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"Don’t Mention His Name, And His Name Will Pass On
- Part 6"
Title: Don’t Mention His Name, and His Name Will Pass On—Part 6 of 8
Author: Virginia Plain
Genre/Pairing: Mike/Peter (TV, but I did cheat and slip in one real-life guy)
Rating: overall NC-17 (and this part definitely is)
Warnings: slash (sexual situations), language, angst, sleaze
Disclaimer: This story is purely the result of my imagination (which should probably worry me), and not at all any claim to ownership of these TV characters or their real-life counterparts.
Summary: This chapter—more sex… but nothing good ever lasts.
Author's Note: New York began circling the drain in the Sixties and nearly went under in the Seventies. Some areas that were “distressed” at the time of this story wouldn’t be seen as such now. (Likewise, Times Square and 42nd Street are family-friendly places today—but they so did not used to be!)
~FEBRUARY 1964 ~
“—and the other thing about ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’” Peter was blathering away as they left the Fuss and Feathers and walked to the subway, “is, did you hear at the end, those triplet quarter-note kicks? A song isn’t… you know, supposed to end like that, but it wouldn’t sound right any other way.”
The Beatles had sung “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for all three of their Ed Sullivan shows, and by this third and last performance both Mike and Peter were in a more analytical frame of mind. The confounding thing, Mike thought, was that even when you listened to the Beatles with the hardest critical ear, there was still something worthwhile there.
“Well, I can’t say I’m all up on the jargon”—he instinctively reached out to steer Peter around a shattered wine bottle on the sidewalk—“but if you mean it sounded like sex on a stick, I agree.”
Peter tried to look appalled but ended up collapsing in a fit of giggles. “That’s terrible, and it’s pretty mean of you to make me think of that right now, when we can’t do anything about it.”
They hadn’t been able to do “anything” for the last week, mostly because it had been Peter’s week to sleep on the couch. He also had some gigs, and Mike was vaguely busy. Mike never said what exactly was occupying his hours, and Peter didn’t ask. Mike tried not to dwell on it. He told himself that after encountering “Wool Hat” during their first time together, there was no way Peter couldn’t know what Mike did for a living… so there was no need to bring it up again, right?
Then again, this was Peter.
“Thanks again, Tex. I’m glad we got to watch all the shows, especially since they’re going back to England now.” He glanced shyly at Mike. “Can I still see you when they’re not on TV anymore?”
Yep, that was Peter: taking everything literally.
“Hey now, when I said you’d see me for the Beatle shows, I didn’t mean only for them.” He wondered how much longer he’d have to reassure Peter about this. He wondered even more why he was being reassuring, instead of staying true to form and grabbing whatever get-out-of-jail-free card was on offer.
They had reached the subway stairs. It was understood between them that Peter would ride home while Mike walked away to… to wherever he went.
“We could do something tomorrow,” Peter said, “if you want.”
“I suppose we could.” Mike waggled his eyebrows. “By my calculations, starting tomorrow you get the bed again.”
“Actually there was this movie—”
“Peter! I swear you would try the patience of Jesus, Gandhi, and Captain Kangaroo.” If he didn’t know better he’d think Peter was deliberately teasing him in revenge for his earlier sex-on-a-stick comment, but there was no doubting the habitual puzzled frown on that face. “Okay, so what’s the movie?”
“It’s the last one on my list. And I have to warn you, it’s the worst one. The biggest test, I guess. So, if you’d really rather not…” Peter ducked his head. His next words were barely discernible.
“What’s that again?”
“I said, it’s Bambi.”
Oh, indeed. Now, that was a sticky one: the only movie on Peter’s list that Mike had made a conscious choice never to see, ever. He knew what happened in it, and he had never wanted either himself or his little brothers or sisters to actually witness it. What was the point? You shouldn’t need to stick your hand in a pot of boiling water to know it would get burned.
“Well…” Aw, come on. It’s just a Disney cartoon, you’re twenty years old, and you’ll probably get to fuck Peter again when it’s done. “All right. Same time and place?”
“I kind of thought, maybe, we could have breakfast at my place first?”
Another sticky one. “What about your friend? He gonna be snappin’ and cracklin’ and poppin’ in the breakfast nook along with us?” He couldn’t pretend any enthusiasm for the prospect. Not only because of jealousy, but because if this guy was even a fraction more suspicious than Peter—and 99.9% of the human race was—then he would probably glean the truth about Mike in five minutes or less.
“No. No, he won’t be there.” Peter shook his head with what seemed excessive vigor. “I didn’t tell him anything about… you know...”
Mike’s bullshit radar pinged. “You didn’t, huh?”
“I might have, uh, mentioned that I knew a guy who could sing and play real well… but nothing else, I promise. Nothing about who it was or—or what we did. If you’re worried about that.”
