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beautiful and drunk (singing softly to yourself)

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Andy’s thinking about sleeping, finally, when the knock comes at the door.

He’s been half-expecting it for hours, unsure if the restless edge to the thought is anticipation or dismay, both laced in nerves. Pacing the confines of his hotel room restlessly since he got back from Wimbledon, he’s made coffee that he’s forgotten to drink, flipped channels on the ancient television with a thumbprint indenting one corner of the flat screen, and not remembered a word of the shows. Remembering instead the tang of sweat-damp skin beneath his tongue and shaking, slender limbs beneath his hands, six years ago and sense-memory still glossy as a fresh photograph, the silk of dark curls through his fingers in an intoxicating, ticklish itch that took days to scrub from his skin.

Thought he’d got a handle on it by now, this ridiculous obsession that kept him awake at nights for months and forced paper-thin excuses to linger in locker rooms for the briefest encounters, a smile his fix for the day. Subtly never his strength; he’d been ashamed the day Mardy worked it out, long before anyone else, teasingly kind about it like no one else after. Worse when Connors did, that fight still bringing the sour taste of mortification to the back of his throat even now, and he’d tried to tone it down after, keep his distance for their careers, the risk of what he might let slip when the wrong ears were listening again, always cameras watching.

Tried so hard and distance almost won, in the end. After all, it’s easier to relearn all the ways to live without something when it’s never there.

Gone, vanished in the space of a heartbeat, caught dark eyes across the Centre Court lobby and the slow smile lighting with surprise, a wink and a wave as if they were still nineteen, still young enough not to know better. There’d been a blind gratitude clenching in Andy’s chest as he smiled back, that there was no one else looking in that moment because they’d have no problem seeing what was surely written all over his face.

But then, he’s never been Roger Federer, never had that much willpower to hide what he wants. What he wants, he wants with every piece of himself and apparently, there’s no twelve-step programme for this addiction, no Dummies Guide to Getting Over That Pesky Infatuation With Your Rival. Not spoken to Roger in months, not seen him in even longer; all it took was one smile.

Hopeless, he thinks and it’s almost angry at his own weakness, this thing that consumed him without permission and that’s had him straining to hear the slightest sound at the door for hours.

He’d thought the Swiss might resist, this time though, only the record books that he’s failed and disappointment just a passing phase, back to his perfect life by tomorrow. This is nothing like 2009 for either of them, a Wimbledon final never prosaic of course but this one was by the book as possible, disappointment of the heart, but not the head. Andy’d berated himself for even contemplating it when he got back to his hotel room, his own regret at being proven right a bittersweet knot in his chest. He knew; he’d predicted it; Roger shouldn’t take the inevitable that hard.

But, knock, and Andy’s off the bed and moving towards the door before he quite registers that he’s relieved, what the fuck. Didn’t want Roger to lose but didn’t believe in him either, laid down on record and he’d thought maybe, the Swiss wouldn’t take that all too well, find solace elsewhere, just maybe go looking for trouble. Roger’s sensible to a fault, achingly practical and measured and utterly, immovably rock-steady until it builds to tipping point and all comes crashing down on him beyond what anyone could handle; Andy’s watched more than one loss with his heart in his throat, knowing all the ways they linger and add up, what Roger takes to heart when it really matters.

Not so this time, familiar sight right there when he opens the door of Roger leaning against the doorframe and oh, not so familiar because he’s swaying even against the support, clearly drunk out of his mind. Dark hair sticking up in all directions from wayward tugging, blue sweater clearly pulled on in a hurry because there’s a hint of label that suggests it’s on backwards, composure shot to hell. When he tips his head back to see Andy, half-focused, he attempts a smile but it’s all bitter, unfathomable emptiness behind his eyes.

“Andy,” he says and it’s almost incoherent, vowel sounds and trailing off on the eee. Christ, he’s really drunk. “Can I come in?”

“Roger,” Andy says, hesitant, edging out more fond than exasperated because after all, it was just a loss in a tennis match but Andy knows intimately every single way in which just a loss can rip you to pieces. Not what he expected but then, he never honestly expects Roger Federer to lose either, no matter what he predicted before the match with all eyes on him. “Did Mirka really let you out in this state?”

