|A Clockwork Heart
Author: MedicalNonsense PM
Ludwig is a high office executive not necessarily a happy one either and has been for awhile. One day a man who claims to be his superior arrives saying that he must observe him for some kind of important program, just what is it exactly? AU Ger/AmRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Supernatural - Germany & America - Chapters: 4 - Words: 24,028 - Reviews: 38 - Favs: 32 - Follows: 42 - Updated: 01-18-11 - Published: 12-14-10 - id: 6557190
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Well Respected Man
6:30 sharp, Ludwig rose from bed, blinking the sleep from his eyes in the same way that he had the prior day. And also just like the day before, he stepped out of bed (right leg then left) and trod into his bathroom. Using his right hand, he turned on the shower to warm while taking his morning piss and yawning. After this he washed his hands and grabbed his toothbrush, putting some paste on it before walking into the shower and brushing his teeth.
Wet hair (opening his mouth to gargle and spit out the dirtied water of his now clean mouth), scrub with shampoo, rinse, scrub with conditioner, let sit and scrub body with body wash, rinse all at once. He stepped out of the shower after that (right leg then left just as getting out of bed) and dried his face, leaving the bathroom back for his room (exactly thirteen steps).
His towel was deposited into the hamper, turning to his left he found his work clothes. Blue shirt, red (blue stripes) tie, dark slacks and putting it all on (left arm first then right arm). His tie sat around his neck waiting to be tied while he leans down to pick up his pants and to tuck his shirt. Once the fly of the slacks is zipped it is then tied the same way as it has been tied for five years.
A thirty-step journey his kitchen then took place where the same mechanical movements of breakfast that had been going on for five years (just like his tie) happened.
One of the last things that happens every morning before he leaves his house (after putting his shoes on but before grabbing his keys), he bids the black and white portrait hanging on his wall farewell.
Though this is an every day occurrence it is no less sincere than the first day that he did it.
From there he treks to the nearest subway station (the same one it has always been) and hops the 8:30 train to his office building. He's high in the managerial department of this branch of the company (always arriving at 9:00 exactly), the seat of it being somewhere in Utah. What the company does exactly? Well, he could be the perfect little clockwork wind-up toy and say it manages stocks along with a lot of other blather, but on the inside, where his sarcasm and daddy-issues sit he can say "doesn't do shit" and still be perfectly right.
The day progresses, he takes calls, talks to clients and gives them his perfect smile that doesn't reach his eyes. Has meetings with his bosses who he finds completely incompetent (and to be honest are, he's particularly good at undermining all of them and climbing the corporate ladder, he didn't go from simple tech-support to where he was now five years ago in six months by magic). And of course, has lunch (having brought the same salad he had for five years) and chats with people who think they are funny and aren't (but he doesn't have the heart to tell them that they suck and gives them his almost mechanical laugh [them being none-the-wiser as it is the only laugh they have ever seen from him]).
At the end of his work day (5:30 sharp) he turns off the light, throws on his coat, picks up his suitcase and leaves down the same hallway.
"See you tomorrow, Ludwig." Arthur always says absently as he goes over his last minute paperwork. At 5:32, Ludwig presses the down button for the elevator. For approximately one minute and thirty-five seconds he stares straight ahead at the door until… Until… Ludwig turned his head slightly to his left, no one… At 5:33.35 Matthew Williams comes to stand next to him to bring papers down to the lower floors for late distribution and today he is absent. Not thinking anything of it, Ludwig looks back to the elevator doors as the remaining fifteen seconds passes and the doors open.
He steps in and waits; at floor six Yao Wang from HR gets on; at floor four, he gets off and is quickly replaced by the loud-mouthed Yong-Soo Im. For exactly six minutes he stands on the elevator alone with Yong-Soo (he's leaving work too now) until the elevator lets off at the basement level where the cars are parked (also has subway access). After those horrendous six minutes are up, Ludwig always disappears without a word leaving Yong-Soo just as clueless as the day before.
Once home, Ludwig says hello to the portrait on the wall, drops his keys where they have always sat, takes off his shoes and puts them where they go and loosens his tie.
