Roger’s just seen Mirka off for a spot of late-night shopping, already changed into pyjama bottoms and an old t-shirt, and is halfway into bed with the TV buzzing on low when there’s a knock at his door. He sighs and casts the bed a wistful glance as he pads across the room and pulls the door open. “Rafa,” he says, surprised.
Rafa smiles and sways a little, clutching at the doorframe. “Roger. Hello! Hi.” He grins, wide and blinding.
Roger raises his eyebrows but steps back from the door, holding it open. “Come in, then. You’ve been drinking.”
Rafa’s grin fades. He looks a lot like a child caught doing something wrong. “Just a little,” he says. “Is okay, Uncle Toni knows. Roger.” He looks at Roger with wide eyes.
“I believe you,” says Roger. “Are you coming in?”
“Oh! Yes, yes, I’m coming in.” He sidles past Roger and makes a great show of walking in a straight line to the bed. “See,” he says, glancing back over his shoulder. “Only a little drunk.” Then he throws himself across the mattress and heaves an enormous sigh, spreading his arms and kicking off his shoes. Roger sighs, too, lamenting the loss of his early night, and closes the door.
“So,” he says, shoving a pillow aside and sitting back against the headboard, glancing at Rafa.
“So,” repeats Rafa, and giggles. Then he says, “Oh!” and sits up. Too fast; he blanches and Roger starts forward on instinct, a hand against Rafa’s back. “Is alright,” says Rafa after a moment, breathing deep. “Not that drunk.”
Roger hums disbelievingly and shifts back, arranging the pillows on the other side of the bed. “Maybe you shouldn’t lie down,” he says. “Here, sit.”
Rafa smiles at him and leans back against the pillows, head tilted to stare at the ceiling.
“I’ll get you some water,” says Roger after a silence.
“No.” Rafa shoots out a hand to curl around Roger’s elbow. “Not that drunk.”
“So I’ve heard,” says Roger dryly. “I’ll get you some anyway.”
“In a minute,” says Rafa. He lets go of Roger’s elbow but loops his arm about it instead and leans into Roger’s side, tipping his head down to rest against his shoulder.
“Roger,” he says plaintively, “Roger, I don’t want you to no like me.”
Roger bites back a laugh and reaches up to pat reassuringly at Rafa’s hair. “I don’t not like you,” he says.
“Oh,” mumbles Rafa, head lolling on Roger’s shoulder. “That’s good. Is glad.” He sighs, curling in on himself, knees against Roger’s thigh.
“Rafa,” says Roger, tipping his head back and smiling at the ceiling, “If you’re going to sleep, I’ll take you back to your room.”
“Is not going to sleep,” says Rafa. “But hey.” He lifts his head and swipes a thumb over Roger’s pyjama pants. “You were going to sleep?”
“Yeah,” says Roger. “Mirka’s gone shopping. I thought I’d have an early night.”
“Oh,” says Rafa again, frowning. “Then I go, you sleep, si?”
“You don’t have to go,” says Roger, petting at Rafa’s hair again.
Rafa doesn’t put up much of a fight. “Hmm,” he says, pressing closer against Roger’s side. His hair tickles at Roger’s neck, falling across his eyes, and he blows ineffectually at it, apparently forgetting he could just lift his hands from where they’re curled around Roger’s arm. Roger laughs again and reaches up to tuck the loose strands behind Rafa’s ear.
“I think you’re lying,” he says.
“Not lying,” mumbles Rafa sleepily. “What?”
“I think you are going to sleep.”
“Is not going to,” says Rafa, sounding affronted.
“No, I believe you.” Roger laughs. “You’re tired now, though.”
“I know.” Rafa sighs. “I go.” He lifts his head from Roger’s shoulder and looks blearily around the room.
“Here,” says Roger, extricating his arm from Rafa’s clutch and climbing from the bed, holding out a hand. “I’ll walk you back to your room.”
Rafa smiles that blinding smile, tempered a little by the drowsy lull of his eyelids, and takes his hand, stumbling slightly as Roger pulls him to his feet.
“Mmph,” says Roger as Rafa sags against him, looping an arm about his waist to hold him still. He grabs his keycard and Rafa's shoes and steers Rafa towards the door, a hand curled over his hip, fingers digging into his skin gently but insistently. Rafa wakes up a little once they’re out in the corridor, walking without Roger’s help, but he keeps a hold of his hand and leans back into him when they reach his room, huffing a laugh into Roger’s neck, warm and damp. “Rafa,” says Roger, pushing at Rafa’s chest and propping him against the wall beside the door. “Where’s your keycard?”
“Somewhere,” says Rafa absently, patting at his pockets with a frown creasing his forehead. “It’s-- oh.” He pulls the card from his back pocket, beaming, and hands it to Roger.
“Okay,” says Roger once they’re inside the room. “Get into bed. You’re not going to be sick, are you?”
Rafa shakes his head, dislodging his hair from where it’s tucked behind his ears, and shuffles over to the bed, working at the button on his jeans.
“I’m going to get you a glass of water,” says Roger.
Rafa hums in acknowledgement, concentrating intently on undoing his jeans and pulling them off without tripping himself in the process. He’s made it into bed by the time Roger comes back with the water and downs it easily enough, smiling at Roger and blinking heavy and tired. “Thank you,” says Rafa. “And sorry, Roger. I wanted-- tomorrow, yes, we do something? Catching up?”
Roger smiles. “Okay,” he says. “Try not to drink so much tomorrow.”
“No more drinking,” says Rafa solemnly. “Serious now. I win.” He flashes a smile and then sighs, settling into the pillows.
