I walked through the door with you, the air was cold
But something 'bout it felt like home somehow
And I left my scarf there at your sister's house
And you've still got it in your drawer, even now
Walking through the door to Mark’s parents’ house, it felt big. Not the place, although that too, Mark made a point of telling him how he’d bought them the place after his first good F1 contract. But more importantly, the achievement felt big. He was meeting Mark’s family, properly, in an official capacity. He’d met his father before, around the garages at races, but that was always brief, in passing, busy. Now was his chance to make a good impression. He was fully aware of how the age gap might look, so he needed to prove himself, prove he was mature enough. He could do it.
He was a little surprised by how cold it was, considering all he really knew of Australia was hot, sunshine, etc. But F1’s summer break came in Australia’s winter. It wasn’t cold per say, but it was startling. When he stepped into the house and it was no warmer, he was definitely surprised. He didn’t really have time to think about it though, because Mark’s mother was already hugging him. Him before her own son. He probably should have made something of that, but even now, he isn’t sure what.
He’d put his hand out very stiffly to shake Mark’s father’s, putting on his most serious face, on his best, most mature, behaviour. He really wanted this to work. He wanted them to like him so badly. When Mark’s father forwent the handshake in favour of clapping him on the arm and draping his own over Sebastian’s shoulders, he was pretty sure it was going okay. His smile was still shy though. Mark’s mother said it was absolutely adorable. There was something in Mark’s eyes he couldn’t place when she said that. Maybe…was it pride?
He tried to call the Mr and Mrs Webber, and Mark’s mother immediately waved that away. Dianne and Alan, honey, she’d told him. He was part of the family now. Mum don’t overwhelm him, it’s only been a few months, Mark had told his mother, an edge to his tone. Sebastian had shaken his head, reached for Mark’s hand and squeezed it lightly when he’d let him take it. It’s fine, Seb had assured him. Mark had just given a single nod. When he saw Sebastian’s brow begin to furrow into a frown though, he stepped closer, kissed it away, and smiled. He let himself forget that a few months was actually more than half a year.
It was so natural, sitting in their living room, chatting like it had always been like this, like Seb had been here hundreds of times. It felt…somehow it already felt…it felt like home somehow. It felt even more like home when they disappeared into the guest house, the reason Mark had chosen the place, he said, he could stay there when he visited. He didn’t have a proper place in Australia anymore, he didn’t sound like he intended on moving back. Settled in England now I guess, Mark had said. Sebastian was considering a place in Switzerland. Maybe he should let that one go.
Mark’s sister was a harder sell. She eyed him with suspicion, her scepticism about him was obvious. It hurt, it really did, because what could she possibly think was going on here other than him being in love with her brother. He was hardly using her brother for anything. He’d won more races so far in his short career than Mark had in ten years. He’d have won more if his car could be a bit more fucking reliable. And his contract, well that was just as good as Mark’s, he had plenty of his own money. He was here because he loved her brother, nothing else.
What won her over was Sebastian’s talent with kids. He knew going in how important Marks’s niece was to him. He didn’t want kids himself (Sebastian ardently chose to ignore the fact he did, if he could just- Mark might change his mind one day, especially if he saw how good Seb could be with them. Or maybe he’d just have to let that one go, he could do that, he could definitely do that…couldn’t he?), but his niece, Mark said she was like his own. He needed to get on with her, needed her to like him.
And she did. Almost immediately. As soon as she got over being shy because she didn’t know him, she was grabbing his hand pulling him away from the rest of the adults, towards her toys, asking if he’d play with her. He said yes, of course. By the end of the visit, she was asking if he could stay, if he could read her a bedtime story, of he would be visiting again soon. She almost preferred him to her Uncle Mark. Mark himself didn’t seem best pleased with that, but when Leanne seemed pleased, and Seb made a point of cuddling into his side, almost an act of submission, he managed to settle into what seemed to be pleased that Seb had done such a good job jumping through hoops to win over his family.
When packing up to go home, he found his scarf missing. It was his favourite scarf, which Mark found silly, because it’s just a scarf, how can you have a favourite scarf? It was a birthday gift from Mark, the year before, a while before they had gotten together the first birthday as teammates when they weren’t close enough for Mark to really commit with present buying, but friendly enough that he felt he ought to get him something. Sebastian didn’t tell him that though. He clearly didn’t remember. His assistant had probably sorted it all out. It was before they were together, that was fair enough.
Mark sighed, told Sebastian to stop being dramatic about it, he’d get him another scarf. They didn’t have time to deal with this or else they’d be late for their flight. Sebastian bit his tongue to avoid letting a remark slip out to the effect of I wanted to start packing yesterday, you told me to leave it. He just nodded and forced a smile, enough to please Mark and earn himself a kiss on the cheek and a good boy. He tried to ignore the fact Mark used the same tone he’d used when he’d said the same thing to his parents’ dog.
He remembered later, leaving it at Mark’s sister’s house. He knows she left it with their parents, who placed it in Mark’s bedroom in the guest house. He never saw it again though. He knows Mark still has it in a drawer there. Mark’s mother accidentally let it slip, sometime after. Sebastian thinks she hoped they’d find a way to getting back together. They won’t, but he never has the heart to say that to her.
Oh, your sweet disposition and my wide-eyed gaze
We're singing in the car, getting lost upstate
Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place
And I can picture it after all these days
And I know it's long gone and that magic's not here no more
And I might be okay, but I'm not fine at all
‘Just admit we’re lost!’ Sebastian repeated, laughing hysterically.
‘We are not lost!’ Mark argued. He was laughing just as hard. ‘We’re just directionally challenged right now!’ he asserted, and Sebastian hadn’t thought he could laugh any harder, then he was. Mark laughed harder too. It was a truly ridiculous statement.
They’d been bickering like this, teasingly, in the gaps between singing along to the old music they both liked that Mark had collected into a playlist for the drive. Why they were road tripping from Spa to Monza, Sebastian really couldn’t have told you. Mark just said they should do it and Sebastian would have agreed to whatever he wanted. It was only just over an eight hour drive if they did it flat out, which they probably wouldn’t, but regardless, it wouldn’t take them more than a day.
