dfotw: (steven gerrard)
[personal profile] dfotw
Title: Doing the right thing

Summary: of marking tactics, all-knowing teammates, blind objects of affection and trying -and failing- to do the right thing.
Pairing: Andy Carroll/Martin Skrtel
Warnings: Slash, sexual situations, swearing. (WARNING: may contain traces mentions of het)
Rating: R.
Disclaimers: this isn't true and I don't make any money with it.

A/N: for [livejournal.com profile] drbillbongo and [livejournal.com profile] kata_c, who took my passing ‘why are those two so close together?’ comment and turned it into a rain of gifs, pics, interviews and inspiration... thank you, both! Hope you like it!

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Dan was the first one to notice or, at least, the first one to say something, even if it was in his own, inimitable, way.

He stood besides Martin as the coaches were explaining the morning’s exercises and his sniggering got him a raised eyebrow from Kenny himself.

“What?” whispered Martin, because he was the one to whom Dan was standing closest, and thus, the one likely to get in trouble if the Dane didn’t stop with the giggles; also, because he knew that Dan’s amusement was always bad news for someone and he had the feeling that, this time, that someone was him.

“How do you feel about long hair?”

Martin gave his fellow defender a quick look, and then turned back to look at the trainers.

“What are you all about?”

“I’m thinking I should grow mine out.”

If the Dane hadn’t still been snickering into the too-long sleeve of his training jersey, Martin might have done something other than snort, “Right.”

“To fit in better into the team,” Dan insisted. “You know, we’ve got the bald contingent, which you and Pepe started… and then the longhairs. I feel self-conscious now.”

Martin finally condescended to give Dan as deeply a sceptical look as he could manage so early in the morning, which had the disturbing effect of setting the Dane off; he doubled in on himself, in a fit of giggles, making everyone turn around to look at him.

Martin shuffled a couple of steps to the left and shrugged at no one in particular, trying to pretend he didn’t know what the Agger was all about; this wasn’t hard, because he really didn’t know.

“Is he always like that?”

Andy Carroll didn’t sound mocking; he sounded honestly curious, and more than a bit baffled.

“It comes and goes,” answered Martin truthfully.

“You two.” Kenny was suddenly right in front of them; Martin stiffened and tried to pretend he had been listening. “We’ve really got to try this marking thing at set pieces.”

Martin nodded like he knew all about ‘this marking thing’.

“I think we’re going to try it with you, Martin. I don’t think Carra is the right person for it. For once, he never stands still, does he?” Kenny laughed; dutifully, Martin laughed too, while Andy did nothing. “So, lad, you stick to Martin like a barnacle, you hear me? The less space between you, the better. Think of it as slow-dancing, if you young people still do stuff like that…”


But Kenny had already moved on to try and explain something to Luis with Pepe’s help, and he didn’t catch Martin’s eloquent question.

“So…” he said, turning to Carroll…

… who was too busy taking down his ponytail and doing it up again. And avoiding Martin’s eyes.

Well, he’d find out what ‘this marking thing’ was in training, wouldn’t he?

He found out. Oh yes, he did. The first time that Andy came up behind him, put both his hands on his waist and pressed against him, he jumped a good foot in the air and was about to turn around and ask him what was wrong with him when he caught Kenny grinning and giving them a thumbs up.

“The closer I am to you, the less rival defenders can mark me,” said Andy right into his ear.

If that was true, not God himself would be able to mark Andy Carroll at the time: he was positively plastered against Martin’s back.

“Right,” Martin said, trying to sound unfazed. “What if I have to move? Like, to try and score myself?”

“I’ll let go of you once the whistle blows, don’t worry.”

Was he laughing?

Martin started to turn around, but Luis let the ball fly and Andy was off like a shot to try and take a header.


The second person who noticed was Stevie.

Stevie thought it was awkward. Stevie had bittersweet memories of similar things happening in Anfield’s changing room. Stevie didn’t know very well what to do.

“So, are you settling in alright?” he asked as he and Andy finished getting dressed after a training session.

