Victor was already sitting on the bench when the coach finally pulled Andres off in the sixty-somethingth minute, and despite all the players squashed into the technical area there was plenty of space to either side of him. Andres decided that a shower could wait. “Stop sulking,” he said lightly as he dropped down beside him. “It’s Brazil.”
“Two goals,” Victor muttered, refusing to look up. “Two fucking goals, in one half.”
Andres sighed and grabbed for one of Victor’s hands so he could start unwrapping the protective tape; Victor let him, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. “Yeah, and I played like total shit on my debut in front of god and country and Pep Guardiola, but you don’t see me sitting here trying to glare the pitch into flames.”
“You didn’t -- “ Victor protested, predictably coming to life at that. Andres raised an eyebrow. “I mean,” he finally muttered, subsiding back to the bench with a frown. “You weren’t that bad.”
“I know you didn’t have the best view of the rest of the pitch, but trust me, the kid from Arsenal is already doing better than I was,” Andres said firmly. “Other hand, please.”
Victor obediently stretched his right arm across his chest so that Andres could fiddle with the tape on his fingers, but he kept his eyes on the field instead of looking back at him. A few seconds later Gerard scored, which Andres, concentrating on peeling off the last sticky bits of tape without taking all of the hair on Victor’s arm with them, only registered when the bench erupted around them. Victor just grunted.
“At least we’re on the scoreboard,” Andres offered, more to prod at Victor than anything else. He wasn’t happy to be losing 4-1, even in a friendly, even to Brazil; he was a footballer too. But Victor had already forgotten, he thought, how to watch a game from the bench. Victor played no matter what formation the míster was trying or which players wanted more minutes, and the view was different between the goalposts.
“What do you know, it’s not even your country,” Victor snapped, and then looked like he wanted to bite off his tongue. His entire face flooded with red. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I didn’t -- you know I didn’t mean it.”
“It’s okay,” Andres said. “It’s true.”
“It’s not,” Victor said. He didn’t specify which part of Andres’ statement he was negating, and he seemed willing to let it drop after that. The arm he put around Andres’ shoulders felt almost tentative, not as heavy as it would be if he let the full weight of it drop, so Andres elbowed him in the ribs. “Ow, motherfucker, do you have razors up your sleeves,” Victor complained, and relaxed. Andres leaned his head against Victor’s shoulder and watched Sergi Garcia pull the score to an almost respectable 2-4, before Baptista put the nail in the coffin two minutes later and finally the whistle put an end to their embarrassment.
“You’re driving tonight,” Andres said as they filed down the tunnel to the changing room. Victor threw a startled look down at him, but he got dragged off for some sort of post-match goalkeeper ritual with Toni before he could reply. He didn’t blink when he finally escaped their teammates and the swarming reporters to find Andres waiting by his car, though, and his footsteps were perfectly steady despite the fact that in Andres’ experience post-match goalkeeper rituals after a loss involved a lot of commiseratory alcohol.
They were already halfway out of the city before Victor said anything. “My place, right?” Andres hummed in agreement and went back to dozing against the window. It was a nice drive, especially at night, but he’d seen it plenty of times before and would see it plenty of times again. Victor drove in silence, not even the radio on for company, and let him nap.
Andres couldn’t have said what it was that woke him: something brushing over his face, or maybe dreaming of it; maybe the lack of motion; maybe it was only that his body remembered the length of the drive to Victor’s house, and knew that they had arrived. He opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was Victor’s hands resting on the steering wheel, enormous and relaxed and safe. “Sorry,” he said around a yawn, then unbuckled his seatbelt and stretched a little; he’d twisted away from the window in his sleep, and his neck was paying the price. “You could’ve shaken me, you know.”
“We just got here, anyway.” Victor shrugged, pocketed his keys and opened the car door. “You coming up, then?”
Andres followed Victor up to the house, waiting patiently for him to lock the door behind them before he stood up on his tiptoes to press his mouth to the corner of Victor’s. Victor allowed the kiss for a moment but didn’t return it, and then he gently pushed Andres away. “Do you want a drink?” he asked over his shoulder as he headed toward the kitchen.
“I’m pretty sure you know what I want,” Andres said, irritation beginning to wear away at his calm exterior. He didn’t like to lose, and he liked being treated like a child even less -- especially when Victor was the one being childish.
