flywoman: (xavikerhug)
[personal profile] flywoman
Title: Orange Crush
Author: flywoman
Artist:[archiveofourown.org profile] kkslover9
Rating: R
Word Count: ~8400
Pairings: Xavi Hernández/Iker Casillas, past Xavi Hernández/Fernando Torres, future Xavi Hernández/David Villa?
Summary: The Golden Age of Spain comes to an abrupt and embarrassing end at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Meanwhile, Fernando Torres suspects David Villa of having designs on Xavi Hernández, who faces one of the biggest decisions of his life.
Disclaimer: While inspired by actual persons and events, this is a work of fiction.
Warnings: Mild BDSM.
Thanks: To jezziejay for enthusiastic beta and to kkslover9 for the awesome header and podfic version!
Notes: Written for Futbal Minibang: International Edition. This could be considered a sequel to "Never a Bride" and "Catch a Falling Star." One section is a rewrite of flywoman's previously posted fic "sail your sea, meet your storm" from Xavi's POV.


Orange Crush Header


June 8, 2014
Curitiba, Brazil


"I miss Martín," Iker confided suddenly.

He and Xavi hadn't had a chance to chat since boarding the plane to Brazil, but now that they were settling into their hotel room near the training camp, Xavi could see that the separation from his son and Sara was weighing on him heavily. He finished folding a pair of jeans and tucked them neatly into a drawer before crossing the room and holding his arms out wide.

Iker allowed himself to be folded into them, nestled against Xavi's heart, and sniffled audibly. "Sorry," he said, swiping at his eyes. "I haven't really changed that much since Egypt, have I?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Xavi said, smiling a little at the memory of Iker as a homesick teen and wishing that he were taller so that he could kiss his friend's forehead from this position. "And I'm sure your family wouldn't either."

Iker laughed shakily. "And what are you, chopped liver?"

"Your other family," Xavi amended, tightening his arms around his friend.

Iker took a deep breath, let it out over the top of Xavi's head. "Let's lie down for a minute."

"A minute?" Xavi repeated, pretending to be hurt. "I was hoping for all night."

"Well, yeah, but before that, I was thinking we'd maybe brush our teeth and shower," Iker said dryly. "You smell like airplane. If I'm being generous."

"You're no rose yourself, Mofeta," Xavi retorted, but he was already toeing his shoes off. They stretched out on the bed that Iker had claimed for his own, still fully dressed in slightly grimy travel gear, Xavi wrapping his arms around Iker from behind.

"How does Sara feel about Martín staying behind in Madrid?" Xavi asked tentatively.

Iker grunted. "She says she's fine with it. She was really looking forward to getting out there and doing her job again, you know?" He swallowed. "I'm the one who's being a big baby about it."

"Yeah, well, we'll see what she says after a week without him," Xavi murmured into the back of Iker's neck.

"A lot of people don't get how much her career means to her," Iker continued as if Xavi hadn't spoken. "That's also why she doesn't want to be seen spending time with me during the tournament. Afraid she'll be accused of losing her journalistic integrity."

"Her loss, my gain," Xavi said cheerfully, shifting one hand down to cup Iker's ass with a hum of appreciation. "Good thing she has me to look after you, eh?"

Iker chuckled, perhaps a little painfully. "It's nice that Nuria can keep her company, too."

"This arrangement really does have all kinds of advantages," Xavi agreed. He slid his hand slowly over Iker's hip and between his legs. "Hey, what's this? You sure you want to wait until after that shower?"

"I could be convinced," Iker conceded magnanimously, and twisted his head around for a kiss.

***

"So how's married life?" Fernando Torres asked, falling into place beside Xavi and matching his stride at training. He faltered at his teammate's self-conscious start. "Unless it's none of my business."

"No, no," Xavi said quickly, wishing he'd prepared a little better for this moment, having successfully put it off for so long - nearly two years, if he were honest with himself. Lacking any encouragement, Nando had kept a polite distance so far, but now, the day before they were scheduled to face the Netherlands in their first group stage match, apparently he had run out of patience. "I mean, it's great. I couldn't be happier." And then, as nonchalantly as he could, "You?"

Nando sucked on a tooth for a second. "Pretty much the same."

"I'm sorry," Xavi said, and meant it.

"Not your fault." Nando paused. "I'm... I'm happy for you, Xavi. You deserved better."

Than you? Xavi wondered. Or than Iker? "Nando," he began hesitantly. It needed to be said, and he might not get a better opportunity - there was no one within earshot on the pitch. "I want you to know... even if it didn't last long, what we had at the Euros... it meant a lot to me."

"You don't need to-" Nando began, but Xavi interrupted him.

"I'm serious." Xavi took a deep breath, trying to marshal his thoughts. "I was in a... in a pretty dark place. Being with you... it really made my open my eyes. Made me move forward."

"I'll say," Nando averred. When Xavi stared, he added hastily, "Not judging here. I just meant... your wedding was only a year after we..." He looked away.

"Yeah, well, I've never exactly been the poster child for impulse control," Xavi joked uncomfortably, then flinched, hoping that Nando wouldn't feel insulted by his flippancy.

"I know," Nando nodded. "You do what you feel is right without overthinking it. Go with your gut instinct. It's a trait I've... envied at times."

"And other times you just stand back and watch the shit hit the fan, I'll bet," Xavi suggested, and this was rewarded with a rueful smile.

"You have had your moments," Nando acknowledged, giving him a gentle dig in the ribs. "Have to say, so far you've created very little controversy this tournament. Should we be worried?"

"Depends on whether we win tomorrow," Xavi deadpanned, and this time Nando laughed out loud.

