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Care for you, care for me.

Chapter Text

[...]

I would like to be the only person
in the house who knew: the night outside was cold. 

[...]

R.M. Rilke

 

 

Till stepped through the glass doors of the bank and immediately felt the bitter cold.

He had spent the entire afternoon inside the Deutsche Bank Quartier, comfortably sitting in front of an uncomfortable desk with his nerve-wracked agent by his side and his lawyer connected via Skype.

Some droplets of rain fell on his face and he took a step back under the inconsistent shelter given by the narrow ledge high up over the marble framed door.

 “So,” came his agent’s exasperated voice by his side. “I’ll call you tomorrow”. The man bumped into Till as he stepped back to avoid the rain.

Till turned to shake hands. The man was flipping a folder full of documents under his fine woolen coat to protect it from the rain, but could somehow produce a hand to shake. They had to move aside and let some people get through the doors.

“Have a nice evening” Till smiled, his gentle green eyes conveying as much empathy as possible.

“Are you kidding me!?” his agent looked up at him bewildered, with a semi-hysteric expression. In the last few days, Till had never seen the man smile. He had even lost his usual stingy sarcasm. “I’m going back to my office now!”

Till’s mouth twitched. The eyes hadn’t worked. “…Really?”

“Yeah-uh!” the other man was already walking away but turned to look back at Till. “I’ll have to sell my fucking soul to the devil to finish all of this crap in time!” he vehemently shook the folder he held under his coat. Pages and pages of tax payments records.

So many records, yet apparently not enough to prove Till Lindemann was not a tax evader.

Till spread his arms, at loss of words.  “I’m sorry!” He suddenly felt so small, so powerless in such a big world full of difficulties.

I’m sorry for all of this mess. I’m sorry.

But is it even my fault?

“It’s not your fault this time!” hollered the agent as if he was reading Till ’s mind, his voice distorting into a maniac sound as he disappeared inside a taxi that was waiting for him on the other side of the street. He slammed the door shut and Till could see him gesturing the way to the driver rather rudely.

The 6 feet tall singer from Schwerin stood still under the ledge, watching as the taxi pulled away. With his beanie pulled low over his brows and hands shoved inside his heavy coat pockets, he roamed his eyes up and down Friedrichstraße, trying to spot a black BMW with red brake pads that were meant to come and take him home.

People were coming and going on the sidewalk, carrying umbrellas over their head and swinging them around trying not to stick one of the pointy ends into someone else’s eye.

Till didn’t know which direction the BMW would come from so he looked first to his right, assuming Richard was more likely to come from Leipziger Straße. After some squinting and before he could even lit himself up a cigarette, he could see it coming, Richard’s new car. He couldn’t see the red pads but could see Richard inside, with a cigarette between index and middle fingers of the hand gripping the steering wheel and the window rolled down by a few inches. The street was jammed and the car was moving slow, rolling in front of the bright shop windows decorating the sidewalk.

There was no way Richard could find a place to stop without jamming the traffic even more. To help him, Till pulled up his fur lined hood, briskly stepped down the small set of stairs in front of the bank and made his way toward the car. It took him just a few long steps to cross the street right in front of Richard, giving two light pats on the car hood as he rounded it and reached for the door handle to slip inside.

“Hey” Richard acknowledged as the singer slammed the door shut and twisted a hand behind his shoulder to grasp the seat belt buckle. The guitarist looked at him while flicking his cigarette outside the window.

“Hi, thanks for coming.” Till buckled up the seat belt and then finally stretched his legs with a loud huff, slouching down. Inside the car it was warm, with only an occasional gust of cold air coming from Richard’s window. The car still smelled new over the faint scent of the leather the seats were covered with.

Richard retrieved his packet of cigarettes from the cup holder and offered one to Till. The singer took one and rolled down his window by a few inches before lighting the cigarette.

“Nice car Reesh” he commented looking around.

“Thanks”. Richard smiled proudly but decided not to start ranting about his new bling right there and then. He exhaled his long last drag and rolled up the window, a little displeased with the rain that had fallen inside dotting his duvet jacket on the shoulder.

“I’ve just come back from the clinic” he said training his eyes back on the street, the smile quickly fading from his lips.

“How’s your brother?” asked Till, shifting to angle his body toward Richard.

