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as we fly south

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Night’s well past fallen by the time Andy extricates himself from the medal celebrations and makes it back to pick up his bags, head spinning with exhaustion and the endless congratulations. Not even the memory of Rio’s sunset, shading the sky watercolour-soft in a wash in pink and golds, lingers behind the hills; the lights of the city are mirrored in the peppered stars overhead as he ducks outside from his apartment in the Athlete’s Village for the last time. 

It comes as a surprise to realise that he’ll miss Brazil – the mountains peering through every window, the impossible golden sands, the tart flush of fresh fruit juice from the street kiosks. It’s been kind to him this week.

Which doesn’t mean he isn’t tired, every inch of him strained to the point of exhaustion. Usually a final means less warm-down, preparation less important with no match the next day, but there's a long autumn of tennis ahead and he'd taken his time in the locker room to catch his breath from the ridiculous marathon of a match, let the walls of the shower hold him up as he fought to stop shaking.

He feels worn thin - from Rio's capricious weather as much as the tennis, freezing and too hot to sleep by turns; it’s played havoc with a Village full of athletes trying not to catch cold. To avoid falling asleep on the massage table he’d called his mother who cried at him down the phone, called Kim who yelled at him for waking the baby - the amount he travels, she always says, he should at least have a basic grasp of Greenwich Mean Time by now - before she told him she was proud of him and she'd be even prouder if he called back in the morning when she was awake enough to remember his name.

He hung up grinning, let the BBC catch him for an interview so his Gran will get to watch him on the news in the morning and, the moment the cameras were turned off, he let go of a week of packed-tight tension in one, long exhale.

It's done and he's no Roger Federer; he isn't really confident of challenging at Tokyo in four years. This is most likely his Olympic time limit expired, and he can't say he's got anything left to prove, no unfinished business left out on that tennis court painted with the interlocking rings.

Off it though, there's just one more thing.

It may be late but the Athlete's Village hums around him as he walks alongside the artificial lake, the water dark and glass-still with the vicious wind of earlier eased to a lazy breeze. Lights shine out from the high rises all around, athletes celebrating and walking off jet lag and fucking with their balcony doors open, the aching restlessness of the Olympics and the mercury finally rising again. The heat makes everyone worse, wilder, because no one can sleep and only thing left to do with insomnia when surrounded by thousands of fit, gorgeous Olympians is celebrate success, or find ways to forget four years of hard work tumbling down in failure; the latter, usually – judging from his experience this week - involving burying misery in someone else’s willing mouth.

Andy knows the bitter weight of loss as well as anyone but not so much here, not when the gold at stake is medal-shaped, for Queen and country as much as himself. He still shivers all over with the adrenaline of the match, of the Village, as he walks, atmosphere prickling on his skin like a sunburn, and feeling the sweat he'd showered off an hour ago build up again in the hollow of his back, beneath the plain hoodie he'd pulled on as a disguise.

It's not that he's not allowed to be where he's heading - he's been there enough times this week that the other occupants just roll their eyes at him as he slips in, make a few untranslatable comments that probably mean 'keep the noise down' - but he'd rather not stand out like a British sore thumb.

After all, no one who matters has caught them yet. It'd be stupid to throw that away on the last night, for the last time.

Unerringly at the right spot, his feet turn away from the lake towards one particular cookie-cutter apartment block. He ducks through the door beneath the assorted country’s flags hanging limp in the humid air and he’s thankful the scuffed, mass-produced staircases are empty as he climbs up. No one on the lower floors uses the lifts since Juan Martin had to be rescued from one by a fucking handball team over a week ago; humid sweatbox or not, the stairs are worth it to avoid becoming another running joke in the Village dining hall.

He has to shrug off his hoodie as he reaches the third floor, t-shirt sticking damply to skin as he counts off the doors down the hallway that's a mirror image of the one in his own building. Out of habit only, he double-checks the numbers against the key in his hand when he stops at a particular door. The last thing he needs is to accidentally walk in on some gymnasts again. Even if he had appreciated, aesthetically speaking, how they were using all that delicious flexibility for definitely non-Olympic-sanctioned gymnastics.

The guy, blond and exquisite, had grinned at Andy, jerked his head invitingly and only the promise of something even better just down the hall had Andy shrugging a rueful apology and backing out. No great loss; the memory alone was enough to jerk off to for the next decade, and as he slips the key into the lock he wonders again if other sports are like this all the time, if it’s just tennis hunched in the corner like a prudish maiden aunt. He’d done his fair share of blowjobs in the showers when he was younger, knows it something they all do but it’s always secretive, always freezing at the slightest sound beyond the stalls.

The Olympics, well. There’s a reason the only people who marvelled at the 450,000 condom count were the journalists; the only question Andy heard from the athletes was, do you think that’s enough?

