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All I Know Since Yesterday

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Ordinarily, rainfall in Liverpool is a nuisance, but not any actual trouble. It’s this incessant misty drizzle that seeps into your clothes and clings to the roots of your hair and leaves you feeling damp and sticky and miserable, sure, but you get used to it quick enough when it’s an everyday occurrence. Most days Liverpudlians don’t even bother with an umbrella. 

It’s only every now and then, when the wind off the bay blows just wrong, that a proper storm kicks up— but when it does, you’d think the whole city was liable to wash away, right off the island and into the sea. 

When those storms come, it’s best to keep inside and do up the shutters till they pass. But in a place where it’s always raining, the tricky part is you never know just exactly when these storms are about to rear their ugly heads. And if you get caught in one, you just might find yourself washed away, too. 

Which is exactly what’s threatening to happen now, as Paul makes a mad dash through the deluge towards 20 Forthlin Road, John Lennon right at his heels. 

It’d been perfectly fine weather earlier. In fact, it’d been shaping up to be a rather perfect day, in Paul’s opinion: he and John had met up after school, armed with their guitars, but their intention for a writing session had turned into an impromptu trip down to the chippy, which then turned into a longer impromptu trip to NEMS in search of a new record John had heard of from a classmate. There they’d roamed the aisles for hours, chatting and browsing and poking fun at album covers and driving the owner batty by refusing to purchase anything they listened to, and it was late afternoon when they finally set out to make their way home, and by then Paul could’ve sworn he was floating. He knew he probably looked like a loon, but he couldn’t quite wipe the smile off his face, and, well— Paul didn’t want to get his hopes up, but it seemed like John couldn’t, either. 

And then, quicker than either of them could blink, the heavens had opened up and let loose a proper downpour, the likes of which Liverpool hadn’t seen in a long, long while. 

They had run as fast as they could but still missed the bus back to Woolton, and the rain was coming down sideways and needle-y and so bitterly cold that they couldn’t even stand at the bus stop to wait for the next one without getting even more drenched. Not that it would have made much of a difference: they’d shed their leather jackets to bundle up their guitars and clutch them to their chests— rain inside the body was a disaster neither of them could afford— so their t-shirts were already sopping wet. Paul felt like he’d jumped into a lake with all his clothes on. 

They managed to snag a different bus, but it only took them halfway to Allerton before they’d had to hop off and seek shelter in a shallow doorway alcove that barely fit the two of them. The rain pounding on the asphalt was so loud they’d had to lean close and shout to hear each other, to figure out where to go. 

Mendips was out of the question: untimely bus schedule aside, Mimi would have their heads if they got her floors wet, which there was no avoiding in their current state. They couldn’t go back to NEMS either, because there was no guarantee the storm would blow over anytime soon and the shop would have to close eventually, and then they’d be right back at square one and even further from home than they already were. But every second they spent in the blasted rain was a threat to their instruments, and it wasn’t even evening yet but the clouds had already swallowed up what little there was left of the sun, leaving the sky dark and grey and ominous above, and while Paul wasn’t afraid of a bit of weather, right then he’d have really liked to be home and warm and safe, preferably with a cup of tea, and that’s what he’d blame for what came out of his mouth next. 

“We’ll go to mine,” he declared— the implications of which tumbling after just a second too late. A hot bright flash of panic zigzagged through him like a lightning bolt, and he wished he could reach out and snag the words out of the air before they made it to John’s ears, but there was no going back— John’s brows were ascending up his forehead in surprise, his eyes sharpening with that already all-too-familiar spark of interest that meant this wasn’t something he was just going to let go. 

So Paul stammered for something to say, to make this not as monumental a statement as it was. But all he could manage was a pathetic, “It’s closer, right.” 

In the few months they’d known each other now, John had never been to Paul’s house. Mendips was bigger and nicer, over in posh Woolton, and closer to Griffith’s and the Casbah at that, so it just made more sense for Paul to traipse over to Menlove Avenue than for John to backtrack to Allerton. John knew where it was, of course— he’d dropped by to pick Paul up for practice a handful of times, on the way to Hanton’s— but he'd never come inside, always waiting uncharacteristically quietly out on the stoop till Paul hurried out with his guitar. Paul had a hunch it was because John was more than a little scared of old Jim McCartney and his patented disapproving glower through the screen door, though of course John would never admit it. 

To be fair, though, Paul hadn’t exactly invited him in yet, either.