The guitarist was wearing a beanie too, but quite high up on his head so that some of his black hair could be seen under the rim. For some reason, Till’s eyes fell on the hand grasping the steering wheel. The knuckles looked dry and chapped, the skin there an ugly red-violet hue.

“Doing good”.

Till waited for a second but no other details followed so he imagined Richard was not in the mood to talk about his brother or provide any further information. His brother had got into a car accident a month prior while the band was on tour. The recovery had taken a lot of time, mostly because of a broken leg that had given lots of complications, as well as a minor brain damage that had kept everyone with bated breath when it had manifested its symptoms one week after the accident.

“How was your day?” Richard asked, effectively changing the subject. “Is it fixed?” The guitarist referred to what Till and his agent had to deal with at the bank.

Till chuckled bitterly.

“No”. He lifted a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, shaking his head. Suffice to say that the main outcome of the situation he was in was that some of his properties were at risk of being foreclosed. There was a squad of lawyers working to prevent that.

“How come?”

“Don’t ask” Till mumbled, pinching harder.

Both men had their problems on their hands but neither of them was willing to talk about them. Outside, the rain pattered on the windshield getting swiped periodically by the windscreen wipers.

“Never mind,” Richard dismissed any kind of serious conversation. “What are you doing this evening?”

They stopped at a traffic light. Many people rushed by on the crosswalk. The BMW signature red backlights on the dashboard were shining in front of Richard. The radio was on, but at such low volume that it was almost inaudible.

“Kill myself” came Till’s blunt answer.

He didn’t really mean it, of course, and Richard knew what that sort of answer actually meant. Till was feeling hopeless that night, but not that hopeless. He was in a funny state of mind where he accepted his misery, reveling in the excuse to feel miserable and thus considering himself allowed to treat the malaise with alcohol and a few hours of indulging. Cherry on top, that evening he had a valuable companion to indulge with.

 “Same, I guess” Richard breathed out. “Hope you don't mind my company”. It was not a question, he was simply auto-inviting himself at Till’s place.

Till didn’t even bother to say that yes, he was ok with Richard staying for dinner because of course he was. He always was, or at least, most of the times.

“Good, I have some salmon and…” Till tapped on his knee trying to remember what kind of food he had at home. “I think I have some potatoes. Is it enough?” He was all alone at home those days and he knew Richard knew that.

“Enough, I’ll handle it”.

“Sounds great,” then Till’s voice turned sappy. “I’ll just sit down and have a beer while you cook, Liebling” he jested patting Richard’s leg.

“Shut up…”

“And then maybe you’ll give me a massage or something, Süße” Till went on, retrieving his hand before Richard could slap it away.

“My head’s splitting in two already” Richard hissed. “I’ll cook and then please, just let me pass out for a while” he pleaded as he took a turn.

“Oh… my pretty wifey’s got an headache” jiggled Till, reaching for Richard’s cheek to pinch it.

This time he couldn’t save his hand from a harsh slap.

-

It took them 20 minutes to get to Till’s place. Richard waited inside the car as the singer stepped out and hurried under the heavy rain for the garage door. As it slid open, the lights inside came to life and Richard could see Till’s small fleet of vehicles on display. There were the ever dirty off-road, the beautiful Harley next to the 1967 Camaro Richard had always wanted to drive but never found the occasion to, a couple of finely polished bicycles covered with tarps and then-

“Turn right and park next to the AMG” Till instructed, gesturing to make sure Richard could understajnd through the heavy clatter of the rain. Richard drove inside the neatly arranged, huge garage and parked where he’d been told to. Till waited for him at the foot of the stairs leading up to the first floor. His eyes casually fell on his off-road, the Defender. The thought of possibly not being able to drive it anymore around some of his best hectares during hunting season snaked inside his head, but he tried to swoosh the thought away repeating to himself that it was going to be alright in a few days.

In just a few days. Everything alright.

“The Camaro Till, remember?” came Richard’s voice. The guitarist had locked his BMW with the remote control key and was pacing toward Till.

“What about the Camaro?” Till was still thinking about his hectares. It was proving very difficult to just cut out the idea of losing them.

“What!? You said that- ”

Richard looked extremely dejected and Till suddenly remembered. The flock of lawyers, his agent, the hunting season and all his worries flew away. “Oh yeah, of course!”

Richard was getting closer, looking at him intensely. Expectantly.

“In spring. Just remind me, ok?” Till added quickly.

“You bet I will!”. Happy Richard made a little skip as he approached his colleague.

