Roger frowns as Freddie finishes his explanation, even going so far as to cross his arms. He isn’t impressed with the sternness Freddie is trying to show, especially considering how his bottom lip is wavering. What Roger doesn’t get is why Freddie would think they would say no.
“So,” Brian says
He rolls his eyes because leave it to their Brimi to have to dissect everything.
Freddie smiles encouraging Brian to take his time by leaning forward. Roger raises his eyes, they’re all hopeless.
“We say ‘I want attention,” at Freddie’s nod he continues, “and whoever it is directed towards has to stop what they’re doing for five minutes?”
“And cuddle that person, yes,” Freddie nods.
Brian tilts his head, “but what if they’re in the middle of something like cooking?”
“You can set the food down, Brian,” John says dryly, “instantly is not instantly.”
Brian opens his mouth, but Roger delicately presses Brian’s mouth shut to ward off any argument the two may get into now over the definition of a word. Roger smiles as Brian angles his head down to give a disapproving look. He moves his hand and places one finger against his lips.
“Oh gross!” He yelps when Brian licks it with a cheeky smile.
“You’ve rubbed off on him,” John replies.
Brian chuckles grow louder as Roger swipes his finger over Brian’s crisp button-up. Freddie lets out a long sigh and he turns his attention back to their singer.
“Roger,” Freddie says calmly, “I want attention.”
“That’s all you had to say,” Roger winks and kisses Brian on the cheek before launching himself over to Freddie, they both fall backward, nearly falling off the couch.
He faintly hears John’s warning call and Brian’s panicked mothering, but Roger nuzzles right underneath Freddie’s neck and wraps his arms tightly around him, managing to wrap his legs around Freddie’s hips. Roger also places a tiny kiss underneath Freddie’s pulse point.
“I’ll give you all the attention you want, babe.”
“Should Brian and I leave?” John calls.
“Only if you want to miss the best show you’ll see all week,” Roger turns enough to see John a teasing smile.
“You two, poor Brimi is going to melt!”
Roger twists a little more and laughs at how red Brian’s face has gone, “trying to match colors with your dear girl, Red?”
Roger paces the private room. John is trying to convince the nurse into letting them see Brian. He pauses when he hears a door open, but resumes his even tempo when no one appears. Freddie crosses his legs out in front of him as he sits sideways on the long bench. His chin touches his chest and his eyes are closed.
Not that Freddie is sleeping, because Roger knows how Freddie sleeps and usually it is a series of three tiny snores before a long breath and then a break before he repeats the pattern. Roger runs a hand through his hair and tries to think of something more helpful than Freddie’s sleeping habits. Like how Brian was wheezing in his sleep and you didn’t care?
“No,” Roger whispers before resuming his pacing, shaking out his hands.
He has too much energy and he wants Brian and it has been three days and none of them have slept in a proper bed because they don’t want to leave the grounds in case of good or bad news.
“Freddie,” his voice shakes, “I need attention.”
Freddie’s gaze snaps up to him before gracefully sliding off the bench. Maybe it’s only graceful because Roger is sleep-deprived and he is stumbling over his own toes every third step. He pauses when Freddie’s hands wrap around his, and he has never noticed how much larger Freddie’s hands are than his. For a moment he thinks about disregarding his own request, he has too much energy to be still for much longer.
Except Freddie is letting him run his fingers down his hands and wrists, something that only Brian usually gets away with, something about his hands being too sensitive. Roger eventually hooks his hands around his elbows, and he pulls, Freddie easily goes and moves to accommodate Roger’s body.
Roger rests his head over Freddie’s heart, he must bend awkwardly to get his ear in the place that he wants it to be. His back makes its displeasure known as he stays there. Freddie’s fingers knead into the spots near his shoulders which always seem to tighten regardless of how he stretches before or after a show. He sighs in relief, but his chest is still tight, and his heart is next to Brian. Brian who the don’t know how he is or if he is even going to make it.
