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The Crash

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At the sound of agony Roger made, Andy looked away, his face twisting with pain. Roger knelt over Rafa’s body, mouthing his name as if in a wordless prayer. “Rafa. Rafa. Raf...” Then his voice broke. “Don’t. Don’t be dead.” He whispered, He sent a shaky hand to touch the spaniard’s face, to trace over the lines of his face but hand shook too much to touch him, and just hovered above. “Please. Please Please. Don’t be dead.”
Eventually, he reached out to check for pulse, and burst in tears when he found none. “Don’t be dead. God help me. Please don’t be dead.” He shook his shoulder, feeling childlike and helpless, and recoiled when Rafa’s head tilted to the other side. He turned his head away to throw up again, then buried his face in his hands and sobbed.
Andy found that he had no voice. He dragged himself, slowly and painfully, through the dunes, tasting warm sand, until he reached them, breathless and in sheer agony. He looked at Rafa, and looked away in pain. “Christ. Christ. Fucking- fUCK.” He let out a cry, both in physical pain and in an emotional one. He touched Roger’s heaving shoulder. “Roger.”
“He’s...”
“Yeah.” Andy looked at him, he was shaking like a leaf.“I’m going to - close his eyes, okay? I think. I can’t look at them-like that, so - empty, okay? I don’t - it’s not what I want to remember.” He drew a shuddering breath, reached out, and closed the lids, letting out a choked gasp as he did. Roger removed his hands from his face, dirt and tears mixing on them equally. And then bent down to kiss the Spaniard’s forehead, then hugged the body of the younger man, to whom, for so long, he has called a friend and a rival. Andy felt like his heart was going to tear out at the sight. He didn’t have the strength to move anymore. He cradled his injured hand to his chest. After a moment, he could no longer bear it. “Roger. Come on.” He groaned. “Fuck, man. He’s dead, Rafa’s dead. Do you want us to live? Look at me. Look at us, we’re so fucked, we’re a fucking mess. And it’s getting hotter and hotter here. We need shade, we need to drink, we need - I need you to be with me.”
Roger lifted his head slowly, his face were swollen from the bruises to the face and the tears. He looked at Andy for a moment, swallowed again and again, then nodded. “

Look - I need something - something else to focus on, for a minute. Give me your hand, I - will try to make a sling, with the other bandana.”
Andy shook his head. “No, no. I have a hat, you’re going to need it to shade your head. Roger, it’s early. We’re going to boil out here in an hour.”
Roger looked toward the plane. “Th-the pilot?”
Andy bit his lip. “Can you make it back there?”
“Do I have a choice?”
Andy shook his head, “Careful. Look from the side. The Pilot cabin looks crushed to me, but we have to check, which means you, I’m sorry, man.”
Roger looked, shakily, from Andy to Rafa. “Andy - if -” He blinked his lips. “You said - it will get hot in here. Rafa, he’ll...” He was unable to complete the sentence, and Andy inhaled in pain. “Yeah- I sort of - I think I have a plan. But - go look at the pilot.”
Roger nodded, and started dragging himself on the ground back toward the plane. “You can’t stand?” Andy asked him, worried. “You stood just now.”
Roger shook his head.”No - I’m so dizzy.”
Andy uttered a silent oath. That was NOT good. “Okay. Just - go check.”
The moment Roger’s back was turned, he turned to the spaniard, and squeezed his hand. He could feel the sweat pooling at the back of his neck. Fuck, it was heating up. They were all going to fucking cook. He reached to check Rafa’s pockets. Gum. Earphones. Cellphone- CELLPHONE.” He reached out to take it out. No reception whatsoever. But the phone was on, and the battery was almost full. It was good. He put it into his pocket. His phone was somewhere on the Plane, and no way he was able to go back there.
He looked toward Roger, who was nearly there. He got to the body of the plane, and held on to pull himself up. Andy could hear his cry of pain. He watched as he walked around, leaning on the plane. Luckily, the Pilot’s cabin has twisted in a way that enabled Roger to look through the window without having to climb. He peeked, and when Andy saw him recoiling, he realized what it was that he had seen. “He’s dead.” Roger said softly.
“You sure?”
“Yeah...he hasn’t got a - he’s dead.”
“Okay.” Andy said, swallowing. “Now we know.”
Roger sank down, leaning against the plane. Andy swallowed. “Look, I have an idea, the beverage bar. It’s basically - Roger. It’s like a big - There’s a lot of ice in there. And it’s - it’s large. And hollow. We need to take all the drinks out, and.. put... put Rafa in there. It should maybe stay cold, for a while. Look, it’s got thrown off the plane, in the crash.” He pointed toward the bar. Roger looked where Andy has pointed, back at him, and Rafa. “I-I have no idea - how we’re going to. He’s - he was- He’s heavy. My ribs... I can - I can barely stand, and you can barely move.”
