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When I look in your eyes, I go crazy

Chapter Text

Gerard has almost dozed off when his phone buzzes in his hand, screen lighting up with yet another message from Sergio.

Sergio: So how’s concentration going? Miss me already? :)

Gerard laughs and adjusts the pillow under his head, rolls onto his side so he can type without straining his neck too much.

Gerard: You wish :P

He fires back and wonders not for the first time that night how his quiet evening had turned into texting with Sergio. He’d only meant to congratulate him on the champions league victory. Three hours ago.

Sergio: I know you do :)

Gerard: You’re insufferable

Sergio: only for you, baby :-*

And Gerard knows he means nothing by it, that it’s nothing but a joke to Sergio, but it makes his chest hurt with longing anyway.

Gerard: You use too many emojis

He answers quickly and shoves his phone under his pillow. He’s suddenly not in the mood for texting anymore.

It doesn’t take long until he feels it vibrate again, all the way through his pillow. He groans and tries to ignore it, turns up the tv, when the stupid noise won’t leave him alone, but the animal documentary isn’t all that interesting and his phone is still buzzing insistently and because he’s never been particularly good at ignoring Sergio, he reaches for it anyway even though he really should know better. There are five new messages.

Sergio: But seriously, how are the new players doing?
Sergio: Did you explain everything to them. Are you helping them adjust?
Sergio: You’re captain now too. It’s your job
Sergio: Geri?
Sergio: Are you ignoring me?

Gerard rolls his eyes.

Gerard: No one is ignoring you. Calm down

Leave it to Sergio to be overly dramatic about nothing.

Gerard: Everyone’s fine. We do know how to survive without you.

Sergio: Are you sure? :P

Gerard: You’re judt dting to be hew3

Sergio: ??? Did you accidentally sit on your phone? :D

Gerard groans.

Gerard: Shut up. I hate texting

Instead of an answer his phone suddenly lights up with a call. He lets it ring a few times for good measure before he picks up, just because he likes to make Sergio squirm.

“What are you doing?” he asks and is greeted with the sound of Sergio’s laughter.

“Calling you. I’m too tired to decipher your garbled nonsense.”

“I made one fucking typo.”

“Whatever, this is better anyway.”

Gerard humms noncommittally and pretends he isn’t agreeing, that he isn’t enjoying the sound of Sergio’s voice a little bit too much.

“So, what now?”

“Now you tell me how concentration is going.”

Gerard chuckles “You just want to hear all the gossip you missed.”

Sergio laughs. “Maybe.”

“Sorry to disappoint, but there’s really not that much going on,” Gerard says and for a long time there’s only the sound of rustling on the other end of the line, until he hears Sergio take a deep breath.

“How are you holding up?” he asks quietly.

“Huh?”

“You know,” there’s another pause, followed by more rustling. “With the burglary and all. I read about it on the news,” Sergio adds when Gerard doesn’t answer.

“It’s fine,” Gerard shrugs, the concern in Sergio’s voice throwing him strangely off balance. “They only took some money and jewelry. I’m just glad no one got hurt.”

“That’s the most important thing,” Sergio agrees.

“Yeah. I just hate that i can’t be there. It sucks being stuck here,” his eyes drift across the impersonal design of the hotel room and it’s never been more evident how alone he is, even with his teammates only a few doors away. “You know how boring it can get around here.”

“God yes,” Sergio pauses and Gerard hears him yawn on the other end of the line. “I’ve got a free guest room if you need a distraction,” he says and it’s nothing but a casual offer, but one that makes Gerard’s stomach flip anyway and now he can’t help but wonder what it would be like to stay in one of Sergio’s guest rooms, what it would be like to have breakfast with him and spend the day together. They’d probably get into a fight before their first coffee, he thinks with a smile, but the image is tempting anyway.

“Geri?”

Sergio’s voice rips him out of his daydream and he feels his cheeks heat up. “Sorry, i was…,” he starts but he really doesn’t know what to say. A part of him really wants to say yes, even though he knows it’s a bad idea.

“If you’re worried about me getting on your nerves. I’m gonna be in Sevilla all week anyway,” Sergio says and suddenly the offer isn’t all that tempting anymore.

“It’s fine,” Gerard assures tiredly and tries not to feel too disappointed. “But thanks for the offer.”

“Any time.”

They say goodnight and hang up not much later, but it takes a long time until Gerard finally falls asleep.

*

The Real Madrid players arrive just in time for lunch, but Gerard is too absorbed in his phone to notice until Sergio sits down across from him. He looks up and it takes him a second too long to wipe the shocked expression off his face. Sergio eyes him quizzically.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

He looks back down at his plate, but now he can’t stop sneaking glances at Sergio and the more he looks the worse it gets. He tries to finish his lunch, but he’s suddenly not all that hungry anymore and he can’t stop staring at the bald spot right above Sergio’s right ear.

“What the fuck did you do to your hair?” he blurts out, even though he really didn’t want to say anything. Next to him Jordi is snickering into his glass of water and he has to fight the sudden urge to strangle his teammate.

Sergio stuffs another fork of pasta into his mouth and looks at Gerard with a frown. “What the hell are you talking about;” he mumbles.

“You’re hair,” Gerard grimaces. Jordi next to him is still laughing. “You look like you’re bald.”

“I really don’t,” Sergio glares at him angrily. ”What’s it to you anyway.”

“Nothing,” Gerard shrugs and reaches for another piece of bread. “I just don’t get why you always have to screw up your hair as soon as it looks good.”

Everyone around him suddenly falls deadly silent and it takes him a few moments until he realizes that he just spoke out loud.

“Were you just complimenting my looks?” Sergio asks smugly and Gerard feels his cheeks turn crimson.

“Didn’t know you paid such close attention to his hair?” Lucas laughs.

Jordi is smiling at him knowingly, Sergio is looking at him with a weird expression and suddenly he can’t take it anymore. He grabs his phone and pushes his chair back a little too forcefully. “You’re all a bunch of idiots,” he snaps and storms out of the room, not caring that everyone is staring after him in confusion and that he’s probably going to have to answer a ton of nosy questions later in training. And mostly he’s angry with himself for not being able to keep his stupid mouth shut, for not controlling his emotions any better and it makes no sense that Sergio is suddenly getting under his skin like that again, not after he’s managed to all but bury his feelings for years.

*

He’s one of the last ones to step onto the pitch for training but of course Sergio is still missing. They kick the ball around for a bit, waiting, until finally Sergio comes running down the path, a little out of breath but smiling brightly by the time he catches up to them.

“Sorry,” he mumbles and snatches one of the footballs away from Marco, starts juggling it on his foot. He doesn’t look sorry at all.

Gerard rolls his eyes, but he’s trying hard to suppress a smile. He’s about to move closer to Sergio when it’s time to pair up for warm up exercises but then suddenly Diego shows up at Sergio’s side, tugging on his arm and the way Sergio is smiling at him, the way they’re laughing and talking and standing entirely too close to each other makes something ugly twist deep in Gerard’s gut.

He grabs Jordi and drags him to the other side of the pitch. There’s a stray football lying around and he kicks it with as much force as he can muster, but even the burn in his thigh doesn’t make the pain in his heart go away.

“You okay?” Jordi asks.

“I’m perfect.”

Chapter Text

Gerard is in a good mood as he makes his way onto the field with a smile on his face, dressed in red and ready for the team photo shoot.

He’s in a good mood because the sun is shining and he’s happy to be playing for the national team again, because he’s certain that with this team they’re going to get very far. He flicks Isco’s ear and swats his sweater at Lucas before he pulls Pepe into a tight hug, just because he feels like it and the happy grin never once leaves his face.

They line up for the picture and everything is perfect until he involuntarily overhears Lucas and Isco’s conversation, who are standing right in of him.

“When did Sergio and Costa become best friends?” he hears Isco whisper and just like that his interest is piqued. He tilts his head to the side, pretends it’s because the sun is shining into his eyes because he’s definitely not eavesdropping.

“No clue,” Lucas answers with a shrug and a half smile. “But it’s starting to worry me. I mean, look at them.”

“Right,” Isco laughs and Gerard, mostly against his better judgement, follows Isco’s gaze and barely hears Isco’s next words over the blood roaring in his ears. All he can focus on is how Sergio has his hands all over Costa, swatting at him and teasing him and smiling and laughing so brightly that it makes Gerard’s heart hurt.