He didn’t regret it. This was one of the best days he’d had in a long time. He remembers thinking it was a bit early for the leaves to have started falling, barely into autumn, but it was a beautiful view regardless. It painted such a perfect picture.
Mark’s grin was an even better picture though, the rugged handsomeness of him, the light in his eyes, enjoying messing around in the car on this quiet stretch of road. Sebastian must have been giving him such a wide eyed stare, captivated by him, because the grin turned into a smirk the next time Mark’s eyes flashed across to him. He watched Mark’s gaze flicker back to the road, still empty and sprawling, before reaching out and pulling his face close enough that he could lean over and give him a quick peck. He knows his cheeks were burning after that. He also knows he was beaming like an idiot. He’s pretty certain Mark was quite proud of himself for causing both.
Mark’s hand slipped to settle on his inner thigh, and it stayed there for the rest of the drive.
They’d definitely gotten lost though, because Mark wanted to pick an old classic car to drive, because who wanted GPS right? He claimed he had the route memorised. Clearly he didn’t. Sebastian would not stop taking the piss out of him for it, even when they managed to get back on the route, and for once, Mark was taking it all in good part.
It’s been a long time since then, so many days have passed since, more bad than good ones, but even after everything, he can remember it all, he can picture it in vivid detail. Even after all these days.
He knows it’s all long gone now, none of the magic that kept him tied up in a relationship that was spiralling down for so long was still there. He knows he should be completely past it right now, and some days he really feels okay, he really does feel like he is. But then there’s the other days, when he hears his name, sees a picture somewhere, any little stupid thing, and it’s like he’s right back there, in the thick of the grief and self-destruction. He might be okay, but sometimes…sometimes he’s not fine at all.
'Cause there we are again on that little town street
You almost ran the red 'cause you were looking over at me
Wind in my hair, I was there
I remember it all too well
It feels slightly ironic to him, in hindsight, that so many of their best moments were in a car together, when so any of their worst moments were caused by what they did in cars apart. He remembers after Mark had picked him up from the airport, coming back from a visit home to his parents to meet his sister’s new baby.
Mark had wanted to come, he’d sworn he had, but he had work commitments and they wouldn’t let him out of them without a proper explanation. Their families knew about them now, but no one else. Not officially at least, although he’s pretty sure most of the team suspected. Half the drivers probably did to. But Mark didn’t want to tell everyone just yet. Sebastian understood. Or at least he said he did.
He’d offered to pick him up from the airport though, had kissed him as soon as they were in the car, had told him he’d missed him, he was glad to see him, finally have him back. It made Sebastian feel so special. He could forgive anything when Mark smiled at him like that.
Mark wasn’t paying nearly enough attention to the road, they both knew it. It’s fine, Sebby, I know these roads like the back of my hand. You trust me, don’t you? Mark had said, like he hadn’t just almost run a red light, when Sebastian had laughed, shaken his head and teased him for almost running it because he was too busy watching Sebastian enjoy the way the wind rushed past them, dangling his arm out the car, head back laughing as the breeze ruffled his curls that he hadn’t gotten around to having cut yet.
Mark liked them like that, Sebastian remembers. He wonders if it’s because it made him look younger, more fragile. Mark liked him sweet and innocent. Or maybe it was just a possessive thing, he got less interested attention like that than he did when he kept it tidier. Perhaps he just liked to pull on it when he fucked his mouth. Probably that.
He can picture it all so easily though, without even trying, often against his own will. He can conjure up every little detail. He really had trusted him, despite all the glaringly obvious reasons why he shouldn’t. Despite the fact Mark never truly seemed to trust him in return. He would have given him everything, he tried to. Yet still, despite the fact he wishes he could burn it all away, erase it all from his memory, he remembers it all too well.
Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed
And your mother's telling stories 'bout you on the tee-ball team
You taught me 'bout your past, thinking your future was me
He remembers thinking he could settle here, he knows Mark says he prefers England to live long term now, but he seems more content here, more settled. He’d struggle, being so far away from his own family, but Mark’s family are so wonderful. If he could convince Mark that settling in Australia would be a good idea, he thinks things could be better here. He thinks Mark could be happier here.
One of his favourite moments was sitting at the kitchen island beside Mark’s mother, who’d pulled out old photo albums while Mark had disappeared off outside with his father, working on restoring an old car together. Sebastian had joined them for a while, and he’d loved it, but Mark’s mother had wanted company, and Mark told him to go.
He knew Mark regretted that when he came in and saw the albums spread across the counter, watched the rueful smile spread across his face. He came over and made a point of giving his mother a hug, still sweaty and covered in grease, oil and dirt. She exclaimed in annoyance and shoved him off, rolling her eyes. When he moved onto Sebastian, hands slipping to that spot on his waist that he knew was one of the places Sebastian was most ticklish and Seb nearly fell off his chair, she snapped his name at him in chastisement. Mark just grinned at her and placed a sloppy kiss on Seb’s cheek. He should have been wrinkling his nose in disgust, but he just couldn’t help smiling.
Mark really was happiest there, even if he didn’t seem to realise it himself. He slipped his arms further, wrapping them properly around his waist so he was pressed flush behind him and rested his chin on Sebastian’s shoulder to get a closer look at what they were looking at. Seb moved to look at him and found his cheeks flushing at the sight. The best photos of Mark’s most awkward childhood phases, laid out on a silver platter for Seb to witness.
It didn’t get better when Dianne decided to tell, in detail, the embarrassing stories behind every single picture, no matter how Mark begged her to stop. Seb had just laughed and soaked in every little piece of information that was given to him. Every picture, he studied like it would be part of some kind of test that he absolutely had to pass. When she told him stories of Mark’s karting days, well, those quickly become his favourites. Mark however seemed most embarrassed about those.
She told him how long Mark had been dreaming of winning the world championship, because he was leading it at the time, she really believed he would win. She seemed so proud. In retrospect, Seb is a little surprised she still liked him after the end of that season, or anything that followed. She had congratulated him before Mark properly did though.
He was honestly shocked to see so many pictures of Mark wearing glasses, because he’d never known him leave the house without his contacts in. He was lucky to get rare glimpses of him wearing his glasses in private. He liked them. He’d decided to tell him as much later, when the blast from the past had been ended, so his mother could start cooking, kindly declining Seb’s help.
