Gilbert's Apartment, 2026

Don't tell the gods I left a mess, I can't undo what has been done

What if none of this had ever happened? The thought came with a bitter taste in his mouth, although whether that originated from the concept or the scattered bottles of beer around the cross-legged figure on the floor, he wasn't sure. Of course he should never have started drinking in the first place; before now he had thought it would make him numb. After the World Cup reform, he had noticed how much better it was for him to in fact not drink himself into oblivion, but with death and disaster taunting and circling him, the call of old drunk nights had become his closest friend.

His arm reached to clink glasses with the brunette next to him, although he's not sure where the bottle actually went due to the lack of the clink sound of collision. Maybe it did, and the drink was beginning to impair his hearing, but he could hear his companion's heavy breathing clear as day. Slowly, he swallows, raising the bottle to his lips after their drunken "Prost!" stops echoing around the apartment. Does Julchen miss Rica as much as he missed his roommates, he wondered vaguely, what if none of them left?

"What if we could have been happy?" Gilbert Schweinsteiger mumbled to himself as Julchen rested her head gently on his shoulder for support. "What if those verdammt Finches had never won?" Anger rose up in him at the mention of the Finches and he can feel himself begin to shake with the pure force and the heat of it, squeezing his hands. "Why did they have to ruin everything? If we'd just fucking won Ansel would still be here..." A hopeful glance for a flicker of Ansel, an ounce of proof he'd come back to haunt them, resulted in nothing found. "Rica wouldn't be gone..."

God, he missed Rica. Despite his words, there was no knock at the door, no blonde trying to hide her grin from him as she announced she'd returned before insisting on cleaning up the mess he - they - had made of themselves. For a few moments his gaze lingered there with equal hopefulness, before tearing his eyes away.

"Leif wouldn't have deserted us," Julchen echoed bleakly, the hand holding her glass beginning to tremble slightly, setting the golden liquid sloshing around and threatening to spill everywhere. Gilbert gently hugged her; Leif had been like a brother to him, or so he thought, when times got bad Leif ran away from them without looking back.

He offered a shaky smile. "Everyone thought you had a crush on Leif," he remarked quietly, "Even the Rivers-Scotts talked about it on the way upstairs, one time." That complication was something he didn't miss about not being able to love - the feeling you got when the one you wanted to spend life with left you behind in the dirt.

"Maybe I did," she mumbled back, looking away to hide tears. "But it doesn't matter anymore. He's an asshole, he left us both alone. All of them left us alone. We were supposed to be together, a team, we were family. More than friends...but apparently we didn't matter as much to them as they did to us..."

"Do to us," Gilbert corrected, his voice quavering before he swallowed another mouthful. "If they didn't, would we be talking about them right now?"

Julchen shook her head. "Why can't we just forget? Why can't it be easy?" Wolfram had told her to let go - he'd never understand that they were too important to forget. Rica Fuerst. Ansel Schmidt. Viltaute Ingersleben. Leif Reichert. Sarohildi Auttenburg. They were all her family, like Wolf and Eli and Rafael and Gabriel. They were too important to forget. She would never forget.

Gilbert echoed the words of his father, barely above a mumble, mingling with the first signs of sobs that he fought to stifle. "Those who love the most suffer the most..."

"I wish we'd won," she mused, imagining the image of them with a world cup trophy, jumping and screaming and hugging (and kissing for Rica and Ansel) and grinning and singing Jump loudly and raucously like that one night in the tent. All of them happy, like nothing could ruin it - followed by drinking until the sun came up. Kind of like now, but happier and with all of them. More importantly, all of them would be alive and here right now, in this apartment, sharing the moment.

"I do, too. What would even have happened?" He was seeing a similar picture sketch itself out in his head, maybe tomorrow they'd all find themselves. (I know we're lost, but soon we'll be found.) Maybe tomorrow he'd wake up like this was an awful nightmare, and have all of them there to convince him all was fine. It almost convinced him.

"I guess we'll never know, right? But we can imagine, like now...we can't undo what has been done..."

"Or can we?"

World Cup 2025, Harrier Tent

What if I'm the only hero left, you better fire off your gun...

"No," Rica said sternly, taking the beer out of Gilbert's hand while shaking her head at him. "You promised me a dry World Cup, all of you did." A few simultaneous groans of annoyance came from the rest of the teammates scattered across the tent, but she ignored them as she confiscated whichever alcoholic beverage they might have had.

Julchen glanced sympathetically at the keeper as she sits there with water of all drinks - she doesn't look too impressed by the new regime. "It sucks, doesn't it?"

"How do you know we don't fly better drunk?" Leif challenged to the tune of several cheers from everyone but Rica. Even the reserve players who knew they wouldn't be playing were being held to the no-alcohol rule.

Ansel nodded. "We sing better drunk," he added, "There's no better drunk song than Jump. You join in, liebe, you should know."

"Genau," Gilbert