“They’re flirting like middle schoolers,” Isco laughs, but Gerard suddenly doesn’t feel like listening in anymore, wishes he never had and his eyes seem permanently glued to Sergio even though he desperately wishes they weren’t.

He watches helplessly as Sergio pretends to punch Costa, holding onto his arm for a little too long, a little too gently as they giggle like teenagers and he pathetically wishes for that smile, the one that’s so bright that it crinkles around Sergio’s eyes, just for once, to be directed at him.

After that rest of the shoot passes him by in a blur, his earlier happiness vanished completely.

*

“So, what’s going on with you and Costa?” Gerard asks after training, when it’s only the two of them left in the dressing room showers. There’s steam everywhere and he can barely see Sergio anymore on the other side of the room, but maybe it’s better that way, he thinks, as his eyes cling to the swirling lines of black ink on Sergio’s glistening back, to the shape of Sergio’s strong thighs.

“What’s supposed to be going on with me and Costa?” Sergio asks absentmindedly, pouring shampoo into his hands and rubbing it into his awfully short hair.

“You were flirting all through training,” Gerard states, his heart pounding for an answer he’s not sure he wants to hear.

“What?” Sergio spins around quickly and completely misjudges the distance to the shower head and the stream of water pouring out of it. He splutters angrily when he suddenly gets a face full of water and soap bubbles. “Fuck,” he curses and ducks under the spray, furiously trying to wash the burning liquid off his face.

Gerard can’t help but laugh as Sergio scrubs at his eyes.

“There’s nothing going on with Diego,” Sergio says, when he finally comes up again, face dripping and eyes red. “I’m just helping him adjust. He’s never quite managed to fit into the team before.”

Gerard gives a non-committal grunt and turns away. The answer should technically comfort him, but somehow it doesn’t.

“What do you care anyway?” Sergio asks after a while and Gerard can hear how he’s turning off the water and probably reaching for a towel. He wants to turn and look but he knows he shouldn’t.

“Just curious,” he shrugs, still stubbornly staring at the strangely colored tiles on the shower walls.

“Ok then,” Sergio doesn’t sound entirely convinced and Gerard ducks under the scalding hot water before Sergio can ask anymore questions he doesn’t trust himself to answer.

“Try not to drown,” Sergio laughs and Gerard listens sadly to the sound of Sergio’s bare feet disappearing out of the shower.

*

Gerard is about to settle in for the long flight to Russia, headphones already in his ears and pillow tucked behind his head when Sergio’s loud voice makes him look up.

“Geri, come over here,” he yells across half of the plane, waving his arms around ridiculously. “We’re taking a team picture.”

So Gerard scrambles to his feet and cranes his neck to see where Sergio is, feeling a sting of disappointment when he finds him already surrounded by their teammates and realizes he’d have to fight his way through all of them to even get close. He sighs and contents himself with a place in the back, because at least Sergio wanted him in the picture enough to make the effort to call him over and that’s almost enough to put a smile on his face.

 

It’s only when they’re back in their seats and Jordi shoves his phone with the picture under Gerard’s nose that the happy smile slips off his face.

“Was that really necessary?” he snaps and he can’t seem to tear his eyes away from the picture and how Sergio’s hand is splayed across Jordi’s stomach.

“What?” Jordi asks, brows furrowed in confusion.

“You’re basically sitting in his lap,” Gerard accuses and he’s trying hard to keep his voice level, even as it feels like something is eating away at his insides.

“That’s what you’re so worked up about?” Jordi’s expression is caught somewhere between amusement and annoyance and Gerard feels himself shrink in his seat.

“I…,” he starts but now it’s Jordi’s turn to glare at him and he suddenly has the distinct feeling that he just started something that won’t end well.

“You seriously need to get a hold of yourself,” Jordi cuts him off. “We’re with the national team now and if you really want to win the cup this time you need to stop with the petty club rivalries. It’s beyond childish.”

Gerard stares at him in stunned silence and a part of him wants to correct him, wants to yell at him and tell him that he’s got it all wrong and that he could never hate Sergio, but maybe, he thinks, it’s actually a good thing that Jordi came to all the wrong conclusions.

"Why do you hate him so much anyway?"

Jordi looks at him expectantly and for a moment he considers telling him everything, because wouldn’t it be nice to finally have someone who understood, someone to confide in and talk to. He looks up into Jordi’s curious eyes and takes a deep breath.

"I’m …," he starts but the words get stuck in his throat and sudden panic grips his chest. “It’s just hard, you know, this being my last international tournament and all,” he says instead and it’s only half a lie.

Chapter Text

“Guess who?”

Suddenly Gerard’s eyes are covered by two warm palms, a faint weight pressing against his back and he would recognize that voice anywhere.

“I’m surprised you could reach this high,” he teases and hopes Sergio will stay like this for just a moment longer, but he’s already pulling back and moving into place next to him, studying the ongoing photo shoot curiously.

“What exactly are they trying to accomplish with this?” he asks, gesturing towards Dani, who is currently pretending to scream at the camera.

“I don’t know,” Gerard shrugs. “Make us look threatening?”

Sergio laughs. “Well, it’s not working, he looks ridiculous.”

“As if you’re gonna look any better,” Gerard mocks and earns himself a playful punch to the upper arm.

“Just watch and learn.”

But in the end it’s Gerard who gets called in front of the camera first, feeling a bit awkward as he gets into position and follows the photographer’s instructions. Everything runs smoothly until he makes the mistake of glancing over at Sergio. He almost bursts out laughing at the faces Sergio is making behind the photographer’s back.

He tries desperately to keep a straight face, to look as threatening as they had told him to, but it’s really no use with Sergio grinning at him like that.

Costa is standing somewhere in a corner, alone and unsuccessfully trying to get Sergio’s attention and Gerard hasn’t felt this happy in a long time.

*

Three days later there’s nothing left of the cheerful atmosphere, the unshakable faith they’ve all felt for the last few weeks. The dressing room is drowning in noisy chatter and panicked murmurs as everyone is still struggling to process the shock announcement of their coach leaving after the World Cup and Gerard can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is about to happen.

“Did you know about this?” he asks after he’s finished tying his shoes, turning towards Sergio with a frown on his face and the look of guilt in the other’s eyes is all the answer he needs.

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” he says accusingly and he can’t help but feel utterly betrayed.

“It wasn’t my place to tell,” Sergio sighs tiredly. “They asked me not to.”

“And you just went with it?”

“What was i supposed to do?” Sergio says defensively, drawing his legs against his chest, feet coming to rest on the bench in front of him.

“I don’t know,” Gerard answers sharply, an edge of anger to his voice. “Maybe tell us so we wouldn’t be blindsided by your stupid club stealing our coach and ruining the World Cup?”

“We’re not ruining anything,” Sergio snorts in annoyance. “And you know damn well it’s not that easy.”

“Whatever,” Gerard frowns. “It’s still a mess we definitely didn’t need.”

“I never said it wasn’t.”

“So what now?”

Sergio shrugs. “We ignore the drama and focus on the tournament. It’s the only thing we can do.”

“You really think that’s possible?” Gerard asks sceptically and he can tell just from the way Sergio’s fingers are nervously fiddling with the hem of his t-shirt that he isn’t entirely convinced by his own words.

“I do,” Sergio’s fingers still and when he looks up at Gerard, his eyes are shimmering with sudden determination. “We owe it to everyone to give our best and not let ourselves get distracted by drama. It’s our job as captains to convince the rest of the team that we can do it and that this doesn’t change anything.”

Gerard nods in tentative agreement, but a part of him very much doubts that this will be the end of all drama.

 

And it doesn’t take long until he’s proven right - much to his dismay - because the next morning, just after lunch, suddenly all hell breaks loose. One minute he’s playing video games with Jordi and Lucas, the next they’re informed that their coach has been dismissed.

He doesn’t notice the commotion at first, too distracted by everyone talking all over each other. It’s only when he hears yelling and suddenly all heads turn towards the far end of the room, that Gerard looks up as well, his heart suddenly thudding in his chest when he spots Sergio standing just inches away from the president of the federation, mouth pulled into a thin line and eyes blazing.

They’re screaming at each other and Gerard is too far away to make out their exact words, but it’s really not necessary to figure out that this won’t end well.

Please don’t let him get kicked off the team.

