|Que Sera Sera
Author: Guede Mazaka
“Just like after the World Cup,” Cristiano observes.
Ruud laughs. It echoes weirdly in the tunnel, cut up by the scuffing of cleats on concrete and the muffled shouts of the spectators outside. “Then you’re used to it,” he says, Spanish good but still accented.
“Except that’s not your mother they’re talking about.” Deco props his foot up against the wall and reties his laces, as if that does anything to make him look calm.
He’s been here for three months already, but you’d never be able to tell by the way Raúl, Ramos, all those die-hard Madridistas eye him askance. And that isn’t Cristiano’s mother the crowd outside is screaming about, never mind that he’s already their leading goal-scorer by five, that niggling injuries and too many yellow cards for even the coach to take has made this Deco’s first start in two weeks. No, they’re all baying for Deco’s blood, and just because the moment Rijkaard the Serene was gone he ticked off Laporta badly enough to get dumped like a wrecked car. Just because he’s from Barcelona.
Yeah, Barça and Real Madrid are rivals the way Ferguson can be said to have a hot temper. Yeah, Deco being around means Guti has competition for the playmaker role, and since the intra-teammate relationships at Madrid make a spider-web look simple, half the team is wishing Deco breaks a fucking leg sometime soon. Yeah, all that and a basket of chips. It’s nothing most of them haven’t seen before, so why everybody is still making a big deal out of it is beyond Cristiano.
“You don’t look anything like Rooney, either,” Cristiano says lightly. The muscles in his legs are tense, he’s itching to move, but the coaching staff are taking forever to get out. He does a couple jumps to burn off some energy and at the head of the line, Raúl turns around to give him a glare. Cristiano rolls his eyes, pretends not to notice the sympathetic look from Torres, that shit who thinks he can get into Cristiano’s shorts with a couple cute comments during practice. “Well, who cares? I don’t. I like playing with this kind of atmosphere.”
Deco takes his foot off the wall and stands one-legged on it, rocking carefully around to check the fit. Then he puts his other foot back down and his hands on his hips, the back of his head a clear scolding to Cristiano. “Why would I be Rooney? I’m the one they hate.”
“So you’re Cristiano, then?” Ruud snorts, one brow up. He and Deco exchange wry-mouthed looks. “No, sorry, but I can’t see it. Anyway, I’ll just be happy if those idiots don’t start flinging their mobiles at the goal again.”
“Concern’s appreciated,” Iker calls to them.
He and Ruud share a grin, and in the meantime Deco and Raúl engage in one of their staring contests, el capitano trying to impress his lordliness on Deco again like that’ll ever work. And everybody else is watching, and Cristiano just kind of wants to go out already if that’s all they’re going to do. This is boring.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll be booing you come half-time, so stop worrying about it,” Deco says, dry and slow.
It takes a moment for Cristiano to realize he’s the one being spoken to. “I’m not.”
Deco used to be pretty fun, back when Cristiano only saw him at national team practice. Back when he like, shaved once in a while and didn’t always look like he was working on a lemon in his throat. Maybe back when he had somebody to fuck him properly, if half the rumors about Barça are true. “Really.”
“Yeah, really. I don’t care if they do, and don’t care if they don’t.” Cristiano bounces on the balls of his feet and wishes he had his watch on him. What the hell is keeping them so long? “It’s not all about me.”
“Is that what your little pre-game chat was about?” Deco asks, drawling and sarcastic. “Still trying to make up for that last season in Eng—”
Mourinho finally comes down the hall, coat billowing behind him. They’re in fucking Spain, so that’s all personal style. It does make him look a little taller, maybe, though that effect goes to hell when he stops right in front of Cristiano and Deco to glower at…Deco. Hah. “If it’s not about the game, you don’t need to be talking about it now.”
Ruud, with his even higher vantage point, just sort of gazes past the whole thing to make eyes at Casillas again; somebody’s missing Beckham bad, and Cristiano still hasn’t figured out which one it is. The Spaniards all are still facing correctly forward, their low chatter having been silenced long before Mourinho showed up, and the couple South Americans are pretending hard that they’re the same thing. Well, Cristiano’s not going to lie: this here is way more interesting than all the pre-Clàsico posturing going on outside.
“Fine.” Curt, snappish. Deco used to like Mourinho too, even when Mourinho was being a real bitch about Chelsea. They did take the Champions League at Porto together, but as Cristiano knows oh-so-well—PFA awards galore, and when he left everybody tripped over themselves to say how that improved the English game—medals don’t even go past skin, let alone as deep as blood.
After another moment, Mourinho moves on, going up the stairs and disappearing in a swish of heavy gray cloth. Cristiano’s amused to see a tiny sag of relief through the squad, amused that they all take Mourinho so seriously. C’mon—Chelsea ’06-07, anybody? Like it’s not way obvious now that The Special One’s not so much substance as…
Well, okay, Cristiano thinks as the line starts to move. He’s pretty sure they didn’t cheer this rabidly for Capello. Mourinho did deliver on silverware last season, and this season it already looks like he’ll be doing the same and then some, and never mind that Raúl, that big pillow, wants to retire after every other training session, that only Ruud and Cristiano will speak to Deco outside of practice, that Calderón’s started making dumb comments to late-night radio DJs again. He is making it work.
“Long as nobody kills him, and how likely is that?” Cristiano mutters.
He’s just emerging into the sunlight, dazzling despite the chill in the air, and the roar of the crowd immediately swoops down to pound on him like two-ton boulders smashing down a mountain-side. So he shouldn’t have been heard.
Except Deco snorts, shakes his head. “You can’t get rid of him like that,” he says. The corner of his mouth that Cristiano can see is all crooked, and Cristiano would bet his weekly paycheck that the other side’s not much straighter. “Just try playing, why don’t you? Don’t do what you can’t. Mourinho’s past you.”
And then he trots off before Cristiano can get a reply in. Jerk. Telling Cristiano to try to play—as if Cristiano hasn’t been doing that since the day he got here, as if everybody hasn’t been saying for months that he’s worth every exorbitant penny paid. As if they aren’t wondering if Deco’s mere cross-country switch has taken the skill out of his feet. He’s the one who did it all for the money, Cristiano wants to say.
But he won’t. Because he’s like that. Because he doesn’t need to—he’ll just go out and show them all what playing is.
