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I Think We're Gonna Be All Right...

Chapter Text

[Shot #1: Consisting of the interior of a dance bar, a haze of smoke hovering above the shadows of several patrons]

The stocky man's breath hissed between the gap in his teeth, his eyes flashing and shoulders hunched. "Don't call me that!" He snapped, but the tone of his voice is almost a whine, far different from the anger, the cold iron he wanted so much to exhibit.

Bernie had said he would be back, patted his shoulder and called him Reggie before disappearing from the smoky dark bar out to the flashing lights on the dance floor with a girl in tow. Or rather, it looks like she is towing HIM. And so this dark-haired angular-faced man had done the same as Bernie had; leaning over and putting the nickname together with what it must be short for, he had asked "Can I buy you a drink, Reginald, darling?"

At the sharp reply, lips purse over the teeth of the dark-eyed individual, and a flicker passes through his rich brown gaze. "Well. How shall I address you, dear? I'm Freddie Mercury the fabulous," he twirls one hand with a flourish and a smile.

Behind his thick-rimmed glasses, the other's eyes widen. He lifts his chin and flings the end of his feathery scarf up around his neck, and as a test to mask his discomfort at the response to his ire, replies "I'm Elton John, but you may call me Sharon."

"... Sharon?"

"Yes," Elton cocks a brow, continuing to test him. "It's a drag name, my dear."

A beaming smile spreads across Freddie's face. "Well then call me Melina--I have always longed for a drag name." Leaning in and growing serious, all long dark hair and gentle eyes, Freddie--Melina--adds "I understand not having a taste for the name that one was born with; my birth name was Farrokh. Farrokh Bulsara, which is certainly not rock 'n roll. Nor is it easily pronounceable."

His breath hitches and full lips tremble. On impulse, Elton reaches out and pats his hand. "Nor is mine," he says. "It's not palatable, I mean. I am--I was-- Reginald Dwight."

"Oh, mother," Freddie whistles. "What a pair we are! Can you honestly imagine?"

"No," Elton says. Well, actually.... "Yes, I would be like a ruddy banker going out onstage."

Freddie laughs. "And everyone would certainly assume I was a circus freak or... whatever else people believe; thinking I'm from Pakistan." He sighs, a darkness filling his face. "Which has happened before."

"...But you're not," Elton says, a fierceness in his gaze as he now squeezes Freddie's hand in his. "We're not what other people think."

Freddie's expression softens and warms, a spark of something--an understanding, a connection--blooms between the two men.

Elton smiles. He feels it too, and the rush makes his eyes prickle with tears. "If it's all the same to you, Freddie, Melina--I'll have that drink now."

Freddie absolutely BEAMS at him, as though the chance and ability to purchase a beverage for Elton is the most wonderful experience in the world. It's astounding; even John Reid hadn't looked at him like that the first time they met. No one has ever looked at Elton like that, apart from Bernie. But Freddie's expression is open and sincere. He genuinely appears pleased, not to mention gratified.

"I am so glad, and of course! -I'll have two vodka tonics when you get the chance, please, love," he tells the bartender before turning back to Elton wearing an engaging smile. "So tell me, what's your inspiration for your music?" Freddie asks, flourishing one arm around. "I am amply certain that there are many," he flutters his lashes cheekily, and Elton cannot take his eyes off him. Freddie's makeup is a rich dark patina around his eyes. Those deep orbs lower shyly as he adds "...For example, my strongest inspiration is the ballet--it contains such power and joy, the costumes, the pieces, the pageantry--those ballerinas fly, darling! They have such grace." His entire expression lights up, and Elton's fingers itch to compose a song, then and there, encapsulating the beauty that is Freddie's joy.

Instead Elton dips his face and swallows, and Freddie spots his awkwardness, born from not being heretofore understood; and yet he can tell this man wants--he practically aches--to speak. To sing from all of the rooftops. He knows Elton's name from John Reid, and is aware of his music, the mastery he has over his instrument. And yet this man appears so unsure, like Brian; so much like Brian acts in his intellectual effusions that he is certain about which nobody cares to know or hear--and that realisation breaks Freddie's heart.

So he smiles, and sips the drink he has just been given, passing the other to Elton with a "thank you, darling," for the barkeep. "I long to know some more about you, darling. I'm a fan."

Elton feels his heart thump painfully, and he can hardly stop a smile from shooting across his face like a falling star. But he does stop it there. "...Why?" He asks softly. "What makes you a fan of mine?" It is probably Bernie; has got to be Bernie--those are his lyrics in the songs Elton composes. Elton prepares himself for the words, the pride in his friend mixed with disappointment as he knows he will have to explain well, no, you're a fan of my mate Bernie, then; Bernie Taupin. He writes our lyrics, you see. I'm just the composer.

But what Freddie says instead of complimenting the lyrics is "Because of your playing, the way you touch the piano as if it is a living thing-- in every composition you are absolutely magical."

Chapter Text

[Shot #2: Showing a piano after a show; the edges are fuzzy due to fingers covering a bit of the lens in fumbling excitement as two figures squash themselves onto the instrument's bench]

Freddie had come bounding into the ready-room crowing "Excellent show, my darling Elton!" And flung himself round the other man's neck and chest, causing Elton to stumble backwards with an aborted oof as the breath is knocked out of him.

"Freddie, doll, you came," he croaks.

"But of course!" Fred beams and withdraws a bit, patting Elton's full cheek. "We all did!" And he's beckoning to the door of the room, calling "if you lot are quite done being catty bitches, do come in and say hello to Elton!" And Elton feels his heart stop as there is a chorus of voices.

A gentle "Right, well we're here, piss off, Freddie," precedes the entrance of a tall curly-headed man, whose sad hazel eyes give Elton heart palpitations that he hides (he hopes, successfully) as a blowzy brown head pops up behind the tall man and nods with a bashful grin, flashing gapped teeth and a soulful grey-green gaze.

And then he says "Hullo," in a sweet shy manner that instantly melts the singer's heart.

Before his heart goes into overdrive again as a third face, with sparkling blue eyes and long blond locks, pops round the door and a voice crows in a high husk "Well well, so THIS is the little bird who's stolen our Freddie's heart! How much we've heard about him, eh lads? 'oh Elton's so lovely, he plays the piano like a dream', blah blah."

Elton's eyebrows shoot up and he snips. "Well don't I?"

His archness shocks the blond into silence and sends the giant and the shy one both into fits of giggles. "Oh I have got to shake your hand for that," says the tallest's gentle voice, and long legs stride over before his lengthy magical fingers envelop Elton's shorter stout ones. "Brian May. It's lovely to meet a man who gives Roger's shite right back to him."

"Hullo. ... I'm John, Deacon," says the quiet one, hesitantly shuffling over and receiving an encouraging smile from Brian as Freddie practically bounces up and down, ecstatic for his new friend to meet his family. "--I play bass, and, erm, sometimes attempt the piano. And well. You're a fantastic piano player. Hope you don't know bass too, or I'm afraid I'd lose out to you, if Freddie ever chose...," He glances over as Fred now says something to Roger, the blond, and they both start laughing. "Well." John dips his head in a bow of sincere politeness after his spurt of dry self-deprecation and adds "it's really nice to meet you."

Elton smiles at him, at them both. "The pleasure is all mine," he says, and it really is, he means it. He had been treated to mounds of information about the three of them after his second drink with Freddie that first night they met; information and affection had come pouring out, and after that he'd gone to John Reid and wheedled to learn more, please. But his love had scoffed and told him that he oughtn't ask, he cannot know about the other signings--keeping confidences and all that.

So he's mighty glad to meet them now; even Roger, who comes over with Freddie and his eyes are lowered a bit as he grumbles "Alright, but I meant no offence, Fred, you fucking know that! I'm sorry," he grouses at Elton, those eyes rising and boring into him like lasers as he introduces himself. "Roger Taylor. I just try to look out for Fred, y'know."

Elton nods. "I do," or at least he can imagine. Having not had such a protective friend of his own before, he nevertheless recognises the signs of one, and sees Freddie's warm gaze lingering on the shorter man standing beside him with immense affection.

"You aren't that bad a player," admits Roger.

Brian reaches a long arm over and prods his shoulder. "Roger!"

Rog rolls his eyes and amends "Fine, you really are quite good."

Freddie beams. "Isn't he? Ooh!" He claps his hands as he whirls and catches sight of the piano. "Come now, darling, and let us play together right here!"

Elton stares, and glances at Brian who offers him a small smile. John nods, and Roger sighs dramatically. But then he brightens up and slaps at Brian's arms. "Where's your camera, Bri? C'mon and film this."

