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[personal profile] clofic
Title: Pretend
Rating: G
Pairing: Pre-slash, faintly implied future Andy/Roger
Summary: Andy’s heard about Roger being injured and he’s not happy.
Notes:Set around the thirteenth of October 2005, after Roger announced that he’d injured his foot during practice. Written, at least in part, for the [ profile] fanfic100 challenge but not really fitting to any of the prompts, so I'm using up one of my writer's choices. So this is #096. Not properly edited as of yet; don't be surprised if minor things change in the next few days.
Dedications: For [ profile] liroa15 and [ profile] astonish for the read-through and comments. :) Saving my sanity.
Disclaimer: Don't own them, anything to do with them, am not them, etc. Making no money, I'm just playing with the pretty people for a while.


Angry doesn’t even begin to cover it. He’s mad. Furious. Enraged perhaps but it’s still not quite right, not quite what he wants to say, and this is one of those times he regrets daydreaming through English class. He’s about to yell – try to yell, if he can speak through the fury tying his tongue into knots – at a man who can make him feel inferior just by breathing. The last thing he wants is to make a fool of himself by not knowing the words to say just how angry he really is.

Because there are some things that even the world number one, Mister So-Perfect-Even-My-Injuries-Are-On-Time Federer, shouldn’t be allowed to get away with. Andy grips the wheel of his rental car harder, ragged nails digging into his palms around the curve of hard leather as the tyres take a too-long-second to hold when he goes round a corner too fast. Breath catching, a dizzying moment of ohshit before physics come out on his side and he races on through the rain, trying to outrun the common sense fighting to catch up, whispering that he may be about to do something he’ll regret.

He doesn’t want to listen, not now, not when he’s here, so he just presses down on the gas a little harder and leaves common sense behind on the rain-soaked roadside.

If he was at home he knows he’d simply drive his anger off, press the gas to the floor until his foot hurt and keep it there until he ran out of road, letting the irritation fizzle away into the hot burn of tires on pavement, but he’s not. This isn’t any of the hundred times before when he’s wanted to grab Roger and shake him for being Roger, for being perfect. It’s not like any of those, not at all, because this time the anger carried him to the airport and onto a plane and halfway across the Atlantic before he calmed down enough to think that maybe, just maybe, he was overreacting. That just maybe he’d call Mardy from Basel airport with a sheepish apology for storming out and get a flight to Madrid with Roger never being any the wiser about Andy having come within a few miles radius of him. The sensible thing to do and he’d been all set to do it until he’d picked up an English paper while waiting for an airport phone to be free – he’d also made a mental note to grab his cell phone before future enraged storm-out-of-the-country-excursions – and read all about poor Roger and his poor foot and how it was all a horrible coincidence after last year.

Last year, before the Masters Cup. Last year before Roger won after coming off a few weeks of ‘vacation’ and Andy had been humiliated by Lleyton because he was simply too tired to keep up. He’d been as sympathetic as everyone else to the Swiss at the time, bad luck with the thigh injury, bad luck missing those last few tournaments, lucky you were ready in time for the Cup and then this, *again*--

Through the rain-splattered window, Andy recognises the street name he’d scrawled down for the purpose of sending Christmas cards, some unpronounceable German words flashing past in the gloom and he’s here. Roger’s house, wherever it is and he slows the car to a crawl, peering through the dark, looking for a large house or a mansion or maybe perhaps just the gates to a long drive lined with trees -- something ridiculously stately yet elegant and just so damn irritating. It’s with some confusion that he finds only a high fence and gate with a guard, who waves him through on hearing his name as if he was expected and that’s disturbing in its unexpectedness. Roger can’t have him on some sort of guest list; Andy’s never been here before. There’s no human way Andy can think of that Roger would know to expect him and he’s just musing over the worrying possibilities of the Swiss being psychic when the road curves through some trees and he’s in front of what looks like smart apartments, all very quaint, very Swiss, yet still new enough to not have lost the sharp angles and colours.