But at the moment 20 Forthlin stood empty, with Mike at a friend’s and old Jim at work, so it really was the obvious choice, Paul’s reluctance aside. Besides, once John Lennon got an idea in his head, all the walls of Rome couldn’t stop him. Paul had learned that one the very first day they met.

“Lead the way,” John said, and then they’d been off. 

Paul has no idea how long they’ve been running now, only that he’s never run this fast in his life. His lungs are burning like they’re pumping petrol, which he supposes is better than drowning on land, but it’s like sprinting on sponges with how sopping his shoes and socks are; Allerton streets have always flooded worse than others, for reasons unknown and likely unholy. They’re only a few blocks away now, mercifully, though he near brains himself skidding around a corner and ricocheting off a lamp post. He’ll have a bruise the size of Ireland on his shoulder tomorrow, he’s sure of it— he just prays the rain’s thick enough that John missed his clumsiness. 

Then, like a glorious light at the end of a tunnel, there’s 20 Forthlin Road, waiting with open arms a few short paces away. In a blur Paul flies up the front path, unlocks the door and launches himself inside, John spilling right in after him. 

Paul winces as his bundled guitar lets out an angry twang, but all thoughts for its well-being fly out of his head as one of John’s hands suddenly lands on Paul’s waist, as the other boy tries to catch himself from overbalancing. It’s only there for a heartbeat before John disentangles, but it’s hot as an iron even through the soaked fabric, and now Paul’s heart is racing for an entirely different reason. He begs it to get itself under control as he tries to fill his heaving lungs with dry air.

For a long moment, they stand there panting in the foyer. Then their eyes meet, and they burst out laughing. 

“Jesus,” John wheezes. “That was mental.”

“I think I swallowed a swimming pool,” Paul laughs, though it mutates into a watery cough halfway through, illustrating his point. This just makes John cackle louder, which— as Paul has come to know— is a full-body performance when it comes to John Lennon. 

Paul tries to be subtle, peering up through his lashes, but he loves to watch it: it’s like John’s body can’t contain his emotions, and they just have to bubble over. He remembers reading something like that in Peter Pan, with Tinkerbell, and fairies being so small that every feeling consumed them entirely. John’s not small, though— he’s larger than life, the way he makes every room feel like it was empty till he arrives. It makes sense his emotions would follow suit. 

Out of the rain, Paul can see the other boy clearly again, and he catalogs this new, soaked version of the Ted as he laughs: little droplets of water fall from John’s hair with each guffaw, sliding down the slope of his nose before making the fatal plunge to the floor, and his quiff, presumably much like Paul’s at the moment, is a lost cause, flattened to his forehead in a makeshift fringe— but it surprisingly doesn’t look silly, like Paul’s certain his must. John looks— well, with those Greek-statue features of his, he looks a bit like the romantic hero in one of those old movies Paul’s aunts would watch when they babysat him and Mike. The knight in the rain coming to sweep the princess off her feet. 

Paul can feel the burn as his ears turn red, and he coughs again. Luckily John hasn’t seemed to notice his brief dip into insanity. 

Once the giggles subside, they set down their guitars there in the foyer and carefully unwrap their jackets like mummy bandages, both of them sighing in relief when the instruments emerge dry and unharmed. Paul’s lyric notebook has survived too, only a little damp at its edges. 

“At least leather is easy to clean, yeah?” he offers, poking at his rain-laden jacket. John hums.

“Doesn’t make it swimming gear.” 

Outside, a clap of thunder echoes off the rooftops. Paul’s pretty sure he can hear the windows rattle. 

“Think it’s getting worse,” he remarks, then winces. Nothing more lame than talking about the weather. 

But again, John seems oblivious to Paul’s mortification. “I’m going to need a bloody ark to get home,” he puffs, before squinting at Paul. “You didn’t do anything to anger the bearded man upstairs lately, did you?” he asks, teasingly.

“No more than you,” Paul retorts, and John grins. 

“Ah, well, we’re screwed then, aren’t we?” 

A beat passes. John’s gaze holds his for a moment longer before it slides down the hall, further into the house, dim as it is with no lights on. Paul knows he’s curious— of course he is, he’s John bloody Lennon— but suddenly Paul wants nothing more than to shove John back out into the rain, chase him off, not let him in any further than he’s already gotten, both in Paul’s house and under Paul’s skin.  

