Sergio is five when a strange mark appears on the inside of his right thigh, hardly an inch below the juncture of his legs.
His mother is in the kitchen preparing dinner when he goes to ask her what it all means.
There’s a wide smile on her face as she pulls him into her arms and gently strokes his hair, tells him that it means there will be a beautiful girl somewhere in the world that is destined just for him.
Sergio wonders how with all the people in the world he's ever supposed to find her. He doesn't even know all of the children in his school.
When he asks her just that, she laughs and tells him not to worry, that his soulmate will have a mark just like him. Appeased for the moment he nods and turns to the plate of fresh cookies on the table.
It's only years later that he realizes that his mark couldn’t be in a worse place. He can't possibly go around and look between every girl's legs. (He tries anyway, which leaves him with quite a reputation on the streets of his hometown.)
He's 17 when he finds out that his soulmate is a boy.
Tired of meaningless, unfulfilling sex with random girls and his friend Jesus being sickeningly happy with his soulmate, he seeks out a fortune teller in the narrow back streets of Sevilla.
It’s weird at first, sitting on the worn out sofa. He was half expecting crystal balls and weird curtains, maybe a wrinkly old lady with a ridiculous gown, but it’s just a normal one-bedroom apartment and the middle aged woman sitting across from him hardly has any wrinkles at all.
She has however a warm smile and a deep voice, one that immediately puts him at ease. She takes his hand carefully, traces the lines of his palms and he feels calmness seep through him.
"You will not find your soulmate for a long time," she says quietly. "It will be unexpected when you finally find him."
She keeps on talking but Sergio stops listening. Never, not even in his wildest fantasies had he consider his soulmate to be another boy.
Later, when he lies awake in bed he thinks about a hard body pressing him into the mattress, about another dick rubbing against his own and rough fingers playing with his ass. The instantaneous and almost painful hard-on straining against the soft cotton of his sweats is answer enough.
For a while his football career pushes the search for his soulmate to the back of his mind. But then suddenly he's 30, all his teammates have already started families and that strange ache of loneliness is suddenly back in his chest, harder than ever.
On his next day off, he goes home to Sevilla, back to visit the fortune teller. She’s older now, her apartment even more lived-in than before and he can’t shake the feeling that she hasn’t seen a customer in years, but she still smiles at him warmly, almost like she recognizes him.
He sits down on the same worn sofa, in the exact same spot with a chipped cup full of steaming hot tea in his hand, feeling like a seventeen year old teenager again.
“How is your soulmate doing?” she asks, sipping from her own cup.
Sergio sighs. “I haven’t found him yet.”
“That can’t be,” she gasps and takes his hand tracing the lines of his palm, a deep frown creasing her brows. “He should be in your life already. Should have been for years,” she pauses and studies him intently. “Have you ever felt anything before?”
She shakes her head disapprovingly. “Has your mother not taught you anything? When the universe decides it’s the right time for you to find your mate, your mark will make itself known when you’re near each other. Some people feel it as a burning sensation, for others it might be an itch or a tenderness.”
Sergio has the distinct feeling that the universe is full of shit and that she’s just trying to scam him, but he pays her graciously anyway. It’s not like he can’t afford it anyway and the warm smile she gives him as a farewell is almost worth it on it’s own.
He goes back to Madrid, back to his life and football and he tries not to give her words any credibility, but more often than not he catches himself paying extra attention to his mark when he’s out in public. Nothing ever changes however, so he gradually tries to make peace with the fact that he might never find his soulmate.
By the time the next international break arrives, he has almost forgotten all about it until his thigh starts itching the moment he pulls into Las Rozas. It’s irritating and annoying and it won’t stop until the team separates at the airport after their last away game.
He goes back to Las Rozas a couple of times afterwards, just to check if it’s one of the staffers but the mark stays silent every time and he’s starting to feel like he’s going crazy, so he stops and throws himself into the preparations for the upcoming clasico.
