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the four horsemen

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The Rainbow is meant to be their biggest night.

They've played shows that are big, selling out each night, but this is to be recorded, and in one of the most famous theatres in England. It even says so on the billboard out front.

As it is now, Roger is tired as hell, John is on the verge of passing out, Brian has a scarf wrapped around the lower half of his face, muttering to himself, and Freddie’s eyes are burning out of his skull.

They aren’t actually, but the deep, fiery orange glow of his irises would make anyone look twice. The longer he waits in the dressing room, the brighter they get.

“I need to get to a fucking hospital.” John snaps when they’re told it’ll be another 15 minutes before stage is ready.

“The place’ll be full soon, Deaks, calm down.” Roger stretches out on the bench seat.

It’s akin to one you’d find in a pool changing room, not an esteemed theatre like this is supposed to be. Freddie’s mentioned it at least twice. Roger is just glad there are hooks for him to hang up his good fur coat.

John’s gaze lands on Roger, and he can feel the cold grow from the space between them.

“Good for you! I get nothing out of performing.”

Freddie’s head whips up. “Don’t say that, John. You love the music, and you know it.”

It’s direct, but not direct enough to have an impact - not that Freddie’s influence would work on John. It can’t. John is the Fourth - even someone as strong as Freddie has no power over him, regardless of if they’re descendants or not.

Freddie feels his magic flex against nothing, and settle back into a dull pressure behind his eyes. It’ll turn into a blinding headache if he doesn’t get out there soon.

“John, is it really bad?”

Brian’s soft voice comes from the corner of the room.

He’s pulled the scarf down from his face, holding the wool gently between his thin fingers. Still wearing his regular clothes, he looks a bit out of place among the bright white silk, sleek blacks and winged eyeliner of the others.

John seems to relax hearing him - something both Roger and Freddie bite their tongues at - and shakes his head.

“I can manage. I just...”

“Just?”

“It’s been a while.”

Roger nods, because yeah, it has; he was there the last time, at John’s request. Something new they’ve tried only once, that left John nearly crying in a back alley with scratches all over his forearm.

He can’t see them through the bell sleeves he’s got on, but he knows they’re still there. He doesn’t heal nearly as quickly as Roger does.

 

Their current backstage hand, Ross, juts his bald head around the doorway and waves his clipboard.

Brian pulls his scarf over his mouth as soon as he enters.

“Five minutes, guys.” Ross tells them, then he’s gone again.

Brian tugs the scarf back down.

“I’d wish they’d fucking knock.”

Freddie rolls his bright eyes. “Oh, everyone’s fucking swearing now, are they? Fucking this, fucking that. How about we play a game? It’s called sort your shit out in your own time; we’ve got a show to do.”

Several jaws click shut.

Roger grinds his teeth a little, then his annoyance is gone. “We’re doing Liar first, right?”

There’s a groan from both corners of the room.

Yes, we’re doing Liar first, Roger. Read the set list.”

“I read the set list! I’m just asking.”

“Looking at something isn’t the same as comprehending it, Roger. We all know you’re half blind.” John says coolly from his corner.

“Fuck you, Deaks, just because you’re pissy you haven’t fed in a week.”

“Both of you shut up.” Freddie raises his voice an octave.

The magic that vibrates along their skins - bouncing off rather than sinking in the way it would a regular human - is enough of a warning.

John sticks his tongue against his cheek, turning away.

Roger just kicks the chair in front of him, sending it skidding along the linoleum.

“This is fucked. Place better not be filled with teenage girls again - that last show with them was all squeals and nothing good.” He complains, and lays back down on the wooden bench.

Brian finishes pulling his trousers up, doing the small buttons with quick, deft fingers.

He clicks his tongue. “Yes, woe is you, you’ll have to actually sleep like the rest of us to not feel tired.”

Roger ignores him.

“I want a drum solo in Stone Cold.”

“The entire song is a drum solo.” Freddie says, moving to help Brian ruffle the sleeves of his ridiculously billowy shirt.

“I want a proper solo. They hit people hard.”

“I’m going to hit you if you don’t stop lying on that chair like we aren’t about to be on stage any second.”

He flicks out the end of one sleeve, watching the way it catches the air as it settles back down around his wrist. To Brian: “You can play fine in this?”

Brian nods. “It’s fine, Fred. Feels good.”

Fred smiles at him, his eyes softening from his usual fiery orange to a warm amber. “You look good.”

“‘Cause you’ve dressed me.” Brian says, and Roger groans from his chair.

“You’re both going to make me feel as sick as John is.” He point accusingly between them. “What’s that you said about being onstage any second? You look like you’re about to woo the bloody crowd, Fred.”

Freddie flips his hair in Roger’s direction.

“I’m not wooing the crowd, Roger. You really are as blind as John says you are.”

 

Ross has his head in the doorway once more, telling them they’re on, line up and follow him out, let’s go. Roger has to bite back his response. He’ll let it out through his kit.

 

It’s a bit of a walk to get to the stage.

Out of the dressing room, up the stairs, then into the main backstage area, along the carpet, through the thin plywood doors.

John drags his feet in his bowler-esque platform shoes. He can feel the hollowness in him calling out - seeking, yearning, aching. His fingers clutch around an invisible sharp object, and he finds he needs his bass under them, thudding out its solid notes, buzzing into his body to quiet the urge. It never fills it completely, but it helps.

He needs...something. He needs anything he can get to tide him over.

Freddie stumbles in front of him, and he moves to help him up, but he’s righted and striding again before John’s even partway down.

They stay in single file until they reach the final curtain.

Freddie motions for someone to pull it aside for him and he strides through, the others in tow.

They take their places onstage without so much as a look out to the crowd. They aren’t useful yet.

 

Freddie takes his place up front. Centre stage, clothed in white and doused in bright light, for all to see.

He takes the microphone in hand as his sceptre. The light above him, his crown.

He brings it to his lips, and the burning in his eyes carries into his voice when he speaks, clear and honey-smooth.

“Good evening, all you people.”

There’s an immediate cheer. An expected one - the excited, polite calling out of a new act. The cheer that comes with a bought ticket. Freddie’s skin prickles at it.

“Oh, now that won’t do, will it?” He tuts, making his way from right to left of the black-floored stage. “Who here is looking to get a bit wild tonight?”

Somewhere, at the back of the room, someone calls out their name. Their true name.

John casts a worried eye at Brian, who keeps his own on his guitar.

Freddie just chuckles, and his eyes dip back to their ominous orange, darting out over each face he can make out through the white haze of the stage lights. He focuses on them as individuals as part of a whole, and feels his magic finally start to take hold. It’s tentative, like fine threads at first, but it’ll grow.

The same faceless voice calls out their name again, and John stiffens the same time Freddie says, “Enough from you.”

He purses his lips. 

“Yes, as you’ve probably heard, we’re the Four Horsemen. Or as we like to be called: Queen.” Freddie casts his eyes around the room, glowing with a low orange light. “You’re going to sing for us, aren’t you?”

The crowd cheers, their screams growing louder the more Freddie stares at them, burgeoning them on.

From his seat behind his kit, Roger’s foot rests on the kick drum, waiting for the energy of the room to build up into something he can really feed off.

Freddie gives a nod of his head, and Roger counts them in.

“Let’s see what you’ve got to offer us.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Under the influence of their lead singer, the crowd fall into an incoherent, screaming mess by the end of Liar - which they indeed perform first.

Roger leads them in on the drums, and they all play exceptionally, but it's Freddie who really commands their audience.

It's taken him a long time to bend his gift to a point where it no longer applies only to his heritage - His birthright, as he calls it in his more docile moods. In some ways Roger feels it was partially for him, the hours Freddie spent on individuals at bars and clubs, at small gatherings of people wherever they were, giving small commands and becoming more and more frustrated when they aren't carried out.

He was never meant to be a good influence.

Creating chaos with their music is the closest both he and Roger can get to exercising their power. At the final cymbal crash and sharp chord of their opening song, Freddie casts his eyes over to John, who's stepped down from the drum riser and is hunched over his bass guitar, and he wishes the same could be said for both him and Brian.

 

They play loud and strong, each chorus and build up to a solo from Brian carries clapping hands and cheers with it. Along with the solos themselves comes the spotlight, and the many eyes focused on him. His hands, moving along the frets of his guitar; his passively focused face; the white, angelic sleeves Freddie has adorned him with.

The longer they look, the more he can feel his skin pulled taut on his bones. His teeth grind together where his back molars meet, and he keeps his eyes firmly on the six strings he’s playing. As much as he loves playing, and even performing, he hates the rush of euphoria he feels when he knows someone has latched onto him. Or rather, that he’s latched onto them without even trying.

He plays one more minute of his Son & Daughter solo - something he’s been developing to be longer—beautiful now, but the bones of something greater - while Freddie finishes changing.

He re-emerges clad in black silk and stones, his chest exposed and eyeliner smudged, and Roger immediately launches into a hard-hitting drum section that isn’t quite a solo - John is steadily plucking out a rhythm they’ve never put into a song from the side of the riser, one platformed foot resting on the corner, and Roger hits the crash cymbal harder and harder with each alternating riff.

Freddie holds the microphone away from his face and mouths something to Brian, who’s hand is clamped over the neck of his guitar in discomfort. Neither John or Roger notice the exchange.

John takes one of the picks he has jammed in the middle pickup board of his bass and uses it to work at the lowest string over and over. Roger watches him play, hair heat-frizzed and shadowing his face. The green and purple lights play over his features, every now and then showing the true pallor of his skin. His fingers are white at the ends, purple under his fingernails like he has blooming bruises.

To the audience, it’s all a trick of the light.

 

Roger hits the ride cymbal, the hi hat, and backs off into a steady kick of the bass drum, setting a pace he knows John doesn’t need.

He’s frustrated - pent-up energy he’s meant to be receiving is working its way out of the muscles in his arms, driving his legs to hit at his kit harder and harder, beating dents into the plastic he’ll break through very soon if he doesn’t let up. He’s tried - he’s fucking tried, but whoever these people are in the audience, they have nothing good to give him. Not one single source of hysteria has made itself present in the entire room.

It makes him madder than if they’d rocked up to an empty theatre.

With a flashing red gaze from Freddie, he backs down so Brian can lead in their next song - doing so only because he can tell Freddie is as frustrated with the lot they’ve been given as he is.

It doesn’t stop him from trashing his kit at the end of the set.

He makes sure to knock over the boom stands and shove the bass drum entirely off the riser. His sticks get jammed through a tom each for good measure.

When they march offstage, Roger trails closely after John. From the corner of his eye, he can see Freddie waiting by the side of the stage for Brian, who, ever the polite one, has unplugged his guitar and blown the crowd a kiss goodbye.

Roger wants to hit him across the face for being so damn courteous. Instead he catches John’s arm, fingers digging hard into the meat of his upper arm, and pins him to the brick wall of the hall they’re exiting.

John’s eyes flick up to him. They’re bleeding black from his pupils.

“Fuck, John, let’s get you out of here.”

“Freddie—”

“Fuck them. He’ll be in the limo with Brian in ten seconds and won’t give a shit where we are till’ he’s sorted. We’re going now.”

