This is my work for the RPF Big Bang - the story of how juan martín del potro improves his relationship with david nalbanidán, with the small help of his new-found ability: reading david's mind. with cameos of the davis cup coaches (martín jaite and mariano zabaleta), pico mónaco, eduardo schwank, gisela dulko, paola suárez, roger federer and some others in minor roles. amazing art by lauchis (posted all together here) and beta by the very same girl. title from an anime (nana).
.my heart is tugging on the string that binds us.
18,200 words. del potro/nalbandián. implied roger federer/mirka vavrinec and gisela dulko/fernando gago. soft supernatural!fic. gen progressing to slash. pg-13.
There are two things that happened in the year 2011, which most people don't know about, and take a big part on the events that changed Juan Martín Del Potro and David Nalbandián's lives during 2012 (even if it's hard to tell why):
1. the victory Del Potro had over Djokovic in September.
The moment the champagne touches Juan Martín's skin he realizes that it's not actually hot outside, the weather isn't almost-spring like it would be at Buenos Aires, and that he has been playing tennis for long days. Juan Martín is tired, most of his muscles are sore and the back of his knee is killing him, he can feel as if there was someone poking it with a stick every five seconds. It isn't only this game today, but the accumulation of the one before and mostly the pressure this competition has for him.
But it doesn't matter.
Nothing does actually, nothing but the noise of the people, cheering for him, for them, and it's beautiful, it's perfect; all that roar in his ears make him feel so incredibly alive that this game, just this tiny game, is bigger than any tournament, any cup, bigger even than beating Roger Federer at US open. And they're not even playing at Parque Roca, so go figure.
And then, beyond all that, there's him.
David walks up to Juan Martín, grips him by surprise and there's a minuscule fraction of time, even smaller than a second, than Juan Martín thinks that David is actually going to kiss him, right there, in front of people, cameras and basically the whole world. He has no clue where that idea comes from, but the feeling goes away when David talks and Juan Martín can hear his voice loud and clear on top of everyone and everything else in the court: "I told you to do that, I told you to kill him with your service. You are something else." And the words are better than any kiss could have been, he decides while he grabs David's head in his hands just to look at him and, and Juan Martin is royally screwed.
See if he cares, though.
2. a meeting between the old captain and the new one in December.
When Jaite takes over the Davis Cup team he and Modesto Velazquez have a meeting, without the press, without even Zabaleta; just the two of them in a crappy coffee place in downtown Buenos Aires with two matching tiny cups filled with the brown liquid. Jaite is having his third sip of the cup thinking that the handle is too small to anyone with normal sized male fingers when Modesto sighs and says "and then, there's the Delpo/David issue". Jaite can even hear the slash divide the two names in the ex-coach voice, as if there was a barrier between them that couldn't (and maybe even shouldn't) be crossed.
"What about them?" Jaite asks, voice so soft that would have been hard to hear if they weren't sitting so close to each other because of the little table.
"You know what about them."
This is Jaite's turn to sigh. He had read all about Juan Martín and David, even before him coaching was even a possibility. He had read it as a tennis fan, as another Argentinian: the words that were aimed to each other, the fuss the press made about how they didn't get along… everything up to Modesto's latest declarations about how they were doing more than fine now, friendly and everything.
"I thought you had solved that," he says carefully, even if back then when he had read the latest article dedicated to the matter he had suspicions about being a little too exaggerated to the nicest side so that people didn't worry.
"I patched it up," Modesto explains, "you can't trust that very much."
"Don't worry about it," Jaite says after another sip of coffee, this one showing him the white bottom of his cup, "I'll take care of it."
"Will you now?" Modesto sounds amused and not trusting at all. A lot of people, Jaite has been noticing, don't trust him with this team.
"When I'm done with them, they'll be reading each other."
And that was the end of the meeting.
(It took about four months for all that to make sense.)
Juan Martín almost doesn't notice.
He's out of the shower and thinking about what he'll have for breakfast, still remembering in his skin the victory of the day before and smiling without helping it. He dresses slowly while considering a mate over an actual breakfast, after all, the Cup is almost finished, the only game left he doesn't have to play and he's free of schedule for a few weeks, and, on top of everything, he's really craving for it: he can even taste the bitter flavor of the yerba and the warm feeling of the water in his mouth. Out of nowhere he's thinking about Schwank and his awful habit of parting a croissant in three before eating it, so he can first eat the middle and then the two ends.
He has no idea why the image is so vivid, as if it was happening in front of him right now (Mónaco's unmade bed is the only thing he can see when he lifts up his eyes from his shoelaces). Maybe, he assumes, it's because he's thinking about breakfast.
