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fic: set yourself on fire (tennis rps)

many other things I should be doing. like work. or writing the rest of the "drabbles" (I am working on them, promise! slowly). and yet, this wanted to be written. I'm still in mourning for Rafa's knees, okay?

title: set yourself on fire
fandom: tennis rps
pairing: rafael nadal/novak djokovic
rating: pg
word count: 2000
summary: "It hurts," Rafa said, defeated. "It hurts, no? And I no know - I no know if I can play no more."
contextual notes: takes place after Novak's loss in Roland Garros, right before Rafa's. Jelena is Novak's girlfriend; Marian is his coach. (Marian is a boy.)

Novak was already in the car when his phone rang, and he gave serious thought to not answering it. He'd played badly, really badly, and he didn't need to hear from his mother or anyone else about it: Marian had already spoken with him, and Jelena would never bring it up, god love her, and it wasn't anyone else's business. It occurred to him that it might be something about his flight, though, so he pulled his cell out, and then just blinked for a second, because he and Rafa tried not to bother each other during tournaments: after, sure, or before, but getting distracted with something like that when you needed to focus was a stupid idea no matter what, and doing it with your competition was downright moronic.

"Uh, hello?" he said. God, he hoped Rafa wasn't calling to be sympathetic or anything like that. Rafa was a nice person - more than nice, really, he was genuinely sweet - but he normally wasn't so nice that it made him an idiot.

"Hi, Novak, is Rafa Nadal," Rafa said, and failed to explain why he was calling.

"I know," Novak said, trying to be patient. He'd had a long, shitty day; he didn't need to play Twenty Questions in Spanglish to top it off. "What's going on?"

"Nothing, no? Just - where are you?"

"In the car," Novak said, and frowned. Rafa didn't sound right. Maybe it was just the phone, or being tired, but - "Rafa, what's wrong? Are you all right?"

"For sure, nothing wrong, just, I want to hear you, no? Before you leave, but not important, if you leave now."

"Rafa," Novak said sharply. It wasn't just the phone. "What's wrong, and don't give me that nothing shit. I will come over there and kick your ass, I don't care if you're playing tomorrow. Tell me."

Rafa made a noise that Novak hoped to god he never would again, choked and horrible. "I want - Novak, is not - "

"Oh, Jesus," Novak said. "Is your family okay? Did something happen to Xisca?"

"No! Is nothing, is stupid, is fine! Everything is fine!"

"Don't lie to me. Rafa - "

"Not lying! I just - " Rafa sighed, and Novak could see him in his mind's eye, dragging a hand through his messy hair. "I want to hear you. I miss you, no? And..."

"And what?" Yelling wasn't working, so Novak tried to be gentle.

"It hurts," Rafa said, defeated. "It hurts, no? And I no know - I no know if I can play no more."

Novak bit his lip. "Okay," he said, very calmly. "Are you at the hotel now? You're staying in for the night?"

"I - yes - what?"

"Okay," Novak repeated. "I'll be there soon. Don't worry. It's going to be..." His voice trailed off into nothing, because of course it wasn't going to be fine. "I'll see you soon."

He snapped his phone shut, and opened the partition so he could tap the driver on the shoulder. "Sorry," he said, with as charming a smile as he could muster at the moment. "Forgot something - can we go back to the hotel?"

Marian was looking at him. Novak didn't know what he thought about him and Rafa, if he thought anything, but he didn't have time to worry about it right now. "I'll stall your mother," Marian said in Serbian, and looked out the window for the rest of the ride back. Novak watched Paris go by the other window, and tried not to think about how much pain Rafa would have to be in to admit it.

"I'll call to be picked up tomorrow," Novak said at last, as he got out of the car, and then very quietly, "Thank you." He didn't wait to hear if Marian wanted to reply.

He knew where Rafa's room was, not because of any sordid encounters - it was fucking Roland Garros and Novak wasn't an idiot, thanks - but just normal Player's Council stuff, which had to go through both of them now, and someone had mentioned Rafa's room number in passing while they were talking about it. The hall was unnervingly quiet, Novak thought, looking around; normally there was a huge crowd of laughing Spaniards wherever Rafa went, making a godawful racket. He was honestly wondering whether he had the wrong hotel as he knocked on the door, and then Rafa opened it and his face was like a punch in the stomach. "Hi, Novak," Rafa said. He smiled tiredly.

"Rafa," Novak said helplessly, already reaching out. This much was easy, at least, the squeeze of his arms around Rafa like iron bands and Rafa's chin digging into his shoulder. This was familiar. It probably should have been weird, without the net between them, but Rafa had crossed all of Novak's boundaries a while back, and in the end a hug was still a hug. "Where is everyone?" he asked, when they'd stepped inside and Rafa had shut the door.

"I say them I want to be alone."

"And they believed you?" Rafa shrugged a little. Novak looked at him closely, taking in the unhappy lines around his mouth, the slump of his shoulders. "So," he tried, "it's your knees?"

Rafa shrugged again. "Same as always, no?"

"No," Novak snapped, "not the same as always. How long?"

"I no know," Rafa replied, starting to look a little irritated. "Always they hurt, no? Only they hurt more, and more, and now... I no know."

