Word Count: ~10,500
Disclaimer: Definitely not true in any way.
Pairing: Esteban Granero/Xabi Alonso
Summary: AU Esteban Granero is a midfielder for the Tercera División team, Puerta Bonita. Due to fortuitous circumstances, they are drawn against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, where Esteban meets Xabi Alonso who immediately takes a liking to him.
A/N: Written for the Holiday Fic Exchange for niela_xxx.
Lots of liberties were taken in regard to the Tercera División, especially Puerta Bonita, and a little of Segunda B but theoretically all of this should be possible. All the names mentioned belong to real-life football players.
I also made a fanmix to go along with it if you are so inclined.
It was already amazing that Puerta Bonita even made it to the final rounds of the Copa del Rey. When it was announced that they had gotten a bye through to the round of 32, it was surreal. Esteban remembers the screams of celebration in the locker room and the scolding they got for talking about it constantly during the training session.
The draw for the round of 32 comes too slowly. He’d like to think their string of sketchy results during the two draws is separate from their excitement but it certainly couldn’t help them.
They watch the draw in the club’s small conference room. Everyone is entertaining ideas of playing Barcelona or Real Madrid. It actually sounds completely ridiculous aloud and they acknowledge that though they still hope. It sounds infinitely more exciting than being ousted by say Osasuna. The draw is utterly captivating knowing that they are taking part and their eyes are glued to the screen and their ears listen to every word waiting for their name to be pulled.
Dani nudges him softly with his elbow. “A hundred euro that we get Real Madrid,” he whispers.
“I’m not betting you anything,” Esteban says. He doesn’t believe it will happen but he feels like if he’s about to lose money over it that would be the exact outcome.
“Good decision,” he says grinning.
The woman on the screen calls out, “Puerta Bonita” and the room falls into complete silence. Dani nudges him again.
The entire room erupts into cheers. Esteban is torn between delight and shock at Dani who winks at him before joining in the mess of chanting player.
“How did you do that?” Esteban asks Dani suspiciously when everything calms down a bit.
“I guessed.” Dani laughs.
“And if you were wrong?” Esteban asks.
“I knew you wouldn’t take the bet,” Dani replies grinning, “I’ve known you for years and you’ve never bet money on anything.”
He doesn’t know whether to be upset at Dani for playing the joke on him or himself for being so gullible.
El mister tells them to stop thinking about it, chiding them when he hears them talking about it because they have matches to play and win if they even want to have this chance again. They can’t play in the Copa del Rey if they get relegated to la Preferente. They spend the entire session joking about it regardless. It’s some cross between irony that they don’t even have a chance and excitement because it’s not too often that Tercera teams make it this far.
His mother calls him when he gets home to congratulate him on the lucky draw. She says it’s good to hear him so happy after he had been complaining about the lacklustre results of the past five weeks. It is definitely good to have something other than their slip down the table to think about.
There are more people in the stadium than Esteban’s ever seen in the Antiguo Canódromo for the first leg. The lure of Real Madrid, he thinks. The size of the gap between them relaxes the team somewhat and excitement sits in its place. It’s not that they’re not serious but there’s nothing to lose when everyone expects you to go down in flames.
They lose as expected but Esteban wouldn’t call two-nil flames and that’s enough, especially considering how they’ve been playing in the league.
Puerta only wins once in the month between the two Copa legs and they can smell the smoke before they even get to the Santiago Bernabéu. The stadium is huge and overwhelming. Everything is magnificent from the expanse of the visitors’ dressing room to standing in the middle of all those seats and lights on the pitch.
He’s coming off after the warm-up when Dani grabs his arm and stops him.
"Look, man. It's Xabi Alonso."
"So what?" he replies although he's staring now too.
Xabi is standing over by the Real Madrid bench in a suit and he's talking to Arbeloa who's lacing his boot. The first thing that comes to Esteban's mind is that he's hell of attractive and he chides himself for it.
"What are you two doing? Hurry up," Alex calls from where he's walking off to go down the tunnel. Esteban glances around and realizes they’re the last Puerta players on the pitch.
"Stop drooling and go talk to him," Dani says as though it's a simple thing to go over and strike up conversation with Xabi Alonso midfield orchestrator for Real Madrid. Maybe technically but Esteban can only think of two potential outcomes: embarrassment and humiliation.
"What? No. We have to go," Esteban replies and he begins walking away but then Dani's pulling him over to the bench and Esteban can feel a heart attack coming on. Xabi and Arbeloa stop talking when they come over to them.
"Hey, Xabi," Dani says easily. Esteban really wants to know where he keeps his shame locked up because it seems like a useful skill to have. "I’m Dani. This is Esteban and he’s acting like he doesn’t want to talk to you but he really, really does.”
Arbeloa laughs and Xabi smiles amused looking to Esteban who is feeling increasingly murderous. “Is that so?” he asks and holds out his hand for Esteban to shake.
Xabi's grip is firm and warm. "Hi. Um . . . Esteban. Granero." He's positive he sounds like a thirteen year old with a crush which isn't too far off but he should really be better at not falling apart in situations like this. Maybe he should take some tips from Dani sometime after he strangles him to near death.
"Xabi. Alonso," Xabi replies teasing.
"Esteban wears 14 too," Dani explains apparently committed to burying Esteban in a deeper hole of shame.
"So we're like twins then?" Xabi asks.
"Yeah. I see the resemblance," Arbeloa says smiling.
Xabi laughs and Esteban really hopes that he's not too red but he’s confident that he looks like a tomato.
When they turn around, Rubén is standing in front of the visitor’s tunnel eyeing them strangely and when he's sees who they're with he rolls his eyes and heads back inside.
"You should probably get going," Xabi says.
"Yeah," Esteban says though he doesn’t move then he realizes that he’s still holding on to Xabi’s hand and let’s go quickly. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Xabi says with a chuckle.
Esteban still doesn’t move until Dani begins to drag him away.
"I'll see you on the pitch!" Arbeloa calls.
Dani gives him a thumbs-up in reply before pulling Esteban down the tunnel.
"See? And you were all 'No. Don't do that Dani' but then you don’t even want to leave," Dani gloats.
"Fuck you." Esteban isn't going to give him this one. Or he'll just hold it over Esteban's head even more than he already is.
"Ungrateful. You still got to meet Xabi Alonso and touch him," Dani says then leans in and whispers, "Though maybe not in all the places you'd like."
Esteban pushes him. "Terrible friend."
Dani just laughs.