Because that’s the real reason Paul hasn’t yet invited John over, isn’t it. The idea of John Lennon being here, in Paul’s house— nameless and common and shabbier and smaller than Mendips— might remind the older boy that he has no good reason to be hanging around with someone like Paul, and he’ll leave, and he’ll take the music and the magic with him and leave Paul with this glaringly empty hole in his heart that he hadn’t realized was empty till he saw some hard-eyed Teddy boy in an orange checked shirt shamelessly mangle the lyrics to Come Go With Me. Maybe Paul should just— he should just rip off the plaster now, right? Sever this— this whatever it is twisting up his insides before John Lennon worms his way into Paul’s very bones. Or worse, his soul. 

(Paul’s a little terrified it’s already happened.)

“Macca? Macca. Paulie.” 

Abruptly, Paul realizes John’s saying something. Shit. He snaps back to attention.

“Pardon?” Pardon? For fuck’s sake, McCartney, are you the bleedin' Queen? 

“Some of that water get in your ears, did it?” John smirks. “I said, we gonna stand here all day, or do ye—?” he gestures at himself and then at Paul, at their clothes glued flat to their skin.  

God, this day is unraveling fast. “Right, sorry. Ah— upstairs bathroom has towels.” 

They kick off their shoes and peel off their soggy socks before climbing gingerly as they can up the stairs, mindful of the small lake they’re bringing inside with them. Paul will mop it up later— the housekeeping is his chores anyway, so he’s used to it, though he always sends a small prayer of gratitude up to his mother every time he has to clean up after Mike in the bath. Raising two sons is a filthy, thankless job; she had made it look so easy. 

Leading them down the hall to the bathroom, Paul makes sure not to even glance at his closed bedroom door as they pass it, lest John see and get the idea to barge inside. His heartbeat is still making a rapid incline in his chest with each step, ticking faster and faster as it creeps up his throat and merrily lodging itself there as Paul tries to swallow down his nerves. He couldn’t handle John Lennon in his room right then. His heart would explode. 

“Anyone home, then?” John asks behind him. He follows close at Paul's heels into the small space as Paul flicks on the bathroom light. The floor’s tiled in here, so they don’t have to worry so much about their water-logged clothes; they shed their shirts and trousers and toss their leather jackets into the tub, where they land with a squelch. Once they’re both down to their pants, Paul starts pulling towels out of the linen cupboard so as not to look too closely at the long, pale line of John’s body in his peripheral vision. 

“Nah. Mike’ll be back for tea in a bit, but he’s usually late when Dad’s not around to scold him for it.” 

“And old Jim?” John says it loftily, but Paul still can’t help darting a knowing smirk over his shoulder that has the other boy’s cheeks flushing. 

“Hours yet. But I can always sneak you out down the drainpipe— it’s right next to the window there.” He points, but realizes his mistake when John doesn’t follow his finger to look, instead finding the older boy’s mouth slowly widening into a leer, cat-like.

“A drainpipe, eh? Sounds better for sneakin’ people in than out, Paulie,” John waggles his eyebrows. “You squirreling a bird away in here? Tsk tsk.” 

It’s Paul’s turn to blush. He chucks a towel at John’s head so the boy doesn’t see. 

With a laugh, John sets to toweling his hair. Paul does the same, but finds himself distracted, painfully curious to see what the other boy’s quiff will look like unstyled. God knows he hates when he has to hurry through his own morning routine of carefully gelling up his hair, setting the unruly curly bits just right— what will John look like, without his Teddy armor? 

The phrase sex hair tumbles through his head unbidden just as John emerges from the towel and their eyes meet.

Thankfully, another clap of thunder has them both near jumping out of their skins, and the tension breaks. John swipes at a raindrop at his throat. 

“You got something dry I can borrow?” he asks, abruptly reminding Paul they’re both still standing there in their underwear. 

“Right, ‘course. Just—” he can’t bring John to his room yet, not like— like this. Because John Lennon in his room is cause enough for a heart attack, but a near-naked John Lennon? “Wait here.” 

“Not like I’m going back outside, love,” 

The endearment has Paul tripping over his own feet, and he just barely catches a glimpse of John’s face in the mirror before escaping into the hall— the older boy looks almost surprised too, like he hadn’t planned on saying it. 

There’s no time to overanalyze, though. Paul makes a break for his room, bursting inside like he’s been shot from a cannon; he only has a few moments to make the place presentable before John might think he’s taking too long and come looking for him. Fortunately Paul’s not messy, by any means, nothing like Mike, but there are still a few stray clothes to shove beneath his bed— rejects from changing out of his uniform earlier, before meeting up with John— and bedsheets to straighten. He tosses his lyric notebook on top of his schoolwork on his desk, hiding the papers from view. He doesn’t want anything to remind John that Paul’s younger than him, and not as cool as to be attending art college. 

