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Saggy sofas and questionable taste

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Ugh. John was sat on the saggy old sofa of his favourite coffee shop looking upon his friends in dismay. Why on earth had he told them he was single. I mean they would've eventually found out that him and Cynthia had broken up- it had already been about two months- but he just didn't tell anyone straight away. Yet here he sat on the saggy old sofa of his favourite coffee shop pretending to be interested in Georgia’s latest sexual conquest and George’s latest plan to make the whole world vegan.

“John?” Both of them were looking at him expectantly. He just stared at them, slightly dazed, until George spoke up.

“We’re gonna set ya up with someone new!” George said excitedly. His eyes crinkled from grinning mischievously. John wanted to groan, a really loud groan that would hopefully show how desperate he was for his two friends not to do that. Ever. But he knew that he would never be able to convey that much feeling into a groan so instead he sat up in the sofa and simply said no.

Georgia of course was already going through her contacts and blatantly ignored John. The glare of her phone screen was reflected in her dark eyes. She Was sat crossed legs in a dark grey bean bag opposite John.

“How about Penny? She's a laugh and I’m sure she’d keep you on your toes,” she said looking up at George for consultation.

“Isn't Penny with Rita now though?” George asked looking at his best friend. His lips moved to the side in a sort of pout and his eyes looked down at the coffee table in front of him. It was obvious that he, much like Georgia had thought Penny would've been a good fit for John.

“Oh yeah I forgot about that.” Georgia said, looking back down and continuing to scroll through her phone. Her dismissive tone put John on edge, he really didn't like where his friends were heading with this. He began looking around the shop, he had been there many times before, he loved how there were shelves of books and records lining the walls, the ceiling was covered in disks sort of like a fish scale kind of pattern.

“Oooooh! I've got the perfect guy!!! He's tall, blonde and most definitely available!” Georgia turned her head to John expectantly. It was as if she was the host of some cheesy show that he and Cynthia used to watch together, laughing at all the stupid people who participated.

John hadn't been with a guy since the start of college and even then it had ended after about four months because the other man decided he only liked girls after all. It hadn't gone well anyway, John shuddered just thinking about it. Soon after he had met Cynthia anyway.

He began staring at the door at the far end of the shop trying to plan an escape. Maybe...

A man rushed through the door and quickly ducked under the counter and began to unbutton his long Sherlock-style coat. John was staring at him in fascination as the manager, quite obviously pissed off with the man began talking to him. The man looked down at the floor, carefully not meeting the managers eyes. He looked to be a similar age to John, with messy brown hair, a light chocolatey kind of colour.

John looked at his friends who seemed to be content messaging some person on Georgia’s phone. John could only hope that it wasn't to ask someone to go on a date with him whilst he got up to order himself another coffee. He shuddered at the thought, whilst he clambered off of the sofa.

Once at the counter the man asked for his order, he looked to be of a similar height to John but had a sort of baby face that made him look kind of extremely adorable. John wondered how his manager could ever be mad at him when he had such an adorable face. He then quickly decided it was rather inappropriate to be thinking about his server’s adorable face no matter how utterly cute it was and chose to think of what to order instead. He looked at the menu painted above his head, it had began to peel away but was still readable, mostly.

“One medium black coffee, please.” He said before quickly changing his mind, “ actually if it wouldn't be a problem could I please change that to a herbal tea with honey, the herbal teas here are just wonderfully splendid .” John could have smacked himself. Wonderfully splendid???? How much of a snobby idiot did that make him look; he cursed himself inwardly. Fortunately, at that point Georgia reached the counter as well. He hoped his friend would save him from his path to self destruction from imploding of idioticness. Was that even a word?

“Paul!” She said rather enthusiastically the man with the adorable face turned around from the kettle to greet her, smiling when he saw her face. He looked good when he smiled, it was a cheeky sort of grin. It made him look younger.

“Georgia! I never see you in here, do you want anything to drink?” He said still smiling.

“Oh no, I’ve already got a coffee back at the table. It was my friend John who picked the place apparently it's his favourite- he said the herbal teas were good. Anyway, how are you?” Georgia was being strangely reserved in front of Paul. John didn't think he'd seen her like this, maybe they were old friends? or lovers? He grimaced inwardly at the thought- but then again he had met some of Georgia's ‘partners’ and none of them seemed like Paul. He had a sort of naive touch to him.

“I'm fine thank you, Brian my manager seems a bit mad at me being late,” Paul shrugged turning back around to make John’s tea. He was wearing an off-white shirt tucked into a pair of khaki trousers.

“Aww that's a shame honey bun, anyway are you still single?” Georgia said with her eyes twinkling. She was being very straightforward even by her standards; mind you John didn't really think she was looking for herself. He already looked apprehensive debating whether to wait for his tea to be handed to him or to just bolt out the door now and save himself the embarrassment which he was sure was to come. He decided to wait for the tea. The tea was wonderfully splendid. He felt like an idiot.

Paul turned around with John’s tea in his hand. He looked at Georgia with a slightly confused look but answered her question nevertheless.

“Yes,” a slight frown on his face as he said it, John wondered why. Paul placed the tea down on the dark painted wooden counter, it was in a large mug. Fortunately, even though it was a hipster coffee shop they did actually seem to make all drinks normally and not separate the ingredients for some unknown reason.

Georgia gave John a not at all subtle wink before turning back to face Paul. John could tell that this wasn't going to be good. His face had already began to heat up. To make matters worse George decided to come over to see what was taking so long.

“Waddup, I'm George.” The man said whilst holding out his hand, Paul shook it firmly

“Hello I’m Paul.” He sounded rather British, like the queen’s English, it was rather refreshing.

“I was just asking Paul here if he was still single, you see Paul one of our best friends is single and I'm almost certain you'd be perfect together.” Georgia grinned and looked like she was very proud of herself. John cursed at her in his head and gave her a death glare.

“He's ma husband’s best mate though not mine, am just here to help get him laid,” George said brushing his hand through his messy hair before giving a lopsided grin to the man across the counter. John scowled at his friend, but then looked at Paul to try to assess his reaction. The other man however, had a straight face that showed no disgust but also no interest. Ughhhhh, John thought, this was definitely not going well.

John could now feel the blood rushing to his head and a sudden heat brush across his cheeks. He looked downward and sipped his tea. It was so lovely that it almost made him feel better. Almost being the key word. The concrete flooring began to look increasingly more interesting. Perhaps it swallow him up in a single gulp and he could live underground with the sewer monsters.

He wasn't really paying attention to his so called friends when he finished his tea. He looked up to see George writing a number down on a piece of paper. He soon realised it was his own and decided enough was enough. He put down his mug, glared at his friends and left the coffee shop.

It was raining outside. John had left his coat.

---

John awoke to his alarm the next morning and rolled across his bed to switch it off. He was mad. He was mad at himself and he was mad at his friends. Why did they have to try to set him up with someone? And why did they have to embarrass him whilst doing it? He sat up and help his head in his hands before rubbing his eyes trying to dislodge the sleep and put on his black framed glasses. He had always thought they made him look like Buddy Holly apart from maybe his hair, he always wore his hair like Elvis.

Now dressed, john walked into his kitchen to make himself a coffee. He trudged over to the kettle and filled it up. He decided he was going to call George and tell him he was being a dick yesterday. But he wanted to eat first. Reaching into the fridge he grabbed a yogurt, then opened a draw to get himself a spoon. He yanked a wooden chair from under the kitchen table and sat down. He hated this table, it was Cynthia who had picked it and John had gone along with it at the time. It was a sort of beach wood and didn't really go with the rest of the kitchen furniture. Cynthia had loved it. John decided that he should get a new table soon when he got some money.

The only thing John missed from being with Cynthia was his pet hamster Julian. It had ginger fur and huge teeth which John thought were adorable, especially when he gave Julian bits of carrot to munch on, although it was even better when he decided to store them in his cheeks instead, John could remember the sight of his furry pal with his cheeks full of food. Okay so maybe he did miss other things about Cynthia, like her soft blond hair, or the way they used to watch trashy TV when one of them had a hard day at work.

After eating his yogurt and drinking his coffee in silence he brought his phone out of his trouser pocket and scrolled down his contacts until he got to George.

“Hello?” A scouse accent filled his ear and it most certainly wasn't George's.

“Ringo?” John asked, his face lighting up at the sound of his friends voice, Ringo had been friends with John since their school days, and Ringo was the first to know when he had started dating the boy in college. The man probably had enough blackmail on him to make John want to live on a private island and never be seen again.

“Oh hi John, for whatever reason you're saved as ‘my favourite gay’ on George’s phone. I always thought I was his favourite gay. I mean you're not even gay! You’re bi for god sakes” John sighed into the phone. He hated George some of the time. This was definitely one of those times.

“Where's George? He's been messing with me again.” John sighed into the phone, shaking his head slowly as if he was actually talking to his friend face to face, whilst staring at the wall in front of him.

“Oh he's coming he was just on the loo,”... “Johnny boy, waddup?” George sounded rather cheerful to say it was about seven in the morning. John could just imagine him with ruffled hair and eyes shining like a child in a sweet shop.

“I'm mad at you for giving the man at the coffee shop my number. But now I'm calling I've decided that I kind of forgive you because he was kind of cute.” John cringed at himself, what kind if self respecting man was he? He was worrying about a guy who probably thought he was an absolute loser, he'd never call him, why was he so worried?

“Awww my little Johnny wonny, don't worry your little knickers into a twist. After ye rudely decided to leave we began telling the nice man coffee shop man about yer job as a teacher an he seemed impressed ‘n even said he’d wanna become a teacher eventually.. Seemed rather lovely really.” John could here the younger man chuckle. What did he do to deserve to have such a person as one of his best friends. Speaking best friends he really needed to meet up with Stu soon. He missed the man even if he had only seen him a week ago.

John made his way into his bedroom to get dressed, he had about an hour to get to work.

---

 

Paul was at work. He hated this job, like seriously hated it, especially on Tuesdays because he had to get up early and it was his longest shift. His boss was an absolute twat and all he could think about since last Sunday was John. He was beautiful. Much better better looking than his last boyfriend. His brother had hated his last boyfriend. Paul didn't even like to think of his name.

He looked at the clock on his phone, 3 o'clock, only two hours to go. He sighed in relief.

Even though he hated this job he did like the little shop. Records hung from the ceiling and it gave the building a hipster sort of feel. Obviously it was a hipster magnet. Not that Paul minded, he classed himself as a sort of a hipster himself. He often wore braces on his trousers even though his brother said it made him look like an old man. Paul thought he just looked extremely gay- and he was most definitely ok with that.

Paul was cleaning the mugs when Georgia entered the coffee shop. She strided over to him. Paul had met Georgia in a library where she was putting up posters for her band, the travelling willows, she had seen him looking at her and more or less shouted at him from across the room saying that he should come to one of their shows and had gotten them both kicked out. She had been an upperclassman at the local college and Paul had meant to have been studying for his finals.

Georgia slammed her hands on the countertop making Paul jump out of his daze. He looked at her wearily and she grinned giving him a knowing look. She was wearing a striped shirt that she had tied just below her rib cage and a pair of straight skinny jeans. Paul could guess that she had probably come from a brunch date. He smiled at her sweetly.

“What can I do for you today?” He asked, going for an almost bored look, pulling his hand through his hair and staring at her..