This room, when he shuts the door against the eco-friendly dim lighting of the hallway, is dark, a pocket of quiet tension hidden in the fizz of the Village. From the doorway Andy can see the shadow of the nearest bed half-hidden by the corner of the ensuite, impossible to make out details in the faint glow filtering in from the streetlights below. The balcony doors cracked open behind the mosquito nets allow a drift of slightly-cooler air but for all that it’s stifling, hard to breathe when the air con hasn't worked right since yesterday and Andy wonders if it’ll have been too much, if he should check the shower before the bed.

But when he rounds the corner on cat-quiet feet, yellow light from the next apartment block over falls over long legs stretched against white sheets so cheap they're almost translucent, faint gleam catching in the streaks of sweat. The shadowed shape is sprawled in almost exactly the pose Andy’d left when he headed off for his warm-up earlier; on his back with the curve of his arms stretched over his head, one foot reached longingly toward the balcony door as if to maximise the drift of breeze that must be tracing over bare skin like a tease, ticklish-soft.

After a considering moment – darkness is an opportunity to make the most of surprise, something he's learned this week, but if this is the last time he gets to see this he’ll admit he wants to fix it in his mind’s eye forever – Andy leans over to flick on the beside lamp.

Only because there’s no one watching does he allow himself a sigh of relief as the light floods out. It warms up slow to full brightness – bloody eco-bulbs and all the times he’s stubbed his toe in the half-dark this week - but it’s enough for Andy to rememorise the sight he dragged himself away from hours earlier, still half-wondering if he'd imagined it every time the door closed behind him.

But no; he’s still here, chest rising with each soft breath, lashes fanned dark against a tan that hasn’t faded from days indoors. Stretched out asleep on the bed, wrists looped to the headboard with the cheap silk scarves Andy picked up from a street seller on Copacabana beach, Novak is a sprawl of naked skin sheened with sweat, slender and glorious and impossibly, obviously not just in Andy’s imagination.

He’s all curves of muscle Andy knows by touch memory as much as stolen glances across the locker room, now, almost a week of dark stubble sweeping down the line of his neck. His wrists are red against the jewel-toned fabric of the scarves as if he’s been restless, but the knots are the same Andy pulled tight himself before he left.

When they made this ridiculously stupid bet, he’d been the one to set the condition that specified no handcuffs or locks. Novak protested that it undermined the entire situation – ‘what will make us stay if we are held by choice only?’ – but Andy put his foot down.

Willpower, he’d offered, and wanting not to lose; he wasn’t about to leave Novak trapped on the bed  if the building caught fire or if he needed the fucking bathroom, but likewise he’d know if the knots had been clumsily retied with one hand and teeth, and punish accordingly.

He’d made good on that on the second day. Come back from practice to bump into Novak, stumbling out the bathroom with a guilty expression that was entirely too feigned and Andy thought, well then, because he might be the sensible one but he excels at a highly competitive sport; he knows a fucking challenge when he sees one. By the time he finally let Novak come, hours later, half the Village must’ve heard them and they were both dizzy with exhaustion. Novak mumbled incoherent penitence in a mishmash of languages the entire time Andy wiped the sweat and come from his thighs, kissed bitten-puffy lips to trap the apologies with a soft, ‘Don’t do it again.’

‘Novak,’ he says now, muted in the thick air.

There’s a gleam catching the light through dark lashes as Novak’s eyes flicker, too quick for him to be honestly waking up. Neither of them have really slept enough the last few days between the humidity and the fucking, and deprivation is written over Novak’s faked-sleep face, dark circles and a sallow cast to his skin. If this wasn’t the last night, Andy would’ve let him out of the bet anyway; neither of them anticipated it lasting this long.

‘Novak,’ he repeats. ‘Come on. Quit faking it before I get bored and leave.’

Eyelids flutter again but this time Novak fixes him with a proper glare. ‘I do not believe you,’ he says with a trace of what Andy thinks might be petulance, voice raspy from days of choking himself to silence; both of them are conscious that the walls are thin. ‘Already you leave me hours.’

Andy raises his eyebrows. ‘Yeah well, I couldn’t exactly duck out of the match for a comfort break to check on you, could I? I would’ve had to bring the steward along and he might’ve got the wrong idea about me keeping you tied to a bed for a week. I’m not keen on explaining to my mum why she needs to bail me out of a Brazilian jail on kidnapping charges.’

‘Mmmm.’ Novak takes a deep breath and shifts, arcs his back in a boneless, deliberate stretch that has Andy clenching his hands to keep from being tempted into touch. ‘I am sure you could bribe the steward if you tried,’ he says, voice dipping sharp-edged into a tease, ‘Or you could bring the pretty one, you know, that blond who watches your ass when he thinks you are not paying attention? He would not tell. It would be like a tip you know, letting him watch.’