‘You know, I think you look cute with glasses, Sebastian had said, draping his arms over Mark’s shoulders, linking them behind his neck so he could pull him down, closer to his face.
‘Oh yeah?’ Mark smirked, one eyebrow raised, teasing. He let himself be pulled into a kiss and he’d kept smiling through it.
He’d put them on later, to show him some more pictures, after a decent amount of begging from Seb. He’d told him stories he’d never told him before, an arm around him, Seb’s head resting on his shoulder. It really felt like a milestone was reached that day. Seb learnt Mark’s past in such a barrage that day, having spent so long chipping at scraps until then. It felt like there was a future here, finally, truly, like they were going somewhere. Things felt so much more real.
And you were tossing me the car keys, "fuck the patriarchy"
Key chain on the ground, we were always skipping town
And I was thinking on the drive down, any time now
He's gonna say it's love, you never called it what it was
‘Oh fuck it, go on then,’ Mark relented with a sigh, throwing Seb the keys to the Porsche he rented for the trip. He never let Seb drive, always wanted to be the one at the wheel. He claimed he just didn’t like being a passenger, but he knew when Mark went out with Fernando or Jenson he’d let them drive.
It hadn’t been a good throw, the keys fell short, landing at Seb’s feet. He didn’t read enough into that though, just picked them up, bouncing over to Mark, beaming, kissing his cheek as Mark gave a smile that was, when he looks back on it, no longer caught up in the moment, obviously fake. But Seb had kept begging, and in the end Mark had given in. He didn’t seem too upset about it though, Seb was careful, and he seemed to have enough fun.
It was an impromptu trip, they did that a shocking amount for two people with a quite rigid schedule. Mark just didn’t like to feel settled in one place for too long. He had a home base, but he preferred to escape off to god knew where as often as he could. He rarely seemed to have a plan, much to Seb’s chagrin, but he went with it anyway, every time Mark let him come with him.
During the drive, Mark spent more time looking at him than he did the road or the map in his hands. Unlike mark, Sebastian could memorise a route correctly, so they didn’t particularly need it anyway. But the gaze was so intense. He couldn’t help thinking he was going to say it…or at least say something meaningful, something big. He thought…damnit he thought this might be it. Mark had actually planned for this trip, and he never did that. A year in, things felt so serious to Seb, and sure maybe he was a bit young to really know, that was what people kept telling him you’re too young to really know anything, but Mark wasn’t. And Seb was sure he knew, so why wasn’t he?
But Mark was never ready to say love. And for the longest time Sebastian hadn’t minded, had accepted that it was just something he needed more time to be ready to say. He’d convinced himself it was somehow a good thing, Mark wanted to mean it, he was taking them seriously, knew it was important. He didn’t mind Sebastian saying it, although he didn’t do it too often, worried Mark would feel pressured and not wanting that. But really he was just scared of commitment, and uninterested in trying for him. But Seb let himself remain blind for so long.
'Til we were dead and gone and buried
Check the pulse and come back swearing it's the same
After three months in the grave
And then you wondered where it went to as I reached for you
But all I felt was shame and you held my lifeless frame
And I know it's long gone and there was nothing else I could do
And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to
Not until the separation, the first time. Then he suddenly learnt how to say the words. When everything they’d had had been dead, gone, buried, for three months, because Mark wouldn’t see him, speak to him, answer his fucking texts or calls all winter after Seb won the championship and he didn’t. Not until he was finally forced back into a room with him at Red Bull, until Seb had done his best begging, for something, anything.
‘Oh for fuck sakes Seb, I was angry, okay? I needed some time away from you and everyone else here, it wasn’t about you,’ he said, tone harsh, cutting. There was somehow a ruthlessness in his claiming he hadn’t intended to be cruel. He said he wasn’t trying to hurt him, he’d just needed his space.
‘Oh come on Seb, you know I do,’ had been his reply to Seb asking if he even cared about him at all, ‘I took you home to meet my family didn’t I?’
‘Then why couldn’t you just tell me what was going on? You could have just sent one fucking text, so I wasn’t going out of my goddamn mind all winter!’ Seb had yelled back, on the verge of tears. Seb should have spent the winter celebrating his championship. Instead he spent it feeling like his heart had been torn to shreds.
And Mark, he just seemed confused that Sebastian was even upset with him, that he hadn’t just come running back into his arms, all fine now that he had forgiven Seb for winning a championship he had lost for himself. It was only when he realised that things were in a pretty bad way that he finally realised he needed to do more than just shrug it off.
He’d sworn under his breath, sighed then finally, ‘I love you, Sebby, come on, you know that. Don’t be silly, you know I do. Let’s not argue about this now, yeah? What’s done is done. C’mere,’ he’d said, opening his arms out for Seb to walk into.
And he’d been stupid enough to let it happen. Seb let himself reach out for him, despite the fact he was overwhelmed with shame when doing it, for reasons he couldn’t have even begun to delve into properly at the time. He’d just let Mark wrap him up in his arms and hold him there, shushing him while he sobbed into his chest, broken.
‘I thought you were leaving me,’ he’d whispered, voice rough, breathing ragged. Mark never replied to that.
He’d probably been intending to, Sebastian realised, when he finally had distance from their train wreck of a relationship.
He knows now looking back it all, enough space to see it relatively clearly, that none of it was his fault, beyond the naivety that he’d been willing himself to cling onto. There was nothing more he could have done to salvage this disaster, he couldn’t have done any more to make it work and when he remembers the parts like this, where it was pretty much a joke and where things were so wrong that he’s astonished he didn’t realise sooner that he needed to run, he knows exactly why he needs to forget about Mark.
But then, those memories are the first ones to be forgotten, and he’s left with all the good ones, and for a few moments, before they all come flooding back in, he only has the good memories, and he forgets why he needed to forget the whole thing.
'Cause there we are again in the middle of the night
We're dancing 'round the kitchen in the refrigerator light
Down the stairs, I was there, I remember it all too well
And there we are again when nobody had to know
You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath
Sacred prayer and we'd swear
To remember it all too well
Even when the bad times were getting ever more frequent though, and things got steadily more and more tumultuous as Sebastian achieved more and more success while Mark’s career steadily declined, there were still good times. He almost wonders if perhaps Mark was trying harder in the good times to make them good because he knew they wouldn’t last, because he knew things were going downhill.
