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your hands (in mine)

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Jamie's hand on the touchscreen, brushing his.

Gary wonders how much of it is born out of deliberation and how much is mere accident. The other Jamie keeps his hands to himself when he is on MNF with Gary and so do other pundits, but what reason would Jamie Carragher have to deliberately play handsies with him on national TV?

Accident, Gary decides, it has to be.

And if his skin sings at the contact and if he relishes those fleeting moments, well...that has to be his body’s way of saying it is rather too touch-starved for its own good.

He resolves to listen to Phil next time his brother tries to set him up on a date, instead of kicking him on the shin.

*

Jamie's hand on his arm, nudging his attention.

They are in the pundit's box, co-commentating the Spurs Manchester City game. Look at what Walker is doing, over there. Jamie's eyes never even leave the pitch, as if the hand that finds Gary's arm has a will of its own.

They are on the pitch on Selhurst Park grass for the pre-game show. Gary has made a comment on the state of the modern fullbacks. That is the worst opinion I heard you voice, Jamie says, his voice high-pitched, and there is his hand, squeezing Gary's arm over his thick coat sleeve, before he turns to the presenter. And you have no idea how many bad opinions I have heard him voice over the years.

They bicker and they turn everything into a competition.

They pull and push and wrestle. Gary gives as much as he takes, but it’s Jamie who nudges his arm, his shoulder. He remembers a time when he would initiate those casual touches just as easily--never with Carragher of course, hell no, but he had his teammates around him then, and they were a sort of family.

It seems ages ago.

*

Jamie's hand on his chest, shoving him back.

They are at Anfield and the stadium is buzzing around them like a wasp's nest. It is Gary's least favorite place in the world, Carragher his least favorite person.

But this too is a mere memory.

He never believed in moaning over the past but he misses how clear his priorities were back then -- train, play, win -- how sharp the line that stood between right and wrong. There was the good in the world (Manchester United, dessert, clean sheets) and the evil (Liverpool, Tories, own goals) and he knew where he stood.

He also knew that he would retire one day but no one told him he would hear his own chant and smile a jaded half-smile.

*

Jamie's hands wrapped tightly around his, the first bit of light to filter into the pitch-dark of his brain.

He has never liked hospitals and can’t remember what he did this time to end up in one. Jamie is there though, holding his hand, which is nice.

Jamie has nice hands. They are large and strong but also, gentle. And they are warm, which is important. Gary’s own hands are always so cold.

He reckons Jamie should be informed that not everything about him is terrible.

“I like your hands.”

When he opens his eyes, the world is fuzzy and out of focus and altogether too bright.

Jamie laughs.

“Just my hands?”

“Just your hands,” Gary repeats, closing his eyes again. Like they still sing at Old Trafford--he is a red and he hates Scousers. But it doesn’t count if you only like someone’s hands. There is an exception in the rulebook for that.

“Where is Phil and Tracey?”

“They are on their way,” Jamie replies. “Don’t worry; you will get more pleasant company soon. I’m only holding down the fort until they get here.”

“Stay.”

Jamie’s hands are warm around his and he would be so cold without them. Phil and Tracey are no use--freezing hands seem to be a Neville family curse.

“Ow!” Jamie tries to move away.

Bastards, the lot of them, Gary thinks. This is what you get for deciding to trust a Scouser. Gary is hurt and the prick is already trying to abandon him.

“I said--stay.”

Jamie laughs again and Gary wishes he knew what was so funny.

“I will, love, but do you think you can relax your death grip before you break my fingers? You are hurting me.”

Oh. Gary cracks open an eye and it seems the Scouser may have a point. Serves him right, though.

Jamie says something else then, warm and sweet like honey, but Gary is already drifting away.

*

Jamie’s hands on his wrist, massaging it out.

It has been a couple of days since they took out the cast, and his wrist sore today. Jamie must have seen him flexing and unflexing his fingers, or rubbing futilely at a spot.

“Come here, then.”

He sits next to Gary on the sofa and Gary looks at him as if he has lost his mind. Yes, motorcycle accidents are scary but he is well enough to get back to work, thank you very much, and even if he wasn’t, he would draw the line at impromptu cuddle sessions with former rival turned colleagues at the studio.

When Gary tells him this, Jamie throws his hands in the air. “I meant your hand, you muppet! Obviously, I don’t want to cuddle with you. Are you sure you have been cleared with that concussion?”

Oh.

A bit miffed, Gary snatches his hand away, far from Jamie’s reach.

“I-” Jamie sighs and seems to make a deliberate effort to lower his voice. “Your wrist seems sore. I learned a thing or two from the physios when Stevie sprained his. I can help.”

Gary looks at him suspiciously, the injury to his pride far graver than the one to his wrist.

“Come on then. We haven’t all day,” Jamie insists.

He would persevere and decline, but it’s just that, he needs his hand for the show and it really is sore. He extends it out to Jamie, muttering about how he will sue for malpractice if Jamie gets up to anything.

Jamie doesn’t, though.

His fingers are deft, he knows just where to apply pressure, and he works quietly, diligently, his world apparently reduced to Gary’s wrist.

Gary flexes his fingers when he is done, impressed with the result. There is a moment where their eyes meet and Gary wants to say something--something like ‘thank you’ but those two words seem woefully inadequate for the gratitude filling up his chest. When he surfaced for real at the hospital, Tracey was sitting on one side of the bed, and Jamie on the other, his head nodding off to his chest, a dirty stubble on his chin, still holding his hand. We tried to get him to a bed but that is one stubborn man, Tracey whispered. Almost as pigheaded as you.

