John was good with people, well with first impressions at least…John didn’t always have the best patience with people sometimes, especially when they interfered with work or were genuine pricks.
Elton chewed the nail on his thumb while he stared out the window, the familiar houses and old worn-out streets of Pinner was a sharp contrast to London or the lights of LA. The lights here were pale and washed out, sucking in all the colour like in the old films he’d watched growing up.
His stomach gave a twist.
His mum’s house would be coming up soon.
Elton swallowed and glanced at John briefly, the dark-haired man was at ease still and staring out of the window, but John was nearly always at ease so that wasn’t anything new. He had dressed in an especially nicer suit than usual, the same colour black, but with fancier buttons. Of course, everything John wore paled in comparison to Elton’s wardrobe.
Elton loved colour and nothing was more prominent than when on stage, but John had suggested they tone it down a notch for visiting Pinner. They weren’t on stage after all. So Elton had compromised with a bright blue suit jacket and a white shirt, red trousers and his favorite winged trainers.
It was the best compromise his mum was going to get.
“You look ready to do a runner,” the Scottish drawl made his skin prickle pleasantly. “Should I be nervous?” He turned to him with a crooked smile which was teasing, as he rested an arm on the back of the seat.
Elton relaxed slightly, casting a look at the taxi driver for a second before he returned John’s smile and leaned in closer. “Nah, you’ll be fine. She can be…well, a bit much sometimes,” he said, grimacing slightly. “But, she’s normally all right if Fred and Nan are there.”
John nodded, raising a brow. “Right.”
Elton nodded, looking away as he tried not to fidget. “But, you know, if you wanna leave early,” he tried to sound casual about it. “Maybe…?”
John gave a short laugh, as the corner of his mouth curved upwards, shaking his head in that way he sometimes did when Elton had said something daft. “I’m sure that’d make a great impression.”
Elton rolled his eyes and looked away. “I’m just saying, we don’t have to stay the night, we could just stay a drink and then leave.” He shrugged, trying to convince himself. “It’s not rude, I mean the house is tiny so we’d be doing them a favour—“
“Elton.” John discreetly squeezed his thigh a little too hard. “We’re staying the night.” The smile he gave was tight around the edges.
Elton could feel John starting to lose his patience already, and he honestly didn’t blame him. He was just shy of turning thirty and he was still scared of his mum. Elton tried not to grimace, shifting his gaze to the window, shifting uncomfortably in the seat.
“…I just want her to like you,” he admitted, picking at his rings again as he forced his embarrassment back and looked at his boyfriend.
John’s thumb stroked his thigh gently. “She will don’t worry.”
John smiled dazzlingly, all teeth and charm, as he held a vintage bottle of wine when Sheila opened the door.
“Hi, mum.” Elton forced a smile that wasn’t quite right.
Her eyes raked over him, passing judgment in a second, and then her face broke out into a smile. “Hello!” she greeted brightly. “Reginald, darling!” Her smile became simpering, pulling her son into a hug and then planted a wet kiss on his forehead.
“It’s Elton,” Elton reminded her quietly.
She smiled a little too sweetly. “Of, course.” She pulled back and fixed John with another smile. “And this…” Her eyes traveled over John with interest. “Must be John.”
John smiled easily. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” He held out his hand which she grasped as he handed her the wine. “A small token of our appreciation.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t have, so sweet.” She examined the label, touching her hair and smiling at John as he grabbed both his and Elton’s suitcases. “Oh, no don’t bother with that—Fred!” her voice grew shrill, making Elton grimace. “Come help them with their bags!”
It turns out she really did like John, a little more than Elton had expected, which he supposed was great…
Nan was busy in the kitchen preparing the last bits of stuff before dinner while Fred came out with some drinks on a tray.
Elton sat on the couch with John in the middle of him and Sheila.
“So, er, you’re Reggies’s manager then?” Fred said easily as he sat down in the armchair nearby with a fresh beer in hand.
“Uh…” Elton blanched for a second. “No, not exactly.” He glanced at John who was relaxing against the couch. “I mean, John kind of just helps out right now…”
“I help Ray manage the day to day things occasionally,” John said, smiling when Sheila handed him the drink.
Elton gave a smile that strained a little at the edges because John just helping out wasn’t exactly true on the managing side of things. Ray was still his manager, well…officially. There was a slight queasiness which came when he actually gave it some thought; not that he didn’t absolutely love that he could spend days with John uninterrupted.
But, it did feel like, well, sort of like he was slowly pushing Ray and Dick out of the frame every passing day.
It made sense to, though, didn’t it? As wonderful as Ray was, John managed to organise everything exactly when it should be even before it seemed needed. Elton was never late for a gig, a party, or an interview. Everything followed a strict schedule to the point he barely even had to think about it…
“…But you and Reg are flatmates then?” Fred asked, frowning when Sheila shot him a sharp look. “Reg mentioned it is all.”
“Yeah,” Elton responds a little too quickly. “Um, John has a place in LA so it made sense since I kept crashing there for gigs.” He smiled cheekily. “Thought I should contribute to the costs.”
“There's also the townhouse in London as well,” John commented easily. “Just a rest stop for gigs.”
