pairing: david silva/david villa
summary: roommate au
Room available in a large two bedroom penthouse. 12x12, large windows, high ceilings. The rest of the apartment is fully furnished. Full kitchen with granite countertops and new appliances. 400/month, utilities included. No pets, no smoking. Available immediately.
“This can’t be right,” Silva mutters to himself, hunched over and squinting at his computer screen. He turns his laptop toward Cesc, so he can see the pictures attached to the ad.
“Damn,” Cesc says. “Nice place.”
“Exactly,” Silva says, turning the screen back so he can look at it again himself. “All that for 400 a month? Gotta be a typo.”
“Or a creeper trying to lure poor desperate people in,” Cesc says helpfully. He stretches his legs out, resting his socked feet on their coffee table and balancing a bowl on his stomach.
Silva glares at the screen in thought and then shrugs. “Well, can’t hurt to check it out,” he says.
“I guess,” Cesc says, and then studies him, a baleful look on his face. “Sorry you have to find a new place because of me.”
Silva laughs. “Don’t apologize to me,” he says. “It’s fine. I mean, obviously we aren’t going to be friends anymore, but it’s fine.”
Cesc nudges Silva’s thigh with his knee. “Please,” he says, “I would find you. You’ll never escape me.”
Silva smirks, half-distracted by the email he’s typing.
Hi, I’m not sure if the rent in your ad was a typo or something, but if it’s correct I’m interested in your place. I’m a doctorate student at the university, clean, quiet, have references if you want. No pets, don’t smoke. Let me know if it’s still available.
“Liar,” Cesc says, his face suddenly way too close to Silva and peering at the screen. “You totally smoke.”
Silva glares at him and turns the screen so he can’t see. “I’m not a smoker,” he says. “I just smoke sometimes. But I can keep it out of the house.”
“Hmph,” Cesc grunts. “Liar.”
“Don’t make this hard for me,” Silva says, shoving Cesc away playfully. “You decided you have to move in with your little girlfriend and now I gotta do what I gotta do to survive.”
“Yeah,” Cesc says, “Like move into a downtown penthouse. I feel terrible for you, really.”
Silva laughs. It’s only been two minutes but his gmail notification pops up with a new email, short and to the point. “You can come see the place tomorrow at 7:30.” And then an address.
Silva taps his fingers along his keyboard, studying it. The email address is pretty anonymous, just some initials and the number 7. “This is weird,” he tells Cesc. “Am I going to get murdered?”
Cesc is barely paying attention, watching TV while shoveling cereal into his mouth, milk running down his chin. He shrugs. “Maybe.”
Silva tips his head back and thinks for a few moments, weighing the pros and cons. He shrugs. “Well, then, it was nice to know you,” he tells Cesc. “Kind of.”
“See you then,” he emails back.
The apartment’s even better than the pictures showed. It’s the roommate Silva’s not sure about.
He opens the door in a full suit, even though it’s late evening and he’s obviously home for the night. His tie isn’t even loosened.
“Please come in,” he says formally, and the entryway is spotless, such that Silva feels impossibly grungy in his jeans and hoodie.
“Jeez,” he says, just to fill the silence, “I still can’t believe such a nice place is renting for so little.”
The other man—David Villa, Silva knows from googling his email address—eyes him warily, just once, up and down, and then turns neatly on his heel. “The bedroom is this way.”
It’s not huge, but it has big windows and wood floors, none of the grungy carpet and artificial light he has in his apartment with Cesc. Villa shows him the hall bathroom—“I have a master bath upstairs, so this is all yours”—and the kitchen— “I don’t cook or eat at home usually, so you’ll have it mostly to yourself.” Silva starts to wonder how much of this nice house has even been used.
And it is nice, almost too good to be true, but its owner is so cold, so unbearably rigid, that Silva is about to tell him he needs to think about it and start his search again. And then, back in the entryway, Villa eyes him again, and says suddenly, almost like he’s surprising himself, “What are you getting your doctorate in?”
Silva stutters. Villa hasn’t asked him a personal question—any question—the entire time he’s been there and he’s caught off guard. “Literature,” he says dumbly. “Comparative literature.”
“Hm,” Villa says, and Silva doesn’t know whether it’s approving or not. He continues to look at Silva closely, and even steps forward, so suddenly that Silva’s initial reaction is to step back, but he doesn’t. Villa’s features are sharp, almost off putting, but Silva can tell he’s really paying attention now, and it makes him feel important somehow.
“Have we met before?” Villa asks, searchingly. He lifts an arm, almost like he’s going to touch Silva, but he doesn’t. “You look familiar.”
Silva laughs awkwardly. He’s sure he would remember this man. “I don’t think so,” he says. He feels his cheeks heating up, but he doesn’t know why. “Just have one of those faces, I guess.”
Fifteen minutes later he’s walking home with a key heavy in his pocket, a copy of the lease clutched in his sweaty palm.
“So he’s not as awesome as me,” Cesc says, loading another box into the back of a truck Silva borrowed from a friend.
“Not as chatty as you, that’s for sure,” Silva says, grunting as he lifts a chair into the back seat.
“Maybe it will force you to come out of your shell a little bit,” Cesc says cheerfully, climbing into the passenger seat. “Like a butterfly coming out of it’s cocoon and spreading its wings. Fly free, Silva!”