He remembers a night, he couldn’t sleep for reasons he can’t remember now, he’d slipped out of bed, convinced he’d left Mark firmly asleep. He spent at least five minutes staring into the fridge like it had the answers to everything. He probably wasn’t even hungry, but that detail isn’t something that sticks in his head.
What does stick is the soft Sebby, the arms slipping around his waist, the kisses to his temple, the chin resting on his shoulder. He remembers Mark swaying him gently, asking why he left bed, if he was alright. He remembers not having a real answer, just leaning back against Mark, letting his eyes fall shut, letting his head rest against his boyfriend behind him, humming when Mark turned his head so he could kiss him.
He remembers, above all else, laughing when out of nowhere, one of his favourite songs was playing out of the shitty speaker on Mark’s not particularly new phone, resting on the counter. He remembers Mark using his waist to turn him around, circling him gently and swaying him, smiling in a way that said he knew exactly what effect he had on Seb, that he enjoyed it.
And that’s somehow how Sebastian remembers what had caused the whole thing. They’d been fighting again, because Mark had avoided him all night at some Red Bull party they’d both had to attend. Seb had wanted to dance with him, just once, hidden away somewhere if it had to be that way, even though they’d fucked in hidden corners of the factory enough that he was safely certain pretty much everyone knew that they were together, or at the very least that Mark had spent a decent amount of their time as teammates with his dick in Seb’s ass.
Mark tried to make out that hiding was fun and sexy, for Sebastian though, it was just exhausting. He was tired of feeling like Mark’s dirty little secret. He’d yelled as much when mark had told him to calm down about it, told him to stop sulking when they came home. He was Mark’s dirty little secret, but Mark was sacred to him, holier than all else, even his car, even his championship trophies.
‘Oh Sebby, I’m sorry,’ Mark said, but Seb had to fight to convince himself he meant it now, which wasn’t great when they both knew he probably didn’t.
‘You’re everything to me,’ Sebastian had whispered, face buried into Mark’s chest to hide the tears welling up in his eyes. Mark had just kept kissing his hair. Maybe that was because he thought it was the best way to soothe him, maybe he just didn’t know how to reply. Sometimes, when Sebastian thinks about things, he remembers that Mark rarely genuinely lied to him, not like that, he’d fake an apology, or to defuse a situation, but moments like that, if he didn’t have something to say that he could mean, he wouldn’t say anything at all. It was a kindness, really, but Sebastian was too busy glossing over all the flaws, blind to all the red flags.
Or maybe he did lie to him often, and he still can’t see it. That could also be true.
‘You’re going to leave me, and you’re going to forget about me,’ Sebastian had said, so quiet he didn’t think Mark would even hear him. But then he felt Mark sigh.
‘Sebastian, there is no way I could ever forget you, even if I wanted to,’ he told him, firmly, and Seb likes to believe that’s the most honest thing Mark has ever said to him.
There’s something about that being one of the very few times that Mark used his full name in private, something about the sincerity in his tone. When he remembers that moment, it makes it all a little easier to bear. And it’s difficult for him to explain why. He couldn’t forget him either, he claimed, and it makes it feel a little less shit to believe that’s true. Maybe that’s unkind, to hope Mark feels at least some of what he feels now, knowing how it hurts. But it makes him feel a bit better nonetheless.
But it’s also a complicated feeling, even if I wanted to. He did, Seb thinks, long before that moment, he’d started wishing he could. The winter after his first title, the little arguments and huge blowouts and everything in between. He didn’t know how to leave and stay gone.
Or maybe that’s all in Seb’s head, maybe he invented the whole thing, maybe Mark’s tone was as insincere there as it could be anywhere else, maybe Seb just wants to believe it. He doesn’t think he’ll ever truly know, or ever truly understand what was going through Mark’s head in those days, doesn’t really want to risk asking.
It might all be fake, his head and his heart working together to trick him out of further misery. It might all be a lie. But nonetheless, he remembers it all too well.
Well, maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much
But maybe this thing was a masterpiece 'til you tore it all up
Running scared, I was there, I remember it all too well
And you call me up again just to break me like a promise
So casually cruel in the name of being honest
I'm a crumpled up piece of paper lying here
'Cause I remember it all, all, all
He wants to blame so many things, wants to use any stupid little thing to explain where it all went wrong. Maybe something got lost in translation, maybe he didn’t get things out right. Maybe he failed to adequately convey the depth of his feelings, maybe he never found the right words. He tried, he really tried. Sometimes it did feel like there was a huge, insurmountable gap between them, a gaping hole he couldn’t fill or cross. Sometimes he wonders if he missed things because he didn’t understand what they were.
But then other times he realises its more likely that he just had his expectations too high, he wanted too much from a man who was either incapable or just plain unwilling to give him much more than the bare minimum most of the time. He wanted everything, he wanted a future, forever, he wanted it all. Mark just wanted fun, convenience, maybe even an advantage on track. He probably hated Seb the most for the fact he never got that.
Seb would give him anything, anything but victory. That just wasn’t in his nature. He’d give him absolutely anything else, but never that.
This thing between them really had the potential to be a masterpiece, Seb had worked so hard to try and make it beautiful. He put everything he had into making it work. Somehow despite everything, he thought they could make it work, he thought they’d get through it and be fine. It hadn’t even occurred to him, even when he knew things were getting worse, just how badly it could end.
In the last year together, things really began to take a drastic turn. Mark tried less and less to appease him, to make up properly after the ever more frequent fights. He should probably have realised things were on the out a bit quicker, Mark going out to commiserate with Fernando rather than joining the Red Bull party to celebrate when Sebastian won the 2012 championship should have been a pretty big indicator. But still he kept trying to hold it all together and fix all the cracks. He was scared of what life looked like if this all fell apart, he’d been with Mark for three years by then, admitting defeat…it wasn’t something he knew how to do. He wasn’t very familiar with relationships either, apparently. He thought it was fine.
Until it wasn’t fine.
