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He first finds the notes in his shoes when he returns to the locker rooms from winning his first round match, beating Dimitrov in straight sets. Alex picks up the frayed piece of paper, lined and pale, suffocated with letters that form words.

i’m scared of how beautiful i think you are.

He doesn’t focus on the lack of capitalisation - though perhaps he maybe sort of does because he’s always somewhat been a perfectionist- but he does focus on the sudden lurch and dip in the pits of his stomach, like riding on some roller coaster in some theme park and tucks a loose strand of his blonde locks behind his hair, his stupid headband not doing its job.

It’s probably a practical joke, - maybe conjured up by Novak- but it just showcases his undeniable desperation to be complimented by someone. And Alex, he’s not pretentious, not vain at all, but sometimes he likes to be told things about himself, things that make him feel good. He rolls the paper up in one hand and then decides to tear it, suddenly fuelled by annoyance. He turns around to find Novak, perched on the other end of the room, shirtless and sweaty and furiously drinking a cold bottle of water.

The locker room isn’t that busy, just Grigor Dimitrov stretching his legs and arms, his eyes on the small TV watching Federer dismantle Raonic and Nick Kyrgios hunched into a corner, bent over, scrolling through his phone with a disinterested look on his face.

‘Novak.’ Alex says, shattering the comfortable silence that had descended down upon them all, watching Novak close the lid of his bottle and glance up at him curiously, with a raised eyebrow. ‘You’re not funny.’

Novak’s eyebrows rise to his hairline and Alex flicks his eyes up to his healthy brown hair and then back to his eyes which are now squinting at him, looking offended. ‘You mean you don’t like my impressions? I’m not that bad.’

Alex shakes his head. Novak was right, his impressions weren’t too shabby and in fact, really, his Maria Sharapova one was really good, especially when he’d even gotten a wig for the occasion. But Alex doesn’t particularly like to to be the centre of jokes, of any jokes, he hates feeling stupid. Like right now . The weird feeling in his stomach at the fact that maybe somehow someone found him beautiful or something followed by the quick realisation that this of course was just Novak messing around the way Novak always did and no one liked him in that way of course. Not that Alex was unlikable. If one was into the whole long limbed, lanky, blonde hair, blue eyes sort of thing that he had going on for him. Though no one appeared to be except that one guy he’d dated when he was eighteen who had broken up with him just because which didn’t make any logical sense and anyhow, Alex was over it- but the point was he didn’t like to be the centre of jokes and he wasn’t about to fall for Novak’s deflected answer and his unassuming expression as he drummed his fingers against his thigh.

‘We both know I’m not talking about your impressions.’ He accuses, furrowing his eyebrows and Novak frowns.  ‘You don’t need to send me stupid notes, especially if you can’t even use basic capital fucking letters.’

‘Language!’ Grigor calls, his eyes never leaving the screen. ‘ Wow what a forehand from Roger.’

‘Stupid notes?’ Novak echoes. ‘Writing isn’t my forte. My jokes aren’t as boring as that. If I was going to prank you Alex, I’d probably draw a penis on your forehead.’

Grigor barks a laugh, turning to glance at the two of them. ‘So what’s going on Alex, someone sending you love notes?’

‘Looks like it.’ Alex says with a shrug. ‘Did you guys see anyone come near my stuff?’

‘Nope.’ Grigor pops the p obnoxiously and then looks at Nick, flicking his hair, half of which is dyed a hot pink, a unique look in itself. Nick jerks away and looks up irritably. ‘ What?’

‘Alex got anonymous love notes.’ Grigor informs him. ‘ Did you see anyone else come in here?’  

‘Oh.’ Nick says, taking a peek towards Alex. They smile at each other. They’re good friends, really. Nick isn’t as much a prick as the media make him out to be, even if he acts like a dick on court. ‘No, sorry mate.’

‘Well this is exciting.’ Grigor claps his hands and stands up and Novak hisses at him to move out of the way so he can watch Federer go two sets up. ‘Alex has a secret admirer.’ He wiggles his eyebrows at Alex who rolls his eyes though his heart pounds beneath his chest. He angles his body away slightly and stares down at the ripped shreds of paper in the palm of his heads. It didn’t matter if he had torn it apart he could still remember exactly what it had said.

A secret admirer. ‘ I wonder who it is.’ He says quietly.

‘Well we have to find out now.’ Grigor continues, a wicked smile gracing his face. And Alex, well, he’s not objecting to it. He’s heavily curious. And heavily flattered. ‘I’m calling it Operation-’

‘How about not naming it anything.’ Alex interrupts, almost cringing. ‘God, Grigor, you’re older than me but you still act like a twelve year old.’

Grigor glares at him. ‘Do twelve year olds get married?’

