The car pulls into the drive in front of the hotel, and William steps out, pulling his sunglasses down over his eyes and making sure his sunglasses are in place. With the beard, it will be harder for most to recognize him. He grabs his bag from the back seat and waits while Nicke pays the driver and their bags are unloaded.
The lobby of the hotel is crowded, and William doesn’t quite understand why there are so many people until after they’ve finished checking in and are headed toward the elevators. A lot of the people are reporters, William realizes. Sportswriters, crowding around someone who is standing in the lounge.
Next to him, Nicke makes a noise of disgust.
“Ridiculous,” he says to William under his breath.
William watches for a moment, standing with his bag over his shoulder. He knows Mitch Marner. He’s played against him before. He’s beaten Mitch before. But Mitch has beaten him before. If they play each other, it’s going to be a headline match. It doesn’t even matter if Mitch is a good tennis player, because William thinks that he’s an asshole.
Standing just behind Mitch is someone he’s never seen before. He’s wearing a linen suit, a checked shirt, no tie. His hair is neat, he’s clean shaven, and he’s wearing glasses. Everyone else is caught up in Mitch, but for a brief second, William thinks the guy is looking at him.
“Come on,” Nicke says, and touches William lightly on the arm. William looks away and follows Nicke into the elevator.
“Did Mitch get a new coach?” William asks idly, the next day when he’s warming up. The question must catch Nicke off guard, because he just stares at William for a moment before he answers..
“Who?” he asks, and William isn’t quite sure if the question is about Mitch or the new coach.
“Mitch,” William repeats, giving his racket an experimental swing. “New coach.”
“Why would I know that?” Nicke asks, frowning at William. He bounces a tennis ball off the court at his feet, his own racket in his hand. William fusses with his strings.
“I don’t know,” William says, tossing his hair out of his face and rolling his shoulders. “Because you’re old and my coach and all the coaches know each other or something.”
“Willy, I’m going to kick your ass,” Nicke tells him.
“No, you love me,” William says, grinning at him. Nicke throws a ball at his face and William barely gets his racket up in time to bat it away.
After his first preliminary round, which he handles easily. He doesn’t even have to play full out, even though he knows that’s the way he should always play, even when the match is easy. William is stretched out half asleep on his bed when Nicke lets himself into the room.
“Why don’t you ever knock?” William asks him. “I could be jerking off and you’d walk in here and I’d have my cock out and you’d see.”
“Because it would absolutely be the first time,” Nicke says, completely deadpan. He stares at William until William starts to feel a little uncomfortable. William should know better than to play this game.
“Anyway, what do you want. I was almost asleep,” William says, stretching his body until his toes poke off the end of the bed, then going limp.
“Well, I came to tell you something you might find interesting, but if you’re going to sleep, I can just leave,” Nicke tells him.
“Well, if I’ll find it interesting,” William says.
“So I was at dinner with a few of the other coaches,” Nicke says.
“Boring,” William says, then rolls over away from Nicke, who socks him hard in the back of the thigh. “You can’t abuse your players, you know. I’m pretty sure that’s against the law.”
“International waters,” Nicke says. “Anyway, his name is Kyle, and he is Mitch’s new coach. He seemed nice. Polite. Canadian.”
“And cute,” William says.
“Uh,” Nicke says. “If you’re into that sort of thing.”
“Single?” William says.
“Didn’t ask,” Nicke says.
“Do you think it would really piss Mitch off if I slept with him?” William asks.
“Are you going to sleep with him because you want to piss Mitch off or because you think he’s cute?” Nicke asks.
“Both?” William asks, and grins at him.
Nicke throws his hands up and leaves the room. William thinks that if it weren’t a hotel, he’d probably slam the door.
The thing is, Mitch is pretty good at tennis. Well, not like pretty good. Really good. He’s not better than William, though, and William knows it. And William’s not going to let Mitch beat him again. Not this year. He tells Auston as much while they’re watching Mitch one afternoon and Mitch is beating the pants off some kid neither of them knows.
Auston laughs at him. “Please, neither of you are going to beat me,” he tells William, who shoves him and laughs.
“No,” William says. “Americans never win.”
“Fuck off!” Auston calls after him as William walks away.
Kyle is sitting at the bar in the hotel, looking at his phone, a glass in front of him.
“Is this seat taken?” William asks. Kyle looks up at him, stares at him for just a moment, then gestures to the barstool next to him. Kyle, as Mitch’s coach, has to know who William is.
“If you want Mitch’s room number, just text him for it,” Kyle says as William takes the barstool. “You guys used to be friends, right?”
William is a little stunned at that one, then looks away and takes a deep breath. “Yeah, well, sometimes when you cheat you decide not to be friends with someone anymore.”
“He didn’t cheat,” Kyle says.
William flags the bartender down and orders a drink. “He did,” William says. In the game, that day, no, but William’s not going to explain that to Kyle right now. “You weren’t his coach then. And I mean, if I were him, I’d be embarrassed to tell people that’s how I win matches.”