When it’s as good as it’s going to get without Paul just chucking everything out the window, he dives into his dresser. Since Paul’s slimmed down from his chubby choir boy days, he and John have about the same build, luckily, so at least he doesn’t have to be horrified about John being swamped in his things. He grabs a couple t-shirts first, then rifles frantically through the drawers for trackies not riddled with holes or mending scars, finding the best pair for John and the second-best for himself. After a second’s hesitation, he tosses a clean pair of pants on the pile too. 

John Lennon in just his pants is torture enough. But John pants-less in Paul’s clothes? Paul can’t even think about it, lest he pop a stiffy then and there. 

He hurriedly changes into his own dry clothes, shucking his old pants onto the radiator to dry, and scurries back down to the bathroom where John’s still standing in the center of the room, looking only slightly less like a drowned cat. 

Paul hands over the bundle of clothes. “I think we’re about the same size, so these should work, I think. Sorry for the patches, I darn them myself and I’m not great at it—” He’s rambling, he knows, and he should definitely stop before he says something irreparably stupid, but John’s looking at him rather intently and his eyes are shining even more golden than usual in the yellow light of the bathroom, and Paul loves putting on a show— why else would he want to become a musician?— but there’s something about his sole audience being John that has him flustered and— “But it’s better than walking ‘round with my arse showing.” 

Shit. 

John blinks, then grins, sharkish. “Oh, I don’t know about that.” 

Paul’s tongue sticks like glue to the roof of his mouth. The floors of 20 Forthlin might creak and the walls might groan, but unfortunately, at the moment, the house is too solidly built for the floor to open up and swallow Paul whole like he sorely wishes it would. 

Or maybe getting struck by lightning and bursting into flames would be a faster death, as John half-waves the bundle of clothes. 

“Did ye want to watch?” he asks, still smirking, and Paul realizes that— of course— for John to get dressed, Paul can’t be here, staring like an awkward, slack-jawed idiot. 

He clears his throat. “Right, sorry. I’ll just, uh— tea?” 

He doesn’t wait for John’s reply before he’s off. 

He does think to grab a few more towels as he goes, though, taking them with him downstairs. With the way old Jim’s head has been lately— distracted at best, vacant at worst— Paul’s pretty sure his dad wouldn’t even notice the small pond that is now their front entry, not even if it sprouted fronds and frogs, but Paul still mops up their drippings regardless. Like he said: he’s gotten used to keeping house since his mum’s death. Mike’s certainly not going to do it— the whole family spoiled him rotten past the point of no return, Paul himself probably included. Besides, Paul’s the firstborn. It’s practically in the job description. 

So playing housewife is easy enough. He heads back to the kitchen and drapes the towels on the radiator to warm, then puts on the kettle, busying himself with the cups and milk and sugar and trying not to strain his ears listening to the creaks in the floorboards up above. He prays John can resist his penchant for being a nosey bastard for once in his bloody life and refrain from peeking in Paul’s room, but he’s not willing to bet money on it. 

Having a task to focus on is nice, though his hands are still shaking. He blames it on the chill settling in his bones and leans closer to the warmth of the stove. 

It mustn’t be more than five minutes, but it feels like eons later when John finally clambers down the stairs and into the kitchen. Paul allows himself exactly two seconds to brace himself for what he finds when he turns around. As expected, it’s not nearly enough. 

John’s leaning against the doorframe, looking perfectly at ease in Paul’s clothes. The trackies fit him well, but the shirt’s a little tight, emphasizing their differences as it clings to the broad curve of John’s shoulders and the lean taper of his waist. The butterflies in Paul’s stomach stir up a hurricane to rival the one outdoors. 

John’s brought his towel down with him too, slung around his neck to save the shirt collar from his damp hair. Paul fetches one of the towels off the radiator and trades it for the wet one, and can only watch helplessly as John nuzzles into the warmed terry-cloth like a kitten. 

“Tea’ll be a moment,” Paul says, only a little hoarsely. 

John hums in acknowledgment as he slings the new towel around his neck. “Nice place,” he says, looking around speculatively. He doesn’t ask for permission before beginning his perusal of the McCartney kitchen. Figuring there’s nothing to be self-conscious about in a kitchen— they all mostly look the same, don’t they?— Paul doesn’t object, leaning back against the counter to allow John past. The older boy opens and closes cupboards and drawers one by one, then moves along to the fridge, squinting critically at its contents. Once seemingly satisfied, he looks blearily out the window facing the back garden, narrowing his eyes so much to focus it’s a mystery they’re even still open, and can’t he just put on his glasses?