His chest clenches painfully at the unwanted thought and it’s what makes him jump to his feet and rush across the room, pulling Sergio away before he’ll do something rash, but even with Gerard’s hands resting firmly on Sergio’s shoulders, he’s still seething with anger.

“He’s sabotaging the entire team,” he hisses, struggling against the arms restraining him but Gerard’s grip on him is unrelenting.

“You gotta calm down,” he whispers into Sergio’s ear, hopes he’ll hear him over the anger roaring in his ears. “It’s not worth it.”

“Fine,” Sergio finally gives in, his body now less tense in Gerard’s hold, but Gerard can still feel the anger sizzling under his skin.

“This isn’t over,” the president threatens, glaring angrily at Sergio before he finally turns to leave.

Sergio for once wisely enough bites his tongue until the door slams shut. “Stupidest thing everyone has ever done,” he mutters under his breath and finally lets Gerard push him onto the next chair.

“What exactly were you trying to accomplish?” Gerard asks and drops into the chair next to Sergio. He suddenly feels very tired.

“He’s making a giant mistake.”

“And you think he’s gonna change his mind just because you almost punched him?”

“At least i tried,” Sergio snaps.

“It’s not gonna help us if our captain gets kicked off the team, you know,” Gerard scolds quietly.

“When did you become this reasonable?” Sergio grumbles.

“Since you told me that we have to stick together and avoid distractions.” He allows himself a small smile when Sergio’s eyes widen in surprise.

*

Gerard is in the middle of brushing his teeth when there’s suddenly a knock on his door. Toothbrush still stuck in the corner of his mouth he opens the door and startles when it’s Sergio standing in front of him, looking tired and worn out.

“Do you have a minute?” he mumbles, barely getting the words out between yawns.

“Sure, come in,” Gerard mumbles around the toothbrush, a little confused by his surprise visitor.

“What are you doing here?” he tries to say, but the words get jumbled, toothpaste dribbling onto his chin, so he rushes to the bathroom to rinse out his mouth and clean himself up.

When he comes back to the room, Sergio is sitting on his bed, back pressed against the wall and feet dangling over the edge.

Gerard has never seen him look this tired.

“So, what are you doing here?” he asks again, mirroring Sergio’s posture on the bed and it feels strangely intimate to be sitting this close together in his unmade bed.

“Needed someone to talk to,” Sergio shrugs, head thudding against the wall as his eyes fall closed.

“And then you decided to come to me?”

“Yeah,” Sergio gestures vaguely. “You never lie to me, you always tell the truth no matter how unpleasant it might be,” he smiles tiredly and Gerard’s chest swells with pride. “I need you to be honest with me now.”

Gerard swallows thickly and nods silently, not trusting his own voice.

“Am i a bad captain?”

“What?”

“You heard me,” Sergio’s voice sounds oddly hollow and Gerard hates the dark circles framing his eyes.

“Why would you even think that?”

“You said so yourself,” Sergio gnaws on his bottom lip. “Maybe you were right, maybe i should have said something.”

“Since when do you listen to what i say?” Gerard laughs, but Sergio’s expression remains sullen.

“Look,” he continues when Sergio stays silent. “What i said earlier was stupid. There was no way you could have done something without betraying your club. No one can expect you to choose. It’s not your job to deal with stuff like that.”

“And you’re not just saying this to make me feel better?”

“I’m not,” Gerard shakes his head and forces himself to hold Sergio’s gaze. They’re so close that he can see the flecks of gold in Sergio’s chocolate eyes and his heart is pounding erratically in his chest. “If you ask me, they should have never told you. They put you in an impossible position.”

“Thank you,” Sergio whispers and he’s looking up at him with such a hopeful expression that Gerard barely manages to resist the urge to kiss him.

“I’m gonna get us some ice cream,” he stammers and hastily scrambles off the bed. He’s out the door before Sergio can even utter a word.

 

When he comes back, ice cream in hand and cheeks still flushed red from embarrassment, Sergio is fast asleep on the covers, head buried in one of Gerard’s pillows. And for a long time he just stands there, staring at Sergio’s sleeping form, before he finally wills his racing heart to slow and climbs into bed beside him, careful to leave as much space between them as possible. He pulls the blanket over both of them and listens to Sergio’s soft snores, doesn’t fall asleep for hours.

Chapter Text

Gerard wakes to a warm weight pressing against his chest, his arms slung around a firm stomach and it’s utter bliss to be this close to Sergio, to be curled around him with their bodies pressed together from head to toe, fitting together so perfectly he wishes he’d never have to let him go.

He listens carefully to Sergio’s even breathing, his heart beating wildly in his chest at the possibility of Sergio waking up, but thankfully he’s still very much asleep. He breathes a shaky sigh of relief and he’s all too aware of the magnitude of what he’s done, of how far he’s crossed the line and there are a million thoughts racing through his mind, trying hopelessly to drown out the one thought he refuses to give in to, even though he knows he needs to move away, knows he should get up before Sergio finds them in position more compromising than he can explain, before he has to answer questions he has no proper answers to.

But Sergio is too warm and too enticing and he’s not strong enough to pull away, so he buries his face in Sergio’s neck instead, breathes in the smell of his sleep-tousled hair, his lips aching with the desire to press against that tantalizing expanse of bronzed skin that’s so close he can almost taste it.

Sergio stirs in his sleep, involuntarily snuggling deeper into Gerard’s arms and Gerard can’t suppress a content sigh, arms tightening even more as he lets himself drift back to sleep for just a few more stolen moments, before reality inevitably descends on him again.

 

When he wakes for the second time that morning, Sergio is perched on the edge of the bed and staring down at him nervously.

“Morning,” Gerard mumbles still half asleep, his brain desperately trying to process how good Sergio looks early in the morning, all soft and sleep-tousled. He barely resists the urge to reach out and draw him back under the covers.

“Morning,” Sergio stammers and scrambles off the bed, his hands obsessively smoothing down his shirt. He looks like a deer caught in the headlights.

“I…,” Gerard croaks and he wants to say so many things, but the words are stuck in his throat and no sound comes out. He stares into Sergio’s warm brown eyes and feels himself drown.

“I think i better go,” Sergio’s voice sounds oddly hollow when he eventually breaks the tense silence and Gerard watches helplessly as Sergio bolts from the room, the door falling shut behind him with a quiet thud.

*

The weight room is mostly deserted when Gerard walks in just after lunch, desperately trying to hide from the Fifa tournament in the common room and the sound of Sergio’s laughter. He nods in greeting towards Saul and Koke before he makes his way over to the far side of the room, where Jordi is frantically waving for him to come over.

“Why aren’t you with the rest of the team?” Jordi asks.

“Didn’t feel much like company,” Gerard shrugs and settles on a free training mat.

Jordi nods and they soon fall into a comfortable silence as they begin to work out side by side.

 

“What’s wrong with you and Sergio?” Jordi asks, halfway into Gerard’s fifth set of push-ups, just when he thought he’d get some peace and quiet

“Nothing,” Gerard grunts and reaches for a towel before he turns around. “Everything’s fine.”

“Sure,” Jordi snorts and sits up. “You’ve been sulking all morning and Sergio keeps sneaking glances at you when he thinks no one’s looking. I’m not a complete idiot you know, i know something’s up.”

“There’s nothing going on,” Gerard snaps and instantly feels terrible about it. “Sorry,” he mumbles apologetically and runs his fingers through his sweaty hair, the nervous gesture not lost on Jordi. “I’ve just been a bit tense lately.”

“You don’t say,” Jordi deadpans. “Just tell me what’s going on. Maybe i can help.”

“It’s just the pressure of the tournament,” Gerard shrugs.

“Don’t even, Geri,” Jordi glares at him. “I’ve known you long enough to know when you’re lying.”

“Just leave it,” Gerard scowls and grabs his water bottle, greedily gulps down half of its content, mostly to avoid saying something he’s going to regret later.

“Whatever it is, just spit it out,” Jordi rolls his eyes. “How bad can it possibly be?”

“Look. I really can’t tell you. Just trust me,” Gerard insists, an desperate edge creeping into his voice.

“Gerard,” Jordi says softly, a worried frown creasing his brows. “Just let me help you.”

“Pretty sure you don’t know how to get rid of feelings for a teammate,” Gerard blurts out and clamps his mouth shut immediately, feels panic rise in his chest.

