You Loved Me Once

21: We’ll Do This My Way

“Look at him” Gerard teased as he stepped into the changing room, settling his bag down on the bench. It had become routine, for days, Lionel had been glued to his phone, and Gerard couldn’t resist the chance to poke fun at him. It made a change from seeing him quiet and slightly withdrawn from the group.

“He’s been staring at it for about 15 minutes now” Neymar commented “Every now and again, he just kind of smiles at it” he added.

“That’s because he has a girlfriend” Gerard contributed.

“I can hear you, you know” Lionel mused, stowing his phone back in his bag before he turned his attention to Gerard “And you know that Alba’s not my girlfriend” he noted.

“On a technicality, yes, but I don’t imagine you jumping at the chance to date someone else in the near future either” Gerard noted.

Lionel rolled his eyes. “Do we not have anything more interesting to discuss that my love life?” he posed.

Gerard looked around the room for a moment before he shook his head, offering the argentine a grin. “It’s pretty interesting” he mused impishly.

Lionel shook his head. “There’s really nothing to say. Alba and I…it’s something” he muttered with a little shrug. It hadn’t been long, almost a week had passed since he had visited her office, but he knew that he couldn’t get impatient. If things were going to work out, they needed to happen on Alba’s terms and Lionel didn’t want to be accused of pushing her too fast too soon.

“Something?” Luis peeped.

“It’s complex” Lionel noted, shrugging slightly “I think I am making progress, but only Alba knows how much” he added.

“You’re really into this girl, aren’t you?” Javier Mascherano noted, his expression soft.

Lionel nodded. “I am” he conceded gently “And I do want to make it work. It seems to be working Ok right now, but I know that I have a way to go to get her to trust me again” he insisted gently. He wasn’t naïve, he and Alba had only been tentatively seeing one another for a couple of weeks and he knew that it was going to take more to ensure that she trusted him again, but it was work that he was willing to do. He had lost her once and had little intention of repeating the feat.

Gerard, who’d moved to get changed, turned slightly, his large hand patting the argentine’s shoulder encouragingly. “Don’t mess her around again, Leo” he mused “Alba’s a good woman” he enthused.

“One that we are all itching to meet” Neymar chimed.

Lionel shook his head. “You’re not meeting her for a while yet. I’ve got to get her used to me again, let alone you lot” he muttered.

“You can’t hide her forever, hombre” Gerard grinned “And the first sign of you preparing to introduce her, I am there. I’ve missed her” he enthused before he moved to leave the room.

Lionel rolled his eyes and moved to follow after the defender, pausing slightly at the sound of his phone. Shaking his head, he padded back towards his bag and slipped his phone out, grinning at Alba’s short message before he sent one back, agreeing to visit her apartment once he was done with training. They were infrequent, with Alba’s work hours and his own schedule picking up, it was hard for them to get together, but he liked that she was making the first move. It wasn’t something she’d ever done a lot of and Lionel, who was optimistic about their chances, was a little impressed that she had made it so quickly.

“I thought you’d be later” Alba commented as she pulled the door to her apartment open, allowing Lionel to step inside. She was surprised, from what she remembered of his schedule, she had been expecting him slightly later, and she felt a little underprepared, something which was confided by the oversized sweater she still wore.

“I would have been, but my coach had somewhere else to be so he let us go a little early. It means a longer session tomorrow, but I means I got here early. Do you want me to go?” Lionel babbled, peeking down at her choice of clothes. It was rare, even when they’d been dating, Alba had been reluctant to let him see her in what appeared to be her pyjamas, and it caught him a little off guard. It wasn’t entirely what he had been expecting when she had invited him over.

“No” Alba insisted “I just need a little time to get dressed” she fussed before she turned away.

Lionel rolled his eyes a little and reached a hand out, wrapping it gently around her wrist before he tugged her back to him, pressing a soft kiss against her lips.

Alba let out a little squeak, something which made him chuckle. “You’re really going to do that every time I kiss you?” he posed gently.

“It’s not impossible” Alba muttered.

Lionel shook his head. “You’re cute” he fussed gently.

Alba’s cheeks warmed a little before she shook her head. “I uh…I should go and get changed. I’ve been asked to review this new café in town and I thought, maybe, that you’d like to go with me. I’ve not seen you since last week” she babbled softly.

Lionel shook his head, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. “I’d love to, Alba” he mused.

“Great” she squeaked “Give me a few minutes to change and we can go” she insisted.

Lionel nodded. “Ok” he agreed “Just one more thing” he added.

Alba lifted an eyebrow. “What?” she posed.

Lionel shook his head a little and stepped towards her, kissing her lightly once more before he smiled at the small squeak that fell out of her mouth. “Adorable” he commented as she skittered out of the room.

“You take notes whilst you eat?” Lionel commented as he leant back in his seat, his eyes contently watching Alba as she jotted something down onto the pad which sat beside her.

“I have to write a review” Alba commented “Did you think I just made that up?” she posed.

“No” Lionel noted “It’s just a little odd watching you write notes about a salad. It’s a salad, Alba” he teased.

Alba offered him a glare before she turned her attention back to her notepad, something which made him roll his eyes before he leant across the table, stealing it out of her hand. “Lionel” she complained.

“You’re on a date” the argentine grinned “You can have this back if you agree to try and talk to me” he bargained.

Alba shook her head. “You’re a pain, you know that?” she posed.

Lionel offered her a boyish grin before he set her pad back down beside her. “You like me for it” he commented.

Alba offered him a look before she shook her head, mumbling something beneath her breath before she jotted something else down onto her pad.

Lionel watched her amusedly. “You know, I’ve liked spending time with you” he mused.

Alba, who’d been writing something down, looked up, her expression a little surprised. “What?” she posed.

“I’ve liked being around you” Lionel mused.

“Liked?” Alba squeaked, her expression panicked. She knew that it was likely that she was misunderstanding, but the word ‘liked’ stuck in her throat. It sounded as though he was preparing to end something.

Lionel noted the expression on her face and shook his head. “No, Alba” he murmured “That’s not how I meant it. I meant that the past couple of weeks have been nice and that I hope it continues. I hope that things get a little more…exclusive between us” he babbled softly.

Alba chewed on her lip. “Exclusive?” she posed.

“As in, I only date you and you only date me. I know that you want to take your time with this, and I get that, but I think…”

“OK” Alba squeaked.

Lionel blinked a little. “Sorry?” he posed.

“I’ll be your girlfriend, Leo” she murmured “But I am still not ready for anything else. I’ll take the title of your girlfriend, but I am not going to suddenly start spending the night with you or showing up to your games. I want to do this my way” she insisted.

“Of course” Lionel agreed, his tone a little surprised “I wouldn’t expect anything else” he added.

Alba nodded. “Alright” she mused.

Lionel smiled a little before he took her hand, pressing a subtle kiss to the back of it.

He already liked the idea that she was his girlfriend.
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Thanks to FootieJo and Jayme112234 for the comments :)