Tangible Schizophrenia


The German Connection

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13. Somehow.
Pairing: Lehmann/Senderos, implied Lehmann/Ballack. Ballack/various Arsenal players.
Feedback: Good lines, typos, etc.
Disclaimer: This is fiction and isn’t what these people actually do in their free time (dammit).
Notes: Written about the Dec. 10, 2006 Chelsea-Arsenal match.
Summary: Satire. MadJens has a field day and Michael Ballack likes Arsenal.


This is a parody. This isn’t an accurate representation of what goes on between professional footballers after a big game, after a huge game, after the Chelsea-Arsenal draw. Oh, no, nothing ever happens in the tunnel. It’s boring as hell in there.

Cesc goes storming by, waving his hands in time to the angry Spanish insults he’s flinging around, and Jens just watches him. The rest of the team coalesces into a curious, commiserating knot around him, but Jens stands clear and runs his fingers through his damp hair and thinks it’s all just a crock of shit. He’s gotten off the pitch, felt the adrenaline seep away in a wash of chilly drying sweat and irritably sticky clothing, and he can’t see the goal-posts from here. He’s nice and calm and he’s pretty sure he’s nearly back to sane now.

“Enjoy that?” somebody says, and it takes a moment to process since of all the languages that Arsenal speaks, German’s not really one of them.

Michael’s leaning out of his own locker-room, stripped to the waist. He looks composed and healthy and thank God, his hair is growing back now. It’s hard enough to stand put and watch things going on a hundred meters away without having said things looking like a sink-scrubber.

“What?” Jens asks. “I missed the first part.”

“Oh. Well, Ashley…” Michael jerks his chin over his shoulder. He sounds like he knows all about that feud and like he doesn’t much care, which he probably doesn’t. He’s a good guy, serious and hardworking, and his usual M. O. for team politics is to have both sides over for a friendly dinner and leave the painful announcements to other people.

He’s charming enough to make it work, Jens thinks with a shrug. “Oh, that.”

A little bit of silence falls after that. Arsčne and José are both busy calming things down, so they haven’t had a chance to bellow at the malingerers to get on into the cold baths yet. Michael and Jens stare at each other, and Jens has to wonder if Ballack took this long to adjust to meeting up with Torsten in a Chelsea uniform. It’s not like he and Micha haven’t done this before, but it has been a couple years.

“How is Chelsea? All those big men of experience that you were talking about…” Jens eventually says.

Michael blinks, briefly showing a glint of humor in his eyes. “They’re…big. It’s fine. By the way, I have to concede your point about youth. Your team played really well today.”

“Thanks.” It’s a little absentminded, since just then Drogba comes into view and a flash of shadow-heat goes through Jens.

“I can see there being downsides to being the biggest man out there, though,” Michael adds. He grins and with his mussed hair and slouch, does a better job of being a trouble-minded urchin than Bastian. Schweini doesn’t quite have the brains to pull that off. “Miss having somebody who can put you down?”

Jens rolls his eyes, and then again when he catches Michael’s attention drifting. “Funny, captain. You remember that Cesc spit in your face, don’t you?”

“Why do you think I’m paying attention to him?”

“You’re not looking at the spitting end. Granted, better stay away from the mouth—he bites,” Jens graciously offers.

Michael just as politely manages not to arch his eyebrow. “By the way, Sheva does talk in his sleep. In Italian, and since I don’t know a word it doesn’t bother me, but you seem to like your peace and quiet…”

His eyes flick past Jens again, and Jens’ ears just happen to pick up a muttered Dutch slur from Robin about John Terry’s inadequacies in certain places. He waits till he’s heard Robin snap at somebody not to hog the whole tub before he answers. “He talks too, and I think you’d pick up enough from the Dutch to understand it. Better luck with French.”