Yeah, I am worried. I got enough problems without a one-man posse looking to re-string his guitar with my guts.
“I think you and him would like each other. I hope you’ll change your mind and want to meet him sometime.”
Deciding the damage had been done and he’d just have to take Peter’s word that it wasn’t worse, Mike pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Whatever. I guess I’ll be at your place around 10 AM.”
Peter brightened at once. “That’ll work fine! See you then, Tex!”
He leaned forward, obviously intent on delivering a kiss—not even just on the cheek but a full-mouth one—and Mike had to hold him back with a cautionary hand to his chest. He tilted his head toward the other people tramping up and down the subway stairs past them.
“They don’t get a free show, tiger. Just bottle some of that and save it for tomorrow.”
And because Peter was so literal-minded, Mike regretfully sent him on his way before he could start asking why anyone would want to fit a tiger in a bottle…
Mike’s hand was suspended in the air, frozen in the act of knocking. A single acoustic guitar could be heard through the garret door, strumming a three-chord pattern in waltz time. Damn, I thought the roommate wasn’t supposed to be home. But the identity of the strummer was soon revealed when a leisurely, doo-wop melody joined in the form of strong, sure whistling.
That melody. He knew it from somewhere—of course, the Beatles! It was one of the songs they had done on their second Sullivan appearance. “That Boy,” wasn’t it? No, “This Boy.” Or was it… well, this or that boy, it was Peter doing a Beatles song and therefore worth hearing in its entirety. Mike felt a silly grin forming as he listened to the note-perfect, if unconventional, rendition. By the time it concluded, he knew he must look like an overly proud daddy, and he didn’t even give a shit.
Peter answered his knock, still holding the guitar in his hand. “Hi, Tex! Come on in. I hope you don’t mind that it’s just take-out for breakfast. I tried to make some French toast, but it didn’t really work.”
Mike had noticed the acrid smell lingering throughout the house during his climb up the stairs. Somehow it didn’t surprise him to learn the source, and he decided it was best not to ask for details.
“It’s over there on the table,” Peter said as he sat back down on the floor, cross-legged, as always leaving Mike with the good cushion on the couch.
Nosing about the mountains of junk on the table, Mike found a bag with two doughnuts and two cups of lukewarm coffee. As he picked it up, he noticed a piece of formal, legal-looking paper sticking out of the stack of newspapers: New York State Department of Motor Vehicles APPLICATION FOR DRIVER LIC—the rest was cut off by the overlapping corner of a three-day-old copy of the Daily News. Mike said nothing about it as he went back to the couch and handed Peter one of the coffees.
“Which one is yours?” he asked, indicating the bag.
“The glazed. I’ll have it later, though. I don’t want to get the guitar all sticky.”
“How’d you get him to let you touch his baby today? You give up your week for the bed?”
“No, it doesn’t really matter. He’s away all week, visiting his family.” Peter set his coffee aside. “They don’t live as close as mine,” he added irrelevantly.
Mike barely heard him, hardly tasted the jelly doughnut he was gnawing on. Gone… all week… bed… all week. A glob of jelly dribbled onto his pants, unnoticed as he considered this new host of possibilities.
“Someday I won’t have to borrow his or Fred’s anymore. Really, I almost have enough now to buy an acoustic for myself.” Peter started picking out the chords to “This Boy” again. “That’s what I was saving up for. But now, I think I’m going to keep saving for an electric.”
Even though by this time he knew that Peter was far from your standard-issue folkie, Mike was nonetheless taken by surprise at his latest announcement. “Won’t get much bang for your buck without an amplifier,” he pointed out, lacking any other coherent response.
“And an amp.”
“Peter, you know if you plug in at the Say What, good ol’ Fred’ll set you to washing his dishes for life. Trying to rock a house like that would go down even worse than me singing a country song there.”
“There’s other places. Maybe New York isn’t where it’s at anymore. I don’t know…”
You can’t leave New York, you love it here—Mike managed to stop himself from saying it aloud. Since when had he become a defender of this crap town? He ought to be working on an escape plan of his own, like he’d been doing before… before… His murky thoughts fled when he saw Peter stop playing the guitar and move to return it to its case. He caught Peter’s wrist. “Not yet. Do it again—and sing it.”
“Sing it?” Peter laughed weakly. “Come on, you know I can’t do that.”
“Actually I don’t know, if you won’t even try. Do it. And no whistling this time.”
“But it’s not in my range, I don’t even have a range, or even a voice, and it’s meant to be a three-part harmony and…” Peter looked up at him with wide, pleading eyes. “Tex… I can’t.”
