The December chill hung in the air, despite the two men being enclosed within a warm hotel room. Through the gossamer curtain, small white flurries could be seen floating down from the darkened skies--the beginnings of what the weather girl promised would be up to a foot of snow by morning.
Teller was lying on his back on the plush queen-sized bed, hands folded across his stomach, staring up at the ceiling lost in thought as Penn flipped through the channels on the television. He knew from experience the other man would flip between the Disco channel, Cinemax, and Comedy Central before he finally decided on which program he wanted to watch. This had been their road routine for as long as Teller could remember: finish a show, return to the hotel, fall asleep to the sound of South Park or a Mythbusters rerun. In the morning, they would get up and head to the next gig and do it all over again. And again. And again…
And neither of them would trade it for anything.
Penn coughed loudly, bringing Teller’s mind back to their present shared circumstance. He cast a glance at Penn just to make sure the other man was alright, but Penn seemed nonplussed by the fit and had resumed his channel hopping. Teller closed his eyes and picked up his trail of thoughts.
The duo had been asked, on multiple occasions, why they didn’t insist on separate rooms--they could certainly afford the luxury now; whereas in their earlier days, it had been hard enough to scrape up the money for one room to share. Maybe it was habit or routine, but there was just something familiar about sharing a room. Though neither would ever admit it out loud, they both had found comfort in hearing the other’s breath at night whenever they were in a strange city.
Teller remembered the times when he’d been jolted awake by Penn’s screams of terror in the twilight hours. For a man who pretended not to give a rat’s ass about very much, Penn had always been haunted by some pretty terrific dreams. More than once, Teller had shaken Penn awake, and held the other man as he cried from the fright of his nightmares. When his senses returned, Penn would push Teller away with a gruff “get the fuck off of me,” but Teller always knew that was just Penn’s way of reestablishing the boundaries between them.
The memory led him to an idea, however. One that might be fun to debunk should they ever go back to film another episode of Tell a Lie or Bullshit. He kept a running list, on the off chance, and decided to pitch this one to Penn just for the hell of it.
“Therapeutic touch.” He said softly without preamble.
He could feel the odd look from his partner, “What?”
Teller turned his head to look at Penn. “Let’s debunk therapeutic touch.”
“What the hell is therapeutic touch?”
“It’s where a therapist will put their hands either on or near a person and use energy to heal them.” Teller explained.
Penn sputtered a disbelieving laugh. “Oh yeah, that’ll be hard to debunk. People actually believe that shit?”
Penn’s brow furrowed. “Wait a second...you’re not saying you believe it, do you?”
“Do I believe there’s some manipulation of energy and actual healing being done? Of course not.” Teller said skeptically, then focused on the ceiling. “But I think there is some benefit to the actual touch itself.”
Penn hit the mute button on the remote, turning more fully towards his partner. “Explain.”
“Well, think about it... studies show that touch is an important part of survival. Touch is intimate, it’s comforting, it’s reassuring, it can be relaxing, it can even be arousing.”
“I can definitely speak to the benefits of being touched when I’m aroused,” Penn interjected with a grin.
Teller gave a slight smirk in response, but shook his head. “It’s more than just sexual satisfaction. It’s deeper than that. For instance, why do you hold hands with your wife?”
“Because I have to.”
Teller snorted a laugh, turning on his side and propping his head up with his hand. “I’m being serious, Penn.”
“Okay, okay… why do I hold hands with my wife?” Penn thought about it for a moment. “I guess mostly because it makes her happy and I like making her happy.”
“You don’t get any other sensation out of it?”
Penn shrugged. “I never really thought about. Why? What should I get out of it?”
Teller shrugged. “Care to do a little experiment?”
“What kind of experiment?” Penn asked with some trepidation.
“Close your eyes.”
Penn’s body reeled back slightly, “I’m not sure I like where this is going, Teller.”
“Close your eyes,” Teller repeated with mild annoyance as he sat up and got out of bed. “I’m just going to touch you.”
“That’s not helping your case right now, man. This sounds like the part where the therapist is going to ask me to show him where the bad man touched me on the doll.” Even as he spoke, Penn sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and planting his feet on the floor.
Teller laughed softly and sat next to Penn, picking up his hand and lacing their fingers together loosely. Penn eyed him dubiously for a long moment before he finally shut his eyes.
“Keep your eyes closed and just focus on the sensation.”
“I swear, Teller, if you tell anyone about this...I will kill you.”
Teller chuckled softly before shushing Penn. He lightly stroked Penn’s hand with his thumb, dragging the digit back and forth with slow, even movements.
To his credit, Penn kept his eyes--and mouth--closed, simply breathing through his nose as he let Teller hold his hand. Teller’s eyes watched Penn’s face carefully, looking for signs of de-stressing and relaxation, but his brows stayed knitted together.
“This isn’t doing anything for you, is it?”
Penn opened one eye and looked over at Teller skeptically. “What’s it supposed to be doing besides making me feel weird to be sitting here holding hands with you?”
Teller shrugged again. “Releasing some kind of endorphins, giving you a feeling of peacefulness, making you feel relaxed...something.”
“Yeah, I’m not getting any of that. Maybe it only works if it’s members of the opposite...or preferred...sex.”
“If that were true, you’d get something out of it with Emily. Besides, it isn’t supposed to be about sex or attraction,” Teller countered with a shake of his head, releasing Penn’s hand. “It’s about primal instincts and basic needs. Harry Harlow did something like this with monkeys. He put two surrogate mothers--one made of wire and one made of cloth--in with infant monkeys. The wire one had a bottle to feed them, the cloth one had nothing. The infants still went to the cloth monkey even though it provided no nourishment. He called it contact comfort.”
“So, did you get any...contact comfort...when you were touching me?”
“I was paying attention to you, not my own responses.” Teller chuckled.
“Maybe try something other than my hand,” Penn suggested, turning a little to face Teller. “Maybe people have different ‘contact comfort zones,’ kind of like erogenous zones.”
Teller shrugged, sticking out his bottom lip a little as he considered the possibility. It made sense, and since Penn was actually taking him seriously now, why not take advantage of the opportunity to find evidence to support his theory.
