This airport is full of happier people than he. Lovers waiting to be reunited, families full of excitement, weary travellers at peace and ready to go home.
This airport is ripping his heart out and breaking it apart, flinging the pieces thousands of miles across an unfathomably wide ocean.
This airport is stealing the breath from his lungs in desperate kisses and pleading hands tangled in clothes and hair.
This airport is witnessing him fall apart all over again, but Till can't leave, and Richard can't stay.
This airport steals Richard from him, every single time and he hates it.
Arriving in New York is like coming home.
It is home, he thinks as he hails a cab and gives his address. His cases go in the trunk, he goes in the back, leans tiredly against the window.
The journey passes in a blur of streetlights and trying to stay awake long enough to get home, drag his cases up to his apartment, collapse on the sofa.
His apartment feels empty. It is empty, he thinks as he drags a blanket over his legs, curls up, grabs his phone, calls Till.
It's the middle of the night. He doesn't answer.
It's always like this. Till's despondent for a while and spends the first two days wandering around his flat aimlessly
He waters his plants, he feeds his fish, he tries to write and inevitably hates every word.
They always give him two days of solitude, and on the third day they knock loudly at his door. He opens it and they pile in with drinks, take away food and a stack of movies he's been meaning to watch.
They needle him and call him soft then they set about making him laugh until it doesn't hurt quite as much anymore.
He busies himself in his music for a while, writing and playing until his fingers bleed. Then his friends call and he meets them in a bar in the city.
He tries not to drink so much anymore but it's always like this and he needs to not think for a while.
He doesn't get too drunk but he pays for everyone else which he's sure he'll regret more than a hangover tomorrow. But he likes that they're having fun and he likes settling back into New York life.
A pretty girl flirts with him and he feels suddenly alone.
"Till, hi! Are you alright? Is this a bad time? I can call back…?"
"No! I mean, it's fine. Don't go."
"Okay. How are you doing? How are the boys? Are the fish still alive?"
"Slow down, Rich. We have all evening to talk."
"You sure? I'm not bothering you?"
"You never bother me, Rich. I miss you."
"I miss you too. And that's a lie, I bother you all the time."
"And I tolerate it because I quite like you."
"Quite like me? Till, you charmer."
"Shut up, you know I love you."
"And I love you too."
Till opens his messages, there's a lot of them and all from Richard. They're increasingly angry, insults growing in intensity and intent to hurt.
He scrolls back up and finds the first message is a photo from some tabloid of him and an ex looking friendly at some restaurant.
He winces and hits the call button but Richard doesn't answer, the next three calls are cut off after two rings.
Another message pops up that tells him in no uncertain terms to fuck off and leave Richard alone. Till replies, protesting his innocence.
It's almost a week before Richard replies.
Till makes baskets of all things and looks like he was constructed by Ancient Greek sculptors. He's heard him sing a couple of times too and he absolutely needs him to join this new project of his.
Till makes baskets, he says, he doesn't sing. Sometimes he drums and that's enough for him. Nobody can pay too much attention to him there, he says.
Till makes baskets and fucks a different girl every weekend. He imagines they go weak at the knees for Till's country charm and shy smile.
Till makes baskets and doesn't even see him standing right there.
He's fled the east and gone to find himself in the west. He's escaped, he's got out, Till should be happy for him. He is and he's not.
Because he's gone and he's left Till all alone.
He's not alone, he reminds himself when he sings his daughter to sleep, but he does miss Richard something awful.
The wall comes down and he stands with his friends and watches, his hands shoved in his pockets. He doesn't quite know how to feel.
Through a gap he spots a familiar face, beaming at him, beckoning him. He goes willingly.
He tells Till that he's moving to New York on a cold Tuesday evening, he takes him out for dinner to soften the blow. Till doesn't touch his food, apologises profusely to the concerned waitress and asks for the cheque before the plates have been cleared.
He won't come back to Richard's place like usual, instead he insists he's coming down with something and needs to go home.
He's withdrawing, avoiding Richard already and it stings so Richard reaches for him and recoils when he flinches away.
"I'm not leaving you." He insists desperately.
Till turns away. "Yes you are."
Till's eyes sting. He's standing in his kitchen listening to Richard tell the others that he's leaving.
Predictably Paul reacts poorly, accuses him of breaking them apart again though Richard insists that's not what this is.
Paul says he needs a minute and barges into Till's kitchen, coming to a halt when he sees him standing there, staring into the abyss.
"Till?" He says, carefully advancing as though approaching a wild animal.
Till shudders, his eyes sting. Paul wraps his arms around him without question and squeezes him tightly. They lean on each other, trying to ignore the hurt.