Till chuckled at his friend’s joy and led the way upstairs. They got into the dark living room and the distinctive scent of wood furniture welcomed Richard. Till flicked the lights on and they went straight to the kitchen after getting rid of their shoes and wearing some slippers.

Till’s Berlin house was huge and beautifully furnished. Everything was tailor-made and most of the furniture was carved in fine wood. Three floors of luxury over an underground swimming pool. Oliver especially loved the pool; the bassist couldn’t surf there, but he loved it so much that he was the very one person who made the most use of it.

Richard shed his coat and placed it on top of the kitchen peninsula while Till opened the fridge to inspect its contents.

“The salmon, yeah… here it is” he produced a blue plastic bag. “Bought yesterday” he mumbled. “It was a real bargain”.

Richard leaned over the peninsula and placed his chin on his linked hands, looking at Till.

The singer crouched down to check on the vegetable drawers. “Lemon,” he said and raised a hand holding a lemon to show Richard behind his back. “Carrots” he raised two carrots. “And umh…” he pensively shook the carrots.

“The lemon is enough. I’ll make baked salmon with lemon” said Richard, absent-mindedly lifting one hand to his temple. His head had started to fucking pound the moment he had entered Till’s warm house. The cold outside had apparently been keeping some of the pain at bay.

“Okay, sounds good” Till retrieved two lemons and stood up, slamming the fridge shut. When he turned he saw Richard massaging his forehead in slow circle movements, looking down at the marble top.

He carefully dropped the ingredients down and walked by Richard’s side to place a warm hand over his shoulder. Richard’s eyes flickered at Till’s touch.

“Is it bad?” Till asked softly, leaning forward to peer at Richard’s face.

“Bearable”.

Till lifted an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”

Richard straightened up. One forearm down. Place weight on a hand. Lift up. Repeat on the other side.

“Yeah”. More like nope.

“Did you take something?” Till let his hand down.

“I did” Richard remembered he had gulped down an Aspirin before leaving the clinic. “Didn’t work”.

“Do you want something now?”

“I’ll wait after dinner” Richard gathered himself up and moved to get what he needed to prepare the salmon. Till watched as his friend navigated his kitchen perfectly aware of where different things were stored. The younger man went for a low closet where pans and oven-related items were, then used the pan to carry a bunch of spices and herbs. It took him a while longer to spot the knives that Till had apparently moved from their usual spot.

“At least let me do the cooking” tried Till as he went to get some potatoes in a bowl to wash them in the sink.

Richard, on the opposite side of the kitchen, was cutting a sheet of aluminum foil to be placed inside the pan.

“Oh come on, I’m fine” the guitarist insisted and went on, moving on to get the salmon out of its wrap.

Till eyed him for a while, potatoes in hand. Richard was still wearing his beanie. His head was bent low as he inspected the salmon.

Deeming his friend was okay for the moment Till focused on the potatoes.

The two men chit-chatted about various easy topics as one sprinkled the fish with seasonings and the other chopped down the potatoes. Till opened a bottle of wine and offered a glass to Richard who despite his headache, accepted it. He only took a couple sips though, and then placed it down on the counter unfinished. Till noticed but said nothing.

After the salmon was put in the oven and the potatoes were boiling they decided to go and wait on the couch for dinner to be ready.

Till’s huge living room was full of unique ornaments and memorabilia. The singer dimmed the lights low and had to look for a while for the TV remote control since he couldn’t remember where he’d last placed it. Richard helped, moving around cushions and looking on the carpet. Eventually the remote was found on a small round table, behind a pile of books.

They flopped down on the two opposite sides of one of the leather couches, skipping the sitting to proceed directly to the sprawling. Richard laid down and placed his head on the armrest, leaving one arm to swing down and folding the other over his stomach. Till, on the other side, kept his upper body a little more straight so he could sip his wine.

They had to arrange their legs without tangling them together. Till stretched his legs on the front while Richard slipped his feet under Till’s thighs, to keep them warm. They watched for a while the news, without commenting.

After the gorgeous journalist had bid the nation a nice evening, Till’s one-of-a-kind cuckoo clock fixed on a wall behind the couch dutifully informed that it was 8 o’clock.

“Holy shit!” Richard jumped as the cuckoo made his sudden noisy appearance. The guitarist’s whole body jerked and his feet hit Till’s thighs. Till let out a hearty laugh when Richard turned toward the cuckoo to cast a sharp look and a few curses at it.