She smiled sweetly, almost sarcastically if that was possible, before answering,” hello to you too, I just popped in to say hello since I was next door at the salad bar.”

Paul knew it. She had been at a brunch, he was definitely a genius. Yep, Totally. He sighed looking around for his manager before slipping under the counter and sitting down on one of the nearest sofas. Georgia followed him and sat opposite.

“So have you called John yet?” She asked. Paul really didn't want to admit to her that he couldn't stop thinking of him- it was totally normal to keep thinking oh him wasn't it? He was a regular there so maybe Paul had just gotten used to his presence and simply was used to seeing his face.

He looked at Georgia and sighed like he was becoming a deflated balloon letting all his thoughts of john escape from his head, before inhaling, letting it all rush back in.

“I'm going to assume you might be interested in him judging your lack of verbal response.” She said smugly before she jumped up, gave him a quick hug then left. Paul just stared after her, the silver bell above the door rang as she left but Paul kept on staring. His friend was rather random at times.

Maybe he would call him, Paul knew that it probably wouldn't work out, it seemed apparent that John wasn't looking for anyone at the moment; he could remember the look of pure embarrassment on John’s face, it was bright red. He thought about John’s light brown hair and how it was styled into an old fashioned quiff like something out of the fifties perhaps the early sixties. Paul wasn't quite sure how long he had spent thinking but when he snapped out of his daze but when he did Brian seemed to have appeared magically in front of him tapping his foot on the concrete floor with his hands on his hips. This was not going to be good.

“What on earth do you think you are doing?” Reprimanded Brian, “ I have just had to serve two customers because you weren't at the counter and here you are just staring at the door!”

Paul swallowed and lowered his gaze, he really wasn't in the mood to listen to his manager right now.

“I'm sorry,” it came out almost like a whisper as Paul got up and went under the counter, he could feel Brian’s glare on his back as he did so. He was so ready for his shift to end. So he could get back to writing his poems or perhaps even decide what to say when he finally called John.

Chapter Text

“Are you totally sure I look ok?” Paul said looking at Ivan. It was his third outfit in about ten minutes, he was extremely nervous. He kept combing his hand through his hair. To be completely honest Paul wasn't sure if John had actually wanted to go on a date, he had seemed rather reluctant on the phone when Paul had gotten round to finally calling him on the Wednesday. It was now Saturday and Paul was attempting to get ready. He shuffled his feet in front of the full length mirror in his room looking at Ivan’s reflection. The other man smiled at him softly, tilting his head.

“You know Paul, you looked absolutely fine in the last outfit and you've got to be there in about half an hour. How about I put some music on and you try or relax a little ok?” Paul supposed Ivan could be rather patronising at times but he loved him dearly, as a friend of course. His roommate was always supportive. Ivan walked out the door- probably to connect his phone to the speaker in the living room area.

“I just want it to be perfect.” Paul said pouting like a little child and staring at himself in the mirror. The shirt was kind of snug and showed off his figure nicely and his jeans were slightly worn at the edges. He really hoped it was going to be okay.

Georgia had squealed when Paul had told her John had agreed to go on a date with him. She had come back to the coffee shop on Thursday and had almost suffocated him in a hug when he told her. He could remember her grinning like a bloody cheshire cat. Brian had glared at them for making a fuss but Paul was too happy to have cared. Plus Brian was always glaring; sometimes Paul thought he might be rather good looking if it wasn’t for the fact he constantly looked like he wanted to kill somebody, granted that person tended to be Paul, nevertheless, he still thought Brian could be an alright guy under all the dickhead and glaring.

He looked back at the mirror again, his shirt was blue and he had black jeans on as well as pair of black high tops; it reminded him of his teenage years. He shuffled his feet and shook his head as if to shake away all the doubt that was building a house in his head.

“You can do this,” he whispered to himself. A trace of a smile beginning to appear on his lips. He turned around and grabbed a grey fluffy hoodie that he had placed on his bed earlier, it was his favourite hoodie- soft and snugly. In the back of his mind something told him that he would need it.

He walked out of his bedroom and into the rather cramped living room slash kitchen and dining room. Ivan was sat in the armchair with his laptop typing away, he probably had some paper due tomorrow. Paul had completed all of his already. The synth sounds of New Order filled the flat from a speaker in the corner of the room. Now it was almost summer, Paul had hardly any classes worth attending since most of his professors couldn't seem to be bothered anymore. Neither could he is he was being perfectly honest with himself- not that he would never tell his dad that. Ever.

He sat down on the sofa, it would be about fifteen minutes until the bus would arrive and only five to get to the bus stop. Paul sank slowly into the comfort of the sofa trying to calm his nerves. His leg was jigging up and down so he pulled it over his other knee. He brought out his phone from his jean pocket and started scrolling through his instagram feed. It seemed that there was a party last night that he hadn't been invited to, some of his classmates seemed to have had a good time though. He looked at the clock on his phone and decided to set off for the bus early.

“Have fun!” He heard Ivan shout after him before he closed the door.

---

John really didn't know what to think of this date, if it wasn't for the terrible two-some’s meddling then he might've been excited. It was his first potential date since Cynthia and he wasn't sure if it was still too soon. I mean he definitely still loved that woman and her shiny hair. And her laugh. And the face she made when she painted. And her.

He was sat on the edge of his bed talking to his best friend Stu, staring ahead at his wooden wardrobe. The bedroom was almost bare since Cynthia moved out but John had began to redecorate the flat by painting the living room walls a light blue colour. He had also got some new bed sheets that were striped. He really wanted to get a new hamster too but he wasn't sure if he'd have time to look after if properly. His job did take up a lot of his time after all.

“Mate, I've literally no idea what you want me to say, I get it it's your first date since Cyn but it doesn't have to be a big deal. I mean there will be plenty of bad dates before you get to a good one” The voice at the other end of the call said, followed by, “also Astrid is coming back from her family’s house next week, would you like to come to ours one night for dinner?”

John scratched his head, “ Umm sure, mate. It not my fault she just left with that fucking twat though is it”

“I know Johnny but now you can find someone better than her alright? Anyway I've got to go, but good luck on the date and text how it goes.” Stuart said before hanging up the phone. John loved Astrid, she had a lovely German accent and loved to wear black leather clothes that made her look like a punk rocker. She even had a similar taste in music to John. He sometimes wondered if it was Stuart’s type- People with a rocky music taste. Not that he thought Stu liked him in that way.

John put his phone in his back pocket and stood up. He turned to the mirror, looking himself over. He looked alright, he didn't really want to be too dressed up bearing in mind they were only going to a diner but he had made a partial effort with his appearance so he wouldn’t look like an asshole. He sighed and patted his gelled hair to make sure it would stay in place.

He then collected his keys from a bowl by the door and headed out of his flat into the cream coloured hallway. He walked steadily down the stairs at the end of the hallway and into his old black corsa

Putting in one of his many Rolling Stones CDs: sticky fingers. He started the car and set off for the diner, hoping that he wouldn’t mess this up too badly.

---

John had been waiting outside the diner when he finally saw Paul, he had to admit, the man was attractive. He was walking around the corner when he spotted John and a grin broke free on his face. Paul's hands were tucked into the pockets of a grey hoodie and John was in awe at the man who now stood before him.

“Um, hi.” Paul stuttered and shuffled his feet, he felt even worse now he he was in front of John; his nerves were really playing up and he felt kind of sick in his stomach. He looked at the other man looked to be a little shorter than Paul himself

The older man smiled but it didn't quite reach his eyes. Maybe he hadn't wanted to go on the date and George had just made him? Paul could feel his face falling.

“So do you want to go inside?” The older man suggested his eyes moving to the door.

Paul nodded and grabbed on to the door handle and opened it for John.

Inside it was lovely, old band posters were framed and put on the wall and there was an old jukebox in the corner playing out a rock n’ roll record. The waiting staff all wore little red aprons and hats, John loved it and wondered how Paul had found out about this little place bearing in mind it was almost in the middle of nowhere.

Paul sat down at one of the booths and John followed him, sitting opposite. The younger man shrugged off his jacket and put it next to him. He was wearing a blue polo shirt that John thought hugged his torso nicely. He smiled at Paul awkwardly not really knowing what to do next, after all it had been a while since he had been on a first date with anyone. He looked around to see if there was anything interesting enough to point out to the other man, however, all he could see were old posters and tacky looking decorations.

Paul cleared his throat and gave one of the menus from the end of the table to John. He looked sort of like a rocker, he was wearing what looked like a vintage leather jacket that Paul loved (although he kind if hoped it wasn't actually leather) and a grey turtle neck. John was also wearing his black framed glasses that made him look kind of deeply intellectual for no apparent reason. He had gelled hair that sort of reminded him of Elvis, it was kind of funny really, how the man fit into the diner so well.

“So have you decided what you would like to drink?” A waitress asked, a fake smile plastered onto her face. She wore a yellow dress that clung to her hips and had a white apron around her waist, which had a pocket that she had just taken a notebook out of.

“I’ll have a coke, please.” John answered looking at the waitress in the eyes. A flicker of emotion came over the man’s face but a blank expression covered it over quickly so the waitress didn’t notice.

“Just a water for me,” Paul said looking at John. his eyes narrowing ever so slightly, trying to figure out what had just gone on in John’s mind.

After the food had arrived (Paul had ordered sweet potato fried and a salad and John had ordered a burger) they ate in almost silence. Paul occasionally asked john to pass more ketchup packets but that was all. Elvis filled the air, followed by Chuck Berry. It was nice but Paul didn't think it was going very well and was becoming more and more apprehensive as time went on, in fact he and John hadn't really spoken since ordering let alone since the food arrived.

John had finished his burger when he finally spoke, “ so the weathers been great,”

“Hmm,” was all he got in reply- but then again Paul was still eating. He felt his phone vibrate but didn't want to look rude by looking at it. The silence was slowly killing him. He just had to say something.

“So Georgia told me you were a teacher?” Paul said whilst attempting to smile even though he was now feeling nervous with all the silence that he had just endured beforehand. He tried to correct his posture to feign confidence.

John looked up from his empty plate at the younger man with a mini smirk on his face as if he had guessed this topic of conversation would come up. Paul assumed Georgia and her friend had said something to him. John’s smirk had changed into a smile before he opened his mouth to speak.

“Yeah, but it’s kinda a filler job, I mean someone has to teach the kiddiewinkles to rule the country but I mean I want to be a writer.” John said with a simper. Paul raised an eyebrow as to enquire further whilst looking at John straight in the eyes. “I mean I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible Job as such but to me writing just seems like a better option,” John admitted raising his eyebrows and smiling cheekily like a little kid who had just eaten all the chocolate biscuits from the kitchen. It made Paul’s previous opinion on the man waver. How could such a tough looking bloke have such a goofy little grin? Paul thought to himself as he smiled at the man before him.

“So you want to be a writer?” Paul enquired leaning forward on the table, whilst making sure he didn’t accidentally lean into his leftover food. John smirked at him, before nodding and looking away at the waitress again. Paul frown slightly but didn’t say anything, wanting not to be rude. However, he was beginning to think that maybe this date was one of the most disastrous he had ever had to endure (except for maybe one time in year 11 when he had been on a date with a lad and had been caught making out with him in the toilet by some guys who had put pictures all over facebook. It had not been fun.)

