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Funny How Love Is

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It was mid-October, and midterms were slowly creeping up for the students at Imperial College London. This term, though, it wasn’t only the students who were growing anxious, but some of the professors as well. One of those professors was Brian May. He was a relatively new professor at the college, and certainly one of the youngest – being just shy of thirty years old – but his education and his knowledge of astrophysics were astounding and gave him more than enough reason to be in the position he found himself in. He had trouble remembering this sometimes, though, especially around this time of the year.

“Alright, class,” he timidly addressed the hall of students before him, pacing back and forth in front of the chalkboard scribbled with notes that someone who wasn’t in the class would just dismiss as nonsense. Hell, even some of the students in the class couldn’t tell you what it meant. “Your test is exactly one week from now, and it will cover everything we’ve studied—”

A hand instantly shot up, attracting the professor’s attention that had previously been locked on the floor tiles in front of him. He opened his mouth to respond, but before any words could come out, his attention was stolen by the hall door bursting inward, a disheveled blonde appearing in the doorway and saying, as he pointed over his shoulder, “Hey man, do you happen to know where I can find…” His voice trailed off as he stuck his hand into his jacket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, unfolding the creases with one hand as he read off, “…Christine Mullen? I guess she’s the headmaster or mistress or something.”

Brian stared at the stranger, raising a suspicious and confused eyebrow.

The man was young, possibly a little older than most of the students in his class. He was adorned in a bizarrely patterned suit jacket, a white button-down whose top few buttons were undone, and a pair of pink, sparkly sneakers. He held in one hand a pair of drum sticks, and in the other, a collection of papers that looked as though he’d dropped them and quickly gathered them without reordering them or checking to see if they were all still there. His big blue eyes hid behind a pair of amber shades, staring right back at Brian as he struggled to formulate an answer to his question.

What even was his question? Brian thought, having lost all sense of the situation as he attempted to figure out the man standing in his class’s doorway.

The stranger snatched the pair of sunglasses off his face with the hand that held the drumsticks and looked out at the group of students whose eyes were also glued to him. He smirked, loving the attention he was receiving, and slipped his sunglasses into the pocket of his suit jacket. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he apologized insincerely, “Did I interrupt something?”

The professor shook his head, snapping himself out of the daze he’d fallen into, and finally found his voice. “Uh, actually, yes. I was just about to tell them what to expect for their exam.”

“Exam, huh?” the stranger repeated, a disgusted expression temporarily appearing on his face as he went on to disclose, “I always hated exams. They’re such a drag. Speaking of which…” He walked forward and set his belongings down on Brian’s desk, the professor watching in astonishment as the stranger shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants and dug out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He extracted one of the white sticks and brought it up to his lips, lighting the end without skipping a beat and taking in a deep breath.

He met Brian’s shocked gaze and nodded his head in what he thought was understanding, holding the pack out to the professor as an offering. Brian quickly shook his head no and brought his hands up to further illustrate his refusal. “No thanks, I don’t smoke,” he declined, earning a nonchalant shrug from the blonde who seated himself on the edge of the desk and went for another drag, leaning back and using his arm for support as he scanned the large classroom that still was staring at him with wide and curious eyes. Some of the students had even begun to whisper to one another, asking each other about the strange man and what he was doing there.

Brian rested his hands on his hips, wanting to inform the intruder of the school’s smoking policy – well, more so his classroom’s policy – but only being able to get out a baffled, “And who are you, again?”

The blonde’s head snapped in the professor’s direction and he chuckled, forgetting that he hadn’t introduced himself. He plucked the white stick from in between his lips and extended his free hand out for a handshake. “I’m Roger,” he answered with a charismatic smile, “Roger Taylor. I’m the new music instructor here.”

“Music instructor?” Brian repeated, ignoring the polite gesture as he tried to wrap his head around the information he’d just received, “That doesn’t make sense. We don’t have a music program here.”

Roger clicked his tongue. “Well if that was the case, I wouldn’t be here. But I am, so…” He smashed the cigarette butt into the surface of Brian’s desk and hopped off, grabbing his things and saying, “It was really nice meeting you, man, but I was supposed to meet with the head lady about ten minutes ago. If you can’t tell me where she is—”

“Down the hall, up the stairs, and to your right,” Brian rambled off, very familiar with the location of the headmistress’s office. His cheeks grew a faint shade of red, and he hoped his students and the new music instructor wouldn’t notice.

Roger winked and did a quick, appreciative salute, turning around and leaving the classroom – but not without waving to the class first and wishing them luck with their exam. When the door clicked shut behind him, Brian found himself frozen in place. He couldn’t move; he couldn’t speak. It was almost as if Roger had put him in a trance.

“Uh, Professor May?” a student spoke up, startling Brian back to reality.

“Y-Yes, John?” he stammered, crossing his arms over his chest and straightening his posture to try and seem like he wasn’t as unsettled by the unexpected visitor as he truly was.

“So, what exactly is going to be on the test?”

*****

The rest of the day dragged on for Brian, his thoughts clouded by what had happened earlier. He gathered his materials and slung his bag over his shoulder, leaving his classroom and heading in the same direction he told Roger to go in before. He approached the door and peered in, seeing the headmistress at her desk. The corner of his lip perked up as he knocked, drawing her attention up from the paperwork she was focused on and bringing a smile to her face.

“Hey, you!” she greeted, getting up from her seat and walking around it to give him a hug and kiss on the cheek, “I’ve missed you. You missed our lunch date.”

“I know, Chrissie, I’m so sorry,” he apologized genuinely, a frown appearing on his face as he tucked a piece of hair that had come loose from her ponytail behind her ear, “I feel absolutely terrible about it. I’ve just been so distracted today; I have so much on my plate to worry about.”

“Me too,” the headmistress admitted, looking back at the pile of paperwork that had consumed her entire desk, “I have to finish this mess by tonight.” She returned her attention to Brian and gently tugged at his tie, sadly confessing, “Appears I’m going to have to stay late…”

Brian nodded his head in disappointed understanding, knowing exactly what she was trying to say without actually saying it. He could’ve tried convincing her to leave the paperwork for tomorrow – after all, it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and she was the headmistress – but their relationship was relatively new: six months in. Granted, that’s a long time and things were going quite well for them, but they made it clear when they first became involved that their careers would always come first – especially considering that it would be a conflict of professional interest if something were to happen.

“Catch me tomorrow morning, though?” Chrissie pled, pouting her lips out.

“Of course,” the professor replied, leaning down and planting a quick kiss on her lips. “I’ll even bring you some breakfast, yeah?”

“Sounds lovely,” she replied, her cheeks reddening.

Brian gave her one more kiss – this one a little longer and just a little more passionate – before bidding his girlfriend a good night, adjusting the bag over his shoulder, and heading home.

As the professor broke through the front doors of the university, a pungent, familiar smell hit his nose and stopped him dead in his tracks. He turned his head left and right before seeing the blonde from before sitting on one of the benches outside of the school, head tilted forward, eyes closed shut, a burning cigarette pinned between his lips, and his hands moving rapidly – the drumsticks he held in them hitting his knees in a distinctive rhythm.

“Roger?” Brian called out, startling the young man and causing him to lose the cigarette from his mouth.

“Fuck,” the blonde cursed, staring dejectedly at his wasted smoke. He slowly glanced up at the curly-haired man with narrowed eyes. “You owe me a drag.”

The professor shook his head in disbelief before walking over to him, asking, “What’re you still doing here? Shouldn’t you have gone home by now?”

“I should have, but my ride hasn’t shown up yet,” he explained with a sigh as pulled back his sleeve to check his watch, “He was supposed to be here four hours ago.”

Brian couldn’t hold back the chuckle that slipped past his lips, earning another glare from the blonde. He quickly collected himself and replied calmly, “I’m sorry about that.”

Roger shrugged. “Not your bloody fault.” The two stood and sat there for a brief moment before the music instructor asked, “What about you? What are you still doing here?”

“I was helping one of my students prepare for the exam,” he answered, swaying back and forth on the heels of his feet.

The blonde simply nodded, not knowing how to respond. He’d never been a teacher before, nor did he ever imagining being one. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity that was given to him at the university, though. It paid three times more than the previous job he had – or, at least, it would once he started getting students – and it gave him a chance to clean himself up, something he desperately needed though he’d never admit it. Especially to a stranger.

A minute or so passed by when Brian cleared his throat, attracting the young man’s attention as he announced, “Well, I hope your ride arrives soon. I have to head off.”

Again, all Roger did was nod, his leg starting to shake nervously as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, turning his head the other way. Brian bit his lip, a small part of him wanting to offer to take the guy home himself, but just as he parted his lips to propose his offer, a car swung up to the curb and slammed on the brakes. A shrill screech echoed through the university’s courtyard.

“Just in time,” the blonde muttered as he stood up and flashed the man who was only older than him by a few years a small grin. “See you ‘round...man.” He dragged himself to the car, the driver getting out and staggering around the front of the vehicle – barely being able to hold himself up. As Brian watched in horror of the situation his new acquaintance was getting himself into, he couldn’t help but notice how Roger had addressed him and realized he’d never introduced himself.

“I’m Brian!” the tall man awkwardly called out, earning looks from both the blonde and his ride as his voice reflected off their surroundings and lingered in the air a little longer than he would’ve liked it to. He felt the blush rise in his cheeks as he repeated much quieter, but still loud enough for them to hear, “My name’s Brian.”

“Oh, cool,” was all Roger said, waving goodbye – drumsticks still in hand – and slipping into the driver’s seat while his friend struggled to get into the passenger’s. The blonde rolled his eyes and reached over the center console, pushing the door open for him and annoyedly waving him in. Brian couldn’t take his eyes off the scene, feeling sorry for the guy he barely knew.

It was strange, the interest the professor had begun to take in the young man. There was just something about him that kept him from looking away, that made him want to know more about him.

Chapter Text

As the week dragged on, Brian grew more and more intrigued by Roger. Every morning he would watch him pass his classroom, bringing in a new instrument each time. First it was a drum kit – piece by piece, of course. Brian must’ve seen him walk past his door at least eight times that day. Then it was a small collection of guitars – five times. It all culminated with him lugging a full-size piano down the hall, shouting for the students to make way for him.

“Need some help?” the curly-haired astrophysics professor asked the new music instructor, leaning against the classroom’s threshold with his arms crossed over his chest and a look of amusement on his face.

The blonde glanced over at him and smirked, replying, “Thanks for the offer, mate, but I think I’ve got this.” He kept pulling the instrument down the hall but didn’t get too far before running over his foot. “Fuck!” he screamed, earning glances from everyone around him. “What are you looking at?” he snapped, pushing through the pain that was evident in his face and continuing on with his solo mission.

Brian watched in amazement as Roger rounded the corner, parting the few students in his path like the Red Sea. The professor bit his lip, contemplating whether or not he should follow after the blonde. Brian didn’t know why, but there was just something about the guy that he couldn’t shake. He’d wanted to ask Chrissie about him, since she was the one who’s talked with him the most, but the last thing she wanted to talk about after their long days was more school.

Determined to find out about Roger himself, the tall man readied himself to go after the instructor when one of his students stopped him. “Professor May?” It was John. “I was hoping you could go over…” The awkward but intelligent university student’s voice trailed off as he dug his hand into his bag, shuffling its contents around a bit before pulling out a messy collection of notes.

Before the boy could explain what he wanted to review, Brian placed an apologetic hand over John’s and said, “How about after class, John? I was actually just about to head to the loo.”

“O-Okay!” he stammered, nodding his head as he put his work back and adjusted the strap of his bag over his shoulder. The student brushed past his professor and went to take his seat in the lecture hall, the teacher taking the extra time he had before his class to give a quick visit to the blonde.

Brian didn’t really know where he was headed, having no prior knowledge about this new program, so he was hoping that Roger hadn’t gotten far. Luckily a flight of stairs had stopped the new instructor in his tracks, forcing him to determine a new route to take. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t familiar enough yet with the university to do that. He’d only known how to get to his assigned classroom and the headmistress’s office – and the stairs played a major role in that.

“’Don’t think you’re going to be able to get it down there that way,” the curly-haired man blurted out, startling the blonde away from the instrument he was leaned against in defeat.

“You got a better way, Socrates?” he shot back, a playful irritation to his tone.

“I-I don’t know what you’re trying to imply with that, but there’s actually a lift back that way,” Brian suggested, pointing behind the two of them, “You just need a key to use it.”

“Well, where do I get one?”

Brian grinned and pulled his out of his pocket, showing it off with pride. Roger gasped and went to snatch it out of the taller man’s hand when he raised it higher in the air, shaking his head in a discouraging manner. The shorter man’s eyebrows furrowed together as the other explained, “The keys aren’t just something you ‘get.’ You have to earn them.”

Roger scoffed and placed his hands on his hips. “And how do you suppose I do that? Sleep with the headmistress?”

The professor’s cheeks grew warm at the instructor’s guess, his hand lowering back down to his side. He tilted his head down and began to play with the keys, thinking about his own actions. It was never his intention to receive the perks he did by being in a relationship with Chrissie, but now that he thought about it, it very well appeared that way. Of course, Roger didn’t know this – he was just trying to make a joke.

Brian snapped himself out of the daze he’d fallen into and offered shakily, “I-I can just take you down there.”

Like the night Brian introduced himself after finding Roger sitting outside all by himself, waiting for his ride, all the blonde said was “Cool.” He walked around the piano and grabbed the one end, pushing it in the direction the professor pointed to earlier. Brian trailed not too far behind, his cheeks reddening with each step he took.

The two arrived at the lift and, after the keyholder had undone the lock and opened the gate, rolled the heavy instrument into the small space. They each took one side, Roger closing the gate while Brian pushed the button for the bottom floor. The lights flickered as the lift began to descend, silence falling over the enclosed cage.

Both men wanted to say something to alleviate the tension that had started to grow between them, but they couldn’t bring themselves to do so. Brian’s issue was that he couldn’t narrow down what he wanted to ask the blonde. There was so much he wanted to know, so many questions he had about him and what he was all about, but Roger had learned from experience that the less he revealed about himself, the better, which is why he kept silent. After all, that’s what got him here in the first place, and he couldn’t risk losing the opportunity. He just couldn’t.

The ring of the lift indicating they’d reached their floor cut through the tension like a knife, sending the two out of the small space as quickly as they got in. They started down the hallway that was, for the most part, deserted. Only a few students populated the long hall that stretched out in the opposite direction Brian was familiar with. He’d only ever been down here with Chrissie, and they rarely ever ventured farther than the custodian’s closet around the corner from the lift.

As they made their way down the empty hall, Brian cleared his throat and asked, “So how long have you been playing music for?”

Roger shrugged his shoulders, giving him the simple answer of “Forever, I guess.”

“Me too,” the professor admitted, “Well, it at least feels that way. When I was sixteen, my father and I started building a guitar together. We finished it when I was eighteen, and it has this sound that I’ve never gotten from any other guitar. It’s probably my favorite guitar to play on; I can’t imagine playing on anything else.”

He glanced over and saw the disinterested expression slathered across the instructor’s face as he listened to him drone on about his passion that he usually didn’t boast about. His colleagues didn’t quite understand his fascination with music, preferring to discuss astronomy or physics or some other kind of science with him. Brian didn’t mind these conversations, but he jumped at any opportunity in which he found someone who could finally relate to his other interests.

I suppose not, Brian thought to himself, heaving a dejected sigh and muttering, “I’m sorry. I just…” His voice faded away as he struggled to find the right words to finish his train of thought. But he couldn’t think of anything; he hadn’t had this much trouble speaking to someone since he first met Chrissie. The professor ran a nervous hand through his hair and decided to change the subject entirely, asking, “Are you new to London?”

A chuckle slipped past Roger’s lips. “I guess you could say that.”

Brian’s eyebrows knit together. “What do you mean?”

The blonde’s blue eyes traveled over to meet his hazel ones, an embarrassed blush appearing in his cheeks. All he could think of were all his drunken escapades in London, the bars here being much better than the ones in his hometown.

That was the old him, though. The new him was here to make a better life for himself, even though it didn’t seem that way right now. However, that was something Roger didn’t plan on sharing with Brian, or anyone for that matter. He wanted to hide how much of a mess he was for as long as he could, and luckily for Roger, the two of them had reached his classroom.

“Oh hey, looks like we’re here,” the instructor blurted out in avoidance of answering the professor’s questions. Roger smiled at the flustered professor who was visibly thrown off by the abrupt end of his attempt to get to know the blonde better and pulled out his own key, unlocking the classroom door and struggling to single-handedly get the large instrument inside.

“Here,” Brian said, taking note of the blonde’s dilemma and stepping in to help. At least, that’s what he made it seem like. In actuality, he just wanted to spend more time with him – completely disregarding the fact that the rest of his students had gathered in the lecture hall and were waiting for their professor to arrive. Class was supposed to start five minutes ago, but Brian had lost track of time and hadn’t bothered to look at his watch. 

He squeezed himself between Roger and the door, reaching over the instrument to grab the door knob and pushing the door in. He slipped inside the classroom and held the door open for the blonde, allowing him to bring the piano into what Brian quickly realized was practically a closet. With all the other instruments Roger had brought in, there was barely any room to stand – let alone fit a piano.

“So, this is the music program,” the professor stated dismally.

“’More like a work in progress,” the instructor corrected him, positioning the piano against the wall opposite the one his guitars were propped up against. In between them, against the farthest wall, was his drum kit, taking up most of the room’s space prior to the piano. “At least, that’s what the people in charge are calling it. They said if it goes well they’ll move me elsewhere, but for now I’m stuck down here.”

Brian frowned. He remembered being in the same kind of situation when he first started at Imperial College too. Except, he didn’t think that Roger would climb the ranks as fast as he did, especially as a music instructor. “Well, hopefully I’ll get to see you upstairs sometimes,” the older man blurted out, the words slipping past his lips without him thinking about them first. His eyes widened in anticipation of the younger man’s response, hoping he wouldn’t take it the wrong way.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” the blonde replied with a subtle laugh, “Until I get a student, I’m just going to be getting more familiar with the school, wandering around…maybe barge into more people’s classrooms, I don’t know.” He glanced over at Brian, a rosy blush appearing in his cheeks as he smirked.

The professor matched the instructor’s expression, a warm feeling building up inside of him as he replied, “Well, I doubt that’s a very good way to make a first impression.”

“Seemed to work on you, didn’t it?”

Brian swallowed the nervous lump that had formed in his throat, breaking his gaze away from the younger man and shifting it down to his wrist. “Oh, boy, look at the time. I’m late for my own class. I-I should really get going.”

“Okay.” Roger nodded his head in understanding, keeping his eyes locked on Brian as he hesitated to leave the room. It was as easy as walking out the door and taking the lift back upstairs, yet for some reason, the task seemed impossible for the professor.

He didn’t want to go back to his class. He wanted to spend the rest of the day down here, with Roger, asking him more questions and possibly even playing some music with him. Yet at the same time, he felt that if he were to do that, he’d be crossing a line; breaking the boundary between professional and personal. He’d already done that once, and the imminent consequences he foresaw from that risk worried him every day.

With the situation becoming too overwhelming, Brian finally decided to walk out the door, hearing Roger’s voice call out from the small room, “Thanks for the help again, Brian! I’ll see you ‘round, yeah?” A small grin appeared on the professor’s face as he continued his trek down the hallway.

He knows my name.

Chapter Text

Roger locked his interim classroom’s door and heaved a sigh – another day wasted sitting around, plucking the strings on the guitars he brought in, tapping the skins of his drums he’d transferred from his flat, and hitting the keys on the piano Brian helped him bring down. He didn’t know why the professor seemed to take a liking to him, but he wasn’t complaining. It was a nice change from what he was used to.

On his way out, the blonde passed by the curly-haired man’s classroom, hoping to catch him before he left, but to his dismay, the lecture hall was completely dark and void of any students or professors. Roger couldn’t hold back the frown that appeared on his face as any hopes he had of seeing Brian again that day were crushed. He scratched behind his head, meeting the gaze of another professor whose eyes narrowed in disgust as they passed by. Great, another young one.

The music instructor shelved his disappointment and smirked, fluffing his hair and pursing his lips out at them as if to blow a kiss their way. The teacher scoffed and continued on their way, leaving Roger behind. Once the blonde was all alone, he let his confident demeanor fade away, the emptiness of the hallway and the encounter he’d just had reminding him of how much he didn’t belong there.

He felt like an outsider at the university, not only because of his age, but because he wasn’t like any of the other professors there. They all had years of experience under their belts and were teaching – what Roger felt to be – intense, complex subjects. The blonde, on the other hand, had no professional experience and was teaching music at a school for science and medicine and business. It didn’t make sense to him how he’d gotten there in the first place, but he wasn’t going to let the opportunity to go to waste. He couldn’t. Not when—

A car horn blared from outside, snapping Roger out of the despondent daze he’d fallen into and rushing him out of the school. He burst into the courtyard and spotted the car that had been parked outside of the university for nearly twenty minutes, along with its inebriated driver leaned against its side, arms crossed over his chest and a cigarette pinched between his fingers. He frowned as he was greeted bitterly with a “Where the fuck have you been?”

“I was just finishing up some paperwork with the headmistress,” the blonde lied, approaching the driver and planting a quick, meaningless kiss on his lips. He immediately tasted the alcohol on the man’s breath and tried his best not to react, tacking on as sincerely as he could manage, “I’m sorry for holding you up.”

“You’re lucky you’re good at sucking dick,” he grumbled, sardonically patting Roger on the cheek before escaping the space he occupied between the vehicle and his boyfriend and circling around to the other side. Roger glanced over and saw a student he recognized from Brian’s class looking at him with an even more offended look than the professor before had, a scornful expression appearing on his face as he continued on with his walk to the car park around the other side of the school.

The blonde felt his cheeks grow warm in embarrassment as he yanked open the car door and slipped inside, slamming it shut behind him and buckling in. The original driver did the same, glancing over at Roger who tried to avoid his gaze while starting the ignition. The vehicle roared to life and pulled away from the curb, the first few moments of the drive consumed with absolute silence before Roger’s passenger blurted out, “Oh, so you’ve suddenly decided not to use that mouth of yours?” He clicked his tongue and shook his head in disappointment. “That’s not like my Roggie at all…”

“First off,” the blonde raised an admonitory finger at him, “Don’t ever call me Roggie again. And secondly, you can’t talk to me like that at my job, Tim,” he murmured, his grip on the steering wheel tightening ever so slightly, “It’s unprofessional.”

“The only profession you’ve ever had is as a whore, Rog, and it’s the one you should’ve stuck with,” Tim sneered, getting comfortable in his seat and taking a drag of his cigarette. “You’re losing money pursuing this little…hobby of yours. I mean, you’re not even that good. I pity the person you had to sleep with to get this gig.”

Roger rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the road, knowing that anything he’d say in response would only encourage his boyfriend to further shit on his aspirations. He’d learned that after the first hundred times this conversation took place.

“Smoke?” Tim offered after another blanket of silence fell over the car.

“No,” the blonde curtly declined, not wanting to say much else.

The other scoffed and continued to smoke the cigarette on his own, enduring the rest of the silent car ride in which the tension between the two intensified with each street they passed. Their destination arrived later than the driver would’ve liked, though in actuality it was the same as every other trip. This one just seemed longer, and all Roger could think about was Brian – how he would probably never talk to him the way Tim did, how he wouldn’t dismiss his interest in music as a “hobby” (seeing as he shared it), how he wouldn’t make him feel completely and utterly worthless...

The car pulled up to the flat the two lived in and Roger shut the ignition off, heaving a shaky sigh as he tried to mentally prepare himself for the night ahead. With the way their ride had gone, Roger had doubts that tonight would be one of their better nights. It was getting harder for him to keep the façade up, to keep a smile on his face, and to keep lying to everyone and himself. Yet at the same time, it was all he’d ever known, and it was difficult to get away from that, no matter how hard he tried. Something always pulled him back, or rather, someone.

Roger went to get out of the car when Tim’s hand fell down on his thigh, freezing him in place. “Hey, babe,” he mumbled sincerely, slowly attracting the blonde’s weary attention over his shoulder, “You know I’m just worried about you, right? All I want is the best for you, and I just don’t think—”

“I know,” Roger cut him short, leaning in and kissing Tim in order to avoid the looming conversation for the night at least. He sat back and bit his lip, forcing a small grin onto his face as he caressed his boyfriend’s cheek, repeating himself softly, “I know.”

Tim returned the smile and reached over the center console, pulling Roger in for a longer lasting, more passionate kiss. The blonde couldn’t help but kiss back, the motion so familiar to him. In all honesty, it was the only reason he hadn’t left Tim high and dry yet.

The two met years ago in grammar school. Tim was looking to start a band, and Roger was one of the few who actually responded to the flyers he’d put up around town. The teens instantly hit it off, getting along well both in and out of the band setting. Naturally, one thing led to another and the two found themselves involved in a more intimate way, exploring places and things they’d never imagined before meeting each other.

As time went on and the two became more familiar with one another, the more comfortable they became with things not always being perfect. If Tim wasn’t happy with something, he wouldn’t think twice about making sure Roger knew. Sometimes it would come in the form of a backhanded comment; other times it came in the form of physical abuse – nothing too serious, though, that couldn’t be covered up by a long-sleeve, pants, or a hat, but also nothing too harmless that went unnoticed or unforgotten.

The saddest part of all was that Roger just took it, with Tim manipulating him into believing that he did all those things out of love and then rewarding him for his forgiveness with glimpses of the past; of the nights they spent together when they were younger and truly in love. Those nights were all Roger needed to remind him how Tim made him feel like no other person had before. Being with him was like a drug – he couldn’t get enough of it; he was addicted, and that’s why Roger found himself in situations like this, time and time again.

Tim dragged his teeth across Roger’s lip as he pulled back and smirked at the blonde whose anger had dissipated and was replaced with lust. “There’s my Roggie,” he purred.

Roger chuckled and brought Tim back for another quick kiss before saying, “I mean it, Tim, stop calling me that. I don’t like it.”

“Does it look like I care?” the passenger retorted arrogantly before climbing over the center console and straddling the driver, reaching down and grabbing the lever that reclined the seat back – the two of them falling back and eliminating what little space remained between them.

*****

The next morning rolled around and Roger was in no shape to go to work. He stood in the bathroom of the small flat Tim and he shared, staring at his reflection in the dirty mirror. His blonde hair was disheveled and the bags underneath his eyes were more prominent than before. His back hurt and his mouth was dry. It pained him to even think about cleaning himself up, already imagining the looks he’d get from the professors and the students, the questions he’d undoubtedly be asked, and the explanations he’d have to come up with on the spot to keep everyone in the dark about who he was and what kind of life he led.

Oddly enough, the person he was most worried about crossing paths with was Brian. He didn’t want the professor seeing him in this state – so weak and worn down. He’d only just met the guy, and he didn’t want to scare him away with the truth about himself.

Just as Roger finally gained the courage to grab his toothbrush, a low, sultry voice hit his ear, saying, “Look who decided to wake up early and forgot to wake me up too.” His gaze met Tim’s in the mirror, a sly expression slathered across his boyfriend’s face.

A nervous blush crept up in the blonde’s cheeks as he tilted his head down and muttered, “Tim, I really don’t have the time—”

“Did I ask if you had the time?” Tim strutted into the small bathroom and pressed his body right up against Roger’s, roughly grabbing the blonde’s hips and whispering in his ear, “No, babe, I didn’t. I said that you forgot wake me up.”

Roger rolled his eyes, knowing exactly what Tim was implying. He also knew that if he didn’t give him what he wanted, his morning would be delayed even further. So, with a heavy sigh, he turned around to face Tim and flashed a sarcastic grin his way, falling to his knees and tugging at the wrinkled boxers.

He looked up at his boyfriend whose head was tilted down, watching with lustful eyes as he ran a hand through the blonde locks atop Roger’s head, entangling his fingers in them and yanking his boyfriend closer, giving him no choice but to wrap his mouth around his dick, bobbing back and forth and doing the only thing his boyfriend thought he was good for.

He wasn’t entirely wrong – Roger was quite good at it, and it took almost no time at all for Tim to reach his climax, yanking on the blonde’s hair and letting his loud moan echo throughout the flat in complete disregard of the fact that there were other tenants in the building. Roger swallowed and, once Tim’s grip on his hair loosened, sat back, wiping his mouth with the back of his wrist and glaring up at his boyfriend who was smiling down at him in satisfaction.

“God, I love you, babe,” Tim slurred, still writhing in the ecstasy that had washed over him. He bent down and brought Roger in for a sloppy kiss, pulling back and muttering – with a tap on the nose, “I’ll be sure to make your night tonight; I promise.”

“I’d rather you promise me you’ll be on time today,” the blonde replied honestly, a serious undertone to his statement. All he could think about was the university, and how foolish he’s come to look there. Sure, it had only been a few days, but first impressions were everything; everyone knew that. And so far, the impression he’d made wasn’t the most desirable. The only person who seemed to even care about getting to know him was Brian, but he’s yet to see the worst of it, and Roger wanted to keep it that way.

“Sure, if you promise you’ll be on time today,” Tim retorted coldly, pinching his boyfriend’s cheek in mock endearment and standing up to leave the room. “Now clean yourself up, love. You disgust me.”

Chapter Text

Roger parked the car he and Tim shared in front of the university and sighed, wrapping his hand around the door handle to leave when Tim stopped him for the second time in the last two days. “Uh uh uh,” he tutted, “You’re forgetting something.”

“I’m not sucking your dick again, Tim,” the blonde sternly refused, glaring over his shoulder at him, “Especially not in front of the school.”

The car’s passenger gasped in mock disbelief and dramatically brought a hand up to his chest. “What? No. Roger, that’s…that’s despicable. I would never. And you shouldn’t talk to me like that at your job – it’s unprofessional.”

Roger scoffed at his boyfriend’s use of his own words against him. “You know what, Tim? I don’t care; I don’t have time for this. I’m running late as it is.”

“Just kiss me goodbye, bitch,” Tim growled in aggravation as Roger pulled the handle in, the car door popping out.

The blonde laughed. “I thought I disgusted you.”

“Oh my god, Roger. I swear…if it wasn’t for that dick between your legs, you’d be a girl,” he retorted with a shake of his head and a roll of his eyes, “You take everything so seriously. Just fucking kiss me and I’ll let you go.” A devious smirk appeared on the passenger’s face as he added, “Or don’t, and I’ll let everyone here know how much of a fraud you are, pretending to be this sophisticated, proper—”

Roger quickly leaned over the center console and did as he was told, shutting his boyfriend up in one swift motion. He leaned back, worry and fear glistening in his eyes, as he saw the malevolent grin stretch across Tim’s face. Tim didn’t say another word before opening his own car door and getting out to switch places with Roger, who also – finally – got out.

The blonde didn’t dare look back over his shoulder as he approached the school, trying to calm his rapidly erratic breathing and regain the confident, albeit slightly arrogant persona he’d decided to take on at the university. It was difficult with this morning’s events replaying over and over in his head, but by the time he set foot in the school and placed his sunglasses over his tired eyes, he was winking at the girls gathered together in the halls and pointing finger guns at the teachers he passed by.

Roger was so focused on maintaining his façade that he almost didn’t realize he was passing Brian’s classroom, and he wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the headmistress calling out to him, “Oh, Mr. Taylor!” He stopped dead in his tracks and watched as Chrissie jogged out of the lecture hall – Brian not too far behind her at his desk – and placed a hand on Roger’s upper arm. “I’m glad I caught you. How are the flyers coming along? Are they ready to go up?”

Shit, Roger silently cursed to himself. He’d completely forgotten about the one task he had to do, distracted by his conversation with Brian yesterday and the night he had with Tim. “N-Not quite,” he revealed, straightening his posture and adjusting the red and black suit jacket he’d adorned himself with, “You see, I was working on them all last night, but they didn’t seem complete. It felt like something was…missing.”

“I see,” the headmistress replied, nodding her head in understanding and folding her arms over her chest, “Well, have them up by the end of the day, yeah? I want this opportunity available for the students as soon as possible, with midterms almost being done with and all.”

“Yes, Headmistress Mullen,” Roger answered. She grinned in delight and gave his arm a slight squeeze, looking back over her shoulder at Brian and using her free hand to wave goodbye to him. The blonde easily recognized the flirtatious, delicate, teasing gesture, and taking note of the blush that appeared in the professor’s cheeks as he waved back, Roger sensed that there was something more to their professional relationship.

Once the headmistress was out of sight and out of ear shot, Roger slipped into the professor’s lecture hall and dared to ask with a mischievous smirk, “So, how long?”

“Pardon me?” Brian retorted, his eyebrows knitting together as if he didn’t know what the blonde was interrogating him about. He knew full well what Roger was asking, though, and took a sip from the coffee mug that was sat on his desk to avoid the subject at hand.

“Oh, come on,” the blonde chuckled, taking a seat in the front row, “You and the head bitch in charge. How long have you been shagging one another?”

The professor choked on the hot beverage, coughing for a bit before setting his drink down and replying, “What makes you think—” His voice trailed off as he met Roger’s eyes that screamed, Don’t try lying to me, man. I know what it looks like when two people are crazy about each other. The blush in Brian’s cheeks intensified as he tilted his head down, murmuring under his breath, “I-I’d prefer not to talk about it, Roger.”

“Fair enough,” the music instructor acquiesced, the smirk on his face growing as his thoughts wandered, filling in the blanks the professor was refusing to. A moment of silence passed before Roger cleared his throat and asked, “Can I be honest with you?”

Brian swallowed the lump in his throat, his mind going to a thousand different places as he began to wonder about what truth Roger wanted to share with him. There was only one way to find out, though. “Sure, go ahead,” he said, folding his arms over his chest.

“I haven’t started those flyers,” the blonde confessed with utmost seriousness, unrelenting in his stare-down with the curly-haired professor. The tall man tugged at his collar, struggling to come up with a response when the music instructor’s austere front began to crack, laughter overcoming him and bringing him up to the front desk. He pushed the teacher’s papers to the floor to make room for himself and took their spot on the corner, looking over his shoulder at the professor and smiling. “I really fooled you there, didn’t I?”

“My papers…” was all Brian could get out, leaning back in his chair and looking dejectedly at the mess Roger had created.

“Hey,” the blonde snapped, grabbing the professor’s chin and bringing his attention back to him. Brian’s eyes doubled in size at the instructor’s action. “How are we supposed to get to know each other when you’re more focused on some stupid, cut-up trees than you are me? I mean, have you seen me?”

Yes, Brian responded immediately in his mind, I’ve seen you every day you’ve been here. There’s not a day that’s passed where you haven’t caught my eye or crossed my mind. However, instead of sharing that admittedly unsettling sentiment, he rose from his chair and knelt down on the ground to gather his scattered work, replying, “And when exactly did this become about getting to know each other?”

“You sound awfully defensive there, Professor,” Roger jeered, wrapping his hands around the edges of the desk and glancing down at the burned welt in its surface, smirking at the memory of the first day he’d entered Brian’s classroom. His attention drifted over to the professor who was down on his hands and knees, reaching for the pieces of paper strewn about the floor. His eyes trailed down Brian’s back and landed on his ass. Hmm, the blonde thought but kept to himself, Not bad.

Brian stood up with a sigh and set the neatly organized papers back down on his desk beside Roger, noticing the pensive look in the instructor’s unwavering gaze. He felt his throat go dry like the desert as he stared into the blue eyes begging him to do what both of them were thinking. Confused and a little frightened by the feelings washing over him, the professor turned away and approached the chalkboard, returning to their original conversation with, “You should probably get started on those flyers if you truly haven’t. You don’t want to get on Chrissie’s bad side, trust me.”

“Chrissie?” the blonde repeated, smirking at the professor’s slip of tongue.

“Headmistress Mullen,” Brian sharply corrected himself, his embarrassment going unnoticed as he kept his back to Roger and picked up a piece of chalk, pressing it against the dark green surface.

“Right,” Roger jokingly agreed, crossing his arms. A blanket of silence fell over the lecture hall before the blonde jumped down from his seat on the desk and started to pace, hands clasped behind his back. “She wants me to make fifty of those things,” he blurted out, hoping to attract the professor’s interest, “I don’t know how on earth she expects me to do that by the end of the day.”

“Well, how long have you known about them?” Brian inquired, keeping his attention on the board he was writing on but letting Roger know he was listening. The words the curly-haired man was producing meant nothing, for there was no class today. Today his students were taking their exam, and it wasn’t until later. He’d arrived early to spend some time with Chrissie and – though he would deny it if he was ever asked – to see Roger…also to review one last time with John, but he wasn’t coming in until ten.

The blonde chuckled under his breath, answering honestly, “She asked me about them the day I was hired.” Brian couldn’t help but look over at the music instructor in disbelief, seeing the embarrassed blush rising in his cheeks as he scuffed his feet across the floor tiles. He met the professor’s amused gaze and smiled.

“You really have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, do you?” the tall man replied incredulously, setting the chalk back down in the tray and turning towards him.

“Don’t think I can just wing it?” Roger proposed, biting his lip and slowly shortening the distance between the two of them. He was careful in the way he walked towards the professor, taking slow, calculated strides and moving his hips in such a way that made one wonder where he learned to walk like that. There were a lot of people who knew the answer to that question, but Brian wasn’t one of them, and if Roger had anything to do with it, he never would be.

Brian tilted his head down and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, telling him, “I mean, you could certainly try, but…” His sentence trailed off as he glanced up at Roger, the entertained expression now on his face. “What?”

“What?” the blonde mimicked the professor.

He shook his head, grinning from ear to ear as he placed his hands on his hips and remarked, “You’re truly something, Roger.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean, Brian?” the blonde continued his game of flattery, dramatically mirroring the taller man’s stance.

Brian had no control over the giggle that escaped from the back of his throat, immediately becoming embarrassed by the sound he’d made but incapable of stopping the giggle from turning into a full-on laughing fit. It wasn’t that what Roger was doing was the funniest thing he’d ever seen; he just couldn’t stop thinking about how the music instructor – of all people – was the first professor at the university he seemed to connect with on a non-intellectual level, even more than he did with Chrissie, and although it had only been a week since they first met, there was no denying that they enjoyed each other’s company. After all, neither of them had kicked the other out of their classroom yet.

Roger only smirked in response to Brian’s break in character, his cheeks growing a faint shade of red as he said, “Fine. You caught me red-handed, Professor.” He put his hands up in surrender, smiling. “I’ve got absolutely no fucking clue what I’m doing here, but that needs to stay between you and me, alright? No one can find out.”

“What’ll happen if they do?”

The blonde eliminated what little space separated the two of them by leaning in, parting his lips to whisper his answer when Brian’s eyes flickered away from Roger’s and widened, a look of fear washing over his hazel irises. “John,” the professor muttered, gently pushing Roger aside and walking towards the student standing in the middle of the doorway, “You’re early.”

“Yeah, I…I was up all night studying and…and there were just so many questions I had that I didn’t think I’d be able to get through them all with you b-before the test,” he stammered as he entered the room, raising a curious eyebrow as his eyes that had tired bags under them and were glossed over in exhaustion locked on Roger. The blonde slipped his hands into his pockets and turned away from the two, trying to act like he wasn’t there.

“Oh, John,” Brian murmured pitifully, looking back at Roger too. He wanted to finish their conversation, but he knew his responsibilities and priorities lied elsewhere. Biting his lip, he returned his attention to his student and said, “Why don’t you go out in the hallway for a minute? I’ll call you in when I’m ready.”

“A-Alright,” John stuttered before hesitantly making his way out of the classroom, catching as many quick glances as he could at the blonde while Brian followed in tow and closed the door behind him. Once the door softly clicked shut, the professor spun around to face the instructor.

“I’m sorry about that,” he apologized.

“Don’t be,” Roger brushed him off with a seemingly unbothered wave of the hand, the unexpected arrival of Brian’s student noticeably having killed the moment they were sharing, “I should probably get started on those posters anyways. Catch you later?”

Brian nodded his head in forced agreement, watching silently as the young blonde grinned and walked past him, bumping shoulders with the professor’s eager student who tried to reenter the room as soon as the door was opened. John mumbled a quick apology that went unheard as the music instructor rushed off to his own classroom, his cheeks burning up and his heart beating faster and faster with each hurried step he took.

He was in trouble, and he knew deep down it was only going to get worse.

Chapter Text

Brian sat at the front of his classroom, staring nervously at the hall of students before him – all with their heads down. The pencils in their hands moved at an alarmingly rapid rate as they tried to answer the exam questions as quickly and accurately as they could. This was the professor’s least favorite part about the job. Not only because he’d have to spend the next week grading all of them and being disappointed in the results – knowing they aren’t a true reflection of his class’s understanding of the material – but because during the test, he had no other choice but to sit there.

He glanced over at the clock and frowned – another hour and a half to go. Good grief, could that clock move any slower? His attention shifted down to the paper laid out in front of him, random scribbles here and there that he planned on transcribing into possible lyrics and chord progressions when he got home. He wished he could leave the classroom and work through them sooner with Roger, but no one was allowed to leave the classroom until the test was complete – student or professor.

With a heavy sigh, Brian dropped his head back and closed his eyes. The silence that filled the room rang in his ears, making his scattering thoughts even louder. He squeezed his eyes shut even harder and brought his hands up to his ears, hoping that would drown out the boisterously incessant voices inside his head, but it was useless.

The professor’s thoughts were practically screaming at him – ranging in focus from his students to the exam, from Chrissie to their relationship, and from Roger to their relationship (if it could even be considered as such). They were all fighting for attention, the latter of the three fighting the hardest.

Why? He had no idea. He just couldn’t get the blonde off his mind. He kept playing their interactions over and over, analyzing them to an annoying degree and wishing he could go back in time and say or do something different, believing it would produce a better outcome.

Brian still felt as though he didn’t know the instructor at all. Granted, it had only been a week, but if someone were to ask him about Roger, all he’d would be able to tell them was that he was the school’s new music instructor, that he’d been playing music forever, that he was somewhat new to London, and that he hadn’t had a wink of experience teaching before. He could say that he’s confident, that he doesn’t seem to have much manners – genuine ones, at least – and that he was charming.

Charming? Brian caught himself mid-thought, his eyes popping wide open, Is that really the word that comes to mind when you think about him? He sat up in his chair and folded his hands atop his desk and the sheet of paper, trying to convince himself that he didn’t know what he was saying. Chrissie was charming, with her warm, inviting smile and cheerful attitude. Roger, on the other hand, all he really had were his good looks and no-shits-given approach to every social situation he found himself in.

Good looks? Really? My god, Brian, do you hear yourself? What’s wrong with you?

The professor leaned forward and buried his fingers into his curls, the room starting to rise in temperature and shrink in size. It felt as though the walls were closing in on him, as if all the students had lifted their gazes up from their tests and were staring at Brian, having heard his inner dialogue. Could they? No, they couldn’t…but could they? Oh god.

“I-I’ll be right back,” the teacher blurted out, swallowing the nervous lump that formed in his throat and disregarding the university’s exam policy as he stood and rushed out of the classroom, running down the empty halls towards the men’s bathroom. He burst through the door and staggered over to one of the sinks, grabbing onto the porcelain fixture and attempting to calm his rapid breathing and racing heart. He brought his shaky stare to his reflection in the mirror, struggling to recognize the man staring back at him.

He looked exactly like him, with the same crazy, curly hair and the same pink button-down and black vest, but there was something very different about him. This unfamiliar, dissociative feeling terrified Brian, but there was no one he could turn to for help.

The professor was already on thin ice at the university, though it didn’t blatantly seem like it. Although his colleagues would never admit it, they were still unsure about his position there, even though he’d proven himself time and time again – not to mention that he was no longer the newest addition to the staff, thanks to the new music program. If they were to see him like this, gossip would indisputably spread through the corridors and classrooms like wild fire, only furthering their doubts about him, and he couldn’t chance that.

Brian stumbled away from the sink and into one of the stalls, closing the door behind him and falling down on the toilet seat. He put his head in his hands – the world around him being pulled right out from underneath his feet. He felt sick to his stomach, trying to sort out all the thoughts flooding his mind. Just as he was about to switch positions, getting ready to hug the toilet seat and empty the contents of his stomach into its bowl, a knock rattled on the bathroom’s door.

His head snapped up, his breath getting caught in his throat.

The door creaked open, followed by a worried, “Brian? Was that you?” It was Chrissie.

With his heart pounding against his chest, the professor burst out of the bathroom stall and startled the headmistress as he clung to her tightly, tears spilling from his eyes. She hesitantly wrapped her arms around him and began to rub his back in hopes of calming him down, but his sobs began to wrack his entire body.

“Hey,” she murmured, giving him a slight, reassuring squeeze, “Hey, it…it’s going to be okay, Bri. Shh.”

*****

Later that day, around half past six, Brian found himself in Chrissie’s office, occupying one of the two chairs positioned in front of her desk. He’d spent the remainder of the day after returning to his classroom to finish administering his exam. The students didn’t ask him directly about what had happened, though they did give him strange and worried looks while they handed in their answer sheets and test booklets, as did the other professors while passing by the headmistress’s office on their way out.

Brian and Chrissie hadn’t spoken a word to one another since they parted ways earlier, with the latter suggesting the former come to her office after the exam was done. She was busy with her own work and Brian distracted himself with a cigarette he got out of her desk, smoking it in hopes of numbing his pain. He hated the taste, and every breath of nicotine he took sent him into a coughing fit, but he decided that it was better than confronting the elephant in the room.

The headmistress glanced up from her papers and bit her lip, worried about the professor. She’d never seem him so upset before, and he refused to tell her over what. It killed her. She set her pencil down and stood up, planning on getting herself a cup of tea from the teacher’s lounge and parting her lips to ask Brian if he’d care for one too, when the notorious blonde appeared in her office’s doorway.

His eyes flickered from Chrissie down to Brian, who’d awkwardly looked over his shoulder to see who the visitor was – his cheeks growing red as he received his answer. The professor quickly turned his back to him and took another long drag, trying to disguise the coughs under his breath as Roger returned his attention to the headmistress and asked, “Is this a bad time?”

She sighed and put her hands on her hips, replying as pleasantly as she could manage, “No, not at all. What can I help you with, Mr. Taylor?”

He held up a stack of papers. “I just wanted to let you know that I finished these, and I came to ask what you wanted me to do with them. Did you want me to give them to you, to hang them up around the school…?” His voice trailed off as he waited for her to finish the sentence for him and give him instruction in regards of what to do.

Chrissie took a quick look at the professor at her desk and heaved another sigh. “You know what, Mr. Taylor? Why don’t you and Mr. May post them around the school?”

Brian nearly choked at the headmistress’s words, meeting her concerned gaze with wide eyes. She dismissed his outburst with an eyeroll and glanced back over at the instructor. “I think that sounds like a great idea, don’t you? That way the students will see them first thing when they come back on Monday, and hopefully we can start getting you and the program some attention.”

“Sure,” Roger agreed, looking down at Brian who continued to face away from him. “Well, Mr. May?” he asked, a teasing undertone to his voice, “Ready to go?”

“I’m not feeling well,” he grumbled, hoping Chrissie would reconsider her plan. He would’ve much rather stay with her and try to finish smoking the cigarette whose smoke he was appalled to be inhaling. He just wasn’t sure he could control himself around the blonde; after all, it was him who’d sent him in this downward spiral in the first place. He was doing just fine until he showed up.

“I think you’ve just got a lot on your mind, Mr. May,” his girlfriend strongly expressed, walking over and snatching the cigarette away from him, “A walk might do you some good, don’t you agree?”

The curly-haired professor looked up at her with pleading eyes, eyes that went ignored as she turned away from him and smashed the end of the white stick into the dish on her desk. Brian, knowing it best not to argue with her, picked himself up out of the chair and trudged out of the room, Roger stepping to the side to let him through.

The blonde jogged after him and joined his side, holding the stack of posters close to his chest and saying in a playful kind of way, “And so it seems we meet again, Mr. May.”

“Don’t call me that,” Brian muttered unhappily, holding his hands out, “Let’s just get this done with so we can go home.”

“Someone’s in a rush,” Roger murmured, the corner of his lip perking upward into a smirk as he divided the collection of papers into two and gave them over, “Did the lady of the house promise you a visit to her boudoir?”

The professor scoffed. “What? No. That…That’s inappropriate.” He paused, the two of them walking down the hallway in silence for a bit before he blurted out, “And besides, even if she did, that’s not something I would share with you.”

A wide grin stretched across the blonde’s face. “Oh, so she did.”

“No!” Brian exclaimed, the red in his cheeks intensifying as he repeated himself less convincingly, “No…”

Roger just smiled, loving how flustered Brian got at the mention of sex. He seemed so innocent, so pure – the exact opposite of himself. In fact, it’s what attracted Roger to Brian, aside from the fact that he was the only person here who wasn’t a student that was close in age to him. Plus, he was everything Tim wasn’t. He was kind, he was smart, and most importantly, he had no idea about his past. He was a clean slate.

“These posters are pretty dull,” the professor commented bluntly, snapping the instructor out of the daze he’d fallen into.

“Hey, I worked hard on them!” the blonde tried to defend himself, but he couldn’t kid himself. He’d barely put any work into them, spending most of the day pestering other professors and flirting with some of the female students, only to remember the task at hand at the last minute when one of the teachers was organizing her desk and was straightening a collection of papers she had.

“More like hardly worked on them…” Brian muttered, glancing over at Roger and grinning ever so slightly. Roger matched his facial expression and blushed a bit, turning his head away. They continued their trip down the hall in a pleasant silence, the two of them speaking more and more as they finished the daunting task nearly an hour later.

They would’ve finished sooner had Roger not made a mistake and had to correct all the posters, and then find something to put all the flyers up with. It wasn’t his intention, of course, but he wasn’t complaining about the extra time they had. The professor didn’t seem too enthralled about the prospect at first, but he didn’t mind it either.

The two returned to Chrissie’s office once all the flyers had been posted, Brian hoping to catch her and explain everything now that he was feeling better while Roger tagged along, not wanting to go home just yet. Looking at the clock in the hall, he didn’t think that would be happening tonight anyways. It was long past the time he told Tim to be here by to pick him up, so Roger doubted he’d still be outside waiting for him.

For all he knew, Tim became impatient and had gone off to some bar to get shitfaced and taken home by a stranger. Would that be so bad? the blonde thought as he and Brian approached the door to find it closed with a note taped to the window.

The professor snatched the piece of paper from the door and read it aloud, “Went home. See you tomorrow. Chrissie.” He met the instructor’s intrigued gaze, a frown appearing on his face. “She left.”

“Sounds like she was tired,” Roger tried to console him, seeing the hurt in the Brian’s eyes. He crossed his arms over his chest and watched as the professor fell against the wall, staring dejectedly at the letter his girlfriend had left behind. The blonde bit his lip and suggested, “I wouldn’t look too much into it, Brian. We’ve all had a pretty long day.”

You’ve had a long day?” he snapped, glaring up at Roger, “No, I’ve had a long day.” The blonde’s eyebrows furrowed together at the professor’s sudden change in behavior as he threw the note to the ground and pointed an accusing finger at him. “And it’s all because of you.”

Roger chuckled in disbelief, crossing his arms defensively. “Me?”

“Yes, you. You…You’re all that I can think about!” Brian cried, his body trembling with a mix of emotions as he stepped forward, shortening the distance between him and the blonde. “I mean, you’re everywhere I go, and…and even when you’re not physically there, you’re here.” He dug his finger into the side of his head. He shook his head and dropped his hand down to his side, confessing in defeat, “You have been ever since the first day I saw you, and…and I don’t know why.”

The professor spun away from the instructor and walked down the hall a bit, his steps becoming uneasy like that of a drunkard who couldn’t keep their balance. Roger watched in stunned shock as Brian stumbled into the wall, sliding down it – his back to him – until he hit the floor with a thud, soft cries cutting through the silence that had fallen over the two of them.

The blonde pressed his lips tightly together, wanting to admit to the curly-haired professor that he’d been on his mind too, but his fears of losing everything he’d been working towards prevented him from doing so. So, instead, he walked over to the professor and sat down behind him, leaning his head against the wall and heaving a sigh as he said, “I don’t know how it was for you, but I haven’t been able relate to one person here. Not a single one. I know it’s only been a week, but everyone’s so old and all they want to talk about is…is boring, old people stuff.”

Brian sniffled and barely turned his head to glance over his shoulder at Roger, but the gesture was enough to let him know that he’d heard him. The blonde grinned at the quivering of the professor’s lips, knowing he wanted to disagree with him but too stubborn to act on his impulse.

He tilted his head down and began to twiddle his thumbs in his lap, going on to say, “You’re different though, and it probably seems like I’m always around because you make this…whatever it is…you make me feel like I’m not the only odd-man-out.”

The professor scoffed and wiped his tear-streaked cheeks. “Wow, thanks,” he muttered sarcastically.

“You know what I’m saying,” Roger tried to reason with him, looking over at him.

Brian sighed and moved so that he was sitting beside Roger, a fair amount of space still between them, but not so much to make it seem like they were at opposite ends of the corridor. The two of them remained silent, trying to think of what to say next. They never got the chance to figure that out before a voice boomed from the far end of the hallway, “Hey, what are you two still doing here?”

Brian and Roger both turned their heads to see a custodian standing at the end of the hall, one hand wrapped around a mop – the one end soaking in the sudsy water he’d been using to clean the halls – and the other resting angrily on his hip.

“Oh shit,” the professor whispered, grabbing the instructor by the hand and standing up as the custodian began yelling at them for dirtying up the floors he’d just cleaned. Brian dragged the blonde behind him as he hastily made his way out of the building, the two breaking out into the night in a fit of laughter and racing hearts, the thrill of their deviance exciting them like nothing had in a long time.

“That was close,” Roger commented with a chuckle as they both tried to catch their breaths, the blonde smiling over at the curly-haired professor.

“Too close,” Brian agreed, hands on his knees and his back arched over.

“What are we going to do about our stuff?” the instructor inquired, looking back at the school, “Everything of mine’s still in my classroom.”

The professor waved his hand dismissively. “You can get it all on Monday. It’s late, and besides, Mr. Prenter might kill us if we go back in there. He’s a real stickler about keeping his halls clean.” Roger raised a curious eyebrow as Brian straightened his posture and heaved a sigh, asking, “Hey, is your ride coming to get you?”

The blonde had no control over the laugh that slipped past his lips at the professor’s question. He noticed the lack of laughter coming from Brian in return and cleared his throat, answering, “Oh, uh, no. He…He had something to get to; couldn’t wait around for me.”

“Then how are you getting home?” A blush crept up in Roger’s cheeks as Brian quickly realized he didn’t have a way to get home and, without so much as a second thought, proposed, “You know, I have an extra seat in my car if you want me to drive you home.” Roger instantly shook his head no, not wanting Brian to see where he was living, or rather, who he was living with. “It won’t be a problem, really,” he tried to convince him with a small, reassuring grin. He hated driving home by himself most nights anyways, especially when there was a lot on his mind.

“No, I-I can’t ask you to do that, Brian,” the music instructor stammered, crossing his arms over his chest.

“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” the professor countered, the corner of his lip perking upward into a smirk as he pulled out his keys from his pocket and waved him along. “Come on, let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Roger sat anxiously in the passenger seat of Brian’s car, his eyes flickering from the driver to the road and the street signs as they sped by them. His fingers danced on top of his thigh in a failing attempt to calm his heightened nerves. It was strange to be the passenger. He rarely ever sat on the passenger’s side, and when he did, it drove him insane. Yet there he was, sitting opposite of Brian as they cruised down the empty London streets – in the opposite direction of Tim and Roger’s flat.

“Turn here?” the professor asked, taking one hand off the wheel and pointing to the corner where a small consignment shop was.

“Yep,” the blonde retorted, the air around him feeling thin.

The driver took the turn and ventured down the street, relying on his passenger to tell him where to stop, or where to turn next. He hadn’t been very specific in saying where he lived, repeatedly claiming he would just tell him where to go as they drove. The professor attributed the music instructor’s vague understanding of the city to him being new there, but little did he know that wasn’t true…at all.

“Right here,” Roger blurted out, causing Brian to slam on the brakes, which in turn caused them both to jerk forward in their seats – stopped by the belts strapped over their chests.

“Sorry,” Brian apologized, the pink that had crept up in his cheeks disguised by the shadows cast over the poorly illuminated street.