Not quite the mansion he was expecting and the shock is enough to take some of the edge off his temper. He follows the numbers on the doors until he finds the brass five, parking beside a Lamborghini that he just has to admire as he climbs out into the rain. Drifting his fingertips over the silver sides, metal beaded with golden raindrops in the well-lit courtyard, some of his confusion starts to twist into anger again because this is Roger’s car, it must be, and he can imagine the Swiss smirking behind the wheel at thoughts of everyone training hard for Madrid. Nevermind that Roger isn’t so much the smirking type and nevermind that he might not have driven the car recently, Andy can still see it as if it was right in front of him and, on a wave of anger so strong he can barely think straight, he stalks up to the door and bangs his fist hard against the wood, once.

Before he’s had time to register just how much it hurt, knuckles screaming protests, the door opens under his hand. No physically possible way Roger could have got to the door that quickly, not when Andy can see a short flight of stairs behind the Swiss which presumably leads to the main apartment. No way for Roger to have reached the door in the space of a second, less, not with the crutch under one arm and heavily bandaged foot held gingerly off the floor and Andy looks up with all his anger poised on the tip of his tongue, ready to spill out in a flood of icy fury—

-- only to lose any hope of coherent speech as he meets Roger’s tired, dark eyes, because it’s one thing to plan to be rude to a sometime-friend when staring out the window of a plane or alone in the shadows of a car, and another thing entirely to get the words out when they’re face to face. Andy tries to open his mouth, say something, anything and can’t manage so much as a grunt, even in the face of Roger’s complete lack of surprise at finding him standing on the Swiss’s doorstep in the rain.

More than a lack of surprise actually; it’s resignation if anything, Roger barely sparing him a glance before turning back into the house with a slump to his shoulders. Curiosity drives Andy to fight off the muteness long enough to open his mouth but Roger’s answering before he’s so much as formed a syllable of the question.

“Mardy called. Told me you’d be here soon.” The Swiss doesn’t glance back as he mumbles the words, seemingly focused on resettling the crutch under his arm before he hops jerkily, painfully up the first step. Andy bites his tongue hard on a shocked, indrawn breath before Roger can hear it, the annoyance at Mardy gone in a rush of sympathy for crippled Roger that takes some effort to dispel. He’s here to yell at the Swiss, demand an explanation, an excuse or better yet an apology for Roger taking advantage of his secured place in the rankings to give himself a rest before one of the most important tournaments of the year but it’s hard to remember that when he can hear the Swiss’s muted sounds of effort as he climbs each step like it’s a mountain. Clinging to his fast-fading fury, Andy lets it carry him through the door – slamming it behind him, hard enough that Roger flinches, almost slips before catching himself – and up the few stairs Roger’s managed to climb, reaching out. The Swiss jerks away from the hand on his arm like it’s red-hot.

“I can manage,” he says and it’s cool, dismissive through the breathlessness that gives the lie to his words. Andy tries again with an impatient sigh, closing his hand around the Swiss’s shoulder almost too tightly and Roger nearly sends them both back down the few stairs he’s managed with a violent lunge away from the American, leaving Andy’s reaching hand closing on empty air.

“Roger, for godssake—“

“Andy.” Roger hisses it through clenched teeth, his tone as bitter as anything Andy whispered to himself in the car, more furious than the reaction that had the American slamming the door behind him as he left Mardy’s house for the airport. Sharply nasty enough to have Andy catching his breath at the unexpected hurt and then it’s gone, nothing but tired apology in Roger’s expression as he looks up. Curls of messy hair that badly needs cutting are falling into his eyes, not quite long enough to hide a graze across one cheek that Andy hadn’t noticed before, painfully red surrounded by the shadow of a bruise. Before he can ask about it, Roger’s looking away, face hidden as he stares at the floor. “Please… if you want coffee, the kitchen is down the hall, second door on the left. I’ll be right there.”

