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the unforgiving minute (nadal/federer - sort of) - tarte scrawling

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August 5th, 2008


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10:57 pm - the unforgiving minute (nadal/federer - sort of)
words: 2300ish
rating: R
warnings: um. tennis slash. cracky premise (although uncracky fic in general). slightly/overtly fetishistic behaviour (mileages may vary). masturbation. I AM BLUSHING SO MUCH.
extra warning: no actual physical federer in this fic.

a/n: this fic stems from some ridiculous and hysterical post-wimbledon chat between myself and buckle_berry. a lot of blame for this at her door. also thanks for the beta, berriest. love you!


The unforgiving minute


It’s not much less than black overhead. A blanketing sky, the flashbulbs blotting out both birds and stars. He holds his fists to his chest. The applause of the crowd is crashing past him; locked in his little air pocket on the ground, grass underneath his back, he hears it like traffic rolling past outside a window. Rafa blinks, takes a breath, rocks back along the curve of his spine and then sideways, forwards, standing with the momentum. When he turns, Roger is waiting, smiling like he wants to kill someone. Either one of them. Rafa's knee almost gives with the first step towards the net.

Someone said to him once, the champion's not in the scoreline, it's in the head. It's all about mental strength and the fightback. In the locker room, he thinks about how he could have bitten that cup till his front teeth broke off, and it wouldn't have given an inch.

~

He's exhausted when they get back to the house, forced to sit through Roger's press conference as well as his own. He understood one word in five of Roger's, and none of them were good ones. He stands in his own room, looking at the bed, smooth across the top, but for the imprint of his arse where he'd sat, jiggling his knees, before leaving for the courts at lunchtime, and habit, and the sense of something not quite finished, has him trying to remember who he's playing tomorrow.

It's a huge joke when it turns out he has nothing appropriate to wear. Superstition, he says, feeling cross. Forced to dress up like James Bond. With no one there to see, Rafa pulls off his maligned beige jacket and throws it on the bed. This isn't it at all. Playing to win – that's an instinct, clinging to the lifeline of a match point saved, smacking an ungettable backhand down the line with your heart fluttering up onto your tongue. Actually winning, though. That's something you might never even think of, the way some people never think of losing. Not in their own back garden.

Tuts finally comes up with the goods at half-past midnight. A tuxedo not needed by another Nike player, and Rafa knows whose it is the second it touches his shoulders. Coño.

~

Que ça finisse contre lui, est-ce que c'est quand-même un consolation?

Non. Zéro.


~

At the photocall, they shuffle him next to Venus Williams and put the trophy back in his hands, and immediately he's back on the beachfront at Santa Margalida, aged six, staring shyly at the tuft-haired monkey man. He'd held the little monkey – heavy, for all it was apparently so fragile – in two shaky hands, back like a ramrod and trying for a smile, for minutes on end while they took pictures then charged his dad five pesetas. He blinks for a second longer than necessary and manages to summon the image of the wide Roland Garros Cup. Just like that his fingers feel a little surer, less stiff.

"How good does it feel, Rafa? Against Roger of all people?"

"It feel of course good. I'm very very happy. Roger play incredible and I have try everything and thanks god it work for me."

"He's the world number one, five times Wimbledon Champion. You've been knocking on the door for over two years. Do you think there's any part of him that's happy for you here?"

Saying it like that. It's a ridiculous thing to think. Didn't they see the press conference? A dull heat clouds up into Rafa's face.

"Is hard I think." He shifts his hold on the cup and the jacket bags a little at the front, giving him a potbelly. "Is always hard. Lot of feelings when you win and when as well you lose. Roger say me well done and I say him sorry. I think for me is easier. He is still number one of the world."

He's talking rubbish. He imagines Roger in his hotel room watching him on the television, wearing his jacket, holding his cup, talking like an idiot. The heat in his cheeks and ears intensifies.

"Venus, how hard is it to win when it means your sister loses?"