Novak shoved a hand through his hair, searching for the right words. "If you don't play - "

"I gonna play," Rafa said immediately, something like indignation flashing across his face. "For sure I gonna play."

"For sure you're an idiot." Novak glared. "If you're injured you've got no business on the court and you know it."

Rafa turned away, and as much as it pissed Novak off, he had to give him credit for how smoothly he still moved: if you could fix tendonitis with sheer force of will, Rafa would never have had a problem. "I have to play," he said. "Is not - you know. Is not an option."

"Okay. Okay, come on, I didn't come here to fight with you." Novak touched Rafa's shoulder, and smiled at him a little when he looked over, reluctantly. "Did you eat yet?"

"Toni make me, when we get back," Rafa said, looking confused and honestly a little dissatisfied that Novak was letting it go so easily.

Novak kissed his cheek, throttling down his frustration but also charmed almost against his will by the way Rafa still broadcast emotions on his face, when he practically had to have a foot chopped off before he'd show the least bit of a limp. "So we'll go to bed, you'll get some rest for tomorrow."

"Novak, I no mean to make you come for this." Rafa leaned into him, a big warm weight against Novak's side. His guilty expression was like a kid's with his hand in the cookie jar, and Novak had to press another kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Is not - I no want to bother you."

"You never bother me," Novak said, and sort of meant it even though he knew it was totally untrue. "I missed you, too," and he couldn't imagine any situation in which that would be a lie. Rafa huffed out a breath and tilted his forehead against Novak's, just for a moment. "Come on, you should lie down."

"Am not, you know, cripple," Rafa grumbled, but he let Novak tug him into the bedroom and push him down onto the bed. "I play tomorrow," he warned, when Novak knelt by his feet and leaned over him.

"I know, don't worry," Novak said, patting him on the stomach. He bent down further and kissed Rafa's knees, first the left, then the right. Rafa's hands fisted in the sheets.

"Nole," he said, painfully, and Novak scrambled up beside him immediately, arms going around Rafa's shoulders, face in Rafa's hair.

"Hey," Novak tried. "It's gonna be okay, Raf."

Rafa made a snuffling noise into his neck, which Novak sincerely hoped was laughter and not tears. Rafa got snot everywhere when he cried. "You are terrible liar."

"Oh, shut up, at least I'm trying." Reassured, Novak squirmed around until he was settled with his back to the wall, Rafa sitting in the vee of his legs and leaning against his chest. It was... nice, maybe, to be able to hold Rafa up for once, to be the solid one for Rafa. Even if he was just a skinny Serbian beanpole with toothpick arms, he thought, and smiled into Rafa's hair.

Novak wasn't sure how long they sat there, the only movement his fingers stroking up and down Rafa's arm. "Is it because of Madrid?" he asked suddenly; it had been in the back of his mind since Rafa told him, and he wouldn't be able to sleep unless he let it out.

Rafa twisted his head around to look at him. "Is not your fault, Novak."

"I know it's not my fault," Novak snapped, his arm across Rafa's chest tightening involuntarily. "I'm not the one who doesn't have the sense to goddamn well withdraw before he fucks up his knees. Don't even try," he added, when Rafa geared up to protest, "I saw that final in Rotterdam, you ass."

"Not really Madrid," Rafa said finally. "Or, not just the semi. Should no have played at all, no? But was not help, for sure." He leaned back, cheek against Novak's jaw. "Was good match, though."

"Yeah," Novak sighed, letting his mouth rest against Rafa's temple. "It was. I'm gonna beat you on clay someday, you know."


"Not this year, though."

"Guess no."

"You're real encouraging, you know that?" Rafa snorted softly, and Novak felt the muscles in his arms relax. "I want you to win, if I can't," he said. "Always, you know? But I want you to have legs at the end of the year. There are worse things than losing. Even at Roland Garros."

"I know." Rafa stretched his neck just enough to graze Novak's chin with his lips. "No worry, no? I rest soon."

"Okay." Novak yawned, feeling the combination of a humiliating loss to Kohlschreiber, dealing with the press and avoiding his mother starting to catch up with him. "You comfortable? Want to lie down?"

"Nice like this," Rafa said. He shifted a little, rubbing against Novak's cock, which responded extremely half-heartedly. Rafa, who knew exactly how much Novak didn't actually want sex after the day he'd had, patted his thigh and ignored his fledgling hard-on. "You?"

Novak's laugh turned into another yawn. "I'm good. Go to sleep." Rafa's head was already tucked securely under Novak's chin; the only response he got was a faint whistling exhalation, too quiet too be called a snore.


Novak woke up ungodly early, and left Rafa drooling on the pillow like a kid. (Novak didn't know what it said about him that he thought that was endearing.) Toni was in the other room already, which was terrifying: Rafa's uncle was fully capable of anything and everything, including murdering him and hiding the body where nobody would ever find him again. He brazened it out as well as he could, with a smile and a wave as he slipped out the door, and called Marian in the elevator.

He was in the air when Rafa lost to Robin Soderling; both his brothers had texted to let him know, when he turned his phone back on. Marian didn't say anything, just clapped him on the shoulder and let him out into the aisle first.