“Alright, close your eyes again.”
“Why do I have to keep closing my eyes?” Penn argued.
“Would you rather we gaze at each other while I’m touching you?”
There was a moment of uncharacteristic silence from the other man before Penn compiled, “Good point.”
Turning his body to face the younger man, Teller brought his leg up between them and rested the back of Penn’s hand across his knee. He pushed up Penn’s shirtsleeve all the way to his elbow, and saw the little wrinkle appear on Penn’s face as he wondered what the hell Teller was doing.
Teller decided to try several things. First, he let his fingers hover over the pulse point of Penn’s wrist--not touching, but close enough that he could feel the warmth emanating off Penn’s skin. Penn licked his lips, obviously waiting for something to happen, but not otherwise appearing affected.
Next, Teller gently put his hand on Penn’s wrist, touching the other man with the same sort of touch he might use if he were comforting him. This time, Penn breathed out a sigh through his nostrils, but Teller knew it was more from growing impatient than it was from anything else.
He began to move his thumb back and forth over Penn’s forearm, stroking the skin the same way he had with Penn’s hand. This time, he saw a slight change in Penn’s face, and his own eyebrows rose a fraction as his interest piqued.
When the backs of his fingers started to feather their way up and down Penn’s arm from wrist to the bend in his elbow, Teller knew by the way Penn’s lips parted that he was on the right track. The normally boisterous man had been rendered effectively speechless and was now sitting quietly, allowing Teller to continue tracing invisible lines up and down his arm.
“Is this what my wife gets out of my holding hands with her?” Penn asked in a relaxed voice.
Teller chuckled and finally stopped what he was doing. “Possibly. Depends on what she gets out of holding hands with you compared to what you were getting out of that.”
“I got a lot of things out of that,” Penn admitted, his voice returning to its normal volume. “But mostly it just felt really good.”
Teller gave his signature smirk and held up his hands, wiggling his fingers as if to say ‘it’s magic.’
Penn ignored him, furrowing his brow again. “How did you know that would work when the hand thing didn’t?”
“I didn’t,” Teller offered, moving back to his own bed. “It was something that someone used to do to me that I really liked. Figured it was worth trying it on you. If that didn’t work, I was going to try your hair next.”
“That’s not a fair test; you know how much I love when people touch my hair or my scalp. It’s better than sex. Well, maybe not better better…”
Teller simply smiled as he put his head back down on his pillows.
“Therapeutic touch,” Penn said more to himself than anything. “Man, now I kind of feel like I should reciprocate or something.”
Teller laughed softly. “You can owe me.”
Penn readjusted himself back against his own pillows, unmuting the television, and Teller closed his eyes, tuning out the sound as he let his thoughts gently lull him to sleep.
He was just on the cusp of being blissfully unaware when he heard Penn softly call his name.
“Hey, Teller, you asleep?”
“Huh?” The older man stirred slowly, squinting his eyes open against the lamplight between the beds. Somehow it felt like hours had passed, though he knew it could have only been minutes.
“Could you...um… could you do that...that thing again?” Penn asked, uncharacteristically hesitant.
Teller’s mind was having trouble connecting the dots quickly, then he remembered what ‘thing’ Penn was talking about and he gave the other man an incredulous look. “Seriously?”
“Oh, don’t give me that look. I tried doing it on myself, but it wasn’t the same.” Penn’s tone had become defensive, and Teller knew the other man must be mortified about what he was asking his partner to do.
“I’m not getting up again, so if you want me to do it, you’re coming over here this time.”
Teller watched the other man sigh dramatically before he pulled himself out of bed, adjusting his sweatpants, and gestured impatiently at Teller. “At least move over, will ya?”
Teller huffed, but moved over so that Penn had enough room to get in the bed. He propped his head up on his hand again and rubbed his eyes, yawning as Penn settled back against the pillows. When he dropped his hand away from his eyes, he found Penn’s arm thrust out in offering in front of his face and he couldn’t help but snort a quiet laugh as he pushed the appendage down against the bed and started to gently drag his fingertips up and down Penn’s inner arm.
Penn released a slow breath of air that seemed to almost deflate him. Teller blinked slowly, trying to keep his eyes open, but finally gave up the fight and let his lids close as he stroked Penn’s arm rhythmically. The action was actually starting to put Teller to sleep just as much as it seemed to be affecting Penn.
“This reminds me of my mom,” Penn said quietly, the sudden noise making Teller jolt a little. Penn looked over at Teller with an amused smirk.
“Sorry, can’t seem to keep my eyes open.”
“It’s alright, man. I appreciate you doing this. I can see why you like it.”
“Why does it remind you of your mother?” Teller asked, tilting his head back a little to look up at Penn’s face.
Penn was thoughtful for a moment before he finally spoke, his voice thick with emotion. “The feeling of comfort, I think. I don’t know how, but this reminds me of the way it felt to be in her arms.”
Teller knew how close Penn and his mother had been, how deeply the other man missed her, and it made him feel discomfited to know he was bringing up those emotions in Penn. “Do you want me to stop?”
“No,” Penn said softly, reaching up under his glasses to wipe at his eyes. “Please don’t.”
Teller logically understood what was happening--the sensation had triggered an emotional connection for Penn--but it still made him uneasy to sit there watching his friend cry over something he was essentially doing to him.
“How often do you think of your parents?” Penn asked after a long moment.
Teller took a deep breath and let it out through his nose. “Actively? Often, but not every day. I think about them on birthdays, holidays, when there’s something funny I want to share with them, when I come up with a new trick I want to tell them about, or when I see a really moving piece of art...stuff like that.”
“I still think about my mom all the time,” Penn confessed. “I think I miss how close we were. I’ve never been as close to anyone as I was with my mom. Not even EZ*.”
Teller decided he could add nothing of value to this topic for Penn, so he did what he did best...he stayed silent. Penn shared stories of growing up, about how his mother had embraced his eccentricities and simply wanted him to be happy. Having known Penn since he was 17, Teller knew all too well what the rebellious teen had been like, and he had no trouble picturing those early years for his counterpart. When Penn started talking about his mother’s ailing health, the tears had started back up for him and, again, Teller grew slightly uncomfortable in continuing his version of the therapeutic touch.