‘But you’re not married.’ Nick says with a small smirk, finally putting his phone away and finally looking interested in the conversation.

Grigor smiles and shows them a small blue velvet box, which he opens to reveal a small diamond ring.

‘Holy shit.’ Alex and Nick bark out at the same time. Novak, being older and much more sophisticated than them all, leans forward to shake Grigor’s hand vigorously. ‘Proud of you, lad. You’ve been on a journey. From Sharapova-’

‘I still can’t believe that happened.’ Nick comments, throwing his head back to laugh.

‘To Nicole.’ Novak says pointedly. ‘And she’s probably the one now.’

‘She is the one.’ Grigor says fiercely. ‘Dani says it won’t last because she’s much older than me but-’ He shakes his head determinedly. ‘We’ll make it last. Anyways, I’m not sure when I’ll do it but it’s soon. Real soon.’

‘Holy Shit.’ Is all Alex can breathe out. It feels so strange, so grown up and real and mature, such a permanent thing for Grigor to be doing. To him girls were almost fleeting, like the beginnings of a fire before they would always burn out, but it seemed the spark hadn’t died this time.

‘It’s going to be one hell of a stag do.’ Nick says with a whistle. ‘I’m thinking - Ibiza, maybe.’

‘For sure.’ Grigor says. ‘Lads, I’m in love. It’s crazy.’ He glances sideways at Alex. ‘And someone may be in love with Alex.’

‘Oh come off it.’ Alex scoffs and shakes his head.

‘Regardless. We’re going to find out who this person is.’ Grigor looks at all of them in turn and Alex feels so ridiculous but also slightly excited.

‘Game, set, match, Federer.’ comes the voice from the TV and from the way Grigor’s eyes light up Alex knows, knows, he is about to say something utterly utterly stupid.

‘Hey, maybe it’s Federer.’ Are the words stupid enough to match Alex’s hypothesis.

Seriously? ’ Alex thinks there’s more a chance of it being Nick Kyrgios than fucking Federer. He doesn’t even talk to Roger that much, barely, scarcely.

Novak snorts and runs a hand through his hair, Nick is staring at the TV screen.

‘I mean.’ Grigor goes on unashamedly. ‘Maybe he realised during the Laver Cup.  You guys were spending a lot of time together.’

‘And so he suddenly decided to start writing me notes, right?’ Alex raises an eyebrow and bites the inside of his cheek.

‘Hey, sometimes the it’s the ones you least expect.’

 

***

 

Somehow due to Grigor’s persistence, they find themselves outside of Federer’s apartment on the quieter side of town a few days later- save for Nick who said he didn’t want to be involved in the whole ordeal, which was kind of strange really since he usually loved to be involved in crazy things such as this-on a rainy Tuesday evening, with one umbrella- despite being millionaires- covering them all which Novak grips tightly, battling against the immanent force of the wind.

Grigor is the one who rings the doorbell after they had argued for about five minutes on who should have been the one to do the intimidating task. And Alex- Alex is thinking of the 0.579% that Roger Federer is his secret admirer and how he can’t stop the disappointment seeping into his stomach.

For some reason Rafael Nadal answers the door. It’s strange to see him off the court in a regular white t-shirt and jeans, no headband in sight, his curls fall freely. He looks amused when he sees them, a small smile creeping onto his lips.

‘Err.’ drawls Novak, giving Grigor a confused look. ‘Are you sure Roger lives here?’

‘Roger lives here.’ Rafa confirms, looking around at all of them. ‘Do you want to come in?’

And if Alex is hesitant the sudden burst of rain from the heavens above has him scampering inside, Grigor and Novak close beside him.

Rafa leads them to the kitchen, and Alex takes a moment to admire the black marble of the table, the whiteness of the plate, the gleam of the cutlery, the red curtains that shield the windows and then he’s curious at the comfortable ease Rafa moves around the place with,  as if he’s been here many times, the ease at which he pours them all a glass of water each.

They make small chat for a while before Alex decides to ask the question they’ve all been too polite to blurt out.

‘So, um.’ He starts, taking encouragement from the nudge Novak gives him underneath the table. ‘Where’s Roger?’

Rafa nods as if he’d been expecting them to ask sooner or later and leans back on his chair. ‘Oh, Roger. He’s upstairs resting. He’s got a bad back so I told him to sleep for a bit.’ He grins lopsidedly. ‘He hates resting.’

Grigor musters a laugh and rubs at his chin. ‘Ah, okay. See, well, the reason we’re here- I suppose it's interesting. Alex got a note from a secret admirer and we were wondering-’

‘Grigor specifically.’ Alex adds and he’s greeted with Grigor tightening his jaw.

