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Amsterdam

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It hasn’t been a good night. Miles feels agitated and fidgety by the time he leaves the stage after the very first gig of his European tour, pent-up energy still pulsing through his veins. He’d been looking forward to this tour for months, but now that he’s here, now that the first gig is over and done with, he’s pretty sure he’s ready to throw in the towel. Realistically, he knows he’s overreacting, but he’s been doing this for years, and he’s never known a tour to start off this awkward and slow. It’s his own fault. It took him much too long to warm up the crowd, and it took the tense Dutch crowd equally as long to warm up to him. By the time everyone had loosened up a little and had enough alcohol in their systems to sing along, the gig was almost over. To Miles the evening feels lukewarm and forgettable, everything the first show of a tour shouldn’t be, and it’s his own fault. The enthusiasm of his band members is the only thing that keeps him from hurrying straight back to the hotel. They all seem happy, cheering and talking excitedly, towelling the sweat of their foreheads.

Dom punches his fist in the air, grinning broadly, and claps Miles on his back. “That was amazing, Mi. What a show, eh? What a show!”

Miles can’t help but smile back. For a brief, blissful moment he figures that it may all be in his head – that his bad feelings about tonight are all just a culmination of the nervous excitement he’s been feeling leading up to this tour – but then it starts. The singing in the audience is quiet enough for him to think he has just misheard at first, but when the volume increases and it turns into a full-blown chant the words become hard to miss, and really, they're the very last words in the world that Miles wants to hear right now.

Where the fuck is Alex Turner, where the fuck is Alex Turner?

He turns around, dumbfounded. He catches Dom's eye, as if to say I told you so, and then takes a hesitant step towards the stage entrance, wondering if he should go out there again and make some sort of a more lasting impression. Dom’s hand is back on his shoulder in an instant, and Victoria appears in front of him, shaking her head.

“Don’t listen to that shit,” she mutters. “They’re just a couple of drunk college kids. We were great, man. You were great.”

Miles gives her a curt shake of his head, staring at the dark stage incredulously, sudden anger stirring high in his chest. He's not sure whom it's directed at, but it's definitely there, making it hard to breathe and crushing all chances of turning tonight into a good one after all. Realistically, he knows that the gig wasn't half as bad as he feels it was, but somehow, those words just pry their way into his brain and stay right there. It doesn't help that the actual singing doesn't stop.

Where the fuck is Alex Turner, where the fuck is Alex Turner?

Miles inhales sharply as the drunken mantra continues. His black and pink suit clings to his lean frame in all the wrong places and suddenly, he feels stupid for wearing it. Without him playing the part of the glamourous rockstar, a part that usually comes so effortlessly to him, the camp suit just looks out of place, as if it got lost and landed on him by chance. He tugs at the chain around his neck absent-mindedly, sweat cooling on his skin and making him shiver. Even if it’s just two or three people singing, to Miles they sound like an entire stadium of football fans, booing the team that just lost the game. He likes to think that he's become rather confident in his own abilities over the years, but tonight was supposed to be his, not Alex's. He laughs coldly. “Fucking Alex Turner,” he mutters, spitting out the name of his best mate as if it were poison. It's not Alex's fault, of course it bloody isn't, but that hardly matters now. Miles runs a hand through his matted hair and shakes his head in defeat. He allows Victoria to tug him further away from the stage by his wrist and trails after them to the dressing rooms, feeling ready to go home. It must be some kind of record.

They end up at an Irish pub not far from the venue, where Miles sits by the bar, hunched over his drink, uncharacteristically quiet. Victoria is sitting next to him, nursing a beer and texting some friends back in England, and the rest of the band have scattered, all having given up on cheering Miles up. When he finally does speak, Victoria's head snaps up in surprise. “I really feel like yelling at him,” he mutters, giving her a quick glance. “I know it's stupid and I know I'm being an idiot, but how does he – who does he even think he is?” 

"Who, Alex?" Victoria arches her eyebrows and Miles shrugs, not even attempting to take it back. Alex is often in the back of his mind and he knows the same thing is true the other way around, but tonight, thinking about Alex is the very last thing he wants to do. Tonight was supposed to be his. He takes a large drink of his beer, fingers turning white around his glass. "If he were here right now, I'd tell him exactly what I think of him," he murmurs. "Fucking Alex Turner and his stupid fucking face."

Victoria laughs, then. "Hey,” she murmurs, looking up to briefly meet his eye. “Crazy idea. Why don’t you give him a call?”

Miles laughs and shakes his head, but he’s intoxicated enough to be tempted. He’s not exactly drunk, but he’s had more than enough to just want to call Alex and let off some steam. It wouldn't exactly be fair to Alex, but it’s not as if what happened tonight was fair. Still, he hesitates. “And tell him what?” he asks. “Hi, Al, long time no see. I love your face, but it’s your fault that I was crap tonight?”