He makes dinner, eats it, checks his email on his laptop then brushes his teeth again. For two more hours he sat up to do work that he was unable to finish at the building and then stripped to his boxers and undershirt. Laying out his clothes for tomorrow (in this case a white shirt and butterscotch tie with brown slacks) then leads to him collapsing onto his bed and falling into sleep only to rise at the same time tomorrow and repeat his day all over again.
This following morning though was going the same as always until he steps into the elevator. A person who is not usually there is standing in the corner and staring at him. Nineteen was whereabouts Ludwig would put his age and, by his tender face, of about the same mindset. It confused him as why such a person that was obviously optimistic would be here… And staring at him.
"Hey!" The bespectacled blonde greeted him.
"Uhm… Hello." Ludwig greeted pressing the button for his floor (nine). As he tried to ignore the presence of the other blonde in the elevator there was a strange feeling scratching at the back of his mind. This was the very last stop for this elevator and he had just been sitting in here… Like he had been waiting or something. His eyes slide to the corners to look at him only to dart straight back ahead when they see that the happy-go-lucky seeming man is staring at him still. "That's euhm… Rather uncomfortable." Ludwig tells him.
"What is?" The young man questions, tipping his head to the side.
"Your staring at me…"
"But I'm here for you." Ludwig blinked at this odd explanation and turned to look at him again, confused astonishment in his eyes.
"What?" he asked, his companion chuckling and fixing his glasses.
"I'm Alfred Jones and I'm from upstairs!" Alfred laughed pointing up with his index finger, it taking Ludwig a moment to figure out what he meant. But even a rough guess of what his intended meaning was was still translucent at best.
"Upstairs or upstairs-upstairs?" Not an intelligent-sounding question sure, but the only way he could put it. Apparently the question didn't strike Alfred as being odd, nor stupid, in fact, he himself seemed to be stumbling for a way to answer it.
"Upstairs-upstairs." He answered tentatively, seeming to gauge Ludwig's reaction to it.
So this man was from the corporate headquarters and was here for him! Was he here offering a promotion? That was likely the only thing Ludwig could think of, but the question was whether or not he was going to take it. He had lived in this city all his life. It was where he went to school, got his first job, got his Bachelor's Degree, started work here, where he lost his virginity, fell in love, had his heart broken and lost his brother. Well… Maybe he needed a change of scenery after all.
"May I ask why you are here?" Ludwig posed gingerly, not sure if it was his place to ask his higher authorities such things (whether or not they seemed like an airhead).
"Oh right! I am here to observe you! You see, you are being considered for a very special program! Yes! Of the utmost importance my friend!" Alfred said with a big grin, "It's wonderful that you took the news so well! I've done this before and a lot of people drop to the floor and start kissing my shoes or something. Either that or they say I'm a complete nut-job." The shorter blonde laughed again and slapped the uncomfortable German on the shoulder. Now the first, Ludwig (to some degree) could understand, but the second… Well that hardly made any sense for one to insult someone who could technically be counted as their boss. "In fact, I think I told my superior that he was crazy when he came for me. 'Cause you know, you don't ever expect people of great power to ever call upon yourself!" Oh dear God… Ludwig realized he was spending the whole day with this babbling dunderhead. Why did this seem so bad? Well even as Ludwig was clearly not listening anymore the other man just kept on yammering on and on and on.
This job, in all actuality was perfect for Ludwig. He only ever had to talk to people that were lower than him and hence never really rambled on about anything and when he did talk to people of his own standing he could simply say he had work to do to get them to shut up. Talking to his bosses, he only ever got face-time with them about once a week for about five minutes and so nobody (save for probably Arthur) was aware of the short fuse his patience held. He once had a roommate in college, Feliciano was his name, he was lazy, chatty and never cleaned up after himself! Of course though, he had a certain charm and it didn't necessarily take long for him to start to have a certain affection for the boy and they got along pretty well.
Ludwig thought for a moment, right out of college the two used to be inseparable (for very good reasons) but that changed after they both got jobs. Ludwig guessed it had been nearly five years since they spoke even over the phone. This man in the elevator with him reminded him so much of Feliciano and for the first time in a long time he considered calling the small Italian man to catch up. This of course lead him to wondering when the last time it was he had taken a vacation… Never, nope, it occurred to him he probably had about a year's worth of vacation time saved up as he never even once took a sick day.