They were the same eyes each of his siblings had turned on him every time he insisted they were ready to ride their bikes without training wheels. “Mike, I can’t…” And without even having to stop and think about it, he responded to Peter the same way he had to them: “Maybe you can’t. But if you screw up, I’m the only one here to see it. Or hear it. What have you got to lose?” Of course, his third sister had then proceeded to crash headlong into a fire hydrant while trying to turn a corner… but it was the principle of the thing. “You think I got a tape recorder hidden in my hat?” he coaxed. “That I’m gonna slap your squawking onto a 45 so I can embarrass you at parties with it? Peter, just try.”
“Okay…” Peter clutched the guitar so tightly Mike almost expected to hear its neck snap. The three-chord waltz started up again… and again. And again. It sounded like a skip on a record, and Mike tapped at the top of Peter’s head with the unspoken message: Get on with it, already.
“‘This boy’—oh, wait, sorry, ‘that boy’—or was it—I can’t do this! I don’t even know the words!”
“So make some up. Just plow through it, man.”
“This—that boy took my… glove away,
He’ll… wear it someday,
That—this boy wants it—you—back again…”
Mike listened without sentiment or bias. Wobbly. Hesitant. Out of Peter’s range. Exactly the wrong material for him, especially the bridge that had been served so well by Lennon’s throat-ripping rasp.
“…till he’s seen you cry-y-y-y…”
Yet even though he lacked Lennon’s power and heft, Peter managed to hold the note without his voice shattering into smithereens. There was a promise of something better there. He’d hit the right spot for himself eventually, if he worked at it. It would probably take a long time, maybe even years, but...
Years? Am I thinking of Peter and years in the same sentence? Mike shifted in his seat, grimacing when a spring poked at him through the cushion. Only when he saw Peter lean back against the couch did he realize the song had finished.
“That was mean of you, making me do that,” Peter said. “Just for that, I really should make you do a set at the Say What yourself, no matter what you say.”
“Hold on there, buckaroo. Nobody makes me do anything.” Their eyes met in playful challenge. Peter held the guitar up to Mike with a mischievous smile. Mike wiped his jelly-slickened hands and started to reach out for it. “Am I gonna cause you trouble in paradise if I put my mitts on his piece?”
“Well… I’ll find some way to make it up to him.”
It was more of Peter’s innocent innuendo, yet Mike found himself getting so caught up in the brewing fun that he couldn’t even feel jealous. Rather, his face twisted into a wicked smirk. “Tell ya what. Let’s make a wager out of this. Maybe, maybe, I’ll do a set at the Say What but only if”—he pointed to Peter’s banjo case resting in its usual spot by the shelf in the dormer window—“you keep up with me.”
As Peter scrambled to pull out his banjo, Mike let the guitar settle in his grip. He checked the tuning: still perfect. A simple scale… triplets… Mike’s smirk turned positively gleeful as he swiped and tailored to his own mood the ending of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
A staccato twang immediately echoed him.
Mike glanced up from his fingers to see Peter at his feet, ready and eager. Too perfect. Mike repeated the pattern; Peter answered him again. Right, I’ll see and raise you. Mike began hitting strings, not stopping to wonder what he was doing or where he was going. Just plow through it.
Quick and assured, a completely different entity from the reluctant singer of a few minutes before, Peter fired the lines right back at him.
Don’t get uppity, boy. Trying to throw Peter off the scent, Mike injected another random melody: ironically, for a son of the Lone Star State, “Yankee Doodle.” It did make Peter nearly break into another giggle fit, but it didn’t stop him from playing along. Mike abruptly shifted into another scale; Peter copied him. Mike moved further up, a little faster. Peter stayed with him. Up again, and again and again, faster and faster, but each time Peter wasn’t shaken off in the slightest.
No mercy now, Mike decided. He threw at Peter absolutely everything he could think of, from the most obscure country licks to Robert Johnson chucka-chucka blues. He even held his nose and did a bit of bossa nova so esteemed by the jazzhead snobs. Peter not only effortlessly mimicked him but went beyond him, with a wholly different yet complementary line. Overcome by the jangling tidal wave, Mike surrendered and just let his own fingers mindlessly fly so that he could take it all in as Peter cut loose.
He’s better than me. Miles, leagues better. Mike should have hated the very idea, refused to accept it for an instant. Instead, he found himself not really minding that he’d lost his own bet. So he’d have to play a set at the Say What, well then... It might not be so bad—if Peter played with him. With Peter to disarm the mob and carry the instrumental load, himself to handle the singing. Not that he couldn’t chip in with playing—why, just listen to the both of them right now! They were each now playing whatever the fuck they wanted to hear, but it all fit together like two strands woven into one thread.
Yeah, the two of them could light a torch under any frozen, hostile beatnik crowd. Although… it would be cool to try some of those Beatle-style harmonies, too. They’d need another vocalist, until Peter found the will and the skill to sing himself. Heck, why not go whole hog and bring in two more singers, to try for the three-part harmonies? And a drummer, they’d need a drummer if they were to be a…
… if they were to be… a group.