‘Alright.’ He concedes. ‘I was mainly wondering if Roger was his secret admirer. You know, I mean, Alex-he’s a decent looking lad. Got the whole prince charming thing going on with that blonde hair and--.’ And it’s like Grigor runs out of things to say as he pauses and chews on his lip and Alex isn’t sure whether to be grateful that he stopped talking or offended that he couldn’t think of more to say. It was quite the conundrum.

Rafa stares at him openly, as if assessing him. His eyes running uncomfortably over Alex as he were an organism underneath a microscope in need of inspecting. His expression is carefully blank and then he raises both eyebrows. ‘So why would my boyfriend be Alex’s secret admirer?’

And it’s like the lights have been switched on. Because oh yeah. That kind of did make sense. Rafa answering the door, knowing every part of the kitchen, the talking about Roger fondly part. They were boyfriends. Which meant that Roger was obviously not the secret admirer, but more importantly Rafa and Roger were boyfriends.

Grigor looks like he’s about to say something, then his lips just move wordlessly and then he furrows his eyebrows, raises his finger and places it down again. He looks like he’s about to have a heart attack and Alex thinks it’s time to leave.

Right.’ Alex says, speaking on behalf of the other two. (Novak  just looks confused.) ‘Sorry for barging in on your evening.’ He smiles apologetically at Rafa who huffs a laugh. ‘Um, make sure Roger gets that rest. Your boyfriend-yeah.’ He drags the other two out through the front door and then groans when he realises Grigor forgot his umbrella and the rain soaks them till their clothes almost become a second skin.

 

***

 

Alex almost thinks the note was a fluke. That perhaps the person had accidentally dropped it into his shoes, that perhaps it was meant for another person because he doesn’t get another one for a couple of weeks so he tries to forget the words i’m scared of how beautiful i think you are and hopes the person who it was really for is aware that this person likes them.

But when he gets back to the locker rooms, this time in Rome, he finds another note in the side of his bag, in the open pocket. He stares at it hard, thinking that if he blinks it will disappear but it’s still there. This time the words are written on pastel blue paper and the colour makes him think of the sky. He blocks out the sound of Nick laughing and Andy Murray’s slow rumble of a voice and reads with bated breath.

i think i always knew that I’d end up like this. halfway in love with you. sometimes i hate myself for that.

He reads it thirty times and then he reads it again and again and again until the words blur together. Somehow it feels too short, like the person had more to say but then stopped. Alex wishes they hadn’t had stopped because the words, they’re telling a story. He doesn’t know who it is but someone is in love him. Unless somehow the person accidentally dropped it into his bag, then it was most definitely  for him.

‘How do I talk to you?’ Alex whispers crazily, talking to the paper, or rather the person behind the paper as if they could hear him. He realises that he wants to reply. He wants to know who they are. Who is it? This time he doesn’t rip up the note, he places it in the pocket of his coat.

‘Another note?’ Nick appears by his side, eyes still laughing at a joke told by Andy. Alex looks at him and tries to school his expression.

‘Yeah, another one.’ He nods. Andy is watching him with a strange smile. Andy. Maybe. Maybe it’s Andy. A tinge of disappointment. He doesn’t want it to be Andy. And then his mind thinks then who do you want it to be ? And of course he has no one specifically in mind but he wants the person to fit the words. It sounded like insanity, but Alex thought that the person would match the beautiful string of words jotted on the paper and he was certain that it wasn’t Andy, couldn’t be Andy at all.

Nick pulls his lips into a smirk, his silver studs glinting, he's dyed his hair all black again. He looks good. He’s surprisingly relaxed for someone who just lost to John Milman in straight sets. And yeah, it’s like he doesn’t really care, doesn’t really care about tennis, perhaps about anything. But that would be the media narrative, Alex knows he cares. He saw how Nick sulked for about ten minutes, staring at the wall with his brows drawn together. He definitely cares.

‘What did it say this time?’ Nick asks, fingers skimming over his tattoo, the Time is running out one scrawled along his arm.  

‘I’m not telling you.’ Alex smiles coyly. It was pathetic, but he felt like he had a duty to keep the words a secret, even if he didn’t know the person. ‘Didn’t you know that curiosity killed the cat, Nick?’

Nick shakes his head with a laugh.

 

***

 

i'm terrified to tell you this face to face. i think i’d sink into the ground halfway through.

 

Tell me   Alex thinks. Tell me everything.

 

***

 

‘Stefanos Tsitsipas.’ Grigor says, like he’s just come up with the answer to a maths problem. Except of course it’s nothing like a maths problem, it is very much a real problem and it’s getting to the point where Alex is almost desperate to know who it is. Desperate to find out the person who’s trying to string his heart along on the basis of words, words that somehow make him feel so much. Too much, probably. They’re just words, after all. It shouldn’t mean this much. But it’s only because he’s on the verge of desperation that he entertains Grigor and turns towards him instead of away whilst Grigor speeds down a road with more bumps than the usual.