“Portugalete tied with Getafe in 2010. Twice,” Dani says in the locker room before they go out, “And Real Madrid lost to Getafe in August.”
Esteban laughs but he grins because it is a nice thought to keep in mind.
This is probably the closest they’ll come to playing without the pressure of trying to make up the point to secure a play-off spot. Dani grins widely at him as they stand waiting for the kick-off. Esteban smiles back.
They’re down three-nil by half-time. It’s not so surprising but it’s disappointing no matter who you’re losing to. There’s only so much encouragement in the situation on can give and el mister tells him to continue working like they’ve been working. They did have two relatively good chances in the first half.
Dani walks with him out of the tunnel. “I’m going to score a goal,” he says.
The seriousness of his expression takes Esteban by surprise. “What?”
He shrugs. “You remember the draw. Maybe if I say it it’ll happen.”
Only three minutes into the second half, they concede another goal but the rest of the game is thankfully less exciting at least for them. Real Madrid stay back more and are controlling the play but then they get a free kick not too far out of the box in the 77th minute. Esteban stands to take it as the wall in set up waiting for the referee. Dani gives him a thumbs-up and he remembers what he said during half-time. It’s as good a chance as any they’re going to get so Esteban focuses on trying to give them something to work with. When the referee blows his whistle, he sends the ball over the wall. The next thing he knows it’s in the back of the net and Dani is running toward him, lifting him in the air. All Esteban can do is laugh because what are the chances of that.
It ends four-one but playing the Bernabéu is amazing. The atmosphere is overwhelming even though the stands are considerably empty against a side such as them. He’ll probably never have this chance again and he revels under the lights and the chance to play against such opposition even if it’s a B-string team. It’s on everyone’s minds and he leaves them talking about it to shower.
Dani is screaming his name. Screams again when he doesn't come out immediately. Whatever it is can probably wait but he doesn’t feel like listening to Dani shouting through his shower so he comes out with his towel around his neck sporting his most displeased face. But suddenly he doesn’t feel like hurting Dani anymore because maybe this counts as important enough since Xabi Alonso is standing in the dressing room talking to the coach who seems to be making some effort in chatting Xabi up. Everyone else is looking at Esteban and then Xabi is also looking. All of a sudden he remembers that he's naked and scrambles to wrap his towel around his waist.
The coach shakes Xabi's hand signaling the end of their conversation. Esteban walks quickly across the room. Xabi greets him with a smile but he continues walking until he's almost outside and mostly away from everyone staring.
"Is something wrong?" Xabi asks.
"No no. They're all just ridiculous," Esteban confesses.
Xabi smiles sympathetically. "I figured you might want this," he says handing him a jersey.
"Thanks," Esteban says accepting it. He can already hear Dani beginning his gloating once more.
"Sorry it's not all sweaty and everything," Xabi says smoothly.
Esteban's head flies up from looking at the jersey. Xabi is smiling.
"Yeah. That's too bad," he replies.
Xabi's smile grows a little wider and Esteban can see teeth for a second. Was Xabi flirting with him?
Xabi pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket and hands it to Esteban. It's folded in half and when Esteban unfolds it there's a telephone number on the inside.
"You know. For whatever," Xabi explains.
Oh yes. Definitely flirting.
“Maybe we can fix this problem,” Xabi says touching the jersey lightly.
Esteban's not sure how to breathe much less how to speak and what to say in this situation. The best he can do is squeeze out a shocked, “I-” before everything else catches in his throat.
Xabi squeezes his shoulder lightly. "You made some good passes."
"Thanks," Esteban says slowly regaining the ability to think.
"Well, I better let you get back to your shower," Xabi says with a wink, "I'm sure I'll see you soon."
If Esteban could make his brain function again then yes. Definitely. Esteban nods as Xabi leaves and he stares into space for a while wondering if he was losing his mind.
Everyone wants to know what Xabi wanted. He shows them the jersey and waits for Dani to burst in with how he orchestrated it all and it’s a little unsettling when he doesn’t because Dani revels in these opportunities. When he looks over Dani is staring at him suspiciously. He shrugs but Dani just shakes his head. A signal that Dani is going to interrogate him later when he has him trapped in the car on the way home. The rare use of discretion is appreciated.
Dani is silent in the car for a while but when he realizes Esteban isn't going to offer up any information voluntarily, he begins.
"So are you going to tell me?" he asks.
"Tell you what?" Esteban asks determined to make this as difficult as possible.
"I saw you with that stupid look on your face when you came back," Dani says, “I thought you were gonna pass out on the floor.”
"You'd look like that too if Xabi Alonso came to see you," Esteban says defensively.
"Fucking hell, Esteban. And you call me annoying," he grumbles.
"Now, you know how it feels."
Dani punches his arm without taking his eye off the road. "Are we done then?"
"I haven’t decided."
"I’m not going to give up so just give it up. It's because of me anyway so I think I deserve to know," Dani insists.
Esteban laughs. "He gave me his number," Esteban says simply.
Dani grins widely. "Well where's my thank you?"
"For what? Defamation?" Esteban retorts.
"Oh shut up. You didn't even want to talk to him because you were star-struck and scared."
Esteban rolls his eyes though Dani can't see. "Whatever."
"I assume that translates into “thank you” in ungrateful best friend," Dani says courteously, "You're welcome."
“Thanks,” Esteban mumbles.
He leaves the number on his desk and stares at it for two days. Dani pesters him the entire time to call. “I don’t know why you’re trying to play hard to get. If he was turned off by desperation, he wouldn’t have given you the number in the first place." Dani got a book thrown at him for that one, barely missing his head. Esteban stands by his decision glancing at the number whenever he was in his room wondering if he should change his mind. He calls Xabi in the evening after practice and class. It takes him thirty minutes to dial the number because he's clueless as to what he should be saying or how. He finally gets around to hitting the talk button and waits nervously as the phone rings. It rings four times and he's thinks that maybe Xabi is unavailable but then there's that voice that makes Esteban's mind freeze up. Xabi says hello a second time after Esteban stays silent.
"Oh. Ah, it's Esteban," he says nervously, “from Puerta?"
"I remember. It was only what two days ago," Xabi says laughing, “I was beginning to think that I scared you off.”
Esteban laughs too and he relaxes just a bit. "No. I was busy."
"Well, I'm glad you're no longer busy," Xabi says. "Are you busy tonight?"
"No," Esteban says quickly. He mentally scolds himself for being overeager.
"Then can you come over?" Xabi asks, "I can give you my address."
