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Gut Feeling

Chapter Text

I vaguely remember being on stage, performing with the guys. The pyro was as hot as it should’ve been, the music as loud as the fans expected it to be (…perhaps a little louder). My signature burnt guitar felt smooth in my hands, my fingers seemingly moving on their own, and yet… something wasn’t right.

It felt as if I were in a movie, where everything is based on something real, yet none of it is. I love movies though. Always have loved them. The guys in the band often nicknamed me Richard ‘Stark’ because of my love for the Marvel movies (especially, you guess it, Iron Man), but all kind of movies have my vote, really. Movies opened up my world. They opened all kind of worlds.

Back in the day, when I considered America to be another planet, and when English grammar was as strange to me as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, I spent my days watching English movies while on tour. Maybe I should add the fact that touring, as much fun as it is, can be a painfully boring event. The gigs are great, of course… but in between the concerts, it’s just waiting and traveling and waiting and traveling, and more waiting. Crossing empty fields, soulless cities, and a frighteningly amount of time zones does something do you, you know? You kinda… alienate yourself, in a way. It’s difficult to explain.

Anway.

Back in the day, while being on tour, I decided to kill the time with something entertaining and useful to do. So, day after day, hour after hour, I watched movies on our nightliner’s 14-inch tv. Good movies. Terrible movies. It did not matter to me, as long as they were in English. No German voice-overs, no German subtitles. The band wasn’t happy with me for that very reason, but I left them with their books and crossword puzzles. I just wanted to learn. I wanted to be able to strike up a conversation with the bands we toured with. Korn, Limb Bizkit, Kiss, anyone. I wanted to visit the States. I wanted to broaden my horizon. There was so much out there that I wanted.

… In the end? I got what I wanted.

It’s funny. The thing we do today- being Rammstein and all- is the exact same thing we did when we were just a bunch of 6 young boys, slipping into the dangerous areas of fame. In a way, we grew up with our own music, and the music grew up with us. I sometimes can’t grasp the fact that I’m in my fifties now. Whenever I look in a mirror, I can see that I’ve aged. My back pains and weak knee always loved to make me aware of that fact too. But whenever we are on stage… playing our early hit songs from the mid 90’s, this strange feeling crawls over me. This feeling of… youthfulness, as if I’m back out there. Back where it all started. It sounds cliché, I know. Can’t help it.

But anyway, I’m side-tracking here. Movies. I was talking about movies. I was talking about movies, wasn’t I? I can’t really remember, everything’s getting a bit… hazy.

Anyway.

My favorite genre are action movies, obviously. The suspense, the chase, speeding cars, people flying through the air, explosions, fire… -oh yes… the more fire, the better. No surprise there, right? Fire has such an exciting energy, and no, I’m not trying to sound like a happy treehugger here, it’s true. Trust me, when flames are licking your face, you feel… I dunno, I can’t explain it. It’s just thrilling, you know?

Action movies, - good ones I must add-, can give you the same kind of thrill. It’s different, of course, because it’s not real. You can’t feel the heat, nor can you feel the danger. But sometimes, the visuals and sound effects are enough. Some directors do this kind of thing brilliantly. There are these scenes, you know, where at first, nothing is happening. There are just a bunch of guys, or gals, whatever, looking around, sensing danger. Then the music builds up and then… silence. Dead silence… and then…

BOOM!

Unlike real explosions that come and go within a matter of seconds, movie explosions take a god awful long time to blast.

I love it.

In slow motion, you can see every flicker, every spark, erupting in gorgeous detail. Everything is so much more… intense! This might sound odd, but I’ve always wondered what that’d be like, being in some kind of slow motion action scene. But then… for real, you know?

Did I mention that I’m a guy who often gets what he wants?

Having your life pass in front of you in slow motion is both a terrifying and a beautiful thing. I have no idea how any of this is possible. It just isn’t. And yet, it’s happening. To me. Right now.

I didn’t feel any of the heat, or pain, nor had I heard the loud BOOM that ignited it all. I guess the visual experience numbed my other senses. The only thing I could do, was witness this… strange bright world that had become my new reality somehow.

This is no movie, I have to remind myself. This is real.

Red glowing fire is surrounding me everywhere. Literally, everywhere. It has enveloped me. Looking down, I can see it’s also underneath the soles of my boots, which appear to be floating… was I thrown off my feet or something? Am I flying through the air as we speak?

In front of me I can vaguely make out a row of black Rammstein Trucks, seemingly huddling together, as if they are sheltering from the immense amount of heat that’s washing over them. It was strangely fascinating to see two of them succumb, the 50 000 pound trucks disappearing in the blast as if they were made out of cardboard.

I’m still flying.

Small pieces of dust are dancing in front of my eyes, glistering as they reflect the brightness of my surroundings. Am I crazy for saying that all of this is actually quite stunning? In the back of my mind, I know that I am in danger. How could I not be? But all of this… it’s just…

It was breathtaking.

All of a sudden, a wall smashed into me from behind with brutal force, knocking the wind out of me. I felt my back crunch at the impact and I know it should’ve hurt, but it didn’t hurt. At all.

Weird.

After crashing into the stone surface, my body bounced off of it, and smashed into it again, this time on its side. My world started spinning, and what was at first a detailed vision of fire, now became a bright orange blur that stung my eyes. My body hit the wall a few more times, making dizzying whirling movements in between, until I felt myself skidding to a halt. It must’ve been a few feet before I stopped rolling, ending up on my back, pressed against… something.

It took me a while to realize it wasn’t actually a wall I had crashed into. It was a floor.

A hard, cold, parking lot floor.

Everything around me was spinning, and I had no idea whether my body was still moving or not. Or why…- or if… I was still alive. All I could do… was look up from where I lay. The red glow emanating from the blast had lightened up the sky and every single star in it. It looked like someone had smeared blood all over the galaxy.

… What a strangely poetic thing to think in this situation.

A dark shape appeared out of nowhere and covered a big part of my vision. It took me a lot of effort to make out a nose and a mouth. Ahh... A face. The mouth opened and closed, it looked like the face was screaming things. I didn’t really know, and to be honest, I didn’t really care.

Another dark blob joined the first one, another person. I couldn’t really explain it, but I could feel panic amongst them. I sensed it… in a way.

Slowly, one by one, my other senses started to return to me.

Oh god, how I wished they HADN’T!

Fortunately for me, it was too much for my body to handle. The piercing screeching noise that suddenly drilled through my eardrums, as well as the overwhelming burning agony that washed over me like boiling lava, knocked me out. It happened so fast, I didn’t even had the opportunity to scream.

Peace was the only thing I wanted.

And hey, I am a man who gets what he wants.

Chapter Text

{ 9 days earlier… }

“Wo ist es?? Scheiße…” The young lady occupying the window seat was obviously having trouble locating something in her bag. She had been struggling with the thing for throughout the flight, - 6 hours total so far- pulling out an incredible amount of… stuff, and depositing it on the small table in front of her. A middle-aged businessman sat next to her, watching her efforts with mild interest. He had been asleep for the past 4 hours or so, but was roughly awakened when a shoulder strap had hit him in the face. The girl had apologized to him, but seemed too agitated to stop tearing her bag apart. Her hands were shaking and she kept hissing things in German that were lost on the American sitting next to her. What the man could understand however, was the fact that she was starting to panic. No one wants a panicked lady on a plane. A panicked German lady, no less.

The man cleared his throat. “Excuse me?”

The girl turned towards him, looking a little… pale. The man estimated her to be somewhere in her late teens. His first impression of her was that she had black hair, but now, as he looked more closely, he realized it was actually a very dark shade of brown, tied together in a disheveled bun. From underneath a few loose bangs of hair, two startling blue eyes stared back at him, shining a little too brightly with unshed tears.

“Are you alright?” The man decided to ask. He wasn’t even sure if she spoke a word of English.

The girl turned back towards her bag, checking pockets she had already checked at least a hundred times. “I can’t find my phone.” She said softly, her voice quivering slightly. “I must’ve left it at home…”

“Ah…” The man scratched his cheek. “Well, that’s... unfortunate.”

 “It’s bad.... it’s really really bad.” The girl bit out in a strong German accent, now bending over to check the floor. Maybe she had accidentally dropped it?

“Why?” The man asked. Sure, it was a little inconvenient to forget a phone... but he didn’t see the big problem here.

“My father is going to freak!” Came the high-pitched reply from underneath the seats. “I promised to keep in touch with him, and now I can’t even reach him to tell him I have no phone!”

“I see…” The man reached into his pocket, drawing out his smartphone. “Here, give him a call.”

The girl looked up at him in surprise. “Are… are you sure?”

The man smiled and gave an encouraging nod, inching the sleek device closer to her. He was glad to see a small smile appear on the girl’s face. She gently accepted his phone, cradling it as if it were very precious to her. In a way, it was.

The man turned in his seat so he was facing the aisle. The plane was a cramped, shared space, but at least he could provide an illusion of privacy. It wasn’t long before the girl started rambling things in German with a few pauses in between, in which a soft low voice could be heard from over the phone. The man couldn’t understand a word of it, but, judging by their tone, the conversation started tense. Thankfully, as the phone call progressed, it gradually changed. After a few minutes of soft words and giggles, the girl tapped the man on the shoulder and gave him back his phone.

“Thank you.” The girl said, looking much calmer than before.

The man smiled and slipped the phone back into his inner coat pocket. “It’s no problem.”

The two of them settled back in their seats, trying to make themselves as comfortable as one could in a tight space. They had another 2 hours to go before they’d reach New York.

“So… is your dad okay?” The man asked while staring at the seat in front of him. From out of the corners of his eyes, he saw the girl turn towards him with a fond smile. “Yeah, he is.” The man looked back at her and grinned. “Glad to hear that.”

The girl nodded and smiled, before turning her head to look out of the window. The man decided to give her some space, and picked up one of the flight magazines that were placed in the seat in front of him. Giving the silent girl next to him a short glance, he couldn’t help but notice her troubled expression, reflected in the window.

Without looking up from the magazine, he asked her, “How about you?”

The girl blinked and turned towards him. “Huh?”

“Are you okay?”

It took the girl a couple of seconds to respond, which made the man glance at her questionably.

“I am… It’s just...” She sighed, her eyes darting across the panel above her as she was searching for the right words. In the end, she whispered, not wanting the rest of the plane to overhear, “My father really didn’t want me to go.”

“To New York?”

“To the States in general, but yeah…” The girl shrugged.

“Why? Does he hate us so much?” The man sounded slightly amused about it.

The girl rolled her head to the left and chuckled. “No it’s not that. He used to live in New York for years, and he loved it. He’s just… - He had a bad feeling about... well….” She trailed off.

“About you going to the States?” The man suggested, receiving a small nod from the girl. “He thinks something bad will happen to me.” She explained quietly.

“Like what?”

The girl shrugged again. “I don’t know… he couldn’t say.”

The man titled his head slightly. “He couldn’t say? That’s a bit… vague, isn’t it?”

“No, you don’t understand. When my dad feels something... ” The girl looked down, picking at her finger nails. She stayed quiet for a while, but the man sensed there was more she was trying to say. After a few tense seconds of silence, the girl cleared her throat uncomfortably. “He sometimes just… knows things.”

The man furrowed his eyebrows for a moment, not in anger, but more in a bemused matter. “He knows things? As in… some fortune-telling kind of stuff, or something?”

The girl squinted at the man’s face in silent suspicion. “You’re not taking this seriously, are you?"

“I’m sorry.” The man chuckled softly, before leaning his head against the head rest, giving the girl a sidelong glance. “So what did he feel then, exactly?”

The girl sighed, keeping her voice down in case other passengers were eavesdropping on their conversation. “He… kept having these dreams, or… nightmares, I should say… where he saw me really terrified and upset, over and over again. And somehow, me traveling to the States played a factor as well. He was convinced something bad was going to happen to me when I’d go there. He couldn’t explain why or how, he just… did.”

The man frowned slightly. “Do you believe something bad will happen?”

“I dunno.” The girl admitted softly, returning her attention to her finger nails. “I think if something bad will happen to me, it’ll happen anyway, regardless where I am.”

The man seemed to be taken aback by her answer. “Is that what you believe?”

The girl shrugged, before giving him a hesitative glance. “What do you believe in?”

The man scratched at the stubble on his chin as he thought about it. After a while, he mumbled, “I believe our world is an unpredictable little blue ball that floats in an endless dark place that’s even more unpredictable. People who try to exert any form of control over it, are wasting their energy and effort. There’s no way you can determine your path, you can only live here...”

“In this moment?” The girl suggested.

“In this moment.” The man confirmed with a smile.

The girl redirected her glance outside, to stare at the clouds that waded by like flakes of cotton. “Maybe he’s just being paranoid.” She mumbled softly.

“Nah… he’s being a dad, that’s all.”

“… Huh?” The girl looked at the man next to her in confusion. He smiled at her. “Look. I’ve got a seventeen year old at home, and trust me, the only thing I want is to keep her safe. I wouldn’t want her to leave either, especially to the other side of the world, all by herself. Whenever she leaves on a trip, doesn’t matter where to, all I can think of are the terrible things that can happen to her. They’ll haunt me for days. I’d also get nightmares about it!”

They both stayed silent for a while, before the man added quietly, “All of that is just a byproduct of being a father. That’s what we do, we worry.”

The girl kept picking at her nails, muttering softly, “I don’t know… Maybe you’re right.”

“I probably am.” The man smiled reassuringly. “So… what brings you to the States? Anything in particular you’d like to go and see?”

The girl shifted in her seat, she was getting stiff. Nevertheless, she gave the man next to her a proud smile. “I’m here to get my college degree in tourism, actually. We received extra points if we graduated in another country.”

“Nice!” The man smiled back. “Will you rent a dorm or something?”

The girl shook her head. “I’ll be staying with a guest family for a year. After graduation I’ll move back to Berlin.”

“Sounds exciting!” The man grinned. “Is it a nice family?” The man knew he was asking a lot of questions, be he could see it distracted the girl, in a good way. She seemed way less nervous than the first hours into their journey.

“I don’t really know.” The girl admitted with a soft laugh. “We had contact by email, but they seemed nice. My school approached them, so I’m sure they’re good people.”

“Oh I’m sure they’ll be.” The man said with a warm smile.

The two of them stayed silent for a moment, before the man smacked himself on the forehead. “I’m totally forgetting my manners here.” He said with a chuckle, before extending his hand. “The name’s Anthony O’Brian.”

The girl laughed sheepishly, well aware of the fact she was just as guilty. She quickly accepted his hand. “Lina. Lina Kruspe.”

Chapter Text

Flying from Berlin to New York was quite the journey, but Lina felt relaxed and didn’t mind the many hours of air travel now that she had someone to talk to. The rest of the flight was spend in companionable silence, with the occasional conversation about Germany and its different cultures when compared to the States.

It was at the luggage reclaim area that Lina and Anthony, or ‘just Tony’ as she was asked to call him, parted ways. Tony had a cab to catch, so their farewell was swift but pleasant. Lina had her handbag clutched in both hands as she watched the older man disappear around the corner. She felt strangely lonely all of a sudden… this was unfamiliar territory. The smells, the foods, the people, the shops, the words written and spoken around her, the restroom signs… everything was different. Even the reflection looking back at her when she looked through the window overlooking the parking lot, wasn’t her own. The long flight made her look the way she felt; exhausted and worn.

Swallowing past the lump in her throat, Lina turned back to the luggage carousel. A large group of people were still waiting for their luggage to pop up. Sighing softly, she joined them, hoping her bright yellow suitcase would make an appearance soon.

More than anything, Lina wished she had her phone with her. She’d have loved to hear her father’s voice right now.

 


 

Grey coat. Red scarf.

Grey coat. Red scarf.

Grey coat. Red scarf.

Lina inwardly cursed. If only she had asked her new temporary family to send more photos beforehand. Lina reached into her inner coat pocket and pulled out the one photo the family had send her earlier. It was a bit blurred, as if the photographer had been moving while taking the shot. Nevertheless she could easily distinguish four people in the picture. Two brothers and two parents. The picture wasn’t that bad, really, it was just difficult to make out details, such as facial features. Lina had been told she could recognize them through the clothes the mother was wearing in the picture. She was wearing a grey coat and a…

“… red scarf…” Lina whispered as she stood in the crowded arrival hall. People were everywhere. And to make things worse, grey coats were a popular choice amongst these people. Red scarves too.

Just when Lina contemplated on getting on the first flight back to Germany, someone gently tapped her on the shoulder. Turning around, she saw a young man standing right behind her. He was slightly taller than her, but seemed to be around her age. He had bright blond hair and brown eyes that seemed to slant a little when he smiled at her. When he did the latter, Lina felt her knees go weak.

“Hi!” The guy said joyfully, extending a hand. “You must be ‘Lienah’. ‘Lyna’? How should I pronounce it?”

Lina widened her eyes. He knew her name.

Ohh… wait a second….

Lina smiled sheepishly, realizing the boy’s hand was still floating between them. Before things got any more awkward, she shook it. “It’s ‘Liinaa’, actually. You must be Steven Taylor then?”

“Nope.” The boy grinned when Lina widened her eyes. Was she talking to another stranger without realizing it? Luckily, the boy hastened to add, “Steve’s my brother, I’m Matt.”

“Ah… I’m sorry.” Lina smiled, prompting a chuckle from Matt. “It’s no problem.” He said, “We often get mistaken for one another.”

“I see… Are you twins or something?”

“No!” Matt laughed broadly. “No, he’s actually three years older than me. Taller too. But everything else… well, we share the same hairdo. And voice. And taste in music. It’s kinda weird.” Matt’s face was kind of comical.

Lina laughed at Matt’s expression. He was easygoing and funny, she liked him already. It was a good thing her father didn’t know how charming this guy was. He would’ve chained her to a chair, assigned her a well-trained guard dog, two of his finest Russian bodyguards and maybe some pyro explosives as a trap.

To say Richard Kruspe was overprotective when it came to young men coming close to his daughter, would be an understatement.

Lina fondly remembered a record store in Paris, a couple of years back. Rammstein had been scheduled to do a signing session there, attracting more fans than the small record store could handle. Lina had joined them on this trip, simply because she loved France and she loved hanging out with the guys, who basically all were like a father to her. She had bought her ‘six dads’ coffee, and struggled through the swarm of fans to get to them before the coffee was cold. The guys welcomed the coffee break with relieved smiles, and her father had even interrupted his signing session to stand up and give her a hug. While doing so, a fan had taken a picture of the two of them with his phone. Lina’s back had been turned to the young man in question, so she hadn’t been aware of the looks he was sending her. Paul later told her it had been slightly weird. Paul also later told her that Richard had glared at the fan so fiercely, that the boy had apologized shakily and deleted every photograph he had taken of the two of them, before throwing his phone into the lead-guitarist’s general direction before running off. While she hadn’t seen it herself, Lina knew exactly how intimidating her father could be. She also knew there really was no mean bone in the man’s body.

Well, except when it came down to attractive young men, of course.

Glancing at Matt, Lina had the feeling that, perhaps, her father would approve of him. After all, he was a true gentlemen. He insisted on carrying Lina’s suitcase to where his parents were waiting, a couple of feet away.

Matt’s mother was a small lady, but her presence brightened up the whole arrival hall. “Ohh my goodness!” She exclaimed happily, meeting her son and the newcomer halfway. Much like her sons, she had sunny blonde hair, which curled and bounced playfully as she moved. It fit her, somehow.

“You must be Lina! It’s so very nice to meet you! Welcome, welcome!” The woman shook Lina’s hand enthusiastically, with a big grin plastered on her jolly face. “I see you’ve already met our son, Matt. My name is Margie, and this here is my husband, Ed.”

Ed was a huge guy. He wasn’t just tall, he was muscular too. A well-trimmed beard hid most of his face, making it hard for Lina to read him. His hair was dark, although it was graying a bit at the sides. A pair of unsettling dark eyes peered down at her, being shadowed by thick eyebrows. When Matt’s father took a step into her direction, towering over her, she fought the urge to take a step back. He sure was… big. Lina was pretty sure the man was bulkier than her own father, although she was pretty sure Till would be a fair match.

“Nice to meet you.” Ed’s voice was like Lina expected it to be. Low and deep. Not a lot of emotion in there. Lina nodded her head in greeting, but she couldn’t hide the fact she felt uncomfortable. Margie fluttered besides the giant, bearded man, explaining, “Oh, he has this effect on everybody. Don’t let him scare you, honey. He’s a sweetheart on the inside, I promise. Did you have a nice flight?”

Lina gave the man a nervous smile, before turning to Margie, who looked at her expectantly. “Yeah… yes, I had a good flight. Thank you.”

“You must feel exhausted after traveling such a gigantic distance, don’t you? Poor thing. Let’s get you home and settled.” Margie gave the German girl a gentle tug on the arm, and the four of them made their way to the parking lot.

During the drive home, Margie did most of the talking. She told Lina all kinds of things about their family, and asked things about hers. When it came to her family however, Lina liked to keep things superficial. The moment people knew who her father was, she was automatically associated with the Rammstein family, instead of seeing her as an individual with her own talents, quirks and hobbies. It was for that very same reason she used her mother’s last name, when it was convenient to do so. She didn’t have to lie about anything; she simply told them her parents were separated, and that she happily lived with her father, who, in his ‘free’ time, played in a band. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. Thankfully, Margie didn’t pressure her. Instead, the blonde-haired woman started telling her things about her own family and the life the Taylors lived.

Lina learned that Ed, unsurprisingly, worked as a police officer at the New York Police Department. Lina had no doubt every criminal would balk when confronted with the colossal man.

Margie worked from home, trying to start a business as a health & lifestyle coach. The business still had to grow, but she already had some clients, which she was very proud of. Lina thought she’d make a splendid coach.

And Matt? He was in college, like Lina herself. In fact, the two of them would be classmates, as he was majoring in tourism as well.

Ed was driving and wasn’t saying much. In fact, he hadn’t spoken another word since they’d met.  Lina wondered if the man was suspicious of her in some way. She was European, after all. And Europe, according to the many American sitcoms and movies she had watched in her lifetime, was considered a messy and dangerous place with messy and dangerous people. Being German only made things worse. How many times had somebody called her a nazi for just speaking her mother tongue? She had lost count. It was painful and embarrassing to be accused of something like that. Lina swallowed thickly.

“Are you alright?” Matt suddenly asked her.

She must’ve looked pretty down, because both Matt and Margie, who had turned in the passenger seat, were looking at her intently. Lina blinked at them, she hadn’t realized her emotions were on display. For a second or so, she met Ed’s eyes in the rearview mirror, before he shifted them back towards the road in front of him. Lina swallowed again.

“I’m fine.” She said softly. “Just tired.”

Margie smiled sympathetically. “I bet you are.”

“You need anything?” Matt asked. Lina smiled at him. “No, thank you. I’m fine, really.”

Margie seemed thoughtful before she started smiling a little mischievously, “Did you know that Matt has been taking German classes?”

“Uhm… no, I didn’t know that…” Lina said a little awkwardly. Matt was blushing wildly. “MOM!” He almost shrieked. “We talked about this!”

Margie ignored her son’s red face, and focused on the girl sitting next to him. “He’s actually pretty good!”

“No, no I’m not!” Matt cried out, before turning to the girl next to him. “I really am not.”

Lina couldn’t help but chuckle at Matt’s red face. It only worsened when Margie patted him on the knee and said. “Nothing to be ashamed of, honey!”

Although Lina was enjoying the family’s easy banter, she also started to feel a little sorry for the clearly uncomfortable boy next to her. In an attempt to draw the attention away from him, she asked, “What about Steven? What does he do?”

Margie smiled proudly. “Steve’s studying Medicine at the New York University. He moved out last year to live on campus.”

“You can have his room.” Matt added with a grin. “It’s the best room of the house.”

“Speaking of which…” Margie said happily. “We have arrived!”

Lina had seen a lot of big houses in her life. In fact, she lived in a pretty big house herself. This one, however, was mind-blowingly big.

When the car rolled to a stop on the gracious driveway, Lina numbly stepped out and stared at the place that’d be her home for the upcoming year.

It looked as if a futuristic villa had eaten the ancient Roman Empire for dinner. The house stood tall and proud, with beautifully large windows, and pillars that were lined up on a luxurious porch. Everything about the residence was white, except for the roof, which was dark grey. Despite being a modern house, it carried a charming vibe as well. It definitely was a house well lived in.

 “You like it?” Matt asked her.

Lina couldn’t seem to find her voice. She just nodded.

Chapter Text

Upon arriving home, Matt felt a short tour through the house was in order. He showed Lina the spacious but cozy living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the ‘reading room’, and his mother’s office, before moving upstairs. Lina was quiet throughout tour, Matt could tell she was merely too stunned to speak. Once upstairs, Matt graciously opened up the door that’d be Lina’s place throughout her stay; his brother’s old bedroom. Lina slowly stepped inside, needing a moment to take everything in.

Matt had told her in the car that this was the best room of the house, and even if she hadn’t seen the whole house yet, she couldn’t seem to disagree. The ceiling and windows were unusually high, creating a bright and royal space. The walls were painted in a warm, dark blue shade, and the floor was covered with a soft white carpet. A modern king sized bed with a bright red bedspread stood centered in the room, its headboard pushed against the right wall. A white desk had been placed into the far corner, with a few white closets lining the wall next to it. On the other side of the room stood a dark blue sofa, seemingly unused. Despite the many pieces of furniture, there was enough floor room left for her to move, dance and even do gymnastics. If she wanted to.

Matt moved further into the room, rummaging through a box that was shoved into one of the closets. There seemed to be a bunch of medals and books in there. He gave her an apologetic look. “My mom cleared everything out the best she could, but you might still find some of Steve’s stuff here and there, he’ll be coming over to pick it up later.”

“Oh, it’s no problem!” Lina spluttered. Even if the room had been a huge mess, she’d have loved it anyway.

“Ok then.” Matt shot her a playful grin, stowing the box back into the closet. He then crossed his arms and rocked back and forth on his heels. “Sooo… what do you think? You like it?”

Lina breathed in deeply, taking a good look around. “Ohh, it’s perf-…” Her eyes then landed on a collection of dark posters decorating the wall above the desk. She hadn’t noticed them before, because they seemed to blend in perfectly with the dark hue of the wall. As if in trance, she stepped closer to the desk, her eyes not leaving the images that had been taped above it.

Rammstein posters. A lot of them.

Lina tensed up. Did that mean….

She shot the boy on the other side of the room a nervous look.

… Did this mean they knew who she was?

Had they put it up there because of her?

Matt wasn’t sure what was happening. He glanced at Lina, then at the posters, and back at Lina, before it slowly dawned on him.

“Ohh!” He exclaimed, positioning himself between the desk and the uneasy girl. “I’m so sorry, I should’ve known you don’t like Rammstein. I’m sorry.” When he climbed on the desk and started tearing one of the posters away, Lina blinked in surprise. “Wait, what… what?” She stuttered, a little confused. Matt paused and turned around slightly, the poster dangling in his hands.

“I... uh, I thought, since you’re German and stuff…” Matt trailed off. Lina cocked her head to one side. “What do you mean?”

Matt looked as confused as Lina did. He fully turned around, the poster still clutched in his hands. “Uh… well, I’ve read somewhere that Germany is pretty… uh… divided when it comes down to Rammstein’s music. Some German people are big fans, while others are… you know, really offended by what they do. I thought maybe you…- since you looked kinda… I dunno…” Matt was rambling, and Lina decided to stop him before he’d run out of things to say.

“I love Rammstein.” Lina said. She didn’t think it was possible, but Matt looked even more confused than he did before.

“You do??”

“Yeah.”

“Oh…”

Matt looked at the poster in his hand before looking at the girl in front of him. “You want me to put it back then?”

Lina shrugged with a smile. “Sure.”

While Matt turned around to tape the poster back in place, Lina sighed in relief. Here she was, getting worked up over nothing. They had no idea who she was.

Matt applied pressure on the pieces of tape, hoping they would hold. He then hopped off the desk, admiring his handiwork. “My brother has always been very passionate about collecting Rammstein stuff.” Matt told the girl beside him. “This is just a small glimpse of everything he owns.”

“He’s a fan then?” Lina asked with a smile.

“Ohhh yes. Huge fan. Has been to their concerts twice already!” Matt said proudly, before adding, “I was actually the one who introduced him to their music. I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid.”

“You ever seen them live yourself?” The German girl asked curiously.

Matt shook his head. “No. Never had the money.” He glanced back at her. “But that’s okay. I enjoy their live DVD’s too. How about you?”

“Ah uhm… yeah, I’ve seen them a few times, yeah…” Lina mumbled vaguely, before glancing back at the posters. It was kind of weird to see them here, in this room, in this house, in this country. It was also strange to have her own father’s face plastered across the wall. Looking at his passive face, she felt a strange feeling of longing.

Matt stared at the silent girl next to him, before asking softly, “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yes, I’m fine.” Lina gave him a reassuring smile and walked towards the bed, lifting her yellow suitcase on the bedspread with a grunt. “I’m just a little tired, you know?”

Matt stayed silent for a second.

“Do they remind you of home… because you know, they are German and so are you?”

The question caught Lina off guard. Slowly, she turned around to meet Matt’s warm gaze. She didn’t like lying to him. Sighing, she sat down on the edge of the bed. “Yeah… I guess they do remind me of home.” Lina then pulled herself a little straighter. “Speaking of which… Is there a phone I can use? I forgot mine at home, and I promised to give my dad a call when I arrived.”

“Oh sure, there’s one in every bedroom. Here…” Matt walked towards the nightstand and showed her a plain black phone. “Feel free to use it any time you want.”

“Thanks.” Lina smiled gratefully.

“I’ll leave you to it then. We’ll be downstairs, you’re more than welcome to join us when you’re ready.”  Matt grinned and gave her a clumsy salute, before leaving the room, closing the door behind him. Lina laughed quietly. She was starting to like this family, maybe she’d feel more at home in a few more days.

The girl toyed with the phone in her hands, before punching in her father’s number. He’d be happy to hear she had arrived safely and was doing well. Very well in fact. She had met all kinds of people, and everyone had been incredibly nice to her. She felt very warmly welcomed in the Land of the Free.

She couldn’t wait to tell her father that, even though his intuition was usually right and he had every reason to trust it, it could still be wrong.

 


 

The Taylors were hanging in the living room when Lina descended the stairs. Margie sat in an armchair and looked up from a book she was reading, a pair of glasses perched on her nose. “Did you talk to your father?” She asked with a hopeful smile. Ed and Matt looked up as well from where they were sitting on the couch, in front of the television.

“Uhm… no….” Lina said shyly, feeling a little uncomfortable in the strangely large living room. “I wasn’t able to reach him.” Lina had totally forgotten about the European tour Rammstein were wrapping up. Her father and the guys were performing in Italy at the moment, so it was understandable he couldn’t talk to her right now. Instead, Lukas, her father’s guitar-technician and good friend, had answered the phone when Lina called. He had been standing right behind the stage, so the moment he picked up, Lina had to keep the phone away from her ear before the all too familiar sound of blasting guitars and exploding drums threatened to burst her eardrum. Lukas had offered to pass along a message to her dad, so she gave him a short update on how she was doing and wished everyone the best. She’d have loved to talk to her father, but she was used to the fact that it couldn’t happen that often. Even if he wasn’t on tour, he was away a lot. It was just one of those quirks of having a father who played in a world-famous band for a living. Something she was very proud of, mind you.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t talk to him.” Margie said, placing her book on a small side table. “Feel free to use our phone any time you’d like.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Taylor. I appreciate that.” Lina smiled gratefully.

The woman in question chuckled good-heartily. “It’s Margie, please. Now, is there anything we can get you?”

Lina shook her head. “No thank you, I think I’d like to go to sleep, if that’s okay.”

Margie looked a little worried. “Well, of course, dear. But are you feeling alright? It’s four in the afternoon and we haven’t had dinner yet…”

Before Lina could respond, Ed surprised her with a lowly rumbled, “She’s been traveling for 10 hours. If not more.” He didn’t look up from his newspaper. Lina still thought he was a bit… odd.

Ahhh the infamous jetlag.” Margie sighed in sympathy. “Well then dear, you go on up and get some shuteye. Breakfast will be served at eight, but if you’d like to join us at a later time, that’s fine too. Let us know when you need something, alright?”

Lina gave a polite nod of her head. “I will, thank you. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight dear.”

Chapter Text

Lina woke up feeling refreshed and clearheaded.

This had been her first encounter with a jetlag, and from what she had gathered about the travel-issued handicap, was that it took days to get over it. It really was surprising how much more rested she felt after one long night of sleep.  Looking at the alarm clock on her nightstand, Lina saw it read 6 AM. It was still dark outside. She remembered the Taylors had breakfast around eight, so she had a little time to spare.

Tossing the blankets aside, Lina got out of bed and shuffled towards the dark blue sofa on which she had folded her sweater. After pulling the red piece of knitwear over her head, she used her fingers to comb her hair back into some sort of order. While doing so, Lina looked around the room and smiled. It really was a beautiful place. It was luxurious, comfortable, and it just felt… good.

All of a sudden, she heard footsteps on the stairs. Heavy footsteps, thundering up the steps. Before she realized what was happening, the door to her room burst open, banging against the far wall. Lina stood frozen in place, her eyes widening when she saw a heavily breathing figure standing on her doorstep. The corridor behind it was brightly illuminated, so all she could make out was its silhouette. From what little she could see, it was a muscular man.

Lina couldn’t move. Her heart was racing in fear.

The stranger took a heavy step forward, stepping into the moonlight that seeped through her bedroom window. Lina drew in a sharp breath. She’d recognize the strong jawline, black hair and bright blue eyes anywhere.

“Dad??”

Richard Kruspe was standing in the middle of her room, looking at her in a very intense and unsettling way. He looked almost nervous about the idea of approaching her.

Lina took a hesitating step towards the unexpected visitor. “Dad? Are you okay? When did you get here? Why are you-”

Lina’s voice died in her throat when her father suddenly appeared right in front of her and grabbed her by the arms. “It’s not safe…” He breathed at her, giving her a rough shake that momentarily unbalanced her. The guitarist’s voice roughened, as if he was screaming and whispering at the same time. “Why does no one see??...” The grip he had on his daughter’s arms tightened painfully. Lina winced, stammering, “W- why? What do you-”

“GET OUT! YOU HAVE TO GET OUT!” He roared at her, his eyes wide with terror. “NOW!

Lina gasped before her eyes snapped open. Breathing heavily, she stared at the white ceiling above her. Confused, she jerked into a sitting position and threw the blanket that was covering her, away from her.

She was sitting in bed. The same bed she had stepped out of earlier.

She was sure that she had done that.

The experience had been too real. It must've been real... right? Pushing herself to the edge of the bed with trembling arms, Lina looked at her surroundings. She couldn’t help looking for... him. He wasn’t here. 

Well, of course he wasn't. 

It was just a dream.

"Yeah... just a dream..." Lina mumbled shakily while pushing herself out of the royal-sized bed. Again.

Hugging her arms to her chest, Lina felt uneasy as she circled the room. Even though it must've a dream, it had felt so real.

It still did.

Rubbing her upper arms, Lina felt they were sore from where her father had grabbed her. Was her mind playing tricks on her? Or had she perhaps taken a firm hold on them herself while she was dreaming?

The dark-haired girl sighed and rubbed her eyes. Unlike her dream, where she had felt refreshed and awake, she felt like crap right now. One night of sleep hadn't been enough for her to feel rested, and the dream didn't really help either. Her alarm clock read 7:48 AM. Secretly, she was relieved it didn’t say 6:00, as it did in her dream. That’d have been too… weird.

Lost in thought, Lina walked over to the sofa on the other side of the room, reaching towards her folded sweater. When she had the red piece of fabric in her hands, she froze and dropped it as if it had burned her. Aside from the alarm clock, everything else had been the same in her dreams. The way the sweater was folded, as well as the position of where she had placed it on the sofa; every detail had been the same. She stared at the heap on the floor, its red color reminding her of her father. He loved the color red.

Did this mean something?

Did her father appear in her dream for a reason? It wouldn’t be the first warning he had given her. She remembered how he had looked at her when she told him she was going to the States, despite his futile attempts to keep her from going. She had never seen the man so worried and… drained. At night he was plagued by nightmares, at day he’d be on edge. The difficult thing about it was, that he couldn’t tell anyone, nor himself, what was going on exactly.

Was something bad really going to happen?

Lina’s breathing quickened as panic washed over her. She was on the other side of the world. A strange place. A strange house. All alone with a family she didn’t know. No phone to connect with the family she did know.

Phone…

"Phone… phone…" Lina mumbled to herself, leaving the offending sweater where it lay to rush towards her nightstand, nearly tripping over the red piece of fabric that had wrapped itself around her foot.

Lina couldn't stop shaking as she picked up the phone and dialed her father’s number. Hearing footsteps on the stairs, her finger froze on the call button. She couldn’t seem to make it obey enough to actually push it. A soft knock on her door made her take a step back, the phone still clutched in her hands. It stayed quiet for a while, before a soft voice called through the door, "Lina, are you up?" It was a female. Margie. Definitely Margie.

Lina forced herself to take a deep breath.

“Lina, dear?” Margie tried again.

Swallowing away the lump in her throat, Lina forced herself to respond. "Yeah… yes I’m up." Her voice sounded strangely tight to her own ears.

“… Are you okay? I heard stumbling. You didn’t fall out of bed, did you?”

“No… no.” Lina said shakily. “I’m fine.”

"Alright... Breakfast's ready, if you'd like you're more than welcome to join us downstairs." The older woman offered. Lina stayed quiet. She wasn't sure if she was ready to face this new strange family, not now.

"Lina?" Margie sounded worried. "Are you sure you’re alright?"

Lina needed a few seconds. "Yeah…"

"Alright…” The woman behind the door obviously had her doubts, but didn’t voice them. “Will we see you downstairs in a bit then?”

“Okay.” Lina waited until the footsteps left, before releasing the breath she didn’t know she was holding. She considered the phone in her hands, her thumb hovering above the call button. Even if she managed to reach her father, what could he possibly do from… wherever the hell he was right now? Sighing, she returned the phone to its respective position on the nightstand.

Five minutes later, Lina stood on the top of the stairs, her hands trailing along the wooden banister without really touching it. She felt nervous about going down, and felt silly to admit it, even to herself.

Get a grip.” Lina reminded herself in a harsh whisper, curling her slender fingers along the banister. “You’ve been through scarier situations than this.

The Taylors were about to take a seat at their table when they spotted Lina, standing a little awkwardly at the bottom of the stairs. Margie beamed at her while putting down a plate of steaming pancakes in the middle of the table. “Good morning dear, did you sleep well?”

“Yes, I did... thank you…” Lina lied, unmoving.

Ed gave her a cold look before pulling back a chair at the head of the table and sitting down. Matt, sitting across from him, patted the seat next to him and smiled at the silent German girl. “Come and have a seat, my mom’s pancakes are the best.”