“Oh, yeah, great, thanks,” the young man said, all wide eyes and earnest smile, like a puppy trying to impress his captain and shed the troublemaker reputation he carried.

“You’ve got a new place and everything, right?”

“Oh, yeah, I got myself a flat, not living off a hotel any longer.”

“Good… and you’re getting along alright with the lads here?”

“Oh, yeah, everyone’s been just great.”

Stevie had the feeling that he could beat his head against this great wall of optimism until he got a massive headache. Or he could try to be less subtle.

That was, fortunately, the moment that Martin chose to come from the showers, in just his flip-flops and a towel casually slung around his hips. He crossed the changing rooms towards his locker, expertly avoiding a rushing Lucas –who was running away from Dirk- and then dropping his towel on Dan’s head as the Dane was tying his shoes.

Andy stared. Stevie looked at him. Martin got his clothes and turned to sit on the bench. Andy hurriedly looked away… and straight into the eyes of his new captain.


Stevie tried really, really hard not to smile.


There was the panic coming to his eyes, under the blushing and the stammering.

“It’s alright, lad,” said Steven, trying for his most neutral, non-threatening tone. “It’s alright.”

“I’m not…” Andy said, looking at his hands, clenched over his knees.

“Lad, Andy, I don’t care what you are or you ain’t. And you can do anything you want, so long as it doesn’t get you or the team in trouble, alright?” Stevie waited until Andy, still not looking at him, nodded. “But…”

A pause. Steven hesitated. With a careless sentence he could make sure that never again the thought of doing anything ‘untoward’ crossed Andy’s mind, burdened as it was with the need to make a good impression on his new team. Just a few words, a reminder of ‘public image’, ‘not the done thing’ and a few other clichés, and the new boy would keep his eyes to himself and his hands to the first willing girl in a too-short dress that found him getting hammered at a club.

The set of Andy’s shoulders was tense as he waited for Steven to speak, and he didn’t even look up at the sound of Martin’s laughter as he and Dan, both now dressed, horsed around with his towel.

“Just… don’t make a mess of things.” Steven rested his hand on Andy’s shoulder as he got up. “And don’t get distracted in those corner-kicks, will you?”

Stevie grinned over his shoulder at the striker -who watched him go with his mouth slightly open- and walked out of the changing room and towards his car, where he sat for almost an hour, feeling old and very nostalgic.

The third person who noticed was Pepe. Actually, Pepe had noticed before everyone, but he had kept to himself and not said anything, in a display of discretion that impressed even him.

But there was a limit to his discretion, and watching two grown men –two tall, athletic young men who were no strangers to bar brawls and police holding cells, amongst other things- act like third-grade kids at a playground… well, that just about did his discretion in and pushed him into full-blown impish mood.

“What are you sniggering all about?” Carra asked him one morning at training.

“You don’t want to know.”

“Oh yes I do.”

“No you don’t.”

“Try me, Reina,” growled the Scouser.

Pepe looked around; the nearest group was made of Dirk, Raúl, Lucas and Luis, who were being very enthusiastic in a pidgin mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and some sprinkles of English.

“It’s the lovebirds,” he admitted at last, grinning at Carra who, predictably, grimaced and went all red in the face.

“Aw shite, we got more of those? Who’s it this time, then? Suárez and Lucas?”

“No!” said Pepe. “Oh, vamos, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed, snuggling right under your Scouser nose ten times every match. I notice and I’m right at the other end of the field… the fans have noticed, any day now they’ll be singing them a song...”

“Aw, Reina, are you daft? That’s not… that’s Kenny’s doing, right there,” spluttered Carra. “He’s told Andy to stick to a defender at set pieces…”

“Andy never snuggles up to you like that,” Pepe pointed out slyly, only to see Carra go redder and more incoherent; after ten seconds, he grinned and patted him on the shoulder. “It’s not just the snuggling,” he said, while his vice-captain gave him a deadly look. “It’s the… the whispering in Martin’s ear, and the holding onto Martin’s hand, and the looks, and the…” Pepe gestured.