Freddie starts to sway in place and Roger allows himself to be pulled upright. He sinks into Freddie’s embrace and how he feels like he is being swallowed despite there being not much size difference between them, especially since Freddie isn’t in his platforms for once. They move in a soothing rhythm, Roger starts counting out the beat automatically, using his pointer finger to tap on Freddie’s shoulders.
When Freddie speeds up, he speeds up. When Roger slows down Freddie slows down. They’re in perfect sync.
“It’ll be okay,” Freddie says, “you’ll see.”
Roger nods, “I’m sure he will be fine.”
“We’ll always have each other,” Freddie says, a little firmer.
That makes him lift his head from Freddie’s shoulder, meeting his eyes. Freddie is usually so careful in speaking his thoughts out loud. He once told Brian – which meant he didn’t mind if Brian told him – that he was afraid that speaking it would make it true. If it was true, then it could be taken from him.
For a moment, Roger wonders if he had never confessed to any of them if they would still be in America taking the states by storm. Then he disregards that. Freddie thrives on communication and Brian needs reaffirmation. John always seems to know his place.
“Thanks, Freddie,” Roger says.
“Of course, Roggie,” Freddie moves so that he can place his lips to Roger’s forehead.
To anyone looking in, they’re just two blokes hugging it out because they’re worried about their friends. It might be strange, but Roger thinks with some vitriol that at least it won’t get them shamed out of the music industry.
Roger tosses the thimbles to the side at Freddie’s call of cut. He grins and starts laughing at Freddie’s exaggerated thumbs up. The studio door opens revealing Brian, who looks like he is more likely to be walking into a war zone than a recording booth.
“Are you done being… kazoos? Is that really going on the album?” Brian says with a frown.
“Oy, if your cheese song gets on here our mouth kazoo song gets a spot!” Roger shouts.
“It’s art, dearest,” Freddie tosses his hair, “something you science types don’t understand.”
“Roger is a science type,” Brian pouts.
“Not self-proclaimed,” Roger sends him a wink.
Brian raises his eyes skyward, “well, Mr. Biology Student, Deaks is looking for you.”
Roger jumps down from the stool, making sure to bend down for longer than needed when he reaches for his drumstick that rolled off the piano earlier. Unfortunately, when he stands, he sees that Brian’s attention wasn’t on his ass, but seems to be staring a hole in the wall. He purses his lips, but Freddie seems to have noticed as well.
Brian shifts from one foot to another. He decides that he shouldn’t try to cross the room – thus disturbing Brian’s thoughts – and slowly backs towards the second exit. Freddie takes a step towards their guitarist, but the silence is ruined when Roger bumps into one of the acoustics, and sends it twanging and rattling to the ground. Both look at him and he rubs the back of his neck sheepishly before turning to clean up the mess that he caused.
“Freddie,” Brian whispered, “I need…”
“Yes dear, what do you need?”
Roger sucks on his bottom lip and tries to keep his surprise to a minimum, it almost sounds like Freddie is rushing Brian. Which never happens. He knows because they’ve waited two hours for Brian to make an executive decision on his fever dream song.
“I need attention,” Brian pauses.
He doesn’t have to turn around to know that Freddie has already attached himself to Brian. Roger smiles and rights the acoustic, not before checking to make sure that nothing is broken. The strings might have gotten out of tune, but that’s something either John or Brian will fix next time they use it. They tended to retune everything before using it – except the drums the tone-deaf fools.
Roger snorts before standing and slipping out of the room. He does pause to make sure he keeps close to his heart the memory of Freddie hanging from Brian’s back, as they’re surrounded by the soft light of evening. Now he needs to find John and invoke his own right of “I need attention.”
“I want attention!”
Brian barely has time to brace himself before Roger lets his weight drop fully. He almost feels bad at the slight oof of pain that Brian gives, but when not further complaints happen Roger settles himself happily in the guitarist’s lap.
Roger lays his head on Brian’s shoulder, grinning as he reads Brian’s current pet project.
“We haven’t finished this tour and your planning our next album?”
“Talk to Fred, he’s already got some ideas going.”
Roger hums and pulls the pencil from Brian’s grasp, “he always has ideas. His ideas have ideas.”
“You don’t complain about that so much in the bedroom,” Brian whispers.