Victor emerged from the kitchen holding an open bottle of water; he took a swig and then held it out to Andres, running his other hand through his hair in an unaccountably nervous gesture. “Yeah, well. I’m pretty sure that I don’t deserve a reward for playing like I did tonight.”
Andres stared: Victor was serious. “Who said anything about a reward, asshole? For all you know it’s a punishment. For that matter, if you’re that set on it you should be the one punishing me, I played worse than you did.”
“That’s not -- I didn’t -- Andres!” Victor finally burst out, his face going red. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?”
“I just -- “ Victor put down the water bottle, apparently so he could dedicate both hands to raking through his hair. “We only -- when we win. You know that.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” Andres retorted.
“I know, but -- “
“I don’t -- I don’t like the way I get when we lose,” Victor said, with some difficulty. “I’m better but I’m still not -- good. And you’re -- I don’t want -- it’s not how I want to be when I’m with you.”
“I’m not a kid anymore and your martyr complex is unattractive,” Andres said briskly. “Shut the fuck up and stop trying to protect me from yourself. You think I like it when we lose? Just because I don’t go off and brood in a corner doesn’t mean I can’t be a bastard.”
“You could never, Andresito.” Victor’s smile flickered a little, but it was real.
“Stop it,” Andres said, more serious than either of them had expected him to be. “I’m not perfect, all right? If you don’t quit pretending I am, one of these days you’re not even going to recognize the person you see when you look at me.”
This time Victor’s smile caught, lighting up his whole face. “I know,” he said. He closed the distance between them in a few quick strides and pressed an almost fraternal kiss to the top of Andres’ head. “I know you're not perfect, but you’re better than anybody else I know.”
The second kiss was not at all brotherly, and Andres bit Victor’s lip hard enough to draw blood and make him yelp. “Fuck, you little -- “
“Bastard?” Andres suggested.
Victor laughed instead of arguing, which was how Andres knew that he’d won. “Suit yourself,” he said. Andres contemplated dragging Victor upstairs to his bedroom, but then decided that the living room couch would suit him just fine.
He didn't precisely regret the couch afterward, but it was cold without any sheets. Putting off the inevitable, Andres burrowed closer, squirming into the small space between Victor's body and the back of the couch. "Quit it, you're going to push me off," Victor said without venom, and began to chafe at Andres' back, shoulder to flank to shoulder again.
"Mm. Wouldn't want that," Andres sighed, arching up a little into the warmth of Victor's touch. He couldn't see his hands, but he didn't need to: he knew every millimeter of them by heart, the strength of them and the strange calluses left by protective tape and the paler skin that stayed covered by gloves for half of practice. Even Victor's hands, he knew, looked dark against his own skin. "Always been my favorite," he said dreamily, entrusting the words along with a kiss to the bitemark on Victor's collarbone.
"Hmm?" Victor opened his eyes at that, curious.
"M'encanten teves mans," Andres pronounced, a little carefully, because he heard Catalan every day but hadn't tried to speak it since he was still in school. Victor smiled and kissed the closest part of Andres he could reach, which turned out to be his forehead.
"Les," he said. "Les meves mans. You'd think you'd remember after I corrected that in every single one of your school compositions."
"Maybe I just liked having you check my homework for me," Andres teased. "Did you ever think of that?"
"Maybe, once or twice." This time Andres stretched so that Victor could reach his mouth. "Maybe I liked it too."
"Would explain why you just fixed everything and never actually tried to teach me what I was doing wrong," Andres remarked, and then interrupted himself with a yawn as he settled back down against Victor's chest. "I'm going to learn to speak it someday. Properly."
"I'll look forward to it, then." Victor's hands stilled on the small of his back. "Do you want to go upstairs to sleep? Or home?"
"In a bit," Andres said with another yawn. "I'm good here for now."
"All right." Victor resumed stroking his back, slower than before, and the rise and fall of his chest beneath Andres evened out. The game earlier that night seemed so long ago and far away that it was almost a story he had heard about someone else: it was over, and now the whole summer was stretched out ahead of them. Victor's voice as Andres fell asleep could have just as easily been part of his dreams. "T'estimo, germanet. Sleep well."