Chapter 1: She Got Long Black Wavy Hair
Roger paced back and forth nervously as the band stood backstage and anxiously awaited the opening band to finish their set. Tonight Queen were to be the headlining act for the first time, and their gig at Imperial College had people absolutely packed to the brim in the tiny hall. The band couldn't believe their luck - they finally seemed to be getting some kind of attention from the public, and in turn, their live gigs were getting better and better.
The muffled music coming from the first band served to be a distraction for Roger as Freddie put the finishing touch on his hair as he swished around elegantly in his stage costume; Brian and John were sitting on the ratty red couch, tuning their instruments for the fiftieth time. Roger sighed and meandered out of the green room, lingering at the edge of the curtain, peering out onto the stage stealthily - usually he couldn't give two fucks about opening bands, but this one piqued his interest. Not only were they musically valid, but their lead singer branded a beautiful guitar, a killer voice, and was... a girl? He stared, shocked.
Not that Roger didn't mind. He just hadn't ever seen such a spectacle. She not only commanded the stage, but was also obviously well-versed when it came to guitar and had a soaring voice to match. He watched, entranced, as the band finished up their final song to thunderous applause, only to be knocked out of his current state by the band's own drummer hastily stepping off stage and yelling over the crowd - "it's all yours, mate". Roger blinked, turning to hurry back to the green room, only stopping for half a second to give the singer another glance.
Back in the room, the rest of the band was gearing up to perform. The roadies would soon have their own equipment ready for use. Roger twirled a clearly battered drumstick in his hand and abruptly dropped it when the girl from the band strode confidently into the green room, followed by the rest of her bandmates.
"Watch it, Rog", Freddie stated with a twinkle in his eye. "You know how Trident feels about us breaking any more sticks."
"Oi, shaddap", the blonde rasped. "I don't need to think of those fucks before I do a gig."
Freddie let a small giggle slip and immediately watched Roger's baby blues following the girl around the room as she set her guitar in an old worn case, her teased wavy hair dangling down in front of her face as she lovingly closed the case and propped it up against the worn couch. She donned a long metallic black dress, the slip showing high red platform boots. But Roger just wanted a glance at her damn face-
"You look like you just stumbled upon a Rolls Royce with the keys still in it, Rog," Freddie said dryly.
"Huh?" Roger was way too involved in his obvious ogling, which clearly annoyed Freddie. How dare Roger ignore him? His disdain quickly melted away as Freddie saw the look on the drummer's face and turned to inspect his ornate outfit instead, quietly laughing to himself. He knew that look. He hadn't seen it in a long time, but he knew it.
Roger awoke from his trance as the stage manager shouted into the room. Hurriedly grabbing his sticks, he met the other three members at the side of the stage, obscured by the thick black curtain hanging at the side.
"What're we opening with?" Roger said, dazedly glancing at the crowd. He hadn't realized just how many people were here.
"What do you think?" Brian glared, and walked out on stage, playing the opening riff to Keep Yourself Alive. Roger nodded and joined him along with John thumping away at his bass. The crowd cheered, and all of Roger's thoughts faded away as the task at hand became most important.
The last to join the stage was obviously Freddie, which the crowd welcomed with a hearty set of screams from females and males alike. Roger was always the one with the most female attention, but Freddie's ability to captivate any and all genders never ceased to amaze Roger. He smiled to himself as Freddie pointed out into the crowd, which elicited a few squeaks of excitement. He then turned to Roger, awaiting the next line of the song.
"Do you think you're better every day?"
"No! I just think I'm two steps nearer to my grave."
Roger poured all of his remaining energy into the two cymbals perched in front of him, rolling them with all he had left in his exhausted body as he awaited Freddie's cue to end the song. Freddie waved his gloved hand extravagantly into the air and swished his microphone stand, causing Roger to assault the cymbals one last time before silencing them with his hands. The room erupted into an applause that sounded like an explosion. With the biggest smirk on his face, he looked to his band mates as they waved enthusiastically to the crowd. Freddie thanked them, and they all walked off stage. Roger hurled his sticks into the crowd and turned to exit his place at the kit.
Beaming, he hardly noticed the dark figure standing at the curtain. He gave one last wave to the crowd. By the time he turned around to follow his bandmates off of the stage, she was gone.
"I'm showering first!"
"You cheeky git, you don't even technically live here!"
Freddie bolted into the bathroom and sternly shut the door. Brian shook his head and laughed. Roger slumped down onto the couch, his stick bag thrown onto the cushion beside him.
"That was the best gig yet", Brian mused.
"Hell yeah", Roger replied. "I can't believe how many people were there."
"Are we walking to the party?" Brian quipped, gently setting his guitar case on the hideous carpet.
"Might as well. Is that opening act going to be there?"
"Who, the Spiders?" Brian frowned.
"Oh, is that their name? They were quite good."
Brian stopped on his way to his bedroom and stared at Roger. Roger stopped fidgeting with his ruffled shirt after a few seconds and looked up to see the guitarist leaned against the door jamb with his arms crossed, his eyebrows furrowed upward and a knowing grin on his face.
"What?!" Roger sat forward, throwing his hands up.
"You know exactly what, Rog", Brian said through quiet chuckles.
"...Shut up!" Roger began undoing the buttons on his shirt as he stood up, striding over to his bedroom to grab a towel. Freddie burst out of the bathroom wearing a ratty old towel loosely tied around his waist, a puff of steam following him. He posed extravagantly against the open door; Brian tried to hide his amusement behind a hand against his brow. He started towards the bathroom, but was stopped by a high-speed drummer on a b-line to the small, and now damp room, throwing his shirt to the side.
"I'm next." Roger pushed past Freddie, slamming the door behind him. Freddie frowned. Brian sighed.
They entered the pub to cheers and applause. Roger grinned and threw his arm around Freddie as a camera flash went off in their faces, temporarily blinding them. After greeting their contemporaries and posing for a few more pictures, Roger broke away from the crowd and headed towards the bar in the back of the room. He leaned against the bar, attempting to get the attention of the bartender, but was almost immediately distracted by the girl from the Spiders, who grinned and made her way towards him.
"Hey!" She smiled warmly at the drummer.
"Hey," Roger replied, intrigued. He glanced at her in the dim light; she had changed from her stage clothes into a tight pair of jeans, accented by velvet black platforms that laced up her calves, and a ruffly black top that flowed around her arms like smoke. Her hair was still a mess from her band's set, but the way it accentuated her face was endearing. Noticing he was still staring and trying to hide it, he hurriedly nodded and smiled back.
"Great set", she said, trying to shout over the party going on behind her. "I've always loved your music."
"Cor, thanks", he replied. "What's your name?"
"Our band name? We're the Spiders", she said, grinning proudly.
"Oh no, I meant your name," he said, grinning mischievously.
"Ha! It's Madeline", she said. "Do you want a drink?"
"Usually I'm the one who asks", Roger said, feigning a shocked expression.
"Oh, is that the case?" Madeline leaned towards Roger, a determined look in her eye. "I have a proposition for you. Last one to down a double shot buys the next round."
Roger eyed the brunette, then nodded sternly. "You have yourself a deal, Madeline."
After a few minutes Roger gained the attention of the bartender and ordered two doubles of vodka. Tossing a few quid onto the bar, he handed Madeline her double shot and clinked it against his own.
"Cheers", he said, with a boyish grin on his face.
"Cheers", she replied, with a knowing twinkle in her eye.
She was the first to down the shot. She slammed it onto the bar top as Roger finished his own shot, a suspicious eye following her hand as she pushed her hair from her face.
"Is this a joke?!" Roger said, half-jesting, as he set down his own shot glass next to hers.
"There's a reason I make that bet!" She threw her head back and laughed. Her dark hair gently following her movement to reveal her cleavage behind several delicate silver chains; Roger couldn't help but stare, not only because of her previously eluded body being suddenly exposed to him, but also because of how beautiful she was when she was encompassed in laughter. Her laugh was like music to his ears.
"Ah fine, next round is on me", Roger said, obviously feigning disappointment. "What're you drinking?"
"Vodka tonic", she said, grinning almost childishly.
"Oi, barkeep", Roger said, "two vodka tonics, please."
"Coming right up, Rog", the bartender replied.
"So your name is Roger then?" She extended a hand, her fingernails lacquered in black. "Nice to meet ya, Roger."
"Pleasure's all mine", he replied as he took her hand in his own and gently kissed the top. He may have been taken aback by her, but not enough to turn off the charm.
She giggled again, and grabbed his own hand and kissed the top of it as well. 'This is an odd one', Roger thought, 'but I kinda like it.'
"So, Roger", she started, taking the nearest bar seat, Roger following her lead. "Tell me. When did you start taking drums seriously? You're quite good."
Roger toyed with the straw in his drink for a few seconds, thinking about the answer to her question. After a few seconds, he replied, "I must've been 20. I moved here with the intentions of getting a degree in dentistry, but realized I just couldn't exist without a drumkit in front of me."
"Dentistry?! You?!" She grinned at him. "I seriously never would've guessed."
"Yeah," he replied, "it's really just an excuse to be, well, here."
"Well, it's a good front," she replied. "You're too damn good to not spend your time hitting things with sticks."
Roger grinned. "What about Madeline?"
"Eh, I came here to study psychology", she said, the smile waning from her face. "It's what my parents wanted."
Roger frowned, watching her expression change. "But what about what you want?"
"I want this. I need music. Fronting the Spiders is all I ever wanted. Mum and dad want differently, though. They never went to college. I don't blame them for wanting different for their child, considering the struggle they encountered trying to raise me and my kid brother while they worked menial jobs."
"I know what you mean", Roger said, thinking of his own mother and sister at home. "You guys are good though. I caught the end of your set." Roger looked straight into her dark eyes as she toyed with the long series of chains hanging from her neck. "I liked it."
She looked up and caught an eyeful of baby blues. He gave her a gentle smile, which made her heart flutter. 'What was this?', she thought. Guys hardly ever caught her attention, especially since they were only after one thing. But this Roger guy... he was cute, and genuinely seemed to have an interest in what she had to say. She'd have to keep an eye out for this one.
She smiled gingerly back at him, and glanced slightly behind his blonde halo to see her own band waving after her.
"Ah, the band is waving me over. I'll be right back, okay?"
She abruptly stood up and walked past him. He turned around and watched as the drummer he'd seen before wrapped an arm around her, cheering as she joined the circle of people around her. After a while his own band waved him over as well and he abandoned his post at the bar. He glanced around for her the remainder of the night, catching glimpses through the throng of people.
Hours later, the Queen boys were right tanked up, standing outside of the pub; they were each sucking down a cigarette as Brian stood next to them, slight disgust on his face, waving away as much smoke as possible.
"Sh-should we get a taxi?" John said, hiccuping.
"Dear, what kind of deranged taxi man is driving around at this hour? Besides, you can just crash on our floor", Freddie replied.
"Your floor?" Brian said, half-chuckling. "Fred, once you start contributing rent, we can decide the owner of the floor."
"Are you the one that sleeps on it?" Freddie frowned at Brian. Turning to John, he said, "there's plenty of room for the two of us."
"Thanks Freddie, but I've gotta get home to Vera", John said, stumbling. "I b-better get walking now. Good gig guys, see you tomorrow." John stumbled off into the night.
Roger turned his cigarette butt over in his fingers before hurling it into the gutter. "Well, we better get g-"
He halted his sentence as he saw Madeline burst out of the pub, followed by her own bandmates. She immediately spotted him and stumbled over.
"Hiya Roger!" She tried to gain her composure as she noticed she was also in the company of two other members of Queen. "Oh wow, hey there. My name is Madeline. Great to meet you. Huge fan." She extended a hand towards Freddie, who graciously took it and shook it gently.
"Lovely to meet you as well dear. Great set tonight. Hard act to follow", Freddie said, giving her a lavish bow. Roger frowned.
"Brian, great to meet you Madeline", Brian said, extending a thin hand to meet her own. "And a lovely guitar you have."
"Thank you so much", she replied. "Although I have to say I admire yours as well."
Brian smiled warmly and turned to Freddie, extending an arm. "Shall we, Mr Mercury?"
"I suppose," Freddie said. "Meet you at the flat, Rog."
"Uh, alright," Roger said after the pair, wondering why the hell they'd left him there to walk on his own. Madeline was left by herself as well as her own bandmates climbed into their beat up van, waving goodbyes after her.
Roger stood awkwardly next to her as he watched her band drive off. Unsure of what to say, he faced her and stated the obvious. "Do you live near here?"
"Yeah, just a few blocks from here", she said, toying idly with a lock of hair. "And you?"
"Same", he said. "Would you like me to walk you home? I'd feel wrong letting a lady walk home by herself in this town and this hour", he said, trying not to sound weird.
She smiled sweetly. "Sure. Thanks, Roger."
They started towards her flat, and Roger was trying desperately to think of something to fill the silence. "How long have you been playing guitar?"
"Since I was about 15", she replied.
"Hey! That's when I started drums", he said excitedly, suddenly realizing exactly how much he'd had to drink. "You're quite good", he said, trying to reign himself in.
"Thanks", she said, "but I'm definitely no Brian."
"Not everyone has to be. What you add to your sound is great in its simplicity."
She smiled, stopping briefly. Roger stopped too, standing next to her, swaying gently. "Thank you Roger. Truly."
They looked into each other's eyes. She felt that now-familiar feeling from the bar and shyly looked at the pavement.
They walked a little while longer in silence, breaking it only to stop and ask the other what they thought of this band and that band.
"What do you think of The Who?"
"The Who?! Keith Moon is a fucking legend!" Roger waved his hands enthusiastically. "And Daltrey?!"
"His stage presence is phenomenal", she said, wonderment swirling in her eyes. "I wish I could be a tenth as good as him."
"You can", Roger said. "You really can. I've seen you up there. You've got it."
"And you could be bigger than Keith Moon", she replied, bumping her shoulder into his.
"Me? Nah." Roger laughed and shook his head.
They'd finally arrived to the stoop of her flat. She started up the stairs, turning and facing him as she opened the door.
"Thanks for walking me home, Roger", she said, gently smiling. "I'll be seeing you, yeah?"
"Yeah", he replied. "See you."
He watched her shut the door behind her and turned to leave as he heard her boots pattering against the echoing hallway walls.
'Keith Moon...', he thought to himself. 'Who even is this girl?'
Chapter 2: A White Room With Black Curtains
Roger puffed on his cigarette, frowning upwards at the sky. He'd gone out early that morning (well, early for him) to scout out any cheap finds he and Freddie could refurbish or do some basic tailoring on and resell at their stall, but instead found himself in the middle of a stare-off with some perilous storm clouds. 'It'd better not fucking rain', he thought, 'because I am not in the state of mind to deal with some fucking rain.'
Mother Nature didn't care. Mere seconds after cursing whatever god was in charge of storms, the heavens opened up and dumped heavy, lazy raindrops on his blonde head. Scattered at first, and then all at once, he attempted to dance in between the fat rain drops, but the attempt was moot.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck", he shouted to the sky. Running as fast as he could in his tight bell bottoms and his platform shoes, he searched for any kind of solace he could find, and that solace came in the form of a familiar stoop - the one he'd been at the night before, walking Madeline home. God, he hoped she was home...
He ran up to the stoop, frantically searching for her name in the registry, and frustratedly slammed the button next to her name. After a solid thirty seconds of no response, he held down the buzzer for twice as long, and anxiously awaited any reply at all, feeling the water beginning to soak through his black shirt and cause his blonde hair to cling to his head. Finally, he heard a faint crackle, and then a familiar voice.
"Hey! Hey, it's Roger, uh, Roger Taylor, from Queen. It's fucking dumping out here, could you l-"
He heard a buzz reply and the door unlocked. Thanking the same gods he cursed, he pushed through the heavy door and made his way up two flights of stairs, shoes making a gross squishing sound the entire way up. The squishing was eventually taken over by the muffled sound of a Led Zeppelin record as he counted the door numbers to himself, searching for the number 32. He stalled, staring at the door number he'd desired, and jumped suddenly as the door numbered 22 opened next to him. An older man emerged, gave roger a brief glance, and then joined him at the bottom of the flight to glance upwards at 32.
"Fucking again?" The old man followed Roger up the stairs, and Roger looked on in amusement as the old man banged hard on the door, clearly frustrated.
Madeline answered the door, toothbrush in mouth, wearing an oversized Beatles shirt and a small pair of yellow bicycle shorts. Her eyes first darted to a very soggy Roger, and then to the old man, whose face had now become a purple color.
"I'm not gonna tell you again", he shouted over the rumble of music. "Turn that garbage down!"
The old man turned around and almost ran into Roger, which caused Madeline to erupt into a fit of giggles, a thin spray of toothpaste emitting from her mouth. A second glance at a soaked Roger caused her to go into a full-on convulsion, and Roger pretended to scowl at her, beginning to giggle himself, as she waved for him to enter.
As he shut the door behind him, a large fluffy black cat immediately began to use his legs as a place on which to rub his face. The music was turned down as he looked around her flat briefly, silently admiring the barrage of posters of various bands, until his vision was obscured by Madeline throwing a towel at his head. He used it to shake the water out of his hair, but much to his avail it still clung to his chest and shoulders, dripping at the tips. A fat drop of water landed right onto the cat's head, which caused it to go running under a nearby table, adorned by the offending record player and speakers attached.
Madeline spit out her toothpaste into the kitchen sink, bending over to cup her hands under the faucet, bringing it to her mouth as she repeatedly rinsed the remainder of the paste from her mouth. Roger watched as her calves flexed, quickly averting his gaze as she turned to face him.
"Rough afternoon?" Madeline took the towel from Roger's shoulders, using the driest side she could find to ruffle his hair with.
"You could say the least", he said, bending to unzip his platforms, leaving them to dry by the front door. "Fucking rain."
"What brings you to the neighborhood?" She pulled her long hair into a loose ponytail, sitting on her couch, tapping the spot next to her. He sat, slowly, tight wet clothes being unforgiving to movement.
"I was looking for things for the stall Freddie and I have in Kensington market", he replied. After a long blank stare from Madeline, he added, "...day job."
"Ah", she replied, picking up the acoustic guitar next to her. "Sounds like a good start to a song."
"Everything is a good start to a song", he added, gently prying the guitar from her hands. He struck an E minor chord, followed by an A minor, and nodded towards his shoes next to the door. "My new purple shoes... been amazing the people next door." She giggled, patiently listening. With the strum of a G, he added, "and my rock and roll 45's... been enraging the folks on the lower floor."
She threw her head back in laughter, pulling her legs up against her chest. He joined in on her laughter, admiring that laugh of hers as subtly as possible.