While he listened, he wondered if this was cathartic for Penn, or just emotionally painful. The other man was so fiercely passionate about everything, even though he always portrayed himself as brash, uncaring, and thick as a stone wall. Being able to let his guard down like this, knowing Teller wasn’t judging him, had to be helpful in some way, surely. Did that mean there was some real evidence to this pop-psychology theory, or had Teller simply just--quite literally--struck a nerve with the other man purely by coincidence?
When Penn finally took a deep breath and pulled his arm out from under Teller’s fingers, Teller knew the moment was over and Penn had had enough. He discreetly flexed his hand and wiggled his fingers, his own arm tired from being suspended in an awkward position for so long.
“Now I really owe you,” Penn told him, making no move to get out of Teller’s bed.
Teller gave a soft shrug. “Either way, I’m using this as evidence in favor of therapeutic touch.”
“And here I thought you wanted to blast it.”
“I want to pick it apart,” Teller corrected. “See if it’s just crap psychology like everything else, or if there’s some substance to it. The emotions this produced for you were pretty heavy, you can’t deny that.”
“No, I can’t.” Penn agreed grudgingly, sniffling and wiping the last evidence of tears. “But I’m not willing to make the leap to it being all based on the touch.”
“Fair enough.” Teller turned on his back, eager to go back to sleep, but Penn still didn’t make an effort to move. Instead, the other man sank lower in the bed, propping his head up on his hand now and facing Teller.
“So what happens to you when someone does that?”
“It just feels...nice.” Teller offered plainly without opening his eyes.
“Seriously? Just ‘nice?’ C’mon, Teller. There’s gotta be way more to it than that. I mean...Masterbation is ‘nice,’ but it doesn’t usually bring me to fucking tears...or make me think of my mom.”
Teller laughed softly. “Fair enough. I don’t know, I guess it’s just...It’s...intimate without being sexual.”
“Intimate.” Penn repeated, obviously trying to glean some context to the word. “Who was it that used to do it to you?”
Teller gave an infuriating little smirk before he replied, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Not cool, man. I just cried like a bitch and you’re not even going to tell me who it was that introduced you to this little trick?”
“I never show all my cards, Penn, you know that.”
“At least tell me if it was friend, relative, or lover.”
Teller remained quiet, and Penn wondered if the older man intended to wait him out with silence just to avoid answering. Just when Penn was about to give up, those dulcet tones finally offered, “Two of the three.”
“Which two? Please don’t make me guess because my mind just went to a really dark place.”
“Friend and lover,” Teller answered with a slight laugh before sobering back up. “Can we leave it at that? It was a long time ago, Penn. Long before I met you, and long since buried in every sense of the word.”
Another silence lapsed between the two men and Teller could hear the wheels turning in Penn’s head as he tried to figure out what to say, as well as who and when this secret love might have been. To Teller’s great surprise, Penn’s fingers wrapped loosely around his wrist and straightened his arm out between them.
“What are you doing?” Teller asked, lifting his head a little off the pillow and furrowing his brow at his partner.
“It’s called ‘reciprocity,’” Penn enunciated, sarcastically.
“Penn, you don’t have to--”
“I know I don’t,” Penn’s eyes met Teller’s with an unreadable expression in their depths, “But I want to.”
Teller swallowed hard and gave a nod before he dropped his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. Penn’s short nails scratched up Teller’s arm in the way one might try to satisfy an itch. “Softer,” Teller encouraged. “Pretend you’re trying to tickle me with a feather rather than exfoliate my skin cells with a Brillo pad.”
He heard the other man laugh through his nose, but Penn’s touch immediately lightened and became more like a caress. Teller felt gooseflesh rise on his arm and a shiver run down his spine as his nerve endings awoke after 40 some odd years without this particular touch. Each pass up and down his arm sent a fresh wave of chills through him that both relaxed and exhilarated him. He bit his bottom lip gently to keep himself from sighing audibly, not wanting to give Penn that much satisfaction.
However, despite what he’d said about this type of touch not being sexual, he could feel his heart start to beat a little faster. Those pulses of energy were traveling down his spine straight to his groin, and Teller quickly concluded that this was not a good idea. He tried to discreetly pull his arm away, but Penn was still holding his wrist.
“Stop.” Teller said, twisting his wrist around to get free as his arousal continued to build. “Stop, stop, stop!” He finally jerked free of Penn’s grip and sat up quickly.
Penn furrowed his brow in confusion. “What was I doing wrong?”
“Nothing,” Teller’s throat had gone dry, making his voice slightly rough, and he licked his lips nervously, avoiding Penn’s gaze in an attempt to hide his embarrassment.
“Then why did you just spazz out on...Ohhhh.” Understanding finally dawned, and Penn couldn’t help but laugh almost hysterically. “How the fuck did that bring up memories of my mom for me and bring up...other things for you?” He gestured towards Teller’s crotch, despite the lack of obvious arousal.
“Apparently it triggers different responses in different people.” Teller replied, his face burning from the heat of his blush.
“Different strokes for different folks,” Penn teased, his hand miming jacking off and making Teller’s blush turn three shades darker.
“Get the fuck out of my bed.”
Penn roared with laughter, his entire body shaking from the force of it and vibrating Teller’s bed. The older man simply looked at him, trying to appear impassive, which only made Penn laugh harder.
“You fucking asshole,” Teller grumbled as he rolled over to face away from Penn, tugging the covers up and throwing his head down against the pillow with a muffled thud.
“I’m sorry,” Penn tried to apologize through his gales of laughter, wiping wetness from his eyes. When Teller only harrumphed in reply, he sobered a little quicker. “Teller, man, I’m sorry. You know I wasn’t laughing at the fact that you got a hard-on from that, right?”
“I didn’t get--” Teller cut himself off with an exasperated sigh, rolling back onto his back and pressing his fingers into his eyes. It was no use to try and argue. Full on erection or not, it had aroused him and Penn knew it. “Just leave me the hell alone and let me sleep..”
