It was cold outside and it was getting late. Eric made his way across the empty hotel lobby to reception, where he hesitantly asked for the room of Elston Gunn.
A spare key was waiting for him, and his arrival had been anticipated, which did nothing to quell the nerves that were manifesting as a thousand tiny butterflies waging a vicious territorial war in his stomach.
He wasn’t sure why the name Elston Gunn had to be given, but presumed it was some sort of in-joke. He’d never done it himself, but had heard that the big stars all used pseudonyms for their hotel rooms. Again, this did nothing to calm him down. No big deal. He was just about to meet Bob Dylan face to face for the first time.
He knew he had no reason to be so nervous. Bob had asked to see him. He was here on invitation, but no amount of self-reasoning was calming him down.
There was something petrifying about preparing to meet someone you’d admired from afar for a long time. What if they didn’t measure up to your expectations of them? What if you didn’t measure up to whatever expectations they had of you?
Apparently Bob had seen Eric performing with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers on television, and told his manager to find him so they could meet. So here he was. Room 314.
Eric knocked on the door. A moment later, a cloud of smoke hit him in the face as the door was opened, and he was quickly rushed into the room. The man who had opened the door took a furtive look down both ends of the corridor before shutting it just as quickly.
The room was overwhelming to say the least. There must have been fifteen people in the lounge of the suite, although Bob was nowhere to be seen.
A woman he felt he ought to have recognised gestured to attract his attention. “You Eric?” She asked, speaking loudly over the noise in the room. Her voice was deep and melodic, with a strong American drawl that had the corners of Eric’s mouth twitching up into a relaxed smile. He always felt more comfortable around Americans. They really put him at ease.
“Yes.” He was proud that he’d managed not to stutter.
“Bob’s through there, probably rolling a joint. You should go through, he won’t be out for a while.”
Eric nodded and stood awkwardly for a minute, taking it all in. A smoky atmosphere. At least two radios tuned to different stations at each end of the lounge. A typewriter on a desk in the corner. A single chair in front of it, turned backwards and on it a man with thick dark hair, dark sunglasses, a black leather jacket and an attitude like he’d just walked off the set of The Wild Ones.
Eric had brought his guitar with him, and was starting to feel a little silly. There were at least three guitars he could see. One being strummed in the corner by another musician he felt he ought to recognise. For some reason he couldn’t put a name to the face.
Eric made his way through the throng of people to reach the door at which the American woman had gestured. He pushed it open and noticed the air was measurably clearer. He quickly shut the door behind him.
“I told you, Bob. I’m not going out there tonight.” Bob Dylan was sitting on the bed, his tongue caught between his teeth and poking out of the side of his mouth. He was concentrating hard on rolling a joint. His familiar, unmistakeable drawl caused Eric’s face to break out into a grin. This was Bob Dylan. He looked so unassuming. Just a kid, sitting cross-legged on a hotel room bed, rolling a joint. Sequestering himself away in his room to avoid dealing with all the people outside it.
Eric felt an immediate kinship.
He coughed politely to try to attract Bob’s attention.
At that, Bob looked up and practically leapt off the bed. “Oh, hi Mister Clapton!” His face was lit up with youthful excitement and a pure joy that Eric felt must be highly contagious.
“Hello Mister Dylan.”
“You brought your guitar!” Despite the several guitars Eric had seen dotted around the lounge and bedroom, Bob still seemed interested to see what was inside it. The half rolled joint lay forgotten on the bed, and Eric laid out his case to take out the guitar.
“Oh man, this is nice.”
“You like guitars?” Eric knew that Bob played guitar, but he wasn’t sure how much of a muso the man was.
“Oh yeah, I’m still searching for the right one though, you know?”
“Here, let my get mine. We should jam.”
This was such familiar territory for Eric that he felt completely at ease. Bob picked up his guitar and started strumming a 12-bar blues. This was no big deal. He was just sitting on the edge of a bed with Bob Dylan, improvising the same old blues he’d been playing for the last decade.
They must have continued playing like that for a couple of hours before Bob remembered his manners as a host and put his guitar down to offer Eric a drink.
