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Title: Father Figure
Characters: Xavi Hernández and Alexis Sánchez
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1275
Disclaimer: While inspired by actual persons and events, this story is a work of fiction.
Summary: Victory at the Stadium of Light comes with a high price, and Carles Puyol has left some pretty big shoes to fill.
Author's Note: Haven't had time to write fic for a while, but couldn't resist sketching out this scene after the scare during Tuesday's CL match. Inspired by this photo.

Xavi Hernández was the first to catch the hoarse shouts under the expectant roar of the crowd and swiveled his head to spot Carles Puyol sprawled facedown on the grass, his left arm twisted up behind him at an unnatural angle, his right slamming uselessly on the ground. Xavi felt cold sweat breaking out all over his body at the sound; if Puyi was bellowing like a downed ox, the pain must be agonizing. He yelled, but the referee had already shrilled his whistle and was racing over to survey the damage, beckoning for the medical staff to join him on the field.

Soon all of the Barcelona players had been clued in and started milling around their captain in concerned clumps, rapidly drying sweat and cramping calves forgotten. Many of them looked a little ill, not that Xavi could hold it against them when Puyi continued to howl, the desperate sounds sending shivers up his spine. Even the normally imperturbable Andrés was slightly green around the gills, and Xavi could just make out Cesc's white, distraught face back on the bench.

Beside him, Leo bumped his shoulder gently and jerked his chin. Xavi followed his teammate's gaze to Alexis Sánchez, who had sunk to an uncertain crouch on the grass, his face drained of color under his tan. Xavi heroically refrained from rolling his eyes, trotted over to Alexis, and put a steadying hand on the kid's shoulder. "Put your head between your knees," he advised curtly but not unkindly, and Alexis obeyed with an ominous gulp. Xavi patted him absent-mindedly a couple of times and then hurried back to oversee the rescue operations.

It seemed like an eternity before Puyi was finally stabilized on a gurney and escorted out. Moving as one, the Barcelona fans rose to their feet and solemnly applauded the warrior's withdrawal from the field, open admiration for his courage shining in their faces. Xavi felt tears prickling his eyes and a lump in his throat at this spontaneous demonstration of love and respect.

But there was no time to dwell on the tragedy just yet. Tito sent Alex Song on for Puyi, having few other options, and the home team redoubled their efforts to penetrate the notably less organized defense following the loss of their fearless leader. Then David took Pedro's place, a quiet but clear acknowledgment of the quality Alexis had brought to today's match, and the last fifteen minutes passed in a flurry of fouls and cautions, deserved and otherwise. Sergio was sent off with a straight red, somehow caught up in the cloud of confusion and frustration, but even a man up, Benfica was unable to score.

Five minutes of extra time, plus a couple more for good measure while the Barcelona players shrugged at each other in bemusement and continued to dominate possession, and then it was finally over, 2-0 and six full points in the group stage of the Champions League.

The tone of the team afterwards was unusually subdued, although not surprisingly so, under the circumstances. Even as some of the South American players exchanged their jerseys, Xavi's teammates were wandering around, many looking a little lost, and reaching out every so often to offer or receive a touch, a hug. Just ahead of him, Victor and Masche walked side by side, heads close together, arms wrapped consolingly around each other.

Alexis was stumbling along alone, his sturdy back bare, a damp Benfica jersey clenched in his fist. Xavi debated with himself for only a split second before approaching the younger man from behind, easily matching strides with him, and then slinging a comforting arm across his shoulders. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"Not really," Alexis admitted, stiffening a little and looking ashamed. "But at least I didn't puke. Or pass out."

"Give yourself some credit. You played very well today," Xavi told him with an approving pat on the chest. "I would say that you were an 8 out of 10, easy." He was rewarded with a wan smile acknowledging his allusion to Alexis' recent self-deprecating interview.

"I was so happy," Alexis said in a low voice after a moment of silence. "My first goal this season. And then when I saw what happened to Puyi... I would trade it back if I could." This last in a tone of muted anguish, as if the kid somehow blamed himself for what had happened.

"Shh, nonsense," Xavi soothed, tilting his head to touch their temples together. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"I left him," Alexis groaned. "He fell right next to me, and I didn't even notice. I was so intent on going after the ball... It wasn't until the ref ran over that I realized..." and here his boyish face threatened to crumple at the memory.