The game is like every other clasico. Intense, hard-fought and a little violent. They are down a goal from the very beginning and Sergio runs himself ragged, but somehow they can't seem to get a grasp on the game. His knee hurts, his soulmark throbs angrily between his legs and every time he jogs forward for a corner the discomfort intensifies. By the end of the game he's beyond irritated. Piqué, the stupid idiot, keeps smirking at him and he has to physically restrain himself from punching him in the face.
He still manages to score the equalizer in stoppage time.
It's only four days later, after he jolts awake from a particularly vivid dream that he finally makes the connection. He instantly grapples for his phone.
"Why are you calling me in the middle of the night?" Lucas yawns tiredly, but Sergio ignores him and barges on.
"I think my soulmate is a culé," he blurts out.
"What?" Lucas suddenly sounds decidedly more awake and so Sergio proceeds to tell him the entire absurd story about the fortune teller and the utterly annoying location of his soulmark.
"That sucks," Lucas says sympathetically and Sergio nods, even though the other can't see.
"I'm never going to find my soulmate," he whines. “How am i even supposed to find a mark like that?”
"How about you don’t look for your soul mark directly, but for the people who have different ones than you?” Lucas muses and Sergio really wishes he could hug his friend right now.
"You're a genius," he exclaims and hangs up.
Sergio spends most of the next international break inconspicuously creeping on his teammates. It's fairly easy to cross Jordi off his list whose soulmark is more than visible on the inside of his wrist, but the others take a little more effort.
He almost gets caught staring at Andres in the shower, but finally he spots a tiny discoloration in the crook of his left knee. He looks away quickly, breathing a sigh of relief, not quite sure if it's more because he didn't get caught or because he's glad Andres isn't his soulmate. It's not that he dislikes the other man, they get along just fine, but he prefers his men with a little more hair and also maybe somewhat taller and bigger than him, not that he's going to admit that to anyone but himself.
He goes back to his room and checks the list on his phone, hopes desperately that he missed someone.
There's only one name left on the list. Gerard Piqué.
But it can't be true, he’s sure of it, nothing good would ever come of it. There must be some other explanation, some other person. The universe wouldn’t be this cruel.
He deletes the list without another thought.
"So, did you find out who your soulmate is?" Lucas asks weeks later while they’re kicking a ball around in Sergio’s backyard.
"No," Sergio shakes his head unconvincingly.
Lucas chuckles. "You've always been a shit liar."
Sergio is quiet for a long time, until he can’t take Lucas’ knowing stare any more. "Everyone but Gerard has a visible mark," he admits quietly.
"Piqué?" Only by sheer force of will does Lucas manage not to laugh. “Are you gonna tell him?"
"Are you insane?" Sergio's eyes widen with horror. "He hates me."
"He doesn't hate you. Don't be ridiculous."
"He does," Sergio insists. "With everything he always tweets about Real..."
"Don’t be stupid,” Lucas rolls his eyes. “You know he only tweets that stuff because it’s expect of him. It’s got nothing to do with you."
“Whatever, not like it would work out anyway," Sergio says petulantly and slams the ball into the net.
"Why not. You're into guys right? Is he not your type?"
Sergio thinks about it for a moment, thinks about Gerard's piercing blue eyes and his strong arms, thinks about what it would feel like to lie beneath him. He licks his lips hungrily at the thought. “Fuck no. He’s hot. I’d totally do him,” he smirks.
Lucas laughs. “That’s more than i needed to know. Why not just tell him then?”
“Because it’s a bad idea,” Sergio sighs. “We'd just drive each other crazy.”
Lucas shrugs. "I think you should do it, you never know what might happen. You'd be good together and there must be a reason why you’re soulmates. The universe know what it’s doing."
Sergio isn’t so sure that’s entirely true. He has absolutely no idea what to do.
In the end he decides to do nothing. He goes on with his life and pretends that he never found out that Piqué is his soulmate.
It turns out however, that the whole denial thing doesn’t work out so well. More often than not he finds himself scanning the newspaper for Gerard’s name, searching his social media feed for pictures of him. He tells himself, it’s because he has to keep a close eyes on the competition, but even he barely believes the lie.