He felt the bed shift, but rather than getting up, Penn leaned closer. Teller pulled his hands away from his eyes to find Penn’s face hovering just inches from his own, wearing that insufferably smug grin. “I’ll leave you alone...if you tell me who was better at it.”
“Years from now, when you’re being interviewed about why our act broke up after 40 years, I hope you tell them it was because you’re a dick.”
Penn roared with laughter once more, but finally pushed himself out of Teller’s bed and returned to his own. Teller turned back on his side, facing away from his partner, and tried in vain to bury the feelings Penn had brought up in him, but the analytical side of his brain couldn’t help but wonder at the response.
He hadn’t lied to Penn about the touch being intimate without being sexual--he’d never had that kind of reaction to it before. So what had caused it now? Teller considered it was a direct result of his self-imposed loneliness. Or maybe it was just circumstantial--time, place, current mental and physical state. The same reaction might have occurred regardless of who was administering the touch, much the same way that some men became aroused during deep tissue massages or prostate exams.
Teller refused to allow the possibility that the reason he had become aroused was purely because it was Penn touching him. That was a slippery slope and one he didn’t want to examine. Penn had made it abundantly clear over the course of their acquaintanceship that their relationship was strictly business. It was sterile. It was the antithesis of Lennon and McCartney’s affair. Penn held no more affection for Teller than he did for the barista who made his coffee.
That was the way it had always been, and Teller had accepted that a long time ago… Hadn’t he?
Doubts began to chip away at his resolve not to dwell on the subject, but he knew better than to try and analyze what happened and why. Penn was still chuckling to himself, bringing heat to Teller’s cheeks once more.
Fucking asshole… He shot a middle finger over his shoulder at Penn, which was acknowledged by another round of laughter. Teller pulled the covers tighter around himself and closed his eyes, forcing sleep to drag him away from his thoughts about Penn.
*EZ is the nickname Penn has for his wife, Emily.
This chapter took a slightly different turn than I was intending. I'm not disappointed. I hope you're not either! Enjoy.
As always, Penn & Teller are property of Penn & Teller.
Dreams were strange things. Logically, Teller knew he was dreaming--the 70s were over, he and Penn weren’t still in their 20s, and they weren’t still traveling in that shitty station wagon--but somehow his mind was convinced that he’d been transported back to those old days, trekking from gig to gig with Penn at his side, and Wier Chrisemer sprawled in the backseat.
Teller could feel the wind in his hair as Penn sped down the highway singing REO Speedwagon’s Sophisticated Lady at the top of his lungs, one hand on the wheel, the other furiously playing the air guitar. It had been standard rule in those days that driver got to pick the music. Naturally, Penn typically offered first driving shift just to avoid listening to Wier's more tame selections, or Teller’s option of no music and conversation.
There was no one else on the lonely stretch of highway--just he and Penn (and Wier) at the top of the world, chasing their dreams. He could feel the exhilaration he’d had in those early days--the hopes that they might one day make it big, not knowing what the future held for them. As the dreamer, Teller knew they would part ways with Wier, leaving behind the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society, and form their life-long duo of just Penn & Teller.
His dream-self looked over at Penn, admiring his youthful beauty with a wistful expression. What he wouldn’t give to slide across that bench seat and kiss those full, smirking lips. In the dream, Penn glanced at Teller, pausing his singing long enough to grin at the other man, and stretched his arm across the back of seat, resting his hand against Teller’s neck. Teller could feel goosebumps erupt down his arms as Penn’s thumb lightly stroked his skin and his fingers played with his curls.
It had been something Penn used to do to try and annoy or distract Teller, and while Teller had always outwardly appeared to dislike the touch, he’d secretly wished Penn would do it more often.
Just as Teller was about to come to an epiphany in the dream, Penn’s voice boomed loudly, startling him awake.
“You planning on turning that fucking alarm off sometime today?”
Teller became aware of the clock radio on the beside table that he had pre-set the previous night. It was currently playing hits from the 70s and Teller snorted a laugh as he reached over to turn it off. With the soft rays of morning sunlight streaming through the sheer curtains, Teller could see Penn laying on his stomach, face smashed against the pillow, still holding on to the dregs of sleep.
“Are you going to shower before the flight?” Teller asked as he sat up with a stretch and a yawn.
“Not if I can help it,” came the sleepy reply.
Pulling himself out of bed, Teller moved over to the window, pushing the curtain aside so he could see the layer of white covering the ground. “I think the weather girl lied,” he reported to Penn. “I still see some green under the snow.”
Penn grunted in reply, but otherwise made no move, so Teller collected his toiletry bag and a change of clothes, then headed into the bathroom to shower, shave, and brush his teeth.
As he stood under the warm spray of water, the epiphany Teller was about to reach in his dream finally came to him. The way Penn had stroked his arm last night during their experiment had felt almost identical to the way it felt when he used to touch Teller’s neck. In those early days, when Teller’s flame for Penn had burned bright and hopeful, that touch had invoked feelings of lust and arousal. As time went on, Penn had grown out of using that trick to annoy Teller, and Teller’s flame had grown dimmer in realization that he and Penn would never be as close as he wanted.
Now that he had the connection to his response to the touch, Teller couldn’t help but wonder if Penn was the only one who would be able to produce those feelings of arousal by doing it. Certainly other men had touched his neck and stroked his hair--and they had done so with the sole intention of inducing sexual desire. Would any of those past partners spark arousal now? Had any of them been more than a one-night stand, Teller might have called them up and asked to conduct the same experiment with them.
He wondered if he should tell Penn about his revelation, but he didn’t want to endure another fit of laughter, nor did he particularly care to own up to just how much he’d enjoyed Penn touching him back in those early days. Teller considered never bringing up the words ‘therapeutic touch’ ever again just to avoid any risk of ever having to make that reveal, but he was certain Penn would find someway to work it into conversation at some point--even if it was just to make another joke at Teller’s expense.