“Jesus Christ, I forgot about this fucker” the guitarist muttered laying back down. “Why did you take this out again?”

“Cause it’s nice!” The cuckoo clock had miniature people dancing in a circle and a small water wheel fed by a real flowing stream. It was beautiful and it had cost a small fortune to the person who had given it as a gift to the singer.

Richard tsked and trained his eyes back on the TV, hugging himself.

Till smiled. “Don’t get another heart attack when the oven timer goes off”.

Richard pierced him whit a pointed stare and then looked back at the TV, probably feeling like a cat who’d just had a ridiculous reaction to some silly joke played on him. Nevertheless, a tiny smile graced his lips.

-

The salmon came out really nice and so did the potatoes. With the TV on to provide some background noise, singer and guitarist sat down at the kitchen table under a low shaded chandelier. Till had spread a simple tablecloth without bothering to get out cloth napkins, folding instead some paper towels and placing forks and knives on top of them. There was a loaf of bread over a small wooden cutting board and some curls of butter on a tiny dish.

Richard had arranged the salmon and the potatoes on the plates as neatly as possible. Till had placed the bottle of wine on the table pouring some only for himself, since Richard had asked for a beer and was now filling up his tall glass with a Weiss.

They wolfed down the salmon pretty quickly as they were both hungry.  

Outside it was still raining hard.

-

Taking his glass, Till looked at Richard in front of him spreading some butter on a slice of bread. He let his eyes roam to the living room behind Richard’s back and to the wall, where a wide painting of a hunting party with a pack of dogs chasing a rabbit was hung.

Till placed down the glass, unable to drag his eyes away from the painting.

“You know what?” he said after taking a long breath.

Richard, who was just biting down the slice of bread, lifted his eyes on Till.

“Mh?”

“I was thinking…” Till cleared his throat, still looking past Richard. “I was thinking, what if they take my properties? What will I do?”

Richard stopped munching the bread and stared at Till with his cheeks full. The other lowered his eyes on him but didn’t look sad nor distressed. He was just wearing one of his typical expressions: mouth in a straight line and big clear eyes open wide in a genuine look, similar to the one bovines in the meadows give you. Pure, limpid. He kept the glass stem between two fingers, caressing it up and down.

Richard used the time he needed to swallow to think about something to say. Till waited.

“Till. Listen,” Richard began. He took a quick sip of beer to wash down the bread. “You are Till Lindemann and you have the best lawyer in Berlin, you should not- “

He got interrupted by Till’s raised hand.

“No,” the singer said. “Never mind that. What if they can’t win? What if I lose everything?” he asked slowly, still with the same neutral look.

“You’re not losing everything-”.

Till shook his head. “Okay, yeah. What if I lose my lands? Those are where I escape, where I go to write, where I fucking relax!” his quiet expression started to falter. “I need them!”

Richard sat back against the back of his chair and pursed his lips, looking down at his plate.

“I…”  Till placed down both hands on the table and took a deep breath before continuing. “I don’t ask for big mansions, I don’t ask for big cars or a swimming pool. They’re not that important for me, I need space and land. I need to see the sunrise over the fields…” he bit down on his lips. “… and the sundown between the trees.”

His eyes got even bigger. He was losing it.

Richard looked at him intently, waiting for him to finish but Till made loose fists of both hands and remained silent for a while. Then, without looking at Richard, he relaxed his shoulders and took again the fork, going for a potato.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so… sentimental” he said, stabbing the potato.

Richard waved a hand and straightened up to resume eating. “Don’t be stupid”.

“What?”

“I mean, I’d be feeling like that myself if this was happening to me. Don’t be sorry” explained Richard taking the unfinished slice of bread by the crust. He felt a stab of pain in his head but dismissed it. He had almost forgotten about the headache while he was eating.

Till munched slowly on the potato, eyes still low.

“Let’s assume you lose your lands, okay? Let’s do it” continued Richard, slice of bread in hand. “You still have your house, pardon, houses. You have your daughter, you have your health, you have Rammstein…”

Till looked up.

Richard went on, placing down the bread on the plate. “You have us, you have me” he placed a hand on his chest. “It’s not the end of the world, least to say of your world.” He stopped to see Till’s reaction.

The singer was hanging from Richard’s lips. He needed more so the guitarist went on.