Andy bit hard into his lip. “Rog. We don’t have to do this. But, in two hours, he’s going...Rog. It’s going to get really hot. He’s -
“Shut up!” Roger begged. “Please - just- just stop.”
Andy shivered. “Rog. It’s your call. Like you said, I can’t help you move him. We can just - leave him here. And - try to move away. I want to stay away from the main cabin. There’s a palm tree further away, see? maybe there’s some shade. We’ll take the drinks. And we’ll wait.Maybe they’ll come for us soon.”
Roger didn’t reply for a long moment, then shook his head. “I’ll - I’ll try. I can’t just leave him to bake - in the sun.”
He dragged himself to the bar, painfully and slowly, and opened the lid. Slowly, he started removing all of the drinks. “Just two bottles of water.” He said to Andy. “The rest is alcohol.”
Andy let out pained snort. “That’s not - a bad thing.”
Once the drinks were all on the ground, Roger braced himself on the bar, and stood up, his face twisted with pain. Slowly, he walked back toward them, his gait unsteady. He sank back next to Andy, panting and breathing hard. “Roger. The water bottle. Drink first.”
Roger looked back toward the bar. “I - I left all the drinks there.”
Andy frowned. “You have the bottle from your bag, in your pants. Remember?”
“Right-Right.”
Andy reached out with his hand to grab his chin, turning the Swiss’s face toward him. “Shit, your eyes all glassy. Look, do this. And we’re done, okay. We can rest a little.”

The next 45 minutes were a blur for Andy, who watched helplessly as Roger, nearly incoherent with pain, dragged Rafa’s body slowly cross the dunes, inch by inch, and hauled him into the bar, closing the lid behind him. After the effort, Roger simply collapsed on the dune, and didn’t move. Andy, whose leg was getting numb, and he didn’t think that was particularly good thing, forced himself to make way to him. At this point, his wrist was almost bothering him more. Roger was on his back, blinking against the sun, his lips were white, breathing heavily.
He crawled next to him. “Roger. Jesus.. “.
Roger turned his head to the other side and coughed, spitting blood. “I think I’ve - grazed something. It hurts, in my chest.” Andy leaned against the bar, trying to repress who was lying in there, and used his good hand to pull Roger so that his head leaned against Andy’s hip bone. Roger didn’t make the slightest attempt to resist him as Andy used his teeth to uncork the water bottle, and spilled some of the water on his hand, then wiped gently at the sand and dried blood on Roger’s face. Shit, but his face were hot and swollen.
“Rog. Drink.” Andy held the bottle to his lips, and poured some of the water down his throat. Roger was breathing heavily, on the verge of unconsciousness.
Above them, the sun rose fully. Hitting hard. Andy looked toward the palm tree. About a 100 meters away. In their condition, it would take 30 minutes to crawl there, if at all.”Roger.” He whispered. “We have to try and move, underneath the tree.”
Roger shook his head. “No.” He moaned groggily. “I’ve had enough. I can’t move anymore. I’m staying here.”
“We’ll fry. Take 10 minutes, then we’re moving. I’ll help you, you’ll help me. And we’ll get there. I’m not staying here waiting for the sun to bake me, and I’m not leaving you here, either.”
Roger shivered, and didn’t reply. Andy’s good hand tightened on the man’s shoulder. “Rog.” He pressed hard, hard enough to hurt. “Don’t fall asleep on me. You want to rest here for a moment. Fine, but you need to talk.”
Roger struggled, then opened his eyes fractionally. “How’s the leg?” he whispered.
“Don’t know.” Andy said, looking at it for the first time in a while. “It’s pounding, hurting, but it’s also sort of numb. It’s still red, so it’s good. I think. How’s the head?”
“Hurting. I’m dizzy. My face hurts more, though” He let out a choked laughter.”Now I’m really going to need a nose-job” his face twisted.”How- Andy. How am I going to...face Tony Nadal, I’m...” Andy clasped a hand over the Swiss’s mouth. “Shut it, Roger.” There was no harshness in his voice, though, only pain. “We don’t talk about this now, we don’t. Lets - lets live, you want to live, right?”
Roger nodded, tiredly. “Of course I do.”
Andy nudged him. “Lets go, then. Come on, get up. Take my hand, and sit,” Andy clasped Roger’s hand, and pulled his to a more upright position. Both men groaned at this. “Fuck, but we’re falling apart at the seams. Lets, put the bottles in your pockets, the water. Here - give me one. And let take the booze, too. And lets go there.” They shoved as much of the bottles into their pants, and slowly, made their distance to the shade of the tree.

