Elton sat at a table in his rehab facility, in a room the patients could use to make and receive calls. The room had a door that could be closed for privacy. At the moment, though, the door was open as Elton flipped through his address book, trying to find a certain number - a number given to him "just in case." Locating it at last, he dialed and listened to the repetitive ringing. Finally, the line connected.
"Hello?" A cultured female voice was speaking.
"Hello. Are you Mrs. Taupin?"
"Yes. Who is this?"
"Elton. Elton John."
There was a moment of silence. "That can't be. Elton John would have no reason to call here."
"He would, ma'am. If he were looking for someone called Bernie."
There was a sharp intake of breath. "If you are Elton, then you know perfectly well what state Bernie was in when he came home. And if you don't know where he is or how to contact him, I don't see why I should change that."
Elton was grateful for all his years of interviews, for once. He was able to keep his composure and his temper. He even felt a pang of jealousy that Bernie had such a staunch defender in his mother. "Yes, ma'am. Of course you're right. You needn't give me any of his contact details. But I'd like you to give him the number to my rehab facility, if you'd be so kind."
"Rehab facility, you say?"
"Bernie was in rehab as well. As far as I know, he hasn't used drugs again."
"That's great. He's always been sensible in the end."
"And it is good you are finally following in his footsteps. Still, I do not think Bernie would wish to renew contact with you, and I'm not entirely sure he should."
"I understand, Mrs. Taupin," Elton said wearily. "I hurt him terribly. He wrote 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' because he was in so much pain.
"Believe me. I know how he felt. I've felt that way all of my life. I truly never meant to ever make him feel like an object and I regret it deeply."
"Elton, the first time Bernie came home from London, he said he'd met such a great friend and he couldn't believe his luck. Told me and his father you were a phenomenal pianist, had a nice singing voice, and that the two of you worked as songwriters. Not only that, he said the two of you clicked like no one he'd ever known in his entire life. It was intuitive, almost telepathic. If I didn't know better, I'd say Bernie was in love with you. It's the same way someone might talk about a crush."
Elton flinched. He'd truly fucked things up.
"But then, years later, after we'd heard your songs and seen your albums and seen our Bernie on them and found that he was right about your musical partnership, he came home saying his father was right and he'd been wrong. And it killed me because I encouraged him to pursue his dream to become a lyricist. He has written for other people, but his passion for the art is diminished. I think he does it because he is called to do it, but when he wrote songs with you, there was an energy and a fire you could see. When he finished a song meant for you, he had a joy that lit up his eyes. And he'd say he couldn't wait to hear what you'd make of it."
Elton found that he couldn't breathe and that his heart was slowly breaking. His eyes squeezed shut and his mouth went dry and his mind silently howled in grief. When his brain began working again, his first thought was that once again, he knew how Bernie felt, because whenever he got a new lyric, he couldn't wait to play the new song for Bernie. Bernie was always the first person to hear one of their songs. It was their thing.
"Elton?" Mrs. Taupin prompted.
"I'm...still here," Elton choked out hoarsely.
"Are you all right?"
Was it his imagination, or was that concern Elton heard? "Um...I..." Yes? No? He wasn't sure. "I miss Bernie." Elton's voice quavered on the name, and it only grew more wobbly from there. "I miss playing songs for him. I miss going to the cinema with him. I miss his laughter. I miss the way he made every moment special just because he was there to share it with me." Elton paused, sobbing audibly but unable to speak for a bit. "Bernie is a beautiful, precious soul." Elton forced the next words out between ragged breaths. "If I could get one chance to make it right, I'd make sure he always knew just how loved he is."
Mrs. Taupin found she was capable of feeling pity for this man she once thought only cared for himself. She remembered that Bernie had told her and her husband that Elton was a professional musician and worked hard to support them both. He'd explained that he and Elton lived at his mother's place but that Elton was expected to pay rent. Elton always made sure Bernie got enough to eat and looked after him like a little brother. And Bernie had said that while others in London made fun of him and mocked his accent and his innocence, Elton treated him with respect and kindness. She came to her decision.
"Elton," Bernie's mother crooned soothingly, "come. Dry your eyes." Elton sniffled and tried to obey. "I forgot about this, but Bernie told us you had to pay rent to stay with your mother. He said you bought him new clothes and never belittled him for being a country boy. He said that when others made fun of his accent or his looks, you were always kind. And he said you looked out for him like your own brother."
"He's a brother, and more than that," Elton replied, his voice rough but steady. "Bernie and I are on the same wavelength. I translate his feelings into music and he translates mine into rhyme. I don't mean to frighten you, but I'd even say he's a soul mate."
"You'll make it up to Bernie if you get the chance to talk to him?"
"I'll get clean and stay clean, just to be sure I'm always there for him. Like in the beginning, before we got famous."
"What is the number he can reach you at?"
Elton smiled, his heart leaping with hope. He recited the number and Bernie's mother promised to pass the information along.
"I hope he calls you," Mrs. Taupin said. "But if he doesn't, there really isn't much I can do."
"Of course. No worries. I appreciate what you're doing. Bernie's lucky to have such a loving family. It's no wonder he turned out so grounded."
"Oh. You know he was wild."
"Well, he still saw the error of his ways long before me. Counts for a lot."
"Well, thank you for making Bernie's stay easier and more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. Look after yourself."