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The Sweet Name Of Rose

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Sweetheart

A/N: Not paying any attention to set timelines or anything like that. Starts in the 70s and goes up from there. No chronological order.

“Well gentlemen I hope you won’t give your new makeup artist much of a hard time like you did the last one,” the record company executive admonished with a wry eye, firmly sizing up the band that called themselves Queen. “I know you like to look a certain way but she’s just laid back enough to deal with you four queens.”

“OK, a she?” John asked warily. “Will we have to be on our best behavior then?” John was the most laid back of the group but even he had his moments of mischief.

“Oh listen to him,” Freddie teased. “we might just drive her off by our attitudes. She has to have a little bitch in her genetic makeup to deal with us four British bastards.”

“What’s she like?” Roger interjected. “Has she been touring with bands before?”

“Roger goes checking her credentials before saying anything. Pretty smart, Rog.” Freddie rolled his eyes. “We don’t want to scare her off.”

Brian didn’t say anything but inwardly he was wondering. Primarily they had male makeup artists and hairdressers on their tours therefore a woman would be breaking the team atmosphere they usually had. He withheld judgment at that point, wanting to see what the new woman would be like before forming an opinion.

“She did the Beatles final show. Her name is Rose Sjulander.”

“Pretty name.” Brian commented. “When do we meet her?”

“As soon as you’re in the hotel in Japan. She’s already flown out there to help with roadie stuff. And Roger, her father was a professional production manager for TV so Rose has grown up in show business. Her background is music, dance, makeup, roadie.”

“She’s well rounded then,” Roger was satisfied. “All right, I’m eager to meet her.”

“I’m curious as to what she’s like as well,” Freddie folded his arms like he was already looking forward to seeing what kind of challenge she would present him with. “I’m game.”

“I hope she’s used to dealing with rowdy men,” John smirked. “we can be a handful.”

“She knows. You guys fly out in the morning.” the band left the room with Roger combing back his unruly hair from his eyes, his mind already zooming to the new girl and how he could work his charms.

**

The members of Queen arrived in the land of the rising sun around midnight local time and went straight to bed to head off any jet lag that was looming. All of them were up and raring to be tourists by mid day. Brian bought a new camera and began taking pictures of the scenes around him. The four took Tokyo by storm, getting to know the culture with their guide and interpreter the entire afternoon and by early evening they finally wound down.

“Have we got a show tonight?” John picked up a copy of the trip itinerary. “We do. Time to go meet the new makeup lady!”

“I wanna be first!” Freddie led the charge down to the backstage green room. All of them halted at the doorframe, Roger and John peeking around Freddie while Brian looked over their heads.

Rose wasn’t facing them; she was unpacking her makeup sets and laying them out before the makeup mirror on the shelf. The makeup artist was wearing a tan skirt that was two inches above her knees, flats, and a black blouse that had red roses all over it. It was a button up shirt that had been buttoned except for the two buttons at the very bottom. Rose had tied the tails in front so everyone had a nice view of her toned belly.

The band all saw she had a small tattoo on the right side of her waist which was a little butterfly. Brian’s eyes flew to it and guessed it meant that she regarded herself as a free spirit. He and Roger entered the room, approaching Rose.

“Hi,” Roger spoke first. Rose turned to him, giving him her attention. Rose had hazel eyes, full lips, a round face, and she had loose curly brown hair which was streaked with blonde. “you must be Rose. I’m Roger the drummer.”

“Well, Roger the drummer I most certainly am Rose. What a pleasure.” her voice was melodic, Freddie thought. She would be a good singer with a little training. Roger gave Rose a kiss on each cheek in greeting, then stood aside for Brian to make his first impression.

“I’m Brian.. the, er, guitar player.” he nearly stumbled over his words. He noted that contrary to being a makeup artist, Rose wasn’t wearing any makeup herself. She was thin and muscular with a fine physique; Brian hoped he’d be able to see her in a two piece in the hotel pool sometime soon.

“Oh, you’re the guitar player I’ve heard so much about!” Rose beamed happily, planting a kiss on each cheek. “I’m a big fan of your guitar work, Brian. You have an amazing talent.” Brian felt the heat in his cheeks rise up as he offered thanks and stepped aside with Roger. John was enthusiastically greeted; he paid her a few compliments.

But as always it was Freddie who had to embellish the moment. He stepped forward, bowed low like a Tudor style courtesan, grasped her hand and kissed the back of it. Rose laughed.

“Too bad I don’t have a favor to bestow upon you,” she teased. “I thought chivalry was dead.”

“Alas only few of us remain.” Freddie stood up then they exchanged kisses on the cheeks. “Freddie.”

“So I gathered. Rose.”

“Lovely to meet you,” he was laying it on thick. Roger nudged John, their collective gazes on Brian who had his eyes riveted on Rose.

“Brian’s already got it bad for her,” John whispered. “I know that look anywhere.”

“We’ll see. Sometimes physical attraction doesn’t translate to mental.” time would tell.

That night they were opening at 8 PM, call time was 6. As they guessed it Freddie was the first in the makeup chair. He’d already gotten cleaned up, put on his costume, and was in the chair before anyone else had gotten into the room. Rose giggled as the others sat around in their robes for about half an hour before they decided to get ready.

“So I understand your background is in show business?” inwardly Freddie admired Rose’s butt as she bent over and pulled out her case of foundation shades. She turned towards him with the case in her hands as he gave her a big grin. With a saucy smile on her face she put the case on the shelf, then reached over and bent down all the way so he could admire her butt even more. Roger smirked and nudged Brian with one elbow.

“Very much so. I play piano, a little acoustic guitar, I took dancing lessons for several years and then I became a makeup artist.” she selected a brush and dabbed up some foundation from the palette, smearing a little of the goop on the ball of her thumb.

“You dance?”

“Of course. I learned the Latin and ballroom dances.”

“How well do you play piano?”

“Very well. I understand all the rudiments of playing.”

“Are you married?”

Rose started blending the foundation with Freddie’s natural skin tone. “no, I’m not married. I come from an abusive relationship so I need to stay single for a little while.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Rose.”

“Thanks, Freddie. Anyway, the world seems full of assholes where my romantic life is concerned. I’m perpetually looking. But anyway I don’t want to drag you down.”

“Not possible, dear.” Rose finished up on Freddie’s foundation, put on a tiny bit of eyeshadow to make his eyes stand out a little better onstage, then proclaimed him done.

“I look fabulous.” Freddie threw off his robe theatrically, making Rose laugh. Already she could tell that Freddie had a big mouth, outrageous in his fashion and personality. There was no real harm in knowing someone like that in fact it could be real fun for her. Rose thought that Freddie would be great fun at parties.

“Who’s next for the makeup chair?”

“Me!” John dived in, beating Roger by about two paces. “So do you have any siblings?”

“I don’t. I’m an only child.”

“Your parents?”

“Mom’s a hippie turned teacher and Dad’s an electrical engineer and production manager. Summer vacations from school were spent touring with him and whatever act was going around. He would work on the camera equipment, sound recording, all of that.”

“What are your interests besides show biz?”

“Good question, John. I really love history. I’ve studied English royal history all the way back to Henry VIII.”

“Favorite monarch?”

“Apart from the current one definitely Queen Elizabeth I.” John’s makeup went by almost effortlessly. Rose started assembling personal palettes for each of the bandmembers. She took a black marker and wrote F on Freddie’s, J for John and so on. John was definitely the quiet member of the band, making Rose think that he was the kind of guy to go to for a quiet and serious chat.

Roger was next. The makeup artist pulled out all colors that she had, checking his skin tone by holding various foundation bottles against his hand. Finally she selected one, picking up a sponge and shaking out some of the foundation. He asked her all about her pets and whether or not she grew up with any as Rose worked away on his face.

“My parents have owned four dogs, a German shepherd, an Irish Setter, a Golden Retriever, and a Weimaraner mix. I had a cat who ran away and my mother has an insane cat.”

“Insane? What’s the name?”

“His name is actually Roger,” the drummer beamed. “the cat likes to jump on the dog, thump him on the butt with his paws, then run away. The dog doesn’t notice it at all.”

Finished with his makeup, Rose put his colors in a small plastic case, scrawled an R on it for his name, then picked up an aerosol bottle, shaking it well.

“What’s that for?” she put her hand against his forehead so she was shielding his eyes as she sprayed his hair.

“It’s an antihumidity spray which will make your hair stay nice and light during the show,” Rose explained amid the hissing noise of the bottle. “you’ve got a pretty dark complexion naturally which your hair contrasts with it nicely.” Roger glanced at her fingers which were all over his face by now as she sprayed, admiring them openly. He was almost to a dirty fantasy about Rose’s hands and himself when she stopped.

When Brian got into the chair he was a little quiet, not knowing what to say to her. The guitar player was definitely attracted to her and all that he heard from the previous conversations gave him more insight into her character.

“Now I get the quiet one,” Rose remarked as she checked his skin tone against her foundation inventory. “the one I’m already a fan of.”

“Oh, sorry..” he flushed, bringing a little pink to his cheeks that Rose definitely thought was cute. Freddie and Roger nudged each other, unseen by Brian.

“That’s all right. Are you nervous?” she matched his skin tone and pulled out a bottle from the shelf. Selecting a sponge she began to dab some foundation onto the sponge and began to blend it into Brian’s natural skin tone. He noticed that she worked with confidence, using quick and deft strokes of the tool.

“I always am.” he admitted shyly.

“That’s fine,” Rose put her hand on his shoulder which made him smile. “there you go! Soon as I get your makeup on you I can teach you a dance step or two to loosen you up some.”

“All set! I’m just going to do your hair and you’ll be fine.” Brian made to move but she put her hand on his shoulder which stopped him. He looked over to see what she was doing and saw she had an aerosol can in one hand. It wasn’t the same stuff that she’d used on Roger so he asked what it was.

“This is called anti frizz spray. With hair so fine as yours it’ll be prone to losing its texture under those lights. This will prevent that.” she gave him a quick spritz job then labeled the new bottle of foundation with a big B to remind her that it was Brian’s. He was pretty fair skinned and lighter than the others. Freddie was the darkest, John had more of an ivory tinge to his skin while Roger’s skin was more tanned.

“You’re done! Come on, I’ll teach you a simple step.” she ushered him up and into the center of the room. The other band members were languidly stretched out in the lounge chairs.

Rose guided Brian to put his hand on her back, curving his arm around her waist, then she joined her hand with his. “Remember your posture first of all. Stand up straight, keep your shoulders back. This is the cha cha.” Rose gave him the counts and demonstrated the steps. Brian learned very quickly and soon was doing the steps flawlessly.

“Very good, Brian! You learn fast.” Freddie demanded Rose teach him next which she did and soon got the whole band doing the steps. “Hands up off my ass, Freddie.” she gently reprimanded him but really didn’t care if the bandmembers accidentally brushed up against her ass or her boobs. Freddie teasingly slid his hands down her waist several times but Rose never lost patience. Roger pressed up against her closely until she got him to back off about three inches. John didn’t try anything with her which she was very happy about.

“Right! Time for sound check!” John announced. Rose listened appreciatively to Brian’s guitar riffs, the piano, bass and drums being checked, etc, then settled down in the green room to clean up her station.

The journey to Japan has been a little harder on Rose than she thought. She had traveled worldwide before and was surprised to feel a weariness creeping over her. The concert was going to be at least two hours long so she could certainly squeeze in a nap. The makeup artist set her bottle of makeup remover and cold cream on the countertop, then stretched out on the green vinyl couch.

Rose was such a Brian May fangirl and she was very enthusiastic about meeting him. He was a quiet person which Rose was used to so she drew him out with questions designed to make him comfortable with her. She grinned and closed her eyes as she heard the fans coming in and cheering.

***

When the concert was over Freddie bounded down to the green room, flush with the energy and satisfaction that the fans had given him. All four of them were keyed up and boundless though Brian was the first to notice that Rose was out like a light on the sofa. At first he thought something was wrong but then realized that she was sound asleep.

“Hang on guys, Rose fell asleep.” he shushed the others.

“Oh did she?” Roger chirped as he put on makeup remover and scrubbed the foundation off.

“I didn’t think our concert was boring.” John stripped off his costume. “I’m headed back to the hotel. Coming, Rog?” the two members of the band left.

Brian sat on the edge of the couch as Freddie got down on his knees next to him. “She looks so cute,” the singer murmured. “try giving her a kiss, Bri, she might wake up then.”

“Freddie I barely know her.” before he could say another word Rose stirred and opened up her eyes a little bit. “Hey there,” Brian greeted her. “do you feel all right?”

“I’m OK. I think the trip took more out of me than I thought.”

“Happens all the time, darling,” Freddie interjected. “let’s take you back to the hotel and get you to bed, hmm?” Rose glanced up at him with a big smile on her face as he began taking off his costume and hanging it back up.

“All right.” Brian took her hand, helping her sit up, then Freddie took the other hand. “Not letting me go, eh?” she chuckled, rising to her feet. Brian gave her a grin as Freddie flashed his big stunning megawatt smile.

“Never, dearie.”

Walking down the hotel corridor Freddie could see plainly that Brian had it bad for Rose who in turn showed a similar desire. The singer decided to go to his own room to give Brian and Rose a chance to be together alone. Giving Freddie a look of thanks, Rose opened up the door and invited Brian in. “I’m not putting the moves on you, Brian. I just wanted to tell you that I’ve never felt so comfortable and safe with anyone else but you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I was abused and I’m still healing from the experience.” Rose took his hand then showed him a small scar on the upper side of her left arm. “He did that.”

“What happened?”

“I can’t talk about it yet but I will be able to at some point.” her eyes were downcast but Brian reached out, putting his hand on her shoulder.

“I understand.” his hand migrated to her neck, then her chin, drawing her closer to him. Their eyes met and they kissed. Rose distinctly heard the violins playing in her head then as Brian was sweetly gentle. Fortunately for her there was no tongue. “You don’t think this is sudden do you?” he asked her as they reluctantly drew apart.

“Not at all,” Rose told him. “you and I have an undeniable chemistry together.” Brian looked very enticing to her as she studied him in the low light. The makeup artist reached up a little ways and put her hand gently to his wild unruly hair. “It’s as soft as it looks.”

“That we do.” he agreed, drawing her into a hug. “Would it spoil the night if we slept together?”

“We should at least have an official date first. I can tell you’re fuckable by just one date.” she put her arms up on top of his so her hands were on his broad shoulders. Brian twirled one finger in her curly hair as he admired the color.

“I’ll agree to that.”

“Good.” Rose smothered a yawn but Brian caught it. “Still tired even after my two hour nap backstage.”

“We were onstage for two and a half hours.”

“Oh,” she walked Brian to the door. “tomorrow we can be tourists on a romantic date or just hang out by the pool. I find myself wanting a swim.”

“Me too.” they engaged in one more steamy kiss as Rose opened up the door. Reluctantly they broke apart as Brian backed out. “I can’t wait to see you again.” she said in a breathy tone, knowing for sure that her dreams would be full of him that night.

“Same here.” Brian was now hoping that the corridor was free as he needed to relieve a certain pressure building up. He hastily untucked his shirt and hoped that would hold him over as he got to his hotel room.

“Well well, I thought you’d be in your room by now,” luck was not with the guitar player. Freddie was returning to his room with some ice. “your shirt’s untucked.. did you give her 30 seconds of delight?”

“No, Freddie. She’s agreed to a date tomorrow.”

“Now you’ll probably be treating yourself to a quick one-two and go to bed.” came a laconic reply. “You’ve earned it.”

“Gee I didn’t think I needed your approval, Freddie. Good night.” he disappeared into his room. Freddie smirked to himself and retired for the night.

The next day Brian got up in plenty of time to meet the band for breakfast. He took care of his morning routine, picking out a clean pair of jeans, t-shirt in green, then put on his sneakers. The four bandmembers spent time together brainstorming new songs in the morning then lounged by the pool after lunch.

“So where’s your friend, Bri?” Roger asked, lighting up a cigarette. “You off on a date?”

“If you want to call it that.”

“Someone talking about me?” Rose called as she walked out into the pool area. “Hello, boys!” all of them gaped a little bit at her appearance. The makeup artist wore a bikini in a brilliant jade tone which set off her fair skin and made her look even more enticing. She wore an amethyst colored sarong knotted at her left hip with a pair of flip flops.

“Well hello yourself,” Freddie was never at a loss for words. “how was your rest last night? Relaxing and deep?”

“Oh ha ha,” Rose put her beach towel on the chair closest to Brian. “come and join me in the pool!” she dived right in.

“I’m game!” John plunged in followed by Roger. Freddie stood up, beckoning to Brian, and both of them followed suit. Freddie wasn’t a swimmer so he lounged in the shallow end by the stairs and watched.

Rose, John and Roger swam laps, trying to outdo each other in speed but John had the edge of all of them. He won constantly so Rose and Roger raced each other then they got to race John to see who really was the fastest. John won hands down every time.

“Damn!” Rose hauled herself out of the pool to give herself a break. Freddie got out as Brian and Roger got into a conversation about guitars.

“Brian got a dance instruction last night so what have you got for me?” technically they had all gotten a dance lesson last night but Freddie was keen to see how else Rose could make her body move.

“Well, the sun’s out, we’re in a paradise of sorts, and we’re by water.” Rose picked a flower off of a nearby bush and put it behind her right ear. “I think the hula since I don’t know any local dances here.”

“All right. Teach me.” the makeup artist picked up and tied on her sarong then began to teach Freddie the slow hula.

“Check it out, Bri,” Roger nudged him. “look at that.” Brian saw Rose and Freddie doing the slow hula. After a moment Rose accelerated, changing from the hula to something more sultry. She moved her hips and belly danced to show Freddie a little more of her dance skills.

“I swear I cannot move like that!” he declared.

“Now you know what I’m capable of. I even did burlesque on the side.”

“Really? Show me.” Rose knelt on the side of the pool in plain view of the band, spread her knees a bit, going down than up once, then while doing the belly dance part, she put one hand up to her head, the other was extended out witting aroused again), Rose put her hands over her head, palms together, and gave a few slow gyrations of her pelvis.

“There.” Rose straightened up then went back into the slow hula, mentally imagining that she was slowly rocking her hips against Brian. All four of the bandmembers were agog at her moves; all were starting to feel a desire for her as a certain reflex was starting to make itself known.

“Well done!” they all came out of the pool. “Time for us to go change!” all of them universally agreed making Rose think they all had to rub one out. She changed into a cherry blossom printed chenogsam dress and knocked on Brian’s hotel room door.

“Ready?” she was all done up with a light pink lipstick and her hair pulled back with barrettes. Brian saw she had golden musical notes in her ears. He had changed into black pants and shoes with a white collared shirt and a denim jacket. “You look great, Bri.”

“You look amazing. No purse?”

“Money’s in the bra. Nobody’s going to rip me off.” he colored pink again.

“We are heading out for some percussive entertainment.” they joined hands and descended to the lobby.

**

“Oh my god, that was amazing,” Rose and Brian were walking among the main street back to the hotel. “I heard they train for years to get that good. It’s really great.”

The couple had spent the entire time cheering on the drummers, on their feet, clapping along to the beats. What stole the show was the giant drum in the center and the most experienced drummer working up the beat to an insanely fast pace. Both of them walked away feeling absolutely drained yet still energized and satisfied.

“It’s impossible to describe how I feel really after such a performance,” they joined hands and lazily walked down the strip. “I’m glad we got to enjoy it together.”

“I feel quite happy,” Rose chimed in lazily. “I used to watch car demolition derbys during the summertime and scream myself hoarse. Every month they had a day they called the Day Of Destruction where junker cars got in contests. There were reverse handbrake turns, backwards jumping, longest skidmark, all the fun stuff. Then they would blow stuff up at the end.”

“Sounds like fun,” Brian agreed. “do you want to do anything else tonight?”

“I believe we’d need some privacy for that.” Rose winked.

“Oh.” he blushed.

“Was my mission accomplished then? By the pool today? I aimed to give you all raging boners.”

“Mission was definitely accomplished there,” Brian was glad it was dark outside for he flushed deep red. “we all had to go rub one out after your belly dancing routine.”

“I do my best. Shall we go to my room then?”

“We’re right here at the hotel. Let’s go up.”

“All right.”

Brian ushered Rose into the elevator, both made out a little bit, then went into the corridor. Rose was finding him distracting as she found the key to the room and put it in the lock. Brian leaned over her shoulder and giggled. “Come on then.”

“I bet you can’t put it in this effortlessly,” Rose sniggered as she unlocked the deadbolt and opened up the door. She put her hand in his, brought him over to her bed, then began to make out with him. Her kissing technique was excellent, Brian noted. He unzipped the back of her dress, hands on her shoulders, then guided her to sit down on the bed. Rose pulled at Brian who knelt down in front of her so she could undo the buttons on his shirt.

**

Brian woke up the next morning with his left arm around Rose’s shoulders. He glanced down to see her still asleep all snuggled against him. Fondly he gave her a kiss on the cheek as she slept on.

“Best night of my life,” he mumbled as the morning sun greeted him, warming up his upper body. “sweetie.” their clothes were all over the room, Rose’s flats and Brian’s shoes were intermingled on the floor amid the clothing tornado which gave evidence that the previous night was a lot of fun. The guitar player got up and warmed up the shower.

When he was done, all dressed and well groomed, he saw Rose was still asleep. Now he wasn’t so self conscious around her and happy to the fact that none of the bandmembers were around, he leaned in for a kiss that would wake her up.

The kiss escalated into making out. Rose extended her arms around him and tried to lure him back down into the bed for a second round. Brian drew back as Rose opened her eyes and gave him a sleepy smile. She looked very enticing, wrapped in nothing but a thin sheet that accentuated her curves.

“You look very shaggable in that pose, my bewitching sorceress,” Brian teased. “we have a show to do tonight and other things on our itinerary. Freddie is going to want to brainstorm more songs for our next album.”

“Making the most out of the trip to Japan, are we? You guys have a Japanese TV gossip show to pimp your asses off for the concerts you’re doing. We’ll be leaving in a few days anyway.”

“And you, my sexy kitten, will be there to do our makeup, yes?”

“Brian, the TV shows already have makeup artists there. Tell you what, I can give you each a makeup job. I have the kits with me, and we can be outside in the pool area with the natural light. You’ll look wonderful.”

“There’s an idea. Get cleaned up and we will have room service bring us up something.” Brian promised as he picked up the phone.

Rose reluctantly got up, humming the song Killer Queen, then took care of herself as she cleaned and changed for the day. She wore tan shorts, flip flops, and the same black and red shirt as before. After breakfast with Brian they walked down to the pool area, Brian being careful to change his clothes.

**

The Japanese tour over, Brian and Rose settled into a flat by themselves where they enjoyed getting to know each other. Rose became the band’s primary makeup artist and was set to go on tours with them when they finished their new album they were recording.

Three months later, one day when the band was out at lunch, Freddie returned early to get back at the piano. A melody had been circling in his mind so he sat down, put his fingers on the keys, closed his eyes and began to play.

“Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body’s aching all the time
Goodbye everybody I’ve got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooooo,
I don’t wanna die
Sometimes wish I’d never been born at all!”

Rose had been in the studio that day and she walked up slowly behind Freddie as he’d been singing with her mouth open. He caught sight of her in the piano’s reflection and chuckled.

“Come in, dear. Why don’t you sing this with me?”

“All right.” Freddie showed her the lyrics he’d written and both sang them together, Rose matching Freddie’s fire in his voice. He gave her an approving glance once they finished the verse.

“Freddie, it’s like you exorcised a demon from my soul.”

“You think so?” he gave her his big toothy grin which she thought was charming. “Can you play it?”

“Maybe.” Freddie taught her the treble section while he played bass.

Roger, John and Brian were walking back from lunch when they heard two voices; male and female amid piano music.

“That’s Freddie playing and singing, who’s the other one?”

“I have no idea.” they curiously walked over to the recording booth where they found Freddie and Rose at the piano, both were wailing out a tune they had never heard before.

“Excuse me,” a receptionist called Brian over and gave him a phone message for Rose. “her mother died this morning. I figured you would be the person to tell her.”

“Thanks.” the color drained out of Brian’s face as he asked John and Roger to call Rose over to him. She gazed up at him with her big hazel eyes as he put his hands in hers hoping that it would somehow make it easier for him to break the bad news. He’d hate it if anyone else told her except him. “Rose, I have something to tell you.”

“What is it? Are you OK?”

“I will be OK yes but it’s you I’m worried about. Your father called the studio this morning,” he handed the message slip to her. “your mother died, sweetie.”

“Oh god,” Rose’s expression was one of pure shock. She didn’t hear what Brian was speaking to her; most likely reassurance that he would be there for her no matter what. She accepted his hug wordlessly as he saw the tears streaming down her face. “poor woman.” Freddie signaled Brian to bring her in so the band could comfort her together. Brian spoke to her, presumably asking if that was all right with her.

Rose mopped her face as she walked into the room. Just moments ago there was a light in her eyes; she had been singing merrily with Freddie and now she looked like a shadow of herself. The light was gone, she now looked like a scared little girl in need of comfort. Freddie was the first to throw his arms around her, give her a kiss on the cheek and murmur words of comfort.

“You can call me anytime and I’ll listen.” he offered.

John was next, giving her a peck on the cheek and a big hug. “By all means call me. I’m going to be worried about you until I see you again.” Rose looked into his big blue eyes and thanked him, thinking that he would be the one to go to when things got rough at home if Brian wasn’t around.

“I want you to call me,” Roger demanded. “we’ll all be worried about you, Rose. Tell me everything and I’ll listen. Check in with me, all right?” he gave her a kiss on both cheeks and took her hands.

“Thanks guys. I’ll do my best to keep everyone informed of what’s going on. I’ll be gone for a week. Behave yourselves.” Rose put her hand on one side of Roger’s face, giving him a little smile. She kissed everyone on their cheeks in farewell and left the room amid their concerned looks.

“Of course.” Brian steered her out to the hall and asked her if he should go with her for the comfort and support.

“Better not. It’s only going to be a week, Brian. A long week.” she sighed.

“Call me every day if you can,” his blue eyes locked onto hers. “I am going to be really worried about you.”

“I’ll be OK. When I come back then I’ll be a mess.” Brian gave her a kiss. “Tell the guys I love them and I will return.”

“All right, love.” Rose left the building to pack a bag and take the car out to the countryside.

Freddie was waiting for Brian as the guitar player came into the room. “Will she be OK?” Roger and John paused in resuming their positions at their instruments waiting for Brian’s answer.

“I don’t know, Freddie. When she gets back from the funeral that’s when I can start worrying. She’s going to be strong for her family but she’s going to need us more than ever to be strong for her. Rose tends to repress what she feels so I’ll need to draw it out of her in stages.”

“Repressing is never a good idea,” John spoke up. “it’ll make it much worse and she’ll take longer to recover emotionally because of it.” his hands stopped fiddling with his guitar as he shared the others’ worried looks.

“Very true,” Roger agreed. “my cousin did it and he wound up in the hospital. It did a number on him physically.”

“Freddie?” Brian asked. “You’re surprisingly quiet on this.”

The singer punched a few buttons on the mixing board. “Just thinking. She’s been pretty reserved with us since we’ve known her and today I got to hear her singing voice and see a light in her eyes I’ve never seen before. She was lively, animated, she let herself go. When she came in just now that light was gone. It’s up to us to bring back that light.”

“That’s very profound, Freddie.” Roger looked impressed as he sat down, picking up his drum sticks.

“It will be a process as Brian says. Now we can’t do anything for her until she comes back so come and listen to what I’ve just written.” Freddie opened the shelf on the piano, positioning his fingers over the keys.

**

For everyone involved it was an extremely long week. Brian could not go for more than an hour without thinking about his girlfriend. He tried not to let his distraction show when he was working and managed to succeed. Nobody said anything except to ask Brian to convey their well wishes to Rose when she came back the following Sunday.

When Rose pulled up in the car, Brian was eagerly awaiting her. He gave her a kiss hello, brought her bag in for her, then sat her down on the couch. “How are you feeling?” he noted she was a bit pale, there were a few lines around her eyes that hadn’t been there before, not to mention the dark circles under her eyes. Rose wore a faded t-shirt and old blue jeans with her favorite sneakers. She blinked slowly in the light, wanting to get into bed and sleep for about ten years. Brian put his hand on her shoulder to reassure her.

“Not great,” she admitted. “I can barely sleep at night, Brian. My dad’s wonderful though. He took care of most of it and when Mom’s family descended on him like a flock of vultures we both fought them off.”

“What happened there?”

“They wanted some things in the will that Mom had laid aside for me so they challenged the will, the judge threw out the case, crap like that. Both of us now swore never to have anything to do with Mom’s family ever. Dad left everything to me since he rewrote his will right after Mom died.”

“Your dad’s a clever one.”

“I know,” Brian brushed her hair away from her eyes as she tried to stay alert. “he’ll go on for a long time yet.”

“Rose, you’re pale,” he noted. “do you want supper or go straight to bed?”

“I have to try to sleep.”

“Fair enough. Do you want to be here with me? I should warn you, Freddie might stop by and run some lyrics with me.”

“That’s OK.” a few minutes later Freddie showed up, greeting Rose with a kiss and a big hug. He eyed her face, concerned for her as she looked a bit pale. That light was gone from her eyes but Freddie was determined to help put it back in. One of these days in the studio I bet we can make her smile again, he thought to himself.

“How are you doing, love? You don’t look so good.”

Rose gave him the ghost of a smile. “I know, Freddie. Dad told me I’m a shadow of myself. Death changes the survivors.”

“Well maybe we will be able to put a smile on your face before too long. Go to sleep now.” he pulled the blanket over her as she lay down on the couch. “I’ll give your regards to Rog and John.”

“Please do.”

Brian and Freddie spent an hour brainstorming more lyrics, then Brian cast a glance over at Rose. “Looks like she finally fell asleep.” Freddie sighed, not liking how pale she appeared to them. Brian had told him what Rose had said earlier about her mother’s family trying to rob her blind but she stood up to them. There was a real inner strength to Rose that nobody would have ever suspected. Freddie got up and went over to Rose, giving her a little caress on the side of her face, hoping that she would be in a deep comforting sleep.

“Somehow Freddie, she inspires me even when she’s asleep.” Brian penned a short poem about the tableau in front of him, vowing to give it to her when she was in a better place emotionally. “what do you think?”

Freddie gave it a once over. “It’s good, Bri. You should compose a little piano for it. She does love the piano.”

“Later on I will. We have an album to work on.”

When Freddie left, Brian uncovered Rose, picked her up, then put her to bed. She did not rouse at all which gave him hope that she was getting the rest that she needed.

“Good night, sweetheart,” Brian whispered, inwardly wishing he could remove her pain and replace it with light and happiness. The guitar player touched her hand then turned and left the bedroom.

A few days later Rose woke up from a catnap on the couch, remembered that Brian had gone to his parents’ house for the day. He had been so sweet to her, offering not to go but she insisted, telling him that she would be fine. Technically she was fine physically but mentally she was still recovering from her experience. The makeup artist got up and went over to the wall phone, punching in the numbers for John.

“Hello?”

“Hi, John,” Rose said listlessly. “Brian’s over at his parents’ house for the day so what do you say we meet up and talk?”

“Well sure.” the two of them arranged to meet over at the park for a stroll.

Rose arrived first, wearing her blue jeans, sneakers, and a red plaid flannel shirt. John had bell bottoms on, sneakers, and his shirt was a chunky blue and white stripe. His long hair was gently tousled in the breeze as he slammed the car door shut, walking to greet his friend. It was the first time he had seen her since she left and he noted the change almost instantly. Rose had her hair pulled back with barrettes but that didn’t stop him from putting his fingers through it, giving the curls a little tug.

“So what do you want to talk about?” they started to walk.

“My experiences,” Rose narrated her mother’s family’s attempts to disinherit their only living blood relative. John listened with disbelief in his thoughts as to how some people could stoop so low so fast. “they tried to hang me out to dry. Mentally it just fucked me up a lot.”

“Did anyone ever tell you that I lost my dad at a young age?” the bass player’s hand reached for Rose’s hand. He traced the lines in her hand idly as he tried to find the right response. “I didn’t have family members trying to disinherit me mind you, but it hurt me badly.”

Rose listened as John told her about his struggles. She understood what he went though and was validated over and over as he went on. They walked to the center of a bridge where John put their hands up on the rail, listening to the water rushing past.

A tiny splash into the river made John start up in alarm, then he realized that a tear had escaped his eye. Rose wordlessly handed him a tissue. “Thanks.” John mopped his face while Rose watched a red cardinal alight on a weeping willow branch nearby.

“Look, John. Have you ever heard the legend of cardinals?”

“No.”

“It’s the spirit of a loved one in the form of a red cardinal come back to look after you.” the two of them walked off the bridge and sat down on the embankment.

“Interesting.” John traced circles with his thumb on the back of Rose’s hand. “It’s too bad that Brian got you first. I think you understand me more.”

“You’ll get someone you deserve, hon. In the meantime I do want to do something with you.”

“What’s that?” Rose leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder as John closed the distance, bringing his head-and lips to hers. They didn’t feel any sparks or any indication of chemistry but they were happy and comfortable together. Any thoughts of a romantic relationship with Rose evaporated but for John that was fine. He loved her like a sister and knew Rose felt the same way about him.

The bass player felt her pull away slightly, opening up his eyes as Rose continued to lean into him for a long moment. He folded one arm around her as they watched the ducks swim by.

“So what do you think?”

“I think I like being your friend, John.” she could not have been clearer. “I wonder about Roger.”

“You would!” John laughed. “He’s always been wild and that’s why Freddie likes him so much. Roger likes you a lot and always talks about you. He thinks you’d be a good lay.”

“Huh. Well, he’s strictly in the friend zone per se.”

“Interesting. Well, I’m glad we got time to chat. It’s time to head back now.” he got up and extended a hand to Rose. She accepted as he helped raise her up and the two friends walked back to John’s car.

“We need to do this more often, John.” she smiled at her friend, moving his hair away from his face. “You’re a great friend to me.”

“Same here.” the bass player gave her a kiss on the lips as a goodbye.
**

When Rose returned home she found Brian sitting down in the living room with the TV on. “Hey, where have you been?”

“John and I took a walk in the park. I needed a change of scene.”

“You and John? Do I need to be worried?”

“Nope. There’s no romantic or sexual chemistry between us. With you I get both.” Rose gave Brian a deep kiss.

Several days later Brian watched Rose withdraw into herself. He felt helpless, knowing that he should do something but there wasn’t anything that he could do. One night Brian got home late to see that Rose was in bed but the peace didn’t last long. She bolted upright in bed gasping, “Mom! Don’t go!”

“Rose, honey!” Brian rushed into the room and sat next to her. She was shaking all over, hand over her heart, she was gasping like she’d run a marathon. “It’s all right!”

“Bri!” she accepted his embrace. “My mom’s gone and I never said goodbye to her!”

“I know, I know,” he soothed her, stroking her hair. “let it out so you can heal.”

Rose poured out her grief to Brian, expressing the pent up emotions she had repressed while he listened to her. Rose’s father had been overwhelmed at first upon the sudden death of his wife but he’d risen to the challenge wonderfully and given her the send off she wanted. Mr. Sjulander had realized almost instantly that his will was null and invalid since she was gone. He drafted a new will and sent it to the attorney while dealing with everything else. Mrs. Sjulander’s side of the family were avaricious skinflints, clinging to every dime they got while suing for more.

“How in the hell could they do that to me?” Rose sniffed, pulling apart from Brian to look into his eyes. “I’m their own flesh and blood and they try to fleece me for everything Mom gave me! It wasn’t much, just the jewelry, but still! I can’t condone what they did.”

Brian’s eyes were very bright, full of unshed tears for her. Rose smiled shakily as she dabbed the tear away that fell.

“The muse is stirring me up. I already wrote a song for you.”

“You did?”

“Yeah I did. It’s called I’m Here.”

“I’d love to see it sometime.”

“I have to compose it on the piano then I’ll sing it to you.”

“Oh. What time is it?”

“Almost 11. Back to sleep with you.”

“OK.” Rose went back to sleep and Brian went right to the piano, composing in the key of G.

“When you’re in your darkest hour
And you can’t sleep at night
Things seem out of control
You turn into a stranger to me

“But I know your methods
I know who you are truly
When you don’t act like
Who you used to be

“Remember that I’m here
I promise I won’t leave
I know you have problems
I’m here for you…
I’m here

“I’m here when you need
Someone to rely on
Someone to care for you
I’m here, I’m here, I’m here

“You spent most of life alone
Without someone to care
This is new to you I know
Though just remember...” Brian launched into the chorus again “Remember that I’m here...”

Rose woke up when he began singing. Often Brian let himself go when he was singing without any regard for his girlfriend trying to sleep. She crept up behind him not wanting him to stop, ignoring the tear that escaped despite her efforts to prevent it. It was beautiful and sweet, him writing that song about her.

She put her hands on his shoulders as he hit the last note. “That was beautiful, Brian.”

“I meant every word.” he wrote down the piano key and notes.

“All the more sweeter, honey. Thank you.” Brian pushed back the bench and took her on his lap for what Rose called a VBK a Very Big Kiss. “Tomorrow we need to get our health screenings for our tour dates in New York and Boston.”

“Oh.”

“Let me ask you something-your accent. I noticed it isn’t from around here.”

“It’s taken you four months to notice I have a strange accent?” she teased. “I’m originally from Boston. My parents are English and Irish. When I was growing up in the sixties James Bulger was in some government job I forget which, and there was some persecution of us Irish descendants so Dad decided no more and came here.”

“Freddie’s family was persecuted out of their homeland as well.”

“We weren’t targeted or persecuted per se, Brian. We chose to leave.”

“It was the best decision to come here,” Brian smirked. “so, coming with us to Boston and New York?”

“Hell yeah! Are you going to put my song on the album?”

“Can we debut it in front of the others first?”

“Of course.” Rose kissed Brian sweetly. “It’s the best present I ever got.”
**

“It’s beautiful.” Roger.

“So sweet and sincere.” John.

“A reassuring comforting ballad!” Freddie exclaimed. “We can cut a version with me singing it for the album-no offense, darlings, and I want to have Brian make a recording that Rose can keep with her forever.”

Rose blushed slightly. “Brian helped me to get over what happened. Sorry if I caused anyone to worry.”

“It’s all right,” Roger leaned on the piano. “I’m glad you’re here with us now.” he put a friendly hand on her shoulder. Rose put her hand on Roger’s and gave it a pat.

“Yes, you look more like yourself again,” John gave her a friendly hug. “you’re one of us now so if you hurt, we hurt for you.”

“Oh, thank you, John,” she gave him a big kiss. “I needed that.”

“You’re very welcome.” the introverted bass player glanced at Rose with a brotherly affection in his eyes. He had his arm around her waist, her arm was over his shoulder, both of them had goofy grins on their faces. Brian spied a photo op and snapped a picture with his stereoscopic camera he always had on him. Roger sidled up to Rose as well, making a silly face with his tongue hanging out. Rose matched it; Brian took another picture.

“All right! We need to get our health screenings so we can tour!” Freddie clapped his hands in excitement. “Are we ready, my lovelies?”

***

“Feels like home! Well, I lived over in Chatham across the town in that direction. The day is ours, gentlemen! Who wants to go shopping?” Rose was bright and perky the day after they landed in Boston.

“I’m game,” John and Roger eagerly volunteered. “where are we going?”

“Quincy Market. They have an excellent candy store, a lot of street vendors to check out, etc. Ordinarily I’d take you guys for a walk on the Freedom Trail but you’re British so I don’t think that would go over too well.”

“What’s the Freedom Trail?”

“It’s a walking tour of Boston’s historic sites,” Rose explained. “remembering that the colonists fought to make the British leave it might be best if I do it myself.”

“Why don’t we leave that to you and Brian? You can give him a private tour if he doesn’t get too offended.” Freddie suggested with a wink.

“Oh bollocks, let’s all go. It’s history, Freddie,” John piped up. “we can forget about it when we get back home.”

“Thank you, John. Off to Quincy Market!” the building was immense with cathedral ceilings. It was the afternoon so the hall was deserted. Rose pointed out the piano at the end of the hall on the second floor and Freddie flexed his fingers gleefully.

“We’re tourists, Freddie. We can monkey around during sound check.” Rose was the unofficial leader now. She showed them the sights of Boston, walking the trail and giving them a tour of the historic Old North Church, Boston’s Old Burying Ground, and several other sights.

“Where did they sign the Declaration of Independence?” the drummer raked his hand back through his wild blonde hair, putting on his sport sunglasses in the light.

“That was in Philadelphia actually in Independence Hall, Roger. Look at that organ.” the gold colored piping stood out in contrast to the surroundings, gleaming in the afternoon light. “I’ve never seen one so beautiful.”

“You know,” Roger grinned impishly. “how about we abduct you and take you back to England? A little revenge on the Yanks!” the drummer picked Rose up completely and made for the door while she laughed with the others following him.

“Let me go, Roger!” she playfully fought him. Freddie grabbed a hold of her legs as Roger’s grip slipped and John quickly caught her torso. Brian held the door open with a big grin on his face. “You call yourself a boyfriend, Brian!” she laughed as they hustled her out the door and stood outside near the bus stop.

“Hold it, I have to take a picture!” Brian used his stereoscopic camera to turn it into a 3D image.

Before they knew it the call time was approaching. Sound check was done and Rose took the chance to monkey around on the piano while Freddie was having supper. “What can I sing? Hmmm.. One tin soldier rides away...” she remembered that song from her childhood. “You make me feel like a natural woman.. Oh, I got it!” Rose launched into the song All That Jazz from the Broadway musical.

“And all that...jazz!” she held the note clearly and gave it a lot of gusto. Rose went into the last verse of the song, growing bolder and louder, not knowing the band was approaching her. Freddie’s jaw actually dropped a little bit as John’s eyes widened. Brian gaped for a moment then closed his mouth. He’d often heard her singing in a low voice but tonight she took it up to another level completely.

“Well, our Rose is in fine voice tonight,” Roger laughed. “you got really bold there and you have excellent range.”

“Why should that surprise you?” she teased her friend as she shut the piano.

“You’re a bit insecure,” Freddie supplied smoothly. “you bad girl, usurping my piano before showtime.” he teased her dryly.

“We might be able to use you doing backup sometime.” John proclaimed. “we’ll see.”

“We will. For now guys, she’s mine.” Brian snaked a hand around her waist.

“All right, come on down and I’ll get you all made up.” Rose put her hand around Brian’s as he steered her to the green room. Freddie scurried ahead with his new Polaroid camera and took a picture of the couple.

When the show was over for the night Roger, who was high as a kite, fueled by the audience’s applause, stripped off his shirt and bounced around for a minute. John just laughed at Roger’s antics but participated as both of them started flexing in the mirror.

“Oh my gosh, big head, anyone?” Rose suggested. Roger grabbed her around the waist, put her in front of the mirror with him and began to dry hump her. “Oh, I might like that you know.” she teased, knowing Roger didn’t mean anything malicious; they were wound up and being playful.

“Really?”

“You gonna drum me like your drum set out there?” she turned to him and dry humped him back. “I got hips that don’t quit.” Rose had been wearing a short denim skirt and a shirt that knotted just underneath her bust which left her belly bare.

“Really?!” Roger nearly squeaked.

“Oi, I got some beef on me too,” John chimed in happily. “Why go for him when you can have me?”

“You guys stop hitting on my girlfriend!” Brian took her hand.

“I’m in the middle of a muscle beach, Brian!” Rose laughed gleefully. “John’s got some great abs here. I like Roger’s pectorals and Freddie has great looking hair.”

“Thank you, lovie!” Freddie beamed as he stepped out in his robe. “Can I get in on this?” he pulled Rose over so they were chest to chest with his big smile blinding her. “You’ve got some lovely fun bags there and a great butt!” he gave her butt a goose which made Rose squeak a little bit amid the three bandmembers laughing.