They both collapsed next to each other under the shade of the tree. Andy bit on his fist, trying not to cry out in agony. He crawled using one leg and one hand, and when he stumbled, he blocked with his bad wrist, and saw stars dancing in front of his eyes. He was pretty sure he made it worse. As for Roger, each and every one of his breath was accompanied with an alarming wheeze. And Andy thought that if he start having problem breathing, he wouldn’t be able to do anything to help him.
Andy reached out for the bottle they dragged with them. Expensive Vodka, still delightfully half frozen, and gulped the liquid down his throat. Chunks of frozen vodka slide down his throat, and he imagined it would only take moments to take affect. Roger made to grab the bottle from his hand, and brought it to his mouth. “Roger, no.” Andy croaked. “You hit you head, you ca-”
“Fuck you!” Roger groaned in misery. “It’s not going to make it worse than it already is.” Andy relinquished his hold on the bottle, and the Swiss poured it down his throat, sputtering. “It’s good.” He let out a groan. “I want to get drunk, and when I wake up... I want to find out it’s a dream. God I want it so badly.”
Andy gulped. “Me, too. Rog. But - that’s...” He let the Not going to happen falter on his lips, and for a long moment nothing more was said.
Roger closed his eyes, then started coughing again, wheezing worsening. He wrapped his arms around himself, and cried out after every cough. Andy used his right hand to push himself to a sitting position, then settled against the tree bunk, choking on a cry as he stretched both legs forward, then grabbed Roger, who was crouching on the floor, by the shoulder. “Rog. Come here.”
Pale and wheezing, Roger looked at him. “What?”
Andy, in pain, tried not to roll his eyes. “I have to spread my legs, but you can lean against me, it would make your breathing a lot easier if you’re sitting.”
To his amazement, Roger flushed. “That’s...”
“That’s fucking what? You want to choke to death?”
Without another word, Roger accepted Andy’s outreached hand, and leaned against his chest with a pained groan, very mindful of the American’s leg.”Thanks.” He mumbled. “That was...I’m sorry, I can’t imagine I’m exactly who you’d want to get stuck with in a moment like that.”
Andy opened his mouth to respond angrily, then let out a chuckle. “Yeah. I always did prefer to die with someone I have a better head to head against. Can we take a rain check, or something? Maybe you can lose a little to me before we do this lost-in-the-desert-verge-of-dying shit?”
Roger smiled, for a moment, then the smile died on his lips. He started coughing again, his face twisting in pain as he did. Andy slung one hand around his body, tightly, to help him stop his body from flailing as he coughed. When the coughing attack was over, he slumped back against Andy, exhausted. “Thanks.” He whispered.. “Andy. Why is no one coming? Surely they know the plane had crashed.”
“Do they? I expected fifteen minutes in the plane, not forty-five. Do people even know where we are? And when the plane first jumped - remember, when you fell?”
“Yeah?”
“You’d expect the pilot to say something. Like “It’s alright” or “We’re crashing, buckle up!” But he didn’t say anything. Maybe we weren’t going where we were suppose to go. I’m afraid to speculate why. ”
Roger was silent. Then said. “I saw you talking Rafa’s cell phone.”
Andy turned a bit to look at him. “I didn’t think you saw this.”
Roger drew a shuddering breath. “Rafa - he’d like us to use it. I guess it’s not working, or you would have used it.”
“It’s working, but zero reception. Internet not working too.”
Roger’s face crumbled. “Oh. Can I have it, for a moment?”
Andy hesitated. “What for?”
“Um. Use the - the mirror.”
Andy frowned. “Rog. You broke your nose, you have two black eyes... you look a fucking mess, so - don’t, okay? Not a good time to be curious.”
Roger looked at him for a second, then sighed and nodded. “Okay. Give - give my your hand then.”
“Why, what are you going to do?”
“Bandage it. We’re in the shade now, I can use the bandanna.”
Andy shivered. He was afraid to even move it. “Do you know HOW?”
Roger nodded. “Pierre. I know some. I think I know this. I don’t think I can do damage” He sighed. “And - I just -need something else to focus on.” Andy looked at him, skeptic, but nodded. “Okay. Just - it hurts like fuck already, Rog. Try to see if you can distract yourself while making it better.”
Very gently, Roger held Andy’s hand from where Andy held it at the side of his body, and bandaged it tightly using the bandanna while Andy closed his eyes and groaned.When he was done, Roger squeezed his arm. “Done.”
Andy gulped as he tried to move it. “Wow, that’s much better. When the hell did you mess up your wrist, that Pierre showed you how to do it?”
Roger smiled “Not me. Severin. I kinda fucked around with him and started drop shotting all over the place. I didn’t mean for him to try to reach them. He fell down badly.”
Andy shook his head with a smile.”Yeah, silly him.”
