Real Madrid is full of boys like him. Awkward teenagers with slightly too-long limbs, bones growing too fast for their skin, muddied knees and quick feet. He feels too conspicuous despite that, his first day, almost too clean, his kit too stiff and new, too white. Someone tackles him hard halfway through that first session and he falls down heavy, winded. When he opens his eyes there’s a boy sprawled over him, blinking. “Hi,” he says. “I’m Guti. You’re really good.”
“Um,” says Raúl. He tries not to wheeze. Guti’s tall and weighs a lot. “I’m Raúl. Hi, and. Thanks.”
Guti smiles and rolls onto his knees. “Nice to meet you,” he says, holding out a hand. Raúl takes it and Guti hauls him to his feet. “You okay?” he asks, tilting his head.
Raúl nods. There’s dirt on his shorts, streaking along his arm, and a little on his face.
“Cool,” says Guti. He grins, bumping his shoulder against Raúl’s.
He walks with Raúl out of the grounds afterwards, bag bouncing off the backs of his knees, hands shoved into his pockets. “You live around here?” he asks, glancing at Raúl.
“Not far,” says Raúl.
Guti nods. “Hey,” he says, “It’s really great to have you on the team.”
Raúl ducks his head, surprised and pleased. “Thank you,” he says, smiling at the ground.
Guti’s a year older than him. It’s not a lot but in football it's forever. Plus, “I’ve been here since I was eight,” Guti tells him in the changerooms, bent over to untie his laces.
Raúl gapes at the back of his head. “Eight?” he chokes.
Guti straightens and shrugs. “It’s no big deal,” he says. “Just like any other club.”
“I guess,” says Raúl slowly. He can see Guti’s point, but this is where he’s wanted to end up since he was old enough to kick a football without falling over.
When he glances over Guti’s watching him. “Hey,” he says with a quick, sudden grin. “You don’t have to go home right now, do you?”
Raúl shakes his head.
“Cool,” says Guti. He hoists his bag onto his shoulder, holding it in place with one hand while he grabs Raúl around the elbow with the other, dragging him outside.
“We’re in an alley,” says Raúl blankly, watching Guti drop his bag and dig around inside. “We’re in an alley and you’re smoking.”
Guti laughs, flipping the pack open and pulling out two cigarettes. He catches one between his lips and holds the other out to Raúl.
“I don’t smoke,” says Raúl.
“Have you ever tried it?” asks Guti.
“No,” says Raúl.
“Well then how do you know? You have to try everything once.” He shakes the hand holding the cigarette and Raúl reaches out to take it, eyeing it doubtfully.
Guti laughs again. “Here,” he says, holding up a lighter. “Put it in your mouth.” He steps closer, knuckles bumping against Raúl’s chin. “And breathe in when I light it. There you go.” He steps back, slouching against the wall, head tipped up to blow smoke at the sky. Raúl watches him: the way the cigarette sits light between his fingers; the way the filter presses against his bottom lip; the way his throat lengthens and moves as he inhales, and tries to copy his movements. The smoke burns though, and he tries, failing miserably, to hold back a cough or ten. Guti’s watching him when he looks up, slitted eyes and a smirk curling at the corners of his mouth.
“Shut up,” mumbles Raúl, scrubbing at his cheeks. They feel hot to the touch.
Guti waves a hand, arching his wrist backwards and ashing with his thumb, tapping against the filter. It’s a strangely feminine gesture: the inside of his bare, pale wrist, his other arm resting across his hips. “Hey, no,” he says and shrugs. “You’ve never smoked before. I’m not laughing.”
Raúl nods and takes another drag. He coughs again but not as much.
“See?” Guti grins.
“Shut up,” says Raúl again, smiling around a third inhale. His legs ache from training and he slides down the wall to sit on the dirty cement, smoking with his knees pulled to his chest, coughing occasionally.
Guti stays standing, blowing mouthful after mouthful of smoke into the sunlight, angling his head away from the worst of the glare.