“Come on now!” Brian protested.

“Aw, Brian you’re the only one I want to come home to,” Rose soothed his ruffled feathers by going over to him and sliding her hands in the back pockets of his jeans. “you’ve got the prettiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen anywhere.” the others retreated into their chairs and picked up magazines. Roger eyed Rose, momentarily wishing that she had her hands in his pant pockets instead.

“I might need more convincing than that,” Brian teased. “what have you got?”

“You’ll find out later.” Rose slyly winked as the others started teasing.

***

On the third day of their tour Brian woke up and got his morning routine done. Rose bumped into him on the way to the bedroom and gaped.

“What?”

“Did you look at yourself in the mirror, Brian?”

“Why?”

“You’re yellow.”

“It’s nothing.” he brushed her off but privately he was worried.

Brian made it through the day without doing much, feeling a little listless and not having much energy. He couldn’t call out-nobody could take his place but he was determined to keep the show going. Rose had been keeping a close eye on him and Freddie took her aside after sound check.

“Brian doesn’t look well.”

“I know. I’ve been keeping an eye on him but he’s going to deny he’s sick.”

“Right. Let me know if you need backup.”

“Will do. John and Roger know as well. Sometimes you have to protect Brian from Brian.”

After the show (it took a rather big makeup job from Rose to conceal Brian’s color but she managed it), Brian took off the makeup and discovered the yellow had become more prominent. He was in pain now though the painkillers he’d taken at intermission hadn’t seemed to even blunt the pain he felt. The guitar player stood up from the makeup chair, his vision went dizzy, then he had an incredible stab of pain from his upper right side.

“Brian?” his knees went weak, his face gray, and he collapsed. “Brian!” the others turned their heads at Rose’s cry.

“Guys, help me!” Brian had nearly taken Rose with him when he fell. The makeup artist knelt down and pressed her hand on the sick man’s head. “He’s burning up!” John and Roger took Brian to the couch while Freddie called for an ambulance.

“Brian? Stay with me now. Where does it hurt exactly?” he indicated his upper right side. “Huh. Do you still have your gallbladder?”

“Yeah.”

“They’re going to ask questions. The doctors are going to need all the info they can get. Freddie says they’ll be here in two minutes.”

Without an argument, Brian was taken off to the hospital, Rose promising to call with more information when it became available. She stuck with him all through the night with the doctors ordering blood tests, nurses rehydrating him and giving him painkillers and fever reducers.

“So what’s the verdict here?” Brian was sleeping as the doctor came into the hospital room. As luck had it Rose had signed off on being Brian’s advocate just before the tour. He was also her advocate if she was incapacitated. The makeup artist met the doctor in the corner of the room, speaking low so they didn’t disturb the guitar player.

“He’s got hepatitis. It was probably a dirty needle or something like that. He doesn’t do recreational drugs does he?”

“No. It might have been when we were given our inoculations pre tour,” Rose mused. “he’s going to want to go home to recuperate.”

“Where do you live?”

“London.”

“I would advise against taking him on a long trip. It could make him worse.”

“Me and the others will be taking him. All I can ask of you is to give him the strongest medicine you can and we’ll worry about the rest.”

“All right. You seem pretty set on it. When are you leaving?”

“As soon as he wakes up.” she settled down in an uncomfortable vinyl chair near her boyfriend. Brian’s breathing was a little heavy after the drugs they had given him but that was to be expected. Rose slid her fingers on top of Brian’s hand and kept them there as she dozed off.

Daylight broke shortly after that and Brian woke up around 6 AM. Rose informed him what was going on, she called Freddie and the others who were getting his things ready and would pick him up on the way to the airport.

“Right.” was all he could say.

That day was a trip through hell for Brian. He endured the well wishes from his bandmates as they supported him through customs, boarding the plane, etc. Rose was always with him, giving him a cold compress for awhile so he would be more comfortable, keeping up a steady stream of reassurance when he needed it. Brian felt himself swept up in his bandmates’ protective atmosphere which left him feeling an enormous amount of gratitude. Along with Rose he knew that they would take care of him the best that they were able to. Giving his friends a little grin he fell asleep.

With about two hours to go until they landed, Rose, Roger, and Freddie were asleep in their seats. John turned around in his and smiled at Brian.

“We barely got any sleep last night we were so worried about you,” the bass player gave Brian a pillow and took a fresh compress from the flight attendant. Instead of putting it on Brian’s forehead he put it on the upper right side, making Brian recoil slightly. “is that comfortable for you?”

“Much.” the aching pains in his side disappeared as a welcoming numbness set in.

“Good.”

When they landed Rose took Brian straight to the hospital, explaining the situation. The doctors understood, taking a small amount of blood to confirm the diagnosis. Brian was put in a private room, outfitted with an IV, then administered a number of drugs to quell his infection.

“Oh, the hepatitis was the reason he was yellow. The bilirubin got backed up and leaked into his skin,” Rose understood though her health class in high school was very much in the past. “how long before he is well, do you know?”

“It’s anybody’s guess.”

Brian’s illness kept him in the hospital for nearly a month. He mended slowly, happily his fever did not take long to abate completely. His skin gradually cleared up as the medicine started to work. Rose went into the studio in the morning and spent her afternoons with Brian. It appeared at the beginning that Brian might lose his arm due to the infection but fortunately he was able to be kept in one piece. They had found the infection in time and treated it successfully.

“What do you think?” he’d been writing lyrics all day. “I reworked your song I’m Here into the more acceptable song Freddie can sing onstage called Now I’m Here. There are two versions of the song now.”

“Clever,” Rose got onto the bed with him so he could cuddle with her. Brian noted how their roles had changed a bit-he had been protective of her while she felt depressed and vulnerable, now she was being strong for him while he was sick. “want to watch some TV?”

“Sure.” anything to take his mind off his troubles. It was only 4 PM but Brian felt himself drifting off.

“It happens when you’re sick.” could she read his mind?

Half an hour later Freddie peeked in. John had already visited that day; Roger was going to appear tomorrow morning. Rose glanced up and saw Freddie, beckoning him to come in.

“How is he?” Freddie asked in a hushed voice. “He looks better.”

“Doesn’t he? He has hepatitis from a dirty needle. Anyway if all goes well this week, I think the doctors will let him go home.”

“Good news,” Freddie gazed down at his sick friend. “we give each other the devil’s own time Rose, but we love each other like brothers.”

“Oh I know. You two have this weird nail polish thing going on. You wear black and he wears white on one hand.”

“Yep. Just something we do. We’re brothers and you’re our sister, so to speak.”

“Brian’s worried about finishing the album on time.”

“He needs to rest first. Once he’s a hundred percent again we’ll worry about it.” Brian lazily opened up his eyes and exhaled. Blearily he glanced over at Rose who was sitting right next to him on the bed. He reached for her hand and held it, tracing the lines in her palm idly as he saw Freddie drawing up a chair next to the bed.

“Hey,” Freddie greeted his friend. “I was just telling Rose not to worry about the album. It’ll get done when it gets done. We can ask for an extension-you’ve been sick after all. It’s nobody’s fault.”

No smartass remark from Freddie anywhere, Rose noted. He was being absolutely sincere.

“Thanks, Freddie.”

“I can’t wait for you to be well again. I miss the old you giving me hell and bickering.” he put his hand on Brian’s. “You’ll be well again before you know it. Don’t rush your recovery. Rose won’t let you.”

“Damn right. I chose this time to brush up on my medical knowledge,” Rose showed them a book of medicine.

“I didn’t know you knew anything about medicine, Rose.”

“Before I found my calling I took a course in medical terminology. I was toying with the idea of becoming a nurse.”

“Really? Could you tell what was wrong with Brian?”

“Only a doctor could confirm it of course but I suspected it was a liver issue. Infections usually give a person jaundice or that yellow coloring.”

“I see. She will take great care of you, Brian.” Freddie wished them a good night and left.

**

Three weeks later Brian wasn’t feeling well again. He could not seem to keep anything down as he was constantly getting sick. John ambushed Rose as she came into the studio one afternoon. Freddie was talking to Roger as the latter had been playing with John’s bass guitar. Both of them spotted Rose through the clear plastic divider and waved. She waved back as she saw John hurrying towards her.

“I have to talk to you, Rose. It’s Brian. He’s sick all the time now. Freddie asked me to give you the high sign in case he was hiding it from you.” all of the band tried to downplay their colds or illnesses so they could keep working on albums but in Brian’s case now it was getting pretty bad.

“When did this start?” after his attack of hepatitis she thought that Brian had been doing pretty well.

“He started looking ill again last week and this morning I hear him being sick.”

“Oh god, he’s hiding it again. If he’s been ralfing a lot there’s a chance it would destroy his digestive system permanently. All right. Let me know when he leaves the studio again.”

“All right that’s a break, boys,” Freddie’s voice trailed into the studio. “Brian what is it? You’ve been looking gray in the face.”

“I’ve not been feeling well,” he admitted. Brian felt a very sharp knifing hot pain lance through his midsection and he collapsed again. “Rose!” he called weakly. She dashed to his side pronto and crouched down. He was paler than she had ever seen him before even during his hepatitis attack. All the bandmembers dropped their instruments and rushed over to Brian’s side.

“What is it? Be specific.”

“Sharp hot knifing pain right here,” he put his hand on his belly. “just started.” Rose frowned for a moment as she put the pieces together. All four of them looked at her to see what she could discern from the information. Brian had been ill several times, hot knifing pain in his belly…

The band was alarmed, even Brian, as they watched Rose realize what it possibly could mean. “Oh dear God, get the ambulance over here now!”

“Rose, tell us what you think,” Freddie pulled her away as John stayed with Brian while Roger called for help. “is it bad?”

“Freddie, it’s really bad,” she confided. “I believe Brian’s intestine perforated and will turn gangrenous. It sounds to me like he had an ulcer due to his being sick before and it wasn’t treated. It got worse after he returned to work because he’s obsessing over the album. He needs immediate surgery to save the rest of his bowels.”

“Oh dear God,” Freddie turned pale as well. In no time at all Brian was hustled off to the hospital where Rose’s suspicions were confirmed. She was taken back to see Brian who was going in and out of consciousness at that point.

“Brian?”

“What?” he croaked. The guitar player was lying on a gurney in a dark corner of the preoperative room.

“Do you know what’s going on?”

“Nobody told me anything.” they had given him medicine to calm him down; that much was apparent.

“You’ve got a perforated bowel which means there’s a hole in it. You need emergency surgery to make sure it doesn’t turn gangrenous.” Rose took his hand as he glanced up at her with worry in his eyes.

“How are they going to do that?”

“They’re going to take the damaged section out and stitch the healthy ends together. It’s called an anastomosis.”

“Right..”

“You’re going to be all right,” she told him firmly, taking both his hands. “I will see you later. Love you.” Rose kissed him on the cheek as the nurse came to take him away.

“Love you too.” Brian was brought into the operating room, put onto the table, then given a sedating medicine. He drifted off thinking about Rose and how much she meant to him.

Rose was left standing in the waiting room with her hands together facing the operating room doors. Her eyes seemed to look beyond them for a moment or two anxiously but then the band showed up to support her. Freddie took her hands and they enveloped her in a group hug.

“You guys are really sweet to stay here with me. It will be hours.”

“We will wait for however long it takes.” Roger took her arm and guided her over to the couch in the corner. Freddie and John had books at the ready for all of them. Freddie had art history, John had an old textbook from his college years about electronics, and Roger had a book about American muscle cars. The drummer passed Rose a volume on the history of the Stuart reign over England to keep her occupied. She smiled and began to read about James II.

Four hours passed before there was any word. Roger and Freddie were asleep with Rose in the middle of them. She had her head on Roger’s lap while Freddie had her legs in his lap. John was the only one awake when the doctor came back. He gently shook Rose awake and stood with her as the doctor gave her the lowdown; as the bass player held her hand for support.

“Ms. Sjulander?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. May is out of danger. He’s sleeping it off and we got all of the damaged bowel out before it could cause more problems. We need to keep him for about a week or two so he recovers properly. Was there a lot of stress in his life?”

“He’s a professional musician.” John smiled ruefully.

“Say no more!” the doctor laughed. “I understand. Would you like to see him, Ms. Sjulander? He won’t be awake yet.”

“Yeah. I’ll only be there for a few minutes, John. Be right back.”

“You’re sure? He won’t be in any condition to talk even if he was awake.” John reminded her gently, rubbing her hand as he noticed it was cold.

“I know. Be right back.” she kissed John on the cheek as thanks and disappeared.

Brian was lying the postoperative ward, his face starkly white, limp like a rag doll. They had already extubated him and now he was just wearing a mask. Rose knew the mask helped to dissipate the remaining anesthetics the doctors had sent surging through his bloodstream. She held his hand, hoping that on some level he knew that she was there. “I have to get home to rest, sweetheart but I’ll be in tomorrow after lunch,” Rose promised him. “I will only stay a short while. You won’t be up for visitors.” she leaned over and pecked her boyfriend on the cheek which prompted a response.

His eyes blearily opened and one hand came up to take the mask off. “No, Brian!” she wrestled both his hands down. “That mask has to stay on you. It’ll help you wake up more. You won’t remember me being here but I’ll be in tomorrow. Just relax.”

Brian responded by putting his hands down. He was unable to talk but that didn’t matter to Rose. “You’ll be all right now.” she stroked his hair for a brief moment as fatigue set in. “I’m so tired so I’m going to go grab some sleep. I’ll see you soon.”

**

Arriving the next afternoon, Rose attired herself in jeans, sneakers, and a ringnecked polo shirt. She brought her small leather bag with some essentials for Brian then walked the seven blocks to the hospital. Brian was once more in a private room, sitting up, dozing off when she walked in.

“Hey, Bri,” she sang out. “How are you?”

“I feel like a bloody semi hit me,” he said grouchily. “my throat is sore and it seems nothing can cure it.”

“I can imagine. I had bowel surgery once to take out a genetic defect.” she showed him her scar. “We can have matching scars now, Bri.”

“Yeah. What do the guys think?”

“They’ll stop by tomorrow, Brian. They want to make sure you’re fully awake for Freddie’s antics.”

“It’s going to hurt when I laugh,” Brian said ruefully as he turned on the TV.

“What do you remember about last night?”

“I remember you. You came to see me preoperatively and in postop,” Brian shifted position carefully. “did you know that after you recovered emotionally from your mother’s death I used to wake up and watch you sleep? I still do on occasion. You look so cute.”

“Thanks. I love to cuddle with you and I often watch you sleep as well.”

**
One month later they were back out on the road again as show business waited for no one. Sheer Heart Attack quickly climbed the charts and they were in demand for touring. Rose got out her makeup palettes for each other boys; all of them had their own individual cases and were marked with their initials in big black Sharpie marker. She laid them all out, clattering around as the costumes for that night were brought in. All of the band were in their robes, getting ready for the concert.

“Come on I’m ready! Why don’t we play doctor and sexy nurse?” Brian grabbed Rose’s butt a few times, leaning over her slightly. She was definitely aware of his sincerity as a little poke jabbed her in the thigh.

“I don’t want to hurt you.” she gave him a few dry humps to tease him. “Might want to go rub one out as your boner will be noticeable onstage tonight.”

“Nobody sees them,” Freddie laughed as Rose zipped him up into a white jumpsuit. She assisted John with his outfit as Brian put on a white and blue striped shirt. “only the piano player gets screen time!”

“Oi!” Roger threw his drum sticks at Freddie. “You bloody great pillock!”

“Calm down, darling.” Freddie bounded out on stage in his white outfit followed by John. Roger picked up his drum sticks rolling his eyes. Brian picked up his beloved Red Special and followed them out, winking at Rose.

Cleaning up the makeup station Rose sang along with Freddie, sinking down onto the couch. She and Brian had been together for several months now and her love for him was quite strong. They celebrated birthdays together, supported each other through tough times, etc. Roger often jokingly said he couldn’t tell them apart anymore. John thought they were a super cute couple and said so, while Freddie liked taking the piss out of them any chance he could get.

When the music video was done for the day, John came backstage first and winked to Rose. He brought out a birthday cake inscribed Happy Birthday Brian, set it on the makeup counter, and lit the candles.

“Here he comes!” Roger hissed as Rose added a few presents to the counter. When Brian emerged they all sang the standard song and wished him well. Beaming, he blew out the candles and John proceeded to cut the cake. He sent the rest of it up to the crew who bestowed upon Brian the good wishes as well.

“This was your idea wasn’t it?” Brian asked Rose who beamed.

“Is there any doubt?” he opened up his presents which were a leather bound book with blank pages for a place to write his lyrics and a beautiful new guitar strap for the Red Special.

“I have the best girlfriend in the world!” Brian kissed her passionately, grasping her by the waist and tipping her back. Amid the catcalling whistles and whoops, Rose was blushing like mad when he finally released her.

“Wow!” she wobbled a little bit.

“So how are you doing, Brian?” Roger asked.

“Very good. The doctor took my stitches out a few days ago. I’m fit and raring to go again.”

“Great!”

“Good news!” Freddie called out. “The album Sheer Heart Attack is ready to roll!”

“All right!” Brian picked up Rose clean off the floor in his ebullience.

**

That birthday party was a month ago and Rose hadn’t been feeling too well since then. She and Brian had truly epic sex on his birthday though her symptoms hadn’t started until last week. Brian was out doing a press junket for the band, promotions for the new album.

“What is making me so ill?” she wondered idly. “Oh my god!” a light flashed on in her head and she rushed out to the drugstore to buy a test.

At the same time Brian was looking appreciatively at a brunette woman who had a bubbly attitude. She seemed bright, perky, very extroverted which always attracted him to a woman. Freddie noticed him making eyes at the woman but didn’t say anything, feeling protective of Rose. If she were to have her heart broken by Brian things could get rough between them.

“Hey, you’ve got Rose.” John reminded him, also noticing Brian’s flirtations. Not wanting to lose Rose as a part of their team, John only spoke up a little bit as he didn’t want to provoke a fight either.

“I know.” but Brian was already attracted to the other woman. Freddie caught sight of his wandering eye and shook his head. Brian was going to do what he wanted to do. Nothing anyone could say would be able to change his mind.

“Hey there,” Brian offered his hand to the brunette. “I’m Brian.”

“I’m Chrissy.”

Rose was staring at the test in her hand which had turned into a big fat positive. What was she going to tell Brian? She threw it away and took the trash out so he wouldn’t come across it accidentally.

During the next several days Rose could sense that Brian was pulling away from her. He never cuddled up to her, he rarely kissed her, and his mind was always a million miles away. It seemed he was indecisive about something and didn’t know what to do.

“Brian, you’re very distant lately. What’s going on?” she spoke up one rainy night. Brian had been composing more music and playing around with his guitar. Normally they’d cozy up on the couch but a physical relationship hadn’t been part of their lives for the past two weeks.

“Um, I met someone, Rose.” her complexion paled up. “Are you all right?”

“No, I am not all right! You fell out of love with me, didn’t you?”

“I don’t know.” he put his foot on the amp like he was so used to doing as he watched Rose stand up and approach him.

“You’re so transparent,” Rose accused. “I have a secret for you that would have blown your mind and you tell me you stopped loving me and now you have the hots for some other woman!”

“I did not fall out of love with you!” Brian lied. “What secret are you talking about?”

“So you were never in love with me in the first place. She’s been on your mind nonstop since you met her. You’ve been going on dates with her behind my back.” Brian had never seen Rose so fired up and defensive about anything before. He turned off the amp and put his guitar back in its stand.

“What-”

“This!” she flashed him a tabloid headline that read boldly: BRIAN MAY OUT WITH MYSTERY WOMAN. “The press knows me and I’m not a mystery woman!”

“Rose-”

“Don’t!” she stopped him. “Don’t come near me, you rake!” she made a little grunt of discomfort and put her hand to her belly for a moment as a cramp hit her. It was very mild just took her by surprise.

“What is it?” Brian approached her again as she made an expression of mild pain. “Are you sick?”

“Yes, I have been sick for several days; not that you would notice,” Rose fumed. “thanks a lot, Brian.” she packed up her things into two pieces of luggage. Brian just stood and stared at her with conflicting emotions building up in his head; not sure of what to do or say.

“We can still be friends, Rose.” he grabbed her arm.

“Brian not now. I don’t know what I’ll do about the tours,” Rose faced Brian. “I thought we had something special, Bri. I can’t go back from this. You’ve broken my heart, Brian May and I hope the knowledge of doing that to me tortures you in your sleep. I wasted almost a year of my life in love with you now you throw it all away.”

“Darling-”

“Don’t! Only Freddie calls me that now,” tears ran down her face. “I love you Brian and I always will. If things don’t work out and you grow up, call me.”

Brian’s heart broke on seeing her so distressed. “Where will you go?”

“Freddie. He’ll help me out.” another cramp flared a little bit, taking her by surprise, making her gasp, put her hand back on her midsection and another expression of pain flitted across her face. She knew it wasn’t anything to worry about-just her “passenger” settling in but it was mildly painful.

“What is it? Where are you hurt?” he put his hand on her shoulder in a last ditch attempt to keep her in the flat. She did seem to be genuinely in pain and he was legitimately worried about her. The makeup artist drew back from him and took her shoulder out of range, giving him a withering stare.

“Keep your distance,” Rose said icily as she picked up her things, strung her purse on one arm, then departed the flat. Brian watched her go; his vision going cloudy with unshed tears.

**

It was raining when Rose pulled into Freddie’s driveway. He opened up the door for her and let her in somberly, noting how she looked. Rose was pale and drawn, her eyes faded and slightly red like she’d been crying. His brotherly instinct taking over, Freddie took her coat, hung it up then brought her into his sitting room. Rose mopped at her face as Freddie fired up the tea kettle. When it was ready he pressed the cup into her hand with the remark, “You look like you could use it.”

“Thanks, Freddie. I guess you know Brian’s been dating another girl behind my back.” her hands shook from the cold as she set down the teacup. Rose put her head in her hands for a moment and when she looked back at Freddie he could swear she had aged a few years. Wordlessly he put down his cup and leaned forward, embracing her tightly. Rose surrendered as she enfolded her arms around her friend; eyes tearing up slightly at her situation.

“We told him not to do it, love,” Freddie told her. “he was being reckless.” drawing back a bit he pulled out a tissue, gently dabbing away a lone tear that fell.

Rose blinked away her tears as the singer grasped her hand in a friendly gesture, noticing how cold they were. “That’s not all of the story, Freddie.”

“What am I missing?”

“I’ve been sick, Freddie. Well, let me be direct. I’m pregnant.”

The blood drained out of Freddie’s face as well. “You’re sure?”

“Yes. It’s Brian’s, no doubt there. Now he’s off sowing his wild oats with some hapless chick while I’m stuck in limbo.”

“Where are you going now?” he liked the fact that Rose refused to bad mouth the woman Brian cheated on her with. Even when Rose was down she had class enough to refuse to insult someone she’d never met.

“That I don’t know. I don’t have a plan. I don’t have enough money to get a hotel room.”

“Why don’t you stay with me?” Freddie offered happily. “I could use some company here. It’s a big house.”

“Really?”

“Sure. You can have the room next to mine. That’s Delilah’s but she won’t mind you.”

“Your cat? Is this her?” a calico cat hopped up onto her lap. “She can tell that I’m in distress.”

“Cats are amazing like that. So what do you say?”

“I say yes. My gear’s in the car.” they got her settled into her room in record time. Delilah pounced on her once she sat on the bed so Rose drew her into her lap.

“I can’t thank you enough, Freddie. You’re so good to me.” Freddie’s eyes shone as he sat on the bed next to her. He regarded Rose like another sister and friend and was always happy to help her out. Now he was inwardly thrilled that he’d have her as a roommate.

“Just answer me one question: Does Brian know about the baby?”

“No. I didn’t tell him and I have to keep it a secret from him.” Rose put her hand on her midsection while giving Freddie a sideways glance.

“Why?”

“He needs to know as little about me as possible. Brian made it very clear he wants nothing to do with me so he doesn’t deserve to know.” she closed her eyes for a long moment, letting the emotional hurt wash over her in one tidal wave.

“Darling I wish you’d reconsider,” Freddie wrapped his arm around her affectionately. “it’s not just your life you need to be concerned with now.”

“Please Freddie, let’s keep it between us.” Rose pleaded, leaning into his shoulder.

“You win, darling,” he kissed the top of her head. “I’m hitting the sack. Don’t stay up too late.”

“I won’t.” she promised. Freddie closed her door and went into the hallway, thinking about Rose’s situation. Brian had been cheating on her behind her back and if it wasn’t for the tabloids she might never have found out the truth. In a weird way Freddie was grateful to the media for blowing up the papers with the news of Brian’s affair. He wanted to punch Brian out but that would not be a good idea so he had to act like Rose and put on his best face.

Needless to say the singer had never had a female roommate, let alone a pregnant one, so it would be a learning experience for all involved. Freddie’s optimism took over, determined to keep Rose happy and support her.

Across town Brian was staring out the window into the rainy night with a mournful look on his face. Thoughts raced through his mind and collided with each other, each more confusing than the last. He wanted a good wife and mother to his children but he simply did not think that Rose was cut out for the role. She was too immature. “Goodnight, Rose.” he whispered as he put one hand to the glass like he was reaching for her hand.

Safely tucked into bed with Delilah perched next to her, Rose looked out the window for a moment and whispered, “Goodnight, Brian.” her hand was outstretched next to her as she looked at it, imagining Brian grasping it.

End of part 1

A/N: I broke up the dream team! Don’t worry; there is more to come!

Chapter Text

PART 2

The tour Sheer Heart Attack was concluded; the number one hit was Killer Queen. In spite of Brian’s being out sick for so long the album was favorably received and they enjoyed a guest spot on a TV show. Freddie wasn’t happy about being asked to lip sync to it but he had been told it was because many performers don’t sing the same way twice and they wanted it to sound the same as it was on the album.

Rose had settled into Freddie’s home almost seamlessly. She introduced him into cat safe indoor plants, spent a lot of time gardening and landscaping, then introduced Freddie into the delights of home cooking. He discovered that Rose had a considerable talent in baking bread; every Sunday Rose made a fresh batch. She loved the smell as much as making it and Freddie became a convert quickly.

On the flip side, Rose suffered from intermittent nausea attacks and mild cramping. Freddie became adept at knowing when she was cramped up and gave her heating pads and aspirin to quell it. She kept most of her feelings locked away, not wanting to worry Freddie, but he could tell when something was on her mind and goad her into telling him. Both aired out their worries to each other; supporting and comforting each other as well, and they grew closer as friends. Rose could always tell when Freddie was excited about something; she would encourage him to sit at the piano, thrust a pad of paper and pen at him, telling him to write it down.

The band relocated to a country house style recording studio to write their next album A Night at the Opera. Brian unpacked his suitcase, feeling guilty that Rose wasn’t there with him. Roger and John had been mysteriously quiet on Rose’s disappearance which led him to believe Freddie had told them something. Normally Roger would pester him with questions.

At supper that night, Roger dropped the question, “What happened to Rose? Is she sick?”

Freddie drained his glass as he would need a little more fortitude for what he had to say. Rose had been left at his home where she was taking care of the cats.

“As it so happens Rose is living with me now,” Freddie said smoothly. “as you will no doubt be aware of she and Brian here had a fight and she left him. She will be accompanying us on tours so you will see her again but she’s very ill at the moment. Rose will be coming up here when she starts feeling better. I told her we need her vocals for what I have in mind.”

“I’m afraid to ask what’s on your mind.” John teased. “We all have some ideas already.”

“Rose is sick?”

“Yes, Roger. She was feeling pretty bad and it’s been almost a week. Anyone talks to her about the breakup she had with Brian and I’ll not be held responsible for my actions or hers.”

Point taken the breakup was off limits. All of the bandmembers shot sideways glances at Brian who was well aware of them. They were silently asking him questions like why did he do it and why would he throw her away like he did. The guitar player felt his face flame for a long moment so he kept his head down. John asked something of Roger which broke the tension.

Later on that evening Freddie waited until Brian went to bed, then grabbed Roger and John in his room for a little meeting regarding Rose. “Rose has given me license to disclose something to you. I want you both to swear that what I tell you doesn’t leave this room,” he began. The others nodded as they were pretty good at keeping secrets. “I know we all love Rose very much and don’t want anything to happen to her. She’s going to need extra support right now as she’s going through a very difficult time.”

“Freddie, what happened now?” Roger couldn’t take the suspense. “you said she was sick.”

“Yeah. She’s got a touch of a cold right now and Brian left her a little farewell gift.” he said sarcastically.

“What do you mean, Freddie?”

“Brian got her pregnant, John. He doesn’t know and she doesn’t want him to know.”

Roger lost all color in his face as John’s mouth dropped open. He was the first one to curse Brian but Freddie wouldn’t hear of it. “We’re a family, John. We accept each other’s flaws as it is. He can’t know about this as we’re respecting and honoring Rose’s wish. I want your word that you will not tell him under any circumstance.”

“You’ve got it.” they promised.

“Good. She’ll be down in about three days, her health permitting.”

“I can’t wait to see her.” Roger smiled. “Anything else we need to know?”

“How did they end up breaking up?” John couldn’t believe it; they were such a good pair together. Rose offset Brian’s quirks nicely, they were sweet and affectionate; he really though they would end up marrying.

“Good question, John. We can thank the tabloids for that. Rose saw one in the grocery line while she picked up her test and confronted Brian with it. He didn’t deny it at all which Rose saw as truth.”

“Plus she and Brian have been out in public before and she’s a familiar figure to them. The tabloids all screamed about a mystery woman. Rose is high profile like all of us.” John finished.

“Oh!” Roger had a lightbulb moment. “I see it now.”

“Good! Behave normally around her while Brian’s around, that’s all I ask.”

“We will do it, Freddie. Good night.” John and Roger left the room.

At the same time, Brian settled into bed with his thoughts on Rose. She was living with Freddie now and had been fighting a cold. He hadn’t seen her in a month since she left so he was wondering what she was doing. The guitar player had been enjoying his new love so he hadn’t spared Rose a thought of late. Now he wondered if her illness was related to the pain she seemed to be suffering when they split up.

He could ask Freddie but he doubted his friend would give him any answers. Brian suspected that Rose was going to live with him and that was confirmed. He really did regret how Rose found out he had been cheating on her with another woman. He should have been more upfront about it but it was too late now.

**

“Freddie,” John ambushed his friend the next day in the studio.

“What’s up, John?” Freddie scrawled a few more notes on his notepad as he sat at the piano. “You’ve got a question or two about Rose, don’t you?”

“Really, how’s she doing?”

Freddie sighed as he put the pen behind his left ear. “She’s doing. That’s all that can really be said. Before I came here she had a few really bad nights. As in bad I mean the fact that she cried for Brian for a bit. I did what I could to help her nurse her broken heart.”

“How did you help?”

“The last night I was home for instance, I was about to get to bed when I heard Rose talking to one of the cats. She has a habit of talking to them like every crazy cat person,” Freddie grinned. “she was just missing Brian as I went into her room to tell her not to waste her energy on him. The poor girl was in tears so I comforted her the best I could then fell asleep with her. She does like to cuddle a lot. Rose says that helps very much in reminding her that she’s not alone.”

“That’s sweet,” John commented. “I won’t say a word to the others.”

“Damn right!” Freddie teased. “Big bad Freddie being a cuddle bug? No!”

“If it helps her that’s wonderful. Now I had a question on the tenth bar...”

Three days later Rose drove up in her modest Toyota, parked next to the boys’ cars, pulled out her suitcase and walked up to the front door. John answered the knock, giving her a big smile and a hug hello. Rose was wearing a white collared button up shirt and a knee length floral skirt with sandals on.

“I know Freddie said there wasn’t much space here. Am I rooming with anyone?”

“You’ll be rooming with Roger. His room is pretty big-big enough for a second twin bed,” John graciously took her suitcase and carried it for her. “Roger and I heard about your breakup and other matters.. you can talk to us if you like about it. We’ve been sworn to secrecy.” the bass player sized Rose up with a sideways glance, noticing that she looked the same as always and there was no hint of duress on her face.

“OK. I have to be civil to Brian at least.” John showed her the room and put her suitcase at the foot of the bed.

“Do you want anything?”

“A tour would be nice,” John gave her a tour of the recording studio then the dining room and kitchen. Each room had a private bath so that was a bonus. “I don’t mind sharing with Roger! Do you have any questions for me, John?”

“How are you doing? Really?” they sat down by the baby grand piano as John gave her a side hug, his arm on her shoulder.

“I’m all right. A bit shell shocked to be sure but I gave myself a month to try to get over my broken heart. I didn’t get over it per se, but I pulled myself together enough so I can function. I really thought Brian would be the one for me but life is funny like that.” Rose closed her eyes briefly and looked down. “Freddie has been so kind to help me out. You all are just by being yourselves.”

“Well if you ever need anything just ask. I will do what I can to help you,” John promised, giving Rose a big hug. “the three of us will do what we can.”

“Just be yourselves.” was all she could answer. “Despite Brian I feel very safe with you all.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that. We love you.” John kissed her cheek sweetly and she returned it.

“Thank you, John.” he brought her down to the studio to see the rest of the band were into recording one of their songs. When a break for lunch was called Roger came into the room and spied Rose standing with John and Freddie.

“Rose!” he squealed happily and engulfed her in a big hug. “I’ve missed you darling, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m getting better,” she chirped. “how about you?”

The friendly banter petered out as Brian unhooked his guitar and came shuffling into the sound booth. “So anyway, how about we pack a picnic and go into the field?” Rose suggested as she positioned herself out of Brian’s view. He heard her voice and stiffened up but gave no sign that he noticed her at all. Freddie and John saw but said nothing.

“Great idea! Coming, everyone?” Freddie looked like he couldn’t wait. Leading Rose off into the kitchen to pack up, Rose and Roger chattered endlessly to themselves. Freddie looked like he wanted to blister Brian’s ears with a lecture but it wasn’t his business to do it and Rose had asked him not to. That left John who was rewinding the tape. The bass player glanced up at Brian, offering him a casual hello.

“How is she?”

“She says she’s well enough, Bri. I accepted that.” he said mildly and without any intonation that it was Brian’s fault. “Rose is glad she’s here and wants to help as much as she can. Are you going on the picnic with us?” he turned off the tape deck.

“I’ll go, sure.”

In the field there was a gentle wind as the five of them sat on the grassy knoll watching the birds hunting bugs. Rose stretched out on the big towel Roger had put down, supported by her elbows and her long legs were in John’s lap.

“We shouldn’t let those pretty legs of yours touch the ground even through a blanket,” he kidded her as he gave her a drink. “it would be a sin.”

“Do you mean my dancer’s legs?” Rose’s elbows began to shake so she lay down on her back with both of her hands folded a little below her waist. Roger and Freddie each gave her a surreptitious glance as they noticed just where her hands were but didn’t say anything. John saw that as well but didn’t think she did it consciously. The bass player tugged at her shoulder, making her sit up as he pulled her into his lap playfully. Freddie snapped a picture on his Polaroid with a big goofy grin on his face. Roger smirked as he wished he’d thought of it.

“What kind of dance did you do, Rose?”

“I’ve done everything, Roger. Jazz, ballet, tap, street, Latin, burlesque, ballroom.”

“Sounds like fun,” Freddie remarked as Brian just listened. “did you choreograph any musicals or musician acts?”

“I did several productions, none of which are coming to my mind at the moment. I ended up teaching for awhile then I turned to makeup. The company I taught for sponsored my beautician education and there we go.”

A few moments later when the picnic was finished, Rose was lying lazily on the blanket as Roger and John went off to bird watch (Roger being convinced he saw a hawk), while Freddie and Brian worked on some lyrics.

The tension between the exes was intolerable to Brian. He deliberately threw himself on the blanket next to Rose who didn’t move at all. “So, Rose, what’s new?” it might have been a clumsy attempt to break the ice but at least he tried. He could give himself credit for that.

Rose moved her sunglasses up with one finger. Brian was trying to make nice, she had to remind herself. She would return small talk with civility. A breeze rustled the grass all around, culminating in her shirt blowing up away from her body. Her body hadn’t begun to start its weird shapeshifting journey so nobody would have noticed anything. Freddie glanced up from his notepad as Rose put her hand over her shirt, tucking her thumb in the waistband of her skirt, her fingers splayed out casually. “Not much, Brian.”

“Freddie said you were ill; are you OK now?”

“I’m as good as can be expected.” she smiled, dropping her sunglasses back down to wink at Freddie secretly.

“I’m glad. I know things between us have been rough, but can we still be friends?”

“I’d like that. I still want you in my life, Brian.”

“Same here.” they cloud gazed in a companionable silence. Freddie relaxed considerably now, happy that Rose had removed a weight from his shoulders. He didn’t want to come between his bandmates defending her to anyone and it looked like he wouldn’t have to.

Later on that night, after supper the band sat around in the living room tossing around more ideas when Rose walked by, clad in her pink chenille robe and amethyst nightshirt. “Good night you rock weirdos,” she teased. “it’s after 10 if you haven’t noticed already.”

“Is it?” John glanced at his watch. “Time to turn in.”

“I’m all done in too,” Roger yawned. “right behind you, Rose.” they bade everyone a goodnight, then on the way to the room, Roger teased Rose by tickling her back. She got into bed as Roger began to change, shuffling this way and that, trying to find his bag.

“Are you and Brian all right now?”

“I think we will be for now,” Rose closed her eyes. “is there any set time I need to be up tomorrow?”

“Around 9. What’s it like living with Freddie?” he perched on the edge of her bed, the picture of rapt attention. Freddie was such a wild card; Roger was imagining Freddie bringing home his one night stands, drunken orgies with other high profile people, etc. The drummer’s gaze looked disappointed once Rose started talking.

“It’s like living with a brother. He’s always up during the nights, crashes out wherever he wants, and I’ve had to teach him basic housekeeping. He’s improved a lot, being more considerate of me.”

“How about those cats of his?”

“His cats! Delilah likes me the best easily. She sleeps with me at night.” Rose’s voice petered out as she started falling asleep. Roger glanced at her as he saw her eyes close. Her breathing evened out and took on a slow rhythm so he knew she was asleep.

A knock on the door startled Roger. He opened it and the rest of the band sailed in. “Can’t this wait until tomorrow?” he shushed them before they could even open up their mouths. “Rose is exhausted and she just fell asleep.”

“I just wanted your list of ideas so I could take a look.” Freddie barged into the room followed by John.

“All right, Freddie,” Roger pulled his list off the dresser, handing it to his friend. “goodnight now.”

Freddie left as John shot a look at Rose who was very still. “She looks so cute when she’s asleep.” he leaned over Rose, giving her a small kiss on the cheek. The makeup artist stirred a little bit, opening up her eyes enough to see that it was John standing over her. “Sorry, back to sleep.” she closed her eyes as he brushed aside a strand of her hair. John bade his friend good night and left the room.

The drummer spread another blanket over Rose. “It’s a bit chilly tonight.” Roger watched her sleep, leaning down and pulling the blanket up over her shoulders. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he remembered Freddie telling him about the situation between Brian and Rose. Even though they were friendly to each other now there was a little tension which Roger didn’t think Brian even noticed. He was shocked when Freddie told him of Rose’s condition and John was outraged as well but they agreed not to start anything for Rose’s sake.

“How could Brian treat you so badly?” the drummer asked his sleeping friend. He pecked her on the cheek and went to bed. “If you were mine I’d never do that to you. Ever.”

**

“I need your chops on this verse, Rose,” Freddie was singing at the piano. “I call this Bohemian Rhapsody.” together they sang through on the verses before the opera section. “What do you think?”

“I think you’ve breached a whole new level of passion on your work, Freddie,” she admitted. “to sing with such fire like you do brings a whole new thrill in it for me.”

“Really, dear?”

“Of course!” she beamed at him.

“I’m glad to see you smiling again. Now, let’s try it from the top.”

A few hours later Freddie came into the recording studio with the completed piano notes for Bohemian Rhapsody and recorded himself playing through the song. It was time to begin layering the song which he systematically dissected and arranged to his liking.

“Now Roger, I need you on the Galileos. You’ve got the highest pitched voice here.”

“No way! What about her?” he pointed at Rose rather obviously. “Are you saying I have a higher pitched voice than a girl?”

“No, just her. She has a lower register than you.” Rose spoke in middle E and to go high above it was physically painful for her. Roger could do the high falsettos without enduring physical pain. He put on his headset as Freddie leaned over the mike.

“Sheesh. Freddie, what do you want him to do? Yank his nuts and sing?” Rose deadpanned; Roger turned beet red while Brian and John laughed.

“Oh, she’s in a feisty mood today!” Freddie grinned. “Roger, you’re up.”

“He can go higher, Freddie.” Brian observed a few minutes later.

“I know. Damn, I can’t get him to go any higher.”

“How about some helium?”

“If you’ve got any?”

“No, sorry,” Rose thought for a moment. “Roger, don’t be so self conscious about it. Nobody will know that it’s you.”

“Ugh, why am I doing this?” he groaned.

“To balance out the tenors and basses. Say ‘Galileo’ while you’re getting shocked with 10,000 volts.”

“Galileo!”

“Roger, it’s the A in the word that’s still low sounding.”

“Galileo!”

“You got it!” a few more takes and Roger was very red in the face. He switched places with the others while they recorded the Bismillah takes. Rose didn’t have to sing really-her voice was neutral in comparison to the others. Brian and John had to take their voices down an octave while Rose and Freddie used their standard speaking voices.

Towards the end of the day Brian recorded his guitar solos that Freddie would put in later. Rose and John went out to the kitchen where he was teaching her a little bit about his cooking. He could get by on his own but Rose knew a bit more than he did. It wasn’t much as they were both exhausted and wanted to spend the evening in writing. Roger supplied them with his colorful commentary, joking around with them.

“We did a lot of great work today,” he remarked. “now I have to push my balls down to where they need to be!”

John and Rose burst out laughing. “It’s my first time singing on the record; how do you think I feel?”

“A hell of a lot better than me. I’ve got such a fucking headache.” Rose handed him a bottle of aspirin. “Thanks, love.” he took two as Brian came in.

“Brian, tell Roger that he sounded fine and will sound great on the record,” John encouraged as he shut the fridge door. “It’ll be great.”

“Is that what you’re worried about?” Brian sat down next to him. “Freddie has great taste for this sort of thing. He’ll get it right. We’re going to work on the car song tomorrow, bright and early.”

“I hope so.”

“Is it a car sex song?” Rose asked.

“It’s full of innuendo,” Brian handed her the lyrics. “see what you think.”

John leaned in to see as well. Rose’s face turned pink as she read through them, the laugh lines on her face deepening as John smirked and nudged her. Finally she handed the note back to Brian as Roger saw her biting her lips. Quivering with laughter, Rose wasn’t going to say anything but Roger was now curious to find out what was on her mind.

“What is it?”

“Um, which one of you takes it up the tailpipe?” Brian, John and Rose burst out in fits of laughter as Roger giggled along, burying his face in his hands.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Roger!” Rose kissed both his cheeks. “Sorry, love! I can’t help myself!” the gales of laughter continued as Freddie walked in.

John informed Freddie of what they were laughing at and in true Freddie style he bent over in front of them and said, “ME!” followed by more laughter.

Brian studied Rose for a long minute as she said something to John and was glad that she was in good spirits again. He still had his moments of longing for her but was glad they were able to have a good working relationship.

A few days later John was insisting on his song You’re My Best Friend be played on the electric keyboard by Freddie but Freddie didn’t like the sound of the electric and wanted the full piano to be played. An argument ensued until Rose walked right in the middle of it.

“Boys, agree to disagree!” she put her fingertips to her temples. “I can hear you out in the garden! Pipe down!”