Roger slips his grip down to John’s wrist and tugs, using an amount of force he doesn’t mean, but can’t help.

John goes.

 

They make it all of fifty metres before the shakes set in.

Roger’s forgotten his coat in the cold brick locker room - that or he didn’t care to grab it before they left - so he’s naked from the waist up as they walk the streets. It’s the mere force of his walk, the stone set in his face and white knuckles that dare any passersby to look at him. John doesn’t know how he does it given he’s so low. Part of him feels like it’s just for him.

The rest of him feels like it’s being eaten away. That the mix of his blood is finally turning him into the pale horse his fathers rode in on. He bites his tongue.

It’s numb in his mouth.

“Rog. I can’t.”

Roger’s fingernails cut into his skin.

“There’s an alley just up here.” Roger tells him, bringing a hand up to splay out between his shoulder blades. He uses it to shove him forward, over the unstable concrete of the footpath.

“I can’t,” John repeats. “I’ll need to…and I don’t have the energy right now.”

He looks up at Roger, his eyes sad and desperate. The hollowness setting into his cheeks is what decides it.

“I’ll do it.”

John shakes his head. “I can’t ask you to do that.”

“Well you didn’t ask me, did you?” Roger snaps. There’s a bite in his words that feels like it could swallow him whole. “I’m fucking going, John, don’t you move from this spot.”

His hand on John’s back presses him hard into the side of whatever building they’re next to.

A sharp pang in his gut stops him from arguing back.

“Stay.” Roger commands, then he’s gone. The sickly yellow lights hide the true tone of Roger’s skin as he passes under them. The one John knows is forming around his knuckles, as if he’s hit and drawn blood. If he isn’t careful it’ll be nigh on dripping down his fingertips

 

 

In the time it takes to explain why he’s shirtless, Roger has his hands in a stranger’s hair.

She’s short, busty, wearing a black t-shirt and smelling like daisies.

She’s drunk, and inebriated arousal is all Roger can feel pulsing out of her towards him. He can’t take it in, but he can sense it, and it makes that fire in his lungs burn hotter knowing she’s of no use to him He clamps his fingers into a fist, a clump of her hair inside it, and pulls back. Her head jerks away from his neck.

Her swimming eyes take a moment to focus on him, her expression turning into dazed confusion.

She’s not for him, Roger reminds himself. She’s fucking useless to him, but she’s useful to Deaky.

“Get your shit together.” He growls at himself. The girl seems to think he’s speaking to her, because she frowns.

“Whassat?” She flicks her hair behind her shoulder, glancing behind it as she does. “My friends are just over there if you want to meet them.”

Her voice is high and sweet, sedated by drink enough to be honey-thick and as slow as a drip of it. If Roger weren’t in the mood he’s in, he might re-consider what he’s about to do. Find someone rattier, or sluttier, or one of the many near-passed out men on the street to drag back to that alley. Alcohol, however, dulls a lot of senses—fear included. The drunker people are, the less scared they’ll be.

Roger grits his teeth and pulls his lips tight over them into a smile.

“I said how about you come with me for a bit, love?”

She bites her lip. “I shouldn’t, I’m here with mates - they wouldn’t like it too much if I just disappear.”

“You won’t be disappearing. Just having a bit of an experience, then we’ll drop you right back here. What’s your name?”

That seems to loosen her up, because she smiles. “Daisy.”

Roger swallows. Of course it is.

“Well, Daisy, I don’t think your friends’ll miss you very long.” He loops his arm through hers, and she falls in step when he takes a few back, onto the road.

Once they hit the other side of the street, Roger pinches her arm between his upper and forearm, jerking her closer. She stumbles over the gutter, but manages to keep up. Her giggle is still present in her voice when she asks where she’s being taken, and when she questions why they’re going down the alley beside the old shop complex.

It’s not until she sees John, reclining beside the skip bin at the very back of the building, that her laugh drops completely.

 

Roger has her backed up against the bricks, his back to John. It’s the pulling together of her brows that lets him know she’s seen that look on his face. The one they all see.

Roger turns to him, and whatever empathy he had for the girl disappears when he sees the haunted expression plaguing John’s features.

Daisy presses her hand against Roger’s bare chest.

“You…You didn’t say there were two of you.” She says, and John finally hears that shake of nerves he’s been missing for days.

It’s a tease.

It has John pushing off the wall to crowd her into the one she’s standing in front of. Roger steps to the side to let him take over, but he doesn’t go far. His breath is hot on John’s neck when he leans in.

“Go on, Deaks.”

John’s chest burns when he inhales. It feels little scratches forming inside his lungs.

“Shut up.” He says. He doesn’t say Roger’s name.

Roger licks his neck, and John pushes him away with a force that has Roger stumbling backward.

“What’s—”

John rounds his arm back around, landing his palm with a heavy smack on the bricks beside the young girl’s face. She freezes.

“You can shut the fuck up, too. D’you think you’ve been taken to a back alley cause we want to hear you speak?” His voice is low and sharp - a knife’s edge aiming at her throat.

“N-No, I thought, maybe—” She’s trying to keep her voice steady. It’s obvious by the thickness of it, the way her tone climbs at the end of each word. John clicks his tongue.

“There are still words coming out of your mouth.” He says, like he’s surprised. “Here I thought you looked like a smart little thing. How about I rephrase my previous statement: You’re not in this back alley so you can open your whore mouth and sing. How ‘bout that?”

“I’m not—”

She cuts herself off there.

Roger’s eyes dart back and forth between the man and his prey, wanting to see John’s face - wanting to know just what quirk of his lip, or stare, or barest tilt of his head had her shutting up. He could feel the nerves in her losing their excitement, but with that they’re gone completely. All that’s left is something cold and writhing. Roger backs away from it.

John draws in closer.

“You a little frightened? That’s alright. That’s natural. Most people don’t know they have a fear of death until the moments before they’re about to die.” He says.

The girl’s eyes go wide.

“You shouldn’t worry too much - I won’t play with you too long beforehand.”

 

From his place behind John, Roger notices Daisy tense. His eyes focus on her heel against the wall; her head tilting towards the opening of the alley; the tensing of her jaw.

He rushes forward to push her shoulder hard against the bricks the very moment she pulls away from it. Her head whips frantically from the alley’s entry, to Roger, then to John, who hasn’t moved  an inch.

Roger digs his fingers into her shoulder. She budges, then, as if remembering she has arms, tries to hit him. Roger digs harder, sucking just enough of the rage out of her to have her arm stopping mid-way.

As he does, Daisy begins to cry.

Roger whispers an apology in his head.

Daisy’s arms drop, coming to clutch over her chest like she’s suddenly cold. She probably is.

 

“Are you going to…Are you going to r-r—”

John shakes his head. “No, I’m not going to do that. I’ll leave you perfect - just as you are now. Won’t use anything sharp.”

The girl wails.

The sound hits the place in John that’s been clawing at him, dulling it down so beautifully John needs to hear it again. He’ll hurt her if it means he isn’t in pain anymore.

Roger tenses by his side, and John remembers he can feel that chaotic want to rip and tear building in him - it’s his nature. His own calling. It doesn’t help that Roger probably wants it to keep growing.

He won’t forgive himself if it does.

John bites his tongue hard enough it should hurt, though it never does. Then he brings his hand up to wrap around the girl’s throat, and lets that poison sink gently into her skin.

Just enough that she can feel it, like an IV of cold fluid into tissue. Roger’s described it for him as just that - after the one and only time John was able to feed from him—An accident that will never happen again.

John flexes his fingers at the memory, and he feels the column of the girl’s throat beneath them. He doesn’t press any harder.

He does lean in, and press his lips right up against her ear, dropping his voice to a low whisper he know’s she’ll be able to hear.

“Do you feel that? This is what dying feels like, sweetheart.”

The girl chokes on a sob.

Finally, the fear of what’s about to happen kicks in, and the dread floods through John in a rush.

It’s impossibly pure - Roger’s tampering with the panic has her tasting like ecstasy when it hits his tongue. His veins pulse with the very human fear of what he is. It pours out of her body into his, permeating his shell and sating the clawing hands inside.

They don’t disappear completely, though.

John unconsciously leans in until his chest is pressed up against the stock-still form of his source. It has stopped shivering, and is now staring at him with eyes that have pleas trapped behind them. Eyes that are wide and fragile and oh so afraid.

Yes, it is trapped.

 

 

John feels something on his shoulder.

“John, let go, mate.”

He tenses his hand - between his fingertips is the ridged column of its throat. He knows he doesn’t have to press down on it to get what he wants, but its a nice feeling. He wonders what it’d be like to take a life the way a human would.

“For fucks sake, she’s not even scared anymore.”

Roger, having stepped back minutes ago, pulls John’s shoulder. He doesn’t have the strength he needs to be able to tear him away properly, but he shouldn’t have to. John never gets this bad.

They should’ve let him feed before the show. He told them to let them both feed before the show.

 

Roger pulls back, and with a direct hit to her side, pushes enough of his own energy into the girl to have her body jolting in shock. She tears away from John’s hand with a short, loud scream.

Roger tries not to look down at her as she falls, ankles giving way under her shaky legs, and instead keeps his gaze steadfast on John.

“Fuck off out of here. Go back to your friends and finish your night. You won’t see us again.” His own emotions crack the harshness of the words into something tentative, but it works irregardless.

Daisy scrambles to her feet and takes off running. Roger knows she won’t get far before the energy he gave her tapers out, and she’ll be left passed out in the street. It’s not his problem anymore. She has friends that will go find her. What he needs to do now is get Deaky out of here and back to the house.

He brings his hand back up to rest on John’s shoulder, then slides it along his back until he can turn him. Away from the wall, face to face with Roger.

As soon as John sees him, he breaks out of his state. The black in his irises has retreated, leaving that kind grey behind - the eyes Roger loves so much, but can’t stand to look into right now.

He pulls John in for a hug, and feels the man break down immediately. His tears are wet streaks on Roger’s bare skin.

“You’re a bloody mess, John.”

John turns his face into Roger’s neck, fluttering his eyelashes against the sensitive skin there.

“Take me home, Rog. I don’t want to see this fucking alley again.”

“Alright, alright. Don’t be too upset, ‘kay? You didn’t do anything wrong - just got a bit carried away. Happens to me all the time.”

John pulls back, face contorted. “Your 'carried away' doesn't involve wanting to kill people, Roger.”

“No, I only want people to kill each other. That’s so much nicer, isn’t it?” Roger snaps back.

He grinds his teeth, hating the rush he gets whenever anything - anybody - makes him the slightest bit mad. He hates that he can live off the urge to destroy - To see something beautiful turned to dead flesh and burnt-out ash.

But he doesn’t. And that’s what he hates the most.

He takes John’s hand in his, and feels the warmth in his skin that hasn’t been there for a week now. No matter what happens, he can’t ever feel bad for making sure John is okay.

They walk together in silence, John gradually unfurling his fist to interlock his fingers with Roger’s. He doesn’t let himself think too hard about the girl. He still has scratches from the last one, who didn’t have Roger there to take the fight from them.

He can forget them. He’ll outlive them both anyway.