“Well, I was thinking some of your back four looked—” Michael turns back as somebody calls at him, then sighs. “Damn. Listen, I’ve been in town for ages and I keep forgetting to ring you up for dinner. Are you—”

“Micha, I’d be happy to help you find some decent English food—no, really, if you look you can find some—but not if you’re going to go shopping with my teammates,” Jens mock-scolds. He can hear people calling him, too, and he knows he’s going to get pestered about why he was hanging back for once.

“I thought you’d owe me for going at Didier like that. On the pitch,” Michael snorts. He glances into the locker-room again, then shoots Jens a teasing look. “You know, he actually likes you quite a bit. Want me to put in a word?”

Jens pretends to think this over. “Shut up and take your ice bath, Balla. God, you midfielders. You think you can pillage wherever you want.”

* * *

“So what were you and Ballack going on about? He have some message to pass on from Arse-ley?” Cesc asks in a sly tone. Which would’ve worked better if he hadn’t been hopping on one leg trying to get his trousers on in a hurry, but that’s Fŕbregas. Eventually he’ll grow into the tongue, and then Jens hopes to God that somebody who’s not so preoccupied with struggling with his own ego is captain.

Not that Jens has anything against Thierry. Thierry’s good at what he’s good at, bad at other things, and apparently long ago decided to pretend that he didn’t know a thing about what his teammates did with each other outside of practice time. Except for Pirčs, but that was a French thing Jens still doesn’t get.

He’d waited a little too long so the cold water is almost a painful shock instead of a welcoming one. But Jens is old enough to know how to read his own body and he’s patient, letting the shivers in his muscles ride themselves out. “No, he was telling me he thought you were really cute.”

Cesc bristles up. Behind him, Robin is momentarily diverted from toweling himself off and Philippe also looks up with concern.

“He liked your ass,” Jens says, just when he thinks the offended pride is going to burst out of Cesc. Then he drops into the water to get his shoulders submerged, but not before seeing Cesc’s annoyance spasm into astonishment. “He wanted to know if he could ask you out to have a coffee. I told him no, this isn’t the national team and I couldn’t let him do that.”


Jens slides further to get his head wet, then pulls himself up and out of the tub. Water slops over the edge to spread the puddles already on the floor almost to the edge of the tile. He casually checks around for Arsčne, who is not stupid but who does not have a good sense of humor about this kind of thing, before sauntering over to the hot showers. “Don’t worry about thanking me. I’m just glad I managed to catch Micha in time.”

Now if that doesn’t put the wind up Cesc’s tail…Jens really shouldn’t do this. He knows already where this is going to go, and he thinks a lot of professionalism and of being a good person and friend, as much as he’s able. He values those.

But sometimes he’s just got to fuck with people. Just to keep his hand in. It’s a skill, like anything else, and it needs practice to keep it up.

* * *

Usually Jens gets a seat near the back with Freddie and the older players, but no, Freddie and Gilberto get trapped up front and Jens gets surrounded by young twitchy players: Cesc, so bubbled up with curiosity he’s vibrating like a plucked string, and a studiously indifferent Robin and a quietly worried Philippe and Mathieu and Gael, who are just plain frightened. But frightened like little kids who creep up to watch fights through fences.

“Why’d you tell Ballack off?” Cesc asks, no preamble. “What, like I can’t take care of myself?”

“Look, I know Micha and you don’t. And if you’ve got some stupid idea in your head—” of course he does; it’s shining so bright from his eyes that Jens can read a book by it “—get rid of it. Michael Ballack is not a quick ride.”

Mathieu and Gael are furiously whispering in the seats in front of Jens. In French, though Jens has picked up enough by now to understand about sixty percent of it. Philippe pretends to look out the window and Robin checks his text messages. Cesc makes a face at Jens. “Why not?”

“Well, if you want solid reasons—he’s too big.” Jens flicks his gaze over Cesc, then turns away. He can practically feel the indignation steaming out of Cesc. “He’s too big for certain other people who are bigger than you. And I hear he doesn’t care—he’s not going to stop for you. He’s got control issues in bed.”

Cesc has now developed bulging eyes and his Adam’s apple is in constant up-and-down motion.