“Can I get you a beer or whisky? I’ve got a joint here I was just rolling…”
Bob looked back at the mattress. With their enthusiasm, the meagre contents previously loosely held in the papers had been strewn across the bed.
“On second thoughts, how about a fresh one?”
“Sounds good to me.” Eric watched Bob expertly roll another one. While he waited, he started picking at some finger-style blues as accompaniment.
Bob’s head was down, focussed on his task, but after a few moments he looked up from under his lashes. “You really are as good as they say.” Bob’s eyes were piercing, and Eric felt like they were looking right through him.
Eric’s fingers stilled. The way Bob had said that sentence and looked at him. He was used to brushing off effusive compliments, but this time he felt like he couldn’t argue. As if the statement was made true by virtue of Bob saying it. Eric cleared his throat, mildly embarrassed and searched for the first topic that came to mind that might shift the focus away from himself.
“I really loved your last album, man. Gates of Eden. Never heard anything like it before.”
“Oh yeah, thanks.“ Bob brushed off his compliment in a very familiar way. “I wish I could be doing what you’re doing though. So much of what’s going on now is just… drivel. Noise. You bring it back to the blues. That’s what we need now.”
Eric felt his heart beating harder in his chest. Bob was into blues. Not in a stale, historical sense like the old guard of British bluesmen, and not in a perfunctory ‘token-of-appreciation-for-its-influence-on-rock-and-roll’ sense like half the posers in the top 40. He felt the same way Eric did.
As Bob started reeling off most of the anecdotes contained in the liner notes of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker’s latest LPs (which Eric may or may not have memorised), his mind started going back over all the Dylan he’d listened to since he was seventeen. It all made perfect sense. Hell, his debut album had Bukka White and Blind Lemon Jefferson songs on it.
That was the hardest thing about playing the Blues in England. All the bullshit. All the rip-offs. All the so-called blues guitarists who were really just wanting to be the next Elvis Presley. Sure, a lot of the British bluesmen were serious about it, but they were never the ones who were trying to engage with him.
Eric wants to worship Bob. Forget all the `Clapton is God` claptrap. Dylan is the second coming.
Several hours of jamming, joints, and Jammie Dodgers later, they were lying on the bed next to each other. Their guitars had made their way back into their respective cases and they were simply trading lines of existential nonsense as they passed a joint back and forth.
There was a comfortable silence for a few minutes, and then Bob spoke up. His words were simple, and his voice casual, but their meaning was anything but.
“Have you ever been with a man before?”
Eric quietly froze next to him. Sure, of course he’d fooled around. Circle jerks and hand jobs were part and parcel of growing up in all-boys environments in England, but there was an unwritten rule that you didn’t mention it after you’d left those institutions.
“Um…” he replied eloquently.
“I’m not asking if you’re a homo or anything. I just know a lot of people who have, y’know, done stuff, and, well… I haven’t. And I thought if you had - or hadn’t, but wanted to, you might be interested. No big deal if you don’t swing that way.”
His tone was nonchalant beyond belief, but the hand Eric saw shaking as it returned a joint to his bitten-red lips belied his nervousness.
“Sure,” Eric said quickly in an attempt to put Bob’s mind at ease. He was unsure what he’d just agreed to. Almost immediately, Bob stubbed out the joint on the side table and turned in the bed to face Eric.
Eric’s breath caught. Bob’s eyes were like winter. Dark pupils blown out so only the narrowest circles of icy blue irises were visible.
He wasn’t quite sure how this had happened. One moment he was playing with his band on some three minute television spot; the next, he was lying face to face with Bob fucking Dylan.
Bob’s tongue darted out to lick his lips and Eric’s eyes tracked the movement hungrily. It was true he hadn’t had any inclinations this way since leaving school, but there were some instincts that just couldn’t be suppressed. Like the ones that take hold when you’re an arms length away from a beautiful, talented, enigmatic, charismatic man who so clearly wants you. It was intoxicating.