 

Roger squeezes him, and he can feel how exhausted he is through his grip. He’s always been one hurt unintentionally - to shove or smack too hard, hold too tightly.

The show really did fuck him over.

John leans in to kiss his neck, and wishes he were home.

 

-

 

When they do get to the house, the place is completely dark.

Freddie has the curtains drawn in their favoured sitting room upstairs, two decorative lamps lighting the tables they sit on and not much else.

Brian is huddled up on the lemon yellow couch, a scarf wrapped tightly around his chin and a cup of tea in his hands.

Roger stops short once he sees him.

“What’s this?”

“Tea, Roger. I do believe you’ve had it before.” Brian says through the wool over his face.

“Shove off. I mean why’s the house lit like a mausoleum?”

“Thought it might make Deaky feel at home,” Freddie’s smooth voice comes from the single chair at the back of the room.

He taps his cigarette with his pointer finger, and the ash falls from the end into his favourite crystal ash tray. He’s told the others only he can use it several times, but still finds crushed Marlboro butts in the bottom of it every now and then. The cigarette is brought back up to his lips, and he sucks in with an inhale of breath.

Roger is looking in his general direction, he can tell, but the bastard really is blind, so he knows whatever ‘look’ he’s being given is probably aimed at the decorative fern beside him.

“I can feel you staring, Roger, and it’s not sexy at all. If you want to make bedroom eyes, make them at Brian, he’s close enough for you see properly.” He says, waving his cigarette over to Brian for emphasis.

“I’m not making bedroom eyes, you twat.” Roger says brusquely.

“Shame.”

“You can shove off too, Brian. I’m trying to make a point here.”

Freddie leans in, illuminating his face by the lamplight. “Oh, a point? This’ll be new. Tell me what your point is, dear Roger, I very much would like to hear it.”

“My point,” Roger looks across at John, whose pained expression changes the words in his mouth, “My point is that I’m tired, and we aren’t in the mood for your shit.”

Freddie and Brian share a look.

“We?”

“Roger thinks himself the Queen of England.”

Roger takes John’s hand. “I despise both of you.”

“Oh, he’s got Deaky with him tonight, that’s why he’s so bitchy.” Freddie says, as if he—Roger—isn’t standing right there.

“We’re going to bed.” Roger states, and begins to pull John with him toward the archway that leads into the sitting room.

Brian sips his tea.

“Good luck having to actually sleep tonight,” Brian calls after him. “Hypersomnia will only get you so far!”

 

The two youngest round the corner, headed off down the hall, and Brian settles back into the couch.

“D’you think they’ll actually sleep?” He asks Freddie, as if he knows.

Given Freddie’s status, it’s assumed by most that yes, he does know, and he bloody well acts like it himself.

He ponders his cigarette carefully.

“No. Deaks was quiet, which means he’ll want to talk about something. They’ll end up fucking, I guarantee you.” He sucks in, then blows smoke out into the still air of the room. “Or they’ll have some sort of emotional bout of tears and comforting and such and so on.”

Brian quirks an eyebrow. “One of the two then?”

Freddie thinks about it for a moment.

“Both. They’ll fuck, have a breakdown halfway through, then continue through it.” He says surely.

Brian shakes his head, placing his empty teacup on the solid arm of the couch. “Sounds exhausting.”

“They’re exhausted.” Freddie says.

Brian doesn't know how he knows it, but he believes him when he says it. For the first time in a long while, he wonders if he really did get the worst lot of them. If John and Roger have worse to deal with, with less background on how they’re meant to do so.

He thinks back to the people watching him onstage - wanting him, wanting to give up everything for him - and looks around at the empty room he’s in—sans Freddie.

No, he thinks, he wouldn’t want to trade with them. He’ll take the isolation over a need to be among people all the time, and have them feel a certain way in order to breathe properly.

His own hunger pangs are minute in comparison to those he can feel in whoever stays around him long enough. They try to kiss into his mouth like it’ll give them life, and close their own mouths to things that will.

He pulls his scarf back over his mouth, though there’s no human around for miles. Just trees and grass and hills and Freddie.

And John and Roger in the other room.

 

“Fred, come here ’n talk to me. Tell me sweet things.” He says, and picks at the white polish on his nails. Freddie’s colour.

Freddie has black on his, matching. He crawls over to the couch, eyes dimmed to very human brown, and kicks his legs up over Brian’s lap, minding the empty cup beside him.

“What kind of sweet things to you wish to hear, darling?” Freddie says once Brian has his long arms wrapped around him, cradling him into him.

“Tell me…” Brian tugs the scarf down from his face. “Tell me we’re alright.”

“You and I?”

“No—All of us.”

Freddie’s confusion turns to understanding at the tone of it - he’s heard this question asked over and over, and given the same answer back each time. Brian probably doesn’t realise how much he worries.

Fred strokes the back of his hand along Brian’s now uncovered jaw, then grasps under it to tilt his head up so they’re eye to eye.

“We are fine. We are not Bringers, as there is nothing to be brought. You understand?” He says it so confidently its like there’s no room for doubt.

There is, though, Brian thinks. It’s a logical thought process. There’s a considerable amount of doubt in every outcome.

He thinks about John’s flushed face when he got in - the bounce in his heel when he turned to disappear down the hall with Roger. The buzz of feeding that can’t be hidden.

“I’m worried about them. John mostly.” He says quietly.

Freddie lets go of his face so he can press a soft kiss to Brian’s mouth.

“Don’t be. He’ll be fine.”

“He’s—”

“Young, and learning. It’s not easy being so close together when all we do is confirm what he knows to be his place - especially when no four have been together in one time period for centuries. He’s our fourth, Bri. We’ve got to take care of him.” Freddie tells him.

Brian knows he’s right. It doesn’t stop the niggling fear that the two of them are going to start growing far out of anyones reach. War and Death marching hand in hand.

But they won’t, because they’re bound, now. Even if one of them, Brian included, wanted to leave - abandon his title and inherited blood - he couldn’t. The human act of ageing stopped taking full effect around three years ago; the undercurrent of power they all feel is only present when they’re in close proximity; and the link between the four of them has grown to a solid thread, piercing through aura and psyche, tying each descendant to the other.

It’s the type of bond one doesn’t want to break out of.

As they are, they’re the first Horsemen to have formed since the 1400s. There have been others like them, like there always are, but they meet their fates alone, and as single souls without a purpose.

There’s never been anything like them in such a modern world. A twisted, ancient part of Brian is glad for it.

People are afraid of them before they even know the extent of what they could do.

It makes a shiver of excitement rush through his whole body.

 

Freddie pulls away from his chest, then, and his eyes are glowing when they meet Brian’s.

“You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?”

Brian swallows, shoving Freddie off him ungracefully. The man lands on deft feet and keeps his gaze steady and accusing.

“You know we can all tell.”

“I’m going to bed, Fred.” Brian says, and is careful not to knock shoulders when he walks past.

Freddie stands alone in the dim sitting room, a burn behind his eyes and that solid, intense want in his gut. Secondhand, gifted to him by Brian’s own thoughts.

 

In their rooms, Freddie knows Roger and John are feeling it to.

He just has to wait for the time they’ll all admit it, and they  can really begin to transform.

However long it takes, he'll wait. After all, he’s the First. If it comes to it, it’ll be his call to decide when they are ready.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Brian thinks back to his first girlfriend whenever one of the guys mention women. Whether it’s regarding Roger’s many past lays, or Freddie’s one-time experience, or John’s lack of it - she's who he thinks of.

She was before they’d decided they would be a Them - no-one else.

She was sweet, and kind.

Brian knew then how he affected people, but thought it would work. He thought maybe if he tried harder to stop it, it’d go away.

It was like holding his breath and telling himself he didn’t need oxygen.

He knew it was him when she started buying new clothes in smaller sizes, or smelled fruit on her breath when they kissed.

He knew that whatever he did force her to eat turned sour and rotten in her stomach, to be thrown up as black sludge in nice restaurant bathrooms while he waited by the door.

He visited her in hospital when she got bad enough she couldn’t stand or sit without help. She slipped into a coma on her third day there, and he spent his last night with her muttering tear-soaked apologies over and over and over.

The doctor told him to leave so they could monitor her heart - they needed to undress her, and she wasn’t awake to give the OK for him to be in the room when they did. Brian nodded, gave a last caress of her paper-thin skin, and left.

He hasn’t seen her since, but he did track down an old friend of hers to ask how she’s doing after so long about a year ago. Time and distance help, but the sickness never really goes away. What Brian has is a seed that works it’s way into the belly of whoever he’s near - piercing the lining and growing there the longer he’s around to feed it.

Her friend told him she’s fine, she’s studying to be a school teacher, and she wants nothing to do with him. Brian hung up the phone with guilt and relief swirling in his chest.

He told Roger the whole story that night.

The next day, they made the agreement. No humans, no outsiders, no strangers in their home.

He doesn’t know whether it’s a blessing or a curse that his power has only strengthened since then.

 

 

John is nestled against Freddie in their rather grand kitchen-lounge, watching his every move as he taps out mismatched patterns on his thigh.

“What is it?” He asks softly.

He looks too doe-eyed and innocent for someone Hell follows after.

“Notes.” Freddie says, moving his fingers to tap on John’s thigh instead. “See? Da da da, da da.”

“I can’t play piano, Fred.”

Roger’s head whips up from his book.

“More piano? Fred, you said we’d stick to heavier stuff for the next record.”

“Roger, I thought you were still listing off your teenage screws? You keep to that, I’ll keep to this.”

Roger tosses his book on the carpet. “I was not listing them, I was mentioning them!”

“Yes, and we all zoned out because none of us want to hear that shit.” Brian mutters from his place at the island bench.

“Just cause you can’t...” Roger trails off there, not needing a warning to know when to stop.

“It doesn’t matter. Fred, show me how you play it, will you?” John says, just to Freddie.

He’s always been too good at ignoring whoever else is in the room with him. Mostly Brian, if he’s in one of his sulky moods. Or Roger, if he’s particularly wired and wanting to fuck his energy out.

John feels like he cops the brunt of the force of him whenever he’s fresh from a gig that’s gone well, or even a night around the right (meaning wrong) sort of people. He thinks maybe it’s because he can handle it better than Bri, and Fred needs the opposite to get off - needs the control to be entirely his. Or maybe it’s just because Roger took a particular liking to him when they met, and hasn’t let it go.

He doesn’t mind. The moods that cycle through him are a nice break from the steadiness of the other two, and the fact that he doesn’t need to sleep on those particular nights - string of nights, usually - means he’s always up if John is feeling pent up or horny, or wants someone to smoke with.

Roger eyes him from his seat on the opposite recliner.

 

“You start writing more piano songs and I’ll smash the bloody thing.”

The threat is too childish for Freddie to take seriously.

“Like you smashed your drum kit the other night? That was classy.”

“Fuck class.”

“Unfortunately it’s not something you can stick your dick into, Roger.” Brian says into his coffee.

Roger rolls his eyes. “Impart your celibate wisdom on me, please, Bri.”

“Oh he is not celibate.” Freddie gives Brian a look Roger doesn’t catch, and the man blushes.

“You’re right. That stick up his arse would do the trick just fine. Doesn’t it Brian?”

