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[personal profile] obstinatrix
Title: Backwards Traveller
Rating: Eventual NC-17, this chapter PG-13
Pairing: John/Paul
Authors: [livejournal.com profile] tini_91 and [livejournal.com profile] obstinatrix
Summary/Notes: New York in the late 70s feels like a world away from Europe almost two decades earlier, but when John settles down to write some more of his short 'fiction', he finds that, frankly, he misses Paris. This is 1961, in retrospective. The entire fic is about 40,000 words; this part is about 3,000. The beginning is an extract from Skywriting By Word of Mouth. We were also quite inspired by this clip, where John talks about being inspired by the romance of Paris.



Come too quickly. Stop. Try again. Stop. Am waiting in Paris. Stop me if you’ve heard it. Stop. Stuff yourself with artichokes and live. Stop. Don’t stop. Stop.


The Boulevard Saint-Germaine shone in all its springbok glory as he stepped lightly on some French loafers toward the waiting arms of Comrade Amie. “Tootie Frootie,” he gasped, inhaling the fragrance of her hairs in her nostrils. She greeted him warmly with a cold. “You haven’t changed une bit, you ould bastarde!” She frenched him round the neck.

A flood of memories drowned him in a pool of sweat. “You taste bon, mon cher!” she exclamationed. “I can’t wait to get my fingures in your croutons!” said he. “OH you naughty man, you’ll never change,” she laughed, eyeing his pants.

“For you, my dear,” he said, “I’d change address.” He gripped her by the pound and headed for the wrong bank.

“There’s too much about underwear and sweat for my liking,” he thought to himself. “Love is never having to pull yourself together,” she said quite suddenly. “Love is never having to pull yourself off,” he replied in a lighter vein.


***

John put down the pencil with a small sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose as he contemplated once more how to continue this story. Strewn across the entire surface of the table before him were photographs, all of them in black and white. He picked one up and smiled a little as he looked at the two young men in the picture: one of them just turned 21, the other two years younger still. If Yoko had been around, John would have never dared to take out the box of photographs that he had hidden in the back of his wardrobe. However, since she had gone out and he was on his own, he had taken the opportunity to revel in his most favourite memory -- his holiday with Paul in Paris.

The picture of him and Paul, taken by some stranger they had politely asked, showed them in all their teddy-boy-ish glory, one day before Jürgen had cut off their hair and had given them the infamous moptops. Paul had his arm around John's shoulders and was beaming at the camera; John had his arm slung around Paul's middle, hand placed possessively on his hip while he grimaced at the camera. The longer John stared at the picture, the more he was convinced he could hear Paul's laughter faintly, feel his warm body pressed against his and how it shook with each drunk giggle. If he focused his concentration, John thought he could even smell the slightly chilly evening air, mixed with the familiar smell of Paul's cologne.

With a dull ache in his chest, John put down the photograph and looked out of the window, releasing a deep, longing sigh.

***

They had meant to go all the way to Spain. That had been the original plan, anyway, when John had first approached Paul with his fistful of pound notes and ideas, ready to travel the world. Paul had been overwhelmed, John remembered, by the fact that John had come to him with this proposal and not Cynthia, or Stu. The look of shocked delight, of pride, in his eyes had warmed John from the inside out. Whether Paul knew it yet or not, he had already become John's favourite person, and, coming into such riches, it would never have occurred to him to share them with anyone but Paul.

They made their way across the Channel easily enough. They'd hitchhiked plenty before; Paul especially was well practised in the art. But when they had come to Paris, with its gilt roofs and Gothic arches, a strange sensation had come over John, a sort of romantic inclination that made him loath to leave again. Spain was a worthy aim, certainly, but Paris...from the look in Paul's face, it was obvious that he had been equally affected, his expression rapt. But neither had known how to suggest to the other that onward travel was not a necessity, until they had come upon Jürgen Vollmer quite by accident in the street.