I’ll catch up he means and they both know it. If Andy wanted an opportunity to start the tirade he’d been mentally writing halfway around the world, he could’ve asked for a better one but it’s a golden opening for a snide remark, almost begging for it and there’s one unbidden on his lips until he catches the slightest tightening of Roger’s mouth, lips pressed together as if the Swiss is gritting his teeth and doesn’t want it to show. It’s nothing; it could be from the strain of holding himself upright with the crutch, from their almost-fall of a minute ago. Could be from any number of things and it’s only because Andy’s spent more time watching the Swiss than most that lets him know it’s from tension, Roger bracing himself for the sharp reply.

And to say it anyway, to ignore the strained edge of Roger’s calm and lash out regardless – it’d be like kicking a puppy that’s already cowering in front of him. Andy’s irritated to find himself softening into sympathy but he’d known from the moment he saw the Swiss that Roger wasn’t faking for a free vacation, and even if he doesn’t want to let his anger go quite yet, he can’t bring himself to let it out as sarcasm either.

“Where’s the coffee?” he asks instead, voice neutral, and if it’s relief that flashes through Roger’s eyes then it’s too quick for Andy to be sure, mask back in place almost before it’s gone at all.

“Top cupboard, left of the window.”

“Right.” Andy’s not quite to the point of managing a smile, not yet, but he touches his hand to the Swiss’s shoulder as he brushes past on his way up the stairs and there’s the smallest hint of a smile in response, Andy catching it in a brief glance back. His anger’s still there, still a smouldering weight under the new sympathy but no amount of anger would be enough for him not to hurt at leaving a half-crippled Roger behind to climb the stairs alone. There’s the nagging voice of manners and politeness ordering him to keep trying to help but at the same time, he knows exactly how bruised his own pride would be if he were in Roger’s position right now. When looked at from that perspective, he’s a little surprised the Swiss let him in at all. Especially if Mardy mentioned exactly why Andy was on his way to Switzerland which, from Roger’s wary distance, Andy guesses he had.

Actually now he thinks about it, the bastard. The one thing Andy’d had going for him in his chances of getting away with this – meaning his chances of getting his tirade out before Roger’s innate charm persuaded him out of it, chances that are fast getting smaller with every passing second — was the element of surprise. Now, thanks to Mardy, he has a forewarned Roger and fast-disappearing anger in the face of the Swiss’s obviously non-faked injury. He definitely has to think future trips like this through before it’s too late to get off the plane.

Lost in thought, he almost walks past the kitchen door without realising, only almost falling over a discarded tennis bag jerking him from his musing. It’s only when he’s stepped into the kitchen that he realises his sneakers are still encrusted in Floridian dust from playing basketball in Mardy’s yard, shedding a film of grime over polished, honey-pale floorboards all the way down the hall. With a pang of guilt, he tugs them off and leaves them by the door as he goes in search of coffee and a kettle in Roger’s gleaming kitchen, rubbing uselessly at the smears of finger-marks he leaves on the stainless steel cupboards. By the time Roger limps in the door, Andy’s discovered the coffee machine that he thinks he might just have to take back to Texas with him, all futuristic angles and buttons labelled with things like ‘Extra Froth’ that are far too fun to push. Roger pauses on the edge of entering, gaze flicking from the steaming cup of coffee sitting on the marbled counter, to another one filling with a pleasant gurgle in the machine and finally coming to rest on Andy who’s trying not to look too proud of himself.

“I’m in love with your coffee machine,” he announces, hoping for another elusive smile but is disappointed when he only gets a blank look. “It’s agreed to marry me and it’s coming back to Texas, hope you don’t mind. How’d you take it?”


“How’d you take your coffee? I mean, do you have sugar?” Andy glances around at the empty counters with a helpless wave of his hands. “Because if you do, you’ll have to tell me where it is.” There’s no answer and he looks across at Roger to find the Swiss still regarding him blankly, wearing the tiny frown he gets when he’s trying to follow someone speaking English too fast for him. “What Roger? Did I grow an extra head or something?”