* * *
At half-time they’re tied one-one and nobody’s happy about that. They scored first, should’ve held that and then added about three more—Cristiano will generously concede that one of those was more Raúl’s chance than his—but instead Deco lost the fucking ball in the midfield. Again. Pretty soon he’ll have his own weekly reel of those.
Mourinho is downright furious. He’s ditched the coat and stalks around the room in just shirt and tie, dishing out low, flat words like poison pills. Almost nobody can look him in the eye, all preferring to instead stare at their feet with maybe the occasional uncomfortable flinch. Cristiano’s looking at him, but then, Cristiano’s seen Ferguson go off on Rooney before.
So has Ruud, but for some reason even he’s not keeping his chin up. He grimaces when Mourinho tells him he did well to stay clear of Puyol’s tackles, and if possible, looks even more depressed with himself. It’s weird.
“Cristiano,” Mourinho finally says.
Cristiano arches his brows, waiting for it like he always does.
“You did well. But pay attention to the linesman—he doesn’t think your tricks are so pretty he won’t flag you.” Mourinho-mouth clamps shut. Mourinho glower redirects itself elsewhere.
And Cristiano, apparently, is still waiting. Ruud scores, Raúl scores, and they get Mourinho all but smacking them one on the mouth. Cristiano scores and he gets a ‘you did well.’ He sends them into the CL semis and he gets a ‘you did well.’ He could probably win them the fucking treble and all he’d get is a ‘you did well.’
Alternatively, he could start shooting at the opposite goal and he still probably wouldn’t get the kind of skin-peeling, lead-boiling look Mourinho’s producing now.
Deco’s the other one who hasn’t been looking at the floor. Instead he’s been staring at the wall behind Mourinho, but when his name’s spoken, his eyes jerk sideways like they’re on strings. He looks pissed off about that, actually, but when it comes to the coach glaring at him, he just looks as bored as Cristiano feels.
Mourinho’s eyes flicker, then abruptly turn opaque, cold black and unreadable. He spins on his heel and marches towards the door. “Guti, you’re going in for him. Warm up.”
A kind of low sigh goes through the whole team. Even Cristiano’s a little startled by the starkness of it. Yes, Mourinho’s a right bastard, but he does think of team unity and it’s not like him to single somebody out like that, without further explanation. At least from what Cristiano knows of him.
They all slowly get moving, sidelong looks flying about the circle quickly forming around Deco; nobody wants to get near failure, nobody wants to chance having it leap to them. Deco watches them, legs straight out in front of him, shoulders slouched instead of hunched. A slight, grim smile plays around his mouth, as if he knows something they don’t. As if he can read something else besides a big, fat ‘you failed’ into Mourinho’s substitution. As if the columnists aren’t already writing about how Deco can’t bring himself to play properly against his old team.
Cristiano feels for him. A little. Not so much to forget their little talk in the tunnel, and that implying that Cristiano’s still some needy kid, and how Deco always eats up Mourinho’s attention even though he doesn’t do shit.
“I’m going to score,” he tells Deco as he goes by. “I was anyway, but thanks for making it that much more important.”
Then he swerves, cutting in front of a startled Ramos to get into the hall so Deco doesn’t have a chance to respond. Mourinho’s not gone out quite yet; he’s talking privately with Guti while the other man stretches his legs against the wall, but he pauses long enough to give Cristiano a clap on the shoulder. That’s new, too, and Cristiano turns for the rest, only to get an eyeful of Mourinho staring back into the dressing-room, like there’s anything meaningful there. Stupid bastard.
Just for that, Cristiano’s going to score twice.
* * *
Barcelona one, Real Madrid four. Messidona who? Ronaldinho who? It’s totally Cristiano’s name they’re chanting at the end. He’s the one they want, he’s the one who gets them out of their seats, he’s the one who gets the job done.
So the fact that Cristiano’s still loitering around in the bowels of the Bernabéu, wondering whether he’s going to get anything besides another clap on the shoulder, mightily annoys him. If he went out he’d have the whole damn city of Madrid at his feet—even those Atlético freaks who normally drool after that rooster-headed twat striker of theirs would have to admit that he was the one tonight. He even made it look pretty.
“…aren’t trying. I know what it looks like when you are.”
“…know everything about me? Even back then…”
“…spoiled you. You have to work now. I’m not a charity. I don’t love people who rely on it to get by.”
“You’re a shit who wouldn’t know good football if it walked up and kicked you in the face. That’s why Chelsea dropped you—not the Champions League loss. Because you’ve got no class.”
Seeing as he’s got nothing else to do, Cristiano’s ears have been pricked up for the past few minutes, but now they’re practically pinned to the ceiling, he’s listening so hard. Deco sounds mad. Madder than Cristiano’s ever heard him, madder than he really has a right to be, even with what Mourinho did to him today. He’s certainly gone a lot farther than Ruud did with Ferguson, with what they say Beckham did with Fergie and then with Calderón just before he left for the U. S. And Mourinho…Mourinho…
“No, I’m not an artist,” Mourinho finally says, slow and measured and brimming. “You walk into an art gallery and you will not see my work there. I don’t have that gift, so instead I’m a manager. I do the mundane things, the unpretty things, the things you have to do in order to get results. Nobody likes me for it, I know that, but at the end of the day I go to bed satisfied that I did all that I needed to. And when was the last time you saw a happy artist?”
It’s so quiet Cristiano can hear their breathing now, can hear the sharp way Deco drags out his exhale.
“Did you do all you could with Shevchenko? Did you go to bed satisfied with him?” The words hang like poised swords in the air, and with all that Cristiano’s heard said in times of rage, of sorrow, there’s still something different about this time that makes him hold his breath. It’s not just that Deco shouldn’t be talking to Mourinho—to any coach, really—like that, but that he shouldn’t know how to talk like that. How to…know Mourinho the way the other man’s silence says he does. “Am I him this season? What’d you learn, not to bother even trying? Calderón needs you more than Abramovich did, so you can do that this time.”
There’s an odd click, like maybe teeth slapping together. Like nails coming down on a desk. Like something shifting. “Shevchenko thought I was going to build the team around him. Chelsea was there before him, before me, and I wasn’t going to change that. Same with Madrid.”
“You should’ve just let Inter have me, in that case,” Deco snaps. “Would’ve saved you the trouble.”
“I thought you were still worth the trouble.”
