obstinatrix: (Default)
[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.





After the meal, Jasper and Pascal walked with them for a couple of streets, until a shop with shuttered windows hove into view and Jasper indicated, coughing discreetly. "You should find all you need in there. Good luck, boys, in whatever you do."

"Ta," Paul smiled weakly with a nod. He could already feel John's stare burning a hole into the back of his head. Once Jasper and Pascal had left, Paul took a deep breath, deliberately resisting turning around.

"So," he heard John say, the sound of his voice shifting up close behind Paul,"What was that all about?"

"Hm?" Paul turned around, face conspicuously arranged into an expression of innocence, eyebrows raised at John.

"You know what I mean. What is it with that shop?"

"Oh, that..." Paul chewed on his lip, feeling somehow guilty for no real reason at all. It was silly of him, of course he should be able to speak openly with John about it but he was too afraid of giving the wrong impression. With his hands shoved into his pockets, he started to walk slowly towards the shop.

But John was not to be dissuaded. "Yeah? I'm listening," John probed, bumping his shoulder gently against Paul's. Paul only sighed.

"Come on, John, do you want me to fucking spell it for you or what?"

"Why are you so touchy now?"

"Well, you know," Paul shrugged, avoiding John's frown, "What those two blokes talked about... I-It got me thinking. That's all."

John raised his eyebrows. "Always dangerous."

"Shut up, you," Paul muttered, but his protest was half-hearted. He furrowed his brows, wondering if it might be easier just to drag John inside so he could work things out for himself when he saw where they were. But John was still eyeing him curiously, not quite following Paul's lead, and Paul sighed. "Look, they just said you could get...stuff here, okay? And I thought..." Paul bit his lip, then pushed on truthfully, "I thought it'd be better to have stuff and not use it, than suddenly find we needed some and not have any."

John stopped moving abruptly, and Paul felt himself colour more fiercely under John's scrutiny. "Stuff?"

Paul cleared his throat. "Yeah."

"You mean, like -- stuff, in case I'm seized by the sudden mad compulsion to bugger you up the arse?"

"John." Paul suddenly found that he couldn't raise his eyes from the ground. John sounded scathing, almost. Paul wanted to disappear into the earth, but unfortunately he'd now gone too far to back out without scrabbling a bit. "Look, it's just, I know we don't intend to, but..."

"We're not queer," John said, in the sort of reasonable tone you might use in explaining the laws of physics to a backward child.

"Yeah, well," Paul threw back, suddenly irritated, "we've already accidentally snogged and accidentally wanked and accidentally held hands and God knows what else while not being queer, John, I'm just saying. It's not that it --" He sighed, but John's expression -- which had changed from something shuttered, guarded, to something almost encouraging in its blatant curiosity to hear what Paul had to say -- spurred him on. "It's not that it has to mean anything in particular, I know we're just mucking about because it...because it feels good. But other stuff might feel good too, that's all." Paul shrugged. "We don't have to."

"We just...might want to," John said slowly, and Paul hastily nodded.

"Yeah. And there might be some other stuff in there to get a laugh out of." He grinned at John, who grinned back and, after a second's hesitation, slipped his hand into Paul's again.

"Come 'ead, then, nancy-boy."

"Says the bloke holding my hand," Paul muttered, but he wasn't really upset. If anything, he was thrilling with relief at having escaped the awkward situation unscathed. As they pushed open the door and entered the shop, Paul's heart was pounding, but the warmth of John's hand in his was a reassuring anchor to hold onto.

The shop itself seemed rather old-fashioned in the strangest way possible. Faded posters with nude ladies drawn on them adorned the walls, and neither John nor Paul would have thought that a sex shop could look that tame. There wasn't anything tawdry or gaudy about it, no flashy neon lights to give the Hamburg porno atmosphere they were so much more familiar with. Behind the counter was a middle-aged woman, who glanced at them briefly over the rim of her thick glasses as they walked in before she averted her gaze to continue reading her book. As they started to look around, Paul couldn't help but think how discreet everything here was. If it hadn't been for the various sex toys on the shelves, it might almost have been a green grocer's.