Me, in a group?
No way. He’d come to New York to make it on his own. A lone wolf who didn’t need anyone else. He knew what worked for himself, and he absolutely did not need—
Me. Part of a group.
A band… a family. Band mates, siblings to take care of and look out for—the oldest skill he possessed, honed years before picking up a guitar or turning tricks. Maybe he had let it lie fallow too long…
I think I want to be in a group. And the world turns upside down.
Two hours later, having exhausted everything in his repertoire, he somehow found himself sitting on the floor. He was sprawled back against the couch, long legs splayed out in front of him, the borrowed guitar teetering precariously on his lap.
“That,” he flung an arm around Peter’s shoulders, “was what I call—”
“Good shit,” they hooted together.
Peter dropped his head against Mike’s. “That was… I could do that all day.” When he looked up into Mike’s face again, his eyes were heavy-lidded but not with fatigue. “We could, you know. Play some more. Or we could… I mean, we can skip the movie if you want. I don’t mind.”
Such a choice. Play music and fuck Peter, or abandon Peter’s cozy garret and this screwy house… hmmm, if we put a group together it might be handy for us all to live in one place… seems to work for these Village types, so maybe… Wait, what was the choice again? Oh, yeah: stay here and have some more fun, or go see a Disney cartoon known to reduce kids to wibbling wrecks who wanted nothing more than to crawl back inside the safety of the womb?
The answer seemed obvious, yet it wasn’t. Mike knew what his body wanted him to do—it was telling him in no uncertain terms—but with the new direction his thoughts were taking, he found himself assessing the situation as a big brother rather than as… whatever else he was to Peter. And the big brother in him felt that Peter needed to finish his list of upsetting films, to prove something to himself.
I got nothing to prove. It’s just a cartoon. I’m a grown man, not a kid. Do your worst, Mr. Disney.
“Nope,” he told Peter. “Not gonna let you skip Bambi. Thanks to me you already can’t wear white at your wedding, so this is one rite of passage I’m obliged to see you keep.”
No big deal. I’m a grown man with plans and a future and someone to make music with.
“Then I guess we’d better get going,” Peter said, a trace of reluctance in his tone.
With minimal tidying up—Peter putting the instruments away, Mike stuffing the coffee cups and doughnut bag into a bucket serving as a trashcan—they headed out into the cold February afternoon.
Hear that, Uncle Walt? I’m on top of the world—
The house’s heavy front door shut behind them with a hollow thud.
—and nothin’ you can do is gonna knock me back down again.
“Tex? Are you all right in there?”
“Faster, Bambi! Don’t look back! Keep running!”
Mike gripped the sides of the sink, trying to block out Peter’s timid question that barely carried through the restroom door. He saw his face in the grimy mirror and beheld a man on the very edge of losing it.
“We made it, Mother! Mother!” Little Bambi, wandering through a winter wonderland, only silent snowflakes answering his calls. “Mother? Mother, where are you?”
He shut his eyes against his own image. Not gonna lose it. Keep it together. The tough talk fell flat as another wave of bile surged up into his throat.
“Mother! Mother…? Mother…”
“Do you need anything?” Peter’s hesitant, disembodied voice intruded again. “Can I come in?”
Calling on every ounce of willpower he possessed, Mike forced himself to swallow the sour ball of vulnerability. Only green kids puked up their guts in movie theater restrooms, not guys like him. Not a guy who braved the worst New York had to offer, day and night, and still kept on going.
“Your mother can’t be with you anymore.”
Tears welling up in Bambi’s big innocent eyes…
A few deep breaths, a few more swallows, and he at last felt sure he would not throw up. But when he risked another glimpse in the mirror, he was horrified to see tears of his own threatening to spill.
“I’m coming in,” Peter announced through the door. But because this was Peter, the decisive statement still sounded like a question.
“Gimme a minute,” Mike growled. He bunched up his fists and screwed them into his eyes, determined to crush all telltale traces of weakness. This is fuckin’ ridiculous. I knew what was gonna happen in this dumbass movie, no reason it should get to me like this.
There was every reason. It took almost no effort at all to imagine Bambi’s plaintive tones that implored for “Mother… Mother…” sliding into the drawling entreaties of a brood of children calling for “Mike… Mike… where are you… where did you go…”
… and from there into something very different: the pleas of another child who had never really been a child, one who had been born old, trying to do it all, begging for just a little understanding from…
The restroom door swung open. Peter took one look at him and was at his side in an instant. “Tex, what’s wrong? Are you all right? Tex?”
“I’m—” I’m Mike. Not Tex. Not Wool Hat. I’ve only ever been just Mike…
The enormity of what he was almost on the point of blurting out to Peter snapped him back to reality faster than anything else could have.