"Fuerza," Xavi urged, smacking him on the chest again, harder this time. "You were focused on the match, you were doing what you were supposed to do. Puyi will be all right. I promise."

Alexis snuffled fiercely and swiped at his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said. "He's been like a father to me."

Ah. Suddenly everything clicked into place for Xavi, stopping him for a second in his tracks and almost causing him to trip over his own feet. Alexis had been abandoned by his biological father when he was just a boy, and his adoptive father had passed away just before Pep brought him to Barcelona. He'd had a rough first year on the team, plagued by niggling injuries, but still he'd been a regular starter when fit, standing in for an off-form Pedro and long-recuperating David, and he and Pep had clearly had a close, almost filial relationship, full of affection as well as frustration. He'd probably felt Pep's departure as another abandonment (although he would not be alone in that regard), and Tito's relationship with the players had always been cooler, more professional. Not that Xavi faulted him for it - so far it was proving at least as effective as Pep's more emotional approach - but Alexis had no doubt been a bit lost before Puyi had stepped in, especially given that he was now only one of many possible picks for the front line and so feeling much less secure in his place on the team. And Xavi had not even noticed all of this going on right under his nose. Some vice captain he was.

"No pasa nada, cielo," he murmured now, squeezing Alexis' shoulder, then twisting his neck to press a quick kiss to the Chilean's cheek. "We're all sad and scared. But just you wait, Puyi will get on the plane back to Barcelona with a smile, and if the doctors tell him he'll be out for eight weeks, we'll see him back on the pitch in four."

Alexis sniffed loudly and didn't reply, but his arm snaked around Xavi's waist and stayed there, warm and solid, lending the midfielder support that he hadn't even known he needed. When they reached the dressing room, Xavi pulled the younger man close for a hug. "Fuerza," he whispered again. "And Alex, if you ever want to talk about anything, you know where to find me, okay?"

"Okay," Alexis rumbled next to his ear, "thanks," and then he was sliding out of Xavi's arms and trotting towards his assigned locker.

"I see you've taken the chileno under your wing," Pinto said, coming up behind Xavi and laying a large hand heavily on his shoulder.

"Someone had to," Xavi acknowledged, and headed off for a hasty shower so that he could compose himself in time for his turn in the press room.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwwwwwww little Lex.
You have such attention to detail, well paced, and clearly showing emotion without it being cloying. Hadn't really thought of that but it makes good sense about Alexis's issues (and they say Puyi is a great mentor).

This mean you'll be back on form soon as well. ;)
Oct. 5th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
Aw, bless you. I feel so lucky to get comments when I write gen.

That was such an emotional match in so many ways, and I wanted to write a little tribute to Puyi, and speculating about a mentoring relationship with Alex to explain the kid's rather extreme reaction to Puyi's injury seemed like it would provide a nice example of how the whole team looks to their captain for guidance, encouragement, and the occasional ass-kicking when needed.

Thanks for your kind words about the pacing and attention to detail! And I hope that I will be back on form... although right now I just don't have the time or mental energy to wrestle the Xavi/Torres epic into submission...
Oct. 5th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
A good story is a good story, shouldn't matter about genre.

It was totally, and yes that is all very true.

That's good then. :)
Fair enough, you'll get there in the end and it's a good start.
I have way too much in progress right now too.
Oct. 5th, 2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
A good story is a good story, shouldn't matter about genre.

That's how I tend to feel about it, but I think that a lot of people just read for the slash, and/or for their favorite 'ship. I read for good writing with faithful characterization... faithful to my impressions of the characters anyway, hahaha.

I have way too much in progress right now too.

Good luck with everything!
Oct. 5th, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah me too, quite like trying completely diffrent ships (even outside my teams) just for a diffrent perspective.

Thanks, probably going to need it. For some reason I've got sucked into this m-preg epic with angst on angst and don't even know how I feel about that (I don't even write angst, as a rule).
Oct. 6th, 2012 12:54 am (UTC)
I discovered football rpf through a Xabi/Stevie fic, and I didn't even know who Stevie was *forehead smack*.

Hmm... I'm a sucker for angst, but mpreg? Gah. Whose?

