The last thing you’d expected from your music theory course was a group project. Having completed your first year of theory at a London music college, you had anticipated assignments similar to those you had done the year before - so when the professor began calling out the pairs he had assigned to be partners, you felt a headache begin to build behind your eyes.
Half the students in your class were pretentious assholes, who had grown up playing the cello because their wealthy aristocrat grandmothers had insisted on it, and the other half had registered for the course thinking this would be an easy credit. Neither group contained anyone you would be interested in doing a project with. But when your name was called alongside one you recognized, you scanned the room for the man who belonged to it.
A gentle tap on your left shoulder caught your attention, and you turned to see a pencil in the hand of your friend, and apparently, your partner for this presentation; the quiet, raven-haired John Entwistle, who had taken a seat in the row behind you today, instead of across the room where he usually sat. John was a French horn player in the brass quintet you played with during the Christmas season. He raised his eyebrows and sighed, expressing how thrilled he was to be doing this project, and the simple gesture brought a smile to your face. Clearly he felt the same way you did – annoyed and apathetic.
“I’ll be giving you the rest of the class off to meet with your partners and make a plan for your presentation,” the professor explained monotonously. “Use your time wisely, as you won’t be receiving much class time after today to prepare.” He removed his glasses from the end of his nose, folded them, and tucked them into his shirt pocket – a sign that he was finished talking, and that the class was dismissed. You rose from your seat, tucking your chunky theory text into your leather satchel.
“Hey, Y/N,” John’s soft, deep voice greeted you. “S’been a while.” His accent, a remnant of his childhood spent in a working-class neighbourhood, was clipped and at times tough to understand, but you had always liked the sound of it. He was well dressed today (as always), you observed, wearing a black jumper over a collared shirt, tailored tartan trousers, and a pair of black suede boots with pointed toes.
“Hi, John,” you replied, giving him a tired smile. As bored as he looked, John at least appeared functional compared to you. You’d been working evening shifts every day that week, teaching trumpet lessons to bratty pre-teens from 5 until 9 or 10 at night.
“If you want, we could go t’the library, or we could use the students’ lounge in my residence hall. It’s usually quiet,” he noted, glancing around the room to see that most pairs were sticking around to work in the room. “Might as well get this over with so it doesn’t interfere with anything important.” You strongly agreed with his logic, so with a nod, you agreed to go wherever he felt would be best. Despite the brooding expression you’d usually seen him wear during lectures, John seemed to have perked up at the idea of being released from class early. In actuality, he was looking forward to working with you, but you had no way of knowing that.
John led the way from the music building to his residence hall, which was just a short walk away. The September air was chilly, and you’d not thought far enough ahead that morning to bring a coat, so you crossed your arms over your chest and tucked them into your armpits for warmth. John glanced over at you every so often, checking to make sure you were still with him. Neither of you spoke – small talk didn’t interest your introverted friend much, and you hated talking just for the sake of it. You were a perfect pair, and you internally thanked the group work gods for partnering you together.
“Here we are,” John announced as you approached his building, an old red brick structure that looked quite similar to the block of flats some of your friends lived in off-campus. “Watch your step.” He gestured to the steep stair below the door, and grabbed the metal handle, yanking the door open and holding it wide for you.
“Thanks,” you nodded. There wasn't even a chance you could have missed the stair but nonetheless appreciated his concern.
To your dismay, the building was roughly the same temperature as the air outside – bloody freezing. You sighed, now even more annoyed with yourself for having chosen a short-sleeved blouse that morning. You'd been short on cute clothes because you hadn't gotten around to your laundry in recent times. For all your professors cared about dress code though, you could have worn a pair of joggers and a parka to a lecture without getting into trouble.
“Why don’t we set up there?” John suggested, pointing out a cozy little lounge situated off the main corridor. “Make yourself comfortable. I just need to pop up to my room for a moment, grab a few things.” He pointed to an arrangement of chairs towards the back of the lounge. “That’s the best sofa, by the way. S’right beside the window so it’s a bit warmer, ‘cos of the sunlight.”
Just as he was about to leave, John caught sight of a residence advisor down the hall and changed his mind about leaving you alone. Technically, women weren’t allowed in the building without being accompanied by a student. He had already gotten into it with the RA the week before about the ‘ruckus’ he was creating by practising his instrument in his room, so it was in his best interest to keep out of trouble.
“Sorry,” he mumbled under his breath, “but that fellow’ll have a fit if he sees you by yourself here. Would you mind coming upstairs with me? I promise to be quick.”
“To your room?” This was the first time you'd ever set foot in his residence hall, so you'd certainly never been in his room. Your voice was unintentionally hesitant, and John picked up on it. You were casual friends but didn’t have a particularly close relationship. He thought that you might feel uncomfortable at the idea of going up to a man’s room without anyone else present when really, you were just having racey thoughts about being alone with him.
“’M not a murderer, I promise,” he joked, flashing you a mischievous grin. His teeth were a bit crooked, but it made his smile all the more endearing. “Plus, my roommate should be there. You can stay in the hall if you like.”
“Well, that depends on whether or not you’re taking me out to dinner first,” you smirked, returning his teasing with a hint of flirtatiousness. John rolled his eyes but let out a throaty chuckle; he had always enjoyed your sense of humour. “Hmm, actually, you can’t,” you hummed, recalling that you’d made plans. “Melody and I are supposed to pop over to the pub tonight. But I guess I’ll come upstairs with you if you pinkie swear you aren’t a murderer.”
