Everything hurts. God, everything hurts. It hurts in a good way though, which almost makes this whole thing even more unbearable. His chest feels—something, something he can’t quite contain or comprehend, he doesn’t know, but he can barely breathe around it and it makes him want to hit his face against a wall.
He groans pitifully and rolls over on the carpet, elbow thrown over his eyes.
“What’s his deal?” Freddie’s voice asks.
Brian’s fingers pause in their typing. “Did you see John today?”
“Yes, just now, the cute little thing. Roger, was that your shirt he was wearing?”
Yes, for the love of God, and it was just an old Henley but it looked damn good; domestic and warm and it hugged his waist just right with the way he’d tucked it lazily into the front of his jeans in a move he’d probably stolen from one of his Queer Eye marathons with Freddie. He groans and rolls over again, flailing on the carpet.
“…Oh,” Freddie says.
Roger flings his arm off his face, squinting into the light from the window and the way Freddie and Brain seem to be communicating just with prolonged eye contact and heavy silence. “Oh?! That’s all you have to say?!”
“Roger,” Brian starts, tired.
“Oh?! He comes in here looking like that and all you can do is—”
“John smiled at him,” Brian supplies to a bemused Freddie.
Smiled. That’s an understatement. He’d flashed a dumb charming grin that had crinkled his dumb sparkly eyes and said sorry, I’m almost out of clean clothes. I hope you don’t mind, and then whisked out of the apartment toward the basement, laundry basket propped up on his hip, humming an out-of-tune and completely off-key rendition of P-Funk, and Roger doesn’t even like P-Funk but.
“Roger, dear,” Freddie says flatly, sitting down cross-legged above his head and peering at him upside-down. “Listen. Here’s some free advice, alright? John thinks the world of you and I’m sure he’d be flattered—”
“Flattered isn’t really the response I’m looking for, mate—”
“—and you’re both wonderful people, and I think it’d be smashing if you two were…smashing. But that can’t happen unless you tell him, dear.”
“I know that,” Roger moans. “Obviously I know that. Did you think I was just putting it off for shits and giggles?”
“What, you’re worried he’ll turn you down?” Freddie retorts dryly. “Un-fucking-likely. You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Oh, don’t do that.”
“Stretch the truth!”
Freddie rolls his eyes. “Fine, then. Believe me or don’t. I’ll put it this way. Either he turns you down and we have an awkward rift in the band where you can’t perform due to serious heartbreak, or else you continue to underperform because of serious heartsickness.”
“If you spent a little less time making cow eyes at him maybe we could actually get something done in the studio.”
Roger sits up abruptly, spinning around on the seat of his jeans to look at Freddie head-on. “Hang on a minute, here,” he snaps. “You seriously think the reason we don’t get anything done is—”
“Yesterday you kept missing the toms because you’d moved your seat so you could be in his sightline!” Freddie all but whines. “I’m not making this up! Brian, tell him!”
Brian turns back to his laptop quickly. “That’s not a good idea.”
“It’s not a good idea because he’s just gonna—”
“I’ll show you!” Roger crows.
“…Take it as a challenge,” Brian finishes quietly.
“Fuck you both very much,” Roger snaps. “You especially, Brian. I thought you’d actually support me for once—”
“—Bloody hypocrite that you are, apparently—”
“—But apparently not. I’m not telling John shit, okay? And I’ll continue to play perfectly, just like I always have,” he says, with a glare at Freddie, “because I most certainly do not get distracted by John Deacon’s anything at any point in the day, ever! As if the two of you can even talk, anyway!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Freddie asks defensively.
Brian sits up straighter, a warning in his eyes. “Roger,” he starts, deadly quiet.
Roger is about to respond, angrily and no doubt quite rashly if he knows himself at all, when the door swings open.
John blinks at the scene before him. “Everything alright?” he asks slowly.
“Fine,” Brian replies. “Same old. You know.”
Roger tears his gaze away from Freddie finally to notice John is now wearing a grey hoodie which dwarfs him just enough to make him look ridiculously soft and cuddly, and this is the worst development of anything ever.
“Rog, I got this back for you,” John says. He tosses Roger the shirt he’d borrowed. “Thanks for that, by the way,” he adds with a gentle smile.
It’s still warm from the dryer and smells like John’s detergent. Roger collapses back onto the floor and wants to die a little bit.
“Did you get the dryer to work then, darling?” Freddie asks. “It was broken this morning.”
“Work? Yeah, it’s working. There was an issue with the dial. I just popped it off and put a little—”
“Alright, alright,” Freddie says with a wry smile. “Our little engineering whiz. I get it. You’re a genius.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” John replies bashfully. “I can’t figure out how to wash these.” He holds his most beloved beige boots aloft, the chunky heels caked with mud and grass. “Got caught in the rain, you know, and I’m worried that the suede is ruined for good now.”
“Oh, don’t you worry about that,” Freddie tuts. “I can work magic with suede. Give me ten minutes with them.”
The two of them disappear down the hall, Freddie to the bathroom and John to the bedroom. Roger sighs and hugs his shirt to his chest.
Brian glances at him, glances away, and then turns back to his laptop with a sigh.
“What?” Roger groans.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“What do you want from me?!”
“Don’t huff like that. I know you want to say something.”
Brian sends him his best unimpressed glare. “Don’t be a jerk. He’s way too nice for you, you know.”
“Yeah, and Freddie’s way too nice for you.”
“What’s that even supposed to mean?”
“You know exactly what it means!”
“Oh, don’t be so fucking ridiculous. Not that that even warrants a response, but I happen to have a girlfriend.”
“You do not. Since when?”
“Since yesterday,” Brian says crisply. “Not that you bothered to ask. Like I said, he’s too nice for you.”
Roger huffs a sigh, glaring daggers at the ceiling. He lets the silence drag for a long moment before speaking. “Sharon, right?”
Brian is silent for a beat. “Yeah.”
“First few dates went well, then?”
“Swimmingly,” Brian says flatly.
That’s met with another long pause, but he doesn’t dare look at Brian as he shifts quietly. “It’s alright,” he murmurs finally. “I haven’t talked about it much, I suppose. I was too harsh. You’re plenty nice.”
“Not nice enough.”
“Oh, don’t say that.”
Roger blinks up at the ceiling for a minute. “It’s not even that he’s nice,” he says. “He’s too good for me for like, maybe eighty-nine or so reasons.”
“Right,” Brian mutters.
“He’s super nice. You know?”
“John is very nice,” Brian confirms.
“It’s that he isn’t nice to everyone. He’s nice to us because he loves us.”
“Roger, he’s sweet to you because he loves you. He’s nice to us because he likes us. Honestly, he basically just tolerates me.”
Roger frowns, rolling on the rug to face him. “That’s not true. He looks up to you.”
Brian raises his eyebrows.
“He’s shy, Brian.”
“And that’s okay,” Brian says patiently. “I don’t have a problem with that. That isn’t my point, anyway.”
“That’s important, though.”
“Maybe to me and him, yeah. I suppose. It doesn’t matter to the topic at hand.”
“That he loves you.”
“He does not.”
“He does so.”
“He does, Rog.”
Brian relents, mouth pressed into a line.
“Don’t—do that, alright?” Roger says. “It’s not fair and there’s no point, so just stop.”
