1. Your team
2. Your face
Jamie Carragher had the most punchable face Gary had ever seen. Granted, this was probably not true up until about five minutes ago, but right now-
“You fucking wanker! That was a penalty!”
Jamie's nose wrinkles, and his eyebrows drew together comically. He says, drawling his words out very slowly as though Gary was a very small child or a foreigner, “No, it wasn't.”
The ref appears in time to haul Gary off of Jamie before the punches actually happen, arm around Gary's chest going, “I need you to calm down now, Neville, back off.”
“Alright that's it, Neville, calm down or it's a red.”
Gary fumes silently. Jamie smirks at him, and Gary hated his loathsome, irritating, smug Scouse face.
3. Your voice
Things are awkward during national team meet ups. They had to be; you couldn't spend 5/6th of your year hating someone and then be mates for the remaining time. Awkward didn't mean he had to be unprofessional. Gary was never unprofessional. John got a throat clear ('A'right, mate?') and a handclasp, and Stevie got a warmer greeting and a pat on the back, and even Carragher got a. Well.
“Surprised you got called up.”
“Could say the same to you.” Jamie says with no pause at all between, and breezes past to join the rest of the Scousers. Gary doesn't try to eavesdrop, but he still notes the way Jamie's accent loosens in their company, the way it blurs the words together and stretches them out of shape. The foreign cadence. Gary thinks, Bunch of dickheads, and satisfied, moves on with his day.
4. Your team 2.0
It doesn't surprise Gary that they've been put on the same fucking show. Of course they would be; the universe was a cosmic joke. Watching Carragher earnestly try to justify why exactly that Liverpool still stood a chance in the title race even after losing 4-0 to West Ham was probably the equivalent of purgatory, no, hell itself.
At least Gary could admit there was no way United was going to win the league this season. At least Gary tried to be impartial.
“What do you think about United's chances this season?”
Not that he could admit it now Carragher's gone off on a mini rant.
“I think they're doing quite well, actually, if you look at their performances the past two weeks against Arsenal and City...”
Carragher corners him at lunch. “What were you on about? United's got no chance.”
“Better than Liverpool.”
“Fuck off, we'll see when you lot come to Anfield next week.” Jamie stabs a carrot off his plate and chomps on it, cheerfully.
“Losers buy pints,” Gary says, on impulse.
Gary blinks, not expecting it. Jamie smirks at him, and Gary squishes the strange warmth in his chest, rolls his eyes and reaffirms the fact that he hates Liverpool silently to himself, until the feeling goes away.
5. Your opinions
“Who is this? Hiroshi Yuko?” Gary asks. They're halfway through prepping for Monday Night football, putting together different bits of football news stories as fillers. Ed's forehead wrinkles in confusion.
“He plays for SFC.”
Their heads swivel to Jamie, who's muffling a yawn. He sees their expressions of confusion and shrugs. “Was watching them last night. Against River Plate?”
“What? When was that on?” Gary asks.
“Three. Maybe four.”
“In the morning?” Gary asks, mildly horrified. “What were you doing up?”
Huh. That added a new dimension to Jamie Carragher's personality. Ed calls their attention to something else before the conversation could continue, but Gary files that fact away in his head for later, chewing on it like a squirrel with a tough nut. Everyone in the business was a bit football crazy. It went with the job. It went with who they were. Football crazy didn't normally mean getting up at 4 am to watch random Japanese teams play though.
But it sticks in Gary's head. And it makes him text Jamie on impulse the next time it's 2 am and he couldn't sleep.
Are you watching Hengda?
Jamie replies almost too fast. Yeah. Keeping an eye out for their new goalkeeper.
Might be better than De Gea
Gary snorts, sits down on the couch and flicks the tv on.
Trust you to bring utd into this
The game was too boring to really catch their interest, and even Jamie admits it halfway through. By the time the match ends they were forty messages into a conversation about potential goalkeeping talents and it's 4 am but Gary's feeling wide awake.
Fuck off. No way is Forrest better than Hames.
He plays for Watford??
Gary rolls his eyes and winces at the time. Who knew it was so easy to talk to Carragher. Who knew Carragher had actual opinions worth arguing about. He blinks, shoves that thought away. Carragher had no redeeming qualities, he reminded himself sternly. Much less correct opinions.