“Wouldn’t want to keep you and Mel from such important business,” he said with mock seriousness, holding out his pinkie. “We’d best get to it, then.”
You had to climb several flights of stairs to get to his floor, and you did your best not to seem as if you were out of breath. You were, but he didn’t need to know that. John took the stairs two at a time, adjusting his stride when he realized your legs weren’t quite long enough to keep up the same pace. Again, he held the door open for you when you reached the right floor, and he made his best effort to fall in step beside you as you strode down the corridor.
“You don’t have to do that,” you commented, glancing up at him for a moment. “Slow down for me, that is.” His black hair was a bit messy from the beating it had taken on the windy walk to his building. As if he could tell that you had noticed its state of disarray, he ran a hand over it, attempting to smooth it down.
“I don’t mind,” he shrugged. “My mum always said it was rude to walk ahead of a lady, and I think she’s right, so…” John came to a halt in front of his door, which was decorated with a poster advertising a regular Tuesday show at the Marquee Club for a group called The Who. John dug in his trouser pocket for his keys while you leaned in closer to look at the fellow on the front of the poster.
“Isn’t this your friend who smashes his guitars onstage?” you questioned, noting the rather large nose of the guitarist. “Peter something-or-other, from Ealing College?” You’d heard talk of stage antics from talk circulating around the music college, and didn't quite know what to think about it.
“He can be a tosser at times, Townshend.” John remarked. “Pete’s a friend of mine from my grammar school days.” Finally having found his key, he unlocked the door and swung it inwards, flicking on a light switch as he stepped in.
The room was split almost equally down the centre, with one half being tidy and organized, and the other half looking like a bomb had been dropped upon it. On the left side, the snoring lump that was John’s roommate was wrapped in a blanket from head to toe, with laundry piled precariously at his feet on the end of the bed. If he shifted even a bit, it would all tumble down onto his disaster of a floor.
“Sorry ‘bout Keith,” John apologized softly, gesturing for you to take a seat at the end of his bed, which had been properly made that morning. On a shelf above a neat little desk were a number of books, some from authors you recognized: Hemingway, Tolkien, Nabokov, Kerouac. In the corner stood a bass guitar, leaned against the wall, as well as an awkwardly shaped case containing a French horn, and a second rectangular case whose size you immediately recognized, containing a trumpet.
“I didn’t know you played bass,” you murmured, failing to seem as if you weren’t snooping. A small glass container on his desk caught your eye, and you recoiled in disgust when you noticed the glob of stringy, white webbing in the corner. “Christ, have you got a spider in here?!” John bit his lip to stifle his laughter, but his roommate was sleeping off a wicked hangover, so he could probably have screamed in Keith's ear and not woken him.
“She’s called Doris,” John told you, bending down and putting his face close to the glass to look within. “One of my mates gave her to me as a gag gift for my birthday. I hate spiders as a rule, but I have a soft spot for this little gal. Take a look. She can’t do anything to you in here.” Building up the courage to get closer took a great deal of effort, but you leaned forward towards the desk, set your elbows on surface of it, and peered into the enclosure.
Resting along the back wall was a reddish brown tarantula, nearly the size of your palm. You inhaled quickly, and without thinking, John reached over and gave your shoulder a reassuring squeeze before pulling away. His hand felt warm through the sleeve of your blouse, and you found yourself wishing he hadn’t moved.
“Creepy, isn’t she?” he smiled wickedly, his eyes flickering over to see your expression. “Maybe doesn’t look that way, but she’s quite docile.” You nodded and swallowed the lump in your throat, hoping he didn’t think you were being a baby. You’d never liked spiders, so no matter what he said about Doris, you didn’t think she’d be making your list of favourite pets anytime soon. John was certainly eccentric, you thought.
“Quite,” you agreed, your voice quavering. “Think I’ll leave her to her business.” You shifted back and sat up, perched prim and proper at the edge of his bed. You ran your hands nervously down the front of your skirt as if to smooth out a wrinkle. John cleared his throat, realizing that he’d already spent more time in his room than he had intended.
“Sorry, got a bit side-tracked,” he grimaced, turning to the cupboard containing his clothes. He looked over his shoulder at your skirt, which was a red and black tartan, and selected a thick black knit jumper to match it. He passed the jumper to you, and you accepted it with a slightly confused frown.
“I can step out if you’re going to change clothes,” you said quickly, standing up and moving aside as he went to snatch a blanket that he’d rolled up and set against his wall.
“No, no, it’s for you,” he explained. “The furnace here’s a bit dodgy in the fall, and you’ve got goosebumps. Don’t want you to freeze before we can even get started on this presentation.” Upon inspection of your arms, you saw that he was correct. Your arm hair stood on end, a physiological response to cold intended to keep your body temperature high enough to function properly.
“Oh. Well, thank you,” you responded, slightly taken aback by how considerate the gesture was. “I appreciate it.” Most boys John’s age weren’t particularly thoughtful; even some of your mutual friends fell under the umbrella of self-absorbed and thoughtless – John was not one of those boys.
“Sorry if it smells like smoke,” he muttered. “All my mates are smokers, and it tends to hang onto your clothes.” He failed to mention his own smoking habit (which you were well aware of), but you didn’t comment on it; that was his own business.
“I don’t mind,” you assured him, tugging the overly large sweater over your head. “Everyone smokes.” When the fabric brushed against your face, you breathed in the expected scent of cigarette smoke, but also musky men’s deodorant, and a hint of something sweet you couldn’t quite identify; some sort of fruity lip balm, maybe.