‘Tsitsipas?’ He enquires.

‘Yeah, the young lad.’ Grigor adds and Alex laughs because there was only a one year age difference between them. ‘He admires you, you know. He gets all shy and stuff when you’re around, its-’

Red light.’ Alex squeaks out and grabs his seat-belt as Grigor puts on the brakes abruptly and he almost bangs his head against the bonnet.

‘Thanks almost didn’t see it.’ Grigor says casually like they hadn’t almost broken the law. ‘Anyways, he likes you for sure. It could be him. I could set you guys up on a date, what do you think?’

Alex sighs and closes his eyes. Stefanos was a deep kinda dude and the notes were sort of ‘deep’ in a way but he for some reason he still wasn’t sure it was Stefanos. And whilst he didn’t feel disappointment at the thought of it being him, he didn’t feel the opposite of that either. Or- or maybe he was just being too picky. He was a perfectionist after all. Maybe it was Stefanos. He couldn’t think of anyone else that would write those things. And Stefanos was handsome. Greek. That was hot right? He could recall loads of cliched descriptions of handsome men and the phrase Greek was always in there somewhere. And he was nice, quiet, reserved. Deep. Yeah. Stefanos. He was-yeah. Alex opens his eyes and smiles, it's a small one but still.

‘Sure. A date would be nice.’ He says.

Grigor grins widely. ‘ Great.’ and then he chuckles to himself causing Alex to stare at him imploringly.

‘I was just thinking about how we thought it was Roger-’ Grigor’s lips curve into a smile and his fingers tap on the steering wheel.

‘How you thought it was Roger.’ Alex corrects.

‘I mean how didn’t I see it before. I should have guessed that it wasn’t normal for two men to platonically share one shower together.’ Grigor slaps his head playfully.

‘You saw them share one shower?’ Alex repeats somewhat scandalised, pushing strange thoughts away from entering his head.

‘I walked in by accident.’ Grigor admits and then he smirks. ‘Roger’s big.’

Alex groans. ‘I feel like jumping out of this car right now.

‘I’m just saying. ’ Grigor grabs his cheeks and Alex almost yells and places Grigor’s hands back on the wheel. It was like he didn’t value his own fucking life. ‘If Roger was the secret admirer then you would have been in for a good time.’

‘Let’s go to my place,  you bastard.’ Alex rolls his eyes and cringes. He can’t even imagine having sex with Roger. It would be weird, like the earth being the sixth planet from the sun, like trying to fit the wrong piece in a puzzle, it wouldn’t feel right at all.

Later, Novak and Nick turn up and they watch a scary film, huddled round in front of his TV like kids having a sleepover. Grigor turns the lights off and puts on his torch dramatically.

‘Today is Friday the 13th.’ He says quietly, in what Alex assumes is meant to scare them but Novak laughs and stuffs some popcorn in his mouth messily to which some drops miserably onto the ground and Alex glares at him slightly.

Strange things happen on Friday the 13th.’ Nick adds from beside him much to Grigor’s delight.

‘Oh come on, Nick. Let Grigor be the weird one on his own.’ Alex says stretching his arms behind his back. Nick, to his surprise, grabs one of his arms and Alex looks at him questioningly. His hands are big, bigger than Alex’s anyways and it’s a nice contrast, their skins side by side. He can make out Nick’s face from the flicker of the telly, he looks serious, his dark brown eyes gazing into his. Beside them, Novak and Grigor talk animatedly but their words don’t reach the two of them.

‘I-’ And then he looks down and when he glances up again, Nick looks relaxed, more like the Nick he’s used to knowing, a stupid smirk invades his lips. ‘I think you should get a tattoo, Alex.’

‘A tattoo?’ He huffs. He’s a tiny bit frustrated because he feels like that wasn’t what Nick was originally going to say but he leaves it because a tattoo.

Nick grazes his fingers against the lower part of Alex’s arm, near his wrist. ‘Right there.’

Alex looks down at his lightly tanned wrist, blank like a canvas, waiting for some inspiration to fill it. He looks down at Nick touching his wrist feeling bizarre. ‘And what would I get?’ He asks quietly.

Nick shrugs. ‘Anything. Just want your skin ruined, its too smooth. Too perfect.’

Alex quirks his lip. ‘I’m a perfectionist, after all.’ He stares at Nick for too long maybe and remembers the tattoo on his arm. It’s there, on show, as the sleeves of his jumper are rolled up. Time is running out.

‘Time is running out.’ He says slowly. ‘What does it mean?’