“John wants his song done on an electric keyboard-I don’t like the way they sound so I won’t do it!” Freddie fumed as John glared daggers at him.

“For God’s sake, Freddie! Why can’t you just oblige John here?” Rose turned to John. “I know Freddie too well and when he’s dug in his heels there’s no way to move him. Look, I play piano and I can do the keyboard. Come on, let’s go.” she took John by the arm and moved him away.

Together John and Rose worked on You’re My Best Friend for the next day and a half. Rose liked the electric buzzy noise the keyboard made and John wanted it really pronounced at the beginning and all through the song. When he and Rose recorded it and played it back the others agreed that it really sounded good, even Freddie.

“Thanks a lot,” John walked her to the bedroom door. Roger was already inside getting into bed as the two stood there for a moment. “could not have done it without you.” the two of them exchanged friendly kisses on the cheek. John might have been the quiet one in the group but he got his point across when it mattered.

“Happy to help, John.” she said goodnight and went into the bedroom. Roger was a mess on his bed, all sprawled out so she sorted him out, disentangling him from the covers. When she was done she leaned over the drummer and bestowed him with a kiss on his lips; something she never would have dared do otherwise. He was a cutie to her and now that she was free maybe she’d have a chance with him.

“Good night, Roger.”

The next day Roger woke up, sure in his mind that he’d dreamed Rose had kissed him on the lips but as the day progressed he became more convinced that it had actually happened. Rose didn’t act any different than usual but Roger was sure that there was something between them. Time would tell.

**

The album, A Night At The Opera, was officially done. The studio wouldn’t agree on Bohemian Rhapsody being a single because it was too long and apparently no radio station would play it. Freddie took it above their heads and appealed to a local radio station. It was played in its entirety over the air to mixed reviews. Freddie accepted the good with the bad and that was that.

The album launched another tour and Rose was on board to go with them. They did several cities over the next four months and one night she discovered the dreaded shapeshifting of her figure had started to happen. She couldn’t change her wardrobe without suspicion from Brian on what was happening to her and felt like she was in a fix. They would be on the tour for awhile yet so she had to devise some kind of solution.

“What’s going on, Rose?” Freddie noticed she was quiet one night during sound check. “The boys will be coming down in a moment to get made up.”

The makeup artist showed him. “I’m in a bind.”

“It’s not that bad!” he reassured her. “You only need to make tiny changes right now.”

“How?”

“Start by wearing looser fitting skirts and pants.” he made it sound easy. “You’re letting it get you down, darling, and this should be a happier time for you!” Freddie turned her around, got behind her, then gave her a few dry humps, putting his hands into her pant pockets. Rose giggled as Freddie removed his hands, brushing them against her pelvis. The singer’s lips were practically in her ear as he made her sway back and forth for a moment.

“It would be happier if Brian-”

“Don’t worry about him! Anyway we need to concentrate on the job at hand.” Freddie had both hands on her pelvis as Roger and John came down to get made up. “You’ll be a sexy mama.” he said low in her ear for reassurance.

“If you were straight, Freddie, I’d be all over you.” Rose said seductively as Freddie dry humped her. John seized the chair away from Roger, plunking himself down and clamoring for her attention.

“How’s it going?” he asked in a low voice as he’d noticed her standing with Freddie looking worried about something briefly before they started their little dry humping session. He could not mistake where Freddie and Rose’s hands were either. When Rose leaned down a little bit John could clearly see a little swelling in her figure. If he hadn’t known she was pregnant he would have thought she had gained a tiny bit of weight.

“All right. My shape has started to alter a bit.” she picked up a brush to blend in a little concealer.

“Not to worry. We’ll help you out if you need it; run interference and the like.” he offered.

“I’m so glad to have you guys.” he smiled at her in the mirror. Roger was the next to question her about her mood; she’d been unusually quiet that day. When she told him what was on her mind, like Freddie, he told her that she should have been happier but also validated her feelings of unease.

“But you, Roger, you’ve been unusually quiet the past several days. What’s going on with you?”

“Your situation has been on my mind,” he admitted. “I want to clock Brian one but he doesn’t know anything. I can’t bean him for anything without a lot of unnecessary questions.”

“I don’t want my modesty called into question, Roger,” she quelled him with a glance. “I can appreciate what you say but it doesn’t go any further than us, all right?”

“It’s OK,” Roger put his hand on hers. “I won’t do anything to attract attention to you, all right?”

Was it just her or was Roger getting more flirty with her? Rose chose not to say anything on that front. “I trust you, Roger.” his smile lightened up his face. When he got up he brushed against her midsection so slightly Rose had to wonder if it was on purpose or not. Brian was next to get made up and she kept their conversation chatty.

During the show the roadies noticed that Roger’s lights weren’t coming on. There were a few blown fuses right behind him which made him look like he was in a shadow.

“All right, I’ll switch them out,” she decided. “I’m already wearing black and I won’t show up. Is there a service entrance behind Roger’s drum riser?”

“Yeah, that trapdoor there. Be careful. You’ve got about twenty seconds before that circuit turns on. It’s a failsafe so remember that.”

“John can explain all this jargon to me later on. So I have about 20 seconds before the new fuse lights up to avoid electrical burns?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh goody. I’ll do it.” Rose was in a reckless mood anyway. The service entrance opened up, Rose tunneled below the stage, knowing she was right under Roger by the pulsation of the drums. She opened up the trapdoor, surprising the drummer but he knew why she was there.

“What are you doing here?” he yelled. “It’s not safe for you!” she ignored him and set to work, opening up the fuse box and replacing them. The circuit became active again before she finished replacing the fuses, giving her a shock, making her reel back and she accidentally sliced the palms of her hands open. Nobody heard her scream except Roger as he pounded out the drums for one of the fast songs. “All right?!”

Rose showed him her hands, making him swear. “I’ll be fine!” she disappeared down the service tunnel, slamming the door shut behind her.

That night the show was in a constant state of disrepair. Once Rose had replaced the fuses and mended her cut and burned hands, she had to get up on a stepladder to readjust one of the stagelights which had gone askew. Freddie didn’t like seeing her up there in her condition while he belted out Killer Queen but he had no choice. John had accidentally ripped the coaxial cable sheath on the input to his bass guitar so Rose had to switch them out, utilizing a different service entrance.

“Blimey the show out there is so fucked up! What the hell are the electricians smoking?!” John thundered as he came into the green room. “Rose, how are you?” he had seen her bandaged hands when she swapped out his cable. She turned from the makeup table, revealing that she’d received a bruise on her jawline while readjusting the stagelight. “Shit!”

“I burn and cut my hands replacing those damned fuses for Roger, I get bruised while moving that spotlight back into place, and not to mention the fact that my body’s under strain already. Perfect.” she said dryly. “If anything happens after intermission I’m going on strike.”

“Let me see, dearie,” Freddie took her hands and examined them. Rose had shallow cuts running the length of her palm but the electrical burns had already started showing themselves under her skin. Across the back of her palms there was some purple bruising almost like lightning strikes. “shit! Are you sure you’re OK?” he saw the bruise on the left side of her face.

“I’m sure.” the singer thought she looked down and depressed so he gave her a kiss on the cheek, saying he hoped nothing else would go wrong. Roger cuffed her shoulder in a friendly way, giving her a look of encouragement as John sat down beside Rose. Brian was the last one off of the stage and he felt like an intruder seeing his friends all grouped around his ex girlfriend.

“What’s up?” he asked blithely. Freddie showed Brian Rose’s cuts and bruises from the technical difficulties. “Oh damn, Rose! You didn’t have to do that, you know! The roadies would have done it.”

“Eh.” she waved her injured hand away.

“Well, let’s make sure the rest of the show goes off without a hitch. I don’t want you getting hurt.” Brian remonstrated with her.

“I don’t want that either.” she tried a placating smile.

During the second part of the show one of the stagelights that was anchored down on the stage had an electrical short in it. The whole unit had to be replaced which Rose managed to do almost effortlessly. The tech took the light from her as she straightened up, unseen by the audience, but she forgot where she was and took a tumble. It was nothing serious as she managed to limp back to the green room but the others had seen her fall and they were all worried now.

When the disastrous show finally ended they all rushed backstage to see Rose and what had happened to her this time. “Rose, what’s-” John stopped as they saw her sitting up looking alert as ever. The only difference was that she had iced down her left ankle. Somehow they imagined it much worse than it actually was. She looked at them curiously, knowing they had been imagining all sorts of dramatic scenarios. Roger and Brian reached her first, examining her wounds.

“I’m fine, really. Just a sprain.” she dismissed their worries as the others closed in around her.

“Well I think we’ll get you to your room, Miss Calamity Jane,” John picked her up completely, making her giggle. “you are sharing a room with me and Roger here. Hotel’s overbooked tonight.”

“Oh goody.” Rose laughed. “Take me to the room then and you four weirdos go out to the afterparty where you indulge your hedonism.”

John did exactly that, telling her to take her pick of beds. He and Roger headed out while Rose tended to her wounds. She chose to bunk down with John that night, thinking of him like a good friend and brother like she thought of Freddie. The makeup artist changed into her red nightdress, climbed into bed, and was out flat in under two minutes.

Several hours later the two bandmembers came back, remembering to keep it down as Rose was in their room for the night. “Which of us did she pick tonight, John?”

“Looks like she picked me,” John smirked. “get cleaned up and ready for bed.” he did the same and slid into bed with Rose, getting her in a front to back hug. The bass player pecked his friend on the cheek as he felt himself falling asleep as well.

“Where’s my goodnight kiss, eh?” Roger teased, swatting his friend gently.

“Come on, she’s sleeping.” John admonished. “Rose has had a rough night.”

“Don’t I know it.” Roger sacked out.

Around midnight that night Rose woke up to the sound of a truck’s jake brake thundering down the highway. She saw that John had gotten her in a front to back hug with his hands all the way down to her pelvis. It didn’t look like he was going to release her any time soon, she noted with a smirk.

Well, if Brian doesn’t love it these guys sure will, Rose thought to herself, adjusting her position.

When Roger woke up the next morning, he smacked John’s shoulder gently to wake him up. “Look at that.” John blinked a few times then saw the Rose was now facing him, her head on his shoulder, still deeply asleep.

“Sweet,” Roger took a picture. “did you ever have the hots for her?”

“I did before I met Ronnie,” John admitted. “we went for a walk in the park and we did kiss once.”

“What was it like?” Roger sat on the edge of the bed.

“It was OK, no romantic chemistry or anything. Rose knows we’ll protect and love her.” John kissed her on the top of the head.

“Do you know that Freddie told me he likes to cuddle up with her?”

“Really? Nice.” Rose’s blankets were mostly off of her so Roger noticed that one of John’s hands were on her stomach.

“Why are you and Freddie always putting your hands on her belly? Isn’t that weird?”

“No. She doesn’t mind at all.” Roger chose to leave it at that. “Keep your voice down, Rog. I don’t want to wake her up.”

The makeup artist roused upon hearing Roger’s voice, opening her long lashed eyelids to see her friends nearby. “Good morning, guys.” Rose smiled, looking happy and contented to be in John’s embrace. She put her hand on top of John’s as Roger picked up a dry towel from the shelf in the little linen closet. “I’m a full size snuggle bunny. I love it.”

“Will you do that for me tonight then?” the drummer asked sincerely.

“OK, fine. John, I guess you noticed my shape alteration last night, eh?”

“Yes I did. You were changing the position on that stage light when I could really see your little swelling.”

“Really?” she had to show Roger who hadn’t noticed anything. “Now I see why they’re always touching that! There’s some sort of odd fascination with this sort of thing.” Rose sat up, still in John’s embrace.

“It’s the mystique I think. I always thought that it’s interesting that there’s a person in the room nobody’s met yet.” she allowed Roger to touch the tiny swelling.

**

Rose was nearly four months when she began to feel sharp cramping one night while getting the band ready for their show. She finally sent them off while in pain, happy that she hadn’t screwed up the makeup jobs, but nervous at what her pains might be. By the time the show was over and she was in the hotel room, the pain had intensified a lot.

The makeup artist put on a loose t-shirt and black pants and was debating who to tell when someone knocked on her door. Rose opened it up, finding Roger on the other side.

“I noticed you’re in some kind of pain, Rose. What is it?” his blue eyes pierced her hazel ones and he could see clearly the discomfort in the lines of her face. The others hadn’t noticed her pained looks while she was putting their makeup on but Roger had. He had been sitting near the makeup mirror and after every turn Rose made to fetch another bottle or brush she’d wince. After the show she’d retired immediately which wasn’t like her at all. He hoped it was just a headache or muscle ache but now after seeing her close up he was beginning to think it was something of a more dire nature.

“I think I’m miscarrying, Roger.” her face turned even more pale as she put her hand on her pelvis. The drummer put his hand over hers, eyes darkened with worry for his friend. A miscarriage was something that nobody ever needed. She gasped, sitting down on the bed as a particularly nasty cramp assaulted her. “God that fuckin’ hurt.”

Roger was in front of her, kneeling down to see her better. “We better get you to the hospital! Can you walk?”

“I can and we better be discreet. Tell Freddie and John that I’m going. Just tell Brian I had a fall.”

Roger gave her a hand up and indeed didn’t let go of her hand until they were in a nearby hospital’s emergency department. Rose was admitted quickly, assessed, and taken to a private room to recover. Roger stayed with her as she was sedated, given medicine to stop the bleeding, etc. A doctor entered the room to confirm what Rose had hypothesized. “She’s definitely miscarried, Mr. Taylor.”

“Oh God,” Roger paled. “I had hoped you’d be able to save it.”

“I’m sorry, sir. This had progressed too far.”

“What happens now?”

“We’re keeping her overnight to make sure the bleeding stops completely. She’s going to be in pain for a couple of weeks but that’s her body healing itself. As soon as she wakes up she can go.”

“All right. Thank you, doctor.”

“I’m sorry we weren’t able to do more for her.”

The drummer walked back into Rose’s room with his head hung down low. He plunked himself down in a chair near her then shuffled it closer so he could get a look at her. She was lying on her left side which was facing him. There was an IV in the back of her left hand which had been giving her intravenous medicine to help her sleep and dull the pain. She was asleep now as Roger put his hand over her right one. “I’m so sorry, Rose.” he said in a low voice.

Roger rubbed the back of her hand then remembered the kiss on the lips that he thought was from her. He’d never been able to confirm or deny it but the day after it happened Rose had managed to give him a sly wink. He took that as a confirmation and now had a chance to return it. Roger gave his friend a deep kiss, admiring the feeling of her lips and imagining a more passionate encounter where she returned his feelings.

The next day around lunchtime Rose was evaluated for any bleeding and was promptly discharged. Roger hovered over her protectively then called Freddie and told him what was going on that morning and brought Rose back to the hotel. All 3 bandmembers were waiting in her room looking very concerned about her as Freddie shut the door. “The tour’s just about over and she wants to carry on through the last two dates.” was all he said. John was the first to give her a big hug and kiss. She welcomed Roger’s and Brian’s of course, allowing Brian to steer her to the bed so she could sit down. The bandmembers, even Freddie, were not shocked but taken aback at how much Rose had changed overnight. She was pale now, dark circles under her eyes and looked like she hadn’t slept in days.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m OK, guys. They did all they could.” obviously the other 3 interpreted that in a different way than Brian did. He nodded encouragingly as the others behind him looked grieved. Through no fault of her own Rose had lost a life even though she had never wanted it, making her feel guilty.

“We don’t have a show tonight, so rest up and we’ll see about tomorrow.” John put his hand on her shoulder. “Roger and I have a private matter to discuss with Rose; can we be left alone, please?”

Brian left followed by Freddie who knew what they were going to talk about. Both of the bandmembers enfolded Rose into their group hug, silently giving her the support she really needed. “Anything you want, Rose, you got it. We love you.”

“Thanks, guys,” she blinked back tears. “I never wanted it and now I don’t have it I just wind up wanting it!” frustrated, she put the side of her head on Roger’s shoulder as he and John held her hands and gave her words of comfort and support. John gave Roger a look that the drummer understood wordlessly, thinking that it should have been Brian to comfort her after she suffered a trauma and loss. The bass player kissed her cheek, hoping that it would help at least a little bit. Rose switched from Roger to John for a long moment.

“You guys are so good to me,” she lifted up her head and mopped her face with the washcloth Roger had given her. “I’m so lucky to have you guys.”

“You look completely worn out,” John told her gently. “why don’t you go to sleep now, all right?”

“Right.” Rose took off her shoes and lay down on the bed. The bass player put his hand on the side of her face, gave her a look of understanding, told her he would be ready to listen any time she wanted to talk. “Thanks, John.” he did not like seeing her looking so weak and vulnerable. She put her hand on top of his then exhaled a little sigh as Roger covered his friend with a blanket.

“Go tell Freddie Rose is going to sleep for awhile. He must be really worried about her.” Roger directed John. The drummer stayed with her until he heard her breathing transition from alert to asleep and went out into the hall where Freddie and Brian were waiting.

“Sure she’s all right? She looks horrid.” Brian noted.

“She’ll be all right, Bri. Rose is sleeping now.” Roger sighed and raked his fingers through his hair. “she’s in a really bad state.”

“Take it one day at a time,” Freddie proclaimed. “right now she needs the rest.”

**

For Rose the last two tour dates were a special kind of hell for her. She had to carry on in front of Brian like it was nothing and have to endure questioning looks from the rest of the band. Mercifully it was only two more dates, she was determined to pull through, and she was done. Each day she was in cramping pain but she ignored it mostly until at night where she would hold an ice pack to her pelvis.

The final night of the tour Rose was in low spirits. She did love to tour with the guys and have fun with them but she did not go out for the end tour party that night. The makeup artist did her best to cover up her inner torment but the only one who even suspected something was going on was John. Roger and Freddie were too wound up, Brian was already half in the bag from the booze, but John gave her a questioning look when she opted out of the party.

Standing at the window overlooking the city that night, Rose swore as a cramp hit her. She pressed an ice compress to the area where it hurt and kept the lights off. The darkness felt welcoming like a place where she could hide.

A knock at the door startled her from her musings. “It’s open.”

“Rose? God it’s dark in here.”

“I like the dark right now, John.”

“You mean you like to hide,” John was always to the point and usually very quickly. He crossed the room to her where he saw her silhouette in the streetlights several floors below. “why are you hiding?”

“It’s safe to stay where nobody can see you.” Rose said softly, closing her eyes for a long moment.

“What if someone forgets about you?” he countered, taking her hands. John wanted to help her from her pain, to save her, but he knew that her pain was not easily forgotten. Women who had lost children had a special burden to bear as did the fathers and it was not something anyone would ever bounce back from.

“Everyone forgets at some point.” the bass player noticed that Rose wore a new necklace which had a little tiny handprint on it. He could easily guess that at some point in the future she was afraid that she would forget; the necklace was a reminder just in case.

“You know that’s not true. I would never forget you.” pulling her into a hug, John held her for a long time, just letting her know silently that he was there for her and he wasn’t going anywhere. Rose allowed herself to be held, something that she desperately needed. The others had gone out to have fun but John was much more sensitive where Rose was concerned and he knew somehow that she should not be alone tonight. “Do you think we could ever forget you, Rose? Do you think you’re replaceable? You’d be very wrong. We think the world of you.” he closed his eyes and exhaled, a faint scent of Rose’s fruity shampoo drifted to his nose.

Rose winced as another cramp hit her, letting a grunt escape. “I am in too much pain right now to go out and get shit faced like the others. I’m glad you came to see me, John.”

“I’m glad too. The others don’t say anything-they’re too wound up right now but they’re still worried about you. You don’t act like yourself.”

“I know. I’m very hormonal at the moment. The docs say 6 weeks after the miscarriage the moods should disappear.”

“What if they don’t?” he countered.

Rose sighed and hung her head. “I don’t know.” she admitted. The bass player took her by the shoulders, then he raised her head up to meet his gaze. He could see how lonely she was. Freddie had become her best friend, Roger was a great friend and so was he. Even Brian had been carefully welcomed back into her life but there was still a part of her that nobody knew was even there. John had come the closest to finding it; it was her dark side.

“Talk to me.” they both sat down on the bed. Rose lay down with the compress firmly planted on her pelvis. John sat next to her, the picture of rapt attention. She poured out her frustrations to him about her inability to carry, the fact that it was Brian’s child among other things. John heard her out and never said anything negative. He kept his hand over hers as he knew how she drew comfort from that.

“I see. That’s a lot to process, Rose but I’m very glad you told me.”

“You’re a great listener, John. I’m happy I can talk to you.” her eyelids started to close.

“Did you take something to help you sleep?”

“Yeah. The pain will keep me up all night otherwise.”

“After 6 weeks it’s supposed to get better, right?”

“It’s supposed to peter out and the cramps should be gone by 6 weeks.” she replied.

“I see.” John stayed with his friend until she got drowsy and fell asleep. He kissed the top of her head affectionately and left the room, getting startled by Brian as he came off the elevator.

“Hey where were you? It was a great party.”

“I was looking after Rose, Brian. She’s still in a lot of pain right now.”

“Is she?” Brian reached for the door handle but John stopped him.

“She’s sleeping, Bri.”

“I still want to say goodnight.” Brian wasn’t drunk at all, just a little sloshed. He’d been restraining himself, John supposed. He let Brian into the room where the guitar player knelt at Rose’s bedside, putting his hand on hers. “Goodnight, Rose.” he said in a low voice. John almost wished Rose could see how Brian looked at her in that moment. He had genuine affection for her in his voice and on his face at that time.

A few days after getting home Freddie told Rose that Brian was getting married to that chick he cheated on her with. Rose took it well considering but over the following months while they were working on A Day At the Races, she began to sink into depression.

Rose was wanted for Freddie’s Aretha Franklin inspired gospel like tune Somebody To Love so she managed to put her woes aside for a day as she performed the chorus wonderfully. That day was hard to get through as Brian’s fiancee showed up towards the end. Rose put on the good face but her heart broke all over again. The rest of the band saw through her facade, knowing she was forcing herself to sing but her heart wasn’t in it.

Freddie wanted Rose’s soulful voice to be on the track and he wasn’t getting it with Brian around. John didn’t usually sing vocal backup so Freddie asked John to take Brian somewhere for lunch and had Rose sing by herself.

“You’re beautiful!” Freddie threw down the headphones triumphantly. “There’s the soul in your tone!”

“Thanks.” she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and saw how washed out her skin looked. It was time to go outside and get some sun, she told herself.

“You look terrible, darling. Why don’t you head on home now? Are you sure you’re not sick? The others have been asking.”

“I’m not ill, Freddie. I’m just as vigorous as I ever was.” that was a bald faced lie. Rose was not all right and everyone knew it. John knew she had a mild case of depression-she told him but nobody else knew.

Brian came back in an hour later, giggling over something John had said, looked around, then asked where Rose had gone. Freddie snorted. “You want your ex girlfriend around after you announce your engagement to the woman you cheated on Rose with? Bri, you’ve hurt her all over again.”

“I did?” Freddie exchanged a glance with John. Sometimes Brian was dense.

That night as Freddie came home, he called for Rose who didn’t answer him. He went into the kitchen to feed the cats, noted one of the knives was gone from the block, then his mind blanked. The singer gasped, ran for Rose’s room, barged into her bathroom and saw her with two shallow wounds on her wrists. “What the hell did you do to yourself?!” Freddie cried, falling to his knees and taking her wrists in his hands. Rose did not answer him but let him tend to her cuts. “Rose, you need help.”

“What’s the point?” her voice was strained as tears coursed down her cheeks. “My true love is marrying someone else, Freddie. I can’t seem to let it go!”

Freddie pulled the first aid kit out of the bathroom cabinet, pulled Rose up to her feet and put her on her bed. He opened up the box, sorted through all the bandages and adhesive tape, yanking out a few squares of gauze. Rose’s wounds were not deep at all so he put salve over the cuts, then taped down a few squares of gauze. Freddie anchored the makeshift bandages down firmly so Rose wouldn’t jostle them accidentally and looked at her square in the face. The makeup artist gazed at Freddie mournfully through her teary eyes as he remembered eyes were the windows to the soul.

In Rose’s eyes at the moment he could see a hurt little girl who was trying to relieve her pain by any means necessary. Freddie understood where she was coming from and hoped he was doing the right thing on her behalf. The singer hoped and prayed he was not alienating his friend by suggesting that she get professional help. He heaved a sigh as he put the first aid box away and gathered his wits about him.

“Rose, I need you to go to a depression clinic,” he spoke calmly. “you need professional help that I can’t give you.” he was trying to keep himself together for her sake but inside he was screaming. Brian wasn’t worth dying for and he didn’t know how to convince her of that. Rose was shaking a little bit but she hadn’t lost much blood and neither thought that her wounds were serious. He was more concerned about her state of mind.

“Freddie-”

“No. I have to insist.” he put a blanket over her and encouraged her to lie down on the bed as two of his cats jumped up and started to nuzzle her. “My house, non negotiable. I want you well in your mind and I know I can’t help you there.”

“You don’t know what it’s like! The love of my life is marrying someone else and I lost his child! I feel like a bloody murderess!” Rose cried out as Freddie put his hand on the side of her face and made her look at him.

“It’s not your fault! Mary just dumped me anyway so I have a pretty good idea of what you mean!” that slipped out before he could stop it.

“Oh god, Freddie.” he laughed roughly. “I had no idea but-”

“We are a couple of misfits aren’t we? But you still need help, sweetie. Tomorrow morning I’m taking you in for treatment in a long term care facility. Can I trust you here tonight?”

She bit her lip and nodded, eyes filled with tears but she would not shed them. “Let me change and I’ll be right back.” Rose was already in her pajamas when Freddie came back. He sat on the bed where she was lying and laid down beside her. “I’m going to stay here all night!” he spread a different blanket over himself. “Sometimes it helps to have someone stay in the same room with you.”

“Oh Freddie, you’re the best.”

“You’re damn right I am, darling.” he pecked her cheek while inwardly wanting to slug Brian for making a dumb choice. Now that Freddie was in bed next to her, Rose actually found herself in a deep and healing sleep.

In the morning Freddie had his driver take them to a clinic that specialized in depression. Rose would be there for at least six weeks to try to come to terms with her woes and depression. It would be a long hard road for her but at least she would know that she wasn’t alone.

“Hey Freddie,” Brian greeted his friend when he walked into the studio late. “where’s Rose?”

“Gather round; I have some news on the Rose front.”

“What is it?” John gazed at Freddie as Roger came in from his drum set. “Is she all right?”

“Rose has been hospitalized. I can’t say much about it right now you but you all know she’s been sick and she took a turn for the worse last night. I want to make sure you all heard it from me in case some damned tabloid blew the whistle so to speak. She’s going to be out of action for 6 weeks. Rose is in safe hands now and it will be a long road to recovery. She’s not accepting any visitors.”

“That’ll be the longest 6 weeks of our lives!” Roger groaned. “I didn’t realize how used to her I was and now she’s gone for awhile.”

“I know and she lives with me.” Freddie agreed. “In the meantime we must carry on as usual.” he glanced over at John who nodded.

Brian didn’t think that Rose looked that bad but he could have been wrong. He reminded himself that she often downplayed her illnesses or injuries and that was most likely what happened. The guitar player wondered just what kind of turn she took and what prompted the hospital to take her in. Freddie safeguarded her privacy and the others were mute on the subject so he wouldn’t get the complete picture from anyone. The best he could do was hope that she would get better.

In the late afternoon when Brian had gone out to do something, Freddie waved the other two around him. “Rose is in intensive psychotherapy regarding her now unrequited love for Brian. I hadn’t realized how badly off she was emotionally until she did something shocking.”

“Freddie?” Roger grasped his friend’s shoulder as he paled up a little bit. “What happened to her?”

“She tried to commit suicide.” all three of them had turned white. “Rose tried to slash her wrists.”

“Fucking hell!” John swore. “Sure she’ll be all right at the hospital?”

“I’m sure. She promised me she wouldn’t do anything else to hurt herself.”

“I’m so sorry, Freddie.”

“Thanks, Rog, John,” he swiped at his eyes. “here comes Brian.”

“Are you 3 all right? Who died?”

Freddie blanched visibly at that innocuous question and turned away. “Mate, have some sensibility. Rose had a near death experience last night.” Roger told a half truth but Freddie didn’t mind.

“That’s right. We know you were close to her so it would be too much for you to hear,” John took a little shot at him. “it’s distressed us considerably.”

“Rose almost died?” Brian nearly whispered as his eyes widened in shock. “My god!”

“That’s all you need to know. She has to tell you the rest herself.” Freddie went back into the instrument room. Despite Brian’s mind reeling about his ex, he picked up his guitar and played.

**

When the six weeks were over, Roger had volunteered to go and get Rose from the facility. For the three members of Queen who knew the truth about her, all had endured a few nightmares about her plight but Roger was very happy to see her well again and smiling at him from the sidewalk.

“Rog! I’m so glad to see you!” she hugged him tightly; Roger hugged her so hard he picked her up right off the ground. Rose giggled as she pecked him on the cheek.

“I’m glad you’re in one piece.” his anxiety about her was alleviated just by the fact that she was able to smile again. Rose was wearing a white button up shirt which had the tails tied in front, exposing her midriff as usual, and a long floral skirt.

“Me too. How is everyone?”

“We’re all doing quite well. I’m taking you straight into the studios. We are almost done with A Day At the Races.” Roger removed his sunglasses and appraised Rose with his eyes. She liked the way that he looked at her for some reason. The drummer had a soft spot for her that she knew of but now Rose was in a mood to try to take things further if she could. She slid into the car as Roger stowed her bag for her and started it up.

“Nice car, Rog.”

“Thanks.” they took the back roads to the studio. When he parked they sat still for a moment then Rose’s hand came over his.

“What do you think?” she asked hesitantly. “I’ll back off if you want.”

“No, no I like the idea,” Roger took things further and gave her a kiss on the lips.

“Wow, Rog.” they got out of the car.

“Supper tonight?” they held hands all the way to the studio door.

“Of course.” Rose emanated good feelings and optimism. Roger found himself gravitating towards her positive light even more now.

“Hello, darling!” Freddie kissed her followed by John. Brian gave her a kiss and a big hug, telling her that he was very glad that she was all right.

“I’m glad to be all right again.”

“Can I tell ‘em, Rose?” Roger was nearly jumping up and down by then.

“The moodiness is gone from your eyes too, Rog, what’s up?” John observed.

“Fine, you can tell them.” Rose giggled. Roger did better than that; he gave her a deep kiss, leaning Rose back until her hair nearly touched the floor. Everyone’s jaw fell open as Freddie was the first one to start teasing. John laughed as Brian looked a bit taken aback. The couple straightened up then Rose snaked one hand around and smacked Roger. “That ass!”

“I have such good sound! Do it again!”

“Oh nice!” Later on Brian came into the break room and ambushed her as she was relaxing on the uncomfortable vinyl sofa. “Hi, Bri.”

“So you and Roger now, eh?”

“Seems natural to us. I know he’s rebounding but I have no expectations. We just play it by ear.”

Several days after John came up to Rose and handed her lyrics to a song he’d written called Spread Your Wings. “It’s inspired by you,” was all he needed to say. She read through it a few times and glanced up at John with a sweet smile.

“It’s beautiful.”

“Thanks.” both of them remembered the night in the hotel room where he’d given her so much comfort. It had stayed on John’s mind and he’d wanted to do more for her. After a busy day he had a thought for a song, so he spent awhile at his writing desk, writing and rewriting it just for Rose. Freddie liked it, Roger thought it was a great idea.

When the song was all recorded and in the can for the album Rose heard it through for the first time and was pleased with the result. Later on Brian recorded a song called All Dead All Dead and sang it himself on the record. Rose didn’t know what to make of the song until Brian clasped her shoulder and explained it was about a childhood cat. The makeup artist told him it was an interesting song and left it at that.

That night Rose was distracted on her date with Roger. When he asked her what was up, she told him quite bluntly that Brian’s song had disturbed her. It had a different meaning, more dark and sinister than what he had intended. “Oh, come here you poor girl.” he enfolded her in a big bear hug. Rose furtively wiped her eyes but Roger told her to let it out. She did so for a few minutes, showing him the pendant necklace she’d been wearing. “John noticed this; he told me about it a bit. How’d you find it?”

“Freddie. He discreetly asked around what would be appropriate as a token of remembrance. His ex bought him this necklace to give to me,” Rose could feel the crack in her voice forming but she ignored it. “it’s perfect to me.”

“Well great.” the necklace was small enough to be worn under her shirt without attracting attention. He guessed Rose would hide it when Brian was around. The drummer mentioned Rose’s upset reaction to the song to Freddie and John, who made a note to keep a closer eye on her.

 

**

During the News Of the World tour Roger and Rose had become a popular item. The gossip rags ran stories about them, all the parties they attended together, how affectionate they were, some even going as far as to compare their star signs to see if they were compatible. Rose was an Aries and Roger was a Leo and gossip columns ran with that idea for a little while.

During that time frame the other bandmembers had never seen Rose or Roger looking so happy before. Roger was an extrovert while she was a little more introverted but they both had a serious love of cars and enjoyed driving.

“Hey Rose, what do you think about going for a drive tonight?” Roger had rented a flashy Porsche he wanted to take out for a spin.

Rose corked her makeup bottle and set it in John’s box with a clatter. “Porsche right? Well as long as you give it a thorough pounding I’m game.” she winked slyly as John got up from the chair, giving her a pat on the shoulder with a laugh.

“Great!” Roger took her onto his lap right there and then, giving her a big wet kiss.

The two of them got into the Porsche right after the show and after they reached the back roads Roger hammered the throttle down. Rose laughed as the car understeered a little bit. When they reached a little clearing in the woods, Roger pulled in, turned the lights off, then started making out with his new girlfriend. Rose thought Roger had a great technique; not overtly tongue and hardly any slobber to speak of. The drummer liked to put his hands on both sides of her face as he closed his eyes. It grew very late indeed but neither one wanted the night to end.

“Rose, I just want to make sure that you’re all right,” he started. “that song of Brian’s really seemed to upset you.”

“It still bothers me. It reminds me of that night you found me in such pain..” her eyes grew watery.

“Let it go; it’s only us here. I want to help you heal,” he encouraged. “the only way you can do that is to let your grief out.” the two of them got out of the car and stood by it. Rose had enough of struggling to be strong while she was still in grieving for what she had lost. Roger took her in his arms protectively, a little teary eyed himself as she silently cried.

When she was done Rose lifted up her head, gazing at Roger with a new calm in her eyes. “Thanks, hon.” Roger chucked her under the chin with a little knowing smile, giving her a deep kiss.

“When we were recording A Night At the Opera did you kiss me one night? I have a faint memory.”

“That might have been me.” she said elusively. “Did you do the same that night in the hospital?”

“Maybe..”

“Where do we go from here?” Roger nudged Rose with his forehead suggestively.

“I’m driving back and then we’ll go to bed.” they swapped places. Once they reached the hotel they passed by someone looking for Freddie’s room. The couple got into their room which between Brian’s and John’s, then stripped off their jackets. Rose dropped her top and bent over, displaying her butt to Roger as she rolled off her nylons. Roger could not help himself as he knew she usually didn’t wear undergarments of any kind.

“I know what you’re thinking, hot stuff,” the makeup artist told him. “remember to go slow with me at first. I have to accommodate you.”

“Come on, you! I know you’re wet for me.” he stripped off his jeans, pulled Rose onto his lap and gave her some tongue. “Flip up that skirt for me.” she did so. Roger wasted no time, getting himself into position.

“God, you want me to funnel you so bad don’t you?”

“You know it!” Roger almost barked. Rose laughed as she leaned up into his arms for a big smooch.

Daylight dawned at around 6 AM the next day. Brian opened up his eyes as he felt the warmth spread over him. He groaned a bit as he stretched out, creaking in his joints. The guitar player had heard a little commotion next door as Rose and Roger went at it. During the time Rose and Brian had been together he had never heard her giggle, seen her so outgoing, or so playful as she had been with Roger. It must have been the personalities, he thought. Brian was the quiet introvert and Roger was the exact opposite. He really seemed to make her happy.

But Brian was married now and he didn’t think he should be having those feelings about his ex. He turned over in his bed, determined to get more sleep while he could.

Later on that morning when they were all at the airport and boarding their flight, John bumped into Brian. “Did you hear a lot of the wild goings on last night?” the bass player smirked. “I didn’t know she had it in her!”

Freddie sauntered into the line between them. “Glad I wasn’t the only one who had a good time last night!” everyone but Brian started laughing.
**

As soon as News Of the World’s tour was over, Roger drove his motorcycle over to Freddie’s place where Rose lived. Both of them went out on several dates, culminating in one memorable evening over at Roger’s flat. The two of them had an amazing sexual chemistry though in the back of her mind Rose was still pining for Brian. Roger had more energy than he knew what to do with and treated Rose like a princess. Their nights together was electrifying as she goaded him on.

One day while Roger and the others started recording for the Jazz album they noticed that Roger was not himself at all. His beats were off and he was pink in the face. Freddie called a halt for a break and Rose went in to see him.

“Roger, you look sick,” Rose put her hand up to his forehead. “time to get home so you can recover.”

“I can’t!”

“You will even if I have to tie you down and force it.” Roger glared at her but she returned it with equal ferocity.

“Guys, check this out,” Freddie saw their little standoff. “ten bucks on Rose winning.”

“You’re on.” Brian passed over ten bucks on Roger.

“Let me move aside so I can finish this track!”

“You’re going home to rest, Roger. You’ve been overdoing it lately and it’s coming back to get you.” Rose was firm. “I can do this all day. Can you?”

The drummer felt his strength slipping away from him. He sagged a little bit as he tried to glare Rose down but she was healthy and he’d been weakened from the recording schedule. “Fine, I give in.”

“Roger will be going home now, guys. I can get him up to par in two days.” she made him put his jacket on, walked him to the car and drove him back home. Rose marshaled him to bed, set the appropriate medicines to take, then settled down on the lounger to watch him and read.

Several hours later it was twilight. Rose put on the lamp as a storm raged outside. She opened up the blinds, standing in her colorful kimono, watching the lightning strike. The makeup artist opened up her own hands, seeing the faint scars from the cuts almost 6 months ago. Her electrical burns had healed up pretty well though the doctor was sure there was some nerve damage in her hands. Sometimes her hands would shake but that was all. It wasn’t painful so she wasn’t worried too much.

Roger never awakened during the thunderstorm. Rose leaned in to check on him, putting her hand to his warm forehead for a moment. He already felt cooler to the touch as he turned towards her hand, leaning into it with a relaxing sigh. With a little smile she kissed him as he slept.

By the next day he was completely fine and wanted to get back to recording but Rose forced him to stay home just for the day. She wouldn’t have him relapsing and have the guys take the piss out of her for it. Inwardly her mind turned towards Brian’s new song called Dreamer’s Ball which was about a guy regretting rejecting a girl. She didn’t think he had written it with her in mind but there was a guilty pleasure in thinking it was true.

By the next week it was Rose’s turn to be ill. Roger had come home from the recording session, singing out Rose’s name with lusty vigor, but he found her looking preoccupied on the sofa. Her hair was wet and she was wrapped in her kimono even though it was too early for bed. Something was definitely wrong, he predicted as he walked over into the living room. “What’s up, darling?” the drummer sat down next to her.

“Oh, it’s just my monthly. For some reason it decided to be quite painful this time.” she answered honestly, wincing as the cramps flared up.

“I see.”

“I took a bath and that helped a little bit but the first day’s always the worst.” Rose had a philosophical acceptance of her monthly visitor. “I took something to help but it didn’t work.”

“If you go to bed early will that help you any?”

“Funny you should say that. I took something to help me sleep but it hasn’t kicked in yet.” Rose got up from the couch and walked to the bedroom with Roger in tow. He hated seeing her in pain then thought of something he could do that would help her. The drummer slipped out of the room then reappeared ten minutes later with a heating pad. While Rose was settling down on the bed he deftly opened up her robe and tucked the pad on her lower abdomen.

“That should help.” Roger lay down on the bed next to her while Rose put her head on his left shoulder. He didn’t bother to talk to her at all, just let her lie with her thoughts which she appreciated. His own thoughts circled each other in his mind but he didn’t care. It was springtime and the time for storms to come down. Both of them suffered from allergies when the pollen index was high and on days it was particularly bad they were both congested.

From the time they had been recording Bohemian Rhapsody where Roger shared a room with Rose, he had developed a crush on her. He’d kept it to himself until Rose and Brian broke up. She was sweet, funny, caring, a wonderful person. Brian really screwed himself over by marrying another girl. It didn’t matter now though. Roger glanced down at Rose whose breathing had become slow and regular which meant she was asleep. He folded his arm around her, feeling protective of his girlfriend now she looked so vulnerable. Roger kissed the top of her head as he started falling asleep as well.

The relationship lasted for little more than two years. Rose enjoyed Roger immensely. He was more athletic, much more talkative than Brian, and very affectionate. Both of them knew that it wouldn’t last however. The makeup artist knew that Brian was her love and Roger couldn’t compete. He was grateful though to be with Rose through the tour. She was a sweetheart though he knew she would always be thinking of Brian.

One day they amicably ended things and went back to being friends. There was a newer depth to their friendship; Roger became that one person she could confide anything to, even things that she wouldn’t normally be able to tell Freddie. John was still her person to go to when she was in a black and depressed mood though Roger had gradually gotten more used to her moods.

Except for Freddie and Rose the band married and had families of their own. Rose kept touring with them and enjoyed participating in We Will Rock You. Freddie kept Rose with him as he developed piano notes for his song We Are the Champions and she helped him sing it.

“We could make this a duet, Rose,” he suggested.

“Nah. I’m kind of the secret Queen member now,” she vetoed that idea. “I like being anonymous.”

Brian had 3 kids with Chrissy but after about 7 years and 3 kids, the strain was starting to show in their marriage. Rose overheard him telling John that there was a lot of fighting going on and even though she resolved to stay indifferent, Rose was secretly glad he was paying the price for rushing into marriage and family. Roger had marital troubles as well so Rose threw her energy into supporting him.

“Freddie I have a rather odd question for you. You know Rose best so what’s with her? I thought she’d be more supportive of me and my marriage breaking up but she seems more invested in Roger even though they’re not dating anymore.” Brian leaned on the piano Freddie was playing.

“Why do you think that is, Brian?” his hands switched from the C position to the G position.

“I honestly don’t know.”

Freddie laughed sarcastically. “Could it be in fact that you broke her heart 7 years ago, caused her to fall into a deep depression and try to commit suicide over you? Could it be the fact that she still calls you privately her only love? How about the fact you rushed into marriage with someone you didn’t know and hurt Rose in a way she can’t recover from?”

“She tried to kill herself because of me? She still calls me her only love? How did I hurt her in such a way?” Brian’s mind was reeling from the revelations and he tried to get a handle on his train of thought.

“Think, Brian!” Freddie banged the keys. “How would you react if you two had switched places? She’s such a sweet and sensitive soul and you stomped on her! You ripped the heart out of her and she hasn’t been the same! Yes she tried to kill herself when you announced your engagement! Rose felt it was better to die because she felt so alone and so unloved in this life that it would be better off if she didn’t exist! And you have the balls to accuse her of not being supportive of you when your marriage breaks up! You’ll excuse me but my sympathy for you is rather limited in regard to her because I know things that you don’t!”

“What do you know?” Brian became apprehensive, his knuckles turning white as he clenched a pen in one hand.

“You remember when Rose left you in the first place? She came to my house in the middle of the night very distraught and she opened up to me. Rose had a secret right under your nose!”

“Freddie what was it?”