“Wait, what?” Jordi stares at him, eyes wide in disbelief. “You’ve got feelings for Sergio?”

“Yeah,” Gerard nods, feels his cheeks heat up. “Something like that.”

“Really? For how long?”

“A few years.”

“Wow,” Jordi scratches his neck thoughtfully, but there’s suddenly a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “So...,” he draws out the syllable. “How do you deal with seeing him naked all the time?”

“Seriously, that’s what you’re gonna focus on?” Gerard gives a surprised laugh. “I’m not that much of a pervert.”

Oh, come on,” Jordi smirks. “Don’t tell me you’ve never taken a closer look.”

Gerard blushes, “Will you cut it out,” he swats at Jordi when he smirks at him knowingly, but there’s something gnawing at the back of his mind, something that makes his expression quickly turn somber and his palms damp with sweat. “You really don’t have a problem with me being gay?” he asks, the nervous pounding in his chest suddenly back in full force.

“No,” Jordi shrugs and shakes his head. “Why would I? You’re being ridiculous.”

Gerard smiles gratefully, feels a surge of relief wash through him. “Thanks.”

“Not for that,” Jordi waves him off, another mischievous grin spreading across his features. “I do have a problem with your taste in men though,” he teases, the corners of his mouth twitching with a barely held in smirk. “I can’t believe you of all people fell for a blanco. You better hope Xavi doesn’t find out.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Gerard laughs.

“Never,” Jordi sticks his tongue out. “Does he know?”

“Of course not,” Gerard shudders at the thought alone. “He hates me.”

“Don’t be melodramatic,” Jordi rolls his eyes. “He doesn’t hate you. He may feel the urge to strangle you sometimes. I mean, who doesn’t. But he definitely doesn’t hate you.”

Gerard frowns. “He can still never find out.”

“Don’t worry, i won’t tell him,” Jordi studies him thoughtfully. “But I think you should talk to him.”

“Are you crazy? I can’t just tell him how i feel.”

“Relax, I’m not saying you should confess your undying love for him,” Jordi rolls his eyes. “But something clearly happened and you need to fix it before it affects the team. We have enough drama as it is already.”

“I know,” Gerard sighs.”I’ll think about it.”

“What happened between you anyway?”

“We kind of slept together,” Gerard admits and stares down at his water bottle, thinks about last night and how good Sergio had felt in his arms.

“You what?”

“Not like that,” Gerard corrects himself hastily. “He came over to talk to me and then he fell asleep in my bed.”

“Ok?” Jordi is still looking at him questioningly, so he reluctantly tells him everything that happened, even if it makes him feel embarrassed all over again.

“You definitely need to talk to him,” Jordi insists after Gerard falls silent. “He probably feels as awkward about it as you do.”

“Fine, i will,” Gerard sighs, dread already forming in the pit of his stomach.

*

Gerard’s phone beeps just as he’s about to climb under the covers and he should really know better but he reaches for it anyway, groans when Jordi’s name flashes across the screen.

I know you haven’t talked to him yet ...

With a sigh he crawls out of bed again, hastily pulls on a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie, grabs his key card and hurries down the deserted hotel corridor before he can change his mind. The sooner he gets this over with, the sooner he can go back to sleep, he thinks and determinedly ignores the anxious feeling gnawing at the pit of his stomach.

The walk to Sergio’s room is painfully short and he still hasn’t figured out what he wants to say, his thoughts still a jumbled mess by the time he rounds the corner. He lingers in the shadows and feels like a fool, slinking around the hotel in the dark when he could be in bed and sleeping.

He curses Jordi and considers going back to his room and pretending nothing ever happened when the telltale click of a lock suddenly breaks the silence. He looks up just as Sergio’s door opens slowly and he wonders with baited breath where Sergio could possibly go this late at night, what he could be up to when it’s already long past curfew.

But it’s not Sergio coming out of his room. It’s Diego Costa.

Chapter Text

“Well, you look like shit.”

Gerard looks up from his breakfast and glowers at Jordi. “Good morning to you too.”

“So how did your talk with Sergio go?” Jordi asks and pulls a chair out. Around them the breakfast hall slowly starts to fill up with their teammates.

“I didn’t go,” he lies. There is no way he’s going to admit that he ran with his tail between his legs the moment he spotted Costa, just to spend the rest of the night staring at the ceiling plagued by images of what might have happened between them.

Jordi glares at him disapprovingly. “Sure and that’s why you look like you haven’t slept at all.”

Gerard stares at his spoon, listlessly pushes the cereal around in his bowl.

“Fine, be that way,” Jordi pours himself a cup of coffee and reaches across the table for the sugar bowl. “If you don’t wanna talk, then don’t, but at least pull yourself together. People are gonna start noticing if you keep moping around.”

Gerard sighs deeply. “I think he’s sleeping with Costa.”

“Who?”

“Sergio.”

“What?” Jordi stares at him, fork hovering in the air, halfway raised to his mouth. “Have you completely lost your mind now?”

“I saw him come out of Sergio’s room last night.”

“So?”

“It was after curfew.”

“And that’s why you think they’re fucking?” Jordi rolls his eyes. “Really?”

“What else could they have been doing?” Gerard says sadly and puts down his spoon. He’s really not hungry anymore.

“I don’t know. Watch a movie, hang out, talk. How many times have we’ve been to each other’s rooms after curfew?” Jordi takes a sip of his coffee and the exasperation in his voice is more than evident. “Have you ever considered the possibility that they’re actually friends?”

Gerard shrugs. “I just always thought they hated each other.”

“You know they don’t. You’re just jealous.”

Gerard makes a pained noise. “I can’t help it.”

“I know, but you have to snap out of it. We have a tournament to focus on.”

Gerard just barely resists the urge to let his head drop on the table. He hasn’t felt this drained in a long long time and he really just wants to go back to sleep and forget about everything he saw last night, but they have training in an hour and deep down he knows Jordi is right (not that he’s admitting to anything out loud), so he takes a steadying breath, pushes his chair back and grabs his phone. “Wanna go stretch before training?”

Jordi nods with a relieved smile and follows him to the gym.

*

Spirits are high as they arrive at the stadium. They’re prepared, they have a plan and even with all the drama going on around them, they know that they can beat anyone, even the reigning European Champions.

It’s 10 minutes to kickoff when Sergio makes his customary round through the dressing room, giving out hugs and kissing cheeks and Gerard leans in a little bit more than is appropriate when it’s his turn, soaking in Sergio’s scent, the feel of his cheek against his own, the rough scratch of their beards touching and it’s just enough for Jordi to notice, wiggling his eyebrows at him suggestively.

He shoves Jordi playfully as they line up in the tunnel and they both grin at each other, anticipation already coursing through their veins. The crowd is roaring in the distance and he listens intently to Sergio give one final shout of encouragement before they march onto the field, with the unwavering conviction that they’ll come out of this as winners.

 

But the match has barely started when everything falls apart. They give away an easy penalty and before he knows what’s happening, they’re a goal behind and it’s an uphill battle from there. Every time they claw themselves back into it another setback happens.

When they finally do get ahead, Gerard almost wants to jump with joy. At least until he glances over at the pile of his celebrating teammates. All of them jumping and screaming happily and Sergio is right in the middle of it, clinging to Costa and Gerard suddenly feels his eyes sting. There’s bile rising in his throat as he watches them bump heads, at the sight of Sergio’s bright smile. He stares and stares and he can’t bring himself to look away, no matter how much it aches in his chest.

An elbow poking him in the side finally, mercifully pulls him out of his trance. “Stop pining,” Jordi hisses before he runs back into position.

Gerard nods and tries to shake off the daze, but he keeps getting distracted, his gaze straying towards Costa more often than he likes to admit, eyes staring daggers into the back of his head.

Later he won’t be able to recall how it happened. One moment he’s racing after the ball, the next he finds himself on the ground, legs tangled with his portugues opponent and the referee’s whistle ringing dull in his ear.

Sergio comes over to comfort him, pats him on the shoulder softly, but Gerard can see the disapproval clearly in his eyes.

They line up for the free kick and Gerard tries to convince himself that it won’t go in. It would be too much of a coincidence, he tells himself, too much bad luck and Ronaldo really isn’t that good with free kicks anymore, his numbers have been in decline for - he’s halfway done with the thought when the ball sails over his head and into the back of the net.

