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No One Ever Lost As Hard As I

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Martin knew he had an excuse to be upset that day. He had an excuse to be short tempered or irritable, foul-mouthed and grumpy. He could have a perfectly upset day like Carra used to do when something was bothering him that he wouldn’t talk about (with anyone other than Stevie in fluent Scouse). He had a reason to be pissed off and argumentative.

Yet he wasn’t. He wasn’t angry or upset or full of rage. He wasn’t going to lie; hurt and the smallest notion of betrayal tugged at his heart and settled low in his stomach. He felt like he may just start to sulk at a moment’s notice, but he wasn’t going to cry. That wasn’t going to happen. For God’s sake he was a man, a defender for Liverpool.

Then again, so was Daniel. And he had broken into tears on multiple occasions during his farewell dinner the night before.

Martin sat in his back garden on a bench that had Nordic symbols carved into the wood. Daniel had designed it for him (of course he had, Martin thinks). His fingers absently follow a swirl of one of the designs as his eyes look beyond the shrubbery and into the memories of the past. He isn’t really caring of the coolness of the evening, or the mist that threatens to turn into actual drops of rain. Nothing really matters to him much right now.

Earlier that afternoon Daniel had said goodbye for the last time before he’d gone off to the airport. Martin had even driven him to the airport (Daniel’s family were going to follow the day after).

They had promised one another to call, Skype, text, anything they could do to keep in contact. He’d heard those promises before from other friends that had moved on from one club to another. Hell, He had promised to do those back home in Slovakia and Russia yet he had been negligent in his correspondence. He made a mental note to send a message to the boys back at Zenit (he wondered if they still had the same phone numbers).

What Martin wouldn’t give to have Daniel rush back through his house—no, not rush, more like stroll gracefully like the smooth bastard could pull off where he, Martin, would undoubtedly trip over something and ruin the moment—and come sit next to him on the bench. What he wouldn’t give to have Daniel take his hand and hold it in his own as they would talk like they used to about the future and their relationship and anything else they felt like talking about. Those had been the days. Martin had foolishly thought they’d never end, and yet here he sat alone. One of the best defenders in the team was gone home to Denmark and that was that. It was what it was. All the other sayings the English used to placate emotions and attempt to balm the stings that life handed them.

It sucked and it didn’t help. Nothing would help. If the season was called right now and Liverpool somehow had managed to win the Premier League at this very moment, Martin still didn’t think he’d feel better. Daniel had deserved to win it, Steven had too, so had several others, but they had fucked it up again. They’d let it slip, despite their best efforts. He felt frustrated; they all did. But they were dreaming again and the dreams were no longer nightmares but hopeful promises of days in the future to come. Was losing the title what had caused him to leave? Martin didn’t know, that may have been part of it, but Daniel loved it here. He loved being part of this club, being needed and relied on and loved so much. He loved all that.

Martin couldn’t quite say why then he had decided now of all times was the best time to leave. He didn’t want to know equally as much as he did. Homesickness? Nostalgia? Change? Whatever the reason was, Martin didn’t know but he wanted to. He would’ve found a way to keep Daniel here, close, and then nothing would’ve had to change between them.

He knows he looks like the scary one, the one you would never want to meet in an ally after dark. That’s helped him his entire career and it doesn’t hurt when lads on the street get pissed and want to attempt to have a go. All he has to do is look menacing and he’s damn good at that and has perfected his look long ago.

So had Daniel. Both of them could make one another smiley and laughing like schoolboys though. It was so easy to relax around Daniel, so easy to just be himself instead of the quiet muscley type. Daniel was his friend, his lover, his hobby and his passion. Daniel wasn’t everything, but he was close. He loved him. As a friend, a brother, a mentor, a partner. He loved him always in all ways. Now he was gone and wasn’t coming back.