"Hey, look at that!" John suddenly called out in a hushed whisper and when Paul looked at him, John was holding up a magazine with a pin-up girl on it, a wide grin plastered on his face.

"So? Don't act as if you've never seen a naughty magazine, John."

"Don't be daft," John rolled his eyes. "Take a closer look. It's in English."

"Mmm, didn't know you were interested in reading the articles," Paul laughed quietly, earning a scowl from his friend.

"Shut up. I just thought it's great to find international magazines here, s'all," John muttered as he flicked through the pages.

Paul walked up close behind John to look over his shoulder for a while as they both scanned through the issue. Soon enough, his interest had been stirred up as well, and so he reached for a few magazines and looked through them.

"What language is that?" John asked, peering across at what Paul had in his hands.

"Italian? Spanish? I don't know."

"It's all the same anyway, isn't it?"

Paul smiled and put the magazine away before reaching for the next. They giggled quietly at the centrefold, then fell immediately silent when they noticed that the woman behind the counter was watching them. It didn't take long, though, before they started to laugh quietly again.

"Come on, let's play something. Whoever laughs first, loses!" John then suddenly proposed with a mischievous glimmer in his eyes.

"And what do you want to play?"

"Porn ping-pong!"

Paul only looked at John in disbelief. "What?"

"We read out the headlines of those magazines to each other and see who starts laughing first." John waggled his eyebrows.

Paul pursed his lips, glanced briefly at the magazines again, before he answered, "And what will the winner get?"

"Nothing up his arse, that's for sure."

"John!"

"Well." John was pink, but grinning, and he flashed Paul a wink in response to Paul's expression of outrage. Paul fought down the little impulse inside that said he might not particularly mind being...well...because of course he should,he should mind; he was a lad after all, and a proper lad, not some Hamburg queer. It was just this place making him mental. But the look on John's face made his chest twist confusingly and he dragged his eyes away, looking down at the racks of dirty magazines.

"Fine," he muttered, grabbing for the nearest one. "You're on."

"Oh, you think you can take me, McCartney?" The way John wiggled his eyebrows at that was pointed and deliberate and Paul bit his tongue, flushing scarlet.

"Fuck off, John." He fumbled open the nearest magazine and held it up with a flourish. "Look at this -- Bosom Friends, indeed." A number of beautiful women hung all over each other in the picture, their ample breasts pressed against each other in ways that made Paul feel slightly squirmy inside. From the look on John's face, the picture spread was having the same effect on him.

"What about this one," John said, not to be outdone as he grabbed for the nearest magazine. "Cock Fighting?"

"Looks a bit queer," Paul muttered, ignoring the flush of heat in his abdomen, and John glanced down, embarrassed.

"Bloody hell."

They both stared, transfixed. Paul could tell by the shift in atmosphere that both meant to look away, but something about the picture was as compelling as it was awful, the two (scarily large) dicks sliding together against their owners' flat stomachs, the two masculine mouths interlocked. Paul cleared his throat, feeling his trousers growing tight.

"Well," John said, trying for levity, "they don't look like they're doing anything very complex. C minus, we've done that."

Paul tried hard to contain his expression at that remark and deliberately ignored John's smirk. He merely cleared his throat, pointedly, and reached for another magazine, already grinning at the title as he read it out, "Breakfast on Tiffany."

A stifled grunt came from John, whose hand had flown immediately to his mouth and he looked away, his whole body trembling.

"Are you laughing, Lennon?" Paul quirked an eyebrow, smiling. "You know, this is a competition."

"Fuck off," John coughed, barely able to cover up his grin, "I'm next." With his brows furrowed in determination, he reached for the next magazine and adjusted his glasses as he looked at Paul and said with a dead serious voice, "Breast Side Story."

The other couldn't help himself; a small, pitiful noise escaped his tightly sealed lips while he did his best to keep the corners of his mouth down. Taking a deep breath, Paul eventually asked, "And what's up next? My Bare Lady?"