Paul must’ve said that last bit out loud, because suddenly John’s eyes are on him and widening almost comically large. He starts patting furiously at his shirt and sweatpants pockets, like the frames might be hidden somewhere in the fabric, despite them being Paul’s clothes.

“Shit! I must’ve dropped the bloody things as we ran,” John curses when he comes up empty. “Mimi’s going to murder me. Make sure they play Chuck Berry at my funeral, will you?”

Paul huffs a laugh. “I’m sure they’re not far. I’ll help you look for them when it’s not a monsoon out. We’ll retrace our steps. Or you can always just blame me.” 

“Mimi already hates you. We’re supposed to be helping your cause, daft git, not buying it a coffin.”

A little thrill skitters through Paul’s chest at that. Not at Mimi hating him, obviously— which is nightmare fuel enough, because since when does an adult hate perfect-mannered Paul McCartney?— but at John being determined to reverse that, hanging round with Paul despite the tuts and frowns from Mimi. He chews at the inside of his cheek to smother his smile. 

The whistle of the kettle saves him from having to think up a reply. He makes up their cups, remembering from tea at Mendips how John likes it, and passes John his— realizing a moment too late that that’s probably strange that he remembered. His fingers fumble as they brush the other boy’s, and the cup is only barely saved from making another tiny pond on the kitchen floor. 

“Easy there, Herr Butterfingers,” John murmurs, and Paul’s grip tightens around his own cup.

“Sorry. My hands are still wet,” he mutters in explanation. They’re not, but he still swipes at a tea towel, and then they stand there in the quiet of the kitchen as they sip. 

As usual, tea seems to fix everything: the hot drink thaws the last of Paul’s shivers and soothes his frayed nerves as best as they can be soothed. John seems content, too, and Paul’s starting to think maybe this isn’t so terrible, having John here, when the other boy speaks up. 

“So. As lovely as this kitchen is, Paulie, you gonna show me your room?” 

Nope, never mind. This is very much definitely still terrible. 

A quick, forlorn glance out the window shows that the rain hasn’t let up any. As if on cue, a low rumble of thunder accentuates this point, and he supposes he can’t put it off forever, or John’s going to get suspicious and think Paul’s hiding something far more scandalous than his boring, innocuous bedroom. So they gather their cups and towels and Paul leads the way upstairs yet again. 

He pushes open his door as nonchalantly as he possibly can, desperate to not make it seem like some grand reveal, but feels like he fails miserably.

It’s not like it’s a babyish room, or anything like that. It’s just a bed and a desk and a chest of drawers, really: yellow walls, dark wood, plain quilt bedspread, a crate of records and a turntable. But it doesn’t have any of the cool posters or drawings or wonderful homey artsy clutter that John’s room has— though Paul has hung up a couple pictures since his first visit to Mendips, inspired. There’s a decent watercolor he’d done for art class, of the trees in the back garden, and the lyrics and chords to Be-Bop-A-Lula written out on a piece of notebook paper and tacked above his desk, alongside a doodle John had scribbled on the back of a greasy newspaper when they’d visited the chip shop a couple weeks back. It depicts one of John’s nonsensical characters, only with an Elvis quiff and noodle legs, a little speech bubble proclaiming “Love m-my meat tender, b-b-baby!” John had dramatically bequeathed the paper to Paul as they’d left— as a joke, Paul’s certain, since John had rejoined the other boys not a moment later, jeering about something, doodle forgotten— but Paul had slipped it into his pocket nonetheless, and stuck it up when he’d gotten home. 

Now he wishes he’d thought to take it down when he’d been in here grabbing clothes, as John pauses to inspect it. It suddenly feels more dangerous than just a doodle, like he’s just put up a secret for all the world to see. It’s too revealing— though revealing what, Paul doesn’t let himself think about. John, blessedly— unusually— doesn’t comment. 

He does move on to a photograph, though, that sits framed on Paul’s desk. Mike had taken it in the early days of his photography hobby, so it’s a little blurry, a little underdeveloped— but it’s of Paul and his mum, sitting in the garden only a few months before she died. Paul likes it because she doesn’t look sick in it: she’s laughing, head thrown back the same way Paul does, and younger-Paul’s grinning at the camera, looking victorious— understandably so, he thinks. Making Mary McCartney laugh always felt like winning the lottery. 

“Mike took that,” Paul tells him, so John doesn’t have to say anything about Mary. Paul’s a little tired of the sorry, love’s and poor boy remarks that follow him around town like a dark cloud. He can’t wait for the day the newsagent stops looking at him with pity in his eyes whenever Paul’s sent in to buy milk or laundry soap. 

