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"Excuse me," says a voice, "David Villa?"

He turns around to a red-headed girl wearing a Valencia jersey — which throws him enough that he replies, "," before remembering the English his agent had drilled into him over every long-distance flight these past two years, Barcelona to New York to Melbourne and back. "Ah, yes. Hello?"

"Hi. Yes, uh, hi," says the girl, and Villa thinks that maybe she's not a native speaker either. "Sorry to bother you. But. Could I get a picture? With you?"

Villa blinks. But all that media training wasn't for nothing. He puts on a PR-ready smile (his agent insists it looks more like a grimace, and Villa insists that the man can go fuck himself). "Sure. Of course."

There follows the usual awkward fifteen seconds of configuring the camera/iPhone/newfangled gadget to appropriately photograph one's face. The girl leans in — not too close, and he appreciates that, enough to make an attempt at a real smile.

"Thank you," she says. "And good luck at NYC. I'm a huge fan. Of you, I mean, not of the club — though, I mean, they're great."

Villa almost laughs a little bit, and the girl looks startled. He quickly schools his expression back to professionalism. "Thank you. Maybe you coming to some games, eh?"

"Yeah, of course." She gives him a bright smile. "Thanks. Sorry to bother you."

He returns her smile and starts walking away, but something makes him look back, just in time to see the girl duck down the nearest side street. She has her back turned to him, for a moment, before disappearing around the corner — and Villa finally notices the name printed on her shirt:

Silva
21

"You're in a good mood," is the first sentence out of Morientes' smirking mouth when Villa finally reaches the cafe. "The cradle-snatching scowl — is it a New York thing?"

"Fuck off."

"You're the one who invited me to coffee."

"Already regretting it," Villa says, pushing the door open.

Morientes follows him inside and looks meaningfully around at the large bay windows and airy cafe atmosphere. He's grinning like there's some joke written into the setting. "This is nice."

Villa frowns at him. "What do you mean?"

"It's a very nice cafe." They sit. Morientes picks up the menu. Adds, "What did you want it to mean?"

"I don't—" Villa catches himself. This old trick again. Morientes' grin grows wider; Villa scowls. "Why does it have to mean anything?"

"It doesn't, of course. Want to split a Nutella crepe?"

Right on cue, the waitress appears at his elbow. Morientes orders for them both. Villa cuts in ("No sweet, please") to save his coffee from whatever fancification had been requested between quick, smiling words.

"So," Morientes says after their drinks have arrived, "how's Silva?"

The coffee, stupidly American and therefore thoroughly overheated, scalds Villa's tongue. He sets it clattering down on the saucer.

"Too hot?" Morientes asks while Villa downs a glass of water.

Villa eyes the tiny jug of milk sitting by the sugar bowl. "Mm."

"You'll have to warn Silva about that." Morientes sips his espresso while Villa glares.

"Didn't your mother teach you it's rude to talk about people behind their backs?"

"I'm not talking about him," Morientes says blithely. "I'm talking about you."

"Excuse me?"

"The team got here yesterday, I read. Unless Marca have completely given up even the pretense of credibility and are just pulling rumor from internet forums now."

Villa picks up his coffee. Puts it down again. "They got in last night."

Morientes waits. "And?"

"He — said he'll be in touch." Villa picks up the steaming coffee cup and takes a gulp. It burns just below his threshold of pain.

He squints at the window. Mid-morning sun slants across their table. Thank God for climate control, because August in New York is enough to make a person believe in spontaneous combustion. Indoors, porcelain saucers and plastic carnations in a vase make summer almost idyllic.

Morientes says, "I'm getting a bit tired of this telenovela. No offense."

Villa turns his head slowly to stare at him. "What?"

Ten years ago, Morientes might have laughed at him, called him a stupid kid. Two years ago, he might have smiled a twisted smile, seeing himself in every story Villa told. Now, he doesn't even sigh.