“Really, he’s a great footballer and captain, but the moment he gets off the field he turns into an insatiable monster. You don’t want to get his attention. He’s very unsafe,” Jens adds.

“You’re taking the piss,” Cesc incredulously says, shaking his head.

Instead of arguing with him on that point, Jens just shrugs and sighs. “Well, I did my best to keep him off of all of you. I can’t do anything more at this point.”

“What?” Now even Cesc looks a little nervous. “Who else?”

“Oh, God, it was like Micha was making a grocery list while he was playing,” Jens says in his best exasperated tone. “He wanted to know if I had Robin’s phone number—”

Robin accidentally squirts his mobile through his fingers. It hits the back of the seat in front of him, then falls to the ground. He curses and dives after it.

“Or if he could personally congratulate Mathieu on that goal, and also if Emmanuel was interested in coming over and meeting some of the Chelsea boys…”

Mathieu and Johan go deadly quiet, which lets Jens hear a quiet shriek from near the front of the bus.

“You’re teasing again! Jens!” Cesc complains, damn near whining. He sulks for a moment before clawing out of his seat and hopping into a surprised Kolo’s lap so he’s within yelling distance of the other elders. “Gilberto! Jens is messing with us again! Tell him we’re on his team!”

“I’m just trying to look out for you,” Jens says mildly, not too noticeably loud but loud enough for it to carry. He’s still settled in with his music player and book, and he doesn’t quite watch as a flustered, reddened Robin finally comes back up, mobile in hand.

Somebody else shifts seats. Their knees swing into Jens’ peripheral vision. “Really?”

Philippe asks quietly, without a trace of recrimination. He’s got his hands clasped together and like usual, he looks just a little concerned about everything in sight. He hasn’t learned to deal with his nerves yet, like every young player, but instead of flying off every which way he seems to curl in on himself, and Jens isn’t sure whether that’s hiding or that’s to find something.

“I gave him fair warning. I can’t do anything about what he chooses to do with it,” Jens finally replies.

After a moment, Philippe shrugs, and it’s not in contempt or dismay, really, but something about it still makes Jens tense up, like when a defender tosses out a leg and Jens sees it miss. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t discuss me.”

Jens thinks about it, then doesn’t clear up Philippe’s confusion. He’s well entertained enough by watching Cesc fidget all over the bus.

* * *

*You told them what?* Michael sounds surprised. Like he shouldn’t know what Jens would do by now.

“Oh, it just got them more interested. I think any day now you’ll have curious little Arsenal players sneaking around your bushes, trying to peep into your bedroom. Well, actually, Robin probably would just knock on the door,” Jens says, clamping mobile between ear and shoulder. He bends down to tie his shoe and sees the door to the changing room swing open. “So did you want to come over to my place or do I get to see this house you’re renting, Micha?”

The mad shuffle of feet past Jens suddenly slows. He calmly continues looping one strand around another. He knows that was Senderos’ shoes going by a moment ago, and it wouldn’t surprise him if he looked up to see Senderos playing the translator again.

On the other end of the line, Michael gets a bit ruffled. *Oh, for—they misquoted me on that. They…you know what, let’s decide at dinner.*

Jens repeats the restaurant place and time for verification purposes. The feet shuffle on. He finishes tying his shoes and straightens up, not terribly surprised to find himself walking out to his car by himself. Freddie’s in with the physios and told him not to wait, and God knows what Thierry is doing with his time off. Hopefully finding something or someone to take out his frustrations on. God, management didn’t know what they were doing with letting Bobby go.

Luckily, Jens has trained himself not to be so choosy.

* * *

On the day of, Philippe comes over to talk to Jens during one training break. “Hey, so Michael Ballack’s really a nice guy, right? You were just trying to wind Cesc up.”

Philippe occasionally remembers to speak to Jens in German, though for some reason Philippe stutters and slurs in that language worse than any of the other six languages he knows, and he prides himself on being a good linguist. “If you’re really worried about Cesc, shouldn’t you talk to him?” Jens says.