A giggle. "Oh sure, I mean it's hard…"

Rafa lets his smile sag a little. When he gently rolls his left shoulder, which is complaining after a solid five hours of service games, a vague scent of musk and pine drifts up.

~

Team Nadal gets the full four courses, despite being three hours late for the meal. Rafa, who can't even get a third of the way down his glass before it is refilled, has lost track. Lost track of his drinking, the meal, the conversation; lost track of Maymo at least an hour ago, when he went off to the other side of the room, apparently just to laugh and gesticulate wildly at Michael Novotny, then vanish.

Rafa blinks at what’s left of his dinner, a steak wilting under too much buttery sauce. It would be better just fried in oil and pepper, he thinks, and wonders what Roger is eating. If he isn’t already in bed and dreaming about stabbing Rafa with a racquet handle. He pokes dolefully at his steak with a fork. This is ridiculous – he’s just drunk.

To his right, Benito’s toasting him again – with some short brown drink. Rafa turns with a smile.

“Brindamos por el campeón!”

A dozen glasses go up. That’s right. He throws back an enormous mouthful and feels it force its way past every rejecting muscle from throat to stomach.

"Hey, Rafa!"

He looks both ways, focus dragging, before he spots Daniel Nestor, then swivels. This time his smile reaches up the left side of his face, but not the right, and his cuff trawls through a puddle of béarnaise.

"The new king of Wimbledon, eh?"

Rafa's half-hearted smile twitches away to nothing.

~

Perhaps he is just drunk. In under a week he’ll be back in Manacor, squinting through the sun at a hundred people standing under a balcony, and it will feel brilliant. Right now, though, he’s striding towards the gents in the banqueting suite of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, quads tight-strung and a frown pressing at his temples – shrugging that jacket off his shoulders.

He hesitates a second before sticking it under the tap. His mother stopped him from soaking a pair of trousers once, saying – what? It would stain? It's already stained. Under it goes and the water spits at his fingers. Rafa rubs at the sleeve, puts the edge of the cuff in his mouth and sucks. It's cold and wet, and that piney smell on the cloth fills his face. The stain's still there when he lowers it again, grainy white under the spotlight over the mirror. He runs a thumb over the inside and the silky lining barely pulls against his skin, stitched snug to the fabric of the cuff. Rafa hasn't a clue about suits, but it looks well made and expensive, and maybe he ought to try harder about things like that.

Tired of looking, he presses the lining to his lips again, gently this time, feeling every inch as drunk as he must be. He's almost swaying, and his mouth prickles with the feel of the cloth. He shouldn't be like this, he tells himself, feeling stupidly vague. Always so careful. Always worrying.

He opens his eyes and sees the jacket lying crumpled, half in the sink, only one sleeve held up to his face, and he's suddenly far angrier than he is sad. It should fucking matter that it was him Roger lost to. It should make a difference. It's always made a difference to him. He grabs it up into both arms and lurches, shoulder first, into one of the cubicles. His urge to shove the jacket into the toilet is overtaken by a much odder one, and he holds it instead against the veneer of the wall, fingers on the pads of the shoulders. He stares, his breathing lighter than it ought to be, then slides his face against it, nose first, until the silky lining inside the upper back is whispering against his cheekbone. It heats quickly and he moves his face to a cool patch of material, then another.

A tickle in Rafa's abdomen should mean his bladder is full, he's drunk ten times what he's used to, but his cock is arcing slowly out towards the hem of the jacket, his face is on fire, and that means something completely different.

He lets go of one shoulder, falling a little against the wall, the jacket trapped under his chest, his shirt pulling tight at the collar, and presses at his crotch with the heel of his free hand. Breathes through his teeth.