***

They didn't win.

It was, in fact, without question, the most spectacular spanking that Xavi had received in any match he'd ever played.

It was apparent from minute one that this was not the same Dutch team that had essentially self-destructed in the Euros two years before. Cesc's former colleague Van Persie had come into his own, the leader of the orange invasion looking like a latter day Alexander the Great.

In comparison with their tall, strong, speedy opponents, the reigning World Champions seemed almost like children. Despite Del Bosque's efforts, they hadn't quite gelled as a team this time around, and the Barcelona players' high-precision passes repeatedly failed to find a finisher up front.

A brilliant player for Atleti, Diego Costa looked like a fish out of water with the Selección, and the way the stadium roared with outrage every time he touched the ball could not be helping his confidence any. His greatest contribution to their game consisted of a graceless slip in the penalty box that was blamed on the Dutch defense. Xabi Alonso took the shot, sending the Spaniards ahead 1-0.

That was their last lucky break.

That first Netherlands goal, with Van Persie soaring through the air in a graceful swan dive to send his header right over a stunned, still Iker, was a thing of beauty that Xavi couldn't help but appreciate.

He should have realized right then that they were in trouble, but a tie at halftime still left plenty of hope for triumph, despite the niggling voice in his head pointing out that their main striker had created essentially no chances aside from the slip that resulted in Xabi's penalty shot.

So it wasn't until Robben ran circles around Piqué and Ramos to sink the second shot that it dawned on Xavi that they could be due for a bloodbath.

Spain continued to struggle. The Dutch had perfected the most effective possible tactics against the smaller men of the Selección: sitting behind the ball, physically intimidating or fouling their opponents outright, and launching blistering counterattacks every time they managed to snag a stray pass.

Xavi was starting to get tired. They needed a true striker out there, someone with that killer instinct for goal, and Costa simply wasn't cutting it. But much to his dismay, when Costa and Xabi Alonso were finally pulled off, Del Bosque sent Torres and Pedro on in their places, leaving Villa to glower on the bench.

Shortly afterwards, all hell broke loose.

They conceded a free kick. Martins Indi and Van Persie smoothly sandwiched Iker in the center, blinding him and knocking him off balance. Meanwhile, De Vrij snuck the ball in at the far post, Azpi having failed to arrive in time to cover it.

That was the moment that Iker snapped.

Xavi saw it in his eyes and his posture as he sat sprawled on the ground, the rage, the terror, the helplessness. He knew instinctively that Iker had lost his head, that he could no longer be trusted to make the correct decisions, an intuition confirmed when Iker earned himself a caution by confronting the ref about the collision, his handsome face twisted in fury.

On sudden impulse, Xavi took advantage of the momentary distraction to jog over to Del Bosque on the sideline. He covered his mouth with his hand to shout, "Míster. You've got to get Iker out of there."

The Marquis' face was grey and sagging, the face of a bewildered old man. "Iker?" he repeated incredulously. "Don't be ridiculous. We've got one sub left. We need to reinforce our forward line."

"But, sir-" Xavi began, and then shut his mouth as his manager's mouth hardened. He made his way back to midfield, mortified by his own temerity. Who did he think he was, telling the manager what to do? Maybe all of those media pundits complaining about sacred cows in the dressing room were right.

But as the second half wore on, Xavi's worst fears were confirmed. Their defense had fallen apart, putting all of the weight squarely on Iker's hunched shoulders. In the 72nd minute, Xavi could only watch, horrified, as his captain received a pass awkwardly from Ramos, letting the ball bounce off his foot instead of trapping it. Swooping into the box after it, Van Persie switched directions without missing a beat. Their legs tangled in Iker's desperate slide, but even that couldn't keep the Dutchman from finding his balance and poking it just out of Piqué's reach and into the net.

Xavi groaned aloud, feeling Iker's humiliation like a physical pain. His friend's face was still and bleak as he stood and trudged slowly back towards the goal. Xavi could see their teammates on the bench looking away uncomfortably. No matter what happened after this, their golden era as the indisputable world champions was at an end.

He honestly didn't think that it could get much worse, but he was wrong.

Two minutes after Cesc came on for an exhausted and utterly demoralized David Silva, they lost possession deep in enemy territory. A long pass found Robben streaking down the middle with Ramos running flat out after him, hot on his heels. Iker backpedaled in haste, then visibly changed his mind and came back out, hoping to cut Robben off, but the tactic backfired; he slipped, sitting down abruptly on the grass, then struggled to regain his feet as the Dutchman dodged effortlessly around him.

Straggling behind, every bone and muscle aching with empathy, Xavi could only watch as Iker scrabbled around desperately in the grass while Robben lobbed the ball past his disorganized defenders and into the net.

He looked to Del Bosque, who had turned away, tight-lipped. Then he limped over to Iker, clasped the back of his neck, and pulled their foreheads together, Iker's sweat mingling with his. Iker was snuffling, blinking back tears of shame.

"I tried to get you subbed out after the third goal," Xavi confided in a low voice.

Iker jerked back, startled, and stared at him. "Joder. Why would you even say that to me?"

"Because," Xavi answered simply, "you are el puto amo, and you're about to prove that I was wrong."

He didn't miss the sudden set of determination that fixed Iker's features as he turned and walked away.

The last ten minutes were probably the longest of Xavi's life. Most of his teammates looked dead on their feet, even the more recent arrivals unable to create anything convincing. The defense was a shambles, with Ramos, Azpi, and Piqué unable to count on Xabi Alonso and Sergio stumbling around like an automaton.