“Why are you here?” Abrupt, traced with the nastiness from out on the stairs and it’s so unlike Roger that Andy rocks back on his heels from the resulting wave of hurt. “Mardy said you were going to yell at me and if that is why you’re here, you can leave.”

“Jesus,” Andy mutters, coffee-machine glee gone. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go; Roger wasn’t supposed to be yelling at him, not that the Swiss is yelling really, more of an icily sarcastic tone to his words that’s worse in a way than more volume. Everything’s wrong; Roger’s being outwardly mean and the words he’d spent the endless flight planning are easier to say than he’d thought, rehearsed over and over in his head until they slip out without effort.

“Great to see you’re making good use of your convenient time off, kicking out visitors. Nice to have regular vacations is it, now that you’ve got Wimbledon and this year’s number one spot all tied up?” Pushing off the counter, leaving his coffee cup untouched, he takes a few, stalking strides towards the impassive Roger, watching him unflinching. The calm worse than shouting, worse than anything and Andy raises his voice to fill the echoing silence where the Swiss is meant to be arguing back, unable to stop now he’s let himself start. “Not that it matters that the rest of us don’t have the luxury of holidays because you beat us all anyway, so why should you care what extra we have to do, just because we’re not the perfect Roger Federer?” Words slipping out faster now, anger that Andy had thought gone only having smouldered into a furnace when he wasn’t looking. “Do you even care that what you’re doing isn’t fair? You can win this next Masters Cup and it won’t be because you’re better or because you deserve it, it’ll be because you haven’t worn yourself into the ground for the three weeks before, trying not to let down all the tournaments you’ve promised to play. Did you even consider all the people you’re letting down when you decided to take a sudden holiday? Did you even think--”

“Did I think?” Roger cutting him off and the Swiss is beyond icy now, steely cold in his voice that makes Andy pause, even mid-rant. “I was running across court, reaching for a forehand and I caught my foot on my shoelace. I fell face first into a hard court, twisting my foot sideways at the same time and spent the next god-knows-how-many hours trying not to scream as doctors poked it while asking stupid questions like ‘does that hurt’? I saw all that and thought, as I was running, yes let me let down all the tournaments I’ve promised to play in the next three weeks, including my home one that I’ve been looking forward to all year. I--”

Andy’s already regretting opening his mouth. Hell, he’s regretting getting on the damn plane to come here. If Mardy hadn’t called to rat him out, he thinks he’d have got away with pretending he was here to see how Roger was, never breathing a word of how he’d thought Roger might be faking this but it’s too late, situation unsalvageable. “Roger, I didn’t-“

Roger doesn’t pause, doesn’t even seem to hear, calm mask slipping into anger as he snarls the words. “You thought I planned this, that I thought hey, weeks of not being able to climb stairs or sleep at night because it hurts too much would be fun? You think I would’ve thought all that and still done it Andy?”

His name, hissed out in the usually so-calm voice sends fresh rush of guilt rushing over him, sharp with the regret at having let his tongue run away with his common sense. Andy bites his lip hard enough to break the skin, the metallic sting of blood instantly flooding his mouth but he barely notices as he struggles for anything to say. For how to apologise for the things he didn’t really mean to say, not anymore. “Roger I—“

“What? You’re sorry?” Roger demands but still quietly, coldly. “Maybe you should’ve thought before you spoke Andy. If there’s nothing else that you want, please leave.”

“Roger, I’m sorry.” Andy may as well not have spoken, Roger’s blank dark stare unwavering. There’s a rigid defiance in the Swiss’s stance, even with the slightly lopsided tilt from leaning on the crutch and Andy swallows against the lump in his throat, knowing he’s been stupid. Roger’s never been anything but the ideal of politeness to him and here Andy was, storming into the Swiss’s house, throwing around accusations he knew were false the moment he saw Roger climb the first stair. Sorry doesn’t even begin to cut it, especially in the face of Roger’s ice-cold refusal to so much as acknowledge the apology, famous Federer poker-face well and truly locked in place.