6. Your (drunk) opinions
“Oh piss off, you know he's good.”
Gary stares at Jamie as though he couldn't believe the words that had just come out of his mouth. They're at the pub together, which had become a ritual. Weird, that. Gary had become Gaz , and Jamie was still Jamie. Most of the time. Gary sometimes forgot, and Carra slipped out easier, comforting in its familiarity. Gary still wanted to argue after every third word that came out of Jamie's mouth, but he might almost be enjoying it.
“You're proper sloshed, mate.” Gary snickers. “You can't say anything true when you're drunk off your tits.”
“I can.” Jamie says, bullishly, frowning hard at his beer. “Chelsea's shite and no one likes them. Every year I still hope United'll get relegated straight to League 2, like a christmas miracle. Stevie's fit but I'd never shag him.”
Gary's torn between laughing and getting angry at the remark about United, but then-
“I wanted to fuck you before we worked together.”
“What?” Gary splutters. Jamie grins happily.
Jamie shuffles closer, while Gary stares at him, heart pounding. All the stupid metaphorical pigtail pulling on Sky- all the pub runs after work- all the so called FIFA matches that ended with them both passed out on the couch like teenagers-
“Before?” Gary says.
Jamie leans in, very close, breath hot on Gary's neck. “Yeah. Wanted to fuck you when you were still a skinny manc filled with hate. Before you turned into a pudgy pundit.”
Gary opens his mouth to protest, or laugh, he doesn't know which, but Jamie bites down on the soft skin under his ear, not gentle at all.
“Don't worry, Gaz. I like it,” he says, cold hand slipping up under Gary's shirt to squeeze his side.
Gary tries to remain vertical and conscious, but it was hard. His brain kept up something like sirens, alarm bells, this Scouser is standing way too close to you written in bright red letters.
“What.” Gary replies on automatic. Jamie's draped like a heavy, warm, alcoholic blanket over him.
“I know we agreed not to agree on anything,” Jamie mumbles, “but take me back to yours, Gaz.”
“Alright,” he says.
7. Your friends
Redders leans across the table and says, conspiratorially, “Are you going steady with Carra?”
“You came into work in the same car for three weeks, mate,” Redders says with the air of someone who's solved a great mystery and produces a fruit cup. He peels the plastic cover back with his teeth and stabs a chunk of papaya with a toothpick.
“We're going on air in 10 minutes, Redders. Is that a fruit cup?”
Redders offers him a cube of pineapple. “Yep. Back to you and Carra. Is he good in bed?”
“No.” Gary says on reflex, and then winces. Redders was staring at him, frozen mid-chew, eyes growing large and pitying, so Gary groans and says, “I meant it's none of your goddamn business, Redknapp. Why don't you, I don't know, go take a bath with Thierry.”
“Maybe I will.”
Redders leans over and calls, “Oi, Henry. Want to get a pint after work today, big man?”
Gary stares across at Thierry, who was sitting still while Liz from Makeup waved a small brush over his nose. Thierry gives them a thumbs up and tips an exaggerated wink.
“Unbelievable,” Gary says. Redders slurps the rest of his exotic fruits, chortling.
8. Your personality
Whatever Jamie Redknapp insinuated, Gary was not going steady with Jamie Carragher.
They just, spent time together. Discussing his sex life with Jamie Redknapp at work was somewhere at the bottom of the list of things Gary would enjoy doing, but the point remains that Carra was pretty great in bed. Everything else- not so much.
“He's such a fucking sore loser.” Gary says. Phil sighs theatrically, mumbling something about the time. Gary ignores him.
“It's been a week, and it's still sullen nods and moping around and trying to fit as many United slights into post match analyses as possible.”
“Well, if the tables were turned.”
“I'd admit it! I'd admit United weren't as good!”
“No you wouldn't.”
Gary thinks about it. “No I wouldn't. We won fair and square. 5 nil.”
Phil whistles. “Christ, you couldn't let up a bit?”
“No! It's fucking FIFA.”
“Well, it's going to be worse when we actually play Liverpool, you know.”