“I’m fine,” he said, feeling his armor slip back into its proper and necessary place. “I just, uh… must’ve been something I ate.” Having settled on a convenient lie, he quickly backed it up by turning defense into attack. “Where did you get those doughnuts, anyway? The Botulism Brothers Emporium? Dunkin’ Ptomaine?”
“I got them from the corner bakery—” literal-minded Peter began.
“Listen,” Mike cut him off, pushing himself away from the sink. “I’m sorry I’m gonna have to skip the rest of the movie and all, but I gotta split. I just remembered, I got… um, I gotta go do this thing.” He barreled past Peter, out of the seedy restroom and into the tatty lobby.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Peter followed him, lightly touching his arm.
“Yeah, yeah.” Mike shrugged Peter’s hand away. “Maybe we could do something later this week… or… something. I’ll, uh, call you.”
He was out of the theater as fast as he could be, yet not fast enough to miss Peter’s faint protest:
“But I don’t have a phone…”
Home, sweet home. After what felt like a doomed man’s last walk to the gallows, Mike turned the corner onto West 84th Street and contemplated the familiar row of four brick tenements. Fire escapes crept down their battered, graffiti-coated facades like black tentacles. Tall narrow windows were crisscrossed with ‘X’s in wide white tape like a wizard’s arcane spell in code. Piles of unbagged garbage were strewn on the sidewalks and by the entrances, competing for space with the winos, druggies, and pervs whom the wire fence erected by the city completely failed to keep out. Mike couldn’t complain too much: it didn’t keep him out, either.
As always, Mike squeezed through the tear in the fence and aimed his don’t-fuck-with-me glare at the idlers as he strode past them into “his” building. He climbed the stairs up to the third floor and with some difficulty shoved open the door to “his” flat.
Once safely inside, Mike wondered how he could possibly feel glad to be here. No heat. No electricity. No furniture. No food. Probably soon no water again; the current cold snap was no doubt working on sending the pipes into another deep freeze. No sign that anyone called this a home other than the pile of blankets he’d “acquired” through various means, and the candles he depended on at night. Nothing that truly belonged to him was kept here; what few possessions he had left were always carried with him, secreted in his pockets, socks, or even sometimes his hat.
It was a place to survive, not to live. Not like a warm, cozy garret in a crazy house in the Village…
But at least no one could see him here. Johns who wanted a hard case to punish them would never see Wool Hat as a vulnerable human being wrapped in a blanket, hunched into himself, refusing to cry as he reflected on the empty ruins of his life. Ginger Snaps would never see his hated rival as a sad-sack failure. Peter would never see strong, silent Tex as a lost child-who-was-never-a-child—
Mike’s head, which had been resting on his knees, jerked up in shock and dismay.
“Tex, can I come in?”
Oh God, no. How in the hell—Mike threw off his blanket and stormed over to the door, wrenching it open. “What the fuck, Peter! Tell me you did not just follow me here.”
“You’re kind of hard to miss in a crowd.” Peter didn’t try to smile. “Can I please come in?”
“You damn well better come in before you get mugged or killed or worse! You never should have come here—what were you thinking? Oh, wait, this is you. So it’s a good bet you weren’t thinking at all!”
Peter made no answer, instead taking a few tentative steps inside and glancing around the stark, dusty, ramshackle room. He walked over to the window, pointing at the taped ‘X’. “What’s this?” After a moment, he shook his head. “No, never mind, I get it. Hurricanes.”
“This ain’t Long Island or hurricane season,” Mike snapped. “The ‘X’ means that nobody lives here.”
“But you live here.”
“As far as the city’s concerned, I don’t. And if I shouldn’t be here, you definitely shouldn’t. Maybe you didn’t notice the gangs and weirdos and drugheads hanging around outside, but I’m sure they noticed you. They probably can’t wait till you walk out that door again, can’t believe their luck at having some dumb kid all but waltz into their arms, and don’t think I can fend ‘em all off and look out for you—”
“Don’t you ever stop!”
Peter startled them both by slamming his hand against the window frame.
“You always do this! Every time I think you want to be my friend or—or that you—that—you act like I’m too stupid to understand anything or know what I’m doing. Well, I knew when you got to the Upper West Side that I was probably following you to a bad area. And I kept following you, because I know you’re feeling bad, and friends should try to help friends feel better.”
He left the window and marched right up to Mike. He reached out and clutched Mike’s arms tightly.
“Look, I know I’m not all that bright. There’s plenty of stuff I don’t get, like singing and cooking and how to use a typewriter, or why you’re not supposed to tell me your real name. But you know what? I also don’t get why people hurt each other or countries fight each other, or why anyone would shoot a president. And I’m glad. If that’s what it takes to be smart, you can damn well keep it.”