“You could buy new land. Invest in something new and different. Maybe a ranch, who knows? Think about this mess like this: if you win you’re okay, everything’s the same as now; if you lose you can start everything anew. It would be fun and I would gladly help whatever you chose to do”.

Till smiled faintly. “You have a point”.

“Of course I do.”

“It’s not the end of the world” Till echoed Richard’s words.

The situation reminded the singer of the time when he was the one consoling Richard at the airport, right after the guitarist had discovered about his brother’s accident. After learning that his brother had already been operated Till had tried to convince Richard that the worse had passed. Drill the idea inside the other’s head until they repeat that by themselves. As when you try to remember something: if you say that out loud you’ll remember better.

“It’s not. But let me say,” Richard smiled. “…you’re going to win anyway” he declared and lifted again the slice of bread. 

Till sighed loudly.   “Right. Sorry for bothering you”

Richard, mouth full, shook his head.

… And his head hurt like crazy.

It proved difficult for Richard to finish his plate because with every munch came a stab of pain. He could cope with that pretty well but decided not to finish the beer. He just sat there and waited for Till to finish his dinner.

-

Till cleared the table and went to look for some dessert in the pantry. Richard was placing the dishes in the dishwasher, moving a little slower than usual. Till, slowed down himself because of the wine he had drunk in personal, didn’t really notice Richard’s small grimaces of pain.

When Richard finished loading the dishwasher he sat down again at the table and took off his beanie, hoping that would help. He had gelled up his hair that morning styling them on an angle, but judging by the feel of them when he removed the beanie it was a mess. He brushed his fingers through it a few times hoping it would fix it somewhat. Vain hope.

Till came back with a cardboard box of lemon cream filled biscuits.

“Fancy one?” he asked sitting down and opening the box.

Richard placed the beanie on the table and leaned on an elbow, cradling his head on one hand.

“No, thanks. Do you have something for my headache?” he asked, gritting his teeth.

Another stab. And then another.

Till finally noticed.

“Does it still hurt?!” he asked standing up right away. “You should’ve told me already!” he hurried, or rather, wobbled with some speed away to another room, bumping into a wall as he took a turn into the darkness of the hallway.

Richard flinched as another wave of pain washed over his brain and just closed his eyes while he waited for Till.

“Here” came Till’s voice from a distance after a minute or so. Some muffled steps, another bump and he came into the kitchen. Richard opened one eye to check on him.

“Hold on” mumbled Till as he took a glass and then went for a bottle of water inside the fridge. There was urgency in his movements.

“Till, for fuck sake, I’m not dying. Relax” Richard faintly smiled when his friend sloshed some water out of the glass in his haste to fill it. Till stopped abruptly and looked at him with his big eyes.

“I know!” he exclaimed, “but I don’t want you to be in pain”.

He gave Richard the glass and a small tablet.

“What is this?” asked Richard, placing the tablet on his tongue without waiting for the answer.

“Ketoprofen” answered Till, looking closely at his friend. “Should work”.

He stood there and watched as Richard gulped down the medicine. “Do you wanna lie down?”

Richard felt a subtle shiver run through his whole body.

…Really?

He suddenly felt extremely tired.

Oh come on! 

“Umh, may be better,” he said.

“You wanna go in bed?” Till got closer. He looked worried.

“No, no. The couch is enough. I’ll just rest for a while and then I’ll go home”.

Another shiver shook him.

No way, I have a lot of stuff to do tomorrow!

Richard was starting to feel really miserable as he recognized his symptoms. Not the flu, not the flu! he prayed in his head.

“Okay, come”. Till forgot about the biscuits and nudged Richard to stand up and move to the couch. Richard took another sip of water and dragged himself to the living room.

The singer gathered a couple of soft pillows and placed them against an armrest on the longest couch.

“Thank you”  mouthed Richard as he positioned himself on top of the couch. Till waited for him to lay down propped on the pillows and then unfolded a plaid to spread it over Richard.

“Damn, Till…” Richard took the hems of the plaid and pulled it up to his chin. “You’re so caring”.

Till was bent to tuck the other end of the plaid under Richard’s feet. “Always been for you,” he said matter-of-factly. “Are you comfortable?”

“Yes, thanks”. He indeed felt comfortable and pampered in between the stabs of pain inside his skull.