When he emerged from the bathroom, Penn had managed to make himself vertical and was digging around in his bag for clean clothes. “I miss my fucking bed,” he lamented as Teller put his own things away. “Hotel beds kill my back. No matter how soft or firm they are. You done in there?”
Teller knew Penn was referring to the bathroom and nodded with an affirmative hum. After repacking the few things he’d taken out during their brief stay, Teller picked up the remote from Penn’s side of the bed and flipped on CNN just to get a feel for what was happening in the world.
He couldn’t seem to drag his thoughts away from his dream and found himself wondering about Wier and about how their lives might not have changed if they’d stayed a three-man show. More than likely, they would have fizzled out during the 80s, unable to agree on a direction for the show. Teller would have probably returned to teaching, and Penn… Well, Penn would have probably found another act to join, despite all his claims to having wanted to be just a writer. Being an entertainer was in the man’s blood, and he would have never settled for less. He had certainly always been the driving force behind their act, and Teller knew he owed a massive debt of gratitude to the younger man for convincing him to put his teaching career on hold in order to take that chance of lifetime. With Wier, it had always just been a hobby, but with Penn, it was Teller’s whole world.
Penn emerged from the bathroom a few moments later, looking slightly more put together than before, and Teller’s eyes tracked his movements as he stalked around to pack his own case.
“Have I ever thanked you?” The words found their way out of his mouth before he realized he intended to actually say them.
“For what?” Penn asked, distracted as he searched for something in his bag.
“This incredible journey.”
Penn paused his search and looked over his shoulder at Teller with a perplexed expression. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Teller laughed softly. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for you. I’m saying ‘thank you’ for dragging me out of my classroom and onto the road with you to do those goddamn Renn Faires.”
“Are you kidding me?” Penn asked after a brief moment of silence. “Teller, you were the one who inspired me to be more than carny trash. You made me believe magic was more than just some asshole pulling a fucking quarter out of my ear and making me feel like an idiot. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be one of those sad sacks of shit in Central Park doing my juggling act for stupid tourists...or dead for shooting my mouth off at the wrong asshole. I should be thanking you.”
They held one another’s gaze for a moment and Teller felt something strange pass between them. Something more than just mutual respect and gratitude. He could tell Penn felt it too, because the other man shifted uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck as he turned back towards his bag, busying himself. “Why the hell are you thanking me now anyways? You’re not going to keel over or anything, are you? I shouldn’t have a medic standing by in the wings tonight, should I?”
Teller laughed softly. “No. I don’t intend to ‘keel over’ anytime soon. I had a dream about Wier last night. It got me thinking about how different our lives would have been if the three of us stayed together.”
“Christ…” Penn trailed off, chuckling to himself as he thought back to the days of their trio. “We’d have never lasted. Wier and I would have killed each other.”
“That’s okay, I was the only one with talent anyways, I would have kept it going.”
This time, Penn laughed loudly and resumed packing up his things. There was a swift knock at the door and Teller moved off the bed to answer it, smiling at their manager.
“Ready to go, guys?”
“Just waiting on Penn,” Teller replied, letting the man inside.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m workin’ on it.” Penn zipped up his pack, giving one more look around the room before shoving his cellphone in the chest pocket of his shirt. “Let’s roll.”
The car ride to the airport was spent going over schedules and changes before Penn and Teller were led by their manager through the TSA checkpoint. As usual, both men set off the metal detectors with the small, metal Bill of Rights card they kept in their pockets when traveling. Once the TSA agents ensured they were no threat, they were allowed to move to the Admiral’s Club lounge to wait with other first class passengers before the flight.
Their manager disappeared to fetch Penn’s usual decaf iced Americano, leaving the two seated in plush chairs near a large picture window. Teller was watching a baggage handler on the ground bouncing up and down to generate heat--or possibly relieve boredom--while he waited for bags to start arriving to load onto the plane. He could almost feel Penn’s gaze burning a hole in the side of his head. He didn’t need to be a mentalist to know that Penn was focused on what had happened back at the hotel. Teller would be damned if he was going to bring it up though.
Taking a worn box of playing cards out of his pocket, Teller flipped the top open and dumped them into his hand, setting the empty box aside as he began to riffle shuffle and bridge the deck over and over. As anticipated, Penn’s attention dropped to the cards as he watched Teller expertly handle the deck. Teller manipulated the cards into a Charlier cut, then several fancy false cuts. He played through a few card tricks, holding the deck out towards Penn a couple of times to let him take a card or cut the stack, and--of course--Teller always found the card.
When their manager returned with Penn’s coffee, the attention shifted off of Teller and his cards as Penn engaged the other man in conversation. Teller knew that the two would eventually have to talk about the strange moment in the hotel room, if for no other reason than to just bury it and move on, but he was feeling emotionally raw from their experiment, his dream, and the revelation that there might still be some sort of ember burning from his love for Penn. The exchange this morning--the rare, unsarcastic intimacy--had been the first time Penn had ever displayed reciprocation of any type of affection for Teller, and the older man was afraid that once they put words to it, Penn would find some biting way to sterilize their relationship once again.
“Good morning, American Airlines passengers...”
As the announcement that boarding would begin in the next ten minutes came over the speaker in the lounge, Teller put his cards back in the box and replaced the box in his pocket. They waited for the call that notified all first class passengers that they could board before they left the lounge.
Teller’s seat was two ahead of Penn’s on the plane, and as they both got settled into their seats, Teller pulled out his phone and took the obligatory selfie with a distracted Penn in the background for his Twitter followers. He was aware of the “Stalking Penn” meme online, and gladly played into it by providing them more fodder whenever he could.
He busied himself with reading tweets while the rest of the passengers boarded the plane, then took to looking out his window as the flight attendants prepared for take off. With little else to distract him from his thoughts, Teller found himself considering how much he still cared about Penn, and just how much those feelings had shaped his life.
Although he would take the secret to his grave--among many others--there were two reasons Teller had never been seriously involved with anyone romantically. One reason was because of his first love--magic. He knew he could never devote as much time, energy, or passion into a relationship as he did into his trade. Hours, days, weeks, months, even years were spent diligently practicing, perfecting, inventing, and reinventing tricks. It simply wouldn’t be fair to any partner he was with...unless that partner was Penn. Magic was their shared love. Penn put just as much thought, effort, blood, sweat, and tears into their work as Teller did. They were true equals in that respect, even if Teller was the more knowledgeable and skilled partner when it came to the specifics of how a trick would work.