They could have conceded two or three more goals, easily. But they didn't - thanks to Iker. His Iker, who seemed to have been newly infused with fighting spirit in the dying minutes of the match, who made save after magnificent save as the Dutch broke in relentless waves like barbarians at the gates.

Iker, who stalked off the pitch with a face of stone at the merciful end of the match, sidestepping teammates and media alike, before disappearing silently into the showers.

***

Xavi was in the bathroom brushing his teeth by the time that Iker dragged himself back to their room. Iker didn't even bother; Xavi found him in bed, sheets pulled half-over his chin, one arm flung up to shield his eyes from the overhead light. His clothes had been strewn untidily over the floor - a damning indictment of his state of mind if ever there was one. Xavi paused to pick them up, fold them and place them on top of Iker's suitcase before limping over to stand beside the bed.

When Iker didn't so much as acknowledge him, he rasped, "Scoot over."

"Not tonight," Iker muttered, burrowing further under the sheets, but Xavi squeezed into his bed and wrapped his arms around him anyway.

"This is not about sex," he informed Iker, pretending to be offended.

Iker closed his eyes and said shortly, "I don't need your pity."

Time for Plan B. "Yeah?" Xavi answered, voice muffled against Iker's ribs. "Well, guess what, maybe you're not the only one who could use some comfort around here tonight."

"Oh." Right on cue, Iker conceded, bringing his arm up to stroke Xavi's back. "Sorry."

"S'okay," Xavi said, nestling closer. He reflected that he should probably feel ashamed of himself for manipulating Iker in this fashion for his friend's own good. Yeah. He really, really should. In the meantime, he kept his mouth shut and waited. He could be a surprisingly patient man when circumstances required it.

Finally Iker ventured, "Did you... talk to the press?"

Xavi was startled into a short bark of laughter. "Yeah. Don't worry. I didn't say anything about the state of the pitch."

"I just meant, we have to take responsibility for the way things went down," Iker pointed out unnecessarily. "Otherwise we'd just look like petulant brats."

Xavi rolled his eyes in the dark, briefly wondering whose bright idea it had been to share this bed. "Good thing you aren't interested in sex tonight."

He could practically hear the lightbulb going on. "Pelopo-" Iker began apologetically.

"Mofeta," Xavi mimicked his tone, and sighed. "At least you're finally admitting that we were all at fault."

"If Víctor had been here-" Iker started to say, but Xavi snorted skeptically against his skin.

"If Víctor had been here," he interrupted, "they still would have scored at least three goals against us, and he'd be having a nervous breakdown in Andrés' room right now."

"So you admit it," Iker said softly, a telltale tremor in his voice. "I fucked up."

Xavi tightened his arms around him, willing Iker to stop being such a stubborn S.O.B., to let Xavi help him lay down this unbearably heavy burden of guilt. "Yes," he said in a low, fierce voice. "Yes, I saw you fuck up today. Know what else I saw? That you never gave up. That even after swallowing five goals, you made two spectacular saves that kept it from being six. That doesn't make you a loser," he husked. "It makes you a hero."

That did it. Iker started to bawl, his face crumpling, ugly sounds spilling out of his mouth. Xavi reacted immediately, hauling himself upright and sitting cross-legged against the headboard so that he could cradle Iker's head against his chest as he sobbed. He pressed a kiss to Iker's thinning hair, murmured soothingly against his scalp. "It's okay, cariño. Just let it all out."

They stayed like that, Xavi rocking Iker gently in his arms while he cried. Iker wrapped his arms around Xavi's waist and held on like a drowning man, smothering his wails against Xavi's chest. Xavi could feel the dampness spreading through his thin shirt, but he didn't mind. It had always been a privilege to win beside this man, and in a way, it was even more of a privilege to witness the private aftermath of his defeat.

It could have been minutes or hours before Iker finally gulped down the last of his tears, the shudders that had racked his body stilling as Xavi quietly stroked his hair. As Iker started to sniffle, he twisted, looking around for a box of tissues, and then cuddled his friend closer and said, resigned, "Eh, fuck it. Just blow your nose on my shirt, I'm sure there's mocos all over it already."

Iker complied noisily. Xavi took a clean corner of his t-shirt and used it to dab at Iker's swollen eyes, then peeled it off with a grimace and tossed it into a dark corner. "Never liked that one anyway." He scooted down in the bed, slung an arm across Iker's chest, and kissed him on the cheek. "You okay?"

Yeah," Iker answered, sounding slightly surprised and more than a little sleepy. His body was warm, solid, and relaxed against Xavi's bare skin.

Just as Xavi was sure that he was drifting off, Iker roused himself as if suddenly realizing something. "I don't remember seeing that shirt before."

Xavi huffed a small laugh into Iker's neck. "Well, from now on, we can just refer to it as your snotrag."

"Gross," Iker grimaced, already half asleep. Suddenly inspired, Xavi squeezed his arm, not wanting Iker to miss his next words.

"So... I won't be needing it again on this trip, will I, Capitán?"

"No," Iker mumbled, barely comprehensible. "Promise."

Iker was asleep in seconds, his soft snores ruffling Xavi's hair in a comforting, familiar rhythm. But Xavi - normally, as his sister Ariadna would say, an award-winning sleeper - stayed awake for what seemed like hours, keeping as still as he could while alternative line-ups and tactics paraded across the football pitch of his mind.

