"And John… this is Joe."
Joe can see Brian's bright, excited smile from the corner of his eye as he turns his head.
At last, he gets to meet the man he only saw on records and pictures so far, now standing in front of him, and his world is suddenly tightening, air flowing into his lungs with a loud inhale.
He’s nearly knocked over by the sadness he’s been feeling since his childhood as if it were his own, and now he forgets to breathe as it’s suddenly, unexpectedly washing over him in a deluge. Sight and sound and smell evaporate away, and a stream of emotions courses freely into his being.
Loss. Freshly revived grief. Hopelessness...
He blinks a few times before he can focus again, he finds himself looking into the twinkling gray eyes of the man with a gentle face, a face Joe knows so well, once breathtakingly beautiful...
John looks similarly enchanted and stunned, but after a moment of silence he seems to pull himself together as he reaches his hand out.
"Hello, I’m John Deacon. So nice to meet you-"
Joe’s suddenly surrounded by white light, his soul ascending ethereal planes.
Underneath the grip of loneliness, he senses a pure, radiant power, a sweetness speaking of serenity and courage, of safety and assurance. A sublime peace, warm and joyful beyond all known boundaries. It speaks of a home he’s never been to, easing his mind, soothing his soul, imbuing him totally, thoroughly…
He forces himself out of it, like breaking through water surface, with just enough presence of mind to reach forward and take John's hand to shake it.
A sharp, white-hot pang, he’s being electrocuted by the heat spreading in his arm, straight into his heart through his chest.
Am I dreaming?
He hears himself automatically responding with his name and some well-spoken courtesy, and Brian chuckles at him, a sound coming from another room, another galaxy, far-off and low through the rush of blood in his ears.
"Joe, you look like you’re seeing a ghost. Is it that horrible to meet you idol?"
If only I knew…
"Deaky, your mouth is hanging open," Roger says mockingly, also from light years away. "I don't blame you, the similarities are astounding. You feel like looking into a mirror to the past? ‘Cause I do every time I see Ben’s abs-"
Joe can’t hear anything after that. He doesn't even realize they are still holding hands. He's lost in the grey eyes that are calling him, attracting him like the candlelight draws the moth…
"Uh, okay. I guess we'll leave you two alone now."
Brian sounds a bit puzzled and more than a bit amused at the lack of answers, looking back and forth between the two of them. But then he shrugs, gently leading Roger away by the shoulder (who’s grinning like a cheshire cat, Joe catches a glimpse), leaving John and Joe alone, staring at each other.
Joe’s autopilot takes the control once again as he finally lets go of John’s hand, even though his mind is screaming at the loss. He hears himself saying something stupid, something like "Would you like to see my bass, maybe? I chose it myself to practice and I'm interested in your opinion."
He’s surprised he can form coherent sentences. He’s not even sure he said them out loud. All he can think of is that he must get out of here and must get John to go with him, he must...
"Of course I would," John answers in a strangely thin voice, and Joe can't help but pray for his wishes that are starting to take a solid shape, to be true.
The few meters to reach his trailer seem both like ages and nanoseconds, their shoulders touching involuntarily, and Joe is basking in the warmth of the other man burning him through their clothes, his strangely calming and frightening presence.
Joe closes the door behind them, and there they stand, again just observing each other.
Earthquake of his life, eye of the hurricane.
Joe is drinking in the soft, familiar, unfamiliar features of the man, hardly noticing the differences between the reality and pictures he's seen of him anymore; heat is radiating from something inside him, a connection, a bond he’s always felt but never could grasp, liquid light circulating in his veins. He’s taking in his form, the way John’s holding onto the nearest object he could grab --the edge of a chair--, eyes transfixed on Joe.
"Is it... you?" Joe manages to ask after forever, barely louder than a broken gasp, the question just forming itself on its own on his tongue. It doesn’t make any sense, yet it contains all the sense in the world.
John's eyes are huge and glistening with the same hope and insecurity that Joe is feeling, opening his mouth but no words come out.
"Please," Joe now begs for an answer, to John or to a god or to anyone who can hear, limbs shivering and heart pounding.
"I-" John says again, swallowing, eyes caressing Joe's face all over in the gentlest, yet hungriest manner he's ever seen, and Joe's voice is cracking as he pleads.
"You know what I'm talking about, right? You do, right?" He knows he sounds so childish, but it doesn't matter.
"Tell me," John asks at last, softly.
Joe knows he’s still unable to put it into words. Instead he just slowly tucks the waistband of his jeans lower to reveal a little comet shape over his right hip bone.