“Ohh…” Margie smiled as she folded her hands on her chest and started fluttering her eyelids. “Thank you dear.” She took a seat next to her husband. Then, the whole family subjected their German guest to an expectant stare.

Lina hesitated for a moment, but decided she didn’t want to attract any more attention than she already did, and moved over to sit down. It was then that she noticed the table was set for another person. She stared at the empty seat across from her. Matt saw her look. “I’m sorry, we should’ve told you earlier we’ve got another guest today.”

Lina looked at him questionably. Before she could ask what he meant, the door leading to the kitchen swung open and a young man appeared, holding a can of milk. He looked like the older version of Matt. He was tall, had messy blond hair, and wore a black long-sleeved shirt. He paused momentarily when his eyes landed on Lina, before strolling further into the room and placing the can on the table. He wiped his hands on his jeans, before extending a hand to the German girl. “Hi! You must be Lina. I’m Steve. Nice to meet you.” He said with a lopsided grin. Like Matt, his eyes slanted up a little when he smiled. Lina smiled back, albeit a little forcefully. She didn’t feel at ease with this family. Not yet. Nevertheless, she shook his hand and decided to be polite, “Nice to meet you too.”

“Have a seat, dear. Breakfast’s getting cold.” Margie told her oldest son. Steve laughed quietly and sat down. “I’ve sure as hell missed this…” He mumbled, getting a playful nudge from his mother.

Ed had been transferring a fair amount of pancakes onto his own plate, before shoving the pile back to the middle of the table. Lina thought it was odd he was the first one to dig in, since she was the guest here. It was not that she had wanted to go first, but she was just… raised differently. As if she was reading her mind, Margie gently pushed the pile of pancakes Lina’s way as a silent invitation to go next. Lina gave the older woman a small smile, before leaning over to take one. Steve watched her as she did so.

“From which part of Germany are you?” Steve suddenly asked, making Lina look up in surprise. “Berlin.” She said as she pushed the pile towards Matt, who accepted it gratefully.

“Ahh Berlin… that’s definitely a place I’d like to visit once.” Steve shook his head in amazement. “What’s it like?”

“To live in Berlin?” Lina clarified.

“Yeah!”

“Well…” Lina paused. Everyone was looking at her. Even Ed, who was munching on his pancakes silently, his expression unreadable. As always.

“It’s a bit of a moody city, but I think it’s nice.” Lina said as she started pushing her food around her plate a bit. She wasn’t really hungry.

“Moody?” Matt asked curiously.

“Yeah... and I mean not the people. The people are awesome, really creative and stuff. It’s the buildings and the streets, it’s all pretty grey and dark and industrial.”

Steve chuckled, turning to his younger brother. “Sounds like a typical Rammstein concert to me.” He joked.

“Actually, they have based their stage designs on-” Lina abruptly stopped herself. Any piece of information could give herself away. Steve looked surprised whereas Matt looked amused.

“She’s a fan too.” Was all Matt said to his older brother.

“Really?” Steve asked with a broad smile. “Well… Considering you’re German and all…” The older sibling trailed off, deep in thought, before turning towards Matt. “Hey! Speaking of which, I’m taking a friend of mine to see their Philadelphia gig next week. How ‘bout you, are you going too?”

WHAT?!” Surprisingly, the exclamation came from both Matt and Lina. The latter also dropping her fork in shock. Steve looked back and forth between the two, Margie doing the same. Ed kept eating.

Steve took a bite himself, murmuring, “I guess you didn’t then?”

Matt threw his hands up in frustration. “Are you kidding?? It was sold out before I could even blink! How the hell did you do that??” Matt nearly spat a mouthful of pancakes in his brother’s face, the other cringing away. “Ew Matt, keep these germs where they belong please.” Matt wasn’t listening, and continued ranting, “I can’t believe you were able to get any tickets! Damn it! I tried getting a hold of them two minutes after they were released and they were already gone! GONE!”

“Well… it really is a matter of seconds.” Steve explained with a nonchalant shrug. “Fans are quick, you have to be quicker.”

“Excuse me.” Lina caught Steve’s attention with her firm, slightly confused tone. “Where did you say…-”

“Philadelphia. Newalls Dome. About a two-hour drive from here.” Steve interrupted happily, ignoring his brother’s frustrated inaudible mumbles. Lina knitted her eyebrows together as she stared at a spot in the distance without really seeing it. “You okay?” Steve asked, feeling a little concerned about the girl’s thousand yard stare.

“When- when are they there?” Lina asked without moving her gaze from whatever invisible spot she was seeing.

“Uh… next Thursday.” Steve said slowly, he didn’t quite know what was going on with the German girl sitting across from him.

Lina started mumbling, more to herself than anyone else. “… Next week, Rammstein are performing, here in the States.” It was a statement, not a question, yet Steve felt obliged to confirm it. “Yeah. Philadelphia.”

Lina frowned in confusion. She knew how a Rammstein touring schedule worked, and this wasn’t how it worked. Usually, after finishing the intensive European leg of the tour, the guys and massive crew would take a few weeks off to get some rest and prepare themselves for their next big tour; the North-American one. But now… they’d start their US tour, within just a week after finishing Europe?? They never planned such big tours this close to each other!

Was it a planning mistake, maybe? 

Margie chuckled at Lina’s stunned expression. "Had you wanted to see them as well, dear?"

“No... no, I'm just surprised, that's all.” Lina said dismissively, playing with her pancake. The Taylors shared a curious look, before resuming their conversation about non-Rammstein related topics. Lina resisted the urge to bolt upstairs to call her father. She promised herself she'd do that later.

He better pick up his bloody phone this time!

Chapter Text

The dial tone was long and merciless.

Just when Lina was convinced the connection had turned itself into a black vacuum with no point of return, someone picked up. Lina held her breath. When it came to her father’s phone, it was always a surprise who picked it up. It could either be one of her ‘other dads’, a random crewmember, their tour manager, an obsessed fan, or if she was lucky… her father himself.

“Hallo.” The voice was deep and a little rough on the edges.

Lina smiled in relief. “Hey dad.”

“Lina, hey!” Richard sounded extremely happy to hear his daughter’s voice.

In the background, Lina could hear chatter and laughter. Low and high. Old and young. She guessed her father and the band were hanging around with a bunch of their fans and crewmembers. 

“Hang on for a bit, okay?” The guitarist said over the noise. Lina guessed he was going to search for a quiet place where they could talk, undisturbed. She heard her father grunt and could easily imagine him hoisting himself up from a couch that was too low for a man his age. Considering they had just finished their Rome gig the night before, Lina knew how bad her father’s back would be hurting right now. He’d turn into a stiff robot-like creature if he wasn’t careful.

Her father was making his way through a room full of people. In the background, Lina could make out a couple of girly giggles, followed by a squealed, “Riiiichaaard whoooooooo!” For most of her life, Lina had been fascinated by her father’s fanbase. It was huge; tens of thousands of people, millions maybe.

Mostly girls. Obsessive, drooling fangirls.

At one point in her life, Lina seriously started to wonder how these girls could fall for a man their own father’s age. But, looking closely, she couldn’t deny the fact that he was a good looking man. He always put a lot of effort in his appearance, to make sure he looked his absolute best. Many people thought he was a vain diva because of that very reason, but he really wasn’t. He was a sweet, polite, clumsy and somewhat nerdy guy, who loved to cook and make silly jokes.

Richard didn’t say anything as he waded his way through the horde of fangirls. Lina heard a door open and close. Judging by the echo of his footsteps, her father was in some sort of deserted hallway. He kept walking while releasing a deep breath, before smiling – Lina could always hear it in his voice, “I’m so glad you called.”

“Well...” Lina huffed, she couldn’t help herself. “You could’ve called me too, ya know?”

“Yes. I could have done that… if I had a number to call.” Richard was rolling his eyes this time, Lina was sure of it.

“I called you last night – or tried to at least, you could’ve called me back when you were done.” Lina flopped down on the bed.

Richard sighed audibly. “Have you ever taken a look at my phone?” He asked dryly. “The list of missed calls on that thing is worth writing a book about.”

“Well, if you’d pick up your phone more often, the list wouldn’t be so long would it?” Lina enjoyed teasing her father. She knew all of this was her fault, though. She was the one who had forgotten her phone at home, just as she had forgotten to leave her father the Taylor’s landline number.

“Yeah yeah…” Richard mumbled as he kept on walking through what sounded like an endless hallway. “How are you holding up?” His voice was uncharacteristically soft. It was obvious he still was worried about something. Lina was too, thanks to the weird dream. She decided against telling her father about that though.

“I’m alright.” Lina rolled onto her stomach on the soft bed spread, toying with a loose piece of thread. “The flight went well, and the house is gorgeous. The family’s been really nice to me too.”

Richard stayed quiet for a while. Lina decided to keep on talking. “I’ll be okay.” She wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince her father or herself. Before Richard could react, Lina decided to broach another subject entirely. “When were you going to tell me you’ll be in the States next week?”

Richard needed a moment to shift gears. “Seeing as you found out yourself, I didn’t had to.”

Dad.

“Fine, fine.” Richard sighed in mock frustration. “I didn’t say anything because that would’ve spoiled the surprise.”

“What surprise?” Lina narrowed her eyes in slight suspicion.

“You know the definition of ‘surprise’, right?”

Daaad.

“Okay okay! I just want to drop by to see how you are doing, and meet your new family.” 

Lina smirked knowingly. “Meet or interrogate them?”

“… A little of both.”

Lina chuckled at the typical response, then sobered a little. “You don’t have to do that.”

“…. I know.” Richard had stopped walking and the echo had disappeared from his voice as well. He must’ve found some empty room of sorts. He kept his voice low just in case someone overheard him. “I just… want to come and see you.” Lina frowned in concern when she detected the strain in her father’s voice he obviously tried to hide. He sounded tired. Lina could tell he still wasn’t sleeping well. Did he still have nightmares? 

The German girl rolled onto her back. “Why are you guys switching tours this fast? What happened to taking some time off and ‘recharging the batteries’?”

Richard sighed tiredly. “We were a bit short on time, as we also have to do an Asian tour this year. So we mutually agreed to shift some dates around and start the US tour a couple of weeks earlier. It gives us more time in between the dates too.”

“Right… that makes sense.” Lina smiled slightly, “Will you also be playing in New York? Maybe I could come and see you!”

Richard clicked his tongue, “The New York gig had to be canceled unfortunately. It didn’t fit our new schedule.”

“Aww… that’s a bummer.” Lina pouted. “But, you’re still playing in our area, right? Heard you’re kicking off the tour in Philadelphia next week?”

Yeaah… that was my idea, actually.” Richard said sheepishly. “We originally planned on keeping the Philadelphia gig for last, but I didn’t want to wait that long to…” The guitarist trailed off, but Lina caught the unspoken part anyway. “You didn’t want to wait that long to see me.” She said softly. Her father stayed silent.

“Look…” Lina started gently. “I know you’re worried about me, but I’m doing okay. You’re more than welcome to come on over and see it with your own eyes, but don’t… don’t lose track of yourself, okay?”

“… You’re right, and I won’t.” Richard said firmly. Lina was relieved to hear he sounded more like his old self. “And I’m sorry. If you don’t want me to come on over, I’d totally understand.”

Lina widened her eyes. “No no no! I’d love it if you dropped by! I’m sure the Taylors will too. In fact…” Lina glanced at Steve’s posters and grinned. “This family has a little surprise for you too.”

“Yeah?” Richard sounded amused. “What’s that?”

“You know the definition of ‘surprise’, right?” Lina said with a smirk. One that widened when she heard her father chuckle in good humor.

 “So, when are you coming over?” Lina asked with a broad smile.

Her father made a thinking sound. “I was thinking next… Friday? That’s the day after our Philadelphia gig. We’ll spend the night there, and I could drive back and forth to New York in one day, that’s no problem.”

“I’d love that.” Lina said. “Next Friday it is!”

“Alright!” Richard laughed quietly. “Can you send me the address of the place you’re staying at? I’m not sure where I put it.”

Lina nodded, before realizing her father couldn’t see her. “Yes, of course! Which reminds me, can you bring my phone? I probably left it in the fruit bowl at home.”

“The… fruit bowl...” Richard sounded bemused.

“Yes. It’s a good place for one’s phone.”

“Sure it is.”

“It is.” Lina defended.

Sure.

Lina sighed in mock impatience. “Will you bring it or not?”

“Of course, of course. I’ll go ahead and take the fruit bowl phone on a little journey with me. 

“Thank you." 

“No problem. Hey, I gotta go, I think the guys are leaving without me.”

Lina chuckled, knowing that they would. “Say hi to them from me.”

“I will…” Richard’s voice was soft. “Good luck over there.”

“You too, bye!”

“Bye.”

Lina smiled down at the phone in her hands. She felt a whole lot more at ease, now that she had talked to her father. She decided right there and then that this family deserved a change. So far they had been very good to her. They were nice people.

She couldn’t wait to introduce them to her father.



The next couple of days passed on peacefully. Margie was her own cheerful self, Ed his grumpy self, although he slowly seemed to be warming up to the German girl’s presence. Slowly.

Steve, despite moving out of the house months ago, still visited his family quite often, much to his mother’s joy. Lina appreciated his company as well, as the oldest brother loved to talk about his adventures as a student of medicine, which were all equally fascinating.

The more Lina interacted with the Taylors, the more comfortable she felt around them.

Matt in particular.

Matt was a calm and charming guy, with a sweet laugh and a good sense of humor. She liked hanging out with him, talking endlessly about all kinds of stuff. School, movies, cars, travel, and music, of course.

It was on the ninth day since arriving in New York and staying with her new family, that Lina realized she liked Matt more than she was willing to admit. She had been attending Matt’s school for a few days now, the blond boy showing her around and introducing her to his classmates and friends. He really tried to make her feel at home, which made it slightly easier to adjust to this strange new life. Lina had expected her first few days to be really awkward, but all in all, it wasn’t that bad. The other students and teachers welcomed her with open arms, and she took an instant liking to some of them. Maybe she could make some friends here!

At around four in the afternoon Lina and Matt walked home in silence, the German girl reflecting on her day. It had been an eventful day and while it had been a good one, she still was tired. Exhausted, even. Matt, mindful of this fact, kept conversation to a minimum. Once the two of them reached the familiar street of the Taylor household, Matt cleared his throat softly. “Tonight’s the Rammstein gig.”

Lina glanced at him, smiling slightly. “Yeah, the one your brother is attending, right? Philadelphia was it?”

Matt nodded, returning her smile in a regretful kind of way. “If I had known you liked them too, I’d have tried harder to get my hands on a pair of tickets.”

Lina chuckled softly. “You didn’t have to do that…”

“I know, I just…” Matt trailed off, still looking slightly mournful about the concert they were missing out on.

“I’m sure you’ll get your change another time.” Lina assured him, trying hard to hide a grin. If only Matt knew who would be coming to visit tomorrow. She couldn’t wait to see his face once her father was standing on his doorstep.

As they were nearing the house, Matt seemed to be deep in thought. When they reached the porch, he suddenly spoke up. “Hey, how about we order some pizza and watch some of Rammstein’s DVD’s tonight?”

Lina looked at the boy next to her in surprise. Matt wasn’t looking at her. He seemed nervous. The girl smiled fondly. “I’d love that.”

Matt gave her a careful look. “Really?”

“Yeah, sure!”

Margie looked up from where she was dusting off the bookcase, when the front door opened and two figures stepped inside. When she saw the smiles on both of their faces, Margie knew it had been a good day.

The first of many, no doubt.



{ Meanwhile in Philadelphia… } 

The Newalls Dome consisted many dark corners and corridors, challenging the Rammstein crew as they hoisted the heavy stage equipment through the gigantic venue. A dark figure, clad in a red training suit, stood in one of the narrow hallways, drawing strange looks from the crew members as they passed him. The figure was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, and eyes shadowed by a deep frown.

Richard Kruspe took a deep breath and released it slowly. He hoped he could get rid of the tension he was feeling in his chest. It felt as if his body was constantly experiencing a roller coaster ride, fueled on adrenaline. Whatever breathing exercise he tried, he couldn’t seem to get rid of the feeling. Sighing in defeat, Richard pushed himself away from the wall and trudged back to the band’s shared dressing room.

 

“Where have you been?” Till Lindemann mumbled without looking up from the book he was reading. Richard paused in the doorway, giving the singer an annoyed look.

“Out.” Was all Richard said, closing the door behind him before dropping himself on the other side of the L-shaped sofa.

“Paul was looking for you.” Till said, turning a page.

“Why?”

“Gear stuff, I dunno.” Till sounded preoccupied. The book he was reading was obviously more interesting than reality.

Richard stayed quiet, kneading his knuckles. Ever since stepping a foot inside the venue, he felt… weird. Something about the venue was getting on his nerves. Something was off. Something was making his heart speed up, and his hands clammy.

Richard felt pretty miserable, to put it mildly.

When the guitarist leaned forward and buried his hands in his hair, Till finally looked up.

“What’s the matter with you?” The singer asked in a low tone. When the guitarist didn’t respond, Till placed his precious book aside and leaned forward a little. “Richard?”

“I don’t know what’s wrong.” The guitarist sounded uncharacteristically quiet.

Till clasped his hands together, speaking slowly, “Please don’t tell me you’re… ‘feeling’ something again…” Lately, the younger man seemed to have a bad feeling about anything, resulting in many sleepless nights and a lack of focus that worried his fellow bandmates. Richard was good at hiding it, usually. But this time…

Richard lowered his hands, shooting the other man a glare from under his eyebrows. “It’s not just a feeling.” The guitarist frowned as he forced himself up. “Something’s going to happen. I just… know it.” Till couldn’t help but feel worried when he detected a tremor in the other man’s voice. Richard sounded as if he was on the verge of having a panic attack. It had been a long time since he had one of those.

“Richard, we need you to be focused tonight.” Till said firmly. “Whatever it is you’re feeling, please stay focused.” He wasn’t sure if the younger man heard him.

“Sure, sure… I just… have to do… something.” Richard mumbled. Before Till could stop him, the younger man had fled the room.

Till sighed and rubbed his throbbing forehead.

This was going to be a long night.

 

Richard walked around the venue, not really knowing where he was going, nor what he was looking for. By the time he ended up in the main hall, his heart was thundering in his chest. He was stressed to the bone, yet he had no idea why.

All of a sudden, the familiar sound of his very own signature guitar blasted through the empty venue. The sound was strangely soothing to him, as if an old friend was speaking to him, telling him everything would be alright.

Richard slowly crossed the giant floor towards the stage, where everything had been set up and ready for tonight’s show. Lukas Möller, his guitar tech and good friend, was casually strolling along the stage, tuning the familiar burnt guitar to perfection. Lukas finished up what he was doing, before walking backstage and securing the guitar back in its cabinet. After turning around, he was surprised to see the lead-guitarist standing behind him.

“Richard, hey.” Lukas greeted with a smile. “Paul was looking for you. Had a question about your microphone setup, but it’s solved now.”

“That’s… good.” Richard said, sounding and looking a little distracted.

Lukas’s smile slowly vanished. “Is everything alright?”

Richard snapped his eyes to the man in front of him. “Sorry, what?”

Lukas observed his friend for a moment. The dark-haired guitarist looked tense and a little… woozy.

Not good.

“Have you eaten anything recently?” Lukas asked casually, turning his back towards the other man to close the lid of the guitar’s cabinet. When he received no answer, he frowned and turned back around. Richard had a faraway look in his eyes and was directing his stare into the empty venue.

Richard.

“No. No, not hungry.” The guitarist mumbled, his eyes still searching for something no one could see. Himself included.

Lukas frowned, alarmed by the fact that Richard wasn’t taking any interest in food. It was a rare occurrence, and a worrisome one too. Taking a step closer to his boss and friend, Lukas spoke slowly and carefully. “Listen… Richard, if you’re not feeling up to it, we should cancel tonight’s show.”

Now, that got a reaction.

Richard snapped his head back to glare at the man in front of him. “What are you talking about?”

You.” Lukas said sharply, “If you can’t focus, it’s not safe for anyone to be up there tonight.” Lukas jerked his head into the direction of the heavily pyro equipped stage.

“We’re not canceling anything.” Richard snapped. “I’m perfectly capable of playing this show.”

“Are you sure?” Lukas asked sternly.

Yes. I’m sure.” The lead guitarist sounded irritated. Lukas watched him stalk away to his personal dressing room, ready to change his outfit.

Lukas had been on the road with these guys long enough to know that he could only exert influence on the things he could control.

Richard wasn’t one of them.

Chapter Text

{ The next day… }

Lina woke up late.

She had gone to bed around 3 am after spending a fun evening with Matt, as well as a shared Hawaiian pizza that was a little too spongy, but whatever, and a bunch of Rammstein DVD’s, courtesy of Matt’s personal collection. Lina smiled fondly as she recalled last night’s adventures. With every DVD they watched, Matt had dredged up every Rammstein fact he knew. Basically, he talked all night, non-stop. He was so passionate about it, Lina didn’t dare interrupting him to tell him she knew all of it already. She almost felt guilty for withholding her father’s identity to him, but knew it was for the best. Her father was coming to visit today, what fun would it be if Matt already knew who he was? It’d spoil the surprise! Chuckling quietly to herself, Lina dressed herself in a comfortable pair of clothes, before leaving the room to get breakfast. She wasn’t sure what time her father would arrive, but she hoped he’d be here soon.

She couldn’t wait to see Matt’s face when he’d recognize their visitor.



NO, Steve. You’re not going anywhere. I’m picking you up.” Ed’s growl floated all the way up the stairs, making Lina pause on the steps. Peeking over the bannister, she could see the man pacing through the hallway, phone pressed against his ear. “Absolutely not!” Ed snapped into the phone, yanking his coat from the rack on the wall. “You cannot -and will not- drive, got it?!” He sounded angry, but from what Lina could see, he also seemed worried about something. When he disappeared in the adjoining dining room, Lina hesitated for a moment, before moving further down. Stepping into the hallway, she was surprised to see Matt standing in the doorway leading to the living room, doing something on his phone with intense concentration. 

“Hey…” Lina greeted him, but he didn’t acknowledge her presence, as his attention was solely on the device in his hands. The German girl stepped closer to him, placing a hand on his arm.

“Matt?”

Matt looked up in surprise. “Hey, uh… morning.”

“What’s going on?” Lina asked him, frowning slightly.

“Well…” Matt muttered while returning his attention back to his phone, “I just heard my brother’s in the hospital.” At Lina’s stricken face, he hurriedly added, “He’s fine, it’s nothing major. Just a broken arm, I think. My dad is going to pick him up later.”

“What happened?” Lina asked worriedly.

Matt took a deep breath and released it in a long, seemingly endless, sigh. “Pfffff… well, that’s where it gets weird.”

“What do you mean?” Lina wasn’t sure why, but a heavy feeling started to settle in her stomach.

“Okay… Well... apparently, there’s been a huge explosion at last night’s Rammstein concert in Philadelphia. And no, it wasn’t part of their show; someone carried a bomb, really fucking weird. Why would anyone…- I mean, a bomb, really??” Matt shook his head in disbelief, scrolling further down on his phone. “Anyway… It says here that it exploded outside in a deserted area, thank god, but the whole audience was panicking and trampled upon each other. My brother was one of those people. I think he’ll be okay though.”

"A... a bomb?" Lina had some sort of out of body experience, her own voice sounded hollow in her own ears.

Matt clicked his tongue and frowned at his phone. “Yeah… but everyone says different things on social media, so I’ve got no idea what really happened. Steve and one of his buddies were there, but all they could see were thousands of people freaking out and waltzing over them as they rushed towards the exit.”

Lina stared at him as if she hadn’t heard a word he was saying.

"Matt! Come quick!" Margie’s frantic voice interrupted from out of the living room. Matt turned around and hurried back into the living room, Lina on his heels. Margie stood in the middle of the room, staring at the television. When she heard the two of them approach, she turned around to give them a tight smile. “Hey Lina, ‘morning.” She then turned to Matt, “They just released an update. A fan who attended the concert confirmed that someone in the audience had a bomb, and that uh… I forgot his name, the… uh… guitarist…?… took it outside, where it exploded.”

Matt whipped his head in his mother’s direction with such force, his neck popped nastily. “Woah woah woah, wait a second! What did you- Who did you say…?”

Margie looked at her son strangely. “I dunno, some very disturbed person, I’d guess.” 

“No mom, I’m not talking about the bomber. Who took it outside?”

“Oh! Uh… some member of Rammstein did… the guitarist, they say.”

“Seriously?? Which one?” Matt asked in shock.

“What do you mean?” Margie looked absolutely clueless.

“There are two of them. And a bassist.” Matt said matter-of-factly.

“Ohh… I’m sorry dear, but I’m not sure.”

Lina made a frightened noise at the back of her throat, but it was lost on both Matt and Margie as they stared at the television. The morning news was on, with a stern looking lady talking about recent night’s events. A picture of a large arena was placed in the upper right corner of the screen, while red bold letters scrolled across the bottom, saying:

NEWALLS DOME TARGETED. WORK OF A TERRORIST?

Lina felt her knees go weak, but her desperateness to know what happened kept her from collapsing into a miserable heap on the floor. She couldn’t seem to make her voice seem to work. Thankfully, Matt asked the question that was foremost on her mind, “The guitarist… was he there, when it exploded? Is he alright?”

Margie shook her head slowly. “I don’t know, they don’t say.”

Lina forced herself to move and stumbled to a halt in front of the television. Then, the three of them anxiously stared at the newscaster, who announced they had exclusive footage, recorded by one of the fans in the audience. The newscaster spoke solemnly, “The footage we’re about to show you was recorded by longtime Rammstein fan; David Langley. We have him on the phone right now. Hello, David?”

It stayed silent for a while, and the newscaster was about to repeat her greeting, when a soft voice responded, “Hi yeah, hello?”

“David, you were attending Rammstein’s concert last night, at the Newalls Dome in Philadelphia, correct?”

“Y-yeah…” David’s voice shook a bit. The man sounded nervous.

“Can you explain what happened? What you saw?”

David breathed heavily into the phone. “Oh man… It was just…- It happened so fast…”

The newscaster furrowed her eyebrows. “When did you realize something was wrong?”

David took another deep breath. “Well… at first, I didn’t. Everyone in the band was just doing their thing and all… But then, things just went crazy. Richard, one of the guitarists, just… uh, stopped playing in the middle of their song, which is weird on itself, and all of a sudden… he...- he uh… attacked someone. A woman. With his guitar. He hit her. With his guitar.”

Lina felt like puking. Or fainting. Or both. She couldn’t believe it. Any of it. Her father would never…-

“He attacked someone with a… guitar…?” The newscaster couldn’t hide her surprise.

“Yeah...” David said softly, before continuing, “It was so weird… everyone thought he had snapped, you know? Some people tried to stop him… but they couldn’t, really. He threw himself on the woman, prying something out of her hands. And… and then he just… ran.” David stayed silent for a moment, before he added softly, “Everybody ran. I don’t know what happened next…”

The newscaster blinked in disbelief. “You’ve recorded this with your cellphone, correct?”

“Yes… yes, I did.”

“Alright. Let’s take a look.”

The screen shifted. What was at first a stern looking news lady, was now a brightly illuminated stage with six dark figures occupying it.

David must’ve been somewhere in the lower tribunes on the left side of the stage when he was recording it. His view on the stage jumped and bounced a bit, as the heavy music made it impossible for him to keep the device steady. On stage, guitarists Paul and Oliver were standing closest to him, so his focus was mostly on them, although the camera often moved to the passionate singer, Till Lindemann, as well.

Whoever David was filming, every member of the band kept shooting glances at something on their left. Some with an expression of frustration, others with worry. In the end, David followed their stares with his camera and zoomed in to see who they were looking at. 

Richard Kruspe.

The guitarist was distracted, that much was obvious. His hands were doing what they had to do with perfect precision, but his focus was someplace else entirely. He barely moved as he played, his eyes trained on a very specific spot in the middle of the audience.

All of a sudden, Richard moved, crossing the stage from right to left. When he passed the still singing Till, the older man gave him a tap on the back on his head to get his attention, but the guitarist didn’t react to it. He kept staring into the audience, as if in trance. The band kept on playing, pretending nothing was wrong, despite the questioning glares they directed Richard’s way.

Richard was on the other side of the stage now, and Paul was desperately trying to make eye-contact with him. The shorter guitarist had positioned himself right in front of Richard, trying to get him to focus as they both kept on playing. But it obviously wasn’t working. Something in the audience was distracting the black-haired guitarist to a worryingly degree.

Richard then did stop playing. The band didn’t, they were professionals, after all.

When Richard took a couple of steps back, Paul yelled something at him. Richard didn’t seem to hear him and pulled his guitar strap over his head, letting the instrument dangle at his side. Then, the dark-haired guitarist did something no one expected.

He raced towards the edge of the stage and… leaped.

The fans standing at the barrier moved aside quickly, responding purely to human instinct. When Richard Kruspe landed in between them, they screamed in delight. They thought it was part of the show. Judging by the stricken faces of the band members however, it wasn’t.

Slowly, one by one, the band stopped playing. The song ended in a jumble of confused notes while Richard struggled through the crowd, his guitar clenched in both hands. Meanwhile in the tribune, David had trouble keeping the guitarist in his vision with the amount of fans that were swarming around, –and all over-, him. In the end, David managed to locate him, somewhere in the middle of the audience. He had to zoom in to see him clearly, but when he did, he was just in time to see Richard raising his guitar over his head and smacking a person down. A couple of fans jumped on the guitarist, but Richard shook them off with strength born out of desperation. For a moment, Richard seemed to disappear in the mass around him.

Suddenly, everyone in the audience started screaming, including the people that were right next to David. When people moved out of their seats and started pushing each other towards the exit, David fumbled with his phone, before everything went black. 

Lina saw her own reflection on the television screen, looking back as a surreal version of herself. Her face was twisted in horror. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t...

The newscaster appeared back on the screen, trying to maintain her cool. When she mentioned they would be back with other news after a short break, Matt threw his hands up in frustration and growled, “Oh come ON! Now we still don’t know what happened!”

“Well... we know what happened inside, at least.” Margie mumbled in shock. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed. It was too bizarre! The blonde-haired woman fumbled with the remote control. When she realized her oldest son had been present at that very same concert, a chill ran down her spine.

While Margie switched channels, Lina felt the soles of her feet slowly disconnect with the carpet she was standing on. The edges of her eyesight started to blur, but one thing remained clear; the television.

Two girls were on, both wearing black Rammstein hoodies. The sky behind them was dark. It must’ve been filmed last night, right after the… incident. A large building hovered in the distance; the Newalls Dome, most probably. A strange hue of flickering blue and red lights decorated the building, coming from emergency vehicles that were parked around it.

The girls were obviously upset. Make-up was smeared all over their faces, and they barely blinked their huge eyes as shock had taken over their whole demeanor. They were shaking and talking fast, barely letting each other finish.

“- and then he just hit her with his guitar! Like, really hard!” The girl on the left exclaimed with wide eyes. “Her head was bleeding! And she wasn’t moving-”

“She dropped something!” The second girl interrupted sharply, “A- a phone or something! She dropped it when Richard hit her! There was a light on the phone, it was blinking!”

Lina’s ears were buzzing as her heart started pumping blood through her veins a little too rapidly. She struggled to hear what the girls were saying.

“Yeah it was like a small black thingy!” The first girl gasped, “I don’t know what it was! Richard took it from her! If he hadn’t, it would’ve blown up the entire-”

Margie switched channels again. She was looking for more information about what happened after the guitarist had taken the bomb, not before.

Most networks were telling the same story, with the same pictures and the same footage.

“Stop!” Matt suddenly gasped. “Go back, mom! Go back!!” Confused, she did so. Right at that moment, Ed entered the living room while shrugging on his coat, ready to pick up his oldest son from the hospital. Before doing so, he joined the others in front of the television, staring at what was obviously footage of a security system. It overlooked a spacious parking lot, with a large row of black trucks lined up on the left. All of a sudden, a small dark shape whirled through the air. It was so small, you could barely see it. Then, it sparked once or twice, before it erupted into a massive ball of fire, seemingly exploding within itself as it grew bigger and bigger.

The Taylors watched in horror as some of the trucks were shoved back by the sheer force of the explosion, before the screen stuttered to a white image… then black.

Ed froze from where he stood. “Sweet Jesus…” He muttered in disbelief. “...if that thing had detonated inside...”

Everything else he had planned on saying was forgotten when Lina’s eyes rolled back into her head and she crumpled to the floor.

Chapter Text

“... Lina? Lina, dear?” The foggy brain needed a moment to register the familiar voice.

Lina swallowed and struggled to open her eyes. Blinking away the haziness, she saw the concerned faces of Margie and Matt, hovering over her.

“Oh thank goodness.” Margie mumbled softly. “I was so worried!”

To say Lina was confused would be an understatement. At first she had been standing in this strange family’s living room, the next she woke up on their spacious couch.

“Are you alright?” Matt asked the German girl, carefully helping her up into a sitting position.

“I- I don’t know…” Lina admitted quietly. She definitely felt upset about something, but she couldn’t dredge up what is was. It was like her subconscious was trying to protect her from something, but at the same time, it was trying to tell her something. Something was wrong. Something was very very wrong.

From out of the corner of her eyes, Lina saw movement on her right. Turning her head slowly, she saw that the television was still on. No sound came out though, someone must’ve muted it.

It didn’t really matter.

When a headshot of her father filled the royal 70 inch tv, Lina breathed in sharply. Everything she had momentarily, blissfully, forgotten, slammed into her at once. Matt had to grab her arm to prevent her from collapsing on the floor again. “Lina!” He exclaimed, alarmed. “Lina, what’s wrong?”

The girl struggled out of his hold and scrambled towards the television. The closer she got, the more unreal her world was becoming. It felt as if she was dreaming. None of this could be real, could it? The impassive image that was her father looked back at her, his intense blue eyes boring into hers.

Margie and Matt had no idea what was wrong with their German guest. They hovered behind her, not really knowing what to do. Something on the television was upsetting the girl greatly, that much was clear. In an attempt to help, Margie picked up the remote control, and turned the sound back on.

- taken to the nearby hospital by air ambulance. His condition remains unknown.

No…” Lina breathed in shock. She lifted a trembling hand and placed it on the screen, her shoulders quivering as silent sobs tore through her. This couldn’t be real! Margie knelt down next to her, wrapping a comforting arm around the girl’s shoulders. “Shhh Lina… talk to us… come on…”

Matt kept his distance, feeling helpless. What the hell was going on? He turned when he heard his father entering the living room, phone in his hand. “Steve said he will stay in the hospital and wait until we’re ready to-” Ed abruptly stopped himself when he took in the scene before him. He looked at his son questionably, who gave a confused shrug.

Margie looked up and addressed her husband. “Can you get her a glass of water, please?” Ed nodded and left the room.

Matt decided to kneel down on the other side of the two ladies. Now that he was closer, he realized Lina was frantically whispering things to herself in German. Despite learning German in school, it was difficult to hear what she was saying. He could pick up some words here and there, but that was all.

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked gently, rubbing the girl’s upper arm. Lina kept mumbling things, emotion lacing her words heavily. Matt wasn’t sure, but it sounded as if she kept making sentences around the word ‘Vater’.

“Your... father?” Matt tried, before nodding his head towards the television. “… Was your father in there? Lina?”

Margie looked up in confusion. “Why would her father have been there? Wouldn’t he be in Germany?” She asked softly.

“I dunno...” Matt said with a shrug. It was the only thing he could think of.

Lina was tiring, her sobs slowly transforming into small hiccups. The emotional storm had been exhausting. Margie kept a soothing hold on her, rubbing her back. Ed had reentered the room and handed his wife a glass of water. “What’s going on?” He mouthed at her. Margie shook her head slowly. “We’re not sure.” She whispered. “Something about her father being present at the accident last night…”

Matt, meanwhile, was browsing on his phone. “I’m sure he’s fine, Lina.” He said in an attempt to cheer the girl up. “It says here no one in the audience has gotten seriously hurt. Most people were just banged up a little, like Steve, but nothing serious. I’m sure your dad’s fine.”

Lina stayed quiet, desperateness numbing her.

“It’s odd though, isn’t it?” Ed suddenly mused in a low voice, folding his arms as he glanced at the television, where Richard’s stoic face was still displayed prominently on the screen. “How did that man know someone had a bomb and who it was? It’s all a little too coincidental, if you’d ask me.”

Matt looked up from his phone. “… What do you mean, dad?”

“Think about it.” Ed started sternly, jerking his head in the guitarist’s direction. “He knew there was a bomb. He knew exactly who was carrying it within a crowd of thousands of people. He knew how to take a hold of it, where to run with it, and where to let it explode without anyone getting hurt.”

Matt gasped in shock. “You aren’t saying he had something to do with it, are you?”

His father shrugged, gesturing towards the television where numerous fans expressed their admiration for the guitarist’s actions, calling him ‘amazing’ and ‘noble’. Ed sighed disapprovingly. “Everyone’s thinking of him as a hero now. Rammstein always likes to play with the extreme, what greater publicity stunt could a world-famous band ask for?”

Lina had been trembling with sorrow, but now, it slowly turned into anger. She snapped her head into Ed’s direction and growled, “That’s not what happened!

Margie and Matt were taken aback by the girl’s outburst, but Ed merely held up his hands in defense. “Look, all I’m saying-”

“You don’t know him!” Lina interrupted sharply, unaware of the tears that still trickled down her burning cheeks. She angrily pointed at the television. “My father risked his life out there, and you’re – you’re… How dare you accuse him of something like that?!”

The three Taylors stared at the heavily breathing girl in front of them. Then, it slowly began to dawn on them.

“… Oh… ohh dear…” Margie whispered, her face tragic.

“Wait. Wh- what? Your father…?” Matt breathed in shock. “Please don’t tell me Richard is your… your…” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

It stayed quiet for a couple of seconds as the news slowly sank in.

Surprisingly, it was Ed who acted first. He whipped out his phone and excused himself, saying he’d call every hospital in the area to check on Kruspe’s condition. It was as close to an apology as he could get.

Margie helped Lina back to the couch, murmuring everything would be okay. Inwardly, she begged the gods she was right.

Matt needed a moment to drag himself back to the present. Every time he reminded himself that this girl, -this girl he had been spending the last couple of days with-, was in fact the daughter of one of his biggest idols, his brain would stumble and fall flat on its face. On one hand, he needed time to comprehend all of this. On the other, he was aware of the fact that he didn’t have any. Lina needed him right now. He could freak out about this later.

Matt sunk down on the couch, on the other side of Lina’s shivering form. Both he and his mother enveloped her in a hug as they waited.

In the hallway, Ed called the first hospital he could think of; the one located closest to the Newalls Dome. It was the same hospital his oldest son was in, as well as hundreds of other Rammstein fans who acquired minor injuries during the evacuation of the venue.