“Yeah I like writing poetry, mainly nonsense but I sometimes write songs and short stories too. But nothing special really.” John said looking at the table and snapping Paul out of his cringey past. Paul looked at the man before him quizzically.

“I write songs too, mainly thoughts and stuff,” John nodded at him encouraging him to continue, “I wrote a ton about my ex…” Paul trailed off trying to shake the feeling of churning in the pit of his stomach.

The taunting laugh filled his ears and Paul was once again in that same bedroom listening to the man rant only half aware of his cold body shivering from the open window. Soon the same black that overcame him.

“...yeah and then she just took Julian and left. I mean ‘is name was John as well. I mean I know we were goin’ through a rough spot but that was just one big kick in the gut.” Paul looked at the man across the table with a gormless face. John’s eyes widened, as he realised he had been talking about Cyn for about five minutes. “Shit.” he said looking at the waitress who had her back to them and was polishing a glass at the other end. It was really not a good time to talk about his ex, especially with Jane there; she was sure to go tell Cynthia everything. John was screwed.

But then again…

Why did he care? The woman had broken his heart after all… John cleared his throat to catch the other man’s attention as he was looking at the waitress with a slightly confused face. John sighed, inwardly cursing himself for bringing up Cynthia.

Paul looked at the man across from him. A strange feeling was in the pit of his stomach crashing over his insides in tidal waves. It seemed apparent that John wasn’t actually interested in him. He felt sadness sweep over his at the thought since he had put so much effort into the date; picking one of his favorite restaurants for the occasion. He looked down at his hands that were nervously tapping the table. What was so interesting about that waitress? Was he not interesting enough for the other man?

“I think I better go now, I have to study and such.” Paul almost whispered at John; not looking him quite in the eye. He quickly got out his wallet, it had been a birthday present from his brother a couple of years back and had the word ‘gold digger’ in sparkles printed on the front, before placing fifteen quid on the table.

He stood up, grabbing his jacket and then left quickly whilst keeping his eyes on the floor. What a total failure that had been.

John could feel blood pumping around his ears. Why had he mentioned Cyn? The hurt in Paul’s eyes before he left seemed to be burnt into his retinas. How had he messed up this date so badly? God he was such a fucking idiot.

From the corner of his eye he could see Jane smirking whilst she was cleaning the glasses in the corner. Ugh. He hated Cynthia so much; she had indirectly managed to ruin his first date in months.


---

John was at the door of Stuart’s apartment, he could hear someone unlocking it, before the door swung open and Astrid appeared. Grinning when she saw John at the door she quickly beckoned for him to come in. She was wearing a black and white polkadot dress and her hair had been half shaved since he had last seen her. Sort of like the tumblr look but she actually made it work unlike majority of people.

Inside John saw Stu laying the table, he looked surprisingly calm and well kept- John assumed it was because Astrid was there, she always seemed to calm him. John looked around, the place was tidy, also probably because Astrid was there. In fact Astrid just made everything better.

Stu looked up and smiled when he saw his best friend before walking around the table to greet him.

“Good to see you mate,” he said whilst slapping John on the back is a sort of bear hug for Men™.

John could smell Stuart's aftershave, he almost never wore aftershave anymore, perhaps it was given to him by Astrid. John stood back and the couple stood next to each other smiling almost like parents about to tell their child that they were taking him to Disneyland.

“So Stu tells me you had a date?” Astrid enquired raising her eyebrows and slipping her hand around Stu’s waist. Stuart put his hand on her shoulder pulling her into him.

John wearily sat on the sofa behind him and sighed,” yeah, it didn't really go well though- I ended up mentioning Cyn and neither if us were quite sure what to do about it.” John shook his head staring at the floor before rubbing his hands over his eyes as if to rub away the memory from his mind. He could here Astrid sigh and whisper something to Stuart.

“Don't worry Johnny boy I'm sure it will be fine,” Stu said before walking over and patting John's back awkwardly. John quickly snapped up and smiled at his friends. He could feel the love and care for him radiating from them. If only George and Ringo were this kind to him.

“Shouldn't the food be ready soon.” He asked Astrid making her make an ooh sound with her lips and quickly turning back around to the kitchen to make sure she hadn’t burnt anything.

---

“Ta da!” Astrid placed the shepherd's pie in front of them on the dining table. Steam was rolling off it and the smell made John’s mouth water.

It was then that he noticed it, the ring. His eyes shot up and locked with Stu with an inquisitive gaze. Stuart smirked at him knowingly.

“Nice ring, Astrid.” Astrid’s face lit up and a sort of squeal came from her mouth before she could stop it making both men chuckle. She combed her hand through the side of her head that hadn’t been shaved and blushed.

“So when did he ask?” John enquired, looking from Stu to astrid and back again.

“Last night, we had just gone to a restaurant and I was just putting out coats away and bam.” Astrid answered, sitting down and snuggling into Stuart's side.

“We haven’t really decided on anything yet since it has only been one day but we were thinking of just having a small wedding. I mean Just a couple of friends and immediate family,” Stuart said, grinning at his best friend. John smiled at him, the couple’s happiness being extremely infectious.

The dinner was also extremely delicious. Just saying.

---

Paul was smiling one of the most fake smiles in history. The man before him couldn’t figure if he wanted coffee or tea for goodness sakes! To be completely honest Paul wasn’t really sure why he was here in the first place. The man in question was wearing nike joggers and he was about thirty (THIRTY!!!) Paul was not at all sure what he was doing in an indie coffee shop.

“ I think I’ll just take a water mate.” Paul reluctantly turned around, rolling his eyes when his back was to the man before getting a bottle of water from the fridge.

“That will be £1.50.” Paul said with a fake smile once again plastered on his face.

The door of the coffee shop opened and a slightly exhausted looking Georgia came through it. She looked like she had just been running. Paul took the money from the man before turning to his friend who now had her hands on the counter as if she meant business.

“So how did it go?” she asked looking rather innocent apart from a slightly mad gleam in her eye.

Paul sighed, “Do not remind me,” he shuddered thinking back to how John had seemed to take more interest in the waitress than him. It had been clear that the lad hadn’t wanted to be there. And yet he had been so good looking. Paul could still see his brown eyes looking at him when he closed his own.
“Aaaah, so he was kind of a dick but cute so you can’t get him outta ya head even though ya want to?” Georgia said, smirking at paul with a knowing look. God she new him too well. Paul shrunk into himself blushing, deciding that not saying anything at all would be better than admitting that he had fantasized about seeing John again when he was at work (and that many of said fantasies also featured making out in the stock room when Brian wasn’t there).

“Well if you’re not going to tell me then I’m going to freshen up an’ I expect a mocha when I get back.” Georgia said walking to the toilets. Paul sighed and got to work with his friend’s drink, refusing to let his mind wander back to John.

“There you go,” Paul said, giving the cup to Georgia as she got back from the loo. She smiles at him before taking a sip of the drink, her eyes closing as she did so.

“This is surprisingly good bearing in mind it was you who did it.” She winked at him, “Also me an’ the Willows are doing a gig soon if you wanna come.” Paul always loved to go to her concerts, they always seemed to end with lots of alcohol and drunken kisses (especially since he was single) and Paul loved the music.

“Sure, I’ll bring Ivan along,” Paul said, still thinking about the times he’d had at his friend’s gigs. “Just text me the place and time.”

Chapter Text

John was packing up the many new essays he would have to mark over the weekend into his work bag. It was finally the end of a long and tiring friday in which he had taught for six hours straight. He sighed and ruffled his hair, looking at the bag that was bursting at the seams. Why did his students have to write so much? It was almost summer, surely they should’ve been tired by now? Unless they had just written a load of crap, which in the case of some of his students, was more than likely.

He chucked his bag over his shoulder before walking out of his classroom. He had decided he would buy some cheese and pig out all night whilst watching disney films by himself. It was going to be fun. He was going to start with alice in wonderland which was one of his favourites even though the book was definitely loads better (wasn’t it always?) John continued to walk out of the school and started humming ‘hakuna matata’ to himself. Fortunately, none of the (extremely flirtatious and bordering on creepy) receptionists were there to exchange pleasantries with when John walked out of the building.

He was putting his bag in the boot of the car when his phone rang. Grumbling, John got the phone out of his back pocket and answered the call.

“Hey Johnny, we’re off to Georgia’s gig tonight and you’re coming with us.” George said in a matter of fact tone as if to say that John didn’t actually have a choice in the matter.

“I already have plans tonight, sorry mate”

“If those plans are to eat cheese by yourself then we will drag you out of the flat ourselves.” Ringo piped in, John groaned knowing how freakishly strong the pair were despite their rather lanky frames. “It’s not like we’re taking you to a fucking lecture either, it will be fun!” Ringo continued, trying to put as much enthusiasm into his voice as possible, making John cringe.

“Fine, I’ll go but you better get me my first drink okay?” John compromised whilst walking round to the driver’s seat and getting in. George practically squealed into the phone, making John scowl.

“Alright Pick me up about an hour before it starts, I’ll see you then.” John stated, putting the car key into the hole and starting the engine.

“Bye!” the pair of voices practically yelled into the phone.

John cut off the call and set off to get some cheese. In the back of his mind he was slightly worried that he’d end up meeting someone and would know what to do the next morning when he would wake up in their bed since after the complete fail of a date with Paul it was quite clear he was not ready to start dating just yet. Especially if that person was Paul. Not that He’d be coming, mind…

---

Paul was pouring boiling water into his curry flavoured pot noodle when Ivan entered the kitchen and started to make one for himself. They were definitely stereotypical students, Paul even had a backpack for when he went to his classes (not that he really did that anymore with it being near the end of term). He couldn’t wait for the summer holidays to start so he could attempt to get a tan. Giving the kettle to Ivan, Paul leaned against the counter.

“So, this Georgia lass, how come I’ve never met her?” Ivan asked once the two men had settled into the sofa of their flat. Paul sighed at the question before answering.

“I don’t really know, We used to kind of close but she’s just a busy person I guess. I just tend to see her when she invites me out because she never seems to be free when I ask her.” Paul stated looking down at his noodles. It wasn’t that him and Georgia wasn’t one of his close friends, it was simply that they didn’t really hang out much. To be completely honest, Paul was almost certain that the new spark in their friendship was because of John.

Ivan nodded before finishing his noodles. He quickly got up and went to his own room, leaving Paul to ponder over the man that for some reason still stuck in his head. It wasn’t even that the date had gone well so Paul was kind of baffled that his subconscious refused to remove John from his mind. It was especially weird that Paul kept imagining meeting him again. IT HAD BEEN TWO WEEKS.

“I guess I should probably get ready then,” Paul muttered to himself before getting up and throwing out the pot noodle tub. Turning to go to his room, he sighed. This was going to be a good night. At least he hoped it would be. Fingers crossed and all that.

---

The club was almost empty when John, George and Ringo got there. It was rather spacious with concrete walls that made it look quite industrial. At the far left corner were some saggy sofas and almost directly opposite was the stage. Georgia was setting up some kind of amp when the men got there. John quickly put his jacket down on a brown saggy sofa to claim it as their own before striding over to Georgia to say hello.

After the pleasantries were swapped, John sat back down on the sofa along with George and Ringo. They would have about fifteen minutes before other people would start arriving for the gig and the bar wasn’t opened yet. His best friends decided to spend the time making out, leaving John to be the third wheel.

