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Title: Catch a Falling Star
Rating: NC-17
Characters: Xavi Hernández/Fernando Torres, allusions to Iker Casillas/Sara Carbonero and past Xavi Hernández/Iker Casillas, with cameos from Lionel Messi and the entire Spain NT
Word Count: 5436
Summary: Xavi Hernández grows up, falls in love, and takes Spain to victory in the 2012 Euros, not necessarily in that order. A sort of sequel to Never a Bride (but you don't need to have read that one first).
Disclaimer: While inspired by real persons and events, this story is a work of fiction.

Back to Chapter 1


Chapter 2: Confidential Matters


David Villa called just as he was walking out of the bathroom, toweling his hair.

"Qué tal, tio?" Xavi asked, tucking his cell phone against his shoulder while he wiped between his toes.

"Apologize." His friend's usually playful tone was grim.

"Excuse me?"

"You said some dumbass stuff on tv, Iker's justifiably pissed about that and apparently something else that I don't even want to know about, and you need to apologize."

"Iker told you?" Xavi felt himself flushing with anger.

"He didn't have to, I just know." He could practically hear the eye roll.

"Was it Pepe? It was, wasn't it?"

"Xavi, how long have we known each other?" David demanded.

"Too long, apparently."

"Long enough for me to know that you opened your mouth without thinking, and then went off and did something stupid when Iker called you on it because you were too damned stubborn to admit that you were wrong."

"I'm hanging up now," Xavi told him.

"Okay," David said, "but I'm right and you know it."

As he was shrugging into his t-shirt, the phone rang again; this time it was Puyi.

"Just tell me one thing," Xavi said, sinking down on the bed on top of his damp towel, "is David standing next to you right now?"

"What? Why would he be?"

"Fine," Xavi sighed. "What is it?"

"Remember what Pep taught us. You do not tell other people how to have class, to give respect. You show them."

"Pep's gone," Xavi retorted, the bitterness in his own voice surprising him. "And the way he sprang his departure on us at the end of the season, that was real classy. I felt very respected."

"Pep wasn't perfect." Puyi's voice had softened. "That doesn't make him wrong."

"Puyi..." Xavi said, taking a deep breath. "I don't even... everything's all fucked up here. You and David helped keep us... balanced somehow. There's so much bullshit bleeding over from the season, the merengues are picking fights with us right and left-"

"So you decided that the best way to repair relations was to go on national television and accuse them of being bad sports." Puyi paused, pretending to ponder, before drawling, "Unorthodox..."

"...yet still stupid," Xavi finished for him. "All right. I get it."

"Xavi," his friend declared, "as much as David and I would like to be there, we have complete faith that you can do this without us. But the biggest problem for the national teams is never talent, it's unity. Your most important task now is to pull everyone together."

"So... not impressed by my efforts so far, huh?"

There was a meaningful beat. "Not so much," Puyi confirmed.

"I'll do better," Xavi said. He felt lighter already, clearer, more focused. "I promise."

Puyi answered firmly, "I know you will."

"Listen, thanks for calling," Xavi told him. "I'd better go, I have an apology to rehearse."

"Okay," Puyi agreed, then murmured something Xavi couldn't quite catch. "Oh, and David says bye, too."

Xavi blinked down at the phone. "Bastards," he said in admiration.

*

As soon as the hotel room door closed behind them, Iker's arms enveloped Xavi in a hard hug. "I'm really proud of you," he murmured into Xavi's neck.

"Only doing my job, Capi," Xavi responded, discomfited by the praise but willing to enjoy the feel of Iker's solid body pressed against his with whatever excuse was at hand. They were both damp from post-practice showers, and Iker still smelled of soap and his familiar mild shampoo. He breathed in deeply, pushing against Iker's belly, exhaling across his collarbone.

At last Iker pulled away, reaching out to ruffle his hair. "Seriously, Xavi. I think that this will make a big difference. And I've been talking to all of the Madrid players about the importance of putting our rivalries aside. I'm having breakfast with Sergio tomorrow."

"Better use small words," Xavi said without thinking, already missing the feel of Iker's warmth on his skin.

"I wish you were kidding," Iker sighed.

"And what's up with his hair, anyway?"

"Maybe it was shorn in sacrifice to the football gods," Iker suggested.

"He looks like Ice Man from Top Gun. Worse, I almost mistook him for Geri yesterday."