Abruptly, Andy turns away. Lets the silence drag out as he pulls off his t-shirt, kicks off his trainers and socks, feeling Novak’s wide-eyed stare press along the line of his spine as he strips.

When he’s wearing his skin and sweat and nothing else, he kneels on the bed and straddles Novak in one motion, graceful on the narrow mattress, lost count of the times he’s had to practice it this week until it’s as smooth as serving, and allows his weight to settle heavy across Novak’s bare thighs.

‘Let him watch,’ he says, makes it an accusation, not a question. Novak’s tense with expectance under him, knuckles white where he grips the scarves keeping his arms pinned and stretched out, on display.

On the second day Andy tied his ankles too, tight, starfished to the four corners of the single mattress, and jerked off slow and deliberate, kneeling over Novak without so much as a brush of skin on skin. He’d blushed the entire time even with Novak's breathless sounds of encouragement, but it was worth every mortifying second for the memory he sees flicker across Novak’s expression now, rendered tentative in the way he rocks his hips in a mute plea as much as to show off.

Andy’s halfway to hard but Novak’s there already, flushed and wet enough to suggest he’s been that way for a while without the relief of his own hand. It wouldn’t even be an effort to tease.

‘Do you know what you just did?’ Andy asks instead. Sharp but it’s an out; he’s already strung Novak along this week, punished him as much as he could bring himself to cross the invisible lines between them (still not as far as Novak begged, because they both have to play tennis again in the not-too-distant future) and he’s tired. He just wants to fuck one last time before they go for their respective flights and this gets packed away with the rest of their dirty laundry, alongside the sideways glances and occasional teasing touches that neither of them have acknowledged until now.

Maybe they’ll air it out in four years when they have other sports to hide behind, when no one’s watching the tennis players too closely. But then, four years is a long time and Novak’s been crushed twice in the space of a few weeks. Maybe not.

Andy can’t look too closely at the sadness behind the thought; they have to play each other, they might have to play each other next month, and turning awkwardly clingy won’t make that any easier.

‘Y- yes!’ Novak chokes out when Andy runs a fingertip down his dick, flushed red and hard between them, smearing the wetness into gleaming patterns. ‘I know, I- I make suggestions. I break the r-rules, Andy!’ That last cracks out as Andy leans down to run the flat of his tongue, slick and soft and hot, over the head of Novak’s dick with a rewarding hum, Novak straining to push up and held down, pinned between Andy's knees. ‘Please.’

‘You are beautiful like this, you know,’

It slips out on Andy’s tiredness, uncensored. Too close to breaking character but it’s the last night and he’s been thinking of this since he stepped off–court, circling the need to be here all through the ceremony and press. Clingy, his inner critic chides but surely it’s not unfair to temper this a bit now - the bet’s all but over.

He feels Novak go still, quiet apart from his gasps for air. But there’s no protest so he finishes the thought, half-muffled into the sensitive spot at the dip of Novak’s hip:

‘I don’t want to let the hot steward watch,’ he whispers. ‘I don’t want to let anyone else touch you.’

In answer, the startled sound that wrenches out of Novak’s throat is almost a sob. When Andy risks a glance his own breath snags, because there's a flush sitting high across Novak’s stubble-rough cheeks, head thrown back against the pillows with his eyes screwed shut as he visibly fights for composure and trembling under Andy from the effort of keeping still.

He's a pornographic work of art, desperation written in the golden-tan arch of his back, in the mute twist of his wrists against the ragged scarves, and Andy has to steady himself against a rush of pride that’s a hot, possessive weight in his chest. It’s ridiculous that everything in him rebels at the thought of giving this up when he's had days to draw it out, already far more than he had any right to expect.

But – he’s always kept silent on wanting this, past long months when they weren’t sure how to be friends at the edges of a tennis court and worse, during the times when Novak was overly-affectionate and curved too far into Andy’s orbit every time they passed in the locker room as if helpless to hold his distance. Never said anything to anyone, never let himself acknowledge the curious insinuations of the other players.

Andy’s wanted this forever, so long his earliest memories of it are blurred, foxed at the edges with the careful wear of age. He still can’t quite believe it’s been his this week, the right to drive Novak to the edge of coherence and watch him fall apart; it's as much a prize as any trophy, as the medal wrapped snug in its ribbon in his hoodie pocket.

Except the medal isn't warm beneath his palm when he slides his hand over it like he does over Novak's hip, tracing the hard line down before he skips his fingers away from where it counts to Novak’s choked whimper of protest. The medal is what he came to Brazil for, sure, but this isn't any less cherished for being unexpected. He'd half-hoped for it, guiltily, from the instant Novak found him bleary-eyed on the practice courts the day after the opening ceremony, and said with that gleaming tease of a smile how about we up the stakes, hmm?

