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04 November 2012 @ 03:51 am
my heart is tugging on the string that binds us, ii/ii.  
(part i)

Juan Martín is tying his shoes when he hears David talk to him.

~I never bother you before a game but I wanted to let you know that I came to see you win, so behave.~

The last word has such an unique tone that Juan Martín shivers in spite of himself and that makes him laugh nervously, he's glad he can't give any thoughts back to David because right now it could be either a "you'll have to make me behave" or a simple "fuck you"; more inclined towards the first for David's voice sounded humorous more than anything else. Juan Martín appreciates the gesture of him coming over, mostly after David's debut and defeat from the first round. Even if, knowing David, he was surely already thinking about the Olympics game more than the game he had lost; after all, he was good at dealing with things when he had done his best, unlikely of what had happened at Queen's where he had done something he regretted.

Juan Martín does win, only has a bad game out of four and he feels like he played a decent match. The approval from David comes to his head when he's in the shower, which hadn't happened before. It's weird. David doesn't say anything out the ordinary, he makes a comment about some wise moves Juan Martín had pulled, about how much he had tired himself running the first two sets and how that was evident when he lost the third one; he rambles on that last point, talking about conditioning and proper training and if Juan Martín was chatting about it with his trainers and team. If this had been a normal conversation Juan Martín could have said that it hadn't happened in the past few games, so that of course he was going to get it under control, but that he couldn't do that much fuss about it yet. Even if he isn't explaining that to him, somehow he knows that David is aware of it but he's just either trying to feel useful or just mothering Juan Martín like he used to do with Mónaco.

But what is weird is not that David is saying all those things, Juan Martín doesn't even find strange the fact that he can't reply back (he had grown used to that feeling back in Argentina some months ago); what gives Juan Martín the odd feeling is the fact that he's naked under the shower spray of a dressing room with David Nalbandian talking about tennis inside his head. He's also a little bit turned on. Just a little, he doesn't even give importance to that fact, at least not until David starts talking a lot faster than before, coming up with projects of training and ideas for both the Olympic Games and the oncoming Davis Cup dates and his accent starts slipping into every single word he uses and Juan Martín is a sucker for that accent, has always been, since the first time he heard David talk sleepily with it.

Juan Martín's hand does something he doesn't consciously allow and when he notices he freaks out for a second and start humming a song in his head, as it had already worked to block David once. He rest his forehead against the cold tiles and the water hits him on the neck and he slowly lets David’s voice be heard again, who sounds amused now while saying ~…and I'm pretty sure you fell asleep to this or somethin'…~. Juan Martín lets himself laugh at that, at himself, at the whole situation and finishes showering so he can call David and mock him about the fact that he ended up talking like a creepy mixture of Juan Martín's mother and his trainer, all with a tilt of cordobés on his voice.

"So, how much do you remember?" is the first thing David asks, and Juan Martín can't be fully sure if he's saying it out loud or not, but when they're on the phone the difference is nonexistent.

"Erhm, you were talking about me running too much, and then about possible injuries and at some point you started to say something about double training with Eduardo and you, both against me and I take offense on you leaving me on my own."

"You do that," David answers, he sounds like he's laughing but there's no laugh in the phone.

"And what I do not remember is you saying congratulations," Juan Martín knows David rarely congratulates him, hell, he can't tell if that ever happened. David manages to say nice things or backhanded compliments, but never that actual word, even if anything else he may say or do imply the sentiment.

"Actually, I should be saying "good boy" or something among those lines," David now is certainly laughing. Juan Martín adores that sound and all the delighted feelings that come with it into his mind.

"And why is that?"

"Because I asked you to behave and you did," David says, and he tries to quiet his own laugh before going on. "Good boy."

That makes Juan Martín laugh even if he doesn't really want to, it must be the seriousness in David's voice.

"Well thank you sir, I do aim to please."

That cracks David up again, and Juan Martín follows.

At some point, after the laughs die down and they stop making more jokes about the same things; Juan Martín asks "are you going to come to see me play with Nishikori?"

David goes silent for less than a second before saying "of course" and Juan Martín gets a pretty candid image of himself saying those exact words to David with the exact indignant tone on them. The representation on his head goes away almost too soon but Juan Martín remembers it from the time he went to visit David after Queen's.

"Didn't imagine any less from you, sir," he jokes, because he has the need to light up the mood again, and David gives in rather easily, laughing again.

Ferrer nods at him and holds his hand out while giving him something that resembles to a sympathetic smile; Juan Martín takes the hand while staring at the grass below his feet and wondering if he's going to win a Grand Slam some time again. He knows that's a way too harsh thought, but he was just ran over by someone who's not Federer or Nadal or Djokovic (he would somehow allow that a bit more, his pride would let him be sad but not insensitive about it) so he can over react and over beat himself up.

He leaves the court in silence, showers in silence and arrives to his hotel room in silence. David is sitting at the door of his room, playing something on his iPhone.

~Oh, there you are~ he says, well, thinks because Juan Martín is staring and he noticed David didn't open his mouth; he gets up and touches the screen of his toy before saving it away.

"I did explore all the possibilities before coming here, but I didn't want to trouble you there," David puts his fingertips to his own head and pulls away immediately as he talks again, "so coming over here seemed the best one."

"And sitting outside?"

"I didn't want to intrude," David says and that makes Juan Martín's lip curves up, for the first time in the afternoon.

"That was an awful game, uh?" Juan Martín talks while walking to open the door.

"Certainly, it's not the best game I've seen you play, but I wouldn't call it awful."

"You're too nice--"

"Me? Do you even know me?"

