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Red is the colour of strawberries, not my hair

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"What?"

 

A thousand micro-expressions roll over Paul's face until he settles on the one of bemusement, eyes wide and mouth frozen open. 

 

It's an old routine now. The younger man produces thoughts at the speed of a cheetah on steroids -- a trait that boycotts his attempts at both expressing all of them eloquently and revisiting statements uttered seconds ago.

 

"What what?" he shoots back, lips smacked together now and a narrowed pair of eyes drilling a hole into John's face. 

 

"Could you repeat what you were saying? Went a bit fast for me, honey."

 

The younger man huffs but obliges. "So, I was at my grandparents' an--"

 

"No, heard that, the part after," John jumps in, impatient to check whether his ears have served him right before.

 

"That zodiac part? George sent me this link, you put in your birth date and time, and it--y'know, gives you an outline of those things like houses and, yeah, that." He glances back as if confirming it's the part John thought of.

 

It must be because the said lad is nodding encouragingly.

 

"I did as instructed, and it read that I'm lucky to, well, have two significant relationships. One life-alternating that won't last forever and one where it's more about settling down with your soulmate. And in both cases, the person will have ginger hair."

 

John heard it right. 

 

"It also says I'm musically inclined, artistic even! And we are a famous band! And that I tend to execute arrogant behaviour...but you can't believe all of it, course. George says it too."

 

"Two relationships?" 

 

"Yeah, I-"

 

"WITH GINGERS?" 

 

"Yeah, it's quite amusing, isn't it? First Jane and then you. I was quite relieved to find out it's spiritually approved tho, wanted to show it to my dad, y'know, but--"

 

"I'm not a ginger, Paul," John whispers at the volume of a thunder.

 

A wrinkle creases the patch of skin between Paul's brows, the one that announces that the clogs and pegs inside McCartney's head began turning.

 

"You are?" 

 

"Am not!" John repeats, resisting the urge to stomp his foot down.

 

"Right," his boyfriend says, blinking like a mother who just learnt her kid is expecting a letter from Hogwarts. "Right. It seems like we--well, what would you say you are, then?"

 

"A brunette?"

 

 Silence.

 

"Like an auburn-ish brunette," he adds, clearing his throat that suddenly constricts uncomfortably. "'M not an Asher. Not a redhead."

 

"Not a carrot," he thinks to himself. Paul is still a dear friend of Jane, and she would chop John's balls off if she ever heard this.

 

"There are different shades of brown, like, my hair is darker than George's, and Ringo has a lighter one, yeah?"

 

John hums. That's what he's been saying the entire time -- just another shade of brown.

 

"So it could, theoretically, be that while not sporting the same tuft like Jane, you both could be classified as gingers? Different tones of the same colour?"

 

"Absolutely not!"

 

"What's this?" Paul presents him with a polaroid picture from his wallet. John's sitting in the park, grinning and, NONONO, reddish waves covering his face.

 

"That's, ehm, I think--I'd say it has a tint."

 

"A tint," Paul parrots, taking the picture back and inspecting it. "It looks like there isn't any other colour than red."

 

"Bloody hell, it's a tint. Like, like--Mr Floofus has!" John clutches on the brilliant thought, praising the existence of his cat. "He's black, aye?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Yet, his fur has a red undertone! Even stronger than mine. Does anyone ever refer to him as ginger? NO. I don't understand why it's so hard."

 

"John. Johnny. Mr Floofus has a little patch of red fur behind his ear and even a smaller one on his tail. Nobody calls him ginger because they can't see it if they don't stick their faces into it like you do. That's why he's a black cat."

 

 Silence.

 

"What about me mum? She's ginger, isn't she? If you put a photo of us together, you could see what I have on my mind."

 

It takes a while because Paul has organised all of their photos and once a folder is clicked on, they have to go through its contents for the sake of reliving sweet memories. When the required picture pops out on the screen, an electric wave of confidence surges over John. This is the moment that shapes their future, the moment that will cause Paul to shut up about gingers forever. 

 

Except when John's eyes land on the candid, they're met with the sight of him and Julia, sitting shoulder to shoulder in her garden, the sun creating an almost identical copper halos around their heads.

 

 Silence. 

 

"You sure you didn't put a filter on it?" he tries, but it lacks the usual sharpness. John's face burns with embarrassment, something that probably accentuates the forsaken hair. A bottle of ketchup would look like Bridgette Bardot next to him.

 

"Mike wouldn't allow me to put on a filter. You know how seriously he treats his photography."

 

 Silence.

 

John scans the photo then averts his eyes to his triumphantly grinning boyfriend's face.

 

"I guess I understand why someone would think I'm a ginger. Because I might be one...In a certain light."

 

"A very handsome one," Paul elaborates, bringing his palm to cradle John's cheek when he notices the uneasiness in his eyes.

 

"Beautiful," he continues, getting closer until their lips brush in a delicate kiss.

 

John finds himself cuddling closer, relaxing into the softness of Paul's t-shirt. He would gladly identify as a redhead for affection like this.

 

"Soulmates, you say? Did it say what I've done to deserve such punishment?" 

 

A humorous question to chastise the flock of butterflies roaming inside his belly into a more composed formation. 

 

The other man giggles, briefly tightening the hold. "Dunno. Probably has something to do with your past shenanigans of pretending to be a priest in Hamburg. I'm curious about my own mishaps now. Was hoping to score Prince Harry, y'know."

 

The next kiss lasts a little longer. There is more giggling and touching, and John chooses to believe the randomly generated horoscope. The concept of soulmates doesn't sound as unrealistic as it did when he read about it for the first time, too.