Roger lifts a hand, limp-wristed, to wave a dismissal and almost overbalances, catching himself mostly by falling into the doorframe with a thud of his shoulder meeting wood, breath hissing through his teeth. “Mirka, she doesn’t understand. You understand, ja? I ruined your life that one time. Is only fair?”

Fuck, fuck. Closing his eyes briefly, Andy breathes until his knee-jerk urge to yell at Roger and send him on his way subsides to an ache, a knowing weariness that the Swiss doesn’t mean it, would never say it sober.

Maybe a little because he remembers the worry in dark eyes when he was shattered into pieces and saying worse, kind arms wrapping him up in a protective barrier against the world. He owes Roger for that if nothing else, even if it was his fault in the first place; even if, now, their circumstances are different. Just history versus an entire career but the heartbreak tugging down the corners of Roger’s mouth, the red-rimmed eyes – it feels just as terrible to Roger, in this moment.

Even without the twisting warmth in his chest at the sight of the Swiss, knowing he came here, to Andy, even without that- he could no more push Roger back out to the street than he could beat him on a tennis court when it mattered.

Resignation in his sigh, he steps back to wave Roger into his room. The man’s probably too drunk anyway, he tells himself; he’ll pass out on Andy’s bed and wake up in the morning, mortified and disappointed in himself for this failure of dignity. This doesn’t have to be anything; maybe it’ll help, wean himself off the addiction gently as Roger snores off the copious amounts of intoxicated self-pity beside him on the bed.

“Come on then-“ he starts with a wave that indicates admission to the room alone but Roger ‘s clearly past all social niceties because he flings himself bodily forward, balance robbed by drunkenness and Andy has to catch him or let him face-plant the floor. Gets an arm around the Swiss, Roger’s face pressed to his shoulder and he smells of the sharp edge of alcohol, rich tang of cologne, and the expensive fruit shampoo he remembers from communal showers on tour, so familiar that it sets something alight everywhere they touch, Andy catching a gasp between his teeth. He presses his face to the dark curls, warm against his lips, taking the liberty in return for this importunity because Roger probably won’t remember in the morning anyway, all gawky limbs and imbalanced want, hands gripping Andy’s creased shirt like a lifeline.

“I lost, Andy.” Mumbled against his skin, crack to it that suggests Roger’s a breath away from tears again, armful of shaking Swiss that’s all body heat and despair, knuckles pressing into Andy’s ribs as he fists crumpled handfuls of the cotton between them. “This is it, my last chance. Why did I lose, I was playing well, I should’ve won.

And okay, this clearly isn’t going to be a matter of patting Roger on the head and making reassuring noises until he feels put together enough to go back to his rented house, to Mirka’s relentless brusque sympathy. Reaching out, Andy pushes the door closed – no point in having everyone in the hotel know he’s got a shattered Roger Federer attempting to feel him up right now – and slides an arm around Roger’s waist, attempting to steer them closer to the bed if just to avoid them stumbling to the floor in a heap, impossible to coordinate with Roger hanging off him with the weight of despair. The body heat through thin cotton is doing peculiar things to him, shivering at the way Roger presses against him with intent after so long, after years, but it’s as if no time as passed at all, except that this time it’s Roger who’s destroyed.

He doesn’t think Novak would’ve been as kind, if Roger showed up at his door like Andy had showed up at Roger’s. If nothing else, he owes the Swiss that much. Just obligation, he tells himself, a favour for a favour. Nothing more.

“Hey,” he says as Roger trips, almost falls if not for Andy’s arm around his waist, legs no kind of stability at all. “How much did you drink, Roger? I know for a fact you only got out of press two hours ago. Were they spiking your water then or something?”

“Maybe. Maybe I did. Maybe I was drunk entire time, maybe I play better tennis that way. I could not play worse.” Roger laughs, vicious and achingly hollow, entire body shaking under Andy’s hands. He feels terribly thin beneath Andy’s grip, never anything like bulky but somehow the lack of balance and any kind of dignity renders him insubstantial, fragile in all the wrong ways, “This is how it feels, right? Not being good enough?

