It was mid-October, and midterms were slowly creeping up for the students at Imperial College London. This term, though, it wasn’t only the students who were growing anxious, but some of the professors as well. One of those professors was Brian May. He was a relatively new professor at the college, and certainly one of the youngest – being just shy of thirty years old – but his education and his knowledge of astrophysics were astounding and gave him more than enough reason to be in the position he found himself in. He had trouble remembering this sometimes, though, especially around this time of the year.
“Alright, class,” he timidly addressed the hall of students before him, pacing back and forth in front of the chalkboard scribbled with notes that someone who wasn’t in the class would just dismiss as nonsense. Hell, even some of the students in the class couldn’t tell you what it meant. “Your test is exactly one week from now, and it will cover everything we’ve studied—”
A hand instantly shot up, attracting the professor’s attention that had previously been locked on the floor tiles in front of him. He opened his mouth to respond, but before any words could come out, his attention was stolen by the hall door bursting inward, a disheveled blonde appearing in the doorway and saying, as he pointed over his shoulder, “Hey man, do you happen to know where I can find…” His voice trailed off as he stuck his hand into his jacket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, unfolding the creases with one hand as he read off, “…Christine Mullen? I guess she’s the headmaster or mistress or something.”
Brian stared at the stranger, raising a suspicious and confused eyebrow.
The man was young, possibly a little older than most of the students in his class. He was adorned in a bizarrely patterned suit jacket, a white button-down whose top few buttons were undone, and a pair of pink, sparkly sneakers. He held in one hand a pair of drum sticks, and in the other, a collection of papers that looked as though he’d dropped them and quickly gathered them without reordering them or checking to see if they were all still there. His big blue eyes hid behind a pair of amber shades, staring right back at Brian as he struggled to formulate an answer to his question.
What even was his question? Brian thought, having lost all sense of the situation as he attempted to figure out the man standing in his class’s doorway.
The stranger snatched the pair of sunglasses off his face with the hand that held the drumsticks and looked out at the group of students whose eyes were also glued to him. He smirked, loving the attention he was receiving, and slipped his sunglasses into the pocket of his suit jacket. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he apologized insincerely, “Did I interrupt something?”
The professor shook his head, snapping himself out of the daze he’d fallen into, and finally found his voice. “Uh, actually, yes. I was just about to tell them what to expect for their exam.”
“Exam, huh?” the stranger repeated, a disgusted expression temporarily appearing on his face as he went on to disclose, “I always hated exams. They’re such a drag. Speaking of which…” He walked forward and set his belongings down on Brian’s desk, the professor watching in astonishment as the stranger shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants and dug out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He extracted one of the white sticks and brought it up to his lips, lighting the end without skipping a beat and taking in a deep breath.
He met Brian’s shocked gaze and nodded his head in what he thought was understanding, holding the pack out to the professor as an offering. Brian quickly shook his head no and brought his hands up to further illustrate his refusal. “No thanks, I don’t smoke,” he declined, earning a nonchalant shrug from the blonde who seated himself on the edge of the desk and went for another drag, leaning back and using his arm for support as he scanned the large classroom that still was staring at him with wide and curious eyes. Some of the students had even begun to whisper to one another, asking each other about the strange man and what he was doing there.
Brian rested his hands on his hips, wanting to inform the intruder of the school’s smoking policy – well, more so his classroom’s policy – but only being able to get out a baffled, “And who are you, again?”
The blonde’s head snapped in the professor’s direction and he chuckled, forgetting that he hadn’t introduced himself. He plucked the white stick from in between his lips and extended his free hand out for a handshake. “I’m Roger,” he answered with a charismatic smile, “Roger Taylor. I’m the new music instructor here.”
“Music instructor?” Brian repeated, ignoring the polite gesture as he tried to wrap his head around the information he’d just received, “That doesn’t make sense. We don’t have a music program here.”
Roger clicked his tongue. “Well if that was the case, I wouldn’t be here. But I am, so…” He smashed the cigarette butt into the surface of Brian’s desk and hopped off, grabbing his things and saying, “It was really nice meeting you, man, but I was supposed to meet with the head lady about ten minutes ago. If you can’t tell me where she is—”
“Down the hall, up the stairs, and to your right,” Brian rambled off, very familiar with the location of the headmistress’s office. His cheeks grew a faint shade of red, and he hoped his students and the new music instructor wouldn’t notice.
Roger winked and did a quick, appreciative salute, turning around and leaving the classroom – but not without waving to the class first and wishing them luck with their exam. When the door clicked shut behind him, Brian found himself frozen in place. He couldn’t move; he couldn’t speak. It was almost as if Roger had put him in a trance.
“Uh, Professor May?” a student spoke up, startling Brian back to reality.
“Y-Yes, John?” he stammered, crossing his arms over his chest and straightening his posture to try and seem like he wasn’t as unsettled by the unexpected visitor as he truly was.
“So, what exactly is going to be on the test?”