‘Exactly what it says.’ Nick rubs a hand over his own arm. ‘We get older every second. It sucks.’

‘Sucks.’ Alex repeats halfheartedly, thinking of trying something crazy. He’s never been one for spontaneity, to do things just because but- he thinks he makes an exception because in that moment he grabs Nick right hand and Nick doesn’t pull away-glances at him sharply.

And he tries, tries lacing their fingers together, the random thought of Nick being the secret admirer popping into his head and then disappearing very quickly because Nick -what. Nick didn’t like people, how much more be ‘halfway in love' with anyone, he hung out with Supermodels, Alex had seen it, he wasn’t even into dudes- never looked like it and he wasn’t that good with words. Not in a way that could make his heart race faster and Nick, he wasn’t terrified of anything, of anything, the same fearless nature that led to him trying tweeners on the court, it didn’t make logical sense for Nick to be the admirer and that was just a fact.

He lets go of his hand and folds his arms, suddenly feeling awkward. This was why he wasn’t a man of spontaneity, for the simple point of the aftermath. And Nick hasn’t said a thing, not a thing and this is terrible. He doesn’t look grossed out, he’s carefully regarding him with dark eyes but he hasn’t said a thing.

And suddenly Grigor pipes up, twists his body to look at him. ‘Alex, what are you wearing for your date?’

‘Date?’ Novak turns with a grin. ‘Have you found the infamous anonymous secret admirer?’

‘Let’s just say we have.’ Grigor says. ‘There’s no one it’s more likely to be than Tsitsipas so Alex is going on a date with him.’

Alex waits for Nick’s reaction but he doesn’t say anything again eyes firmly planted on the TV, fingers scratching at his tattoo.

‘Yeah, I bought some suit.’ Alex says, conjuring a smile. ‘It’s nice.’

And so is the date. Nice. It’s polite and riddled with table manners and so many moments of eating contently. Stefanos likes him. A lot. So much. He smiles openly at him, offers him more wine and Alex nods, glancing around the Japanese restaurant and the wide range of people dining that evening.  The theme of red and white, simple and beautiful, so aesthetically pleasing.

It’s as he raises the Chardonnay to his lips that the date somehow becomes less nice because Alex, of course, is falling somewhat for this secret admirer and he wants to check, check if its really Stefanos.

‘Did you write all those notes?’ Alex asks as he puts the glass down, watching the liquid shake.

‘Notes.’Stefanos repeats. The words sound strange on his lips. ‘Yeah of course. I’m madly in love with you, right?’ He shakes his goldish hair and scratches at the stubble lining the bottom half of his face.

And Alex doesn’t want to be picky but, well, he’s a perfectionist and the phrase used in the notes was halfway in love with you and it’s the details that matter, always. He nibbles on his bottom lip. ‘The recent note, what did you mean by that?’

‘Oh, yeah.’ Stefanos chuckles. ‘You’re hot, obviously, so I meant that-uh-hey why are we even talking about the notes, i did those in the past, let’s talk about now.

‘The notes are why I’m on this date.’ Alex says, grinding his teeth slightly. ‘I like them a lot, no one’s ever really said those things to me. I felt like I was back at school again.’ ’

Stefanos nods eagerly. ‘You deserve the best, Alex.’ He reaches across the table to touch his wrist, the same place where Nick had touched, had said he should get a tattoo and he moves his arm away out of reach.

‘Which is why I’m annoyed that you’re lying.’ He says coolly, enjoying the way Stefanos’ eyes widen almost comically.

‘But.’ the Greek splutters unattractively. ‘I’m-I’m not lying.’

‘How many notes have you sent me?’ Alex demands, curling his hands into fists.

‘Uh- 15?’

Three. ’ Alex says hopelessly, realising something else. ‘Three notes, three words: I love you. Holy Shit. I need to find this person.’

Stefanos sighs, accepting defeat. ‘I’m sorry, Alex I just-’

Alex shakes his head. ‘I’m crazy. I’m falling in love with words and just the romance of it all. I’m falling for someone I don’t even know. Is that crazy?’

Stefanos sighs weakly. ‘It’s kind of crazy.’

‘Ugh.’ Alex groans, standing up and dropping some cash on the table. ‘I’ll be honest, this date was, well, it just was. And I’m glad it’s over. I hope you find someone who likes you as much as you like me.’ And then he strides out, out of the restaurant. It’s late and dark and he tugs at the collar of his white shirt and finds his car in the parking lot, drives home.

 

***

 

I was supposed to keep it at three but this is-writing to you- is my only remedy. I feel fucked up in my head. I can’t tell you how I feel but I don’t want anyone else to have you either.