Silva clambers into the drivers seat, fiddling with the ignition. “I don’t know what you’re saying and I’m not sure I want your help anymore,” he mutters. He can only imagine Cesc meeting his stern new roommate. It might make it worth the whole hassle.
In reality it’s less amusing that Silva had hoped. Villa’s standing in the kitchen, drinking a bottle of water, when they let themselves in. He’s in another suit, perfectly pressed and starched.
“Hey,” Silva says, dropping a somewhat dusty box on the floor. “This is Cesc, my old roommate. He’s helping me move.” He gestures back and forth, introducing them.
“Hello,” Villa says, and doesn’t move forward to shake his hand. “I was planning to go to the office and get out of your way, if you have everything you need.” He’s already inching toward the door, fingering the keys in his pocket.
“He’s pleasant,” Cesc says, when the door closes behind him. For reasons he can’t explain, an unfamiliar defensiveness blooms in Silva’s chest.
“He’s not that bad,” he says, brushing Cesc off. “Come on, let’s go get another load.”
When most of his stuff is inside, they collapse on the couches, expensive leather and plush. “At least the stuff is nice,” Cesc says, as if Silva needs to be reminded why he’s moving here.
“Yeah,” he says dismissively. “Should we order a pizza? I saw a place around the block.”
“Yes,” Cesc says. “Maybe Villa has an account there we can charge it to.”
Silva thinks of his slim figure, his sharp cheekbones, his bright white dress shirts. “Something tells me he doesn’t eat much pizza,” he says, and hands Cesc his credit card.
The semester starts just as soon as he’s moved in, so he barely has time to get settled before he’s thrown back into the chaos of his last year of school. He sees Villa once or twice in passing, but mostly he only hears him; early in the morning, making instant coffee in the microwave before he’s out the door, almost as soon as the sun’s up; late at night, sneaking in and immediately heading up the stairs to his own room, or his own floor—Silva’s not even sure what’s up there besides the master bedroom and bath, because Villa’s never offered to show him.
The first weekend he’s at the apartment, he expects he’ll see Villa more. He camps out in the living room, a pile of books around him and a pad for note taking, along with his laptop and a large cup of coffee. He’s almost sure Villa’s in the apartment; he didn’t hear the beep of the microwave this morning, or the click of the door closing, and he’s a light sleeper.
Still, it’s after noon before there’s any sign of his roommate. Silva’s almost unsurprised when he shows up in a button down shirt and chinos, looking like he didn’t expect to find someone else in his home, like he’d forgotten Silva entirely. He doesn’t say anything before he moves into the kitchen.
“Sorry I’m hogging the TV,” Silva calls after him, where he seems to be peering aimlessly into the refrigerator. “Just let me know if you want the living room.”
He emerges with a bottle of juice in his hand. “I don’t,” he says shortly, and disappears out the front door. Silva doesn’t see him again all weekend.
Cesc and Daniella invite him back to the old apartment for dinner, where Cesc shows him all the changes they’ve made while Daniella finishes dinner. Silva’s amazed at how a little bit of regular cleaning and some decorations spruced the place up, and he’s mostly amazed that Daniella hasn’t killed Cesc yet.
“How’s your new place treating you?” Daniella asks, setting a lasagna on the dining room table.
“I made that,” Cesc interjects.
Daniella rolls her eyes.
"It's fine," Silva says blithely, spooning himself a large helping. It's been a long time since he's had a home cooked meal and it smells delicious.
Cesc passes him a bottle of wine. "Your roommate still a regular barrel of laughs?" he asks.
Silva smirks to himself as he pours his glass, before reaching over to pour Daniella's as well. "He's okay," he insists, like he always does when Cesc brings him up. "It's sort of like living alone, which is nice."
"Or like living with an antisocial stranger who doesn't make any attempt to get to know you at all," Cesc mumbles, shoveling a bite of pasta into his mouth.
Daniella gives him a look that makes Silva wonder how he doesn't wither underneath it. "Just because not every roommate is like you two doesn't mean they're doing it wrong," she tells them.
Cewsc huffs, blowing on a bite of food. "Okay, fine," he says. "But you don't think it's even a little bit weird that he invited this guy to live in his house and he's barely said two words to him? For all he knows, he'll come home from one of those long days at work and all his stuff will be gone, along with any trace of Silva."
"I have a very trustworthy face," Silva interjects with his mouth full. Cesc shoots him a look and he laughs.
"I'm just saying," Cesc says, "He's doesn't seem to be hard up for money, but he gets a roommate and then ignores his existence. Something's up." He shrugs, drinks his wine like the topic can be dropped, and Silva hopes it is.
Daniella shrugs. "Maybe he's been lonely," she offers, and that's the last they speak of it but Silva doesn't forget her words.
He's not sure how he ends up with it. Standing in the stark white aisles of some megastore he'd stopped in to buy socks, he spotted it; shiny, metallic, and on sale. A single serve coffee maker. He stood there under the fluorescent lights, thinking of the beep of the microwave early in the morning, the sludge left in his coffee cup anytime he'd been forced to consume a cup of instant coffee himself. And the next thing he knew, he was at the apartment, the large box and accompanying coffee grinds under his arm.
Silva doesn't know how to give it to Villa. He barely sees him and he gets the feeling that if he just leaves it out, Villa will avoid it, as he avoids all of Silva's other things.