Just as suddenly as he’d grabbed Mike, Peter pulled away—and burst into tears. But Mike knew it was not a betraying weakness. These were the tears of someone angry enough, and strong enough, to care.
“Peter.” Preparing himself for a rebuff, Mike lifted his hand to Peter’s cheek. “I told you before, your pa’s a damn fool. Don’t listen to what he says about crying too much. Forget those movies. Don’t ever think you shouldn’t cry.”
“What does that have to do with anything,” Peter sniffled.
“Nothing. Or maybe everything. Maybe I wish I could let myself cry like that. But I can’t. I just go my own stubborn way and make everything harder. It’s who I am, and every time I think I’m past it I find out I’m even worse than before.”
“That’s not who you are—”
“You got no idea. You really don’t.”
“Then why can’t you just tell me? Please.”
“Be real sure,” Mike kissed his forehead, “that you wanna hear it. And take off your coat.” Peter shed his heavy parka. Mike ran his hands down Peter’s chest, unbuttoning his shirt. “This won’t be too comfortable on account of it being colder than a witch’s tit in here. But if you want to know who I really am… to really see me…” He clasped Peter’s hands and brought them up to his own clothed chest. Peter fumbled with the buttons and slid the threadbare fabric off Mike’s shoulders.
The chilled air bit into his skin. He was probably as goose-dimpled as Peter, only he had darker hair to hide it. He wrapped his left arm around Peter’s waist, using his right hand to pull down Peter’s zipper.
“I’ve got it,” Peter muttered, kicking off his shoes and freeing himself from his jeans and underwear in one quick motion. He looked down at himself and blushed, but then he touched his lips to Mike’s. “I’ve got it,” he repeated softly as he unfastened Mike’s own pants.
Once he and Peter were bare save for their socks and Mike’s hat, Mike picked up one of the less moth-eaten quilts and wrapped it around both of them. “On the floor,” he said. “That pile there, it’s got at least a dozen blankets. It’ll do.”
They lay with Peter’s head resting on Mike’s chest, their arms and legs entwined, their firming cocks rubbing together, the heat from their bodies making up for any gaps in the covers.
“All right,” Mike said. “You asked for it. Remember how we met? Some jerk told you that you could pay someone to watch a movie with you. You ever think maybe you’re not the first guy to make me that offer? That never strike you as just a little bit peculiar?”
Peter snuggled closer against him. His hair tickled Mike’s nose. “Not really. People always pay people to do stuff around here. You can pay someone to buy your groceries or walk your dog. The rich old ladies on Park Avenue, some of them pay for these things they call companions—you know, someone to just sit around and talk or listen to them, because they don’t have any family left.”
In spite of everything, Mike had to grin at this. “You think I make my living talking to little old ladies?”
“Well… I thought it was kind of something like that. But that was before I knew you were a musician.”
Huh. Some musician. His grin vanished at once—just like the stupid fantasies he’d built in his head this morning, those pie-in-the-sky daydreams about actually playing a gig and being in a band and living in a house and taking care of friends. None of those were realistic goals for the practical sort he was, let alone possible for a wimp who couldn’t even handle Bambi. He’d just been fooling himself, like always.
“Peter, I already told you I don’t earn a dime singing or playing. Hell, I don’t do anything you could call good. I just say mean shit and hurt people. I get paid to be mean, you understand that?”
Silence. Aw, come on! He has *got* to get it now…
“That time you said all that stuff about my friend, and me.” Peter carded his fingers through Mike’s chest hair. “You told me it was this Wool Hat guy saying those things. That’s… you but not you, do I have that right?” He reached up to tweak the pom-pom on Mike’s hat. “I like this. I probably shouldn’t, but I can’t help it. I mean, I would have lost you on the street with so many people today, if it wasn’t for this.” The guileless features turned wistful. “But that’s just me. You sound like you want to let it go.”
Let it go. Stop trying to keep it together, just once. Stop trying to be the lone wolf, the mean one, the one with the plans. Let someone else do it all… for just a little while… let someone else care…
“Today,” Mike murmured in Peter’s ear. “Just for today.”
A blast of icy air hit the top of his head as Peter drew the wool helmet up and away. Mike could feel his hair stand on end, alive with static electricity.
“I’m really seeing you,” Peter whispered. “Whoever you think you are, whatever your name is, I see you… and… it’s all good.”
The unfamiliar sensation of lying beneath a body pressing down on him barely clocked in Mike’s brain when he felt Peter sliding lower, trailing kisses from his mouth to his neck, to his chest and belly. The quilt started to drag down with Peter, caught on his shoulders, but Mike pulled it back up to protect them both from the swiftly encroaching cold. He watched the top of Peter’s head disappear under the cloth, finding it strangely exciting that he could not see what Peter was doing down there.