“She conceived a child, Brian! You made it very clear that you didn’t want her anymore so Rose obliged by never telling you that you got her up the duff! That night Roger took her to the hospital because of what we said was a fall but it was a miscarriage. Rose was a wreck that night and it caused her to fall into such a deep depression I didn’t think she would ever get out of it.” Freddie exhaled noisily. “Seven years of secrets finally out! I feel much better! The rest of us know things you didn’t because you were so blinded by your lust for that other girl. However ludicrous it sounds to anyone else, Brian, Rose still carries a torch for you! For some reason I’ll never understand!”

“Freddie, where is she?”

“Who?”

“FREDDIE!” Brian looked like he was going to breathe fire. “WHERE is ROSE?”

“She’s 3 floors down choreographing a dance video-” Brian charged downstairs and found Roger and John in the hallway going back up. The bass player stopped Brian and asked him where he was going and why the hell did he look so mad.

“Freddie told me some interesting things about Rose-”

“Ah, so you know all then,” Roger took off his sunglasses. “I’ll just say this, mate: if you hurt Rose again you’ll have all of us to contend with. She never got over you. Watch it.” the drummer, needless to say, was still quite fond of Rose as a friend and was used to having her around. He would not stand by while Brian fucked things up again.

“Rose is still healing,” John backed up Roger. “tread lightly.” the bass player, when he inclined his head down a little low and looked up it was almost menacing. John knew how intimidating and sinister the look was and he unleashed it on Brian to the full effect.

“You guys have my word. I won’t hurt her again.” was all he said. Brian rushed into the dance studio glancing about, looking for his ex girlfriend. Rose was wearing a long skirt, dance shoes and a halter top which left her belly bare.

“Rose.” Brian must have been a sight, face red from charging down 3 sets of stairs and breathing like an angry bull. She turned from the dancer line as the guitar player approached her.

“Bri? What’s with the face?”

“I need to talk to you,” he pulled her into an empty room. “I talked to Freddie because I didn’t think you were supportive enough to me in my impending divorce-”

Rose started laughing. “You seriously think that I-”

“Freddie already read me the riot act!” irritated, Brian got into her face but she refused to move or back down. “You can’t hide anything from me anymore!”

“What do you know?”

“Freddie told me everything! Why didn’t you tell me?” damn the way she looked still drove him crazy!

“You’ll have to be more specific.”

“All right. How about this?” Brian put a hand on her belly. “If what Freddie says is true I was to become a dad and you never let me know!”

“There’s no point in dwelling on it now, Brian! There isn’t any point in getting all worked up about any of that. It’s ancient history.”

“You almost died, Rose!”

“I got treated for it. What do you want from me, Brian?”

“What I really want right now is-” he found her eyes as hypnotic as the first time he met her. “you!”

“Whoa, buster! You’re not divorced yet! What makes you suddenly come back to me after 7 years? Am I a last resort?”

“No. I was thinking a lot about you all the time and I know you want me and I realize how dumb I was being back then. Freddie was always in your camp. At times it felt like the whole band was against me.”

“They were. Even after we became friends again they took my side over everything. Roger in particular.”

“I know. You two used to date. Are you still living with Freddie?”

“Yeah.”

“As soon as I get my own house will you move in with me?”

“Yes. Now we only need to do one thing.”

“What’s that?” Rose pressed her lips to his.

When she broke the kiss Brian still had his eyes closed. When he finally opened them up he gave her a stare of complete longing. “I can’t believe you tried to kill yourself over me.”

“Can we talk about this later, Brian? We both have jobs to do.”

“Yeah sure. Coffee later?”

“All right.”

Freddie smirked as Brian returned to the studio with the others tuning up their instruments. He put on the Red Special and tweaked the guitar for a moment before clearing his throat. “What?” the others stared, knowing that he had gone to see Rose.

“What happened? Will she take you back?” John interrogated him.

“We’re going to meet for coffee tonight.”

“That’s a start at any rate.” Roger encouraged him. “We’d like to see you back together again but you’ll want to start slowly. You don’t want to scare her off. Rose doesn’t tend to give second chances.”

“Very true!” Freddie knew that too well. “I can tell you stories about it!”

“Back to work now,” Brian didn’t want to dwell on it at the moment. “let’s get this track down.”

**

Later on that night after the date was done Brian headed home to his little apartment, his estranged wife had kicked him out of their little house a week ago. The guitar player locked the the door behind him as he picked up the newspaper and put it on the table. He wasn’t a fan of any kind of printed media so it mostly went unnoticed.

The date had gone reasonably well. They didn’t talk about anything that was distressing to either one of them; mainly little things, boring things, etc. It was the beginning of a long process of getting to know each other all over again. Rose warmed up to him and her warmth drew him in enticingly.

Ever since he’d been isolated from his children Brian had slowly slid into depression. He picked up a photo of the three of them when they were on holiday at Blackpool and felt the tears start to fill up his eyes. It was painful to look at the pictures but he made himself do it to remind himself of what he was fighting for. He missed them painfully and found himself thinking about them all the time.

Despite feeling reasonably good after the date, Brian went to bed feeling more blue and depressed than he’d previously been.

At the same time Rose was feeding Freddie’s many cats and watching Freddie sit at the piano and play it. The singer chuckled as one of the cats jumped up and ran across the keys. “Oh Freddie, I think you and the others forgot about something tonight,” she took out two champagne flutes and filled them up with sparkling cider. “it’s New Year’s.”

“It is, isn’t it?” he paused to take the glass from her.

“Here’s to to the next decade; may it bring us health and prosperity.” Rose clinked her glass with his.

“It’s been a year of ups and downs, but I think things will turn out all right in the end.” he did the same. “Cheers, darling.”

“Skoal.”

“So what’s it like, being back with Brian?” they put their glasses on top of the piano as Rose sat on the chaise lounge, stroking Miko. “Did you pick up where you left off?”

“It’s getting to know each other all over again. His divorce isn’t finalized yet and Brian’s having a hard time right now. He really misses his kids,” Rose looked a bit worried. “he’s going to need us a little more than usual, Freddie. I wish I could cheer him up.”

“Is he getting depressed as well?”

“I think so yes,” she admitted. “Brian’s letting it get him down. He’s a quiet person and he doesn’t talk about it much but I can tell it really hurts him.”

“The more it drags out, the more his kids are away from him the worse he will get,” Freddie pronounced. “I don’t have the kind of leverage over him that I do over you so I will think of a way to help cheer him up.”

“He will appreciate any gesture, Freddie.” Rose brightened up. “I could sense how down he is so I used my warmth of character as you call it to try to infuse some light into his eyes.”

“You’re remarkably perceptive, my dear,” Freddie got up and cuffed her on the shoulder. “very intuitive. I have an idea that I think will work. I’ll get to work on it tomorrow night. Don’t expect me home.”

“All right. Be careful.”

**
Two days later Brian had a court hearing regarding the custody of his three children. It didn’t really go too well for him so even more depressed and subdued he headed over to the recording studio. He was very surprised to see Freddie sitting there in the booth with a lot of cassette tape all over the place.

“Freddie, what have you been doing?”

“I’ve been working a new masterpiece, Bri,” he handed his friend a cassette tape labeled BRIAN’S SOLOS. “My gift to you. I know you’ve been having a hard time so I hope this will remind you that I value you and your talent to this band. We love you, Brian and Rose told me how you’re still in a custody battle over your children.”

“Can I hide nothing from that woman?” he grinned a little bit.

“She can read you well, my friend. You can talk to us any time. Call me if you want to talk or get shit faced!”

“Getting bombed sounds like a good thing right now.” Brian admitted, touched in his heart about Freddie’s concern for him. He pocketed the tape, reminding himself to listen to it later on. Rose really did know more than what she let on sometimes. It used to frustrate him to no end but now he found it strangely endearing.

“My place tonight. We will get properly drunk!”

**

At Freddie’s place that night Brian drove in with an overnight bag, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to drive after he’d had a few drinks. Rose’s car was already there, sitting primly in its parking spot nearest to the house. He always thought that she looked like a sexy lady when she drove that car. Roger had actually bought it for her several years ago knowing how much she loved Porsches.The guitar player shook his head, chuckling to himself as he was already thinking about Rose in dirty ways. She never lost her natural grace and elegance the way she moved which used to drive him wild.

Now that desire was waking up again. As he entered the house he saw Rose standing at the picture window looking into the garden. She was already dressed for bed in a purple cotton nightdress with thin straps. Her feet were bare and she was wearing a jewel green knit robe which was untied. Seeing her like that made Brian feel desire for her all over again.

“Hey, Rose,” he gave her a peck on the cheek.

“Hey, Brian. What are you doing here?”

“I’m having a little powwow with Freddie.”

“A powwow? Freddie invited you over to get drunk didn’t he?”

“How did you know?”

“Freddie uses words like powwow as code for getting stark raving drunk. By the way how did the custody hearing go?”

“It went,” he let his gaze drift downwards. “I don’t know what to think yet.”

“Really?” Rose put her hand on the side of his face. “Sometimes it’s better not to think about, Bri. It’s time to unwind. I’m chaperoning this little blotto session unofficially. He’s just coming up the walk so go into the kitchen and set yourself up. I seem to remember you like Jack so I bought some for you.”

“You’re very kind.” Brian went into the kitchen where he was greeted by Freddie.

Rose rolled her eyes. She picked up Miko the cat, went to her room and put him in his cat bed. The makeup artist went into the bathroom and drew a bath for herself.

It wasn’t very long before Freddie and Brian began to act sloshed. Rose could tell they were at the point where they were giggling and stumbling around a little bit. She washed her hair, rubbed her skin to exfoliate, then read a little bit of her book on Mary Queen of Scots.

When Rose was done she put on her purple nightdress again, left the robe hanging up where the cats couldn’t get it, then went to her bay window. It was a cool winter’s night and snow had begun to fall. She lay down on the bed, stretching out lazily, then began to fall asleep.

“So c’mon, what do you think?” Freddie slurred. “Sound good?”

“I like it,” Brian’s speech was slower than usual and he was sprawled out on the chaise lounge. “I’ll tell ya a little secret...”

“Ooo!” Freddie squealed, throwing himself on the couch. “I love a secret!”

“Well, I knew my marriage was a sham when I woke up on the honeymoon… I realized I wanted Rose there with me, not the other girl.. She has no fire, no lust.”

“So why did you marry that girl?”

“I thought she was more mature than Rose and would be a good mom and wife!” Brian thrust out his hand theatrically. “I wanted the best and Rose wasn’t the best back then.”

“You selfish prig,” Freddie sat up and nearly fell off the couch. “people mature with their roles.”

“I guess that it’s true..”

“Of course it is! Look at her! Rose evolved to be one of the best makeup artists in the biz.. she prefers to stay around with four aging queens!”

Their drunken banter went on and on until both of them reached the falling down drunk stage. They wound up spending the night on the chaise lounge and the couch while Rose slept far more comfortably in her room. When she woke up and went into the living room, she could see the debris of the past night’s escapades. The cats were curled up around Freddie and Brian so Rose picked up Delilah and dumped her on Freddie’s head.

Freddie didn’t even stir as the cat clawed at his face in order to run away. After dumping Jerry on Brian’s face he didn’t even flinch. Rose went into the kitchen and made herself some coffee and breakfast.

Later on the two musicians hadn’t stirred. Rose gave each one of them a slap on the arm as motivation to get a move on and start cleaning up. They woke up still addled by the booze they consumed the previous night, groaning and cursing the light.

“It’s a beautiful snowy day out there!” Rose pushed back the curtains. “Either clean up or go to Freddie’s room where you can mope and puke away the day.” the men closeted themselves in Freddie’s room where they kept themselves in hangover limbo.

“Huh!” she giggled to herself as Miko sat on the windowsill, begging to be petted. Rose was going out shopping with Roger in about an hour so she went back to her room and changed into more presentable clothing. Jeans, boots, red t-shirt and flannel shirt were laid out so she put them on. Roger showed up at the appointed hour, honking his horn from the driveway.

“Freddie and Brian are blackout drunk in there,” she put her little purse in the back of Roger’s car. “they’re going to have the day from hell.”

Roger laughed as he put the car in gear. “They’re going to have a great time today!”

“Ha! I know this is sweet! Tell me about the next album you guys are going to do.”

“It’s going to be called the Game.”

**

Later on that night after she got home, Rose shut the door to Roger’s car and waved goodbye, thanking him for the day out. She had gotten some new clothes and a nice set of earrings, pearls set in rose gold, and Roger, being a generous friend, had bought her a book on Tudor history. The makeup artist topped up her supplies, bought more sponges and brushes etc.

When Rose went to her room she found Brian all spread eagled on her bed but thankfully still entirely clothed. She tossed her bag on top of him playfully, brought out the makeup kits she used for them, and began refilling her supplies. Brian never moved an inch though Rose thought it would be funny to test out her new colors on him.

She never even got started. Brian woke up as she slid the last compartment shut and gave her a little smile.

“I guess you learned your lesson now,” Rose pulled at him to get him to stand up. “you stink, whiskey breath.” Brian meekly went where she steered him. He sat down on the edge of the tub as Rose inflicted a brief toothbrushing on him to clean his teeth and breath. “Take your clothes off, love,” she demanded, tugging his shirt off as he numbly undid his jeans. When he was naked Rose pushed him in the tub and drew a bath. “Don’t make me bathe you. You would not like that one bit.”

“I dunno about that..” Brian grinned sloppily.

“You wouldn’t. I have to go check on Freddie.” the singer was fine. He had already cleaned up and dried off by the time she had gotten to his room so she went back to Brian.

“He hit the booze hard last night!” Freddie trumpeted loudly. “I never saw him go at it so much!”

“Ugh.” was all Brian could say at first. Rose gave him a rough wash up, used her shampoo in his hair, then drained the tub. “You’re so good to me.. even after all I put you through.”

“I think the liquor has melted your brains into putty.” she retorted as she draped a towel over him. “Now you know that alcohol in all its forms is very insidious and shouldn’t be overindulged. I’ve never been drunk a day in my life.”

“You lead the life of a nun, Rose.”

“Touring with rock stars and I lead the life of a nun?” she chuckled. “Brian, you’ve only made your depression much worse. Alcohol is a depressant and you’ll need to be watched for a bit.”

“Ugh.” Rose marshaled him up, giving him his overnight bag with directions to change. Freddie knocked on the door and barged in as Rose was braiding her hair at her makeup table.

“I’m impressed by how quickly you bounce back from alcohol, Freddie.” she remarked casually. “You’re something else altogether.”

“That braid becomes you well, darling,” he brandished a piece of paper at her. “look what I came up with when I was in the tub!”

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

“It will be an homage to Elvis! I can’t wait to get started!”

“Can you give it a day? Brian’s not able to recover as fast as you.”

“Oh fine.” she handed back his lyrics with a grin, saying she couldn’t wait until tomorrow to hear what it would sound like.

“So what did Roger get you?”

“A book on Tudor history.”

“Nice. I know you love the Tudors. Who do you like the best?”

“Elizabeth I. She defied all expectations and ruled alone. She had some balls to do shit the way she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought. I think it was she who introduced the idea of religious tolerance.”

“Come on down for supper, darling and get Brian too.”

“I’m surprised you can eat.”

“I can nibble at least. My stomach’s not all there yet. I’m also jacked on caffiene.”

“One extreme to the other, Freddie! You’ve got to dial it back a little bit. Besides, Roger treated me to lunch and I’m not hungry at all. I want to keep Brian in sight for awhile.”

“Going to make a play for him are you?” Freddie teased, making her blush a little bit.

“Not at all. I think he needs watching. Alcohol only makes depression worse and he will appreciate this later on.”

Rose’s theory held true. Brian had been sleeping off his hangover on Rose’s bed surrounded by Freddie’s cats. That evening after Freddie had gone out with his boyfriend, Rose had been reading the book Roger bought her, Brian woke up with a start.

“Rose?” he called but she was nowhere to be seen. He heard a strain of piano music and called her name even more loudly. His mind lost the alcoholic haze it had been in and reality set in. “My god!” the guitar player put his face in his hands as the music stopped and Rose appeared at the door.

“What is it, Bri?”

“My children, Rose! I want my children!” tears sprang to his eyes and were shed before he could stop them.

“Oh, Brian.” she sat down next to him on the bed and put her arms around him. “I know, hun, I know how you miss them.” he didn’t want to cry but ended up doing it. Rose rubbed his back comfortingly as she gave him reassurance. “You’ll see them again soon.” he didn’t say anything else for awhile, just letting all of his grief out. Tears dampened Rose’s t-shirt but she didn’t care as she held on to her friend.

Finally Brian raised his head up, really looking at Rose intensely as she wiped his face with a tissue. He was taking her in, noting her braid, her eyes, how she had comforted him, all of her. The makeup artist caught his gaze and gave him a questioning look. Brian bit his lip, not knowing what to do with himself then gave her a kiss on the lips. The way Rose acquiesced to him confirmed that she wanted him as much as he wanted her but both had been being careful through their dates. She’d kept him at arm’s length since he had hurt her but now both of them knew that he would not hurt her again.

The final barrier to their relationship was gone. Rose was allowing herself to love him unconditionally again and it gave him a little thrill. Brian hesitantly pressed himself down upon her and she did not protest as he pushed her down gently onto the bed.

“Babe, I missed you so much.” was all Rose said. She missed how he could touch her like nobody else could; how he had the ability to get into her mind and know what she was thinking at a glance. Most of all she missed how Brian made her body sing.

“I missed you too.” Rose’s touch made him blush, her smile was like the sun coming up, and she had the ability to really read his moods and know what was going on at a small glance. When he looked at her it was like he was returning to the man he used to be.

END PART 2

Chapter Text

PART 3

“This thing called love..” Freddie warbled into the microphone happily as the band played him on. Rose grinned as she watched everyone play their respective instruments. During her years with Freddie she had been learning acoustic guitar and now Freddie had badgered her to play the acoustic on the song Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Now she was sitting on an amp beside John, strumming away on her Yamaha like a professional.

During break time Rose had been sitting in the studio with her legs up on the sofa when Freddie came up to her with some lyrics. He sat down beside her with a careful neutral expression on his face as he wordlessly handed them over to her. “What’s this? So you think it’s the easy way out, think you’re gonna slash your wrists this time… You need help, look at yourself you need help, you need life, so don’t hang yourself. Don’t try suicide.”

Freddie bowed his head down low. “I couldn’t help myself, Rose. I heard another performer tried it and you came to mind. I wanted to run this by you first; the others haven’t seen it yet.”

“I’m glad you let me know. Why don’t you call the other guys in and show them? Will it help or hurt if I’m there do you think?”

“I think I should tell them while you’re there. You’re like the mother of the group, love, and they might get emotional too.” Freddie squeezed his friend’s hand, inwardly wincing as he ran a finger over the scar on her wrist.

“Good idea. They’re just coming back from lunch if you want to call them in.” Freddie hailed his friends as Rose put her guitar on the stand.

“What’s up, Freddie?” Roger asked as he sat at the piano. John sat on the drum riser, as Freddie stood before all of them. Brian lifted up Rose’s legs, sat down, then dropped them in his lap.

“Check out this song,” he handed copies of the lyrics around including Rose. She skimmed through them quickly and watched for the band’s reaction. “I thought we’d include it on this album.”

Roger glanced up at Rose as he put the sheet of paper on the piano, tensing up a little bit as he didn’t know how she would react. John turned a shade pale as he watched his friend closely, giving her a questioning look. Brian clasped Rose’s hand, giving Freddie an uncertain look as the singer sat on the arm of the couch closest to her.

Rose glanced up at her friends with her eyes clear. Her expression didn’t change at all which led everyone to relax a little bit. “You guys all know the truth about me. What I can say is that these are just words on the page but when you guys bring it to life it might be a different story.” she moved to the center on the room like she was on trial about to be cross examined. Rose pushed back her dark curls, squared her shoulders and stood confidently. Wearing a denim short skirt, clogs, and a gingham belly shirt, she looked calmly around her.

“You’re sure you want us to do this? We won’t hurt you by doing it?”

“No, Roger. Look, we all get depression at times. Some experience it more than others but I think this will resonate with your audience. You’ll be connecting to them on another level completely.”

“These lyrics.. they just bring back the close call you had, Rose, and I still can hardly believe that we almost lost you.” John’s voice was husky as he got up and gave her a hug, remembering that night in the hotel after the miscarriage she confided to him what she had been thinking. Rose knew what John was thinking and gave him a squeeze as her way of reassuring him that she wasn’t going anywhere. As she pulled away he took her hands for a moment and gave her a little grin.

“I can’t forget what happened to you, Rose. Freddie came in and told us what happened and I worried about you all throughout your treatment. I had a fear that they would make you worse. Unfounded thankfully.” Roger was the next to get a hug as he remembered all the good times they’d had while dating. He would always treasure the memory of holding her as she slept. John might have been the one she turned to for quiet chats but Roger was wild and always up for a good time so when she needed to cut loose, she would turn to him.

Freddie moved in as he swept her up in a gigantic bear hug. “I found you that night you tried to commit suicide. I’m glad that your wounds were superficial but I’ll never forget how you scared me so badly.” he’d been haunted by nightmares of it for several weeks afterward. Rose saw in his eyes the sincerity of his words and she grew a bit teary eyed herself. The makeup artist fondly looked upon Freddie like the brother she never had. Always up for a chat and some monkeying around, loving a good laugh.

Brian cleared his throat as he walked over to her, taking her hands. “I think they say it all, Rose. We all need you and the fact that we almost lost you was torture for us. It was a lucky day for us when you were hired on to do makeup on our tour several years ago. I know I hurt you badly and am not worthy of your forgiveness but you have an extraordinary amount of compassion.” Rose’s eyes were unusually bright as was everyone else’s.

“I’ve already apologized for scaring all you guys and all I can say is you can make the song but I can’t vouch for my reaction. Sometimes it’s horribly evocative, sometimes not. I love you all and such a thing will not happen again.”

“We’re all glad to hear you say that.” Roger spoke as he picked up his drumsticks. “How about a little jam session? Pick up that guitar and choose a chord progression.”

Roger had effortlessly diffused the tension in the room. Rose picked up her Yamaha and chose a simple chord progression, E minor, A, C, G.

“Can’t get my fingers to remember C!” she groused, giggling as Brian showed her. “The step chord!”

“Good way to remember it!” he laughed as Rose’s fingers did look like they were climbing steps on the fretboard.

Freddie and Brian talked about the song as the jam session went on, John joining in on the bass. When they were ready to record, Rose left to start choreographing the dance to Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

**

“All right, makeup time!” Rose called out a few days later. It was time to shoot the Crazy Little Thing Called Love video. “I got a special treat for all you guys!”

“What is it?” John and Roger appeared first already cloaked in black fabric.

“My dad’s here to direct!” Mr. Sjulander came over to meet them. He had the same facial structure as his daughter, a round face with a graying mustache, as tall as Freddie. He wore a simple white t-shirt with the Queen logo, jeans, and a green flannel shirt.

“Mr. Sjulander, an honor. I’m Roger and this is John.” they shook hands.

“Charmed. I’m glad to be here, big fan of yours. You guys can call me Max.”

“Roger, you go chat to my dad for a bit while I get John here ready. John, where are the other two?”

“Still in wardrobe,” he sat down in the chair. “I didn’t know your dad directed now.”

“I didn’t either until he called me up a few days ago and told me he wanted to direct a music video. I put him in touch with Miami to see what they could do.” Rose put some foundation on a sponge and began applying it to John’s face. Once he had been made up she put some gel in his hair, flicking it back so it looked like it was damp from a shower. “Very fifties greaser!”

“Neat.” he admired the look and thanked Rose. Roger came for his turn.

“Your dad is a nice guy, Rose. Very knowledgeable and funny.”

“As long as he didn’t tell you any stories about me he’s fine. Oh, that’s Brian’s box. Here’s yours.” she rattled around in her tackle box and pulled out a thin transparent case with a big R scrawled on it in black Sharpie marker. Roger didn’t require much makeup and in order to get the fifties look Rose lightly moussed his hair back on the sides. “Done! Go grab Brian for me.”

Brian was done in about ten minutes thanks to Rose’s skill, then she went to town on Freddie. “Make sure you remember those steps I taught you.”

“I’ll remember darling!” he teased.

During lunchtime the dancers and musicians broke away and went to the tables all laid out with a big spread. Rose was looking at the set and admiring the Ducati motorcycle they had borrowed from a crew member. She grabbed one of the stripper poles and improvised a little dance with it, culminating in her hanging upside down at one point.

“Oh, we got a stripper here!” Freddie walked onto the stage. “Impressive, darling!” Rose swung down, wearing her usual halter top and track pants. She faced Freddie and told him she’d like to see him do better.

“I can’t dance from my dick, Rose. I haven’t got the moves for it.”

“Oh yes you do. You just don’t know it yet. What are you doing when you’re fucking? You’re gyrating.” she taught him to rock his pelvis back and forth. “Now, arms up, step, thrust, do it again, and turn around. You got the basics. Now you grab a girl like me and while I’m in front we both start gyrating together. I turn around, maybe I do a nice move on you.” the band was watching them now as they walked back into the studio.

Rose arched her pelvis and thrust it forward so it moved against Freddie’s. “This is the sideways S.”

“Damn girl, you’re making me hard!”

“Good. Hi, guys.” Rose went to one of the poles and did an old stripper routine for their amusement.

“Hot damn.” Brian was raring to go and fuck her but the day was not over yet. Rose brushed up against him, giving a rough dry hump as if she knew what he was thinking. The others appeared slightly randy themselves as Rose teasingly brushed up against each one of them in turn. John had the most self control as his cheeks got a little pink but nothing else. Roger had half a mind to bend her over and take her in the supply room. Freddie, always taking the piss, stood in front of Rose and made a couple gyrations of his own just to tease the others. Rose turned Freddie around, running her hands down his leather pants, sticking them in his pockets.

**

Another tour followed The Game and then they began writing for the next album Hot Space. Freddie wrote Body Language which was incredibly suggestive but the highlight was David Bowie coming in to collaborate with them. The sight of him nearly had Rose acting like a fangirl but she maintained her composure. The improvisational song Under Pressure was recorded, Freddie hitting a vocal range that nobody thought possible! The band was impressed at hearing him sing so high.

Brian got up at his usual time one day, happy to have Rose living with him again. They had procured a house not far from London with an open wooded area out back. He had an agreeable custody arrangement for his children and he was feeling pretty happy again as a person.

He stepped from the bathroom to the bedroom, wearing simple jeans and t-shirt, humming the song Under Pressure, still buzzing from yesterday’s electric atmosphere. Rose had been entranced by Bowie, who had gallantly kissed her hand and asked her to do his makeup sometime.

Now the band had retreated to a lodge house in Dartmoor to take some time to write together. Freddie announced it two days ago so it was rather short notice. Rose had jumped at the idea to go as Brian grinned, packing up his things without a complaint.

The lodge was of the traditional log cabin style with a farmer’s porch, two gables, a flagstoned pathway around the property and through the woods nearby. There was a big front room with fireplace, an open concept kitchen, a bathroom on each floor with the bedrooms all upstairs. The lodge wasn’t near the lake but they had access to it. In the side of the property a few hammocks had been netted and strung between a few trees that looked quite inviting. John immediately claimed one and he had been out cold in less than ten minutes.

During the first night Brian and Roger had their guitars with them and they began jamming with each other and Rose was able to participate a little bit. John played along with his bass as Freddie began scat singing.

Five days went by as Brian and Roger enjoyed the motorboat, Rose went swimming with John as Freddie sat on the dock with his feet in the water. He kept a pen and paper in his hands and tried to get inspired by the scenes around him. Rose and Roger went on a nature hike in the woods, Freddie and John teased each other as Brian lounged out in the hammock. One night Freddie started a wrestling match which ended only as Brian, being the tallest one, pinned Freddie down easily.

One morning Brian got up in his usual good spirits now. Rose had been a blessing to him, he reflected as he did his morning routine. She had been his pillar of support all throughout his messy divorce. In his darkest time he had pined for his children but Rose had given him a reality check, saying that the process of divorce wasn’t going to last forever. Brian straightened up after putting his clogs on and realized that Rose wasn’t awake. She usually got up soon after he did and for her to still be asleep was odd. Even on vacation she’d get up at the same time.

His girlfriend looked a little flushed to his eyes, so he checked her over and discovered she was feverish. “Rose, wake up, honey.”

Her eyes opened up and she didn’t really seem to notice Brian above her. “Good morning. How are you feeling?”

Brian seemed a bit worried, why was that? She thought to herself. “Hi.”

“How are you feeling right now?” he prompted her, putting a cool hand on her forehead. “You’re burning up so I would imagine not too good.”

“A little sick.” her breathing was a little raspy to his ears. The makeup artist found it too hard to keep her eyes open so she closed them, making Brian worry more about her condition.

“Do you think you’ll be all right here alone while I go downstairs?”

She waved him off. “I’ll hardly notice that you’re gone.” that might have been a joke but Brian was a bit too worried to laugh. He got up off the side of the bed and went downstairs.

**

“Hey, Bri, where’s your better half?” John asked, looking up from the newspaper.

“Rose is sick today. I think she caught it from one of my kids when they visited.” he explained.

“Aw, I hope she gets well soon.” Roger and Freddie came into the room, both with coffee mugs in their hands as they joked about something. Freddie sat down and picked a part of the newspaper as Roger turned and saw Brian standing at the foot of the stairs, hand on the banister.

“Where’s Rose?” Roger asked as he took off his sunglasses. The drummer had been out for a morning swim and he had yet to take off his trunks. A beach towel slung over his shoulder, he looked a lot like a surfer with his blonde hair.

“Rose is sick today,” Brian announced for everyone’s benefit. “I don’t know anything else. She’ll need a few days in bed and then she’ll be fine.”

“Poor thing,” Freddie remarked as he threw the newspaper away. “how bad is she?”

“I don’t know exactly, Freddie. We don’t have a thermometer here and she’s burning up. It’s probably just a flu bug.” he began to assemble his breakfast. Roger walked out onto the porch, slung his towel down on the railing, spreading it out so it dried evenly. John went out onto the porch with Roger as he drank from his coffee mug.

“Shame about Rose,” John told him simply. “why don’t we go up and take a look at her?”

“Why not?” Roger and John went back into the lodge, climbed upstairs and went into the room, opening up the door to see their friend lying in the bed. “Oh damn she doesn’t look good,” Roger sat on the edge of the bed as John took the chair Brian had been sitting in. “Rose, darling, can you hear us?” the drummer took Rose’s hand which was hot to the touch. Both could see her cheeks were dark pink and flushed looking.

“Come on, Rose,” John chided gently. He went into the adjoining bathroom, dampened a washcloth with cold water, returned to the room, folded the cloth into a neat rectangle, then applied it to his sick friend’s head. “you poor thing.”

“Look at her,” Roger observed. “she looks like she’s in pain.” indeed Rose’s brow furrowed and a grunt of pain escaped her. “That sucks,” Roger sympathized. He pressed a cool hand against his friend’s hot forehead. “Come on Rose, you can beat this.”

“I hope she can hear you, Roger.” the bass player drew the solar shades down to keep the light out as Brian walked back in.

“Freddie’s going out on the boat in a few minutes if anyone’s interested.” he announced as Roger and John stood up. “You guys can stay here if you want. I don’t mind. She won’t.”

“You might want to give her a lukewarm bath,” John suggested. “that can help bring her fever down.”

“Rose?” Roger brushed a strand of her hair away from her sweaty forehead. “Can you hear me, love?” Rose stirred a little bit, opened one eye enough for Roger and John to see it was fever bright with no recognition at all. Even though they knew it usually happened when one was sick it was still a bit frightening for them; their friend not acknowledging them. John pulled up the blanket a little more so it covered Rose’s shoulders, encouraging her to fight the bug she had. Roger put a hand on Brian’s shoulders, offering help whenever he needed it.

“I might just do that. Thanks, guys.” he saw them out then proceeded to do exactly what John recommended. Rose was submerged in room temperature water though he felt bad when she started to shiver. Brian didn’t let her soak for too long, drying her off and bringing her back to bed.

“Brian, how is she?” Freddie came in after lunch, bringing his friend lunch as well. There wasn’t any change to be seen really, Rose was still feverish and at times in pain. “Oh god.” he put the tray on the bureau, sitting on the edge of the bed, putting a hand on Rose’s hot head. Roger and John peeped in around Freddie then entered into the room.

“She doesn’t look good, I know,” Brian looked tired even though it was just past 12. He had been reading a book on astrophysics which Freddie joked was more than enough to put him to sleep as well.

“She looks really bad, Bri. Even when she lived with me she didn’t have more than a cold or the occasional laryngitis from straining her voice too hard.” Rose’s skin was hot as fire now; the lines in her face were deep from the pain she was in. Brian put a bookmark in his book as he set it aside, shuffling forward in his seat.

“I know. I’m seriously getting worried, Freddie. It doesn’t make any sense. If her illness was stress related why is it flaring now while we’re all happy and away from the stage?”

“Then it’s not stress related, Bri. It could be something else.” Freddie bit his lip then remembered something that Rose had told him a long time ago. “Years ago when she was going over her medical book she told me that there are two problems that are the most common and I learned that it was either the tonsils or the appendix.” the other two bandmembers came in through the open door as Freddie was talking.

“How would we know that for sure?”

“There is one way to differentiate between them,” Freddie pulled down the blankets and gently prodded Rose in her lower right side. She recoiled sharply from him, letting out a cry of pain as Freddie glanced over at Brian while the others exchanged horrified glances. “No question now. She should have it removed.”

“Right. Let’s take her in.” the band took their friend into the car, Roger and John supporting her in the backseat as Brian drove and Freddie navigated.

At some point Rose’s eyes opened and she fastened her gaze on John. He became aware of her looking at him and turned to give her a worried glance. “Rose?”

A fiery cramp blazed into her side, making her gasp and shut her eyes. She put her hot hand on John’s shoulder, nearly in tears. “Hurts.”

“I know, sweetheart,” that was the band’s pet name for her when they were concerned for her welfare. “we’re getting you to the emergency room fast.”

“Good.” she stiffened for a moment as another cramp shot through her, then she went limp.

“Rose? Wake up!” John hissed. “Come on! Guys she’s fainted.”

“Almost there!” Brian told them as he slammed down the clutch and upshifted the gears. “Keep trying to rouse her.” John and Roger tried but they couldn’t awaken her at all.

In ten minutes’ time they were at the emergency room, bringing Rose in. A doctor put her on a gurney amid Freddie telling him about the lower right side pain, and x-rayed her. The doctor brought them into the treatment room, telling them that her appendix had become severely inflamed and she needed emergency surgery.

The entire band saw her being intubated and given several drugs, a memory that would haunt them, then she was taken away. A surgeon was at her side which gave them some relief. The four sat down in the waiting room, memories of Brian’s emergency surgery drifting to their collective minds.

“Oh god, I hope she’s all right.” Brian prayed as Freddie put his arm around him.

“She’ll come out of this stronger than ever.” he tried to reassure his friend.

Three hours later the surgeon came out and began to give the band the rundown of their friend’s condition. “It all went quite well though there was a complication with the medicine we gave her.”

“What kind of complication?” Roger and the others paled.

“Rose had an allergic reaction to the penicillin we gave her and she went into anaphylactic shock which meant she couldn’t breathe. We were able to stop it before it became a big problem. She’s absolutely fine now. We’ve got out top notch nurses looking after her.”

Brian relaxed a little bit. It was bad but not as bad as it could have been. He was in a form of shock himself, hearing that she had stopped breathing during surgery. Freddie looked like he’d been struck while Roger and John wore similar expressions of concern and tumult.

“By gosh I think when you were in the hospital it was less dramatic,” John observed, shooting a look at Brian. “can we see our friend?”

“Rose isn’t going to be awake for quite some time. She’s out of the woods and her fever is starting to drop. I’m glad you all brought her in when you did. Another twenty minutes or so and she would not have had any chance.”

“God,” Roger muttered. “what happens after it bursts?”

“She would have died. The infection goes too quickly through her bloodstream and it often proves fatal in the end.” Roger already looked sorry that he’d asked. “I think you all can go home and get some sleep. Ms. Sjulander won’t be in any condition to receive visitors until tomorrow afternoon at the best. Patients are often too drowsy for a long time.”

“Can I just give her a kiss goodbye?” Brian pleaded. The surgeon relented and led him into Rose’s room. Already Brian could tell that Rose was on the mend. Though she wasn’t awake he could tell by touching her hand that her fever was going down. Still in a state of mental shock himself, he gave Rose a kiss goodbye, taking her hand and whispering, “Good night, sweetheart.”
**

Back at the lodge Brian sat out on the porch after supper. Roger and Freddie were out fishing on the lake, talking loudly and indulging in a six pack. John sat up from the couch, having dozed off for about 20 minutes. It was only around 8 PM but it had been a long and draining day for all of them. The bass player was very perceptive though it did not take a genius to figure out that Brian was more stressed out than the others. Standing up, John went out to the porch where Brian was sitting in an Adirondack chair doing nothing but staring and looking worried. The bass player moved closer to Brian, settling down in an identical chair. “Talk to me, Bri.”

“About what?” he was deliberately being evasive. John was not having any of that. Getting up, he moved to the liquor cabinet which was almost bare. He tipped out two measures of Jack Daniels then returned to the task at hand. The fiery burn of the whiskey shocked Brian back into his senses as John settled back down again.

“You’re too tense. Everything’s fine now. Rose is in the hospital and she’ll be back in a few days. We’re taking the train back and everything will be fine again.” John started Brian off. “I know Rose had some obstacles in her path to recovery but she overcame them.”

“It’s all true but I can’t get over the fact that she stopped breathing or how close to death she could have been,” Brian’s voice shook a little bit. “I lost her once, John, and I will not lose her again.”

“We all almost lost her,” John reminded him of Rose’s suicide attempt. “hell, we nearly lost you once. We’ve all had our close calls. If it wasn’t for Freddie Rose wouldn’t be here.”

“If it wasn’t for Rose I would not be here,” Brian said slowly, remembering the time he needed emergency surgery. “I’m so lucky to have her.”

“We all are.”

“Has she ever helped you, Deacy?”

“Oh yes. I had a few health problems that I ran by her. One time I had a persistent sore throat she suspected was recurrent tonsillitis and recommended I see the doctor to get them removed.”

“It can recur?”

“Until they take the tonsils out. I had a sore throat for days but she was reassuring me, talking me through my recovery.”

“How about Roger?”

“When Rose and Roger dated his first marriage was breaking up. She told me that Roger had been pretty reckless back then and she gently talked him around from his self destructive lifestyle. Both Rose and I gave him some support that he needed. One night Roger overdosed on LSD and Rose read him the riot act.”

“I remember them dating but I didn’t ever hear about his OD.”

“They didn’t want that to get out. Enough time’s passed now so that he’d be OK with it.”

“Well.. we do know Rose has been a good influence in Freddie’s life.”

“Oh yes!” John giggled. “Freddie’s grown a little less restless. Now he can sit and read a book instead of getting up and running around every second of every day. He’s been like a brother to her.”

“Good.” Brian took the second shot, feeling his eyes tear up. “I felt so damn helpless, John. I was shocked to hear that she had an allergic reaction and stopped breathing. I mean what if she stopped breathing and they couldn’t start it again?”

“They restarted her breathing,” John reminded him. “there’s no reason to think that she wouldn’t. There’s no reason to keep thinking about it either. Mistakes happen and she will be fine.”

“True.”

“You’re still in shock, Brian. How about an early night? I think we all need it.”

“I think you’re right. It’s going to feel weird without her in bed with me.”

“Can’t help you there, mate.” John stood up. The two said goodnight as Brian went upstairs, did his bedtime routine and got into bed. Out on the porch John watched the geese across the lake and heard a loon in the distance. He smiled; knowing that everything was going to be fine. Rose was in good hands and he’d been giving Brian an outlet to air out his worries. Brian tended to conceal his woes which the other bandmembers knew all too well. Freddie and Roger could sometimes get the guitar player to vent but John was much more adept. He was like the band’s therapist in a way.

Freddie and Roger came in from fishing an hour later, greeted by John who took the rope and tethered the boat to the dock. Neither one of them had any fish; it was the drinking on the lake that had lured them out there. Both of them were a little sloshed but not drunk from their single six pack.

“Where’d Bri go?” they brought their tackle boxes and rods into the lodge back room.

“Brian went to bed a little over an hour ago,” John informed them as he walked upstairs. “he’s had a very long day like we all have. Goodnight, guys.”

“Night, John.” Freddie and Roger said in unison as they hung up their rods and net. Roger passed Freddie the tackle box which he put on the shelf.

“He’s right you know. We need to hit the sack.”

“Don’t I know it, Freddie. I think Rose’s illness has taken a good six months off of my face.” Roger patted the side of his face with a smirk. He retired to bed next as Freddie was last.

It was awhile before Roger fell asleep. He still loved and cared about Rose as a friend but regretted causing her worry in their relationship. The drummer had still been reeling after his first marriage broke up and Rose had been a calming influence in his life. She still was. They had fun together, riding on his motorcycle, going out on casual dates. Rose never lived with him but they did do overnights occasionally. Freddie thought it was funny as after a night out they ended up back at his place and frequently found themselves meeting the odd lover of the singer. Most of them were one night stands.

Roger’s overdose had come during a stressful time when he was trying to get custody of his children. He hadn’t been depressed or anything, just taken a dose that he didn’t realize was too big for him. Fortunately for him Rose had come over to see him, checked the dose of LSD, then had to wait several hours in order for him to come out of the OD. It hadn’t been fatal, obviously, but Roger had to endure the unpleasant symptoms of an overdose.

It was to Rose’s credit that she hadn’t left Roger during his trying times. He had stood by her as well, talking to her during her spells of depression, etc. Over time they had come to realize that they were drifting apart and his eye had caught another woman. Rose knew she had been the rebound lady so she had no expectations as to where the relationship was going. They vowed to stay friends and that was where they were now.

**

Rose had stayed in the hospital for a week. She’d had a rocky recovery-her fever didn’t dissipate as quickly as they had thought it would. Her surgery scar grew mildly infected much to everyone’s dismay. Roger and Brian had been there when the surgeon had to open up the incision site and drain the pus from it. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for anyone involved. The two musicians had tried to distract Rose from the painful procedure but it didn’t work very well.

Roger and Brian had Rose’s hands in each of their own, she had been lying down on the bed while the surgeon had to snip through his stitches. She cried out as the wound site was opened; a cry that seemed to pierce the men to their core.

“Rose, remember when you were with me and we were riding on my motorcycle?” Roger asked her. “You said that you never had such a wild ride before!” face drawn in pain Rose tried to remember what Roger was talking to her about but she didn’t have long. Rose’s consciousness was flirting with her now; she barely heard the room door open and close.

“What’s going on here?” Freddie and John appeared at her side, bewildered at the surgeon with an instrument tray. The two of them sat down in the chairs provided, a little confused but stoic enough to stay with their sick friend.

“Her surgery wound is infected and they need to clear it out. It’s pretty nasty,” Brian explained. “we’re trying to distract her from the pain but it’s not working very well.”

“Shit!” Freddie swore. His voice distracted Rose for a moment but then she realized that blackness was seeping into her vision. The surgeon was being as gentle as he could but she was hypersensitive to pain at the moment. She felt her consciousness fly away from her.

“Rose?” John asked. “What is it?” all of them saw Rose’s eyes close as her body went slack.

“Sweetheart?” Brian put her hand down as her head lolled to one side. “She’s fainted.”

The four of them sat down as the surgeon finished up. He put in a new row of sutures, offered his apology that the resident doctor hadn’t been as thorough as needed to be, and rebandaged the site.

“How long do you think it’s going to be before she wakes up?” John inquired of the doctor.

The surgeon examined Rose briefly, checking her pulse and color. He listened to her heart which was steady and regular. “She’ll be all right. I know it looks bad to you four right now but she’s had a traumatizing experience overall and she needs rest.”