That was what John finally cracked up, and Paul smiled to himself, feeling satisfied.

"Come on," he said, "Let's look at the rest, yeah?" He reached out for the magazines John was still holding, but John quickly jerked his arm away.

"Wait."

"What for?"

"I just..." John fell silent as he looked from Paul to the magazines he was holding. "I'm... I--I just want to have a look at -- you know," he stammered and put the queer magazine on top of his pile.

That stammer from John was uncharacteristic, and Paul couldn't bite back a grin, noticing it. "Are you nervous, Johnny?" he prodded, unable to resist.

John scowled. "Nervous about what? We haven't set our minds on anything."

"Not yet," Paul said. He was a bit pink in the cheeks himself, but the look on John's face was too good not to push it. "Maybe you'll be overwhelmed with ideas if you go picking through that thing."

"Well," John said, rolling the magazine up, "in that case, maybe you better go and find what we came in here for. Just in case."

"Oh, and what was that?"

John raised one eyebrow significantly. "You're the one who was talking to the poofter Frenchies about it. You know, 'for an easy slide...'" John began making an obscene pistoning motion with one fist, and Paul coloured.

"You want me to just go and ask the woman, or what?" he demanded.

"No need for that, I'll ask." John cleared his throat, then put on one of his deliberate camp voices. "Please, miss, I've got a little pansy boy here needs buggering up the arse --"

"John!" Paul clamped a hand over John's mouth, but not before the woman behind the counter had looked up at them, her eyebrows drawn together sternly. For a woman in a sex shop, she looked an awful lot like a prissy librarian, Paul thought.

"Qu'est-ce que vous cherchez?" she groused with a glare at Paul, then looked at John with a face that clearly said how dare they interrupt her?

"Uhm, nous-- Er--" Paul's mouth opened and closed repeatedly as he tried to think of a way to explain what exactly they needed.

"Mon ami et moi," John suddenly piped up as soon as he managed to fight off Paul's hand on his mouth, "nous--" He glanced at his friend, who only shrugged his shoulders. "Oh fucking hell," he grunted, "We want bloody lube, madame! Do you know what it is?Lube?"

The woman's frown only deepened, her nostrils flaring slightly. She really was starting to get annoyed at them, it seemed.

"Lube?" John repeated and then motioned unequivocal gestures with his hands, causing not only Paul but the woman, too, to redden slightly, although Paul suspected the woman was more irritated than embarrassed.

"Lubrifiant?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yes! Oui! Praise the Lord, she got it!"

With another pointed look, she got up from her chair and disappeared into the back of the shop, giving Paul enough time to pinch John's arm.

"What was that?"

"What?" John asked, mildly irritated at the other for hurting his bicep for no real reason at all. "I explained to her what we want!"

"Well, yeah, and you said I was your boyfriend!"

"I did not," John protested. "I said 'friend'."

"You said ami and friend is -- or is it the other way -- oh, whatever." Paul crossed his arms, frowning. "It can mean 'boyfriend', what you said. I bet she bloody took it that way."

"You mean because we're in a sex shop buying lube? Yeah, Paul, you know what, I wouldn't be surprised if she did." John rolled his eyes. "I repeat, she's gone to get the fucking lube and you're worried in case she thinks we're boyfriends? What the bloody hell else could we want it for?"

"Well..." Paul trailed off. "But it's, not, like..."

"Just a shag between friends?" John was pink, but he grinned wryly at Paul and reached out to squeeze his wrist. "Look, it's okay. I know what you mean, but it's just -- just easier to make it simple for other folk, you know?"

Not easier if they were boyfriends, Paul noticed. Not that he wanted them to be, or anything. That would be stupid. John was just John. But perhaps it was simpler, in this strange city, to put things bluntly, even if they weren't -- quite -- meant. "Okay," he said, and John smiled at him.

"Okay, good. Now, let's get the stuff and get out of here so we can go and wrestle for dominance."

"Dominance?" Paul very nearly squeaked.