Esteban swallows instinctively. "Yeah. I can do that." He grasps around for a pen and paper. He finds a pen and opens a notebook to an empty page and writes the address down as Xabi recites it.
"I'll be home in two hours. Is that enough time?" Xabi asks.
"That should be fine," Esteban answers.
Xabi hangs up with a quick bye and Esteban puts down his phone in relief.
Dani is laying on the couch watching some reality show that he's addicted.
"Are you going anywhere tonight?" Esteban asks.
Dani sits up and turns to scrutinize Esteban. "So you called him then?"
"Finally. And no. I'm not going anywhere so you can take the car for your rendezvous. You just have to tell me about it later." Dani grins at him widely. "I'm proud of you, you know. Setting up secret dates with famous footballers like a big boy. I'm tearing up."
Dani tops it off with a sentimental sigh. Esteban shakes his head and goes to take a bath.
Xabi takes him to a Mediterranean restaurant that he had apparently been meaning to try out. Esteban begins nervous but the food is good and the conversation is easy so he relaxes. They talk about old movies and Esteban’s rekindled infatuation with the emotional quality of Hesse’s poetry. A smile is constant on Xabi’s face throughout the dinner with varying intensity and he looks genuinely interested in every word that comes out of Esteban’s mouth even when he talks in perhaps too much detail about the major in psychology that he’s working through slowly. It’s easily one of the better dates Esteban has been on. Xabi laughs when he tells him so.
Some of his nervousness returns when Xabi invites him upstairs to his apartment and a bad feeling comes with it. The first thing that happens when they get to the apartment is that Xabi offers him red wine which he gladly accepts because some alcohol will probably make things go smoother. The second is that Esteban trips on the edge of Xabi’s beige living room carpet and spills the wine all over the carpet and himself. To say he was horrified would have been an obvious understatement. All he can do is stand shocked as Xabi tries to convince him it’s fine because, really, he can get the carpet cleaned.
Xabi grabs another bottle of wine and has Esteban follow him down into the apartment. They enter a bedroom that Esteban assumes is Xabi’s from the books on the nightstand next to the bed and the clothes he can see in the walk-in closet.
"White wine helps with the stain," Xabi explains holding up the bottle and gesturing for Esteban to enter the attached bathroom. "You should probably take off the shirt first."
Esteban unbuttons the shirt. Xabi is watching him closely so he takes his time, handing over the shirt with a lopsided smile. It’s awkward standing next to Xabi while he pours the wine over the stain and blots it with a towel. He watches Xabi in the mirror, his face relaxed and his eyes focused on Esteban’s shirt. Esteban is stuck on admiring the set of Xabi’s jaw and wondering how his beard would feel against his skin. Xabi looks up and their eyes meet in the mirror. Esteban smiles and averts his eyes.
"Not spotless but you should be able to get it out when you wash it," Xabi says holding up the shirt for Esteban to see.
"Thanks," Esteban says taking the shirt.
Xabi pulls Esteban closer by the hips. It’s sudden and takes Esteban by surprise. He can feel his heartbeat starting to race. The situation hasn’t worked out as elegantly as Esteban imagined but the end result was more important than the path taken to get there. Esteban kisses him impulsively, turning them to press Xabi up against the sink counter, slipping a hand to the back of Xabi’s head. Xabi lets Esteban take control allowing him to lick his way into his mouth. Xabi kneads Esteban’s sides then runs his hands up his naked torso. Esteban sucks in a breath, breaking the kiss, moans softly when Xabi and brushes his thumbs over Esteban’s nipples and squeezes them lightly. Xabi slips out from between Esteban and the sink and pulls Esteban by the wrist into the bedroom.
Esteban sits at the foot of the bed. “Can I take off my shoes first?” he asks hesitantly.
Xabi looks confounded for a moment. “Of course.” He kisses Esteban’s shoulder.
Esteban’s hurries untying the laces. Xabi touches the hair on the side of Esteban’s face until he’s finished. Esteban notices that Xabi is barefooted and wonder when he took them off or if he never had any on at all. When he’s finished, Xabi kisses him and he crawls onto the bed. Xabi kneels over him and smiles, a tuft of hair sticks out from the rest. It relaxes Esteban slightly to see Xabi at least a bit disheveled as he straddles Esteban’s thigh. He unbuckles Esteban’s belt and unzips his jeans while Esteban stares at him anxiously. Xabi leans over to kiss him and Esteban feels Xabi’s hand wrap around his half-hard cock stroking him erect. He moans into Xabi’s mouth and arches up into his hand.
“Good?” Xabi asks kissing along his jaw and neck.
Xabi’s voice is low and his breath is hot against Esteban’s skin and Esteban moans in response. Xabi grins down at him and kisses him again. Esteban can feel Xabi’s cock pressing against his thigh through his jeans. He presses his thigh up gently and Xabi groans into his cheek. It’s the most enticing sound Esteban has heard in such a long time and he just needs to hear it again. He tries pushing up again.
“Stop,” Xabi murmurs.
“You sounded really sexy though,” Esteban mumbles.
Xabi chuckles and sucks on his throat.
Esteban reaches down to unbuckle Xabi’s belt so that he can get him off as well.
“Stop,” Xabi says in his ear. He sounds amused.
“Why?” Esteban asks. He whines and pushes his hips up when Xabi slows down his hand.
Xabi is quiet for a moment. Esteban can feel his breath on his ear. “I just want to watch you come,” Xabi says softly.
All Esteban can manage is a soft, “Oh.” There’s something in Xabi’s voice that unsettles him and makes him swallow hard.
Xabi sits up. It’s a beautiful sight: Xabi with a still hand around his cock even though he’s is looking down at him, brows furrowed questioningly.
“Is that ok?” Xabi asks.
Esteban hesitates though he can’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t be all right except for the fact that it makes him feel strange. “Yeah,” he responds.
Xabi reacts slowly as if he’s expecting Esteban to change his mind. He leans down over him, their faces close but not touching, and begins to move his hand again slowly.
“Faster,” Esteban begs.
He pulls Xabi down into a kiss, enjoying the feel of their tongues against each other. Xabi complies readily. Esteban arches up into him, digging his heels into the mattress and scratching at the sheets unable to grab a hold of them. It turns him on as much as it embarrasses him to have Xabi looking at him intently and he bites his lip as he thrusts up into Xabi’s hand desperately. Xabi grinds down on Esteban’s thigh, purposefully moaning right into his ear. It’s enough. Esteban closes his eyes and comes with a low groan.