“It…It’s okay,” the blonde muttered, unbuckling himself and opening the car door. “Thanks again for the ride, Bri. You really didn’t need to do this.”

The professor grinned at the nickname he’d used, feeling it was safe to do the same as he replied, “It was my pleasure, Rog.”

The music instructor nodded his head and got out, closing the door behind him and starting up the dark walkway. A nervous lump formed in his throat as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants and glanced back over his shoulder, seeing that Brian was still in the street, waiting for him to get inside safely. Oh god, he thought as he hastened his approach to the front door and raised his hand, knocking three times. I hope he’s home. I’ve got to make this believable.

The blonde’s leg started to shake the longer it took for the door to be opened, and when it finally did, he didn’t allow the person to greet him before pulling them close and kissing them, right on the lips. Brian raised his eyebrows at the blonde’s gesture that seemed to be growing more intense with each passing second and took that as his cue to leave, pulling the car away from the curb and driving off – honking his car horn twice to say goodbye.

Roger watched Brian's car out of the corner of his eye, and once he’d rounded the corner at the end of the street, pulled back from the stunned person. “Thanks, Fred,” he mumbled, wiping his wet lips with the back of his wrist.

“What…was that?” the dark-haired man dressed in nothing but a satin robe asked, shaking his head as he tried to put the pieces together himself. “And what are you doing here, anyways? Shouldn’t you be shacking it up with Tim?” The name rolled of his tongue with a disgust Roger had learned to brush off, the same tone of voice used by almost everyone he knew whenever his boyfriend came up in conversation.

The blonde narrowed his eyes, refusing to acknowledge Fred’s string of questions and instead asking lowly, “Is Mary here?”

“Freddie, who’s at the door?” a voice whined from upstairs, followed by the creaking of the steps as the woman Roger was looking for began her descent, holding a bed sheet up to her chest. She stopped midway down the stairs when she saw the answer to her question, an instant glare appearing on her face. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Always a pleasure to see you too, Mary,” he sneered in response, crossing his arms, “Care to get dressed and drive me home?”

She scoffed, joining Freddie’s side. “What on earth makes you think that you can just show up here and demand I give you a lift home all because you're what, drunk? Piss off, Roger, or I'll call the cops on you. I've done it once before; I can do it again just as easily!"

Roger sighed at the pathetic threat. “I’m not drunk. I haven’t had a lick of alcohol all day. Do I need to prove it to you, or will you stop being a bitch for one bloody second and help a friend out? I'm not asking much of you, here. Just a ride."

“How did you even end up on this side of town?” Mary interrogated the blonde whose patience was wearing thin with her apathetic and rather rude dismissal of the situation.

He ran his fingers through his hair and dropped his arms to his sides, saying, "Does it fucking really matter, Mary? I didn't come here to be put on trial. I came here to get a ride back to my place, but I've realized that's apparently too much to ask for."

“Are you sure that’s all, Rog?” Freddie interjected in a lighthearted, teasing manner, folding his arms over his chest, “Because that kiss you gave me makes me wonder if there's something else you want.” Mary gasped and stepped forward, smacking Roger across the face with one hand while using the other to keep the bed sheet up.

“Ouch!” he cried, grabbing his cheek that began to sting, “Jesus Christ, woman! What the hell? I can explain!”

“I don’t want your stupid explanation,” she growled before retreating upstairs, her bare back exposed as she shouted, “Stop kissing my boyfriend and find yourself another ride home coz I’m not doing it!” She slammed the bedroom door behind her, the two men flinching at the sound.

“Geez,” the blonde mumbled, “Someone’s feisty today.”

“She’s just in a mood, dear. Great for me; not so much for you,” Freddie explained, heaving a sigh and inviting Roger in. The two friends made their way through the townhouse and into the kitchen, where the former poured himself and his unexpected guest cups of tea while the latter took a seat at the table. “You know, I wouldn’t mind hearing your explanation,” the dark-haired man blurted out, looking at the blonde over his shoulder with a smirk.

Roger’s cheeks grew red at the thought of recounting the day that led him to where he was now, all the while trying to sort out the mix of emotions he’d been experiencing ever since he walked into that professor's classroom on his first day of his new job. After a short moment of silence – disturbed only by the clinking of the tea cups against their saucers – he confessed, “Well, there’s this guy at the university—”

“Oh, don’t tell me it’s a student, Rog,” Freddie interrupted, bringing the steaming beverages over and slipping into the seat across from the blonde.

“No, he’s not a student,” he clarified, taking one of the two drinks and bringing it to his lips. He took a quick sip and let out a long sigh, disclosing, “He’s a teacher.” The older of the two raised his eyebrows in amusement, drowning his immediate response in his cup of tea, wanting to hear more. “He’s one of the youngest guys there – besides me – and ever since we met, we’ve just clicked. He’s just…” The corner of his lip perked up into a small grin. “Being around him is a nice change from what I’m used to.”

“Look at you, darling,” Freddie purred, a proud smile appearing on his face and revealing his obnoxiously prominent teeth, “Moving up in life – getting a new job, leaving your arsehole of a boyfriend for an educator…”

Roger rolled his eyes and looked down at his drink, mumbling, “I’m not leaving Tim, Freddie. I just…I really like this teacher’s company, and I think he likes mine too.”

He smirked, knowing statements like that are never finished without a “But…”

The blush in the blonde’s cheeks intensified as he set his tea down and ashamedly completed his friend’s sentence, “But…he’s shagging the headmistress.”

Freddie took in a sharp, admonitory breath. “No!”

“Yes,” Roger groaned and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table and burying his face in his hands. The two sat in silence for a bit before the blonde muttered, “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Fred. I…I want to be around him, but at the same time, I want him to stay as far away from me as possible. He can’t…He’s not going to like me once he gets to know me. That’s why I came here, because he and I stayed late at school today, hanging up flyers or whatever, and obviously Tim wasn’t going to wait for me.” He sat back in his chair and sighed. “So, he offered me a ride home and…and he wouldn't take no for an answer. I had no choice but to say yes, and...and I just didn’t want him to see where I live.”

“You mean you didn’t want him seeing Tim,” the dark-haired man corrected him slyly.

The blonde remained silent, but his silence divulged everything he wasn’t, wordlessly expressing that it wasn’t his living situation he didn’t want the professor to see, but rather the life he led altogether; the person he truly was on the inside.

He could switch his clothes, change his occupation, and spin his web of lies all he wanted, but at the end of the day, he was still the same Roger Taylor whose entire existence relied solely on pleasing others – whichever way that may be – and receiving affirmation that he was doing it right. This person he was trying to be, the person that Brian saw, that wasn’t Roger Taylor. It was someone else, someone he longed to be for a while now. The professor was Roger’s fresh start, and he couldn’t risk compromising that.

The older of the two sat forward and reached a sympathetic hand across the table, placing it on the distressed, younger man’s arm and saying, “Grab the keys. We’re going to get you home.”

“But you don’t have your license, Fred. How are you going to get back?”

He huffed and stood up from the table. “I think I can manage driving myself home, darling. Besides, how hard can it be?”

*****

“I mean it, Fred,” Roger warned him as he leaned against the top of Mary’s borrowed car, looking into the cabin at his friend oddly in the driver’s seat, admiring all the gauges and buttons like a child whose parents let them pretend to drive while the car stood still in their driveway. Except, there was no pretending in this situation, and the car was running. “Stay under the speed limit and take the back roads only, okay? I don’t want you running into any cops.”

“Yes, yes,” the older one murmured, running his hands up and down the steering wheel, “I heard you the first thousand times.”

“And what did I say?”

Freddie pressed his lips tightly together and finally looked up at the blonde, his big, brown eyes glistening in the night. “Darling, it’s late. Can’t we just say goodnight and be on our ways? I’m sure your boy’s dying up there with his aching cock anyways, waiting for you to—”

“Stop,” Roger cut him short, bringing a mischievous grin to the inexperienced driver’s face. He rolled his eyes and said, “Just drive very carefully, alright? I don’t have enough money to post your bail. Not yet.”

Freddie chuckled. “You won’t have to worry about that, dear. I’ll be fine. We’ll talk later, yeah?”

The blonde nodded his head in agreement and took a step back, watching as Freddie revved the car’s engine and sped off, clipping the bumper of one of the cars sitting in the street and sending a small shower of sparks to the pavement. Roger gasped at incident and froze in place, his eyes darting to the complex the car was parked out in front of in fears someone might’ve heard or seen it. Luckily, no lights were turned on, and before any could be, the blonde shook his head in disappointment and escaped the scene, picking up the welcome mat placed outside the door of his and his boyfriend's flat and using the spare key hidden underneath it to get inside.

He didn’t even make it through the doorway before discovering Tim on the couch, on his knees, with his dick deep inside some man Roger had never seen before, though he looked eerily similar to himself. “Really?” the blonde yelled, attracting both men’s attentions. “Are you fucking serious?”

“Well, I'll be damned. There he is,” Tim greeted coldly, pulling himself out of the stranger without warning and standing up, his legs weak as he struggled to keep himself on his feet. The alcohol on his breath was noticeable from across the room. “I was just talking about you, love.” He laughed and staggered forward. “You want to know something funny, babe? Blake, over here, says he’s a student at that dumb college you work at. Or should I say, ‘work’ at.” He raised his hands and bent his index and middle fingers, putting an ironic emphasis on the word as a smirk appeared on his face.

“I-It’s actually Ben,” the stranger corrected him timidly, now awkwardly sitting on the couch with one of the decorative pillows in his lap.

“Oh, shut up, Brent,” Roger’s boyfriend slurred, lazily waving his hand at him, “No one actually gives a shit.”

“I think it's time for you to go, Ben,” the blonde muttered, hanging his head in avoidance of the other two’s gazes and bringing his hand up to his forehead.

Ben took no time at all in gathering his clothes and attempting to slip outside, only to be stopped by Tim who grabbed him by the arm and said, “No, stay. I want him to watch.” His eyes trailed back over to Roger, an evilness to the brown stare. “He deserves it after making me wait for him at his school for nearly an hour.”

The music instructor rolled his eyes and chuckled. “An hour? Wow, I’m surprised you stayed that long. Usually you can only spare five minutes.”

“You’re an asshole,” Tim growled at Roger, tears forming in his eyes as he harshly poked his finger into Roger’s chest with his free hand. “You always do this to me. Always! And all I do is…is love you, and care for you, and…and you treat me like shit! Like you’re too good for me when you’re not!” It was clear that Tim was plastered, and part of the blonde wished Mary was here to witness this because then she’d know what it looked like when someone was actually drunk.

“Go, Ben,” Roger grumbled, resting his hands on his hips and turning his head away from the student who tore his arm out Tim’s grip and scurried out of the flat, closing the door behind him loudly.

The blonde listened to the disappearing footsteps and waited until they were completely gone before meeting his boyfriend’s glazed-over stare and shaking his head, trying to find the words to say but failing miserably. This was a new low, even for Tim.

“You make me sick, you know that?” Tim spoke out, his lips quivering as he eliminated the distance between the two of them, “You really do, Rog. This…This new thing you’re doing, it’s not you. It’s not you at all. W-Why can’t you just be happy with what you have?”

Roger’s eyes doubled in size at his boyfriend’s accusation, repeating his question back to him in angered disbelief, “Why can’t I just be happy with what I have? Oh, I don’t know, Tim, maybe because I came home to my shitty flat and found my arsehole of a boyfriend fucking some stranger because my new job kept me late and, as punishment, he wanted me to watch them do it? God, Tim, I don’t know why I wouldn’t be happy about that!”

“You’re just angry because you haven’t been good enough to get it,” the drunkard replied, “Maybe…Maybe if you stopped pretending to be someone you’re not, you’d see what the real problem is here.”

Roger scoffed and broke out into an incredulous grin. “And what is the real problem here, Tim? Me?"

He stood there for a moment, staggering back from Roger as if to build up momentum to answer him, but instead of giving a verbal response, he fell forward and clasped his hands over his mouth, the contents of his stomach spewing all over Roger’s pants and shoes. The blonde groaned in disgust and pushed past his boyfriend who’d collapsed to his knees and was clinging to the floor like it was being pulled out from underneath him.

“Roger, w-wait!” Tim cried, reaching his hand out for him as an angry door slam reverberated through the flat’s thin walls.

Chapter Text

Brian heaved a sigh as he unlocked the front door of his house and stepped inside, throwing his jacket and his bag by the coat rack and bending down to pick up the mail that the mailman had pushed through the door slot earlier in the day. He didn’t bother turning on any lights as he trudged through the halls and into the kitchen, the only light illuminating his way being the one that hung above the sink, giving the entire floor an eerie feel.

He tossed the envelopes onto the counter and walked over to the coffee machine, pulling the carafe out and dragging a mug that had been left out across the counter. He lifted the coffee pot to pour himself a cup, but all that came out was a single drop of cold, dark, three-day-old coffee. The professor slammed the carafe back into its place out of frustration and rested his hands down on the counter, tilting his head down and closing his eyes in an attempt to calm himself down.

After dropping Roger off, he couldn’t ignore the thoughts racing through his head. They only got worse the farther he drove, and no matter how loud he turned the radio up, he couldn’t stop thinking about how he wished that his and Roger’s drive was longer, that their drive together hadn’t ended at – what he believed was – Roger’s house, and that he was the one that Roger kissed instead of – who he assumed was – the man who’d been his ride. That last thought trouble Brian the most, because the desire was so unusual for him.

He’d never thought about someone like this before, not even Chrissie. Perhaps it was because when they first got involved, Chrissie made it very clear that they had to keep things professional. Of course, there were moments where they risked it, but even then, they were both very conscientious about their relationship and how far they could take it.

With Roger, that boundary hadn’t been established. In fact, Brian was pretty sure that Roger didn’t want that boundary – especially with the way he acted around him and talked with him. And though he wasn’t ready to admit it yet, he kind of liked the lack of boundary the two shared. It was a nice change from the everyday lull that being a young professor entailed; a strange frontier, dare he say.

A shrill ring snapped Brian out of the distressed state of mind he’d fallen into, drawing him away from the counter and across the room where he lifted the phone up from its cradle and held it up to his ear, greeting, “Brian May speaking.”

“Hey, Bri,” Chrissie’s soft voice sounded from the other end of the line.

“Chrissie,” he breathed, his heartrate picking up at the mention of her name, “H-Hey.”

A moment of silence passed over the phone before the two of them began speaking at the same time, their attempts at starting the conversation overlapping one another’s. They shared a quick, embarrassed laugh before Brian said, “Go on.”

“I-I don’t like where we left things,” she confessed, causing Brian to bite his lip and lean against the wall. “I feel bad for leaving you at the school. I just…I didn’t know what else to do; like there was nothing I could do to help. You’ve just been so…different these past few days, and…and today I almost didn’t recognize you.” The professor remained silent, allowing the headmistress to explain, “Now, I don’t know if it’s the time of the year or what—”

“No, no. Yeah,” he cut her short, bringing his free hand up to his forehead and saying, “That…That’s it.”

An unfiltered giggle emanated from the speaker, followed by the clearing of her throat. “Brian, you know I can tell when you’re lying, right? I’ve been able to do that since the day we first met.”

Brian’s lips twitched upward into a small grin as he reminisced about the day he first met Chrissie. It was for his interview at the university – his third one, specifically. He had just turned twenty-six and received his master’s degree in Physics from Imperial College months before. He was well liked by most of his teachers and almost all his peers, but suddenly that changed when he applied for the open professor position.

By the looks on the faces of those interviewing him, he doubted he’d actually get the position. He only applied for it because his father didn’t support his other post-graduate plan, which was to delve into music and see where it took him. Now, Brian’s dad supported his son’s interest in music – in fact, he was the one to first encourage it – but it was using it as a means of living where he drew the line. So, not wanting to disappoint his biggest supporter, Brian seized the opportunity that had been presented to him and put his best foot forward.

If it wasn’t for that third interview or for Chrissie – who, at the time, had been recently appointed as headmistress – it was very unlikely that Brian would have gotten the job. Despite his nerves getting the best of him in some of the questions he was asked, she didn’t give up on him. She saw something in him that none of the other administrators or highly-regarded professors – many of whom Brian had taken classes with, passing all with flying colors – did, and as a result, took a chance on him, much like she did with Roger.

“Hello?” Chrissie asked, worried he’d hung up on her.

“I’m still here,” Brian reassured her, wrapping the phone cord around his finger.

The headmistress sighed. “If I invite you over, will you finally tell me what’s going on? What’s really going on?” He didn’t get the chance to reply before she added swiftly, “And I don’t mean as your superior…I mean just as me, your girlfriend.”

He took in a deep breath, the offer certainly tempting, but he feared that if he let her in and if he confided in her about the confusing feelings he was having, she would take away his position at the university just as quickly as she had given it to him. It was that thin line they were always afraid of crossing, and though it never seemed to really cause any issues before, it surely was now.

“I’m just concerned, Brian,” she tacked on in hopes of convincing him, “I love you, and I hate seeing you like this.”

The professor’s eyes went wide at her words, making him forget about everything else that had been on his mind. “Wait, what was that again?”

“I-I just said I’m concer—”

“No, after that,” he clarified, his heart beat picking up once again, but this time for a different reason.

Static quietly crackled over the speaker before Chrissie guessed, “That I love you and I hate seeing you like this?”

“Yes!” Brian exclaimed, bringing his free hand up to the microphone and over his other as he told her with blushing cheeks, “I…I think that’s the first time you said ‘I love you’ to me.”

Another bout of near unbearable static ensued, thankfully interrupted by an awkward, “Oh?”

He chuckled in relief, butterflies fluttering around in his stomach as he bashfully answered, “Yes, and I…” His lip got caught underneath his teeth for the second time during their conversation, his cheeks growing even redder, “…I love you too.”

Even though he couldn’t see her, Chrissie smiled. She couldn’t wipe it off her face as she proposed again, “So what do you say? Do you want to come over?”

Brian glanced over at the clock hanging on the wall, seeing that it was quite late, but for matters of the heart, it was never too late. So, with the kind of confidence that Roger exuded every time he strutted his way down the halls at the university, the professor replied, “I’ll be right over.”

*****

When Monday morning came around, Roger found himself sitting in the teachers’ lounge, separated from all the other professors who continued to give him strange, disapproving looks. He didn’t have the energy to disregard them with the weekend he’d had, so instead he resorted to hiding behind dark sunglasses and keeping his head low, staring at the Styrofoam cup of coffee enwrapped in his hands.

Brian, quite the opposite, waltzed into the teachers’ lounge that morning with a newfound confidence none of the professors had ever witnessed in him before. Normally he entered the room with a sense of bashful shyness, occasionally engaging in the mundane, insignificant conversations a few professors would invite him in to. However, today he strode in with his head held high and a wide grin plastered on his face, taking one of the many open seats at the table Roger was alone at and greeting him cheerfully, “’Morning, Roger!”

“Hey,” was all the blonde muttered, glaring at him through the dark shades over his eyes and tightening his grip on his coffee ever so slightly. The sight of Brian so happy and upbeat struck a wrong chord in Roger for purely selfish reasons, instantly thinking about how much trouble the professor had indirectly caused him over the course of the past two days.

“How was your weekend?” Brian inquired, undeterred by the music instructor’s lack of interest and enthusiasm – partly because he’d chalked up Roger’s indifference to it just being part of Roger’s personality, but also because his own personal joy blinded him from seeing what was right in front of him, and he really just wanted to be asked the same question back.

“It was fine,” Roger answered tersely, not wanting to go into detail about the constant arguing he had to deal with, the never-ending screaming matches, and the make-up sex that didn’t do anything but start the cycle all over again. The two sat in awkward silence, Brian’s eagerness unwavering, before Roger heaved an annoyed sigh and asked as politely as he could manage, “You?”

“Oh, mine was great!” the professor gushed, nearly exploding out of his seat from excitement. He giggled and covered his face with his hands, dragging his fingers down his face and adding, “Really great. Let’s just say, I…I really needed this weekend.”

The blonde nodded his head and raised his eyebrows in mock interest, bringing the steaming beverage up to his lips and taking a sip before asking the question Brian’s eyes were pleading for him to ask, “And why is that?”

“So, when I got home after dropping you off, I got a call from Chrissie,” he began, keeping his voice low as he elaborated, “And she told me she loved me for the first time in our entire relationship!”

Roger forced a grin on his face, trying his best to hide the indignation that was building up inside of him as he listened to Brian’s story. “How cute,” he replied through clenched teeth.

“Oh, it gets even better!” the professor raved, attracting the other professors in the room’s attention and immediately going red in the cheeks from embarrassment. He bit his lip and moved his chair closer to Roger, their arms almost touching as Brian leaned in and continued, “I told her I loved her back, and…and then she invited me over and…we finally did it!”

The blonde chuckled at the curly-haired man’s description of what happened. His innocence killed Roger, and he couldn’t help but wonder what he would’ve told others if the two of them had ever done anything. “So, you finally did it, huh?” he questioned playfully, smirking at Brian, “What did you do, again?”

“You know,” the professor murmured, the blush in his cheeks intensifying, “It.”

Roger sat back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest, contemplating how far he could take it; how far he could go to make Brian say what he and Chrissie had done out loud. “I’m afraid I’m still not sure what you’re referring to, Bri. You know us musicians…we’re so clueless sometimes, and I’m a blonde on top of that, so…” He waved his hand over his head to further prove his point.

One of the professors at the other table scoffed, attracting Roger’s attention as he not-so-subtly whispered to his other colleagues, “As if his hair color’s the reason he’s a daft sod.”

“Well at least I have hair and someone to fuck, Ray!” Roger snapped back, earning more glares and snickers from the professors who slowly dispersed from the lounge to go to their respective lectures.

Brian shifted awkwardly in his seat as the blonde grumbled, “I don’t know how you put up with them, Bri. They’re literally the worst.” The professor went to respond when he rambled on, “I mean, they act like they’re so much better than everyone else just because they know shit, but they don’t know anything! They don’t know the half of it, living their cushy lives inside a bubble. If they lived in my shoes for even one day, that damn glare they always give me would disappear just like that.” He snapped his fingers to prove his point, startling his listener ever so slightly. He set his coffee down – some of the hot liquid splashing out from the small opening in the lid from the force with which it was set down – and muttered, “I just can’t stand ‘em.”

“Well we can’t stand you either, blondie,” Ray chimed in from the doorway.

“Oh, would you fuck off already, wanker?” the blonde spat, rolling his eyes and glaring at the old professor, “Don’t you have some stupid women’s studies class to teach?”

Brian swallowed the nervous lump that formed in his throat as Ray slunk out of the doorway with narrowed eyes and returned his embarrassed attention to Roger, replying, “So, I…I’m assuming your weekend wasn’t fine.”

“Of course it wasn’t fine!” Roger shouted, pounding his hands against the table and jumping up from the seat he was in. He dragged himself over to one of the windows and looked outside pensively, crossing his arms over his chest. Brian glanced over at him and frowned, feeling bad for the music instructor.

An awkward moment of silence passed over the two, disturbed only by the sound of delinquent students running down the halls and the sound of Brian’s chair scraping across the linoleum as he got up and walked over to the coffee machine to prepare himself a cup. Roger glanced over at him and bit his lip, guilt washing over him as he realized Brian wasn’t the person he was mad at – well, not entirely. He wanted to apologize, but all he could get out was, “So, you and Chrissie?”

The professor shook his head, keeping his back to the blonde as he replied, “W-We don’t have to talk about it anymore if you don’t want to.”

“No, tell me,” he insisted, “Was it good?”

Brian choked on the sip of coffee he had taken, astonished by the blunt question he’d been asked. He wiped his mouth with the back of his wrist and set the mug and saucer down, admitting, “You know, when I said we didn’t have to talk about it anymore if you didn’t want to, I-I really meant to say that I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“Oh, come on,” Roger whined playfully, crossing the room and leaning against the counter Brian was cleaning up, “You were so excited to tell me before, and I could really use a good first-time story.” The corner of his lip perked up into a smirk as he tacked on, “It would really make my day.”

The professor scoffed and looked over at the instructor. “What makes you think it was my first time?”

“Well, was it?”

“No…” he answered timidly. He wasn’t even lying, but the matter of the subject was enough to redden his cheeks ever more than they already were. “Of course not. I-I’ve slept with lots of people.”

The blonde grinned widely, finding great amusement in Brian’s flustered state, and slipped his hands into the pockets of his pants. “Oh really? How many?”

“Roger, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore,” he muttered, taking his coffee and leaving the room just like the other professors had.

The music instructor immediately went after him, but stopped dead in his tracks just as he was about to walk out. It was as though there was an imaginary wall trapping him inside the lounge, a wall of his own creation. He couldn’t let himself go after Brian, knowing that if he were to follow him and continue their conversation, he’d only push him farther away. He’d gone too far, like he always did, and if he were truly going to change and become the better person he sought to be, the next step was to recognize when he got carried away.

All Brian wanted to do was tell him about his weekend, and what did Roger do? He made fun of him; he joked about it being his first time, though he doubted a man like him would have any trouble getting laid. Hell, he’d sleep with him if—

“Hey,” a voice snapped Roger back into reality, turning him around to face the other side of the lounge. His eyes fell upon Brian’s student, the same one who’d seen him and Tim, and who interrupted Brian’s and his conversation the day of the exam. He stood in the center of the doorway opposite to the one Roger stood in, holding a few textbooks close to his chest with a piece of paper pinched between his fingers.

Roger sighed and crossed his arms. “Your teacher’s not here, kid. You just missed him.”

“I actually wasn’t looking for him,” he clarified, daring to step into the lounge forbidden to people like him, “I was looking for you.” He flipped the piece of paper around, showing him one of the flyers he and Brian had put up around the school last week. “You’re the one offering music lessons, yeah?”

The blonde sauntered over, meeting him halfway with a suspiciously raised brow. “Yeah, why?”

“W-Well, I play bass,” he stammered with warming cheeks as Roger’s eyes widened in realization, “A little bit, at least, and…and I’m not the best or anything, but if you could show me—”

“Yes!” Roger exclaimed, ecstatic about the prospect of his first student; of actually making a name for himself here at the university; of starting the new life he was looking for. It immediately lifted his spirit, startling the student as he excitedly elaborated on his initial response. “Yes, I would love to. Um, w-why don’t I take you don’t to my room, and we can figure out when and where to get you started?”

Chapter Text

It was difficult for Brian to focus on his lesson. Now that the exam was over and done with, there was no time to waste in starting the second half of his curriculum, yet all the professor wanted to do was sit at his desk and analyze the morning he had. He just wanted to know what had happened over the past weekend that made Roger so on edge; so spastic.

The professor was half-tempted to skip out on his class and sit in on a psychology lecture instead, hoping he’d learn something and be able to apply it to his colleague’s situation, but he had an obligation to himself, to his students, and to the school. He’d work so hard to get to where he was, and he couldn’t risk losing all of that because of some music instructor who’d burrowed his way inside his head.

Brian paced back and forth with the mug of coffee in his hands, looking out at the hall of students who were engaged in various conversations, waiting for their teacher to silence them and get on with the lecture. After all, class was supposed to start fifteen minutes ago, and he hadn’t even introduced the next topic. He was too entranced by the open seat that had caught his eye, the same seat that John took every day. Today, however, it was vacant; void of the awkward, almost worrisomely invested student who’d never missed a day before.

“Hey, has anyone seen John?” Brian called out, the thought slipping past his lips and manifesting itself without the professor realizing it.

The scattered conversations immediately died down, still lingering in a few spots though.

“Who’s John?” someone called out, eliciting a few laughs and snickers from the class and encouraging others to speak up.

“Wait, are we talking about the person who usually sits in the back?”

“Hold up, I thought that was a girl.”

“There’s a girl named John in this class?”

“No, we’re talking about the guy who always wears platform boots, which is really weird because he’s already super tall. Like, who does that?”

“He also eats cheese on toast with a glass of milk. Has anyone else seen him do that? Because it’s not like he’s eating grilled cheese; it’s literally just a slice of cheese on toast. I mean, who even likes dairy that much?”

Brian sighed in annoyance and set his coffee down on his desk, right over the burn mark that Roger had left behind the first day they’d met. “That’s enough, class,” he scolded them without much conviction, turning towards them and placing his hands on his hips, “I just wanted to know if anyone knew where he was.”

“What about your boy toy, Mr. May? Do you know where he is?” Debbie – one of the more pompous students in Brian’s class – asked, the corner of her lip curling up into a smirk as the students around her congratulated her for the “burn” and gave her high-fives.

“Oh, shut up, Debbie,” Anita – another one of the more pretentious but better liked students taking Astrophysics – responded, turning around in her seat to face the girl she addressed, “We all know you just want to get his number so you can fuck him into giving you a spot on the Dean’s list.”

Brian scoffed in disbelief at the conversation that was unraveling before him, all because of a simple question. The conversation wasn’t even pertaining to the student he’d asked about anymore, somehow shifting to Roger, or as Debbie so ineptly referred to him as, his “boy toy.”

“That’s enough!” the professor repeated himself, this time with more assertion, “You shouldn’t talk about a professor like that. It’s not appropriate.”

“Sounds a bit hypocritical coming from the professor who’s shagging Headmistress Mullen,” Debbie sneered, crossing her arms over her chest and sending the class into a chorus of gasps and excited shouts.

Brian’s heart started to pound against his chest and his hands clenched into fists as the room began to rise in temperature, the deafening chatter of the classroom growing louder and louder with each second. “ALRIGHT!” the professor screamed, silencing everyone almost instantly. He shot a finger at the door and demanded sternly, “Debbie, get out. Now.”

The student scoffed and gathered her belongings, strutting down the steps that led to the back of the classroom and making her way towards the door. As she passed by her aggravated professor, she muttered, “It’s not like I was learning anything anyways.” She slammed the door on her way out, silencing her classmates completely and bringing Brian’s hand to his forehead.

After a few moments, one student, Veronica – a shy, reserved girl who sat in the front with Anita and kept to herself most of the time – raised her hand. Brian noticed this and nodded his head in permissive acknowledgement, the girl clearing her throat and revealing in a soft, quiet voice that Brian could barely hear standing a few feet away from her, “I saw him this morning, Mr. May. We…We had breakfast together.” Her cheeks grew a faint shade of pink as she tilted her head down in avoidance of the attention she’d attracted from her fellow classmates. “He was—”

Just then, the classroom door burst open and, as if on cue, John stumbled in. “I’m so sorry, Professor May,” he apologized, panting, “I-I was just with another teacher. I promise it won’t happen again.”

“It-It’s fine, John,” Brian stammered, dropping his head and running a hand through his hair, “Just take your seat, please.”

He nodded his head and scurried up the lecture hall’s steps to his seat in the back, Veronica’s eyes following him the entire way. In fact, everyone’s eyes followed him, looks of guilt appearing on some of his classmates’ faces while others turned their heads and continued to mock him and his habits under their breaths. Meanwhile, the professor walked back over to his desk and plopped down in his chair, dragging the coffee saucer across the flat surface and picking up the mug with a sigh.

What am I going to do?

*****

Brian shoved his books into his bag with a sense of aggression he typically didn’t possess, the rest of his day dragging on slower than he could ever imagine. His productivity was less than subpar, having spent most of his time avoiding the two people who sent his first class into a whirlwind of gossip and hushed conversations about himself. There was nothing he could say to stop them, or to calm down their wandering imaginations. They just kept going and going, forming thoughts that Brian couldn’t admit to or deny.

He felt powerless to them, and he tried his best to carry on with his planned lesson (which, in all honesty, wasn’t more than a few key words scribbled down a piece of paper ripped from one of his notebooks), but when the bell rang to dismiss the students, he’d never felt worse about himself. That feeling stayed with him the rest of the day, causing him to leave the school in a haste that confused and startled everyone he passed.

The professor thought he was in the clear as he stepped into the faculty car park, but before he could reach his car, a loud “Brian! Hey, wait up!” stopped him in his tracks. He immediately recognized the voice and closed his eyes in defeat, listening to the footsteps that quickly pattered towards him and feeling the heavy hand that fell on his shoulder and turned him around. He opened his eyes to see the blonde the voice belonged to, and the wide grin that was plastered on his face. “You won’t believe it.”

“Roger, I-I really can’t—”

“I got my first student!” the music instructor cut him off, his entire body jittering with childlike excitement. “Now I’m, like, an actual professor – Professor Taylor.” He grinned and bit his lip as he dwelled on the name, asking, “Has a bit of a ring to it, don’t you think?”

Brian chuckled under his breath and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Well you need at least a master’s degree to become a professor, and it’s hard to believe you have one…at your age.” He tacked on the last part in a last-ditch effort to make his response sound a little less vile, but there was nothing Brian could say or do to prevent the offended expression that appeared on Roger’s face.

The professor cleared his throat and shoved his hands into his coat pockets, tilting his head down and mumbling, “I’m just saying, you’re not technically a professor. If anything, you’re just another one of Chrissie’s charity cases.”

Roger scoffed, folding his arms over his chest. “Kind of like you, Brian?”

The curly-haired man’s cheeks turned red at the thought, but he kept his lips sealed.

“That’s what I thought,” Roger grumbled, uncrossing his arms to place his hands on his hips. “It’s one of your students, you know. That weird kid who kind of looks like a girl? Wears platform shoes even though he’s already super tall? Eats cheese on toast?”

Brian’s eyes widened at the instructor’s description of John, a sense of déjà vu washing over him and bringing a sick feeling to his stomach. He glanced around the car park cautiously before leaning in and whispering, “Have you been talking to my students?”

“Only the hot ones,” Roger replied cheekily, the corner of his lip perking up into a smirk as the older of the two slapped him on the arm in mock scolding. “Ouch! I’m only kidding…just slightly.”

“Roger, you can’t talk about your students like that,” the professor yelled in a hushed voice, “You’re a teacher!”

“Now you just told me I wasn’t! So, what am I, Brian? Am I a teacher or not?”

Brian heaved a sigh and adjusted his jacket, wanting nothing more than for their conversation to end. He just wanted to go home, bury himself in his bed, and wait for the day to be over, but it was clear that Roger had different motives.

The music instructor let out an awkward laugh and said, “Anyhow, uh, I also wanted to say sorry for how I was behaving this morning. I just didn’t have a very good weekend and—”

“You really don’t need to apologize, Roger,” the professor mumbled, “It’s—"

“No, I do,” he interrupted him for the second time during their chat, “And it’s not fine. You didn’t do anything to deserve that, and I…I always do this kind of thing and…” The blonde found himself tripping over his words, wary of disclosing too much or too little. He was never one for apologies – meaningful ones, at least – and it wasn’t always easy for him to honestly admit that he was in the wrong. He could lie his way through the motions like it was his native language, but being genuine about it was something new for him, and he was willing to do whatever it took to keep Brian by his side, no matter how close or far that was. Just so long as he was there.

Roger hung his head in shame and finished with a quiet, “I just feel like such a fool.”

The professor remained silent, crossing his arms over his chest as he impatiently waited for the music instructor to explain what he meant. His eyes flickered between his car that was parked on the far side of the lot and the blonde whose gaze began to wander as well, searching for the words he wanted to say.

After a short while, not long enough for Brian to conjure an excuse for him to leave, Roger proposed vaguely, “Have you ever done something for a really long time, and then you start something new and realize that what you’ve been doing all along isn’t…cutting it anymore?”

The taller of the pair stared at the shorter with an unreadable expression, a mix of responses building up inside of him. The first thing that came to his mind was this, their budding relationship.

For the longest time, Brian kept to himself, almost never daring to follow his instincts. It was possible that this hindrance was of his parents’ doing, always encouraging him to play it safe; to go for the guarantees in life. As they told him time and time again, even though those guarantees might not always seem ideal, they’ll be worth it in the long run.

Then Roger came along, and suddenly everything his parents told him all his life escaped him. Their warnings about the risks of what can happen if he were to go outside the lines made no impact on his growing desire to search for the blonde, to get to know more about him, and to figure out why he couldn’t get him off his mind. It was why he was still standing there, lost in Roger’s question that held more weight to it than he was leading on.

“Well, have you?” the instructor inquired, snapping Brian out of the daze he’d fallen into.

The professor felt the blush creeping up in his cheeks, and in an attempt to hide it, burrowed himself into his jacket, muttering, “You know, it’s getting late, Roger. I should probably head home.”

“Oh, yeah. M-Me too,” Roger stammered, nodding his head in forced agreement and shoving his hands into the pockets of his pants.

The silence between the two of them was almost unbearable, yet neither of them stepped away, waiting for the other person to make the first move. The blonde cleared his throat, attracting Brian’s hopeful gaze, and blurted out, “You wanna maybe grab a drink first, though? I’m meeting up with a friend of mine to celebrate.” The corner of Roger’s lips perked up into a smirk as he playfully punched the professor in the arm and added, “It was just supposed to be in honor of my new student, but I’m sure we can squeeze in a quick toast for you losing your v-card too.”

“I didn’t—” Brian stopped himself short, realizing his argument was futile with a shake of the head and a small chuckle. “I appreciate the offer, Roger, but it’s Monday and I really should be getting on home. Besides, I-I’m not much of a drinker.”

The music instructor pouted his lips. “You’re no fun.”

“I’m loads of fun!” the professor couldn’t help but try to defend himself.

“Oh really? Then come to the bar with me and show me.”

Brian sighed. “Roger…”

“It’s the only way I’ll know you’re not bluffing!” he challenged him, crossing his arms in a tantalizing way and tacking on, “Otherwise, I’ll have no other choice but to believe that you’re as boring and dull as they say you are.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” the professor immediately wondered, his thought manifesting itself without his doing. He shook his head as he realized how petty of a question that was and finally succumbed to the blonde’s plea, saying, “You know what? Fine. I’ll have one drink, but only one! Then I’m leaving.”

A wide grin appeared on Roger’s face as he began to shorten the distance between him and Brian, the latter’s eyes growing wide in fear of what was to come. The tension growing in his body all but disappeared as the instructor leaned in and whispered, “That’s all I ever wanted, dear.” He wrapped his hand around the professor’s and tugged him towards his car, exclaiming, “Now let’s go! My friend’ll kill me if I stand him up again.”

Brian swallowed the lump in his throat as he was dragged along, repeating in a mixture of confusion and concern, “Again?”

Chapter Text

Roger and Brian walked down the dark sidewalk side by side, the former walking slightly ahead of the latter, seeing as he knew the way. The professor found himself tagging along, looking at all the passersby who caught his gaze and raised a suspicious eyebrow as if to say What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. He tilted head down in avoidance of their judgmental stares, glancing out of the corner of his eye at Roger who didn’t seem fazed at all.

In fact, he seemed very at home, trotting down the steps that led to the underground bar which was bursting at the seams and walking into the crowded, deafening room with the same sense of confidence he showed up to the university with every day. The professor watched in pure awe as the music instructor greeted almost everyone he crossed paths with – sometimes just waving at them, other times being pulled in for a hug or a quick kiss on the cheek. It was all very entertaining for Brian, knowing he himself could never be that outgoing.

“Darling, there you are!” Roger exclaimed cheekily after reaching the bar, draping his arms around a guy and planting a quick kiss on his cheek. Brian recognized the man to be the same one who answered the door for the blonde the night he dropped him off. “What happened to saving me a seat?”

“Well, my dear, it’s not my fault you can never show up on time,” the dark-haired man responded sassily, looking back to catch a glimpse of his friend when he noticed the taller man standing behind them. “And who is this handsome tall glass of water?” he purred, turning in his seat to face him and taking a provocative sip of his drink.

Brian’s eyebrows furrowed together in confusion as Roger met his gaze, a surprised look appearing on his face as though he forgot he’d brought the professor with him. “Oh this, this is Brian May.” He dropped a hand on the curly-haired man’s shoulder and smirked. “He’s the professor I was telling you about.”

“Well hello there, Professor,” Freddie murmured slyly, sticking his free hand out for a handshake, “It’s an absolute honor to finally meet you. I hope my Roger hasn’t been riding you up the walls too badly.”

Brian cautiously placed his hand in Freddie’s and gave it a slight shake, the corners of his lips being pulled up into small, polite grin. “No, he’s been great. I really like teaching with him.”

The flashing colorful lights in the bar couldn’t hide the blush that manifested in Roger’s cheeks as he tilted his head down and began to fiddle with one of the coasters on the bar to distract himself.

Freddie took note of this and pressed his lips together in an attempt to hide the wide grin that they wanted to form, returning his attention to the professor and asking, “So, what can I get you to drink, Brian May? Anything you’d like, and it doesn’t have to be a liquid.” He added a wink to the last statement, causing the blonde to worriedly look up and over at Brian to see his response.

Luckily, the comment seemed to pass right over the curly-haired man’s head as he surveyed the bar, slipping his hands into his pockets and replying, “Erm, I wouldn’t mind a glass of grapefruit juice if they have it.”

Grapefruit juice?” Roger repeated him incredulously, “I hope you’re joking.”

“Roger, that is no way to talk to your gorgeous friend,” the man seated at the bar scolded him, instantly earning a glare from the blonde while he offered alternatively, “How ‘bout a vodka and tonic?”

Brian nodded his head. “Sure.”

“Jim, you heard the good-looking chap. One vodka and tonic and two martinis, extra strong!” the dark-haired man called out with the wave of his hand. Within seconds, the drinks appeared in front of him, the barkeep taking almost no time at all to prepare it. Freddie blew him a kiss and scooped the beverages up in his long fingers, his black-lacquered nails shimmering in the blue glow of the bar.

He stood up from the stool he was perched on and nodded his head towards the corner of the room, drawing the other two over there as he maneuvered around and through the people dancing and drinking and conversing with one another. Freddie was the first to slip into the open, round booth, with Roger following suit and Brian sliding in last, reaching across the table for his vodka and tonic out of courtesy.

“Ah ah ah,” Freddie chastised him playfully, wrapping his hand around one of the martinis and raising it up high, “Not before we congratulate Mr. Taylor on getting his first student.” He smiled over at Roger whose embarrassed blush intensified, the blonde taking the last drink into his possession and looking down at it to hide the bashful smile he had no control over.

Brian raised his drink as well, listening as Freddie began, “To new beginnings, my dear friend. You’ve come a very long way since I first met you. I mean, you were wearing practically nothing but heels when I first saw you, and now look at you! You’re teaching at a university, you’ve got your eyes on a new man—”

The blonde chuckled, realizing where his friend’s speech was going and seeing the shocked and bewildered expression that appeared on the professor’s face. “O-Okay. No need to be so specific. Let’s just get shitfaced, yeah? That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?”

“Oh, you never let me have any fun, darling,” Freddie muttered unhappily, bringing the martini glass up to his lips and taking a long sip. The professor and the music instructor watched in astonishment s he finished the drink, slamming the empty glass down and letting out a sigh as he sunk back into the booth. Roger averted his embarrassed gaze to the side, taking a sip of his own drink.

Brian cleared his throat and attempted to alleviate the awkward tension that had fallen over the table by asking, “So, how long have you two been together?”

Freddie gagged dramatically as Roger’s wide blue eyes wandered back over to his colleague whose cheeks grew warm, worrying he’d said or did something wrong. “You think I’m Tim?” the dark-haired man retorted, a loud, obnoxious laugh following his remark as he banged a fist against the table, “Oh, wow, that’s grand.” He smacked the blonde on the arm and asked delightedly, “Did you hear that, Rog? He thinks I’m your awful boyfriend. He thinks I’m Tim!”

“I-I’m so sorry,” the professor stuttered, knowing he shouldn’t have given Roger the chance to lure him into this situation, “I didn’t…I didn’t know. I just saw…you were the one…he kissed you, and—”

“Oh, honey,” Roger’s friend sneered lightheartedly, stretching his hand across the table and placing it atop Brian’s, “You would know if I was Tim, and be grateful I’m not. You wouldn’t like me if I was. He’s horrible, manipulative, doesn’t—”

The music instructor loudly cleared his throat, cutting Freddie short with a terse, “You know I am still with him, Fred, right?”

“I’m sorry,” Brian whispered in a self-deprecating state, his regretful mind spitting out belittling thought after belittling thought as he slipped his hand out from Freddie’s grip-like hold and brought his drink to his lips, muttering another, “I’m so sorry,” before tilting his head back and downing the drink just as quickly as Freddie had downed his. The professor set the empty glass down with a force that – if it was just a bit stronger – would’ve shattered the glass and stood up. “Well, as nice as this has been, I think it’s time for me to leave.” He shoved his hand into his coat’s pocket and extracted his wallet, pulling out a fiver and placing it on the table. “Thank you for the drink, really. It was an absolute pleasure meeting you, Freddie, and Roger, I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”

“Wait!” Roger cried out as Brian went to leave, getting out of the booth himself and grabbing the taller man’s arm. “You can’t leave yet. W-We just got here.”

The professor frowned, brushing the music instructor’s hand from his arm as he mumbled, “I really should get going, Rog.”

“Please,” the blonde begged, mirroring Brian’s step back as he tried to get closer to the entrance. “I just—”

“Liz?” a third voice joined the conversation, drawing the group’s attention over to the man who’d emerged from the crowd. He spoke with a heavy Scottish accent and was dressed to the nines in his ironed suit, polished shoes, and expensive Rolex watch that dangled just a few inches away from the various rings he’d adorned himself with. “What are you doing here? And looking so…dull.” He crossed his arms and straightened his posture, tacking on a haughty, “You told me you weren’t coming back for a while.”

“Liz?” Brian repeated, his eyebrows furrowing together.

“I-I’m afraid you’ve mistaken me for someone else,” Roger replied to the man, the blush that had lingered on his face intensifying once more, “My name’s not Liz.”

“Oh, so we’re going to play that game tonight, are we?” the gentleman sneered, shortening the distance between him and the blonde and grabbing him by the tie to yank the two of them closer. “I like it. Why haven’t you done this before?”

“Please get your hands off me,” the blonde whispered, ignoring the stranger’s comment and the professor’s quickly changing facial expression as he leaned in and added on in an even quieter voice, “I’m not doing this anymore.”

Brian stood there dumbfounded, unsure of whether he should step in or step away. The situation was clearly beyond his understanding, and even if he was to intervene, he wouldn’t know what to do or say. He’d never been one for confrontation, let alone for someone else.

“Bugger off, Reid. He’s not here for that,” Freddie interjected coldly from the table, waving a dismissive hand and shooting a glare in the man’s direction that gradually separated him from the blonde. “He’s here to celebrate, not to make your pathetic night a little more exciting. Go home to Reggie, why don’t you? He’s probably worried sick.” The well-dressed stranger tugged uncomfortably at his suit jacket and reluctantly disappeared back into the crowd, Roger heaving a sigh of relief once he was out of sight and placing his hands on his hips as he stared at the ground.

After a moment of silence – though it was anything but with “Dancing Queen” by ABBA coming on the speakers and the whole bar exploding into an excited and energetic roar – the professor shook his head and brought a hand up to his forehead, parting his lips to ask about what had just happened when the music instructor blurted out, “I-I’ll be back,” and frantically brushed past him, squeezing his way through the people dancing and singing along to the hit song.

Brian turned towards Freddie, not needing to say a single word for the dark-haired man to tell him, “It’s a long story, Brian. I’d tell you all about it, but I think he likes you too much for me to do that.” He slipped out of the booth and stood up to match the professor at eye level, saying, “And I like you too, so for your own good, let’s not go into it, yeah?” He patted the curly-haired man on the arm and smiled that big-toothy grin he was known for.

The professor looked back over his shoulder to catch the blonde slipping into the bathroom on the other side of the bar, bumping into someone who was on their way out and getting yelled at for doing so. The blonde put minimal effort into apologizing, shaking his head out of aggravation and pushing past him to get inside.

“He certainly seems upset,” Brian thought out loud, “Is he going to be okay?”

“Probably,” Freddie replied in such a way that didn’t make Brian believe him. The simple shrug of the shoulders didn’t help, and neither did his acceptance of the drink that was randomly offered to him.

“I-I should probably go talk to him…” he murmured, unable to deny the internal pull he felt to go after the blonde and see if he wanted to talk, or even go home – after all, he had driven him there and, although he was ready to abandon him only minutes before, it wouldn’t be fair to leave that responsibility to Freddie. The man he watched get pulled by his tie and called a different name, that wasn’t the Roger he knew. It was an imposter, someone who looked exactly like him but in no way, shape, or form acted like him.

“Oh no, don’t do that,” the dark-haired man advised sharply, shaking his head in disapproval and explaining, “If you went in there, it would only make things worse. Let me talk to him.” He shoved the drink into Brian’s possession and wandered off before the professor could object, deserting him in the corner of the lively room that didn’t seem disturbed at all by what had just went down.

Freddie burst into the men’s bathroom and found Roger standing at the sink, his hands wrapped around the counter’s edge and his head hung low. “Why did I think bringing him here was a good idea?” the blonde muttered, his voice low and scratchy. He bit his lip and closed his eyes, feeling his friend’s arms wrap around him as he added, “He’s going to find out, you know, and he’s never going to wanna talk to me again.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Freddie disagreed, looking at the distraught blonde through the mirror in front of them and saying, “He’s got a soft spot for you, Rog. Anyone can see that. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have step foot in this horrid, STD-ridden rubbish bin of a bar.”

The music instructor let out a skeptical chuckle, offering the logical reason of, “He was just being nice.”

“Or maybe he likes you.” Freddie brought his hand up and swiped away the single tear that had escaped from Roger’s eye. “You’ve just been with that rotter Timmy for so long that you turn a blind eye to anyone else who shows the slightest interest in you.”

The blonde shot a glare at Freddie and shrugged him off, turning away from him and crossing his arms over his chest. “You don’t get it, Fred. You never have.”

The dark-haired man sighed out of frustration. “And I don't think I ever will.”

Roger glanced over his shoulder and walked over to the door, popping it open and peering into the crowd that died down a bit from when he first disappeared, the song changing from “Dancing Queen” to the Bee Gee’s “How Deep Is Your Love.” The blonde swallowed the lump that formed in his throat and watched as people began to pair up and sway to the beat of the song. “Do you think he’s still out there?”

Freddie rolled his eyes and pulled a stick of eyeliner out from his jacket sleeve, walking over to the sink and leaning over the counter towards the mirror to fix the thick rings around his eyes. “How the hell am I supposed to know? I’ve been stuck in here with you, trying to calm you down like some teenage girl crying in the bathroom at her sixteenth birthday party.”

Roger sniffled and glanced back at his friend. “That…That’s oddly specific, Fred.”

“All I’m trying to say is that I’m not the one trying to get Brian May’s dick in my mouth.”

The blonde gasped and stepped away from the door, exclaiming, “Freddie!”

“Oh, don’t act surprised, dear.” The dark-haired man stood back and returned the eyeliner to its hiding place in his sleeve, turning towards him and saying, “That’s what you’re known for around here, and you know I’m right.”

Roger shook his head and darted for the stalls, Freddie catching him by the arm before he could lock himself in one. “For god’s sake, Rog, stop acting this and just go out there!” he cried, crossing his arms over his chest and adding on a sardonic, “Unless you need me to hold your hand like a little boy who doesn’t want to lose his daddy at the theme park.”

The blonde scoffed and ripped his arm out of his friend’s grip, rubbing the sore area. “Would you stop it with your weirdly detailed metaphors? They’re not helping.”

“Well what good is hiding in here doing you?” he snapped in response, “I can only help you so much, Rog. I can’t fuck the guy for you. I mean, I could, but—”

Just then, the bathroom door was pushed in, both men falling silent as Reid walked in, eyeing the two cautiously before slipping by them and into one of the stalls. Once the door clicked shut behind him and the lock was set in place, Freddie and Roger took no time at all to escape the suddenly uncomfortable situation, hastily making their way back over to their table where – to Roger’s dismay – the curly-haired man of his fancy was missing. All that was left behind was his fiver that had been conveniently tucked underneath the bottom of one of the three empty glasses, surprisingly still there, and Roger’s bag – which Brian must’ve brought in from his car.

The dark-haired man dropped his hand on the blonde’s shoulder and gave him a slight shake, saying, “Just talk to him tomorrow, okay? You wouldn’t want to suck his dick here anyways. It’s putrid.”

Roger slowly glared over at Freddie before lifting his foot and stomping it down on top of his friend’s, eliciting a pained gasp from the dark-haired man whose side he angrily departed from, bag in hand. The blonde caught the eye of many bargoers as he headed for the door, their catcalls and shouts going unheard as he stormed out, stopping at the phone booth at the corner of the street and using the change he’d scraped up from the scummy ground to make a call.

He held the phone up to his ear and leaned against the wall of the booth, listening to the dial tone that rung in his ear for what seemed like forever. His heart nearly skipped a beat when the dial tone stopped and was replaced by the sound of the receiver picking up, followed by a scratchy and low, “Hello?”

“Hey, it’s me,” Roger mumbled into the speaker dejectedly, his cheeks growing warm out of shame and his hands wrapping tightly around the device, “Can you come and get me?”

Chapter Text

“I told you,” Tim muttered as he stroked Roger’s hair in a comforting way, the blonde lying in his arms as they sat in bed together. Dried tears stained the music instructor’s cheeks, and his half-lidded gaze was locked on the other side of the room, his surroundings but a mere afterthought as tonight’s events played over and over again in his head. “I don’t think this person you’re trying to be is worth it, babe. It seems to me like it’s only making you feel worse.”

“Would you just shut up about it?” the blonde murmured vapidly in response, refraining from meeting his boyfriend’s affronted gaze as he brought the amber bottle he held in his hands up to his lips and added, “I really don’t give a fuck about what you think, and it’s obvious you can’t see that. You haven’t shut up for one second since I got in the car.” He took a disappointing swig of the only alcohol Tim could find him in their flat, which was surprising since a fully stocked fridge of liquor and booze was the one consistency the two could manage.

Apparently not anymore.

“Well sorry for trying to cheer you up,” Tim sneered, snatching the bottle from his boyfriend and taking a sip of it himself. Both men just kind of sat there afterwards, an eerie, unfamiliar silence falling over them. Roger’s eyes began to grow heavy, and the beer bottle that never left Tim’s possession again was left with nothing but a drop that swirled around the bottom as its drinker contemplated what to do about the man curled up beside him.

Although he would never admit it, Tim hated to see Roger upset like this. The blonde wasn’t any fun to be around when he got like this, and the instances in which Tim had to be the comforter instead of the comforted were too far and few for him to learn how to fix them.

Besides, fixing problems was never his strong suit – it was Roger’s. Roger was always the one to clean up Tim’s messes, to get him out of tricky situations, and to provide for him even though he didn’t do anything in return other than keep the blonde in line. There was a small part of Tim that wished one day he’d be able to do the same, but that day was never going to come; both he and his boyfriend knew that.

Tim glanced down at Roger whose eyes had closed and whose lips were parted ever so slightly – soft snores escaping from in between them – and sighed, biting his lip and reaching over the side of the bed to set the bottle down on the ground with a soft clink. He carefully slid out from underneath Roger, making sure that his boyfriend’s fall to the mattress was slow and gradual, and repositioned himself so that he was hovering over him.

He stared down at the sleeping blonde and brought his hand up, caressing Roger’s cheek with the side of his finger. Tim swallowed the lump in his throat and dragged his hand down the blonde’s chest, reaching the waistband of his pants and undoing the button and zipper – all with one hand. Roger stirred only a little bit in response to the action, but kept his eyes shut as he moved in Tim’s favor, lying on his back and exposing himself for his boyfriend.

Tim smirked and wrapped his hand around Roger’s dick that was undeniably starting to grow hard, beginning to move it up and down and eliciting an unconscious moan from the blonde. His head sunk back into the mattress as he reacted to the movement that began to intensify, getting him closer and closer to climax without his knowing.

“Oh, Brian, yes,” Roger groaned, clenching the bed sheets tightly as he squirmed underneath his boyfriend’s touch, “Keep doing it, just like that.”

Tim’s eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, and with the rapid, sudden removal of his hand, the blonde’s eyes popped wide open. He gasped and looked down, seeing the situation and scrambling towards the bed’s headboard. “What the hell are you doing?” Roger asked him worriedly, grabbing at the blankets and pulling them up over himself.

“Who the fuck is Brian?” his boyfriend replied lowly.

A blush crept up in the music instructor’s cheeks, and instead of answering him, he asked again sternly, “What were you doing, Tim?”

“I’ll tell you once you tell me who Brian is,” Tim growled, slowly crawling across the bed with an infuriated look in his eyes and shortening the distance between the two of them so that their faces were centimeters apart. Roger remained silent, tightly holding onto the bed sheets that weakly separated him from his intimidating boyfriend. “WHO IS HE!?!” Tim shouted, gripping onto Roger’s shoulders and throwing him back into the headboard.

