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His Latest Flame

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"So, how did auditions go?" Tim asked as he hung his coat up. Brian had been sitting on the couch reading, only looking up at Tim's question. Tim was surprised to see a faint dusting of pink darken his cheeks.

"Pretty well," Brian answered vaguely. "There was one guy who was very good, so I invited him to rehearsal tomorrow, if that's okay.

"Of course. Especially if you think he's very good," Tim teased, knowing that such praise was rare from Brian, but also incredibly curious as to why Brian was so pink. "What's his name?"

"Roger. Roger Taylor." Brian's cheeks went darker and Tim's curiosity was piqued. "And...I think he's - I think he's more than good. I think...well, you'll see tomorrow."

"I'm sure I will," Tim replied, wondering who exactly this Roger Taylor was and how had had such an effect on Brian.

He had to be careful here. He wanted a star drummer, but not at the expense of his friend getting hurt. Brian was so gentle and sensitive, with his dark moods but delightful smile, that Tim had always felt overly protective of him.

Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.

*

Tim's suspicions were further roused when Brian took care selecting his clothes the next morning, something the guitarist rarely did. Brian usually just grabbed whatever was closest and most comfortable, but today his colours didn't clash, the clothes were neat and smart.

But even that could not prepare Tim for the sheer beauty of the man who was lugging his bass drum through the rehearsal room door.

Long blond hair, gorgeous big blue eyes, and dainty features that had Tim confused for a very brief moment as to whether this was a man or a woman. The dusting of stubble along his jaw told Tim the former. He was dressed well, in clothes that showed off his trim figure, and his smile was bright.

"Hi," the man said, grinning. "Roger Taylor, Cornish drummer extraordinaire. You must be Tim."

"Tim Staffell. Sorry I couldn't be at auditions yesterday, something came up." Tim nodded, shaking his hand. "Need a hand with your kit?"

"Oh, yes please. Thanks, Brian!" Roger flashed a smile at the guitarist, who'd just come through the door carrying a snare. Tim noticed that Brian went red at the smile, and his alarm hit overdrive.

Oh no. This was bad. Brian definitely had a crush on their new drummer! And Tim knew Brian well. When he loved, he loved with all he had. When he broke, it was dark and difficult. Tim hated the way Brian hurt, and it looked like Roger had somehow already gained the power to be able to do so.

Biting his lip, Tim knew he had to carry on as normal for now.

"All right," he said. "Let's see what you've got."

Some hours later, Tim found himself admitting that even Brian's effusive-for-him praise was insufficient. Roger was more than good, more than great, even. He was special, special in the way Tim knew Brian was. And it wasn't just his drumming. The first time he hit falsetto, Tim nearly fell over in shock. He'd never even heard a girl go that high!

"So, Tim?" Brian asked. "What do you think?"

Brian sounded nervous. Too nervous just for Tim's opinion on whether he could pick a drummer.

"I'm not sure that's even a question, Bri," Tim smiled. "He's in."

"Did you hear that, Roger? You're in!" Brian's face was bright with delight as he beamed at Roger...

...whose cheeks were going pink as he stared back at Brian.

Oh.

Oh.

Tim wasn't sure if he felt more relief or surprise. If the crush was mutual, there was probably less chance of things going wrong. And Bri was a good guy, who deserved some happiness. Roger seemed nice so far. A slow smile spread over Tim's face as he contemplated his realisation.

Operation Maylor was a go.

"Why don't we go get a drink to celebrate?"

*

"They're just so oblivious, Fred!" Tim sighed as he took a swig of his beer. "I've tried everything!"

Freddie laughed as he took a sip of his own drink. "It's unlike you to give up, darling!"

"I'm not giving up, I just -" Tim sighed again and ran a hand through his hair. "They're just two of the most stubborn people I've ever met. They're even more stubborn than you."

Freddie raised an eyebrow. "More stubborn than me? I really ought to meet this Roger. Especially if you deem him good enough for Brian."

"You should see how they look at each other, Fred. Like I don't even exist. And Brian's writing love songs. They're completely right for each other. I just don't know -" Tim paused, and looked Freddie up and down. "Wait..."

"Oh no," Freddie tried to back away. "I said I wanted to meet the drummer, not get involved with your hairbrained scheme..."

"Come on Freddie," Tim wheedled. "It'd be fun! You're always saying we need more love in the world..."

Freddie sighed. There was no escaping Tim's plans when he used that tone of voice. And he did kind of like the idea.

And that was how Freddie Bulsara joined Operation Maylor.

At first, Tim had just thought Freddie would help him with plans. But as time went on and Freddie and Roger became thicker than thieves, he began to realise that inviting Freddie had become a plan all of its own.

