Happy Valentine's Day! It's past midnight here so I thought I'd get the party started with a new chapter of From Switzerland With Love. If nothing else, at least you know I'll always update on the day of our beloved Valentine himself.

Hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: I do not own TMI or its characters, but I probably also get way too emotional about football. (to clarify, we're talking about the english version)


Valentine's Team

Valentine regarded his son carefully, wondering exactly what it was about the sport on the television that managed to capture his attention so thoroughly, as nothing else could. If Jonathan could apply even half of such diligence to his school work, there was no telling what the boy might achieve. But no. Instead of trying to make something of his life, he was either too busy messing around on that drum kit of his with his equally as foolish friends or sitting right here on the sofa watching football. It was only due to Jocelyn's ceaseless insistence that he should make some sort of effort to bond with his son that Valentine found himself sitting on the same sofa today, his glasses propped on the point of his nose.

Perhaps if he could understand what it was about this game that so enticed Jonathan, he could find the source of the boy's motivation and attempt to convert it to something that would end in decent career prospects. He'd tried to speak to him about his music before, but he couldn't glean much apart from the fact that Jonathan liked to hit things very loudly. The only potential lucrative career path he could envision from that was law, but he didn't think Jonathan would prefer a gavel to his drumsticks. That, and his son didn't particularly care for justice or righteousness. He didn't particularly care for much at all beside himself and Marmalade Massacre or whatever that ridiculous ensemble was called.

Valentine tried to imitate the way his son was sitting on the edge of the sofa, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped between them. On the screen, a man kicked the ball to another man, who then kicked the ball to yet another man. This was followed by another man still, ramming straight into the one who currently had the ball. He could at least understand why it was referred to as football. There was certainly a ball involved and many feet. What he couldn't understand is what the point of it was.

"No!" Jonathan groaned, slapping his forehead. "That was a perfectly clean tackle! Why would the ref card him? That's insane!"

"Yes," Valentine nodded, assuming indignation. Of course, he had absolutely no idea what was going on. "Absolutely preposterous. That was such a clean tackle. The most hygienic of tackles, one might say."

"Err, Dad. I don't think people would say that." The critique came from his daughter, Clarissa, who had just walked into the room. She stole a packet of Doritos from Jonathan's side and fell into the armchair, placing a couple in her mouth. "How are we doing?"

"Not bad," Jonathan said, not bothering to break eye contact with the television. "We've got possession but it's sloppy."

"As long as we've got possession," she said, the crisps crunching in her mouth in a most unladylike fashion. Honestly, these children. Had they inherited nothing of him at all? "It'll hit the net eventually."

"Not if we all get sent off, it won't. The bloody ref can't handle a bit of ingenuity."

"Alright, stop." Valentine put his hands up. "I have some questions."

"Shoot," Clary said.

"First off, why do you ke…"

"I said shoot, you idiot!" She yelled, leaning forward. "No, not now! It's too late!"

"Young lady!" Valentine stood up, his body resonating with anger and disapproval. "You do not speak to your father that way!"

"Huh?" She looked at him, her eyebrows furrowing. "What did I do?"

"You called me an idiot! Me. Your father; the one who cradled you when you were nothing but a snivelling infant. I may not have birthed you, but you are still the fruit of my loins and I will not be spoken to in such an impertinent manner."

Clary's eyes were wide and even Jonathan had torn his gaze from the game to look up at him. Valentine crossed his arms over his chest, attempting to keep calm. He could not believe the insolence of children in this generation, though it was probably this country too. This would never have happened in Switzerland.

"Dad, I was talking about the striker," she said slowly. "Not you."

"And what proof do you have that he is an idiot?" So she'd been judging someone else, but that didn't make it any better. He'd raised his children to be better than that. "You cannot make such wild accusations about people you do not know, Clarissa. He could be a fine gentleman with an appreciation for fiscal studies. You do not know that he is an idiot."

