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Take my hand, come back to the land

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1. New York City, Autumn 2003.

“You’re leaving.”

Richard raised his eyes from his suitcase, blinking, before he focused on the slender frame of Caron standing in the doorway of the bedroom, arms crossed in front of her. Although there had no inflection one way or another to her voice, it was clear to him that she was pissed off – annoyance was radiating all around her frame, a halo of negative energy.

“We start recording next week,” he answered noncommittally, not exactly looking for a fight, attention already drifting back to the content of his suitcase.

Winters in Spain could be cold, they had all been warned of that, but he highly doubted that it could be worse than in Berlin (in a flat with paper-thin walls, a heater with a tendency to break down in the middle of January and badly insulated windows – but no, those days were long gone, and his life wasn’t like that anymore) so maybe he didn’t have to pack his warmest sweatshirts?

(He could still borrow one of Till’s, if it came to that, but it was best to come prepared.)

“For how long again, remind me?” she asked in the same impassible tone of voice, and he zeroed in on her again, still kneeling in front of his suitcase, a pile of books waiting for him in precarious equilibrium between his suitcase and the bed.

“Two months, I told you that multiple times already,” he answered, slightly irritated.

It was like talking to a door, sometimes; she would ask questions, he would answer, and she would act as if he hadn’t said anything – and then get pissed off at him for a reason he couldn’t comprehend most of the time.

“And then you’re going on tour.”

He frowned, hands stilling for a moment before dropping his shirts onto his suitcase, not paying any attention to the creases that immediately formed.

“The album has to be released first,” he pointed out, sitting a bit straighter on his heels, not quite appreciating having to look up to her from his position.

She pinched her lips.

He frowned.

He didn’t want to argue with her – not now, not when he was on the verge of leaving to record their new album, when he needed to be relaxed after the disaster that had been Mutter’s recording…

“You’re going away to record the album, and then you’re going away to film the music videos, and then you’re going away on tour,” she said with a drawl, leaning against the frame of the doorway. “You won’t be here much next year again, won’t you, Richard?”

He tensed at the way she pronounced his name – all English pronunciation and with a hint of a sneer under the New-Yorker accent, something that had quite started grating on his nerves over the past few months – and slowly rose to his feet, forcing himself to stay relaxed.

“Meaning?”

She squinted, one finger tapping lightly on her arm.

“Meaning I don’t see you much these days, Richard. You spend a lot of time leaving this house – leaving me.”

He blinked again before frowning, face slowly turning into a cold mask.

“I spent the best part of the year here, Caron. And you’ve been away for your job too, haven’t you?”

“I don’t leave for months at time,” she said in the same impassible voice, still squinting at him. “You? You go for two months, three months, four months, I see you for three weeks and then you’re gone again, doing…”

Her voice trailed off as she moved her hand, the same way she usually did to push away flying bugs bothering her in summer – and he frowned, a feeling of inevitable dread slowly creeping down his spine.

“Doing what, exactly? My job? I’m a musician, Caron, touring is what I’m supposed to do. You knew that when we met, and you knew it as well when we got married.”

She snorted, disdain clear on her face.

“You go on tour and you take your sweet time to come back here.”

He looked at her in silence and she returned his gaze, unflinching. The atmosphere in the room was heavy with all the things she wasn’t saying – all the questions he wasn’t asking either.

All the words they hadn’t said for months now.

“I always come home once we’re done touring,” he finally said slowly once the silence had stretched for too long and she hadn’t opened her mouth again, still staring at him with unblinking eyes.

She snorted again, a harsh sound that twisted something around his heart.

“You come home,” she repeated in a voluntarily high voice before returning to its normal range. “You don’t come home, Richard, you come back to this house and then lock yourself in your studio to scratch at your guitars. If I’m lucky, I see you for a couple of days and then you’re gone again in your music world.”

Had it been someone else, he might have called it an outburst – but she had remained unflinchingly calm, voice unwavering, eyes utterly cold.

“What else do you expect me to do, exactly?” he asked in what was supposed to be a placating tone, his hands almost jerking out of his own volition. “Not play music? Remain here and be a stay-at-home husband with no activity outside of this?”

He gestured at the space between them and she frowned, pinching her lips again.

“I expect you to spend more time and energy on your marriage than on your band,” she hissed, suddenly separating herself from the doorframe, hands on her hips.

He paused and then went very still, something vulnerable inside him lightning up in flames.