“Can you two not do that somewhere else, you’re being rather loud and it’s kind of disgusting.” John groaned, averting his eyes from the two men. The only response he got, however, was a half hearted moan; John rolled his eyes. His phone didn’t really do much to distract him either, even if looking his old tumblr rants was kind of amusing, he would never do it in public (at least not after last time when Astrid saw them and took his phone. She hadn’t stopped lauging for about half an hour.)

The club was almost full by the time Paul and Ivan got there. Majority of the people there looked kind of like hipsters which kind of made Paul shudder. He looked around at the large open plan club, it was kind of dark with occasional lamps mounted to the wall. There was a large bar that seemed to be rather busy with young adults swarming around it as if their life depended on it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t any crappy top forty single playing but instead New Order’s Temptation which a couple of girls were bopping to (basically they were bending their knees a bit and trying not to spill what looked like two cosmopolitans) Paul Chuckled and looked at Ivan who appeared to have noticed them too.

“I’m going to the loo, can you get me a beer?” Ivan said getting out a fiver and handing it to Paul. Paul nodded and walked over to join the queue. He decided to look around some more and it was then that he spotted him. John. The other man was sitting on a sofa with some other guys (one of them, he noticed, was George) and laughing, already looking a bit tipsy. Paul froze, He didn’t want to intrude on the other man’s night but at the same time he would hate to simply know John was here and not do anything about it.

He ordered a scotch and coke and a beer for Ivan before making the decision to just go over and say hello and act as if he hadn’t spent the last week fantasizing about seeing him again. Because that would be weird.

John saw Paul when he was about five metres away and stared at him. Paul looked as stunning as he did on their failed date. He was wearing a striped dress shirt with a pair of black skinny jeans. His hair was in a sort of messy, outgrown bowl cut which suited him very well. His face looked calm and almost expressionless apart from a nervous glint in his doe eyes. The younger man soon stood in front of him with a small smile playing on his lips.

“Hey, is it alright if I sit with you?” Paul enquired quietly whilst refusing to look John directly in the eye. John felt a pang of guilt as his mind flicked back to their date where he had gone on a massive rant. The hurt in Paul’s eyes was still crystal clear in his mind.

“Sure, did you come with anyone?” John asked trying not to sound like he was interested in case Paul had in fact moved on already. Although to be fair, all they had done was go on one date so it wasn’t like there was anything to move on from per say. Still. John thought he would be kind of sad if Paul had already gone on another date.

“Just my mate Ivan,” Paul stated whilst sitting down next to John on the brown saggy sofa. It was a nice little area of the club, George and another bloke were sat opposite John on their own sofa and there was a little wooden table in the middle which Paul decided to place Ivan’s beer on top of.

John must have seen Paul when he looked at the two other men and was quick to introduce him to Ringo who was snuggled up to George and half asleep already. But then again, the man did tend to get drowsy when there was alcohol in his system. Paul smiled at him nonetheless before turning back to John and subconsciously itching towards him whilst sipping his drink.

In the background Georgia was getting ready to play her fist set with her band: The travelling Willows. She was standing centre stage with her long hair down in a mid parting. She was showing off her cheekbones with a lovely bronzer and had a dark smokey eye. Beside her was another girl who was rather short. She was holding a light green bass guitar and was wearing an a-line polka dot dress. Her hair was back combed making her look young and playful which contrasted with her makeup which was heavy and included a dark plum lipstick.

In the back of the stage was a drummer who had some jean shorts on with suspenders attached to them. They were also sporting a sparkly top under the suspenders that had a large blue cat on it. Paul supposed that they were just being ‘ironic’ however he could not see the whole point in being a hipster himself. Although, he did spend a lot of time on tumblr. Not that he would ever admit to it.

Finally Ivan made his way out of the toilet and spotted Paul with some other guys. He walked over to the men just as the band began to play their first song. He smiled down at Paul who was sat rather close to some bloke who had fairly long auburn hair that seemed to be gelled at the sides giving him a kind of Elvis look. Paul saw him and muttered that there was a beer for him on the table whilst watching the band intently. He had to admit the Georgia’s singing was beautiful and complemented the melody extremely well.

“I was alone, This bird had flown,” Paul Could hear the pity in Georgia’s voice as she sang. Obviously, she had written it about one of her Ex’s. Fortunately, she now had a new fling that she had told Paul about after he had agreed to come tonight. Her name was apparently Pattie and Georgia had described her as having long golden hair and a ‘stunning jawline like it’s amazing Paul I swear she is actually so cute!’.

After the first two music sets, in which John had shuffled ever so slightly and now his thighs touched Paul’s, the men were extremely tipsy after having two rounds of shots in between the sets to ‘celebrate the band’s success (really they were just an excuse to get drunk) and Ivan and Ringo had been getting more drinks throughout their time being there. Paul, who was kind of a light weight was laughing at something John had said about a lady at the bar. Ivan had taken off a while back with a young woman who seemed to be rather good at wooing him by speaking French.

John was gazing at Paul who had seemingly forgotten all about how much of a terrible person he was. Paul had now started placing his hands on John who felt a jolt everytime the boy let even a finger touch him. Why was this man so attractive? Every now and then John could feel Paul’s breath on his chest; it smelled of alcohol and something minty. John smiles when he noticed it which caused George to give him an inquisitive frown but John just shook his head at him.

Paul Kept looking at John through his eyelashes. It was finally happening, he was snuggling with John Lennon (well snuggling was kind of an exaggeration perhaps leaning on comfortably whilst giggling like a little school boy who had just heard their teacher fart was a better description of what was happening) He was only slightly drunk but he couldn’t help feel dizzy whenever he breathed in John’s musky scent.

Georgia was on her last song for the evening, Paul was looking at John and John seemed to have a small smile on his lips as he seemed to lean in closer to Paul. In the background they could both hear Georgia sing: You'd be happy as you could be, If you belonged to me . The words made Paul smile and rest his forehead on John’s. He could feel his skin prickle at the touch of John’s hand on his leg as he smiled at him. However, the song had just finished making both men almost jump apart and cheer for their friend who was looking at them with a rather smug smirk on her face.

After the Applause (or in the case of a group of hipsters in the far corner, clicking. Yes, seriously, clicking.) died down Georgia came to the sofas that the men were draped across with her guitar.

“Did you like it? She asked sliding between John and Paul,who tried his best not to look disappointed.

“Yeah! I really liked that one about the norwegian wood! Your playing was incredible!” Paul said, his face lighting us as he remembered the strumming to the rocky folk song in her first set.

Georgia laughed at him before admitting that it was actually John who had written most of the lyrics, causing Paul to look at him with wonder in his eyes. How could the man before him be so talented? No wonder he had asked if he liked the lyrics earlier on. The smug little bastard.

---

John was sitting on his sofa with Buddy Holly playing in the background on his record player. He was finally starting to mark his student’s papers and it was already four o’clock in the afternoon. He had gotten home soon after Georgia had finished, which was around one in the morning and had then began to ponder over whether Paul had been about to kiss him or whether he had been to drunk to realise what was going on as, quite frankly, Paul had been sloshed. He had ended up getting to sleep at around three after deciding that he could deal with it in the morning and had then woken up at noon with a pounding bloody headache.

After he had drank what had seemed like a gallon of water and taken some painkillers he had finally settled into his saggy old sofa that he had found at a second hand shop. It was old leather and worn on the arms but with the amount of throw pillows that John was sat on he didn’t really care. He was currently on his second essay about the witches in Macbeth, unfortunately this particular student had seemed to have written about some other completely different play causing John to cringe with second hand embarrassment.

John decided to simply give up after the eighth paper and instead got out his phone. It seemed that there were many facebook notifications that he hadn’t looked at since before he went out last night. There was a picture that George had posted of him and Ringo kissing in front of the stage. John had no memory of that ever happening, he must’ve been preoccupied looking at Paul and wishing he hadn’t screwed up the date, although it seemed that by the end of the night Paul had forgiven him, but then again he wasn’t exactly sober was he? Ugh.

John scrolled aimlessly through the cat memes that covered his facebook feed before realising that he still had some notifications at the bottom of his screen. Clicking on his friends requests, he saw it, a friend request from the man he had spent the early hours of the morning fretting about, Paul Mccartney. John tapped on his profile to see what weird and wonderful selfies were on the other man’s profile.

Paul’s Facebook was kind of tame, there were a few profile pictures, two with a man who was tagged as ‘Pete Best’ but the latest picture was simply just Paul with the guy he had come to Georgia’s gig with, Ivan. There also seemed to be a few photos in black and white that a guy called Mike had taken of him. John scrolled back to the top and tapped to accept the friend request.

The man was not quite sure what to expect, since many people his age (the old man he was at only age 26) used social media in many different ways. John decided to make himself dinner to see if Paul would happen to message him about what happened last night. He supposed that If he didn’t then he could always message him after he had eaten the cheese he had bought the previous afternoon before eating the remains of a tub of ice cream that had been safely stowed away in the freezer.

—-

Paul wasn’t really sure what to do, he was laid on his double bed staring at the patterned white ceiling. It was becoming increasingly interesting by the minute, John had just messaged him and Ivan still hadn’t returned from the girl’s house, only giving Paul a text to tell him he was alright. So, that left Paul to have a mini existential crisis all by himself in his bedroom.

It would’ve definitely have been an understatement to say that Paul had gotten a little drunk the night before and yet the young man still remembered everything clearly. He remembered leaning in John, he remembered John's hand on his waist that had seemingly kept him grounded and he remembered him and the other man leaning on each other's foreheads as Georgia's voice had washed over him, making him calm.

He had passed out more or less immediately after hitting his bed and after the headache had subsided in the morning had felt pretty good, that was until he was looking at John's Facebook profile and had accidentally clicked the friend request button. And, as one would when experiencing blind panic, he had thrown his phone across his room. After doing so he had quickly gotten up to check if it was okay since iPhones were way to overpriced and he didn’t want to sell his soul to get the screen replaced. Since then he had been staring at his ceiling, contemplating why the universe hated him so much.

When he looked down he noticed that John had accepted his friend request. Relief flooded over him as he went into messenger to message the other man. At first, he wasn’t sure what kind of thing to send but after about half an hour he had finally picked up to send the message:

‘Hey, have you still got a hangover?’

‘Nah but I woke up at noon feeling like a bloody zombie’

‘Ha! Me too! But last night was totally worth it’

‘Yeah , So do you maybe want to meet up sometime again?’

‘Is that a code for date or something because as long as you don’t take more time time looking at waitresses with the short skirts than you do looking at me then I’m totally up for it’ Paul typed feeling happy to finally get his concern about the date out and actually talk about what went so wrong.

John replied almost immediately : ‘You thought I was flirting with the waitress??? Oh dear God no she was one of my Ex’s best friends. Why was that why you left so suddenly?’ I just assumed I had been talking about Cynthia too long. Oh God I am so sorry!!!!’

Paul frowned at his phone, maybe he had been wrong about John? Afterall, he could’ve just been looking at the woman because he was worried. Ugh why were people so complicated? He decided to message back just to check, before agreeing to set a time for their next date.

‘So are you free next friday?’ John had typed.

‘It’s a date.’