"Dad, he literally just face-planted," Jonathan said, pointing at the television. "He missed the opening and threw away a perfectly good assist. I think that's enough proof of his idiocy. Plus, I doubt he'd be a footballer if he had an appreciation for fiscal studies. They're not exactly the brightest bunch."

"There you go again," Valentine said, shaking his head. "Making accusations about people you do not know. Yes, he face-planted, but perhaps the grass was loose on the pitch. And also, there is absolutely nothing to say that sportsmen cannot be intelligent. I was a sportsman myself once."

"You were? Then why don't you know anything about football?"

"Because we didn't play football." Valentine rolled his eyes, thinking back to his days as a young boy. "Our village was too small for there to be enough players for football. Instead, I participated in Steinstossen."

"Stone-throwing?"

"Exactly!" The elder Morgenstern beamed for a second. "So you do remember some of your German! I haven't failed completely, then. But yes, it was a sport that required both strength and concentration in equal amounts. You had to have a sound knowledge of trajectories in order to calculate the most effective way in which to toss the stone. Steinstossen is a sacred sport in Switzerland."

"Oh, here we go…"

"Few might go as far as to claim it as our national sport, and I would concur with those few. Others prefer Schwingen, but I've always seen wrestling as unnecessary and barbaric. Why throw around your fellow man when you can throw stones instead?"

"Were you going somewhere with this, Dad?" Clary asked. "Because we've just been granted a penalty so I'd really like to…you know, watch."

"Of course I'm going somewhere with this! I never speak unless I have something worth saying – a habit that it would do the two of you well to learn. My point is that I am a sportsman and I am also highly intelligent, so you cannot base the scholarly capabilities of this poor man on the fact that he is also adept at wielding a ball with his foot."

"Okay." Clary nodded slowly. "I'm sorry I jumped to such a conclusion. Can we get back to the game now?"

"You may, once you've answered the questions I initially had for you. It's not respectful to ignore your father, either."

"Right, yes. Go ahead." His daughter gave a tight-lipped smile and then placed another Dorito in her mouth.

"My first question was: why do you and Jonathan continue to use 'we' when referring to the players? If I'm not mistaken, you two aren't doing anything at all. You're not on the field. So why would you say 'we have a penalty' and 'we're being sloppy.'"

"Well, this is who we support. It's our team, Dad."

"And this qualifies some sort of ownership?"

"Not ownership as much as…" Clary looked at her brother.

"Camaraderie," Jonathan finished. "We feel their pain as if it's our own and celebrate their victories in the same way. You must understand that concept, right, Dad? I'm sure you support Switzerland."

"Of course I support Switzerland! It is the fatherland! Generations of Morgensterns have been born and raised in that fine country…"

"I mean the Swiss football team. Surely you'd support them?"

"There's a Swiss football team?"

"Yeah, sure there is. And they're not half bad. They co-hosted the Euro 2008, I think."

"There's a Swiss football team…" Valentine said again, to himself this time. How had he not known of this? His fellow countrymen were out in the big wide world, representing their fine nation and he had never bothered to learn of them. "Is there also a Swiss cricket team?"

"Probably? I'm sure there's a national team for almost every sport out there. The football team is the most well known though."

"And how can I see them? How may I witness their beautiful gameplay?"

"I don't think they play very often…" Clary began, but Jonathan placed his hand over her mouth.

"You have to subscribe to ESPN," he said. "Also Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2 and the entire music package."

"The music package?" Valentine narrowed his eyes, wondering whether his son was trying to pull wool over them.

"Sometimes they play national anthems on the music channels," he explained. "And football songs."

"I see. I suppose that if I want to truly support my national team then I must also support their war cries."

"You'll have to get the movies package too then, Dad," Clary added. "Just in case they ever play films about the Swiss football team."

"I hardly think that's likely, Clarissa."

"Yes, but are you really willing to take the chance?" She shook her head gravely. "What if they do make a film about the Swiss football team but when it comes to airing it, we won't be able to watch it because we don't have the right subscription? It's not right, Dad. It's not patriotic."

