clo_again: (Roger/Mirka - So Hail to the King)
[personal profile] clo_again
Roger just lost at Wimbledon so, in the traditions of the last twelve years, I'm sulking on LJ. Hurrah and yay and all that muchness.

(Roger, you had so many break points. You bloody sodding moron.)

Anyway, in addition to now getting entirely soused on Pimms because of idiot Swiss tennis players, I saw this on Twitter today about Russia's bugfuck crazy data laws affecting LJ and wondered sadly if it would be LJ's final straw. I mean, my flist is mostly a wasteland these days (not helped by my useless lack of posts) and I hang out mostly on Twitter (find me at @aomaakutu) but I don't want LJ to disappear entirely. It feels like it should stand forever as an archive to the early-ish days of fandom and online social networking and also, I have a lot of fic (all the old stuff of which is reposted over at Insanejournal, with apologies for how terrible it is) and nonsense and old conversations from over a decade of fandom sitting on here. I don't want that to disappear. AO3 is great and Twitter is great and tumblr is basically a disaster that hasn't got the sense to fall over under the weight of its own nonsense, and none of it does what LJ did. But if LJ does go, look me up on Twitter (@aomaakutu), or AO3 (clo) or Insanejournal (clofic) whatever. Maybe one day fandom will swing back around to blogging again. Then I can yell at people drunkenly about Roger being an idiot in more than 140 characters (which are nowhere near adequate to express my righteous indignation tbh).

Anyway! While LJ is still here and kicking, maybe I should actually use it for something? Idk, I hit a massive writer's block back in February and it took me forever to get over it so I started writing whatever got me writing anything again and it's left me with a bunch of weird WiPs, one of which is 30k and counting. As I'm a little drunk and a lot annoyed, how about some snippets of things that may, or may not, ever be finished? Why not? Snippets for everyone! (er, or everyone who likes tennis fic snippets since I have yet to find another fandom after twelve years. Never let it be said that I don't drag things out to the bitter end).

the one with the baby vampire

'Being a vampire will wear off,' Andy says, lacing it with all the skepticism he has the energy for, because it's dawning on him that there are reasons the dark room looks so bright to him and it's because his eyes aren't entirely human any more. It's deflect with sarcasm or start on the full-blown panic.

Novak’s looking at him now, steady despite the sunken feral sharpness to his face. He looks like something from a late night horror movie, like he's wearing monster make-up a little too bleakly miserable to be entertaining and Andy's watched his fair share of B-movie disasters over the years, idly curious to see if one might give him the clues to anything Novak's not telling him but reality isn't screaming blond virgins and thunderstorms at appropriate moments of dramatic tension. Reality is lying on a bed in a nameless hotel, watching Novak keeping him alive by teeth and willpower and blood.

Reality is remembering his best friend rasping for air, lying on a scuffed linoleum floor on the other side of the world and knowing no matter what his actions led to - this, here - he'd do it again.

'There would need to be more blood for it to take. As you are, you will be- somewhat extra, just for some days,' Novak says. 'But yes. In a week, perhaps two, you will be Andy only.'

About to ask what happened, if his hazy half-dream of a tournament car and a needle in his neck is the truth, and why, and what extras, Andy opens his mouth and what comes out is none of those things.

'And what am I until then?'

Novak's cold hand squeezes his - not reassuring but convulsive, too much like a panic-reaction for Andy and he pushes awkwardly up on one elbow to glare down at Novak because he aches all over, his mouth still tastes like Novak's blood, and he's fairly sure he got stabbed in the neck with an unspecified drug by anti-vampire extremists this morning so he thinks an explanation is the least he's owed.

'What, Novak?!'

From behind him, Marian politely clears his throat. 'Andy,' he says, waiting for Andy to twist to look at him with his all-new all-creepy see-in-the-dark vampire vision, 'do not worry. It is only that Novak's blood brought you back, so you will be linked to Novak for a few days. If you became a vampire you would be a new thing, new talents all yours, but this way you share what Novak can do just to small extent. We can manage this, it is fine.'