The relief he feels when Till tells him he'll support him knocks the breath from his lungs. His knees give way and he collapses heavily into the sofa, grabbing a cushion for comfort.
Till sits down beside him, pulls his laptop over and starts flicking through apartment listings and visa websites. He even finds at least four restaurants that sell Richard's favourite food.
Richard hopes his gratitude is as tangible as it feels because words are entirely beyond him as he leans on his lover, still clutching the cushion. He spots an apartment he likes the look of, and Till smiles, pleased.
Flat on his back, he feels like his entire body is aflame. Richard had cuffed his wrists to the bed frame what feels like hours ago and he can feel the steel biting into his skin but he doesn't care.
Richard is above him, straddling his lap, riding his cock with his fingernails sharp in Till's skin. He's burned him, whipped him, slapped him and choked him and it's not enough.
(It's never enough.)
A hand drifts to his throat and squeezes and he sees stars, orgasm ripping out of him along with Richard's name in a desperate howl.
Sometime during Richard's second week in New York, he falls out with his wife. She's already sick of competing with his singer and he's been here less than a fortnight.
She slams out of the apartment and he texts Till.
There's a loud knock at the door and he growls, she must have forgotten her keys. When he yanks the door open, it's not her, but a delivery guy with a huge bag of his favourite food. Bewildered, Richard accepts the bag and closes the door. He reads the delivery note and wants to cry.
"Hope this helps, Till xx"
Till can't be bothered with lines, it takes too long. He prefers a coin or key dug into the bag and the coke up his nose before he can think.
Richard likes lines, and taking the time to arrange them carefully. Till thinks Richard also likes the spectacle, the 'look what I'm doing' that comes with his credit card scraping perfect lines of white for pretty groupies.
When Richard blanks them and crawls into Till's lap instead, Till knows they've got an audience but he doesn't refuse. He could blame the coke, but then he thinks Richard likes the spectacle.
Richard knows he needed New York but he didn't think it would come at the expense of his oldest relationship. He's barely spoken to Till in weeks, of course his wife is pleased but it doesn't feel good.
He misses Till's humour and affection. He misses waking up to texts about stray cats he's found and recipes he's in love with.
He sighs, perhaps he isn't being fair. He's married after all and Till deserves to move on. He doesn't want him to though, he wants Till all to himself. So he calls him, Till answers sleepily, Richard feels awful.
There's an awards show in New York, it's a dull affair, but he can't mind when Richard is at his side again.
The night has to end eventually however and they part ways. He goes to the hotel with the others and Richard goes home.
The boys are sympathetic when he declines their offer of joining them for a last drink but he just wants to sleep.
He arrives on his floor and stops in his tracks, standing there outside his room is Richard looking determined. He's dragged into bed and fucked into oblivion.
Richard's gone when he wakes up.
They drive everyone around them crazy. The endless circling, the longing looks, the jealous rages when one of them gets laid. It's like something out of a movie when they get locked in a room and told to sort their shit out.
"You know how I feel." Till mumbles, self-conscious and shy.
Richard does and he crosses the room in four strides, takes hold of his hands and kisses him. Like something out of a movie.
They talk for a while and they try to sort their shit out, and then there's kisses and soft smiles and promises for more.
Till fucks like he's trying to prove something. He's generous and considerate and opens him up with his fingers and tongue until he's incoherent and begging.
His cock slides into his body so slowly as his thighs and hole clench around him. Till grins when he bottoms out and he doesn't fucking move. He waits until Richard is swearing and squirming before he backs out but he doesn't fuck him like he wants him to. He's slow and deliberate and Richard's nerves are set alight.
He knows what this is, he's leaving again tomorrow. This is his lover saying goodbye.
They try to break up once during the New York years. Richard has his marriage, Till has a girlfriend and it's probably for the best they tell themselves. They're still friends, colleagues and collaborators but they don't say I love you, they don't text graphic, detailed messages about what they'll do when they next see each other. In short, they're miserable.
Till's girlfriend is sympathetic, she kisses him sweetly and trades stories about lost loves with him all night. She presses his phone into his hands in the morning and says 'call him' as she leaves for the last time.
He still hates airports even though he is now one of those lovers waiting to be reunited. The happiness is always short-lived because he'll be back here soon enough, heartbroken all over again.
He spots Richard easily through the crowd and smiles despite himself. Richard catches his eye and smiles back, then he launches himself into Till's arms.
"I'm staying." He whispers, close to his ear. "One way flight, I'm not going back."
Till stares at him, shocked into silence. Richard laughs, loud and bright, and kisses him right there in arrivals.
"Take me home." He demands, and Till does.