“Rog, honestly, fuck off down to the studio if you’re in a bad mood.” Brian says, but there isn’t any heat behind his words.

“He's not, because I'm going to take his delightful encouragements and turn this little melody into a song.”

Freddie stands. John stands with him.

Roger looks at him like he’s been betrayed.

“Deaks, come on, you can’t be taking his side.”

John shrugs, passing his fingers through his long hair, still annoyed at how thin it is. He wishes it were thick, dense and dark like Freddie’s, or even naturally wavy like Roger’s. He wouldn’t wish anything for Brian’s hair.

“What type of music we play has no effect on me, and I like Freddie’s slower songs.” He says, and when Freddie does indeed start to move toward the door that leads down to the concrete basement-turned-studio, he follows.

Roger bites his tongue, watching them leave. Freddie tangles his hand with John, and off they march, in annoyingly calm and carefree moods.

His own skin is on fire, but he’s glad they’re practically skipping about, no second thought for him whatsoever. Roger turns to Brian once they’re out of sight, eyes squinted and lips pressed tight together.

“I want to go out.”

At the bench, Brian takes his time sipping the last now-cold dregs of his coffee - brewed for him by Freddie when he rises at four thirty each morning - and doesn’t bother to answer Roger until he’s done. With the way Roger watches him, breathing in and out of his nose like he’s just run a marathon, one would think he’s taken several hours rather than minutes. He sets his teacup on its saucer and slides it along the marble bench-top, away from himself.

“It’s Sabbath.”

He hears Roger groan, and the telltale skid of his novel being kicked along the floorboards has Brian rolling his eyes.

“I know that, Brian. I’m not a fucking dunce. I’m saying I want to go out.”

“And I’m saying it’s Sabbath, so no.”

Roger appears by his side, mussed hair crowding his mopey face.

“Bri, please?”

He shakes his head. Roger slides a small hand up his arm.

“Please?”

Brian turns to tell him no, they can’t, but stops when he sees the dim glow of red beneath Roger’s cheeks. A regular person might mistake it for a blush, or a pinking of his skin from the cold. Brian sighs, and touches his fingertips to Roger’s temple.

“Why don’t you ever just say when you’re low, Rog?” He says softly.

Roger’s false anger slips at the tone. He says, “Fuck off.”

Brian’s fingers move along his cheek to brush a stand of hair behind his ear. He can’t sense what he’s feeling the way Roger can to them, but he can feel - with his regular, human sense - how cold Roger’s skin is, and how hot the burning colour is underneath it. With Roger, everything is in extremes, and his heritage is no exception. The higher he rises, the better he feels, but when his source runs dry he’s ashen, burning from the inside with a need that’ll soon turn into clawing fingers, working their way out of every pore of his human skin. Depending on how long how long he’s left it, Roger is either feeling like he’s about to pass out and not wake up, or like he’s going to goad the next living thing he sees to tear itself apart.

Roger leans into Brian’s hand.

“What do you need, Rog?” Brian urges.

In his head, Roger sees fire.

“A lot of things.” Blood. Rage. Chaos. Death.

Brian’s hand is freezing against his face. It reminds him of John’s constantly cold body - his hands especially icy, returning to that base temperature even mere hours after feeding. He turns his face into it.

“Roger?”

He wants to bite and be bitten. He needs the snap of excitement to anxiety.

“I need to feed.” Roger says finally. “I need it, Bri.”

Brian pulls Roger to him and wonders if this is what it’s like to know an addict.

He wonders if that’s what they are - Roger and John, and Freddie to an extent. He wonders why he isn’t.

 

Brian doesn’t want to pull away, but the heat of Roger’s body starts to get uncomfortable, and he finds himself loosening his grip.

“If I were to…If we fooled around a bit, would that…?” He trails off, hoping Roger will finish his sentence.

Roger shakes his head, his fringe brushing against the collar of Brian’s shirt.

“You’d have to be angry, and I know you don’t like being rough.”

“I could try.”

Roger pulls away. “It’s not fair on you, Bri. I’ve tried it with Freddie once, and it doesn’t work with him either. There’s a reason I get it from crowds.”

“‘Cause it’s stronger, right? More people and all.”

“It is stronger. But it’s also not targeted at something the way sex is.” Roger pulls back all the way. “You’ve never had someone fuck you while pissed off, have you?”

He knows Brian’s going to say no before he says it.

“There’s a lot of emotion behind it, but it all comes from somewhere else. You’ve pissed them off, or someone else has, and they take it out on you, but it doesn’t satisfy either of you.” He says, and hopes Brian doesn’t read too much into it.

“Point is, it’s focused on some dull, singular thing. It’s not raw, or…” He pauses. “The other person doesn’t actually want to hurt you.”

Brian takes a deep breath, and holds it until it itches at his lungs.

“What if we tried it the other way?” He asks, not sure if he wants Roger to say yes or not.

He surprises himself with the question - in the years he’s known Roger, he’s never properly asked about the details of how he feeds.

He figures the amount of complaining Roger does about it - or raving about it, when he’s on day three of not having to eat or sleep - has given him enough information on the process. The way Roger’s speaking about it now, it doesn’t seem as simple, or as enjoyable, as he makes it out to be.

“What other way?”

Brian shifts on the balls of his feet. 

Brian meet’s Roger’s impossibly blue eyes, big and docile.  He can see them change when Roger comprehends the question, and the rest of his face follow suit.

“No." He says.

Brian knows better than to press. He knows, but he finds his mouth opening anyway.

“You’d do it to John. You'd hurt John, if he asked."

Roger steps forward, and he wants to badly to hit Brian. Wants his nails to be pointed so they cut skin when he drags them down his chest. Brian doesn’t break easily, and they’re all quite impervious to each other, but he’ll bloody well try.

“Would you be asking this of Freddie?” Roger counters.

Brian’s jaw locks. “That’s different.”

“Because he’s Freddie? Because he’s older? Because he’s so ‘in control’? Give me a break, Brian.”

Roger turns to leave, but Brian catches his arm. He jerks out of his grip.

“Don’t.” He hisses. His eyes run up and down Brian’s form, and his shoulders sag.

“It’s not you," He says tiredly, "I’m just…I'm gonna go upstairs and sleep.”

He laughs, then, because it’s such an odd thing for him so say - that he’s off to bed, to shut his eyes and actually fall asleep.

Brian’s hand stays in place, mid-air.

To his surprise, Roger leans in and pecks a kiss at his fingertips.

“I’m not mad.” He says, then he leaves, off toward the stairs leading to the second floor.

His footsteps are quiet as he walks up them. Brian stays standing in the kitchen, confounded by the immediate mood changes he doesn't think he'll ever be used to.

 

 

Below them both, John watches Freddie play with keen eyes.

His fingers are poised and ready, landing on each key with practised precision - though this isn’t something he’s every played before, the notes blend seamlessly into something fresh and beautiful.

He brings his left hand over the right to tap at a few high notes, then he slides them into his lap.

“What d’you think, dear?” He asks, looking up at John. He can’t help but smile at the adoring look on the young one’s face.

“Was great, Fred. Do you have words for it yet?” John’s voice is soft and steady when he speaks.

The scratchiness and snappy words of irritation branching from his week of going without any form of subsistence. Freddie can feel himself warming at the honey in his voice.

“It’s only just a little melody at the moment,” Freddie says dismissively. “Why—you have an idea?”

John shakes his head no. “You will soon, though. I’d like to hear them when you’ve got them figured out. I like hearing you sing.”

Freddie pokes at him playfully, and John dodges it, a little laugh escaping him.

“You hear me sing near every night.”

“Yes, but this’ll be just for me.” He says, and smiles, because he knows exactly how to play Freddie.

The man whose intrinsic drive is to conquer and rule, playing for him because he asked him to. He knows when his lyrics are ready, he’ll sing for him, too. Just like this, in their small, rather echoey studio.

 

Freddie turns back to the grand, and flits his fingers above the white and black keys.

“Greedy bastard.” He says, and plays his melody once more.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They find out the footage from the Rainbow isn’t going to be released a week later.

Roger takes it out on his kit in the basement, mimicking exactly what he did onstage.

Freddie paces, on the phone to their manager, spouting phrases and curse words he hasn’t used in many, many years - though he knows it isn’t his fault, he needs to vent his frustration to someone.

John breaks into the liquor cabinet and pours himself an unmixed drink - half white rum, half vodka, downing it in two sips, reaching for the bottle once more.

Brian, not wanting to wreck the house any more than his bandmates already are, goes out.

 

It’s the worst decision made out of all of them.

-

The club lights pulse overhead as he makes his way inside, let in by a man with a thick moustache and wandering eyes.

Blue, purple, green, yellow. They dance over his figure as he walks on light feet, eyes searching for the bar that’ll lead him to both a drink and away from the off-putting people lingering at the club’s entrance.

He can see it, if he squints his eyes and looks—really looks, filtering out the artificial lighting and using his true eyes to amplify the darkness into day. There’s a round bar, a bench top reaching all the way around, with a stack of bottles arranged like a trophy tower in the middle, displaying each label to whoever might want to enquire as to what drinks they have on hand.

Brian switches back, and the dim light and strobe colours fill his vision once more.

He moves his hand to tuck his scarf up over his face and realises he isn’t wearing it—he’d left it at home, tossed over the back of the couch the night before when Fred was feeling particularly impatient. Hadn’t thought it important enough to take with him to such a crowded place.

What a fucking idiot.

Brian reaches the bar and uses the length of his arms to wave a bartender over - he orders a plain vodka, no ice, no lime, no nothing.

It’s handed to him before he can get his wallet out.

‘Free of charge’, the bartender seems to say, waving his hand out, then he’s gone, off to take an order from another patron.

Brian sips at his drink and feels the burn replicate his earlier anger as it slides down his throat.

It doesn’t have much effect on him - not that he’s tried to drink himself to sleep—or worse—before, but sometimes it’d be nice to have something to take the edge off, the way all these people do.

The way they move and dance and slur their words. Uninhibited.

He’d like that.

 

A woman approaches him with her own drink in hand, and Brian shifts to the side as best he can considering the close proximity to absolutely everyone in the club, to let her access the bar.

“Thanks!” She shouts, tilting her head up so he can hear.

Brian grits his teeth, but he bends down. “No problem.”

“I’m Shelley!” She says, voice at top volume but barely audible over the music. “Who’re you?”

Doesn't matter, Brian thinks. You won’t care in a few minutes anyway.

“What’re you drinking?” Shelley continues.

Calm, Brian tells himself. He came here for a reason. What was the fucking reason? Right. Get away from the house, take his frustration out somewhere else.

He looks down at the woman below him - she’s shorter, shapely, a potato-nose and long, long eyelashes - and lets a grin creep onto his face.

He can feel his insides flexing.

For once, he lets it go.

“Vodka. Would you like one?”

A shadow dances across the woman’s form, and it’s not the cause of any of the lights above. Her face relaxes, slackened by something so much stronger than alcohol, and she steps forward into Brian’s space.

“Please.”

Brian brings his hand down to grip at her shoulder, digging his fingers into the bones he can feel under the layers of flesh and blood.

He smiles at her, and she sways under his gaze. Brian can feel his skin tighten over his own body.