Next to him, Novak struggles upright with slow, pained gasps; Andy automatically goes to help and hisses himself as the IV in his left wrist yanks painfully. Abandoning that plan he leans in instead, relinquishing Novak's hand to brace him up, letting Novak curl into his side with a careful exhale that says he aches as much as Andy does.

'Already we live in each other's pockets, right?' he says, pressing the words against the curve of Andy's neck. His fangs are still out, phantom sensation of pain as the sharp points brush skin. 'This will not be so bad. It will be good to know where you are also. They may try again.'

Andy hears as if from behind a muffling wall. He's not really processed so far, too much with Novak right there looking like something from six feet under and the way the light creeping in around the drapes stings and Marian doing something worrying competent with the IV tubing behind him, but he did manage to latch on to one thing, one throwaway thing that if this was anything like those B-movies would be deserving of full-on thunder and lightning dramatic emphasis.

'Wait,' he says, voice gone unsteady, ' what do you mean brought me back?'

the one where Andy is a hooker

‘So what parts do you like?’

Startled out of bitterness, Andy looks back at Novak who’s watching him still with that not-quite-there smile, as if he’s spent time trying to learn to look serious but it didn’t quite take.

‘What?’ he asks, suddenly wary. ‘We don’t kiss and tell you know.’

‘This is not anyone private though? Just you. Tell me,’ Novak coaxes as if they’re already old friends sharing confidences, curiosity glittering bright and sharp beneath his attempt to keep a straight face. ‘Your favourite thing.’

I don’t have a favourite, Andy thinks but it’s not true, not really; he prides himself on the parts of his job he’s actually good at on a purely technical level, but there are a few things that coil arousal a little tighter, burn a little hotter. He’s only human.

He’s just not sure he can offer that knowledge up to an almost-stranger, even one this charming. Not when tonight’s already stripped him to the skin metaphorically and literally. He was just thinking about how miserable it’ll be to watch Novak walk away; how stupid then, to give them both more reasons to miss each other.

Hesitating, he meets Novak’s eyes – and sees them darken, pupils wide. With fresh interest he notes the colour warming the Serb’s cheeks, the way he catches his lip between his teeth, worries it puffy and flushed as he frowns. Still turned on and if Andy’s wary of offering up affection, then lust –well, that he knows exactly how to work with.

Reaching out in a deliberate movement, he rests his hand on Novak’s thigh. It’s warm through denim, hard with muscle and Andy watches Novak’s eyes flutter, down and back, throat bobbing as he swallows something not quite a sound.

‘There is one thing in particular,’ Andy says and slides his fingers up another inch, digging in to feel Novak’s shiver. ‘But I’m pretty shit with words. I could show you, if you’re up for it?’

'I don't-' Novak's eyes go wide suddenly, uncertainty caught in the corners of his mouth curling down. 'Here?'

Andy grins, makes it frank and uncomplicated despite the quiver of anxiety sitting in his stomach. He's fucked bare-assed against apartment windows, in the toilets of five star hotels, and, memorably, come into a client's hand under the table during a business dinner at Sheekeys. In comparison this is private, entire carriage to themselves and minimal chance of anyone getting on at the few stations left on the line. If he's quick, it'll be over before Novak has time to shout.

Still, the little voice that he mostly ignores, the one that tries to reason him out of stupid decisions on a daily basis, is pointing out that he's only being this reckless because he wants to taste Novak before they part ways. He might forget how the Serb looks, or sounds, but he never forgets how people feel; once they’re in, they’re written in body-memory and half-fragments of dreams for years after. He wants to keep Novak burned across his fingertips, hoard this weird spark between them like a miser, long after obviously rich-and-successful Novak has forgotten the odd Scottish boy on the Tube.