"Let me finish," Juan Martín asks as they walk into the room, "you're too nice," he starts again and makes a pause, "with me," another pause and almost a smile before adding the meaningful end to his sentence "lately."

David smiles back, "Lately being the key word, I'm only doing it because you can read my mind, when that goes away, I'll go back to not liking you at all."

"And to say mean things directed at me on interviews."

"Mostly that," a pause, "mean things? How old are you, fifteen?"

"I just lost another Grand Slam, go back to being nice."

"I ordered meat and potatoes, a lot of potatoes, so many carbohydrates you'll have to start a new diet before the Olympics."

Juan Martín lets go of the bag that he still had on his arm, "you're my favourite."

"Oh, I know."

The food arrives when they found the rerun of a rally game from early that morning that David didn't ask to watch (yet he thought about it, surely not intentionally) but that Juan Martín choose to leave on. They eat silently, devouring food they shouldn't, just like the last time they were in a hotel room together. Places made for sins, is something his mother told him once about hotel rooms, when he was less than eighteen and had to travel outside the country; never mind being gluttony in place of lust, right now Juan Martín didn't complain.

"It is only because of that?" Juan Martín asks, when David is mostly focused on how perfectly shaped their potatoes are (or that's on his head, at least).


"You being nice to me."

"I'm not being nice, I'm returning a favor," says solemnly David, "as soon as someone needs to man up and scream at you, I'll be doing it with great pleasure."

"Like at Roland Garros," Juan Martín says, and they hadn't talked about it, and maybe they shouldn't, but he can't help the words he already spoke.

"I wasn't screaming, I was making my point clear," David answers without looking at him, but he puts his fork away so Juan Martín knows he has his undivided attention. "On the other hand, you did a nice screaming fest when you called."

"You deserved it," and again his mouth is quicker than his brain, but he doesn't get any sign of anger from David, so it can't be that bad.

"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't," David replies, "I didn't want you hurt, never mind the tournaments after that one, I'm still glad you didn't play at Queen's because you took your health in consideration. You were right in some of your screaming, but be nice and smart enough to notice that I was also right in some of my comments."

Juan Martín sighs soundly and remembers what David had said that morning, "maybe you had a point or two."

"Very well, from now on I'll try to trust your judgment."

"And I'll understand that you disagree with it."

They go back to eating after that, but Juan Martín can't swallow right, because there's still something bothering him.

"Don't ever listen to me if I say something like that again," he finally gives in and admits, "if I ask you not to think about me, towards me, don't pay attention to it."

A confused feeling fills Juan Martín's mind when David looks at him and right before it becomes a description of the rally still on the television.

"I won't," David says with his voice loud and clear, his lips moving into the words before forming a thin line that Juan Martín can't stop staring at; ~I assure you that I won't~ it's said into Juan Martín's mind. He feels at ease now.

~If my imbecile baby brother doesn't understand that I'm trying to get some decent fucking sleep and calls one more fucking time, I'm going to actually fucking mur--~

"You are cursing too much, I don't care it's inside your head, you're corrupting my innocence," Juan Martín interrupts David's annoyance and inner monologue clearly directed to the phone he's holding above his head.

"You're awake," is David's first response, letting go of the phone and being hit on the forehead because of it, causing another round of cursing. "By the way, what innocence?"

"And you clearly aren't," Juan Martín smiles, walking towards the couch where David crashed last night after they ate too much and watched a lot of crappy television. He takes the phone from the floor, where it ended, while he sees how David rubs his forehead with two fingers.

"Any permanent damage?" Juan Martín talks again.

"I can't believe you're awake and sassy," David grunts, "if I wanted any of that I would have picked up when my brother first called."

"Sorry," Juan Martín says, but they both know he isn't, "there's breakfast waiting."

David finally leaves his forehead alone and opens his eyes, blinking a few times, but he doesn't get to enjoy peace, for his phone on Juan Martín's hand starts making a show of lights and vibration again.

"Oh my God," David groans, he's not at all a morning person. Juan Martín wonders why he didn't know that.

"I'll take care of it," Juan Martín grins, and picks up before David can stop him.

"Hello Darío, Del Potro speaking," he says to the phone, barely distracted by David's mind saying ~hang up, hang up, hang up, don't make me hate you as well, please~.

"Hi Delpo, you got my brother kidnapped over there?" Darío's voice is much more marked by Cordoba's unique accent, probably because, if Juan Martín remembers right, he still lives in David's hometown. He had met Darío a few times, just like he'd met David's whole family and David knew his own family. But maybe he's crossing some line by doing this: a completely childish action that he could do with Mónaco or Schwank without a second thought, but not with David. Yet they fell asleep on each other, woke up at the break of dawn, decided sleeping arrangements in which David refused to take Juan Martín's bed and were now starting the day together; also there's that small issue abut mind-reading going on. Juan Martín decides that is enough to start crossing bridges.

"Indeed I do," he ends up answering, "do you need him for something?"

"Foundation stuff, but it can wait. Just ask him when he is coming back to Argentina if you can."

"Sure," he says to the phone, and pulls away from it to go on, "Darío wants to know when you're coming back."

"I don't know, in a day or two? I don't know, lie to him, tell him whatever you feel like saying, you answered the phone after all," David wants to sound mad, but he still looks pretty asleep and there's no trace of vehemence on his thoughts, which mostly revolve around breakfast.

"He'll be back with me in two days," Juan Martín decides to answer and that does call David's attention.

"Great, thanks man, bye."

"Goodbye." Juan Martín hangs up the phone and leaves it on the small table in front of the couch.

