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When Nick came downstairs with that envelope, Paul felt right away that something was amiss. The letter was handed to Barry and while the boy scanned it, Paul looked at Nick questioningly, and when Barry handed Nick the letter, Nick passed it to Paul without breaking their eye contact. Paul looked away to read it, and they were conspirators, the three of them, because the letter was addressed to Laura...

Paul had to catch his breath when he saw who the letter was from. A Sir Allardyce Stevens.
He hadn't really meant for it to go this far.

"Paul, what does it say?" Eddie asked.

His insides twisted. "It's a letter, from some... doctor... coming for a consultation, with reference to... fucking seperatin' 'em... To Laura."

Paul had waited for this, waited for this moment, and with the drugs and the alcohol thrumming madly through his veins, with his heart pumping out a bass-line to the Bang Bang blasting from the speakers in the background, Paul leaned down and kissed Barry Howe full on the mouth. And not only that, but Barry Howe kissed him back. Barry had initiated it for God's sake. Barry was pressing up to him, and Paul was almost afraid to deepen that contact for fear that Baz would pull away. But it was Barry's tongue that touched just once against his lower lip before they both moved back.

The next morning, Laura asked Paul to come outside with her. He knew right away that this wasn't good, and so he left the kitchen table where Barry was leaning close to him, purposely, it seemed, crossing his arm over Paul's in order to point out the lyrics in his blue notebook. Paul flipped a few pages after they both realised they were getting nowhere with the song, and idly began doodling on the back cover. "You have to sign it," Barry said after a moment. He hadn't taken his eyes off of the picture Paul had sketched out in blue ink, and so he did.

Paul was trying not to notice how quiet Tom had gotten. How he was pushing his toast crusts around on his plate with his fingers as though trying to keep out of Barry's business. Barry's business which happened to be Paul.

It was a nice morning. A little cloudy and cool, but fresh. Paul hoped Laura wasn't about to spoil it, but she did. He should have known... because apparently everything he got, she wanted.

She brought up the kiss, and he felt his entire body tense up in anxiety. He walked further away from her, his boots crunching on the gravel. As politely as he could, he explained to her that it had just been the drugs. It was better if she didn't know... besides, this thing... this physical proximity Barry was suddenly daring to attempt made Paul wonderfully jittery inside, and he thought he might just have something here. He didn't want to lose it. He used to think 'It never hurts to hope', but he had learned the hard way that that was wrong.

"It was nothing, Laura. It's nothing"
Her expression was all he needed to see to know she didn't believe him. Once they were back inside, he passed the kitchen, and glimpsed Baz's eyes on him, confused, as he passed. And it was Laura who took her place with the twins at the table.

And Paul was so sick of it.

He collapsed onto the couch in the recording room, and his eyes scanned the room without seeing it, until they lit on one of Tubs's magazines on the cluttered coffee table. Allardyce Stevens was written in slender red letters on a dark background, and Paul reached forward and flipped through until he came to a certain page, half-wondering why he even cared. He began to read about the 'brilliant medical advances' that the man had managed, and a fierce bubble of hope and anxiousness began to build hotly in his stomach... the anger was just enough to fuel the fire.

And so it was with anger and a half-crazed hope that he shuffled through the drawers for a pen and paper, and wrote out a letter, explaining the situation of the twins and inquiring as to what a separation would involve... it was just something to do to burn that fury out. A curiosity that would later end up in pieces in the rubbish bin.

But later that day when the band was going through their set in preparation for their next gig, and Barry pulled Tom over to Paul in a break, to have Laura slip an arm around Tom's waist and reach out to catch Barry's attention, drawing it away from Paul, and that look she gave Paul... a warning look... it was all he could do to get through the last three songs before he left as quickly as he could. He slipped his hand into his pocket, looking for fags and pulled out the letter... he stopped in the middle of his room, the last of the day's sunlight shining in on him as he scanned the paper... suddenly, an idea struck him. His heart racing in his throat he picked up a pen and held it, quivering, over the slightly crinkled page before he signed the name Laura Ashworth.

He realised then that he had always known how similar they were. Both outcasts, in a way, in society... both in love with the boys... or one of the boys... but that wasn't enough... it just wasn't enough to stop him sending that letter, because she had already torn out his heart once. He couldn't, he couldn't let her do it again.

The way Tom looked at him before he looped his arm around Barry's shoulders that day in the basement made it absolutely clear that he was going to tell his brother who wrote that letter.

"Where's Laura?" he asked... but one look at Laura's eyes as he went up to bed that night told him that she knew too. She and Tom weren't stupid, and neither was Barry. Barry would believe

Tom when Tom told him that it was Paul, not Laura, who had betrayed them.

And perhaps, Paul thought, it was better that way. He focused on his own blue eyes in his faded reflection in the window his room, and had to close them in disgust.

2005

Laura glanced away from the interviewer when he asked her if she wrote the letter.
She had taken the blame for it all these years, because in a way, they had all protected Paul. Barry and Tom refused to talk about the letter after that day, and she had never had the heart to tell the truth... that she had not written it.

After all, she had already hurt Paul once. Maybe she deserved what she got... but then again, it still hurt her to think that Paul Day would do a thing like that... but she had been in love. She had been in love several times, and she knew what crazy things it made people do...

"I didn't write that letter to Allardyce Stevens," she began... but then she stopped.

But on the other hand, she could bring it all out in the open now. Show that Laura Ashworth was not the villain everyone made her out to be. Was not the 'disruptive effect' on the band. That she was not in the boys' worst interest.

She finally looked directly at the camera man, realising that she was rambling, and took a deep breath.

"I wasn't really in a position to defend myself," she began. "Or I didn't think I was then anyway... but really, I was set up."

She couldn't take all the blame. Because she remembered Barry crying so hard he was gasping that night, and she could never quite forgive Paul for that.

Perhaps they were even now.