“Don’t go there, Caron,” he warned her in a low tone. “I told you before –”

“I am your wife,” she interrupted him in a hiss, “I am supposed to take priority, our life together is supposed to come first, you told me that’s why you came to live here, and instead you just leave any chance you get to go with your friends –”

She almost spat the last word and he moved to take a step towards her before his foot hit his suitcase, the sound oddly loud in their room.

“I spend time with my friends because we’re in a band together, we record albums together, we play together and we go on tours together,” he said slowly, the words almost not coming out from between his clenched teeth. “I don’t leave any chance I get –”

She laughed – a harsh, bitter sound that had him swallowing with difficulty, blood beating in his temples.

“Maybe you should spend less time with them and more here, in our house, if you want this to work,” she said coldly, fire suddenly burning in her eyes.

“Caron.”

It seemed that his previous warning had gone unnoticed, but like hell he was going to let it slip – he had enough of her insinuations.

“I told you before, don’t make me choose between you and Rammstein,” he said coldly, glaring at her.

“Or what?” she asked with a huff. “It’s not like they begged you not to leave Berlin, did they? And they’re not begging you to come back either.”

She had hit a nerve, he knew it – could feel it deep inside – and she knew it as well, if the satisfaction glowing in her eyes was anything to go by.

 “Don’t you realize you’re investing too much in a band, when you should be putting that energy in our life?”

 “Don’t talk about what you don’t know, Caron.”

“Stop kidding yourself, Richard,” she hissed with impatience, gesturing at the half-full suitcase at his feet. “Your life is here, not with a band that can’t make it outside of Europe. And if you do want to make it big with a band, there are plenty of opportunities here. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean for that.”

“That’s enough!” he barked, losing his temper.

She snorted again, not impressed by his display of annoyance.

“You won’t be making it here with them,” she said with a drawl, regaining her composure.

A pause, then:

“And I won’t be waiting for you to waste your energy like that either – not when we’re supposed to be building a life together.”

“So that’s it?” he asked, incredulously – and yet not surprised, no, the issue had been slowly boiling for months now. “Our marriage, or my band?”

The band he had founded, brought together from scratch – and then almost destroyed, but it wasn’t something he wanted to dwell on right now, not when she had poked and prodded at his insecurities, not when she had insulted everything Rammstein had accomplished so far.

A ragtag of dreamers who had grown up behind the Wall.

She nodded, tense, lips still pinched.

Suddenly, a weight he had been carrying for a long time seemed to disappear from his shoulders. That was an ultimatum if he had ever heard one – and unfortunately for his wife, it was one for which he had no problem making a decision.

“Fine,” he said simply before taking the wedding band off his finger and dropping it on the bed.

It glinted in the faint afternoon light and something dark curled in satisfaction inside him at the look of shock on her face.

“I told you before, don’t make me choose between you and the band, because you wouldn’t like my decision,” he said in a low voice.

His finger was burning but he ignored the sensation.

She stared at the ring before looking at him again, face gone very cold once more.

“If you leave, don’t bother coming back,” she said simply before turning on her heels and then onto the corridor, the sound of her footsteps swiftly disappearing.

His wedding band glinted again and he quickly grabbed it before putting it in the drawer of the night stand, his thoughts turning back to his half-made suitcase. He hadn’t expected his marriage to go out – especially not with a whimper, and not a bang – but there were more pressing issues at hand right now.

He had a new album to record, and musical friendships to mend.

 


 

2. Berlin, March 1993.

A can of beer rolled to his feet and he impatiently pushed it away, grimacing a little as beer dripped on the ground, sticking to the sole of his right shoe. He could hear the crowd growling over their heads, singing – rather badly – along with the band that was playing, the floor vibrating every time someone jumped a bit too forcefully.

Dust fell over them and he shook his head, brushing one hand through his dreads, a grimace not leaving his face as he realized that half-moldy concrete was now sticking to his fingers.

Sitting on a reversed amp next to him, Sascha kicked the can as it reached his shoes as hard as he could, throwing it against the wall with a loud bang that sent Martin jumping before kicking him in the shin with annoyance.

His heart clenched a little at the familiarity of the scene – how many lousy basements had they stayed in before or after their shows, over the years? The memories were all merging into one now, and it sent a short pang of nostalgia down his spine.

“You want to leave the band,” Dietmar said slowly, exchanging a look with Martin. “But why?”