Alex breathes in sharply, clutches the note to his chest, scrawled in messy handwriting, the words written in gold, rich like diamonds. He’s alone in the locker room apart from Nick who’s sprawled on the bench, eyes glued down to his phone and Alex glances at him and wonders why Nick is always here whenever he is. Like he never leaves.

Nick catches him staring, slides his brown eyes over him, the gleam of his black hair, white teeth appearing to bite at his bottom lip. It’s an odd moment, Alex thinks. With just the two of them. And Alex doesn’t even have a match, he just came in to check if his admirer had written him another note -which they had. Alex looks down, remembering their last awkward encounter, how he clutched Nick’s hand like-and now he clutches the note in his palm. I don’t want anyone else to have you either. And Alex, he doesn’t even know this person and he wants to be theirs and it's so crazy. So fucking crazy.

‘How was your date?’ Nick asks quietly, his voice is smooth and calm. But he throws his phone up in the air and catches it casually and then he bounces his right leg up and down, like he can’t keep still.

Alex almost wants to throw up at the memory of the uneven stubble of Stefanos’ chin, the way he tried to twist a lie so Alex would like him, the scraping of forks against plates. ‘It was awful.’ He admits. ‘And besides, he’s not the secret admirer I think I’m in love with.’ It feels strange saying it out loud, but real very, very real.

Nick sucks in a breath at the exact moment Grigor storms into the locker room, almost swallowed by the huge draping black coat he parades about in, apparently its from Gucci and it reaches his ankles-the type of coat that’s made for show- and there’s a huge grin on his face, a boyish kind of smile that lights up his handsome features. He’s a tornado sweeping in and interrupting them and he lands in the middle of the room, turns towards them both.

‘She fucking said yes.’

‘Fuck.’ Alex hisses grinning. ‘Nicole?’

‘Who else, you idiot?’ Grigor shakes his head but there’s fondness there and Alex gives him a hug, a slap on the back and ruffles his hair and when he steps back, Nick is waiting there to do the same. He’s happy for Grigor. He was going to get his happy ending. (Alex tries to ignore his own story, how the plot never really reached its climax, but it’s ok this is not his moment.)

‘You proposed somewhere decent, right?’ Nick gives him a weary look.

Grigor laughs. ‘I’m not that trash. Took her to Hilton, presidential suite, top floor. We had sex straight after. Was awesome.’

Alex wrinkles his nose at the extra detail and wants to comment no one wants to hear that but stops because holy holy Grigor would be getting married. Married.   ‘What was your speech?’ He asks instead.

‘Oh.’ Grigor shrugs. ‘No cliches, that’s for sure. Just moments, things that she remembers, not abstract images. Like when I dared her to climb up this tree and she fell and I didn’t catch her and how that was the day I told her I liked her. Or when I met her mum and she didn’t know we were together so she kept asking when Nicole’s boyfriend would come around and I was like he’s right here. Ooo and--’

‘Oh, please. Do go on.’ Nick complains but he’s smiling a little.

‘You’ll be hearing more stories like that at our engagement party next weekend.’ Grigor tells them. ‘ Formal wear- for your information. And you can bring people along.’ He turns towards Alex and raises an eyebrow. ‘Maybe Stefanos?’

Alex snorts. ‘That ship sailed a long time ago. He’s-not for me.’

‘But who is, Alex. You’re so fussy.’ Grigor frowns at him. ‘I mean only God knows if you’ll ever find the mysterious note sender. If it’s not Stefanos then I don’t have a fucking clue.’

‘Yeah.’ Alex breathes, cutting the topic short. He’s tired of talking about it. He’s may be just really sad. Sad that he’ll never find the person behind the words. It’s a depressing thought.

Later, he heads to the shops and finds a dark blue tux and a white shirt, he tries it on in front of a floor length mirror and the look the assistant worker gives him is enough to make him buy it after flicking off a piece of fluff and smoothing out a crease. It’s perfect.

 

***

 

Grigor’s engagement party is more like an A-list gathering. He invites all the big names in tennis and Nicole, having worked in the music and modelling industry manages to string in a load of beautiful and well known people into the basement of Grigor’s parents huge mansion, the heels of the ladies clicking against the wood, the low murmur of men speaking.

Grigor and Nicole talk about each other, both of them having to be cut off by Grigor’s mother, whose manicured fingers keep itching towards the champagne and afterwards they all make a toast, raise their glasses, and Alex raises his carefully, trying not to spill any on his suit, eyes drifting around the room, finds Novak whispering into Jelena’s ears, tucking back her long blonde hair and just next to them, a dark skinned lady with short, curly hair, leaning in towards Nick, probably invading his personal space with intoxicating perfume-obviously Victoria’s secret- and somehow, Nick’s eyes find him through the throng of people littered upon different tables. He’s wearing a suit the colour of the night sky, the sleeves of his blazer covering his arms, covering his Time is running out tattoo. Alex thinks of getting one for real. Something as brilliantly simple as that. He’d get it on his wrist, where Nick had touched him softly, so softly like he was going to break. When he focuses again, the lady is kissing Nick’s neck and Nick is looking elsewhere, his eyes dazed.