She abruptly stood up, went to her bedroom, and shouted "d'you need some dry clothes?"
"Couldn't hurt", he replied, and was surprised to see her tossing some kind of shirt his way. He set the guitar to the side and held it up to his chest; as it unraveled, she struggled to hold a straight face as he realized it was a spaghetti strap tank top about twenty sizes too small for him, his face twisting in mock-disappointment. After regaining her composure, she returned with a matching Beatles shirt, roughly the same size as her own. Handing it to him as she sat down, he immediately pulled off the drenched black shirt he'd had on, struggling to get it over his head. She couldn't help but stare at his bare tanned chest, glistening with rain water, blonde hair immediately sticking to his shoulders as he replaced his damp shirt with her fresh dry one.
"Well, let me wring out your shirt and place it to dry", she said, getting up and nodding at the radiator next to the window. Roger strummed the guitar softly as she wrung out his shirt in the kitchen sink and watched her strategically place it on the radiator, staring briefly out the window as she finished placing it. The rain pattered threateningly at the window, accompanied by a deafening thunderclap. She gave an apprehensive glance to Roger, one eyebrow cocked up, and then the lights flickered out. The soft crooning of Robert Plant ceased, and Madeline replied with a sigh.
"Fuck this old building", she said. "Got a lighter on you?"
Roger produced his lighter from his jeans, still stiff with wet, and lit it after a few tries.
She took it gently from his fingers and kept it lit, trying not to let it flicker out as she carefully checked pantry cupboards for candles. Finally she produced one from behind a pile of plates and lit it carefully as to not singe her finger. She set it down on the coffee table in front of the couch, using an old magazine to set it upon.
She sat on the floor by the couch, scratching at the carpet, and the cat trotted over as if he was being called. He rubbed against her arm as she stared into the flame before looking up to Roger.
"I think the storm is getting worse", she said, very matter-of-fact. "You can totally hang out, if you'd like."
"Much appreciated", he replied, sliding onto the floor from the couch, Beatles shirt bunching up slightly at the waist. She felt bad for looking, but she couldn't help it. A firm, tan stomach, dreamy skin accentuated by the flicker of the candle on the table in front of him. She looked away, knowing she couldn't help herself otherwise, and glanced into the kitchen.
"I think I have some vodka in the freezer", she said, turning to him.
"Wanna play truth or dare?"
He looked back at her, one eyebrow cocked upward in curiosity.
"Why not", he giggled. He put a cigarette firmly between his lips as he watched her hips sashay back and forth into the darkness of the kitchen. "Why not", he whispered to himself.
Chapter 3: Love, Reign O'er Me
She poured Roger another shot, gently clinking the bottle against the shot glass sitting next to his knee. "You're up", she said. "Go."
He glared at her through the blue wig on his head, his eyes slightly lidded, and tilted his head back to allow the liquid to slide down his throat for the fifth time that night. She sat back on her knees, chest puffing out with pride, and gently adjusted the oversized sunglasses on her face, looking down her nose through the bright yellow lenses and staring menacingly at Roger.
He set the shot glass sternly onto the table and slid it to her, landing directly in her lap. She eyeballed it, twirling it gently in her hand, and set it down next to her on the floor.
"Truth or dare?"
Without hesitation, Roger said, "What's the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you?"
"Oh god", she sighed, "there is literal no way I am sharing that with you."
Roger grinned mischievously, nodding towards the shot glass next to her. She lifted it up, awaiting the punishment she deserved. Roger carefully filled it to the brim, capping the bottle and setting it on the table as he awaited Madeline's penance. She took the shot quickly, grimacing slightly as she swallowed it and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. He caught the shot glass as she tossed it to him, staring at him firmly as he set it down next to his knee, crossing his arms across his chest as she contemplated her next move.
"Truth or dare?"
Roger hesitated, adjusting the blue wig as he weighed his options.
Madeline eyed Roger, searched his form for some key or clue to the perfect punishment, and realized suddenly what she already knew.
"Run out onto the roof in your underwear."
His eyebrows shot up, mouth curling to a half-disappointed, half-curious shape, and she grinned back, teeth sparkling in the candlelight.
She was getting up from her position on the carpet, motioning for him to follow her lead, as she slipped on a loosely laced pair of leather combat boots, the laces dangling from the ringlets as she pulled at his arm.
"Oh yeah, alright, no problem", he replied, getting up from his place on the carpet. She frowned as he joyfully strode over to his own shoes and began putting them on, leaning against the wall in the dark of the kitchen.
"Oh no no, wait. Wait. You're planning something." She pushed electric blue strands from his eyes as he stood in front of her, smirking, looking down his nose at her suspicious eyes.
"Planning nothing", he said with a carefree tone, "just accepting my dare assignment."
He opened her front door and dragged her into the hallway, both of them struggling against the other as she shut the door behind herself as quietly as possible.
"Roger", she whispered, hand wrapped firmly around his own as he started climbing the stairs to his left. "We have to be quiet, no one's allowed up there."
They quickly stealthed their way up the stairs to the top floor, Roger illuminating the area with his lighter. Madeline lead Roger by hand to a door marked "employees only". She reached on top of the vending machine opposite the door and produced a small silver key, which fit smoothly into the door's lock. Pausing, she looked into Roger's eyes, eyes sparkling with knowing what was to come.
He extinguished the lighter flame, stuffing the small silver device back into his pants pocket.
He removed the borrowed shirt, careful to reposition the blue wig after he'd thrown the shirt to land on top of the corner of the vending machine. He unzipped his boots and left them next to the door, both Roger and Madeline jumping slightly as a thunderclap sounded near their heads. Roger dug the lighter back out of his pants pocket along with a pack of cigarettes. He lit a lone cigarette, returned the items to their place, sighed, and removed his pants.
Madeline would be lying if she told anyone she wasn't trying to look. She pretended to be terribly interested in her massive Elton John-esque glasses, removing them from their perch on her face, manipulating them in her hands, as she leaned against the wall next to the door. When she saw shadow-Roger stand up straight and prepared after hearing the rustling of him casting his jeans aside, she knew this game had probably gone too far.
He took a long drag from his cigarette as she fumbled with the lock in front of her. Finally twisting the knob, she pushed open the door to discover two hands had grabbed her by the waist and hoisted her outside, heavy rain falling down and making a deafening clatter on the rooftop while a distinguishable cackling emitted from the voice next to her ear, paired with the stout smell of cigarette smoke.
She struggled in Roger's arms, laughing wildly, catching glimpses of the neighborhood lit in waning evening light and street lamps, the storm above occasionally joining the collage with its contribution of sudden blue. After a brief tussle they found cover underneath a nearby awning, standing closely together, admiring the clouds above.
Roger shivered lightly, rubbing his arm with his free hand. Madeline nicked the cigarette from between Roger's fingers, taking a long drag as Roger frowned down at her, a smile daring to play at his lips.
"What time is it?" Madeline passed the cigarette back to the blue-wigged man next to her, standing close to him, her arm pressed against his own. She would justify it to herself by saying sternly to her subconscious that she was simply trying to warm him; her sly and stealthy glance towards the dark grey boxer-briefs adorned on his hips disqualified her immediately.
"Love, in case you haven't noticed, I'm only wearing underwear, and I reserve the space underneath my wig for late night snacks", he said matter-of-factly, placing a hand on his hip.
"Shit, I already forgot. You must be freezing-"
"There's no way in hell you forgot I was half naked", he interjected, raising an eyebrow. Laughing at her flustered reaction, Roger's teeth chattered subtly, and he frowned when her embarrassment turned to genuine concern.
"No, seriously, we need to get you inside."
She led him to the door, huddled closely to him, trying to keep him as warm as possible. He flicked his cigarette off the roof as he reached for the door, twisted the handle, and frowned as he realized it wouldn't budge.
"Fuck", she hissed, her breath softly evaporating in front of her lips. "I must've dropped the key when you picked-"
He gently held a hand to her mouth and grinned, producing the key from his other hand. He unlocked the door and immediately made his way towards his discarded clothes, putting them on with such ferocity that the blue wig eventually gave up its post atop his head and flopped sadly onto the tile below. Madeline picked it up as she leaned against the wall, waiting for Roger to finish dressing.
Roger sat in his now familiar place on the floor as Madeline quickly arrived next to him with the fluffy white blanket from the back of her couch. She placed the blanket strategically on top of both of them, and to her delight, Roger pushed his body against hers, head resting on her shoulder as she wrapped her arm around him.
"I'm cold", a muffled Roger said, frowning and nuzzling himself into her shirt.
"I can tell", she said, inhaling the honey scent of his hair with the deep breath she took. She wasn't able to discern from whom the smell of liquor came, concluding that it was probably a joint effort.
After a lengthy period of silence, and being about 67% sure that Roger had fallen asleep, she cleared her throat.
"Still awake", he said, reading her mind.
"I ripped my pants."
She sat up, looking into Roger's eyes as he did the same. Their faces were only inches apart.
"The most embarrassing thing", she replied, looking down at the carpet. "I ripped my pants. I was 15 and it was some kid's birthday party. I may or may not have fancied him. Anyway, we were playing volleyball and I dove for the ball maybe a little too eagerly. Apparently my underwear was eager, too."
"Really?" He giggled, gently jabbing her in the ribs. "That's not that bad."
"It was pretty bad, Rog", she replied, trying to fight back her own giggling.
She twisted her body and stretched out onto the floor, hands balled above her head. She stared at the dimly lit ceiling above, frowning slightly.
"Do you ever wonder how you got to where you are?" She eyed Roger as he joined her on the floor, spreading the blanket neatly on top of them as they both gazed upwards, the candlelight flickering erratically.
"Yep", Roger replied, "and I often wonder how to get where I want to be."
She turned on her side, facing him.
"And where's that?"
Pointing at the ceiling, he said, "Up."
Chapter 4: There's a Girl Out There
Thank you all for reading! Please drop a comment if you liked it! :)
Flowers. Warmth. Hair.
Robert Plant's... hair?
Roger's eyelids opened suddenly, the thorough confusion he was experiencing rapidly fading as he realized that it wasn't, in fact, Robert Plant's hair in his face, it was Madeline's.
And the power must've come back on, as a distant lamp on a small table shone brightly into his fresh eyes and the aforementioned Zeppelin singer wailed softly in the background, threatening to wake up the warm body next to his.
He was suddenly aware of the arm he had draped across her side, his hand tangled in her own as she held it to her chest, his knuckles brushing the bottom of her chin - how had they gotten here? And why?
Detaching his arm as softly as possible from her own, he sat up, immediately met by the conception of a headache behind his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose as he stood up, softly padding across the small room to turn off the record and the table side lamp that accompanied the assault of his senses. He glanced at the clock on the wall, illuminated by the streetlight outside of the nearby window. 3:13 am.
Should he stay? Should he go? Would it be rude to sneak out? Would it be rude to stay? Roger had no answers, so instead he tip toed to the kitchen, using his ever-handy lighter to find a small glass and a bottle of aspirin.
Filling up the glass and popping two pills into his mouth, he held up the glass in a toast to his tired thoughts - 'well, here's to hoping this isn't acid.'
Setting the glass next to the sink, he turned around and nearly tripped on 15 pounds of solid cat hovering around his feet, insistent on making its presence known. Catching himself, he slowly made his way back over to where Madeline lay asleep on the floor, only to find a pattern in the carpet which indicated two people had been there minutes prior.
He heard movement in the bedroom and made his way there. Waiting for his eyes to adjust, he still dwelled on what to do. He didn't want to offend her, because he'd just met this girl the night prior, but damnit, it hadn't really felt like that soon, had it? How did two complete strangers become so close so quickly?
Squinting into the darkness, he saw her with the fluffy white blanket wrapped around her form as she lay on her side, curled up against herself. He wanted to join her, mostly because it looked so peaceful, but also because he longed to be close to her.
He jumped, startled, and stood up straight in the doorway, trying to pretend that he hadn't just been staring moments ago.
"Will you bring me some aspirin?"
"Yeah love, I'll be right back."
He returned from the kitchen and sat at the foot of her bed. She sat up slowly and then next to him, feet dangling off the side, occasionally bumping into his own. He handed over the medicine and she took it, slowly, massaging her temples after she set the glass on her bedside table.
"Fuck, my head hurts."
"Mine too", Roger replied.
"What time is it?"
"Three something in the morning", Roger replied, stifling a yawn. "I should probably-"
"Stay", she interjected. "You should probably stay."
He paused, looking down at the floor, hands stuffed awkwardly into tight jeans.
"Are you sure?"
She returned to her previous placement in the bed, gently patting the spot next to hers.
"I want you to stay."
He nodded, rising from his current position to circle the bed, cautiously getting under the white blanket once more, trying not to make her feel uncomfortable. She turned to face him, smiled, and her eyelids lazily fluttered; she fell back asleep.
He brushed a few errant strands of hair from her face, smiling to himself, and began to settle down into her blankets; the smell of her enveloped him and he joined her, gently drifting off to sleep.
Cat on head hair.
His eyes opened to a completely different scene than the previous one. He looked to his left and saw a fluffy mass next to his head, laying on his hair, which had manage to splay itself onto the rest of the pillow next to him. He gently poked the cat and the cat let out a chirp. 'Do cats chirp?', he thought, '...or was that acid?'
Roger was startled into an upright position as a loud banging came from the kitchen, sending the cat off the side of the bed, plopping gently onto the floor as he chirped his way into the kitchen to investigate.
Instead of answers, Roger was met with pain behind his eyes. Headache. Drinking. Rain. Madeline. Madeline's bed. He was still in Madeline's bed. Was that good? Was that bad? And since when did he start thinking so damn much about the implications of sleeping in a girl's bed?
Now he was giving himself a headache. Almost as if on cue, Madeline made her advent known at the door frame as Roger massaged his head with one hand, propping himself up with the other. He opened one eye to her, groaning.
"Now I get to ask you what time it is", he croaked to her, letting himself relax back into the sheets and blankets covering the bed.
She sat next to him, rubbing his back as he turned away from her, laying on his side.
"About nine", she replied, nails gently grazing against the borrowed shirt stretched across his back muscles.
He grunted. She giggled. An egg timer went off in the background and she abandoned her post next to him in her bed.
After a few moments of clanging, he heard her pad into the bedroom and climb back onto the bed, resuming her place next to him.
"Here", she said. "This should help."
He turned to face her and was greeted by a plate and a fork, her own sitting in her lap as she left her arm outstretched, waiting for him to take it. He abruptly sat up, taking the plate and smiling.
Roger zipped his boots up at the door, glancing at Madeline as she slipped on her own boots. He had his own shirt on now, wrinkled as it may be. He was just glad it was dry.
They walked to the bottom floor together, both of them walking out the main door to the street side by side, the warm sun greeting them slightly too enthusiastically. They both shielded their eyes as they stood facing each other on the sidewalk.
"Well... I should probably head to work now", Roger said, smiling sheepishly at Madeline.
"And I should get back to studying", she replied, nodding at him, frowning at the sun.
"This was... insanely fun."
"It was, wasn't it?"
"Will I be seeing you again soon?"
She hesitated, contemplating how to balance being honest about her schedule and trying not to be too enthusiastic. "What're you doing Thursday? We have a gig at some pub in Soho."
He grinned. "I guess I'm going to a Spiders show."
She grinned back at him, trying not to show embarrassment as he endearingly winked at her. She gently wrapped her arms around his middle and turned to leave, making sure not to come off too clingy. He grabbed her hand at the last minute, squeezing it gently. "See you Thursday, Elton", he laughed, walking away backwards, giving her a small wave.
She waved from her stoop, door propped open with her boot, smiling widely. "See you next time, Blue."
Roger inserted the shop key into the lock and turned it as quietly as possible, knowing the odds of Mercury lurking inside were high, and he wasn't in the mood to be interrogated as to his whereabouts for the past 15 or so hours. Quietly shutting the shop door behind him and locking it until business hours, he attempted to straighten his shirt out. Catching the view of their small sunglasses display, he nicked a pair of old silver aviators and placed them delicately on his face, hiding his deep eye bags and shifty eyes.
Walking through the racks of clothing, he spotted Freddie and Mary chatting while perched together near the till, each sitting atop the old trunk they'd used to store some of the more delicate items they'd found in their foraging. He tried to tip toe past them, circumnavigating the till entirely to make his way to the back of the shop where he could give himself more time to look and act like a human being that wasn't hungover and didn't spend the night doing strange things at a girl's house. He tried, but he failed.
Freddie's ears perked up and he craned his neck to peer into the still-dark shop, spotting a drummer trying to blend in with the mannequins, an elaborate feathered hat atop Roger's head nearly identical to the mannequin's hat next to him. Upon Freddie spotting him and grinning mischievously, Roger dropped his shoulders in defeat and returned the hat to its plastic owner.
"Darling", Freddie called to the drummer, "where the fuck have you been? We waited up for you at the flat but you never showed. It was strip poker night last night! We even invited that one bird you've been-"
"Freddie, come on, I just walked in the door-"
"Stumbled is more like it. Come on, fess up."
Freddie lit a cigarette, its blue smoke hanging in the dim light, circling around Roger's head like a vulture trying to sniff out the telltale signs of a one night stand. Roger stared at Freddie through the aviators, nerve unwavering as Freddie literally and figuratively prodded at him for more information, but Freddie was persuasive in his almost detective-like pressing.
"Who was it?" Freddie followed Roger through the shop as Roger dodged his question and the errant clothes hanger poking out from a rack. Roger stopped at the door, returned the sunglasses to their original spot and sighed. Placing a hand on his hip, he turned to Freddie. "No one."
"Oh bullshit. Let me guess." Freddie placed an index finger to his temple, eyes wandering the ceiling. After a brief couple of seconds of wracking his mental Rolodex, Freddie grinned widely, trying to cover his protruding teeth with his top lip as he put his own hand on his hip, mirroring a weary Roger.
"It was that girl from the Spiders-"
"We didn't even do anything. And her name is Madeline-"
"Roger, the thought of you spending the night at a girl's house and not doing anything is as plausible as Robert Plant dressed as a woman entering our shop."
Roger frowned at the mention of Robert Plant and pushed past Freddie, setting his keys on the counter, deciding mentally to start looking for a shirt to wear for his shift as he distractedly pulled his lighter and cigarette pack out of his tight pocket. He placed the unlit cigarette in between his lips as Freddie followed all the way, suggesting shirts as Roger shook his head, mentally blocking the huge rant Freddie was on about the importance about being honest with your best friend, and how could Roger not have slept with her, and why was his shirt wrinkly, and how Roger hadn't missed strip poker in months, and the last time he missed it was because he was shagging a girl, and-
"God Freddie would you fucking shut it? I'm being honest. Why would I lie about not sleeping with someone?" Roger stopped dead in his tracks, lifting the black shirt over his head and draping it on the rack next to him. Freddie took the rainbow sequined shirt Roger was holding, removed the hanger and handed it to him, sighing.