“Then why didn’t you fight harder to bring me to Chel—”
“Shut up, Deco. You’re not saying anything worth hearing now.”
A couple seconds later, Deco comes storming out without looking to either side and thus he completely misses Cristiano standing at the other end of the hall. Cristiano, to be completely honest, is actually rethinking his idea because he’s not quite sure what’s gone on just now, what kind of José Mourinho’s going to greet him when he walks in. But then he gives himself a shake and squares off his shoulders. He knows Mourinho fought for him, and he knows he deserved every inch of it. He’s got nothing to fear.
* * *
But weeks later, many late-night talks later, and once again Cristiano wakes up to the tabloids spouting off about unrest in the Madrid dressing-room, and once again Mourinho makes a big announcement that everything is fine, they’re all respectful professionals and besides, his door is open to anybody and so far nobody’s taken up the offer to report a complaint. Besides, they’ve been top of the league for a straight month now, and Barça’s been reduced to whining that they miss Rijkaard. Besides, they’re all concentrating on the CL semi-finals and no, Mourinho doesn’t believe he’s got a jinx—
Cristiano stops listening there. Mourinho’s door may be open, but he isn’t. His star player can attest to that, and also to Mourinho’s amazing ability to offend left and right and not actually give away what his real feelings are.
“Once I figured that out, I stopped being mad about what he said about me that last season he had with Chelsea,” he says, head pillowed on his arms and the sky blue as that club’s uniform above the Madrid training ground. “Doesn’t mean a thing about what he really thinks about me, and what do I care what the press thinks he thinks?”
Torres h’mmms, arching so he can get at some scratchy grass blades. And probably so his shirt rides up on purpose to show a lot of lean olive stomach. God, they’re such whores here—and Cristiano always thought Arsenal was bad. “So it’s okay that he’s a hypocrite and a liar, but not that he’s a snob?”
“When’s the last time you told the truth?” To be honest, Cristiano actually does get along pretty well with the younger Spaniards. Whenever Raúl’s not around, turning them all into prim little puppies. They still have those huge chips on their shoulders from those crappy galáctico years, but their sense of humor is more like Gaby’s than Rooney’s.
“When I told Gago nobody saw him yesterday with—” Torres starts, laughing, but he’s pounced by two Argentines before he can finish.
Like nobody could’ve guessed where that was going, anyway. Cristiano rolls his eyes and hikes himself back onto his feet. The muscles in his back have gotten too comfortable while he was down and are twinging now, but a few toe-springs and he’s all loosened up and ready to go. He stretches his arms over his head anyway, just because he can hear that the tussling’s stopped, because he can tell they’re staring at him—even proper old Raúl, hah—and because he’s not going to say he doesn’t like it. Of course he does.
“All right, all right, everybody back up,” Mourinho says. By the time Cristiano’s turned to look, he’s the only one not within a few meters of the man. Even Deco, little more than a bitter shadow lurking about the edges these days, has come over to join the ring around Mourinho, and Mourinho glances at him once before launching his pre-CL match speech.
Bloody picky bastard doesn’t check to see if Cristiano’s there, though Cristiano had to save their asses from Deco’s mistake yet again in the last CL round. That’s what Cristiano can’t get. He understands the brash boasts, the hostile face the media gets and the sometimes disturbingly cuddly one the team gets, but he can’t get why Mourinho ignores him. It’s like, he’s tried blisteringly brilliant goals, plentiful assists to teammates who don’t really deserve it, after-hours talks, extra effort into routine drills, and what the hell else does he have to do?
“Deco,” Mourinho says, and Cristiano blinks. Surely he didn’t hear right. Either that or Mourinho hasn’t gotten to the team-sheet yet, hasn’t just said that Deco is going with them. Even if Guti’s out with a hamstring problem and Ruud’s got a chancy knee that means they need midfielders who can actually score. Even if Deco’s been pretty quiet lately, just showing up and doing his training and then leaving, since he hasn’t had a start in two weeks despite a jammed schedule and a depleted squad. Even if Deco’s staring in shock like the rest of them. “Okay, go home and enjoy the afternoon. Relax. Don’t waste the opportunity, because when I see you tomorrow morning I want total concentration.”
There’re a few absentminded smiles, some head-nods, but mostly everybody’s still stuck on the announced team. Cristiano’s stuck on his realization that he’s never been so utterly frustrated in his life: he is hauling this fucking team to glory, with supposedly the best coach in the world to help, but no, fucking Mourinho would rather try Deco a last time. If they lose the match, it’ll be all their fault.
That should make Cristiano feel better; for once the target if failure happens won’t be him. But instead he’s just completely seething inside. He’s sick of losing semi-finals too, and surprise, surprise, this year they’re up against AC Milan to boot. At least Maldini’s completely gone, has to watch from the stands in his wheelchair with all the other geriatrics, but Kaká’s still there and still being called ‘arguably the best player in the world,’ and God, Cristiano just wants to wipe that fucking heavenwards smile off that Brazilian slut’s face.
He decides then and there that he’s going to, even if he has to go through Deco to do it. Maybe that’ll get Mourinho’s attention.
* * *
Half-time, first leg, home. Madrid’s leading by one, which isn’t shocking since Kaká pulled out last-minute with a muscle strain (Cristiano kicked the wall when he heard, and got a scolding from Mourinho and some weird looks from Ramos for the bother). Deco hasn’t fucked up yet, which is shocking. He’s not exactly being a playmaker either, forcing Cristiano assist Ruud instead of play along him and Ruud’s all snappy about the lack of passes already, but he’s doing enough to keep the midfield from being overrun. Doesn’t look like he’s going to get up and, say, give them an insurance goal, though. His free-kicks so far have been shite.
Mourinho stops Cristiano from walking out after the team talk with a hand on the shoulder that slips surprisingly to curl around Cristiano’s neck, solid and warm and rough. He stares up with a startling fervency, eyes bright black like polished obsidian, that silences the quick remark Cristiano had on his tongue.
“We need at least another goal,” Mourinho says, voice urgent. His hand jerks at Cristiano’s neck, digging its nails in, and he somehow expands so everything’s blocked out and it’s just him and Cristiano, and he, José Mourinho, is going to do it. It’s in his face—it’s squeaky-bum time, like they say in England, and who is Mourinho depending on? Who? “Get it for me. You know you can do it, I know you can, so do it.”