Victoria shrugs her shoulders. “If that’s what it will take to get you to talk to someone, sure. You’re barely talking to any of us, so he may have more luck. I’m sure he can handle it.”

Miles smiles humourlessly at her, but she doesn’t budge. “Go on then. I’ll look after your beer.”

Miles considers it. Alex despises phonecalls, so it's not as if he'd pick up in the first place. And really, the thought of leaving his friend a whiny voicemail saying that he misses him and teasing him about the stupid buzzcut he's currently sporting, just to have something to say, isn't half bad. As if having to leave his beer unattended were the only reason why he still hasn't dialled Alex's number, Miles digs his phone from his pocket and dials his friend’s number without a second thought, already drafting up a teasing little voicemail message in his mind. But the phone barely rings two times before that familiar lazy drawl fills his ear. It's so unexpected that Miles' heart skips a beat.

“Mi. Hey, I was just thinking about you. How was the first night of your big tour?”

Miles knows that Alex doesn’t mean to sound patronising, but after tonight, the words are enough to rile him up. He slips a cigarette between his lips and slips off his barstool, signalling to Victoria that he’s going out for a bit. She waves at him and gives him a knowing smile.

“Are you still there? Miles?”

Miles can hear people talking in the background on Alex’ end, which somehow rubs him the wrong way. He closes the door of the pub behind him and lights his cigarette, leaning against the wall as he props up his collar against the cold wind. He doesn’t speak just yet, unsure where to start.

“I can actually hear your breathe,” Alex says. “I know you’re there. What’s up? How was the gig? Did you have a good time? I’m goin' to need pictures if you really did end up wearin' the pink suit, you know.”

Miles takes a deep drag of his cigarette, holding his breath for a moment before exhaling the smoke, as he listens to the people in the background. He can’t make out the words, but he still listens for a moment, as he mulls over Alex’ questions. They’re too many questions, and even if he told Alex that tonight was the worst possible way to start off a tour, he probably wouldn’t understand. No one ever goes around asking him where Miles is when he’s touring with the Monkeys.

“The gig was alright,” he finally says, but Alex is no fool. Miles can hear him leave the room, and then there’s the tell-tale click of a lighter as Alex lights a cigarette of his own.

“Just alright?” he asks. “That’s no good, is it. Especially for a first gig.”

If anyone else had told him that, Miles would have flipped them off, but Alex sounds concerned rather than anything else, so Miles just shakes his head. “No good at all,” he agrees. “I felt like I’d lost it, y’know? Felt like I couldn’t connect to them. They loosened up a little during the bangers near the end, but it was messy. All over the place. Not a good start at all.” He briefly considers keeping the bit about the drunken chanting to himself, but something ugly inside of him really does feel like blaming Alex for it all. “It doesn’t exactly help that everyone there immediately thinks of your cheeky face when they hear my name,” he mutters, barely even trying to sound like he’s joking. He knows it’s childish and he knows he’s above this, but tonight is different. This was the first gig of his first European tour in years and he didn’t deliver. His blood is still boiling with pent-up anger, and Alex really shouldn’t have picked up the phone if he didn’t want to be on the receiving end of it.

Alex is silent for a moment. Then, he asks: “What are you on about? People bought tickets to come see you, Miles.”

Miles flicks some ash off his cigarette and onto the cobblestones. The wind blows it away immediately, and he tightens his coat around himself with one arm. “They were calling for you, Al. I’d barely even left the stage or people started calling for you. didn’t sign up for that. I didn’t sign up for people chanting your name when I’m the one on stage.”

Alex doesn't say anything, which encourages Miles to take it a little further. “What would you do, right, what would you do if your audience would break out into a collective ‘Where the fuck is Miles Kane?’ the second you stepped off stage? What would you do, hm?” He doesn't know why he's so angry. He just feels out of control of what should have been something entirely within his control.

There’s another moment of silence, but then Alex laughs warmly and clears his throat. “Honestly?" he asks, "I’d ask myself the same thing. I ask myself that very question a lot, actually. Where the fuck are you, Miles Kane?” His voice turns a little sing-songy at the end and he’s definitely being playful, but there’s a twinge of something in his voice that Miles can’t quite place. Scratch that, he can definitely place it, but he’s angry with Alex right now and he doesn’t want to place it. He’s in a bad enough mood without having to take into account that they've been apart for ages, and that Alex really does miss him. He can’t exactly blame him for everything that went wrong tonight if Alex is the one who’s vulnerable.

