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[personal profile] obstinatrix
Title: Backwards Traveller
Rating: R, by implication.
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.

Once they were outside, it didn't take them long to find the naughty part of Montmartre, which was called Pigalle -- they had already been here, after all, although it had been by accident the first time. Now, in the daylight, the streets were thronging with tourists of all sorts. The boys felt a wave of familiarity was over them at the sight. Hamburg was almost exactly the same: tourists, sex shops, strip clubs. Everything was the same. Except for the people holding hands in public with apparent unconcern, most of whom would never have dared to do so in Germany. While John stared at the occasional male or even female couple, Paul only ducked his head, cheeks pink.

"And I thought the corner where our hotel is was bad," John laughed softly to himself and glanced at Paul. His laughter stopped quickly. "Are you all right?"

"What?" Paul looked up at him, clearing his throat. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I just..." He glanced around with a small shrug. "I just wonder why the fuck nobody here seems to be afraid of, you know..." He pointed at John's hand, swallowing. "Holding hands. I still can't wrap my head around it."

"Well, I'm afraid there's only one thing we can do then, Paul." John sighed dramatically, which was Paul's cue to prompt him.


With a dead serious look on his face, John took Paul's hand and linked their fingers. "We have to try it ourselves. So far we've only done it when it was dark. Let's get a bit braver, yeah?"

"You're a loony, John Winston."

"Quite the contrary," John declared loftily, "I'm a brave warrior, young Paulstram. Bold Sir Winston, crusading for good --"

"Oh, shut up," Paul said, laughing, but he squeezed John's hand a little and enjoyed the way it made John's smile get even wider, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

"Come on," John said, "I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. Let's go and see if we can get breakfast -- lunch -- whatever it is in one of these little places. Eavesdrop on the locals."

"They'll be speaking French," Paul pointed out sensibly.

John waved a dismissive hand. "Something as trifling as that will not hold back Bold Sir Winston," he said, tugging Paul into a nearby establishment that looked like a cross between a café and a bar, with little round tables and a long counter where it seemed that alcohol was available all day.

As it turned out, they didn't get to do much eavesdropping. John and Paul had barely sat down, having released each other's hands politely as they entered the café, when they noticed that an older gentleman to their left was eyeing them with interest.

"Hey." John nudged the side of Paul's foot with his own. "We've got company."

Paul looked over, trying to be subtle, but he must have been more obvious than he'd intended, because the man caught his eye immediately and grinned.

Blushing, Paul tore his eyes away, but it was too late. The man whispered something to his companion, and then they were both looking over, expressions of something like amusement on their handsome faces.

"John," Paul muttered anxiously, and John's brows pulled together at once.

"Here," he demanded, "what do you two think you're staring at? We've got as much right to be here as you, you know."

"Oh," said the first man, in near-perfect English, "I can see that, my dears."

Paul blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

The second man laughed. "Well," he said, gesturing. "You know."

John raised an eyebrow rather belligerently. "Sorry, I don't think we do."

Undoubtedly he had meant to come off as threatening, but his attitude immediately sent both Frenchmen into gales of laughter.

"My dears," said the first man, "if you didn't want people to know about your relationship, it is advisable not to hold hands in the street, non? English boys, so I hear, do not do that unless they...as you say...have a right to be here." He waved his arms expansively. "In this...special café."

John shot Paul a side-glance; the latter shifted nervously his weight in his chair.

"So what?" John eventually retorted, "Maybe we don't want to hide anything away, huh? Everyone else here seems happy to walk around with everything on show." He ignored Paul's hand squeezing his arm and his urgently hushed, "John, stop it."

The two men only looked each other with wide grins, shaking their heads. "Well," said the first man, "in England, you have the police to fear, non? But here in France, there is nothing the law can do. Since the code Napoleon, you know. People can frown, but..." He spread his hands expansively, and the second man smiled.

"Here," he said, kindly, "we are not illegal."

John was so surprised by this pronouncement that for a moment he could only blink. The Frenchmen seized upon his hesitation.

"May we join you?" the first one asked, but that his question was a mere formality was made obvious enough when he got up and walked over to the boys' table, closely followed by his companion.

"What the-- no!" John glared, but it was too late. The Frenchmen sat down with their drinks on the unoccupied chairs and eyed John and Paul with amusement written all over their faces.

"I'm Jasper," the first one said, adjusting his spectacles. "And this is Pascal."

"Pleased to meet you," Pascal smiled. His English sounded worse than Jasper's, had a thicker French accent. He looked a bit nervous as well, which was a small comfort to Paul who had subconsciously inched closer to John and sat now with his leg pressed up firmly against John's, their hips almost connecting.