Jesus. Like a sucker punch, Andy swallowing his retort because Roger’s drunk beyond all sensibility right now, not fair to argue with someone who’s so beyond feeling that they can’t know how much that one hurt. He should be kicking Roger out on his as for the sake – the sanity- of both of them, stealing his phone to call Mirka so she can come collect the pieces of her husband. It’s her job to put the wreck back together in the morning, to turn the TV off on Novak’s champion interviews and make all the right noises about how it’s okay, you’re still amazing, you still made the final, it could be worse, you could be Rafa. Nothing like Andy’s responsibility to deal with this mess but he can’t bring himself to do the sensible thing, snap the sharp words on the tip of his tongue and add to the ruin of what was the greatest ever tennis player falling apart into sobs in his arms. Pushing them just that little further apart, before it’s too late, and the anger catches in his throat at the thought; he can’t, he can’t.

Still, it’s been a long night and his voice slides out a little sharper than intended as he says, “Payback’s a bitch, huh Roger?” as he half-walks, half falls them towards the bed. The hundred times he’s been asked about 2009 this week and had to brush it off are still a sour taste in his mouth; sure he’d mostly dealt with the fact that he’s going to be asked about it for the rest of his life, helped in no small part by the memory of Roger’s composure disintegrating into bliss as Andy pressed into him, still mostly in the ruin of his suit from the Champion’s Ball, bow-tie wrenched loose and his hair all over his face, the picture of debauched golden champion. Andy’s handled his misery over the last six years better, he likes to think, than most people would’ve, but the urge to hold Roger down and yell that he’s won seven-fucking-times, what the fuck is wrong with you is fast collapsing when set against the broken, wounded sounds Roger’s making with his mouth open and wet on the line of Andy’s collarbone, biting down on sloppy, desperate kisses.

“You know, yes?” Roger mumbles, getting a hand free of Andy’s shirt and reaching up, coordination all off so he waves his hand helplessly in mid-air a few times before he gets his fingers tangled in what’s left of Andy’s hair, sharp tug snapping straight down Andy’s spine to his dick, fuck, “I did this to you. You kept living, you can handle it, because you fucked me. I don’t like Novak so much and he probably leave me on the sidewalk right, but I like you. I like you and you did this, once. You can fix this.”

No, Andy wants to say, panic flaring like the stab of a knife, no this isn’t the same at all. Doesn’t know how to say that he only handled 2009 because most of him is still in love with Roger, always will be because Roger’s one of his earliest memories of tennis, of winning, of familiarity, of being so desperately in love with something that every week he was on tour was half just an opportunity to see Roger wave at him from across the locker room, a chance to make the Swiss laugh at another terrible pun that Andy spent way too much time on interminable flights thinking up. He handled 2009 because he loves Roger more than he hates that loss, misery balanced by the knowledge that it was Roger who beat him.

Roger doesn’t have that with Novak; they’d barely been civil until a couple of years ago, still nothing more than polite acquaintances, and it’s fast-dawning that Andy’s not sure anything he does can ease this particular loss for Roger, considering that it’s in all likelihood the last one at anything like this level.

Instead he hesitates when the back of his knees hit the edge of bed, standing with Roger crumpled in his arms all shaking inebriation and misery, and wonders if this would help at all. If he lets Roger fuck him or, more likely given that the Swiss can’t even hold himself upright, fucks Roger until the memory is wiped clean, burnished anew into something entirely different, this, if it will change anything at all. If it will give the Swiss something to hold onto other than the searing hurt that is pure despair, eating away at his insides until it consumes him. Not like Roger, really, to hold onto just average losses, but there’s losses and then a loss, a ripping away of everything you needed to keep your own soul intact in your worldview, more important than breathing. Like 2009, like today.

He owes Roger this much he thinks; tries not to worry that it’s his own terribly selfish want swaying his judgement. All he can do is make a call now, when it matters. He’ll deal with the fallout in the morning.

“Roger,” he says softly though, because it can’t hurt to ask, and the face he knows as well as his own by now tips up, dark lashes starred together and Roger’s mouth dark pink, almost red, as if he’s been biting his own lips for hours. Probably has, Andy watching him in the trophy ceremony and he remembers the gleam of teeth biting down to hold back the promise of tears as they stood for photographs, the way his heart ached with fellow feeling. Roger’s all gleaming, dark eyes and heartbreak, the silly tan line from his bandanna cutting across his forehead beneath the tangled disaster of his hair and Andy wants so desperately to kiss it, forces himself to ask first for what it’s worth when Roger is this far from rational.