"Hey! Are you even listening to me?" Alfred broke Ludwig out of his reveries and Ludwig looked to him.
"Okay, good! Because I was about to say you just missed some crucial information if you weren't." Oh hell…
"But uh, would you mind repeating the more important points of it?"
"Nah!" Alfred slapped Ludwig's arm again, more than likely hurting his own hand against Ludwig's naturally muscular frame. "You look like the type of man with a steel-trap mind! I'm sure you'll do fine!" Shit. That was the last time Ludwig was ever going to indulge that side of him while this man was around as it seemed he transitioned from useless nonsense into critical information very easily.
Today was going to be worse than hell!
He said his customary greetings to people as he passed their offices, a "Good morning" to Arthur… Yeah, that was about the only greeting he offered anyone as he really didn't care about anyone else. Arthur had been a friend since high school, but the didn't talk anymore out of the hellos and goodbyes.
"Gee, you know Arthur?" Alfred commented as they walked by Arthur's door. The Englishman lifted his head at his name just in time to see Alfred's heel leave the door frame after Ludwig. The blonde man shrugged and got back to his work.
"Yes. We were friends in high school." Ludwig answered him, wondering why Alfred was just making small talk.
"The jerk's my cousin." he carped at Ludwig, "But I guess that's cool." Ludwig didn't have a way to answer him that wouldn't be seen as rude, so he kept his mouth shut.
They walked into his office then and Ludwig began his usual routine of work, this time with Alfred staring at him… It was more unnerving than he ever thought it would be, not because of who he was, just that someone was watching him closely in general. He had only ever been comfortable with two people doing that in his life and those people were his dad and Feliciano. It wasn't his place to tell him to stop though, so he would just have to deal with it.
And deal with it he did, Alfred sat quietly… Okay, he fidgeted a lot, he went from tapping his knees to rocking back and forth in the squeaky chair Ludwig provided him to tapping his knees again, humming some sort of tune and clicking his nails on Ludwig's desk… So, Alfred sat not-so-very-quietly at the side of Ludwig's desk and stared clear until lunch.
Once the small digital clock on Ludwig's desk beeped, he shot up from his desk to flee to the break room, taking his bag with his salad in it with him.
"Oh! Is it lunchtime?" his new companion asked, getting up to follow him. His nerves had never been so rubbed raw before, at least when he was with Feliciano the boy made up for it somehow. This man just… He really hadn't even done anything and he was annoying as hell!
"Yes." Ludwig informed him, walking into the break room, it already reeking something awful from Arthur heating up his food. There was a strangled noise behind Ludwig as Alfred was yanked from the room by a gloved hand, but the German didn't look back fast enough to see it. He blinked at the empty doorway that was free of his annoyance and decided he didn't know how long he would have alone without the staring. Quickly, he sat down across the table from Arthur's rotten-smelling abomination to food and opened his salad, flipping his tie over his shoulder while skewering a tomato with some lettuce before stuffing it into his face.
"Whoa, what's got you all in a bunch?" Arthur asked without true interest, it really being held by the newspaper in his left hand. Ludwig looked up from his food, swallowing the mush of plant matter in his mouth.
"This guy." Ludwig took another bite of greenery and Arthur took a sip of his tea. To be honest, Ludwig didn't feel it necessary to inform Arthur that the man was his cousin. It wouldn't affect things if he knew the type of people the both of them were.
"That's really specific, chap." Another sip.
"He's from corporate, I think." Now the Englishman's attention was rightly gathered, he put down the paper he was reading alongside his tea and lunch.
"What makes you think that?" Not that Arthur actually cared or anything, this jerk hadn't really made any effort to speak with him in years. Usually he didn't even eat lunch in the break room, preferring his office over this place. Stupid things tended to happen once a certain Frenchman accompanied by a Spaniard on the floor made an appearance. Such things as rude effigies of himself being carved into the wood of the table by knives.