“So you are good for something after all,” Gary says now instead. “Who knew?”

Jamie gets up, after lightly clapping him on the shoulder.

“What can I say mate? The world is full of surprises.”

***

“You seem to really like him,” David remarks.

They are walking on a deserted street towards...presumably Gary’s hotel, although it might also be towards David’s house.

“Fuck off.”

“Really, really like him. Wow man.”

Gary huffs. He has no idea where David gets these bloody ideas into that blonde head of his.

“I have no idea where you get these bloody ideas into that blonde head of yours.”

“I mean. You have been waxing poetic about the man’s hands for the last-” David checks his watch. “-I believe, fifteen minutes.”

Fuck. But he was, wasn’t he? Gary might be a tad more drunk than he thought he was. Still, he will stand his ground against these terrible allegations.

“That’s different. I just like his hands.”

“You should ask him out,” David continues, as if he hasn’t heard Gary at all. He turns to Gary and his eyes are now positively sparkling. “Gary, you should.”

He is supposed to be Gary’s best friend and Gary hates him.

“I can’t.”

“Why not!”

“He would say no.”

Why??

A red car passes them by and Gary marvels at how bright its headlights are, especially when they reflect on the puddles in the street. His heart feels heavy in his chest.

“Because I’m me?”

“That’s bollocks. You know that’s bollocks.” David shoves him and then has to catch him just in the nick of time before Gary inadvertently stumbles into the street.

“Hey!” Gary protests.

David’s mumbled “sorry” is followed by even more misplaced enthusiasm.

“He won’t say no and if you don’t call him, then I will.” He makes an agile move for Gary’s phone. “I will ask him out for you because one of us should be invested in your happiness.”

Gary barely manages to move out of his reach.

“Fine, FINE,” he huffs. He truly hates David.

He takes out his phone.

“Here I will call him, he will say no, and then you will see.”

They stop walking. David puts his hands on his hip and when Gary hesitates, raises his eyebrows at him.

“Go on then, or I will-”

Gary shoves him away and hits dial.

The phone rings once, twice, and just as Gary is about to give up-

“Gary?”

Jamie sounds sleepy, like he has been sleeping. Gary doesn’t know where to begin.

“You have nice hands.”

“Yeah, so I have been told.” Jamie laughs.

“You should go out with me.”

On the other end of the line, there is nothing but absolute silence. Of course this is the one time he manages to stun that loudmouth into silence happens to be this. ‘I told you so,’ he mouths at David. To Jamie he says, because someone should say something-

“Becks thinks that’s bollocks.”

“Oh.”

Jamie sounds...sad now, for some reason.

“I told him you would say no, and he thinks that’s bollocks,” Gary repeats. And even though he said the exact same thing as before, the ‘oh’ he gets this time sounds much happier. Strange people, the men of Liverpool.

“You have been drinking.”

How did he know? Whoa.

“I might have had a drink...or five.”

“Well, if you want to go out with me, ask me out in the morning.” Gary should be angry with him but Jamie’s voice is warm now, like his hands. “That is. If you remember.”

“Of course I will remember!”

Who does he think Gary is?

“Well, then.”

When Jamie hangs up, David runs a circle around him, with his arms outstretched like the wings of a plane, singing “I told you sooo,” in his most obnoxious voice.

***

Jamie’s hands on the breakfast table, sliding him Ibuprofen.

“How did you know?” Gary asks.

He misses his youth, when he could go on a bender and feel fine the next morning. Now, he wants to murder every patron in the hotel’s dining room for the constant clanging of cutlery and the laughter and the terrible noise.

Jamie smirks at him.

“I knew you wouldn’t remember.”

Gary envies him his headache-free existence, and searches back the fog that is last night to locate whatever it is Jamie is talking about. But he knew something was up from the way Jamie seemed to sit a little straighter in his chair this morning, hold himself in a little closer, wary like in the first days of their post-retirement acquaintance.

And then he hits it at full force.

You have nice hands. You should go out with me.

He winces on instinct. Shit.

“I asked you out.”

Fuck.

He can’t remember more but it must have been David’s idea. Ever since he met Victoria, David has been a hopeless romantic and it has led Gary into nothing but trouble and ruin.

Jamie sips his coffee, but his silence is answer enough. After what feels like ages, and as Gary is considering starting over in Papua New Guinea he says-

“It’s alright. People say loads of things they don’t mean when they are drunk, or concussed.”

“Right.”

That’s...a lot more magnanimous of Jamie than he ever expected. He crashed through the lines of work friendship and Jamie is letting him off the hook without so much as a joke. He should be thanking his lucky stars. This should feel like winning the lottery.

Because I’m me? His own voice echoes in his head in the fog without context. He forces a piece of toast down his throat.

Jamie eats in uncharacteristic silence, too.

That’s the thing about Gary--every good thing in his life, he has to go and fuck it up.

 

And then, just when all hope is lost and Jamie is getting up, he finds the missing piece.

Jamie’s voice, warm, like his hands.

David running circles around him.

Well, if you want to go out with me, ask me out in the morning. If you remember.

Gary cracks the largest grin. He does remember and he most definitely wants to go out with Jamie.

And if he was being honest, which he has little interest in doing, he would tell you that it’s not even just for the sake of Jamie’s beautiful hands.