“Martin’s not done anything, though,” the defender pointed out, after a moment’s reflection. “Boy’s acting as if nothing’s going on…”

“Really?” Pepe looked at the other end of the training ground and then at Carra. “Martin doesn’t usually let people…” He searched for the right expression “… stick that close to him without complaint. Not even at goal celebrations. Remember that time he snapped at Álvaro when Álvarito jumped on him?”

Whatever the game the lads were playing out there, it involved Andy using Martin as a human shield, hands on his waist, chin resting on his shoulder, and Martin laughing about it and obligingly shuffling closer to the striker. Would wonders never cease?

“Huh,” said Carra.

Pepe didn’t have time to crow at his victory at convincing the Scouser of what should be obvious to anyone; he had just caught Dan’s eye from the other side of the pitch and both were grinning like lunatics.

Pretty much the last person to notice was Martin. This was, when he looked back on it, the most embarrassing part of the whole... thing.

He didn’t notice. He didn’t want to notice.

Just as he accepted Andy’s ridiculous closeness when it was time to take a corner-kick –and he even felt proud of it, waving his arms around to emphasise his role as the striker’s shield-, he accepted Andy’s small touches when strategy didn’t demand them, Andy’s concern when a rival player knocked the wind out of him, Andy’s smiles during training, Andy’s invitations to have a pint after a tough match, Andy’s jokes about his tattoos, Andy’s permanent presence by his side.

He accepted all this blindly. And blindly too, he refused to realise that he wouldn’t have accepted this from anyone else. Not from Dan, who was his best friend thanks to –or, in spite of- all the things they had in common; not from Carra, whom he admired so; not from Fernando, when he had still been with them, all freckles and shy smiles and enough charm to knock a Scouser silly at a hundred yards; not from Martin Kelly or any of the other young players that looked up to him like puppies; not from anyone else.

With anyone else, he’d have bristled and sneered and made them work for the closeness, make them earn it, make them prove themselves trustworthy.

With Andy, he just allowed things to happen; allowed the hugs and the jokes and the conspiratorial smiles, allowed the awkwardly-worded invitations for a drink, allowed the aimless conversations in the parking lot and the teasing about how he should grow his hair out.

(“Your hair is enough for all of us baldies in the team... or, at least, enough for me,” he’d replied, mussing Andy’s neat ponytail, and the striker had smiled so hard that Martin had had no option but to smile back.)

He’d been blind. And when he’d dropped the blindfold, thanks to Pepe’s constant teasing and Dan’s good-natured ribbing and Stevie’s patronising smiles and Carra’s exasperated huffs and Dirk’s not-so-subtle jokes -even Dirk had noticed before him, how dumb could he be?!-... then, he hadn’t known what to do.

Andy didn’t seem to expect anything from him. On the contrary, past the awkward, everyday filtrations –which, now that Martin was willing to see them, were obvious enough-, the striker actually shied away from him.

“You’ve been ignoring him for months, you dumb bastard,” Dan told him when, with his tail between his legs, Martin finally went to him for advice. “What do you want him to expect from you? It’s a miracle the boy’s still trying at all...”

“It’s not my fault!”

“Well, it certainly isn’t his.”

Martin loudly blew air through his nose and asked the one question he was afraid to ask.

“What do I do, then?”

Andy was having a good day. All his days, lately, were good: he was recovering nicely from his injury, he was in a great team, with a very nice gaffer –who went with him to concerts, even!-, funny teammates, a captain that was the kind of man all footballers wanted to be when they grew up... and Martin.

Martin, who made his days just by turning up for training; Martin, who grinned at him in that way that made his cheekbones look even more devastatingly gorgeous than usual; Martin, who patiently endured Andy’s constant love-struck awkwardness without complaint...

Sure, Andy could –and sometimes did- dream of Martin suddenly discovering he was madly in love with him, or at least willing to try some experimenting after a few pints, but most of the time he was happy with what he had: acceptance, even of the unspoken kind, was more than he had been expecting.