They win the league and a week later the Champions League and some time in the middle of the night while they're still celebrating he receives a text from Piqué.
Congratulations on the double. We're still the better team.
Sergio barely suppresses a smile, tries not to wonder what the message would have been if they were closer.
He goes on summer vacation, doesn’t think about Piqué at all and before he knows he’s back in training and the season starts all over again.
There are so many clasicos on their schedule, he gets a headache just from thinking about it, but somehow in the end everything just magically falls into place. He lifts the Supercup and the Supercopa, effectively ignores Gerard’s text congratulating him on his red card record and then suddenly it’s already time for another international break.
Sergio loves his teammates, he really does, even the ones who play for the wrong team, but frankly sometimes they’re beyond exhausting, all loud chatter and even louder music and social media apps he can’t even pronounce properly and no he’s not getting old.
Being captain definitely has its privileges he thinks as he steals away from dinner early, leaving the noise behind to hide away in an abandon staffroom, finally able to hear himself think again as he stretches out on the worn sofa in the corner.
Of course he hears muffled footsteps coming closer the moment his mind finishes the thought.
He looks up to find Piqué lingering in the doorway.
“Not you again,” he groans, almost tired of the other man’s face after the countless clasicos this summer. Almost.
“What did i ever do to you?” Gerard looks mildly irritated.
“Nothing, just..,” Sergio lets his head drop onto the armrest. “Nothing.” His eyes are closed and he doesn’t notice the scraping noise of the door closing until it’s already too late.
“No, don’t,” he jumps off the couch and rushes to the door but before he manages to get there it shuts with a soft clicking noise.
Gerard looks confused, so Sergio tries to explain that the lock is broken without using too many swear words, which doesn’t work out all that well.
And it’s all so fucking cliche, being locked in a room with his soulmate and he’d be the first to laugh about it if he wasn’t so damn annoyed.
Thank god this is real life, he thinks, as he fumbles for his phone and sends a quick text to the team chat, figures one of them will probably check their messages sooner or later.
“Guess we’ll have to wait for someone to get us out,” he says and moves back towards the sofa, realizing only halfway that Gerard is now occupying the entire thing. He scowls at the taller man and hops onto the table in the corner, scoots backwards until his back hits the wall and his legs are stretched out in front of him.
Half an hour later there’s still no sign of their teammates and Sergio is starting to get bored. There’s only so much social media a person can look at.
“Where’s your soulmark?” He doesn’t even mean to ask the question, it just kind of slips out, mostly against his will.
Gerard crosses his arms behind his head and stretches his legs out. Sergio hates how calm he looks.
“I’ve got the same one as you,” he says casually and Sergio’s stomach drops out.
“You heard me,” Gerard swings his legs off the sofa and sits up.
“But…,” Sergio’s mind is reeling, out of all the possibilities this was never one he considered. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Gerard nods. “Tiny, round mark on the inside of my right thigh,” he points to the exact same spot on his thigh where Sergio’s has been for the last twenty five years and that effectively erases any doubt Sergio had left about Gerard being his soulmate.
“How the hell do you even know?”
Gerard chuckles lightly. “It was kinda hard to miss with you prancing around the dressing room naked all the time.”
Sergio rolls his eyes and decides it’s probably best not to mention that Gerard must have still looked pretty thoroughly.
“Couple of years.”
Sergio’s mind just blanks at that. He wants to say something, but no words come out and he’s still gaping open-mouthed at Gerard when the door swings open.
“Are you two decent?” Isco laughs, but Sergio ignores him and pushes past his unsuspecting teammate, desperate to get away from Gerard.
This wasn’t at all how it was supposed to go.
He spends one long month agonizing over Gerard’s decision not to tell him about his mark, trying to figure out his reasoning, but all he manages is to make himself dizzy from thinking too much.
Finally, after what feels like years, the next international break arrives and he wastes no time confronting Gerard, cornering him in the dressing room shower after their first training session.