Richard shrugged, nostalgic feelings suddenly evaporating – he wasn’t going to miss their obliviousness, that was for sure.

“It’s just not working for me anymore,” he said simply, looking at his bandmates.

Ex-bandmates.

Whatever.

Orgasm Death Gimmick was a done matter as far as he was concerned, and he didn’t want to dwell on it any longer. His attention was already turned to the future now, his future, his plans for his next band…

“We just released our third demo!” Martin protested, looking at Dietmar and Sascha before focusing on him again. “And now you want to leave?! What’s wrong with you?”

Richard shrugged again.

“The band’s not working for me anymore, that’s all,” he repeated, a bit annoyed at the question but trying to keep his cool.

Ollie would be proud of him.

Dietmar and Martin exchanged a look again and he made a show of rolling his eyes – that would teach him to try and make a clean break-out. Next time, he should just drop the information and disappear, without staying for a beer and an explanation.

“I can’t believe you’re dropping us like that,” Sascha mumbled, a displeased expression on his face. “Everything was going fine and you just… you just…”

“You don’t even want to work on the band anymore, you’re just dropping it?” Dietmar pipped up, incredulous.

“Yeah,” Richard said after a moment of hesitation.

The silence in the basement was deafening and Richard almost regretted not having stayed on the floor level for the concert, before remembering that it was one of these copycats rock bands that sounded straight out of London – if London was a cheap backyard grown in the west shadows of the Wall, and yeah, no, not going there.

There were other bands more worthy of his attention.

And at least Oomph! sang in German.

Sometimes.

(They were onto something good in relation to metal and singing in German, and he meant to push the concept a little farther.)

(With other people though. Musician who were on the same wavelength.)

“I can’t believe it –”

“You’re such an asshole sometimes Richard, I swear –”

“Just after our third demo, seriously, dude –”

“Oh, can it,” he said impatiently, rising to his feet, dreads bouncing over his shoulders. “You can find another guitarist if you want to keep going, I don’t mind –”

“Thank you for your authorization, my lord,” Dietmar grumbled, looking mightily pissed off, and Richard rolled his eyes at the interruption, past caring by now.

“Don’t stop the band on my account, that’s all,” he said before moving towards the stairs.

“No chance we can convince you to stay, then?” Sascha called out behind him and he shook his head, waving his hand goodbye.

“Good luck!” and on those words he disappeared, not paying his former bandmates any attention.

He quickly made his way through the crowd before stepping outside, grimacing a little as he was hit by the bitterness of the March weather in Berlin by nighttime. It was cold, damnit, and he tightened his jacket around him, hesitating for a few seconds before deciding in favor of lightening a cigarette.

He might take a couple of weeks to think about it – really think about – but then he would talk to Ollie and Doom about his project for a new band. He knew Ollie might be interested in something a little out of the ordinary, considering what he was used to do with the Inchtabokatables, and for Doom, well… he was sure he could convince the guy to give it a try.

And maybe he would try his hand at singing, too.

Might be nice, for a change.

 


 

3. Berlin, October 1989.

The day was clear and the air crisp when he rolled out of the police wagon, a bit stunned by the sudden change of surroundings. The car drove off, leaving him to lie on the pavement for a couple of minutes before he gingerly moved into a sitting position, grimacing as his aching muscles reminded themselves to him.

He was out, he suddenly realized with a short pang.

Well, out of Weißensee, because he could pinpoint exactly where in Berlin he was – and, unfortunately for him, it wasn’t on the good side of the Wall.

His clothes stank – and so did he. His grimace intensified as he looked around, trying to calculate how long it would take him to go back to his flat. His ankle was throbbing, and so was his back – no, scratch that, his entire body was throbbing and he wanted nothing more than to crash on his bed and sleep – but he had to go back home first and he knew it was going to be an ordeal.

Maybe he could go crash on the couch of one of his friends… Frowning, he quickly made a list of the people he could consider going to – but it was the middle of the day and most of them were working anyway, if he wasn’t wrong on which day of the week it was. He briefly considered going to Till’s place, before pushing the idea aside regretfully, remembering he had left Berlin – he wasn’t sure he could make it to his flat, he certainly wasn’t going to trek to Schwerin of all places.

No, it wasn’t a good idea to involve other people – better to go back to his place, eat some, take a shower (wasn’t warm water more tempting than sin right now?), sleep and then consider his options.

He rose to his feet and walked back to his flat, avoiding the looks of commiseration sent in his direction as he slowly made his way to his destination.