“Yes?” The receptionist sounded impatient and stressed; the hospital was definitely understaffed. Ed decided to cut to the chase. “Hi, my name is Ed Taylor. I was hoping you could tell me about Mr. Richard Kruspe’s whereabouts and wellbeing. Has he been brought in here or someplace else?”

It stayed silent for a moment, but Ed heard the receptionist taking a deep breath as if she was counting to ten. “Sir, unless you’re a relative, we cannot provide you any information on Mr. Kruspe’s condition.”

“So he is there?” Ed pushed on.

“Sir-”

“Look, I’m with the NYPD, and I’m requesting your cooperation on behalf of-”

“Sir, even if you really are a member of the Police Department, I’m not telling you anything unless you are an official family member. Now, if you’d excuse me-”

“I’ve got a relative right here.” Ed interrupted. He had originally planned to keep the girl out of this, but he really had no choice. “His daughter, Lina, she’s here and very concerned about her father. Please tell me if he’s alive, at least.”

“I’m not telling you anything, sir.” The receptionist bit back coldly. “You’ve got no idea how many phone calls we received in the past few hours with fans claiming they were concerned family members. Now, if you’d excuse me, there are more urgent matters I need to attend to.”

She hung up.

Ed sighed in irritation. Time for plan B.

The bulky man pressed speed dial and waited. After five rings, the familiar voice of his former colleague answered, sounding a little out of breath, “Daryl Walker, Philadelphia Police Department.” In the distance, Ed could hear a lot of noise. It sounded like people yelling at each other and heavy objects being moved.

“Daryl, it’s Ed.”

“Hey Ed, would you mind if I called you back in a few hours or so? Now is a really bad time.”

“Actually, I would mind.” Ed replied sternly. “Are you there? At the Newalls Dome?”

Daryl sighed in defeat. “Yeah, I am. You wouldn’t believe the amount of destruction that bomb has left behind, it’s crazy. It’s a good thing the thing exploded outside, or else…” The man trailed off, undoubtedly seeing the mental images of what could’ve happened. Without actually realizing it, Ed was doing the same, his oldest son foremost in his mind. Steve had been in there, along with thousands of other innocent lives. Lives that would have been lost, if it hadn’t been for…- Ed pulled himself back together, remembering why he had called his former colleague in the first place. “What can you tell me about Richard Kruspe’s condition?”

“… Richard who?” Daryl sounded genuinely confused.

Ed rolled his eyes impatiently. “The German guy who took the bomb outside. The guitarist.”

“Oh! Right…” Daryl stayed quiet for a moment. “Wait. Why do you…-”

“I’ve got his daughter here. I need you to tell me everything you know.” Ed interrupted sternly.

“What? His- his daughter?”

Yes, his daughter.”

“Are you sure, man? We’ve got half this town claiming to be his daughter at the moment.” Daryl said.

“Just tell me everything you know.” Ed demanded sternly.

“I will, but…” Daryl hesitated for a moment. “Ed, listen to me… If you really have his daughter in there, you might not want to tell her anything.”

Ed frowned worriedly, a cold feeling washing over him. “Are you saying he’s …?”

“From what I’ve heard he’s still alive, but only barely.” Daryl said softly, finding himself a secluded area where he continued, “Ed… I spoke with the in-house paramedic who attended to him before the ambulance arrived… it didn’t look good…”



The living room was quiet. The tv had been turned off and Lina had stopped crying, but was now staring into space, not really seeing anything anymore. Matt and Margie were still positioned on either side of her, rubbing her back soothingly. When Ed re-entered the living room, his wife and son looked up hopefully.

“Do you know anything?” Margie asked him.

Ed considered the shell-shocked girl on the couch, his mind racing. What should he tell her? He pocketed his phone and zipped up his coat. “I know where he is. Let’s go.”

Lina didn’t seem to hear him, all she could think of was her father. She was a smart and imaginative girl; it wasn’t that hard to see the mental image of her father disappearing in the blast and getting hurt… or… or… worse. A rough sob escaped her throat before she could stop it, and a hand wrapped itself around hers. It was then that she realized she was sitting in the backseat of Ed’s car, Matt sitting beside her, looking at her.

She had no idea when or how she had gotten in the car, but it didn’t really matter. The vehicle hadn’t moved yet; it was still in its parked position on the Taylor’s driveway. She wished she was at her father’s side. If only a click of her fingers would get her there instantly, and skip the whole painfully long journey to get there. Matt seemed to read her thoughts. “We’ll leave in a sec. They’re just locking the place up.” he said softly.

Margie felt sick with worry. She stood on the porch, watching her husband yank the front door shut with a decisive click. When he turned around to march towards the awaiting car, Margie placed a halting hand on his arm.

“What did they say? Lina’s father… is he okay? Please tell me he’s okay.” She pleaded.

Ed couldn’t find the words to reply. First the shock of hearing about his son being so close to, what could’ve been, a destructive mass attack, then finding out who Lina’s father was and what happened to him...-what he did-, was a bit too much. Even for him.

"Edward?" Margie’s voice shook with barely suppressed emotion. "Is he... Did he… lose his life out there?" She nearly couldn’t say it.

"No... No, I don’t think so." Ed cleared his throat. “We should go.”

Wait.” Margie positioned herself in front of her husband, blocking his way. Her eyes shone with worry. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Ed inhaled deeply, before releasing it slowly. “He was in the middle of a very serious explosion, honey. He’s in a bad shape.”

Margie couldn’t contain her tears anymore. Especially when her husband looked away and whispered, “Changes are… we will have to prepare for the worst.”

Chapter Text

The Taylors paled considerably when confronted with the hospital’s entrance hall. Hundreds of Rammstein fans were swarming the floor space, their outfits unintentionally creating a big black mass that could’ve been mistaken for a metal party if it wasn’t for the sour faces they were pulling. Some of them were nursing a sprained ankle, others some minor bruises. The seemingly unharmed fans that trudged between them, had either come along as a supportive friend… or to inquire about a particular guitarist’s wellbeing at the front desk, currently staffed by a very frustrated group of nurses.

“As I told you a thousand times before: NO, we cannot and will not tell you anything about mr. Kruspe’s condition!” The biggest nurse snapped at the group of fans in front of her.

“We’re not looking for gossip news here, I swear! We are really worried about him! Please…” One of the fans begged.

“Yeah!” Another added, “Please, tell us something. Anything. We’ve been waiting for an update all night!”

“That was your choice, not mine.” Another nurse said sternly. “Please go home.”

 “You don’t understand…” A fan spoke in genuine concern, “We just want to know whether or not he is-”

“OUT OF MY WAY!” The high-pitched storm that shoved itself through the group of fans, was abrupt and swift. Once at the front, Lina firmly planted her palms on the desk and shot the nurses a desperate look, momentarily silencing them. “Please…” The German girl nearly squeaked. “My father…”

The moment the Taylors had set foot in the crowded hospital, Lina had fled. During the whole drive, she hadn’t said a word, but if her wide, glassy eyes could’ve made a sound, they’d have screamed. As she hurried towards the front desk, Ed ordered his son to go after her, just to be sure.

Unlike Lina, who had used her sorrow as a way to elbow herself through the large amount of people, Matt had a little more trouble to reach the front desk area. When he finally did, however, he was just in time to see a large nurse glaring down at Lina’s tear-streaked face.

“Go. Home.” The nurse bit out through clenched teeth, her patience wearing thin.

“I’m not one of them!” Lina shot back angrily, gesturing towards the fans surrounding her, some of them looking a little offended. Their faces soon transformed to shock however, when the strange, wild-eyed girl in front of them announced something neither of them were expecting, “My name is Lina. Lina Kruspe. Richard Kruspe is my father… please…”

The nurses still looked skeptical. Before any of them could respond, Matt positioned himself next to Lina. “She’s telling the truth!” He said. “You have to let her through!”

The large nurse crossed her arms with a frown. “You got an ID on you, young lady?”

Lina reached into the back pocket of her jeans, coming out empty. She checked her front pockets, her coat pockets, her purse, everything. When her hands started shaking, Matt gently stopped her frantic search. “You must’ve left it at our place. We left in a hurry...” He reminded her softly.

The German girl didn’t dare to meet his eyes, but Matt could see she was barely holding it together. Her whole body was shaking and tears were running down her cheeks, dripping to the floor. Matt wrapped a gentle arm around her shoulders, and shot the large nurse a glare. “All of this is hard enough on her as it is, please don’t make it worse.”

“Lina!” A voice suddenly called. Matt looked up and saw a strange man running their way, having just turned the corner at the gift shop. He had long black hair that looked like it just had survived a tornado storm, and a rough, dark beard. “Lina!” He called again, making the girl look up.

“Lukas!” Lina wasted no second and hurried towards the exhausted looking guitar tech, meeting him halfway. Lukas wrapped his arms around the girl and gently rocked her as she clung to him.

Matt, Ed, and Margie hurried over to the pair, aware of the fact they were surely but slowly getting more and more attention from the fans around them. The unexpected appearance of the guitarist’s daughter spread like wildfire. Lukas noticed this too. He gave the Taylors a suspicious glance, but Lina hastily clarified, “It’s okay, they’re with me. How’s dad? Is he okay??”

Lukas’s glance lingered on the Taylors for a moment, before he gave Lina an unreadable look. “I… don’t know, he’s still in surgery. They haven’t given us an update yet.” The guitar tech had switched to English automatically since Lina had been doing the same.

Lina frowned worriedly, “You haven’t heard anything? …Anything? How long have you been here? Where are the guys? When will we know-”

“-We’ve been here all night. All of us.” Lukas interrupted before the stream of questions would never end. “I’ll take you to the guys, come on.”

The guitar tech gently took a hold of Lina’s elbow, steering her into the direction he had come from. He obviously didn’t feel comfortable about the Taylors following them, but he didn’t object either.



A separate waiting room had been set up. No one in their right minds would place the strange bunch of Germans in a public space, not with the black sea of people that were occupying every inch of the building.

The waiting room used to be the patient’s lounge, where the patients in that particular ward could move around a bit, play some board games, or watch television. The room consisted a few comfortable pieces of furniture, a coffee maker, a vending machine with snacks, and even a private bathroom that included a small shower cubicle. The latter came in handy when the band arrived last night, still wearing their stage outfits. They had made quite the spectacle when they rushed through the emergency doors, smeared with dirt, sweat, and even blood –some of it was stage make-up, some of it wasn’t.

The shower and fresh change of clothes had offered them a slight moment of relief, but that feeling fled the moment they settled down. That was the moment when it dawned on them that this strange place, this strange situation, was real.

The guys had spent the next 9 hours in mute silence, all of them lost in their own personal battles.

Oliver “Ollie” Riedel had isolated himself from the others, lying on the dark leather couch that had been placed into the far corner of the room. He had the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up, hiding a big part of his face and the large set of headphones that currently poured the latest album of Muse in his ears. His posture seemed relaxed, but his reddened eyes showed he clearly wasn’t. Much like his fellow band members, his mind kept drifting back in time, to a place none of them wanted to visit anymore. And yet, they did. Constantly.

Till Lindemann sat slouched in one of the stuffed arm chairs, its dark brown leather nearly consuming him. He had his face resting in his palm, his eyes distant. The singer appeared to be too exhausted to do anything else than to sit in silence, while inwardly, he was wrapped up in panic. Instead of acting on it, he tried to bury the impulse by doing mental visualization exercises. The last few hours had been a daze, for all of them. By going back and reviewing the key moments, Till hoped he could make sense of everything. What exactly did happen in the past few hours? Where- and how did things go so wrong?

Despite all the memories he was digging up, Till desperately tried not to envision a specific memory. The unreal image of his friend lying on the ground, covered in smoking ash, was a very persistent one. Every time the horrific image popped up in his mind, Till shoved it back, forcing himself to go further back in time. But every time he did, the timeline would continue at an even pace, always ending up at the point he dreaded so much.

Blood. So much blood…

‘NO DAMNIT!!’ Till inwardly screamed, burying his head in his hands. He considered pulling out his hair to stop the menacing thoughts.

Christoph Schneider watched his friend struggle in silence from where he sat across from him, lounging on the couch. The drummer desperately wanted to do something to change the situation they were in. Sitting still and waiting aimlessly just wasn’t their thing. He had bought his fellow band members some breakfast they yet had to touch, but that was basically it. He had run out of ideas. Exhaustion was blurring his vision, as well as his thoughts. Sleep was out of the question though, the constant rolling fear wouldn’t allow it.

He had never felt so afraid before. Would he ever see his friend again?

Christoph sighed heavily, aware of the fact that his dark thoughts wouldn’t get him anywhere. He needed to do something, anything that’d distract him. He turned to the smaller man sitting next to him on the couch. “I’m getting coffee. You want some too?”

Paul Landers didn’t react. He had his head resting on the couch’s padded back, staring up at the ceiling with hazy, unblinking eyes. With every hour that crawled by, it felt as if Richard was taken further away from them. Paul knew he shouldn’t give up hope, but he knew what he had seen. He knew what the bomb had done to the parking lot and more importantly, what it had done to Richard. He had seen it.

Paul’s mind kept drifting back to Richard’s strange stunt. At first, they didn’t even know where Richard had run off too. In fact, they hadn’t known anything.

Paul struggled to remember.

Screaming. There had been a lot of screaming. Thousands of people fighting to reach the exit. The band had been dragged offstage by their own security personal, before they were ordered to find a safe place outside under their protection. The band tried to resist as they had no idea what happened and where Richard was, but they really didn’t have a say in the matter.

After what felt like minutes, but were only a matter of seconds, a terrifying thunderous “BOOM!” had erupted from the other side of the arena. The sound momentarily grew in volume, rattling the floor and walls with its force. It sounded as if one side of the building was either hit by lightning or an erupting volcano. Or a mixture of both.

Without actually thinking, the band had torn themselves out of the security’s hold and rushed towards the source of the sound.

Something told them they had to.

Now that he thought about it, Paul found it strange they had all felt it so strongly. Somehow, they knew Richard was there. Somehow… they knew he was in trouble.

Paul’s vision blurred with tears as he recalled the moment where they rushed through the endless halls of the Newalls Dome. Before they even realized how dangerous the situation was, they had raced outside, stumbling to a halt on the smoldering parking lot. The place was decorated with burning rubble. Paul remembered nearly gagging when the sickening scent of burned asphalt, as well the heavy smoke that hung around them like a curtain, entered his lungs. Till had screamed and pointed at something, but Paul couldn’t make out what it was. All he could see were two bulky stadium officials in the distance, hauling along what looked like a piece of smoking rubble. As the figures drew closer however, the piece of rubble turned out to be a human being.

Paul squinted his eyes at the approaching trio, sincerely hoping his eyes were playing tricks on him. He took a step forward to try and make sense on what he was seeing, but was stopped by a hand gripping his upper arm. A large security guard was yelling something at him, pulling him back towards the building. What the giant had been yelling exactly was lost on the guitarist, but it had something to do with one of the Rammstein Trucks catching fire.

Paul didn’t know a truck could groan.

But it did.

Despite the very obvious danger of what appeared to be a flaming pyro truck, Paul refused to move. He needed to know if… he needed to see…

The two stadium officials were getting closer and closer, running as fast as they could without jarring the body they were carrying in between them. One of the uniformed men was running backwards, his hands hooked under the injured man’s arms, while the other was cradling his legs. Paul swallowed nervously as he took in the man’s limp form. It didn’t look like Richard… Maybe it wasn’t Richard?

But… what if it was?

Paul’s mind was racing. …What if-

“GET BACK INSIDE!” One of the stadium officials yelled at the stunned guitarist as they passed him. Paul wasted no time and spun on his heels, following them inside. When everyone was safely in the building, the large steel emergency door was shoved shut, protecting them from the now-screaming pyro truck on the parking lot.

At first, the members of the band kept their distance as the stadium officials lowered the body to the floor. In all honesty, the band had no idea what to do, other than watching in numb disbelief at the scene that unfolded itself in front of their eyes.

At least fifteen people were swarming the narrow hallway now, fluttering around the lifeless body on the floor. Paul felt bile rise in his throat when he noticed the rapidly growing pool of blood the man was lying in. He hated himself for wishing it was a stranger; someone he didn’t know. As long as it was not his best friend.

Please no… not his best friend…

It couldn’t be Richard, could it?

The injured man certainly carried some of the guitarist’s features, but it was hard to see through the layers of ash, blood and dust that coated him like a second skin. His eyes were closed, his lips slightly parted as he inhaled shallow sips of air.

At least he was breathing, if only for a little bit.

“GET A DOCTOR IN HERE!” A security guard screamed. “CALL 911!!” Another shrieked. “SOMEONE HELP!!”

Paul closed his eyes in despair, unaware of the silent tears that clung to his eyelashes. He nearly jumped when he felt something warm being pressed in his hands. Opening his eyes, he realized he was back in the waiting room, and Christoph had handed him a cup of coffee. Paul thanked him quietly and the drummer nodded before sitting back down.

“… They are taking such a long time in there… is that a good or a bad sign?” Christoph asked softly, his voice shaking.

Paul stayed quiet for a couple of seconds, before confessing quietly, “I don’t know…”

“Surviving takes a longer time than dying.” Came the unexpected words from Christian ‘Flake’ Lorenz. The slender keyboardist hadn’t said a word since they had arrived in the hospital. Like the rest of them he had taken a shower, before pouring himself some tea, and curling up in the armchair opposite Till’s, scribbling things in his little notebook, non-stop.

“You working on a new book or something?” Christoph said with a small smile. He knew better though; writing was Flake’s way of dealing with difficult times. Flake didn’t answer and kept on jotting down words. His hands were cramping, but he didn’t care. He wrote about what happened at last night’s concert, he wrote about the tense minutes- turning into hours- that occurred afterwards… but he also wrote about his memories of Richard in general. Some of them were difficult, but most of them were good.

Flake considered words to be a magical force; one that created a whole new reality whenever he wanted, wherever he wanted. The keyboardist wasn’t in the waiting room anymore; he was strolling through a forest with Richard, enjoying the peaceful scenery and sharing a laugh about their kids.

Flake knew the memory would last as long as there were words to recreate it.

And so he kept on writing.



When the door of the waiting room opened, every member of the band looked up automatically. So far, the plain white door had been their only gateway to news about their friend. A young nurse had made a visit every now and then, but other than telling them that the man on the operation table was still fighting for his life, she couldn’t really tell them anything.

The band couldn’t help but feel disappointed when their guitar tech entered the room. When they spotted the familiar form of Lina however, they all jumped to their feet. Even Till, who had seemed incapable of the simple task before.

The German girl wasted no time and flung herself at Till, allowing herself to disappear in the broad man’s arms. They stayed like that for a few minutes. No one spoke, they didn’t need to. The sadness, fear and shock they were all feeling hung heavily in the air.

Matt and his parents hovered in the doorway, keeping a respectful distance. Somewhere, in the back of their minds, it was strange for them to see the world-famous musicians this way. So… human-like. The revelation of that thought saddened them too. Rammstein were seen as gods; strong, powerful, invincible. The fact that they were human beings was something everyone knew, yet no one wanted to acknowledge.

Matt sighed sadly, before jumping when his father’s hand landed on his shoulder, giving it a few pats. “You should stay with her.” Ed told his youngest son, nodding his head in Lina’s direction. “We’ll be right back.” Margie added softly. Matt gave his parents a questioning look. “You two going somewhere?” Matt asked, feeling slightly nervous at the idea of being left alone with... these people.

Margie smiled knowingly. “We’re going to look for Steve, he’s somewhere in this hospital, remember?”

Matt mentally slapped himself. He had totally forgotten about his older brother. Ed gave his son a tight smile, holding up his cellphone. “Let us know if there’s any news, alright?”

Matt nodded. “I will…”

“Good.” Ed gave his son one last pat on the shoulder, before he and his wife turned around and walked away. Matt watched them until they were out of sight, having turned the corner at the end of the corridor.

Matt bit his lip. To say he was tense would be an understatement. Not only did he feel incredibly nervous in the band’s presence, he also felt genuinely concerned about Lina’s father. Would he be okay?

When none other than Paul Landers took a step in his direction, Matt almost took a step backwards.

“Are you a friend of Lina?” Paul asked him with a very prominent German accent.

Matt opened his mouth to reply, but for a few seconds no words came out. In the end, he was able to squeak out a soft, “Yeah…” But that was about it.

Lina slowly detangled herself out of Till’s grip. She was shaking. The heavy storm of emotions left her overwhelmed, but blank at the same time. She didn’t know what to do, think, or say anymore.

“Are you alright?” Till asked her, although he obviously already knew the answer.

“I’m… I’m fine. How’s dad?” Lina said, her voice trembling with sorrow. “Please... tell me.... Please?”

Till didn’t respond. He had no idea what to say.

When the tears in Lina’s eyes started to overflow, Till quickly pulled her back in his arms, holding on tight. The rest of the band gathered around them, hoping that, together, they would get through this.

Matt stood off to the side, not really knowing what to do. When Christoph Schneider handed him a plastic cup with water, he accepted it with trembling hands. “T- thank you.”

Right at that moment, the door opened again. This time, it took the band some time to comprehend who was standing in the doorway.

Richard’s physician.

Chapter Text

Till wasn’t sure if he wanted to know.

Judging by the doctor’s face, whatever he planned on saying, wasn’t good.

The doctor quietly stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. He seemed pretty young, Till guessed he was somewhere in his mid-thirties. He had short brown hair and dark brown eyes, decorated by a pair of thick-rimmed glasses.

“Family of Mr. …” The doctor glanced at the clipboard in his hands, struggling to pronounce his patient’s last name. “Kruspe?”

“Ja… uh… yes that’s-… that’s us. How is he, doctor?” Christoph was the first one to respond. The doctor glanced at him and the rest of the band with a puzzled frown, before looking back at his clipboard. “You’re all family…?”

“Well… not officially…” Christoph started softly, “But-”

“-This is his daughter.” Till interrupted sharply, gesturing at the unmoving, unresponsive form of Lina, before adding, “Richard is our brother. We’re not going anywhere until you tell us how he’s doing.” His tone was final and broke no argument.

The doctor lowered his clipboard, swallowing nervously when he realized the muscular Germans could easily wrestle the information out of him if they had to. Their eyes and body language unnerved him. Then again, he couldn’t blame them for being so… tense. They had been waiting all night for an update about their friend.

… A friend who ran outside with a freaking bomb to save a stadium full of people.

The doctor sighed in defeat. Sometimes, the patients he cared for demanded an unorthodox method of treatment; one that went out of the books. Sometimes, this also applied to their relatives and friends. Looking at the people in this room, the doctor felt bad for them. They were exhausted. Angry. Scared. Desperate. They deserved to know how their friend was doing.

The doctor cleared his throat, taking another look at his clipboard. “The first and foremost thing you need to know, is that Mr. Kruspe fought his way through surgery and we’ve managed to stabilize him for now. He’s being moved to a private room as we speak, where we’ll keep a close eye on his recovery.” The doctor gave the group in front of him some time to let the news sink in. They were obviously relieved to hear their friend was still alive, but also afraid for what had yet to come. No doctor starts delivering good news without the addition of bad news afterwards.

“… You must understand that Mr. Kruspe’s injuries are very serious, and that, although the surgery went well, it was touch and go in there for a while. He flat lined twice...” The doctor paused when the Germans looked uncertain.

“Flat lined?” Paul repeated with a puzzled frown.

The doctor nodded, explaining gravely, “His heart stopped beating for short periods of time.”

“No no… no…” Paul whispered in denial, shaking his head. The others shared a look of disbelief. They knew Richard had been injured badly. Dangerously even. But… hearing his heart stopped beating… that… that meant something.

Matt stood off to the side, next to Lina. He glanced at her worryingly, not knowing how he’d react if he were in her shoes.

She didn’t react at all.

It looked like Lina wasn’t even there. She just stood there, frozen in place. Her eyes were trained on the doctor, but Matt believed she wasn’t really seeing him.

“I know all of this is a lot to take in right now.” The doctor said with a sympathetic smile. “We can continue this conversation another time.”

“No.” Till replied sharply. “Please, go on.”

“Alright…” The doctor placed his clipboard aside before turning his attention back to the anxious group of people in front of him.

“There are a few things you need to know about Mr. Kruspe’s injuries. As you all know, he’s been in the middle of an explosion, resulting in his body suffering multiple burns. Some of them mild, some of them severe.” The doctor paused momentarily when Till dropped himself back in his chair with a miserable groan. Christoph decided to take a seat as well, feeling too drained to stand up anymore. “The burns, they are treatable, right…?” The drummer asked quietly.

“We are hopeful that most of them will heal over time, but...” The doctor took a deep breath, “The explosion has done some serious damage. The right side of Mr. Kruspe’s body bore the biggest brunt of the impact, especially his right arm. The bomb must’ve detonated in mid-air, moments after he flung it away. I’m very sorry… but we had no other choice than to amputate his arm from the elbow down.”

The room’s temperature seemed to drop a few degrees.

Matt turned his wide eyes to the floor. He didn’t dare to look up and see the reaction of the people in the room. People who loved Richard like no other.

Good god…

The guys in the band needed a few seconds to find their voice. Till sincerely hoped he misunderstood. “With amputate, you mean…” He couldn’t finish the sentence. He just… couldn’t.

The doctor gave a careful nod. “We had to surgically remove his arm from here.” He placed a hand under his right elbow to demonstrate. “I truly am sorry.”

“You’re sorry?!” Till’s anger didn’t come entirely unexpected. The doctor had been counting on it, even. “You can’t just do something like that!!” Till snarled as he jumped out of his chair, taking a threatening step towards the doctor. “Richard is a goddamn guitar player, he lives for it…” Till faltered when a feeling of overwhelming sadness momentarily silenced him.

Oliver had carefully lowered himself back onto the couch, afraid he was going to black out if he didn’t. The idea of Richard missing his right arm made him feel dangerously light-headed.

Flake had dropped his notebook without realizing it. He glanced at Paul, who stood next to him. They shared a look of mutual fear.

“Isn’t there anything you can do?” Christoph pleaded the doctor, his eyes reddening with stinging tears. “Anything?”

“I’m afraid this was the best thing we could’ve done.” The doctor said softly, his eyes tragic. “If we hadn’t… It’d have cost him his life.”

Silence filled the room like a heavy curtain, weighing down on everybody.

After a few seconds of horrendous silence, Paul spoke up, his voice straining against his vocal chords, “How will things go from here?”

The doctor breathed in deeply. “Well…” He obviously choose his next words with care, “Mr. Kruspe is not out of the woods yet. The burns are not the only injuries that has gotten us worried. He sustained some damage to his back and ribs, as well a serious head injury from when he was thrown to the ground by the impact of the blast. We’ve located a fairly large fracture at the back of his skull and some minor swelling in his brain. We’ll need to keep a close eye on that. We’d rather not pull him through brain-surgery, as it is a major surgery and he’s still very weak right now. The next 24 hours will determine what our next plan of action will be.”

Till nodded absentmindedly, his eyes directed elsewhere. “Can we see him? Talk to him?”

The doctor considered the group in front of him with grave regard. “We’ve put Mr. Kruspe in a medical induced coma for the time being, to give his body the time and peace to heal itself. As he has just come out of surgery, hospital regulations state he isn’t allowed to have any visitors.”

Till’s head snapped up, but before he could object, the doctor continued, “However, you’ve all had a long night and… well, if it was my friend lying there, I wouldn’t want to leave either. I’ll take you to him, but only for a little while. Your friend needs absolute rest, and quite frankly, so do you.”

The band was torn between feeling grateful, and dreading the following minutes that were coming.



Lina wasn’t sure what was happening.

A strange kind of pressure had built up in her ears, canceling out all sound and replacing it with high-pitched ringing that hurt her head. Everyone around her was talking; she could see their lips move, but she couldn’t hear anything. It was as if someone had pushed the mute button.

The doctor was doing most of the talking, moving his hands wildly as he spoke. Lina watched him numbly, as it was the only thing she could do at the moment. He had a friendly face, and, like all stereotype doctors, he wore a long white coat and a stethoscope across his shoulders.

How cliché.

The doctor was obviously doing his best to involve everyone in his story by making eye-contact with everyone in turn, but Lina noticed his eyes kept lingering on hers.

When they did, they were tragic.

For a moment, the surgeon stopped talking, looking over at Till. The singer had taken a threatening step towards him, talking and gesturing rapidly. Paul stood beside him, looking back and forth with an extremely worried expression. The doctor nodded at whatever Till had said, before explaining something. When the doctor gestured to his own right arm, Lina felt everyone around her freeze. Confused, she looked around, trying to get a sense of what had happened.

Why- why did everyone look so… shocked?

Matt seemingly appeared out of nowhere, taking a hold of her hand. He was saying something to her with an intense look in his eyes.

“W-what?” Lina whispered.

Matt repeated what he had said, but Lina still couldn’t hear. She winced when, for a moment, the ringing in her ears became worse; it sounded more like shrieking now.

She opened her eyes when Matt gave her hand a gentle tug, silently asking her to follow him. She did, albeit on trembling legs. The doctor waited patiently until they were closer, before he turned around and led them away from the waiting room. Lina looked behind her, relieved to see the guys following them. Most of them looked serious or scared, but Lukas was openly crying. She had never seen him, or anyone in the band for that matter, cry before.

Why was he crying?

Lina felt Matt’s hand shake in her own. Was it nerves or something else? Lina glanced at his face. Matt was obviously upset about something.

What was going on?

As they entered the intensive care unit, Lina’s hearing had improved a little. She could hear soft voices, as well as beeps and hums of medical equipment, coming out of the rooms they passed.

“Are you okay?” Matt suddenly asked her. Lina glanced at him in silent dread. Was she okay? Did she have any reason to be okay? Did she have any reason not to be okay?

Was her dad okay?

“I… I dunno…” She confessed quietly.

Matt chewed on his bottom lip and avoided eye-contact. “Lina… I’m… I’m really sorry about what happened to your dad.”

Lina stayed quiet, but Matt could see she was very confused about something. Now that he thought about it, she had looked a little spaced out earlier, as if she wasn’t really there. Didn’t she know…?

Matt swallowed nervously, looking behind him to see if anyone was listening to their conversation. The band was trudging a couple feet away from them, and, judging by the far-away look in their eyes, they weren’t paying attention to pretty much anything.

“Lina… I don’t know how to tell you this.” Matt said softly. Lina didn’t dare to look at him. Her heart raced in fear. Did her father… did he…

“The doctors… they uh… had to amputate your father’s arm. His right one. It was too damaged because of the explosion… the burns…” Matt didn’t quite know how to explain it.

Lina had widened her eyes, the color draining from her face.

“It was necessary to save his life…” Matt hoped he could soften the blow. “The doctor said he was very strong in there. Fought for his life.”

Lina didn’t utter another word, her unblinking eyes never leaving the doctor’s back as he led the way. Matt didn’t know what else to say and decided to give her a little space to come to terms with everything.

The doctor led the odd group through the long hallway, stopping at a closed door further down. By the time they gathered around him, he was holding a few pieces of light blue fabric. He handed one to Lina, the other to Till.

Lina blinked at the strange fabric, rubbing the material between thumb and index finger. It felt like paper, but it wasn’t. When two large hands enveloped her own, she looked up. Christoph was looking at her with misty eyes. He gently took the fabric from her, smiling sadly. “Here, let me help you.”

Lina swallowed nervously when Christoph hoisted her in, what appeared to be, a flimsy medical coat. The whole situation was like a dream; hazy, weird, and it didn’t make any sense.

It was as if the tall drummer read her mind. “It’s just to be safe.” He said softly, securing the coat’s ties behind her back.

“Your father is an exceptional man.” The doctor suddenly said to Lina, handing her a pair of latex gloves. “What he did back there… he saved thousands of lives.”

Lina didn’t feel right. She couldn’t focus. She did take notice of the fact that the others weren’t wearing the medical outfits though. It was just her and Till. Lina knew how badly they all wanted to see his friend, why wouldn’t they?

“Aren’t you coming?” Lina asked them softly, her voice trembling.

Paul shook his head sadly. “Only two of us are allowed to go in right now. We want it to be you, and Till.”

Lina frowned disapprovingly. “No… no! Everyone should...-” Christoph stopped her by placing a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay kiddo.” He said, although his eyes told her that it really wasn’t. “There’s a window, so we can still see him. See?” Christoph pointed at a large window on their left, next to the door. In the back of her mind, Lina noticed that none of them had actually glanced through the window yet, as if their subconscious was warning them for what lay ahead.

Lina swallowed thickly. She was glad when Till placed a hand on her back. She always felt safe whenever he was close, as if nothing could touch or hurt her.

The doctor opened the door for them. “You can go in now. I’m already breaking regulations as it is, so I can only allow ten minutes of visitor time.”

Lina wanted to object, but Till stopped her. “We understand. Thank you.” The singer said softly. 

The guys grimly watched the two of them entering the room, the doctor closing the door behind them. Then, they turned to look through the window, at the man lying in the bed.

Their brother.

Chapter Text

It was weird to see him so still.

Richard was a man well known, by those close to him, for his vibrant and active personality. Whether it was day or night, the guitarist was always doing things, moving around, never sitting still for more than two seconds at a time. In moments of stress or anxiety, this could be a somewhat annoying trait, as his restlessness would affect the general mood of those around him without him even being aware of it. When he was feeling good however, his presence was just as contagious, creating a light and playful atmosphere. To say Richard was an influential character, would be an understatement.

It was a rare thing for Richard to be quiet. If he was, he was either jetlagged, pissed off, or upset about something.

When he wasn’t moving… something was terribly wrong.

Till took a hesitant step towards the bed and swallowed with difficulty, unable to get rid of the lump that had taken residence in his throat. This wasn’t the first time the singer had seen one of his friends in a hospital bed. This also wasn’t the first time he had seen Richard in a hospital bed.

Yet, it had never looked like this.

The man in the bed was surrounded by numerous displays and devices, some of them hissing along with his oxygen intake, while others kept a close watch over his blood pressure, heartrate, and any other vital organs that needed to be assessed.

Till was sad to see that the thick mop of hair, that Richard was so well known for, had been shaved off entirely. It was a strange sight to see the guitarist hairless. But even stranger were the thick bandages that encircled the man’s head horizontally as well as vertically, hiding a big portion of his face and both of his ears. A fairly thick oxygen tube had been inserted in his throat, while a smaller one disappeared in one of his nostrils, carrying a white fluid. The guitarist’s neck was secured in a cast, with an angry looking burn running from underneath it, spreading across his collarbone and right shoulder. The right side of his chest had been burned without a doubt, but a light blue gown, as well as a white sheet, hid it from view. Richard’s left hand rested on top of his stomach, gently moving up and down with every breath he took. The wrist and area around the thumb were wrapped up in plaster, with a vivid bruise blackening his hand. His other arm, -what was left of it anyway- was wrapped up in a brace, strapped against the side of his torso to keep it immobile.

Till clenched his jaw when his eyes landed on the spot where the rest of the man’s right arm should have been. It was an empty space under the covers. Gone.

Anger swept over Till like a sudden storm. Bristling with barely contained rage, Till contemplated on interrogating the doctor to check if they were in the right room. There was no way in hell the man lying in this bed was Richard.

No fucking way.

Maybe they had mistaken this poor soul for someone else somehow? Maybe this stranger- whoever it was- belonged to another family? Another name? Maybe, Richard was in the room next door, annoying the doctors because he wouldn’t keep still?

The lump in Till’s throat told him otherwise.

He turned around, risking a glance at the girl that was like a daughter to him.

Lina hadn’t moved yet. Her eyes were on the bed, wide with disbelief.

Till wanted to say something to her. Something soothing. Something that would drag them out of this strange world and back into reality. He couldn’t find the words though, not without lying.

For a moment, Lina’s wide eyes met his. It was surreal to see each other this way; dressed in the flimsy medical coats and plastic gloves. But much more depressing, was the unmistakable look of grief they both had on their faces.

When tears welled up in Lina’s eyes, Till’s anger drained away as if someone ripped it right out of him. Sadness filled his core instead, and he engulfed his surrogate daughter in a hug. She clung to him while hiding her face in his broad arms. A part of her felt cowardly to look away, especially since her father needed her the most right now, but she couldn’t do it. She just… couldn’t do it.

Till rubbed the quivering girl’s back. “Shhh… It’s okay…”

“N-no it isn’t…” Lina wailed quietly. “They… they cut off his…- They cut off his ar- … they cut off his hair…”

In the hallway, on the other side of the window, the remaining guys of the band watched in silence. They stood close to each other, unknowingly seeking comfort in each other’s presence. When Lina slowly detangled herself out of Till’s embrace to make a shaky way towards her father, the men behind the glass looked away. Paul was the only one who kept a steady watch on the bed, and the pale man who lay in it, so worryingly still.

Lina hesitated for a moment, before she picked up her father’s hand. The limp appeared to be heavily lifeless in her hold; the cast encircling his wrist being the only thing that kept the hand from flopping down. There was no resistance in there. No energy. If they didn’t know any better, they’d have sworn he wasn’t even…

Paul closed his eyes and leant his forehead against the window. “Richard…” He whispered in despair. Christoph placed a comforting hand on his back, but in all honesty, the drummer was terrified. Oliver and Flake, the two tallest members of the band, stood silently off to the side, not showing a lot of emotion. Although, at a closer look, they appeared to be shaking on their feet.

Matt had taken a seat at the other side of the hall, trying to give the band as much space and privacy as he could within the narrow corridor of the ICU ward. As he watched them, desperately hunched together in front of the window so they could see their friend, Matt couldn’t help but feel a little out of place. He didn’t know any of these men. Sure, he knew Rammstein and he knew their names, but that didn’t mean he knew any of the band members personally. Did he even deserve to be here, sharing such an emotional moment with them?

On second thought, he did know Lina, and he deeply cared about her. She was a part of his family now too, and he wanted to offer her every bit of support he could give. Even if that meant sitting silently in a far corner of a brightly lit hallway.



Steve Taylor, despite being a doctor in training, had never slept in a hospital before.

His injuries, a broken arm and some minor bruising, hadn’t been all that dramatic, but the hospital staff had suggested him to stay one night nonetheless. The young man, although he hadn’t want to admit it, had been pretty shaken up by what happened, so he had silently complied.

Since the hospital was overcrowded, he had to share a room with five other Rammstein fans whom had gotten hurt in the wild escape of the Newalls Dome. None of them knew each other, but after one night, they felt as if they’ve known each other for years.

Funny how an accident connects people.

Unlike his bedridden roommates, Steve was discharged earlier this morning. He had some breakfast before calling his dad, asking for a ride home. His father had ensured him he was on his way, sounding uncharacteristically worried.

Steve waited patiently, sitting on the plastic chair next to the bed he had spent the night in. His arm was wrapped in plaster and in a sling, while the other was leaning on the mattress, head in his hand.

He, as well as his roommates, had switched on the small television that had been mounted on the ceiling above their beds. Last night’s accident was dominating each and every channel. Some of the news stations interviewed witnesses, others showed fan-filmed footage of the concert.