Raúl’s fifteen. He jerks off a lot, usually to vague, half-formed images that flow so fast one after another through his mind he doesn’t have the time to think about faces, just snatches of things he’s seen in movies, maybe, or pretty, half-dressed girls in magazines. He imagines them without clothes on, or sometimes he thinks about touching them, or, or. Usually it doesn’t last much past that. Every now and then he thinks about Adriana, the girl he kissed back when he was with Atlético, how she felt pressed all up against him. So it’s kind of weird when, he doesn’t mean to do it, but when he’s jerking off in the shower not too long after he gets home, it’s kind of weird that he thinks about Guti, about the soft skin on his neck stretched taut as he smokes, his hair catching in the sunlight, his hands, his hands, knuckles brushing light and accidental against Raúl’s jaw, fingers curled piano-key thin around the cigarette. Raúl gasps, water and soap stinging his eyes, and comes.
He rests his forehead against the glass after, breaths slowing, cheeks still burning hot.
It’s not a thing. He’s thought about weird things when he was jerking off before. Sometimes it just happens, something unexpected pops into your head and you can’t get rid of it, or. He’s worried his mind might make it a thing next time he sees Guti, but all he does is blush and mumble a little in the changerooms before training, which, considering, is pretty okay. He focuses on training, anyway, eyes on the coach, jaw set, practising and practising until he gets every pass perfect, every goal into the back of the net.
“Hey,” says Guti, catching him after training a week later. “Hey, I haven’t spoken to you in like. Ages. You haven’t decided I’m a bad influence, have you?”
“You are a bad influence,” says Raúl. He laughs though, he can’t help it. He hasn’t thought about Guti like that since that one time, and Guti’s kind of hard not to like. Plus training’s going well and Raúl just feels good. “Hey, you want to hang out?”
The smile Guti throws at him makes his stomach flutter. It really is nice to have made a friend, he thinks.
Guti’s room is a mess. “Sorry,” he says, toeing things out of the way. “Mama’s been bugging me for weeks to do it.”
“I don’t mind,” says Raúl. His is just as bad.
Guti shoots a smile over his shoulder, wading his way through scattered clothes and boots and books to the window. He slides it open and pulls a pack of cigarettes from a drawer in the desk at the foot of his bed. “Come on,” he says.
Raúl sighs, rolling his eyes and crossing to join him. “Such a bad influence,” he says, pulling out a cigarette when Guti tilts the pack at him.
“You don’t have to,” says Guti, frowning. “Seriously, I’m not. I don’t mind.”
“It’s okay,” says Raúl. He holds the cigarette to his mouth, palms a little sweaty, itchy, and stills as Guti lights it for him, his head bent close.
“I’m going to quit, anyway,” says Guti, leaning out of the window and exhaling his first mouthful of smoke. “When I make the first team. It’s bad for you.”
“No shit,” says Raúl. Guti glances at him and Raúl smiles, leaning on the sill beside him. He adds, “So, soon, then?” and coughs a little as the smoke tickles his throat.
Guti laughs. “I hope,” he says. “You think so?”
Raúl nods. He’s not even lying. Guti is kind of desperately beautiful when he plays, long graceful movements and inch-perfect passes and a strange, compelling recklessness.
“You too,” says Guti. He turns his head and blows smoke into Raúl’s face, grinning.
“Doing anything this weekend?” Guti asks him absently after a Friday training session. He’s leaning towards one of the mirrors, curling his fingers around the damp ends of his hair and tugging the strands into place.
Raúl shakes his head. “I need to catch up on homework.” He sighs.
Guti clicks his tongue and flicks him a grin in the mirror. “I guess I’ll see you for the game Sunday then,” he says.
“Yeah.” Raúl hoists his bag onto his shoulder, watching Guti tilt his head and run his fingers through his bangs. “Yeah, have a good weekend.”