Acceptance from the gaffer, who smirked a bit when he complimented Martin and Andy’s defensive tactics; acceptance from his teammates, who teased him good-naturedly when his eyes wondered or he blushed for apparently no reason; acceptance from his captain, who after his little speech when he had found Andy out, had shown no more interest in the matter; acceptance from Martin himself, who was not interested but remained kind.

Life had taught Andy that there were times –lots of times, in fact almost all the times *outside* the football pitch- when it was better to keep his head down and be thankful for what he had than to raise a big fuss. Oh yes, he had learnt that particular lesson well.

Andy Carroll was determined to enjoy his good days and get into no more trouble. He would be good; he had promised it to himself, and to certain other people.

“Wait up!”

He froze with his car keys in his hand; he took a deep breath, turned around and tried to act casual.


Martin was frowning thunderously.

“What’s the matter?” asked Andy.

Martin frowned a bit more.

“Martin, mate, is something wrong?”

The Slovak opened his mouth, closed it without saying anything, frowned even more; Andy didn’t know whether to be concerned or amused, so he settled for expectant.

“You want to come for dinner tonight?”

Andy felt his eyebrows rise. This was unexpected.

“Yeah, sure,” he said as soon as he could kick his brain into gear, before Martin changed his mind. “Erm, what time?”

“Eight alright with you?”

“Sure, that’s fine...” He played with his car keys; Martin was still frowning. “Erm...”

“I’ll see you around eight at my place, then,” said Martin, turning around sharply. “Bring some good beer!”

“Right,” said Andy to himself as he got into his car. “Dinner. I can do dinner. And a few beers. I can do that, too. It’s not like it’s a...”

A date. Of course it wasn’t a date. Guys who had been ignoring you for months didn’t suddenly invite you over to dinner and meant it as a date. It was just two mates hanging out.

Right. Which was why, at five minutes past eight, Andy was standing at the door of Martin’s house, in his best jeans and favourite shirt, with a pack of speciality beer from his favourite brewery, wishing for his hands to stop trembling.


“Hey.” Martin opened the door and walked back inside, towards the kitchen.

Right. Not a date. Business as usual.

Andy took off his shoes, hung his jacket and went to join his host at the kitchen.

“I’m going to put these in the fridge, alright?” he said, showing his contribution to dinner.

“Sure. I have a few already there, grab one if you want.”


Martin was stirring something in a frying pan. Andy thought about offering to give him a hand (a helping hand! This was not a date!), but considering his cooking abilities, he decided the best he could do was sit back and keep out of the way.

“I didn’t know you cooked,” said Andy at last, because it was the first time he’d seen Martin doing anything in the kitchen other than grabbing beers and warming up takeaway leftovers.

“Me?” The defender laughed. “I definitely don’t cook, I called a restaurant that delivers... I’m just warming up stuff.”

“Well, anyway, that’s more than I could do without burning the house down,” admitted Andy.

“Yeah, what’s the point of cooking when you can have deliveries? Now, some guys in the team do...” Martin hit the spoon against the side of the pan to dislodge something that definitely didn’t want to let go. “Alonso was a great one for dinners and stuff, and Masche did a great... asado, I think it was called, some sort of BBQ outside... even Dan can cook a bit, when the mood strikes him...”

“I can’t, my mum never let me into the kitchen when I was little, and then...” Andy did a great deal of mental editing before he continued with his sentence, to avoid mentioning live-in girlfriends, assault charges and other unpleasant things. “I’ve ended up living in hotels or stuff because, nah, I can’t bring myself to learn all that...”

“My mother did try to teach me to cook, but...” Martin looked up from the frying pain to grin at Andy. “Didn’t work out.”

Andy laughed and the last of his tension drained away. This was very much not a date, but it was an opportunity to sit with Martin and watch him and talk to him in a way that couldn’t happen at Melwood. It was too good a chance to pass up.