“Take this, too,” John insisted, handing you the blanket. “Your skirt is a bit, um…”
“Short?” you offered, raising an eyebrow. He looked down at the ground in embarrassment, realizing that he probably sounded rude.
“Your legs might get cold because you’ve got a skirt on,” he corrected himself, reaching up to itch the tip of his nose with the back of his index finger. It was a nervous tic of his. “Just don’t want you to freeze." He certainly didn't mind seeing your legs, but because he was a gentleman, John thought it best to offer a solution to your coldness.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound upset,” you apologized, accepting the blanket. “Thank you again, for thinking of me.” John’s fingers skimmed against yours as he passed it to you. It had been intentional on his part, but you brushed it off as an accident.
“We should probably get started,” he frowned, inspecting his wristwatch. “We’ve got a show in Soho tonight, and Pete’ll be brassed off if I’m late.” He reached down and rubbed his fingers against the strings of his bass, and held them to his face to smell them. “Need to change these strings before I leave, too,” he remarked, wrinkling his nose at the scent of rust.
“I didn’t know you were in a band,” you commented, following him out of the room. He’d never mentioned that to you before, you were sure of it. John hummed in affirmation, tapping the knuckle of his middle finger against the poster you'd commented on earlier, the one taped to his door.
“With Keith, Pete, and our friend Roger, yeah. We’re recording a single in a month or two,” John told you as he pulled the door shut and relocked it. “Got a regular gig at the Marquee, playing R&B and rock stuff, mostly; James Brown, the Kinks, that sort of thing.” If he played bass like he did French horn, he was probably quite good, you imagined. Besides thinking John to be a handsome fellow, you also admired his ability to pierce an audience with a high C, which he somehow hit nearly every time.
“How do you fit this all in?” you asked, yanking open the heavy door to the stairwell. “Aren’t you working at the tax office, too?” John sighed at the reminder; he was incredibly busy between the two classes he took at the college, his job, as well as weekly band rehearsals and gigs.
“Unfortunately,” he said sourly, raising his voice so he could be heard over the echo of your footsteps on the cement stairs. “Have to pay the bills somehow, seeing as we’re not making quite enough to cover our expenses at the moment.”
“Well, not if your friends keep smashing things up!” you chided teasingly; in addition to Pete's guitar smashing, you’d heard plenty of stories about Keith Moon, affectionately nicknamed “The Loon”, kicking his drums about on stage; you just hadn’t realised at the time that he was John’s roommate. “I hope your bandmates buy cheap guitars and drum skins," you said. The look of distress on John’s face made it clear that this certainly wasn’t the case.
“Imagine blowing £1300 in a week on broken equipment,” he lamented, flopping down on the lounge sofa. The room was empty but for a couple having a row in low voices just a few feet away in the corridor. “Plus, Roger and Pete argue about everything under the sun. I swear we can barely get anything done in our rehearsals when those two are having a tiff.”
"You've got quite a life, Enty," you said affectionately, seating yourself next to John. The blanket went immediately over your legs, which were indeed freezing, as he had foreseen.
Once you began discussed the parameters of the presentation, you noticed that John had shifted a bit closer to you; your knees were almost touching, and every so often, John’s arm brushed up against yours as he spoke. He didn’t seem cognizant of it, so you decided not to make an issue of it in your mind.
That was easier said than done, however. In the time you had set out to individually brainstorm ideas, you found your eyes flickering over in his direction every so often. You noted the shape of his lips as he frowned in concentration, and the sharp slant of his nose; he was rather attractive, you thought. The use of counterpoint in baroque music didn’t seem so interesting now, in comparison to the face of a pretty boy.
For over an hour, you tried to flesh out the basics of your presentation, but it seemed for a while that John was the only person getting things done. At one point, you were so focused on tracing the lines of his face that you failed to notice his pale blue eyes lingering on you curiously.
“Y/N, you’re staring at me,” he said softly, pulling you from your thoughts. You tried to think of a response or reason for gawking at him like an idiot, but there was no use in disputing it, now that he’d caught you in the act.
“Shit, sorry,” you murmured, feeling your cheeks heat up. “I was off in my own world, I guess.” Your excuse was poor and unconvincing, but John didn’t call you on it. Instead, he allowed his own eyes to trail over you; you were too focused on your own mistake to notice. His mouth turned up at the corners as he admired the way his jumper looked on you, as oversized as it was for someone of your stature. If the blanket hadn’t been covering your legs, his eyes would probably have wandered there as well.
“Why don’t you and Mel come to our show tonight,” he said suddenly, his eyes snapping back up to meet yours. “It’ll be a good time, and there’s cheap beer, if you two’re into that sort of thing.” His voice was thicker than usual, and you felt that there was something more behind his suggestion that he wasn’t saying; the air between you hummed with the tension of words unspoken. If he were making a move on you, though, why would he have told you to bring your friend? You immediately dismissed the idea that he had any interest in you.
“Will there be music for dancing one you’ve finished your set?” you inquired. “Mel will want to know.” John nodded but didn’t give any other detail about the dance band. He was too focused on imagining how it might feel to have his hand on your waist, to be pressed up against you on the dance floor. Contrary to your belief that he had been working while you stared at him with hearts in your eyes, he had really just been scribbling bits of nonsense on his paper, daydreaming about taking you back to his room when Keith wasn't around. He'd even cover the tarantula's enclosure, he had been thinking.