“Oh really,” Kyle asks. “I’ve seen the tape, William. It’s okay to admit that someone outplayed you on the day.”
“There’s so much more going on that you can’t see on tape. There’s mind games,” William said. “Cheating. So much so that even his old coach quit.”
“Nicklas did mention that you can be a pain to deal with,” Kyle says.
William makes a noise of indignation and then realizes that Kyle is smirking. “Fuck off,” he says, and sips his drink. “Mitch played mind games with me. It threw me off. It wasn’t a fair match.”
“Well, I’d have a talk with my coach about keeping my mind on what it needs to be on and not on other things, if I were you,” Kyle says, finishing his drink. He puts his phone face down on the bar and looks at William. “You’re never going to beat him if you let him get in your head. And you know you can win, because you’ve done it.”
“Are you really giving me advice right now?” William asks.
“You sounded like you needed it,” Kyle says.
“That’s not what I need,” William says.
“You should tell me what you need, then,” Kyle says. He’s watching William then, like he’s waiting to see what William will do. His voice is quiet, low, and there’s no mistaking his tone for anything but flirting. He hesitates only a second before he drops a hand to rest on Kyle’s knee.
“You knew who I was in the lobby the first day we all got here,” William says.
“Yeah,” Kyle says.
“And you don’t care that I’ve hooked up with Mitch,” William says.
“It sounds like he made you regret it,” Kyle says. His voice is soft, softer than when he was flirting. William makes a tiny noise.
“I wanted you to take me to your room, but now I don’t think I do,” William says.
“That’s a shame,” Kyle says. “Because I’m still interested.”
William suddenly doesn’t know what to say to that. He sits there, his lips slightly parted, as Kyle slides down off his barstool. He pats William on the thigh, too high to be casual, and walks away.
The next afternoon, William wins his match, but barely. It should have been easy. But he’s in his head, just like he was two years before. He let Mitch fuck him up, and now he’s letting Kyle fuck him up. It’s not even the same goddamned thing, because he thought he had feelings for Mitch, and Mitch was definitely just using him, fucking with him to get ahead.
It had worked, and now Mitch’s coach is doing the same thing. William goes to dinner with his brother and Nicke after the match, and he’s quiet. Nicke is irritated, because he knows something’s wrong, something’s off. He’s furious that William’s played so badly, and since he yelled at William after the match they’re determinedly not speaking about it.
They’re not speaking much at all, actually. William furiously texts Nicke demanding that Nicke tell him Kyle’s room number, or give him Kyle’s number, or otherwise put him in contact with Kyle so that William could yell at Kyle, personally.
Nicke ignores him and talks with Alex about a match that happened after William’s that William didn’t see. It’s fine, because William’s sulking and all three of them know it. He goes back to his room alone and opens a bottle of wine from the minibar, sitting on the floor between the bed and the television with his laptop playing music.
There’s a knock.
William almost doesn’t get up to get the door, but in the end he does, stripped to his shorts and his wine glass in hand.
He does not expect to see Kyle on the other side.
“Oh fuck off,” William says immediately. Kyle looks startled.
“Nicke said you wanted to speak to me,” Kyle says. “I was surprised you didn’t follow me out of the bar last night.”
“I didn’t come here for Mitch to fuck with me again. I didn’t come here for Mitch to ruin this for me again,” William says, irritated. “You almost ruined it for me today.”
“I’m not trying to ruin this for you, you know,” Kyle says. “That was never my intent. It’s just… it just happens that I coach Mitch now. My interest in you has nothing to do with - I know it seems… awkward, or inappropriate, but it’s got nothing to do with that. With him.”
“I can’t lose this,” William tells him.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with tennis, Will,” Kyle says.
“It has everything to do with tennis,” William says. “Because that’s what my life is.”
Kyle kisses him then, his fingers digging into William’s hair and his glasses digging into William’s face. William forgets that he’s holding onto his glass of wine in his urge to kiss Kyle back, the glass dropping to their feet and wine spilling out across the carpet.
William doesn’t care, just lets Kyle walk him back, lets the door slam shut behind them. Kyle pushes him back onto the bed, and William lies there, breathless, staring up at him.
“You’re better than letting this be a distraction,” Kyle says.
“Stop talking,” William says. “And take off your clothes.”
Kyle laughs at him, but he does it. William watches as he unbuttons his shirt, feeling impatient because he’s almost naked already. He gets bored of waiting and slides his underwear down his hips and drops them on the floor, stretching out on his back and running his fingers over his stomach, watching as Kyle leaves his clothes tossed across the chair.
His skin is hot when it presses against William’s, and it’s the first thing that’s felt good to William in days. He wants to get his mouth on Kyle’s body, have Kyle’s mouth on his cock. Kyle, for his part, seems content to take his time, kissing William slowly with his body heavy on top of William’s.
And Kyle - it’s like he knows William, knows exactly where to put his hands, where to put his mouth, and where to put his fingers to make William gasp and squirm underneath him.