In the end he leaves it set up on the counter, the instruction manual laying in front of it, with a post it note that says "Villa--" stuck to the front, and he hopes that he gets it. The next morning, he wakes long before he hears Villa's footsteps, soft on the stairs, and then it's quiet for a long time -- longer than normal -- before he hears the low double beep of the machine warming up. He falls back to sleep smiling to himself.
Ever since he moved here for college Silva's played rec league football with a group of guys from the school on Thursdays, and he's relieved when he gets the call from Xavi that they're starting practice the next week. Some of the guys, like Xavi and Cesc, are done with school now, but they've all stayed on the team and come whenever they can.
It's starting to feel like fall weather already, cool but not cold as he warms up on the sideline of the large field they practice on, stretching his thighs and calves until they burn. He's out of shape from the break but he's sure they all are.
All the regular crew shows up and they haven't invited anyone new this year. "You're going to have to play up front again," Xavi tells him, and he groans. He's maybe their best scorer, but he really prefers midfield, prefers playing next to Xavi and Cesc.
"Why can't you play up front," Silva grumbles, shoving Cesc gently.
Cesc throws an arm around Silva's shoulder, getting him into a loose headlock. "Because, Silva," he says, "My midfield genius cannot be wasted."
"The only genius you have--" Silva starts, grumbling into Cesc's shoulder, but then they're both engulfed by an even larger figure-- Raul, Silva figures out from the voice.
"Both of you shut up," he says good naturedly, "I will be scoring the goals this season," and everyone laughs because Raul's one of their only players tall enough to play defense.
"I guess that makes Silva our CB," Cesc says, wriggling free of Raul's grasp.
Silva rolls his eyes and takes off in a jog around the field, laughing to himself, knowing the rest of them are right behind him.
The first Friday in October, Silva has a meeting with his advisor, during which the man tells him he's expecting a draft of his thesis by Monday.
"Dr. Emory," Silva argues, his heart sinking, "I don't think I can--"
"Mr. Silva," the professor replies, raising an eyebrow, and it strikes Silva not for the first time how he resembles a movie villain, "You realize you promised to get it to me by May, correct?"
"That sounds vaguely familiar," Silva mumbles. When he leaves, he calls Cesc to cancel their plans; it's going to be a long weekend.
He camps out on the couch that night, surrounded by his pile of books, secure in the knowledge that Villa probably won't be home until late, and even then will likely disappear up to his room immediately. He makes it a few hours, reading and scrawling notes on a legal pad, before he flips on the TV for some background noise. He makes it another thirty minutes before he gets up for a cup of coffee, and then twenty more before he reheats some Chinese takeout from the fridge.
It's getting to be late fall, and it’s cold; Silva honestly finds the apartment drafty, and Villa always leaves the thermostat on 65, but he never turns it up because he's pretty sure half the time Villa doesn't charge him for utilities and he feels badly about it. Instead he throws on a hoodie and curls up on the couch, telling himself that the cold will help him concentrate on what he needs to finish tonight, no more distractions.
He doesn't know what time it is that he falls asleep, nor does he know how long he remains that way, but he wakes up sweating. The TV is off and there's a blanket Silva's never seen before tucked around his shoulders. He passes the thermostat as he drags himself to his bed; it's set on 75. He stares at it for a long time before he turns it back to 70.
Silva works all of Saturday and doesn’t see Villa at all; he tries not to think about the incident with the blanket, but he’s happy to leave the heat turned on. Sunday morning he rouses himself early, close to finishing a good enough chunk of his paper to forward on to Dr. Emory. He just has to type up the handwritten parts and do citations.
The sound from the TV as he walks towards the living room barely registers; he thinks absently he must have left it on the night before and feels guilty about wasting electricity. He stops in the kitchen, warms up some oatmeal and plays around with the coffee machine; there are two brand new boxes of tea and coffees stacked next to it, things he didn't buy, and he smiles to himself like it’s a victory.
He's not expecting to walk into the living room and see Villa there, just because it's never happened before, but there he is, curled into the armchair, and not even wearing a suit. Silva stops short in surprise and has to shake it off before he continues to sit on the couch, setting his coffee and oatmeal carefully on the coffee table next to the piles of books and papers he's left there, and suddenly he feels bad for commandeering this room when he didn't even pay for anything in it, barely even pays any rent.
"Morning," Villa says suddenly, even though he doesn't look over or react to Silva in any other way.
"Good morning," Silva says, reaching for his breakfast. Villa's watching Dirty Harry and he sits back to watch too.
Silva actually gets into it enough that he forgets Villa's there, so he's startled when Villa says, "You can change it if you want."
Silva doesn't even know what he's talking about. He pauses with his spoon halfway to his mouth, throws Villa a confused glance and asks, "Huh?"
Villa reaches out and pushes the remote sitting on the coffee table in Silva's direction. "The channel? You can change it if you want."
"Oh," Silva says, relaxing back and finishing his bite. "It's cool. I actually really like this movie."
Villa looks at him then, just a quick flash of his eyes before he's turned back toward the television, but Silva thinks it looks like the corners of his mouth are turned up just a little.
"Have you seen it before?" Silva asks him after a moment, willing the conversation to go forward.