“There’s a point—”
“Stop. I don’t need to do anything about it and I’m not going to. I’m not sacrificing everything we’ve got here just for a…for a crush.”
He can tell Brian wants to say something. He can tell he has an argument saved up just by the way he’s practically shaking in an effort not to let it out. In the end he relents, and thank god for that.
Roger spends another minute just lying there, staring up at the ceiling. Finally he stands and crosses over to his and John’s room. He snaps the door shut and leans against it for a moment.
The stupid thing is they have to share a room, which is its own form of torture because Roger has to watch him get ready for bed and stay up reading too late and yawn as he gets settled and hugs a pillow to his chest and he doesn’t watch his roommate sleep, alright? That’s really creepy. They’re just routine moments he can’t help but witness after almost a year of living together in close quarters.
There’s a domesticity to it.
But yeah, the shared room thing is occasionally stupid. It’s stupid because when he goes to his room to hide from Brian’s cajoling he’s met with John humming off-tune (but very much on rhythm) under his breath as he folds laundry. He looks up as Roger trudges in, eyes wide and innocent and slightly concerned, and the sight of that alone makes Roger collapse none-too-gracefully into an empty space on the mattress between all the little piles of clothes.
“Tough day?” John asks softly.
“Of sorts,” Roger says into the elbow he throws dramatically over his face.
“Did something happen?”
Yes, the bitter, downtrodden, very much in love part of Roger’s brain supplies. You happened, and I can’t tell if it aches or not. “Kind of,” he says instead.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.” When he removes his arm from his face it’s to see John paused, midway through folding a pair of socks, to look at him with something that resembles surprise. “I don’t mean it like—it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it with you. I just don’t—it doesn’t matter, you know? Just a bunch of little things. Brian’s being a dick on top of it,” he supplies lamely, hoping that’s enough.
John nibbles his lip and finishes folding his socks thoughtfully—folding socks, what kind of nerd even does that, who exactly has Roger gone and fallen in love with—before looking back at Roger finally. “It’s not like you to let little things get you down,” he says.
“That’s not always true.”
John shrugs that off. “If you ever want to talk about it I’ll be around.”
“Thanks,” Roger says, sincere if not slightly awkward.
“You’ll be alright,” John continues in the same level tone, voice soft and easy. “Whatever it is, I know you’ll take it head-on. There isn’t much you can’t do.”
That has something warm spreading through his chest, and for the first time he relaxes. Praise from him always has that effect. “Thanks.”
John’s eyes hover on him for a minute, considering. It gives Roger just enough time to realize how close they are, John towering above him in the space between Roger’s knees. In any other setting this could easily be intimate; this could easily be the first scene of a much, much different film than the one they’re currently living out, and Roger wills his cheeks to cool down as the thought drifts through his head.
Roger doesn’t crave domesticity, he really doesn’t. That’s the thing. When he thinks about his goals in life he already knows they center around fame and fortune, around being loved, around gaining enough power that when he says things people listen; about changing people’s minds and actually adding something back into the world. And yeah, okay, Brian and Freddie and John fit into that goal too because what’s the point unless he still has them in his lives?
And maybe John might just fit in in a slightly different way—in a domestic, sweet way that really betrays the rock-and-roll personas the two of them are trying to build.
“I’ll try to get you some kind of break tomorrow, anyway,” John says casually, stepping back and returning to his folding. “What do you think about a night in?”
Roger blinks at him. Surely he can’t read minds. “What?”
“Freddie told me he and Brian have an appointment tomorrow. Something about a designer they’re meeting with,” he adds, voice rising at the end like it’s a question. “I can cook.”
“Oh. Oh, you don’t have to.”
John smiles. “Roger, I wish that were true, but I like having a kitchen that isn’t on fire.”
“One and a half,” Roger gripes. “The egg thing was just a small fire. Barely a fire at all, really.”
John smiles down at his socks and doesn’t bring it up again.
The next morning sees him up before anyone in the house, dressing quickly, throwing on some sunglasses and trotting off to work.
He’s quite the busy bee.
The Vintage Market rests in a basement on Brick Lane, a kind of dingy space with an entrance that looks more like a club than anything. It’s always confused Roger somewhat, but their fellow vendors and the customers that wander around the place are nice enough that he doesn’t give it much thought. Besides, London may have a ridiculous amount of vintage clothing stores scattered around but Roger has no doubt that the marketplace is the coolest of them, and that boosts his ego if nothing else.
That’s not to say he doesn’t look forward to the end of the work day. He’s only human.
When Freddie finally appears, late by at least 15 minutes as is usual, Roger groans audibly with relief.
“Having that good of a day, were you?” Freddie says dryly.
“Been dying to get out. God, this day stretched on.”
“It’s the lack of sunlight,” Freddie replies, hefting a canvas bag onto Roger’s lap. “Here, help me shelve these right quick and I’ll give you half of the sushi Mary gave me.”
Roger huffs. “I’m supposed to be off by now, you know. You’re the one who’s late.”
“Sushi, Roger,” Freddie says, raising his eyebrows and gesturing to the bag. “Sushi.”
Roger huffs again. Then he gets up and begins shelving the shirts and shoes in the bag anyway, because he’s a good person. A good, sushi-loving person. “Does Brian know you’re planning on selling his clothes?” he asks, waving a familiar shirt through the air as he does.
“I’m helping him with a bit of a restyle,” Freddie says. “You could help too, if you like. I’m trying to get him as glamorized as the rest of us.”
“He’s on board with that?”
“You’d be surprised. He loves a bit of sparkle, you know. We’ve got that meeting with the designer later. She swore she’d help out with that.”
Roger laughs under his breath. He plunges his hand deep into the bag, about to respond when his fingers brush a hard surface of suede.
He pulls it out and stops short.
A very, very familiar boot is grasped in his hand.
“Freddie,” he calls.
Freddie’s head appears from behind a rack of jeans. “Yes, dear?”
Roger gestures at it. “What’s this?”
“Oh,” Freddie says. “Oh, yes. Well, we couldn’t fix them and John decided he’d be better off parting with them in the end. He figured we might as well be able to make a little bit of money off of them, even if they’re damaged.”
John’s beloved brown suede boots are not damaged. They’re close to ruined, actually. “What the hell did you do to them?!” Roger asks.
“I did my best! A friend told me a little bit of warm water and dish soap and they’d be good as new!”
“Freddie, you can’t put warm water on them! They’re suede! They can’t get wet!”
“And you expected me to know that how?!”
Roger picks one up. The suede is stiff and wrinkled in his hands, discolored from water and dirt. “He fucking loves these things,” he mutters. “How are you still standing?”
“He doesn’t have your anger problems,” Freddie huffs, crossing his arms. “Some people are rational, you know. He knew I tried my best.”
“You’re really telling me he wasn’t upset?”
“Of course he was upset! He just has bigger priorities, that’s all!” His phone chimes, and he huffs. “Look, I’ve got to take this. Stall rent, you know.”
Roger waves him off. “Yeah, yeah.”
He waits until he’s gone, turning one shoe over in his hand. A sticker on the bottom reads 10 quid—10 for these shoes that have already been worn to within an inch of their lives, but they make John happy and he deserves things that make him happy. Freddie can downplay it all he wants but there’s no reason—
“Are those for sale?” a woman asks him.
He roots the other one out of the bag quickly. “No,” he says. “No, they’re not. Sorry.”