Leaving his coffee un-tasted on the counter, Andy crosses silently to the door. He hesitates for a brief second at Roger’s side but there’s nothing he can think of to say, the Swiss refusing to meet his contrite glance. He looks back once before leaving the room but Roger hasn’t even turned to watch him go.

Walking down the hallway, an inner battle rages to see if he can hold back bitter tears at his own stupidity until he reaches the safety of his car -- a battle he loses when he’s about to open the apartment door and he realises he’s still in his socks. It takes him a second of breathing slowly with his eyes closed to hold back the tears and a second more to convince himself that there’s absolutely no way he can catch a flight to Madrid without shoes. Back up the hallway, gritting his teeth at the thought of the snide remarks from Roger and he’s just bracing himself to enter the kitchen when he hears a clatter, the sound of a metal crutch falling on tiles. Guilt forgotten he sprints into the room, calling Roger’s name anxiously and if the Swiss’s fallen, if he’s hurt himself more… Andy blanks out the panic at the thought long enough to skid to a halt as he sees Roger.

He’s sitting in the middle of the floor, bandaged foot stretched out in front of him while he rests his forehead on his other knee, drawn up with his arms around it. The crutch is across the room and part of Andy notes it with surprise, no way for it to have skidded that far, even as he drops to his knees beside the Swiss.

“Roger?” he asks worriedly and that’s when he realises the Swiss is crying, sobbing, breath coming in tiny, panting gasps as he huddles on the floor. Shock at the sight renders Andy briefly speechless but he doesn’t need to talk to give comfort and his arms are around Roger without him having to so much as think about it, hugging the shaking Swiss tight. Roger’s tense, awkward in his arms until abruptly, almost with a sense of defeat, he relaxes into the embrace with a choked sound and presses his wet face into Andy’s t-shirt.

“Rog,” Andy says softly, not expecting a reply and not getting one. “Sssshhhh. It’s okay. Did you fall?” A shake of the Swiss’s head answers him, curls brushing against Andy’s neck. “What then?” The moment the words are out he regrets them, silently yelling himself for pushing the upset Roger. “Sorry. It doesn’t matter.”

Roger makes a muffled sound, wordless, fingers tangled in the American’s t-shirt with the fierceness of desperation as his shoulders shake with the force of the sobs. Andy’s shock starts to fade to worry; he’s never seen Roger like this, though he’s seen the Swiss cry more than once – though, mostly with happiness after matches. It’s not like he’s holding Mardy, which would be much easier, familiar; him and the other American having comforted each other time after time since they were seventeen, Andy having more memories than he can count of creeping into each other’s beds to cry over girls and losses that seemed the end of the world, at the time. He knows what to do with Mardy, what to whisper to draw out a tearful smile or when to just hold the blond close, silent. Mardy’s easy.

Roger’s not. Not even close. Andy would eat his favourite hat before admitting it but he’s terrified.

Please,” he whispers and it comes out plaintive, barely audible under the ragged sound of Roger’s gasps. “Roger, stop.”

It’s unfair to ask; Roger’s nothing if not obliging and, even when this upset, manners and politeness and that innate urge to please everyone that Andy’s never quite understood mean he’d never refuse such a pleading request. Andy’s been around him enough to know it and to know he’s being selfish by not letting the Swiss cry himself out, guilt bitter in his mouth even through the wave of relief as he feels Roger tense in the struggle to get control. With a catch of breath in a choked-off sob, a shudder of effort that Andy feels echo through him in a shiver, Roger stops.