"Jod–"

Sweat is gathering at the waistband of his trousers. This has to be the weirdest thing he's ever done, but there isn't time to be embarrassed. He feels sick and cross and he wants this shirt off. When only three of the buttons cooperate with his rubbery fingers, he drags it over his head, surprised that his ears don't get torn off in the hurry. He fumbles to spread the jacket back against the cubicle wall so he can press his belly against it, his chest – feel the lining against his nipples. There is almost no cool spot now and the scent of cologne is coming off it in waves.

It should matter. He tries to slide his body across the fabric, but it doesn't oblige, it sticks to his skin, drawing the sweat out of him.

The clasp of his trousers is easier, the zip practically comes down of its own accord. Rafa's cock pushes out of the slit of his shorts and into his hand, damp and eager. He runs his thumb along the top of it, reaches his fingers down to his balls, shaking through the familiar motions of a wank. The alcohol, he thinks vaguely, all that champagne, makes it strange, jittery, like he's palming at someone else's cock – half excited, half humiliated.

Rafa looks down – himself, only himself – and the head of his cock touches against the lining of Roger's jacket, bounces angrily, leaving a thick string of pre-come. He bites his lip hard and squeezes round the shaft. This is not – this is –

He lets go of himself and crowds into the jacket, into the wall and rubs, painfully, as slowly as this strange crossness will allow. The thin veneered wall feels like stone through the layer of cloth against his chest and prick, and his jaw, crushed against it, begins to ache, his tongue out, flat on the rough fabric of the jacket collar. He winds his hands into the sleeves, twisting, itching to come, to matter, to do something. Some corner of his mind sees another body where the wall is, arching hard and perfect, urging, another hand on his –

The sleeve sticks, clinging to his fingers, and he can't fumble free quickly enough, but has to grab at his cock, fabric still twisted round his knuckles, and tug frantically. His shoes squeak on the tiles, his breath misting against the wall of the cubicle. Joder. Joder. When he comes, he doesn't think about anyone, any hands, but feels his head thumping with effort and anger.

For endless seconds that anger peaks and fades, and then it's suddenly gone, and he's standing in an empty bathroom, panting like a horse. His clothes are slick against his body like he's been training, and his cock is twitching itself slowly dry. He's tangled up in the crumpled wreck of the most beautiful piece of tailoring he's probably ever seen. He peels himself back and his hand falls loosely from the sleeve that was like a straitjacket a few seconds ago. The little smear of sauce is obliterated in a double stripe of semen that has streaked up the cuff and muddled onto the lining at the back.

Rafa crouches, trousers round his knees, his hand bandaged in three-ply toilet paper and dabs at the mess. A sweat drop falls from a little snake of hair by his ear, landing on the lapel, and he flicks it away in a panic.

~

At two in the afternoon, the sun bleaches the yellow stone white, and it's almost blinding to look down from this high up. The sound of the mike echoes over the crowd underneath. Some of them are jumping, heads bobbing up and down in the swarm, and some just standing with their hands over their eyes like visors.

"El nuestro Rrrrafa Nadal!" the mayor is saying, or something like it.

The crowd hoots, and a grin stretches up both sides of Rafa's face. He puts a hand up, feeling an idiot, but a happy one.

He tucks his hair behind his ear, just washed and drying to fluff in the sunshine, then sticks his hand in his jeans pocket. Himself. He speaks a few words of Mallorquí into the mike – it hardly matters which he chooses, they can't be heard over the shouting – and smiles again, a little embarrassed that it matters so much here.

There’s a week more till Toronto. Rogers Cup, he can hardly bring himself to say without thinking of Roger’s other cup. But no, nothing belongs to anyone – not cups or rankings, not last summer or this summer. The jacket, pristine and pressed, was couriered away days ago.

There’s only himself and the fight. And is it a consolation? Yes. Mostly. At least for another week.

He’s given up talking. The slightest wave of his hand and the crowd roars, buffeting him into laughter.