“I’m going to. I am,” Cristiano says, just as fervent, just as assured. And he turns and he goes out there with an extra bounce in his step, because maybe Kaká welshed on this rerun, but Cristiano fucking didn’t, and Cristiano’s about to show it. And because Mourinho actually asked him to.
* * *
Three-one. Not a bad score-line, frankly, and those last two goals were all Cristiano so he gets to go home happy even though the back four have to stick around for a last talk with Mourinho.
Deco ends up being on the way out, bent over with his foot propped up on a trash-can so he can redo the laces, and when he sees him, Cristiano has to wonder why Deco isn’t back there as well. Half the problem the defense had on that goal could’ve been fixed if the midfield had been rock-solid, and while the second half hadn’t been terrible, it hadn’t been anything to write home about, either.
“Is he still back there?” Deco asks. He’s done with his laces, but now he’s fiddling with his trouser-cuff and he’s still not looking up. Maybe he did get yelled at, while Cristiano was showering or something, because apparently he’s back to grumpy.
“Yeah. Has anybody told him yet that he’s not going to find a John Terry in Spain?” Cristiano doesn’t actually think that much of Terry, but he’s not going to be stupid and not notice how often that name crops up in Mourinho’s post-game dissections.
Eye-roll from Deco. He pushes off the trashcan and kind of shoulders his way past Cristiano, in the opposite direction. Which annoys Cristiano enough to send him around and following, and after a second he figures he’s curious too, so he slows up to a stroll. No point in walking in on the conversation when it’s so much more informative to listen to it. Case in point:
Mourinho: You’re still not playing well. What’s wrong?
Deco: What do you mean, what’s wrong? Don’t you usually tell me what’s wrong?
Mourinho: Look, I give you chances, I give you criticism. I can’t make you do anything with them.
Deco: You can sell me, can’t you?
Mourinho:…if you want a transfer, put in a request. Otherwise don’t come in here and waste my time with this.
Deco: Then tell me, am I a Shevchenko? Did you even want me this time? I still do tricks. I don’t play your way.
Mourinho: My way, my way…all this time and you still don’t see—I have no way. The team’s way is my way, that’s how it is. I have no gift for playing, I’m honest about that. So I go for the results—
Deco: I remember that.
Mourinho: --and if the trick ends in you losing the ball to the other team, then it was a lousy trick anyway. That’s why I don’t like them. Somebody pulls it off and puts the goal in the net, and I’ll applaud them, I will. But I’m not going to pat you on the shoulder for making a loss look pretty. You remember that?
Deco: You’re not answering my question.
Mourinho: *sigh* Go home. Go get some sleep. I can’t tell you anything if you’re too tired to listen.
Cristiano’s almost too late to get away before Deco stalks out. Because he’s that annoyed. Because he’s done half the work in getting Madrid to the finals and Mourinho another Champions League medal, and because all of that still apparently doesn’t mean anything. Out there Mourinho might say he shares everything with his team, but not really. He’ll explain to Deco, but all he ever says to Cristiano is not to show off so much, like Ferguson all over again. Asshole. If he’s going to play favorites, he should do that like he does everything else and pick the ones who bring home the results.
“What are you still doing here?”
“Wha—oh, hi, boss.” Oops, Cristiano hadn’t even heard Mourinho come up. “Nothing. I—I just—tonight was good, right?”
Mourinho stands there and cocks his head and sometimes he’s eerily like Ferguson in how he can make you feel like a complete idiot without doing much. “Yes. You did well. You didn’t have any problems with their defense, and I think you showed too much of their failings to have to worry about the home advantage next time.”
“They’ll have Gattuso back, though,” Cristiano blurts out. He’s not really sure why, since he honestly hasn’t given Gattuso a moment’s thought till now. Really. “And Kaká.”
“You’re better than either of them.” The other man steps forward, and from the look on his face he could either be getting ready to slap Cristiano or hug him…but it’s neither. Instead he grabs Cristiano by the forearms and looks intently up at Cristiano. “You are. Remember that.”
Deco who? says a tiny part of Cristiano. “I will,” he says, squeezing Mourinho’s arms back.
Mourinho’s face twitches. He pulls away, dropping one arm to his side and putting his other arm out to push the office door open as he turns to it. “Good. Now go home and sleep.”
Of course, when Cristiano’s walking out and thinking it over, then he remembers Deco. Because of the difference in why Mourinho thinks they need sleep.
* * *
CL semi-final, AC Milan versus Real Madrid, second leg at the San Siro. Milan’s two up, Kaká’s been running circles round the back four again, and Ruud pulled out in the fifteenth minute after Gattuso crunched him into the advert boards. Raúl’s not even on the bench thanks to fucking Racing Santander earlier in the week and Cristiano’s trying, he really is, but he isn’t getting any damn service from the midfield and the stupid ref won’t give Gattuso the second yellow already and send him off, so when Cristiano does get the ball he still can’t make any headway towards the goal.
As he faces them the big double-sag circles around Mourinho’s eyes are the most prominent part of him. His voice is still strong and calm, he still seems like he really believes they can pull this one back and he’s certainly convincing most of the players in the room as he tells them to relax, to remember who they are and what they can do. What club they represent. But Cristiano’s not so sure. Back out there, with Milan ready to show they’ve carried off disgrace better than Real Madrid lately, with the specter of overtime and maybe even penalties looming—
“All right. I cannot tell you any more—just know that I believe in you no matter what. Now you have to go out there and prove to yourselves that you deserve it,” Mourinho says, and at the end his voice does fail him a little. He’s been doing a lot of yelling the whole first half, but that’s not all of it.
Cristiano’s near the end of the line-up, so he loiters while those ahead of go first. He’s not alone; Deco hangs back as well. He got another start here, and has done okay, but okay’s not going to be enough and he knows it, and that’s what he’s going to ask Mourinho about. It’s in his face like a stain, and suddenly Cristiano is past annoyed because why the fuck now, what the hell could’ve happened between them before to be worth bringing up now? What the hell is wrong with Deco?
“Why haven’t you subbed me yet?” in a low hiss. “Are you playing for overtime again?”
