Mike half-opens his eyes and has a moment's worth of wondering where the hell he is.
And then slowly it registers, the unfamiliar ceiling and the lack of noise of cars passing and dogs barking - he's in Wales. On his uncle's farm, up in the loft that has been converted into a comfortable, cosy bedroom with two big beds that feel like heaven. Then, his mind still groggy and lost in sleep, Mike wonders what could possibly have woken him.
Which is when he hears it - whispering.
John and Paul in the bed on the other side of the room, whispering to each other in the silence. Mike turns over to try to get comfortable again and the noise halts abruptly.
He is just about to drift back off to sleep when the whispering starts again. Though it's nowhere near loud, his half asleep brain picks out the words in the utter silence of the room.
"Stop it," Paul says. There is a an odd huffing noise from John and then the shift of someone moving under a duvet.
"Christ, it's like sharing a bed with Cyn."
"Tell her you said that, shall I?"
"Yeah," John whispers, and Mike finds himself suddenly listening more to them than attempting to sleep. "You can chat about it when you both pop to the convent and see about becoming nuns."
Mike can't mistake the familiar sound of his brother laughing quietly into the darkness. Then he hears him say, "Tomorrow I'm putting bromide in your tea."
Mike wonders what the hell bromide is.
"Maybe I should put something in yours. Chocolate? Oysters?"
Again Paul laughs, but Mike finds himself frowning into the darkness - why would someone put oysters in tea? He briefly considers just sitting up and asking them, but then they're talking again and he gets distracted.
"Now who needs to stop it?" John asks.
"It's not my fault! You started it!"
"And now you're attempting to do... what?" John asks, and his voice sounds different, but Mike doesn't recognise the tone. "Finish it?"
"I'll finish you," Paul says, also in a very strange tone, and Mike frowns, thinking he must have heard that wrong.
Then for several very long seconds, they go quiet.
"Paul," John suddenly says. "You really don't want to do that." More silence and then, "Or that."
By this point Mike thinks he must be missing something. They're so strange, the two of them.
He hears Paul grumble then say, "I'll pick you up a registration form when I'm down at the nunnery then, shall I?"
"That might be fun actually," John whispers. "I could corrupt them all and take their virginity."
Mike wants to laugh and then remembers that he's not supposed to be listening. He almost has to stuff his sheet into his mouth as John goes on, "Oh, that's such a lovely wimple you're wearing, really brings out your eyes. And y'know, I've always found penguins rather sexy..."
Paul, however, doesn't try to hide his laughter. "Stupid dick," Mike hears him say, but there's clearly a smile in his voice. Then they are silent for a moment before Paul adds, "Oh no, don't start that again." A beat passes and then, "This wouldn't have been a problem, you know, if you hadn't been convinced those cows were staring at you earlier."
"They were fucking looking at me, Paul," Mike hears John whisper. "Like they knew what I was thinking."
"They're just cows, John."
"They're evil. Forget the bromide tomorrow, just bring a great big cow in here to stare at me listlessly."
Mike hears Paul laugh, then there is a scuffle of noise, sheets being shifted around, limbs re-arranged. "God," Paul says when things go quiet. "It's like sharing a bed with an octopus." He doesn't catch John's come-back but Paul seems to find it hysterical, not calming down for several seconds.
Eventually John says, "Right, well I'm going to sleep; I'm bored of this now."
Mike wonders what the hell John could be bored of, briefly considers they might be playing cards, but realises it'd be silly to be playing cards in the pitch black at one in the morning. He is just wondering whether they'll finally go to sleep and let him get back to sleep when Paul pipes up again.
"God," he whispers. "How long has it been since this morning?"
"Too long," John replies. He sounds grumpy.
After that, there is only silence.
A few hours later, when Mike wakes up for a second time, wonders when he dozed back off and what time it is, he sits up and finds that their bed is empty.
Must have gone downstairs for a hot drink, he thinks, before falling back to sleep.