Iker raised his eyebrows. "If we're lucky, he'll imitate Geri's fashion sense and Geri will imitate his attitude on the pitch... and not the other way around."

"Can't argue with that," Xavi agreed with feeling. The previous season had seen way too many missteps from Barcelona's defense.

"Anyway," Iker said, "I was hoping that you would do the same. Speak to the Barça boys, ask them to be a little less... clique-ish."

Xavi rolled his eyes. "What are we, in junior high?"

"Sometimes I wonder."

*

Everything was better after that. There were no more ugly showdowns between blancos and blaugranas. Torres perked up in practices, and the uneasy whispers about Del Bosque's limited options for strikers stopped. Xavi felt comfortable around Iker again, joked around without worrying about setting him off, and was much less tormented by the insane desire to touch him whenever they were in the same room. They did a little promotional interview together ahead of the Italy game, competing to see who was the biggest football nerd, and it was just like old times, teasing each other affectionately in front of the cameras. Xavi allowed himself to hope that they might pull the team together and triumph at this tournament after all.

That was before Italy crushed their hopes of getting cleanly out of the group stage.

It was the grass, it was always the grass: too lumpy, too dry, a pitch that made for slow passes and quick tempers. The ball bumped and swerved, was blocked or stolen. Under these conditions, the congested midfield wasn't doing Spain any favors. At times, even Xavi would have given his right arm for a striker able to sprint ahead of the pack. Although no longer at each other's throats, Piqué and Ramos had not quite mastered the coordination they needed to deny the other team chances, and it was only through divine intervention by Iker that Thiago Motta's header didn't put Italy up one before halftime.

In the dressing room, little David Silva looked exhausted already; Xavi put a hand on his shoulder to steady him and gave Del Bosque a significant nod. Changes needed to be made. Lucky for them, Balotelli was clearly having an off day, but it seemed like only a matter of time before Italy broke through their defense and scored, and they had to have an answer ready.

Sure enough, although Ramos managed to frustrate Balotelli, his replacement Di Natale grabbed a pass from Pirlo, drew Iker out, and lobbed the ball right past him for the opening goal. But not too much later, Cesc repaid Del Bosque's faith by finishing a lovely play by Andrés and David with a single sure touch that bulleted into the back of the net.

David came off then, replaced by Torres, who had looked distinctly disappointed not to be included in the starting line-up. It wasn't long before he broke free and went one on one with the keeper, but to Xavi's horror, he appeared to lose confidence and held on to the ball for too long, allowing Buffon to jog up and nab it neatly away from him. Out-dribbled by a keeper, what could be more embarrassing? Xavi signaled to Torres, set him up with a rapid-fire tiqui-taca duet in the last few minutes, but it was not to be; the striker's shot flew high, and the match ended 1-1.

Afterwards the mood was mixed. Naturally Cesc was elated, but the central defense was in for a bit of bellowing from Iker and a fair share of good-natured ribbing by the rest of their teammates, and while he tried to put a brave face on it, Torres was clearly crestfallen by his failure to demonstrate that he had deserved to start instead.

Xavi was disappointed in his own performance as well; he knew that he had not been at his best, and no amount of grousing about the grass would change the fact that the morning papers would be singing Andrés' praises and not his. Still, for the first official match after Barça's belated arrival, the result wasn't bad. Surely Italy was the toughest team they would face in their group, and experience had taught him that Spain might be a slow starter but could be counted upon to finish in style.

*

Three days later, Xavi ran into Torres in the hallway outside his hotel room - almost literally, as Torres had his head down and Xavi had been in a hurry to join the rest of their teammates in the rec room. They just missed colliding, caught each other by the elbows. Torres tried to smile to show that no offense had been taken, but Xavi had sensed the tension in his touch, could see the anxiety in his eyes.

"Qué te pasa, Niño?" he asked, holding onto Torres and squeezing his arm encouragingly.

Torres shook his head, lips tight, but Xavi persisted. "Something's wrong. Come back to the room and we can talk, Iker's out playing pocha." The other man didn't answer, although he allowed Xavi to take him back to his hotel room and settle him on the bed by his side. Then he just sat there, staring down at the slender fingers twisting together in his lap, until Xavi put out his hand and covered them.

"Xavi," he said then, looking up, "I don't think that I've ever seen you nervous before a match, not once."