As John shifted his head, a lock of jet-black hair fell into his eyes. Before he could move to rearrange it, though, you reached up and brushed it off his forehead, gently tucking it behind his ear. He shivered at the feeling of your fingers against his face, and the movement startled you. You pulled your hand back quickly, realizing how inappropriate that had been of you; John was just a friend, but what you’d just done was reserved for girlfriends.
“You should probably get going,” John said, clearing his throat. "What with you and Mel going out." It was taking all of his self-discipline to keep himself from leaning in to kiss you, and he was seriously concerned that if he stayed beside you for another minute, he would fail miserably. He liked a good snog as much as the next bloke, but you were his friend, and he couldn’t throw that away just because he was feeling a bit randy. Your impression, however, was that he felt uncomfortable with the way you’d touched him – you thought he was sending you away because of it.
“You too,” you stammered, turning forward and scooping up the papers you’d been writing your outline on. “Don’t want to make you late for your show.” Both of you scrambled to pack your bags up. You returned John’s blanket, holding it out to him as if it were a dirty handkerchief. As his eyes fell on the jumper he had loaned you, your heart sunk in your chest; obviously, he wanted it back.
“No, keep it!” John stopped you, grabbing the hem of the sweater as you attempted to pull it off and return it. You let it fall back down and stared at his hand, which was hanging back at his side. “At least until tonight,” he insisted, his voice calmer this time. “You will come, won’t you?”
“Uh, maybe, yeah,” you nodded, not daring to meet his gaze. "I'll try." His sharp eyes made you nervous, you realized; you couldn’t tell what was on his mind. A moment ago he'd been upset because you touched him, but now he was asking you to come to his show. Men are very confusing, you thought to yourself. Without another word, you stepped into the corridor and started off towards the door at the opposite end, not realizing that John was walking beside you until the movement of his arm at his side entered your peripheral vision.
“I’m just walking you out,” he explained, watching you carefully. “Wouldn’t want you getting lost.” He didn't appear it, but John was befuddled, too. His hopes had been raised when he caught you staring at him, but now he wondered whether or not he'd just imagined things.
“Thanks,” you nodded tersely. John seemed to have relaxed, but you were still wound up. Today had not gone at all how you had anticipated that morning, and now, you felt even more confused than usual. You decided to blame it on the intimacy of group work; sitting beside boys with blue eyes had always made you a bit weak in the knees.
When you reached the door, you stepped out and waved a quick farewell to John. You chose not to stay longer to say a proper goodbye in case something weird happened, like you leaning in to kiss him. He might not talk to you ever again if something weird happened, you reasoned, and that would be devastating. You enjoyed this friendship, and weren’t prepared to lose John as a friend just because you were having a hard time keeping your eyes and hands to yourself.
John remained in the open doorway, watching you until you had passed a building and disappeared from sight. He blushed as he noticed that his jumper hung down halfway to the hem of your particularly short skirt; to combat what he liked to think of as "evil thoughts" (mostly just the idea of you in your underwear) he did his best to keep his eyes trained on the back of your head. When John stepped back into the residence hall, he leaned up against the wall and let out a huge sigh.
“What the fuck was that?”
You take John up on his invitation to see his band play, but things go awry when your friend's behaviour cuts the night short.
Was three quarters of the way through writing something completely different when I found inspo to keep working on this, so here ya go! Soft John and Reader, plus a short moment of the boys being supportive friends.
The club was already crowded by the time you and Melody arrived that evening. People in varying stages of intoxication milled about, making it difficult to find a place to sit, or even stand, while still having a good view of the stage. John’s band was much more popular than you’d realized, it seemed. He wouldn’t be able to see that you’d actually showed up if you had to stand at the back, nursing your beer against the back wall.
“You seem a bit…off, Y/N,” Mel tittered, frowning at you disapprovingly. “How’re you supposed to beguile any of these blokes if you look as though you’ve just heard news that your gran died?” You rolled your eyes at your best friend, but did your best to change your attitude and expression – not because you wanted to impress anyone, really, but because you had gone out tonight with the intention of having fun.
“Just hungry,” you lied, shrugging. “Might order some chips from the bar, if the kitchen’s still open. Do you want anything?” Mel, having caught sight of some tosser who’d promised to call her back after a date but hadn’t, shook her head vehemently.
“You go on,” she encouraged, “I’ll catch up with you in a minute.” Mel disappeared into the crowd, abandoning you in your least favourite situation – standing alone in a group of people you didn’t know. To make matters worse, you could feel the eyes of some of the clubgoers lingering on your body, which was much less clothed than usual, thanks to your best friend’s influence. She had loaned you a brown corduroy mini skirt and a smart-looking white blouse with a Peter Pan collar, which you wore with a pair of brown leather Oxford pumps. Mel had insisted that you looked fantastic, but you weren’t so sure now that this had been a good choice.
“These chips had bloody-well better be worth it,” you grumbled, stalking off toward the bar. Melody’s high-pitched voice was audible from across the room, and it seemed she was reaming out the man she’d recognized. Five quid says she goes back to his flat tonight, you thought. Your best friend was well known for leaving you (and anyone else she went out with) high and dry, so she could get off with whatever Neanderthal of a man she thought half decent after she’d downed a few drinks. This had never been your way of meeting boys, but you did your best to put up with it because you loved her dearly.