“Why’d you never say anything?” he asks, leaning against the doorframe and watching Gerard wash the soap out of his hair.
Gerard groans. “Do we really have to do this now?” he reaches for a towel and ties it around his waist.
“Yes. No. I don’t know,” Sergio rubs his neck and tries not to let himself get distracted by the drops of water running down Gerard’s chest. “It’s just...why did you never tell me? Do you hate me this much?”
Gerard rolls his eyes exasperatedly. “I don’t hate you, but what was i supposed to do?” “It’s not like we could ever be together. Have you forgotten we play for rival clubs? We’d have the press on our asses all the time. They’d turn our lives upside down.”
“But we’re soulmates,” Sergio says petulantly.
“You know it’s not that easy.”
“Yeah,” Sergio fiddles with a loose thread at the hem of his shirt. He doesn’t think he’s ever talked with Gerard this openly and it’s throwing him strangely off balance. His soulmark throbs like crazy.
“Would you have told me if we weren’t famous?” he asks and he doesn’t even know where the question came from but there’s a part of him that suddenly desperately needs to know the truth.
“Does it even matter?”
“Yes it does.”
“Can i at least get dressed then?”
“Fine, whatever.” Sergio trails after Gerard to his locker and settles on the bench while Gerard rummages around for his clothes. “So, are you ever gonna answer my question?”
Gerard laughs. “Are you always this annoying?”
Sergio grins. “Most of the time.”
“God, i’m doomed.”
Sergio leans back against the lockers and watches Gerard pull on his shirt. “So you’re finally admitting that we’re meant to be together?”
“You’re not gonna let it go, are you?”
Sergio shrugs. “I’ve been looking for my soulmate all my life,” he admits. “I’m not gonna give up now.”
“Of course you would have,” Gerard chuckles softly as he leans down to tie his shoes.
“What’s that supposed to mean.”
Gerard smirks. “Nothing.”
“What are we gonna do now?”
“Sergio, i swear to God.”
“Stop, please,” Gerard holds up a hand to silence him. “How about this. You’ve managed so far without a soulmate, you can manage a couple more years and when we’re both retired and the press isn’t all over our asses anymore, we can talk about this whole soulmate business again.”
Sergio gnaws on his bottom lip and mulls the thought over in his head. It’s not what he would have decided, but it sounds surprisingly reasonable.
It’s 3 am after another one of the endless rows of clasicos and Sergio can’t sleep, so he picks up the phone and hits speed dial.
"We could get married on my ranch," he blurts out the moment he hears Gerard's tired groan on the other end of the line.
"Huh?" He sounds still mostly asleep, but Sergio's never heard such an annoyed grunt. He decides to ignore it.
"Our marriage. I was thinking we could get married in early spring when it's still not too hot to do the ceremony outside. The place has a beautiful yard and enough space for all the people we'd want to invite."
"What the hell are you talking about," Gerard grumbles. “Are you drunk?”
Sergio hears sheets rustling on the other end of the line, so he waits politely until the noise subsides. He figures the other man is sitting upright now, mirroring his own posture. "You said after our retirement...."
"Jesus, Sergio," Gerard’s voice sounds somewhere between exasperated and extremely annoyed. "I said we could talk about the whole soulmate thing. What gave you the idea we would get married?"
"Because we are soulmates," Sergio declares like it's all the explanation needed.
"You're impossible. I'm hanging up now."
"One more thing..," Sergio pauses for dramatic effect, a tiny tingle of satisfied glee in the pit of his stomach at the impatient intake of breath on the other end of the line. And he does this purely for his own enjoyment now, because there isn’t much that’s more entertaining than riling Gerard up. "How many children would you want to have? You do want children right?"
Sergio chuckles quietly. They don't speak for a while and it feels almost nice to just be listening to each other breathe, soothing even.
"You know, we could just retire right now. We've both won everything there is to win," Sergio says quietly and the statement just hangs suspended in the air for a long time.
It’s Gerard who eventually breaks the silence. "Meet me tomorrow for lunch," he says insistently.