"Oh, er...alright?" Brian fumbles about with his guitar strap and then takes out his camera. John steps dutifully out of the way as Elton flings out his coattails and sits at the piano, Freddie beaming and squeezing Brian's hand before flouncing over as well. Rog is waving his hands around as Brian squints and lifts the camera to his eye, pulling off the lens cap and focusing it at the two men as they sit at the piano. "Ah, Rog, come on and move willya? Please-- oh, damn!" The lanky guitarist sighs as the shutter clicks.

"Oops," Roger winks and tips his head, cheeky smile in full-force as he slides his feet to stop in front of Bri, who rolls his eyes and shoves Rog unceremoniously out of the way. John grabs on to Roger and they both watch and listen, enthralled as Elton and Freddie start to play.

Chapter Text

[Snapshot #3: A hotel room with rumpled bedsheets, empty glasses, and a bowl that used to hold several lines]

"Reg?" Bernie Taupin called, ringed fingers clacking against the door frame as he poked his brown head around the door of his best mate's room, preparing to go out. He wears a dark soft shirt underneath a wildly-patterned jacket that his friend had bought for him he doesn't recall when; seems every time Elton John goes out shopping he comes back with a new bit of finery for Bernie and at least five new outfits for himself. "Are we not going out tonight? Because I am certain Freddie and Roger especially will be disappoint--Reggie?" He now hears a tinkling and a thud like something has fallen and possibly broken. Bernie's heart thumps painfully as he flings the door wide to see Elton sitting on the floor facing the bed, both arms curled round himself as though he is freezing cold. The tinkling sound had come from a glass falling onto its side, striking table wood.

"Bern," Elton croaks out, eyes swollen and red. He is violently trembling and Bernie spies the tracks of tears on his cheeks. Closing the door behind himself, the thin songwriter leaps across the bed to crouch beside and put a stabilising hand on the singer's arm.

His friend flinches back from him and that tells Bernie all he needs to know. "My god, Elton. What happened? Did he hurt you, was it--"

Elton chokes and sobs, suddenly falling against his friend as if those words, that question, had taken every bit of strength from him. "Oh I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Reid was here but he didn't hurt me; no, I've done this to myself, Bernie. I'm sorry, I'm sorry...." Face dropping into his songwriter's soft shirt, Elton takes hold of it in fistfuls, whimpering and continuing to profusely apologise.

A burning coal of violent rage and hatred fills Bernie's throat. He wants to shake John Reid, to scream at him that he doesn't deserve Reginald Dwight OR Elton John; he wants his words to hit and stab and sink into the bastard's skin, to bruise it and break it even as Bernie's heart feels as though it is breaking now. Carefully he settles his arm around Elton and draws him in securely against his side, murmuring into his friend's thin red hair. "No, Reggie. Fuck him, he ought to be the one who's sorry for doing this to you, making you think you've done it to yourself. You don't deserve that." It's bollocks because you're too good, and you don't know it. You cannot see or believe it. How can I get you to see? He feels utterly helpless but remains by his friend's side, rubbing circles on his back and shoulders as the other man's sobs and apologies at last subside.

"Oh, no," Elton whimpers at last, lifting his head, eyes swimming behind his glasses. "I look a fright, don't I? No one should see me like this." He dabs furiously at his eyes, taking off his glasses. "... Only you, Bernie. No one else but you." He attempts a smile and it wobbles as Bernie withdraws a handkerchief from one of his pockets and cleans his friend's lenses in silence. Their hands meet as he gives the glasses back and passes the handkerchief for Elton to wipe his eyes.

"Freddie won't mind, I'm sure," Bernie replies. "I'm also fairly certain that he and the lads will be arriving soon." Pressing his friend's broad shoulder one last time for comfort, Taupin pulls himself up to stand and go over to the bed, shaking out the sheets before pulling them up neatly to remake it.

Elton expels a watery chuckle. "You're probably right about that, Bern." And then he adds "What is this? Are you my maid, then? Quite a fantasy, dear boy." He tries to be cheeky but only comes off sounding foolish, he is sure; foolish and sad and needy. Incredibly, embarrassingly needy. He nearly puts the nail in his coffin by asking for a cuddle when there is a loud knock upon the door.

"Are you decent, Sharon my darling? Ready and raring for a night on the town?" Freddie Mercury's exuberant voice calls.

A second voice lets out a hearty whoop and Roger Taylor's high clear tone adds "Yeah! Let's go, EJ!"

Bernie looks back to Elton and flicks his eyes at the door. "I can call them off for you, if you like," he murmurs. "You haven't got to go out if you don't want to."

Elton reaches out a hand and takes Bernie's, holding it tight. He is absurdly lucky to have this man's care and affection, but these other men are dear to him too. Especially Freddie. So sucking in a breath to fortify himself and straightening his clothes a bit after releasing Bernie's hand, Elton shakes his head. "No, let them in."

Bernie nods and goes to the door, opening it to admit Freddie and Roger in all of their vivacity. Roger looks like a blond teddy bear in an enormous fluffy coat, and Freddie is fab as ever in a flowing dark dress-like garment, low-cut, with bright white leggings and a sparkly silver belt.

Freddie swoops in to give Bernie a kiss on the cheek and a, "Hello, Bernie darling--that is a fantastic jacket you have on."

"Oh," Bernie has almost forgotten what he is wearing. "Cheers; Reg --er, Elton got it for me."

"I love it." Freddie smiles and then his dark eyes shift to lock on Elton's face, instantly growing wide in compassion and concern. He goes straight over to the shorter man, looking directly into his eyes and asking "Oh my dear, are you all right?" Elton's lip trembles as he wordlessly shakes his head, and Freddie pulls him close and wraps him in his arms, rocking him back and forth. "Shh, shh, love. There now."

Bernie's eyes fill and he blinks hard, turning back to Roger, who nods and pats him on the shoulder, that fair face set. "What happened?" The blond mutters.

Bernie's jaw tightens as his face goes cold. "Reid." He says nothing else, not wanting to speak too much on private matters, but Roger's got a quick clever head on his shoulders. He's more than just a pretty face.

"If there's anything he needs, I'm not averse to kicking that bastard's arse--even if he IS our manager."

"Thanks, Roger," Bernie says in gratitude, and the Queen drummer nods at him before they both turn to Freddie and Elton, who are speaking to each other in an undertone. Freddie whispers something and Elton nods with relief suffusing his face.

"...I have decided," Freddie now speaks grandly, spreading both arms in perfect pontificating fashion, "Who needs to go out? All of the bars around here are unbelievably dull. There is a pool in this hotel, and a mall, and I am certain Brian will bring our Scrabble board if we ask him nicely." He beams around at them all. "What do you think of that plan, Roger? Bernie?"

Bernie's eyes are shining and Roger grunts "I'll get on the phone right now with Brian." Flinging his body out onto the just-made bed and bouncing several times, the drummer reaches over and grabs the room phone off the nightstand, twirling its rotary wheel to input the number of Queen's room after dialing out first to the front desk of their hotel. "Oi Bri--have you left yet, mate? Good. Grab Fred's Scrabble bag on the way out, willya? Oh and have John bring some booze. Yeah. We're partying here in Elton's room tonight."

Chapter Text

[Shot #4: A room in an art museum with paintings on the walls; it is a sedate atmosphere yet no one is standing alone]

"... It's amazing, utterly astounding when someone meets you, and you say hello, and they go on and on about 'oh, how wonderful you are, don't you know? Magnifique!'"

"Either that or it's 'aaah go on, ya bloody wanker, I've got an armless aunt who plays the piano better!' But you're always certain that..."

"The ones who hated it meant what they said, while there is some sort of angle from those who loved it?" Freddie offers as he sits next to his friend.

"Yeah, that." Elton speaks shiftily, rubbing the back of his head without directly facing Freddie. "How d'you--I dunno, how do you deal with that?"

Freddie smiles and takes a puff on his cigarette, swallowing the smoke so it does not blow into Elton's face. "Well, for starters, I know that my music is fucking brilliant regardless." Finishing his fag, Freddie waves a dismissive hand. "Opinions are like arseholes, darling--everyone has got one, and some I'd like to get into far more than others." He winks and his friend laughs, totally surprised even now by some of the naughtiness that comes out of Freddie's mouth. Fred's lips twitch as he pats Elton on the knee. "Let us go gaze at art and be inspired," he says, recognising that Elton is feeling a bit down on himself and could use cheering up. He knows how much Elton adores art. "Let's dive into the blues, and the bright movements of wonderous artwork--let us feel them as we feel our music, and allow them to fill us up back to front," he grows saucy once more as he speaks the last, wrapping an arm around Elton.

"Let us go then, you and I," Elton responds softly. Go and never leave. He finds himself wishing this could last forever; that way he'd never have to feel lost or low. How Freddie can be so incredibly, unnerringly confident in his and Queen's abilities, he will never know.