Once you’d given the kitchen your order and paid with what little money you’d brought along, you leaned against the bar counter and surveyed the room. If you were honest with yourself, you’d admit that you were looking for a head of unruly black hair somewhere in the crowd. It was unlikely he’d be out in the club so soon before his show, but you found yourself hoping for it nonetheless.
“How’s it going, dollface?” asked the fellow nursing a Jack and Coke beside you, doing his best to appear suave as he casually rested one arm against the counter; he didn’t succeed. “Can I buy you a drink? You look lonely, all by yourself.” His breath smelled like cheap beer and stale cigarettes, which you weren’t thrilled by, and he had clearly neglected to shave for at least a week. At first, you ignored his advances with the hopes that he would leave you alone once he’d realized you weren’t interested. However, he really wasn’t getting the hint.
“Which one here is your boyfriend?” he inquired, leaning in closer. He pawed your arm, clearly wanting your attention. There was no way you could not acknowledge his presence, now that he’d invaded your space. “Come on, doll, talk to me,” he insisted, “I won’t bite!” Rolling your shoulders back to make yourself appear less ruffled than you actually were, you opened your mouth to reprimand him for touching you without permission, but were beat to it by a low voice you recognized instantly.
“I would appreciate if you kept your hands to yourself,” John growled, wrapping a protective arm around your waist. His eyes flickered down to meet yours, and you saw a spark of jealousy flash across his face – as if there were any reason for him to feel that way. “Sorry, there was a long line for the loo. Let’s go find Keith and the other boys, yeah?” He shot a dirty look over your shoulder at the drunk who had tried to chat you up, making it clear that his advances had not been appreciated.
“Sure,” you nodded, slightly dazed. Had he just called you darling? And where had he come from, all of the sudden?
With his hand still around your waist, John led you away from the bar and toward the stage door. As you passed a barmaid with a tray of empty dishes, you remembered that you were still waiting on the food you’d ordered. You were practically starving, and weren’t about to miss out on what you’d paid good money for.
“Hey, I’ve got to wait for my chips,” you told John, stopping him in his tracks. “I’ll share with you, if you’ve got some time.” A smile crept across his lips, and you knew you had him convinced already.
“I’ve got some time, yeah. Half hour until we’re on,” he said. He tilted his head towards the wall, which was out of the way of the crowd, and provided a decent surface to lean against as you waited. John reluctantly released his grasp on you so you could rest your back against the wall, and took his place beside you, his shoulder positioned inches from your own. “I’m glad you could make it,” he said, just loud enough that you could hear him over the din of the club.
“Of course,” you nodded, as if there had been no other option. John’s eyebrows knit together as he tried to interpret your response. Had you come out of obligation to his invitation, or because you’d genuinely wanted to see him play?
A few minutes later, the barmaid, recognizing you as the purchaser of the basket of chips, brought over your food and let her eyes wander salaciously over John as you accepted the basket from the tray she was balancing on an outstretched hand. He didn’t seem to notice, however, that the cake-faced waitress had been admiring the rather tight fit of his leather trousers, and the white t-shirt he had tucked into it. Narrowing your eyes, you watched her retreat to the kitchen, while John’s eyes were stuck on you.
“Everything aw’right?” he wondered, gently tapping your elbow with his. Your gaze snapped back up to meet his, and found that he was sporting a sly smile.
“Fine, thanks,” you replied, glancing away. John snatched a few chips from your basket and stuffed them into his mouth, enjoying the first bite of food he’d had in several hours.
“Fuck, you’d better have some o’ these before I finish em all off,” he chuckled through a mouthful of potato. It took less than five of you to polish off both the entire basket. While you were both still hungry, the snack would make do for the time being. You said as much, which gave John an idea. He glanced at the watch on his wrist, a gift from his mother, and worked up the courage to ask what he’d wanted to ask you since he’d met you in his first year of college.
“Maybe after the show, you and I could find some real food, he suggested. Your attention, however had been drawn to the far side of the room, where you caught a glimpse of Melody, who was standing awfully close to the fellow she’d been yelling at only 15 minutes ago. When you didn’t respond, John gave you a playful nudge with his shoulder. With the way you had been standing, the movement knocked you unsteady, and to regain your balance, you reached out and grabbed a fistful of John’s shirt.
“What was that for?” you questioned, frowning up at him. His eyes flickered down towards your hand, which was now firmly settled over his heart. You felt its rhythm quicken beneath your touch, and in one more second, you would have pulled away, but John beat you to it, and set his own hand over yours. His palm was warm and the tips of his fingers rough, calloused from years of plucking at the strings of his bass.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “Are you okay?” You found yourself staring at his lips, as you had been earlier that day, and he noticed it this time.
“Just trying to keep an eye on Mel,” you answered, gesturing towards your mutual friend with a tilt of your head.
“What idiot is she snogging today?” John asked, raising an eyebrow. “She’s not still with that Andrew bloke from engineering, is she?” You shifted closer to John and shook your head.
“Don’t think so,” you said, not really caring whether she was or not. Your focus was now on the man beside you, whose face was awfully close to yours. He had yet to release your hand from beneath his own, and didn’t seem as if he was going to anytime soon. He drew his bottom lip between his teeth and ran his tongue over it, moistening his lips as he leaned in closer. Six inches more and you would be kissing. Before he could make his move, though, a pale, long-fingered hand clapped over his left shoulder, and his large-nosed friend Pete appeared behind him.