Xabi is smiling at him when he opens his eyes and kisses him. Esteban assumes that means he liked what is saw. Xabi’s still smiling as he rolls onto his side.
Esteban turns to look at him and puts his hand on Xabi’s belt buckle. “Can I?”
Xabi laughs. “Sure.”
They kiss through it and Xabi makes these throaty moans that Esteban likes too much. He thinks he understands at least somewhat why Xabi wanted to watch him like that. When Esteban does something he likes, he closes his eyes and grips Esteban’s arm tighter and it all makes Esteban’s breath hitch.
“Can I watch you?” Esteban asks. He’s not sure whether that was implied and he feels embarrassed when he asks.
“Of course,” Xabi says into Esteban’s cheek.
Xabi’s squeezes Esteban’s shoulder when he comes and he moans Esteban’s name. Esteban looks away and Xabi kisses the side of his mouth.
“We should clean up,” Xabi says running a hand through Esteban’s hair.
Esteban gets up and sits on the edge of the bed. “I should go,” he says. Xabi doesn’t ask him for any reasons and he doesn’t ask him to stay. He uses the time cleaning himself up in the bathroom to breath and calm down his heart that’s racing. He wets his face with cold water and puts on his shirt. Xabi walks him to the front door in silence.
“I’ll call you,” Xabi says. His face tells Esteban that it’s more of a question.
“Yeah,” Esteban replies. It sounds lacklustre but Xabi smiles at him anyway before he steps out the door and Xabi closes it behind him.
The TV is on when he walks into the apartment. A late night show about the Bundesliga if Esteban trusts his vision enough. Dani sits up from lying on the couch.
“Why are you home?” Dani asks suspiciously.
“Why are you up?” Esteban retorts. “It’s midnight and we have practice tomorrow.”
“Couldn’t sleep. I think I drank too much coffee today,” Dani replies, “And you?”
Esteban glances at the mug on the coffee table.
“It’s tea, ok?” Dani lifts the tea bag out of the mug. “It’s decaf even.”
The disdain in his voice makes Esteban laugh. “So I’m not going to have to hide the Drip Tower again?”
Dani just glares at him in response. “Stop diverting the conversation.”
If he wants to get to sleep anytime soon, it would be easier to talk. Esteban sits on the couch next to Dani who mutes the TV.
“It was just weird,” he mumbles, wishing the TV were on to provide some background noise.
“Is this weird as in I’m going to get arrested for assaulting a Real Madrid player?” Dani asks.
Esteban laughs but Dani’s face is completely serious and it makes him smile fondly. “No. It was just weird.”
“I’m not going to let you get you get away with ‘just weird,’ you know.”
Couldn’t he hope? Esteban sighs. “Have you ever expected sex and then gotten a handjob from someone who just looks at you the whole time like-” he pauses to think of another words but he can’t.
“Like he didn’t buy you dinner just to fuck you?” Dani offers his displeasure with Esteban’s behavior clear.
“Something about it was too intense,” Esteban mutters looking away.
“I’m surprised you of all people would freak out. That’s like you’re thing. You know, emotions and falling in love with people easily.” Dani says it all nonchalantly ignoring the indignant expression on Esteban’s face. “I can say, of the top of my head, at least two people in the past, what, two years who broke up with you because things got too heavy too fast. And now you’re speechless because I’m right.”
“I’m going to sleep,” Esteban announces, standing. Dani doesn’t say anything just unmutes the TV and lets him leave. He wishes Dani’s words hadn’t unsettled him as much as they did. It was unnecessary to imply that Esteban was acting like his ex-boyfriends but it did do its job.
It takes Xabi five days to call him. He’s not surprised though maybe a bit anxious. They play on weekends. Xabi was busy with the Madrid derby while Esteban was scrapping up a draw against Aranjuez because of a lucky own goal in Puerta’s favor. That’s nerve wracking itself because they were champions last year and now they’re mid-table scrapping up points in draws. Dani accuses him of sulking which he quickly denies. He was just thinking about how he was contributing to Puerta’s bad run; about the fact that the central nervous system was interesting in theory but then made him fall asleep when his professor explained it in her monotonous voice; and about how ridiculous he was in Xabi’s apartment which probably contributed to him not calling. He’s distracted enough that Alex offers to talk to him about it. The last thing he wants is a one-on-one talk with his captain about how a guy wouldn’t call him back so he forces himself to become absorbed in football.
“Just call him,” Dani screams at him one evening, “If I have to look at you glancing at that phone every ten seconds for one more day, I swear.”
“I don’t want to,” Esteban replies putting his phone in his pocket.
Dani rolls his eyes. Esteban wants to call him but in the back of his mind it’s a test, albeit a stupid one. If Xabi really want to see him, he would call, right? So he wouldn’t have to worry about whether he was getting into something that would disappoint him.
When Xabi finally calls he answers with a much too eager, “Xabi.”
“You sound excited. Did you think I wouldn’t call?” Xabi asks.
Esteban sinks into the couch embarrassed, which seemed to be his usual state recently. “Maybe.”
“Sometimes I get busy too,” Xabi says playfully.
“Well then, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to call,” Esteban replies playing along.
Xabi chuckles, low and sweet in Esteban’s ear. “I was thinking you could come over again. Maybe tomorrow?” Xabi asks.
“Tomorrow sounds good,” Esteban replies running a hand through his hair nervously.
The line is silent for a moment and Esteban smiles, proud of himself.
“I should go,” Xabi says.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Esteban says.
“Bye, Esteban,” Xabi says softly before he hangs up.
Esteban takes a deep breath and rests his head back on the couch. He catches Dani standing in the entrance to the kitchen with a disgusted face and a mug in his hand.
“Don’t give me that face,” Esteban says.
“That was absolutely sickening,” he replies coming over to the couch to pick up the remote.
“You were the one who told me I wasn’t sickening enough last week,” Esteban reminds him.
“No. I’m pretty sure I said that you were less sickening that usual,” Dani says, “Any amount is too much coming from you.”
“Stop drinking coffee in the night,” Esteban said reaching for Dani’s mug.
Dani pulls it away. “It’s tea, ok?”
“No tea for me?” Esteban asks in his most hurt voice.
“Are you fucking serious?” Dani asks looking at Esteban incredulously.
Dani glares at him but puts down his mug as hard as he can on the coffee table before going back into the kitchen.
“You’re a wonderful person,” Esteban shouts, “I forgive you for being a dick to me all the time.”
“I hate you too,” Dani shouts back.
Esteban grins widely.
The carpet is gone from Xabi’s living room when Esteban goes over the next day. He can’t help but blush.