Roger laughs quietly, reaching out to brush a strand of hair from Rafa’s forehead. He looks so young, open and relaxed. “Goodnight, Rafa,” he says.
“Hmm,” says Rafa, half mumbled into a pillow. “Night.”
Rafa answers his door somewhat sheepishly when Roger knocks the following afternoon.
“Catching up?” Roger grins, raising an eyebrow.
Rafa laughs. “We go explore, yes? Maybe eating some insects.”
Roger screws up his face. “You can eat the insects,” he says. “I’ll take photos. So you have proof.”
“Put on internet, yes? Rafael Nadal eat insects, braver than Roger Federer.”
Roger laughs. “No, Roger Federer doesn’t eat insects, smarter than Rafael Nadal.”
Rafa’s grin is wide, a slash of white against golden skin, eyes crinkling at the corners and all framed by loose strands of hair. He still looks so young and carefree, and Roger is glad, so glad, that everywhere besides the tennis court he’s just this kid from Mallorca, eager to explore each new city he visits, happy to drag Roger along.
Rafa fits in a lot better than Roger was expecting; something about his frantic, fluid energy and exotic features. His skin is damp, flushed about his cheekbones, his fingers quick as they skim over trinkets and food at the stalls lining the streets. He smiles wide and often, peering over his shoulder at Roger who follows more slowly, picking up things Rafa’s lingered over, considering, and putting them down again. He tries to hide behind his camera, snapping photos like the other tourists: Rafa half-hidden behind strings of coloured beads, bent over a spread of dainty little fans, peering with his nose wrinkled at a dubious-looking wok full of-- something. It doesn’t really work; he’s asked to pose for a photo on average of once every five steps, but he’s not bothered, laughing through the squeals and flashes at Rafa ducking behind the stalls quick as lightning, eyes sparkling.
Rafa, on impulse, even asks another tourist to take a photo of them, jumping into her path and waving the camera with his huge, impossible to refuse smile. He slings an arm about Roger’s shoulders and tilts his head, hair brushing Roger’s cheek, thrumming with excited energy beneath Roger’s palm where it's pressed into his waist.
Rafa eats with the most entertaining mix of expressions and gestures, particularly when it’s food he’s trying for the first time. Roger watches him fumble over the chopsticks in the little tucked-away restaurant they find, still unable to use them with the deft practised movements Roger has managed to perfect, brow furrowed in concentration. He watches Rafa’s face collapse in frustrated resignation as the precariously balanced rice and chicken falls back into the bowl once again, and then melt into a satisfied smile as he simply lifts the bowl to his mouth and shovels the food in with the chopsticks.
“You’re disgusting,” says Roger, shaking his head and tucking a prim mouthful of food between his lips.
Rafa shoots him a dirty look, rendered totally ineffective by the dimples in his cheeks as he fights back a smile. “I'm clever,” he says around the bowl muffling his mouth, tipping his head back to catch the last grains of rice.
Roger arches an eyebrow, watching as Rafa lifts his second bowl and sifts through it with his chopsticks, laughing when Rafa's face wrinkles into something between confusion and disgust. “What is this,” he says, and Roger leans forward to debate whether the principal ingredient in Rafa’s food is some form of insect or just really crispy chicken.
Roger takes solace in the wide-open vista of Tiananmen Square after he loses to James, breathing in the dank scent of pollution and the distant lingering smell of food, the lights winking colourfully along the edge of his vision as he tries to make sense of it all.
“Is nice,” says Rafa quietly. He’s standing behind Roger, some metres away, hands tucked into his pockets.
Roger nods. He's always liked visiting places better at night. People tend to keep to themselves in the dark, in their own little world, their presence comforting but not intruding. Rafa makes a noise behind him like he’s started to say something but held it in at the last moment, and shifts restlessly. When Roger turns around he’s biting down on his lip, watching him through wide, liquid eyes, shining with reflected light. “We should probably head back,” says Roger.
Rafa bounces a little on the balls of his feet and then lurches forward to envelope Roger in an awkward hug, warm and heavy as he folds his arms around Roger’s neck and burrows his head into Roger’s shoulder. Roger can feel the scrape of his hips through his t-shirt, and his chin where it digs into the soft skin above Roger’s collarbone will probably leave a bruise. He hugs back anyway, and sighs, and follows Rafa into a crowded food court for dinner, elbows bumping in the tiny, cramped space.
“I think I make better doubles partner,” says Rafa from where he’s watching Roger practise, elbows resting atop the fence surrounding the court, chin propped against his palms.
“You’re not Swiss,” says Roger, pausing and balancing a ball on his racket.
“No,” says Rafa, shaking his head, “You not Spanish.”
Roger laughs, flicking the ball towards Rafa and pulling another from his pocket, sailing an absent serve across the court. “You should make yourself useful,” he says. “Come practise with me. I can’t work on my serve forever.”
“I practise already,” says Rafa, throwing the ball back to Roger. “And I think.” He tilts his head, holding back a smile mostly unsuccessfully. “I think your serve need more work.”
Roger rolls his eyes, mouth twitching, and fires an inch-perfect serve into the corner of the service box.
“See,” says Rafa, shaking his head sadly, “Terrible.”
Rafa’s there after the doubles, somewhere amidst the crowds and confusion. He curls his fingers around Roger’s wrist and presses a smile into Roger’s still-damp cheek. Roger closes his eyes and for a moment the shouts and flashbulbs disappear and all he feels, inside the warmth of Rafa’s hand and the curve of his lips, is perfect, comfortable quiet.