Carra worried sometimes that he was getting soft in his old age. Over-sentimental, like. Days was, that he’d have spent Christmas Eve getting cheerily drunk with the lads before turning in to sleep it off soundly, nothing but training and the Boxing Day match on the radar. Maybe a stocking exchange with a girlfriend, or a walk about if he had time, but everything had been more or less regimented. Pre-planned. There had been none of this sitting around wondering what to do. He still hadn’t quite gotten used to Christmas free of running about in warm-ups, and Stevie sticking his cold hands down the back of Carra’s neck whenever he felt training needed a livening up in the form of Carra attempting to murder his captain.
But that was a good part of the problem, he supposed. The lads were scattered more or less to the winds and he had nothing to do but be soppy and loving, so he might as well fucking take the chance before he passed out of sentimental old and into bitter and cross old, which was an age he was surely headed towards with some speed.
So fuck it. He’d rung up all his old mates, wished them a happy Christmas, and done some decent reminiscing. It had been nice, actually. Sentiment was alright.
Or at least, it was alright until he’d reached the end of his list of people he must call, and had edged into the territory of would it be weird if he called.
It was a list of a single name, really.
Okay, Carra weighed it back and forth to himself, they were colleagues. And they had been colleagues for some time now, and unless he’d completely soared off the mark they had reached a stage of friendship-something that completely justified-
Fuck it. He was a thirty-six year old man, and he could fucking ring up Gary fucking Neville if he wanted to.
Carra blinked. “You’re not Gary.”
“No,” was the dry response. “I’m not.”
“What’re you doing picking up his phone then?” Carra narrowed his eyes, having pinned down the voice. “Phil.”
“What’re you doing ringing my brother so late at night?” Phil challenged back.
“It’s only nine, that’s respectable!”
“Nothing you do is ever respectable, Carragher, what were you- hey, I’m having a conversation-” There was the sound of the phone being wrestled away from Phil as Gary’s voice, raised in indignation, filtered through the line. Carra waited patiently. Indistinct yelling and static reigned for a few seconds before it cleared and Gary spoke, sounding decidedly out of breath but ultimately victorious. “Hello? Carra?”
“Tell your idiot brother I’ve got nothing but noble intentions,” Carra started, wounded.
Gary snickered. “Of course, Jamie, of course.”
“Honest, what is he, your mother? Screening your calls?”
“I only stepped into the kitchen to get a drink, it’s not my fault you happened to phone up just then.”
“If I lived with Phil,” Carra said darkly, “I would never leave my phone unattended.”
“I don’t live with Phil, you twit, he’s just down visiting for the hols.”
“If I spent any amount of time with Phil, I would never leave my phone unattended.”
He could practically hear Gary rolling his eyes in that half-way that he always did, looking up to the heavens for guidance. Wouldn’t find any there. Carra felt himself settling in, already enjoying sniping at Gary. He didn’t even need football, anything would do to rib him. Gary was just good to talk to, which was an observation decidedly less horrifying than it would have been twelve or even six months ago.
“Did you want something? Or were you just calling to take shots at my family.”
“Any opportunity to score one off a Neville is an opportunity taken. Carragher motto.” Carra said sagely.
“A slogan that would have more weight if you’d ever scored anything in your life," Gary returned. “Wait, hang on. I take it back. How many own goals do you have, again?”
“Low blow, Gaz,” Carra said, spitting out the nickname with the appropriate amount of mockery.
“Ah, sorry. Wouldn’t want to make you cry on Christmas Eve.”
“No you certainly wouldn’t,” Carra agreed, wondering if they were going to sit in for the long haul and if so, should he fix himself another drink. “That’s not in with the spirit of the thing at all.”
“Are you in London?” Gary asked abruptly.
“Yeah, at me flat. Why?”
“We’re at mine, why don’t you come round? For a drink? If you’re alone and all.”
The sudden change in subject left Carra scrambling for a minute. He would suspect Gary of setting him up a joke but he’d extended the invitation in earnest, dropping out of the tone he used when exchanging barbs. “You- you mean that? You’re not dragging me about, are you? Gonna dump snow on my head when I show up?”
Gary snorted. “Someone’s suspicious.”
“Forgive me if I don’t exactly think of you as having nothing but shining good will towards me.”
“That’s harsh. We’ve been team mates! Do all those England caps mean nothing to you?”
Carra laughed genuinely despite himself. “Alright, what’s your address again?”
It hadn’t been a half-bad evening, Carra thought as he pulled on his coat. He’d also spent over two hours in the company of both Nevilles and hadn’t gotten either massively drunk or in a fight, which had to be some sort of world record. Or eligible for Ballon d’Or consideration, at least.
“Bye Phil, happy Christmas.” He stuck his head back into the sitting room to wink at Phil who flicked him two good-natured fingers.
“Piss off, Carragher. Happy Christmas.”
“Real tosser, your brother.” Carra told Gary, who was standing by the door. “I quite like him.”
“Yeah, I was worried about that.” Gary frowned. “Last thing I need is you two conspiring.”
“I don’t think we’re quite in the conspiring stage yet. But a couple more dates like this and who knows.”
Gary smirked. “Yeah, I’ll start sending out wedding invites shall I?” He opened the door as Carra finished pulling on his gloves, and they both flinched at the wave of cold air. “Where’re you parked?”
“Just down at the kerb. Christ, it’s cold out.”
Gary grabbed his coat from the hook and pulled it on. “Here, I’ll walk you over.”
“A true gentleman.” Carra dug Gary in the side with a friendly elbow. “Worried I’m going to get jumped? A pretty young thing like me?”
“You’re certainly a thing. But I dunno about the other two, Jamie.” Gary closed to door firmly behind them and they made their way gingerly down the icy steps.
“Hey, Gaz. Mistletoe.” Carra said, nudging Gary’s shoulder. Gary looked up to the lampposts, which had indeed been strung round with some kind of greenery.
He frowned. “Think that’s holly, actually. ‘S got those spiky leaves. I saw it being put up the other day.”
Carra rolled his eyes. “Mistletoe, holly, all the same really. Y’gotta make do with what you have, and no whining about it.”
“It’s green stuff and it’s Christmas. So. Happy Christmas.” And with that, Carra tugged Gary in by his jacket and kissed him soundly.
It wasn’t a particularly romantic kiss, with the cold night air biting at every exposed patch of skin and Carra more or less dragging Gary up the missing centimetres between their heights, but it was, rather to the surprise of both of them, quite a good kiss nonetheless.
Once released, Gary stared at Carra with something approaching alarm in his eyes. “Wha- Jamie, are you- you alright there?”
Carra grinned at him broadly, a low warmth settling comfortably in his chest. “Actually, never better. See you in studio Boxing Day, then? I’d say good luck to your Mancs except for, y’know, I can’t stand the lot of ‘em.” He fumbled with his keys a moment before unlocking the car door and sliding in, breath in cold columns spiralling skywards.
Gary shook his head, bemused but beginning to smile. “You’re well off your head, you know that, Jamie? Completely mad.”
“Ah, c’mon.” Carra said, still beaming at Gary, his cheeks already scraped red with chill even having only just left the flat. “I just like to think of myself as sentimental, that’s all.”