Generally Raúl ends up leaving most of his homework til Saturday nights, but since they have a game relatively early Sunday morning this week he settles in for a long haul Friday night instead. He sits back against his pillows around midnight, rubbing at his eyes, and flips through the pages he still has to read, sighing.
It’s not that he hates school, far from it, just. Sometimes he’d rather be playing football.
He sighs again and squints at the page in front of him, and then jumps violently when something thumps against his window. He stills, heart racing, and stares at the glass reflecting the inside of the room, mouth open ready to shout. The noise comes again, only this time more like knocking, gentler, and maybe a muffled voice as well. Raúl frowns, edging closer to the foot of the bed and the window, eyes narrowed. “Guti?” he says, peering at what little he can see outside.
He hears Guti’s voice more clearly this time, half-whispering, “Raúl, hey, hey.”
Raúl rolls his eyes and moves to slide the window open. “What are you doing here?”
Guti grins, wide and bright. His cheeks are very flushed. “Hi,” he says, curling a hand over the sill. “I remembered you said you were doing homework, and that.” He waves his arm in some grand sweeping gesture. “Is unacceptable.”
“What, passing school is unacceptable?”
“No, no, not coming out with me on a Friday night is unacceptable.” Guti leans forward, chastising.
“How did you get here anyway?” says Raúl, glancing over Guti’s shoulder.
“Taxi,” says Guti.
“Right,” says Raúl. “Well, uh. Did you want to come in?”
“Yes,” says Guti immediately. “I brought you a drink, look.” He lifts his other arm and waves a bottle, vodka, Raúl sees on the label, with a few inches still swilling around the bottom. “You probably don’t want me to smoke in here, do you.” He hoists one leg inside and stills, frowning.
“Oh my God,” says Raúl, swallowing a sudden burst of laughter. “Here.” He pulls the bottle from Guti’s grasp and sets it on the bed, then grabs him around the wrist and hauls him the rest of the way inside. “You’re drunk, aren’t you.”
“A little.” Guti nods, crawling onto the bed. “I’m not drinking anymore, though. This is for you.” He picks up the bottle again and holds it out.
“I have homework to finish,” says Raúl.
“Do it tomorrow,” says Guti. “Come on. I’ll help you.”
Raúl eyes the bottle and sighs. “Fine,” he says, sitting down and leaning back against the pillows. “Give it here.”
“Wait,” says Guti, pulling the bottle to his chest, “Wait. I'm not making you, you know. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’ll still think you’re cool.”
Raúl stares, then leans forward to muffle his laughter against his knees. “You’re an idiot,” he says finally, shaking his head and tugging the bottle from Guti’s grasp.
“Hey,” says Guti, grinning.
Raúl rolls his eyes again, uncapping the bottle and swallowing a quick mouthful. He grimaces. “Jesus,” he chokes. “This is disgusting.”
Guti clicks his tongue, leaning back against the wall. “You’ll learn to appreciate it,” he says, yawning.
“Hmm,” says Raúl doubtfully, steeling himself and tipping back another mouthful. “Isn’t this a bit of a waste?” he asks, lowering the bottle to balance between his knees. “I mean, I can’t exactly go out anywhere.”
“Not a waste,” says Guti, crawling up to sit beside Raúl. “I get to see you drunk.” He huffs a laugh, dropping his head onto Raúl’s shoulder and flicking idly at the bottle.
“I’m having a drink,” Raúl corrects, “Not getting drunk.”
Guti hums absently. “Finish it off, we’ll see how not drunk you are.”
Raúl looks down at the bottle, biting his lip, and after a moment’s consideration screws the lid back on and leans down to hide it under the bed. “Not that I don’t appreciate it,” he tells Guti, “But I really do have to finish that homework tomorrow.”
“Raúl.” Guti sighs, sitting up to shake his head more effectively, “Raúl, Raúl, you could’ve done it hungover. Wouldn’t even have been that hungover.”
“Still.” Raúl shrugs. “I should save it for some other time we can actually go somewhere.”