"Fine." Freddie pinched the bridge of his nose, frowning. "But why didn't you?"
Roger pulled the new shirt over his head and frowned as well. After a moment of thought, he turned to Freddie.
"It's more than that, Fred."
"Do you fancy her?"
"Fuck, I think I might."
Freddie clapped his hands together enthusiastically, grinning at Mary, who met his grin with a confused frown. Roger sighed, defeatedly storming to the front door, unlocking it and flipping on the light switches as he lit his cigarette, hands slightly shaking. He stepped out into the market, pacing slightly as he considered what he'd admitted.
Back inside, Freddie excitedly shook Mary's shoulder.
"Did you hear that? Roggie has feelings!"
"What, was there ever a doubt?"
"Well", Freddie started, lighting another cigarette, "Roger probably holds the record for longest amount of time being single."
"Isn't he with someone new practically weekly?"
"Well, yeah", Freddie sighed, eyebrows traveling dangerously close to his hair line. He ashed his cigarette in the ashtray next to the till and turned to face Mary. "But Roger hates feelings probably as much as he hates the fucking Monkees."
"Because it's less effort", Freddie replied, waving his cigarette in the air like a baton. "Girls throw themselves at him. He doesn't have to do much work."
"Or it's harder to be rejected". Mary nodded towards the door, noting to Freddie that a drummer was currently incoming and they should probably end their psychological evaluation of Roger's sex life.
"Probably", Freddie whispered.
Roger frowned, glancing between the two, trying to catch a morsel of conversation that might clue him in. "Probably what?"
"Probably time to flip on that open sign, dear."
Mary pecked Freddie on the cheek and turned to leave, pulling the small string on the neon sign as she left, the blue and red light illuminating her face as she winked at Freddie. Freddie blew her a kiss as she closed the door behind her.
Roger stood behind the till, engrossed in thought as he found himself daydreaming about his hand clutched to Madeline's own hand, her hair's flowery scent invading his nostrils, the two of them curled together on her living room floor.
He turned around and sifted through the pile of records next to the record player behind the till. Finding what he wanted, he delicately pulled the record from its sleeve and placed it on the turntable, carefully selecting where to drop the needle. As the soft music began to fill the shop, Freddie sang along, folding and re-folding t-shirts on a display table.
"Someone told me there's a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair..."
Roger nodded to himself, frowning down at the spinning record, only one word gracing his thoughts.
Chapter 5: With a Little Help From My Friends
Some Roger/John friendship to give you warm and fuzzies. :) Enjoy!
Madeline and her best friend Stella were hours deep in psychology terms and practices when they'd decided to head outside for a quick smoke break, the two of them sitting on the steps to Madeline's flat, staring up at the fresh evening sky, the stars beginning to shine against the light purple backdrop. Madeline smiled to herself, exhaling slowly as the smoke dissipated into the night sky. She turned to Stella, who was equally as lost in her own thoughts as Madeline was, and broke the silence.
"Stel, I have something to tell you."
"Go on", Stella waved her cigarette, inviting her friend to continue.
"You know who Queen are, right?"
"Yeah, been to a few of their shows."
"-is a babe", Stella interjected.
"Oi, let me finish! Well, you know how we opened for them last week?"
"I was bloody there, Mads", Stella said, giggling and feigning emotional injury.
"...Right. Anyway, Roger, the drummer, came over a few nights ago."
Stella's eyes widened and her eyebrows threatened to disappear into her hairline, which made her thick-rimmed glasses fall slightly down her nose. Madeline briefly thought this made her friend look professorial, if she weren't wearing bright red lipstick and didn't have teased platinum blonde hair.
Stella continued to stare in awe as Madeline quickly took a drag off her cigarette, eager to finish the story without her friend being presumptuous. "No, no, listen, it wasn't like that. We didn't do anything."
"Mads, you're you and he's the drummer from Queen, who's quite well known for sleeping around. Telling me nothing happened is like saying Hendrix was mediocre."
"Alright, first off." Madeline readjusted herself on the step, facing her friend more forwardly. Stella laughed at this obvious attempt to explain herself away. "For one, I had no idea he got around like that. For two, we really didn't do anything. For three, what the hell does 'you're you' mean?!"
"I dunno Mads, it means you're you. You're good at guys. They're drawn to you."
"Says you!" Madeline waved her hand in Stella's general direction. "You're drop dead gorgeous!"
"I'm not saying I'm not, but what I am saying is guys are drawn to you because you have this thing about you. You're mysterious. You make people want to talk to you, to get to know you. And then you push them away."
"Because most of them are lame, Stel."
"Did you have fun with this Roger guy? What did you even do?"
"The power went out in the flat again so we played truth or dare, which ended in us both on the roof in the rain. Then I made us pancakes in the morning." Madeline cursed herself mentally for leaving out the underwear part, but told herself it was for the best.
Stella cocked an eyebrow at her friend. "Alright."
"You made him pancakes and you didn't even shag him?"
"Oh for fuck's sake Stel..."
"When are you seeing him next?"
"He's coming to our Thursday show and you're not going to bother him."
Stella sunk her hand into her teased hair, fluffing it while putting her cigarette out underneath her boot. "No, I won't bother him, but I need to meet the guy who's melted my best friend's little black heart."
"Hello, earth to blondie..."
Freddie waved a hand in front of Roger's face. He'd tuned out the fight erupting between Brian and Freddie, exchanging sympathetic looks with John, who'd been sipping his tea quietly next to his amplifier.
"I said", Freddie sighed with huge exaggeration, "we're starting over at the second verse."
"I'll count it in", Brian shouted over the hum of his own amplifiers. "Three, four..."
They made it about three quarters of the way through the verse before Freddie was waving for them to stop, shaking his head at the ground.
"I don't know what the fuck is wrong with you lot today-"
"The fuck is wrong with us?" Brian walked over to Freddie, waving his arms accusingly. "Nothing is fucking wrong with us. You just demand that everything be perfect-"
"Perfection isn't unattainable if it's fucking elementary-"
"Freddie", John chimed in, shocking everyone that he'd interjected for once. "We've been at this for hours. We need a break."
Freddie never seemed to take the others' griping seriously, unless it was John. Weighing his options, Freddie waved his hand and said dismissively, "Alright, yes. Maybe we should break for the night. We'll start back up tomorrow."
"Thank fuck", Roger silently mouthed to himself. Packing up his sticks and beginning to exit out of the studio door, John gently tugged on Roger's shirt, holding him back so that the arguing parties could leave the room without obstruction. Roger sighed, acting as if he just avoided a car accident, which elicited a small chuckle from the bassist. They both waited while the argument dissipated as Brian and Freddie pushed through the exit door, both of them going in opposite directions despite their destination being the same. After waiting for them to leave, Roger and John strode side by side as they silently walked through the dark halls until they reached the exit door, pushing out into the night air, the sudden cold greeting the tips of their noses and fingers. They both silently leaned against the brick next to the door, pulling out their own cigarette packs and lighters, lighting them as the smoke mixed with their breath floated into the night sky.
Roger ran a hand through his messy blonde mane and chuckled, motioning with his cigarette-adorned hand towards the studio they were just in, letting his shoulders fall in exaggeration towards John, who took a cigarette drag, nodding frantically.
"Christ", John said, "shit is so uptight between those two now that Fred is on your floor."
"It's nothing but arguments, all hours, every day of the week", Roger said, head tilted towards the sky, as if the stars had any consolation and he was begging for their cooperation. "And when they're separated, all they do is bitch about each other. It's driving me mad."
"I almost told them to get marriage counseling today", John said, smoke escaping through his nostrils with every low snicker he emitted. "But I didn't want Freddie to stab me with his microphone stand."
"John, I don't wanna go home." Roger stomped adamantly on his cigarette butt, grinding the remaining tobacco into the sidewalk.
"Yeah", John said, motioning towards the bar across the street. "It's probably best that we get tanked before we have to send you once more into the breach."
John clinked his pint glass against Roger's, the two of them downing the remainders of the glasses before stacking them into the small pile of previously full glasses at the end of the bar table. Slamming his fist on the table, causing a drunk John to gasp and start giggling, Roger pinched the bridge of his nose, scrunching his face up as he ran his hand through his hair.
"John, I gotta ask you a question", Roger said, pointing a wavering finger directly at John's face.
"Go 'head", John replied, leaning back in his chair.
Roger struggled for several seconds, trying to find the right words to ask his friend how to navigate a relationship like a healthy, normal person. John, in his quiet wisdom, sensed what Roger might be struggling over and smiled to himself. Roger caught the sly smile, perplexed and sat back in his own chair, crossing his arms across his chest.
"...what's that cheeky grin for, Deaks?"
"Rog, you know I love you, but you're one of the most transparent people I know."
"I don't know what you're trying to say, Deaks."
"Roger", John started, standing up. Putting a cigarette in between his lips and nodding to the door, John and Roger made a b-line outside, where they both lit their cigarettes. "Every time we go out drinking, you ask about my relationship with Veronica. I know you're going to ask again."
"Yeah, but this time I wanna know something new."
They both took a drag off of their cigarettes, watching as scantily-dressed women passed by them, exchanging knowing smiles as the women turned the corner across the street.
"Anyway", Roger continued, "what I wanted to know this time around-"
"Instead of how monogamy even works?" John interjected, smiling to himself.
"Oi", Roger grunted, clutching his heart as if John had just brutally stabbed him. John rolled his eyes at Roger's theatrics, waving his arm signaling Roger to continue. "I just... I don't know if I've ever felt so much for someone so quickly."
John stood, eyes wide as Roger's face flushed with embarrassment.
"You have feelings for this girl?"
"Have you ever had feelings-"
"Nope." Roger frowned, contemplating his answers. "Well, once. My first girlfriend. But since? I've been bored, Deaky. Bored out of my mind. Until her."
"How long ago did you meet?"
"It's been almost a week, now. It's pathetic, I know-"
"It's not", John interjected, stamping out his cigarette beneath platformed wingtip shoes. "It's not at all."
Roger smiled, relieved. John looked on, gazing at Roger's face, trying to cut through his more-than-slightly drunken haze so he could possess the ability to aid Roger. Considering his words carefully, John continued. "Rog, I know you're worried about fucking it up, and you're worried about putting too much stock into your feelings, and you're worried this girl isn't as cool as you think she is right now. You've gotta let that go. There's only one way to find out if it'll work or not."
John saw the morose look on Roger's face and nudged him with his elbow. Roger smiled at John, holding the door open for his friend. They resumed their spots at their table, each ordering another beer.
"Thanks, John. You're full of sage wisdom."
"No problem, Rog", John said, smiling and leaning in close to Roger. "But to be honest, I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing."
They burst out laughing, clinking their beers together, chatting the night away.
Roger tossed and turned in bed while Freddie and Brian argued deep into the night. Holding his pillow over his head, Roger tried to conjure up several scenarios in which he could sweep Madeline off her feet, literally and figuratively, but for some reason he lacked his usual wherewithal about women, which deeply troubled him. 'Why can I bag three groupies a night but have trouble with one girl I barely know?' Roger turned over onto his side, leaning over and grabbing a magic 8 ball off of his bedside table, hurling it at the door.
"Shut the fuck up already!"
The dueling Queens replied with a unison "fuck you!" and the irony was not lost on Roger. He rolled his eyes, slowly tuning out the argument on the other side of the door. With thoughts slowly and softly turning to Madeline, he let his eyes close and he drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 6: Modern Times Rock n' Roll
Roger held the heavy red door for Freddie, a stream of eclectic lights landing straight into their path, illuminating the silver necklaces dangling from Roger's neck and the rhinestones on Freddie's shirt. They may not have been famous yet, but they definitely dressed like it.
And they stood out. Freddie had on a low cut black top, adorned with rhinestones at the collar, his black and white striped pants hugging his thighs while they widened at the ankle to reveal chunky black platforms. Roger, on the other hand, wore a tight blue denim shirt, the white buttons shining like pearls, his jeans tightly hugging his frame as his silver high top chucks sparkled in the rainbow light emitting from the back of the pub.
And with both of them wearing mirror-lensed aviators in the dark of a pub on a lovely evening for rock and roll, they weren't afraid to take the piss out of themselves.
"I can't see shit", Roger shouted over the house music, pointing Freddie in the direction of the bar.
"I can't either", Freddie shouted back, "but they can see us, and that's what's important."
Roger ordered two vodka tonics, removing his aviators and placing them on top of his head in order to count out his change to the bartender. He gathered the alcohol and turned, immediately placing the glasses back on their rightful perch on his face, nearly knocking Freddie over as he handed him his vodka tonic.
"Why are we doing this again?"
"Because image is everything, Roggie."
"...Right. Of course."
Roger thought it was a hilariously awful idea to wear the aviators, but secretly admitted to himself how cool the pair of them looked, leaning against some pillar in the back of the pub.
"When do they go on?"
"Any minute now."
Almost on cue, the house lights dimmed completely, leaving the two Queens immersed in their own complete and ridiculous darkness as a low rumble shook the floor.
Suddenly, the Spiders bassist appeared on the small knee-high stage, assaulting the crowd forming at the stage with a relentless bassline. Quickly their drummer followed suit, accentuating the bassline with his own bass-heavy right foot, and Roger's memory was jogged as he remembered listening in on their set a week ago at their own show. They were playing the song they finished with. 'A bold move', Roger thought, as the rhythm section droned on, waiting for the advent of their fearless leader.
What seemed like an eternity later, Roger's impatient side starting to peak through as he tapped his foot to the slithering rhythm, the small crowd let out a roar as the lead guitarist started his blistering riff...
And there she was.
He didn't believe it at first, probably because he'd only seen it once, but there she was.
She walked out to cheering; dripping in black lace and velvet, those red platforms laced up her calves, her mouth painted a dark burgundy. Roger almost didn't recognize her. The last time he'd seen her she'd been lounging around her flat, bright yellow bike shorts and oversized Beatles shirt adorning her frame, her hair pulled up into a messy ponytail to frame her candlelit face as she glared across the table at him with pride.
Now... now, she was brightly backlit on stage, people pressing against each other to get as close as possible, black on black as she grabbed the microphone with her right hand, her left caressing the stand itself. She stomped a boot and let out a wail like he'd never heard. He was impressed by the power but intimidated by the pain behind it. He was even more intrigued as she shot a grin to her guitarist, who launched into a furious solo while Madeline backed him up on rhythm.
Roger peeled the aviators off of his face, handing them to Freddie with as little care as possible. Glancing back to his friend, Roger shot a questioning look at Freddie; Freddie replied with a sly grin and a wave of a hand, shooing Roger away. Roger beamed and stepped into the precipice of the crowd.
Making his way toward the middle of the throng of people, staring upward, he bobbed his head to the Spiders. He couldn't help it. He usually tried to play it cooler, especially in front of a girl he was trying to bag, but there was something about both Madeline and her music that made Roger abandon any semblance or ounce of "game" he might've had seconds prior. He felt his shield lowering. Fuck, she was melting it herself. And when she caught his gaze and smiled, he couldn't help but smile back.
With the end of the gig coming to pass, Roger waded through the sea of people back to Freddie's perch against the pillar, the house lights reflecting in the aviators Freddie still adorned.
"What did you think?"
"Darling, I'm the one who picked them as an opener", Freddie said, inspecting his cuticles. "And I did it for a reason."
"An excellent reason. I had no idea they were so good."
"Yeah, not that reason."
Roger frowned confused. "Wh-"
Freddie lifted his aviators suddenly, looking just past Roger's shoulder. "Hey, there she is. She's waving us over."
Roger spun around maybe a little too quickly, and he mentally cursed himself for showing such wanton excitement about seeing a girl. Trying to step it back, he made eye contact with Madeline and shot her a small wave. Freddie sensed his friend's budding bizarre behavior and gently yet sternly pushed Roger forward, two fingers in the space between his shoulder blades. Roger grunted and swatted at Freddie as nonchalantly as possible, Freddie snickering all the way.
Madeline set her guitar against her amp, stepping down to meet them. She grinned widely, hugging Freddie first before turning to Roger. Roger's heart fluttered as they held on a millisecond longer than the average hug before he chided himself mentally for thinking such a weird thought. 'Who even am I? Freaking out over a hug?', he thought, trying to combat the heart palpitations he was having.
He frowned slightly as the hug ceased, nicking his aviators which were dangling from Freddie's collar. He felt a little better after putting them on, as if he'd covered an important and previously exposed vulnerability in his line of defense against feelings. But Madeline was none the wiser.
"So good to see you, Freddie." She reached forward and pulled off Roger's aviators, looking him straight in the eye as she applied them to her own face. "And you too, Blue."
Roger raised an eyebrow and smiled, somehow immediately abandoning his stern attempt at acting defensively towards her.
"Great show, Elton", Roger said, winking at her.
"Thanks", she said, grinning modestly. "I'm just glad you came."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world", Roger said, returning her grin. "Do you guys need any help breaking down?"
"Rog, really, you don't need to help-"
"Really, it's nothing."
"Well... Dave probably needs help loading the kit into the van. I'm mostly done here, just need to load the amp."
Roger smiled. "Say no more."
Roger introduced himself to the rest of the band and immediately began helping, gathering a handful of cymbals before pushing out the back door of the pub with the rest of the guys.
Freddie, in the meantime, fawned over Madeline's outfit.
"Those shoes are fucking phenomenal", Freddie started, lifting Madeline's foot up off the ground. She giggled, sitting on top of her amplifier, pulling the platform off so Freddie could ogle up close. After careful inspection, he returned to shoe to its rightful owner, sitting down on the lip of the stage. He motioned for Madeline to join. Getting up, Roger appeared behind her, wheeling her amp out the door after shooting her a quick smile. She turned and watched him leave before sitting down next to Freddie.
"So, I've gotta ask", Freddie started, "what do you think of Roger?"
Madeline felt her ears burn red with embarrassment. Had she been that obvious? Or had Roger told Freddie about her?
She considered her words carefully, trying not to damn herself. "Roger is... really amazing."
Freddie smiled. "He thinks the same of you."
Madeline smiled, feeling slightly relieved, but still anxious about being questioned so blatantly.
Roger briefly reentered, grabbing the bass drum before shooting a wink at Madeline, leaving her feeling even more anxious.
"Are you sure?" Madeline kneaded her shoulder, trying to rub away the strain from such a heavy guitar for such a long amount of time. Or maybe she was making herself tense, she wasn't entirely sure.