Sebastian had been running from the inevitable messy end to a messy affair. He’s still not entirely sure what Mark was running from, but it felt, looking back, like he’d spent their entire relationship running from something. Age, irrelevance, the end of his career, of his influence in the team, in the sport? From commitment, from questions from his parents about when he’d finally settle down. From anything and everything.
He remembers the day he ran out after Mark was an asshole when they were visiting his parents again, expecting Mark to follow. He didn’t, so Seb had gotten an earlier flight to Malaysia, spent the whole time crying. Like every traumatic detail of their relationship, he’s stuck remembering it all too well.
They were over before they were truly officially over, and he knew it as well as Mark did, but for some reason, he still kept picking up when Mark called. And he knew how it would go, Mark would pretend to sound interested for all of a minute or two, tell him he could come over if he wanted, to fuck, nothing else, he’d need to leave again afterwards, Mark needed to focus on making his last season count. But I still want to see you. What he wanted was a convenient fuck. Seb knew it perfectly well, he knew they’d end up arguing about it, he knew he’d end up in tears, he knew Mark wouldn’t care.
Every time Mark would call, he’d end up hanging up, crumpled up in a ball, as tight as he could hug his knees to his chest, crying alone in his bed, his bed that felt so strangely big and so unpleasantly cold now he was alone in it.
Almost twenty-six and still not learning. He could hear the words, in Mark’s voice, because lately everything negative his head had to say about himself sounded like it was being said in that voice. He used to love it, then it started torturing him. He felt like he was being torn apart. But he kept answering, because it was all he knew how to do, letting Mark in, letting him use and abuse him. All of it stuck playing on repeat, in a loop in his head. He remembered it all too well.
They say all's well that ends well, but I'm in a new Hell
Every time you double-cross my mind
You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine
And that made me want to die
‘It’s for the best that it ends now, Seb, come on, you know that. It’s never going to work out is it? Completely different schedules, completely different lifestyles,’ Mark told him in that condescending tone he liked to use when reminding Sebastian that he was older and wiser while finally letting him down gently in his hotel room. The championship wasn’t quite over as they went into summer break, it looked pretty good for Seb, but anything could happen. So the championship wasn’t over for Sebastian, but it pretty much was for Mark. And now their relationship was too.
‘But-’ Sebastian tried to speak, to argue, to defend himself. Why was he even on the defensive? He honestly couldn’t even tell you.
‘No, Sebby, come on, grow up for a second and think about this like an adult. You see this is why it would never work. You’re still basically a kid. You still haven’t grown up, and I don’t want to be waiting around for you to, I don’t have time for that. We’re at different stages of life, Seb,’ Mark argued, each word feeling more insulting than the last. Like Sebastian wasn’t the one who wanted to settle down while Mark was never ready. Like he wouldn’t have said yes today if Mark had asked literally anything of him. Like it wasn’t the shittiest, most fake excuse he’d ever heard.
But then came the line that still haunted Sebastian like nothing else. ‘If we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine.’
And that…that sent him reeling. Hearing those words echoing in his head, over and over again, inescapable, it made him want to die. Perhaps some part of him did. He’d wasted years on someone who thought he was just a dumb kid. All he could hear after that was ringing in his ears, immediately leaving the room, ignoring whatever fake gestures Mark was trying to make behind him. He’d wanted forever, but Mark…well he couldn’t comprehend what Mark had wanted. He was so tired of trying to figure it out.
And it really did haunt him, all of it. Because there was no truly avoiding him, not forever. He was all around even when he was no longer around. And every reminder of him hit Sebastian like a slap in the face. It was a living hell, every single time something brought the memory of him back up, those words immediately following. Every single time, it made him sick to his stomach. Every time Mark crosses his mind, it stops him in his tracks, like his own mind double-crossing him. Just like Mark did.
And it wasn’t like Mark himself would ever let it lie either. Sebastian could never escape him. His own personal torture.
‘I’m sorry Seb, really I am,’ Mark said, but he wasn’t even trying to be convincing anymore. He’d never been sorry, not once, torn Seb apart over and over, thrown sorry around to the point it meant nothing. Sebastian was just realising now, it never really had.
The idea you had of me, who was he?
A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you
Not weeping in a party bathroom
Some actress asking me what happened, you
That's what happened, you
‘Who the fuck did you think I was?! Who were you expecting me to be?! Some good little boy who runs along behind you, bows down at your feet? What? Was I supposed to be a little lost lamb? Follow you round like a puppy? Worship the ground you stood on? Tell me! Who did you expect me to be? Who?!’ Sebastian was screaming at him, he couldn’t stop himself. It was almost like he himself was stood on the side-lines, watching this fight happen. One of a constant stream of arguments these days that ended with screaming and crying and yelling.
‘Sebastian!’ Mark yelled, imposing, the way he liked to do when he wasn’t getting his way. But this time Seb wasn’t having it, for once in this stupid fucking train wreck of a relationship, or whatever the fuck it was, he was going to say what he wanted to say and be damned. It was already over anyway, what difference did it make?
‘No! I want to know! What was a meant to be? The good little teammate who hailed you the fountain of all wisdom? Treat you like some kind of god? Stand next to you, look pretty and perform just well enough to boost you without making you look silly? Because I’m too young, right? Well if you want to bring up the age gap on me again, then yeah, you look like a fucking idiot. Eleven years younger than you, the youngest world champion in the history of the sport. And what are you? A washed up old man who couldn’t even win ten races? You wanted me to just make you look good? Well guess what, neither of us looks good anymore. You look pathetic, and I look like a villain. Are you happy?! Because I’m certainly fucking not!’
Seb stormed back inside after that, disappearing off to hide out in the bathroom. His night, it was meant to be his night. Four times a world champion, the gala to give him the trophy. Mark just had to ruin it, didn’t he? He had to be here, sure, but there was absolutely no need to seek him out, to try and act like they were friends, like he didn’t know how to unravel Sebastian like no one else.
‘Hey, Seb, hun, you okay in there?’ Seb heard a familiar voice call out. And now he really did want the floor to just open up and swallow him whole. He’d thought he would be safe to just lock himself in the bathroom and cry, because he couldn’t think of anything else to do. He couldn’t even do that in peace. ‘Sebastian, dear, can you open up?’ Geri of all people. Of course Christian sent his brand new girlfriend to fetch him, how embarrassing.