“You’re sure it’s not anything else serious?” John crossed over to Rose and put his hand on her upper arm. Brian put his hand up to the side of her face, wishing that she would awaken, but he got no response. She was as limp as a rag doll, not rousing to his caress.

“I’m sorry I know it looks bad. She has had a little setback. One of my residents who has been to see her is being quite careless in his duties. I need to see to him. She should rouse in about an hour or two.” the surgeon respectfully excused himself.

**

From then on Rose’s recovery was uneventful. She awakened later on the same day feeling quite groggy and tired. Freddie and Roger comforted her the best that they could, telling her that they were going by train back to the city.

“It’ll only be a day trip for us darling, but we think you’d be safer on a train than in the car,” Freddie didn’t think she’d be able to sit up for long in a car and it was a long ride. “Brian will be in later to see you.”

“How are you feeling?” Roger anxiously asked her, apprehensive about her fainting in front of him again.

“I’ll be all right.” she didn’t remember much about her time sick. “All I remember are voices.”

“You don’t remember telling John that you were in pain in the car ride here?” the drummer was sitting on the edge of her bed looking down at her.

“No, Roger.”

“I’m not surprised. You only came to for about five seconds, enough to tell me that you were hurting, and you fainted again.” John was on the other side of her bed with his hand on top of hers. It took a lot to shake John, Rose mused. Her close call must have done it because he didn’t look so laid back as usual. Before he could stop it his hand shook very slightly but Rose put her other hand on top of his, giving him an understanding glance he appreciated.

“It was a close call, sweetheart,” Freddie told her. “you scared us all. Then the surgeon tells us that you had an allergic reaction while being operated on and you stopped breathing.”

“I did?”

“You did. Brian’s still in shock from the whole ordeal. He took it pretty hard. John got him to open up some.”

“That’s John’s strength. He’s the strongest one of us when the shit hits the fan.”

It was John who brought them the latest tabloid headline which read BRIAN MAY’S GIRLFRIEND CRITICALLY SICK. Rose was in fact enjoying the fluff piece which had been based solely on conjecture. The only picture they had was when Rose had been brought into the emergency department in Roger’s arms.

“This is funny stuff!” she chortled.

**

Finally the day came that Rose was well enough to board the train to go home. The band had a private compartment big enough for all of them. Rose was able to stretch out on one side as the others unpacked their travel Scrabble board game. Brian sat down, half reclining so Rose could lie against him on his right side and sleep if she wanted to.

“What else has the media have to say about our Rose?”

“Not much else, Brian. All they’re doing is shopping the picture around and inventing stories. Funny how a picture could say a thousand words and not one of them is true.” Roger clocked up a double word score.

“I noticed how Rose kind of reminds me of Brian in the News Of the World album.” John sniggered, prompting Freddie to laugh. “it’s true!”

“Oh, good one, Deacy!”

Until lunchtime they played when Brian thought to take a look at Rose. He turned his head, careful not to disturb her, seeing that she was asleep. The guitar player relaxed back, putting his arm around her as she slept on. He was feeling the stress and strain of the previous week and needed to relax himself so he closed his eyes, falling asleep.

“Aw, look at that,” Roger and Freddie smiled down at their friends as John came in the doorway quietly. The bass player fished out his camera and took a picture.

“They’re so sweet together.”

Around 4 that afternoon Rose roused hearing Roger’s voice. She opened up her eyes, seeing Freddie looking at her. John was reading a book, Roger was doing a crossword puzzle. Brian was still sleeping, the careworn lines in his face were relaxed and he looked younger. Rose just smiled at her boyfriend, leaning up to kiss him on the cheek.

“Hey Rose, are you feeling any better?” Roger always worried about her health more than anyone else, she thought. Freddie looked like he wanted to ask the same question but didn’t. “Sleep well?”

“Some. I’ll sleep better at home tonight.”

“We’ll all sleep better tonight Rose, knowing that you’re safe with Brian.” John wisely commented.

“Me too.” she accepted the crossword puzzle Roger was doing and began to offer suggestions to him.

At home Rose turned off the TV, a bit restless after the long nap she’d had in the morning. She was still recovering but she wanted to be outside. It was a beautiful midsummer night so she opened up the back patio doors and walked out. Clad in her long soft yellow nightdress and white satin robe, the breeze rustled her clothes gently as she walked to the chaise lounge and lay down on it. The makeup artist gazed up at the sky as the constellations twinkled in the stars.

Brian was in the house writing lyrics so Rose knew she wasn’t going to be missed. A star twinkled brightly in the distance. For a moment Rose thought it was her mother’s star, for even after ten years she still missed her mom greatly.

The guitar player roused himself from his lyric writing as soon as the clock struck 10. Rose had been watching TV in the the living room so he went downstairs to check on her. She was nowhere to be seen, not even in the bedroom. A little worried, Brian caught sight of the open sliding glass door and the gentle zephyr lightly tousling the curtain.

Out on the patio he relaxed immediately as he saw his girlfriend stretched out on the chaise lounge sound asleep under the stars. Rose had her hands protectively folded near her new scar yet she looked very serene and quiet. It was a pleasant change from her sudden illness and shock from the past week, he thought. Brian knelt down next to her, brushing aside loose strands of her hair from her face. A little bit of light shone through the windows, casting just enough of a glow on Rose’s face so Brian could tell that she was sleeping well.

Not wanting to disturb her, Brian picked her up from the lounge and moved her into the house, tucking her into bed. As he was doing so, Rose stirred at his touch. “Brian..” she murmured.

He slid into bed next to her, wrapping her in a front to back hug. “I’m here, darling. Go back to sleep now.”

**

“So, Body Language!” Rose was dressed to be in the music video. “It’s a lot of gyrations like I already taught you, Freddie. The dancers know what to do so how about I get a scene with you? What do you think of this?”

On the camera Rose’s face from the top of her head down to her nose was visible. She was liberally flecked with water like she’d just come out of the shower. The makeup artist turned to the camera as Freddie’s face appeared behind her. Almost the entire video was shaded in black so there was a lot of shadow. Rose was in a few other shots as well like the group of dancers moving their hips back and forth. Instead of any other innuendo(there was a silly food innuendo the director wanted but Freddie hated the idea), Freddie put Rose in front of the camera, had the technicians put her in a silhouette, then had her do the pelvic gyration move she’d done before. The sideways S she had called it, then the director panned the camera from her bust all the way down to her hips, then cut to the wide shot.

“Very titillating!” the director approved. All of the band were in the video as well; all were watching as Freddie took a hold of Rose, lowered her down like he was about to kiss her, but trailed his fingers from the bottom of her bust all the way to her waist.

In the background, Brian looked like he was sulking. John decided to make him feel better by nudging him and saying, “I can’t believe you’re hitting that. You lucky sod.”

“I can’t believe I used to hit that.” Roger muttered as Brian blushed and thanked John.
**

Some time later the band had their album The Works ready to roll. Rose helped them out on Radio Ga Ga which was her ultimate favorite song. Inspired by the movie Metropolis the boys donned futuristic style outfits.

“I better leave you to it while you oil up your legs and squeeze into these fake leather pants!” she laughed as they were left struggling a little bit. Minimal makeup was needed and when Rose saw them all in costume she started giggling.

“What’s with you there, gigglepuss?”

“Freddie’s wearing a feather duster!” she choked out happily. “I never thought I’d see the day!”

“Come back here, you!” Freddie easily picked her up and pretended to smack her rear a few times.

“Hey, put my woman down!” Brian protested.

Freddie didn’t seem to remember a lot of the lyrics as he and Roger started a contest to see who could scream ‘radio’ the loudest.

I Want To Break Free video was one of the funniest that they ever did. Rose had her makeup chair ready for her next victim which turned out to be John. She gave him old age makeup, spritzed a little into his eyebrows and gave him a coppery lipstick.

“I look like a cranky old ghost!” he was inwardly delighted and started off for the set, squawking like Monty Python. Brian was next so she set his hair in pin curls, aged him up enough so he looked like a middle aged woman. He frowned as Rose applied his mauve lipstick while an assistant gave him a quick set manicure. Giggling now Rose said he was a sexy lady as he turned and strutted for her like a penguin. Roger came in wearing a schoolgirl’s outfit and poofy blonde hair. With her sponges ready Rose transformed him into a pink cheeked young schoolgirl. Using light pink lipstick she filled in his lips while Roger asked if he could use darker stuff.

“Darker lips will wash out your face. Besides Freddie has the neon pink.”

“Oh I see.”

“You’re all done, ‘Rogerina’!”

“I like that!” Roger began to camp it up. Rose transformed Freddie into a young woman with a too short skirt, nylons, heels, a pink sleeveless top and bra straps showing. He wore a brown wig, red clunky earrings, two bangle bracelets and a bright set of pink lips.

“American football lips!” Freddie stumbled a bit walking in kitten heels but Rose showed him how to cope with it. “Just think heel-toe, heel-toe.” she was wearing jean shorts and heeled sandals. On the set Freddie camped it up outrageously, brushing his hair back with his hands on his hips, quickstepping through a doorway, some odd pelvic thrust aimed at Brian who ignored it, and flinging one leg in back of him, leaning up the stairs in an odd fashion. Rose could barely contain herself. She was laughing by lunchtime as the four paraded around her. It was Pythonesque in a way, four men in pissy women outfits screeching loudly.

“All right, here’s the true test of women,” Rose threw a quarter down on the table. “pick it up without using your hands.”

“What?”

“Fine.” Rose leaned just right so the quarter fell into her cleavage. “Only a true woman can do that.”

“Wow!”

“Thank you very much.” she bowed and the quarter fell out.
**

 

“Here we are!” Freddie chirped happily as they landed at the airport. “Who is ready to give them a show they won’t forget?!”

Nobody answered him. The band really didn’t want to play the gig that EMI had set up for them as they would be in a country of violence and persecution. Rose had been recovering still from her surgery but she wouldn’t be left behind from the band-her family really. Brian clutched at her hand, wondering what was in store for them when they disembarked the airplane.

“This is going to be a long two weeks.” Roger predicted. They were ushered out of the plane with maximum security amid a backdrop of people yelling at them. The people weren’t fans; they had come out to jeer at the band for daring to play in such an oppressed place. “Can you feel the love here?” the drummer mocked.

“Rog, come on. Keep your head down.” John urged him. Once holed up in their hotel for the night, they adjusted their body clocks to the local time. Bright and early the next morning they held rehearsals in an old building while the center they would perform at was spruced up for their technical needs.

Brian was tuning up his guitar as he noticed an odd sound. Turning to look he found one of the wires of the nearby circuit breaker had snapped and was now going haywire, spitting sparks and flailing around like a writhing snake. “Get down!” he shouted, grabbing Roger and ducking off into the wings, crouching low to the floor.

“God I hope that was just an accident,” John muttered as one of the roadies turned off the breaker. The bass player had grabbed Rose by the waist and pulled her down as the wire had lashed dangerously close to them. Rose glanced at her friend, his hands heavy on her waist until they got the all clear to get up. Freddie was near them; Roger and Brian were on the opposite end of the stage. “Rose?”

“I’m OK.” she accepted Freddie’s hand up. John marched over to the circuit breakers and looked at it closely.

“It doesn’t look like the wires have ever been replaced,” he analyzed. “this breaker isn’t designed for high output so that’s why it fell apart. Too much power and old wires or cables made it ignite and break off.”

“Breaker overload then?”

“I’m sure it is.” Freddie moved to the front of the stage to belt out We Are the Champions when Rose and John heard a queer metallic grating sound from above. The heavy metal brackets above the stage where the stage lights had been mounted buckled ominously. “Oh shit!”

“Run!” Freddie and the others dashed for the wings as the entire rigging snapped and came crashing down. All of them sustained some cuts and bruises in the fall but they were unharmed. Rose noticed all four of them had clustered around her protectively. She was not a feminist so she didn’t care about them seeing her as weak or somehow inferior-she was touched by their gesture.

“I think we need to postpone rehearsing until we get into the proper venue.” John spoke quietly.

“Amen! I’m not having any of our lives risked like this!” Freddie seconded. “That could have killed all of us!”

For the first week the band was apprehensive but their performances were top notch as always. Their fans came out in droves to see them, etc, and were rewarded by the concerts.

At their last concert Rose discovered that none of the band were up to their usual tricks and hijinks-it was too quiet for her liking. Nobody was talking. Applying makeup to them Rose could feel that Freddie had a little fever.

“You’re sick, Freddie. Are all of you?”

“We might all be,” he tried to dismiss her concerns. “it’s only one more show.”

“You guys didn’t get your flu shots did you.” the makeup artist sighed. Every single member of Queen was sick. John, Roger, Brian, everyone had pink cheeks with mild fevers. Under the stage lights it would go up before the night was done. It was useless to argue with them even though she could guarantee she’d be playing nursemaid once they got home.

Fortunately nothing happened to the band during the concert. They had endured death threats while they were there over the two weeks but with upgraded security, apart from the first rehearsal, everything had gone off without a hitch. Rose was still thanking her lucky stars nothing serious had happened. Outside the hotel protesting had gone on but it was nonviolent.

“Come on, guys. I managed to coerce the airline to take us home tonight instead. We need to heal.” Brian noticed his girlfriend’s face was a little pale and asked how she felt. “I’m OK, I just tried to rush my recovery. Stamina’s not all back yet. I’m a little weak.”

“We’ll be returning to England one sickly lot then,” Freddie settled into the plane as he sniffled. “I vote we all camp out at my place. Rose can take care of us.” their bags had been packed and were already stowed on board.

“I will be glad to say bye to this place,” John murmured. “don’t you think?”

“How come you’re not sick, Rose?” Roger demanded as the plane began to take off.

“I had my flu shot when I went to see the surgeon before we left. He told me not to overdo it but I think I might have with these concerts. You’ll pardon me for not waiting on you all hand and foot but I have to recover from this ordeal as well.”

“It’s all right.” Roger started to nod off already, leaning his head against Brian’s while opposite him John and Rose sat together while Freddie was behind them. Brian closed his eyes as well. John and Rose chattered with Freddie for a few minutes until the makeup artist scolded all of them and told them to sleep. She followed the others about ten minutes later.

**

At Freddie’s house, Rose arranged a sickroom to be ready for them. She had them all claim a bed in one of the big bedrooms adjacent to the bathroom and announced she was going to nurse them. Freddie’s cats needed attention so she fed them, got the necessary supplies out for dealing with four sick men at once, and began her duty.

It didn’t take long for the four men to go to sleep after arrival. Rose sat down in the hallway in the armchair right outside the door. Halfheartedly she wondered if she was coming down with something as well; her stomach had been unsettled for a couple of days which gave her a bit of nausea. The makeup artist didn’t think too much about her own symptoms and assumed that she was just run down like everyone else.

Towards midnight she had to wake everyone up and give them fever reducers. None of them liked taking medicine; Rose had to fast talk Freddie into it. The others were pretty easy though it was usually Freddie who would give her a hard time. She was used to it though.

“Aw, I hate seeing you guys so ill,” Rose made her rounds. “Freddie you can’t give me grief so I can give it right back to you. You’re like my brother in some ways.” his fever was around 99.1 which meant it was going down. “John, I think you saved my life back there with that whipping wire. You’ve always been a pillar of quiet strength when I’ve needed you to be. I love our chats,” she brushed aside his mop of hair to check his temperature. “same as Freddie’s. Roger, you’re a wild child almost as bad as Freddie. I really enjoyed myself when we were dating. You’re so much fun. You took such wonderful care of me when I was ill.” his fever was about the same as Freddie’s and John’s. “And Brian. What can I say? You stole my heart right out of me.”

The makeup artist retired on the daybed near John and Freddie as her charges slid into sleep. Rose pulled up a few pillows and draped a fleece blanket over her lower half. Lying on her right side so she was facing her friends, Rose drowsed a little bit.

Odd dreams threaded themselves through her subconscious that night. In one of them she was dressed entirely in a white beaded dress, lying very still with her eyes closed in a dark room while four figures surrounded her. They were recognizable as John, Freddie, Roger and Brian but the shadows were on their faces. Rose was the only one illuminated.

“She was a sweet woman, very kind and loving towards us. I had a heart to heart with her after she miscarried,” that must have been John speaking. “it broke her. She had the fortitude to come back to us after her suicide attempt but she was never the same after her ordeal. Now she’s like a whole different person altogether. I wish she was the old Rose.”

“I loved Rose, really I did. She was like another sister to me completely. Always up for a laugh and a chat but there was always some part of her that I couldn’t access. It was like she guarded a part of herself from me,” the silhouette revealed a small handlebar mustache so it was definitely Freddie. “she might not have thought me capable of self reflection.”

“I know what you mean, Freddie,” Roger’s voice sounded low. “there was some part of her that we couldn’t access and we’ll never be able to now. But I loved her as did all of us. She touched something inside us that definitely resonated throughout the years. Rose and John here were masterful at diffusing tension. There’s the sense that she was holding something back from all of us. She only hinted at it when we met her in Japan.”

“Rose never told me anything about it,” Brian’s wild curly mane made him more recognizable. “we were together for almost a year, I broke it off, and after 7 years we’ve been together for almost 4 more. She kept a lot of things from me during that time. I never held it against her but I would have been in contact with her throughout her pregnancy. I would have happily embraced another child. Now we’ll never know.”

“We’ll all never know now.” John tucked a bundle of flowers into Rose’s crossed arms. “She’s beyond our help.” four panels of glass sprang up, surrounding Rose’s body. Four handles made out of brass sparkled in the low light. The four men each took a handle, lifted the casket off the platform, then they took it out of the room.

“Oh god, I’m dead?” Rose appeared in the dark room wearing a burgundy dress. “I can’t be!” she chased after them but they had disappeared with her body.

“Rose!” nobody was around her so who was calling her? “It’s all right!” it sounded like John’s voice. Someone grabbed a hold of her hands which made her think someone was after her.

“No!” she cried, running to another room, stopping at an arched window which overlooked the churchyard. The four bandmembers were out there, Rose’s body encased in the glass casket being borne to a hole in the ground. A white marble tombstone dominated the rectangular hole with her name clearly etched on it.

“She must be having some dream. Rose, concentrate. You have to wake up. Use my touch and find a way back to me. There we are… Rose was having a bad dream, guys. Go back to sleep,” John dismissed the others. “seems like she can’t wake up.”

“No, she’s coming to.” Roger yawned sleepily as he watched his old friend worriedly, seeing her eyelids flutter.

“Rose, it’s all right. Come back to us.” he coaxed her gently. A few seconds later Rose awakened with a gasp and out of breath, a wild eyed look in her face. “What is it?” she got her breath back under control, bit her lip, then accepted the hug John gave her. It must have been really bad as he’d never seen her in such a state.

The others were still asleep or at least were pretending to be as Rose poured out her dream to John with a few tears escaping her control. Just like he did with his kids when they were little, John gave her a long hug, soothing her the best he could. It was unnerving to see Rose who had tremendous self control suddenly lose it all. Only Freddie had experienced her breakdown and that was mentally, several years ago.

At one point, Freddie, Roger and Brian opened up their eyes to look over at the bass player comforting their distraught makeup artist questioningly. He gave them a slight shake of the head meaning to keep quiet for now.

“You thought you were dead and we were saying those things about you?” he had to get the story straight. “You poor girl. No wonder you’re shaken up so much.”

“I think you guys think I’m keeping something from you. You remember I told you all when I first met you that I was abused by a man.”

“You don’t have to tell us that if you don’t want to. Your choice.”

“I will sometime when you’re all well enough to hear.”

“Suit yourself. Just remember if he comes looking for you he will have all of us to deal with.”

“I’m glad. You can all go back to sleep now.” she called to the others who started sniggering.

“Can’t put one over on you can we?” Freddie remarked.

Chapter Text

PART 4

LIVE AID

 

The next few days Rose nursed the members of Queen back to health. She told them a little more of her abusive ex but she didn’t have to worry about him any time soon. Roger had told her that he knew of the person she was talking about and how he’d been arrested for assaulting multiple women.

“Oh thank god!” Roger enveloped his old friend in a big hug as he could see the relief in her eyes. “You’ve made my day, Roger Taylor.”

“Glad to hear it,” he affectionately kissed her on the forehead. “we’re all cured of whatever ailment was bugging us, so how about we go for a ride in my car?”

“Wanna come, guys?” they all accepted.

Later on in the same day someone from an event called Live Aid asked if they would be in the lineup of entertainment. Freddie and the others confirmed that they would do it and asked Miami to get them a concert hall to practice in.

“Sure you guys are up for it?” Rose asked. “You were sick.”

“We can do it!” Freddie didn’t lose any zeal for the job while he was ill. “We’re all back to normal now aren’t we?”

“If you don’t develop fevers again within the next 24 hours I’ll let you do it.” Rose promised. During that day Freddie and Brian took a stroll in his garden, John read a book Rose lent him, and she herself was at the piano, playing the Maple Leaf rag mindlessly. Roger appeared at the door then approached her as she closed her eyes briefly. Delilah the cat walked by on top of the piano as Roger sat down next to his friend.

“Sure you’re all right?”

“I have a strange unsettling feeling about this gig, Rog,” she admitted. “I’ve always been a little extra sensitive in ways I can’t explain but this one makes me uneasy. It feels like something is going to happen. I don’t know when or where but it will.”

“In what way?”

“I can’t explain it. It’s like a warning alarm is going off in my head but I don’t know who it’s going to affect or even what.”

“Can you ignore it?”

“For now I can. I think that the halcyon days of the band are over, Rog. We’re getting old now and it’s getting more unlikely that I’ll ever be able to have children with Brian.”

“Is that what you both want?”

“We discussed it and yes it is what we both want. He and I aren’t getting any younger so we’ll see what happens.”

“Something to look forward to, right?”

“I guess. I’m just in a funny mood after that horrible dream.”

“As you probably guessed it we all heard you.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. You were muttering something about being dead and we were apparently being sodding bastards. John just got to you first that’s all. I want you to remember that your business is your business. We won’t badger you, well not without good reason.”

“You guys are the best.” Rose turned to look at Roger as Delilah jumped off the piano, landing on the floor with a loud thud.

“Thanks.” Roger gave her an affectionate kiss. “How about a duet? Test your vocal chops?”
**

The following week was spent rehearsing their live set. Rose filled in where she could on vocals but Freddie had an idea. “Rose, come here. I want you to do something for me.” he put her square in the spotlight, handed her a mike and told her to sing something.

“Does it have to be one of Queen’s songs?”

“Preferably yes. I want you to sing the first verse of Bohemian Rhapsody.” Freddie played her in and she sang the verse. For the first time ever Rose was center stage and singing into an actual mike. Nobody was there but still she got an electrifying rush from it.

“Perfect as always, Rose! Sing with me the second verse.” she did so. “Lovely! I think that you are going to duet with me tomorrow. Keep the crowd guessing.”

“Me!” she squawked. “I’m a behind the scenes gal, Freddie!” the other bandmembers exchanged a look like they couldn’t believe what Freddie was doing but Freddie was born showman and he had a knack for doing crazy things onstage.

“Not tomorrow you won’t be. We won’t be doing any makeup or anything. I don’t want you to be on the sidelines.” the singer felt it was time for Rose to get some recognition and her voice truly was great. She was so shy about singing and too self conscious. Freddie knew that she would be great no matter what. The makeup artist drew from Freddie’s confidence-he wouldn’t lie to to her about her voice. If she was as good as he said she was than she would do it. Rose trusted the band completely.

“All right, I’ll do it. If it’s that important to you I will.”

“There’s the spirit! Our secret weapon all these years will be revealed!” a triumphant Freddie conducted the rehearsal with renewed vigor. Rose shook her head with a half smile on her face. Roger, Brian and John cheered her on.

The next day, all of them dressed casual as they drove to Wembley. Freddie was dressed all in white with light blue jeans, Roger in white t-shirt and button up shirt undone, black track pants, John and Brian wore jeans, John in a patterned top and Brian in white. Rose wore her tan skirt, white sneakers, and a white striped shirt. It was Brian’s actually, she had tied the tails and knotted them under her bust as usual.

In the ‘tin can’ trailer they waited with their hearts pounding as the MC announced each act. Rose checked her appearance, her gold hoop earrings swaying with every movement of her head as she fluffed out her hair.

“Sit, Rose.” a knock on the door and Mr. Sjulander peeked in.

“You guys are next. Good luck, honey.” he beamed.

“Dad!” she gave him a bear hug. “This is the biggest live production ever so I’m not surprised to see you!”

“You’ll knock them all down, dear.” he laughed and shepherded them down into the wings of the stage. Roger pulled his drum sticks out of his pocket, ready for action. The roadies finished putting John’s bass and Brian’s Red Special on the stage in their stands and gave the cue for them to go on.

“A dream come true!” Rose stood center stage with the mike in her hand, trying to stay calm as Freddie played her in. She sang the first verse like she was born to, in her mind swept away to the time when they were recording the single. Turning to Freddie, she sang the second verse along with him as he played the piano. Brian and the others beamed at her; she handled it like a pro.

The band cycled through the songs, ending with We Are the Champions. Freddie gestured for Rose to come and join them as he sang the final line with her. “Thanks to our special guest, Rose Sjulander!” Freddie thundered as the band came up to join him in bowing.

“Thank you!” they all walked offstage where Rose was hugged by her dad. “I think this means that Queen is back in vogue now.”

“Oh so you were using me, eh?” Rose teased.

“We’ve got to get to work on our new album then.” Roger proclaimed loudly. “We’re back in, baby!”

**

The next album was called A Kind Of Magic and featured a song for the movie Highlander. While Rose was in the studio one day she heard Freddie and the band recording a new single called One Vision. As soon as Freddie saw her come in his goofy side took over and he started singing out silly lyrics.

“One dump, one turd, two tits, John Deacon!” John grinned as Freddie gave them all a silly smile.

Brian was cracking up and so was Roger as Freddie sang more nonsense lyrics, “Chicken feet, babe!”

“One shrimp, one prawn, one clam, one chicken!” Rose lost it right then and there, laughing so hard tears sprang to her eyes.

“Cut, guys!” she grabbed the mike to speak to them in the recording room. “Is this a preview of the new Freddie Mercury cookbook?”

“You bet, babe!” he took off his headphones while he pointed at her, the big grin didn’t leave his face.

“Is that one whole or half chicken, Freddie?” they came into the sound booth where Freddie and Roger started jumping up and down on the chairs. “How much coffee did you two have today?”

“Not enough!”

While the band was at lunch Rose picked up Brian’s acoustic guitar and began playing it, an old Buddy Holly song came back to her and she played it through once. In a few minutes the band came in as Rose began singing and playing her favorite song Well All Right.

“She is good. Take a look at this.” John showed them from the newspaper from Live Aid DUET WITH QUEEN and there was a good picture of Rose singing solo and with Freddie. ROSE ROCKS!

“I’m glad to see that.” Brian sighed, feeling a bit melancholy.

“Is everything OK with you two, Bri?”

“I have something I want to ask her.” he pulled out a small box from his pocket. Rose was still playing guitar riffs when the four came into the recording room.

“What’s up guys?”

“Rose will you put the guitar away for a moment, please.” Brian requested. Rose did so, not noticing that everyone’s eyes were sparkling with anticipation over what she might do next.

“What’s up?” he sat down beside her and popped the question.

“Oh my god.. of course I will, sweetie!” it was a trinity ring in rose gold. Brian knew that Rose adored well, rose gold and thought it matched her well. He slid the ring on her finger and gathered her up in his arms. The band cheered them on happily. “You’re all invited to the wedding!”

“Of course we are!” Roger exclaimed. “When will it be?”

“As soon as we can get a church and minister!” Brian told them. “There won’t be any big church wedding to plan. It’ll just be Rose, me, her dad, my parents, my 3 kids and you three. I want a small service and so does she.”

“Truly?”

“Yeah. I’ll just wear something nice. We’d rather not do anything big at all. It’s just the way we want it.”

“Well then I think we can manage that!” Freddie chimed in. “Just let us know.”

“We will.”
**

Two weeks later Brian and Rose were married. It was very small, in a church with a pastor, just like they wanted. The guitar player wore simple chinos, sneakers, and the same white shirt he wore at Live Aid while Rose wore the same thing she’d worn when she first met Brian many years ago; the patterned cherry blossom shirt and tan skirt. She held a small bunch of flowers, mainly multicolor carnations which were her favorite and myrtle which was a royal wedding tradition.

“We’re not royalty,” Brian teased. Rose tossed the little bouquet to Freddie who was thrilled, tucking a flower behind his ear in his typical humor.

“Babe, you are my knight in shining armor.” over a little brunch reception there were a few speeches made and that was it. Brian had borrowed Roger’s MG which Rose liked a lot and they were off on a week long honeymoon in Scarborough.

“I’m so glad they finally made it official.” John beamed.

“Me too.” Freddie had a guest with him to the ceremony and didn’t have a chance to introduce him around except to the happy couple. “I want you and Roger to meet Jim.”

“Delighted.” Roger shook his hand followed by John. Freddie looked happier than he’d been in a long time and they were happy to see it. They chatted Jim up and found themselves liking the mild mannered gentleman very much.

When the week was through Freddie called up Rose and asked her if she’d like to take part in a special project he was working on.

“Sure Freddie, what is it?”

“I’m doing a cover of the Great Pretender and I’ll need your talent for this one.”

“Oh I can’t wait now! Tomorrow morning first thing?”

“Perfect.”

The next morning Rose was in the studio greeted by Roger. Freddie welcomed her back with a hug, asked if she was completely shagged out. “But enough about you-I asked you in because I need help getting into drag! Me, Roger and Peter.”

“Peter?”

“Peter Straker,” the gentleman in question came up to her and shook her hand firmly. “how do you do?”

“I’m delighted to turn three such specimens of manhood into squawking queens!” she teased, making all three of them laugh.

After Rose put the makeup on all three of them, she turned them loose into the costume department. “Freddie’s Jessica Rabbit! Lovin’ that lime green, Peter! Roger needs more skank hose!” Roger got into a gold colored outfit complete with miniskirt and silly blonde female mullet wig. Rose bent over to get into the lower drawer of the desk to get more hairpins when she felt Freddie pulling up her shirt teasingly.

“If you wanna see ‘em just ask.” Rose had been wearing just jeans and t-shirt but she yanked the shirt up and tucked the end into her bra so her bosom was clearly on display. Peter and Freddie gaped a little bit, but Roger, having already seen her naked while they were dating, was blasé.

“Put this on.” Freddie held out a bolero loosely crocheted in black. She took off her t-shirt and put it on, tying the tails as Rose did a few pelvic gyrations for their entertainment. Her white bra showed through clearly as her chest was of perfect proportion to the rest of her. “Ooo, looking good!”

“I wish I had a figure like her!” Peter said in a stereotypical gay voice. “What is your secret, hon?”

“I’m also a professional dancer. Peter, we need to get some sandbags in your top here.”

“Give her tits!” Freddie chimed in. “We all need titties here!”

“Hang on!” Rose had to measure them and outfit them properly. Peter was sporting a nice filled out figure underneath the lime green outfit as Roger started to feel them up. “Roger, where’s your hose?” he was wearing his gold outfit and silly blonde mullet but no tights on. Pretty soon Roger would be feeling a draft that would be amazing to him.

“Flaccid thankfully,” he teased. “I tore a little hole.”

“Let me see.” the drummer showed her a small hole in the patterned tights. “Well I can stop that.” Rose used an old trick her mother taught her. “Mom said a dab of hairspray will stop a run in the tights. Makes it nice and stiff, lasts for hours.” she sprayed it.

“Maybe I should put that on my dick.” he chuckled.

“Remember to keep your fingertips away from the fabric, all right? Fingernails will cut through it in no time.” Rose handed Roger the tights, showing him how to roll it up one leg at a time without digging her nails into it.

“Right, thanks.” he rolled the hose up with his hands, put his foot in it and unrolled it, careful to keep his fingertips away.

“What have we got here? Oh, glitter,” Rose took a dry brush, dipped it into the glitter, brushed most of it off, then dabbed it on her cleavage. “I sparkle like a Barbie doll!”

“What have you got? You dirty girl!” Peter spun her around as she laughed. “Freddie, she’s whoring herself up!”

“I got glittery titties now!” Rose flicked the brush over her chest while the others watched. “I can carry this off.”

“Oooh, sassy! I like her, Freddie!”

“Roger, c’mere,” Rose took her foundation sponge. “I need to dress up your fake cleavage. That shirt’s more deep cut than I thought.” she put a layer of foundation on Roger’s chest as he got a little uncomfortable.

“Damn. This hose is really making my dick suffocate.” he flopped it out.

“Roger! Strap it down to your thigh or just put up with it!” Rose squealed. “Glad I don’t have to worry about monster hogs chafing my nether regions!” she began laughing and had to turn away, reminded of all the times Freddie announced onstage that Brian had a big one.

“Look who’s blushing!” Peter teased. “Oops, Roger’s out.”

“Rose loves to funnel big ones!” Freddie put his arm around her shoulder, taking off the measuring tape she’d put there as she blushed.

“Awrooo!” she pretended to howl like a dog. “Woof! The bigger the better!” laughing hard now the men heard the cue to go out into the studio. Roger tucked his dong away as he put on the heels assigned to him.

“Knock ‘em dead my ladies!”

The second day of shooting the video the three men were all in different costumes. Freddie was a leather punk girl with a red wig that was teased up. Rose colored his lips deep red and put a fake tattoo on him. Peter was in animal print and had an identical hairdo but it was in black. Roger wore a strange almost Dolly Parton style outfit with silvery glitter tights.

“All right, Roger! Let me foundation your chest again!” Rose picked up the sponge and rolled it around. “Try not to get your dick out this time. Work with me here.” she mocked.

“Oh fine. You’re no fun.”

“Excuse me! You three got me so worked up about dicks in general that I jumped my husband last night as soon as I got home!” she pointed at all three of them. Freddie beamed with ridiculous pride as Peter burst out laughing loudly.

“What did Brian say?”

“He didn’t say anything, Roger! He may have wondered what came over me but never said a word!” Rose blushed and laughed with the others; the drummer came over to her and put an arm on her shoulders, grinning widely.

“And they say we men are a slave to our sex drive.” Peter put a hand on Rose’s left shoulder as she finished Roger’s chest.

“Is that the skirt I’m going to wear? It’s perfect!” the drummer squealed as he put it on.

“Oh, I’m Jayne Mansfield.” Freddie pushed the bra down a little more. He and Peter started rubbing their asses together singing the backup chorus. The makeup artist winked at Roger, went over to Peter and Freddie, then smacked both of their asses. “Oh, ow!”

“You’re hot, Freddina!” Rose circled around him. “Let’s lez out!” Freddie turned helpless from his laughter as she pretended to dry hump him. Roger and Freddie turned to Rose and started humping her front and back. “A dream of mine I didn’t know I had is coming true!” she laughed.

“My lovely cooing doves!” the makeup artist clapped her hands together. “Photo op time!” she knelt in front of the three gussied up men as they posed. One photo snapped had Freddie leaning in to kiss her on the right cheek with Roger on the left. Another picture had Peter who had picked Rose up completely off the floor. All four of them could not stop smiling and giggling.

“Time to get in front of the camera!” she marshaled them out into the studio. “What a fun day this is!”

**

Queen toured that year and at the final concert, Freddie donned a mock robe and crown. He walked out to the concert stage, pulled the crown off and held it up. The crowd cheered like wildfire for him as he spoke into his microphone, “Do you want to see Rose?” the crowd roared now. “Rose, come on out!”

No shyness overtook her that time. Rose bounded out to stand with Freddie and the band. The duet they had done at Live Aid was very popular and because the public rarely saw Rose she had become a bit of an enigma. The band had her do the duet with Freddie at every concert on that tour which had reached its climax. John took the crown and wore it for a goofy minute.

“Thank you!” Freddie, John, Roger, Rose, and Brian all linked hands and bowed low. Nobody knew it then but that was the last concert with Freddie that was ever done.

Upon writing their album The Miracle, Freddie was looking a little rough for wear. He had shaved off his mustache for good and had grown not a beard but stubble.

“Freddie?” Rose came upon him as he was staring at his reflection in the mirror. “What is it?”

He sighed unhappily. “I suppose I should come clean with you guys.”

“All right. Come on then.” they were all at Freddie’s house to write lyrics so Freddie sailed into the living room saying he had an announcement to make. Brian and Roger had been talking about guitar riffs, John and Rose were deep in discussion about some books that they had read recently. All of them looked up in anticipation as Freddie suddenly looked uneasy.

“What is it, Freddie?”

“I have AIDS.” he said calmly. “I was diagnosed a little more than six months ago.”

Everyone’s face had drained of blood when they heard him speak. All knew the latest news reports that painted the virus as the ‘gay disease’ and how it was a deterrent for people turning gay and lesbian. There was currently no cure and it caused the victims to waste away.

“Oh god,” everyone knew that Freddie was becoming terminal by the day.

“Well?” he stood in the center of the room looking at all of his friends, nervous at what they might say to him. All of them looked like they’d been punched and it was a long moment as they gathered their wits to form cohesive replies.

“I don’t know what you want us to say, Freddie,” John told him frankly. “we’re shocked.”

“We are not passing judgment on you, Freddie,” Brian approached him. “we never have before.”

“This situation sucks but it doesn’t define you as a person,” Roger backed him up. “you’re no different to us than you were five minutes ago.”

“I think what we all mean Freddie, is that we are going to support you no matter what. We will do what is within our power to make sure you’re comfortable. What is it you want to do now?” Rose crossed over to him and put her hand on his shoulder.

“I want to make music with what time I’ve got left.” he said fiercely. “I don’t want the media to know what’s going on.”

“We’ll do our best though you know the media invents things and poor saps believe it.” John was matter of fact.

“I know.” Freddie looked downcast as he welcomed a side hug from Rose. The singer turned his head so it was on her shoulder. She rubbed his back comfortingly as the others came around him.

“Is Jim around?”

“He’s in the next room.”

“All right. Do you want a group hug from us?” Freddie welcomed that as the others grew teary eyed for their best friend. “Now we got the sentimental part out of the way how about some songs?” Brian asked, diffusing the tension and settling back on the sofa. Rose handed him his notepad, brushing one hand down the side of Freddie’s face, giving him a sweet smile.

“Thank god for you guys,” Freddie picked up Delilah and cuddled her for a moment. “what ideas have you got so far?”

Brian handed him a notepad with a saying that Rose had often told him. “Inspired by my wife.” he said with a grin.

“I Want It All. Catchy.” Freddie read through it. “Breakthru.. Scandal, I like it!”

“We start composing tomorrow.” Roger winked.

That evening while at home Rose was still reeling from Freddie’s announcement. Brian sat down with her on the couch, getting her in a front to back hug as he was feeling numb himself. The guitar player took Rose’s hands in his own, not knowing what to say or think as she stared out the window for a long moment, her head on Brian’s shoulder.

Freddie… Brian thought. I want you to be well and not dying. In spite of all their fights and spats over the music and how it should be arranged, it never turned ugly. Freddie had been there for Brian when he broke up with Rose (though he was firmly in Rose’s camp he still supported his friend though to a lesser degree), though his friendship really shone through when Brian’s marriage split up. He complied the cassette of all Brian’s solos, even wrote a song for him called Soul Brother. Without even realizing it he was getting teary eyed again.

“He’s not even gone and I’m grieving for him, Bri,” Rose said suddenly as she grabbed a tissue. “he’s got the wasting syndrome associated with the illness. Freddie’s got to be mourning the loss of his healthy self. It’s going to be a roller coaster ride for him now. I’m so glad he’s got Jim.”

Brian could not speak at the moment. He pressed the side of his cheek to his wife’s head as he let a tear fall. “Who knows how long he has now.”

“The bastion of Queen...” Rose could not finish her sentence. The doorbell rang and Brian went to answer it. Roger and John followed Brian back into the living room. All of the musicians abandoned the premise of keeping it all together for Freddie and had their moments of grief for their friend. Brian enclosed his wife in his arms giving her a kiss on the cheek. Roger gave Rose a hug, wiped away her tears though his eyes were suspiciously bright. John was next to give her a big bear hug as he and Roger needed the hugs as much as she did.

“I’m so sad… this is what’s going to be left of the band now that the frontman is..” Roger could not finish his thought but everyone knew what he was thinking. Brian clasped a hand on Roger’s shoulder while his blue eyes begged his friend not to finish that sentence. John looked like he didn’t want Roger to finish that sentence either as he put his face in his hands. Rose put her hand on John’s shoulder as he tried to get a grip on himself.

“We need to grieve for him. He’s going to need us more than ever.” Freddie was like a brother to John and the thought of being without him brought on a fresh flood of grief.

“Come on, let’s group hug.” Brian welcomed his friends in their embrace, mutually supporting each other through the difficult times that would lay ahead for them.

It was a very rare and odd sight for the band; all of them were in tears over Freddie’s illness. It wasn’t so much the stigma of it being the ‘gay disease’ but the fact their friend and singer was on borrowed time from now on. Nobody liked the fact that Freddie would grow thinner, weaker, until the disease was so debilitating that his bodily systems would fail one after another.

“All right,” Brian announced after an hour and a half of grieving for Freddie. “we need to go and shoot the music video for Breakthru tomorrow. We won’t be any good to Freddie if we start neglecting ourselves.”

“True,” John stood up and said goodnight, followed by Roger. Rose walked them to the door, giving them each a hug as they left.

**

The Breakthru video was a lot of fun, given that it took place on a hot and humid day. Rose painted a black mask on the model, Debbie, giving her a silvery eyeliner that was drawn on a little heavy to get the look. Once Rose got on board the train the stickiness of the day evaporated as the locomotive was going about 50 miles an hour, enough to instantly evaporate any sweat. During the breaks Brian teased her, getting her into his lap and saying dirty things in her ear. He had become a little more affectionate towards her lately and she wondered at that but didn’t say a word.

“Aha!” Freddie took a picture of them with his Polaroid camera. “Having fun?”

“This is amazing, Freddie!” Rose took down her ponytail, letting her hair whip in the wind. “Great idea!”

“It was John’s bass line that inspired this!” John took an impromptu bow.

Roger was clearly enamored with his new girlfriend as he kept giving her horny looks which Rose noticed. “Look at Rog, Bri.” the guitar player looked and smirked when he saw exactly what was on Roger’s mind. “he’ll be pile driving her in bed tonight I’m pretty sure.”

“Are you sorry that you broke up with him, Rose?”

“What kind of question is that, Brian? Roger knew from day one that my heart belongs to you. Anyway, Roger’s lifestyle was pretty wild and reckless. It was a two year relationship while it was fun, I knew it wasn’t going to last long. He has a wandering eye.” Rose watched her ex canoodle with his new girl toy, shooting him a knowing look. The drummer rolled his eyes but grinned at her.

“Still does apparently.” Brian took a picture of Roger who had been trying to conceal his obvious randy thoughts. Freddie came up to them after chugging water and gave Rose a rib crushing hug.

“What a fun day this is!” his energy was contagious as the five of them laughed.

Breakthru took about a day to shoot then they began to work on I Want It All. Rose only had to do minimal makeup on the band and John could sense that she was zoning out when she worked on him. She was professional as always, never missing a step, but John had to prompt her about what was on her mind that caused her to have such a faraway look.

“I was just thinking of the first concert I ever did with you guys. When I met you all in Japan.”

“Aren’t we a little young to get nostalgic?” he teased.

“John, we’re never too young for that. I knew back then that you guys would be great someday. Now you’re all truly in your element and poor Freddie,” she sighed, frustrated. “I can’t imagine life without him.” Rose put her tools away with a rattling sound as John stood up behind her.

“We’re all thinking that,” John embraced Rose. When they pulled apart John heard a metallic clinking sound and he held up her right hand. “what’s that?”