Oh. Xavi sensed that he would have to tread carefully here. "I used to be, of course I was," he said slowly.

"But...?"

"But ever since I became successful, with Spain, with Barcelona... no," he admitted. "I wanted to play. I always want to play."

Torres dredged up a deep sigh, caught the back of Xavi's hand between his thumbs. "I don't know what's the matter with me. It's been like this all season... no, even longer than that. Already at the World Cup I was feeling it. I can't help it, I just keep picturing all of the ways in which I could make a total fool of myself, and then..."

"Buffon the other day," Xavi finished for him quietly, and Nando nodded, biting his lip.

"Believe me, fenómeno, you've still got it, it's only a question of confidence..."

"Do you think I don't know that?" Nando demanded miserably. "I've tried everything, therapy, hypnosis, meditation..."

"Have you tried sex?" Xavi asked, only half kidding.

"What?" Nando looked a little angry. "If you're going to sit there and mock me-"

Xavi quickly clasped Nando's knee with his free hand, squeezing his reassurance. "No, no. You haven't heard this story? Puyi loves to talk about when he first came to Barça and one of the physios asked him outright whether he had sex before his matches. He was young and shy and didn't know what to say, so he said no. The physio scolded him, said that was a common misconception and that he should always have sex beforehand because he would be more relaxed and would play better. So there you go."

He realized that Nando was staring at him with a look of wonder in his eyes. "Well, that's one pick-up line that no one's ever used on me before."

Xavi was surprised into a bark of laughter. He honestly hadn't been thinking along those lines at all; if anything, he'd been about to suggest that Nando go back to his room and take matters into his own hands. But it suddenly occurred to him that this could be an excellent opportunity for him to reciprocate Nando's earlier generosity... and judging from the way that the other man had just unconsciously licked his lips, an offer would not be met by any objections.

So he responded, "I find that difficult to believe," and, watching Nando's face closely for any hint of hesitation, he tilted his head and leaned in. But his teammate only closed his eyes, long lashes lying delicately above his sharp cheekbones, and Xavi's fluttered shut too at the thrill of their mouths meeting, Torres' tongue tentatively touching his.

Last time Nando had been directing the action; this time Xavi had apparently been placed in charge, a role with which he was far more comfortable. He scooted closer to Nando, pushing more deeply into the kiss, pulled the other man's hands apart and placed them on his knees. At least one of them was trembling, although it was hard to tell which. Swiftly, before he could change his mind, he pivoted on his hip, up from the mattress, placing his feet on the floor so that he was standing between Nando's legs.

This position put them at much the same height, a situation that some men might have found embarrassing but which bothered Xavi not at all. He threaded his fingers through Nando's bleached blond hair and tugged gently, making him moan, then pushed him backwards onto the bed, pulse picking up at the twitch of his teammate's cock against his belly. Nando undid the buttons of his own shirt, eyes glassy with desire, allowing Xavi to push up the wifebeater underneath and trail kisses between his ribs and down to his navel, where he dipped his tongue before dropping lower.

Taking Torres into his mouth was strange; it was the wrong size, the wrong shape, the taste saltier but less bitter. For a few seconds Xavi's body almost rebelled - he found it difficult to breathe, and taking Torres all the way in got him close to gagging. But then Nando keened and shifted his hips, and his legs and torso shone smooth and golden in the lamplight, and the sweet, spicy smell of his skin filled Xavi's nostrils like expensive cologne, and suddenly everything fit; and fairly shortly after that, he swirled his tongue one last time and swallowed as Nando bucked helplessly against the roof of his mouth.

When he crawled back up onto the bed, Nando's eyes were dull with sated desire. "God that was nice," he said languidly. "I should have known... your tongue would be good... for more than languages."

Xavi smiled. "My pleasure," he said, echoing Nando's earlier declaration, and kissed him at the corner of his jaw.

He only realized that he was still fully clothed, shoes and all, when Nando reached out and slid his hand between his thighs, and he felt the answering throb beneath his jeans.

Nando hummed, rolled onto his side and rubbed him more deliberately, his touch gentle yet firm, his palm warm and inviting even through the denim. "Come on out and play," he drawled.

Xavi felt himself blushing. The first time, he'd been so upset, so out of it, that Nando's attentions hadn't bothered him in the slightest. Now he was feeling unaccountably shy at the thought of subjecting himself to the other man's scrutiny. He'd been with Elsa for six years and with Iker for far longer than that, and sex with near-strangers had never appealed to him. On the other hand, Nando seemed considerate, and discreet, and even if Xavi hadn't been looking for this, he told himself that he should just relax and allow himself to be happy that he had found it.