"You're right," he said, pursing his lips. "It seems that I have some calls to make. But first, I have some more questions for you. What is a tackle?"

Once Valentine had learned as much as he could about football from his two offspring, he set off to change their satellite subscription and decided to do some extra research of his own. He usually detested the Internet, but the library wasn't very forthcoming when he asked for books on Swiss football-based literature, so he was forced to look further afield. Luckily, the Internet served his purposes just fine. He read up on the history of the team and found this incredible website called Amazon that allowed him to purchase various merchandise. He ordered Swiss football t-shirts for his entire family – both the home and away kits, naturally – socks, badges and even a flag that he resolved to drape across one of the walls in his living room.

It took a while for almost everything to arrive, but an entire month later, Valentine had his family standing in the kitchen, completely outfitted in the Swiss national football team's home kit. The music and movie channels hadn't provided anything remotely Swiss or football-related as of yet, but he'd found out that Switzerland was due to play Austria later that day and the game was to be aired live on ESPN. Valentine figured that if Jonathan's suggestion of purchasing that channel had proved to be fruitful, there was no reason why the other packages might not also serve their purpose in allowing the Morgensterns to support Switzerland.

"Now listen here," he told his children, pacing the kitchen. Jocelyn just stood the side, looking a little bored. "I am aware that I have raised you to be neutral parties who withhold judgement until just reason is given to sway your allegiance, but tonight, I must ask you to judge freely and without abandon. Under no circumstances must Germany be allowed to win this game. They may be our fatherland's neighbours, but we support Switzerland and Switzerland alone. Are we clear?"

"Yes, Dad," Jonathan said, pulling at his shirt. "But you do realise this is just a friendly, right?"

"What's a friendly?"

"It means they're not actually playing towards anything. It doesn't matter who wins and who loses."

"What did you say?" Valentine gasped, striding towards his son. He was surprised to find that he could look him in the eye now. The boy had been growing fast since his sixteenth birthday, as was the Morgenstern way. "Are you saying that it doesn't matter if Switzerland loses?"

"Err…no?" Jonathan raised his eyebrows. "I'm sure it matters to you, but it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things."

"Well, neither does your life, Jonathan, but that doesn't mean I don't care about it."

Jonathan's expression turned even more confused "…thanks?"

"You're welcome. Now are we all clear?" His brood nodded this time and Valentine smiled in satisfaction. "Then let us all transport ourselves to the viewing area." He stood aside and held his arm out, waiting for Jocelyn to walk into the room before him, then entered himself before his children could. Jocelyn could have her first pick of the seating, but there was no way Jonathan or Clary were about to deprive him of a prime viewing position. Switzerland were about to play and when Switzerland played, the world stood still.

Valentine positioned himself opposite the television and instructed Jonathan to find the right channel. The anticipation bubbled within him like a fresh spring in the Alps. He hadn't been this excited about something since he'd found out that Johan's son, Gustav, had come of age and was pursuing a career as a professional tennis player, under the instruction of Federer himself. He'd make a fine match for Clarissa one day.

The match began and Valentine hushed his family. "Let us now enjoy the beautiful game."

"Since when have you called it the beautiful game?" Jocelyn arched at an eyebrow at him. "I thought you said that football was pointless and mundane?"

"That was until I learned of Switzerland's team," he clarified, shocked at the accusation. "Nothing is pointless and mundane where Switzerland is concerned."

Valentine still hadn't fully grasped the concept of the sport, but he found the commentators to be surprisingly helpful in explaining the basics to him. He didn't understand the technical language so much, but he used his expert skills in deduction to notice that whenever their voices became higher-pitched, something exciting was likely to happen.

He was enjoying it immensely until at once, Jonathan, Clary and his wife all groaned.

"What happened?" He said, narrowing his eyes at the screen. The other thing that he had begun to find recently – though he never would have admitted it to his family - was that his eyesight was no longer as sprightly as it had been in his youth. In fact, he could barely distinguish between the players at all, but he knew that in his heart, he would know which fine young men were Swiss. Of course, his heart wasn't always entirely accurate.