“Are you sure? Does Mirka know?”

The smile that slides over Roger’s face is broad and entirely unselfconscious, last shreds of dignity clearly forgotten outside the door because he looks reckless in a way Andy’s never seen him, not even remotely hesitant as he slides his hand from Andy’s hair down to his face, clumsily tracing over the curve of his cheekbone, the bow of his mouth that’s parted slightly in surprise. Roger’s callused thumb traces shivery circles over the soft, chapped skin of his lower lip, catches the edge of Andy’s tongue with the sharp bite of nail.

“Mirka dropped me off. Nothing else she can do, think of the example you’re setting, grow up Roger.” His voice shades up to the higher register at the last, as if he’s imitating and Andy catches the misery creasing his expression into a brief frown, honest pain. “She said you could deal with it, since you did so well last time. Fuck me back to common-sense ja?”

Andy’s always liked Mirka, her no-nonsense attitude and the reports he’d heard from the last World Tour Finals, where she’d had Wawrinka’s balls in a vice-like grip backstage after his histrionics, not waiting for or needing Roger to smooth that little spat over. Common rumour on the tour is that Roger hit Stan but Andy is a little better informed, knows that anyone Mirka needs to hit she can do it all by herself.

Still, she has to appreciate the magnitude of this moment, what it might signify in Roger’s career, being simply outclassed on the highest of stages. He’d have thought she’d have a little more sympathy.

Except- her expression, when he’d almost walked into her trying to sneak out of Roger’s rented house at 5am last time, the white-faced blankness he’d taken for despair and that could’ve just as easily been fury. She’s not a woman to piss off and it’s entirely possible that she’d nurse the insult for six years, Roger running elsewhere to offer comfort when they should’ve been celebrating. Or perhaps that’s disingenuous; she’s far from stupid, Mirka Federer, and she has to know Andy is the one best equipped to ride this wave of fallout, bound together with Roger on every level of despair and misery. Shared history triumphs sympathy, every time.

“So you’re sure,” he says one more time and Roger hisses out something that could be a curse in any language or several, pushes himself up on his toes and crushes his mouth to Andy’s in a wet, desperate kiss.

No finesse to it at all, nothing like Roger’s calm, rhythmic pace in Andy’s best fantasies, but everything like the frantic fumbling of post-2009 final, and Andy dips his head to it, arm locked firm around Roger’s waist to press them together, all heat through their clothes and the moaning, urgent rock of Roger’s hips jerking up against him. The press of tongue makes it easy, wet, breathy sounds caught between them and there’s nothing held back in Roger right now. Andy lets himself be pushed back onto the bed, rucked sheets where he’d not bothered to make it that morning, and Roger Federer falling on top of him with nothing like grace, knees braced either side of Andy’s thighs, broken apart and open, helpless pleas gasped out as they grind together with abandon, fuck. Getting a grip on the hem on Roger’s sweater, Andy drags it up and over his head, discarded with force to one side of the bed and now there’s a curve of half-naked tennis player over him, half-naked Roger, making sounds nothing like so much a whimper when Andy gets a hand up over smooth skin, pinches a pink nipple just to elicit the familiar full-body flinch he remembers as if it were yesterday.

Not in Andy’s plans tonight, if he’s honest; he thought if Roger showed up he’d be in full control, so rarely drunk past the point of reason, but this one clearly mattered, this one hurt. It’s that thought that keeps him silent as Roger pops the button on the trousers of Andy’s expensive suit, the one he’d bought specially for finals day at Wimbledon, Brooke laughing at him as he tried on the seventh one because who’re you trying to impress, Roger?

Wasted effort even though she was right because Roger’s dragging the suit fabric down over his hips, coordination a little better, maybe the alcohol is wearing off enough that he’s aware of what he’s doing, that Andy can let himself have this.