“NO ONE!” the blonde yelled back, his boyfriend shoving him back once before getting off the bed and starting to pace at the foot of it. Roger’s eyes followed him as he rushed up to their dresser and swiped everything that sat on top of it – both dirty and clean clothes, photo frames (some of which were already broken or shattered from the last time Tim did this), colognes and perfumes, cosmetics, and of course, empty bottles of liquor and beer cans – to the floor.

“I can’t believe you!” he screamed, pivoting on his heels to face the terrified music instructor who hadn’t moved an inch from his spot on the bed. “You have a shit-arse day, and when I try to cheer you up, you cry out some other guy’s name?” Roger didn’t get the chance to defend himself before Tim fell against the dresser and covered his face with hands. He dragged his fingers down his cheeks and shot a fuming glare in the blonde’s direction. “Who the fuck is he, Rog, and why are you thinking about him when you should be thinking about me?”

Roger scoffed. “Tim, I don’t know! I can’t help what I say when you’re jerking me off in my fucking sleep!” He tossed the blankets aside and swung his legs over the edge, pulling his pants up and refastening them. “Besides, did you really think that’s what would’ve ‘cheered me up’? I mean, where did you get on thinking that, after the shitty day I’ve had, the thing that would’ve made me feel better was a dumb hand job after I’d fallen asleep? How stupid are you?”

Tim stood there dumbfounded, unsure of what to say. It wasn’t the alcohol holding him back – for Roger’s beer was the only drink he’d had since he passed out earlier, awoken by the ringing of their landline and the blonde’s plea for him to come and get him. It was the fact that there was so much he wanted to say, he couldn’t choose which enraged statement he should start with.  The older of the two straightened his posture after a moment and decided to respond with, “Apparently stupid enough to put up with you for this long.”

You’re putting up with me?” the blonde repeated as he made his way over to his boyfriend, a fire ignited inside of him that had been long suppressed, “You’re insane, Tim. Who pays the bills here? Who spent night after night with stranger after stranger just so that we could live together, so that we could be together? Oh, that’s right, me! You haven’t done shit! It was all me! It’s always me!”

Roger’s head jerked to the side, a stinging sensation manifesting in his jaw as Tim breathed heavily, dropping his hand back down to his side and reminding him in a deep growl, “You’re forgetting who got you those gigs, Roger.” The blonde clenched his fists tightly in attempt to refrain from retaliating. “Without me, they would’ve never known about you. You would’ve never built your reputation—”

“Have you ever considered that maybe I didn’t want that kind of reputation?” the blonde retorted angrily, shoving Tim back and causing the older one to do the same but with much more force and a maintained grip as the two of them fell to the floor together, Roger hitting the back of the bed on their way down. He kicked Tim away from him and scrambled up onto the mattress, standing at the end over his boyfriend and shouting, “Because I don’t, Tim! I want to be known for something I do, not something Liz does. And those guys, they don’t know me.” His voice tapered off as he uncomfortably crossed his arms over his chest, muttering a near inaudible, "They only know Liz…”

“And what’s so wrong about that?” Tim replied, matching his boyfriend’s stance as he tilted his head back to look up at him. “You’re always going on about how you want to be someone else, someone different. Well, Liz is your someone else, and I gave that to you.” He picked himself up off the ground and poked Roger’s flat stomach. “She’s the one who ‘pays the bills’ and ‘spends night after night with stranger after stranger so that we can be together,’ not you. So why not instead of thanking me by cheating on me with some fucking wanker named Brian, you appreciate the things I’ve done for you and not be the ungrateful slut that you are!”

The blonde scoffed before he lowered himself down from the bed and stood right in front of Tim, muttering a threatening, “I wouldn’t go down that road if I were you, Tim.”

He took a step towards Roger, eliminating any and all space between them, and sneered, “And why not? What are you going to do about it? Leave me? You couldn’t leave me even if you wanted to. You need me, and you know it.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes,” Tim snarled, suddenly turning away from him and snatching one of the pieces of clothing that was pushed off the dresser up from the floor. He slung it over his shoulder and announced flatly with his head hung low, “I’m going out to get more beer. You want anything while I’m out?”

Roger pressed his lips together in resistance of answering his boyfriend’s question before sighing in defeat and muttering, “No, I’m fine.”

“Okay,” he replied, leaving the bedroom with the slam of their door and abandoning Roger in the silence that quickly filled the apartment. The blonde slunk to the floor and rested his back against the end of the bed, staring at the mess to his right and thinking about everything that Tim had said to him.

You need me, and you know it.

You couldn’t leave me even if you wanted to.

You’re always going on about how you want to be someone else, someone different. Well, Liz is your someone else, and I gave that to you…So why not instead of thanking me by cheating on me with some fucking wanker named Brian, you appreciate the things I’ve done for you and not be the ungrateful slut that you are!

Roger bit his cheek and looked over at his bag that, when they got home, had been tossed carelessly in front of the dresser. He crawled across the floor, through the mess, and flipped open the top, reaching in and pulling out his notebook, along with a pen. He flicked the cap off – the small piece of plastic bouncing on the wooden floors a couple times before rolling out of sight, never to be found again – and began to scribble down the thoughts filling his head, his pen strokes becoming more impassioned with each line that flowed from his mind.

Time flew by as Roger expressed his feelings on paper, getting out as much as he could before he succumbed to the slumber that was slowly creeping up on him, the notebook in his lap and the pen by his feet. Tim stumbled upon this sight after returning from his liquor run and smiled slightly, setting down the bag filled to the brim with different bottles of alcohol – including a few of Roger’s favorite, Southern Comfort – and walking over to his boyfriend.

He mindlessly picked the notebook out of Roger's lap and placed it atop the cleared off dresser he was leaned against, slipping his arms underneath the blonde and lifting him up off the floor, bringing him back over to the bed. He gently laid him down and left a kiss on his forehead, returning to where the brown paper bag was on the floor and going to put the drinks away when Roger’s notebook caught his attention.

Tim bit his lip and looked back at the blonde, making sure he was still asleep before letting his curiosity get the best of him and drag him over to the book, snatching it up with his free hand and looking at what his boyfriend had written while he was gone. His eyes skimmed the words on the page, and with each line he glanced over, the smile he had adorned himself with faded away, slowly being replaced with a scowl.

He snapped his head back over his shoulder, glaring at the sleeping music instructor, and threw the notebook to the ground out of anger. He left the room with a newly infuriated haste and, for the second time that night, slammed the door behind him, waking up the blonde with a nervous start.

“Tim?”

*****

The next morning rolled in and Brian was admittedly anxious about crossing paths with Roger, however, there was a part of him that knew they needed to talk about what the night prior. He lost sleep because of it, tossing and turning in his bed and eventually finding himself in the corner of his room in his arm chair, staring out the window and thinking about why on earth that man called Roger Liz, and what the blonde meant when he said he “wasn’t doing this anymore.”

What’s “this”?

After hanging a preemptive Back in 10 minutes note on his door and stopping in the teacher’s lounge to grab himself and the music instructor a drink, he made his way to the infamous elevator, cautiously peering at the students and professors passing him by – mostly looking out for Chrissie, who he hadn’t spoken to since their weekend together – before he pulled out his key and used it to gain access to the lift. He stepped inside the small space and pressed the button for the basement, taking the time during his descent to think about how he would approach the awkward subject.

He walked down the empty hall with two steaming cups of coffee and stopped at the music instructor’s doorway, gazing into the room through the window and seeing the blonde sitting on a stool with a bass in his lap, his one hand messing with the tuning pegs and the other plucking the thick strings. The professor smiled and rattled his knuckles against the door, attracting Roger’s attention and making him smile too. The blonde waved him in, and – with difficulty – Brian entered the room.

“Hey!” the music instructor greeted, setting the bass aside and rising up from the stool, “What are you doing down here?”

“I thought I’d save you the trouble of having to deal with the other professors this morning and get your coffee for you,” Brian replied, extending one of the Styrofoam cups out to him. The blonde accepted the beverage and grinned, taking a quick sip as the professor added a little less confidently, “I also wanted to talk about last night.”

Roger choked on his coffee, hitting his chest a couple times before gulping and turning around in search of a place to set the hot drink down. He distanced himself from the professor by a few steps and set it down on the ground next to his stool, saying, “You know, I-I kind of wanted to talk about that too.”

The two men both began to ramble and shared a laugh when they realized they were talking over each other. Blushes appeared in both men's cheeks as a brief moment of silence fell over the small room, broken by Brian extending his free hand out and inviting Roger to go first. The blonde cleared his throat and muttered ashamedly, “I shouldn’t have been so pushy about asking you to come celebrate with me. It was a mistake, and I’m sorry—”

“No, don’t be,” the professor cut him short, shaking his head, “I-I’m the one who should be apologizing. I wanted to stay, I really did, I just…I felt so terrible about…well, everything.”

The blonde chuckled nervously, slipping his hands in his pockets and swaying back and forth on the balls of his feet. “You’re the one who feels bad? You have nothing to feel bad about. I’m the one who brought you to a gay bar.”

Brian’s cheeks grew an even deeper shade of pink, and his voice was barely audible as he quietly stammered, “It…It was a gay bar?”

An amused grin broke out on Roger’s face. “You’re kidding, right?” He placed his hands on his hips. “How did you not know it was a gay bar? I mean, you even assumed that Freddie was my boyfriend, so you must’ve had some kind of feeling that it wasn’t a normal bar.”

“I-I really didn’t know.”

The music instructor shook his head in disbelief, his smile growing even wider. “God, man. You…You’re…” His voice trailed off into a laugh as he once again turned away from the professor and picked the bass up out of its stand, perching himself on the stool and going back to tuning it.

Brian licked his lips and took an awkward sip of his coffee that was getting colder by the minute. He glanced around the room and took in all the instruments scattered about. In consideration of how small the room was, it surprised Brian how many there were. “Are these all yours?” he blurted out as he wandered over to the desk shoved in the corner of the classroom and switched out his cup of coffee for the triangle that was lying there all by itself.

The professor picked up the short stick of metal sitting beside it and clanked it against the handheld instrument, creating a high-pitched note that reverberated off the walls and bringing a smirk to his face. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw that the music instructor was too invested in tuning the bass to have noticed, plucking at the D-string that was higher than it should’ve been. Brian’s lips flattened into a straight line and he set the instrument back down, saying, “I could never afford all these instruments myself. I’m lucky I have my guitar.”

“Oh, I didn’t buy any of these,” the blonde answered distractedly, moving onto the next string after getting the other one to sound right and glancing up at Brian, “They were all gifts.”

“Did they have to do with that man calling you Liz?” Brian asked, the question manifesting itself without a second thought. His eyes widened in realization of what he had just said, but it was too late to take it back. The room had fallen silent once more, and the professor didn’t dare look back at the music instructor, unwilling to see the most likely offended expression on his face.

Roger, however, wasn't offended at all. He was just at a loss for words. He didn’t know how to respond, not wanting to divulge that part of his life to Brian yet. Hell, he didn’t want to talk about it at all, but he felt cornered; like he had no choice but to reveal that side to him, knowing that if he weren’t to comment on it at all, there would – without a doubt – be an unspoken riff between the two of them. On the other hand, he feared that, by telling Brian about his “alter ego,” there was a chance the professor would never want to speak to him again, let alone see him.

“I-I’m sorry,” the curly-haired man stammered, breaking the tension in the room and spinning around to face the blonde whose gaze had become fixated on the floor. “I shouldn’t have asked that, I—”

“No. No, it’s…” The blonde looked up, sighing. “It’s a long story, Brian, and I don’t really want to go into it, but yeah. That’s how I got all this stuff; it’s how I get a lot of my things.”

Brian swallowed the lump that formed in his throat, croaking out an awkward and clearly uncomfortable, “Oh?”

Just then, a knock rattled on the door, bringing both men’s attention over to it and seeing none other than John standing outside in the hall, an eager smile – displaying the prominent gap between his two front teeth – slathered across his face as he raised his hand and waved. Roger rolled his eyes and motioned the boy in, Brian stiffening at the sight of his student.

“Oh hey, Professor May,” John greeted as he stepped into the small room, making it feel even smaller for the professor, “What’s a guy like you doing down here? I’ve only ever seen you in this hall with Headmistress Mullen.”

Brian’s breath got caught in his throat, the temperature rapidly rising in the makeshift classroom that was really nothing more than a hole in the wall. “Erm, I…I was just telling Mr. Taylor how…pleasant of a student you are.”

The college boy’s face lit up. “Really?” he gasped.

“Yup!” Roger agreed forcefully, covering his and Brian’s asses while standing up and draping an arm around John’s shoulders, pulling him close, “Best damn student he’s ever had, apparently.”

The student’s cheeks grew red in bashful embarrassment. “Really?”

Both the music instructor and his protégé looked to the professor for his response, putting him in a position he wasn’t prepared to take on. Brian tugged at his collar and looked over at the clock, saying, “Oh wow, look at the time. I best be on my way. I’ll let you two get on with your lesson. Sorry for distracting you.”

“You’ll come back later, yeah?” Roger called out to him as he went to leave the room, stopping the professor dead in his tracks. “We still have to finish our talk.”

“Y-Yes,” Brian stuttered, glancing over his shoulder and nodding his head, “Later. I’ll come back later.”

The blonde winked. “See you then, Professor.”

Chapter Text

“Okay, John, you definitely got a killer sense of rhythm, but your technique could use some work,” Roger critiqued the college student as he snatched a piece of paper from his desk and began to scribble down some notes on top of his thigh. “I want you to work on these for next time. ‘Nothing too hard – just a few scales – but it’ll make you sound and look a lot less sloppy when you’re playing.”

John took the papers that were extended out to him and feigned a grin at the blonde’s blunt criticism. “Oh.”

“And maybe you should stop wearing those platform shoes while you’re at it too,” the music instructor tacked on as the student rose up from the stool he was perched on. “I personally like them, but some of the chumps you have class with find it a bit strange.”

A hurt expression appeared on John’s face, unaware that his appearance was an issue with his fellow classmates. “I thought they make my legs look good…” He glanced down at himself and frowned, thinking about how the only reason he got them was because Veronica told him they did.

“And they do; they really do,” the blonde replied boldly, folding his hands in his lap and meeting the offended student’s raised gaze, “But just as a little word of advice from one queer to another, maybe keep the shoes for when you go out.”

John popped an eyebrow, registering in his head what the music instructor had just said to him. “But…But I’m not gay,” he stuttered, his cheeks turning a bright, embarrassed shade of red. “I-I have a girlfriend.”

“Sure you do, kid.” The music instructor stood up and patted him on the shoulder, the corners of his lips perking up into a cocky grin. “But hey, I’ll see you next week, yeah?” He poked him in the chest. “I’m looking forward to hearing those scales, so be sure to work on them. You don’t have to do it for long, just try to do it every day. I know they suck, but they really do help.”

The student said no more before snatching his bass and his bag up from the floor and darting out of the room, leaving Roger to himself. The blonde heaved a sigh and slumped back down on the stool, leaning forward and covering his face with his hands – his elbows resting atop his knees. He didn’t have any time to reflect on the lesson he was certain could’ve gone better before his classroom door was thrown open and a question was shot at him like a gun.

“How did you know you were gay?”

Roger slowly looked up to see Brian standing in the doorway, a somewhat wild look in his eyes. The blonde raised an eyebrow and asked him with a chuckle, “Pardon me?”

The professor hastily entered the room and closed the door behind him, making his way over to the extra stool and plopping down on it to confess, “I know this is going to sound mad, but I’ve been waiting outside your room this whole time because I’ve been having these very confusing thoughts, and you’ve got to help me. I-I don’t know what’s going on, but ever since I met you, there’s just this…this feeling I get whenever—”

“Brian,” Roger cut him short, shaking his head, “I-I don’t think you’re gay.”

“Then why am I having these kinds of thoughts? Huh?” he nearly shouted, his voice breaking as tears began to waver in his eyes.

The blonde just stared at him, unsure of how to handle the professor’s sudden outburst. He had no idea where it had come from, and he found it hard to believe that Brian had sat long with these thoughts as he admitted, “You’re all I can think about, Roger, and I don’t know why. It’s so fucking distracting. The more time we spend together, the…the more I want to know about you, and you…you’re so secretive that I start coming up with my own ideas, and—”

“Brian,” the blonde repeated his name calmly, resting a hand on the curly-haired man’s thigh and attracting his frustrated and slightly frightened gaze, “Just take a second and breathe. You’re working yourself up over nothing.”

“I’ve just…nobody’s ever made me feel the way you do,” he continued to ramble, not listening to a word Roger was saying to him, “That’s got to mean something, right?”

The music instructor was at a loss for words for the second time that day while speaking with the professor. He felt torn over which course of action he should take, because just a matter of minutes, their previous situation had escalated to something much worse, something he wasn’t prepared to deal with so soon.

Just this morning, all Roger had to worry about was keeping Brian in the dark about the life he led before he started working at the university. Now, though, suddenly aware that his budding feelings were reciprocated, he had to be careful of losing control over himself. Sure, he’d been making conscientious advances towards the man ever since he first met him, and he’d definitely fantasized about what it would be like if they were to ever get together in any sense of the phrase, but he did so because he didn’t think anything would come of it. It was exciting for the blonde, however, now that there was a possibility of his fantasy becoming a reality, it terrified him.

“Roger, say something,” the professor pled, snapping the blonde out of the daze he’d fallen into. “Anything.”

He panicked. Oh god, what do I tell him?

Brian slid off the stool and knelt before the music instructor, clasping his hands together as if he were a beggar and murmuring, “Rog, please.”

“Oh, for god’s sake, man, get up. You’re being pathetic,” he finally spoke, the professor scrambling to his feet without any resistance and sniffling at the blonde’s blunt words. Roger let out a deep breath and stood up as well, grabbing onto Brian’s shoulders and looking him directly in the eye. “Look, there’s only one way to know for sure if these feelings you’re having are real.”

“Kiss me,” Brian immediately suggested, flushing Roger’s cheeks a deep shade of pink.

“That…That wasn’t what I was going to say, but—”

“Roger, I need to know,” the quickly unraveling professor explained, shaking his head and swiping at the stray tears rolling down his cheeks, “If we don’t do this now, I’ll never know, and I’ll be stuck feeling this way forever. Please, just kiss me.”

The music instructor bit his lip for a second and took a brief look over the Brian’s shoulder, making sure the coast was clear before meeting the professor’s gaze and asking, “Are you sure this is what you want, Brian? Because, you know, this isn’t something we can come back from.”

He nodded his head nervously, croaking out a weak and unconfident, “I know.”

“O-Okay,” Roger replied hesitantly, thinking to himself, This is it, Roger. You’ll probably never get this chance again, so you better make it good. Don’t mess it up; don’t get carried away. Remember where you are; remember who you are.

He let out an anxious sigh and gradually shortened the distance between him and Brian, slowly sliding his hands underneath the professor’s chiseled jawline and gazing up into those equally apprehensive hazel eyes. Roger couldn’t help but notice how nice it felt to run his hands across smooth skin, as opposed to skin that was prickled with stubble. He shook his head, pushing past the distracting thought, and pressed his lips softly against the pair of lips that accepted his in anticipation.

The kiss was awkward at first – as is any first kiss – but it didn’t take long for the two to find their rhythm, moving their lips in sync as the motion became easier and more natural. They began to lose themselves in the moment, eliminating what little distance remained between them while their hands wrapped around one another and latched onto the other’s body wherever it felt most comfortable. It was only when Brian broke away to catch his stolen breath that he realized how close they were, and how tight his pants had gotten, the blonde’s eyes traveling down the curly-haired man’s rising and falling chest and noticing it as well.

Neither of them said anything as they wordlessly agreed to step away from each other, their gazes meeting in a confused, curious, where-do-we-go-from-here kind of way.

The blonde rubbed the back of his neck nervously, spitting out a muttered “Well?” even though he already knew the answer.

All Brian could do was stare at Roger, the fire that burned bright inside of him this past weekend igniting once more. “I-I think you need to kiss me again,” he stammered timidly, as if he needed more reassurance.

“Come on, Brian, I don’t think—” Roger didn’t get the chance to finish his disapproving sentiment before being rushed by the professor, who enwrapped him in a passionate embrace again and captured his lips with his.

The two stumbled back into the piano, the blonde landing on the keys and sending an erroneous chord into the air as his legs found their way around the professor’s waist, locking him in place. The cramped room began to feel even smaller as the moment progressed, the pair eager to explore this new and exhilarating feeling that had washed over the both of them.

It didn’t even occur to either men that just behind them was a classroom door with a window, where anyone could look in and witness them committing what some might have considered a sin, but to them, it was something long overdue. Roger’s flirtatious way of engaging Brian had certainly dug its way underneath the professor’s skin, and Brian’s frankly sporadic and spontaneous revelation had done nothing but fulfill the blonde’s dreams. The only problem was—

“Chrissie,” Brian whispered, pulling away from Roger whose widened eyes met his frightful ones. It was hard for the professor to focus, distracted by the blonde’s shirt that had been ripped open to expose his bare chest and the sweat that beaded up on his skin, giving him a sort of ethereal glow. He dragged his hand down Roger’s glistening torso and mumbled, “Oh god, what am I supposed to tell her?”

The music instructor didn’t even get a chance to process the question before Brian gasped, meeting those captivating blue eyes once more, and suggested, “We don’t tell her anything.” The professor broke away from the blonde’s hold and backed himself into the center of the room, getting excited with his unknowingly unoriginal idea. “Y-Yeah, we…we keep this between us. She doesn’t have to know!”

Roger rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, having heard countless variations of the same conversation before. “Well, obviously,” he agreed bluntly, “But you know they always find out, right?”

Brian’s face dropped at his words. “What do you mean?” he muttered.

The blonde peeled himself away from the piano and spun around, flipping the top of the bench open and extracting a box of cigarettes and an accompanying lighter. He let the lid drop and plopped down on the seat, crossing his legs and answering lowly, “You can tell them all day long that you’re still in love with them and that they’re still the only one for you, but at the end of the day…” He brought the white stick to his lips and flicked the lighter open, bringing the small flame to the end of the cigarette and taking a deep breath in. He tossed the lighter aside and sat forward, the smoke slipping past his lips as he rested his elbows on his knees and finished his response with a bitter, “…they know you don’t mean it. They’ve all got this kind of sixth sense about things like that. It’s freaky.”

The professor swallowed the nervous lump in his throat and ran a hand through his mane of curls, saying nothing as he dragged himself over to Roger and sat down beside him, expectantly holding his hand out. The music instructor stared at him for a bit before handing him the burning white stick, losing possession of it quicker than he could comprehend as the professor snatched it from him and quickly brought it up to his lips. He drew in a long breath, coughing when the smoke hit the back of his throat. “God, how do people do this? It’s absolutely awful.”

The corner of Roger’s lip perked up into a smirk. He looked over at the professor and watched as he attempted to take another drag, bursting into yet another coughing fit. He chuckled and took the cigarette away from him, saying, “I don’t think smoking’s going to solve your problem, Bri.”

He frowned, looking down at his own opened shirt and the small bruises that stained his chest up and down and sighing in defeat. “I know. I just…I’m so confused, Roger. I didn’t think I’d…what we did…I didn’t…” His voice trailed off as he struggled to properly vocalize his thoughts. He squirmed uncomfortably and glanced over at the blonde, asking worriedly, “What if she fires us?”

“No one’s going to get fired, Brian,” the blonde assured him in a mutter, though getting fired was the least of his concerns. If they were to be caught – whether it be for this instance or another – there was no doubt in Roger’s mind that Tim’s punishment would be a thousand times worse than Chrissie’s.

The blonde could handle being fired. After all, Reid made it clear last night that his clients still wanted him, and that all he had to do was pull out the box he’d taped up after getting this job and adorn himself with the clothes he swore he’d never wear again. Of course it would humiliate and degrade him, but if he needed to do it – and he knew he would – he would do it. It wasn’t like Tim would step up and become the breadwinner of the family.

Instead, Tim would ensure that Roger would forever regret trying to leave him and make a better life for himself. God knows what he’d do to express that, though. Maybe he’d lock the blonde up, never to see the outside world again except to see his clients. Maybe he’d move them both far, far away, never to see anyone they knew ever again – not Brian, not Freddie, not Reid, no one. Hell, maybe he’d do something worse, something Roger couldn’t fathom.

So, for the sake of avoiding the immensely less desirable outcome of the two, Roger took one final drag of the cigarette and rose up from the piano bench, walking over to the waste bin and tossing the white stick in. “We just can’t do this again," he tacked on to his previous statement, looking back at the curly-haired man who leaned forward and covered his face with his hands, knowing the blonde had a point but unhappy with the fact that he was still just as confused as he was before, possibly even more now.

Seeing Brian like this made Roger feel guilty, and he wanted nothing more than to take back what he said because he didn’t mean it. He just said it in an attempt to make the situation not seem as bad as it was, and so to save himself from completely losing the chance that had been presented to him, he blurted out, “Look, Bri, just because—”  

“No, you’re right,” the professor admitted glumly, dragging his fingers down his face and heaving a defeated sigh. He stood up and walked out of the room, stopping in the doorway and glancing back at the music instructor to say, “I-I don’t know what came over me. I should’ve just…I…I’m really sorry, Rog.”

“Don’t be…I’m not,” Roger retorted with a small grin that Brian managed to return, slinking out of the classroom and taking the weight that had bared down on the blonde’s shoulders with him. The music instructor rushed out after him, ignoring every instinct he had that screamed for him to stop, and watched as the professor disappeared down the hall.

With his back to him, the blonde couldn’t see the raging blush creeping up in Brian’s cheeks, or the wide grin that had stretched across his face as those two final words played over and over again in his head.

I’m not.

Chapter Text

It was difficult for Roger and Brian to carry on with their days, unable to stop thinking about the moment the two of them had just shared. Roger took to his instruments, trying to express his feelings through their strings and keys with the help of what he’d written down in his notebook the night before. Brian, on the other hand, didn’t have that option. He had students to teach, lectures to give, and questions to answer, all of which he approached with a distractedness that raised suspicion among his pupils.

Of course, after the last outburst their teacher had when they interrogated him about his personal affairs, they knew better this time than to pester him about it. Instead, they turned to whispers and passed notes, both of which went unnoticed by the professor as he tried his best to get through his lessons that felt like pure torture.

As Brian’s last student walked out for the day, his eyes flickered over to the clock on the wall, and much to his relief, the hands were right where he wanted them – on the five and twelve. He stood up from his desk and pushed his books into his bag, slinging the accessory over his shoulder and attempting to leave the room as fast as he could. Unfortunately, he didn’t even make it past the doorway before someone slid in front of it, blocking his way out.

Brian’s hasty exit screeched to a halt as he stared at the man standing in front of him. He looked vaguely familiar, but the professor couldn’t put his finger on where he’d seen him before. With how he was dressed, in a loose shirt whose buttons were half undone and bellbottoms that hugged his thighs just right, Brian first assumption was that he was a student. After all, there were thousands of students at the university, and it was impossible for him to have crossed paths with them all.

The professor forwent any type of formal greeting – the kind of day he had mentally wearing him down to the point of exhausted indifference – and instead cut right to the chase, annoyedly blurting out, “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, you can tell me where Roger fucking Taylor is,” the stranger replied rudely, doubling the size of Brian’s eyes as he brought an already half-smoked cigarette up to his lips and took a long, emphasized drag.

Tim,” he whispered unconsciously under his breath, making the previously missing connection almost instantly. Who else would be looking for Roger, or address him so crudely?

Just then, out of the corner of his eye, Brian caught sight of the blonde who had appeared at the end of the hallway, hoping to catch the professor on his way out and tell him about how he truly felt about what happened. He wasn’t happy with where they left things off, and it didn’t do any good being alone the rest of the day with only his thoughts to keep him company.

He’d paced back and forth in his small classroom, trying to figure out what to do and what to say to Brian about their situation, and it wasn’t until an hour before the end of the school day that he’d come up with a plan for them to keep exploring their new feelings towards one another. After all, before he started at the university, it was practically his job to do things like what he wanted the two of them to do. In the blonde’s experience, everyone was nervous at first about doing something like what he intended on suggesting to the professor, but he knew for a fact that it gets easier, and with time, he was certain that Chrissie wouldn’t even come across Brian’s mind when they were together. They’d just have to be careful, and with how desperate and needy Brian appeared to be, Roger doubted that the professor wouldn’t at least try.

However, when Roger laid eyes upon the unexpected visitor who just so happened to stop at Brian’s door, he stopped dead in his tracks, and the wide grin he’d adorned himself with quickly disappeared. Before Tim could notice this as well, Brian snapped back into reality and crossed his arms over his chest, muttering, “I-I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

“Well, he clearly seems to know you, Brian…” the man sneered in response as he motioned to the plaque posted on the professor’s classroom door, giving the blonde the perfect chance to escape. He hid behind the wall, peering around the corner to keep a close eye on the situation in case things got out of hand, because Roger knew Tim better than anyone else, and as unpredictable as he could be, the blonde knew how terrible things could turn if his boyfriend were to go off.

Tim was a jealous guy, and he lost all sensibility – not that he really had any in the first place – just at the mere thought of losing Roger to someone else. His controlling and possessive tendencies became amplified when his and Roger’s relationship was threatened, and so became the measures he would take to ensure the security of their life together, such as stepping foot into the new prim and proper establishment the blonde thought he could disguise himself in instead of waiting outside like he’d been told to.

“…so why don’t you stop lying to me and tell me where the fucker is before I start going ‘round this shithole looking for him for myself, yeah?” Tim continued, shortening the distance between him and the professor and crossing his arms over his chest, adding lowly, “And trust me, you don’t want a guy like me walking these halls.”

The music instructor swallowed the lump in his throat as he watched Brian chuckle in embarrassment and admit untruthfully, “Y-You know, now that I think about it, I believe I saw him in the Headmistress’s office. They seemed to be discussing something very important, though, so I don’t think it’d be a very good idea to—”

Roger’s boyfriend brought his finger up to Brian’s lips, silencing him almost instantly and muttering, “That’s all I needed to hear, poodle.” He dropped his hand to his side and took another quick smoke, grabbing the professor’s arm and putting out the cigarette on his sleeve. “Now, where’s the office?”

“My sleeve…” he murmured abstractedly, staring down at the smoking black spot on his coat.

“Hey,” Tim snapped, clapping his hands and regaining the professor’s attention. “Where is the office?”

Brian’s eyes flickered to the end of the hallway where Roger was still hiding, the same end of the hallway where the staircase to Chrissie’s office was. He bit his lip and quickly returned his gaze to Tim, answering, “It’s that way.” He pointed a finger in the opposite direction. “And, uh, you’ll take the stairs to your right, go all the way down the hall and make another right, then a left and a right, and then it’ll be halfway down that hall on your…left.”

“Of course it is,” the man replied with an aggravated sigh, breaking away from the professor’s door and storming off. Once the unwanted visitor was out of sight, the curly-haired man let out a breath of relief and the blonde scampered out of his hiding spot to join Brian’s side.

“You’re the best, Bri,” he whispered, startling the professor and attracting his widened gaze. However, he didn’t maintain his frightened stare for long before his eyes wandered down to his arm where Roger’s hands had fallen, wrapped around his bicep and holding the two of them close. The blonde noticed this and plucked his hands away from the professor, tucking them underneath his arms and stammering, “I-I’m sorry. I don’t know why he came inside in the first place; I tell him every day to wait outside for me and he usually does.”

“He seemed to know about us, Rog,” Brian murmured in response, already playing the scene that happened only moments ago over again in his head, “You haven’t told him anything, have you?”

The music instructor scoffed. “Of course not! I’m not stupid, Brian.” The professor only stared at his colleague in response, making him feel like he needed to disclose more, as if the man he had grown attracted to didn’t believe him. “Brian, I’ve been here all day. There’s no way I could’ve possibly told him! And besides, why on earth would I tell him about us? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? Especially coming from someone with a master’s degree?” The unintentionally demeaning questions brought a frown to the curly-haired man’s face as the blonde continued to ramble, “I mean, it’s not like we’re anything other than two professors at a university who just so happen to get along very well. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

Brian’s eyebrows popped upward, crinkling his forehead as he mumbled, “Well, we did just—”

“You know, why don’t we finish this conversation elsewhere?” Roger interrupted him, his anxiety starting to externalize itself as he wondered how long it would take for his boyfriend to realize that Brian had sent him on a wild goose chase with no end. “Perhaps your place?”

“My place?” the professor repeated, his cheeks instantly turning a bright shade of red at the thought of bringing the man he’d slowly become infatuated with to his home.

At school, there were standards that had to be kept, reminding Brian of where he was and who he was. At home, though, there was nothing stopping the two of them from reliving that amazing moment again, and again, and again – no students to disrupt them, no colleagues to scorn them, and most importantly, no Chrissie.

Putting him and Roger in the situation he had was an impulse decision on Brian’s part. He’d let his thoughts and emotions get the best of him, making him forget about all the odds that were stacked against him and his sudden and confusing desires. He wasn’t thinking when he burst into the blonde’s classroom, or when he asked the music instructor to kiss him, and he most certainly wasn’t thinking when he rushed him and kissed him again.

It wasn’t until Chrissie crossed his mind that the reality of the situation came back to him, along with all the consequences and repercussions that were to ensue if someone were to find out about them – in any capacity. Although Brian did enjoy Roger’s company – once he got past the complicated and mixed feelings having him around elicited – he was unsure about how much he was willing to lose to have the blonde be a part of his life.

It seemed impossible for Brian to behave around Roger like he did his other colleagues, and that was because he wasn’t like the rest of them. The blonde seemed to make sure of that with his persistence in getting to know the professor more personally, asking questions no other professor would’ve dared to ask. Perhaps it was because the word “professional” had been omitted from Roger’s vocabulary, but regardless, there was something different about the dynamic the two had seemed to take on; a dynamic even Brian and Chrissie hadn’t established.

Brian knew that the territory he and Roger were slowly creeping into was a dangerous one, but it didn’t stop him from wanting to see where it would take them. He just needed some more time to figure things out; to find a balance between letting Roger in and maintaining his appearance in the public eye, and he knew if he were to invite him into his home, his sanctuary, it would only make things worse.

“You know, I-I really don’t think my house is the best place for us to go to do that,” the professor stuttered nervously, “Isn’t there somewhere else we can go? Somewhere more…public?”

“Don’t tell me you’re afraid to show me your home, Professor May,” the blonde teased him, placing his hands on his hips – one of which he popped out to the side – and smirking.

Brian shook his head, chuckling, “No, it’s not that. It’s just—”

“It’s just what? Have you not put your laundry away? Are there dishes still in the sink? Or is it that you’ve left out some food that’s gone terribly bad and you haven’t gotten around to getting rid of it? Because I’ve seen much worse, Brian, I can assure you.”

An aggravated sigh slipped past the professor’s lips. “No, Roger, it’s not—”

The music instructor gasped dramatically, bringing a hand to his chest. “Is it because you’re ashamed to introduce me to your cats?”

Brian scoffed at the blonde’s guess. “Roger, that’s hardly the point. And besides, I don’t have any cats.”

“Then what is it, Brian? We don’t have much time, you know. The more time we spend here discussing your anxieties about bringing me to your home, the closer we are to Tim coming back and beating the shit out of both of us. So, I need to go somewhere where he can’t find me, and what better place than—”

“Fine!” the professor snapped, realizing there was no convincing Roger of changing the destination he had in mind for the two of them. “Fine, we can go to my house. Just stop acting weird about it, okay?”

“I’m not the one acting weird about it. You are,” the blonde retorted cheekily as they started down the hallway, Brian closing his classroom door behind them.

He rolled his eyes at the music instructor’s remark but refrained from verbally responding, knowing that whatever he had to say would only encourage the blonde further. The pair broke outside and started towards the faculty car park, passing the car that Tim had driven to the school and was still parked outside, engine running. Roger didn’t even seem to care, not letting the sight diminish his heightened mood. In fact, it made the grin on his face grow even more.

Brian took note of this and wondered what thoughts were filling his mind. “What are you thinking about?” he inquired almost unconsciously.

Roger glanced up to meet his curious gaze, replying slyly, “Oh, nothing. Just how awful your house must be for you to not want me to see it so badly.”

“Oh, shut up!” the professor said with a laugh, punching the blonde playfully in the arm and causing him to stumble away from his side. The distance between them didn’t last very long at all, Roger almost instantly returning to Brian’s side and clinging to his arm for support.

Their laughter died down as they became aware of the position they found themselves in again, the blonde’s eyes traveling down the professor’s arm this time to the burn mark on his jacket. He quickly retracted his hands and shoved his hands into his own coat pockets, stating bluntly, “Oh wow, he really did put his cigarette out on your jacket.”

“It’s fine,” Brian muttered, crossing his arms to hide the circle of ash on his sleeve, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a coat.”

“Well it’s my favorite coat of yours, and I won’t let Tim ruin it,” the blonde argued, matching his colleague’s stance as they continued their walk to Brian’s car. “Lucky for you, I’m a pro at getting cigarette stains out of clothes.” The professor couldn’t hold back the small grin that appeared on his face, thinking about how crazy it was that he’d let someone like Roger into his life, let alone into his heart.

What would his parents think of him now?

Chapter Text

Brian’s eyes flickered over to Roger, who was waiting patiently for the professor to unlock his front door by distracting himself with a survey of his surroundings – the street, the house in front of him, the man he’d kissed earlier that day and wanted to kiss again. After all, no one they needed to worry about was around. They’d successfully evaded Tim’s wrath, which admittedly turned Roger on a bit, and Chrissie wasn’t of their concern.

The headmistress had left school early that day to deal with “family matters,” as explained to the few professors she confided in to tell the others. Word spread through the faculty quickly, but not quick enough for Brian to catch her before she left. When he went to check in on her, her door was already closed and locked and her lights had been turned off, and when he tried to call her, he received the busy signal – every time.

A nervous lump formed in Brian’s throat as he finally slid the key into the slot and pushed the door into the dark house, stepping inside without inviting the music instructor in. It wasn’t necessary, though, because the blonde waltzed right in after him – as if the house was his too – and closed the door with a slam that startled the professor.

“Sorry,” Roger apologized, seeing the curly-haired man’s admonishing facial expression. He flashed him an unrequited smile before slipping out of his coat and tossing it at the coat rack, wandering into the shadow-cast home as the garment missed the hook it was supposed to hit and dropped to the floor. “It’s a nice place you’ve got here,” he commented, “You live here all by yourself?”

“Yes, I do,” the professor replied tersely as he grudgingly snatched Roger’s jacket up from the ground and hung it on the rack alongside his.

“Must be lonely,” the blonde muttered as he disappeared into the living room, drawn over to the mantle that showcased a small collection of picture frames. He picked one of them up for further examination, seeing a young boy sitting in between two people much older than him who were looking down at him with loving eyes. He assumed the people in the picture were Brian and his parents, forever captured in the seemingly happy moment. His grip on the frame tightened ever so slightly as he thought about himself and how he hadn’t seen his parents in years, and how – even when he was younger – his parents had never looked at him the way Brian’s parents were looking at their boy.

Suddenly, the room became flooded with light. Roger's head snapped back over his shoulder to see Brian standing beside one of the end tables, the lamp sitting upon it casting an ominous shadow on the professor.

“It can be,” he confessed flatly, his hazel eyes traveling over to the blonde’s blue ones as he added, “But it’s not so bad. Sometimes, after a long day, I quite enjoy coming home to the peace and quiet. Don’t you?”

A chuckle escaped from the music instructor’s mouth as he set the photo frame back in place and turned towards the professor, slipping his hands into his pockets and telling him, “Peace and quiet doesn’t really exist where I live.”

Brian nodded at Roger’s response, tilting his head down and messing with the curled edge of the magazine lying out on the table as he contemplated what to say next. They hadn’t even spent five minutes together, and yet there was already an awkward tension between them.

Luckily, for the taller of the two, the shorter cleared his throat and blurted out, “Say, you got anything to drink here?”

The professor snapped out of the momentary daze he’d fallen into and stammered, “Oh. Of course, l-let me get you something. What would you like?”

Roger grinned. “Anything you have is fine, Bri.”

He weakly returned the gesture before scurrying out of the room, the blonde slowly following after him but stopping at the doorway separating the kitchen from the foyer. He folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the threshold, watching as the professor pillaged his refrigerator in search of something to give his houseguest. Roger’s eyes found themselves fixating on the older man’s ass that was popped out, filling the back of his trousers quite nicely and creating a pleasant discomfort in the younger man’s abdomen.

The blonde’s tongue traced a wet line across his bottom lip as he thought about what the curly-haired man’s bottom would look like without the slacks covering them, and how satisfying it would feel to hold his round cheeks in his hands. He started sliding down the threshold, losing himself in his fantasy, before Brian brought him back to reality with the rather loud shutting of the refrigerator door.

“Hey, Rog! I don’t think I—” he started to shout, believing the music instructor was still in the other room as he stepped back and spun around, instantly realizing that the person he addressed was right behind him, now standing straight as a pin with wide eyes and his hands crossed over his front. An embarrassed blush flushed his cheeks a flattering shade of red as he continued much more timidly, “I-I seem to be out of everything.”

“Everything, huh?” Roger repeated in a teasing manner, raising a playfully suspicious eyebrow.

“Everything,” Brian assured him, tilting his head down and rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. A short-lived moment of silence passed over the two, broken by the professor who peered up from the ground to see the smirk on the blonde’s face and asked innocently, “What?”

The music instructor shook his head, his smirk growing into a smile. “You’re cute, Brian. You know that?”

The blush in the professor’s cheeks reddened even more, and in attempt to disguise his reaction, he turned away from the younger man and walked over to the sink, turning on the faucet and cleaning up the few dishes he had left there this morning. “So, erm, do you plan on staying here the night or…?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet,” Roger retorted slyly, joining his colleague’s side and leaning against the counter, folding his arms over his chest. “What do you think I should do?”

The professor glanced over at him out of the corner of his eyes, keeping his head low and his focus on the dirty dishes as he answered, “It’s up to you, I suppose…but if you need it, my couch is yours for the taking.”

“But what if it gets cold?” the blonde proposed hypothetically, earning yet another intrigued look from the curly-haired man, “Or what if I get lonely? You might be used to how big your home is, but I’m not.”  

“It’s not that big,” Brian argued softly.

“It’s bigger than my place.”

“You could always call Freddie to pick you up too, you know,” the professor suggested absentmindedly, his words coming off more rigid than he intended them to. Their inadvertent impact on the music instructor was profound, though, making him realize how his advances weren’t achieving their desired effect. After all, he could only be so subtle.

“Yeah, I guess I could,” Roger agreed dismally.

His reluctance to the idea was neglected by Brian, who remained silent and continued to keep his head down; as was the frown that appeared on Roger’s face as he unwillingly dragged himself across the dark room.

The blonde plucked the phone off the receiver and looked back over his shoulder, hoping Brian would meet his gaze and contradict himself, telling him he did want him to stay the night, and not just on the couch, but in his bed. Sure, it was somewhat outlandish to believe that the professor would be so daring to let such a thing to occur, but based on what happened earlier that day, Roger was willing to bet that he would. He was just scared, which is why the blonde had come up with a plan.

Now that he’d had his taste of the what if, it was getting harder and harder for the music instructor to control himself around the curly-haired know-it-all. He didn’t have to wonder anymore what it’d be like to kiss him, or what it would be like to hold him close. He’d already experienced it, and although he’d told the professor they could never do it again, he wanted to. He wanted to do it again, and more. He craved that feeling, and not because it was a feeling he hadn’t had in a while, but because it was coming from someone who wanted him for him; not for some alter ego or financial support.

To the blonde’s dismay, though, Brian kept his back to him, working away at scrubbing the dishes that weren’t even that dirty. He heaved a quiet sigh and stuck his finger into the rotary phone’s finger plate, painstakingly turning the dial to each of the numbers that would connect him with his friend.

While doing this, Brian couldn’t help but give Roger the look back he longed for only seconds ago, thinking about what would happen after the blonde made the call - how awkward it would be while they waited for his flamboyant friend to show up, and how strange it would be to say goodbye and see each other the next day. Most of all, though, he wondered what he would do once Roger was gone, and how lonely he would feel without him.

“Roger, wait!” he cried out, dropping the plate he’d been relentlessly working on into the sink and rushing across the room to take the phone out of the blonde’s hands and place it back in its cradle. “Don’t call your friend,” he advised him sharply, meeting the blonde’s startled gaze. The blush that hadn’t left his cheeks intensified as he scratched his head and explained, “I-I think you should stay with me.”

The music instructor smiled. “You do, huh?”

“Yeah,” Brian murmured, slipping his hands into his pockets, “You know, f-for your own good.”

Roger folded his arms over his chest. “And since when did you care about what’s good for me and what’s not?”

“I’ve always cared about you, Roger,” the professor admitted bashfully, the corner of his lip perking upward ever so slightly.

The blonde stared at the taller man with lustful eyes, biting his lip hard as he murmured, “Is that why you didn’t want to bring me here? Because you’re afraid of what would happen if we were alone?” He shortened the gap separating him from Brian and began to play with the professor’s tie, elaborating, “Truly alone?”

“Yes,” Brian confessed, a strain to his hushed voice as he stepped back into the wall, trying to create a safer distance between the two of them. “Yes, I'm…very…afraid.”

His throat started to close up, and his heart began to pound against his chest, his pants growing tighter and more constricting around the waist with each passing second. He clung onto the old-fashioned wallpaper, as if it would stop the overwhelming feeling washing over him, but his efforts didn’t seem to make a difference. All he could think about was grabbing Roger and pushing him back into the counter across the room, lifting him up onto it and having him wrap his legs around him so they could relive the moment they shared at the university, this time without having to worry about who might see them or what consequences they might face because, as Roger said, they were alone, truly alone.

It was terrifying, the thoughts Brian was having about his colleague. Not even with Chrissie had he imagined doing the things he imagined doing with Roger, and it made him feel guilty because before meeting the blonde, the professor thought she might’ve been the one. The time they spent together, the way he felt every time he saw her, and the way their relationship was progressing made him believe that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

He could see their future clear as day. They’d be married with kids, living in a house that wasn’t too small or too big but just right, in a neighborhood not too far away from the university. They’d commute to work together every day, kissing each other goodbye and hello as they parted ways in the morning and reunited in the afternoon. They’d take turns putting the kids to bed at night and afterwards, put each other to bed, being as quiet as they could manage so as to not wake their children up. It didn’t seem like such a farfetched idea at the time, but now, knowing Roger and feeling the way he did about him, that future wasn’t as clear.

He wondered what a future with Roger might look like, but he had trouble picturing it. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that Roger was what he wanted, with his perfectly messy blonde hair, captivating blue eyes, and mysterious past, but he couldn’t see them together like he saw him and Chrissie, especially with the current social climate. It just wasn’t feasible. Brian was a smart man who made smart choices, and Roger was not a smart choice. He knew that. But he couldn't deny his feelings anymore; he just couldn't.

“What can I do to make you less afraid, Brian?” the blonde questioned softly, taking the professor’s hands in his and running his thumbs over the backs of them.

“I-I don’t know,” he stuttered, his mind spinning. He tried grounding himself by looking down at their entangled hands, but it didn’t help. His head hurt, his chest hurt, and he was starting to feel sick to his stomach.

“Well, what do you like?” Roger asked, letting Brian’s hands drop back down to his sides as he ran his own hands up the professor’s tight chest and looked up at him, a seductive glimmer in his eyes. “I mean, I don’t want to brag, but I’ve done just about everything and I’m pretty good at it all, so just tell me what to do and I will.” He smirked, leaning up and nestling his head in to the crook of Brian’s neck, where he pressed his lips against the soft skin and began to suck on it.

The professor’s eyes fluttered shut as he fell even further back into the wall, sinking into that sunny feeling the blonde was making spread throughout his entire body the more he worked at the sensitive skin. Brian tried drowning out his accelerating thoughts by focusing on the buzz of the light hanging over the sink, but it was difficult. He couldn’t stop thinking about Chrissie, and how what he was doing wasn’t right.

“Stop,” Brian blurted out, removing the blonde from his neck without making physical contact. “I-I don’t like that.”

Roger’s eyebrows furrowed together as he tried to think of a new approach, looking at the bulge in the older of the two’s pants. “O-Okay. Well…I could always…” his voice trailed off as he got situated on his knees and started to toy with the waistband of the professor’s pants.

“No!” he exclaimed, shooing the blonde away from him.

The music instructor's confusion quickly changed into anger as he crossed his arms over his chest and asked from the ground, “Then what do you want me to do, Brian?”

The blush in the curly-haired man’s cheeks deepened to another, more vibrant shade of red – the most intense it had been all night. He wanted Roger to do a lot of things, but he wasn’t willing to admit that. Not yet, at least. He couldn’t, and besides, they had more important matters to attend to – like their conversation from before, but it was clear that Roger had no intention of doing that.

Brian brought his hands up to the back of his neck and clasped them together, mumbling, “I just want you to talk to me.” The blonde stared at him blankly, and so the professor fished for something to say, something to explain himself. “I mean, I-I just feel like I barely know you, Rog,” he rambled, letting his arms fall back down to his sides as he motioned to the blonde at his feet, “And here you are, about to…to…”

Roger crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side. “Do you really want me to tell you my whole life’s story right now? Is that what you want?”

“It might help…” he mumbled, matching the music instructor's stance as his hazel eyes glistened in the shadows.

The blonde heaved a sigh and picked himself up from the floor. “Come on, Brian. You and I both know where this is headed, so let’s just get on with it, yeah? It’s just you and me; we’ve got nothing to worry about!”

“That’s not true!” the professor cried, throwing his arms out to the side and eliciting a frustrated eye roll from the shorter man. “Roger, you don’t understand…I have a lot to lose here, and I’d like to know what I’m willing to lose it for. Is that too much to ask for?”

The blonde scoffed. “Jesus, Brian, did you give Chrissie this much trouble?”

“She didn’t have a boyfriend or people calling her by a different name!” he shouted, offended by Roger’s response.

“You think she doesn’t have a boyfriend?” The blonde laughed, shaking his head in disbelief at the professor’s naivety. “She’s fucking married, you idiot!”

*****

The two university employees found themselves in Brian’s living room, curled up on opposite ends of the couch with glasses of whiskey in their hands – turns out, Brian did have something for them. A regretful expression stained Roger’s face, while a sickened one marked Brian’s. The blonde’s gaze flickered over from the fire that had been made in the fireplace to the professor who was still staring into the flames, the music instructor’s words playing over and over again in his head like a record he couldn’t understand.

Roger parted his lips to speak when Brian cut him off, blurting out, “So, let me get this straight. You’re a prostitute?”

The blonde gulped, looking down at the almost-empty glass of amber gold and answering vaguely, “I suppose you can call it that.”

“…but you dress up as a woman.”

He sighed, his cheeks burning hot from embarrassment and shame as he distractedly swirled the drink in his hand. “Tim told me I’d get more clients that way. ‘Said there was a hidden market willing to pay for it – a lot for it.”

All Brian could do was nod his head, his brain working twice as hard as it normally would to try and comprehend Roger’s situation. One would think that, with a master’s degree in Astrophysics, he’d be able to grasp the concept easier, but it proved near impossible.

The professor took a long sip of whiskey, finishing the drink in one swig and setting it down on the coffee table parallel to the couch and fireplace. “I just don’t get it,” he retorted, “Wouldn’t they know you’re not a woman once you…you know?”

“They’re into it, Brian,” Roger explained painfully, bringing a defeated hand up to his forehead.

This wasn’t how he’d imagined their night would go. Everything had been pointing towards the perfect evening – he’d convinced Brian to bring him back to his place and he’d gotten him right where he wanted him, writhing from the lack of space between them alone. Then things took a turn for the worse, and he was forced into doing the one thing he didn’t want to do, the professor giving him no choice but to reveal the very thing he intended never to share.

Roger would’ve rather done anything else, anything, but there he found himself, having laid it all out on the table for Brian to pick at. The worst part of it all was that the professor didn’t seem to get it, and so he had to keep repeating himself, over and over and over again.

The professor hummed in acknowledgement and sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands out in front of him. “Is that so?”

“Look, I’m not proud of it, okay?” the blonde mumbled in defense, dropping his hand into his lap and finally glancing over at the curly-haired man, “I did it because we needed the money, and I kept doing it because I was good at it and they liked me.”

“Then why did you stop?” Brian questioned with a genuine sincerity.

“Because I didn’t want to be selling myself out like that for the rest of my life,” Roger replied, standing up from the couch and sulking over to the fireplace, where he picked up another one of the pictures off the mantle – this one displaying the professor at his graduation, “I mean, you wouldn’t. Would you?”

Brian shook his head. “No, of course not.”

The music instructor took in a deep breath, saying, “Exactly. That’s why when your girl gave me an out, I took it. Sure, it was in exchange for never seeing one of my highest paying clients again, but—”

“I still can’t believe she’s married, the professor interjected sadly, still hung up on that fact, despite having tried his hardest to not focus on that. "And that her husband...and you..." He dug his fingers into his hair and whimpered, “God, why wouldn’t she tell me?”

“If it makes you feel any better, her husband doesn’t hold a candle to you,” the blonde attempted to console him, staying on the other side of the room. It didn’t feel right closing the gap anymore. “I mean, a lot of people don’t hold a candle to you. I know Tim certainly doesn’t.”

Brian glanced over at Roger, a frown on his face. “So, what? I’m just some second choice for people in shitty relationships?”

The music instructor sighed. “That’s not what I meant, Brian. I’m just trying to make this easier for you to understand. And before you can say anything else…” he shot a finger in the professor’s direction, “…I didn’t ask for this. You did. I wanted to keep this a secret.”

The older man sat back in the couch, closing his eyes and bringing a hand to his forehead. The blonde bit his lip and set the picture back down on the mantle, pushing himself away from the fireplace and reclaiming his seat at the other end of the couch. He looked over at Brian to see if he noticed his presence, but his eyes remained closed and covered by his hand.

Roger leaned forward and hung his head guiltily, mumbling, “I’m sorry, Brian. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

The professor sat there for a moment, the tension building between them. The immediate response that popped into his mind was “But it did,” however, he was smart enough to know that a remark like that wouldn’t make this night any better. He didn’t know if anything would make this night better, and so Brian found himself saying in a low, hesitant voice, “You should go, Roger.”

The blonde’s head snapped in the professor’s direction, helplessly watching as Brian pulled himself up from the couch and met his colleague’s gaze that began to waver with tears. An awkward moment, something that had become a common occurrence that night, passed between the two of them once more before Brian shook his head and muttered, “Just go,” slipping out of the room and disappearing upstairs.

Once the heavy footsteps were replaced by the slam of a door, Roger broke down, covering his face with his hands as quiet sobs began to rack his body.

This was exactly what Roger was trying to avoid, yet there he was, with nothing more to hide and no more lies to tell.

He blew it.

Chapter Text

Days had gone by without the professor seeing the music instructor. It wasn’t like he didn’t look for him, though. Brian constantly stood outside his classroom door in hopes of catching a glimpse of that unforgettable blonde hair, sat alone in the teacher’s lounge in anticipation of those sparkly pink sneakers pattering across the floor, and took any chance he could get to pass by the music instructor’s hole in the wall, expecting to confront him about their night that could’ve been something really great but turned out rather sour. However, Roger was nowhere to be seen. No professors had seen him, no students had seen him, even John hadn’t seen him around.

Brian wasn’t mad at Roger; he really wasn’t. It was Chrissie he was mad at, and he felt terrible about taking his wrongly directed anger out on the blonde. He just needed time and space to think, which wasn’t the easiest considering the week hadn’t even been half way through when this all went down. There were still three more grueling days ahead of him to face the woman he suddenly felt like he didn’t even know, as well as the man he had just started to figure out.

It seemed that, in his endeavors in searching for the music instructor, the professor had managed to avoid all his girlfriend’s attempts to see him. Communication between them had ceased to exist these past few days, with their last conversation lasting only a few minutes and feeling heavily one-sided – Brian distracted by something Chrissie couldn’t quite put her finger on.