Mourinho stops so suddenly his shoe-heels click on the floor, loudly enough for Cristiano not to need an excuse to look back. But all he can see is the back of Mourinho’s head, more silver than gray but still carried high. “That out there isn’t Liverpool. That’s not even the same year. It’s now, and AC Milan, and what do you think? I know what I think, and I know what I’d do, but I’m not a player and I can’t go out there and play for you. You decide what we play for.”
Deco knows Cristiano is watching, and maybe he’s noticed that somebody—Cristiano thinks Torres—else is coming back as well. But he’s staring straight at Mourinho like he’s never seen the man before. “You’ve said that before.”
“Stop telling me what I did before. I know that well enough, I know how it worked out—” oh, bitter, and raw, and for a moment Cristiano almost feels like he shouldn’t be listening “—oh, go. Just go. I don’t have anything more to say to you; you should know it by now. Even if you still don’t want to admit you do.”
Mourinho stays turned around, but Cristiano pivots to catch Deco by the arm as the other man walks out.
“We are not playing for penalties,” he snarls. Idiots might find it exciting, but he’s always, always hated them. They don’t have anything to do with what came before, with what he’s spent so long working on.
And Deco whirls to shoot a look so furious that Cristiano lets him slip away. “We’re not playing for overtime, either. So stop with the fancy stuff and do something. You can show off later.”
“Get me the ball, why don’t you?” Cristiano snorts, running after him. But he doesn’t catch up till they’re outside and there’s no time left for talking.
* * *
Later Ramos says it was one of the most horrific sounds he’d ever heard. Ruud says he couldn’t watch—he saw Gattuso lunge and somehow he knew it was too low and he ducked his head into somebody’s shoulder.
Cristiano missed it completely. Deco got the ball off first and it fell so perfectly to Cristiano’s feet, like a gift from heaven, and there was that opening between Nesta and Brocchi, and—
--he scored. He scored, he pulled one back and put them in the running, and he turned with his arms flung wide to tell the others and that was when he saw Deco on the ground. Torres says he didn’t hear either, he had to see it—Ramos must’ve heard somebody in the stands because he was on the other side but Miguel was right there and he says Deco didn’t scream or anything. He just went down.
Gattuso got the red and Madrid the goal, and then Cristiano set up Higuaín for another and Guti somehow channeled Beckham to get the third from a free-kick, so they were through to the final. It didn’t seem like much, though. Even before Cristiano saw the replay, which was absolutely unavoidable even before they’d left the pitch at the full-time whistle.
Deco, head up, looking straight at Gattuso steaming in and Cristiano a white splotch at the top of the screen. If Deco hadn’t gotten that kick off, he could’ve dribbled by or at least fallen better. But then Nesta would’ve closed Cristiano down, and—
--it was Deco’s game, no arguing. Not even from Cristiano.
* * *
“The first scan says it’s a clean break, but you need another one when we get back to Madrid,” Mourinho says. He’s sitting with his back to the door, and blocking all of Deco’s face besides the black hair, so there’s no chance that either of them have noticed Cristiano yet. “You’re out till pre-season. Optimistically.”
Deco shifts on the padded table, his unsecured foot digging its heel into the cushions as he tries to sit up. He grunts when Mourinho shoves him back; his other foot rattles its sling and a long, low hiss accompanies the stiffening of Mourinho’s shoulders. “Well, if the Copa del Rey doesn’t work out, you have your excuse.”
“Raúl or Ruud would work better for that. They’ve had more starts in it.” Merciless as usual. “Lie down.”
“Did that shit get sent off?” Deco asks, ignoring that. His hand folds over Mourinho’s shoulder, its skin a weird shade, as if somebody had poured dirty gray water into a bronze bowl. He manages to hike himself up high enough to see Cristiano, if he looked at the door. “Did Cristiano do anything with that ball I gave him? Anything not stupid?”
He does see Cristiano. Just his eyes over Mourinho’s head: they widen, pained beneath the surprise and the residual anger.
“We’re through,” Mourinho says. His arms go up; he pulls Deco down and gets up at the same time, and there’s only one reason why somebody would bend over somebody else like that.
Deco knows Cristiano’s there. He knows. He probably knows why Cristiano decided when they both showed up at Madrid to not be friendly with him anymore, too. He’s played like shit for half the season, okay for the rest and he just saved them tonight, and tomorrow tonight will be what matters.
His hand comes around, grabbing at Mourinho’s suit-jacket and working its way up Mourinho’s back till it can fist in that silver hair. When Mourinho pulls up a bit, it yanks at his head as if this was the first time they’ve ever done that.
“Why the hell do you still think about Chelsea? You would’ve hated it there,” Mourinho says quietly.
The way Deco looks at him, he’s completely forgotten about Cristiano. “You didn’t bring Lampard with you,” he says, grinning. He almost looks healthy that way, sweat-slicked pallor dimmed by the flash of his teeth. “Would he have hated Spain?”
“Probably not. Terry would’ve, though I never asked.” Mourinho shrugs, absently tugs Deco’s hand from his hair. “Now shut up and be quiet till the doctors come to get you. Don’t remind me I’m now down on midfielders as well as strikers.”
Cristiano leaves at that point. He’s not stupid or blind, and he now knows what all those little snipes and quarrels were about.
* * *
The La Liga title is a walk in the park. The Copa del Rey? Please. Once Valencia was out of it and Villareal lost Pirès to the transfer window—who so went back for his affair with Thierry Henry—and Forlán to injury, it was easy, easy, easy. There’s still the other half of El Clàsico to go, but Barcelona’s really gone downhill since Rijkaard left. Eto’o’s already gone and it’s practically a given that Ronaldinho will be the same at season’s end, which leaves what? Messi? God, if Gago and Higuaín don’t shut up about him Cristiano’s going to out their fucking affair to the tabloids.
“…are you listening to me?”
Cristiano blinks, sees Mourinho come back into focus. “I know, I know.”
“No, you don’t. This may be the end of the season, but—” Well, Mourinho was winding up for a good long rant, but he’s suddenly changed his mind. Maybe he’s figured out that that doesn’t work.
Or…maybe his phone is going off. He checks it, mutters under his breath, and goes out in the hall to take it. Cristiano rolls his eyes and kicks back to stretch out his legs. Which works for about a minute before his feet start to twitch. He swings off the bench and wanders around, pops his head into the shower room, comes back out. Nearly knocks Deco down.
Deco backs up decently fast on his crutches, but still looks more annoyed than anything else. “Where’s José?”