And end that long-running drama, for God’s sake. Though Cesc isn’t really that dense, and Philippe isn’t really that unassuming, and so they’ve probably just gotten used to status quo. Better that than trying to work something out between training schedules, let alone personalities.

“I think Cesc’s been talked to enough already,” Philippe snorts, some surprising asperity in his tone. “He thinks Michael Ballack’s got a twenty-centimeter vibrator for a cock, thanks to you.”

“The words ‘vibrator’ and ‘Michael Ballack’ never came out of my mouth in the same sentence.” It is a little bit of a struggle for Jens to keep his deadpan while saying that. Sometimes Philippe drops the care-taker routine and gets interesting, and Jens tends to forget that with a team that has Robin van Persie, back-talker extraordinaire, in it. “Believe me, they never will. Vibrators aren’t necessary.”

A weird flicker goes through Philippe’s face. “He can’t be that good.”

“Well, one thing Kahn and I did agree on was that Micha’s great at managing men,” Jens primly says. He turns away just as Philippe, starting to flush, mutters something about thanks a lot and heads back to the others at a sprint.

Too easy. Jens just regrets that he didn’t think of this when they were playing Man U.

* * *

“Right now I think Simone and the kids would be at her parents’ house, and Jens, I think one of your teammates is hiding behind the potted plant.”

Jens doesn’t turn around. “Fŕbregas or Flamini. They watch way too many movies. Like Poldi and Schweini, only less sugar.”

“Brown hair. Flamini.” Michael has himself another spoonful, then dabs at his mouth with his napkin. “Would you mind if I went to the toilet?”

“Remember to put him in the car before you come back. He has extra practice tomorrow and I’m not going so far as to let my teammates be late,” Jens says. He checks his watch, then pours himself another glass of wine. He doesn’t have practice and neither does Michael, so he can afford to savor some good food for once.

Michael goes off. There’s a line of potted plants dividing part of the room and they rustle one after the other in Michael’s direction. Honestly, Jens wants to put his face in his hand and wonder how Flamini could be so stupid. Then he remembers footballer, young, horny, and he decides to just be amused.

Hopefully Ballack doesn’t take that long. The dessert course is still coming, and Jens has a suspicion that the chef is keeping one eye on their reactions so it’d be rude to keep him waiting.

* * *

Jens slides into the front seat of Michael’s car and takes an appreciative sniff of the leather smell. And then frowns, and then turns around to look in the backseat. “Micha, I meant his car.”

“I don’t know what his car looks like,” Michael patiently says. He slams his door, the sound cutting over the little bug-eyed ‘eep’ Mathieu makes, and starts the engine before Jens can point out that Mathieu probably knows what his car looks like, and Mathieu still looks capable of speech.

“I did not drive here,” Mathieu stammers in English, pulling himself up into one corner. He blushes and grabs at his mangled clothing and whimpers when Michael slightly runs over a curb, making the car jump up and down. “I—um—Jens—”

Michael laughs. “You’re giving him that death-look again, aren’t you?”

“You’re right. I should be giving it to you,” Jens says, switching to English. He turns back around, irritably puts on his seat-belt and does a few mental calculations. “First off, learn to drive, damn it. Secondly, you’re not having a round two with him.”

“Why not?”


Mathieu rustles around in the back, his hand occasionally shooting forward to desperately grab at Jens’ head-rest. He tends to grab some of Jens’ hair with that, and then he retreats, babbling apologies, till Michael messes up another turn and Mathieu panics again. It’s enough to make Jens put his hand over his face and ask himself whether that transfer fee had turned Michael’s brains into nuts. Crazed nuts.

“Because no offense, Mathieu, but I’m not interested in you,” Jens mutters.

Mathieu briefly swings into view via the rearview mirror. He looks relieved. “Thank you so much.”

Jens blinks. “What?”