Once all was set and done, once he had had his fill of sleep, and had eaten what wasn’t halfway through rotting in his cupboard, clean, warm clothes over his clean body – and he was never going to take all these things for granted, never again – he settled on his couch, trying to decide what to do.

His body was still on fire, every move sending a sharp jolt of pain, and he knew his left eye was slowly going through every colors of the rainbow, ice unable to do anything but help vaguely with the swelling – but he was out, and alive.

They certainly weren’t going to get him again – never again, not if he had any say in that.

He needed to get out of here though – out of East-Berlin, and out of the DDR at large.

He couldn’t stay here anymore.

He had to leave.

And nothing, no one could make him stay.

He pondered over his options for a long time, a mug of steaming slowly cooling off in his hands, an old map spread out on his couch. He needed to get out – and he knew someone who could help him with that, no question asked, someone who had been planning to leave the GDR for a long time now, and who had tried to convince him to do the same.

He had refused until then – he had his life here after all, his friends, his band, hell, even his family, estranged from them as he might be –

he faltered for a moment there, the consequences of what he was about to do weighing in his mind, before shaking his head –

he had made his choices a long time ago, and there was no point in crying over spilled milk.

You don’t have to leave, though, a voice that suspiciously sounded like friends and fellow musicians and coworkers whispered in his ear. You could stay here, keep a low profile until it has all blown up and go back on with your life.

The radio sizzled a little and he heard the usual sound that accompanied the communications of the party. His lips twisted in a grimace and he cautiously moved from his spot to change the frequency, trying to find once again the West-Berlin pirate radio that was usually airing music at this time of the day, to no avail.

“– the manifestations that have occurred in East-Berlin are an attempt of the FRG to destabilize our country and society –”

He laughed – a bitter, broken sound, and shook his head, looking by the window. The view was blocked by the nearby buildings, and wasn’t it a good metaphor for his life? It hadn’t bothered him until then, not really, but now, now…

he felt encaged, imprisoned – 

and his back was throbbing, bolts of pain shooting down his spine every time he moved a little too roughly –

Like hell he was going to stay here any longer – Czechoslovakia was accessible, and he could join Hungary from there, and then maybe even reach Austria…

“– we encourage our fellow citizens not to make any hasty decision when traveling –”

Don’t risk your life trying to leave, one voice whispered in his mind.

Go. Save yourself, another voice whispered.

His back ached when he gingerly sat back on his couch, eyes slowly surveying his map, his mind made up. That was going to be dangerous, very dangerous – but then, simply walking in Berlin when manifestations were taking place was dangerous, too.

And he knew he wasn’t the one wanting to leave this place anyway.

 


 

4. Berlin, Spring 2001.

“Don’t look at me like that, Doom.”

“You really are going to New York.”

The drummer’s voice was impassible and Richard forced himself not to pinch his lips in annoyance, instead scratching at the inside of his left palm for a brief moment before relaxing his hand. His bandmates’ attention was focused on him – all four of them, staring at him with various degrees of disbelief and annoyance, making him slightly uncomfortable.

(Nervous. He was always nervous when they were all focused on him now.)

He shifted on the couch, relaxing a little when Till came back from the kitchen with a plate holding mugs and an almost too-full kettle, carefully putting it on the coffee table before sitting down on the couch next to him.

“New York,” Flake muttered, pushing his glasses a little higher up his nose, light hitting them and reflecting for a second before disappearing.

“That’s going to be a little difficult to make impromptu jamming sessions now,” Ollie mumbled, curled on his armchair, holding a huge pillow between his arms.

Their eyes met for a brief moment and Ollie looked away first, but not before Richard felt a pang of guilt, still upset at himself for what had gone wrong during the recording of Mutter. His friends didn’t seem to be holding it against him anymore – he had been on his best behavior while they were finishing the last leg of the Sehnsucht tour after all – but he still felt bad about it.

The heavy bags under Ollie’s eyes – that had worsened during the tour but hadn’t disappeared afterwards – were a constant reminder of what had went wrong.

“We can still have those, even if we’re missing a guitarist,” Paul said nonchalantly from his position, and grimaced a little when Flake kicked him none too gently in the leg, a look of reproach on his face.