They both turned their heads when a wave of sand-salted-wind washed over them. Temperatures were constantly rising. “Oh, come on.” Andy muttered. “Put some planes in the air. Find us already.” He tried to move his leg a little, then let out a cry of pain. “Oh fuck me.”
Roger handed him the booze, and he drank again. They passed it from one person to another, until the Vodka was mostly empty. Then Roger was crying again, and Andy didn’t say a word. He let Roger lean against him and cry, while tears rolled down his own cheeks. Eventually Roger choked.“It’s because of me he’s dead.”
Andy snapped his head to look at him, a look on disgust on his face. “Get the fuck off, Roger, what are you on about?”
“He was in his seat. Buckled in. Then I tripped when the plane first lurched and he unbuckled and got out of the seat to help me. Had he remained buckled in, he would be alive right now.”
“Oh, Jesus. Yeah, and if he wasn’t snipping at your heels at the ranking, maybe you would have taken a vacation after Australia, and not come here. Without you here, they would have done another publicity shoot. So, it’s really all his fault that he’s dead.”
Roger glared at him “What, are you actually making JOKES”
“No. Are you? Rafa’s dead and I can’t think of anything, anything, that's more cry-worthy in the world than that. But if you want to blame yourself, don’t do this around me. Go crawl back there.” He gestured with his head toward the plane. “I don’t need to listen to this bullshit.”
Roger drew a shuddering breath, and Andy bit his lower lip and said gruffly. “Lets just try to get some rest, okay? Rog - I- That’s what we got properly drunk for.”
Roger nodded, then leaned back against Andy. Andy looped his good hand back against him and let out a long sigh. This didn’t feel like it was done for Roger’s benefit. Roger lied there for a moment, his eyes opened, then whispered. “Andy, what?”
Andy stared to the horizon, over Roger’s head. “Pretty sure that’s the end of my career, right here.”
“Now who is bullshitting?”
“Did you take a look at my leg? Assuming I’m not going to lose it for infection, they’ll have to rebreak it to set it right again. That’s - I don’t know how you rebound back from something like that and play professional tennis afterwards, I don’t know anyone who had, anway.” He sniffed. “Not that it matters, much, I don’t see myself going back to top 5, either, even with two whole legs.”
Roger paused for a long moment, then gave Andy’s hand a squeeze. “It’s going to be okay.”
“Do me a favor, Rog. I don’t need your sympathies in this, okay?”
“No,” Roger said softly. “You want to lie there and plan your retirement speech. Who am I to stop the wallowing. Only that there’s tone of guys on tour who came back from serious injuries. I’m not one of them, but James had a broken neck, Tommy Haas had his body done over. And if you think that I’m going to be able to just waltz into courts after this, you’re insane.”
“Well, you should try. You’ll be the favorite at the Fre..”
And then Andy stopped abruptly, his breath heavy.”Shit.” He slammed his head back against the tree. “Shit. I’m a piece of shit whose brain is not connected with his mouth. I don’t know why I said it just now. For a moment I just thought - ‘well, Rafa won’t be there’, it’s like I didn’t think about *why*. That was a cruel thing to say.”
Roger was silent for a long moment.”It’s not like - I wouldn’t have thought about it myself, at some point.But I - really don’t- want to win it now. It’s useless, it’s stupid. What’s the point?”
“Yeah.” Andy sighed. “What’s the point of winning the one major you don’t have?”
Roger let out a bitter sound. “I have multiple finals. The only reason I haven’t won is Rafa. He - he won’t be playing any Roland Garros,, ever. I don’t have to prove I can win this without him. Everyone know that I can. It would be the most hollow victory ever.”
“You can only play those in front of you, Rog. That’s tennis.”
“Yeah, that cliche applies to a guy sitting out because of a messed up knee. Not when the guy-” He let out a shuddering breath. “Not to a-a - death. Not - not when I lived and he did not.” He shook his head. “Please, lets stop talking about it. Okay? It makes me feel - horrible inside.”
“Yeah.” Andy nodded, guilt overpowering him. “Yeah. I’m sorry. It was a completely stupid and thoughtless thing to say.” He paused for a moment. “Can I just say one thing?”
“What?”
“Don’t let it completely ruin you and what you take out of this sport, okay? I know you. Federer-Nadal, the rivalry, that’s a product of the press. You exist on tour even without him.”
“Well, I’m not mourning the rivalry right now, I’m mourning the man. You know, 22 years old, likes to fish and play playstation and speak English in a funny accent.“ Roger said in a clipped tone. “It’s been 12 hours, am I allowed, or what?”
Andy said nothing to that, just tightened his hold on Roger. “Yeah. I just don’t want to see you - yeah.”
There was silence for a long time after that.