"I'll admit there's a certain aesthetic to stoic suffering, but at some point even patience loses its virtue. You want to see him, then say so. Give him a call."

"I—" Villa sits back. "I just got a new phone."

"Ever heard of a thing called email?"

"It's not that simple."

"You put his name in the 'to' field—"

"Be serious." Villa doesn't raise his voice, but Morientes immediately clams up, irreverence giving way to wariness. "I didn't mean like—"

"No, no," Morientes interrupts. "Joking isn't going to solve anything. You're right."

Neither is passive-aggressiveness, Villa thinks privately. Morientes has retained all the wrong character influences from Madrid. "I just meant," he tries again, "I need a little time. To figure out what to say."

"In the email?"

"In general."

He meets Morientes' gaze, holds it level. They're both getting too old to be revisiting the same troubles year in, year out.

Morientes cracks a smile, as if reading Villa's thoughts. "All right," is all he says. He signals for the waitress again. "Think I'll have that crepe. Speak now if you want to get in on this."

 


 

Every few months, he would decide that they can't do this anymore. That he doesn't want to do this anymore. That he won't let Villa do this to him anymore, because what was once a teenage crush has gone beyond idol worship and lust into a full-blown bad idea. An idea that he should have let go of years ago, when Valencia was already behind and it had become increasingly clear that this would never work, would never have worked, will never work the way he might have daydreamed about, dumb kid that he was.

Except every few months, when international duty rolled around, he still found himself in Villa's bed and hating himself in the morning when he woke up and there was nothing, nothing but a mad scramble to get showered and get dressed and sneak downstairs to breakfast like nothing ever happened. Because nothing ever could.

Except it's over now, this time, for good. Villa has retired from international football and they will never go through this charade again. It's done. It's finished. It's 2015 and it is time to move on. His life is his own, and it is what it is.

Except.

"Hey, Silva!" Joe crosses from the front door to the taxi stand. "Where you off to?"

Silva, to his credit, doesn't bolt. He nods at Joe's greeting and replies, "Friends." He doesn't stumble over the word. "We have dinner, and — you know?"

"Right. Sure." Joe cranes his long neck out into the street. "Still waiting for a cab?"

"Yes." Silva tugs irritably at the collar of his windbreaker. Standard issue training gear was never standard for anybody of his height and build.

Joe gives him an odd look. "What you wearing that for?"

There's a pause.

"Later," Silva says slowly, "it is cold, no?"

"Later? How late you planning on staying out?" His joking tone falters at Silva's stony expression. "You all right, mate?"

"Yes. No," Silva says, "not very late. I, um." He watches a yellow taxi pull up slowly to the curb.

"Hey," Joe says, and Silva stops with his hand on the taxi door. "Don't worry about — later or whatever. Half of them's at clubs that don't ask questions, other half's wishing they'd gone themselves. You know?"

Silva stares at him. Joe shrugs, flaps a bit awkwardly, as if unsure of how to contort his stupidly-long limbs into some gesture of confidence. The taxi driver shouts something at him in English.

"Thank you," Silva manages, finally. Joe just waves him off, and stands there, watching, until the taxi turns a corner and Silva loses sight of him in the rear view mirror.

"Where to?" asks the driver in an impatiently long-suffering tone.

Silva pulls a piece of crumpled hotel stationery from his pocket, the address written on it in cheap blue ink.

He doesn't need to look at the piece of paper, really, if he's being honest with himself. He's looked at it so many times already, ever since that email came through with a date and a place and a message that might have held some semblance of affection and care. Another facade that Silva should have seen through long ago and given up on.

And yet.

 


 

The buzzer sounds, and Villa wipes his hands once, twice on his jeans before he trusts himself to answer with a calm, "Hello?"

The word sounds practically strangled, even to his own ears.

"Hey," says a voice, in Spanish, in tones still so familiar that it makes Villa's palms sweat all over again. "It's me."

"Right. Yes. Hi. Um. Come on up." He cuts the call before his goddamned mouth can run away any more with the last shreds of his dignity, and angrily jabs the button to open the front door.