“I suppose you’re right,” says Guti after a thoughtful pause. He sways in close to Raúl and says, “We’ll go out somewhere, it’ll be great.” Then he yawns, and his head drops like he’s too tired to hold it up anymore, resting forehead to forehead against Raúl’s. Raúl can feel the heat radiating from his skin. Guti’s eyes flutter closed, blurred lashes sweeping the tops of his cheeks, one hand coming up to curl around Raúl’s bicep, and for a stupid, stuttering second, Raúl thinks Guti’s going to kiss him. He doesn’t though, just breathes in and mumbles, “Hey, hey, can I stay here tonight? I’m really tired.”
“Sure,” says Raúl, thinking abruptly about coming before he could stop himself in the shower, Guti’s face half-bathed in sunlight swimming behind his eyes, and flushing when his voice cracks just the tiniest bit.
Guti doesn’t say anything, thankfully, or else just doesn’t notice. He says, “Thanks,” around another yawn and smiles lazily, stretching out along the mattress.
He doesn’t stay to help Raúl with his homework. Raúl sends him home to sleep some more and finishes it himself, strangely, distractingly aware of the bottle stowed beneath his bed and the rumpled sheets he's sitting on, the faint smell of alcohol and aftershave.
Guti comes to the first training session after the game straight from school, though, and says, “I have homework to do too, if you want to study. You could come over.”
“Sure, cool,” says Raúl immediately, smiling.
Guti grins back. He watches Raúl call his mum from the kitchen phone and settles cross-legged on the floor in his room, spreading his books all around him. “You can use the bed,” he says, tipping Raúl a wink. “Since you’re the guest. It’s only polite.”
Raúl laughs and settles down to study. It’s pretty nice, actually, compared to his own sessions at home, the afternoon sun slanting through the window, the occasional rustle as Guti turns a page in a textbook or scribbles something down. He looks up every now and then at Guti pushing the hair back from his forehead only to have it fall back immediately, chewing on the tip of his pen, head cocked, and turns back to his own work with a smile settling about the corners of his mouth.
“Hey, so,” says Guti when it’s nearing dinnertime, leaning back and stretching with his arms crossed behind his head, back arched, “My parents are going away, weekend after next. You should come over.”
Raúl nods. “Will they mind?”
“I think they already like you more than me.” Guti laughs.
“Of course they do,” says Raúl seriously, nodding. “Okay, sounds good.”
Guti’s grin is dazzling when he opens the door for Raúl. “Have you ever gotten drunk and watched movies?” he asks, tugging Raúl’s bag from his shoulder.
“No,” says Raúl slowly.
“You’ve been missing out,” says Guti. “Come on.” He leads them to his bedroom. The TV there is smaller, but still with a VCR, and, “There’s the bed, if you fall asleep or pass out.” He grins and grabs the remote, throws a pillow at Raúl and settles on the bed with a bottle in each hand.
“Vodka,” says Raúl, climbing up beside him, “And champagne.” He raises an eyebrow.
“We interchange,” says Guti. “Can’t drink all the vodka or you’ll end up in hospital.” He hands the vodka to Raúl and opens the champagne for himself. “Cheers,” he says, knocking his bottle against Raúl’s.
“Cheers,” says Raúl, shaking his head and grinning.
Guti puts the vodka away halfway through the first movie. “Seriously,” he says, the words a little slow, heavy, “I’m not that irresponsible. Champagne tastes better, anyway.”
Raúl nods and takes a long swig, the over-sweet champagne soothing the leftover burn of the vodka, and passes the bottle back to Guti. He feels dizzy, reckless. “Have you ever kissed a boy?” he asks, eyes fixed carefully on the screen. There's a couple kissing, a girl and a boy, but.
“No,” says Guti sharply, immediately. “What the fuck.”
Raúl shrugs, blushing. “It’s just a question,” he says. His tongue feels too heavy in his mouth. “I don't. It’s just a question.”
“Yeah,” says Guti more softly. “Okay, sorry.” He’s silent for a moment, then adds, “Have, have you?”