In the times they saw each other outside of rehearsals, touring, and performing, Penn and Teller were always coming up with new ideas together. They could spend hours going over details, working out the mechanics, talking about budgets necessary to make the trick perfect. Though they could--and often did--converse about art, literature, music, and other things beyond magic, there was never any pressure to ask about each other’s side projects, or feign interest in something that only the other really cared about. Everything just came naturally to them--arguments and agreements alike. When Teller had tried to date other men, he’d found it very tiring to engage himself in conversations with them. They simply didn’t hold his interest the same way Penn did, and it always seemed to feel very forced and superficial.
That was the second reason that Teller could never see himself with anyone else long-term. Everything he wanted in a partner, he already had in Penn. How could he ever settle for anything less? Maybe Penn didn’t love him the way Teller hoped he might, but would sex and physical intimacy really add that much more to their relationship?
Of course it fucking would. Teller couldn’t help but chuckle ruefully as he allowed a fleeting moment of pure fantasy to run away with him--envisioning being fiercely kissed, or held tightly in Penn’s arms, or even listening to the filthy words he knew the other man would mutter in his ear as they fucked.
Teller shivered pleasantly at the thought, and quickly derailed that train before he found himself in yet another awkward moment of arousal.
Ultimately, he knew that intimacy would give them a whole new level of satisfaction in their relationship, but it wasn’t necessary. Hell, their relationship had evolved so much in four decades that they’d probably created an entirely new form of intimacy without even realizing it.
Penn may describe their attachment as cold, sterile, and purely business, but he would also tell people that Teller was his closest friend. The incident that morning, that brief millisecond when they’d connected on a deeper level than they ever had before, had to be more than just a fluke. Surely it spoke to the fact that there was substance to their relationship, despite all of Penn’s protests to the contrary.
Teller sighed. So much dwelling on Penn Jillette was exhausting. He switched gears entirely, deciding to focus on the lineup of tricks they would be performing later that evening. He mentally went through each one, reciting Penn’s lines in his head as he visualized the accompanying movements, gestures, expressions, and reactions. Rehearsing each trick was something else the duo spent endless hours doing. They had to be in perfect harmony, they had to move in time to a soundless beat. One misstep, one forgotten line, one stutter could destroy the entire illusion. They both hated to fuck up on stage, but mistakes were inevitable. Teller always tried to minimize the risk of failure by memorizing things to the point that he could perform them in a coma, but sometimes...well, shit just happened.
The Fasten Seatbelt sign lit up with a ding, and the intercom system crackled to life as the captain came on to announce their descent. Teller looked at his watch, surprised by the fact that he’d occupied the entire 2 hours of the flight with just his thoughts alone. He looked out the window, watching a trail of clouds streak pass as the plane began to slowly sink lower.
Teller took a deep breath and closed his eyes, mentally preparing himself for the day. Once they landed, they would be taken directly to the local radio station for a couple of interviews to hype up their show that night and talk about what was in store for the next season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us. After that, would be brunch followed by a look at the venue to suss it out, and unload the truck if it arrived, do a run through of the show just to make sure all the lighting and sound was in position. Then, they might have a few minutes to go to the hotel and unwind for a bit before they had to get ready to perform.
The plane bounced a little as it touched down, jostling the passengers, then the brakes slammed on, throwing them all forward in their seats. It wasn’t the smoothest landing Teller had ever experienced, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. When they finally parked at the gate and the seat belt sign went off, Teller released the slot of his seatbelt and followed their manager off the plane, with Penn somewhere behind him. Wheeling their suitcases behind them, the group made their out to the waiting car and onto the first of many tasks for the day.
Teller’s personal life and private thoughts melted away as he and Penn assumed their public personas. Even though the interviews were done by radio, and Teller didn’t have to speak, he was still there to perform a few tricks for the folks in the studio and be Penn’s sounding board.
Over brunch they talked about the show, as they always did, to get a feel for if either of them didn’t feel 100% about one of the acts. Possibly the worst part of aging was dealing with arthritic pain that could interfere with your dexterity. As a magician, there was nothing more devastating than losing your ability to manipulate objects. Both of them were beginning to experience that decline.
Teller watched as Penn rotated his thumbs and then his wrists. He could see the slight look of trepidation in Penn’s expression, the frown set on his lips, and knew that Penn was worried about juggling the broken bottles. “You know you don’t have to do it, right? If you’re worried about it, I’d rather you not do it than take a chance of injuring yourself or someone in the audience.”
“I think I’ll be okay,” Penn replied after sincere consideration. “But let’s have something on standby just in case. I won’t know for sure until we get there.”
Teller nodded, sipping his water. It had become part of the routine to have several standbys just in case they couldn’t do a trick for whatever reason. They’d learned long ago to always have a backup plan. If they couldn’t do a bit, and had nothing prepared, the show would be over much earlier than planned and audiences might leave unhappy.
Penn rubbed the triangular shaped muscle between his thumb and forefinger, next to the joint in his thumb where he carried most of his stiffness. “I swear flying always makes it worse than it really is. It seems to act up more when we tour than if we’re in Vegas.”
Teller moved his plate out of the way and turned his hand palm up on the table top between them. “May I?”
“Not this again…” Penn replied gruffly even as he moved his own plate and set his hand on top of Teller’s. “What is with you and holding my hand lately?”
“If you want to suffer, by all means, go right ahead,” Teller threatened as he turned both of their hands over, taking Penn’s between both of his. He used this thumbs to massage the arthritic joints and muscles in Penn’s hand.
Penn tried to make normal conversation to override whatever discomfort he felt at having his partner massaging his hand, confessing that there were some chords on his bass and guitar that were harder now to achieve than they had been before. “I guess there was some price to pay in all this.”