Chapter Text

[Snapshot #5: A kimono, neatly hung in the closet of a room with a thousand bright outfits behind it alongside relics of a party, drug paraphernalia and bottles of drink]

Freddie does a line, as does Elton. They had eaten and drank and partied with people until sore in a vague way; in the manner that occurs when everyone else is pulling at you. Everybody wants a piece of something--fame, drugs, money, legacy, sex...and both of them would give any and all of it away freely, gladly; wanting nothing but love in return.

Freddie's gaze is sharp yet his eyes appear bleary from the cocaine as he looks up at Elton, who has ceased sniffing and moved onto his bed, lying spread-eagled, the silk robe he had slipped on earlier open to expose the hair of his chest as well as a pair of undershorts patterned with rockets and stars. Freddie smiles and cleans up the refuse before crawling carefully on hands and knees up the bed to flop down next to Elton, taking the singer's hand and stroking his knuckles with one thumb, full lips quirked up gently. "Are you happy, Sharon, darling?" He asks.

Elton's gaze shifts; he had been staring off into space, into the dark middle distance--there exists the loneliness. He is feeling strung-out and cold, but Freddie's warm hand and his sweet inquiry call him back. "I--" Elton choked, unable to stop himself. He cannot smile now, nor for once can he deflect. "I don't know, Melina," he is honest, trembling as he runs a hand down and across his face. Nearly inaudible, he adds "...I dunno that I've ever been." He feels himself almost losing it and crying out as he hears his mum's voice telling him that he will never be loved properly. That hurts almost more than the fact she doesn't care. Almost. And John doesn't care, either; he hasn't cared for a while. If ever. It is only tonight in the floating drug-induced haze of the here-and-now that Elton understands and recognises that fact. He will probably forget it again tomorrow.

But for now, Elton's mouth drops and he would start to bawl or wail if it weren't for Freddie crawling close to him, murmuring "Oh, love," and he feels the full lips of his friend press against his hand, and arm, and side. Freddie wraps one arm around Elton's chest and kisses him on his stomach, moving up, fingers stroking his body gently. Elton shifts slightly, but not away--never away. The sweet nature of Freddie Mercury holds him under a spell, and Fred's deep brown gaze holds his as he rises, face hanging in the air over Elton's, lips parted and cheeks flushed. He is mesmerising.

One hand threading through Elton's hair before stroking his cheek, Freddie utters "Darling, I want you to know how much I adore you. And I know you won't believe it," he puts his fingers against the other's lips as Elton opens his mouth to speak. "--but it is true." Freddie's eyes sparkle with a hint of mischief as he purrs "How am I to get you to believe me here and now?"

Elton's eyes flutter closed as he kisses Freddie's fingers before guiding his friend's hand around and holding it against his side. His Adam's apple bobs as he whispers "Just--hold me, Freddie. Would you, please?"

In lieu of a verbal response, Freddie pecks Elton on the cheek and smiles, entwining his legs with his friend's and shifting himself to rest his dark head against the other man's chest and shoulder. Keeping a firm hold on Elton's hand as his arm curls over his chest, the Queen front man securely laces their fingers together and, as the other drops off to sleep, stays snuggled close beside him.

Chapter Text

[Shot #6: empty chairs behind a press conference table with abandoned beverage glasses and tilted microphones]

"Can you BELIEVE those bastards?" Roger fumes. "There are four of us, and all they want to know are bloody things about Freddie --things that are nobody's fucking business, I might add-- who cares who he's shagging?"

"Right," murmurs Brian in quiet agreement. "... it's a private thing."

"Well at least for most people," John puts in with a bright grin for Roger. "You on the other hand, Rog--"

Roger lifts his brows and lights a cigarette. "Oi, I am an open book, John R. Deacon. Which the bloody press rats would've known if they bothered to ask me any questions. I would've regaled." His teeth bare in a rather predatory grin, and then the light in his face dims as he glances at Freddie, who has remained silent and seems exhausted, diminished. Fucking hell. Well done Roger, you bloody idiot. "...but none of the rest of you lot are that way, and 's fine. Your choice, y'know." Shifting awkwardly on his feet, the drummer jerks a hand through his fluffy blond spikes of hair. He needs a bloody drink and glances at the others; all of whom know precisely what he's thinking.

At last Freddie pipes up "I shall call Elton, he will know where the party's happening." They travel out from the press building back to Freddie's for a bit so he can contact his friend. "Darling! So glad I could catch you. You really must stop this 'I don't require a phone number of my own', you know. As much as I adore speaking to every member of your security team, it takes absolute AGES to reach you. Anyhow, Roger could use a stiff drink, and I something stronger. Are you game for this, my love?" Fred's teeth catch on his lower lip in a smile as he adds "Splendid! The boys and I shall meet you there then. Ta, Sharon."

He hangs up and hustles the band out bodily despite Brian's loud sighing and mother hen clucks "C'mon Fred, we all need to eat, and sleep at least a bit tonight."

Roger clutches his chest and staggers into John, who catches hold of him with a giggle and a grin. "Oh is that--mercy me, did Brian May just recommend eating?? That's it, hold me, I've heard everything." He throws his head back onto John's shoulder as though fainting.

"Oh piss off," Brian raps out. "I'm serious about this. Freddie's certainly got to eat before he goes off," this is the closest Brian ever comes to mentioning his friend's more...illicit habits. He worries desperately about him, and doesn't know if Freddie realises it. Also doesn't know whether or not he ought to say anything, and so he amends quickly "...we all do."

"--I agree with Bri," John puts in, his sensitive gaze trailing from Brian to Freddie in understanding. "We did just come in off a flight, you know."

"Yeah, straight on to that ruddy press conference," grouses Roger. "Utter waste of fucking time!" He shouts as they depart Fred's building to head on, and Brian in half-amusement and exasperation tells him to keep his voice down as Roger swings his dark-red jacketed arms and jerks his blond head about, raring for a fight. In rare form from the opposite direction runs Elton, gold-sequined jacket, yellow slacks, and seemingly fluorescent glasses practically aglow as traipsing just behind in far more sedate attire (except, perhaps, the bolo tie and cowboy boots) is Bernie. All the group greet each other at various volumes and effusions--Elton pulls Brian down for a big showy kiss that causes the guitarist to blush and not know where to look, dances round in a circle with John, puts up fists with Roger, and busses Freddie on the cheek before guiding them grandly to a haunt of which he knows.

"It's quite a bite of blandness upstairs my lads," he says with a droll wink. "Dreadfully dull, but come below if you're prepared for a truly wild time."

He beams as Roger crows "Yeaaahhh let's go! I am READY!"

Brian, John, and Bernie exchange a look. They all three know where they will stay. Freddie enthuses about beginning upstairs before descending: "After all, what's the fun of beginning the ride in Hell, darling? It's more exciting to find one's way on the road! Or lose it, certainly." He links arms with Elton who pouts at the idea of his chosen establishment being akin to hell. Freddie strokes his nose with one finger. "Oh darling, it only means that it will be incredibly interesting, and I am all for that tonight!"

Elton relaxes at the verve in Freddie's voice. "Right, fair enough."

So they first end up around a booth, Roger and Bernie both finding some girls right away (and switching dates soon as Roger's says she doesn't drink much and Bernie's knows bugger all about cowboys). "Not even John Wayne?" John Deacon asks in shocked horror.

"Nope, hasn't got a clue." Bernie swivels to face the Queen bassist, eyes brightening. "Hang on, do you?"

"I watched his films a lot with my father," John nods, a trifle shy with the attention focused on him. "...the Duke was the member of royalty we talked about most at home. ...At least til Princess Di came along."

"Oh isn't she fantastic?" Gushes Freddie. "I could watch her all day, follow her charity work--she does so much good, and she's so lovely too. Her eyes and skin alone."

Elton furiously nods. "She's got quite the style for certain."

"What I wouldn't give to be with someone like her," says Roger. His date gasps where she's snuggled up with his arm wrapped around her shoulders. Tilting his face a bit, apologetically the drummer adds "sorry, love."

"Eh," the date thinks a bit, tossing her hair. "'S understan'able, she's rich enough I might would date her."

Roger's eyes widen as he gazes in interest. "Would you, now?"

Brian snorts into his beer. "--I think it would be difficult to live that sort of life, the one she has," John offers up quietly. "I mean, it's like this, a bit-- like ours. Everyone is watching her all the time."

"Of course they are, Deacy, she's married to the future leader of the country!"

"Yeah, and that's why they watch," speaks Brian philosophically. "I mean, they wouldn't care otherwise. Take away her title and who she's married to, and she's just Diana."