He doesn’t know what to do with himself after that, the final minutes go by in a blurr and as he trudges off the field, he knows that he should be happy about drawing against the hardest opponent in the group, but it really only feels like a crushing defeat.

*

“Do you have a minute?”

Gerard looks up from his phone, wonders why Sergio is still awake this late at night, when they’ve gotten back from the match hours ago.

“Sure,” he says and puts his phone away. “What’s up?”

“Mind if we talk in my room?” Sergio asks, a strangely serious expression on his face.

Gerard nods and tries to ignore the uneasy feeling twisting in the pit of his stomach.

 

“So what did you wanna talk about?” Gerard asks when they’re finally in Sergio’s room, his hands awkwardly stuffed into his pockets as his eyes wander, taking in all the pictures of family and friends, all the little mementos and trinkets Sergio brought with him to Russia and he marvels at how much cozier the room looks compared to his own.

When Sergio doesn’t answer he eventually turns to face him. “If it’s about me giving away that free kick, i already know i fucked up. No need to lecture me,” he adds a little more defensively than intended.

“That’s not it,” Sergio scratches his beard and sits down on his bed, but quickly gets up again, pacing up and down the small space instead. “It’s just…,” he makes a vague gesture. “We need to do better. We’re making too many unnecessary mistakes, giving away too many easy balls. We can’t keep playing like this. It’s gonna get us in trouble.”

”I know,” Gerard nods in agreement. “We’ll figure it out. We’ve got enough time until the next match and this one was hopefully the hardest. It’s gonna get easier now.”

“I hope you’re right,” Sergio sighs. “But we need to start communicating better.”

“Yeah,” Gerard agrees and finds himself oddly at a loss for words. It’s not that he disagrees with Sergio, but their problem is hardly one you can easily work on in training.

“Hey, can i ask you something?” Sergio’s voice startles him out of his thoughts.

“Sure,” he shrugs.

“You’ve seemed distracted lately. Is there something going on?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Are you sure there’s nothing i need to know about? Anything i can help with?” Sergio studies him thoughtfully, a frown creasing his brows. “I’m a bit worried about you.”

Gerard swallows thickly and tries not to dwell on what it might mean that Sergio worries about him. He shakes his head. Nothing i want to tell you about, he thinks and stares at his hands.

“Fine,” Sergio says, not looking entirely convinced at all. “We better get some sleep then. It’s late.”

“Yeah,” Gerard mumbles and he’s already at the door when he’s possessed by an evil spirit, or at least that’s the only reasonable explanation he can come up with for what he blurts out next.

“Are you sleeping with Costa?”

The room is suddenly deadly silent and Gerard freezes in shock. Sometimes, just sometimes he wishes he’d actually think before speaking. Sergio looks shell shocked and Gerard really just wants to run back to his room and hide forever, but since it’s too late to take back his little outburst, he might as well just see the whole thing through. So he swivels around, gathering the last bit of courage he has left and looks Sergio straight in the eyes. “So? Are you?”

Sergio stares at him disbelievingly, stunned into complete silence by the unexpected question and Gerard doesn’t know what he hates more: that he asked the question at all or how he sounded like a jealous boyfriend.

“What are you talking about?” Sergio asks when he’s finally found his voice again, brows furrowed and mouth drawn into a thin line.

“I saw him come out of your room last night.”

“And?”

“What was he doing there after curfew?”

“That’s really none of your business,” Sergio says coldly and Gerard can see the anger radiating off of him.

“It is if it affects the team,” Gerard responds, not willing to back down when he’s finally so close to finally getting some answers.

“Well, you don’t have to worry then,” Sergio snaps. “I’m not a complete idiot. I don’t sleep with teammates.”

Chapter Text

“I think it’s best if you leave,” Sergio turns away from him and Gerard can feel the pain and hurt radiating off of him, can see it in the tense set of his shoulders.

“Sergio,” he says and he has no idea what he actually wants to say, except that he wishes he could take back everything he said. “I went a little overboard. I…”

“You think?” Sergio interrupts him angrily.

“Look, I’m truly sorry,” Gerard scratches his beard and he’s starting to feel dread intense pool in the pit of his stomach because what if Sergio never forgives him? “I don’t know what possessed me,” he adds helplessly.

You know exactly what possessed you, a voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like Jordi says.

“I don’t really care what possessed you,” Sergio swivels around and glares at Gerard. “You had no right coming in here and throwing accusations around.”

Gerard flinches under Sergio’s heavy gaze. “I know. It’s just…”

“Just what?”

“I was just curious why Costa was in your room this late. I thought you didn’t like each other,” Gerard shrugs. He hates feeling this powerless.

“It’s still none of your fucking business,” Sergio’s staring at him with his hands propped on his hips and Gerard doesn’t remember ever seeing him this angry (at least off the pitch).

“Why are you so angry about this?”

“Because i’m fucking exhausted and you’re in my room in the middle of the night with your insane conspiracy theories and i just want go to bed and finally sleep,” Sergio snaps.

“It’s not conspiracy theories,” Gerard snaps back. “I just don’t want anything interfering with the tournament.”

“Jesus, Geri,” Sergio sighs. “He just wanted some advice on how to better integrate into the team. That’s it. You’re blowing this way out of proportions.”

Oh,” Gerard suddenly feels all fight drain out of him and all that’s left behind is a bad taste in his mouth and a wretched feeling deep in his gut. “I had no idea.”

“No kidding,” Sergio glares at him disapprovingly. “You seriously need to stop obsessing over what i do in my freetime.”

Gerard nods helplessly, his heart almost pounding out of his chest. “What now?”

“I don’t know,” Sergio says quietly and he suddenly looks incredibly tired. “Give me some time. I can’t really deal with any of this right now. We’ve got more important things to deal with.”

“Yeah,” Gerard blinks back the tears that are suddenly threaten to spill. “I think I’m gonna go,” he mumbles, rushing from the room without even waiting for Sergio’s answer.

*

They avoid each other for the rest of the week, only curt nods in passing and brief instructions on the pitch, their eyes barely meeting when they run into each other in the hallways and Gerard wonders if this it’s how it’s going to be from now on, when he’ll be retired from the national team and they’ll only ever meet each other as rivals on the pitch.

The days until the next game drag on agonizingly slowly, countless training sessions followed by endless hours of boredom and sleeplessness and he can’t shake the feeling that his friendship with Sergio or whatever is left of it is deteriorating more with each passing day.

 

They win against Iran but somehow it feels more like a defeat, exhaustion creeping into every bone of his body as he falls into his seat on the plane and he knows he should feel ecstatic that their World Cup chances are still very much alive, but he just can’t bring himself to feel anything anymore.

He looks up just as Sergio passes by his seat and his breath catches when he actually stops right next to him, arm awkwardly raised in the air as their eyes meet and for a fleeting moment Gerard thinks he might say something or maybe even sit down next to him, but then he just shakes his head and walks on without looking back and Gerard’s heart cracks even more.

*

“Ramos and Piqué.”

Gerard groans. Of course it had to be Sergio. As if team building exercise weren’t bad enough on their own now he also has to deal with a tense and awkward silence for the rest of the training session.

“Come on,” Sergio beckons him over and Gerard listlessly follows him to where a big red fitness ball is sitting on the pitch.

“What exactly is the point of this?” he asks, eyeing the whole set up questioningly.

“It’s supposed to build trust,” Sergio explains, grinning up at him as he wriggles into a comfortable position on the ball.

“Huh,” is Gerard’s eloquent reply and he’s so incredibly confused by Sergio’s sudden change of attitude, but then again if Sergio wants to pretend that last week never happened, Gerard is more than fine with it and he’s definitely not going to ask any questions about it. Suddenly there’s a tiny flicker of hope in his chest.

“This looks more like an accident waiting to happen,” he chuckles and takes hold of Sergio’s ankles, causing him to sway dangerously as he lifts them to his hips.

“Don’t make me fall off,” Sergio giggles, desperately trying to keep his balance with his arms.

“Aren’t you supposed to trust me?” Gerard teases, tightening his hold on Sergio’s legs when he feels them starting to slip. “God, will you stop flailing around!”

He laughs when Sergio sticks his tongue out at him. “Very mature.”

 

“What’s with all those scribbles on your leg?” he asks, mostly to distract himself from how soft and warm Sergio’s skin feels underneath his fingertips, how good his legs look around his waist.