John waved his hand dismissively. "Well, you know."

"You're bloody unbelievable, you know that?" Paul shook his head, but then, suddenly, a thought occurred to him. There was quite a possibility that John might, on whatever level, want this too -- or at least be considering the issue. Paul didn't hear John's reply -- he only smiled slightly to himself at that realisation. And when John suddenly flipped his nose, he looked up with a frown.

"I'm talking to you, son. Are you even listening to me?" John asked, but before he could continue, he was cut off by the French cashier, who chose that moment to come back into the front room.

They dutifully paid for the lube -- they even had the decency to blush, and Paul avoided the woman's knowing look -- and they both would have left the shop immediately, if the compartment of sex toys hadn't caught John's eye.

He flashed a grin at Paul, eyebrows waggling suggestively. And Paul's mouth dropped open.

"John. No."

"Come on! Let's have another laugh!"

"No."

"Aw, come on, Paul. Don't be such a little nance." John raised his eyebrows and grinned and Paul sighed theatrically, shoving John hard for good measure.

"You're one to talk. You want to go and look at bloody -- sex instruments and you're calling me a nance?"

"I bloody well am," John said unrepentantly. "Come on, look, just for a laugh. Here --" His hand seized around Paul's forearm and tugged, and Paul found himself powerless to resist. The display soon loomed up in front of them, stacked with a wild-looking array of what appeared to be torture devices. Cuff-like leather things were what Paul noticed first, made for wrists and ankles and necks, and then some complex looking harnesses whose purposes he couldn't identify at all. Then, further down --

"What the fuck are these?" John's voice was low, as if in fear of the cashier shushing them, but it was cracking with amusement. Paul tore his eyes away from what looked like a large rubber penis (of intimidating size) to see what John was pointing at.

"Huh." Paul bit his lip and peered at the thing. It looked, from this distance, like a string of faux-pearls, gradually increasing in size from very small to about the size of a plum stone. A ring was attached after the largest plastic bead. "Looks like a necklace."

"Yeah." John snorted a laugh through his teeth. "Very much doubt it is though. Here, missus!" John waved the string of beads in the air and Paul darted forward immediately to clap a hand over his mouth.

"John!"

"All right, all right." John winked at him, and then, after a second's deliberation, slipped the string of beads neatly into his pocket. "Tell you what, we can find out what they're for on our own time, eh?"

He sauntered off towards the door, whistling, leaving Paul with no option but to follow.

**

"Daddy!" 

John jerked, the pen slipping from his hand. Not that he'd been writing anything of value, but it was always nice to doodle idly as he...reminisced. He cleared his throat. His recollections had just been getting to the, uh, the good part, and now here was his little boy pawing at his legs. John fought back a little wave of irritation. He'd been trying so hard to be a better father this time around, didn't want to snap at Sean, but seriously? 

"What, pet?" John muttered, trying not to sound too disinterested. 

"Teatime," Sean said, beaming up at John beatifically. John sighed. He loved his son, but one moment, he'd been back in Paris with Paul and their youthful dreams, and now here he was being called to go and eat rice with rice with his wife who barely touched him any more. It all seemed a bit disheartening.

"Is it really that late?" John sighed and reached out to ruffle Sean's hair. Sean giggled, looking up at John with wide dark eyes.

"Mommy told me to tell you."

"All right." John smiled wryly at his son and leaned forward to kiss the top of his head. "Tell her I'll come in a minute, will you?" As much as John had hoped that Sean might just leave him alone for five more minutes, the child gave him a strange look, shifting his weight impatiently from one leg to another.

"Daddy?"

"Please, love," John said with a gentle voice, trying hard not to let his irritation show, "Daddy's working here. I'll join you two in a few minutes."

"Okay." Sean nodded slowly and popped his thumb back into his mouth before he reluctantly left the room. John could see from the way his shoulders fell that his son was just a little disappointed. And yet, although John felt a pang in his chest at the sight, he told himself he could make it up to Sean later. Not now, not when all he wanted to do was to slip back into the warmth of his most favourite memory.