Andy wouldn't have made the suggestion – wouldn't have agreed, not when it felt warily like taking advantage, when he was the one arguably playing better; even as friends he's always been the ballast to Novak's urge to launch himself outwards regardless of the fall, the one who had the sense to keep them both grounded. But there'd been something vulnerably desperate beneath Novak's offer and Andy knew if it wasn't this, it'd be something else. Something where he couldn't keep an eye on Novak setting himself on fire because he’d finally remembered what it felt like to lose.

Besides, he never lies to Novak. Now he's finally had this, he doesn't want anyone else to touch it.

He hushes Novak's whimpers as he rubs the knots from tense muscles, the massage easy over skin slick with the sweat that's dripping from them both. He works the tension out of Novak inch by inch with the touch-familiarity of the last week and a decade of looking out the corner of his eye, watches Novak gasp and shake when Andy’s hands find every sweet spot, the places that make his voice go high and pleading, quivering against Andy's mouth as he kisses down Novak's chest and leaves the sharpness of teeth over both nipples because he likes to hear Novak curse himself breathless.

Even with a week of practice, even determined and motivated by time slipping past, it’s still a surprisingly long, stubborn minute before Novak relaxes, lets his thighs nudge Andy’s knees wider until he’s in danger of falling off the bed.

Molim, please Andy,’ he says, voice a cracked whisper.

'Please what?' Andy asks sitting up, breathless. His lips taste like salt and the bitter tang of precome. He scratches his fingertips over Novak's stomach to watch it hollow with his shocked inhale and settles his weight firmer to quell the restless shifting as he drifts a fingertip down Novak's neglected cock. 'What do you want? A nap? Food? I can run down to McDonalds if you're hungry, just say the word-'

Gasping for air, eyes red-rimmed with tiredness and blown dark with arousal, the look Novak gives him isn't as intimidating as he probably intended.

'You know what I want, fu- fuck Andy!' Andy curling a hand to jerk him off, once, too-hard, bucks him up hard with a cry that breaks at the end into a stream of Serbian cursing. 'Please please, fuck me, please.'

And that- that was more shattered than Andy expected, the words raw-edged. Disarmed, he stills his hand and looks up.

Novak’s expression is screwed tight, the dim light deepening his frown to harsh lines and catching on the flash of teeth worrying at his lip; he looks strained in a way that has nothing to do with the restraints, as if he’s shuttering himself away beneath the desperation. It’s a throwback to the misery he’d worn when they first started this, that coloured the first night after Andy’s phone went post-match and, in response to Novak’s voice breaking as he answered, said ‘Are you in your room? I’m coming.’

He’d thought about calling it off as he jogged over – wondered if it was safer to laugh it off as a joke because this wasn’t the agreement, not when neither of them had really expected to lose before the final – but when he’d slipped through the open door, Novak was waiting on the bed and it was easier to go along with it.

No one knows better than Andy that nothing compensates for a dream being ripped into tatters but as he tied the first scarf with shaking hands, watching Novak’s fragile composure worn like armour as he lay back, he’d thought just maybe this was more helpful than meaningless platitudes. It’s only four years is the worst kind of insult; everyone in tennis knows four years is half a lifetime at twenty-five, and the end of the world at thirty.

The thought had occurred, that perhaps he was making excuses to let himself have this.

But this’d been working, he’d thought. The brittle calm Novak had worn like a cloak since Wimbledon gave way to teasing – letting Andy catch him off the bed, constantly taunting to push harder – which became the resurfacing of his smiles, tension sinking into something softer.

This morning when Andy skipped out on his team with worn excuses, going for a jog, meeting a friend, taking some time, ducking away from Jamie’s knowing grin, he’d reached the room as the sunrise coloured the air rose-gold, blushing in through the balcony doors. He let Novak up to shower and he’d tumbled back onto the bed damp and affectionate after, leaning against Andy as they shared the fruit he’d brought for breakfast. They’d talked idly over plans for Cincinnati and New York, shared derision of the tournament-sponsored hotels and the chances of the US Open’s new roof breaking down as they watched the sun coming up in slanted rays between the high rises. Everything was lazy, comfortable, wandering touches and Novak muttering smiling things about sleeping on the plane later, kissing the taste of pineapple out of Andy’s mouth before he let the scarves be retied.

Now it’s like that laughing, tactile Novak got stolen and replaced while Andy was out hammering himself against the tennis court. When he was-

Oh.

‘Novak?’ he says quietly, and although he guesses the answer, ‘what’s wrong?’

‘You are a fucking cocktease, this is everything that is wrong,’ Novak snaps, sharper than he’s been since that first night. ‘You have a plane to catch yes? Unless you plan to call me from Ohio for phone sex, we do not have many hours.’