“It’s called art.”

Gerard snorts. “It’s a bunny and a weirdly looking elephant.”

“Of course you wouldn’t know anything about art,” Sergio smirks. “That weirdly looking elephant is a Dali painting.”

“Still looks weird,” Gerard taunts but now his gaze is stuck to Sergio’s thigh, to the bronzed skin and the black lines peeking out from under his rolled up shorts. “My turn,” he croaks, trying not to blush too much.

Sergio keeps babbling about art as they switch places, completely oblivious to the thoughts running riot in Gerard’s mind and he can’t help but grin about Sergio’s enthusiasm.

“Are you gonna stand there and talk for the rest of the day?” he laughs, bouncing around on the fitness ball as he waits for Sergio.
“Maybe you’d actually learn something,” Sergio retorts with a smug grin, leaning down to grasp Gerard’s ankles.

“In your dreams.” Gerard’s laugh turns into a surprised gasp when Sergio suddenly hoists up his legs.

“You up for some Fifa later?” Sergio asks as he adjusts Gerard’s legs around his waist and Gerard can only nod in agreement, his throat suddenly too clogged to speak and he doesn’t remember the last time he’s felt this happy.

Chapter Text

“You think we’re ready for tomorrow?” Sergio asks while he watches Gerard set up the XBox.

Gerard shrugs. “We should be fine,” he grabs two controllers off the shelf and scrambles to his feet, turns to face Sergio. “They’ve lost both their previous matches and we only need a draw.”

Sergio nods, but there’s a deep frown creasing his brows. “I’m just worried we’re gonna underestimate them. We need to be focussed.”

“Everyone knows what’s at stake,” Gerard reassures, absentmindedly flipping through the game menus. “You worry too much.”

Sergio chuckles. “It’s kind of my job.”

“You can do your job tomorrow,” Gerard pats the spot next to himself. “Now come play and relax for a bit.”

“Which teams are we playing?” The sofa cushions dip when Sergio sits down next to him, the softness of it making them both slide towards the middle, pushing them much closer together than expected.

“Clasico as usual?” Gerard answers and tries not to let himself get distracted by how their arms keep brushing every time one of them moves. He quickly sets up the match, laughs when Sergio straightens up next to him, cracking his fingers before he picks up his controller. “Looks like you’re serious about this,” he grins.

 

Fifteen minutes later he knows just how serious Sergio is when he finds himself down by two goals and scrambling not to concede another. ‘This is bullshit,” he mutters and ends up pressing the buttons a little too forcefully, on-screen Messi curling his free kick pathetically wide over the crossbar.

“No need to be a sore loser about it,” Sergio grins triumphantly while virtual Benzema neatly slots the ball past Ter Stegen and into the back of the net.

Gerard barely resists throwing his controller at Sergio. “This game is unbalanced as hell,” he grumbles.

“Maybe we’re just that good,” Sergio seems completely unperturbed by Gerard’s little outburst.” We’ve won three Champions after all,” he smirks.

“As if,” Gerard snorts. “Should have played PES instead.”

Sergio laughs. “You just can’t deal with my superior Fifa skills.”

“Let’s switch then.”

“What?”

“Let’s switch teams,” Gerard repeats. “If you’re as good as you claim you should have no trouble beating me the other way around.”

“Wait?” Sergio stares at him in disbelief. “You’re willingly gonna play Real Madrid?”

Gerard shrugs.“If it helps prove my point. Always.”

Sergio shakes his head, the corners of his mouth twitching with a poorly held in smile. “I’m not gonna play with that crappy team of yours.”

“I thought you could beat anyone with your superior skills,” Gerard mocks. “Afraid you’re gonna lose?”

“Never,” Sergio grins and the competitive sparkle in his eyes makes Gerard’s heart beat a little faster. “Bring it.”

 

It only takes five minutes until Gerard scores a beautiful header with Sergio, very much to Sergio’s dismay.

“Was that really necessary?” he groans, looking absolutely pained.

Gerard laughs victoriously. “You ready to admit defeat yet?”

“Never.” Sergio shifts into a more comfortable position, involuntarily pressing his thigh against Gerard’s and Gerard immediately loses the ball, watches helplessly as Sergio initiates a perfect counter attack, scoring yet another goal.

“Man, you suck,” Sergio laughs and Gerard tries to ignore Sergio’s overbearing presence, how they’re sitting so close now he can almost smell the scent of Sergio’s skin. “Are you even trying?”

“Shut up,” Gerard elbows him in the side and it proves just enough of a distraction to get his head back into the game, steal the ball from Sergio and launch his own counter attack. A few quick passes and fancy dribbles later and Sergio is frantically scrambling to catch up, forced to go into the challenge way too late.

Gerard helplessly watches as his striker crumbles to the ground only partially appeased when the referee signals for a penalty, hand going to his back pocket and reaching for a red card. “Really?” he looks at Sergio pointedly while in the background his on-screen self is trudging off the pitch. “Trying to get my red card collection to match yours?”

“Sorry,” Sergio says but he’s wheezing with laughter. “I kinda mistimed that tackle.”

“You don’t say,” Gerard rolls his eyes, but he can barely suppress his own laughter. “You’re an idiot,” he snickers and just to make it hurt a bit more, he chooses Sergio as his penalty taker.

“It’s just,” Sergio drops his controller into his lap, grins at Gerard. ”How do you even run with those legs?” he pokes Gerard’s thigh with his index finger. “They keep flailing all over the place.”

Gerard’s breath catches when Sergio’s hand lingers for a few short moments longer than appropriate before he pulls it back a little too forcefully.

“Anyway,” Sergio picks up his controller again, clears his throat. “Let’s finish this.”

 

The match eventually ends in a draw and Gerard is about to suggest a rematch when Sergio’s stomach growls hungrily. “You wanna go see if there’s food in the dining room,” he asks instead.

“Sure,” Sergio nods.

Gerard shuts off the tv and suddenly it’s eerily silent.

“Where is everyone today,” Sergio’s eyes curiously travel across the length of the empty room. “It’s so quiet.”

“I guess everyone’s at family day.”

“Oh,” Sergio says and Gerard thinks he sees a flicker of sadness in his eyes. “I forgot about that.”

“What about your family? Are they not coming?” he asks, leaning back on the couch, dinner momentarily forgotten.

“My friends are planning to fly out if we make it to the next round, everyone else is busy.”

“What about your girlfriend?” Gerard forces a smile. He’s not sure he particularly wants to hear the answer to that question.

“There’s no girlfriend at the moment,” Sergio makes a dismissive gesture with his hands. “Haven’t had one in a while.”

“Why not?” Gerard presses on, tiny slivers of hope fluttering in his chest.

“Dunno,” Sergio shrugs. “Just hasn’t felt right in a while. The kind of relationship i want. It’s just not possible at the moment,” Sergio stares off into space. “With football and all and the press all over my business,” he finished vaguely.”Maybe when i’m retired.”

Gerard mulls that over for a while, wonders if he wants to figure out exactly what Sergio means. “So there’s no one worth facing the press over?” he presses on, not sure why he’s suddenly so intent on torturing himself.

“Well, there might be someone I’m interested in, but i don’t think they return my feelings.” There’s a finality to his voice that makes Gerard’s heart ache and Sergio is looking at him with that strange look in his eyes again, like he’s willing him to understand something he can’t possibly say and maybe Gerard does understand, but mostly he’s just confused and there’s that feeling of hope again, tripping around erratically in his chest.

They stare at each other for a long few moments, Sergio’s eyes are impossibly dark and Gerard has the distinct feeling that they’re working towards something, but then Sergio imperceptibly shakes his head and heaves himself off the sofa.

“Let’s go find something to eat,” he says with a nod towards the door. “I’m starving.”

Gerard nods and tries not the feel too disappointed.

*

They’re barely back at the hotel when Gerard starts looking for Sergio. He’d meant to talk to him right after the match, in the dressing room and even on the plane back, but he’d always been swarmed by their teammates and what he’d come to say really wasn’t meant to be said in public.

He lingers next to the elevators, head buried in his phone and trying for inconspicuous when he’s anything but, one eye anxiously trained on the entrance while his hands are clammy with worry.

“How’s your ankle?” he blurts out before Sergio has even come to a stop, hand reaching out the press the elevator button.