The woman wanders deeper into the stand, and Roger takes the moment to hiss across the aisle to the next vendor over. “Dom!”
“What?” Dom calls back.
“I’m busy. You come here.”
Roger huffs and stands, bringing the boot with her. “You do shoes, right?”
“I guess,” Dom huffs back, letting her feet fall from where they’re propped on her desk and raising her sunglasses to peer at the shoe in Roger’s hand. “If you’re trying to give that to me I don’t want it.”
“Is it salvageable?”
“Salvageable? After a night’s repairs it still wouldn’t be worth selling.”
“What about wearing? Sentimental-like, you know?”
Dom sighs. “Maybe. I dunno.”
“Will you help?”
“You’re gonna owe me.”
“Favor for a favor.” At Dom’s raised eyebrow he grins. “My word is worth a lot, you know. I know people. I’ve been places.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dom replies with a barely stifled laugh. She hesitates for a moment. “Tomorrow night I’m closing. It shouldn’t be too busy. You can come by then.”
Roger presses his hands together in thanks. “You’re a life saver. You’re brilliant.”
“I owe you.”
He shuffles quickly back to the little desk in his own stand and whips out his phone, typing out a quick text.
Rain check for practice tomorrow. I’ll tell the others
John replies almost immediately. oh no what came up
Just got an exam don’t worry about it
He examines the toe of one of the boots again and wonders how difficult it is to remove water damage. Not that hard, surely. It’s been done before.
Ok, John texts him after a beat, then, Still good for dinner later? Got a few riffs to run by you too
Roger grins. See you in a bit.
“Hello?” the same woman from earlier calls. “This shirt—how much for it?”
Roger puts his phone away quickly and redirects his grin to her. “That’ll be 20 quid. For you I can make it 15.”
Somehow even with all the needy customers and Freddie’s begging him to stay he still makes it to the flat a mere five minutes late. He spends the last few paces of the walk rearranging his hair and straightening his sunglasses.
“Sorry I’m late,” he announces to the room at large as he throws the door open.
John doesn’t look up, but he does smile, head ducked as he tunes his bass. “Five minutes is early for you.”
“Then in that case, thank you very much for coming so early.”
“You’re very welcome,” John replies. “How was the shop?”
“Perfectly decent,” he says, mind drifting back to the pair of boots stowed away in his bookbag. “How was class?”
John hums noncommittedly. “A girl asked me out.”
Roger watches him jump about a meter into the air as one of Roger’s drumsticks falls from his hand and onto his snare with a loud crash. Roger doesn’t jump. That was deliberate. He meant to do that. He picks it up casually and clears his throat. “Oh?”
“Yeah. Well, I said no,” he says quickly, and Roger blinks politely like he doesn’t care one way or the other. “I didn’t have to, though. She actually thought I was Freddie.”
“How? You’re taller.”
He shrugs. “She asked me if I was the one from Queen, so I said yes, and she said she loved my voice. So I said I’m not that one.”
“How’d she take it?”
“A little put out.”
“You’re much more of a catch.”
John blinks at him in surprise, mouth falling open.
Shit. He said that out loud.
He hits his suspended cymbal as loud as he possibly can and then breaks into the loudest roll he can muster. “You want to practice or not?” he yells over the noise, and John sends him a smile that’s honestly about 50% fear before falling into Roger’s rhythm just like that.
And blessedly he doesn’t say anything.
He doesn’t bring it up later either after Roger’s washed off the post-practice grime, or even after that as they weave around each other in the kitchen, John reheating some soup his mother sent along and letting Roger slice cheese for sandwiches so he can feel like he’s contributing something.
It’s very sweet, the domesticity of it all.
They finally settle on the floor in front of the sofa, their backs resting against it, John’s massive battleship of a laptop open on the coffee table behind their assortment of plates and bowls, washing the room in blue light as it plays old episodes of The X-Files.
Roger isn’t quite paying attention to it. He doesn’t need to, really. It’s half due to the fact that he can hardly keep his eyes open, and half because he can usually tell what’s going on in any given programme solely based off of John’s reactions anyway.
Right now, John is shifting slightly every few seconds, knees propped up against his chest, eyes fighting to stay wide open despite his obvious exhaustion. This episode is about aliens.
“Can you imagine,” John mutters.
“Brian said the chances of alien life being non-existent are slim to none,” Roger offers. “He had to write a paper about it for class.”
“Yeah. Did the math and everything.”
That sleepy yet wide-eyed stare turns to him. “Do you ever think about that?”
“I think about their ships,” Roger admits. “Must be fast, those ships.”
“If they’ve got ships.”
Roger grimaces. “What’d be the point in that? Aliens but no saucers?”
“I suppose it would be quite dull, though it is more likely.” They’re silent for a beat. “Well, but there’s always Roswell.”
Roger sighs happily. “Yes. Roswell.”
“Are you falling asleep?”
“No.” He pries his eyes open and props his chin up on his knees just in time to see the end credits begin to roll across the screen. “Fuck. Is that really it?”
“Can you stay awake for one more?”
“Just one, and then I need to go to sleep.”
“…Can we move to the sofa, though?”
They do not stay awake for one more.
At what point they fall asleep, Roger has no idea. All he knows is he wakes up slumped sideways on the sofa with the arm rest digging into his shoulder blade, feet on the coffee table, David Duchovny’s voice still lulling him into a calm, John’s lanky frame curled up impossibly small and his head resting heavily on Roger’s collar bone as he snores softly. One of Roger’s arms had decided to move and drape itself across John’s back without permission whilst the two of them slept. His other one is flung over the arm rest behind him and is possibly more asleep than John, judging by the way it’s gone completely numb.
Keys are rattling in the lock. They continue for another long moment before the door finally opens, Freddie and Brian giggling and shushing each other as they tumble through. Freddie sees them first, cooing softly and elbowing Brian until he looks over too. “Oh, just the cutest thing—"
“Fuck off, Freddie,” Roger hisses, covering John’s ear lightly with his palm so as not to wake him.
“He looks like a little angel, I swear—"
John’s snoring stops as he snuffles once, blinking blearily awake, and Roger accepts defeat and moves his hand quickly. “Sorry,” he says to him. “Fred and Bri are home.”
“I got Bri drunk!” Freddie says cheerfully, voice considerately soft but still loud in the peace of the room.
“You didn’t,” Brian argues.
“Oh, I did, you silly man. Look at you. You’re all flushed.”
John sits up. Roger’s collar has left an indent on his cheek. “Thought you went to the designer’s?” he rasps, voice rough in a way that the horde of butterflies residing in Roger’s stomach takes immediate interest in.
“We did. She loves us. And she loves Brian and his curls—"
“Stooooop,” Brian whines, pushing Freddie’s hand away from his hair.
“And she said we just have such chemistry. She said it was so refreshing.”
Roger raises his eyebrows at Brian, who grows somehow even redder and clears his throat quickly. “Freddie showed her his sketch book,” he says. “She said he’s a visionary.”
“She said I have a good eye.”
“She said he’s inspired. She said he’s really going places and that he could have a career in anything if he—”
“She did not.”
“You weren’t there. You were in the bathroom. She told me that.”
“No she didn’t.”
“Yes she did. She didn’t need to tell me, though. I already knew.”