The rest of the day dragged on for Brian, his thoughts clouded by what had happened earlier. He gathered his materials and slung his bag over his shoulder, leaving his classroom and heading in the same direction he told Roger to go in before. He approached the door and peered in, seeing the headmistress at her desk. The corner of his lip perked up as he knocked, drawing her attention up from the paperwork she was focused on and bringing a smile to her face.
“Hey, you!” she greeted, getting up from her seat and walking around it to give him a hug and kiss on the cheek, “I’ve missed you. You missed our lunch date.”
“I know, Chrissie, I’m so sorry,” he apologized genuinely, a frown appearing on his face as he tucked a piece of hair that had come loose from her ponytail behind her ear, “I feel absolutely terrible about it. I’ve just been so distracted today; I have so much on my plate to worry about.”
“Me too,” the headmistress admitted, looking back at the pile of paperwork that had consumed her entire desk, “I have to finish this mess by tonight.” She returned her attention to Brian and gently tugged at his tie, sadly confessing, “Appears I’m going to have to stay late…”
Brian nodded his head in disappointed understanding, knowing exactly what she was trying to say without actually saying it. He could’ve tried convincing her to leave the paperwork for tomorrow – after all, it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and she was the headmistress – but their relationship was relatively new: six months in. Granted, that’s a long time and things were going quite well for them, but they made it clear when they first became involved that their careers would always come first – especially considering that it would be a conflict of professional interest if something were to happen.
“Catch me tomorrow morning, though?” Chrissie pled, pouting her lips out.
“Of course,” the professor replied, leaning down and planting a quick kiss on her lips. “I’ll even bring you some breakfast, yeah?”
“Sounds lovely,” she replied, her cheeks reddening.
Brian gave her one more kiss – this one a little longer and just a little more passionate – before bidding his girlfriend a good night, adjusting the bag over his shoulder, and heading home.
As the professor broke through the front doors of the university, a pungent, familiar smell hit his nose and stopped him dead in his tracks. He turned his head left and right before seeing the blonde from before sitting on one of the benches outside of the school, head tilted forward, eyes closed shut, a burning cigarette pinned between his lips, and his hands moving rapidly – the drumsticks he held in them hitting his knees in a distinctive rhythm.
“Roger?” Brian called out, startling the young man and causing him to lose the cigarette from his mouth.
“Fuck,” the blonde cursed, staring dejectedly at his wasted smoke. He slowly glanced up at the curly-haired man with narrowed eyes. “You owe me a drag.”
The professor shook his head in disbelief before walking over to him, asking, “What’re you still doing here? Shouldn’t you have gone home by now?”
“I should have, but my ride hasn’t shown up yet,” he explained with a sigh as pulled back his sleeve to check his watch, “He was supposed to be here four hours ago.”
Brian couldn’t hold back the chuckle that slipped past his lips, earning another glare from the blonde. He quickly collected himself and replied calmly, “I’m sorry about that.”
Roger shrugged. “Not your bloody fault.” The two stood and sat there for a brief moment before the music instructor asked, “What about you? What are you still doing here?”
“I was helping one of my students prepare for the exam,” he answered, swaying back and forth on the heels of his feet.
The blonde simply nodded, not knowing how to respond. He’d never been a teacher before, nor did he ever imagining being one. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity that was given to him at the university, though. It paid three times more than the previous job he had – or, at least, it would once he started getting students – and it gave him a chance to clean himself up, something he desperately needed though he’d never admit it. Especially to a stranger.
A minute or so passed by when Brian cleared his throat, attracting the young man’s attention as he announced, “Well, I hope your ride arrives soon. I have to head off.”
Again, all Roger did was nod, his leg starting to shake nervously as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, turning his head the other way. Brian bit his lip, a small part of him wanting to offer to take the guy home himself, but just as he parted his lips to propose his offer, a car swung up to the curb and slammed on the brakes. A shrill screech echoed through the university’s courtyard.
“Just in time,” the blonde muttered as he stood up and flashed the man who was only older than him by a few years a small grin. “See you ‘round...man.” He dragged himself to the car, the driver getting out and staggering around the front of the vehicle – barely being able to hold himself up. As Brian watched in horror of the situation his new acquaintance was getting himself into, he couldn’t help but notice how Roger had addressed him and realized he’d never introduced himself.
“I’m Brian!” the tall man awkwardly called out, earning looks from both the blonde and his ride as his voice reflected off their surroundings and lingered in the air a little longer than he would’ve liked it to. He felt the blush rise in his cheeks as he repeated much quieter, but still loud enough for them to hear, “My name’s Brian.”
“Oh, cool,” was all Roger said, waving goodbye – drumsticks still in hand – and slipping into the driver’s seat while his friend struggled to get into the passenger’s. The blonde rolled his eyes and reached over the center console, pushing the door open for him and annoyedly waving him in. Brian couldn’t take his eyes off the scene, feeling sorry for the guy he barely knew.
It was strange, the interest the professor had begun to take in the young man. There was just something about him that kept him from looking away, that made him want to know more about him.