Tangible Schizophrenia


Calling Elvis

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R.
Pairing: Frings/Ballack, Van Persie/Lehmann, C. Ronaldo/Van Nistelrooy, a little Van Persie/Fàbregas
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: This is absolutely fiction and not real and I don’t know these people at all. Any resemblance to any real-life record company is completely accidental.
Notes: Title references the Dire Straits song.
Summary: Late nights aren’t all that fun.


Something was bothering Robin. He grunted and shoved his face further into whatever part of Jens’ body happened to be there, only to get dumped into the mattress when the other man dragged himself away. Robin reflexively lashed out with his arm and got his elbow into Jens’ knee, but Jens just grabbed his neck and yanked him forward by it, sliding him along the headboard so he was behind the other man.

It was the damn phone. That was—Jens answered it in a grumpy mumble. As Robin woke up, his back slowly came into focus, pale and broad and smooth except for a double series of parallel angled scratches running down both shoulderblades.

“Quoi?” Jens suddenly said, voice loud and harshly clear.

Well, that had to be Thierry on the other end. Robin swung himself around and looked past Jens’ side to the bedside clock, then grimaced. At this hour, it probably wasn’t good news. “What is it?”

Now talking in rapidfire French, Jens irritably waved Robin away. At least, Robin assumed that was what the other man meant to do, since Jens really was waving at the overpriced piece of junk abstract art on the wall. Then Jens dropped his head into that hand and started rubbing at the sides of his forehead with his thumb and forefinger.

He snarled a little when Robin pushed past him, but was too busy listening to Thierry to make an effective grab at Robin’s shoulder. After shrugging him off, Robin got the laptop from the nightstand and dropped it on the pillows. He just meant to leave it there for a moment while he got the cables untangled, but before he could get to that, Jens swung an arm around his waist and started dragging him back again.

Robin cursed and dug his heels into the mattress, then twisted hard so he ran up against Jens’ chest instead. “Goddamn it, I’m booting up. Let go.”

He was close enough to hear the harried amusement in Thierry’s voice. *Oh, sorry, was I interrupting? I thought about that, but it seems like I’m always interrupting no matter what time I pick.*

“You weren’t,” Jens flatly said. Then he went back to French again. He made another, weaker attempt to stuff Robin behind him before giving up to irritably yank at his own hair.

What was his problem? It wasn’t like Robin was some one-night-stand who didn’t need to worry about what was going on, and if it was Jens being too fucking paranoid to…well, then he shouldn’t even be talking about whatever over a cell-phone. At least not till that supplier in Russia got back to Robin.

“Damn it.” Jens pulled his hand out of his hair and stared at the far wall for a couple moments, thinking hard and clearly not liking his conclusions. He only twitched a little when Robin reached for the laptop this time.

After considering that, Robin took his hand off the laptop and moved it to Jens’ thigh. He pushed at the sheets till he got to bare skin and was just started to get settled when Jens went and dumped him off again, getting up to stomp towards the closet and muttering angrily in German all the way. Like an afterthought, his cell came flying back towards Robin—and that was just about all that stopped Robin from getting off the bed himself and lunging at the bastard.

Instead he put the phone to his ear. “Thierry?”

*Robin! Jens didn’t cut me off to go kill someone, did he? Because if he did, you need to stop him.* Thierry had to be closer to ground zero of whatever it was, but he still managed to keep a sense of humor. *We don’t have anyone free to make bail for him.*

“He’s getting dressed. You know him, he can’t go kill anybody till he’s put in his cuff-links,” Robin muttered, rolling onto his back. “I just tried to get him to calm down, but he shoved me off before I even got a hand on his cock.”

The pause that followed was…gently disbelieving. *Robin, you know, there are other ways to get him to relax besides sex. Of course, I’m not sure if they’d keep him in one place for long enough, and that’s important right now, so…hmmm…*

“And I don’t know what’s going on.” Never mind about the laptop, Robin decided. If he went that route, then he’d have to stay back instead of seeing what was happening.

*Oh, I’m sorry. Claudio Pizarro got into an…well, call it an ‘altercation’…with Rio Ferdinand at a club downtown, and some things were said that shouldn’t have been, and well…*


Thierry coughed. *Works for Kahn?*

“Then why is Jens getting upset? Wouldn’t he be happy Kahn’s getting banged around, too? I thought he hated the man,” Robin said. A couple muffled thuds from the closet made him push up on one elbow, but Jens didn’t come out yet. “Or—wait, are they—”

*We’re still all under the same label, and apparently it was bad enough so that the higher-ups want us to ‘cool off’. They’re punishing everyone—well, they’re calling it preventative measures, but really they’re trying to restrict what we can do to retalia—ah, act in self-defense,* Thierry replied, annoyance starting to come through his manners. *Basically, late-night legal meeting Jens has to go to and argue his case, even though we’re the abused party.*

Robin sat up all the way and began having second thoughts about starting some hacking right now. He didn’t think Jens would tell him to stop doing that—on the contrary, actually—but Jens’ professionalism probably would keep him from actually asking Robin to screw over his superiors. Which was okay, since Robin had already guessed that’d be what the man wanted and was perfectly happy to be proactive.

Thierry was elaborating on how stupid the whole situation was, but just then Jens walked out in full business armor, still adjusting his shirt-cuffs. He glanced over at Robin, then looked again; it was too dark over there to see his expression. “Are you filled in now?”

“Yeah, but no thanks to—” Robin bit his lip, cutting himself off. After a moment, he put his hand over the end of the cell and looked directly at where he guessed Jens’ face would be. “Can I come?”

The room did funny things to his voice, the echoes thinning it out and raising the pitch; Robin grimaced, but figured trying to repeat himself would only result in the same effect. He watched Jens stand there, still messing with his sleeves.