“What”? He asks, hand still hanging mid air, his expression somewhere between exhausted and confused.

Gerard shoves his phone into his pockets. “Your ankle. It didn’t look too good when you went down.”

“It’s nothing,” Sergio shrugs, but he can’t even look him in the eye and Gerard knows he’s lying.

“I don’t believe you.” The elevator doors ding open and Gerard rushes to block them, desperate to keep Sergio from leaving. “You looked like you were in a ton of pain and you were too careful afterwards, like you had to actually force your body to move. I didn’t see you go into a single tackle during the second half.”

“Didn’t know you paid that much attention to me,” Sergio snaps sarcastically.

“I play right next to you,” Gerard takes a shaky breath, rolls his eyes mostly for show, because Sergio can never know. “It’s kind of hard to miss.”

“Whatever,” Sergio unsuccessfully tries to push past Gerard and into the elevator. “Can I go to my room now? I’m exhausted.”

“Not until you tell me the truth.”

“Are you kidding me?” Sergio’s eyes are blazing with anger as he’s glaring up at Gerard. “My ankle is none of your fucking business. Why do you even care so much?”

“Because we need you for the knockouts. We can’t have you dragging an injury around just because you’re too stubborn to take proper care of yourself.”

“Ugh,” Sergio’s shoulders drop in defeat and Gerard mentally pats himself on the back for finally managing to say to right thing.

“Will you leave me alone if i admit it’s a bit sore?” Sergio asks and Gerard hates how tired he suddenly sounds. “It’s gonna be fine tomorrow.”

Gerard cocks his head thoughtfully, tries to figure out if Sergio is being genuine. “What did the physios say?”

“Nothing,” Sergio mumbles, not sounding all that convincing.

“You didn’t tell them.”

“So what if i didn’t? Don’t you think i can decide on my own if i need treatment or not?”

Gerard’s expression softens. “You’re afraid they’re going to make you sit out the next match.”

Sergio shrugs.

“Let me help you then,” Gerard grabs Sergio’s wrist and starts tugging on his arm. “Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“I’m gonna have a look at your ankle,” Gerard declares, ignoring Sergio’s protests as he drags him into an empty treatment room.

 

“So what now?” Sergio hops on the cot and looks up at Gerard expectantly.

“Lie down.”

“What? Are you a doctor now?” Sergio quips, but he’s already leaning back, offering not much resistance when Gerard moves to take his shoe and sock off.

“Don’t be difficult,” Gerard scolds, dropping both and rubbing his palms together to warm up his hands. “I know enough to figure out if you’re being an idiot about this at least.” He pokes at Sergio’s ankle before he takes a hold of it, carefully running his fingers along the bones and tendons.

“Well, the good news is, it’s not swollen,” he says after a while, when he’s done thoroughly examining the joint.

“Pretty sure i could have figured that out myself,” Sergio chuckles.

“Shut up,” Gerard laughs and pinches Sergio’s foot in retaliation, startles when Sergio yelps. “What was that?”

“Dunno,” Sergio wriggles his foot in Gerard’s hold, face scrunched in pain. “It’s been crampy all day.”

“Because you’ve been putting too much strain on it, trying to relieve your ankle,” Gerard explains patiently, reaches for a jar of massage oil and pours a generous amount of it into his palm.

“As if i didn’t know that myself,” Sergio rolls his eyes, propping himself up on his elbows to watch Gerard. “What are you doing?”

“Keeping you from making it even worse,” Gerard mutters, fingers running along the arch of Sergio’s foot, covering it in oil before he digs his thumb into the tense muscles, rubbing and kneading until he finally feels them loosen under his touch, until Sergio hums in relief.

Turn over,” he says when he’s sure he’s worked out every knot, every tension still lingering deep in the muscles.

“Huh?” Sergio mumbles, expression dazed and eyes hooded and Gerard loves how relaxed he looks, how pliant he is under his touch. It makes his heart beat faster.

“Let me look at your calf,” he says, a rough edge to his voice. “If it’s tense too, it’s better to work it out now.”

“Fine,” Sergio relents, stretching languidly before he turns on his stomach.

Gerard clears his throat. “I’ve never seen you this agreeable,” he jokes, but his hands are treacherously shaky as he shoves up the leg of Sergio’s pants, spreading the last residual oil on his fingers across the tattooed skin.

“Fuck you,” Sergio chuckles, weakly kicking in Gerard’s direction but Gerard is faster, easily catching his ankle and pressing his leg back down onto the cot.

“Hold still,” he laughs, digging his thumbs into the back Sergio’s leg.

“Jesus,” Sergio goes tense in his hold. “Take it easy, will you.”

Gerard clicks his tongue disapprovingly. “It’s not gonna get any better if i coddle you,” but he eases up anyway, soothing the abused muscle until he feels Sergio relax underneath his touch.

He continues working his calf between his hands, the movements almost second nature with how often he’s been on the receiving end of the same treatment. He lets his eyes travel up the length of Sergio’s body, gaze involuntarily getting stuck on the round globes of Sergio’s ass, on how the thin fabric of his training pants stretches tantalizingly around the firm cheeks. He licks his lips and he’s helpless to stop his mind from wandering, from imagining how they might feel under his palms, under his tongue while he licks into him.

He gives his head a firm shake, trying to get rid of the distracting thoughts, focussing once again on Sergio’s leg.

“You think we’re gonna win another one?” he asks, hands kneading the skin around Sergio’s world cup tattoo.

“I hope so,” Sergio turns his head to the side and Gerard watches him gnaw on his bottom lip. “But it’s gonna be tough.”

“Yeah,” Gerard distractedly trails his fingers along the black lines of the trophy tattoo, the soft touch more of a caress than anything. “What are you gonna do with this if we win again?” he wonders. “Are you just gonna add another date?” He traces the digits below the trophy, suddenly feeling a small shudder go through Sergio at the delicate touch and he’s unable to stop himself from dragging his fingers over the black ink over and over again, his mind blank save for the feel of Sergio’s soft skin underneath his finger tips.

He presses down tenderly and a moan tumbles from Sergio’s lips.

The sound catches both of them utterly by surprise and it all goes very quickly from there. So quickly that Gerard barely has time to process the noise Sergio just made or how he’s been half hard in his sweats for God knows how long, just from touching Sergio’s leg and the soft sounds of his breathing.

“Sorry,” Sergio stammers, red-faced and embarrassed. “I gotta go,” and he’s already scrambling to is feet, making a desperate grab for his shoes.

He’s out the door before Gerard’s mind has any chance of catching up.

Chapter Text

Gerard angrily plucks at the grass next to his feet, scowling when Costa scores yet another point and then proceeds to celebrate loudly with Sergio. He’s been torturing himself watching them play football tennis for the last thirty minutes, ever since training ended and with every passing minute his mood is progressively getting worse.

“What did the poor lawn ever do to you?” Jordi sinks into the grass beside him, gaze following Gerard’s to where Sergio is still jumping around with Costa. “Oh,” he says, eyes widening in sudden understanding. “Are you still jealous? I thought you were all chummy with Sergio now. What’s with the sudden mood?”

Gerard only grunts in reply.

Jordi laughs. “I take it your date didn’t go too well then?”

“You’re an idiot,” Gerard chuckles quietly. “What the hell are you even talking about?”

“You and Sergio,” Jordi ducks away when Gerard throws a wad of grass at him. “I have it on good authority that you spent most of Saturday with him. I heard you even took him to dinner,” he waggles his eyebrows, holds up his hands protectively just in case he’s assaulted with more grass and dirt, but Gerard only rolls his eyes at him.

“We had leftover pasta from the buffet in the dining room. I’d hardly call that a romantic date,” he says, but he can’t quite keep the smile out of his voice.

Jordi grins gleeful. “Well, you look awfully happy about your non-date.”

“Shut up,” Gerard laughs and shoves Jordi to the side, laughs even more when Jordi loses his balance and topples into the grass.

 

“Hey, can i ask you something,” Gerard asks after a while, suddenly serious again.

Jordi nods. “Sure. What’s up?”

“Do you think there’s a chance Sergio might be gay?”

Jordi’s head snaps up to look at Gerard curiously. “What gave you that idea?”