"So, we're coming back in two days," David says, he's sitting up and he's very focused on that action, nothing leaving his head.

"Well, you gotta be back soon, clearly, and I want to be there for a few days before coming back here."

David is staring at him, like he's trying to be the mind reader, but ends up shaking his head and asking about that promised breakfast.

"Ah, wait! Really, what innocence?"

"You took too long to ask again, you missed your oportinity," Juan Martín beams at him, and says nothing else even when David demands that it was an honest question.

Juan Martín wonders if all this is weird.

David is sitting in front of him on the plane, surrounded by his manager and one of his doctors, and Juan Martín has spent half of the flight kicking his seat, messing David's hair and taking his headphones off. And it's not like David is really mad at him about it, he grumps and curses in a quiet tone, gives Juan Martín very nasty looks, but he's laughing on the inside, literally. Juan Martín gets to hear a roar of laughter from the blonde's mind. They're being friendly, relaxed into each other's presence like they haven't been in a while, if ever. Juan Martín wonders if David agrees with that, but doesn't think right now is the moment to ask, besides David is singing along to some embarrassing music inside his head and Juan Martín doesn't plan to ever let him live that one down.

Juan Martín notices too, when thinking about the next weeks before the Olympics, that they could be in all the same places, starting by being in the same country and it's their country, which makes it different to any time during tournaments. They could spend time together, even if that could be seen as strange; suddenly them attached by the hip, not himself and Pico, not David and Eduardo: Juan Martín Del Potro and David Nalbandián. Maybe this is what the people wanted, what Jaite wanted, what Modesto Vázquez wanted a year ago when he first sat down with them to "talk things out".

Reading David's mind isn't that bad after all.

~Did you die there? You've been still for more than a whole minute…~ David doesn't sound worried at all, he's mocking, and to return the favor Juan Martín pokes his neck and takes off his left earpiece, pulling the cord so it falls onto the space between seats. David's fingers try to catch Juan Martín's hand and miss by far, while he's saying awful things about Juan Martín's behavior but his head says ~alive and awake, got it~ in a pleased tone.

Clearly, David isn't very bothered by the mind-reading business either.

Disappointed, Juan Martín discovers that he and David won't actually be sharing much time together in Argentina. They both have things to do, people to attend and overall activities to take care of. The whole 'joined by the hip' idea that Juan Martín got to savor during the flight fades away when he finds himself on a car to Tandil and knows that David is on his way to Unquillo.

~You have to be kidding me!~ the thought with David's voice takes over Juan Martín's head. He waits for continuation, something that follows the line and explains it; but nothing else reaches him. That makes him wonder if David is trying to intrigue him, to get Juan Martín's attention; but that doesn't sound like Nalbandián at all. Maybe, Juan Martín also considers, David just thought it too loudly without a real intention to share.

He considers calling David, but he's in the back seat of a car with his dad and uncle and he doesn't think they should hear him start a conversation saying "hey, everything all right with you? You sounded strange in my head a moment ago." Without a better plan of action, he decides to text David.

"Everything okay?" he writes and sends.

"Sure, why?" the reply is instant and David is such a correct person that he doesn't even ask why Juan Martín isn't calling him like usual.

"You said 'you have to be kidding me' in my head a moment ago," Juan Martín texts back.

~Did I? Sorry, I'm stuck on the road in the middle of my trip back home, closer to Córdoba thankfully, but it sucks. I should have flown here honestly, damn my likes for cars and road trips, I'm not that young anymore."

Juan Martín laughs almost inaudibly to that, pretends he's still staring at his phone just in case any of the men in the front of the car spare him a glance and writes "it can't be that bad" back.

~Can't be? Can't be? Do you even know what stuck on the road means Juan Martín? Let me tell you what it means…~

David starts talking, describing what's around him, how he's basically in the middle of nowhere no matter how close to home; he explains that the road is being repaired which causes the heavy traffic. He talks about the drivers around him and how some of them are honking as if that could solve anything. Juan Martín falls asleep at some point, David's voice works as a needed somniferous substance on Juan Martín, relaxing him enough to feel comfortable in the back of the car (where he's normally too big, with legs too long and a body overall too large).

His father wakes him up when they're close to their house in Tandil and Juan Martín is completely disoriented for a moment, because David's voice was the last thing he remembers when he closed his eyes for a blink that lasted longer than usual and the blonde is nowhere to be seen. It hits him when he starts waking up, the whole mind-reading thing. He sits up as much as he can and cracks his neck when he notices the red light of his Blackberry shining, showing he has a new text. It's, of course, from David and it says "I can't believe you fell asleep on me you bastard, be thankful this is starting to move or I'll be calling you to wake you up."

When Juan Martín is awake enough he answers to the text: "how are you so sure I was asleep?" he asks. David's voice invades his thought right away with a simple ~oh, I just am~ and Juan Martín is sure he didn't text it and preferred to say it in his head so it could be heard exactly how smug he sounded about it.

The next time they meet is at Ezeiza.

They talked before that, like they had done last time they were both in Argentina with the mind bond still fresh. David sends things into Juan Martín's head just like that time, with some added mocking asking thinks like: 'you didn't fall asleep again, right?'. Juan Martín is tempted to pretend that indeed he did, but he always prefers to send David to hell saying things like "no, you asshole" over the phone or with texts.

