

Her chin went up a notch, and her expression turned defensive. “What the hell do you care?”

“I really don't,” he told her with perfect honesty.

She seemed to see that in his face, because she admitted, “Duff. And maybe Jinks.”

He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. She had ruined everything with Molly for him because she wanted to have a roll in the hay with her teammates. For her, it meant nothing. It had probably never occurred to her that it meant everything to him. “God frigging dammit.”

Mariah scowled at that. “Can you not with the blasphemy? It's bad enough how often you use it on the pitch, I'd rather you didn't say it to my face.”

She'd always hated when he took the Lord's name in vain. Mariah's father was a rabbi, which Fitz had always thought was hideously ironic considering how she'd turned out. "Cheating on your husband is fine, so long as I don't say God?"

"Have we not had that argument enough already? We're divorced, thanks to you, so you lose the right to be angry with me for all that. You're not my husband any more. Besides, I apologized over and over-"

"You are unbelievable," Fitz bit out. "It wasn't enough to destroy my life when we were married, you've got to keep doing it now?"

Mariah gave a derisive snort. "You can't fool around with the female teammates, so your life is ruined? That's a bit overly dramatic."

He gave her a dark look, and Mariah raised an eyebrow, cocking her head at him. The faint air of disgust she'd had since he'd brought up the topic faded from her face.

"Or was it not just fooling around?"

And there it was, he thought. She still knew him too well. He'd let on too much, and as expected, she had guessed about his feelings, but he was damned if he'd discuss that with her. He turned on his heel and stalked off the pitch.

"I didn't know, Fitzie! I'm sorry!" Mariah called after him.

Fitz saw red. Sorry. He'd heard that word from her one too many times. He stopped, turned around and walked back to her, boiling over with rage. Mariah's eyes widened as he pointed a finger at her, and she took a step back.

"You're always sorry, Mariah. But you've got all the forgiveness out of me you're ever going to get."

This time when he left, she didn't say another word.

*

Falmouth was far enough away that the team was making a long weekend of the trip. They arrived two days before the match was scheduled to begin, settling into a small wizard-owned bed and breakfast near the Falcons' pitch. McCormack, somewhat to Fitz's surprise, had not turned up. He hadn't seen her at all in the past three weeks, in fact. She'd kept her communications to owl post ever since she'd confronted him about Molly, updating him on her meetings with the team owners and the Prides' standing in the League.

Though it was a relief not to sit through those meetings, he was a little leery of McCormack's sudden distance. He was trying not to think too hard about what it might mean, though late at night when he hadn't anesthetized his brain enough with alcohol, he wondered if he ought to update his resume.

The bed and breakfast was a rambling old house with enough rooms to house four Quidditch teams, decorated with blue toiles and chintz, crocheted doilies on the backs of the chairs, and had a musty smell permeating most of the beds.

"Smells like my grandmother's house," Sid had muttered as he set his bag in his room.

Fitz's room overlooked a conservatory attached to the back of the house. He could see orange trees through the glass roof, and narrow paths through the thick vegetation of whatever else was growing inside. Past the conservatory there were gardens pleasantly overgrown with bushes and flowers, winding paths of stone with wooden benches scattered here and there, and a small bridge over a shallow stream.

Beathan was in transports of delight over the gardens. “I love the back gardens. It makes the horrible old lady decor worthwhile, doesn't it?” she was saying when Fitz came downstairs for supper. The team was sitting in small clumps around the round tables scattered around the dining room. There was more toile and chintz in here, all in blue and cream. Beathan was sitting with Molly and Zara and, to his surprise, Mariah.

Molly's dreads were tied up in a bun at the nape of her neck, and Fitz stared at her, overcome with the urge to pull out the hairstick holding them in place and find out what they looked like down. She didn't look at him, though she must have felt his eyes on her. She appeared friendly enough with Mariah, though. He reckoned she didn't know Mariah was the one who'd told on them.

He hadn't told her. Mariah must not have said anything either. Maybe she really was sorry for it after all.

"It is pretty," Mariah agreed. "I don't think it makes up for the smell. My room hasn't been aired in years, I'm sure."

"I don't even care, I just want to sit in the gardens all day." Beathan leaned back in her chair. "When we get home, I'm going to start planting new stuff in my backyard. I want it to look just like this."

"It is really nice out there," Molly said. "Not really my style, but it's pretty. You'll have a hard time getting some of those plants to grow back in Portree. It's a lot warmer down here."

Fitz made himself stop staring at her, and cleared his throat to get their attention. “We've got the pitch booked for four hours tomorrow, from ten until two. You lot can have a lie-in if you want, just be there by ten so we can get our time in.”

They all nodded. Molly was focused on her food now, carefully not looking him in the face, but she nodded too.

“Oh, I can have a long breakfast in the gardens tomorrow,” Beathan said with a smile.

Fitz took a seat next to Jinks and Carmichael, hurrying through his meal so he could get away again. The last thing he needed was to sit in the oppressively grandmother-ish dining room and stare at Molly all night while she ignored him.

They had barely spoken in the last three weeks, only on the field. She hadn't called him an arsehole in that time either, even when he'd yelled at her one day more than was necessary. He had let his temper get the best of him, a tiny part of him hoping it would goad her into yelling back, but she'd just flown off. He was starting to feel a bit desperate for her to talk to him, to really talk.

God, he was an idiot.

The next morning, he tried to sleep late so he'd miss Molly at breakfast, but of course fate didn't love him enough to let that happen. As soon as he looked out his window, there she was.

Beathan and Molly were sitting on the bridge with their feet dangling in the water. Molly's black buckled trousers were rolled up to her knees, revealing slender calves and ankles. He couldn't see her freckles from here, but he knew they were there, over her entire body. Today she had wrapped a purple silk scarf around the knot of dreadlocks, covering them neatly. Beathan had rolled her trousers to the knee as well, but Fitz found that view much less interesting. Sighing, he turned away from the window and went to get dressed.

Molly glanced up in time to see Fitz in an upstairs bedroom, his back to the window. He was shirtless, and the scars from his injury seemed darker in the shadowed room, spreading from his shoulder down his back and arm like the tentacles of some sea creature. He pulled a shirt on, and disappeared from view. With a sigh, Molly turned her attention back to her teammate.

Beathan hadn't seemed to notice anything. She had her eyes closed, her face tipped up to the sun, smiling beatifically. Molly had rarely seen her look quite this happy. She smiled at the Chaser fondly.

“Don't laugh at me, I'm happy,” said Beathan, as if she'd felt Molly's attention on her.

“I'm not laughing. We ought to go in, though. It's nearly nine-thirty.”

“You go on. I'll be in shortly.” Beathan stretched out on the bridge, her toes still trailing in the stream.

“If you fall asleep out here, you're going to miss practice.”

She groaned. “Then I'll get screamed at. Come and wake me if I'm not inside when it's time to leave.”

Molly made her way inside through the conservatory, picking an orange off a tree as she went. The rest of the team was in the main rooms of the B&B, some of them eating breakfast and some waiting for their scheduled time on the pitch. Zara was dressed in her practice robes, curled up in a chaise with a book, and Jinks was stretched out on the sofa sound asleep. Molly tried to nudge him awake.

“Is it time to go? Five more minutes,” he mumbled and rolled over. When he let out a snore, she rolled her eyes.

“Might as well leave him, we've still got twenty minutes,” Zara said, and Molly went to sit at the foot of the chaise, peeling her orange and breaking it in half to share.

“Has the coach been down yet?”

Zara shook her head. “Haven't seen him. Is Beathan still out in the garden?”

“We may have to pry her loose with a crowbar. What's that you're reading?”

Zara held up her book, and Molly saw her cousin's face beaming up from the cover under the title Bewitched and Betrayed. Dominique Weasley had written a book about her divorce, and nearly every witch in the country had read it by now. Molly snorted, smiling ruefully.

Why are you reading that?”

“My sister sent it to me. This is your cousin, isn't it?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” she said dryly.

They passed some time discussing the dramatic and now annoyingly public breakup of her cousin's marriage. Molly had not bothered to read the book, since she already knew what had happened, and she didn't care to hear Dominique's carefully crafted version of events in the book. Roxanne had already filled her in on all the fine details, anyway. Roxanne, who was a writer, was still not over Dominique, who was not a writer, getting a book out before she had, and harped about it regularly.