"Mm, I wouldn't consider her 'just' anything. Less it's just without clothes."

"Roger! Oh my god, you pig."

"You oughtn't say that about Princess Diana; it isn't proper, love."

"Oh, now you're all going to tell me what's proper?? Like those bloody press bastards?" Roger leans across the table to thrust his face toward Brian's heatedly, flicking his tongue out at Freddie, and Bri groans and drops his head into his lengthy hands.

Elton raises his eyebrows and flicks his stocky digits back and forth between Brian and Roger. "See, this is why I never date rock stars," he says. "Temperamental bitches, the lot of us. You two may want to begin considering that."

"...What?" Roger is surprised into letting out a bark of laughter. "Oh, we're not--"

Brian shakes his head, rolling fond eyes. "I would murder him," he agrees.

"I have yet to consider that," Freddie sighs, propping his chin in one hand as he gazes at his bandmates, eyes lingering longest upon Brian as the lean guitarist drinks, lanky back bowing forward, muscles shifting under his thin grey shirt and long fingers fluttering to deftly push back his hair. His hazel eyes lift to Freddie's.

"Hang on, Fred. Does that mean you have yet to consider going for, or yet to not go for a rock star?"

"My my, but your brain is flawless!" Freddie reaches out and cups Brian's cheek with affection. "I consider the stars I like, for certain." He caresses the guitarist's cheekbone gently with one thumb, and his touch makes Brian feel warm but he does not move away.

They stay like that until Freddie slaps Bri's cheek briskly and adds "Well you ought to know how I feel with how much you adore the stars, my dear." Brian's eyes crinkle as his friend lifts his drink and toasts them all extravagantly, Elton leaning into Freddie and murmuring as John and Roger start giggling. Bernie smiles beatifically and Brian surveys the group around the table with immense affection in his own turn.

Chapter Text

[Shot #7: taken on high, shows a theatrical stage with curtains parted to reveal a set created to look like a fantastical junkyard. Red velvet seats extend beyond the orchestra pit before the stage below the balcony of which the railing is also in view]

"I'm not going," Roger gripes. "I hate musicals."

"But this is a musical about CATS, darling! Oh, Elton, how on earth did you get so many tickets? I must repay you, dear."

"No, no," Elton demurs, gapped teeth flashing in a grin for Freddie. "You aren't that type; let me do something for you, dearest Melina." Freddie kisses his friend's cheek and looks at his bandmates hopefully.

"I'll come with you, Fred," offers Brian.

"...I like cats," Deacy offers. "I'm sure I can take the boys to give Ronnie a break."

Roger rolls his eyes. "Wow, Deaks, thanks for making me look like the biggest arse here." John smiles fondly at him.

"But you haven't got the biggest arse, Blondie. That honour goes to Brian." As the Queen guitarist flushes and Roger sticks out his lip, Freddie continues, "Don't pout, pretty boy--I'm certain SOMEthing at this theatre will amuse you."

"I'll be sticking to the smoking areas," the blond grumbles. "But fine, I'll do it for you, Freddie. And to keep an eye especially on Michael and Felix for when they get bored. Because they'll get bored."

"Dom, Ronnie, Chrissie, and Bernie will be having the MOST exciting time caring for the little ones," Freddie enthuses. "...should invite Mary to join in on the play date with her son." Roger and John both snort with laughter.

"How does Bernie feel about kids?" Brian asks Elton.

"Well, he does a magnificent job dealing with me," Elton cracks.

"Oh he'll be fine then," John pipes up, deadpan. "Means he is the most prepared out of all of them. Except for Dom." Gives Roger a significant look.

"Oi!" the drummer shoves the bass player and John starts laughing hysterically.

***

All reach the theatre by heading down Drury Lane. "Look, Daddy, it's a box," Felix pointed out the particular, and peculiar, shape of the New London Theatre.

"What a look. And the name--stunningly original, that," Roger utters sarcastically.

Brian thumps him on the back in an unobtrusive manner. "Behave," he hisses. The drummer rolls his eyes but does take Felix's hand so that his son does not use his boundless energy to run through traffic. Freddie is ecstatic as he spots the poster from which Elaine Paige peers out, her face lined and shadowed and full of longing.

"Hm, this production is based on a book of cat poems by T.S. Eliot," Brian reads information out of the program as they move together in a pack. His son is listening intently, and Jimmy has a hold on Louisa's hand also. Robert is paying close attention as well, while MIchael on the other hand is running in circles around the adults with Felix following him, having let go of his father's hand.

"--Should've left more of the kids at home," Roger mumbles to John as Elton stands with arms folded together and lips pinched. "...EJ doesn't look too happy." He heads to get a hold of Felix, who has started waving the end of Elton's scarf around.

"They'll settle down once the show starts, I should think. Michael," John speaks a warning to his son, and his second eldest slows.

"Come now, darlings, and let us find our seats," Freddie beams at the children. "I am certain we can rush up the stairs to where we shall sit without running into anyone?"

The other fathers shake their heads. Brian squeezes Jimmy's shoulder as his son takes hold of his younger sister's hand and she moves carefully, tongue out as they navigate the velvet-covered steps together. "Watch out for Felix, Mike," Deacy tells his son. "And please behave."

The eight-year-old shoots his father a rakish grin. "Yeah, of course, Da."

They all sit down eventually, Elton flouncing on one side of Freddie and Roger on the other, with Brian and John in the row behind them on each side of the kids. Michael sits beside Louisa and Jimmy next to Felix. Robert, solemn sort as he is, seats himself on the outermost edge of their balcony next to Roger, and the drummer does not know how to handle this young man who is probably twice as serious as John; meaning he does not crack a smile at any of Rog's antics.

Yet all of the young ones are enthralled by the presence of the first feline onstage and the trailing piano notes that accompany their movement.

Jellicles can and Jellicles do, jellicle cats...

When the Rum Tum Tugger appears for his solo song, "Look Rog, it's you," John snickers.

"Or you as you'd like to be," Brian adds.

Later "...oh no you're more like Macavity, stealing those maracas and all."

"Yeah? Well you're Jenny Anydots then, John--taking care of all the mice, making them clothes, feeding them..."

Oh well there never was there ever a cat so clever as magical Mister Mistofelees!

"...Brian," all of the adults speak at the same time, including Elton, who lets out a peal of laughter along with Freddie. Even Jimmy and Louisa agree, nodding enthusiastically. Brian ducks his head, bashful.

Freddie is awed by Grizabella, her story and her voice; the glamour cat, coat torn and tattered--and his eyes are the brightest with tears as she travels to the Heavyside Lair, rising as though into the stars. "Oh, isn't she glorious?" he whispers, clutching both Elton's and Roger's hands in his. "And so happy again, at the end--because she was loved." He lets out a slight hiccough of emotion, almost a sob, and squeezes their fingers. Roger swallows and leans his head into Freddie's for a moment, receiving a smile in reply. "This was utterly lovely, my dear," Freddie turns to Elton with gratitude. "Thank you so much."

Chapter Text

[Shot #8: the interior of a gay --called a leather-- bar with a grey-coloured catwalk, a dance floor, stripping pole, and colourful lights]

Elton John is in Heaven.

The Heaven, to which he had been invited by Freddie and told that a special guest would be coming with his friend. Freddie cheekily told Elton to be on his best behaviour.

Heaven is a haven, a place for Elton and Freddie to be themselves without the reservations that are foisted upon them in public. The Queen frontman asserts that his personal life choices are nobody's business; just that "I'll do anything with anybody, darling". Elton has been less reserved in some ways, but his sleeping arrangements are not something he parades about. Truth be told, he would rather hide FROM them at this point. Reid has become complacent, so certain of Elton giving all his affection that he has begun to stray. Elton has not confronted him about it, but has the feeling nonetheless. So, many nights he now comes to the Heaven, watching dancers strut up and down the catwalk in the centre of this sunken room, and imagining one or many of them being ecstatic to go home with him.

Freddie now strides in from the street with a fresh-faced slim young person by his side. Elton notes clear skin, smooth features, wide eyes. A slightly larger aquiline nose finishes a face over which dark curls hang. The forehead dips next to Freddie's darker features, full lips murmuring something that incites a bright smile from him. Gallantly Fred ushers this companion through the crowd, a hand at but not quite touching the small of their back. For protection, Elton realises, but does not know why.

"Elton, my dear, allow me to introduce English Ned. He's got quite the rosy complexion, don't you think?" Freddie's teeth catch on his lower lip in a laugh as he glances at his companion --Ned-- who inclines his head.

"Lovely to meet you, Elton," Ned speaks in a voice that sounds as though purposefully roughened, to make him seem older, perhaps? But Elton notices that the lad also dips his entire body a bit as though used to making a full-bodied movement when introduced. English Ned, a rose-like complexion, that rougher voice....