Steve and his fellow roommates had been present at the concert, but none of them had actually seen what happened. They all had seats higher up in the tribunes of the colossal venue, and from where they sat, all they could witness was panic amongst the people around them. Finding out afterwards that there had been a bomb in the venue came as a huge shock to all of them. Finding out it had been Richard Kruspe who took the bomb outside, was absolutely unbelievable.

Steve watched the television screen with a distant look in his eyes. The guitarist had just taken the jump into the audience and was now working his way towards the middle. Within the next couple of seconds, he’d raise his guitar over his head and smack a woman down. Steve and his roommates had seen the footage about a hundred times this morning, discussing it at length. The more they watched it, the more questions arose.

How the hell does something like this happen?

How did all of this start?

… How did it end…?

A soft knock on the door brought Steve out of his reverie. When two familiar heads popped around the door, Steve grinned at his parents. “Hey! Thought you guys had gotten lost or something!”

Margie entered the hospital room first, hurrying towards her oldest son and wrapping him in a hug. “Oh my goodness!” She squeaked emotionally, “I’m so happy you’re okay!”

Ed strode in after her, closing the door behind him. He stiffly made his way towards the bed, giving the five other patients in the room an acknowledging nod in greeting. Some returned the greeting with a wave of their hand, or a small “Hi!”

“How are you feeling?” Ed asked his oldest son. Steve thought he looked… tense. More so than usual anyway.

“I’m fine…” Steve frowned up at him in suspicion. “What’s going on?”

Margie and Ed shared an unreadable look, one that confirmed Steve’s suspicions that something was definitely wrong. Aware of the fact that everyone in the room was looking at them in amused curiosity, Ed cleared his throat. “Something’s happened.”

“Well yeah, no shit.” Steve said with a breathless laugh.

Ed shook his head, “No, we mean-” the chime of his cellphone cut his speech short, and he fumbled the device out of his pocket. “It’s a message from Matt…”

Margie positioned herself next to her husband. “Oh my god, is there any news?”

Steve frowned in confusion. He had never seen his parents act so… nervous before. “Mom, dad, what’s going on? Why would Matt have any news?”

It seemed like his parents weren’t even hearing him. They were both staring at Ed’s cellphone, their eyes darting across the screen as they read whatever Matt had sent them. Steve was surprised to see his mother’s eyes becoming a little moist.

“Okay, now you’re worrying me.” Steve mumbled, pushing himself out of his chair with some difficulty. He hadn’t expected to be this sore. “Did something happen to Matt?”

Margie quickly wiped away her tears, her voice sounding strained. “No, no honey. Matt’s fine.”

“Then… what is it?”

Ed sighed, lowering his phone. “We cannot tell you. I’m sorry. Let’s get you home.”

Margie turned sad eyes to her husband. “We have to tell him something… How else are we going to explain…” She trailed off mid-sentence, staring at the small television above the bed with hazy eyes.

Steve looked like he was slowly losing his mind. Gesturing wildly with one hand, he exclaimed, “What the HELL are you guys TALKING ABOUT??!”

Ed cleared his throat in slight discomfort. “It’s… uh… Lina’s father. Something happened to Lina’s father.”

Steve frowned at him, taken aback. “Wha- Lina’s father…?” He trailed off with a puzzled frown. “Why, what happened?”

Margie glanced back up at the small television, where the footage of the explosion rattled the screen. She gestured at it, whispering, “He was there…”

Steve’s puzzled frown lingered on his mother for a moment, before turning to look at the television. “He was… where? At the Rammstein concert?”

Ed closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead. This day was getting too bizarre. “Richard is Lina’s father.” He mumbled.

Steve gave his parents an uncomprehending look. “Richard…?” Again, his mother gestured at the television, where a photograph of the guitarist popped up on the screen. “Him. That’s… Lina’s father.”

Steve’s eyes widened slightly, before they squinted together in disbelief. He gave one breathless chuckle, before muttering, “What. Him?”

“Yes…” Margie whispered. By now, everyone in the room was staring at them.

“Richard Kruspe.” Steve clarified with a bemused expression.

Margie and Ed nodded again, looking very serious, and kinda… sad. They weren’t joking.

Holy shit!

Steve needed a moment to find his voice. “So… what you’re telling me is that Lina, the girl I’ve been sharing Rammstein jokes with during dinner, is the daughter of Rammstein’s lead-guitarist??” He was aware his roommates had been whispering things to each other, but were now rendered speechless, watching him and his parents with wide eyes.

Margie nodded.

“O- okay.” Steve mumbled in disbelief. “Well, that’s… that’s definitely unexpected…”

“How is Richard doing? Is he alright?” A high voice from one of the far beds piped up. It was a teen whose leg sported a bright pink cast, leveled from the ceiling. She was still wearing her oversized Rammstein shirt. The rest of the room looked at Steve’s parents in mutual anticipation.

Ed stuffed the phone back in his back pocket. “He was in the middle of a very serious explosion… he’s not doing too well.”

Everyone in the room shared a look of deep concern. They had hoped, since none of the media had mentioned the guitarist’s condition, that he had been out of harms way somehow.

The fan lying in the bed across from Steve, pushed himself in a sitting position. “Is… is he alive, at least?”

Ed gave a careful nod, hoping he wasn’t crossing any lines here. The last thing he wanted, was to make the guitarist a target of gossip. “He has survived the surgery yes. I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you.”

Steve nodded absentmindedly. After a few seconds of silence, he asked, “Where’s Lina now?”

“She’s here.” Margie explained softly. “She’s with her father.”

“In this hospital?” Steve asked in surprise.

Margie nodded. “Yeah… Matt’s staying with her.”

“Oh…”

Ed placed a gentle hand on his son’s shoulder. “Steve, listen… We originally planned on giving you a ride back to our place, but we’ve decided to stay in Philadelphia for the time being. We want to stay close to the hospital, for Lina’s sake, you know?” Steve detected something in his father’s voice that unnerved him. Did they wanted to stay close because Lina might be losing her father any moment? Was that the reason for them to stay close?

Steve frowned in worry. “Sure… sure… Where are you planning on staying?”

“We don’t know yet.” Margie confessed, “We’re hoping to find a motel nearby. You’re welcome to stay with us, until you’re… you know… more mobile.” When his mother nodded her head to his sling-wrapped arm, he gave her a mirthless smile. “Yeah… I’d appreciate that.”

“Then that’s settled.” Margie said with a small smile, turning to her husband. “You go and find Matt, okay? I’ll stay here and give some motels in the neighborhood a call.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Ed was about to exit the room, when Steve’s voice stopped him. “Dad, please tell Lina…” He couldn’t finish it, but he didn’t need to.

Ed nodded gravely. “I will.” He closed the door behind him.

Steve and the other occupants in the room turned back to look at the television. The news station was currently showing short clips of Rammstein performing at, what seemed to be, an older concert. They wore different outfits, and Richard’s hair was slightly longer than it had been last night. When the camera zoomed in on Richard, Steve couldn’t help but look at him differently. It wasn’t just Rammstein’s guitarist anymore, it was Lina’s father now as well. Steve watched the man move in slow motion, banging his head along the rhythm while he played. His movements were fluent and with noticeable precision. An evil smirk slowly appeared on his sweaty face, interacting with the fans at the front row in an almost flirty kind of way.

Everything the guitarist did seemed effortless, he was in his element.        

So strong...

So full of life…

Steve and his mother shared a concerned look.



Lina gave her father’s hand one last caress, before placing it back on the covers. Her fingers lingered on his fingers for a few more seconds, tracing lines over the veins and subtle wrinkles that decorated his skin. She hoped he could feel her touch. She hoped he knew she was there.

Lina wasn’t sure how long she had been standing like that, but when Till’s soft voice spoke up, she had forgotten he was in the room. “Lina… I think our time’s up.” The broad singer was standing by the door, hand on the doorknob. Despite the fact that Till’s posture suggested that he was ready to go, Lina could see the obvious struggle in his face.

Lina didn’t want to leave either. She couldn’t leave her father. Not like this.

“We can visit him again tomorrow.” Till added in an attempt to make things easier for the both of them.

Lina gulped back a wave of tears, her hands trembling against her father’s. “What if tomorrow… he won’t...”

Till wrapped an arm around her shoulders, gently steering her towards the door. “Give him time. He needs time…”

Stepping through a doorway had never felt this important. Before closing the door behind her, Lina glanced at her father’s impassive face. She wasn’t sure why, but what Till had said reminded her of a saying she had read somewhere.

Love chases time away, but time… chases love away.

Chapter Text

“Mr. Landers.” One of the police officers took off his glasses, folding them on the table top in front of him. He was a skinny man, his oversized police uniform awkwardly tucked into his belt. The officer gave the small guitarist sitting across from him a piercing look. “I’m aware of the fact that you and your bandmates have had two very tough days, but we really need you to concentrate. Were you aware of the fact there was a bomb in the audience, yes or no?”

Paul hid a yawn behind his hand, raising the other in a silent apology. He had been awake for 48 hours straight and, with everything that had happened, it wasn’t all that surprising he couldn’t think straight. It was as if his world had become a dark fairytale filled with fog, dramatic riddles and evil villains.

“Mr. Landers!” The now-glassless police officer snapped his fingers at the hazy looking guitarist, receiving a disapproving look from his colleague. The skinny cop ignored him, raising his voice at the tired man sitting across from him. “I asked you a question!”

Paul cleared his throat and forced himself to sit up straight. “Yes yes, sorry.”

The cop narrowed his eyes at him. “You were aware of the bomb then?”

Paul widened his eyes slightly. “No! No, I wasn’t.”

“Did you, or any of your band members, receive any threats prior to your performance?” The skinny cop grumbled, obviously displeased with the guitarist’s unhelpful answers.

“Not that I know of, no.”

“Are you sure?”

Paul addressed the two men sitting on the opposite side of the table in tired annoyance. “Look. We’re Rammstein. Not everyone’s happy with what we do. But something like this…” Paul looked away, munching on his lower lip. “I really don’t know how this could’ve happened. Or why it happened.”

The skinny officer leaned back in his chair, tapping his pen on the open folder that lay next to his glasses. Then, he proceeded to ask the most dreaded question; “How did Mr. Kruspe know there was a bomb in the audience?”

Paul swallowed, growing increasingly uncomfortable under the predatory gazes the police officers were directing at him. In the end he could only shake his head and give the most dreaded answer. “I don’t know...” How many more times did he have to say it?

The stern officer pressed his mouth in a thin, grim line, before reaching into the folder and pulling out a photograph of a brown-haired woman. He placed it on the table, using two fingers to slide it closer to the Paul. The woman in the picture was wearing an orange prison uniform and had a strange glimmer in her eyes as she stared at the lens of the camera. One of her eyes was swollen shut, surrounded by a large blackening bruise that covered a big part of her face. Her hair was a mess too.

“Have you seen this woman before?” The skinny officer almost demanded.

“No.” Paul frowned at the picture. “Is this her? The woman who had the bomb?”

The officer ignored his question. “Are you sure you don’t know who she is? Please take a good look.”

Paul shook his head, eyes shadowed by a deep frown. “I don’t know her.”

The officer maintained eye-contact with the guitarist. “Does the name McCain ring a bell?”

Paul sighed in annoyance. “No!” 

For a few, tense moments, the skinny cop didn’t blink as he stared the guitarist down. Then the other officer, who hadn’t said much until now, leaned forward. Unlike his colleague, he was a huge guy, but his tone was surprisingly gentle. “The woman in the picture is Amanda McCain, a 42 year old science teacher from north-east Philadelphia” The broad cop cleared his throat, before adding, “Well, she used to work as a science teacher. She was fired a couple of weeks ago, due to uncontrolled science experiments she did with help from her students.”

“A science teacher…?” Paul whispered in bewilderment. How could someone, with such a normal job, do something so disastrous?

The friendly officer carried on, “… This morning, we spoke with Mrs. McCain. She confessed to us that she had wanted to take her own life. She lost her son in a motorcycle accident last year, and she told us that she wanted to join him at a place that was special to the both of them; which happened to be a Rammstein concert.”

Paul shook his head in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He murmured under his breath, before raising a voice a little. “This doesn’t make any sense! Why would she drag a fucking bomb in there?? Where did she get it from anyway?”

“She must’ve created the bomb herself, in her garage. She had an entire laboratory set up there.” The broad cop gave the guitarist a sympathetic look. “You must understand that she’s a very disturbed person, who was so deeply buried in her grief and depression, that she hadn’t spared one thought about the consequences. She actually told us she deeply regrets her actions.”

Paul grit his teeth in anger. “She was about to blow up an entire stadium.” He repeated angrily, grabbing the photo with two hands, crunching the edges.

“Yes… she was.” The friendly officer agreed. “But for what it’s worth… she will take full responsibility for it in the court of law. She won’t see the light of day for a very long time.”

“That won’t change anything.” Paul bit out through clenched teeth. “Not for us. Not for Richard.”

“We understand that, and we’re very sorry about that.” The officer’s regret seemed genuine.

Paul locked his jaws, not trusting his voice. He closed his eyes and shoved the photo back to the document it had appeared from. He couldn’t stand seeing the woman’s face right now. The skinny officer took the hint, and folded the picture back in the folder.  

“Mr. Landers… is it a possibility that Mr. Kruspe knew her? Knew who she was?” The big officer asked.

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Sir?”

“Please think hard, Mr. Landers. Did Mr. Kruspe had any contact with her prior to the show?”

Paul shook his head again. “I don’t think so.”

“Sir??”

“Did Mr. Kruspe say or do anything strange before he went on stage?”

“Sir!” The young lady behind the counter leaned forward a little.

“Sorry, what?” Paul muttered as he blinked himself back to the present. The lady looked at him strangely, pushing a tray over the counter. “Your lunch is ready, sir.”

Paul stared at the freshly made sandwich and steaming cup of coffee. He didn’t remember ordering that. “Uh. Yes. Thank you.” The guitarist mumbled, accepting the tray and making room for the customer behind him. Turning around, tray in his hands, Paul halted. He really needed a moment to remind himself he wasn’t at the police station anymore.

The hospital’s cafeteria was positioned in the main hall of the building, and yet, due to the generous amount of plants and palms lining the sides, it created a safe, secluded area. Paul quickly seated himself at one of the small tables in the corner, surrounded by the bushy greens. Even though the hospital was less crowded than it had been two days before, Paul was still at risk of being recognized by the handful of Rammstein fans that floated around the building. He wasn’t ready for that. Not now.

Glancing at the tray in front of him, Paul pursed his lips in dismay. Why did he order lunch when he knew he wouldn’t even take one bite out of it? Playing with the napkin that had been placed around his sandwich, he allowed his mind to drift again.

“Did Mr. Kruspe say or do anything strange before he went on stage?”

Paul looked down at his hands. In all honesty, he just wanted to give his default answer, but he knew he’d be lying.

“He… he wasn’t feeling well.” Paul admitted.

“Hmm…” The glass-less officer narrowed his eyes slightly. “How would you describe Mr. Kruspe’s behavior?”

“Before or during the show?” Paul asked quietly.

“Just tell us what stood out to you.”

Paul nodded, fiddling with his hands. “I only saw Richard for a short moment, right before we went on stage. We always take a tequila shot before we go on stage, as a sort of… ritual, but there’s no time to talk or anything. I noticed he seemed tense then. Distracted. I knew he hadn’t been sleeping very well lately, so I… I thought he was just tired. Till later told me that Richard had been having a panic attack in the dressing room, and Lukas confirmed that Richard seemed nervous about performing, which is really weird. Richard’s never nervous about these kind of things. None of us are.”

The skinny officer was rapidly scribbling along in his document, but looked up at the guitarist’s final words. “Who’s Lukas?”

“Oh, uh. He’s Richard’s guitar technician.”

The officer nodded, jotting it down. “Alright, go on.”

Paul looked at him uncertainly. “I- uh… that’s about it. I only saw Richard for a few seconds. I haven’t really spoken to him before everything went…” The guitarist trailed off, sighing regretfully. If only he could go back in time. If only he had pulled Richard aside to question him. Question everything. And drag him outside where it was safe. And buy him his favorite pack of cigarettes. And treat him to his favorite meal.

“How about we go further back?” The friendly cop suggested, glancing at the document on the table. “Mr. Lindemann told us that Mr. Kruspe had been acting strange before. While you were on your European tour. Can you tell us something about that?”

Paul titled his head slightly. “I’m not sure what you mean.” What on earth did Till tell them?

The stern officer put his glasses back on, and inspected the document more closely. “Mr. Lindemann mentioned that, while you were on your way to Italy, Mr. Kruspe had a nightmare on the plane.”

“Oh yes, that.” Paul nodded, rubbing his eyes. “Yes, he did have nightmares, all the time. That’s why he was so tired.”

 “Was something bothering him?” The skinny officer asked.

Paul released a short laugh, although it wasn’t meant in an amusing way. “Well, that’d be an understatement.” The guitarist snorted. “He- ah uh… he didn’t really talk about it, but we all knew he was really worried about his daughter.”

“Lina.” The friendly officer confirmed.

“Yeah.” Paul nodded. “Lina had plans to study here, in the States. He didn’t want her to go. He was convinced something bad was going to happen to her while she was here.”

“Why did he think that?”

Paul opened his mouth, but closed it just as quickly. He looked away while mumbling, “That doesn’t matter.”

“That isn’t up to you to decide.” The stern officer cut in sharply. Paul glanced at the serious faces across from him. “It’s… really difficult to explain.” He mumbled.

“We’ve got all day.” The stern officer said with an unreadable expression on his face. The other officer, attempting to be helpful, asked, “What did Mr. Kruspe see in his… visions?”

“Visions?” Paul repeated with raised eyebrows. “No no no, those aren’t visions. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t visions.” The guitarist stayed quiet for a while, looking down at his hands. After a minute he spoke, “Richard sometimes just… knows things.”

“Hmm yes….” The stern cop placed his elbows on the table and leaned forward, intrigued. “Your bandmates mentioned the exact same thing. Please elaborate.”

Paul momentarily closed it eyes, sighing deeply. “I don’t know how to describe it, and honestly, I don’t think Richard even knows what it is either. It’s a part of him. Always has been.”

The stern cop leaned back and crossed his arms. He looked at Paul skeptically. “Can you recall other moments where he used this ‘feeling’?”

The guitarist shook his head slowly. “No, you don’t understand. He never ‘used’ it.” Paul thought about it for a moment, widening his eyes when it dawned on him. “I guess, it… it used him.”

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”  

Slightly annoyed to have his thoughts interrupted once again, Paul was about to tell the broad figure hovering above his lunch to go away. The guitarist swallowed back the words however, when he realized it was the friendly police officer who collected his statement this morning. “It’s you…!” Paul exclaimed in tired surprise. Before the bulky cop could reply, Paul sunk further down in his chair and groaned. “Please don’t tell me I have to answer any more of your questions. I’m done for today.”

The police officer smiled apologetically, tightening the cap on his water bottle. “I’m not here for the questions, Mr. Landers, but I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. My name’s Ed Taylor, I’m Matt’s father.” He reached out his hand.

Paul gaped at the cop’s face, a bit slow with connecting the dots.

“Ed Taylor.” The bulky cop repeated. “Lina has been staying with me and my family for the past few weeks.”

Ed saw the information dawn on the guitarist’s face. “Oh!” Paul uttered, surprised. “Oh, of course, yeah!” He shook Ed’s outstretched hand. “I’m not sure I understand though…” Paul mumbled with a slight frown. “Why are you involving yourself in this mess?”

Ed smiled at the guitarist’s choice of words. “I work for the New York police department. I’m officially out of my jurisdiction here, but I’m just here to help.”

“Right…” Paul muttered, leaning back in his chair. He seemed to be deep in thought.

“Would you mind if I joined you for a short moment?” Ed asked quietly, not wanting to impose.

“Oh, yeah sure, sure!” Paul motioned towards the chair across from him. Ed smiled gratefully and sat down, placing his water bottle on the table. He stared at Paul’s untouched lunch for a moment before focusing his attention on the exhausted-looking guitarist. “So, how are you holding up?” Ed asked, although he wasn’t sure if the other man was hearing him. Paul’s eyes were trained on the water bottle Ed had placed on the table. Judging by the slight tremors in the guitarist’s hands, something was wrong.

“Mr. Landers?” Ed leaned forward a little, trying to figure out what was going on with the shorter man. “Paul?”

The guitarist jerked back, ripping his eyes away from the bottle and directing them to his own hands. They were shaking. Ed slowly reached towards his water bottle, dragging it closer to himself. Something about the bottle was rubbing the guitarist the wrong way.

“Is everything alright?” Ed asked carefully.

Paul started shaking his head, but not in denial. He was searching for the right words. After a minute or so, Paul started speaking. “When… when the explosion had… When Richard… We had to…” Frustrated by his own rambling, Paul rubbed his face and took a deep breath. “It was such a mess…” Paul moaned from behind his hands.

“What was?” Ed asked, although he already knew the answer.

Still hiding behind his hands, Paul’s voice was a bit muffled. “Richard.” The guitarist lowered his hands, and gave the police officer a tragic look. “When they carried him inside, from the parking lot, he was so… It was so…” Paul inhaled deeply through his nose. “There were so many people surrounding him, trying to help him… I didn’t want to believe it was him, you know?”

Ed nodded mournfully, but kept quiet.

“He was bleeding, a lot. I didn’t even look at his arm. I had no idea where to look, actually. There was smoke…” Paul’s voice tremored as he talked. “There was actual smoke coming from his skin. We were all pouring…” Paul’s voice tightened as emotion overwhelmed him. “They asked us to pour water over him. They had these water bottles, about a hundred of them, and we uncapped them, and poured it over him. To cool him down.” Paul turned torturous eyes to the man sitting across from him, unable to say anything else as the horrific memories washed over him. Ed swallowed, unable to meet the guitarist’s gaze. He picked up the water bottle and placed it on his lap, hiding it under the table. “I’m sorry.” Ed whispered.

Paul rubbed his eyes as he took in a shuddering breath. “Have you ever encountered a… a burned person in your job?”

Ed folded his hands together on the table top. “Not like this, I think. But I’ve seen a few explosion victims.”

“Victims…” Paul repeated, before muttering softly, “They didn’t survive.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement. Knowing he was treading on dangerous ground, Ed choose his next words with care. “Most of them didn’t. But your friend isn’t like most people.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Paul almost whispered.

Ed frowned worriedly. “What do you mean?”

Paul lowered his hand, giving the police officer a desperate look. “Richard’s condition has worsened overnight. They’ve banned visitors entirely.”

Ed swallowed heavily, unable to speak for a moment. He had not expected this to happen. Sure, Richard’s condition was serious, but this… This was very bad. He couldn’t begin to imagine what the band was feeling right now. And Lina. Oh god, Lina…

“How’s Lina?” Ed asked softly.

“Worried.” Paul took a nervous gulp from his cold cup of coffee. “She’s upstairs, watching over him. There’s no force on this earth that can pull her away from that window.”

“Isn’t even Lina permitted to sit with him? Even if she’d wear protective garments?” Ed asked sympathetically.

“No…” Paul shook his head miserably. “The risk of an infection is too high.”

“Damn…” Ed looked down at his hands, desperately wishing he could do something to help. “Is someone with her?”

Paul gave a nod. “The others are with her.” Assuming he meant the band, Ed felt slightly reassured. Lina shouldn’t be alone right now.

The following minutes were spent in numb silence, in which Paul returned to play with his napkin. After a moment of hesitation, Ed leaned forward. “May I ask you one more thing?”

Paul looked at him tiredly. “Hmm?”

“You said something this morning that caught my attention...” When Paul frowned in slight concern, Ed quickly elaborated, “You said Richard’s feeling used him, rather than him using his feeling. What did you mean by that?”

Paul returned his attention back to his sandwich. “Oh, I don’t really know.” He mumbled.

“I think you do.” Ed challenged in a gentle tone.

Paul sighed in defeat. He stayed silent for a while, before he murmured, “I still remember the day I met Richard. It was about… wow, thirty years ago…” Paul shook his head in amazement.

Ed gave him a small smile. “That’s a long time.”

“It is…” Paul agreed, still in slight disbelief. He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Anyway, I was about to meet Flake, our keyboardist, at this old warehouse where some bands were playing. I bumped into Richard there, and I spilled beer all over his shirt.” Paul couldn’t help but smile slightly at the memory. “Instead of being pissed off at me, he just looked at me, and told me ‘not to buy the car’.”

Ed was puzzled. “He told you ‘not to buy the car’?”

“Yeah, can you believe it?” Paul released a short laugh. “And the weird thing is, there was this old car, parked near my house, that was for sale. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I could afford that car, and I wanted it. I had arranged a meeting with the seller the same day I met Richard. I would’ve bought the car that night, if it wasn’t for Richard.”

“How did Richard know you were planning on buying the car?”

Paul chuckled. “He just… did. He seemed to be confused about it too, as if he had no idea why he said that. He apologized to me, and quickly ran off to his own band.”

“Wow.” Ed couldn’t hide his amazement. “So… you didn’t buy it then? The car, I mean?”

“No… I didn’t. And you want to know what happened next?” Paul inhaled deeply, looking Ed straight in the eyes. The broad officer shook his head, listening intently.

“One week later the car ended up in a fatal car crash, only two streets from where I lived. The car had faulty brakes, and was unable to stop at a red light.”

Ed felt the hairs on his arm stand up.

Paul looked away, rubbing his chin. “I’m not saying that would’ve been me, but…”

“It could’ve been.” Ed added silently.

“Well. Yeah.” Paul laughed nervously.

“Richard's feeling... it sounds like a gift to me.” Ed mused.

“Usually it is, sometimes it isn’t.” Paul absentmindedly stared at his coffee cup, turning it within his hands. “Sometimes, he doesn’t even know what he’s feeling, and it kinda… takes over a bit. He’ll start obsessing over things in a really unhealthy way. He’s a major control freak, so when he feels things are out of his control… well, he can’t stand that. He’ll just keep on going until he’s got it back under control.”

“Can he?”

“Of course not.” Paul said with a snort. “That’s why he usually just keeps on going. It drives us insane. We even re-scheduled the Philadelphia gig because he wanted to be closer to Lina. And look where that has gotten us.” Paul stopped talking abruptly. The man looked emotionally drained, and Ed couldn’t blame him. These last two days had been the living definition of absolute hell. The band had been brutally pulled out of their tour, only to end up fearing for their friend’s life. A life that was in serious danger… all because of one woman’s grief.

Ed could only hope Richard’s family wouldn’t have to go through that as well.

Chapter Text

“SHOCKER!! RAMMSTEIN GUITARIST DEAD!? Read more on page 5! >>”

The letters were printed in a bright red font with a fat, yellow outline, screaming for attention. In the background, a black and white photograph of Richard, impressively raging on his guitar, filled the cover of ‘STAR WATCH!’ magazine. Till threw the glossy at the wall with a frustrated growl, ignoring the disapproving looks the nurses in the hallway were sending him. The broad singer started pacing the hospital room, dragging both hands over his worn face.

It had been two months since the explosion had rattled the Newalls Dome, and everyone involved, for that matter. It was weird how two months felt like years. Till could honestly say that these were the heaviest weeks of his life, and he was pretty sure the others felt the same way.

Contrary to popular belief, Richard was still alive, but the doctors had warned them on multiple occasions that the guitarist wasn’t out of the woods yet. Worry and fear had tormented them throughout the period of time, resulting in night terrors that took them as close to hell as one could get. Occasionally, visions of attending the guitarist’s funeral flashed through their minds. Out of all of them, Lina seemed to suffer those dreams the most, and it wasn’t hard to see that it was breaking her. As a result, Lina was afraid to leave her father’s side, which didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. In just the first week of Richard being hospitalized, they all had to say goodbye to him, twice. It were the most cruel, terrifying, and desperate times of her life. Their lives too.

For the past few days, Richard’s condition had been somewhat more stable, and the doctors were carefully optimistic. The medical staff eased up the regulations a bit, offering more flexible visiting hours, and pointed out that, to everyone’s relief, visitors didn’t need to dress themselves in medical coats and gloves anymore. With everything that happened though, it did little to ease everyone’s concerns. Especially Lina’s, who was still very much afraid she could lose her father at any given time. The hospital staff had made her a makeshift bed on the couch in the corner of his room, but the band, as well as the Taylor family, urged her to spend the nights in another environment. The hospital wasn’t a particularly nice place to spend a whole day in, let alone weeks.

Ever since Richard had been hospitalized, the Taylors had booked a small motel’s apartment near the hospital, and invited Lina to stay with them for as long as was necessary. It took a lot of persuasion, but in the end, Lina agreed to stay with them. The Taylors kept a close eye on her, never leaving her alone for longer periods of time. The members of Rammstein were very thankful for that.

The band, as much as they wanted to stay close to Lina and her father, were scattered all over the place, dealing with the after-effects of their canceled tours. Eighty dates. Eighty sold-out venues. Nearly three million fans that needed to get a refund. Management wasn’t too happy about it, but worked hard to get everything in order. The band did everything they could do to assist the cancelation process, but every time an opportunity popped up for them to visit their comatose friend, they grabbed it.

Like now.

Till groaned as he lowered himself on one of the plastic visitor chairs that were positioned next to the bed, his lower back aching in protest. There was no possible way to sit on these things for longer periods of time. In fact, none of the furniture in this room were. Glancing at the unmoving form on the bed, Till could only hope Richard was comfortable. He didn’t look all that comfortable, but that wasn’t really the bed’s fault. Till sighed sadly as he took in the tubes that were running into his friend’s face, held in place with pieces of tape. Till couldn’t seem to get used to them. It didn’t help that Richard had been losing weight either. His cheekbones, usually strongly aligning his face, now seemed to penetrate his skin. His skin looked sore and bruised, and it was so… white.

Sure, Richard was a white dude, but he rarely was, you know, white. The younger guitarist used to tan easily, much to his friend’s chagrin. It wasn’t all that coincidental that Richard had one of largest female following. He had the muscles, the hair, the eyes, the smirk, the guitar, and, yes, the tan.

Till felt a pang in his chest when he realized this man, lying in the bed like a limp statue, resembled his friend in no way whatsoever. Some of his hair seemed to be growing back, but it looked dull and… it was greying a bit, even. The guitarist had grown some beard stubble as well, but to his visitor’s relief, the nurses shaved him occasionally. Till knew Richard would appreciate that; grooming himself always was a top priority. Along with staying fit, tanned, and creating truckloads of new music.

None of which the man in the bed was doing.

 “You better get your ass back in here, Kruspe.” Till mumbled into his hands, leaning his elbows on the edge of the mattress. The singer wished he’d get a reaction from the man in the bed. But of course, there was none.

Would he ever come back to them?

Till glanced at the gossip magazine lying pathetically on the floor. After nearly 30 years of sharing their music with the world, Rammstein has had their fair share of accusations and media drama. But this time? This time the media was obsessed with them. Or more specifically, the man in the bed who was very much not dead, but still oblivious to the world around him. Since any detail about the guitarist’s condition had been kept from the press and the public in general, the media did the one thing they shouldn’t be doing:

Speculate.

At first, people started spreading rumors that the guitarist was partly, if not entirely, responsible for the bomb attack. When it became obvious however, that the man had been severaly injured in his attempt to hurl the bomb away from a stadium full of people, everyone started praising him and calling him ‘Supermann’. And now?

Well… now, everyone thought he was dead, obviously.

This morning, Lina had reacted violently when confronted with the magazine booth in the hospital shop. All magazine covers were shouting things about her father’s death and, for a moment, she thought they were true. It had taken every band member and staff to convince her otherwise. The poor girl had been shaken up by it for the rest of the day, refusing to leave her father’s side. Thankfully, Christoph and Matt were able to convince her to have some dinner with them in the hospital’s cafeteria downstairs. She had complied under one strict condition: someone had to stay with her father.

In fact, from now on, someone had to stay with him at all times.

Much like her father, Lina didn’t really believe in coincidences. She was afraid that the magazines had some predicting ability, or something. As if someone, or something, was preparing her for that horrible moment where she has to say goodbye to her father for the third and final time. She wasn’t letting him out of her sight ever again.

Till didn’t mind to take “guard duty”. He didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but after nearly losing the younger guitarist, he was scared shitless. Till knew Richard’s condition was serious, he knew Richard’s life was in danger… He knew the possibility of losing him for good, wasn’t all that unrealistic.

Till forced himself to sit up straight when the door slowly opened. Lina shuffled into the room, a bottle of water clutched in her trembling hands. Her hair was standing in all directions and her skin was pale. She took slow, zombie-like steps towards the visitor’s chair on the other side of the bed, and collapsed into it. Till watched her in concern.

Lina wasn’t really present. She moved and talked, but… she was running on auto-pilot. Till was pretty sure she barely ate, slept, nor showered. Wherever she was, it was someplace far away.

“How was dinner?” Till asked her.

Lina didn’t respond. She didn’t even hear him. When the bottle of water slipped from her numb fingers and bounced to the floor, she needed a few seconds to react. Slowly, she looked down, staring at the bottle that had rolled away from her, connecting with one of the wheels of the bed. Till picked it up and knelt down in front of the girl who was still staring at the spot where she had last seen the bottle.

“Alright, this is enough.” Till mumbled, placing the bottle of water on the nightstand. He gently took a hold of the girl’s hands, while looking her straight in the eyes. “You need rest. Go back to the motel.”

When she didn’t react, Till gently shook her knee. “Hey.”

Finally, Lina looked back at him. “I’m not leaving him.” She mumbled in a slightly emotionless voice.

Till took a deep breath, releasing it in a long sigh. “I understand that you are scared… We all are.” Till gently squeezed the girl’s hands. “But what you’re doing right now… that’s not good for you.”

Lina teared up. “I don’t care. I want to stay with dad.”

“I know.” Till said gently. “But staying here won’t help him. You can help him by taking good care of yourself. That’s what he’d want.”

Lina shook her head slowly, but didn’t say anything. Till felt his heart clench at the pure misery that was visible in the girl’s eyes.

“Please, go back to the motel, take a nice long bath, and get some sleep.” Till suggested once more.

“I’m not leaving him.” Lina repeated, her voice trembling with emotion. Till sighed. He knew Lina well enough. Once her mind was made up, there was no point in trying to convince her otherwise. So much like her father…

Till decided to change the subject to lure Lina out whatever deep dark hole she was digging herself in. “Where are Christoph and your boyfriend- what was his name? Matt?”

“He’s not my boyfriend.” Lina mumbled softly, wiping away the tears that dripped down her cheeks.

“Alright then. Where are Christoph and pretty boy?” Till was trying to add a little humor to the situation, but Lina didn’t even crack a smile. He couldn’t blame her though. They all were feeling way too drained to see anything in a positive light.

“Christoph is buying every magazine that has dad’s face on it, and Matt is helping him.” Lina sniffled.

Till looked surprised. “Every single one?”

“Just the ones the hospital is selling… I think.”

Till nodded slowly. He wondered what Christoph was going to do with them. Knowing him, it’d be something in true Rammstein fashion. Something fire-ish.

“Why would they say he’s dead?” Lina asked miserably, weakly gesturing at the magazine that was on the floor from where Till had smacked it against the wall.

Till sighed, hanging his head. “That’s what gossip magazines do… They make stuff up.”

“But… why?”

Till gave a tired shrug. “I don’t know, honey. It pays well, I think?”

Lina shook her head in disbelief, her eyes scrunching up as a fresh wave of tears gathered in her eyes. “Why would they do that? Why would anyone use my father like that?”

Till rubbed the girl’s upper arm, but didn’t answer the question. He never answered questions he didn’t know the answer to.

Lina sniffed. “What about the fans? We need to tell them the truth. Everybody is so worried...”

“You don’t have to worry about the fans, alright? We’ll take care of it.” Till said softly, giving her hands a final pat before rising back to his feet. “Now. How about I stay with Richard for the rest of the evening and you go back to-”

“I’m not leaving him, Till.” Lina’s face was both sad and determined. Till knew he wasn’t going to win this, no matter how hard he tried.

Right at that moment, someone knocked on the door. When Christoph and Matt entered the room, Till nodded his head in greeting. Matt waved back, albeit a little shakily, before giving Lina a hug. Till inwardly smiled, wondering when the young man would stop being so nervous around them. For the past two months, the boy rarely left Lina’s side. Neither did the band. One would think that he’d be warmed up to their presence by now.

Christoph positioned himself next to Till. “I’ve bought every copy I could find, dumped them in the car.” The drummer said sternly.

Till gave a satisfied nod. “Good.”

Judging by the drummer’s face however, something definitely wasn’t good. “There’s a lot of press out there.” Christoph mumbled softly, not wanting Lina to overhear. “Maybe we should give an official statement.”

Till shook his head. “We talked about this.”

“I know that!” Christoph whispered harshly. “But staying quiet about this whole thing will only make things worse. I even saw some fans placing teddy bears and flowers at the hospital’s entrance, Till. They believe Richard’s dead. Some of them were crying. This isn’t fair on them either.”

Till rubbed his eyes with thumb and index finger. Christoph had a point there, but… was it really a smart move? Rammstein had mutually agreed to wait with the official statement until they knew more about Richard’s health status. With Richard still being trapped in a coma, they couldn’t really tell anyone anything. The doctors had made it clear to them that the guitarist’s condition remained unsure, and would be for a while. It could worsen, or improve. No one could tell. Everything they’d bring out into the open about the man’s condition would lead towards new rumors. The press would tear everything apart and blow it out of proportion, like they always did.

“We need to tell them something.” Christoph concluded firmly.

“What should we say?” Till asked quietly. The drummer was about to respond when Lina interrupted with a tear-thickened voice. “How about ‘He’s not dead’??” Lina’s eyes were wild with desperateness. Matt tried putting a comforting arm around the girl’s shoulders, but she shrugged it off. “My father is ALIVE DAMNIT!” Lina raised her voice, directing her anger at Till and Christoph, who remained calm under her heat. Lina knew the two silent Germans in front of her didn’t deserve any of her anger, she just needed someone to lash out to. “They do not have THE RIGHT to say he’s dead!!”

Before Lina even realized who she had been directing her anger to, Matt enveloped her in a tight hug. He didn’t know what to say, so he just held her. “I can’t do this anymore…” Lina whispered through her tears. Matt shook his head in denial, “Yes you can. It’s hard, but you can do this.”

Christoph didn’t realize his eyes were tearing until Till put a comforting hand on his shoulder. The drummer released a shuddering sigh, staring at the oblivious man in the bed. If only Richard would wake up, that would change… everything.

Or maybe…

… Maybe it’d be best if it all ended.

Right here. Right now.

Richard wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. In fact, none of them…-

Christoph closed his eyes and turned away, unable to look at either Till or anyone else in the room. He couldn’t believe the thought of Richard dying crossed his mind like that.

