Fandom: German National team
Pairing: Klinsmann/Loew, Matthaeus/Klinsmann
Disclaimer: I still don't know people mentioned in this story and I still hope it isn't true. The plot is still only my fantasy
Summary: and then it's a sunny morning in Muenchen.
Author's notes, previous chapters and music here
Timeline for the series is here
There are dark circles under Joachim’s eyes. Like shadows, indicators of stress, of worry, of fear, belying the façade of a self-assured and calm man. The whole month he sees his lover on the TV-screen he notices this shadow, always present and visible for everyone who cares to look hard enough… For everyone who cares, and, caring, feels helpless knowing that there is nothing to be done to. That only shots of adrenaline – or a healthy amount of rest – can return the spark to these dark-grey eyes. The later is unachievable for now though, and the first… He knows it all too well, the thrill of victory, being high and flying, then sleepless nights after the match and sleepless nights before the next game, and the ink-dark circles become more and more visible on the tanned skin.
Joachim is drinking too much espresso. It doesn’t help.
Lothar is drinking espresso too. White porcelain cup, white plate, white tablecloth. White chairs. White tent above their heads, white rails separating the terrace from the sun-lit garden. Lush green of leaves and grass and the flowers – rainbow of colors. And white bunches of jasmine right in front of them, with its fine scent – but the aroma of freshly roasted coffee is strong enough to dominate in the air.
Latte in his glass tastes of caramel, rich sweetness mixed with milk. Not the taste he usually likes, but this morning it suddenly seems to be his favorite drink. And ideally suited to fill the pauses of their conversation.
And there are many such pauses. Dividing lines, separating one topic from another, like many small conversations in one. Another theme is closed, Lothar takes his cup and brings it to his lips. And looks at him while taking a small sip and putting a cup back to the table. The fact that Lothar looks at him – or, more precisely, at his face – most of the time is slightly unnerving, not in a scary kind of way, but just that – unnerving, bringing out of balance. He avoids looking directly back.
Instead, his gaze is wandering. He looks at Lothar’s shirt – thin blue and white stripes, very in-tune with a bright summer day. At his hands – Lothar has taken to wearing watches on metal bracelets, and still has the habit of gesturing animatedly when he is talking and sitting almost still when listening. At the embroidery on the tablecloth – white ornament on white. At the glass in his own hands. At Lothar’s face – not avoiding the eye-contact, but certainly not looking for it.
“If you overdo it you’ll be thrown out before you count to five, it’s not a place for experiments and no time, you’ve got ‘Inter’ thrown on you and”, Lothar smiles ruefully, “you won’t be getting it easy, more so because it’s not your club and not your land”.
“I know”, he replies, surprised a bit by the lack of animosity in other man’s words. Lothar wouldn’t be Lothar if he didn’t say something like that, Lothar wouldn’t be Lothar if he wished ill on anyone. And Lothar wouldn’t be Lothar if he didn’t pile everything he wanted to say in one long phrase – this thought brings a smile. He would have laughed – but then again, Lothar wouldn’t be Lothar if he didn’t take offence at someone laughing in reply to something he says seriously.
“You won’t be staying here for long”. Delivered matter-of-factly, and Lothar reaches out to take the cup – considering the theme closed, obviously.
“You say it because you’re so sure of it or because I’ve taken the place you wanted once again?” Bad, very bad choice of words, and the only hope is that a smile and the tone will alleviate the sting. “Sorry, I didn’t mean…”
Lothar waves him off with a curt gesture.
“I know you”, is he answering the question or the apology? “I know Uli, I know Franz, I know the fans, I know our press, I’d be surprised if you’re still here after Christmas, I’ll be shocked if it’s more then one year”.
And now he laughs. “I would have made a bet with you if I wasn’t sure your estimation is correct”.
Lothar smiles and lifts the cup, making a move as if toasting him. The theme is closed. Another one of many.
And still he doesn’t know what is the reason of this meeting. Not that he’s complaining. Citing the personal reasons, he’s escaped the mad rush of last-minute preparations to the new season for a few hours and has time to enjoy the peaceful morning. Not in the company of his choice, but in no way he is annoyed with sharing a breakfast with Lothar Matthäus. It is amusing rather, pleasant in some way – or maybe he’s just finally become old enough to appreciate every meeting with his past. Or maybe – just maybe – he’s trying too hard not to let himself worry.
The waiter brings strawberries with cream, glass bowl of sugar, dessert forks and spoons, wordlessly, swiftly puts everything on the table and leaves as quietly as he’s appeared.
Lothar has already told some amusing stories – he’s a born storyteller, one of those who can make people laugh while reciting the phone book. But the fact is that Lothar is supposed to be in Basel right now, training with his own team, and not in München drinking coffee with his old teammate.