John was equally uncertain, but he introduced himself, anyway. "John. And this is Paul," he muttered reluctantly.

Jasper, meanwhile, didn't seem remotely put off by the boys' shifting closer together, Paul's nerves or John's defensiveness. He simply smiled and took out a silver cigarette case from his pocket, flipping it open neatly to reveal a row of white tabs. "Cigarette?" He held it out.

Paul glanced at John, who was eyeing the case warily. After a moment, he evidently decided that the peace offering was worth accepting, at least for the free fag. "Thanks," he said, his tone still sullen but less aggressive than before. He took two cigarettes, and handed one to Paul.

Paul fumbled in his pocket for his lighter, but Pascal beat him to it, smiling a little as he held out the flickering flame. From close up, Paul could see that he was about fifty, very well put together and well dressed, with dark hair greying at the temples. As the boys leaned in to light their cigarettes, Jasper cleared his throat.

"So," he said, "is it your first time?"

John paused, eyeing the other man a little suspiciously. "First time in Paris, or do you mean something else?"

Jasper laughed, pushing his hair back with one elegant hand. He wore it longish, French fashion, and though it was largely grey, Paul supposed it must once have been reddish brown, from the streaks that remained. "You are very suspicious," the man said airily. "But perhaps you are right to be. It is your first time, isn't it?" He paused, glancing between them. "Being with another boy?"

John almost choked on an inhalation of smoke, taking the cigarette abruptly from his mouth and coughing into his hand. "I -- "

"Sssh, John," Paul broke in, laying a hand on his back. To Jasper, he said, "Sorry, monsieur. It's just, we're not -- we don't..." He shrugged. "We don't really want to talk about it."

"I understand your type," Jasper said, sitting back in his chair, "but you know..."

"Jasper," Pascal broke in, his tone cautionary.

"All right, my dear." Jasper squeezed his partner's hand briefly, and then said to Paul, "We will leave you alone, or talk about other things. But if there is anything you would like to know, we are here. We should help each other, you know. Nobody else will."

Paul swallowed. He wasn't sure whether he could trust these two strangers, and as for John, he seemed just as unconvinced as he was. It was quite a private issue after all, so who were these two strangers to talk to them about it?

"Well, I don't know," he shrugged, his hand still drawing soothing circles on John's back, "I mean, I -- we, we don't really know what... we..." He trailed off and gave John a worried look. John sighed deeply and reached for Paul's hand. Now that these two strangers had apparently already figured out what was going on with him and Paul -- even though they weren't sure themselves -- they might as well hold hands, if only for the comfort if afforded.

Pascal smiled softly at them, as if he had noted their unease. "Maybe you have noticed that we two are also together," he said hesitantly, "and it was difficult for us to stay together. But it was worth it, wasn't it?" He looked at Jasper, apparently for confirmation, to be rewarded only with a scrunch of Jasper's nose and a small sound of affected disinterest. At Pascal's frown, though, Jasper winked and grinned.

"The thing is, John and Paul, we didn't have anybody to give us any advice about how to handle this, this..." Jasper waved his hand as he searched for the right word.

"Bloke-on-bloke business?" John offered with a hint of a smile.

Jasper pointed at him with a grin and raised eyebrows. "Exactly. Bloke-on-bloke. I mean, I remember our first time together," He waggled his eyebrows at Pascal who, by now, had turned his face away, as if to conceal his slight embarrassment "And it was awful. Really."

"I couldn't sit for days, and I hated him for a while." Pascal suddenly cut in. When he noticed the look Jasper was giving him, he smiled sheepishly. "What?"

"So dramatic."

John and Paul glanced at each other. They didn't know what to think of this odd pair, but in a way, it was a small comfort that these two seemed to be so casual with each other, so normal like any other couple.

"Can I ask you a question?" Jasper then asked and took a drag from his cigarette.

John nodded. "Sure."

"Have you two already...? You know." He made some vague gestures with his hands. When the two boys registered his meaning, their expressions instantly transforming to display their mortification, Jasper only laughed roaringly.

"It's nothing to be embarrassed about, you know," Pascal said softly. "Sorry about him, he..."

"He what?" Jasper demanded.

"You know what," Pascal told him firmly. "But..." He smiled at Paul. "If you do want to ask anything, you may. It can be wonderful if you do it properly, but if you do it wrong..."

