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Title: Seeing Red
Rating: PG-13, for language
Word count: 1238
Characters: Andrés Iniesta and Víctor Valdés
Summary: Víctor sees red at the end of the clásico.
Notes: Bittersweet catharsis fic. Inspired by this incident.

The blazing pain, the crash, and the frightened shrill of a familiar voice almost simultaneously blast the red haze from his vision. "Víctor! Víctor!"

It all happens too fast. Feeling the clammy grip of slender fingers around his left forearm, he reflexively snaps his elbow straight, flinging their owner away from him, and judging from the fleshy thud that follows, into a nearby wall. A muffled yelp, then silence.

His right hand is suddenly killing him.

He looks down.

Bright blood seeps from the battered knuckles of a tightly clenched fist, starting to drip onto the tiled floor.

He looks up.

A violent spiderweb of cracks radiates from a point on the mirror in front of him that is suspiciously aligned with the height of his shoulder. Shattered fragments of a face staring back at him, twisted with rage, eyes black under a scowl so fierce that he almost flinches back before realizing that it is, in fact, his own.

"Víctor," the voice says again, more quietly this time and with a sort of baffled hurt behind it.

He looks left.

Andrés is standing there, slumping against the wall really, curled in on himself, a pained grimace on his pale, unshaven face, one hand resting gingerly on the jut of his hip. But his concern is plainly all for Víctor. "Your hand!"

"What the hell," he hears himself saying, his voice as hoarse as if he's been shouting for the past half hour. "What- Are you okay?"

Andrés lets go of the wall and wobbles over, eyes wide, reaching out as tentatively as if Víctor is some wild beast he's decided to tame. "It's all right. Please, it's all right."

"Andrés, did I-" He frowns, shakes his head to clear it, abruptly finds himself sitting on the floor. "I don't understand," he says plaintively to no one in particular.

"Stay there, okay? Víctor?" Andrés cups his cheek with his small hand, tilting Víctor's face to meet his frightened but determined gaze. "I'll be right back, okay?"

"Yeah," he murmurs. "Yeah." He feels rather than hears Andrés leave, the brief warmth of his fingers fading.

He shivers. The floor is icy cold through the thin fabric of his shorts. His throat is dry. His hand is throbbing, pain rippling across his skin with every too-loud heartbeat. It takes all of his effort to keep his breaths steady, his mind a careful blank.

He has no idea how much time passes before Andrés returns.

"They said it would be better if we just used water," he hears, and then Andrés is kneeling beside him, lifting Víctor's arm to sling it over his frail-looking shoulders, soft words warm on his neck. "Come on, stand up, I'll help you."

He doesn't want to look at that fractured face in front of him, keeps his gaze resolutely on his fist as the cold water stings his skin, lifts away swirls of angry red, then runs clear.

Andrés scrubs his own hands clean, then takes Víctor's injured hand with tremendous tenderness, dries it off with a piece of absorbent gauze, smoothes a thin film of antibiotic ointment over his knuckles before wrapping it in more gauze and taping it securely. He doesn't let go when he's done, just keeps his fingers locked loosely around Víctor's wrist, as if attempting to anchor him to reality.

He flexes his fingers experimentally, throat tight. He has to force the words out. "Andrés, what... happened?" He still can't bring himself to look up.

Andrés' voice is carefully neutral. "What do you remember?"

He hesitates, bites his lower lip. He remembers too little, and too much. "I can't-"

His friend comes closer, clearly even more concerned. "Do you know where we are?"

He breaks into a bitter grin. "The Bernabéu. It's the second of March, 2013. I don't have a concussion, Andresito."

"We just played the clásico. Do you remember how you got off the pitch?"

His spine snaps straight involuntarily as memory floods back without warning. "That fucking son of a bitch. We were robbed!"

"So I take it you remember telling the ref he had no shame," Andrés says wryly. He's stroking Víctor's forearm, trying to calm him back down.