Juan Martín leaves the room shaking his head from side to side, going back to his longing of a mate and wondering if Zabaleta made his own too long ago or not, and if it would still be good enough to drink. He leaves the room with that in mind and when he's walking into the elevator, he wants sugar. Just like that, out of nowhere, he has the need of finding sugar and adding it to a tea he's not even drinking. The voice of the thought is even foreign.
"I should have slept more," he says to no one in particular, closing his eyes to the sounds the elevator makes as it goes down.
As Juan Martín reaches the breakfast table he gets a glimpse of Schwank and a plate with one croissant (knowing him, he surely ate another five already). He's doing exactly what Juan Martín was thinking about before, which makes him wince as he walks by the table, patting Mónaco and Nalbandian in the back on his way to get Zabaleta. He then gets a "scare me, you bastard" from David.
"It wasn't that bad," he says stopping on his tracks and turning around to receive matching wondering stares from Mónaco and David.
"What wasn't that bad?" David finally says, his voice sounds as even as a second ago and Juan Martín think he's mocking him.
"The pat in the back I gave you, I was barely saying hi; Pico didn't complain."
"I didn't say it was bad," David lowers his cup; Juan Martín notices it has tea on it and finds it odd. Not odd that David drinks tea, odd that he was thinking about tea on his way down here.
"Well, no," Juan Martín answers reflectively, "but you said it scared you."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes David, you did, I heard you."
"I didn't--" David stops talking and turns to Mónaco, "did I say anything out loud?"
"Erhm, I didn't, well, I wasn't paying much attention," Juan Martín can hear the compassion on Pico's tone, can feel it even, and rolls his eyes in spite of himself, "but I didn't actually hear anything."
"But you said it."
"I'm sorry Delpo, I didn't," David sounds cautious, and after a second adds, "maybe you're tired and should have slept some more."
"Yeah, I was thinking about that, too." Juan Martín sighs and is about to turn in search of the mate as he originally planned to, but David is again staring at him, this time as if Juan Martín had grown another head. "What?"
"What were you thinking about?" David says, with the same tone, like he's afraid Juan Martín may break down if he talked with normality.
"That I should have sleep more, like you said."
"I didn't say--"
"Yes, you did!"
"No, Juan Martín, I didn't," David says, and rubs his eyes with two of his fingers, "I just thought about it. No one heard me talk right?"
Both Schwank and Mónaco support David, even if they look as confused as Juan Martín feels. He understood the words David used, but seems to be lacking some part of understanding of the whole sentence because it sounded wrong to him.
"What are you saying?"
"I didn't talk Delpo, I thought about saying it, but decided against it because it didn't seem like the right thing to say to you in the morning," David explained.
"But I heard you."
~I think Eduardo's t-shirt is rather awful.~
"I do, too," Juan Martín agrees, "but what does that have to do with anything?"
David has a tired smile on his face before talking again, "please everyone notice how I am not freaking out," he says, "but I think Juan Martín Del Potro can read my mind."
There's silence, Zabaleta who is now standing behind Juan Martín (since when, he can't be sure) says something about Jaite and walks away from them; with him Juan Martín is sure his chance of a mate goes away, yet he can't bring himself to care right now.
"But I… I just..."
"Wait, wait, why his mind only? Let's try this," Mónaco calls for attention, "what am I thinking right now?"
Juan Martín stares at Mónaco wondering what he is supposed to do now. His brain is racing: how do you try to read someone's mind? It's not like he was trying with David, the things were out there, as if they were hanging in the air waiting for him to listen to.
"I don't know."
"What about me?" Schwank says, and Juan Martín turns his stare to him. Nothing.
"Maybe it was just sheer luck, try again with David," Pico suggests.
Juan Martín sighs, this is beyond stupid and he feels like he's talking with a bunch of madmen.
~Can I start calling you Professor X?~ David is laughing at him even if he's not moving a muscle visibly, the infliction on the words is very easy to recognize for Juan Martín.
"No, you can't," and just after he says it, Juan Martín notices that he hasn't seen David's mouth move when he heard the words.
He needs to sit down, badly.
So he does, right next to David who's now softly smiling with an amusement that Juan Martín can't share; shouldn't this be creepy? Why wasn't David scared or, at least, worried? Why do Mónaco and Schwank focus only in that he can read David's mind and not theirs, in place of being disturbed by the fact that he can read any mind at all? Yesterday he won against Cilic the match that gave Argentina the security of being in the next round of the Davis Cup, today he's a mind reader; Juan Martín doesn't find that normal at all, why don't his friends see it like that as well?
"Wait, wait," Schwank says, almost getting up from his seat with an excited idea, "David sent his thoughts to you, maybe that is the difference."
"I did?" David says warily in the back, but no one gives him attention, Juan Martín picks up his head and waits for Schwank to go on.
"What I mean to say, is that I'm going to try to say something inside my head, like," and he shuts up, abruptly, leaving the other three men staring at him, waiting.