‘I’ll be out in a minute!’ he called back, hurrying to make himself look as presentable as he could. A quick look in the mirror said all he needed to know. Red-rimmed eyes, puffy and sad. Thank god he’d already done his part for the night, he just had to escape out of here and get his shit together. Switzerland was just one short flight away, the house he’d bought despite Mark saying he didn’t want to go stay there with him, that he’d barely ever visited, despite Seb begging him to come, it was just one short flight away and the winter would give him at least a chance to cry it out.
He hated the look he was met with when he finally opened the bathroom door. ‘Oh, honey,’ Geri sighed, sympathetically, ‘what happened?’
What happened? Sebastian thought to himself and he almost started laughing at how ridiculous he felt. Mark, that’s what happened. Mark did.
You who charmed my dad with self-effacing jokes
Sipping coffee like you're on a late-night show
But then he watched me watch the front door all night, willing you to come
And he said, "It's supposed to be fun turning twenty-one"
His parents had been sceptical at first, Mark was almost closer to their age than his, as his mother had pointed out quite emphatically when he first told her he’d been seeing him. He’d railed against that one. He was a grown adult, he could make his own decisions.
His father’s scepticism had been more quiet. He’d wanted to trust his son’s judgement, believe that he must know more than they did about Mark, that there must be something about him that Sebastian saw that they just hadn’t yet. He’d not been quite sure, but he wanted to see Seb happy, and he swore that he was, so Norbert wanted to give him a chance.
Considering the language barrier, his parents spoke English relatively well, but they still weren’t entirely comfortable with the language, and Mark spoke absolutely no German. Oh come on, Seb, you speak English perfectly fine, why would I need to learn that? I’m too busy, the words echo in his ears now in retrospect, they did then too, that night with his parents when they first walked in, and things were still awkward, but he’d supressed it then. He wishes now he hadn’t.
They’d managed to work around it though, somehow, Mark had won his mother over with the chivalrous kiss to her hand and one of those charming grins of his that had left Seb mesmerised and his mother now understood at least a little of the appeal. Meanwhile Norbert had been won over with the jokes at his own expense through dinner, Mark always able to make a joke at his own expense in public. He knew it endeared him to people. At the time Seb wrote that off as Mark trying to make a good impression, pulling out his best cards. Now though, he finds himself wondering if he was just playing the part.
But he blindly willed himself to believe the best as it happened, legs flung over Mark’s lap, enjoying the possessive hand on his thigh while he sipped his coffee and said all the right things. He answered every question correctly, almost as though he’d rehearsed it. He’s trying to win over my parents, how sweet. Sebastian realises now he was not a prize to be won.
It was a performance, an excellent one, but all fake. Norbert discovered this the night of Sebastian’s 24th birthday. His first birthday since his championship, the team decided to throw him a big party. Things had been rocky for a while, even after they reconciled after their break following the championship, Mark still upset he hadn’t won and instead Sebastian had, but with enough begging and apologising (why was he apologising?) he’d finally managed to bring him around. Things weren’t right, but they were something.
Mark had promised he’d be there, 9pm sharp. He never showed. Sebastian had called, but got no reply, he’d texted, but nothing. Not the first night crying where he thought no one would find him. It should have been the last.
‘Your birthday is supposed to be fun,’ his dad had said, tone carefully neutral, the following morning, after helping Seb escape the party without anyone realising he could barely hold himself together, moments from completely breaking down. Seb had just gotten off the phone with Mark, apologising, he’d missed his flight. It was a lie, Seb knew it was, Mark hadn’t really tried to cover it up. He tried a little harder when Seb screamed and cried in front of him when he finally showed up two days late, telling him just how embarrassed he was, how stupid he’d looked, to tell everyone how excited he was for Mark to be there only for him to never show up.
‘I know,’ Seb had replied. But still when Mark said he was sorry, kissed him and promised to make it up to him, Sebastian had wanted to let himself believe him. The word sorry was only just starting to begin to lose all meaning. For now Seb let himself believe him. He never should have. His father never had. But he knew better than to tell him something he wasn’t ready to hear.
Time won't fly, it's like I'm paralysed by it
I'd like to be my old self again, but I'm still trying to find it
After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own
Now you mail back my things and I walk home alone
Directly after things ended, Seb found himself fuelled by spite, it drove him to what the end of the 2013 championship was, the destruction of the competition. He wanted to deny Mark anything he had the power left to deny him. Perhaps he really was too immature. In the moment, he struggled to care either way.
Mark got two poles, but Seb got six. Sebastian was undefeated, after summer break, he came back with a fire behind his eyes, fuelled by rage and anger and pain, he left everyone else in his wake. Nine race victories in a row, all in a single season, the entire second half. Everyone was left desperately scrambling behind him. It gave him little satisfaction. After what happened in Malaysia…people had been booing him ever since. He tried to let that fuel him too. He tried to pretend it didn’t hurt. It was hard.
The season kept him running. Then it ended. Then Mark ruined him completely. Then he fell apart. Winter break dragged in a way it never had before. Getting out of bed felt like a greater challenge than winning a race ever had, he trained because he had to, he hid away alone in his home in Switzerland for far longer than he should have. Then he realised that was just making him more depressed because there were far too many memories of Mark in it, despite how infrequent his visits had been. So he fled to his parents’ house, and he hid away there instead, not that that was much better. It was paralysing.
The start of the next season hit him even worse. He just couldn’t link anything up, couldn’t make it work together, he was being beaten by his new teammate and the self-doubt came creeping in, until it got to the point it all felt like it was hitting him like a freight train. Christian kept trying to talk to him, Helmut kept trying to talk to him, Adrian kept trying to talk to him, like any of it was going to make it better, like they’d manage to figure out what was wrong, fix it.
Seb didn’t think he could be fixed. He was trying to find who he’d used to be, trying to find himself again, bring himself back, but he just couldn’t. He’d been too entwined in Mark for too long. He no longer recognised himself. He couldn’t find success like he knew he should be able to, on his better days he was sure he was better than Daniel if he could just get his shit together, on his worse days he wondered if some part of his ability to succeed in this sport in the way he had since joining Red Bull, had been tied to Mark. What if he could never achieve anything again?