“This? It’s a charm bracelet. I’ve been adding charms to it since I was a little girl.” the bass player admired it; there was a dragonfly, a butterfly, a shamrock, musical notes, happy face, a cat paw among many others.

“What’s this one?” he saw on her neck a little box alongside the pendant with the tiny handprint on it.

“That’s a prayer box. You write a little prayer and put it in there.”

“I can guess what you’re praying for. What we all pray for nightly.” they walked over to the set.

“Shit, my hand hurts again.” Rose put an elastic bandage over her left hand, an action that did not go unnoticed by Roger or John.

“What’s that about?” John took her hand as it shook a little bit. “Is this new?”

“You guys remember years ago with that concert that was such a disaster? I had the electrical burns?” she sat down in Freddie’s director’s chair as the two musicians stood in front of her.

“Yeah. By god you scared us.” Roger remembered.

“Well the nerves became inflamed over a long period of time and now I often get a hot painful feeling in my left hand. It’s carpal tunnel syndrome apparently and I usually get relief by wearing this compression bandage. I could get permanent relief by surgery but you know, I just don’t want to.”

“Good for you. Surgery’s not foolproof anyway.” Roger told her.

“You three! Time for performing!” Freddie’s voice had changed a little bit, sounding a little thinner than what they were used to but it didn’t lack any emotion at all. The three rose up, Freddie handed Rose her acoustic guitar and they took their places.

**

In July of 1991 they were almost done shooting the music videos for Innuendo in when Rose became ill several times. One day when Brian woke up he found Rose was already up and dressed though it looked like she hadn’t slept at all. “Darling what is it?” he got up and walked over to his wife. Ready for the day, Rose was wearing a knee length green tartan skirt, a green blouse with frills at the sleeves, and her flat sandals.

“I just got a call from your mother, Bri. Your father’s getting worse.” Brian’s father had cancer from smoking for so many years.

“Damn. Did you sleep at all last night?” he put his hands on her shoulders as she turned to look out the window.

“Not really. I kept getting nauseated.” Rose put a hand on her stomach as a flash of nausea attacked her and she exhaled slowly, forcing it away. Her husband’s hands slid down to her waist; she put her hands on top of his as they watched the sun lazily shine in.

“Nausea? Stomach bug?”

“That’s got to be it. I’m too old for you to knock me up again.” Rose shut her eyes briefly as a flash of forgotten pain came back to her.

“Don’t be too sure of that,” Brian put his chin on her right shoulder. “you never know.”

“I don’t, you’re right.” she acknowledged. “You can go see your dad today and slip in around noon after we get ready to shoot the I’m Going Slightly Mad.”

“OK. Thanks for reminding me.” he kissed her.

After Brian went to visit his sick father Rose thought about Brian’s remark for a moment, picked up the phone, and called her doctor.

Thanks to a last minute cancellation Rose was able to be worked in quickly. She was sitting on the exam table fully clothed when the doctor came in. He sat on the stool opposite her, flipped up the print off of the test results and announced that she was pregnant.

“Oh god,” she buried her face in her hands. “that’s what I need right now. Brian’s father is ill and on his way out and we’ve got our own challenges with the band.”

“Some good news in the way of bad? It might perk people up.” the doctor said blithely.

“Don’t go on about my pregnancy like it’s good news!” she shot at him. “I don’t need this and neither does Brian! It’s too much!”

“So what are you going to do?”

“Nothing right now! I’m not making any kind of rash choice. I need to discuss this with my husband.” Rose refused a pelvic exam, told off the doctor for trying to preach to her about her life choices, then left the office.

At the video shoot Rose put some makeup on Freddie, noting that it took a little more to conceal his pallor now. She put dark eyeshadow all around his eyes, admiring the effect that it made. Freddie had on a wig and was dressed up in a suit with cummerbund but no tie.

“You seem awfully distracted, my dear,” the singer observed Rose was holding herself tensely and not looking comfortable at all. “are you ill again?” Freddie knew that she withdrew into herself when she wasn’t feeling well. The last time that happened at his house she’d fallen sick with a flu bug and he nursed her back to health. Brian noticed Rose’s tendency to withdraw when ill as well, once telling Freddie that she was the most frustrating person to figure out if she was just ill or moody.

“You’re so perceptive, Freddie. I’m trying to keep it all together for Brian. His dad’s not doing well.”

“Oh I’m so sorry. That’s not all is it?”

“No, there’s more.” Rose had just spied Brian coming onto the set. She called him over and announced her news in front of Freddie. Brian was stunned while Freddie laughed and clapped his hands together. The news spread to John and Roger who offered their congratulations to her.

“Thanks guys. I just think it’s all too much right now. I’m not sure I can do it.”

“Don’t think about now,” John told her kindly. “cross that bridge when you get there.” he was so laid back, yet he had six kids of his own. Rose had only met them once or twice but John was a family man through and through; there was a lot of love in his household.

“Make sure you take care of yourself,” Roger put his hand on her waist. “it’ll be a long road but worth it in the end.”

“Thanks guys. Remember the penguins are coming today.” in walked a handler with two cat carriers. Roger noted how fast Rose changed the subject and gave her a sideways look, wordlessly asking if she needed to talk more. Freddie sensed it as well as John but the both of them gave Roger the chance by following Brian over to their little guest stars for the day.

“Do you want to talk about this more tonight? I know you and you’re stressing about it, Rose. You don’t want to say anything to Brian because he might take it the wrong way.”

“Yeah,” she agreed in a hushed tone. “Brian’s had nothing but happiness on this end of things. I’ve had nothing to be happy about on it.”

“Very true,” he remembered the night she’d suffered a miscarriage. “why don’t we talk at your place tonight? Will be Brian be around?”

“He’s going into the hospital to be with his dad for awhile. Could be all night for all I know.”

“Want me to come over then?”

“Sure. Anytime.” he gave her hand a friendly squeeze then they walked over to the penguins.

John and Brian were sitting on the black leather couch, Brian already had a penguin between them they were petting. Roger sat beside John and Freddie beside Roger as the other penguin was handed to the singer.

“Freddie Mercury, lover of cats, skittish of penguins,” Rose mocked as she took Brian’s camera and snapped a picture. The penguin looked around, trying to burrow into Freddie’s side. “Aha! Penguin shit!”

“Roger, what did you do?” Freddie vacated the seat in a hurry. Roger got up as well but didn’t reply. The handler took care of the mess as the director had John put on his jester hat and walk to the giant screw.

“Time for the 1,001 daffodils!” Rose brought Freddie to the other stage which had a field of daffodils sticking up, obviously fake but looking real enough for the music video. She had stuck a fake one behind her right ear which made Freddie laugh. He lay down in the little field looking completely at home as the camera rolled. On cue he sat up with a flower in his fingers and pretended to take a whiff of it.

As the day drew to a close, Roger played on the tricycle, grinning like mad as John sat on the arm of the couch, Brian was splayed out at the end of it. The final shot completed was the one of Brian getting down on the floor with the penguins and pretending to talk to them.

“Cut! That was excellent!” the director exclaimed. Rose helped her husband unstrap the fake beak from him and tried it on herself.

“Is this me?” Brian laughed, snapping a picture as John came over and told her his jester hat was more her. The makeup artist put it on, striking a funny face and pose as the prop department reclaimed their beak. “I didn’t get a chance to have my picture taken with the birds!” the handler let her pick one up so Brian could get a picture. Freddie got one as well as the other two looked on.

“Group shot, people!” the band sat on or stood behind the black couch. Once the official photos were taken, Rose plopped herself into Brian’s lap with her legs up on John’s lap. The bass player was reminded of that long ago picnic when they were at the farm to record A Night At the Opera.
Done for the day they all went home, Roger promising to stop by in an hour or two so Rose could talk to him. Brian kissed his wife, told her he’d be home late, and left to go visit his dad. John stayed a few extra minutes to console Rose a little bit, but he had to go pick up his kids from a friend’s house so he couldn’t talk for long.

“What’s going on, Rose?” Freddie planted himself in front of her. “Don’t say nothing as I know the look on your face. It says you’re overwhelmed and not sure of where you’re going.”

“I can never hide anything from you, Freddie. I’m very overwhelmed at the moment. Brian’s dad is sick, just everything going on. I don’t know if I have the strength to go on with everything life is throwing at me.” she admitted, closing her eyes briefly.

“Take it one day at a time,” Freddie gave her arm a friendly grasp. “you can do it, darling, and you’ll be a better person for it. Why don’t you come to my house for an hour or two?”

“I can’t, Freddie. I need to get home. Roger’s coming over soon. Come home with me for a little bit.” she offered. Freddie accepted and soon they were in the living room.

Freddie glanced up at the mantelpiece to see several pictures of the band in the seventies. “That was a fun show in New York, before Brian got sick.. poor thing he looked like he was..” he couldn’t finish that sentence. “That time we did the duet with Bowie! He hit on you so hard that day! I never heard you giggle like that before or since!”

Rose just laughed. “I love this one of you, me, Roger, and Peter.” it was the one where Peter had picked her up and all of the men were in drag. “My beautiful ladies.”

“Very much so,” now Freddie’s color was fading and he had a little mark on his face. “oh.. you’ve got a mark there. Oh,” Rose paled a little bit.

“It’s nothing. Wait, how did you notice it? I didn’t take my makeup off.”

“Freddie, I’ve put makeup on you for years now. I notice things.”

“You would know what it is, right?” Freddie faced her.

“Yeah I do. When I studied medicine I saw much worse marks than that. Do you know what it is?” Rose sat down on the coffee table, afraid to say the words. Freddie noticed her unease but he didn’t believe in hiding the truth from the band.

“The doctor calls it Kaposi sarcoma.”

“Oh god..” Freddie knelt in front of his friend, now more concerned for her than himself. “I wish it wasn’t so, Freddie. Not you. You’re such a sweet and kind soul, you don’t deserve this. I try to convince myself it’s all some horrible dream.”

“Rose, you’re deluding yourself,” the singer took her hands. “you might be a bit hormonal from what you’re going through. I’ve had my pity party with Jim. I’ve come to accept my situation, Rose, and you should too. I know you just got the news today and you’re still shocked. Try to calm down.”

“I’ll try. Roger will be here soon.” Freddie put his hand under her chin and raised her head up to meet his gaze.

“Will you be all right, sweetheart?”

She gave him a sad smile, her hand over his. “I’ve learned my lessons from the past, Freddie. I only want to be there for you guys as much as possible.”

“I will be around for as much as I can, darling. I can’t transmit AIDS through a kiss on the cheek can I?”

“No.”

“Then here you go, my singing dove,” Freddie kissed her on the cheek. “remember I’m always with you. For both of you.”

“All right.” she accepted Freddie’s caress. “I’ll be OK, Freddie. You should go home to Jim.”

“Sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Roger’s coming and Brian’s going to be with his dad until late. He doesn’t want me up late anymore.”

“You always were a night owl, Rose.” she walked him to the door and said goodnight.

Thirty minutes later Rose was playing with her guitar, mainly sticking to the low sounding chords. Freddie would be in the studio to record the last song the Show Must Go On tomorrow so she had to be there. Roger pulled up in his car and let himself in the house, calling for Rose.

“I’m here, Rog,” she sighed. The drummer found her sitting on the couch with her guitar.

“What are you playing?”

“I’m trying to cheer myself up with Buddy Holly.”

“You always loved him, I remember,” he sat down next to her, noticing her unease as Rose put her guitar away. “so what do you want to talk about?”

“Freddie was just here and I really wanted him to tell me that his diagnosis wasn’t true. I can’t get used to the idea that he won’t be around anymore. It’s too much, Roger.”

“That’s not all of it,” he knew her well enough. “what is it, Rose? What aren’t you saying?”

The makeup artist bit her lip. “I don’t know I’ll be able to carry this one, Roger. I only got to four months with the last. I’m older now and I don’t want to go through another miscarriage. I am absolutely terrified of another one.”

“Oh, I understand,” Roger put his arms around her. “I don’t want you to go through that either, sweetheart. None of us do. John said something to that effect today when you went to the storeroom to get something.”

“He did?”

“Yeah. We didn’t have time to think about it then but I’m sure Brian and Freddie are. John knew what you were thinking.”

“I know. He comforted me last time.”

“I guess it’s my turn. So you’re really worried about Freddie and Brian but also about yourself and potentially losing your child?”

“Succinct.”

“Yeah it is. Come on let’s relax a bit.” Roger positioned himself on the couch at an angle so Rose could snuggle up next to him. “I think you’re worried enough for four people, darling. Let them worry about themselves. I know we need to worry in some degree about Freddie but we just watch him for now.”

“Worrying seems to be my function in life.”

“It is for all of us. We just have to manage it well. I want you to just focus on you. Brian’s going to need you to be strong for him while he deals with his sick dad. Me and John are the ones you can lean on right now. Take it slow, all right? One day at a time.”

“You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right,” Roger rested his hand on her midsection. “just take care of yourself and the rest will follow. Besides I think I have a theory about what caused your miscarriage.”

“What is that?”

“Remember when you changed the lighting fuses near me that night in concert? You got a shock and that probably had something to do with it.”

“You’re right. I never thought of it.”

“See? Freddie got you that miscarriage pendant necklace you wear, right?”

“Yeah.”

“John said you had a prayer box on now. Where did you get it?”

“From Brian actually. He saw it in a craft store and knew I could use it.” she yawned.

“Time for bed, darling.”

“Oh fine.” Rose got up, freeing Roger. He passed by the pictures on the wall in the hallway, stopping to admire the one from a New Year’s party in the late seventies. Freddie was grinning, Roger had his arms around Rose who was smiling broadly.

“We were going out then.”

“I know. No regrets, Roger. Ever.”

“Thanks, babe.” he hugged her and left.

**
The next day the band came into the studio as usual but Rose was already there. She had her acoustic with her and a couple of session players on violin borrowed from the studio down one floor. The makeup artist was playing Buddy Holly’s It Doesn’t Matter Anymore. Freddie’s eyes brightened up considerably seeing Rose looking so confident.

“She really is good.”

Brian’s eyes were wide as were Roger’s as they took it in. John grinned broadly as Rose sang out notes effortlessly, her fingers never missed a chord.

“Wow.” it was a short song and when it was done, Freddie got on the mike and asked her what she thought she was doing.

“Fulfilling a dream of mine, Freddie!”

The singer kept up singing that day though he had no energy left to stand. Freddie propped himself up, downed some shots, then went for the Show Must Go On. When he was done, everyone’s mouth was open and goggling at him. He had done it all in one take. John and everyone else unanimously voted that it was finally done.

“Freddie, that was incredible. You blew me away.” Rose complimented him. “I don’t know how you do it but you do.”

“Does she speak for all of you?” he chuckled. “I’m full of surprises, dearie.”

“That sums you up I think.”

“Exactly. You surprised me. Did you know how much I wanted to see you play and sing before?”

Rose looked confused. “You’ve seen me play and sing before other times. How is this any different?”

“Because you’re in the lead this time. You had your own little band. You hit every note perfectly. Did you record it?”

“I did. This is my only copy.” she handed Freddie a cassette which had been marked ROSE-BUDDY HOLLY.

“Would you play for me now?”

“On which?” the rest of the band came into the sound booth after putting away their instruments.

“Play something for me on the piano.” he requested.

“Right.” Rose settled down for a instrumental which was Moonlight Sonata.

As she played, Freddie surprised himself by letting a tear fall. “Freddie?” Brian asked quietly. “What is it?”

“She plays better than I do,” he giggled. “I had a sudden thought that this is the last time I’ll see Rose play piano.”

“You never know.” was all Brian could say.

“True.” his friend agreed.

END PART 4

Chapter Text

PART 5

FREDDIE

“And cut!” the These Are The Days Of Our Lives music video was over. Rose found it sadly sweet. Freddie sported a vest with his cats on it which Rose wanted to steal at some point. The entire band was looking pretty emotional as the video was done and Rose had to wipe her eyes a few times. Freddie’s final music video had been a very bittersweet one, particularly at the end. She had to conceal her feelings from Freddie but the others had been looking tearful.

“There you are,” John found Rose first in the makeup room as she put away her kits. “I could really use one of your lifesaving hugs right now.”

“Your eyes are a little red, hon,” Rose opened up her arms for him which he dived into. “I know, I feel the same way.” she rubbed his back, feeling a few wet spots on her blouse from his eyes. They were all trying to face the eventuality that Freddie was going to die but it took time. John was the most sensitive as Freddie had been like a brother to him. The bass player bit his lip, trying not to cry but a few tears did escape; Rose didn’t say a word, knowing that he needed a little release. She kissed her friend affectionately as there was a knock on the door.

“I didn’t know there was a line,” Roger said ruefully as he stood at the dressing room door.

“Come in and shut the door, Rog. Freddie will get mad if he sees this.” Roger agreed as he shut the door quietly. John still stayed in Rose’s arms as he needed her comfort while the drummer looked on. After a few minutes John glanced at Rose as he touched his nose to hers, making her giggle. “Will you be OK?”

“Yeah.” Rose gave him a comforting kiss. She released him, sat him down in a chair, dampened a washcloth and wiped his face briskly. “I should take this makeup off.” John found the Noxzema and went to work.

“Next?” Roger had tears streaming freely down his cheeks.

“Of course, hon. Come on.” this time Rose sat down, accepting Roger into her arms. It was strangely acceptable; John’s tears were on her left side and Roger’s on her right. Rubbing his back like she did with John, she encouraged Roger to vent his emotions. The drummer was closest to Freddie musically, both acted like brothers and liked playing around in drag. Roger was a big extrovert and when he was around, Freddie became more extroverted as well.

Rose also thought it was sweet how Roger and John had come to her in their duress. It helped her to realize just how important she had become to the band, to be their guidance and help at times. She could talk to any one of them about her problems and they would come to her with theirs. Never did she think that would happen when she first signed on. Roger clutched at her like his life depended on it for a long moment, then he relaxed his grip. Rose could tell that he’d been the one most distressed; he and Freddie were best friends. Both of them were well matched in personality, getting into shenanigans and being the life of the party.

“All right, Rog?” he sniffled some and straightened up. “How long have you been crying for? Your eyes are a little puffy.”

“Five, ten minutes.” he guessed. Rose took the washcloth from John and ran it over Roger’s face a few times. “You’ve always been like a mom to us in some ways, Rose. I thank god for you.” he reached for another hug greedily as she tightened her arms around him, feeling protective of her old friends.

“As do I.” John agreed, handing Roger the Noxzema jar.

Brian showed up with Freddie, the former making a beeline for his wife. He tackled her on the couch, prompting her to try to smack his butt a few times which made everyone laugh. “Give it to her good, Brian!” Freddie prompted as he giggled. Subconsciously Rose knew that Brian had seen Roger and John come to her all distraught for Freddie so he’d chatted with the singer for awhile and then come back to see them. Brian knew she’d help their friends alleviate their grief.

“I already felt that!” Rose yelped. “He already knocked me up, Freddie! What else can he give me? Brian can’t even bottom out with a running start!” she mocked.

“Rog, your eyes are red,” Freddie noticed. “are you OK?”

“I’m all right, Freddie. The song really touched me and I didn’t think that it would.” Roger looked drained. Freddie then noticed that John was looking the same but he didn’t say anything about it. “I need to get home and sleep. It’s been a hard day.”

“Yeah, I need the rest.” John agreed as he stood up. Brian got up, gave his pregnant wife a hand up, then the two of them bade everyone a good night.

As they left, Rose’s hand lingered on John’s shoulder, giving him an encouraging little smile. She also kissed Roger on the cheek which was her way of saying to him she was there if he wanted to talk more. John returned her smile, Roger gently chucked her under the chin affectionately.
**

Rumors kept flying about Freddie and his condition. When they accepted an award for Queen and Brian made a little thank you speech, the tabloids went nuts about Freddie not talking. Rose wasn’t there that night; she hadn’t been feeling too well and stayed home. Soon the tabloids were becoming so obtrusive and obnoxious in their obsession with Freddie that the singer went to Montreux with Brian in order to get more songs done.

“Is Rose going to join us, Brian?”

“Yeah, she should be coming in on the next flight.”

“Good. I can’t wait to see her.” he rubbed his hands together vigorously. In Montreux the population treated Freddie like he was one of them and not famous so Freddie kept coming back over the years. The singer had become enamored with the house on the lake and that was his place to escape to. Now he knew it would be the last time he ever saw the beautiful lake.

“OK have we got Mother Love ready for you? Yes we do.”

That afternoon Rose showed up ready for action. Over the three weeks that they were there, Freddie was determined to squeeze every last drop of his energy and pour it into his songs. He sang beautifully, Rose played piano for him, Brian played guitar and they had their own mini band with spaces for Roger and John to add on later.

“Know what I was thinking, Rose?” Freddie and Rose had gone for a walk near the lake. It was late summer but still warm enough for Rose to wear jean shorts and an old Queen II tour shirt.

“What?”

“Winter,” he told her happily. “I was looking at old paintings which display a winter scene and I remembered Christmas at the house.”

“Who can forget? You go all out, Freddie. The big wreath, the tree the cats climbed all over, all the gifts! I played Christmas carols, you sang, it was so wonderful. Still the snow was enchanting until you have to shovel and drive in it.”

“I wrote a song called A Winter’s Tale. I was captivated by the beauty of it all. The animals, the sky, all of it. It’s tranquility.”

“Snow keeps coming back year after year.. I love it until I drive in it.” Rose remarked as they walked to the edge of the public dock. Brian saw the both of them standing there and snapped a photo. “For me it’s the water that’s cleansing, Freddie. It washed away my sins and left me feeling rejuvenated.” the wind tousled her hair a little bit so her curls framed her face.

“You look so pretty today.” Freddie took her hand as they started walking back to the house where Brian was waiting for them.

“I’m pretty every day, Freddie!” she protested, ignoring his giggling.

“What month are you in?”

“Only my second,” Rose put her hand on her stomach. “don’t rush it.”

“Sorry, love.” he smiled.

“You have such a bright light in your eyes, Freddie. Every time I look at you I can see your soul.”

“I can see yours too. Did I ever tell you how much I love you?”

“Not in words but gestures over the years,” Freddie opened up the door and ushered her in. “you insisted that I get help after my suicide attempt which was an obvious sign you love and care about me. There’s the little ways you trust me, etc, and everyone can see how much we love each other as friends. I had no love or friends before I met you guys now it’s like the band is my family.”

“You’re the mother figure, sweetheart,” Freddie said in a husky tone. “I couldn’t have done it alone.”

They sat there for about twenty minutes then Brian stood in the doorway, seeing his wife and friend relaxing together on the couch. Freddie had Rose in his arms, cheek pressed to her head.

“Hey Bri,” Freddie noticed the guitar player standing there.

“Shh. She fell asleep.”

“Did she? Can you grab me paper and pen? I have an idea.” Freddie penned a song right there and then about Rose as she slept. “I call it Sleeping Rose. We’ll record it tomorrow.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“When she lived with me, Brian, she discovered how much I like to cuddle. Rose had depression a lot and I would cuddle with her on her bed during those long nights she couldn’t sleep. With me there she could at least sleep for around six hours which was better than nothing.”

“Now I know where she got it from.”

“Does she cuddle with you too?”

“Yeah a lot. I was never that big on it until I met her.”

**

Freddie steadily grew weaker and in the last week of October he called Rose and asked her to come over so he could discuss something with her. Brian was out with his dad, the others were preoccupied with their young families so she gladly went out to see her old friend.

The singer looked even more gaunt than when she had seen him last in Montreux almost a month ago. Miko went into the living room first followed by the makeup artist who found Freddie sitting on the couch in the living room. “What’s up, Freddie?” she sat down next to him as the cat jumped into her lap.

“You studied medicine, I remember so I wanted to ask you what your opinion is on the AIDS drugs they use right now.”

“Honestly the disease isn’t well known, it’s not studied enough. It’s the best we have for now. New research is being done every day.”

“I don’t think that it’s enough. I made the choice to stop all drugs except the painkillers.” Freddie watched her for her reaction.

“You’d do what, Freddie? Stop the drugs? Oh, Freddie.”

“It’s my choice,” he defended. “they aren’t doing anything but messing with my head.”

“Is that where the song came from?”

“It is.” he grinned.

“You’ll forgive me, Freddie, but this is very hard for me.” she bit her lips. “I know you don’t want us to show any emotion as it makes it hard for you but..”

“No buts. I know how you feel.” Freddie was a bit too dismissive in his statement and Rose was stung.

“No, you don’t. You don’t know how I feel, Freddie, watching the best friend who knows me inside and out, who has seen me through so much and asks very little in return, look so sick then tell me he wasn’t taking his medicine anymore!” Rose snapped. “You don’t understand how excruciatingly painful mentally it is to see someone you love and respect with your entire being wasting away!”

Freddie was shocked as Rose put her face in her hands. “I want you here with us, Freddie! I want you to hold my son when he’s born! I want you to grow old with us, to enjoy those golden years ahead! Hell, I want you whole, hearty, cheerful! In spite of what you may think I can still be emotional and strong for you so let’s get rid of the whole ‘no emotions’ injunction.”

“Rose...”

“I love you, Freddie. With all I have in me. I know you have a hard road ahead and I will help you in any way that I can,” she interrupted. “me and Jim will advocate for you.”

“I don’t know what to say now,” he sighed. “how did such an angel come into my life?” Freddie’s eyes teared up. “I know you, Roger and John were upset at the last music video. I heard Roger cry a little bit after it. I did not want to lose my composure and it would have been hell for me if I did.”

“Why are you so hard on yourself?” Rose fidgeted, pulling at the cuff of her pink gingham shirt.

“Because once I lose control I tire myself out too easily.”

“Freddie, we’ve all been grieving for you. The loss of the person that you once were.” Rose’s eyes spilled over. “I know you don’t want me to cry but that’s all I can do. That’s all I know how to react when anyone breaks my heart!”

The singer’s eyes spilled out a couple of tears as well as he hugged his friend to him. “There you go breaking my heart. I never did like to see a pretty girl cry.”

“You charmer you.”

“But I won’t be in pain anymore.”

“I want what’s best for you. We all do.”

“Then all I want is a release from this illness. Jim is going to help me but I want you there too, love. He’ll need a break from time to time and you can spell him.”

“I’d love to, darling.”

“I’m blessed to have you with me,” he kissed her hand. “I promise you even when I’m gone in body my soul will be with all of you.”

“How will I know?”

“You’ll know.” Freddie teased. “Jim will give you a call when he wants you to come over and help out with me.”

“All right. I better get back.”

“Tell the band my choice-I am sure that you will.” he walked her to the door.

“There’s one thing I want you to do for me,” Rose turned to face him as she opened up the screen door. Freddie picked up Miko to prevent him escaping.

“Tell me, love.”

“Just please don’t go without saying goodbye,” she nearly whispered it but Freddie understood her perfectly.

“My word on it, lovie.” he promised. “Now go out and have fun! Enjoy this beautiful day!”

**

“John or Roger?” Rose mused, picking up her brand new car phone. “Roger?”

“Hello, Rose!” Roger’s bright cheerful voice reached her ear. “What is new?”

“I’m a little upset and need someone to vent to. Brian’s out of town with his dad.”

“Sure, Rose. Come on over!” the drummer met Rose’s car as she pulled up. “You do look upset. What is it?”

“I’ll tell you inside in case any media is lurking in the bushes.” Roger showed her in, Rose sprawled out on his couch then told him what Freddie told her. “He’s decided to go off his medicine except for the pain stuff.”

“He’ll certainly die!” Roger sat next to her.

“He knows all of that, Rog. I got emotional which he didn’t like too much. My frustrations came out.”

“What did he say?”

“He was quiet, then he called me an angel. I made him promise me one little thing.”

“Which was?”

“That he say goodbye to me before he goes.” Roger was moved. “I love him so much, Roger. I love all of you guys and I just can’t bear to be apart from any of you.”

“That emotion is more than reciprocated, Rose.” the drummer hugged her as she sniffled. “He’s trying to process all of this himself. I’m going to call John and let him know about this right now. Anything else we need to know about?”

“Freddie’s going to want me to come in and help care for him when the time comes. I’ll do that gladly.”

“You are an angel.” Roger reached for his phone.

The next two and a half weeks came and went. Brian spent a lot of time with his ailing father, came home for several days, enough to get caught up on what was going on with Freddie. He listened to his wife’s account for Freddie’s state, comforted her, then asked her what was going on with their child.

“Well I have an appointment today to get an ultrasound of the wee one.” the makeup artist put on tan chinos, ankle boots, and her old black and rose print top. “You can come if you want. I’m just making sure that the little guy is healthy enough.”

“Of course I’m coming with you!” Brian took Rose’s hand, went out to the car, and drove to the doctor’s office. Rose had to complete at least three different intake forms which took up too much time in her opinion as they could have called her at home and done it then. The couple were shown back to the ultrasound room, Rose had to expose her pelvis, tuck in some paper towels over her shirt and pants so they didn’t get stained, and wait.

“Nervous?” Brian teased. He sat in an uncomfortable vinyl chair opposite the machine. The entire room was very dark, nearly pitch black for that theatrical effect, he supposed.

“No. I’m fine, it’s just the interloper in my downstairs you put in there that needs attention apparently.” she flippantly told him, making him giggle. Brian took her hand as they waited, turning it over and tracing the vein lines, her scars from the accident years ago still stood out. There was a white line over the underside of each wrist from her suicide attempt and Brian still shuddered over the entire incident.

“Bitch.” he teased.

“Yeah.” the technician came into the room, made a redundant statement about why they were here, then began the test. Rose had the gel liberally splattered on her pelvis, the tech pressed down insanely hard on her at times which made her very uncomfortable.

“So the end result here?” Brian prodded.

“Looks like everything checks out fine here on this end.” the tech told them. “It looks like you are about ten weeks.”

“Sounds appropriate.” Rose began to mop off her pelvis but handed the towel to Brian, saying that he put the little one in her so he could clean her up. Giggling he obediently did so, getting all the gel off of her, then chucked the towel at her playfully.

“Let’s go.” she buttoned up her pants, pulled her shirt down, then they walked to the car.

“How is it they show us that on the screen and you’re still so tiny down there?” Brian poked at her belly, started up the car then began to drive home.

“Well for starters my junk has already expanded a bit it’s just not visible right now. The day will come when my internal organs are being ground to a pulp and I can’t fucking breathe.”

“Right. Why do you look so sad all of a sudden?”

“I told Freddie I wanted him around to hold my son.”

“We can’t tell the sex yet.”

“Figure of speech. I want a boy anyway.”

“I wouldn’t mind another boy.” Brian admitted.

When they got home, Brian got Rose into a front to back hug, making her drop her purse on the end table in the hallway and go into the living room. “You’re affectionate all of a sudden.”

“I was reminded that there’s another person in the room.”

“You mean in my room.” she laughed. Brian picked up Rose and spun her around once. “It’s been awhile since we had sex. How about we take some time for us?”

“You’re on.”

“No, you’re on… me!” Rose hightailed it into the bedroom where she took off her top. “Come on there, Bri. Freddie always said you had a big one so let’s see.”

“You don’t know after all these years?” he pretended shock.

“All I know is that you made me come every single time so that’s enough. Come on then.” Brian stood in front of her and undid her pants.

“No need to worry about getting you pregnant,” he teased with a silly grin. “let’s take it up a notch.”

**

Brian came home one afternoon from visiting his now terminally ill father at the hospice where his mother had put him. He wanted Rose to talk to and have her comfort him some but she was nowhere to be seen. The guitar player went into the kitchen where he spied a message from her on the dry erase board in the hallway. “Brian, gone out to do a grocery run. Home soon. XX.”

Emotionally drained for the time being, Brian sacked out on the couch as the 2 PM sun shone down on him. No need for a blanket as the sun warmed him up enough to relax his tired body and before he knew it, he was falling asleep.

“So I guess we all know why we’re here today,” Brian blinked to see he was sitting in a chapel wearing a dark suit and was beside Roger and John. To his surprise he saw Rose up at the podium wearing black skirt and tights with a yellow top. Yellow was Freddie’s favorite color, he remembered. “to mourn our dearly loved friend and family member Farrokh Bulsara, otherwise known as Freddie Mercury.”

A redwood casket sat primly in front of Rose with a funeral garland of yellow flowers on top of it. John and Roger were wearing golden yellow ties in tribute to their late friend and Brian was as well. Sunlight filtered down form the stained glass windows right over the casket which made him think for a minute that the redwood actually was stained glass.

Rose gave an elegant and short eulogy as Freddie’s family were practicing Zoroastrians and their representative were standing by. When Brian’s wife was done, everyone gave her courteous applause as she found her way back to her seat.

Freddie’s body was taken to be cremated in his family’s faith. As Brian saw his casket being loaded into the retort he thought he saw Freddie’s eyes open wide and he distinctly heard him screaming for Brian.

“Brian!” Rose’s voice seemed to echo. “I’m here, babe!”

What? But she was in mourning standing right in front of him not saying a word. “Brian!”

“Ugh..,” he moaned. “Freddie..”

“Hon, wake up!” his hand was grabbed which made Brian recoil in horror, eyes wide open and gasping for air like he’d run a marathon. Rose loomed over him looking concerned, her hand on his hands. “Bri! It’s all right, honey!”

“God.. Freddie!” Brian choked out which made him start coughing.

“Bri, sit up.” Rose hauled him into a sitting position and rubbed his back until his coughing fit stopped. “Come on, let’s relax now. Take a deep breath.”

“Damn,” Brian turned towards Rose, still trying to get his breathing back under control. “I dreamt that Freddie was dead..”

“Bri, that’s a certainty but it hasn’t happened yet. I need you to get your breathing back down.” he tried but Brian was too panic stricken and in shock for his respirations to ease. “This isn’t going to work. You need something stronger I think.”

“Huh?”

“I learned this when I was in therapy,” Rose made him go into the bedroom, take his shoes off and lie down. “Shut your eyes now. Slow deep breaths. Inhale and let it out slowly. Count to 4 as you slowly exhale and you’ll be more in control.”

“Right.” Rose lay down next to him, taking his hand and putting it on her waist.

“Keep doing it when you feel stressed and you’ll calm down.” was all she said. “It’s almost 5 and I have to start supper.”

“Did you get what I like?” Brian tickled her a little bit, sliding his hand down underneath her waistband.

“I got your rabbit food,” she teased as she got up. “excuse me. Keep working on your deep breathing.”

“All right.” Brian was drifting towards a zen mode where he let his mind free to wander on any thought it cared to. When supper was ready he gave his wife a big kiss and a goose on her butt as thanks.

“Someone’s in a better mood.”

That evening the couple was sitting on the couch watching TV. Brian was stretched out at one end with Rose opposite him. She had her legs in his lap, her upper body propped up by a couple of pillows. The guitar player glanced over at her, noticing to his private disappointment that Rose still wasn’t showing any signs externally of her pregnancy at all. She was as thin as a rail like she always was.

Rose caught sight of him looking at her. “What?”

“I’m just checking you over,” he teased. “you’re what, 2 months now?”

“Actually in two weeks it’ll be 3 months,” she corrected him. “are you looking for a swelling?”

“Yeah.”

Rose laughed. “Before when we were broken up did you ever notice my swelling then?”

“Nope. Though one time I thought I saw something. Remember when we were on tour and I wasn’t feeling well? I saw you putting makeup on John’s face, you bent over, straightened up, then I thought I saw something under your shirt. Never said anything as I thought that would start something I couldn’t finish.”

“You finished it all right,” Rose guffawed. “and again.”

“Touche. Come on up here with me, sexy.” he cuddled her up in an embrace. “I can’t wait until we have our new addition.”

“Me neither. Then my body can return to its normal configuration.” the phone rang. Rose reached for the extension and muttered a hello. “Hi, Jim. Oh. Yeah.. yep. Of course I can come over. It’s the least I can do, Jim. Freddie’s been so wonderful to me. I love him like a brother. When do you want me?”

Brian listened but he couldn’t hear Jim over the phone. “Tomorrow morning? Sure. Can Brian visit too? Uh huh. OK. Will do. Bye, Jim.” she hung up. “Freddie’s numbering his last days, Bri. He wants all of us there tomorrow. I’m going to stay with him until the end.”

“Oh god,” Brian’s eyes filled up. “it’s too much.”

“I know. I was feeling overwhelmed myself until I talked to Roger.”

“What did Rogerina have to say?”

“He said to only worry about what I can control. I can’t control your dad or Freddie. I just want my old friend to have what’s best for him.”

“Good advice. I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

“Right. Time for bed.” the couple retired to bed, knowing it would be the last time they shared a bed for another week or so. Brian woke up once during the night as a thunderstorm shook the house. To his amazement Rose never woke up. She loved thunderstorms a lot and must have been really tired to sleep through it.

Of course she was tired, Brian reminded himself. She was building another life which was pretty draining in itself.

**

The next day all of the bandmembers were gathered in Freddie’s house as Rose brought in her suitcase, remembering the last time she stayed with Freddie. John was at her elbow as Jim courteously brought the suitcase in the room she’d stayed in last time, shooing away the cats. Roger sat down at the piano, Brian on the couch. The whole band hadn’t seen each other in several weeks so it was like a small reunion.

“Time to start being useful.” Rose straightened herself up, wearing Freddie’s favorite color, a creamy yellow skirt and a green top. “Jim, do you need anything?”

“You can bring the others into Freddie’s room.” she marshaled them all in.

Everyone was momentarily taken aback by Freddie’s appearance. He was sitting up in bed and the room looked more like a hospital room than anything else. The singer was connected to an IV line with a saline and morphine drip. Freddie was alert though his appearance had deteriorated so he looked more fragile than anything else.

“How is everyone?” he started to engage his friends in conversation as Jim motioned to Rose. “Where are you going, love?”

“Getting settled in here that’s all. It’ll be a few minutes.” she left the room, joining Jim in the kitchen. “So what’s the lowdown? I bet I can guess.”

“Pretty much what you think,” Jim handed her a drink. “the doctor says he’s on borrowed time and this place has turned into a hospice really. I think that we need to start planning ahead.”

“Of course. Does he have a will?”

“Yeah. He’s left it to you. All of it. Freddie left you a personal letter to be opened after he’s gone. The band is seeing him for the last time.” Jim tried to be gentle but still the words still hurt. Rose expected it though. She made her mind up to tell the band before they left. “We can split up the cats if you like and decide what happens to the property.”

“I think there should be a permanent exhibition in Montreux, Freddie’s favorite place. But cross that bridge when we get there. How’s his schedule now?”

“Freddie usually wakes up around 5:30 or 6 AM, he’ll chat for an hour or two, try to watch a movie or listen to music, then his pain flares up around 10 AM. He uses a lot of morphine when it gets bad so he spends a lot of time under the influence so he’s in a drug induced lethargy all afternoon. He’s more himself when the sun goes down.”

“Freddie the vampire,” Rose muttered with a half smile on her face. “he always was about the nighttime anyway. Is there a cot or can we move the chaise lounge next to his bed? I want to sleep near him.”

“Yeah, there’s plenty of room for that,” Jim was so warm and friendly. “there’s a chaise lounge already in there I think.”

In Freddie’s room the singer was talking about their heyday in the seventies. “John I always thought that you had a crush on Rose.”

“Not me actually. Before Rose and Brian became involved we took a walk in the woods to see if there was anything between us,” John began. “we kissed but neither one of us felt anything special for each other.”

“Really?” Freddie was amused. “I never knew. You two were always affectionate. Is it more of a brother-sister dynamic?”

“Yep,” Rose put her arms around John for a moment. “that never changed.” she gave John a kiss on the cheek happily as he turned a little pink. “The person who did have a crush on me was this guy!” the makeup artist sat down beside Roger on the lounge, batting her eyelashes and making a kissyface. Roger kissed her on the cheek as he colored red.

“I’m not surprised. Roger is a sucker for a pretty face.”

“Damn right, Freddie! You’re all my sweethearts; you’ve been so welcoming and warm to me from day one. I love you all. We’re family.”

“You’re so right, love,” Freddie extended his hand. “we may have our differences but we’re there for each other in spirit.” Rose was the closest so she took Freddie’s hand, then Roger’s so they were all interconnected.

“Before we get hopelessly maudlin who remembers the time that Rose got a little ambitious and decided to paint Freddie’s face when he was sleeping backstage?” Brian remembered. “She did a really good job!”

“Oh that!” Freddie did indeed wake up with garish makeup all over his face. “The colors were all wrong and she gave me a unibrow!”

“Those were fashionable in ancient Greece!” the entire band started laughing. It wasn’t enough that Rose had done his makeup so he looked like a girl but she had put his hair in braids with polka dotted elastics.

“Who remembers Freddie’s nail polish phase?” John giggled. “It looked so odd!”

“I got in on that one with the white stuff.” Brian admitted. “I could only paint my left hand! Rose how do you do it?”

“I taught myself how. After awhile I started getting manicures so it looked better.”

After about an hour of talking the pain started to show on Freddie’s face. Rose noticed immediately and checked his morphine drip. “You’re out of the continuous flow IV style morphine as all you have now are the syringes. Jim, what’s his usual dose?”

“About 50 mg,” Jim answered. “you have experience in these matters I understand?”

“Yes I do. I’ve had to give injections before.” Rose answered. She selected one of the prefilled morphine syringes, picked up Freddie’s hand as the IV catheter was in the back, and injected the medication into his vein. “It’ll take a few minutes.”

“Rose the faithful nurse,” Roger dubbed her. “when I was sick when we dated she’d give me hell for disobeying her for anything.”

“She did that to me too,” Brian agreed. “when she doesn’t get her way she gets angry.”

“Her anger is impressive.”

“How so, John? She didn’t nurse you did she?”

“Before I met my wife I had my tonsils out and it was very painful. Rose would order me to bed and ban me from moving. I got fidgety what can I say? She was an excellent nurse.”

**

When Freddie drifted off the other bandmembers took their leave. Rose followed Brian and John out to their cars, giving each one a kiss goodbye. “I have a feeling that this is the last time you’ve seen Freddie alive. Jim thinks so too.”

“My friend..” John’s eyes were very bright. Brian looked grim.

“The only thing I think of is for you three to issue a statement when the time comes. The press will want something from all of you.”

“We will be thinking of that.”

“Good boys. I’ll keep in touch.” they left the house as Roger came up to his old friend. “Having a late word with Freddie?”

“Yeah.” he put his sunglasses on. “I’ll tell you later.”

“OK. I’ll call you guys when there’s an update.”

Roger gave Rose a long hug, her skirt rustling in the wind. “Don’t neglect yourself. Freddie won’t let you. Remember you have another person to think of.” he pressed his hand to her stomach.

“Oh, the Roger Taylor who once said that he didn’t understand why everyone kept touching me there?” she took the piss out of him for that remark. The drummer laughed for a moment, swung into his car, then told her he’d be thinking of them. “Bye, Rog.”

Rose went into the house which was full of memories for her. Christmases Freddie would come in at any time, often wearing a Santa hat, bellowing out carols and telling her to join in. The makeup artist celebrated Halloween, drawing Freddie into the history of the holiday and how it came to be. Freddie couldn’t get over how much Rose was in demand the week before Halloween. When they were in town, Rose was called by at least two different volunteer organizations asking her if she wanted to lead spirit tours. She always said yes, departed the house at 5 PM, never returning until after midnight.

Sitting at the piano she reflected a bit more, remembering Freddie surprised her one Valentine’s day when she was feeling lonely with several roses and he’d taken her out to supper that night. Freddie was such a free spirit, a sweet person, and a hell of a showman. Rose began playing on the piano idly, not using any particular tune but choosing a tempo and a few chords.

By nighttime Freddie hadn’t roused from his morphine stupor so Rose bunked down on the chaise lounge so she could be near him. Jim was touched by her gesture, knowing that they were great friends and she would do anything for the singer.

The makeup artist was roused a little bit by someone taking her hand. “It’s after midnight, Freddie.” Jim spoke low to avoid disturbing Rose.