***

The next day's recovery training session was almost unbearably tense. Ramos, Geri, Azpi, and Jordi clearly blamed each other for their collective defensive debacle. Costa was obviously shaken by his unimpressive official debut as much as by the unexpectedly virulent hostility from his countrymen, and while most of his teammates tried to be encouraging, a few were making no secret of their disappointment. Juan Mata and David Villa, from the now enviable position of having been benchwarmers and thereby bearing no responsibility for the defeat, still looked sulky. As for Iker... well, he seemed to be holding himself together pretty well, all things considering, although his face was set and white, and his voice sounded strained.

Everyone sensed that big changes were inevitable. Cesc's announcement two days before had taken absolutely no one at Barcelona by surprise, even if they thought he was a fool to put himself under Mourinho's thumb. Looking around at his teammates, Xavi knew that this would be the last major international tournament for many of them. Villa had all but trumpeted this with his move to the MLS, while Torres, Xabi Alonso, and Xavi himself were being criticized roundly in the press as the old guard, the sacred cows, los pesos pesados who had refused to step aside for the good of the team.

Well, no more. Del Bosque might have managed to convince him to stay on two years ago, but Xavi would definitely be retiring officially from international duty in the immediate future. And as for his position at Barcelona...

As if reading his mind, just then David Villa jogged up to Xavi, his warm brown eyes uncharacteristically serious. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure," Xavi said, slinging his duffel bag over his shoulder. "¿Qué pasa?"

When David hesitated, he prompted, "Is this about your move to New York?"

"Yeah," his friend said, looking grateful for his guess. "I wanted to ask-"

Xavi put his arm around his shoulders. "Guaje. it's a big step, but... you don't need my approval. If you think it's the right decision, you have my full support, you know that."

David bit his lip; Xavi sensed that he was trying not to laugh. "Um, thanks. But that's not actually why I brought it up." He took a deep breath. "I wanted to ask... if you would consider coming too."

Xavi stopped dead in his tracks, letting his arm fall back to his side. "Why would you say that?" he hissed, eyes darting around to make sure that no one had overheard.

"Oh, come on," David cajoled. "It's not exactly a secret that you're thinking about leaving Barcelona. And Jesus, Xavi - Qatar of all places?"

"Like the MLS is such a glamorous football destination," Xavi snapped, then instantly regretted it as David's brows drew together. "Ah, shit. I'm sorry - I didn't mean-"

"Forget it," David muttered, turning away, but Xavi stopped him with a hand on his arm.

"Guaje. Look, it's just..." Xavi blew out his breath in frustration. "It's hard for me to talk about this, you know? It's upsetting just to think about it. It's different for me, you know? I've never played anywhere else."

"That's me, your friendly neighborhood mercenary," David said, but his tone had softened into wry self-deprecation.

"I'm just saying... no matter what, it would be a huge change." Xavi lowered his voice. "And what with la crisis... My family's business is floundering, and they would pay really well in Qatar. And part of me feels like... if I can't play for Barça, what difference does it make where I go?"

"It might matter to me, amigo," David said, staring at Xavi so intently that the heat of shame suffused his cheeks. "And I know that at least one New York City team has made you an offer. So just... think about it, okay?"

"I will," Xavi promised. David closed his hand over Xavi's and squeezed it with a curt nod before pulling away and picking up his pace to catch up with their teammates.

***

That night, Pepe Reina decided that an emergency team bonding session was in order. And clearly that called for caprinhas all around, the refreshing local drink that slid down like cool lime candy and then clawed its way, howling, out of your head in the morning. Xavi and Iker made the rounds, keeping an eye on everyone to make sure that they would all still be vertical for the next day's training session. They spelled each other for quick phone calls with their families, but really it was a two man job. There wasn't much time left before Chile.

Late in the evening, Nando managed to corner him alone at the bar as he was returning his empty glass.

"You know, Xavi, if you didn't want to... be with me while we're here, you could have just said so."

Xavi blinked, bewildered; at least one of them had apparently had more to drink than he'd thought. "I'm not sure what you're-"

"It's not just because you're married to Nuria, is it?" Nando said in a low voice.

"Well..." Xavi hesitated. He supposed that he should consider himself fortunate that it hadn't come up before. "Not exactly."

Torres' expression was somehow both troubled and triumphant. "So... how long have you and David been..."

"Wait, what?" Xavi frowned. "You mean... Villa? Joder," he hissed, "we're not, why would you even ask that?"

"I've seen you talking," Torres told him. "Today during practice, he took you aside..."

"Oh, that," Xavi recalled, relieved to have that cleared up. "Nando, we're friends. We were just talking about his transfer. You're seeing things that aren't even there."

He raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Am I?"

"Yes," Xavi said, suddenly feeling less sure of himself. He had come to know Nando as a particularly perceptive person, the kind who kept his eyes open and his mouth shut, and if he thought that David... He pushed that thought to the back of his mind; there were more important matters requiring his attention. "I'm telling you, there's nothing going on with David."

"If you say so."

"I do say so," Xavi insisted. "Besides, do you really think he'd take his eyes off of Silva long enough to notice anyone else?"

Torres gave him a look of pure disbelief. "That ended a year ago."

"What?" he frowned, feeling obscurely betrayed. "Are you sure?"

The taller man rolled his eyes. "Ask David if you don't believe me."

"Which one?"

"What difference does it make?" Torres drained his glass, set it down with a thump, and walked away. Xavi watched as he joined Juan Mata and Azpi at their table, wondering exactly when he'd managed to become so blind.

The party didn't stumble to a close until well after midnight despite the captains' best efforts (although it didn't help that Xabi Alonso was not exactly setting a good example and was awfully heavy to carry besides). By the time they'd seen the last of their teammates off to bed, they were too tired for more than a couple of kisses and a cuddle that meandered downward but never quite made it to full-fledged groping.