Teller just smirked in response, releasing Penn’s hand and motioning for the other one. Penn complied without remark, but their eyes met briefly, locking for only instance. That same, strange vibe passed between them again making Teller hesitate in his task as he tried to get a grip on himself mentally.
Penn’s hand started to pull back, and Teller looked back in Penn’s eyes, trying to find the discomfort so he could assuage the feeling with a little humor, but Penn surprised him by turning his hand over so they were palm to palm. Penn’s fingers curled up against Teller’s until their fingertips were clasped together, his thumb lightly stroking Teller’s hand.
Teller was genuinely speechless, nearly gawking at his partner across the table. His mind was ablaze with thoughts and feelings and sensations and questions. He was expecting Penn to grin and make a joke, laugh at him and toss around the phrase ‘Therapeutic Touch’ just to show what an asshole he really was, but Penn seemed to be experiencing as much inner strife as Teller was--if the look of panic in his eyes was any indication. Teller could almost feel Penn’s turmoil in trying to decide whether he should continue or pull away.
“Penn…” Teller finally found his voice, the euphonious tones quavering slightly in response to the overwhelmingly surreal moment.
Before either of them could say more, their manager strode in. Penn instantly gripped Teller’s hand tighter, grabbing his thumb and pinning it down with his own. “ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! I WIN THUMB WAR!” Penn nearly threw Teller’s hand back at him. “HA! Suck it, motherfucker!”
Teller pretended not to notice the slight tremble in Penn’s hand as he picked up his glass of water and chugged it down before pushing back from the table. “Is the goddamn truck here yet? I want to unload, rehearse, and get checked into the hotel so I can get a nap before the show. I slept for shit last night.”
“Just pulled in,” the man laughed, obviously believing the two had actually just been playing thumb war when he’d walked in. “That’s what I was just coming to tell you. The guys are already unloading. You all set here?”
“Unless Teller feels like losing again…” Penn said, casting a wary glance at Teller. There was almost a feral look of fear in Penn’s eyes. What had just happened between them had spooked him, and Teller was fairly certain it was more the fact that Penn had just experienced his first wave of attraction for the other man than the potential that they might have just been caught holding hands.
Teller wanted to ask Penn to wait a minute so they could talk alone and get this out in the open now, but Penn had already started for the door. He could feel those walls coming back up tenfold as the man walked away from him, but knew there was nothing he could do about it. With his heart still racing, and his stomach in a knot giving him indigestion, Teller followed the two men out of the little cafe at the venue and into the large auditorium where they would be performing later that night.
Focus. Teller told himself, pushing everything aside and denying his brain access to those recent memories that he ached to analyze. He and Penn both helped unload the truck, checking props as they came out to make sure nothing had been damaged in the drive from the last gig. Their crew lined everything up in the wings for their inspection, and they thoroughly tested each prop.
“Alright, Michelangelo,” Penn said, once they were satisfied that everything was intact and show-ready. He gestured towards the empty stage, making a shooing motion at Teller. “Go do your thing.”
Several crewmembers waited at each side of the stage as Teller went out into the audience to visualize the placing of each prop so that the acts would be seen by everyone, even if they didn’t want to look up at the screens on either side of the stage. As each piece was wheeled out on stage, Teller shouted direction for placing it, observing it from almost every possible angle in the audience before giving the thumbs up. The crew would put colored tape down on the stage to mark where each piece should go, then the process would repeat.
Usually Penn took this opportunity to go back to the green room to watch TV, listen to music, or read but Teller kept catching glimpses of Penn standing in the shadows in the wing. He could feel Penn’s eyes on him, could almost sense those heavy thoughts roiling through his mind. Teller had to push all of that aside and ignore it. The show was what mattered right now. Whatever was going on between him and Penn would have to wait until later.
Once everything was in place, the lighting crew took their positions in the catwalk and at the lighting board. Penn joined Teller on stage as the crew moved props back out in the order they would be doing them in the show. The duo stood in their places with each prop so that lighting could be adjusted.
Next, Penn was wired up for sound and the audio levels were tested and adjusted for the acoustics of the theatre. They ran through a quick rehearsal--the crew moving props in and out of place as Penn ran through lines of the bits and Teller accompanied each with the scripted gestures and expressions.
With a few minor adjustments during the run through, both men felt good about the set up, and agreed they were ready for showtime. With hours to spare, the manager had Penn and Teller taken to their hotel so they could check in and rest up.
The tension in the car ride over was thick enough to cut with a knife. Neither man spoke, but Teller was fairly sure it was because they were both at a loss on what to say. Penn’s hand was resting on the seat between them, but Teller couldn’t pluck up enough courage to try and touch the other man. He was afraid that Penn would snap like a rubber band if he was stretched beyond his limits too quickly. Penn had far more to process about whatever he was feeling than Teller did. There was no doubt in Teller’s mind that Penn was thinking about his wife and children and wondering exactly what the fuck was going on.
An eternity passed before the car finally pulled up and deposited them at the hotel. As they made their way to the desk, Teller felt suddenly apprehensive, wondering if Penn might request a separate room. He couldn’t say that he would blame his partner--Penn certainly had every right to demand space while he figured this out--but Teller wondered if it might do more harm than good.
Teller hadn’t even allowed himself time to take it all in and analyze his feelings. He was afraid of getting his hopes up, afraid of allowing those fantastical images to dance around in his brain only to have Penn slam the door to that realm of possibility again. He would let Penn sort himself out first, then he would move on to sorting himself out.
When Penn gave his name to the young woman working the desk, and told her that the reservation was for a double room, Teller almost sighed audibly. At least it would be harder for Penn to ignore him if they were trapped in the same room together. They were each handed a key and directed to the elevator that would take them to their room, and Teller fell in step beside Penn as they crossed the lobby.
“I need a shower.” Penn declared as they waited for the next elevator car to collect them.
“It’s all yours,” Teller replied, eyeing Penn in the reflection of the dark marble on the walls. Penn was staring up at the indicator lights above the lift doors, trying to anticipate which of the four elevators would arrive first. Teller pointed to the one of the far right, making his prediction. Penn nodded to the one right in front of him.