Villa's quiet for long enough that Silva thinks he didn't hear, or he's just choosing not to respond, but finally he says, "Yes. Many times." Silva doesn't know how to go on after that, so he doesn't; he falls quiet and goes back to watching, finishing his meal and grabbing his mug of coffee.
"My dad," Villa speaks up suddenly. "My dad was sick for a long time and he watched this movie all the time, in the hospital."
"Oh," Silva says, grasping for words. "I'm-- I'm-- well, is he okay now?"
Villa’s face is steely, eyes still trained on the television but his voice is unexpectedly young when he says, “No.” He clears his throat as if surprised by it. "Anyway, I just-- watching this reminds me of him."
Silva’s thrown by the conversation, but he sets his coffee down and clasps his hands together in his lap. "I had this cousin," he starts, but his voice shakes right from the outset and he stops. Villa's not looking at him, but he's not looking at the TV anymore either, his eyes trained on the floor as if giving Silva attention and privacy all at once, and Silva appreciates it. Silva clears his throat and goes on. "Anyway. She used this baby shampoo that smelled like violets, right? So anytime I catch a whiff of it -- perfume or flowers or whatever, anywhere --" He pauses, trying to say I get it, maybe. "Well, it can be nice," he concludes.
Villa's nodding, still looking at the floor, and then he twists so his face is out of sight, back towards the television. "Yeah," Silva hears him say softly. "It's nice."
When Silva gets home from class on Tuesday, there's a vase on the counter with fresh flowers. Violets. It’s the first time he starts to associate Villa with home.
On Thursday, Silva’s got his head in the fridge, searching out a bottle of lucozade he knows he left in there to take to practice, when the front door opens. He pops his head up, surprised, because he’s used to being alone in the afternoons, and a moment later Villa appears around the corner, his suit still looking immaculate. Silva suppresses a smile; somewhere along the way, the suits became the norm rather than an oddity, something calming about their consistency.
Villa’s eyes are trained on his blackberry, but he pauses at the counter and lifts his gaze momentarily, taking in Silva’s shorts, his knee high socks, the cleats slung over his shoulder.
“You play football?” he asks, surprised, and sets his phone down on the counter. Silva’s fingers finally locate the missing bottle, shoved behind a Tupperware bowl, and he backs up out of the fridge.
“Yeah,” he says, dropping the bottle in his sports bag. “Just a rec league with some guys from school.” Villa’s looking over, like he’s trying to see inside Silva’s bag, and he almost looks—jealous? “You play?” Silva asks, hoisting the bag over his shoulder.
“No, I—“ Villa starts, taking a step back like Silva’s gotten too close. He takes a breath and comes back forward, rubbing his fingers over the petals of the flowers still blooming in the vase. Silva smiles to himself. “I played when I was younger, but not for a long time.”
“Oh,” Silva nods in understanding. He glances at the clock; he really needs to get going. “Well, if you ever wanna play again. We have a full squad, but we can always use subs—“
“No,” Villa cuts him off, picking up his phone and backing up for good now. “I couldn’t.” And then he’s gone, rushing down the hallway, and Silva doesn’t know what it is that he said.
A few weeks after he sends the draft of his thesis in, Silva meets with Dr. Emory to discuss it.
“Mr. Silva,” the professor says, gesturing him into a chair and picking up the thick stack of papers on his desk. Silva sees it’s covered in red marks and his heart sinks.
“Well, it’s,” Dr. Emory starts, and sets the papers back down, removing his glasses. “It’s a start,” he finishes.
“A start?” Silva repeats, and starts to feel sick. “I have to present the final version in six months.”
Dr. Emory makes a noise in his throat and puts his glasses back on, leaning over the papers and shuffling through them. “Yes, well, I’m certainly not asking you to start over, Mr. Silva.”
“Is it really that bad?” Silva asks desperately, because he knew it was rough—just a draft, of course it’s rough—and he knew he’d pushed it off and rushed through it, but he still thought it was okay. For what it was.
“Of course not, Mr. Silva, have I ever thought any of your work was terrible?” Dr. Emory smiles up at him now, looking at him over the rims of his glasses. “It’s good. I just know you can be great.”
Silva groans inwardly. He pulls out a notebook and starts to write down Dr. Emory’s suggestions, one by one.
“The new research he suggested alone could take months,” Silva complains to Cesc, walking home from his appointment. “I mean, it’s thousands of pages.”
“Well, luckily you have months,” Cesc reminds him, sounding distracted. There’s a yelp in the background and then Cesc is back again, harried now. “Silva, gotta go, I think Daniella set the kitchen on fire. Later!”
Silva shoves his phone into his pocket. It’s true winter now, and cold; he pulls his jacket tight around his shoulders. Without giving it a second thought, he turns in to the convenience store around the corner from the apartment and buys a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, lights one up at soon as he gets outside and sighs as the smoke fills his lungs, warm and familiar, making him light headed.
He still remembers Villa’s ad, no smokers, so he sits on the stoop outside their building, not willing to risk the chance of being caught or Villa smelling something. When he finishes the first cigarette he goes for another, and it’s more than he’s had in months but it’s the only thing calming him down right now, and he tells himself he deserves it, that he’s an adult and he knows the risks and his choice.