‘I need to talk to you’. Bold in itself, such statement coming from a man with whom he’s spoken maybe twenty phrases in three years. So unexpected it was that it alone made him take the call seriously. He’s even started to worry. And the thought of saying no didn’t even cross his mind.
‘Is it urgent?’, he asked. – ‘No, it can wait’.
Worry turning into confusion then.
‘Sunday in Vienna?’ – ‘Too crowdy’.
And here they are.
Lothar doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to speak. He’s leaning back in the chair and drinking his coffee slowly, starting a small conversation from time to time, finishing it then and drinking coffee again. And looking at his face.
Lothar came here wearing the sunglasses. They are lying on the table now, casting a dark-beige shadow onto the white table.
“You wanted to tell me something”.
No, it doesn’t startle his companion. Lothar is still smiling. Just his gaze becomes more intense. As if he wants to tell him something with this gaze alone.
“Just a word of warning, as we were speaking about the press, if I were you I would be more careful about your relationship with Löw, it’s not something to be made public”.
“You know?” Sounding more like a statement, because as a question it would be pointless – Lothar wouldn’t have talked about it if he didn’t know.
He wouldn’t say that he’s shocked. Surprised – yes, more even by the person saying this to him then by the fact that someone else is so well informed about his personal life. His eyes narrow. Yes, the person. He looks up to meet Lothar’s gaze squarely.
“Hansi knows”, shrugs Lothar nonchalantly. “This means I know too, we’re friends after all”.
He’s still eyeing the man in front of him, thinking. Accessing the threat. A moment of silence lasts, and then Lothar snaps.
“Don’t you...” Matthäus puts both elbows onto the table and leans closer, as if trying to intensify the words said in quiet, brisk tone. “If I wanted to give this to the press, I would have done it long ago. Even with pictures maybe”.
He doesn’t like the tone. Meets Lothar’s eyes. Nods in agreement, still not saying anything.
Lothar doesn’t move.
“How long do you know?” His voice is even. The voice of a man talking about weather forecasts.
“About two years, exact time? I didn’t count for sure”, Lothar leans back again, leaving him enough personal space, and again – these dark eyes are looking at him. What is he trying to do?
As if hearing his thoughts – he surely didn’t say this out loud, didn’t he? – Lothar starts talking again. “Hansi knows. I don’t know how, he wasn’t too forthcoming about the details, and I wasn’t too interested in asking”, it almost seems to him that Lothar is in a haste to explain himself. “He’s told me, it’s not a problem for you…”
He trusts Lothar in this case, but sardonic grin that appears on his face is not a bad thing, if it will make Lothar say more.
“Not a problem for you”, it is repeated more forcefully. “Even if I decide to get you thrown out of the job by publishing some juicy stories, you’ll tell on me, I fear, so it’s not worth it I deem, but if Hansi knows it means that someone else may be able to find out too, and though Hansi will never do any harm, someone else may. So better tell your lover”, oh, how much dismay put in two short words! “to be more careful for once if he doesn’t want to destroy both of your careers over stupid prejudices”.
“I will”, he answers without thought, and Lothar nods. They look at each other in silence.
“Why do you warn me?” Asks he belatedly.
Lothar actually takes time to answer. A lot of time, while he is looking at jasmine blossoms, seemingly lost in thoughts – and for some time it seems that there’ll be no reply.
“It would be strange to see your name dragged through the dirt by the press because of something so stupid”.
And this is it. Lothar has managed to shock him. And is enjoying it, judging by his smile.
“Believe it or not, I just thought you’d better know that Löw happens to be more foolish than you give him credit, and since it’s not your fault – you should be warned. That’s what I was thinking”.
Joachim’s nerves are wound tight like strings, every time, every moment. Behind the smile and elegant suit – this tightness, and cigarettes don’t help to relax. It’s not too noticeable on the pitch, and this is a credit to Jogi’s roleplaying ability – and his love for the game too. But then, when the training has ended and there is time that’s relatively free – the uneasiness can’t be hidden. And there are dark shadows under his eyes...
“Thank you”. Again belatedly, an afterthought.
Lothar nods dismissively and takes his cup once more. There’s almost no coffee left.
And pause again. These pauses don’t seem to bother Lothar in the slightest. In the silence there are sounds of birds singing, soft lull of conversations from other tables – inaudible words, just a noise, clicks of metal and glass. And then his phone starts ringing, the melody flowing freely for some seconds before he puts his hand up in apology and takes the call.
“Joachim”, he smiles.
“Speak of the Devil”, sarcastic note in half-voice from Lothar.
He stands up and walks closer to balcony rails to have some privacy while they talk. Joachim is asking him about Sunday, and he nods, smiling again.
“I will be there, for sure. Wouldn’t want to miss this victory”, he’s taken on a teasing tone when talking to his lover lately, and it seems that for Joachim it’s just what is needed.
He glances over his shoulder. Lothar is still in his chair, sitting comfortably, cup in his hand. And still Lothar is looking at him.