It occurs to Cristiano that this might be the first time he’s ever heard anybody on the team refer to Mourinho by his first name, and this kind of pisses him off. Kind off. “Well, he was telling me I’m getting lazy and I still need to care even though we could lose all the rest of our matches and still—”
“You know, one thing sick leave doesn’t make me miss is your whining,” Deco says. He isn’t even looking at Cristiano now. Something with his shirt is bothering him, and at first he tries to get at it, but the crutches are in the way. So he leans one against a locker, stands on the other and yanks at the offending fold. “You are getting lazy. It was embarrassing, watching you miss so many times against Celta. Ruud must want to kill you by now. He remembering why he left Manchester yet?”
“After the season we’ve had? With the starts I’ve had? Maybe I’m getting tired. I’m human, you know.” Cristiano stalks around Deco to poke his head into the hall, but Mourinho’s completely disappeared. He comes back and Deco isn’t bothering to hide his supercilious expression. “It’s pretty hard being the successful signing.”
Deco stops laughing. His eyes flash and his tongue probably was about to as well, but then he catches himself. “What?” He rolls his eyes at Cristiano’s expression. “No, what? You’ve been nasty all season and it can’t be because you love Madrid that much. I’ll buy that from Raúl and the rest of them, but not from you. What, did I step on your foot during preseason or something?”
“They’ve been a lot nicer since you broke your leg,” Cristiano says.
“I guess taking one for the team does that. You know, instead of looking out for yourself all the time,” Deco dryly replies. “You upset because nobody’s applauding your brilliance? Cristiano, come on. You know you’re good. And they didn’t take too long to start inviting you out with them, did they? There’s that.”
“Stop pretending you know everything.” Stupid, stupid fucking…Cristiano doesn’t even know what to call it. He just knows that ever since Mourinho called him a boy, he’s wanted to prove otherwise and then that turned into something else because Mourinho as his coach is worlds away from Mourinho in the papers, is actually as good as the claims, and he just fucking can’t do it. Because Deco had to be older and had to be at Porto and got to him first. Or something.
Deco arches an eyebrow. And he’s a smug moody shit, Cristiano amends. Right before he grabs both of Deco’s arms and kisses him.
It’s not very good, and mostly because of Deco. A little because Cristiano’s mad and not exactly thinking about technique, but Deco squirming and making weird ‘nnn’ sounds doesn’t help keep their teeth from clacking painfully together.
“Fuck, that hurt,” Cristiano says, ducking his head. Then he yelps as something hard whacks the side of his leg. “Hey! There’s a match Saturday!”
“Well, you’re not in love with me,” Deco says. If he weren’t now struggling to keep his balance on his good foot—serves him right—he’d sound puzzled.
There are also sounds in the hall, but that’s not going to keep Cristiano from his turn to roll his eyes. “Hell, no. That also sucked, by the way.”
“What are you, ten? Do you really think I’m going to take you up on a da—”
It goes a little better this time, since Deco’s mouth is open and Deco’s still working on the balance thing. Cristiano gives him a little help with that; he’s still got a hold on one arm and now he sneaks his hand beneath Deco’s arm, pulling the other man close enough so he can’t fling that fucking crutch around. Deco grunts, digs hard at Cristiano’s shoulder with his nails. Though he’s not too averse to a tongue in his mouth, apparently. He hasn’t bitten it yet.
“Cristiano? Ahhh…if he walked out…” Mourinho’s back.
Deco sort of muffles something that sounds like ‘fuck’ against Cristiano’s mouth and shoves ineffectually at Cristiano’s chest. His crutch bangs into something, then clatters on the ground as Cristiano wraps his arm around the other man’s waist, pulling him up on his toes. If Deco wants out, he’s going to have to fall flat on his face to do it.
Or Mourinho could say something. He’s so silent that Cristiano has to turn and see—well, stumble and get his lip nicked by Deco’s incisor and see that the man’s still there. Mourinho’s in the doorway, all right, and his eyes seem to be working fine. He’s blinking, anyway.
“You shit!” Oops, Cristiano got distracted and let Deco off. “What the hell…”
“I take it you’re actually not passing on your bad habits, then,” Mourinho says.
Deco does this funny face-twitch, like he’s embarrassed but thinking really fast at the same time. “He’s got plenty. If he needs any more, I’m sure you’ll know which ones.”
Cristiano…kind of wants to slap one of them. He’s not sure which. But he can’t let go of Deco, because one, Deco will fall and that could be serious club trouble, or two, Deco will hit him, and Deco’s not going to give a shit if Cristiano has to go out there with a black eye on Saturday. “Hey. I’m still here.”
“We all know,” Mourinho tells him, gravely sarcastic. Then he turns, and Deco apparently can tell what Mourinho’s doing from the sounds because he starts twisting in Cristiano’s arms. “If Deco isn’t back when the doctors say he should be, I’m taking it out of both your paychecks.”
Deco stops, half-turned. Then he snorts and this is so one of their annoying married-couple moments that just rubs in Cristiano’s face—well, except for the part where Deco yanks down Cristiano’s head with both hands and proves he can in fact kiss. The progress of Deco’s leg suddenly is in serious danger, and it’s all Cristiano can do to not fall over the bench as he stumbles backward for the safety of the…ow, wall.
“What did I just say? Watch his—can’t you do this somewhere else?” Hah, Mourinho’s finally flipping out, and all it took was Deco sucking off Cristiano’s lower lip. “Why don’t either of you ever listen to me?”
Deco yanks at Cristiano’s hair some more and hikes his leg up Cristiano’s thigh. Cristiano thinks he gets where that’s going and reaches down to help it along. The other hand he puts down isn’t going to help Deco’s leg at all, but he’s sure its massage towards Deco’s inner thigh makes for good viewing.
“’m listening,” he mumbles around Deco’s tongue. “Listen plenty. Not my fault you don’t talk to me.”
“God, you were a little bastard all year because—” Deco laughs-groans, pushing his hips up Cristiano till he’s nearly off his feet completely. Little? What? Cristiano gets his hands around the bottom curves of Deco’s ass and lifts and grinds up at the same time, and there, Deco can’t insult him if he’s busy moaning. “José, you’ve got an admirer.”
Mourinho has his face in his hand. He’s so peeking through his fingers. “How wonderful.”