Right now, they're at the airport to travel back to London; alongside them Jaite, Zabaleta and the whole men's hockey team. Juan Martín has no issue with any of them, feels them all companions in what the Olympic journey is going to be; but he doesn't want to share the flight with them when it could be just him and David. He feels exposed with all those known people around, more that if it was a plane full of strangers like it had been when they arrived to Buenos Aires. It may be stupid, but Juan Martín is still sulking a bit about the idea he originally had to share time with David and how that didn't work.

Normally, they wouldn't share days together, so there's nothing weird about it, but, since the Davis cup, since the bond, many things were changing so why not that one as well?

Juan Martín scans the airport because he's bored and catches Jaite starting at him; he doesn't need to read his mind to know what the coach is thinking and with a sigh Juan Martín decides to walk towards him. After all, he thinks while going where Jaite and Zabaleta are sitting, they're going to have to talk about it eventually and Juan Martín prefers to do a quick report now so he can ignore it for the rest of the competition. Ignore the fact that they know, that's it.

Jaite smiles when Juan Martín is close and Zabaleta is the one who talks for both of them asking: "how's life, champ?"

Juan Martín decides to start answering the easy part of that and reports how his tennis is doing, how his body is fine after Wimbledon even if he had some quivering during the games. He assures them, mostly because he can, that he's more than ready and very eager to start both parts of the competition that include him. After his so correct monologue they're in silence; Juan Martín isn't sure what to say about his situation with David and now that he thinks about it he doesn't know if the coaches are even asking about it.

Zabaleta, on his part, clearly wants to say something, maybe ask, but Jaite silences him with a barely noticeable glance leaving Juan Martín the chance to start with whatever he wants and if he wants. Jaite is smiling, not self-righteous but yes knowing and Juan Martín gives in, because maybe it's not that bad to talk about it.

"Nothing changed," Juan Martín says. That seems like the right start, "we've been talking and we've kept everything during control; he hasn't distracted me from any game, from any every-day activity, hell, he hasn't even made me laugh during a tedious press conference and I know he wanted to do it."

"I heard that," David says and Juan Martín has a small moment of uncertainty when he can't be sure if David spoke to everyone or just to him, but when he notices Zabaleta's amused smile he guesses it wasn't just in his head.

"And I don't hear you denying it," Juan Martín replies and David lifts up his arms showing surrender.

"Sounds like you're both comfortable," Zabaleta comments, Jaite has no need, he looks like he can confirm that sentence himself, but Juan Martín decides not to give him that much credit, for he basically said that a moment ago.

"We are," David answers, just in case a vocal answer was needed, he turns to Juan Martín after that to say: "my brother is looking for you."

"He is?"

"Mhm, I think he has this odd notion that you're my secretary or my waking up clock."

"Waking up clock?" Zabaleta echoes and Jaite shushes him.

"Where is he?" Juan Martín asks.

"I'll take you to him if we're done here," looking towards Jaite who nods at him.

"Waking up clock," Juan Martín complains when it's just the two of them.


"To be fair," Juan Martín interrupts, "you've woken me up more times with your so very loud thoughts."

"Darío is there," David chooses to answer, but Juan Martín catches amusement from his mind.

They don't sit together on the plane this time either, they're not even close. David admits with annoyance: ~I can't even see you~. Juan Martín can't call him on the phone or get up yet, and he doesn't consider that screaming "hey David, over here!" would look good; so he decides to stretch both of his arms over his head knowing that thanks to their length they'll be easy to spot.

~Oh, there you are, hello arms.~

Juan Martín laughs and makes a small wave with his right hand.

Even if he doesn't want to, Juan Martín is awfully aware of David in the field number nine at All England where he and Berloq have been training together. At the other side of the net in his own court, Mónaco is giving him half worried glances and Juan Martín decides to complain about the field, which is something they were doing when they first arrived; Andy Murray was with them even, first making smartass comments about Pico's new hairstyle and then agreeing with the protests about the floor condition.

Mónaco takes the last ball in his hand in place of serving it with his racket and walks to the net, "really? Are you just annoyed about that?"

Juan Martín nods, the heat is a bit of an inconvenience too, but complaining about the weather sounds too childish for him. He closes his eyes and touches the sides of his head, as if that would make the images go away. They're not David's thought but his own, his very own thought about David, running on court, with the sun heating his face, squinting his eyes, grabbing the racket with one hand and cleaning sweat from his face with the other. It's slightly creepy how much Juan Martín can actually picture it as if it was happening in front of him. He's sure he can even listen to David's breath, the ragged sounds he makes in the field when going for the ball. It's driving him insane.

"Is anything," Pico starts, but stops and moves closer to the net, "is there anything bothering you up there?" he finishes, voice much quieter than normal.

"What?" Juan Martín opens his eyes and moves his hand away from his face, "up here?"

Pico blinks at him and finally Juan Martín gets it.

"Of course not, he's completely out of my reach right now."

"Out of your reach?"

"Or, I'm out of his, I don't know," Juan Martín shrugs. "When he plays tennis his head shuts entirely, he doesn't give anything away, I get nothing at all. I noticed when I was in London while he played at Queen's; even if I had gotten random ideas not always intentional before, nothing during tennis."

"He's always focused."

Juan Martín agrees to that with a grunt because there's a side of him that says "maybe he's also that focused in bed" and he just hates himself.

"Hey, can we go on tomorrow?"

Mónaco accepts right away, "I'll go pester Andy if he's still around, or wait for Edu, you go get some rest."

"Yeah, I'll do that."

Juan Martín showers at All England's dressing room and he's out by the back door calling no one's attention. He's unsure about where to go, but considers the Olympic Village serene enough and rides there texting his coach about it so the man won't worry.