Chapter Text

 Quite frankly, Paul was tired of all the hipsters. They just seemed to be an endless line- all asking for a mocha with three shots of espresso with cream or something equally as aggravating. They just seemed to always be there as an infinite group at the counter (although that could possibly be because Paul kept getting there orders wrong. But it wasn’t his fault they were so complicated. Just saying)

 

Not that he would like to admit it to anyone, but even talking to Brian seemed like a better option than taking orders at the moment. In fact, yesterday he had a conversation with his boss that hadn’t actually resulted in either man wanting to kill the other. Maybe he was just growing up, becoming a bigger person? Or maybe it was that he always wanted to be on his best behaviour in case a certain man came in and saw him acting like a dickhead.

 

Paul hadn’t actually seen John in person since the gig, although they had called and FaceTimed once for about an hour (one hour, three minutes and forty three seconds to be exact) but John had ended the call because he had papers to mark and something about stinky bishop being on sale(???) He still wasn’t totally sure what that meant exactly but the other man had said he might pop into the cafe to see him at some point during the week.

 

Brian had been glancing at him for the past three days. Paul suspected it was because he had actually put some effort into his appearance rather than throwing on his usual work clothes, which consisted of black skinny jeans and a grey or blue loose top, Paul was quite tempted to ask him what was up but decided against it as he didn’t want to cause a scene. Paul was kind of happy. At least as happy as one could be doing a job they hated and a boss they disliked that gave low wages.

 

It was about twenty to four when John walked through the doors of the coffee shop. Paul had just finished serving a woman who had bright blue glasses frames and backwards eyeshadow (?). Paul looked at the man who was walking towards him with a small smile pulling at his lips.

 

John was wearing a button down white shirt with the top button undone. He had a loose tie on with cowboys on it, which made Paul grin despite himself. How had he managed to get a redo date with this guy? Surely he should have people chasing him? The older man had his hair gelled back but left the top natural so his auburn curls could be seen. He smiled as he reached the counter. Paul could feel heat spread across his cheeks as he looked at the other man.

 

“Hey,” Paul said ducking under the counter to greet John properly, much to the dislike of Brian who was standing near the stockroom door, watching Paul more intently than usual.

 

“Hello there,” John said turning his head with a smug kind of look on his face. He ran a hand through his hair and look at the other man who was more or less the same height as him. It was quite nice to be able to look at the other man, unlike with Cyn who was much smaller than him.

 

“General Kenobi.” Paul said chuckling at the Star Wars reference, before stepping in for a hug. Wait, what was he thinking? He couldn’t hug John could he? He had only met this man three times. Ugh, he was such a failure. He probably looked like a right idiot just standing in front of him doing nothing. Paul cringed inwardly as he decided to punch John on the shoulder instead. (The Man Punch™)



“My shift finishes in about half an hour if you want to stay?” Paul suggested looking back at Brian, who was washing a cup with his back to the men. It was great to see the other man in person again and he didn’t really want him to go after five minutes of getting there.

 

John smiled and nodded, “Could I get a tea whilst I’m here as well please?”

 

Paul frantically scrambled under the counter to get the older man’s drink sorted.

 

“So, how was work?” Paul asked whilst putting a tea bag into a glass mug (he wasn’t really sure what was so interesting about seeing the tea through the glass but apparently the hipsters liked it). John began to tell him all about this kid who had decided it would be a good idea to draw a penis on the whiteboard when he was meant to be answering a maths question and John had made him work out the area of the left testicle.

 

Paul finally gave John the mug filled with tea and looked at the clock, only twenty four minutes to go. Paul leaned on the countertop, looking at John.

 

“So…” Paul trailed off. Considering how many imaginary conversations he had with the man in front of him, he was having a rather had time coming up with any remotely interesting topics of conversation. His brain had just decided to give up on him. Blank. Nothing. Zilch.

 

“I bet you’ll never guess where I’m taking you tomorrow,” John grinned and winked, which made Paul frown. The older man was really looking forward to taking Paul out again, he wasn’t really sure how he could make everything better again after the first date disaster but he was happy that Paul was willing to spend more time with him and try again. In fact, John had made a list of his favourite places in the city and had chosen one of his favourites to take Paul tomorrow.

 

Just as Paul’s shift was about to finish Brian came up to the men talking at the counter and gave Paul a half stern, half pitying look.

 

“I really do feel bad for asking, honestly, with one of your friends here but would you mind covering for an hour longer? I mean you can have an extra twenty quid for the time but Chloe can’t make it because of a family issue and Ben lives at the other end of town and won’t be able to get here for a while.” Brian said sheepishly, looking between John and Paul.

 

Paul looked around the shop, it was rather busy and he could do with the extra money after buying so much alcohol last Friday. Not that he was complaining, he’d had a great time, but he still needed money.

 

“I mean I have got to plan some lessons for next week,” John said, as he could see Paul’s internal dilemma. It wasn’t like he was never going to see the other man anyway, bearing in mind they had a date set for tomorrow.

 

Relief washed over Paul’s face and he grinned at John as a silent thank you before telling Brian that he would do it. Ugh, he hated his manager.

 

—-

 

John sighed as he opened the door, Stuart was on in the hallway of his apartment building looking slightly like an over excited puppy, which made John roll his eyes. The older man rushed past him into the flat.

 

“I’m getting married!” Stu more or less screamed as soon as the door had closed and he was inside the flat, which made John chuckle at his friend’s enthusiasm.

 

“Yeah I know you are mate, you’ve been planning it enough as well, I never get to see you anymore,” John said with a smile, trying to act like he didn’t actually miss his best friend and was simply just trying to make him feel bad. Thankfully, Stuart didn’t notice and just ignored him.

 

“Aye but it will be spectacular so it doesn’t matter,” Stu said as he swatted his hand in the air, “Anyroad, I've got an important question to ask you,”

 

John raised an eyebrow and made a face as to say ‘please continue, you know I hate being left hanging’ as he and Stuart moved into the living room area of the flat to sit down on the saggy sofa. Stuart Put his feet up on the coffee table before continuing.

 

“So me and Astrid were thinking and we’d like you to be the best man and one of the witnesses for the wedding,” Stuart said, turning towards john and grinning with an almost over the top amount of enthusiasm. It was clear to John that his best friend was clearly excited for his big day as he smiled like a cheshire cat and grabbed one of the throw pillows from beside him.

 

“I’d love to be your best man!” John laughed, with Stu’s enthusiasm catching on, “we should celebrate! I’ve got some beers in the fridge and some rum in the cupboard gimme a minute.”

 

John got up and walked over to the kitchen cupboard to get out the rum before he opened the fridge and got two beers. He opened them carefully with a bottle opener from the drawer before returning to the other man in the living room with the rum under his arm and a beer bottle in each hand. He gave one to Stuart who was now hugging the throw pillow and smiling. He accepted the drink with a thank you. John then placed the rum on the coffee table before putting the beer in the air for an imaginary toast.

 

“Bottoms up,” John said before he clinked his bottle with his friend’s and drank the cool drink.

 

It would be safe to say that neither man was sober after finishing the run and having eleven beers between them. Stuart was now lounging upside down on the sofa and giggling (although giggling might not have been the best word to describe the noise coming from his mouth) and John had an empty beer bottle in his hand and kept waving it around like a madman giving a lecture.

 

“Yanno what I miss Johnny? I miss out drunken antics in Uni. Like what about that time when you bought that cardboard cutout of the Queen? Those were good times.”

 

“Old Liz is still in my wardrobe actually, shall we say hello?” John asked the other man, he got up and swayed a little before he staggered over to the upside down man and held out his hand to help the other man up.

 

They Stumbled into John’s messy bedroom and Stuart flug open the door of the wardrobe.

 

“Coo-ee! Your majesty, come out come out wherever you are!” Stuart called into the dark cupboard, causing John to laugh at their stupidity, which only seemed to encourage Stuart more. He started to look through John’s shirts for work, trying to search for the cardboard woman.

 

“Will you come to the wedding?” Stu said jestingly to the cutout of the old woman that he had eventually managed to find at the back of the wardrobe behind a lime green blazer that John had quickly pushed aside.

 

“Yeah! Let’s put a dress on her,” John said whilst holding his best friend to keep himself standing as he was laughing so much.

 

“And a fascinator!” Stuart said making a mental image of the cardboard cutout at his lovely ceremony. He couldn’t say that astrid would be too impressed but the thought made him chuckle regardless.

 

“How the fuck is she going wear a fascinator Stu? She’s a cardboard cutout it wouldn’t stay on her head!” John scowled at Stuart.

 

“Oh yeah.”

 

—-

 

There was somebody in his bed. John could feel a hand touching his leg. He had a pounding headache and he hadn’t even opened his eyes yet.

 

Carefully, he rolled around towards the other man and opened one eye. He then immediately shut it because it was extremely bright in his bedroom.

 

“Stuart?” The young man asked groggily, after peeking at the person in his bed.

 

“Hmph,” was the only reply he got. John opened both his eyes before immediately shutting them again as the light hurt his eyes. It definitely sounded like his best friend and he had a vague memory of getting drunk with him last night. Flashes of them drinking rum straight from the bottle flashed across his vision making John cringe.

 

Slowly he rolled out of bed and hit the floor with a thump.

 

“Ow.”

 

He crawled over to the curtains and forcefully closed them and leaned against the wall for a minute. His headache was killing him so he decided to stumble into the kitchen to get some water and painkillers (although he didn’t actually decide to stumble it just happened).

 

After drinking about two pints of water and swallowing two painkillers, John felt well enough to wake up his best friend in a kind and loving way (as in he got a glass, filled it with water and chucked it over his head)

 

“You fucking twat!” Shouted Stu, causing John to laugh before he threw a painkiller at him and told him to take it. The older man scowled at him and tried to dry his hair by rubbing it all over the duvet, which made John roll his eyes at his best friend.

 

“What time is it anyway?” Stuart said, looking at his best friend.

 

“I don’t know why don’t you check your phone?”

 

“Where is my phone?”

 

“Ugh, I’ll do it,” John said as he walked round to the other side of the bed and  took his phone off the bedside table and checked the time.

 

“Crap.”

 

“What?” Stuart said rather grumpily. Not caring for John shouting when his head felt like it was on fire and even the slightest noises were making his eardrums feel like they were bursting.

 

John stared at his best friend who was now sitting up in his bed.

 

“I’ve got a date in forty five minutes,” he stated with wide eyes as he stared at stuart. How had he let this happen? Paul sure as hell wouldn’t agree to go on another date if he screwed this one up too.

 

“Oh, yeah, that is definitely a ‘crap’ kind of situation,” Stuart replied, whilst scratching his head, followed by, “don’t worry, we can get you ready.”

 

John nodded his head, not because he necessarily believed anything that Stuart had just said but because he really wished he did.

 

John rushed into his bathroom and turned on the shower, he then grabbed his toothpaste and a toothbrush and stepped under the warm stream of falling water, five minutes later he stepped out with his hair washed and his teeth brushed and walked into to the bedroom to get some clothes.

John looked at his bed to see that Stuart was still laying there. John scowled at him and complained that he would have thought that Stuart had left his room by now and that he should ‘stop being a lazy little bugger’.

 

—-

 

He was a quarter of an hour late when he finally got to Paul’s flat. The younger man was waiting outside in the car park for him. He smiled when he saw John pull up and walked over to the drivers side of the car.