~Clearly this is not how it works~ David's voice still has that tilt of fun on it.
"Clearly," Juan Martín agrees and when there's no response from anyone else, he sighs loudly. "I did it again, didn't I?"
"Yes," it's the general response.
Zabaleta is back in the room and surely with Jaite as well, Juan Martín can't see them, but he heard the footsteps and now he feels eyes on the back of his neck. The confirmation of their presence is given by the silence that wins over the table.
"Guys, a minute?" Jaite says, suggests, asks even. He's gentle like that and Juan Martín likes that about him, less for the time when it sounds like that gentleness could turn a bit into the passive-aggressive side.
Jaite doesn't talk as they walk, behind him David and Zabaleta are slowly following. For some reason, Juan feels like he's the one to blame for all this, even if he's not sure what is exactly going on here. They end up in a room that Juan Martín guesses is the double the captain and his second man are sharing.
"How do you feel Juan?" is the first thing out of Jaite's mouth as he signals a bed for him to sit down; out of the corner of his eye Juan Martín can see that Zabaleta is doing the same with David.
"Erhm, I… fine, I mean, there's nothing, well, nothing different."
Now Jaite's eyes travel to David, "and you David?"
"I'm all right, leaving aside the awful tea brand they have here, one would think that in your own country they'll have a tea you'll like."
"That's why you wanted more sugar then?" Juan Martín asks, understanding the thought he had in the elevator.
"Yes," David nods, slowly, "you weren't even in the room when I was thinking about adding sugar to my drink."
"I heard you," Juan says, shyly. "Eh… I was in the elevator and I thought about wanting sugar for tea, which didn't make sense there, or even when I saw you drinking tea… but it somehow does now."
"Oh," Jaite says, he's grinning, "this is fantastic."
Juan Martín begs to disagree, but says nothing.
"Does it work the other way around?"
David opens his eyes big to that suggestion, as if he hadn't thought about it yet.
"I don't know," he answers, while Juan Martín tries to think about what has been on his head: breakfast, mate and, now, this.
"Try then," Jaite encourages them.
David doesn't look at him, just waits, Juan Martín thinks he ought to help so he makes a comment about the weather inside his head (he can't think of anything else). There aren't any words from David.
~No, nothing at all.~ "Nothing."
"It was clear first time," Juan Martín says, and when he sees Jaite's expressive smile he can almost laugh as he asks: "There wasn't a first time right?"
"Nop," David says and ~we should have a code for the things I don't say out loud so you stop making an idiot out of yourself.~
Juan Martín fully notices this time how the latter part of the comment was meant only for him to hear and it makes him flush slightly, he feels the heat of the blood on his cheeks as he barely nods (because he has no other idea of how to answer what David said without talking).
"It's not that weird," Zabaleta comments, Juan Martín had almost forgotten he was there and he tries to pay him extra attention because of that.
"How can this not be weird?"
"Well, for starters, it's not the first time I hear about something like this, and the same goes for Mariano here," Jaite explains, he's back to the gentle tone, "and I have the small suspicion that it's not entirely new for David, either."
Juan Martín feels betrayed and that even overpowers his curiosity about the first thing Jaite said; he assumes that justifies David's reaction to everything, but it still affects him. By his side, David moves uncomfortably and Juan Martín gets something that sounds almost like a sorry inside his head with David's voice.
"I heard rumors once, when I was younger, but I never paid attention to it."
"I never… why have I never heard about this?"
"You didn't run into the right people?" Zabaleta suggests, as he crosses his legs and puts on a deep-thinking face, in any other situation Juan Martín would have mocked it, but now he doesn't even feel like doing that. "Which is weird, mostly considering some of your friends in tennis, like Rafa."
"What does he have to do with any of this?"
"Never mind him," Jaite says, and Juan Martín doesn't miss the disapproving look he gives Zabaleta. "We just want you both to keep calm and relaxed, there's nothing wrong with what is going on and it surely has to do with all the excitement of the past few days. David you'll have to watch your head a bit when you're around Juanma so you share with him what you want and nothing else, and by the same principle Juan I'll ask you to be respectful with David's thoughts."
"But it's not like I'm trying to read his mind," Juan Martín says, because he indeed hasn't tried, everything has just reached his head. "It's just… he thinks too loud or something, I can't help listening to him."
Jaite laughs at that, it's a controlled small sound that invades the room causing a small smile in Zabaleta and a curve of lips in David.
"It's okay Juanma, we know you're not doing this intentionally, that's why I said that David had also to be careful."
"How long is this going to last?"
"That's hard to tell; sometimes it's just a few weeks, other times…" Jaite takes a breath before talking again, doesn't look Juan Martín in the eyes for the first time in the conversation, "other times it takes years or… maybe it stays."
"It's all suppositions, no one knows much for sure." Zabaleta talks again, he sounds almost apologetic.