Paul tried hard not to flinch at the thought. It occurred to him that Pascal was addressing him directly, as if he thought there was an accord between them -- as if it was obvious that Paul would be the one to take the, what, the girl's position the way that apparently Pascal had done. Paul wasn't sure how he felt about that. He and John had not discussed that sort of sex at all. They hadn't even had sex of any sort with their clothes entirely off. And yet here was some French bloke suggesting Paul surrender his virgin arse to John's probing, and part of Paul was appropriately a little offended and a little afraid. But...there was another part of him that wasn't. He allowed himself to think about it for a second, John on top of him, hair falling in his eyes, and shivered.

Next to him, John warily caught his eye. "Look," he said hesitantly, "we haven't decided -- I mean, me and Paul, we might not, y'know. Blokes don't have to do that."

"Quite right," Jasper said affably, stubbing out his cigarette.

"I mean, we're talking about buggery here," John went on aggressively, and Paul saw at once what he was doing -- everything about his attitude was defensive, afraid. Perhaps he was afraid of the whole idea of that sort of permanence; perhaps he was afraid of presuming. Perhaps he, too, was thinking about being...underneath, and it scared him. Either way, there was something.

"John," Paul said gently, "it's okay, y'know."

"And so is the, what did you call it, the buggery, if you feel like it," Pascal said, shrugging. "So long as you don't try to do it dry. Two small pieces of advice, that you may take or leave, but I will give them anyway: fingers before cocks, my dears, and make sure you have something slick."

There was a loud clatter as Paul accidentally bumped his knee off the table in his sudden flush of embarrassment, cheeks going pink. Beside him, John had half-covered his face with his hand, and was pointedly avoiding Pascal's gaze.

A moment of silence passed during which Jasper just looked from Pascal to the boys, and then back again. At length, he took a slow drag from his cigarette, muttering around it, "And you apologise for me while you scare those two to death."

"I'm sorry," Pascal said meekly.

On the other side of the table, John and Paul were frozen in attitudes of matching embarrassment, their eyes averted from each other and from the Frenchmen. But Jasper was not one to allow himself to be avoided. "Listen," he said pointedly, leaning forward. When the two boys both reluctantly looked up at him, he gave them his friendliest smile. "Nobody's forcing you to do it that way, all right? It took Pascal and I long enough as well. It can feel -- how do you say? -- fucking wonderful, but if you're not comfortable, then don't try it or else it'll go terribly wrong."

John let out a small cough, trying hard to cover up his awkwardness. "Right," he muttered, "Uh, thanks a lot. I suppose." He shot a glance at Paul, whose cheeks were still determinedly pink. His head was ducked, his gaze fixed on their intertwined hands. Gently, John squeezed Paul's fingers, and was gratified when Paul glanced up, meeting his eyes. Despite his nervousness, John managed a smile, which Paul returned tentatively.

"Anything else you want to tell us?" Paul ventured after a moment, John's hand clasped firmly in his.

"Oh, I think that should keep you going for now, shouldn't it?" Jasper smiled beneficently. "Especially since you, as you say, might not be interested in that anyway. Which is fine, I am sure you can work the other things out without my help. For now..." He peered down at the menu -- "I think it is time for lunch, don't you? What'll you have, boys? On me."

Half an hour later, with a hamburger and chips inside him, Paul felt a lot more comfortable about the whole affair. Every so often, he would still catch Jasper's eye and feel himself blushing furiously, but John was now having an animated conversation with Pascal about the Frenchman's calligraphy work, and his more relaxed attitude went a long way towards putting Paul at his ease.

From time to time, both Paul and Jasper offered contributions to the conversation, but as time went on, Paul found himself saying less and less, and thinking more and more. It was true that he and John had never talked about what this, any of this, was, but...if they were to continue with it, it made sense to be prepared for all eventualities. And, Paul thought shrewdly, this sort of opportunity might not present itself very often. And although the idea of doing that with John frightened him -- a fear of how it might feel, and worse, of what it might make him if it felt good -- the image kept returning to him, of John above him, owning him. The two of them joined together as closely as it was possible to get. Paul felt his body flush, and cleared his throat.

To his left, John and Pascal were still talking. Very quietly, Paul leaned across the table and asked Jasper, "If we were to...y'know. That. You said make it slick. Where can you get the, um..."

Jasper laughed softly. "I will show you after. There are shops around here that will sell it cheaply, lots of it -- and you will need lots, do you hear me? Especially to start."

He winked, which only set Paul blushing again. When he leaned back in his chair, though, and noticed John looking at him, the blush only deepened. He met John's eyes, raising his eyebrows slightly in question, but John said nothing -- only smiled a little and returned to his conversation, but under the table, his foot pressed against Paul's, a deliberate, reassuring push.
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