chapter thirty, 1976 part A

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John was sitting on the steps below the porch, nervously smoking a cigarette. The air was mild and redolent with the scent of the blooming flowers of Friar Park. The sun was shining, not too hot yet but very bright, making John squint as he looked into the distance, trying to make out the shape of the car that was driving towards him.

It must have been Cynthia's car, they weren't expecting anyone else that day, but John was too short-sighted and too anxious to be able to tell. He got up, throwing his cigarette to the ground and stepping on it with exaggerated care, looking above his shoulder at the open door behind him. "George?" he called, proud that his voice was still perfectly steady. "I think it's them."

He put up a smile, breathing deeply and trying not to panic about all this. He hadn't seen his son in ages, not even after he'd gotten back to London with George, too taken in the emotional whirlwind of settling down with his lover. They had talked on the phone a few times and Julian had always seemed pleased to hear from him still.

John couldn't believe that his son was nearing 13 years old already. Julian was a little person, and probably able to count each and every time he had seen his father since his parents had divorced on the fingers of both hands, and remember them with a mixture of joy and bitterness. John knew what it was like to have an absentee father and he felt bad about not having been able to give something else to Julian.

Still it wasn't too late, as George had pointed out. He could still make it up to Julian and be present and supportive throughout his teen years at least, provided Julian let him. John didn't really feel up to the task but he was willing to try, willing to make up for his past mistakes.

"George," he called again, his tight smile growing wider, more genuine as he caught sight of his lover slipping on his shoes on in the doorway. George seemed so happy about the idea of spending a week with Julian at Friar Park. Both, John suspected, because he didn't like the idea of his lover's son being fatherless because of him and because George himself craved fatherhood in ways John never truly had.

They had not really talked about it yet, about the fact that George would never be able to have children if he decided to stay with John, but John knew it was there, somewhere, in his lover's mind. It made him feel inadequate though George never complained about it, and he was all-too-happy to give his lover a step-son, so to speak, for the week.

"'m coming," George replied as he stepped out, smiling tensely, sharing John's nervousness with the situation. He stood by his lover's side and slipped his hand onto John's shoulder, giving him a firm squeeze of encouragement.

The car stopped smoothly in front of the mansion, Cynthia and Julian in the back seat, smiling at them and exchanging a few words before climbing out. John swallowed dryly but he stepped down the stairs with a little bounce, giving Cynthia a kiss on the cheek. She smiled in return, a little stiffly even as George greeted her as well, good-naturedly.

George could understand her reservations. John had never really been a presence in his son's life, not back when he'd been a Beatle and even less after he'd married Yoko, and now, of a sudden, he wanted to spend the holidays with him? George couldn't imagine that it was easy for Cynthia to agree to let Julian visit.

George smiled warmly at her, trying to ease her worries and show that he was happy to have Julian around for the week, though he knew it would do little to make Cynthia more comfortable with letting her son go. Julian himself looked fearful, staying close to his mother as she got his suitcase out of the car, avoiding eye contact with his father.

"No hug for yer old dad, then?" John asked, raising a playful eyebrow at him as he helped Cynthia with the suitcase. Julian froze a bit, looking up at his dad nervously before he seemed to understand that it was a joke. "Sorry," he said, awkwardly walking up to John and putting his arms around his middle, giving him a brief squeeze.

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