One. I don't have much to give, but I don't care for gold
What use is money, when you need someone to hold?
When Manuel came from Schalke, he didn’t think he’d find love again. He’d had that before, with Benedikt, but now he was gone, leaving behind the boyish innocence of first love and his precious Schalke behind. The distance was too far for them to make it work, and sporadic appearances for the German national team wasn’t satisfactory enough.
Manuel remembered that conversation with Benny, when he told him he was leaving. He’d felt bad, awful, about leaving, but Benny had understood. They had promised to remain friends, something that they still maintained, much to Manu’s relief. He couldn’t live in a world where he didn’t at least talk to Benny on occasion.
Manuel remembers the look in the other man’s eyes and he thinks he’ll never forget that look, not ever. It was a sad acceptance, resignation to the mighty river of facts that you couldn’t change, even if you desperately wanted to. That was the trouble he was in now, though.
He recognized that look on his own face every time he looked in the mirror. Only this time, instead of a transfer of a most beloved friend, it was the fact that the one person who he loved most in this world could never, ever be his, because he belonged to another equally beloved friend. And neither of them had any idea how Manuel felt about Thomas. And that’s how he was going to keep it, despite wishing more than anything that it could be different.
Every birthday, every wish on a star, even every Christmas desire was all the same thing and it had been ever since he arrived in Munich and had fallen in love with the brown-haired boy with a goofy smile who abhorred any sort of silence at all. Manuel wanted Thomas. Please just fall in love with me. Leave Bastian for me. I’d do anything for you. Manuel wanted to tell Thomas how he felt a million times, but he couldn’t.
He wasn’t brave enough to ask such a question, especially not of two of his best friends, he wouldn’t ruin such happiness between them. In fact, he had promised them that he would hurt anyone who ever dared do so. An irony he was reminded of every day.
Two. Don't have direction, I'm just rolling down this road
Waiting for you to bring me in from out the cold
“Manu, you’re going to freeze if you stay out here!” Philipp warned as the others were headed back into the locker room.
“Just a little longer,” he called back. “I’ll be in soon; I promise.”
Philipp looked like he was going to argue but Manuel flashed a pretty smile and the captain shook his head.
“If you’re still out here by the time I’m ready to leave in ten minutes…”
“I’ll be going in before then, Fips.” Manuel promised and Philipp nodded before turning to leave the goalkeeper in the falling snow.
It hadn’t been a complete lie. He was going to go inside soon, but he was going to give the others enough time to leave the showers before he did so. He didn’t want to see flirting between Bastian and Thomas any more than he absolutely needed to.
So he continued to practice in the snow, the air cold and stinging on his cheeks. He was sure his nose would be red by the time he went in, but he didn’t care. His hands were starting to tingle with the cold but he pushed through it. After all, the weekend match would probably be played in snow. This was practice for that, he told himself.
As he killed time, Manuel wondered what he was going to do for the evening. The others had been discussing going home and preparing for the upcoming Christmas holidays. Manuel had no girlfriend or wife to go home to, or boyfriend for that matter. Probably pick up dinner from the corner sandwich shop; he created a plan as he started to gather up the football he had been practicing with.
That’s when he felt the snowball hit him in the head. Scowling, he turned and saw a grinning Thomas, still dressed in the training kit. Manuel’s heart had to remember how to beat correctly again.
“Ducky, come on.” The younger man said, moving closer. “I don’t want you getting sick.”
“So you throw a snowball at me?” Manuel asked with a raised eyebrow. Thomas grinned again.
“It got your attention, didn’t it? I’ve been calling you for a few minutes before that.”
“I hadn’t realized.” Manuel mumbled, looking into Thomas’ eyes as the boy stopped in front of him. He wanted to lean forward and kiss him. That would be perfect, a kiss in the snow. But he didn’t.
“I noticed.” Thomas reached forward and tugged on his arm. “Come on, Manu. Let’s go inside. Then you can come over to my house later and we can have hot chocolate and play FIFA while it snows outside.”
Manuel swallowed hard as he let Thomas pull him across the ever-whitening pitch. He noticed that Thomas didn’t even ask if he had plans for the night or asked if he even wanted to come over. Somehow, Manuel didn’t mind that he’d been told what he was going to be doing that night. He would get over it. Besides, any chance to spend time in the company of Thomas Müller was something he would always agree to.