Alex.’ comes a Spanish drawl and he looks up to find Rafael Nadal, looking more formal than the last time they met, his expression is a concerned one however. ‘Have you seen Roger?’

Alex shakes his head. ‘No but- I can help you look for him. I’m barely doing anything, anyways.’ He pushes his glass away from him slightly and stands up, his chair scraping against the floor, the others on his table watching him briefly.

Rafa smiles then. It’s a gentle one. ‘Thanks. Gracias, whatever.’

The basement is large and spacious and it takes them time to weave in and out of tables, not a sign of Federer in sight until they reach the mini bar in the corner and Roger is there, hunched over a dozen of shots, his lips shiny. Rafa places a hand on his back and rubs gently. It’s an intimate gesture that Alex almost turns away at. ‘Why so much to drink?’ Rafa asks softly.

Roger sighs and looks up, his eyes almost bloodshot. ‘M just-just feeling insecure.’ He winces as he utters the last word as if embarrassed but Rafa kisses his forehead, silently willing him to continue. ‘I mean Grigor, he’s 27 and he’s getting married and Nicole’s parents love him and Raf, your parents they-’

Rafa glances at Alex. ‘They hate that I’m gay.’ he finishes, grimacing and removing the cups away from Roger out of reach. ‘They think it's because of Roger, that he somehow turned me into a homosexual, like it’s some kind of curse.’ Rafa smiles sadly.

‘If I was to marry you Rafa,’ Roger lays his head against the bar table.  ‘I wouldn’t have the blessings of your parents. At all. They hate me. I guess, I was just thinking about it now. Makes me feel shit.’

‘The only blessing you need to marry me is from me, amor.’ Rafa plays with his hair lightly. ‘It’s like you care about my parents more than I do. If they can’t accept me like this then-then I don’t know if I even want to call them my parents so don’t worry about it.’

Roger hums, the corners of his lips turning up slightly and Rafa’s smile widens and Alex turns away briefly as they kiss and when he turns back Roger is smirking at him.

‘So I heard you thought I was your secret admirer.’ He says, a small laugh accompanying. ‘Rafa would kill me if I even so as looked at you- or anyone in that way.’

‘I wouldn’t kill you.’ Rafa murmurs. ‘Maybe I’d try to fight you though.’

‘It’s just funny, though.’ Roger says shaking his head. ‘Funny how you thought it was me when I always see Nick hanging around near your stuff. I asked him one time  what are you doing and he’s always like nothing nothing and he looks nervous so I never really told you but I’m kinda drunk and I probably won’t remember any of this tomorrow so I’m telling you now.’

Roger’s mouth is still moving and words are still tumbling out but he doesn’t hear the rest of it. Because- fuck. Fuck, it was Nick wasn’t it? It was Nick. It made sense. It made perfect sense.

Alex smiles slowly, its small and timid and then it’s wide and beaming and he glances over his shoulder back towards the bunch of tables where he knows Nick is somewhere and he advances towards there after throwing a sweet wave at Rafa and Roger, his heart in his mouth. The walk feels longer somehow, like walking down the aisle he thinks in amusement, and Nick is at the end of it, he’s in his seat, the lady now gone and he’s listening to Novak rattle on in his ear and it’s only when he’s in front of him that Nick peers up at him, all bronzed skin and dark stubble across his cheeks.

Nicholas Hilmy Kyrgios. ’ Alex breathes his name like a prayer, like Nick is suddenly his new religion, he grabs his face gently and sits down on his lap so their chests are pressed close together. He’s aware of the intruding stares he receives, feels the flash of a few cameras but he decides to not give a fuck.

Nick blinks at him, observes Alex quietly, a hint of something unrecognisable in his eyes. His arms hold him in place though, stopping Alex from falling backwards stupidly. ‘Alex?’

Nick Kyrgios.’ He leans forward cautiously, brushing their lips together, testing the waters. Nick pulls back to look at his face, eyes roaming freely over him. It sends chills through his body, and Alex wants chills till he’s fucking freezing. ‘It’s you isn’t it? Sending me all those fucking notes that drive me crazy. You bastard, I think I’m in love with you.’

He brushes their lips together again and feels Nick smile against his, feels Nick’s arm tighten against his waist. ‘In love with me?’ Nick murmurs against his lips, Aussie accent heavy.  

‘Madly.’ Alex murmurs back.

