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Title: sail your sea, meet your storm (all i want is to be your harbor)
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1931
Characters: Iker Casillas/Xavi Hernández, Sergio Ramos
Disclaimer: While inspired by real-life persons and events, this is a work of fiction.
Summary: Spain's captains comfort each other in the wake of their humiliating defeat by the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup. Catharsis fic.


The final whistle found Iker sinking to his knees in the soaked grass as the stadium erupted around him. 5-1. He'd watched every one of those goals whip by him, and yet on some level, he could still barely believe it. 5-fucking-1. His fault.

And yet, he couldn't stay here long, feeling literally crushed by defeat. No matter how upset he was, he was the captain, and he knew what he had to do: take charge, comfort his teammates, and above all, set an example. So he stood up unsteadily, swiped the sweat and rain from his eyes, and set forth, shoulders hunched and head down, watching his boots squelch through warm water with every step.

By the time he reached the dressing room, he was ready, mentally rehearsed and mask fixed firmly in place. His teammates were milling around, looking shell-shocked, but obviously aware on some level that this was not a night to head straight for the shower. Xavi had cornered Geri and was having a few choice words with him, shaking a finger up at his face; the height difference would have been comical at any other time.

The Míster had not yet arrived. Fine. It really was up to him.

Iker walked to the middle of the room and raised his voice. "Compañeros..." he began. The room stilled; the murmurs stopped. Xavi ceased gesturing up at Geri and turned to face him, eyebrows arching.

"Compañeros," Iker repeated, and swallowed, praying that his voice wouldn't break. "This is the worst defeat that we have suffered in all the years that I have played for Spain. Not only that, this is the worst beginning to the World Cup that we could possibly have expected." He paused, looking from one face to another, some eyes meeting his with scarcely concealed scorn, others with hopelessness, and a few, Xavi's mismatched brown eyes among them, with a sympathy so evident that he had to glance quickly away.

"And I am here to say to you all, that I take full responsibility." He could have heard a pin drop in the hush. "I am not here to point fingers at anyone else," and he suspected that the soft snort in the corner had come from Piqué. "This was the worst performance of my professional career, and I am more sorry than I can say."

Iker took a deep breath, fighting the tightness in his chest, and continued, "But this match is over. We must look back at it, not to punish ourselves or to wish that things had been different, but to learn from our mistakes. We must identify what we did well and what we need to change going forward. On Wednesday we face Chile. This time a draw will not be enough. But that's okay. We know that we can beat them, and we know that we can beat Australia too and get out of the group stage. And after that? It's all up to us."

He looked around the room once more and saw the gleam of faith, the first glimmers of hope. "We are the fucking world champions," he finished simply. "Let's pull ourselves together and prove it."

Behind him, a slow, strong clap started. Iker blushed to his ears when he realized that this was Del Bosque, looking much older and more tired than he had just this morning. Luckily his teammates joined in the solemn applause as Iker made his way to his locker and stood at attention.

Blame had never been Del Bosque's way, but the entire team could sense his intense disappointment from what he didn't say. Even more frightening was his apparent bewilderment, an emptiness behind the kindly eyes. Iker realized with a sickening jolt of dismay that the Míster had done his best - that he didn't actually have any new ideas to offer.

Iker managed to maintain his composure through Del Bosque's short speech and then escaped into the showers. Once there, though, the tears wouldn't come, even when he thrust his face into the hot stream from the showerhead and rubbed at his stinging eyes. He finally gave up and forced himself to scrub the mud off his skin and out of his hair.

No matter how hard he toweled himself, he couldn't really get dry. This fucking humidity. It sapped his energy, slowed his reflexes. "You knew this job was dangerous when you took it," he told himself under his breath, finally slinging the towel over his shoulder and shuffling to his locker for clean clothes.

As he was pulling his shirt over his head, grimacing at the way it clung to his still-damp skin, Xavi appeared by his side, fully dressed, backpack in place.

Xavi took one look at Iker's face and said, "Don't even talk to the press tonight. I'll take care of it."

"That bad, huh?" Iker attempted an unsteady smile.

"Seriously. This is a good day to delegate." Xavi visibly squared his shoulders and turned to march resolutely out of the dressing room.

"No bitching about the grass!" Iker hissed after him. "It was fine. And I should know, I got a really good look at it."