The last word snags roughly in his throat, catching on a hiccup of breath. Andy’s shifting before he’s even processed the flash of concern, guilt sitting heavy in his chest; had he got carried away after all? He hadn’t wanted to take advantage but he’s misjudged somewhere clearly and this feels like more than just the medal sitting safely out of sight somewhere in the pile of clothes on the floor.

Shuffling forward, gritting his teeth against the coil of arousal as they brush together, he braces himself on one hand to give Novak a glare - that’s entirely wasted because the Serbian’s still got his eyes shut tight.

Making a split-second decision, Andy leans in to drop a kiss on the unhappy curl of his mouth.

‘Novak?’ he repeats, pressing it rough and awkward into the non-space between them. ‘Hey, I didn’t mean to rub it in, the- well, you know. I didn’t think but this was for how long the tournament lasted, right? Tournament’s over if-’ He swallows. ‘If you want to call it quits.’

The sound Novak makes is sharply frustrated, vibrating into the not-kiss. ‘You think I want- you are such an idiot.’

Well that was- unexpected. Andy pulls back far enough to give him an uncomprehending look, ignoring their shared gasp at the move creating friction where it counts, because Novak is tense with entirely un-lustful anger and glaring up, the harsh shine of tears in his eyes.

Andy experiences another stomach-dropping moment of terror that he’s screwed this up irreparably. Maybe the suggestion to bring the steward wasn’t teasing; maybe Novak wanted an out. Maybe he was trying to say he doesn’t want Andy, now Andy’s got the thing Novak always wanted.

‘Shit,’ he says, ‘I didn’t think- you were fine this morning, I thought-’ I thought you’d got over losing he’s about to say before he cuts it off with his tongue between his teeth; he should know better. ‘It’s just a medal, Novak, and this was just a stupid bet. I’m not going to use it as an excuse to make you-’

‘Andy.’

‘-do anything you don’t want-'

Andy,’ Novak snaps and Andy shuts up fast, swallowing the apologies piling up against his gritted teeth. Tears are still caught in Novak’s eyelashes, glittering in the faint light like the spangled crystals on the gymnasts’ outfits, but the misery shuttering his expression is giving way to something rueful, with the echo of the self-deprecating smile Andy knows now by taste and touch.

‘Is not the medal,’ Novak says, in a rush as if he’s having to fire the words out before he changes his mind. ‘Is stupid to be honest, but-’ He takes a deep breath. ‘I thought you left.’

Andy blinks at him. ‘Left?’

Then the implications hit like a serve to the head and he pushes back to arms-length to give Novak the proper incredulous look it deserves. ‘You mean, left you here?'

‘You were gone hours!’ There’s a stubborn set to Novak’s expression but the certainty in his voice is hollow, well-worn as if he’s had time to run and rerun the words – which he has, if he’s been lying here thinking this over. Thinking he’d been tied to a bed and abandoned, fucking Christ. ‘I knew when the match start, I knew you have a plane to catch, and it got so late I start to think, maybe you just go. This is only a stupid bet yes, and you make so sure I can let myself out before we started-’

‘Not so I could leave you tied to a fucking bed! Fuck!’ Arms giving way from exhaustion and shock Andy drops his head, getting a bruise from the hard line of Novak’s collarbone. ‘If I was less tired,’ he mutters, bitter, ‘I’d walk out right now and leave you to your hand. I can’t believe you thought I’d do that.’

But, the uncomfortable murmur of guilt points out, he’d spent all week playing the angle that this was just a bet. Nothing more than messing around to make Novak feel better. Hiding the possessive ache in his chest when he watched Novak’s face as he came, how much he enjoyed the easy, comfortable tangle of their legs together that morning as Novak stole watermelon slices from his hand and laughed at his mock-outrage.

At no point before tonight had he voiced gratitude that they’d finally got their collective shit together enough to act on a decade and a half of UST – or made it obvious, in word or action, that he took this any more seriously than a stupid dare that Novak happened to lose.

‘Sorry,’ he mutters, but that’s not fucking adequate and he lifts his head to meet Novak’s hurt head on, fumbling for the right words to piece this back together.

‘I didn't mean to let you think I’d left,’ he says. ‘I would never do that, alright? No matter how long that match was, if we’d gone into the fifth, if it took the rest of the month for one of us to decide to hold serve - which was an actual possibility for a while there - I wouldn’t have just left you.' He catches Novak’s eyes, even as it takes an effort to hold it steady against years of training himself not to look too hard, voice dropped to a mumble as he finishes, ‘This matters too much. To me. Okay?'

It’s an unspoken acknowledgement on tour that Novak has issues with saying ‘sorry’. He shuffles evasively around it on the increasingly rare – thanks, Andy knows, to the influence of Boris there-are-no-friends-in-tennis Becker - occasions he makes it to an apology at all. Most of the players take offence at his reluctance; no one trash talks where Andy can hear them now but he knows they still do it, echoed mutters of ‘arrogance’ and the number of players who’ll stick up for Novak falling week by week.