Fred nodded along in his usual way. “Sounds busy.”
John laughed from behind his glass. “It does get hectic.”
Elton nodded, shrugging as he leaned back. “The crowds are always good, though.”
His mum hummed, eyeing John curiously. “So when did you and Reggie meet, John?” she asked lightly. “He’s been very tight-lipped about that part.”
John chuckled while Elton clutched his glass too tight. “Well, strictly speaking, it was at his concert at the Troubadour.” He shot Elton an amused grin. “Hard to miss with a performance like that.”
Elton fought to keep the smile off his face when he felt his skin flush pleasantly and hoped they'd blame it on the drink. “Yeah, then we just started chatting at a party afterward and, that’s it really.”
His mum smiled politely, and hummed with a faint shrewdness which set him back on edge. "Well, it’s nice to know Reggie has more than a few friends looking after him.” She tilted her glass to John. “I do hope he’s not driving you crazy with the mess.”
Elton’s clenched his jaw, teeth gritted. He took a large gulp of the whiskey to stop himself from saying something that would ruin the moon.
John chuckled and tapped his glass against hers. “Well, I did have to hire a cleaner.”
She laughed at that like it was a small joke just between the two of them. The sound made him feel queasy again even though it was unwarranted because this is what he’d wanted. John and his mum to get along, which so far, seemed to practically happening with ease.
Despite how wonderful this was all meant to feel, there was an instant relief when Nan came into to call into the other room for dinner.
“Look at his little legs!” His mum gushed as she delightfully showed John the family photo album full of a torturous amount of black and white photographs showing Elton’s development. “He used to bleed me dry, John, I’m telling you, he couldn’t get enough milk in him fast enough.”
“Oh, these are brilliant.” John chuckled, smiling to himself as he turned the page.
Elton excused himself quickly to get John and him another glass of whiskey in the corner of the room, wanting to go upstairs and hide.
Nan was resting in the armchair, shaking her head.
Fred glanced at Elton briefly. “Sheila, love, come on, the lads don’t wanna be looking at baby photos all night.”
Mum’s brow furrowed when she looked up at her husband. “These are memories, Fred.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Honestly!” She turned the page to the next one. “And this is his first day at school—he kicked up such a fuss with those shorts.”
John’s smile grew slanted. “Huh.” He looked up at Elton. “Elton, come over.”
Elton felt a flare of irritation, smiling tightly as he came back over to the couch with his and John’s drink.
John smiled, taking the drink as he sat down. “You never said you started playing at five.”
“Oh, yes, you should have seen him.” Nan’s face lit up with warmth. “He gave us quite a shock when he started.”
Elton relaxed slightly, smiling sheepishly. “It was just messing around mainly...”
“Nonsense, right from then we knew he had talent,” Nan said, smiling gently. “Couldn’t get him away from the piano after that.” She sipped her drink. “Even more so when he and Bernie came back to write their songs.”
Elton’s smile widened a fraction remembering.
“Really?” John’s tone changed noticeably enough to make Elton’s smile waver.
Sheila sighed loudly. “Well, as wonderful as it all sounds, there still was a mess left.” She gave Elton a look. “And late nights tipping over the bins.”
“We were coming back from gigs, mum,” Elton replied in exasperation, absently scratching at the corner of his forehead. “To pay the rent you set.”
She fiddled with her earring, raising a brow. “The neighbors weren’t impressed. They mentioned it more than a few times.”
“I’ll get them concert tickets to make up then, shall I?” Elton replied dismissively. “Since apparently they’re still hung up over it.”
She rolled her eyes and turned to John. “I’d love to try that the present you both brought me.”
“Of course.” John closed the photo album. “Elton, would you help me get some glasses from the kitchen?”
Elton gladly welcomed the distraction and finished the rest of his whiskey when he stood up. “Sure.”
“Make sure to use the good ones!” his mum called after them when they disappeared into the kitchen. “Reggie!”
“Yes, yes, I know, mum!” Elton yelled from the kitchen as he looked in the cupboard while John took the wine from off the counter.
“Pass me a corkscrew,” he said, while he watched him open and shut the cupboards with too much force.
Elton sighed, opening a drawer under the sink to grab one; at least that hadn’t been moved. “She’s so picky sometimes,” he mumbled to himself as he slid the corkscrew over to John and then went back to looking for the glasses.
“She seems quite lovely actually.”
Elton’s head snapped up. “Are you serious?”
John’s lip curved into a familiar smirk, leaning against the counter. “The way you talk about her I was expecting much worse.”
“She can be.” Elton closed the cupboard and moved to the one near John’s head.
“Can’t for the life of me see why you hate her,” John said casually, making him freeze.
“I don’t hate her,” Elton whispered quickly, frowning at his boyfriend. “I never said that I just meant…” He swallowed, thinking it over. “She can just be a little too much sometimes.”
John raised an eyebrow as he leaned in closer. “So can you.”
He said it so teasingly and harmless that it niggled at the back of Elton’s head, which was ridiculous because he knows that John is just teasing because that’s what he just does, and Elton’s knows he’s just being oversensitive because of his mum. Or at least that’s the conclusion which seems to quiet that persistent itch of apprehension.