"We didn't do anything for this to happen right? I think we didn't."
Jaite looks at him, slowly, as if trying to learn them by memory.
"You've been partners for a long time, you've known each other for years, there are a lot of expectations from the whole country put into you two. All those things add up."
"So, you're saying that because we've been familiar with each other for ten or so years and because a bunch of people in Argentina wants us to win everything, which we agree with of course, I ended up reading his mind?"
~I can think of worst outcomes to those things you said. And I'm not saying this out loud for the record.~
Juan Martín wants to smack David for the whole comment, but mostly for his laughing at the end. He also wonders if he wants to know those 'outcomes' David is talking about. But he feels like taking care of none of those things, he doesn't even feel like drinking the mate he so much wanted earlier. Plus, no one answers his question, but he wasn't actually waiting for an answer if he's being honest.
"Do you guys mind if I go back to bed for a while?"
There are nods and some vague words from Jaite, but nothing else, so Juan Martín gets up from the bed, tries very hard to ignore everything but his own actions and leaves the room. He makes it to the end of the hall in peace when he hears it: ~I don't blame you, you know that right?~ David's voice is so clear in his head that for a second Juan Martín considers turning around and seeing if Nalbandian is standing right behind him.
He doesn't even wait for the elevator then, runs the stairs to his room and lets himself fall on the bed wishing to wake up to reality, where all this is nothing but a bizarre dream.
It's not a dream.
He wakes up to David inside his room, saying something about them being late for Mónaco's match without moving his mouth, he's smiling even, his lips curved up faintly and his arms crossed over his chest. Juan Martín hates him and wishes David could also read his mind so he could see all the ways Juan Martín is thinking about murdering him or at least leave him hurt enough with pain to shut his head up.
"Pico is going to be mad with you more than with me," David points out moving the pillow out of Juan Martín's head, where he had recently hidden; the voice sounds higher than before and Juan Martín assumes David doesn't know how to raise it up inside his head so he must be really talking this time.
And he's also right, the bastard. Whatever Juan Martín had felt for David, and acknowledged since last year, is completely lost on him right now and -- oh. For the first time Juan Martín is immensely glad that he's the only one able of doing this little mind-reading thing. The idea of David being able to know what Juan Martín has been thinking, has been feeling, about him terrifies him enough to fully wake up.
"I'll be ready in five minutes," Juan Martín says sitting up and David nods, starting to leave the room and announcing that he'll wait for him in the car downstairs.
Pico is already out in the court when they get there; Jaite is the only one that doesn't seem surprised to see them showing up late and Juan Martín wonders if what's going on gives them some sort of special favors (something that bothers him on principle). But after a second he remembers that Jaite knew he was going to lie down and that surely it was the captain himself who sent David after him.
He's over worrying.
So he sits down and tries to focus on the match and only that, the team already passed this round so this is a game to enjoy, watching Mónaco play nice tennis against another good player.
~He's looking for you~ David's voice is so soft in his head that Juan Martín feels it like a whisper said to his ear, but without feeling hot air against the side of his face or a hand resting on his elbow for support like anyone would do to talk so close to someone else. It's a bit of a disappointment that David isn't doing any of those things, but the fact that he's talking into Juan Martín's head because Juan Martín can hear him, read him, sort of makes up for it.
Remembering what David says, Juan Martín sets his eyes on the square, assuming David meant Pico, but Mónaco is moving his hips and warming up before the game, eyes on the field and no way directed to Juan Martín. He's about to turn his head to the left and ask David, but just before he does it another thought invades his head: ~Palermo~.
It's true, a few rounds up from them Martín Palermo is looking around with tiny eyes and a focused face, like when he was at his own field calculating where the ball would reach. Juan Martín calls out for him and waves, getting an immediate response with a huge grin that takes over Palermo's face easily. The ex soccer player makes a head movement pointing the seat next to him, but Juan Martín denies. Later on he'll explain to whoever asks that he wanted to be close to the field for when Mónaco finished, to hopefully congratulate him and to officially celebrate with the rest of the team; he won't even think to himself about any other reasons, not even when Davids does incline towards his side and makes a comment about Veić's wrist movement, talking low to his hear as if he had forgotten that he could be saying this to Juan Martín in silence, only by thinking about it loud enough.
Juan Martín doesn't really mind.
He wonders how David feels. Not about him in general (that's something he has wondered in dark hours in different locations around the globe since last year) but about this whole thing. He's sitting quiet, rigid on his chair right now, eyes glued to a match that just started, and no matter how much of a fan he is, he can't be that interested, not at the very start of a match; Juan Martín has shared a bench with him more than once and he's sure of it.