‘Ditto.’ Nick says and Alex thinks of his tattoo, TIME IS RUNNING OUT and so he kisses Nick before another minute goes past. Novak cheers first and then Jelena cheers next and soon after, most of the room is cheering and whistling and Nick’s hands pull softly at his hair and their teeth clash a little and Alex accidentally bites down on his lips and the kiss is so imperfect that it’s somehow weirdly perfect and Alex discards Roger Federer or Stefanos Tsitsipas because it wasn’t neither of them it was Nick.

Everything had been right in front of him. He thinks of every time he got a note, how Nick was somehow always there in the locker rooms- is slightly embarrassed how he didn’t notice sooner-how Nick always looked ready to tell him something but never quite did, the so many almosts that never were. He thinks of Nick’s self titled remedies of love notes, how the vulnerability contrasts with the demeanour of him in person, the mask he wore of cockiness so Alex would never notice. It’s like a tidal wave of realisations crashing down upon him and it’s glorious.

He hears Grigor squeak in the background, most likely confused but Alex will explain it to him later, will do everything else later because now was about Nick-was about the way Nick’s right hand was drawing nameless patterns onto his cheek, the way his left hand was on his thigh dangerously.

‘We’re in public, Nicholas.’ Alex says trying to control his smile or the sudden burst of arousal in his stomach.

'I’m aware.’ Nick raises an eyebrow, hands not moving an inch. Alex glances down at his hand and Nick smirks.

‘Whatever.’ Alex says, shrugging. ‘Smirk all you want - the fact still remains that you think I’m beautiful. And it scares you. I’m not forgetting that.’

‘I don’t want you to forget it, anyways.’ Nick says softly before he sits up and the smirk reappears, he did it so often it may as well have been painted onto his lips.  ‘And it is. Scary. Blue eyes so cold they could kill. That’s fucking scary man.’

Alex shakes his head with a whisper of a laugh and climbs of Nick’s lap, slides into the chair beside him. The rest of the table seem to have moved on, chatting amongst themselves, though Novak catches his eye and winks and Alex rolls his eyes, lips betraying him with hints of a smile.

Grigor is standing in the middle of the room, gawking and Alex beckons him over. ‘It’s Nick, Grig. He was the secret admirer, can you believe it?’

‘But-’ Grigor splutters, eyes flicking between them back and forth. ‘That’s-that’s such a romantic thing to do and Nick-well. You’re not romantic at all.’

Nick places his arms behind his head and Alex watches his pale shirt crease slightly. ‘You’re right-I’m not a romantic. But I know Alex is into all that shit. I sat through a rom-com and got the idea.’ He glances at Alex, wraps an arm around his chair. ‘Wasn’t such a bad move.’

Grigor still looks in a state of shock. ‘First Rafa and Roger and now you two. I can’t keep up. What’s going on? What’s next!? Andy Murray and Gilles Simon ?’ He pauses and abruptly looks to his left where his brown eyes widen at the sight of Andy Murray shoving his tongue down Gilles Simon’s throat, the two a mess of limbs and legs and hands. ‘You cannot be serious!’

‘Hey!’ John McEnroe remarks from nearby, on a table filled with Martina Navratilova, Andy Roddick and Pete Sampras.

‘Oh shut up, John.’ Grigor crosses his arms and trots back to Nicole who looks gorgeous, her hair silky and black, a smile gracing her face as Grigor nears her.

‘He’ll be over it by tomorrow, if not in the next hour.’ Alex says as Nick chuckles at Grigor’s antics. ‘Hey.’ Alex says, touching Nick’s hand. It gets his attention pretty quickly. ‘I think I wanna get a tattoo.’

Nick smiles lazily. ‘I see I’ve corrupted you.’

Alex shrugs. ‘Maybe I wanted to be corrupted.’ He pulls up the sleeve of his blazer and shows his wrist. ‘Right there.’

Nick grazes his wrist with one finger. The moment feels delicate. Like a china vase, teetering on the edge of a table. ‘What will you get?’

‘There’s this quote - Conclusion: the place where you got tired of thinking.’ Alex says, playing with the cuffs of his sleeve. ‘That’s where we are right now. I’m not thinking about who the damn notes are from and you-you’re not thinking about how much you want me, thinking about how scared you are to tell me that, you don’t have to think anymore because I’m yours okay?’

Nick nods and grabs his hand, does what Alex did before, fits their hands together, fingers slotting in neatly. ‘I like that. The conclusion. No more thinking.’

‘Right.’Alex flashes a smile as Nicole drags Grigor to the middle of the floor to dance, Rafa pulls Roger back in for another kiss, Andy and Gilles resort to dry humping, Jelena leans back into Novak and Nick squeezes his hand slightly.

The Conclusion.