Nick was, to put it simply, jealous.
Although he had no complaints to make about how he had been spending his own extended off-season, it was impossible not to imagine being there instead. On a boat, fishing, with Alexander Zverev and a number of people he considered to be friends. Spending time with him, and talking to him, and being on his Instagram story.
But no. Instead, he was starting at a picture of Marcelo goddamn Melo. Because of course.
It was no secret Alex and Marcelo were close. Perhaps Nick had deluded himself into thinking they weren't that close. He certainly hadn't deluded himself into thinking he was that close with Alex. They talked about tennis sometimes, sure, and about basketball other times. And maybe sometimes they kissed, and Nick brought him back to his hotel room when neither of them had to play the next day (or sometime, when Nick did have to, but never Alex; nothing ever came before his career). But that was more of a friends with benefits thing, minus the friends part.
Marcelo was different, somehow. Alex used the same snark with him that he used with Nick, but it was different. More fond, perhaps. They were close, and Nick was reminded of it every time he saw Marcelo in Alex's box for a match. (He tried to imagine it, being in Alex's box. It shouldn't have been hard, he'd been in other players' boxes before— Sock, Kokkinakis. All he could see, though, was Mischa not approving.) He was reminded of it when Marcelo went on a fucking fishing trip with Alex.
It didn't take long for Nick to open Alex's contact on his phone and click on FaceTime.
Alex picking up was probably the best thing to happen all day. His hair looked a bit damp, and his eyes looked a bit tired. Nick ached to be there, to push that strand of hair from his face, and to simply sit there beside him. It was a desire he was quickly being forced to come to terms with, to want Alex in a way that didn't involve the German begging for more.
"Nick?" he asked, seeming confused, perhaps a bit worried. "Is everything okay?"
Nick flashed a quick smile. "Yeah, never better." He paused a moment, just looking at Alex. "How was fishing?"
Alex immediately brightened up at that. "Great! It was fun, nice to see some of my friends again."
"Mm, that's good. And I saw Melo was there?"
"Yeah, yeah, he was." Alex eyed him a bit warily. "Why? Is that a problem?"
"Maybe." Nick smirked a bit, trying to show Alex he was just playing, he didn't really mean anything by it. Even if he really did.
Alex shot back a similar sly smile, moving so he was lying back on whatever bed he was on, holding his phone above him. "Well, I need someone to keep me company, and it's not exactly like you're here."
"Of course not. 'Friends' only, right?" he asked in a bit of a mocking tone, thinking again to Alex's Instagram.
"What, jealous?" Alex was quick to retort.
Nick bit the inside of his lip. "What are you gonna do about it?"
It was no surprise Alex took it as the challenge it was. He liked to be the best, no shame in that. And he was usually pretty damn good at it, too. "Whatever you want, I guess," Alex practically purred.
Things would probably be a lot easier, Nick supposed, if he knew what exactly he wanted. He was feeling emotions he didn't have names for, somewhere in the realm of love. Or perhaps love was a word Nick just didn't like to use.
"I'm not really sure I want anything from you," Nick mused, feigning boredom. "You already have Marcelo, after all..."
"So maybe I should go find him?" Alex asked, tone still playful.
This was how it always went, any conversation they had was always just a means to an end. This was where Nick pinned Alex's wrists above his head and told him no, he wasn't going anywhere, he could make him feel better than Marcelo ever could. And maybe one day— Nick was possessive as hell, it could be fun— but not today. This wasn't what he wanted. He took a deep breath.
"Alex," he said. (He could tell Alex knew something was wrong, perhaps because 'Alex' wasn't the correct next line.)
"Is everything okay?" Alex asked again, this time with less 'why are you calling me' and more 'is everything okay'.
"Yes, everything is okay, I just..."
"Nick, if something's wrong, you can tell me." But they both knew Nick didn't like talking about feelings. Made sense that this conversation was so hard. Hell, any real conversation with Alex was hard.
"Yeah." He thought about it. "I like fucking you."
Alex laughed, warmth in his voice. "Nick, if that's—"
"Let me talk, okay?" Nick didn't put himself out like this very often, and he wasn't above to let Alex ruin it. The German nodded, mouth falling shut. "I think about you a lot. About your lips. And your body. About you..."
He wished it was more like in the movies. He wished he was lying beside Alex, tracing his lips across his body as he spoke. Showing him this was more than a FaceTime call out of nowhere when it was getting late.
"Maybe I am jealous. Who wouldn't be? I want you, I want you, and I can't help it if I don't like seeing a million pictures of you and Melo." He spat out his name like a curse. "I'm happy that you're happy or whatever bullshit, but..."
There was a long pause, not knowing what was supposed to come next. When Alex finally spoke, it was only to laugh out, "Nick."
Nick didn't speak, more tempted to hang up the call that anything.
"Marcelo and I, we're just friends, really. You haven't said anything about any of my other friends, what's different about him?"
Alex only looked amused, and it pissed Nick off because he just didn't know. Except he did. He just didn't know how to say it, how to accept it.
Nick's voice came out in a whisper. "He has everything I want." He moved his phone so Alex couldn't see him anymore, just his ceiling. He hated feeling this vulnerable, this raw, and how late it was for him just made emotions run even higher. Maybe he should've taken the road to phone (FaceTime?) sex when it had been open to him.
The line fell silent, and Nick was grateful, for once, to not be able to see Alex's face.
"Alex, I'm going to bed, so—"
"Nick, you're an idiot."
It took him a minute to process. Alex's tone was the same light one he used all the time, and Nick didn't understand. He wasn't sure he understood anything about Alexander Zverev.
"I'm going to finish my trip with Marcelo, then I'm going to find time to see you, no matter how long that takes. And you can kiss me and fuck me all you want, and we'll talk."
He didn't have to see Alex to recognise him smirking. Cocky bastard. It was maybe worse that Nick wanted it, no questions asked. "You couldn't. You're fourth in the world. Hell, you're you. If we got caught—"
"If we got caught doing what we do now, it would be just as bad," Alex finished for him. "We'll talk. If I didn't like you, I wouldn't have answered your call, would I have?"
Nick didn't want to answer. He'd had enough emotions for a lifetime. Plan one seemed like a good option. He picked up his phone, again. "Your hair is wet. Were you in the shower?"
It was his own way of saying 'okay'.
Alex was smiling. He got it. And that was just another thing Nick loved about him. "Mhm. I had a long day, you know— fishing is hard work."
And Nick smiled, too. Because it was all just for fun, Alex had no secret plan of running away with Marcelo Melo to live happily ever after. "Melo worked you hard, huh?"
"Nick, if you say another word about him, I swear to God you'll never see me naked again. If I wanted him to fuck me, I'd go find him. But no, I'm still talking to you, so at least make it worth my time?"
He reached to tug off his shirt. "Gladly."
It wasn't closure, but it was a start. Maybe he'd have to thank Marcelo.