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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. We were also quite inspired by this clip, where John talks about being inspired by the romance of Paris.



It was easier said than done to find something to eat. With loudly grumbling stomachs they went through the streets, and somehow, they didn't see a single place anywhere that looked as if it served a proper breakfast. Only tiny cafés once in a while, and they all looked as if they only served minuscule cups of coffee at extortionate prices.

John sighed in frustration as he dragged Paul from street to street, now more guided by his nose than his other senses.

Suddenly, Paul piped up from behind, "I smell bread!", and John stopped in his tracks.

Not far away was a shop with a sign that read 'Boulangerie et Pâtisserie' and, guided by the few bits of French that John could remember, he grinned at Paul and dragged by him the elbow over to the bakery. They both nearly drooled at the sight of freshly baked baguettes, croissants, cakes and other delicious things. Paul blushed deeply when all of a sudden his own stomach seemed to be emitting enough noise to fill the entire street.

"Glad now that I dragged you out of bed for breakfast?" John sneered at him. Paul only sighed in defeat.

Somehow - neither of them was quite sure how with their broken bits of shitty French - they managed to buy exactly the food they wanted, and were now sitting on the stairs close to the Sacré-Cœur basilica, enjoying the view of the city on this fairly sunny day.

"God, it's beautiful, isn't it?" Paul's voice broke the silence after a long moment of nothing but quietude as they ate their long-sought-after breakfast, blinking into the growing sunlight.

"Yeah." Ordinarily, John might have protested this sort of discussion, but something about this city was making him soft, its gilded edges making him want to admit to things like architectural beauty and a subtle edge of romance, overlaying everything like a curtain. "What shall we look at, do you think?" He cleared his throat. "I mean, if we're only going to be here a couple of days."

"Bed's comfortable, isn't it?" Paul said shrewdly, reading John's tone too easily, and John shrugged, mulching the last of the pastry between his finger and thumb.

"It's all right. But Christ, look at this place. There's too much to see in one day, Paul. The Eiffel Tower, Sacre-Coeur, Des Invalides, the Pont St. Michel..." John spread his hands expansively, apparently genuinely infected by the spirit of Paris and all its tourist sites. "Where shall we start?"

"The Left Bank," Paul said decisively, after a moment, wiping his hands on his trousers and standing up. "Bet there are our kind of people there, eh?"

"Bet there are," John said, enthused, standing too. "Come on, then. Let's go and see what they've got for an art scene in this place."

It didn't take the two boys long to admit defeat after walking around aimlessly for an hour, hoping to find a tourist attraction by accident. And even though John had to be careful with his money, he still gave in to Paul's pleas to buy a tourist map. Once they had managed to find out where exactly they were, it didn't take them long to explore the area around Montmartre, both feeling motivated and adventurous enough to take the Metro in order to get to the Eiffel Tower. Once they had arrived, the sight of the building was simply breath-taking -- as reluctant as either of them might have been to admit the fact.

As they walked underneath it, Paul suddenly stopped and got out his brother's camera. "John?" he called out and lifted the camera up to his face. When John turned around with a questioning look on his face, Paul took a picture, smiling when his companion rolled his eyes at him.

"Come on, Macca, I'm getting hungry."

"Again?" Paul arched his eyebrows at John as he put away the camera and quickly caught up with his friend's walking pace.

"Well," John scoffed, "We've been out for how long? How little did we eat? I'm still growing, Paul, I need to eat or else I'll die."

"The question is in which direction you'll grow," Paul smirked, earning a punch to the shoulder for that comment.

"Shut up, or I'll send you home."

"You would not," Paul said, shoving both hands into his pockets and lifting his head airily as they moved away from the monumental structure of the Tower, leaving it behind them.

"How can you be so sure?" John demanded, nudging Paul hard with his elbow.

"Why'd you ask me," Paul shot back, "if it wasn't 'cause you wanted to see Paris with me?"

That remark earned him a sharp look from John. But it was true enough -- there were plenty of other people John might have asked: Cynthia, or Stuart. But here he was in Paris, spending his money on a holiday with Paul. Both of them knew that this meant something.

"Well," John said carefully, "I knew you'd appreciate it properly, all right? But don't give me any reason to think I made a bad choice, you hear me?"