Something cold and heavy dropped at the bottom of his stomach and he looked away, staring at the fumes over the tea pot, hands shaking slightly. He wanted – he wanted a cigarette, and he wanted something more, to get away for a moment, his skin too tight, holding him down –

and Till bumped their shoulders together before offering him his lighter without a word, green eyes looking at him thoughtfully. There was resigned sadness in there, and Richard swallowed around the lump in his throat, taking the lighter with a murmur of thanks before lightning a cigarette.

His hands were shaking slightly as he took the first drag and he felt the weight of his bandmates’ stare on him.

The moment had barely been longer than an exhale and yet it felt as if it had stretched for minutes on end.

“Who said anything about jamming with you,” Ollie muttered, glaring at Paul from over his pillow, and Schneider tutted as the guitarist suddenly straightened on his chair, nonchalance gone from his posture.

Guys,” the drummer said in a warning tone before turning his attention back on Richard, a frown on his face. “New York, seriously?”

“I need some fresh air,” Richard said simply, taking a drag from his cigarette before reaching for the ashtray.

Till was still stuck to his side, a warm, comfortable presence that reminded him he wasn’t alone in front of the look of disapproval on their friends’ faces.

“London would have been a little closer,” Schneider pointed out with a drawl, Paul nodding on his seat, pointedly not looking at Ollie.

“My wife lives in New York,” Richard reminded them, briefly looking to the side as Till rose up from the couch to pour the now-infused tea into the mugs and offer them around.

They all took their drinks with various expressions of gratitude, Flake curling his skinny hands around his mug, obviously grateful for another source of warmth.

The day was surprisingly cold, despite the sun outside, and Richard shivered slightly, huddling closer to Till, looking for more warmth anywhere he could get it.

He was always so cold these days.

“Do you really have to leave Berlin though?” Ollie asked quietly, gazing at him with a thoughtful expression.

There was a flash of something on his face that disappeared as soon as it had appeared, and Richard looked at him with a little surprise, before turning his attention to the rest of their bandmates. Paul was pointedly looking at the tea pot, still annoyed – that much was clear – and Flake seemed to be disappearing into his armchair, curled around his mug of tea as he was. Schneider’s frown looked permanently etched into his face as well, and Richard tensed a little, preparing himself for a fight.

“I can’t stay here anymore,” he said quietly, shaking his head a little.

That seemed to have been the wrong thing to say – oh, he really wasn’t good with words these days, was he? – and he quickly went on, trying to defuse the situation before it turned into another shouting match.

God knew there had been enough of these in the past few months.

“It’s too easy for me to access drugs in Berlin,” he said quickly, watching tension disappear around Schneider’s eyes.

They all nodded, exchanging long looks – even Paul and Ollie, a telltale sign they were on the same wavelength, despite everything – and he felt more disconnected from the rest of the band that he had had in a long time.

“Still, New York…”

Flake again, and he felt Till shift against him, still silent.

He had learned about his plans first, of course, had listened to him, heard him spell out his reasons – and then had nodded, without trying to convince him to stay.

Sometimes, Richard almost wished he had.

“How long will you be staying there?” Schneider asked, obviously already planning for the changes in organization this was going to cause.

Richard shrugged, taking one last drag on his cigarette before crushing the stub into an ashtray.

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully. “Caron has absolutely no desire to leave the States, and her career is there anyway, so I’m just…”

He hesitated for a moment before going ahead:

“We’re going to build a life together there, so…”

He shrugged again, and there was that look on Ollie’s face once more – but this time, Paul nudged his pillow, stretching his leg in the space between their seats. Looks were exchanged again, and he wondered, not for the first time, how much they had been talking about him in his back – and what kind of decision they had come to.

“So, you’re really leaving for New York,” Schneider said after a moment, and there was an undertone of judgement – of implacability in his voice.

Richard looked away for a moment, gaze turning to Till – who looked very small on the couch, still silent, looking at his fuming mug of tea. He raised his head slightly at Schneider’s words, and their eyes met.

There was a look of defeat there, and Richard finally put two and two together, realizing what it must look like to his friends.

“Hey, it’s Berlin that I’m leaving, not the band,” he said firmly, looking at each one of his bandmates until they returned his stare. “Rammstein’s still alive and kicking. I just need a change of scenery.”

Silence, then:

“Especially if you want us to keep making music together.”

His last words were softer, almost turning into a question and he felt oddly vulnerable – at least until Till nudged his arm, a small smile on his lips, tilting his head towards their still steaming mugs of tea.

“Of course we do, you idiot,” Paul muttered with a huff, making a show of rolling his eyes and shaking his head, chuckles rising in the room.

