Christmas-eve 2019, the sun had set.
For a december it wasn't too cold, no snow, the rain that had drizzled down earlier had stopped hours ago.
Darkness had come over Berlin, interspersed by the many citylights of streets and buildings. Richard was sitting on his roof-terrace looking out over the city at nothing in particular.
Earlier that afternoon he had chosen a lounge-chair out here to see if a change of view would help get rid of the many thoughts that had been haunting him.
Up until now, the only difference it made was a rapidly emptying pack of cigarettes, but the thoughts had remained in full force.
After putting out the last butt, at least one coherent thought sprang to his mind: "Get inside and get a new package" but he couldn't bring himself to get up from the chair.
The darkness that laid over the city felt like a heavy blanket laying on himself as well. Even his mind seemed affected: his thoughts trying to get out, but only rolling around and around unable to get anywhere but remain stuck in his head.
Many of the lights he watched were moving: cars that were driving to or from somewhere, lights in livingrooms that were lit and many, many Christmas-lights. With all of these lights there were people; people going to their homes or parties, celebrating holidays, eating, watching tv, being together.
Except here on the terrace.
Here it was dark.
Richard's phone lit up next to his crumpled up cigarette-package. He had taken it with him outside to call someone, but hadn't been able to decide who to call, and eventually muted it to shut out any bleeps disturbing his thoughts.
This light was from someone calling him.
For a few seconds he stared at the phone, then reached out to see who the caller was.
Another few seconds went by while Richard contemplated ignoring the call. With Paul he never knew if a conversation would be a cosy exchange of chit-chat, loads of laughter or the start of an argument and Richard wasn't sure he was in the mood for any of the three.
The signal kept lighting up, Paul was never one to give up easily. Just before voicemail would take over, he answered the call.
"Hey, took you long enough, I almost thought you didn't have your phone with you. I've been meaning to talk to you about that awardshow we had a while ago, that you didn't show up at. Why didn't you? I thought we'd agreed to go together?"
Richard sighed. An argument then. He was not in the mood.
"I told you, I'm sorry but I wasn't feeling well.."
"That's what you said, but there were fans on social media who said they'd seen you at a concert the night before, so you weren't that ill then.. what happened?"
"I didn't want to go there either, but my family said I should go, so in the end I gave in, but I was feeling lousy all evening."
"Since when do you let yourself be told what to do anyway? And if you're such a pushover nowadays, why didn't you listen to me when I told you to come to that awardshow with me?"
"Paul, you could have gone with Schneider, Olli or Flake.."
"No, I didn't, they were busy that evening.."
".. and besides, I didn't want to go with them, I wanted to go with you.."
"..maybe have a little drink afterwards, have a little fun, I was looking forward to it.."
".. can you come over?"
A few seconds of silence at the other end, then "Where are you?"
"See you in a few minutes."
Richard laid his phone to the side and gathered up the energy to get up and get the remote control of his front door and a new package of cigarettes.
Then he went back outside to the lounge-chair.
It was still dark. But now at least someone was coming.
Not someone: Paul.
The fact that the other guitarist was coming did seem to lift the blanket a little.
When the doorbell rang, Richard used the remote to let Paul in, the other guitarist familiar enough with his house to know where to go. He could hear Paul coming up the stairs, through the livingroom, then standing at the entrance to the terrace.
"Here you are, why are you sitting outside at this time of year, isn't it too cold for that? I thought I'd find you nice and snugly in front of your home-cinema or something?"
Richard looked at him and couldn't suppress a small smile, Paul was chatty as ever.
"Yeah, hey to you too.." Paul took a few steps to sit in the chair next to Richard "..damn, it *is* cold, or do you have a butt-warmer in your chair?"
Richard laid back in his chair and looked at Paul, torn between tiredness of having to talk to someone and happiness that someone was there.
"Are you okay? Have you been here all day?"
"Not all day.."
"So what are you doing?"
Richard turned to the city again, the thoughts in his mind now all coming back to fight for his attention and smiled tiredly "..thinking.."
Paul knew his fellow guitarist long enough to recognize the mood Richard was in. The cause was often different, but the result was always pretty much the same.
He sighed, and chose to remain quiet for a moment, watching Richard.
He knew the many insecurities the other man wrestled with; just like himself for that matter, but where Paul dealt with his by venting them at others, Richard would bottle everything up and try to ignore them in various ways until he'd come to a complete stand-still.
Apparently this was one of those days.
Paul had often thought that it would be better for Richard to take a leaf out of his book and get things out in the open, but knew this was not the moment to tell him that. He looked around and noticed the silence in the house, no music, no decorations.
He pulled his chair a little closer to Richard's, so he could touch his arm.
"You *are* cold, don't you want to come inside?"
A shrug of the shoulders was the only reply.
"Do you want to tell me what's up?"
This could take a while. Paul decided to deal with this the way he usually dealt with any situation: head-on. He got up and gave Richard's arm a gentle push.
"Scooch over, I'll warm you up."
"Then make room, you always tell me I'm small and cute, just let me lay next to you for a minute."
Richard again couldn't decide how he felt, annoyed at his peace being disturbed or amused at Paul's directness. After a few moments the latter sentiment won and he shuffled over a bit to lay on his side and make room for Paul, even managing a small smile "..I don't think I ever called you cute though.."