Andy knows better. Sorry spills easily from his own tongue because he learned it under his mother’s implacable immunity to bullshit, from losing his tennis privileges until he managed to say it with sincerity. In contrast Novak learned sorry as a feint for tourists, the meaningless sound that distracted tired, stressed parents from blaming him for yet another prank. Novak doesn’t say the word because sorry’s just the lie he tells when he’s anything but.

Unlike most of the locker room, Andy’s fluent in the Novak Djokovic apology. He reads it now, in the way Novak strains up to brush a soft kiss across the tip of his nose.

‘I know now,’ he murmurs. ‘Next time, I don’t worry yes?’

Tilting his head, Andy meets Novak’s smile with a questioning look. ‘Next time?’

‘For sure, next time. Except next time I think I try to win, hmm?’ Novak’s tone curves around the question like a promise, syrup-sweet but Andy hears the uncertainty underneath. Shifting to get the angle, he rolls his hips just so and catches Novak’s startled groan in a kiss gone lopsided against his grin.

‘I don’t know,’ he murmurs, between kisses over the stubble-roughness of Novak’s cheek, down the line of his throat, licking up the salt-sharp beads of sweat as Novak writhes into the friction between them with a pleading sound, ‘I’m not giving this up without a fight.’

‘Maybe you don’t, maybe I take- Andy, Andy!’

'I meant it, you know,' Andy breathes into the hollow at the base of Novak's throat, licking over the hickey he just left. 'I don't want anyone else to get to do this.'

‘Slight problem,’ Novak points out although his voice has gone thin, too-high, ‘of us both being a little bit married.’

Pausing in the line of bites he’s trailing down Novak’s chest, Andy gives him a disbelieving frown. Aside from the initial 'Is this alright with-' 'Yes, yes she knows', they haven't touched the m-word.

‘You want to bring that up now?’ he demands.

‘You are the one staking a fucking claim- ah, Andy-

Yes, Andy thinks as he swallows Novak’s dick all the way down just to hear the strangled sound Novak makes losing all his words at once, that’s exactly what he’s doing. Nothing so clear-cut as sole rights because, married, but he’s marked out a claim here in the press of his fingertips over every inch of Novak on both sides of his tan lines, in the lazy kisses he let Novak steal from his mouth that morning.

This is too big now to pack carefully away in a dark corner to wait for Tokyo in four years; they’ve voiced the secret and that gives it weight. Either they make something of it, or they go back to awkward silences and drifting apart into nothing. 

As Novak shakes under his mouth, alternating curses and encouragement as Andy hums, he thinks maybe they can work something out.

Novak whines at the back of his throat as Andy pulls back for air, licking at the glistening tip almost as an afterthought as he tries to remember where he put the spare condoms. There’s a burst of sound drifting through the balcony door, laughter and shouts but it’s distant – the air itself feels thick in the room, hot like the noon-time sun baking everything to stillness and it encloses them in their own space of heat and desperate, aching need.

Feet braced against the bed, every muscle strained in relief, Novak’s tugging at the restraints with breathy little sounds, half-lidded eyes on Andy.

‘You gonna fuck me or admire the view some more?’ he rasps, on the edge of coherence. Grinning, Andy ducks down to kiss the attitude from his mouth as an answer, sparks of bliss everywhere they touch as he lets Novak make the kiss hard and greedy, teeth sharp on Andy’s tongue.

Condoms, condoms – right, bedside table, and he fumbles a hand out blindly, scattering half a dozen to the floor before he grips one foil-slick packet. Thinks fervent praise at the Rio organizing committee for throwing handfuls of the damn things in every direction  - he’s going to be finding squares of green foil in his luggage probably ‘til Tokyo – before he finds the lube beside them, tossed carelessly aside that morning, and sits back, close to dizzy from choosing the kiss over breathing. Novak’s not any better, gasping for air around fractured encouragement in Serbian and English, all the syllables mangled together into the nonsense Andy’s learned is what tumbles out when he’s too turned on to think straight.

He’s never going to be able to listen to Novak in press again without remembering exactly how all Novak’s careful vowels go sideways when someone sucks his dick.

His hands tremble as he rips the foil and gets ready, pushes up Novak’s legs until he’s doubled over, pinned hand and hip and so hard he’s almost whimpering on every exhale as he watches Andy with wide, dark eyes. All that stretching pays off in other ways than (sometimes) winning tennis matches; Novak bends easily, legs heavy over Andy’s shoulders and his heels digging into the dip between Andy’s shoulder blades, familiar now and easy.

