As soon as George was dressed and ready to go, Brian escorted the four Beatles out of their rooms and towards the hotel's back exit, as they didn't want to attract attention. The hustle and bustle was a blur for George; the throbbing of his head was both so distracting and painful that the sounds of people talking, the occasional contact with someone as they shoved him forwards and the exclamations of excitement as someone else staying at the hotel recognised those 'famous English chaps- you know, the ones with the funny haircuts who were on the Ed Sullivan show last year' all become a fog, like a detailed painting that someone had accidentally spilled a pot of paint over.
It wasn’t until Brian had explained the schedule for the day (which George heard none of), and Mal, their roadie, had waved off the occasional fan, telling them that “the band would love to give autographs, but are unfortunately in a real rush. Sorry!” that the group finally arrived at the car outside. The vehicle in question was a large limousine which glimmered spectacularly in the sunlight. Had George have been paying attention, he may have commented about how it looked splendid, though it’s beauty was slightly demeaned by the fact it was currently parked in the more private tradesman’s entrance, between the bins and a broken old sofa.
The boys made their way into the car, Mal kindly opening the door for them as they each slipped in. Paul and George each got a window seat, with Ringo sitting in between them. The car was designed in a way so that there were seats facing the three of them, which John, Eppy and Mal took.
Soon, they were off, the car stealthily gliding past the crowd which had gathered outside of the hotel, full of hundreds of fans who hoped to catch a glimpse of their idols. Nobody expected the biggest band on Earth to exit via the tradesman’s entrance, which was why the Beatles plus their manager and roadie managed to leave the hotel with minimal attention, without any of their screaming fans sprinting after them.
This was only the boys’ second time in New York, so they- well, at least, three of them- were very eager to spot the landmarks, and whilst Brian was trying to tell them about 'business matters', they kept interrupting him to point out the various buildings.
“I see the Empire State!” Paul suddenly exclaimed in delight as they rounded a bend. Though they had seen the building before, it was far taller and more splendid than any building in Liverpool- Brian had once told them that it was the tallest building in the world, and seeing it up so close, the Beatles were certain it must be.
It earned sounds of awe from Ringo, John, Paul and Mal. Ringo nudged George. “Now isn’t that jus’ gear, Geo?” he asked the band’s youngest enthusiastically. When he heard no reply from his friend, Ringo turned around, and was surprised to see that George was fast asleep. They must have been too interested in the landmarks to notice! Immediately, Ringo felt the concern that George might be ill arise in his stomach again, and he nervously turned back to the others.
“Paul!” Ringo stage-whispered to the bassist on his other side, not wanting to wake George. “Georgie’s fast asleep!”
Paul looked at George, and upon seeing that Ringo was correct, exchanged an alarmed look with him, and waved his hands in the air to get John, Mal and Brian’s attention.
John, upon seeing this, snorted. “Whatcha waving your arms about like an idiot for?” he asked Paul, his tone obnoxiously loud.
“Shush!” Paul whisper-shouted as loudly as he could, “You’re gonna wake George!”
This got Brian’s attention. “George’s asleep?” Brian looked from Paul to George, and, seeing that he was indeed asleep, looked back to Paul. “Why is he asleep?” Brian glared at the three of them suspiciously, as though it was their fault that George was taking a nap in the car.
Paul, however, ignored Brian, and irritatedly frowned at John. “Now d’you think ‘e shoulda stayed in bed?”
Brian repeated what he asked again, this time louder, his voice dangerous. “Why is George asleep?”
Ringo answered. “Paulie an’ I reckon he’s sick. When he woke up he had a temperature, and Paul says he was complainin’ about feelin’ cold. We told ‘im to stay in bed, but ‘e and John said ‘e shouldn’t. So he got outta bed.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?” Brian asked, looking mildly concerned.
“Because he insisted that he was okay, an’ then we was in a rush anyways.”
After a moment's thought, Brian spoke again. “If George says he’s okay, he can still do the conference-” Brian broke off speaking to tell John and Paul, who were squabbling about George next to them, to be quiet. Once they had stopped talking, Brian continued. “But we can check after to see how he’s feeling. Yes?” Brian’s tone left no room for discussion, and the three of them nodded, not wanting, for once, to get on the wrong side of Eppy.
“Shall we wake him up?” Mal asked.
Ringo shook his head. “Let the lad sleep. If he really is ill, he’ll need all the rest he can get.” Brian nodded in agreement, and they went back to admiring New York City out of the windows.
Ringo, however, found himself watching George’s sleeping form. He couldn’t help himself from smiling- George just looked so peaceful and sweet. He also looked very young, and Ringo felt it hard to believe that George was a 21 year old man- he looked like a boy, not a world famous guitarist who had millions of screaming fans.
Ringo moved his arm to grasp George’s hand, gently squeezing it. “Feel better, Georgie,” he murmured, and stayed like that for a few moments, holding his sleeping friend’s hand. It wasn’t until Paul smacked his arm that Ringo let go, his face bright red as he blushed. Paul, however, hadn’t noticed, and was getting Ringo’s attention so that he could see another landmark. Ringo nodded at it, though he was really more interested in his best mate and whether he was alright.
It wasn’t long until the band knew that they were getting close to the building which they were going to do the conference in: the steep increase of people around the area made it clear. They were all very aware that the entrance to the building would be crowded with fans, as the hotel had been, desperate to get an autograph- or any other souvenir- from the members of the band. Brian had been told beforehand that, unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to go around the back of the building, and would have to enter through the public entrance at the front, ultimately meaning that the Beatles would have to face their hysterical fans.
The car turned a corner, and Ringo gasped as he saw the alarming number of people along the road. Though the Beatles had been world famous for a year now, Ringo still struggled to get his head around the Beatlemania. It was both humbling and terrifying. But mostly just terrifying. Barriers stood along the road, keeping the fans away from the car so it didn’t get swarmed as it came to a stop. Police officers guarded each barrier, some having to push the Beatlemaniacs back; one was even forced to carry a girl away from the area, as she had managed to climb over the blockades and had been running towards the boys’ limousine. She looked hardly George’s age.
“Wake up George, would you, Ringo?” Brian asked, and Ringo immediately did as he was told. He gently shook George’s shoulder, saying “C’mon, it’s time to wake up, love.” as calmly as possibly, as Ringo didn’t want to frighten his sick-or-maybe-not friend.
George reacted very sluggishly to the wake up attempts, and blearily opened his eyes, blinking at least ten times as his eyes struggled to come into focus. “Where ‘m I?” he murmured, evidently still half asleep.
“Right next to a group of screehin’ fans. You need to wake up, lad, we’ve gotta get out.” John spoke, kindly but firmly. George looked over at John, and as he stared at his mate, everything seemed to come back to him as his eyes widened in realisation.
"I- I didn't fall asleep, did I?" the guitarist asked, almost fearfully. Ringo placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You did, Georgie, but it doesn't matter. No harm done."
George, however, still looked upset. "I'm so sorry." he murmured, looking down at his hands.
"Really, George, as Ringo said, it doesn't matter." Brian insisted, his tone as close to empathetic as possible for him to manage.
"Okay," George nodded, though his voice remained small.
"Yeah, I reckon you needed a bit o' rest, Geo. You seem exhausted." Paul said, his eyebrows raised minutely.
Now George's voice wasn't so quiet. "Before you even suggest it, Paulie, I'm not, for the a-thousandth time, sick. I honestly jus' didn't sleep great las' night. I was jus' tired, but I feel a lot better now I've 'ad a nap."
"Okay, okay," Paul held his hands up in surrender, "I believe you. Anyways, movin' on, haven't we got a conference to get to?"