'It'll be fine,' he says, hand pushing further and Novak inhales with a shocked little sound when Andy gropes him through his jeans. He's hard, hot even through the concealing denim and the way his hips push up is all the confirmation Andy needs; Novak wants this as much as he does.

Not enough to hold back a protest though, gritted out with obvious reluctance as he rocks into Andy’s hand, gasps with his head arcing back. ‘Andy, Andy you don’t understand- we can’t. If someone sees, so much trouble. For me, for you. Is bad idea.’

‘Bad is relative,’ Andy says, glancing up at the Tube map stickered along the top of the carriage. Four stations left so he’ll have to be quick. ‘No one will see. It’s late and we’re at the arse end of the line, no one’s getting on.’ Taking a chance, he curls his fingers tight and leans in as Novak hisses, presses an open-mouthed kiss to the warm, vulnerable line of his throat.

‘Trust me,’ he murmurs against damp skin, rough with evening stubble, feeling the throb of Novak’s pulse against the slick edge of his tongue. ‘It’ll be worth it.’

the one where everything is dystopian and awful

‘He never holds back,’ Roger says, irritated but there’s a half-smile warring with his glare, ‘sometimes I wonder who is paying who.’

Ignoring the joke, Andy turns to stare at him. Coldness is clenching in the pit of his stomach, like the unease from before but not for himself, not this time. He’s known Roger over a decade; barely a month’s passed without them seeing each other. Even in the privacy-driven atmosphere of the tour, he thinks he’d have noticed if anything serious happened to Roger and yet-

‘What did he mean, dying?’

Almost dying. And he exaggerates, it was not so serious.’ Shrugging, Roger shifts away to lean against the pillows again with a dismissive wave of his hand. Only long years of studying the Swiss across the court, of dissecting press conferences for any hint of injury, lets Andy catch the stubborn set to his mouth that Roger gets when he’s been pressed in ways he doesn’t like. When he’s uncomfortable and Andy’s startled again to realise he’s being allowed to make Roger uncomfortable – that he’s not ordering Andy to shut up, as would be perfectly within his rights.

Well, in for a penny.

Almost dying is still pretty serious,’ he says, pushing, and reaches out when Roger hunches in on himself, curling his hand over Roger’s bare foot where it rests on the duvet because the Swiss’ hands are tucked defensively around himself and out of reach. Even Roger Federer’s feet aren’t immune to the battering they all take, and there’s a bruise yellowing up to his ankle; Andy presses his thumb to it, just hard enough to jerk Roger’s attention from inwards, breath hissing out as he glares.

Tracing soothing circles over the bruise in apology, Andy gives him an expectant look. ‘Dying?’ he repeats insistently, and Roger’s glare fades into something fragile, badly-concealed vulnerability in the shaky breath he takes. Andy waits, Roger’s cool skin warming beneath his palm. Bad circulation he wonders, disconcerted by his own flicker of concern, and spreads his fingers to cover more of Roger’s foot, rubbing gently around the bruise.

‘Do you remember 2008?’ Roger asks after a minute, tipping his head back against the headboard so he’s staring at the vaulted ceiling rather than Andy. ‘When I took a vacation mid-season?’

‘And came back with your contract bought out, yeah. We were all thinking you’d bought out and quit until you rocked up in Miami looking like-’ Andy pauses, realisation sinking in. ‘Shit. Looking like death warmed up.’

The smile that flashes across Roger’s face is bitter, sharp with amusement that doesn’t reach his eyes. ‘I was still recovering, wasn’t supposed to play but I was losing too many ranking points and part of the contract buyout was that I didn’t admit what actually happened so I couldn’t ask for a protected ranking. I could say I had mono, but so did everyone. Pierre still yelled at me for an entire day when he found me trying to practise.’

‘You wouldn’t almost die from mono,’ Andy pushes, restless now with anxiety because Roger looked terrible for those couple of months after he came back, moving stiff around the court. It hadn’t gone unnoticed either that he’d refused to shower in the locker rooms for weeks, and never since without private stalls. Andy remembers a late-night card game with the other Americans, much later, all of them well past the point of tipsy and Mike insisting with the certainty of the inebriated that he’d seen healing scars on Roger’s side, that the Swiss must’ve sold organs on the black market to afford his buyout.