I can’t do this anymore…

Chapter Text

“-After nearly nine weeks of media silence, German metalheads ‘Rammstein’ finally released an official statement concerning their lead-guitarist, Richard Z Kruspe. The 50 year old was hospitalized after an explosive incident at the Newalls Dome Philadelphia, shaking fans worldwide.” The news chancellor, a pretty brunette, seemed genuinely relieved as she continued, “On their official website, Rammstein apologizes for the long period of silence before stating that their guitarist is, and I quote, ‘still very much alive’, undeniably ending the rumors that he isn’t. Aside from pointing out the fact that Kruspe is in a coma and recovering from various injuries at his own pace, Rammstein doesn’t delve into any details on their guitarist. On other news,-” 

With a small click, the screen went black. Heaving a deep sigh, Paul dropped the remote control on the night stand and leaned forward in the visitor’s chair, clasping his hands in front of him. Composing an official statement that revealed enough but not too much, had been a pain, but at least it was out there. No more grieving fans or misleading rumors. For now, at least. There were still lots and lots of questions left unanswered. Not just for the fans and thrill–seeking media out there, but for the band and the Philadelphia police department as well. And the only person who had all the answers… well…

Paul rubbed his worn face with both hands, before giving his friend in the bed a long look. He cleared his throat in slight discomfort. “Richard… I… uh…- god this is hard.” The smaller guitarist looked down at his hands, wringing them nervously. Talking to a person who was so oblivious to the world around him, still felt strange to him. The rest of the band seemed to have no problem with it, as they couldn’t stand the heavy silence in the room. Paul had to admit that the silence, indeed, was suffocating. He also remembered how Richard had once told him he despised silence. ‘Silence makes room for thought. Now, who’d want any of that?’ had been the guitarist’s words a few years back. The younger man had meant it as a joke, but everyone knew how vicious Richard’s inner voices could be. Music provided a soothing replacement for him. A distraction. Paul smiled sadly and reached behind him to flick on the small radio that had been graciously donated by the hospital staff. He kept the volume down, but at least it was something to listen to.

Returning his attention back to his pale, unmoving friend in the bed, Paul swallowed thickly. “I’m sorry.” He started softly. “I’m sorry I haven’t been visiting you as much as the others.” Paul looked away, unable to look at his fellow guitarist for a moment. He hated seeing Richard like this. Being dependent on IV fluids was not working well for the younger man; he seemed to shrink every time they laid eyes on him.

“We need to talk.” Paul looked down at his hands. “Well, obviously I am the one who’ll do the talking.” The brown-haired man couldn’t hide the slight bitterness that crept into his voice. Immediately regretting it afterwards, Paul rubbed his face again, this time a little bit more aggressively. “I’m sorry, Reesh. It’s just hard, okay?” Paul munched on his lower lip for a moment. “We’re worried about you. And we’re all so tired. And scared. We’re all scared. We don’t know when you’ll come back...” Paul hated the way his eyes were filling up and sniffed loudly. “You really need to come back. For us. For Lina.”

Paul stayed silent for a while, letting the sounds of the radio fill the room. The weather forecast was on. Today, although cold, was going to be a beautiful sunny day, or so the weather guy announced happily. His cheerful voice was in stark contrast with the atmosphere in the room.

For Richard, today wasn’t going to be a beautiful sunny day, now was it?

Clenching his jaws in frustration, Paul forced himself to sit up straight. He had come here today for a reason, there really was no point in postponing it any further. “I’m not sure what the other guys talk about when they’re here, but I just wanted to fill you in on what’s happening, and how everyone’s doing. You deserve to know. If you were alive- I mean, awake…” Paul closed his eyes, ashamed of the slip up, “If you were awake, you’d stick your nose in everything. You’d probably annoy the crap out of everyone.” Paul couldn’t stop the small smile that pulled at the corners of his mouth, but it vanished just as quickly. He’d give anything to be annoyed by his fellow guitarist right now. He missed it. So much.

“Anyway.” The older guitarist cleared his throat. “The first thing you need to know, is that we’ve canceled the remaining dates of the tour. The North American tour and Asian tour, that is. We’re not doing this without you.” Paul’s eyes were stinging, he meant every word. Even though he was pretty skeptical about the fact Richard was able to hear them in this state, Paul needed him to know this. He knew it’d be important to him.

“The cancelation process takes a lot of time and energy. We’ve never had to deal with something like this before. So many meetings and phone calls… It’s driving us insane. They’re constantly demanding our attention with stupid things like compensations, refunds, plane tickets…” Paul trailed off, wondering why he was boring his injured friend with these details. He tried to imagine what he’d want to hear, if he was the one lying in that bed instead of Richard.

“We’re doing okay, considering…” Paul said softly, hoping the younger guitarist couldn’t detect the lie in there. Everyone was stressed and on edge, but what good would it do to tell him that? When it came to his daughter however, Paul felt Richard deserved the truth.

“Lina is… struggling. She misses you. We’re trying to be there for her as best we can, but we can’t be here as often as we’d like. She’s in good hands though, the Taylors are looking after her. They’re staying in a motel nearby, and Lina’s staying with them. They’re good people, you’d like them.” Paul smiled slightly. “Lina seems to have taken a liking to Matt, their youngest son. And before you go all berserk and start complaining how he could never ever be good enough for her, he is. Besides, they grew this close because of what happened, so it’s your own stupid fault, basically.”

Paul wasn’t sure why he was challenging the other guitarist like this, it just naturally happened. It was how the two of them dealt with each other. The more honest reason, although Paul wasn’t willing to admit it to himself, was because he wanted to get a reaction out of him. He stared at Richard’s face, willing it to display a disapproving frown, or release some strangled curse words, but… nothing happened.

Suddenly uncomfortable in his stoic friend’s presence, Paul took a quick look at his phone, checking the time. “I’ll have to leave soon.” The guitarist muttered. “We have a meeting with the whole management team through Skype.” Paul stuffed his phone back in his pocket, before subjecting his fellow guitarist to a long, silent stare. The next part was going to be hard.

“Before I go, I want you to know that… that I’m sorry.” Before the smaller guitarist could stop it, a sob escaped his throat. It came so unexpectedly, Paul quickly covered his mouth with one hand, his eyes portraying his dark surprise. Paul coughed uncomfortably, feeling his throat tightening as emotion hit him. “I’m sorry.” He repeated in a voice unlike his own. “I’m sorry we didn’t listen to you when you told us you had a bad feeling. We should’ve listened, we should’ve done-” Paul jumped when someone knocked on the door. He quickly wiped at his face, and struggled to regain his posture while the door opened. When Till appeared in the doorway, Paul rose to his feet immediately, and started fussing with the zippers on his laptop bag. “Hey. Right, we’re supposed to leave, sorry I was taking so long.”

Till frowned in suspicion. “… No problem. We’ve got enough time.”

Paul refused to meet the singer’s eyes. “Ah… okay.”

“Are you alright?” Till asked the smaller guitarist, unable to keep the exhaustion from affecting his voice. It made Paul finally looked up. It was then that the guitarist realized Till was the perfect portrayal of how he was feeling. Till’s complexion was pale, with dark circles surrounding his eyes, and his hair obviously hadn’t received the care it usually did. He looked like shit, to put it mildly.

“Are you?” The small guitarist asked quietly. Like himself, the singer didn’t answer. Instead, he vaguely gestured into Richard’s direction. “He and I need a moment. Would you mind waiting outside for a few minutes?” Till’s tone was stern, as if he had some business to take care of with their bedridden friend.

Paul nodded slowly, unsure what Till was planning. The broad man seemed to be unusually tense about something. “Okay… ” Paul mumbled reluctantly, hoisting his bag on his shoulder and moving towards the door. While passing Till, he clasped him on the shoulder, before leaving the room and closing the door softly behind him.

Now alone with Richard, Till released a deep breath. He positioned himself at the foot of the bed, placing both his hands on the railing and tightening his grip ever so slightly. He glanced at the radio, which was now transmitting some kind of modern rock song he didn’t know, before returning his gaze to his bruised friend.

“Richard, I need to ask you something, and I need you to answer me.” Till demanded in a dangerously low tone. He really tried to keep the shaking out of his voice, but couldn’t, really. “I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but last night… you appeared in my dream…” Till looked away, tensing his jaws. “It felt so damned real, Richard. You were there, laughing at my face, because I was surprised to see you. Even in my dream you had that contagious smoky laugh thing going on. You were smoking too, by the way… I actually could smell your favorite brand.” Till shook his head at the absurdity of it all, before releasing a deep breath through his nose, mustering up the strength to move on to the next part. “You said something to me.” The broad man muttered lowly. “You said… we had to let you go. That it was okay… to let you go.” Till momentarily surprised himself when his vision blurred with tears. He wasn't a particularly crying guy but lately he felt different in every cell of his body.

Till tightened his grip on the bed’s railing, his knuckles whitening.

"Richard, I need to know… was that really you or am I going insane here?" Till stared at his friend’s emotionless expression. It was unsettling how nothing in Richard’s face moved. Not even the muscles of his eyelids. It looked so unnatural. So… un-Richard like.

Till sighed in defeat, relaxing his hands and releasing the bed. He was demanding answers from a man who wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for the machines that were feeding his lungs. Was he really expecting a response from him?

The broad man stepped around the bed and moved closer, looking down at the man that had been his best friend for over 30 years. Now more than ever, Till wished he knew whether or not his friend was in pain. He told himself all this time that he didn’t, but the fact that the damage was still so prominently visible in every blister and bruise that decorated Richard’s body, didn’t help. The medical staff were carefully optimistic about the guitarist’s recovery, pointing out that the burns were healing quite nicely and that they were glad the amputation successfully saved the rest of the man’s arm. But still… would he ever come back to them? And if he would, what would he be like?

“I hope you’ll visit me again tonight.” The broad man almost whispered. “Maybe then you can tell me when you’ll come home.” For a moment, Till let the radio’s music wash over him, listening to the familiar sound of Alter Bridge. He remembered his own daughter liked to listen to them quite frequently in the past. Lina too.

Till usually didn’t pay attention to the lyrics when it concerned an English song, but now… he couldn’t help but listen to the words.

“~So I’m coming home,
Back to a world left long ago,
And now I know,
I’m coming home,
I’ll find my way back
I’m letting go
I’m coming home…~”

Till felt a chill running across of his spine. He wasn’t the type of guy who believed in spiritual mumbo jumbo, but this time… this time, it felt like Richard had something to do with this. Till released a quiet chuckle to cover up the discomfort he was feeling. “A song, really? I thought you hated cheesy clichés.” The singer sobered up, watching his friend’s chest rise and fall in a gentle motion. Whether or not the song was the sign Till was waiting for, everyone knew Richard wasn’t a person who gave up easily. On anything.

“This is one of those rare moments where I’m glad you’re a stubborn son of a bitch.” Till chuckled. Before he left the room, he gave the guitarist’s shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“Get home soon, buddy.”

Chapter Text

One in his nose. One in his mouth. Another one in his hand, at his finger, and several taped on his chest. Oh, and a couple of others running from underneath the blanket that was covering him. Lina followed the transparent tubes with hazy eyes. She followed them from her father, all the way back to the machines and fluid bags. And from the machines and fluid bags, all the way back to her father.

Lina sighed deeply, before folding her arms on her father’s mattress and resting her chin on top of them. She wasn’t sure how much time passed as she watched her father’s stomach move up and down, but she knew she could look at it forever. After a while, she slowly inched her left hand towards his, and gently took a hold of it. Her father’s wrist wasn’t in plaster anymore. Instead, the doctor had wrapped it in a softer, removable brace. When they X-rayed the area the other day, they had concluded that the bones were as good as healed, but the wrist still needed protective support. Any unexpected movements could re-injury the limb. The man hadn’t been moving for nearly three months, but hey, better safe than sorry, right?

Lina looked her father up and down from where she was leaning on her arms. He wasn’t as mummified up as he was a couple of days ago, but there were still bandages wrapped around his forehead, torso, arms, and a couple of hidden ones around his right leg. Overall, Lina had to admit he was healing quite nicely, although she hadn’t really seen his biggest injuries yet. Somehow, she always seated herself on his left side, never on his right. It wasn’t really a choice she made consciously, but she knew she was avoiding the obvious. She didn’t really want to see it.

Lina often wondered how her father would react to the fact he was missing his right arm. Well… not in its entirety, but most of it. What would he do? What would anyone do? At one sleepless night, which had become more of a routine than anything else, Lina had Googled it on her phone. She had stumbled upon a website for amputees, showcasing inspirational stories of people whom conquered their handicap in admirable ways, but also providing emotional support through articles. The five stages of grief were mentioned in there quite often. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

… Acceptance.

Her father was right-handed. He played guitar for a living.

How the fuck would he accept something like this?

Lina momentarily closed her eyes, feeling tears gathering behind her eyelids. She couldn’t help but think back to the last moment she had seen her father… you know, functioning properly. He had insisted on giving her a ride to the airport, and right before she was about to board the plane to New York, he had wrapped his arms around her. She’d never forget how his arms, filled with the strength of a professionally seasoned guitarist, had nearly crushed the living daylight out of her. She also remembered smiling at his beautiful face. A face that, somehow, seemed to be incapable of aging. Maybe it was the hair. Or genes. Who knew?

But this man… this… hurt man wasn’t the same man. It wasn't the man that had waved at her when she had dragged her yellow suitcase to gate seven.

“I miss you.” Lina bit out angrily, her vision blurring with tears. “I fucking miss you, and you’re not here.” She straightened up, but kept her arms folded on the mattress, digging her fingernails into her own flesh. “Where are you??” Lina hated herself for crying. She had been doing that way too much lately, but she couldn’t help it. She tried to do it quietly, her shoulders quivering under the strain.

“Why did it… why did it have to be you?” Lina howled, burying her hands aggressively into her hair. “Why did no one else…? There were thousands of people there, and it had to be you… you…” Lina’s breathing started picking up as a burning emotion overwhelmed her. “YOU FUCKING IDIOT!!” The scream erupted from her throat before she could stop it. Afterwards, she just stared at the wall across from her, breathing heavily. The silence in the room was heavy. Heavier than before.

Lina released a shuddering breath.

She couldn’t believe she had yelled at her father like that. Why was she angry at him, of all people? If he hadn’t done what he did, thousands of people would’ve died. She should be screaming at that crazy woman. That science teacher.

Lina hated her.

Mrs. McCain was going through a guilt-trip the size of Canada. During her trial in court she actually had the nerve to ask if she could apologize to the band and Mr. Kruspe, in person. When the judge informed her that the guitarist was severely injured and in a coma, she started weeping hysterically. Lina was glad she hadn’t been present at that trial. Ed later told her that the woman had been screaming at the jury that she was a monster, and that she deserved to be locked away. She'd probably receive a life-sentence in jail, if they wouldn't admit her to a high security mental hospital first.

Strangely, it didn’t please Lina as much as she had expected. If this were a movie, there should be a happy ending right? The villain was locked away, and the hero lived to save another day.

This hero didn't, though. ... Well, he was alive, but he didn’t really… live.

Lina breathed in deeply, returning her hands to her father’s. “I’m sorry for yelling at you.” She whispered dejectedly. “I’m so sorry.”

As if the timing couldn’t be any better, a nurse knocked on the door. She popped her head through the doorway, holding up a phone. “It’s for you.” She said with a sympathetic smile, making Lina wonder if she had heard her little outburst earlier.

“For me?”

The nurse nodded and handed Lina the phone, before giving Richard one quick glance and leaving the room.

Lina’s grip on the phone was tight. “Hello?”

“... Hey.” Christoph’s voice sounded distant, as if he was preoccupied with something else. Judging by the thumbing and shuffling sounds in the distance, he was sorting papers of some sort.

“Chris…!” Lina couldn’t hide her surprise. “Is everything okay?”

The drummer stayed silent for a while. Multitasking had never been his strong suit. “Yeah... yeah, everything’s fine. It’s just… a lot of work.”

“I know.” Lina mumbled, absentmindedly fumbling with her father’s hospital wristband. “Ollie told me canceling this tour has been hell so far.”

Christoph chuckled, but Lina could hear the exhaustion in there. “Yeah, it has been hell. It’s taking up way more time than we had anticipated.”

“Why though?”

“That’s a story I don't want to bore you with, kiddo.” The drummer's words were soft, as if he was careful with what he was saying. “What you need to know however… is that, next week... we need to fly back to Berlin.”

Lina widened her eyes in disbelief. “Wha- are you serious?!” She gasped. Before Christoph could respond, she continued, “You can’t leave!”

“It’d only be for a few days. We need to settle things with our management back home.” Christoph mumbled unhappily. He sounded tired. Lina didn’t care about that. “Chris. It has been three months. Canceling a tour shouldn’t take this long!”

“I know, and I agree!” The drummer cut in sharply. “Trust me, we don’t want this either!”

Lina looked down, wiping away frustrated tears. “Will you come back?”

“Of course we will!” Christoph replied without hesitation, soothing Lina’s concerns, somewhat.

The shuffling of papers stopped momentarily. “There’s something else I need to discuss with you.”

Lina rubbed her eyes. “What is it?”

“You haven’t been going to school.”

Lina felt the floor drop from underneath her.

“One of your teachers called us this morning." The drummer explained solemnly, "I forgot his name, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you haven’t been showing up, when you should’ve.” Christoph’s voice was quiet, but Lina knew he was disappointed. She heard it in his tone.

“Chris… I just…” She trailed off.

“I know you’re going through a tough time and that you’re scared...” The drummer mumbled sternly. “But this school was important to you. It was important to your dad too.”

Lina swallowed heavily, her eyes stinging.

“Don’t ruin this for yourself, just because you feel you cannot do it.” Christoph continued in a gentle voice. “You can’t spend your days sitting at his bedside, Lina. Maybe it’d do you some good to pick up your daily routines. School can be a nice distraction.”

Lina shook her head, biting her nails nervously. “How can I be here for dad, when I have to be at school?”

“Well… that’s the whole point...” The drummer offered gently. “Maybe… maybe you need some distance from it all.”

“... Distance?” Lina lowered her hand, her voice shaking in disbelief. “Like you guys are doing?”

Christoph sighed. “Lina…”

NO.” Lina snapped. “How dare you?! How can you say that I need more distance, when you’re not even there for him?! Do you even care?!”

Both of them stayed quiet. Lina was breathing heavily, and had risen from her seat without realizing it. It was then that it dawned on her what she had just done, her cheeks heating up in shame.

For the past three months, the members of the band had been sitting by Richard’s bedside every minute they could. Even if it meant being on the road for hours, and skipping several nights of sleep. In the end, they were always there to hold their guitarist's hand, talk to him, read to him, or listen to the radio together.

Lina buried her teeth into her knuckles, her eyes crunching up as they overflowed. What was wrong with her?

“Chris… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-”

“I understand... and we're sorry too.” Christoph interrupted softly, his voice laced with exhaustion. Lina closed her eyes miserably when he added quietly, “I promise we’re doing everything we can.”

“I know…” Lina whispered. “I know. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay kiddo.” The drummer soothed. “We'll drop by soon.”

“That’d be nice…”

“Okay. Take good care of yourself, alright?” Schneider offered her as a goodbye.

“You too.” Lina whispered, although the line had already disconnected.

The brown-haired girl looked down at the phone in her hands, before lowering herself back on the chair.

Why was she lashing out at the people who least deserved it?

 


 

Margie Taylor inwardly cursed as she, once again, burned her fingertips on the oven handle. Rolling her eyes at her own clumsiness, she hoisted her hands in the oversized oven mitts that were hanging next to the fridge. After dropping the steaming dish of lasagna on the stove, Margie searched the cupboards for something to scoop out the boiling contents. She sighed when a regular-sized spoon was all she could find. Turning, she decided to set up the table first, nearly knocking down one of the chairs while doing so.The motel’s apartment wasn’t all that fancy, and neither was the dingy kitchen, but it had to do. The apartment contained a small living room, which also provided a tiny kitchen and dining area, and four bedrooms. Margie and her husband shared the master bedroom as it was the only one with a double bed, whereas Lina and Matt each had their own room. The fourth bedroom was vacant, as Steve had decided to move back to his dorm last week. Before he left, he asked them to keep him updated on Richard’s condition. If anything changed, he wanted to know. They promised him they would.

If anything changed.

Richard's condition was difficult. On one side, he was improving, while on the other, he was weakening. He was trapped somewhere in between. His body was putting all of its energy in healing itself. There was no energy left for anything else. The doctors decided to keep him in his comatose state for the time being, but no one knew whether or not the guitarist would ever be strong enough to return. Lina refused to give up hope, although lately... that hope seemed to be diminishing slightly with each passing day.

The motel was located about two miles away from the hospital, making it very easy for Lina to visit her father on a daily basis. If Ed wasn’t able to give her a ride, she’d usually hop on the bus in the morning and return in the early evening.

The Taylors were worried.

The amount of time Lina spent in that depressive hospital room, wasn’t doing her any favors. She wasn't looking after herself anymore, and school was a bit of a problem too. Matt managed to travel back and forth to school occasionally, and work on projects he had access to online, but Lina… she hadn’t done any of those things, and not even Matt was able to convince her to pick up where she left off.

As Margie set the table for four, her eyes glanced at the curled up form on the couch. Lina had returned from the hospital only a couple of minutes ago, but had already fallen asleep in front of the robust television that seemed to date back to the mid-nineties. Lina hadn’t said much, but Margie could tell that today hadn’t been a very good day. Matt sat near her feet, watching the television with a slightly bored expression. A typically American soap was on, which happened to focus on a hospitalized character. Judging by the show’s doctor- a glamour girl with the obvious intelligence of a peanut- the patient had been in a car accident. The patient in question, a man that had many women drooling over him, no doubt, was littered in bruises and bandages, and appeared to be sleeping. Thanks to the several layers of make-up that had been smeared onto his face, it looked like he was made out of plastic. His hair was modelled perfectly, and had a heavy shine to it. The stuff must’ve been coated in hair gel, there was no other way. Both his serene expression and his position resembled sleeping beauty; his hands folded on top of his stomach.

It was cringe-worthy.

No one sleeps like that.

Margie grumbled quietly to herself when the actress who played the ‘wife’ struggled through her acting skills.

Brad?” The woman on the television sniffled dramatically.

A- Amanda… is… is that you?” the man’s weak voice spoke to the big-breasted lady next to his bed.

Brad…” The lady breathed sensually, cradling his hands in hers. “I’m here.

Tell… tell our boy that I’m sorry…

No… Don’t say that…” The lady shook her head and forced her eyes to produce thick tears. Did someone empty a lemon in them or something?

Listen to me…” Brad’s voice had an annoying whine to it, although he probably meant to make it sound weak.

Yes darling, I’m here…

I’m - I’m sorry I failed you…

No…” The lady whimpered as the waterfall that ran from her eyes left her make-up untouched. “I failed you…

Margie surprised herself when she felt an unfamiliar emotion burn deeply within herself.

Anger.

These people had no idea what it was like. They had no idea what it was like to fear for someone’s life. It wasn’t a fairytale. It wasn’t romantic. It definitely wasn’t sexy either.

It was ugly. It was harsh. At times, it even resembled torture.

Margie sighed in frustration when the plastic-looking man in the bed tried to emit a convincing pained groan, but failed miserably. His visible wounds looked terribly fake, as if someone had handed a child a red sharpie. And a bit of ketchup, maybe. It was obvious that whoever made this show, never endured the agonizing experience of having a loved one on life support.

I love you.” Brad said with a quivering tone, before his head slumped sideways. The heart monitor flat lined, emitting a high beep. The wife wept.

“Oh for god’s sake.” Margie turned off the television with a furious swap at its oversized power button.

“Is everything okay?” Matt’s voice floated towards her. He had risen slightly from his position on the couch, giving his mother a concerned look, although his eyes couldn’t hide his amusement.

Taking a moment to control her emotions, Margie turned around, flashing her son a smile that was rather creepy. “I’m fine honey.” Margie could only hope Lina hadn’t seen or heard anything. Despite it being one of the most god-awful shows she had ever seen, it probably would’ve been confronting for the young German girl. Thankfully, Lina still seemed to be sleeping.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Matt asked his mom reluctantly. Margie nodded, making her way back towards the kitchen. “I’m fine, really. I just… don’t like this show.”

“Yeah no kidding.” Matt snorted. “It’s terrible.”

Margie made an agreeing sound while busying herself with the lasagna dish. She really tried not to be bothered by the show’s antics too much, but she couldn’t help comparing ‘Brad’ with a certain German guitarist, fighting for his life. Richard’s injuries were real. He was the one who deserved to show weakness. He was the one who deserved sympathy.

Not that sad, whiny, little piece of-

“Honey?”

Margie hadn’t realized she had been scooping the lasagna out of the dish a little too harshly. The woman whirled around, her frown transforming into a sheepish smile when Ed stood behind her, patting his face dry with a towel. “If you needed help with dinner, you should’ve said so.” He mumbled.

“That’s sweet.” Margie smiled playfully. “But I wouldn’t want you to miss your precious shower time.”

“I reckon you were complaining I reeked, but sure, I do love my showers.” Ed grinned at her.

Matt rolled his eyes from he was still sitting on the couch. His parents were an odd couple alright. Glancing at the sleeping girl next to him, he couldn’t help but wonder what it’d be like to have a world-famous guitarist as a father. Judging by how worn-out Lina was looking, even in her sleep, it was stressful. At least, it was now. He had no doubts about the fact that Richard was an amazing father to her, and he would be again, when he was feeling better. Matt honestly believed he would someday.

After a slight hesitation, Matt reached over and gently shook the German girl awake. “Lina? Dinner’s ready.”

Lina made some unintelligible noises, curling in on herself. Matt shook her again. “Lina? You comin’?”

Two watery eyes opened and looked at him. “I’m not hungry.” Lina mumbled.

“It’s my mother’s famous lasagna.” Matt tried, “You’ll love it.”

Lina stayed where she was for a moment, before slowly pushing herself to her feet. Matt followed her to the table, but when Lina’s eyes landed on the steaming dish on the table, she shook her head. “I’m really not hungry. I’d rather go to bed…” Lina looked up, meeting Margie’s worried gaze. “I’m sorry.” Lina whispered before rushing towards her bedroom, closing the door behind her with a firm click.

The Taylors stayed quiet for a moment, until Margie released a concerned sigh. “This is not good.”

“Do you want me to go talk to her?” Ed suggested.

Margie shook her head. “No, that’s not what she needs right now.” The blonde-haired woman sat herself down, her expression grim. They all knew what the German girl did need.

And they couldn't give it to her.

Chapter Text

Breakfast was a somber affair. Ed had already rushed off to work, leaving his son and wife in charge of getting some food in their German guest. They didn’t really succeed. Lina merely stared at her bowl of cereal, watching the grainy donut-like shapes spin around in circles from where she had stirred it. Matt munched on his cereal quietly, watching the girl’s eyes cloud over as she stared down at her bowl. He wondered what she was thinking.

Margie was the last one of them to sit down, placing her bowl on the table. She cleared her throat uncomfortably, before speaking softly, “Will you be visiting your dad again today, Lina?”

The German girl didn’t look up, nor did she seem to be hearing her. Margie leaned a bit closer. “Lina?”

Lina jerked slightly and looked up, blinking her eyes rapidly. “… What?”

Margie gave her an apologetic smile. “Are you going to visit your dad today?”

Lina nodded solemnly, before returning her attention to her still spinning cereal.

Margie pursed her lips in dismay. “Honey… why don’t you stay in today? Catch a few hours of sleep? Or maybe… we could go shopping, if you’d like?”

Lina shook her head slowly, giving the woman next to her a short glance. “No... thank you.” She tried to smile, but it didn’t look all that convincing.

Margie placed her hand on top of Lina’s, squeezing it gently. “Please listen to me. You can’t go on like this... You need to rest, or you’ll end up hurting yourself.” Lina slid her hand from underneath Margie’s, resting it on her lap. She refused to meet the woman’s worried gaze. “I can look after myself.”

“I know that, but…” Margie licked her lips nervously. “Lina… I don’t think your dad would want you to-”

Everyone jumped when Lina’s hand smacked the table loudly. “MY DAD IS GONE!”

Tense silence filled the room. Matt and Margie made brief eye-contact, sharing a look of deep concern. It intensified when Lina raised her hand from the table and covered her eyes. “I’m sorry…” She whispered. “I didn’t mean-”

“It’s okay, honey.” Margie soothed, rubbing the girl’s back gently. “I know it’s difficult.”

Lina was still hiding behind her hand. Her shoulders shuddered, but Margie couldn’t tell if she was crying.

“Why am I doing this?” Lina’s voice sounded thick.

“Why are you doing what, honey?”

Lina finally lowered her hand, turning tear-filled eyes towards Margie. “I’m angry… all the time. I- I don’t know what to do…”

“You’ve been through a lot, dear… It’s understandable you’re feeling this way.” Margie soothed, returning her hand to Lina’s. This time, the girl didn’t pull away.

The three of them spend the next minutes in silence, with the occasional sniff coming from Lina’s direction. After a while, Matt pushed his bowl of cereal aside. “How about I go and sit with your dad today?”

Both Lina and Margie looked at him, surprised.

“Don’t you have to be at school today?” Margie asked her son sternly. Matt shook his head. “Not today. I do have some homework to do, though, but I can do that in Richard’s room.” Margie looked like she wanted to object, but kept silent. Instead, Lina spoke up, “No… no, you don’t have to do that…”

“Why not? I don’t mind.” Matt shrugged nonchalantly. “Besides, I’ve been a Rammstein fan for as long as I remember. Why wouldn’t I want to sit with him?” Matt grinned, lightning up the mood instantly.

Lina glanced at Margie, who sighed in defeat. “Well… if it really is no problem school-wise… What do you think, Lina?”

“I… uh… I don’t know…” The girl thought about it for a moment. “I guess… I… Okay…”

Matt rose to his feet, smiling widely. “Alright! Let me just get my stuff, and I’ll be on my way.” Before he left the table, Lina stood up and walked over to him. Matt couldn’t hide his surprise when the girl enveloped in him in a hug. “Thank you.” She whispered. Matt smiled, rubbing her back. “It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”



Canceling one concert is difficult.

Canceling a whole tour… a total disaster.

To say the members of Rammstein were sick and tired of the paperwork, phone calls and meetings, would be an understatement. While most venues had received a fair compensation and the majority of fans had been refunded, there were still plenty of things for the band to take care off. Most of which, had to be dealt with in Berlin. The band’s flight had been scheduled to depart in a few days, and they’d be on that plane, albeit unwillingly. They really didn’t want to go. Partly because it didn’t sit right with them to leave their guitarist behind, and partly because they were totally, absolutely, drained.

“Damnit Paul!” Christoph cursed loudly as hot coffee seeped through his pants.

“Oh crap! Sorry!” Paul gasped, throwing a handful of paper napkins on the drummer’s lap to soak up most of his spill.

“I’ve got it, I’ve got it! Jeez!” Christoph exclaimed, pushing Paul back towards his seat with one hand, while using the other to dab himself dry. Paul however, jumped right back to his feet. “I’ll get you a new one! Espresso, was it?”

Christoph rolled his eyes. “You spilled your own coffee! I still have mine!”

Paul blinked in confusion, before his sluggish mind registered the drummer’s still steaming cup, standing on the table. The guitarist smiled sheepishly, before Till pulled him down quite harshly. Paul yelped as he fell back into his chair, before glaring at their singer. “What did you do that for??”

“Just sit down and enjoy your coffee.” Till mumbled darkly, sipping at his own cup. His skin was pale, and the bags under his eyes were more prominent than before.

“I don’t have any! My coffee’s there!” Paul snapped, gesturing wildly at Christoph’s lap.

“Keep it down, guys… please...” Flake murmured, shielding his eyes with his hand. The five of them were seated in a rather crowded café in the heart of New York City. Looking around, the band realized that quite a few heads had turned and were now staring at them. Richard’s stunt at the Newalls Dome had earned the band more attention than they ever had, and ever wanted.

They really didn’t feel like attracting more of it.

Paul sighed, rubbing his face with both hands. “Sorry…”

Oliver slowly rose to his feet, flashing the tired guitarist a sympathetic smile. “I’ll get you a new one, Paul. All black and no sugar, was it?”

Paul looked up in surprise. “Yeah, black and no sugar. Thanks Ollie…”

The bassist gave an acknowledging nod before moving towards the counter. The slender man moved slowly. Slower than usual. It was more like trudging.

Till placed his cup down, before crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair. He addressed his fellow band mates with half-lidded eyes. “So… what are the plans for today?”

Flake shrugged, absentmindedly tracing lines on his cup. “There’s not much else we can do here, tour-wise… I guess we could give Richard a visit?”

Christoph leaned his chin on his hand sleepily. “Well… of course we could, but…” The drummer yawned, before continuing, “It’s a two hour drive from here.”

The band shared a weary look. Although none of them wanted to admit it, two hours felt like an eternity right now.

Ollie returned from the counter, handing Paul his fresh cup of coffee with shaking hands. The bassist had obviously run out of steam, like the rest of them. He quickly sat himself down, while the small guitarist smiled at him gratefully, cradling the cup between his hands.

“How about we visit Richard tomorrow?” Paul suggested quietly. “We still have a few days to spare before we leave.”

Ollie, even though he had missed the earlier conversation, nodded slowly. “Sounds good.” He uttered. “I think we all could need some rest today.”

“Yeah… I think I might head straight to my hotel room after we’re done here.” Christoph mumbled, before turning to their singer, who was sitting on his left. “What do you think, Till?”

Till mulled it over for a moment. In the end, he spoke solemnly, “As much as I’d love to visit Richard, going back to the hotel sounds really good right now.” The bulky man looked like he was on the verge of falling asleep right there.

“It does sound pretty good.” Flake mumbled.

“It does…” Paul agreed.

The band’s table was momentarily engulfed in silence, each one of them engrossed in their own thoughts.

“What if something happens to Richard, when we’re back in Berlin?” Paul’s question came so unexpected, it took the band a while to comprehend it.

“… Why do you think something will happen to him?” Ollie asked softly, his brows furrowing in worry. “There’s a whole team of doctors looking after him.”

“I know, but… if something happens to him, we won’t be here.” Paul hung his shoulders in defeat, exhaustion lacing his every word. “What if tomorrow… we’ll be seeing him for the last time?” A cold feeling washed over the band. Richard wouldn’t just leave them like that, would he?

They felt even worse about flying back to Berlin now.



{ Back in Philadelphia… }

The motel room was quiet. Margie looked around from where she was reading a book on the couch. Lina had retreated to her room after breakfast, and hadn’t made an appearance since. She skipped lunch too.

Margie sighed, closing the book and placing it on the table. The blonde-haired woman munched on her lower lip for a moment, contemplating her options. Should she check up on the German girl? Or not?

A sudden knock on the front door interrupted her thoughts. Titling her head in curiosity, Margie pushed herself to her feet, before padding to the creamy white door. After opening it, she was surprised to find the motel’s manager standing on their second floor balcony, holding a large cardboard box. He was a short, chunky man, with a balding head and a fluffy, white mustache. All in all, he reminded Margie of a disheveled, and slightly less rich, version of the Monopoly man. His striking features made him very easy to recognize.

“Mister Harding!” Margie smiled politely. “How may I help you?”

The man was totally out of breath, dabbing his sweaty forehead with a handkerchief. “Oh my…” He wheezed. “I really need to install an elevator here.”

Margie couldn’t help but chuckle, but pretended to be worried nonetheless. “Can I get you a glass of water?”

“Oh no no no, that’s alright.” The man panted, before inching the cardboard box towards the woman standing in the doorway. “This was just delivered at my office… It’s for one ‘Lina Kruspe’. Is she staying with you? It has your room number on it…”

“Uhm… yes, she is. Thank you.” Margie mumbled, wondering who sent it. As she tried to take the box from Harding, she realized he was still holding onto it. The man leaned a bit closer. “Is she a relative of… you know who?” He asked slyly.

Crap.

“I don’t know whom you’re referring to.” Margie mumbled firmly, giving the box a tug. It didn’t budge. Margie hadn’t thought the man could lean any closer, but he did. “The guy from tv, you know, that German band?” Harding insisted. “Wasn’t his last name-”

“I don’t watch tv, and I don’t know any German bands.” Margie interjected stubbornly, yanking the box out of the man’s sweaty hands. “Thank you for stopping by.” Before the man could utter another word, she closed the door.

Still facing the now-closed door, Margie studied the box in her hands. She was so captivated by it, she didn’t notice the approaching figure behind her.

“What was that all about?” Lina asked with a slight frown, making Margie jump. “Lina!” She exclaimed. “Don’t scare me like that!”

Instead of apologizing, Lina took a few steps closer, looking puzzled. “What’s that?”

Margie looked down at the box, before offering it to the girl in front of her. “This was just delivered for you. Any idea what it could be?”

“No…” Lina frowned, taking the box from her. “But the handwriting seems familiar.”

Setting the box on the dinner table, Lina ripped off the pieces of tape, before folding it open. She drew in a sharp breath when she recognized its contents immediately. Leaning forward, Margie was a little confused when she saw it.  

A dark grey back bag.

Glancing at Lina, Margie could tell it was very important to her.

“It’s my dad’s…”  Lina whispered as an answer to her silent question.

The German girl gingerly lifted the bag out of the box, before placing it on the table. A piece of paper slipped from the bag’s lid, landing on the floor. Margie picked it up. It was a handwritten note, but she couldn’t read what it said. “I believe it’s in German.”  She said softly, handing it do Lina. The girl frowned at it, before her expression softened. “It’s from the band.”  She mumbled with a sad smile. “All my dad’s personal belongings are in here, and they have been keeping it with them all this time. Now that they’re flying back home in a few days, they’re asking me to keep it safe.”

Margie nodded slowly. It made sense.

Lina gave the bag a slight caress, her lips trembling. Margie placed a consoling hand on her back. “It’s safe here.” She whispered.

Lina nodded, before she opened the bag with shaky hands. Gently, she pulled out its contents, one by one.

A black smartphone.

A charger.

A black leather wallet.

Two packs of cigarettes and a lighter.

Some guitar picks.

A bottle of water.

Passport.

Plane tickets.

Tour schedules.

Tour pass.

… Another smartphone. Covered in a white, foldable case.

Lina gasped. “My phone!” She turned it over in her hands, pushing every button to bring the phone back to life, but its screen remained black.

“That’s yours?” Margie asked in curiosity.

Lina nodded at her, while untangling her father’s charger. “I accidentally left it at home, and asked my dad to bring it with him. I didn’t think he would though, as he usually forgets about silly things like that.” The girl smiled slightly, before walking towards the nearest power plug and plugging in the white device. While Lina busied herself with her phone, Margie trailed a hand through the guitarist’s belongings, spread out on the table. She lingered on his tour pass. The black plastic card had his name and picture on it. Richard was smiling in the picture, his eyes slanting up slightly and shining with a joyful spark. He looked so different…

Lina gasped quietly from where she sitting on the couch’s armrest, phone in her hands. “Woah… I’ve got hundreds of missed calls and messages...”