 

“You know you really shouldn’t be late if you really want to go on a date with me,” Paul stated, folding his arms and looking down at John who was staring at the steering wheel wishing he could have driven quicker.

 

Paul rolled his eyes at the other man deciding to pity him. It wasn’t like he had done anything remotely bad since the first date- and even that was kind of a joint screw up. It’s not like he was Pete. He would never go out with anyone like Pete.

 

The younger man slid into the passenger side of the car and John immediately gave him the auxiliary cord, Paul took it eagerly.

 

“Please don’t put on anything stupid, I swear I will turn it onto Capital and force you to listen to the same five songs on a loop,” John said, starting the engine, causing Paul to chuckle.

 

The young man and his younger companion finally arrived at a car park. Paul looked at John quizzically but John just smiled and got out of the car.

 

“Welcome to one of my favourite places in the entire city. You’re gonna love it, hopefully anyway,” John smiled but Paul could see the nervous glint in his eyes. The older man clearly wanted to impress him, maybe because he blamed himself for the first date. He really shouldn’t overthink this, He was on a date. With the guy he liked.

 

John was already walking towards a building when Paul came out of his daze. John was wearing a denim jacket that made him look older, it had a kind of post rocker vibe to it, in fact, he sort of looked like the kind of guy who would get high listening to the stone roses or something. As much as Paul liked the idea of seeing John high, Paul highly doubted he ever would after he himself swore off drugs after several varied experiences in the past.

 

“Are you coming or not?” John shouted from outside the door of an industrial looking building. He raised his arms as if to show off the wall as if he was a magician showing the audience his glamorous assistant.

 

Paul rolled his eyes and began walking to catch up with his date who had now opened the door and was holding it out for him, which made Paul rush so he didn’t have to wait too long for him, CURSE YOU BRITISH POLITENESS.

 

When Paul stepped through the doorway he thanked John before he looked around. There was a desk at one end of the room with a young receptionist at at it. The walls were painted grey but the bricks underneath were still visible. A sculpture of a mangled taxi had been placed near one of the large windows that looked onto the mainly deserted street. The floor was wooden and Paul could here John’s footsteps echo as he walked towards the desk.

 

“Hello, we’re here to see Mr Martin.”

 

“Ahh, name Please?”

 

“Lennon, John.”

 

“Mr. Martin will be with you shortly.”

 

Paul Sat down on a bench near a door that would lead him into the rest of the building and waited; a man came walking out of the door and greeted John with a firm handshake. He looked older than John, perhaps in his late thirties. John smiled at the older man before introducing him to Paul who smiled awkwardly before standing up to join the conversation.

 

“You must be Paul, I’ve heard a lot about you! I’m George Martin and I will be in charge of your room today, If you would follow me,” george said, turning to walk back through the door in which he had just came. Paul glanced suspiciously at John who just smiled.

 

After briefly showing the two men around, George brought them into another room which Paul realised was a recording studio. There was a drum set in the corner covered my a clear screen  and a striped bed sheet covering the centre of the floor, two microphones hung from frames near a blue sofa and to the side was a door and a window that went into a control room.

 

“Right, I’ll set up and then it’s all yours, remember you only have an hour,” George told John who nodded before smiling at (from what Paul could tell) was one of his family friends. George walked into the control booth and started sliding things and flicking some switches.

 

John looked at Paul as he sat on the sofa, moving a microphone so Paul could sit next to him. He had always loved to come to the studio, even when he was younger and his mum would take him to see George. He loved to fiddle with all the instruments, he had learnt how to play the banjo recently, although he still wasn’t very good.

 

“Are we allowed to play on anything?” Paul asked as he sat next to John. The other man chuckled and told him that he could do whatever he liked in here as long as he didn’t break anything. Paul grinned at him and ran his tongue over his rather small bottom lip, he was going to have a blast.

 

“Is there guitars that are tuned for a lefty? I mean if not then I can play upside down-” Paul said smiling sheepishly. Even at the age of twenty four he felt slight embarrassment for having to ask for left handed things.

 

“I reckon there is one in the cupboard, hang on,” John said scratching his head and getting up from the sofa. He turned to one of the walls and opened what Paul hadn’t even realised was a cupboard. The older man turned back to Paul and smiled before walking back to the sofa and giving him an acoustic guitar. He then looked around before spotting another guitar and grabbing it for himself.

 

“Right,” John said clapping his hands together, “I would just like to say, before we continue any further, that we are being recorded. So, like, be a good boy, yeah?”

 

Paul just rolled his eyes in response before he stated to strum on the guitar. It was an intricate pattern and the older man doubted he could do it himself. It was at that moment that John heard words come out of Paul’s mouth in a beautiful melody.

 

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

 

It was quite a sad song, John soon realised, but it was almost haunting and made him subconsciously lean towards the younger man. Paul’s fingers danced around on the strings between the frets, fascinating the older man.

 

As the song came to an end, John still stared at Paul’s fingers. The younger man was Bloody brilliant. After what was probably only a couple of seconds but felt like eternity, John remembered how to use his body and looked up at Paul who was now blushing.

 

“Did you write that yourself?” John asked in awe.

 

“Yeah but I don’t really have much time to write songs anymore with uni so I just tend to write down bits and pieces in the notes on my phone,” Paul said, John could swear he was getting closer, he could now feel his thigh lightly brushing the other man’s.

 

“Why don’t you show me them? We could maybe try to write something together, I’m pretty sure we have about fifty minutes left so we might be able to finish by the end.”

 

“I mean there was this one that I was thinking of calling ‘getting better’ if you wanted to go for that one? I was thinking of starting like this,” Paul said in an almost whisper, being so close to the other man, before he started playing a kind of punchy rhythm and singing.

 

---

 

After singing several songs (and messing around on several other instruments) George came in to say  that he needed to kick them out for another session.

 

Back in the car, John gave Paul a memory stick. Paul looked at him questioningly, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s from the session, I told you we were being recorded, I mean I can edit it down to just the good bits if you want but you can have the unedited version whilst I get it ready,” John said, still holding the memory stick until Paul grabbed it with a smile on his face.

 

Paul really wanted to hug the other man just then, ugh he was so cute! And that denim Jacket just made him hotter than usual. It wasn’t like he was too far away to hug either… ‘oh fuck it’ Paul thought as he wrapped his arms around John. The other man responded quickly, wrapping his arms around Paul.

 

“Thank you,” Paul whispered as he nuzzled John’s stubbly cheek, liking the feeling of it rubbing against his skin. He could feel John’s arms rub his arms up and down his back, just like Pete used to do.

 

Shit. Paul froze.

 

“Are you okay?” John said pulling back to look at him. Paul managed a nod, however the rest of his body was still frozen. Why did the man still affect him after a year?

 

“Pete used to do that,” Paul whispered barely audible over the air conditioning that John had turned on when they had gotten in the car. “It’s fine though, I’m fine don’t worry. Let’s just go back to your place so you can edit the recording, Okay?”

 

John looked at him for a moment, probably to try to figure out what he did wrong, before answering.

 

“Okay, but only if you want to.”

 

“Just..Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

John was about a half a mile away from his flat when his phone rang on the bluetooth of his car. The name flashed as Ringo, or rather the nickname George had set it as about six months ago, Cock Ring. John could see Paul stare at him with a questioning gaze through his peripheral vision as he answered the call.

 

“Johnnn!” the voice from the speaker whined, sounding needy like a toddler even though it was clearly a grown man on the other end of the phone.

 

“I’m busy,” John snapped, turning around a corner onto a busy street. Cars lined either side of the road so he had to slow down to make sure he didn’t have to bump into any of them.

 

Paul was now staring at the screen in the car, wondering why this man had been set as ‘Cock Ring’ was he one of John’s exes? But surely he couldn't be? John had been in a long term relationship with Cynthia so he doubted that he would still be in contact with any of his exes before that. That meant that this cock ring guy must be one of John’s friends. He knew he had a friend with a nickname that had something to do with a ring but he could’ve sworn that it was much more light hearted than Cock Ring…He wasn’t really one to judge though, his brother was saved at bike pump after a slight accident had occurred whilst he had been at school.

 

“But our car broke down and Dhani isn’t well, we really need to take him to the vet and the only appointment is in twenty minutes.” The rich, no longer whiny voice said.

 

John looked at Paul who rolled his eyes and smiled.

 

“Sure you can come pick them up,” Paul said, after all his dog Martha was one of his favourite living things. She was currently living with his dad as he was not able to have any pets in the flat. Although, he didn’t really think that it would be fair to have such a large dog in the tiny apartment anyway. She always seemed to be getting fatter each time he saw her, and couldn’t wait to get a small starter house so she could live with him again.

 

HIs little brother Mike, who was in his final year of college, messaged him dog updates on snapchat sometimes and seeing them together made his stomach ache as he was too busy with uni to have enough free time to hang around with his brother.

 

He would hate to have anything happen to his beloved girl. Or any of his family.

 

“Who’s that?” the voice asked.

 

“You’ll see when we get there I suppose,” John said with a sigh as he turned onto a different street and started heading west to George and Ringo’s little terrace house. There was a groan from the speaker before whoever it was hung up.

 

Paul continued to play his music on aux as the two men drove out of the city centre. The tall buildings and cobblestone side road soon turned into more suburban run down pubs and corner shops. The roads became less busy and the houses became less stacked up on top of each other and instead became squished together in rows instead.

 

His mind was still replaying the hug earlier and cursing itself for acting so awkwardly. He could here Pete in the back of his mind taunting his for not acting normal, it wasn’t like John would hurt him, was it? The other man was surely a good guy, he going to drive cock ring to the vets for goodness sakes.

 

When John pulled into his friends’ drive he could see George peeping nervously through the curtains in the living room. Their house was quite small and the paint on the gutter had started to peel but on the inside the house was rather lovely.

 

The last time John had been round the couple had been decorating the dining room with a light brown wallpaper and a hanging chair, which John had loved to sit in whilst watching his friends do all the work without him. At the end of the visit the room had more or less been finished and John had thought it looked great.

 

John gave George a half smile and waved. Soon, both Ringo, George and Dhani the ferret were all squashed into the back of John’s car. George flashed Paul a smile when he saw him whereas the other man was focused into a small animal carrier.

 

“He just won’t eat anythin’,” George tried to explain to Paul who had turned around to look art the two people who had just gotten into the car. John smiled sadly in the rear view mirror which George returned.

 

Paul smiled sadly before asking,”So which one of you is cock ring? I mean I know that you’re called George, and you were the one making out with George at that gig, but I have no idea which one of you would have such a fruitful nickname” he said looking at George and Ringo in turn with a slight scowl on his face.

 

George chuckled at Paul’s words before explaining that ‘cock ring’ was actually named Richard but everyone called him Ringo because of his love for rings, of all kinds, and that he was actually his husband so ‘keep off or I’ll tie ye up and chuck ye in the mersey’ which made Paul grin.

 

Ringo was staring sadly into the cage where Dhani the ferret must’ve been. Paul turned back around both to give the other two men some privacy with their beloved pet and because he was starting to feel ill from looking backwards whilst in a moving vehicle.

 

When they finally got to the vets, the back seats were quickly emptied as the men rushed inside (although Ringo was careful not to drop Dhani and had to rush slower than George but with just as much manic movements) John sighed at his friends before looking at Paul. The man looked so laid back sitting and watching the vet building.