A shadow falls over him, the clinking of keys above his head, and he almost knows before he looks up that it’s Villa, that of course he chooses this day to come home early. His face is completely neutral, looking back and forth between Silva’s face and the stick clutched between his fingers, smoke swirling toward the sky, but Silva still feels judged and guilty.
“I only do it when it’s an emergency,” he says lamely, and Villa doesn’t bother to respond before he sweeps inside, leaving Silva to his vices. He crushes what’s left under his heel, throws the rest of the pack in the garbage; not even they can make him feel better now.
Silva doesn’t get it at first, the small round dish on the coffee table when he wakes up in the morning. It’s plain and empty except a small post it note, stuck to the bottom. He flips the thing over in his palm but it’s not until he looks again and reads the note that he gets it. He feels a laugh bubbling in his throat.
The note says, in tiny block letters: FOR EMERGENCIES. An ashtray.
Silva doesn’t consider himself the most perceptive guy in the world, but he certainly notices after a few weeks that Villa starts showing up earlier in the evening on Thursdays. Early enough that he’s always there when Silva leaves, always gives him that once over, him in his football gear, something like envy in his eyes, and finally Silva makes up his mind, what he’s going to do.
He stands at the bottom of the stairs, in his football socks, looking up. He can’t see anything. He climbs slowly, not wanting to disturb Villa if it’s just an open space up there; but when he gets to the top it’s a normal hallway, with a pair of cabinets across from the stairs and three doorways further down. The first is open and reveals the master bath, exceedingly clean, with marble counters and floors and a huge glass shower. The second is small and closed; Silva figures it’s a closet.
The third door is closed too and Silva takes a deep breath before he knocks. It’s silent enough, for long enough, that Silva can hear his own heart beating in his ears, and then a slightly confused and equally muffled “Come in,” filters through the door.
His room is huge, almost as big as the entire first floor, with floor to ceiling windows, and Silva’s first thought is that he can’t blame Villa for spending most of his time up here. It’s as spotlessly clean as the bathroom and minimally decorated, with its own couch, television, and desk, where Villa’s currently sitting, staring at Silva.
“What’s up?” Villa asks when Silva continues to look around the room and not say anything.
“Oh,” Silva says, leaning in the doorway and turning to him. “Ah, listen, I have a favor to ask.”
Villa lifts an eyebrow, like, go on, so Silva rushes forward, tongue tripping. “Look, so, I have my football league tonight, right, and Cesc—you remember Cesc, my old roommate, he helped me move in—right, anyway, well he’s on the team, but he got caught up at work and now we don’t have the right number of subs and if we can’t find anyone we’ll have to forfeit, and I remembered you said you used to play—“
Villa’s eyes grow wider as Silva talks and Silva knows he’s scaring him away so he cuts himself off. “We just need a sub,” he concludes. “If you’re not doing anything.”
He and Villa both look over at Villa’s desk then, covered with papers but still surprisingly orderly, with neat stacks in even rows. Villa’s quiet for a long time and Silva thinks, at least he’s thinking about it, at least he’s not angry about it. “I don’t think,” Villa starts, and gestures to his papers. Silva feels like the bloom of hope he’d allowed to sneak up in his chest wither away, and he’s already nodding, backing out of the room.
“I just have,” Villa starts again, setting a finger on one of the stacks and peering down at it like he’s upset at it for existing. Silva already has his hand on the doorknob.
“Actually, you know what?” Villa says rising and looking over at Silva, face set. “I’ll do it.”
Silva blanks. Somewhere, in the back of his head, he’d never really expected Villa to say yes; barely even expected himself to actually ask. So he doesn’t know what to do now.
“Oh,” he says dumbly. “Really? Are you sure?” And it sounds like he’s trying to talk Villa out of it, which he’s not at all.
But Villa’s undeterred anyway. “Can I meet you downstairs in ten?” he calls, already halfway into his closet—Silva can see it’s a large walk in, half the size of his own room.
“Yeah, okay,” he says dumbly, backing out of the room. He rushes back in a moment later, grabbing the door to close behind him. He leans against it, breathing deeply, before he goes back downstairs to wait.
The car ride to practice is quiet but not as awkward as Silva imagined, considering they’d never been in such close quarters before. Silva tells him a little about the team, about Xavi, who keeps the whole thing together, and Iker, computer geek by day, surprisingly amazing amateur goalkeeper by night, and about Raul and Cesc and everyone else. Villa doesn’t speak much but he makes noises at all the right times, and laughs politely, so Silva knows he’s listening.
“Hey,” Silva says just as they turn into the parking lot. “I never even asked—what position do you like?”
Villa is halfway out the car, tucking his Lucozade into the pocket of his bag, already on the ground. He glances back. “Me? I always played striker.”
Xavi takes to him right away, but Xavi takes to anyone who can talk about football—the more surprising part is that Villa actually seems to like to Xavi in return, that he looks animated and that he’s talking, gesturing with his hands, meeting his eyes. Silva doesn’t know whether to be proud of himself for making it happen or jealous that it’s with someone else, but he tries not to think about it because why should he care?
“I think Villa should play,” Xavi says before the game.
They all stare at him dumbly, because they’ve been playing with the same starting lineup for the last year and no one even knows Villa, except Silva, who doesn’t really know him either.
“He’s a true striker,” Xavi explains. “We don’t have one and Silva, I know you don’t like doing it.”