"Dear, you made him pancakes."
Madeline frowned as Freddie stood abruptly, offering a hand to help her to her feet. As they both stood there watching the band and Roger finish loading up, Freddie finally turned to Madeline, a twinkle in his dark eye.
"So, darling, where's the party tonight?"
"Well, we hadn't entirely planned one, so I'm not sure-"
"There's a pub right across from our studio, it isn't far from here."
Freddie watched as Roger made his way over, slightly out of breath as he approached.
"What's the plan?"
Turning to Madeline, Freddie nudged her gently, a grin playing at his face.
"Think we could all fit in your van?"
On the way over to the pub, the Spiders and half of Queen jammed into the back of an old beat up van filled to the brim with equipment, Roger was pleasantly squished. Well, kind of. His shoulder was painfully digging into the high hat stand, but his other shoulder was pressed against Madeline's own. All he could think about was their touching thighs and shoulders and how his hand placed on his own knee was inches from hers. And that goddamn high hat stand digging into his goddamn shoulder, but that faded away as endorphins flooded his system.
Freddie looked smitten as well, pressed in between the Spiders guitarist and a rather large amplifier. He was still wearing his aviators and Madeline was still wearing Roger's as they suddenly and violently approached a halt outside of the pub, sending Roger briefly toppling over Madeline's lap before apologizing profusely, face red and eyes wide.
Madeline couldn't help but feel funny, squished between her guitar amp and Roger - especially after her brief yet somehow embarrassing talk with Freddie. What was she supposed to do with this knowledge? Did Roger really reciprocate her feelings? And even if he did, what made her so special? Madeline was sure that Roger could find girls like her for a dime a dozen, but she didn't wanna count herself out so quickly. Maybe she had a chance.
Roger and Freddie were first to exit the van, dusting themselves off as if they'd just been on a months long road trip across a desert.
"We're just gonna quickly change, we'll just be a second", Madeline called, digging into a bag at her feet. Freddie waited with a hand on his hip and Roger awkwardly stood, facing Freddie, trying not to be obvious about his peripheral sneaks of glances towards an undressing Madeline, although a half-naked bassist coincidentally blocked his view. Frowning, he turned toward the street and lit a cigarette.
"What's wrong, Roggie?" Freddie nicked Roger's lighter and lit his own before tucking the silver device into Roger's shirt pocket. "You seem tense."
Roger mumbled under his breath as he watched his trail of exhaled smoke float wistfully towards the nearest streetlight, his thoughts entangled in one another.
Freddie broke the spell. "I spoke to her about you, dear."
Roger's eyes widened to a point that Freddie didn't think possible. Being dragged to the side by the drummer, Freddie quickly straightened his shirt out after Roger let go of his hold on it, slightly disgruntled.
"What the fuck did you say?", Roger rasped, trying his best to keep his voice down since the back door of the van was still wide open. "Please tell me you didn't tell her what I said to you in the shop-"
"Not in so many words, no", Freddie said, blowing cigarette smoke towards the same streetlight. "But I had to say something. I could feel the sexual tension between you two a mile away-"
"Shut the fuck up", Roger said, face now inches from Freddie's. "You know I'm scared shitless, why would you-"
"Because you're scared shitless. You're not usually like this. You can usually bag a bird in thirty seconds flat, but this one has you all kinds of fucked up-"
"Because I actually like her, you twat." Roger nervously took a drag from his cigarette, hands shaking all the while. "Freddie, I don't wanna fuck this up-"
"And you won't, dear." Freddie readjusted his aviators, smiling. "Trust me."
Madeline and the rest of the band stepped from the van, the bassist slamming the doors and locking them with a key, triple checking it was locked. Madeline adjusted her tight pants, black velvet against an oversized blouse, buttoned to just the right place that left the onlooker desperate for more - and that onlooker was definitely Roger. He tugged at his shirt collar, unbuttoning a few more buttons to give way to his tan and muscular chest. 'Two can play at that game', he thought, feeling quite proud of himself. Madeline was lucky she was wearing his aviators, or she would be caught red-handed shamelessly ogling.
"Alright", Madeline said, clearing her throat and entwining her arm with Roger's. "Let's fuckin' party."
Roger led her into the pub, followed by the others, with no idea of what was to come.
Chapter 7: You've Got Me On My Knees
"I'm just glad Dave found me", Stella said, waving her drink in the direction of Madeline, "or someone would've forgotten to invite me."
"I told you sorry a good thousand times, Stel!" Madeline put the pint glass to her lips, taking a huge gulp. "You're here though, aren't you?"
"Yeah, yeah", Stella replied, rolling her eyes before laughing.
The Spiders and half of Queen plus Stella were crammed into the tiny pub, fans and friends also part of the festivities, chatting and dancing away amongst themselves. Freddie was in a deep discussion with Stella about fashion, the Spiders were in an argument about how best to advertise their shows, and Roger and Madeline were stood at the bar, each with a double shot of vodka in their hand.
"Time for a rematch", Roger said, a sly grin spread across his face.
"You're gonna lose, I promise." Madeline stuck out her tongue, wrinkling her nose at Roger.
"Aw, are you really about to break a promise to me? I thought my feelings mattered to you, Mads."
Roger looked straight into Madeline's eyes, pulling a puppy dog look that could easily topple an entire regime. Her immediate reaction was for her heart to burst into flames and melt, but she held that feeling deep internally and couldn't let Roger win that easily. 'Thank god for alcohol', she mused to herself, 'or there's no way I could handle him right now, let alone handle myself.'
So she decided to play his game. Madeline leaned in close, elbow on the bar top, hand propping up her head, face inches from Roger's own. She stroked his soft blonde hair, feigning sympathy.
"I'm so terribly sorry, Roger. Sorry you have to lose."
She pulled a face at him, something halfway between a mischievous grin and a mocking snarl, and Roger mustered every bit of self control he had to not kiss her there and then. He wanted equal amounts of her shutting up and his lips on hers, but somehow he managed.
Clinking their shot glasses together, they both tapped the bottom of the glass against the bar top before throwing back the alcohol. Roger was determined, but Madeline conquered, doing a small victory dance while Roger looked on. He was smoldering with the simultaneous stinging of his loss and the alcohol taking full control of the wheel that was driving his emotions. Something had snapped in him.
And she could sense it. After laughing at the odd expression on his face, she locked eyes with him and knew the filter was gone. His shield was destroyed. She wasn't sure exactly what she did, but she knew she did it. He couldn't take it anymore.
Roger reached out and trailed his fingertips down the side of her arm, so lightly she could barely notice - but the electricity generated between their skin, albeit barely touching, was enough to power a small city. Madeline's eyes fluttered as she gazed at Roger. His own eyes were half-lidded as he slowly offered a smile, one that she'd never seen before. Her excitement bubbled and it slightly terrified her.
"Fine, you win."
Their gazes were intense, as if they were playing chicken with one another - both expecting the other to budge first, neither of them giving way. Roger was sure her eyes had bored two holes in his skull were his own eyes would be.
"I told you I would. I keep my promises, Roger."
His hand trailed down to her wrist, index finger catching on her own curled index finger where he linked the two together and began to pull her through the crowd. They passed Stella and Freddie, each looking after the pair and then exchanging knowing glances with each other. Madeline saw the look on their faces and wondered what they thought of her and Roger. She found herself wondering what she herself thought even more.
Roger halted his movement in the middle of the dance floor, pulling Madeline towards him until he could lean down to her and make himself heard over the music. He placed his mouth inches from her ear, his breath tickling the sensitive skin hiding there behind her dark veil of hair.
"Do you like Derek and the Dominos?"
He pulled away from her and she nodded, smiling. Just as the piano-heavy coda in the song Layla blared from the pub's sound system, he offered his hand to her, waiting for her to oblige.
She took his hand and he grinned, pulling her close, her other hand on his shoulder as he caressed her back through her billowy dark blouse as subtly as possible. She wondered if he was even touching her at all until his light touches became more firm as the coda repeated itself. She leaned her head against his shoulder and he held her closer, pressing his cheek to the side of her forehead. She felt her heart flutter as his stubble gently scratched against her skin and his hand continued its barely noticeable exploration of her back. His fingers trailed up and down her spine, dancing a rhythm supported by the lilting song playing over the sound system. Her own hand on his shoulder fidgeting with his collar subconsciously, she trailed down his shoulder blade and found a lock or blonde hair to curl in between her fingers. He sighed gently, just loud enough for the two of them to hear as she clutched his hand tighter. Unsure of what was happening in their alcohol electricity haze, they slowly danced for the remainder of the song, vaguely aware of their surroundings as they became lost in each other.
Roger found himself wondering if people watched them as the song came to an end and it seemed natural for them to pull away from each other. As he looked down at Madeline's face, burgundy lips forming into a soft smile, he found himself no longer caring if anyone had seen.
"Do you wanna get out of here?" He heard himself speaking the words, but didn't remember saying them. As she nodded, he hooked his index finger around her own and lead her to the back of the pub, the two of them looking around almost comically for anyone they knew before clumsily pushing through the back doors, giggling all the while.
Roger wiggled the key in the lock, hissing a small 'yes' to himself as he shoved his cold hand back into his peacoat pocket, the other hand still locked finger to finger with Madeline. He pulled her in, shutting the door behind them before he flipped on the hallway light.
Knowing Roger lived less than a mile from her own flat, she knew she couldn't possibly be on her way to Roger's flat. As Roger pulled her into a smaller hallway branching off to the left of the main one, records lining the walls, she finally was able to deduce where she was.
He opened an unmarked door and pulled her into the pitch darkness. When he flipped on the light and gazed at her face for a reaction, he wasn't let down.
Her jaw was on the floor. A massive soundboard gleaming in the dim overhead light. A glass window revealing a studio. Wall-mounted lights backlit his drum kit and several instruments.
He took her coat and hung it up next to his own, leading her through the final door between them and the gleaming instruments in the other room.
"This is the studio we record in", he said, starting towards the piano in the corner. He trailed a finger along the keys, producing a stuttering glissando from the strings.
She smiled warmly as she approached the drum kit. Sitting on the stool, she picked up two sticks resting on a floor tom and clicked them together.
"And this is where you spend most of your time?"
"Well, not most." He adjusted a cymbal, frowning slightly. "I still have to work at the shop, but most of my money goes into this thing. And booze, of course."
Her heart was pounding as he came around to her side of the kit. She did a small drum roll, adjusting the stool as she tried to use the pedals with precision.
"It's a lovely kit, Rog." She stalled as he hovered behind her. "But I've always kind of sucked at drums."
"Well", he started, leaning down to whisper into her ear for the second time that night, this time making her worse for wear.
He took a hold of her left wrist, using both of his hands to manipulate it as gently as possible. The way he held her wrist so feather-light made her eyelids flutter. She was drowning in her own endorphins, and it was Roger's fault.
"Your wrist positioning is all wrong. You're fighting your own body."
He trailed his fingertips up to her shoulders and he swore he could feel static electricity bursting from their skin. He squared her shoulders, straightening her posture and indirectly making her press into his arms.
Holding her hands in his own, he started a simple rhythm, instructing her when to pedal and when to hit.
He leaned over her left shoulder, face level with her own. "Isn't that better?"
She looked over her shoulder, face inches from his, and was stunned when his blue eyes met her own. She could see straight past the defenses that previously resided there, and right into his center. She couldn't believe the feelings she found there as he pushed a lock of hair from her eyes, his fingers gliding down her cheek to rest at her jaw, his thumb caressing her cheek as his fingers sweetly cupped the back of her head.
Both of their mouths parted gently and for a few brief seconds their breath intermingled, causing the blonde hair framing Roger's face to flutter lightly. He felt like he was going to burst. He couldn't take it anymore. His heart was beating in his throat and his entire body tingled with anticipation. He smiled gently at her, and when she returned his smile, he leaned in and-
Chapter 8: Can't Find My Way Home
-Roger halted. The overhead lights came on, fluorescent filtering through his eyelids and making him sober up a little too quickly. He frowned, opening his eyes, seeing that Madeline had done the same. Still a fraction of an inch from her face, his diverted his gaze through the glass to see the mixing room door opening suddenly.
"Fuck!" He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her to the ground. She toppled onto him, confused.
Roger shot a hand over Madeline's mouth. "Someone just walked in", he whispered, barely audible. "The mics on the drums are live. They can hear us in the other room. Be as quiet as possible."
Both still on the ground, they tried to peer though the kit and see if they could identify the intruder. They both jumped, startled by the static hiss of the soundboard mic button being turned on.
Suddenly, John's voice came on over the speakers. "Guys, are you in there? I uh, came down here for a late night practice and saw everyone outside. Everyone's looking around for you. The van is leaving in a few minutes."
They both sat, stunned, Roger's hand still over Madeline's mouth. They exchanged glances, unsure of what to do. Should they say something? Should they make their presence known?
After a few long seconds of silence, John continued. "Look, guys. I saw the lights were on. If you're not here, that's fine and I'll deal with feeling like an idiot who's talking to a bunch of equipment later. But if you're hiding in there, the rest of the group wasn't too keen on waiting for you, but I felt bad about possibly leaving you guys stranded in Soho."
Silence. He continued. "So yeah, this is me, John Deacon, potentially talking to myself in a potentially empty recording studio, potentially walking through the door and telling the group to leave without you. Potentially."
He sighed. "Alright, I guess I'm-"
Roger stood up abruptly, leaving a confused Madeline on the floor, alone. She looked up at him, unsure of what he was trying to do, eyes wide with uncertainty. Moments ago this man was trying to avoid being caught, and now he's blatantly making himself known... Did something happen? Was it her fault? Did she scare him away?
"We're here, John", Roger started, extending a hand to Madeline. She took it, standing next to Roger, eyeing him suspiciously.
Roger gently pulled Madeline through the studio door, nodding at John when he sighed relief.
"Thank you. Now I don't have to go home and consider the fact I might've spent entire minutes talking to myself in an empty studio."
They sat side by side, alone in the back of the van, Freddie sitting up front next to Dave. Madeline glanced at Roger's face when the streetlights passing by peered in through the van windows, washing his pensive face in a dim orange haze. He wore a unique expression she'd never seen before, and she coincidentally had no idea to react to it. He looked blank, distant. And, not coincidentally, she felt the most alone she had in a long time, despite being pressed against a man with whom she'd danced and very nearly kissed less than an hour before. So she sat, casting occasional glances at a vacant Roger, somewhere between worried and confused.
After they dropped Freddie off at Mary's flat, the next stop was Roger and Madeline. They pulled in front of Madeline's stoop slowly, brakes squeaking against the high buildings, the grating sound pure in the clear night without any usual neighborhood noises to corrupt it. Jumping out of the van and slipping her coat on, she pulled her knees in close, holding herself as the cold threatened to not only invade her body but also her soul.
Roger followed suit, slipping his coat on and offering a small wave to the van, which was now turning a corner and slowly pushing into the night. Madeline stood next to him, staring at her red platforms, and after several seconds she turned towards him. She contorted her face into a frown, looking for any sign of the same Roger she'd seen earlier, or any sign of any Roger at all.
He finally turned, a vaguely morose look cast across his face. His expression suddenly became completely blank after he temporarily pocketed his hands, pulling out a cigarette and lighter seconds later. He lit his cigarette and tilted his head upwards, considering his mood, and decided to start down the dark sidewalk.
Madeline stood, stunned. "Rog? Wh-"
"I'll talk to you later, Madeline."
He continued walking, not even affording her a nod or a wave, breaking her heart with each and every step he took.
She stood and watched him, puffs of smoke following him down the sidewalk, and she briefly considered that they might feel as abandoned by him as she did.
She stormed up the stairs in a blur. She entered her flat, slamming the door behind her, not even caring about the early-late hour and her asleep neighbors who would surely complain.
"What the fuck did I do?"
She stripped herself in near-record time, not even bothering to stop and turn a light on. The coat went on the couch, the shoes next to the record player, the pants in her bedroom doorway, the shirt tossed precariously towards her closet - and by the time she made it to her bed, the makeup she'd been wearing wasn't in the same place it had started at either.
"What the fuck did I do?"
She curled against herself in between her cold sheets, hoping they'd soon warm up because she felt so cold in her body and her soul that she couldn't stop shivering. Or maybe that was because she was crying so hard, she wasn't sure.
The cat jumped onto the bed, making himself comfortable in between her quivering ankles. His obnoxious purring grounded her as she began to warm up, her heavy sobs becoming less frequent as she felt the black tears on her cheeks and in her hair begin to dry. Almost mercifully, the sky opened up and gently began to rain down on her little flat, and she found comfort in its spontaneous rhythm. Her limbs and heart gradually warming enough to finally relax, she slowly drifted off to sleep, vaguely aware of the fact that the rainstorm on this same night one week ago had ended so differently than this one.
Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. Clomp.
His heavy footsteps echoed against the buildings, its inhabitants so peacefully enjoying their slumber, oblivious to the man - whose head was in another dimension - quickly walking by their windows outside in the early hours of the morning.
His head was still attached, albeit by a frayed string tying him to this time and this place, this goddamn time and this goddamn place that he fucked up so badly.
Why did he always have to go and fuck it up?
Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. Clomp.
'Slow down, Roger.'
His walking pace hastened to within a fraction of jogging, the cold air starting to sting his nostrils, tobacco lungs working overtime to keep up with what his head told him to do.
'Why the hell are you walking so quickly?'
He frowned at himself, immediately coming up with a reply. 'So I can get home and sleep and try to forget I ever did something so stupid.'
'Almost kissing her wasn't stupid.'
'Yes it was. How could I do that to her?'
His internal argument was immediately halted by a car horn blaring by him, a group of drunk girls hollering and screaming after him, their small car winding down the road and out of sight. He rubbed his eyes in annoyance and continued on his marching way.
'She's not just some usual groupie that you bring to the studio to impress, you fucking moron.'
'That wasn't my goddamn intention.'
'No shit, you daft fuck. But you still brought her there because that's your usual spot and your intentions drifted dangerously close to that territory.'
'When did drunk me become so coherent?'
He found himself walking even faster, his blonde hair waving behind him in his wake, and he was now breathing out of his mouth to supply as much air as possible to aid his struggling lungs. He licked his chapping lips, struggling to keep up with the pace he set.
'I shouldn't have done that to her.'
'Yeah, and you know what the most fucked up part is?'
'You left her there, standing alone, with no explanation as to why you didn't even say bye.'
'I said bye.'