“Oh, stop it,” Freddie argues, though he can’t seem to hide his smile. “Anyway, then we went out and we got drinks and, oh, it was fabulous. She’s taken our commissions on two pieces each at a heavily discounted price, the absolute dear. She’s even giving us a few for free, just to try them out. I think she was about to sign Brian for a modeling deal if we’d stayed any longer.”
“She wanted to sign you,” Brian says. “She kept talking about how beautiful you are.”
“She wouldn’t stop talking about your eyes, darling. She kept talking about your ‘natural melancholy.’”
“Well, she loved your smile.”
John nudges Roger softly. “Bedtime?” he asks, knowing smile on his face.
“Think it’s time to go, yeah. They seem to have forgotten they’re not alone.”
“Oh, wouldn’t you stay up for a cup of tea with me?” Freddie pleads.
“At this hour?” John asks.
“Deaky, stay! I have to talk to you!”
Roger shoots Freddie a warning glare, and Freddie rolls his eyes in response. “Things. I have an idea for stage wear, and I think you’ll really like it. She sent us home with a few drawings.”
“None for Roger?” John asks, and Roger can’t tell if he’s imagining how put-out he sounds.
“Roger can dress himself.”
“Deaky can dress himself, too,” Roger says defensively.
John shoots him a smile. “Go ahead,” he says quietly. “I’ll try not to wake you up when I come in.”
He looks just as exhausted as Roger feels, but Roger knows better than to try to tear him away from one of Freddie’s ideas when the two of them are determined. “Alright, then,” Roger says, turning and starting down the hall. “Goodnight, both of you.”
He makes it as far as the bathroom, flicking the light on and digging through the medicine cabinet for his toothpaste, and then jumps halfway to the ceiling when closing the cabinet door reveals Brian standing right behind him in the mirror.
“Jesus. You scared me.”
He looks noticeably drunker in the harsh fluorescent lighting and a good deal more tragic, studying Roger with cow eyes even as Roger tries to catch his breath. “I think Freddie is upset with me,” he says.
Roger rolls his eyes. “I highly doubt it, mate, considering that not five minutes ago he was rambling on about your eyes.”
“He seems upset, though. He’s usually so…”
“That was him being cold?”
Brian huffs. “If you’re just going to make fun of me then I’ll go.”
“You should sleep this off,” Roger says.
Brian huffs again and turns to leave.
Roger watches him in the mirror. He thinks about letting him walk off to fall asleep worried and unhappy, and guilt gnaws at his stomach. “Brian, wait.”
“Listen. He’s not going to…” he starts, then gathers his thoughts quickly. “He can’t treat you the same way now that you’re taken. You realize that, right?”
Brian frowns at him in the mirror. “Taken?”
“Now that you’re dating Sharon. He isn’t going to act the same around you, you know. He can’t.” When Brian only looks more confused Roger sighs. “I mean you can’t expect him to keep flirting with you now that you’re off the market, and it isn’t fair of you to flirt back.” Roger pauses. “You do know he’s flirting with you, right? Or that he was? …Brian? Are you alright?”
Brian’s face cycles through about eight emotions at once before settling back on severe confusion. He blinks. “What?”
“Oh my god,” Roger mumbles.
“That’s not flirting. That’s just how we are.”
“Yeah. The scientific name for it is flirty.”
“No, that’s just how we…I just want us to be like that again. I didn’t—that’s not flirting.”
Roger sighs and grabs his toothbrush. “Call it what you want.”
Brian stares at him for another long moment, mouth gaping. “He does it to everyone, though.”
“Not like he does with you.”
“No, he does that with everyone.”
Roger blinks at him in the mirror.
“I should talk to him,” he says weakly.
“You should maybe talk to Sharon.”
“And you should sleep this off first.”
“And before that you should drink some water.”
Brian blinks at him again in the mirror. “Are you sure that he—"
“Water, Bri. Then bed.”
He sighs, backing his lanky frame out of the bathroom carefully before wandering back down the hallway to the kitchen.
Roger stares at himself in the mirror for a minute. He rolls his eyes at himself for lack of any other sort of commiseration, then hastily begins brushing his teeth.
John sleeps in the next morning, which means Roger has the privilege of waking up to the sight of him cuddling a pillow in his sleep and mumbling softly to himself. He kind of wants to die.
When he looks back on it, the moment he thought he was gone for him was when they’d both gone home for Christmas and Roger couldn’t doze off because his childhood bedroom was too quiet without John snuffling and shifting and murmuring nonsense in his sleep. Then he’d thought it was when he’d first imagined the two of them falling into bed together.
Then he’d known it was the first time he’d wished he was the pillow John was holding.
He doesn’t even fucking like cuddling.
He wrote a song along those lines while waiting for the bus home about a week ago, then tore the page out the back of his diary and lit it on fire with a lighter still kicking around from his smoking days at the bottom of his bookbag, then wrote a song about rock and roll instead, throwing around rhymes on pen and paper all the way home.
“What’s that?” John asked, leaning over his shoulder as he settled in the studio.
“It’s about rock and roll,” Roger replied, studiously not looking at the mouth three inches away from his own, the color of which he’d been trying to rhyme with ‘enchanting’ an hour prior. “You know. Sex, drugs, noise pollution. Hard shit.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it’s going alright.”
“It’s gonna be brilliant.”
“What do they say about counting chickens?”
And John had just smiled at him, warm and confident and a little mysterious.
The encounter haunts his dreams. He’s haunted with that and once again with the pink of John’s mouth. He’s haunted by the warmth of him and he can’t shake it.
They fit so well together, and he wishes he didn’t know that. He wishes he didn’t know enough to wonder all the other ways they might fit, all the other ways they could touch.
Roger groans and rolls out of bed. Enough pining. He’s got things to do.
“Why am I here again?” Brian asks, aviator-shielded eyes fixed on his phone.
“I’m bribing you in falafel.”
“Yes, but why are you bribing me in falafel?”
“I need company,” Roger says. “And help.”
“I don’t understand why Freddie couldn’t have come with you. He’s free right now.”
“The minute I tell him what I’m doing he’ll go straight to John. I want this to be a surprise. If he knows I’m looking but then I don’t find anything he’ll just be disappointed.” When Brian says nothing, face hidden in his phone, Roger gapes at him. “You’ve already told Freddie, haven’t you?”
“He said he won’t tell!” Brian says loudly.
“And you believe him?”
“He said!” He turns his phone screen so that Roger can see it. Snapchat is open, displaying a somewhat blurry but very softly lit photo of Freddie cocooned in bed, captioned Your secret is safe with me ;).
Roger grimaces and pushes his hand away. “Don’t show me that!”
“Why not? You asked me if—”
“It’s weird! It’s like—like watching my sister flirt or something!”
“We’re not flirting. That’s just how he texts!”
“That’s how he texts you. We had this conversation last night!”
Brian blinks at him, then frowns.
“Are you serious. You seriously don’t remember.”
“I don’t black out. I remember talking about it.”
“You remember talking about Sharon?”
Brian blinks again. “We—”
“Camden Town,” the bus announcement chimes.
Roger starts and smacks the stop button. “Get off, get off.”
“I’m going.” Then he mutters something too quietly for Roger to pick up on.
“What was that?” Roger asks.
“Listen, what was it about Sharon?”
“Because if it’s the same thing Freddie keeps saying I don’t really want to hear it from you, too.”
Roger frowns. “What’s Freddie saying?”