Tomorrow night, Xavi promised them both as he drifted off to sleep with Iker's arm wrapped warmly around his waist.

***

The next day was no better, hangovers not being well known for improving anyone's mood or precision. The squad was splintering into its component clubs again, Ramos looking past Piqué as if he weren't even there, Busi and Xabi Alonso bickering on the pitch, and Cesc trying and failing to fit in with Mata and Torres even though the first had already left Chelsea and the other would probably be lucky to last the summer. Xavi found himself biting his tongue as Del Bosque split the team for practice matches, making it clear that he was holding Xavi himself accountable for their 5-1 blowout - and that he had no clue how to solve their scoring problem.

To make matters even worse, David De Gea had sprained his ankle in training, which meant one fewer obstacle between Iker and the possibility of a second humiliating defeat. That only left Pepe Reina, who suddenly appeared to be very interested in avoiding Xavi's gaze. At one point, he caught sight of the Napoli keeper deep in conversation with Del Bosque. Shortly afterwards, Pepe and Iker switched colored bibs.

Everyone knew what that meant.

Iker was very quiet that night. For the first time in their long mutual career, Xavi saw dread etching the fine lines more deeply in his face. Unlike Xavi, Iker was a man of many superstitious habits, several of which he had ditched in the long dry months leading up to this tournament. He cut the sleeves of his jerseys, never wore the same jersey again after conceding a goal, touched the crossbar after his team scored. It seemed obvious that Iker was struggling in large part because he simply couldn't think of any ritual or offering with sufficient power to reverse their fortunes after a 5-1 defeat.

After two hours of failing to spark any kind of conversation on topics other than which jersey would work better, the black or the light blue, Xavi decided to switch tactics.

"Iker," he purred, stripping his shirt off and stretching out invitingly on his side, "didn't you know that it's super lucky to have sex with me before a big match?"

Iker only looked at him. "Did you really think that alluding to your misguided affair with another man was the best way to get me in the mood?"

"Um," Xavi stammered, chagrined. "Good point."

Iker sighed. "I'm sorry. That wasn't fair. We weren't even..."

"It's okay," Xavi told him. He shrugged back into his shirt and crossed the small gap to Iker's bed, sat down as the mattress squeaked. "Just tell me... how can I help?" With gentle fingers, he began kneading the back of Iker's neck.

Iker tensed up for a second, ticklish, then visibly relaxed. "Mmmm," he mumbled. "That's nice."

"Lie down on your stomach," Xavi suggested. "When's the last time I gave you a good massage?"

"A good massage?" Iker repeated, pretending to ponder even as he pulled his own shirt up and obediently lay prone on top of the sheets.

"Hey, if you don't want one..." Xavi threatened, straddling Iker's body and lightly smacking the back of his head.

"Kidding, kidding." Iker sucked in a breath as Xavi placed both hands just above his buttocks, then exhaled slowly as they slid up over his back.

Iker's skin was still so soft, so smooth, the generous smattering of freckles on his shoulders as familiar to Xavi as the fingers that circled them. He kept his strokes gentle, rhythmic, at first completely focused simply on soothing his friend, feeling the knots of tension melt almost magically under his hands. But as he continued to touch Iker, the warm scent of his skin surrounding him like a favorite cologne, he began to become aware that his own body, or at least one particular part of it, was anything but relaxed.

Xavi leaned forward and lowered his lips to the back of Iker's neck. Resisting the strong urge to grind himself against Iker's skin, he kissed him, slowly, moistly, and then traced his spine reverently with lips and tongue, each touch a gift as well as a promise.

When he reached the dimples just above Iker's buttocks, he paused and raised his head. "Iker?"

The only answer was a faint but unambiguous snore.

***

Their last day of training before they faced Chile was even more uncomfortable than the previous ones had been. Del Bosque seemed to have decided on his starting eleven, but it was not clear whether anyone felt happier to be on or off it. Everyone looked tense and strained, even the normally irrepressible Geri and Jordi. Club rivals and close friends alike found themselves loudly criticizing each other at every wide shot, every misplaced pass. Anything less than their best was not going to be enough.

Xavi had already resigned himself to starting, if not finishing, on the bench, but he felt strongly that some of Del Bosque's other selections had left something to be desired. His greatest concern was still their forward line; despite their obvious lack of firepower, el Míster had decided to start Costa and Silva again, this time with Pedro in place of an additional midfielder. Since he'd just watched Pedro shrink from shooting all season, Xavi really didn't think that this was the answer to their prayers. What really bothered him, though, was Costa's continuing poor form.

Back in the dressing room, Xavi took advantage of a quiet moment to sidle up to his manager.

"Míster," he began, trying hard to keep his tone respectful, "it seems to me that maybe we'd be better off with Villa in the starting line-up."

Del Bosque didn't visibly react, but his response was curt. "Costa has been magnificent all season."

"For whatever reason, he isn't meshing with our style of play," Xavi argued, forgetting to be discreet. "And we don't really need a tall center forward tomorrow. This is Chile for God's sake. The only team that has more bajitos than we do."

"Was that all?" his manager asked brusquely.

Xavi blinked. He knew that Del Bosque had been under a lot of pressure from the media since the match - they all had - but he was used to a more courteous reception from this gentle man. Perhaps he would be better off keeping his mouth shut.

But then again, he might not get another chance.

"You can't actually be planning to start Iker," he blurted.

Del Bosque frowned, not meeting his gaze. "I have no choice. De Gea isn't physically fit to play."


"And Pepe?" Xavi prompted.

Instead of answering, his manager murmured, "This is what Iker needs. An opportunity to redeem himself on the world stage."