After everything they’d had, everything they’d been through. They pushed each other, even at their worst it boosted his drive in some strange way. At their best, he’d wanted to make Mark proud, as if that ever happened when he won, at his worst, he wanted to make him feel the misery Sebastian himself felt.
After all the days of their lives so intricately entwined, now he was having to extricate himself from the rubble of a relationship he’d given every piece of himself to. After all that, he returns home to Switzerland to find a box on his doorstep, addressed in Mark’s handwriting. Everything he’d left of his in Mark’s life, all of it packed up into one box, not even so much as a note. Mark had taken all his things already, Seb hadn’t realised that was what he was doing when he’d done it, but realised later he’d been severing ties before he’d officially cut them to shreds. He used to come home with Mark, wherever home would be, now he comes home alone, to nothing but a house that feels empty despite the fact it’s still perfectly full.
But you keep my old scarf from that very first week
'Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me
You can't get rid of it, 'cause you remember it all too well, yeah
'Cause there we are again when I loved you so
Back before you lost the one real thing you've ever known
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well
Wind in my hair, you were there, you remember it all
Down the stairs, you were there, you remember it all
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well
But Mark still has the scarf, he still has that, he could have put it in the box of his things and he didn’t. An obvious theory would be that he was taking back a gift to a man he no longer cared for. But there were things in the box…things that had been Mark’s, that Sebastian had just taken over, the t-shirt that was his favourite to steal to sleep in, the book Mark kept saying he was going to get around to reading, but never did, that he knew Sebastian had loved. Multiple gifts he’d given him in the time they’d been together were in there. Just not that scarf that he wasn’t even sure Mark remembered was a gift from him.
He liked to believe Mark just remembered it from that better time, when Sebastian was still innocent and unbroken, before he was tarnished by what they became. There’s a guilty little part of him that hopes it still smells like him, that Mark sits and holds it sometimes, breathes it in, remembers him, remembers everything they’ve been through, everything they were.
There’s a particularly vicious part of him that he tries to drown out that hopes Mark hurts when he thinks about it, that he remembers how much he put Sebastian through and aches the way he aches over it. That part of him hopes Mark is haunted by it all too.
Maybe he’s gotten rid of it, maybe it’s all just a fantasy. But he likes to believe it nonetheless. In his head, Mark keeps that one little piece of him, the last remaining physical trace of all that they were, because he can’t forget it either. He promised him he could never just forget about him. Sebastian clings to that, has to believe it’s true so the past four plus years of his life don’t feel like a complete fucking disaster.
If Sebastian is confident of anything, he’s sure Mark knows he loved him, even if he never really understood it, understood how much. He knows no one has ever loved him like he did, because he knows Mark never gave anyone the chance. He’s the only person Mark’s ever brought home like that, his mother had told Sebastian, quietly, when she’d caught him hiding away, upset because Mark was being an ass again. She’d tried to reassure him that it would be fine, he’d calm down and fix it. Sebastian, what Mark had had with him, that was the realest thing he’d ever known.
Mark must remember it too. He must. Sebastian can’t consider the alternative. Mark told him he could never forget it all, no matter how hard he tried. If he was going to choose to believe anything Mark had ever said to him. It was going to be that.
Sebastian still wishes he could forget it though. Mark might remember it, he might not, but regardless, Sebastian certainly does. Every single thing, the good, the bad, the ugly, whatever it was, it was real, raw and rare. It was theirs. And for better or for worse, no matter how much he may still wish he didn’t, he remembers it all, every wonderful moment and every awful mess, all too well.
And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes
"I'll get older, but your lovers stay my age"
From when your Brooklyn broke my skin and bones
I'm a soldier who's returning half her weight
He tries not to be bitter. Sometimes though, when it all comes flashing back, when Mark does something to drag it back up again, he can’t help it.
Mark had never found him funny, he never really laughed at his jokes. I don’t get it he’d say, and so Seb would have to explain, because Mark would never just let it go. Ah, he’d say and raise his eyebrows or roll his eyes, Sebastian’s childish sense of humour. Maybe it’s just a German sense of humour that I don’t get, he’d offer if Sebastian seemed particularly upset about something, to avoid having to deal with the consequences (what consequences? You’d shut me down in every disagreement we ever had).
Yeah, maybe, Seb would replied, monotonously, like Mark didn’t know his preferred comedy was English. He’d probably forgotten, just like he had about most of the other things Sebastian liked, unless he kept reminding him. How he liked to be fucked, Mark would claim he remembered that if Sebastian brought it up. And yet, they usually did things the way he liked them.
His life feels a little like a joke though, when he sees Mark at an event with some pretty young thing, barely into their twenties. For someone who always accused Seb of being immature, too young and hot headed, so inexperienced, for someone who’s reason to break up was the impossibility of their age gap…
Well, Seb had gotten older, but Mark’s taste never had. Sebastian was pretty sure he’d hurtled to maturity faster than he ever should have had to in ways he had never expected to. That’s Mark’s fault. But Mark didn’t want maturity. He had little of it himself, really.
He remembers the last time they were in Australia, ahead of the first round of the 2013 season, their last one as teammates, although Seb didn’t know that yet. In retrospect, he’s pretty sure Mark did and chose not to tell him. That says enough.
He’d barely seen his family all winter, Mark wanted to be in Australia, wouldn’t come with Seb home to Germany, wouldn’t visit him there. Your parents don’t like me, it would be awkward, had been his argument, and anyway, I don’t speak German, it would be a pretty shit trip, your English is perfectly good, you want to see me, why don’t you just come out here? So he went, and he kicks himself now in hindsight for it.
The trip was a disaster, every little thing Seb did was wrong, Mark was looking for a fight absolutely everywhere. He was trying to break him, Seb realised after the fact, but at the time he’d just been angry and hurt, devastated that things were deteriorating so rapidly, desperately trying to hold the pieces together and figure out how to fix it. When he finally left Australia for Malaysia, a few days earlier than Mark, he was so wound up, so frustrated, that it was easy for things to spiral out of control.