“It’s being cleaned,” Xabi says apparently sensing what Esteban was thinking.
“I’m sorry about how I acted the last time,” Esteban apologizes.
“I think that’s what I should be saying,” Xabi chuckles, “I would probably have done the same thing.”
At least they were both contributing to the slight awkwardness of the moment this time. “No, I thought about it and it was ridiculous,” Esteban says.
“Really?” Xabi asks coming toward Esteban. He allows Xabi to back him into the wall. “And what did you think about it?”
Esteban smiles and pulls Xabi in to kiss him.
“That doesn’t really answer my question,” Xabi says. He rests his forehead against Esteban’s and smiles.
“Why did you want to do it?” Esteban asks softly.
Xabi pulls back a moment and looks like he’s thinking. “I’m not completely sure,” he says, “I just looked at your face and I just wanted to.”
Esteban kisses him again. Xabi presses him up against the wall and Esteban moans softly. Maybe trying this wasn’t a bad idea.
Xabi breaks the kiss and steps back. Esteban looks at him curiously and he just smiles and takes Esteban by the hand. “We can do things properly this time.”
The winter break is welcomed whole-heartedly. Esteban hopes the break will help the team regroup for the second half of the season. He spends most of it at home with his parents. His mother as always is happy to see him and insists he help her with everything from cooking to shopping. His father enjoys it because she’s not bothering him. She takes the opportunity to ask as many questions about Esteban’s life as possible.
“How is Dani? Is he still getting you into a lot of trouble?”
“Always. Though I guess I’m contributing to that myself,” he replies.
“Oh? Is your trouble a boy?” his mother asks.
“Mama,” he whines.
“I just want to talk to you, Esteban. You’re never home even though we’re right here in the same city. What do you want me to do when I finally see you? I ask you about the life that I almost never hear about.”
Esteban sighs. “Ok. Yes. Can we stop talking about it now?”
“Is he nice?”
“What’s his name?”
Esteban give his mother a pleading look but she just turns and starts to chop some carrots. “Xabi,” he says with a sigh.
“That’s a good name. Is he a student at La Complu?” she asks.
“No,” he says resigned, “He plays football too.”
“Oh” is all she says as she stops chopping and looks at him.
He turns on the water and begins to wash off the soapy wares. Instead of asking another question, she goes back to chopping the carrots. He’s slightly confused but he’ll take it.
Xabi calls him the morning of Nochebuena. He manages to escape from his mother, grandmother and aunt who drafted him to help them in the kitchen and goes to his room which seems to be the only quiet place in the house.
“I’m sorry. They’re making me help in the kitchen and I had to run away,” he says sitting on his bed.
“You cook?” Xabi asks laughing.
“No. I can’t. Not really anyway. I don’t think they would even let me near the stove if I asked,” he replies. “I chop things so they can complain about it but then have me continue anyway.”
“How do you survive if you can’t cook then?” Xabi teases.
“Dani can cook actually. He doesn’t seem like he does but I guess he doesn’t exactly look like he’s a coffee connoisseur either,” Esteban explains.
“You sound energetic. You must be having lots of fun.”
Esteban grunts noncommittally. “Or maybe I’m happy to talk to you.”
“Really. I miss you,” Esteban mutters, “Just a little bit.”
“I miss you just a little bit too,” Xabi says. Esteban laughs. “I should let you get back to your kitchen duties.”
“Please don’t rush,” Esteban says, “I’m not in a hurry at all.”
Xabi chuckles. “I come back on the 27th and training starts on the 29th.”
He doesn’t say anything else but Esteban understands what he’s saying. He smiles lying back on the bed. “Are you coming back early just to see me?” Esteban asks.
“I can change my plans if you’re going to give me a hard time about it,” Xabi says playfully.
“No. No, that’s good,” Esteban says softly.
“I’m glad you think so,” Xabi says, “Now I’ll let you get back to your hard work. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Esteban stands when Xabi hangs up and looks at himself in the mirror behind his door. This was probably what Dani called glowing, he thinks trying to subdue the giddy smile on his face to no avail. He just hopes no one comments on it.
Going back to the apartment is welcomed. As much as Esteban likes to be with his family, when the house is full, he can’t wait to get out. Dani isn’t there but there’s coffee being made in the kitchen so he was back from visiting his own family. He sits in the armchair in the living room and reads until Dani comes back.
“I’m transferring to Cartagena,” he says, taking off his jacket.
“That’s great.” Esteban’s response is delayed by surprised and he’s not sure sounds as happy as he should.
“You sure? Doesn’t sound like it,” Dani says laughing.
“No. It is. Definitely. You just never said anything about it before so it’s surprising,” Esteban says.
“It happened really fast, you know? It surprised me too.” Dani smiles at him. “Don’t worry. I’m making porras so you can drown your sorrows at losing me after all these wonderful years together.”
Esteban laughs and smiles back.
Esteban goes over to Xabi’s the night he gets back so he can stay until the next day. It never fails to surprise him exactly how much he like being with him. The sex is good and being together is easy. They like a lot of the same things and though Xabi doesn’t read as much, he has an infinitely better taste in television than what he has to put up with at home.
Xabi gets up first and when Esteban finally climbs out of bed, he finds Xabi in the living room, reading a magazine.
“I was wondering when you would wake up,” Xabi says looking up at him.
“Is that coffee?” he asks pointing to the mug in front of Xabi.
Xabi nods. “It was. I made a pot but it’s probably cold by now.”
“I can make some more,” Esteban says. He covers a yawn with his hand and goes into the kitchen.
Xabi follows him and points out the cupboard that holds the coffee and Esteban takes it out. He can hear Dani telling him how wasteful he is as he pours the cold coffee down the drain. He’s rinses the pot out and is about to wash it when he hears his name. He turns around. Xabi is smiling as he comes closer, pressing Esteban up against the counter. His kiss tastes like coffee, strong and milky.
“Good morning,” He whispers against Esteban’s lips.
“Morning,” Esteban replies suddenly very awake.
Xabi smiles and presses his lips to Esteban’s cheek before he goes back into the living room. Esteban can’t help but smile as he washes out the coffee pot.
The New Year starts off infinitely better than the previous ended. Puerta win three of their four January fixtures and climb the table to sixth. Training is a little less tense and the collective jadedness begins to lift. It’s easier to breathe when fourth is realistically in their sight.