Remembers that they’d all laughed, because Roger won more than enough to afford his buyout on prize money alone and he had mono, that’s all, the dragging fatigue that kicked the legs out from under all of them at one point or another. It wasn’t anything any of them should worry about taking advantage of, that his reflexes might be a shade off or his footwork more of a stumble around the court. It’d barely stopped him winning more than the rest of them so it couldn’t be anything serious.

Except, apparently it was because Roger’s looking at him intently before some decision is made, expression shifting to a grimace. There’s a quiver to his hands as he tugs up the soft t-shirt to bare his stomach, his chest, all pale skin because he never practises shirtless and his tan stops at the edge of his sleeves.

Even pale, it can’t blend with what he’s been hiding. Andy takes a sharp breath at the length of the scar that runs from hipbone to ribs up Roger’s left side, silvery-white and long-healed but vicious still, in how probably life-threatening it must’ve been. Surgical, obvious in the neatness of the edges but no less serious. Must’ve hurt like a bitch as it healed too, pulling every time Roger stretched into a serve.

Without conscious intervention by his common sense he moves, putting his cooling coffee down on the floor and ignoring the protest from his knee as he shuffles close enough over the bed to trace a fingertip along the warm, uneven skin. Invading Roger’s space because it’s urgent, suddenly, that he reassure himself the Swiss is fine, survived whatever ripped him open when Andy wasn’t paying attention, when he was joking about his disappearance in the locker room. When Roger’s breath hitches, Andy feels it in the quiver of his chest beneath his fingertips.

‘What happened?’ he asks, shock muting it because- god. ‘That’s not exactly a papercut, Roger.’

the one where novak inexplicably lost wimbledon

The first thing that clues Andy in to something going on is that the guard on the locker room door, usually just outside, has retreated to a safe distance up the corridor. He hesitates when he sees Andy approaching, seems to consider intervening but Andy's not the last hope standing of the British without getting some perks in return; eventually the guy just nods as he walks past.

When Andy hears the raised voices as he approaches the heavy locker room door, he reconsiders whether the guard was doing him a favour after all. Dammit to hell though; it wouldn't be the first time he's had to duck a racquet thrown by Novak and he inches the door open, cautious of projectiles.

'-more you expect me to do!' Novak's voice comes clear the instant the door clicks open. 'Do this, do that! Break all the record! I am not a machine, I get tired okay?! I hurt.'

One foot edged into the hand-span of gap between door and frame, Andy freezes. Novak's voice cracked on that last in a way Andy's not heard since they were juniors - probably not since the time they ate too much pizza after they both lost in the semi-finals of a nothing tournament and Novak spent the entire night in their tiny hotel bathroom, genuinely panicking he was going to die between pauses to throw up and stubbornly refusing all Andy's pleas to call his mother.

It was so long ago that Andy's almost forgotten it, barely holding onto a faded afterimage of Novak's grey-faced misery, and he didn't think Novak could still sound like that. Frustrated sure, sometimes bitterly defeated when Roger scraped a win past him - and there’d been that one time last year when he'd fallen asleep on Andy's hotel suite sofa one evening, turning up unexplained to watch TV and slumping into the cushions until his eyes drifted closed. Andy had left him to sleep it out, worried by the tiredness bruised all over his face, but a shout brought him running from the bathroom with his mouth full of toothpaste and Novak had stumbled out apologies in a voice shredded hoarse, white-faced as he pushed past Andy to the door. 'Just a bad dream,' he'd dismissed it the next day when Andy asked and he'd been back to easy normality, smile only slightly brittle at the edges and Andy knew to let it go.