Jelena was waiting when he got off the plane, and he was suddenly blindingly grateful for how small and sweet and pretty she was, how easily she spoke his language, how it was never difficult with her. "Is everything okay?" she asked, trapped in a crushing embrace.

He buried his face in her hair, which was neatly brushed and smelled like flowers. "I hope so," he said.

"Okay," she said, and tentatively put her hands on his back. "Do you want to talk about it?"

He sighed. He was really tired, all of a sudden. "No."

"Okay," she repeated.

She drove him home in patient silence, letting him doze with his head against the window; he nearly jumped out of his skin when his phone buzzed in his pocket. "If it's my mom, I'm asleep," he said, handing it over to Jelena without opening his eyes.

"It's a text," she informed him, and handed it back with a gentle squeeze to his arm.

no worry about me, no? gonna b ok, 4 sure.

Novak smiled a little. rest ur knees!!! te quiero, asshole. c u in london.

Almost as soon as he pressed send, his screen flashed again. hope so, u 2. &thx.



( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 3rd, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
You = ♥♥♥

This is fabulous, I love it. I love how Nole's so crazy for Rafa, and so sweeet, and the image of him kissing Rafa's knees is just, meep, so lovely. I also love how omg boysss they are, and the way they talk to each other, so irreverant and affectionate ♥

Also, skinny Serbian beanpole with toothpick arms, heeee! And Jelena is awesome :)
Jul. 3rd, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
you = &hearts&hearts&hearts&hearts&hearts&hearts!

thank you! this gave me fits, for serious. I think I changed the ending three times. still not sure I like it. >_<;; I miss Nole and Rafa so much! (you know Nole has a bit of a complex over how much skinnier he is than Rafa. anyone would.)

is it weird for me to be so in love with my favorite boys' WAGs? I sort of feel like it's my duty to fight the inherent misogyny of slash by adoring the ladies as well. and Jelena is cute as a button!
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Jul. 3rd, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
Awww, I am not the biggest fan of this pair but something made me read it and I am glad. Its really cute and I loved it.

Jul. 3rd, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
slowly, insidiously, their cuteness will convert you... j/k, thank you very much for reading! I know not everyone has my &heartsNole&hearts blinders on. =D
Jul. 3rd, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)

Ah, this is so heartwarming :) I really hope Rafa's kneees are all right. Oh, I find it so adorable that Rafa drooled on his pillow and Nole liked that cute scene XDD

You wrote them so well together and I love the image of them sitting together like that, finding peace in each other's arms =D Thanks for posting this story :)

Jul. 3rd, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC)
I pray to the tennis gods for Rafa's knees to get better, for sure! thank you very much for reading. =)
Jul. 3rd, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Poor Nole! Poor Rafa! *Bawls tears for them* I really like the kind of relationship you established for them, it seems realistic. Jelena was sweet too (even if she's just a girl... :P). Very sweet fic, enjoyed reading it muchly.
Jul. 3rd, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
ikr? why are their lives so difficult, poor things! I think Jelena and Xisca would get on like a house on fire - their bfs need to get on introducing them, stat. thank you very much for reading!
Jul. 4th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
I can feel myself slowly turning into a Rafa/Nole fangirl... -flails-

This is so good, omg. Note-perfect characterization. I am absolutely in love with your Nole, his worrying & caring for Rafa. <3 And Jelena! Thank you so much for not forgetting the girls in their lives. Also, your description of Uncle Toni is amazing. XD

That last section was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, which really shouldn't make any sense, except it does and. just. guh. I love this fic. <33333
Jul. 4th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
they will convert you! with their unbearable cuteness and their co-VP status and their giggliness. it is such a mystery to me that I didn't like Novak when I embarked on this tennis fandom odyssey. XD

thank you so much! I have this thing about the tennis WAGs - like, they're there, and we probably shouldn't ignore them or write them as heinous bitches, yeah? Mirka is super-fabulous, but Xisca and Jelena just seem like such nice, sweet girls. (Toni totally knows where to hide the bodies. No one will ever know.)

long response is long, sorry. I'm really glad you like the ending; I agonized over it. a lot. it's still kind of weird and incomplete-sounding, but now I'm pretending that that's deliberate. XP
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Jul. 4th, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
thank you! I like to think that Rafa/Nole is still finding its footing in fandom, but I'm glad you liked it anyway!
Jul. 4th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
*cuddles Rafa and Nole* I love love love this! Rafa and Nole's dialogue feels so natural and real, and your description of Uncle Toni is priceless!
Jul. 4th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
aww, thank you! they both need cuddles right now, I think. =)
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Jul. 4th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
This was amazing. Nole being so crazy in love is totally adorable adn he's a real sweetheart. You've done a great job capturing the easy affection between these two and it was a really enjoyable read :D
Jul. 5th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! I am sort of crazy in love with Nole myself, so... =D
Jul. 9th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
I love your characterization of both. You are gonna right more of this pairing I hope.
Jul. 9th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
thank you! I hope so, too - they're just so goddamn adorable, I can't help myself. =D
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )