8.

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August 1963

John felt better when they got back to the hotel, away from the chaos and constant noise of the theatre. He splashed some cold water on his face, thought about changing out of his stage suit and then decided he couldn't be bothered. A quick nightcap in the hotel's bar and then to bed. Half an hour at most.

The hotel bar was actually just the breakfast room with the tables pushed to the sides of the room. A small semi circular bar sat in one corner with a set of optics and two beer pumps. It was unusually quiet as John entered the room. Just Paul, George and Ringo lounged around the table in the bay window; George and Ringo sharing the window seat, Paul in a wooden chair opposite.

'Where's everyone else?' John asked, pulling the chair beside Paul out.

'Mal's coming down in a bit, Neil's gone to bed and I don't know about anyone else,' Paul replied.

'No bar tender?' John asked, looking around.

'He's left us to our own devices,' George said with a sly smile, pushing a tumbler glass with a finger of whiskey in it towards John. 'Here, saved you this. Ringo was gonna drink it if you didn't come down.'

John lifted the glass to his lips, savouring the bitter fiery taste on his tongue. Ringo tipped him and wink and John grinned at him. 'Well that's alright for starters, but what do we do now?' he said, dropping the glass back onto the table.

'We help ourselves,' George said.

'...So long as we write down what we take,' Paul added.

'That's very trusting, isn't it?' John stood and crossed behind the bar, refilling his glass with a double measure from the whiskey optic behind the bar.

'Write it down!' Paul shouted.

'Alright show tonight,' Ringo said as John retook his seat.

'Yeah,' George agreed absently.

'In the end,' Paul said shooting John a look. John ignored it, studying the bottom of his glass instead.

'Yeah, in the end,' Ringo repeated.

John looked up, realising the other three were all staring at him expectantly. 'What?'

''What' he says,' Paul shook his head. 'Like nothing happened.'

'Nothing did happen, did it?'

'Oh no. Nothing. Just you nearly buggering off and screwing the whole thing up. End of the Beatles. That's all.'

'Paul, you're so melodramatic!' He laughed, but the other three didn't join in.

'What's wrong, John?' Ringo tried gently.

'Nothing is!' he protested, sounding just that little bit too flustered to be believed.

'It's not like you,' Ringo continued. 'You're not normally bothered by that sort of thing. She just came to watch the show, that's all.'

'Is it? That's alright then, isn't it.' Sulky sounding now. Ringo sighed and leaned back in the window seat, turning his head and opening the blinds an inch to look out.

John folded his arms across his chest. 'Alright,' he said, after a beat, 'alright. I'll tell you. This once and then you can all just shut up about it. And not a word to Cynthia either.' The other three remained silent. 'It's... it's really just got all out of proportion. I already told you earlier. I used to go out with Ruby, ages ago, before the band really got started, not long after me mam died, before Cyn...'

'At the same time, if I remember rightly,' Paul cut in.

'Okay memory man,' John rolled his eyes at him, 'there was a bit of an overlap. Me and Ruby were a bit off and on. Her mother was a right old bag, didn't like me, all that. Eventually it just sort of fizzled out. We went off to Hamburg, Ruby... Ruby moved away from Liverpool. That's it.'

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