Three. You'll never know the endless nights, the rhyming of the rain,
Or how it feels to fall behind and watch you call his name
During call-ups for die Mannschaft, Manuel’s almost a million percent positive that Lukas and Bastian are fucking. At the very least, they are eye-fucking. He wonders if that counts as cheating. He’s sure that the touches, looks and all that is just silent flirting and he wonders how Bastian could ever do that to Thomas.
He makes sure to keep Thomas as much company as he can without looking obvious in those call ups. He never wanted the other man to feel like he wasn’t wanted, while at the same time hoping that he could one day be enough to turn Thomas’ head and make him forget about another tall blond German.
Sometimes, Manuel hopes that Lukas and Bastian are together. It would be an excuse and then maybe he’d have an actual snowball’s chance in Hell for Thomas. Then he immediately feels guilty for thinking that. Thomas would be hurt and he’d be an asshole if he took advantage of that.
Besides, as much as he wishes it, Bastian always ends up back with Thomas as they, Mario, Jerome, Manuel and Philipp return to Munich after the internationals. Bastian and Thomas always sit together on the airplanes back, covered under the same blanket, and Manuel can only imagine what they get up to. After all, he’s imagined it with Thomas himself.
Because of that, Manuel makes sure he looks out the window for as much of the trip as possible. Even on the longer flights, Manuel will never sleep. He doesn’t sleep on planes anyway. He’ll continue to look out that window.
When they arrive in Munich, the rain greets them with icy fingers. They say their goodbyes and start on home. Somehow, Manuel ends up behind Bastian and Thomas and he watches them, agony in his heart, as Thomas smiles when Bastian is looking at him. Thomas looks so happy and it makes Manuel feel so much worse than when he looks unhappy.
If he had his way, he would break them up. If he had his way, Thomas would only look at him like that. If he had his way, Manuel would be a home wrecker. If he had his way, then he would never want for anything because he and Thomas would be together and would grow old together.
If he had his way… If.
Four. We sit in bars and raise our drinks to growing old
Oh, I'm in love with you and you will never know
Alcohol loosens his tongue a little too much sometimes; Manuel’s noticed that about Thomas. The younger man won’t stop talking even when he’s sober, never mind when he has absolutely no reservations. He spills secrets in bars that Manuel isn’t quite sure he would have been told otherwise.
Manuel’s not a gossip and he hates hearing about Bastian, especially in the intimate moments between them, but he smiles a little when Thomas tells him things about when he was young and didn’t have any friends in school. That’s something Manuel has a hard time believing, but lets it slide as he listens to what prank Thomas pulled on the science teacher.
The story ends and Manuel laughs, causing Thomas to grin brighter.
“Manuel, promise me we’ll be friends forever.” Thomas says and Manuel’s smile drops a little before he nods.
“Of course, Thomas.” He replies instantly. Friends, always. Lovers, hopefully one day.
Thomas leans over and further into Manuel’s body, the goalkeeper’s arm going around him quickly to support them both so that they don’t fall over into the floor.
“I want you around always, even when I’m old and fat and want to go golfing instead of to football matches.” Thomas slurs his words and Manuel shakes his head. He highly doubts that Thomas is ever going to be fat and that golf would ever hold his attention more than football would. Still, Manuel doesn’t say that. The fact lingered in his mind ‘I want you around’.
“I’m always going to be your friend.” Manuel replies, holding Thomas close to him. His body aches, his heart hurts, at how this is the closest he can get to Thomas without telling him everything. The word friend sticks in his throat after he said it and he yearns to say more. Now isn’t the time, or the place, for it. So he stays quiet to his feelings and tries to bury them once again.
“I love you, Ducky.” Thomas says and Manuel’s entire body freezes. Thomas doesn’t notice because his phone rings and he fumbles to answer it. It isn’t until Thomas says the name of his boyfriend that Manuel remembers there’s always going to be at least one person Thomas will always love more.
For a moment he let himself believe. Manuel orders a stronger drink than the water he’d been having and tries not to listen as Thomas talks to Bastian on the phone.
Five. But if I can't have you I'll walk this life alone
Spare you the rising storms and let the rivers flow
Manuel’s given up the hope of finding anyone other than Thomas that he could love more than football. As much as he loved Benedikt, and he really did, it wasn’t the same as how he feels for Thomas. The Schalke captain smiles at him from across the tunnel before the friendly against one another. Manuel nods and promises that after the match they’ll go out and have a beer and catch up. Benedikt has a new boyfriend, Mats, and Manuel wants to know if the Dortmund player is worth Benny’s time.