Jens finally snorted and abruptly turned to face the mirror so he could check his tie. He spoke just as Robin was about to throw himself back down on the bed. “You have to wear a suit. Like it’s meant to be worn. And you can’t—”

“I won’t embarrass you, for God’s sake. I’m not brainless,” Robin said, getting up. Now it sounded like he was laughing, which he wasn’t really because one, this was serious and two, he hated suits. “I’ll even let you do my tie if it makes you feel better.”

* * *

“Lately I’ve been wondering if I should just change to the night-shift for good,” Torsten said. He had his chair back down almost all the way so his head was below the level of the desk. If he wasn’t periodically throwing popcorn in the air to try and catch it in his mouth, Michael never would’ve known he was there. “It’s when I do most of my work anyway. But I’d miss the morning coffee session.”

Michael propped his head up on one hand and stared at Torsten’s monitor, willing it to show him something good. “There should be an evening one too, since half the time everyone comes in then, but I don’t know why not.”

The programs stopped running and spat out yet another ‘incomplete’ at him. With a sigh, he dragged the keyboard over and opened up a window to take a look at the coding…and something hit him in the back of the head. He stopped typing, then turned around.

Torsten pushed himself up on his elbows, looking faintly apologetic. “Sorry. It bounced funny,” he mumble-crunched. Then he held out the popcorn bag. “Sure you don’t want any?”

Probably about a hundred fluffy white kernels were scattered around on the floor. After a moment, Michael shrugged, took a big handful, and attempted to figure out where the bug in the program was this time. “Or maybe you just have lousy coordination.”

One lone kernel soared up, traveled in a beautifully symmetric arch and finally landed delicately on Torsten’s outstretched tongue. He held the pose for a moment before both of them cracked up, making him have to use his hand to keep the popcorn in his mouth. “Nah. We’ve just been here so long that I’m getting bored with being good.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just…okay, I don’t know what the problem is,” Michael groaned, half-turning back to the computer. He aimlessly scrolled with the mouse before throwing himself back in his seat and slouching down. “Sorry.”

“Don’t know like you need to go look up things, or don’t know like you need a coffee break?” Torsten finished his current mouthful before wiping his hands off on a tissue and setting the popcorn bag on the desk. He spun his desk clock around to check the time, then shrugged. “I think there’s not really an evening one ‘cause the people coming in are already sleepless and awake, and the people going out just want to get home and…have dinner.”

Michael glanced at Torsten, but the other man’s face was pretty blank. “Dinner?”

“I’m actually on the hungry side right now,” Torsten shrugged. He looked at the computer and grimaced, then started to get up. “Want to take a break and get something to eat?”

“Hungry,” Michael slowly repeated. He noticed his chair was shaking a little and looked down to see that he’d started to jiggle his foot. He made that stop and pushed down on his hand just to make sure, then glanced back up at Torsten. “Okay, are you asking me out?”

Torsten blinked and pushed his hands in his jeans-pockets. “Well, since I don’t want you to think it’s just about having messy sex in elevators…”

“Oh.” It was a good thing the popcorn was on the desk, because if it’d been any closer, the heat in Michael’s cheeks probably would’ve made them go up in flames. He hastily shut down the computer, making sure nothing would happen till he could get back to it, and then got up. “It’s kind of late for dinner, isn’t it?”

Damn it, not what he’d meant to say. That made Torsten raise an eyebrow. “Stop nitpicking and say yes, Torsten, I’d love to grab some food without Bastian and Lukas giving me pointers on how to play footsie.”

“‘Yes, Torsten, I’d love to’…what? Pointers? Were they doing that last—damn it, I told you I was bad at this,” Michael grumbled. Something crunched under his foot and he jerked it up, then sighed at the popcorn kernel he’d just squashed. “Your floor’s a mess.”

“Doesn’t matter unless you were thinking about getting down on it.” Torsten paused, checking Michael’s reaction, and then laughed and scratched at the back of his head. “Okay. I’m losing my touch. Let’s just go get something to e—”

He lifted his hands and grabbed Michael’s waist just about when Michael’s sudden burst of daring had given out, so Michael stayed put. If he kissed Torsten long enough, maybe he’d get over this stupid blushing thing. Something to test, anyway.

A low rowl noise startled them apart. Michael looked at the door, but nobody was there, and besides, it’d sounded like it’d come from…he grinned at the other man. “You really meant it about dinner.”

Looking embarrassed, Torsten pressed his arm against his stomach. It let out another growl and he swore under his breath, then snorted and turned around. “Come on, Micha. You obviously need to learn about what dinner means.”

“Lick everything clean?” Michael asked, following the other man through the door. He had to pull up pretty quickly to avoid stepping on Torsten’s heels.

After a moment, Torsten shook his head and started walking again. “And remember to swallow.” He glanced over his shoulder, then chuckled. “If you ever learned to blush on command, you could probably take over the world.”

“Nice to know somebody likes it when I do that,” Michael muttered, pressing at his face. Then he realized Torsten probably was the only other person he knew who was in at this hour and put his hands down. He was fine with blushing if Torsten was the only one making fun of him for it.

* * *

The beginnings of a yawn started to creep up on Thierry and he hurriedly ducked his head to hide it, only to find himself staring down into a steaming cup of coffee. He blinked, took it and sipped at it, then shot a grateful look at Freddie. “Jens should be here in another few minutes.”

Kahn sighed and checked his watch again. “We’ve been here for seven minutes already. Shouldn’t an emergency call result in an emergency response?”

An odd grinding sound came from Freddie’s direction; Thierry looked over to see the other man’s jaw slowly moving from side-to-side, then hastily sat forward to distract people’s attention. “Jens is very concerned and is rushing to get here. The moment I told him, he was out of bed and on his way—he just happens to live some distance from—”

The door opened and Jens came through, a tight smile on his face. “Oh, so you’ve been waiting. I’m very sorry about that; I came here as fast as I could.”