Toll,” the singer straightened. “Just relax and tell me if you need anything. I’ll keep the TV on a low volume” he said and went for a smaller couch perpendicular to Richard’s. He flopped down and stretched to take the remote he’d left on the low table in front of the couches.

Richard let his head fall back on the pillow and took a deep breath, quite content of being where he was despite his physical condition and despite being quite certain he had a fever.

Oh well, the Ketoprofen will take care of that. I don’t even feel like smoking…

-

After 10 minutes, or half an hour (Richard was not sure about that in his fever induced haze) the guitarist heard Till talk, presumably on the phone. He made an effort to focus on what Till was saying and realized he had, at some point, closed his eyes. Cracking them open he saw Till laying on the other couch, pretty much in his same position, looking at the TV as he held his phone to one ear.

“Yeah, it’s been a long day. No. No, they didn’t…..” then a long pause. “Yeah, I know…. Well…”

 He was watching the TV, scratching his developing beard with one hand.

A long discussion about what had been said and done at the bank that day followed, but Richard couldn’t really understand much. The other interlocutor, who seemed to be fairly acquainted with Till’s woes, was talking more than Till himself. Till was keeping his voice relatively low. After a while, he cast a look at Richard who was just then staring at him.

“Herr Holtzmann told me, yeah… I’ll be seeing him tomorrow,” apparently deeming Richard was doing well enough since he was awake and looking back, Till shifted his eyes back to the TV.  “Yes, he’ll arrive by train and-”

Richard decided to let his eyes fall shut again and in less than thirty seconds he was out.

-

Actually, an entire hour had passed since the two men had moved to the living room. Till had been constantly keeping an eye on his friend who had fallen asleep pretty fast after dinner. He’d let him rest in peace while he’d sobered up watching a documentary about Arctic animals. Walruses and narwhals had almost made him forget about his problems, when Peter, one of his few closest friends, had called to ask exactly about them.

As Peter had asked him about this Herr Holtzann man, Till had looked up at Richard for the umpteenth time and had been pretty surprised to see the guitarist looking back, more or less awake. Till didn’t even have time to glance back at the TV for a couple of seconds that the guitarist was asleep again.

The call with Peter had gone on for far too long. Till had to make up that someone was calling him on another phone to shut his friend up from telling all of his possible opinions and bits of advice. The documentary about Arctic animals had finished as well and now they were broadcasting a program about gold digging in South Africa.

Outside it was still raining, Till could hear the water dripping down the drainpipe. The cuckoo had gone to sleep, switching into night-mode and no longer making his appearance every hour.

The singer stretched all of his limbs and yawned, flexing his spine and rolling his joints languidly. Still a bit cranked up, he sat up and looked at Richard. The guitarist had somewhat rolled on his side and was now facing the back of the couch, tangled up in the plaid. Till checked the time on his wristwatch.

23.12

It was getting late and Richard was supposed to go home, so the singer stood up and hobbled toward him. He slightly bent to touch Richard on the shoulder.

“Reesh” he gently shook him.

“Mhh…”

“It’s a quarter past eleven”.

No reaction. Richard didn’t even open his eyes.

“How are you feeling?” Till asked softly.

No answer.

Till carefully kneeled on the carpet. This was going to take long.

“Reesh…” he placed a hand over his friend’s bicep and shook. Richard murmured something inaudible.

Till wounded an arm over him and leaned closer, rolling his colleague slightly. Richard felt humid. His clothes were not wet or something but he radiated quite a lot of heat and humidity.

“Reesh,” Till placed a palm over his forehead and, as he feared, Richard was burning. “Richard, wake up”.

He was obviously feverish. The headache had been nothing less than the prelude. Considered how hot he felt he probably wasn’t in the condition to drive home safely, neither to be taken home and dropped there alone. He was to stay at Till’s place for the night and hopefully the morning after he would be well enough to return home by himself.

Till sighed, not for having an ill Richard over for the night, but for the whole disastrous day coming to an end with his friend sick.

 “Richard, you gotta wake up and move to the bed. You have a fever and here it’s getting too cold” urged Till shaking the other man.

“I gotta go home…” mumbled Richard trying to open his eyes.

“No, you’re gonna stay here. You got to get up and go to bed though”.

“No need…”

Richard struggled past the fog his brain was clogged with and moved. He felt incredibly weak and cold now that warmer parts of his body were getting exposed to room temperature. He slowly rolled on his back and intense shivers run through his whole body. He couldn’t even keep his eyes open for long.