They had dinner, and the conversation was so fun that they didn’t notice that Martin had burnt the stir-fry a bit while heating it up. They finished Martin’s beers and started on the ones Andy had brought without giving it a moment’s thought. They moved out of the kitchen table (leaving all the dirty plates behind for Martin’s cleaning lady to worry about) and into the cosy living room, with the huge, insanely comfortable leather sofa in front of the huge TV.

“Bloody hell...” sighed Andy, letting himself fall into it, stretching his long legs and closing his eyes. “I ate too much. Drank too much, too. Might as well skip the cab and jog back to my flat, or the nutritionist is going to kill me next Thursday...”

Martin tried to smile at the joke, but Andy looked so tempting there, stretched out on his sofa, wearing those snug jeans and that shirt that did something totally amazing to his eyes and, oh, now he was taking down his ponytail...


“Uh?” asked Martin, taking a sip of his beer to pretend he hadn’t been staring. “This is really good...”

“... thanks. It’s from a brewery back in Newcastle, I get my dad to bring me a case every time he visits...”

“Hmm...” Distraction, distraction, what was there in the room to distract him from Andy’s mussed hair falling around his face?

“Martin, is everything alright?” the striker asked, leaning forwards to rest his elbows on his knees.

“Fine, just fine.” Martin kept looking around the room. “You want to watch a movie? Dan lent me a couple.”

“Yeah, sure.” Martin didn’t have to look up from the DVD cases to hear Andy’s disappointment.

Movies were safe. Movies with pretty girls in very short skirts shooting zombie Nazis (where did Dan find these movies anyway?!) were safer than watching Andy take a long drink from his pint glass, his throat working slowly between the collar of his shirt, which now had the three top buttons undone –when had this happened, and how hadn’t Martin realised it?


Martin turned to look at the TV so quickly he nearly gave himself whiplash. He’d been staring so hard that Andy had realised. Smooth, Martin, very smooth.

“Martin, mate...” Andy put a hand on Martin’s knee and leant closer. “You are giving me all sorts of ideas tonight, you know?”

Martin swallowed, hard; his heart was beating so hard in his ears that he was afraid he’d miss the next thing Andy was going to say.

“I am?” he asked through a suddenly parched throat.

“Yes, you are.” Andy squeezed his knee. Then, he stood up. “I think I better go.”


Andy huffed a little rueful laugh from the side of the TV. Martin looked up at him, completely at a loss. He was leaving? Why?

“I don’t...” Andy ran his hands through his hair, then quickly put it back into a ponytail. “Listen, Martin, I like you a lot, alright? But I...” He sighed. “You’ve had a pint or two too many and I... this might seem a good idea right now, but tomorrow you’re going to get up and regret this and I... I don’t want to see that from you, you see?”

Martin stared at him, mouth open in absolute disbelief.

“A walk home will do me good.” Andy’s smile was as regretful as it could be. “See you tomorrow at Melwood. Don’t... don’t overthink this, mate. Let’s pretend it never happened, alright?”

He was in the hallway, putting on his shoes, when Martin caught up with him, his brain still trying to work out what was happening and what he ought to do about it.

“Andy, wait,” he said, because if he knew one thing, it was that it was crucial to keep Andy inside the house. “Don’t go, I’m sorry...”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about, mate,” the striker said with a grin. “It’s alright, it really is...”

“No, I mean... I’m sorry, I... I did invite you to dinner because I...” Martin bit his stammering tongue; could he sound more like an idiot? Maybe he *was* drunk. “Fuck it, Andy, I’m not drunk and I know what I want.”

“Yeah? And what is that?”

Andy crossed his arms, his shoelaces still undone, and waited for Martin to speak.

His hands were shaking, and not from the beers. Who knew that being good was so bloody hard?

It was difficult to remember why he wanted to do the right thing as he watched Martin struggle to find the right words, a faint blush settling on those devastating cheekbones –though whether it was from frustration or embarrassment, Andy didn’t know him well enough to tell.


Andy closed his eyes and swore under his breath. Why was Martin making it so difficult, looking at him like that, not backing off? Couldn’t he see that Andy was trying his best to do the right thing and not give into temptation?

