Paul knocked on the door for the second time, but it opened before he was done. Mimi was standing there with a very displeased look on her face. Despite this, Paul gave her a warm smile.
“Hey, Mimi! Is John in?” She just continued to look at him. “We were just gonna practice… he said he had a song he wanted to play for me?”
Mimi turned away from the door and called up the stairs.
“John! That… friend of yours is here.”
Paul blushed. Mimi liked to imply that she thought he was a bad influence on John or something, but he had a feeling she knew that it was really the other way around.
“Thanks,” he smiled, “I’ll just go up.”
She opened the door wider and Paul slipped in, nodding politely and darting up the stairs to the room where music was coming from.
Paul had always enjoyed John’s house. There was an element to it that was cluttered, just slightly a mess around the edges, where picture frames weren’t straight, spiders lived in the corners, and stray knickknacks adorned side tables that had no place being in the hall anyway. It was obvious that someone had tried to straighten up and make things presentable (bets on who), but they’d fallen short along the way and left it until next time. Paul liked John’s room because it was a disruption of that pattern. While he enjoyed the homey-ness of the rest of the house, there was something strangely enchanting about the chaos of the room at the end of the hall.
Proper clothes hung on a chair in the corner, collecting dust since the last time Mimi made him break them out, a record player stood propped open by the window, the bed was never made (ever), and various books littered the floor, all at various stages of being read.
And of course, the best part of the room: John, sitting on his bed, strumming that crappy guitar of his, absently humming some unknown tune in an amused way.
“Hey,” Paul smiled, stepping back into the cluttered place he knew so well.
“Oh,” John said, turning to him, seeming to come out of a sort of trance. He motioned for Paul to take a seat with him, and the younger boy moved eagerly to the faded quilt, placing his own guitar on the bed and getting ready to put it on.
“You have a song to play for me?” Paul asked, trying not to sound as excited as he was. Which, he wasn’t sure why he was, anyway. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening. But ever since he’d stepped into the room his body had felt electric and a blush fled down his neck and all his fingers felt twitchy, itching to dance across the frets again and be magic. (That was how it felt sometimes when he played with John, that they were enchanted and the music they made was their own kind of spell.)
“Yeah, yeah,” John said, sounding strangely distant. It surprised Paul because there was no reason for John to feel that way, was there? He would know if something had made his friend upset. Right? He might have brushed it off, thought nothing of the odd behavior if John switched back to the way he normally was, but instead the older boy took his guitar off and stood up, walking over to the bookshelf which held his record collection.
“Aren’ we…? You wanted to play me a song?” Paul repeated, confusion taking over full-time now that John was fully not behaving himself, no joke or quip or immediately begging Paul to teach him a new chord so they could play a song he’d heard when out with his mother.
“I didn’ mean… oh here it is,” John muttered, flipping through the records on his shelf and pulling out a ratty looking 45 from a few LPs. “I meant play a song. On the record player.”
“Oh,” Paul said, slightly disappointed, “Are we goin’ ta learn it after?”
John’s face finally broke out in a grin, and he chuckled to himself about some secret joke he must have just thought of. Paul frowned. John noticed.
“Oh look up, Macca! It’s just… not sure you’re going to want to learn the whole thing once you’ve heard it…” he trailed off, muttering something Paul couldn’t hear, but bounced back quickly enough, putting on a giddy sort of smile and taking the sleeve off the 45.
Paul took his guitar off and stood up, walking over to where John stood, placing the small record on the turntable.
“Who wrote it?” he asked, picking up the sleeve which read “QUEEN” in big letters, and nothing else.
John laughed again and poked the paper. “Queen, I suppose.”
“Are they… a band? I’ve never heard of them before.” The sleeve held no other information save for the band (artist?) name, and the small scribbling of “YMBF” across the back corner.
“Neither had the man in the record store,” John muttered, fiddling with the needle, not setting it down on the track just yet, as if he was waiting to explain something first.
Paul was confused once more. “But… if it was in the store… how come they didn’t know the band?”
“Found it in the back,” John said, lifting his head and putting on an animated face, which meant he was about to tell Paul something he did that would probably give Mimi a migraine if she ever found out. “I asked about the band an’ he said there was no such thing. Figured they wouldn’t miss it…”
“Not this one too,” Paul sighed, but there was an amused tick to his smile, because it was cool that John had stolen this record and it was cool that no one had ever heard of this band before. They were probably some of the only people who’d ever hear the song, too.
“So,” Paul said, excitement beginning to ramp up inside him, “Are you gonna play it?”
John’s smile twitched, and he closed his mouth, nodding before finally setting the needle down.
The piece started out with a, for lack of a better word, funky, baseline, and then the lead singer’s voice began, crooning and loving and sweet.
Ooh, you make me live
Whatever this world can give to me
Paul blushed. It was a love song. But, that wasn’t unusual, really. They’d listened to love songs times over again together, to get the melody or way of saying the lyrics just right. This wasn’t different from that. (Was it?)
Oh, you’re the best friend I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
“Sounds… different,” Paul commented, feeling like he had to say something, for they were only standing there, staring as the 45 went around and around on the turntable.
“Yeah,” John agreed, back to that far off state he’d been in earlier, not meeting Paul’s eyes even though they were trained on him.
He studied the curve of John’s nose, the way his jaw was set, how his bottom lip had been pulled into his mouth, a rare fidget he had.
I really love you
Oh, you’re my best friend
John shifted and Paul flinched, pretending that he’d been staring at the floor and not
ogling observing the older boy’s reaction. But that hardly mattered because John’s hand was underneath his chin and tilting his face up and towards him, and now their eyes were locked with each other and Paul’s skin burned where John’s fingers were on him.
The song continued on in the background, and Paul suddenly understood.
Ooh, you make me live
Whenever this world is cruel to me
He took one more step closer to where John was standing and there could hardly have been six inches of space between them. When Paul took a sharp inhale, his chest brushed John’s outstretched arm, and he shivered, though he wasn’t really sure why.
I got you to help me forgive
John’s hand left his chin and he walked his fingers down his chest.
“What’re you doing?” Paul asked in a small voice.
Ooh, you make me live now, honey
John didn’t say anything and instead grabbed hold of Paul’s hips and pulled him close and-
Ooh, you make me live
Paul was sure that it had been him, not John, who surged forward and brought their lips together and kissed him. A real, actual kiss, one that hadn’t come to him in what he’d thought had been a nightmare but must have been a dream, because for whatever reason there was nothing scary about this.
John sighed and Paul shuddered again, and they just kept close to each other, breathing in at the same time, fingers dancing all over jackets and just brushing under collars and t-shirts.
This had been why Paul had felt so electrically charged when he walked in today, and this was why John was so nervous and out-of-character, and this was magic, more magic then their music, surely.
When they broke away the song had ended, and Paul drew in a raspy breath.
“I…” John said, voice wrecked in much the same way, “Wow.”
Paul smiled, then began to giggle, adrenaline turning him into a giddy mess, hardly believing such a thing had happened to him and it wasn’t, well, it didn’t feel wrong.
“I didn’… I didn’ know you felt that way about me,” Paul said through the laughter that he couldn’t help but let escape his mouth.
“I don’ think I did either,” John smiled, putting his hand on Paul’s waist again and bringing him close to his chest. They stood in each other’s arms and it was so unbelievably comfortable. “Not til I listened to the song. An’… made me think of you.” He admitted the last bit shyly, somehow insecure still, but Paul giggled again, and pulled back to give John another short kiss.
“You were wrong, though,” Paul said.
“Wrong about what?” John asked, worry flashing across his face.
“Of course I want to learn the song.”