Raúl snorts. “I’ve barely even kissed a girl. There’s never any time.”
“Time is no excuse,” says Guti, pointing with the mouth of the champagne bottle. He takes a swig, then hands it back to Raúl. Raúl cradles the bottle between his palms for a moment, weighting its curve in each hand. It’s halfway to his mouth when Guti says, “I lied.”
“Huh?” says Raúl. He lowers the bottle again and turns to raise an eyebrow at Guti.
Guti shrugs, not meeting his eyes, and says, “I have kissed a boy.”
“You,” says Raúl. He sets the bottle down on the floor. It feels like the thing to do. “Oh. Wow.”
“It’s not a big deal,” says Guti.
“No,” says Raúl quickly, nodding. It makes his head spin. “No, of course not. I just. Are you gay? I mean, I don’t care, just.”
Guti wipes the back of his hand across his mouth. His lips are still shiny with spit and alcohol when he pulls it away. “I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve kissed girls, too.” He fiddles with the remote for a moment, adjusting the volume, then throws it onto the mattress and says, “It doesn’t matter, anyway.”
“I,” says Raúl. “Doesn’t it?”
Guti shakes his head. “We want to be footballers. Footballers can’t be gay.”
“Oh,” says Raúl. It seems kind of stupid now, because Guti is right, of course, but. He’s never really thought about it. “Yeah, I guess it doesn’t.”
“Okay,” says Guti. He sounds strangely determined. “Cool.”
“Cool,” says Raúl. He shifts, refolding his legs, fitting the curve of his neck over the pillow he's leaning on, then says, “Hey, hey, are you drunk?”
Guti shoots him an amused glance. “No,” he says. “Not really. Lightweight.”
“Hey,” says Raúl. He pokes Guti with his toe. “I’m not. Besides, if I was, which I’m not, you have an entire year on me. That’s a long time.”
“Eight months,” says Guti.
“Eight months,” says Raúl. “Whatever.”
Guti snorts. “Lightweight.”
Raúl just shakes his head, too tired and comfortable to argue.
He wakes up warm, curled on the bed with Guti behind him, an arm slung over his waist and his forehead pressed to the back of Raúl’s neck. There’s a blanket over both of them. He looks down at Guti’s arm as he rubs the sleep from his eyes, the protruding bone in his thin wrist and the tips of his fingers tucked between Raúl’s side and the mattress, and thinks about what Guti said last night.
He turns over and Guti stirs, eyes fluttering open. The sunlight is very bright.
“Who was it?” asks Raúl.
“What?” Guti blinks slowly at him.
“The boy you kissed,” says Raúl. “Who was it?”
Guti lifts his arm from Raúl’s waist and scrubs at his eyes. “I thought we said it doesn’t matter.”
“It doesn’t.” Raúl shrugs. It kind of feels like it does. “I’m just curious, that’s all.”
Guti stares at him. “Don’t you have a headache?”
“Oh.” Raúl rolls his eyes around, testing. “Not really? Should I?”
“So,” says Raúl, “Who was it?”
“Just a boy,” says Guti shortly, looking away. “A friend. You don’t know him. He’s not on the team.”
“Oh,” says Raúl again. “Okay, that’s. Okay.”
“Okay,” says Guti. “Any more questions?”
He has, actually. He wants to know what it felt like, was it different to kissing a girl, did he like it, did he like the boy, how many times did they kiss. “No,” he says.
Raúl’s sitting with his feet up on one of the changeroom benches, pulling his socks on, when Guti slumps loudly beside him. “Hi,” says Raúl, glancing up.
“Hey.” Guti throws him a smile and bends to open his bag. His hair shifts over his neck and Raúl catches a glimpse of a red, angry-looking mark staining the pale skin there.
Something flares quick and hot in Raúl’s belly, and he thinks, Oh, and looks away.
He wants to ask what happened, who made that mark, whether it was a boy or girl, but he’s not brave enough, or drunk enough.