Xavi stopped short, going rigid. He was clearly indignant, although whether on his own behalf or on Iker's was not certain. "I said I'd take care of it. See you on the bus."

***

They did not see each other on the bus; Sergio insisted on sitting down next to Iker while Xavi was still giving his interview, his eyes reddened and dull with disappointment. His thickening beard tickled Iker's cheek when he bent his head to whisper in his ear. "I'm sorry, Capitán. No way was it just you. Your defense let you down. I let you down."

Iker didn't reply, although he patted his teammate on the knee, and Sergio knew better than to press him. He simply snaked an arm around Iker's shoulders, a solid, comforting presence, and slouched back against the seat. As the bus jerked into motion, Sergio started singing under his breath, a low, mournful tune that suited the mood perfectly. Iker leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes, sealing himself off.

He didn't open them again until they arrived at the hotel and Sergio shook his shoulder to rouse him. His cheek was sticky; he had to peel it away from the glass. The bus was already mostly empty, and Iker dawdled to let the chances of having to talk to anyone dwindle further. There was a tight, painful knot in his chest that made it difficult to breathe.

Xavi was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when he got back to their room. Iker didn't even bother, just stripped down to his briefs and got into bed. The cool sheets were welcome after the heat and humidity outside, even this late in the evening. But they couldn't soothe the clenched muscles in his chest, the ache behind his eyes.

He stiffened at the sound of Xavi's gravelly voice beside him. "Scoot over."

"Not tonight." I have a heartache, he didn't add, at least not aloud, but Xavi squeezed into his bed and wrapped his arms around him anyway.

"This is not about sex," he informed Iker.

Iker closed his eyes and said shortly, "I don't need your pity."

"Yeah?" Xavi answered, voice muffled against Iker's ribs. "Well, guess what, maybe you're not the only one who could use some comfort around here tonight."

"Oh," was all Iker could say. He brought his arm up to stroke Xavi's back, the thin t-shirt soft under his fingers, the muscles taut and bunched beneath it. "Sorry."

"S'okay," Xavi said, nestling closer and relaxing into his touch.

"Did you... talk to the press?" Iker ventured.

A short bark of laughter brushed his side. "Yeah. Don't worry. I didn't say one word about the state of the pitch."

"I just meant, we have to take responsibility for the way things went down," Iker pointed out. "Otherwise we'd just look like petulant brats."

A pause. "Good thing you aren't interested in sex tonight."

"Pelopo-"

"Mofeta," Xavi mimicked his tone, and sighed. "At least you're finally admitting that we were all at fault."

"If Víctor had been here-" Iker started to say, but Xavi snorted against his skin.

"If Víctor had been here," he interrupted, "they still would have scored at least three goals against us, and he'd be having a nervous breakdown in Andrés' room right now."

"So you admit it," Iker said softly, as helpless tears burned his eyes and threatened to trickle down his cheeks. "I fucked up."

Xavi's arms tightened around him as if trying to hold him together. "Yes," he said in a low, fierce voice. "Yes, I saw you fuck up today. Know what else I saw? That you never gave up. That even after swallowing five goals, you made two spectacular saves that kept it from being six. That doesn't make you a loser," he rasped. "It makes you a hero."

It was too much. Iker started to bawl, his face crumpling, ugly sounds spilling out of his mouth. Xavi reacted immediately, hauling himself upright and sitting cross-legged against the headboard so that he could cradle Iker's head against his chest. Even through his choking sobs, Iker could feel a kiss pressed to his thinning hair, a soothing murmur against his scalp. "It's okay, cariño. Just let it all out."

They stayed like that, Xavi rocking Iker gently in his arms as he cried, devastated by the day's disappointments but utterly undone by love. Iker wrapped his arms around Xavi's waist and held on like a drowning man, smothering his wails against the wet cotton clinging to Xavi's chest. It was hard to breathe and impossible to see, but Iker knew that in some obscure way, here he was safe. Here he was home.

It could have been minutes or hours before Iker finally gulped down the last of his tears, the shudders that had racked his body starting to still. The knot in his chest had completely unraveled, leaving his stomach relaxed, his limbs loose.