“That I need someone who ‘supports me’,” he says quietly, air quotes evident in his voice.
“He said that?”
He nods. “And that I need—I’m still trying to figure it out and I know that, but I like her and him pushing me like this—I don’t know what he wants but he doesn’t want to date.” When Roger tries to argue he cuts him off. “No, he flirts with everybody. You can’t argue with me on that, and I don’t think I’d be able to handle it. Or, I don’t know. I need time to figure it out. Maybe me and her aren’t a long-term thing, but…do you know what I’m saying?”
He does, unfortunately. God knows they’ve all been there at some point. “You need some time to figure out where you’re going. You need a stable place to stand. But Brian, I can tell you right now that Freddie loves you.”
Brian looks at him, but Roger can’t read him behind his sunglasses.
He can’t bring himself to say anything, though. Freddie is powerful, a force of nature but a force nonetheless, and family life and hard work have always been Brian’s figurative tug in the other direction. Queen has always been the stable platform in the middle. Somehow, despite the great many things they themselves still haven’t figured out, John and Roger are the stable, practical side of the dream Freddie is spinning.
Roger can’t bring himself to leave that position. It isn’t right.
He sighs and runs a hand over his face. Seriously, his life. “If you don’t remember it I’m sure it doesn’t matter, alright? Let’s just focus on one thing at a time.”
Brian doesn’t seem convinced. Blessedly, in his hungover state he doesn’t argue.
Unfortunately in all his enthusiasm Roger had forgotten the major drawback of shopping with Brian at any sort of vintage market; that drawback being the fact that vendors always take one look at his lanky frame and lush curls and instantly pounce with piles of clothes for him to try on.
Roger can’t blame him. He and Freddie are known to do the same.
Nonetheless within thirty seconds of entering the market Brian is sidetracked by a woman holding a floral-patterned jacket against his shoulders and eyeing him critically. He leans down slightly to hear what she’s saying and Roger takes the opportunity to wander off, eyeing shelves of shoes as he goes.
He has a mission, after all.
“Have any luck, darling?” Freddie greets them as they stumble back into the flat.
“No,” Roger replies sullenly. “Well. Brian had luck. I think he probably got about six new outfits.”
“Show, show!” Freddie says to Brian, who smiles.
“Let me take my shoes off first, at least.” He hands his bags off to Freddie, who immediately begins rifling through them.
“Oh, this will look darling on you. Not something you’d wear on the first date, my mother would say.”
“I’ve got a fifth date tomorrow,” Brian offers.
To his credit, Freddie’s smile barely wavers. “This would be perfect. You’ll look quite dashing, I think. Have you tried it on yet?”
“Come on, then,” Brian says, toeing his clogs off and following Freddie to their room, shooting him a hesitantly hopeful smile all the while.
The commotion rouses John, who nearly smacks into them as he enters the hallway. He steps back quickly, wide eyed, before emerging again and flopping down beside Roger on the sofa. “Busy day?”
“Just a typical commotion,” Roger says blandly. “Brian bought clothes.”
“Your and Fred’s plan to revamp his wardrobe is really working, then?”
“A real success story, yeah. For him, anyway. I didn’t find a thing today.”
“Paycheck burning a hole in your pocket, is it?”
“What paycheck?” Roger jokes.
At that John sends him one of his crinkly-eyed smiles which Roger is fairly sure could cure cancer. “It’s almost dinner time. If you’re sore about it there’s a new Thai place around the street that we could try.”
“Is that so?”
“Mhmm,” John says.
He looks distinctly hopeful, lips still quirked up, and it’s making Roger’s stomach do ridiculous things. He can’t look away when John is looking at him like that, though. How is he supposed to turn down dinner with—
It’s almost dinner time.
“Shit,” he snaps, gathering his things quickly.
John’s face falls. “I take it that’s a no?”
“I’m supposed to meet Dom tonight. Fuck. I’m going to be late.”
“Dom,” John echoes, tone flat and bland.
Roger grimaces at him apologetically. “I’m sorry. I almost completely forgot. She’s going to kill me if I stand her up like that. Wednesday? Can you do Wednesday?”
“I’ve got class.”
“Yeah,” John says. He sends him another smile, though this one is decidedly less crinkly and sparkly-eyed. “Sure. Thursday. Yeah.”
Roger all but barrels toward the door, flinging it open and throwing himself through. As he’s about to close it he catches one last look at John sitting alone on the sofa and wearing an expression Roger can’t decipher. He pauses and John’s eyes snap up to his, and then hover there as Roger tries to think of something to say to make him smile again.
“Cheerio,” is what his brain settles on.
The last thing he sees is John’s eyebrows shooting toward his hairline.
He closes the door and then takes a moment to shut his eyes and rest his forehead against the door jam. He lifts it once and then lets it thud lightly back down against the wood.
Cheerio. Really? Really? Cheerio?!
And then his phone buzzes with what is no doubt a very angry text from Dom, and just like that he’s running away from his own absolute embarrassment in front of someone who is probably the love of his life, and toward the vintage market.
The last of the stands are just closing down when he gets there. Dom greets him with a raised eyebrow.
“Am not. You said tomorrow after hours. You never gave a time.”
“I’m doing you a favor.”
He smiles cheekily and holds up a bag of takeaway, and she sighs before taking it, breathing in the steam and letting out a happy sigh.
“Right then. What are we starting with?”
“Dinner. Then resoling. Then…I don’t know. Then we’ll see. Kenny is pretty good with suede restoration, if he’s still around.”
“Well, is he?”
She frowns, midway through opening one of the cardboard cartons, then takes a deep breath before shouting through the empty stalls. “Kenny!”
There’s a pause, then a crash, then far away a voice calls back. “What?!”
“You free tonight?”
“I have takeaway!”
That’s met with another long pause. “Give me a minute.”
The two of them wait patiently as the clattering grows louder. Finally Kenny appears, bearing a wagon full of resale goods. “What’s up?”
“Boot restoration,” Dom says through a mouthful of noodles. “You in?”
“What’s in it for me?”
Roger eyes his wagon. “I can sew.”
Roger huffs. “Decently, anyway.”
“Fine. I got some buttons to replace. You know tourists.”
“They love a good button,” Dom says dryly.
“Mmh. They really do.”
“Does this mean you’re helping, then?”
Kenny laughs, smile breaking on his face. “Yeah. Sure, I’m helping. You’re Roger, right? Friend of Freddie’s?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Alright. What say you we all put each other to work?”
An hour later finds a small crowd gathering as refinishing treatments and garments fly around the table.
“I swear by this one,” a vendor Roger doesn’t recognize says.
Dom shakes her head. “The other one is much more versatile.”
“You don’t want versatile. You want effective.”
“You want both,” a man says. “That’s why I use—”
“Nobody cares, Kyle!”
Roger clears his throat, snipping the thread on his most recent button. Half the people gathered around him are doing the same; once the three of them had begun restoring shoes and re-stitching clothing people had gradually shown up with their own wares to crowdsource, and within the hour it had become a community sewing circle. He can’t say he minds. “How about we test them all?” he says. “I have some old scraps of suede left over from a patching project Freddie and I were doing.”
“That’s a good idea, you know,” a woman to his left says, carefully mending a hole in a lace crop top. “You know, it’s always best to test it first.”
They all seem to turn that over for a beat before nodding slowly one by one. “Deal,” Dom says.