A minute later, there's a soft knock at the door. He opens it to Silva leaning casually against the frame, windbreaker hanging open and loose and one foot hooked behind the other in a pose that really should have stopped working for him at age eighteen except it didn't, and whatever words Villa might have thought up (prepared, edited, reworked and recited) evaporate along with every last drop of moisture in his mouth.

Silva looks up at him through his lashes. "Hey."

Villa pulls him inside.

 


 

In the morning he wakes up to sun in his eyes and an empty space beside him in the king-sized bed. He stares across the pillows toward the window, view unobstructed by tufty black hair or horrible morning breath. Not that he'd know, anyhow, what either of those feels like.

Silva gets up. Picks up his clothes. Gets dressed.

He tries not to look around. The bedroom walls are white and blank, the entire apartment hideously sterile for a place that's supposedly been inhabited for the better part of a year. More hotel than home.

He steps into his shoes, moves quietly through the living room, past the kitchen with its gleaming marble countertops where Villa is—

Where Villa is scowling at a miniature herb garden nestled beneath the window, as if the tiny sprig of basil had maliciously and colorfully slandered his mother's family name. There's a frying pan on the stove, a saucepan on the counter, a bowl and a whisk and six smooth, white eggs in their unbroken shells.

Villa looks up before Silva can overcome the immobility that's arrested his feet on the hardwood floor.

"Morning," says Villa, followed by, "Coffee?"

"I," Silva attempts. "I thought— I can get something on the way back."

"Oh." Villa frowns at the basil again. "I was going to make eggs."

"You don't have to." It comes out almost like a question. And Silva is pretty sure what he meant to say was, You don't want to.

Villa sighs. "Yeah. No."

He sounds relieved, and of course, Silva expected this, because this is normal. Villa doesn't make him breakfast, Silva doesn't stay, and neither of them ask why not because this is how it is, and Villa doesn't say things like—

"There's a cafe right around the corner. Probably better than what I could make."

 


 

Silva excuses himself to use the restroom before they go. Villa puts away the pots and pans, and silently curses Morientes again for making him buy an herb garden when he knew full well that Villa can't tell the difference between thyme and tamarind sauce.

They walk to the cafe with the plastic carnations and sunlit windows.

He orders toast and two iced coffees, shrugs at the odd look that Silva gives him. "Americans think molten lava is an appropriate temperature for drinks."

Silva doesn't disagree, and also doesn't comment when their food arrives. Villa wonders if Silva prefers hot coffee. He's about to ask when Silva says,

"It's kind of disgraceful, how nobody outside Spain knows how to make a good cortado."

Villa almost laughs. "I don't know how you survive in Manchester."

Silva grins into his cup. "I drink tea."

"You've gone native."

"Well, I have been there five years," Silva says, and the smile slips from his face.

Villa takes another bite of toast, butter and salt tasting sticky against his gums. He's not good at this part, though he knows this is the part where he's supposed to put the smile back on Silva's lips, where it belongs.

He pays for breakfast and walks Silva to the taxi stand. The sun is high in a colorless New York sky, making him squint when he looks up beyond the heat hazing over asphalt and indifferent buildings made almost warm by summertime. Silva stands two feet away from him, windbreaker draped in the crook of one elbow.

There's something sad about the way his thumbs hook into his jeans pockets, hands empty of anything else to hold.

"I'd like to see you again," Villa blurts. "While you're here. If you have time."

Silva looks at him, that odd expression again. And despite whatever protestations Morientes might have on the matter, Villa is socially aware enough to see that Silva has been uncomfortable ever since they left the apartment. The cafe is a discreet place. But Villa supposes that — well, there is a difference, of course there's a difference, when you're still a Spanish international playing for a club like Manchester City in the biggest league in the world.

Silva says, "Maybe we shouldn't."

Villa schools his expression blank. "We don't have to — I mean, if it makes you uncomfortable. We can skip breakfast. Next time."