The match progresses and of course Bayern wins. Benny looks a bit perturbed about the fact, but once Manuel smiles at him and Benedikt relaxes a little. They make their plans in the hallway to go out and for the first time in a while, Manuel smiles and forgets a little that he’s supposed to be bothered about seeing Bastian and Thomas together in the showers.
Manuel’s so preoccupied with going out with Benedikt that he doesn’t notice that Thomas and Basitan are showering on opposite sides for a change. It isn’t until he’s getting dressed afterwards that he registers Thomas is trying to get his attention to talk to him. He smiles sheepishly, apologetically, and asks Thomas to repeat himself.
“Are you busy tonight?” Thomas asks, chewing his lip. He doesn’t quite resemble himself, the energy from the match is gone and he’s withdrawn a little. It doesn’t sit right with Manuel at all.
“I am, actually.” Manuel replies with a regretful look on his face. He hates the fact that Benedikt and the Schalke team will be gone in the morning. He has to see Benny tonight or not see him again for weeks, maybe a few months. He almost says ‘fuck it’ when he sees the crestfallen look on Thomas’ face.
“Oh. Well it’s okay. Have a good time.” Thomas makes an attempt to summon a smile for him, something that Manuel notices with a lurch in his heart.
“I can come over tomorrow?” Manuel asks, pleading with his eyes that that would be an acceptable thing to do.
“Of course,” Thomas nods and Manuel feels a little relieved. “See you then.”
Manu smiles and squeezes Thomas’ shoulder. He finishes packing his bag and as he lifts it onto his shoulder, Thomas says something else. The midfielder had stayed close as Manuel had packed up.
“And Manu?” Manuel looks over with a raised eyebrow. “Have fun with Benedikt tonight.”
Something about his tone is off, as it has been since the whole conversation started, but Manuel will think about it later. He nods and gives Thomas a smile that he only saves for him.
“Thank you.” With some considerable effort, he adds, “have a good night with Basti.”
Manuel then turns to leave so he doesn’t have to see the look he just knows is going to be on Thomas’ face. He’s seen that look of happiness a thousand times. Just once, he’s going to have a good night with an old friend and forget that the man he’s in love with and has been for years is completely in love with someone else.
Six. Can't keep this beating heart at bay
Set my midnight sorrow free, I will give you all of me
Just leave your lover, leave him for me
Manuel doesn’t want to admit it, but he’s still a little hung over by the time he gets to Thomas’ house after training, which was miserable. He thinks that was Benny’s plan all along: get him pissed and ruin the next day. It worked.
He graciously accepts Thomas’ offer of a drink when he gets inside; he chooses water though. He’s not that crazy. Once he’s seated on Thomas’ sofa next to him, he smiles a little. Thomas doesn’t look any better than when Manuel left him in the locker room yesterday and that concerns him.
“I’m sorry about yesterday. You wanted to talk?” Manuel starts and waits to hear what Thomas has to say. It must be important.
“It’s okay, did you have fun?” Thomas asks quietly, not looking at Manuel. Manuel wasn’t out of sorts enough to know that Thomas deflected the question.
“I did. I haven’t seen Benedikt in…” he starts to consider before he mentally dismisses the conversation. “It doesn’t matter. What’s wrong, Mulli?”
Thomas didn’t initially speak and Manuel began to grow even more concerned. He finished his water then set the empty glass on the carpet on the floor. He leaned back in the sofa and that’s when Thomas moved, curling into his side. Manuel hesitated only because of surprise before his arm went around the younger man again. Thomas still didn’t speak so Manuel rubbed his back gently.
“Hey, what is it? What’s bothering you?” Manuel asked, concern and care in his voice as he held Thomas closer.
“I’ve made a mistake.” Thomas said finally and Manuel’s expression grew confused. Before he could ask, Thomas started to talk, ramble, and none of it made any sense. “Now it’s too late. I made the wrong choice and I can’t fix it now. I feel so stupid. Right there. It was all right there and I ignored it. The signs. I’m so sorry. Now it’s too late. I’m too late.”
As he spoke, Thomas tightened his grip in Manuel’s shirt. At the last sentence, Thomas looked up at Manuel and his blue eyes looked pained. Manuel had never been more confused about anything in his entire life. Sure, Thomas had gone off about something before, babbling on like a brook about things that made little to no sense. But this was different. There was desperation in his voice and all of it didn’t make any sense.
“What? What are you too late for?” Manuel asked after reminding himself that now wasn’t the time to get lost in Thomas’ eyes.