“Yeah, maybe I’ll stay…” he slurred.

“Good idea!” the singer exclaimed. “But try to get up, I’ll help you to the bed”.

“What bed?...”

“Whatever bed, I have six fucking rooms!”

“Alright…” Richard tried to sit up.

Till gave him a hand. Once sitting, Richard leaned on the back of the couch and closed his eyes again, looking spent.

“Reesh, come on” begged Till.

He untangled Richard from the plaid and wrapped it around his shoulders tightly. Richard forced his eyes open and gave Till a thankful look. His glassy green eyes fixed for a while on Till’s before rolling down and slowly falling shut again.

“No no no, come on” Till circled an arm around him and pulled him up on his feet. Richard shivered against his side.

Poor thing was really ill. Thank God Till was bulkier and could hold him up without too many difficulties.

“Okay, now let’s go to bed, huh? How does it sound?” Till tried to encourage his friend before reaching for the remote on the small table and turning off the TV.

“Sounds good…” came Richard feeble answer.

The two of them trudged down the dimly lit hallway and somehow climbed the stairs to the second floor where most bedrooms where. Till navigated through a couple of them only to assess that they were all cold since he was not heating them up more than the bare minimum to prevent humidity problems.

Richard was just dragging himself along, not really caring. He kept the plaid wrapped around his shoulders grasping it with one hand. It fell behind his back like a cape.

“Richard,” Till closed the door of the last room he’d found to be too cold. “I think you’ll have to stay in bed with me”. As absurd as it sounded it was the easiest solution.

“…What?” asked Richard numbly.

“It’s the warmest room” Till explained concisely taking him down the hallway.

Till’s bedroom was enormous. There were a king size bed, a velvet chaise longue, an oak table facing the floor to ceiling windows occupying an entire wall, other than fine tall closets and a vertical piano. Till’s housemaid, who used to come thrice a week when Till was alone at home, had a lot to polish, vacuum and fix inside the room every time.

 The curtains were all drawn and the room was shrouded in darkness. The rain was occasionally pattering against the windows.

Till flicked the lights on and stepped over the thick carpet in front of the bed. He unwrapped Richard from the plaid and lifted the bed covers so the guitarist could get under them. Richard sat down on the mattress and slowly, shivering, took off his jeans. Till gave him a hand.

“It’s …fucking cold” Richard murmured through his chattering teeth.

“Get under the covers,” said Till as he folded his jeans. Richard took the hems of his sweater and struggled to take it off.

“I’m all sweaty…” his voice came out muffled as his head stuck in the collar of the sweater. He was not that sweaty but Till could understand his discomfort. He placed Richard’s jeans on the nightstand and went for one of the tall closets. He swung open one door and rummaged through a pile of t-shirts to get one for Richard.

He found a white round neck t-shirt and got back to Richard, who’d finally managed to disentangle himself from the sweater. Instead of just taking the t-shirt Till was offering, he slowly stood up on the soft carpet.

What?” asked Till, perplexed.

“Need to freshen up, …feel gross” explained Richard, brows furrowing in the effort to not shiver too much.

“Okay, go” Till gave him way. “No… just go to the one in here” he grasped Richard by an elbow and redirected him to the en-suite bathroom. “And take the shirt!” he slung the clean shirt over Richard’s shoulder.

The guitarist wobbled to the en-suite bathroom. He looked pretty miserable only clad in his shirt and boxers, his thighs and arms covering in goosebumps as he walked through the room. He disappeared inside the en-suite and left the door ajar, without even bothering to close it.

When Till heard the tap water running, he left the bedroom in search of some stronger medicine for Richard’s fever. As he walked in front of a window down the hallway he noticed it had stopped raining.

In semi-darkness he went to the first-floor bathroom and took a packet of tablets for Richard, then moved to the kitchen to get a glass and a bottle of water. Before climbing back upstairs he set the house alarm and fixed a couple of things in the kitchen.

Just as he was stepping back inside his bedroom, Richard was staggering out from the bathroom. The guitarist cast a glance at Till and shivered.

“Ahh, Till…” he whimpered and tried to hurry to the bed.

“Ready for bed?” Till placed the glass on the nightstand and uncorked the bottle.

Richard, fresh shirt on and hair somewhat fixed, slipped under the covers only to shiver even more intensely.

“So cold!” he wailed, burying himself under the duvet and curling up in a tight ball. Only his black hair was peeking out.