The odd expression disappears from Silva's face, replaced by something totally unreadable. A yellow taxi pulls up to the curb.

"Yeah," says Silva, moving toward the door. It doesn't sound like assent. "I'll let you know."

Villa stands there and watches the car disappear into the viscous flow of midday traffic.

He goes back to his apartment and calls Morientes.

 


 

"Seriously?"

"Go fuck yourself."

"I think that's what you'll be doing for the foreseeable future without my help. I mean, seriously?"

Villa pinches the bridge of his nose. "What do you want from me, Morientes?"

"The real question is, how are you this incompetent?"

"I offered," Villa grouches, "to make him breakfast. And he seemed uncomfortable. So I took him to a cafe. So we wouldn't get food poisoning or, I don't know, die from the poisonous plants you're making me grow—"

"I'm not making you grow anything—"

"—which is fucking idiotic, just like—"

"—but Silva, on the other hand—"

"—calling it a relationship when even coffee is this weird."

There's a sudden, static silence.

"What did you just say?"

Villa wishes it were possible to punch somebody over the phone. "I said, it was weird. He seemed uncomfortable."

"What did you say to him?"

"That I'd like to see him again," Villa grits through clenched teeth. "That we didn't have to — do breakfast, like that, again. Since obviously he didn't want to. So I guess we're back to the usual, except he plays in Manchester and I'm retired."

"You play in MLS, and you're an idiot."

"Same thing."

"I agree. All of the above being synonymous to mother of God, you asshole, how does he even still talk to you? Much less answer your booty calls?"

"I don't — that is not what this is!"

"Don't think he can tell the difference. Seriously, Villa? 'We don't have to do breakfast'?"

"He clearly didn't want to be there."

"Maybe he's not used to you acting like a functional human being with actual emotions. Have you ever made him breakfast before?"

It wasn't like that before, Villa starts to snap, and then realizes — "No."

Morientes waits patiently while the epiphany sorts itself out.

"He thought I meant," Villa says slowly, "that I don't — want to have breakfast. With him. Ever."

"So you should probably—"

"I should learn to cook."

"—talk to him." A muffled sentence that might have been an expletive or Morientes covering the phone to talk to a secretary. "You do know you should talk to him, right? I don't have to explain that part?"

"Fuck off," Villa snaps reflexively. "Thought you'd be more sympathetic. Or have better advice. Since."

"Since what?" Morientes sounds distracted. Suddenly, Villa can hear papers shuffling and fingers clattering over a keyboard, lightning fast. Trust Morientes to be carrying on an intimate and potentially incriminating phone conversation at the office.

"Since you've clearly got it figured out. Forget it."

"Your sarcasm is an endless source of wit."

"Tell your better half I said hi."

A beat.

"As you are aware," Morientes says, "I am in New York on business. And I'm late for a meeting. A pleasure talking to you, as always."

The line goes dead before Villa can think of an appropriate retort.

 


 

He kicks a football around the apartment, juggling it from the front door to the bedroom and back. He keeps count in the back of his mind, and gets to eighty-seven before the kitchen window narrowly avoids a premature death by Puma.

He turns on the stove, plucks a bit of the goddamned basil and cooks an omelette that almost spills over the edges of the pan. He tries to flip it too early and ends with a mountainous pile of scrambled eggs. He puts the whole thing, uneaten, in the fridge.

He sorts through the mail on his coffee table. He lines up his shoes by the door. Halfway through wiping down the bathroom sink, Villa catches sight of himself in the mirror and — yeah, okay, this is ridiculous.

The phone rings for what feels like hours. He's half-expecting voicemail when it finally stops, and a voice says,

"Hello?"

"Hi. It's me." He stares at the far wall, back straight and eyes unseeing, like lining up before kickoff. Only, here, he's on his own. He breathes. "Can we talk?"

"I— Villa?" Silva says, like he's not quite sure who he's talking to.