Desperate to talk to him, the headmistress resorted to the only measure she could think possible. It was late Friday, and the buzz of the upcoming weekend filled the hallways and corridors. Brian was wrapping up his lesson, racing against the clock to rapidly finish scribbling his notes on the board. His hand was starting to cramp, and it couldn’t keep up with his mouth as he rattled off fact after fact. Just as he was about to say his final remark, the door slammed in, seating the students who’d already stood up to leave, startling the others who were nose-deep in their notes, and freezing the professor in place.

“Everybody out,” the headmistress demanded, a sternness to her abnormally low voice. When nobody moved, she stomped her foot and shouted, “Now!”

The entire hall of students began to flood out the door, John pushing through the crowd to have his habitual end-of-the-day chat with the professor. It had become a frequent occurrence, much to Brian’s dismay. Today, however, he was stopped before he could even give his greeting, the headmistress grabbing him by the shirt and shaking her head in disapproval. “Not today, Mr. Deacon.”

“But—”

“Go,” she growled, releasing the student who concernedly eyed the astrophysics teacher. Brian shrugged his shoulders, feeling absolutely powerless in the situation. The student swallowed the nervous lump in his throat and followed Chrissie’s orders, slumping out of the lecture hall and closing the door behind him with a soft click.

Chrissie shot her head back to Brian who was still bent over, his piece of chalk still attached to the blackboard and his terrified eyes locked on hers. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Brian, stand up!” the headmistress snapped, the professor instantly straightening his posture like he was a soldier in the army. She crossed her arms and cocked her head to the side, staring at Brian expectantly, anticipating for him to speak first.

The curly-haired man took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, matching his girlfriend’s stance and asking as confidently as he could, “Is something wrong?”

“Is something wrong?” Chrissie repeated him coldly, “Is something wrong? Oh, I don’t know, Brian. Would you consider not talking at all for the past three days something wrong?”

Brian’s cheeks flushed a deep shade of red, biting his tongue and holding back his immediate response, knowing that it would’ve only made matters worse. However, it seemed quite difficult to worsen the situation he was already in.

“What is going on with you?” the headmistress inquired worriedly, her tone changing drastically as she shortened the distance between the two of them and lovingly cupped his cheeks in her hands. “You know I know when you’re lying, so don’t even try with me, May.”

He stared down at her with tears building in his eyes, wishing he could say the same about himself and her. How he’d been so foolish after he’d made it this far and accomplished so much was beyond him, and he despised himself for believing that what they had was special; that it could actually work. Things like this never worked, and for him to think that it would made his blood boil like no tomorrow.

“When were you going to tell me?” he murmured, his voice cracking and his vision blurring.

Chrissie’s eyebrows furrowed together in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“I know you’re married,” Brian painfully confessed, instantly repelling the headmistress from him in shock. He lost control of his already wavering composure, her reaction confirming the worst. A small fraction of him hoped she would try to lie to him and tell him that it wasn’t true, because he was fully prepared to keep living the lie. It went against every moral he had been raised with and had adopted as an adult, but he still loved her; he really did, and he was willing to take on that future with her, whatever that meant.

That was only if she lied, though.

“Brian, I…we…it’s…” Chrissie’s voice trailed off as she struggled to explain herself. She chuckled in disbelief, placing her hands on her hips and turning the interrogatory tables on him by asking, “Who even told you?”

“Who do you think?” the professor snarled, adjusting his arms that were folded over his chest and answering his own question, “It’s the same guy you paid off with a job to stop him from sleeping with your husband.”

Her eyes doubled in size, only furthering her acceptance of guilt.

Brian scoffed and turned away from her, sulking back over to his desk and moving some of his papers around. “You know, we all thought it was suspicious that this semester we suddenly had a music program when there hadn't been any talk about it prior. I thought it was because you were progressive and wanted to change this school for the better, after all, why else would you have abused your powers?” He slammed some of his books down and looked back at her, eyes stinging with indignant tears.

“You would’ve done the same thing if you were in my shoes!” she cried, storming up to the opposite side of the desk and slamming her hands down on the surface, “I mean, how would you feel if you came home to your wife sleeping with another woman?”

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t have risked my job to give her a made-up title at a prestigious university in exchange for never sleeping with my wife again!” Brian replied, instantly regretting his anger-fueled response when Chrissie pushed herself away from his desk and began pacing back and forth in the front of the classroom, running her fingers through her hair as she attempted to calm herself down. He sighed and murmured, “I just don’t understand, Chrissie. We’ve been seeing each other for six months! Six months, and you’ve been married the whole time?”

“You know what, Brian? You’re right!” the headmistress shouted, throwing her hands in the arm and spinning on her heel towards the professor, “You don’t understand, because you’re too innocent and naïve to understand! You’ve lived here your entire life, you’ve never taken a single risk, and chances are you never will. It’s just not who you are, Brian, and you know it.”

An uncomfortable moment of silence was shared between the two of them, both unsure of what to say to the other. She wasn't wrong in her accusation, in fact, she was right on the spot, having figured him out to a T, but that didn't make the pill any easier to swallow.

“You don’t know what it’s like to do everything for someone who couldn’t even be bothered with the thought of doing the same for you,” Chrissie muttered, tucking her hands underneath her arms and turning away. “For twelve years, I wasted my life on that man. That’s twelve years of giving up my dreams and sacrificing my own happiness for his, time and time again without complaint because I loved him. And how does the fucking bloke repay me? By cheating on me with a man! A man, for fuck’s sake! Do you know how humiliating that is?”

“I can only imagine,” the professor murmured, sitting down in his chair and leaning back, clasping his hands in his lap and tilting his head down in avoidance of her fervid gaze, a wave of guilt washing over him as he realized he was doing the same thing.

“It’s very humiliating, Brian,” the headmistress retorted sharply, returning to her pace and elaborating, “That’s why I didn’t tell you; why I didn’t tell anyone, for that matter – not even my own family. I mean, didn't it seem strange to you that I didn’t want to introduce you to them?”

Brian’s eyebrows knit together. “I thought it was because we were taking things slow.”

She chuckled, attracting the professor’s bewildered gaze. “There you go again, being so pure you can't see what's right in front of you. If it was up to me, Brian, we would’ve had that weekend we just had a long, long time ago, but we didn’t because I knew what it would’ve meant.”

He brought his hands up to rest them on his desk, leaning forward in his chair ever so slightly – the joints creaking underneath his shift in weight. “And what would it have meant, Chrissie? That you would’ve had to tell me this sooner? Face the consequences of your actions like an adult?”

A frown appeared on the headmistress’s face before she sauntered back over to the desk, walking around to the other side and turning the professor to face her. The two of them stared at one another – waiting for the other person to make the next move – when Chrissie fixed herself atop her boyfriend’s lap and draped her arms around his neck, weaving her fingers into his hair. “I never wanted to hurt you, Brian,” she whispered, twirling one of his curls around her index finger, “I love you.”

Brian bit his lip and shook his head in disagreement, the tears that had subsided for a little while returning without remorse. “How am I supposed to believe anything you say anymore?” he croaked.

Chrissie’s face dropped at the genuine pain in his voice, bringing her hand down and swiping away the tear that had escaped from his eye. “I’m still the same girl I was when you first met me, Bri. I haven’t changed. Nothing’s changed.”

The professor could only shake his head, the headmistress’s words unconvincing and clichéd. “Everything’s changed, Chrissie. Everything.”

*****

Roger coughed as he lazily reached for another bottle of his whiskey, staring at the bottle in disgust before bringing it to his lips and taking another numbed swig of the drink. He sucked the bottle dry, pulling it from his lips and shaking it to make sure that it was, indeed, empty. “Tim,” he whined, turning his head and pouting at his boyfriend who sat across the room at their kitchen table, back hunched over and glasses sitting on the tip of his nose as he ruffled through the paperwork laid out in front of him. “I’m out.”

“Then get yourself some more,” he mumbled in response, not even bothering to meet Roger’s bloodshot gaze.

“I can’t get up. The room’s spinning, or I’m floating away. I can’t tell,” the blonde whimpered, slumped on the floor with the couch supporting his back, “Can you? Please?”

“I’m busy, Roger,” Tim muttered, annoyance lacing his voice.

Roger groaned and dropped his head back. “You’re always saying you’re busy, but then you’re never actually doing anything. Why is that?”

His boyfriend sighed out of frustration and tore the glasses off his face, finally giving the blonde the attention he was vying for and sneering, “I don’t know, Roger. How about you answer that question about yourself? This new job of yours seems to be keeping you pretty busy, yet I haven’t seen you grade a single paper or make up a single test. Why is that?”

The music instructor glared at him. “It’s not that kind of job.”

Tim chuckled. “Of course it isn’t, Roger. It’s the kind of job that lets you do whatever you want, whenever you want, just because your client’s wife walked in on you with his dick up your arse. What happened to being discreet? In and out, I’ve told you a thousand times!”

“It wasn’t my fault, Tim,” he grumbled, hanging his head and twiddling his thumbs in his lap, “He paid me for an extra hour, and at triple the rate. I couldn’t say no.”

“Yeah? Well, you saying yes made you lose one of our highest paying clients, so if you don’t mind…” Tim slipped the glasses back on his face and gave the paper he was still holding onto a slight shake, “…I have work to do.”

The music instructor frowned even more than he already was and shifted his gaze to the other side of the room, his eyes falling upon one of the bottles of Southern Comfort that had gotten away from him. He lit up and crawled over to it, snatching it up into his possession and unscrewing the cap with a newfound sense of urgency. He tossed the cap to the side and immediately brought the drink to his lips, tilting his head back – expecting to feel the liquid that’s long lost its burn hit the back of his throat – but feeling nothing. His eyebrows furrowed together in confusion as he looked down at the bottle, seeing that it too was empty.

“Fucking hell!” he snapped, throwing the bottle across the room and hoisting himself up from the ground, using the wall for support. He staggered on his feet a little, almost losing his balance, before making his way to the bedroom, feeling as though the floor was being pulled out from underneath him little by little his entire way there.

Tim watched Roger disappear into their room, biting his lip and debating with himself whether or not to follow the blonde in there. It had been days since Roger left the flat, and as much as he liked keeping Roger under his watch – especially as of late – he was driving him absolutely mad.

Ever since he came home that dreaded night, all he’d done was mope around and whine when he needed something, and if he didn’t get it immediately, he would bitch and moan until he either got it or gave up and distracted himself with some other meaningless fascination. The sex they had was half-assed at best, with Roger wanting to do nothing but lie there, and his meals had all been replaced with bottles of liquor that made him more difficult to deal with than usual.

It was clear that something was bothering the blonde – but he hadn’t said what. The mystery had been nagging at the back of Tim’s mind, making him wonder what could’ve possibly happened that night he came home late, his feet aching and his shoulders sore.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Tim growled as the blonde walked in at nearly two in the morning, slamming the door behind him and acknowledging his boyfriend’s remark with nothing more than narrowed eyes. “I even looked for you inside that place you work at.”

“It has a name, Tim,” Roger replied, a lack of interest in his tone as he made his way into the kitchen area and opened the fridge, scanning the shelves for something to drink.

“I saw your friend Brian too,” his boyfriend added slyly, looking back at him over the couch, “He’s real handsome…tall, thin, great hair. No wonder you were thinking about him in your sleep.”

The music instructor sighed, reaching for one of the many bottles of whiskey that had seemingly magically appeared in their flat a few days prior and closing the refrigerator. “You’re still on that?” He pulled open the cupboard door and grabbed a glass. “I told you, I can’t—”

“I saw what you wrote about him in your notebook,” he cut him short, freezing the blonde in place – one hand around the glass and the other around the bottle, ready to pour the amber liquid into the clear container. Silence quickly filled the apartment, interrupted only by the sound of Tim getting up from where he was sitting and crossing the room to join his boyfriend’s side. “You think he’s better than me.”

“He is better than you,” the blonde grumbled, glancing over at him with reddened, swollen eyes.

Tim chuckled. “How can he be better than me? What has he ever done for you?”

Roger slammed the bottle of whiskey down on the counter and turned towards his boyfriend, folding his arms over his chest and replying simply, “He’s nice to me.”

“He’s nice to you? That’s what makes him better? Really?”

“Really.”

Tim shook his head in disbelief and rested a hand on the counter, leaning on it as he placed his other hand on his hip. “Does he know?”

“Know what?”

“That you’re a whore? And that you dress up in knickers and brassieres and put makeup on that pretty little face of yours so that depraved husbands can fulfill their sinful fantasies?” His answer was sharp like a knife, making Roger’s face flush of all color.

The blonde swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat, croaking out a weak, “I don’t do that anymore, Tim.”

“You honestly think that just because you got some gig at a school, it changes who you are? Who you’ve always been?” He shortened the distance between him and Roger and growled, “I doubt your professor even knows the half of it, because what would you tell him, huh? Would you tell him about every disgusting thing you’ve done for a pound? Or about the façade you put on to please wealthy and powerful men who can’t be bothered to fuck their ugly wives and would rather fuck a dude dressed in drag? Would you tell him that you, at one point in time, weren’t ashamed of what you did? Or does he make you want to be ‘better’ because he’s your saving grace and tells you you deserve better?”

Tim laughed at the thought, unable to take himself seriously as a wild grin stretched across his face. “My god, Roger, I thought you were smarter than this. You should know that he’s not into you, or even the idea of you. And I doubt he’s into whatever person you've made him think you are because you're not that person. You’re a liar, and you put on these different personas because it’s your part of your job as a whore. And you know, in comparison to his college degree and boring life style, you’re probably nothing more than just a phase for him. Because men like him don’t understand you, not like I do.”

The blonde heaved a sigh and snatched the bottle of whiskey up from the counter, using the same hand to gesture at his boyfriend as he said, “You know what, Tim? You’re right.” He took a quick swig of the drink and, before lowering it down to his side, tapped Tim’s nose with a smirk. “You’re absolutely right.” Roger placed a sloppy, lighthearted kiss on his boyfriend’s cheek and brushed past him, spinning around and walking backwards towards their room as he brought the bottle to his lips once more and tilted his head back, downing the drink while flipping his boyfriend off.

Tim rolled his eyes at the memory and returned his attention to the collection of papers in front of him, ignoring his desire to check up on the blonde as he scanned the list of names, addresses, and phone numbers he pulled out from the box Roger had shoved away in their closet. He bit his lip and looked over at the phone sitting on their coffee table, taking one more quick glance at the sheet he held in his hands before jumping up from the chair he was in and walking over.

He plopped down on the couch and picked the phone up off the receiver, pinching it between his ear and shoulder as he punched in the number highlighted on the page. He listened to it ring a few times before the line was answered with a grungy, “If you fucking call me one more time, Johnny, I swear to god—"

“No, Sid, it…it’s Tim.” He smirked. “I was just thinking, it’s been a while since you’ve seen Roger, hasn’t it?”

Chapter Text

“You’ve got it, Sid,” Tim remarked, a wide grin on his face as he scribbled down the last of the information he needed on the crinkled napkin he’d pulled out from his pocket and tried his best to smooth out, “I’ll let him know and we’ll see you then, yeah?”

“Tell him to wear my favorite outfit of his. He knows the one.”

“Of course. Anything for you, Sid,” he assured him, quickly adding the request to the list and ending the call. He slammed the phone down on the receiver and called out, “Roger! I’ve got good news for you!” Tim snatched the napkin up into his possession and rushed into the bedroom, looking at his notes as he began to ask, “You remember Sid, don’t y—”

His voice got caught in his throat when he lifted his head and noticed the clothes Roger had been wearing the past few days discarded on the ground, along with the box labeled DO NOT OPEN EVER AGAIN! and torn apart as though an animal had gotten into it. His gaze wandered over to the dresser where the blonde was standing, adorned with a pair of tube socks that sat on his calves at different heights, a short black skirt that barely covered his ass, and a wrinkly, white button-down that was fastened all the way up to the collar, the long sleeves rolled up at the ends. The yellow and purple tie that completed the outfit hung loosely around his neck, and the black bows with white polka-dots that normally pulled his hair back into pigtails appeared haphazardly thrown into the blonde mess – not doing their job.

“Oh, Roger…” Tim murmured pitifully as he watched the blonde drag the eyeliner that he was using to draw thick rings around his eyes across his temple, languidly looking back at the man who entered the room.

“I used to be able to do this coked out of my mind,” the disheartened drunk mumbled, his speech slurred as he returned his gaze to the mirror reflecting the repulsive image of his alter ego. “Now I can’t, and I’m only drunk. I can’t tie my tie, I can’t find my shoes…what happened to me?”

His boyfriend crossed his arms and fell against the threshold, sighing, “We’re not going to go into this again, Rog. Now, I—”

“Remind me what happened,” the blonde murmured, cutting Tim’s announcement short as he capped the eyeliner and slammed it down on the dresser, resting his hands on its surface and stretching them out to the sides as he leaned into the bureau – sticking his bottom out just enough to briefly capture his boyfriend’s attention – and turned his head back over his shoulder. His lazy eyes bore straight into Tim’s uninterested ones with a gleam that begged the older of the two to tear him down; to tell him everything he would never admit to wanting to hear sober.

Tim only saw looks like that in Roger’s eyes when he drank himself to the point of no return, and as much as the blonde’s invitation tempted him to acquiesce, he wasn’t in the mood to drop down to that level – not tonight. No, tonight he had to get Roger back to his normal self and prepare him for his next appointment, and there was no way Tim would be able to pull it off with Roger indulging himself in his own pity party.

So, with an exaggerated roll of the eyes, the older of the two announced flatly, “I got you an appointment, Rog. Big spender; one of your favorites. He wants you to wear that.” He motioned at the blonde’s getup, earning a disapproving pout.

Roger peeled himself away from the dresser and waltzed over to Tim, his balance wobbling with each inebriated step he took towards his boyfriend. “Why don’t people like me for me, Tim? Why do they only like me as Liz?”

“I don’t know, babe. Maybe because you look better as a bird, now—”

“But I don’t want to be a bird,” the blonde whined, clinging onto his boyfriend and burying his face into the crook of his neck. His lips softly vibrated against Tim’s skin as he mumbled, “I want to be me, just me.”

Tim sighed and grabbed Roger by the waist to gently push him away. “Look, Rog, I don’t know where this is coming from, but—”

“I just want to know where I went wrong,” he moaned, grabbing the bows in his hair and throwing them to floor by his feet, “I-I didn’t want this, Tim. I wanted to…to be in a band or something, with you…and, and I wanted us to rule the world together. But look at us…” his flaccid hand waved between the two of them. “We’re living in a shithole, we haven’t got anything to eat, and I can’t even put on stupid lipstick. How are we supposed to rule the world like this?”

Tim’s frustrated gaze dropped to his feet as his hand found his way to the back of his neck, rubbing it awkwardly as he fought to resist the urge to correct the blonde and tell him he was putting on eyeliner, not lipstick, but more importantly, he fought forget about the time when he too shared that vision. It had been so long since their unsuccessful music venture had come up in conversation that it didn’t seem relevant, and they’d both been through so much since then that he didn’t think it was still something Roger thought about.

Besides, they found the success they craved elsewhere. It might not have been their first choice of making a living by any means, but it worked, and it was enough for them – or so Tim believed. They were together, and that’s all that mattered to him. He didn’t need his own place, or food in the fridge. He just needed Roger – someone who cared about him and loved him, and someone he cared about and loved back.

Would he ever admit this the blonde? Of course not. With the both of them being stubborn, hotheaded, arrogant assholes, he couldn’t risk exposing himself as the weaker one. That just wasn’t an option. In fact, it had never been an option for Tim because he wasn’t raised that way.

Living with just his father for most of his life, if not all, he didn’t particularly have a good role model to look up to. His dad, much like Tim was now, was a drunk. He would forget to pick him up from school, couldn’t be bothered to help him with his homework, and made it very clear to the boy that he wasn’t wanted; that he was nothing more than a burden, a disappointing reminder of everything his father could’ve had but didn’t because he was stuck raising a stupid kid.

He blamed Tim for everything – a low tank of gas, an empty fridge, a missed television program, a date gone wrong, a job interview with no callback, the excuses were endless. If something didn’t go right, it was immediately Tim’s fault. If you would just do as I say, his father would scold him – a poignant glare in his eyes and an iniquitous snarl in his lips – then everything would be fine. But do you? No. And is it? No!

Tim constantly tried to be better and do as his dad said, but at the end of the day, his dad was still a drunk and he was still a burden. He learned to walk himself home from school, figure out his homework problems on his own, and keep his distance from his dad until it was absolutely necessary to pester him, but it didn’t matter. Nothing he did seemed to make a difference, and what made it worse was that, whenever the boy was alone and let his guard down – because a situation like the one he had to grow up in was a lot for someone as young as Tim to deal with – his dad would find him and scold him for crying and showing how upset he was by smacking him across the face and yelling things like, Man up! Toughen up! Grow a spine! Stop being such a baby! You’re not a woman, are you?

It was that mentality, those hurtful words and stinging phrases, that stuck with Tim throughout his entire childhood and adolescence; that gave him reason to not care about what people thought of him or his actions, so as long as he didn’t come off as weak or vulnerable. After all, that’s how it was with his dad, and it wasn’t like his father ever found someone else to bring into their home to teach Tim any different. So, at a young age, he’d realized how truly powerless he was – just another pawn being pushed around, essentially unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

Then he met Roger. The troubled boy didn’t understand how or why, but being with the blonde seemed to give him a purpose, and for the first time in his life, someone who seemed to care about him; to genuinely care about him. The relationship that developed between the two was all very new and exciting to him, yet it all felt very familiar with the snide remarks, the bouts of shouting, and the feeling like he would never be good enough. He sometimes wondered how he got so lucky, but his strike of good fortune blinded him from the truth of the matter: that he was just like his father, and that Roger had become the new Tim.

“We were never meant to rule the world, Roger,” Tim mumbled sullenly under his breath in response to the blonde’s previous remark, his subtle change in demeanor – the cold ignorance he tried to maintain throughout these past few days subsiding ever so slightly – being overlooked as he crossed his arms and tried to steer the conversation in the direction he wanted it to go in. “Can we please not talk about that right now, though? We have more important things to talk about, like your appointment with—”

“No!” Roger exclaimed, shaking his head and tripping over his own feet as he tried to step back, falling on his ass and hiding the embarrassment that began to surface on his face behind his hands. “No, I don’t want to see Sid again,” he grumbled, dropping his hands to his sides and tugging at his shirt, “And I don’t want to wear this again, or those.” He tossed his hand out to the bows he was fairly certain had caused his fall. “I just, I want to move on from this, Tim.” He glanced up at the man he addressed with tired eyes, the corner of his lip perking upward into a delirious, crooked smirk, elaborating on his wishes with a newfound sense of inebriated confidence, “I want to move far away from this place, and from you, and from all of this. Don’t you think I deserve that?”

Tim – growing weary of this game he was playing with Roger – knelt down in front of him on one knee and looked him dead in the eye, answering in a low growl, “Why on earth would you deserve any of that, Roger? You don’t listen to me, and you don’t do as you’re told, so why would you be rewarded for that? Maybe if you did, yeah, I’d say you deserve all that and more, but you’re dreaming, babe. You’re absolutely out of your goddamn mind thinking you can get away from me, and from this. This is your future.” He abruptly smacked him on the chest with the back of his hand. “You, me, Liz…this is the life we live. This is the life that puts a roof over our heads and gives us a mattress to sleep on every night. What’s your new job gotten you, huh?” The older of the two didn’t give the blonde the chance to answer before doing so himself, “That’s right. Nothing. It’s gotten you absolutely nothing other than in trouble. So, what’s going to happen is you’re going to see Sid tomorrow and you’re going to rock his world like you always do. You hear me? No more of this…” he waved his hand in lieu of words as he struggled to figure out what to say, “…whatever this thing is.”

Roger stared blankly at Tim as he stood up and looked down at him pitifully, shaking his head in disappointment and turning away as he started to leave the room. He didn’t get far before the blonde pulled himself up from the ground and stumbled after him, screaming at the top of his lungs, “I hate you!” Tim froze in place, keeping his back to Roger as the blonde straightened his posture and continued drunkenly, “I hate you, and I hate this flat, and I hate that you think so little of me that all I’m good for is dressing up like a lady and sucking people’s dicks.”

Tim blinked away the tears that had formed in his eyes and folded his arms over his tightening chest, spinning around to face his boyfriend and asking sardonically, “And what else do you hate, Roger?”

The music instructor took in a shaky breath, spitting out a strained, “I hate the way you treat me, and the way you look at me, like I’m some worthless rat you’ve been stuck with for years and can’t get rid of. And I hate that you don’t love me anymore.” Tim’s heart dropped at his words, watching with blurry eyes as Roger painfully muttered, “You used to love me, Tim.”

“And I still do!” he shouted, getting worked up over this conversation. It hurt to hear the blonde express how he truly felt. He knew it was the truth because Roger was a terrible liar, even more so when he was wasted beyond belief, the alcohol acting as some sort of truth serum that made him incapable of masking his feelings towards whatever it was that he was faced with. So, to hear Roger say that he hated him, and that he felt as though the love they shared was no longer reciprocated, it killed Tim, because he did love him. He loved him with everything he had, but it was clear that it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t enough.

Tim ran an aggravated hand through his hair and shook his head in disbelief. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. All he wanted to tell him was that he’d booked him a gig and that he was working to get things back to the way they were, to make them happy again, yet there he was, trying to defend himself from the blonde’s blunt accusation with an infuriated, “Goddammit, Roger, I’ve always loved you! If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t be doing this!”

“No, Tim,” Roger disagreed, shaking his head, “If you loved me, you’d be supportive of me—”

Supportive of you?” he repeated angrily, shortening the distance between the two of them once more. “How dare you say I’m not supportive of you. Do I need to remind you that I’m the only one who’s been with you through it all? Your entire family disowned and abandoned you when they found out who you truly are. They kicked you out on the streets, for god’s sake!”

“That wasn’t my fault,” the blonde murmured softly, tilting his head down and playing with his tie as a distraction.

Tim crossed his arms. “Oh yeah? Then whose fault was it?”

Roger’s bloodshot eyes rolled up to meet his boyfriend’s blurry ones, maintaining their gaze as he swallowed the lump in his throat and answered sternly, “Yours.”

The older of the two chuckled and rested his hands on his hips. “Mine. You really think it’s all my fault?”

The blonde staggered to the side a bit before nodding his head in affirmation, adding on an unintentionally brutal, “Yes, Tim, It’s all your fault.” He mirrored his boyfriend’s stance and leaned forward, tacking on harshly, “Everything’s your fault.”

Those final three words sent Tim over the edge, evoking a handful of childhood memories that had somehow combined and translated into the present. The tears that had been building in his eyes finally spilled over his eyelids, streaming down his cheeks as he refused to relive the past. “Oh, that’s it,” he croaked, rage fueling his actions as his hand shot forward and grabbed Roger’s shirt, yanking him out of the room.

Chapter Text

Brian shifted his car into park and let out a sigh, leaning over the center console and peering through his passenger side car window at the house he prayed was the right one. After convincing Chrissie to give him the weekend to think things over, Brian hopped in his car and used his memory to the best of his abilities to retrace his trip to Freddie’s house, hoping that it’s where Roger had been hiding out these past few days, and if not, perhaps his friend could direct him in the right way.

He wrapped his hand around the door’s handle and stepped out of the vehicle, adjusting his jacket and trekking up the walkway that felt very strange to him. Similar to the night Roger had taken him to the bar to celebrate his first student, the professor felt out of place in the dark, shadow-cast neighborhood, and all he could see when he looked at the door ahead of him was the blonde kissing the man who answered it; the man he thought to be his boyfriend but wasn’t. The memory was strong enough to elicit the feelings that accompanied the sight too, bringing back the confusion and desire he felt towards the music instructor who’d only entered Brian’s life because Chrissie found him with her husband and offered him the job as a mere trade-off.

The professor stepped up to the door and drew in a deep breath, nervously raising his hand and knocking three times. He took a cautious step back and shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat, surveying the street behind him to see if he’d attracted any unwanted attention, but the coast was clear.

Brian returned his attention forward when he heard the rattling of some chains, followed by the sound of locks being undone and the door being pulled in. Much to the professor’s surprise, it wasn’t Freddie who’d answered the door, but a woman – a woman he knew very well. He straightened his posture and cleared his throat, greeting shyly, “Oh, hi.”

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Brian May,” the blonde sneered, crossing her arms over her chest, “I thought you said you were moving to America. I mean, that’s the reason you suggested we stop seeing each other, innit?”

A nervous chuckle slipped past the professor’s lips and dug his hands deeper into his pockets, replying uncomfortably, “Yeah, that…that didn’t really work out.”

“So, what are you doing here, then? Trying to win me back?” she guessed, her response laced with venom as she laughed and continued as though she’d practiced this encounter several times before, “That’s sweet, Bri, really, but it’s too late for that. I’m already taken. 'Have been for a while now."

“That’s wonderful, Mary, but I-I’m not here for…” Brian’s voice trailed off, his eyebrows furrowing together as he shook his head in slight frustration and explained, “I’m here for Freddie. I want to know if he’s seen Roger. Is he here?”

“Brian?” the dark-haired man’s easily recognizable voice sounded from inside the home, the professor looking over the woman’s head to see the flamboyantly-dressed man appear from out of the kitchen. “Brian!” he gasped, rushing towards the door and pushing the blonde out of the way so that he was standing before him, “What a lovely surprise it is to see you, darling. Come in, come in, we were just about to have dinner!”

“Freddie,” the blonde whispered angrily, gripping his upper arm tightly and leaning in closer to growl, “You promised me it’d be just you and me tonight.”

“Oh, we have the rest of our fucking lives to do things just you and me, Mary. Why don’t you set up another plate for the kind gentleman and we can discuss it later?” Mary scoffed and stomped off towards the room Freddie had emerged from, Roger’s friend looking back at the professor and muttering with mock humor, “Women, am I right?”

Brian chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “So, you two are dating?”

“Engaged, actually,” the dark-haired man retorted, glancing back over his shoulder and grinning widely, “I got her the most lovely ring; spent nearly everything I had on it.” His pensive eyes wandered back to the professor and widened ever so slightly before he clapped his hands together excitedly and exclaimed, “Oh, Brian, you’ll have to see it. Mary! Come back here and show—”

“I-I actually just came here wondering if you’ve seen Roger,” he stammered, not wanting to stay any longer than he had to, “I haven’t seen or heard from him in days and I’m worried.”

Freddie brought his hand up to his chin and rubbed the smooth skin as if he was going into deep thought about the matter. A moment of silence passed over the two – disturbed only by the clinking of dishes as Mary angrily put out another table setting for their unexpected guest –before the dark-haired man moved his hands to his hips and replied, “Come to think of it, I haven’t.” He met Brian’s troubled gaze and offered, “But if I knew anything about the man, he either got into it with Tim again or ran away. He’s done both before, so it’s very possible that that’s what he’s been up to.”

The professor swallowed the lump that formed in his throat and ran a shaky hand through his hair, his mind spiraling out of control as he tried to find a different solution to the problem. He wasn’t ready to face Tim again – the man scaring him enough just by inquiring about Roger’s whereabouts – and he certainly didn’t have the time to travel all around London in search for the blonde. For all the professor knew, he could’ve left the country by now with no intention of ever coming back.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, though, Brian. He does things like this all the time,” Freddie attempted to console the concerned professor, placing a hand on his shoulder and flashing him a reassuring grin that Brian couldn’t muster up the courage to return. Roger’s friend quickly picked up on this and brought his hand back down to his side, the smile on his face faltering a bit as he suggested, “Besides, Roger’s a grown man. He knows what he’s getting himself into and he can take care of himself. So why don’t you relax a bit and join the two of us—”

“I really messed things up, Fred,” Brian interrupted him, his heart pounding against his chest as he confessed, “I just...I freaked out when he told me.”

Freddie folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the threshold. “Told you what?”

“Everything.”

“Everything?”

The professor nodded his head in affirmation, his hands starting to twitch of out uneasiness. He shoved them back in his jacket and shamefully hung his head.

The dark-haired man frowned and invited the curly-haired man in, not giving him much of a choice in the matter as he stepped outside and guided him into his home, closing the door behind him and taking his jacket off his shoulders. Brian didn’t put up much of fight either as Freddie led him into the dining room, where Mary was already sitting and drinking a glass of wine. The table was nicely set up – candles illuminating the trays of food lining the center of the table and their finest China placed in front of three of the seats.

Freddie pulled out the chair diagonally across from Mary and motioned for Brian to take a seat, the professor doing so reluctantly. He couldn’t escape Mary’s glare as he lowered himself into the seat and moved himself and the chair closer to the table, Freddie seeming not to notice the tension as he occupied the space next to Brian and offered him some wine. The professor affably declined, waving his hand in polite dismissal. The dark-haired man shrugged his shoulders and instead poured himself a glass, saying to Mary, “He’s a professor at the school Roger teaches at.”

“Oh, I’m well aware of who he is. He’s the same professor Roger was gushing to you about the night he wanted me to drive him home,” she replied, a snide undertone to her response.

Brian’s cheeks grew a faint shade of red as he disregarded Mary’s coldness and focused on the fact that Roger had supposedly been gushing about him, but he quickly recomposed himself and cleared his throat, asking, “You know where he lives?”

“Do I know where he lives?” Mary repeated the question back, making fun of the professor’s inquiry with crossed eyes that rolled themselves back into their normal positions as she finally got around to answering him with a bitter, “Of course I bloody know where he lives. I tell you, though, I wish I didn’t.”

A spark of hope ignited inside the professor, and he couldn’t help himself from lurching forward and blurting out, “Do you think you could take me to him? Please, Mary. He could be in danger.”

The blonde scoffed, looking at Freddie and sneering, “What’s with all your fucking friends asking me for rides? Do they think I’m a taxicab driver or something?”

“Oh, Mary, stop being so dramatic,” the dark-haired man snapped, rolling his eyes and turning his attention to Brian, “Can you believe she thinks I’m only with her because she has her license? I ask her for a few rides for me and me mates, and suddenly that’s the only reason we’re together.”

“Well it sure feels like it, Freddie,” Mary interjected, bringing the glass of wine to her lips and tilting her head back, downing the deep red liquid like it was an elixir that would make this night end sooner rather than later.

Freddie heaved an annoyed sigh and turned towards the professor who'd averted his gaze to his lap where his hands lied and twiddled his thumbs, breaking the awkward tension by inquiring, “So, Brian, what exactly did Roger tell you?”

The professor closed his eyes in painful recollection as he played the evening over again in his mind, remembering the night as though it happened yesterday. He’d thought long and hard about where exactly things started to go south, and whether it was his fault or Roger’s – or possibly, though more likely, both of theirs – that things escalated to the point they did. So much was revealed that night about the blonde that Brian had trouble making sense of it all, despite it being something that had been on his mind constantly on a never-ending loop.

He brought a hand up to his forehead and, instead of answering Freddie's question, muttered, “Did you know all along?”

“Know what all along?” The dark-haired man rested his elbow on the table and his chin in the palm of his hand. “Darling, I’m not a psychic. I don’t know what you’re talking about when you don’t tell me.”

Brian bit his lip and elaborated with difficulty, “Did you know about what he did when you first met him?” He looked over at Freddie with glistening eyes, rephrasing his inquiry to what he believed was something simpler and asking, “Like, when you met him…what was he like?”

“Oh yes, I love this story,” Mary joined the conversation she wasn’t a part of, giggling as she reached out for the bottle of wine and refilled her cup. She noticed the pairs of eyes on her and scoffed. “What? If I have to sit here and listen to you two blokes blabber on about that stupid moron, I think I deserve to enjoy myself a bit, don’t you?”

Freddie histrionically rolled his eyes and disclosed, “Roger and I met at Biba.”

“And you wouldn’t have met him if it wasn’t for me,” the blonde interjected, earning a brief glare from her fiancé.

“Yes, dear, how could I forget?” Freddie replied sarcastically, sighing and returning his attention to Brian to finish telling his story, “I was there with Mary when he walked in.”

Freddie was leaned over the counter, distracting Mary from her job as per usual, when the bell above the entrance rung. The couple both looked up from their intertwined hands and back at the door, where they saw a shy, timid character walk in. It was clear he’d never been to the store before based on what he was wearing – a pair of tattered, stonewashed jeans, a loose white button-down, and a pair of rainbow suspenders. Freddie’s eyes widened at the atrocious sight, immediately drawing him away from Mary as he waltzed over to the guest.

“Well, hello there,” he greeted, startling the blonde who was looking around the fashion store like it was a museum. He flashed him a warming grin and continued with the employee's spiel that he'd memorized by heart from spending so much time there with Mary, “Welcome to Biba, darling. Can I help you find anything?”

The guest slipped his hands into his pockets, his shoulders falling forward as he admitted in a low, quiet voice, “Uh, yeah. I’m looking for something…erm, sexy.”

“Sexy, huh?” the dark-haired man repeated, nodding his head in understanding as he scanned the store with which he was quite familiar. He’d assumed the blonde was looking for something for his girl, since that’s what most men walked into the boutique for, and so his eyes locked on the lingerie section. “Come with me,” he insisted, grabbing the guest’s hand and dragging him over to that part of the store, ignoring the amused expression that appeared on Mary’s face as she watched Freddie in action. “What’s her favorite color?”

“Pardon me?” the blonde replied, his voice cracking ever so slightly.

“Your girl, what’s her favorite color?”

A deep blush appeared in the guest’s cheeks, his head hanging low as he confessed in a whisper, “It…It’s not…um, on second thought, I don’t think I can afford these things. I'm sorry to have wasted your time.”

“No, wait!” Freddie exclaimed, grabbing onto the blonde’s wrist before he could get far. The two locked eyes, and it was in that moment that the dark-haired man saw through the blonde’s rough-and-tough, albeit poorly dressed, exterior. He’d seen him a few times before at a place he'd never admit to Mary he almost went to on the daily, just not like this and not so close. It felt strange seeing him out of character and so covered up, and it was even stranger hearing his voice. One wouldn’t think that a voice like that belonged to a face like his.

Freddie slowly retracted his hand and slipped it underneath his arm, crossing them both over his chest as he brashly assumed, “You’re here for you, aren’t you?”

The guest’s cheeks grew even redder, incriminating him almost instantly.

The corner of the dark-haired man’s lips perked up into a smirk as he broke the awkward blanket of silence that had fallen over the two of them – interrupted only by the faint music playing over the fashion store’s speakers – with “Well you came to the right place.” He winked. “I think I have just the perfect thing for you.”

“And so, I helped him pick out a few outfits,” Freddie wrapped up his story, omitting many of the stodgy details in exchange for a casual sip of red wine and a glance over at Mary who’d stifled a laugh. “What?” he questioned.

“You didn’t just help him pick out a few outfits, Freddie,” she reminded her fiancé with a sense of resentment, like she’d been holding a grudge all these years, “You spent the whole damn day with him! First you made me pay for everything you had him try on, and then you took him back to our place where I found you and ‘im passed out on the couch, dressed in me clothes with makeup smeared all over your faces like children who’d gotten into their mum’s cosmetics.”

He met Brian’s intrigued gaze and explained candidly, “We had a few drinks and decided to put on a little fashion show.”

Little?” Mary interjected before the professor could even respond, “You went through my entire wardrobe and tossed it all about the flat! Not to mention that you tore down our curtains for a makeshift runway.”

“Hey.” Freddie stuck a pinky in her direction. “That was Roger’s idea, not mine. And anyways, who's heard of a fashion show with no runway?”

The blonde rolled her eyes and poured herself yet another glass. Brian had been keeping count for her, and this was her fourth. He knew from dating her that after four drinks, she started to lose her sensibility. He doubted she'd remember this come tomorrow morning.

“So,” the dark-haired man blurted out, snapping the professor out of the daze he had fallen into, wondering how many drinks he would have to have to do something like putting on a fashion show or dressing in women’s clothing, “To answer your first question, Brian, yes. I’ve known about him all along. But does that change anything? No.”

“Of course it does,” Brian argued, shaking his head, “It changes everything.”

“Why?”

The professor’s eyebrows furrowed together at Freddie’s response. “Why?”

“Yes, why does it change everything?” Freddie elaborated on his question, sitting back in his seat and crossing his free arm over his chest, “He’s still Roger, is he not?”

“Well, yeah—”

“Then I think I’ve made my case, dear,” the dark-haired man ended the dispute, snatching the bottle of wine from Mary and refilling his glass. He looked over at Brian and asked, “Are you sure don’t want anything to drink?”

Brian stared at Freddie for what felt like an eternity before heaving a defeated sigh and picking up the glass set to the right of his plate, wordlessly extending it out to him. The dark-haired man grinned and tipped the bottle over, filling the professor’s glass to the rim.

Chapter Text

With Brian’s inhibitions lowered, it was harder for him to remember why he had arrived at Freddie’s house in the first place. The party of two had moved to the living room - migrated from the dining room and reduced from three when Mary decided to call it an early night and took the bottle of wine with her, kissing her fiancé on the head and disappearing upstairs – and the dark-haired man was showing the professor a photo album he’d been keeping that showcased his friendship with Roger.

“You can’t even tell he’s a man in most of these,” Brian mentioned as he lazily flipped from one page to the next, skimming over the pages - each containing six Polaroids of Roger dressed up in that memorable blonde wig - and taking a sip of the vodka and tonic Freddie had prepared for him.

“They’re from our fashion show I was telling you about,” he explained, smirking, “Don't tell him I told you this because it's his biggest secret - aside from his crush on you, of course - but that wig he always wears was originally mine. He just liked how he looked in it so much that I never asked for it back.”

An inebriated giggle slipped past the professor’s lips as he flipped to the next set of pictures, too drunk to pick up on the insight the dark-haired man had provided. Whether or not the remark was intentional would remain a mystery to both men, but the comment was overlooked by Brian saying, “That’s so Roger of him.”

Freddie stared at Brian and pulled his bottom lip underneath his big front teeth, his eyes flicking between the professor and the book as he struggled to find the words he wanted to say. It was clear as day to him that his curly-haired houseguest had become infatuated with the blonde, and god knew that Freddie had been waiting forever for the day that Roger came to his senses and left the leech that’s been sucking the life out of him for far too long. It was just a matter of time, at this point. Everything else was set in place; ready to go. All it needed was a spark.

Brian seemed like a nice enough guy, and he was obviously much better off than Tim was with an actual job that didn’t rely on Roger selling his body to skeevy pervs looking to get their jollies while their wives were at work or out of the house with their friends. However, he was hesitant. He doubted every decision he made, and constantly worried about what’s wrong and what’s right, and for that reason, Freddie wondered if he’d actually come through; if he’d take the chance when it presented itself and not run away when things got scary. After all, it wasn’t like their lifestyles were particularly accepted in London, or the world for that matter. Roger was used to it; he knew how to handle and skirt around it. But Brian? It was highly unlikely he was prepared for what he’d be getting himself into.

The dark-haired man leaned over and took a quick glimpse of the collection of pictures Brian had started to examine, pictures of the two friends from a party or club – Freddie couldn’t remember, but he certainly remembered wearing the ridiculous outfits the professor could never imagine pulling off himself. “He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?” he asked, pulling his attention away from the photographs and shifting it over to the man sitting beside him, more interested in what his response would be.

The curly-haired man kept quiet for a little before running his fingers down one of the photographs that stuck out like a sore thumb, contrasting greatly from the rest on the page. It was a picture of Roger alone, sitting behind a drum kit and wearing much more casual clothes – an all denim outfit, his pants a shade lighter than his shirt – with sticks in his hands and sunglasses on his face. There was no wig, no makeup, and no ostentatious getup. It was just…Roger. “I think he looks best just like this,” he answered softly as a blush crept up in his cheeks and a crooked smile appeared on his face.

Freddie couldn’t help the twitch in the corner of his lips as he took a sip of his own drink - having gained a little more faith in the professor - and murmured, “Yeah, I think so too.”

Brian glanced over at him, the alcohol coursing through his veins preventing him from filtering his responses, and mumbled, “Can I ask you something, Freddie?”

“Ask away, Professor May,” he replied cheekily, his lips forming a wide grin.

“I like him, Freddie. Roger, I mean. I really like Roger.”

Freddie chuckled. “Not much of a question, Brian, but I know. In fact, I knew it the night at the club. Everyone did.”

Everyone?” the professor repeated, a wave of terror washing over him as he wondered who might’ve seen him that night, particularly someone at the university. He doubted it would’ve been another professor, because for all he knew, they were all married with wives and husbands – even Chrissie. But perhaps a student saw him. Word about him and the headmistress had already spread through the school, and that was bad enough. What if word got around that he was seen at a gay bar? He couldn’t imagine what that would do to his already tainted image.

“Oh, don’t act so surprised, darling. You were practically undressing him with your eyes.” Brian’s cheeks reddened at the brash accusation, but Freddie dismissed his embarrassment with a nonchalant wave of his hand. “I mean, practically everyone does, it’s just that some are lucky enough to actually do it. I particularly haven't been lucky myself, other than to help him in or out of a dress or stockings, but I have a feeling that you, my friend, have a very good chance of being one of the lucky ones."

The professor remained quiet, pressing his lips tightly together as he tried desperately to think of anything and everything else. The thought of getting to undress Roger was tantalizing, though, and he couldn’t help but wonder how it would be.

The two of them would be in a room together, alone, and some music would be playing softly in the background. A nervous tension would fill the air, but the minute their hands fall upon one another’s bodies and their lips touch, that tension would fade away and be replaced with nothing but passionate lust. They’d stumbled over each other’s feet towards the bed, and Roger would fall back on the mattress with Brian standing over him.

The blonde would bite his lip and inch his shirt up teasingly, revealing his flat stomach to the professor as he slipped his own shirt over his head and tossed it carelessly to the side. A giggle would slip past Roger’s lips as Brian climbs into the bed with him, lowering himself down on top of the blonde and eliminating the space between them. He’d capture the music instructor’s lips with his once more and his hands would slide up the clothes preventing him from making skin contact, his fingers desperately tugging at the fabric.

Roger would smirk against his colleague’s kiss and tell him to do it, to take it off already, which Brian would eagerly agree to. First his shirt, then his pants and socks, and lastly his underwear that, when pulled down just enough, would expose the blonde’s—

“Shit. It appears we’re all out of vodka,” Freddie blurted out dismally, bringing the professor back to reality as he tilted the empty bottle side to side and dropped his head back, shouting, “Mary, dear! Can you fetch me and Brian another bottle of vodka? We’re all out, love!”

The dark-haired man’s request was met with silence, and so with a heavy sigh, he picked himself up from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen to do the task himself. Brian – not wanting to be left alone – followed after him, bumping into the table that sat in the center of the room as he went to cross over to the counter and hurting his hip. He gasped in pain while Freddie stifled a laugh, trying to hide the smile that appeared on his face behind his hand. The professor’s head snapped in his direction, laughing a bit himself before asking, “What’s so funny?”

“You’re an absolute mess, darling,” Freddie answered, his response disrupted by the giggles he couldn’t be bothered to suppress. Instead of getting mad like Roger would have, or earning a smack on the arm like Mary would give him, the professor only nodded his head in agreement and plopped himself down in one of the chairs surrounding the small table, sinking into what Freddie could only make out to be a reflective state. Or maybe it was a depressive one. Either possibility was viable.

The dark-haired man cleared his throat after calming down from his near-crippling fit of laughter and began his search for another bottle of vodka, or perhaps an even better replacement, when Brian took in a deep breath and confessed somewhat out of the blue, “He made me bring him home, Freddie, my home.” His finger drew circles on the table’s surface, distracting him from the attention he’d gained by his remark. “I didn’t want to, but Tim had come to the school and was looking for him, and I...I mean, what else was I supposed to do? Let Roger go home with the guy? He looked like he wanted to hurt him.”

“Wait,” Freddie replied, sobering up just enough to put the pieces of Brian’s drunken story together as he turned around to face the professor and crossed his arms over his chest, “Did you just say Tim—”

“Roger told me he usually waits outside for him,” Brian cut him off, continuing to tell his tale that had been haunting him since it happened, “But that day, he came in and…and he was just so angry. I thought he knew about us; about Roger and me. I was certain he was going to kill us.” His worried eyes shot up to meet Freddie’s intrigued ones. “Oh my god, what if he killed him?”

The dark-haired man shook his head in disagreement, saying, “No, Tim would never. The guy’s an absolute prick, but he can’t live without Roger. He needs him like I need attention.” He chuckled at his own comment and sauntered over to the table, taking the seat across from the professor and leaning forwards, asking as seriously as he could manage with the amount of alcohol in his system, “Now tell me, what do you mean by you thought he knew about Roger and you? You haven’t done anything, have you?”

That familiar blush in Brian’s cheeks returned with an intensity Freddie hadn’t witnessed all night, and while hanging his head, the professor admitted, “We kissed.” The dark-haired man’s eyes grew wide, accompanied by an amused grin. “It…I…We should’ve never done it,” he tried to explain, shifting uncomfortably in his chair, “But I thought that…that if he kissed me, I-I would come to the realization that all my confusion and all my thoughts were just…in my head; that it didn’t mean anything.”

“But it did. It meant everything,” Freddie elaborated.

Brian nodded his head in affirmation, biting his cheek to refrain from expanding on his response but not being able to as he mumbled, “I hate myself for it.”

“Why?”

“Why do you think, Freddie?” the professor snapped, shooting an angry glare in his direction, his mood changing so rapidly it pushed the dark-haired man back in his chair. “Guys like me aren’t supposed to feel this way towards another guy. That’s just not how it works.”

Freddie chuckled under his breath, folding his arms over his chest and admitting, “Actually, Brian, it’s more common than you’d—”

“I don’t want to hear it, Freddie,” he interrupted him coldly, shaking his head in shame and muttering so quietly under his breath it was as if he didn’t want the dark-haired man to hear him, “You don’t know what it’s like for me.”

Another laugh cut through the quiet, tense atmosphere. “You wanna bet?” Freddie clasped his hands on the tabletop and leaned forward, whispering, “I’m a gay man engaged to a woman, Brian, a woman. Now, don’t get me wrong.” He brought a hand to his chest. “I love Mary with all my heart, and I can’t stand the thought of losing her because she understands me like no other person does, but I’m gay, Brian. And I think it’s safe to say that you are too.”

“No! You're wrong!” the professor shouted, forgetting about his surroundings as he shot up from his seat and threw his arms in the air, “You don’t even know me!”

Freddie kept a hard stare with Brian as he pointed at the abandoned chair and sternly commanded him to, “Sit down and listen to me, darling. I do.”

“No! I didn’t come here to ‘sit down and listen to you, darling,’” he harshly retorted, mocking Roger’s friend by trying to imitate his voice and mirror his flamboyant mannerisms that hadn’t been present the entire conversation. “I came here because I wanted to know if you knew where Roger was, but clearly I’m the only one who gives shit about him!” 

The dark-haired man folded his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side, looking right into Brian’s hazel eyes that glistened in the shadows and asking calmly, “Then what are you still doing here, Bri?” The professor fell silent, his hands clenched into fists by his sides and his chest inflating and deflating rapidly as he struggled to bring air to his seemingly constricted lungs. “If you care so much about him, shouldn’t you have left hours ago? Gone searching for him, roaming the streets of London and shouting his name? I mean, I’d imagine that’s what anyone who cares about someone as much as you seem to care about Roger would do. Yet here you are, yelling at me because you can’t admit that you have feelings for a man. Because it's wrong, and you've never anything wrong in your entire life. Is that correct?”

Tears spilled down Brian’s cheeks as Freddie’s accusation struck a chord in him, a chord that resonated with him in such a way that made his knees go weak with his stomach in knots, his heart pounding against his chest, and his head spinning. He dropped back down into the seat he was in and covered his face with his hands, sobbing.

Freddie frowned at the broken man sitting across from him, feeling guilty for giving him such a sharp reply. It wasn’t his fault for feeling the way he did. Coming to terms with the heart and the mind wanting different things wasn't easy. Hell, even Freddie himself still hadn’t fully come to terms with that. If he had, he wouldn’t be engaged to Mary.

So, with a deep breath, Freddie picked himself up from the seat he was in and circled the table, leaning over the crying professor and embracing him in an awkward, albeit comforting hug. “I'm sorry, Brian, but it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay, alright?”

Except, it wouldn’t be.

Chapter Text

“Oh my god,” Debbie whispered as her eyes followed the blonde dragging himself down the hall. Shades sat on the bridge of his nose, masking the dark blue, almost purplish ring that circled his left eye. The loose, wrinkled button-down he wore was unusually buttoned all the way, disguising the otherwise noticeable scratch that ran up his side, from his hip to his ribs, and the scarf he’d thrown on last minute hung loosely around his neck, hiding the small, oval bruises that stained his skin. His feet scuffed the floor with every step he took, a noticeable limp in his walk as he pushed his way through the corridor, keeping his head low in avoidance of any and all confrontation.

“Is he okay?” Anita wondered under her breath, her head turning as she watched him disappear into the crowd of students.

The pretentious student scoffed at her classmate’s remark, the two girls returning their focus to one another. “Of course, he’s not okay, Ani. I mean, did you see him? He looks worse than Richie did after Dominique’s party.”

“Wait, Dominique had a party and didn’t invite me?” the curly-haired girl retorted, offended by the news she just received.

“What’s going on?” the girl in question asked as she joined the popular pair, clutching her books to her chest and shifting her gaze between the two. Anita rolled her eyes as Debbie stifled an amused giggle.

Meanwhile, Roger had made his way into the basement, grunting with each strained step he took towards his classroom. The pain in his leg was near unbearable, and tears wavered in his swollen eyes. He disregarded the strange looks he received from the few students wandering down there, ignoring their whispers as he pushed forward, trying to convince himself that all of this was better than staying at home another day.

As he approached his room, he couldn’t hold back the annoyed sigh that slipped past his lips, his gaze falling upon his one and only student sitting on the floor next to the makeshift classroom, his bass in his lap and his head resting against the wall behind him. His eyes were closed, and his one hand slid up and down the instrument’s neck while the other plucked at the strings, working on the scales like Roger had asked him to.

“What are you doing here, John,” the blonde grumbled, stealing the student’s attention with a question that came out more like a statement than an inquiry.

The lanky boy set his bass aside and scrambled to his feet, brushing the dirt off the back of his pants to make himself more presentable. “Well, I’ve been practicing those scales like you told me, and—”

“I thought your lessons are on Tuesdays,” Roger interrupted him, bringing up a hand to his head where a sharp pain had formed.

“Oh, they are,” John assured him, nodding his head eagerly and nervously tucking his hands underneath his arms, “I just thought I’d show you what I’d done so far, and you could tell me if there's anything I still need to improve upon.”

The music instructor exhaled slowly and dropped his hand back down to his side, meeting the student’s gaze through the dark shades and saying dismally, “Now’s not really a good time, John. From what I heard, though, you sound great. So, just keep working on what you have been, and I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”

The frizzy-haired bassist stared at the blonde blankly, creating doubt in him that his student hadn’t understood what he'd just said. However, John understood him perfectly. His concern lied within the fact that his lesson teacher seemed spacey and had started to almost, but not quite, unnoticeably sway side to side. “Is everything okay, Mr. Taylor?” he inquired, “Are you not feeling well?”

“I’m fine, John,” Roger lied, feigning a grin that wasn’t very convincing. It was evident that he wasn’t fine – the sunglasses not doing as much justice as the blonde would’ve liked. Luckily, the shiner around his eye was all his peers could see, and they were all too shy and polite to ask him where he’d gotten it. So, for now, it remained a mystery.

Where he got it was no mystery to Roger, though, the blonde remembering his traumatic weekend in vivid flashes and snippets. He remembered the fists being thrown at him without pause, the infuriated shouts that continuously rung in his ears, and the blood that dripped from his mouth onto the floor in a seemingly never-ending stream of crimson, but he couldn’t remember feeling any pain, or passing out like he had.

What he did remember was waking up to his clothes being torn off his body, Tim claiming they needed to be cleaned and ironed, and being left alone on the floor or the bed – that, he couldn’t remember. He remembered the cold of the room biting at his bare skin as silent tears trickled down his cheeks, the pain from the previous night finally catching up to him. He remembered his arms and legs being tugged at – the clothes that were stolen from him being put back on – and the fresh face of makeup looking back at him through the mirror, but he couldn’t remember how he ended up in the car, or at the house he dreaded going to ever since his first visit.