Eric lifted his left arm to caress Bob’s cheek with the back of his hand. Cheekbones so sharp they could cut glass. He looked so fragile, Eric had an overwhelming urge to protect him at all costs. He’d never felt that impulse so strongly. In fact, he had an inkling that he was now feeling what most of his groupies felt about him. Here was an undernourished, lonely musician needing some tender, loving care from someone who would accept him exactly the way he was.
Slowly, as if afraid of scaring him off, Eric leaned forward and brushed his lips against Bob’s. Just a touch, testing the waters. Bob’s nose brushed against his and it was unnaturally cold. Even Minnesota winters hadn’t prepared him for the combination of an English spring with buildings lacking insulation and central heating.
The next thing Eric knew, Bob’s mouth was seeking his. Their lips touched again and parted as they shared breath. Bob’s tongue tentatively stroked along the side of his own and Eric felt a curling of heat deep in his belly. This was certainly nothing like he’d experienced before.
Acting on instinct, Eric rolled over on top of Bob, his forearms coming up either side of Bob’s head as they took the bulk of his weight. He wriggled a little to align their hips and an irrepressible shudder cascaded down his spine, settling in his lower back almost painfully. He felt Bob’s hardness digging into his thigh and couldn’t help the low groan that came from somewhere deep and primal.
Bob’s eyes were looking up at his, a mixture of surprise and awe. He lowered his head to capture Bob’s mouth in a searing kiss and swallowed Bob’s own groans.
They were connected at every point. Lips. Chest. Hips. Even their legs were intertwined. As their mouths moved together, so too did their hips. Grinding together, each generating delicious friction against a firm but slender thigh.
It was a few minutes before the gradual depletion of oxygen in their lungs meant that their kiss had to end. Eric raised his head, gazing down at Bob, who was still looking at him with awe. There was a hunger there now, which made Eric weak at the knees. Luckily, his knees weren’t supporting any of his weight.
Bob’s face cracked into a grin and Eric couldn’t help but smile back at him. There was something infectious about him. A boyish charm that made Eric instantly understand how a record executive could risk his reputation on him. Even though Bob was nearly four years older, there was something that made Eric want to look after him, want to make him feel good, to relieve some of the pressure that was so clearly crushing the musician. He could really appreciate where the groupies were coming from. He hoped he was more than just a groupie to Bob.
Whatever Bob’s perception of him was, there wasn’t a force in the world that could keep him from suggesting what he was about to.
“Hey, Bob?” Eric asked, cautiously. His head was still reeling from the kiss.
“Yeah, babe?” Bob sounded equally out of breath.
“Can I try something?”
“Sure, what is it?” Bob’s eyes were bright, his cheeks flushed. All the post-production photography stills and film couldn’t do justice to how beautiful he really was.
“Well, I think you call it ‘head’ in America…” Eric faltered slightly. He’d heard all the vulgar euphemisms, but he didn’t want to associate the act of devotion he was about to perform with any of them.
“Um, maybe it will be easier if I show you.”
“Sure, anything.” Bob was still pretty distracted, regaining his breath from their life-shattering kiss and extracting as much pleasure from Eric’s denim-clad thigh as he thought he could get away with.
It took all Bob had not to whimper and moan in complaint as Eric’s thigh broke contact.
Eric slinked his way down Bob’s body, coming to rest between his legs. His mouth went dry as he saw the bulge distending the very accomodating fabric of his tailored trousers. He swallowed against the dryness in his throat as he undid Bob’s top button and started pulling the zip down. He did this slowly, feeling Bob’s cock twitch against the backs of his fingers as he lowered the zip gradually, tooth by excruciating tooth.
After the trousers were down, he made quick work removing them entirely. Thankfully, Bob had kicked off his Spanish leather, Cuban heeled boots before they’d settled with guitars on the bed.
Face to face with Bob’s alarmingly proportioned erection, Eric faltered for the first time. It was one thing to grab another guys cock reciprocally and jerk it off, whilst chiefly concentrating on your own pleasure. It was another entirely to put your own pleasure aside and your entire focus on another man’s cock.
Curiosity took over. Bob’s briefs were blue-grey. The same colour as his eyes, Eric noted, filing that piece of information away for later. His eyes were drawn to where the tip of his cock lay, up and to the right. The material was darker there, soaked through with precome.