"Yes, you're right, Paul," Brian was back in business-mode, "The plan is the same as always. Mal out first, followed by John and Paul, George and Ritch next. I'll bring up the rear. No waving, no stopping and certainly no autographs. I want you to all make it inside in one piece. We reconvene in the building's entrance. Is that clear?"
Brain received three nods and a "Yes sir, thank you sir!" from John. Though John's cheek would usually earn a scolding from Eppy, the atmosphere in the car was tense, all four boys nervous, so it broke the tension slightly, and Brian let the comment slide.
"Alright then. After you, Mal," Brian nodded at the roadie, who opened the door, and with a fleeting smile at the five in the car, entered the outside storm. They all knew that it would only be a few minutes until they saw Mal again, but the chaos outside made the simple act of leaving the car seem like he was going into battle. The Beatles and their manager watched as the fans surged forwards towards Mal, mistaking him for a Beatle, the barrier hardly stopping them as the blockades themselves were pushed forward. It was only due to the police all around that Mal didn't get attacked by the screaming Beatlemaniacs, the officers having to result to shoving them back. It was an unspoken truth- no one would admit it, but everyone knew why Mal went out first; they were throwing him into the lion pit, a distraction so the Beatles would get into the building unharmed. Even Mal himself was aware, but he didn't complain. He was getting paid to work with the biggest band in the world: risking getting a few strands of hair ripped out seemed like nothing if the reward was being mates with George, Paul, Ritch and John.
However, despite the danger of being trampled by fans, Mal managed to make his way into the building and soon Paul and John were making their way outside. The fans were still distracted with screaming about Mal, who they still thought was one of the Fab Four, so John and Paul managed to get halfway to the building before they were noticed. But when they were, the deafening screeching outside got, if possible, even louder. Back in the car, George found himself closing his eyes to try and stop himself from whimpering in pain. The noise was dreadful, and his headache had, instead of getting better after the nap, gotten worse. He was also still freezing. On top of his ailments, the crazy amount of fans outside were causing him to feel incredibly nervous- it was a well-known fact that George was the quietest and shyest of the four, and the idea of facing so many hysterical people made George feel as though his airways were closing up. He found himself trying to calm his breathing; counting to three as he inhaled, counting to five as he exhaled. And repeating the process. The guitarist didn't stop until he felt a hand on his knee. He opened his eyes, and saw Ringo looking at him. His expression, as had seemed to be the most frequent look of the morning, was one of concern.
"You ready, Geo?" Ritch asked, and George, after taking one more deep breath, nodded. "Stay close to me," the drummer told the guitarist, and, after a comforting pat on the leg, Ringo opened the door, and exited the limousine, followed closely by George. The shrieking was even noisier outside, and George could hear people screeching his and Ringo's name, declaring their undying love or desperation to marry him or his bandmate. Quickly, the yells began to blend into one, as George felt ridiculously overwhelmed by the seemingly endless racket. He felt himself become dizzy, so that he was staggering blindly forward, his vision a blur of people and barriers. It was much thanks to Ringo that George made his way into the building's lobby safely; the band's eldest was already worried about George, so had made sure to keep a close eye on him as they made their way towards the conference. Turning around, Ringo saw George stumble, and immediately slowed down and put his hand on the youngest's back, guiding him towards the exit.
The contact of Ringo's hand on George's back felt like an oasis in a never-ending desert, a light in eternal darkness. George, panicked, pained and terrified, let himself be gently pushed forwards by his bandmate. He had no clue where he was going, but the physical contact made him feel safe, even in the turmoil around him, and he continued to stagger forward, all the while being steered and supported by Ringo's steady hand. Until, after what could have been a few seconds or a few hours, George finally made his way through the entrance of the building, into the far calmer and warmer atmosphere of the reception. Ringo led him into a seat, and the sense of relief that George felt as he collapsed into it was so huge that he almost cried.
Paul, John and Mal were instantly next to them. "What took you so long? We thought you'd been attacked or somethin'!" John exclaimed, his tone a mixture of worry, irritation and exasperation.