Somebody threw a pillow to his head and Richard deftly caught it, feeling more at ease as everybody relaxed visibly, Flake and Paul exchanging a few barbs over their drinks.

“No chance in convincing you not to leave, then?” Schneider asked quietly, the tension around his eyes almost gone now.

Richard shook his head, finally reaching for his mug, thirsty all of a sudden.

“It’s better that way,” he answered in the same manner.

The drummer nodded before setting back onto his armchair, gaze drifting back to Paul and Flake – with Ollie adding a few comments every now and then, pillow pushed to the side.

Only Till remained silent, but resignation and sadness seemed to have disappeared from his gaze when their eyes met – and that would have to do for now.

For now.

 


 

5. New York, January 2011.

“Berlin.”

“Joe.”

“Berlin.”

“Joe.”

“I can’t believe you’re leaving New York. For Berlin.

“My family lives there, Joe.”

“You’ve been flying back and forth for a decade, Richard.”

“And I’m tired of it.”

There was a snappish undertone to his voice and he would have almost felt bad – almost – if he wasn’t so tired. He didn’t remember his move from Berlin to New York to have been such a mess, but apparently it was bit different to leave the Old Continent to go live with his wife than to travel the opposite way a decade later.

“And what about Emigrate?” Joe asked, arms crossed, still looking a little disgruntled.

Richard looked at him from the moving box he was trying to fill – how on earth had he managed to accumulate so much tableware, honestly, half of that stuff had just been dusting away since it had found a place in his cupboards – and frowned a little, disconcerted.

“What about Emigrate? Well, I’ve been working on a new record, you know that,” he said slowly before turning his attention back onto the box.

Did he even want to bring that stuff back to Berlin? Would he even need it?

“And you’re going to keep making music for it while you live in Berlin,” Joe said in a very flat voice.

Richard put the plates he was holding back onto the cupboard before turning towards him. The stepladder creaked a little and he eyed it doubtfully, wondering whether or not the damn thing was going to break down – that was one thing he wasn’t going to ship back home for sure.

“I’ve been making music for Rammstein just fine while I was there,” he pointed out slowly, half-leaning against the cupboard, one hand resting on top of the ladder for maximum security.

The guys were going to have his head if he broke a leg right before they played in New-Zealand, and honestly, he couldn’t blame them.

The unimpressed look Joe leveled on him almost made him wince.

Almost.

The drummer had nothing on Paul, unfortunately for him – and fortunately for Richard, who had years of experience in dealing with that kind of expression directed at him.

“I heard you complain many times that you couldn’t compose correctly when you had ideas and wanted to talk to Till about it, only to discover he was off for a walk or a camping trip in a goddam forest without telling anyone where he had gone,” Joe pointed out, one eyebrow raised, arms crossed in front of him.

Richard shrugged, the memories flicking across his mind with fond amusement – Till might have driven him crazy sometimes, but those were the constraints of having an ocean between them, and they had managed just fine over the years in the end.

“it’s going to be a lot easier now that we will both live in the same country,” he said serenely before turning his attention back onto the plates and his half-full moving box.

Did he really want these plates in Berlin?

He could buy others – but that would also be a waste of perfectly useful plates, and there was still this faint, decades-old feeling not to spoil anything that was still good for use…

Joe muttered something under his breath that he didn’t quite catch – and didn’t try to anyway, his mind both here and far far away. Going back to Berlin, back home, was something that had been nagging at him for quite some time now, and putting everything in motion was both terrifying and exhilarating at once.

“So, you really think the whole composing for Rammstein shtick you have going on will be easier once you’re back in Germany,” Joe said flatly after a moment of silence, still watching him pack the content of his kitchen with attentive eyes.

He hadn’t realized he had amassed such a huge collection of mugs over the years.

“It will definitely be easier there than through transatlantic phone calls and skype meetings,” Richard said absent-mindedly before putting the plates away.

They weren’t going to cross the ocean with him. The mugs, though, that was another story – and he knew his daughter would be very happy to have an easier access to them, no matter how full her cupboards already were. He spotted a terribly kitsch Best Dad mug and smiled a little, remembering with fondness on which occasion it had been gifted to him.

Joe hummed but didn’t say anything.

Richard waited for a moment to see if he was going to speak his mind before turning his attention back onto him, slightly annoyed.

“What?”

“You said it was still a bit tense with Schneider and Paul, sometimes,” Joe said, shrugging with one shoulder.