Please tell me I'm not mad please tell me I’m not dreaming please tell me I’m not mistaken-
John lets out a choked sound as he casts his eyes to Joe's birthmark, a single tear rolling down his cheek. Joe watches, feeling exposed in body and soul, watching John move in an identical, insecure way like he himself just did, trembling so hard he can barely roll up the sleeve on his left arm.
Joe thinks his heart will give in any second as John's hand is slowly uncovering a sign in the bend of his elbow.
A tiny comet, the same as his own.
Joe wants to sink to his knees to feel the birthmark with his lips, to cover it with kisses, to wrap his arms around John and worship him forever.
It’s you it’s you it’s you
He’s openly crying now as he hears John whispering "may I-?", and he nods frantically before John steps to him and takes his hands between his. He’s so close now, finally in his orbit after all these decades, and Joe can't imagine how he was able to exist without this, this warmth, this blinding light in his mind, a grief not his own is closer yet fainter than ever, his own recent hurting for his father is eased as it's shared between their souls, and he lifts their hands to his lips.
"Where have you been, love, where have you been?" John keeps asking him, thumbs tenderly stroking Joe’s knuckles, his expression raw and vulnerable, cheeks shining when Joe looks at him, he might be old now but he's the most beautiful person Joe's ever seen, his skin is soft and his touch makes him ache.
"I'm so sorry for Freddie," he babbles without any coherence, "for your loss, John, no one should be forced to endure that much pain, I’m not leaving you ever, please say you’ll never leave me-"
John cups his face now, he's close, so close now, gently wiping away his tears. "And I'm sorry you had to suffer like that, God, you were so young... I'm sorry I made you go through that, I was calling you, calling you for so long, oh I'm so sorry for your grief, Joe, love, are you okay, please tell me you're okay-"
Incoherent words of apologizing and promises, fingertips now on each other's cheeks, holding onto each other for dear life.
"I’ve missed you," Joe breathes, stroking John’s neck, his ear, touching his forehead to his, "I’ve missed you so much, I thought I'll forever be alone, how have you been? What was your life like before? Were you happy?"
"There were good times… but I’m truly happy now, because I've found you," John says as he’s kissing Joe’s forehead, holding him close, "I‘ve found you at last, I have been looking for you all my life, thought I'd never meet you, oh dear lord-"
Joe is caressing John's shoulder, lost in their embrace, smiling through his relief. He’s eased now like he’s never been before, so lightweight, he could fly, he could move mountains.
"How was it when you learned of me? I’ve known of you since I’ve known myself, but you must have been so lonely..."
"We've shared your first breath," John says, voice breaking with the memory, and Joe’s tears begin to pour again. "Oh, that hurt, that hurt so much I thought I was dying, I kept thinking what happened to you and where were you before, why wasn’t I feeling your presence before-"
"I’m here now. I’m here," Joe mumbles, his face buried in John’s neck, he’s not letting him go ever. He’s waited for decades, seeing everybody around him marry and have families but it doesn’t matter, it all doesn’t matter anymore.
"You have to tell me everything," John murmurs as he holds him, kissing Joe’s hair and caressing his back, with Joe’s fingers tangled in his sleeves. "About your loves, about your dreams, anything about yourself, what you were doing…"
"I can’t remember anything worthwhile before this," Joe says, "it was dull, I was nothing, but now I need to know everything about you, that is, if you want to tell me.” He closes his eyes, breath slowing down finally. He’s run light years… “Oh wow… we have to thank Brian! For forcing you to come over here."
"Oh, yes, right," John answers with a laugh, his eyes squinting, and Joe now is able to feel not only his pain, but his happiness too, like it was his own. "I have to thank him for being a stubborn pain in the ass, convincing me to come see you. Maybe he knew it all along?"
Joe also laughs as he cups John’s face, his eyes twinkling before turning a bit more serious.
"And… now what? How do we start?"
"I don't know… Any way you want it. We do have an awful lot of time to make up for, and a lot to tell."
"And a lot to do," Joe says, carefully snaking his arms behind John’s neck, and John looks at him like a man dying of thirst, running his thumb over Joe’s lips.
"God, I want to kiss you. Can I-"
Joe answers by pulling John closer a bit but stopping halfway, still a little unsure, waiting for his reassurance.
"Sixty-seven bloody years." John closes the gap with a sigh, warm and damp and delicious on Joe’s lips. "I’ve been waiting for you for too long."
"I hope I’ll be worth the wait," Joe whispers.
"I know you’re worth it."
John’s smile is just as breathtaking as it was decades ago, and when they kiss for the first time, it’s like summer and colors spreading along their bond.