The place is huge, Juan Martín is still shocked about it, but clearly it's not that big or there aren't many people there yet, because when he's on his way to the recreational rooms he spots a familiar figure sitting on a bench with a phone between his hands.

"Am I interrupting?" he asks before sitting down, Roger Federer smiles to him lifting his head and saying no with it.

"I was just done talking, no problem."

Juan Martín sits down, the sun is still heavy on him but it's not the same as when playing, yet he still doesn't feel at his best.

"How was the trip here?" he asks to Federer, eyes on the big apartments in front of them.

"Calm, well, less for the part when Charlene threw up on me and Myla mocked me for my ruined clothes."

Juan Martín hides the laugh that wants to leave his chest, but Roger smiles.

"You can laugh, too, I think in the end even Charlene did. My whole team surely did."

"I'm sorry," Juan Martín offers while Federer waves it off.

"What about yours?"

"I slept through most of it, I had traveled from here to Argentina less than two weeks before, so it was pretty much the same," Juan Martín says, even if that's not fully true, but he doesn't think Roger needs to know how he missed annoying Nalbandian.

"You don't look very well, if you allow me saying it."

"You're allowed," Juan Martín smiles dimly, "I was blaming the weather just before, but I don't think it's only that."

"Ah," Roger says, "Is he around here too, then?"

"He is," Juan Martín replies, "but it's not him, it's me, I'm not… all right apparently."

"Something I learned with my second time," Federer explains and Juan Martín is still bemused about the normality he has to approach the subject, "is that sometimes when they avoid a thought, when they stop it from forming, that also gets you. It's like you get the effort they did, even if you don't notice."


"For example, if you were reading my mind and we had to play against each other I'd be blocking thoughts a lot from you, right?" Roger looks at Juan Martín waiting for the nod; he goes on when he gets it. "But every time I blocked that, you'd feel it. You'd feel like I was about to call you but I wouldn't be actually calling you. At the very beginning it wouldn't bother you, but as it kept on happening, it would upset you. Make you think about them and be more aware of them, like if you were constantly waiting to be called."

"More aware?" Juan Martín repeats a bit unnerved.


"Does it go away?"

"Normally after a day or two you get used to it," Roger assures him, "you adapt like you first adapted to his mind being projected in yours. If you want to speed things up, talk to him but for me waiting worked fine."

"That's nice to hear."

"Always glad to give good news," Federer beams.

"You like this?"

"Yes," he answers immediately, "I don't think I could be at ease without that extra voice."


"It took us a while to get there; it wasn't like that from the start. I'll confess that sometimes I wanted to shush him out, too."

"Singing inside my head works."

"Talking in my less developed languages does it for me," Roger tells back and Juan Martín smiles at him.

"I like it too, and I think he does as well."

~Where on Earth are you?~ David's voice doesn't sound worried, it has a hint of exasperation more than anything.

"And other times, I think he just abuses it," Juan Martín adds, hand on his temple, and that makes Federer laugh.

"When he uses it because he wants things from the room you're in and he's not, then you need to talk to him kid." Roger pats him on the leg before getting up and waving him goodbye.

"Thanks again," Juan Martín says to him.

"I did offer," Roger replies, "answer him and go to bed early today, sleeping is good to let the mind get used to things."

When Federer is away from him, Juan Martín grabs his phone from his pocket and dials David's number.

"London," he says as soon as he hears David's respiration on the other side, "and we arrived here together from Buenos Aires."

"Idiot," is David's first reply, he sounds out of breath so Juan Martín is pretty sure he said it out loud. "Where exactly in London?"

Juan Martín smiles because he likes to feel humored, "The Olympic village."

"Stay for dinner," David commands, and Juan Martín can't find a reason to disagree.

"I'll wait with the pinball machine."

David's snort is the only reply he gets before hanging up.

~Muttio, Scarone, D'Elía, Barrionuevo, both Sruoga girls, Rodríguez, Aymar, Sánchez Moccia, Merino, Rebecchi~ David's unmistakable voice chanting the starting team of Las Leonas irrupts into Juan Martín's own thoughts and creeps him a bit. Since when does David care that much about hockey anyway? Yes, of course, it's a national team, but wanting them to win and cheering for them is one thing, chanting the formation is another stage of devotion. He can't see where David is but, if Juan Martín is honest, he can't see anyone with the opening celebration going on.

"There you are!" David's voice is hard to hear with all the noise and that exact thing is what makes Juan Martín sure that David is talking out loud.

"Eh, I was distracted with the show," Juan Martín says, in case a justification is needed, he's not even sure when he moved away from his fellow tennis mates, but it happened at some point. He wants to ask David why he was thinking about the hockey squad just a moment ago, but the hand on his arm doesn't let him say anything while it drags him away.

"It's fine," David is saying, more to the crowd they're facing than to Juan Martín, and he wants to tell David that he could be talking to his head instead and that it would make things much easier, he has no idea why David is being so impractical.

"What?" Juan Martín asks, because he notices he hasn't been paying attention and David just sighs before clearly repeating himself.

"The girls are looking for you and I lost at rock, paper, scissors with Eduardo, so I had to come and collect you."

"Sorry to be such a burden," Juan Martín answers back, maybe not entirely joking.

~Of course you're a burden, I'm pretty sure we're still a few pounds heavier with all we ate after your Wimbledon game~ and Juan Martín knows for sure that David didn't say that out loud, and that's enough to make him feel calm and all right again, even lets him drift back to his thought of the opening ceremony and the sportsmen (and sportswomen) with whom he has to share this tournament. Honestly, Juan Martín adores the Olympics.