He opened his eyes again. Martin was just standing there, in the middle of his hallway, one hand raised as if he meant to touch Andy, or hit him...

To Hell with being good!

Andy gave one step forwards, put his hands on Martin’s shoulder and continued walking until he had the defender pressed against the wall. After giving him one second to make up his mind and start to struggle if he intended to, he cupped Martin’s face with his hands and kissed him.

Martin returned the kiss at once, his hands scrabbling up Andy’s back to grab at his hair.

Prosim (Please),” he gasped when Andy broke the kiss.

Not being fluent in Slovakian, and much too comfortable in the handbasket that was taking him to Hell –or at least to the footballing equivalent- to ask for clarification, Andy chose to take this as encouragement and kissed Martin again, pressing him with all his weight against the wall.

“Fuck, Martin, fuck,” he whispered, drawing back from this second kiss to look at Martin and confirm that the hand gripping his hair, and the other one that was sneaking under his shirt, did mean it was alright to carry on.

The hand gripping his hair dragged him back into the kiss before he could notice anything else.

Andy had had several lovers, but he couldn’t think of one he’d wanted more, and for a longer time, than Martin... well, actually, he couldn’t think at all, what with Martin kissing him desperately and all that, but if he had been able...

“Whoa,” he said. “Careful with my shirt, mate, it’s my favourite...”

Martin muttered something that sounded a lot like ‘screw the shirt’ in Slovakian, and continued pawing at the buttons with one hand, while the other one rested on the small of Andy’s back and pressed them closer together.

“Martin!” laughed Andy, taking the hand that was threatening his buttons. “Slow down, mate...”

“Don’t want to.”

“Martin...” Andy whispered against his lips, unable to keep himself from smiling. “I’m not going anywhere. Slow down and *enjoy* this...”

And, saying this, he pressed his hips against Martin’s and kissed him again, slower, deeper, putting all his weight into pinning Martin to the wall and keeping him there, making those high-pitched, needy noises when Andy let him come up for air.

“Fuck, I want you,” said Andy, after what felt like hours –or was it merely seconds?- of making out. “But, my God, not here in the hallway...”

“Bedroom’s upstairs,” panted Martin, looking so debauched, with his lips bruised and the colour high on his cheeks and his shirt all rumpled, that Andy had to remind himself that no, he wasn’t going to waste what might be his only chance at this on a quickie against the wall.

“Come on, then. You’ve had me on fire the whole evening, so move it or I swear to God, I’m going to fucking undress you right here in the hallway.”

This finally seemed to break through Martin’s shock; the defender broke into a grin and led the way back into the house, leaving Andy’s shoes behind in the middle of the entrance hall, their shoelaces flopping loose.

Once in the bedroom, Andy threw the rest of his hang-ups to the wind; if he was going to do this –put his position in his new team, his friendship with Martin, his shiny good intentions, on the line- he was going to enjoy every moment of it. If the next morning Martin threw him out on his ear, Andy was going to make sure that he had no regrets about not enjoying the night to the fullest.

So, he kissed Martin. He kissed Martin like he’d been wanting to kiss him for months, with lips and tongue and teeth and roaming hands. He then undressed him inch by inch, taking the time to explore, to take his fill, to look at everything that he wasn’t allowed to stare at in other contexts. He kissed the tattoos, let his tongue roam the planes of Martin’s muscled chest, ran his hands up and down those wonderfully strong legs –stopping a moment to worship every scar, every bruise-, nuzzled the tense abs and dipped his tongue in the well of Martin’s navel.

And then his patience ran out and he climbed on top of Martin, undressing himself as quickly as he could, only being slightly more careful with his favourite shirt than the Slovak had been, because he had to feel him, and he had to feel him *now*.

Martin was very eager to offer him a hand, or two, to get him out of his clothes, which led to the sort of delightful wrestling on the bed that amused Andy as much as it turned him on.

“Got you,” said Martin after a few breathless minutes, straddling him and pressing Andy into the mattress with both hands on his shoulders.