Dani leaving is a bit more emotional that intended. Dani cries and Esteban’s voice cracks as he tries not to and it’s only slightly ridiculous. It’s a plus that he doesn’t have to help anyone with a coffee addiction and doesn’t have to be careful around a huge, glassy cold brew coffee drip tower when he goes into the kitchen. Or so he tells himself because he misses threatening to confiscate the drip tower and watching Dani squirm. Mostly, he just misses Dani in general because, if he tells the truth, the apartment is too quiet now and he wants to eat good food without having to go outside. They skype often. Dani says it’s so Esteban doesn’t miss him too much but Esteban is sure at least seventy percent of the calls are from Dani to him rather than the opposite.
Alen asks Dani if he can take his place in the apartment before he leaves. Esteban thinks it’s a bit forward but he’s already comfortable with his teammates so Alen is probably better than a stranger. It isn’t even as bad as he thought it would be. Alen is clean and doesn’t make too much noise probably because he’s hardly ever there. Neither of them can really cook but Esteban can always run home if he’s desperate.
Esteban can’t even imagine how lonely he would be without Xabi since most of his time was spent annoying Dani or being annoyed by him. He sees Xabi as much as their schedules permit between Xabi’s mid-week Copa del Rey games and Esteban’s classes which are winding down to finals. He looks forward to those days and the way Xabi smiles softly before he kisses him or kisses his neck when he holds him after sex and he likes to read on the couch as Xabi watches TV with his feet up on Esteban’s lap.
There are few days after finals before the new term starts. Xabi says they should go out to celebrate so he comes over early in the afternoon on a day Xabi is free. He wakes up alone in Xabi’s bed later in the evening. He hadn’t even intended on sleeping but he’s still tired from studying. He wants to roll over and go back to sleep but Xabi had talked about reservations for dinner when he arrived.
Sounds from the TV travel into the room from outside. His foot rests on his underwear as he lifts himself out of bed and he decides to put them on before going into the living room.
The window shades are down so the room is dark, faintly illuminated by the blue light of the television. Xabi is lying on the couch watching The Maltese Falcon.
“Are we still having dinner?” he asks watching as Humphrey Bogart kisses Mary Astor on the screen.
“You slept for three hours,” Xabi says as though he’s impressed. “I’ll have to be careful not to wear you out so much in the future.”
“Vanity is a sin, you know,” Esteban replies.
Xabi just smiles. “I made a reservation for seven.”
“Let me take a shower first,” Esteban says looking over to the clock to see if he has enough time.
“We need to get there at seven not leave at seven,” Xabi teases.
“It’s only just after six,” Esteban scoffs leaving the room.
“Then you better hurry up,” Xabi calls after him.
He showers quickly and pulls on the clothes strewn all over the floor. Hopefully, he doesn’t look too wrinkled. He smooths out his shirt and jeans and goes back into the living room. Xabi is still lying on the couch scrolling through the television guide now as the movie continues to play in the upper right of the screen.
“It took you long enough,” Xabi says.
Esteban rolls his eyes and walks over to the couch. There’s no way he took longer than fifteen minutes. “Are we leaving?” he asks when Xabi doesn’t get up.
“Maybe,” Xabi replies nonchalantly.
Esteban frowns and nudges Xabi softly with his knee trying to hurry him up. “Isn’t the reservation for seven?” he asks glancing at the clock in the corner which says the time is half past six. Xabi seems unperturbed.
Xabi doesn’t look away from the TV until Esteban in on top of him straddling his stomach. He gives him a questioning look and Esteban replies with a smile. He leans over and brings his face close to Xabi’s. Xabi runs a hand through Esteban’s wet hair and smiles holding Esteban’s gaze with his own. “Well?” he asks tugging on the ends of Esteban’s hair. “Are we going to stay like this all night?”
Xabi is warm and looking at him seductively and Esteban just wants to kiss him. So he does, licking to Xabi’s mouth and pushing up Xabi’s shirt so that he can run his hands over his stomach. The remote clatters to the floor.
“Don’t we have a reservation for seven?” Xabi asks chuckling.
“You’re the one acting like you don’t want to leave,” Esteban replies.
“I like this idea better,” Xabi says grinning. He rests his hands on Esteban’s ass and squeezes. Esteban moans and presses his body down into Xabi’s.
Esteban shifts to sit lower on Xabi’s body and grinds his ass down on Xabi’s cock. Xabi groans and closes his eyes. Esteban doesn’t know why Xabi made him get dressed for dinner if he’s already decided they’re not actually going anywhere but he doesn’t mind. There would be other days for dinner. “Shouldn’t you cancel the reservation then?” he asks.
Xabi hums in agreement and runs his hands over Esteban’s thighs. Esteban smiles and climbs off of him. He rests his hand on Xabi’s chest and brings his face down to Xabi’s ear. “And when you’re done, you can meet me inside.”
Dani gets a dog, says it looks like Esteban. It's an English Cocker Spaniel and it barks at the screen when he gets in front of the computer.
"Like looking in a mirror right?" Dani asks laughing and scratching behind the dog's ear, “Adorable face one minute, judging you the next.”
"Please tell me you didn’t name him Esteban."
Dani laughs harder. "No. I decided to name him Félix." He grins proudly and the dog barks as if it understands what is going on.
"I fucking hate you." Esteban scowls at the dog and its owner. It's not exactly flattering to have a dog named after you even if it's just your middle name.
"He's really smart," Dani says like that makes it better.
Esteban just sneers at him.
Dani smiles and kisses the dog, Félix, on its head. "So." Dani pauses like he's thinking of how to phrase what he wants to say and Esteban usually never likes whatever comes after that because it’s usually sensible advice about something Esteban messing up. "All the papers and the news are talking about Real Madrid will trying to sell Xabi in the summer."
Esteban frowns and looks away from the computer. It's something he had been trying to ignore if he's honest. He knows that Xabi's football is different from his in scope. His transferring isn't just a few cities away; it's countries, maybe even continents and he’s not ready to think about that.
"I thought so. You haven't talked about it," Dani says. "I don't think that's just something you can ignore until last minute."
"I know that," Esteban groans. "Just what if he says, he's going back to England or, I don’t know, Russia." His voice is desperate and Félix whines with him.
"If it's gonna happen, waiting to talk about it isn't gonna change it."
Esteban always hates it when Dani is right.
It seems selfish to want Xabi to stay just for Esteban’s sake but he can't help that he's in love with him and doesn't want to have to love him hundreds or thousands of miles away.
"Are you going to stay in Madrid?" He tries to leave it as vague as possible so that he doesn't sound accusatory. It's obvious that Xabi knows exactly what he means because his smile is gone and he gives Esteban this forlorn look and he has no idea how exactly to interpret it.