Guti elbows him and says, “Coming?”
“Yeah,” says Raúl. He pulls a hand over his face and focuses on training instead.
He thinks about it, later, about what Guti said, about kissing girls and boys, and how footballers can’t like boys. The problem is he doesn’t really know what to think. It’s kind of weird, and confusing, and interesting, and also a whole lot sad, the half-determined, half-resigned look on Guti’s face when he said, It doesn’t matter.
It’s not really a problem, anyway, for the most part. Not like Raúl thinks about it all the time. It doesn’t come up again either. Mostly it’s just his friend Guti, laughing with him at training and stopping by with a football tucked under his arm, grinning and dragging him to the park for, “Extra training, come on.”
It’s actually there more than anywhere else that Raúl’s struck by just how good Guti is. Maybe because at training he’s so surrounded by it, and himself, too, always trying to do better, but in the park it’s just them and their feet and Guti flicking idle tricks with the ball while Raúl lies back on the grass after a marathon game of one-on-one, the ocean-like ebb and flow of his limbs eclipsing the sun, pointed pickets of bone shadowed by the boyish duck of his head, and it seems anything but commonplace.
“Hey,” says Guti, finally throwing himself onto the ground beside Raúl.
“Hey,” says Raúl. There’s a blade of grass stuck to Guti’s cheek. He contemplates reaching out to remove it himself, but says instead, lazy, “You have grass on your face.”
Guti scrubs at his cheek. “Man, I’m tired,” he says. “And it’s hot.”
“Stop complaining,” says Raúl, squinting at the sky and grinning.
“You stop complaining about me complaining,” says Guti.
“Shut up,” laughs Raúl, slapping the back of his hand against Guti’s stomach.
Guti doesn’t say anything about him leaving it to rest there, so neither does Raúl.
“You know,” says Guti thoughtfully, tipping a water bottle greedily towards his mouth during a break in training, “You never really said what it was like, over at Atlético.”
“Oh, well.” Raúl shrugs, biting back a grin. “I didn’t want to offend anyone. Everything’s so much better over there, you know, the facilities, the coaches, the teammates.”
Guti throws the empty bottle at him. “How dare you.” He grins.
Raúl smiles. “No, seriously, it was good.” He shrugs again. “Just, I always wanted to come here, you know? You can’t really compare that, I guess.”
“Yeah,” says Guti, nodding. And, after a silence, “And the teammates?”
For some reason Raúl can’t quite meet Guti’s eyes. He fiddles with the grass and says carefully, lightly, “They’re pretty okay too, I suppose.”
“Okay,” says Guti blankly.
Raúl knows he’s joking, but he adds, “More than okay,” anyway, quietly, and when he looks up Guti’s smiling at the stands.
“So,” says Guti, propping his chin on the hand not holding his cigarette, “Sixteen, soon.”
“Yeah,” says Raúl. He frowns down at his textbook. “I’m catching up.”
Guti hums absently and Raúl looks up through his bangs. All he can see is Guti’s back, though, the gentle slope of his spine arching through the open window.
He’s gotten used to this the last few months, the smell of smoke while he does his homework, the easy conversations and orange afternoon light, Guti sprawled on the floor with his own books, sun-gold hair and pen in his mouth.
“Hey,” says Guti after a silence. He stubs his cigarette out on the window sill. “You mind if I stay here tonight?”
“No,” says Raúl without looking up. “Why?”
“I could say because I enjoy your company so much.” Guti grins. “But mostly I’m just too lazy to go home.”
“You love me,” says Raúl. He snaps his textbook shut triumphantly and flashes a smile up at Guti. “Done. Come on, football.”
He jumps from the bed and gathers his boots into his arms, heading for the door.
Guti blinks, shaking himself out of some odd stillness, and follows.
They sleep on the fold-out couch in the living room, because Raúl manages to convince his mum that they’re not actually pre-schoolers, and stay up watching TV. “Guti’s nearly seventeen,” he says and she relents.