“I told him you, ah, you were bigger than me,” Michael casually comments, now also talking in English. “Just returning the favor. By the way, Didier…he would enjoy a movie sometime.”

Outraged squawk from the back. The next time they stop at a light, Mathieu comes flying up to clutch at the seat and part of Jens’ shoulders, craning so he can stare horrified at Jens. “But he’s Chelsea! Jens!”

Jens feels like he’s explaining a board game to small children. “Mathieu, what happened in the toilet with Michael Ballack? And—damn it, Micha. He has bite marks above his collar.”

“Oops. Sorry, he…you liked it, I thought, at the time,” Michael says, first to Jens and then to Mathieu, who’s sensibly retreating to be embarrassed out of sight. “I’ll be more careful with the next one.”

“You’re just lucky Mathieu’s stubble goes pretty low,” Jens mutters, briefly back in German. He goes to English to ask Mathieu something. “Who drove you?”

“Um.” In the rearview mirror, it looks like Mathieu’s belatedly remembering that he was supposed to be sneaking this around. He’d better be damn scared, because there’s no way Jens is going to forget about this. Be discreet and practical in his employment of said knowledge, yes, but complete memory loss? Not likely to happen, even if Cristiano Ronaldo takes another shot at doing what Carlos Tévez, may he and Jens meet up sometime this year during a corner kick, only talked about.

Michael hums and drums his fingers on the wheel. “Is Fŕbregas old enough to drive?”

“Robin! It was Robin!” Mathieu blurts out. “We told Cesc to stay home. And I’m really glad now that we did. Jens—you told us—”

His uncomfortable shift perfectly finishes that sentence. Jens rolls his eyes. “See, Micha? No round two with him. Yes, Mathieu?”

There’s an awkward silence. A satisfied grin slowly spreads over Michael’s face.

“Well, fine. I try and try to look out for you lot, but you go and be stupid anyway,” Jens mutters, throwing up his hands. “Oh, Micha, when you pull in, stop for a moment on the drive.”


* * *

Cesc kicks and bites like a drenched cat. Which, frankly, just makes Jens shove him more firmly under one arm. He’s already yanked Cesc’s coat over his head and stuffed it into his mouth, so it’s not like all that chomping is doing anything. “Because,” Jens says as he stomps up the front walk.

Michael’s hiding his mouth with one hand, which doesn’t muffle his snickers at all. He holds the door open for Jens, then turns in after him. The kicking suddenly takes on a shortened rhythm and Jens looks over his shoulder, then down to see Michael poking at Cesc’s dangling feet with his toes. Cesc lets out a strangled noise of fury and wriggles indignantly.

“I heard somebody tried to do that to Lahmi once and he ripped them up,” Jens comments. He notes the way Michael’s eyes are firmly fixed on Cesc’s ass, and wonders just how well Michael remembers that Champions League match where Cesc spat on him.

“You know, him being short just means he doesn’t have to go as far to drop you. I wouldn’t mess with him. Or, by extension, Timo.” Michael wanders into the next room, then comes out with a glass of water and continues across the hall.

When Jens follows, he finds Mathieu nervously perched on the edge of a wide, long, cushy-looking couch. Mathieu needs three prods to take the water from Michael because he’s gone bug-eyed at the sight of Cesc, and Cesc has stopped struggling.

“What are you doing here?” Mathieu yelps, looking all around the room.

Jens and Michael exchange a look. Then Jens dumps Cesc on the couch and dusts himself off. He frowns when he sees his trousers: Cesc has smeared mud all over them with his stupid flailing. “Well, Michael lives here, and I’m an invited guest, and—”

“Oh, wow, what did they do to you?” Cesc gasps. Sometimes it really shows that he learned a large chunk of English from Desperate Housewives. He crawls over and starts patting at Mathieu’s hair and poking at the man’s various reddish-purple bruises. “Does this hurt?”