Xabi kisses Esteban and pulls him on top of him. It's long and Esteban melts into Xabi. But it's not an answer. Esteban looks at him expectantly.
"I would like to," Xabi says rolling them over so that he's over Esteban.
That's not really answer either. It's not concrete and it sounds like false hope to Esteban. Xabi kisses him again and rests his face in the crook of Esteban's neck. Esteban knows he's not going to get a better answer. At least not tonight.
Xabi’s contract status isn’t mentioned again until the end of the season. He had intended to ask but then Real Madrid dropped out of the Champions League in the semifinal and they lose the Copa del Rey final and the league had already slipped their grasp. It never seemed like a good time even if that probably made it more relevant. He was just trying to be supportive and comforting as Xabi tried to be when Puerta took a hard loss.
The day before Xabi is supposed to leave to go to training with the national team for the Confederations Cup in Brazil, Esteban asks again.
“I want to,” Xabi replies.
They’re in the living room sitting on the sofa and Esteban stands suddenly. “That’s not an answer. What am I supposed to do with that but worry?” It might be unfair but he wasn’t going to see Xabi until July and, if he was leaving, maybe not at all. He didn’t want to be told that over the phone.
“Esteban, you should know it’s not that simple,” Xabi says standing as well, “If the club wants me gone, I’ll have to go.”
“You don’t have to do anything,” Esteban shouts. He bites his lip before he says anything else.
“If I could give you something for definite, I would,” Xabi says quietly, coming closer.
Esteban takes Xabi’s face between his hands and kisses him softly. “I love you,” he whispers. Xabi looks surprised but Esteban is walking away before he can react.
“Where are you going?” Xabi asks. Esteban is out of the living room and standing before the front door.
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Esteban says.
Xabi traps Esteban against the door and presses their foreheads together. “I love you too, you know,” Xabi says. He kisses him and Esteban pulls Xabi in closer. Esteban feels like he’s drowning in it. He slides to the floor pulling Xabi with him until Xabi is right over of him.
“I’ll try my hardest to stay with you,” Xabi says.
Esteban pulls Xabi down for another kiss.
Xabi fucks him on the floor in front of the door and it feels like a promise.
Esteban’s phone has been ringing for the past five minutes and he’s trying to ignore it but it won’t stop. He regrets leaving it over on his desk when he came back last night because he has to get up now. Why was anyone calling him at six o’clock in the morning anyway? He almost turns it off when he sees that it’s Dani but he’s already standing and too awake so he answers.
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” he asks. Was he drinking coffee at late hours again?
“Just-just turn on your fucking computer, Esteban.” Dani sounds like he’s panicking.
“Are you ok?” Esteban asks pressing the power button on his laptop. “Did something happen?”
A skype notification pops up. It’s a link from Dani. He rubs his face as it loads to wake himself up a bit more. When the page opens, he understands why Dani is panicking because he suddenly feels nauseous and has to sit down. It’s a picture of him kissing Xabi from last night taken through a window that he can’t even remember being open with the short, yet effective, title “Xabi Alonso: Gay?.” There are words underneath that Esteban can’t even bring himself to skim.
The phone beeps for another incoming call. A wave of dread washes over him when he sees Xabi’s name on the screen. He tells Dani he’ll call him back later and switches the call.
“I just saw,” he says as he answers.
Xabi sighs heavily. “I’m so sorry, Esteban.”
He wishes he could answer that it was all right but nothing could be further from the truth.
“I have to go make some calls but I’ll call you later, ok?” Xabi says then after a pause, “Just-I love you.”
“I know. I love you too,” Esteban answers.
Xabi hangs up.
Alen stares at him when he comes out before they leave for practice. The look on Esteban’s face is probably why he doesn’t ask any questions just gets in the car. Of course, the press is waiting outside the club trying to get statements from him and inside el mister says the president wants to meet with him. They say want him to stay quiet and not bring anymore unneeded publicity to the club. He would laugh at that the sorry fact that this was actually happening if he wasn’t supposed to be professional. Later, David tells him that he’s heard that Real Madrid called in the morning and told the club to stay quiet. No one wants to anger one of biggest clubs in Spain obviously. He smiles wryly.
The locker room is the same at least. It was never really a secret and once one of them knew, all of them knew so they were mostly accustomed to it. The only difference is that today everyone talks to him a bit less and more carefully because they’re not exactly sure what to do.
El mister pulls him aside after practice. Esteban is unfocused and it showed in his free kicks and passes so he knows immediately that this is about the play-off first leg the next day against Poblense.
“Am I going to be able to count on you tomorrow?” Cerdán asks.
“Yes. Definitely,” Esteban replies. He can’t let this ruin everything in less than a day.
Cerdán seems to consider his response for a moment before he rests his hand on Esteban’s back. “This game is important and I’m trusting you here so don’t let me down.”
Apparently, Xabi has a press conference before he leaves to be with the national team in Brazil. Esteban is in practice then but Dani calls him in the evening and quotes some of the important parts from a transcript for him because Esteban doesn’t feel like watching it. The fact that Dani doesn’t sound too happy makes him want to even less. He lies on the couch and listens, appreciating the silence of the apartment for the first time since Dani left.
“As was already said, this is all a misunderstanding. The situation in the photo is very complicated but nothing is how it has been presented. Esteban is my very good friend. There were some, ah, discrepancies recently in how we both wished the friendship to progress, which is what has been misinterpreted, but everything has been cleared up now. We are still good friends. I am sure now he has been affected by the magnification of these pictures into something they are not and I am very sorry that he has to suffer because someone with a camera is more interested in my personal life than in events that truly affect the world.”
“So you deny all the speculations regarding your sexuality?”
“Yes but it is unfortunate that the players who currently have to hide their identities are pushed further into hiding by the crass handling of this particular situation.”
“Will this affect your decision to renew you contract with Real Madrid?”
“There are many factors in such a decision and I will make my decision with the ones I deem the most important in mind.”
“Ok. That’s enough,” Esteban says. None of this is surprising and he understands that it’s necessary even if it’s complete hypocritical bullshit. But It still hurts to have someone you love deny you to the entire world. “I should go to sleep for tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry about how all this turned out,” Dani says.
“Why? Do you feel responsible?” Esteban asks dryly.
Dani laughs weakly. “I guess I am, aren’t I? But I’m still sorry that you had to get hurt in front of the whole world. It’s some fucking bullshit but there’s you can really do.”