Somebody else was standing behind him, but Jens was blocking the way with his arm…Thierry got up with a murmured excuse about needing the toilet, then went out as Jens came in. He didn’t have anything new to add anyway, he and Freddie weren’t even really supposed to be in the meeting, and he’d been staying around mostly to make sure somebody would counter Kahn’s snide comments. He could more or less predict the conversation that was about to happen, whereas whenever Robin was around, things usually became very interesting.

Especially when Robin was annoyed, which it seemed like he was now. He had just leaned against the wall when Thierry came out, hands shoved in his pockets, and was now busy trying to melt the painting across from him with his glare. “Got kicked out, too?”

“No, but I probably would’ve been in a few minutes, so I thought I’d save everyone the fuss,” Thierry said.

He heard Freddie come through the door behind him and started to turn, but Freddie just said, “Like things could get any worse” when he saw Robin and stomped off towards the men’s toilet. Relieved that there wouldn’t be that fight to deal with, Thierry turned back to see Robin now directing a questioning look at him.

“It hasn’t been very pleasant around here. Freddie’s just tired.” The other man kept looking at Thierry strangely and Thierry gradually realized he probably was staring too much. “Oh, sorry. I just…can’t help noticing that you’re wearing a suit.”

“Well, if I’d known it’d just get me left at the damn door, I wouldn’t even have bothered,” Robin snapped. He hooked one finger over his tie and irritably pulled it loose, then scratched at some bruises on his neck; they were old enough to be at the greenish blurry stage. “Why the hell didn’t he just tell me to fuck off back to bed, like usual?”

Thierry blinked, needing a moment to put together everything. “Jens…let you come? You didn’t have to trick him into it?”

Robin shot him a miffed look. “Honestly, Thierry, I can play it straight if I want to.”

“No, think about this. Jens let you come. I don’t think he’d change his mind about it at the last minute, because he thinks very carefully about how he goes into a meeting where Kahn will be and what kind of effect things will have, and…he must want you out here for a good reason,” Thierry said.

Blank look from Robin.

A little bit of a headache was starting up. And Thierry was more than a little exhausted himself, but he made himself try to phrase things better. “Think about why are you here, not why are you not there.”

A flicker of understanding passed over Robin’s face. He opened his mouth, then closed it and frowned, staring at the floor as he thought. Then he snorted and pushed himself off the wall. “Which floor is this—I’ve never been here before. What else is on it? I need a computer. And a fuse-box…well, no, maybe I can do it through the elevator…”

Thankfully, Thierry still had his coffee. He took a good, long drink while mulling over the pros and cons of giving Robin assistance with wreaking the kind of havoc in which he specialized, then shrugged. Jens probably had already thought about all of that, so he’d trust that he didn’t need to rehash it himself. “It’s an executive admin floor. Nothing but offices and meeting rooms—I think they’re all locked right now.”

“Elevator it is then. Locks wouldn’t be a problem, except Jens didn’t let me grab any of the stuff I usually carry when he was making me put on this stupid thing,” Robin said, flicking derisively at his coat-lapel. “I should be set up in ten, fifteen minutes. Can you keep anybody from walking out till then?”

Thierry checked his watch, then briefly listened to the muffled words coming through the door. “It should be okay if you go right now. It usually takes Jens and Oliver that long to get through the opening arguments.”

“Kahn.” Considering he’d never met the man as far as Thierry knew, Robin managed to put a lot of disgust and contempt into that one word. He walked away with a dramatically dismissive hand-flourish. “I’m just waiting for the day Jens says okay to going after him. It’d be so easy…”

* * *

After bashing his hand on a dozen other things, Ruud finally found his madly-ringing cell on the nightstand and thumbed it open, then put it to his ear. “Whoever this is, I hope you’ve got a good reason for calling or I’ll break your neck.”

Cristiano groaned in agreement and wedged his head beneath Ruud’s shoulderblade, forcing Ruud to roll over. His hand clamped down on Ruud’s arm and tugged back, so Ruud snaked his hand down to pet at Cristiano’s hip. The other man relaxed, apparently dozing again.

*Ferdinand and Pizarro got in a stupid barfight, and Pizarro’s got a concussion and we think Ferdinand might have a couple broken fingers,* Ljungberg acerbically replied.

Ruud lifted his elbow high and back, getting it around Cristiano’s head, then put it down on the mattress. He had no idea who Freddie was talking—wait, no, he did. Damn it. Damn, damn, damn. And he’d generally gotten along with Rio, even if he hadn’t spoken to the man since he’d left MU. “What else? There’s more, isn’t there?”

*Well, Jens and Kahn are stuck in a midnight meeting trying to convince the Powers That Be not to forbid us from using all legal means possible to counterattack, and I’m calling you and I hope you can guess why.* To be dead honest, it sounded like the reason why was that Ljungberg was angry about not being in said meeting and wanted to take it out on somebody. *Any other questions?*

“No, thank you. Thanks for the notice,” Ruud muttered. He turned off the phone and put it back on the nightstand, then let his head fall back on the pillow. He stared at the ceiling.

Surprisingly enough, he didn’t seem to be really thinking about anything, aside from his surprise at not thinking about anything. At this point, this kind of disturbance just seemed natural.

The weight on his arm shifted: Cristiano rose over him, hair rumpled and eyes oddly wide in the dark, their whites touched with an eerie glow. “What was that about?” he asked.

“Politicking at work. Kahn and Lehmann are at it again.” The two of them would probably end up embarrassing themselves with their sniping in front of the higher-ups, and then they’d all get stuck with stupid directives that’d tie their hands with it came to dealing with further infringements by MU Records. And God, Ruud didn’t even want to think about his old label’s response to this latest incident.

Cristiano stayed crouched over him, head slightly cocked in an expectant position. He idly tapped his fingers against Ruud’s chest a few times, then glanced down to watch. After a moment, he looked up again, lips pressed tightly together. “Is that all?”