Or maybe that’s just a terrible excuse, Roger vulnerable and incapable beneath his hands as Andy traces fingertips over the lines of his ribs, over the scratchy dusting of hair leading down, down, slipping beneath the waistband of Roger’s soft sweatpants. If he’s anything like Andy in 2009 then he’d just pulled on the first thing that came to hand, unseeing, and the memory has Andy choking out a gasp into Roger’s mouth, hips jerking up so they both cry out, hard press of Roger’s arousal against Andy’s thigh and god, he hopes the walls are thick enough. This isn’t right, this is crazy, but it’s like a broken record, skipping in all the same wrong places and he could be back after his loss except then they’d been in a house and not a hotel, in a guest room, choking back every sound in case they woke someone in Roger’s team in the achingly silent early morning after the Champion’s Ball, Andy stumbling up the path to the door where Roger was waiting, where he’d known.

Hotels are better, anonymous at least, and Andy thanks whatever deity may be listening that he had the sense to book one as he gets a hand down Roger’s sweats, the Swiss keening loud and raw above him as Andy curls rough fingers around his cock, all hot, soft skin and the startling wetness at the tip. Apparently Roger’s already turned on, his full-body flinch rocking the bed as Andy thumbs over the head a little too hard, quivering with the force of his own gasps. They’re a layer closer now, just Andy’s boxers and Roger’s tight underwear between them and skin-on-skin but Andy forces himself to still, briefly.

“Roger,” he whispers, tongue familiar on the name he’s said so many times, to friends, to interviewers, to international television cameras, the name he thinks may be engraved somewhere deep inside for the rest of his life. Dark eyes slit open above him and Andy loses whatever he was going to say because Roger’s beautiful, all visible lust and mouth open on Andy’s name, wet, red tongue slipping out to press invitingly to his lower lip.

He thinks in this one moment, desire overriding the heartbreak in Roger’s expression, that it’s almost worth it, the losses that destroy part of your very soul, because without them Andy wouldn’t have this.

Ja?” Roger whispers in reply, moving like liquid against him, all rolling muscle and lithe, straining desperation, and Andy forgets any reason he might have not to want this with sheer want exploding low, low in his groin as Roger grinds down with a groan, beautiful, bitten mouth hanging open around it. Drunk or not, Andy’s too far to let this go now and as he accepts it he surges up, rolls them over so Roger’s on his back and blinking up at Andy with his dishevelled curls spread out dark against the white hotel pillows.

You’re beautiful, Andy wants to tell him, honesty a rare privilege for when Roger might not remember it in the morning, you are everything I want, the thing I miss from tour, the one thing I prize above all else, but he’s spent too long holding it in, and even if Roger remembers any of this tomorrow, Andy doesn’t want him to be uncertain of any of the truths kept locked up safe until the day there’s nothing holding him back, until Roger is done with tennis beyond this single loss. Andy kisses him instead, writing his feelings in the slide of their mouths together, in their mutual gasp as he pushes Roger’s sweats and underwear all the way down, kicking them away across the bed. All expanse of bare skin and tan lines to explore, unfettered, rough with the scattered dark hair over sweat-damp warmth. He thumbs over the delicate crease of Roger’s thigh where it meets his hip, remembers all the spots that make the Swiss keen, sharp and broken, as Andy traces them with hands and teeth, shivers and tension clenching Roger beneath him in restless, begging shifts against the sheets.

Pulling back to finish stripping down to nothing but his skin is hard, a physical ache at the loss of touch even for a second but he has to shift away anyway, fumbling for lube in the top drawer of the bedside table. Dropped there when Andy first unpacked with the vague idea that this might happen, the possibility of celebration sex otherwise, and he does mourn that it ended up being this, a desperate attempt to hold the pieces of Roger together rather than a glorious coming together after the Champions’ Ball. Bitterness for might have been makes him extra careful as he warms the lube between his palms, slides three fingers into Roger gently but without a warning, because he remembers last time it was a point of pride for Roger that he could take anything in this moment, never asking Andy to slow when the stretch was too much.

It’s been a while, maybe as long as six years, because Roger clenches tight around his knuckles and the sobbing breath he takes is a plea without words, his whole body hitching beneath the palm Andy presses to the scattering of hair over Roger’s lean stomach, feeling every flutter as he stretches the Swiss out with careful, probing fingers. He knows how much Roger loves his hands because the Swiss let it slip last time, half-incoherent begging ripped from his throat as Andy curled said fingers over his wrists, over his face, rambling nonsense driven out about how he watches Andy’s hands in interviews, imagines them inside him no matter who he’s with, about how he used to get half-hard just shaking hands at the net.