Mathieu whimpers and leans in, so Cesc presses more gently and cuddles closer and Jens makes himself not roll his eyes because he isn’t sure they won’t get stuck that way. He sees Michael avidly watching and most of the time, Ballack’s a reasonably cultured man but apparently seduction methods from porn hit his buttons.

Cesc gives Mathieu some extended mouth-to-mouth with a free, thorough injury-check from shoulders to groin thrown in before he can’t help himself. “So is it true?” he hisses.

“We can hear you,” Jens dryly says. “I’m really surprised that there hasn’t been an Arsenal porno yet, the way you carry on.”

For a moment, Cesc seems startled, but then he shrugs and rubs himself up and down Mathieu. That glass of water somehow makes it to the coffeetable as Mathieu makes a point of groping Cesc’s ass. “Like your national team movie?” he coyly says. He gives Jens and Michael a level look. “I liked the shot of you naked, Jens, but did you have to have your hand in the way? Hey, you’re taller than Ballack. Does that mean anything?”

“Well, he’s your teammate,” Michael remarks after a hitched breath. He politely gestures. “First go?”

Jens opens his mouth—

There’s a knock at the door.

--“I’ll get that. Micha, below the neck.”

“I know, I know, it’s not like Torsten hasn’t given me an earful plenty of times…can you get the lube and condoms while you’re at it? It’s in—”

They’d been speaking in German, but Cesc manages to figure out enough of what’s being said to dig into his coat, then triumphantly toss a couple small tubes at Michael. He glares impatiently around. “There, can we go now?”

“My team is full of sex addicts,” Jens says.

“At least they don’t manage to short-circuit a Playstation while they’re screwing and nearly set the hotel on fire.” Michael tilts his head a couple times, clearly trying to figure out a good entry angle.

Jens blinks and corrects himself. “My teams are full of sex addicts.”

* * *

Robin frowns, hands in his pockets. Then he snorts as he tries to crane around Jens to see inside. “Damn it, I told Flamini to save me some.”

“Cesc’s here, too.” Jens thinks at least Robin had the sense to come in the back way, so they have time to discuss this.

The way Robin’s bouncing on the balls of his feet indicates the last thing he wants to do is discuss this, but he’ll just have to suffer. He doesn’t do suffering well, which is what makes it entertaining instead of tragic. “Well, we told him not to, but if you’re not kicking him out, then it’s not my problem. Can I come in?”


For a moment, it looks like Robin wants to hit him. “Why do you think?”

“You’re twenty-three years old. Don’t you have better things to do than getting all excited over the possible size of a man’s cock?” Jens asks. Reasonably enough, he thinks.

Robin’s eyes pop a bit. His cheeks redden faintly and he starts to impatiently tap his foot. “Jens, I can tell that that’s Mathieu moaning and Cesc shrieking about needing more lube. Why the hell are you telling me to go away when they’re already in there?”

“Michael’s my captain for the German national team, and he’s also my friend. I’m trying to look out for his well-being.” After a moment’s thought, Jens amends that. “And his furniture. It’s a new house.”

“Now you really are taking the piss,” Robin snarls. He tries to force his way through, then brings up his hands and shoves when Jens doesn’t move. “Goddamn it, Lehmann--”

Passive resistance is all well and good, but Jens already has mud on his trousers and he draws the line at letting Robin try to strangle him with his own shirt-collar. He does, however, have to take Robin inside in order to twist up the other man’s arms behind his back. Robin gasps and shoves himself back into Jens. Then he does it again so it’s clear that it’s a deliberate action with a point.

Jens carefully pivots and nudges the door shut with his hip. “What are you doing?”

Moan from Robin. He’s starting to squirm like Cesc during a Wenger lecture.

“Oh, well…that makes sense for you, actually.” This actually presents a bit of a dilemma. If Jens keeps holding onto Robin, he’s going to end up having to take part in a mess he’d rather watch. If he lets go of Robin, Robin’s going to scramble into the next room, and Jens was serious about looking out for Michael.