“Cut that out,” he snaps. “You’re being ridiculous. You don’t need me and I definitely don’t need you. Not for my music. Not during my shows.” He's perfectly aware of how childish he sounds, but somehow it feels good to get it out. Saying the words and saying them right into Alex' ear clears his mind a little, makes the white hot anger he can feel simmer in his veins settle down, even if just a little. It's not fair at all, but it really does feel good.

When Alex doesn't reply for a long time, Miles starts to feel a little guilty. Working with his best friend is more fulfilling than anything, but he can’t take back what he just said. It’s true, after all: he does not need Alex for his music. They definitely need each other when writing songs for the Puppets and Miles isn't at all ashamed to admit that he definitely needs Alex outside of their work, but he doesn't need him for his solo career. Still, Miles opens his mouth to at least apologise. Before he can get anything out however, Alex clears his throat, and drawls: “Hmm. I know you don’t need me. I fuckin' love you for that.” He pauses, then mutters: “You should realise something, Mi. You may not feel like it right now, but you’re in charge. It's your tour and your album. You run the show. You definitely run mine.”

Miles almost chokes on his own breath. “Are you high? Can’t you ever be serious?” But Alex sounds serious, and Miles just feels really, ridiculously guilty now.

There's a pregnant pause. Then, Alex murmurs: “What if I were serious? What would you want me to do, Mi? It’s your night. You get to call the shots.” Miles isn’t sure if he means for his voice to be husky or soothing, but somehow, he achieves both at once. He huffs out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding and leans against the cold wall behind him, resting his head against the cold stone as he closes his eyes. “Careful,” he murmurs, although he isn’t sure whether he’s warning Alex or himself. Victoria was right when she said that Alex could handle his ire; he clearly knows exactly what he's doing.

“Always am," Alex says matter-of-factly. "You just played a brilliant fuckin’ show and now I want you to make it clear to me how much you don’t need me; show me that it’s the other way around. Show me how much I need you; tell me what you’d have me do.” Alex's voice is low, and Miles isn’t sure how their conversation turned into this, but he's oddly grateful for it. His chest still feels tight, but Alex is clearly offering him a way out of his head, and he’d be a fool not to accept.

“Where are you?” he demands, and Alex laughs breathily.

“Paris. Some party.”

“Can they see you? Your friends?” Miles lights a second cigarette and takes another grateful drag. He opens his eyes again as he blows out the smoke and stares straight ahead, overlooking a canal. The water barely moves despite the wind, and his gaze follows a group of laughing students, walking along the other side of the water, care-free and intoxicated, until they round a corner and disappear out of his sight.

“No,” Alex says. “I’m in the bathroom. Told them you were calling.”

“So they know you’re with me,” Miles muses, one corner of his lips twitching into a small smile. “I wonder what they’d say if you emerged from the bathroom lookin’ like a right fuckin’ mess, eh Al?”

Alex laughs. “I imagine they’d have all their dirty fantasies confirmed. And I mine.”

“Oh, please.” Miles actually laughs, then. “I’ve fulfilled more than my fair share of your dirty fantasies. I hadn’t realised that being ordered around was amongst them.”

“Can’t exactly help it,” Alex says. “It’s your night. I need you, remember? You’re in charge.”

And really, Miles isn’t particularly dominant in the bedroom – whenever he’s with Alex, it tends to be the other way around – but hearing Alex admit that he needs him, that Miles and Miles alone is running the show tonight, is a heady feeling. He chuckles, flipping a switch in his head as he decides to just go along with it. “So you do,” he hums. “So why don’t you undo the buttons on your shirt for me? Don’t take it off, there’s no time for that. I’ll be sending you back out there before you know it.”

Alex hums in agreement, and Miles listens impatiently to the rustle of fabric. “Don’t take it off,” he repeats sharply. “Run those talented fingers of yours over your chest for me. Trace your nipples with them, slowly.” Alex breathes out quietly into the receiver and Miles can feel his cock stir in interest. “Pinch them, love, play with them for me.”

Alex’ breath hitches in his throat and Miles chuckles breathily. He knows Alex’ body like the back of his hand and if there’s one way to get him good and frustrated, this is it. “I still wish you’d pierce them,” he muses. “God, can you imagine? Imagine how how good the cold metal would feel against your skin, hm? Don’t stop, now. Go on. You don’t get to stop until I say so.” He lets a silence fall, then, letting Alex work himself up without granting him permission to touch himself elsewhere. He imagines Alex sitting on a bathroom floor, head leaned back against the rim of a bathtub, his shirt undone, his eyes closed and his mouth half-open. It’s a very good mental image and Miles hums appreciatively.