His gruffness was deliberate and overplayed, though, and Paul grinned at him, nudging him back so their elbows brushed. Ahead of them -- all around them -- other pairs of boys, with their strange long hair and their wide-bottomed trousers, were ambling down the boulevard, engaged in their own conversations but all doing the same thing, and there was something oddly companionable about it. Without pausing to think too much, Paul pulled a hand out of his pocket and hooked his arm through John's in imitation of the way the French lads were walking.

John huffed a laugh. "Who d'you think you are, Sherlock Holmes?" But he didn't pull his arm away, and Paul allowed himself a moment of warm pride at that, the feeling of John's arm tucked firmly through his, demarcating the two of them as a pair.

*

In this fashion, they made their way back to the Left Bank. Jürgen, as well as the tourist map, had told them that this was the artistic centre of Paris, the sort of place where things were really going on. This included food: café followed café, with little chairs and tables spilling out onto the pavement.

"All very Continental," John observed brightly. "Shall we just pick one?"

"This'll do, won't it?" Paul said, indicating the nearest little café. When John didn't resist, he pulled him over towards it, and the two of them settled at one of the outer tables, right in the midst of things.

While Paul looked around, observing their surroundings, John took the menu card and flicked listlessly through it, squinting his eyes at the tiny letters. After a few minutes, though, he gave up with a small frustrated sigh and handed Paul the card without saying another word.

"Shall I?" Paul took the card with raised eyebrows, immediately understanding that John wasn't really able to read anything without his glasses. Shaking his head with a sigh, Paul read through the list, but try as he might, he couldn't understand a single word.

"Well, read it out to me," John suggested and moved closer with his chair in order to look at the card as well, despite his poor vision.

"You know I can't speak French," Paul replied, then added, "Why don't you get out your glasses?"

"Are you crazy?" John hissed, "Have you seen those girls two tables away from us? What would they say if they saw me with my fucking four eyes?"

Paul glanced over his shoulder, and John was right. Not far away from them were two girls, two remarkably pretty girls, not like those lasses up in Liverpool that he was used to, but proper French women. And he couldn't help himself, he was reminded of his dream with the two girls from which John had woken him.

"Now let's see if we can find something edible on that card, and see if we're lucky." John smirked at Paul who mirrored his grin when he noticed that the two girls were looking over to them.

"Well," Paul said, peering at the menu, "I presume 'le hamburger' is what it sounds like. What do you think?"

"Does it come avec frites?" John asked.

The girls were glancing over at them. Paul forced his attention back to the menu. "What? Oh -- yep."

"Sounds like a plan, then." John lifted a hand and clicked his fingers dramatically. "Garçon!"

The waiter, apparently used to being addressed in this fashion, hurried over, and John gave the order in what sounded pretty impressive French, as far as Paul could tell.

"What was that other thing you asked for?" Paul asked, when the waiter had flipped his notepad closed and hurried off.

"Hmm?" Now it was John who was distracted by the girls, staring at them unsubtly with his chin propped on his hand. For a second, Paul actually felt mildly irritated, and then wondered why. Part of the attraction of Paris was the beautiful women, after all.

"You asked for something else, I thought," he clarified. "At the end."

"Oh, that." John grinned at Paul rather lasciviously and settled back in his chair. "Surprise for you, son. You'll see."

The surprise turned out to be, to Paul's very great delight, milkshakes. Paul couldn't recall seeing anything that looked like 'milkshake' on the menu, but the two frothing glasses that came to the table in advance of the food told their own story.

"Milkshakes?" Paul laughed, and John couldn't help himself but smile at Paul's joy when the waiter put down the two big glasses on their table. "How come?" he added when they were alone again and he took his glass, putting the straw between his plump lips and eyeing John curiously as he began sucking on his straw.

John blinked, having momentarily forgotten what he wanted to say. "I... Er..." He scratched his slightly pink cheek and reached for his own milkshake, taking a shy sip from it before he mumbled, "I felt like it. Cravings, you know."

Paul hummed happily in reply, licking his lips when he put down the glass. "Well, thanks a lot, Johnny... Let's hope the burgers are just as good."