 

His hair was ruffled which made him look younger than he actually was, there was slight stubble on his cheek that John could’ve sworn wasn’t there earlier. Paul’s eyes were fixed on the building so he didn’t manage to catch the twitch in the corners of John’s lips as he studied the younger man’s features.

 

The younger man was completely relaxed save for the way he had his hand clamped around his phone which was still plugged into the aux of John’s car.

 

“Paul?”

 

“Hmm,” Paul said still looking at the old fashioned building that John’s friends had just gone into. It was quite beautiful and had some lovely window boxes containing some whilst flowers.

 

“Are you okay now, I was really worried that I’d done something stupid again,” John said looking back up  at Paul’s face for any indication that the man was upset with him, after a couple of seconds the younger man sighed and turned towards him, taking his eyes off the building.

 

Paul stared at John who was looking at him with a slight crease in his forehead and wide eyes that seemed to be searching his face. Paul gave a sad smile before opening his mouth and closing it again. He had to tell John about Pete at some point; the man would have to know sooner or later. But what if he didn’t understand? Or the thought that it was his own fault? But surely he wouldn’t do that? Or would he? He started staring out the window again trying to distance himself from the eyes he could feel watching him.

 

Maybe he should Just get it over with? He could Just say something.

 

Any minute now.

 

“Look I don’t mind if you don’t want to tell me whatever it is you’re struggling with but I just want to check that you’re okay,” John said running his hand through his hair and looking carefully at the man next to him.

 

Fortunately, it seemed to be the right thing to say as Paul’s lips twitched upwards a few degrees into one of the smallest smiles John had ever seen. However, at this moment he didn’t really care because relief was flooding over him.

 

The two men sat in silence waiting for The ferret and it’s owners come back. Paul staring out the window, smiling, John staring at Paul, smiling.

 

“He’s gonna be fine!” George said rejoicing as he entered the car. John rolled his eyes, almost surprised that his friends hadn’t brought confetti to celebrate (and also to make a huge mess in his car).

 

“It’s just a little infection, The vet just gave us some medicine.” Ringo said, smiling at the creature inside the cage. His eyes full of adoration for the small animal.

 

Paul turned around to look at the people in back.

 

“That’s good,” he said.

 

John started the engine and Paul turned back to the front but not before he caught a glimpse of the pale furry animal in the cage.

 

---

 

“Thank you,” Paul said as John gave him a cup of tea. He was at on the saggy ikea sofa in John’s flat. He had found a blanket whilst John had been in the kitchen and had wrapped himself in it.

 

John sat next to him, which made the sofa cushion move as more weight had been added. John put his own mug of tea to his lips and started drinking. The TV was playing some kind of trashy programme and there was someone crying on the screen.

 

Paul felt surprisingly comfortable being in the flat alone with John. He definitely liked the older man and was almost certain that John felt the same. It all seemed so… good.

 

“Your friends seem like nice people,” Paul said not really expecting a response from John, who seemed to be absorbed by the show. Some woman called Janet seemed to be screaming at another one of the women.

 

“I feel like I should probably tell you about Pete,” The younger man said whilst trying not to look at John. Maybe the fact that he couldn't look at his just showed that wasn‘t the right time to tell him? Ugh. He really didn’t want to go back down the rabbit hole of doubt. This had all been a mistake.

 

“Who’s Pete?” John asked, his words felt clear unlike everything else that Paul could sense, it was like everything had gone cloudy, like a dream.

 

“My Ex,” Paul heard himself say to the other man. The words seem to cut though the fuzz and make everything open again. He could hear a kind of whistle in his ears but he tried his best to ignore it and focus on the coffee table in front of him instead. He had to do it now, he’d already started.

 

“It was seven years ago when I met him, I was trying out for a band in college and he was the drummer. He was pretty good too and we hit it off more or less straight away. I got the place as Bassist more or less straight away.

 

“After our second gig he got really drunk and kissed me, we ended up going back to his and as I’m sure you could imagine, we became more or less inseparable. For about three years it was great- but then I left college and really wanted to go to Oxford. He told me that he didn’t want to come with me because he had a job and family and that I should stay with him if I really loved him.

 

“By this time, I barely had any other friends left because I spent majority of my time with him so I made the decision to stay because I’m really not that great at dealing with completely new situations. We decided to move in together soon after that. He was fine for about two months but then I made a new friend called Ivan, you know my roommate,” Paul said, finally looking at John who nodded.

 

“Well he didn’t like me hanging out with him so he hid my phone for about three days and played it off as a joke. I Thought it was a bit off but I loved him and he loved me so I let it slide. A few other things happened for the next couple of months. I don’t really remember most of it, I still saw Ivan but not as much as I had hoped. Pete started going out more and more and spending less and less time with me and then one night he just came home and started yelling.

 

“I don’t remember what it was about but I do remember the window was open,” Paul said with a short bitter laugh. He realised that John had switched the TV off but had no memory of that happening. He turned to John, before deciding to shuffle up to him, seeking the warmth of the other man.

 

John more or less froze when Paul snuggled up to him. He was definitely not expecting the younger man to want to touch anyone whilst talking about such a horrid thing, but then again he supposed that he might need him as some sort of rock. He soon settled under Paul waiting for him to continue at his own pace.

 

“I started talking to Ivan more and he kept trying to persuade me to leave but I loved Pete and didn’t want to go. I decided to talk to Pete and he got really mad, saying that Ivan was trying to ruin our relationship and so I decided to stop talking to him.

 

“It worked for a while and he shouted at me less for about a year and a half and I thought everything was fine again. But then He came home one night with a girl and I’m sure you can figure out what happened after that.

 

“Ivan saw me a few weeks later in a supermarket wandering around looking spaced out and took me to my dad’s and I lived there for a couple of months, until Ivan needed a flatmate because his old one had moved in with his girlfriend.”

 

John moved to rub his hand along Paul’s arm. He was never very good at comforting people, although Paul didn’t seem to necessarily need comfort he just seemed to be really spaced out. Maybe he should be worried, the younger man had been awfully calm whilst telling him everything, John himself couldn’t even imagine how hard it had been and yet Paul had kept a monotone voice almost entirely, giving away very little emotion.

 

Paul listened to John’s steady breathing, whilst leaning into his side. He was quite comfortable; he felt light again.

---

Astrid was packing up her shoes into a cardboard box in her childhood bedroom, she already knew she was going to miss everything. Most of her furniture was going to stay with her mum since Stu had almost everything but she had decided to take some of her vinyls that were no longer playable because of scratches and scuffs to hang on the wall of what was soon to be her flat. Her mum had taken the liberty of already stripping the bed, making the room look almost empty, despite the desk and cupboards still being in place. It looked sort of like a run down motel room, used and abused and yet still technically clean.

 

Last night she had been on FaceTime to Stuart for almost an hour and they had finally managed to set a date for the wedding. Stuart had been busy looking at venues for the past few months, always sending her pictures of the ones he liked best which just made her want to be there in Liverpool even more. The wedding had finally been set for the second Saturday in July next year.

 

Last week she had been talking to Georgia about whether to get a dress in Hamburg or to wait to get one in Liverpool. She had been looking with her mum in a few different shops but hadn’t managed to make a decision yet, she hadn’t wanted lots of lace, a train or anything poofy, which made it rather difficult to get anything suitable. In the end she had decided to go out with Georgia at some point during the Christmas holidays as it was almost September and she probably wouldn’t be properly moved in until about October.

 

Quite frankly, she was looking forward to being able to plan everything in person with her fiance rather than doing it by looking at pictures on a tiny phone screen. Plus she couldn’t wait to get to try a load of free cake samples at different bakeries around the city.

 

It would just be such a shame to leave her home.

 

She took an LP out of its sleeve and placed it on the turntable that was still set up under her bedroom window. The familiar crackle coming from the speakers calmed her as she placed the needle on the already spinning record. A synthesiser  started to play followed by a drum riff that made her feel like she was in a cult. The young woman fell onto her empty, stripped bed and stared at the spray paint on the ceiling.

 

A couple years back she had gotten bored from writing one of the essays for a professor and had used black spray paint to create a stag on the ceiling, obviously her mum had been furious when she had found out and the room had stank of paint for about three weeks afterwards but it had been so much fun to do and even now she knew she wouldn’t get to do that sort of thing with her future husband in her new home.

 

As the record came to an end she stood, picked up the box with all her shoes and carried it out into the hallway.  Her mum was out and she was home alone.



Chapter Text

Paul wasn’t completely sure what day it was anymore. He knew it was almost September; he and Ivan had gone shopping for a load of new notebooks in the back to school sales ready for their final year at Uni. He wasn’t really sure what day it had been when they had done that but he’d been to sleep twice since then so he assumed it had been two days ago (although one never knew when one was a student and often stayed up until three in the morning before sleeping for twelve hours straight).

 

It was going to be a year until he could finally teach in his own classroom (if he managed to get a job straight away) and a year until he could finally quit his awful job at the hipster coffee shop and say goodbye to (almost) all of the hipsters that went there. This year would mostly be work within a school as well as a load of paperwork and such. So, whilst he was making a latte at said hipster coffee shop, Paul smiled to himself and tried to ignore the fact that his boss was giving him evils.

 

Paul turned around and gave the coffee to a young woman who had a half shaved head and bright yellow glasses frames. She thanked him, before returning to a table that was full of interesting appearances and twirly moustaches. How was it classed as fashionable to look like the Go Compare man?

 

He couldn’t wait to leave his job.

 

“Could you not at least try to smile more?” Brian enquired in his snooty little middle class way, whilst serving a young man with a blue beard (Paul wasn’t really sure why anyone would want a blue beard but he tried his best not to stare).

 

Paul rolled his eyes and gave Brian a big cheesy grin. It was a miracle that he hadn’t been fired yet, now he thought about it.  Brian ignored him and started to talk to a new customer that had just reached the counter. Paul went into the back room and checked his phone. He had two texts from Georgia:

 

‘Me and Pats are coming to see you’

 

‘Pats was called in to work but I’m still coming’

 

Paul smiled down at his phone screen before texting back to say he was about to finish his shift. After, he grabbed his jacket and walked out into the front of the cafe. It smelled of coffee and concrete and Paul couldn’t wait to get home and let his shower take both smells away from his body. He was technically finishing a few minutes early but he doubted the evil boss man would care since he was such a ‘bloody useless fool’, which made Paul question once again why he was still actually employed at the cafe.

 

Paul sat on a an empty brown sofa near the door hoping Georgia wouldn't be long. It sagged under his weight and the arms were lumpy from too many people leaning on them. How could anyone like this place? The furniture was positively hideous and it stank of damp concrete.

 

Georgia patted her hands harshly onto Paul’s shoulders from behind, making him jump.

 

“Hello stranger, I swear it’s been a month since I last saw your pretty little face. I think I almost missed you,” Georgia said, not stopping for a breath. Paul gave her a half smile and raised his eyebrows.

 

“So what’s been happening?” she continued, barely giving Paul time to give any kind of verbal response (not that he was going to give one, mind) before giving him a smile. She perched herself on the arm of the sofa and looked down at her friend in the chair.

 

Paul scratched his head, “Well I went on another date with John and we ended up helping his friends’ feret get to the vets on time for an appointment. Then we went to his house and watched trashy television.”

 

“Dhani was ill?” Georgia asked, with worry flashing over her face.