"We're fine, Johnny, don't worry. I jus' a-think that the crowd was a bit too much for Geo. He got a touch overwhelmed." Ringo said calmly. Between George, who was still in a panic, John, who was masking his stress with annoyance, and Paul, who looked very anxious, Ringo was by far the calmest and most composed. John, for a moment, was about to make a scornful comment to George, dealing with his concern for his friends by being malicious, but he held his tongue as he saw how distraught George looked. The boy looked genuinely upset, so John sighed, and said nothing. The four Beatles and their roadie were silent for some moments, George with his head in his hands, breathing deeply as he tried to calm his erratic breath; Ringo sat next to him, rubbing comforting circles on the youngest's back.
However, it wasn't long until the chaos returned; Brian walked in through the doors, and, after a brief exchange of the words with the receptionist, walked over to the boys. Upon seeing the state that they were all in, especially George, Brian raised an eyebrow. "All good, are we?"
George straightened up as soon as he heard Eppy's voice, and nodded, the other three boys following suit.
"Okay then. Well, if you're all ready, then we can start the conference. I expect it shouldn't take too long, so, after, we can go and have a look around the city and get a bite to eat. After, we've got rehearsals for the show tonight. Yes?" Brian asked, and the Beatles agreed, Ringo and George standing up. "Follow me."
Brain walked forward, followed by John, Paul, George and finally Ringo, who purposefully stayed at the back, watching George, ready to help him if he were to panic or stumble again. The door opened, and the Beatles entered, ready to face the questions, comments and prying eyes of the press. The clicks of cameras and questions from the journalists already had begun before they even had a chance to sit down. Ringo noticed that George froze for a second as the noise hit him, but he soon started moving again, and all four Beatles took their places at a table at the front, ready to have the journalists poke and interfere in their private lives.
The conference went well, for the most part. They were about three quarters of the way through when things began to go downhill. First, George finally accepted that he was poorly. Along with the throbbing headache, George still felt exhausted. Even though he'd slept well last night, and, on top of that, had had a nap on the way to the conference, merely talking to the press felt draining in his weary state. The guitarist also remained feeling cold; he could no longer blame the lack of warmth on any broken heating, because his three bandmates had all taken their blazer jackets off, making it clear to George that, though he couldn't feel it, the room was warm. The vest and extra shirt George had put on seemed to make no difference. To top it all off, his stomach was beginning to ache, so that George had elevated from simply not feeling hungry to feeling mildly sick. The ailing boy zoned out of the conference, resting his head on his arms on the table. Usually, he would worry about giving off a bad image to the press, but, right now, George didn't care: he just wanted to get back into bed and sleep.
Another journalist raised their hand to ask another question, and this one was aimed at George. "Mr Harrison, let me ask you a question I'm sure the fans want to know: are you still single?" All eyes turned to the Beatles' lead guitarist, and they were surprised to find him with his eyes half closed, head laying on his arms on the table. Paul, who was sitting next to George, realised that he hadn't even heard the question, and nudged him. George's head raised slightly. He looked at Paul questioningly, who discreetly nodded his head towards the journalist who had asked him the question. George immediately understood, and looked out towards the press. "Sorry, could you repeat tha', please?"
The journalist seemed rather put off, but quickly gathered herself. "I- erm- well, Mr Harrison, I was wondering if you were still single? I thought the fans would want to know."
"Well, then, 'm sure the fans will be pleased to know tha', yes, I still 'm single." George replied, knowing how happy this would make many people- most likely those in the crowd outside who had been begging the guitarist to marry them not even half an hour ago.
"Right then," John announced, single-handedly turning the attention away from George, who evidently wasn't in the mood to be in the limelight, "Have any of youse got any more questions, or are you done shoving your noses where they aren't wanted?" A light wave of laughter passed around the room. Only John, it seemed, could get away with making a rude comment and then get a chuckle from the same people it was aimed at. Paul shook his head- what John had said wasn't even funny, only very accurate, but it had managed to take the attention away from George, so the bassist wasn't complaining.