"He said he was from upstairs management." Ludwig put another tomato in his mouth and chewed, forking some spinach in next. Arthur hummed thoughtfully before picking up his paper again and the two ignoring each other. Ludwig was a man of few words and Arthur was a man that didn't like being ignored and hence was prone to ignoring back.
Out in the hallway though, as their conversation had been going, another was going on between two co-workers of a different type.
"What did I say about you being noticed?" Alfred's superior spat into his face unintentionally, his accent was trying to rear its head and hence made his more forceful tones showered in saliva.
"Uhm… What?" The blonde stared blankly at Gilbert who was now sighing with irritation.
"Okay, I vill… I will say it one last time then, you nimrod. Two of your cousins and your brother work here, you are not supposed to be here. You need to be inconspicuous. Waltzing into a room that has someone that could recognize you in it is not advised. If you get caught it's on my head." Suddenly the albino's eyes flicked down the hall at a rather loud ruckus. A Spanish man (Antonio was his name) rounded the corner, merrily running from someone, a blonde, who just then slammed into the wall unable to make the corner. At this Gilbert seemed to panic and snapped out of existence to somewhere safe, yanking Alfred along with him.
"What was that for?" Alfred questioned, the wind at the top of the building whipping around forcefully, playing with both of the men's fair hair.
"Your cousin was coming at you, I had to save you from being seen." Alfred, though he was dense, sensed that his boss wasn't telling all that needed to be told; but his boss was supposed to be great at his job, so why should he question his motives? "Don't ever use the method I just employed, boy. Only do that in a dire emergency and only when there is a low chance of you being seen."
"But you just used it while those two were coming right at us…" The blonde pointed out to his superior and Gilbert sighed.
"They were obviously so wrapped up in their stupid little games they didn't notice either of us. Probably if we had both been standing there they would have crashed into us, the idiots they are." he rolled his eyes and Alfred nodded, "Now, I'm going to take a peek into Mr. Beilschmidt's office and if he isn't there, just stay there and wait for him. Nobody ever dares go into Ludwig's office even if he's not there."
Gilbert appeared in Ludwig's office, finding no one he mumbled, "Amnediel, it's all clear." Alfred popped into existence next to him and stumbled a little, he was still getting used to the whole instant transportation thing. "Okay, now sit and be good. Do your job and look after him. If you don't I will wring your non-corporeal neck. Capiche?"
"Yes, Cerviel." Alfred bid him, chuckling nervously, his boss sure was scary on this job. Generally he was pretty laid back on most things, if Alfred screwed up a little he let it slide. So far he had barely screwed up and Gilbert was ready to rip him a new one. Slightly he wondered if this job meant more to him than he was letting on.
"Also, find a way to convince him to let you go home with him. You'll come up with something." With that, Gilbert was gone, leaving Alfred alone in Ludwig's office, twiddling his thumbs.
Ludwig took a step into his office and spotted the blonde sitting in the chair he had been occupying earlier, drumming his fingers on his knees again. He took a cleansing breath and stepped into the room, entertaining his hands that wished to throttle Alfred by fixing his askew tie. Why did he already feel like killing him? It wasn't natural for someone to grate on his nerves this much from just one day. Ludwig just decided that he was cranky today for some unknown reason. If Alfred was still here tomorrow he might take it better, maybe even try to talk to him.
"Ludwig!" Or maybe he wouldn't, even his voice was becoming irritating.
"I don't remember giving you my name, Mr. Jones." Ludwig informed him, forgetting to think in his irascibility that Alfred came here for him specifically and hence logically knew his name.
"Of course I know it…" Alfred quirked his brow at him a little bit, fixing his glasses to sit better on his nose. "Higher authorities made sure I wouldn't forget it. It's a pretty unique name for America anyway."
"I'm not from here originally." While he wasn't particularly keen on divulging unnecessary information to Alfred, this was preferable to the staring.
"Switzerland then, right?"
"Germany…" Why the hell would he guess that one first?
"Oh…" Alfred chuckled lightly and took his glasses off, wiping them with the hem of his shirt that he just un-tucked.
"I could say your name isn't exactly normal. Not many young people named Alfred anymore." The German sat down at his desk and began to go over papers that held various numbers of no meaning to Alfred.