He remembered his neglected resistance as Tim relentlessly pushed him up the walkway, throwing him into the client’s arms like he was nothing. He remembered being taken up the stairs to a private room, where Sid locked the door behind them and tied a gag around his quivering lips so he wouldn’t be so loud. He remembered being grabbed at and slammed down onto a surface which he didn’t have time to determine was soft or hard, because that’s when everything went black, and when he came to, he was back at his and Tim’s flat, the pain that consumed his body ten times more excruciating than before.

What bothered the blonde the most, though, was that he couldn’t remember what he did in the first place to land him in such a situation, or to deserve this kind of punishment. He’d racked his brain all yesterday, and all this morning, but he couldn’t come up with an answer to save his life.

“Are you sure?” John questioned, weary of leaving the blonde alone. It didn’t seem safe.

“Yes, John,” Roger murmured, sticking his hand out and leaning against the wall for support as the world tilted a little more to the right. He hung his head and groaned in pain, gritting his teeth and choking out, “Don’t you have a class to be getting to?”

John took the hint and gathered his things, brushing past the music instructor but keeping a worried gaze on him, watching as he rolled away from the wall and into his classroom. The student only looked forward when he accidentally bumped shoulders with someone else, rambling off a quick apology before scurrying upstairs.

Roger shut the door behind him, and as soon as it clicked into place, he fell forward on his hands and knees – unable to stand a second longer – and screamed into the shadows. Only a sliver of light illuminated the room, casting a thin line onto the linoleum floor the blonde sprawled himself out over. He clung to the ground as tears spilled from his eyes, regretting his decision to come in today.

“You sure you want to do this?” Tim asked him, the couple sitting in their shared car in front of the university. Roger looked over at him slowly, his stinging eyes narrowed and saying everything his mouth wasn’t. His boyfriend let out an aggravated sigh, resting his elbow on the door and his head in his hand. “I just don’t think you’re ready, Rog. You’ve had a long weekend, and I-I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to take another day—"

“No,” the blonde cut him short, his voice barely audible over the low rumble of the car’s engine, “I don’t want to go home.”

“What about the questions they’re going to ask you?” he expressed his concern, a terseness to his voice as he looked over at Roger, who’d returned his attention out the window like it had been for most of, if not, the entire ride. “I mean, just look at yourself. There’s no way they’re not going to ask what happened.”

The blonde kept quiet for a moment before smirking, thinking about responding with something along the lines of, Why, I’m going to tell them that my boyfriend beat me up and forced me to have violent sex with a stranger all to make a measly penny, of course. But when he glanced over at his boyfriend, he imagined him lunging over the center console, wrapping his hands around his throat, and bashing his head into the car window until it shattered. So, instead, he bit his lip and twiddled his thumbs in his lap, meeting his boyfriend’s angered gaze for a brief second before looking back down and muttering, “I’ll tell them that I tripped down the stairs.”

Tim scoffed. “Like they’re going to believe that.”

“Well, it’s not like I can’t tell them the truth, Tim.”

“Yeah, and whose fault is that?” he shouted, causing Roger to flinch and him to immediately soften at the sight, a pang of guilt washing over him. The blonde usually put up some kind of fight, or at least shot back with some kind of sarcastic comment, but now he just instantly admitted defeat. It hurt Tim to see his boyfriend like this, and he knew deep down that he crossed the line this past weekend; that he’d finally pushed Roger too far.

If he wasn’t close to losing Roger before, he certainly was now, which was why he hadn’t argued with him about his decision to return to the university. The blonde just couldn’t stand another day at home, sobering up enough to get himself out of bed – however, not quitting the habit entirely, since the alcohol helped subdue the pain – and deciding it was time to face his fears. After all, the weekend all but proved that what he had to deal with outside the comforts of his home – if they could even be labeled as so – was nothing compared to what he had to deal with inside. And so, when he approached Tim to tell him what he wanted to do, the latter had no choice but to say yes, fearing that if he shut down the idea, the blonde would go anyways and never come back.

Tim frowned and looked down at his lap in shame, mumbling a feeble, “I’m sorry, Rog, and…and not just about this. I’m sorry about everything. I didn’t—”

“I don’t need your apologies, Tim,” Roger grumbled, shaking his head, “I never have.”

An awkward silence fell over the pair as the blonde put all his effort into evading his boyfriend’s gaze, while his boyfriend struggled to find the words to cut the electric tension that crackled between them.

“W-What time will you be out today?” the driver asked, disturbing the silence that consumed the pair and mindlessly picking at the fraying hole in his jeans.

“Dunno. I probably have a lot of work to catch up on, so I was thinking of just getting a ride home from Freddie,” the blonde murmured, nervously eyeing his boyfriend in anticipation of him snapping back.

Tim’s eyebrows furrowed together, noticing the major flaw in his story. He looked over at the blonde and stated suspiciously, “I thought Freddie doesn’t drive.”

Roger’s cheeks grew red in embarrassment. “He…He’s learning. I’m helping him.”

When all Tim did was roll his eyes and turn his head away from Roger, muttering an unconvinced “Okay,” the music instructor felt a weight lift off his shoulders. He dreaded a repeat of the last two days, and so for Tim to respond like that came as a great relief. He even took it as an opportunity to get out of the car, his boyfriend’s attention following him as he closed the door behind him and opened the one behind it, leaning in and grabbing his bag, along with the scarf that was curled up like a snake beneath it.

“Love you,” Tim blurted out, the shaky sentiment earning a hesitant glance from its receiver.

The red in Roger’s cheeks intensified as he murmured a tentative, “I love you too,” before stepping back and shutting the car door with a slam that startled the driver. Tim watched with blurry eyes as the blonde grew smaller and smaller the closer he got to the school’s entrance, throwing the scarf around his neck and never once looking back at the running vehicle, its driver beating up the steering wheel instead beating up himself.

Roger could still hear the sound like it was in ear shot, and he brought his hands up to his head, holding them over his ears and squeezing his eyes shut in a desperate attempt to get the memory to stop. However, it was no memory. The pounding had manifested itself into the present, but instead of being against a steering wheel, it was against the door behind him. The music instructor only realized this when the door was pushed in, hitting the heel of his foot and drawing his attention over his shoulder, where his eyes fell upon the face he could recognize within a heartbeat, and the curls he could recognize even quicker.

“Roger?” Brian whispered, reaching into the shadows and flicking on the light switch to illuminate the music instructor’s classroom. The blonde scrambled to his feet, crawling across the floor as if he was a soldier in boot camp and pulling himself up onto the piano bench, grunting in pain as he plopped down on it and casually leaned back against the instrument. “My god, what happened to you?” the professor couldn’t help but ask, slipping into the room and closing the door behind him.

“I tripped down the stairs,” Roger replied sullenly, avoiding Brian’s concerned gaze as he squirmed uncomfortably on the seat, his ass still tender and sensitive from the beating it received this past weekend.

“Well, are you okay?” the professor inquired, maintaining the distance between him and music instructor, afraid things would get out of hand if he were to eliminate the space separating them.

Roger couldn’t hold back the sad chuckle that slipped past his lips, or the sarcastic response that followed. “Does it look like I’m okay?”

The professor let out an awkward laugh, nodding his head and saying, “Fair enough.” An uneasy pause formed in the conversation, which didn’t appear to be making any headway, so Brian cleared his throat and announced, “The school’s been wondering where you’ve been. You were absent three days last week with no explanation.”

The blonde kept quiet, twiddling his thumbs in his lap as a single tear fell from his black eye, rolling down his cheek and falling onto his clasped hands. He brought a hand up and swiped at his wet cheek, murmuring, “I got caught up in something.” 

Brian hung his head and bit his lip, the shroud of vagueness accompanying all of Roger’s answers making it very difficult for the professor to discuss what he really came down there to talk about. He was prepared for the door to be closed and locked again, grateful he had another day – or perhaps another week – to figure out exactly what he was going to say to the blonde, but he felt compelled to go down there and at least see if he was in. One can imagine how surprised he was to find that the door was unlocked, and even more so that the music instructor was there. Granted, he wasn’t expecting him to be lying on the floor or looking the way he did, but he was there.

“I was worried about you,” the professor confessed, drawing circles on the floor with the toe of his dress shoe and looking up at the blonde who doubled over and buried his face behind his hands.

“How thoughtful,” Roger groaned, his words muffled by his palms.

Brian took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, tacking on to his previous statement, “And I couldn’t stop thinking about you either.” Roger dropped his hands and met the curly-haired man’s remorseful gaze through his tinted lenses, saying nothing but letting the man across the room know he’d heard him.

The professor cleared his throat and continued, “I thought a lot about what went on between us that night.” He peeled himself away from the spot he’d restricted himself to when he first entered the room and moved over to the desk, pulling out the chair and dragging it over to the piano, where he placed it in front of the bench, right in front of Roger. He took a seat and tried to look into those blue eyes his mind couldn't escape all weekend, but the shades prevented him from doing so. He frowned and shifted his gaze down to his lap, swallowing the lump in his throat and going on to say, “I was angry. No, I was pissed, but...not at you. I wasn't mad at you.”

“Brian—”

“Hear me out, Roger, please,” he begged, glancing up into the pleading eyes that rolled in annoyance behind the shades covering them, “I want to make things right.”

“Well, you can’t, Brian,” the blonde snapped, silencing the professor almost instantly. He let out a heavy sigh and tilted his head down, elaborating on his remark, “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But I did,” the professor argued, “I-I freaked out on you and that wasn’t very fair of me. You were just…I just…” He struggled to finish his sentence, grasping at straws to find an explanation for his reaction. Although the answer seemed obvious – that he’d totally and unquestionably fallen for his coworker – he had trouble saying it. He thought his conversation with Chrissie and the subsequent talk with Freddie, albeit upsetting and vaguely remembered, gave him the confidence to finally confess his feelings to the blonde, but sitting across from him, faced with the situation he’d hypothesized all weekend, he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, he didn’t have to.

“You were just being a good friend,” Roger mumbled, finishing Brian’s sentence for him, even though that wasn’t what he was trying to go for. The professor’s jaw dropped, wanting to correct him, when he continued dismally, “You know, I…I’ve been sending you mixed signals, Brian, and I’m sorry.” He ripped the glasses off his face and began to play with them in his hands, exposing the black eye he was trying to hide. “I’m just…It’s just how I am. It doesn’t mean anything.”

The blonde stole a quick glance at the professor, curious as to what his response was going to be. He wanted Brian to be mad, furious, enraged. He wanted him to lash out at him, let him know that he deserved what he got over the weekend and that they could never be together in the way he wanted them to be. He needed that.

However, all Brian gave him was a confused look.

“What are you talking about?”

The blonde kept his head down, his focus directed towards his sunglasses as he murmured, “I’m talking about how I'm a fucking prostitute, Brian. It’s my job to make people think that I like them…”

The words that were coming out of his mouth, he didn’t mean them. He didn’t mean them at all, but he didn’t have the energy to keep pursuing Brian like he wanted to. It was draining in every way possible – emotionally, physically, mentally.

“…and I’m sorry if you got the wrong idea. You totally have the right to be angry with me. I get it," Roger finished softly, bringing a hand to the back of his bruised neck and finally meeting the professor’s irresistible hazel gaze. It wasn’t filled with hurt or sorrow like he had expected, rather, it was amused. “Well, aren’t you going to yell at me?” the blonde asked, slightly offended by Brian’s reaction, or lack thereof.

He chuckled. “W-Why would I yell at you?”

“Because I led you on,” he explained, shaking his head in disbelief, “I don't get it. Why aren't you pissed at me? I-I lied to you, and you can’t stand being lied to. So, aren’t you going to scream at me? Hit me? Beat the shit out of me?”

Brian’s face fell, and in the most serious tone he could muster, answered, “I’m not going to do any of those things to you, Roger.”

“And why the hell not?” the blonde shouted, standing up from the piano bench with a sense of urgency that threw Brian out of his chair, the taller of the two men staring at the other while his heart pounded against his chest. He fixated on the brownish circles speckling the blonde's exposed skin, revealed when the scarf flew off Roger's neck, the one end caught underneath his foot. The music instructor nervously swallowed the lump in his throat and quickly knelt down to retrieve the accessory, frantic in trying to disguise his injuries.

"Roger, no!" Brian cried, diving in and trying to stop him from retreating back into hiding. In doing so, however, glimpses of the past weekend flashed before the music instructor.

In that moment, he again felt every fist that had been thrown his way, every set of knuckles that grazed his cheek, and every hand that slid across his body and touched places he didn’t want to be touched. So, instinctively, he pushed the professor away from him and flung himself back into the piano, his body slamming up against its leg. The taller man rose to his feet, pitifully looking down at the trembling blonde.

“D-Don’t touch me,” Roger stuttered, holding the scarf tightly to his chest as his cheeks grew a deep shade of red and his glistening eyes traveled up to Brian’s worried ones.

The professor didn’t know what to do. He’d never seen someone so broken before.

The blonde looked down at the stretch of handwoven cloth in his hands and mumbled, “I’ll be fine, Brian. Bruises go away and cuts heal themselves. It’s nothing a little makeup can’t hide in the meantime.” He smirked. "Besides, it’s not only cigarette stains I’m a pro at getting rid of.”

Brian had been struck speechless. The words coming out of Roger’s mouth, they didn’t belong to him. None of them had except maybe that last sentence. The rest of them belonged to someone else; perhaps the person holding the strings attached to Roger’s arms, shoulders, legs, and feet, because his mouth was moving, but a different voice was coming out of it.

“Can you just leave me alone for a while?” the music instructor tacked on softly to his previous statement, a shameful expression washing over his face as he glanced back up at the professor.

It took a moment for Brian to process what Roger had asked of him, caught up in his own thoughts about the blonde and what had happened to him while he was gone, but more importantly, what he could do to help. What did Roger need?

"Please?" he added when the professor still hadn't responded to him.

Brian cocked his head to the side, a devious smile appearing on his face as he built up the courage to object to Roger's simple request. “No.”

“No?”

“No, because I don’t think you want me to leave.” The professor was truly grasping at straws with his accusation. What he meant to say was that he didn’t want to leave, but making that confession would be selfish, and this wasn’t about him. It was about Roger. “I think, deep down, you really want me to stay." I really want to stay.

He lowered himself to the ground and crossed his legs, sitting a few feet away from the suspicious music instructor and heaving a sigh as he hung his head and twiddled his thumbs in his lap. “I also think you want someone who isn’t going to scream at you or hit you when they get upset," he explained calmly, being sure to maintain the safe distance between them, "Someone who doesn’t come inside your place of work and threaten to tear down the walls just to find you. You want someone who actually cares about you; someone who trusts and respects you enough to let you be your own person.” He looked up, a blush creeping up in his cheeks as he implored, “If you’ll let me, Rog, I…I’d like to be that person, and I think you’d like that too.”

“Tim didn’t hit me,” the blonde corrected him coldly, seemingly having missed everything else the professor had said to him, “I told you, I tripped.”

“Yeah, and I’m the King of England,” Brian retorted sarcastically.

His response elicited a small laugh out of the music instructor, who replied so quietly, his remark almost went unheard. “If only you were.” The smile on his face faltered but somehow remained, the blonde sniffling before muttering, “Then you could have me whichever way you wanted, and no one could stop you. But alas, you’re just some lousy professor at a university.” He met the curly-haired man’s gaze with saddened eyes, though they quickly filled with mischief as he started to come back to himself and finished with, “And the headmistress has your balls in a vice. One wrong step and you’re toast, Professor May.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Brian laughed, snatching a stray pencil off the ground and playfully chucking it at the blonde whose arms snapped up, acting like a shield as he chuckled himself. It made him feel good to see the genuine smile on the blonde’s face; he couldn’t stand to see him frown. It just didn’t feel right.

Their laughter eventually died down, and a blanket of silence fell over the two as they drifted off into their own thoughts, asking themselves the unanswerable question that always came to mind when they were together. What do we do now?

Luckily neither of them had to deal with the weight of the decision, because a knock rattled on the door to the makeshift classroom and the source provided no time at all for the music instructor to respond before it was pushed in to reveal the woman he’d just made fun of, clearly flustered by something neither men knew about. Her eyes quickly darted to her boyfriend who sat on the floor, her cheeks growing red as she stuttered, “B-Brian! I…I mean, uh, Professor May, what…what a surprise to see you down here.”

“Y-Yeah,” he stammered, picking himself up off the ground and brushing off the back of his pants. “I saw Roger trip down the stairs, and I wanted to make sure he was alright,” the curly-haired man lied, looking down at the blonde whose eyebrows furrowed together. It didn’t make sense to him why the professor suddenly was okay with the story he’d given him. Was he just trying to save Chrissie from the impending argument that was bound to ensue had Brian told her the truth? Or was he just trying to be nice and keep this between the two of them?

“Oh, how terrible,” Chrissie commented, clasping her hands awkwardly behind her back before averting her apathetic attention to Roger who still sat with his back to the leg of the piano, the scarf now back around his neck, “Are you alright?”

“I’m feeling a bit better,” the music instructor answered, his gaze flickering up to the professor and the corner of his lips perking up into a smirk.

“Well that’s good,” the headmistress remarked, regaining the blonde’s attention as she continued to say, “Because I was wondering if I may so have a word with you, Mr. Taylor. Alone.

Chapter Text

Chrissie closed the door behind Brian as he reluctantly left the room, regretting that he still hadn’t told Roger how he truly felt. Now his confession seemed more needed than ever, especially after what happened to him, but before he could even get a word in, the woman – who, as Roger so lovely put it, had his balls in a vice – robbed him of the chance to do so, ushering him out of the room like it was her own.

The headmistress turned towards the music instructor who leaned against the piano – having picked himself up off the ground but still unable to stand on his own – and crossed her arms. For a long while, neither of them said anything. They just stared at one another, betting on who would speak first. Chrissie’s eyes narrowed in an attempt to intimidate the blonde into caving, and had it not been for the past weekend, he wouldn’t have even thought about it, but his fears of what he believed was inevitable overcame him, and he found himself clearing his throat and asking, “So, what did—”

“My husband and I got a call from your friend,” she cut him short, her words zipping Roger’s lips shut. She didn’t need to explain who the call was from, because the music instructor already knew.

On Sunday, he found the list Tim had extracted from the box, tarnished with checkmarks and scribbles that weren’t there when he stashed it away with the other remnants of the past he intended to leave behind. He knew he should’ve gotten rid of it, burned it up, and shred it to pieces when he decided to call it quits, but for some reason he couldn’t. A small part of him was afraid that the endeavor the headmistress had bestowed him with might not work out, and so he felt like he needed a backup plan. After all, he’d never been in a position like this before – something so professional, so highly regarded. He feared not being able to acclimate to his new situation, and having that list gave him a sense of comfort as something to fall back on. However, after spending a few weeks at the university, but more specifically after meeting Brian, Roger felt as though didn’t need it anymore. He was ready to put it all behind him, but Tim made it very clear that he wasn’t, and neither were his clients.

The blonde scratched behind his head, figuring it was safer to play it cool and act like he wasn’t aware of what she was talking about as he responded, “Oh, really? That’s strange, I-I swore I got rid of his number.”

“Well, clearly you didn’t,” she snapped under her breath, crossing the room in a blurry haste that pushed Roger further back into the piano. Memories of the past weekend flashed before Roger’s eyes as the headmistress stuck her finger in his face, causing him to flinch. “I thought our deal was that if I gave you this job, you’d stop seeing my husband.”

“I did!” he cried out.

“Obviously you haven’t because your man called, asking if my husband was interested in setting up another ‘appointment’ with you,” Chrissie growled through clenched teeth, her extended finger folding into her hand with the rest of them and forming a fist. She pounded the piano beside the blonde, making him jump and extracting a single tear from his eyes. “Goddammit, Roger,” she muttered, meeting his terrified gaze. “I thought we were trying to help each other out, here!”

“We are, Chris—”

Headmistress Mullen,” she corrected him.

The music instructor gulped. “We are, Headmistress Mullen.”

Chrissie glared at Roger before pulling herself away from the instrument and returning to the other side of the room, where she began to push the papers on his desk around, picking up certain pieces and looking them over before tossing them carelessly to the side and exchanging it for another one to do the same with. “You’re on very thin ice, Roger,” she warned, keeping her back to the blonde whose heart pounded against his chest and whose breathing became strained. “If I had half a mind, you’d be out of a job right now. After all, that call made it seem like you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new position and would much rather go back to what you were doing before."

Hearing the headmistress threaten to take away his only chance of escape caused Roger more pain than everything Tim and Sid had done to him this past weekend. He needed this opportunity more than she knew, and she dangled it in front of him like it meant nothing. After all, the job she’d offered him didn’t exist before, and she could dissolve it just as easily as she established it. It wasn’t like the school was known for its music, and the program hadn’t received as much attention as she would’ve liked it to in order to make the additional – albeit small – department not as suspicious in her colleague's eyes. So, who was to say she wouldn’t just take it away and send Roger back to the life he couldn’t stand another day in?

“That wasn’t me, Chrissie,” he murmured innocently.

Headmistress—”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, I’m not going to call you that!” Roger shouted, pulling away from the piano in a wobbling stagger and using all his strength to stay upright. Her narrowed eyes snapped over to him, the blonde instantly realizing the error in his sudden burst of confidence as his cheeks turned a bright shade of red. “Please, just…just don’t punish me for something Tim did,” he begged, “He doesn’t understand. H-He thinks he’s doing what’s right for me, but I’ve changed.”

“Oh, have you now?” the headmistress replied lowly, throwing the papers she clutched tightly in her hands – so much so that the pages began to crinkle – back onto the desk and crossing her arms over her chest. “Look, Roger, I don’t care about what Tim does or not, you just stay away from my husband, okay? Because if I get another call or see you anywhere near my house again, I will fire you, and you’ll have no choice but to dress up like a stupid schoolgirl for the rest of your pathetic existence. Is that what you want?” He frantically shook his head no. “I didn’t think so.”

Leaving the blonde with her warning, Chrissie headed for the door, her words lingering in the air and ringing in Roger’s ears. With each step she took, his heart beat faster and faster, and his breathing became more and more erratic. He was losing her, and by losing her, he’d lose his chance to escape. So, he did the only thing he could think of in such a dire moment.

“Does your husband know about Brian?”

The headmistress stopped dead in her tracks.

Roger began to nervously mess with the frayed ends of his long scarf, avoiding her wrathful gaze and muttering unconfidently under his breath, “I-I just think it’d be a real shame if he found out about you sneaking around your place of work with one of your inferiors.” Fury ignited in her sharp glare. “Or would it just make things even between you two?” he tacked on, finding a bit more strength as he went on to explain, head still down, “I mean, after all, he was cheating on you. The least you could do to get back at him would be to cheat on him too, right?”

“Are you trying to blackmail me, Taylor?” she sneered.

“I’m just saying, Chrissie…” Roger folded his arms over his bruised chest and swallowed the painful cry that wanted to emanate from the back of his throat, finally looking into her eyes that glowed with resentment, “…you’re not the only one with leverage here.”

A scornful tut slipped past her lips. “Says the cross-dresser with a black eye and a limp.”

The blonde frowned and watched as the headmistress finally left his classroom, slamming the door on her way out. The force of her action knocked the small clock on the wall above the music instructor’s desk from its hook, adding it to the mess of papers Chrissie had left behind. He plopped down on the piano bench and dropped his hands in between his knees, staring at the door as if Chrissie would come back and take his job away from him right then and there. However, thinking about it, he doubted she would. This whole thing depended on both of them being able to keep their situation under wraps and tell the same story when asked about it, so they were in this together, whether they liked it or not. They couldn’t pull this off without one or the other, and so—

“—one wrong step and you’re toast,” Roger whispered to himself, seeing that his teasing remark to Brian didn’t only apply to the professor.

*****

Half the day had passed by, the minutes dragging on like hours, and soon the university was flooded with students and professors trying to catch a quick bite or cup of tea before their next class. The crowded halls and courtyards burst with conversations and laughter. Even Brian and Chrissie found themselves in the mix, sharing lunch together and acting as though they hadn’t just ignored each other for the better part of last week, or nearly broke up over the fact that the headmistress lied to the professor about being married – though she didn't technically lie to him, she just made a conscious effort not to mention it.

After a reluctant conversation that didn’t sit well with either of them, the couple agreed to pretend like everything was okay, at least in front of their peers. It was true that their relationship had been kept a secret for its entirety, but that didn’t stop their colleagues from making assumptions or spreading rumors. Everyone knew there was something different about the way they behaved around each other, and many speculated that they were having an affair – which, in a sense, they were. However, few knew that their affair had turned into something more serious, and even fewer – if any at all – knew that their relationship was in danger of falling apart. Even the reason for that wasn’t certain, the two involved parties having different ideas about why they’d grown so distant, so disconnected.

Meanwhile, separate from everyone else, Roger had isolated himself in the bathroom, leaning over a sink and caking foundation on his face and neck in a desperate attempt to mask the bruises that seemed to be getting worse as the day progressed. His gaze anxiously shifted between the mirror and the door, worried someone might walk in on him. After all, it was a public restroom; a men’s restroom, at that. Normally, he wouldn’t mind such a walk-in; in fact, he was quite accustomed to it. The problem lied within the fact that it was rare for a man to be applying makeup in places like this, whereas in the places Roger was more acquainted with, it was an almost expected sight, sometimes even a turn-on. Here at the university, though, he doubted such a thing was acceptable by any means. Who knew what repercussions he would face if someone discovered him?

He took a painful step back – almost tripping over his scarf he’d dropped to the ground by his feet – and stared at himself in the mirror, examining his work. For the most part, the bruises had disappeared, especially the ones on his neck. The one around his eye, however, didn’t seem to want to go away, peeking through the thick, heavy layer of foundation like a zit that refuses to be gotten rid of. He sighed in involuntary defeat and shoveled his belongings into his bag, scooping that and his scarf up from the ground and going to leave when the door clicked open, Roger’s frightened eyes falling upon the student standing in the doorway.

“Ben,” the music instructor muttered in astonishment, his body just as stiff as the other blonde’s. He awkwardly slung his bag over his shoulder and hesitantly asked, “W-What are you doing here?”

The younger man – only by a few years – pointed to the stalls to his left, unable to formulate a verbal response. All he seemed to be able to do was silently stare at the man whose boyfriend he slept with weeks ago, his attention fixated on the discolored ring around the instructor’s eye, and his mind screaming at him to just leave and find another bathroom.

Ben assumed the black eye came from a fight, and he wasn't wrong...entirely. He figured it was the blonde who initiated the quarrel, considering how upset he seemed to be when he walked in on him and his boyfriend that night, and that he attained the injury out of an act of self-defense from the opposite party.

You see, that was Tim's greatest quality – his ability to make others believe that he could do no wrong; that it was the world against him and he against it. However, that belief belonged to him too, and he'd seen things that way for so long that he became blind to any and all other possibilities.

For Tim, it all came down to a matter of doing what he needed to in order to survive, and that's how Ben saw it. How could he not after Tim cried to him about how awful his boyfriend was to him, describing the tumultuous and rocky the slope the two of them were headed down and blaming it all on the blonde?

It's just that...I just wish he'd realized he's perfect just the way he is, you know? But he hates himself so much that he's always trying to be someone else; always trying to find something bigger and better than what he's got. I love him to death, I really do, but every time he walks through that door, I-I recognize him less and less. It's like he doesn't even want to be around me anymore. After all I've sacrificed to be with him, it's like he wants to get rid of me. What am I s'pposed to do?

The fake tears really sold it for Ben, as they did every guy he fooled around with while Roger wasn't home, and the young blonde left the flat that night thinking Tim wasn't the abuser, but the abused, and that Roger deserved that ring around his eye. Would he be able to stand up to Roger, though, if he were to come after him? He wasn't so sure.

“...right,” Roger blurted out uncomfortably, nodding his head once before brushing past Ben out into the hallway, the student slamming up against the restroom door in fear. His sudden and abrupt reaction caught the blonde’s attention for only a split second, his intrigue disrupted by him bumping into someone. He rattled off a quick apology – too panicked to take the time to see who it was – before adjusting his bag and rushing back to his classroom, his run unstable and causing more pain with each corner he turned and stairwell he descended.

He entered the room with a swiftness that resembled one of someone being chased by a murderer, and it wasn’t until he turned around from closing the door that he noticed the person sitting at his piano, waiting for him.

“Darling, where have you been?” the flamboyant intruder chastised his absence, rising up from his spot on the bench and crossing the room to clasp the blonde’s face in his hands, “Oh my god, forget what where you’ve been. What happened to you?”

“Nothing, Fred,” Roger responded in an angry whisper, as if they were under surveillance, plucking his friend’s hands away from his cheeks and glaring at him. He tossed his bag to the side and walked over to his desk, limping and hissing with each step he took. He plopped down in his desk chair and let out a shaky breath, looking back at his friend with furrowed brows. “Why are you even here, and how’d you get in?”

“Oh, I flirted with the cute janitor and showed him this,” the dark-haired man admitted shamelessly, flicking the folded-up flyer he snatched off one of the walls at the blonde, “‘Told him I was interested in lessons and he showed me the way to your room…after taking me on a little detour to the custodian’s closet, of course. It’s surprisingly spacious in there; you and Brian should check it out sometime.” Roger’s narrowed eyes went unnoticed – or rather, ignored – as Freddie crossed his arms and shifted the focus of their conversation. “Okay, now it’s your turn. Spill.” He gestured in the music instructor’s direction. “How the hell did that happen?” That obviously being the stain Roger failed to disguise with makeup.

The blonde swallowed the lump in his throat and snatched the pen off his desk, beginning to play with it in his lap as a distraction while he contemplated whether to confess to Freddie what happened this past weekend or not. It wasn’t like he was unfamiliar with Roger and Tim’s relationship; he’d been there for most of it and had seen it all. Yet the blonde found himself reluctant to share the story behind his scars, and so he stayed quiet, biting his lip and twiddling the pen between his fingers.

“Fine. Don’t tell me, you prick,” Freddie tutted, waltzing over to Roger’s desk and propping himself on the edge, where he crossed one ankle over the other and picked up one of the songs the music instructor had been working on. Roger glared at his friend out of the corner of his eye as he scanned his potential piece in silence, mindfully ignorant of the awkward tension building between them.

When he was done looking over the first song, he moved onto another and finally blurted out, “You want to know who came to see me this weekend?”

Roger sighed and slowly looked up at Freddie, replying uninterestedly, “Let me guess, the bartender you’re always trying to get with? Or the guy who told you to fuck off after you asked how big his dick was?”

Freddie scoffed. “Same guy, darling, but no, not him. Guess again.”

“I don’t know, Fred. Just tell me. I’m not really in the mood for your guessing game.”

“Oh, come on. Since when were you the one to suck all the fun out the room?” the dark-haired man replied, playfully smacking Roger on the arm. The seemingly harmless gestured sent the blonde flying, slamming up against the wall beside him. “Jesus, Rog, what’s gotten into you?”

He sighed and rubbed his aching arm, avoiding the question by proposing one of his own. “Are you going to tell me who it was or not?”

Freddie hung his head and curled his lip underneath his front teeth, disclosing in a serious tone that strongly contrasted his previous one, “It was Brian. Brian came to see me this weekend.”

Roger’s eyes widened. “B-Brian? Brian came to see you?”

Freddie crossed his arms over his chest and nodded his head in affirmation, glancing down at the blonde. “Mhmm, he was looking for you. ‘Said he hadn’t seen you in days and was worried.”

Roger stared at Freddie nervously, anxiously waiting for him to reveal what else Brian had said to him, but instead, the dark-haired man returned his attention to the new song in his hands and commented somewhat irrelevantly, “You know, your boy holds his liquor quite well. Granted, he got a little tipsy and googly-eyed over some pictures of you, but he didn’t throw up or anything like you used to.” He chuckled sadly. “God, I remember those days. You were even more of a mess than you are now!"

The music instructor shook his head, pushing aside the matter of how much of a mess he truly was to inquire, “What else did he say to you, Fred?”

The dark-haired man set the song down on the desk and met the blonde’s fearful gaze, answering sharply, “He told me that Tim came here looking for you, and that you made him take you back to his place.” Roger swallowed hard, afraid of what else Brian had told him about that night. “He also told me that the two of you kissed.” There it was.

Roger’s cheeks grew a deep, embarrassed shade of red. “He told you we kissed?”

Freddie shrugged his shoulders. “I’m a little bitter that he was the one to tell me about it and not you, but yes, he did.”

The blonde chucked the pen to the side and shot up from the chair, painfully crossing the room in an attempt to create some distance between him and his friend. He couldn’t stand being so close to him anymore, feeling as though he’d been suddenly put under interrogation. He and Freddie agreed a long time ago not to ask questions, and to trust in one another not to receive any judgment or ridicule, yet in that moment, he felt as though he was receiving both.

“He also told me why you kissed,” Freddie added, trying to regain his friend’s frustrated attention but failing to do so as he sat down on one of the two chairs set up in the center of the room and put his head in his hands. The dark-haired man stood up and took a step closer to the blonde, continuing his spiel by mentioning, “He likes you, Roger. He likes you a lot—”

“I don’t care if he likes me, Fred,” he grumbled, weaving his fingers through his hair and letting out a heavy sigh, “That’s not what I…I can’t even think about that right now, okay?”

“And why not?” Freddie insisted, resting his hands on his hips, “I thought you liked him too. I mean, isn’t that what you’ve been telling me since the minute you met him?”

“Yeah, and look where it’s got me,” Roger spat back, his angry gaze shifting from the ground to his friend as he answered his own question with such resentment, it struck Freddie silent, “It’s got me beaten up, thrown around, and at risk of losing of my job. And for what? Some stupid professor who told you when he was shitfaced that he likes me? He doesn’t even know me, Fred! I don’t even know me anymore!”

The dark-haired man raised an eyebrow, waving his hands frantically before placing them back on his hips. “Wait a minute. Did I just hear you say that Tim’s beating you?" He gasped, his eyes doubling in size. "Is that where that came from?” He motioned to the black eye marking the blonde’s face.

Roger tugged nervously at the collar of his button-up, the room suddenly very warm as he stammered, “N-No. I got it falling down the stairs.”

Freddie clicked his tongue and shot an accusatory finger at his friend. “Don’t you dare lie to me, Roger Meddows Taylor. You know I know when you're lying!”

The blonde tilted his head down and pressed his lips tightly together, unwilling to admit the truth to Freddie. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to; it was because he wasn’t ready to. He still couldn’t fully wrap his head around what happened these past few days, and he didn’t feel justified to make as bold a claim as to say that Tim beat him. For all he knew, all his scars – all the cuts, and all the bruises – could've been from Sid. The guy was known for his vicious behavior and personality, so it made perfect sense if it was all Sid’s doing. It had to be him, because—

“—Tim wouldn’t hurt me,” the music instructor finally murmured under his breath, taking in a deep breath and meeting Freddie’s unconvinced gaze, “He couldn’t. He loves me, and…and you don’t hurt people you love.”

The dark-haired man chuckled. “I don’t believe it. You’re still defending him. After all these years, he finally gave you a reason to leave, yet you refuse to see it. Why?”

“Because he didn’t hurt me!” the blonde cried, sniffling as his vision began to blur and his throat started to close, “He couldn’t, Freddie. He wouldn’t.”

Freddie dared to eliminate the space between the two of them and place a strong hand on Roger’s shoulder, causing the blonde’s entire body to tense up as he leaned in and whispered, “But he did, darling. He did.”

Chapter Text

It was an odd sight, Brian and Chrissie walking down the hallways together after the lunch rush died down and the students and professors fled to their respective classes. Chrissie was all smiles, waving at the faculty the two of them passed by and shooting them a quick “How are you doing?” or “I’m doing great, thanks!”

Brian, on the other hand, kept his head hung low, much like he did when he first started teaching – too insecure about his age and credibility that he couldn’t make eye contact with any of his colleagues. This time around, though, he was insecure about the stories they might’ve heard, feeling as though all eyes were on him; judging him for being with the headmistress while she was married, for becoming attracted to a man while in said relationship, and for considering leaving her for him even though he knew it wasn’t possible. Of course, the latter suspicion was more improbable than the former, with no one knowing about his feelings towards the music instructor other than the music instructor’s best friend, and most likely his boyfriend too. He must’ve known. Why else would he have hurt Roger so badly?

“I really liked eating lunch with you today,” the headmistress blurted out, yanking the professor out of his own headspace and bringing him back to reality where they stood in front of his classroom. Chrissie’s hands rested on Brian’s chest, and there was virtually no distance separating them as she looked up at him with lustful eyes and a shameless smirk. “It seems like forever since we last shared a meal.”

“Yeah,” he replied, failing to feign interest in the topic as he bit his lip and wrapped his hands around hers, removing them from his chest and bringing them back down to her sides. “It was nice,” he tacked on, the corners of his lips perking up ever so slightly as he gently pushed her away.

The headmistress sensed the professor’s discomfort, but being persistent in trying to make up for upsetting him so much, she dismissed the hints he dropped about wanting to be left alone and offered cheerfully, “Maybe we can share another one tonight?”

“I don’t know, Chrissie, I-I have tests to grade,” he mumbled, slipping his hands into the pockets of his pants and staring down at his shoes in avoidance of her pleading gaze.

She sighed and folded her arms over her chest, the optimism she was trying her hardest to maintain wavering. “You can’t push them off for another day?”

“It’s their midterms,” Brian explained, his eyes still locked on his feet, “My students have been asking me about them almost every day; I-I really don’t think I can’t push it off any longer.” They actually hadn’t asked him anything. The only student he spoke with was John, and even he didn’t seem too pressed about his grade.

Chrissie couldn’t hide the disappointment that washed over her. She hated to admit it, but Brian was right – everything had changed. The pair always knew this day would come sooner or later, when everything would be different, but she wasn’t prepared for this kind of different.

She always imagined that the change would come from their colleagues finding out about them, or from her leaving her deadbeat, lying, cheating husband once and for all to be with the man who restored her faith in the male population. Brian was the perfect gentleman – boring enough to blend in anywhere he went, but deep down, insanely caring and passionate about the things and people he loved. He was everything her husband wasn’t, and she knew it was wrong to pursue him with the ring around her finger, but she couldn’t help herself.

Chrissie fell for Brian harder and harder every day, and when she walked in on her husband and Roger, she knew it was over. There would be no more of her internal “will I/won’t I” debate. She wanted Brian, and lucky for her, she had him.

She had him the minute he walked into the conference room for his interview, and the day she took him on a tour of the school even though he already knew it like the back of his hand. She had him when she spontaneously kissed him on the lips after one of their many conversations, and when she gave him a copy of her key to the elevator and lured him into the custodian’s closet in the basement, lights off. She had him the night she told him she loved him and invited him over while her husband was out of town, and she had him the morning after when they lied in bed together – the sheets draped across their bare backs – and considered calling in sick.

The professor had been all hers up until that point, but now, the headmistress felt as though she’d lost him, like there was some great big sea separating them and she didn’t have a working boat to cross the water to get to him. She could try swimming or catching a ride on another person’s boat, but she doubted any efforts she put forth would bring her back to him or vice versa. There was something – someone – blocking the way.

“When are you going to forgive me for lying to you?” she begged to know, believing it was her deceit that was tearing them apart.

Brian heaved a frustrated sigh. “Chrissie, I don’t know what you want me to do.”

“Forgive me!” she screamed, her voice echoing down the empty hall and bringing an embarrassing shade of red to her cheeks as she uncomfortably folded her arms over her chest and tilted her head down out of shame. “Goddammit, Brian, I just…I know I fucked up, okay?” Her voice was but a whisper as her eyes traveled back up to his, glistening with remorse. “But when you meet the person you’re meant to be with, you just know it, and…and you do everything you can to be with them. So, yes, I lied to you, but there’s no more secrets between us, I promise.”

The professor frowned at his girlfriend’s confession. Had things been different, he would’ve been absolutely elated in the fact that she thought they were meant to be together, because before Brian met Roger, he thought that too. However, that feeling wasn’t as strong anymore. In fact, he wondered if that sentiment applied to him and Roger. Maybe that’s why he felt so divided about the whole situation.

“Brian, please, can we put this behind us and just go back to the way things were?” she pled, shortening the distance between the two of them and running her hands up his flat chest. “You know, like when we first started fooling around?” She pressed her lips together and pressed her body against his. The friction between them was undeniable, and Brian began to panic, a thousand alarms going off in his head. His mind screamed at him to stop; that they were at the university and that anyone could turn the corner and catch them, that this was irresponsible and wrong because he liked Roger.

Yet, at the same time, it felt…so…right.

The headmistress’s lips perked up into a smirk, feeling and knowing she’d gotten to the professor like she’d wanted to. “Why don’t you meet me in our usual spot in about – oh, I don’t know – five minutes?”

Brian frantically nodded his head, the word “yes” escaping him entirely.

“Good,” she muttered, getting on her tip-toes and planting a gentle kiss on his slightly parted lips. “I’ll see you soon?”

“S-See you soon,” the professor repeated, his voice shaky and his heart pounding against his chest as his girlfriend peeled herself away from him and strutted off, the click of her heels reverberating off the walls as they bounced across the linoleum floors. Brian stared at her until he couldn’t anymore, falling back against the wall and clutching his chest that felt like it was about to burst.

He wasn’t quite sure what was happening, but the draw he felt towards going along with Chrissie’s suggestion was undeniable. Deep down, he wanted things to go back to the way they were too, and not just for his or Chrissie’s sake, but for Roger’s too.

Although he had no proof, he believed that what happened to Roger was all his fault. If he didn’t send him away that night and insist on kissing him, or if he didn’t seek out a friendship with the blonde and let his curiosity get the best of him, neither of them would be in the situations they found themselves in. Yet there they were, Roger covered in cuts and bruises and Brian beating himself up over the confusing and conflicting thoughts that pulled him in different directions.

Maybe if I just—

The professor jumped as a tap pulsated through his shoulder and his entire body, nearly giving him a heart attack.

“Jesus, Ray,” Brian murmured, his grip on his chest tightening.

“Jumpy little fella today, aren’t we?” the other professor snickered, the corner of his lip perking up into a smirk.

“Yeah, you…you really got me.” He forced out an awkward, nervous laugh, bringing a hand to the back of his neck and rubbing it uncomfortably.

The older of the two men shook his head, slamming a hand down on the younger man’s shoulder and resting the other on his hip. He let out a content sigh, taking a quick glance down the empty hallway, before returning his attention to the taller man beside him and blurting out, “It’s been forever since you and I had a chat, innit?”

Brian swallowed the lump that formed in his throat. “I don’t think we’ve ever chatted, Ray.”

“Maybe we should start, then,” the shorter professor insisted, giving his colleague’s shoulder a slight squeeze, “Because I’ve got a hilarious story for you. Wanna hear it?”

The astrophysics professor’s cheeks reddened, his mind coming up with all the stories his lewd colleague could have tucked in his pocket. Perhaps he had a story about how Brian’s notoriously delinquent student, Debbie, got caught giving her Algebra professor head in the handicapped stall of the girl’s restroom, or about how one of the seniors – top of her class, too – starred in the latest and greatest porn film and copies had been floating around campus. I’ve got my hands on one, he could hear him saying. Want to watch it with me? Although unsettling, Brian would’ve taken one of those stories any day over a story about how the headmistress’s husband was found cheating on her with a prostitute, or one about how said prostitute was the newest addition to their faculty. Heaven forbid the story Ray had to tell was about that.

Anything but that, he silently prayed, replying instead with an indifferent, “Sure.”

Ray scanned the hall once more before leaning in, bringing his hand up to the side of his mouth, and whispering, “Rumor has it that your new friend’s a fag.”

Brian’s eyes widened, his worst fears threatening to become a reality. “Who?” he asked, unknowingly engaging in the same strategy Roger had when Chrissie confronted him.

The man with the receding hairline scoffed. “You know who I’m talking about, May.” He shook his head no, shrugging his shoulders and raising his hands ever so slightly for added effect. “Blondie!” the women’s studies teacher exclaimed, scoffing when Brian still didn’t seem to get it, “You know, the smart mouth you’re always hanging out with?”

The professor gasped, exaggerating his reaction to match his colleague’s interest in the rumor that few knew was actually true. “Roger? No way.”

Way.”

“That’s preposterous!”

Ray snorted, crossing his arms over his chest and nodding his head in affirmation. “Oh, it’s true, Brian. Very true, indeed. You want to know how I know?”

“Oh, please do tell!” Brian begged, a whine to his voice that made him worry he was playing into the conversation too much and would cause the shorter man beside him to grow suspicious about his responses. The bigger concern the professor had, though, was exactly what his colleague wanted to share with him – how he’d made the discovery, and if that discovery included Brian himself.

Why else would he have approached the astrophysics teacher? It wasn’t like they were friends, or even that close. In fact, Ray was the last person Brian would’ve imagined talking to him outside of the teacher’s lounge. Ask any of the other professors, and they’d confirm that Brian and Ray were polar opposites in every sense of the phrase – the way they looked, the way they thought, the way they carried themselves, the list went on. So, it was only natural for Brian to be suspicious too.

“Word’s going ‘round that he was seen in a gay bar a few weeks back, with not one, but two men!” Ray disclosed, a giggle following his confession. Brian, to keep up appearances, laughed along, but he found it difficult to disguise the intensifying of the blush in his cheeks. “Oh, Brian, you had to be there to see it.” I was, he thought but kept to himself.

Oh god, I was there. He’s trying to get me to admit it.

Luckily for Brian, or maybe unluckily – he couldn’t decide – the next thing Ray said about his story was that, “At one point, blondie stormed off into the bathroom, all flustered about something one of the two said.” It actually wasn’t because of something we said. It was because Reid was all over him and called him Liz, exposing him for his alter ego that he didn’t want me finding out about. “I can’t remember what it was, but it was hilarious! He’s a fairy, Brian! A pufter! A queer. God, I always knew something was off about him since the day he started, and seeing him there, it finally all makes sense!”

The professor’s eyebrows furrowed together, locking onto the second thing his colleague said and using it to shift the impending accusation away from himself, asking, “Wait, Ray, you saw him there? Does that mean you were at the bar too?”

“Oh, n-no,” he quickly defended himself, his cheeks growing redder than Brian’s, “God, no. Are you crazy? I wouldn’t be seen dead in a place like that. Ever. How could you even think that? It was…a friend of mine. A friend told me.”

“I see,” Brian replied, nodding his head in understanding and bringing a hand over his mouth to hide the smirk that grew upon discovering the crack in his colleague’s story, relieved and overjoyed that the story hadn’t shifted its focus to his involvement in it. Once he calmed himself down, he lowered his hand back down to his side and muttered, “So, let me get this straight. Your friend was at this bar and saw Roger there with two men, and he ran off at one point because of something one of the two men said?”

The women’s studies professor’s confidence declined exponentially at the question he was presented with. “You know, I-I’m not quite sure anymore. My friend really didn’t hear the conversation, and it…it was a while back, you see, and…and I-I haven’t gotten the chance to share it with you because…because I’ve been so busy!” He punched him playfully in the upper arm, eliciting a gasp out of the thinner man and causing him to clutch his stinging bicep. “You know how it is around midterms.”

The curly-haired man once again nodded his head, flashing him a forceful yet reassuring smile. “Yeah, I do, Ray. I really do.”

An awkward silence fell over the contrasting pair, the faint sound of footsteps and chatter echoing through the deserted halls. Brian bit his lip, feeling as though the two of them were on a tightrope and that whatever was said next would push them over the edge. Either way, below them was certain doom and the astrophysics professor wasn’t so sure he was ready for that. He didn’t feel ready for anything his future held, except maybe for his impromptu rendezvous with Chrissie.

Oh no, Chrissie!

“Hey, erm, speaking of midterms,” Brian blurted out, clearing his throat beforehand and clasping his hands behind his back. “Grades are due soon. You mind if I…?” His voice trailed off, his thumb shooting over his shoulder to the classroom door behind him, despite his intended destination being the janitor’s closet downstairs. Ray didn’t have to know that, though.

“Ah, yes, there are,” he replied matter-of-factly, matching his colleague’s previous stance and smiling up at him, “I should let you get to those, but be careful, Brian.” His face fell and a seriousness washed over him as he leaned in like he did before and whispered almost forebodingly, “I’d think again about spending as much time with blondie as you have been. You don’t want people spreading rumors about you too, do you?”

Brian stared at him blankly, unwilling to let on to the panic that was raging inside of him.

Ray suddenly broke out into a fit of laughter. “Good god, man, lighten up, would you? I’m just busting your balls. Learn to take a joke!”

The astrophysics professor kept quiet, struggling to find the humor in his colleague’s self-proclaimed joke. Ray was notorious for his crude and often ill-received comments, so everyone knew better than to give him the satisfaction of letting him know that he’d gotten under their skin, regardless of whether he did or not. In this instance, though, Ray’s facetious warning didn’t sound like a joke to Brian at all, and it certainly didn’t feel like one either.

“I-I’ll see you ‘round, May,” the women’s studies teacher grumbled after realizing he wasn’t going to get the reaction he wanted out of the curly-haired man, chuckling and giving him one more quick punch to the arm before breaking away from his side.

The second the short man reached the end of the hallway and disappeared around the corner, Brian shot down the corridor in the opposite direction, racing down the stairs and bursting into the hallway he had traversed this morning with an entirely different purpose this time around. He looked at his reflection in the small, dark sliver of a window in the door across from the stairwell and fluffed his hair, making sure there wasn’t any food in teeth when a voice rang in his ear, a voice he didn’t expect hearing.

“Brian?”

Chapter Text

“Freddie?” the professor murmured, shocked to see the dark-haired man standing in the center of the hall, hands on his hips and a devious grin stretching across his face. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, you know, darling. ‘Just looking for somewhere I can buy a pack of cigs,” he answered, shortening the distance between him and Brian and crossing his arms over his chest. “I smoked my last one on my way here, and Roger desperately needs one, so if you could direct me in the right way, I’d greatly appreciate it, and so would he.”

Brian shook his head in disbelief, knowing he shouldn’t have expected anything more or less from the man. “This…This is a university, Fred. We don’t…It’s not…” He tutted, finding himself at a loss for words. “What are you doing here?” he finally repeated his initial question, the fact that Freddie was standing before him still boggling his mind.

“Well, after you so rudely left my house on Friday…” his eyes narrowed in petty resentment, “…I kept thinking about what you said to me, about Roger, and so I tried ringing him up, but he wouldn’t answer my calls. I even went over to his flat to see if he was just ignoring me, but when I broke in, neither he nor Tim were there. It was oddly bizarre.”

The professor’s eyebrows knitted together. “Wait, did you just say—”

“Don’t worry, Brian,” Freddie replied haughtily, sensing the professor’s concern, “I used the key I had copied to get in. Geez, it’s not like I broke any windows or locks.” He rolled his eyes in contempt, disregarding the embarrassed shade of red that crept up in Brian’s cheeks. “Anyways, that’s besides the point. You wanted to know what I’m doing here, yes?”

“Well, y-yeah,” he stammered, uncomfortably folding his arms over his chest and eyeing the custodian’s closet behind him.

He imagined Chrissie in there, waiting impatiently for him and sitting on the custodian’s desk with one leg crossed over the other, her foot bopping to a nonexistent beat as she perused through the clutter that she’d pushed aside to make room for herself. He wanted to believe that the ironed button-down she wore had been discarded on the floor, accompanied by the lacy pair of underwear she’d slipped out from underneath her pencil skirt to make things easier, but that just wasn’t the kind of girl Brian knew her to be. However, with no secrets between them anymore, he wondered if maybe she was, and if so, would she show that side of her to him, or would she maintain the prim and proper façade she’d always presented herself with?

“Brian!” Freddie’s voice rang in his ear, once again startling him. “My goodness, talking to you is like talking to Roger. You’re not even listening to me!”

“I-I’m sorry, Fred,” the professor apologized, tugging at his collar and admitting, “I’m just a little distracted today.”

The dark-haired man laughed, amused by Brian’s flustered state of mind. “No shit.”

Brian gulped, the hallway suddenly growing hellishly warm, and choked out, “Look, um, I’d love to stay and chat, but maybe another time? I’m kind of running late for a, erm, meeting.”

“A meeting, you say?” Freddie repeated incredulously, a smirk crawling on his lips, “That’s what you two are calling it now?” Another chuckle slipped past his lips. “How grand.”

The professor’s face burned in embarrassment as he realized Freddie thought the reason he was down there was because of Roger. Although that may have been his purpose this morning – with the intention of coming back down later – it seemed like a distant memory now. That was before Chrissie rekindled the spark he thought he’d lost for her, and before Ray’s blatant threat that he tried to play off as fooling around. As worried as he was for Roger, he had other things to worry about now.

So, going along with Freddie’s assumption in hopes of using it to his advantage to get the dark-haired man away for a little bit, Brian replied, “Yeah, you know, it’s just…it’s easier for us to see each other that way.”

“Well maybe before you two start going at it, you could tell him what you told me,” he suggested rather seriously, placing a hand on the taller man’s shoulder and giving him a subtle shake, “He could, um, really use it right now.”

Brian bit his lip, the guilt of the situation he was desperately trying to rid his mind of – at least until he and Chrissie were done with whatever was destined to happen behind that closed door – keeping him in place and compelling him to ask, his voice just above a whisper, “Tim couldn’t have done that to him, could he?”

Freddie’s eyebrows joined together. “Wait, you already saw him?”

“Yeah, I-I tried talking to him this morning, but—”

The click of an opening door stole the professor’s voice, the two men looking to their right to see Chrissie’s head peek out from the janitor’s closet, her body tucked away in the small room. Her eyes first fell upon Brian, glowing with lust and frustration that he hadn’t joined her yet. However, those feelings were quickly replaced with terror and embarrassment as her attention shifted to Freddie, who looked at her with a growing smirk. The headmistress gasped and slammed the door shut, the sound of her scrambling to get her clothes back on filling the gap in the two unlikely acquaintances’ – perhaps even friends’ – conversation.

“Oh, I see what’s going on here, you sly dog,” Freddie’s cheekily remarked, disturbing the silence that had fallen over them and attracting Brian’s shameful gaze, “You’re not down here for Roger, are you?”

The professor’s cheeks burned hotter than they ever had before. “I-I swear I was going to later,” he frantically defended himself, though his weak attempt fell short in serving its purpose, “I just…we…it’s been so long, and she was all—”

The dark-haired man chuckled, shaking his head. “You don’t need to explain anything to me, darling. I totally—”

For the second time, Chrissie interrupted their chat, this time emerging from the custodian’s room fully dressed, though the top buttons of her shirt were purposely undone – just enough to catch Brian’s eyes but not enough to violate dress code. She rested her hands on her hips and said in mock apology, “I’m sorry you two had to see me like that. I’d spilled some coffee on my shirt and…” Her voice trailed off as she realized the two men before her weren’t convinced, her excuse being met with pure indifference. She nervously cleared her throat and gestured towards Freddie, looking at Brian and asking, “Who’s this?”

“Um…” The professor scratched behind his head, racking it for an answer he could give her. It obviously wasn’t smart to tell her the truth. Oh, this is Roger’s best friend. I went to his house last weekend, got absolutely pissed, and confessed my feelings about Roger to him. He says I’m gay, and he might be right, but who knows? “He’s, uh…”

“I’m looking for cigarettes, hun, and this old bat won’t tell me where to find them,” the dark-haired man brazenly cut in, throwing a hand at Brian and eliciting a raised eyebrow from Chrissie who was still staring at the professor in anticipation of a more satisfactory explanation. “‘Said you’re a university and that you don’t have them, but what kind of university doesn’t have cigarettes? Or students who smoke?”

Brian cleared his throat, blurting out, “He’s an exchange student.”

Freddie gasped in disgust and threw his hands on his hips. “Excuse me?”

“Brian.” Chrissie dropped a consolatory hand on his shoulder, though it wasn’t long before she retracted it – not wanting anyone, even a stranger, to catch on to their intimacy – and muttered as unpatronizingly as she could, “I’m the headmistress. I would know if he was an exchange student.”

“Yeah, Brian,” the falsely-accused exchange student sneered, his brown eyes narrowing, “She’s the headmistress. She would know.”

The professor shook his head, so flustered by the situation he found himself in that he’d rendered himself speechless. All he wanted to do was have a little alone time with Chrissie, clear his head of all the chaos that his life had suddenly welcomed, and get on with his day, but of course, here was Roger getting in the way of that again with a visit from his friend who had no business being at the university. It was a closed campus, after all.

“I’m sorry, but who are you again?” the headmistress questioned, still not having learned the dark-haired man’s name.