David is focusing on the match way too much. There's when Juan Martín notices it: he's only focusing on that, his head is screaming about Parque Roca's field and about the tension in the net, Juan Martín is pretty sure he even hears a comment about Pico's choice of wardrobe. Nothing but the game is on David's head, or at least he's forcing that. Because of Juan Martín.
That bothers him. David has the right to think about whatever he damn wants to and because of him, because of Juan Martín, he can't; David is actually choosing what to think about so his thoughts don't reach Juan Martín's head. It's the first time since the morning that Juan Martín notices David uneven about it, and he really doesn't like it. So he makes an inappropriate question that he's been dying to ask, mostly because he thinks that in this state David is closer to give him a truer answer.
"Why are you so calm about this?" Juan Martín asks, voice soft and impossible to hear for anyone who's not David, never mind the court silence. "I can read your mind, why aren't you feeling uncomfortable and worrying about it like a normal person would do?"
He's pretty sure that David is both things he just named right now, but he's still thinking about tennis. Until everything goes blank and Juan Martín hears the sigh and almost feels it in his head, too.
"What would that do? Would it help if I was hiding from you, scared that you may hear me say that I'm not in the mood for whatever is going on? Or if I was mad at you or at Jaite or at every tennis player in the world? Would it do anything for us, for the team, if I was around mopping because you can read most of what I think?"
Juan Martín opens his mouth to talk, but David cuts him off, eyes and mind back on the game: "the answer is no Juan Martín."
"Would it work with distance?" Zabaleta looks honestly curious, he's watching Juan Martín when he talks, but his words are clearly for Jaite who's at the other side of the table, reading about yesterday's game with Mónaco by his left and Schwank by his right.
"I have no idea," Jaite replies without looking up, "tell them to try."
Juan Martín would like that their captains didn't talk about them as if they weren't there. He's about to complain about that when David talks.
"He heard me from the elevator when I was down here."
"And from my room, too," Juan Martín decides to come clean, "I actually think that the first thing I heard wasn't the thing about the sugar, 'cause when I was dressing I got the vivid image of Edu eating croissants, and that was what you were watching."
"That's not much of a distance," Zabaleta says, "maybe we should go drive around and see what happens." He goes quiet for a second before talking again, "or we just wait and find out when you're in different countries and Juanma gets to hear David complaining about missing his cats."
"I don't complain about it that much."
"No, but you surely think about it."
Both Zabaleta and David stare at Juan Martín, and it takes him a few seconds to notice that his opinion is needed in the matter.
"Uh, for what I've heard yesterday and this morning, he doesn't think much about his cats; at least not too loudly."
"Loudly?" Zabaleta repeats.
"I think I explained it already," Juan Martín says, scratching the back of his neck before going on. "I can't actually read his whole head, it's not like you can say to me "what is David thinking?" and I can give you a description of everything in his head. I can only say what I hear, what he's thinking, well, out loud."
"Then I don't think you'll hear each other overseas; unless David is calling out your name or something like that."
Jaite means it as a joke, hell, he surely doesn't even think what he said in the same way than Juan Martín just thought about it. A way that makes his ears go crimson just like when people recognize him on the street and cheer his name.
~Do I even wanna know why you're flushing?~ David sounds amused, but there's a hint of something else there too and Juan Martín can't fully tell what it is, so he focuses on moving his head in denial; maybe moving it would also make the image of David calling out his name go away - he's such a teen sometimes.
~Because I'm not going to be screaming your name around the house, I promise. Or in court. Or when I know you're playing, or…~
"I know," he says, and David doesn't answer to that, Juan Martín cares very little about the fact that he said it out loud and Zabaleta is giving him a pointed look.
"I'm going to finish packing," he says, getting up. David's voice is in his head again ~Did I say anything that bothered you? I was jus jok--~ It turns out, Juan Martín discovers when he starts humming a Foo Figthers song he heard earlier on the radio, that blocking David from his head is not hard at all. Even if David can't tell he's doing it.
When Juan Martín arrives to Portugal he's waiting for it. He won't fully admit it to himself, but he was on the hope that David would, well, say something. In his head. Just to try.
After the Cup they were in the same country until the end of the month, so they had amused themselves trying to see if their connection worked from house to house and even from Córdoba to Tandil: all experiments successful. During them Juan Martín had tried to reach out, to think more about David to see if that helped, if David could feel him; but in all the cases, it wasn't until David said something ("Do you come back to a lonely home or is your family waiting for you there?" "What do you buy regular Cheetos or the ketchup flavored ones?" "Is it warm there, too, or we're just lucky over here?") that Juan Martín could hear him. He called David to answer each question, and the times where David was just making a mental note towards him that didn't need reply ("remember to call Jaite before leaving") or just a ranting about extreme sports he enjoyed watching Juan Martín just felt content to hear him.