“Rose has been there for us since Queen II,” Freddie could not believe it had been that long. “how many thousands of times has she put makeup on me and the others? Did you know I saved her life not once but twice?”

“I had no idea.” from the way Freddie spoke of her Jim knew that they were very tight as friends and he considered her a sister.

“The first time was a mental health crisis,” he turned her hand over, his fingers tracing her scars. “poor thing could have died that night. The other time she came down sick with appendicitis. She scared us badly on that time, Jim. Her post surgery care was bungled and she had infection. John and I walk in to find her in bad pain as the surgeon had to clean out her incision. Roger and Brian were trying to distract her from the pain so she’d stay conscious but that didn’t work. She passed out cold which scared us; I’ll never forget that moment in time. It seems like that was the collective moment we all realized Rose wasn’t superhuman like we tended to think. The doctor advised us to leave for a little bit and take a few minutes as she wouldn’t be awake for awhile but John wouldn’t leave her alone. She hadn’t awakened when we got back either.”

“She seems like a very strong woman, Freddie. What do the other bandmembers think of her? Besides Brian I mean.”

“She is. John and Rose have an affectionate friendship I would say. The two of them have no romantic chemistry between them but John doesn’t hesitate to pull her into his arms for a hug or cuddle as we know she likes it. She dated Roger for two years which was fun for both of them and helped him get through a few hard times. Both of them were so funny, energetic, and they loved a wild good time. Roger has a wandering eye so they parted ways romantically but it was amicable. Now she has the same relationship with him as she does with John. Brian, well you know the story. She gave him her heart which he eventually accepted.” Rose shifted and opened up one eye slightly.

“Freddie..” she said in a sleepy whisper which Freddie always liked to hear.

“Come up on the bed with me, darling,” he invited. Rose sleepily moved herself up onto Freddie’s king sized bed. “Shh, go back to sleep,” he said like in the old days. When she and Freddie had shared rooms with any other of the bandmembers someone would always manage to wake her up and Freddie would say the same thing. “sleep, love.” the singer moved a few strands of her hair away from her closed eyelids as Jim spread a blanket over her.

With a smile Freddie snuggled up to his old friend, his hand on hers. Rose had been the one he could always turn to whenever he was troubled before he met Jim and even though he was dying he knew that he would always be there for them. The singer leaned over enough to kiss his old friend on the cheek, putting one hand on her stomach. She and Brian would make wonderful parents, he knew.
**

After a few days of nursing Freddie he’d finally decided to end speculation about his condition. He was brought to a press conference where he released a statement and took no questions. Jim and Rose were there to support him and they were badgered by the media but Rose just said “No comment.”

In the early morning of November 24 Rose could not sleep. She was restless so she decided to get up for the day. Jim was with Freddie showing him the artwork on the wall; Freddie having desired to see them. Jim’s strong and loving arms brought Freddie back to his bed as Rose pulled the covers up for him.

“Do you want some more morphine, sweetheart?” Rose readied another syringe. Freddie weakly nodded, one thin hand snaked out and held hers. The makeup artist knew in her gut that it was the end. Freddie’s light was barely flickering. From Jim’s expression he knew it too.

“So many things I want to say,” she injected him. “you have been the best friend I have ever had. I can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for me. I love you so much, Freddie.”

“Take care of everyone for me. Especially with the new arrival. I will be with all of you always. I love you too, sweet angel.” Freddie drew a breath, brushed one hand against Rose’s belly, told Jim he loved him, then kissed Rose on the cheek for the last time. She immediately returned it, biting back tears as Jim gave her an encouraging look. A lone tear fell on his hand as he gripped hers and Jim’s. Freddie shed a few tears himself then closed his eyes.

In a trance, Rose and Jim watched Freddie fall asleep. Neither one of them moved from his side for about fifteen minutes, then around 6 AM Jim and Rose noticed that Freddie wasn’t breathing any more. Jim was already in tears as Rose applied her fingers to the pulse in Freddie’s wrist, then checked the one in his neck. Nothing. The makeup artist looked over at Jim then nodded silently.

“You can start making arrangements now if you want,” Rose said quietly. “oh Freddie. It was too soon.” she took out the IV catheter in the back of his hand, now not needing to bandage it at all. Jim took the cordless phone out into the hall as he noted the time.

Rose removed the medical apparatus from the room, trashed the IV bag and threw the used syringes into a small sharps container. Freddie’s body was lying still in the bed so Rose rearranged him a little bit, pulling the blankets up to his waist, folding his arms, etc. The entire process took about an hour and Jim was still on the phone with the funeral home.

A little later on Rose heard a car pulling up in the driveway so she went down to see who it was. Roger had just gotten out of the car and was walking up the front path when she met him outside the door. The drummer took one look at her, noting how there were shadows under her eyes, her eyes themselves were dim, and she looked like she hadn’t slept all night. She was still wearing her red and black checked pajama pants with a News Of The World t-shirt and black clogs.

“What happened?” Roger demanded, taking her shoulder, his blue eyes instantly alight with fear. “Is it-did he-?” Rose just nodded, her eyes filling up. Roger took off his sunglasses, his eyes teared up as well. Wordlessly he accepted her embrace as they stayed out in the garden for several minutes alone. Roger cried, his breath hitching every now and then. Rose steered him over to the deck chair as Roger wiped his eyes and looked up at his old friend.

“How was it he-”

“In his sleep, hon. Freddie was aware he was not going to wake up. He had a sweet look of acceptance and peace on his face as he died.” Rose tried to soften the blow but she didn’t think Roger would buy it. “We need to look after each other and help Jim out.”

“When did he go?” Roger allowed his friend to dab the tears away from his face.

“Half an hour ago. I gave him his last shot of morphine and he died in his sleep. My best friend is gone now. There’s no one here to call me darling or lovie anymore.” Rose closed her eyes and hung her head. Roger hugged her, rubbing her back.

“You don’t seem as broken up about it as I am.” he noted wryly.

“I saw him go, Roger. It was sad of course, but I am so relieved he’s free of pain now. I do believe he’s always with us.” Roger smiled at Rose tearfully as they went inside to escape the cold.

“Rose? Hi, Roger. The phone’s free.” Jim handed Rose the cordless.

“Thanks, Jim,” she keyed in a number. “John? Yeah, it’s me. Freddie’s gone. He died in his sleep at 6 AM. Funeral’s in two days. I’ll keep you updated.”

“Was John upset?” Rose hung up as Roger sat at the piano, picking up one of the cats for comfort. Delilah the cat meowed but nudged Roger’s hand as he began to stroke her fur. John’s voice had cracked almost as soon as he answered, knowing that it would not be good news. He had guessed what had happened like Roger did but held it together while he was on the phone.

“Oh yeah. His wife will need to be super comforting. John’s pretty fragile when his emotions are concerned.”

“Don’t forget to call your husband.”

“Right.” she called Brian and broke the bad news to him. He was completely inconsolable for a few moments then said he would be right over.

**

“Guys we have to do this,” Rose sat on the arm of the sofa next to Roger with a legal pad in her lap. “I know we don’t want to but we need to.”

“You’re so damn right all the time,” Brian half teased. “how should we do it?”

“Short and sweet,” John tore his draft off the pad of paper and handed it to Rose. “I vote someone other than me saying it.”

“All right. I vote you, Rose,” Brian turned towards his wife. “you seem to have some real fortitude right now. I’d just fall apart. I don’t think we men could stand it.”

“Roger?”

“I vote you.” the drummer had been unusually quiet. Rose perused what John wrote.

“It’s good, John. I’ll read this out.”

“Let’s go then.” the remaining three bandmembers stood up as Rose tucked the paper into her black blazer pocket. Everyone was ready to go as the media had already set up a podium for them. Brian stood behind his wife, John and Roger each had one of her hands. “Ready?”

“Ready.”

Rose hadn’t been so nervous since Live Aid. Flashbulbs went off, the press junkets howled for news as the makeup artist clutched at her friends’ hands. The statement prepared, Rose read it out in a clear voice:

“Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, has died today at 6:05 AM. It is confirmed that he died of the disease called AIDS. I, Rose May, was present at his death today and I can affirm that Freddie died without pain in his sleep. His funeral will be private, friends and family only. In lieu of flowers we all ask for donations to be sent to the local foundation for AIDS research in the hopes that we find a cure for this horrible disease. On behalf of Brian, John, and Roger, thank you all and god bless you, Freddie.”

The four went back into the house without accepting any questions. John slid the sliding glass door shut which sealed them off from the outside world. Brian sank onto the couch with Roger as Rose exhaled loudly, putting one hand on the piano for support, other hand over her heart.

“Are you all right?” the bass player asked her.

“Yes, John. Now I can let go of the nervousness!” she seized Miko and hugged the cat. “Brian are you averse to adopting Miko here?”

“Not at all,” he scratched the cat’s head. “seems friendly enough.”

“Jim’s taking the other ones. Miko always slept with me at night when I lived here.”

“Erm Rose, did the funeral director collect the body yet?”

“I think so. Anyway I arranged Freddie’s body as if he was just asleep,” her eyes darkened. “you can go up and say your final goodbyes.”

“I want to remember him like he was in life.” Roger firmly said. Nodding in agreement were Brian and John. None of the men could believe that Rose took care of Freddie’s body after he died, deeming it a taboo to touch a dead person.

“Now what?”

“We should start gathering Freddie’s costumes for the exhibit at Montreux.” Jim piped in quietly. He led the way to Freddie’s closet; the bandmembers being quietly glad that the body had been retrieved. It took several hours but they parceled up the costumes neatly and sent them on their way.

The two days before the funeral passed in a blur to Rose and everyone else. They began to sort through Freddie’s belongings, claiming what they wanted and so on. Jim produced the letter Freddie had written to his friend about a week before he died. The makeup artist read it and passed it around the others.

“Dear darling Rose;

“I know I have little time left on this world and my life has been considerably richer since I met you all those years ago when we were doing Queen II. I can never put into words just how much you mean to us so I’ll just choose to write on the most vivid memories I have.

“I believe that the depression and resulting crisis has been done already so I’ll move to the other one that comes to mind. Your miscarriage. Regrettably I wasn’t around much to comfort you but that’s when John and Roger came to mind. I’m proud of them for helping you through your ordeal. I didn’t know what to say so I kept a little distance, trying to distract Brian and prevent him from asking too many questions. I was ‘running interference’ as you like to say.

“The other incident that comes to mind was when you came down deathly sick on our holiday. You scared all of us darling, and we were so worried about you. I never thought that you’d be in such dire straits. None of us ever wanted you to be in such a condition yet it happened. Did Brian tell you that we came to see you right after your surgery? I didn’t like seeing you look so lifeless; I don’t think any of us did.

“Your postoperative (did I spell that right?) recovery was botched; I spoke with Roger after and he was as shocked as I was. We were all stunned that you fainted in front of us. Something that hasn’t happened since that I know about. You mean so much to us and me personally.

“Lovie, one of my greatest rewards was seeing you come into your own as a competent singer and musician. I hold Live Aid as one of the greatest successes the band has ever had. You helped to make it extraordinary. Being onstage with you was a great thrill and I knew you had it in you.

“I can’t thank you enough for your attention to me during my last years. Always watching me but never questioning my choices. None of the band did. The way they rallied around me made me thank my lucky stars I ever met such wonderful men that could have been my brothers(especially Roger!). Please look after them for me; you’ll never find such men like them.

“Brian knows of a special song off the official record that I wrote and recorded just for you. It’s called Sleeping Rose and I wrote it when I was watching you sleep in Montreux. You’re so pretty when you sleep; you look so quiet and serene. I’m sure the whole band would agree with me on that front.

“As my will can tell you, I leave you all everything. You and the band with Jim can divvy up my possessions as you see fit, look after my cats, etc. My family gets a share of my royalties as well, and my final wish is for you and Brian to take the touring piano. The one we used everywhere. We know the piano well my dear.

“Never forget how much I love you all. I will be with all of you always. Carry on the band without me if you wish. John, Roger, Brian, look after Rose for me. When she gets quiet and withdrawn then you want to ask after her. Sometimes she makes the job easier by telling you but it’s not often that it happens.

“I will be with you all my friends. My darling Rose, keep yourself well and welcome your child with Brian. I know it will have a happy life. I will see you all in your dreams.

“Yours forever, Freddie M.”

Rose bowed her head for a long moment, then looked up at the house Freddie left her, seemingly taken back in time to the night when she first arrived on his doorstep. She would never forget how he’d taken her in, seen her through one of the lowest and worst moments in her life and given her the unconditional support that she really needed.

Three pairs of eyes watched her. John could tell that she was looking at the house but not really seeing it in her mind’s eye. Roger bit his lip as he handed the letter back to Rose who put it on top of the piano. Brian put it back in the envelope, knowing that Rose saved sentimental objects so Freddie’s letter would be the prize in the collection so far.

“Rose?” Brian stood up and held his hand out to her. “It’s time.”

“How am I going to get through this,” she muttered, standing up, accepting her husband’s hand.

“With the grace and poise of a lady,” Roger stood up. All of the men were wearing black suits, Rose wore black knee length skirt, tights, pumps and blazer, though to honor Freddie, she was wearing a yellow top. The makeup artist had applied a little eyeshadow, dark pink lipstick, twisted her hair back into a chignon, showing off her yellow disc earrings.

Just like she had on the day of Freddie’s death to give the press statement, Rose took Roger and John’s hands with Brian behind her, and they all went to see Freddie off.

Freddie had been cremated according to his family’s faith so there was a small urn on a podium with a big picture of their late friend. Freddie’s family conducted the service in his faith so rather than feeling nervous about it Rose found neither she or any other of her friends could understand it. Towards the end the guests formed a line to bid their goodbyes to Freddie.

“I’ll go last.” the bandmembers formed a protective circle around Rose as they approached the podium. The Bulsaras eyed them for a moment then Freddie’s mom gave a little smile.

“Mrs. May?” she asked in a pleasant voice.

“Yes, Mrs. Bulsara. I’m so sorry for your loss.” she included an acknowledging nod to Mr. Bulsara and Kashmira, Freddie’s sister who smiled and nodded back.

“Thank you my dear. Freddie always talked about your four in the highest regards. Anyway in his will he’s entrusted you with his remains.”

Rose turned a little pale which caused John to stare at her in alarm. “He did?”

“Yes he did. He said that you would know what to do for him and make sure that he rests in peace. May I ask what you will do with him?”

“He wanted privacy so I’ll do that. I am thinking of a small memorial park for the public with a monument to him.”

“That sounds lovely, dear,” Mrs. Bulsara gave her a reassuring smile. “keep us informed?”

“Of course, Mrs. Bulsara.”

“Please, call me Jer. Will you all be attending the reception?”

“Are we, guys?”

“I’m afraid not,” Brian spoke up. “we have a few projects we want to finish up for Freddie and give a memorial concert for him, send him off in style.”

Chapter Text

PART 6

Rose and the rest of the band, along with Miami created the Mercury Phoenix Trust which was dedicated to AIDS recognition and fighting the illness worldwide. The band worked on the idea of a charity concert which grew exponentially. They concocted a list of celebrity guests to sing some of Freddie’s songs; Brian came up with the idea that Rose should bookend the show. She would sing the first and the last songs while the guests filled in the rest of it.

“I like that idea.” the makeup artist sat back in her chair, putting her hand on the edge of the table. She had grown a little bit and sported a small lump in her figure but never complained of her uncomfortable condition.

“How long has it been now, Rose?” Roger shot a furtive glance in her direction, knowing that she didn’t like to have people stare at her figure.

“About five months all said and done.”

John waited until Brian was out of the room and asked her how he was holding up. “Brian’s father died two weeks ago that’s why he was incommunicando for that time frame.”

“Damn.”

“I know, Roger.”

“But you were here with us, right?”

“Yeah I was. Brian’s parents didn’t like me, John. They thought I was some siren luring Brian into show business instead of astrophysics. He was already well established in show business when I met him but that didn’t factor into the equation with them. They liked his ex too much; she wasn’t of show biz stock like I am so it makes one angry to think about it. Brian had to go and be the good boy for awhile to support his mom which I get, but then he has to support me and the new arrival. Or impending arrival.”

“You still could have gone with him.”

“And risk his mom being a bitch? I don’t think so. That’s the nice thing about us being a family; I can talk or stay with either one of you when Brian has to leave.”

“True. How did you find him when he came back? I would say Brian is gloomy but you can’t tell sometimes.” Roger joked.

“You could say that. He reminds me of when my mother died all those years ago. He won’t talk about it. I figure I can give him space just keep an eye on him.”

“You’re doing the right thing,” John encouraged her as they shuffled through the concept art for their last album. “if worse comes to worse you will have to force it from him.”

“I don’t want to do that.”

“We hope you don’t have to. When your mother died how did you tell Brian everything?”

“I didn’t tell him for awhile, Roger. One night I had a horrible dream which weakened my defenses and I just said to hell with it and told him everything.”

“That may or may not happen,” Rose was doubtful. They looked over the concept art for Freddie’s last album, wrote out the dedication when Brian returned, then departed for the day.

**

“Thank you for coming to the concert!” Brian’s voice boomed into the microphone. They were all at Wembley again with the superstar roster ready to sing in tribute to Freddie.

“And now to bring in this party with a bang we introduce our own bandmember, my beautiful wife, Mrs. Rose May!”

Rose came onstage to the wild applause of the onlookers. She was dressed in blue jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt with the Mercury Phoenix Trust logo on it, and a red leather jacket which hid her little belly from the crowd.

“Thank you! This is my all time favorite Queen song!” giving Roger a cue, she picked up the guitar and they launched into I Want It All.

The tribute concert went off without a problem as everyone came up at the last song, everyone singing Somebody To Love. It was an emotional time as many eyes were watery in the audience and much on stage. John knew in his heart that he’d had enough of the performing lifestyle-his wife was pregnant again and he wanted to stay home.

“Last song of the night!” Rose announced as the last singer left the stage but her. “Freddie was a dear sweet soul, he’ll never be forgotten! He was there for me in my worst moments, he supported me, us as a band, and his spirit lives on! Let’s send him off on a high note now, shall we?”

Her question was met with a roar of applause as the band struck up the Show Must Go On.

“On and on.. does anyone know what we are living for?” Brian kept back his own tears as he gave a proud glance to his wife, playing to the crowd like Freddie always did. Roger beamed at Rose while John gave his usual smile.

“I can fly my friends!” she extended her arm up into the sky as if Freddie’s spirit was reaching out to her.

When the song was done, Roger, John, and Brian all hugged their friend as she addressed the crowd one more time. “Remember that Freddie’s spirit will be with all of you! We all can keep his legacy alive! God bless and we love you all very much!”

**

“Guys,” John summoned his friends backstage in his dressing room. “I think this is it for me.”

“What do you mean, John?” Rose gently inquired.

“This lifestyle is-aw hell, who am I kidding? Without Freddie it’s not the same. I’m choosing to retire now. Ronnie’s pregnant again and I don’t want to miss out on another child’s childhood while I’m off touring or whatever. It’s time for me to become a homebody now.”

“That’s all right,” Roger cuffed his friend gently on the shoulder. “it catches up to us all eventually.”

“Yeah, take it easy, John,” Brian agreed. “stay in touch with us, all right?”

“Will do,” the bass player’s eyes lingered on Rose, darting to her belly and back to her hazel eyes. “Rose?”

“I didn’t think that I’d have to say goodbye to you too,” she admitted, her voice a little rough. “oh John..”

He gave her a hug and a kiss, drawing back a little bit after. “Keep me informed, all right? I want to know what this-” he put a hand on her bump. “turns out to be.”

“I will let you know, John,” she promised, kissing him on the cheek. “call me once in awhile.”

“I will promise you that I will,” John chucked her under the chin with an affectionate smile. “take care now.”

Over the next month Brian got more and more depressed. Rose recognized the signs and stayed with him as much as possible. He grew less and less motivated to actually go out for supper, attend a play, or do anything. Rose tried all she could think of but nothing worked.

Finally one night she spied Brian sitting on the bed, turning over a bottle of medicine in one hand. He looked like he was thinking about doing something with it but Rose did not wait around to find out. She boomed out his name in a loud and clear voice, catching him in the act. Startled he dropped the bottle but Rose stretched out and caught it in time.

“You were going to take all of these, weren’t you?” it was an old prescription for a narcotic pain reliever.

“No-I-”

“Yes you were. You’re depressed, Brian, and I insist you get help right away.”

“I’m-”

“Don’t you deny it,” Rose had a momentary flash of Freddie, how worried and tortured he looked when Rose had reached rock bottom like Brian. Freddie was strong and supportive of her; he would have resorted to bullying her to get the help that she needed. “first thing in the morning I am going to call the place I went to when I had nervous trouble and get you in.”

“Rose..” Brian moaned, then he started to shake. “my dad, Freddie..even John.”

“John’s not dead. I want you to get help, honey.”

“Oh god, I need it bad.”

A weight was instantaneously lifted off of Rose’s shoulders. Brian had nervous trouble before when his wife divorced him but it never reached the crisis point. “I’m glad to hear that. Brian, I could have lost you, sweetheart. I want you to do something for me right now.”

“What?” he looked wary. Rose only smiled and gave him a pad of paper and a pen.

“Write it out.”

The guitar player smiled back at her. “Did you ever listen to Freddie’s song about you?”

“Sleeping Rose? I forgot all about it.”

“Listen to it sometime, OK? He watched you sleep for a long time while he was writing it.”

“I will soon.” Rose listened to the pen scribbling on paper for a bit while she stood at the window, staring at the stars. Brian finished and joined her, wrapping his arm around his wife so his hand landed on her bump.

“We’ll both be here waiting for you.” she reminded him.

“I can’t wait to return.”

A few moments later Rose gasped, drawing Brian into reality as his thoughts had drifted. “What is it? Are you in pain?”

“No. Not at all.” that time he felt something. His wife laughed.

“Just a reminder of what you get to come back to. We could have both lost you, Brian. That’s how selfish suicide is. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

“Did it just-” he saw truth in her words. Brian could have died and left his wife and unborn child by themselves because of his selfish need to see Freddie again.

“Yeah. I felt something before a few days ago but I wasn’t sure. Now it’s going to be more active very soon.”

“And I have to leave tomorrow.” Brian sighed.

“Well make of it what you can tonight.”

That night Brian slept with Rose, both hands pressed to her belly protectively. While she was sound asleep there were a few more movements but as she had said, none were powerful enough to even indent her flesh.

In the morning Brian had his things packed. Rose drove him to the facility she had been brought to by Freddie years ago. The guitar player kissed his wife goodbye as she promised to call him if there was any kind of emergency.

“Keep yourselves safe.”

“We will.”

**

At six months Rose was on her way to an appointment when Roger called her to ask her to go to lunch with him.

“I’d love to, Rog. I have an appointment and then I’ll meet you at our favorite spot, OK?”

“You got it!”

The appointment was uneventful which was how Rose wanted it, then she stopped in at the coffee shop she and Roger had frequented through the years. The drummer had already taken a private booth at the back and was shortly joined by his old friend.

“You’re looking a little bigger,” he commented. “how is it going?”

“My child is doing great. I should tell you about Brian. He’s had some real trouble lately.”

“How’s that?”

“He’s been depressed. I caught him last night about ready to take an overdose of narcotics.”

Roger nearly choked on his drink. He put the mug down, enfolded his friend in his arms, giving her a hug of support. “I got Brian to see reason without a lot of effort. He didn’t want to make it hard for me in my state which was fortunate. I felt like Freddie did all those years ago when he encountered me and my attempt.”

“I can imagine. How is he now?”

“First thing was that Brian was really worn down from Freddie’s death and his father’s death. He would have channeled his grief into work but there was no work to be done now. I told him that he could compose some songs to show how he felt and he did. We stood by the window looking at the stars when he was done, talking a little bit. He said I was to keep us both safe until he got back and I agreed,” Rose turned a little pink. “I had a brief episode of pain-”

“Pain? But the baby’s safe, right?” Roger glanced down.

“Let me finish, Roger. I had a little pain because whatever’s inside me is moving around finally. I have been looking forward to it.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. He’s not strong enough yet to cause any real discomfort but that’ll come in time.”

“It sure does. I remember that happening to my kids,” Roger had 5 now. “you take it as it comes.”

“Sure do. I found out the sex already by accident but I don’t care.”

“I never did either. All that matters now is Brian will be back for the birth.”

“Yes he will. He’s not going to see me until I’m in my eighth month at least.”

“That’s right. What are you doing in the meantime?” Rose put her order in.

“Well, I’m going to do a little traveling for a theater troupe. It isn’t much, just four weeks at Drury Lane on relief duty for the original makeup artist but I still want to be active.”

“Good for you. I’m starting on some solo work. Now, my question for you is do you want to do my makeup too?”

“Sure. Call me later and we’ll work out a schedule.”

“Good.” Rose and Roger chattered for a long time.

**

Six weeks passed before Rose knew it. She did makeup for the theater troupe during the day, did Roger’s for his solo music videos, and she was feeling increasingly big. Rose couldn’t do any heavy lifting now and her belly was increasingly itchy.

One night she went home, stripped, got into her robe, tying the sash above where her bump peeked out. Lying down on the bed propped up, she picked up a lotion bottle, spread some on her enlarged flesh and began to massage it in. The makeup artist had been for her monthly appointment that day, happy to hear that nothing was wrong with her son. She was always itchy after an ultrasound appointment so she theorized that the gel the office used for transmitting the electronic waves down into her was very dehydrating.

Often times the scans were quite uncomfortable. Rose hated getting them done as they pressed down very hard on her flesh. She didn’t have any room left inside her(or so it felt), but she had another month and a half to go.

“Ouch!” her son had just punched her right in the ribcage. “You restless little monkey! Well, if Brian wants another one he’ll have to carry it himself. One and we’re done!”

Rose had already decided on a name that she was sure Brian would agree with: Charlie. She was already tired of carrying Charlie but he had to be brought to term and she would not have it any other way. Her fingers explored the mountain range that was her lower torso with a grin. Taking more lotion, she rubbed it all over her bump, smiling when she felt a nudge.

Sitting up was a process now. Rose dug her elbows into the bed, easing herself into position as Charlie, who did not like it when his mom changed position, let loose a barrage of movement. The makeup artist sat on the edge of the bed as she saw an indent of a tiny little foot up high.

“Thanks to you I can’t see my feet anymore!” going into the bathroom she soaked in the tub for awhile until she was ready to get into bed. Getting up from the tub was a chore in itself as Charlie did not like the sudden transition in movement. Rose ignored him as she went back to the bed. “At least the nursery is ready for you.”

After Freddie died Rose threw herself into making a nursery fit for her child. Brian helped out on occasion but it was all her. It was standing by, all ready and waiting for the occupant.

**

“Brian!” Rose swept her husband up in a big hug as she stood by the car, ready to take him home. “I missed you so much! How are you feeling now?”

“Probably better than you,” he teased. “how long has it been now?”

“Me? I’m in my eighth month. When you left he’d just started kicking. Now he won’t stop.”

“He needs a talking to then. Want me to drive home?”

“Sure. I can barely fit behind the wheel anymore.” Brian watched her as she carefully got into the passenger side of the car. She was right; her big bump got in the way. He had to readjust the seat so he was closer to the wheel.

Once they were home, Brian got caught up on the daily goings-on around the house. Rose told him that their child was a boy and she’d picked the name Charlie. Brian didn’t care, like she’d predicted, then told her what he’d learned in therapy. His wife didn’t care too much as she’d learned it all long before he had but half listened anyway.

“My god, can you believe there’ll be a baby in here in a couple of months?” he stood at the nursery door. Rose joined him, unbuttoning her green shirt so her belly hung out.

“Another month. I can hardly breathe right now-he’s up crushing my lungs and my stomach,” she groaned, turning away from Brian and sprawling out on the bed, her bump sticking up like a sore thumb. Brian followed her. “he hates it when I move around at all.”

“Does he?” he sat down at the edge of the bed, pulling her shirt back.

“Go ahead, go to town on me,” she smirked. “I’ll put up with it. If I even try to sit up he’ll put up a good show.” Rose tried to sit up which produced a mighty whack from inside. Brian was impressed as Charlie recoiled, putting his fetal muscle to good use. The musician quite clearly saw the outline of a foot.

“It’s almost like Jaws,” Brian sniggered. “you don’t where where he’ll pop up next!”

Charlie distorted his mother’s belly next with a series of rapid fire movements so she lost her shape one moment then it was smooth the next. “It’s the ripple effect. Wow, I’ve never seen this before!” something rose up and subsided but it wasn’t an appendage. “Was that the head?”

“No, I don’t think so. The doctor says he’s in the head down position and ready to be born.”

“Oh. Want me to do anything for you?” he offered.

“Go on and unpack your things so we can get a laundry going, OK? I’ll get changed for bed.”

“Deal.” Brian gave her a kiss, did her bidding, then returned to the bedroom. Rose had changed into her navy blue robe, somehow managing to get up amid Charlie’s protests. Despite the fact she had a very active child pummeling her guts Rose fell asleep right away.

Brian changed into his pajamas, sitting on the bed next to the swollen lump that was their son. Rose had jokingly called her big belly a planet or a mountain, depending on what mood she was in. Brian went for the planet nickname, appropriately enough.

His son was not showing any signs of calming down any time soon. Brian spied the lotion bottle, took some, then rubbed it into his wife’s skin as his son was still doing acrobatics. “Hey there,” he said in a low voice. “time to calm down and go to sleep.” the musician doubted that Charlie really heard or understood him but seemed to respond like he did. “Time to stop wearing your mother out. She’s been through hell already.” long gentle strokes seemed to have a calming effect on his unborn son. Gradually the movements petered out.

“Good.” Brian lay back with Rose, glancing back to see just how far her belly stuck up.

 

**

Eight months and two weeks later Rose showed no signs of going into labor any time soon. She was more than ready to, feeling the heavy weight of her son’s head on her bladder at all times made her increasingly uncomfortable. The makeup artist was sitting on the edge of the bed one day with Brian, both talking about project ideas for him to sing about. He wanted to sing about his experiences with depression, his grief for his father and Freddie, etc, so Rose encouraged him more on those topics.

“I’m still sad that Freddie won’t ever get to see Charlie.” Rose said mournfully, passing a hand over her swollen belly while Charlie kicked her.

“Maybe none of us will,” Brian teased, unbuttoning his wife’s shirt, bestowing a kiss on the planet. “sure there isn’t a ghost inside you? Afraid to show its face?”

“Trust me, all those kicks and pushes I’ve felt are definitely real.” Rose threw herself back on the bed, both arms above her head.

Charlie put on a real show for his parents then. He had his head stuck firmly in the correct position but lashed out with everything he had otherwise. Rose felt discomfort, pulled her skirt down a little bit as they both saw a few indents, making them both guess correctly that they were little fists. Up top where Charlie’s legs were he stretched them out to the maximum, producing another type of ripple effect repeatedly.

“Come on, that really hurt,” Rose gasped. “not funny, Charlie.”

“God, he made your whole belly shake with that movement. Remember those pelvic thrust movements you taught Freddie? Maybe you can do those as some kind of revenge.” Brian brainstormed.

“Well maybe.” Rose tried it lying down. “No, he’s locked into position. We’ll go see the doctor tomorrow anyway.”

“Oh right.”

At the doctor’s the next day, an ultrasound exam revealed that Charlie was now full term and ready to be born. Rose was happy to hear that, hoping she would be able to regain her pre-pregnancy figure and be able to dance again. She was liberally smeared with the itchy gel in order to transmit the electronic soundwaves needed to produce a clear picture of Charlie.

“She’s in a lot of discomfort now-is there any way we can speed this up?” Brian clasped his wife’s hand.

“Well, I can admit you to the hospital and rupture your membranes myself to stimulate labor.”

“Let’s just do that. Charlie’s getting too big and I can’t take this anymore.” Rose wiped off the gel and with Brian’s assistance, got up, ignoring Charlie’s movements.

From then on it was relatively fast. Rose had been given a private room, Brian was with her as much as he could be, and the doctor ruptured her membranes quickly. The musician made a phone call to Roger to let him know what was going on, and to John as well.

Rose didn’t like the whole process of giving birth so she willingly went under the gas to make it a little more tolerable. She didn’t notice how long it took for her to transition, obeyed what the doctor told her though to Brian’s amusement she asked why she had to bear down and push.

“Hello, Roger?”

“Yes, Brian. How’s she doing?”

“Very well. Charles Emerson May was born at 9:45 on the dot today, May 28th 1992.”

“That’s great! Can I stop by tomorrow? Maybe I’ll get Deacy to come with me.”

“We haven’t seen him since the tribute concert. Sure, if you can get him. Rose wants to see you like I do.”

“We’ll be there around the afternoon sometime.” Roger promised.

**

Rose felt like her insides had been shredded. Mercifully they seemed to be rearranging themselves in their normal configurations as Charlie had decided to move out. Or rather they had forcefully evicted him from his home.

Lazily she opened up her eyes in the middle of the night to see that Brian was asleep on the cot next to her, a little isolette was on the other side. Charlie was in there with his name clearly labeled in capital letters. Rose marveled that he was so tiny yet on the other side he had felt so big!

“I did it, Freddie,” she said in a low voice. “I wish you were here.”

The new mom slept well into the day without disturbance. Brian took charge of his new son, banning anyone from waking Rose up, feeding Charlie formula, and in general bonding with him. He had to marvel that his journey from the darkness to light was absolutely complete with the tiny infant in his arms. It had been well worth the struggle to come back to little Charlie.

“You helped save my life, little guy.” Brian murmured, sitting back in the rocking chair.

Rose was awake and already dressed, ready to receive her friends when they arrived several hours later. Roger brought Charlie a small teddy bear, a little brown one wearing a white t-shirt and a black musical note on it. For Rose he gave her a bouquet of flowers already in water, and a kiss on the forehead.

“They’re lovely, Roger, thank you!” she kissed him on the cheek.

John was next. He gave Rose a few helium mylar balloons with congratulations on them, more flowers, and a small rubber toy shaped like a bass guitar. Rose welcomed his hug with a laugh, kissed him, then Brian showed them Charlie.

“Here’s the troublemaker after all,” Roger took him first. “he has your eyes, Bri.”

“Undoubtedly.” John took the vinyl chair beside Rose’s bed.

“So how was it?”

“Well, Rose was under the influence of the gas the entire time. She was so giddy and light headed we couldn’t get a straight answer out of her! They’d tell her to push and she’d ask why every time!” the trio roared laughing as Charlie slept on.

“He’s really quiet,” John remarked as Roger passed him over. “got your uncle John’s temperament, eh?”

“No, I think he’s more like Roger. He’s quiet now but before I gave birth to him he was all active. I wound up taking drugs at night to help me sleep with all the commotion going on.”

“Ground your guts to a pulp, did he?”

“Sure felt like it!”

**

1997

Charlie grew from a tiny baby to a very active 5-year-old. He was always on about something, he had an agenda, always moving around restlessly. Brian and Rose only had to look at each other and say, “Freddie.” he had Freddie’s temperament easily. Charlie had only been an embryo when Freddie died but everyone knew that Freddie was looking after them all in heaven.

One night when Brian and Rose were in bed, Brian brought up the subject of another child. His other kids were all grown and he wanted a second child to help teach Charlie how to share and that kind of thing. Rose was initially resistant to the idea as she didn’t want to have another interloper in her uterus again but eventually warmed to the idea.

So once more Rose became pregnant. At 7 months she had a protruding belly like before, she enjoyed teaching Charlie about his future sibling. She went with Brian to the ultrasound appointment to see what the gender was on this one.

“Looks like...” Rose was back in the darkened room, exposed belly and pelvis for all to see, Brian with Charlie on his lap so he could see what was going on. The technician paused, bearing down a little bit with the probe, asking Rose to hold in her breath for a moment. “another boy!”

“Oh yay!” Rose was pumped. Charlie watched in fascination as the probe slid on his mother’s slick pelvis and belly, then glanced at the screen.

“That’s my baby brother?”

“Yes, son.”

“It doesn’t look like a baby!” Rose giggled as Brian pointed out the face profile.

“Now we need to get you to nursery school, sweetie,” Rose was freed from the ultrasound probe, wiped off the gel, pulled her shirt down and stood up. “come on then.”

Rose put Charlie in his car seat as Brian got into the car and turned it on. The clever 5-year-old noticed that his mother’s belly stuck out when she put her seatbelt on and pointed it out. “Mommy’s getting big!”

Rose and Brian both laughed. “Thank you, dear.” she couldn’t really fit in behind the wheel anymore to drive as her new son was bigger than Charlie had been at that stage. They dropped Charlie off at preschool and went home for a few hours.

“He’s right, you know,” Brian came up behind his wife. “you are getting big.”

“Thank you so much!” Rose pretended indignation as Brian rolled up her shirt, exposing the big belly of hers, unzipping her maternity jeans and pulling those off. He passed his hands over her bulge, took her by the arms and lowered her down on the bed.

“Oh, someone looking to lay their wife today?”

“Soon. How has the new boy been treating you?”

“He’s active,” she winced. “Charlie was just as bad. Where’s that lotion?”

“Right here.” he spoiled her with a massage. “What do we name the new one?”

“How about Roger Frederick?”

“No; I’m not leaving John out of it.”

“All right then. I chose Charles because of Buddy Holly-that was his first name. I like Leonard or Leo for short.”

“Leo Frederick?” Brian could see a shadow of an appendage stirring underneath his wife’s skin.

“OK.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” the appendage turned out to be a foot, making a very obvious kick in Rose’s left lower side. “ouch!”

“Leo’s going to be a contortionist,” Brian commented. “look.” Rose raised herself up on pillows so she could see her son’s acrobatics.

“Damn!” they saw what looked like Leo’s back pressed very high up so Rose’s belly was bigger than it had ever been. “It looks like he just stood up and stretched.”

“This is just the seventh month mark!” Rose groaned. She could feel little hands and feet firmly pressed against her as Leo arched his back as high as it could go. The belly went down a little bit but Leo did it again. “He’s got his hands and feet pressed into my uterus hard and he’s arching his back for the full stretch.”

“Wow! It’s too early for him to go head down right?”

“Right.”

“So he’s moving very unrestricted.” Leo was a big baby and the doctor had ruled out any possibility of twins so Rose was satisfied with that information at least.

“Very much so.” her entire belly shook with the motions her son was making now. “Sometimes he gets hung up right here,” Rose gestured to her left side. “he gets his head stuck but gets it back out.”

“Hmm.. I know, hang on a second,” Brian fished out their camcorder and began taking video footage. “second son Leo in there, about 7 months down, 3 to go. He’ll be born around Christmastime.”

“I bet he’ll do it again,” sure enough Leo stretched, making his mother’s belly go extremely high and down repeatedly. “he found an exercise that he likes.” Brian also took pictures like he did with Charlie. Leo was entertaining; he exhibited all sorts of weird positions for his father to document.

The phone rang in the middle of Leo’s performance so Rose grabbed the cordless.

“Hello?”

“Rose? Roger.”

“Hi, Roger!”

“What are you doing?”

“Brian and I have come from an appointment. I’m 7 months now with baby number two which we just named Leo. We are taking video of his strange acrobatic tricks he’s performing inside me.”

“I forgot you’re having another one. Slipped my mind. I’m calling because Miami told me that Princess Diana died.”

“My god, when?” sensing his mother’s agitation, Leo kicked hard, making her belly jiggle.

“A little while ago. Can I talk to Bri?”

“Of course.” she handed over the phone, watching Leo inside her but the amusement was lost now.

**

A week later the band was assembled in the studio. John glanced at the mike that Freddie always liked using, seemingly seeing his friend still standing there, ready to belt out a tune. The bass player was another one who had trouble with depression, fighting it for years ever since Freddie died. Roger sat at the drums, ready to play. Rose was at the piano, Brian was at his guitar. The music video was ready to shoot.

Brian sang the first verse, Roger the second one, while Rose led the chorus. John never really liked to sing but that was OK. They saw him off and on since he’d retired, raising the last of his 6 children.

When they were done it was easily one of the simplest music videos they had ever made. Nobody could stand around reminiscing for too long as their families were clamoring for attention. John took his leave first followed by Roger.

“I think this could be our last stand, Brian.” Rose got herself into the car.

“Queen’s last hurrah? Maybe.”

Brian and Roger had been invited to Diana’s funeral. Rose and John had declined their invitations, citing various reasons but mainly they wanted to stay home.

The funeral had been televised which Rose did tune in to. She had wanted some time for herself which John understood completely, taking Charlie off her hands for several hours. His children were around the same age range as Charlie so he would not be without playmates. Rose thanked John, telling him that Leo was so hyperactive and driving her up the wall.

Throughout the funeral on TV Leo did his usual acrobatics, wearing his mother’s patience thin. All medical reasons for his hyperactivity were ruled out, there were no twins lodged inside her, so he was just a hyper fetus. Rose resolved not to let Brian talk her into any more children though she knew there would be no problem on that.

Rose’s ubiquitous lotion helped her out a lot. Lying propped up as the funeral played, she rubbed some into her sore skin, making Leo calm down some. Taking a cool and relaxing bath later on gave her some relief. Her belly still stuck up but the warmth relaxed Leo as well.

Brian came home late that night with Charlie, put the youngster to bed, then checked on his wife. She was lying on the bed in her robe, sound asleep. The musician could tell by the way her robe jumped and moved around that Leo was still up to his shenanigans. Remembering how Charlie had done the same when Rose was pregnant with him, Brian gave his wife’s belly a soothing massage.

By the time Rose was 9 months gone she looked bigger than ever before. Leo was certainly going to be a fat baby by the time he was born. When she was pregnant with Charlie and lying on the bed she could still see the dresser and the TV but couldn’t see them with Leo residing inside her.

“I swear to god that there’s two of them in there!” Rose groused crankily from the rocking chair one day. Charlie came over to his mother and pulled up her shirt the way he’d seen the doctor do. He wanted to clamber onto his mother’s lap but there wasn’t any room for him. Amused, Rose got on the floor of the nursery, lying back with the beanbag chair to expose the full belly in all its glory so her son could touch it.

“Leo’s in there, Mom?”

“Yes, sonny.” Charlie’s hyperactiveness had cooled down since he began preschool. He had deep blue eyes like Brian, her wavy hair and Brian’s demeanor.

“Mom, who’s Freddie?”

“Where did you hear that, dear?”

“Uncle John and Dad were talking about it.”

“Freddie was a special friend to me and your dad a long time ago. He died when I was pregnant with you.”

“Aw.”

“I know, baby.”

“He sounded fun.”

“He was fun.” Charlie ran his little hands all over his mother’s distended stomach as Leo kicked him.

“He moved!”

Rose laughed. “I know. He moves like you did.”

“I was in your belly?”

“Oh yes. Everyone loved you before you were born and they love you more now. It’s the same with Leo.”

“Did you look so big with me?”

“You were smaller.” Rose knew because she was older big babies were a possibility. Charlie hugged her protuberance with a grin. “You love your new brother already, don’t you?”

“Yes I do!” Rose laughed.

“Why don’t you tell him to come out then? He might listen to you!”

“Come on out of there!” Charlie cupped his hands and shouted into his mother’s belly. “Don’t you want to play with me?”

Rose watched as her unborn son made her skin sway back and forth for a moment as Leo tried to escape. “It might take awhile for him to get out, Charlie, hon.”

“Aw.”

“All right, darling. You need to head to bed.” Leo could tell that his mother had stood up after lying down and retaliated with a fresh assault on her from the inside. Ignoring his punches, kicks and jabs, she put Charlie to bed.

**

That night with her son asleep and her unborn son never sleeping, Rose took a long shower. Brian was out of town for a day though he hadn’t wanted to leave her alone because Leo was a few days overdue. She had said a few days didn’t make a difference but she would regret those words soon enough. The makeup artist had no way of knowing that during the shower her water broke.