"Do you have some time later? Tonight?" Villa glances quickly at his phone. The reception in his building is shit.

Silva doesn't answer immediately. Then, "I have to go meet the rest of the team. We're leaving soon. We have a match tomorrow—"

"—in Philadelphia," Villa finishes for him, because he knew. He knew, but he forgot. Fuck.

"Yeah." Silva breathes too quietly to classify it as a sigh, but. "Don't really have time."

"Right. Yes, of course."

"Another time."

"Yeah," Villa says, automatic. "I'll call you."

Silva hangs up first.

Villa holds the phone for two, three minutes, the jumbled thoughts in his head refusing to sort themselves into any semblance of sanity because they keep getting stuck on Philadelphia, like some snag in a zipper that just won't come undone.

Philadelphia, and the fact that Silva sounded like the last thing he wanted was to see Villa again.

"God dammit," he growls under his breath, stomps over to his laptop and starts looking up train tickets.

 


 

It's past nine by the time he finally arrives at the lavishly appointed hotel where the Manchester City team are staying, a gaudy eyesore in the middle of the general eyesore that is Philadelphia. It occurs to Villa that he might have gone a little native, himself.

They've both been away from Valencia far too long.

He walks into a disturbingly empty lobby and realizes two things: 1) it's possible that the team are out on some bonding/sponsor/tourist excursion, and 2) the floor-to-ceiling windows are practically inviting tabloid photographers to take a snap of DAVID VILLA, NYCFC "PLAYER" OF THE YEAR? or some similarly obnoxious lie. Though — and he has to remind himself — it's more likely to be bloggers than actual tabloid people, here.

He has his phone halfway to his ear and is considering waiting somewhere more sheltered, like behind a convenient potted tree, when an elevator dings. Villa has a moment of déjà vu so strong it can only be blamed on too many cheesy movies inflicted on him by long acquaintance with Pepe Reina, and out from the sliding steel doors steps—

"Villa?"

—Joe Hart. Who's wearing what appears to be pajamas and a pair of beach sandals. And is walking over to Villa.

"Shit, it is you," Joe says, as if they know each other well enough to be starting conversations like this. "What you doing in Philadelphia?"

"Visiting," Villa replies, because half the retorts he can think of don't translate well into English, and also because it's true.

Joe raises both eyebrows like Villa's just said something incredibly insightful. "Right. Right. Well, I didn't see you if you didn't see me." He nods toward the elevators. "Silva's in 801, if he didn't already say. Some rooming mix-up earlier."

Villa stares at him.

Joe takes the stony silence with remarkable grace. "Anyway. Maybe you can come to Manchester next summer, huh?" He gives Villa a conspiratorial grin. And leaves.

It takes Villa too long to unstick his feet and walk to the elevators. He presses the button for the right floor on auto pilot, his feet taking him down twisting corridors until he reaches a brass plate that reads 801.

He's still holding his phone.

He presses call.

Silva picks up on the fifth ring. "Hello?"

"I think I'm standing outside your room," Villa says.

The silence is deafening.

The door opens, just a crack, just enough that he can see Silva's face. He lowers his phone; Silva does the same.

"What are you doing here?"

"I ran into Joe Hart in the lobby. He said — why did he tell me your room number?"

"He—" Silva cuts himself off. Looks up and down the corridor. "You better come inside."

He stands back to let Villa past, then closes the door and locks it, bolt and chain.

"Some of the guys," Silva explains, "they get into the habit of bothering people."

"Joe Hart?" Villa asks.

"Snuck out for a cigarette. Probably why you ran into him." Silva stands in the entranceway, hands in his pockets again. He makes no move to relocate himself and, by extension, Villa. They stand and look at each other, half a body's distance between them and Silva almost in shadow, oddly vulnerable. "Why are you here?"

"I wanted to see you," Villa says. Silva's whole face goes blank, shuttered closed, and Villa remembers — "To talk to you. Not — look, I said some things earlier that were. Stupid. In retrospect. I didn't mean what it sounded like I meant."