Continuing to palm him with lazy circular strokes, Nando leaned over and whispered into Xavi's ear. "What do you want?"

"I want," Xavi began, and gasped a little as Nando undid the button on his jeans, slipped his hand inside, and squeezed. "I want..."

Nando smiled knowingly at him, pulled back, and reached down to push his pants the rest of the way down, toeing them off at the ankles. He rolled onto his hands and knees, looked back over his shoulder. "Come here," he suggested with a wink.

"Oh," Xavi breathed, almost overcome by this offer, and then, just as suddenly, he deflated. "I don't have... I mean, I didn't bring..."

"No worries," Nando said easily, rolling back onto his buttocks to regard Xavi. Even now, shrunken, spent, bones liquid and hair disheveled, he was magnificent. Then he cast a mischievous glance at the bedside table. "Maybe Iker?" At Xavi's shrug, he eased the drawer open and peered inside, then fished out a foil-wrapped packet with a triumphant grin.

When Xavi slid into Nando and shut his eyes, the beauty marks on the other man's back inverted into a bright field of stars.

*

Xavi jerked awake to the soft squeak of the hotel door swinging open. He could see Iker's familiar silhouette outlined against the dim light of the hallway, head cocked quizzically as he surveyed the room, apparently sensing something out of place. "Xavi?" he said softly.

Xavi scowled and flung his arm over his eyes. "What time's it?" he mumbled. "We have a match tomorrow."

Iker didn't answer, just let the door click closed behind him and advanced into the room. He pulled off his t-shirt and shed his shorts as he went, so that by the time he got into the bathroom, he was wearing nothing but his briefs. Xavi started to drowse, drifting half in and half out of sleep, as the toilet flushed and Iker ran the water in the sink.

It was when Iker turned on the bedside light and opened the drawer for his kindle than Xavi knew he was in trouble.

"Xavi." Iker's voice was curt, clipped. "Was Torres here tonight?"

"You're ruining my afterglow," Xavi complained. He comprehended that this might be considered cruel, especially if Iker were not as immune to his charms as he apparently would like him to believe, but he still felt slightly sick from being dragged back out of sleep and just couldn't bring himself to care.

Iker sighed loudly and sat down on the side of Xavi's bed.

"For God's sake, be careful. It's not worth risking Nando's marriage and family just to... make me jealous, or whatever the fuck you're trying to do."

"Egocéntrico," Xavi retorted, sitting up suddenly, sincerely insulted that his old friend would even consider him capable of motives that low. "What makes you think this has anything to do with you?"

"So you admit it," Iker said, looking more sad than triumphant to have had his suspicions confirmed.

"You don't have anything to say about who I sleep with anymore," Xavi snapped, and was surprised to realize that he was right.

"Is that what this is about?" Iker asked. His voice was quiet and full of dread.

"No, and I still can't even believe that you... No."

"Fine," Iker said, sounding skeptical. "But I'm telling you, this is a terrible idea. Think about what would happen if the rest of the team found out."

"I didn't hear you moaning about possible effects on team morale when you were in his position," Xavi retorted. "Although, come to think of it, I do remember quite a lot of moaning in general..."

"Xavi, enough already. I'm serious. Think of his wife. His kids."

Xavi suddenly wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep, possibly until after the tournament was over. "How am I suddenly responsible for Nando's fidelity? I didn't get him drunk and seduce him, and I'll bet you anything that I wasn't the first. Maybe you should tell him to think of his wife and kids."

"Maybe I will," Iker said grimly.

"And get off my bed," Xavi grumbled, turning over on his side and pulling the pillow half over his head.

After an interminable pause, during which Iker's harsh breaths echoed irregularly in the room, he felt the mattress rebound as the other man finally abandoned him.

*

The next morning, Torres was on fire, full of energy and good humor and such supreme self-confidence that no one was surprised when Del Bosque decided to start him as a striker against Ireland. And sure enough, not even five minutes had elapsed before he picked up a loose ball, dribbled it across the box, and sent it up into the back of the net. David Silva scored a second goal just before the whistle blew, making the halftime dressing room a much more pleasant place than it had been in their previous match.

