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Ain't That America?

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Roger is off on a conquest their first night on this leg of the tour, never mind the fact they'd flown into Indianapolis before their show and ignoring the possibility of jet lag; and Freddie is most certainly dazzling the patrons at some club or another. So it is up to Brian and John to sort out their hotel room. Both are less worried about Fred when he is in a small town, or what passes for a small town because the Midwest is not known for its wild atmosphere and wilder haunts. They have New York for that. The boys have done in the mere compunction of worrying about Roger. He goes wherever and with whomever he wishes, and like a prince of Faerie never seems any the worse for it. He shines as he moves through the world like a silver sixpence coin buffed to shimmer along guitar strings underneath stage lights.

Brian lets out a heavy sigh and pushes back his curls. John smiles with his entire face, wagging his eyebrows at the other as they enter the low-ceilinged low-cost inn that their manager had stressed was the only one in Indianapolis they can afford. John in particular holds some doubts about that, in no small part due to what had happened with their previous manager. But as per usual he keeps his doubts to himself. Best not to speak unless he knows what to say; otherwise he simply ought to dry up.

Brian takes the key for their room with a gracious inclination of his head and a polite smile for the receptionist, saying "Thank you very much. I think we can get our own bags, yeah?" He glances back at John, who nods. "Yes, but that's very kind of you to to offer to bring them up. Thank you. Have a lovely evening."

John nods and smiles along. He is grateful to Brian (in a painful sort of way) for being his mouth piece of sorts, able to speak the sentiments that John doesn't voice but nevertheless feels deeply. He has never been a talker in any aspect or avenue, and being part of a band is so far out of his comfort zone (having joined on a whim, thinking it'd make a good hobby, really, but never a real career) that he is exponentially grateful to Brian, who speaks for him; Roger who breaks him up with laughter and then joins right in; and most of all to Freddie who takes his little life and helps him soar, granting some sort of small strength that breaks John out of his shell--or at the very least is able to crack it. John knows he will never stop owing them all for this as long as he lives.

But right now he is a trifle less grateful to their manager. Brian leads the way down a dimly-lit hallway over creaking floors with faded carpeting to a room that has chipped paint on the door. Not something anyone but Freddie would notice, so of course John notices too. Brian puts the key in the knob, it gets stuck, and putting one foot flush against the wood the lanky guitarist grips the knob and jabs his right shoulder against the door, black curls swinging in his exertion.

It pops open to reveal a room with heavy curtains, two low beds, one table, a chair, and a tiny television, the screen of which looks like an ancient goldfish bowl and the rotary knob on the bottom front only goes to four channels. "...Right," John drops his bag upon the floor. "Home sweet home."

Brian smiles. Grimaces, really-- he had tweaked his shoulder when hitting the door in. Trotting over to the window, he puts his own bag down and bends low to peer out, rays of late afternoon sunlight catching hues in midnight hair and along the lean curve of his thin olive-skinned cheek. More than half of the window is obscured by the shadow of another building behind.

"Great," Bri lets the cloth fall back into place, long fingers skittering like pale spiders across the dark cloth and then across his face. He presses their tips to the bridge of his nose and turns around, other hand slapping against the side of one leg before he pulls his Old Lady off his back and lays her gently on the nearer bedspread. "I hope we at least have a camp bed in here for Rogie to kip on if he even comes back tonight." He looks over as John opens the door to and enters the loo. "... How's the view in there?"

"Bloody awful," John returns. "They only gave us one set of soaps."

"Eesh. Fred's not going to stand for that," Brian tutted. Picking at the tawdry cloth of the bedspread, he inquires "Does any of this...?"

"--Injure my delicate sensibilities beyond repair?" John comes out of the bathroom smirking a little. "Well it's certainly not the penthouse, but we'll just have to make the most of it, I suppose." He leans one arm high against the doorframe and nods at the shelf alongside their tiny TV. "Still, this room has one thing going for it."

Brian sits at last and roughs up his hair a bit before smoothing it out as best he can. "...Yeah? And what's that?"

His grin broader and more real now, John bends and opens a low door that happens to reveal several bottles of liquor. "... It's got a minibar."

Brian stares at him for a moment that stretches so long that John's smile begins to slip away and he feels sweat prickling at the edges of his hair. Had he said something wrong? He should never have suggested drinking; Bri probably just wants to get some sleep. But then the gangly guitarist stands and searches out a pair of glasses, finding some on the table. He holds them out wordlessly, an answering smile tugging at his lips for a brief moment. John carefully pours and takes one cup. Brian lifts the other.

"To a tour of the American Midwest."

"...To the Midwest," John articulates with the slightest trace of irony.