Incredible how a 5’11’’ man could roll up into such a small ball.

“Oh come on, be a man and endure it!” chuckled Till, nudging with a hand the curled-up shape somewhere around its midsection.

“…fuck off…” came the answer from under the sheets.

Till poured some water into the glass. “Come out and take this”.

 Richard slowly uncurled and propped himself up on an elbow to get the pill Till offered him. As he was taking the glass, Till noticed again his dry and chapped hands.

“What happened to your hands?” he asked standing in front of the bed, waiting for Richard to drink.

Richard at first looked rather perplexed about what Till was asking, then he remembered something probably unpleasant, given the face he made. He didn’t say much though.

“Nothing... It’s the cold” he dismissed quickly before swallowing the pill with some water.

Till was not convinced but dropped the subject as he saw the guitarist shiver for the hundredth time.

“Okay, now lay down and sleep. I’ll be back in a minute” he said taking the glass from Richard and placing it back on the nightstand.

Richard gave him a last tired look and buried himself back under the soft duvet.

The sheets smelled like softener and had been probably slept on only for a night or two. Richard flopped his head down on the pillow and followed Till with his eyes as the singer rounded the bed to get to the other side.

“Are you sleeping here?” Richard murmured,  squeezing his hands between his thighs to warm them up.

It had started to rain again, he could hear the distant soft sound of it.

“Well, it’s my bed you know” answered Till pretty bluntly.

He switched on his bedside lamp and switched off the ceiling light. The room fell into comfortable darkness as Till dimmed the warm light down to the minimum. “Good night”.

Richard only let out a low hum and closed his eyes. He was simply too tired to think about the situation. He heard Till’s footsteps around the room as the other man opened and closed a drawer, walked outside the room for a moment and then came back hushing the door behind his back, then again stepped around back and forth before walking away to the en-suite bathroom closing the door with a click.

-

Teeth brushed and body showered, Till came out of the bathroom followed by a cloud of steam. The bedroom was relatively colder than the bathroom he’d just came out so he quickly made his way to the bed.

The bed stand lamp was casting a warm light over Richard’s shape. The guitarist was lying on his side, facing the center of the bed, still tightly curled up and clutching the duvet close to his chest.

Till’s eyes softened at the sight and for a moment he stood there, looking at his friend. sinking in a feeling he rarely felt save for his daughter.

Richard looked so soft, so vulnerable lying sick in his bed. His hair was a mess.

Till cocked his head to the right. He was getting cold but he didn’t move. He stood there, knees touching the duvet.

Richard was obviously sleeping, Till could tell by the rhythmic sound he was making as he breathed in and out. It was barely audible.

Getting quite too chilled, the singer finally bent to pick up the covers and pull them back so he could get under. He couldn’t drag his eyes away from Richard’s face as he sat down and swung his legs up, immediately covering them with the cold sheets. Richard moved a little and clutched the duvet harder as if he unconsciously feared someone was stealing it from him.

Till swallowed. Awkwardly, he noticed he’d been openly staring at his sleeping friend. Clearing his throat as silently as he could, he laid down on the mattress.

Immobile, he stared at the ceiling, setting his jaw at the cold.

Not really thinking he slipped a hand toward Richard until he brushed something smooth, probably a knee. Around Richard’s body, the bed was tantalizingly warm.

Till closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His mind roamed to exactly a week prior when by his side instead of his guitarist there was a woman. Her blonde hair was laying on top of the pillow in soft waves shining under the very same warm light coming from the nightstand. Till had come to bed after a shower, as he had done just now. She was waiting for him under the covers and when he had reached for her and touched a hot thigh she had jiggled, scooting closer to him. She was so warm, so pliable. In less than five minutes Till had been sweating under her caresses, lost in her spell…

Before anything else other than his imagination could stir, Till snapped his eyes open.

Outside it was still raining. The analog alarm clock by his left was ticking, its hands pointing at 5 to midnight. Till flipped a hand out from under the covers and switched the light off.

As darkness fell he remembered about the foreclosing.

His woes crashed back on him like an avalanche over a small valley. His heart began to pound and he completely forgot about the feverish Richard by his side and about the blond beauty he had savored that beautiful night. His comfortable bed became his coffin, in which he laid as a defenseless prey being eaten alive by his own anxiety and worries.

He lost consciousness an hour later, more by mental exhaustion than anything else.