“I don’t want to think about it. I have to deal with it all day and when I come home, I’m just—tired,” Ruud said. His voice was just shy of snappish and he felt a little guilty about that, both because he was blaming the wrong person and because Cristiano did deserve to know more. Though that didn’t necessarily mean it’d be a good idea for Cristiano to know the whole story.

Silence. Cristiano’s fingers on Ruud’s chest were perfectly still, and Ruud had to strain to hear even the other man’s breath.

Ruud bit back a sigh and pulled his other arm out of the sheets, raising his hands to Cristiano’s face. He stopped when they were three or four centimeters away, thinking again about telling Cristiano the rest, and he’d just opened his mouth when the other man suddenly leaned down. Cristiano had stooped when Ruud’s lips were still closed and so when they touched, Ruud’s lips folded over the other man’s whole mouth. But then Cristiano opened his mouth to match, his tongue sliding almost shyly over Ruud’s bottom lip. Ruud put his hands against either side of Cristiano’s face and pulled him closer.

He pressed forward for a second, then trailed off towards the side. His mouth pulled away just as it’d reached the end of Ruud’s jaw. “Then sleep,” he murmured. “I hate seeing you like this. Whatever it is, you can take care of it tomorrow when you wake up.”

That last part had been lilted, as if Cristiano had wanted to make it into a question but hadn’t quite been able to for some reason. He waited a moment, then pushed his arm beneath Ruud’s neck and curved it around; Ruud draped his arm over Cristiano’s back and threaded his fingers into the other man’s hair, using the hold to nudge Cristiano’s head onto his shoulder. He reached down to mold his other hand to Cristiano’s thigh, occasionally rubbing his fingers along the hipbone.

And he stared at the ceiling for a while. His lips were moving, but he didn’t hear what he was saying, and Cristiano definitely didn’t: Cristiano was asleep again fairly quickly, not worried at all about leaving it all in Ruud’s hands. Hopefully he’d be fortunate for choosing that.

* * *

The plastic bag hanging from Michael’s hand was so stuffed with food that its handles had been pulled almost into dental-floss diameter by the weight, digging painfully into his fingers. He lifted up the bag and got one hand under it for support, then tried to pull the handle-strips wider, but only succeeded in nearly dumping out the food on the ground-floor lobby’s spectacular marble floor. “They have developed some good models for poker, though.”

“I know, I heard about those, but the computer never manages to beat a live opponent, right? In school I learned dozens of different ways to minimize risk and maximize gain, but they only really work in school,” Torsten said, punching for the elevator. He stepped back to stand beside Michael, looking up at the changing numbers. “It’s that human factor.”

“True. I don’t think that’ll ever be programmable myself—I had quite a few classmates interested in trying anyway—but the research is interesting just to see how people think about it.” Michael hastily pulled up the handles again and pinched them with his fingers, then experimentally let the bag gradually hang from his hand that way. But the handles started to slip out of his fingers; that way clearly wasn’t going to offer enough support. Sighing, he slipped his hand through the handle-holes again and just hoped the elevator would come before the plastic cut right through his palm. “Actually, why would you be using risk-gain calculations, anyway? I mean, it doesn’t seem to be what you really do.”

Torsten moved his elbow enough to nudge Michael in the arm, which stopped Michael from babbling any more when it was clear that Torsten wasn’t even offended. “I don’t. Not with this job, but the first couple jobs I had right out of school were with a stock brokerage.”

“Really? Why’d you switch?” Michael asked.

“Well, it was boring.” First Torsten made a face, and then he ruined it by letting out a slightly abashed laugh. “That’s the truth. I get paid well here, but I would’ve been very rich if I’d stayed in that line of work. Rich and losing brain cells every day. And I like the people—well, believe it or not, but it’s a little easier to find people who aren’t burned-out and bitter in the music industry than in stock trading. Damn it, the elevator’s taking too long. I’m starving.”

Michael dug around in the bag, then came up with the paper carton that he thought had the sausages in it. He handed it to Torsten before sticking his hand back in the bag to find a fork. “That’s odd. At this time of night, why would—”

After a moment, Torsten laughed again. “I hope Lukas and Schweini aren’t trying to copy us. They kept saying—”

“Oh, God,” Michael said, feeling the blood burn in his cheeks.

They stood around for another couple of seconds, staring at the delayed lift. Torsten absently opened the carton and started nibbling on a sausage. Michael fidgeted with the bag.

“My back was killing me the next day,” Michael blurted out. He realized right afterward that that didn’t really make a lot of sense by itself and started to explain, but Torsten’s expression said he got it.

“No, I’d rather do this time more…normally, too. It’s why I wanted to do the meal beforehand, so it’s more like an…well, a date.” The sausage was absorbing such an intense stare from Torsten that Michael briefly felt jealous, then felt extremely stupid about that. “If the computer gets fixed in time.”

Their work schedules really were a pain in the ass, forcing them to keep their interactions frustratingly platonic. They usually managed to get in a couple kisses during the day—and once a pair of handjobs, but Michael had been so worried about someone walking in that he hadn’t enjoyed it as much as he’d wanted to—so he wasn’t quite to the point of public nervous breakdown, but he was getting close. He was hoping his got better soon, since from what Torsten told him, Torsten’s schedule was generally pretty stable.

“Yeah. I’m not sure—I can’t even figure out what the problem is,” Michael ruefully admitted. He tugged at the bag handles some more, moving them around so they weren’t always cutting at the same places on his fingers. “You know what, this is ridiculous. I’m going to go check the system, okay? It’ll take about five minutes, which is how long we’ve already been waiting.”

“’kay. Wait—are you leaving the food?” Torsten held out his hand for the bag. Once he got it, he set it on the floor, sat down beside it and started to take out the food. He spread it out neatly around himself, but still…he looked up and grinned at Michael’s expression. “If you’re worried about the sanitation, this floor is cleaner than a lot of doctor’s offices. And I’ll just pick it all up once the elevator comes.”