Richard huffed and put a hand on his face for a brief moment before pinching the bridge of his nose, inhaling heavily.

“We’re fine. End-of-a-tour annoyance is a regular occurrence among bands –”

“Yeah, at the end of a tour, not since the beginning.”

 “– and our last tour went well anyway,” Richard went on without paying attention to the interruption. “I mean, it’s not over yet, we still have the last leg to take care of, and then our Best Of album to work on, and prepare the support tour for that –”

“You do know your fans are going to think you’re splitting up, right?”

Richard paused for a moment, Joe’s words echoing strangely in the kitchen. There was some dust on wine glasses he hadn’t used in months – a year or two, maybe – and he cleaned it up, blood beating loudly in his ears.

“We’re not splitting up,” he finally said after a moment of silence, and he almost didn’t recognize his voice.

There as a commiserating look on Joe’s face as he stared at him.

“Bands usually put out a Best Of either when they run out of creative juice, or when they’re splitting up,” he pointed out softly.

Richard stayed silent for a moment, looking at his wine glasses before turning his attention back onto the drummer.

That wasn’t –

they were fine, they still had projects together, still wanted to make music together, and everybody had agreed it would be best if he was back in Berlin, not just for the band, but for their friendship as well.

“It’s easier to create new music when you live in the same city as your bandmates,” he finally said, voice a little strangled.

Joe eyed him for a long time before sighing, shoulders sagging a little – and the look on his face made it clear he was going to drop that particular topic, at least for now.

A heavy silence hovered in the kitchen for a moment, threatening to turn into awkwardness.

“So, you’re really leaving for Berlin. For Rammstein.”

Richard stared at him before looking away, shrugging with one shoulder, attention shifting back to his tableware.

“I left Berlin for New York for Rammstein. It seems only fitting that I go back for the same reason now,” he said, distracted by his wine glasses.

Joe shook his head a little, rolling his eyes before sighing again, the exhale turning into a tired little laugh.

“No chance to convince you to stay here, then?”

Richard shook his head, tutting a little.

“Don’t waste your breath,” he said in a drawl, eyeing his glasses collection with a doubtful expression.

How on Earth had he amassed so many glasses – he didn’t have so many after divorcing Caron, and he didn’t remember having bought them in the years after…

“Still, I can’t believe you’re leaving…”

He tuned out Joe’s words after that, focusing on emptying his cupboards. Time was flying, and he needed to pack as many things as possible before leaving for New Zealand – everything that he could take care of now would be a non-existent issue once he would be back, and it would make the moving out process at least a little smoother…

 


 

1. Berlin, Winter 2017.

It was the chirping of birds outside that got hold of his attention from the depths of slumber, a faint background noise as he slowly came to his senses, huddled up under the covers as he was. The flat was calm, with the stillness that came from its inhabitants still occupying the bed rather than bustling around. Smiling a little to himself, he curled a little closer under the covers, enjoying the warmth underneath before stretching, nose wriggling as he took in the cool air in the bedroom.

He might have to change the settings on the heater a little, it was a tad too cold for his taste right now.

Looking to his right, he noticed his lover was still soundly asleep, a few strands of blond hair sticking out of the blankets. A smitten expression on his face, he stared for a few moments, grinning a little before deciding to move out of the bed – and launch his plans of breakfast in bed into action.

He wiggled carefully on the mattress, slowly easing himself from under the blankets to get out of the bed – when a hand that had been lightly resting on top of his stomach drifted along his arm before tightening around his wrist.

“Come back to bed,” came a muffled voice, deep and still a little hoarse from sleeping.

Richard’s grin grew bigger, heartbeat jumping up before calming down, and he put a knee on the mattress to keep his equilibrium, eyes crinkling.

“I’m just going to prepare breakfast,” he said in a fond, amused voice, propelling himself on his knee to come a little closer to his lover, his free hand hovering over the pile of blankets before settling on a shoulder.

Might have been the middle of the back as well, but it was warm and firm underneath his palm, and he gently patted it a little over the blankets.

He had to focus on his plan – breakfast in bed was serious business – even though the alternative was more than tempting.

“Breakfast can wait,” came the gruff reply as he was tugged in a little closer again – and he let himself being dropped back onto the bed, shifting under the blanket until he was huddled close to his lover, still holding him by the wrist.