He smiles at the boldness from Brian as his lips skim the outer shell of his ear. Brian is in a good mood – which means they’ll have fun tonight.
“Well when I’m in the bedroom people are usually paying attention to me,” Roger tosses his hair, it doesn’t work so well now that it’s shorter and he’s going to have to break that habit, “but now we’re on tour I’m going to start thinking that you all are looking at someone younger and more beautiful.”
Brian reaches up and runs his hand through his hair. He scratches the back of his head lightly and Roger leans into that contact. It’s nice because Brian hasn’t clipped his nails for the show tonight and it is a perfect pressure. Roger shivers.
“John fits that criteria, he is younger and in certain lightings.”
“John doesn’t count,” Roger says.
“No? Tell John that.”
“You first,” Roger mumbles closing his eyes and breathing in Brian’s rose petal scent.
“Oh, you demand attention and then fall asleep?” Brian laughs.
The vibrations only make him sleepier and he focuses on the way Brian’s chest rises and falls, even in something as natural as breathing Brian tends to skip beats or change tempos. Usually, it would annoy him, but its very Brian. Not that he would ever point it out, because lord knows Brian would develop a complex about it.
“Yep. Now we sleep. Songs later.”
Roggie,” Brian chuckles.
“These are my five minutes.”
Brian places a tiny kiss against his cheek, under the guise of setting his notebook on the table.
“Can’t nap much in five minutes.”
“I want attention times ten.”
“Sure thing, sunlight.”
“Still a dumb nickname.”
He opens his eyes but any irritation he feels melts at the soft gaze that greets him. Roger lifts on hand to trace at the tiny wrinkles forming in the corner of Brian’s eyes. They’re all getting older, but he is glad that some things don’t change. Brian closes his eyes and leans into his fingers, Roger presses a little firmer before allowing his hand to rub over the smile lines.
“God, when did we get so old?”
“I don’t mind so long as I get to get old with all of you.”
Roger blinks and then ducks his head into Brian’s shoulder. He wishes that he could openly kiss Brian for saying things like that in public.
“Comes from trees.”
Roger lifts the pillow from his head when he hears Crystal’s long sigh.
“Boss, please don’t suffocate. There’s a lot of paperwork with that.”
“Me suffocating or you looking for a new job?” Roger grumbles.
“The job hunt of course.”
He only throws the pillow because Crystal deserved it, not because he was feeling childish and missing friendly human contact. Roger rolls onto his side and crosses his arms, making sure to glare at Crystal. He is displeased, so everyone should be.
“See if I write you a letter of recommendation,” he huffs.
“Miami will,” Crystal says easily, “says he’ll do it for any of us roadies that don’t get our charges killed or misplaced.”
Crystal tosses the pillow back on the bed and it softly hits his foot. Roger scowls and kicks the pillow off the bed. This time there is no sound from Crystal, but Roger doesn’t look. He doesn’t need to in order to know that he’s getting that one look from Crystal. The one with the single eyebrow raised and an unamused turn to his lips.
The one that still makes him want to get on his knees – and that is a thought to explore when he isn’t in a decade long committed relationship which he hopes he always will be in.
“Sulking isn’t like you boss – well, sulking privately isn’t like you.”
Roger rolls onto his stomach and shoves his face into the mattress.
“So what if Freddie is having fun in America and John and Brian are having their bromance in… Rome was it?”
“Sicily,” Roger replies moodily.
“Right, so that’s what this is about.”
“If you’re only going to make fun of me I’ll write you a recommendation letter myself. Say you have a perfect bedside manner.”
Crystal laughs, “as if I’d look good in a nurse’s outfit.”
“Don’t have the hair for it, mate.”
He almost feels bad, but then decides that Crystal deserves it because – well, he doesn’t not deserve it. Roger stuffs his face deeper in the mattress before it gets too stuffy to breathe. When he rolls over, he is startled to see Crystal hovering next to the edge of the bed. He still has a teasing smile in place, but his eyes are focused on him.
“So why the… not sulking about your bandmates?”
“I want attention.”