“It’s nice,” John says softly, before clearing his throat, and speaking more normally. “I always wanted a little brother. All I’ve got are the sisters. Pesky things, them.” 

Paul’s so grateful for the topic change he could cry. He allows himself a small exhale instead, trying to not make it shudder too much. “Trust me, no you don’t. At least sisters don’t steal your clothes or hide your guitar when they think you’ve been playing too much.” 

“You sit through four-hundred fairy tea parties and then tell me if you’ve changed your mind.” 

They share a grin, and then it’s quiet again, just the sound of the raindrops colliding with the window pane, like a million tiny fists knocking to get in. Paul glances around for something to say, and his gaze lands on his notebook. “You wanna write?” he offers. 

John shakes his head, and the last remaining stubborn water droplets go flying. One lands on Paul’s wrist; it scalds like molten lava. “Nah,” John says, pulling the towel from his shoulders and tossing it on the bed. “Put on one of them records. That’s part of practice too, isn’t it? Listening to the masters?”

Paul smiles at the thought: like they could absorb the many talents of Little Richard just by pressing their ears up to the radio, pour the tune directly into their heads. He nods to the crate of records. “You pick, then.”

He waits till John’s back is turned to snag the wet towel from the bed, instead draping it over the back of his desk chair to dry before joining the other boy. Their elbows bump as he does, and Paul mumbles an apology, but John doesn’t spare him a glance— or shift away.

John flicks steadily through the albums: he’s already seen a few of Paul’s records, ones Paul had brought over to Mendips for writing sessions, and Paul knows he owns quite a few of the same himself— but John has never seen the entire collection, which also features the slightly embarrassing albums from childhood, or gifts from relatives, or Paul’s mum’s old favorite LPs, rescued from the donation box after her funeral. Having to sort through her clothes, her jewelry, her books and bits and bobs of a life and having to decide what to keep and what to sell was the hardest thing Paul’s ever had to do; saving the music was the easiest. 

It’s one of her records that John picks up now, and Paul almost tells him so, but bites it back at the last moment. He’s not sure why. Maybe he wants to know what John will think of it, without bringing dead mothers into it. 

John sets the record and lowers the needle, and the soft opening bars of a piano come floating into the room. The angle’s funny, but Paul still glimpses something soft flicker across John’s face before it’s gone a second later, and John’s stepping away. 

The older boy starfishes out across the tiny bed. If it were Mike or George, Paul would tell him to shove over— or make him, pointy toes into his thigh till he budged— and flop down next to him. If this were Mendips, he’d perch politely on the corner and wait for John to sigh and rearrange so they could settle their notebooks and guitars on their knees between them and get to work. And if Paul were braver, well. 

But John isn’t George, and this isn’t Mendips, and Paul’s not braver yet, so he takes the floor. He doesn’t let himself look at John as he does, not quite ready to know what he’d find there. Besides, the shabby rug and hard floor beneath him is pleasantly grounding; he follows John’s lead and lies down, staring up at the ceiling. They hadn’t turned the lamps on, and the dim, watery light of the stormy afternoon throws the shadows of raindrops snaking across his bedroom walls, making it look like they’re in a snow globe of sorts, or a fish bowl. 

Silence settles over them as they let the music and the rain against the roof echo above. It’s so quiet that Paul starts to wonder if John’s maybe dozed off. He’s not used to the boy being so still. Manic, jittery, violent— sure. Still? Peaceful? No sirree, not John Lennon.  

The lull is nice, but Paul’s heart is still skipping too erratically in his chest for him to hope of drifting off himself. Instead he concentrates on the moan of the wind against the shingles, the distant rumbling thunder. They muffle all the other noises of the outside world, swallowing up the passing cars or unlucky pedestrians, and Paul almost lets himself believe that this room is all there is dry and safe and untouched in the universe, and it’s just him and John left, inside, together. 

And then his traitorous brain starts thinking about John Lennon, here, in Paul’s clothes, on Paul’s bed. How the pillow will likely be damp when he eventually gets up, and Paul wonders if the scent of his hair will linger after he leaves, like how the smell of a wet dog lingers— but in a better, good, not disgusting way, obviously. John always smells of cigarettes and cedar soap, and the combination is quickly becoming one of Paul’s favorites. Maybe he can press his nose to the sheets after John leaves and—

“Should probably call Mimi,” John says, jolting Paul out of his head. Not asleep, then. “Tell her I haven’t drowned.”

“Phone’s back in the kitchen,” Paul replies, and John sighs. Neither boy gets up, though. 