Coming back onto the pitch with a comfortable lead, the Selección delighted in their ability to dominate possession. Xavi even got off a good shot himself, although the keeper managed to make an impressive save. Then David slotted the ball through for Torres, who again made the most of his opportunity to shoot it home. When Xavi threw his arms around the striker to celebrate, he leaned close and confided, "I owe you one."

Torres left the field glowing when Del Bosque sent Cesc on in his place. Not to be outdone, Cesc almost immediately collected the ball from a corner kick and scored a fourth goal from a seemingly impossible angle; his celebration had less of a joyful and more of a "Take that!" quality than Xavi could remember seeing from him. The constant competition among the candidate forwards was becoming somewhat stressful for Xavi to watch, especially now that Cesc played for his club and he and Nando were... whatever it was that they were. He reminded himself of how lucky he was, maestro of the midfield, trusted to start in every game.

For their part, the Irish were left broken but unbowed. In the final moments of the match, the stadium swayed along to a solemn rendition of "The Fields of Athenry," a moving and almost magical moment that recalled the amazingly supportive Camp Nou crowd at the end of Barcelona's latest Champions League effort. Not a few of the players from both teams had tears in their eyes by the time the referee signaled the end of the match.

*

Decades of experience had bestowed on Del Bosque excellent judgment regarding the best time to tighten or release the reins, and the players were dismissed that evening with encouragement to celebrate as they saw fit and then show up - hopefully not too hungover - for recovery and training the next afternoon.

The enormous rec room provided for the Selección had been equipped with everything that two dozen bored and ultracompetitive twenty-something men could desire: foosball, table tennis, billiards, a huge flatscreen tv with several different game consoles. An intricate model railway, requested specifically by Andrés, looped its way around a significant fraction of the room. But to celebrate their victory, the members of the Selección wanted to do something special.

A couple of the boys from lower profile teams were all in favor of hitting the nearest dance club, but Xavi looked from Iker to Andrés to Pepe to Piqué and shook his head. "I really don't think we can take the entire Selección to a public place and not be noticed," he pointed out.

"Admit it, you're just getting too old for this shit," Cesc told him, grinning.

"No pasa nada," Pepe proclaimed. "If we can't go to the party, we bring the party here." True to his word, he spent the rest of the night mixing stiff drinks while Ramos minded the music. There was dancing and singing, and almost everyone made sure to stop by to touch Torres and tell him what a partidazo he'd had.

Xavi was physically affectionate even sober, and too small to withstand more than a couple of Pepe's concoctions, so it wasn't too long before he found himself with his arm around Torres' waist, the taller man's arm draped over his shoulders. "A toast!" he called hoarsely, raising his half-empty glass. "To El Niño, man of the match!"

"Come back to Liverpool, Niño!" Pepe implored, thumping down on his knees and clasping his hands theatrically.

"Please no anthem," Geri groaned.

Pepe immediately got back up, his face lighting up in a huge grin, and began bellowing, "When you walk... through a storm..."

Xabi joined in almost at once, and soon, with an apologetic glance at Juan Mata, Torres did too. Xavi smiled, swaying along with him, enjoying the feel of Nando's firm flesh under his forearm, and had just started singing along as well when someone grabbed the glass out of his hand and firmly detached him from Torres. It was Iker.

"The fuck?"

"I'm cutting you off," Iker said. His voice sounded jovial, but the smile on his face didn't reach his eyes. "No one needs to hear that."

None of their teammates seemed to have noticed except for Nando, who was looking at Iker with narrowed eyes. Xavi pushed Iker away and straightened his shirt with great dignity. "I'm calling it a night," he announced to the room at large with a wave. "Don't have too much fun without me."

"Bona nit, vell," Cesc called, nudging Geri in the ribs with his elbow. Xavi good-naturedly flipped him the bird on his way out.

He was only halfway back to their hotel room when Iker caught up with him. "Was that really your idea of being discreet?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Xavi said bluntly. His insides were warm and fizzy, and he was having trouble keeping to a straight line, but he felt sure that his judgment was as acute as ever. "It was no big deal until you tried to make it one."

"Some of them are going to suspect," Iker argued, fumbling for his key. It occurred to Xavi that he hadn't been the only recipient of Pepe's generosity. In the lighted hallway, Iker's face was flushed, his step unsteady.

"Suspect? I was celebrating with our teammate. Stop the presses!" Xavi pushed past Iker and into their room.