"What did you mean?" Silva's expression doesn't change.

"I meant—" This all made more sense inside his head. "I don't want you to just leave. I thought the cafe made you uncomfortable because other people were there, but Joe Hart just gave me your room number, so that's — I don't know. But I'm not saying whatever you think I'm saying."

"I'm not sure I know what I think you're saying."

"You do," Villa protests. Or. Well. He frowns. "You should. I was — I had a better speech planned yesterday."

"You planned a speech?"

"When I asked you over." Villa resists the urge to examine the wallpaper. "I had this planned. But you showed up all — like that, and. Well."

"I'm still stuck on the part where you planned a speech. You."

"I did."

"Why?"

"Because you should stay." The carpet is more fascinating than the wallpaper. "You know. If you want."

"If I want what?"

"You know what I mean."

And Silva — Silva laughs. Not the laugh that means you just said something both horribly inappropriate but oddly insightful, nor the unassuming laugh that fills up gaps in conversation, accompanied by just a sliver of a smile. Villa hasn't heard this one before. He looks up. Silva isn't even looking at him.

"Of all the people who might reasonably assume that their intentions don't require explanation," Silva says, "you are not even close to being one of them."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means why are you here, because I have a match tomorrow and if Joe saw you coming in then there's a very reasonable chance somebody else will see you going out! So do you want to tell me what the fuck you're doing, exactly?"

"I just told you!"

"You don't realize how confusing you are all the time, do you?"

"If even Morientes can figure this out then it should be obvious—"

"What's Morientes got to do with—"

"—I was going to make you breakfast! And I'm a shit cook, I know, but that's because you've never stayed so I never learned except I want to, so it'd be nice to know if you wanted that, too!"

And Villa has never understood how silence could ring, but it's ringing now. Silva is staring at him, which is good. Probably. Except for the part where Villa feels like he can't breathe. Apparently Philadelphia has shitty air as well as shitty everything else.

Finally, Silva says,

"Sit down."

"What?"

"Sit down. In the chair." Silva brushes past him.

His head feels thick and stupid. "Why?"

"I need a drink."

 


 

He sits in the chair. The generic hotel glass with a finger of generically overpriced whiskey sits on the table, sweating onto dark polished wood. He shouldn't have put ice in it. He shouldn't have accepted the drink in the first place, except Silva had lined up the bottles from the minibar and told him, "Pick one."

The ice is nearly gone when Silva says, "You're a dick, you know that?"

Villa lifts the glass and wipes the table with his sleeve.

"Who the hell just rolls up to Philadelphia and says that?" Silva doesn't even sound angry, more — philosophical. The bottle of tequila also sounds empty when he puts it down. "After nine years. Do you know how long nine years is?"

Villa opens his mouth to say that's redundant, except apparently that was rhetorical because Silva continues,

"Every year. Every time I saw you. And that was just in Valencia, when I did actually see you instead of waiting around on international breaks, telling myself that we're not doing this anymore. But then you come around and it's the same thing all over again. Nine fucking years."

The empty bottle clatters into the trash.

"I don't know what you want me to say," Villa manages, as the silence goes on and on.

Silva rounds on him. "How about what suddenly changed? How about that? Nine years, and suddenly you're taking a page out of whatever sappy movie Pepe last made you watch and decide to come tell me this shit, and I should just, what? Make out with you while fireworks go off outside the window?"

"Nothing's changed!" Villa rethinks that sentence almost before he's finished uttering the syllables. "But I'm trying, because obviously this wasn't working if that's what you thought I was doing."

"What was I supposed to think? No, really, explain this to me, Villa, because fucking as often as talking and then radio silence for the rest of our lives isn't exactly my idea of a relationship!"

And that's — that's not true, is all Villa can think, as he hears himself say, "I've always cared about you."

"Right," says Silva, with a tone that speaks the opposite. "Because that explains everything."

