You Loved Me Once

34: Happy

“You know, you really don’t have to look so nervous, Alba” Lionel smiled as he stepped up beside his girlfriend, his hand gently taking hers “It’s not the first time you’ve been here” he added. He could see that she was nervous, from the moment that he had suggested that they pay a visit to his teammates after the final whistle Alba had fallen quiet, but he was pleased that they had gotten as far as they had. For weeks, Alba had shot down the chance to spend time with his friends as soon as the words had fallen out of his mouth and the fact that they stood in the tunnel, awaiting the OK to head into the changing room, marked some sort of progress, something he was a little proud of.

Alba, who’d been staring at the closed door, jumped a little, her head turning to look at him. “I know” she mumbled “It’s been a long time though. I am sure I have only met a few of them before” she added.

Lionel nodded. “They’re going to love you” he enthused, squeezing her hand gently “How could they not?” he added with an impish smile.

“You’re just saying that” Alba returned, offering him a slightly dubious look “It’s the traditional line for a boyfriend to say before his girlfriend meets his friends” she added.

“Or, it is the truth” Lionel mused, leaning a little closer to her “You’re amazing” he fussed before he ducked in, stealing a quick kiss.

Alba tried to keep the grin off of her face but failed, something which made Lionel lean in once more, kissing her lightly before the sound of someone clearing their throat caught his attention, causing him to lean back, his dark eyes fixed on Gerard who smirked at the pair. “Still in the honeymoon phase then?” the defender teased.

“You usually take longer to get changed” Lionel countered “I was merely trying to reassure Alba that the guys are going to love her” he enthused, squeezing Alba’s hand gently.

Gerard smiled, not missing the look of trepidation that marked Alba’s face. “He’s not wrong, Alba” he noted softly “The guys are going to love meeting you. They’ve been looking forwards to it for a while” he enthused.

Alba shook her head. “I highly doubt that” she protested gently.

“They’re going to be thrilled” Gerard grinned as he stepped towards her, slinging an arm around her shoulder “A lot of the guys have be speculating that you’re not real” he added, trying to make her smile. He could see that she was nervous, the way that her hand clutched at Lionel’s made it obvious, but he was pleased to see her there, even if it was only to be a fleeting meeting, he was happy that she was taking that step forwards. He was happy that she appeared to be making an effort with his friend.

“Why would they think that?” Alba mused, allowing Gerard to lead her towards the door.

“I maybe suggested it” Gerard teased, earning a small giggle.

Lionel, who followed along behind them, smiled a little at the sound of Alba’s laugh. He knew that she didn’t want to hang around, she had made it clear that she wanted it to be over and done with quickly, but listening to her laugh relaxed him slightly. He wanted her to be her usual charming self and he knew that her laughing was the first indicator that she would be.

“Guys” Gerard called as he stepped into the changing room “I have someone I want to introduce you to” he grinned.

“That’s not Shakira” Neymar commented from his spot beside his locker.

“No” Gerard commented as he rolled his eyes “This is Alba Nunez” he grinned.

“Alba?” Luis contributed “Isn’t that the name of Leo’s girlfriend?” he posed.

Lionel, who had been watching slightly, stepped forwards, his hand taking Alba’s and pulling her a little closer to him. “This is my girlfriend, Alba” he noted.

The team were quiet for a moment before Neymar stood up, padding towards Luis who offered him a triumphant grin as he handed over a small sum of money. “I told you she was real” the Uruguayan grinned.

“You didn’t think I was real?” Alba posed, stepping forwards slightly.

“Leo never had a picture” Neymar reasoned “And he never spoke to you, only texted, and then Gerard….”

“You believed something which came out his mouth?” Alba interjected with a gesture towards Gerard.

Neymar blinked a little, something which made Alba shake her head, a giggle falling out of her mouth. “He played you” she quipped.

Neymar, who’d stiffened a little, relaxed, laughing along with the blonde girl. “I’m Neymar” he greeted.

“Alba” Alba replied “Do you think you could introduce me to everyone else?” she posed.

“I’d love to” Neymar grinned “Leo, do you mind me stealing her for a second?” he posed with a look towards the argentine.

Lionel shook his head. “Not at all” he enthused.

Alba smiled at him gently before she took the hand that Neymar was offering out to her, following him across the room towards the group of men who watched them.

“She looks alright, doesn’t she?” Gerard quipped.

Lionel, who was watching Alba grin and laugh, nodded his head. “She looks good” he agreed gently.

“You two are good?” Gerard posed quietly. He knew that Lionel didn’t like to talk about it, what happened between him and Alba was between the two of them, but Gerard wanted to check in every now and again. He merely wanted to ensure that Lionel wasn’t setting himself up for a fall.

“We’re fine, Gerard” Lionel mused gently “It’s still in need of some work, but right now, it’s the best it’s been in a long time and I’m happy” he enthused.

Gerard offered him a small look before he nodded. “I’m glad for you” he noted before he patted the smaller man’s shoulder, moving to join the other who were eagerly fussing over Alba.

“How are you feeling?” Lionel posed as he padded into Alba’s bedroom, a warm mug of tea clutched in his hand. It had been a good night, Alba had spent almost an hour meeting and talking with his teammates, and he had to admit that he was surprised, even if he was immensely pleased, he was a little shocked that she had hung around for as long as she had.

“I’m tired” Alba noted, kicking her shoes from her feet “Those guys were very talkative” she commented.

“They were excited to meet you” Lionel mused as he handed the warm drink to her “Especially since Gerard had somehow convinced them that you weren’t real” he teased.

Alba smiled, sipping on her drink softly.

“They liked you too” he mused “I mean, I think a lot of them were surprised by the fact that you were with me, but I think they liked you” he enthused.

Alba shook her head. “Why would they be surprised that I was with you?” she posed gently.

Lionel grinned. “You know why” he noted “You’re a pretty amazing woman, Alba, and it baffles me sometimes that you’re here, let alone those guys. I’m a lucky guy” he enthused softly.

Alba shook her head, her cheeks a soft shade of pink.

“I love you, Alba” he murmured softly as he leant down, kissing her cheek softly “And I know that that is not something you want to say back to me right now, but…”

“I love you too” Alba mumbled.

Lionel blinked. “Huh?” he spluttered.

Alba, who was staring at her duvet, peeked up slightly, her eyes a little wide. “I think I said that I love you too” she babbled “I mean, I know I said it, but I didn’t quite know if you’d heard…”

Lionel smiled, something which stopped Alba from talking. “Don’t grin at me like that” she squeaked “That’s your ‘I told you so’ smile” she protested.

Lionel laughed. “I’m sorry, but it makes me happy” he enthused “I didn’t think I’d hear you say that to me for a while yet” he added.

Alba shook her head. “I didn’t want to rush it” she murmured “Leo, I still want this to be a steady process, one that I get to control…”

“It will be” Lionel assured her “Alba, this relationship will move as slow or as quickly as you’d like it to” he enthused.

Alba nodded quietly.

Lionel smiled and leant forwards a little, pressing a kiss to her lips, one that Alba melted into happily. “You don’t have to go home tonight, do you?” Alba mumbled as she pulled away from him slightly.

“I can stay” he noted gently “What do you have in mind?” he posed, a coy grin on his face.

Alba offered him a little look, something which made him tilt his head, wordlessly enquiring if she was certain. He wanted their relationship to move forwards, he wanted to make steps forwards, but he wanted her to be certain. He didn’t want her to regret any part of their relationship.
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Thanks to Jayme112234, FootieJo and shadowpb for the comments :)