“If anything’s left,” Michael snorted. He was snickering to himself for the first few meters, but by the time he got to the security room, he’d gone back to being annoyed. What was with the lift? Torsten and him aside, most people stuck to offices or toilets because the elevator traffic was too high; if they were stalled for too long, too many people got too upset.

He’d gotten Lehmann to approve of him getting almost all the keys the security people had, so getting into the computer room where the utilities were controlled was no problem. Someone should have been on duty, so finding it empty made Michael a little suspicious, but then he found a note saying that the guard had gone off for ten minutes to get coffee. He sat down and two minutes later and Michael was frowning at the screen as he fixed the bug. It wasn’t all that complicated a problem, but it also wasn’t one that typically showed up in this kind of system.

* * *

Robin had managed to get into the security room for the floor and had had no problem at all hacking into the system. He’d just gotten the easy exits—elevators, door locks on obvious stairways—shut down and a video feed of the meeting set up, and he was about halfway through fiddling with the meeting room’s temperature when an alarm pinged. Somebody had just reversed the commands freezing the elevators.

Damn it, he’d hoped that all the computer specialists had gone home by now. He shoved off one foot and rolled his chair back to that terminal, quickly putting the block back on. Then he had a second thought and changed that to just having the elevators run one way: up.

* * *

Cesc watched the numbers on the panel go down, then back up. The elevator doors opened and he stepped out, but this looked like…this was the same floor he’d been on. What the hell?

He turned around to press the button again, only to see that it was already lit. After a moment’s puzzlement, Cesc pushed it anyway, but nothing happened: no acknowledging ‘ding,’ no muffled hissing sound. He leaned forward to press his ear against the doors, listening hard, but didn’t hear a thing.

“Goddamn it,” he sighed. What a time for the fucking things to break down.

He really should’ve just gone home when his shift had ended, or gone out and picked up more gossip at Premier, but he’d been thinking about ways to get back at Cristiano for the run-in with MU people earlier in the week without losing his job. And he’d remembered an oldish piece of gossip Raúl had told him about coked-up Cristiano messing around with another FC singer, and fucking them up so badly that they’d switched to Kahn’s division. So he’d gone to do some poking in the archives only to find absolutely nothing, and now this non-working elevator shit was just…just…like a big cosmic sign that he should stay away from research.

Cesc jiggled his foot and waited for a couple more minutes, then irritably started off down the nearest hall. He was fifteen damn floors up, but he wanted to go home…and when he got to the closest staircase, the door was locked. Which didn’t make sense. So Cesc futilely pushed at it a couple times, then shoved it hard while letting out a snarl. It didn’t make the door open, but it did calm him down enough to think a little bit.

The next closest stairwell wasn’t that far, he guessed. With a sigh, he started walking.

* * *

Michael had been just about to leave when the computer beeped, letting him know that someone had altered the lifts’ operating parameters again. He turned back and opened up another window. Then he changed the parameters back to default.

* * *

Robin froze with his fingers ready to type in the command to blow cold air through all the ceiling vents in the meeting room except the ones above Jens. Then he slowly turned to look at the terminal where he’d hacked into the lift system. “You stubborn son of a bitch. Who the hell besides Jens wants to come in this late?”

* * *

The next time the elevator parameters changed, Michael was able to track down the origin of the change in the second window. He frowned at the screen: it wasn’t a floor on which he knew anyone or that anyone he did know used. But still…Michael reached for his cell phone, only to jump when it suddenly went off.

His fingers jerked into his pocket and somehow started to tip the cell out so he had to scramble to catch it. Something loomed up on his peripheral vision and he jerked back just in time to avoid hitting his head on the counter edge. Cursing beneath his breath, he flipped open the cell and put it to his ear. “Hi, I’m sorry, but I’m busy right now and unless this is—”

*Ballack? I knew it. Look, leave off the damn elevators. I’m doing something for Jens.*

“Robin?” Michael started to get up and then really did bang his head on the counter. He swore in German and sat down hard, rubbing at his head.

The other man made a funny noise and muttered something about that being familiar, then cursed himself. *Shit, no, sit back down, Jens. I…Michael, you’re already on the ground floor. Just go home and finish whatever it is tomorrow.*

“What are you doing? Are you—okay, first off, I don’t think I can trust you just saying you’re doing something for Jens,” Michael said. He put his hand on the counter-edge and used it to pull himself up and into a chair. Then he scooted back up to the computer terminal, only to find that Robin had already locked down the lift system. “Secondly, you’re doing a bad job anyway.”

*Excuse me?*

“It took me only a minute to find out where you were! And I don’t even do this very much. They do have a computer security team and those people aren’t idiots, and—”

Robin swore again, his voice getting soft so Michael thought the man was going to hang up and stopped talking. But then Robin came back on the line. *Wait, what are you doing hacking around?*

“I was just trying to see what was the problem with the elevators. I wasn’t hacking,” Michael snapped. His head still hurt, but rubbing it was making his arm ache from being held up in such an awkward position, so he turned around to prop his elbow up on the counter. “What are you doing? There are other people in the building.”

*Yeah, but…oh, fine…* Faint tapping sounds could be heard in the background. *You didn’t have to go to this floor, did you? Okay, fine, you can get to any other one now.*

Michael took the cell away to just stare at it. Then he realized that his incredulous look was wasted on an inanimate object and put it back against his ear. “If you think I’m just going to let you do whatever you’re doing, you’re an idiot.”

Something made a noise in the hall and he started to sit up, but then Robin started talking. *Hey, Ballack, it’s not like I’m going to fuck everything up and run off to let you fix it. I work here too. I’m…shit…I’m trying to make sure that Jens doesn’t get screwed over because of something that Kahn did.*

“What did he do? What are you doing?” Michael demanded. He got himself out of the utilities system and then pushed his chair back, meaning to get up there and see for himself if he had to. But he turned around and Torsten was standing in the doorway; the moment their eyes met, Torsten frantically gestured for information on what was going on. “Are you doing this on your own, or did you get told to do it?”