'Doesn't count. That's not how you say bye to a girl you slow dance with and you tell your stupid dreams to. That's how you say bye to a girl whose name you don't even know despite fucking her against Brian's bedroom wall-'
His gravelly shout echoed into the night, but a loud thunderclap overhead had apparently had enough too. It immediately engulfed the reverb of his voice and proved itself to be more powerful, shaking the earth with its advent.
A fat raindrop landed on his head, just like the fateful late afternoon that lead to this entire mess only a week ago. Except this time, instead of running, he halted any forward movement and let the rain engulf him. He did something he hadn't done in a long time.
He stood still.
Chapter 9: In Your Heart I Want to Stay
Dreams. Roger. Blackness. Red. Roger. The taste of vodka on her tongue. Sleep. She craved more sleep.
Tap tap tap.
She frowned, eyes still glued shut by the remnants of salty tears. She rubbed them, confused. Had she heard something?
Tap tap tap tap.
She pried her eyelids open, only to cover her face with her sheets. Memories of last night came flooding back, threatening to breach the levy that was her eyes. How could he leave her alone like that?
She extended one arm from underneath her blankets, scratching at the sheets. The cat heard her call from across the flat and jumped on the bed, gleefully accepting his invitation to be scratched between his shoulder blades.
What the fuck was that noise? She pulled the blankets off of her and started rooting around on the ground for clothes. The yellow bicycle shorts. The oversized Beatles shirt. She slipped both on, attempting to run a hand through her dark hair but her fingers were caught in the tangled mess.
Who the fuck was at the door?
She padded quietly across her flat, eyes darting to the clock on the wall as she wondered who the hell would be bothering her at... 8:13 am? What the hell?
Shit. Was it Roger?
She immediately stopped in her tracks, going into stealth mode as she proceeded on her tip-toes to avoid all the spots on the carpeted floor that aggressively creaked when stepped on. She braced herself against the door jamb and tried to peer through the dusty peep hole in the door.
BANG BANG BANG BANG
She lost her footing after she was startled by the enthusiastic knocking, falling onto the floor with an alarming lack of grace. She scraped her elbow across the scratchy carpet, trying to save herself from falling completely on her ass. The skin on her arm screamed, letting her know she tried and she failed. She inspected the blooms of blood droplets forming at the injury site, wincing as she tried to manipulate the wound for better inspection.
"Mads? Was that you? It's Stella, you clumsy fuck, let me in. We need to talk."
Releasing a sigh full of relief of a lack of a particular Roger, but also laced with annoyance at her best friend for bothering her at such an unlivable hour of the morning, she pulled herself off the floor with the aid of the back of the couch.
She unlocked the door and swung it open, the doorknob smacking the wall as it swung on its hinge. Stella looked almost as worse for wear as she did, matted blonde hairspray hair piled high into a messy bun, Rolling Stones t-shirt riddled with cigarette holes, satin boxing trunks adorning her legs. Madeline smiled. Leave it to Stella to make sure she wasn't alone in her post-party suffering.
Stella pulled two cigarettes out of her purse and extended one to Madeline.
"Let's go, Mads. It's time for stoop talk."
They sat on the stoop, sunglasses adorning their hungover heads, shakily smoking in the annoyingly clear morning sunshine. For a while, they sat in silence; Madeline would occasionally check the wound on her elbow while Stella inspected mysterious bruises up and down her shins after telling young men passing by to fuck off for staring at the pair of them with a mix of morbid curiosity and attraction. They weren't in the mood for anyone's company but the company of one another.
Stella and Madeline tossed their cigarette butts into the light traffic on the residential street, the pair of them instantly grabbing two more and lighting them up as quickly as possible. Glancing at the door behind her, Madeline suddenly wondered what Stella's intentions were, besides having a friend to be hungover with.
"Stel", Madeline started, exhaling a stream of wispy blue smoke and frowning down at her chipping nail polish. She inhaled, beginning to speak, but Stella interrupted her.
"I just had a feeling, Mads. I saw how he was looking at you and I knew something would happen."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"I knew he couldn't keep up."
Madeline frowned. What the fuck was her friend talking about?
Stella sighed. "Yeah, Mads. You may not have realized it, but you were pressuring him."
"The hell I was." Madeline frowned. "He's the one who took me to the studio last night and damn near almost kissed me-"
"Yeah, Mads. Almost. You scared him, spooked him."
"What the fuck? How? I didn't even do anything."
"Yes you did! You have this subconscious prodding that you do to people that confuses the hell out of them. Roger likes you, Madeline. But last night you almost made him take you-"
"What's so wrong with that?-"
"He doesn't want that from you. He wants you, Madeline. He wants you for who you are, not just as some lay."
Madeline sat, the ashes on her cigarette piling up impressively until a gust of wind blew them onto the step below, stirring up a small pile of freshly fallen autumn leaves where the stoop met the sidewalk. An orange leaf landed on Madeline's knee and she twisted the stem in between her fingers, frowning.
'Roger wants me for me? How can that be?'
"But I thought he just slept around, Stel. I just figured that's as far as it would go with him-"
"People change. And you're you, remember?"
Madeline let the orange leaf float off with the light breeze, watching it as it tumbled down the street. She tucked her hair behind her ear, staring down at her bare feet on the concrete. A familiar scent manifested itself as she hugged her arms to her ribs, realizing slowly that this had been the shirt Roger wore that night and not her usual Beatles shirt. She sighed, inhaling the smell of him as he calmed her senses without even realizing it. It all made sense now.
So that's why he left.
Roger locked the front door behind him, Freddie still asleep on the couch as he left. He assumed this meant the shop would be opening late, and he didn't mind. For now he needed to clear his head after the events of last night, and his main goal was to make peace with himself after what he did. He pulled his sunglasses down from atop his blonde crown to their rightful place on his nose as he took the stairs two at a time down to the main floor. He pushed the door open with his hip, fresh blue skies meeting his senses gently. He inhaled, letting the autumn air caress his lungs as he started down the street with no direction in mind. It was a beautiful morning, orange and yellow leaves crunching pleasingly underneath his shoes as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. The morning sun shone brightly against his blonde hair as the gentle breeze blew it back behind his shoulders.
He hated it all.
He didn't deserve a morning like this after what he did last night.
He turned a corner, nearly knocking over a group of students as they headed to their early morning classes. He remembered those days, the simplicity washing over him as he became nostalgic for less complicated times.
'Back before I was a prick.'
He shook his head at himself, instead focusing on the beautiful barrage of colors within his line of vision. The orange hues of the leaves being blown around on the concrete, the yellows and muted greens of the leaves that had yet to fall this early in the season.
'I've got to make this right somehow. What do I even say to her?'
He ran his hand along the wrought iron fence next to him, frowning to himself as he contemplated his next move. He became frustrated when he turned up blank.
'All I know is I can't lose her.'
He turned another corner, still trying in vain to distract himself, hoping to find his answer in his immediate surroundings.
And then he saw her.
Shit, had he walked straight to her place without even realizing it?
He stopped dead in his tracks, attempting not to be noticed. He quickly crossed the street, hoping to be obscured by the shadow of the adjacent building. He looked on, body against the cool brick, trying to be as hidden as possible.
She was with Stella. 'Definitely talking about my fuckup of the night', he thought to himself, inner voice biting with venom at his own mistakes.
Stella got up to leave, waving bye to a tattered looking Madeline. Madeline returned the wave, turning and entering the building, the door caught in the wind as he looked onwards.
This was his chance.
He waited for a few seconds to make sure the two girls had left the area and half-jogged, half-walked across the street, running up the stairs of the stoop and holding the door open for himself, hoping no one had seen him clearly being somewhere he wasn't supposed to be. He pulled it shut against the wind, sighing loudly as he fixed his extremely-tousled hair and making it look just barely-tousled.
Climbing the stairs to number 32, he deeply inhaled as he tried to mentally stoke himself to do what needed to be done. He needed to apologize. He needed to tell her how it really was between them.
He needed to tell her how he felt. He couldn't lose her.
He raised up a fist, staring blankly at the number 32 adorned on her door as he worked up the nerve to knock. What seemed like an eternity later, he finally forced himself to rap his knuckles on the door and waited for a reply. He stuffed his hands into his pockets immediately, tapping an impatient foot on the floor as he waited and waited and waited and-
"Stel, you've gotta stop barging in here. If my landlord knew you had a fucking key he'd strangle us both-"
The door swung open and the sight before him knocked the wind out of him.
There she was, stood in the same Beatles shirt and the same yellow bike shorts, a toothbrush in her mouth as her own eyes grew wide, registering the figure in front of her.
Maybe this was his chance to start over.
Chapter 10: Like a Leaf is to a Tree (So Fine)
Her eyes are green.
Roger frowned and peeled his sunglasses off, hanging them from the small pocket on his half-buttoned shirt.
He never noticed her eyes were green.
She stood, frozen to the spot, toothbrush hanging precariously from her mouth. After a few painfully awkward seconds, she held up a single index finger to Roger, running to the kitchen. He frowned at himself, toying with the thin black leather straps hanging around his neck. Maybe he wasn't welcome. Maybe he shouldn't have come. Maybe she didn't want to hear what he had to say.
She returned moments later, sans toothbrush, and gave Roger a small smile, snapping him out of his brief self-deprication session in her doorway. She crossed her arms, looking down at her black polished toenails, unsure of what to do. He cleared his throat, wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans.
'Say something, you twat.'
Roger opened his mouth, hoping the words would come out on their own, but he unfortunately found that wasn't the case.
"Madeline, I... well, er, uh... shit. What happened... uh, I don't-"
'Wait', she thought, watching a desperately uncomfortable Roger fumble around the English language. 'Is he... nervous? Because of me?'
He blushed, cheeks turning a deep red as he frowned and cursed the ground under his breath. He was failing miserably at the task at hand, positive she thought he was an inarticulate jackass.
Without warning, her hands were buried deep in his thick blonde hair as she stood to meet him on tip toes, almost at eye level with him, looking deep into his baby blues. Her hands in his hair seemed to cease all thought within him, calming the angry waves of self-hatred that swelled there and ultimately forgave him with her gentle touch.
Blue on green. Black on blonde. He imagined they looked good like this together. The fire in his chest rose as she gently raked his scalp with her black fingernails, sending shockwaves down his spine.
He smiled down at her and laced his fingers through her own mane, cupping the back of her head, gently caressing her face with his thumb just as he did the night before. Instead of finding lust behind her eyes as he did previously, he found sadness, sorrow. His eyes traced the remnants of black mascara trailing down her cheek, the trailed edges dried and flaky. She'd obviously tried to scrub it away at some point this morning, but didn't quite succeed completely.
He lifted a finger and traced the path down to her jawline. She sighed, eyes fixed on his while he gently swept away the remaining black flecks. Tears threatened to well, pricking at her eyes as she watched him concentrate on removing any and all remnants of the pain he caused. She felt relieved, she felt vulnerable, she felt overwhelmed. How could he do so much to her just by looking at her?
He looked deep into her eyes, catching a stray tear with his thumb as it fell down the contour of her cheek.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left you standing there."
He tucked her dark hair behind her ear, lovingly taking in the more minute details of her face. Her eyes puffy from crying, her messy hair, the almost unnoticeable dusting of freckles across her nose, the fleck of gold in her eyes, the trace of toothpaste drying in the corner of her mouth...
He loved all of it.
"Don't do it again, Roger."
Her mouth was suddenly on his, light as a butterfly on a delicate flower. She ghosted petal-like kisses against his soft lips, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
'Is this really happening?'
"Don't do it again."
The soft breath of her words tickled his skin like champagne bubbles. He pulled her face away from his own, looking straight through her eyes and into her soul. He smiled down at her, one hand still locked in her hair, the other trailing down her side. He stopped at her waist, tugging the Beatles shirt towards him, pulling her in as close as possible. He tilted his jaw and caught her lower lip in between his, allowing her to wrap an arm around his neck and deepen the kiss.
He briefly pulled away, stroking her back as he pressed his forehead against her own.
"I promise I won't. I promise."
She smiled, returning her mouth to his own, both parted and wanting the other. Her calves were getting tired from supporting her on her toes, so she decided to improvise. She stepped gently onto the toe of each of his platformed boots, wrapping a second arm around his middle as she used him to hold herself up. She finally found her balance and he frowned, a grin playing dangerously at his straight lips.
"You're the only person I'd let do that."
He walked forward, shuffling through the door frame, careful not to bump into the door jamb as he carried the two of them into the small flat. Still liplocked, she reached behind him and somehow managed to shut the door, clock on the wall shaking from the careless force she used. His eyes flickered open, seeing the arm of the couch in front of him, dimly illuminated by the morning light filtering through lace curtains, causing the flat to bathe in an ethereal light.
He shuffled forward until the backs of her thighs hit the couch arm, causing her to grunt into his lips. A scorching flame shot through his very core at the sound she made and he mentally pushed it down, focusing on the here-and-now of their situation.
Mischievously, he gently pushed again, causing her to frown into their increasingly passionate kiss. She temporarily broke their connection, cocking an eyebrow up at an out-of-breath Roger.
"I can't tell if you're trying to knock me over or elicit curious sounds from me for your own entertainment."
He grinned widely, eyes twinkling with mischief as he lifted her calves from beneath her, causing her to sit on the arm of the couch. She frowned as he shot her a wink, wondering what was next before she found herself staring up at the ceiling, legs up in the air. He pushed her over.
That little shit.
He was doubled over, cackling, and she saw her chance to get back at him almost immediately. She reached up between her legs and grabbed Roger's shirt, toppling him over as his face shone red with deep laughter. She pulled his collar and pulled him on top of her, making him face her directly as they both laughed at one another. He couldn't stand what her laugh did to him. His insides turned to jelly as he watched her throw her head back in laughter, ribcage expanding and contracting underneath his weight. It wrecked him completely; it turned him into a different man.
He kissed her deeply. He couldn't help it. She gasped at the ferocity and tenacity of his kiss, tongue grazing against his own after finding her hand sneaking up the side of his shirt and stroking the bare skin she found there. It was impossible not to touch him.
He lovingly stroked her face, hands daringly going lower and lower with each passing second. He gasped as he noticed her unbuttoning his shirt, her hands exploring his abdomen without any hindrance; he gasped a second time as a finger hooked around belt loop and tugged, bumping his hips into hers, her thighs slowly and gradually parting to allow him to nestle in between and up against her own hips.
She felt every atom in her body wake up with vigor as he unintentionally ground his hips into hers while he trailed kisses down the side of her face, nipping at her neck as she sighed in pleasure. He wandered over the peaks and valleys that were her collarbone, finally stopping at the collar of the oversized shirt that covered the base of her throat. He let out a low growl as he kissed the flesh there, his gravelly voice increasing in volume as his hands travelled up her sides, exposing the skin there as he wandered higher and higher. She surprised him as she reached for the hem and pulled the shirt over her head, unintentionally bumping her hips into his as she repositioned herself underneath him. He sunk his teeth into the side of her neck in response, causing her to inhale sharply. She gently dug her nails into his muscular back, responding to him with equal vigor. He pulled away from her neck, eyes sweeping over the lacy black bra that adorned her chest. Her hair was fanned out underneath her head, face flushed with excitement as she grinned widely up at him, eyes half-lidded in bliss. The red mark on the side of her neck grew darker with each passing second and he returned her grin, unable to believe the woman underneath him. She was perfectly imperfect, and although he was convinced he didn't deserve her, he still gladly accepted his prize.
She pulled him into another kiss, gently placing his hand on top of her right breast and he joyfully squeezed the fabric he found underneath his fingertips. She let out a light groan into his swollen mouth and he finally bucked his hips into hers, unable to contain himself any longer. She groaned slightly louder at the sensation of finally feeling his length straining against the fabric of his jeans, pushing against the satin of her yellow bike shorts just enough to drive her crazy.
She yanked the denim buttoned shirt off of his frame, the sweat he'd worked up causing his tanned skin to glisten in the dim morning light filtering into the living room. She slid a hand up his spine, burying her fingers into the hair at the base of his skull, gently tugging as he continued sucking at her neck and kneading at her covered breast. He responded by bucking a second time into her hips, abandoning his post at her breast and pulling both of her thighs around his middle. Their tongues performing an elaborate ritual together, she reached between the two of them and unbuttoned his jeans, causing him to groan from the sudden lack of tightness, allowing his length to breathe a little more freely.
She ran the back of a finger as subtly as possible up the length of his still-clothed shaft, causing him to shudder in response. He reached behind her and unfastened her bra effortlessly, casting it aside as he bent his head to catch a hardening nipple in between his teeth. She shot her head back and gasped audibly, tightening the grip her thighs had on his middle, pressing her obscured center against his still-clothed groin.
He couldn't take it anymore. He abruptly pulled the two of them upwards into a standing position, her legs still locked around his waist, breasts pressed against his tanned chest as they kissed feverishly. He slowly navigated his way towards the bedroom, bumping someone's ankles or elbows against a wall or a piece of furniture, Madeline laughing at him for sacrificing his coolness in order to focus on the task at hand: kissing her as passionately as possible while trying to find a goddamn bed.
He finally threw her down on the bed, pulling his shoes off as he watched her begin to unbutton her bike shorts, upper arms teasingly covering her breasts as she shot a mischievous grin at him. He climbed on top of her, pinning her arms above her head as he grinned, his dangling blonde hair tickling her chest.
"Oh no no no. I get to remove those, not you."
His free hand trailed down her body, hot fingers grazing the skin in between her breasts and circling around her navel. He watched her face carefully as he pulled down the shorts with one hand, tossing them off the side of the bed with little care. His fingers daringly traced the elastic band of her underwear around her hips, toying with the fabric below. He pulled down one side at a time, never breaking eye contact as the last bit of her still-covered body was slowly exposed.
He pulled the black panties down past her ankles, fashioning them into their own slingshot, eliciting a deep laugh from her as her underwear shot across the room and slid down a nearby wall. She hardly felt naked in front of him despite him being very nearly fully clothed. She felt completely comfortable.
He kissed his way down her body, taking his time reading her, because god damn did she make the best noises. Her hands were on his back, tracing lazy circles on his skin as he lovingly assaulted her. He took his time with each breast, sucking and teasing her nipple until she cried out, in which case he'd switch over to the other one and repeat. He kissed the tender flesh of the underneath of her breast, dragging his fingers across her ribs, liking the music she made when he did so.
As he slowly made his way down to her hipbones, her breathing grew more and more frantic, brain fuzzy and flooded with pleasure that he had yet to give her. The anticipation of it all was going to make her pass out, she was sure of it. He hovered over her middle, blonde hair stroking her soft skin as he peered up at her and smiled so lovingly she thought she heard her heart break inside of her chest.