They clink their glasses together and drink down the booze. Brian's eyes water and he gasps at its burn, and John gulps down a hard swallow before filling the glasses again.

***

The two men end up sitting on the floor and talking. Well, Brian is talking. Leaning his long back against the broadside of the bed he swings the hand holding his drink around expansively as John had asked him something about the stars. "They seem so much clearer here," he said. "Bright, but also so far away. Why?"

And Brian had lit up and gone on for ages about vectors and latitude...or was it longitude? Or both? And the amount of man-made light as well as pollution that hangs in and obscures the sky over London, and John is nodding and going "Uhm-hm," honestly amazed by Brian's sheer brightness as he uses and expresses his knowledge.

John finds himself enthralled, though he hardly understands a single thing the other is saying. "My God, Brian," he murmurs. "You know so MUCH. Why on Earth did you leave all that behind to do...this?" John crinkles his forehead, lowers his brows. "To be in a rock band? I have to be honest, I don't understand more than one percent of what you just said, but you do understand and you love it." John leans forward, bending his knees against his chest and tucking some hair behind one ear. He cannot hide, not now; he has to ask. "I just--I've wondered, because of loving what I do in engineering, why did you...how did you choose to stop being an astrophysicist?"

Brian sighs, leans his head back, and holds out his glass. "If you want that answer, I'll need more of this," he says. John nods and fills it. The other takes a long sip and closes his eyes.

"When I was a boy," Brian eventually said, "I listened to Patrick Moore's lectures on the Cosmos. There was one he did called 'The Sky at Night' which came on at ten pm after my bedtime and I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch it. Well, listen to it." He chuckles and John also huffs out a laugh, imagining specky little Brian begging to stay up. "They let me, and he was marvelous; painted a picture of the stars with his words, and not only that, but he played music." Brian taps one forefinger against his chin. His profile is illumined in John's sight as he speaks, face suffused by excitement, eyes bright with awe. "I wrote in, asking him the name of the pieces he always played at the beginning and end. I was only ten or eleven at the time, but he wrote back to me. On his typewriter, famously--he wrote back to every kid, bless him. Told me the name and I went out and bought the record. Ever since that piece has represented the cosmos to me." Shifting his limbs and setting his still nearly-full glass down beside him, Brian turns to directly face John. "Listen to this, though." He leans in, head tipping down and voice lowering as if about to share a secret. Deacy listens, rapt, unconsciously leaning forward as well until they are mere breaths apart.

"I think...what we do with music is akin to how we as humans view, and feel about, Space." Brian whispers. "With our music we're crying out into the depths, the void, and hoping that someone else will hear us and be inspired or feel heard as well. But in Space itself one can never know, because there is no sound out there." Bri's tone grows melancholy and John gulps. "It's a vacuum, cold and silent. But here, now, on this puny little planet third from the Sun, our songs matter. Music does so much, John, and we can do so much with it. Queen has a high purpose, I can feel it. And that--" he seems to grow self-conscious at this point, wilting a little, drawing his body backward and inward, folding himself up. "Well, it might be stupid, but that's why I'm here." Brian shakes his head a little, curls bouncing, and tucks his chin to his chest before taking another sip of his drink. "But I can't even talk to my family...," He twists as if to move away, taking another gulp of alcohol and putting his glass back down.

John reaches out and grabs Brian by both hands as the guitarist starts to move. He had not planned to do that, it just happened. Brian's skin is cool, almost cold, but his fingers are long and supple as ever--and strong as the bassist squeezes them in his own. Bri's eyes have widened as he kneels in a half-crouch like some penitent knight swearing renewed fealty to his liege lord.

The younger man shakes his head and puffs out his lower lip. "No," he utters. So articulate, wow, amazing. Try again, John. "--You're not stupid, Brian. It isn't stupid, what you're saying. You found this...this passion and know what you want to do with it." He stops and then presses forward, speaking more than he has done yet. The dam broke then. "You have no idea how much I envy you. You all. I didn't even WANT this, not really," John confesses, eyes wide as he holds onto Brian's hands like they are a lifeline. "This--music is a hobby for me! Or it was, til we took off..." He chokes a bit, voice cracking. "And I love it, I'm excited, but I'm--it's right terrifying." He whimpers now, ducking his face, grey-green eyes glazing. "I don't know how to handle this, this life, fame...I work so hard just to go onstage and not...shut down. It's why I drink some..." Letting go of the other's hands at last and still not daring to look back up at him, John squeaks "You're amazing, Brian. You, Freddie, and Roger took a chance on me, for which I'm grateful." He looks up at last, face stricken and eyes huge: "But what if I let you down?"