The night before his birthday.

***

Date: 2013-06-07 12:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bbgirlz.livejournal.com
I looooooved the boys in the sex shop :D "breast side story"?, Really??LOL. West Side Story is one of my favorite musicals. Now every time I see it I'm gonna crack up! XD.. That's good, since I've been crying with it since I was five! :P.

It's beautiful to see how they're getting closer, little by little getting what they need "just in case". Of course, here I am screaming: "oh come on! just do it! can't be that difficult, anyway" :P.

He loved his son, but one moment, he'd been back in Paris with Paul and their youthful dreams, and now here he was being called to go and eat rice with rice with his wife who barely touched him any more. It all seemed a bit disheartening.

Thinking about this breaks my heart everytime. I bet John didn't sign up for that. No one does, I think. And for someone like John who was highly sexual, that must have been terrible. Do you ever wonder if that specific missing part of his life, in the late 70's ever had him thinking (probably repeatedly) of Paul? Or anyone else, for that matter.

Great chapter! I really, really can't wait to see what happens next!

Date: 2013-06-11 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
We had fun thinking of those. xD

And yes...I often think this about late 70s John. *sigh* Poor John.

Thanks for commenting!

Date: 2013-06-07 12:53 pm (UTC)
ext_2206468: (Fur Collar)
From: [identity profile] ljlorettamartin.livejournal.com
I'm loving this. It's great how the boys' natural affection for each other tempts them to join in to the atmosphere of openness, which then forces them to acknowledge what's going on between them. I love this line from Paul: "we've already accidentally snogged and accidentally wanked and accidentally held hands and God knows what else while not being queer." I'm so glad you have them seeing the humor in "not being queer" in the middle of a sexual affair - I've always felt that they would have to. I also loved the accurate use of gay history (code Napolean) and the use of the mon ami/un ami distinction in French. Lots of wonderful, careful details in this!

Date: 2013-06-11 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I have a feeling many writers don't realise that homosexuality was not a criminal offence in Paris at this time, otherwise surely more might be made of John's decision to take Paul there? Hmm.

Date: 2013-06-07 01:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blackbirdfan.livejournal.com

Favorite line here from Paul: "We've already accidentally snogged and accidentally wanked and accidentally held hands and God knows what else while not being queer, John."

That gave me a good giggle. :)

Favorite line here from John: "You mean because we're in a sex shop buying lube? Yeah, Paul, you know what, I wouldn't be surprised if she did." John rolled his eyes. "I repeat, she's gone to get the fucking lube and you're worried in case she thinks we're boyfriends? What the bloody hell else could we want it for?"


OK, that made me laugh so hard I choked on my coffee.

But this line from Paul: It's not that it has to mean anything in particular, I know we're just mucking about because it...because it feels good." Paul shrugged.

You keep trying to tell yourself that, Paul. :)




Edited Date: 2013-06-07 01:35 pm (UTC)
(deleted comment)

Date: 2013-06-11 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! That's great to hear, because it can feel like you're walking a fine line sometimes.

Date: 2013-06-11 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
xD We had a great time with this chapter, so we're glad you enjoyed it!

Date: 2013-06-07 07:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] worldofstone.livejournal.com
Oh my God, I love this. And those two. I really can't say more than that, right now :)

Hannah

Date: 2013-06-11 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
xD We're so glad! Thank you.

Date: 2013-06-08 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yes-2day.livejournal.com
Great fun. They're very playful and quite adorable, really.

So now I'm looking forward to John's birthday....

Date: 2013-06-11 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
John's looking forward to his birthday too. ;)

Date: 2013-06-08 12:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lookrealmuggles.livejournal.com
I feel another pivotal moment coming, and I'm super excited!!! I'm interested to see what might happen (if you planned on writing this) after John completes the Paris trip. Is something going to change in his "present" (story) life, or is he simply reminiscing and it will end when the trip ends. Excited for more!

Date: 2013-06-11 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
Ooh, well...wait and see. xD

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