"I know it doesn't." Silva still won't look at him, and Villa quashes the urge to walk over and shake him if only to get his attention. He gets the feeling that the last thing Silva wants right now is to be touched. By him. And that's all wrong. "I should have said something before. But before — you know what I'm like. I don't know how to do this. I just assumed you did."

"Obviously not," Silva mutters, "seeing as, of all people, I decided to go for you."

Exactly, Villa starts to say, except — hang on. "What do you mean 'of all people'?"

Silva makes a strangled kind of sound. "Are you fucking kidding me right now?"

"You were seeing other people?"

"Of course not! I should have, and I would have, except I was always too busy trying to get over you."

The flush that had been creeping up Villa's neck fades with a sudden chill down his spine. Silva turns and walks away to the window. The glass is mirror-black. The only thing he can hear is Silva's breathing, stuttering a little, like on a cold winter's morning at the training grounds. He'd almost forgotten the sound.

He stands up. "Did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Because I didn't."

Villa takes a half step toward their reflections. Silva watches him, doesn't speak, doesn't bolt. Which — he can understand that. For now. He stops one pace away, close enough to touch but doesn't.

"Nine years was also a long time for me," says Villa.

"So why didn't you do something about it?"

"Because I'm an idiot. Apparently."

"Yeah," Silva whispers. "Apparently."

Villa doesn't stop himself, this time. His fingers curl around Silva's wrist. It feels so familiar and so strange, this touch — like when he would pull Silva through open doorways or push him against blank walls or down, on carpeted floors and stained white sheets. It's not that he didn't mean any of that, because he did. But Silva never knew, apparently, that what he also meant was this.

He laces their fingers together until he can feel every heartbeat knotted in both their wrists.

Silva looks at him, eyes flickering over his lips. Villa turns his head enough to make it clear what he means when he leans in. Silva's nose bumps against his neck. Then his hand creeps over Villa's back, brushing over the place where the number 7 would have been printed, years ago.

It shouldn't have taken him this long to recognize the feeling.

"I think," Silva says, seconds — minutes, hours — later, "I need some time. To think about this. Alone."

He pushes at Villa's shoulders until Villa reluctantly lets him go. "If you need me to leave."

"No." Silva glances at him, then looks away. "But I know I don't make good decisions when you're around. Not right now."

"Right." Villa sticks his hands in his pockets. "Okay."

Silva breathes, nods slightly to himself. "Yeah. Where are you staying? I can come by tomorrow before the match."

"Right." Villa clears his throat. "Well, I'll, uh. Let you know when I find out?"

A pause.

"What do you mean," Silva says slowly, "when you find out?"

 


 

The thing is, Silva can easily believe that it genuinely hadn't occurred to Villa to book accommodations in addition to the first train ticket out of New York. It doesn't make it any easier to acknowledge that there's a perfectly good sofa in his hotel room, extra sheets and enough pillows to make an adult-sized fort.

Villa, to his credit, seems to understand that the situation isn't ideal.

"I can go," Villa says for maybe the third time in as many minutes, "if this — if you're uncomfortable."

Silva tosses a pillow at the sofa. "It's fine."

"You don't seem fine."

Another pillow goes sailing his way. Villa catches it before it hits him in the face. Silva sits down at the foot of the bed, suddenly tired. He can't explain why, exactly, because any reason he might have had before seems empty now, but the lived experience of nine years was never going to be exorcised by one conversation, one night.

He doesn't look at Villa when he says,

"I hate the feeling of being in a hotel room with you."

There's no response to that, except the awkward shifting of cloth as Villa puts down the pillow and adjusts the blanket spread over the sofa. In a way, it's better.

He pulls on a jumper, because the AC in America is permanently stuck on arctic, and turns off the lamps one by one. In the dark, he listens to Villa shift around. He lies huddled under the covers of a too-wide bed, and doesn't offer to switch, or ask Villa to join him.

They both know the sound of the other falling asleep.