“Let’s get you a drink, then.” He says, and slips his hand down to her lower back.

He can feel her start to drift under his fingers. Her intentions lost and new ones gained, passed over through a simple touch through the thin layer of her slinky dress.

He doesn’t need it in order to win her over, of course, but it’s faster, and he’d like to be out of here as soon as he can.

He gets her a vodka soda, slice of lime, and its in his hands as quick as the last one was.

“Thank you,” She says, bending up again to shout it in his ear.

Brian doesn’t reply.

His eyes are focused on her fingers as she takes the slice of lime out of her drink and sets it on the bar.

That dark, cold thing inside him unfurls, and begins to reach.

-

At the house, Roger lies on the cold concrete of the studio and feels his blood stir with energy that isn’t his.

He stretches his arms out across the floor, revelling in the sharp burn he feels when he does.

His fingers are peeling skin on the sides where he’d hit a beat on his kicked-over tom tom, over and over again. His own blood is dried on his sticks, on the metal frame and plastic skin of the drum. It’s incredibly underwhelming seeing that substance—his colour—spread in such small amounts. Like he’s spilled a bit of ink rather than blood. It is blood, but it’s his own, dried up and lifeless now, and that’s what frustrates him.

He looks out around the mess he’s made of the room - the guitars and piano are intact, but the soundproofing foam has been ripped from the walls, carpets kicked up, his kit knocked over and beaten with his feet and fits and parts of the kit itself.

He’d fed days before, finding a girl in a club he’d seen hanging around a bloke and making sure to press himself up against her when he got her alone in the middle of the room. The boyfriend dragged him outside, Roger still clutching his bird’s arm, and he was able to really feel the desire to hurt when the first fist collided with his face.

He can feel that same desire now, though its aim is somewhere completely different.

Black tendrils reach out to him, and Roger reaches back, inviting them to slide into his veins and fill him up from the inside.

They’re not physical - the feeling is entirely that: a feeling - but they might as well be given the effect they have on him. Roger’s back jolts, and he’s filled with a strong rush of secondhand arousal—behind it, a taunting sting of guilt.

Roger slams his fist down onto the concrete.

“Fucking hell, Brian!”

The black-tinted red inside him starts to heat, burning at the connection that has begun to form between them. It’s him, every time, and he knows it’s not just because he’s easier to get to, given how wide open he is as an emotional target—to anyone with the kind of abilities to pick up on it, anyway. No, it’s because he knows Brian would’ve tried the others - that he has tried, more than once - and had them reject him.

He’s giving, not taking, but they don’t want what he has to give.

Roger’s not so sure he wants it either. Not when he feels the bond between them thrumming dangerously—a guitar string wound too tight, being plucked at with fingers that are too eager to hear its sound.

Another swell pulls through his body head to toe, winding his muscles tight, and Roger writhes.

His other hand comes crashing down onto the floor.

His head is spinning with someone else’s want, so strong now he can barely pick up the undertones of whatever emotion its source is feeling. It’s overwhelming.

Roger digs his thumbnails into the sores on his fingers and lets of a spark of himself go. It travels out - not along the licks of power Brian has sent out—the ones he accepted so willingly—but along the bond itself. That thin line between them all, currently wrapped in someone else.

Whatever comes back will tell him exactly how pissed off he’s going to be.

-

The drawing room - so lovingly, lavishly decorated - is filled with cigarette smoke and low lamplight. Each time his hand passes over the ornate lampshade, the bulb inside casts a glow over the smoke drifting between his fingers, allowing him to see the grey tendrils snake through the air before they dissipate into the air, blending in seamlessly and leaving nothing but the burning smell behind.

Along the delicate part of his wrist; under his tongue; ripping through his spine; he feels it. A hand gripping tightly over the pulse point of their bond.

Freddie rips the cover off the lamp and tosses it across the room.

It lands with a distinct glass-shattering sound somewhere against the far wall.

Behind his eyes, an orange flame begins to glow.

-

“We couldn’t have just gone back to yours?” Shelly shouts.

Her voice bumps along the tiled walls of the bathroom, where the music is dulled but not blocked out completely. Brian crowds her into a stall - rather large considering how small the mens’ usually are - and shuts the door behind him. It’s wood, floor length. No prying eyes or feet standing outside the gap.

Shelly falls back onto the closed toilet lid.

Brian turns to her

Her eyes are lidded but alert, dancing up and down his body, her hands clutched together over her thighs. Her legs are parted, but covered by the stretch of fabric that covers the rest of her as well. A single silver lycra-like piece that bulges out at the chest, and around her hips as well.

Brian wonders what her skeleton looks like under all that. If her eyes will look as sunken as her ribcage when she gets in deep. If she has children.

How long will it take for her to kill them should he plant that seed in her?

Brian steps back, disgusted.

He couldn’t think that. He won’t let himself think that.

They aren’t thoughts, something tells him. They’re wants. Needs. You need this.

Dark and ancient, a desire passed over years and countless psyches; he needs to fulfil what he’s still living for.

On her seat, Shelley’s eyes start glazing over.

 

“Can I suck you off?” She asks. Her hands grip each other where they rest on her lap. Brian can see her bright underwear show when she shifts her hips. “Please? I’ll do anything for you.”

Her words set off a seed-pod opening in his chest, setting free a mix of lust and hatred.

Brian steps forward, leering down at her - this woman, most likely ten years past his human age with a dainty ring on her left hand, on that one specific finger. What kind of creatures are these?

Liars, the something answers back. They’re all liars. Don’t feel guilt on their behalf.

Brian hums. No, he won’t feel guilt for her again. He takes her face in his hand and grips tight enough to feel her jawbone under the flesh there.

“I know you’ll do anything. That’s why we’re in here, instead of out there. I don’t think it’s fair to take from all those people when I could just use you.” Brian cocks his head. “Don’t you think?”

Shelley nods.

Brian can see purple-black veins working their way up her neck, like shot capillaries in a bruise. His fingers move over her face, his pointer and middle resting on her bottom lip, tugging down until she opens her mouth.

He’s about to press down onto her tongue when he feels a shock ripple up his spine.

It’s strong, burning hot and painfully sharp, like a knife running along his back in quick strokes, cutting at every single vertebrae until he’s left with nothing tethering him together. Brian collapses onto the floor, his legs numb underneath him.

The initial pain subsides as quick as it emerged, and Brian recognises it for what it is.

The burning, simmering anger that’s left tingling in his bone marrow is so distinctly Roger he almost wants to laugh.

Of course he’d be the first to take what Brian was handing off - passing it along their link so he wouldn’t have to carry that power with him. Roger’s always done it for him, because of the off chance he might benefit from it, or because he knows Brian can’t handle the rush of sick pleasure he gets from actually using what’s inside him.

They haven’t discussed it. They haven’t needed to.

Now, though, it seems it’s backfired on him: Another jolt is sent back along the very line he cast out to their Second—his predecessor—and Brian clenches his hands into fists. Inside himself, he gathers the black vines that have started to take root and cuts them out, tearing them from the base inside him and whatever part of Roger they’ve latched onto.

The feed of energy cuts off immediately.

What’s left is an ache inside his body, so deep he feels like every ounce of his own power has been taken along with it. The remnants of black tar bubble deep down in his gut, and Brian reaches blindly in front of him.

He’s met with something warm and soft, a pliant give under his fingertips. He digs in until he hooks under the solid base of a kneecap, and uses the connection to pull himself up.

Dizziness blocks out any details of his vision for a solid few seconds when he stands up. Brian shakes his head, brushes his hair out of his face, and touches his neck, feeling for a scarf that isn’t there.

Below him, the woman squirms on her seat.

The veins in her neck have slowed, but the seed has already opened—no shock along that tense line will stop it. It may slow Brian himself, however.

He lets go of her knee and wraps his arms around his own torso - ribcage, waist, hipbones - so he doesn’t reach out for her mouth again. The fumes of the hatred he’s been given smells like cigarette smoke.

 

“Turn around,” He tells Shelley.

She looks up at him with clouded eyes, face slack and willing. “Aren’t you going to—”

“I’m not going to do anything. You’re going to turn around, lift that lid up, and throw up.”

A flit of confusion comes and goes, quickly replaced by eagerness.

She slides off the toilet seat and flicks the lid up hard enough it cracks onto the tiles behind it.

Brian guides her head into the bowl, pressing down on the back of her skull to push her lower. She makes a soft noise of protest, but he lets it be drowned out by music. He might pretend he never heard it at all.

He tucks a strand of short hair behind it ear, where it falls right back onto her cheek.

“You can feel that sickness inside you. It feels horrible.” He tells her, scratching his nails over her scalp. “It’ll stay there—eat you up if you don’t get rid of it. Throw it up.”

A whine echoes out at him, and for once Brian is glad he doesn’t have Roger’s empathic abilities.

He doesn’t know how he’d suffer through this if he did.

A stir of guilt is swallowed up by the blackness in his blood, but he feels it. The same guilt he had for this woman - a married woman, with a husband and a home - he now feels for Roger.

The thing inside him is disgusted.

Brian digs his nails in, and hears a retch give way to the wet sounds of vomit against water, purging the poison that has formed from whatever was inside her.

She heaves once, then again, and her back shudders with the effort. Brian feels the tremors sink into his skin and settle lightly along his bones.

She pulls back, and Brian reaches up to tug at the lever at the side of the cistern, flushing it down the pipe, away from the both of them.

He doesn’t need to see to know what colour it was.

-

Miles away, John’s eyes are the same shade.

 

He tugs on the bond that’s cutting tight around his heart, digging into his tissue like the wire of a garrotte.

He strums it the way he does the thickest string of his bass, feeling it strengthen from near-snapping to a steady hum under his ministrations.

 

Hours later, he feels a steady glow join in.

Hours after that, the sleepy drag of Roger’s breathing and the much, much softer touch of Brian’s fingers.

 

John inhales, and the whites of his eyes start to re-appear.

 

Chapter Text

"It would've been fine,"

"It was stupid,"

"It would've been fine,"

"And reckless,"

"It would've been fine-"

"And you bloody well know it!"

 

Brian sinks back into his chair with his scarf tucked tighter around his face than it has been in a long time. Purl stitch, thick wool. Deep purple.

In the chair opposite him, Freddie is livid.

Both eyes burning unnatural colours - one pair turned away, the other set firmly on their target - seem like pinpoints in the dark room. Freddie has his favourite lamp on, but the rest are switched off. The only other source of life is the cigarette burning in the glass ashtray and the still bodies of two sleeping men upstairs.

Roger turned out early, and John couldn't stand the tension. They retired to bed together.

 

Freddie's jaw clicking is audible.

"I'm so proud of all of us, you know," He says. It has Brian's head stopping half-turn.

"What?"

Freddie picks up his cigarette daintily, "I'm proud. Of all that we've accomplished as musicians. As people. As carriers of such an unbelievable...well, burden, some might call it."

Brian pulls at the bottom of his scarf ever so slightly. "What do you call it?"