“John-boy, we’ve got to get going,” Pete said too loudly, already having thrown back a few too many pints of lager. “Have you tuned your bass yet?” His forehead was beaded with nervous sweat, and his hair was wet and a bit dishevelled.
John reluctantly released your hand, which you let fall to your side in disappointment. If you’d had a few more seconds, you might have found the shred of boldness you’d needed to finally show him how you felt. His blue eyes met yours for only a moment, but in them, you saw regret.
“’M coming,” John sighed, glancing over his shoulder at Pete. “Give me a minute, mate.” Realizing he had interrupted something, Pete grimaced apologetically and gave you a little wave.
“Where can I find you after the show?” he asked, feeling suddenly nervous. What if he had misinterpreted your body language, and you weren’t actually interested in him in the way he was interested in you?
“I’ll hang around,” you assured him. “Just get on up there and give it your best. I’m sure you’ll do wonderfully.” John flashed you a toothy grin, and to your surprise, reached out and touched your face. His fingers rested against your neck, and his thumb traced the line of your jaw.
“I’ll keep an eye out for you,” he promised before taking off after Pete, as quickly as his tight leather trousers would allow. You raised a hand and cupped your jaw where John’s hand had been moments before.
Did that really just happen?
* * * * *
As you’d guessed by the number of people who had come to see John’s band play, the group of them were really quite good. They played a number of popular R&B songs, a rock version of Hava Nagila that really got the crowd going, and one or two songs that seemed to be original compositions.
Roger, the band’s frontman, was an engaging singer. For the amusement of the audience, he swung his microphone around and caught it in his hand. Young Pete, the guitarist you’d recognized on the poster taped to John’s residence hall door, eyed the microphone with great concern. It appeared that he was uninterested in being decapitated by his bandmate, though John might not have minded that, after Pete killed the mood between the two of you with his earlier interruption. The drummer, John’s wild roommate Keith, held his drumsticks in the oddest way, and his timekeeping skills were horrendous, but his playing was like nothing you’d ever heard.
Your curiosity about all his friends aside, your attention was on John nearly the entire set. He stood on the left side of the stage, stoic and emotionless, his focus entirely on the bass in his hands. The group was incredibly loud, and loudest of all was John, whose playing style was less like the supportive nature of a rhythm section, and more like a lead guitarist’s. He was melodic, and his fingers roved all over the fingerboard, instead of being confined to the lower register, as you knew many bassists tended to do. When the band took a short break after a song so the three singers could take a sip of water, John’s eyes met yours across the room, and the corners of his mouth turned up in a smile, just for you.
Towards the end of the set, two young men approached you, doing their best to support Melody between them. She was very clearly drunk, and her mascara was smudged below her eyes. One of the men awkwardly informed you that she had vomited directly on his girlfriend’s shoes, and that it would probably be best if Melody caught a cab back to the university. The bartender, who angrily stomped over and asked you to remove your friend from the premises as soon as possible, agreed. He put a chair beside the door where he hoped Melody would cause the fewest issues, and rang the cab company immediately.
“Thanks for the help, boys,” you said appreciatively to the two men who had carried Melody across the bar. “Sorry ‘bout the shoes. Hope it washes out alright…” They helped you settle her in the chair, and quickly returned to their dates, who were watching with sour expressions from across the room. Mel leaned her head back and rested against the wall, and began to mumble something incoherently.
“Alright there, Mel?” you inquired, patting her shoulder supportively.
“Nooooo, I don’t want to leave,” she slurred, gripping your arm weakly. “Just got here, Y/N. We’ll miss the dancing.” A bit of drool dripped from her open mouth, but you hadn’t brought a handkerchief, and weren’t keen on having a slobbery hand, so you left it to continue on its path down her chin.
“You look like a raccoon,” you told her honestly, “and you’ve got us kicked out of the club before the band’s even finished. We’re definitely going to miss the dance.” You glanced sadly back toward the stage, where The Who would still be playing for another 20 minutes. Mel began to whine, and leaned forward, clutching her stomach. Bloody hell, she’s going to vomit all over the floor, you thought. You hurried over to the bar and requested an empty bucket, which was promptly given to you. You set it on the floor between Mel’s feet just as she brought up the liquid contents of her stomach, which could very well have been pure vodka.
Not a moment too soon, the club’s bouncer opened the door and informed you that the cab had arrived. Feeling badly for you, he scooped Mel up like a sack of flour and carried her out to the awaiting vehicle. You thanked him profusely, and promised that he wouldn’t be seeing either of him again anytime soon. Just as you made to step into the car, you paused. John would have no idea where you’d gone, and would probably assume you’d gotten cold feet and left.
“Wait!” you called after the bouncer. The cab driver let out a loud groan, wishing you’d hurry up so he could drop you and his nauseous passenger off as soon as possible. The tall, muscular man was halfway in the door when you stopped him, and he looked down at you as if you were a flea, causing him a minor inconvenience.
“Could you try to pass a message along to the band’s bassist for me?” The bouncer eyed you suspiciously, probably thinking you were just another groupie hoping to get with an up-and-coming musician. Unbeknownst to you, he was good friends with the drummer, and as such, knew the band personally.
“I don’t know that I ca—”
“Please,” you begged, cutting him short. “His name is John Entwistle, he invited me to come watch him tonight. We’re friends from music college, and I was supposed to meet up with him after the show.” Unintentionally, your lips formed a pout, and your shoulders fell in defeat. “I hate to leave early and make him think I got bored or something. I really like him.” The bouncer pursed his lips, and glanced through the partially open door.