“You!” Thomas said in exasperation, pushing away from the goalkeeper. “I missed my chance with you. And now you and Benny—and I’m sorry. You were in front of me and I messed it up. I shouldn’t even be telling you this!”
Manuel felt the confusion mix sickeningly with the sparks of hope in his belly. The butterflies were starting to swirl and he was starting to feel nauseous. Perhaps that part was the hangover. He didn’t want to hope. There were too many questions, too many feelings that needed to be addressed.
“Wait, hold on. What?” What about Bastian? Is the question he wants answered the most. “What are you talking about Thomas?”
Please don’t let this be an elaborate joke. He’d fall for it for sure.
“I love you, Manuel. I should’ve said something sooner.”
“Like friends or…?” Manuel asks, just to clarify. He has a hard time believing anything else and he wouldn’t ruin their friendship by assuming anything. If that means he needs it spelled out for him right now, then so be it.
Thomas shakes head and Manuel definitely feels summersaults starting in his belly. He doesn’t think he’s ever been this happy before, not ever.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.” Thomas says, looking down at his hands.
“Why?” Manuel asks, shifting around to tilt Thomas’ chin up. He wonders if he looks as happy as he feels. “This is great news.”
Thomas’ eyes grow confused and Manuel remembers just what else Thomas said.
“Me and Benny just went to hang out last night. We’re not together. He’s with someone else.” Manuel shrugs but then he has to ask. He needs to know. He’s never been a cheater, and he wasn’t going to start now. “What about Bastian?”
Thomas shrugs, and looks away from Manuel’s eyes. “We broke up.”
Manuel wonders if he’s going to be the rebound. Somehow that’s a lot worse than not having Thomas at all. Knowing it would be temporary instead of forever… That would definitely be crueler than anything.
“I’m sorry.” Manuel says and he means it. He always knew Thomas would be sad about that, if it ever happened. Manuel lets his hand rest on Thomas’ arm and he wants to pull him close again but some unknown instinct stops him.
“He and Lukas…” Thomas waves his hand. “Bastian said he missed him.”
Manuel watches him shrug and he isn’t sure what makes him more happy: the fact that he was actually right about Lukas and Bastian, or the fact that Thomas said he loved him. That really isn’t a hard question, he takes a half-second to ponder it. Thomas, by miles.
“He’s a fool then.” Manuel says and leans back in the sofa, pulling Thomas closer again. The boy moves easily into his arms. “I’d never leave you.”
It’s the truth. It’s so much of the truth that it’s painfully embarrassing.
Thomas shifts again and Manuel lets him move in his arms. He isn’t sure what Thomas is going to do. Ever since he sat down on the sofa today nothing has gone the way he’d planned. It’s a pleasant surprise when Thomas shifts in his lap to sit on his thighs with an arm around Manuel’s neck. He certainly wasn’t going to complain about that.
And he was never going to complain about the fact that Thomas leaned down and kissed him. Manuel’s arms tightened around Thomas’ waist and he kissed him back with all of the love that he had for him. He couldn’t imagine anything more perfect than the taste of Thomas on his lips, the feel of them on his own.
“Please tell me I’m not dreaming.” Manuel whispered and Thomas smiled a little then, eyes beginning to sparkle like normal.
“It’s a shared dream, if you are.” Thomas said and leaned forward to kiss him again.
Manuel kept Thomas as close as possible without hurting him and just held him. He wanted this moment to never end. Finally, after so many years, he had Thomas exactly where he wanted him. It felt nice. It felt good. It was perfect.
“Ducky?” Thomas asked and Manuel opened his eyes. He wasn’t sure when they’d closed.
“Yes?” He asked, lethargy obvious in his voice. He felt so tired; he yawned and then he stretched.
“The bus has stopped; it’s time to get off now.” Thomas smiled friendlily at him and ruffled his hair as he started to laugh.
Confusion mixed in Manuel’s brain. What? What happened? Weren’t they on Thomas’ sofa a moment ago?
Manuel’s heart fell straight through the floor when he realized what happened. The fact that Thomas had snuck up behind Bastian and took the other man’s hand was a good indication, but also the fact that the others were grabbing their bags from underneath the seats and were filling off the bus told Manuel the rest.
The team; the bus. They were playing Schalke away this week. It had all been a dream. A wonderful, awful dream. Manuel wanted to beat his head against the side of the bus. Resigned, he grabbed his own gear and started to file off the bus.
One day, maybe. One day Thomas would be his. At the rate he was going though, Manuel knew that it was only going to be in his dreams.