“I don’t know,” Gerard fiddles with the hem of his shirt, watches as Sergio and the rest of their teammates finish their match and trudge off the pitch towards the dressing room. “We talked about relationships and he was being all cryptic and vague about it, said he can’t have the type of relationship he wants, whatever that’s supposed to mean. It just felt like he was trying to tell me something, like…,” Gerard sighs deeply, runs his fingers through his hair. “Fuck. I have no idea. It’s just a hunch, i guess.”

Jordi hums in understanding. “What about all his ex-girlfriends though?”

“So? He used to date around a lot,” Gerard shrugs. “But it’s not like it was ever anything serious or lasted particularly long. Could have just as well been all for show. And he’s been single for a while now. There haven’t even been any rumours.”

“You’re awfully well informed about his private life,” Jordi teases.

Gerard laughs. “How are you not? He’s all over the gossip rags every other week.”

“Fair enough,” Jordi concedes. “But do you really think that’s enough to make assumptions about his sexuality?”

“Maybe not,” Gerard’s gaze follows his fingers as they’re scratching random patterns into the dirt. “It just feels like he’s been sending me mixed signals all week.”

“So you think he’s gay and has a thing for you as well,” Jordi leans back and tilts his face towards the sun. “Don’t you think you’re projecting a little? Like you’re reading too much into things, just because you want them to mean something?”

“I honestly don’t know anything anymore,” Gerard mirrors Jordi’s posture, lets himself sag backwards until his head hits the damp grass. “I’m so fucking confused.”

Jordi sighs. “Are you seriously gonna make me ask?”

Gerard folds his arms behind his head and he’s sure he looks way more relaxed than he actually feels inside. “We were having a nice time and then he suddenly got all weird when i was touching his foot,’ he says and he can’t really bring himself to explain any better, not when he still can’t figure out why Sergio suddenly ran from the room like he was being chased by a bear.

“Why were you… Wait,” Jordi shudders. “I really don’t wanna know what you got up to with his feet.”

“Gross,” Gerard shoves him to the side. “Nothing like that. He was just tense and i was helping him stretch out his muscles after the match.”

“You do know we have physios for that, right?”

“That’s what i said, but he was afraid they’d make him sit out the next match,” Gerard shrugs. “You know how he is.”

“So what? You think he got turned on by you touching him?” Jordi snickers. “Maybe he just has a foot fetish.”

Gerard scowls. “Can you not be disgusting for two seconds.”

“Sorry,” Jordi grins, but his expression quickly turns serious again. “So lets say he really did. What are you gonna do about it? You can’t just go up to him and ask him if he wants to go out with you.”

“Why not though?” Gerard stares up at the sky and he hates how much his heart suddenly hurts. “I’m gonna retire after the world cup anyway. If he turns me down i’ll never have to deal with him ever again, so i might as well just take the chance.”

“You’re gonna have to see him at clasicos.”

“That hardly counts and what’s the alternative?” Gerard sighs deeply. “If i don’t make a move now, i’m gonna end up losing him anyway. It’s not like we’re gonna stay in touch when we don’t play together anymore.”

“You don’t know that. You’re much better friends now than you used to be.”

Gerard sits up, knees drawn against his chest. “I’m not sure that’s enough for me anymore.”

“You’re really gonna go through with it then?”

Gerard nods. “After the tournament. Hopefully when we’ve won and are both a little drunk already,” he laughs sheepishly.

Jordi chuckles. “We have to win against Russia first.”

*

It all goes terribly wrong. From the moment his hand touches the ball to Koke missing his penalty, it all feels like a bad dream he can’t seem to wake up from and when he thinks it couldn’t possibly get any worse, he looks up to find Sergio hunched over with his face buried in his hands.

And it hurts, seeing Sergio cry like this, like his heart is slowly being ripped out of his chest and he just stands there, helplessly watching as first Lucas and then Hierro go to comfort him while he’s frozen to the spot, his chest so tight he can barely breathe, because it wasn’t supposed to end like this. Their last match together wasn’t supposed to end with Sergio in tears and Gerard’s heart broken into tiny little pieces.

He doesn’t know how much time has passed, how long he’s been standing in the middle of the pitch unable to move, when Jordi finally appears by his side.

“Are you ok?” he asks, looking up at Gerard with concern in his eyes.

“No,” Gerard shakes his head and it feels like he’s been on the verge of tears for hours.

“You should go to him,” Jordi whispers and there’s no need to say any more. They both know who he’s talking about.

“I can’t,” Gerard forces out, his voice scratchy and pained. “What if he blames me?”

He won’t,” Jordi says with so much conviction in his voice that Gerard almost believes him. “You’re gonna regret it if you don’t,” he adds and then he’s gone again, leaving Gerard behind with his dark thoughts and the knowledge that Jordi is probably right.

 

His legs feel like lead when he finally manages to walk over towards Sergio, catching him just as he’s about to leave the pitch.

They don’t talk when Gerard puts his hand on Sergio’s back and his arms around his shoulders and Sergio’s eyes are wet with tears, almost a pleading look in them as his body tilts towards Gerard’s and when Gerard tightens his arms for just a second, he all but melts into the embrace. But Gerard only allows himself the briefest of contact, too afraid he’s going to give it all away if he lets it go on for any longer.

*

Back at the hotel Gerard doesn’t waste any time packing up his room. He throws everything into his suitcase, not really caring if anything breaks or wrinkles. All he can think about is that he needs to talk to Sergio before they leave, because if he doesn’t, he knows he’ll regret it for the rest of his life, so he gathers all the courage he can muster and marches over to Sergio’s room.

 

“What are you doing here?” Sergio asks when he finally opens the door, eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed and Gerard hates how utterly defeated he looks.

“Can i talk to you?”

Sergio shrugs, but then he steps aside anyway and Gerard follows him into the dimly lit room, standing around a bit awkwardly as Sergio continues to pack up his things.

“I’m sorry for the handball. I didn’t...,” he starts, but then Sergio swivels around, clutching a half folded shirt in his hands, glaring at him angrily.

“Don’t you dare apologize for anything,” he snaps, catching Gerard completely off guard. “We’ve all made mistakes before and it’s definitely not why we lost tonight, so i don’t wanna hear it.”

Gerard blinks in surprise at the vehemence of Sergio’s words. “But….”

“Geri, just stop,” Sergio sighs wearily. “I’m so fucking sick of all the finger pointing and blame being thrown around. We had the whole game to score another goal and we couldn’t even manage that. It really wasn’t your fault. We play as a team, we lose as a team and we all sucked tonight.”

Gerard swallows thickly, not really sure what to answer, because of all things he never expected Sergio to defend him like this. “Thank you,” he eventually manages to croak out even though it feels terribly inadequate.

“Nothing to thank me for,” Sergio brushes him off, going back to folding his shirts into neat little squares before placing them into his suitcase.

“You want some help?” Gerard gestures towards Sergio’s still mostly empty suitcase, too choked up to say much more.

“Sure,” Sergio nods gratefully. “I could use some company.”

 

They work together in silence, Gerard gathering the things strewn all across he room while Sergio keeps folding his clothes and it feels oddly comforting to work together like this, without the need to talk or pretend that they’re not both hurting inside, but all too soon everything is neatly packed up and there’s nothing left to do but stand around awkwardly.

“You know I’m not your teammate anymore,” Gerard blurts out just as Sergio is about to close his suitcase and maybe it’s not the best timing with both of them still feeling so raw from the defeat, but it feels so good to finally get it off his chest and for the first time in weeks it feels like he can properly breathe again.

“What?” Sergio asks and he looks so lost and worn out that Gerard almost wants to take it all back, but there’s this nagging feeling in the back of his mind, that if he doesn’t go through with it now, he might never get another chance.

He squares his shoulders and forces himself not to break eye contact, even though his heart his almost pounding out of his chest. “You said you don’t sleep with teammates,” he takes a deep breath, searches Sergio’s face for any kind of reaction. “And i’m not your teammate anymore.”

Sergio just gapes at him, stunned into complete silence and Gerard has never been more incapable of reading his expression.

“Are you…?” Sergio starts, but then he just shakes his head, a myriad of emotions flickering in his eyes, but Gerard is too on edge to figure out any of them and mostly Sergio just sounds exhausted. “I can’t deal with this right now. I’m sorry,” he sighs and there’s a finality to his words that feels like a knife has been twisted into Gerard’s heart.

“I better go then,” he says, his voice cracking pathetically on the last word and there’s really nothing left to do but admit defeat and go back to his own room to lick his wounds in private.