“Just relax, darling,” John said quietly, placing the wine down on the counter as his hand moved to stroke Elton’s cheek.
Elton’s gaze darted to the half-opened kitchen door. “John, wait—“
Because what if Nan, Fred, or Christ almighty forbid, his mum walked in? And, Oh God, what is John thinking--?
“Shush, love.” His lips insistently found Elton’s. "It'll be fine."
"Shh." John deepened the kiss, putting a stop to any more protests.
Elton’s allowed himself a second to lean into the kiss, and felt John's hand tenderly stroke his neck and travel upwards to cup his cheek, and for a brief moment everything is okay and all the stress from his mum faded.
Then there was a shrill laugh from the other room and Elton is suddenly aware of how much of a compromising—
John pulls away easily and picked up the bottle of wine; the action is oddly dismissive in a way that makes him wonder if everything is all right.
Elton blinks once and then twice as he regains his bearings slower than his lover does.
“Darling, best to get those glasses.” John takes the corkscrew and smiled charmingly as he does best.
He nods, blushing self-consciously before he goes back to looking in the cupboard as John watches him patiently. He was rewarded for his efforts when he found them in the top cupboard closest to the fridge.
Yes, Sheila just simply adored John, that much Elton is fully convinced by that when they all decided to call it a night by midnight.
She’d even insisted on asking John if he was absolutely certain he wanted to sleep on the lower bunk in Elton’s bedroom and wouldn’t like something better.
Elton had asked her if better involved himself being carted off to sleep on the couch downstairs while John got the whole bloody top and bottom bunk to himself.
John had just laughed and politely declined.
Mum hadn’t laughed it off as easily.
Elton sighed, shifting uncomfortably when John pressed him too hard against the bedroom wall the bottom bed was positioned against. It wasn’t like he didn’t love cuddling with John, especially after an exhausting show or party, but the bottom bunk was small and Elton would be the first to admit he wasn’t exactly a petite and John always takes up the most room in the bed.
His neck tickled when his boyfriend softly kissed his neck. “Still awake, love?”
Elton sighed, shifting around as he tried to get comfortable. “Yeah, just thinking.”
“Hm.” He was definitely smiling now, wrapping his arm around Elton’s chest in a secure embrace. “I think tonight went rather well.” His other arm curved around to rest on the pillow, stroking Elton’s hair gently. “And your Nan’s cooking is to die for.”
Elton smiled fondly, nodding his head a fraction as he started to relax. “Yeah, she’s amazing. Always has been.”
“And all that fuss for nothing, hm?” John whispered in his ear.
He rolled his eyes but felt too tired to argue, and instead just gave a small shrug.
“I’ll tell you what, though,” John murmured, pressing kisses against Elton’s neck. “You were right about the place being tiny.” He stroked a finger down his cheek, causing him to sigh softly. “I’m surprised she hasn’t moved somewhere bigger considering how much you give her.”
“Tried to.” Elton gave a small yawn. “But she loves this house for some reason.”
John hummed near his ear and was quiet for a long while that he would have thought he’d fallen asleep if it wasn’t for the tight hold around him still.
Elton wriggled his shoulders a little, staring at the wall in the dark, the faint outlines of a pattern in the wallpaper blurred by the absence of his glasses. He clenched his jaw tight and shifted again.
“She really likes you, my mum.” It came out almost accusingly like it was John’s fault.
“Well, she’ll be disappointed if she sees us like this, won’t she?” he joked easily, chuckling softly.
Elton scowled, not finding humor in it. “Shut up, John, not like that,” he whispered, tensing when his boyfriend’s hold tightened just a bit. “I just mean she…she seems to like you a lot, and it’s a bit weird.”
“I thought you’d be happy?” His lover’s tone was stiff and icy at the edges, trailing his fingers slowly through his thinning hair. “Would you rather us pulling out each other’s throats?”
“No…” he mumbled, feeling guilty for bringing it up when it was better off left alone.
“Are you sure?” There was an harshness to John’s voice now. “Because it sounds to me you’d prefer we hated each other on sight.”
Elton felt a rise of panic when he realized how badly he was messing things up. Why had he even brought it up, to begin with?
“No, of course not,” Elton replied quickly, wriggling around to face him. “John, I’m sorry, I wasn’t—“
“Shush.” His lover’s blurred face came close to kiss him on the lips. “It’s all right, darling.” He nuzzled Elton’s cheek with his nose. “We’ll discuss it in the morning, all right?”
Elton was caught off balance slightly by the sudden change in tone, unsure if everything really was okay, but it was easier to dismiss it and not pull at it further. He shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place and was already feeling guilty for nearly starting a fight over something so ridiculous.
“Okay,” he mumbled, resting his head against John’s chest. “M’sorry.”
John rested his chin on top of his head and hummed pleasantly.
Elton closed his eyes and found himself start to drift off to sleep with his back pressed against the wall and his boyfriend’s loving embrace securing him.
So yes, his mum really was quite taken with John, like he was already a part of the family. Which was great. Better than he could possibly hope for. Yes, it was.
It was just absolutely wonderful.