(35 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:buckle_berry
Date:August 5th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
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yeah. it's not just the hot, it's your rafa. lovehearts in my eyes.

now: get it crossposted, at least to your actual journal ffs.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
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<333

next up: tentacle!fic.
[User Picture]
From:morebliss
Date:August 5th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
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Oh gods Tarte. Your little Rafa, with his maligned beige jacket, and a monkey, and his sleeve, and oh god... He breaks my heart. And makes me horny. How do you do that? I don't know whether to cry or wank. Good thing I'm at work.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
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hee. but look how happy he is at the end (for a week)! definitely go for the wank. <3
[User Picture]
From:adorerdollylux
Date:August 5th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
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ohmygod, how perfect is this? it was completely enveloping and brutally convincing and i love this rafa almost entirely too much. thank you so much for the insight, for his desperation and his beauty, always, always. beautifully written and executed. thank you for this.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
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god, thank you! what lovely flattering things to say. i'm really pleased you liked this fic. and rafa. of course, rafa goes without saying. :)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
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you're welcome! thank you for reading it. :)
[User Picture]
From:matildafilch
Date:August 5th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what to say about this. I might go bonkers later.

You're really good.
[User Picture]
From:matildafilch
Date:August 6th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
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Blimey, what a lame comment. Sorry about that, I was tired. Anyway.

Yes. It's Rafa's voice that makes this, his endearing lack of self-knowledge. But it's also the details - half-remembering his Mum's advice, holding the jacket against the wall (Christ, how hot?). And it's also the sheer simplicity of the idea - a borrowed jacket - but which gives the story such a weight of meaning: whose jacket, why, and it's empty so Rafa is alone, but his relationship with Roger in his head is so intimate, almost claustrophobic. I really get the sense here that they have a connection no one else understands. And oh, of course, Rafa HAS to put it in his mouth. Guh.

Ah, now we are descending into incoherence, I'll leave it there.

But really, just, oh.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
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oh yes yes yes! they do. and like someone else said below - roger's not there, but he also totally is. i kind of think he's always there for rafa. probably even in manacor these days. poor rafa. of course he's going to end up sucking clothes. :)

thank you for all this. i'm chuffed you liked it. plus also - i'm really all about the lame comments. :)
[User Picture]
From:best_of_five
Date:August 5th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
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ahh, the description of rafa's fidgeting and impatience and everything was just A+. loved this fic. and did i mention hawt? HAWT.

write moar plz :D
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
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\o/

thank you! if i achieved HAWTness, then my work here is done. temporarily at least. :)
[User Picture]
From:wanderlost
Date:August 6th, 2008 12:07 am (UTC)
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Oh. OH!

My heart is torn. It doesn't know whether to be incredibly turned on or incredibly sad.

He opens his eyes and sees the jacket lying crumpled, half in the sink, only one sleeve held up to his face, and he's suddenly far angrier than he is sad. It should fucking matter that it was him Roger lost to. It should make a difference. It's always made a difference to him. My heart clenched! CLENCHED, I say.

And then this: A sweat drop falls from a little snake of hair by his ear, landing on the lapel, and he flicks it away in a panic. I don't know, those two sections really hit me, hard.

And I loved the fact that even though Roger wasn't actuallly there he was, all the time.

Lovely.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
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that little sweat drop bit is one of my favourite bits! yay, that you picked that out.

even though Roger wasn't actuallly there he was, all the time.

i was just saying upthread a bit - this is basically my rafa fanon. he is always so AWARE of roger. always looking, always thinking. he makes himself so unbelievably vulnerable, i think. but then, who wouldn't?

oh thank you! i am pleased you liked it.
[User Picture]
From:secretsolitaire
Date:August 6th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
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Wow. What wonderfully sharp, real writing.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
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thank you! i'm really happy you thought so. :)
[User Picture]
From:quiteparadise
Date:August 6th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC)
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I... I cannot even begin to explain how absolutely perfect that was. Perfect. The characterization and the voice and the whole thing. It felt very honest, if that makes sense. It lacked the sentimentality that a lot of fics go into. It just felt very... real. In the way people like Chabon write reality. The complete image. Just... Wow.