"Legend," Freddie pulls smoke through the filter of his Slim, exhales out into the room for the curtains to absorb, "Our lives are entirely based on legend, and we are legends because of it. We aren't read about; we're living, darling. In the flesh, in shiny black and white creating something everybody loves when our very purpose is to take it all away. How could any human ever think their short - what is it, eighty years? - on this earth could ever compare to what we will do."

He says it all quietly, like it's a secret, but Brian knows what Freddie is thinking when he talks like this. It's persuading. Leading. And the end is always the same because they've only ever had one goal.

Freddie takes another drag, then extends it to Brian. He almost reaches.

"Do you know what that means, Bri?"

Brian stills. There's a pull in the back of his skull, drawing him forward. Guiding his hand.

Freddie's eyes are fiercely golden. Brian can see the light reflecting in his own eyes like staring at the sun.

"I do." He says.

Fred's hair brushes his face when his head shakes, "No, you don't," He says, then he leans forward, pulling the cigarette back toward him.

"If you did, you wouldn't have left the house tonight. More so, you wouldn't led a stranger somewhere alone, open up that lovely line that has, only to not finish what you started." Freddie stubs the butt out into the bottom of the ash tray so hard the burning end splays out along the glass, nearly touching the skin of his fingers.

Brian stares at the side table in shock. Not at the sudden movement, but at the words just spoken. "I don't-"

"I'm off now. Be quiet when you do turn in."

Freddie stands to leave, and Brian nearly flinches.

The other man's posture changes immediately. Lithe fingers come down to settle wild ringlets of hair, and Brian lets himself be touched despite the strange feeling still lingering in his gut. His welcome home hadn't exactly been that, and Freddie's angrily waving hands were still seen as a threat in his subconscious. It begins to die as soon as Freddie's hand gently guides his head forward until his forehead is resting against his torso. He relaxes his spine, and the breath that he lets out into the thick wool of his scarf is a letting-go he's needed since he arrived at the front door over an hour ago.

"Don't ever be afraid of my eyes or my body, Brian," Freddie says softly, "I'm only as strong as you make me."

A tremor tumbles up his spine, clogging his throat momentarily.

"It would've been fine if I wasn't angry. If-" He swallows. "If I didn't want it."

There's a whisper of a chuckle from above, "He admits it. Finally."

A kiss is placed on the crown of Brian's head, then the warm body before him pulls away.

"You're supposed to want it, Bri. I want you to want it."

Freddie's finger clicks the lamp switch. The sound drowns him in darkness.

.

 

"What do you think they're talking about?"

Roger nudges closer into the cage made by John's cold arms. He's covered in two duvets, plus the old comforter they keep in the studio, but the heat hasn't sunk into his skin at all. Roger took his own jumper off and forced it over John's head fifteen minutes into getting into bed with him; Roger runs hot, but it doesn't mean he doesn't feel cold.

John allows the constant migration of Roger's body into his personal space, folding his arms around the man's cotton-covered back. He's past tired, with the effects of  two bottles of vodka and rum circulating through his bloodstream for all of an hour before it metabolised and had him standing over the toilet getting rid of every single sip he'd taken. He never quite gets the buzz, or the hangovers that he's heard about. The reason he started drinking was the very thing he never found in the biting bitterness of pure spirits - escape.

"John?"

He tilts his chin down. It hits the top of Roger's head.

"What?"

Roger huffs. The hot air hits his chest, and its a hell of a lot more effective than the fifty pounds of duck down and linen pressing down on top of them both.

"What d'you think they're talking about? They've been down there for hours."

He yawns on the last word, mouth opening wide, and John feels that on his chest, too.

 

His eyes turn to the closed door. Behind it is the two steps of space between the next bedroom door - shared between all of them, but the one Brian sleeps in most frequently, so the right side stays empty of him. He isn't one for changing routine up too much, and it doesn't put anyone out to make sure he's comfortable. Roger's glasses are placed on his side of whatever bed he's lying in that night for the same reason. He refuses to wear them outside the house, but they can at least make sure he can see the pages of his science fiction novels when he sits up to read.

 

Down the stairs is the wide mouth of the stairwell, the last few steps broadening out  onto the hardwood floor. That floor reaches out to the sitting room - Freddie's armchair and side table set-up right against the back wall, centre of attention - and the other way to the kitchen, where it turns to white floor tiles and island benches and conventional cooking wares. There isn't a dining table or chairs, because if they eat, it isn't together. John doesn't, Brian has no need, Freddie takes himself off to be served in elaborate restaurants when he can be bothered, and Roger will happily smash vinegar and chips after a gig, wipe his mouth with his arm or a napkin and call it a day.

 

John doesn't think it looks particularly appetising - or attractive, on Roger's part - but he appreciates that it's fast. Roger has always been more attuned to what John needs, especially after playing a show, and makes sure to get them both what they need in due time. They head home later than the other two most nights, which is a sore spot for Freddie on bad days - he wants them together, functioning together, gaining energy and life all together - but he knows sometimes that just can't be.

 

John is more of an entity than a human being, and even when he's not bursting with a capability of causing destruction, or listening to the thud of his own heartbeat echo in his ribcage like there's nothing else of substance inside him, he has to live as himself. Despite Freddie's pushing, even he understands that.

 

Some nights he even encourages the wandering off alone.

 

Maybe it's because he knows Roger won't be too far behind him. Perpetually twenty-three with a twenty-five year old shadow. Both capable of horrible things. Incredible things. Wonderful things. And he'd be ready to take it all away from Roger if it meant he'd stop getting himself beat in search of mania, knowing Roger would - and has - sneak out to find some other hotheaded guy on a street or bar just so he could be relaxed in his own home.

 

He doesn't run at fever height for no reason. He has an eternity of riot churning in every cell. Tumult ringing in his ears, drowned out by steady, crashing loud drums and the roar of collective voices shouting their names or their lyrics or simply just adding to the noise. On stage his call to arms is drowned out by excitement.

At home, all Roger has is human comforts his three...whatever they are. Whatever temporary label they have. All together, they're Four, and on the worst nights (months ago during Sabbath, when any noise was steel on steel and any sudden movement was an attack, words became tinnitus and Brian was ready to phone their manager when the first seizure hit) he has them.

John doesn't answer his question. Instead, he wraps his arms around Roger tighter and closes his eyes. Roger will feel the thrum of wanting sleep pass into his own body and leave him be soon enough. He knows they both know the answer.

 

.

 

In a cold, square office, a man sits with his legs folded over each other, hands folded atop them in turn.

His translucent skin reveals dark purple veins, unmoving and splayed like frayed wires. Each capillary, freckle, hairline scratches by his fingernails stand out in ways they do not on normal people. But Evan Harrison is not a normal human.

The manager of Queen sits at six foot two, dark eyes, thin, pointed incisors and a briefcase with questionable contents.

A vampire.

One of the first in Cornwall, self-proclaimed.

He taps fingernails one by one - pinkie to pointer - along the file on his lap.

Four pairs of eyes watch each one land.

Roger kicks his toe up and down, glitter Converse-covered heel occasionally slapping the floor.

Brian has his hand locked into Freddie’s tight grasp, declining to wince at the crunch of his fingers.

John has his sunglasses on his nose and his long hair covering most of his face. He hasn’t uncrossed his arms since Harrison took his time entering the room.

The man in question taps one last time, then opens up the file.

"Gentlemen. I understand you are upset with the current circumstances of the Rainbow live performance recording.” His voice is tired, stern, monotone.

Freddie scoffs. ”Upset? You would be right to understand that at the very least.”

Brian feels his fingers flex.

Harrison sighs, ”I’ll have you know it was not my decision. I know how important this recording was to you.”

"Is. Is important. This will still be released. Start to finish, over an hour of us on film, under stage lights with an audience cheering. You’re the manager with six hundred years of so-called connections. You tell us: what can be done.” Freddie demands.

The man leans back in his wide-backed desk chair. It creaks with the movement.

”A decision has been made. I put in my best word, but it was out of my hands.”

"Then put it back in your hands!”

"I can’t.”

"Then what do we pay you for?”

Harrison sighs again. His fingertip slides along the first page in the folder, teasing a paper cut. “You pay me less than others would, for protection from both the supernatural and human world. I have been around the block, to use the parlance of our times, for multiple of your lifetimes. I denounce proposed oppositions and return threats on your lives. I take on offers of publication so long as it is suited to your standards. I take care of legal matters, public disputes and religious heretics. I am everything and everywhere. And I do all this because I am both sympathetic and encouraging of your cause. I want to see you boys succeed as you want to succeed yourselves.”

He leans forward, raising a white-pale eyebrow, “I am not just talking about your musical career.”

Letting go of Brian’s hand, Freddie leans in himself. The space between them is a wide gap, with a heavy wood desk between. Freddie ignores it. He stares directly at aged blue eyes, melted ice in colour. Like the blue had been leeched out the longer he kept his eyes open. Six hundred plus years was a long time to see.

Freddie licks his lips, “You’re sympathetic. That’s touching to hear, Evan, quite honestly. I admire you for what you’ve chosen to do in your time, but for us, this time spent wasn’t enough. We want that footage marketed, distributed, and seen by people all around the world, the way it was meant to be - the way we were told it would be when we agreed to perform, and agreed to those cameras.”

"You asked for them.”

"They were suggested - Your suggestion, I believe,” Freddie presses.

The man shakes his head.

"You’re starting a witch-hunt with the wrong man, Freddie. There’s a board, a process, and ketones things don’t go the way they were initially planned out. Your show will be just that: A single show, enjoyed by those that bought tickets to see it, same as all your shows before.”

Freddie stomps his foot. Two seats beside him, John tilts his head forward to see over his glasses. Behind the grey-tinted lenses, his own eyes are seeping white.

 

"Find that footage and get it out to the public.” Freddie says.

He’s let go of Brian’s hand in favor of standing, striding over to the desk and slamming his palms down. Added emphasis on his words isn’t needed, but Freddie is nothing of not over the top.

Behind the desk, the manager shakes his head.

“That’s all I can do for you today, boys. Kindly leave via your usual route so I may see my next client.”

Brian looks aside, meeting Roger’s wary gaze. There’s an uncertainty in his soft face that has Brian frowning when he looks back up at their First.

Roger is rarely reserved in what he calls ‘polite rows’. He likes to seek them out, bite into them, turn them into fully fledged matches he can bet on. Now, he feels like he’s teetering on an edge - and Freddie has put him there. With a very well known Eternal, no less.

Freddie reaches down and snatches the file from the steam-pressed linen lap of their manager, then tucks it under his arm.

“I’ll bring this back when we meet next week,” he says, gesturing with a slight tilt of his head for the others to start standing to leave, “You don’t have any clients as important as us. We wouldn’t dream of replacing you over something so small, nor could we - we respect you too much, and that is enough to keep this business relationship going. But if you do not extend that same respect to the point of mutuality, there is no reason for the very real and very non-human sides of our being to not begin to show in your presence.”

Freddie leers forward. Harrison leans back.

“Everyone all around the world will know our name. They will associate it with something to be loved and not feared. That’s the first part. Due process, Harrison. I’m sure you’re familiar.”

Harrison tuts, “They will fear you no matter what you show them. The Four Horsemen are not and never have been a good omen.”