The world was changing though, football was changing. For the first time, Martin knew what Steven must feel like. Having watched so many friends leave over the years, watching them move on to different (and sometimes better, though that was hard to admit) things, clubs. It was hard. Martin never thought he’d have to experience that. All he needed was a regular playing position at a club he loved (which he had) and when Daniel and he started a relationship, he didn’t think anything could get better (apart from winning a few more trophies). How many had left this season? Too many. How many more would go in January? Maybe a few more. With the way things had gone lately, he didn’t want to guess. It was in the air now.

Martin paused and froze almost solid when he thought he heard his front door open. He noticed he was holding his breath when he heard footsteps and he looked at the door that led back into his house with hopeful eyes. Fuck the transfer papers, he’d do anything if Daniel had come back and changed his mind. He’d crawl from here to Anfield on a field of glass every match day if it meant Daniel was back.

He tried not to look too disappointed when Glen stopped in his doorway and gave him a slight smile.

“Hiya. Thought I’d pop round and see how you were?” Glen said by way of greeting and invited himself into the quiet sanctuary of Martin’s garden. The Slovakian didn’t mind. Glen and he were friends. He was allowed.

Martin grunted noncommittally. Forming words was too much effort right now and Glen seemed more than capable of controlling the conversation. The Londoner started talking again.

“That good, hm?” When Martin still didn’t speak, he put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the brick wall of Martin’s house. “Steven said we were all to go to the pub in a bit. That includes you, especially you. Specific orders from the Captain.”

Martin felt like protesting, but he could guess what Steven was playing for. The skipper probably felt like they could all use a farewell of their own for their missing Dane, their Great Dane. Martin felt sad again as another wave of memories crashed over the surface of his hurting heart. He didn’t think he was pouting, but he wasn’t sure. Glen didn’t say anything about it, but then again he was behind him and couldn’t see his face. Thank God.

Glen lapsed into silence as it stretched between them. Martin couldn’t see what he was doing, but he didn’t really mind. He was being quiet and that’s all he could ask for right now. Martin looked to the sky and the mist had changed and it actually started to rain now. Typical English weather. Martin almost sighed, almost. He didn’t.

“Well, when are we supposed to be there?” He asked, standing as the rain began to pick up.

Glen came awake then and looked at him with a kind smile. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Martin nodded and made an excuse about going to change to which Glen exchanged the pleasantries the English were so good about as he went over and sat down on Martin’s sofa. Martin went upstairs and sighed loudly as he walked into his closet. He wasn’t really concerned with what he looked like (never had been) and now there was no one to impress (Daniel). He pulled out the nearest clean shirt and fresh jeans and changed before pulling on a hoodie (you had to layer in Liverpool, that was a necessity).

He knew Steven and Glen meant well. He wasn’t really looking forward to seeing pitying looks on anyone’s face, especially their friends’. He leaned his head against the door of his closet and tried to summon some energy to go through with the evening. He wasn’t one to sit in bed all day and sulk. He was more the type to go the gym and get on a treadmill and never stop running, never stop until his lungs burned and his legs felt like they were going to fall off.

He looked at a framed photograph of him and Daniel that he had been looking at earlier (all week) and he looked at it now. Martin sighed and looked at all the freckles on Daniel’s face. He had tried to count them once when Daniel was asleep. He’d failed; not due to the darkness in the room, but because there were too many. Now he’d never have the chance to practice that again (and if he did, it wouldn’t be for a very, very long time).

Martin forced himself to look away form the photo and squared his shoulders. A night out with the lads, it would be. Very well then. Just because Daniel wasn’t here any more didn’t mean he could slack off on his social outings for the week. Martin put his phone and keys in his pocket as he started downstairs. Glen heard him coming and stood up with a small smile.

More English niceities followed as they left Martin’s house and got into Glen’s car. The rain was falling harder now and Martin closed his eyes as Glen drove to their usual pub. The Londoner’s music filled the quiet of the car and Martin thought he really, really wouldn’t mind if Daniel came back (even with his odd taste in music).

No, he wouldn’t mind that at all.