Then he felt it. A warm, moist mouth engulfed him. Wobbly and hesitant at first, just like its singing voice, but also just as determined to hold the length required of it. A lapping tongue explored the tip of his cock, lingering at the slit, then moved back up to the root. Whatever disputes might exist about Peter’s mental powers, he had an undeniably good memory: he was doing everything Mike had instructed him in and demonstrated to him their first time together.
As well as adding some skills of his own. Like now, he was starting to blow and suck in a way that only the best of whistlers could do. Mike could picture him, full lips puckered around his dick. The image intensified the burning flame deep inside, and he knew he should stop Peter now if he wanted to keep the festivities going beyond this.
No, you don’t get to stop him. Let someone else take charge. Just once.
But the result was going to be another new experience for Peter, and not necessarily a pleasant one. He at least deserved a warning. “Peter, I’m gonna—you might wanna—” Too late, his seed shot out of him, straight down Peter’s throat. Mike heard the choking, gasping sounds but felt no warm splatters against his skin. He completely spent himself, and Peter took every drop.
Several minutes and a lot of coughing later, Peter’s tousled head emerged from under the quilt. He looked embarrassed. “Did I just mess everything up? Now you can’t do anything—”
This will not be about me doing anything. This is about me *not* doing anything.
The magnitude of what he was about to surrender terrified Mike yet did not scare him. That was a paradox he’d work out some other time. For now, the only way to get himself through this deadly solemn transformative moment was to cloak it in flippancy.
“Why am I supposed to do all the work around here, huh?”
Peter stared at him with blank incomprehension. Then, sheer panic.
“I… I don’t know how to do that.”
“You do know. I showed you. Don’t tell me you can’t remember, or my manly ego will be crushed.”
“I remember, but—I just—I don’t—you don’t—oh, God…” Peter leaned down over Mike, searching his face but not seeming to find whatever he sought. “You really want me to?”
“Well,” Mike managed one more glib remark, “it’s either that or have you tear a hole in my blankets with that harpoon of yours I feel down there. Waste of a good hard-on, if you ask me.” Without waiting for a response, he rolled over onto his front and hunched forward on his knees. The quilt fell away from them both. He felt exposed in all senses.
“We didn’t do it like that,” Peter’s nervous voice protested behind him. “I faced you.”
“Nothing wrong with variety.” And I really don’t want to look into the eyes of the man who changes me forever. I ain’t that strong. Not like you.
“Do you… uh, where do you keep the Vaseline?”
“I never needed it.” Mike closed his eyes. Don’t make me spell it out, Peter.
“Oh… oh. Right. Um… so what am I supposed to use?”
“Spit into your hand. A lot. You can figure out the rest. And get on with it, will ya? Don’t know about you, but I’m turning blue here.”
It was just one last bit of bravado, one final half-assed attempt to direct the proceedings, and as soon as the words left his mouth Mike forced himself to shut up and wait for Peter to make the next move. The minutes dragged by as Peter did whatever he was doing to himself back there. Mike thought he was as ready as he could be, but his body still tensed when a saliva-coated finger nudged at his entrance.
“Sorry,” Peter muttered. He continued apologizing with each finger he added. Of course Peter would be as ridiculously polite about screwing as he was with everything else. “You’re going to have to tell me if this is enough,” he said eventually. “No, wait, there was something you did… that spot…”
And then Peter touched that spot. Mike immediately decided his self-imposed vow of silence didn’t include inarticulate whoops as he felt the burst of rapture flood to every one of his nerve endings. He never gave this pleasure to any of his tricks. They never wanted it; it wasn’t humiliating enough for them. But he’d still studied all the secrets of his trade and had known how to use them for Peter’s first time. Only for Peter, who had learned this particular lesson well and done his teacher proud.
Mike hardly believed it when he felt his dick throbbing again. Whoa, you already done your duty tonight. The instinct to halt everything, to flip Peter over and give him a refresher course, flared up. But Peter touched that spot again, and suddenly it just didn’t matter. There was more than one way to get off, and he knew that Peter’s innate good manners, if nothing else, would see that he did.
“Should I do it now?” So, so polite.
Nimble hands took hold of his hips. Wet lips touched his hair. A warm bulk pressed against him.
Don’t make me decide. I ain’t doin’ nothin’.
Peter took his silence for the agreement it was, and began to push forward.
It hurt. No way it couldn’t despite all of Peter’s care, and for the millionth time Mike wondered why in hell people willingly, eagerly subjected themselves to pain and punishment. And what was it about himself that made them seek it from him? What if he lost that part of himself today? Was that how he would never be the same? What if—another spasm of rapture shook him as Peter hit that spot.
“Am I doing it right?” Peter gasped, rocking behind him. “Are you okay?”