“I’m Freddie Mercury, darling, and it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you.” He boldly snatched Chrissie’s hand in his and shook it, flashing her one of his infamous grins while widening his eyes at Brian – the professor tilting his head down in shame. Freddie shifted his gaze back to the headmistress, smiling even wider than before, and said, “Roger Taylor’s a good friend of mine, and I heard you gave him a job here. I was hoping to surprise and congratulate him, but I couldn’t find his room and I seem to have forgotten a gift for him. He’s a big fan of cigarettes – something about how they settle his nerves – and it would mean the world to him if you’d tell me where I can find them.”

His charm failed to have the desired effect on the headmistress, Chrissie slipping her hand out of his and speaking to Brian without breaking her stare with the flamboyant man, “I think you should show Mr. Mercury the way out, Mr. May. I’ll wait for you, in the meantime.”

“Y-Yes, Chr—Headmistress Mullen,” the professor stammered, hastily leading Freddie away and up the stairs and walking him down the deserted hallway like a student who had just committed a delinquent act.

“Hey, watch it!” Freddie cried as Brian’s grip on his leather jacket tightened, “You’re going to rip it!”

Once they rounded the corner, the professor relinquished his hold of the dark-haired man and turned towards him, leaning in close and shouting under his breath, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Savings yours and my arses, that’s what!” Freddie retorted just as angrily, “Calling me an exchange student, that’s the best thing you could come up with? Just because my skin’s a little darker than yours? Because I’ve got an exotic look?”

Brian pushed his fingers through his curls and heaved an aggravated sigh, explaining as calmly as he could manage – which wasn’t very calm at all, “I panicked, all right? You…Your presence threw me off! What were you even doing down there?”

“Well, if you listened to me, you would know!” Freddie snapped back, his voice hushed but full of emotion.

The professor scoffed, realizing he was wasting his time with the music instructor’s friend, and shoved his hand into his pocket, pulling out the crumpled change from his lunch and fitting it into Freddie’s clenched palm. “Here. There’s a group of students who usually hang around the back of the Queen’s Tower. They’ve got all sorts of stuff; I’m sure they have cigarettes for Roger.”

“What, so now you’re going to be like his Sugar Daddy and not pay him any attention? Buy him off with your…” he unfolded his fist and counted the currency like a child learning to add, “…two notes and twenty pence? You think those goons are going to sell me cigarettes for two notes and twenty pence? Is that all Roger’s worth to you? Two notes and twenty pence?

“That’s all I’ve got, Fred,” Brian murmured embarrassedly, “I don’t know what else you want me to do.”

“I want you to forget about your little meeting with the headmistress and tell Roger what you told me last Friday,” the dark-haired man demanded, clasping his hand dramatically around the petty cash Brian had offered him, “He’s never going to leave Tim if you don’t tell him how you feel.”

“But Fred—”

“Look, I know you’re scared. You think you’ve got a lot to lose and you’re not sure if it’s worth it, but Roger’s right there with you. We all are, every one of us, and although it might not seem like it, I bet you he’s willing to risk it if you are. You’ve just got to let him know. So please, Brian, I beg you – for the love of gays everywhere – when you get back down there, tell him how you feel. I can’t stand seeing him like this, and I find it hard to believe you don’t feel the same way.”

Brian’s eyes flickered over to the clock suspended at the end of the hallway and bit his lip, the anticipation of his and Chrissie’s closet meeting, mixed the intensifying desire to avoid this inevitable situation with Roger, making him antsy. He swallowed the lump in his throat and reluctantly returned his attention to Roger’s friend, responding with a beaten down, “Fine. I will.”

“Good,” the dark-haired man muttered, folding his arms over his chest and asking with a smirk, “So, how long should I take? Ten, twenty, thirty minutes?”

The professor’s eyebrows furrowed together. “What?”

Freddie scoffed. “Don’t make me ask you again.”

“I don’t know what you’re asking me!”

“I’m asking you how long you guys are going to take! You know, so I don’t walk in on anything? I can find a way to kill time, you just have to let me know.”

“Oh my god,” Brian exclaimed under his breath, finally understanding what Freddie believed his and Roger’s conversation would lead to. He put his hands up in surrender and mumbled disconcertedly, “I’m leaving.”

As he fled down the hallway, his steps increasing in speed with each one taken, Freddie called out to him, “‘Thirty minutes long enough, or should I come back in an hour?” Brian shot a disturbed gaze at the dark-haired man, shaking his head in disbelief before disappearing around the corner, hearing Freddie shout, “I’m gonna take that as an hour!” as he retreated to the basement.

When Brian descended from the last step, his head turned in the direction of Roger’s classroom, a feeling in his stomach pulling him towards it as he pictured the blonde, trembling in withdrawal while waiting for his friend to return with a cigarette. He imagined the painful tears streaking his cheeks, his eyes locked on the floor as he sat at the piano, fantasizing about being somewhere else, somewhere far away from London, from Tim. Brian saw his face lighting up when he burst through the door, rattling off his feelings for him and ending with an unconfident, “So, do you want to see where this will go?” and he felt the kiss they’d share after Roger crossed the room, his hands trailing the professor’s body and sending sensations down his spine, beneath his waistband, as he answered with a smirk, “I thought you’d never ask.”

That wouldn’t happen, though, a lustful “Finally” tickling Brian’s ear and a hand wrapping around his arm. There was no time for the professor to process what was happening before he was yanked backwards and slammed against the inside of the custodian’s door, shutting it, a pair of lips pressing against his with a sense of urgency he’d only experienced once before. The suddenness of the situation shocked Brian, but he quickly acclimated to his surroundings and found himself taking the lascivious headmistress’s lead. Their clothes were on the floor within a matter of minutes, their positions switched with Chrissie’s bare back to the wall and Brian supporting her on his exposed hips.

“Fuck,” she moaned, tugging at the professor’s curls as he continued to pound into her, his sharp movements getting sloppier with each thrust. He had so much going on his mind – Roger, Freddie, Tim, Ray, John, the midterm, the fact that they were doing it in the janitor’s closet and could be caught at any moment – that his heightened drive took on the shape of a distraction, hoping that if he kept going long enough and hard enough, all those thoughts would disappear.

If he just focused on Chrissie, he could forget all about Roger. If he paid attention only to her scrunched up eyes and parted lips, the melodious sounds she made with every shove, and the way she felt around him, he could avoid thinking about his captivating blue eyes and soft lips, the din of notes that rang in his ears when the two of them fell back on the piano, and the friction burning between them as they eliminated the space between them, desperate to be as close as possible without going too far.

Brian remembered when he and Chrissie danced along that fine line, weary of crossing over it. Now they had, though, and there was no going back. He knew that, and so did she, but only he missed the time before Roger burrowed his way into their lives, turning their whole worlds upside down.

“Bri,” Chrissie murmured, “I-I’m so…so…” She couldn’t finish her sentence, her plea replaced by a silent scream as she tightened around Brian, involuntarily bringing him to climax too. He closed his eyes and bit his tongue, suppressing the name that longed to emanate from the back of his throat, fearful that if he let it escape, it wouldn’t have been hers.

Once he came down from his high, the professor’s forehead fell against the headmistress’s, her weak fingers still woven in his hair as they caught their stolen breaths together. “That was…” he murmured, his voice trailing off as he forced a crooked smile onto his face.

Chrissie mirrored him, leaning in and planting a gentle kiss on his slightly parted lips before finishing his sentence for him with a wistful, “Well worth the wait.”

“Yeah,” Brian agreed, a soft chuckle emanating from the back of his throat.

He pulled himself away from the headmistress and set her down on the ground, her hands instinctively rising up to her chest and her arms crossing over her breasts that Brian was well acquainted with. She possessed an innocent look to her, one that Brian took note of after picking up their clothes and offering Chrissie hers. He knew it was deceiving, though. It always had been, and now, so was his.

Chapter Text

Roger found himself behind his drum kit, alone, his only company now that Freddie left him for cigarettes being the weight of the truth in the words that still rang in his ears. But he did, darling. He did. He held his drumsticks close to his chest, his knuckles white as his foot grazed the bass pedal, tears blurring his vision. He had no desire to play, but perched on that stool, protected by the setup, he felt a sense of comfort unlike anything else, a kind comfort that no person could provide. It was his safe haven; a place that so many of his memories formed around.

It was a devilishly hot summer day, and Tim’s dad was out of the house. The two teenage boys were holed up in Tim’s bedroom, lying on Tim’s bed and reveling in the warm feeling the ceiling fan above them couldn’t cool. Beer bottles were scattered about, the alcohol they contained coursing through the underaged boyfriends’ bloodstreams and lingering on their breaths.

“I’m bored,” Roger whined, pouting his lips and turning his head to meet Tim’s languid gaze.

“You’re always bored,” Tim replied, his words slurred as he turned over on his side and began tracing his finger atop Roger’s flat, exposed stomach. The corner of his lip mischievously perked up as an idea formed in his mind. “I know what we can do.”

Roger’s eyes popped wide open, a gasp emanating from the back of his throat as he shot up from the bed and got on his knees, facing his boyfriend and suggesting, “Let’s work on that new song you’ve been writing. ‘Doing Okay,’ yeah?”

The brunette’s eyebrows kit together. “It’s not…It’s called ‘Doing All Right,’ Roger.”

“Oh, same bloody difference!” the blonde exclaimed, dismissing Tim with a lazy wave of his hand and jumping off the bed. He stumbled across the room, nearly tripping over their discarded shirts along the way, and situated himself at the five-piece drum kit tucked away in the corner. He latched onto the hard stool to keep himself from falling off and bit his lip, staring at his boyfriend with eyes that begged him to join him, knowing he couldn’t resist the temptation.

Tim heaved an annoyed but obliging sigh and rolled off his bed, dragging himself over to his bass and throwing the strap over his bare shoulders. He grabbed the instrument’s neck with one hand and placed the other over the thick strings, plucking out a few notes before scoffing and throwing his hands up in defeat. “No, I can’t work on it like this.”

“What, all hot and bothered?” Roger guessed teasingly, a smirk crawling onto his face.

“No, I just…” The brunette’s voice trailed off as his gaze wandered over to the door. Without giving his boyfriend any indication as to what he was thinking about, he replaced his guitar in its stand and walked out of the room. Roger staggered after him like a lost puppy, grabbing one of the unopened cans of beer from the floor and following Tim to his dad’s bedroom.

“I thought we’re not allowed in here,” the blonde stated bluntly, leaning against the threshold and popping open the tab of the beer that sizzled with carbonation.

He glanced back at Roger with lips curved into a devious grin. “We aren’t.”

“Then what are we doing in here?” the younger of the two wondered, an indifference to his question as he brought the room-temperature beverage to his lips and watched his boyfriend rip open the closet doors and fall to his knees, taking no time at all to start rummaging through the clutter that consumed the bottom of the small space.

“Looking for inspiration,” he answered, pushing aside some old shoes and wrinkled shirts in search of his father’s hidden stash. The boy had seen and smelled the old man smoking it after he’d call it a night, sitting in the dark with The Generation Game on the telly. For years, Tim had observed his dad’s late-night ritual, so it wasn’t a matter of whether the dad had it or not – it was a matter of finding where put it.

Having cleared most of the clutter, Tim revealed a large, cardboard box whose lid was only folded together, not sealed. He tore into it with an enthusiasm that was fueled by alcohol and destroyed by the discovery of a collection of women’s clothes – clothes that belonged to his runaway mother. He wasn’t aware of this at the time, though, and – concerned only with locating his father’s dope and certain that his dad had hid it at the bottom of the box – began to toss the garments over his shoulder. 

Roger peeled himself from the doorway, taking a courageous sip of beer before daring to enter the room and plucking one of the pieces from the floor – a purple vinyl jacket that doubled the size of his eyes. Awestruck, he set the can down and turned towards the tall mirror resting against the wall beside the door. He held the jacket up to his chest and stared at the reversed image of himself, distorted slightly by the crack in the reflective glass that stretched from the floor to the top. He couldn’t bring himself to look away from the sight, curious to see how good it would look if he slipped into it.

He dropped the outfit upon Tim’s excited outburst, the brunette extracting the coveted box containing everything the two would need and shouting, “I found it!” He jumped to his feet and spun around to see Roger, staring back at him with guilty eyes and the jacket draped across his feet. “What are you—”

“Nothing,” the blonde blurted out, his cheeks turning a deep shade of red.

Tim laughed. “You sure, mate? It looks like you were—”

“Let me see that,” Roger insisted, desperate to shift the conversation as he eliminated the distance between the two of them and snatched the box out of Tim’s hand. The brunette gave the blonde a strange look and tried to piece together the obscure puzzle that stood before him, but before he had the chance, Roger returned to Tim’s bedroom with a newfound sense of urgency and plopped himself down at his desk with cheeks burning in embarrassment.

Tim sauntered into his room shortly after, Roger sealing the blunt with the lick of his tongue and gentle press of his fingers. He turned towards his boyfriend and asked tersely, “You got a light?”

Within minutes, the two boys found themselves back in Tim’s bed, a thin, pungent haze suspended in the air as they passed the special cigarette between the two of them. Roger took a long drag and exhaled the smoke out to the side, sinking into the mattress and holding out the inch-long stick to the brunette whose deadened eyes were locked on the blonde in deep thought.

“You wanted to try on that jacket, didn’t you?” he questioned, slowly attracting Roger’s bloodshot gaze.

“So, what if I did?” the blonde responded, the drunken high and crooked smile crawling onto his face preventing him from convincing his boyfriend that he hadn’t. “I know I would’ve looked great in it,” he boldly declared, bringing the blunt back to his lips and inhaling deeply, a heavy silence falling over the pair as his words hung above them.

“Well, show me then,” Tim demanded, taking the special cigarette from his boyfriend and smashing the burning end right onto his nightstand, keeping his back to Roger the whole time.

“You’re joking,” he giggled, the seriousness of the brunette’s suggestion going undetected by the blonde who was too blitzed out to realize that he wasn’t joking.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” the older of the two replied, sitting up and turning to face him. He cupped Roger’s face in his hand and dragged his thumb across the smooth skin. “But what I’d like is to see you dressed as a girl. So, get to it.” He smacked his cheeks lightly, a grin stretching from ear to ear.

“Perv,” Roger muttered before acquiescing to his boyfriend’s desire with a quick kiss on the lips. The booze and the drugs pulled him off the bed and into Tim’s dad’s room where the jacket still lay on the floor, apart from the rest of the mess his boyfriend had to take care of before his father came home. It was one thing for the two to be hanging out together, alone, but infiltrating his dad’s bedroom was an entirely different story. He might kill them, for all they knew.

“What are you waiting for, loser?” a voice sounded from behind the blonde, startling him just like it had before. He looked back to see Tim in the place he had been in moments ago, adopting the same posture as him too. “They’re not going to get on you themselves,” he urged, a cheeky grin plastered on his face.

Roger stuck his tongue out at the brunette before sticking his arm through one of the jacket’s sleeves, his blue eyes locking on the matching, shiny purple skirt that was buried beneath the pile that sit by his feet. He gasped and bent down, yanking the garment out from the mound of clothes and pivoting his torso towards Tim. “It’s perfect!” he cried, emphasizing the first syllable of the last word.

“I know it is,” the brunette laughed, “Now put it on!”

With a little help from his boyfriend, Roger adorned himself with the two-piece outfit, but not before combining it with a messy, dirty blonde wig that had been shoved deep inside the box, a bra they stuffed with a couple of Tim’s socks, a white, mock turtleneck Tim pulled from his dresser, and a pair of silver stockings the two struggled to get over Roger’s thighs. After finally succeeding in their inebriated, boredom-driven makeover, the couple situated themselves in front of the full-length mirror.

“My god, Roger,” Tim murmured, standing behind the blonde and staring at his boyfriend’s reflection as he adjusted the uncomfortable bra, “How beautiful you are.”

“Yeah, my mum always told me I had a girlish figure,” he responded distractedly, shifting his attention from his top to his bottom and tugging at the skirt had ridden up. “I used to get really mad at her for it, but now I can’t—"

“Wait, I’ve got an idea,” the brunette blurted out, detaching himself from Roger’s backside and diving back into the cardboard box that was still open. From the mirror, the blonde watched Tim extract a cosmetics bag, yanking at the zipper and pulling out a few tubes of lipstick and mascara, a few brushes, and an eyeshadow palette.

Roger laughed. “Do you even know how to use those?”

“No, but it can’t be that hard. I mean, all the girls at school do it, and most of them can’t even tell their lefts from their rights,” he mumbled, motioning for his boyfriend to sit down on the bed without even meeting his gaze, too entranced by all the makeup he at his disposal thanks to his mother. She probably didn’t expect her son would ever think about using them, but there he was, eager to transform his boyfriend into a girl.

The blonde heaved an exasperated sigh, unable to break away from the mirror as he turned side to side, mesmerized by the view of himself from different angles, especially from the back. He almost didn’t recognize himself.

“Roger!” Tim snapped, causing him to jump and mutter an insincere apology before trudging over to the mattress and perching himself on the edge. The brunette plopped down beside him, grabbing the blonde’s face and jerking it towards him. He stared at him like an artist conceptualizing a blank canvas, the corner of his lip twitching upward in love with what he saw.

“What are you waiting for?” the blonde whispered, a smile restrained by Tim’s hand stretching across his face. “Afraid you’ll make me prettier than you?”

He chuckled. “You already are prettier than me, Roger.” The blonde’s grin grew. “Hell, you could probably pass yourself off as a girl if you wanted to.”

Roger giggled, asking innocently, “You really think so?”

Tim hummed and nodded his head, uncapping the dark red lipstick and, with an intoxicated precision, dragging it across his boyfriend’s intuitively parted lips. His eyes followed the crimson pigment all the way to the corner of his lips. He slowly drew back the lipstick, a moment of tension surfacing between the pair who stared into each other’s eyes, before Tim suddenly replaced the stain with his own lips, guiding two of them back on the bed together with Tim’s hand running down the blonde’s elevated chest and under the skirt that gave little way to the added and growing extremities.

“Babe, wait,” Roger murmured, shoving Tim away from him just ever so slightly to see the smear of lipstick across his boyfriend’s lips and the intensified emotion in his brown, lustful eyes, “This feels weird.”

“Just go along with it,” the brunette insisted, his response driven by the attraction he felt towards the blonde and his new appearance. Before Roger could speak up, Tim leaned back in and silenced all the blonde’s concerns by capturing him in another passionate kiss and crawling on top of him.

Roger wiped the single tear that the memory pulled from his eye and angrily threw his drumsticks aside, standing up from the drum kit and shouting at the top of his lungs before destroying the setup piece by piece, pushing the drums over and chucking the cymbals across the room. Freddie was lucky enough to enter the room just in time for the hi-hat to crash into the wall by the door, the dark-haired man yelping in fear and dropping the pack of cigarettes he’d acquired from the ruffians Brian had sent him to.

“Jesus Christ, Roger!” the terrified man shrieked, staring at the blonde whose chest rose up and down rapidly and whose hands were clenched into fists by his sides, “You couldn’t have waited one more bloody second to lose your shit?” He bent down and snatched the 20-pack that only contained half of its intended quantity. “I was gone for less than an hour…and I even came back early, hoping I would’ve walked in on something. What the hell happened?”

“I know where I went wrong, Fred,” he croaked, ignoring Freddie’s remark and clutching onto his blonde locks as he sat back down on the only piece of his kit still standing – his stool, “It was that stupid day in July, back in ‘65. If he just…If I didn’t…I don’t know why I let him…” Before the blonde’s meandering thoughts could fully develop, his friend’s words finally hit him. He lifted his head and brought his eyes to meet to the dark-haired man’s gaze. “Wait, what were you hoping to walk in on?”

Freddie’s eyebrows knit together. “Didn’t Brian come and see you?”

“No,” the blonde revealed suspiciously, “Why would he?”

His friend scoffed. “That fucking coward.” He made his way over to Roger and leaned against the wall, pulling a long white stick out from the box and offering it to him. The blonde instinctively accepted it, still staring at the dark-haired man in anticipation of a better answer that seemed like it would never come while he extracted a lighter out of his back pocket and lit his cigarette for him. He did the same for himself and took a deep drag from it, Roger reluctantly mirroring him. Freddie blew a puff of smoke out to the side and muttered, “I asked him to do one thing, one thing.”

“What, did you ask him to tell me that he likes me so I’d believe you?” the music instructor guessed, tilting his head back and exhaling his smoke into the air above him.

Roger chuckled at the thought of his friend begging the professor to throw away his morals and his upbringing and be with a man he only met weeks ago – a man so broken he can’t even admit that his boyfriend hit him, lying to everyone who asks by saying he fell down the stairs. You get a small bruise on your knee from falling down the stairs, not a black eye, a handful of small brown splotches on your neck, and a scar that runs up your entire torso.

“You know it’s not going to make a fucking difference if he tells me or if you tell me, right?” he remarked, daring to meet his friend’s narrowed gaze. “Because I already know how he feels, and I know he thinks he wants to be with me, but he doesn’t. He’s just confused.”

“What does that make you, then? Huh?” Freddie questioned, turning towards his friend and folding his arms over his chest, his cigarette pinched between his fingers, “I know you, Roger. There’s no way a man like him became infatuated with you without you doing what you do.”

“And what do I do, Fred?” the blonde retorted angrily, rising from the drum stool and matching the dark-haired man’s stance.

“You know what you do, Rog.”

“Yeah, but what is it exactly? I want you to tell me. I want to hear you say it.”

The dark-haired man gulped, the tension between the two of them unbearably unrelenting. He straightened his posture ever so slightly and answered lowly, “Well, Roger, you like to be pushed around, bent over tables and desks, and dressed up like a girl so that men don’t feel as guilty or ashamed when they fuck you behind their wives’ and girlfriends’ backs. Does that sound about right to you?”

“Sounds perfect,” the blonde growled.

Freddie rolled his eyes. “Even so, you and I both know that’s not what you want to do anymore.” He grabbed onto his friend’s upper arms and gave him a slight, ill-received shake, “Look, the only way you’re going to leave that life behind is by admitting that Tim hurt you and leaving his arse. He’s toxic for you, babe.”

“I know he is.” The dark-haired man’s eyes widened at the surprising confession, having expected at least some form of pushback, but Roger gave none. Instead, he brushed past his friend and drew another drag from his cigarette, saying, “But it’s not like I can just leave him and be with Brian. It’s not as easy as that.”

“And give me one good reason why the hell not,” Freddie argued, too stubborn to let up on this issue. He’d stood by for far too long, watching Roger be reduced to nothing as he was passed from stranger to stranger and returned home at the end of the night with a few more dollars to put into his and Tim’s pockets. He knew that life for people like them wasn’t easy, but the way Roger went about it was simply degrading and demoralizing, and no matter how hard Freddie tried to get him to see that, Tim would always convince him that there was nothing wrong with the way they lived.

It was as clear as day to Freddie who the problem was in the situation, and if he could just get Roger away from him, he swore things would be different, better even. He just needed to find the right person, and that person was down the hall, sneaking out of the janitor’s closet with the headmistress and kissing her on the head before she retreated upstairs to her office, leaving him to linger in the basement, guiltily staring down the hallway.

Roger looked back at his friend indignantly after a long pause in their conversation, responding with words so sharp Freddie could almost feel them piercing his skin, “Because he and I are from two different worlds, Fred. He’s not ready to be with someone like me; hell, I don’t even think he’s ready to be with Chrissie, and he’s been with her for god knows how long!” 

The dark-haired man couldn’t hold back the fit of laughter that overcame him, finding the parallels between Roger and Brian and their hindrances in regards to their possible relationship hilarious.

“What are you laughing for?” Roger snapped at him, bringing the cigarettes to his lips again and taking in a nervous, nicotine-filled breath.

“Oh nothing, darling,” Freddie replied, calming down from his episode and sighing in relief, “It’s just…I’ve never seen you scared about anything in your entire life. Except maybe the time you thought you’d lost that hideous yellow and purple monstrosity you call a tie.”

“Oh, would you cut it out, Fred? This is serious!” The blonde kicked one of his drums on the floor out of his way and sat down on the edge of the piano bench. “This gig was supposed to be my fresh start, my chance to be someone else—”

“But Brian is your chance, Roger! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! This teaching position you’ve got yourself into is only a part of it, but Brian—”

“Whoa,” a third voice joined conversation, the pair turning their attention to the door that had been cracked open and the face peeking in. “What happened in here?”

Chapter Text

“Ben,” Roger muttered in disbelief, “What are you—”

“You left your mascara behind in the bathroom,” the blonde who resembled the music instructor to a T nervously interrupted him, entering the room and holding out the long, thin stick. His hand trembled, heart pounding against his rib cage and sweat beading on the back of his neck.

He couldn’t – or rather, didn’t want to – explain what compelled him to return the mascara to its rightful owner, especially since its owner scared the boy shitless. Yet there he found himself, asking John, who he knew took lessons with him, where his classroom was. He probably won’t want to talk to you, the lanky bass player warned him. He seems to be having a pretty bad day. You might want to wait until tomorrow. Obviously, the blonde college student didn’t heed John’s warning, and he began to regret his decision as his slightly older doppelganger stared him down with an expression he couldn’t decipher as resentful or grateful, or perhaps something completely different.

“I’ll take that for him,” Freddie blurted out, stepping forward and snatching the stick of mascara out of the student’s hand.

Roger watched the transaction go down speechlessly, a wave of emotions washing over him as he thought about the blonde and the look on his face as Tim thrust himself into the boy from behind, a look that transformed into sheer horror as Roger walked in on them. That same terror spread across his face when they bumped into each other at the men’s bathroom earlier that day, as if the music instructor was the one at fault for what happened.

Tim had a skillful way of doing that, of blaming everything on Roger, so much so that the music instructor believed Ben’s fear was justified. The scattered drum kit certainly didn’t help his cause, nor did his labored breathing or perpetual, sharpening glare.

“What are you doing here, Ben?” he finally spit out, his voice low.

“I told you, I’m here—”

“No, why are you really here?” Roger clarified his inquiry, knowing there had to be more to this student’s drop-in than to just give back his mascara he’d unknowingly left behind.

The other blonde’s frantic eyes darted from Roger to Freddie – off in his own world and fiddling with the mascara in his hands – then back to Roger as he divulged, “Look, I-I don’t know what happened, but whatever it was, I just needed the money, man. I…I didn’t know he was in a relationship. He didn’t tell me. If he did, I-I would’ve…I wouldn’t have…done it.” His cheeks reddened with embarrassment, the last two words barely above a shameful whisper. “Just please, don’t hurt me. I didn’t know.”

The music instructor fell silent again, hearing what the other blonde had to say but struggling to find a response to it. Usually those words came out of his mouth and were received by an angry girlfriend or boyfriend, one time even a parent. The rehearsed plea and confession never failed to humiliate, but it saved him from several situations he would’ve otherwise drowned in. People were suckers for a good apology, and they couldn’t resist a tear rolling down the cheek or a sniffle of remorse.

He really needs to work on that, Roger thought to himself, though the voice belonging to that thought was not his own. It was Tim’s – the words coming from one of the many suggestions he offered the blonde to keep himself in business.

“Roger?” Freddie interjected, pulling the blonde out of his head and nodding towards the college student who still stood before him, waiting for a reply.

“I-I’m sorry,” he apologized, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck with the hand that had the still-burning cigarette pinched between his fingers and taking the makeup stick from Freddie with his other. “Thank you, Ben,” he murmured, raising the mascara ever so slightly and giving it a little appreciative shake.

The younger blonde nodded his head in affirmation and turned to leave the room, a thousand demeaning thoughts racing through his head as he headed for the door, mentally berating himself for being so stupid. He should’ve just left the dumb thing in the bathroom and let the music instructor find it himself, but after their run-in with one another, he couldn’t stop thinking about Roger and their interaction, and not just the one in the men’s room.

Ben vividly remembered the night Roger walked in on Tim and him and the expression of betrayal that appeared on his face as his eyes fell upon the two of them. He could hear Roger screaming at them and feel Tim slithering his way out of him and over to his boyfriend, where he slyly suggested he stay and watch them as punishment. The urgency that accompanied Roger’s request for Ben to leave seemed like a long-lost but well-retained memory, as was Tim’s strong hand that wrapped around his upper arm and prevented him from escaping. He could also see the bruises his grip left behind – lasting several days and similar in appearance to the bruises peeking out from underneath Roger’s collar.

The student supposed that the true reason he decided to seek out the university’s newest professor was because he felt guilty for what he’d done, and for how he treated the other blonde – refusing to admit that he might have been the one in the wrong. He needed to exonerate himself, and the mascara gave him the perfect opportunity to do so. He just didn’t expect Roger to be so indifferent about it, acting like it was nothing.

“Wait,” the music instructor called out, sparking the withering flame inside the student who stopped in the middle of the doorway and turned his head back over his shoulder. Roger bit his lip and looked down at the mascara, asking timidly, “Can I suggest something?”

“Depends,” the younger blonde replied dully, spinning to face him, “You’re not going to tell me to get a head start because you’re going to kill me, are you?”

“No. What? Why would you—” Roger’s voice vanished as the semblance between him and Ben became undeniable to everyone in the room.

He recognized in Ben the same nonchalant approach to the aftermath of a partner walking in on a session, as if he’d dealt with it before and knew there was no use in putting up a fight because you’re the intruder, the alien in the home, and the only thing for you to do is to try and leave before they pull out their gun and make you their target.

That’s when he noticed the baby face that would be barely recognizable by the time the sun sunk deep below the horizon, the same lips that would be painted red and mesh with pale ones that have graced more mouths than his yet, and the same eyes that would lock onto a spot on the wall or floor – or anywhere else in the room but the mirror across from him and the person kneeling behind them – as he drifted away from himself, waiting for the wad of filthy cash to be shoved into his chest. That cash would bring him back to reality and free him until the next night, and every night after that. It was a vicious cycle that the music instructor knew all too well, and he wanted to advise Ben to stay as far away from it as he could, but he knew he’d never listen to him.

If Ben was anything like himself, he’d laugh at Roger’s plea like the blonde didn’t know what he was talking about. He’d nod his head and falsely promise that he’ll consider it before slinking off to whichever house was expecting him that evening, not a hint of regret in his decision. It’s what Roger would’ve done too, but Ben wouldn’t know that. He couldn’t know that, and so, out of fear for exposing himself and making his situation at the university even worse, the blonde chose to say with a taut back and a stern, chiding tone, “Just don’t do it again, okay?”

“O-Okay,” the student stammered, standing there for a little while longer before throwing a thumb over his shoulder and asking, “Can I go now?”

Roger nodded his head in casual permission, averting his gaze to the side as he brought the cigarette back up to his lips and inhaled another long, much-needed breath of nicotine. Ben darted out of the makeshift classroom as quickly as Roger had ran to it earlier, his steps echoing down the corridor and bringing Freddie’s narrowed gaze to the blonde who exhaled a steady stream of smoke towards the ground.

“When were you going to tell me about him?” the dark-haired man insisted on knowing, earning a scowl in his direction. “What? I just think, for once, it would be nice for me to find out what’s going on with you without having to hear it from someone else!"

*****

The end of the day crept up on the entire university, sending the students off to their dorms and homes while their professors packed their bags and turned off the lights. In the basement, Roger finished adjusting the last piece to his violently disassembled kit and heaved a sigh just as the hands of the small clock resting against the stolen – or as the music instructor preferred to think of it as, borrowed – coffee mug fell on the twelve and six, glancing over at Freddie who had been scribbling away at the desk.

“In the land where horses born with eagle wings and honey bees have lost their…their…” the dark-haired man sang quietly under his breath, tripping over the end of the phrase and biting the end of the pen he was using for inspiration.

“Stings,” the blonde mumbled, picking himself up off the ground – his body still aching all over – and brushing the dirt off the back of his pants, “The honey bees have lost their stings.”

Freddie gasped, meeting Roger’s tired gaze and repeating as though he was in a trance, “The honey bees have lost their stings.” He smacked the notepad he held in his hands with the pen and exclaimed, “My god, Roger Taylor, you’re a genius!” He quickly wrote down the word and stared at the completed line, smiling widely. “You know, I know you gave up on being a musician a while ago, babe, but I still think you could do it. You’ve got a knack for things like this – you really do.”

“It’s time for us to go, Fred,” he announced, avoiding the suggestion with a chuckle under his breath as he made his way over to the desk and picked his coat up. “You said Mary’d be here around six, right?” he asked, slipping into the jacket.

The dark-haired man raised an eyebrow at the absurdity of the blonde’s question. “When did I say that?”

Roger’s eyes widened at the realization of their situation. “Fred, please tell me you took the train to get here.”

“Nope.”

“A cab?”

“Now why would I do that when Mary’s got a perfectly good car and left the keys on the counter for me?”

Roger couldn’t hold back the frown that appeared on his face, the thought of his friend speeding down the streets of London – completely unsupervised – eliciting a concerned “Freddie…” out of him.

“Oh, don’t act so surprised, darling. It’s not like I haven’t driven before!” He clicked his tongue and raised his index finger. “Though I will say that this time, I seemed to find myself at the head of a parade. Everyone was honking their horns and shouting things…it was all very exciting. Do they do that every day and I just don’t know about it?”

The blonde chuckled sadly at Freddie’s interpretation of what surely had to be the most chaotic traffic jam London’s seen in years. He could picture it now – the narrow streets backed up from one end to the next as Freddie figured out how to shift gears, stalling with each attempt and getting more and more frustrated with himself. He could imagine the insults the drivers and Freddie shot back and forth between one another, conversations that went on without either person even looking in the other’s direction. It was a sight that Roger wished he was there for, yet at the same time was grateful he was far away from, because he knew he’d only make the situation worse, laughing uncontrollably in the passenger seat and adding to his friend’s irritation.

So, for the sake of avoiding a repeat of what inevitably happened this morning, Roger held his hand out and sighed. “Give me the keys, Fred. I’ll drive you home.”

Freddie groaned and reluctantly pulled the keys out of his pants’ pocket, dropping them pettily into Roger’s palm and muttering, “You’re just jealous you don’t get your own parades every time you hit the road.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Roger responded, sarcasm dripping from his tongue.

The dark-haired man detected his friend’s mockery and crossed his arms over his chest, mumbling, “You know, just because I don’t have my license yet doesn’t mean I can’t drive. I drove you home that one night, remember? And I didn’t get into one accident. Not one!”

The blonde rolled his eyes, wanting to mention his neighbor’s damaged bumper – whose blemish seemed worse in daylight than it did in dusk and had yet to cause a scene – but opting to respond with a chastising, “Just because you can drive, Fred, doesn’t mean you can’t get arrested.”

Freddie scoffed. “You say that like I haven’t been arrested before.” He tucked his hands underneath his arms. “Besides, since when did you become the responsible one? You know that if it happens, Mary will just bail me out like she always does.”

Roger shook his head and went to pocket the keys, thinking about how one day Mary wasn’t going to bail him out of jail. However, he was quick to contradict that train of thought when he reminded himself about how tightly wrapped around Freddie’s finger she was. He was gay, for fuck’s sake, yet she bent over backwards every time Freddie wanted something from her. As much as he despised her and she despised him, Roger pitied her.

“Well I guess she can thank me later for getting you home safely, then, huh?” the blonde joked before draping an arm around Freddie’s shoulders and painfully guiding the two of them out of the room. The pair of friends disappeared down the hallway, debating on whether they should grab a drink or not. Freddie seemed more inclined to the idea than Roger, who felt a stronger pull towards just going to his house, afraid of returning to the establishment where – after their long days at work – many of his clients chose to delay their return home.

Thinking about the weekend he had with Sid, the thought of facing any of the men he’d become familiar with turned Roger’s stomach into knots, because he knew as soon as they’d catch sight of the blonde mop atop his head, they’d lure him into one of the back rooms and ask him for a quick hand or blow job, or maybe even something more depending on how many drinks they slammed beforehand. At one point in time, Roger would’ve never turned down requests like this, desperate for the money the filthy acts earned him, but thanks to the trade he and Chrissie made, he no longer felt it necessary to degrade himself like that. He had a paycheck now, a paycheck that falsely reflected the amount of work the music instructor actually accomplished – not that he was going to complain.

Also, the possibility of Tim being there further dissuaded the blonde from choosing the bar over Freddie’s house. He hadn’t spoken to him all day, and the idea of confronting him in public – as opposed to at home and behind closed doors – terrified him. No one knew the true nature of their relationship except for Freddie, and now Brian and maybe even Ben. Everyone else thought of them as this picturesque couple – “perfect partners in crime,” they’d say, to which Roger and Tim would smile, laugh, and nod at. It was all a show, and the music instructor couldn’t fathom what it would be like for their facade to shatter before their biggest fans’ eyes.

“Come on,” Freddie insisted, his voice on the whinier side as he clung to the blonde’s arm and pouted his lips out, “It’s just a drink, and if anyone pesters you, I’ll take them to the bathroom and fuck them in a stall until they forget all about you. How does that sound?”

A wide grin broke out on Roger’s face as he shook his head. “No, I’m taking you home and that’s final.”

“Okay, so you take me home. Where are you going to go after that? Home to Tim?”

“Yes!” the blonde exclaimed with an exasperated laugh, shaking his friend off his arm and turning towards him, “Look, I-I know you’re just trying to help here, Fred, but really, could you just let me deal with this on my own? I know what I’m doing.”

“Do you?” Freddie snapped, throwing his hands on his hips and raising an incredulous eyebrow, “Do you really? Because take a look at yourself, babe. You’re limping, and you’ve got the biggest black eye I’ve ever seen. Clearly, you’ve been dealing with this just fine on your own.”

The dark-haired man’s sarcasm drew a sigh from the blonde and pushed him closer to the building’s exit, the growing distance between them inciting fear in Freddie that Roger would leave him behind. “W-Wait for me!” he nervously called out, running after his friend.

Just as the door closed behind the two friends, another one opened – the one to Brian’s classroom. The professor turned his head left and right, scoping the corridors for his girlfriend who he needed to get away from for just a second. Their whole afternoon had practically been spent together, the headmistress pulling aside the professor with every chance she could get for a quick session in the supply closet in the lecture hall or in her office, the door locked and the blinds drawn shut. As inviting as Chrissie’s newfound passion was, Brian couldn’t rid himself of the nagging voice ringing in the back of his head. 

He’s never going to leave Tim if you don’t tell him how you feel…So please, Brian, I beg you – for the love of gays everywhere – when you get back down there, tell him how you feel.

The professor felt embarrassed about how distracted he’d gotten over the course of the day. From the minute he pulled his car into the car park, and the minute he set his bag down at his desk, he had one goal in mind – to relay to Roger what he had told Freddie that drunken night. Each step he took towards the makeshift classroom boosted his confidence, and each attempt Roger made to push him away encouraged him to persist with his apology and confession. Then Chrissie came along, and suddenly Brian once again became the coward who blindly abided by the orders he was given, even if he didn’t fully agree with them.

Determined to break away from that label and having deemed the coast clear – the click of high heels absent in the blanket of silence that had been draped over the entire university – Brian slipped out of his classroom and into the basement. He sidled the walls as though he were a spy and at risk of making a wrong move that’d prove detrimental to his mission, reaching his final destination with an unanticipated sense of disappointment. As he peered through the window and wrapped his hand around the doorknob, all he could see was black, and when he tried to twist the knob, it wouldn’t budge.

“Dammit,” the professor muttered under his breath, punching the door with his other hand and resting his forehead against the smooth surface – eyes closed.

“Oi, May!” a deep, awkward voice echoed through the corridor, peeling Brian’s head away from the door and turning it in the direction of the stairwell where, standing in the middle of the hallway, was Paul.

“Paul, h-hi!” Brian stammered in response, trying to raise his voice so that the janitor could hear him but producing a shaky, somewhat anxious-sounding greeting instead. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be here, I just—"

“Did you and the head bitch in charge use my closet today?” he called back, his question instantly raising a blush in the professor’s cheeks. When Brian failed to respond, the janitor chuckled and made his way down the hall, assuring him, “It’s alright if you did, mate! You’re not the only ones, you know.” He grabbed the taller man’s hand and slammed Chrissie’s balled up underwear into it with a wide grin. “Just clean up after yourselves next time, yeah?”

The professor stared at the piece of lingerie in horror.

“It’s the least you could do,” Paul tacked on, the cheeky expression he adorned himself with fading as he cleared his throat and tucked his hands into his pale blue coveralls. He swayed back and forth on the balls of his feet, waiting for the professor to say or do something, anything, but the underwear in the palm of his hand mesmerized him, sending his heart into a flutter and his mind into a flurry.

The custodian pressed his lips tightly together before pulling a hand out of his pocket and dropping it on Brian’s shoulder, giving him a slight shake that tore him out of the trance he fell into and saying, “Well you have yourself a good night now, May. Alright?”

The professor stumbled over his words as he tried to respond with a simple, “You…You too.”

Paul flashed him a meek grin before turning away from Brian and disappearing down the hallway, adding with a twirl of his step – so as to make him walk backwards – and an index finger pointed in the teacher’s direction, “Remember what I said about cleaning up after yourselves next time!”

Brian, still in shock about the unexpected position he found himself in, shook his head, stuttering, “W-Will do, sir!”

“Good boy,” the janitor quipped, winking at the curly-haired man before returning his attention forward. The professor shoved the pair of underwear into his coat pocket and sprinted in the opposite direction, the shame of the situation propelling him right out of the school and into his car where he tried to catch his breath. He’d never ran that fast before in his entire life.

After calming himself down enough to see straight, he stuffed his hand into his jacket and extracted the intimate garment Paul had discovered. The reckless mistake brought tears to the professor’s eyes, utterly ashamed of the person he’d become.

If only he was the King of England…

Chapter Text

“I’m only staying for one drink, Freddie,” Roger snarled as the two of them traveled up the uneven walkway to Freddie and Mary’s home, going so far as to even shoot an index finger in his direction. “One drink, and I mean it.”

“That’s all I asked for, darling!” the dark-haired man replied cheerfully, skipping up the path and spinning with his arms extended outward like a child frolicking through a field, basking in the warm sunlight even though it was cold and dark.

His spin fell short as the front door swung open and the lady of the house manifested in the threshold, yelling at the two of them as quietly as she could, “Where the fuck ‘ave you two been? You had me worried sick, Fred, and you…” her resentful eyes shifted from her fiancé to the blonde lagging behind, “…you need to take your boyfriend home.”

Roger’s eyebrows furrowed together. “What?”

“You heard me,” the blonde woman growled, crossing her arms over her small chest and straightening her slack posture. “He’s in the living room. Get him out.”

The music instructor’s gaze floated over to the car parked in the house’s driveway, the make, model, and license plate sickeningly familiar. He hadn’t noticed it before, pulling up to the curb and leaving Mary’s car there as he and Freddie got out to go inside, but now that he had, there was no choice but to face his worst fears sooner than he expected.

He’d accepted Freddie’s unrelenting plea to have a drink with him only because the closer they got to his house, the more frightening the idea of returning home to Tim became. Imagining a thousand scenarios of what would happen when he walked through their apartment door – shamefully late, feet and legs screaming in pain, and exhaustion weighing him down – his heart pounded against his chest and his knuckles turned white.

There was no way he’d possess the energy needed to deal with whatever punishment his boyfriend had in store for him. He knew he couldn’t just walk away, slip into their bedroom and collapse on their bed to get as good a night sleep as he was going to get. Tim wouldn’t have that; he simply couldn’t. He’d rather talk his ear off, scream at him for this and that, and make sure that by the time tomorrow rolled around – which wouldn’t be much longer, considering the time Roger made it home – he’d have just as miserable a day as the last one.

If the blonde was going to be able to withstand anything Tim was waiting to do, he’d need a little bit of liquid courage, and by a little bit, he knew he’d need a whole bottle and a half of the strongest drink his friend owned. Too ashamed to admit that, despite knowing Freddie already could tell, he disguised his true intentions with the claim he’d only stay for a single drink, but both men knew that the one drink meant a lot more, and for the sake of his friend’s dignity, Freddie went along with it and was more than prepared to welcome any other requests the blonde would make, right up until that moment Mary opened the door.

“Well get on with it!” she snapped at Roger, stepping aside to allow the music instructor in. He swallowed the nervous lump in his throat and gently pushed past Freddie, entering the home like he’d never step foot in it before; as though he were an intruder, taking light steps and holding his breath. He cautiously approached the threshold separating the living room and foyer and grabbed onto the molding, peering into the room as if there was something dangerous hiding around the corner. However, the only danger present lied on the couch, with his arm hanging off the edge, his eyes closed, and his chest rising and falling in an almost unnoticeable rhythm. Surrounding him were countless bottles of assorted liquors, beers, and wines; a few glasses had been thrown into the mix too.

“You owe me an entire liquor cabinet, Roger,” Mary growled, closing the door behind Freddie as he slipped inside. As soon as the locks were placed, she disappeared upstairs, refusing to discuss the issue further and putting forth an obvious effort to direct and maintain a glare in the blonde’s direction the entire way. It was only when she escaped into the shadows and could no longer see him that she dropped the act, leaving Freddie to join Roger’s side and stare at the sight before them.

“Well, so much for that drink,” the dark-haired man tutted, crossing his arms. “Your lousy boyfriend beat us to it.”

“Oh, would you give it a break?” Roger scoffed, walking into the room and rounding the sofa Tim was sprawled across. He crouched down beside the end of the couch where his boyfriend’s head was propped up on a pillow decorated with a puddle of saliva, smiling sadly at him before daring to place a hand on his arm and give him a slight shake.

Tim woke with a start, his head turning side to side frantically as he tried to place where he was – his surroundings completely unfamiliar to him. When his bloodshot eyes fell upon the blue ones he had the pleasure of waking up to every morning, his anxiety subsided and he brought a hand up to caress Roger’s cheek.

“I’m so glad to see you,” he murmured, a crooked smile appearing on his face and his words slurred beyond belief. “I…I want to talk to you.”

The blonde returned the gesture, wrapping his free hand around Tim’s and bringing it down to his lips for a gentle kiss. “Let’s get you home first, yeah?”

Tim nodded his head and tried to sit up, struggling to do so on his own accord. Roger quickly stepped in, this dance they were doing unfortunately familiar. The blonde couldn’t remember how many times he’s lifted Tim up from whatever couch he decided to crash on, draped his heavy arm over his shoulders for support, and ushered him out with a sense of shame that he’d never admit to but failed to disguise. This night was no different.

Freddie watched as the couple went to leave his home, biting his lip as he debated whether or not to express the concern he had building in the back of his throat. However, if there was one thing about Freddie, it was that he never held back from speaking his mind.

“Roger?” he called out, his voice not sounding as confident as he would’ve liked it to, but nevertheless stopping the blonde in his tracks.

“What is it, Fred?” The exasperation in the blonde’s response was blatant.

“I really think you should give Brian a chance,” he declared, the timid delivery of the message deprived of its necessary strength. “Because if you don’t, he’s just going to end up like me, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

Roger chuckled, finding it funny that his friend was still on the topic. He thought for sure the loud music during the car ride had shut him up for good, and that the drinks would make him forget about it altogether. Could he blame him for remembering, though? Tim had gotten to the drinks before they did. “Look, Freddie, he’s not gay, okay? He’s just confused, I told you that.”

“Who’s gay?” Tim interjected, his sluggish gaze trailing from his feet to the pair of friends who ignored him as they continued their conversation.

“Well I don’t think he is,” the dark-haired man disagreed, “He’s a smart man, Roger. He’s a college professor, for fuck’s sake!”

“Yeah, and so am I!” the blonde shouted, “So that doesn’t say much, now, does it?”

“Hey, I am too,” his boyfriend languidly chimed in, raising a declarative finger before dropping it on Roger’s cheek, the blonde flinching as Tim dragged the appendage down his neck and arm until it returned to his side.

Freddie shook his head in disappointment before meeting the music instructor’s gaze again and stressing the fact of the matter with, “I’m just saying, Rog—”

“I don’t care what you have to say, Fred,” he cut his friend short, a terseness to his remark that silenced Freddie almost instantly. The two shared an awkward stare for a bit before Roger readjusted his hold on Tim and turned to leave, not getting a step outside before looking back of his shoulder and murmuring an apologetic, “You know I don’t—”

“I know,” the dark-haired man uttered, a small, forgiving grin appearing on his lips as he nodded his head towards the door, “Just take him home and call me when you get there to let me know you got there safely, okay?”

The blonde’s cheeks evolved into a faint shade of red, wordlessly thanking his friend for being so understanding, or if not understanding, accepting of the situation. Accepting didn’t properly describe the feeling either, though, because the gesture seemed more tolerating than accepting. That’s how it always had been for the two, and Roger cherished that. Freddie was the one person he could always count on to be there, no matter what he did or said, and naturally he treated him the same way. He sometimes wondered if they were soulmates in that sense.

As the couple staggered towards the car, Tim whimpered and dropped his head on Roger’s shoulder, turning inward and blocking the blonde's path. He clung to the music instructor’s jacket and buried his face into Roger’s warm chest, mumbling, “I fucked up, Rog. I really fucked up.”

The blonde heaved an exhausted sigh and reluctantly wrapped his arms around Tim, thinking about what to say and resting his cheek against Tim’s disheveled hair. He dragged his hands over Tim’s shoulder blades, which began to vibrate with sorrow.

“I just don’t want to lose you!” he cried, thrusting himself away from Roger and tripping over his own feet, their car catching him before he could cripple to the ground. He clutched the smooth metal for support with quivering lips and blurring vision, muttering through the drool that had gathered in his mouth, “We used to be so happy, Rog, and…and then you ruined it! You fucking ruined it, and now look at us. We’re a thousand miles apart even though we’re standing right across from each other. How did that—”

The blonde flew forward as Tim slumped against the car door, his hands not reaching out far enough in time to prevent his boyfriend from landing harshly on the cold, hard ground. He tried to save the failed gesture by running his hand behind his head, muttering an inaudible "For fuck's sake, Tim," and tucking a piece of his hair behind his ear.

Tim hiccuped and glanced up at Roger towering over him. “Why don’t you just leave me already?” he grumbled, “I know that’s what you’re trying to do, so why don’t you just do it already?”

The drunk’s harsh words tugged at Roger’s lips, which formed as frown as he swept in and slipped his hands underneath the brunette’s arms, denying him the satisfaction of a response while he lifted him up and opened the car door behind him. He sat his boyfriend down in the passenger seat and buckled him in like a child, going to close the door and round the car to get in himself when Tim stuck his hand out, keeping the door open.

“Just tell me one thing, Rog.” He sniffled and looked up at the pair of tired blue eyes that glistened in the moonlight. The words he wanted to say got caught in his throat, and before he was finally able to vocalize his demand, he brought a timid hand up to the blonde's chest. His fingers ran over the fabric, pulling him into a trance that he eventually tore himself from and asked, “Do you mean it when you tell me you love me?”

Roger bit his lip, tears threatening to waver in his eyes as he enwrapped Tim’s hand in his and nodded his head yes, knowing the action spoke the words he couldn't bring himself to say, for they lacked substance. Tim brightened at this false sense of hope the gesture gave him and allowed the blonde to finally close the door, dropping his hand into his lap and throwing his legs into the cabin. Roger took a step back from the car and turned his head over his shoulder, spotting Freddie spying in the front window. The blonde’s eyebrows furrowed together as the dark-haired man gasped and disappeared from his post, retreating to the comforts of his home.

The music instructor rolled his eyes and slid into the driver’s seat, searching the car for its keys. His eyes landed on the small budge in Tim’s pants pocket, his question answered in the most unfavorable way. He heaved a sigh, slowly looking up at his boyfriend whose head drooped forward – his eyes shut and his lips slightly parted, soft snores slipping past them – and daring to reach his hand across the center console, slipping it into the pocket and fishing for the keys. He’d just made contact with the warm metal when Tim hummed in delight, a smile crawling onto his face and his head falling back on the headrest. “Someone’s eager.”

The blonde scoffed and tore his hand out of the brunette’s pants, the set of keys pinched between his fingertips. “I’m just trying to get us home.”

“Oh, come on,” he whined, turning his head to the side and meeting Roger’s tired eyes with heavily intoxicated ones, “When’s the last time we did it in a car?”

“That time I strained my back and you mooned a cop, and we agreed on no more car sex,” Roger answered straightforwardly, shoving the keys in the ignition and turning it over.

The engine roared to life, the low rumble masking Tim’s muttered, “I don't remember agreeing to that,” as he crossed his arms over his chest and Roger backed out of the driveway.

The vehicle coasted down the street, an awkward silence consuming the atmosphere. Tim stared lustfully at Roger, the shadows giving the blonde a beauty that only the dark could give. Without thinking, the alcohol coursing through his veins preventing him from doing so, he dropped his hand onto Roger’s crotch and squeezed roughly, causing the blonde to scream and nearly jump out of his seat, the car swerving left and right before being pulled back into the lane.

“Fucking Christ, Tim!” he yelled, grabbing the drunkard’s hand and throwing it back at him, “What do you think you’re doing?” His heart pounded against his chest and his cheeks burned in embarrassment, his terrified gaze flickering between his boyfriend and the street ahead.

“I want to make it up to you…show you how much I love you and need you...you know how bad I am with words,” Tim slurred, crawling towards the driver – right over the stick shift and the console – and placing his hands on the blonde’s cheeks, wanting to bring their lips together.

“Tim! Stop!” Roger shouted, trying to keep his eyes on the road but struggling to do so as his boyfriend began planting sloppy kisses all along the side of Roger’s face, with the blonde’s mouth as their intended destination. The music instructor shrugged Tim off several times and even plucked his hand from the steering wheel to block his advances, all while the speedometer crept higher, the engine's hum grew louder, and their surroundings passed by in an intensifying blur. Neither men noticed, though, the brunette relentless in his endeavor despite Roger’s desperate attempts to push him away.

“Stop it, Tim! I can’t—” A blaring car horn replaced his voice, instantly drawing the two men’s attention forward.

His sentence went unfinished.

Chapter Text

Brian stood by the coffee machine, the chatter of the other professors behind him but mere background noise as he stared lifelessly at the cold carafe in his hand. He hadn’t slept a wink last night, his thoughts making it impossible for him to close his eyes for more than a second. Every time his eyelids fell, he’d catch a quick glimpse of his past – his first date with Chrissie, their first kiss; the first day he met Roger, their first kiss. The feelings accompanying those memories were strong too, and as long as the professor stayed awake – distracting himself with things like finally fixing the shower light in his bathroom, brewing a new pot of coffee, and tinkering with the old alarm clock whose minute and second hands hung limply at the bottom and always read 6:30 – he could avoid those feelings.

However, he couldn’t avoid the feelings that surfaced with the blonde’s arrival that morning, the door to the teacher’s lounge colliding with the wall behind it and attracting the faculty members’ attention. The blonde who managed to look simultaneously better and worse than yesterday – his lips tinted a noticeable shade of red, his eyelids powdered a light purple, and his forehead blemished with a fresh cut – glared at all the pairs of eyes directed his way. He peeled himself away from the threshold he leaned against for support and trudged over to where Brian stood, frozen in place.

“Well, are you just going to stand there, or are you going to pour me a cup?” the blonde greeted bitterly, a glimmer of the cheeky bastard he was when he first walked through Imperial College in his voice as he grabbed a mug and slammed it down on the counter.

“Oi, where are your manners, Taylor?” Ray called from across the room, earning a subtle round of sniggers from those around him.

The music instructor smirked, meeting Ray’s challenging gaze, and answered, “I must’ve left them with your mom last night. After all, your dad insisted on me being a perfect gentleman to her.” A collective “ooh” sprinkled with a few “damn”s and “wow”s passed over the small group of teachers, Ray’s cheeks turning a deep shade of red as Roger returned his attention to Brian and noticed that he still hadn’t filled his mug. He raised his eyebrows, wordlessly commanding the professor to snap out of the daze he’d fallen into staring at the blonde’s newest scar.

Brian shook his head and poured the blonde some coffee, Roger wasting no time at all to snatch the cup up and bring it to his lips. His face scrunched at the bitter taste, but that didn’t stop him from finishing the cold beverage in one, long sip. He licked his crimson-stained lips as he dropped the mug into the sink and strutted out of the lounge, the entire room struck silent and still, waiting for his return but ending up disappointed when all they heard was the babble of students as they caught up with friends, compared midterm grades, and spread gossip.