Silva shrugs. It’s true, he doesn’t, but none of them know how Villa plays, and Silva thinks it’s been a long time since Villa played at all anyway—
Villa hushes the talk by shaking his head. “No,” he says, firmly, not leaving any room for argument. “I haven’t even practiced with you. I’m just here for numbers,” he says. Xavi shoots him a confused look and Silva tries to think of some way to stop it but he can’t—
“Numbers?” Raul asks.
“Because of Cesc,” Villa says, “Because you didn’t have enough—“
No one says anything, but their blank faces are enough to give Silva away. When Villa finally looks at him, Silva expects anger, but it’s not there—it’s something else instead. Surprise.
Villa doesn’t play and they win, two to nothing, with Silva netting a goal and an assist. He has to work hard to tell himself he’s not showing off for his roommate, but in the end he knows he is and simply tells himself he would do the same for any new person on their team, because he’s not bad and he knows it.
He’s dreading the car ride back, because he knows he’ll have to tell Villa why he lied and he’s not even sure he can answer that himself. Something to do with Villa’s face the first time he saw Silva in his football gear, his face every Thursday afternoon when he’d walk in the door earlier than ever before and look at Silva, and it almost looked like—like longing.
But in the car it’s silent. Villa stares out the window but not like he’s mad, just like he’s tired or feeling quiet.
“Don’t you want to know why I told you we needed an extra when we didn’t?” Silva asks finally, his voice sounding booming in the quiet car. Villa looks over idly, an eyebrow raised, like he hadn’t thought of it.
“I don’t know,” he says. “Do you want to tell me?”
Silva grits his teeth. He does want to tell him, he just doesn’t know what it is he wants to say. “I just thought you—“ he starts, “I thought it seemed like you wanted to play, but you wouldn’t unless—unless—“
“Unless you needed me to,” Villa finishes quietly, back to looking out the window. And Silva’s struck, because that’s not what he’d let himself think at all, but maybe—
He parks in the garage under their building and turns the engine off but neither of them move to get out.
“I just don’t understand why you’re not—mad, or even curious that I lied to you about playing,” Silva says finally, because he can’t figure it out and it’s going to drive him crazy if he doesn’t know, if he doesn’t at least ask.
Villa’s silent for a long time, and then he says, “Because it doesn’t matter. Because I’m glad you did,” and after a long moment he looks over at Silva, his face shadowed in the dark parking structure.
“But you didn’t even want to play,” Silva mumbles, tracing his fingers along the seams of his steering wheel.
Villa laughs quietly. “I did want to,” he says, “But you can’t just walk on to a team of guys that’s been playing together and push into the starting lineup.”
Silva looks over at him, eyes wide. “That’s the only reason?” he asks.
Villa studies him seriously and then nods, and Silva believes him. He leans back in his seat. “I thought maybe I’d get to sub on, but then you had to have a great game,” he says lightly, and he reaches out, like maybe he’s going to shove Silva’s arm, just jokingly, but as soon as they both look at it he drops his hand back into his lap awkwardly.
Silva breathes out a laugh. “Sorry,” he says, and Villa shrugs. “Maybe you could come back next week,” Silva goes on, focusing back on the steering wheel so he won’t have to look while Villa makes up an excuse.
“I told Xavi I’d try,” he says instead, and Silva can feel his eyes on the side of his head but doesn’t look up in case he’s smiling stupidly like he thinks he might be.
“Is that okay?” Villa goes on when Silva doesn’t say anything and then Silva does look up, surprised he’d have to ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, it’s okay.”
On Saturday Silva goes home to see his family. He hasn’t been back since summer and even though the holidays are coming up quickly, he feels bad. He only plans to stay for the day, come back that night, but then his mom convinces him to stay for a late dinner, and his sister talks him in to watching a movie, and before he knows it he’s falling asleep in his childhood bedroom, feeling cramped and claustrophobic now that he’s used to his own spacious home.
On Sunday they drag him to church and then the rest of the extended family comes over and he can’t get away, and in truth he doesn’t want to, because he’s missed them and their loudness and he does need a break sometimes, from school, from his work, he needs a break even if he hates to admit it.
“In the morning,” he says to his mom Sunday night, “I have to leave first thing. I’m already going to miss all my classes.”
“If you’re already going to miss all your classes, why stress out about leaving early?” she asks lightly, clearing his plate from in front of him.
He eyes her. “I see what you’re doing, woman,” he tells her, “And I’m not going to fall for it.”
But he does, of course.
It’s Tuesday morning when he finally convinces himself that he’s rested enough and he needs to, absolutely has to go home. His mom convinces him to stay for one cup of coffee and he sits at the table with his car keys in his hand, so she knows he’s serious.
“Mama, I’m coming back in less than two months for Christmas,” he reminds her as she bustles around him.
“I know,” she says, “So what, you’re not going to eat until then?” she asks, filling containers with food for him to take on the road.
“Mama,” he says, grabbing her arm as she walks by, “Just sit down and talk to me, will you?”
She gives him a withering look but she does sit down and get her own cup of coffee, and for the first time they are alone. He tells her about Dr. Emory and how he’s had to rewrite so much of his thesis, about how nervous he is for the presentation, about his job hunt and about the soccer league and how well they’re doing this year. He tells her about his new apartment, the high ceilings and the nice appliances, about how jealous Cesc is of his new place.
