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bloemfontein.

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carlos steps out onto the balcony that extends from their hotel room, glancing around at the bloemfontein landscape before carefully closing the sliding glass door behind himself. he doesn't know if raúl has even noticed that he's gone outside, and as he sits down and leans back against the wall, he decides that he doesn't really care. there's a million and a half things floating through his mind, each of them something that he wishes he could give a voice to, that he could actually say to raúl before it's too late. sighing heavily, he realizes that it probably already is.

everyone's trying to pretend like nothing's going on, but it's difficult. carlos is sure that some of the others have put it down to the valencia boys worrying about what is happening to their club, but he knows that at the very least, silva knows better than to think that. the young midfielder has barely spoken to him throughout the entire trip, a telltale sign that raúl has confided in him about that which they cannot speak about. he can't even blame silva for being upset with him, because deep down he knows he deserves it. he is the reason everything is fucked beyond belief, and try as his brain might to change things, he's the one stopping himself from even attempting to fix it.

he closes his eyes, and for some reason, his mind chooses to bring up the memory of the first time he ever saw raúl. tall and lanky, still slightly awkward in his movement, carlos can still picture it like it had just happened. raúl had just been breaking into the squad then, all of seventeen years old, and carlos can't even remember why he was even watching the b team practice that day. all he remembers is raúl, running up and down the small practice pitch, trying to prove that he belonged. he opens his eyes again and sighs heavily, knowing he's been hung up on the kid since the first time he ever laid eyes upon him, knowing that being hung up on him isn't enough anymore.

the sliding glass door opens, raúl walks out of the room, and carlos can suddenly feel all the tension he was trying to escape. silently, raúl sits down on the other side of the balcony, not even glancing in his direction, and carlos wants to scream just to break the silence. instead he runs his hands through his hair and leans his head back against the wall, mentally screaming out five of the million and a half things that he really wants to say before deciding that it's just stupid. it's all stupid, right down to the pathetic reasons he'd given raúl when he'd done it, but he doesn't know how to actually tell him what's really wrong.

the guilt has slowly been washing over him, ever since the baby was born, and it's only been made worse by raúl having a baby of his own. he is responsible for another life now, and it's made him realize how selfish he truly is, how much he risks for what, a night a week in raúl's arms, shameless pleasure that he knows he shouldn't endulge in but does anyway. he always knew that if they carried on with their affair that the guilt would come, but he never expected it to feel quite like this, to cut off his air supply and leave him gasping for breath, to punch him in the stomach and kick him in the balls.

"are you ever going to tell me what this is really about?" raúl asks suddenly, and carlos realizes that he can't escape this conversation without looking like a coward, and carlos marchena is no fucking coward.

"you mean you don't know?" he chokes out, his voice full of more emotion than he really wanted to let raúl in on.

raúl sighs heavily and carlos can feel his eyes on him, but he can't bring himself to meet the gaze. "i think that i've finally started to understand how you've been feeling all these months, that i was getting to a point where i could see where you were coming from. and then you go and do this."

"it's better this way."

"yeah, so you say," raúl muttered. "but if you ask me, this way fucking sucks."

carlos stares out at the setting sun, still feeling raúl's eyes on him. "i just can't do this anymore, alright? what the fuck do you want me to say?"

"you've been doing it for almost six years," raúl says strongly. "am i really supposed to believe that now, after everything, you've decided the guilt is too much?"

carlos feels the words like a knife to the chest. "i never said anything about guilt."

"you didn't have to," raúl says, and it's in the tone that carlos knows is reserved only for him and his stupidest moments. "it's been obvious for a long time, carlos. and now i finally am experiencing the same sort of feelings, and you just..."

raúl trails off and carlos chances a look in his direction, wishing as soon as his eyes land on raúl that he hadn't. "i just what?"

"you close yourself off, act like this is nothing to you. i know talking isn't really our thing, but i thought that maybe you'd at least try. you have to know that i'm choking on my own guilt over here."

carlos wants desperately to tear his eyes away but he can't, his gaze locked with raúl's, showing him for the first time just how deeply he'd hurt the other man. "what good is both of us choking on our guilt going to do? the only way to make it go away is to stop doing the thing that is causing the guilt."

"you really think it's that simple? that you can just say it's over and that means it is?" raúl let out a disbelieving laugh. "if anything, this trip has proven that it isn't."

"how?"

raúl laughs again. "look at us! things can never be how they were before, carlos. we can't just be friends."

carlos wants to protest but he stops himself, knowing that raúl is right. he studies the younger man for a moment, his mind fleetingly wondering what life would be like if he never had seduced him all those years ago. "well i don't know if we can be more."

"we've always been more," raúl said softly, turning his head to stare back out at the city around them. "we'll always be more."

carlos let the silence settle back in around them, playing with his watch and wondering when they would have to leave for training. he let all of raúl's words sink into his conscience, found himself soothed by knowing that he wasn't alone in feeling the way he did, and he came to the conclusion that this was his moment to fix things and he'd never get another one.

"you're right."

raúl's head snaps back towards him, surprise reflected across his features. "what?"

"i said you're right," carlos murmured. "and you are."

"so what are you going to do about it?"

"i don't know."

"well, when do you think you might?"

carlos allows himself a smile at raúl's words. "before we go home."

"i'm going to hold you to that."

"i know."

they jump at a knock on the glass door, carlos turning to look only to see silva's face peering out at them. "training! let's go!"