This, Juan Martín thinks, is on the right way to fully restore their relationship. He knows David still holds certain reservations towards him, because of some of his decisions; but Juan Martín trusts that with the intimacy given by this mind-bond they'll be able to solve whatever issues linger between them. Even if David didn't think about it, all that Juan Martín had to do was ask when they were on the phone or again face to face and he'd get a glimpse of the true feelings or thoughts David had, and he'd work with that.
That little trick (asking something David wasn't talking about in a certain moment so David was forced to think about it, to bring it to his conscious head, and therefore letting Juan Martín sneak a peek, even if David hurriedly put the thought away or covered it with something else, which normally involved rally cars) Juan Martín had learned by chance in one of their phone calls from Buenos Aires to Córdoba. Out of nowhere Juan Martín asked David about his cats and was ambushed by images of different felines inside his head before David could even start to give an answer. Juan Martín saved that little discovery to himself, to not make David uneasy, he said to himself back then. It was a poor excuse, he didn't care.
But nothing happens. Not on his first night. Not on the second. Not after the first game (and victory). Not even when he wins against Wawrinka at the semifinals. He almost considers calling David the night before the finals when he hears him.
~You're going to win~ David's voice isn't stained by any tone and that's a bit weird for Juan Martín, usually he's able to pick up an inflection in the words said to his head; but maybe it’s the distance or the fact that they haven't spoken in a while. Something that in any other time, before the whole mind-reading thing, would have been normal; they didn't talk much, not when they weren't in need, so that's another point in favor of Juan Martín's idea about how the new connection is going to change things between them.
~And don't call me, it's rather late, but I realized that I've been watching all this games and trying so hard to not to think about you, because I didn't want to distract you in any possible way, not during a game or even during a press conference, that I didn't say anything and just in case you decided to, I don't know, freak out or be unprofessional and not cold enough when tennis is involved like you usually are; I'm reporting. And asking you to go out there and be the best damn tennis player in the world like I know you are.~
There's a pause and Juan Martín notices there that he's breathing heavy as if he had been running a marathon or played more than four hours straight of tennis against Djokovic, his pulse rate is higher than it was after yesterday's game; hell, it's surely higher than after he won versus Cilic at Parque Roca in April. It's too much for him to proceed; it almost feels as if David was confessing to him, admitting that Juan Martín has been on his thoughts and that he had deliberately pushed Juan Martín away. The final words, how David said "the best damn" rings all around his head, hitting on imaginary walls and bouncing until Juan Martín can't even hear anything else.
~And if you ever use this against me, I'll fight with my best to make you believe that I was drunk.~
That makes Juan Martín snort and he falls asleep thinking about discussing status of sobriety with David whenever they cross paths again.
He wins over Gasquet in two sharp sets, the game does have a few quavering moments, but he's content. The first though that reaches him, when he's walking outside the court, is a satisfied ~I told you so~.
Of course David wasn't going to congratulate him.
~I am completely against this.~
David's voice helps him to completely wake up and Juan Martín insults him without caring that he's not being heard. He reaches for his phone on the nightstand of his hotel room already thinking of calling David and starting the conversation with a "go to hell". Maybe even hanging up after that.
~And I don't care that the Olympics are by the end of July and we're not even in June, if you fuck up that knee you won't even make it to the Davis Cup in September.~
Juan Martín calls after that thought, David picks up at the first ring and he doesn't get to say anything before Juan Martín talks, his voice mostly a growl of sleep and anger: "All you fucking care about is the cup, and you fucking act like no one else cares about it. Don't you think I think about it, about everything you just said? That I don't sit down and talk it with people who know about this? Or you think that I wake up and say "oh, my knee hurts, it doesn't matter, let's play a Grand Slam because it's just a small tournament where I </i>won't</i> get to see any of our maybe future rivals for the Cup or the Games". Do you honestly believe I'm that stupid?"
David doesn't say anything, he's breathing labored from the other side of the phone and Juan Martín can read a cloud of anger covering anything else on his head. The feeling is clearly contagious, because Juan Martín says something with that on his own mind that he regrets the second after it leaves his mouth: "try not to think about me at all, okay?"
The rage he could feel is suddenly replaced with sadness, with something so painful that Juan Martín can't recognize in the little time it takes to be devoured by fury again.
"Fine," David says, hanging up with so much intention that Juan Martín can almost see it.
He curses himself all the way to the shower, during the shower and at his training session. It doesn't feel like it's enough.
Juan Martín loses to Federer for the fifth time in the year on a sunny June afternoon. Even if he's been traveling since he was a teen, it messes with his head a bit that a part of the world is wearing summer clothes in June. It's a stupid thought but he considers he's allowed to stupid thoughts given the situation.