The suspense lasted only a few seconds, and no one except for Brian seemed concerned about the music instructor’s intrusion or abrupt departure. Observing his peers return to their morning routines like nothing had just happened, the professor witnessed them debate over the silliest of things, eat their bland breakfasts while reading the newspaper, and get frustrated over the grades their students received on their exams. He remembered when that’s how every morning used to go, and how some mornings his colleagues would call him over to join them, but now he felt just as much of an outcast as Roger must’ve.

Brian swallowed the lump in his throat and shoved the carafe back in its place, wiping his sweaty palms on the pleats of his pants before briskly leaving the room, stopping right outside the doorway as he searched the hall for the distinguishable blonde head of hair. It didn’t take long, considering he still possessed the ability to split the hallway right down the middle – all the students watching him in pure awe as he practically darted towards the basement. Brian, ignorant of the eyes that shifted from Roger to him, ran after the blonde, riding the railing down and scaring one of the students as he stumbled over his landing. He didn’t allow his flopped move to deter him, though, rounding the doorway and finally catching up to Roger who only glared at the professor’s presence out of the corner of his eye.

“Hey,” he greeted, trying to catch his breath and smiling awkwardly at the blonde beside him.

“What do you want, Brian?” Roger grumbled, keeping his attention forward and tightening his grip on his bag’s strap.

“I wanted to talk.” Brian’s eyes traveled down to the satchel that hung by his hip, passing the undone tie around his neck, glossing over the untucked half of his button-down, and falling on the lock of hair that peeked out from underneath the bag’s unsecured flap. His eyebrow popped up, intrigued, before his gaze flickered back up to the blonde’s stone-cold face. “I-I feel bad about yesterday,” he tacked on, stammering.

The music instructor chuckled sadly, stopping in his tracks and turning to face the professor. “You know what, Brian? Forget about it. Okay? I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But I—”

“Well I don’t,” Roger snapped, clenching his jaw as he bit back the words that desired to follow. Brian’s cheeks turned a faint, flattering shade of red, the blonde feeling guilty for directing his anger towards him. It’s not that it wasn’t his fault, because it was. In fact, this whole thing was his fault, and Roger knew Freddie believed wholeheartedly that Brian was his ticket to a better life, but he struggled to see it. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to run his hands through the professor’s soft curls again, to taste his sweet, innocent lips once more, and to melt into his body so perfectly that he never wanted to leave it.

Oh, who was he kidding?

“I just…I had a rough night,” the blonde admitted shyly, bringing the back of his wrist up to his mouth and wiping away the pigment with one, harsh swipe.

“Look at what you did,” Tim chastised Roger as they stared at their wrecked car, smoking beside the poor tree that absorbed most of the damage from the accident. The vehicle had violently swerved off the street, missing the oncoming driver by just a hair and clipping the fire hydrant – which spewed like a geyser behind the miraculously unscathed couple, save a few minor cuts and scrapes – before smashing into the tree at the corner of the intersection.

The blonde glared over at his boyfriend, responding with a laugh that bordered delirium, “Look at what I did? You’re the one who couldn’t keep your fucking hands to yourself!”

“Well it’s not my fault,” the brunette huffed, crossing his arms over his chest, “I wasn’t the one driving.”

Roger brought a frustrated hand to his forehead and muttered, “What the hell are we going to do?” He shrugged his shoulders and threw a defeated hand in the direction of their car. “We’re fucked. I’m fucked!”

“Not necessarily,” Tim mumbled, attracting the music instructor’s apprehensive gaze. He slowly met his dark blue eyes and elaborated quietly, “We can always call Nana.”

“No,” the blonde snapped, shaking his head in stern refusal of the idea, “No, we are not—”

“Come on, Rog. She’s the only one who didn’t completely disown us, and she loves you!”

Roger scoffed. “Yeah, because she thinks I’m a girl.”

Tim stared at his boyfriend blankly. “And?” The blonde smacked him on the arm, eliciting a pained gasp from the brunette as he instinctively gripped the stinging area. “Ouch! What was that for?”

“For being a fucking prick, that’s what,” Roger growled, turning away from the unpleasant scene and plopping himself down on the curb. He drew his knees into his chest and buried his face in his hands, trying to keep himself from bursting into tears.

Tim hung his head in shame and brought a hand to the back of his neck, rubbing it awkwardly as he circled the car, a lilt to his drunken waltz as he surveyed the damage and tried to determine how much time and money it would take to repair. “You know, you’d only have to do it until I get the car fixed...” he mumbled, running a hand across the bent hood. With the alcohol coursing through his warm veins and fuzzing his overworked brain, he figured he could get it back on the road a day or two, thus seeing no issues with his proposal.

“I’m not dressing up as a girl just so that your grandma can drive me around!” Roger cried, turning his head over his shoulder to meet Tim’s narrowed gaze. “I told you I don’t want to do that anymore!”

“Well then how else are you going to get to your stupid job?” the brunette sneered, dragging himself over to where Roger was perched on the curb and asking, “What are you gonna do? Walk? Take the bus?” He gasped, dropping down beside him and leaning in close so that he could finger the blonde’s collar. “Or better yet, maybe you could carpool with that fuckbuddy of yours. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? The two of you…getting in a few quick ones before you need to rush out of the house, helping clean each other up before you walk out the door…of course, that’s if you can resist getting another fuck in before that…”

Roger shoved Tim away from him in disgust and stood up. “You’re sick.”

“Oh, like you’re not,” he grumbled, a darkness cast over his eyes that scaled the blonde’s body up to his face, “You dress up as a girl to get guys’ rocks off, for fuck’s sake!”

“Yeah, and I didn’t choose to do that! You made me!”

“You seem pretty into it, though, Rog. I mean, come on. You can’t get enough of yourself in a skirt and tights. You’d stare at yourself in the mirror for hours, if you could.”

A stranger passed by just then, having heard the last bit of their conversation and eyeing the two men suspiciously. Tim flipped them off before they could notice the car wreck behind them, leaving Roger to blush in embarrassment as the stranger scurried away.

The blonde waited until the intimidated passerby rounded the corner to turn back towards his boyfriend and raise his clenched fists in frustration, shouting as quietly as he could, “What is wrong with you? Seriously, Tim, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Roger spun away from him and ran shaky hands through his disheveled hair, pacing back and forth while tears wavered in his eyes “You’re exhausting, Tim, you know that? You’re fucking exhausting. When are you going to grow up and realize we can’t keep doing this shit?”

“‘This shit’ is what keeps a roof over—”

“Our heads, I know!” Roger screamed, turning viciously on the heels of his feet to face his boyfriend again, seething in anger, “You tell me all the goddamn time! Just like how you tell me that you’re the one who gets me the gigs; that no one would know about me if it wasn’t for you; that I couldn’t leave you even if I wanted to. Well guess what, Tim? I could leave your sorry arse any time I fucking want, and you know why? Because I don’t need you like you need me. I never needed you!”

 “THEN LEAVE!” the brunette yelled, jumping up from the curb and nearly losing his balance as he staggered to the blonde, “FUCKING LEAVE AND SEE IF I CARE!”

The two men stared at each other, chests rising and falling rapidly and their cheeks burning a bright shade of red as they caught their breaths in the cold of the night. Tears glistened in both their eyes, their gazes directed anywhere but the person across from them – to their feet, to the phone box sitting at the opposite corner, and the street light that shifted from green to yellow, from yellow to red, and then after that, back to green, where the cycle would start over again.

Roger was the first to dare return his gaze to Tim, the drunken man crumbling to pieces before his very eyes – his arms wrapped tightly around his trembling body, streams of tears trickling down his cheeks, and his lips – glossy with dribble – quivering, all in self-loathing. It proved an ugly sight, worse than the car to Roger’s left and Tim’s right, but it managed to make the blonde regret everything he’d said. I was mad, he convinced himself, I didn’t mean it. However, he couldn’t bring himself to express those sentiments verbally. So, instead, he shortened the distance between them and slipped his hands underneath Tim’s wet jawline, leaning in and pressing his lips softly against the brunette’s.

“What are you doing?” the older of the two asked when the blonde pulled away, keeping his hands where they sat. “Why aren’t you leaving?”

A weary grin appeared on Roger’s face, his fingers playing with the ends of Tim’s hair as a distraction while he answered, “We’ve both had a long day, don’t you think?”

Tim’s eyebrows knit together. “But, Roger…w-what about the car?” He tried to turn his head to look at the wreck when Roger tightened his hold, keeping the brunette’s head in place and looking right into his eyes as he brought a finger to his lips.

“Shh,” he whispered, removing his finger once Tim settled down. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll deal with that later, okay?” He plucked his hand from underneath Tim’s cheek and shoved it into his coat pocket, rummaging around for some loose change. “Just call Nana and tell her to come to the flat tomorrow morning.” He pulled out a few coins and tucked them into the palm of Tim’s hand. “While you do that, I’ll get our things, and then we start walking home.”

The brunette frowned. “But Rog—”

“I love you,” he cut him short, giving him one more peck on the lips and a quick pat on the arm before returning to the car and retrieving their belongings.

“I’m sorry, Roger,” Brian apologized, not knowing how else to respond to the blonde’s vague confession, Roger keeping the details of the events that perspired the night before to himself.

The music instructor shrugged his shoulders, a disheartened chuckle slipping past his lips as he pushed the wig deeper inside his bag. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to make it up to you,” the professor answered boldly, raising Roger’s eyebrow in bewilderment. “For yesterday, at least. I-I wanted to come back and finish our conversation, I really did. I just—”

“Got caught up in the janitor’s closet?” The blonde’s lips perked up at the mortified expression that appeared on Brian’s face upon his attempt to finish his sentence. He tilted his head to the side and brought a hand to the back of his neck, a blush manifesting in his own cheeks. “Yeah, I know. Paul told me first thing this morning. ‘Didn’t even mention my getup.” Roger crossed his arms and pouted his lips, somewhat disappointed in the janitor’s perceived lack of awareness. “And he saw me in everything.”

“You’re not mad at me, are you?” Brian blurted out.

“Why would I be mad at you for shagging your girlfriend?” he retorted with a lighthearted huff, the answer obvious to him.

The taller of the two shrugged his shoulders, shamefully admitting, “I just feel like I did something bad.”

“The only bad thing you did was choosing the janitor’s closet to fuck her in,” the music instructor joked, playfully punching Brian in the arm, which he gained a disapproving glare from. “Oh, come on, man. Lighten up. All I’m saying is that there are a ton of other places here you could’ve chosen. I mean, for fuck’s sake, that Debbie girl gave me a list of places I could meet her at if I ever fancied a…” he noticed the professor’s wide eyes and allowed his voice to falter off, a nervous chuckle replacing it as he shoved his hands into his pockets and continued, “You know, I’m gonna stop myself right there, but, uh, the point is…I bet most of them, if not all, give Skeevy McGee’s office a run for its money.”

“I’m trying to be serious here, Roger,” Brian explained, a lowness to his voice as he took a step closer to the blonde and whispered, “Because I really meant what I said to you.”

Roger bit his lip, his eyes drifting towards the professor’s slightly parted lips, begging to be met by his own.

He could see it now, eliminating the space between them and fulfilling what seemed like a long-destined prophecy. They’d stumble over each other’s feet, blindly making their way into the music instructor’s room, and ungracefully collide with the wall opposite the door as they focused on one thing and one thing only – each other. The blonde would use the flat surface for additional support as he perched himself on Brian’s hips, getting a better feel for the clothed erection that was previously pressed against his thigh. The moans that would slip past his lips as the professor peppered kisses down his neck and to his collarbone would ring loudly in their ears, the moment intensifying with the men’s growing lust until their desires manifested into an awkward reality, Roger guiding Brian through the motions and trying to keep his patience while they searched for that rhythm they found the first time they kissed. He wouldn’t give up until he found it, because he knew it was there, and he knew just how good it would feel, better than all the other times.

“That…That’s great, Brian,” the music instructor stammered, feeling himself getting worked up and adjusting his bag accordingly. His cheeks burned as he reluctantly went on to say, “But I…I meant what I said too.”

“About what?”

“About wanting to be alone.” The words pained Roger like saying “I love you” to Tim after that dreaded weekend did. He wanted to them to be genuine, but he found it difficult to convince himself of their authenticity.

Roger refused to admit it, but his rough night didn’t end with the aftermath of the car accident. It continued back at their flat, the two maintaining the reticence that developed on the walk home as they slunk to their bedroom, Tim collapsing on the bed while Roger dropped their belongings beside the dresser and hovered by the door. He watched Tim doze off almost instantly, soft snores slipping past the drunk man’s lips.

When the brunette turned over, his eyes shut, Roger tiptoed over to the closet and pulled out the box that Tim had stowed away the night his boyfriend tore into it. This night was different, though. There wasn’t an ounce of liquor in his system. His head was clear, clearer than it had been in a long time, and he hated every bit of it. Opening the lid slowly, carefully, his eyes fell upon the clothes he wished he didn’t own, recognize, or fit. Yet the fact that they were tailored perfectly to him was undeniable, accentuating all the right parts of his smaller frame while distracting all who looked his way from the truth of the matter.

While Brian spent his morning searching for all the things in his home that needed attention, Roger prepared himself for Nana’s visit. Physically, mentally, it should’ve been easy, but he needed all those hours and the few bottles of vodka he got his hands on to even answer the door properly. The car ride to the university proved to be even harder, the confined space allowing for no escape from the inevitable conversation that pursued. Luckily for Roger, he’d had many conversations with Nana over the years, and with her withering memory, he was able to recite most of their talks by heart, never having to reveal anything other than what she already knew.

However, this morning, Nana was relentless in her endeavor to get Roger – or rather, Liz – to explain the scar on his – her – forehead, as well as the discoloring around his – her – eye. He almost got out of the conversation, his one leg out of the car and his high heel on the asphalt, when she caught him – her ­­– by the arm and whispered, “You just let me know if Tim’s acting up again, okay? Because you shouldn’t have to put up with that boy’s nonsense. You deserve better, hun.”

Roger tensed up at her desperate plea, but quickly brushed it off with a nervous giggle and an excuse that he – she – was running late. Nana didn’t seem willing to let the blonde go, but nevertheless she released him.

“Oh,” Brian murmured, tilting his head down and masking the blush that consumed his cheeks after Roger’s contrived attempt to push him away.

“‘Morning, Mr. Taylor!” John’s voice echoed down the hallway, preventing Roger from explaining himself and attracting the pair’s attention. They turned their heads over their shoulders and watched the student stumble down the corridor with his guitar case in one hand and his backpack in the other, and in the mix, his jacket, a small toolbox, and a lamp. The two faculty members raised suspicious eyebrows as John joined them, a crooked grin crawling onto his face as he caught his breath and announced, “I’m here for my lesson.”

“Really?” Roger chuckled. “Because it looks like you’re just about ready to move in.”

The expression on the student’s face faltered as he glanced down at the load he carried and groaned in disappointment. “Oh, man. I was in such a rush this morning I must’ve taken my mom’s lamp by accident.”

“How does one ‘accidentally’ take a lamp to school?” Brian couldn’t help but curiously interject, earning a slow glare from John.

“You don’t know what my life’s like,” he sassed, effectively doubling the size of the professor’s eyes. His cheeks instantly flushed with red at this realization. “Oh my god, I-I’m so sorry, Professor May. I-I didn’t mean it, I just…I’m so sorry.”

Roger smirked at the student’s flustered state, finding great amusement in it but also feeling sorry for the poor kid. He didn’t blame him – after all, Brian had that kind of effect on everybody. “Why don’t you go and get yourself set up, John?” he suggested, plucking his room key from his pocket and extending it out to him. “I’ll be there in a sec.”

The boy nodded his head in thankful agreement and snatched the token from the music instructor’s possession, brushing past him and the professor and retreating to the classroom, his belongings bouncing against his legs and producing a sound similar to that of a jingle of keys. Roger didn’t return his attention to Brian until the door clicked shut behind John, the taller of the two staring off into space.

“I think he likes me,” he whispered under his breath.

“Oh, no, he doesn’t like you like that,” Roger disagreed, folding his arms over his chest and attracting Brian’s worried gaze.

“You sure? I mean—”

“Come on, Brian, it’s pretty obvious,” the blonde answered, keeping his voice low as the other corner of his lips curling upward into a smile, “He doesn’t just like you. He’s madly in love with you!”

“Oh, shut up!” the professor exclaimed, rolling his eyes and sending the blonde into a brief fit of laughs, “He is not!”

Roger calmed himself down and bit his lip, looking up at Brian and contemplating on whether to ask the question that danced on the tip of his tongue or not.

“He doesn’t, Roger,” he pressed, assuming the blonde’s pensiveness was a result of him trying to come up with examples to prove that he does, “I swear.”

The music instructor moved his hands to his hips, proposing the question of, “But what if he does, and he’s just too afraid to admit it?”

There was something about Roger’s inquiry that prevented Brian from disregarding it completely, sensing that the conversation wasn’t just about John anymore. Rather, the student was a coverup for the blonde to talk about himself, or so Brian hoped, prompting him to respond, “Well…I guess I’d tell him that I feel the same way, then.”

Roger hesitated just enough to affirm Brian’s beliefs, causing the professor’s lips to twitch upward into a subtle grin before his jaw suddenly dropped, the music instructor giving him a smack on the arm. “Brian, you can’t talk about your students like that!” he playfully chastised him, mocking the older of the two’s claim that had previously been directed at himself. “You’re a teacher!”

“And you’re an arsehole.” Brian chuckled.

“Language!” Roger quipped with a dramatic gasp as the professor began to walk away, leaving the music instructor to get to his lesson and his eager student.

Brian found relief in knowing that the blonde didn’t want to be left alone after all. He was just scared, and Brian could live with scared, because fears were something you could get over. Withdrawal from everyone was different.

“Hey, Bri!” the blonde called out, turning the curly-haired man on his heel as he continued to walk backwards down the hall. He blushed, adding as timidly as he could while still being heard by the professor, “If you feel the same way about him, maybe you should do something about it!”

Brian grinned, saying nothing before spinning back around and thinking, Maybe I should.

Chapter Text

Tim watched as the tow truck rolled his and Roger’s car off its bed and onto the road outside their complex, arms folded over his chest and sunglasses sitting on the bridge of his nose; disguising the heavy bags that hung beneath his eyes. A cigarette burned in between his fingers, and with the next draw of the white stick, the car’s four wheels connected with the asphalt and the driver extended his hand out for the payment. The brunette blew the smoke he’d held in his mouth to the side and shoved his free hand into the back of his pants, pulling out a few bills and smashing them into the driver’s hand.

He counted the money and glared at Tim – the payment less than expected. The latter thought he could fool the former this early in the day, hoping he wouldn’t notice, but the driver was acutely aware of the situation, and Tim had no choice but to give him the rest of the cash he carried. The money earned from Roger’s weekend had grown scarce over the course of the past few days, being spent on frivolous things Tim believed would cheer his boyfriend up but to no avail. Now he had nothing but the damaged car in front of him and the guilt he felt weighing down on his shoulders.

As the tow truck pulled away from the curb, Nana’s car slid into its spot, the tires screeching as she slammed on the brakes and the vehicle jerking back and forth as it acquainted itself to its new stationary position. The woman who appeared young for her age – despite her fading memory – stepped out of the vehicle and joined her grandson’s side, plucking the cigarette out of his hand and taking a drag for herself. Tim stood there, stunned by his grandmother’s bold move.

She exhaled slowly, tapping the stick and letting the burnt pieces fall to the ground like snowflakes. “I’m worried about Liz,” she confessed, her voice low and scratchy, “Something seems off about her.”

Tim snapped out of the daze he’d fallen into and cleared his throat. “Oh, erm, she…she’s probably still rattled from the accident last night. I wouldn’t look too much into it, Nana.”

“All I know is that you better be treating her right, boy,” the old woman scolded, her eyes narrowing as she turned towards him and poked him harshly in the chest, “You’re lucky to have found her, you know. You’re not easy to deal with.”

The brunette scoffed, rubbing the now stinging area. “Neither are you.”

She huffed and brought the cigarette back to her dry lips, mumbling before her chest rose and filled with smoke, “I saw that scar on her forehead and the shiner around her eye.” When she breathed out, she averted her gaze back to the crashed car and added, “I’ve lived long enough to know those both didn’t come from the accident.”

“Nana, I would never hurt him—her,” he stuttered, knowing exactly what she was implying and hoping his slip of tongue went unnoticed by her. Luckily it did, allowing him to plead, “I love her, Nana, and I could never imagine laying a hand of her like that. Ever.”

“You better not be feeding me another one of your lies, Timothy.”

“I’m not!” he cried, watching her roll her eyes at him.

When Tim’s father wasn’t around, his mother – Nana – stepped in. Granted, her visits were infrequent and whenever she stopped by, all she ever did was ridicule the boy and his father for living in such a pigsty, but deep down, underneath her sharp criticisms and backhanded comments, she cared for Tim. After all, he was her only grandson, and she wanted the best for him as any other grandparent would, but as he grew older, she saw the kind of person he was morphing into – a person just like his father, and she dealt with this the only way she knew how: by turning a blind eye to his behavior.

She witnessed how Tim treated Roger, who back then was his best friend from school. She’d see them sitting on the couch with beers in their hands and scowls on their faces, and she’d hear them argue over stupid things like which chord should follow the chord they were playing. It was no surprise to her when Roger seemingly disappeared, being replaced with the boy’s new girlfriend, Liz.

Unbeknownst to her, it was just a fun game the two boys played with her one day, a game that went on longer than Roger would’ve liked it to, but Nana seemed so happy to see her grandson with someone different – someone he hadn’t managed to push away – that Tim didn’t want to stop. They played their game so often that for a brief period of time, Roger was dressed in women’s clothes every day and every night. The situation worsened when Tim discovered they could make money from the blonde’s guise, buying into the lewd comments strangers made to them whenever they were out on the streets together and convincing Roger it would make them rich.

Surprisingly, it did, and before either of them knew it, they had their own place, their own car, and jobs that paid well. Prospects were great for the couple, and Nana – with the sheep’s wool pulled over her eyes – couldn’t have been prouder. However, she only stuck around for breakfast or dinner, occasionally a day or two, just long enough to clean up her grandson’s home and make sure he stayed fed, so it was impossible for her to pick up on the dysfunctional situation her grandson and his “girlfriend” had gotten themselves into. This time around, though, when she received the call last night and made her way out this morning, she couldn’t help but notice something different about the blonde.

“Look, if…if anyone’s hurting anyone here,” Tim continued, forced tears beginning to waver in his eyes as he yearned for her sympathy, “she’s hurting me.” The gray-haired woman didn’t give the boy the satisfaction of a verbal response, but rather flickered her eyes in his direction and encouraged him to divulge with a broken heart, “Nana, I-I think she’s cheating on me.”

“What did you do?” she nearly yelled at him, her old eyes widening.

“Nothing!” the brunette shouted back, “I just let him—her—take this stupid gig at the school, and…and I think she’s falling for one of the professors there.” His voice cracked at the end of his response, the reality of the lie he attempted to weave hitting him harder than he was prepared for. The ingenuine tears now possessed an authenticity to them that they lacked before, an authenticity that struck him helplessly silent.

“That’s preposterous, Tim,” his grandmother murmured, drawing another smoke from the cigarette before passing it back to him, “You may be difficult to deal with, and god knows we’ve all wanted to leave you at one point or another, but she loves you. For some ungodly reason, Tim, she loves you. You’re insane if you think she’d ever do that to you.”

The boy couldn’t bring himself to respond, frozen in place as his mind dwelled on the very real possibility that Brian and Roger were something more than mere coworkers. The thought had surfaced before, but back then it was laughable. The idea of Roger being with someone else without being compensated for it seemed silly; something the blonde would never do. Ever since he got caught with Chrissie’s husband, though, Tim barely recognized him, and that idea that he’d become attracted to someone else seemed much more likely now more than ever, prompting him to break his silence and think aloud, “But what if he is?”

Nana’s brows furrowed together. “He?”

“She,” the brunette snapped, his reddened eyes doubling in size in recognition of his mistake and shooting over to the short, thin, elderly woman beside him. “What if she’s falling for him, Nana? What do I do?”

“Maybe you could try being the man your father never was,” she answered bluntly, her response biting harder than she intended it to. The words unconsciously slipped past her lips, and she didn’t stick around long enough to see the effect they had on Tim as she sauntered off towards the flat she’d taken temporary residence in – occupying the boys’ bedroom and leaving them to alternate between the couch and the living room floor at night.

The click of her heels across the pavement echoed in harmony with her poignant words that lingered in the air, causing the bitter tears that had been building in Tim’s eyes to finally spill over and run down his rosy cheeks. He stared at the car in front of him, animosity bubbling up inside of him as a thousand thoughts raced through his head, voices telling him a thousand different things. There were so many voices speaking at once that it became near deafening, the brunette bringing his hands up to his ears in a desperate attempt to make them stop and squeezing his eyes shut, screaming at the top of his lungs to drown them out.

Suddenly, the voices stopped – all but one.

Tim?

His eyes popped open, feverishly shifting left and right in search of who the voice belonged to.

“Oh my god.”

He spun around, Freddie appearing in his line of vision – a taxi merging back into traffic behind him and a look of terror on the dark-haired man’s face as he tore his eyes from the wrecked car and brought them his best friend’s boyfriend.

“What the hell happened, Tim, and where’s Roger?”

*****

The end of the day seemed like an impossible destination for the professor and the music instructor, the hours dragging on at a snail’s pace. While Brian taught his classes, finally getting around to the lessons that would be addressed on the final that drew nearer and faster than both he and his students were prepared for, Roger – his face clean of the makeup that previously stained it – wandered around the campus, looking for students he could recruit for the next semester, or even the rest of the current one. He needed to secure his place at the university; it was the only way he and Brian had any chance of growing close, and of Brian gaining the courage to do something about their attraction to one another. A small part of Roger wanted to do something himself, but he knew he couldn’t – not with Tim breathing down his neck and Chrissie keeping a sharp eye on him.

As he passed through the deserted second floor – hands shoved into his coat pockets and a cigarette sticking out from the corner of his mouth – the sound of a heated argument hit his ears. He raised a suspicious eyebrow and changed his lackadaisical waltz into a brisk stride, the shouts growing louder the closer he approached the end of the hall, where Headmistress Mullen’s office sat.

“Stop lying to me, Chrissie!” a deep male voice boomed. Roger wasn’t entirely sure, but he swore he’d heard that voice before. It sounded so familiar.

“For Christ’s sake, I’m not lying to you!” Chrissie yelled back.

Roger reached her office with a newfound sense of caution, slowly peering into the room through the door’s long, thin window and seeing the headmistress perched on her desk, legs crossed, hands placed behind her on the desk, and frustration in her rolled eyes. His attention quickly shifted to the man who entered his view, dressed in a suit and tie, hands woven into his hair, and head hung low. The blonde didn’t need to see his face to know who it was – it was Chrissie husband, Timothée.

Roger grunted as his body shifted up the mattress after a particularly hard thrust from Timothée, his hands gripping the sheets in the hopes of some sort of purchase. His ass, currently perched in the air, was sore from all the spanks it had received, and the skirt – haphazardly flipped up to rest on his back against his button-up – began to itch, but the blonde had no right to complain with the lofty payment he was receiving per hour.

A slight stutter in Timothée's movements told Roger the other man was close, and he silently prayed that the transaction would soon be over, his own cock having lost interest minutes ago. The high-pitched moan that escaped Roger's throat came from a place of discomfort rather than pleasure – not that Timothée could tell the difference – and the small tear squeezed from his eye immediately was absorbed into the pillow underneath his head.

It seemed like an eternity before Timothée pulled out and finished with a breathy groan, most of the mess ending up on the back of Roger's thighs. As the client tumbled down to lay on the bed, noisily catching his breath, Roger rolled off the mattress and staggered over to the mirror neatly hung above the dresser, a wobble to his walk. The blonde aggressively ripped the tie from his neck and stopped for a moment, contemplating his actions before reaching back to clean himself up.

"Hey, no, use this instead," the client interjected from behind the younger man while tossing a pillowcase at him. Roger greedily accepted the offer, relieved at the prospect of avoiding another fight with Tim over ruined clothes. He wiped away the sticky substance in silence, keeping his back to Timothée the entire time.

"Are you mad at me?" Timothée quietly asked from his spot on the bed, almost sounding innocent if it weren't for the current situation he just partook in. Roger didn't even have it in him to verbally answer, ever so slightly shaking his head in denial of the question as he stared himself down in the reflective surface and fiddled with the disheveled wig placed upon his head. The inquiry remained unanswered as the blonde turned around, giving Timothée a fake smile that quickly faded.

"I should get going," Roger sighed, fixing his skirt and walking towards the closed bedroom door. “I'll see you next time, yeah?”

"Wait." Timothée's gentle command stopped the prostitute in his tracks, standing at the foot of the bed. "Can't you stay a little longer?"

"You've already used the hours you paid me for, and you got cum on my skirt. I'll have to clean it before it stains," the blonde replied, his attention and hands focused on the undone button of his shirt in avoidance of facing the older man, now sitting up on the mattress.

"You know money isn't a problem for me, darling," Timothée smirked, reaching for the wallet in his discarded trousers. "And you didn't even get off this time."

"I don't get paid to get off. I get paid to make sure you get off," Roger grumbled, shifting his gaze to the floor in faint embarrassment at talking back to a client. Luckily, they’d been seeing each other long enough that his defiance didn’t faze Timothée at all.

"Come on, sweetheart, that's not the right attitude to have," he cooed, pulling a thick stack of bills from his wallet and arrogantly waving them to catch the blonde's attention.

Roger bit his lip as he looked up at the feigned charm exuding from the older man and his wad of cash, knowing Tim would encourage him to go for it even if he was ready to leave for the night. "But isn't your wife due back soon?" he questioned, gingerly settling himself back down on the bed across from his client.

"Don't worry about her. She’s out with her friends getting pissed, leaving me all alone in this big empty house with no one to talk to or play with...” Timothée pouted, slipping the folded money into the waistband of the prostitute's skirt, "…so, please, stay just a little longer. Don't you like spending time with me?"

A clear disconnect existed between Roger's mind and body as his cock, still slightly hard and visible through his thin skirt, twitched at the words spilling from Timothée's mouth. The blonde huffed and rolled his eyes, gently pushing against the client's shoulder to have him lay back against the mattress. He settled himself against Timothée's waist, straddling the other man and silently cursing at himself for choosing not to wear underwear as he felt the client’s length against his bare ass. Before the situation had a chance to escalate, the sharp squeak of the door interrupted the moment and both men directed their attentions to the threshold where, standing in the shadows, was Chrissie.

“It’s not what it looks like!”

The memory ended abruptly as Timothée’s voice was replaced with Chrissie’s, the wife now saying the exact same thing her husband did the night she walked in on them.

 “Then what happened to your knickers yesterday? Huh?” he shouted at her, completely ignorant of where they were, “You didn’t leave the house not wearing them, I know you didn’t!”

“I told you! I had an—” The headmistress’s drastically quieter explanation was cut short, her tired eyes meeting Roger’s and doubling in size.

Roger gasped and slammed himself up against the wall beside the door, the cigarette he had between his lips tumbling to the ground and fizzling out in the small puddle created by the water fountain beside him. He held his breath, his heart pounding against his chest, and prayed Chrissie would forget she ever saw him, or at least choose to ignore it. Though it didn’t seem like it, Chrissie wasn’t what the blonde was most worried about – it was the possibility that Timothée had seen him too, violating the headmistress’s demand and jeopardizing any future he had at the university and with Brian.

He closed his eyes, the dreadful click of shoes ringing in his ears. It wasn’t until a hand fell down on his shoulder that he took a breath, his vision coming back to him as his eyes followed up the arm the hand was attached to, landing on Debbie’s smirking face.

“Hey there,” the provocative student purred, leaning her body into the music instructor and bringing her lips closer to his ear to whisper, “I noticed you haven’t come to see me yet. I hope it’s not because you lost the list I gave you.”

Roger huffed, turning his head back over his shoulder and responding as quietly as he could’ve, “Now’s not a really good time, Debbie. Maybe later.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, the hand she had resting on his shoulder trailing down the length of his arm to his waist, “Because you’ve been walking these halls for at least twenty minutes, and I haven’t got class until three, so if you asked me…” her fingers trickled down the front of his pants, cupping the growing bulge contained within them, “…there’s no better time than now, and I know just the place for us.” She gave him a slight squeeze, eliciting a nervous chuckle from the blonde.

“Y-You know, I…I’m kind of in the middle of something right now,” he stammered, gently plucking her hand away from him, “So, if you could—”

“What, are you shagging the headmistress too?” the student scoffed, offended by the idea that he wanted some old hag over her.

“What?” Roger asked in disbelief, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion, “No. No! I’m not—” His voice tapered off, his attention returning to the office, where things became eerily silent. He leaned forward a bit – Debbie moving with him – as he tried to see if Chrissie had caught him. The blonde’s eyes widened as they met Timothée’s instead, the husband’s hand pressed against the window. “Shit!” Roger shouted under his breath, grabbing the student by the hand and going to drag her down the hallway with him when that unfortunately familiar deep voice stopped him dead in his tracks.

“Roger?”

The music instructor’s eyes squeezed shut, his lips pressed together as he gained the courage to turn around and face the man who put him in this position. “Timothée,” he greeted, swallowing the lump that formed in his throat, “W-What are you doing here?”

Chrissie’s husband only stared at Roger, practically stripping the blonde with his lusty eyes as he tucked his bottom lip under his front teeth. Debbie raised a suspicious eyebrow, her gaze shifting rapidly between the two. Timothée noticed this and snapped out of the daze he’d fallen into, adjusting his suit jacket and muttering, “You…You look good.”

Roger’s cheeks burned a bright shade of red, knowing that anything he’d say would only worsen the situation.

The lingering student, on the other hand, blurted out, “Wait, do you two—”

“Know each other?” Chrissie finished the girl’s sentence, stepping out of her office with her arms crossed over her chest and a scowl on her face, “Yeah, they’re good friends who I thought parted ways after a little predicament they had.”

“That doesn’t mean we can’t be cordial with him, dear,” Timothée sneered, slinging his arm around his wife’s shoulders and pulling her close, a forced grin curling his lips upward. “After all, it’s only polite.”

“Yeah, Chrissie, it’s only polite,” Roger repeated him teasingly, a bite to his response as both their eyes narrowed.

“Don’t you have lessons to be planning, Mr. Taylor?” the headmistress asked tersely, wanting the blonde as far away from her husband as possible.

“Actually, I finished early today,” he answered, clasping his hands behind his back and swaying back and forth on the balls of his feet, “I’m just waiting for my ride now.”

“Oh, well, I was just about to leave,” Timothée retorted, a glimmer of hope in his voice at the thought of possibly rekindling their “friendship.” The corner of his lip perked up into a smirk as he offered, “I can give you a ride home if you’d like.”

Chrissie gasped and smacked her husband on the chest. “You will not!”

“I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s kind of boring me,” Debbie chimed in, the three having seemingly forgot about her in their exclusive, cryptic conversation. She squeezed Roger’s ass, eliciting a shocked gasp from the music instructor, and whispered, “I better see you before the semester ends, mister.” She gave him a wink and strutted off, the headmistress scoffing as her student walked off.

“That’s very inappropriate, Deborah!” she called after her.

“Put it on my permanent record!” the student shouted back, spinning around and tacking on just as loudly, “And while you’re at it, maybe you should put what you did with Professor May on yours!”

Chrissie’s jaw dropped as the student stuck both middle fingers in the air and turned her back to the trio. The headmistress clenched her fists tightly and screamed without much conviction, “You…You shut your mouth, young lady!”

My mouth?” The student couldn’t help herself, stopping in her tracks for the second time in her over-the-top exit to face the headmistress, her husband, and the man she found with him, “Maybe you should shut your mouth! All you ever do with it is talk shit and suck dick!”

A deafening silence blanketed the entire corridor as the girl finally made her escape, Roger stifling the laugh that wanted to emanate from the back of his throat and bringing up a hand to disguise the smile on his face. Chrissie’s cheeks flushed red in embarrassment, her teary eyes flickering up to meet her husband’s. An expression of betrayal marked his face, the deviant student confirming his suspicions.

She said nothing as he dropped his arm to his side and walked away, heading in the opposite direction Debbie had gone in. “Timothée, wait!” she cried, running after him.

Left behind, Roger fell against the wall and covered his face with his hands, sliding down the smooth surface until he hit the floor. He sat there for a good while, the conversation that just played out before him ringing in his ears, and eventually being drowned out by the sound of footsteps he dreaded before. He lifted his head, his tired eyes traveling up the pair of long legs that manifested beside him and landing on the one face he was partially glad wasn’t there for it all.

“Well, look who it is,” Roger mumbled, his hands falling into his lap and a meek grin crawling onto his lips, “It’s the wannabe King of England come to announce his plan of action.”

“Not quite,” Brian chuckled, taking a seat beside the music instructor, “I’m still working on it, but once I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.” He flashed the blonde a grin, hoping to get a smile in return, but Roger couldn’t bring himself to play his game. Instead, he looked away, averting his gaze to his hands and nervously intertwining his fingers. Brian took immediate notice of this and scooted closer to him, asking, “Hey, what’s wrong?”

The blonde couldn’t bear to look over at the professor, a handful of immediate answers forming in his mind but none of them satisfying enough to abate Brian’s concern.

Nothing.

Everything.

I just saw an old client of mine who I wasn’t ever supposed to see again.

I have to dress up like a girl because my boyfriend made me crash my car last night and our only mode of transportation now is his grandma’s car, and she doesn’t know I’m a guy.

I have no idea what I’m doing anymore.

Too many lies.

Too much hiding.

I’m tired of hiding; I’m tired of lying.

I’m ready to be done with it.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.

A timid “Roger?” tore the music instructor out of his thoughts, his head turning towards the curly-haired man beside him and revealing the tears that began to waver in his eyes. Brian frowned, making Roger’s condition even worse, and wrapped his arms around him, the blonde crumbling apart in the embrace.

The professor held him close – his one hand woven into the blonde’s hair and the other sitting on the blonde’s shaking back, rubbing circles across the soft fabric while he rested his cheek against Roger’s temple. Nothing need be said as the men sat in the empty hall together, finding solemnity in the fact that it was just the two of them, alone, like it should be.

“I’m scared, Brian,” Roger mumbled into his shirt, sniffling as he recovered from the choked sobs that racked his body and fiddling with the end of his tie.

“Me too,” the curly-haired man confessed, holding Roger a little closer and closing his eyes.

Although they felt the same way, neither men were prepared for what was to come – scared of things that were nothing compared to the fears they’d face in the upcoming weeks.

Chapter Text

Freddie paced back and forth in Tim and Roger’s flat, shooting daggers at the brunette as he waited impatiently for Nana to return with the blonde. The two had just arrived at the apartment themselves, having spent the majority of the day in town – Tim pushing off the inevitable crossing of Nana’s and Freddie’s paths for as long as he could by taking Roger’s friend to his favorite shops and buying him whatever he so pleased, all to avoid the ridicule Tim knew the infuriated dark-haired man was waiting to unleash. The brunette’s plan worked, that is, right up until the two stepped foot into the apartment, where Freddie insisted on Tim telling him exactly what happened the night before – the story only coming to him in bits and pieces throughout the day; their limited conversations cumbersome to carry on for more than a few sentences.

“So, let me get this straight,” the dark-haired man muttered, grabbing at the messy strands flowing from his scalp, “You crashed your car—”

“No, Roger crashed it,” Tim quickly corrected him, his head resting in the palm of his hand, his elbow on the arm of the couch, and a tired look in his sullen eyes.

“Because you were trying to get him off,” Freddie sneered, unwilling to let the other man blame his friend for their situation. Tim heaved an aggravated sigh and rolled his eyes. “So you crashed your car and called your nana, but she thinks Roger’s a bird, and I’ve got to act like he is one when he gets here?” The brunette’s cheeks reddened with embarrassment, keeping his eyes locked on the wall and his lips sealed shut. His silence was enough of an answer for Freddie, though, encouraging him to continue his interrogation by asking, “Care to tell me why in the hell that is, Tim?”

“It started off as a joke…” he reluctantly murmured, distractedly picking at the fraying fabric of the couch whose far side he occupied.

A joke? What do you mean ‘a joke’?”

“Roger and I thought it would be funny!” the brunette cried defensively, finally looking over at the angry man pacing before him. “Okay? We were bored one day, and so we got into my dad’s closet. He had a box of my mum’s clothes in there, and so we got messing around, and…and the next I know, Nana’s barging in and Roger’s dressed in drag.”

Freddie shook his head, a smirk forming on his lips. “And you told her he was a girl.”

“Well, yeah, what else was I supposed to do? I mean, how else was I supposed to explain it to her? That kind of thing…she…she’s too old to wrap her head around something like that.”

Clearly.”

“Fred, you’ve got to believe me. I didn’t mean for it to go on this long, I swear!” The desperation and regret in Tim’s plea didn’t come across like he wanted it to, because for so long, Freddie and everyone else had only known him as the manipulative man who controlled every aspect of Roger’s life. To hear and see that he felt remorse for his actions seemed impossible; a completely incomprehensible concept. “It just happened!”

It just happened,” Freddie repeated in mock fashion, chuckling under his breath and returning to his back-and-forth trot across the living room floor, “Everything ‘just happens’ with you, Tim. I mean, for fuck’s sake, Roger said the exact same thing when I asked how the two of you got together. ‘It just happened.’” The dark-haired man spun on his heel to face the man still seated on the couch. “What do you think that says about the two of you and your relationship, huh? Don’t you think—”

The turning of the lock robbed both Freddie the chance to see his outburst to fruition and Tim the chance to defend himself from it. The door swung in, and Nana and Roger – adorned with the same attire he left the house with, having quickly changed out of it as soon as he entered the school and keeping it in his bag until the end of the day, where he waited patiently in one of the bathroom stalls to throw it back on before leaving and hopping in the car parked outside for him – appeared in the doorway.

“Freddie?” the blonde questioned, forgetting about his persona for a split second before raising his voice and forcing a weary grin on his dolled-up face, “What are you doing here?”

The dark-haired man swallowed the lump that formed in his throat, his eyes flickering over to Tim who flashed him a threatening expression that lasted only a second as Nana looked at her boy and forced him to smile at her. Freddie let out a shaky breath and returned his attention to Roger, throwing his arms forward and exclaiming, “Well, Liz, I came to surprise you, of course!” He pulled the blonde into a hug and whispered into his ear, “Meet me in your bathroom in a couple of minutes. No questions asked.”

The pair split apart, Freddie grinning widely at Roger before patting him on the upper arms and turning towards Nana. “And you must be Nana. I’m Freddie; it’s such a pleasure to finally meet you, dear. I’ve heard so much about you! All good, of course.” The older woman just stared at the man before her, noticing the thick, black rings wrapped around his eyes. An awkward silence fell over the small flat that looked better than it had in months. Freddie clapped his hands together and announced, “Well, I have to go to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” He pointed his finger at the three, one after the other “Don’t any of you move.”

Freddie sauntered off into the flat’s only hallway with a sassy twirl, leaving the couple and Nana alone in the living room. Tim stood up from the couch and met Roger in the middle of the room, the corner of his lip perking upward ever so slightly before he planted a quick kiss on the blonde’s cheek and escaped to the kitchen area, where he opened the refrigerator in search of a cure for his suddenly dry throat. Roger stood there with a blush rising in his cheeks before excusing himself to the bedroom to change, however, instead of slipping into the room that Nana had claimed as her own overnight, sneaking into the bathroom where Freddie sat on the closed toilet seat, hunched over with his hands clasped together in front of him.

“What in god’s name are you doing to yourself, Rog?” Freddie murmured, his sad eyes slowly meeting the blonde’s.

“Look,” he sighed, “It’s only temporary—”

“Temporary?” the dark-haired man cut him short, yelling at him as quietly as he could under his breath, “Tim told me you’ve been doing this for years!”

Roger hung his head in shame, playing with the end of his tie as he struggled to come up with an explanation – something, anything to get his friend off his back.

There wasn’t one.

As much as Roger confided in Freddie, there were just some things he knew the older man wouldn’t understand. Tim had convinced him that their dynamic was something special, something that only made sense to the two of them, and so whatever he shared – sober – he never went into too much detail with. It all boiled down to the simple, well-rehearsed answer of: “It just happened.”

“Darling,” Freddie frowned, standing up from his seat and shortening the distance between him and the blonde, placing his finger underneath Roger’s chin and tilting his head up. He gave him no choice but to meet his gaze, asking, “When are you going to realize it doesn’t have to be like this?”

Roger’s lips pressed together, the timeless, deviant response of You don’t know what it’s like to be me dancing on the tip of his tongue, daring to slip past his lips. However, he swallowed hard and replied with a low and arrogant, “Maybe when you stop being such a hypocrite, you fag.”

The dark-haired man’s eyes tripled in size, Roger’s eyes mirroring Freddie’s as his final word hung heavy in the air. The two stared at each other, much like the couple did the night prior, and just like that moment of the past, the blonde was the first to cave; to realize the error in his ways. “Freddie, I’m sorry. I…I didn’t mean—”

Roger’s head jerked to the side, his cheek stinging like Freddie’s palm as the older of the two smacked him across the face. The blonde couldn’t hold back the yelp that the action pulled out of him, or the punch that followed – his fist colliding with the dark-haired man’s abdomen. Freddie doubled over in pain, growling at the blonde before charging at him and pushing him into the bathroom door. The two struggled in one another’s grasps, kneeing and clawing and scratching at one another until Roger’s rage suddenly evolved into terror, memories of previously-had fights flashing before him – the situations very different but the sheer feeling of horror just the same. “Stop, stop, stop,” he muttered, his body tensing up under Freddie’s hold, “Stop! STOP!”

The two men separated in the blink of an eye – the older staggering back to the edge of the bathtub while the younger slowly slid down to the ground, hugging himself in a pathetic attempt for comfort. They sat in silence, catching their strained breaths as the intense but short-lived moment lingered in their minds, Roger closing his eyes to block out the flashbacks and Freddie tucking his head into his chest, regret washing over him about his reaction.

“Hey, is everything okay in there?” Tim’s voice resonated outside the door, the two friends sharing a quick glance that sanctioned the wordless conversation that they couldn’t verbalize.

“I-I’m fine, Tim!” Freddie reluctantly called back, “I just…” He looked at Roger, hoping for an explanation he could give, but the blonde provided him no such answer. He left him to survey the small space, his dark brown eyes skimming the room before landing on a discarded sock on the floor and drawing an inspired gasp out of him. “I slipped on a sock!” Roger raised a suspicious eyebrow, a small grin appearing on Freddie’s face as he added, “I think I’ll be okay, though. N-No need to check on me!”

The blonde’s boyfriend responded with a slight grunt and the sound of his footsteps as he walked away, leaving the two friends to try and contain their laughter at the situation. The tension that once filled the small room quickly dissipated, Freddie standing up from the tub’s edge and crossing the tiny space with his hand extended outward. Roger stared at the hand, a sense of déjà vu washing over him as he remembered when Brian stood before him yesterday after discovering him in the dark classroom. He gulped and placed his hand in Freddie’s, allowing the dark-haired man to pull him to his feet.

The pair once again could only look at one another, the words they wanted to say getting caught in their throats.

Roger wanted to apologize for what he’d said and done, but he knew his apologies meant nothing to Freddie. The dark-haired man didn’t need them; didn’t want them; felt as though they were unnecessary considering their close friendship. The lives they led were comprised of bad decisions, one after another, so as long as they stuck by each other’s sides through each and every one of them, no apologies were needed – at least, that’s how Freddie saw it, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, instead of letting his remorseful words fall upon deaf ears, the blonde sniffled and wiped away the tear that slipped from his eye, asking, “Care to stay and have dinner with us? Nana’s cooking, so you know it’s going to be better than anything Tim or I could whip up.”

A small grin appeared on the dark-haired man’s face. “As inviting as that sounds, Rog, I just came over to check on you; see if you were okay.” Roger dared to meet Freddie’s concerned gaze. “You didn’t call me last night.”

The music instructor chuckled sadly, bringing a nervous hand to the back of his neck. “Yeah, about that—”

“Tim already told me,” Freddie interrupted him, much less aggressively this time around as a redness that matched the blonde’s quickly filled his cheeks. He tilted his head down and continued, “I just worry about you, Rog. I really do. He’s—”

“—my boyfriend, and we’ll be okay, Freddie,” the blonde insisted, regaining his friend’s doubtful attention, “If you would’ve let me finish earlier, this…” he gestured towards himself, “…is just temporary.”

“And what if it’s not, Roger? Are you just going to keep dressing in drag for the rest of your life, pretending to be someone you’re not?” The question stunned the pair silent, the awkward tension filling the room once more. Freddie shook his head, pushing past the pause in their conversation, and brought a hand up to his forehead. “Why don’t you come home with me tonight?”

“Freddie…”

“Look, Mary and I have a spare room—”

“She hates me, Fred.”

“I don’t care if she hates you!” the dark-haired man cried, throwing his hand back down to his side and placing it on his hip. “I’d rather you spend the night with me as Roger than here with Tim and his crazy grandmother as…as…”

“Liz, Fred,” Roger reminded him, uncomfortably folding his arms over his padded chest. “I go by Liz; you know that.”

“Please, Rog,” Freddie begged, tears pricking his sad eyes, “Don’t do this to yourself.”

Roger stared at him for a while before taking a deep breath and scratching the back of his head, the wig moving with his fingers. “So, that’s no to dinner?”

*****

Later that night, after Freddie said his goodbyes and Roger and Tim suffered through a near unbearable meal with the latter’s nana, the couple got themselves situated in the living room, the older of the two flopping down on the couch which creaked underneath his body as it settled while the younger fanned out the blanket he’d pulled from their closet and laid it down on the floor. Tim watched his boyfriend with a smirk while a mindless finger trailed an arbitrary pattern on the rough fabric beneath him, the brunette thinking of all the things they could do with his grandmother in the other room, passed out in their bed with heavy snores slipping past her lips.

“I could get used to this,” he murmured, attracting Roger’s unamused gaze. The blonde – still wearing his wig but changed into a simple t-shirt and pair of shorts that were just long enough to cover his ass – rolled his eyes and snatched the pillow he’d also brought out, tossing it at the end of the blanket opposite of where Tim’s head rested. “Come on, you know I love you when you’re dressed like that.”

“And when I’m not?” he mused, turning his back to the brunette and trailing into the kitchen where he ripped into the refrigerator and pulled out a much-needed bottle of beer. He tore off the cap and took a quick swig of the drink that ended up draining more than half the bottle. A low groan slipped past his lips as he leaned against the counter, his head falling back and his eyes closing shut in pure bliss. He almost forgot about his question, sinking into the sunny feeling the alcohol brought him in the dark of the night, but his euphoria came to an abrupt end when a pair of hands slid around him, instantly grounding him and bringing Tim into his line of sight.

“I still love you,” the older one in the couple whispered, pressing into the blonde whose face scrunched up and hands raised to meet his boyfriend’s chest, gently pushing him away.

“You’re so full of shit,” he disagreed, the emotional impact of his words absent in the delivery but prominent in the reception as he slipped out of the small prison Tim created around him and waltzed back into the living room, his steps light and his beer pinched between his fingers. He brought the bottle back up to his lips and took another long sip, nearly finishing the drink but stopping just before the last drop to spin back around – Tim now facing him – and add, “If I’m being honest with you, I don’t think you’ve loved me since we were teenagers. You’re just keeping me around because you know you can’t make it on your own. And I even bet part of you wishes I was a girl, so you wouldn’t have to be so ashamed of yourself, and of me, and of our life together.”

Tim gritted his teeth, wishing he had a beer of his own in that moment but remembering where drinking his problems away got him last time.

As a weighted silence fell over the small flat, Roger dragged himself over to the couch and took a seat at the end farthest away from the kitchen, biting his lip and dropping his head. The long, dark blonde locks of the wig that somehow managed to stay in place masked his face, the illusion of isolation giving him the courage to blurt out, “You know what Nana told me today?” He slowly looked up to meet his boyfriend’s slightly terrified gaze. “She said I shouldn’t have to put up with your nonsense, and that I deserve better.”

The older of the two scoffed, his arms folded over his chest. “And you believe her crazy arse? She’s senile, Roger; doesn’t know what she’s talking about half the time.” He threw his hand in the blonde’s direction. “Hell, she doesn’t even know you’re hiding a dick in those shorts!”

“Then maybe we should tell her,” Roger suggested, a seriousness to his tone that threw Tim off.

“Are you out of your goddamn mind?”

The younger man glanced down at the bottle hanging in his hands, swirling it around a couple times before admitting, “I just don’t know how much longer I can do this, Tim. I’m getting tired of it, and it’s starting to hurt. It physically fucking hurts.”

“Well…you’ll only have to put up with it for a little longer,” he assured him, though his unconvincing sentiment fell short of providing Roger any type of comfort. “Winter’s just around the corner, and…and everything will be fixed by then.” He peeled himself away from the counter and joined his boyfriend on the couch, daring to sit right beside him and place a hand atop his exposed thigh. “I promise.” He gave the supple skin a slight squeeze that caused Roger to twitch, his apprehensive attention being drawn to the man beside him.

Tim reluctantly pulled his hand away from the blonde’s leg and brought it up to his face, caressing his cheek and tucking a piece of the wig behind his ear. Roger could sense the conflict building with his boyfriend, knowing what the brunette wanted to do but seeing that the decision wasn’t as easy for him as it used to be.

Before, he’d rush him with reckless abandon, pushing him down on the couch, straddling him, and getting both of them to their climaxes before either could realize what had happened. Now, he was hesitant. He saw the fear in Roger’s eyes, and the withdrawal he showed with every touch – even if it was just a simple grazing of their hands when they both reached for the salt or sugar at the table. The blonde began to wonder if his boyfriend finally realized what he’d done, and that perhaps he felt bad enough that he wanted to try and make up for it.

His hopes were met with doubt as Tim began to twirl a piece of the wig in between his fingers, tacking onto his previous remark, “It won’t be long until things are back to normal again, I swear. I just need to get that stupid car back on the road, and then you and I will have this place back to ourselves, and…and then we can go back to being us. No one needs to tell anyone anything.”

Roger shook his head in irritated disbelief, lightly pushing Tim away from him and getting up from the couch.

“What do you fucking want me to do, Roger?” the brunette yelled at him, considering his new, gentler approach at confronting the blonde failed to have its desired effect.

“I want you to stop making it seem like this is normal!” he shouted back. “Us, our whole life. It’s not normal! We—”

Tim grabbed Roger by the shirt and pulled him close, stealing the words from the younger man’s throat and growling under his breath, “Watch it, Roger. We’re not the only ones here, remember?”

“Oh, fuck off!” he screamed, shoving his boyfriend back, “I hope she hears us! I hope the whole damn world hears us!”

“Roger…”

“The only reason she’s here is because of you! Because you have no goddamn self-control! Because you don’t know when to fucking stop! Because you…you…” He started to lose his momentum, struggling to express the thought he really wanted to.

Tim rested his hands on his hips and raised a single eyebrow, encouraging the blonde to finish his sentence.

Roger let out a defeated sigh and dropped his hands to his sides, murmuring, “Because you can’t see that I don’t want to do this anymore.”

The brunette blinked away the tears that had formed in his eyes, tilting his head down and biting his quivering lip in an attempt to disguise the effect the blonde’s confession had on him.

Roger’s heart broke at the sight before him, but he couldn’t deny the weight that had been lifted off his shoulders. For once, Tim had finally listened to him. It wasn’t a secret, that he wanted things to change, and he didn’t try to hide it, but his boyfriend never seemed to acknowledge that. Now that everything was out in the open, though, without a drop of liquor in the brunette’s system, he’d heard him loud and clear.

The blonde should’ve felt relieved, but accompanying that relief was a great sense of guilt, because even after all the shit Tim had put him through, he loved him. He loved him, and all he wanted was for the brunette to feel the same way, but it was obvious Tim was in love with someone else. He didn’t love Roger – he loved Liz. He had ever since that day in ’65, and he wasn’t willing to give her up. That’s why he fought to keep Roger around; why he tried to keep him from accepting the position at the university, because if he lost Roger, he’d lose Liz too.

Tim sniffled and swiped his hand across his own cheek, smearing the thin, wet trail that had trickled down the side of his face. “Then what do you want to do, Roger?” he muttered, his puffy, bloodshot eyes meeting the blonde’s.