Deco might be rolling his eyes as he tucks his head into the crook of Cristiano’s shoulder. He’s definitely getting on a bit; his breath’s already coming a bit short and he seems content for the moment to just let his hips roll in Cristiano’s hands, his arms slipping to loop around Cristiano’s neck. Something whispers over Cristiano’s earlobe, tickling around his earring, and he thinks it’s Deco’s tongue till the other man starts muttering, which places his mouth lower on Cristiano’s throat. Eyelashes, then.
“Well, good luck with that. Took me years and a broken leg to get something besides his cock in my mouth for five minutes.” Snort, or maybe it was a really quick, low laugh. When Cristiano sucks at the top of Deco’s ear, he arches like a cat. “Be easier to fuck me, frankly.”
But Cristiano can see Mourinho, because Mourinho’s moved to stand a little behind him, his hands up with palms facing Deco’s back, his head down because he’s not looking at Cristiano. As usual, though there’s a little satisfaction in knowing Deco’s never going to see that look on Mourinho’s face; there are some benefits to lacking history.
“I’m the coach,” Mourinho says. “At the end of the day, I have to think about what’s best for the club and the team.”
“So no house visits, you know. Too personal.” Loose and yielding as Deco’s body might be, his mind and tongue still haven’t followed suit. His lips graze Cristiano’s jaw, chin, throat. He twists his hips out at Mourinho like a dare, letting Cristiano’s hands shape and plump his ass.
For a moment, Mourinho looks a little less combative. But it goes, and when he steps forward and presses his hands to Deco’s back—Deco shudders, raises his head so he and Cristiano are cheek-to-cheek—he’s ready for war. Which probably isn’t the worst analogy in the world.
“I noticed. You know. Because I’m not stupid,” Cristiano says. He bites on his lip as Mourinho steps closer, pushing Deco into him. He’s also young, he thinks. He can be patient. “So can I fuck him?”
Deco says: “You horny shit.”
Mourinho says: “No.”
Deco shifts at that, then tries to turn and it takes both Mourinho and Cristiano to keep him up. He grimaces at the joggle to his foot, ducking his head, and Cristiano drops his nose into Deco’s hair and watches as Mourinho’s hands travel around Deco’s side to press flat against Deco’s belly. They rise and fall with Deco’s breath, and after three exhales Deco’s already panting. He twists more, dropping his hands from Cristiano’s neck and fisting them around Mourinho’s lapels instead. His head tilts, Mourinho’s does as well, and with a short, snorting laugh, Deco ends up kissing Mourinho’s neck the way he’d been doing to Cristiano’s a moment before.
Cristiano moves his hands around to Deco’s hips. He slips his thumbs in under the elastic of Deco’s track-pants and they’re brushed by Mourinho’s hands, going the same way but further. The nylon stretches taut over Mourinho’s knuckles, then slips away as Cristiano starts snapping side-buttons with his fore- and middle fingers. Beneath is hot, damp skin and Cristiano strokes it to the time of Deco’s harsh breaths till Mourinho, fed up with running into Cristiano’s fingers, shoves them up to Deco’s waist. Deco lets his head loll a little and that presses his nape against Cristiano’s mouth; it tastes of salt and soap and a little bit of whatever Deco uses as cologne. The little hairs at the top tickle Cristiano’s lips and catch in his teeth, and when he runs his tongue over them, Deco groans and rubs his ass up against Cristiano so its firm globes snugly frame Cristiano’s erection.
Mourinho hasn’t looked up once yet, intent on whatever he’s doing to Deco. He does move back slightly to let Deco’s track-pants puddle around his ankles—they catch on the top of the cast because Cristiano can’t reach that far down and Mourinho bends to snap those buttons loose—but then he’s right back, now going so far as to kiss Deco’s temple as Deco leaves starburst wrinkles in his suit-jacket, hands wringing the fabric hard.
“I’m not doing this on my feet,” Mourinho says. His mouth slips to the side of Deco’s face, just in front of Deco’s ear, and it’s just odd to see those lips doing something so…nice. Something that doesn’t involve a verbal fusillade. He flicks his eyes up, and Cristiano’s both amused and annoyed to see they’re still calm. Not exactly cool, though. “You can suck him off. But get him down first. Carefully.”
Deco says something only Mourinho’s able to make out, and apparently it’s not that bad because Mourinho merely threads his fingers into Deco’s hair, his thumb sliding along the hairline across the back of Deco’s neck. And Cristiano’s mouth is already there, and he thinks why not and lets it drift across Mourinho’s knuckle before answering. “Then get out of the way.”
Mourinho’s brows go up, but he does ease off enough for Cristiano to get Deco down without banging the cast on anything. Cristiano pauses to kick the crutch out of the way and Deco gets his breath back. “Your mouth had better be spectacular, with what comes out of it.”
“You’ll be screaming your recommendation,” Cristiano says, turning Deco around.
“Bench, you idiot,” is Deco’s response. He throws out his arm and gets it on top of said item before starting to ratchet himself sideways. That might have been a laugh from Mourinho’s direction, but he’s temporarily gone into the other room.
Would’ve been a lot easier if Deco had waited for Cristiano to turn, too, but whatever, Cristiano’s used to working with stubborn idiots. He manages to get himself around and down on his back, propped on one elbow because he needs the other arm free to help Deco turn, first sideways and then over so they’re facing each other again. And Deco’s a lot more enthusiastic about the possibilities of that this time.
Mouth-end of things, anyway. Cristiano’s still got to deal with his shorts all by himself, and well, at least he hadn’t changed into street clothes yet. It’s still a pain, trying to shove Deco up and not kick the cast and wriggle out of the shorts and kiss all at once, but somehow Cristiano does it and then, and then that’s way better. Finally, some space.
Not for that long, unfortunately; Deco suddenly collapses on top of him and it’d be really nice if he hadn’t managed to trap Cristiano’s cock against his hipbone as well, since that’s really not the good kind of pressure. But okay, Cristiano’s got enough room to lever him back up, and for some reason that also makes Deco’s eyes go wide and his mouth drop open.
Oh, no, that’s Mourinho, back and now behind him. He spares a glance for Cristiano that’s patently meant to just check on things, and then he’s staring at Deco’s ass again. How they went the whole season without imploding is something Cristiano’s forever going to wonder about. Well. Later. Right now he’s going to look at Mourinho’s prick and swallow a couple of times. He can’t help thinking about it; Deco brought it up, after all.