"You were making a fool of yourself." Iker slammed the door shut.

"San Iker to the rescue," Xavi gibed, putting his hands on his hips. "What is this really about? Team morale? Torres' family? Or is it just that you can't stand to see me with anyone else, even after two years?"

Iker threw his arms up in exasperation. "This is the thanks I get! You know, José told me that I needed to stop speaking to you. I'm beginning to wonder whether there wasn't a little bit of sense in that after all."

Xavi, mouth already open in rebuttal, suddenly realized what Iker had just said and shut it again as a lump rose in his throat. He'd heard the rumors - everyone had - of problems in the Real Madrid dressing room, confrontations between Iker and Mourinho, accusations that Iker was the mole who'd leaked stories of dissent to the press. But until this moment, he had never suspected that his own friendship with Iker might be a significant factor in their friction.

Iker was glaring at him, face red, chest heaving, waiting for a response, but Xavi couldn't get the words out for a while. At last he swallowed and husked, "Mourinho ordered you to stop speaking to me?"

Iker caught the change in his tone, calmed down immediately, stepped a little closer. "Yeah," he said. "He announced in front of the whole team after the clásico that fraternizing with the enemy was treason and would not be taken lightly. Everyone in the room knew that he was talking about us."

"Huh." Xavi reflected silently that not only had Pep never given him a similar ultimatum, he would have been half amused, half appalled, at the very suggestion. "And what did you say?"

"I told him he could go fuck himself," Iker replied with a shrug.

The idea of his refined friend reacting in that way was so ridiculous that Xavi burst out laughing, and when he caught Iker's eye, the other man cracked up too. And then they simply couldn't stop. They bellowed helplessly, tears streaming down their faces, Xavi occasionally pausing just long enough to imitate Iker's voice saying, "Disculpe, Míster, please go fuck yourself," until they were so weak from laughter that they were holding onto each other to keep from falling down.

At last Xavi hugged Iker close, then planted a platonic kiss on his shiny pink cheek. "I do not believe for a second that you said that, but thanks anyway for the thought."

"I may not have used those exact words," Iker admitted, squeezing him back, then swiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. "But I did tell him privately that it was none of his business who we talked to, and that if he didn't like it, he could find a goalkeeper who wouldn't be playing with half the Barcelona squad in the Selección come June."

"Oh sure," Xavi complained, miming being stabbed through the heart, "that's all I am to you, a little midfield magic."

"Well, you're definitely little," Iker grinned. "As for the magic..." He stuck his fingers in the waistband of Xavi's jeans and tugged him closer, his lopsided smile starting a warm, fluttery glow in Xavi's gut... then suddenly froze, looking scared sober, and pulled his hand back as if he had been stung. "Oh. Uh, shit. Sorry. I'm sorry."

"No worries," Xavi managed to say. He struggled to get his breathing back under control, turning away from Iker so that the other man wouldn't see the evidence of his traitorous body's response. Still not looking at Iker, he joked, "If Mourinho is already so mad about us talking, no telling what he'd do if he found out I'd actually scored in your goal."

Iker wasn't laughing. "Xavi, please," he said - were those tears in his eyes? - "I didn't mean to - I promised myself I wouldn't-" he stumbled to a halt, radiating guilt and distress.

Interesting. Iker looked so upset and confused that Xavi understood that in that moment he could have him - could just take Iker in his arms and drag those defenses down and get him to give in to the longing they'd obviously both been feeling ever since they'd reunited in Gdansk. He could thread his fingers through that silky chestnut hair, trail kisses across those pale, perfect shoulderblades, bury himself in that sweet, familiar heat. He could make Iker forget, if only for a few minutes, that Sara Carbonero even existed.

Caught up in his fantasy, Xavi allowed his hand to drift, to brush back the lock of hair that had fallen onto Iker's forehead. Then he abruptly returned to himself, pulled away, took a step back. He knew that San Iker might eventually forgive his friend, but he would never forgive himself.

Abandoned, Iker stared at him, biting his lower lip like the uncertain teenage boy he had been when they first met so many years ago.

"No te preocupes, cariño," Xavi said. "It's all right. We're all right." He forced himself to smile and patted Iker awkwardly on the shoulder. The other man swallowed and nodded, still red but obviously intensely relieved.

"Thank you," he said simply, and they both knew exactly what he meant.