They'd known he was in Paris, of course, but they'd made no arrangements, so it was quite a shock to see his familiar face in a public square. He looked like any other young artist, while John and Paul were still decked out like rockers, their leathers and ducktails incongruous amidst the Parisian youths with their soft hair and wide trousers. But Jürgen had approached them immediately, suggested they stay with him -- he had a spare mattress, he said, and though they weren't allowed up to his room during the night, they could wait and sneak up later, he was sure.

"If you don't mind sharing?" Jürgen said. John glanced at Paul, caught his eyes. They had shared beds a thousand times. It was nothing, even if there was something in the air of this city that made John look at his friend a little differently, look at the world a little differently.

"We don't mind," Paul said. "That's grand of you to offer -- thanks, Jürgen." He was speaking to Jürgen, but his eyes were still on John. John swallowed and nodded. A hundred pounds would only go so far.

"Yeah, thanks a lot, son."

***

Too afraid of the wrath of his landlady, the patron of his student quarter and keeper of rules, Jürgen and the two boys waited until it was long past ten o'clock in the evening before they eventually decided to go to his, having spent the day out in Paris and at Jürgen's favourite places. All three of them were exhausted when they finally arrived. While John complained about his aching feet and the estimated amount of blisters he might have accrued, Paul shushed him every five seconds and barely managed to suppress his yawns. Jürgen only smiled at them in sympathy as he took out his keys and pressed a finger to his lips, reminding them to be quiet from now on.

Going strictly by the book, Jürgen was not technically allowed overnight guests, of any sort. But they were friends and what kind of monster would he have been if he had denied them at least one night on a mattress? The fact that it was technically a single mattress didn't bother either of the boys.

After all, they'd slept on single mattresses countless times before. John's own little bed at Mendips had accommodated both of them more times than he could count, Paul squidged up close into the cradle of John's body in order to stay on the mattress and John's arm wrapped tightly around Paul's waist out of pure necessity. Paul's bed at Forthlin Road was even smaller. Single mattresses did not present a problem. Being close to Paul wasn't something John had ever been upset by.

They took the stairs carefully, quietly. Jürgen turned to warn them with his eyebrows to be quiet -- but when a door suddenly flew open lower down the stair, it seemed that the landlady had ears like a cat, despite their best efforts. A volley of yelling started up in French, and Paul clutched at John's sleeve, staring at him round-eyed.

"Shit," Jürgen cursed, and then, as the madame appeared, donned his best disarming smile and began his best attempts to placate her. "Madame, je --"

John and Paul, meanwhile, took their opportunity and fled, hurtling down the stairs in their noisy rocker boots and clutching at each other's sleeves as they sped out of the door and into the street again.

Outside, they breathed in deeply, gulping for air. Paul leaned against the wall of the building. John sat down on the pavement.

"Great. Just fucking great," he muttered, "What the fuck are we supposed to do now? I don't want to bloody sleep outside on the streets like a fucking homeless imbecile!"

As John rambled on, Paul merely stared back at him with a blank expression. And then, suddenly, he broke out into a fit of hysterical giggles, at which the corners of John's mouth twitched as well. Moments later, he too was laughing.

"Get up," Paul giggled, holding out a hand for John, "We'll find a place to stay, don't worry."

John took Paul's offered hand, and as soon as he stood, he brushed off the dirt from his trousers. "Can't afford anything fancy anyway if we want to get anywhere on this dosh, love."

"I know," Paul sighed.

They set off. A moment later, John suddenly stopped in his tracks at the unmistakable sensation of a hand touching his behind. "Having fun there, Macca?" he asked, widening his eyes at his companion, who stared back at him with red cheeks.

"Shut up, John, you've got dirt on your arse."

"Oh, I'd have said the same." With a wink at Paul and a small shake of his head, he let Paul clean his trousers to his satisfaction.

"I don't get why you have to wear white trousers, anyway," Paul said once they had continued walking, hitching up his backpack, "You see it easily when they get dirty. And since it's you, it's only a matter of time until they're all messed up."