Deco coughs, rasps in a breath. His hands scrabble at Cristiano’s chest and one slips off, but he manages to hook the other hand over Cristiano’s shoulder and push, hard. “You said something about screaming?”
“God, you all act like I’ve got no memory. I’m—” Cristiano tries to brace his foot on something, only to get that slapped by Mourinho “—damn it, move. My head’s too big to get down there.”
Between the bench and Cristiano’s pushing and Deco’s shoving, Deco manages to get to his knees. Mourinho mutters something—he’s lost the suit-jacket, and the rolled-up sleeves are weirdly homey on him—and Deco jerks, gasps, settles with his open mouth hard against Cristiano’s throat. This isn’t going to work, and it doesn’t seem like Mourinho gives much of a shit; Cristiano pulls up his legs and gets his feet flat against the ground, then heaves Deco around so the other man can get his arms up on the bench. Instead of like, cooperating, Deco makes frustrated angry sounds and bites Cristiano.
“Bastard. That’s going to show,” Cristiano hisses, shoving Deco’s arms up onto the bench. Then he ducks beneath the wooden board and happens to get a glimpse of Mourinho’s slick fingers braced on the floor, and okay, Deco’s irritation is more understandable now. Still doesn’t justify the bite, though.
“Shut up,” Deco says, eerily like Mourinho there. When Cristiano pulls himself up on the other side of the bench, Deco’s eyes are squeezed shut and he’s breathing, short and irregular, through his mouth.
Cristiano ducks in and sticks his tongue in Deco’s mouth, then drops back down when the other man starts. Deco begins to say something nasty, but then stiffens; Cristiano scoots under and puts his hands on Deco’s waist, and the other man slowly bends into them. Mourinho’s got one hand splayed over Deco’s hip now, and its fingers are dry and Cristiano can’t see the other one, but the way Mourinho’s curved up against Deco’s backside says it’s probably not busy now.
And Mourinho’s hand is right there, square knuckles and thick short fingers haloed in bloodless white flesh, and Cristiano can’t help himself. He just cranes up and flicks his tongue around the nearest one. It’s fucking awkward under the bench and he figures he should get that much.
When Mourinho doesn’t move his hand, Cristiano does it again, and then he twists his head till his neck is hurting but he can put his whole mouth over one finger, get its knuckle and the flesh it’s crushing in one go, and he knows by the way that it flexes, by the change in the timbre of Deco’s groans, that it is appreciated. He wriggles his tongue-tip into the wrinkles, drags it along the webbing, traces his way to the next finger. And the next, and the next, till he’s out of fingers and there’s Deco’s cock bobbing in front of his face, flushed and swollen, half-crushed against the bench-edge. Cristiano runs his tongue along that first, half of it getting wood varnish and the other half hot salty skin, and he’s thinking about doing it again when a hand gets hold of his hair and shoves him. So fine, Mourinho can’t fucking stop with the orders even now but that actually kind of makes Cristiano’s cock twitch, so he’s okay with it. He bends up and sucks the head of Deco’s cock once, then swallows it as far as he can go without gagging. Which is pretty fucking far.
Deco’s farther, if the ragged noises from above are any measure, and Mourinho’s finally making some noises, grunting plus this deep rolling noise that makes Cristiano squirm uncomfortably—and why is he doing that? Okay, sometimes he doesn’t catch on right away, but—he drops his hand between his legs, fingers his balls as Deco’s cock scratches at the back of his throat. Then he goes to wrap his hand around it, only Mourinho gets there first, and fuck, Deco is so fucking lucky Cristiano didn’t bite down just then, and instead let his head drop off Deco’s cock instead.
“Tease,” Deco pants.
Cristiano snarls and Mourinho tightens his grip so it peters into a groan instead. “Oh, fuck off,” he mutters, hooking his arm over the bench. Then he’s good again, and he sucks down Deco’s cock and Deco shows his appreciation by bucking so his ball-sac hits Cristiano in the chin. Mourinho at least does something, his fingers pulling steadily at Cristiano’s prick, grip perfect and roughness perfect and speed…well, perfect. Perfect. Perfect.
Christ, Cristiano thinks as his climax hurtles towards him. If they’d gotten this out of the way during the winter break, he would’ve scored twice as much.
* * *
“Damn it, how do you bend a snap-fastener out of shape?” Deco complains, fussing with his track-pants.
Cristiano hasn’t bothered to get dressed except to sling a towel around his waist, since he still needs to shower and change into street clothes anyway. Mourinho, of course, has disappeared to deal with his clothes in private. He probably is like that one commercial with extra suits in the office closet. “Oh, for…here, let me see.”
It’s not that bad, just squished a little so one side of the button won’t catch. Cristiano fiddles with it a bit and gets it snapped together in about ten seconds.
“If you lose the CL final, I will beat you to death with my crutches,” Deco says. He could’ve fixed it himself, but he probably just wanted Cristiano down on his knees for this part. “And José won’t lift a finger to stop me.”
“Yeah, sure. Which is why you come wandering back here when you’re on sick-leave looking for him.” Like he told them, Cristiano isn’t stupid. He can put sight and meaning together as well as anybody else. “What happens when we win?”
There’s just the faintest suggestion of a snort, and all right, Deco doesn’t miss much either. “I’ll let you fuck me. Maybe. If it’s not that we win in spite of you.” Pause. “And maybe José’ll let you somewhere near his cock.”
That last part didn’t sound like much of a joke, so Cristiano looks up. And Deco probably wasn’t kidding too much about the crutches, but he’s dead serious now.
He shrugs, glancing off to the side. His mouth twists, untwists, and then he’s looking at Cristiano again. “He stops worrying so much about what it’ll do to others after the season ends,” Deco says, and he’s not talking about wives or girlfriends, who don’t exist till they get outside anyway. “Look, don’t fight me over him. It’s stupid and pointless, and anyway he doesn’t give a shit.”
“I did kiss you first, didn’t I?” Cristiano dryly replies.
Deco’s eyebrows signal doubt with their rise. Then he shakes his head, turns away. “Well, we’ll see if you’ve grown up any. Where’s my other crutch?”
“I’ll get it,” Cristiano sighs. As he does, he notices there’s something blocking the light coming in under the hall-way door. Nobody’s in the hall when the two of them leave, though.