Well…if he lets Michael exhaust himself now, then that weakens Chelsea. And that’s a very, very tempting thought because if there’s one man Jens wants to smash into a goal-post and not in a way that is remotely connected to sexual thoughts, it’s Mourinho. The thing is, then Man U might have a clear run to the league title. And with Sir Alex Ferguson Jens would skip the goal-post and just use his hands. Again, non-sexually, and Jens sighs as he realizes he’s just disgusted himself so badly his libido isn’t stirring at all, despite having Robin jerking around against him and moaning for him to just get to the fucking already.

Jens frowns and tightens his grip, which accidentally leads to Robin bucking in an unmistakable way. “Wait, Robin. This isn’t really that good of an idea. Realistically, you’re risking things like your reputation, your fitness, your ability to—”

“What’s taking so long at the—oh, sorry, am I interrupting?” Michael airily asks.

He waltzes in and Jens turns, with Robin, to look and Michael has lost his trousers and Jens can literally feel Robin stiffen in amazed anticipation. Michael pretends not to notice, but he damn well does. He honestly preens like a teenage girl sometimes.

“What happened to Cesc and Mathieu?” Jens asks.

“I am respecting you and letting them rest.” It’s a good thing Michael chose to say that in English, since his halting grasp of it makes it sound genuinely sincere. And Michael probably is sincere on some level, but it’s just that the little gleam in his eye says in German, he would’ve sounded extremely smug.

That’s probably Jens’ cue to leave. He lets Robin go and stands back while Robin drops awkwardly to his knees, barely catching himself on his hands. “He likes being twisted around,” Jens says in German as he walks around Robin. “But send them all home in one piece, please?”

Michael calls back something affirmative, but it sounds like he’s already exploring how far Robin can be twisted around.

Jens pops into the other room before he goes: Cesc and Mathieu are in a bleary-eyed tangle on the couch, but Cesc is still with it to chatter something about Jens not joking this time, thank God, so they’ll be fine. So Jens goes on out and…

…he pauses, then carefully walks around the house, poking at all the bushes, before he finally catches a taxi home.

* * *

He must be a little on the tired side, since he’s halfway up the walk to his own house before he picks up on it. Jens turns around and jogs back down, catching Philippe just as the other man’s hastily sitting up behind the wheel. “Senderos?”

“Oh…oh, you’re back,” Philippe says, wide-eyed. He looks twice at his car clock, as if he hadn’t already telegraphed enough to Jens.

“I don’t have anyone with me, if that’s why you’re here.”

Philippe grimaces, then yawns and stretches his arms over his head. He lets them flop back down on the wheel and slouches a little, shrugging. “No. I…well, Cesc wants to go, then I’m just glad I stocked up on aspirin today. I wasn’t waiting for him or whoever else—and I don’t want to know who.”

“Then why are you here?” Jens asks, leaning against the side of the car. The metal’s chilly, and when he looks up at his house, so are its darkened windows. He wasn’t sure where he and Michael would end up, so he’d made sure his family was off visiting relatives as well.

“Not because I’m interested in the magical cock of Michael Ballack.” Well, so Philippe’s German and his sarcasm gets better when he’s sleepy. He looks closely at Jens, and for once he doesn’t look worried. He looks…hopeful? “You’re back way too soon. I think Cesc thought he was getting two for the price of one.”

Jens rolls his eyes for the zillionth time since the match. “Right, if that was so, wouldn’t I have slept with him already?”

“Well, that’s why they got so excited. It was the first time anybody ever heard you talking about another man like—I mean, we thought you were really dead straight,” Philippe says, blushing hard. He abruptly turns around to stare ahead of himself. “Or were you kidding, and you aren’t really, um, in awe of his—”

“It’s big. I’ll say that,” Jens dryly replies. He’s beginning to get the picture here and he’s actually not amused, he supposes. Freddie tells him he could have his pick, if he wanted to deal with all the hyperactive insanity that’d come with rolling one of his nympho teammates, but Freddie’s a friend. A friend who needs someone who can come out at all hours and throw out clingy modeling-job pick-ups with one biting retort. “Michael’s all right. I just think he goes into heat every time he goes somewhere new, or something like that…he always settles down. I guess Mourinho keeps too close an eye for him to have gotten all of that out of the way at Chelsea.”