They sit for a minute, silent. One of Roger’s hands is still fisted in the back of Andy’s shirt, cotton pulling tight, while the other is curled loosely against the American’s thigh. It’s close, intimate in a way that has nothing to do with sexual attraction and Andy’s starting to relax now Roger’s quiet, the Swiss’s face still pressed against the tear-damp patch of his t-shirt, chest rising and falling slower as his breathing evens out. It’s comfortable until the silence drags on just that second too long but just as Andy opens his mouth to break it Roger pulls away, scrubbing a palm through the wetness on his cheeks.

“I’m sorry.”

“What?” Andy asks, surprised, and then he picks up on the flatly neutral tone, the poker-face expression that would be more effective without the tearstains down Roger’s face. Anger is sudden and hot, back as if it had never left. “No. Something’s wrong Roger and you can’t just—“

“Nothing’s wrong. I fell.” There’s a crack in the voice, the tiniest hint of pleading to the lie. Roger slides a few inches back and reaches up to grip the counter edge in an attempt to haul himself up straight, making his next words breathless with the effort though not quite enough to hide the hiss of pain at the move. “I thought you were leaving.”

It’s an offer; Andy sees through it instantly. He could leave. Grab his sneakers, walk out the door and be in Madrid by morning, leaving Roger Federer to deal with his own problems. Mission accomplished, in a fashion, because he’d wanted an apology and he’d got one. Even if it wasn’t exactly the one he wanted, it’s good enough. The Swiss number one’s issues aren’t his problem.

Not that it matters because he won’t leave, not now and it’s not like anyone’s ever said keeping out of other people’s business is one of his strong points. Pushing up off the floor, Andy’s there to catch Roger when the Swiss loses his balance in the attempt to stand, injured foot knocking against the cupboard hard enough to have him gasping with pain and gripping harder on Andy’s shoulders for balance.

“Hey.” Andy waits for Roger to look up, tears caught in the Swiss’s lashes as he avoids Andy’s stare. “You okay?”

“Yes,” Roger whispers, closing his eyes. “Andy please—“

“If you’re going to ask me to leave again, don’t.”

Roger’s eyes flick open, wide, startled; Andy meets the stare with as much reassurance as he can put in a look. It’s hard when he’s never had to be this familiar with the Swiss before, never let this many barriers down but he thinks he manages because the death-grip Roger has on his arms relaxes, fractionally.

“I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s wrong Roger,” he says softly. “Please.”

“There’s nothing-“

Roger.” With a wince, Andy hears himself echo Roger’s tone from out on the stairs earlier and it’s harsh enough to have the Swiss flinching. “Sorry. But don’t you dare pretend everything’s okay. Because what, you can cry all over me but you can’t talk to me?”

“It’s none of your business.” A flash of the Roger from before, stubborn, cold. Andy shrugs it off.

“I don’t care. Tell me anyway.”

Roger resists a second longer and finally, reluctantly, gives in. Andy can see the exact moment the pretend of calm gives way, the dark eyes filling with fresh tears and Roger’s grip of his control slipping, everything showing through, enough to make Andy catch his breath because—

-- because it’s everything, raw, open, hurt and despair with an edge of helplessness in Roger’s eyes before he screws them shut. The tears squeeze free anyway, streaking the Swiss’s cheeks, and Andy wipes them away gently with the back of his hand.

“Roger.” As soft as he can make it, hurting to see Roger half-flinch despite the care. “Tell me.”

A final hesitation, barely a second, then a cracked whisper. “Mirka left.”

“What?!” Andy remembers too late not to let his fury show and hastily soothes the Swiss with a hand stroking over the tangled curls, brushing the tear-wet strands of it off Roger’s face. “I mean, she just left you? Like this?”

“No!” The shake of Roger’s head is emphatic. “We… we fought. I told her to leave.” He tries to smile but it’s painful to watch, tugging crookedly at the corners of his mouth. “She did.”

Andy’s mad, furious, all the anger that was directed at Roger before switching direction. He forces it down with an effort; no point indulging it until he has Mirka in front of him and he can yell at her properly for being so stupid and walking out on an injured Roger.

