Sunlight spilled into the room. Black cords snaked across the floor, disappearing behind any of the several couches, mismatched and placed carelessly about. A sort of wood and glass wall was set up to one side where black and silver machinery lay dormant and quiet like the house.
Tom and Barry turned slowly, surveying their surroundings and standing closer than they normally would. A single guitar stood on its stand, gleaming in the morning sunshine. A bass lay face-down on one of the couches, and a set of drums stood in the back, near the window. Tom reached out and tapped on one of the brass cymbals which rolled a little, making a dull clash-ring sound that stretched through the silence. Barry's hand stretched out, about to copy his brother...
"You found it,"
The boys jumped and spun towards the door, despite the softness of the voice.
"The room," said the smallish, dark-haired man they had met last night. Paul entered the room, giving them a brief smile. He held another guitar by the neck in his left hand and picked the bass up off of the couch with the other, leaning it up against the wall. The boys moved away from him skittishly, and Paul glanced at them, but didn't say anything.
"Here," he said, holding out the guitar he was holding. Tom had to reach for it because Barry didn't want to get closer.
"Sit." It was more of a polite request than a command. Tom and Barry sat down on the couch opposite him, the guitar leaning against the couch and Tom's leg, his hand wrapped around it. He felt Barry shift closer to him. Paul picked up the other guitar from its stand and sat down across from them, pulling it into his lap. Tom copied him slowly.
"I've been told you've never played before," Paul said, speaking to both of them.
"No," Tom agreed. His word came out short... clipped, in his nervousness.
"Well then," Paul said. "We'd best get started."
Barry liked Paul's voice. It was soft and, somehow, a little awkward. Barry liked the way he paused sometimes, searching for the right words rather than just stuttering or going on and on, repeating, like Nick did until he knew what he were saying again. Paul didn't take up space with his words; instead he hardly filled it, making you cling to what he was saying, because he didn't say much.
He was careful, and Barry was impressed with what Paul played for them on guitar, but he didn't show it. Tom was listening raptly less than five minutes in and Barry knew how much he wanted to learn this. To learn to play. To become rocks stars, but Barry... Barry wasn't so sure.
Paul was careful, slow around them, not touching them unless he had to. He showed Tom how to play E – all the chords had letters, Barry found out, and he wondered if they were going to learn all 26 of them today. He hoped not. He watched Paul touch Tom's hand, gently placing his fingers on the strings, telling him to push down... showed him how to switch to A by tapping the strings he had to move his fingers to.
There was no criticism as Barry had expected. He stayed silent. Paul would catch his eye and smile, and Barry would look away.
The lessons continued. The guitar moved from Tom's hands to Barry's eventually and he didn't know what to do with it. It was hard to hold it and it felt wrong in his arms, all the wrong positions. "Get off! Get outta the way! You're fucking it up!" he snapped at Tom because he couldn't very well snap at Paul. He hardly knew him.
He wished the man with the camera would go away... he was here for every lesson. He was around all the time. Barry learned that there were no T, Z, V, H, K letter chords... only some of letters. E minor, power chords, B flat... Sometimes they had numbers.
Paul always settled their arguments unless Nick was in the room, then they were out of his control, and Barry got the feeling Paul was a little afraid of Nick too... he didn't want to mess with him anyway. Baz hated Nick.
"He's got to come in, Baz," Paul said, without looking at him. Barry knew that if Paul had his way, he wouldn't have Nick in either.
Barry couldn't pinpoint just when Paul began to get closer. The first time was after lights, then darkness flashed behind his eyes and his head snapped to the right. Nick stormed out of the room and Barry's hand flew up to his face a stinging, burning pain starting near his eye. Tom was mumbling something to him, but it was Paul's fingers that curled around Barry's wrist and pulled his hand away from his face to examine the cut.
Soon Paul's hand was almost always on his shoulder, his back. Sometimes he would touch his hair. Barry liked that. One time, after a gig, they were all pretty trashed and Paul and the boys were sprawled on a couch. The rest of the members milled about – buzzing hard on Speed and Nick had another envelope of white pills. He held out a hand as he passed, and Paul leaned forward, gathered the three pills from Nick's palm and settling back again, his arm brushing against Barry's, he let the boys each take one from him.
Barry knew what these did and so maybe that was why Paul had an excuse to lean in and press his face against Barry's neck. The world spun slightly and Barry forgot what they were laughing at, and he laughed harder. Paul's breath was warm against his neck and he turned his face into Paul's hair, damp with sweat, and slightly messy. He needed to wash it, but then again they all did. There hadn't been time in between the two shows. He found he didn't mind. Especially when Paul stilled against him. Barry pulled back a little and Paul looked up, and oh, God, they were so close.
Paul's eyes searched his and Barry leaned closer. He couldn't hear Paul's breath catch, but he saw the slight jolt as he tried to catch it... then he turned away. He kissed the top of Barry's head as he stood, messing his hair a little. He twisted a strand gently around one finger as he said, "Vodka, hmm?" Tom nodded, and Paul walked away.
It was months later. The album was recorded. Paul collapsed next to Barry on the couch and Barry reached up for Paul's tie. It was so easy to laugh with Paul... to be with him. He caught that look in Paul's eyes again, and knew that this time he wasn't going to let Paul walk away. Barry pulled himself up as much as he could, and finally Paul Day leant down and kissed him.