"If we lose again," Xavi said, "they will crucify him."

Del Bosque finally turned to look at him, his usually mild expression stern. "Then we had better not lose, eh, Hernández?"

"Right," Xavi managed to say tightly. "Fine."

As he made his way to his locker, he noticed that Pepe was watching, his arms folded defensively in front of him. He wondered at the apprehension and self-consciousness evident in every rigid muscle.

Suddenly something clicked, and Xavi sucked in a breath. He spun on his heel and strode over to his teammate's locker.

"Did you tell Del Bosque that you didn't want to start tomorrow?" Xavi demanded.

Pepe flinched, even though he was a head taller and probably twenty kilos heavier. "Did you see what happened to Iker out there? What do you think?"

"What do I think?" Xavi's voice trembled involuntarily with rage. "I think that you're a big, fat coward who doesn't deserve to wear the uniform. That's what I think."

Pepe's jaw dropped, whether in shock or protest Xavi didn't wait around to find out. Still in his sweat-stained kit, he grabbed his duffel bag and slammed out of the locker room.

***

Word traveled fast. By the time Xavi had cooled off and returned to the room he shared with Iker, he was no longer welcome.

When he opened the door, Iker stepped forward and stood in front of him, arms folded, solid frame blocking his way in. "Is it true?"

"Is what true?" Xavi asked weakly, wishing he didn't already know.

"You really told el Míster to play Pepe instead of me?" He had never seen an expression of such intense betrayal on Iker's face, much less put one there. His heart sank into his shoes.

"I, um, didn't think that anyone else heard that conversation," he mumbled.

"Maybe not, but a lot of people heard what came next," Iker retorted.

"Cariño..." Xavi cautiously put a hand on Iker's arm. "I can explain. Please, let's talk about this inside."

"So it is true." Iker's lips trembled. "And all that stuff you said about proving you wrong... and me being a... a hero-" and here he almost spat the word "-was bullshit."

He tried one more time. "Can I come in?"

"You can go to hell." And Iker shut the door firmly in his face.

For a few seconds, Xavi could only stand there, stupefied. His brain seemed to have shut itself off. Then someone bumped his shoulder, and he turned to find himself face to face with David Villa.

"Hey," David said. "I was just looking for you."

"Here to defend Pepe's honor?" Xavi demanded bitterly. "I'm thinking pistols at dawn."

The corners of David's eyes crinkled in a sympathetic smile. "Hell no. When he told me he didn't want to get involved, I ripped him a new one. Didn't you see me yelling at him today?"

"God," Xavi sighed, sagging against the closed door and dragging a hand over his face. "What's happening to us, Guaje? Everything's falling apart."

"How's Iker doing?" David asked pointedly, jerking his chin towards Xavi's room.

"Not speaking to me," Xavi said. "Fuck." He pounded his thigh in frustration.

"Pepe threw me out, too," David confided with a conspiratorial smirk.

"Well, aren't we the pathetic pair."

David looked him up and down and appeared to arrive at a decision. "Buy you a drink?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

***

Thirty minutes later, they were sitting on adjacent bar stools, knees knocking companionably together every so often as they cradled the dregs of their wine.

Xavi had never been anything but a lightweight, so having his half of their bottle of Malbec under his belt was enough to make him loudly melancholy. "Joder, David," he moaned. "I knew that winning another World Cup wasn't going to be a walk in the park, but I never would have predicted this... this..."

"Descent into the balls-sucking depths of humiliation?" David suggested, slurring just a little.

Xavi pointed an unsteady finger at him. "You should have been out there with us."

"Gee, thanks."

"No, really," Xavi insisted. "Costa was useless. I would have subbed you on at halftime."

"Well, please don't mention it to el Míster, or he'll never play me again," David joked. Xavi's elbow jabbed him in the ribs, not hard. "Seriously. I know you're only trying to help, but knock that shit off right now."

Xavi swirled the last of the liquid in his glass and knocked it back, swallowed. "I tried to get him to sub Iker off during the match, too," he confessed.

David almost choked on his sip. "Seriously? No wonder you're sleeping on the sofa tonight."

He slumped forward, chin in hands. "I am an idiot," he said with feeling.

David put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close. "I was only teasing," he said soothingly.

"No, you're right, though," Xavi said, voice muffled. "I've been trying to help, but all I've done is make things worse."

"Xavi, it's gonna be okay," David reassured him. "Iker will get over it. It's not like it's the first time you've said something stupid during a major tournament."

"I knew there was a reason why I don't normally come to you with my problems."

David laughed and planted a conciliatory kiss on his cheek. His arm was warm and strong against Xavi's back, and as if that weren't enough, he smelled really good. Xavi leaned into him, pressing their knees together, and closed his eyes. Then he felt rather than heard David swallow hard, and suddenly Nando's suspicions rushed back to him. He jerked away with a gasp.

"Xavi?" David had dropped his arm; he looked confused.

"Sorry," Xavi stammered, wishing that he weren't half-tipsy, his brain blurred and his tongue clumsy in his mouth. "For a second there, I thought... I mean..."

"Yes?" His friend raised his eyebrows, which unfortunately only had the effect of making him look that much more flirtatious.

"Nando thinks you're in love with me," Xavi blurted.

For a second, David just stared at him.

Then, to Xavi's surprise and considerable embarrassment, he threw his head back and burst out laughing.

"David-" His friend lifted a finger, an unspoken plea for patience. He was clearly trying to stop, but every time he caught Xavi's eye, he laughed even harder, to the point where tears started trickling down his cheeks.

"Well," Xavi said after while, "hanging out with you is really doing wonders for my ego tonight."