"Yes, I have a question, another for Mr Harrison," It seemed that John hadn't been quite as successful as Paul had hoped. A different journalist was talking, and he was right at the front, "Sir, I was wondering, are you feeling alright? Forgive me, but it seemed, a moment ago, as though you were half-asleep at the front?"
"I wasn't asleep, I was just thinking about what I could be doing instead of being interrogated by you people." George replied, somewhat snarkily. He didn't mean to be rude, but was already not a fan of the press, and really thought that the questions he were being asked were none of their business.
"My apologies, then. But you still haven't answered the question."
George bit his lip, really not wanting to be under scrutiny by the whole room. He felt himself panicking again; the pounding of his head worsened. "I'm fine, thank you." the guitarist answered, trying to keep as calm as possible.
"Are you sure? Excuse me for saying, but you look a little peaked." This time, it was a new journalist talking. He wore glasses, had an overbite, and the lip below his top two teeth seemed to be trembling with excitement at the idea of writing an article about 'George Harrison - the Beatle who has fallen ill to a deadly disease!'.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. George reminded himself to do so as he tried to keep his breathing steady. He knew the whole room was staring at him expectantly, ready to take whatever words next came out of his mouth and twist them into lies. It was abundantly clear to Paul that George was on the edge of falling into a major panic, so he gently placed his hand on George’s arm. George turned to Paul, his eyes wide with anxiety, and in return, Paul smiled calmly back at him. This calmed George down slightly, and he continued to breathe deeply to keep the nerves at bay.
Meanwhile, John was glaring at the sea of reporters. “Right, can you quit askin’ ‘im the same question?! ‘E’s already answered! ‘E’s fine!” John angrily scolded the journalists. Fortunately, Brian chose that moment to walk up to the front of the room, and tell the press that their time was up. All four Beatles stood, Eppy said thank you, Ringo waved, cameras clicked, and they exited the conference room. Instead of stopping in the reception, Brian kept walking by, and before they knew it, the band were outside in the crowds again. Paul and Ringo protectively stayed close to George, but they all managed to make it to the car without any further problems.
Once they all had sat down, Brian frowned. “What happened, boys? One minute, I'm on a phone call, the next, I hear John shouting at the journalists!”
"They bloody well deserved it! Pokin' their enormous noses in other people's business!" John exclaimed, still angry at the press and their questions. Ringo and Paul nodded in agreement.
"It was my fault," George said in a small voice, "'m sorry. I panicked, an' now I've made a right fool of meself and all of youse too!"
"Now, that's ridiculous, Geo. You did nothin' wrong. They should have jus' left you alone!" Paul shook his head in annoyance.
"Exactly. They asked you the same question three times, love. I don't know why they didn't jus' quit askin' after you answered." Ringo added.
"Are you alright, then, George?" Brian asked the lead guitarist.
"I- well... it's jus'... I- I don't feel so good," George finally admitted the truth, and looked down at his lap, upset with himself for giving into the pain. He expected John to laugh at him, or Paul to exclaim that he knew it all along, but no-one said anything. Instead, Ringo comfortingly put an arm around him, letting George rest his aching head on his shoulder. Ringo was troubled when he noticed how warm George felt; it seemed that, not only had Ringo and Paul been correct when they'd thought he had a temperature earlier on, but, even more worryingly, that it was getting worse.
"Me stomach hurts. And me 'ead. I'm quite tired, too." George listed his symptoms, missing out, much to Ringo's dismay, his high temperature. The drummer said nothing, however; he knew that it wouldn't be long until Eppy found out the full extent of how bad George was feeling.
"Should we go back to the hotel?" Mal asked, and Brian nodded in assent.
"We don't have to," George weakly argued, but Brian ignored him.
"We'll go back to the hotel so you can get some rest, George. We can see how you're feeling later."