He mouthed ‘Robin’ and Torsten frowned, not quite getting it. Michael spun around in his chair, starting to do…something that he promptly forgot in his agitation, then turned back as Torsten took a seat by him. The other man grabbed a paper and a pen and scribbled down ‘Who?’ before handing those over to Michael, who quickly wrote an answer. Torsten raised his eyebrows and immediately wrote ‘Lehmann?’

* * *

God, Ballack was so anal. And he had such bad timing. In the meeting room, the laptops had finally come out and in a matter of moments, Robin had gotten his way into them. But instead of siphoning off information from other laptops and feeding it into Jens’ PDA, Robin was having a bloody debate session. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I answer to you.”

*I don’t have any reason not to stop bothering you either,* Michael sharply retorted. *And I don’t think you have the same ideas about job stability as I do.*

Robin pinched the bridge of his nose, swallowing down the urge to really tell Ballack off. The man he’d known had always been lowkey and polite, and this was such a lousy time for Ballack to be getting a spine. “Kahn and Jens are stuck in a meeting, and depending on how it goes, they might get forbidden to do certain things to protect themselves from competitors. They—what? Who is that?”

Michael and somebody else were having a whispered conversation, and further in the background, Robin thought he heard a third person. Then the second person spoke up: Frings? He was telling somebody it was okay, they just needed…something…for something.

*I hope you’re happy,* Michael hissed, jerking Robin’s attention back. *We just told the watchman to take a walk.*

“And why’d you do that? Because you know that Jens doesn’t always do things legally and deep down, you think that might be necessary so you don’t want him to have problems either. You’re probably the only one who knows what I really do, so when you made that decision to lie to the watchman—”

*This is why no professor would be your advisor, isn’t it? Even before you got kicked out.* For a so-called nice guy, Michael could…he could really hit hard. Though judging from what he said next, it didn’t seem as if he’d planned that effect, which was more in line with the man Robin knew. *I find it really hard to believe that you genuinely care about Lehmann or the label, since I do know your background.*

Robin bit down hard on his lip and just mindlessly typed for a few seconds, his vision fading in and out as white rage fuzzed it. Once it did clear up, he found himself on the verge of making another mistake and hurriedly fixed it. “Ballack, we talked how many times before we both started working here? Knowing what I can do and knowing who I am are very, very far from being the same thing.”

*Well, what you’re doing is really--* Michael broke off to say something to Torsten, something about he was being as calm as he could *--sloppy. I don’t know…that says to me—*

“I fixed it,” Robin said. His throat was tightening up and he was hitting the keys so hard that he had to back-space every couple of seconds. Honestly, he was just about as mad at himself as Ballack apparently was—he should’ve been able to do this all on auto-pilot and not get lectured for stupid errors—but he wasn’t about to admit it. “Sorry I don’t have a traditional work ethic that you can take as reassurance.”

*It’s not even work. All that I know about you says that you don’t care at all about work. You care about what it gets you, and I can’t see what you’d be getting that would matter that much to you,* Michael shot back. He added another aside to Torsten, but whatever the other man replied wasn’t clear enough for Robin to make out.

Robin finished setting up the feeds to Jens’ PDA, then leaned back. He scanned the other monitors a few times, checking and double-checking to see if there was anything else he needed to do and just thinking that that probably wasn’t good enough for Ballack. Then he thought about why he’d even need Ballack’s approval in the first place and his temper shortened even more. “Go f—”

*I just got deep enough into the system to see what you’re doing up there. With the meeting room Internet lines. Hang up on me and I’ll…I’ll…*

“Fuck it up? You do that, you pretty much ruin any chance Jens has of salvaging something from this stupid meeting. Which I don’t even know what’s…I’m not a magician; I can’t get audio. I dragged myself out of bed and went through all this trouble only to get stuck arguing with you, and I bet Jens is just going to pretend he pays me to do that,” Robin said. He started out snarling and ended up muttering dejectedly, momentarily forgetting that he was even on a phone with anyone. Then he did remember and stiffened.

After a moment, he just slumped in the chair and rubbed at his nose. Well, fine, Michael just got a dose of what’s-in-Robin’s-head. Thierry had been too busy to come over for the past few days, and Jens did an amazing impression of a deaf block of ice whenever things got too personal. Whatever. Really.

*I can’t believe you’re stupid enough to talk about this over a cell phone,* Michael finally said. His sigh rippled, like he was moving something like a hand in front of his mouth. *I spent all Wednesday talking to security about some funny splices I found in the phone lines.*

Robin sat up. “What? They from Savage? Are they tapping us? Did you tell Jens yet?”

*I don’t know. The spliced-in lines don’t run out of this building, so I wasn’t going to talk about it till I knew where they were…anyway, I couldn’t get into his schedule before next week.* Michael went silent for a couple seconds. *What does Jens pay you to—Torsten says you’re supposed to scout acts for agents to check up on. On paper.*

“He just wants to keep everything recorded and regular. On paper. Not that…what are you doing? Did you just do that?” Robin said, focusing on the screen to his left. He reached out to reverse the change if he got the nod.

*Yes. Have you been doing much with the building’s systems? Our floor’s is trickiest, but the whole place is…odd. This should cover the hack better.* It sounded like Michael was gritting his teeth the whole time. Maybe Torsten had a better sense of practicality and was holding a gun to his head.

Or maybe Ballack just felt sorry for Robin, which put Robin in the mood to punch something. Though he just stabbed his fingers into the counter instead. “I mostly work outside of the building, in case you haven’t noticed. Jens gets twitchy about letting me tackle the internal system.”

*And you actually listen to him about that?*

“He has his limits.” They weren’t where most people thought they were—the crazy spells and violent screaming fits were usually smoke-screens—but they existed.