"It's nothing," Xavi mumbled, and escaped into the bathroom to take a cold shower.

*

By the time he returned to the room, Xavi had found the clarity and peace of mind that he required. After quietly pulling on a fresh pair of briefs and some trackpants, he padded around to sit down on the edge of Iker's bed. His friend stirred as the mattress sank slightly, then rolled over to squint up at him. "Xavi," he said sleepily. "I'm so-"

Putting a finger to Iker's lips to still them, Xavi said quickly, "It's all right. I've decided to stay away from Torres for the rest of the tournament."

Iker pulled his hand away, held onto it. "No, listen. I was wrong to ride you about it. I chose Sara. You have the right to see whomever you want."

Xavi shook his head. "It's not worth risking our friendship. In fact, I can't think of much that is." He clasped Iker's shoulder with his free hand, and then suddenly they were clinging to each other, breathing unevenly and yet in synchrony. Xavi buried his face in Iker's neck, feeling the blood pulse beneath his cheek.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed before Iker released him and burrowed back down in the bed. His face solemn, he lifted the covers in unspoken invitation, and Xavi slid drowsily between the sheets. They drifted off, side by side, to dream of small free birds and falling stars.

*

Chapter 3: Extra Time

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
theredfury
Dec. 30th, 2012 09:20 am (UTC)
I really like how you've written this, the interactions (painful between blancos and blaugrana, but sadly likely rooted in truth).

Your using real life events - interviews, matches, perhaps even photos? - and writing the story behind and between those events, is wonderful. It's something I've wanted to do but hardly have spent the time and effort researching to be able to.

I love your Xavi and Iker, and Puyol and Villa (who is my weakness), and laughed at your characterisations of Ramos and Pique. xD This has been excellent so far; thank you for it!!
flywoman
Dec. 30th, 2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for commenting! :D

Post-episode fic has always been my specialty, in this fandom but also several others - I have written original stories on occasion, but for the most part, I'm inspired by particular canonical events and really enjoy developing them further, going behind the scenes, speculating on hidden relationships that would help make sense of it all, etc. Obviously a lot more research is involved for longer fics like this one, but the result is very satisfying.

And so glad that you're enjoying my characterizations :). Villa is interesting to write - my perception of him in real life is quite different from the bitchy fanfic version I generally see in others' work (which may be based on his less mature younger self?), so I sometimes struggle a bit to find the right balance. And poor Ramos, I actually like him quite a bit, but he does tend to get mocked a lot when I'm writing from Xavi's POV!
theredfury
Jan. 14th, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
Sorry for replying so late! I've read it all and I really enjoy your writing. :D And this fic has been a delight to read.

As to your perception of Villa - I entirely agree. I'm extremely tempted to write him bitchy, and yet also write a side where he is so entirely unbitchy that idk what to term it. The bitchy fic version of him I always thought was based on his appearance (soulpatch/diamond earstuds/bitchface) xD.
flywoman
Jan. 14th, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! This fic really didn't get much attention - rare pairing, Barcelona-centric, etc. - so I'm delighted every time I receive a comment.

I agree that Villa's appearance, especially in his younger days, suggested a certain level of arrogance and perhaps disdain, and he has been known to lose his temper on the pitch (although who hasn't, really?). I think, though, that while driven, and a bit of a show-off, he is also an affectionate, warm-hearted, fun-loving guy.
cuddyclothes
Jun. 29th, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
very good! I'm doubly impressed knowing that you are intertwining your story with real events. Iker warning Xavi about Nando's wife and kids rang true: as you know, Hispanic men have a long history of "the down low" and still identifying as straight.

At first the continual physicality bothered me, but seeing how much the players touch each other in real life, I get it. So unAmerican!
flywoman
Jun. 30th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
Thank you! Honestly it would never have occurred to me to write the Torres/Xavi pairing (Xavi/Iker is more canon than canon, as one of my friends likes to say) if I hadn't seen the footage from the Eurocopa, especially during and after the final.

More than that, there are no openly gay male footballers in any professional league, although at least one recently spoke anonymously about how well-kept a secret his and certain other players' sexuality was. They would certainly have girlfriends, and many would have wives and children.

Yes, they are very physically affectionate with each other in general, and certain players in particular even more so - Xavi is one of those (and Sergio Ramos is another). It's also one of the things I really appreciate about Spanish culture.
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