fandom/pairing | football ; steven gerrard/xabi alonso
rating | pg? pg-13 for language, maybe.
word count | 2270...oh
summary | AU. Xabi is seventeen and in love with his team captain. [For prompt #088. School.]
notes | for lightredemption, because she's basically the only reason i rushed to finish this so fast. :)
What’s sad about pride? It’s keeping us apart,
What’s sad about love? Eventually it’ll break your heart.
Here’s how it feels when you’re seventeen and in love with your team captain: it feels like you’re reaching for something on the top of a building and you’re standing in a ditch – it’s out of reach, so out of reach that you can’t even see it properly, but you know it’s there. And no matter how much you stretch, how high you reach, how tall you are on your tiptoes, how many things you climb on – you can never reach it. And you don’t know what’s worse: the fact that you haven’t ever had it or the fact that you never will.
Here’s the point: he’s beautiful, and he’s talented, and his voice – though strongly-accented and husky and sometimes seemingly incomprehensible – comes out of his mouth like Shakespearean sonnets, and he says things like “bloody” and “mate,” and you’re in love with him, so fucking in love, too ridiculously in love.
He’s out of your league. You realize this as soon as you see him flirting with everyone else: random girls, his teammates, even the professors – everyone but you, you who has loved him from the moment you met. You realize this when you walk by the trophy case in the corridor and see how many of the trophies have his name – his beautiful name, Steven Gerrard - on them. You realize this when you flip through the school newspaper and see a front-page spread about his summer spent in South Africa volunteering his time and talent and energy.
You realize this when you look in the mirror and see that you are still you, the earth is still round, and new kids at school who can’t even speak English properly don’t get dates with the untouchable football star.
At practice one day, he walks over to you, claps you on the back so hard he nearly throws you off-balance. You feel six years old again, trying to hit the soccer ball to impress your unimpressed father, falling face-first and missing the ball entirely instead.
(You imagine the look of disgust he gave you, the way he went back inside silently, his non-words saying clearly, “practice is over.”)
“You doing all right there?”
You nod, wordlessly, speechlessly, shamefully. He leans forward, mouth against your ear. You can smell his cologne and sweat and aftershave and somehow it mixes into an aroma that you’re sure must have magic powers of intoxication, must have spellbinding effects.
“Keep up the good work, mate,” he says, and you’re absolutely, one hundred percent positive that even if he were saying, “you looked like shit out there, mate,” or “I hate you, mate,” or “I’ll never love you, mate,” you’d still whisper out, “okay.”
It’s almost okay, this loving-him-from-a-distance thing. Because then it only hurts when you see him at practice or bump into him in the halls. Then you only feel like your heart’s tearing into pieces and scattering in the wind when you each go separate ways at the end of practices, or when he goes to parties and doesn’t think to ask if you, the new kid with no friends, would like to come. It’s almost okay, because the car ride home is just enough time to gather the pieces of your broken heart and tape them back together again.
It’s not okay when loving-from-a-distance turns into loving-from-up-close. Or when he comes up to you while you’re at your locker, talking to your lab partner about the changing size of molecules (or trying to, anyway; normal words are hard enough in Spanish-English – adding chemistry into the mix just isn’t fair) and says: “Your form was off today. You’ll have to play better if we’re going to win on Tuesday. Meet me at the field after the last bell,” and walks away.
Your lab partner says something like, “that was awkward,” and you act like the language barrier covers uncomfortable situations.
You meet him after the last bell not because you’re in love with him but because you’re insulted – your form wasn’t off, you played the best you could, he was too busy flirting with cheerleaders to even notice you – and each step you take towards the field is another step towards getting over him. Every step closer is another step out of this ridiculous crush, out of this ditch you’ve somehow dug for yourself. You’re over him by the time you see him on the pitch, kicking the football towards the goal. You watch as it arcs through the air and through the net and for a second – for a second he almost had you again, and maybe that’s what you loved best about him, anyway: maybe you only loved him for his football playing. And that can be okay to deal with, you guess. If you have to be in love with him, being in love with his football skills is acceptable.
“Well?” you say loudly, walking up to him. “I’m here.” (Obviously, and you mentally curse yourself for sounding like an idiot, but you’re distracted by the way his sweater sleeves are rolled up, distracted by the way his hair is sweaty, distracted by how distracted he looks.)
“Yeah,” he answers, retrieves the ball and kicks it to you. “One-on-one?”
You want to complain. You want to say, No, I’m not here to play, I’m here to talk about how you’re ridiculous and not beautiful and not charming and not sweet, I’m here to talk about how I’m completely over you and how I don’t have a crush on you, not anymore, because I’m now completely over you. You want to run to him and capture his face in your hands because of course you’re not over him, of course you haven’t fallen out of one-sided-like with your captain, the boy you idolize. No, of course not.
Instead you say, “Yeah.” Say, “Sure. Okay.”
It’s hard to focus on the game. Because it doesn’t feel like one-on-one, it doesn’t feel like a pick-up football game, it doesn’t feel like practice – it feels like tension. Like you’re both trying to prove something to each other, but neither of you seem to know what, exactly, you’re fighting to prove. He plays aggressively and suddenly you know how it feels to be one of your rivals; you hope you never have to feel this way again. He attacks and he darts around and he never fucking lets you get the ball and you’re getting frustrated, so frustrated that you actually elbow him and the referee in your head gives you a yellow card but you give the ref the finger – God, you never do this, you never do this – and play just as aggressively.