Margie walked over, peering down at the small screen. “From who?”

“All kinds of people, but mostly the guys in the band…” Lina’s hands started shaking as she scrolled through the numerous messages. “They tried to reach me the night of the accident.” Her voice shook. Margie couldn’t read the German text messages, but, judging by the growing number of exclamation marks and capitals, they gradually became more urgent and distressed.

When Lina’s whole body started to shake, Margie wrapped a consoling arm around her shoulders. “Maybe you shouldn’t be looking at them, honey. These messages are three months old… it’s in the past now.”

Lina knew Margie was right, but she couldn’t seem to look away. Scrolling further back, she halted. There was a message from her dad. He must’ve sent it to her the moment she had boarded the plane to New York.

“Es tut mir Leid.” Were his first words. While Lina kept on reading, Margie felt the shoulders in her hold quiver. Even though the girl wasn’t making a sound, Margie knew she was crying.

“What does it say?” Margie inquired gently, rubbing Lina’s shoulders.

“He’s…” Lina sniffled, “He’s saying he’s sorry for… for making me feel bad about leaving.” Lina’s eyes scrunched up as tears rolled down her cheeks. “He says he’s convinced I’ll get my degree in tourism without any trouble… and that he’s proud of…” Lina couldn’t keep on reading. She dropped the phone to the floor, before sobbing into her hands.

Margie felt her own eyes sting with salty tears, as she enveloped the girl in a hug.

How much longer would they have to keep on going like this?



It was in the early evening when Ed strode through the all too familiar hospital’s corridor, carrying a large paper bag. He had set foot in this place so many times by now, he was convinced he could find the guitarist’s room blindfolded. Not that he’d try it, of course.

Turning the final corner, Ed took notice of the fact Richard’s door was open, but the room itself was dark. Would he be the only visitor this evening? Stepping into the doorway, Ed needed a moment to spot his son within the room. After a while, he could make out his familiar silhouette sitting on the other side of Richard’s bed, doing homework. The boy seemed to use his cellphone to shine a light on the notebook he was writing in.

“Why didn’t you turn on the light?”

Matt’s hand jerked, his pen skidding over the page, leaving a long, blue scratch in its wake. “Dad!” The boy looked up, sounding both surprised and annoyed by his father’s appearance. He had to squint a bit at the bright light flooding in from the hallway, but once his father stepped inside, Matt realized he was wearing his police uniform.

“Did you come here straight from work?” Matt wondered. Usually, the first thing his father did after work, was plunder the fridge back home. Or the motel, in this case.

“Yeah… Thought you could use some dinner and company.” Ed shrugged, holding up the paper bag. Matt was surprised. His father didn’t usually do stuff like that. “That’s uh… thanks…”

“So. Why’s it so dark in here?” Ed mumbled as he looked around, taking in the various light sources that weren’t being used. Matt looked down at the notebook resting on his lap, not willing to meet his father’s eyes. “I didn’t want to disturb him.” He mumbled softly. Ed furrowed his brows in confusion. “Who. Him?” He nodded at the man in the bed. “Son, this man isn’t even-”

“I know.” Matt heaved a deep sigh, closing his notebook swiftly. “It’s just… I dunno. Look, would you mind staying with him for a moment? I need to go to the bathroom.”

Ed’s frown deepened. “Of course… but, why didn’t you go earlier?”

Matt rose to his feet, placing the notebook on the seat behind him. “I just… I don’t know… I’ll be right back.” He left the room in a hurry. Ed watched him go in bewilderment. First Lina was frantic about leaving her father alone for one second, and now his son was too?

“I swear, sometimes it feels like I’m the only sane person here.” Ed muttered to himself while placing the paper bag on the nightstand. He glanced at the man in the bed. This was actually the first time he was alone with him. After making sure no one was looking, he stepped closer to the bed, observing him. The guitarist’s burns were almost gone. At least, the ones on his face were. The tissue on his right ear was still slightly damaged, and there was a burn running from underneath his neck brace, staining his collarbone. The man’s right shoulder and upper arm were out of sight, hiding underneath the covers, but Ed knew it wouldn’t be pretty.

Sighing in sympathy, Ed looked around the room. The place was littered with cards, flowers, and gifts. He guessed most of it was fan mail, but he spotted some big names as well. Artists and musicians from all over the world had made an effort to show their respect and support to their fallen colleague.

“You know…” the broad man mumbled, returning his attention to the motionless face below him. “You’ve got a whole lot of people out there who are crazy about you. You might not want to let them down.”

It stayed quiet for about a minute, until Matt returned, looking relieved. He flashed his father a grateful smile before stuffing his homework in his bag. The boy looked tired.

Ed rebelliously turned on one of the small bedside lights before dragging the second visitor chair closer to his son’s and sitting himself down. “So. You’re the new guardian then?”

Matt was about close his bag, but stopped and rose one challenging eyebrow at his father. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Margie told me you’ve been sitting here the whole day, and I bet this won’t be the last time you’ll do that.” Ed pointed out sternly. “I know you have a lot of respect for Mr. Kruspe here, we all do… but you know you don’t have to do this, right?”

“I’m here because I want to be here, dad.” Matt said seriously. “I don’t mind.”

Ed stayed quiet for a few seconds. “I just don’t think it’s healthy for you to be here for such long periods of time.”

Matt lowered his bag to the floor with a frown, before sitting down. He gave his father a piercing look. “The band is out of town to deal with management issues, you know that. It’s just me and Lina now who can look after him, and I want her to rest at the motel, not here.”

“I totally agree.” Ed said with a nod. “And I’m glad you help her like this, but coming here this often… we can all see what it does to her. I don’t want it to happen to you too.”

“It’s her father.” Matt defended with a slight scowl. “Who wouldn’t be feeling down if it was their father lying here?”

“She’s depressed, Matt.” Ed replied sternly. “Sitting here isn’t helping her, it’s only making things worse. A hospital isn’t a good place to spend your free time. The same applies to you.”

Matt glanced at the man in the bed and stayed silent for a while, deep in thought.

Ed sighed, patting his son’s knee. “Look, I really admire what you’re doing. And I’m not trying to sound harsh here, but your presence won’t change anything.”

Matt looked down with a dejected sigh. “I know that...” He mumbled, playing with the strap of his bag. “… But Lina feels better when someone’s here. It’s her father. If you were lying in this bed I wouldn’t want you to be alone either.” Matt looked up at the man sitting next to him. Ed seemed slightly taken aback by his son’s words.

“I wouldn’t want you to waste your time here.” Ed said softly.

“I don’t care. I’d do it anyway.” Were Matt’s firm words. “Besides, I want to be here. And I promise I will take care of mysel-” A soft groan coming from the bed cut him off. It was a deep sound, almost like a growl. A pained growl. Both Taylors snapped their eyes towards the man in the bed, unintentionally holding their breath. Richard was still, as if nothing had happened.

After staring at the unmoving form of the guitarist for about a full minute, father and son shared a look. Had they imagined it? There was no way Richard was waking up already, was there? Matt opened his mouth to pick up the conversation, when Richard’s face confronted in obvious discomfort. This time, they were sure they weren’t imagining it.

“Get a doctor in here.” Ed ordered his son in a harsh voice, jumping to his feet. “Quick!”

Chapter Text

Richard knew that whatever he was waking up from wasn’t just sleep. It was different. It was… well, just weird. He wasn’t even sure if ‘waking up’ was the correct term for what he was experiencing… hell, he had no idea what this was called.

Maybe he was still dreaming…?

No… the darkness was different. Instead of being surrounded with pitch-blackness, there was dark fog with strange, hazy shapes dancing in front of his eyes. It reminded him of what the inside of his eyelids looked like right after a show, the blinding stage lights still present long after they were dimmed.

Richard inhaled shakily, a heavy feeling settling in his stomach. His body was trying to wake itself up.

He wasn’t so sure if he wanted to do that right now.

His head felt like a blown up balloon, the throbbing intensifying every time he tried moving it. Something stiff surrounded his neck, so thankfully he wasn’t able to move it in the first place. His throat felt sorely dry and whenever he inhaled, a sharp pain would erupt in his chest. It felt as though he had swallowed a box of needles, to put it mildly. There was a strange object in his throat too, but his head was too clouded to make something out of it. His limbs felt heavy and sore, and there was a weird tingling sensation on the whole right side of his body, as if someone, -or something-, was constantly plucking at his skin.  

I… What…’ The guitarist wasn’t able to form coherent thoughts. At first he didn’t even realize his brain was sending him warning signals, but then a distant feeling of panic started to dawn on him.

Where was he? What happened?

Richard struggled to open his eyes, but his eyelids felt like lead. He kept on trying. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he managed to open his eyes to slits, but a blinding white light forced them back shut.

Growing increasingly frustrated, Richard groaned.

God damnit!

At the fourth try, his eyes finally started to adjust. Somewhat. He blinked to get rid of the haziness that clouded his vision, and tried to focus. It was harder than he had expected, but in the end, he could vaguely make out a white ceiling with a round yellow lamp resting in the middle.

That’s…’ Richard frowned in sluggish confusion. ‘That’s not… my lamp…

Dizziness hit him and for a moment he wondered why the ceiling seemed to be floating around him, like a bright, white sea. The strange motion was nauseating. Swallowing heavily, Richard struggled to focus on the three hazy shapes that were now hovering above his face. They looked like people, but he wasn’t sure. Right now, he wasn’t sure of anything. His thoughts were jumbled and he couldn’t make any sense of them.

Where… what-… people- Pain? White. White. White. Why- W- Where am-?

The lack of incoherent thought scared the guitarist on a very primal level. His body wasn’t obeying him. His mind wasn’t obeying him. Richard felt alienated from himself. The fact that he could barely move, hear, or see anything, only made things worse. His heart soared for a few, tense minutes, until he felt a strange pressure on his left hand.

Richard felt his eyelids growing heavy, there was no way to keep them open anymore. Before he could stop it, exhaustion took over and enveloped his body with pitch black darkness once again.



Ed and his son held their breath when Richard’s eyes opened to slits. The bright blue eyes shifted to the left before moving back up, hovering on their faces but not really seeing them. The guitarist swallowed heavily, frowning in discomfort as he probably felt the presence of the tube in his throat. The doctor was at Richard’s other side, shining a small light in the man’s eyes with gentle persistence.

“Mr. Kruspe? Can you hear me?” The doctor sounded worried. He couldn’t seem to hide the fact he was just as unnerved by the unexpected awakening as the other two men in the room. “Mr. Kruspe?”

Richard didn’t seem to be hearing him. His hazy eyes, shining brightly with exhaustion, kept darting away from their faces, as if he was very dizzy and couldn’t focus. When the rise and fall of his chest started speeding up, the doctor frowned worriedly. “Mr. Kruspe? Please calm down. Can you hear me? Sir?”

Matt and Ed stepped back when two nurses ran into the room, taking their place at the bed. “He’s awake??” One of the nurses exclaimed in shock. The doctor shook his head in bewilderment, pocketing the small flashlight and pulling out his stethoscope instead. “I’ve got no idea what set this off.”

Matt gave one of the machines above the bed a nervous glance. The thing was beeping frantically, and red numbers were flashing.

“Mr. Kruspe!” The doctor tried to make eye contact with his patient, but to no avail. The blue eyes were focused inward, not outward. More machines started beeping in alarm.

“I need you to step out.” One of the nurses told Matt and Ed with stern regard.

Feeling sick with worry, Matt nodded. Both he and his father hurried outside, closing the door behind them. They positioned themselves in front of the window, hoping they’d get to see what was happening. On the other side of the window, the nurse gave them an apologetic look, before closing the curtain to shut them out. Right before doing so, they caught a glimpse of the doctor injecting something in the IV that ran into the guitarist’s hand.

“They’re sedating him.” Ed mumbled with a concerned frown.

Matt opened his mouth to say something, but no sound came out. He stared at the curtain with wide eyes.

What the hell just happened?

“We need to call Lina. And the guys.” Ed said suddenly, digging his phone out of his back pocket.

“Sh- shouldn’t- shouldn’t we wait?” Matt struggled to find the words, as his mind was replaying what just happened over and over again.

“Wait for what?” Ed asked incredulously.

Matt took a shuddering breath, “What if… what if something happens…?” The youngest Taylor swallowed nervously. “He wasn’t supposed to wake up… What if something’s wrong?”

Ed stared at the closed curtain as he mulled it over, phone in his hand. Matt was surprised to see his father’s hands shaking. He was definitely more concerned about the guitarist’s wellbeing than he was letting on.

Without discussing it further, they mutually agreed to wait on the doctor’s update before contacting anyone.



When Lina received the call, she had just gotten out of the shower, and, if it hadn’t been for Margie’s interference, the German girl would’ve raced to the hospital in nothing more than a towel. As it were, Lina hurriedly hoisted herself in a pair of jeans and an inside-out sweater, before they left the motel’s parking ground with screeching tires.

The two of them arrived at the hospital in record time. Lina busted through the doors and raced up the stairs, skipping two steps at a time. Skidding to a halt in front of her father’s room, Lina nearly launched herself inside, only to be stopped by Matt’s hands. “Woah, hey! Calm down…”

Breathing heavily, Lina desperately craned her neck to catch a glance at her father. “Is he awake now? Is he okay? Did he say anything??”

Matt patted Lina’s shoulders in an attempt to calm her down. “Lina, listen. He’s okay, but still very weak, okay? He’s resting now.”

“He’s… he’s resting?” Lina nearly choked on the words. “S-so, he’s really not in a coma anymore? He’s just sleeping?”

Matt rubbed her shoulders in comfort, giving her a small smile. “Your old man was more stubborn than everyone thought… but I’m not sure what his current status is. The doctor still wants to run some tests, he said he will come back later.”

Lina hid her mouth behind a trembling hand, her eyes wide. “Can I sit with him?”

“Yes, yes of course!” Feeling guilty for stopping her in the first place, Matt stepped aside immediately. Lina bit back a sob as she hurried past him, before Matt returned to his position in the doorway. He wanted to stand on the lookout for the doctor’s arrival, while keeping an eye on Lina as well. Right at that moment, Margie trudged towards him, out of breath. She hadn’t been able to keep up with Lina’s desperate speed.

“Did he- did he really wake up?” The disheveled woman asked Matt, as she placed a steadying hand on the doorpost.

“Yeah! We’ve got no idea what happened.” Matt exclaimed, “One minute dad and I were talking, the next, Richard started making noises and moving and stuff!”

Margie shook her head in amazement. “That’s… that’s incredible…” She whispered, before straightening herself, finally getting a decent amount of air in. “Where’s Ed now?”

Matt jerked his head to the other side of the hallway. “Went with the doctors to keep an eye on things. Maybe speed things up a little.”

Margie released a tired chuckle, knowing all too well what her son meant. Her husband had a certain… gift, when it came to emergency personal. He only had to stand within their line of vision, arms crossed, and everyone around him felt an invisible urge to hurry. Which in this case, would be a good thing. They all desperately needed to know…

Was Richard going to be alright, finally?

Margie and Matt silently watched as Lina sunk down in one of the visitor chairs, her wide eyes not leaving her father’s face, obviously willing it to move.

Lina wasn’t sure if her mind was playing tricks on her, but she was pretty sure her father looked different now. The most obvious difference was the absence of the tube that had been inserted in his throat, which now had been replaced with a nose cannula. He still needed the aid of an oxygen machine, but he looked more… human, now.

His expression was different too.

Lina once read that someone in a coma looked like they were sleeping. She strongly disagreed. While her father had been in a coma, his face had been set in this permanently blank look. It had showed nothing. No emotion, no pain, no contentment. He just… wasn’t really there. And that had frightened her, more than anything else.

Now, as she looked at him, she saw a variety of emotions on his face. They were subtle, but they were there. He had furrowed his eyebrows a little and the corners of his mouth were pulled slightly downward, signaling pain or discomfort, or an unpleasant dream perhaps. Every now and then he’d also clench and unclench his jaws, usually accompanied with a bobbing Adam’s apple as he swallowed.

He clearly felt uncomfortable.

Some might argue that a blank face was better than a suffering one, but Lina was relieved to see any form of emotion right now. It meant he was here. It meant he was alive.

Lina smiled sadly as she trailed a hand across her father’s freshly shaved cheek. “Welcome back…” She whispered, her eyes brimming.



After intensively touring the world for nearly 25 years, the members of Rammstein could sleep in the strangest of circumstances. Whether it was a turbulent airplane, a stuffy train, or an unsteady nightliner, the German musicians had no trouble finding ways to settle down and sleep.

Sleeping at a hotel at broad daylight however, proved to more challenging than they had thought. After a few hours of restless attempts, concluding that for now, sleep was out of the question, the band decided to meet up for dinner instead. They mutually agreed to check out the Italian place that was just around the corner of their hotel in downtown Manhattan. The choice of restaurant was made with ease. Italian restaurants were always Richard’s favorite when they were on tour, so this way, it felt like he was with them. Somewhat.

The restaurant was buzzing with people, and the five members of the band were relieved they had a separate booth, all the way in the corner. They were exhausted and on edge; a combination that could prove to be nasty, when provoked. All in all though, Flake had to admit that the general mood amongst them, the moment they settled down in their booth, was surprisingly upbeat. A few tired jokes had been shared, and for the first time since Richard had been hospitalized, they could actually dredge up the willpower to laugh.

The keyboardist placed down his menu, happy with his choice. The others were still making up their minds on what to order, as everything looked quite good. Paul chuckled as he read the menu, the oversized folder hiding his face from view. “It says here they’re serving Agretti!” The guitarist’s chuckling grew a little louder from behind the menu, while the rest of the band shared a bemused look.

“What’s that?” Schneider asked the smaller man with a raised eyebrow.

Paul lowered the folder and gave his band mates a disbelieving look. “Agretti!” The guitarist repeated, turning his wide eyes to each man in turn. “Oh come on, don’t you remember??”

Till seemed thoughtful. “Wait a second… wasn’t that that weird green stuff?”

Paul nodded vigorously, his smile widening. “Yeah! That grassy stuff!”

Schneider seemed to remember as well, as he burst into laughter. “Oh my god… Wasn’t that that horrible stuff that made Richard gag?”

“Yeah he hated it!” Paul laughed loudly, the rest of the table joining in as memories of a very gross-looking Richard filled their visions. About two years ago, the poor man had wanted to try something new, so while the rest enjoyed their pizzas and pastas, Richard received a plate of… grass. The look on his face had been hilarious.

Oliver looked at his friends, happily surprised to see them relaxed and having a good time. They all missed Richard terribly, and still feared for his health, but now, finally, they could learn how to deal with it.

When the laughter died down a little, Christoph surprised everyone when he gave the menu lying in front of him a little tap. “I think I’ll go and have myself some Agretti. In honor of Richard.”

The others looked at him, both amused and touched by his gesture.

“I’m joining you, Chris!” Paul grinned broadly, raising his beer in a gracious salute before taking a sip.

In the end, the waitress thought it was odd that the five Germans in the corner all wanted the Agretti dish, but decided not to ask.

The band settled back in their seats. None of them could deny the fact their bodies were depleted and their minds emotionally wrecked, but still… it was nice to be here. It felt good. For the next hour or so, the five men talked. As in, really talked. Finally they had the time to talk.

“I’ve got to admit…” Christoph mumbled as he trailed his finger across the rim of his wine glass. “A part of me is happy to fly back home.”

The others looked up, some of them still munching on their Agretti dish, which was, considering Richard’s past experience, not as bad as they had expected.

“I miss my family.” The drummer clarified when seeing a mixture of emotions on his bandmate’s faces. “The whole ordeal with Richard made me realize how easy it is to lose someone you care about. I just… really want to see my family right now.”

“We didn’t lose Richard.” Paul protested softly. Christoph sighed miserably, fumbling with his fork. “We lost a part of him...”

The men at the table stayed quiet for a while, letting the man’s words sink in.

“Look…” Christoph started softly, placing his fork down and focusing his attention on the men around him. “I really don’t want to leave Richard behind, or Lina, for that matter. I wish I could stay here for as long as it’d take Richard to recover, and fly him home with us, but...” The drummer broke eye-contact with the others, fixated on placing his knife and fork on his plate, indicating he was done with his half-finished meal. The rest of the band waited until he picked up where he left off, but the rest of the sentence remained unspoken.

Till cleared his throat, looking at his bandmates from underneath his brow. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, alright? Let’s do this thing one thing at a time. Right now, we’re here.” To emphasize his point, Till jabbed his finger on the table. “Tonight we’ll rest up, tomorrow we’ll visit Richard. Then we’ll pack our things and fly back to Berlin, finish what we have to finish, fly back here and drag Richard home with us.”

Paul nodded. “Till’s right. We should do this one thing at a time.”

When the rest of the band seemed to agree as well, Till reached into the inside pocket of his blazer and pulled out his phone. “I’ll go and give Lina a call, it’d be nice to meet up tomorrow and-” Till abruptly stopped talking when his eyes landed on the screen. When he frowned, the others gave him a questioning glance.

“What is it?” Schneider asked the singer.

“I’m not sure…” Till mumbled vaguely as he scrolled through, what appeared to be, a list of missed calls. “Lina tried to reach me... about fifty times.”

“What?” Schneider asked sharply, immediately checking his own phone. Lina had tried calling him too, numerous of times. In the end, all band members realized that Lina had desperately wanted to talk to each of them.

“Do you think something happened?” Paul asked worriedly, directing his question at Till.

“Let me call her back.” Till said lowly, trying to hide the shakiness of his hands as he fumbled with the device.

The seconds that followed were spent in tense silence. Everyone’s attention was on Till, who had his phone plastered against his ear, waiting impatiently for his surrogate daughter to pick up. No one in the band could think of anything that could’ve made Lina reach out with such urgent persistence. Or they didn’t want to think of anything. 

Suddenly, Till sat up straighter, his voice sounding alarmed. “Lina??”

The band stared at him intensely, as they heard the girl’s murmur coming through the phone. They couldn’t hear what she was saying, but they could hear she was talking rapidly. Till furrowed his eyebrows as he listened, barely keeping up with the stream of words that started the moment the girl answered her phone.

Somewhere along in her speech, Till widened his eyes in shock. “No… no way…”

A cold feeling washed over the band when Till desperately tried to hold back tears. The singer never cried. Unless…

Unless…

Oh no…” Paul whispered, hiding his mouth behind his hand. The band shared a terrified look.

Till’s voice croaked as several emotions hit him. “Are are-you sure about this? What did the doctor say?”

Lina’s answer was long. Agonizingly long. The band gave their singer a pleading look. What was going on??

For what felt like hours, but were only minutes, Lina talked, Till listened, and the band feared.

“We’ll be right there.” Till muttered with a stunned expression, before hanging up. The band stared at him anxiously. The singer looked up at them with slightly reddened eyes, before surprising his band mates with a broad grin.

“He woke up.”

Sleep could wait.

Hell, even home could wait.



Lina gave her phone a watery smile, happy to be the messenger of good news for a change. When she heard a familiar voice just outside of their room, she looked up.

Richard’s doctor stood in the doorway, quietly discussing something with the Taylors, before inviting them in and closing the door behind them. As the doctor approached the bed, Lina noticed he was carrying her father’s rapidly growing medical-file. He placed it on the nightstand, and flashed Lina a grin. “Well, your dad’s full of surprises, isn’t he?”

Lina simply nodded, not trusting her voice. The doctor usually didn’t make jokes around them, did this mean he had some good news this time? Lina wrenched her hands nervously, while Margie positioned herself behind her. Ed and Matt kept a respective distance, not wanting to intrude.

The doctor rolled up his sleeves and fumbled with a pair of blue latex gloves. “I’m sorry we had to keep you waiting there for a while, I ran most tests twice, just to be sure.” The doctor mumbled as he shoved his hands in the uncooperative blue gloves. “Mr. Kruspe’s bloodwork came back mostly good, he’s still infection-free, and his brain activity looks normal. I’m pretty pleased with those results, but I cannot make a full diagnoses until I’ve seen him awake and responsive.”

“So… he’s okay?” Margie piped up hopefully.

“Well…” The doctor inhaled deeply as he searched for the right words, re-adjusting one of the gloves a little. “I’m satisfied with the test results, yes. And while the test results are very important, there are more things we need to consider before we can conclude on how he’s really doing. His head injury for example…” The doctor bend over his patient, placing gentle fingers at the man’s temples and angling the face a little, as far as the neck brace allowed. He gently removed the piece of gauze that was taped against Richard’s head, revealing a prominent scar, just behind his burned ear.

“He’s been healing quite nicely, but we’ve got no way of telling how the injuries he sustained during the explosion will affect him today. Not until he wakes up for longer periods of time.”

“Of course…” Margie said softly, waiting until the doctor had taped a fresh piece of gauze against his patient’s head, before asking, “But the fact that he woke up is a good thing, right?”

The doctor glanced up at the hopeful faces in front of him, and gave them a small smile. “I’d say it is. It shows that he’s getting some of his strength back.”

“What are the odds of someone waking up from a coma?” Ed asked warily. Whereas his wife had sounded eager, he couldn’t help but repeat his son’s words in his head;

Richard wasn’t supposed to wake up… What if something’s wrong?

The doctor turned his head towards the police officer standing behind him, “It depends. In this case, the odds were very slim, since the man was in an induced coma. Nevertheless, it’s not entirely impossible. Here’s the proof of that.” The doctor gave the bulky man a quirky smile, before he resumed his work on his patient. He folded the blanket down, exposing the guitarist’s gown-covered chest. Keeping a close eye on his patient’s face, the doctor wrapped his hands around his ribcage and applied gentle pressure. The moment he did, Richard grimaced and balled a fist around the sheet, but didn’t stir. Lina rose from her seat, eager to see another reaction from him.

At first, it seemed none was forthcoming, but that changed abruptly when the doctor added pressure on a particularly sensitive rib. Richard cried out roughly, shocking everyone in the room, before he smacked the doctor’s hands away with his left arm. Immediately regretting the movement afterwards, Richard moaned loudly and curled up on his left side, tipping himself dangerously close to the edge of the bed. Alarmed, the doctor lunged forward, wrapping an arm around his patient’s chest to prevent him from collapsing to the floor. Richard was breathing heavily, his chest heaving rapidly against the doctor’s arm, struggling to get enough air in. “Mr. Kruspe!”

“Dad!” Lina’s reaction came a bit slow. Seeing her father lash out so suddenly, so unexpectedly, had caught her off guard. She turned pleading eyes at the doctor. “What’s going on?? How can I help?”

The doctor shook his head with tense jaws, a sheen of sweat appearing on his forehead. He tried to pull Richard back towards his previous position, but the guitarist refused to move. Ed, taking notice of the doctor’s futile attempts to get his patient flat on his back, rushed over to help. He positioned himself on the other side of the bed, right between Lina and his wife, and hovered his hands above the guitarist’s shoulders. He was about to push Richard back, when the doctor’s stern exclamation stopped him. “Raise the rail!”

Ed gave the doctor a puzzled frown, his hands still hovering above the trembling shoulders. “The what?”

“The side-rail!” The doctor bit out through clenched teeth. “The rail at the side of the bed! Raise it!”

“Oh! Right!” Taking a step back, Ed caught sight of the metal rail, positioned at the side of the mattress. Giving it a sharp yank, the rail clicked into place effortlessly. The doctor nodded in approval, blowing out a deep breath while slowly releasing the pressure he was exerting on Richard’s chest. Freed of resistance, the guitarist’s body curled itself further to its left, the rail the only thing that kept him from tumbling off the bed. His body shuddered to a stop against it, his bandaged forehead pressed against the steel and his left hand sticking out from between the bars, clenched into a fist. It didn’t look comfortable in the least.

Lina turned a torturous gaze at the doctor, who was studying the flashing monitors above the bed. The girl wanted to ask thousands of things, but she had no idea where to start.

“Don’t be too alarmed.” The doctor softly spoke without looking at her, as if he sensed her distress. “I know all of this comes as a shock, but this man just woke up from a three-month coma. He’s confused and disorientated. This reaction, given the circumstances, is not abnormal. We need to give him time to adjust.”

Lina didn’t feel all that soothed by the doctor’s words. “Isn’t there anything we can do?”

The doctor shook his head, before rubbing his face with the sleeve of his coat. “For now, I’m afraid not. We don’t know how things will go from here. We’ll just have to keep a close eye on him.” The ladies on the other side of the bed seemed to be disappointed with that answer. The doctor gave them a sympathetic smile. “What might be helpful, is to surround him with familiar things. Personal items, photographs, smells, sounds; anything that will make him feel safe will do. And you people, of course. Talk to him, let him hear your voice.” The doctor offered as he retrieved his stethoscope.

Lina nodded numbly. She could do that. Hell, she’d keep talking to him until it’d drive him mad.

Taking advantage of the side-position Richard had turned himself into, the doctor started loosening the ties of the man’s gown at his back. With gentle hands, he widened the gown, and placed the stethoscope’s diaphragm on Richard’s upper back, listening intently to his lungs.

Matt, standing a few steps behind the doctor, couldn’t hide the wince when the burns on Richard’s back were exposed. None of them had seen the damage so prominently before, as it had been hidden out of sight, until now, that is. The burns covered a big part of the guitarist’s back, running all the way from his neck, down to his lower back, disappearing underneath the part of the gown that hadn’t been untied. The burns looked angry and painful.

Margie and Ed, standing on the other side of the bed, couldn’t see what their son was seeing, but his non-verbal reaction said enough. Margie hoped Lina hadn’t noticed. Thankfully, the German girl was still looking at her father’s face intently, silently wishing to spot a pair of bright blue eyes within the pale complexion. He wasn’t giving her that satisfaction, but his face seemed to relax a bit, and everyone was relieved to see that his rapid breathing was slowing down. It was only when Richard’s hand slumped down, that Lina realized that he in fact, had lost consciousness again.

“Alright…” The doctor breathed in relief, looking up at Ed’s hovering form. “Can you help me turn him on his back?”

Ed nodded firmly. “Of course.”



When the band pulled up at the hospital, the sky was dark and the air was cold. Snowflakes were drifting down in mesmerizing numbers, landing on their hats and coats when they exited their rental. Shivering, they hurried inside.

The moment the band entered their friend’s hospital room, Lina jumped up from the visitor’s chair and rushed over to meet them. Each member of the band hugged her tightly, before leaving her to the next pair of awaiting arms.

One by one, the five men surrounded their friend in the bed, looking down at him with a mixture of worry and eagerness.

“He hasn’t had another waking episode yet.” Lina whispered at them in slight disappointment. She kept her voice down to not disturb her resting father, but Till could tell that she was fighting the urge to scream him awake. The singer positioned himself next to her, folding a broad arm around her shoulders.

“We’ve waited for months. We can wait a few more hours.”

While the band made themselves comfortable around their sleeping friend, Lina filled them in on what happened. As she hadn’t been present when her father first woke up, she could only dredge up the details Ed and Matt had given her. Lina mournfully explained that Richard had been in a lot of pain upon his first awakening, and needed to be sedated seconds afterwards. When she described how he nearly threw himself off the bed when the doctor examined him the second time, the band did their best to keep their faces impassive. None of them wanted to portray the worry they were feeling. When Lina adverted her attention away from them, they shared a look, all thinking along the same lines.

Will Richard be relieved to be alive…

Or will he regret not dying?

Chapter Text

Doctor Bright had seen a lot in his career.

He had seen things that shocked him, scared him, saddened him… but he had also seen things that delighted him. Surprised him, even. The patient in room 304 seemed to be all of those things, mixed together in one person. A very interesting person.

The fact that Richard Kruspe was some big-shot guitarist, didn’t matter to Bright. What mattered to him was that the man managed to spot a suicidal woman amongst a thousand-plus crowd, flung a bomb away, and decided to wake up from an induced coma, on his own terms. Without having yet the opportunity to talk to him, the doctor could already tell Richard was a headstrong man; a quality he loved seeing in his patients. Bright had high hopes for the guitarist’s recovery, even though he had to wait and see.

Everyone had to wait and see.

And some weren’t so eager to wait.

It’s been three days!” Lina hissed anxiously. She had been pacing back and forth within the small space of her father’s private hospital room, but stopped when she nearly collided with Flake and Oliver. The two tallest members of the band had pressed themselves against the window sill, to stay clear of Lina’s frustrations, but even then, the room just wasn’t big enough. Christoph and Till stood on the other side of the room, leaning against the wall next to the door, while Paul sat in one of the visitor chairs, keeping a steady watch over his fellow guitarist, who was sleeping deeply. So deeply, in fact, that, despite having seven people crowding his room, he didn’t even stir.

Doctor Bright stood near the foot of the bed, flipping through Richard’s medical file. “He’ll wake up when he’s ready.” Bright responded to Lina’s earlier statement, without looking up from his patient’s records.

“He’s been sleeping for three days now!” Lina repeated in exasperation. Doctor Bright looked up at that. He understood the girl’s frustrations; of course she wanted her father back. Of course she wanted to see him awake. Talk to him.

But, she also had to accept the fact that Richard needed his rest. Now more than ever.

Bright addressed the girl’s impatience in a gentle, but firm matter, “Your father is exhausted. Coming back from a coma is pretty tiring, believe it or not.”

Till watched how Lina ran a hand through her hair in silent frustration. It was a frustration Till strongly shared, although he was better at hiding it. With a sigh, the broad singer returned his attention to his sleeping friend. “We just… have to wait a little longer.” Till mumbled in a strong German accent. As with all of them, the accent became more prominent when they were tired. Seeing how much sleepless nights they had on their track record, it was a miracle they could dredge up any English word at all.

Paul crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “Richard always likes to keep us waiting.” He sighed dramatically.

“You’re one to talk.” Christoph snorted from where he stood behind him. Paul gasped in mock offense, unfolding his arms and turning around in his seat to glare at the drummer. “Hey! At least I always-”

“Please keep your voices down, or leave the room.” The doctor interjected sternly, while replacing his patient’s IV bag. “Your friend needs absolute rest.”

“Sorry...” Christoph and Paul muttered simultaneously, the latter turning back in his chair. They obviously didn’t plan on leaving, so they kept quiet instead. The doctor tried to suppress a smile while busying himself with the drip that was running in his patient’s hand. Before Richard had been brought in, Bright had only heard of Rammstein by name, and he knew they were a band from some German-speaking country. A loud band, that is. What he hadn’t expected was this… odd, but wonderfully tight-knitted group of people. A family.

For the past three days, the broad Germans refused to leave Richard’s side. They sometimes left in the rare occasion when they needed a bathroom break, or something to eat. But even then, they took turns on who left and who stayed behind to keep a vigil watch over their sleeping friend.

The band had canceled their scheduled flight back to Berlin. It was a no-brainer, really. Now that Richard had returned from his coma, there was no way they’d leave him behind. It did help that management had agreed without hesitation. They were just as concerned about the lead-guitarist as the band was, and wanted nothing more than the band to fly home with Richard, rather than without him.

Doctor Bright straightened from where he was leaning over his patient, feeling everyone’s eyes on him. Paul was the first to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind. “How is he?”

The doctor smiled, hoping it’d ease some of the visitor’s concerns. “His vitals are looking good... All in all, I’m pretty happy with what I’m seeing so far.”

Christoph crossed his arms, nearly hugging them to himself. “Will he wake up soon?” Judging by how tense he was looking, the drummer wasn’t necessarily looking forward to the guitarist’s awakening. More like dreading it.

“I’m not sure…” The doctor replied, nodding his head towards his patient. “That’s up to him.”

Till pushed himself away from the wall, positioning himself next to the doctor. Bright was surprised by the broad man’s soft words, “What can we expect when he wakes up?”

Bright glanced at him. “What do you mean?”

Till didn’t meet the doctor’s gaze, as they were trained on the bedridden guitarist with an intensity Bright couldn’t place. “The last time he woke up, things didn’t go so well. What can we expect this time?” The singer mumbled sternly.

“Well…” Bright scratched his cheek. “We’ve increased the dosage of morphine a bit, so he’ll be in less pain. He will feel drowsy though. Morphine’s a heavy drug.”

Till gave the doctor a dark look. “Drowsy? As in, sleeping the whole time?”

“He’ll be sleeping a lot, yes. Which is a good thing for his recovery.” The doctor pointed out.

Christoph cleared his throat uncomfortably. “… I once read about a coma-patient who woke up and didn’t remember anything. He didn’t even recognize his family and friends. Will Richard suffer from that too? After all, he hit his head pretty hard…” Lina and the rest of the band stared at him in horror.

“He- he didn’t recognize his own family?” Lina stammered in disbelief.

Bright inwardly sighed. What was it about concerned relatives that they always speculated about the worst case scenarios? It wasn’t helping anyone, was it? Judging by the terror that was written all over Lina’s face, it really wasn’t.

“I wouldn’t worry about that right now.” Bright spoke seriously.

Paul frowned, ignoring the doctor’s words. “How big are the changes of that happening? That he doesn’t remember anything, I mean? Does that happen a lot?”

“I can’t make any presumptions on what Mr. Kruspe will and won’t remember.” Bright spoke solemnly. “All I can say is that we have to take things very slow with him.”

“Right. But…” Paul rubbed a hand over his worn face, his mind racing. “… What do we do when he finds out about his arm?”

“… I believe it’s better if he doesn’t find out. Not yet.” Bright remarked softly. “We shouldn’t confront him with his injuries this early in the recovery process, nor should we allow him to confront himself with them. Again, we have to take things very slow.”

The band members shared an uncertain look, which wasn’t lost on the doctor. Apparently, withholding the injuries from this patient was going to be a challenge.

Lina sunk down in the second visitor chair, sighing miserably. “I can’t wait any longer… Can’t we just wake him up?”

The doctor was about to give her a lecture about how the patient needed undisturbed rest, when he noticed a small spike on the heart monitor, followed by a twitch in the man’s fingers. The small movement in Richard’s hand didn’t go unnoticed by his visitors, who gathered around the bed, looking down at him in anticipation. When Richard’s eyebrows knitted together, Paul smiled at Lina. “Well... it seems we don’t need to.”



I’ve been asleep for a while, I know I have. No idea how long though… It could’ve been a couple of hours. It could’ve been a couple of days. Weeks. Months.

Who knows? I certainly don’t.

What I do know however, is that I’m never alone. There’s always someone with me here… wherever the hell that is. Sometimes, I can feel them touching my hand, other times I hear them talking to me, or to one another. I wish I knew what they were saying, but sounds were muffled, as if someone poured water into my ears. It was annoying, but something I was slowly getting used to, strangely. Nevertheless, I hope it’ll resolve itself when I’m strong enough to figure out what’s going on.

What is going on anyway?

It feels like I’m in this constant half-awake half-asleep state, which is frustrating the CRAP out of me. It’s like being submerged in slimy, murky water, before breaking the surface… and seeing nothing but mist.

