It's already been a long year.
A long many years, actually, getting this film in the works, and it means so much to everyone involved. So much that nobody wants to be responsible for shutting it down. For any reason. Even if one someone loses his voice.
It's lucky that he's playing John Deacon, Joe Mazzello decides. If he'd been Brian or Roger or god forbid, Freddie, a raspy almost-gone voice would shut down production for days. But since he's the quietest member of the band, he doesn't have to talk. Instead he stands woozily under the lights, clutching his bass as he tries to breathe through a closing, draining throat and sinuses that don't want to cooperate with him.
Joe groans weakly. Enough has happened during filming already, why does this have to happen now? Why does he have to get sick?
This sickness started with a tickle in his throat that turned to an ache, and now there's the breathing. He figures he's been going kind of hard, though hasn't thought about it, is simply beaming and overjoyed to go to work every day. Not in the least so he can gush about it to his father when he gets home.
His dad is sick, and growing sicker by the day. Joe is trying to stay positive. He's doing his level best, but each time his father can speak less, move less, it hurts. Joe feels as though pieces of his heart are cracking off, crumbling and falling away; it is not breaking completely yet, but everything is weakening even as he strives to stay strong.
Case in point, this illness.
Joe coughs violently, bending over his bass. The lights are up and the camera is on and he's sweating, even more than normal (he's playing John Richard Deacon, after all, big bassist shoes to fill). Gwil is glancing over at him from across the stage, eyes squinting the way they get when he's worried or concerned, but Joe smiles weakly and waves him off, fluttering his fingers as his throat bobs. Then his hand slips, shrieks on the strings. Dang it. Shutting his eyes, Mazzello focuses on his part, where he comes in as he feels a chill across his neck but he's hot, so hot--
Suddenly his ears feel as though they've been stuffed with cotton and his mouth is dry. Utterly, unbearably dry. Distantly he hears a screech of wood on metal, a loud crashing sound, but all he knows is that he's lost his feet and is falling.
Falling into a pair of warm muscular arms. Ben. Ben had been watching out as well, not as obviously as had Gwil, but he saw Joe lurch and sway, and he's seen how pale he has become recently. Well, even more so than usual. The crash Joe heard was Ben dropping his drumsticks and vaulting over the kit to grab him. And Ben knows he was right to worry as he catches Joe now, sees his head loll. "Joe, hey, I've got you, mate."
Gwilym comes over and with gentle hands takes Joe's instrument off his back as the director calls "Cut!" Feet tapping, mouth working. Rami instantly runs for a glass of water as Ben holds Joe upright and Gwil pats his cheeks, that halo of Brian May hair obscuring all else.
"He's white as a sheet."
"Let's get a chair, yeah?" Ben asks. The other nods.
"Hey, Joey," Gwil wraps one arm around the shorter man as Ben, blue-green eyes enormous and worried, reluctantly lets go to grab a chair offset and haul it over. "You're gonna be all right, mate. What was up with that?"
Joe's eyes flutter open as he sits --flops, really-- and sees Gwil's bright gaze pinned on him, along with Ben's, and here comes Rami with a sweet smile and a water bottle. "I'm--" Joe's voice comes out like a series of wheezing clicks, almost sounding akin to a sputtering car engine choked with exhaust. He sees the others shoot each other looks, and feels ashamed. Embarrassed. "Sorry, guys, I'm sick." They're gonna be pissed, and so is the director; this is horrible, they've already had to huddle together and figure things out, and here he is now--
"Joe," Ben's deep voice washes over him as Gwilym rubs his back. "Try an' take a breath, mate. You're alright."
"It's okay to be sick," Rami says.
Gwil nods. "Joe, you've been running yourself ragged, man. If you need to rest, you need to rest. We'll take care of you, right boys?" The others nod, Rami's face in particular wearing that soft expression Joe always sees, how luminous and warm are his eyes. Joe loves that look so much.
He gulps now, striving not to cry, because he's certain that will only make his pounding head feel worse. Instead he croaks "Thanks, you guys."
"'Course." Ben leads the way off the soundstage. "Let's getcha to your trailer." Gwil follows, looking down compassionately at Joe as the shorter man stands.