Federer is, as always, a gentleman. He smiles almost apologetically at Juan Martín on his way to the net, and praises him with kind words on his perfectly sharp English; he even uses a word or two on his rustic Spanish making Juan Martín not quite smile, but at least soften his face. On top of everything else his knee hurts and his head is silent; he hasn't heard a word from David in a week and he's been thinking only in calling him, to apologise, to explain why he's playing, to just listen to him talk. Every time Juan Martín did as much as searching for David's name on his phone's contacts' list he backed up, half scared about the fact that maybe David didn't want to talk to him and half still mad because he still considered himself to be fairly right at some points.
As Juan Martín watches Federer be done with the press, and going back to the lockers, he makes up his mind and walks towards him, people will assume he's just congratulating after all.
When they're alone he waits for Roger to drop his gear before talking.
"Has it ever happened to you?" Juan Martín asks, his eyes on the floor when Roger stops moving. The older man doesn't say anything so Juan Martín looks up and finds that Federer is staring at him; it makes sense, he wasn't very clear with what he said, so with a tired sigh he puts two fingers on his head and opens his mouth to talk but Federer beats him to it.
"Yes," Roger says, "three times."
"Three?!" Juan Martín can't help his surprise and it makes Federer smile hazily, his amusement easy to see even through his tiredness from the game.
"And did it always leave?"
"Two of those times it did," Roger is defiantly smiling now, but there's no mockery in his voice and he looks, sympathetic "I didn't have much fun my first time, either."
"It's not that… well, maybe a bit," Juan Martín decides that this is a fine time to sit in the wooden bench. "Are you always the one who, uh, listens?"
"Always," Roger nods, he starts moving again, takes things from his bag. "I don't know if you get to switch at some point either yet I've known people that went through this more than three times."
"How popular is this?"
"Very," Federer's smile is back for a second, "but for most players it only lasts for a tournament, so they just decide to forget about it."
"Who is your…?" Juan Martín starts and doesn't finish assuming Roger is going to get what he's meaning to say.
"I hope you understand me if I refuse to answer that," Federer beams, shyly, "not for my sake alone, but for my friend too."
"Of course," Juan Martín nods, thinking that surely that's the correct answer even if, given the case Roger had asked him first, he would have named David without a moment of consideration.
"It never bothers you?"
"Like I said, I did not have fun the first time, after that one, it was almost natural," Roger explains, "it had become part of me to hear a second voice, I wasn't always comfortable about it, but I am now. With my latest voice, we've managed to make all the proper arrangements and we work very well together. Like a Swiss clock he says, he's trying to be funny and fails miserably."
Juan Martín lets himself smile to this.
"Do they, ah, bother you while you're playing?"
"No, no, not at all," Juan Martín answers quickly, "he's, they… well, they are a he, I don't mind you knowing that, he's very careful about it. I'm more worried than him, I think."
"It makes sense, you feel like you're intruding someone's head," Roger nods, "but you're not fully doing it; you can't reach out and guess their most inner secrets and saved thoughts, you can't even know what they're doing right now. They're only more exposed to you than anyone else is, like a friend you know too much of, or a lover."
"But with more exactitude."
"Well, yes," Roger agrees, "but if he's not having that much trouble with it, neither should you; less when you're away from each other."
"I guess you are right."
"I'm talking from experience, that's for sure."
"Any time," Roger smiles as Juan Martín gets up to leave, "I do mean that, I'm not just saying it. If you need anything else about this, give me a call, if I can help, I will."
Juan Martín shows his thanks again and hugs Roger once more before leaving him to his things; he wonders whose mind Federer is reading, but decides not to think about it, giving him (well, them) their privacy; mostly because he notices now that he doesn't want anyone to know about his bond with David (and, honestly, enough people know already).
Later than night, when Juan Martín has to decide if he's going to leave París or stick around until the end of Roland Garros, he hears it. David's voice doesn't sound sad or happy or even mad, it's plain and to the point, like sometimes when he talks to newspapers: ~Just for the record, even if I didn't want you playing this tournament, I didn't want you to lose~.
It's enough to put Juan Martín to bed, clutching his phone under his pillow because he's thinking about calling David but feels like he still shouldn't.
"This is the right decision," Juan Martín is talking to a mirror, but for him that mirror is the tennis fans from the world, his family, his team and also, David (David, who talked into his head two nights ago and didn't say or do anything else; just like Juan Martín didn't do anything either).
He thinks the least dramatic way to this is over twitter, so he does it like that. After starting at the mirror for another minute, he goes to his laptop and writes down an apology and a brief explanation: his knee hurts, he won't be on Queen's, he'll stop until Wimbledon.
What bothers him the most about the decision he made is that David is going to be at Queen's, while he isn't.
During all the days that Queen's lasts David doesn't show any signals of being alive, the only ones that Juan Martín gets are the games he's playing and winning. It makes Juan Martín insanely happy to see David win, play the wonderful tennis that Juan Martín always knew to admire.