Again, Eric couldn’t help himself. He leaned down and his tongue ventured out to taste. He felt Bob’s cock jerk erratically, as if trying to escape its cotton prison. There was a thud as Bob’s head hit the pillow and his hips surged upwards. If Eric hadn’t had an arm across his waist, one of them may have been injured.
Eric opened his mouth, covering the head of Bob’s cock, over his pants. He breathed out in a slow exhalation and the sound of Bob’s choked moan nearly undid him.
A hand came to fix in his hair, fingers curled, pulling with slight pressure. The sensation grounded Eric. He gingerly pulled the waistband down, finally exposing Bob’s cock to the air.
He curled his right hand around the base, his left arm still anchoring Bob to the bed. In one long lick, he followed the vein on the underside up from the base to the head, swirling his tongue around and lapping up the precome that had gathered at the tip.
He heard Bob swearing softly above him, “God.”
“I’m afraid not,” Eric said cheekily.
Eric resumed his efforts, spitting into his right hand to ease the short tugs he was entrusting it with. He focussed on worshiping the head of Bob’s cock with his mouth, taking it in, sucking insistently and then pulling off with an audible ‘pop’.
Bob’s litany of curses was endless. He’d graduated from incidental blasphemy to the kind of vulgar expletives even he would be unable to cut onto a record. “Fucking hell, Eric. Where did you learn to do this?”
Eric’s mouth was happily occupied, so he just hummed a non-committal answer, which reduced all of Bob’s speech capabilities to incoherent moans - a feat for which Eric Clapton would be perennially proud.
All too soon, Bob’s moans became louder and more frequent until he went altogether silent. He tugged at Eric’s head in warning, but Eric just increased the pressure of his right hand and sucked harder, pulling back until just the head rested inside his lips.
Bob came silently, his body supported on one elbow, his other hand still resting in Eric’s hair. His body was contorted at an angle which looked painful, but Eric had seen his expression as he’d come. He would never forget the look on Bob’s face. Ecstasy, wonder and something else, something deeper – an understanding; an expression of a connection he hoped would be eternal.
Eric swallowed, grabbing the corner of a sheet to wipe off the traces of come escaping the corners of his mouth. He scrambled up the bed quickly, lying once again alongside Bob. He reached out a hand to caress his cheek and brush away a tear that had gathered at the corner of his eye and seemed to be threatening an escape.
Bob leaned forward to kiss him and he reciprocated. This kiss was languid and relaxed, nothing like their first tentative one, or their second earth-shattering one. This was comfortable, warm and wet without being sloppy, tongues softly exploring, bodies pressed together and hands roaming unhurriedly over heated skin.
Eric’s arousal had not abated, and after several minutes of slow, sensual exploration, it began to make itself known with unconscious aborted movements against Bob’s stomach.
Bob looked mortified when his eyes met Eric’s, horrified that he hadn’t reciprocated. “How can I…?” He began, unsure how to end the sentence. A moment later, he tried again, “What do I…?“
Eric’s bright smile silenced him as surely as a reassuring finger on the lips. “Whatever you’re comfortable with.”
Bob looked relieved, but also slightly embarrassed. Eric took his hands in his own, bringing Bob’s knuckles to his mouth and kissing them gently. Bob’s eyes closed reflexively at the gentle touch.
“Well, I’ve never really done what you…” Bob started to explain.
It was Eric’s turn to look surprised, “You mean you’ve never had a…?”
“No! I mean, in America, or, well, where I’m from… things are a little different.”
“Oh sure, I get that.” Eric was absently turning Bob’s hands over in his own. He was captivated by the slender hands. So young, it looked like they hadn’t seen a day of hard labour in their life. He stroked Bob’s thumb with his own. The nails that belonging to non-fretboard fingers were really quite long, and a little bit terrifying.
“Cool, so… what do you want me to do?” Bob sounded enthusiastic, but unsure of himself.
Eric smiled at him again, utterly content, his expression was beatific. “Whatever youwant to do.”
“I think I want to hold you. Is that okay?” Bob’s expression was hopeful, silently begging Eric to accept his affection.