They ate in silence, devouring their meals quickly and only looked up every few minutes to smile at each other in mutual contentment. John almost dropped his burger, though, when Paul reached out with a napkin and wiped something off his cheek.

"Ketchup," he clarified, still chewing with his mouth full.

The giggle coming from the girls next to them only caused John to mumble something into his burger which sounded a lot like, "Thanks, mother."

Paul went immediately pink. In his excitement over the milkshakes, and the general atmosphere of being here with John in this little artsy café on the bloody Parisian Left Bank, he had actually forgotten about the girls. He put his napkin down swiftly and crossed his hands in his lap.

"Sorry."

"Yeah, you should be." John rolled his eyes. "They probably think we're a pair of bloody great poofs now."

"It was just ketchup," Paul said. He could feel the tips of his ears going pink. He reached for his milkshake more as a distraction than anything, sucking hard and very deliberately at the straw to avoid having to look up at John's face. And it really was a good milkshake, thick and sweet and tasting of actual proper banana, not that weird Banana Flavouring they sometimes put in things.

"John?" he ventured, after a minute, lifting his head and wiping the back of his hand across his mouth where some of the creamy froth had escaped. John was looking at him oddly, fixedly. Paul waved a hand in front of John's face. "John."

"Yes, I'm not that blind, I can see you," John said curtly, but Paul didn't miss the second's hesitation that betrayed his distraction. "Come on -- shall we go?"

Paul frowned slightly. "But what about..." He nodded in the direction of the neighbouring table where the two girls were still sitting. Paul could feel their attention on the back of his neck.

"Nah," John waved his hand dismissively, nose scrunched up. "I'm sure we'll find better than that." Not minding Paul's puzzled look, he took out his glasses from his jacket pocket and put them on.

Frowning at John's sudden change of mind, Paul finished his milkshake. When John paid the bill, Paul let out a deep sigh as he glanced longingly at the girls a final time before John whacked the back of his head with the map and beckoned him to follow him.

"Why the hurry?" Paul asked after a moment of silence as they walked down the street.

John just merely shrugged. "Dunno. I'm tired. I don't feel like bloody chatting up anyone now who doesn't even understand a fucking thing I'm saying."

"You never complained about that in Hamburg, though."

"Give it a rest, Paul, okay?" John growled, "You'll get your bloody shag, don't worry."

As for Paul, he only clicked his tongue in slight annoyance. He hated it when John got into one of his foul moods, and often enough, Paul couldn't even say why John was suddenly acting like that. Just like now.

"Do you want to go back to our hotel, then?" he asked cautiously, hoping that John wouldn't snap at him again. "Take a nap?"

"A nap?" John demanded, brow creasing irritably. "I know I'm going to be twenty-one, son, but you needn't condemn me to the scrap heap just yet, you know."

Paul rolled his eyes. "You just seemed --"

"What?" John threw him a look, and Paul shrugged.

"Nothing. It's fine if you're not tired, but I want to get changed now anyway -- I've got milkshake on my sleeve somehow, look." He indicated a very tiny pale smear on his cuff, and John snorted through his nose.

"Fine then," he conceded. "I suppose we can go back and then work out what we want to do next without having to faff around making a decision in the street."

To Paul's relief, John then set a course for their hotel without comment. When they reached the room, he threw himself down onto the bed, and Paul took the opportunity to slip into the tiny bathroom. "Back in a sec," he called.

"Aye, whatever." John waved a dismissive hand.

When Paul emerged five minutes later, he was somehow not surprised at all to find John asleep. His shoes and jacket were in a little pile on the floor, and John was curled up on his side with a hand under his face, glasses still on and pushed askew by the position. When John got like this, there was often nothing that would fix it but a bit of a kip, and Paul knew John wasn't averse to sleeping in the afternoon, whatever he might say.

After the excitement of the morning, Paul felt more than a little sleepy himself, he realised slowly. Part of it was probably just the suggestion of John lying there, face smooth in repose, but still. Carefully, Paul leaned over to take John's glasses off his nose and set them on the nightstand. Then, still moving cautiously, he shucked his jacket and boots and climbed gingerly onto the bed, curling his body in the same direction as John's, a couple of inches of air between John's back and Paul's front.

"Just five minutes," Paul told himself, closing his eyes.

***

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