Xavi was stroking his hair, quiet and solid, his skin warm under his soaked shirt. As Iker started to sniffle, he twisted, probably looking around for a box of tissues, and then cuddled his friend closer and said in a resigned tone of voice, "Eh, fuck it. Just blow your nose on my shirt, I'm sure there's snot all over it already."

Iker complied noisily. Xavi took a clean corner of his t-shirt and used it to dab at Iker's swollen eyes, then peeled it off with a grimace and tossed it into a dark corner. "Never liked that one anyway." He scooted down in the bed, slung an arm across Iker's chest, and kissed him on the cheek. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Iker answered, surprised to find that it was true. More than anything else, he felt sleepy - worn out, warm, and comfortable. He could feel Xavi's heart beating steadily against his side.

Just as he was starting to drift off, a sudden thought struck him. He turned his head, struggling to pry his eyelids open, to focus on Xavi's face in the dim light. "Just realized... that's the... the shirt you always wear when we lose."

"Yeah." Xavi sounded amused. He squeezed Iker's arm. "So... I won't be needing it again on this trip, will I, Capitán?"

"No," Iker agreed, even as he surrendered to an irresistible wave and allowed himself to be pulled under into whatever dreams awaited. "Promise."

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
stageira
Jun. 15th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
*sobs* I was sort of trying to forget that the game ever happened. *sniffles*
flywoman
Jun. 16th, 2014 03:21 am (UTC)
I guess that we all deal with our grief in different ways. I generally wallow in it. And write about it.
chelsealady
Jun. 16th, 2014 04:29 am (UTC)
BUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! even it's the direct rival against Chile these suckers made me cry BUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
SNIF SNIF SNIF.
Poor Iker. So heartbreaking.... but keep writing, you sublimed it in an awesome way
flywoman
Jun. 16th, 2014 12:34 pm (UTC)
I know, poor, poor Iker :((((

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
lumaste
Jun. 16th, 2014 04:58 pm (UTC)
This was so heartbreaking, but at the same time comforting. Happy Xavi was there for Iker. And yes, he fucked up, but it happens to the best and it wasn't just his fault. The whole defence failed.

The remark about not bitching about the pitch made me smile. I love so much the friendship and the love between them you so skillfully described.
flywoman
Jun. 16th, 2014 07:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, it couldn't have been any more heartbreaking than the match itself, so I'm glad that you found it comforting. Iker did fuck up - twice - but really the entire team played poorly :(.

I just love writing the dynamic between these two - the snark and the sex as well as the deep underlying friendship and unexpected moments of tenderness. And who can resist a good joke about Xavi and the grass?

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
jezziejay
Jul. 20th, 2014 10:37 pm (UTC)
I saw this game, and was thinking of you all the way through it. It was really hard to watch, especially that goal where he dived a couple of times for the ball before it was even shot. I had the same feeling watching the Germany/Brazil game...

So, absolutely feeling it for Iker. "We are the fucking world champions," he finished simply. "Let's pull ourselves together and prove it." Ouchy to read now!

"No bitching about the grass!" Iker hissed after him. "It was fine. And I should know, I got a really good look at it." Lol - love a little self-deprecating humour :)

This is gorgeous h/c. Xavi is just the best, and I love how he pulled Iker out of himself and bullied him into sharing - "Well, guess what, maybe you're not the only one who could use some comfort around here tonight."

And Xavi's honesty and love for his friend was wonderfully done. This is my fav part - "Yes," he said in a low, fierce voice. "Yes, I saw you fuck up today. Know what else I saw? That you never gave up. That even after swallowing five goals, you made two spectacular saves that kept it from being six. That doesn't make you a loser," he rasped. "It makes you a hero."

The last line really squeezed my chest. Beautifully done. <3

flywoman
Jul. 21st, 2014 01:04 am (UTC)
I know, that was so awful. It was like watching a train wreck and being totally helpless to stop it.

I did take advantage of Iker's muddling around in the grass for that one line, though ;).

Hee, I find that I like me a little ManipulativeBitch!Xavi. He knows Iker so well, he knows he can't out-stubborn him if he's refusing comfort, but ask *Iker* to step up, and he'll do it.

That doesn't make you a loser," he rasped. "It makes you a hero." Have to admit that I made myself tear up a little bit with that!

The last line really squeezed my chest. Beautifully done. <3
I wrote this before the loss to Chile. Wish that it could have been true! :(

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, hon!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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