Australia had battered and bruised him. Malaysia broke him. The last straw. The night before the race Mark showed up at his door the night before the race, to have a go at him for avoiding him all weekend. Had called him childish and petty. Sebastian had been seeing red in that race, the outcome, the ruins of their relationship.
Sebastian had been guilt tripped and gaslit so much afterwards that he ended up trying to beg for forgiveness, too afraid of what it would be like to be without Mark now that his sense of identity felt so wrapped up in the older man. Mark had taken him back, enough to carry on using and abusing him like a toy to pick up and put down as and when he was bored, but little more. Sebastian just kept letting himself be used and used, drained away until there was little of himself left. A hollowed out version of himself was all that remained when Mark finally threw him away that summer. I’ve got to focus on myself now, he’d said. Not mathematically impossible for him yet, but unlikely.
Sebastian made it his mission to make it impossible. He was successful.
And did the twin flame bruise paint you blue?
Just between us, did the love affair maim you, too?
'Cause in this city's barren cold
I still remember the first fall of snow
And how it glistened as it fell
I remember it all too well
It was paralysing at first, the aching in his chest, because somehow…somehow he had really truly wanted to believe that things would all work out in the end. He’d really thought they’d figure things out. He’d wanted to, he really had. He’d blindly, stupidly, believed Mark did too. He didn’t though. He’d discarded him when he no longer had a use. Had treated him like shit for long enough before that. How had Seb even been blind enough to believe he actually loved him? He couldn’t find much that convinced him anymore, not when looked back in hindsight.
He still sees him around sometimes, and he can’t help wondering. He seems to fine all the time, did any of it mean anything to him? Did their crashing and burning relationship scar him too? Or was Seb the only one battered and bruised by it all building up just to fall apart? Sometimes he wants to ask him, there’s opportunities where he could, just sneak him off to the side and ask, so easy. But he never does it, he doesn’t think that he truly could, despite the opportunity. He doesn’t think he could ever say the words.
Mark seems better these days though, finally a championship under his belt in WEC. He’s less bitter, less resentful, less angry at the world. It’s not the title he truly wanted, but it’s some form of appeasement for its absence. Never won Le Mans though, Seb chastises himself every time the spiteful thought pops into his head.
He’s tried reaching out a few times more recently, Seb shut them all down. How is one supposed to ever feel ready to make peace with someone who spent so long making your life feel a like a warzone? But then perhaps those are the exact people you’re supposed to make peace with. A terrible analogy then.
They do finally speak eventually, although mostly only in public. Sometimes Mark will text him a congratulations if he wins, sometimes they’ll have an awkward brief hug when they see each other in the paddock. Ferrari arranged an interview for him to do with Mark, and that one was some kind of mess of catharsis and compounded misery all at once. People seem to want to believe they’ve made up. Seb supposes, as much as they ever could, will, they have.
Sometimes Mark still makes scathing remarks about him, in commentary, in the press if the wrong question is asked, if he’s in a bad mood. But, generally, he’s kinder these days. Seb tries not to feel too much when Mark says things and only he could know that, only he’d remember. The coins he has under the laces of his boots when he races, a gift from his grandmother, his favourite English comedy shows (so he does remember that after all), even sometimes the names of his cars.
Sometimes though, he can’t help the flashes that come back to him, the memories that can somehow keep permeating his life, his happiness. He thinks on the bad parts less these days, but sometimes that just means he’s haunted by the bits that were better. He can’t help his remembrance of the things that he fell in love with, of the things that kept him believing it could be fixed.
He’s mature enough now to recognise that in his own fucked up way, Mark did love him, he did care. It wasn’t good enough, not remotely enough in any sense of the word, but it helps Seb move past the anger and sadness and bitterness to accept that as fucked up as it was, Mark did care for him. It wasn’t all a complete disastrous waste.
He gets flashes of it sometimes, late nights in dark hotel rooms. The sex was good, being held was better. He’d kiss sweetly in the aftermath, tell him he loved him. Whether he said it because he thought he should, or because he meant it, felt less relevant these days. It hardly mattered now.
Taking Mark home to Germany for that one truly good trip and the first time he met Mark’s family in Australia…they still hug him now, on the rare occasion he sees them and the Aussie GP. They really believed Seb would be the one he’d settle down for. He never has, not really, although he’s heard on the grapevine he’s been seeing a woman he used to know. Age appropriate this time. That would be a first, Seb thinks, a cruel thought, he quickly supresses it. He’s trying to be less bitter, he’s letting it go.
There’s so many moments really, small ones, little insignificant things at the time that, looking back, meant everything. It was a disaster, and it hurt like hell, but he regrets it less these days. Some parts he still wishes he could erase, he wishes he could’ve seen the signs sooner and left, before it turned that piece of him sour that it’s taken a long time to recover and restore, but he can accept now that the good parts were good. They just weren’t meant to work out. He will never vindicate Mark entirely, things he did that Sebastian believes he’s entitled to never truly forgive, but he’s making his peace with them.
He’s moving on now, these days he’s finding more and more peace. Mark may finally be settling down, if the rumours are true. He thinks he might be too. He knows he’s a better man then Mark was, because he doesn’t let jealousy of success cloud his ability to love, cherish, care for. He doesn’t start a fight because he’s angry about his own results, he accepts that maybe someone’s better than him on that day, or maybe even more than that. He appreciates now that you can love a competitor and have them love you back without conditions, without it being brutalised by the competition itself.
He’s a better man than Mark was, but sometimes, he finds himself thinking back and he wonders if perhaps Mark, twisted as it may be, had a big hand in making him that way. He’s learnt from past mistakes. The memories hurt less with distance, he forgives more with time. He doesn’t forget, he can’t, but he’s moved on, he’s happy, he’s found peace. He may remember it, Mark may too, although he never asks, he doesn’t need to know, it no longer matters. He remembers it all too well, but it doesn’t define him anymore.
Just between us, did the love affair maim you all too well?
Just between us, do you remember it all too well?
Just between us, I remember it (Just between us), all too well
Wind in my hair, I was there, I was there
Down the stairs, I was there, I was there
Sacred prayer, I was there, I was there
It was rare, you remember it all too well