Freddie calls at ten. “Where are you?”
“Still at work,” Roger yells over the din.
“The market closes at six, Roger. Are you at a bar?”
“What’s that sound, then?”
“Clean eraser,” Kenny shouts over the crowd. “You need a clean eraser, you dolt. Who has my glue?”
Roger winces. “Just some minor restoration and repairs and things. You know.”
“And you didn’t invite me?”
“I didn’t think to!”
“That’s even more hurtful, Roger,” Freddie says. “When will you be home, then?”
“Uh,” Roger says, glancing at the small crowd gathered around his desk. The market is well and truly shut down, all the vendors’ booths covered in tarps and the lights out, but the circle of people gathered around is really making quite the racket. “I’m not sure. Soon, I think.”
“Alright. I’ll see you.”
He wanders back over to the table, where Kenny is very carefully rubbing at a stain with the end of a pencil eraser. “Is that working?” he asks.
“You tell me. I think it’s looking better already.”
“Getting there,” Dom mutters. “Listen, guys. The glue on the soles is going to have to dry overnight. I say we call this pretty soon.”
“It’s already one in the morning,” someone says.
One in the morning. Fuck.
“No rest for the wicked, huh?” Dom says.
Roger blows out a breath through his teeth. “Is that what they say?”
When he gets back to the apartment all the lights are off and nobody seems to be awake. He sneaks in quietly and silently opens the door to his room.
John is already in bed, a black lump against the grey of the window. He shifts but doesn’t seem to wake as Roger enters, and Roger strips quickly before curling into bed. It takes mere moments for the rhythm of John’s breathing to lull him to sleep.
He’s woken up the next day by Brian and Freddie arguing loudly in the kitchen at eight in the fucking morning. It’s time to get up anyway and he knows he won’t be able to fall back asleep, but between the chill in the air and the figurative heat in the kitchen getting out of bed isn’t as tempting as it could be.
The door opens softly, the voices swelling in volume before being cut off again as John hip-checks it closed carefully. “I figured I’d save you from all that and just bring you your tea,” he says, placing two cups on the desk between their beds.
“Thank you,” Roger rasps, sitting up.
John smiles at him in return, and it’s close-lipped and small but it sends warmth spiraling through his chest all the same. His hair is still sleep-rumpled, eyes still a little sleep-swollen, cheeks still sleep-warm. Not for the first time, Roger is confronted with the real and conflicting urges of wanting to stare and soak him in indefinitely but at the same time being unable to even look at him head-on. When he glances up at him quickly John is rooting around for his phone, and the fact that his attention is elsewhere makes him relieved and dismayed both at once.
Which promptly makes him want to bang his head into a wall.
He should give Brian this flowery shit. He’d probably eat it up. He’s probably read poetry like this or something. Maybe he can write a song about it.
Maybe Roger can write a song about it.
No, wait. He’s tried that already.
“What’s all that about, then?” he asks, just to give his sleep-addled mind something else to focus on.
John shrugs. “Everything and nothing. Apparently Sharon doesn’t like that we have a gig next week. Thinks Brian should be focusing more on school.”
“Oh. Nothing new, then.”
“I wish he’d just,” he starts, then pauses. It isn’t like him, and that catches Roger’s attention. “I wish the two of them would just talk it out.”
“Fred and Bri. I don’t care if they’re into each other or not. I don’t care what’s happening. I just want them to stop being so awkward about everything.”
“You’ve noticed it too, then?” Roger asks tiredly.
“It’s hard not to. Freddie doesn’t hide it very well,” he adds.
Roger’s blood drops a good ten degrees at that. If Freddie’s obvious then what’s Roger?
When he looks up John is smiling at him gently, eyes sad. “Anyway. How was Dom?”
Roger frowns at the transition. “Good, yeah. It was a good night.”
“Good. That’s good to hear.” It doesn’t sound good, though. His tone sounds flat. “I should head out. I’ve got class.”
“You’ve got class.”
“How much did you sleep last night?”
He makes a show of counting on his fingers, holding up four for John to inspect.
John smiles at him fondly. “I’ll make you a second cup to go. Why we enable your lack of a sleep pattern I’ll never know.”
“It’s because you love me!” Roger calls after him as he leaves the room.
“I suppose it is, yeah,” John mumbles. He sounds strangely forlorn when he says it.
Roger doesn’t see him again that morning. He must have slipped off to class; with a put-out sigh Roger does the same. Class trudges on wretchedly slowly, and then he’s off to Brick Lane to relieve Freddie from his shift. Work trudges on slowly, too.
“You’ll be pleased to know the glue dried well,” Dom says across the isle as she carefully unfolds silk blouses and puts them on hangers. “Barely even a seam. It looks really lovely.”
“Can I see?” Roger asks.
“Sure, yeah. After work.”
She sighs. “Okay, so my girlfriend grabbed the wrong bag this morning. The boots may or may not be in our other shop.”
He groans inwardly. “Would that be the Kensington location?”
“Yes. Yes it would be.”
That warrants an outward groan as well. “That’s an hour on the tube.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry. I can bring them in tomorrow if you like. They need to be brushed still, anyway. A little bit of work left to do.”
“No,” he says. “No. That’s fine. I can brush them. I’ll come get them. It’ll just be a bit out of my way.”
Dom hums sympathetically. “I really am sorry. I’ll tell her to wait up for you.”
“Thank you,” he says, already planning the wandering route home.
And it really is wandering. The tube is crowded as anything, and by the time he gets to Kensington Dom’s girlfriend (“Ronnie,” she says with a charming smile and an extended hand) is about to close up.
And then the usual signaling problems delay the train home half an hour so he waits for the bus, but the bus is scheduled to take over an hour and when it shows up it’s so packed with people that Roger hears himself gasp in horror. His grumbling stomach wins out and he bites the bullet, wandering into the nearest Itsu to see if he can’t wait out the later half of rush hour.
He’d at least had the foresight to bring a leather brush with him, and it gives him something to do. He works it over the suede in short, light strokes, and the boots are still a little worn and wrinkled from use, but overall he thinks they look pretty damn good. Not good as new, maybe, but certainly better than they did that afternoon.
He’s fairly sure he’s hallucinating by the time he finally reaches the flat. All he wants to do is collapse in bed and not move for a year—no, wait. All he wants to do is talk to John. Then he wants to collapse and not move for a year.
Hopefully with John in tow.
It’s late, though. John’s not one to stay up when he has class the next day, honors student that he is. Even Freddie is most likely in bed by now, and he tells himself that firmly as he digs out his keys and opens the door as quietly as he can.
He needn’t have. John is curled up on the sofa in front of the television, the volume nearly silent, an empty mug resting precariously by his elbow.
“I have something for you,” Roger blurts out.
John shushes him quickly with a small smile. “The others are asleep.”
“Why aren’t you asleep?”
“I thought I’d wait up. Are you okay? Did you have fun tonight?”
“Fun?” Roger asks, frowning.
“Did you see Dom?” he asks, voice strangely tight.
“No,” he says, frown deepening. “Well, I saw her at work.”
“Are you drunk?”
“No,” Roger says defensively.
Roger sits down heavily and John leans over to examine him, most likely for some sort of invisible drunken flush that only he would be able to recognize or something along those lines. Roger doesn’t know. He crosses his eyes and gets a huff of laughter in response. “I’m not drunk, just tired.”
