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Nothing Is Irreversible

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Three sharp blasts of the whistle pierced the humid air of the Arena Fonte Nova and it took a great deal of strength for Robin van Persie not to fall to his knees.

The stadium was alive, the pockets of orange that had at first seemed small now bouncing and roaring. He could pick out warbled chants and lines of songs amongst the general nonsensical shouting. It was deafening, dizzying, overwhelming. His chest swelled as he picked out one in particular. "Oh, Robin van Persie. Oh, Robin van Persie." His head tipped back, his shoulders relaxed and he revelled in it.

Suddenly, there were bodies crashing into him. Wesley Sneijder's familiar tattooed arms wound around his shoulders, squeezing the life out of him. His voice accompanied the roar of the crowds and the roar of Robin's blood in his ears. Too good to be real. "Robin, Robin! Look what we did. Look at it, Robin," Wesley yelled widely, barely audible as he dangerously swung one arm at the scoreboard and nearly hit an elated looking Daley Blind in the face.

The brightly lit board displayed the score, the flags - his flag, the Dutch flag. Netherlands 5, Spain 1. A wave of emotion crashed over Robin, like he'd never seen that score in his life. A wild grin lit his face, eyes dancing as he took it all in. The mighty Spain were in tatters, defeated. By his breached and battered goal, Iker Casillas clutched at Sergio Ramos' jersey, trying to contain emotions that threatened to spill over. Robin felt for the man, knew those feelings so well. Anger, grief, guilt, numbness. But not even those memories could taint the fire that flowed through his veins right now and a small part of him, the part that never really grew up, told him that Casillas deserved it. He deserved to feel that anguish and harrowing guilt, just like Ramos deserved to feel hopeless, helpless, holding the love of his life as he crumbled.

Four years ago, an ankle clipped a ball and ruined a dream. Four years ago, he held Arjen like that.

Like he'd been cued, Arjen Robben swaggered into Robin's line of sight just then. Wearing a sweat soaked strip that clung to his strong form and a broad smile that threatened to crack his jaw, the love of Robin's life was metres away. He hugged and congratulated the younger players and the reserves who hadn't left the bench, treating every last one like they'd played their equal part in the glorious victory. Robin's chest heaved as he pushed one aching leg in front of the other, making his way towards the Dutch that congregated in the dugout.

His limbs were so heavy and he could feel exhaustion setting in already, before his laboured breathing had even had the opportunity to even out. There were green stains on his abdomen and he could still taste grass in his mouth but he'd never once expected to love that taste so much. If it took a mouthful of grass to score like that, the Old Trafford groundskeepers would have their work cut out.

People surrounded him, shouting his name, singing his songs, wrapping their arms around him and kissing his mess of sweaty hair. The noise was still dizzying and the world was too bright. His body grew heavy and his head even heavier as he comprehended what he'd just done.

Arjen had spotted him now and was attempting to cross a sea of people to reach his side. Robin let his eyes flit shut for a brief moment, the joy that flooded his every nerve taking over. His head lolled forwards and he let out a breath, every square inch vacated by the air in his  lungs flooding with a feeling so large it was indescribable.

Dirk Kuyt, the lovely man, was trying to catch his attention. To offer congratulations, perhaps but Arjen was at his side before Robin had the chance to speak with Dirk. They fell into step with each other and anyone who was planning on talking to either man soon thought better of it. Even their assistant managers and higher ups seemed to understand their need for just a sliver of privacy and peeled away.

Arjen's arm was around Robin's shoulders, where it belonged and he leaned in close, pressing his forehead to Robin's messy locks. "It's me, love. It's your Arjen," he murmured, "Robin, look at what we did. We beat them, we beat the Spaniards, you and I. We did it, my love. We made everyone proud."

Suddenly, that feeling that Robin had no idea how to describe yet was filling his every pore was overcoming him. His heavy head swung and he thought of all that had happened. One hundred and twenty minutes of missed chances, bad challenges, violent play. Ninety minutes of wonder goals, record breaking speeds, stunning footwork, a white ball he'd spent most of his life chasing clashing into the back of the net with a rustle and a roar. A mouthful of grass. A disbelieving Spanish goalkeeper.

He felt redeemed.

He fell into his lover's arms just as his resolve shattered.

Arjen held him, pulled him closer, gently lead him away from seeking cameras and prying eyes. He hugged Arjen so tightly he was scared he would break him, nuzzling into his neck as tears started falling, hot and fast. When he leaned into him fully, the shorter man struggled to hold his weight and nearly toppled over, only to wrap both arms around him and hold him more securely.

Arjen's arms were safety, his chest comfort. His soothing voice murmured again and again, for no one's ears but Robin's, "We did it," and then, "I love you."