Oh, and just in case you missed this, because it's hilarious:

Oct. 6th, 2012 09:47 am (UTC)
Well even I don't even know who half the players are, and I'm from England. My following of Premier League is a bit blinkered to 'my team' and 'everybody else'; though I do like Liverpool.

Yeah, exactly, still not sure what I was thinking. Iker (three guesses who's the father, is my fic after all) ... writing Mou as a sympathetic (or at least vaugley reasonable) character is the most epic part lol.

lol cheers for that. :)
Oct. 6th, 2012 12:14 pm (UTC)
Iker (three guesses who's the father, is my fic after all)

Ahahaha, Xavillas m-preg, I will probably have to read it in that case.

... writing Mou as a sympathetic (or at least vaugley reasonable) character is the most epic part lol.

That does sound challenging, lol. Even more unnatural than the other thing.
Oct. 6th, 2012 01:05 pm (UTC)
Good to know at least someone will lol.
I just liked the idea because Iker being raving hormonal crazy amused me (he already cries at stuff), and that they'd fight over which team the baby suppourted.

It is actually, not even sure I've really pulled it off.
Oct. 6th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
Ahahaha, poor Iker. I adore him for being so emotional after winning the WC, both when he was bawling on the pitch and afterwards in that sweet moment with Sara. I don't know if I've seen him crying outside of that, though.
Oct. 6th, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
Have read little interview things were he admits to crying sometimes, but here's some pictorial evidence, from his book launch ...
(this message is proudly sponsored by 'me perving in Unai Casillas, again')

I mean Xavi admitted to watching The Notebook and crying at it (haven't seen the film, too girly lol), so they're probably as bad as each other.
Oct. 6th, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
Aww, thanks for sharing that, so sweet, and yeah, Unai isn't exactly hard on the eyes. I should buy that book.

I mean Xavi admitted to watching The Notebook and crying at it (haven't seen the film, too girly lol), so they're probably as bad as each other.

BWAHAHAHA, I am so going to have to use that in a fic someday. I mean, it's totally fine if Xavi cries, but watching The Notebook? HAHAHAHAHA!
Oct. 6th, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
Any time :)

Yeah he's my backup plan if things don't work out with Xavi ... because if I had a type he'd be it (younger, dark hair, Barca suppourting etc). Their parents did a fine job all round.

Would get it myself but my Spanish is barely up to kiddie picture book level. So I've just read a few extracts of it (someone was translating them on a blog) and it sounded quite good. There's even a glowing testimonial from Xavi.

lol you so should, I think it's the fact he publically admitted such a thing that killed me. Took a while to fully respect him again.
Oct. 6th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
There's even a glowing testimonial from Xavi.

Of course there is, aww. Now I have to read it!
Oct. 7th, 2012 09:13 am (UTC)
You so should, it's lovely. :)

Apparently there's a bit later on in the book where Iker himself talks about his nearest & dearest, but not sure if that includes Xavi. Would be sweet though, a companion piece to the fanboy thing

Even though I can't read Spanish it was worth a peek for the pictures. Iker was an adorable chubby toddler, and lots of cute baby Unai.
Oct. 5th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, I could really feel that tumble Puyi took - you write those details so well. Made me shudder! I love how you crafted the effect it had on both the team and the individual players. Alexis' back story was factored in beautifully, and very naturally, and I can see Xavi stepping up for him, until poor Puyi gets better, and maybe even after.

Loved this line - Alexis sniffed loudly and didn't reply, but his arm snaked around Xavi's waist and stayed there, warm and solid, lending the midfielder support that he hadn't even known he needed. Lovely. ♥
Oct. 5th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the comment hon <3

Poor Puyi - hardly had to make up any details about his accident or its effect on his teammates as it was all on film for the world to see.

My Xavi is occasionally cantankerous and often oblivious, but he steps up when he knows he needs to.

And aww that line, I really like it too. Sometimes when you're in a position where you have to be the strong one, you don't even realize how great some support would be until you get it.
Oct. 6th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
This is an awesome story - thank you for sharing! You really conveyed the emotion, and the way you explained Alexis' reaction was perfect.
Oct. 6th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you - I'm so pleased to hear that you liked it!

That accident, and Alexis' reaction, had been haunting me since the match. I went back and did some research on his personal life, and it struck me that he might have even more reason to look up to and depend on Puyi than most of the other players.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )



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