His whole body is trembling and he feels like he cannot breathe. This is his biggest worry, his secret shame. It is why he needs a bar behind his amplifier onstage. To try to make him forget he is there with so many eyes on him, that he could make a mistake, cost the band and his friends, his family, everything....

John feels his anxiety pulsing through his veins like poison, seizing up his chest and speeding up his heart. He feels himself start to panic, and then suddenly he is being gripped tight, held in place by a driving force, an immovable object. Brian. Brian is hugging him, holding John against his chest, those strong magical fingers threading through the bassist's long hair, telling him to breathe and stroking his head gently. His voice is a low soothing rumble against John's ear as the younger man buries his face against the lean man's chest.

"Oh, Johnny. I understand the feeling of being a letdown, believe me." Something catches in Brian's voice, a hidden sorrow that exhorts John to look up at the other and he finds Bri looking back at him lovingly. John's heart performs a painful little leap. "But you've got to know something. You won't let us down. You couldn't possibly do that, because you're here. You didn't pick out this life for yourself, but you came along with us anyway. You took a chance on us, Deacy, and that's damn brave." John blinks in surprise. Brian doesn't typically swear like that, but his face is intense as he holds John back to continue looking into his eyes. "You're a phenomenal bassist; first time me and the boys heard you we could tell that. You continue to blow us away; and honestly, you couldn't know you'd be able to stand any of us, so I for one consider myself lucky ya decided to come along!"

"Right," John laughs and wipes his face before responding drily "...and the vote is still out on whether or not I can stand you."

Brian's eyes bulge and then he chuckles, patting John's shoulders and relinquishing him at last. His features are affectionate as he lowers his eyes with a nod. "There, that's our Deacy. The sly boy we all love."

Brian pats his hair and then John grabs him tight, squeezing him round the shoulders with wiry strong arms. Brian winces as he pats John on the back and his fuzzy curls brush against the side of the bassist's face as he grunts "Sorry, John, it's just my--"

"It's your shoulder." John lets go as he feels the other's right arm jerk. He had hit it pretty hard on the door to open their room earlier, makes sense that it would begin to smart. "Want me to have a look at it?" Something in his tone has grown paternal, and Brian marvels at the change even as he, after a second of hesitation, nods.

"Alright, go ahead." He turns around and bows his long back forward as John carefully eases the edge of his shirt off his shoulder. Brian's skin is pale but for a purplish bruise forming along the shoulder socket round to the blade, and the muscles at the juncture of his neck and back are knotted, tense. John carefully maneuvers his arm to check on mobility and then as Brian jumps, presses his cold glass gently against the blooming bruise.

Brian crosses his gangly legs as John begins kneading the tightness in his muscles away with deft strong fingers, working at the knots. The guitarist groans contentedly, tipping his head back with his curls splaying out around his face in a ragged soft halo. Brian does not realise he has started singing softly until John begins to hum along, his tone slightly rough and low but still on pitch. Brian has not heard it quite so clearly before. He feels warm and safe under John's ministering hands, even growing sleepy. Doubtless the booze is taking its toll along with his friend's gentle rubbing of circles on his back, having finished massaging his shoulder. John croons quietly to him as if he were a child, singing in that rough but also sweet voice. Some sort of lullaby.

John sings a tune he's sung to his son Robert in order to help him fall asleep. It soothes John as well at this moment, calming his spirit as had Brian's affectionate words. "Too rah loo, rah loo roh, too rah loo, rah lie! Too rah loo, rah loo roh, hush now don't you cry..." He helps Brian stand and then pulls him onto the bed to stretch out after carefully moving the Red Special onto the table at its foot.

It is a marvel to witness Brian's ever-whirling intelligent mind slowly succumbing to sleep. He is ordinarily the last awake. As Brian settles against the pillows and John pulls a blanket over him, tucking it close around his shoulders, the long left hand of the guitarist shoots out and grasps John's wrist, holding tight.

"John," Brian whispers. His bright eyes are bleary from tiredness and likely from drink, but he stares hard at the other man all the same. "I want'cha t' know, even if you're scared--whenever things get bad, you've always got me. You know that."

His words are slurring a little but he is dead serious, and John pats his hand, threading his fingers through Brian's and squeezing them, grateful. He can tell the older man means all of his words and that, in turn, means everything to him. "...Yes, I know, Brian. Thank you."

Brian lets out a relieved sigh and relinquishes John's fingers, rolling over onto his side. The bassist straightens his bedclothes and then picks up their now-empty cups, having downed the last of Brian's drink as well as his own.

Staggering a mite from excess, John rights himself and manages to sit upon the other bed. He waits to succumb to his own drowsiness and wonders whether or not Freddie and Roger will return before the night is out. He finds himself slowly relaxing as he glances over at the serene sleeping face of his dear friend Brian May.