BBFC rating: 12A (one use of strong language and moderate sexual innuendo)
Author's disclaimer: I don't know De Bruyne or Grealish. This story is complete fiction.
Chapter 2, A Spiritual Assist, was here.
As Kevin De Bruyne headed out to the Manchester City Football Academy training ground, he chuckled to himself about how his teammate Jack Grealish had absolutely zero chill around him.
Right at this moment, he could see in his peripheral vision that Grealish was ostentatiously doing keepy-uppies, the Englishman's eyes darting in the Belgian's direction every few seconds, in the hope that KDB had noticed his silky skillz.
Grealish's three most recent Instagram photosets all had a photo of himself with KDB in them. This in itself wasn't that striking... until you noticed that Grealish hadn't included any pictures of himself with any of his other teammates, making the serial inclusion of De Bruyne, rather stark.
Even though the fact that Grealish rated De Bruyne and wished to emulate him in his play was now common knowledge among the football-literate, and even though Man City fans were thirsty for more content from this nascent - and up to this point - completely one-sided bromance, De Bruyne still thought the unbridled display of fanboying from his teammate, bold.
He found himself wondering, 'Does Jack not care about the optics?'
Evidently, he didn't. Grealish's complete lack of composure wasn't just on social media. It extended to every real life interaction the two men had. It even permeated to interactions KDB had with others.
Just yesterday, at lunch, De Bruyne and Foden had been chatting animatedly in the canteen about their kids. Jack Grealish had come and sat down with them, watchfully listening in on the conversation. After a while, the fact that he didn't have much to add to the discourse clearly made him feel left out, because he'd blurted out to KDB, 'my dad's called Kevin too, ya know!'
De Bruyne hadn't known how to respond to that quasi-Freudian statement. 'Oh', he'd said. 'Well... I guess we're in good company. Me... your father...' And then he'd added drily, '...and Kevin Spacey'.
The drollness was lost on Grealish. 'Who's that?' he'd asked blankly.
De Bruyne was going to say, 'he's the actor from House of Cards', but it occurred to him that that probably wasn't Grealish's type of thing. So he'd told his teammate helpfully, 'he's in Baby Driver'.
Yep, Jack Grealish was making absolutely no effort to conceal his adoration for Kevin De Bruyne, nor his need for the Belgian's approval at all times.
Even if that meant the Englishman frequently made an arse out of himself.
And, whisper it, but KDB was finally starting to allow himself to enjoy the attention. When Grealish had first joined City, De Bruyne had found the way he hung onto his every word, a tad disconcerting.
Unsure of how to handle this Pomeranian display of affection from a man who had most of the girls in England on a string, De Bruyne had erred on the side of being uninviting.
KDB's initial reticence had been his way of buying himself time, to suss out if Grealish's intense interest in him was a transient thing. Or, if it was a strategic move, the Englishman love-bombing KDB to ingratiate himself with Man City's main alpha.
But De Bruyne had observed his teammate for long enough to be satisfied that his admiration wasn't an act. Having spoken to Grealish, KDB realised that he simply didn't have the Machiavellian nous to pretend to like someone so convincingly, as part of an elaborate long con.
'Jack, come here,' KDB said. He was feeling spontaneous this Friday afternoon, and thought he'd have a bit of fun.
Grealish didn't need asking twice. He was over to De Bruyne's side like a bolt. 'Yes, Kevin? What can I help you with?'
'Want to try tackling me?' KDB grinned.
Grealish's naturally wide eyes widened further, until they were practically the size of a Disney character's. 'Yeah!' he said keenly.
KDB put the ball down on the grass and scuffed the spot slightly, before dribbling it. Grealish watched the ball, not committing. De Bruyne forcefully regarded Grealish's dark eyes with his own light ones. He then performatively looked to his left.
Grealish lunged to the direction KDB had looked, which was his right. But of course, this was exactly what the Belgian had anticipated. KDB skipped past Grealish by dribbling to his right.
'You got me!' Grealish snarled. He sounded half-annoyed, half-impressed. And half in rapture of KDB (he was using Grealish Maths).
Jack Grealish ran after Kevin De Bruyne, trying to salvage the situation. He kicked the ball away from the Belgian's control and followed the trajectory of the football.
KDB cheekily stuck a leg out and tripped his teammate to stop him from getting to it. As Grealish fell on the grass, De Bruyne was overcome with an uncharacteristic sense of whimsy. He descended down on Grealish, tickling his younger teammate's torso.
KDB could feel Grealish's muscles tighten as he massaged his torso with his fingers. Grealish giggled uncontrollably, trying feebly to swat De Bruyne away.
'Kevin, stop it!' he pleaded.
De Bruyne did not. At this vantage point, with Grealish lying underneath him, he was able to get a good look at the physical features that were driving so many women into a frenzy. De Bruyne took in the distractingly long eyelashes, the strong jawline, the smattering of freckles across his nose.
And that huge fucking vein on the side of Jack's forehead, that throbbed whenever he was under pressure.
It was throbbing right now.
'Please stop tickling me', Grealish breathed, through peals of Kevin-finger-induced laughter.
Again, De Bruyne did not desist.
Grealish finally took matters into his own hands. Quite literally, as he grabbed De Bruyne's wrist before he could do further damage. 'Stop, Kevin! You're gonna make me piss myself.'
KDB was about to make a witty quip, but he saw that Grealish suddenly looked quite stern. It wasn't an expression that the Englishman had to date exhibited around him. He also noticed that Jack's cheeks and ears were bright red from their athletic display.
'I'd better go to the toilet now,' Grealish muttered. He quickly hoisted himself up and ran off.
As he ran into the distance, KDB could have sworn he saw a recognisable shape in his teammate's shorts.
A shape that suggested that Grealish was either carrying a gun in his pocket, or he had really enjoyed that tickling session.
As Grealish's muscular calves disappeared out of view, De Bruyne was left pondering if he'd seen what he thought he'd seen.
Or had it been... an optical illusion?