(Matt spotted those particular bruises in practice yesterday and delivered a straight-faced lecture on avoiding situations that might lead to injuries during once-every-four-year tournaments, Jamie smirking over his shoulder the entire time because Andy’s apparently hired a bunch of supportive smart-asses for his team.

At least, he thinks as he looks down at Novak blinking up at him, beautiful and flushed and probably the greatest rival of Andy’s entire career, maybe turning this into something regular won’t be a problem on his side. Novak’s, well. They can deal with that if it comes to it.)

‘Ready?’ he asks, and Novak groans something probably unspeakably rude in Serbian.

‘Go, before we are too old to play our next match eh?’ he demands and Andy’s grinning as he pushes in, all slick, wet heat still loose from earlier and Novak’s shout most likely audible all the way back in England.

The thought flits through Andy’s mind that for all the next times in the world, life – especially theirs – is never certain and he should take this slow, remember every second in case it’s gone tomorrow.

Then Novak braces himself against the restraints and twists up, pulling Andy all the way in and it goes hard and fast in an instant, delicious heat and Andy burying his groans in the sweat-damp curve of Novak’s shoulder. The headboard, cheap pine slats already cracked, slams against the wall and Andy hears Novak gasp out a laugh.

‘Sorry,’ he rasps, either to Andy or the room next door, and Andy speeds up because how is he still talking; his own voice is gone, shredded by his harsh breathing. Shifting his hands, leaving the white after-imprints of fingermarks across Novak’s flushed-hot skin, he wriggles one between them to curl a rough grip over Novak’s dick.

Hard, achingly close and Andy may not have done this much before this week but he’s nothing if not dedicated to his training. One jerk, two, angle just right and Novak’s coming with a yell that’ll definitely wake the neighbours if they haven’t already, wet and slick between them. Shaking all over and Andy forces his eyes open to watch him throw his head back, mouth open as he loses himself under Andy’s hands.

Almost enough and Andy picks up the pace again because he loves the way Novak relaxes all over when he’s come, the tiny sounds he sobs out at the aftershocks of stimulation, wrecked and desperate and pliable. Heat is clenching at the base of Andy’s spine, teetering on the edge but he’s so exhausted every muscle aches and his arms are shaking holding himself upright, gone lightheaded with desperation.

Doesn’t realise he’s slowed the rhythm until there’s a murmur from Novak, wordless, followed by a sound Andy’s too blitzed to process and it takes another second to recognise the sensation on his chest as fingertips trailing down.

It was the sound of fabric tearing, the crisp snap of silk threads; Novak’s ripped one of the scarves.

‘Hey, Andy,’ he says, voice slurred around the sounds, ‘come on yeah?’ He tweaks a nipple with the sharp bite of nails, every nerve lighting up and Andy chokes on a gasp, almost there. ‘I see, this is- hold on,’ and the hand strokes down over wet skin, shiver of slick-warmth sparked in its wake. Then there’s nails across the curve of his ass that have Andy jerking forward, heat spilling over and he comes in a rush that feels weightless, forgetting how to breathe and everything gone except the heat of Novak everywhere they touch, burying their gasps between them when Andy’s mouth finds his.

It feels like hours before Andy can form a coherent thought again – the first of which is that he hopes it hasn’t been hours, because there’s a plane waiting and he’s already borrowing time he didn’t really have. Pushing himself up from his sprawl over Novak takes a couple of tries, gone achingly lazy all over and he hears Novak’s groan echo his for every place they stick uncomfortably together.

‘Shower,’ Novak says but doesn’t move as Andy forces himself to tie off the condom, dropping it off the bed and collapsing back down beside Novak because that much movement felt like running six marathons in a day. ‘Andy, you broke me with sex. You carry me to shower.’

‘Fuck off,’ Andy mumbles, and kisses the curve of Novak’s shoulder because it’s right there against his mouth. ‘Bet’s over. You can walk yourself.’ Catching his eyes drifting closed, he swears softly. ‘Don’t let me fall asleep; I agreed with Rafa to share a plane to Cincy. They’ll be sending a search party any minute.’

‘Mm, or Uncle Toni will leave without you.’ Novak goes quiet for so long that Andy can feel himself drifting off, entire body staging a mutiny when he tries to move – only to come sharply awake when Novak finally asks.

‘So?’ he says, quiet, ‘was it Rafa then?’

Andy knows what he means. ‘No,’ he answers, keeping carefully still and only realising he’s betrayed himself with tension when Novak’s free hand drifts up to stroke soothingly over his side. ‘Kei won the bronze.’

Novak hums noncommittally; both of them are fond of Rafa but Andy hears the echo of meaning in Novak’s silence, that they’re both quietly relieved they won’t be spending the rest of the season fending off a revitalized Rafa Nadal wielding a duo of Olympic medals.

It’s an achingly long few seconds before Novak asks the question that matters, voice gone small in the hush of the room.

‘And you?’