Depends on who you’re asking. Wool Hat is definitely not okay. Tex is proud of you. And Mike… Mike is wondering what’ll be left of him after you’re through… if anything was even there to start.
How long it went on, he’d never be able to say. He tried marking the time by silently reciting the lyrics to “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” but he couldn’t seem to remember all of the words, kept mixing them up with “This Boy” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
“I never thought—oh, God.” Peter shuddered behind him. “If you could see…”
Mike blindly reached out and grabbed his hat, gripping it in both hands as Peter climaxed inside him with a wordless shout. The hot fluid spurted through his body and, even though he knew it was physically impossible, he could swear he felt it sear a path straight to his heart.
Gently withdrawing but not forgetting him, Peter reached around to take Mike’s aching cock in hand. A few squeezes, a mumbling in his ear that might have been “thank you” or “how ‘bout those Mets” or God knows what, and Mike bit down into a hank of green wool to smother his own cry of freedom.
Peter slumped against him. “Do you feel better?”
Mike’s only answer was to roll over and pull the quilt back over them, letting Peter nestle into his limp embrace. The winter sun shone feebly through the dirt-streaked window. A shadow cast by the ‘X’ slowly shifted with the hour, inching across the floor, and hovered over their pile of discarded clothing.
Nearby they still lay in each other’s arms, neither willing to leave the shelter of blankets that gave them warmth and took from them responsibility.
It was the safety of the womb.
They did not speak as Mike walked Peter to the 86th Street subway. If asked, Mike would claim it was due to vigilance on his part. No doubt Peter would find some way to blunder into trouble around here, if Mike wasn’t on full guard... But in truth, while he had no idea what was keeping Peter mute, in his own mind he simply didn’t know which voice to speak with.
“Don’t come here again,” mean old Wool Hat eventually broke the awkward silence. Yet big brother Mike couldn’t help adding, “It’s too dangerous.”
“I won’t,” Peter found his own tongue. “And I wish you wouldn’t stay here. Please, come home with me, and you can stay for the week…”
Mike tried not to listen. Am I still the same? Well, he was still cold and hungry and broke, and he still couldn’t let himself cry.
“…. and when my friend gets back, I’ll ask him—I’m sure he’ll be fine if you stay with us, he wouldn’t want anyone to have to live like…”
Then, how am I changed? He fucked asses, now he’d been fucked in the ass. Just once. Just for today. He got paid for one, not for the other. Didn’t seem too momentous, when put that bluntly.
“There you go,” evasive, enigmatic Tex pointed to the subway tunnel entrance. “Take it down to 59th and Columbus Circle and transfer to the A train. That’ll get you back to the Village.” Big brother Mike piped up again: “And don’t talk to no one. Just keep your head down and get home in one piece.” Wool Hat warned, “And then forget the route and never take it again.”
Peter only glanced at the litter-strewn stairs. He seemed to get that his offers of charity were being spurned, yet he had the look of a man desperate to find the strength to play one last card.
“I was going to ask before… before… um, are you doing anything tomorrow night?”
None of your business, Wool Hat snapped. I’m a busy man, Tex prevaricated. I’m so lost, Mike cried.
“I heard about this club in Jersey.” Peter waited a moment before continuing. “It’s called the Wandering Minstrel Eye, and it’s supposed to have really good country acts on Tuesday nights.”
That’s so yesterday, so not the Beatles, daydreaming Tex shrugged. That’s my music, Mike remembered. Nobody just “hears about” country acts around here, suspicious Wool Hat scoffed. No, they don’t, Mike argued, so Peter must have gone out of his way to look for them, to look out for me…
“I asked Fred if I could borrow the car. He says it’s okay. I still have the permit thing and need someone older in the car, but that would be you.”
He’s looking out for me. He’s not walking away. He really saw me, and he still wants to be with me.
“Can you come? Do you want to?”
When hell freezes over and the Devil starts selling ice cream, Wool Hat sneered. I just want to be in a band… I think… or maybe not, Tex hemmed and hawed. He still wants to be with me, Mike marveled.
He loves me. This is not a date. This is not a crush. He… loves me. He shouldn’t.
He loves me… and he shouldn’t. For his own sake, he shouldn’t. Love never did nobody no favors at all.
“Well, I don’t know. I got stuff to do, and all. Let me see what I got going…” And as he shoveled out his usual bullshit, Mike realized that he had in fact changed in one fundamental way.
He had always been a selfish coward. Now he was a selfless one.
His final words were too kind for Wool Hat, too cruel for Tex, but perfectly in tune with Mike, just Mike, doing the most selfless favor he could, taking care of the one person who meant more to him than anyone else in the world ever would again:
“I’ll call you.”
The noises of the packed, trashed street did not quite block out Peter’s forlorn voice falling farther and farther behind him.
“But I told you I don’t have a phone…”