He kissed at the dip in her hipbone, biting the protrusion there gently, hands on either hip as he repositioned himself in between her thighs. He kissed down her mound, holding each thigh apart with calloused drummer hands. He looked up at her and was overwhelmed with emotion when he saw how beautiful she was, face flushed, eyes squeezed shut, her back arched as she awaited his next move.
"I'm gonna show you, Madeline", he breathed, the hot air from his mouth threatening her center, preparing her for what was to come. "I'm gonna show you how much you mean to me."
Chapter 11: The Evening Sunshine
A short one, I hope you don't mind :)
She clenched the tangled sheets with tight fists, the bed still unmade from her rude awakening that morning. Staring up at the ceiling, panting wildly, her eyes quickly squeezed shut when she felt the lightest touch possible on her nub. It quickly intensified as Roger pressed the flatness of his tongue against her, causing her to cry out, her call causing him to clutch each of her thighs just tight enough for her to know that he needed her.
His eyes shot up to her own, breathing heavily as he paused his sweet assault. "God, I didn't know you were going to taste this good", he started, kissing her inner thigh as she cried out from the sudden lack of stimulation. "Everything pales in comparison to you. Everything."
He slowly inserted a finger into her, continuing his oral antics as she wiggled on the bed, pleasure mounting up too quickly and with high intensity. He inserted a second, moaning against her clitoris as she tangled her fingers in his mane and tugged. The vibrations of his voice sent her nearly there and he sensed it as he inserted a third finger, gently pumping in and out of her opening.
"Oh, oh fuck, Roger. Oh fuck."
He let out another growl. She was driving him crazy.
"What do you want, love?" His breath danced across her center as he continued slowly pumping into her with his fingers. "I need you to tell me. Please?"
"Oh fuck", she cried out, his cadence almost begging, causing her to dance precariously close to her orgasm once again. "Roger, I need you."
"You need me to do what, love?" He grabbed her hand, untangling it with his hair and lacing his fingers with her own.
"I need you to make love to me, Roger."
Within an instant his body was pressed on top of hers, kissing her fervently while they both fumbled with prying off his skin-tight jeans. He pulled them down over his hips and tossed them into a nearby corner, his black boxer briefs not far behind.
He crawled on top of her, stroking her face as he positioned himself at her opening, sweat beading on his forehead. He wrapped her thighs back around his middle and she watched him intently. Gazing into his eyes, she nudged her hips towards his own, a smirk playing across her lips as he shot her a look.
"Are you trying to wreck me?" His eyes drifted over her face, the look in his eyes melting her very core. "Because I think you have a talent for it, love."
He slowly pushed into her, never breaking eye contact the entire time. She arched her back and the slow groan from her throat made him shiver. When he finally fully sheathed himself, he paused, gently wiping strands of damp hair from her forehead as she gazed up at him.
When he began slowly pumping, she wrapped her arms around him, nails digging gently into his back as she pressed her forehead to his shoulder. She could barely believe it; his reputation had certainly preceded him and he was hitting the right spot every time, pleasure radiating deep in her core.
"God, Roger", she sighed, pushing her hips in time to meet his own.
"Just Roger", he said, breathing heavily, sweat beginning to drip off of his chin. "The god title is purely ceremonious."
She rolled her eyes and chuckled, the sound of her laugh stirring something deep inside and he began driving into her with somehow even more enthusiasm. He hooked his arm underneath her knee, placing a calf on his shoulder as he tried desperately to find more leverage.
Madeline moaned heavily, pleasure threatening to overtake her for the third time in just a few minutes while Roger hooked her other calf over his other shoulder, and now by this point he was fighting back his own moans. Pleasure mounted in her like a train rapidly approaching and she found herself making all kinds of embarrassing noises as her pleasure ripped through her body, orgasm radiating through her as Roger continued thrusting into her.
"Oh... my... god-"
"I already told you, it's just Rog-"
She clamped a hand over his mouth as her orgasm shook her violently. Roger began a wicked laugh, curled lips opening to clenched teeth and the reverberation of his own moan behind her hand perfectly coincided with him exalting a final thrust as he spilled into her, whispering her name in between grunts and groans.
He collapsed on top of her and they lay there for several seconds, breathing heavily, sweaty bodies beginning to stick together until a loud banging came from underneath them.
And then the shouting came soon after. "Who fucks at 9 in the morning?"
The pair of them burst out laughing.
She opened one eyelid slowly, sleep still heavy in her vision as she tried to blink the exhaustion away. She gradually became aware of three things.
The first thing was that an arm was draped over her ribcage, and that arm belonged to a very naked drummer in her bed. She abruptly opened the other eye to get a full glimpse of him, long blonde eyelashes fluttering softly as he dreamed. God, he looked so handsome, face relaxed and peaceful as he slept, skin softly glowing in the late afternoon light-
That was the second thing she noticed. It was late.
Way late. She tried to get a look at the alarm clock behind Roger's blonde head but couldn't quite see it without waking Roger up.
But she would have to wake him up eventually, because the third thing she noticed was gnawing at her core since she woke up. She was absolutely starving. It had been a while (probably too long of a while) since she'd had sex, and she completely and totally forgot about the appetite that could be worked up afterward.
Especially after a session like that. God. Damn.
She smiled to herself, looking up at the ceiling as the sun cast long shadows across it.
She was so glad that this finally happened, especially considering the past week. Sure, Roger was a phenomenal lay, but it was so much more than that.
She gazed at him once more, smiling as he made a small snore against his pillow.
She hadn't felt so strongly for someone in a long time, maybe ever, and here he was... right next to her, in her bed, naked and asleep.
She stretched out an arm and stroked errant strands of hair from his face, attempting to wake him as gently as possible.
But he didn't move.
She lifted the arm draped over her side and set it onto the mattress. Still nothing.
What the hell? Does he sleep like a rock?
She prodded him, first in the arm, then in the shoulder, and after no response but a small snore, she poked him right in the middle of the forehead.
'Okay, this calls for drastic measures.'
She pulled the blankets back, exposing his skin to fresh air as she began to turn him onto his back as swiftly as possible. Plopping down on his abdomen, she grinned as his eyelids shot open and he let out a sudden grunt, the new weight upon him causing him to grimace.
She laid down on his chest, her nose touching his and he sleepily smiled at her, running a hand up her spine.
"I'm not. I ate not too long ago."
She frowned at his lewd joke, trying desperately not to show her amusement, but he winked sleepily at her when he noticed a smile dancing at her lips.
He nuzzled his nose against hers and kissed her slowly and gently until she pulled away abruptly.
"Hey, I was enjoying myself-"
"Roger, I love kissing you, I really do", she started, rolling to the side of the bed. She stood, gazing the floor for her clothes, chucking Roger's own at his naked body as she stumbled upon them. Pulling a skin-tight pair of bell bottoms on as she rooted around for a shirt, she continued, "but I'm afraid if we don't get food, I might have to eat you myself."
He raised an eyebrow. "Is that a threat or a promise?"
She pulled a Hendrix shirt on and adjusted it in front of the mirror. "It's neither if you don't get your ass out of bed! I require sustenance!"
"Fine", he said, sitting up. "Pizza?"
She raised her arms above her head in triumph. "PIZZA!"
Chapter 12: I Wanna Hold Your...
They walked side by side, occasionally bumping shoulders on the way to the pizza place down the street. The sun was setting, leaving a barrage of pinks and purples in its wake, a ripple of clouds becoming canvases as the late afternoon turned into night.
Roger felt great, laughing and joking with Madeline all the way. But something was gnawing at his brain.
Should he hold her hand?
He felt dumb for wondering. It would be easy to do so, they were walking close enough to each other. They did just finally rectify the whole "sexual tension" situation, they did just wake up naked next to each other, so why was he wrestling internally with himself? Should he wait until they make things official? Should he just do it and get it over with? Did she even want to be with him?
God, this girl really did turn him into a totally different person.
His stream of out of character thoughts was interrupted by Madeline suddenly plucking the cigarette from his mouth and taking a drag.
"What do you think, Rog?"
Shit. He was too engrossed in second-guessing himself; he wasn't listening to her.
"Uh, about what?"
"About you not paying attention and walking straight past that kid asking for your autograph."
He spun around immediately. "Wh-"
She burst out laughing. "I'm just fucking with you. But seriously, why're you so quiet?"
"Oh", he said, straightening his shirt out. "I was thinking. About... things."
"About... what kind of pizza to get."
"You were that engrossed in thoughts of pizza?"
"Hey." He stopped abruptly, index finger prodding her straight in the chest, eyes wide with seriousness.
"Pizza is a big deal to Roger Meddows Taylor."
"Your middle name is Meddows?"
"Pizza, Madeline. Focus. Pizza-"
He started walking faster. "PIZZA."
"Your middle name is Medd-"
He sat across from her, dead silent as they stared at each other and tried not to laugh. The waiter had brought by a couple of beer refills now, each time giving them side glances as they asked for more straws.
Roger had seven, she had four. He'd stolen some from her pile and added them to his own when she took too long at reading the menu. Straw wrappers littered the ground beneath them, the waiter clearly unhappy with the idea of having to clean up after grown adults.
Madeline loaded a straw up, undoing the paper wrapper and gently giving it space at the end. Just as she was ready to blow into the straw, Roger broke his stare and flinched, shooting a hand up to cover his eyes. She slapped a hand over her mouth, stifling hysterics as tears threatened to form at her eyes.
This was way too much fun.
When the pizza came, they ate with ferocity - such ferocity that Madeline asked Roger why he was eating so fast and he replied that he "worked up an appetite" which caused her cheeks to radiate pink.
"So, Madeline", Roger started, swallowing the last of his beer as they stood up to leave. Madeline watched as Roger tucked the money for the tab underneath the empty pint glass. In her head she knew at some point they had to decide what to do with the rest of their evening and that this would probably be that moment, judging by the cadence of Roger's voice. He sounded slightly nervous but totally collected.
"Yeah, Rog?" She pushed her dark hair out of her eyes, smiling up at him as he held the door open for her.
They walked side by side, the last rays of the sun reflecting off of his golden hair. The bright colors of autumn hanging on the trees burned vibrantly in the orange rays, the deep blue sky creating a beautiful contrast. Just like they did.
"Wanna go back to my place? I think Fred and Bri are probably around, we could have a little get together."
She smiled. "Sure. Is it cool if I invite-"
"Stella! Yes, absolutely invite her."
"Should we swing by my place so I can grab a jacket and give her a ring?"
Roger grinned. "Let's go."
On the way to her house, he slipped his hand into hers.
Chapter 13: What's Going On?
Roger set the tiny tile down on the board, looking very proud of himself after he took a small swig of his drink.
"There. E-a-r. Ear."
"Seriously? That's the best you could do?" Brian said, tauntingly laughing at his friend's choice of words as he sipped his bottle of Guinness.
"Oi, shaddap, I've got nothing but vowels here! Let's see you do better, poodle head."
Brian shot a disproving look at Roger, who, seeing the look on the guitarists face, burst out laughing.
Brian smirked, playing the word 'recent' off of the 'r' Roger had played, a very smug look working its way across his face.
Meanwhile, Madeline, Stella, and Freddie were all in a deep conversation about the intricacies of the perfect platform boot, Freddie hilariously waving his hands about over Stella's thigh high velvet platforms.
Later that night, Freddie would certainly try them on.
And not only did he try them on, but he paraded them up and down the street, causing the errant groups of kids their age to either pick up their pace or stop and marvel themselves, grinning at Freddie's contagious enthusiasm.
By the time the evening had wrapped up, Stella was fast asleep next to Freddie on the floor and Roger was drunkenly begging a tired Madeline to stay.
"Really, I can't tonight, Rog", Madeline insisted, pleading with the drummer. "Some idiot in my group scheduled a study time at 8 in the morning. It's 3. I've really gotta get going-"
A lightbulb flicked on in Roger's head, practically illuminating his half-lidded blue eyes.
"What if... w-what if I stay with you tonight? Would that be okay?"
Madeline grinned. His drunken thoughtfulness was endearing and impossible to turn down.
"Alright, blondie." She hooked her arm around his, pulling him gently through the door. "Let's head out before we wake anyone."
"Pff, yeah, especially Brian. Stupid poodle-haired scrabble-winning guitar-playing wanker..."
"So you finally slept with him?"
Madeline glared at Stella over her steaming tea, ripping open sugar packets and pouring them into the cup.
"What?! I knew you weren't gonna spill it out on your own accord. Sometimes I've gotta prod you."
Madeline wrinkled her nose, staring down at the tea in front of her.
"Yeah... I did. I feel kind of weird about it though because we haven't had the 'talk'-"
"Mads, he's clearly infatuated with you!"
"I know, I know, I just... I've heard about his reputation, you know? I trust him, but should I?"
"I don't see why not. He seems to be pretty genuine."
Madeline took a sip from her tea and sighed. "I suppose you're right. I'm not giving him the credit he deserves."
Madeline walked into the bar, black sequined dress hanging off her frame, a cigarette in between two fingers as she dodged clusters of people talking and laughing amongst themselves. She eventually made it to her familiar perch at the back of the bar, settling herself into her usual seat, nodding politely at the bartender.
"Vodka tonic, Madeline?"
"Yeah, thanks man."
She ashed her cigarette into the ashtray the bartender placed in front of her, looking around and over each shoulder. Where was he? He said to meet her here at ten...
The bartender placed the drink in front of her, the thick glass making a thud against the wooden bartop that could be felt over the thumping music. She sipped on the black straw, humming along softly to the sounds of T-Rex. Turning slightly on the stool, she elected to spend her time watching the throng of people dancing while waiting for Roger.
She took a puff of her cigarette, subconsciously ashing it into the ashtray before taking another sip from the black straw. She slowly let her worried thoughts of Roger's whereabouts turn to thoughts of stealing Marc Bolan's wardrobe and writing songs about sex too, since that seemed to be a good topic of the times. Plus, she smirked to herself, she had plenty of material to work with in that department since seeing Roger...
But did he think of her in the same way she thought of him? The seed of doubt had been planted despite Stella's reassurance, and the only way to ease her thoughts was to surely have the 'talk', as awkward and nerve-wracking as it would be. But how does one go about that? Surely not in a noisy bar...
Madeline felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.
After a few minutes of awkward conversation starters rolling around in her head accompanied by the idle tapping of her foot against one of the wrings in the barstool, eyes glazed over in thought, she returned back to her previous position. She toyed with the straw in her now mostly-ice drink, putting out the cigarette, then nearly jumped out of her seat.
"Hey." A familiar smoke-hazed voice spoke into her ear as a hand snaked up her side.
"Goddamn, Roger. You scared the shit out of me."
He chuckled deeply, mouth still next to her ear, causing a deep vibration down her neck and spine, all the way to her boots.
"I like to keep you on your toes." He smirked. Noticing the slightly absent look on her face, he frowned. "Whatcha thinking about?"
She turned to face him, alarmed at how much she adored the quizzical look on his face. Shit, he could read her way too well. She pecked him on the cheek and shook her head. "Nothing."
"That's not a 'nothing' look, Madeline, that's a something look."
She sighed, nervous eyes avoiding his gaze. "I can't tell you if it requires shouting over Get it On, Roger."
He smiled warmly, grabbing her hand. "Let's go."
Chapter 14: Spent With High Treason
Hey all, just added a few chapters I forgot to post! Enjoy!
Madeline's heart felt like it was going to burst through her chest as she grasped Roger's hand; he lead her through the throngs of people, softly smiling back at her as they approached the door.
She internally panicked. Should she tell him outside? Should they go somewhere to talk, like a random bench in a park? Or a coffee shop? Does she hint at a serious subject incoming, or does she spring it on him? Does she ask him if he wants to be with her or does she just make her feelings known? And how the fuck does she play it cool with all these thoughts in her head?
And it was way too late to back out now, she thought, because there's no way Roger would let her drop this, especially after seeing the look on her face.
She was so engulfed in her panicked thoughts that she hardly noticed Roger abruptly stopping in front of her and she awkwardly half-walked into Roger's shoulder, smashing her body against his side. Regaining her focus on reality and objects immediately in her trajectory, she'd noticed he'd stopped to talk to someone - a girl, dirty blonde, and slightly taller than herself. She wore a powder blue dress, the hem resting itself against her exposed thighs, white go-go boots laced up past her knees, and her arms were wrapped around his neck in a hug.
"Rog! Holy shit, how've you been? I haven't seen you around in ages!" The girl smiled, surprise still washed over her face in the dim bar lighting.
"Hey! Yeah, a couple of weeks. I've been great, how've you been?"
"Great too. So what's been up?"
"Oh, gigging here and there - you know, the usual."
"Fuckin' sweet. How's that going?"
"Pretty great. We're starting to draw bigger and bigger crowds. We even got a newspaper review of our latest..."
Madeline realized she felt out of place in the conversation and began to zone out, eyeing the door temptingly. Running a finger along the smooth box of cigarettes just inside the first compartment in her purse, she gently nudged Roger and made a smoking gesture with her fingers. Deep in conversation, Roger nodded in her direction, continuing his banter with the mystery girl.
Stepping behind and past Roger, Madeline stuck an unlit cigarette in between her lips, pushing the door out and into the cool autumn evening. She lit the cigarette with her worn black plastic lighter, frowning into the slightly stiff breeze. Puffing on her cigarette and watching the blue smoke drift up into a street lamp and dissipate, she relaxed slightly, letting her thoughts return to what to say to Roger.
She ashed her cigarette and frowned, the breeze picking up and blowing her dark hair into her face. She just needed to be honest about her feelings, which is what Stel would tell her, but that's the hardest goddamn thing to do in the world, isn't it?
She wrinkled her nose and took another drag.
On the other hand, not being honest about her feelings or delaying this any further would likely end up making her a nervous wreck, what with having to constantly balance a "too cool to care" attitude with obviously and nervously caring.
She glanced through the glass door, Roger still deep in conversation with the girl. She still had time to think this through.
And if he shared the same feelings, she truly thought something great would come out of their relationship. They clicked unbelievably well, and within the short amount of time it's been since meeting, she wasn't sure she'd ever felt so close to someone.
She eyed the last half of her cigarette with impatience, knuckles and fingertips beginning to numb at the increasingly stiff breeze.
But what if he didn't? Stella's face popped into her head for the second time, chastising her in her Stella way for thinking in such a daft manner. He clearly did. She thought about the obvious signs and smiled to herself, pulling her thin jacket close to her frame. Who else flirts at a pizza joint? Or dances to Derek and the Dominos? Or kisses in bars? Couples do.
Nodding to herself, she tossed her cigarette out into the street, turning on her heel and heading towards the door. She sighed deeply as she reached for the handle, confident that she'd find the right words for Roger at some point that night.