"Most of my family is British." Not that that was any real explanation, but it made a little bit of sense.
"Arthur is your cousin, I could have guessed." Ludwig stopped and thought for a second, there was something he was supposed to remember about one of Arthur's cousins. It didn't readily spring to mind so he went with the next thing, "Part of your family must be French then."
"Yep. Francis is a dead giveaway to that, I guess."
"Matthew closer to your French side?" Ludwig was flipping a pen around his finger idly as he signed off on some of the paperwork. Oblivious to the look on Alfred's face, he was also quite oblivious himself about the resemblance between the two blondes. It wasn't his job to match family member's though, he never really had to think about it.
"Yeah." Alfred replied quietly. Ludwig had to answer a call then, Alfred observing closely the whole time. He took careful notice of the manufactured joy in Ludwig's voice. The way the pleasantries seemed to flow nicely but all the same stiffly from his tongue. His mechanical laughter at something "funny" the person said and his cold sigh when he was able to hang up the phone. "Is something wrong?" Alfred asked, Ludwig's blue eyes flicking to him for a second.
"No." The executive pulled some papers out in response to the phone call and began to work on them. "Why do you ask?" Interest wasn't even a part of the equation, he just didn't want the silent staring.
"You don't seem happy."
"I am happy."
"I can tell you're lying, Ludwig."
"Is it your place to call me out?" Ludwig grumbled under his breath, realizing it wasn't his place to bring that to Alfred's attention. His muscles tensed, waiting for a thrashing that would never come. Tentatively, his eyes slid to look at his superior and the man was just smiling at him.
"It might not be, but I at least got you thinking."
"What does that mean?" he relaxed slightly, his wrist twitching back into action.
"As if you so didn't just think if you were happy or not." Alfred's pink tongue stuck out at him for a second.
"I didn't. I don't need to, because I know I'm happy."
"Really." Ludwig lifted his head slightly, his steely eyes penetrating deep under Alfred's skin. They almost seemed to tell him to step off of the trail he was on; if it ever came to pass that he got to the end of it, he wouldn't like what he found.
"When was the last time you went out with friends." Ever the one to push the card, Alfred forged ahead in the conversation. As he suspected, Ludwig was too afraid not to answer and hence did so against his will.
"I can't remember, okay?"
"What about tonight?"
"Oh come on, you get off at 5:30, you have all night to have fun!" Alfred nudged him with his elbow slightly and Ludwig tensed up again. "We can go to a bar together!"
"No!" Ludwig barked, surprising the buddy-buddy American with the harshness of his insistence. "I don't want to go out tonight." Hardly believing that he just did that, Ludwig got back to work, his pen flying fast enough for Alfred to swear he saw ink flinging off it.
"Bad experience?" Damn this man wasn't shakable…
"I just don't want to."
"Because." By now, the man was working his very hardest to keep his temper under control, but Alfred was apparently a professional at pressing his buttons. But maybe that was what he was supposed to do… By God! It all made sense! What if he had already failed his test? Dammit!
"I just don't want to. I have to get up early the next morning."
"Ludwig, I've looked at how much vacation time you have saved up, you know you have over a year, right?"
"Of course, I get a little piece of paper at the end of every quarter that tells me."
"Why didn't it ever occur to you to take a personal day?"
"Because I like working… And I have Sundays anyway." He also had Saturdays, but he preferred to come in on Saturdays too even if he really didn't have that much work to do. He would just spend them as he spent his Sundays if he didn't come in. Sitting alone in his home, doing the crossword on his paper, going for like five jogs, the gym and that was it; maybe he would read a little bit, but nothing outside of work interested him. Honest…
"Why not just take a day to relax and let off a load? You know your work will be transferred to someone else if you don't show up."
"Then I would be burdening them. It's not my place."
"You have a right to be happy."
"I told you I am." Not wanting to continue this dialog any further, Ludwig cut him off by focusing solely on his paperwork, Alfred frowning sadly.
The thing was, Alfred knew he wasn't happy, hadn't been in a long time. Even if it was only his job to watch over Ludwig, he would also do him the service of making him happy if it killed him.