“Remember your place,” Freddie says, “We may be young this time but we are together. You’ve seen Conquest die alone but you’ve never seen me. You’ve seen War but you’ve never seen Roger after playing for a crowd of thousands. You aren’t affected by Brian of course, but you’ve seen what he does without even trying, and John...”

He pauses. The sunglasses on John’s face don’t hide the white in his irises, nor do his sleeves hide the black-purple starting to darken under his fingernails. The sunglasses, the hair, the hard press of his spine into the back of the chair, all hiding the gnawing pain in his gut, spreading along the underside of his skin until he looks grotesque enough to be able to scare outsiders without even trying.

One look from Freddie, and he knows exactly what he’s going to say. He does nothing to stop it - because he knows it’s true.

His precious John - long-haired and blue-eyed - the bringer of Hell to earth. He wonders if Freddie can feel as strongly what he’s been feeling. What he knows Roger has been noticing days before he did. What is causing Brian to turn in early and wake up later, not leaving the house unless absolutely necessary. What Freddie has been ready for longer than any of them:

The desire for the Bringing has started. There'll be no stopping them now.

“Our Fourth," Freddie says, "John will be the end of us all.”

 

Harrison squints, obscuring his eyes with folds of century-old skin.

"I don't doubt you, and I dare not make the error of underestimating you. But you are still young nevertheless. It would be a greater error on my part if I did not do my best to guide you-"

"It is your job," Roger mutters.

Harrison ignores it, "-Toward a place you can be of your best influence."

There's a pause. Brian turns his head halfway toward Roger, but Roger is looking straight ahead.

"What does that mean?" He asks.

Evan stands from his chair, casual as ever, and runs a hand through thinning white hair. Roger isn't sure when he changed over, but he seems to have been at least in his seventies before the whole 'immortality' schtick took hold and stopped him ageing any more. He does well to not look down at his own hands for comparison, but he's glad, despite some of the downfalls, that his own face will remain twenty-five.

Harrison walks around his desk slowly, then waves his hand at the papers in Freddie's grasp. He's handed them.

Watching with anticipation, the file is opened. One, two pages turned over, then a third is lifted up and shaken.

"This paper is a list of dates. Starting at the sixteenth of April, ending on the eleventh of May, with seventeen dates in-between."

Freddie looks wary.

"What are they for?"

"A tour," Harrison says, turning the paper over, "Of America."

Big, bold letters display the name of a well-known band they've gone to see themselves before, UK natives with hit penned by Bowie himself (someone they haven't met personally, but have heard of in the underground for being rather open about his status as not only an ally of non-humans, but as an all-round odd person).

Roger points at the title of the page. "Mott the Hoople?"

"Correct. Opening act, nationwide tour. One month, booked out shows."

Brian squints harder to look at top few lines. "You said beginning on the sixteenth?"

"I did."

"That's in ten days. How could they possibly organise this in ten days - we haven't even agreed!"

Harrison smiles. "Yes you have. I agreed for you, three months ago. This tour has been booked, tickets have been sold, buses are being packed with equipment - Mott are very excited to meet the four of you, I'll tell you. All you have to do is get on a plane, fly across the water and play."

Freddie doesn't know whether to be elated or furious. He settles for strangely surprised. Finding his own lips quirk up, he meets Harrison's eyes.

"You knew we'd say yes."

Harrison moves his shoulder in a slight shrug. "I knew you were focusing on the UK tour. This was not meant to be a surprise in any way - I am a business man, not a party planner - but the non-releasing of the footage threw things off. As did your day of seclusion following the news."

"It was so not a day," Roger interjects, "Barely eight hours."

"Alas, we had an appointment. And I do have other clients."

"Not important." Freddie says, "When do we need to be ready by?"

"One week. You fly out a day after that. Day and a half to settle, for equipment to arrive, et cetera, then it's down to business. There is enough time to cancel if you give me an answer now. Are you in?"

Freddie looks around him for a nod from Roger, then Brian, and John's imperceptible tilt of his head.

"We're in," Freddie confirms.

Harrison places the page back in the file, the file back on his desk. When he looks up, he's smiling. Naturally, this time.

"Well then, I bid you good luck, boys," His eyes drop slightly, so he's staring John down through his glasses, "Make 'em scream, hm?"

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The first hit isn’t so bad. Skin bruises easy but does not split without something sharp, or particularly unyielding. Knuckles are much nicer on a cheekbone than an iron bar.

Not that either are particularly pleasant, but if he had to choose one…

His face is smacked till his head twists at the neck, hanging down to stare at the shoes of the man on his left. His hair is pulled up by the roots, right at the base of his neck where it’s white-blond and baby-soft, until he’s facing upright again. Then the bar swings and misses, and the blinding crack of his collarbone splitting has him deciding: neither. Neither is better.

 

-

 

“How d’you think the first telephone was invented?” John queries.

He’s picking grapes out of a large glass bowl that aren’t particularly tasty - they’re quite bitter, actually - but it gives him something to do with his hands and mouth as he lay back on the thickest of their rugs, hair splashed out around his head, listening to Brian and Freddie ponder about nothing-thoughts.

He personally wonders where Roger has been for the past few hours, but that in itself is a nothing-thought. If he did reach out, Roger would most likely brush his hands off like a toddler his mother’s worries and complain about it when he got in.

Instead, he turns his head back, skull rolling on the carpet, and says, “I can tell you,”

From his place on the couch, feet up where his head should be, Freddie scoffs.

“I know you could, sweet. I meant why?”

“You didn’t say ‘why’” Brian notes.

Freddie shushes him.

“Why, after so long with broad distances and lovely letters and even visiting and all of that, did someone just say ‘No, I’d like to chat to someone as if they were here, but not be looking them in their face.’”

John purses his lips. “How would you deal with that?”

“With what?”

John rolls fully, twisting on top his arm with an ‘oomph’ onto his stomach. He declines to acknowledge Brian’s quirked eyebrow. “How would you deal with only seeing me every few months, if I lived far away? Only speaking to me through written English?”

Freddie pauses.

Brian’s eyebrow quirks higher over his magazine.

Slowly, Freddie rights himself on the couch, tucking his feet under his legs in a semi-lotus pose. He looks fond, of not a little indignant.

“Well then I suppose I’d have to invent a telephone, then, wouldn’t I? You smart arse.” Freddie flicks his hands up in defeat.

John meets Brian’s eye. There’s a moment where they seem to just stare at each other, then — Brian starts laughing. John with him.

John pulls his hand out from under his stomach so he can cover his mouth with it, the other propping him up on the carpet, while he flicks his gaze between Brian’s warm laughter and Freddie appalled face.

“That’s not supposed to be funny.” He says, smacking his hand on the cushion. The gold tassels on the corners shake on impact.

John nods, “No, no. Of course not.”

He feels a twinge in his stomach—

“It’s just so lovely, Freddie. I’m overwhelmed with emotion. It’s all bubbling out.”

—Seconded by a dull pinch between his ribs.

Brian wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and ducks behind his magazine again, pages still trembling slightly with the heaves of his chest.

“I’ll build go back and build the first satellite for you, Fred. How’s that sound?” He says.

Freddie rolls his eyes, “Doesn’t sound like a bloody telephone.”

Brian rolls his eyes in turn, half a smile lingering in his cheeks.

John’s has disappeared.

There’s a throbbing nestled on the right side of his ribcage, opposite his heart, that hasn’t died down for thirty seconds straight. It’s foreign, and pain is rarely foreign to him. An uncomfortable presence where there should only be himself and his counterparts taking residence in the shell of his body.

He can feel it turn cold the same time he realises what’s happening to him.

John rushes to stand, nearly tangling his fingers in his own hair; tripping on his bare feet.

“Where’s the nearest pub from here?” He demands.

At the blank faces of his companions, John snaps his fingers, “Nearest pub, bar, whatever they’re fucking called around here - Something on a corner.”

They must feel it then, too, because their faces turn as white as John’s skin beneath the layers covering him wrist to ankle.

“Roger.”

 

-

 

Several kilometres away, two men stand over the body a body in a blood-wet jacket, heaving shaky, shell-shocked inhales. 

Roger doesn’t move.

He’s wired tighter than he’s ever been, a burning energy inside bouncing against the cage of his bones and skin. Every nerve is touching a flame. He’s hot, itchy, palms bitten by his fingernails as he clenches his hands to fists over and over, willing his legs to stay solid on the ground. On his sneakers is the blood of a human being who has his own blood on their knuckles, and Roger is on cloud nine. The shift from alive to dead has done nothing to dampen the thrill of a fight. He should feel something else, he’s sure - a kind of remorse or sympathy or something that has him crying or standing bolt-upright like everyone around him - those that didn’t flee immediately, of course; those kids watching where the footpath meets the side street, or the people standing in the shadows behind the fence on their tip-toes, looking on. All he feels is alive.

 

-

 

“Where the fuck is he?”

“Don’t swear at me!”

Brian pushes John’s back, causing him to stumble forward.

The streets here aren’t paved with cobblestones but he finds his footing is looser.

John whips around, rife and shaking, and shoves the heel of his palm into Brian’s shoulder. “Don’t swear at you? Don’t hit me, you prick!”

Brian brushes his hand away. “Shoved. I shoved you out of the way because you’re being so bloody frantic you may as well be dawdling. Where’s this? Oh, where’s that? ” He brings his hands up and starts flapping them about. “ Oh gee, oh no, I don’t recognise anything. Calm down.”

John yanks his hand fully away. “You’re a prick,” (Brian’s ‘So you’ve said’ is ignored) “Hope you enjoy what you see when we find him.”

 

They walk huddled together, Freddie keeping a keen eye Brian and John, their glares and their own huffing breaths. He’d think they were selfish if he didn’t feel a stirring, building strength along their bond. One that wasn’t as constant or as clear as the boys beside him - they were a baseline and a coin-plucked chord along the taut wire along his psyche. There was another thing - that tight, bound feeling of about to snap that didn’t come across as hostile. John and Brian’s petty arguments rarely come through as strong, even when they are shouting, slamming countertops and throwing mugs. This is energy. This is a storm about to break.

Static electricity seems to be tugging them in one direction, judging by John’s faltering footsteps, and that leaves him biting his own tongue in anticipation.

Too dark to see clearly, a few buildings down, a crowd has started to gather. Street lights illuminate them as hazy figures, nothing clear, nothing distinctive. Over the sounds of pub - ‘bar’ - music, cheers and overhead globes humming, the crowd is talking. One voice indistinct from the other, all too hushed to decipher words.

Brian quickens his pace. John, feet tucked in moccasins, falls into step behind him.

 

-

 

They’re a blur of vowels and consonants. Like someone has taken speech and rubbed their thumb through it, smearing anything legible. He catches a few words––

–He’s–hit?–

–should––right?–one of those–

–think he’s really–

–police?–

–dead.

But the ringing has started up again, and the red on his skin isn’t internal. The same red on the now-relaxed knuckles of three older men standing above him. Reflecting in the retinas of the seven huddled people behind them. Two of them underage - fifteen at most - with bared teeth and wide, wide eyes. The same red seeping out of the wound at the base of a stranger’s skull. A blonde, petite boy the same physical age as Roger himself. His face is obscured by the bitumen and his own long hair, so Roger can’t tell, but he may just look like him, too.