"Can you step with me?" Gwil asks, and watches Joe press his lips together and try, but he looks so weak, so shaky--those pale expressive hands are clutching at Gwil's clothes, his costume, and thus the tall man bends and wraps one arm under his friend and the other around him. "Right then, here we go." Hauling Joe up against his chest, for a moment all is slow, surreal. Gwil imagines Brian doing this for John at one time; perhaps when he was sick, or after he put his arm through a plate-glass door (which actually happened, apparently, yeesh) Gwil shudders but stabilises himself and walks, gazing at Joe, who cuddles against him looking wan. Rami comes up and keeps pace, and Ben's ahead opening doors and telling people to move out of the way, please, dammit--
"Wow," Rami's eyes widen. "That's as brusque as Ben ever gets."
"He's worried," Gwilym looks down, still stymied that Joe isn't bothering to even try to say anything. "Must admit, I am too."
Rami smooths back Joe's hair as he walks beside Gwil. "He's been so exhausted," the leading man says softly. "This, his father, everything--" Rami lowers his voice. "He doesn't say anything about it, he's so strong, but it's getting to him."
"It's at the very least getting to his immune system," Gwil cracks, and Rami smiles. Trying for a joke like Joe would do. Good ol' Gwilym.
"Thank you, Gwil," he adds, looking at the exhausted, dozing face of his old friend. Ben has reached Joe's trailer already and holds the door open for him, for all of them, eyes wide as he begins beckoning.
"Hurry up, Gwilym!"
"Coming, Ben, whoah!" Gwil lengthens his strides as he nods to Rami. "Of course. He's a damn good mate," the tallest says, shifting himself sideways so as to carry Joe into the trailer.
"Mind his head," Ben says, reaching out to Joe.
"Got him," Gwil grunts, ducking through the door, wig brushing the lintel, shoulders hunched. He figures hair and makeup will be out for blood, but right now he doesn't care about that. Rami is already grabbing a shirt and sweatpants to get Joe out of his costume for a bit. He has opened his eyes as Gwil sets him on the couch, dark curls tickling Joe's nose as he blinks. "Hey mate," Gwil smiles in reassurance. "Don't worry, we got you offstage and back to the trailer. You'll be fine."
"Okay," Joe whispers, voice practically gone. "...Thanks Brian."
Gwil's face crinkles even more. Doesn't know if Joe is being facetious or if he's so sick he actually thinks Gwilym is Brian, but it doesn't really matter. He dips and brushes his lips against Joe's forehead. "Welcome, Bassman. Anytime."
Ben brings a blanket and Rami that water bottle. "Hold his back up," Ben says, and Rami wraps his arms around Joe, who sags forward into them obediently and gratefully as Ben wraps the blanket around him from back to front before jumping onto the couch next to Joe, whose eyes have widened as he tries to speak and finds no sound available. Gwilym and Rami look at each other.
"Hot tea," Gwil intones.
"I'll make some," Rami returns and goes to the tiny kitchen area, behind the couch where they are sitting now. Gwil plops in front of Joe, on the floor, rubbing his friend's leg as Ben lets Joe curl into him, rest his head on the blond man's muscular torso.
"What're we gonna do?" Ben asks, stroking the hair back from Joe's forehead.
"Stay with him til he's better, or til we can get a doctor over here," is Gwil's instant answer. His bright blue eyes rove over Joe's face. "Hopefully it's just a cold that'll be gone in a few days." Joe nods in vigorous agreement.
The tea kettle starts whistling, and here comes Rami with cups for all four of them, sitting down, handing across. Ben shifts himself to help Joe sit up and holds onto him as he takes a long drink and sighs in what appears to be contentment, hazel brown gaze catching each of theirs' with love and gratitude. Gwilym grins and Ben nuzzles himself against Joe's head and cheek. Rami squeezes his hand.
"Yes, I hope so too. But if not, if you're ill for longer, we'll stay and help you get better." The lads all agree, shifting close. Joe squeezes Rami's hand in return with a lump in his throat alongside all the phlegm. These three guys have done so much for him. They're his family now.
"Thanks, guys," Joe mouths, coughing again. Ben pats him on the back and Gwil rubs his leg, Rami still holding on to his hand as he continues as best he can, in a whisper. "Eugh, this sucks. I love you." The others lean in to him, lending their strength and care.
"Joe, save your voice, mate. But happy to help."
"We love you too."
"Friends will be friends right to the end, huh?" He croaks cheekily, even as he feels like hell. It's worth it to see Gwil's bulging eyes and hear Ben groan and put his head in his hand, the other arm still wrapped around Joe. Rami simply smiles proudly, and Joe has to grin, even weakly. He's so happy to have them all in his life. They'll take care of him and in this moment he'll let them.
He feels so incredibly lucky.