Bravo!
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
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wow. god. i don't really know what to say to this, except - wow. again. i'm so flattered, really.

thank you!

also, i find it very hard trying to be coherent (can you tell?) while staring goofily at your icon. god.
[User Picture]
From:quiteparadise
Date:August 6th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
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I find it very hard to be anything but incoherent while looking at Rog. But I am going to try to say thank you for posting the fic. I have reread it twice now. Unheard of, but true.
[User Picture]
From:dirgni19
Date:August 6th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
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Oh. Oh. This was good.

Love drunk!Rafa thinking of Roger stabbing him with a tennis racquet, lol. I also love the entire last section, it's such a contrast to the cold, rainy, almost dreary feeling in London and with the way you wrote it, I could almost feel the sun and Rafa's joy. Loved all of this, really, thanks for sharing! :D
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
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i'm so glad you liked that last section. i struggled a lot thinking about a resolution to this, and i guess it's not really a resolution at all, but i think rafa needed something positive - a sense of proportion, or at least contrast - before diving back in, and manacor's clearly his comfort zone.

thanks so much for reading and letting me know you liked it. :)
[User Picture]
From:centaury_squill
Date:August 6th, 2008 08:09 am (UTC)
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Brilliant! More Rafa/Roger? Please?
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
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okay. yes, um. okay. :)
[User Picture]
From:louiselux
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:06 am (UTC)
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Whoa! Sex with Roger's coat!

God, I love this so much. I just adore how you approached the whole thing - very intense and immersive. The perfectness of Rafa's speech was so good as to be almost creepy. There is some lovely realism going on all through this, with the awful conflict of his feelings, but I especially liked this line a lot:

When he comes, he doesn't think about anyone, any hands, but feels his head thumping with effort and anger.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
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Whoa! Sex with Roger's coat!

i know! it would be too bizarre if i didn't know that in rafa's position, i'd do exactly the same. :D

also, thank you! coming from you, this is really flattering. i am reading and re-reading this comment, and then stuffing it down my top. <3
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
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i'm blushing. i think you go too far, but i'm not going to make you take it back. *clutches at comment* :)

thank you so much. it was a bit nervy posting this - an odd fic to post as a first offering - but i am so completely reassured, i'll definitely try to write more.
[User Picture]
From:mushroom18
Date:August 6th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
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This is very well-written and sad and lovely. I enjoyed it a lot!

I hope to see more fic, maybe even a sequel? xD
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
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aw, thank you. i'm so pleased you enjoyed it.

i did think about a sequel. canon is so fast-paced in this fandom, though, and so potentially devastating. i think it'll take some thought.
[User Picture]
From:elzed
Date:August 6th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Babes, you do make me read the weirdest stuff. I mean, really. But then you write so compellingly it's hard not to. I almost feel for Rafa, although really I am honour and duty bound to mourn for Roger.
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 6th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
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okay. i literally cannot believe you read this. oh hon. *laughs* thank you.

you mourn all you like for roger. i mourn for him constantly, though more asa result of my wild sexual attraction than from a sense of duty. oh rogelio. <333
[User Picture]
From:nonobstant
Date:August 7th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
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I cannot comment efficiently your fic, coz I didn't all understood ( I guess I have progress to make concerning my practical English vocab ); afer having skimed through the comments, I understood he made love with Rogi's coat. that's an original idea though. illustrates well the idea of frustration, of need. :)
[User Picture]
From:girl_tarte
Date:August 9th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
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i'm sorry you had trouble understanding this, but yes: he made love with Rogi's coat - that's the essence of it. :)

thanks for giving it a go anyway!
[User Picture]
From:somarem
Date:December 23rd, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
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The writing was compelling. I torn between being hot and sad about what Rafa was going through. But the detailed, atmosphere in this piece was so good you could actually feel the world closing in on Rafa. And though Roger is not there he is ever so present.

Thank you for writing this piece.

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