Footsteps sounded behind them, and then a deep voice said, “Goddammit, Jinks.”

Molly turned to see Fitz, carrying a box marked 'Caution: Contains Bludgers', giving the Seeker a solid shove to the torso. Jinks was still snoring.

“We already tried to wake him up,” Zara called. “You might need a bucket of water.”

Jinks snored one final time and then coughed. “Someone say bucket? I'm up, I'm up.”

“Jesus Christ.” Fitz checked his watch. “We're supposed to be there in ten minutes. Gather up, you lot. Where the hell is Beathan?”

They made it to the Falcons' pitch with only seconds to spare. Fitz seemed to be in a bad mood, but for the past three weeks, he was almost always in a bad mood. Molly had been trying to avoid being alone with him, so she hadn't said anything, but his screaming fits were getting over the top again. She probably ought to take him aside and tell him to get a grip before the Beaters took their bats to him.

The Falmouth Falcons, in the grand tradition of the British and Irish League, had taken buckets of paint in their team colours to everything in sight around their pitch. Most everything was a dark grey, with the occasional white falcon head or stripe of white breaking up the rather dismal effect. There was a carved falcon, wings spread wide and painted white with grey eyes, above the door to the team entrance. Underneath the falcon, a white marquee bore the team motto: Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads. Duff reached up as they walked over the threshold to pat the marquee.

Inside was more grey and white, and a very large infirmary. Molly took a look inside as they passed. She had never played Falmouth when she was with the Harpies, only sat and watched the games feeling torn about whether or not she wanted Lyra Brownyard to get injured so she could jump in, but she remembered the ice baths in the infirmary. The Holyhead Beaters had raved about them. Falmouth played hard, and it left its marks on their opponents.

“I'm getting in one of those as soon as we're done,” Duff said behind her. “At first it's misery, and then you just sort of float off and you can't feel a thing.”

“That's cause you're freezing your nerve endings, not to mention your arse,” Fitz said gruffly.

“Who needs nerves anyway?”

They made their way to the pitch, and Fitz set the crate down at his feet.

“Right you lot,” he began. “We don't have much time today, so we need to hit it hard and fast-”

“That's what she said,” murmured Declan.

Fitz did not look impressed by this, though Duff was grinning. “Shut it, you. Five a side for an hour, then we run drills, got it?”

By the time their four hours were nearly up, most of the team was dripping with sweat, muscles aching, and at least four of them were checking their watches to see if their time was up. Molly was sore from head to toe, breathing hard from exertion, when she glanced down at the ground.

Three of the Falcons players were standing on the pitch, watching the Prides train with obnoxious grins. Molly recognized two of their Chasers, Michael Boardman and Pasco Rakes, and one of their Beaters, Jory Spargo.

Fitz was hovering below her, watching the team, and caught her gaze. He looked down and saw the Falcons, then stuck two fingers in his mouth and gave an ear-splitting whistle to get the team's attention.

"Och, Jesus God, did McCormack teach him that?" Jinks pulled up on his broom beside Molly. "I've gone deaf now. I'm actually deaf."

"Let's call it a day," Fitz was saying. "Hit the showers, you lot. Nice work."

They flew toward the ground, landing one by one on the grass, and most of the Prides headed for the locker room, waving to the Falcons as they passed by. Rakes gave a long, slow smile to Mariah as she went past, and winked at her. She rolled her eyes, smiling, and kept walking.

Duff slung his broomstick over one shoulder and went up to his former teammates with a grin, bumping chests with Spargo. Declan was right behind him, and Fitz landed a few feet away, standing beside Jinks, who had stretched out full-length in the grass and was moaning as if he were dying.

"How's it feel to move up to starring position?" Spargo asked with a grin.

"Feels good. It'll feel better when we trounce you blokes tomorrow." Duff gave Boardman an affectionate cuff on the arm. "How's your wife? Does she miss me yet?"

"She doesn't even know your name," Boardman assured him.

"She barely knows his name," joked Rakes.

Declan moved to stand next to Duff, reaching out to shake hands with the three Falcons. "Ready for Saturday?"