Roger swallowed the lump in his throat, his face burning and his ears ringing. The truth was too much to bear, and part of him just wanted to cave like he had countless times before, but he’d come too far for that. He’d laid his cards out on the table, and he couldn’t take them back. So, with a shaky breath, he replied, “I just want to be me again.”

Chapter Text

The end of the semester arrived sooner than anyone at the university could be prepared for. The days blurred together, one week’s end merging with the next week’s beginning and finals creeping up like a shadow in the night. In all the chaos that ensued, Brian and Roger’s paths crossed less and less – even with the professor’s consistent effort to catch the blonde with every chance he could get.

He found it best just to stand in his classroom’s doorway, sipping his morning cup of tea and waiting for the blonde to come stomping down the halls. Most days he’d already changed out of the feminine attire he adorned himself with around Nana to keep the façade alive and well, and all that would remain from his disguise would be faint traces of makeup or a bit of his wig peeking out from his bag. However, as the semester drew on, the less he seemed to care – strutting down the halls like he was one of the students, dressed in Liz’s signature skirt and button-down with a growing frown on his painted face. Some of the boys even whistled at the blonde, thinking he was a new classmate, only to get the biggest shock of their young adult lives when Roger flipped them off or cursed them out.

Brian wanted to approach him on several occasions and ask what was going on, but part of him already had a good idea, and the other part kept getting dragged away by Chrissie.

The headmistress’s behavior took a sudden change after the incident with Timothée. For a little while, it seemed like she wanted nothing to do with the professor – ducking out of sight whenever they’d see one another and coming up with excuses whenever Brian would try and confront her. Then, out of nowhere, she couldn’t get enough of him. She’d pull him aside as soon as the bell rang – indicating class was over – and dismiss him when it rang again, over and over and over again, unconcerned with who saw them or what whispered rumors floated around about them.

The professor spent hours – days, even – trying to decipher Chrissie’s logic behind her sporadic decisions, but she gave no such inclination as to why, impatiently and painfully waiting to reveal the true reason at the faculty’s highly-anticipated Christmas party.

“Are you going tomorrow?” Brian asked Roger, the two of them miraculously finding themselves together at one of the tables in the teacher’s lounge. Snow sprinkled the sky outside and the hands on the clock above the door sat at the ten and eight.

“To what?” the music instructor groaned, his back hunched and his head buried in his folded arms that rested on the tabletop.

“The annual faculty Christmas party.”

Roger refused to lift his head, continuing to entertain the professor’s frankly undesired conversation by replying in a muffled voice, “What the fuck is that?”

“I think it’s pretty self-explanatory, Rog,” Brian chuckled, wrapping his hands around the warm mug in front of him and smiling at the blonde even though he couldn’t see it. The professor’s grin only lingered for a second or two, the music instructor remaining silent and still. He cleared his throat and added, “I hope you consider coming.” The enduring silence filled the small gap in Brian’s attempt to get Roger to open up, or at least sit up and look at him. “They have an open bar, you know; it’s a real big hit.”

Roger let out a deep, irritated sigh and leaned back in the chair, a bitterness to his seemingly unrelated answer as he crossed his arms over his chest and said, “I’m sick of drinking.”

A faint, embarrassed blush appeared in Brian’s cheeks, his grip on the mug tightening ever so slightly. “Yeah, I-I’m kind of over it too. Besides, it’s just weird…drinking with colleagues.”

“Yet you came to a bar with me,” the younger of the two reminded the older, his tired eyes shifting to meet Brian’s wide ones.

“Th-That was different.”

“Oh, yeah?”

The rosy touch in Brian’s cheeks intensified as he scrambled for an answer; something to say that would take the edge off Roger’s sharp interrogation. “Yeah, it…it was a special occasion. You asked me to come and celebrate with you.”

“You should’ve said no,” the blonde grumbled.

His use of should’ve instead of could’ve stuck out the professor, but he only realized it after he instinctively replied, “Well I tried, remember? But you insisted I go!”

By now the pair had attracted the attention of the other two professors in the room. Luckily it was during a class period, which both Brian and Roger had free – the former not having a class while the latter still only had his weekly lessons with John. He’d hoped Freddie would try to reclaim his fake status as a student and visit him once a week too, even if his goal was just to see that stupid janitor, Paul, but he hadn’t spoken to the dark-haired man since their encounter at his flat. He wanted to and tried to, reaching for the phone every night and sometimes even going so far as to pick the phone off the receiver and bring it up to his ear, but he always slammed it back down before getting the chance to dial his number.

“What about when you invited me to your house?” Roger mentioned, his voice flat.

The corner of Brian’s lips perked up into a disbelieving smirk, amused by the music instructor’s distorted memories. “Again, you insisted on it.”

The blonde groaned and dropped his head back, his noticeably longer locks scraping the back of the chair and his hands finding their way to his face. The pair sat in silence, the quietness disturbed only by the footsteps of the other professors as they left the room, maintaining their judgmental looks directed at the professor and music instructor until the door closed behind them. 

Roger’s hands fell into his lap and his eyes trailed across the table, climbing Brian’s chest to capture his hazel ones.

The blonde would be lying if he said he hadn’t gone a day without wishing the curly-haired professor would actually do something about his feelings towards him. His future with Tim looked bleak – the brunette’s promise to let Roger be himself seeming more and more unlikely with each passing day. Their car seemed to have more problems now than it did just from the accident, and Nana’s residence in their bedroom bordered a threatening line of permanence. Things really came to a head, though, when Tim proposed they get married.

“What are you, high?” Roger laughed, the two of them entwined on the floor together, the lights low and the cold sky outside a dark shade of blue. A thin blanket cloaked the couple’s lower halves, their feet peeking out from one tattered end and their waists from the other.

“No, this…this is the first time in a while that my mind’s been clear…really clear,” the brunette contended, his fingers tangled in the blonde’s hair and his chin resting on his bare shoulder, “And I think we should do it. I mean, we’ve been together long enough…”

Roger shook his head, sitting up on his elbows and gently pushing his boyfriend away, all without laying a hand on him. “It’s doesn’t matter how long we’ve been together, Tim. It’s illegal; we can’t.” He carefully neglected to mention the terrifying aspect associated with the idea of spending the rest of his life chained to someone, especially when that someone was Tim.

“But when it is legal, you and me…we can finally rule the world.” The brunette sat up and moved so that he hovered over the blonde, smirking as though he was ready for round two but instead leaning in – his lips closer to Roger’s ear than his mouth – and whispering in between kisses that trailed down the blonde’s jaw and neck and caused his baby blues to flutter shut in pure ecstasy, “Just…like you…wanted to.”

“But I thought you said—” Roger breathlessly muttered when his voice got drowned out by a loud moan, Tim finding his sweet spot. As the brunette pulled back, he tugged at his partner’s skin, his teeth holding onto the tender flesh for a brief yet intense moment before he released and returned to peppering kisses down his boyfriend’s bare chest.

“I know what I said,” he murmured, his response vibrating against Roger’s flat stomach, “But I was wrong.” He planted a kiss near the blonde’s navel, glancing up for but a second to see his boyfriend lost in his own bliss. He smirked and tacked on before ducking underneath the covers, “All we need is a new beginning…somewhere far, far away from London.”

“Where?” Roger mused, his eyes squeezed shut and his voice strained as his hands found their way to Tim’s scalp, weaving through the sweaty and disheveled locks of hair. He shuddered under his boyfriend’s touch as the brunette’s warm and wet tongue drew a slow and agonizing stripe down the length of his stiffening cock.

“I was thinking we’d go to America,” he suggested casually, tantalizing the blonde as he circled his tongue around his tip, bringing Roger closer to becoming undone with each swirl. Tim smirked before sitting back, harshly ripping his boyfriend out of the haze that started to consume him.

“America?” Roger repeated, a whine to his voice that came from the abrupt lack of attention instead of the suggestion itself.

“Yeah,” Tim murmured, placing a hand on his boyfriend’s raised knee and pushing it out to the side, “You always talked about going there.” Without warning, he stuck a finger inside the blonde, robbing him of the chance to properly respond – another moan slipping past his lips as his back curled up off the floor and his body gravitated towards and into Tim’s hand. “Haven’t you?”

It was true – he had always wanted to go to America, but he didn’t want to go there to start a new life with Tim. If anything, he wanted to go there to get away from him, because it became increasingly clear over these past couple of weeks that things with Tim would always be the same. They had been for the past ten or so years, and chances of the brunette changing his ways were slim.

Roger had given him the opportunity more times than he deserved, yet he threw each and every one of them away – taking a bite of it like a child trying a new food, chewing it in his mouth long enough to please his parents, and then spitting it out onto his plate or, if he had the decency to, into a napkin the second they turned his back to him. Having been disappointed for the last time, the blonde decided he was done playing his boyfriend’s games, for good. Now all he had to do was wait for Brian to do the same with Chrissie.

“Is your girl going?” Roger blurted out, a timidity to his simple and outwardly innocent inquiry that diverted his gaze back down to his lap.

“Well of course, she is,” Brian replied, a lack of bitterness to his easily snide remark, “She is the headmistress, after all.”

The blonde nodded his head, his eyebrows knitting together. “Right.”

The professor bit his lip, looking at his own lap as well.

Another awkward pause formed in their conversation. As hard as they – or really, Brian – tried, things between them hadn’t been the same since they kissed. Roger’s unrelenting cheeky comments, Brian’s persistent curiosity in the blonde, the irresistible chemistry the two felt with each other, they’d all seemingly vanished, having been replaced with perpetual silence and countless distractions.

The music instructor eventually heaved a sigh, attracting the professor’s attention in anticipation of him saying something, but instead he just sat there, surveying the room as though he’d never been in it before. Brian pressed his lips together and dared to rise from his chair, Roger’s sad eyes flickering over to meet his as he adjusted his jacket and announced apathetically, “I should probably get back to my classroom. I told my students I’d be free to answer any last questions they had, you know, about the final exam.”

Roger only gave him an understanding nod, reaching across the table and taking Brian’s drink into his own possession. He sipped the slightly colder beverage and stared at the dark liquid that rippled in his shaky hands, the professor watching him in sheer fascination.

Brian wanted to leave, but it was as if someone had planted his feet in the ground. He knew deep down that he couldn’t leave Roger like this – their once strong and undeniable connection now only holding on by a thread; a thread so thin that all it would take to sever it was a gentle blow or tap. So, the professor swallowed the lump that formed in his throat and brought a hand to the back of his neck, muttering, “Perhaps you would like to come with me?”

The blonde looked up at him, his blue eyes glistening in the fluorescent lights that hung overhead. “What?”

I said, would you like to come with me?” Roger still didn’t seem to get it. “To the party, I mean. The Christmas party. I…I figured we could go together. I can even pick you up, if you’d like.”

The music instructor took another sip of the drink that didn’t belong to him, making an obscenely loud and enduring noise as he did so. Brian crossed his arms in annoyance, cocking his head to the side as he waited for Roger to finish. When he did, the blonde set the cup back down and asked, “What about Chrissie?”

“She’s not going with me,” the professor disclosed rather curtly, the betrayal he felt when the news was first shared with him resurfacing with no remorse whatsoever, “She…She’s bringing her husband.” His voice was but a mere whisper by the end of the weakly delivered sentence.

Roger scoffed, smirking out of a deadly combination of disbelief and inspiration. “She’s still with the bloke? God, I figured since you two were going at it every day that she’d left him. We all did.”

Brian’s cheeks burned a deep shade of red, the situation all around shameful and embarrassing. He felt like a hypocrite for forgiving the headmistress for her deceit, and for continuing to see her after learning about Timothée. Their arrangement seemed somewhat out of his control, but under all the denial and lies he told himself to fall asleep at night, he knew he voluntarily went along with it because it made up for what he couldn’t have, what he really wanted – Roger.

Well,” the blonde drawled, lifting himself up out of the chair and stretching his arms back, crossing them over his head before dropping them down to his hips, “Since it seems you’ve got no one else to go with – unless you want to take John as your date, because I know he’d just love it if you asked him – I suppose I can go with you. On one condition.”

“Anything.” The hope in the professor’s voice caused him even more embarrassment, but as Roger stepped out from the small space between his chair and the table and shortened the distance between them, the red in Brian’s cheeks took on an entirely new purpose. His face grew warm, and his pants tight. His heart pounded against his chest, and his breathing picked up, the blonde so close to him that he could smell the mouthwash on his breath.

“You take me back to your place afterwards,” he whispered, the corner of his lip twitching upward as his newly acquired, seemingly pulled-out-of-thin-air plan was set in motion.

Brian’s eyes grew wide at Roger’s request. Was this finally happening? Was this his chance he’d been waiting for, to finally do something about the nagging desire to be with the blonde, even if it was just for one night?

Roger’s eyes traveled down the professor’s chest, and his smirk evolved into a full-on grin – pleased by Brian’s wordless answer to his proposal. He glanced back up at the flustered man standing before him and asked, “So, when does this stupid party start?”

“Uh…um…” the older of the two stammered, shaking his head to snap himself out of the daze he’d fallen into and taking a cautious step back, “Eight. It starts at eight.”

“Pick me up at eight thirty, then, or even nine,” the music instructor retorted, administering him a harsh but friendly smack on the arm, “No earlier, though.” He pointed a finger at him and raised his eyebrows. “Showing up early is for losers, loser.”

Brian forced a nervous chuckle out of himself, watching as Roger winked and went to leave the room, but not before snatching the mug up from the table and downing the rest of the now cold, tasteless beverage. The professor fumbled when Roger carelessly tossed the cup at him, Brian catching the fragile porcelain in his arms and holding it close to his still beating chest. He flinched when the door slammed shut behind the blonde, his head spinning as he tried to make sense of how their heavily one-sided conversation ended up with them agreeing to go to the Christmas party together, and then to his place when it was over.

“Brian—”

“Shit!” the professor exclaimed, dropping the mug that shattered by his feet and turning around to see the music instructor in the doorway, clinging to the threshold with his body hid behind the wall and his head peering around it. “Shit,” he repeated himself with much less conviction, disappointedly looking at the broken glass and bending down to clean it up. “What is it, Roger?” he asked, the question coming off more tersely than he intended it to, “Did you come back to tell me to pick you up even later? Or that you’ve given it some thought and don’t want to go at all now?”

“Yes, in the two seconds that passed since I left the room, I’ve completely changed my mind,” the blonde replied sarcastically, a grin crawling onto his face as Brian tossed a pointed glare in his direction. He tilted his head down out of bashfulness of the blush that rose in his cheeks and corrected his snide remark by saying, “No, Brian, I just…I’m really glad you finally decided to do something.”

The professor inwardly smiled, standing back up and transferring the shards of porcelain to the bin tucked beside the counter. “Wear something nice,” he told him, keeping his back to the music instructor as he smiled even more, “It’s a semi-formal event, and only real losers show up wearing jeans and sneakers.”

Roger rolled his eyes, lingering in hopes of catching a glimpse of Brian’s face before he truly left. However, the professor didn’t turn around, shifting his focus to the dirty dishes in the sink and taking it upon himself to clean them instead. The blonde pressed his lips together before peeling himself away from the threshold, trudging down the deserted hallway that was soon to be flooded with students, his hands shoved in his pockets and adrenaline pumping through his veins.

This was it.

This was his way out; it always had been. Freddie was right. The gig at the university was only his means of getting here. Imperial College wasn’t the opportunity he was looking for – Brian was, and if he could pull this off and Brian didn’t change his mind last minute, maybe he’d be able to leave Tim once and for all. Maybe he’d finally be able to be himself; to not have to live a lie because it doesn’t have to be like this.

Chapter Text

“What are you all smiles about?” Tim asked Roger suspiciously as the two of them cleaned up after dinner, the blonde at the sink – dressed in a pair of patched-up flare jeans and a baby blue t-shirt that donned the unusually stretched-out message of 2ND ANNUAL SARATOGA FREEBEE FESTIVAL across his elevated chest – while the brunette brought the dirty dishes over to him. It was only the two of them, for Nana only made the meals; she never stuck around for the cleanup. That was the boys’ responsibility – always had been, always would be.

“I’ve got plans tonight,” Roger divulged, scrubbing the remnants of their dinner from the plate he had in his hand and riding the high of his anticipation for the party that night with reckless abandon. He barely got through the rest of yesterday after Brian invited him, and today was near unbearable – spending most of the day debating what he should wear, if he should bring a change of clothes with him for later, and whether he should be ready to go as soon as Brian showed up or act like he hadn’t been thinking about it all day and make the poor guy wait.

“Plans? You made plans without telling me?” The disapproval in Tim’s voice was evident, but in case his boyfriend failed to recognize it, his furrowed brows, straightened lips, and negligent handling of the dishes as he dropped them into the sink made it even clearer.

The blonde glanced over his shoulder at the brunette, matching his facial expression. “Yeah, and? I’m a grown adult, Tim. I don’t need your permission to make plans. Remember what we talked about?”

Without a second thought, Tim wrapped his hand tightly around Roger’s upper arm and pulled the two of them close – his nails digging into the blonde’s skin and his hot, heavy breath grazing his neck as he snarled, “I didn’t give you permission to talk back to me like this. I gave you permission to take a little break from Liz, that’s it.”

Roger clenched his jaw, looking his boyfriend dead in the eyes and growling, “Let go of me.”

“Tell me where you’re going,” the brunette insisted, willfully ignoring the blonde’s plea while tightening his grip on his arm. Roger winced and lost hold of the plate he had been attending to, the breakable item clattering against the other plates, bowls, and glasses piled in the wash basin.

“Nana’s in the other room,” he cautioned his partner under his breath, attempting to tear himself out of Tim’s grasp but only succeeding in worsening his situation – the hold Tim had of him growing impossibly tighter and squeezing a tear out of the blonde’s eye. By that point, his bliss had tapered off, no longer having the effect it did just a moment ago. The glimmer of hope the party gave him was but a faint glow in the distance now, dimming and shrinking with each passing second.

“Since when do you care?” Tim growled, his own eyes glistening with rageful tears, “You said you wanted her to hear this – her and the whole damn world, remember?” He was shouting by the end of his response, risking another noise complaint from their neighbors – or worse, Nana.

“I want you to let me go,” the blonde whispered in agony.

“Yeah, and if I let you go, what are you going to do?” the brunette sneered, yanking Roger towards him and having their bodies collide in a burst of toxic passion, “Leave for…for your ‘plans’ tonight and never come back? I know you want to, but…but what about our plan, babe?” With those last few words, Tim’s demeanor completely changed – the anger building up inside of him dissipating within the blink of an eye to be replaced with sincerity and a touch of desperation. He brought a hand up and slipped a strand of Roger’s hair that had escaped from underneath his wig back into place, causing the blonde to flinch. “Aren’t you excited about it? It’s the change you’ve been wanting; the change you and I need.”

The music instructor stared at his delirious partner with a constricted chest, the air around them feeling thin. His eyes flickered with frustration, his mind screaming that their plan wasn’t going to work no matter how hard they tried but his heart crying out for the opportunity of a life for them where the two of them could be happy, together.

Conflicted, Roger bit his quivering lip and finally tilted his head down, a single teardrop rolling down his cheek and falling to his feet with a small splash. “I told you, Tim, we can’t—”

“Can’t what?”

The two startled boys looked over at the old but slender woman who sneaked out of the bedroom, a shawl draped over her thin shoulders and a glass of whiskey in one frail hand, the other on her bony hip. She raised a penciled eyebrow and took a sip of the poignant drink, anticipating her grandson’s or, who she believed to be, his girlfriend’s answer. The couple shared a quick, wordless exchange – the conversation had with just their eyes – before Tim laughed anxiously and wrapped an arm around Roger, turning them both towards his grandmother.

“Liz here’s worried about us getting married,” he told her with feigned confidence.

Nana gasped, her shriveled hands moving to her chest and the glass she’d been nursing slipping through her fingers. It shattered upon contact with the floor, the amber liquid splattering over their toes and feet. “When did this happen?”

“It didn’t,” the blonde instinctively replied, dissolving Tim’s embarrassed grin into a scowl as he cleared his throat and tucked a piece of the slightly disheveled wig he had on behind his ear, responding with a slightly higher voice, “I mean, we’re not getting married. I just…I don’t think it’s a good idea for us. You know, money-wise.” Money wasn’t the issue.

“She’s just nervous,” Tim chimed in, hoping to save face in front of the woman who practically raised him. He turned his head towards Roger and smiled, caressing the blonde’s cheek and brushing away another stray piece of his hair. The wigs were just a courtesy at this point – Roger’s hair having grown out long enough that it could pass as a woman’s cut, therefore making the hairpieces unnecessary. However, for the sake of spending all day at home with Nana, he threw one on. “I’m trying to tell her there’s nothing to worry about so long as we’re together.” The brunette looked back at his grandmother. “Don’t you agree, Nana?”

The old woman shifted her gaze from her grandson to his girlfriend whose eyes resembled the ones that looked at her the first day she dropped the blonde off at the university. They were eyes screaming for help; begging for someone to notice that something wasn’t right with the picture before them.

Nana had already noticed; that’s why she brought it up to Tim after returning home that first day, but Roger didn’t know about that conversation and chalked her silence up to the fact that she had no reason to suspect anything was wrong. After all, the two of them had been putting on a show for the woman, pretending to be people they weren’t. It was ironic, really, considering the fact that Tim chastised Roger about his position as a music instructor, claiming it was turning him into someone he wasn’t. He made the accusation in order to explain his displeasure with the life-changing choice, but Roger had been someone he wasn’t for almost the entirety of their relationship. He couldn’t remember the last time he was himself around the brunette, truly himself.

Tim’s grandmother pressed her lips tightly together and crossed her arms, staring at the couple for a while before finally responding to her grandson’s plea for validation. “I think you two should sit with the idea some more.” Tim scoffed and turned his head to the side, missing the look of relief that washed over his boyfriend by a split second. “Look, you two are young, and you shouldn’t rush into something like this. I don’t…I don’t want you following in your father’s or my footsteps.”

“But, Nana—”

“Your girl’s right, Tim,” she cut him short, throwing a finger in the surprised blonde’s direction but keeping her attention on her boy, “Listen to her for once, why don’t you? You’ve got a long way to go before doing anything crazy like marrying one another. For fuck’s sake, dear, you don’t even ‘ave a car.”

“I-I’m almost done with it!” Tim cried defensively, sounding like a child whose parents asked him to clean his room and he hadn’t even picked up one toy yet.

Roger brought a hand up to his mouth, stifling the chuckle that slipped past his lips and earning a narrowed-eyed glance from the man beside him. The blonde quickly recomposed himself and folded his arms over his raised chest, averting his gaze to the liquor stain on the floor, knowing it was going to be him who’d have to clean it up when all of this was said and done.

“Look, Tim, stop biting off more than you can chew,” his grandmother advised him, her words coming off more cold than comforting, “Finish your first bite before taking another one this time. Get that car fixed and then ask her to fucking marry you. It’s only polite.”

“Nana, come on…”

“I mean it, Tim. Don’t fucking do it.” And with that, the old woman spun around – her shawl picking up in the air – and retreated to the boys’ bedroom for the night, the slam of the door shaking the entire flat.

An awkward silence fell over the couple who couldn’t bear to look at one another. Neither of them wanted to be the first to move, or the first to say something, but they couldn’t stand at the kitchen sink forever. So, with a loud groan, Tim brought his hands up and rubbed his face, asking with a strained voice, “Where did you say you were going, again?”

The buzz from the refrigerator and the hum of a conversation between two neighbors as they drunkenly stumbled down the hallway outside filled the small gap in the conversation Tim initiated. Roger bit his lip, thinking about how he was going to answer his boyfriend’s question and about what could happen if he didn’t. It was like they were playing a game of tug of war, and Roger was dangerously close to the middle line. He’d fought for the win for weeks now, but the fight was exhausting; that’s why he never did it before. Now that he had, he wondered if all the struggle and all the pain was really worth it, because Tim was always going to be there; he was always going to win.

“Well?” Tim muttered, growing impatient.

“A Christmas party,” the blonde answered, defeat lacing his low voice.

“Yes, but where?”

It was too late to take it back. Roger had made his choice, declared his loss, and there was no holding back now. “At the school.”

The brunette heaved a heavy sigh and dropped his hands to his sides, slipping them into his pants’ pockets and scuffing up the floor beneath him. “And how do you suppose you’re getting there?”

“A colleague is picking me up.”

“Who?”

The blonde swallowed the lump in his throat – hesitant to bring Brian into this mess, more than he already was – and muttered under his breath, “Y-You don’t know them.”

“Oh really?” Tim pressed, calling Roger’s bluff without even looking at him. “You know what happens to bad boys who lie, right, Roggie?” The music instructor closed his eyes and pressed his lips together, Tim crossing one ankle over the other. “So, let me ask you again. Who is taking you to that party?”

A tear trickled down Roger’s cheek as he choked out a reluctant, “Brian.”

Tim hummed. “I see.”

Roger felt his heart beat in his ears and heard the blush rising in his cheeks as he waited for his boyfriend to say more. There was always more to be said, always, and he was right.

“I want to go with you,” Tim blurted out, finally glancing over at the blonde whose gaze flew up to meet his upon hearing his shocking request. “I mean, we haven’t gone out together in a while…” he explained, a coy nature to his reasoning, “…and this would be a good chance for me to see who you work with.” He smirked and playfully tapped Roger’s nose. “You could even show me your classroom; show me what you do.” His boyfriend’s expression was all that Tim needed to see that he wasn’t into the idea. “Come on, I think it’d be nice. Wouldn’t you?” No.

“Tim—”

“Don’t fight me on this, Roger,” the brunette asserted as calmly he could manage, pulling himself away from the counter and dragging himself towards the bedroom hallway, leaving an exasperated Roger to hang his head and hide his reddened face behind his hands. “You want to go to that party, you take me with you. End of discussion.”

Tim froze in his tracks when the blonde suddenly kicked the cabinet behind him, slowly turning his head over his shoulder to witness his boyfriend’s crossed arms and narrowed gaze that seemed locked on his. The brunette bit his lip before daring to suggest in a gentler tone, “Why don’t you wait in the bathroom for me? I-I’ll put Nana to bed and then I’ll bring you a change of clothes. Something nice, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Roger sneered, gritting his teeth and glaring further at the man standing across the room from him, “Something nice.”

*****

Brian stared at himself in the mirror hanging on the back of his bedroom door, tugging at the flaps of his suit jacket and adjusting the tie wrapped around his neck. The professor had always worried about what to wear to events like this, surrounded by judgmental colleagues whose opinions meant everything to him. First, it was trying to impress his superiors. Then it was Chrissie, and now it was Roger, the curly-haired man dressing up for him in preparation of their night together.  

Just as the professor extended his hand back, reaching for the bottle of cologne perched next to the barely-tapped-into bottle of vodka on his dresser, the phone began to ring downstairs. An unconscious, irritated groan emanated from the back of Brian’s throat, expressing his disdain to no one as he ripped open his bedroom door and barreled down the stairs. He swung around the banister and the threshold separating the kitchen from the entryway, tearing the phone off the receiver and bringing it up to his ear. “Brian May speaking.”

“Brian, where the hell are you?” Chrissie snapped at him, her voice hushed and at risk of being drowned out by the loud music and competing conversations in the background. “It’s nearly quarter past nine!”

“I-I’m sorry, I’m running late,” the professor stammered, his eyes squeezed shut and a hand pressed to his dropped forehead, pinching the area between his eyebrows in hopes she wouldn’t detect the deceptiveness in his response.

Brian neglected to tell Chrissie that he was bringing Roger, wanting to be petty for her decision to go to the Christmas party with her husband instead of him. He never came with her before, not once, so why now?  To make him jealous?

He didn’t even have the right to be jealous; he knew that. After all, he was the one in the wrong, sleeping with a married woman, but the professor couldn’t deny the small part of him that wanted more from their no longer secret relationship – perhaps to compensate for the disappointment his feelings for Roger brought on, reminding him of how he failed to live up to his parents’ expectations. All Brian had ever wanted was to do good by them and make them proud, but how proud could his mum and dad be if their son turned out to be interested in men even in just the slightest way? They’d be the laughingstock of all of London. He couldn’t do that to them; he just couldn’t.

“Running late?” the headmistress repeated, miraculously maintaining a scolding tone to her whisper, “What do you mean you’re running late? You’re never late!” Before the professor could even gather the sense to respond – wanting to tell her that that hadn’t been true in a while, not ever since Roger came into his life – she rambled on, “You know what? I don’t care why you’re late. Just get your arse here soon.”

“Okay, I will. I l—” Brian tried to get in before she hung up on him, but he couldn’t even get out the rest of his affectionate sentence prior to the line clicking shut. He heaved a sigh and slowly lowered the phone away from his ear, staring at the device in anguish before slamming it down on the receiver and rushing towards the front door. He yanked his jacket off the coat rack and shimmied into it, all the while stumbling outside and ruffling through his pockets for his keys and the slip of paper Roger had scribbled his address down on.

It had only occurred to the professor after the blonde had walked away from their encounter in the faculty lounge that he’d never been to Roger’s true home before, and therefore had no idea how he was going to pick him up for the party. So, pushing his way through the suddenly crowded corridor and ignoring the scattered calls from students and other professors as he sped by, he caught the music instructor and managed to get him to write down his address – but only after some witty banter that only further excited them both about their agreement.

“You’re not going to stalk me now, are you?” the blonde teased as he led the professor to his classroom, the hallway deserted – a stark contrast from the rest of the school. 

“What makes you think I would do that?” Brian chuckled, his cheeks growing warm with embarrassment.

Roger smirked and took a quick look back at the professor, responding, “Because you’ve been doing it the whole time I’ve been here.” A blush of his own crept up on his face as he faced forward and continued slyly, “You probably thought you were real clever, standing at distance and behind walls so that I wouldn’t notice, but I noticed, Professor May. Oh yes, I noticed.” He stopped dead in his tracks, right outside his classroom door, and spun to face the startled man behind him. “I just wished you would’ve come closer.”

Brian bit his lip, staring at Roger’s mouth and wanting to bring it to his. However, before he could act on his lustful desire, the blonde slipped into his small classroom and flicked the lights on. The professor took in a deep breath and readjusted his pants, hoping to conceal the growing bulge before entering the room. As soon as he stepped in, he was met by Roger, holding out a scrap piece of staff paper with his handwriting scrawled over the thin lines.

“Here you go.” He grinned, giving the slip a quick, emphatic tug before placing it in the palm of the older man’s hand. “It’s really not that hard to find. Just look for the shittiest complex in the area, and that’s where I’ll be. Got it?”

“Got it,” Brian whispered under his breath as he pulled his car up to where Roger had directed him, an unnerving sense of discomfort washing over him as he leaned over the steering wheel to get a better look at the place. He hadn’t prepared himself for how dodgy the area Roger lived in was, and for a second, he doubted he had shown up at the right location in spite of the blonde’s warning. Although he didn’t know much about Roger’s previous profession, he figured the money would’ve afforded him something at least a little nicer than the shadow-cast housing he hesitantly approached. It was only when he pressed the button to the flat the music instructor had indicated on the scrap sheet of paper, followed by an annoying buzz and the click of the locks allowing him entrance, that his doubts were proven wrong.

With a hard swallow, the professor let himself into the complex, taking a quick glance at the plaque nailed to the wall that spelled out which apartments were on the first floor and which were on the second before reluctantly climbing the staircase. He trudged down the dimly lit hall that vaguely reminded him of his own home and considered turning back around, but by the time he reached Roger’s flat, raised his hand, and knocked on the door, it was too late. The door had already swung in, and the blonde who made his heart skip a beat every time he laid eyes on him stood before him, a regretful expression on his face.

“Roger,” Brian breathed, unable to hold back the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips and blind to the anguish exuding from the man in the threshold, “Wow, you look—” His attention was quickly drawn to Tim, the brunette adjusting the cuffs of his long-sleeve button down as he walked up behind the blonde, effectively stealing the professor’s voice.

“About time you showed up, Brian,” he greeted bitterly, “We were starting to worry you weren’t going to come.”

Roger hung his head to hide the frown that curled his lips downward and began to play with the end of his tie, muttering, “I told him about the party, and he wanted to come with.” His gaze flickered back up to Brian. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh, erm, no. No, n-not at all,” the professor stammered, his cheeks burning in embarrassment. “I…I just have to make room in the back—”

“That’s fine,” Tim cut him short, pushing past the blonde and heading down the hallway, calling back, “Let’s get going, you two! I want to meet this foxy headmistress Rog has been telling me all about.”

Brian met the music instructor’s irritated gaze with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

“I’m so sorry, Brian,” Roger apologized, “He wouldn’t…I couldn’t…”

“It’s okay, Roger,” he assured him, cracking a small grin.

“It’s really not,” the blonde disagreed, shaking his head, “I wanted tonight to be special. I needed it to be special, and then…” his voice trailed off as he ran a shaky hand through his hair, looking down the hallway in the direction Tim escaped, “…I’m just so sick of being with him. He ruins everything.”

“Well he’s not going to ruin tonight,” Brian declared, grabbing Roger by the upper arms and flashing him an even bigger smile, “I won’t let him.”

Roger’s heart fluttered at Brian’s determination, igniting a spark of hope inside the blonde that compelled him to believe that maybe this plan would pull through; that maybe he could win this one, and that tonight would be the night.

If it wasn’t for Tim charging back up the stairs and yelling at the two of them to get their arses moving, he would’ve pulled the curly-haired man close and crashed their lips together, stumbling back into the apartment and slamming the door behind them so they could get on with their post-party plans right then and there. Instead, he sighed and extended his hand outward, inviting Brian to lead the way. The professor nodded his head and dropped his hands to his sides, leaving the blonde’s side to join the impatient brunette at the end of the hallway.

The couple locked eyes, engaging in yet another wordless conversation; their second of the night. Tim’s narrowed gaze and folded arms warned Roger that he was watching him; that he knew what his intentions were, and he was fully prepared to do everything in his power to prevent those intentions from seeking fruition. In response, the blonde’s taut lips and straightened postured showed Tim that he didn’t care; that just because he was coming with them didn’t mean he was going to babysit him and cling to his side the entire time – he had other plans, and they were going to happen no matter what.

This night was long overdue, and neither the professor or music instructor were going to let Tim’s undesired presence stop them from pushing the inevitable off any longer. All it meant was that they would have be more creative in sneaking off with one another, because Tim wasn’t going to be the only person they had to get away from – there was Chrissie too.

After hanging up on Brian, shoving the payphone back in its place, the headmistress paced back and forth in the hallway. With her hands woven into her hair and the click of her heels echoing off the walls of the empty corridor, she tried to calm her panicked breathing. This night was just as important to her as it was to Brian and Roger, and with each minute that the man she truly loved wasn’t there, the more anxious she became.

“Hey,” a quiet voice pulled her out of her spiraling thoughts, turning her around to witness her husband leaning against the wall, two glasses of champagne in his hands. “You okay?” Chrissie, with stressful tears glistening in her eyes, shook her head no. Timothée frowned and set the chutes down on the floor beside his feet, stepping forward and pulling his wife into a comforting embrace which she broke down in. “Hey, it’s going to be okay,” he whispered, rubbing her back in small circles for a bit before leaning back and bringing his hands up to her cheeks, his thumbs swiping across the wet streams as he continued softly, “Look, I know things have been rough these past few weeks, but we’ll get through it. We always do.”

“No, Timothée, you don’t understand,” she cried, sniffling and taking a step back out of her husband’s grasp. She looked up at the ceiling and wiped underneath her eyes, her voice wavering as she repeated herself, “You don’t understand.”

“Then tell me,” he implored, “Tell me what I don’t understand.”

The headmistress bit her lip, dipping her head down in shame.

“Chrissie,” Timothée murmured, shortening the distance between the two of them and resting his finger underneath her chin to bring her avoidant gaze up from the floor, “What’s going on?”

Chapter Text

The unlikely trio trudged through the university, the blonde in between the professor and his boyfriend, looking the most uncomfortable he’s ever been. He’d found himself in far, far worse situations, but this walk of shame took the cake. Stuck between the man he unconditionally loved and the man he wanted to love, Roger wished his behavior and lifestyle would catch up with him and take him out of his misery.

“Well look-y here, blondie and the poodle finally decided to show up!” Ray called out as the three approached the gym where the party was booming.

It was somewhat sad, the staff Christmas party being hosted at the university, but it was the only reason the school could afford to have it every year. The tacky decorations strewn about were unpleasant to the eye at first, but after a few drinks at the open bar – the biggest attracting of the occasion – they weren’t so bad. The live band they recruited presented a great distraction from the cheesy decor as well, the local, semi-famous jazz group playing smooth, Christmas hits, one after the other, non-stop until the last person left – either on their own accord or with the help of some friends.

There were plenty of bar tables scattered about, and when one’s feet started to ache, they could take a seat on the bleachers that had been pulled out. The bleachers were also a popular spot for the faculty to disappear under at some point in the night, only to reappear later with guilt ridden on their embarrassed faces. If their students were to see them like this, the whole school would lose its reputation. Wild, unspeakable things happened at these parties, things that never were spoken of again – ever.

Following his snide greeting, Ray’s attention shifted over to the third wheel of Brian and Roger’s party. “And they brought a guest!” he exclaimed.

“Ray, this is Tim,” Roger begrudgingly introduced him, dropping a hand on the brunette’s shoulder and giving him a slight shake, “He’s a good friend of mine.”

“Oh, I’m sure he is,” the women’s studies professor sneered, the corner of his lip perking up into a sly smirk as he extended his hand out, “Pleasure to meet you.”

Tim slapped his hand into Ray’s and gave it a firm shake, winking at the teacher. “It’s good to meet you too, Ray.”

Roger looked over at Brian, hoping he hadn’t caught on to the blatant façade the two were putting on. Luckily, the professor seemed preoccupied with something else, or rather, someone. The blonde followed Brian’s gaze that fixated on the crowded room before them, where standing in the center of it all was the couple that started this whole thing. Although those around them seemed oblivious to it, Roger could see the awkward tension raging between them.

Based off what he knew, the music instructor could only assume that it had to do with him somehow, but by the way Brian’s eyebrows had furrowed together in resentment, and how his lips were drawn into a straight line, he wondered if it was something else; something that didn’t have to do with him at all. Before he could even begin to draw more possible conclusions, Roger was ripped from his thoughts and pulled forward, Tim dragging him into the heart of the party and leaving Brian – who snapped out of the daze he had fallen into when Roger accidentally stepped on his foot, stumbling over his own two feet – behind with Ray.

The shorter of the two men raised his glass to the professor and muttered, “Cheers, May. We got through it.”

Brian let out a nervous laugh, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets and responding as cordially as he could manage, “Right. Now we just have to get through the next one.”

His words elicited a hearty chuckle from the women’s studies teacher, followed by a long sip of his drink. The professor took this as his cue to leave his colleague’s side, going after Roger and Tim while his decision to show up starting to plague his mind and the idea of ditching became more and more enticing. However, he never reached the pair, intercepted before he could even get close.

“My fucking god, Brian, you had me worried sick,” Chrissie rattled off, throwing her arms around him and holding him close. Brian tensed up, his eyes flickering over to Timothée who turned away from the pair, sipping his drink casually while disappearing into the crowd too busy drinking themselves under to pay them any mind. The headmistress regained the professor’s attention when she took a step back and patted down the front of her skirt, clearing her throat and asking, “Do you think we can we talk? Somewhere a little more quiet?”

“Y-Yeah,” Brian stammered, pointing to the bar where most of their colleagues had congregated, including Roger and his boyfriend, “Mind if I get a drink first?”

“Of course,” she murmured, a deep blush appearing in her cheeks, “Meet me in your classroom when you’re done.” Without giving any further instruction, she brushed past him and head out into the hallway. Brian’s gaze trailed after her, an undeniable pull rising up inside of him to forgo the drink altogether and instead attend to Chrissie’s seemingly pressing matter.

He bit his lip and glanced back at the bar, meeting Roger’s annoyed gaze that dissolved as the brown eyes he’d been silently wishing to attract finally answered his call. The blonde smirked and raised a subtle hand to wave hello, but Tim swiftly placed a drink in it, effectively distracting Roger from the exchange with the professor before pulling him away to find a table. Brian knew exactly what Tim was doing – he was trying to keep him and Roger apart for as long as possible; if he was lucky, the entire night. Determined as he was, Brian also knew that hovering around the couple would seem suspicious, and so to save himself from earning even more of a reputation at the university than he already had, he went after the headmistress and found her outside of his classroom, pacing back and forth in the deserted hallway.

“Hey,” he muttered, his soft voice startling Chrissie. Her eyes immediately focused on his empty hands.

“Where’s your drink?” she questioned, pushing off her confession just a little bit longer. She had yet to gain the courage she needed to tell him the news.

The professor tilted his head down and brought his hands up, flipping them upside down and right side up before chuckling. “Oh, right.” He shrugged his shoulders and dropped his hands back down to his sides. “Too many people.” She nodded in understanding, folding her arms over her front and tapping her fingers against the sleeve of her dress. Brian shortened the distance between the two of them, the glimmer in Chrissie’s eyes and the slight quiver in her lip standing out to him. “What’s going on?” he asked, genuinely concerned with her bothered state.

She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat, a manic laugh breaking through her distress. “Crazy to think the semester’s over, yeah? Just a few more weeks until the next one starts back up and—”

“Chrissie,” Brian interrupted her, a gentleness to his tone as he placed his hands on her shoulders, “You can tell me—”

“I’m pregnant,” she blurted out, her dark red bottom lip being pulled underneath front teeth as she anticipated the professor’s reaction. Naturally, he froze, the news striking him absolutely silent. Tears spilled over Chrissie’s eyes as Brian retracted his hands and took a step back from her, fishing for the right words to say.

He didn’t want to believe it. Chrissie, pregnant, it couldn’t be. It just couldn’t.

“Brian, say something,” the headmistress pled, her heart pounding against her chest and in her ears. His lips parted, but no words came out. “Please.”

“What do you want me to say?” the professor eventually muttered, his whole world crumbling around him.

Chrissie scoffed, running a hand through her hair. “I don’t know. Something like ‘everything’s going to be okay’ or ‘we’re going to get through this’?”

Brian’s eyes doubled in size, realizing the implications of her desired responses from him. “You mean it’s—”

“Yes,” the headmistress whispered, hugging herself with a swollen throat and blurred vision, “It’s yours, Brian; it has to be. Timothée and I…we haven’t…”

The professor glanced back over his shoulder, his mind spinning as he searched for the one person who could ground him, but it was only the two of them in the hallway. Roger wasn’t there to save him; to take him away from the bombshell that had been dropped on him. Instead, the blonde was preoccupied with his boyfriend, trying to stop him from stealing sips of his colleagues’ abandoned drinks.

“You’re making a fool out of yourself,” the music instructor scolded his plus one from across the tall table they found themselves at.

“Oh hush.” Tim waved a lazy hand at Roger, dismissing him as he brought another glass to his lips and tilted his head back, downing the amber spirit that didn’t belong to him in one, long sip. The blonde rolled his eyes and shifted his gaze across the room, locking eyes with the headmistress’s husband, ignorant to the conversation one of the professors was trying to engage him in.

A nervous feeling bubbled up inside the blonde as Timothée excused himself and expertly wove his way through the unruly crowd of intellectuals, making his way over and joining the pair. Tim instantly lit up, gasping in surprise and slamming the now dry glass down on the table. “Timothée, old chap! Long time, no see! We’ve missed you. We’ve really missed you.” He dropped a finger on the previous client’s nose and dragged it down his face, over his lips, chin, neck, and chest. “You know Roger’s not on the clock, right?

Timothée chuckled and gently plucked the brunette’s hand away from his shirt. “Yes, I know, Tim.”

“But if you’re interested…” Roger’s boyfriend slurred, resting his head on Chrissie’s husband’s shoulder and pursing his lips out, “I’m sure we could work something out.”

“Tim!” Roger exclaimed under his breath, his eyes wide

“What? He pays well, and you and I both know damn well that this stupid music gig isn’t making you as much!”

“I-I’m good, Tim,” Timothée stammered, feigning an appreciative grin as he grabbed the inebriated man’s shoulder and gave him a slight shake, “Maybe another night.”

The brunette tutted and fell against the table, resting on his elbow on the surface and shoving the small collection of abandoned drinks to the floor. “Well if you change your mind, you know where to reach me.” He winked at the man before attempting to reposition himself, ultimately ending up on the floor with the mess he made moments ago. Roger took in a deep, irritated breath and walked away from the scene, neglecting his adopted responsibility of taking care of his partner while ignoring Timothée’s pleas for him to wait up as he burst out of the gymnasium and went looking for Brian.

The professor and the headmistress had parted ways by then, Brian telling Chrissie he needed some fresh air and leaving her to sit by his classroom with her knees pulled to her chest and her reddened face hidden behind her hands. The patter of footsteps across the linoleum floors lifted her teary gaze out of her palms, revealing the smoky lines that streaked her cheeks as she sniffled and looked up at the music instructor who’d slowed his escape upon approaching her.

“Whoa, you look like shit,” the blonde instinctively observed, the upset headmistress’s eyes narrowing.

“Thanks, Roger,” she grumbled insincerely, turning her head in the opposite direction.

The music instructor towered over her awkwardly, swaying back and forth on the balls of his feet for a little while before blurting out, “You wouldn’t happen to know where Brian is, would you?”

The headmistress chuckled sadly, shaking her head. “He went to get some fresh air.”

“Well that’s helpful,” he replied sarcastically, starting to resume his solo search for the professor when Chrissie’s voice echoed off the walls.

“I told him,” she called out, stopping Roger dead in his tracks. He kept his back to her and listened as she picked herself up off the ground, taking a few, timid steps in his direction and elaborating tentatively, “I told him I was pregnant.”

Roger’s head whipped over his shoulder, mistrust glowing in his eyes. “Are you?” She nodded her head and bit her lip, her hands nervously intertwined over her stomach. “And you’re sure it’s his and not Timothée’s?”

“I haven’t slept with my husband in months,” she divulged, her voice quieter than before as she continued to shorten the distance between the two of them, “Not ever since I found him with you. I just can’t, knowing he’s a…” Her thought trailed off into silence, realizing it wasn’t in her best interest to say something of that nature in a moment like this. She needed someone on her side; someone to hear her out. She knew Roger wasn’t that person, but he was the only one around and he hadn’t deserted her yet with the claim of needing “fresh air.”

The blonde clenched his jaw, thinking about what this situation meant not only for Brian and Timothée, but for himself. With her being pregnant, it destroyed any chance the professor and the music instructor had of being together, and it definitely put a damper on their plans that night. Just like Brian, he didn’t want to believe it was true, but with the opportunity she’d given him – despite how hellish the ride turned out to be – he thought it only fair to give her benefit of the doubt.

“Does he know?” he asked her, spinning around to face her and crossing his arms over his chest, “Your husband?”

“Sort of,” she answered, the words coming out in a strained whisper.

Sort of?” Roger repeated, dropping his hands on his hips and cocking a suspicious eyebrow that shattered the headmistress’s broken exterior even more.

Chrissie pressed her lips together and hung her head, a single tear rolling down her cheek as she explained, “I told him I wanted to divorce.”

“A divorce,” he scoffed, an amused and disbelieving grin appearing on his face, “What about the reason you want a divorce?” The headmistress’s sniffled silence was enough of an answer for Roger, disgusting the blonde even further.

Had he known the whirlwind Chrissie was going to drag him into – intervening in his life not once, but twice now – Roger would’ve rejected her initial offer, or at least have read the fine print that detailed how, by signing her intangible contract, he’d lose his biggest client, his boyfriend, and his entire sense of self. He was too enthralled by the idea of escaping the life he’d grown tired of that he neglected to consider how her offer only initiated the change; it didn’t implement it. That was his responsibility, and he felt like a fool for falling for her deceiving act of kindness.

“I honestly don’t know who to feel more sorry for,” Roger thought aloud, folding his arms once again, “You, Brian, or Timothée.”

“What makes you say that?” she muttered, an innocence to her question.

The blonde chuckled. “Because you think you’re a winner, Chrissie; that you’ve played your cards right and finally got what you’ve always wanted, but in reality you’re just as much of a loser as the two of them. And you want to know why?” The headmistress bit her lip, Roger shortening the distance between the two of them and whispering darkly, “Because their lives aren’t the only ones you’ve fucked over by getting knocked up. Yours is too.”

With those final three words, the blonde turned on his heel and marched down the hallway, angrily pushing through the set of doors and breaking outside. The cold winter air hit his face, snowflakes dancing in the breeze and working their way towards the white blanket that covered the ground. Sitting on one of the benches, all by himself, was Brian – head hung low, teeth chattering, arms crossed, and legs trembling. Roger smirked at the pitiful sight and gravitated towards the professor, the crunch of his footsteps in the snow alerting his target of his presence as he slipped out of his jacket.

“Roger, what are you d-d-doing out here?” Brian stammered, “It’s f-f-freezing.”

“I know,” the blonde answered, draping his coat over the older man’s shoulders and smiling, “‘Thought you could use some company and another layer.”

The professor couldn’t help but return the grin, watching as the blonde circled round him, jumped over the back of the bench, and took the seat beside him, hugging himself for warmth and gazing out into the darkness that surrounded them and the school. Brian bit his lip and tilted his head down, replaying the conversation he had with Chrissie over again in his head.

“I’m a royal idiot, Roger,” he blurted out after a long moment of silence, earning the blonde’s attention.

“We all are sometimes,” he countered, hoping to lift the professor’s lowered spirits.

Brian shook his head in disagreement, tears pricking his eyes. “You don’t understand. I messed up, Rog. I really messed up.”

The music instructor pressed his lips together, refraining from admitting that he did understand; that he knew all about Chrissie and their situation. He worried if he did, it would only complicate the professor’s decision further. The two had only known each other for so long, but Roger knew this wasn’t going to be an easy choice for him.

“You ever felt so af-f-fraid of something, that all you w-w-want to do is run away?” Brian wondered, glancing over at Roger who began to shiver from the cold.

The blonde nodded his head, murmuring, “More t-t-times than you’d think.” A weary smile appeared on the music instructor’s face, along with a redness to his cheeks that matched the professor’s. The two of them stared at a one another for bit, Roger anticipating Brian to elaborate on his inquiry, but when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, the blonde hesitantly tacked on, “Why do you ask?”

Brian swallowed the nervous lump in his throat, building up the courage to admit, “Because I th-think we should do it. I think we sh-sh-should run away.”

Roger’s eyes widened, the curly-haired man’s suggestion very unlike himself. “What?

“We can leave, right now,” the professor proposed, “And we don’t ever have to look back. W-We’ll find ourselves a nice little place somewhere f-f-far far away from h-h-here.”

“Brian, what’s g-g-gotten into you?”

“I just want to be with you, okay?” he practically screamed, his raised voice falling on deaf ears, all but Roger’s, and the tears that had been wavering in his eyes now streaming down his rosy cheeks, “I have since the first day I l-l-laid eyes on you, and I…I know you want to be with me t-t-too.”

Roger found himself speechless, the man sitting beside him someone he didn’t recognize. He figured the man before him to be something of his imagination, doing what the man he’d come to know would never. To make sure this was really happening, he placed a hand on the man’s jittery leg, and when it didn’t sink to the bench, he knew. He knew it was real, but how?

“This is me doing s-s-something,” the professor went on to stutter, regaining Roger’s astonished gaze, “You said I needed to do something, and th-th-this is it. Please.”

The men’s breaths intertwined as Brian’s proposal hung heavily in the frigid air, the music instructor’s eyes scanning the professor’s face as he weighed his options. He knew he didn’t have much time to decide, the cold getting to him quicker than he thought it would, perhaps due to the lack of alcohol in his system. If Tim were in his shoes, he’d be fine, but he wasn’t. Instead, he was inside, still stealing sips of other people’s drinks and getting himself acquainted with the teachers who welcomed him like he was one of their own against their better judgment. No one could blame them, though. It wasn’t their fault the university chose to provide an open bar.

The thought of going back inside, back to Tim, back to another night of lies and deception didn’t sit well with Roger, but neither did running off with Brian. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be with him, because he did – oh god, he did – but he couldn’t just ignore the truth of the matter: that Chrissie was pregnant, and the baby was Brian’s.

Could she have been lying? Sure, but Roger doubted that the baby was Timothée’s. He’d been seeing the man long enough to know that he and his wife hadn’t been intimate in months, and for her to become pregnant like this, out of the blue and after rumors spread about the professor and the headmistress’s spontaneous rendezvous, the probability of the child being Timothée’s was slim.

That left Brian, and knowing the kind of guy he was – no matter how hard he tried not to be – Roger knew he wouldn’t leave her to be with him, regardless if it’s what he wanted. Brian wasn’t about doing things he wanted or felt passionate about – he was about doing what was necessary; what was right. That’s why he was teaching at a prestigious university instead of traveling the world in a rock band, and why – even if he took off with Roger that night – he’d come back to London and be the father he needed to be to that child.

However, that was the Brian Roger met on his first day, the Brian Roger dragged around the halls to hang up his fliers, the Brian Roger almost ordered grapefruit juice for at a bar, and the Brian Roger couldn’t carry a conversation with about sex without a blush rising in his cheeks. This Brian was different – a brighter glimmer of the man who burst into Roger’s classroom one day and insisted he kissed him, who visited his friend’s house and gushed over old pictures of him – not at Liz, but as him – and who promised he wouldn’t let this night be ruined.

The blonde knew he was making a mistake in tagging along with the professor, but he’d been pushed to his breaking point with Tim. He dreaded going back inside, and as deceiving as the thought of skipping town with Brian was – knowing it wouldn’t last – it was his best alternative. And so, while tilting his head down and squeezing his eyes shut, Roger muttered, “Okay.”

Brian lit up, surprised he agreed. “Really?”

Keeping his eyes closed and pressing his lips together, telling himself it was too late to take it back, the music instructor slowly nodded his head.

“Oh my god,” he heard Brian murmur before he felt a force push him back, his vision returning with a terrified fervor while a pair of hands slid under his jawline, his hands gripping the icy bench behind him in a frantic attempt to keep himself from falling. Before he could register what was happening, a pair of frost-bitten lips crashed into his, conveying the gratitude the professor had for the blonde being his way out of this mess.

It was difficult for Roger to remember where they were and who could stumble upon them at any second, melting into the moment as he grabbed onto his own jacket and he pulled Brian closer to him, deepening the kiss not only for the pleasure he hadn’t felt in weeks, but for the burst of warmth the intimate gesture provided. It was only when the need for air became an issue that the two pulled away from each other, their visible breaths mixing as they stared lustfully into each other’s eyes.

“You don’t know how happy I am you said yes,” Brian whispered, smiling and swiping his thumb across Roger’s rosy cheek. “I-I was scared you might say no, y-you know, b-because of…” His stuttering voice trailed off into an awkward silence, but he didn’t need to finish his sentence for Roger to know what he was getting at, or what he wasn’t getting at.

The blonde grinned in response, trying to act like he didn’t know about Chrissie by distracting himself with the zipper of his own jacket and replying, “Well you don’t know how happy I am that you asked. ‘C-C-Certainly took you long enough; I was w-worried you might never.” A smirk crawled onto his face as he glanced back up at the professor, causing Brian to roll his eyes and lean in, connecting their lips together once more as though it were destiny.

Had it not been for the rapidly dropping temperatures and the increasing snowfall, the two men would’ve stayed on that bench all night, reveling in the feeling of being united at last – no drunken, abusive boyfriends or pregnant, manipulative girlfriends to stop them. However, with their significant others still inside, it was only a matter of time before they came looking for them.

“We should get going,” Roger mumbled against Brian’s lips that hovered close to his, the professor nodding his head in agreement before picking himself up off the bench and extending a hand out to the blonde. The blush that rose in Roger’s cheeks was disguised by the red already there, placing his hand in Brian’s and allowing him to pull him up, their bodies colliding in a much more gentler way than his and Tim’s had earlier that night. They shared one more warming kiss before heading towards the car park, Brian looking back over his shoulder.

Roger followed the professor’s gaze and, without him even saying anything, knew what he was thinking. He gave Brian’s hand a slight, reassuring squeeze – attracting the older man’s attention – and said, “Hey, we deserve this.”

“Yeah.” Brian nodded his head, cracking a smile and tightening his hold on Roger’s hand. “We deserve this.”