"Over here!" Paola Suárez's happy voice calls from somewhere and Juan Martín feels getting tugged to that direction, with no resistance he follows David and soon he's in front of both tennis ladies, Schwank and Mónaco.

"Teammates," Juan Martín salutes to the sight.

"I'm going to find Berloq now, he must be here somewhere, he isn't exactly a little person either so he can't be hard to find." David walks away without saying anything else, but Juan Martín catches a glimpse of his thoughts and again he's chanting the hockey formation.

"Is he okay?" Juan Martín blurts unable to stop himself.

"If he was a girl, I'd say he's worried about how we look," Paola says in front of him, she looks thoughtful. "I mean, I heard him mutter something like "it's only gym clothes for heaven's sake" earlier."

Next to her Dulko snorts and Mónaco looks at his blue jacket with intrigue, muttering a vague "but I like it" and Juan Martín just leaves it at that.

"You were looking for me?" he remembers, leaving David's mood alone and staring at the ladies.

"I was," Gisela says, "I don't remember why now."

Juan Martín is about to protest, but Paola touches his arm slightly, "she was just texting with Gago, we lost her for a while."

Dulko doesn't even try to defend herself, and Juan Martín smiles, turning his attention to the celebration and to the rest of Argentinians around him; waiting, without thinking too much about it, for David to return.

At some point during his wait he feels Gisela's arm around him and even if he's not sure about what brought that up, he lets her into his personal space and embraces her as well.

"We're training at nine tomorrow," she says, and Juan Martín agrees, he knew that already.

When they're done training, they both stick around to watch Schwank and Nalbandián practice against Mónaco and Berloq. Juan Martín takes a little longer changing and comes back when they're in the middle of the practice, stopping by the side of the court where David is playing which makes him smile.

During the second half of the match Eduardo and David are winning with a decent effort and Juan Martín looks up to see Gisela looking back at him from the chair she sat on when they were done. He lets another set pass by but Gisela is staring at him so strongly that for a minute Juan Martín wants to be able to read her mind. He sighs then and moves away from his precious spot, walking towards her who just then stops staring and has her eyes focused on her wedding ring.

"How's the married life?" he teases.

"You're in love with him," Gisela isn't ever one for small talk, when she wants to say something she does it like she plays tennis: straight to the point and impeccably.

Juan Martín sighs again; he's been doing that a lot lately.

"Yes," he says, and rubs his temples with his left hand, because if he's going to confess, he's going to do it right: "madly"

"Paola owes me fifty bucks."

"What for?"

"She said you would not admit it that quickly."

Juan Martín can't help it and smiles.

"Is it that obvious?”

"We're girls, we see those things," Gisela says, and it does work as a bit of consolation. Juan Martín turns to look at her, she has her eyes back on the game, and remembers the hug from the day before, did he look so lost in the lack of David's presence that he needed a hug?

Possibly he did, he's glad Gisela was there to notice that.

Juan Martín is poking his food and trying not to stare at David talking to Luis Scola at the end of the table. He wants to go over there and demand to David that he's been very silent for the past day and a half and he wants to complain that it has been rather boring up there without David's random outbursts, more now that Juan Martín didn't felt the oddness of the first day anymore.

Juan Martín remembers Federer’s words, how he made clear that to him the second voice was a need and for the first time since all this started Juan Martín considers the possibility of the bond being gone. It scares him, it makes him stop any other action, let go of his fork and freak out internally for a minute. What if he doesn't hear David anymore because he can't? What if David has been trying to reach him but, because he can't hear him anymore, Juan Martín hasn't answered him so David thinks Juan Martín is mad at him?

He needs to know. He needs to be sure he still can hear David.

"Say something to me," he writes on a text message to David, because even if he wants to get up and say it to David's face he's not one to make a scandal.

"Something about what?" David texts back; Juan Martín hates how respectful he is for the moment and answers back, trying to calm the slight shaking of his hands: "in my head, humor me."

~I am humoring you~ David's voice says inside his mind, and Juan Martín feels himself breathe properly again. At the end of the table, David is now looking at him, even if Scola is still talking to him. He has a hard to read expression and his head gives a vibe of confusion that Juan Martín can't really blame.

"Thanks," he writes in a text, and for what he can see from his place, that makes David smile.

Juan Martín wins versus Dodig and he's still smiling until he eyes the television to see how his fellow countrymen did and sees David's defeat. He notices that not even one thought scalped David's head about that, nothing that could bother or distract Juan Martín from his own game. So, somewhere in the Olympic Village, David Nalbandián is bolting emotions inside of him and Juan Martín realizes he has to get there before David needs to explode.

"Where's Nalbandián?" he texts to Gisela, knowing she'll answer without any other comment even if she wants to joke about it, and sure she'll be free enough to text.

"Olympic Village. Tennis apartment. His room. Jaite was seen there too. Dulko out."

It's the cheeky interruption he needs in his life and spares a smile for it and a second to write back "perfect effectiveness partner."

David is in his room playing Tetris. Juan Martín read somewhere once that Tetris made you deal better with sad or stressful situations and he shared that knowledge with David in one of their illegal meals; clearly David is giving it a go.

"You're playing again in less than 48 hours, why are you with me and not with the doctor?" David says, there's no bitterness on his voice, just plain truth.

"Because," Juan Martín says and sits down in one of the beds, watching the screen that David left unattended. The blonde doesn't ask again and turns back to his game, very slowly Juan Martín can feel words and images that don't belong to him appear in his head.

He reclines in the bed and closes his eyes.

"So you're going to fall asleep on me again…" Juan Martín hears.