In fact it wasn't. Liverpool beats United three nil and Gary suffers through two days of gleeful prodding from the combined schoolboy efforts of Carra and Redders. Jamie tries to be less smug when it's just the two of them, but it's a spectacular fail.
“Ditch y'r team Gaz. They suck.” Jamie says once into the post coital lull. Gary groans.
“Now? You're bringing up United now?”
“Red till I die,” Gary says, his intonation like that of a prayer. He says it like he's said it every day since he was a boy, like a talisman to be reached for, like the closing statement to an invocation.
“Same,” Jamie says.
Gary blinks, eyes wide, and then swats his arm.
“Fucker,” he says, “I hate you.” Jamie muffles his laugh into the bedsheets.
9. Your music taste
It all goes awfully domestic, awfully fast.
They drive to Sky together, which means someone has to take charge of the radio. Normally they let it sit on news reports or channel 4, but Jamie innocuously fiddles with the dial one morning, and-
“What the fuck is this,” Gary says, incredulous.
“You love it. Makes a change from all the ABBA.”
“Fuck off, Carragher. Change it back.”
Gary pulls the car up by the side of the road.
Gary glares and shoves him, hard. Jamie stares back. Gary swears and scrambles over, Jamie letting out a yelp as Gary lands on him, heavy.
“Ow- fuck off- Neville-!”
“You're laughing, you wanker.”
“Maybe you need to stop with the pasties, Gaz.” Jamie says, muffled. “I can't breathe.”
“Good.” Gary says, shifting. Jamie groans. It sounded mostly like he was being squished, but also-
Gary shifts again, making it more of a grind. He palms Jamie's cock through his pants and Jamie groans again, reaching up to clutch Gary's back, sliding his hands down to his ass.
“We're too old to have car sex.”
“If only we didn't hate each other back when we were young and limber.”
“Who says I don't hate you now?”
Jamie lifts his head and smirks. “You don't.” He kisses Gary, slowly.
Gary's a bit breathless when he pulls away. Just a little. “You're wrong,” he says, leans over to push the seat down to horizontal. Jamie's face wide eyed and flushed. Gary undoes Jamie's belt impatiently, tugs his pants down and says, “and you have the worst taste in music.”
He gets the last word on that one, mostly because Jamie was muffling a moan. If it was possible to smirk with someone's dick in your mouth, Gary would've.
10. The fact that I don't hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit. Not even at all.
When he is offered the Valencia job Gary takes 24 hours to consider, but his mind is made up a minute after the question is asked.
24 hours later he's at the airport, catching the earliest flight to Spain. Jamie's scuffing the linoleum in front of him, yawning. He resolutely doesn't meet Gary's eyes. It wasn't fair, Gary thinks, it's not goddamn fair of him to make this hard for Gary when he knew how much it meant to him. Punditry had always been a stepping stone towards managing.
“Don't make it hard for me, alright.” Gary says. Jamie snorts. His face was still too serious.
“Don't mope,” Gary says. “Or call Stevie, or something.” Jamie glares at a spot over his shoulder.
Gary sighs, thinks of all the things he could say, and they fall apart in his mouth.
“I love you,” he says instead, in the same tone people usually said I hate you or Liverpool sucks. Jamie's face does a funny little twitch, and Gary thinks he might've misjudged. Maybe this was going to tip Jamie over the edge. Maybe Jamie'll break down and beg him not to leave and it will be terrible, and Stevie's rambling congratulatory phone call with thinly veiled advice on Adele and Spain and Silent Suffering was going to be an awful reality-
“Is that why y'r going to Spain,” Jamie says, slowly. “Because you love me too much. You can't bear it. Gary Neville. He Loves Scousers.”
Gary punches him on the arm. “Fuck off.”
Jamie's smiling now, the same infuriating wide eyed smile that made Gary want to punch him way before. Gary still wants to punch his face. And kiss him.
“Stevie'll be heartbroken.”
Gary kisses him, and picks up his carry on bag. “Come visit, Carragher. I'm holding you to it.”
“I will,” Jamie says, hands stuck in his pockets, looking for all the world like the stupid scouse boy from years past. Gary backs away slowly just to keep looking at him a bit longer.
“I'll see you, Gary Neville,” Jamie calls, cheerful.
Gary smiles, rolls his eyes, and turns to face his future.