*You respect him?* Ballack probably had been dying to put an ‘at all’ on the end of that.

Robin tapped his fingers hard on the counter, wondering for no good reason where Thierry had gone. Home? “I don’t have to answer to you.”

*Fine.* There was some rustling, but then Ballack spoke again, so he wasn’t quite hanging up. *Look, I do know the internal system.*

“I don’t plan on making this a habit, but thanks for the heads-up,” Robin said. Then he hung up. He was more than done with that conversation.

The meeting still looked like it was going strong, which ruined Robin’s hopes for any chance of getting out of here soon. He sighed and slouched down again, watching Jens say something that needed finger-wagging to go with it to Kahn.

* * *

“You didn’t look like you enjoyed much of that, but you calmed down more than I thought you would,” Torsten commented.

Michael blinked and looked at him, not really sure what the other man meant. Then he shrugged, folding up his cell phone. “I didn’t. But…I don’t know. I haven’t even been working here that long, and already it’s like I…hmm, you know, like I’m a different person.”

Torsten sighed and leaned back in his chair, idly poking at the bag of food. “I don’t know what exactly went on just now, but that’s pretty typical of the industry.”

“Is everyone okay with that?” That came out sounding a bit like an accusation on Torsten. “I mean, is…something has to stay the same, doesn’t it? I don’t think anybody can really live without having anything to…to stand on.”

“Well, I don’t know. I crunch numbers, not brains,” Torsten said. He rubbed at his nose and mouth, then glanced down at the floor. “Personally, I’m fine with doing—with illegally manipulating certain things, like work visas, because I think it’ll help more than it’ll hurt. The label and whoever I’m helping to be employed, I mean. I…see, I think where I used to work—the stock brokerage—that that company could just disappear tomorrow and people wouldn’t notice, really. It could be replaced. I feel differently about FC Records.”

Michael thought about that for a minute. “You know, I don’t know if I ever felt…loyalty like that. I wanted to go to university and stay there, but it was more because of what I could do there, not because I just wanted to…I just liked the place.”

The other man grinned a little and slouched sideways, turning in the chair to face Michael. “Are we sucking you in?”

He reached out so his fingers flopped against Michael’s knee. After a moment, Michael shifted so Torsten could get a better grip. “You might be.”

“Can’t say I’m completely unhappy about that. And you seem all right with it.” Torsten pulled himself closer and reached for Michael’s arm. Then he snatched his hand away, cursing as his cell went off. He dragged it out of his pocket and put it to his ear, listened for a couple seconds, then slapped one hand over his face. “Yes, Jens, I’m actually still in the building. What did you need?”

“Except for when we never get to have a normal date,” Michael muttered. He glanced towards the monitors again, then pushed himself over to them and started checking things. It looked like Robin was still busy and though the other man had neatened up things a lot, Michael didn’t exactly trust the man to be perfectly circumspect. Robin might have some odd kind of attachment to Lehmann, but that wasn’t the same as being attached to the label.

Still talking to Jens, Torsten rolled his eyes in irritation and scribbled something on the sheet of paper. Then he pushed it over to Michael.

Crash over at my place afterward? Whenever that is.

Michael wrote a ‘yes’ and reluctantly handed it back; he was happy about getting an invite to Torsten’s, but he knew damn well they’d only end up falling asleep as soon as they got in. For the past week, that had been all that’d been happening.

* * *

Thierry and Freddie were both long gone. So was everyone else, so it wasn’t like Jens could fault Robin on being careful about that. If the man stopped paying attention to his PDA for long enough.

Robin leaned against the doorway of the meeting room, hands jammed in his pockets so he wouldn’t rip off his goddamn tie, and watched Jens poke at his PDA with a ridiculously tiny stylus. It was like watching an elephant use chopsticks.

Jens didn’t look up. “Did you—”

“I covered up everything, thanks. Oh, and you’re welcome. You know, for being brilliant and reading your mind and getting everything taken care of. Was it a good meeting?” Robin asked. His mouth tasted acidic, a little like the moment before vomit came up the throat. He elbowed off the doorframe and strolled over to Jens’ shoulder, but Jens had the PDA shut off before Robin could see what he was doing. “Oh, thanks. Not like that probably wasn’t something I helped—”

Somehow Jens got Robin by the arm and shoved his PDA in some pocket Robin couldn’t reach all in the same motion. He twisted Robin’s wrist to make Robin lean down further, then shifted his hands to Robin’s waist. Had Robin sprawled over his lap and breathless from a hard kiss before Robin could even be surprised at the lack of…well, usually he had to work at getting Jens’ tongue lashing open his mouth and Jens’ hands sliding over his chest and belly, ripping the shirt out of his trousers and then running possessively over his bare skin.

Robin worked his arm free from between them, then slung it over Jens’ neck. His thigh and ass slipped onto one of Jens’ huge bony knees and he jerked himself forward, hooking his fingers into the back of Jens’ shirt-collar to keep his balance. Which became a moot point, because Jens suddenly stood up, lifting Robin by the legs, and tipped Robin backwards onto the conference table. He needed to shave; his stubble rasped a raw, stinging trail down the side of Robin’s neck that only occasionally overlapped with the slow licks he took at Robin’s jaw.

“Why the hell would you want to sit in here? It’s all political bullshit,” Jens muttered. His fingers stroked insistently between Robin’s legs, drawing moan after moan from Robin. “Drives me nuts. If I could get out of it, I would.”

“I don’t—want—to sit through your stupid meetings.” Robin watched the world narrow to slivers as his eyelids kept trying to shut. He dug his nails into Jens’ shoulders, hanging on even as the other man roughly yanked his tie off over his head. “But you don’t pay me to lie around at home.”

Jens stiffened, then pushed himself up so he could look at Robin. He didn’t break eye-contact as he reached back and slowly pried Robin’s right hand off of himself, forcing it over Robin’s head. “I don’t pay you for this, either. Do I?”

