Chapter 21 : Wall of Sound, part A : Getting in tune.

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Ringo laughed, drinking from the high-ball glass in his hand. He had always liked getting together with the lads, and although it wasn't quite the same without Paul being there, he was still having a fantastic time. Besides, John did a pretty good impersonation of their absent mate at his bossiest, so good it even got the well-meaning and usually neutral drummer to laugh. Snickering to himself, he walked over to the small home bar in the corner of the room, refilling his glass. It was a far cry from the one he'd had built in the first home he'd purchased, but it would have to do.

Taking a long sip to soothe his parched throat, Ringo watched John and George chatter drunkenly. Their voices were far too low for him to hear what they were saying but it seemed private, and Ringo wasn't one to eavesdrop. It looked a bit flirtatious as well, far too friendly for mates just having a giggle. Then again, the four of them had always been very close. You didn't huddle on top of each other to keep warm in the cold wind coming from a busted window, while travelling through bleak countryside, without getting rather intimate, after all. He could recall times when they'd have entire hotel floors to themselves, and would hole up in the bathroom, the four of them together, just to get away from everyone and everything.

There was something different about how John and George acted with one another, still. Just little things here and there that Ringo had noticed through the years, but never given much thought to, until tonight. John leaned down from the couch, an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth, looking amused and fond as George leaned forward from his cushion on the floor, and lit his cigarette for him.

To anyone else it wouldn't have looked like much of anything, but Ringo knew them too well. He didn't think it was his place to ask about it, and he suspected the drink wad making his mind foggy too, startling a bit when John looked up and called out to him. "Oi Starkey!"

George cheered drunkenly for no apparent reason, and John collapsed in a fit of giggles. "What're you doing o'er there, mn?" he managed to ask after a while, raising his eyebrows at the drummer pointedly. Ringo smiled, padding back towards the couch, his walk a bit unsteady. "Juss giving meself a refill. What're you lads up to?"

John's lips curved up, shifting closer with his best conspirational air, the move too clumsy to look anything but ridiculous. "Missing you, mate, you were gone for ages!" he stated, the words slurred but light-hearted, punctuated by a pleased, hazy smile. He nudged George in the ribs with his socked foot, looking at him for approval. "Didn't we, Georgie?" George nodded, a goofy expression on his face. "We were going to send out a search party for you, but we couldn't find them!" The three of them giggled, and John wrapped a companionable arm around Ringo's shoulder.

"It's you an' I and George, now," John stated, tilting his glass back to drink and making a face when he realised it was already empty. "No more of Mr. Lawsuit to keep us comp'ny..." He didn't seem to be too affected by the thought, his brow furrowing, making a seemingly intense effort of reflection. "Need a fourth one, though. Can't be only three of us." He nudged George with his foot again, who briefly squeezed it in a show of affection.

"If you're giving out foot rubs..." Ringo wiggled his toes in his socks but George merely smiled. "Those are reserved for Johnny, our fearless leader." The adoration he felt for his mate was still there, and shone brightly in his dark brown eyes. John gave a soft chuckle and patted George's head, giving Ringo a mock-contemptuous glance. "Take that, Ritch." The drummer pursed his lips in faux-dismay, wiping an imaginary tear, making John coo. "Aw. Don't cry." He slouched against the couch, resuming his previous line of thought with some difficulty.

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