"I remember getting a fucking red card instead of our penalty kick," Víctor growls, and his face must have changed because Andrés lets go all of a sudden and takes a step back. The stab of remorse is instantaneous and steals his breath away. "Andrés," he wheezes, reaching out for him. "What's wrong? You know that I would never-"

It occurs to him belatedly that Andrés half-stumbled as he stepped away, that his hip is stiff under his hand. "Andrés?"

"I'll be okay," Andrés reassures him in a low voice. "I know you didn't mean it."

He can feel his face crumpling, sags against the counter.

The trails of heat trickling down his cheeks are not tears. Víctor Valdés doesn't cry.

He's lost his temper before. Many times. Badly. But not like this. Not at Andrés.

Never at Andrés.

His vision is so blurry that he can't even see his friend anymore. He brushes ineffectually at his face. "Fuck, Andresito. Fuck," and he can't deny it, he really is crying now.

Andrés steps forward again and hugs him, and somehow in his small frame is stored all the strength in the world. "It's okay," he murmurs, patting Víctor on the back as if he were Valeria recovering from a tumble, "no pasa nada, it's okay." He obviously hasn't showered, still smells like sunlit grass and sweat.

"It is not," he hiccups, "fucking okay."

"I know it wasn't me," Andrés says, because for a quiet man, he's always been able to articulate Víctor's feelings better than he himself ever could. "I know it isn't just this. I know it's Tito, and your decision, and Milan, and Tuesday, and this was just the last straw." He's rubbing Víctor's back in soothing circles, just under his shoulderblades because that's as high up as he can reach. "I promise, it's going to be okay."

He snuffles, feeling a little calmer now, swipes at his face. "Do I remember yelling at the ref in the tunnel, too?"

"Yep," Andrés says in a resigned tone. "But at least you didn't throttle Ramos like you were threatening to."

He groans; his temples are starting to throb in time with his hand. "This will be at least a three match ban. Xavi is going to kill me."

"Not if Puyi kills you first," Andrés chirps, his normally cheerful nature reasserting itself.

"Hey, whose side are you on here, anyway?" he demands, pretending to be offended, and pushes Andrés away, but very, very gently.

"I can't believe you even have to ask," Andrés says, not quite smirking, as he gathers up the first aid supplies.

He watches Andrés' small, clever hands for a moment, then finally allows his gaze to drift upward. The reflection of his face is no longer quite so frightening. In fact, it almost looks like it belongs to a human being.

"Well," Andrés says dryly, pretending to survey the damage, "at least if Perez is asked to host the Copa final again, he really does have to have the restrooms repaired!"

Víctor stares at him for a second, lets out a surprised laugh that twists itself into a half-sob. Then he reaches out an arm, and Andrés folds himself into it with a smile.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2013 05:24 am (UTC)
This is bittersweet. Aaaw.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 01:28 pm (UTC)
Victor has always been the bitter, and Andres the sweet.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
Mar. 3rd, 2013 11:32 am (UTC)
I have more feelings abvout that than the result itself, was doing fine and then just yeah that. It isn't even about the match, but pride family loyalty and love, always the love. How understated and unsaid it is but just perfectly obvious.

Need to go watch videos of baby pandas now.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
My stream cut off just as Victor was getting in the ref's face (a prospect that would be frightening for anyone). So he's gone and pulled a Sergio Ramos, doubtless for the same reasons - pride, family loyalty, and love.

And I can't believe he's leaving Barca. Most of all because I can't believe he's walking away from Andres after everything they've been through together. *sniff* Sentimental of me.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
It would be scary yes, we're supposed to be better than that (now want to read/write some VV/Sese, angry hurting hatey stuff; totally healthy way of dealing with feelings).
Am sure if Xavi & Iker (did Puyi play?) had been there it wouldn't have happened, needed a proper calming influence.