“No.” The smile was a little difficult to make. “You don’t hire whores. Just sluts.”

“No, I don’t,” Jens snapped. He stared down at Robin for a second, expression tensely unreadable. “Either.”

Robin blinked, not quite following that. “What?”

“Thanks,” Jens said, tone just as abrupt and harsh.

He waited another moment, then leaned back down to suck at Robin’s lip. Still a little shocked, Robin didn’t do anything, and then by the time he was ready to react, Jens had one hand teasing his nipple so about all he could do was groan. He did manage to lift his other hand over his head; after a few moments, Jens noticed and wrapped Robin’s tie around his wrists, then dropped both hands to Robin’s hips. Robin closed his eyes and pressed his hands against the smooth wood of the table, arching up into the other man.

* * *

By the time Cesc heard the noise, he was so frustrated and tired from walking all over the floor looking for a way out that he couldn’t even be relieved. He was just annoyed, and ready to subject whoever it was to a long, angry rant to make himself feel better. And when he realized that the muffled sounds were suspiciously like people fucking, his temper didn’t improve a single bit.

They seemed to be coming from a conference room whose door was half-open. Cesc stomped over, yanking at his hair, and opened his mouth to let loose his first volley of complaints. And then stood there and kept his mouth open. He…they…it was…

Robin was very pale all over, was the first vaguely coherent thought Cesc had. Van Persie was on his back on the table, hands behind his head…he moved and his arms jerked together in the same direction, letting a bit of tie flop out from beneath his head and there was only one reason why a tie would be there and not around his neck. His suit-jacket was rumpled up around his ribs and his shirt was unbuttoned and wide-open, rumpled but still crisp enough for the wrinkles to stand up. Like a present obscenely unwrapped.

Except he was moving, undulating so Cesc’s eyes couldn’t stay in one place, but kept sliding down and then jerking back up, oddly reluctant to see what was giving Robin that heavy-lidded, teeth-in-lip look. Robin suddenly shuddered, his head falling sideways; Cesc’s heart jumped up into his throat and he hastily whipped around behind the door just as Robin started to open his eyes.

His teeth hurt. He realized after a moment that that was because he’d tried to jam his fist into his mouth, but his knuckles weren’t about to fit. Cesc didn’t breathe and listened very, very hard, and when he was sure he hadn’t been noticed, he carefully tiptoed his way to the nearest men’s room. Thankfully, whatever was fucking up the elevators and the stairwells didn’t keep him from getting in there.

He couldn’t get into a stall. He just slammed his ass against the door to hold it shut and ripped his belt and fly open, then jerked himself off so quickly he nearly rubbed off the skin from his cock. His mind’s eye was filling in Lehmann’s blond curls and huge hands with the solid square palms and long fingers, and…and goddamn it, why couldn’t he get laid around here?

When he thought his flush had gone down enough, Cesc washed up in the sink and neatened his clothes. Then he stepped out and headed for the nearest elevator. He absentmindedly jabbed the button, then blinked in surprise when it lit up and he heard the lift moving behind the doors. “Huh.”

“Something wrong?”

Cesc yelped and jumped, then whipped around. He glimpsed Robin’s tightly amused face and opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, Robin shoved him by the shoulder up against the elevator and kissed him, open-mouthed and bruising.

The other man smelled like sweat and come, sour-sweet with an underspike of wood from the table, oh, God, and a sharp musk that had to be cologne or something like that from Jens. His fingers ground on Cesc’s shoulder like he was trying to snap the bone and his mouth tasted like…like…it was salty and when Cesc figured it out, he cursed and gagged till Robin finally let up. The elevator doors opened at the same time so Cesc nearly fell back on his ass.

He scrambled backward and caught himself on the far railing, then looked up to see Robin casually saunter in. “You’re not limping. No cock this time?”

“Tongue,” Robin succinctly replied. His eyes glittered at the hitch in breath Cesc couldn’t quite help making. “It’s nice to get some variety in life. Though you’d best get that on your own.”

Cesc frowned.

“You don’t work for a paycheck, or because you believe in work as a good thing,” Robin snorted, pressing the ‘hold’ button. He tugged at his half-buttoned shirt with his other hand; his tie was dangling limply around his neck, twisted-out and ruined. Then he shot Cesc an icy look, all the humor gone from his face. “You’d better have been in late to get back at Ronaldo and not someone else. I gave you a taste, so be satisfied or I’ll make you regret you even got that.”

Heavy footsteps sounded before Cesc could reply. A moment later, Jens walked into the elevator, clothes spotless and expression blank. His eyebrow twitched upwards when he saw Cesc, but he didn’t hesitate at all about standing in the space between Cesc and Robin. “Fàbregas. Ruud has you working this late?”

“Yeah, I thought I’d try to get ahead for next week. It’s pretty packed,” Cesc said. He thought he did fairly well: only one short stutter.

Robin snickered, then abruptly stopped. He was almost completely blocked from Cesc’s view by Jens’ bulk, but the walls of the elevator were slightly reflective. Not enough to make things perfectly clear, but Cesc could see that Jens had stuck his hand behind Robin. Jens continued to look as if he were the only person in the elevator, while Robin looked first annoyed and then…he turned his head away so Cesc couldn’t see what his expression had softened to. He twisted closer to Jens, bending his head almost as if he would’ve liked to drop it on Jens’ shoulder.

The lift chimed as they reached the ground floor. “Good night,” Jens dismissively said.

He obviously wanted Cesc out first. For a moment, Cesc thought about smarmily offering to let Jens go first, but then Lehmann did…something…with his eyes that had Cesc speed-walking out.

He slowed down after a few minutes and looked behind himself, but the elevator doors were already shutting and Robin and Jens were nowhere in sight. Gritting his teeth, Cesc resigned himself to going home. Alone. God, if Cristiano did a single thing to annoy him tomorrow…


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