"Sorry," David sputtered, swiping at his eyes. "Sorry. But why the hell-" He reconsidered. "No. Don't even tell me."

"He thinks you want me to follow you to New York," Xavi explained.

David coughed and thumped himself on the chest. "Well, duh. Of course I do. You're my friend. One of my favorite people, in fact." He started laughing again. "But that doesn't mean that I want to get up close and personal with your dick."

"And they say that romance is dead," Xavi observed sarcastically, but secretly he felt a strong sense of relief infiltrating his initial indignation.

David reached behind him again to squeeze his shoulder. "Come on, Casanova. Big day tomorrow. Not much time left for us to get a little groveling in before bedtime."

"As if," Xavid sniffed. "Pepe's probably forgotten all about it already. Iker, on the other hand, is one of the most stubborn motherfuckers we know."

"This," David told him, "is a good night to settle for second place."

***

When Xavi eased the door open, Iker was already in bed, his back to the door. He paused for a moment to consider. If Iker truly hadn't wanted to talk, he would have made himself scarce, maybe gone over to Pepe's room to play cards. Then again, there might be more than a little tension between the team's keepers at the moment... tension that he himself hadn't exactly done anything to dispel.

"Eh, fuck it," he said aloud, and crossed the floor to sit down on the edge of Iker's bed. His friend failed to stir, but Xavi could tell from the tension in his back that he was wide awake. Nevertheless, he played along.

"Iker," he whispered. "I know you can't hear me, but... I wanted to say that I'm sorry I upset you. You probably think I don't trust you to play for us tomorrow," he went on, placing his palm very gently between Iker's shoulder blades, "but that's not true. I just... I hate to see you taking on the whole team's burdens. You've had such a tough year, and then to be blamed for this..."

Xavi took a deep breath and began rubbing Iker's back, a long, slow, stroke firm against the pale, soft skin. "You're such an amazing player, and you still have many good years ahead of you. And it kills me to think that you could lose your confidence." His fingers lingered at the dimples framing the base of Iker's spine. "People can be very cruel to their heroes when they fall."

Iker rolled over and looked him in the eye. "We have to win tomorrow."

"Yes," Xavi agreed, letting his hand rest on Iker's belly just above his waistband. There was an interesting bulge beginning in Iker's briefs, but Xavi refused to allow his gaze to stray downwards, afraid that any sudden moves might break the fragile truce between them.

"But you don't think that we will." It wasn't a question.

"No," Xavi said honestly. "I don't."

Iker extended his arm, and Xavi stretched out and rested his head on it, fitting himself snugly against Iker's side. "What changed your mind?" Iker asked, almost idly.

"We're still the same team," Xavi explained, "that lost on Friday." He stared up at the ceiling. "El Míster has made changes, but they're not the right ones. I tried to warn him, but he won't listen to me. He can't afford to look weak."

"So I'll play tomorrow," Iker said. He entwined the fingers of his free hand with Xavi's and slid it down to cup himself through his briefs. "At least if we go down, we'll go down together."

"Oh, I'll be on the bench," Xavi told him. He felt like this realization should still make him angry, but by now it was just inescapable fact. "You can bet on it."

Iker turned his head to give him an incredulous look, then broke into a broad grin. "What? What?"

"That was supposed to be your cue to initiate make-up sex," Iker said dryly.

"Shit, really?" Xavi blinked, embarrassed, and twisted around to raise himself on his elbow.

Iker was smirking. "My use of the phrase go down together while touching myself didn't clue you in?"

"Uh-"

"Kiss me, dumbass," Iker suggested, and Xavi had to admit that this seemed like the best idea he'd heard all day. He craned his neck to comply, simultaneously squeezing Iker through his briefs so that he gasped, lips parting for Xavi's eager tongue. Iker arched his hips off the bed, pushing himself insistently against their linked hands, and moaned into Xavi's mouth.

The sound sent a surge of electricity tingling through Xavi's limbs; without a free hand, he resorted to rubbing himself against Iker's hip and heard his own breath hitch.

Iker broke the kiss abruptly. "Christ, Pelopo," he panted at the ceiling, "even when you drive me crazy, you-"

"Drive you crazy?" Xavi offered, nipping at his ear. Iker writhed in delight, pushing even more urgently against their hands.

"Ah... yeah..."

"Hmm," said Xavi somberly, pulling back on his elbow to gaze down at him, "Capitán, I think we have a problem."

"And that is?" Iker plainly meant for this to be a growl, but since Xavi gave him a particularly well-practiced squeeze at just the right moment, it came out as more of a squeak.

"We're wearing too many clothes," Xavi intoned.

Approximately two seconds later, Iker's briefs had joined Xavi's t-shirt and shorts on the floor, and they were sliding against each other, skin on sweaty skin. "How do you want this?" Xavi asked, voice already ragged with need.

Iker paused, then: "I want you to take over."

This wasn't uncommon, especially after a big loss for which Iker held himself largely responsible, although it had been a while since the last time. Xavi rummaged through his luggage for a couple of soft t-shirts to tie Iker's wrists to the bedframe, not too tightly. Then he knelt on the bed behind Iker, a little to one side, and spread him gently before slicking himself up with a little lotion.

"Iker," he said sternly, producing a loud smack with the flat of his palm. The outline of his hand bloomed white, then pink, on the pale skin.

"Yes, sir!" Iker yelped, jerking under the blow that had been little more than noise.

 "Are you in control here?" Another smack.

"No, sir!" Iker responded, practically panting with anticipation.

"Who is?" Smack.