"Ready to kick your arses you mean?" Rakes was grinning at Duff, but his eyes slid over to Fitz and his face seemed to harden. "Hell yeah we are."

Fitz was not paying them any attention, focused on Jinks. Molly couldn't decide if he was ignoring the Falcons or actually focused on Jinks' melodrama. Then he glanced over at her and she saw the look in his eyes. He was definitely trying to ignore them, by the skin of his teeth. She stepped closer and tried to distract him.

"Jinks, get up, you lazy sod," she commanded him.

"I'm dying," he groaned, throwing a hand over his eyes. "Levitate me to the infirmary."

"Unbelievable," Fitz muttered.

Molly gave Jinks a gentle kick. "You look completely ridiculous."

"Did you break your Seeker?" called Rakes behind them. "You're in Falmouth now. Can't be delicate or we'll crush you like baby birds under a troll."

Fitz finally turned to him, his face set in a scowl. "You can go-"

"Fitz," Molly murmured before he could finish. "You're coach."

He gave her a scowl too, then turned back to Jinks. "I'm going to kill him."

She wasn't sure if he meant Jinks or Rakes. She gave their Seeker another nudge with the toe of her boot. "Evander Jinks. Get up right now."

Duff and Declan didn't seem to notice anything amiss between Fitz and Rakes, and were still grinning cheerfully. "Come to the pub, we'll buy the first round," Duff said, clapping a hand on Spargo's shoulder. They set off, and with one last venomous glare at Fitz, Rakes followed them.

Jinks hauled himself to his feet, adding a melodramatic moan as he straightened up. "I think I pulled a muscle. Tell McCormack I need a pay raise."

Molly rolled her eyes. "Go find a Healer. You'll live."

Jinks set off for the locker rooms, and Molly turned to follow him, but then glanced back at Fitz.

She held back, hating herself a bit for worrying about him now, but she couldn't shut off the emotions that easily. His entire body was tense, and she could tell he was holding himself in check by sheer strength of will. He might have hauled off and punched Rakes otherwise.

She took a step closer and caught his eye. “Are you all right, Fitz?”

He frowned at her. “Oh, now you want to talk to me? You've barely said a word to me in weeks, but now when you think I need help-”

The urge to kick him was almost overwhelming. She stomped her foot instead, and her cheeks flushed red with rage. “You stupid, stupid arsehole. That is not what – it was your idea to break things off. I don't owe you any explanations, but if that's what you think of me, then you can just bugger off.”

She started to walk off, and he ran both hands through his hair. She had just turned away when he called out, “That was Mariah's last boyfriend. Before we got divorced.”

Molly stopped and turned back. He was staring down at his shoes, kicking at a divot in the grass.

“I didn't think I would care any more. It was years ago, and he wasn't the first one I caught her with. I was going to file for divorce, finally, and she apologized like she always did, and it was a mess. It was right before I got injured. It's just... I didn't know it would still bother me.”

“She was your wife, and he knew it and slept with her anyway,” Molly said quietly, reeling with surprise that he'd actually opened up about this. “Of course it bothers you. You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel something about that.”

“She's not my wife any more. I'm not in love with her. I haven't been in years.” His expression changed, becoming faintly bewildered. “Why do I give a damn if I see some bloke she slept with back then?”

“It's not that easy. You break things off, but you can't just shut your feelings off because you don't want to feel them anymore. Wouldn't that make things so much easier if you could?”

He let out a mirthless laugh. “Yeah, it would, wouldn't it?”

They were still standing a few feet apart, and the distance felt endless. Molly didn't move closer, though. It seemed like a bad idea.

“I'm sorry,” he said then. “For being an arsehole.”

“You're always an arsehole lately.”

“I know.”

She didn't say he'd been being an arse since they'd broken up. He was probably well aware of it. “Will you be all right?” she asked tentatively.

He gave a one-shouldered shrug. “I'll survive. Go on and rest, Molly.”

She wasn't sure she ought to leave him alone, but her body was screaming at her to have a dip in the ice bath and then a nap, so she left him there on the pitch, glancing over her shoulder as she walked off.

He was watching her go with a bleak expression.


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