Andy’s never forgotten it, even with the haze of desolation clouding some of his memories from that night. It’s still clear as a favourite song in his mind, as the line calls that mattered most to him, the game set match Federer he still shies away from but this, this he can replay at his lowest moments; Roger Federer gasping out his helplessness in the face of Andy’s blunt fingers, hands more used to gripping a racquet than any kind of tenderness but perfect in that moment, because Roger believed it.

It’s funny, because he’s always thought Roger’s hands are the most beautiful things he’s ever seen. They’re clenched in the pillows over Roger’s head now, slender fingers white-knuckled with desperation and just knowing it’s him who did that is enough to have Andy’s cock twitching against the press of Roger’s thigh as he moves his hand, cataloging each and every full-body shudder echoed by gasps from Roger’s parted lips, panting harsh in the quiet room. In this instant, now, he has utter control of Roger Federer, could do anything.

Briefly, he wonders again what Novak might’ve done in his place, if Roger had gone to him. Flinches away from the – unlikely, but not impossible, even if it’s just jealousy speaking- worst-case scenario, that Novak might’ve taken advantage, kept Roger strung-out and mindless with want, dignity crushed utterly into helplessness until he begged, voice rent apart on the words until there was nothing left. Only the vaguest of possibilities, far more likely Novak would simply turn him away but that would’ve been a destruction in itself, the refusal of everything Roger is and offering, the Swiss so unpractised at helplessness.

He’s relieved - almost humiliatingly so - in this moment, that Mirka knew her husband well enough to push him towards Andy over anyone else. Trusting Andy not to take advantage in of this tempting vulnerability, Roger opened up and pliable beneath his hands, all expanse of sweat-gleamed skin and strained lines of muscle begging to be traced with the lightest of touches, stretched out like a canvas for Andy’s appreciation in his own bed, where only he can see the work of art that Roger is, like this.

Twisting his wrist he gets a cry, Roger’s face creased into bliss edged knife-sharp with want, eyes screwed shut and curls falling over his forehead, sticking to the sweat dripping beneath his tumble of hair. The slick slide of his fingers eases as he gets a hand under Roger’s thigh, lifts it up to hook over his shoulder and he leans forward, braced over possibly the greatest tennis player of all time who is writhing beneath him, arced against the bed in a beautiful, frantic arc of want and abandon, grace only in the curve of his body, of the long line of his throat, as he presses up beneath Andy’s touch in wild, hopeless ruts.

If they gave trophies for this, Andy thinks in the part of himself that’s still barely coherent, rationality splintering in his grip, Roger would probably win all of those too, but he can’t resent it, not this other thing in which Roger is utterly, completely perfect, because this Andy gets to share.

The loss of Andy’s fingers earns him Roger’s eyes flickering open, a moue of regret twisting his mouth into petulance as he looks up, gaze still hazed dark with intoxication and arousal as he tilts his head back, makes a pleading noise at the back of his throat that’s nothing but wordless sound. Unable to resist, Andy leans down with a soft “shhhh Roger, it’s okay,”as he kisses the pout from Roger’s mouth, soft, wet press of tongue against his lips as he draws back a bare inch, staying close enough to feel every huff of breath as he shifts between Roger’s strained-wide thighs, bracing one hand around a slender ankle for balance as he pushes forward.

Cry of pure desperation vibrating against his lips as he breaches the first inch, Roger going still and achingly tense beneath his palms, trembling all over in helpless little shifts, one heel driven into the small of Andy’s back as he begs in silent, wanton gasps. All heat and the slick, warm slide of sweat, in control of Roger Federer in a way no one else ever gets to be, not Novak, not Mirka, not anyone, his his his. Andy grips Roger’s ankle bruisingly-hard, holding himself steady from driving in all at once, forcing himself into restraint because one of them has to and it’s not going to be Roger, sounds falling from his lips that are probably begging in a language Andy doesn’t speak, hitched and continuous as Andy forward slow, careful.