"I never actually fell asleep that time; I heard everything you said, even when you confessed listening to Cristian Castro during rainy nights."

"That's exactly what I said."

"Of course it is."

Juan Martín wins again. And again. And again. And enough times for him to be the center of the tennis team, Nalbandian and Schwank leaving aside their defeat to cheer him; Pico not caring for his loss, nor the girls for theirs. And, ultimately, he wins enough times that he comes face to face with Roger Federer once more.

"We have to stop meeting like this," he tells Roger when they salute in the net before the game starts.

"Sometimes, you're my favourite," Roger simply answers.

Federer wins. But it's not as easy as that, and more than every other time Juan Martín is glad that no one, not David nor other tennis player in the world, can listen to what his head thinks. Because in those four hours and twenty six minutes his mind was a rollercoaster of emotions that needed to be kept for the game to go on. He was so close to winning and so close to losing, he did everything right, but Roger just did everything better.

At the end, the only thing he cares about is to receive Roger's embrace by the net. The words he hears on his ear are kind and knowing: "you have to be so proud, you're getting tougher to beat and you can't be hard on yourself if you gave out everything."

The words are what give him strength to walk with his head held high despite his teary eyes. He makes it to the showers without crying again.

~You don't have to play~

"Of course I have to," Juan Martín answers back to the empty room, he doesn't care if David isn't hearing his reply, Juan Martín showered, changed and rested and he's ready to play again. The soreness and the feelings of the other game forgotten so he can take care of this compromise he has.

~You just went out of yourself, your whole body is probably as rigid as a rock, you should get your ass back here with us, not out again in court~ David says to his head, worry and impatience also reaching him, with a hint of something else that Juan Martín can't identify.

"I have to play, I want to play; I'm not leaving Gisela out there alone. No way." Juan Martín is saying this to someone that isn't listening to him, but he's also reassuring himself. He's not surprised that David goes on with talking.

~You're probably thinking about honor or something like that, but let me tell you something Del Potro, if you go out there and play only to come back hurt I won't even be giving you a 'get better' thought. Not even a thought, I hope you heard that, you daft.~

Juan Martín sighs and gets himself out in the court again as if he hadn't played for almost five hours earlier that same day. When he leaves rackets and his bag at the side of the field, just after Dulko, he can see all the tennis team from Argentina in the first line, with David right in front of him; without thinking twice he mouths a "sorry" towards him.

~No, you are not~ comes the immediate answer in his head, but the tone isn't angry or demanding like before, there's acceptance and, if Juan Martín is reading David all right (and by now he believes he can read him pretty well) there's some affection in the words, too.

"I had to say those things," David is standing at the door outside the kinesiology room they have at the village. Juan Martín can see him moving his lips and stares at them before switching to David's face, seeing the peace on his features. They're alone for the doctor left to surely talk with Juan Martín's coach and with Jaite, promising to come back to change the patches on Juan Martín's aching points.

"No one else had the balls to say them, only me." David talks again, demanding Juan Martín's full attention with his words.

"Why am I not surprised?" Juan Martín replies with the smile he can manage.

"That I had the balls to say something or that it's always me the one that has to bring you back to reality?"

Juan Martín really does smile to that "both, I guess."

David walks inside the room, his thoughts are a confusing mess that barely get to Juan Martín in form of sentences, David is asking how he feels but at the same time wanting to say 'I hope there's no big wound in all these'.

"I'm not hurt, I'm just tired and in post-game pain, so you can give me a 'get better'" Juan Martín decides to say, and also acknowledging what he heard earlier from David.

"We'll see about that," David says out loud, but all his thoughts seem to put themselves together or back off and all that Juan Martín receives is a clear ~get better soon, you stubborn tandilense~.

They don't talk after that, but Juan Martín prefers it that way. Because it lets him be silent with his own thoughts, with what he's discovered from David in the past few months since he's gotten real thoughts, real sensations from him.

David cares about Juan Martín, worries about him because of him and not because of the racket he's holding. If Juan Martín starts to rememorize every word that David said in the past to the press, before their actual bond, he's sure he'd be able to understand them now. To really get what David was trying to say, how we was aiming for Juan Martín's attention because he cared, because he wanted to help and didn't know how. It warms Juan Martín to come to that realization, and it makes him want to ask for David's forgiveness at his lack of understanding. Yet the tenacious side of his brain says that David never really tried to explain, to actually talk to him; it reminds Juan Martín that David went for the most difficult ways to reach him. That's a protest he'll have to make one day, he'll sit down with David and he'll be able to tell him: "if you had come to me we would have solved everything, we would have fixed it way before." But, if before implies that this, the mind reading and the past few months, wouldn't have happened, Juan Martín then thinks that maybe this was the right way. They aren't easy people and maybe they don't have to solve things in easy ways.

David touches his knee softly over the patch and Juan Martín lets go of his thoughts, at ease with them now that they make sense for him.

"Be careful with it," David says, and Juan Martín gets he's not only talking about the knee.

David leaves after that.

Juan Martín is playing against Djokovic just after his body and head recover from the double loss two days earlier. But clearly there's still a bit of a rough side on him, because Nole's balls start being more precise than his own. He stops for a drink when he hears him.

~I shouldn't be doing this, because it goes against everything we talked about and if you want me to shut up pull your bottle away from your mouth and leave it in the floor for a second.~

Juan Martín is incredible relieved to hear David, for the first time he is glad that he doesn't have to be on his own inside the tennis court. He fought alone against Federer and he really could use some company right now; so to prove that he does the opposite to what David said and goes on drinking giving a slight nod with his head as if saying "go on, I'm interested."

