by Ms. Moonlight
John put down his teacup and massaged his neck, “Well, if they’d stop fucking up the recording, we’d already be done.”
George Martin, in the booth, flipped the intercom switch, “Ok, boys, they tell me they’ve solved the problem. Let’s wrap it up with this one.”
John readjusted his glasses as George slung his guitar around his neck and Ringo climbed onto his drum kit, flexing his stiff fingers. Paul stubbed out his cigarette and coughed to clear his throat. John began the countdown, “3–2–1 and...” They began to play, John and Paul keeping eye contact between them to stay harmonized.
Suddenly a voice broke through from the recording booth, “Sorry, sorry, we didn’t get the bass up.”
Paul abruptly swung his guitar off his shoulders and flung it to the floor. “What the bloody hell is wrong with you?” he shouted to the booth, “Can’t you get one fucking thing right?”
George raised his eyebrows and walked to the lunch area for more tea. Ringo sat back and lit a cigarette. “Come on, Paul, let’s end tonight. Let them fix whatever the hell needs fixing until tomorrow,” said the normally impatient John.
“Screw that, it is tomorrow. I’m so bloody tired I can’t see!” Paul ground the palms of his hands into bloodshot eyes. He turned away from the group and walked out the side door into the night.
“Never seen him like this,” Ringo said. “It’s bloody 5 degrees out and he left his coat.”
“I’ll get him,” John said, grabbing his coat and Paul’s from the stand. “You mates can stay on or bugger off, whatever you want.” He followed after Paul.
The night was cold. In fact, snow was falling with intensity. John blinked to clear some flakes from his lashes. Paul was nowhere to be seen. “Shit, where can he go at bloody 3 in the morning?” John muttered to himself.
Across the street was a wooded park area. John headed that direction, looking for footprints in the gathering snow. He spotted Paul on a bench, hands on knees, cigarette glimmering through the darkness. Paul’s dark head was liberally covered with snow, and shivers ran through his body.
“Hey,” John grunted, “what’s this all about then?” He sat down and offered Paul his coat.
Paul ignored him and turned away. John saw his shoulders shake as he struggled with his emotions. Their relationship had its ups and downs, competitions and jealousies, but John knew he cared deeply about Paul. He relied on him to tell the truth, like Stu used to do. John wasn’t sure how to approach Paul, never having seen him so upset. Was the stress of being a Beatle finally getting to him, or something else, something personal?
John hesitantly set an arm around Paul’s cold shoulders. “I know I’m not much on sentiment,” he said gruffly and awkwardly, “but you know I care. So what’s up?"
Paul flicked his cigarette into the night and turned to face John. His large eyes were luminous with reflected tears. A course of tears tracked down his face as he bit his lip and scowled in frustration. “I don’t know. I’ve never felt so close to being out of control. I can’t keep a handle on anything.”
John half-smiled, “Welcome to the club, son. Now you have a taste of what I go through. I always thought you were too bloody happy all the time.”
Paul scrubbed his hands over his face without smiling. Shadows gathered under his eyes and his voice was hoarse and tired. “God, John. What are we doing? We can’t even go into a bar for a drink without being trampled.”
“Just think of the music. That’s what keeps me going–our music. It’s good, we’re good. That’s what matters, not the screaming kids.”
Paul sighed shakily. “I think I’m about worn through. Sorry for the scene back there. I’ll go apologize.” John stood up. “No need. They know how it goes. Put your coat on, bloody fool, before you freeze and we have to find a new bass player.”
Paul stood. Instead of reaching for his jacket, he moved to John and hugged him. John returned the gesture for a few moments, then pushed Paul away. “Gerroff, you sap. Going to make me go all soft,” he muttered as he lit a cigarette.
Paul coughed, a harsh, barking sound in the quiet, as he pulled on his coat. He shivered again. “Bloody hell, I feel like shit.”
John looked him over critically. “You don’t look so good either. Bloodshot eyes, red nose, pasty skin.”
“Thanks,” Paul said as he shook snow out of his hair. “Let’s get out of the cold.”
“All for that,” John said cheerfully.
They moved across the street back into the light and warmth of the studio.
George and Ringo were talking near the drums. They turned when the door opened.
“Sorry about that business,” Paul muttered, groping for a handkerchief for his nose.
“S’alright. About time you cracked,” George said as cheerfully as John.
“Bugger,” Paul said as he blew his nose.
“Great, he’s gone and got himself a chill. How are we ever going to get this bloody song recorded?” Ringo wailed, looking at his watch.
“Here, have a cuppa,” John said, handing one to Paul. He did look unwell and exhausted. “Maybe we should call it tonight.”
“No, let’s get it done,” Paul said, gulping tea and clearing his throat.
“Ok, George, we’re going to try another take. Think your boys can handle it now?” John yelled up to the booth.
“Right, John, off you go,” George Martin replied.
Taking their guitars and getting into position, John noticed Paul’s hands shaking with cold. “Bloody fool,” he muttered. He began the countdown “3–2–1–...”
Paul sneezed violently, knocking lyric sheets from his stand. “Shit,” he murmured and knelt to pick them up. As he started to rise, he lost his balance and staggered into George who held out a hand to steady him.
“Alright, Paul?” he asked with a frown. The shadows under Paul’s eyes were more pronounced against the paleness of his skin. His hair clung damply around his face.
“Ok, we’re knocking off for the night,” John announced, removing his guitar.
Paul frowned in disgust but also removed his instrument. He knew he wouldn’t produce a good sound in this condition.
Ringo snuck up behind him and felt his forehead. “You have a fever,” he said as Paul jerked out of reach. “You’re all in, aren’t you?”
“Come on, let’s get him settled,” John said.
Paul’s eyes widened in alarm as they advanced on him, but he was prevented from complaining by a sneezing fit. They dragged him to John’s car and threw him in the back seat. John drove to Paul’s flat and they marched him up.
“Ok, I’m home. You can leave now,” he muttered, throwing off his coat.
“Oh no, we’re here to cure your ills,” John said, rubbing his hands together with a throaty chuckle.
“Get out,” Paul said, irritated again.
“Nope, George, sit on him,” John replied calmly. “Ringo, get those shoes off.”
They removed his shoes and wet clothes while he protested hoarsely. John dosed him with some concoction of tea and secret cold remedies he had mixed up in the kitchen. They piled blankets on him until the white of his face turned pink with heat.
“You’re boiling me,” Paul complained, struggling from under the covers.
“Uh, uh, stay put,” Ringo said, “or I’ll be forced to sit on you.”
Paul subsided and began yawning jaw-breaking yawns. “What was in that stuff?” he asked John who was contentedly seated by the fire.
“Oh, something to help you sleep,” John said vaguely.
Paul blinked and his eyes drooped. Finally his head dropped back into his pillow and he slept, lashes curved over the shadows under his eyes.
“Stubborn git,” George commented, yawning himself and stretching out on the floor.
“Might as well stay, seeing as it’s 5 in the morning,” Ringo said, settling into the chair across from John. John nodded and looked over to Paul’s still form.
“He tries too damn hard,” he said to Ringo.
Ringo looked at Paul, “Yeah, but I’m rather fond of the bloke.”
John smiled, “Aye, I suppose the lad grows on ye.”
“Ta,” drifted faintly and drowsily from the bed.
“Go to sleep, sod,” the other three said in unison.
Copyright 2000: Ms. Moonlight. This is original copyrighted work and may not be reproduced in any form, by any means, without prior consent of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
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