And then she froze.
Completely oblivious to Madeline standing five feet from him on the other side of a transparent door, Roger was lip-locked with the girl, and Madeline's heart had surely fallen on the dirty ground somewhere, drifting and tumbling away with whatever stray litter was fleeing down the sidewalk from the now stout and angry wind.
And he looked up.
And he saw her.
She stumbled back and her hand flew off the door handle as if it'd bitten her, eyes wide and full of bewilderment, Roger's own eyes quickly following suit as she turned and took off, following the same path as the litter she'd seen flying by seconds earlier. Steady streams of tears coursing down the side of her face and into her ears, the wind stung her eyes almost as much as the suffocating feeling growing in her chest as she tried to navigate the blurry streets, lights and sounds confusing her all the while. She swore at some point she'd heard Roger yelling her name in the midst of her wild twists and turns through people and down random streets, but she wasn't sure she cared.
After what felt like an eternity of running, she leaned against the freezing brick of the lucky building next to her, desperately trying to appease her angry lungs in between sobs and smoker coughs. Wiping the mascara tears from her face with the inside of her jacket, she was sure she was smearing all kinds of black shit all over her face as strangers passing by side-eyed her with a mixture of concern and aloofness, not one of them stopping to ask her if she was okay.
Typical fucking London.
She frowned. Eyes focusing slowly in the obnoxiously lit blustery night, she spotted a payphone.
Jogging over to the booth with what little energy she had left, she slammed the door shut and dialed one of the few numbers she'd had memorized, tapping her foot impatiently.
One ring. Two. Three.
"Stel, it's me."
Chapter 15: And Then She Turned To Go
"We even got a newspaper review of our latest gig, which was a huge boost, PR wise", Roger said, trying to hold back a huge grin. "We have a gig coming up in a few days-"
"The one not too far from my flat. Do you remember where that is?"
"I do", she said, smiling warmly and stepping closer to him. "I mean, how could I forget?"
Roger frowned slightly, glancing out the door at Madeline, her dark hair swirling in the wind. He cleared his throat. "Right. Anyway, I should get going, Laura-"
"Is she waiting on you, Roger?" Laura nodded towards the door in Madeline's direction, a sly smile slowly growing on her face. "I waited on you too, you know."
She took another step closer, face now inches from Roger's own.
Roger squeezed his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. Why did he always get himself into this kind of shit?
"I know, Laura, and I'm sorry. I should've given you a heads up-"
"And you didn't", she said, the sudden disdain in her voice biting at his eardrums without warning as the faint smell of alcohol wafted around her, and he knew he was in deep shit.
"Alright, listen, I've really gotta go now. I'm sorry. Madeline's waiting on me-"
"Oh, is that her name?" Laura, obviously slurring her speech, tilted her mouth towards Roger's ear. "What does she have that I don't?"
"Laura, I'm not doing this here-"
And she kissed him.
Hard, on the mouth, and without warning.
She snaked her arms around his neck, holding on for dear life as Roger tried to find some kind of space between the two of them to widen, which proved to be difficult without drawing attention. He couldn't imagine how this looked, trying to subtly pry a girl off of him, and he internally laughed at himself for always desiring this kind of situation to happen to him - the only difference was in Roger World he loved it, and here, in the Real World, he couldn't think of a less desirable situation to be in.
Or could he?
His eyes shot up, wide, hoping desperately that Murphy's Law wasn't out to curse him again, but it was too late.
Madeline was standing there, picturesque through the glass doorway, slack-jawed and wide-eyed as she looked on in shock. They locked eyes for a split second, after which she immediately took off down the sidewalk, leaving Roger flailing and floundering in the vice-grip hold of Laura.
He shoved her off. He felt bad, momentarily, before panic set in. Pushing through the door with such force that he stumbled badly onto the sidewalk outside, he took off after Madeline, carelessly pushing past groups of people who would angrily tell him to fuck off. He didn't care.
He caught glimpses of her here and there just as he was sure he'd lost sight of her, her dark hair waving behind her, the soundscape of a busy downtown night intermingling with the barely-audible sound of crying. She was a good half-block ahead of him now. He zipped his worn leather jacket up all the way to the collar and mentally cursed his clunky and slow platforms as he continued to speed after her.
In spite of his efforts, he was struggling to catch up; in all actuality, he was beginning to slow. His lungs screamed for rest while his legs continued to work beneath him. He wasn't gonna let her get away, not without an explanation, and he damn sure wasn't gonna let her hurt.
But he'd fallen too far behind. It had been an increasingly long amount of time, in his perception, that he'd seen her.
"Fuck", he breathed to himself, looking around frantically for any trace of her. Nothing.
He stopped running, doubling over in the cold to cough his lungs out. He looked up, dazed, eyes desperate to find her.
"Madeline!" He shouted, but it felt as if he didn't make a sound. No one walking the streets even turned to look at him.
"MADELINE!" He tried again, the sudden force of air through his lungs in the cold causing him to break into a coughing fit once again.
Defeated from his lack of response, he leaned against the nearest building and reached into his jacket pocket. Lighting a cigarette, he gazed towards the sky. A single snowflake drifted down towards him and he sighed. He always managed to fuck everything up, even without any effort. Now he was stranded, alone, and he'd let Madeline get away, despite his best efforts.
That was what hurt the most. He couldn't protect her from his fucked up life. He hurt her. His playboy past had caught up to him only to hurt the only girl he'd ever cared about.
What the fuck was he gonna do now?
"That must be him coming up the stairs." Freddie rolled his eyes, crossing his legs on the tacky couch. "Bri, what do you think the odds are on him being plaster-"
Roger crashed through the door, shivering, visibly shaken and dazed. The door smacked against the wall and rebounded onto Roger's shoulder, causing him to stumble. Brian immediately leapt from his spot next to the radiator and caught Roger as he nearly fell to the floor.
"Holy shit, he's freezing", Brian mumbled. "Fred, I need you to get some blankets out of the closet."
Freddie stood, eyes wide in shock. "Is he okay-"
"Fred. Blankets. Go."
Freddie leapt to action, immediately returning with an arm full of most of the blankets in the house, which he piled on top of Roger as soon as Brian had him sat next to the radiator. Roger's teeth chattered as Brian rubbed his hands up and down the sides of Roger's arms with vigor. Brian frowned, brow knitted in thought.
"Freddie, start a kettle, would ya?"
Freddie purposefully bound into the kitchen, tentatively messing with the dials on the stovetop, twisting and turning the knobs until the fire enthusiastically rose on the burner in front of him, causing him to quietly shriek and jump backwards. He carefully placed the kettle full of water onto the stove, and, decidedly proud of himself, yelled over to Brian.
"Bri! I did it! I got the stove-thing to work!"
Brian sighed, turning to popsicle Roger.
"Rog? Are you okay? What's happened?"
Roger's teeth chattered away, his big blue eyes searching Brian's face for words.
"Yeah mate", he managed to force out in between chatters, "I'm just fucked up."
"You're drunk?" Brian looked puzzled. "You don't seem dr-"
"No, no, not drunk", Roger spat out quietly. "Just fucked up. Y'know, as a person. In general. I'm fucked up." Roger's eyes began to well up as he stared intently at the floor, hoping it would suddenly cave in and swallow him whole.
Brian looked at Roger with sad eyes, about to open his mouth to say something, when Freddie interrupted.
"Bri! Brian! The water is bubbling, is it supposed to do that?"
Brian sighed. "Rog, what happened?"
"Laura was at the bar", Roger began, and Freddie, who was watching the kettle like a hawk, left his post in the kitchen at the mention of her name.
Roger continued. "She saw me there with Madeline and she fucking kissed me. She kissed me, Brian, knowing full and well that Madeline could see."
"Fuck", Freddie mumbled under his breath. "What'd she do?"
"She took off", Roger mumbled in a monotone voice. "I tried to catch up but she got away and I have no idea where she went and I'm just fucked up. Just fucked up."
Tears began to fall and Roger buried his head in his arm, angrily wiping them away.
Brian looked at Freddie, sighed and shrugged, and turned back towards Roger.
"Rog, how did you get home?"
Roger sniffled and shrugged. "Walked."
Brian frowned. "From?"
"Bloody hell, no wonder you're shiver-"
"What do I do, guys?"
Brian and Freddie looked on, unsure of how to answer Roger's desperate plea, seeing as they'd never had to deal with this kind of incident with Roger. He'd usually just shrug this kind of situation off, but now, an emotional Roger shivering in front of them was just as much as a shock to them as it was to Roger himself.
"What do I do?"
Chapter 16: She Plays Guitar and Cries and Sings
That little lyric is mine so please don't steal it :p
"I'm gonna kick his ass."
"No you're not, Stel."
"I do what I want!"
Stella returned to her spot on the floor next to Madeline, pouring extra whiskey into Madeline's piping hot tea. Madeline noticed the whiskey far too late and shooed her friend's hand away, wiping away another tear threatening to trail down her face.
Stella sighed. "I should've listened to you." She gently tucked Madeline's dark and messy hair behind her ear, gazing into her friend's eyes. "I'm sorry, love."
"No, don't apologize, Stel", Madeline choked out, closing her eyes and frowning. "Neither of us saw this coming."
Madeline let her vision blur with tears as she absent-mindlessly watched the snow fall softly outside her window. Stella looked on at Madeline and sighed, defeated, wrapping an arm around Madeline's shoulders, squeezing her close. Concern in her eyes, she look at Madeline and gently smiled.
"Pretty please, can I beat him up?"
"You're right, he doesn't deserve to be graced with my presence."
"Or your right hook." Madeline wiped a tear away and placed her head on Stella's shoulder. "Remember Johnny Masterson?"
Stella chuckled heartily. "Yeah, remember the absolute grapefruit I replaced his eye with when he called you a cunt?"
Madeline smiled. "How could I forget? That thing was purple for weeks. It got so swollen I thought it'd sprout legs and start walking on its own."
Stella grinned, proud of her past accomplishments.
"Listen, Mads, seriously. I know you don't want me to beat him up, but if you need anything, please call."
Madeline sighed. "I think I just need to cry alone for a little bit."
Stella nodded, getting up from her spot on the floor and slipping on her jacket. "I know. That's why I mentioned it."
Madeline smiled. "I'm so lucky to have you, dude."
Stella winked. "I know."
She slipped on her snow boots, buttoning her jacket up tightly. Just before closing the door behind her, Stella popped her head in the doorway, warily eyeing Madeline on the floor. "Seriously though, Mads-"
"Alright, alright, I'll call. Promise."
Stella smiled and gently shut the door behind her, leaving Madeline engrossed in a deafening silence, the snow somehow making her apartment seem smaller. She scratched at the floor and the cat came running, rubbing his head into her fingers. She sighed and scratched at the cat's shoulder blades, wondering what her next step was.
She eyeballed her bed in the next room.
Crying and sleeping it is.
Stella started down the sidewalk after slowly conquering the slippery steps of Madeline's stoop, headed in the direction of her own flat, which conveniently was only about a quarter of a mile away. She frowned into the fat snowflakes as they made their imprint on her glasses, rendering her about as visually impaired as she usually was without them. Annoyed, she peeled them off and stuffed them into her jacket pocket as she stared down at the sidewalk, the old familiar path to her flat from Madeline's thankfully memorized, because - quite frankly - she couldn't see shit.
This was further proven with a hard smack into a passerby as she turned a sharp corner, her glasses flying out of her pocket and onto the cold dirty ground, her ass hitting the pavement, hard. Apologizing profusely, Stella cringed as her glasses (now covered in wet snow and soggy mud) were returned to her by a gloved hand which quickly extended itself to help her up. Snow in her eyes, she grasped onto the barely-visible hand and hoisted herself upright again, brushing off dirt and snow from the seat of her pants.
"You okay, miss? Quite a hard landing there-"
She froze. She may be blind as shit but she recognized that voice, with its familiar rasp and characteristic sing-song quality.
She may be be blind as shit, but she still swung.
And missed, wildly. She spun around, hard, feet lacking traction in the snow, and Roger caught her, preventing her from hitting the ground a second time.
"Get your fucking hands off me-"
"What the f- Stella? Is that you?"
She struggled against him, eventually fighting free of Roger's grasp, which admittedly wasn't that strong against her. "Yeah, it's me, and you're-"
"I'm on my way over to Madeline's-"
"Like hell you are, don't you go near her-"
She tried to stop him with her body, acting as a human shield - but with how slippery the sidewalk was, she merely slid when he gently pushed against her.
"Stella, what the fuck are you doing?"
"You need to leave her alone, Roger-"
"Why the fuck would I do that?"
"You know what you did-"
"It didn't happen like you think it did!"
At this point, they had both lost their traction and were struggling against each other, quietly grunting as each tried to stop the other. Roger was the first to give up, leaning against the building next to him, sighing in defeat as he lit a cigarette. Stella frowned, disdain still bubbling inside of her, but she quite couldn't deny her curiosity.
"You gonna explain that?" She lit her own cigarette, breath slightly heavy from the past couple of minutes.
"Only if you'll actually listen", he countered, flipping the hood on his jacket to cover his hair. He nodded to a café across the street, its lights and coziness inviting out in the bitterly cold snow. "Have time for a cuppa?"
"Jeez, who is this Laura chick, anyway?" Stella rubbed her hands together near the fireplace, desperate for warmth. She sipped her tea and frowned. "And why should I believe you?"
"Because I have no reason to lie to you", Roger said, slightly defeated. "You wouldn't believe me either way, so I have no reason to tell you lies."
Stella considered Roger's words carefully, studying the steam rising off of the tea in her cup. "You didn't answer my first question."
Roger took his time, carefully considering every word. "Laura is... a girl I met. She's from my past, back when I was... not so picky about the kind of girl I was seeing." He hesitated. "When I met Madeline, I may or may not have just dropped Laura cold. It wasn't the best decision of my life... obviously..." he chuckled darkly at himself, a disgusted look flashing across his face before he continued. "It wasn't the right thing to do, and it came back to bite me in the ass."
He looked up and studied Stella's face, who was still deep in thought, staring at her steaming tea with a gentle intensity. With no response from her, he continued.
"That's how I used to be. I'm not like that now. Not anymore. Not since Madeline."
He studied her face once more, his small desperation now budding its little head. "Stella?"
She looked up, slightly dazed, and met his eyes. She felt such sadness in them, unsure how to help.
"What do I do, Stella? How do I fix this?"
She frowned, staring down at her still-freezing hands, and sighed.
"It's not gonna be easy, Roger", she began, matter-of-factly. "And she's gonna kill me if she finds out. But..."
She sighed and closed her eyes.
"I suppose I could help."
She strummed a thick chord, her amp behind her pushing the sound through the packed bar, Dave behind her wailing on the cymbals so intensely she was sure the reverberation inside of her head would cause it to split wide open. Sweat dripped down the side of her face and into her mouth as she let the last lyric of the night rip through her vocal cords, all the pain and beauty of it was sure to make her heart burst open too.
"Can you take from me, your filthy ways from me?"
She swung around, hair too matted to her forehead to swing with her. She held her hand up into a fist, signaling to the rest of the band to cease, and she gave a final wave to the audience.
They were going apeshit. She'd never seen a response like that.
Maybe heartbreak really was a catalyst for creating above-average music.
She smiled warmly at the crowd, turning around briefly to see the reaction on the rest of the band's faces, and of course they were just as in love with it as she was.
Waving, she walked off stage, briefly handing her guitar to Dave as she piled on her winter coat. She reclaimed the guitar and placed it lovingly into its worn case, smiling as she closed it.
"Hey guys, I'm gonna pop outside for a quick smoke", she said, buttoning up the coat and pulling out a pack of cigs. "I really need the air."
Pushing out the back door to the pub, the cold air instantly felt amazing against her overheated skin, she lit her cigarette. She exhaled deeply, head resting against the cool brick, and watched as her fans - could she call them fans? - filed past the alley she was smoking in. She smiled to herself, unable to believe the growing following the Spiders had gained. She only wished a certain someone had been there to witness it...
And in the hazy orange hue of a nearby streetlamp, she swore she saw Freddie walk by - with a blonde drummer in tow.
Chapter 17: I Carry On Through Stormy Skies
"Yeah, we're gonna be headed down to the pub in a min", Stella said, her voice so low she realized Freddie probably couldn't hear her.
And indeed he couldn't. "Darling, I know you're trying to be incognito, but I can't hear a fucking word you're-"
"I said", Stella started, slight frustration biting at her words, "we're gonna be headed down to the pub in a min." She nervously looked around to Madeline sitting on the couch - she was thankfully totally oblivious to Stella's sneaky planning as she munched on pizza crust while scribbling down her thousandth psychology term for the night.
Freddie could barely contain his snickering. "Can you give me an actual estimation of time, dear? Sitting at a bar by myself isn't exactly gonna get us famous-"
"For fuck's sake, Freddie", Stella whispered. "I'm not 100 percent sure... she looks about five minutes away from throwing her psyche book out her window again, so... 20 minutes?"
"So would you say you're 80 percent sure on the 20 minute estimation? 75?"
Stella frowned, pinching the bridge of her nose between index finger and thumb. "95. 95 percent sure."
"Stel", Madeline called, mouth slightly muffled by the half chewed pizza in her mouth. "Get off the phone with Dave already, I get that you're frustrated you haven't fucked in days but we have psyche shit to do-"
"Oi, shaddap, you little shit!"
"Pardon?" Freddie giggled, and Stella swore she could hear him covering his teeth through the phone.
"You shut up too. We'll meet you there soon. Oh", Stella exclaimed before lowering her volume, "do me a favor and ring Dave. You know, since she thinks it's him we're actually meeting up with."
"Good call, since apparently you guys haven't fucked in d-"
She slammed the phone down, mentally cursing herself for promising to help Roger and the massive headache it was causing. Walking back over to the couch, she eyeballed a clearly frustrated Madeline, who was desperately massaging her temples while re-reading the same line in her textbook over and over again.
"Hey Mads, I have an idea", Stella started, sliding herself onto the arm of the couch. "Since you look like you're seconds away from throwing that damn thing out the window-"
"Better than the fucking roof-"
"...Right. Anyway, uh, I was thinking, maybe we should grab a few pints, you know, to blow off some steam?"
"Stel, the exam is tomorrow-"
"-And you're gonna be worthless at it if you blow another brain cell over that damn book." Stella sighed. Was it working? "You look like you're about to bore holes through your temples. Quit that."
Madeline continued to massage her temples, frowning. "I can't quit, Stel. If I do, I'm gonna throw this book out the fucking window again-"
"Alright, alright, c'mon." She grabbed a hold of Madeline's arm and was delighted to find she didn't offer up a fight. "You need a beer."