"The--the pleasure is mine, s-- Your--" Elton chokes on his words, eyes widening as he nearly spits his drink out. He stares askance at his friend, and Freddie winks. "Are you, er--"

"Please," English Ned moves a little closer, lowering his voice in volume now. "Don't make a fuss. I'm sorry to put you in this position; it is certainly rather odd, but I wanted to come out tonight and Freddie was kind enough to help me with finding some clothes, and--" touching dark hair lightly "a wig. It would be far more easy for me to be recognised had I stayed blonde."

The luminous eyes and clear skin, the gentle demeanor and soft smile... Elton inclines his head and covers the other's hand with his. "Your presence here is safe with me, English Rose."

Freddie beams as she, for this person is the English princess Diana, does also. "Thank you," she mouths and then raising her roughened voice, "What does it take for a chap to get a drink around here?!"

Elton jumps and hops to it. "Oh, oi! Laddie, a drink for my friend," he tosses out. "And look sharp about it." Turning back to the disguised Diana with a smile, his oversized red glasses sliding down his nose a tick, Elton inquires "So what's a flower like you doing in a cesspool like this?"

"Elton!" Freddie lets out a dramatic gasp and digs an elbow into his friend's side. "Don't lead her to those ideas, love."

"--Oh I know this isn't a cesspool," assures Diana, accepting the drink Elton had ordered for her with a smile. "It would certainly send my mother-in-law into fits, but I quite enjoy the energy here." She sips her drink, eyes alight as she glances this way and that. "Now what would it take for us to go and have a dance, hm?" Drinking down more alcohol, Diana lifts her cup in the air and puts her free hand out to Elton. "You certainly know this place better than I, so come with me, do."

"You'd better go, love," Freddie props his face on his hand and smiles, eyes dancing. "Don't want to disappoint our guest. I'll join you in awhile." He turns to get a drink of his own now as Elton and Diana head out to the dance floor together, and locks eyes with a fellow across the bar. His is a familiar face to Freddie. "Well I'll be buggered," the singer says gladly. "Is that one Jim Hutton I see? Without a man on his arm this time."

The brown-haired man moves over towards Freddie as he replies, voice a soothing Irish lilt: "It is, and you are not mistaken in your second observation either. You told me last year that you're a rockstar, but remind me, Freddie--"

"Mercury," Freddie supplies, unable to stop an enormous smile from curving his mouth up. "You remember me, then."

With an answering grin lifting the edges of his moustache, Jim reaches out and taps his glass to Freddie's. "Well now, even to a hairdresser who knows no rock nor roll, you aren't an easy man to forget." He looks at Freddie with warmth in his eyes. "May I join you?"

The singer opens his arm in a wide gesture for Jim to take a seat beside him. "Please do."

Chapter Text

[Shot #9: shows the courtyard of an enormous house with an outdoor bar and a large swimming pool]

Elton hates this. He hates this party, which Reid had foisted on him, even though he'd said yes weeks ago; but still. He hates these people who've come, sycophantically obsessed with his fame and fortune and John Reid's glamourous extravaganzas... He cannot bear it, had shrieked "Out, out, get OUT!" upon discovering the man who he loved, who he thought had loved him, at least once-- receiving pleasure from a bloody pool boy.

But Reid had simply laughed and retorted "You could not function without me, Elton darling." The last word was spoken nastily with a covetous, sneering grin. "Besides which, we are still locked into a contract together, or has your brain been so fried by liquor and cocaine that you've forgotten?"

So Elton ran, he flew away as soon as he could, up to his room. Like a pouting child.

Bernie arrives to the party with girls on his arms, and from the car behind his come Freddie, Roger, John, and Brian. Freddie blows their driver a kiss and says "Thank you for dropping us, Jim my love. Are you certain you won't come in?"

Laughingly the other says "Thank you Freddie, but somehow I don't think my introduction to rock 'n roll ought to include this. Have fun, and let me know when you want to come home, I'll be waiting impatiently." He nods to the rest of the band and the valets at the door and drives away, leaving Freddie wearing a smitten smile behind him.

"Ah, young love," Brian speaks teasingly as he stands beside his friend. "... I'm surprised you two got out of the bedroom in time to bring us."

Freddie gasps "Hold your tongue, darling, you're younger than I am! And how naughty that was, I'm so proud." Bri chuckles.

Roger and John lead the way inside; Roger making a beeline to the lovely ladies he sees, and John to the bar. They do not catch sight of Bernie for more than a moment as he recognises Elton is not downstairs and so climbs the steps to find him.

Bernie knocks on his friend's half-open bedroom door and pokes his head in to find the other sprawled out in a silk robe, holding a liquor bottle, hair in disarray. Oh. "... I've got some people who'd love to meet the illustrious Elton John," Bernie swallows, trying to speak brightly. "Everyone's having a helluva time downstairs, Reg. Aren't you coming?"

Elton flings an arm across his face and drags his fingers down over his cheeks as he gulps some drink. His response is incredibly snide "Oh, for certain, Bernie--THEY are all having such fun, but if fun isn't having ME than what's the point? Leave it!!"

He snarls as Bernie moves in, eyes large with concern for him, ready to take the drink away or help Elton stand, to get him to a shower and into some clothes. He has to look presentable, of course. But they don't want him, no one wants him--only his wealth and status. Reid uses him; Bernie does too, he's sure, to get with his women, to have a lay or whatever-- he spots a lurch in Bernie's eyes now, a sliver of agony show as Elton boils up, wobbling and snarling like a caged creature showing its fangs. Pathetic.

"... Right," Bernie replies, voice impossibly soft. "Well, I'll be downstairs, probably getting a drink." Elton flicks his fingers in dismissal. "Definitely getting a drink. Let's go, ladies." He had left them outside the door, near the stairs as he spoke to his friend. They all depart now, heading into the hubbub and away.

"FINE!" Elton howls, grabbing and flinging a glass to shatter against his wall. "Go on, then; leave me all alone..." He gulps more booze from the bottle direct and peers around. A roar sounds in his head and ice forms round his heart as he notices a bottle mostly-full of sleeping pills on the nightstand and lurches over to grab them.

***

This is some party, John Deacon notes. Similar to Freddie's in all its excess, but seemingly with far less joy. Perhaps that is just on his account, feeling uncomfortable. He is standing to one side of the bar by the pool, downing a drink, when over strides Bernie, looking as comfortable and hale as John feels. So, not at all. He stands beside Roger, who has turned to talk with some girls, a couple who'd arrived with Bernie (Rog also attempts to placate Freddie for the time being, as the singer had noticed John Reid walking about nearby and was planning on pounding the piss out of him on principle and on behalf of Elton).

"John," Bernie says shortly, nodding to the bassist as he accepts and gulps a drink. "Glad you could make it."

John shifts in discomfiture. "Er, hi Bernie." He doesn't know how to bring up the subject gentle, so bluntly asks "You don't look the best at the moment, mate. Are you all right?"

Bernie blinks, snorts. Wipes his face, threads his fingers through his hair. "...I dunno," he sighs. "Sometimes I wish I was more like Roger." The blond drummer is sitting with his legs dangling in the water of the pool, head thrown back as he laughs uproariously at something said. "He's always having the time of his life. Troubles just seem to roll off him." Turning to John: "And you, Deacy. You always seem so calm; it's as if other people's antics amuse you to no end." John ducks his head with a chuckle. If Bernie only knew... "See, right there! Brian is righteous when ruffled, but always so polite, and Freddie...." Both men spy Fred covering someone's hand with his and beaming. John's heart instantly swells.

"--He's Freddie," they both speak at the same time.

"He's such a generous person, his heart's big enough to fit the whole world in," John says softly. "But I'm-- I do get into tough places, Bernie. I get overwhelmed. Trust me, it's not all roses." He glances across at Brian who has been accosted by one of the older denizens of this party and seems to be having his ear talked off. Ah, Bri. "...Brian gets boorishly stubborn, and Rog can be childish. Freddie, he pouts. But we work ourselves out, they way you and Elton do," John nods to Bernie. "Right?"

Bernie opens his mouth to answer and his breath hitches in a humph as he spots the man himself appear and begin weaving amongst the partygoers. From the initial instant he sees him, Bernie can tell something is wrong. His friend's movements are sluggish yet jerky; it's as if he's not in complete command of his body. He passes by Reid who shoots over a look of contempt, and stumbles and staggers to the edge of the pool, where he steps out onto the diving board, shouts something into the cacaphony, and falls in.