“And your new roommate?” she asks. “Is he a nice boy?”
Silva’s first instinct is to laugh. He pictures Villa’s sharp features, his serious suits and his leather briefcase, the closed door at the top of the stairs, and he wants to say, nice is not the word.
But then he thinks too of the other things-- of the blanket and the heater, the ashtray and the violets and the look on Villa’s face when he’d figured out Silva was lying about the football squad. He doesn’t feel like laughing anymore.
“Yeah, mama,” he says. “I think he—he has a good heart.” He finishes his coffee quickly; suddenly he’s very eager to get home.
When he does get home, it’s the middle of the afternoon and the last thing he expects is to see Villa sitting in their living room, but there he is, a stack of papers spread out on the coffee table in front of him. He stands quickly when Silva walks in, like he’s startled, like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t.
“Where were you?” Villa asks, so sharply he seems to surprise even himself, and Silva halts in the front hallway. Even from here he can see that Villa looks drawn, with dark circles under his eyes, like he hasn’t slept.
“I went to my parents’ for a few days,” he says slowly, confused. Villa’s still standing, rigid, staring at Silva.
“You weren’t here for days,” Villa says, almost to himself, as he bends to gather his papers from the table. “I thought you’d—I thought you—“
He never finishes the thought, but Silva’s stomach sinks as he realizes what’s going on, why Villa looks so pale and tired, and he has no idea how to react. Villa’s shoving his things inside his briefcase now and he breezes past Silva toward the front door, presumably on his way to work.
Silva reaches out a hand for him as he passes, to stop him until he can clear his head, but he never makes contact and Villa’s got the door open before he can think. He pauses though, there in the doorway, his head still down.
“Could you leave a note next time?” he asks, his voice even.
Silva fumbles for an answer. “Yeah, sure, of course,” he says finally, and then, “Villa, look, I’m sorry—“
But the door’s already closed behind him.
Silva doesn’t see him again until Thursday, and he’s not even sure he’s going to show up for football even though he’d said he would—well, he said he’d try, and that’s not the same, so Silva tells himself not to expect anything, but he does anyway, of course.
He does come, perfectly punctual, appearing at the bottom of the stairs at the exact time Silva usually leaves.
“Hey,” Silva says, surprised and not ready to see him even though he’d been waiting.
“Hey,” Villa says, and avoids his gaze. They don’t say anything else on the way to car, or in it, and Silva’s starting to get nervous from the tension when Villa breaks it.
“Look,” he says, turning away from the window he’s been staring out of the entire drive. “I’m sorry if I freaked you out the other day. I’m not your parent, you don’t have to check in with me.”
“No,” Silva says, a rush of relief going through him that Villa isn’t mad at him, “It was rude to take off. If you disappeared for four days I would worry too. I wasn’t thinking.”
Villa’s quiet for awhile, and Silva keeps his eyes on the road, glad that that’s out of the way. “You would?” Villa asks finally. “Worry?”
He eyes Villa out of the corner of his eye. “Yeah,” he says. “Of course.” They don’t speak anymore before they get to the pitch but it’s an easy silence, comfortable.
“Derby day!” Raul calls as they get to the bench to store their things and warm up.
Villa looks at Silva with a questioning face. “Derby?” he asks.
“Oh,” Silva says. He’d completely forgotten about it himself. “I guess I should have told you. We’re playing another team of guys from our school, so we consider it our own little derby.”
Villa nods like he’s taking it very seriously. “So we’re playing for pride, then,” he says, and Silva’s not sure but he thinks there’s a bit of joking there, and it’s nice. It feels like something old and well established tension between them is broken.
“Yes,” Silva confirms. “Well, pride, and loser has to pay for beer after.”
“Then we’d better win,” Villa says, something steely and determined and new in his eyes.
He still refuses to start though, deferring to Silva to act as their striker once again. He does his best, and scores a goal, but the other side comes back almost immediately and scores their own. Just before they break for the half, Cesc threads a pass through and Xavi scores the second.
Villa claps Xavi on the head as they get back to the bench for the break, and he says something in Xavi’s ear that Silva can’t hear. Silva can see it, though, and Villa’s actually grinning as he talks to Xavi, actually looks really happy, and he’s never, ever, in all these months seen Villa look like that.
Silva approaches him. “Hey,” he says. “I’m beat. Go in for me?” He’s already taking a seat on the bench like it’s not really a question, and Villa throws him a suspicious look but he starts to pull on his shin pads regardless.
Silva’s not used to being on the bench. Being their main goal scorer, he plays all of every game, and he finds it’s nerve wracking, being on the bench and not being able to help. His legs twitch with passes he wants to make and runs he would usually do, but the players on the field are different and he reminds himself that his way is not the only way.
Villa’s rusty, there’s no doubt about it, and it’s pretty clear that he’s never played with these players before. But it’s also clear that he’s been watching them during these games and that he’s picked up what they like to do, where Xavi likes to pass and what kind of crosses Cesc puts in, and he gets a couple of good chances before he finally buries one in the 75th minute.
The other guys on the pitch pat him on the head, and those on the bench stand up and applaud. Villa’s casual, just jogs back to center field to get ready for the other team’s kick off, but right before it happens, he looks over to the bench, where Silva’s still grinning and applauding him, and he points right at Silva. Silva doesn’t know exactly what it means, but he gives Villa a half smile and sits back down to watch the rest.