Philippe twitches. “Um, well….can I ask about Drogba?”

“I like Drogba. He’s tough and not all that moral, but he doesn’t pretend other people doing the same things he does is somehow worse.” Jens pushes off the side of the car, goes around the front, and taps on the window. Once Philippe’s unlocked that side, he gets in and makes himself at home. It’s not nearly as flashy a car as Michael has, but when Jens goes to adjust the seat he notices that Philippe’s had it customized to slide back much further than normal. Nice and roomy. “While we’re straightening things out…Philippe, the whole team thinks you’ve got it for Cesc.”

“I know. I…well, I’ve got habits from when I was getting him to know the place. But honestly, if we were more than friends, I think I’d kill him just for trying to flush condoms down the toilet all the time. Sometimes I want to take a plunger to his head anyway,” Philippe confesses. He pauses, then slowly raises his hands and begins to air-chop in irritation. “It’s so gross when they come up. They’re these little balloons floating in there, and then you start plunging and you realize how many there—”

Jens rubs at the side of his face. “Philippe. Talking about Cesc’s unsanitary habits really does not make me want to ask if you’d like to come inside.”

Philippe immediately stops and gives Jens a big-eyed look. “Come inside and do what?”

“Propose marriage to you with Micha as best man and Cesc as the flower boy,” Jens mutters. “Robin can be ring-bearer. I’m torn between Klinsmann and Wenger as the priest.”

Long moment of silence. Then Philippe grins a little and shakes his head. “I’d settle for getting to shower afterwards. I…I was here because I thought you wouldn’t be. And I thought you weren’t interested in a one-off, or else…”

“It’s two-oh-one in the morning, Senderos. If you’re interested in some kind of from-afar romance, I’m going inside and going to bed by myself.”

Philippe looks at him. “Ideally, you’d shut me up by kissing me. According to Cesc.”

“Cesc,” Jens says in a carefully modulated tone, “Is currently getting fucked stupid by Micha’s amazing German-engineered prick. If his mouth is doing anything, it’s sucking off Robin or Mathieu.”

Philippe swallows and blinks and reaches quickly for the door handle. “Okay, are you asking me inside now?”

“Just get out of the car, Philippe.”

* * *

It takes a little bit but Philippe manages to shake off his nerves about sex easier than he does about making a bad tackle. He’s still awkward, with sloppy but enthusiastic and oddly arousing technique, and after the first round, it turns out those flashes of ironic humor aren’t just accidental. Senderos actually is funny. And enjoys Jens’ cracks more than he usually lets on, apparently.

Sometime later, he hands Jens the phone with a sleepy grumble. “Tell Ballack he can’t have anyone else from our side without sending John Terry over to bottom for Theo.”

Jens nearly drops the phone laughing. “Micha?”

*Sorry if I woke you, and tell whoever it was that I can’t be responsible for any permanent damage JT would cause. I just wanted to say sorry that I neglected you, but…seems you did fine.*

“Of course,” Jens snorts. He pats Philippe on the shoulder, and then rubs it thoughtfully when the other man begins to look slightly worried. “But we’ll be getting back to you about the neglect.”

* * *

Thierry asks about it a couple days later. “Jens, did you scare them again? Half the team is giving you odd looks and the other half just winces.”

“I didn’t do a thing. Well, except for Senderos.”

“But he’s the only one who seems fine…”

Jens shrugs. “Well, I guess he’s the only one who figured out what was wrong. It’s funny how that works.”

It’s not really supposed to happen that way, especially if you ask Cesc. It’s bloody ridiculous, if you ask Jens. But he can always use a laugh or two, even at himself. He’ll be fair that way.

For everything else, people are on their own.