"You are, sir!" He was so hard already, leaking a little onto the sheets, but Xavi was going to make him wait just a bit longer.

"And what am I going to do to you?" he asked, leaning forward to husk into Iker's ear. Smack.

Iker gulped, the flush starting in his cheeks but spreading over his entire face. "Whatever you want to... sir."

"And what could you possibly do to stop me?" Xavi whispered so that Iker strained to hear him. Smack.

"Absolutely nothing, sir!" Iker whimpered, shifting his hips almost imperceptibly.

That tiny movement was the signal Xavi had been waiting for. He eased his fingers in and out of Iker one last time to be sure, then sheathed himself, allowing a low moan of appreciation to escape his lips. He loved being with Iker, loved so many things about it, but this was it, his very favorite thing, not being able to tell where one ended and the other began. He began to thrust, at first slowly, then with increasing urgency, Iker rocking forward against the bedframe with a series of rhythmic grunts.

Once Xavi might have been distracted by the thought that this could be one of the last times, or even the last time, that they would ever enjoy this kind of intimacy. In fact, what with his imminent retirement from the Selección and likely departure from la Liga, it was a real possibility. But if he had learned anything from his short-lived affair with Nando, it was to center himself in the moment: There's only us. There's only this.

And this was Iker, whom he loved, in whom he was currently buried to the hilt, eliciting those low, wordless sounds... gradually escalating into open moans that went straight to Xavi's groin.

When he knew he wouldn't be able to hold out much longer in that sweet, tight heat, Xavi slid one hand from Iker's belly to his balls, caressing them just the way he liked. Only a couple of seconds of this before they twitched violently against his fingers as Iker gasped,

"Oh god - oh god-" and Xavi groaned gratefully as the contractions rippled around his cock and carried him right to the edge and over, pelvis juddering helplessly. His other arm clasped Iker hard against him, feeling his friend's heart hammer a dizzying drumbeat in his chest.

When it was over, Xavi eased out of Iker, both of them wincing a little, and rested his cheek briefly against the small of Iker's slick back.

"Cariño?" Iker said quietly. "Could you untie me? I'm getting a cramp."

Xavi smiled and complied, feeling almost drugged with satisfaction, his movements slow and clumsy.

Iker made a little show of rubbing his wrists but then gave Xavi a lopsided, goofy grin before excusing himself to go to the toilet.

Xavi allowed himself to flop forward onto the mattress, enjoying the warm lassitude that had suffused his limbs, and closed his eyes. It seemed as if Iker returned and poked him in the side almost immediately; he grumbled without real heat and shifted over a few inches. Iker lay down beside him, his heavy arm coming to rest across Xavi's shoulder blades.

"You really think that Chile can beat us?" Iker asked drowsily, just as Xavi was drifting off again.

"Oh, there's never been any question that they can," Xavi mused, too sleepy to try to be tactful. "The problem is that I actually believe that they will."

"You're a true master of the pep talk," Iker mumbled, and then he was asleep, arm twitching uneasily against Xavi's back.

"Thanks," Xavi whispered to no one in particular as he snuggled up to Iker's side. "I'll be here all night."

***

The next morning, Torres took Xavi aside at breakfast as he was pouring himself a cup of coffee, the striker's expression accusatory. "I saw you with David at the bar last night," he said in a low voice.

Xavi frowned, then figured it out. "Oh," he said. "Oh, no, Nando. It wasn't what you thought!"

"Really?" Torres responded, folding his arms. "Because - and please don't ask how I know, because I couldn't even tell you myself - but you definitely give off the vibe of a guy who's gotten some."

Xavi choked on his sip of coffee and started spluttering.

"I'm right, aren't I?" Torres asked, not sounding especially happy about it.

"Nando," Xavi said when he could speak again, "I told you, I'm not with David. Never was, never will be. It's Iker," and here he couldn't suppress a small smile of pleasure and pride.

"Iker," Nando repeated in a flat tone.

"Yeah. I'm sorry, I should have said something before..."

Nando held up his hand. "No. It's all right. You didn't owe me anything." He said this calmly enough, but Xavi could see that his arm was shaking slightly.

"Even if I didn't," Xavi told him, "I think you deserved an explanation." He sighed and scrubbed at his face. "It's just... kind of complicated." Understatement of the century.

"Is that why he wasn't at your wedding?" Nando asked quietly.

Xavi looked up at him, opened his mouth, then closed it, debating silently with himself. He decided, as usual, that honesty was the best policy. "No. But... it's why he was at my honeymoon."

Then he tried not to derive too much amusement from watching Nando's jaw drop. "You mean..."

"Let's just say that luckily our wives get along really... really... well," Xavi said, and patted Nando conspiratorially on the shoulder on the way back to his table.

Date: 2014-09-28 08:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elizaberglund.livejournal.com
OMG! This is briliant ... like all your fics but this one is exeptional tbh. I love snarky Xavi who cares a lot, who can make a joke about himself, can be honest and unpropriate and lovely the same time :) I loved him here ... and the sex!!!!! Wonderful! *hugs*

Date: 2014-09-29 12:11 am (UTC)
ext_471285: (Default)
From: [identity profile] flywoman.livejournal.com
I can't seem to stop writing Xavi - I just find his passion and humor and directness so compelling! So I'm really glad to hear that you enjoyed him as much as I did! (Also the sex. I was a little nervous about how that would go over, tbh.)

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Author Interview: Flywoman

Date: 2016-06-27 05:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] livejournal.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] house_what_if referenced to your post from Author Interview: Flywoman (http://housemd-what-if.livejournal.com/2029.html) saying: [...] "Orange Crush [...]

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