 

“Er, yeah but it was a minor infection,” Paul said reassuringly, how did everyone seem to know this ferret? It obviously proved that he was breaking into a tight knitted friend group, he just hoped everyone would welcome him with open arms. He was still yet to meet Stu or Astrid who had apparently been together since the end of college. Maybe if they just didn’t welcome him with pitchforks he would be fine.

 

Hopefully.

 

John had told him about how they had met at an art gallery and him and Stuart had been pretending to be two peasant women from one of the oil paintings and Astrid had asked if she could take a picture of them. Obviously John had said yes and after a few photos she had given Stuart her number in case he wanted some of the prints (or at least that was the excuse she had used) and the rest, as they say, was history.

 

“How did you meet John?” Paul asked, looking up at his friend. Georgia gave him a knowing smile before answering.

 

“We were at uni together and I met him at one of my first gigs, I attempted to impress him with a lil’ old guitar solo and I only messed it up a little bit. He was actually in a band at the time as well, I almost joined him myself.”

 

Paul frowned a little, John had been in a band? How was there so much he still didn’t know about the man. He knew quite a bit, sure, but how could he not know about a band? They constantly talked about music when they were together, how had it not come up?

 

Paul could just imagine it, John as the leading man, playing a guitar and wearing one of his leather jackets with his hair gelled back, much like how he looked on their very first date. And a bunch of older teenagers and young adults would be shuffling their feet and pretending to be cool even though they secretly liked the good ol’ rock and roll and a couple of them would finally be dancing by the end of the set. John would probably fiznish with some kind of clever comment and the crowd would go wild.

 

“Paulie dear, your eyes seem to have glazed over and you have started to drool a little, would I be right in assuming you were thinking of our ol’Johnny?” Georgia said, laughing. Paul scowled and leaned back in his chair defensively; he rubbed the corner of mouth casually and glared at his friend once he had finished checking that there in fact no drool which caused Georgia to burst out laughing.

 

“I really like him,” Paul said quietly, staring at nothing particular.

 

“I know.”

 

---

 

John arrived at the Harrison-Starkey household at around noon. He was definitely in the mood for some tea and biscuits. For the whole morning he had been doing lesson preparations for his class next year and to say he was fed up of doing it would’ve been a understatement. The young man had gotten so frustrated that when his friends called with an invitation of tea and biscuits he had quickly thrown his papers to the floor (literally, he would have to pick them up when he got home) and ran down stairs to his car (not literally, he actually took the lift and walked at a casual pace).

 

He knocked on the door of his friends’ house and Ringo soon opened the door with a grin on his face. He was wearing a blue shirt with baggy sleeves and some loose fitting jeans. He stepped aside as to let John in.

 

The skinny hallway had been painted again since John had last came a few weeks ago, it was now mainly grey with a light wooden floor. John took off his shoes and placed them near the door. He could smell something baking in the oven, it smelled of butter and made his stomach growl. Had he even had any breakfast? Probably not since he woke up at nine and had gotten almost straight to work. Ugh his life was becoming so repetitive, was this what it meant to be a real life adult? He even had a specific parking spot in the car park at work, which was kind of annoying bearing in mind it was one of the ones that was furthest from the school building.

 

George appeared from the kitchen with a plate full of biscuits.

 

“Hey mate, I put some tea on for ye, it's in the front room, Ringo can ye get the cakes for me love?” George said looking at his husband before walking into the living room. John followed him in and flopped onto the sofa and put his feet up, making George tut at him.

 

“What's on TV?” John said picking up the remote and flicking through the channels, despite George protesting that he had been watching what was on (which was probably a lie bearing in mind it had been a rugby match and George hated all sports) and put on a rerun of friends that was playing on Comedy Central. George rolled his eyes but didn’t ask to change it.

 

“I’ve always thought it would’ve been great to live in New York,” John said staring at the screen. George just grunted in reply.

 

The living room was a lovely little space, in the middle of the floor was a little orange and brown rug which would’ve probably looked hideous if the room had been fairly plain and boring. However, paintings and photos lined the walls and there were several candles on top of a small bookshelf that George had found at a charity shop and impulsively bought. There were a couple of books spread around the shelf, mainly about meditation and buddhism in general but a few of Ringo’s books had also made it onto the shelf including his copy of Bridget Jones which made John chuckle. There was one especially large photo on a canvas from when Ringo and George had gone on their honeymoon to India and went meditating with a large group of other young couples.

 

George shuffled in the other sofa to make enough room for his husband to squeeze onto the end.

“So how has work been?” Ringo asked, whilst squeezing his bottom into the tiny space that George had given him.

 

“Alright, I guess, I’ve been planning lessons for what seems like eternity and some of us are going in tomorrow to sort out the classrooms. I mean this is meant to be my holidays and I still have to do a load of sodding work.” John said with exasperation. If he had known how much work it had been to be a teacher he would’ve probably not done it at all. Although, as he thought about it, it was mainly Cynthia who had persuaded him to go for it.

 

George sighed and went to grab a biscuit from the coffee table before replying, “Well at least you get all those holidays, some of us have to even work in the summer.”

 

Ringo snickered at George’s comment. Deep down John knew it was true but he still disliked the fact that his own time was being used on his work, something that he hadn’t really wanted to do in the first place. He still occasionally wrote, but not as much as he had when he was younger. He still loved it but it wasn’t really the same. On a few occasions, John had wanted to give up teaching all together but he knew it couldn’t be a reality because he had bills to pay.

 

Ringo snuggled into George’s boney shoulder and put his feet up on the edge of the table, which made George scowl at him. The older man kept his feet where they were nonetheless.

 

“Look, I get that you like to have the school holidays off to do whatever it is that you do in your spare time, like all that important cheese you eat or whatever, but I still have to work and so does George so count yourself lucky.”

 

John rolled his eyes at his older friend, “But at least you kind of enjoy what you do, those kiddiewinkles will drive me mad one of these days.”

 

“Why don’t you take a biscuit and stop whining?” George said, picking up the plate and shoving it in John’s face. He took one of the bigger ones and started to eat.

 

---

John had invited Paul out for another one of Georgia’s gigs and Paul had obviously been trying to figure out what to wear for the last half an hour.

 

Ivan was perched on the edge of the bed and had been giving Paul suggestions, none of which seemed to have been helpful.

 

“What about that suit your dad got you?” Ivan suggested, examining the contents of Paul’s wardrobe (that was currently all spread across the floor save for a tuxedo that his grandfather had given him for one of his cousin’s weddings) squinting as if trying to think of ways in which his hideous clothes might magically become an actual decent outfit.

 

“Why the fuck would I wear a suit to a gig? Besides, I want to look great, I think John has been treating me kind of differently since I told him about Pete.” Paul said, dramatically throwing himself onto his bed. It was true, however, that John had barely touched him since he had told him about the monster man. Occasionally, he had touched his arm and on one spectacular occasion he had even held his hand but Paul craved the feeling of laying against his body and simply being able to smell him.

 

“Okay, okay...What do people normally wear to these things?” Ivan asked turning towards his friend and raising his eyebrows expectantly.

 

Paul sighed an sat up on the bed,”I don’t know, its usually kind of folky but loads of different people turn up. Last time there were a load of girls in short dresses and stuff but George and Cock ring were wearing some kind of hippie inspired outfits.”

 

“Who the fuck is Cock ring?” Ivan said, scowling before shaking his head dismissively. Paul laughed.

 

“Right, so I guess I’ll wear that then.”

 

---

 

John was at the door of Paul’s flat. He smoothed over his hair and knocked. He was wearing a red flannel shirt and some navy Levi’s that he had picked up in a sale last year. It would be great to finally have a night of getting drunk and listening to music and just forget about everything. It would be wonderfully splendid, as he had said when he had first met Paul. Wonderfully Splendid.

 

About a minute later, a man answered the door. John sort of recognised him from Georgia’s last gig but decided to reintroduce himself anyway. Ivan (whom he had finally remembered the name of) told him that Paul was still getting ready and walked further into the flat leaving the door open for John to let himself in.

 

The flat, which John could now see properly without Paul’s roommate in the way, was quite plain with a wooden floor with a large couch in the corner and a sound system next to it. John smiled, thinking of how similar his and Paul’s music tastes were, he was so glad that Georgia knew him (although he still wasn’t really fond of how she and George publicly embarrassed him at the coffee shop).  Paul appeared from a doorway, which John assumed was his bedroom. He was wearing a patterned shirt and some kind of knitted waistcoat.

 

The shirt was a darkish blue colour and had been tucked into a pair of bootcut jeans. The waistcoat looked as if it was home made by a grandma or something and was a sort of flowery pattern.

 

“Wow, you look…” John trailed off at a loss for words. Paul looked grand- which wasn’t a word he would normally use to describe such a bold choice of clothing and yet he somehow made it work.  Paul looked at the floor, then at Ivan, then at the floor once again.

 

“I knew I should’ve just gone with the plain shirt,” Paul whispered, before John could correct himself by actually finishing his sentence. Why had that come out so wrong? It was meant to be one of those cliche moments that he sometimes watched when it was a friday night and he was too tired to go out. He could feel Ivan’s eyes on him; they were glaring into his side.

 

“No, no, you look amazing- you somehow manage to pull it off- I could never wear that and look good. Damn it, I sound like an idiot,” John said, stepping towards the younger man who was still refusing to look up at him. He continued talking anyway,” Look I didn’t mean for it to come out like that, you look great, just wear what you’re comfortable in. Okay?” John asked, putting his hand on Paul’s shoulder before running it down his arm and eventually grabbed the younger man’s fingers.

 

“Right, well I’m going to go out. I’ll be back about midnight,” Ivan said grabbing his coat and trying his best to look anywhere but at John and Paul. The latter of the two men had finally stopped looking at his feet and was looking at their hands instead. John smiled as he heard the door close, signalling Ivan’s departure. He Squeezed Paul’s hand.

 

“Are you okay?” He whispered into Paul’s ear, which made Paul’s hairs prickle. How could he be mad at John when he was always so nice? (okay maybe not always but he tried his best). Paul placed his other hand on John’s shoulder and rubbed it slightly.

 

“Yes, I’m fine. I just wasn’t very sure what to wear, is all,” Paul sighed and looked into John’s eyes, he could smell his musky scent and took a deep breath without really meaning to, leaning in as he did so.

 

John looked Paul in the eye and smiled. In his mind was sighing in relief, that had somehow worked better than he had thought it would. He let go of his hand and instead put it on the small of Paul’s back.

 

“Come on let’s go- I told Georgia that we’d come early to help set up.”

 

Paul could feel his face falling but tried his best to smile. God, he had wanted to kiss John so badly, it just felt like some kind of endless waiting game. They had met over six weeks ago (although he supposed the first two didn’t really count bearing in mind all they had done was go on one of the most awkward dates in history) and they had barely even touched each other. Maybe John just thought of him as a friend? That couldn’t be true- he had practically embraced him in front of Ivan. He even had his hand if his back for Christ sakes!

 

Maybe he was still hung up on Cynthia? It still hadn’t been six months and from what he could tell it had been a serious relationship (they had even had a hamster together!). He supposed he could wait for the other man.

 

“Let’s go!” Paul said as enthusiastically as he could manage despite his realisation that his relationship was seemingly going nowhere in the near future. He grabbed his coat and let himself be guided out of the door by John.