Till looked at him with sleepy eyes, half of his face still hidden by the pillow, curled on one side to keep as much body heat as possible – and Richard curled next to him, half-chuckling as his wrist was released for a brief moment before Till intertwined their fingers.

His heart missed a beat at the chaste gesture – he hadn’t expected for Till to initiate that kind of small, innocent touches, and yet he seemed unable to get enough of them, something that thrilled Richard to no end.  

“Breakfast can wait, uh?” he repeated quietly, brushing away an errand strand of blond hair with his free hand.

Till nodded, a little sigh of contentment escaping him as Richard’s hand settled over his cheek, fingers slowly drifting against his skin, the touch light as a butterfly. He looked like a big cat like that, a moving tail and twitching ears being the only missing elements – and Richard bit back a laugh at the thought.

A big, bad, on fire metal band with a cat-like singer – that would be something to see, if they ever decided to spice up their concerts again. The guys would have a field day, if they ever heard of it.

(Might be an idea to fill away for later, though.)

“It’s not like you to ignore breakfast,” he said quietly after comfortable silence stretched between them, watching Till drift between sleep and quiet contentment, eyes closed.

“I don’t want you to leave the bed,” he muttered, opening one eye to look at him. “Not even for breakfast. It can wait.”

Some might have called the expression on his face a pout, but Richard knew better – it was the expression of someone who had decided they were going to cuddle in bed until he had had his fill, and nothing, not even food, would get in the way.

And neither would he – it wasn’t even a choice he had to make.

They had gone a long way before ending in that position, sharing each other’s life in every sense of the word, and he was going to enjoy all the moments of bliss and daily pleasures it would bring – even it meant postponing his breakfast plans for morning cuddles.

“I wanted to make pancakes,” he whispered, curling a little closer – and Till half-draped himself over him, one leg between his thighs, the two of them now sharing the same pillow.

It felt more than nice – and his heart fluttered happily at the sight. He shifted a little, rearranging himself so that his arm wasn’t crushed between their bodies, but rather laying on top of his stomach, Till’s fingers still intertwined with his own, while his other hand was free to play with the singer’s hair, curling an errand strand every now and then.

“Pancakes sound nice,” came the muffled reply, one thumb grazing at the top of his hand – and he smiled a little when a cold nose brushed against his jawline before two full lips took its place.

A whine escaped him, getting a chuckle out of the singer before he moved his head slightly so that the two of them could kiss properly, lips gently pressed against one another. It was slow and sweet and it warmed him up with a feeling that had nothing to do with the current temperature under the blankets. Till’s other hand slowly moved from under his pillow to come rest in his hair, pushing away a few strands of hair that kept falling in front of his eyes. His fingers drifted away, drawing the line of his nose before touching his cheek delicately.

Richard felt himself blush at the gesture and briefly looked away, suddenly overwhelmed by a wave of emotions. Some days, he still couldn’t quite believe his luck – and couldn’t quite believe he could now let himself be vulnerable without fearing for his heart to be stomped on and destroyed.

Not now. Not with Till.

(He might be the one more likely to break Till’s heart and he had vowed to himself he would rather die than let that happen.)

“You’re thoughtful,” a deep voice whispered in his ear before he felt his hand being moved a little higher – until it was kissed tenderly, reverently, and he melt into a puddle against the mattress.

He hummed quietly before opening his eyes, blinking as he was greeted by a clear, forest-emerald gaze focusing on him, love and adoration the only emotions he could read there.

“Just thinking about how lucky I am, that’s all,” he said truthfully, squeezing the fingers intertwined with his as Till blushed slightly in front of him, eyes twinkling.

“I should be the one saying that,” the singer said quietly before rolling over and settling on top of him, kissing him a little more passionately this time.

They were both well and truly awake now, and Richard was starting to feel hunger grow for a whole different kind of food.

His pancakes though – he had planned their breakfast in bed, and he meant to go through his plan… but that small (more or less) delay would bring its own pleasures, and he certainly wasn’t going to complain about it.

Till let go of his fingers before cupping his head between his hands, the kiss growing more heated as the seconds went by, and Richard felt himself returning his every move with as much enthusiasm as he could muster right after waking up.

“Did I convince you to stay, then?” an amused voice whispered in his ear after a few minutes, all plans of breakfast by then long forgotten – and their pajamas haphazardly thrown on the floor again.

“Yeah, I’m not leaving,” Richard answered breathlessly with a little laugh, hands and lips more than busy at the moment.

Not now, and not ever.