That makes John laugh even more. “You need to sleep more.”
“I got a few hours.” He lets himself fall down the couch until his head is resting against John’s bicep.
“Only you would find the energy to go on a date after a night of no sleep.”
“It’s one of my many charms,” Roger says smartly. Then the words catch up to him. “Wait—date? I wasn’t on a date.”
John’s eyebrows go up. “No?”
“No. Believe me.”
“But you and Dom—”
“Nope. No me-and-Dom. She’s gay and I am single as can be. Single as a single pringle in an empty pringle can.”
John’s eyebrows go even higher but Roger doesn’t miss the way his eyes crinkle, sparkly and happy like they should be. “That single, huh?” he asks seriously.
Roger ducks his head into his chest and squeezes his eyes shut. He can’t hear John laughing but he can feel his arm shaking below his head. “What are you watching?” he asks weakly as a diversion.
John coughs, still laughing. “I’m not sure. It’s John Wayne or something. I haven’t really been paying attention.”
“It’s not terribly exciting.”
“Are you asleep?” John laughs.
Roger coughs and opens eyes he didn’t even realize he’d closed. “Huh. No.”
“You should go to bed.”
“I have something for you,” he argues.
“It can wait ‘till morning. You can barely keep your eyes open.”
“Hmm,” Roger says, then allows his eyes to drift shut. “No. I’ll give it to you. Five minutes, okay?”
John laughs and doesn’t reply. The last thing Roger feels is a hand running through his hair.
John shakes him awake sometime later, the television and the lights already off. Distantly he registers being led through the dark to their room. He clumsily strips and throws on the joggers that are handed to him before falling into bed, dead to the world once more.
They both wake up at the same time.
A commotion next door rises then falls, and as it does they make eye contact across the room. Roger spends a good few moments trying to gather together the sleep-jumbled mess that is his mind as he takes in John’s eyes from across the room. They’re cast almost golden in the morning light. He wishes he had his glasses on, or maybe just that he was closer. That way he’d be able to see the irregular grey flecks in them.
John blinks back at him sleepily, then his brow furrows as he hears Freddie and Brian’s arguing from the room beside theirs pick up in volume once more. He sits up slowly, hair in disarray and t-shirt twisted around his torso, and stretches in gradual movements. Finally he turns to Roger again. “Tea?”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to.”
Roger nods against his pillow, and John sends him his first smile of the day before slowly standing and shuffling through the door.
Roger sighs and closes his eyes, nestling further into his blanket pile. He could almost drift off again. It’d been such a long night and he could really use the extra sleep. He’d do it in a heartbeat, except—
“Oh, don’t be fucking ridiculous,” Brian’s voice pipes up, muffled through the wall.
Roger sighs. Except for that.
“Ridiculous,” Freddie trills. “Ridiculous, as if we don’t all feel the same way!”
“Because we’re always judging whoever you bring home, as if I have any right to say a word—”
“She’s your girlfriend, Brian, and we’re your friends! I think we’re allowed to say something if we know she’s making you sad! She doesn’t support you, she doesn’t think you’re—”
“Then I think you’ll be pleased to know we broke up!” Brian shouts back.
Roger burrows deeper into the blankets, and when that does nothing to block out the noise he sits up suddenly, grabs the nearest book from his nightstand and hurls it viciously at the wall. It makes contact with a dull thwack.
There’s a long pause, then a door slams shut. He hears the two of them shuffling down the hall, presumably to the soundproofed studio. Roger collapses back into bed.
His own bedroom door swings open and John shuffles through, kicking it shut as he precariously holds two full mugs in his hands. “They need to sort that out,” he mutters.
“Yeah, no shit.”
“It’s going to drive everybody mad.”
“Oh, we’ll make it,” Roger says, shuffling up quickly to take the mug John offers him. “Who would the four of us be without a little drama here and there, huh?”
John raises his eyebrows. “I know that. That doesn’t make it any better in the meantime, though.”
“They’ll be fine within a week. Don’t worry. Freddie will get his head out of his ass and admit he’s in love with Brian, Brian will mope for a while then realize he’s in love with Freddie—”
“They’re in love?”
Roger just raises his eyebrows incredulously. “Yeah. Anyway, the two of them will do stupidly nice shit for each other for a few months and then within a year they’ll get around to confessing their feelings!”
“Do stupidly nice shit?” John says with a tiny smile. He sits down on the edge of his bed.
“Yeah. Stupidly nice shit. You know, little gestures and—” and that’s when he suddenly remembers the events of the night before. He sloshes his tea onto his duvet as he starts. “Oh—fuck, shit, okay.”
“Do you need help?”
“I’m fine, I—I have something for you! Shit, one second!”
“Let me get a towel,” John offers, half alarmed and half amused.
“No, it’s fine.”
“It’s gonna stain.”
“It’s okay! Let me—” he pauses to dig around beneath his bed, hands closing finally on the strap of his backpack. He drags it out with a triumphant sound before handing it off to John. “Tada!”
John takes it, bemused. “Thanks?”
“Is it a new car?” John asks dryly, struggling with the zipper.
John laughs at him, a light sound in the quiet of the room, before he finally gets the thing open. He glances inside and his smile fades to be replaced by shock.
Roger swallows. “Good?”
John stares for a long moment. Finally he pulls out one boot, tracing his fingers carefully over the soft suede of the toe. “You found new ones? They haven’t made these since—”
“I know. I checked all the shops for the same ones but in the end I couldn’t find any. I fixed them up as best as I could for you. Spent all night with a few guys from the vintage market,” he adds with a nervous laugh.
“You did that?” John murmurs.
“Yeah. It’s okay if they’re still too beat up or something. If you don’t want them anymore I can always put them up for sale. It’s no big deal.”
“Roger,” John says, still in that same soft voice. He’s smiling now.
“You like it?”
He nods, smile breaking out into a grin as he looks up finally. “Stupidly nice shit, huh?” he asks, still toying with the boot in his hand. “Until they figure it out?”
Roger’s mouth goes suddenly dry. He nods.
John puts it aside and stands, moving until he’s standing before Roger’s bed. “You mean that?” he murmurs, eyes bright and a shy tightness to his shoulders.
Roger swallows. He wants to be suave about it, really he does, but John is looking down at him with such love and hope and hesitation that his first thoughts are what come out. “I’d do a lot more than that for you,” he says, voice rough.
“Yeah. You deserve it.”
John inhales sharply, eyes crinkling. He reaches out hesitantly to touch Roger’s jaw. “Can I—”
And then John is ducking down, and the sun from the window behind him is making the edges of his hair glow, and there’s one split second right after Roger closes his eyes where the two of them are just breathing each other’s air. It’s one final moment where he’s standing on the edge of this beautiful, perfect thing, and he’s hyper aware of it: John’s hand on his jaw, their noses brushing, the world narrowing down to the miniscule space between the two of them.
And then the gap closes, just like that.
His lips are really soft. Softer than most of the girls’ Roger has kissed, even. Stupidly soft and warm, and his palm is warm when he reaches up to cradle Roger’s cheek, and it’s really just easy and wonderful and perfect.
It doesn’t last for nearly long enough. They’re both smiling too hard.
John lets out a little laugh, soft and giddy. “Can I—”
“You don’t even know what I’m going to ask yet!” John chides.