Bernie isn't thinking; he simply moves, shoving his drink at John, who catches it obligingly and puts both down. Bernie runs up beside Roger who has leapt back to his feet, having witnessed Elton fall from across the water. The blond man's expressive eyebrows arc high above his sunglasses. "He's not coming back up," Roger says. His eyes lock on Bernie's. "He isn't moving."

Freddie's horrified eyes catch Bernie's and then with a loud fearful sob he cries "Brian--!"

Brian May, fully clothed and wearing an overshirt that probably increases his weight, is standing near the deep end of the pool, and without hesitation he excuses himself from his conversation and goes to the edge, performing a swan dive down into the depths. His black curls stream behind him as he cuts through the water, and Bernie jumps in too, discarding his own jacket before paddling across to Bri as the guitarist takes an excruciatingly-long moment to haul Elton up from the bottom, one long arm cinching around his chest, holding him back so his face is upright, his broad back pressed against Brian's torso. "Cheers, got--got him."

"He's not breathing," Bernie gasps as he looks into his friend's face, the clenched jaw, slack arms. He grabs half of Elton's heft from Brian and they strike out for the side of the pool, by which John and Roger are standing now whilst Freddie paces behind them.

"Make a hole, get back," Roger snaps at the other guests, his sunny smile gone. He grips Elton under the armpits and John gets down on his knees and grasps him by the legs. Bernie gasps for air that he had apparently been holding and Brian rubs his back as they tread water together for a moment. "He needs to be on his side, John, roll him over. Freddie, call an ambulance," Roger continues, taking charge. He checks the singer's pulse and leans in close, ripping off his sunglasses and bowing his head beside Elton's pale face. Roger opens the unconscious man's mouth and swipes two fingers inside to check for blockages before taking his shoulders and rolling him onto his back. "John, help me do chest compressions." John moves forward, face set as he rolls up his sleeves and laces his fingers, arms straight as Rog counts him out for CPR. "One, two, three--"

People are swarming over to Brian and Bernie now, fetching them towels and hauling them out of the water and cooing about them both being so BRAVE-- and Bernie wants to scream obscenities at them all. How could they watch this happening to Elton and not care about him, only saying instead that he, Bernie Taupin, had been so brave? Screw them. Screw all of this. He just wants Reggie back.

Brian is gulping, cold drops of water cascading from his hair as he stands beside Bernie. Both of them are shivering, but Brian takes the towel he is given and wraps it securely around the shorter man's shoulders. Bernie moves as near to Elton as he can get as Freddie runs in and dials for emergency. Roger and John continue pumping Elton's chest and Roger performs rescue breaths until the paramedics arrive, and John Reid is there snarling about what a selfish prick Elton is. Bernie goes cold.

Freddie says "No. I see only one selfish prick here. Fuck you, darling." he speaks in the coldest most scathing tone any of his band family has ever heard; turns, and punches Reid in the face with the force of all his childhood boxing training. Roger whoops and Bernie longs to feel something; relief that someone finally stuck it to Reid, or satisfaction, even, but he only feels helpless and cold and numb with worry over Elton.

Brian helps him into the ambulance beside his dear friend and the Queen guitarist says "They're family," when the paramedics ask who Bernie is.

"Thanks, Brian," Bernie croaks. "And...thank Freddie, Rog, and Deacy for me too, will you?"

"That's all right," Brian smiles to reassure, but his eyes are so incredibly sad. "I will, and we will come to the hospital if you or Elton need anything. Anything, okay?"

Bernie nods, his eyes full of tears as the doors close and the ambulance pulls away. He sits frozen, clutching Reggie's hand as the technicians flutter about to stabilise and to save him, readying his stomach to be pumped. Bernie hangs onto his best mate as if he had been the one drowning, dying from drugs and loneliness and pain. He feels a gnawing ache, a terrible agony pierce his heart, and bows his head over their clasped hands, allowing himself to really cry. Shaking, gasping; losing it over his dearest friend nearly destroying Elton John, Reggie Dwight, AND Bernie Taupin in one fell swoop.

Chapter Text

[Snapshot #10: the interior of Garden Lodge, Freddie's London house - high ceilings and lots of cats]

It has been two years. Two years since that glorious peak that Live Aid had been for Queen: "You bastards," Elton had told them backstage after those incredible twenty minutes. "You stole the bloody show!"

He had been in a spiral - that attempt on his own life had been the most drastic occurrence as of yet, but he remained unwell. Elton had awoken in a hospital room after his party; alone, or so he had thought, but then he felt a pressure around his left hand where it hung (with an intravenous line in) over the rail of his bed. And lying on a bollocksy-looking cot (honestly, its canvas was utter rubbish) long dark hair a ruddy mess, was Bernie. For the briefest instant Elton thought -John; hoped, if not expected it to be him lying there. Yet with a grumble in his uneasy sleep, Bernie had turned his head over to face Elton's, fingers tightening around the singer's palm convulsively.

Hearing a shuffling at the door then, Elton had looked up to see a pretty blond...nurse, as he thought, but when that face beamed wickedly at him he recognised "Roger," with some surprise. His throat tasted evil, and pained him as he spoke. Still vividly recalls that. "Eugh. What --why are you here?"

"Such gratitude," the Queen drummer snorted as he fully entered the room. "It's good to see you too, Elton, mate. That was a great party you had, by the way. Up til your stint in the pool." He added darkly. Elton remembers. Everything had been shite, utterly terrible; he could not see what to do or where to go, he felt alone and bereft and cold, and he could not handle it so downed all of his sleeping pills and whiskey, shouting that his next trick would be to fucking kill himself.

And yet it hadn't worked.

"How--" he croaked as Roger began moving closer, and he really looked as though he was wearing the top half of a pair of scrubs. "How'd I--"

"Get here?" the drummer finished. Elton nodded. "Well Brian used his diving skills to haul you up, and your best mate there jumped right in the drink to help him get you out." Roger nodded over to a still-sleeping Bernie. "He hasn't let you out of his sight, well, presence since. And John and I, well." Having reached Elton's free side and looking at him with a cheeky grin and relieved eyes, Roger swooped down and kissed Elton soundly. He caught the singer's lips with his for a long moment before drawing back. Elton gaped at him. "--had to see what that felt like when you were awake," Roger quipped. "We 'bout wore your lungs out doing CPR, mate."

Oh. Elton understood then that Roger had given him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; and there had been chest compressions --there must have done, because he noticed his ribcage twinging mightily as he breathed deep, and felt a bandage wrapped round it. He looked up at Roger again, not knowing what to say.

"...Should I come back later?" John Deacon's quietly amused voice emanated from the door, beside which he now stood holding a carton of hospital jello and a spoon. His eyes crinkled in joyous relief as he uttered "Hey, Elton."

"Hi John." Elton rubbed his face. "Thanks for--well." He winced as he shifted in bed and Deacon nodded back at him, curly hair bouncing with the movement.

"Cheers," Deacy responded. "Glad you're alright. Here, Roger, you can have some." He handed his carton of jello to the drummer then, as Rog had swiftly shuffled over and leaned into his shoulder expectantly. "This particular hospital fare isn't that bad, actually. Though Freddie says he's bringing you some real food for tonight, Elton."

"He and Bri are coming over soon, yeah?" Roger asked with his mouth full. "EJ, you want some'a this?" Elton shook his head in disgust. He refuses to eat that colourful slop, and probably will do so forever. Rog shrugged and sucked some (loudly) off the spoon with his tongue.

"Yes, Fred said he was going to force Brian into a scalding-hot shower and get him into dry clothes since he was running round soaking wet for so long after pulling Elton out of the pool," John explained.

Roger rolled his eyes and snorted. That was classic Brian, not giving a damn about his own well-being if someone, anyone else needed him. "...Did Bernie ever get cleaned up?" he wondered.

"Yes," A creaky voice emanated from beneath the edge of Elton's bedside. Bernie had woken up. His fingers curled around Elton's as he stood, scrubbing a hand across unshaven cheeks. Elton squeezed his fingers and shot him an adoring glance. After gazing lovingly back, Taupin yawned and added "To clarify, the doctors forced me to get cleaned up and said I had to sleep, so they brought this abominable thing in." He kicked at the cot.

Elton's eyes crinkled as breath hissed between the gap of his teeth. If Bernie so desperately needed sleep "How long have I been--?"

"Couple days in here," Roger tossed off. John jabbed him in the side. "Ow! Alright, maybe about ten - twelve hours? I was trying to release the tension, John, jeez. We got here last night, right Bern?"

Bernie nodded. "Yeah, an hour or so after the two of us came in. I think. I wasn't really...paying mind, too much." I was too worried about you, his eyes and his grasp on Elton's hand said as he swallowed thickly.