Thought he knew most of the ways and means of Novak by now, even with the distance of being one and two in the world. Even with Novak drawing away again recently after years of piecing their friendship back together and how much Andy's pretending that doesn't hurt.

He can't think of any reason Novak would have to sound scared. Nothing good, anyway.

'Everyone has hurt,' says a calm voice - Boris of course and Andy grimaces, wondering if he should retreat while it's still an option. There's been a weird tension about Boris - well, it's been there for a while but it's ramped up this year as Novak got quieter, Boris' glares getting more pointed whenever Andy ventured to ask if he was okay. A couple of times he's gone over to Novak in the locker room – they're rivals sure, but they fought hard to salvage their friendship and Andy's going to fucking fight to keep it if he can – and Boris has interrupted to pull Novak away. Some of Andy’s invitations to hang out have been met with suspiciously un-Novak-like excuses too. After Novak's performance today, Boris certainly won't welcome Andy being around.

He knows all that and that he'd tell any other player to go home, to let it lie - and he doesn't move. The memory of Novak sounding almost terrified keeps him motionless, waiting - guilty but not enough to stop listening.

'Sure everyone hurt from tennis, Boris, I can work with tennis hurt, but this is no good.' Gone quiet, Novak's muffled – he's probably talking with his hands over his face. In juniors the other boys used to tease him for crying but Andy knows better; it's to give himself a dark space to hide in, like an animal going to ground. The urge to hide is written clear in his voice when he continues, shaky and pitched too-low: 'I can't do this. I want to withdraw.'

Withdraw?!' Boris in contrast sounds scathing to the point of vicious. Colour flames to Andy's cheeks on Novak's behalf, shame at the thought of any coach speaking to him in that tone. 'Withdraw like you used to? Like a crying child denied your way? You know what they will say: you give up, quitter. Sharks will circle immediately. And for what? A headache?'

Novak lost two sets to Sam-fucking-Querrey from a headache? Andy manages to quash a sudden urge to barge in and demand answers but in his involuntary flinch, his foot knocks the door wider with a creak and he catches his breath. Can see Novak and Boris now, across the room but Boris (thankfully) has his back to the door and Novak's down on the bench, hunched over with his head in his hands. There's a grass stain up one shin where he'd fallen and he looks smaller than his usual imposing height, deflated slump to his shoulders.

Andy's hit with an abrupt and entirely unexpected wash of sympathy. God, he wants to win Wimbledon and he likes that his odds of that have gone up but Novak looks- the only word that comes to mind is destroyed. What if it's serious? If there's something really wrong and every damn asshole on the men's tour is out there celebrating it? Grimly Andy thinks of the heads he'll have to bash together to stop the locker room gossip because it's better than the fiercely horrifying thought of Novak actually being sick, clutching at something he can at least do to help.

the one after the apocalypse

In the car, wrecked jet left behind, Andy finds himself staring mutely out the window as Roger navigates them slowly back past the same fucking cars, same fire-blackened grass banks that give way to the endless, empty fields. He thought he’d rationalised his inability to get home, accepted the ache of loss for the well-loved gleam of Austin’s lake and the dry Texas sun.

Seeing that plane though, shredded across the asphalt into jagged, fire-twisted pieces, he gets it; he could never risk it, vague thoughts of airports and teaching himself from manuals highlighted as the utter stupidity it’d be, to hurl himself into the air and expect any outcome other than disaster.

He’s never going home again. This is it, the rolling green fields that all blend together and beyond, far distant on the horizon when they crest a hill, the grey line of the impassable sea. He feels lost in the wilderness, not even sure which county they’ve wandered into now and he tries to picture the map unfolding around them, thinking of blinking location arrows on his phone, on the now-useless sat nav, and wondering when he’d forgotten how to get lost. It’s too much, tight sensation of panic rising in his chest as he tries, fails to pinpoint them in this wide expanse he’s never travelled.

That isn’t home.

Blinking against the burning in his eyes he looks away from the empty landscape, glances over his own knees, at the silent radio, across the slender arc of Roger’s hand on the gearstick – and his gaze catches, settles.