“Fine, I’ll do my best,” he groaned, rolling his eyes. “But I make no promises.” You smiled appreciatively at him, and hurried back to the car, where Mel had taken up the entire backseat by lying across the bench.
“Lady, she needs to sit up or I can’t take you anywhere,” the cab driver told you sternly. You hauled your friend upright, and pulled the cab door shut. Taking one last look at the club, you hoped that John would get your message, and that after tonight, he’d still be willing to talk to you.
* * * * *
John took a seat at the bar beside his bandmates, resting his chin on his hand. With a sigh, he snatched up Pete’s recently-filled snifter and downed a large gulp of amber liquid.
“Jesus, that’s foul,” he coughed. Tears began to form at the corners of his eyes; he wasn’t a brandy man.
“Why so glum, chum?” Keith asked, patting John’s back. “I know Roger’s hair is bloody awful, but you don’t have to cry about it.” John shrugged away from Keith’s touch and pushed the snifter back towards Pete, who was engaged in some sort of intellectual conversation with the bartender. Or flirting; he couldn’t quite tell.
“Piss off,” John said gruffly. “Don’t want to talk about it.” Keith obliged him, and wandered off to chat with his friend, who had been working security for the evening. That left him with Roger, who had forgone alcohol that night in favour of having his wife not file for divorce.
“Sorry she didn’t stick around, John,” Roger said gently. He kept his hands to himself, and didn’t push John to talk about his feelings, as Pete was often prone to do. All John wanted was to feel sorry for himself, and he appreciated that Roger was letting him.
“I just…” John started, pausing to think through the interaction he’d had with you earlier in the night, “I guess I thought she liked me. I hoped she did, at least.” Roger nodded, affirming John in his feelings. “We’ve been friends a while, but I guess it’ll just stay that way. Probably found some other bloke and took off with him.”
“Maybe she wasn’t feeling well?” Roger suggested. “I heard some girl was sick on someone’s shoes partway through the show; clearly doesn’t hold her liquor well.”
“No, that wouldn’t be her,” John shook his head. “She’s not that sort of girl.” Roger watched his friend quietly for a moment, feeling sorry that he was hurting. Contrary to people’s assumptions based on his stage persona, John was a sensitive man, who cared an awful lot about the people around him. It was clear that he felt strongly for this girl, in a way Roger had never known him to.
From across the club, John heard Keith let out a wild cackle. He momentarily looked up to see what might be so funny, and saw that Keith was hurrying towards him.
“’M not in the mood, Moonie,” John groaned, “so just leave me be.” Keith threw his arms around John’s shoulders and placed a wet kiss against his forehead. Steam nearly blew out the man’s ears, he was so frustrated. Just before he could explode at Keith for ignoring his request, Keith stood back and placed his hands defiantly on his hips.
“I know what happened to your girlfriend, Johnny-boy,” Keith said proudly. “My pal said that some drunk bird was sick all over another girl’s shoes, and that her friend had to take her home.”
“That’s not her,” John said through gritted teeth. Keith held up a finger and tapped it against the tip of John’s nose.
“Ah-ah-ah,” Keith reprimanded. “I wasn’t finished. My friend-o says that the girl who helped the drunk one out to the cab stopped him and asked if he could pass a message along to the bassist.” He gestured with both hands to John, as if to say, That would be you! “So there you have it. Y/N took her friend home because the bartender doesn’t want to mop sick up off the floor all night.”
Roger watched John carefully, waiting to see whether he believed Keith’s story or not. The drummer’s eyes twinkled happily, as if he’d just solved all the problems in the world. John took a deep breath and tapped both his hands against the counter before standing up and slipping into his leather jacket, which hung off the back of his chair.
“Evening, boys,” he said, striding off to grab the case holding his bass. Keith tilted his head to one side and regarded Roger with confusion.
“Did I say the wrong thing?” he asked anxiously. “I thought…that would make him feel better…” Roger stood up and wrapped his arms around his young friend’s shoulders. When he pulled back, he rubbed his knuckles against the top of Keith’s head, a sign of his fondness for the boy, who had just recently turned 18.
“It did make him feel better, Moonie,” Roger promised him. “He’s off to get his girl.”
* * * * *
Once you’d dropped Melody off and let her roommate deal with the fallout of her night out, you returned to your own room in the women’s residence hall. You stripped off the skirt and blouse Mel had loaned to you, and into a pair of satin shorts and a matching tank top, both trimmed with delicate white lace. The fabric was cool against your skin, and you felt goosebumps rise on your arms and legs as you plugged in the fan aimed toward your bed.
Your roommate had gone home to Brighton for the weekend, leaving you alone for the night. As such, you were able to listen to whatever you wanted, without having to think about being courteous of her musical tastes. Tonight, you were feeling melancholy; leaving John behind had put a real damper on things for you. After leafing through the plastic bottle crate that contained your personal vinyl collection, you decided on the perfect record for your mood – Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin.
Instead of turning off the lights and going to bed, like you probably should, you laid out on your bedspread, shivering as the fan blew cool air towards you. As you thought back to the events of the evening, a single tear rolled down your cheek, followed by more, until your shoulders were shaking with the force of your sobs.
He’s never going to speak to me again, you lamented. John was kind and smart and good, but if he thought you weren’t interested in him, there was little chance that he would chase after you. He’ll find a girl who doesn’t leave halfway through his shows.