“Badass,” says Guti, smiling the smile that makes his eyes crease at the corners.
Raúl hits him with the remote. “You’re not fooling anyone, you know,” he says. “Everyone knows you’re secretly an old woman at heart.”
“It’s true.” Guti sighs. Raúl shoots him an amused glance. His skin looks very pale in the dark room, and paper-thin, the only light from the TV washing him out completely.
“Hey,” says Raúl. “Are you-- I can turn the TV off. If you’re tired.”
Guti shrugs. “I don’t mind,” he says.
“That means you are,” says Raúl. He flicks off the TV and Guti laughs through the sudden darkness.
“Thanks,” he says.
“You just had to say,” says Raúl, rolling his eyes. He knows Guti can hear it.
“Shut up,” says Guti. And, “Goodnight,” smiling.
“Goodnight,” says Raúl.
When he wakes, barely past dawn, Guti’s arm is resting heavy over his waist, his fingers slotted loosely between Raúl’s. Raúl breathes slowly, thickly, not ready to get up yet, and holds particularly still, staring down at their hands.
Guti comes over three days before his sixteenth birthday with a bag slung over his shoulder and a grin curving about his mouth. “We have a match on your birthday,” he says, pushing past Raúl into his room, “So we’re celebrating now.”
“What are we doing?” asks Raúl, watching Guti dump the bag onto his bed.
“Going out, of course,” says Guti, waving a hand. “Are you dressed?”
“I don’t know,” says Raúl, looking down at himself. “Am I?”
Guti tilts his head. “You’ll do,” he says. “Here.” He pulls a bottle of vodka from his bag, unscrews it and passes it over. “Happy Birthday. Have a drink.”
Raúl laughs, shaking his head, and swallows a mouthful, grimacing.
“Seriously, though,” says Guti more softly, taking the bottle when Raúl holds it out. “Happy Birthday.”
“Oh,” says Raúl. He swallows, just air this time, and clenches his hands when they feel suddenly, strangely light. “Thanks.”
Raúl’s starting to sober up by the time they end the night on the steps of the Plaza de España, sprawling back and enjoying the slight buzz still thrumming beneath his skin, a gentle tap like rain, like new pulse-points fizzing to life everywhere, watching the sky through half-lidded eyes and listening to the others, guys from the team mostly, passing one last bottle between them, finishing what's left. He wasn’t particularly drunk to begin with, just enough he thinks, enough to dance without feeling like a fool and say a few stupid things earlier on, perhaps, but end the night just comfortable, a low hum buried deep in his throat and a clear kind of drowsiness.
“I’m so drunk,” Guti mumbles, leaning heavily against Raúl’s knee. “Mama’s going to kill me.”
“You’re coming back to my place, remember.” Raúl scrubs a hand through his hair. “And we don’t have to go home til you sober up a bit, don’t worry.”
“I’m never going to sober up,” sighs Guti.
“Who’s the lightweight now?” Raúl laughs.
Guti nods miserably and presses his forehead to Raúl’s thigh. Raúl can feel his wet breaths through his jeans and the slight tremor as he shivers.
“Hey,” he says softly, leaning down and curving a hand over the back of Guti’s neck, smoothing his thumb over the damp heated skin, “Are you okay?”
Guti nods again and says, somewhat contradictorily, “I don’t know,” leaning back to blow the hair out of his eyes.
Raúl laughs quietly and moves his hand to do it for him, fingertips brushing light against Guti’s temples. Guti looks up at him, eyes wide, cheeks flushed, and says, “Oh,” barely audibly. Raúl swallows, his hand stilling, and Guti pushes himself up, off-balance, and kisses him. It is, Raúl thinks, mostly by accident that their lips even meet, and it’s awkward, lips and teeth and no tongue, but it’s warm and Guti’s lips are soft, a little wet. Raúl gasps, just a little choked-off noise in the back of his throat, and tastes the alcohol on Guti’s breath. He freezes abruptly and curls his hands over the outside of both Guti’s arms, pulling him back a little, swaying and breathless.