Watching Roger shift gears with the careless ease of practise – fucking European cars; Andy’s briefly irritated for his own sake that he hadn’t thought to choose an automatic – calms the swell of panic, although he couldn’t explain it, not with anything like reason. Familiarity maybe, or the basic desire for someone else to take control, just for a little while. Of all the things to find comforting this one seems vaguely ridiculous, but the familiar shape of Roger’s fingers and the grazed knuckles, half-healed to fresh pink scars, they hold his attention with fascination, better than any of the art left to rot in museums because those fingers would be warm if Andy was to reach out and Roger might shoot him a bemused glance, but it wouldn’t matter because the Swiss is right there, mumbling German curses as they jolt over a gouge in the road with the same annoyed frown he used to direct at wayward forehands.

It reminds Andy too, maybe, of sitting in the locker room at Wimbledon before matches, staring at the photographs of past champions and memorising the curl of Roger’s hands around the coveted gleam of gold, back when that was everything he believed worth wanting. Wondering how it felt to warm the metal against callused palms, and if Roger was ever exhausted enough to worry he’d let it slip.

After everything, all the things Roger’s hands have kept from him, he has to marvel that now they’re the most comforting thing he has left in the world.

Keeping his eyes on the flex and shift of sun-tanned fingers over dark leather, he lets his head tilt back in his seat. The car is approaching sauna-territory under the afternoon sun, air-con turned down low to save fuel and the air itself feels sticky, or maybe that’s the five days of sweat and dirt filming his skin head to toe. Empty bottles rattle around the floor as Roger follows a turn off the motorway but it’s a soft sound, blending with the purr of the engine to hum Andy into a fitful doze.

He lets himself drift for minutes or hours, he can’t tell, blinking back to wakefulness occasionally to glimpse hazy after-images of grey stone walls and the fields rising up around them beneath the cloudless vault of sky, like a child’s impression of a landscape, before sinking back into sleep. So he’s half-awake when he feels the car stop, gently, lifting his head with a wince for the way his neck peels away from the seat leather and god, this used to be a nice car.

Glancing blearily across at Roger he finds the Swiss halfway to reaching out, hand hovering between them with a half-missed flash of something soft crossing his expression.

‘Are we there?’ Andy asks muzzily, and the softness vanishes as Roger rolls his eyes.

‘Since you still won’t tell me anything except north, no. I thought- well it’s hot, and I think I am forgetting what you look like without the dirt, so-’

He moves his hand to point at something beyond the car, over Andy’s shoulder and when Andy turns all he sees is the diamond-brilliant glint of sunlight over water, like a shattered mirror nestled between green hills and he’s saying ‘Yes’ even before he’s processed the visceral need to be there, already fumbling at his seatbelt.

‘First one in gets a thousand ranking points,’ he tosses back with a grin and then he’s out the car.

Hears Roger laughing, shout of ‘Andy!’ following him across the sun-baked road but Andy’s scrambling over the low stone wall between him and the field sloping down to the glittering lake, stones shifting under his weight so he half-falls, half-trips across the long, dry grass. The sharp smell of it drifts up, fresh and crushed beneath his feet as he kicks off his sneakers, sprinting without a thought for sprained ankles because he’s not losing this time, not with such an advantage but he doesn’t dare risk a glance back to check his lead, arms spread in a hopeless attempt at balance that’s mostly just momentum pushing him on too fast to fall.

I wonder if I'll ever forget LJ html. Weird.

Because I'm me, the next thing I really want to write isn't any of these but I only have it outlined rather than written and it's in that weird stage of being thought-perfect before I have to try and wrestle it into words. I like it though. If I can keep writing despite being back in work on Monday, it might even get snippeted, or maybe it'll just get posted. I don't think it'll be that. Except, I always say that and 50k later it's still half finished.

I can't believe Roger lost. What an idiot.
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