"It's okay," his wife told him, placing her gentle hand on his shoulder. "It's still early. I'm sure Switzerland can come back from this."

"Come back from what?"

"Val, Germany just scored."

"They did what!?" He stood up, anger clouding his vision. "How dare they!? Do they not know who we are?"

"Valentine, sit down. You're blocking the children's view."

"I will block every view if it means that I can prevent the world from witnessing the fatherland in defeat."

"It's only one-nil, Dad, relax," Jonathan told him.

"Only one million!?" How was that anything to relax about?

"One-nil. It means Germany have one goal and Switzerland have none."

"Switzerland have none," he said, the world fading before him. "They have none."

"Dad, there's still like, eighty minutes." Clary tried to guide him back to the sofa but he wouldn't move. What was happening? How could Switzerland possibly be losing.

"Valentine," his wife called again. "Please sit down. You're overreacting."

"How am I overreacting? Did you not hear your son!? It is one-NIL. Nil means NONE!"

"They're only one behind. This sort of thing happens all the time."

"Not to my country it doesn't."

"Jonathan, tell your father this happens all the time."

"Sure," Jonathan nodded. "Do you remember that team Clary and I were watching before? They came back from being one-nil down to win by three goals."

"Really?" Valentine attempted to calm his heart rate down. He was better than this. He'd been raised better than this and if his mother, Seraphina, could have seen him now, she'd have been ashamed. "Of course, I'm sorry. This is just so important to me."

"I know, Val," Jocelyn said in her most soothing of voices, attempting to placate him. It worked and he was just about to sit down when Jonathan and Clary cried out again.

"What was that?" He said, frozen half way to the sofa. His children looked at each other, their eyes wide.

"Nothing," Clary said, shaking her head. "Nothing at all."

"You emitted a sound of disappointment, Clarissa. What was the source of your disappointment?"

"Jonathan," she hedged, but it was too late. The commentators said the words that Valentine had been dreading.

"TWO-NIL!" The wretched man screamed and Valentine felt a strange palpitation in his chest, unlike the one that his heart was meant to be accountable for.

"Valentine?" Jocelyn stood up, concern plastered on her face. "Valentine, it's just a game. Don't worry about it."

"Yeah, Dad. Germany are like the best team in the world," Clary added. "It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"Nothing to be ashamed of? NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF?!" And then Valentine let out a sound. It was a horrifying sound. The sort of sound that he'd never thought he'd be capable of making and it felt like the world was falling apart around him. "Two- nil," he mumbled to himself, not able to process anything but the weight of shock and anger that was settling around him. "Our reputation has been destroyed. We have allowed ourselves to be defeated."

"Dad, there's still time," Clary insisted. "Teams have come back from two-nil too."

"Shit," Jonathan cursed and Jocelyn sucked in another breath. "Make that three. Switzerland are getting hammered."

"Hammered?" Valentine whispered to himself. "They are being hammered? The country that birthed me is being hammered?"

"Only in this one football game that is a friendly anyway," Jocelyn said.

"Excuse me if I am mistaken, but hammering does not sound very friendly to me!" Valentine fumed and ripped his shirt straight off. "That's it. I've had enough."

"Oh, Val. You paid so much for those t-shirts."

"What is money? I have lost my pride. I have lost everything."

"It's just football."

"Today it's just football. Tomorrow, it'll be just Schwingen. The day after, it'll be just Steinstossen. And the next month: the gods will come for me."

"Valentine…"

Jonathan swore again. "Four-nil."

Then Valentine walked straight up to the television and threw it out the window.

"Televisionstossen," he mumbled, then walked straight back out of the room.

He was never bonding with his son again.


Wow, he just can't catch a break eh? Anyway I hope you all have a fantastic Valentine's Day and once again, if you don't have a Valentine this year, assume that I've adopted you as mine.

I'll see you guys later on today with the last chapter of A Tale Of Two, but until then, goodnight and sweet dreams!

smim xx