A nurse really did come in then, smiling at Elton and checking his vital signs for him, assuring that he can go home soon. As she left, Freddie arrived, his usual boisterous manner growing markedly less so the moment he locked eyes initially upon Elton's face. But his smile came back as he swooped to kiss his friend on the cheek. "It's so good to see your eyes open again, Sharon my darling," he cooed. Elton smiled, almost a grimace. He loves Freddie for saying that, but wished painfully that John Reid was the person who spoke those words. Wishes he had come begging Elton to take him back, swearing that he would never stray, that he realised he loves Elton with all of his heart.

"Thank you Freddie," Elton said. "But where is--where is John?"

Freddie's features hardened then, and Brian who had appeared behind him with a dish covered by cloth, held his breath. Roger let out a furious hiss. "He...likely will not be coming, my darling," the Queen singer said.

"And good luck too, or I'd have to kick his arse this time," Roger added furiously.

"--Fred already handled that by punching him in the face," Deacy murmured.

Elton let out a cry. "What! Did you--why??" He stared round. "Did you? Honestly, Freddie?"

"I did," eyes flashing, Freddie had added "He was abominable to you. He called you--" the singer couldn't say it.

But Roger would. Elton should know what a bastard Reid really was. "--A selfish prick. When you were on a goddamn gurney headed to the hospital, EJ."

"He was, Reggie, he did say that," Bernie now spoke up quietly. "He doesn't deserve you." He never did; I've known that for a long time.

Elton yanked his hand from Bernie's grasp then, lips trembling. "How--COULD you?! I could --I would have handled this! He is my chance at love, Freddie!"

"...How?" mumbled Roger into John's ear. The bassist hushed him. "He's an arsehole," the drummer spat at Elton. "I mean, honestly."

"Shut up, Roger," ordered Brian.

"What? I'm just saying what's true, Bri!"

"Who gave you the bloody right?!?" Elton roared, leaning forward, causing his monitors to begin to beep madly.

Everyone rushed to soothe him.

"Elton--"

"Darling,"

"Reg, you've got to stay calm."

"NO! That was MY choice you took away if he never comes back," Elton choked, tears of anguished fury and heartbreak filling his eyes. He could tell that he was being irrational, but couldn't stop himself. He felt cold and cheated and ashamed all at once; for feeling the need to get John back, and for the fact that he had not been able to force Reid out, to do anything about the man himself. "--If he never comes back," Elton whimpered, "How can I be sure I'll find someone again? Someone else who will love me?"

Reid doesn't love you, he never has. He doesn't deserve this wishing, he doesn't deserve you, Reggie! You'll find somebody! Bernie wanted to cry. He closed his eyes as Freddie replied, speaking for him: "You will find someone, Sharon, my love. I know--"

"How? How do you know? Because YOU have someone? No, just--" Elton had flung out his arm and howled. No; more like he whimpered. He could never exude the cold fury he wanted, when he wanted to. "Just go," he whispered. "I..." and stopped, turning his face away, jaw clenching and tears pouring down his cheeks as he refused to even look at Freddie.

The other's eyes were enormous and pained as he looked from Elton to everyone else in the room before choking a bit and saying softer "...If that's what you want, darling. I'll leave this for you, though. It's a casserole, bit like shepherd's pie, I think. Jim taught me how to make it, and Brian helped. I--hope you'll like it." He looked at Roger and Deacy and then to Brian, whose hazel eyes were pained.

"Come on, Fred. I'll get you home," the guitarist spoke quietly. As Freddie nodded and made to leave, to Elton Brian spoke shortly "--We all love you, Elton. Freddie most of all. He's always had your best interests at the centre of his heart." Eyes flickering up and down a bit then, the tall man added "I'm glad that you're awake, anyhow. Cheers, lads," he said to the others before he and Freddie took their leave.

Elton closed his eyes and bowed his head, feeling agony tear into his heart.

***

Now he stands at Freddie's door, having reached out finally. Well. Freddie reached out to him, and Elton jumped to come and bring back the casserole dish, and to say... well he wants to say so much to his friend. But Elton feels a heaviness in his chest, weighing down his heart, because Freddie said he has something to say to him. Something important, big, Elton is sure; and he feels cold as he wonders what it could be whilst ringing the bell and waiting at the door.

Footsteps travel up on its opposite side and a lilting Irish voice says "Now now, Apollo, the door isn't for you. Back up, puss." On the threshold as the entrance opens, a tall man with a broad face, dark hair, and warm eyes is revealed. He smiles at Elton in his ever-sparkly attire. "Hello there," he says, offering a hand to shake. "I'm Jim Hutton. Pleased t' meet you."

"Jim." This is him, then--Freddie's love, the man he had connected with when he and Elton had gone to the Heaven together with Princess Diana. This is the man whom Elton had been so jealous of, why he had said such hurtful, awful words.... Swallowing now, he beams, belatedly reaching out and taking Jim's hand to shake it. "Lovely to meet you, I've heard so much about. Erm. I'm Elton," he coughs, mortified by his actions, his words.

"As I have you, Elton," Jim smiles. "You're quite dear to Freddie's heart." Elton feels his own heart drop like lead as Jim suddenly bends and scoops up a cat that had been making a break for it. "Ah ah ah, no you don't," he chucks the feline under the chin, rubbing it with a gentle knuckle til it begins to purr. "If you were to leave us, Apollo, Freddie would be devastated and so would I." Tapping the cat's nose, Jim stands back from the doorway now and ushers Elton in, a slight flush tinting his already-ruddy cheeks. "I'm so sorry, where are my manners? Come in, please. Your friend Elton is here, Freddie my love!" He calls back into the house, moustache curving upwards with an even brighter smile.

"Thank you, dearest!" Freddie's voice calls back and the sound of a piano, which Elton hadn't consciously registered as he has arias playing in his head nearly nonstop, halts and quick footsteps stride into the hall. Freddie stands at the end of it beaming at Elton, holding out his arms, and the stocky man chokes on bile and tears and a hot burst of shame and regret. That he had screamed at Freddie when last they spoke, said those terrible things out of his own self-loathing and incredible pain. And yet his friend is still ecstatic to see him today. "Sharon, my darling!" Freddie crows. "I'm so glad--what's the matter, dear?"

Elton shakes his head, puts the shiny-clean casserole dish on the side table he noticed in the hall with his hands shaking. He strides deliberately up to Freddie, eyes lowered, breaths heavy. Jim unobtrusively exits the hallway, taking the dish with him.

"I'm sorry," Elton gets out. "...for saying what I did to you, Freddie. I was monstrous. When you have a love, you've got to hold on to it. And I just...I can't." He had met a lovely woman after he lost Reid--after Freddie saved him from Reid, more like. She had been so kind and good and loved him so much, picking him up and taking care. And then Elton went and lost her too. Pushed her away, couldn't love her. A trio of tears squeeze out of his eyes behind tinted glasses as his breath hisses out shakily. "I'm sorry, Melina. Oh I'm so sorry."

Freddie's lips fold over his teeth and his eyes widen with empathetic sorrow. "Oh, my love, it's all right. You're all right." He reaches out for Elton's hand and Elton latches onto it, blinking hard. He lets Freddie lead him into the sitting room, past his piano with its inverted-colour keys to a chair across from his couch. "Do sit down, love. You don't need to apologise, truly. You were hurt, in such great pain, and have been through so much." Freddie's lips begin to tremble underneath his moustache and he runs his free hand across his forehead. He is going to put something else on his beloved friend today, and he does not want to. He can hardly bear it, and has not yet spoken.

A tinkling sound emanates from the opposite doorway through which they came to the room wherein they sit and Jim enters with a tea tray that holds cups, sugar, teapot, milk, and sandwiches. He smiles at the pair of them as he puts down the tray before squeezing Freddie's shoulder. Freddie leans up and gives him a quick sweet kiss. "Thank you so much, Jim my love."

"Of course, Freddie," Jim replies gently, thumb rubbing circles against the other man's skin. "I'll be in the kitchen." He smiles at Elton again before departing the room.

Freddie looks after him, face soft with adoration. Then he turns and says to Elton "Let me get your tea." He begins pouring it out, hands shaking the tiniest bit.

Elton notices that, and thinks on Freddie's news, what it is or could be. "Freddie," he murmurs. The other man looks up at him. "Why, erm. What made you ...call me today? Of course I'm glad, so glad. But..." he can tell something is wrong, off, and it worries him, brings him out of his self-centeredness for once, he thinks ruefully. But a sense of foreboding clutches at him, sending its sharp talons into his heart.