~Right, so, this is crazy and I don't think I can actually help you, but just…~ there's a pause, Juan Martín can feel the mess of ideas and a stop to all of them as if David was ordering them to stay still. ~I'm here, okay? We all are, of course. But I'm… I'm actually there; I'm with you, in that field. You don't need to be the lonely hero on this one.~

Juan Martín then stands up confident, renewed and mostly, not alone. It only gets better from then on and because life does give you rematches, Juan Martín wins over Djokovic.

When the camera is on him, his eyes surely red, the medal on his neck and the flag around his shoulders he says "we did it together" kissing the flag. The man holding the microphone celebrates his patriotism and Juan Martín gives him a smile before walking away.

The flag is David, because David always puts Argentina before anything else and the Davis Cup before his own career, because David wears those colors like they belong to him more, because David didn't leave him alone, not even when Juan Martín had, in the past, left David alone. The flag is Argentina. Argentina is David. Juan Martín is never letting them go, none of the three.

Juan Martín can feel something is about to happen.

He's putting his things back on his bag, getting ready to face his teammates and friends that are waiting outside to celebrate with him, to celebrate him. But there's a feeling in Juan Martín's head that says that something big is about to happen, and he just a won a bronze medal so he can't be sure what it could be until he realizes that the feeling, the thought, doesn't belong to him. And that's when he looks up. David is entering the dressing room, which is not allowed, surely, maybe, not like Juan Martín is going to be telling. There he sees it. For a second before it happens, he gets a small, diminutive flash of David coming over him, towards him and that's when Juan Martín stops seeing and he's glad about it. He likes the surprise that is David's mouth on his own.

The kiss tastes like finally, if finally could taste like something. There's no desperation on David's lips and Juan Martín decides to follow him, to move with David's mouth and to focus on that, just to be a bit distracted by David's hands on his face, one resting at his jaw and caressing the skin there while the other goes to the back to get lost in Juan Martín's hair. Feeling fingers in his hair Juan Martín remembers something that used to be his recurrent fantasy what feels like forever ago and lifts his own hands to grab David's head and grip his hair like his whole life depends on it.

They're kissing. Him, Juan Martín Del Potro is kissing, or actually is being kissed by David Nalbandian. In a dressing room in All England after he just won a medal against Djokovic.

Juan Martín’s life is perfect.

"I've wanted to do that for so long," David admits breaking the kiss, which causes Juan Martín to make a small embarrassing groan of annoyance mixed with a gulp of air, something he had forgotten he needed. When the words sink in he smiles.

"You can talk inside my head and you stopped kissing me to tell me you wanted to kiss me?"

"How can you have enough energy left to be a little bitch?"

"I have energy left to---" he doesn't get to finish that sentence; David is kissing him before he can.

~Oh do shut up, please~

Juan Martín smiles against David's lips, before dipping into the kiss because he has wanted to do this for a while, too. He'll tell David later.

"You really like hockey don't you?" Juan Martín asks when he's sitting by David's side while watching the feminine hockey final.

"It's all right," David shrugs, "I want the girls to win, but you won't find me watching a hockey game outside our national teams."

"But," Juan Martín pauses when Aymar's disc flies close to the other's area. He's silent until the possibility of a score goes away, then he starts again: "what I was meant to say, is why did you keep repeating their formation if you're not that much of a fan?"

"It was to not think about something else," David confesses, he sounds more amused than embarrassed about it. "I discovered that repeating something out of memory took so much effort that it made it hard to think about anything else."

"What were you avoiding?"

"Thinking about you mostly"

Juan Martín beams, next to him David sighs and he mutters "don't let it go to your head."

"Too late," Juan Martín is still smiling when he remembers something else: "What about that time I feel asleep? What were you thinking that made you so sure I was sleeping?"

"Yeah, we're not talking about that yet."

Juan Martín complains making noises, but David distracts him by holding his hand for a moment and ordering him to pay attention to the game in front of them.

(In another part of the stadium.

"Now that I think about it, I believe it's my fault."

"What?" Zabaleta asks, and then follows Jaite's line of vision and finds Del Potro and Nalbandián on it, so he changes his question, "why?"

"When I started coaching the team I basically promised Modesto that with me as the boss, they would be reading each other's minds."

"I don't think it can be induced like that…"

"A press scandal made Coria read Gaudio's mind for half a year, you still think it can't be induced?"

"What I mean," Zabaleta says, "Is that I don't think just one person can do it."


"Never mind boss, it worked out for the best, didn't it?"

"That, it did.")


0. I want to say thank you to lauchis for all the work she did for this story. She took care of it like she cares about baby cats. The beta reading job she did is a masterpiece itself and the companion art to this story is more that I could have asked her for. Thank you, khaleesi.

1. Mate.
2. Tiny icon
3. This quote: "I told you to do that, I told you to kill him with your service. You are something else." is actually David's. Originally in Spanish here.
4. The incident at Queen's that got David disqualified is here.
5. "Cordobés": born in Córdoba, Argentina, also used refering to the accent people from there have, it's peculiar and lovely, it can be heard in David's tone during press conference at times.
6. Tandil is a town in Buenos Aires, Juan Martín was born there. Unquillo is David's town, in Córdoba.
7. "Las leonas" is the nickname given to Argentina's feminine hockey team.
8. "Tandilense" is someone born in Tandil.
9. Cristian Castro.
Current Mood: pleased
Kris S: muppetkrisherdown on November 23rd, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
This is amazing. Loved it especially when David tried to curb back his feelings and totally confused Delpo. Well done.