The boys are chattering at the dinner table, something about a party that Louis got invited to and is now bragging about, with Simone filling their plates with chili con carne, their favourite - save for Jordi, the youngest, who still prefers potato cream and doesn't like hot spicy stuff. He'll learn, anyway. Michael leans against the door's frame and smiles at the picture that his family presents. He just got back from training, the barrage of German soothing to his ears after having to listen to all these accents in the locker room, John Terry's dialect - that Scouser stuff - the worst, but Arjen Robben had reassured him that it was like that for everyone on the team and he'd get used to it. Frank was easier to understand, good and proper English, but when the fellow midfielder was talking with John, Michael could only make out bits here and there, not very well versed in English slang yet.
At least Mourinho's sharp commands were something that Michael had picked up on right from the start on, and he was glad for that. Jose was a hard coach, but a decent one, and he seemed to be really on top of the game. It was rather different from what he was used to from his past clubs.
"Hey Micha," and Simone's getting up from the table, a welcoming smile on her lips before she kisses him lightly. "Had a good day?"
He nods. "Yeah, I did. How was yours?"
She shrugs. "The usual. Getting accustomed to the traffic here, dropping the boys off and picking them up, doing some shopping in between, meeting Conny for a short talk at a café. We want to meet up sometime next week to go shopping for the house. It's still a bit too empty around here, and I think we need nicer stores. And more bed linens. There's a sale at that posh shop, what was its name again? I forgot," and then she's at the counter, fetching a new bottle of apple juice, "well, doesn't matter. Am I boring you?" she asks with a wink as she catches him stifling a yawn.
Michael laughs. "Hey, you try doing my training! So you want to buy more stuff for the house with Conny tomorrow, good. See? I still remember what you've told me."
Simone snorts as she sets the bottle down on the table next to Emilio. "Then how come you never remember my mother's birthday no matter how often I tell you about it?"
Michael raises his eyebrow. "Well, that's not really all that interesting, you know. Your mother's birthday is every year, after all." As she rolls her eyes, he grins. "Love you," he says, blowing a kiss to her, "I'm going to have a nap upstairs."
She smiles broadly at him, making as if to catch the kiss. "Knock yourself out, love."
Before Michael turns back to walk upstairs, he sees her sitting down at the table next to Jordi, trying to encourage him to eat more of the potato cream.
He's got a fantastic partner, really. Someone who always has his back. Someone who keeps his mind off mundane things - her mother's birthday, for example - to let him concentrate on what's important. And she does all that with a smile and sometimes he can't believe that he got that lucky.
But then, there are also other times when he can't believe how damned unlucky he is. Granted, these times are very rare, but they still happen, and Michael sighs, slumping backwards on the bed.
He thought he'd be over it by now. But instead, there's not a day that he doesn't spend with thinking about Torsten. Even if it's just a fleeting imagery, like seeing a rundown tattoo parlour on a corner, or seeing bigmouthed youths wearing these ridiculously huge basketball jerseys, thin pale arms sticking out. Not filling them out like Torsten does, but if Michael squints, it's just about close enough.
And then there are the times when he thinks about his past. Of how everything turned out. How he came to end up here - for now. And what the future will bring. So far, life has been good to him, mostly. He hopes that it won't change any time in the future. He needs that famous luck of his more than ever, now that he's got to prove himself at one of the best clubs in Europe. Bayern was good enough, but not that good, and Michael has always yearned for class.
He doesn't like these other halting thoughts, creeping up to him in the dim twilight of dawn, prodding at him. If Chelsea really was the right choice, if he shouldn't have stayed at Bayern, if, if... and will his life ever be good enough, satisfying enough so that these damned thoughts will disappear? There's a German word, 'Zukunftsangst', fear of the future, which applies to these thoughts pretty well. He has had bouts of it in the past, like when he was set to join Bayern, and would it really be the right step? Wouldn't he mess up everything? The boys would have to get accustomed to Munich, to the hustle and bustle of a big city whereas Leverkusen was just a sleepy city compared to it.
But it had turned out fine, and so he hadn't thought that much about his transfer to Chelsea before. The thoughts are catching up with him just now, at the worst time. He sighs and flops onto his stomach, closing his eyes.
Concentrate only on the good things, he tells himself. No use crying over spilt milk, which was a favourite proverb of his mother's. But what are the good things? His own family, of course. The boys and Simone, and his parents in Germany, and the good friends he has. Oliver. Bernd. Jens. Torsten.
Whose first words, when he phoned Michael right after the press conference, had been, "Please don't go."
Michael groans, the sound half-muffled by the pillow. He had just replied with, "I have to," and then he had ended the call, knowing deep down that Torsten was the only one who'd be able to persuade him to stay in Germany, to give up his future for him.
And that had scared him.
But he hadn't given in and had gone to London anyway. Without Torsten. And just up until a minute ago, he had been pretty happy.
"Are you okay, Micha?" Simone.
He turns around to face her, rubbing over his face to disperse the troubling thoughts. "Yeah - I'm just thinking too much to nap."
She smiles and comes to sit next to him. "Do you want me to give you a backrub?"
Michael nods, gives her a smile. "Yeah, that'd be great." He sits up and pulls off his shirt, along with the vest, and then he lies back down. She then climbs over him, her warm hands on his shoulders and lowers herself down on him, right on top of his arse, and he closes his eyes, his head coming to lie on his crossed arms.
Her fingers - they are delicate but have an innate strength - start to rub his back, kneading the skin and digging into spots that send pleasant shivers all throughout him. "Good," he mumbles, his senses concentrating only on the sensation of her massage, the faint trace of her perfume in the air and her weight on him, pressing down in the right places, and he feels himself harden.
But it is too soon; his mind hasn't relinquished all these troubling thoughts yet, and Torsten's face rises in front of him, the mouth curling up in a wry smile, the eyes crinkling and then Michael feels the midfielder's breath on his face before the soft lips - indecently soft for a man - close over his own, and strong hands slide up his back - no, that's Simone, and Michael scrunches his eyes shut, willing the tantalizing imagery to disappear.
"Michael?" Simone's hair is tickling his neck and he can feel the sweet swell of her breasts against his shoulders. "Do you want me to continue?" Her voice is low, little puffs of air tickling his ear.
"Please don't go."
"Please don't go," he sighs.