The total of ten living bodies surrounding him, enclosing him on his knees and the stranger curled on his side, have not subsided their rage whatsoever. Roger wouldn’t expect it to. Instead, it’s spread, focusing on him now - coming from him, who strengthens it, focuses it, encourages it.

The death of a human being is nothing to them, because his influence is enough to take away their humanity. They are now soldiers, and this is a war.

The first punch thrown since the fall of the stranger isn’t a shattering crack in a quiet alley: it’s a division bell sounding. Roger steps back into a gap made by two men lunging forward, teeth bared and eyes red, and feels his own start to glow.

 

Close enough to see the fray, Freddie starts to scan the backs of heads, sides of faces - anything he can see to pinpoint familiarity. Brian reaches the curb and halts, trainer heels caught in the curb, unwilling to move any further. John feels the first lingering soul reach out, and realises it’s too late.

 

Roger absorbs each punch to the temple, elbow to the gut, kick of boots into thighs and groins and heels dug into toes, shoulders tucking down then pushing up to stumble opponents off balance. The air is knocked out of them and transferred into Roger’s lungs. A new lease of life. A ripping, tearing sensation letting in a deluge of action—unhinged and misguided and entirely raw.

Ecstasy in non-human veins.

Roger retreats even further. He’s had his share of hits; now it’s time to finally, finally lick around the wounds he’s been nursing.

His back hits the boundary fence separating the walkway from the vacant lot beside. Cold wire imprints on his skin through his thin shirt. A cold hand grasps around his wrist.

There are two men with elbows locked around each other’s throats, one arching his back, the other doing the same by force, legs kicking feet up into the air, trying to regain balance, weight, stumble them both down so they collapse like the broken thing on the hot-tar-rock—bitumen. He’s forgetting words but he can see so much movement. Blur of hair, black, brown, eyebrows hiding eyes, heads tucked down so the reaching fingers don’t hook in and tear. Roger has seen violence like this as a child. He knows people are this way without reason. He feels no worry for fresh bruises. He feels no pain in their blood. He feels no mercy dripping in saliva when they spit, checking for teeth. The tendons below his thumb, above his forearm cinch, but his attention is not on one corporeal form. He is beyond that. He is what he creates, stronger as the Second but by himself a tragedy: War.

Blood of it. Pain of it. Madness of it. Brewed up in the place his figurative fathers before him emerged from. That same place that peeks through his wounds when he steps out of sync with the human world, taunting him to split down the middle, wider still, so it all can come pouring out. He is what they all are: Four entities, not passed on in part but rebirthed in full, over and again, ripening through decades turned centuries, until their singular selves unified. The place they came from (even here, now, Roger does not name it) immortalises them until the moment they choose to die.

Roger hears an arm break. He can tell by the timbre. Another thud of a knee on the ground (he focuses out the constant groans from so many mouths) then another, something fleshy this time. Soft, with weight to it. The chain rattles but it doesn’t move him from place. Shifting fabrics tear at sleeves, giving the creatures wild wings, bare arms, bright faces. Nothing is distinct. The seeking out of a row has become a brawl has become—bursting in his synapses Roger feels his collecting reach boiling point. The same grasp turns colder, biting his flesh.

 

Roger’s

“Roger—”

world is filtered crimson

“Reel it in, Rog,”

but through it he can recognise

“Listen to my voice,”

the contrasting colors of his counterparts

“See what happens after a fire,”

and their voices vibrating along the membrane

“Picture it,”

that holds his being in this form.

“What colour is it?”

 

He opens his eyes. It’s grey. Deacy’s face in front of him, icy hands on his cheeks. Boundary stones around a fire, stopping it from growing. Turning what was burnt from orange, to red, to charcoal black, to ash. John takes the beginning and end in a gesture.

They aren’t ready for this.

Roger comes back to a pile of flesh and clothing, at least four men tangled on concrete, covering the fallen stranger from sight. Whoever else had gathered has now fled, either scaled the fence or ran back into the street, risking their faces being lit up by those dim, humming street lights. Roger’s eyes won’t focus: he can’t tell whether the figures are sleeping or dead. Injured or afraid to move. He doesn’t linger too long on them - they are unimportant. To his left, he can sense something tugging, pulling him aside. (“What happens after a fire, Roger?)

He goes with it. The bodies unmoving are left as is (irrelevant) he’s tugged by wrist and a force external (steady thrum along his ribcage, ¾ time) away from beings that don’t breathe life.

Of course they don’t. Roger has all their breaths tucked safely within him, keeping them hostage until they’re ready to—

“Keep thinking of that colour. What is it?”

Grey. Ash grey. Dead.

 

Roger doesn’t remember getting home. It takes him a little longer to realise this isn’t home: it’s a hotel room. His feet are tucked under a starchy duvet, still laced into ballet (“bally”) flats. His head feels like lead, so he doesn’t open his eyes. Pillow is soft, fingers are numb, surroundings: void.

He falls back into unconsciousness - a rock into still pond - ignorant, sated, alive.

Three pairs of eyes above him switch gazes from one to the other, passing over his form to see through it at the swirling, blood-coloured energy inside, taking on a near-visible form just to portray its tangibility. Roger’s skin seems translucent because of it. Still partially human; (but growing, growing out of it the way children do toys and habits, stretching this mortal skin until he can begin to escape through the cracks) his body is tired. It needs rest. Roger sinks further still. He doesn’t stir when the sun rises.



“You twats. What the fuck have you done?”

Freddie can’t help it. His eyes roll immediately.

“And don’t you fucking roll your eyes,” Harrison says, voice crackly over the long distance line, “I’m up to my neck in treaty-breaking accusations and I want to know whose neck to step on.”

“Don’t you mean puncture?”

“Wrist and ruler, more like.”

“He’s still asleep.”

Brian speaks last. The pronoun given is a giveaway.

Freddie turns his head on an angle to stare daggers at Brian’s partly-covered face.

He doesn’t backpedal, “It’s been forty-six hours and he hasn’t stirred. I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” he eyes John in the corner nursing a vodka-no-ice, one hand propping his head up on the windowsill, “and I know you two don’t either.”

John takes a pointed sip.

Brian sighs.

They’re in the office of their American tour manager - “liaison” is what Harrison calls him - which is on the second floor of a shared building. Downstairs is a family-run law firm in its fourth generation of ownership. The bloke who's just taken it over looks about twenty, and like he hasn’t slept for nineteen. They passed him in the stairwell on their way up, grasping papers that were torrentially spilling out of a briefcase with a loose tie and sweaty forehead. They made a racket with their platform boots and heeled bowler shoes, confidently dressed in garments no common grounds lawyer would wear. The room is small, smells of damp, and is otherwise drab. The carpet matches the curtains matches the wood of the desk and the table in front of it; the phone sitting squarely in the middle with the receiver off the hook. All brown and beige, square and standard.

The couch that manages to snugly fit Brian and Freddie on its two cushions is much of the same, placed against the wall, facing the desk. Freddie has his feet up on the coffee table, toe resting on the rotary dial. He leans forward.

“Ignore that last, Harrison, please.”

The phone crackles.

“No.”

Freddie’s face twists, “Why not?”

“Because he’s the only one who’s talking the Queen’s English. Who was that, Brian? It’s got to be Brian. Come closer, they’ve been working on the landline in Soho and my calls haven’t been clear for days.”

Brian does so. Even John seems to un-slump from the corner - slightly, only slightly - to turn towards the centre of the room.

“Now, what brought all this on? Cause you certainly weren’t this much of a mess coming off the tail of the England tour. If you were, you certainly wouldn’t be sitting above a fucking Italian law firm talking to me from across the big blue, would you?”

John turns back to the window. He’s had enough already, apparently. His vodka glass sits empty on the windowsill where his elbow previously rested.

“Would you?”

Freddie kicks the phone. “No, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t be in—Where are we?”

“Denver,” John supplies.

“Denver?”

“It’s the twenty-fourth. If you were in fucking Denver, I’d skin you’s. You’re in Boston, and you’ve got a show in forty-eight hours, so I’ll repeat myself: What brought on this outburst that’s got Mr. Taylor acting like Rip Van Winkle?”

There’s a silence that hasn’t occupied the room since Harrison’s direct line was dialled - their liaison left the room, and the three of them sat for several minutes while their call was connected, all saying absolutely nothing.

Freddie speaks first, pulling his foot from the table to lean in, tip lip coming down to wet his teeth. Brian has the stray memory of Freddie telling him he used to do as such during elocution lessons at boarding school. How the habit stuck despite his desire to speak colloquially with blurring syllables and dragging vowels when he moved out and away.

“If I didn’t know you, dear, I’d tell you very carefully not to joke. I’m on a frayed edge myself and don’t need another storybook comparison.”

A pause. “Noted.”

Freddie moves back slightly, shoulders loosening.

“To the point, if I may press, there are clearly only three of a very dynamic Four on this call, and I’ve just been updated by— Thank you, Penny —my assistant that there have been four deaths. Not three.”

Brian’s face feels numb, and he’s glad the man isn’t in the room to see it. He glances over to John, who hasn’t moved an inch. His glasses hide his eyes, but not enough to mask the blank stare that occupies his features whenever things like this are mentioned. Brian turns back to the table, not prepared to have those eyes turn on him if John notices him looking.

Harrison continues, sighing, “I love you boys, but this is juvenile work, beneath what you are meant for.”

Freddie’s mouth twitches. He opens it to respond, but has nothing. He would threaten, usually. Entice, enthrall, bargain - he has adjectives for every way he spins situations in his favour, but he has no reply for a hit to his pride. It’s rare, and even rarer from an outsider.

But Harrison is distinguished, respected, and Freddie respects that in turn. What he has created, who he has established himself to be, and the fact that he is willing to guide them despite the failings of their previous incarnations. He’s lived to see three of them.

Now they are Four, and it’s still not enough.

Freddie presses his fingernails into his palm and wills the pressure he can feel building behind his eyes to fade.

“What do we need to do?” He asks.

Another pause. “Wake up your boy, get him on the phone to me. You’re going to be in this city a few more days, and I don’t want these people’s police force to be at him in case anyone got a good look at his face. He’ll be putting it on display soon. I’ll get Gavin to run you down on my connections out in Rhode Island, but you won’t be able to meet them for another three days. In the meantime, Niccolo is going to help you out. His great grandfather is a colleague of mine.”

Freddie nods before realising he can’t be seen, then he says a simple “Alright,” and begins to pull his cigarettes out of his trouser pocket.

John stares at the receiver. It hasn’t been hung up on either end, but the conversation has for all intents and purposes ended, which means it will be soon. He pushes away from the wall, creaking like the hinges he walked through to get into the room, and strides toward the table, placing a hand flat-palm either side of it.

“Just before you go,” He says. “I’d like to know two things.”

Freddie pauses with his lighter to his mouth. His eyes flick up to John’s bent back and his long hair curtaining in front of his face, hiding his expression from view. Though when John speaks, there’s no doubt in Freddie’s mind where the man’s head is at. He lights his cigarette in favour of deciding whether to be shocked or pleased by it.

“What were their names, and did they know ours?”