When the final stages of the tournament start, Juan Martín finds himself in London. It makes sense, he has to be at the UK for Wimbledon that's held at the end of the month, so there's nothing weird about it. Juan Martín even thinks that if he wanted to go watch David play, it wouldn't surprise anyone. But he decides against it, because he feels they still need to talk and he doesn't want to disturb David in any way, so he stays in his room. He watches the last couple of games sitting on his couch in between kinesiology visits and calm meals surrounded by his team.
He regrets his decision when the final happens.
Juan Martín is stupid and self-centric enough to think that maybe if he was there he would have been able of preventing what happened; he thinks that maybe he would have noticed David's attitude and had seen in his head what was about to happen before it happened and then - and then what? Juan Martín's fantasy stops there because, really, what on Earth could he have done? Scream "David no!" before David did anything? Stop him by jumping into the arena? Even if possible for movies or stories, those ideas were awful.
So now, he's sitting in the same couch he has been for the previous game as well, with the remote still in hand and unsure of what is the right procedure to take in this situation. He considers calling Jaite or Federer, but none of the options seem right. What could they do anyway? Jaite was surely torn between sad and mad, like Juan Martín was just ten or twenty minutes ago; and Roger, well, if he called Roger the only thing he knew for sure is that Federer was going to guess that David's mind was the one that Juan Martín could read.
So, no one to call, being in the same city than David is and--
~I kind of need you right now~
As soon as Juan Martín hears David's voice he's at the door of his hotel room and on his way to find out where Nalbandian is.
It turns out to be easier of what he imagined. Finding David is only the mix of talking with the right people and rushing down the right roads and he's in front of the hotel room at David's name not even an hour after he called out for Juan Martín.
Before announcing himself Juan Martín has a small moment of doubt, because David hadn't spoke to him again so maybe the words were barely a momentary weakness that made it to his own head by accident and the solemn idea of mortifying David by appearing at his room and showing that he had heard the words scares Juan Martín enough to leave him unmoved at the door. He considers calling, but the idea sounds as awful as it did earlier so he decides there's no better option than this and he knocks.
A few seconds fly by before the door opens, revealing a tired looking David, with his eyes red maybe from tears and anger, and his hair damp from a recent shower. David steps away from the door and doesn't move his mouth to say ~I was wondering if you had heard me~.
"I did," Juan Martín replies, walking into the room in small, scared steps, he even considers saying 'I always do', but decides to keep that bit to himself. David closes the door and he still doesn't talk out loud when he turns to Juan Martín.
"Did you see the game?" he asks, his voice sounds slightly hoarse, Juan Martín assumes it's an afcter match effect.
"Of course," Juan Martín responses, feeling slightly offended about the fact that David considered that he had forgotten or that he had anything more important in his life than watching him play.
But maybe, Juan Martín thinks while observing David's pale form resting against the door, looking almost fragile, David is just trying to make small talk.
"I am an idiot, aren't I?"
"No," Juan Martín says, even if he has thought the opposite, a few hours ago, as soon as the game ended. But that's not what David needs to listen, so Juan Martín won't be saying it.
"I got disqualified of a final that I was closer to wining than to losing, enlighten me please in how that is not idiotic."
"You were out of yourself; you acted on impulse, on passion. Aren't you always proud of how pas--"
"Oh, shut up."
David finally moves away from the door and walks into the room, taking a seat on a large couch in front of the TV., Juan Martín follows behind because it seems like the right thing to do.
"You are not an idiot," Juan Martín talks again, sitting down not very close, yet not at the other end of the couch. He wants to reach out and touch David, embrace him in a hug he surely needs and stroke his head until David falls asleep or stops thinking about the game (whichever happens first).
"No, come on, listen to me," Juan Martín straights up in the couch, "you had a perfect tournament, I watched it mesmerized and proud, because all I could think was 'holy fuck, thank God he's ours'. You know how people get with Messi, right? Well, that's how I felt about you, I was happy that you got to play the cup with us and with no one else. You were the best out there, and one little act of misjudgment won't change that, not for me, not for anyone."
David doesn't say anything, all Juan Martín gets from him is a confusing sea of feelings and words that don't make it to sentences and go from "defeat" to "thank you".
They don't talk much after that, at some point David suggests asking something to eat and they end up watching an old NBA game on the television while they eat much more of what their trainers would like. Juan Martín doesn't care and he's sure neither does David, for the feeling of peace that radiates from his head, even if at times the image of the game comes up, and that's when Juan Martín interrupts him with a word, and idea, a question, anything to drive him away from that train of thoughts.
He thinks about kissing David twice, something that hadn't been on his head for a while, and it makes him feel young and a little bit happy; he lets the feeling rest there, safe in his head, just like every other demonstration of care he has for David in his mind and that he has never managed to make real.