"Maybe you didn't say it, but I know you thought it.." Paul got up and laid down next to Richard, cosying up against him "..and hey, I managed to get you to say more than five words in a sentence..that's a start."
The chair was just big enough for the both of them but not without embracing eachother. Now Paul was here warm beside him, Richard realized that he had indeed been cold on the terrace.
With Paul's face close to him, smiling, Richard couldn't resist smiling a little as well..he never could resist Paul's smile. But he could also feel tears were not far away and feared that if he started to talk, he would start to cry.
He didn't want to cry.
Richard held out his hand and stroked Paul's cheek, and the few small tufts of greying hair peeping out from under Paul's beanie. When on tour Paul would dye his hair (usually in various shades of red), but off-season he had long ago decided to let it return to it's natural color.
Another small smile "..pretty.."
Paul smiled back. He turned his head a little to give Richard's hand a quick peck, then held out his own hand to stroke Richard's black hair "..I bet your hair would be grey by now too if you wouldn't dye it..maybe you should let it grow out too?"
"Why not, I bet grey hair would look great on you."
Richard had gone mono-syllabic again...
Through the moon that had appeared over the terrace Paul could see the other's face looking at him, eyes a little watery, mouth opening a little as if he wanted to say something else, then squeezing shut again without doing so.
Paul shuffled a little closer still to Richard, laying his hand on Richard's chest "Tell me what's on your mind."
He closed the few centimeters between them to let his forehead rest against Richard's. This was a position they often used in concerts, many fans believing it was just for show, but in reality both guitarists liked the closeness it gave them and helped them calm down a bit if they needed it.
Richard closed his eyes, feeling relaxation starting to spread in his body by Paul's proximity, yet didn't reply.
Paul rubbed the tip of his nose against Richard's in an eskimo-kiss, this also an often used sign of affection between the two "..I won't go away until you tell me.."
That ellicited a small smile "..that's not really persuading me to talk.." his hand now stroking Paul's neck.
Again an eskimo-kiss "..you know you'll feel better if you tell me..whatever it is.."
"You'll laugh at me.." Paul could hear, more than see, a small pout at these words and knew Richard was on the verge of opening up to him.
"You know I won't laugh, whatever it is.." he gently caressed Richard's chest "..are you on your own this Christmas..?"
A small nod of Richard's head, Paul could see a tear escaping from the corner of his eye.
"Are you lonely..?"
Another nod, Richard let out a deep sigh, then all of his bottled up thoughts found their way out at once "I miss my kids, they're spending the holidays with their mothers. I said some stupid stuff to my girlfriend so she's spending them with her family. Till hasn't been answering my calls for weeks. I have lost all inspiration to write new songs for ages. I miss playing with you guys.." with a short pause, now himself taking the initiative for an eskimo-kiss "..playing with you.."
For a while they lay silent in the chair under the Berlin moon, each content with feeling the other's breathing next to him.
Paul stroked Richard's cheek "That's a whole lot to bottle up..do you want me to reply to it or just hold you.."
"Just hold me.. I already know I only have myself to blame for it.."
"I wasn't going to say you were to blame at all.. " Paul gave Richard a small encouraging pat on his chest "You always said you thought it important that your kids had a great relationship with their mums, maybe you can have a special end-of-christmas-season-day for them in January and have them all with you, you'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Again Paul felt a small nod against his forehead and took that as encouragement to go on "Till is having a great time with his entourage and his other band, and we've always said that if one of us was going off for a while to do something else, we'd support them.. I heard from management that they are preparing for their tour and shooting a few more videos, so they must be extremely busy right now.."
"..they get a lot more videos out than we do.."
Again he heard a small pout, but Paul was glad Richard had lost the mono-syllabic streak "..well, he doesn't have to contend with five other opinions in that band like he does with us.. but do you want to give over control and let him decide on our videos on his own as well from now on?"
"No.." Richard now genuinely smiled.
"Well, neither do I, we wouldn't be Rammstein if we did, so let Till enjoy himself while he can, we'll see him soon enough" Paul now smiled too.
"Your girlfriend, well I can't help you there, but if you were the one saying stupid stuff, then you should be the one to apologize and patch things up.."
"Oh, like you do, when you say something dumb" Richard grumbled and playfully squeezed Paul's arm.
"Like I do, yes, I just never say stupid stuff" it was an obvious attempt at getting Richard laughing again and by the reaction he got, Paul knew he succeeded.
He pulled back a little to be able to look at Richard's face. The other guitarist was looking a bit more relaxed than when Paul had found him only a short time ago.
He stroked Richard's cheek "..and you don't have to write new material all the time.. you can't force inspiration, especially when you've been stressing out about all that other stuff.."
"Usually I can go on my studio and something comes out one way or another"
"And it will again, maybe you should try something completely different to get out of the rut...write your kids a christmas-song...or we could get together next week and do some guitaring without the others bothering us with their instruments."
"I'd like that.."
Paul grinned "Good."
"Thanks Paul.." Richard grinned as well and gave the other man a hug "..you couldn't resist replying though, couldn't you."
"You know me, always ready to share useful advice.." he gave another hug in return "Do you want me to get started on that awardshow again, or can we go warm up inside now?"
"Okay okay, we'll go inside, but I may need a few more hugs to warm me up.."
"Now *that* I *can* help you with.."