I’m not entirely clueless on where I am, though. From beyond the mist, I can hear the faint sounds of machines, beeping and humming near my head. Also, I keep hearing these squeaky sounds, which I assume are rubber sandals walking on linoleum floors. What really distinguished my environment however, was its smell. That strange smell that you can only find in ultra clean, white spaces. Dentist offices, veterinarian clinics… hospitals… I highly doubt it’s one of the first two.

… Something must’ve happened to me.

Well, no shit Kruspe.

My body felt strange and heavy, pressed firmly into a mattress. Speaking of which, this was the first time I actually felt a mattress, as well as a soft blanket, covering me. Judging by the sore and tingling muscles that ran from the tip of my toes, all the way to the tips of my ears, I suspected my body had taken quite a beating.

Am I in pain?

… No, surprisingly not.

But something told me I should’ve been.

It was as if something was protecting me from the pain. Suppressing it.

Drugs…?

Yeah, that must be it.

The last time I woke up, -whenever that was-, things were different. It had been hell then. The pain had been so overwhelming; all I could do was feel, rather than think. Did things get better in the meantime, or did they pump a higher dose of whatever-the-hell-it-is into me? Judging by how… clouded I’m feeling, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. I hate being depended on stuff like that. They shouldn’t be giving drugs to people so freely. It’s unnatural. Addictive. It’s… it’s just not right. I’m sure I don’t need it by now anyway. I’ll just have to be careful when I move.

Better start small then.

Focusing all my energy on my dominant hand, I tried to move a finger. Ow FUCK! Bad idea. BAD IDEA. I tried not to make any noise, but I couldn’t help myself. The pain started as a fierce sting, but expanded to a burning sensation that ran through my entire arm and shoulder. It was as if a hungry predator was swirling around the limp, latching its claws and teeth into it. Desperate, I tried to twist my body away from the pain, but it didn’t cooperate. I wasn’t sure if I was screaming or not, but I could make out some strangled noises that rattled my painful throat. Was that really me, doing that?

“-ichard!” Voices drifted through my clouded world of pain. “-elp me -eep m still!

From out of nowhere, hands descended on me. I felt them on my shoulders and arms, pressing me down, and another pair on either side of my head. At first, I struggled against them, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. However, after a few seconds of making futile attempts to escape the grip they had on me, I realized moving wasn’t making the pain go away. If anything, it only made things worse. Breathing heavily through the tubes that ran into my nose, I forced my body to relax. This proved to be quite the challenge, as my heart was thundering against my chest, yet I kept trying to slow down my breathing. Then, after what felt like minutes but must’ve been seconds, the burning pain seemed to diminish, ending in a dull throb.

Thank god for drugs then…

A feeling of utter exhaustion overwhelmed me, but right when I was about to descend back into the all-too familiar world of darkness, someone folded their hands around mine, cradling it with tight, but warm persistence. The hands were soft, and smaller than the others. The person they belonged to leaned closer to me. I felt their warm breath tickle my cheek. “Dad?”

What… Lina…?

I heard many voices then, erupting all at once. I couldn’t keep up with them. The sounds came and went; it was as if someone was misusing the volume button. Whenever there was a rise in volume, a ringing noise erupted in my ears and a stabbing pain exploded in my head. I cringed, the pain sharp and fierce. I tried to raise my hands to cover my ears, but there were still people restraining my arms, pressing them into the mattress. Thankfully, the person hovering over me seemed to understand, and the big hands that were cradling my face moved down to cover my ears.

“Keep it down!” A low voice thundered, although it sounded muffled to me. The sudden silence that ensued was very welcoming on my part. For a moment I was sure I had fallen asleep again, but the fact that I still felt hands holding onto me, proved me otherwise. ... Just how many people were here?

The large hands cupping my ears released some of their pressure, before moving back to my cheeks. Instead of being controlling, they were more affectionate now. I felt rough thumbs stroking my cheekbones.

Richard?” A low voice floated through the darkness. A very familiar low voice. “Richard, can you hear me?” All I could do was swallow heavily, wishing there was actually a bit of saliva to swallow.

Richard, can you open your eyes?” Whoever was cradling my face gave it a gentle shake. “Come on Schölle, open your eyes.

Schölle…

Till used to call me that when we were younger.

I’ve always hated that name.



When Richard frowned at the familiar nickname he had never quite liked, the occupants in the room smiled knowingly. Even in a half-unconscious state, Richard didn’t approve of it. Lina lifted her father’s left hand and leaned her cheek against it, while Till continued patting the man’s face, albeit gently. “Richard? Hey. Richard.” The band felt a mixture of amusement and sympathy when the patting became a little more persistent.

The guitarist emitted a small noise, and tried to turn his head away from the annoying hands on his face, but Till didn’t release him. “Open your eyes and I’ll leave you alone.” The singer challenged seriously. Paul and Oliver shared an amused look. Leave it to Till to bully a coma patient back to the land of the living.

Besides, it seemed to be working too.

Richard’s eyelids were fluttering, but actually opening them seemed like an impossible task at the moment. Paul smiled down at him and released the grip he had on the man’s arms. “Keep trying Richard… You can do this.”



Despite the fact that my body was screaming at me to stop, I made another attempt to open my eyes. Every time I managed to open them to slits, they drooped back shut. It was frustrating. Thankfully, the big hands had stopped slapping me, although they were still holding on to my face.

“Keep trying Richard… You can do this.” Another familiar voice encouraged.

I’m not so sure about that, Paul...

“Dad… please wake up…” Hearing my daughter’s tear-thickened voice made my heart ache.

Oh god Lina… Lina… I’m so sorry… about all of this…

After what felt like the fiftieth attempt, I finally managed to open my eyes halfway. It wasn’t much, but it had to do. Just like last time, adjusting to the light took some time and effort. My eyes stung and kept watering up, limiting my eye-sight. All I could make out were blurry blobs, hovering over me.

The tall blob standing next to me, - the one that had been pressing my shoulders down, gave me a gentle squeeze before releasing me. “It’s okay Reesh… take your time…” The blob said as he straightened. It sounded like Schneider.

I tried to blink away the moisture from my eyes, but it wasn’t really helping. To my endless frustration and embarrassment, it kept spilling over, running down my cheeks. The big blob that was hanging over me, sandwiching my face between his hands, kept wiping them away with gentle strokes. I was grateful for that.

A smaller blob joined the bigger one, floating in my line of vision. “Dad… you’re back…” Lina was crying, I could hear it in her voice. The big blob that I suspected was Till, withdrew his hands from my face and before I knew what was happening, Lina threw her hands around my neck and hugged me. She did so carefully, but hell, even if she’d have knocked me to the ground it’d have been worth it. Some of Lina’s long hair tickled my face, and I inhaled the scent of her shampoo, welcoming the soothing effect it had on me. It smelled like home.

Lina was trembling as she held onto me. I wasn’t sure if she was crying because I was such a mess, or because I was awake. Without thinking, I tried to raise my dominant arm to console her, but stopped just in time when the painful jab reminded me what happened last time I tried to lift a finger. The pain made my breath hitch, and Lina pulled back immediately.

“Oh no, I’m sorry!” Lina exclaimed, releasing the hold she had on me.

No no no! It wasn’t you! I was being stupid!

I wish I could tell her.

As if Schneider read my mind, he spoke to her soothingly, “I don’t think it was you.” The blurry drummer then leaned over me, placing a very gentle hand on my shoulder. “Richard, you shouldn’t try to move, okay? It’ll get better over time, but for now, you need to keep still and rest.”

What’s wrong with me? What happened to me?

Licking chapped lips, I tried to communicate with my blurry visitors, but ended up opening and closing my mouth without uttering a sound.

What happened to my voice??

“Shhh Richard… Don’t rush things quite just yet.” Schneider said to me.

Why?! What the fuck happened to me?

I glanced around at the others, desperate for one of them to speak up and explain everything. I felt strangely isolated when they didn’t. All of a sudden, a white-cloaked blob joined the others, bending over so that his face was closer to mine. He had a young, soothing voice. “Mr. Kruspe? My name’s Doctor Bright. You’re at Philadelphia Central Hospital and you’re receiving the best medical care there is. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”

Really? … Somehow I doubt that.

“Can you move your left hand for me?” The doctor asked softly.

My… left hand? Which one is…? Why can’t I remember what’s left and right?!

Oh god! Oh fuck!

One of the machines above my head must’ve picked up on my distress, as it started to go ballistic, splitting my skull. The doctor-blob reached out a white sleeve, punching a button to silence it. He then returned his attention to me. “Calm down. It’s okay… Calm down…” Through my hazy vision, I tracked the white blob as he positioned himself next to me. He reached out a hand, folding it loosely around mine. “Can you squeeze my hand?” He asked.

Can I…? I- I don’t know.

My body felt like a stranger to me. It felt as if we had been separated for years. After a while though, I felt my fingers tingling as sensation returned to them. It felt strange to move them, but I did, folding them around the doctor’s hand. I wasn’t necessarily squeezing, but the doctor sounded buoyant anyway. “Good! Good. Now… I’ve got a few questions for you. Please squeeze my hand for ‘yes’, can you do that?”

I curled my fingers around his. It wasn’t much, but the doctor approved. “Alright. Are you feeling pain anywhere?” 

I don’t know… Not right now…?

I relaxed my hand. The doctor understood. “Good.” He mumbled, “That’s good. Do you know why you’re in the hospital?”

No…? No. No!

“It’s okay.” The white blob soothed. “We’ll work on that when you’re feeling better. Do you remember what you were doing here, in Philadelphia?”

Wait. What? No! What? Philadelphia? As in… the United States Philadelphia?? What the fuck?

I tried to remember. Everything. This place. I tried so hard. But the moment I started searching within my mind, I found myself running in circles, chasing black holes and brick walls.

Why can't I remember??

When the edges of my vision started whitening, the voices around me gradually faded away, as if they were distancing themselves from me. The blobs hovering over me seemed to merge into one hazy shape, wavering above my eyes like a big puff of smoke.

I was weakening, I could feel it. I didn’t want to fall asleep, because that’d mean I’d be all alone. All alone with my mind.

A mind filled with... with... black...

Chapter Text

{ A few days later… }

The book had a white cover, with a single red candle in the middle. Paul turned it over in his hands, reading the back with interest. It seemed to be a Scandinavian thriller of some sort, which happened to be Richard’s favorite genre. “Hey, Till? You think Reesh read this one already?” Paul called out to the broad man, waving the book at him. Till gave the book a fleeting glance from where he was browsing through a car magazine. “I don’t think he can read it.” The singer mumbled, returning his attention back to the glossy in his hands. Paul faltered. He had forgotten about Richard’s eye-sight, which had worsened considerably since the accident. They hoped it’d get better over time, but until then…

The small guitarist sighed in defeat, placing the book back on the shelf. He strolled through the small gift shop, hoping to find a more suitable item. Since any reading material wasn’t an option, what else was there? Stuffed animals, cards, scented candles, flowers, and, of course, the ceramic mugs with ‘get well’ wishes…

Why were hospital gifts so… cheesy?

Paul hovered at the candy booth, spotting a dark chocolate bar with chunks of hazelnut in it. Richard would devour it in a second, and Paul was very tempted to buy it for him, before reminding himself the younger guitarist wasn’t allowed any solid food yet. Till turned his head when he heard Paul release yet another sigh behind him.

“What are you looking for exactly?” The singer inquired while dropping the car magazine back on the pile he retrieved it from.

“… Something for Richard.” Paul mumbled, turning in a slow circle, taking in the colorful gifts around him without much enthusiasm.

Till glanced at him questionably. “Anything in particular you’re looking for?”

“Nah…” Paul shrugged, “I just want to bring him something… to keep his mind off of things, you know?”

Oh yes, Till did know.

Whereas at first, the band spent most of their time hoping Richard would return to them, they now spent their days distracting him from his own injuries. At the moment, it didn’t take too much effort, as Richard was still very weak and barely aware of anything, but everyone knew the black-haired guitarist was a curious creature by nature. How much longer could they protect him from the truth? None of them felt like lying to him, but, considering how serious his condition was, they also knew he wasn’t ready for a confrontation of that magnitude.

And quite frankly, neither were they.

Paul munched on his lower lip as he looked around, clearly uncomfortable with the idea of visiting his fellow guitarist empty-handed. Lowering his shoulders in defeat, Paul strolled towards the exit of the gift shop. He slowed his pace when he spotted a large collection of foil balloons, bundled together next to the shop window. There were some sparkly unicorns in there, along with a bunch of puffy flowers, some racecars, and… musical instruments. A guitar being one of them. It was a wonky version, really, but it was a guitar nonetheless.

Paul’s face fell. 

“Let’s head upstairs.” Till suggested softly, passing the quiet guitarist. “I think Lina’s already there.”



Ever since Richard had been transferred to a private room in the general recovery ward, the hallways were considerably more crowded when compared to the ICU ward. Various family members made good use of their visitor hours, while the medical staff hustled their various tasks, ranging from checking up on their patients, to delivering meals, and changing bed linen.

From beyond the activity, Paul and Till spotted Richard’s doctor, standing near the guitarist’s door, discussing something with two police officers. As they drew closer, Paul noticed one of them was a rather young guy, while the other one seemed oddly familiar. It was a bulky guy, with a dark beard.

“Hey, isn’t that Ed… Ed… something? Matt’s dad?” Paul muttered at Till, who had furrowed his eyebrows at the sight of them. “Seems like it…” Till mumbled suspiciously. Something wasn’t right. Till’s hunches were confirmed when the doctor’s voice floated to where they approached within hearing distance. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” The doctor sounded displeased. The unfamiliar police officer raised a hand to soothe the doctor’s concerns. “I understand that, but try to see it from our perspec-” When the young man caught sight of the approaching band members, he stopped talking abruptly.

The trio kept quiet until the two Germans joined them. Till subjected the two police officers with a stony look. “What’s going on?”

The unfamiliar police officer extended an enthusiastic hand towards Till. “My name’s Daryl, I’m with the Philadelphia Police Department.” When Till didn’t accept his hand, he faltered slightly, before moving over to Paul, who shook it politely. “Paul Landers. Hi.” The small guitarist mumbled.

“What are you doing here?” Till addressed the police officers coldly. Daryl seemed to be slightly intimidated by the singer’s attitude, but Ed was unfazed by it. After spending the last couple of months in the band’s company, however brief, he knew how protective they were of their guitarist, and, seeing what they had to go through, he understood their concerns.

“We’d like to ask Richard some questions.” Ed explained gently, knowing the band wouldn’t like it. As expected, Paul and Till shared a look of suspicion and concern. “What kind of questions?” Till asked darkly.

Daryl, although nervous, spoke up, “We need Mr. Kruspe to fill us in on what happened during the night of the explosion.”

“And you think now is the right time to do that?” Till challenged in disbelief. “Richard can barely talk, let alone give an official statement.”

“I understand that he’s still recovering…” Daryl spoke softly, “But we’ve been putting our investigation on hold for the past three months, and we can’t postpone it much longer. We need Mr. Kruspe’s statement to subject our suspect to a full and honest trial.”

Suspect?” Paul repeated in disbelief. “I thought that McCain-woman was charged guilty? Didn’t she confess?”

Daryl’s regret appeared to be genuine. “We all know she committed a high-scaled crime, but the court doesn’t work like that.”

“What does the court work like then?” Paul asked unhappily.

Daryl fidgeted with the strap of his messenger bag, but maintained eye-contact with the two German men in front of him. “They need both sides of the story. We have collected and analyzed Mrs. McCain’s statements, but now we need Mr. Kruspe to fill in the gaps.”

“I don’t think Richard can tell you anything remotely useful right now.” Till mumbled darkly, positioning himself between the officers and Richard’s door as if guarding it.

“I agree with Till.” Paul spoke solemnly. “Now is not the right time. Richard doesn’t even know the extent of his injuries yet. How is he supposed to fill you in on what has happened, when we’ve not yet filled him in on what happened?”

“Just let us talk to him.” Ed’s tone was final.



If I had to describe how my body’s feeling right now, it’d be drained… and stiff. No, scratch that, stiffer than stiff. Locked.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t help but think my spine had merged itself with the mattress I was lying on. My back has always been a weak spot, resulting in many restless nights in the past. Before discovering the benefits of running and doing yoga, I used to toss and turn a lot in my sleep, because the consequences were hell if I didn’t. It took the guys in the band a while to get used to it, especially when we shared a hotel room or tour bus together. My back just wasn’t made for lying on. Let alone lying supine for… god knows how long.

Just the idea of moving made me nervous right now, yet changing my position was something I was desperately craving. If only I could just… roll over onto my side for a moment, and give my aching back a well-needed rest, but I knew I couldn’t. Not without help…

An unusual feeling started to boil up within my gut. A feeling I haven’t experienced in quite some time.

Helplessness.

Inhaling and exhaling deeply through my nose, I tried to put a stop to the burning emotion, before it’d evolve into something bigger, and take over everything. The small breathing exercise seemed to diminish the feeling, but then… it gradually changed into something else.

Irritation.

Why were there still annoying tubes shoved into my nose?! Why was my right hand stinging like hell? Why was my neck wrapped in a plastic cast? Why did I feel so damned tired? And worst of all, I still didn’t understand why I was here. Nor did I know what happened.

I just… didn’t understand!

And no one’s telling me shit. Not even my own daughter, who’s been at my side the whole time, talking my ears off about all kinds of things… except for the things I so desperately want to know about. I carefully glanced to my left, watching her sitting next to me. Even through my hazy vision I could tell she looked terrible, as if she hadn’t slept in ages. I was worried about her, without knowing why.

I didn't know anything.

Lina didn’t seem to be aware of my judgmental stare, as she was quietly watching the screen of a laptop, which hovered above my stomach from where it had been placed on an adjustable rolling cart. Lina had brought along some movie as a surprise, claiming it was one of my favorites. The gesture was so sweet, I didn’t dare to tell her that I couldn’t really see it. Well... except for the flashy red and silver shapes, dancing around on the screen. I suspected it was an Iron Man movie though, as I heard the familiar voice of Robert Downey Jr., and the distinctive mechanical sounds of the Iron Man suits. I had seen the movie a thousand times already, but, seeing it here, in this room, made me appreciate it even more. Basically, it was the only thing in this room that didn’t feel out of place. It felt… familiar. Comforting. The movie was loud though. Whenever there was an explosive scene, it felt like someone stabbed me in the head. Thankfully, Lina had turned the volume down after the opening scene.

Why were my ears this sensitive to noise, though??

Pressing my lips into a firm line, I momentarily closed my eyes. Keeping them open was hurting my head. On the other hand, everything seemed to hurt my head right now.

I wish someone would tell me what’s going on.

Lina shifted her position next to me, her jeans brushing against her seat as she turned towards me. “Do you want to sleep?” She whispered gently. Cracking open my eyes, I glanced over at her. I licked dry lips before releasing a voice that sounded rough and hushed, and very unlike my own. “…Nein.”

“You sure? You look tired.” Lina reached over my chest to pause the movie. “We can watch it another time.” She suggested softly, giving me a small smile. I tried to return it, but I’m not sure if I did.

Now that the room was engulfed in silence, I heard people talking right behind the door of my room. At first I didn’t think anything of it, we’re in a hospital after all… but when I detected Till’s familiar baritone amongst them, me and Lina made eye-contact. We both kept quiet as the voices grew in volume and amount. I’m pretty sure Paul was there as well.  Who were they talking with? Why didn’t they come in? After a while, Paul’s voice floated through the door, but I could only pick up bits and pieces. “Richard doesn’t even…-… How is he supposed to… -…happened, when we’ve not yet…-...on what happened?”

I frowned when I heard them mentioning my name. Why were they talking about me, rather than to me? I knew I wasn’t capable of in-depth conversations right now, but the least they could do is face me. I risked a glance at Lina, who stared at the door, her expression dreadful. It increased when I heard an unfamiliar, dark tone coming from behind the door, ringing with authority, “Just let us talk to him.”

To my surprise, Lina jumped to her feet. “I’ll be right back.” Were her fleeting words as she hurried towards the door. I struggled to keep her in my line of vision, as I wasn’t really able to lift my head. From what I could see, Lina had sandwiched herself between the door and the doorjamb, addressing the men in the hallway in a reprimanding way. I tried to keep as still as I could, focusing all my attention on the discussion that was taking place in the hallway. My frustration grew when other people joined in, talking so quietly that it was impossible for me to overhear. Gritting my teeth in annoyance, I resisted the urge to throw the covers away, stalk over there, yank the door open, and subject them all to my finest glare, but I knew I was kidding myself. I couldn’t even roll over!

The discussion progressed. I had no idea what the problem was, but I could tell that my daughter was getting more and more distressed.

“Absolutely not!” She snapped at the men in the hallway. “It’s way too early!”

I frowned, feeling a surge of protective anger at the way the men were challenging my daughter. Ignoring the excruciating pains in my back and shoulder, I struggled to push myself up on my elbows. I couldn’t though, not really. My right arm felt like an empty sack of bones, and it was impossible to put any weight on it. It fucking hurt too. Instead, I shifted all of my weight to my left arm, the limb trembling under the strain.

I ignored it.

My right hand felt… strange.

The voices from beyond the doorway faded into background noise, while I lifted my right arm from under the covers. The skin on my upper arm was rough-looking. What the hell… Are those burns? How did I-

The rest of the blanket slipped away, revealing the rest of my arm, and subjecting my eyes to a very surreal sight. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was aware of the fact my eyes were registering something, but it felt like someone else was watching through them. It wasn’t me who was seeing this. It wasn’t my arm I was looking at either. It felt as if my body had disentangled itself into separate parts. While my eyes were seeing, my lungs were freezing, my stomach twisting, my chest contracting, my mouth gasping.

And my heart…? My heart was feeling.

Without warning, my left arm collapsed from underneath me, and I crashed back into the bed with an outraged cry. Struggling for air, I gasped at the white ceiling above me, becoming extremely light-headed. I was feeling so much. Too much. I didn’t know what to do with it, nor where to start.

A person jumped on my bed and wrapped their arms around my neck, hugging me tightly. I felt words vibrating against my chest, but they might as well have been voiceless. Nothing could overpower the aggressive beating of my heart. Through the rushing fear, I slowly became aware of hands stroking the back of my head. I then started hearing vague sounds, turning into mumbles, turning into words.

-s… ay…ts…ay… s…okay…It’s okay… It’s okay… It’s okay…”

The words were soft, and quivered with emotion. It dragged me back, albeit slowly. I then gradually became aware of Lina’s form, hovering over me and holding my face in her gentle hands. “It’s okay… It’s okay…” She kept repeating it, but the look on her face told me it was anything but okay. Tears were reddening her wide and fearful eyes, dripping on my chest. Overall, her face portrayed an emotion I could only describe as terror. It was intense, and it hurt me to see it. In fact, it hurt even worse than what happened to me.

It then dawned on me that I had seen it before. I had seen this before.

Back when Lina told me she wanted to study abroad, I… I remember being afraid for her. The dreams… - Something bad would happen to her if she’d go. I… I knew it, because I saw her, tormenting my dreams… crying… so scared…

Just like…

Just like this.

I stared at her, my mind reeling. Why did I see her the way I did? All I knew was that something was going to upset her… Terrify her.

Had... had I been the reason all along?

Chapter Text

Lina was afraid.

So very afraid.

It wasn’t her father’s body she feared of losing this time, but his mind. The moment she heard his gut-wrenching cry coming from the bed behind her, an instant feeling of dread washed over her. Her father must’ve taken a look at his arm... and what was left of it.

He knew. Oh god, he knew!

Without a second thought, Lina abandoned her position in the doorway and spun around, her eyes widening at the sight of her father lying flat on his back, wheezing at the space above him. She raced towards him and jumped on the bed, enveloping the trembling man in a tight embrace, hoping it’d be enough to drag him back from whatever dark place he was sinking into.

Till and Paul hurried in after her, with the doctor on their heels. The two police officers, Ed and Daryl, positioned themselves in the doorway of Richard’s room, feeling too invasive to come in, but too worried to leave. Also, Richard’s war cry had drawn some curious onlookers, which Daryl and Ed had no problem keeping away. It was a good excuse for them to stay close to Richard, as they both felt pretty guilty about what took place in the minute prior. Especially Ed, who had nothing but respect for the man in the bed. He wanted to help in one way or the other, but it seemed his appearance only made things worse. If they hadn’t insisted on talking to Richard, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

Paul’s eyes stung as he watched how shock had taken over Richard’s entire demeanor. The man was visibly shaking from where he was lying on his back, chest heaving. He didn’t even appear to notice his daughter was hugging him, and chanting comforting words at him. “It’s okay… It’s okay…It’s okay…” She kept repeating it, even though deep down, she knew nothing about this was okay. After a while, Lina pulled back slightly, to gauge her father’s reaction.

It was difficult to describe, really.

There was shock, obviously. And disbelief. Confusion. But there seemed to be more, buried beneath the surface. It was as if Richard’s soul had pulled back, retreating to the back of his mind. Maybe out of fear, maybe to dredge up any hidden memories... it was hard to tell.

Lina wished she could read his mind.

“Dad…?” Lina couldn’t keep the shaking out of her voice. Placing her hands on either side of his face, she searched his eyes, desperate for a connection. She wasn’t reassured by the way his constricted pupils pierced right through her, as if she was a ghost to him. “Dad… Please look at me…” To Lina's surprise and relief, Richard's eyes slowly moved down to meet hers. They had a glossy shine to them, but no tears escaped.

Lina had so much to say to him. She wanted to say she was sorry. That everything would be fine. That he was strong, and that they’d help him get through this. But for some reason, she stayed silent. Aside from his erratic breathing, her father kept quiet too.

A silent moment passed, in which Richard studied his daughter, who, in turn, studied him. No one in the room dared to interrupt the precious father-daughter moment, although Till and Doctor Bright hovered nearby, just in case. Paul kept his distance, unsure what to make of it.

Something in Richard’s face then seemed to shift, and an unexpected expression started to replace the initial portrayal of shock.

Relief.

Lina searched his eyes, feeling both curious and dreadful about what he was thinking. She braced herself when Richard’s chapped lips parted. “… Du bist sicher...” His whisper was so soft, if Lina hadn’t been so close to his face, she wouldn’t have picked it up.

You are safe...

Why would he…- why would he say something like that? Lina swallowed nervously, as a cold feeling crept up to her. Was it too late? Did she lose her father already?

Lina cleared her throat in an attempt to remove the tension that had taken residence there. “Yes… I’m safe…” She replied tightly. After a few seconds she added, “And so are you…”

Richard blinked slowly, before adverting his glassy eyes back to the ceiling. “… Nein…” He mumbled roughly, sounding uncharacteristically unsure of himself. There was obviously more he wanted to say, but he didn’t. His mouth opened and closed a few times, but in the end, he pressed his lips together and closed his eyes, hooded under a deep frown. The Germans in the room knew that look. It was Richard’s ‘thinking’ look. It was a welcoming change for Doctor Bright, but the three remaining Germans knew better.

Richard’s mind was a very tricky thing.

In the early days of recording albums together, the band learned that Richard’s brain was made out of two extremes. When inspired, it worked urgently, creatively, and with more dedication than all of the band members combined. But, when cornered, it’d be in a state of total chaos, doom, and despair. Flake had once jokingly said that Richard’s brain reminded him of a Rubik’s cube on steroids. It could either click, rotate, and connect different colors at rapid speed, or, it could strip away its colorful appearance entirely, and continue its crazy game to connect black sides only. And when you’re playing with an all-black Rubik’s cube, there’s no right and wrong anymore.

More often than not, the band suspected Richard liked his black cube more. After all, it was a game he could not lose.

Lina gave the others a helpless look, aware of the darkness that was brewing within the man lying in front of her. Till, who had been hovering at his surrogate daughter’s side, placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Let’s give him some space, alright?” He proposed quietly. Lina bit her lip in despair, not sure what would help and what would hurt. After a slight moment of hesitation, she accepted Till’s hand, and carefully climbed off the bed. Richard remained where he was, eyes closed, muscles tense. Till bended over him, covering the man’s left hand with his own. He didn’t want to pressure the guitarist into anything, so he waited, giving the younger man a moment to find his way back.

… If he ever would.

Doctor Bright stood at the opposite side of the bed, keeping a stern eye on his patient without touching him. Subjecting him to a full examination wasn’t a smart thing to do right now. Besides, aside from the man’s soaring heartrate, the other vitals looked pretty good, considering. Bright was more concerned about this man’s inner workings, and he had a feeling the others were too. Till and the doctor momentarily made eye-contact, but didn’t interact.

Everyone in the room waited, silently.

After a few minutes, Richard’s breathing slowed down. Rather than being stuck in his seemingly endless loop of despair, he slowly blinked himself back to awareness. An air of defeat hung around him.

“Schölle?” Till’s deep baritone seemed to draw Richard’s attention, and their eyes met, although Till wasn’t sure if the guitarist would listen to him. He still appeared to be a bit… spaced out. The broad singer leaned forward, speaking slowly and clearly, “What can I do to help?”

The guitarist took in a shuddering breath and looked away, his eyes a little… full. “I don’t know…” He confessed, his speech slurred. The poor guy must’ve been exhausted. Till offered him a reassuring smile, but it couldn’t seem to hide his concern, no matter how hard he tried. “That’s okay… we’ll talk later. Try to get some sleep.”

Till gave the guitarist’s hand a gentle squeeze, and was about to release it, when Richard’s hand grabbed his. The grip wasn’t strong, but there was a desperateness in the move, which made the broad singer freeze where he stood. “Richard?” Till wasn’t sure what the guitarist was trying to communicate. The look Richard was giving him was intense and dreadful. Till felt his concern intensify when Richard drew in a sharp breath, and focused all of his attention on the space at Till’s left. The singer followed his stare, and glanced beside him.

There was nothing there.

Till looked back at his friend, his brows drawn together in a puzzled frown. “What’s going on? … Richard?”



“What’s going on? … Richard?” Till sounded really concerned. I ignored him, there was something more important that was drawing my attention.

A dark figure.

Standing on Till’s left.

Through my failing eye-sight, I couldn’t really make out who it was. When the figure leaned slightly towards me, I noticed the dark-haired Mohawk, and his sharp, blue eyes. My breath hitched in my throat.

“Focus.” It told me. It sounded like me. It looked like me.

It was me.

Why was I seeing myself? This is really fucked up.

My doppelganger snorted in response, as if he heard my thoughts. “Trust me, there are bigger issues to deal with right now.”

I stared at him. Were the others seeing him too? Judging by how I felt everyone’s eyes on me, and not on him, they didn’t seem to acknowledge the unexpected visitor.

Are you real? Is any of this even real?

"That's not relevant." My copy said with a frustrated huff. "I need you to focus. Your thoughts are a bigger mess than your body right now.”

What’s- what’s that supposed to mean?!

The copy ignored my silent protest, and continued sternly, “You need answers. Answers will clear things up."

I need… answers.

Answers…

Is it normal that I’m seeing myself? Am I going insane?

Focus!” My doppelganger hissed, snapping his fingers at me. “You can do much better than that.”

My god, am I always this annoying?  

“What really matters…” The figure continued with a roll of his eyes, “…is what happened to you. Do you even know what happened to you?" At my complete and utter silence, he exclaimed, "Think! THINK!”

Okay! Okay! I was… I was… uhh… I must’ve been…

I dug deep.

It didn’t matter though.

No matter what I tried, my memories came out blank.

My breathing started picking up.

“Calm down.” My doppelganger told me sternly. “Start with what you do know.”

All I know is that…some… -something happened to… my arm…? I saw some burns… and… and…

Oh- oh god…

It’s not really gone, is it?

“I can’t really answer that for you.” My doppelganger mumbled expressionlessly.

Well neither- … neither can I. And I was afraid to look.

The amount of oxygen I was sucking in made me feel lightheaded. Several people were leaning over me now, trying to gain my attention by talking to me. Touching me. I couldn’t seem to focus on them, even though I wanted to. I needed them to assure me it was all a dream. A nasty, cruel dream.

The burning pain I was feeling in my right hand proved me otherwise.

My right hand was hurting.

How could it hurt… when it wasn’t even there?

IT WASN’T EVEN THERE!!

My vision blurred with tears. I knew I was losing it, but I couldn’t help myself.

GOD this room is WHITE.

My head started to throb. It was working on full capacity now, like an engine that was dangerously close to overheating. I tried to make sense of things. The room I was in, the people that were swaying within my vision, my arm, my body, my past, my future, my present... It was exhausting, and quite frankly, impossible to make sense of everything.

What happened to me?! Where did my arm go?? Why can’t I remember? Why can’t I-

My doppelganger released an annoyed growl. "No you dimwit. See? This is what happens when you don't focus. You're not present.” The figure's facial expression turned dark. "The answers you are looking for…” He leaned even closer to me. “… are about to be kicked out of this room."

I snapped my attention back to the activity that was taking place around me. Everything was spinning, and the white… - GOD DAMNIT why was it so white in here?? Still, I could make out the all-too familiar white blob standing on my right, motioning his arms at the others. The doctor was trying to make them leave! It enraged me.

No one’s leaving!! Not like this!

I tried to tell them. I really did.

Unfortunately for me, I felt myself sinking away, in the bedding or in the dark pits of hell. I couldn’t dredge up the effort to find the difference.

In any case, it burned.

Chapter Text

Paul slowly blinked at the E-reader lying on his lap. He had been staring at the thing for such a long time, that it had switched itself to standby mode a while ago. It didn’t really matter. After making several attempts to read his freshly-purchased novel, Paul grew tired of reading the same line over and over again, the words unable to register.

His mind wasn’t feeling like it, so it seemed.

Paul sighed, finally surrendering to his exhaustion. He flipped the cover shut, before stuffing the device into the duffel bag that rested underneath his seat. The uncomfortable piece of plastic squeaked annoyingly as he moved. He hated the chairs in this hospital. They were the crappiest pieces of furniture he had ever sat on, and that also included the toilets he encountered on tour. On numerous occasions, Paul toyed with the idea of buying a bunch of recliners from the nearby Ikea store, and dumping them in Richard’s room. The nurses wouldn’t thank him for it, but the band most certainly would!

Paul zipped his bag shut, before leaning back in the chair, crossing his legs lazily in front of him. He stared at his boots for a while, lost in thought.

Must be… a boring book.” The weak, but oh-so familiar voice made Paul jerk upright in his seat. “Richard!” Paul exclaimed in surprise. The dark-haired guitarist had turned his head a little, the neck brace limiting his movement, but he was glancing at his visitor nonetheless.

Paul scooted his chair closer to the bed, beaming at his fellow guitarist. After Richard’s panic attack this morning, no one could predict when he’d wake up again, and, more importantly, in what kind of state he’d be in. Judging by the full spoken sentence, although still weak, Richard seemed to be more responsive than he was before. Paul hadn’t expected this to happen, but was delighted to see it.  

“You sneaky bastard!” Paul grinned, “How long were you spying on me?”

Richard gave a half shrug, sparing his right shoulder. Paul leaned forward, clasping his hands together on his lap. He studied his friend’s face for a moment, feeling a pang of regret to see it so worn out. On the other hand, Paul suspected he didn’t look much better himself. Richard’s condition affected all of them, in one way or the other.

“How’re you feeling?” Paul asked carefully. It was a question he hated to ask, as it was pretty obvious Richard was feeling quite terrible. And yet, Paul wanted to hear it from him. He could help his friend better if he knew where to focus his attention on.

Richard breathed in deeply, before looking away. When no answer was forthcoming, Paul decided to change his question. “Are you in pain?”

Richard released the deep breath he was holding, looking troubled. Paul started to feel uncomfortable by his friend’s silence. This wasn’t like Richard. At all.

“The doctor gave you a little something extra this morning, to fight the pain.” Paul explained carefully, not sure if Richard would appreciate the amount of drugs in his system. “Is it working okay? Do you think you need another dose?”

Richard shook his head slightly.

Paul couldn’t help but notice he still looked troubled. Of course, the man had every reason to do so. But right now, there seemed to be something else weighing down on him, and Paul was determined to find out what it was.

“Is there anything I can do?” Paul asked quietly.

A slight tremor ran through Richard’s body. He seemed to be nervous of something.

“You can tell me.” Paul encouraged, leaning a bit closer.

I just…” Richard turned miserable eyes to his fellow guitarist, the volume of his voice fading in and out. “I just need… to move… My back…” To demonstrate his discomfort, Richard squirmed in his bed, wincing when his body disagreed with the sudden movement.

Paul hung his head for a moment, sighing in sympathy. With everything that had happened, he hadn’t spared the man’s back any thought. He had forgotten about it, actually. Richard’s chronic back pains had been a big problem for years. Add in the severe impact of being thrown to the ground, and lying flat on his back for months on end… Yes, Paul could imagine it was hurting like hell. Even with the substantial amount of painkillers provided to him.

“I’m afraid we can’t really move you, Reesh…” Paul said apologetically. “But, maybe we can turn you on your side? Would that help?”

The hopeful widen of Richard’s eyes spoke volumes. Paul smiled, and pushed himself to his feet. When confronted with Richard’s weakened form however, he hesitated. His hands lingered above his friend’s chest, unsure if he could pull this off without hurting him more than he already was.

“Uhhm… Okay… uh… how about, we… uhh… Okay… here we go…” Paul carefully slipped his hands around Richard’s torso, sliding them behind his back. “One, two…!" With a small grunt, Paul pulled his fellow guitarist towards himself, in what appeared to be a clumsy, but firm, hug. “F-uck!” Richard cursed sharply, trembling heavily in Paul’s hold. “I’m sorry!” Paul yelped. He contemplated pushing his friend back to his former position, but remembered how hopeful Richard had looked initially. Paul decided to do this as quick and careful as he could. Gently, but powered with determination, Paul turned his friend on his left side and lowered him back on the mattress. The younger guitarist wasn’t making a sound, but his wide eyes and rapid breathing pattern told Paul everything he needed to know.

Giving Richard a moment to find his breath, Paul fussed over the blanket that had slipped to the floor during the change of position. After picking it up, he noticed a tight piece of fabric, wrapped around Richard’s right knee. Paul suspected it to be a protection of an old injury Richard suffered in the past. From underneath it, a burn ran down the man’s calf, staining his entire foot as well. The burned areas weren’t as angry-looking as the one on his shoulder, but they looked painful nonetheless.

Paul inwardly winced, feeling his mind tugging at his memories. Before he could stop it, one unfolded itself with painful clarity. Two stadium officials were hauling a body in between them, crossing the ash-covered parking lot with urgent steps. Once inside the narrow corridors of the Newalls Dome, the body was lowered to the floor. Water bottles were uncapped and poured over the figure. Paul felt dazed. He couldn’t recall if he had been assisting the crew, but he did remember passing along a bunch of water bottles. He also remembered feeling water drip down his hands. On second thought… was that even water? Wasn’t it that other substance, which was surrounding the man like a vicious cape, staining the shoes of the people around him?