Instead of answering, Andy twists over and reaches down to find his hoodie on the floor, fumbling through the pockets. The medal catches in the soft fabric but Andy shakes it free, ribbon unwinding over his hands as he rolls back into the warm line of Novak. Hesitates for a second and then sets it down on Novak’s chest – careful not to let it drop because it’s heavy, but he hears the catch of Novak’s breath just the same.

‘Andy,’ he murmurs, free hand hovering just over the gleam of gold, audibly swallowing. ‘It was hard match?’ he asks after a moment in which Andy tactfully doesn’t look at his face.

‘The hardest. Thought it was going Delpo’s way for a while there.’ Realising Novak’s fumbling to pick up the medal one-handed, Andy reaches up to tug at the knots in the remaining scarf around his wrist. They’ve been pulled tight by Novak’s wriggling and he mutters under his breath, trying to get them loose. ‘Hey Superman, can’t you rip this one too?’

‘You put them there, your problem’ Novak says absently, and then hisses as the scarf comes free, dropping his hand too fast. Andy catches it, grimacing as he traces a fingertip across the warm, red bracelet of friction burns and Novak lets him examine them without comment. He’s still playing with the medal that’s picking up smears of sweat and come across the polish, the ribbon tumbling brightly garish against the soft golds of metal and tanned skin.

‘Come to Cincinnati with me and Rafa,’ Andy says into the quiet when he’s assured himself there’s no permanent damage, watching Novak poke the medal as if it might explode in his hand. ‘You can stay or get a flight on to New York, whatever, but we have the plane arranged anyway, it’d be easier. And I’d like you to,’ he adds, feeling his cheeks heat with the strangeness of being able to say that, finally. ‘I don’t want to leave you here.’

Novak doesn’t say anything for possibly the longest minute of Andy’s life, tracing the embossed Olympic rings on the medal’s surface. When he does answer, it’s heavy with reluctance.

‘I have to go home. Jelena, she cover for me this week by saying I am at a yoga retreat, but they expect me tomorrow.’ He hums to himself; Andy can almost hear him weighing up what he’s about to admit, punctuated by a decisive sigh. ‘Jelena, you know what she say when I ask her permission for this?’

Andy swallows. ‘Do I want to know?’

Novak’s pause is probably for effect rather than nerves, because no amount of crushing defeats will ever alter Novak’s Djokovic’s penchant for the overdramatic. ‘She say, “but I thought you sleep with Andy always.”’

Okay- what? Pushing up onto one elbow, Andy stares down at him. ‘Seriously?’ When Novak nods with a rueful air, he groans. ‘God, were we that fucking obvious?’

‘Apparently yes. All the suspicion but none of the sex. Until now of course.’

‘Fuck.’ Sinking back down to hide his blush against Novak’s shoulder, Andy sighs. ‘Do you know what Kim said?’

‘I presume she said yes, or I have to hire some bodyguards.’

‘No it’s fine, she thought it was a great idea.’ Andy steels himself and adds, ‘So great actually that, er, she asked if sometime we’d do it where she can watch.’

Novak’s fingers still on the smeared gold.

‘That…is not the most terrible suggestion,’ he says cautiously and anticipation splashes warm in Andy’s chest because, oh.

‘She’s coming to New York.’ He offers it noncommittally after a moment to steady himself, just a statement of fact but he catches the uptick of Novak’s mouth into a wry smile. ‘Maybe we should all have dinner. Just to catch up you know.’

‘Sure, you can buy me dinner,’ Novak acquiesces innocently and Andy’s about to protest for form’s sake that he didn’t mean that, when Novak hums a considering little sound. ‘Maybe I keep this as insurance, hmm? In case you forget?’ He lifts the medal with the ribbon twinned through his slender fingers, the disc trapping gleams of light as it spins gently.

Kneejerk panic kicks in Andy’s chest, the refusal on the tip of his tongue; he just won it, it’s his, protests lumping in his throat-

He thinks of Novak, lying here thinking Andy didn’t care enough to come back, and swallows all of it.

‘Okay,’ he says, soft and watches Novak go wide-eyed before he tries to control his face back to nonchalance. ‘I mean, it’s not as if I’m not going to show up. You can clean it for me before New York,’ he adds and Novak whacks him on the arm with his own Olympic medal.

‘Some of this mess is yours!’ he points out over Andy’s outraged noise but he’s grinning, lit up all over as he rolls over to pin Andy to the bed, precariously on the edge of tipping them onto the floor but neither of them caring, Novak catching the hand Andy reaches up to steady him and pressing the medal into it instead.

‘It’s okay,’ he says, leaning down and Andy meets the kiss halfway, feeling the curve of Novak’s smile against his, easy and bright and his laugh warm on Andy’s mouth as he murmurs, ‘I trust you to be there.’