“Yeah... what are you going to do with me now that you have me, then?” asked Andy, out of breath and so horny that he couldn’t help but raise his hips a little to rub himself against Martin.

“Everything,” Martin replied, his eyes dark, leaning in to kiss Andy, tangling their legs together. “God, I want to do everything with you...”

The intensity of this declaration robbed Andy of what little breath he had after their wrestling for position.

“You do?”

“Of course I do.” Martin’s hips were beginning to move impatiently against Andy’s. “Why do you think I asked you to dinner?”

It had been a date! Andy, however, was much too distracted to consider the implications of this statement at depth.

Martin woke up much too early and feeling much too well, considering the hour and that he’d been woken up by the mattress dipping sharply. He turned around, stretching muscles that no training session, no matter how thorough, would have left so pleasantly sore, and spotted Andy, sitting on the edge of the bed, head bowed.

The gorgeous stretch of his naked back distracted him only a moment from more pressing matters.

“Morning,” he muttered, getting up to use the toilet.

When he came back out, still wiping the sleep from his eyes –he was really not a morning person-, Andy was still sitting there, drawing a rather melancholic silhouette under the scarce grey light that came through the window.

“Alright?” asked Martin, stopping in front of him, but not quite daring to touch him quite yet.

“Yeah.” Andy looked up, his hair falling away from his face to reveal a tense smile. “You?”

“Oh yeah.”

Andy’s smile turned warmer, less guarded. Martin realised the striker was waiting for him to say something that would either make the night before OK... or wouldn’t.

“It’s a bit too early for breakfast, isn’t it?” Martin asked instead, to fill the silence while he got his sleepy brain to come up with the right words. “Unless you want something...?”

“Nah, I’m fine... I just couldn’t sleep any more. Sorry if I woke you up.”

“That’s alright,” said Martin through a yawn, getting back under the covers. “Aren’t you cold?” he asked, lifting the covers with one hand, after a minute in which Andy just sat there.

The Englishman obligingly went back into bed, but just laid there, looking up the ceiling.

“Martin...” he started at last, still looking up. “Mate, sorry, but I really have to ask... are you...? I mean...”

“Andy...” Seeing him apparently as confused as Martin himself felt made the defender, perversely, get some of his confidence back. “Weren’t you the one telling me not to overthink this last night?”

Andy chuckled and looked at him.

“I might have been, yeah...” he admitted.

“I need my coffee before I can have a conversation, anyway... my English is kind of... you know... at this time in morning...”

“Your English is fine,” Andy assured him, turning towards him. “Better than the English of a lot of Englishmen I know...”

“Not saying much, is it?”

Andy laughed, a low, intimate sound in the half-darkness of the bedroom. Martin shivered, then yawned again.

“Go back to sleep,” Andy whispered, reaching out to run his fingers over the stubble on Martin’s head. “All I wanted to know was if you were going to kick me out of your house.”

“Don’t be daft, why would I do that?”

Andy didn’t answer, but even in the dim light of early morning, Martin could see his eyes go distant for a second.

“No reason. Go back to sleep.”

Martin relented, but not before kissing Andy to make the shadows leave his eyes.

The first person who noticed the change in their relationship was, of course, Dan.

On the morning after the dinner at Martin’s, the Slovak was getting changed into his training gear, having arrived early to Melwood, when Andy came in, looking for all the world as if forty minutes before Martin hadn’t dropped him off at his flat with a good snog and a promise to meet again in the evening for 'dinner'.

Martin looked up because, really, it would’ve looked suspicious if he hadn’t –not because he wanted to look at Andy, of course not- and, by his side, Dan jumped up and bounced across the changing room.

“Carra, you owe me a hundred quid!”

The changing room fell quiet for a moment. Carra sighed, gave Martin a hard look, shook his head and turned to find his wallet.

Led by Pepe, the rest of the team burst into applause. Then, they finished getting changed and nothing more was said of it as they ran to the training ground; the jokes would come later, and they would *never* stop.

The End...

Hope you liked it, feedback is welcomed, adored, and fed expensive chocolate!

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January 2012

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