“Oh, get up here,” Roger laughs, pulling him closer and scooting back until John is forced to crawl up onto the bed after him. He does so with a laugh, shifting and repositioning himself and in the blink of an eye he’s straddling Roger’s lap.
His heart is hammering so hard in his chest he thinks he might be going into cardiac arrest. John is smiling at him softly, and it grows even more gentle when Roger reaches up to brush his hair back with fingers which are most certainly not trembling.
He leans up to kiss him before John can say anything about that. It’s slower this time, and when John leans into him it becomes quickly deeper. John keeps leaning though, and with a grunt Roger falls backward into the pillows, their chests pressed together and Roger pinned slightly under his weight.
John licks into his mouth easily and he goes a little dizzy. He gets his hands in John’s hair and tugs just for some sort of leverage to fight back, and when that only results in John sucking on his tongue in a move that leaves him literally breathless he collapses into it, letting his hands wander down John’s spine until they find their way up the back of his soft t-shirt.
John hums into his mouth at that, then groans when Roger takes that as an opportunity to bite at his lip. His hips grind against Roger’s seemingly of their own accord, the slow roll of the motion dragging a fire to the surface of his skin.
John must feel it because he pulls away with a gasp. “Unless you want this to continue we should probably stop now,” he says breathlessly, eyes on Roger’s mouth, close enough that his words are hot against Roger’s cheek.
“Why would I want this to stop?” Roger asks, trying to scrape a single coherent thought together. He frowns. “Do you want this to stop?”
“Never,” John breathes.
Roger laughs at that, actually laughs, and then laughs even more at John’s grin. “Get this off,” he says, tugging at the hem of John’s shirt.
John pulls it off quickly. It leaves his hair a tangled mess, which Roger doesn’t hesitate to run his fingers through. “You as well,” John complains, fingers playing with the fabric of Roger’s shirt.
Roger huffs and sits up. He pulls his shirt off, and when he resurfaces John is right in front of them, their faces scant inches apart. He catches John in an open-mouthed kiss and swallows his grunt of surprise, then rolls them quickly until John is pressed into the soft fluff of Roger’s pillows.
From there it’s all warmth and lazy pleasure and laughs that turn into sighs as they grind against each other in slow thrusts. It builds on a rolling wave, John’s head falling back finally as he gasps for air and stares unseeingly at the ceiling as Roger mouths at his pulse point. He has to pull away for a moment and look at him then; has to stop and watch the way John’s eyelashes flutter at the next grind of their hips.
“Can I take these off?” Roger asks quietly, thumbing the hem of John’s pajama pants. John shivers. “Please? Let me make you feel good, huh?”
“You already make me feel good,” John says, eyes hazy. “Let me help.”
Roger wants to lay him out and work him over for hours; he really does. He wants to make a point of exploring him and drag the process on incrementally for months. He never wants to stop looking.
This, though. Right now this is enough. Right now this is perfect: the two of them warm and together and wrapped up in one another. The rest can wait.
He tugs both their pants down just far enough that he can get a hand around John, and then around the both of them if he strains just enough, and John’s next breath comes out as a wet gasp as he thrusts up up into Roger’s grip.
“Good?” Roger asks him.
John nods frantically. “Yeah. Yeah,” he half-mumbles, eyes drifting to Roger’s to send him a hazy shimmer of a smile. He shifts until one of his hands can join Roger’s and fuck how did Roger forget how big his hands are.
They fall into rhythm together just as naturally as they always do, moving in perfect counterpoint to one another. When Roger moves his other hand from where he was bracing it against the mattress to cradle John’s head John moves his own to brush along Roger’s cheek; when Roger gasps John drags him down into a kiss and swallows the sound.
It’s building, dizzying, but Roger can tell John is following him step-for-step just by the pace of his breathing and the breathy moans he pulls away to let out against the side of Roger’s face, barely audible and sounding almost surprised where they aren’t delirious. Color clings high in his cheeks, his lips red and kiss-bruised.
“Gorgeous,” Roger whispers.
“Rog, I—you’re so much,” John breathes, voice adamant. His eyes meet Roger’s own, heavy-lidded and hazy, a hint of a smile barely crooking the corner of his mouth upward. “You’re so good, God, you’re good.”
Roger pecks his lips before he can descend into sheer babbling, then watches him throw his head back and breathe, throat bobbing as he swallows. His skin is faintly shiny with sweat and Roger has to duck his head and suck another bruise into the skin there, just below the first one and a few shades darker.
That has John squirming and moaning high in his throat. “Rog.”
“You close?” Roger pants, smiling against his neck.
“You feel so good. Come on, come with me. Let me see.”
Roger holds out as long as he can, but John’s gaze on him is addictive. He can’t stop his eyes from fluttering shut and his forehead from falling against John’s collarbone as the last wave of tension in his gut snaps and spills over. He hears himself moan through it and distantly register’s John’s pace stutter before he’s groaning his release too. He opens his eyes just in time to see his bruised lips drop open, head rolling back as he collapses into the mattress.
Roger has just enough strength to roll off of him and to the side so he can sprawl on his shoulder instead of the mess on his stomach. He nuzzles into John’s hair and sighs when an arm is thrown lazily over his back. Their breathing slows together, reality returning as their blood cools.
John sighs finally, shifts, and catches Roger’s eye. He studies him for a long moment. “Is this the part where we have a talk?” he asks, voice scratchy.
“Do you want to have the talk?” Roger asks, stomach lurching unpleasantly through the afterglow.
“Only if you do.”
“Let me take you out.”
John smiles at him, eyes crinkled. “Take me out?”
“Wining and dining. Real posh and proper-like.”
“You sound like Freddie now.”
“I’d do it for you,” Roger says, a little too honestly. “If that’s what you want I’d do it.”
John hums noncommittedly. “What about takeaway? You keep giving me rain checks for Thai food.”
“How very dare I.”
“Off doing thoughtful things, I’m sure,” he says, and rolls over to kiss him soundly on the lips. “You’re forgiven.”
“Still owe you, though,” Roger says. “Mmh. Thursday.”
John leans down to kiss him again. “I,” he says against Roger’s lips, then pulls away to look him in the eye. “I love you.”
It’s far from the first time he’s said it, but this time is different and Roger feels his breath catch before it all leaves him in a rush. He feels dizzy all at once. It’s possible that this is what swooning feels like. “I love you too,” he says, and it comes out a bit too breathy but he doesn’t even care.
“In not just a friend kind of way.”
“John, I know.”
“I actually, really love you.”
“I know,” he says louder, and John looks at him wide-eyed. “I love you too. I know. I’ve loved you for ages now.”
“Ages,” Roger repeats. He settles deeper into the pillows as John leans against him. “Ages and ages and ages. And I’ll love you for ages more.”
“Yeah?” John breathes.
“Yeah. You’re looking at years of stupidly nice shit, here,” he adds, and grins when John honest-to-god giggles. “Best be prepared.”
The world feels like it’s settling anew around them; not reshaping itself, nothing so dramatic, just somehow fitting with the familiarity of an old coat. The pieces are slotting into place. Yes, maybe that’s it.
Or maybe it’s just one piece, fitting against the space beside him like it was never meant to go anywhere else.
“You’re going to ruin me, Taylor,” John says.
Roger ducks to kiss the crown of his head. “And I look forward to it.”