"Football? Again? I thought I erased the last one off the DVR." Viola froze, eyes wide and lips parted. She swallowed loudly and offered up a sunny smile. "I mean I thought the last game mysteriously disappeared when the power went off last night."
Duke's eyes slid from the television screen to his wife's pink cheeks and guilty eyes. "I was on the phone with the damn cable company for an hour this morning arguing over damn DVR glitches."
"I know." She bit down on her lip and bounced on her toes. Her smile broadened. "I'm sorry?"
He glared at her before a loud cheer from the crowd on the t.v. captured his attention. "You're lucky you’re cute, you know that?"
"Oh, I think you lucked out in that instance, Tobias."
He grinned, curled an arm around her waist, and yanked her onto his lap. Sparks and dots exploded behind his eyes as she wiggled and writhed until she was wedged in the sliver of space between him and the arm of the chair. He coughed to clear his throat and exhaled shakily. "Viola," he rasped.
"What?" Her smile was all innocence, but mischief danced in her bright eyes.
"Football." He coughed again and pointed at the screen.
She rolled her eyes and flopped her head onto his shoulder. "Married for a month and the romance is gone."
"You want romance, sweetness, I'll give you romance." Duke's lips unerringly found the sensitive spot behind her ear. "After the game, though."
"Ugh." Viola slapped his chest lightly. She watched the uniformed men run across the field for a few minutes before growing bored. She frowned at the clock on the wall. "What time is everyone coming over?"
Lips pursed, Viola grasped his chin and forcibly turned his face away from the t.v. screen. "What time is everyone coming over?" she repeated, over-enunciating every word.
"No one's coming over, Vi."
"You picked up a sandwich tray and that deli platter. There are two twelve-packs of Shiner in the fridge. You asked me to bake two batches of brownies. I assumed there was a New Years' Eve party planned." She shook his chin gently. "I cleaned the entire house for three hours this morning."
"I know." He lightly nipped her fingers. "I’m sorry?"
Her left eye twitched. "You're lucky you have..."
"After the game, sugar."
She counted to ten and focused on her breathing until she was reasonably certain she wasn't going to throttle her husband. "So there's really nobody coming over?"
"The food's so we don’t have to worry about cooking. It's just you and me tonight."
"Aw," she cooed, anger instantly forgotten. "That's incredibly, surprisingly sweet."
"And a couple of bowl games."
Her eye twitched again. "Sometimes I hate your living, breathing guts, Tobias."
He chuckled, tucked her firmly against his side. It didn't get better than a night of food, beer, football, and his girl. Had he been single, he might have gone down to his favorite bar to watch the game, but he enjoyed not having to deal with crowds or girls who wouldn't take no for an answer. Besides, Viola's brownies were better than the dry chocolate cake Joe's wife made every New Years'.
Viola squirmed, resigned to the fact that she was going to spend the next several hours watching football. It was a sport she'd never really followed. She liked baseball because Duke and Bas had played in high school, and she liked hockey because of the violence factor. Besides, the rules were easier to understand in both games.
"What are we watching, anyway?"
"Sun Bowl. They're playing in El Paso."
Viola squinted at the screen. "Neither team is from Texas, though."
"That's not how it works, Vi." Duke groaned and tried to come up with a simple, short explanation for the rather complicated college football bowl system. He gave up after only a few seconds. "Just watch the game. It's almost over."
"Which game is next?"
"The Texas Bowl."
"Who's playing in that one?"
"Navy and Mizzou."
Her nose wrinkled. "They’re not Texas teams either."
"They don't have to be from Texas. Look, it has to do with the conferences and rankings. Different bowl associations take the ranked teams in different conferences. For example, the Sun Bowl Association took a team from the PAC-10 and a team from the Big 12. Since they had fifth pick with the Big 12, they got Oklahoma."
Duke ran a hand through his hair and cursed Sebastian for not properly educating his baby sister. "Okay, teams are ranked in their individual conferences. The bowls match up teams from different conferences. Some conferences get automatic bids, but sometimes the bowl association gets to pick. It's complicated, Vi."
"You don't even understand it." She laughed and playfully dug her elbow into his ribs. She tried to pluck a more coherent explanation out of Duke’s brain, but there was nothing but a jumbled mess.
"I do, too."
"No you don't." Viola laughed harder, tears dripping down her cheeks and sides aching. "I'm inside your head, remember? You're as confused as I am."
"Oh, shut up and watch the game," he grumbled, clamping a hand over her grinning lips. "Pick a team and cheer for them."
She nodded and resisted the childish urge to lick his palm. Knowing Duke, he'd only wipe it across her cheek afterwards. She snuggled against him and watched the last quarter of the game, drawing on the information in his head rather than asking questions aloud. She had to admit that the game was a little easier to understand once she knew all the rules. She still didn't get the whole bowl thing, though.
"How many bowls are there?"
Viola whistled. "It's sorta like t-ball, huh? Everybody gets a trophy."
Duke's head thumped against the side of the chair. "This is worse than trying to watch pro football with you."
"Aww, that's just because you were happy the Texans were beating the hell out of the Colts." She ran the pads of her fingers across his jaw. "You'd be happier if a Texas team was playing in one of these stupid bowls."
"The Cougars were playing earlier," he pointed out, neglecting to mention that they'd lost to the Air Force football team. He was a proud University of Houston alumnus, as was Viola, and didn't want to reflect too long on the loss.
Viola wasn't listening to him. She stared at the television screen with brow furrowed and shoulders tense. After a moment, she let out a small squeal and kissed Duke's cheek happily.
"Sweet mercy, I finally understand what a safety is! Where were you during all those awful high school football games? This is awesome!"