Something indescribably precious in the trust he’d been gifted, and Andy appreciates suddenly what’s worth, what it means that Roger’s here, rocking up into him with no defences left. Memorises the slender golden spill of him across white sheets in the soft lamplight, the way he allows Andy’s hands to roam unchecked, tracing the smooth, sharp lines of his cheekbones, the vulnerable dip of his throat, all the tiny nicks and grazes that come with playing tennis at a professional level, still a grass stain to one elbow that he must’ve missed in his post-match shower. Andy kisses it, rocking his hips in rough, deliberate rhythm that have him choking off harsh, frantic sounds with every move. Roger looks to be almost in tears, again, lashes dark against his cheeks as he screws his eyes shut and Andy’s flash of concern dissolves as bliss washes away the agony from the Swiss’ expression, mouth gone slack and open on the pleading, broken sounds that are nothing like any coherent language at all.

Bracing a hand beside Roger’s shoulder, both of them trembling with the strain, Andy drives in a last desperate thrust with a shout caught in his throat. Roger’s cock jerks against his palm as the Swiss bucks up, tension fit to break the arc of his body as he loses his breath on a harsh sound of relief and spills wet between them.

Aching, endless second, drawn out in the taut, perfect sounds he makes, and Andy works him through it hand and body, the promise of his own pleasure twisting up hot and tight at the base of his spine, until Roger sobs on an exhale, “Andy”. It’s that which kicks him over the edge, coming in a blinding rush of white-heat and coloured lights glittering behind his eyelids as he fucks into Roger’s pliant, willing warmth beneath him with the sudden slickness of come, gasping out something that could be wordless but is more likely Roger’s name.

Like a promise, like a secret confession as the world blanks out around him and all he can see is Roger watching him, a flicker of something startled and soft in his expression meets Andy’s eyes in the breathless moment of stillness after, something tentative and new that’s nothing at all like despair.

After, when they’ve scattered the remnants of whatever they were wearing across the floor and they’re beneath the sheets, stickiness of sweat and come and all, because Andy’ll be damned if he’s manhandling Roger into the shower, they curl together like parenthesis, Roger’s forehead resting against Andy’s shoulder with the warm, ticklish brush of curls. Dismisses the whispered, “Don’t you have to go home-?” with a shake of his head, hand tangling in Andy’s against the lumpy hotel mattress and Andy’s hardly inclined to protest.

Instead he trails kisses over hair he still refuses to admit he loves, pride stilling his tongue but he does, indulging his constant desire to press his face to the roughed-up softness and just breathe. Roger makes a small sound against his skin, a little sad maybe but mostly just content, humming out something that could be thank you in a language of no words. His lips brush warm and wet against Andy’s shoulder with the half-words behind on a breath, felt more than heard in their cocoon of sheets, room quiet except for the distant murmur of London traffic outside the window. Here, now, it can just be them and the moment, Andy sliding a hand over the deceptive-fragility of Roger’s ribs, the curve of his shoulder, the down-soft hair at the nape of his neck, slow, wondering memorising by touch as they drift into sleep.

Soon, he thinks as the Swiss’ breathing evens out, calm finally after everything. Knows, now, he was only fooling himself to think he could abandon this, hopeless lies to keep away the loneliness of distance; the thought that maybe they were better than this, obligations and separate lives, should and should nots, conviction already faltered away to nothing. He wants this, and that Roger’s here rather than any of the countless places he should be, well maybe that’s enough to build a hope. The secret he’s kept this long, mostly, gleams a little brighter at the promise. This loss, this crushing was terrible on the one hand but from any other angle it’s just one step closer to the day he can finally let the ache in his chest form into words, trace his fingers through Roger’s hair and say you and me, and forever, huh?

Not yet; tennis is still important for now, still finals and sponsors and too much to let anything interrupt, too long spent in careful avoidance to give in anyway before they’re both done, completely. But in this one thing Andy’s patient, knowing the worth of the precious thing he clings to, that he thinks he maybe sees reflected back at him every time they look at each other, now. Losses hurt but that’s just today, tonight; they aren’t forever.

Soon, he knows, and holds the sleeping Roger close, waiting for the morning.