Roger sticks his bottom lip out, and as his body has become used to over the years, he braces for arms wrapping around him. This time he is met with cold after thirty seconds. He wraps his arms around himself and rolls onto his back, blowing at some of the fringe in his eyes.
“Don’t you always?”
He glares at Crystal but drops it when he sees that his roadie looks genuinely confused.
“It’s a thing. Freddie started it, you say that and you get five minutes of someone’s undivided attention.”
“The cuddling type.”
“No, I figured.”
“I’m not – well I’m not your band but I could – only because my job is your best interest.”
“Are you saying you’re the only one that can handle me, Taylor?” Roger laughs
“Calling someone by their last name only works if you don’t share them, Meddows.”
“Middle names? That’s low Chris.”
Crystal grimaces at the use of his first name and Roger cackles in victory. He laughs harder when the floor pillow smacks against his side.
“But do you want me to – do that?”
Roger stops laughing and tilts his head. He misses the near-daily contact, and he is a tactile person by nature. If his bandmates – lifemates – have an issue then they can talk about it like adults but he does want it.
“If you won’t hate it.”
“No more than any other part of this job.”
He sticks his bottom lip out, “so you will.”
Crystal grabs both sides of his face and lifts his head so that they’re making eye contact. He eases his grip when Roger squeezes his wrists in a warning.
“I’m only saying this because you’re touch-starved – but I do appreciate this job and I love a lot of aspects of it. We’re the type of people that should never have met.”
Roger quirks his lips, “you’ve said that about me and Freddie too.”
Crystal gives him a there you go stare.
He scoots over to give his roadie more room, and Crystal carefully settles behind him. His arms rest over Roger’s chest and their legs tangled together, but no other spots touch. Not that it would be inappropriate, and Roger would love more contact but he doesn’t want to make Crystal uncomfortable.
“Just stop calling me Chris and we’ll be fine.”
“Got it, Boss.”
Roger yelps as Crystal’s fingers dig into his side.
Roger sucked in a deep breath before knocking on John’s door. Usually, Garden Lodge has a no locked doors policy because they were always welcome in each other’s space, but with how John’s been acting lately. He presses his head against the wall while waiting for an answer. Not that he knows something is wrong, but even Roger knows that their rock n’ roll lifestyle has to have a limit somewhere.
Getting drunk on tours? That’s fine. Day drinking? Also fine. Except he wonders if John isn’t starting to inch on that territory of indulging too much. They’ve all drank before shows – they’ve played shows drunk once or twice, but if Roger had to guess their water breaks weren’t for water so much anymore John.
Freddie hasn’t quite seen the problem, too lost in his own and his solo album plans and Brian is far too hesitant to confront John after their frequent fallouts over the past few years. If Roger has to cross the boundary and start the conversation then he will, it’s better than crossing it too late when more is at stake than a few wounded feelings.
“Deaks, it's me,” he says, “Roger.”
The clarification is useless because he doesn’t sound like Brian or Freddie, but he doesn’t know that John can make the distinction and that’s what is scaring him the most.
He doesn’t know if that’s permission to enter or if it’s a confirmation of his statement, but Roger decides to play ignorance and pushes the door open. John sits on the edge of his bed but hastily tosses the picture frame away. It clatters to the ground, but he doesn’t need to see the photo to know what it was – or rather of who. The “what could have been” question that has kept John up many times before.
“Hey,” he says softly, “Bri’s gone for lunch with Jobby and Anita, it’s just us. Want me to try and make something?”
John gives him a tiny smile, “would we still have a kitchen?”
“I’ll have you know,” Roger puffs out his chest, “that my skills are enough to make you a fantastic cheese on toast.”
“Can you now? Last time I seemed to remember there being too much butter.”
“I told you, there was no point in saving that little amount!” Roger steps more into the room now that it seems that John isn’t going to throw him out.
The banter dies away and John sighs. Roger watches him deflate and puts his hands on his head. For a moment he misses John’s longer hair but he does enjoy floofing the floof. He crosses his arms and waits for John to speak again.
“Roggie,” John starts and then shakes his head.