When you got up to turn the record over to its ‘B’ side a few minutes later, a loud knock came at your door, interrupting your task. Glancing at the clock, you saw it was nearly midnight. Who the hell is still awake? you wondered. You swung the door open wide to see John, still in his stage clothes, standing in the hall. He had an air of confidence about him you hadn’t noticed before. Without meaning to, John glanced down at your skimpy outfit. His eyes snapped back up to meet yours when he realized you weren’t wearing a bra. The cool air in the room had made that very obvious. Like a balloon deflating when released, any ego John had gained while playing onstage that night disappeared at the sight of you in your nightclothes.
“Hi,” he croaked, setting a hand against the doorframe and leaning to the side. “I got your message. Sorry it’s so late.” You sniffed and rubbed at your cheeks with your palms, remembering that you hadn’t bothered to wipe away your tears when it was just you alone in your bedroom. His brows knit together in concern when he noticed that your eyes were ringed in red. “Have you been crying?”
“I’m fine,” you smiled sadly. “Everything alright? It’s really late.” John nodded, suddenly beginning to doubt himself. It was totally inappropriate for him to be in the women’s residence at such an hour, especially on a school night.
“I just wanted to check on you,” he said finally, swallowing the lump in his throat. “Couldn’t find you after the show, and I was worried.” Voices carried down the hall, and you stepped forward to peek out of the room to see who was still up. Your residence advisor, a stickler for curfew who was strongly against any of the students having boyfriends during their studies, was reprimanding a girl who had just arrived home from some outing. With a sharp gasp, you grabbed the front of John’s shirt and pulled him into your room, swinging the door shut and locking it as quickly as you could.
“Shit, that was really loud, wasn’t it?” you asked, biting your lip. John nodded, regarding you with a curious frown. He’d never been in a girl’s room with the door closed before, certainly not at this hour. “Sorry, our RA is like yours; doesn’t like boys to be in the building. She’s worried we’ll all get pregnant and drop out of college, or something,” you laughed sarcastically.
“I think you just wanted to get me alone,” John teased, easing the tension you were both feeling. You laughed, your heart jumping slightly at how true his comment had been. This had been on your mind all afternoon.
“Maybe I did,” you smirked. Despite not having had anything to drink that night, you felt your inhibitions slip away now that you had him alone. You gestured towards the end of your bed, inviting him to take a seat, as he had done for you earlier that day. He slipped his shoes out of his pointed leather shoes and deposited them beside the door before seating himself, wanting to be a proper gentleman.
“So…” he said softly, observing you with sleepy, hooded eyes. “You’ve got me alone now. What do you want?” Your breath caught in your throat at the boldness of his words, and you stared at him, open-mouthed. Feeling that he may have overstepped your boundaries, he held his hands up in front of him, as if to apologize.
“I want this,” you whispered, walking towards him. You pressed your hands against his, which were still held up, palms towards you. Lacing your fingers through his felt like the right thing to do next, so you did. John’s heart sped up, and he thought it might leap out of his body if you did anything else.
“What else?” he asked, his voice shaking. His feet were planted flat on the floor, so you took a seat on his lap, straddling his hips. Your shorts rode up your thighs, which didn’t go unnoticed; John released your hands and set them against the bare skin of your legs. The leather of his trousers squeaked as he shifted beneath your weight. Like his hands, John’s legs were warm beneath yours.
“Is this okay?” you asked, brushing his hair from his face with your hands. He sighed sweetly as your fingers touched his skin, which encouraged you to continue. With your index finger, you tilted his chin up and pressed your lips to his, as gently as you knew how. His body stiffened, and you pulled back, thinking you’d made a mistake.
“No, don’t stop,” John protested, reaching up with one hand to grab your face. He slipped his fingers into your hair and pulled you towards him, kissing you with the fervour he’d intended to draw upon when you answered the door. You moaned against his mouth; thiswas what you had been waiting for. John’s tongue traced your bottom lip, and in your eagerness, you pushed him backward until he was lying down on the bed.
Before long, you found yourself untucking his shirt, and trying to undo the button and zipper of his trousers. It took a mighty effort for him to stop you, which left you confused.
“Sorry, are you not…do you not want…?” you spoke in short, halting sentences, trying to find the right words and still breathe at the same time.
“’Course I do,” John sighed, resting the back of his forearm over his face. “I don’t feel right doing it now though.” With you still balanced on his lap, he sat up and supported his weight on his elbows, and opened his eyes wide, attempting to show you what the issue was. His pupils were a bit enlarged, and the whites of his eyes looked more pink than normal, you now realized.
“Oh. You’re…high,” you recognized. “Do you feel alright?” John laughed a breathy, high-pitched giggle, which in turn made you laugh. You placed your hands on the bed on either side of his torso and leaned forward to press a chaste kiss to his lips.
“Sorry, love. I didn’t get your message for a while after the show, so Keith convinced me to share a joint with him to blow off some steam.” His eyebrows drew together, and he rested his forehead against yours. “Didn’t anticipate this…”
“No, I completely understand,” you told him. “It’s good of you, to want to wait until you’re not off your head.” John hummed in thanks, appreciating your understanding. “Would you still want to stay a while, though? My roommate went home for the weekend, and I wouldn’t mind having someone to help me warm this bed up,” you told him, giving his arm an affectionate squeeze. He narrowed his eyes and bit his lower lip, pretending to think over your offer.
“If you can help me out of these ridiculous leather trousers without peeling the skin off my legs, I’ll stay.”