You swear he smiles, swear that somewhere in between stealing the ball and making his way towards your net that he grins. And that drives you over the edge a little bit – it’s one thing to beat you in football and it’s another thing to rub your face in it while he does it. And so you pounce, throw yourself towards the ball and kick it away before falling over, hitting your head so hard that you actually see stars for a moment. You grab at him desperately and pull him down with you.
You lay there, hurt and eyes squeezed shut, until you feel his body close against yours and then you finally risk a peek: fuck, he’s closer than you expected. You feel yourself blush, embarrassed and ashamed. He laughs a little bit, and you kind of want to laugh, too, but you’re too focused on – God, his knee is against your knee, his hand is on your chest, his face is next to yours, you can count his eyelashes, your breath moves his hair, you can see the premature wrinkles creasing his forehead. And you realize this is the closest you’ve ever been to him and probably ever will be to him and you tell yourself to memorize this moment in great detail because it’s never going to happen again.
He turns to look at you, and for a second it doesn’t feel like the way a captain would look at the new kid, or the way a captain would look at his teammate, or the way a boy would look at another boy unless they were – well you’re not going to think about that, because it does strange things to your heart, makes your heart flip-flop and you’re not sure you can handle the possibility.
Loving from a distance is one thing. Loving from up close is another thing entirely. And you are entirely, entirely, entirely too close.
You move to get up – because this is awkward, because you can’t deal with this, because this is a temptation that you can’t stare at for too long or you’ll do something about the pent-up feelings that have been threatening to escape for months. You begin to push yourself up off the ground and suddenly his hand is on your upper arm, gripping it tightly.
Suddenly he’s pulling you back, pulling you so hard that you fall back against him, back against his chest. You want to turn and look at him because he’s there, because you’re there, because you can feel his muscled chest against your back. But you’re scared of what will happen when you do – you’re seventeen and he’s not and you’ve had crushes on boys before, sure, but you’ve never acted on them, you’ve never risked it. And even though you’ve seen him flirting with other boys, it’s different because you’re you and he’s him, he’s Steven Gerrard and you’re frozen.
“Xabi,” he whispers, and you turn your head so you can see him out of the corner of your eye, but you don’t move. “Xabi,” he says again.
You finally turn around, roll on your side to look at him; your arm is still in his hand, your hand is on his stomach. You can’t say anything – you’re too caught up in his skin, too caught up in his smell and the feeling of his body underneath your palm – and then words aren’t necessary, then his lips are against yours and it feels just like you imagined, his lips are just as soft as you expected. He’s warm and comfortable and he feels like home; when you kiss him it feels like your feet are in the hot sand on the beaches of Spain, his hair feels like the rough foliage of the gardens in your house.
“Stevie,” you whisper against his lips, “Stevie, love you.”
He pulls away.
“Xabi,” he says, a little more insistently. “Xabi.”
And then your eyes are open. You cough, shake your head a little bit. He’s above you, hands on your face, gently patting your cheeks. He grins when you come-to, and you stumble to sit up. “Whoa,” he says quickly, pushing you down to keep you still. “Whoa, whoa, you hit your head pretty hard. Don’t get up so quickly.”
You bring your hands to your face and he sits up, leans forward. You frown, confused and bewildered. You can’t remember what you were just doing, can’t tell if what you do remember (his hand on your arm, his lips against yours) is a dream. But the way he’s looking at you – amused, pleased, and nothing more – makes you think that yeah, the likelihood of it being reality is slim.
“What happened?” you ask quietly, closing your eyes.
He laughs. “You hit your head, dragged me down with you. Mumbled some things.”
You freeze. “Mumbled some things?” you repeat, looking at him closely. “Mumbled what things?”
He shrugs, stands up. He brushes his pants off, offering his hand to you. You take it without question, heart breaking and head hurting. The kiss felt so real; the fact that you had an imagination that strong, that powerful, fucking kills you. He pulls you forward so you can stand, pulls you so hard that you crash into his chest. (It feels hard and familiar.) You guiltily enjoy it for a second longer than you should before you pull away. He smiles at you with that same curious, bemused smile. He motions back at the school and squeezes your hand tightly before letting it go, before knocking your shoulder with his.
You walk together in silence. After a few moments, he turns to you.
“Xabi, did you mean it?” he asks suddenly. “What you mumbled.”
You raise an eyebrow, honestly confused. “Mean what? I don’t remember what I said.”
He frowns, a little disappointed. “Stevie?” you prod.
He shakes his head. “Never mind,” he murmurs, and you walk back to the school in silence.
Here’s how it feels when you’re eighteen and in love with your Spanish teammate who doesn’t seem to know you exist, who doesn’t seem to pick up on any of your hints: it feels like something’s twisting in your gut, it feels like you’re on a roller coaster climbing up to the top, and with every clink of the chain you’re a little closer to him, but then just as you’re supposed to fly down, just as you’re about to go over the hill, the track levels out. You’re no closer to reaching a conclusion than you were before – you’re just fucking stuck at whatever halfway point you keep getting stuck on. At some point you want to just get off the ride because it’s frustrating, being so close to him and not being able to have him. But you can’t. You’re stuck because you have this half-desperate, naïve hope that maybe one day he’ll open his eyes and fucking realize what you’re feeling.