He tries to forget how close he came to doing exactly the same thing. It’s more than guilt to think of Roger left alone, crying on the kitchen floor; it hurts, like a lump in his throat that’s impossible to swallow. He’d been so mad at Roger for being perfect when all along, Roger wasn’t perfect at all.

Just really, really good at pretending.

“My parents wanted to stay but I told them I was fine.” Roger breaks into his thoughts, taking one hand from Andy’s shoulder to wipe uselessly at his wet face. “I was.”

“Liar,” Andy tells him, without malice, gently teasing. This time, Roger’s smile almost deserves the name.

“I was. I was fine. Only…” The smile falters, fades. “I know it’s not certain, it’s only a possibility but it’s still a chance and I hate hospitals and—“

“Whoa.” Andy frowns. “Start again Rog. What’s possible?”

A pause, Roger swallowing hard, his fingers digging into Andy’s shoulders just a little harder. “Surgery. There’s a chance, if my foot doesn’t heal…”

“It’s that bad?!” This time it is pure guilt that swamps Andy, no question about it, tightening in his chest as he wishes he could go back in time and never yell at Roger, never be so utterly wrong. “Jesus, I’m so sorry. I—“

“It’s not as if you knew.” Roger shrugs it off but the crooked tilt is back in his smile, showing the strain of holding back the tears and hurt. “But Mardy called to warn me right after the doctor and all I could think was that it wasn’t fair. I wanted to take it out on you.”

“Yeah well, I deserved it.” Andy hesitates for a second, uncertain, then slides the hand tangled in Roger’s hair down, tentatively cradling the Swiss’s face in his palm. It’s intimate again, potentially awkward if Roger refuses the contact but instead he leans into the touch, eyes half closing in pleasure and it’s okay.

“So,” Andy says quietly, rubbing his thumb gently over the damp skin against his hand. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.” A hint of frown in the Swiss’s face, fading quickly into a hitch of his shoulders, a suggestion of a shrug. “Wait. It might get better on its own.”

“Good but not what I meant.” Andy wonders uncomfortably if he’s been stroking the Swiss’s face too long and reluctantly lets his hand fall. The dark eyes slide open instantly, seemingly a little surprised but Andy smiles in reply to the unasked question and Roger takes a breath, inclines his head in a hint of understanding. “I meant what’re you going to do now? I mean, are you going to call Mirka?”

“No. She’ll come home faster if it’s on her terms.” Roger’s calmer now, obvious in the relaxing of tension in the set of his shoulders and loosening grip on Andy but there’s still a tension to his expression, an anxiety beneath the surface. “What about you?”

Seemingly simple, innocent enough that it takes Andy a moment to work out the deeper meaning and, while it comes as a surprising idea, he doesn’t see why not. He’s not going to leave Roger alone now, wouldn’t dream of it, and he’s got days before Madrid. There’s no reason for him not to but he asks anyway, just to check.

“Do you want me to—“

“Yes.” Instant, relieved and desperate all at once, Roger flushing red as he answers and looking down, studying the floor as if trying not to appear so desperate. “Please.”

“Okay.” Andy isn’t prepared for the smile Roger looks up with in answer, not the Swiss’s usual impish grin, not quite, but it’s closer to it than he’s seen since he got here. He can’t help smiling back and, somehow, a move to ruffle Roger’s hair teasingly becomes the lightest brush of his fingers against the Swiss’s cheek, casual and maybe something more, closer, and Andy knows nothing between him and Roger will be the same after this. He’s seen the real Roger, the one underneath and he can’t go back to believing in the pretend one, the one who would never cry on a kitchen floor or cling to a rival, helpless. More than can’t; he doesn’t think he wants to.

“Okay,” he says softly again, just to see Roger’s smile steady, widen, just to smile back. “I’ll stay.”

~ Fin ~

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