“That’s more than okay, Bob.”
Bob reached his arms around Eric, encircling his small frame. His fingernails danced random patterns on Eric’s back, scratching lightly through his shirt.
Eric’s hips jerked at the feeling of fingernails trailing down his spine, it was something he’d always had a weakness for. That, and neck massages. As if gifted with telepathy, Bob’s fingers crept up towards his hairline, gently scratching at the base of his scalp.
There was nothing Eric could have done to prevent the whimper that came out of him. Bob immediately pounced on the revelation, scratching up behind Eric’s ear, and gently running his nails around Eric’s neck. Eric was on a knife-edge, about to explode.
Bob leaned forward, bringing his mouth up to Eric’s ear, pressing their bodies together again. Eric’s cock was still trapped in denim, short aborted thrusts providing the only friction of which he was capable against Bob’s thigh.
Eric’s visceral reaction was clearly having an effect on Bob. His breaths were coming quickly, panting hot next to his ear. They tickled down the side of his neck, heightening all the other sensations that were threatening to overwhelm him.
They were in an incendiary feedback loop. But it wasn’t quite enough to tip Eric over the edge.
“Please.” Eric croaked out.
Bob whined in his ear. “Please what?” He asked, his brain still not yet fully engaged.
“I need…” Eric was having trouble stringing entire sentences together.
“What do you need?” Bob was stroking the side of Eric’s neck, returning the gift of incoherency that Eric had seen fit to bestow on him earlier in the evening.
“Let me come. Please.” Eric’s tone was that of tortured pleading.
Bob reached his left arm down between them, grinding his palm hard against the front of Eric’s pants.
“Come for me, Eric.”
Eric shuddered out his orgasm, eyes rolling back in his head. Fuck. Bob’s hand hadn’t left him, little motions of his wrist undulating his palm against Eric, over and over again. His breath was still coming in short bursts right next to his ear. Bob’s other hand was still scratching delicious patterns on his head that he would absolutely be simulating in bed the next time he needed to take the edge off. Eric began to writhe uncomfortably as Bob’s hand continued its ministrations against his now over-sensitised, softening cock. Sensing his discomfort, Bob stilled his hand with a final firm, but gentle squeeze.
As Eric came back to himself, his eyes met Bob’s. Bob was again looking at him with wonder and kindness, but there was something else, a curiosity.
“What is it?” Eric asked.
“Oh, nothing – I was just…” Bob trailed off, and started drawing nondescript patterns on Eric’s chest.
“Just what?” Eric prompted, nudging Bob with his shoulder.
“’Please let me come’? Is that some English thing - you ask for permission?
Eric’s face turned a delightful shade of beetroot. “No, not exactly. I just…”
“You like to give up control.” Bob answered the question himself. Not with any tone of judgement, just as a fact.
“On occasion, yes.” Eric answered warily.
“You know, it makes a lot of sense.”
“How so?” Eric was curious as to what logic Bob had seen in what he considered to be a slightly unconventional kink.
Bob’s eyes had taken on that far-off quality that indicated his mind had moved on from the conversation. He was humming absentmindedly in reflection.
“Bob?” Eric asked.
“Yeah, Eric?” Bob turned to face him. The crease lines that seemed to have been etched into his forehead when Eric had shown up had softened and he was smiling that gentle, warm smile that Eric felt tug at something in his heart.
Eric had the fleeting thought that maybe the best thing both of them could do right now would be for them to take off to an island somewhere, and live out their days just playing music together. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the sort of thought that you could just say out loud. Certainly not to a man you’d only just met. However, Eric couldn’t help but feel that he’d made a friend for life.
Unable to express his sudden fantasy in words, he simply said, “Thanks for inviting me over.”
Bob’s face split wider into a grin, “My pleasure.” He leaned forward to kiss Eric softly on the cheek.
As Eric reached a hand up to card through Bob’s hair, Bob snuggled into his chest. They wrapped around each other and Eric pulled up a blanket over both of them, kissing Bob softly on the top of his head.
They swiftly succumbed to sleep, still holding each other close, matching expressions of peace and contentment on their faces.