Brian was jealous.

Every time Freddie and Roger laughed together, every time they smiled at each other, every time they shared some story, even when they announced they were moving in together, Brian would smile a pleasant, fake smile, the darkness roiling behind his eyes. Tim would see his knuckles tightening.

Finally fed up with the hints, Tim cornered Brian one evening.

"Why don't you just ask him out?"

Brian looked up at Tim from his textbook and frowned.

"What do you mean, Tim?"

"Roger. Just ask him out, Brian. Please, the tension is killing me."

Brian lowered his textbook and eyed Tim cautiously.

"What tension?"

"Oh, god, Bri, please don't be so deliberately obtuse. You like him. You've been crushing on him since the audition. Why won't you ask him out?"

"Easy to tell you're straight," Brian mumbled, looking away. "What if he is too?"

"Yes, because a straight man would look at you and blush every time you smile, flutter his eyelashes every time you're close together, come up with every excuse to touch you, and always listens to everything you say as though it's the most fascinating thing in the world, Bri."

Brian shifted. "Besides, I think he likes Freddie better than me."

"Bri, Freddie isn't into Roger." Tim sat down next to Brian. "What's wrong, Bri? What are you really afraid of?"

Brian looked down at his hands.

"I'm not good enough for Roger, Tim. I look at him and god - he's so beautiful, so funny and sharp and clever and talented - he could have anyone. Why would he choose the too-skinny, too tall, curly nerd?"

"Bri, have you looked in a mirror lately? You're quite pretty yourself, you know. Especially now these are growing out." Tim tugged on one of Brian's curls. "You're smart and funny, and sweet. You're worth more than you realise, Bri. Do you know why I'm trying to help you with him, instead of just scaring him off like I did with Tiffany?"

Brian looked at Tim, confused.

"Bri, he sees your worth. I can tell. I can tell when he looks at you with that awed expression when you finish a solo, or the smile in his eyes when you talk about your space dust. He sees you, and he likes what he sees. Why not give it a chance?"

A tiny smile quirked the corners of Brian's mouth.

"Thanks, Tim."

*

Tim arrived late to the next band practice. The piece of paper felt like it was burning a hole in his pocket, but when he arrived, he knew he couldn't tell them.

Roger was tapping out a rhythm, and Brian was playing acoustic guitar. Mucking around, probably, like most practices before they got down to work. As he drew closer to the door, he recognised the tune; it was an old Elvis song. Roger was laughing.

"Go on, Bri, sing a verse for me, I bet your voice would be really nice."

Brian looked up at Roger, bit his lip, and began.

Would you believe, that yesterday?

This boy was in my arms he swore to me

That he'd be mine eternally

And Roger's the name

Of his latest flame.

The rhythm was lost in a crashing of drums as Roger went bright red, staring at Brian. Tim silently cheered as Brian, seemingly emboldened by Roger's reaction, continued singing the altered lyrics.

He had the longest blondest hair

The prettiest blue eyes anywhere

And Roger's the name

Of his latest flame.

Tim could hardly breathe. Was this it? Was this the moment?

"You changed the words," Roger said in what was clearly supposed to be a mild tone, but the shake in his voice gave it away.

"Yeah, well...I got inspired." Brian bit his lip and blushed.

There was a moment of silence.

And then -

"Are you doing anything later?" Roger blurted out.

("What's going on, Timmy, darling?" "Sssh! It's happening!")

"I mean, I have an essay to do..." It seemed to take Brian a moment to realise what Roger was asking. "But, I mean, uh, it can, yeah, wait."

"Do you, uh, wanna grab some dinner with me?"

(Freddie facepalmed. "We rehearsed this line twenty times, and that's how he asks?")

Brian couldn't help the bright smile that crossed his face.

"Yeah. Yeah, that would be - that would be really great."

Roger grinned back, and there was a fractionally awkward silence.

"Do you mean this like a date?" Brian finally asked.

(Both Freddie and Tim facepalmed as Roger began to splutter. "Oh, real smooth.")

"Well, uh, I mean, if you were interested - well, it could - only if you - I mean if you like -"

Brian took Roger's hand in his, his smile growing shy, and Roger immediately shut up.

"I'd like to go on a date with you."

Roger looked down at their joined hands, and his smile widened even further, making his face glow.

"Then I can't wait."

Tim couldn't hold in his excited "YES!" as he and Freddie tumbled through the door.

"Finally, darlings!"

"Perfect!"

Brian laughed, but his eyes were shining as he looked at Tim and mouthed, "Thank you."

Tim beamed back, deciding now was definitely not the time.

He'd tell them about Humpy Bong later.