“I could go public. I have text messages and I haven’t done laundry in a while so some DNA evidence maybe.”
Dani laughs loudly and uncontrollably for a good minute and struggles to catch his breath. “You’re not the vengeful type. Plus, you love him too much. Even if you were actually angry, you wouldn’t.”
Esteban smiles a little. “Thanks,” he says though he’s not sure whether that’s actually a compliment.
The first leg goes surprisingly well. They win one-nil and Esteban provides the assist. He thinks that maybe he can make it through all of this until it mostly blows over. El mister smiles and congratulates him on a job well done. He has exams between the two legs and he can thankfully study without worrying about football as well as the photo which continues to be the topic of discussion.
Esteban tries calling Xabi after his last exam. The call goes to voicemail. He tries again and leaves a message.
The second leg is all trouble. In Mallorca, it seems as though all of Poblense’s fans have come out just to jeer at him. Alex tries to comfort him but it’s not easy to ignore the frequent “maricón, maricón” chants. He gets subbed off at the beginning of the second half after wasting most of their free kicks in the first and sits on the bench tired and frustrated. They manage to tie, narrowly avoiding conceding a penalty after a foul in their box that escaped the referee’s notice. He’s grateful that he had early exams because he couldn’t see studying going well after this.
Dani suggests he stay at home for a while for moral support from family. It’s better than staying in the apartment practically alone so he does. His mother coddles him when he’s not at practice and is dedicated to trashing every single news outlet in the country at all times. His father doesn’t say much about the situation but he gives Esteban a tight hug when he comes to stay so Esteban knows he’s supportive even if he’s not as vocal as his mother. It’s helpful to be with people who care about him and the week relaxes him a little for the first leg of the final round of play-offs. They actually have a real chance at promotion and it would be nice to have something to celebrate.
Xabi calls him for the first time in two weeks. The conversation is slow and difficult. They avoid everything that’s happened in the past month. Xabi congratulates him on making it to the final round of play-offs and wishes him good luck against Cirbonero. He doesn’t mention the mess in Mallorca. Maybe he doesn’t know but Esteban doubts it from how careful he is to avoid talking about the game when Esteban mentions how badly the second leg went. Esteban wishes Xabi good luck with Spain in the Confederations Cup in turn.
“I miss you,” Esteban says eventually.
There’s a short but distinct silence before Xabi replies, “I miss you too.”
Esteban knows that’s the end of the conversation.
Puerta manages to hold their loss to one-nil at home in the first leg but Cirbonero defeats them three-nil in the second. Esteban sits on the bench for the second leg but he doubts there was much he could do himself. It’s disappointing making it this far and then having to go back home still in Tercera División. Alen asks when he’s coming back to the apartment but he’s not sure. He starts his vacation at home and spends the first in the city buying old books by authors he’s never read.
Cartegena are promoted to the Segunda División and Dani says they are going on vacation as celebration or consolation in Esteban’s case. Esteban has no qualms with this plan and even if he did, he’s not sure he could get out of it. They haven’t seen each other in months and getting away from Madrid seems like a good idea. He tries not to think of Xabi mentioning once that he wanted to take a vacation together and how he wishes the past month was just a sickening dream that he could wake up from.
Esteban moves back to the apartment when Dani comes back in Madrid. Dani brings over food from his mother, good coffee and Félix. He finds doesn’t hate his namesake as much as he thought he would. Dani was right; he is smart and quiet as well. The dog sleeps on Esteban’s feet as they eat.
“Have you talked to him at all?” Dani asks.
Why does everything seem to come back to Xabi? “He called me two weeks ago,” Esteban replies.
“So is it done then?” Dani seems determined to have this conversation right now. Esteban would rather not, ever, but he can’t really run away.
“I don’t know. He didn’t say anything,” Esteban murmurs.
Dani frowns deeply. “Is he coming back to Madrid?”
Esteban sighs, resting his forehead in his palms. “I don’t know that either.”
He can tell that Dani wants to say something else. Probably to tell him that these are things he should know so he doesn’t waste anymore hope no matter how small. Instead he says, “You’ll be ok, you know?”
Esteban takes a deep breath. “I hope so.”
Dani is staying with his parents. When he leaves, Esteban goes to his room and considers the pros and cons of calling Xabi. On one hand, he already knows what he’ll say so can’t be surprised and a clean break is better than fruitless lingering hope. On the other, he knows he’ll be heartbroken though that would probably come no matter what so perhaps getting it over quicker is a pro as well.
It’s evening in Brazil maybe six o’clock, he thinks and hopes it’s late enough as he dials Xabi’s number.
“Esteban?” Xabi’s voice sounds surprised.
“Can you talk?” Esteban asks. He already feels like he’s made a mistake.
“Yeah. Um, how are you?” Xabi asks.
Esteban ignores the question. He wants this to be as quick as possible. “Are you going to come back to Madrid?”
Xabi is quiet and it makes Esteban nauseous. “I’m not.”
The conversation is going exactly as he imagined but it still makes his head hurt and he’s suddenly incredibly tired.
“Esteban, I’m sorry,” Xabi says.
“You’re not though.” Esteban knows he should stop talking but the words just come and he has to try just to not scream into the phone. “If you were sorry, you wouldn’t be running away and denying me in front of world and making me look like some pathetic idiot that’s hopelessly in love you.” He’s crying and he can’t do anything except fight back his sobs. Xabi doesn’t say anything for a long time. Esteban feels terrible but he doesn’t want to take any of it back.
“I’m sorry that I can’t be as strong as you want me to be,” Xabi says slowly. “I wish things had worked out differently. I wish I hadn’t been an idiot and left a window open and then was stupid enough to kiss you in front of it. I wish I wasn’t a footballer and could love you openly. Properly.”
Esteban’s not sure anything other than a sob would come out if he tried to speak though he doesn’t have anything to say. There are no words that can change the situation so he stays silent.
“I love you so much,” Xabi says.
Esteban wants to tell him to shut up or to hang up or to do anything except keep saying things that hurt him even more.
“Esteban, please say something.” Xabi sounds like he’s in pain but Esteban can’t bring himself to speak. It doesn’t matter than he loves him and can’t bear the idea of being without him.
“Ok,” Xabi sighs. He pauses as though waiting to see if Esteban will finally talk to him. He doesn’t. “Goodbye, Esteban.”
He wants to ask him to wait. He wants to beg Xabi to reconsider but he resists and closes his eyes surrendering to the silence as the line goes dead before he lets himself cry freely.