Freddie swallows and hands Elton his tea before settling onto the couch across from his friend and folding his hands. This is frightfully hard; even more difficult in some ways than informing the boys had been. Almost as heart-rending as having to tell Jim. The singer breathes and clenches his hands, not bothering to drink his own tea. And that, if nothing else, lets Elton know that something is truly wrong. "Elton, I--" Freddie closes his eyes as he continues speaking "I swore I'd never call you this after that first night, but. Reginald." His birth name, spoken so heavily by that rich voice which sounds so lost, so small now... "Reggie, darling, I've been to the doctor and they told me-- they tell me I have AIDS." Freddie's lips tremble violently, lower one caught beneath his teeth that for once truly appear too large for his mouth as he struggles to form words, shrugging helplessly. "...you know what that means," he adds as Elton's eyes bulge. Because he does know. "It means --that I'm dying."

Oh, Freddie. Oh, no. "No," Elton whimpers, hands shaking so violently that he nearly upends his cup of tea "Oh no Freddie, my Freddie. Could they have made a mistake?"

"With my particular track record of carnal relations, darling?" Freddie laughs, a heart-rending sound that tears through Elton's ears. "I very much doubt it. No, it's happened; it's real. And I...I wanted you to know. You, and my dear boys, and Jim. Mary too. No one--no one else."

Elton's eyes are glazed with tears as he nods, looking into his lap with both hands opening and closing mechanically before he rises abruptly and goes to Freddie, flinging himself at him where Freddie sits upon the couch, several cats puddled and stretched along its sides and back. Reaching out and clutching at him, Elton pulls his friend--this dear sweet strong incredible man--into a desperate hug. He buries his face into Freddie's broad shoulder. "...You know what's going to happen then," he chokes out.

Freddie's grasp cinches around Elton's back; strong now, but he imagines it growing weak as the illness takes its toll. Freddie nods against his hair. "I do. But I am not afraid, you know. I'm quite certain this is going to feel ghastly, and look even worse, but. I am not afraid to die." His voice is soft yet strident as he clutches Elton close. "I just know how much this will hurt you, and my boys, and Jim." My family. Freddie lets out a single sob and Elton clutches onto him even tighter. "But I want to leave you something, love. I want you all--to be so very happy." Pulling back to look into Elton's eyes, Freddie smiles. Like the sun. Like the perfection that is a bracing cool breeze on the hottest midsummer day, or a soaking rainstorm bringing life, or the rare beauty of a double rainbow. "-And I know that you can be happy, my dear." He strokes Elton's tear-dampened cheek, expression intent and gentle and tender. "You shall find your somebody to love, I am certain of that. Just as I found my Jim. And I shall never be far away, you know. Music --and love-- live on forever." He kisses Elton's cheek with another gentle smile. "So do try not to cry for me." Please.

"Oh, Freddie." Elton looks into the depths of his friend's brown eyes and sees everything there. Everything he loves about this man writ large. And all he can think is that he cannot bear to lose him. Please don't go.

Chapter Text

[Shot #11: an expansive sky over fields that stretch towards a range of distant mountains. In the midground are several horses around a paddock with some figures standing near them, and others riding on the back of one of the animals]

Brian May never expected to be standing in the midst of a dude ranch.

Of course, this isn't exactly a ranch, not in that sense. It's Bernie's home, his farm that he'd purchased soon as he got enough coin from working with Elton. "I've always wanted to call a place like this home," he confessed to them. "To be a...well, as close to a cowboy as I can." The small man had dipped his head, brown locks blowing across his face as his cheeks flushed and he scuffed a boot across the grass. "...that probably doesn't make a lick of sense."

"No, it doesn't," Brian returns, folding his arms across his chest in the chilly air. Bernie peeks sideways at him, head jerking upward in aggrieved shock for an instant before the other continues with a smile, "... but neither does my fascination with the concept of space dust existing between planets. If one loves something, it doesn't always...have to make sense, really." His voice catches at that point, and he watches Freddie, a thin figure in his deep blue embroidered vest that has been padded with extra cloth--he grows cold, sometimes now; colder even than the breeze at this elevation would warrant. It's his disease, taking its toll. Brian cinches his eyes shut tight. He hates thinking that, of Freddie's disease. It sounds so ugly, that word. So heavy and horridly final. He tries to focus on happiness, and hears John let out a loud peal of laughter as he and Roger ride a horse together, one of Bernie's farmhands doing their best to lead the pair safely as Elton and Freddie look on.

Brian is called back to his conversation when Bernie touches him on the arm. "Cheers Brian," the songwriter says quietly. And then he inquires "...how is he?"

No one had told Bernie about Freddie being sick; Bri has been true to his word to his friend--he'd sworn not to speak of Fred's disease. There went that horrid word again. The guitarist shudders. They all three had sworn not to speak of it, he and Deacy and Rog; to keep on together with Fred, writing and recording music. Brian regrets that promise sometimes--he longs to sit down with Fred and ask him how he is faring, and how he feels, really; he's had a few drinks and cried with Roger, but has been shut out by John. Can't talk. Can't help. Brian is watching his best friend dwindle before his eyes, and even if it doesn't look like much, he can tell that Freddie is diminishing. No one had told him, and yet Bernie knows.

"It's--hard, but Fred greets every day with so much joy," Brian says to Bernie. "I don't know how, but he's got more energy now than he's had in...I dunno, since before Live Aid it seems. He's so bloody strong. Has got so many ideas, and they keep right on flowing. But. I dunno, Bernie. He's--" He's dying. Freddie is dying in front of me, like my relationship with my wife died, like my chances with my father have; and he did. Now he's gone; and Fred is going. And I look in the mirror sometimes and don't see anything. Behind my eyes there's darkness, there's nothing. Brian's body shakes as he closes his eyes, thanking everything that his lads are too far away to see the tears now cascading silent down his cheeks.

A warm arm falls around his torso below his shoulders, and Bernie is hugging him, leaning in, clasping Brian's hand. His hangdog features pucker in sympathy, with an ache in his bright eyes that Brian steadfastly relates to, for it is akin to his own. "--he's hurting, and you want to help him, but you've tried and nothing takes. Or you just don't know how to say what you want to say." Bernie's throat works as he heaves out a heavy sigh and looks over the grass to Elton and Freddie. To stop with the drugs, and the booze, and all the people he's with at all those clubs... "Mate," his voice wobbles. "I hear you."

Brian chokes on a single sob, falling apart a bit. Bernie is exactly right; he does not know what he can do for his friend, and it hurts more than anything. And yet everything else is happening.... Brian ducks his face, swipes at his eyes. "Exactly," he croaks and adds, helpless, heart aching "Oh, Bernie, I--I dunno what to do."

Bernie looks up at Brian, a tiny smile on his lips. "We're stuck with two of the most stubborn bastards as best mates, aren't we? No matter how often I ask Elton to stop touring for a bit, to come back here with me, and just be Reggie..." Taupin sighs, shakes his head; his lips tremble. "He doesn't listen to me; doesn't stop. Only reason he even came THIS time was because you lot were around and Freddie wanted to visit a ranch." He lets out a bitter laugh even as he hates feeling like that, second-rate. "But Freddie wanted to come here, so." Digging his toe into the loamy ground, the wannabe cowboy rocks his opposite heel back a bit. Entire face trembling now as Freddie leans into Elton's side, arm going round his back, clearly beaming as Elton leans his head into the other's, Bernie finishes "Good on him for helping, for..." For doing what I can't.

Brian, no longer crying, looks into Bernie's face and longs to stop or lessen his fear and trembling. He swallows and swipes back his curls, turning deliberately to face Taupin and taking his hands with a squeeze. "You're good too, Bernie," Brian speaks softly. "You're doing so much for Elton, even if he doesn't see it, or say. Freddie does, and I do. So do Deaks and Rog." They look over to where the youngest Queen boys are galloping on their horse now, Roger screeching as his hair flies and he hangs onto John's waist for dear life. Smiles flit across the features of both Brian and Bernie at that sight, as the farmhands come barreling behind. Elton and Freddie whoop and wave their hands.

"YEEEEHAW! GET ALONG!" Elton cries, eyes sparkling as they catch Bernie's, and Freddie blows a kiss at the spot where Brian stands.

Bri smiles and waves, blowing back a kiss. "--And he'll know one day," the guitarist adds. "He loves you, Bernie. He always has done; I can tell. Just like--"

"Just like Freddie loves you," Bernie finishes, settled now as he looks up and nods into Brian's eyes. "We're both here for our mates, Brian. And we'll continue to be here; we've gotta do whatever we can for them. Right until," he sucks in a breath.

"Right to the end," Brian says, his words soft but fervent, a promise spoken almost like a prayer. Bernie Taupin nods at him in understanding, completely recognising --And sharing-- Brian's pain. But he can manage it. They both can. For Elton and for Freddie they will be there. Hopefully that will--that can be enough.