William has a match in the morning, and Kyle’s still there when his alarm goes off. He doesn’t know what Kyle has to do, but he’s glad that Kyle didn’t get up and leave. He takes the opportunity to stretch, rubbing his body against Kyle’s as he does it.
“Good morning,” Kyle says, and William smiles.
He smashes through his next match like he never had any issues. He gets dinner with Kyle, and drinks with him in nearby bars. He takes his next match, and the one after that. He’s poised to take the whole thing.
The only problem is that he’s going to end up playing Mitch. And he’s sleeping with Mitch’s coach.
Nicke and Alex laugh right in his face when he frets about it at dinner the night before.
There’s a knock on his door as he’s getting ready for bed. He doesn’t expect it to be Kyle because they’ve agreed not to see each other in the lead up to his match with Mitch. He’s got his toothbrush in his mouth when he answers the door, so he’s a little thrown off to see Mitch there.
“You’re sleeping with my coach,” Mitch says. It’s not a question, and he’s angry. William wants to sigh, but he can’t do it as dramatically as he’d like with his toothbrush in his mouth. He wants to let the door slam shut in Mitch’s face and come back to this when he’s decent - when he’s got on more than his underwear and isn’t in the middle of his bedtime routine - but he knows that will piss Mitch off even more.
So he leaves the door open and goes into the bathroom to spit.
“I’m not sure how who I’m sleeping with is any of your business,” he finally says, wiping the back of his mouth with his hand.
“Because it’s my fucking coach,” Mitch says, his voice reaching a pitch that probably only dogs can hear.
“It doesn’t affect him being your coach?” William says. “I know he gets to work on time. Are you mad that he’s not going to dinner with you every night? Ask Auston to dinner, or something.”
“That’s not the point and you know it!” Mitch says. “You’re just using him to get back at me for not wanting you.”
William blinks. He’d thought about it, and he’d decided that he actually likes Kyle. He wants to date Kyle. He definitely wants to keep having sex with Kyle, that’s not even a question. But he’s not using him for revenge on Mitch. He wants to beat Mitch, fair and square, and he wants to beat him badly.
“You can sleep with Nicke, if that will make you feel better,” William says.
“I should never have fucked you,” Mitch snaps at him.
“No, you shouldn’t have,” William says. “Because you were using it to fuck with me, so I’d be thrown off, so you could beat me. Because you knew you could never beat me fairly. You knew I had feelings and you used that to manipulate me.”
“It was easy, too,” Mitch says. “Because you’re easy.”
In that second, William hates him. He and Mitch had been friends. He’d had a crush on Mitch, had thought that he’d been in love with Mitch. And Mitch had used that to hurt him, just like he was doing now. But this time William wasn’t going to let Mitch win. Not with words, not by hurting William’s feelings, not at tennis.
“Just go, Mitch,” William says. “Kyle’s a grown man who can make his own choices about who he sleeps with. It has nothing to do with you.”
“It’s a conflict of interest and I’m putting a stop to it,” Mitch says, and storms out, slamming the door shut behind him.
>> I want you to know that I’m not sleeping with you so Mitch can win.
<< so you know he came to my room to yell at me
<< i’m not sleeping with you to get back at him
>> He came to my room to tell me that it was a conflict of interests and I had to stop. And I never thought you were. I saw the way you looked at me in the lobby. That was before you knew I was his coach. You just thought I was hot.
<< fuck you. what are you going to do?
>> My job. I’ll see you after the final tomorrow.
William has breakfast with Nicke the next morning, flushed with adrenaline and ready to pound Mitch into the dirt. The metaphorical dirt, since they’re playing on grass. William’s coffee tastes perfect and Nicke isn’t annoying at all
It’s going to be a good day.
He walks onto the court and the sun is shining and the day is beautiful. Mitch is on the other end of the court, talking to Kyle. William rolls his shoulders and swings his racket a few times, then flashes a smile at both of them.
Mitch looks pissed. Nicke looks at William and shakes his head, but he’s smirking.
It’s not like he beats the shit out of Mitch, but it’s never out of reach for him. There’s never a moment that William thinks he might lose. And he doesn’t.
People are cheering and he’s smiling and it’s a whirlwind of … everything.
There’s dinner, then a party. William’s sat down with a drink, Auston in the chair next to him, when someone’s hand comes to rest on his shoulder.
“Can I borrow our champion here for a second?” someone says, and when William looks up, it’s Kyle.
William grins up at him, and stands up to jam a brief kiss against Kyle’s mouth. Several people cheer. Auston whistles.
“Come on,” Kyle says. “I need to talk to you really quickly.”
“And then you’re going to party with us?” William asks.
“If you want me, since I was your opponent’s coach,” Kyle says.
“Was?” William asks, frowning.
Kyle shrugs, and grins at him. “I’m sure I can find someone else easily. Maybe here in Sweden there’s someone looking for a coach.”
“I have a coach,” William says. “You can’t be my coach. You’re going to be my boyfriend.”
“Yeah, but how’s your brother at tennis?” Kyle asks.
William barks a laugh in his face and kisses him again.