“I like this song,” John says, after a long moment. “Maybe we could do it at our next gig.”

“Little slow, innit?” Paul asks, though really his vision is spinning at just the thought of singing this song with John, for John. Because that’s what it would be— how it is. They haven’t even played a real gig yet, as a band, but at rehearsals, Paul will be in the middle of a song, mid-word even, and he’ll look over at John and suddenly he can see it, clear as crystal: them at the toppermost, bright lights and screaming crowds, but even when he’s singing in front of thousands and thousands of people, and not just Pete Best’s mum, he knows he’ll still only be singing for John. 

“Could make it a duet. That’ll liven it up a bit,” John suggests lightly.

“We’d need a piano. Those are a bit hard to cart around on tour.” This is a frequent game of theirs, one Paul loves, played on long walks and bus rides home from practice: trading fantasies of their futures as world-touring rock stars. 

“Psh.” John waves a dismissive hand— Paul can just see it over the edge of the mattress. “We’ll have roadies to carry things for us. And there’ll be big vans for our gear, and once we make it overseas we’ll have planes and trains and the like.”

America— the dream they almost don’t talk about often, just in case they jinx it. “Nah, it’ll be Rolls Royces, won’t it? A proper entourage.” 

“Right, yeah. And we’ll never get caught in the rain, either, because there’ll always be people to hold our umbrellas for us.”

Paul laughs. “Can’t hold your own umbrella?”

“Be too busy signing autographs and waving to our adoring fans, won’t we?” 

We. It has Paul’s toes curling against the rug, and he has to close his eyes against his sudden dizziness. There’s another part of the fantasy he doesn’t dare voice aloud, the part he thinks about as he’s falling asleep at night with lyrics still ringing in his ears, or when he watches John bite his bottom lip as he concentrates on learning a new chord progression— the un-glamorous part, maybe, where they have to actually climb the ladder to the top, but still Paul’s favorite. The one with shared dressing rooms and hotel rooms with only one bed, a life on the road in the backs of cramped vans, where they stay joined at the hip as they venture out into the great unknown. 

Paul knows it’ll mostly just remain that— fantasy— especially as they’ve got the other members of the band to drag along. He wonders if even maybe now is the time to bring up George joining the group again, but when he opens his mouth what comes out instead is, “You think we’ll really get there?”

Maybe it’s something about not being able to see John’s face that has Paul’s tongue looser. He’s not quite brave yet, but there’s— something. Something new, here, in their little bubble in the rain.

He stills knows better than to expect anything but snark from John, of course, but there’s an unfamiliar note in John’s voice when he answers. 

“‘Cor I do.” Then John shies away from his own sincerity, brustling on, “I’ve got these magic fingers, don’t I? Be a shame to deprive the world of ‘em. And you—”

John cuts off. Paul opens his eyes.

Once more there’s only the low croon of the piano and the hush of the rain, so delicate he’s almost afraid to breach it, but Paul has to know what John was going to say next. 

“And me?” 

The bed springs squeak and suddenly John is there at the edge, looking down at him from the bed. Paul couldn’t look away if he wanted to, and he doesn’t want to. 

“And you…” John begins again, only for the words to fade again, and Paul watches raptly as a myriad of thoughts flicker across John’s face, too quick for Paul to decipher. It must be some kind of internal debate, he thinks, because the older boy seems to suddenly reach a decision, nodding to himself almost imperceptibly, but Paul notices, because he's spent the last months noticing and memorizing every single tiny detail he can about John Lennon. 

And then John’s climbing off the bed, and then, as unexpectedly as the skies had opened up before, suddenly John is above him entirely. Knees on either sides of Paul’s legs, hands braced beside Paul’s shoulders. This close, Paul knows there’s no bad vision to blame for the intensity in John’s stare. He can see every gold fleck in John’s eyes; he could count John’s eyelashes, if he had the wherewithal. 

Paul feels hot all over. He feels like the kindling in the fire pit at scout camp, like he’s glowing just below his skin, and he’ll catch flame if someone just pokes him, or blows on him. His arms are immobile at his sides, fingers trying to grab some kind of hold in the nubby threads of the rug, and his heart is fit to burst in his chest. Or maybe it’s his lungs, because John huffs, and Paul knows the other boy would be rolling his eyes if they weren’t locked with Paul’s. 

“Breathe, Paulie,” he instructs softly, only a little teasingly. Paul exhales so harshly the curls at both his and John’s brow quiver, but John only grins. 