"I need ten beers, Stel", Madeline started, pulling her nearby black sweatshirt over her head. "That way I won't throw that fucking book out the-"
"Yes, yes, we're going, let's go."
Madeline slammed her fifth pint glass down on the table, holding her hand in front of her mouth, attempting to mask a stout belch rising from her chest.
Stella burst out laughing while Madeline turned a bright pink, grinning on in both embarrassment and pride.
"C'mon now, Dave, don't fall too far behind-"
"Mads, you bloody well know I can't keep up with you", he said, swilling the remaining half of his fourth pint in front of her face. "Remember last month? Stel's birthday party?"
"Of course I do", Madeline hiccuped, "I'm the one who had to clean up that m-FREDDIE?!"
Madeline promptly leapt from her chair, nearly knocking Stella over as she raced through the pub to greet a white feather boa wielding Freddie, his black satin bell bottoms and matching shirt darkly shining in the dim pub lighting.
"Absolutely lovely to see you, darling! didn't expect to see you here", Freddie said, winking at Stella from across the bar as he tried to breathe through Madeline's vice grip hug.
"Oh my god, what're you doing here? Come sit with us!"
"Yes, yes! Of course, dear."
She led Freddie back to the group perch in the back of the pub and immediately held up four fingers to the bartender. He shortly returned with four pints.
"NO! Nonono, you can't possibly think that-"
"Freddie, I-I sawr what I saw-" Madeline let out a huge hiccup, drunkenly tucking her dark hair behind her ear, only for a strong gust of late-autumn wind to catch it again and toss it playfully in the air, and into Freddie's mouth.
He helplessly slapped at his lips, making a fantastically uncomfortable frown until he pulled the errant strands out and away. "Do you honestly think he would-"
"I DON'T KNOW!"
Freddie's eyebrows shot up as high as the sky she was shouting at. Putting an arm around her shoulder, he softly guided her back towards the entrance to the pub as he put both of their cigarettes out.
"Just give him the benefit of the doubt, Mads. That's all, that's it. Just the benefit of the doubt."
She stopped walking and looked up at him, eyes welling with tears, frowning helplessly at him.
"I thought- or well, I maybe had the feeling that, or maybe just the idea that maybe h-he loved me-"
Freddie squeezed her tight in his arms, her fresh tears spilling down his satin shirt, and for once he didn't care. He needed to fix Roger's fuckup - well, not even truly a fuckup, he thought, just another classic Taylor Female Misunderstanding Incident. He called it a TFMI for short.
"Madeline, don't quote me on this, but I think he might", Freddie whispered, still holding her as the dark wind blew against the two of them. "That's why I don't think he meant to harm you."
She held on to Freddie as people filed in and out of the pub, shuffling by the two of them, and a thought filled her being. Well, it wasn't so much a thought as it was a feeling, a purpose, an intention. She knew what she had to do next, and she knew she had to get it right. The image of Roger walking by the alleyway that night filled her headspace like a massive movie screen and she sighed heavily into Freddie's shoulder.
"Alright. I'll do it."
Freddie ceased his embrace and smiled widely at Madeline, his eyes thanking her with a warm twinkle. He held her hand tightly and opened the door into the pub open for her. She glanced across the road at the incognito studio where Roger had brought her and a for the second time that evening, a thought - or feeling - crossed her mind.
"Hey Fred, when's your next show?"
He paused. "Oh fuck, uh... oh, Wednesday. Here, actually."
Her tears dried by the brisk wind, she blinked into the night with clarity. She nodded at Freddie and stepped inside, ready to join her friends in the pub, and ready to start finding her way back to Roger.
Chapter 18: Ten Feet Tall
Madeline combed through everything in her closet for the fifth time that evening, the frown on her face carving darker and darker lines as she got more and more frustrated.
"FUCK!", she called to the rest of the apartment, although she was sure passersby on the street could hear as well. It was one of those rare late-autumn days that actually allowed for an open window as the sun cast its magic glow on everything in the small apartment, lining her pulled-back lace curtains with gold.
Stella removed her feet from the windowsill, red nail polish catching the sun and seeming to glow. Humming along to the Hendrix song playing on the radio, she put out her cigarette in the window-side ashtray and padded gently into Madeline's room.
"You good, Mads?"
"I can't fucking find anything to bloody wear", she hissed through frustrated teeth, defeat causing a tightness in her voice. She stepped back and nervously fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt as Stella tried her hand at pulling something out; Stella always had a knack of picking outfits and creating them by pieces that, in theory, should never go together, which both annoyed and inspired Madeline.
But today, instead of mixing and matching colors and styles and patterns, she pulled out a slinky, short black dress, adorned with black sequins and lace trim. It was easily the most expensive, most sophisticated dress that Madeline owned, which is exactly why she didn't want to wear it.
"Stel... you know my nan gave that dress to me. It's worth more than this flat-"
"Which is exactly why you're wearing it-"
"To a rock show, Stel? I'll stand out like a sore thumb-"
"Which is exactly the point, isn't it? We want him to notice you, don't we?"
Madeline sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers. Frowning, she took the dress off the hanger as Stella nodded sternly and left the room.
Madeline nervously pulled the long lace sleeves of the dress into her fists, anxiety taking over as herself and Stella rounded the corner to the venue, only to stop dead in their tracks and stare.
"I don't think I've ever seen this many people at a Queen show, Mads..."
Madeline nodded, wide eyes peering up at the marquee's flashing lights, adorning QUEEN in large black letters. In smaller letters underneath, a 'sold out' sign was stuck to the bottom of the marquee, something she herself wished to see underneath her band's name someday. She imagined Roger's excitement, bubbling at the chance to tell people they'd finally sold out a show, and she smiled softly to herself.
Madeline and Stella sighed and began walking towards the back of the never-ending line, which was wrapped around the back of the venue and through the adjoining alleyway. On their seemingly lengthy journey through the alleyway itself, there were several singing and giggling groups of Queenies huddled together and saying naughty things about Freddie; things that Freddie, Madeline thought, would find positively filthy and hilarious. She made a mental note to tell him later.
After what felt like hours watching more and more people filing to the back of the line, now a good 50 feet behind them, Madeline and Stella shared a series of exasperated sighs and grunts as they each looked at their watches every couple of minutes. The sunset started to turn into twilight, which left most of the crowd shivering; Madeline was no exception, as she drearily eyeballed Stella in her warm winter jacket.
"What?" Stella smirked, pulling the hood over her head. "I'm just as scantily dressed as you are, I just decided to bring a coat."
Stella checked her bright red lipstick in her compact mirror, touched it up carefully and spun around as she closed it suddenly.
Madeline frowned. "Wh-?"
"The line is moving!"
And it was moving quickly. The pair practically jogged in their platforms to keep up with the rest of the line, which was disappearing around the alleyway corner and back onto the main sidewalk. Following the squealing Queenies in front of them, they jogged up the stairs to the front doors of the venue and presented their tickets to the burly doorman, who then nodded and let them pass through the corridor.
Linking arms as they cleared the door, suddenly inundated with the classic and unforgettable feeling of being at a rock show, Stella pulled Madeline towards the bar, shedding her coat to reveal a black miniskirt with suspenders attached and over the shoulders of a lilac-sequined crop top, peroxide blonde hair practically glowing in the blue light. Madeline had to admit, the two of them looked hot tonight.
Madeline fidgeted with her hair as Stella waved down the bartender, handing him her coat and giving him a hug. Drinks in hand, soon they were back up and through the crowd, fighting for space in the middle of the room where Madeline was trying not to be too conspicuous.
"Nigel, he works here now, I guess", Stella said, nodding towards the bar. "He hooked us up! I didn't even have to pay for these."
Madeline grunted into her beer, eyeing the stage nervously.
"Is there an opener?"
"No", Madeline responded, voice as distant as she was.
"And what time do they go on?"
"What time is it n-"
Stella frowned as she studied Madeline's face, green eyes still fixated on what Stella guessed was Roger's drum kit. Rubbing her friend's back, she briefly thought of something to say and leaned into Madeline's dark hair to whisper into her ear.
"Hey... try to have fun tonight, okay? We're here to fix this, but we're also here to have fun, too." Stella elbowed Madeline's side gently and threw her hand around Madeline's shoulder, bringing her into a tight hug. "And down that fucking beer, I'm grabbing us two more a piece to chug. WE'RE AT A ROCK SHOW, BABY!" She threw her hands up in the air and did a little dance as several nearby people heard her last sentence and cheered heavily.
Madeline grinned as she watched Stella disappear into the crowd, suddenly filled with gratefulness at having such a fantastic best friend. She fidgeted with the lace on her long sleeves, studying the intricate pattern on her palm, anxious for Stella to return so she could effectively steer her thoughts away from the stage and away from Roger's kit, at least until the band started.
She was knocked out of her staring contest with Roger's bass drum when Stella arrived minutes later, four plastic cups filled to the brim with foaming beer, unbelievably impressed with Stella's ability to carry four cups at once.
"I waited tables during summer break", Stella said, impatiently smiling at Madeline. "Now grab one, will ya? We've got five minutes to chug these and you know how I feel about wasting perfectly good alcohol."
They knocked their cups together, foam flying in every direction, and chugged with all their might. Despite finishing at roughly the same time, Madeline clutched her stomach as Stella started in on her second. At that moment, the house lights were lowered and the lilac stage lights illuminated the entire venue, a deep roar coming from what felt like underneath their feet. It felt like a volcano was about to erupt, and as Madeline and Stella exchanged excited and nervous glances, the lilac lights turned to a dark and menacing green. Knowing what was to come, Madeline put the beer to her lips and chugged with all her might, thankfully finishing as Brian's guitar ripped into the crowd with a mean riff. Roger and John joined in shortly after, the entire band working at an impossible pace, until Roger let out a scream.
The entire place fell silent. Roger's cymbals were stopped with precise hands as the entire venue went dark, the boys silently unwavering, until a black satin jumpsuit-clad Freddie waltzed out on stage, rhinestones flickering in the spotlight.
"Now once upon a time, an old man told me a fable..."
Madeline looked around, empty plastic cup still in hand. The entire crowd, even Stella, were staring so intently at Freddie that she was sure he was some kind of ethereal being, moving effortlessly around the stage, singing to a crowd of people although it felt like he was singing to each person individually. She'd never seen anything like it, not even at the last Queen show she attended. Freddie was getting stronger.
Madeline was so entranced with Freddie's impressive stage presence that she didn't even notice the blonde drummer staring intently at her until Stella dug her elbow into Madeline's ribs.
"Ow, what the f-"
She ripped her eyes from Freddie and, hesitantly, gazed in the same direction as the previously unoccupied drum kit. She was nearly knocked off her feet when she saw, even in the dark green hue the stage lights were casting across his face, two dreamy blue eyes tracing her every move, a mixture of disbelief and bewilderment dancing across his face.
She liked the way he looked at her, she admitted to herself. Especially like that.
Suddenly, the band came to a halt, Roger's cymbals ringing in her ears with each smash of his drumsticks.
"I! WANT! YOU!"
The groove was absolutely filthy. Madeline and Stella couldn't help but dance as Brian's raunchy-dark riff went slithering through the crowd and seemed to have a similar effect on the rest of the concert-goers. Glancing up at the stage, Madeline was sure her dancing was having the same effect on Roger, and she was suddenly very confident in Stella's decision to make her wear the black dress. She felt amazing in it, its unforgiving fabric clinging to her as the combined body heat of everyone in the bar made the entire place feel like a sauna.
"What'll you do for lovin' when it's only just begun?"
"I! WANT! YOU!"
Freddie paused, back to the crowd, one hand perched on his hip. Suddenly, he whipped around, half-microphone stand clutched in his hands. Almost comically, he held out his hand, gesturing to the audience.
"Well, what's next?"
Madeline giggled. The way Freddie was teasing the crowd was just what they wanted, and it showed when nearly everyone in the bar shouted "TO BE A WOMAN!" at him, something Madeline was sure Freddie absolutely wanted shouted at him in the first place, especially given his massive grin quickly hidden behind teeth-covering lips.
"I want you to be a woman, yeah." He slinked off the stage, leaving Brian, Roger, and John to pound out an impossible rhythm, shaking the entire place with fervor.
Madeline and Stella danced to their hearts' content, sweat dripping down their skin, side by side, shaking their heads to the music. By this time, Madeline and Roger had practically started a telepathic conversation between the two of them, playing a game of avoiding eye contact and indulging in it all the same.
Madeline found it intoxicating. She knew he was watching her even with her eyes sealed shut, knee deep in Brian's guitar solo, feeling like there wasn't anyone else in the room - just her, and the fantastic music engulfing her being. She realized, then and there, that she'd seemed to have forgotten exactly why she found Roger attractive in the first place - it wasn't the charm, or the looks, or even the idea of being with a drummer - it was the musicality itself. She could feel his presence and personality in the music, driving it, pushing it forward. And she knew it, no, she felt it, calling to her.
She also felt her bladder calling to her. Angrily.
It had easily been an hour since she chugged those three beers, and with the set winding down to a close, she knew there would be a mad dash for the loo the second the band left the stage. She shot a glance at Stella, who had obviously caught on as well to the loo situation and was stood there making obscene and hilarious hand gestures over the music to Madeline. Laughing and swaying, they headed for the restrooms with arms linked, and as they bound into the ladies' room through the small black hallway, Madeline clung to the sink as Stella went straight for the solitary stall.
"Getting in here early was a fucking brilliant idea", Madeline said, her voice echoing in the small confines of the tattered and graffiti'd bathroom, different shades of nail polish dripped all over the off-white sink. She peered into the stickered mirror in front of her and grinned goofily at herself, still slightly tipsy. Carefully inspecting her usual dark red lipstick and deciding to leave her terribly smudged eyeliner for fear of smearing it more, she ran the cold water in the sink and, rolling up the lace sleeves on her dress as carefully as possible, began patting her cool, damp hands on her back and chest.
"And it's so fucking hot in there", Stella quipped from inside the stall, as if she were reading Madeline's mind. "...In more ways than one."
"You two, making eyes at each other-"
"THANK YOU! GOODNIGHT!"
Freddie's voice cut across the building and, as Stella burst out of the stall, the pair of them stared at each other in disbelief - no encore?
"What the fuck, they're done-?"
"Shit. Hurry up and go, Mads", Stella said, shoving a confused Madeline into the stall. "We're about to be ambushed-"
And, as if on cue, the door to the restroom slammed open and smacked against the adjoining wall, revealing a quickly forming line around the corner and through the small hallway.
"Mads, I'll meet you by the bar", Stella shouted over the commotion.
Finishing up her business, she reached behind her and began to zip up the black dress, its fabric clinging to her damp skin as she wriggled every which way to get the dress to cooperate. As she succeeded and turned to disengage the lock on the stall, she immediately paused, hearing what the girls in line were saying.
"-it didn't look totally destroyed, but he did-"
"-yeah, I wonder what the fuck happened-"
"-I think they did it on purpose, I mean, it was a hell of a show-"
"-well, true, but they aren't well off, are they? Can they afford to smash a drum kit?"
Madeline froze, bewilderment written all over her face. Roger smashed his kit?! What the fuck happened?!
She burst out of the stall, completely neglecting to wash her hands, and began issuing apologies left and right to the girls she was shoving past, who didn't seem entirely happy about being squished against a dirty bar restroom wall. Clear of the massive line, she began making her way towards the bar, eyes darting back and forth for any sign of Stella, but was stopped in her tracks by a gentle hand on her shoulder.
She spun around. It was John, and stood next to him was Stella, wringing her hands nervously.
"Mads", Stella began, eyes wide with concern. "Roger-"
"-trashed his kit", Madeline interrupted, walking slowly towards the stage. Her eyes traced over splintered wood and overturned cymbals, microphone cables tangled in the remnants. Frowning, she stepped towards John, eyes searching his face for any explanation.
Unfortunately, he didn't have one.
"He said nothing as he stormed off", John said, frowning at the floor. "The others are mad. Brian wants to kick him out of the band, but I think that's just because Rog hurled a stick at his head and it got stuck in his hair-"
Stella masked a laugh behind her fist, quickly turning it into a cough as her eyes widened at the sight of Brian striding towards them.
"We're leaving this shit here", Brian said, ignoring the presence of the others and speaking sternly to John. "If you need a ride, we're leaving now. I'm not sticking around long enough to see that blonde wanker show his face-"
"Alright, alright. Let me load the amp and we'll go-"
Brian turned to leave before John even finished his sentence, leaving the three of them standing there looking incredibly defeated.
"Madeline", John started, his kind eyes searching her face. He paused, brows furrowed together, trying to string together the right combination of words. Sighing, he placed a hand on her shoulder for the second time that night, giving it a light squeeze.
"Please fix this."
"But I don't-"
"Yes you do."
He gently smiled and turned to go, rushing to help a scrawny and pissy Brian push the massive bass amp through the back door and into the back of the van. They slammed the van doors shut and Brian climbed behind the wheel, John hastily opening the passenger door and climbing in beside him. Freddie was nowhere to be found, at least at the moment.
"I don't even know where the fuck he is", she called after the van, jogging into the alleyway after it as it sped away and around the corner, hopping the curb onto the main road and into the night.
She heard movement behind her and she whipped around to see Stella beginning to follow her through the back door, careful not to step on any pieces of drum kit. Running her hands through her hair, Madeline sighed, puffing her cheeks out at the blustery sky. Her breath trailed away, the thin vapor giving way to the cold air, primed perfectly for what felt like a snow storm brewing above. Madeline rubbed her hands against her goosebumped arms as Stella reached into her coat pocket, hastily procuring two cigarettes and a lighter.
Stella lit hers and inhaled, handing the lighter to Madeline.
"I've just spoken to Nigel", Stella started, looking up at the swirling clouds above. "He said he's closing the bar early. Well, what they consider early", she continued, frowning at Madeline's inability to light her cigarette in the brisk wind. "It is, after all, almost midnight-"
"Shit, seriously?" Madeline braced her back against the wind, attempting to light her cigarette once more. "It doesn't feel that late."
"Right? Anyway, he said he's gonna leave the kit there and Roger can come get it whenever he wants to in the morning."
Madeline tried, this time, attempting a diagonal approach to the wind, using her free hand to block it from the delicate flame, but it was no luck. Her thumb was painful from attempting to use a lighter in the cold. She grunted in frustration at Stella, who shot her a sympathetic look and giggled.
Madeline spun around, wide-eyed and face quickly becoming void of any color whatsoever. She knew that voice.
Coming down the stairs from the adjacent rooftop was a ragged and worn Roger.