Me neither, especially as he apparently has given a proper reason why and then it's all up in the air as to who will replace him (they should put in a bid for Casillas, just for a laugh).
Oh I know, whenever anyone mentions it that just hurts my heart. Never mind th team, how can he do that to Andresito. They have the ultimate bromance. In theory they will still have internationals together, but then they might use De Gea instead and just ... yeah ugly crying right here.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 10:36 pm (UTC)
We *are* supposed to be better than that. Puyi didn't play, or I'm sure he would have slapped some sense into him. As it was, Geri and Andres and the poor old club delegate probably had to drag him off the pitch.

They're so different, but they're really like brothers :(. And yeah, De Gea... I think that he should be given a chance, but then Pepe Reina is so good for morale, and Iker certainly isn't going anywhere, so... ugh.
Mar. 4th, 2013 12:44 am (UTC)
Yes, very true. Do not envy then that task.

I know, have just been reading the book about Barca (by Graham Hunter) which mentions that among other things so yes whole mess of feelings (and that was after the ode to xaviker, more canon than canon right there folks).

Spain are so spoilt with excellent goal keepers, which makes it harder. I wouldn't know who even the second choice keeper is for most countries (including England and I live here).
De Gea is one for the future obviously, so he does need to get integrated (though I suppose it's easier for keepers as your role is set and you're quite solitary out there).
Oh I just love Pepe so freaking much; he gives so much to the squad without getting the credit, and celebrations wouldn't be right without him as host (and his kids are killing me with cuteness).
Yeah Iker needs to be pretty much clincally dead to not be called up, which is as it should be for his captainly superpowers.
Mar. 4th, 2013 01:02 am (UTC)
Ooh, I should reread that book now that I know so much more about the players.

Well, some GKs are so awesome that no one knows who their seconds are. Actually, I bet that most people who don't watch the Spanish League have no idea who Valdes is.

And yeah, I love Pepe too - he's hilarious! Can never get enough of him in fic even though I don't want to see him shipped with anyone.

Arbeloa literally had to break his hand to keep him off the NT ;).

Mar. 4th, 2013 11:19 am (UTC)
It is a really good one, I learnt a lot.

Fair point all round.
I don't ship Pepe either, but he's wonderful as the 'straight guy'.

True that, not a great move when he's your own captain. And to think Arbie was the very person who just last season said Barca's domination of la liga was over no less.
Mar. 4th, 2013 02:26 pm (UTC)
Well, at the rate we're going right now, our early lead in La Liga might not be enough. Let's hope we can turn things around, and quickly.
Mar. 4th, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
Of course, good thing we did get off to such a flying start to have a bit of a buffer. Feburary is always a cursed month, but it's over now so we should be ok.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, I can feel how cathartic this was you - beautifully done. The part where he breaks the mirror was a perfect metaphor of recognition - not knowing his own mind or his face. I love how clever your writing is!

And Andres - that was just gorgeous. So good to have a friend that you can't push away, and never gives up on you.

"Hey, whose side are you on here, anyway?" he demands, pretending to be offended, and pushes Andrés away, but very, very gently.

"I can't believe you even have to ask," Andrés says, not quite smirking, as he gathers up the first aid supplies.

I remember getting a fucking red card instead of our penalty kick Ouch - that's a pretty painful twofer. But at least you made something good come out of the mess.

Very, very nice.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting!

I was really, really happy with the way this turned out - it's definitely my favorite of the gen football rpf pieces I've produced. And it was one of those rare cases in which I knew exactly how the story would start.

Andres and Victor came through the football academy together. Andres would cry as a teenager because he was shy and homesick, and Victor would comfort him. And Victor would have horrible black moods, did not deal well at all with the pressure of becoming a goalkeeper, and Andres would help keep him grounded. They speak of each other as brothers, and it breaks my heart that they will be separated when Victor is sold this summer (or goes off for free the following year when his contract expires).

Also, if you've seen them, Andres is this skinny, pale, sweet, unassuming little man, and Victor is tall and muscular and covered with tattoos and shaves his head - definitely not the guy you want looming over you and yelling in your face after a controversial refereeing decision! So he definitely should have seen that red card coming. But it was moving (if also a little scary) to see such a display of love and loyalty from him yesterday.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )



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