"They bring out my eyes," was all John retorted, his tone clearly indicative of his desire to curtail the conversation as he looked around, hoping to find a suitable hotel soon.

After another half an hour of aimless walking around through deserted Paris streets, John was suddenly stopped by Paul's arm across his chest.

"Oi, hold on!" Paul whispered.

John only frowned at him. "What the fuck's wrong with you?!"

"Are these prostitutes?" Paul nodded at the small group of women at the next street corner while a smile began to grow on his lips.

"I don't know why you're so excited about it if they are," John pointed out. "This isn't Hamburg, you know. You'll probably actually have to pay them."

Paul threw him a look. "With a face like this?"

"It's Paris, darling," John said, enunciating pointedly. "Tell you what, though -- why don't you go and work the other street corner for half an hour, make a few bob with that pretty mouth of yours? Might have enough left over to get a better hotel room that way, too."

"Shut up, John," Paul said, but he was blushing furiously now. He'd been made that sort of offer more times than he wanted to remember when they were in Hamburg, and it had always made him uncomfortable, even while the others roared with laughter about it. "Come on, then, let's just go and find somewhere to kip."

"We could always try some bars, see if we can pull a few birds for free?" John suggested, jabbing his thumb back the way they came.

"In the dark, at this time of night, in a city we don't know?" Paul snorted. "Don't think so, son. We've just got to find the rough end of town and get somewhere cheap, just for now. We can move on tomorrow if we fancy it, but if you think a hundred quid isn't much for a holiday, I dread to think how you'd feel about whatever you'll have left if we have to sleep in the street. Paris is rife with pickpockets, you know."

"Your dad tell you that?" John teased, but he began to move in the direction Paul indicated all the same, moving towards the narrower streets, the more closely crowded buildings. "It'll be all right. We'll find somewhere."

The first reasonably priced place they found was in Montmartre, where the dome of the cathedral loomed large against the sky. In fact, it was so reasonably priced that Paul almost dreaded to see inside. When the room proved clean and the bed comfortable, he was more than a little pleasantly surprised.

While Paul was busy scrutinising every corner of the room, still not believing that the possibility of meeting a relative of the Fiendish Thingy had been reduced down to zero, John unceremoniously dropped his bag on the floor before he slumped down onto the tiny bed. The noise of relief he made, face buried in the pillow, sounded to Paul like a dying animal, and when he turned around, he clicked his tongue, nudging John's foot with his.

“Oi, get up, John.”

“Leave me be,” John grumbled as he snuggled further into the pillow.

Paul sighed in exasperation, rolling his eyes. There was no use in trying to get John moving when he was like that. Even though Paul wasn't sure for how long they would stay here in the end, he still unpacked his bag, not wanting his clothes to look more rumpled than they already were. Humming a tune softly to himself, he failed to notice that John had turned around in the meantime and was watching him through lazy eyes.

“Such a good housewife,” he remarked after a while, causing Paul to nearly jump out of his skin in surprise.

“I thought you were sleeping!” Paul frowned at him as he put away the rest of his clothes into the tiny wardrobe.

“Well, you shouldn't think then, love.” John waggled his eyebrows with a grin. He looked over to his bag and made a small sound of disgust. Not even Brigitte Bardot could have made him unpack that thing just then. “Come to bed, Paul. It's late, and I want to sleep already.”

Paul sighed heavily. God, he wanted to sleep too. But there was only the one bed in the room -- there wouldn't have been room for another -- and John was currently occupying at least eighty percent of its tiny surface, spreadeagled across the mattress like a starfish with all his clothes still on.

"Well, shove over, then," Paul said, pushing at John's hip with one hand for emphasis. "And take your bloody shoes off at least. I intend to get under the covers and I can't do that with you pinning them down under your bloody great bulk. Gets cold in October, you know."

"You just want to get me out of my clothes," John leered, but he shuffled onto his side anyway and kicked off his boots, then popped the button on his jeans and wriggled out of them, not without difficulty. Drainies clung like a second skin, and while you practically had to lie down to get them on, it wasn't exactly easy to get them off in that position.