“Listen,” Roger sighs, “what’s going on with you, love?”
John looks up at him wide-eyed. Roger wishes he could have rephrased the question into something a little more delicate. He didn’t want it to sound so accusatory, but John hasn’t risen to that famed anger yet, but he does drop his arms to his side.
“What do you mean?”
“The drinking mostly,” Roger offers with a shrug.
He doesn’t wince when John looks away from him, instead, he digs his thumbnail into part of his palm and breathes through his nose. Roger knows he needs to stay calm but he’s worried!
“Oh. That. It helps.”
Roger counts to ten.
“What do you mean it helps?”
“The – it, you won’t get it.”
He flicks his eyes around the room as though it would give him an answer. Then snorts. What, is he going to keep his mistress in his closet? Roger shakes his head and switches the leg that’s supporting him.
John places both hands on the bed and leans back, “you were meant to be on stage. Performing. That – up there – you live and breathe it. You, Freddie, and even Brian.”
“Okay,” Roger nods.
“But that isn’t. We can keep playing until we’re seventy, Rog, making music, but think about what that means for the rest of our lives?”
He leans his head back. If they don’t give up touring or making albums, Roger can’t see them falling out of the people’s grace. Maybe less popular but never gone except they would always be touring and making music. Ah.
“And I don’t want to give it up, because I know what that means, but Roggie, I was never meant for that.”
Roger closes the door, leaving it open just a crack. He steps until he is only a few centimeters away from John but doesn’t breach the gap yet. John smiles appreciatively.
“Meant for what?”
“Touring always. I guess the alcohol helps with my nerves. Always had.”
He tucks the statement away to be examined later. John must know that he is starting to have a problem and Roger slamming it down his throat when there are other deeper issues well, it wouldn’t be productive.
“Do you want to take a break?” Roger frowns, “a longer one?”
John shakes his head.
“You want to retire?” Roger asks.
When John doesn’t answer, Roger presses his lips together. Retiring sounds permanent and they’re still young in the scheme of things. There’s so much to consider too, Brian loves touring because it gives him something to focus on other than the demons of his mind and Freddie breathes showmanship but ultimately he is a private person.
“We can talk about it,” he says finally.
John shakes his head harder, almost violently. This time Roger breaches the space to stop him.
“Deaky!” He calls softly.
“No, if I retire – I don’t have this.”
“All or nothing, that’s what we said.”
Roger laughs, “John, we meant all of us had to be on the same page or none of us could be together – not you had to be in the band and shag us.”
John blinks, “oh.”
“I shouldn’t have laughed, I’m sorry.”
He smiles when John offers him a cheeky grin, not quite the smile that he wanted but Roger will take it for now. John grabs his hand and squeezes. Once more, Roger is surprised by the difference in their hand sizes, but he lets out a tiny laugh. Things haven’t changed at all.
“I want attention.”
Roger practically tackles John to the bed and pulls him up so that they’re eye level. He leans forward and gives John a tiny kiss on his nose. For a second John fights against the smile by pushing out his lips further but then his face splits into a gap-toothed smile. That’s what he was looking for.
“All you had to do was ask, lovie.”
“Let’s talk about all of this later, with all of us here, yeah?”
“Sure, but what is it you tell Freddie and Brian? I want attention times ten.”
He bumps their noses together this time before resting their foreheads together, “naturally.”
Roger isn’t sure what woke him up, but the bed feels heavier than it did when he fell asleep. John rolled onto his back, but Roger was still nuzzled against his shoulder. Fingers brush his stomach and it makes him twitch. Freddie must behind him, the pads of his fingers are far too soft to be Brian’s, and he can just make out a tan hand in the corner of his eye where it lays on his head.
He flicks his eyes open and sees that Brian is on top of John, somehow sprawling but tightly bound.
Happy that everyone is together Roger falls back asleep.
A year later, on the 9th of August at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire Queen played with her original line up for the last time.
On the 10th of August Queen woke up in a mess of sweaty limbs and tangled hair and they were all still blissfully in love.
“I need attention,” Roger purrs.
He gets three kisses in return.