"Are you still awake?" Villa whispers into the silence.

"I have training at nine."

"Right."

He listens to the creak of sofa cushions, the AC humming in the vents.

"Do you want to get coffee before?" Villa asks. "Or — if they provide breakfast, I guess—"

"Yeah," Silva says, almost too soft to hear over rustling sheets. "I'd like that."

"Right. Okay, great."

"Go to sleep, Villa."

"Yeah. I mean. Good night."

"Night."

Silva nods off, eventually, to the sound of Villa still shifting awake, and wakes up before his alarm. Villa is still completely unconscious, one foot propped up on the sofa arm and head nestled at an angle that will definitely leave him with neck pain for the rest of the day.

He frowns even in his sleep, which shouldn't surprise Silva.

And maybe, someday, it won't.

The hotel stationery is overwrought with curlicues and the accompanying pen is a plastic piece of shit. He leaves the note in Villa's shoe, before slipping the DO NOT DISTURB sign on his door and heading downstairs.


let's get dinner instead. i'll be back at eight.
you can buy me coffee some other time.

 


 

Villa picks up on only the second ring, which means something is definitely up.

"Hey," says Fernando. "Want to meet up for coffee tomorrow? My flight's at two."

A pause. "Aren't you in New York on business?"

"All work and no play makes for a really long fucking day."

"Fuck off."

"How about nine?"

"Can't."

"Ten?"

"No," says Villa. He clears his throat. "No, uh. I'm actually in Philadelphia. For the weekend."

Fernando lets the pause linger. "Do I want to ask why?"

"I know you're going to, because you're a six-year-old girl." Villa's bitchface is practically audible.

"And I know you're going to tell me, because you're a five-year-old girl, so why don't we skip the formalities?"

He half-expects Villa to hang up on him, but instead of a dial tone—

"I owe Silva coffee."

—which, well. Well, well, well. Fernando doesn't even bother stifling a laugh. "Good luck with that."

"I'm hanging up."

"I'm here all night if you need any advice."

Villa hangs up. Fernando grins at his phone, watches the screen go dark. He slips it into his jacket pocket. Straightens his tie, glances down the hall at the conference room with its glass doors and floor-to-ceiling city view.

The man sitting with his back to the door turns when he walks in. Fernando puts on his best professional smile.

"Hello, Raúl."

 


 

DAVID VILLA: "I CAN PLAY FOR MANCHESTER CITY" | LA ROJA USA | NEWS ROUNDUP
12 August 2015, 5:32 p.m.

NYCFC superstar striker and ex-Spain international David Villa has revealed that he would like to make a return to European soccer at the highest level, if given a chance by EPL giants Manchester City.

Villa, 33, is Spain's all-time leading goalscorer with 9 World Cup goals and an unparalleled goals-to-games ratio. The Asturian native retired from international soccer last summer, following Spain's early exit from the 2014 World Cup.

However, it would seem that the prolific striker has not hung up his European dreams. When asked whether he could see himself playing for Manchester City, Villa's answer was a quick affirmative.

"If [Manchester City] asked, yes," Villa told the press. "So I am 33. Lampard was 36 last year. Some things, you have to fight for, and I still have the desire. So yes, if they asked."

NYCFC teammate Frank Lampard enjoyed a highly successful spell with Manchester City last season. Rival RBNY legend Thierry Henry also made a brief return to Arsenal FC in 2012. This trend could continue with Villa, whose timeless class could be just what Manchester City need to bolster their title bid.

Other La Liga Talking Points:

▪ After a rumor-filled summer, Valencia CF have secured Juan Mata on a one-year loan for an undisclosed fee, with an option to buy.

▪ Las Palmas will navigate their first season back in La Liga without Juan Carlos Valeron, who officially announced his retirement on Tuesday.

▪ Former Real Madrid and national team captain Raul Gonzalez makes his long-anticipated return to the Spanish capital this fall, having accepted the position of sporting director at his childhood club.