Mi,” Alex mutters, his voice muffled, and Miles laughs. “Sorry, babe. I tend to get distracted when your body’s involved. You look absolutely fuckin’ delicious, though, I just know it. Couldn’t help meself.” He takes another slow drag of his cigarette, sighing softly as he feels the tight muscles in his neck and shoulders relax a little. Continuing to give Alex gentle instructions, directing him to open his fly now, he listens to the sweet little noises being sent right into his ear through the phone. “Slide your hand down for me, Al, and wrap your fingers around yourself,” he says lazily, his voice low. “Pretend it’s my hand, stroking you. You do know how I like to take it slow, don’t you? How I like to tease you by sliding my thumb over the head? It’s my hand touching you, so I can’t possibly be wrong when I’m guessing that that’s exactly what’s happening now, can I?” His own cock has definitely taken an interest now, but he doesn’t make a move to touch. He’s far more interested in talking Alex through this than in quickly getting himself off, in the middle of an alley where anyone could spot him, at that. He’s not that desperate.

Alex however is. Because of him. He whines low in his throat, then admits: “No, you’re right. Fuck. You’re right. I hate it when you tease me like that, Mi.” He swears quietly, and Miles grins.

“Lean your phone between your shoulder and ear. Inflict some more havoc on those lovely nipples for me. Keep stroking yourself. Faster, now. That’s it, love. Don’t come.”

Alex starts whimpering, and Miles grins, revelling in the fact that it’s him who has reduced him to this state. Suddenly, the thought of ‘Where the fuck is Alex Turner?’ makes him laugh. If only they knew. If only they knew where Alex Turner was right now, writhing on a bathroom floor somewhere in Paris, falling apart because of what Miles is doing to him.

“What’s so fuckin’ funny?” complains Alex. “I’m close. Mi. Come on. Stop being a tease.”

Miles can’t help take pity on him, then. “You’re perfect,” he murmurs, and he means it. His voice is calm and unwavering. “Let go for me now. You’ve earned it.”

Alex cries out. His phone clatters to the floor and Miles has to pull it away from his ear for a moment as it crashes against the hard tiles, but Alex scrambles to pick it up and within seconds, he’s panting into Miles’ ear again. “Fuck,” he laughs, his accent thick and lazy. “Okay, that’s it. Need you here with me. Please come pick me up and drive me home now.”

Miles smiles. He’s still hard, but he feels calmer than he has all day. “Stay on the phone with me while you get dressed,” he says, but it’s more of a question this time. “Are you okay?”

Alex hums in response. “Give me a sec.” Miles hears him set the phone aside, and listens to the splashing of water. “Leave your shirt open a bit,” he says as an afterthought, not sure if it’s still his place to demand anything. He always loves how dishevelled Alex is afterwards, making him look sleepy and soft. “I want them to know.”

“Jesus.” Alex breathes out a laugh. “Sure. But they’ll know either way. Just saying.”

“Good,” Miles murmurs, and he surprises himself with the conviction in his voice.

They fall silent, then. Miles hears the tap running again, and then the rustle of fabric as Alex adjusts his shirt. “Hey, Al?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you. You’re a lifesaver.”

Alex laughs. “And you’re a drama queen. Don’t you have an afterparty to go to? The night’s still young, Mi. It’s your tour, this is. Go enjoy yourself. If you aren’t incredibly smug, arrogant and hungover by the end of these nine days, I will be severely disappointed in you.”

Miles grins, because Alex knows exactly how long he’ll be touring for. “I’ll try my best,” he says. “Are you really okay? Can you go back out there like that?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Alex smiles. “I don’t mind them knowing how amazing you are. Wish I could make that clear to you as well, but – alas, can’t ‘ave it all, eh?” He sighs theatrically and Miles shakes his head, his chest tightening. He almost says something stupidly sentimental that he might regret in the morning, but he keeps his lips firmly pressed together to stop himself. Alex ends the call with an obnoxious kissing sound that makes Miles roll his eyes at him, and then he’s alone again. He finishes his cigarette, enjoying the crisp evening air for a few more minutes as he plays the phonecall over and over again in his head, and then goes back inside.

His glass is empty by the time sits down again, and Victoria gives him a guilty smile. She looks him up and down, before signalling for the bartender to bring them another round. “You look better. Calmed you down, did he?”

Miles runs a hand through his hair and takes a grateful gulp of the beer that he bartender sets down in front of him. “If only you knew,” he smiles. He feels loose and energetic, as if he could simply go back to the venue and play another show. He takes another drink of his beer and beams at the drummer. “You know what? Let’s ‘ave it tonight,” he says, his eyes glinting as he looks around to locate the rest of the band. “Let’s go out. Let’s go dancing. If we don’t all show up hungover for tomorrow’s gig I’ll be severely disappointed in us.”