Paul growled when his eyes started to sting, and rubbed his face aggressively. He hated how persistent and stubborn this memory was. He wholeheartedly wished he could get rid of it, but it was like stepping on chewing gum. No matter how much you’d poke at it, it would always be a sticky and cruel reminder. Paul pinched his nose, feeling the first signals of stress throbbing inside his skull.

He didn’t realize Richard was watching him.

Paul?” The younger guitarist whispered uncertainly.  Paul forced his memories to the back of his mind, and returned to the task at hand, fiddling with the blanket. He couldn’t keep his hands from shaking. “Hey, yeah, sorry. I was just thinking. Sorry.” He blabbered distractedly while covering the younger guitarist back up. He pulled the blanket all the way over his right shoulder and arm, which was still secured in a brace. Paul felt his insides twist at the sight of it.

Richard was surprisingly lucid, taking notice of the subtle emotions on his friend’s face. “Does… does it look bad?”

Paul didn’t dare to meet his eyes. He wanted to voice his thoughts, but decided against it.

It’s like you’re falling apart in front of our very eyes, Reesh.

“It’s… I’m sure it’ll heal.” Paul mumbled vaguely, securing the blanket on both ends. Afterwards, the smaller guitarist sat himself back down shakily. Richard looked on the verge of falling asleep. Paul suspected it was the morphine kicking in, and secretly hoped the man would surrender to it. Stubborn as he was, however, Richard forced himself to stay awake. He gave Paul a grateful look. “Thanks…” He was obviously referring to the change of position.

“You’re welcome.” Paul replied with a small smile. “Is it better like this?”

“Uhuh…” Richard’s eyelids were drooping, but he kept fighting it. Paul crossed his arms, shaking his head in amused disbelief. “Richard, seriously, go to sleep.”

“I don’t want to…” The younger guitarist whispered.

“Why not?”

Richard forced his eyes to open, but kept quiet. Paul wasn’t sure if he was contemplating an answer, or ignoring the question in the first place. Judging by his response, it seemed to be the latter.

“Till and Lina…” Richard mumbled drowsily, “Where’re they?”

Paul’s eyebrows rose at that. He was surprised Richard could even recall who were in his room this morning. “They went downstairs to have some dinner. I expect them back any moment.”

Richard frowned slightly. “Dinner…?” Straining his neck, the younger guitarist tried to glance at the window behind Paul. In turn, Paul glanced behind him, seeing nothing but a darkening sky and city lights peeking through the blinds. He turned back to look at his friend, who was growing increasingly uncomfortable about something.

“What’s wrong?” Paul asked in barely concealed concern, wondering if Richard was about to have another weird panic episode. This morning, Richard had been staring at an empty spot in his room for minutes on end, before totally freaking out, hyperventilating, and losing consciousness. It had been a scary thing to witness, and none of them hoped they’d ever see it again.

“Reesh?” Paul tried to keep his voice from shaking. He hated to admit it, but sometimes… it felt like he really did lose his friend out there. This wasn’t Richard anymore. It was a different version. A hurt, unsteady, and unpredictable version.

Richard kept staring at the window with cloudy eyes, his mind drifting. Paul gave him a few minutes to figure things out, but when Richard’s breathing started picking up, in what Paul assumed was distress, the smaller guitarist decided to intervene. “Richard!” Paul’s alarmed exclamation startled the other guitarist enough to drag him back. Paul was only slightly relieved when they made eye-contact again.

“You still here?” Paul asked sternly. Richard nodded somewhat. It was a distracted nod, but Paul was happy with any response right now.

“Where did it go?” Richard asked him suddenly. There was an urgent tone to his voice.

Paul cocked his head in confusion, a cold feeling creeping up to him. This version of Richard was so… disturbingly random sometimes. “What do you mea-”

“How long have I… have I been out?”

Before Paul could answer, Richard pointed a shaky finger at the window, “The sun was there. It was right there!” There was a sharp edge to his voice.

Paul raised his hands, speaking softly and slowly, “Richard, please calm down… You´ve been asleep for a few hours, it´s no big deal, okay?”

Richard raised his hand to rub his eyes. He mumbled something, but Paul had no idea what he was saying. He leaned closer to the bedridden guitarist. “What?”

Richard lowered his hand, giving Paul a dark look. “It is a big deal… Every time I-” The dark-haired guitarist stopped himself for a moment, swallowing painfully. Paul was about to suggest to continue their conversation another time, when Richard already struggled on, “Every time… I close- close my fucking eyes… t-time… time changes.

“I understand that…” Paul said soothingly, observing his friend quietly. Richard looked way too stressed out. This was not good, especially for a man in his condition. A man who had to take things very very easy. Licking his lips nervously, Paul continued, “Look, Richard… your body is recovering from some major injuries. It’s understandable you’re sleeping a lot right now. Maybe it’d be wise for you to get some rest now, too? I can wake you up if Till and Lina are back, if you want?” Paul gave his friend a hopeful smile, congratulating himself on redirecting Richard’s attention away from his stress-induced concerns. Unfortunately for him, Richard was more observant than he had given him credit for.

Major injuries…?” Richard whispered with a confused frown. Paul started fidgeting in his seat, realizing his mistake. He refused to meet Richard’s eyes, which were squinting at him. “I know I’m… I’m m-missing my arm…, what else do I… need to know…?” Richard’s voice shook. Paul wasn’t sure if it was out of anger or fear.

“Richard, listen…”

“NO! You LISTEN!” Richard snapped tightly, his sudden outburst straining his vocal chords. “Why is no one… no one… telling me… fucking… I deserve… deserve to kn- ow…” Somewhere mid-sentence, Paul had risen from his seat in alarm. While he was glad Richard was finally releasing some well-buried emotions, he wasn’t too thrilled about his friend hurting himself in the process. The man had grown several shades paler, and it sounded like he couldn’t get enough air in.

“Richard, take it easy. Please…” Paul tried to sound calmer than he actually felt. “Once you’re a bit stronger, we will tell you everything you need to know, I promise.”  The absolutely devastated look Richard was sending him, made Paul lean closer towards him. “I promise.” He emphasized sternly.

Richard started shaking his head, his chest rising and falling at a rapid rate. “I don’t… I don’t understand… H- how … can…can you…” When Richard’s heart monitor started beeping frantically, Paul inched his hand towards the alarm button that hung next to the bed. He was about to push it, but froze when Richard turned full eyes his way. “Paul… Paul… Ple-ase… help me…”

Paul felt his heart plummet. He had never ever heard Richard pleading for help before. Not with him, or anyone else for that matter.

He looked so… lost.

Before Paul could do or say anything, the door to Richard’s room burst open. Doctor bright hurried inside, a nurse on his heels.

“What’s going on?” Bright demanded, silencing the heart monitor and unwrapping the stethoscope from his neck. Paul needed a moment to find his voice; he hadn’t been prepared for the doctor’s sudden entrance. “I… I don’t know…” Paul confessed. “He was getting upset about something.”

Doctor Bright growled under his breath. “How many times do I have to say it? This man needs undisturbed rest.”

“I was just trying to help!” Paul defended mournfully.

The doctor ignored his statement, focusing all of his attention to the curled up man on the bed, who was struggling to inhale. “Did you turn him on his side?”

Paul nodded uncertainly, sensing the doctor’s disagreement. “He asked me to. He said his back was hurting him, and then I remembered he used to have back problems… so I thought it’d be better if he… well…” Paul trailed off when Bright clicked his tongue in disapproval. “I understand your decision, but it’s better if he stays on his back.” Before either Paul or Richard could object, the doctor was already turning his patient to his previous position. Richard moaned in silent protest and made a weak attempt to push the doctor’s hands away, but ended up on his back nonetheless.

“Mr. Kruspe.” Bright leaned over him, speaking slowly to make sure Richard was paying attention. “I understand you want to spare your back, but lying on your side is putting way too much strain on your midsection. You’ll breathe much easier on your back.”

Richard mumbled some things that neither Bright nor Paul could distinguish, but he obviously wasn’t happy. Bright ignored the man’s unintelligible complaints, and put his stethoscope’s to work, listening intently to his patient’s heartbeat and lung capacity. As much as Paul felt sorry for his friend, he had to admit he seemed to be breathing a whole lot easier, now that he was on his back again.   

After some moments of quiet examination, the doctor pulled the stethoscope from his ears and draped the device back over his shoulders. He leaned back on his heals, inspecting the machines above the bed. While doing so, he addressed the brown-haired nurse standing next to him. “Lilly, can you fetch an extra pillow for Mr. Kruspe here?” The nurse, who had been checking up on Richard’s fluid bags, nodded. “Of course!” While she padded away to the nearby cabinet, the doctor addressed Paul with a soft mumble. “May I have a word with you in private?” Paul nodded, following the doctor to the other side of the room. They kept their voices down, to make sure Richard wouldn’t eavesdrop on their conversation. “If I may ask… What were you discussing that was upsetting him this much?” Bright asked seriously. Paul tensed up, but crossed his arms to hide it. “He wants to know what happened to him. And to be honest, I’m sick and tired of withholding things from him.”

Paul and the doctor watched how Lilly helped Richard in a slightly more upright position, propping him up. The small movement seemed to leave Richard depleted. He leaned back into the pillows and closed his eyes. Reassured his nurse was keeping an eye on him, Bright turned to Paul.  “We’ve talked about this before, Mr. Landers.” The doctor started sternly. “When someone experiences a traumatic event, especially one of this proportion, the brain can sometimes erase the memories in order to deal with the trauma in its own time. It’s a brilliant protective mechanism.”

Paul didn’t share the doctor’s fascination for the human mind. “Yeah, well, it’s also super stressful for him. I think we should give him something.” 

“Forcing his memories back would be a mistake.” The doctor argued sternly. “Chances are he will relive the trauma all over again. It will harm him on a deep, mental level.” 

“And this isn’t?” Paul whispered, motioning his head to the tense man in the bed. “Imagine waking up in a strange hospital, with a missing arm, second-degree burns, and no recollection of what happened.”

The doctor looked like he wanted to object, but Paul continued, “Imagine being surrounded with people... your friends… your family… - people you trust – keeping you in the dark. Imagine how… lonely you’d feel.”

Both men kept quiet for a moment, hearing soft murmurs coming from the bed. Richard and the nurse were discussing something. “Okay, but if you need anything, you let me know, okay?” Lilly asked him softly, rearranging some of his blankets. Richard nodded, his eyes still closed. Doctor Bright frowned at his pale complexion. Despite the extra pillow, he didn’t seem to be comfortable at all. Doctor Bright gave Paul an apologetic look, abandoning their conversation to focus back to his patient. “Mister Kruspe? I understand your back is bothering you, but how can we-”

“When can I… go home?” Richard whispered. It sounded like he was on the verge of falling asleep, his eyes unable to open. Taking advantage of his sleepy state, the doctor decided to keep his answer vague on purpose. “You need some time to recover, but then, you can go home.”

Recover from what?” Richard sounded surprisingly perceptive for a man on the brink of sleep.

The doctor and Paul momentarily made eye contact, both radiating unease. “I’m sorry, but we can’t tell you right now.” Bright said gently.

Why not?” The question was sharp. Demanding.

When the doctor didn’t answer straight away, Richard forced his eyelids to cooperate. He glared up against the two men standing on each side of his bed, although he seemed more confused than angry. “Why wouldn’t you… tell me…?” Richard’s half-lidded eyes stared into space for a while, looking a bit lost. “How bad could it possibly be?” He barely whispered.

All of a sudden, the last bit of color drained from his face. He snapped his eyes towards Paul, wide with an unexpected hint of terror. “Did I… did I do something?” His voice quivered. “Because… if I… did… I need to…to…-”

The doctor and Paul shared a look of concern. They didn’t like the route Richard’s mind was taking him. Paul leaned over him, shaking his head vehemently. “No no no, Reesh… No, you didn’t do anything.”

“Then why…” Richard trailed off, his breathing pattern borderlining on hysteria. “This morning… I saw… there were… police officers in my room…” His voice sounded really tight, as if his throat had narrowed itself.

Paul gave the doctor a stunned look, before focusing back on his friend. “You noticed that?”

Instead of answering Paul’s question, Richard turned stricken eyes his way. “Oh my god… Did I hurt anyone?

Paul felt his insides grow cold. “No! Reesh, no, why would you-”

“Mister Kruspe, I really need you to calm down.” Doctor Bright interrupted sternly, giving his nurse a meaningful glance. Lilly nodded at his unspoken request, but looked regretful. Paul wasn’t sure what the two of them were communicating, but it must’ve something to do with a needle Lilly started to unpack. Paul didn’t want them to sedate his friend again. It felt unfair to him. Richard was upset. He needed their help, not a needle jammed in his arm.

On the other hand, the younger guitarist wasn’t doing too well. He was almost hyperventilating now.

“I did… didn’t I? Why else would… would you-“ Richard was clutching his blanket against his chest, his eyes darting around in panic.

“Richard, listen to me!” Paul begged. “You didn’t hurt anyone. You’ve got to believe me.”

Richard didn’t look convinced. If anything, he seemed to be getting more distressed with each passing minute. Paul hung his shoulders in defeat, wishing he could tell him every little detail, but he knew he couldn’t. He felt torn between two worlds.

Doctor Bright had positioned himself next to his nurse, a few feet away from the bed. He watched the two guitarists interact with each other, although it didn’t seem to be helping either of them. Especially Richard, whose stress-levels were off the charts. Bright contemplated his options. He needed his patient to calm down, but… he had a feeling sedating him wasn’t the solution here. Maybe…

Maybe Paul was right.

Lilly stood on the doctor’s left, needle at ready. She waited for Bright’s instructions, but they didn’t seem to be coming. “Doctor?” Lilly’s quiet inquiry pulled Bright out of his musings. He rubbed a hand over his mouth, contemplating his options. After a while, he cleared his throat. “Lilly, we’re done here. Thank you.” His nurse looked at him strangely. “But-”

“We’re done.” The doctor empathized, waving the nurse away. Lilly didn’t feel offended by her boss’ sudden dismissal, but shot him a questioning look nonetheless. While disposing of her instruments, she glanced at her patient. Richard looked… haunted, for a lack of better word. His eyes were darting across the ceiling. Lilly could only wonder what kind of horror scenarios he was exploring. She felt bad for him, and could tell the other two men in the room shared her concern.

Bright cleared his throat, turning to Paul. “Mr. Landers... You’ve got my permission to try and trigger some of your friend’s memories. I wish we could assist you, but we’ve got other patients to attend to.” The doctor leaned slightly closer to the short guitarist, mumbling quietly, “Again, be careful. Don’t force anything.”

Paul nodded slowly, his mind racing. “I’ll… think of something.”

Bright smiled encouragingly, clasping the short guitarist on the shoulder. “You know him better than I do. I’m sure you’ll be able to help him.”

Paul nodded distractedly, not really registering any of his words. He didn’t even realize the doctor was leaving the room, Lilly following. Right before closing the door behind her, Lilly spoke softly, “Call the emergency button if you need us, okay?”

“Yeah, okay. Thanks.” Paul muttered absent-mindedly. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard the door shut.

It all came down to him now.

Paul munched on his lower lip for a moment. Richard had closed his eyes again, but, judging by the tense muscles that pulled at his face, he wasn't sleeping. Paul could tell the man’s thoughts were getting darker and darker with each passing second.

He needed to help him, right now.

Paul rubbed at his face. What should he do? Should he just tell him everything? Would Richard even believe him if he did? It had been such a crazy night, how could he show him what actually happened without sounding like a complete...

Paul halted suddenly, lowering his hands from his face when his exhausted brain finally connected the dots. Reaching into his back pocket, Paul pulled out his phone. Even though Rammstein really didn’t appreciate their fans recording the entirety of their shows, Paul had to admit he was thankful for the hundreds of people who did, that final night.

After some scrolling and searching, Paul found the video he was looking for. Kneeling down next to Richard’s form, he held the phone in front of his friend’s face.

“Reesh?” Paul breathed at the motionless, but rigid face.

“Reesh, I need to show you something.”

Chapter Text

Empty seats.

Thousands of empty seats.

I shifted my eyes down, resting them on the empty floor. A floor too large to be empty.

For the first time in years I felt unnerved by the sheer size of it all. I felt… scared? Almost?

Why though? For over 20 years, we’ve performed at venues like this. Why am I feeling nervous about it now? What’s wrong with me?

A soft voice floated through my thoughts. “Listen… Richard, if you’re not feeling up to it, we should cancel tonight’s show.”

I jerked my head towards my guitar technician, who had positioned himself in front of me. I used to be slightly taller than him, but right now, he seemed to be looming over me. I felt myself glare at him. “What are you talking about?”

You.” Lukas told me sharply, “If you can’t focus, it’s not safe for anyone to be up there tonight.” He jerked his head into the direction of the heavily pyro equipped stage.

I bristled in anger. How dare he suggest I’d put anyone in harm’s way?

“We’re not canceling anything.” I snapped back at him. “I’m perfectly capable of playing this show.”

“Are you sure?”

Yes. I’m sure.” I hissed, before stalking away. Somehow I knew he was rolling his eyes at me, but I couldn’t bring myself to care.

My jaws tightened as I kept on walking, feeling a mixture of anger and fear swirl through me. I wasn’t even sure who I was mad at, nor what I was scared of, even. All I knew was that the feeling was there.

That stupid, useless fucking feeling.

I hated it.

Paul was the first one in the band who discovered it, after I warned him about some car. To this day, I still don’t know where that came from. The moment we bumped into each other, I felt something going on with a car, and Paul’s desire to own it. I just knew something was wrong with that combo. I just… knew.

Ever since then, he and the guys shared the belief that, on some strange level, I had physic abilities.

That is, until we started recording albums together.

With every string I touched, a deep sense of uncertainty drilled through me. It warned me I needed to do better. The band needed me to do better. The world needed me to do better.

The feeling was as clear as day. I knew I could trust it. After all, it couldn’t be that wrong, could it? The band waved it off as anxiety, but I knew better. Anxiety felt... different.

Before I realized what I was doing, I became obsessed with reaching the unreachable. That one perfect note. That one perfect pitch. I started buying more guitars. More pedals. More microphones. I needed to catch the sound dragon, I knew it was out there somewhere. I just… knew.

The band learned that, whenever I was in one of these ‘moods’ again, they just had to let me be. I couldn’t simply switch myself off.

On many occasions I wished I could.

When Lina told me about her plans to study abroad, I tried to keep her from going, because I had a bad feeling about it. No, let me rephrase that; I tried to stop her from following her dreams, because I had bad dreams. Bad dreams. I mean, come on, that’s just…

Pathetic.

I huffed, before taking notice of the fact that I had stopped walking. Without being aware of it, I had wrapped my hands around something cold and sleek. The moment I realized it was a handle of an emergency exit, I jerked them back as if burned by it. Breathing harshly, I staggered back a few feet, staring at the red steel door in front of me. It carried the venue’s name, as well as a collection of large, neon yellow stickers, yelling; “ONLY OPEN IN CASE OF EMERGENCY!”, and “PRESS DOWN TO TRIGGER ALARM”, and “WARNING! NO EXIT!”. The longer I stared at them, the faster my heart started to jump up and down in my chest. I covered my face with my hands, breathing rapidly into my palms.

Jesus Richard.

Get a fucking hold of yourself.

I’m not sure how long I stood there, but when a large hand descended on my shoulder, I resisted the urge to smack it away. Instead, I tensed up and confronted the impatient face of our drummer.

“I’ve been looking all over for you! It’s time! Let’s go!” Schneider stressed while striding further down the corridor, his coat flapping behind him dramatically. When he noticed I wasn’t following him, he beckoned me over with an annoyed growl. “Come on!” Forcing myself to move, I trailed after him with uncertain steps. I wanted to ask him where we were going, but… then I didn’t need to anymore. Everything was vibrating around me, which I recognized as the undeniable burst of energy only big audiences can summon. You feel it in the floor, in your body. Twenty five thousand people, screaming in joyful anticipation? Hell, you feel it everywhere.

I followed Schneider silently, wondering when the venue had opened its doors. It had been still empty the last time I looked. Before I could give it any more thought, we reached the end of the corridor. The rest of the band was there, all dressed up into their familiar costumes, make-up, and grime. Tiny glasses of strong-smelling tequila were passed around, which I accepted with shaking hands.

Wait a second.

We only took these shots right before hitting the stage, but that means…  Crap, I need more time! I haven’t changed into my stage outfit yet! There’s no way I’ll perform in my red training suit! That’s just-

I looked down, my mouth sagging open when my eyes landed on the familiar black shirt, black pants, black coat, and red belts, tightly hugging my frame.

When the fuck did I-

“PROST!” The five guys in front of me exclaimed loudly, clinking their glasses with eager grins. Confused, I joined in. What other choice did I have? I downed the glass, feeling the familiar burn slide down my throat.

Time sped up after that.

Lukas handed me my guitar, and the others geared up as well. Right before we stepped on stage, Paul and I made eye-contact. It looked like he wanted to ask me something, but there was no time.

It was show time.


During the first few songs, I felt dazed. Thankfully, my performance wasn’t suffering from it; I could play these songs in my sleep, if I needed to.

A large group of fans at the barrier tried to get my attention by shouting my name, and waving their hands at me. Most of them were ladies, some of them nearly fainting when I finally looked down at them. I had forgotten how good that felt. Not the fainting part, obviously, but the attention I was getting. I wasn’t desperate for it, but I couldn’t deny it felt good.

I’ve always been a firm believer that attention equals energy. If you focus your attention on, let’s say, mastering a skill, you’ll give it energy. If you focus your attention on your lover, you’ll give this person your energy. If thousands of people focus their attention on six Germans on a stage, that’s where their energy will go.

It’s an amazing feeling.

Despite the crazy day I’ve had, I felt a smile tug at my lips at the sight of the crowd in front of me. They were beautiful.

A journalist once asked me how much of the audience I could actually see from my position on stage. He was surprised to hear we could actually see a lot. Not the people in the back, unfortunately, but the middle and front… yeah, that’s doable. I guess most people don’t realize the lights aren’t just trained on us, they’re also dancing over the sea of heads in front of us. I’ll never get tired of seeing people sing along to our songs, and how their eyes lit up whenever our stage erupts in flames. We’re entertainers. It’s our job to make these people feel good.

… Which made it all the more disturbing to see one woman weeping hysterically.

It’s not uncommon to see a fan in tears, but this… this was different. The woman was standing in the middle of the crowd, a bit at the back, but close enough for me to spot her. I couldn’t make out her facial features all that well, but I could tell she wasn’t just moved by something; she was darkly upset. Her behavior was unusual, and therefor noticeable.

The woman kept wiping away her tears, all the while looking down, fumbling with something. I kept my eyes trained on her while I played, wondering why she was so sad… and why she was here in the first place. Judging by the fact that no one was taking notice of her, let alone comfort her, I figured she came here alone. Strange… but not unheard of.

A few minutes passed before the woman realized I was watching her. The moment her eyes met mine, she stiffened, as if she had been caught on something. Shortly after, she moved. It took her some effort to push herself through the crowd, but managed to cross the floor from left to right in a slow, but steady pace. Simultaneously, I moved alongside her, across the stage. It was the only way to keep her within my line of vision. Something told me I had to.

Where was she going? What was she doing? Why was she in such a hurry all of a sudden?  

At this point I started to wonder if I should be alerting security, but that thought fled from my mind when the woman halted and looked straight back at me. One of the stage lights moved over her, whitening her face for a second or so.

A chill ran down my spine.

All of a sudden, Paul appeared right in front of me with a grim expression on his face. “Richard! Hey!

My entire body jerked in response, followed by a sharp jolt of pain. A small object slipped from my fingers, and I buried my throbbing head into my hand. I wanted to bury it in two hands, but… but…

“Oh my god…” I choked, doubling over. It felt like someone was pounding on my chest, making it harder for me to breathe with each passing second. Almost immediately, an arm wrapped itself around my back, rubbing it soothingly. “Come on, Richard… calm down… Focus on your breathing…”

A bout of dizziness made me sway where I sat, and I felt gentle hands pulling me back, until my head landed on a pillow. I dragged my hand over my clammy face, resting it over my mouth. I forced myself to look up. Paul looked back down at me, his brows furrowed in concern. “You okay?” He asked me softly.

Still breathing fast, I took in my surroundings. White walls, white floor, white sheets. How could I be lying in a hospital bed, when mere seconds ago, I was standing on a stage?

“I think you were remembering stuff.” Paul murmured at me, as if he read my mind.

“H-how? …Why?” I gasped.

Paul picked up something from my lap. It was a small, black object. A phone? I frowned at him. I didn’t understand…-

“I was showing you some footage of our last performance.” He explained quietly. “You kept rewinding it. Watching it over and over again. At first, I didn’t understand why, but then I had a hunch you were remembering things. I didn’t want to disturb you.” Paul had a stern look on his face while he talked. It was strange for me to see him this way. He used to smile, all the time. I never realized how much I’d miss seeing it.

Paul licked his lips nervously, before asking softly, “You kept pausing the video at the same minute and started to panic a little. What did you remember?”

Ignoring his question, I asked a question of my own. “Can I see it again?” My voice sounded thick, as if I could fall asleep any second. I was tired, yes. Exhausted, even. But there was no way in hell I was going to surrender to it. Not now. I had so many questions!

Paul shot me a skeptical look. “Richard, I don’t think-”

Paul. Please show me. Please.” I reached out a hand, inwardly cursing it for trembling.

Paul searched my eyes for a moment, but couldn’t seem to find what he was looking for. “Fine.” He sighed in defeat, unlocking his phone. Before handing it over, he addressed me seriously, “Promise me you’ll rest after this one.”

I nodded, eagerly accepting his phone.

Apparently, I had watched this very same video more than once already, but it was still strange to see myself, performing on stage in some kind of trance-like state. The longer the video progressed, the stranger it became. I tracked myself crossing the stage, never feeling Till’s little nudge against my head when I passed him. I hadn’t noticed him at all. I hadn’t noticed Paul neither, other than him being in my way. With bleary eyes I watched my surreal, digital version pull the guitar strap over his head, letting the instrument dangle at his side. My lungs constricted at the part that came next. I hit the pause button… again, feeling my cheeks heat up in shame.

“What’s wrong?” Paul looked intently at me.

“I… I don’t remember doing…this.” I whispered at Paul, who rose an eyebrow in surprise. “You don’t remember jumping into a crowd?”

I shook my head, but somewhere, deep down, I started to doubt that statement. I did remember a burst of adrenaline, and an overwhelming blur of faces swarming around me.

Paul had seated himself on the chair that stood next to my bed. He leaned forward, and looked at me with an intensity I couldn’t quite place.

“Do you remember… the bomb?”

I stared at him.

I’m not sure how long I stared at him, but it must’ve been a while, since Paul started repeating himself. “Richard, please focus. The bomb. Do you remember taking it?”

Wha- taking it?

Taking it?!

A bomb??

What bomb?

“What bomb?” I finally managed to whisper, my voice shaking slightly.

For a split second, Paul looked disappointed, but erased the expression from his face almost immediately. Rather than answering my question, he leaned forward and gave his phone a little tab. The video continued to play. I forced myself to focus on it, although my mind was still trying to wrap itself around that horrible word. A word that should never be associated with a public event. Ever.

Blinking furiously, I squinted at the screen clutched in my hand. I couldn’t spot myself in the massive crowd, but judging by the restlessness of each and every person, I was in there somewhere. I do remember the faces now, looking shocked and wide-eyed. The hands latching onto me with painful force. People trying to drag me back. The woman…

The woman. Sprawled on the floor, blood smeared across her face. My guitar lay next to her, crushed. Like a broken lover.

I was holding something else into my hands now. A black thing.

A device of some sort.

The world was spinning a bit too fast all of a sudden. I shuddered, shaking my head to try and gain a sense of what was left and right.

Richard?” Paul’s voice sounded distant, as if he were in another room. Or dimension, maybe. I ignored him. I was so close. I could feel it.

The device had been heavier than it looked. I remember nearly dropping it, but something told me I really shouldn’t. Something told me to get out too. People tried to stop me from doing that, screaming at me, although I heard no sound coming from their mouths.

It’s not safe… I tried to reason with them.

Why does no one see??

GET OUT! YOU HAVE TO GET OUT!

I bolted.

I knew where to go. I knew which emergency exit was waiting for me. I just… knew.

I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, my feet nearly slipping from underneath me as I darted through the corridors. Gritting my teeth, I powered on. I needed to get to the red steel door. The parking lot.

Launching myself outside, I heard the door slam shut heavily behind me, leaving me panting on the asphalt, surrounded by black trucks and an eerie silence. A silence that was broken by a clicking sound, coming from the device in my hands.

Feeling my muscles protest with the sudden strength I was asking from them, I hurled the small, black thing away from me. Even though I knew…

It was too late already.

A sharp inhale jerked me back, stinging my right shoulder with a burning pain, as if my body was physically reminding me what it had been put through.

For a moment, all I could do was blink at the yellow lamp, and the bright, white ceiling above me, before blowing out a shaky breath. This memory-rollercoaster thing was exhausting as fuck! Judging by Paul’s face, he agreed with that assessment. He had grabbed onto my wrist for some reason, but wasn’t saying anything. He was just looking at me. His eyes were glistening, as if he was holding back tears.

“I’m sorry.” I breathed at him, assuming I was the source of his emotional state.

The grip around my wrist tightened slightly, but not painfully. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m the one who should be sorry.” Paul whispered solemnly. “We shouldn’t have kept you in the dark this whole time. We just… didn’t know how to tell you. How to make you remember.”

I nodded slowly, my thoughts racing.

Paul released my wrist. “Do you…remember now? The bomb? The explosion?”

After tracking some inner landscape, I could only recall flashes. Weird, bright flashes. And something about a movie…? Or something?

“I’m not sure.” I muttered with a frown. My mind was a total mess. I had to give it some credit for formulating the next question though.

“Is that what happened to my arm? Did the bomb…” I trailed off.

Paul’s face just went from white to a sickly shade of grey. After a while, he stuttered, “W-well, yeah. The bomb exploded after you… after you… threw it away. You ran outside with it, and threw it away.”

Fear crept up to me. “Did… did it hurt anyone? Oh god, Paul, did people die?”

“No! Richard, listen, you ran outside with the bomb. It detonated outside. Only you were there.”

“Okay… okay… that’s… good…” I muttered absent mindedly.

Silence filled the room again, although the heart monitor above my bed was beeping annoyingly. Faster than it should be. I forced myself to calm down. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

“Can I get you anything?” Paul asked softly. Before I could even form a reply, he had already pushed himself out of his chair, muttering something about getting me some water.

While Paul busied himself in the corner of my room, which provided a small sink and mirror, I let my eyes roam around the place. There were gifts and cards everywhere. Almost every surface in the room was covered with them. Even the walls. It felt strange to see the trouble people went through to send me something, although I couldn’t really understand why it was bothering me. I dismissed it when Paul returned, placing a glass of water on the adjustable table next to my bed. “Thanks.” I muttered.

“Any time.” Were Paul’s words as he dropped himself back into his chair. He must’ve caught me looking at the colorful items that surrounded us. He was looking at it too, mumbling, “You’ve got a lot of admirers.”

“What else is new?” I smirked. Paul snapped surprised eyes at me, before bursting out in laughter. I smiled back at him, secretly relieved to see the old Paul emerge for a little while. It gave me hope that maybe… maybe, things would get back to normal one day.

“Bastard.” Paul chuckled, shaking his head.

“Just stating the obvious.” I said with a nonchalant shrug, which I regretted immediately afterwards. I stifled a groan, and glared down at the source of the pain. My right arm. Well… it wasn’t really an arm anymore, was it? With my left hand, I traced fingers over the bandages encircling it, before poking and prodding the area to see if it’d soften the pain a bit. It didn’t, really.

“Please don’t touch it.” Paul almost begged. I looked back at him, slowly withdrawing my hand. Paul looked tired. Worn down. Old. It was clear to me that whatever happened to me, also had a nasty effect on my family. It made my heart ache, but it also made me wonder…

“When did… all of this happen?” I asked softly, gesturing at the shape of my body.

This time, it was Paul who needed to breathe in and out for a moment. He was looking down, at his lap. After a few minutes of stubborn silence I wondered if he hadn’t heard my question, but then…

“It’s been… around three months now.” His voice was quiet, but I heard him. I heard every word. At my distressed look, Paul quickly added. “You were in a terrible shape, Richard. They put you in a coma during that time.”

I’ve been in a… coma for… three months…? Holy sh-

“You were caught in the blast.” Paul continued, his voice cracking slightly. “It must’ve send you flying and you landed wrong. You were cracked, and burned, and bleeding…” Paul finally looked up at me, his lips trembling. “We weren’t sure if we would ever talk to you again…”

I felt my chest constrict at his words. Even though it felt like I had been ran over by an army of trucks, I hadn’t expected it to be this bad.

“Well, I’m here... I’m okay…” I said shakily, before adding a barely audible, “I think…”

Paul smiled slightly. “Of course you are.”

We both kept quiet for a while, for which I was thankful. I had a lot to think about, after all. Sleep pulled at my vision, yet my mind was still racing by what Paul just told me.

Three months.

Jesus.

“Richard? May I ask you something?”

“Hmm?”

Paul waited until I turned halfway eyes towards him.

“That woman… at our concert. Did you know her?”

I blinked away the sleep from my eyes. “No… of course not.”

“Then how…” Paul scratched his chin, deep in thought. “How did you know she was dangerous? What made you attack her?”

“… She stopped crying.” I mumbled drowsily. “She stopped crying, Paul.”


It had been a long day.

Visiting hours were long overdue, and the gift shops were closed. The hospital cafeteria was no longer serving food, and the last handful of employees had started their cleaning routine. Nevertheless, no one rushed the two remaining customers sitting in the corner, surrounded by the large bushy plants they loved to hide behind.

For the past two hours or so, the generous amount of Mac & Cheese on Till’s plate had been nudged back and forth, leaving a smear of supposedly melted cheese in their wake. Lina watched the broad man play with his food from where she was sitting across from him. Till had only taken two bites before his mind had started to drift. It was very unlike him to ignore a meal when it was right in front of him, but Lina couldn’t blame him for being mournfully absent.

This day sucked.

It started out fine – well, as fine as it could be. Lina had entered her father’s room as cheerfully as she could, surprising him with one of his favorite movies; Iron Man. She knew he had watched it many times already and could probably recite every single dialogue by now, but hoped it’d give him a feeling of familiarity. Safety. Something to pull him away from reality for a while.

She had pulled the adjustable table closer to her father’s bed, letting the tabletop hover above his stomach. After clearing it from a wide variety of medicine boxes – honestly, it resembled a pharmacy’s counter more than anything else– she had installed Matt’s laptop there. Her father had watched her work without saying much. Every time Lina glanced at him, he’d give her a small, but extremely tired smile. Lina had returned the smile, hoping that, if he couldn’t see it, he could at least feel it. Her father’s eyesight was still pretty terrible. He had turned his attention to the screen when the movie started playing, but Lina had a hunch he wasn’t really following it. His eyes had a dazed shine to them, and they seemed to be getting smaller with each passing minute. He was struggling to keep them open.

Fast forward a few minutes later, and there he was- flat on his back, eyes wide open, his lungs struggling for air, and his entire body coated in terror.

His arm was gone. The life he used to have was gone. His ability to play guitar; his biggest love of all. It was gone.

They all knew it, but worst of all: now he knew it too.

Richard had been out for the rest of the day, not once stirring. Till, Paul and Lina stayed with him, keeping a vigil watch in case he needed them. The rest of the band had been notified by phone, and were saddened to hear what had happened. They wanted to come on over, but the doctor put a halt to that. Richard needed a friendly face, not an entire room of them.

Around six in the afternoon, Till’s stomach had started to resemble a groaning boar, so Paul had kicked him out, ordering him to get some food into him. Paul kicked Lina out as well. Judging by her thousand yard stare, she could use a change of scenery.

And thus, Till and Lina ended up in the green little cafeteria in the entrance hall.

Lina did have to admit that it was nice to be out of her father’s room for a while, although she was craving to go back up again. She still felt uncomfortable leaving him behind for longer periods of time, even if Paul was still with him.

Till kept abusing his food with a fork. Lina sighed impatiently. “Are you going to eat that, or are you ready to go back?”

Till looked up at the unexpected question. “What? Uh…” He looked back down at his meal, frowning in disgust at the state of it. He pushed his plate towards Lina. “You want it?”

Lina released a laugh she didn’t know she had been holding in so far. “Ugh, no thanks!”

The corner of Till’s mouth twitched at her reaction, before rubbing his eyes. “Sorry about that. I must’ve zoned out.”

“It’s okay.” Lina chuckled, stifling back a yawn. “I’m tired too.”

“How about I give you a ride back to the motel? Paul and I will stay with your dad for the night.”

Lina smiled in wry amusement. “Yeah thanks, but no. I’m not going anywhere, not after what happened this morning.” Her smile faded.

Till watched her for a while. He already expected her to stay, but now, he had a feeling her father's state wasn’t the only reason she wasn’t willing to return to the motel.

“Do you blame Ed for what happened?”

Lina looked up in surprise, needing a moment to find an answer to that unexpected, abrupt question. “I… uh…”

Before she could formulate a response, Till continued calmly, “You do realize we couldn’t have protected your father from the truth much longer, do you?”

Lina frowned. “What- what do you mean?”

“He’s missing an arm. That’s a hard thing to hide from someone.” Till pointed out in a low voice. “Richard would’ve found out sooner or later. You know what he’s like. It’s not Ed’s or that other police officer’s fault.”

Lina looked down at the table top, flattening a napkin under her palm, before smoothing the folds. Deep down, she knew Till was right. It wasn’t really Ed’s fault, but the man had an unfortunate sense of timing and social manners. He did seem a little guilty when the doctor had send him and the other officer away, though.

Lina’s thoughts were interrupted when Till brushed off his lap and stood up, giving her a knowing smile. “I’m heading back up, you coming?”


Richard had dozed off. Paul had let him.

The silence was comforting after all the horrors that were relived in there. Paul hoped he made the right choice by helping Richard remember. Was it worth it?

Richard seemed calmer now, but that could also be plain exhaustion. It was hard to tell the difference at this point.

Paul whirled around in his seat when someone opened the door behind him without knocking. When Till and Lina entered the room, he visibly relaxed, before realizing something. Lina and Till were talking in hushed voices, but stopped when they saw Paul’s regretful stare.

“Pauul?” Till drawled suspiciously. “What’s going on?”

Dropping his shoulders and pointing his nose towards the air, Paul groaned. “I totally forgot to call you guys.”

“Well, the cafeteria is closed now, so if you wanted us to bring you anything to eat, you need to-“

“No, no. I meant Richard.” Paul interrupted sheepishly. “I promised to call you if anything changed. I forgot.”

Both Lina and Till watched him for a moment, stretching the silence to uncomfortable lengths. "Something changed?" Till muttered lowly.

Paul gave them a reassuring smile. “He remembers. He remembers everything.”