“Guti,” he whispers.
Guti blinks and licks his lips. “Sorry,” he says blurrily. “Raúl, don’t, I. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean.” He stops.
“It’s okay,” says Raúl. “Guti, it’s okay.”
“No, I.” Guti shakes his head. “It’s not. I don’t want, or, well, I do, I, I think, but. I can’t. I can’t, you know, I want to play football.”
Raúl closes his eyes. “Look,” he says, shaking his head, and opens them again. “Let’s talk about this tomorrow, okay, when you’re sober.”
“We don’t have to,” says Guti. “You don’t have to. I didn’t mean. You don’t have to.”
“I want to,” says Raúl. He thinks about Guti’s mouth, wet and pliant against his, and the smile that creases his eyes. “Okay? Let’s just go home.”
“Okay,” says Guti quietly.
He wakes with his forehead pressed between Guti’s shoulderblades and a hand splayed over his hip. There’s a slight headache behind his temples, but not too bad, and mostly it’s just sleep-warm and comfortable, Guti’s weight beneath his palm. He shifts slightly and Guti stirs, rolling onto his back. Raúl watches him blink his eyes open and bring up a hand to shield against the light, wincing, with this strange, steely determination and his heart throbbing over-zealous and double-time in his chest. He leans forward over Guti before the fluttering in his hands and the pit of his stomach can really take hold, holding his breath, and kisses him, quick and dry.
Guti makes a little surprised noise and pushes Raúl away with a hand curled over his jaw.
“We said we’d talk about this tomorrow,” says Raúl. “It’s tomorrow.”
“We said.” Guti stops, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “That’s not actually talking,” he points out.
“It’s not because I’m a boy,” says Raúl.
“I,” says Guti. “Well, I. Kind of? I mean, just. I can’t. We can’t.”
Raúl waves a hand. “Yes, but. You like kissing boys.”
“I told you that,” says Guti shortly, looking away. There’s a dusting of pink creeping along his cheekbones.
“What about.” Raúl pauses, wiping his hands dry on the sheets. “What about me? I mean.” He shrugs. “Do you want to kiss me?”
“It doesn’t matter,” says Guti, still not meeting his eyes.
“It kind of does,” says Raúl.
“Look.” Guti stops, biting down on his lip. “You’re not just some boy,” he says finally, a little desperately. “You’re. You’re my friend, and we both want to play football, and.”
“Exactly,” says Raúl.
“I,” says Guti. Raúl ducks in and kisses him. “Oh, God.”
“I won’t tell anyone,” says Raúl. It’s true, so much that it’d be unnecessary if it weren’t Guti he's talking to. He’s starting to realise this. That Guti’s older and cooler, but maybe not as practical. “Ever. I promise.”
“I don’t,” says Guti, the colour in his cheeks deepening. “What do you want? I mean.”
Raúl considers this. Mostly what he wants is for Guti to kiss him, and put his arm around him like he did the last time he slept over, and lose that aching, determined look he gets whenever this whole kissing boys thing comes up. He’s not sure how to say that, though, so he settles on, “I don’t know. Just.” He waves a hand. “This.”
Guti coughs out a laugh. “It’s not going to work,” he says.
“It will,” says Raúl. “I’ll make it work. I won’t, Guti, you don’t think I’d screw things up for you. I won’t. I won’t.” He clenches his fists.
Guti raises his eyebrows and looks mildly surprised behind the whole lot of apprehension. “You’re ridiculous,” he says. “You’re not even sixteen.”
“You’re not even seventeen,” says Raúl. “So shut up and answer my question. Do you want to kiss me or not?”
“I.” Guti swallows. “Okay, fine, yes.”
“Good,” says Raúl. “Great.” He doesn’t move; suddenly, inexplicably shy.
Guti rolls his eyes and he still looks doubtful, wary, but when he presses his mouth to Raúl’s, sliding an arm around his waist, he’s smiling a little, too.