"You're coming out, right?" Silva asks after the game, grasping Villa's arm without thinking. Villa doesn't seem to notice; there’s people everywhere, their teammates celebrating, the other team joking and mingling with them.
Silva feels-- something, pride, or at least relief, when a few of the guys standing near them chime in, "Yeah, Villa, you have to come!"
Villa smiles slightly, his head ducking like he's shy, but Silva's never thought of him that way. "I have to work early," he says, and he's only talking to Silva then, not the rest of them.
Silva gives him his best disappointed look. "Just for a little," he says. "We're going downtown, it's super close to home."
Villa pulls his arm away from Silva gently; he hadn't even been aware he was still holding it. "I really can't," he says. "Next time, I promise."
"Okay," Silva says, and feels more disappointed than he should be. He rustles around in his bag and pulls out the car keys. "Take my car," he says. "I'll get a ride and walk home."
Villa studies him for a minute and then nods, gathering his own things. He says goodbye to some of the others and then waves his arm at Silva, pausing slightly as he passes. "Silva," he says, catching hold of his sleeve as Silva walks off with Juan. Silva looks at him, waiting, but he hesitates. "Don't walk home alone, okay?" he says finally. "If you need a ride, call my cell."
Silva wants to laugh, because he's a grown up and because it's so close to their home, but Villa's face is so serious that he doesn't. "Okay," he says, and Villa's taken off across the dark pitch almost before he's done speaking. And Silva wonders if the red in his cheeks is from playing or something else.
Silva only means to stay at the bar for a little while. In the back of his head he thinks maybe if he gets home early enough, Villa will still be up, and something tells him maybe he won't be holed up in his room for once.
But the night gets later and later and the pitchers keep coming. Once again Silva loses himself in how nice it is to have a break from his studies and even a break from his apartment, nice as it. It's good to catch up with his friends and relax and he loses track of time until the early morning hours, and they only leave when the bar clears.
Juan had driven him over, but he's even smaller than Silva and his eyes are cloudy, his walk unsteady. "I can't drive, dude," he says, as if it isn't obvious.
Silva laughs. It's cold out but the booze has made him feel warm and comfortable. "I live around the corner," he says, pulling on Juan's sleeve and dragging him along. "You can sleep there and get your car in the morning."
They stumble home and Silva thinks idly that he's following Villa's instructions-- he didn't walk home alone. He also wonders vaguely if Villa will care that he has someone over for the night without clearing it, but he figures if Juan sleeps in his room Villa won't even know.
The apartment is warm and dark when they get there. Silva tosses his keys unceremoniously into a dish in the hallway.
"Jesus, man," Juan says, peering into the living room. "You live in a palace."
"Quiet," Silva says, pushing him in the direction of his bedroom. "Villa has to work early."
He tosses Juan some blankets and pillows to make a bed on the floor and they're both asleep within minutes.
In the morning Silva's woken up by someone poking his face repeatedly. He groans and turns to bury his face in a pillow.
"Rise and shine," Juan says, moving to poke his shoulder, and he's trying to sound bright and annoying but his voice is raspy and he sounds as bad as Silva feels.
"Why are you touching me," Silva asks, muffled into his pillow.
"Can I use some mouthwash?" Juan asks, rising from the bed. Silva groans.
"Yes. Whatever. Take anything you want," he says, and hears Juan laugh lowly and the door open, his footsteps disappearing down the hallway.
He hears something else. The shuffle of newspaper in the kitchen, dress shoes against tile. He looks at his bedside clock, but it's way too late for Villa to be home.
He slides out of bed and creeps toward the kitchen and sure enough, there he is, fully dressed for work but standing at the coffee maker, having what does not appear to be his first cup of the morning. Silva stands in the entry to the kitchen, confused and head pounding.
Villa looks over eventually, and it seems like he can't stop himself from laughing. Silva doesn't get it until he moves in front of the microwave to see his own reflection; his hair is sticking up in every direction, his face pale and his eyes squinting into the light of the kitchen. He looks like death.
He means to say good morning but it comes out as more of a grunt. Villa raises an eyebrow. "I'll make you coffee," he says, grabbing Silva's mug from the cabinet, and Silva sits down to wait, his head in his hand so he doesn't have to hold it up himself.
There's a noise from the down the hallway; Juan's humming, and Silva barely notices it, trying to keep his eyes open, until he sees Villa's back tense. He realizes suddenly that Villa didn't know anyone else was here; realizes how it looks.
He doesn't have time to explain before Juan finds them in the kitchen. "Hey Villa," he says, sounding slightly more awake. He looks a little better than Silva, but not by much. He drops into the seat next to Silva and rests his head on Silva's shoulder, closing his eyes and saying something about how tired he is, and Silva can't explain it but suddenly he wishes Juan wouldn't touch him, not with Villa standing right there. Villa turns from the counter, his eyes down and Silva's mug in his hand. He sets it in front of him, carefully, but some still sloshes over the edge.
"Sorry," he says, too quietly, and then turns, all without ever looking up. "I have to get to work,” he says, and just like that he's gone.
Juan slides so his forehead is on the counter, and Silva mimics him. The granite is cool against his aching head. The front door clicks shut and Silva can't help but think that something else has closed off too.