“Not quite so much like Elvis now,” John tells him, flicking at the fringe flopping over Paul’s forehead. His scent wraps around Paul like a cocoon, rich like rain and wet earth and old cigarettes and Paul’s towels and Paul’s sheets and Paul can still feel the storm in his bones but the friction finally, finally catches and suddenly he’s on fire, burning, burning.  

Paul surges up and kisses him. 

Paul’s never jumped off a cliff before. He’d gone to the lake with George and a couple mates, a few summers ago, and there’d been a tall rockface they’d leapt off of into the water, over and over, somersaults and tricks and the like— but it never really felt like flying, never felt like a held breath, let go, only times a thousand. It never felt like this. 

There’s the split second of panic as he takes the jump, but then John’s lips open to meet him, and Paul’s soaring.  

Their mouths move slickly against each other, and Paul’s kissed girls before but it’s never been anything like this, fierce and frantic, an equal match, no give where there usually is. There’s the bizarre, foreign feeling of the slight scratch of stubble against Paul's chin, and when their chests collide he finds firm where he usually find soft, and Paul is all but pinned to the ground but he’s never felt safer, or more like he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be. 

And then John’s sliding a thigh between Paul’s and suddenly Paul can feel him, all of him, the hard, hot line of his body pressing Paul deeper into the rug, and Paul in turn winds his arms around John’s shoulders, pulling him impossibly closer. John’s hair is still damp, and it sticks to Paul’s fingers as they slide through it. John makes a small noise at the contact, so Paul takes a chance and scratches the blunt edges of his nails along John’s scalp, and the other boy moans into Paul’s mouth, keening into the touch, just as catlike as before. Paul can’t fight the fond curl of his lips. 

It’s okay, though, because his smile breaks the rhythm of the kiss just slightly, and gives them a moment to pull apart and pant heavily against each other. 

“Christ, Paulie,” John exhales raggedly. “‘ve wanted to do that for ages.” 

Paul is ridiculously grateful his heart didn’t give out all those times before, because he’s more than happy to die right here and now, if this is what heaven is, which it must be. “Me too,” he manages, just as breathless, and John’s eyes are searing into his, and he’s never seen the older boy look happier. He wants John to look at him like this forever. He wants the rain to never stop, so they never have to leave. 

And then that daring gleam he loves so much reappears in John’s eyes, and Paul’s smile vanishes into a gasp as one of John’s hands slips under his shirt, heated skin sliding along chilled, and John’s leaning in again, and Paul’s arching to meet him. Through the haze in his head he wonders how far this is going to go, what John wants, if maybe John will— God. Desire and lust and fear and thrill all crest over him in a wave, and Paul is helpless but to hold on, until— 

A bang shakes the house as the front door flies open downstairs, and then there’s Mike’s voice carrying through the floors, yelling, “Paul! You home?” 

They leap apart like they’ve been electrocuted. Limbs tangle and elbows fly as they scramble to sit up on the rug, put distance between them like Mike’s right outside Paul’s door instead of downstairs. But it’s all wordless, neither of them daring to make a sound as they listen to the clamor of Mike in the foyer. The record’s still playing, only now it sounds sour, off-key, and suddenly Paul understands Tinkerbell and John Lennon completely, because every other emotion he has is immediately shoved aside by absolute, blood-curdling anger. Goddamn Mike McCartney, with the worst fucking timing in the history of all mankind. Paul could throttle his brother right now, he swears, and never feel the slightest speck of remorse. 

But that’s for later. Right now fear swoops in again, as he remembers John stone-still and grave-silent beside him. Paul darts an anxious glance his way, but the other boy isn’t looking at him, and the butterflies in Paul’s stomach plummet. 

He doesn’t know if he should speak first, or let John, or if they’re never going to say another word to each other again. Maybe John regrets it. Maybe John’s horrified he let Paul do that, and he’s trying to think of how to turn Paul down, tell him he’s out of the band and to never to come near him again, and it’ll be even worse than it would have been earlier because now Paul knows what John’s lips feel like against his, how their hearts racing against each other felt like— like coming home, and how could he ever forget that? How could he ever go on? 

“I changed my mind,” John says abruptly, and Paul’s heart is glass poised to shatter, until— “Yer right. Little brothers are bloody terrible.” 

For a century, all Paul can do is blink. And then he laughs, a shocked, startled sound, and John’s grinning back. 

And then John’s leaning closer again, until Paul’s eyes near start to cross. “Might have to test out that drainpipe later, though,” John murmurs, and Paul closes the distance to steal one more kiss before Mike’s footsteps start thudding up the stairs, just because he can.