The thought skipped across Paul's mind that it'd probably be hell trying to drag them off someone for a fuck. Not that this was something he had to worry about, obviously. He cleared his throat, shook his head as if it could dispel the thought, and skinned out of his own jeans and boots, lifting the corner of the coverlet and squirming in the second John had moved over enough that it was possible.

"Oh, that's better," John said, pressing his foot against Paul's calf. Paul hissed and slapped at John's arm, whole body jerking convulsively.

"Bloody cold, you arsehole," he protested, and John sniggered. Sometimes John could be like this when they shared a bed, wriggling around just to be annoying and starting kicking matches under the blankets. Luckily, he didn't seem to have the heart for it tonight, and was quietening down, one arm going unconsciously around Paul's waist simply because there was nowhere else to put it.

"God, this is actually a pretty comfortable bed," Paul had to admit. He closed his eyes. Yes, he could definitely get used to this.

"Told you," John said. His voice was sleepy and the weight of his arm was familiar, reassuring over Paul's waist. Paul could feel himself dropping off.

"Night, John," he started to say, but somewhere in the middle of it, the long days of hitchhiking caught up with him, and he fell asleep.

***

It was such a nice dream, really. A blonde and a brunette bird sitting on either side of him, one of them kissing his neck, the other kissing his lips, her mouth soft and pliant against his. Only the sound of those girls' voices startled him a bit, but he didn't mind as long as the kisses and caresses continued being so good. But then the blonde girl suddenly disappeared and the brunette one turned into a red head and somehow, her face looked all of a sudden so familiar to him.

"Wake up, you tit."

No, that voice certainly didn't fit the lovely girl. Still, Paul took a moment to look at her, and she started to look more and more like a friend...

"I said wake up!"

Paul yelped when the girl pinched his nose, hard, and he was faced with John who was only inches away from him, eyes filled with amusement.

"Had a nice dream?" he asked, rolling off his friend and nodding at the obvious bulge in Paul's boxers.

"Sod off," Paul coughed in embarrassment, burying his face in the pillow and turning his body in order to hide away his erection, earning a tsk from John.

"If you need a wank, then do it now and do it quick. I'm hungry."

"I hate you," Paul whined and pulled the blanket over his head.

John only chuckled, smiling fondly down at Paul as he patted his side. "No, you don't."

John was right, of course. It was just that -- well -- John was two years older than him, almost, and those two years meant something when it came to the whole embarrassing morning wood scenario. When they'd been sixteen and seventeen, waking up meant having your awkward stiffy pressed to your friend's thigh and just clearing your throat and blushing and getting on with it, because he'd have one too. But now John was all grown up and superior and could share a bed with Paul, apparently, without his body confusing the warm, angular boyish body with something soft and curvy that could be fucked. Which left Paul all awkward on his own, and that was far worse.

"Are you not getting up?" John snapped his jeans against the curve of Paul's arse, preparatory to putting them back on.

Paul groaned. "Can you give us a bit of privacy, John, just for a second?"

"Nothing I've not seen before," John remarked airily, shuffling into his jeans. "Come 'ead, Paul, it'll go away. Just think, we've got the whole day to scout out the city, we can find you some action for that by this evening. Save it up, eh?"

"Git," Paul muttered, blushing scarlet, but he hauled himself out of bed anyway and shuffled across the carpet half bent over, looking for his trousers and thinking hard about mouldy bread and wrinkly tits and other erection-killing horrors. It worked, sort of -- enough that he could actually pull his jeans up over his dick without doing himself an injury, anyway, although the way John was smirking at him as he shrugged on a clean shirt wasn't exactly helping. Paul was still young enough that anything warm and naked sort of got him going a bit when he was already mostly there.

Oh, fuck, he had to stop thinking about it. He straightened his t-shirt with a flourish and reached for his jacket. "Right," he said, waving a hand in the general direction of the door, "Food, I think you said?"

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