Her first indication of labor was some lower back pain but given the fact that Leo’s head was on her bladder and he was a heavy baby already. Rose took pain medicine and went back to sleep.

After wedging herself into the car to take Charlie to school, she came back home and finally noticed that something was up. Rose had a desire to bear down and push Leo out but didn’t think that it was time yet. Her instinct was telling her something so Rose knew to obey it implicitly.

Fortunately a midwife was in the area so Rose called her, asking her to come right away. When the midwife appeared she made Rose lie down on the bed, putting some old towels down for protection, then conducted an internal exam.

“You’re all the way dilated, my dear!” she exclaimed. “You’ve had a son before so why didn’t you notice the signs of labor? They were there.”

“My doc started the labor with Charlie. This happened out of nowhere.”

“You think it did. Were you in the shower when your water could have broken?”

“Yeah.” she admitted. “I took pain meds too.”

“Well, let’s get you delivered,” the midwife poked at her belly which Leo punched at. “he’s a feisty one!”

Rose cooperated and after a long time Leo was expelled from her. “Your free ride is over, kid!” she crowed triumphantly. “Now you can’t give me hell anymore!”

“Gosh, he’s big! A ten pounder!”

“Damn! Well, my son Charlie told him last night he had to come out. I’ll be damned if Leo actually obeyed.” the midwife laughed.

Brian came home a few hours later to see his wife and newborn son sleeping comfortably in the bedroom. The midwife gave him the lowdown on what had happened, advising him against having any more children in the future. Rose was worn out and would not tolerate another pregnancy.

“No, no you’re right on that. No more kids.” Brian agreed, giving his wife a kiss on the cheek.

Chapter Text

PART 7

“I think that you’ll like this, Rose.” in the home studio Brian pressed a few switches and music filled Rose’s ears. Brian had been working on his own solo album for almost five years now and it was finally finished. “Back to the light… back to the streets that are paved with gold!”

“I’m impressed.” she confessed, shifting Leo to one side. “I love it.”

“The final track is being laid down today. There’s an old friend coming in to guest on the song Nothing But Blue.”

“Oh really?” she smiled. “Who is it?”

“I can’t tell you that!” as if on cue the door opened and John walked in with his guitar case in one hand. John had aged some; his hair was gray now but still flecked with bits of brown. He had some age lines around his eyes and mouth but the bass player still had the sparkly blue eyes and quirky sense of humor. As he took off his denim jacket Brian could see John was dressed in a tribal print shirt and casual blue jeans with Adidas sneakers.

“Perfect timing! John, how are you?” Brian welcomed him back with a hug as Rose rubbed Leo’s back.

“Hey yourselves! Is this the new one?” John took Leo with a smile. The baby made a few noises then gave a grunt of pleasure as the bass player tweaked his nose.

“Yeah, that’s Leo. He practically wrecked me.”

“Really?”

“Oh yeah. He was bigger than Charlie. You remember how big I was when we reunited in the fall. I was almost 8 months. He’s almost 2 months old now and I swear my organs are still rearranging themselves.” Rose laughed as John sat down in the office chair with Leo on his knee. The baby giggled as John tickled him while Brian began setting up the equipment.

“Damn. Two is enough for you two?”

“Hell to the yes. I am not having any more children.”

“What will you be doing now?” John handed Leo back to Rose, opening up his guitar case and plugged in his bass with the cable Brian gave him.

“We are going on tour like in the old days. I’m doing Brian’s makeup, we’ll have a tour bus and a driver, not to mention a babysitter for when we need evenings to ourselves, that kind of thing.”

“Sounds like fun.” John and Brian enclosed themselves into the recording booth while Liz put Leo down for a nap and worked the controls in the sound booth. Smiling to herself as she went back into the studio, she saw Brian and John working together and it brought back memories. If only Roger were there and Freddie.. she paused and glanced out the window, seeing the mourning cloak doves outside her bird feeder. A red cardinal joined them with his flashy plumage and Rose could swear it looked at her and winked.

Since Rose was from America originally she was familiar with the legend of the cardinal. When her grandfather died when she was young, a family member told her that a cardinal was the spirit of a loved one come to see her. She knew without a doubt that it was Freddie.

When the recording session was done she told the two men about the American legend and finished by saying that she had seen a cardinal at the feeder.

“Freddie’s giving us the approval,” Brian teased. “what do you think about that?”

“I can sense that he’s still around sometimes,” John admitted. “so, is Charlie ready to go for the sleepover at my house?”

“Charlie!” Brian called his son who bounced into the room with a duffel bag and a sleeping bag under one arm. “That’s almost as big as you are!”

“I’m ready to go, uncle John!” the six-year-old beamed. John packed up his bass while Brian tossed Charlie’s things into John’s car.

“Thanks for taking him this weekend, John. I hope he and Cameron have a good time together.” Rose gave John a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m sure they will,” John returned her gesture with affection. “ready to go, Charlie?” he picked up the little kid and gave him a high five.

“Yay! Let’s go!” Charlie’s exuberance woke up Leo who started to cry.

“Not a moment too soon!” Brian joked as he went into the nursery. Rose gave farewell kiss to her son, watching as John put him in a car seat and drove away.

Brian’s Back To The Light album sold very well and Liz was particularly happy about the dedication mentioning her and their two children, Roger, John and Freddie in it as well. As she had predicted, the tour across the UK was via tour bus which was outfitted for the family. Every night instead of partying after a performance as he and Rose used to do, Brian would entertain Charlie and Leo who were growing up fast.

Roger and John were raising up their families as well, the latter had six children total while Roger had 5. The three families saw each other a few times a month for playdates and the like so nobody was ever lonely.

More than 20 years after Freddie’s death Roger and Brian sat down with some screenwriters and began to sketch out an idea for a movie about Freddie’s life. With Rose’s input, they penned out a rough draft, made a final draft, etc, and in 2016 they began to cast the film’s actors.

“You’ll understand that you won’t be in the movie, right, Rose?” Brian asked her one night. “It’s primarily about Freddie and the music.” Rose was sitting up on the bed all stretched out while Brian was lying down, his head against one of her thighs. Thirty years of marriage under their belts and she still inspired such desire in him, he mused. She was one of a kind.

“Yeah, that’s no problem. Who have you got on deck so far?”

“We got Rami Malek to play Freddie, Ben Hardy as Roger, Gwilym Lee to play me, and Joseph Mazzello to play Deacy.”

“And John wanted no part in this, right?” she hadn’t seen him in several years by that point in time. Their children were still friendly with each other; Leo and Cameron seemed to be good pals. Charlie was still friends with Cameron though he was a social butterfly and had a wide circle of friends now.

“Right on. He didn’t.” Brian shook his head. It had only been three or four years since his hair had turned completely white and Rose wasn’t far behind him on that either.

“Shame. Maybe I can talk to him. He always liked me best.” she teased, twirling a finger in Brian’s curly hair. He reached up and caressed one side of her face, brushing one finger over her full lips.

“Oh stop that shit!” Brian mocked right back, using the expression that Freddie always did. “Do you ever sense that Freddie is near?”

“All the time. I know he still loves us.”

“He knows we still love him too.”

“I’ll call Leo tomorrow. He and Cameron are still sharing a flat I believe. Maybe he can put in a word for me with John.”

“Don’t be surprised if you get no answer.” Brian warned. Rose wasn’t worried about that part at all. John didn’t reply to Brian or Roger but she was sure that John would talk to her. Roger was abrasive and didn’t care what others think which John didn’t really tolerate very well. He used to be able to put up with it but not any more. Rose was able to connect with John on a more deeper level so she didn’t think that he could turn her away.

“I’ll call in a favor or something. When do we meet the cast and when do they start shooting?”

“In about 3 days.”

“All right. I’m excited!”

“Me too, darling. I love a new project.” Brian snuggled up to Rose.

The guitar player had his share of depression, illness, etc. His mother died a few years after Diana did and he’d had another bout with depression as well. Rose was there for him every step of the way, knowing that his nerves were shot and he couldn’t stand a lot of anything during those times. The children helped to pull him out of his black moods when they were younger and now Charlie openly admitted to having problems with depression himself.

Charlie was a fine young man with his mother’s eyes, Brian’s curly hair. His personality was outgoing, very extroverted like Roger. He was hyperactive, never wanting to sit still for a long time and was good at using his hands. Charlie had been influenced by John at a young age as he’d been on a play date with one of John’s kids and seen John repairing an old radio. From that time on Charlie asked John a million questions regarding engineering and electricity which John loved. Charlie graduated high school and was in his second year of college with his pals, majoring in material engineering. He took a flat with two of his buddies and was living in Westminster.

Leo had Brian’s demeanor through and through, Brian’s ability to be quiet for hours and had inherited his mother’s love for medical science. Leo had received Brian’s blue eyes, Rose’s hair, was generally known as the quiet one with a book in front of him at any time. Cameron, John’s youngest son had taken a shine to Leo and they had become firm friends. Leo took up studying medicine, encouraged by his parents, and was now entering his first year of medical school. Cameron on the other hand was influenced by Rose’s professional dancing career and chose that path for himself.

Roger’s kids and the rest of John’s were off doing their own things as well. To Roger’s delight his son Rufus had become a drummer just like him, one of his daughters was a model and his eldest was an actor. He had remarried a second time to an actress that loved him and treated him well. Rose privately thought she was a bit of an airhead but liked the positive energy she had in abundance.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

“Hey John,” Rose walked into John’s house after being greeted by Ronnie, John’s wife. The bass player had changed a lot since she had last seen him in 1997. He had lost most of his hair on top of his head, turning gray and receding to the sides. The lines in his face deepened so he looked like a proverbial old coot, and he had some fat now. But he was still the same old John to her, the one she had confided her woes to, teased, played with, and helped each other through Freddie’s death. “it’s been so long.”

“That it has.” his voice hadn’t really changed that much though it was a little gravely sounding now. John still hadn’t given up smoking and it didn’t seem likely that he ever would. Roger had quit years ago because his then girlfriend couldn’t stand it.

“So as you know the others have a script called Bohemian Rhapsody that we are starting to shoot tomorrow,” she began while John listened. “Joe Mazzello is playing your part. He was the kid Timmy in that movie Jurassic Park.”

“I like that movie.”

“I’m glad. I love it too. You have an open invitation to visit the set if you want to or not. We’re not judging you; we never have.” she told him mildly. John appreciated her bluntness and her tone was completely lacking any ulterior motives.

“It would be painful to me-”

“It’s painful to all of us, John. I would rather Freddie still be here with us AND make the movie about the band and the music. We miss him and we are all striving to protect his memory and make people-the next generation aware of the incredible legacy he left behind. Roger, Brian and I feel responsible for Freddie’s memory and legacy as I’ve no doubt you do too. It’s like he’s still here with us in many ways.”

John was silent for a long moment then looked up at his old friend with his eyes all glassy. “As crazy as it may seem I know he’s still here with us in spirit.”

Rose clasped his shoulder. “I know. He was with me and Brian when Brian was having nervous trouble a few years ago.”

“I’ve had that myself. But anyway..” they began talking about their children with Rose infusing her energy into the conversation. John missed the brightness that Rose, Freddie and Roger had emitted during their time together. She had depression issues like Brian had yet if it hadn’t been for Freddie’s intervention she would not have survived, John remembered.

When it was time to go, John kissed his old friend on the cheek as she did to him. “I’ll think about what you said.”

Rose gave him a grin, dug in her purse and brought out a visitor’s pass with his name on it. “I’d love to see you there. Joe is a really funny guy.”

John didn’t make any promises but he hadn’t said no either. The two of them parted, Rose not knowing when she would see John again if at all. He was still very laid back but Rose understood not wanting to be around things that would trigger memories, not all of them good.

“So what did he say?” Brian asked as she returned home.

“He’ll think about it. John was always the most sensitive one and I think the memories would overwhelm him,” Rose answered as she closed the door behind her. “he has the visitor pass anyway.”

“I’ve just had a confirmation that Adam Lambert is going to do a little walk on role for us.” Brian told his wife. He and Roger had played with Adam several years ago and they toured with him on and off ever since. Rose had met him and liked him very much, even doing his makeup for him on their last tour.

“Great! I hope I see him again, that would be wonderful!”

“He wants to see you too.” Brian was stretched out on the couch, scribbling ideas out for his hedgehog paddock in the back garden. Rose was never a fan of the quilled creatures but after Brian introduced her to them she fell in love. He had more than 20 out there now at any given time, just milling about and snacking away like they owned the place.

Rose glanced over at the pictures on the mantelpiece. Many of them were with the band but a few new ones joined the old-Charlie and Leo’s pictures notably, though one of Brian and Roger with Britney Spears when Pepsi did the We Will Rock You tribute commercial during the American Superbowl, and the duo with Jessie J closing the 2012 Olympics.

“The years have been good to us overall, Brian.” there was a framed picture of the band in their I’m Going Slightly Mad outfits and in a second one, Rose was in the middle of the band holding up a penguin for all to see.

“Yes indeed. We start tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait!”

**

The next day Brian and Roger along with Rose met the main cast. Rami was of Egyptian descent which was becoming to him as a person, Rose thought. He smiled at her as he shook her hand, stating that it was honor to meet her.

“The pleasure is all mine, Rami.” with a little makeup and fake teeth he would look perfect. She could already tell it was a match made in casting heaven.

“Rose here knew Freddie more than anyone, even us,” Roger chimed in. “she lived with him for almost 8 years.”

“You did?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you when we have time later, OK?”

“Sure. Are you doing our makeup?”

“Yes I am.”

“Ah, Rami!” Brian caught up to them. “I see you’ve met my wife.”

“Your wife?”

“It’s an even longer story!” she laughed as Brian put his hands on her shoulders lovingly.

“We’ll chat soon.” Rami winked.

“I’ll tell you guys as a group soon.” she promised.

“Ben Hardy, pleasure,” the blonde shook her hand energetically.

“You must be playing Roger.”

“Guilty as charged.” Roger came up to him and took him aside.

“Joe Mazzello.” Joe was about four inches taller than her, thin, angular face with bright brown eyes.

“Hello, Joe! Loved you in Jurassic Park.”

“Thanks! I’m a big fan of yours too. I saw you on YouTube singing at Freddie’s tribute concert and I have a question about that.”

“What?”

“Were you pregnant then? The stage lights kind of highlighted it even though you were wearing a jacket.”

“Yes I was. I’d been in my fifth month I think with my son Charlie.”

“Nice!” Joe moved on so Gwilym could meet Rose.

“It won’t take much to transform you into Brian,” she complimented him. “you’ve got his facial structure.”

“Thanks. We’re meeting with our counterparts right now and I understand you’ve volunteered to take in Joe and Rami.”

“Gwil!” Brian called. “Time for a chat!”

“I think you’re being paged,” Rose laughed. “Rami and Joe! I’ve got you over here!” she pointed to a conference room.

“Hey Rose I think I have a better idea,” Roger buttonholed her in the hallway. “I think all of us need to start on the same page. Bri and I will do the Smile section up until Queen II and then you can take over.”

“All righty then.” the seven people took over a conference room. Rose hopped onto the table, telling everyone to get comfortable. She doled out some refreshments first off, noting that Joe was sitting directly next to her on the table. “Time for a long history lesson!”

Roger and Brian narrated the band’s inception, the change of bass players, and the Freddie years with Smile. They got into Queen I and Queen II albums, gave a history of them, then Roger finished their section with the ominous sentence, “Then we heard from Miami that our new makeup artist had arrived.” he shot Rose a sideways glance with his eyebrows raised, making the cast snigger a little bit in anticipation.

Rose laughed. “I knew from the start that I had my hands full! They all liked me and I love them in their quirky little ways. Freddie was the good friend he appeared to be, John was the type of guy I could confide my deepest troubles to and he’d never judge me or betray my confidence. Roger was a party animal and still is, and I had the hots for Brian from day one. Our first date was in Japan as a matter of fact. At the beginning I found John quite attractive as well. After my mother died I went with John on a walk through the countryside where he and I shared some time together and we even kissed.”

Joe turned faintly pink while the others giggled. Gwilyn asked what happened next.

“John and I were mistaking our mutual affection for each other for romance,” she put it smartly. “he was a good kisser but nothing spectacular. I didn’t hear any violins or fireworks for that matter. We agreed to stay pals and that was that. After Brian and I had dated for almost a year he broke up with me to go chase another girl’s skirt,” Brian winced a little bit but the others were keen on Rose and her story as Roger clasped his friend’s shoulder. “I left Brian and went to Freddie. He took me in, invited me to live with him. The potential wrench in the works was that Brian had gotten me pregnant at the time. The others in the band knew but not Brian as I didn’t want him to know. When they went to write Bohemian Rhapsody I was with them; there I established myself as Brian’s friendly ex as I did not want bad blood between us. Freddie was sweet, supportive, Roger had started developing a crush on me I’m sure,” she teased. “Brian was himself and I took John aside after he had a song he wanted played on the electric piano. Freddie wouldn’t do it because he wanted a real piano sound. When Freddie said no he never went back on it so John directed me on how to play his song.”

“You’re My Best Friend, right?”

“That’s right, Joe. After several months on tour I suffered a miscarriage. Roger actually found me in pain and took me in. He stayed with me all night and when I was in the hotel room the next night, the others had gone out but John. He could sense when I was really troubled and usually sought me out. I confided to him my woes and he comforted me the best he could, stayed with me until I fell asleep. When it was announced that Brian was marrying that girl he cheated on me with I just fell apart. Freddie came home one night, fed the cats, noticed one of the knives in the block top was missing and found me up in my room as I was making an attempt at suicide.” everyone’s eyes opened wide. Roger and Brian had never heard the specifics of that incident-it was the first time since it happened that Rose allowed herself to open up about it.

“Freddie saved me. He made me talk to him about my problems, bandaged my wounds, then made me see that I needed help that he couldn’t give me. He was gentle, firm, insistent. There was no way I could argue with him and I’d hit rock bottom at that point. He took me to a long term treatment facility where I mended my broken heart. I was also postpartum so my hormones were crazy too. I became well again then when Roger picked me up, I decided to throw caution to the wind and start dating him.”

“What was it like?” Ben’s blue eyes lit up.

Rose smiled at him then at Roger. “Being with Roger was a new kind of thrill for me. He’s so good natured, extroverted, loves a good time. We used to take his cars and play with them on the back roads where nobody goes. With him I got a huge rush or high every time. We were energetic and loud in everything!”

“I remember that time you two hooked up in your hotel room,” Brian spoke up. “we heard everything!”

The cast all started laughing at that one. “Freddie said he was glad he wasn’t the only one who had a good time last night! Rose and I didn’t last more than two years as a couple. She always said Brian had her heart but that didn’t mean we didn’t have fun.” Roger remembered.

“We shot music videos together, particularly Body Language. I wasn’t satisfied with how the food metaphor was just slapped in there,” Rose recalled. “I suggested a provocative camera angle-you’ll see it if you watch the video. Crazy Little Thing Called Love I choreographed for them. Around that time Brian’s marriage fell apart. He got depressed so I chose to help him out. I told Freddie about Brian’s divorce and custody battle, Freddie made a recording of all of Brian’s guitar solos, then invited him over to the house to get absolutely piss drunk.”

Rami started laughing. “After what I’m hearing that sounds like him!”

“Yeah! I had to take care of Brian as Freddie had a higher tolerance for booze at that point. The next day Roger takes me out for shopping and Brian crashes out on my bed. Later on Freddie shows me a song he’s written called Don’t Try Suicide. He let me read it in advance as he worried it would trigger me and bring on a relapse. Every one of the bandmembers were worried about my reaction but they didn’t need to be.”

“Later on-I forget how many years it was, we went on a retreat to try writing a new album,” Roger spoke up. “Freddie and I would go out fishing which meant taking a six pack in the rowboat, drink and get loud. Rose became seriously ill while we were out there. It was Freddie who saved her life again. She had appendicitis and he knew how to check for it. Brian drove to the hospital with Freddie who navigated, me and John had her in the back when she fainted dead away. That was a scary thing for all of us.”

“What didn’t help was the fact that Rose had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they’d given her and stopped breathing completely,” Brian piped up. “I had a hard time with that information. Deacy gave me the reassurance that I needed and when we go in the next day we learn that some asshole had botched her recovery so her wound had become infected. Rose had to undergo having her stitches opened up and her wound cleaned out which was torture for all of us to witness. Roger and I tried to distract her but that was the second time she had fainted. The surgeon was furious, Freddie had some choice words as well.”

“We did a gig in a very unsafe rehearsal room,” Rose began again. “I remember that it was John himself who saved me from coming into contact with a severed electrical cable.”

“How?”

“Joe, he grabbed me by the hips and yanked me down so I avoided getting hit. When we came back from the gig we were all a little sick. I had a strange dream even now I remember and John comforted me about it. Now I think it was rather ominous: I was lying on a full length platform dressed in white and the band were all around me, saying things about me. They seemed to think that I was dead but I was in the corner watching. The platform turned into a glass casket and they took me to a freshly dug hole in a churchyard. After that experience we got the call from Live Aid. They booked us, then Freddie came up with the idea of me singing with him which I did wholeheartedly.”

“Queen had a new life after that,” Rami smiled. “I love watching the clips of Live Aid.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Rose matched his smile. “we did One Vision and A Kind Of Magic for the movie Highlander which was a lot of fun. Freddie would start singing out random things if he was in a funny mood and Roger just encouraged him. Brian and I got married at that point and when we returned from Montreux Freddie called me and asked me to do makeup for a cover of a song called the Great Pretender. I happily accepted and I haven’t had so much fun on a music video since I Want To Break Free. We all had a blast.”

“What happened after that?” Gwilym shot Brian a look.

“Freddie told us he’d gotten sick and he was on borrowed time,” the guitar player said quietly. “we rallied around him to protect his privacy.”

“He was such a great friend to all of us and we did what we could to protect him. He drove the creative force behind The Miracle and Innuendo, which I believe is still Rose’s favorite album.” Roger winked.

“It always will be. More than the other albums which I do love-”

“Even Jazz?”

“Shut up, Roger!” Rose said playfully, making everyone laugh. “he’s always like this, Ben. Anyway, I think in Innuendo Freddie was more stripped down, raw, completely vulnerable in the way he sang. It was like he was saying, ‘here I am with all my flaws and I’m sick, but I’m still knocking it out of the park!’ if that makes any sense. He was flipping people off who would have said that it was impossible to do what he was doing. After we did the These Are The Days Of Our Lives video, John sought me out because he was upset. I was newly pregnant at the time and I was heartbroken at the fact my child would not know Freddie. I comforted John which was a switch, usually he was comforting me, then Roger comes in only he’s already in tears. Brian ran interference for us for a few minutes as Freddie was looking for all of us. Brian, Freddie and me go to Montreux to record and write for a few weeks.”

“Freddie was pretty sick at that point,” Brian glanced at the others. “I’d write lines of Mother Love for him, he’d sing A Winter’s Tale. He and Rose walked a little bit near Lake Geneva just talking and when they came back, Rose was pretty tired out and fell asleep on the couch. She’d just arrived the day before and still had jet lag. Freddie wrote a song just for her called Sleeping Rose.”

“I still can’t bear to listen to it,” Rose admitted. “it’s like if I listen to it it’ll be haunting to me, just to remind me that he’s gone. I’ve never heard it.”

“Aw.” Joe took Rose’s hand sweetly.

“Thanks, Joe. That’s what John would have done. Freddie, once he was house bound, called me over about three weeks before he died and said he was stopping all medication except the pain medicine. I got emotional about it which he didn’t like so I had a little tiff with him. I had to make Freddie understand my or the band’s viewpoint on his situation. I told him that I wanted him to survive, to hold my son Charlie when he was born and I wanted him right here now. It was hard for us to see him go through so much and he had to acknowledge that we were in a hard spot as well. Two weeks and several days later I get a call from Jim, Freddie’s partner that he needed help nursing Freddie and Freddie wanted me there so I went gladly. Jim and I switched off on shifts, the band came around to see him as much as they could.”

“Our dear friend was sinking slowly,” Roger’s eyes grew dark. “it was horrible to see but we never heard any complaints.”

“Were any of you with him when he died?”

“I was, Rami.” Rose told him. “His last words were ‘I love you, sweet angel’,” her eyes teared up. “towards the end of his life when I was nursing him he would often call me his angel in disguise because that’s the kind of person he was. Roger came over and I had to break the news to him. We released a statement from the band, turned over Freddie’s body to his family who had him cremated and they had a service in their faith. Freddie’s mom gave me his ashes which I still have of course. The band established the Mercury Phoenix Trust to fight AIDS and we gave the memorial concert. Freddie always wanted me to sing on my own and to honor him I opened and closed the show.”

“Wow,” Gwilym said slowly. “he sounds like a devoted man to music and his friends.”

“Very much so. He supported us and we supported him. He was loving, sweet, kind, a little shy, but funny as hell! So,” Rose got off the table and stood up. “think you’re all up to this?”

“We can do it.” Rami stood beside Rose, giving her a firm hug. “We will honor his memory the best we can and bring his music to the new generation.”

“You got it,” Ben seconded as Gwilym nodded. Joe gave her a kiss on the cheek much like John used to.

“Careful with my wife there, Joe,” Brian grinned widely. “Deacy did that a lot too.”

“Now Joe, I talked to John several days ago. Don’t get your hopes up but he does have a visitor’s pass in case he does decide to turn up.”

“All right.”

“Let’s do this!” Rami was motivated.

Several weeks after shooting began, Rose was thinking about Freddie’s remains and what to do with them. She once had an idea about making a memorial park and turning his house into a museum but that was all in Montreux with the permanent Queen exhibit. Garden Lodge had been cleaned out and sold as well. If she did do something she was afraid a monument or statue would become covered with graffiti, etc. Fans needed a place to mourn so Rose picked up the phone and began to discuss her idea with Miami on what to do.

**

One day during filming of the Live Aid at Wembley set, Joe had begun to jump around in his ebullient style, full of energy, dancing around happily. He skidded a little bit as the stage was wet, then tripped over an electrical cord which sent him crashing down the stairs.

“Well well,” a voice chuckled near him. “it’s a bit wet up there, isn’t it?”

“Joe, they want you in-John!” Rose exclaimed. John Deacon looked at his old friend with a familiar grin. He was wearing his old jeans, sneakers and a black and red checked shirt. The makeup artist helped to haul Joe up and introduced him to the bass player. Joe took to him immediately, making John laugh in a way he hadn’t in years.

“Look at that, Bri,” Rose nudged her husband and Roger. “John’s here.”

“Really?” they turned in their chairs. John and Joe had sat down at a nearby table, both talking and giggling alternately.

“I’m having a Freddie flashback,” Roger smirked. “he and John would do that all the time.”

“I think it’s a good sign.”

“Definitely.” they all agreed.

The shooting of the movie went smoothly as it could possibly go. John took a shine to Joe, confiding later on to his old friends that he did often miss the heyday of the band, the adrenaline rush he’d get on stage, all of it. He’d been thinking of visiting and his wife encouraged him as much as possible.

“What she really meant was get out of the house and go do something else for awhile!” John sniggered to Roger later on. “I’d been driving her mad.”

 

Rami made a stunning Freddie in his own way. He had many costume changes; a poignant one was the white pleated poncho with the entire seventies look. Brian remembered how Freddie would make the outfit twirl and look like a big winged bird at the same time. Rose remembered what she called the white astronaut outfit in the Bohemian Rhapsody video and John wore a similar one.

“Freddie had his stages; one tour it was the harlequin jumpsuit, the next this one, the next the leather getup, and after the eighties began he didn’t bother with costumes anymore. He loved yellow most of all because it was like sunshine.” Roger picked up the hanger with the mirrorball jumpsuit.

“Roger here would wear an outfit but by the time intermission started he’d be topless.” Rose told Rami while doing his makeup for the I Want To Break Free segment. “Freddie insisted that he use this silly pink lipstick and just made us laugh so much while he camped it up.”

While they shot the scene of Rami looking thoughtful in the makeup chair, Rose was seen in the background sitting in a chair, giggling as Ben sprawled out in Joe’s lap while Joe pretended to spank him. With her little cameo complete, she walked over to John who was clearly enjoying himself. The two of them spoke about their kids for a few minutes then watched as Ben was still getting spanked.

“I wish I’d thought of that thirty years ago.”

“Would have laughed my ass off.” Rose shook her head laughingly. Even after all those years had gone by she still hadn’t understood Freddie’s interlude with the ballet dancers and just dismissed it as a quirk. The band didn’t understand it at all but just went with it. The makeup artist would not have understood Freddie’s answer even if she had asked for one.

One day Joe didn’t come in and Rose was told by the assistant director that he’d been sick all night and took himself into the hospital. Apparently he had a stomach virus and was dangerously dehydrated. Roger and Brian along with Rose visited him that night and left him flowers, telling him to get well and not to rush his recovery.

The next day Joe woke up from sleep to discover that John was sitting beside him on a vinyl chair. “Hey, John, I didn’t expect to see you here with me.”

“I wanted to check on you. You are doing a terrific job portraying me I must say.” the bass player gave Joe a fatherly smile. It meant a lot to Joe to have John approve of his performance regardless; yet John had heard from Brian that Joe’s father had brain cancer and was not doing well.

“Thanks. I just want to make you and Freddie proud.”

“I think he would approve.”

“One question I have.”

“Shoot.”

“Was there any sexual interest between Rose and Freddie?”

“Well, when we first met Rose we all had some sexual interest in her. She was a new arrival and we were wondering what she was like and how she’d react to us. I trust you’ve heard her give a history on the band from her experience and I don’t think there was ever the slightest romantic interest between the two of them. Rose didn’t think of him in that way and even when he preferred women over men in the early days he didn’t think of her in that way either. She was more like a verbal sparring partner and friend.”

“And how was your friendship with her?”

John chuckled. “Rose wanted to discover if there was any chemistry between us in terms of romance so we took a walk in the park and sat down on the embankment and we kissed. No chemistry cropped up, neither one of us felt anything so it was best we remained friends. The two of us stayed that way ever since. I came to her when she was distressed in any way. Whenever she got really quiet and withdrawn Freddie and I could tell that was when she was upset over something. Freddie would let me get there first.”

“Like when she had the miscarriage?”

“She told you about that, eh? I’d never seen her look so broken at that point in her life. Freddie told me that she looked lost and my heart just went out to her. I had a chat to draw her out and later on I’m sure she told about what happened to her there. After we finished filming our last ever video I was so overcome with the real finality of it all I went to find her and get comfort from her instead.”

“After Freddie died?”

“Well, at that time Rose was pregnant by Brian and all three of us wanted to protect her as she seemed the most vulnerable by that point in time. She handled it all really well I must say.”

“I bet she did. Rose doesn’t seem to let much bother her.”

“She doesn’t. Her youngest son and my youngest are good friends and in college together right now. He’s premed and my son is a dancer.”

“Wow, nice.”

“I can tell that you’re getting sleepy,” John smiled. “Six kids made me an aficionado on things like that. I should get on home now.”

“I’m glad you came to see me.”

“I’m glad too. Don’t rush your recovery all right?”

“Yeah.” Joe shut his eyes as John left.

Brian and Roger stopped by the next day with some flowers for their sick friend; they didn’t stick around too much. Rose showed up at nightfall and stayed for an hour, answering Joe’s many questions about Freddie.

“What was Freddie like behind closed doors when he had privacy?”

“Freddie was pretty introverted, switched off, etc. If he had an idea for a song, he’d either write the words down or sit at the piano for hours, playing with chords, sometimes just riffing, scat singing, you name it. I think it was like the pieces of the puzzle was all there and he was mucking around trying to make it all fit. Often I’d hear him clank down a chord and he’d go ‘fuck!’ I’d come downstairs laughing and either piss him off or give criticism-which coincidentally pissed him off.”

“What was he like when you got sick? Would he help to nurse you or just leave you to your own devices?”

“I had several colds when I was living with him. When he got sick on the other hand he’d take all necessary action, take meds, give himself enough rest, etc. When I got sick I tended to power on through it. Freddie would mother me a little bit, give me what I needed to get well. Often times I would be stretched on the couch watching TV trying to get well and he would either sit and watch with me or he’d sit at the piano and play me to sleep. It was very sweet; he’d croon to me little made up lullabies and I would be out like a light.”

“He sounds like a wonderful guy.” Joe’s eyelids were getting heavy which Rose did not fail to notice.

“He was. I’ve got to go now-I can see you’re getting sleepy. We’ll see you soon.”

**

Bohemian Rhapsody was released in November 2018 to massive acclaim and critical praise worldwide. Rami nabbed several awards for his performance, including an Oscar for best actor. He dedicated his award to Freddie much to the joy of Roger, John, Brian and Rose.

“It’s so wonderful,” Rose said at the after party. Roger and Brian were there and unsurprisingly John had opted out. “Freddie’s so proud of us I can tell.”

The two bandmembers were in identical tuxedos, Rose wore a lemon yellow dress with a portrait collar that came down mid thigh and had crystals scattered all over the bodice. In a tribute to her late friend she wore a small pin that was shaped like Freddie’s face on one side. Roger’s wife wore a red dress with a sweetheart neckline that touched the floor with a thigh high slit. Both women wore earrings-Rose’s were yellow garnets circled with diamonds and Sarina’s were big red hearts made out of rubies. Rose’s white hair was gathered into a French knot at the back, two ringlets framed her face while Sarina’s was half up and half down.

“Care to dance, my love?” Brian stepped out onto the dance floor, extending a hand to his wife.

“Try and stop me!” still a professional dancer she cut a striking figure on the dance floor, much to the amusement of the cast.

Another week passed which saw the band and Rose back into England. One night Rose was unable to sleep so she looked into the study which used to be Charlie’s room. Brian had a trophy case installed to house all of their awards which she was perusing. He had labeled them by event and year in order to keep better track. Rose had sorted through her photo collection and attached a relevant photo for each award, much to Brian’s amusement.

“Rose?” Brian asked as he stood in the doorway. “What is it, darling? Can’t sleep again?”

“I can’t,” she admitted. “I miss him, Bri.”

“I miss him too. He’s been gone almost 30 years, love, and it still feels like yesterday.”

“Talk about an impression he made,” she crossed over to her husband. “I think that he’s around us all the time. Leo scared me once.”

“How’s that?”

“Once he was talking to someone in his room, I asked who it was and he said a man was there. I asked who the man was and he said, ‘the man wants to be called uncle Freddie’. Leo told me that Freddie was always around him, telling him things. So I asked what kind of things then Leo mentioned that I dated uncle Roger. I never told him that.”

“Our son has a gift.”

“Not necessarily, Bri. Kids are very open minded which makes it easier for spirits to talk to them. As they get older that mind starts closing. Anyway, I have some business with Miami tomorrow.”

“The memorial park?”

“Yes. A section of Hyde park is going to have a public memorial. I’ll be opening it up at the end of the week.”

“My Queen 3D book will be released tomorrow. I’m going on a daytime talk show in a few days to pimp my ass off for it,” Brian told her. “it’s got a few pictures of you in it too.”

“Ooh nice.” Rose flipped through, seeing pictures of her making up the guys, lounging poolside, sitting on John’s lap during a picnic, playing piano with Freddie, etc. “Look at that pic,” she pointed out a picture of her standing on a stage talking to Roger. “in that light you can tell I was pregnant at the time. Did you ever suspect?”

“No. I just thought it was a trick of the light.” Brian flipped through the pictures to see Rose and Roger locked in a kiss while shooting the It’s A Hard Life video. “we look ridiculous in those outfits, except me.”

“John hated his outfit. I have no idea why they made you guys wear those goofy things. At least I got to look good as a Moroccan belly dancer.”

“True.” Rose had worn a long flowing emerald colored skirt, a bra bedecked with sequins and a silver sequined headband that had a round silver disc that touched her forehead. On her wrists she had multicolor bracelets and even an ankle bracelet. “Me and John in silver.”

“He never did like that outfit.”

“We rather complemented each other in a way,” there was a photo of John and Rose talking; she was leaning on one of the pillars with her arms up above her head. “during that time I was rather starved for sex and being a little promiscuous. I didn’t go out and shag anyone but I just wanted some.”

“You got plenty after that.” Brian showed her the picture of her and Adam in the more recent photos. Charlie and Leo were in several after they toured Japan. “we have two boys together.”

“Yes.” she put the book away.

“Think you can sleep now?”

“Yes I can.”

The Freddie Mercury memorial park was opened up to much fanfare. It was a granite sculpture of Freddie standing tall with his famous mike in one hand raised up to his mouth and the other arm was bent at the wrist with his hand splayed out, palm up. Rose had often seen him do that at shows. A plaque inscribed by Rose herself, reading, “An artist, a wonderful performer and a sweet friend, Freddie Mercury.” The first six bars of We Are the Champions were etched into the monument base.

The cast from Bohemian Rhapsody showed up, Brian and Roger played with Adam and it was a great day in the park. John even showed up with his family to celebrate. Adam sang a lot of songs, then asked Rose to come up and sing with him on Killer Queen which she was delighted to do.

“Thank you, everybody!” the band bowed as the moon came up.

EPILOGUE

Brian and Rose became grandparents five times over. Charlie married a lady named Jade and they had two children, Freddie and Lily. Rose was enchanted with the homage to herself by her son using a flower name and began to teach her grandchildren piano. Freddie was more introverted, scholarly, with an interest in anthropology. Brian instilled in them a love for animals, Rose introduced them to dance, and had the joy of watching their grandchildren grow up.

Leo began to see one of Roger’s children, Lola on a regular basis, fell in love and married her, eventually having three children of their own. Madison the eldest, grew to become a ballet dancer, Erin moved away to Ireland to take a government position, and Wyatt became a musician. Brian, Rose and Roger were thrilled to see the family’s penchant for music was not gone. Roger’s other daughter had married one of John’s boys so the family was all interrelated now.

 

In the cemetery John and his wife Ronnie had been buried together, both of them had been killed in a car accident about 12 years after the dedication of the Freddie monument in Hyde park. Both of them had been out driving home from seeing their children when a truck sideswiped them, sending the car down an embankment and rolling over multiple times. John had kept a private journal of his thoughts so his children published it for everyone to read. His private thoughts were interesting-he had nursed a secret crush on Rose for a number of years which nearly caused a breakup in his marriage during the last tour. Rose gave no comment as John would have wished.

Brian and Rose were buried together as well; Rose was holding Freddie’s urn in her arms like her family knew she wanted it. Their monument was of rose granite as the family thought that it was a fitting tribute to such a loving mom and grandma. Rose had gone first, having been sick for some time with end stage renal disease, then an infection had set in, giving her a severe case of bronchitis. Doctors thought that she would recover but then she took a turn for the worse. Brian had died of natural causes, meaning he got sick with pneumonia, had trouble breathing and died several hours later as his kidneys shut down.

Roger went last, his cigarette smoking having caught up with him. He died of pulmonary emphysema surrounded by his loved ones at home. A cache of pictures had been discovered by his family and after much thought and consideration they published the scrapbooks he’d been keeping through the years. An interesting find was he and Rose dressed in masquerade costumes for a party in Kensington, he dressed as a hippie and she was dressed as a cowgirl.

“When the lights get low
When the moon is full
My eyes begin to alight on
My sleeping Rose

“What’s she dreaming of?
Is she in the woods
Or in the fields under the stars
Sweet sleeping Rose

“You can never forget
How much I love her so
Sleeping Rose with her smile
Sleeping Rose and her charm
God knows I’ll protect

“Sleeping Rose how I love you
You’re a diamond in the rough
You know how we turn to you
When the times get tough

“You’re a jewel among women
The four of us love you so much
Through it all you’ve been with us
Dream a dream of us, sleeping Rose.”

“What the hell?” Rose muttered sleepily. She lazily opened one eye to see she was lying on a cushiony surface about as long as her body and padded down almost like a mattress. It was almost like what she had seen in a dream but no blackness, no silhouetted figures enveloped her. It was the exact opposite in fact. Someone was approaching her, in fact it was many someones but she kept her eyes closed.

“Time to wake up, darling.” a familiar tone reached her ears. It sounded like Freddie but he was dead.

“She did like to sleep late by nature.” John.

Someone touched her forehead then called her name. It was her true love, Brian. She put her hand on his, giving it a little squeeze and opened her eyes.

“Well, finally came to, I see,” John sat at the edge of the platform. “how are you doing, lovely?”

“John? But you’re dead.”

“Yes, and so is Freddie.”

“Well...” she was interrupted by Brian and Roger joining them. Each one of her friends looked like they did during the early eighties. “you two were alive when I died.”

“We couldn’t rouse you until they died, love,” Freddie took her hand as she sat up then swung her legs down from the plinth. “you’ve been lying in stasis as it is since you got here.”

“How long has it been since I died?” Rose was attired in the cherry blossom top and a pair of blue jeans she so loved.

“Fifteen years,” Freddie took one of her hands and John took the others. “I guarded you along with John here until Brian and Roger came.”

“Did I just hear you sing Sleeping Rose?” they began to walk to the others.

“You did. I knew you hadn’t listened to it during your lifetime so I couldn’t think of any better way to bring you into the spirit world than to sing it to you.”

“I appreciate it. Hi, guys!” she kissed Roger and Brian.

“I’ve looked forward to this day since Freddie died,” Roger’s eyes shone as he looked at his old friend. Freddie wore the same thing he’d worn at their last concert, the white track pants with red stripes, the shirt, the yellow leather jacket. “I missed you so much, Fred, John, Rose. Brian and I stuck together until he died, then I was the last one to go.”

Freddie laughed as he embraced each one of his friends. Brian swept Rose up in his arms, giving her a big kiss.

“Now we’re young forever!” he trumpeted. “I’ve stayed here since I died because I knew that you’d all join me here. Take a look in behind these doors.”

“Oh, what is it?” they all walked forward and Freddie threw open a set of French doors.

Inside was a concert arena with packed fans. “It’s Wembley!” John exclaimed.

“I knew you’d like it!” Freddie chuckled. “By the way I love the movie you made about me. Rami looked so much like me it was almost uncanny-but I have brown eyes not blue!” everyone started laughing. “Rose, I have one question.”

“Shoot.”

“I want you to duet with me?” his brown eyes lit up at the thought.

Rose laughed, putting her hand on her long lost friend’s shoulder. “I can think of nothing better!”

“Great! Strike up Hammer To Fall!” all their instruments were shining new, ready for them to take up and play.

“Here we stand or here we fall
History won’t care at all
Make the bed, light the light
Lady Mercy won’t be home tonight!” Freddie grabbed the mike and raised it up as Rose took the second one.

“You don’t waste no time at all
Don’t hear the bell but you answer the call
It comes to you as to us all
We’re just waiting for the hammer to fall.” Rose nudged Freddie with one elbow. Their voices rang out strong and true which made the crowd want more. All the struggles of their previous lives fell away in a flash and suddenly they were five young people rocking an arena.

“Oh every night and every day
A little piece of you is falling away
But lift your face the western way
Build your muscles as your body decays.” Freddie pointed at Rose with a huge smile.

“Tow the line and play the game
Let the anesthetic cover it all
Til one day they call your name
You know it’s time for the hammer to fall.” the makeup artist went over to John who sang proudly into the mike with her.

“Rich or poor of famous for
Your truth it’s all the same
Lock your door but rain is pouring
Through your window pane
Baby now your struggle’s all in vain!” they all sang together as Roger struck the cymbals.

“For he who grew up tall and proud
In the shadow of the mushroom cloud
Convinced our voices can’t be heard
We just wanna scream it louder and louder and louder!”

“What the hell we fighting for?
Just surrender and it won’t hurt at all
You just got time to say your prayers
While you’re waiting for the hammer to-hammer to fall.”

At the end of the song, Rose hugged Freddie and kissed him as he put his arm around her and beamed while the sun shone down on the band.