"We need to talk."
Sergio hangs up and snuggles under the blanket. When he finally falls asleep it’s with a hopeful smile on his face.
Sergio spends the first thirty minutes of his morning arguing with Gerard on the phone and the next three hours driving to the middle of nowhere halfway between Madrid and Barcelona and maybe it wasn’t the best idea to meet in some godforsaken small town because as soon as they both pull up in front of the only cafe in town half the inhabitants seem to be glued to their windows.
“Did you find here alright?” Sergio asks politely on the way inside, mostly because his mother raised him right.
Gerard snorts. “Would have been much easier if you had come to Barcelona. You don’t have a game tomorrow.”
Sergio raises his hands in defeat. There’s no way he’s getting into another round of the same dumb argument again. “Let’s just eat. I’m starving.”
They settle into a corner booth and Sergio stares at Gerard over the edge of his menu. “So why did you make me drive all the way out here?”
“Because i’m not letting you throw away your career.”
“Does that mean you’re finally ready to give us a chance?” Sergio grins hopefully.
“No,” Gerard groans. “We’ve been over this.”
“But we’re…,” Gerard silences him before he can finish.
“If you say soulmate one more time....”
“Fine,” Sergio pouts. “Why am i even here then?”
“You were threatening to retire,” Gerard says helplessly. “What was i supposed to do?”
“You know i wasn’t really gonna retire,” Sergio bites his lips and stares at his hands. “I was just testing you.”
“You were what? You made me drive all the way out here for this?”
Sergio shrugs. “I wanted to see if you cared.”
Gerard rubs his beard tiredly. “Of course i care. You’re my goddamn soulmate. It’s not like i can help it.”
“That’s the first time you’ve actually admitted it,” Sergio smiles gleefully. “Does this mean you’re finally giving me a chance?”
“Not fair,” Sergio blinks up at Gerard, but the other man only rolls his eyes.
“Don’t even try that on me. Your puppy eyes won’t work.”
Sergio’s about to reply when the waitress shows up to take their order. He waits not so patiently until she’s gone before he pesters Gerard again.
Two hours later, Sergio is leaning against the side of Gerard’s car and watching the other man fumble for his car keys.
“Aren’t you gonna kiss me goodbye?” he smirks.
“I don’t kiss on the first date.”
Sergio snorts with laughter. “Not even if it’s your soulmate?”
“God, you’re the most infuriating person i know,” Gerard plants a wet kiss on Sergio’s cheeks before he climbs into his car and drives off.
They grow closer after that. They still disagree about most things, they still bicker through the media and Sergio still wants to throw his phone at the nearest wall every time Gerard posts something on twitter, but now he also happily waits for his phone to light up with Gerard’s name at night.
The season passes, the World Cup moves closer and somehow the strings of text messages slowly turn into nightly phone calls.
It’s still not all he wished for, he still falls asleep alone at night but overall he’s happier then he’s been in a while and there’s still the World Cup, six whole weeks to conquer the trophy and to convince Gerard to go on a second date with him.
It hits him half way through the first half of the World Cup final, sitting on his sofa, eating ice cream straight out of the container and he’s almost not feeling sorry for himself, when he realizes he just played his last game with Gerard and didn’t even notice.
He jumps off the couch, ice cream and football forgotten as he grabs his keys and gets into his car.
Six hours later he’s in Barcelona.
He doesn’t give Gerard any chance to speak. The moment he opens the door Sergio’s hands are on Gerard’s face, fingers moving into his hair as he slots their lips together and kisses him with all the pent up feelings and heartache of the last months, his heart skipping a beat when Gerard kisses him back just as hungrily.
They’re both panting hard when they eventually pull apart.
“I love you,” Sergio says desperately. “i’ll retire if that’s what you want, but i need us to be together. I can’t take this any longer”
“You’re not going to retire,” Gerard replies and takes him by the hand, leads him up the stairs to his bedroom where he strips them off their clothes and spreads Sergio out on the bed and somewhere between hungry kisses and broken moans he says “I love you” too.