The light dinged above the lift Teller had indicated and Penn looked down at the other man with an annoyed glare as Teller gave a gloating smile and wheeled passed Penn into the lift. Penn entered and pressed their floor number, then slumped back against the mirrored wall on the right side of the elevator.
Teller tried to discreetly watch Penn, who was again watching the indicator lights above the doors, but finally gave up and verbally prodded at his partner. “Are you okay?”
“Yep.” Penn said shortly, his eyes not leaving the lights.
“I don’t want to talk about this right now, Teller. Okay?”
Teller could feel the slight hostility in Penn’s tone, and he backed down, nodding silently. The lift finally stopped at their floor, and Penn was the first one off, taking large strides towards their room. Teller expected Penn to hurry inside and let the door slam in his face, but the other man couldn’t seem to get the card reader to cooperate and let them in.
“Goddamn piece of shit…” Penn swore in annoyance.
Teller couldn’t help but snort a soft laugh, taking the keycard from Penn’s hand and finessing it into the slot. The locks turned and the light turned green. Penn pushed the handle down and shouldered his way into the room.
As each of them picked a bed and Penn began to rummage through his bag, Teller began to toe off his shoes and sit on the edge of the bed. Penn was disturbingly quiet, and Teller noticed he’d stopped rummaging as well. Glancing at the taller man, Teller saw that Penn’s eyes were glued to his suitcase, but his gaze was far away.
“I feel so messed up right now.”
Teller watched his partner for a minute, unsure what he could say to help Penn, so simply remained silent.
“It’s not supposed to be like this for us,” Penn continued, looking over to meet Teller’s eyes. “We’re not Lennon and McCartney. Hell, we’re not even Siegfried and Roy.”
“Smaller animals in our acts,” Teller jested, trying to lighten the mood. He wasn’t sure if the quip had helped or not, but Penn moved to sit beside him on the bed, their shoulders touching.
“What the fuck, man?”
Penn’s turmoil was almost palpable, but Teller--again--wasn’t sure how to help, or even if he could.
When Penn turned his head to look at his partner, Teller found himself under curious scrutiny. “Do you love me?”
The question was the last thing Teller ever expected Penn to ask him, especially with the level of gravity in Penn’s voice. His heart leapt into his throat, threatening to choke him before he could answer. Penn’s gaze was so penetrating that Teller knew he couldn’t lie even if his life depended on it. Swallowing his heart down into his stomach, Teller tried to speak, but found that no words would come. He nodded, slowly, softly. His eyes never leaving Penn’s.
Teller could see Penn mentally recoil from the response, though his only visible response was the bugging out of his azure eyes as he suddenly had to come to grips with the revelation. Teller felt his own eyes starting to sting--his contacts drying out as he stared unblinking at Penn, not wanting to miss a second of this exchange. His emotions were starting to well up--hope and fear colliding inside of him, squeezing his chest, cutting off his oxygen as it constricted his throat. He could feel the pin pricks behind his eyes as he began to tear up.
Whether Penn was privy to Teller’s physical and emotional response to the moment, he made no indication, but instead released an unsteady breath. “For how long?”
Teller swallowed hard, trying to force his airways open enough to vocalize a response. The tears fell down his cheeks, and it took several more swallows before he was able to croak out his answer. “Since the moment we first met.”
Teller couldn’t discern if it had been the answer Penn had expected or the one he dreaded, but he saw Penn swallow just as hard in response and his eyes shimmer with tears. Penn shook his head, as if in disbelief, and rubbed his hand nervously over his goatee. “Fuck...Goddamn it, Teller...You fucking asshole…”
All at once, Penn was leaning towards him, his long arms wrapping around Teller’s shoulders and dragging him into the tightest hug he’d ever experienced. Penn pressed his nose against Teller’s shoulder, breathing deeply, and Teller had no choice but to press his face in against Penn’s chest.
Teller could feel himself shaking, terrified that it was out in the open and desperate to find out what this meant for them now. Penn’s hold on him seemed to both tighten and loosen all at the same time until Penn’s lips were next to Teller’s ear. “Why the fuck didn’t you ever say anything?”
“I couldn’t,” Teller choked, pushing out of Penn’s arms, feeling somehow suffocated. He sniffed and wiped his eyes with the heel of his hand before digging into this pocket for a handkerchief to blow his nose. “I couldn’t, Penn. I knew you didn’t feel the same way.”
Penn went strangely quiet, looking down at his hands and fiddling with his wedding band. “Teller, from the moment I first saw you perform, I knew you would change my fucking life. You really think a 17 year old punk like me would have really spent as much time around you as I did if I didn’t love you even just a little bit?”
Teller blinked, staring at Penn in disbelief. He couldn’t reason Penn’s response with his knowledge of the man, or even their history together. The words went against everything he knew to be truth, and finally Teller had to conclude that they were talking about different types of love. In an attempt to clarify his own meaning, Teller reverted back to the role of teacher and launched into a lecture about different types of love.
“The ancient Greeks recognized and identified six different types of love,” Teller began, ticking each off his finger as he recalled them, “Eros, Philia, Ludus, Agape, Pragma, and Philautia. Philautia is the love of the self--it’s the type that can make a person either narcissistic or just very self aware. Philia is the love between friends or comrades. The city of Philadelphia literally does mean the ‘City of Brotherly Love.’ Ludus can also have two different connotations. It’s a playful type of love--the playful bantering and laughter with friends, or flirting with someone you’re attracted to. Most people understand that agape is the love we hold for others regardless of relationship--it’s the selfless love we experience during moments of empathy or charity. Pragma--”
“Teller…” Penn finally cut across the other with a patient tone, waiting for Teller to meet his eyes again. Rather than use words to explain his own meaning, Penn took a page from Teller’s book and used his actions. He gently tipped Teller’s chin up with his fingertips, leaning in close. There was only the briefest moment of hesitation in that breath before the kiss, then Penn’s lips touched Teller’s.
It was the softest, sweetest kiss Teller had ever experienced, but before his mind could wrap around what was happening so that he could respond, Penn was pulling back again. Teller felt like he was gaping at Penn, his mouth hanging open slightly as his thoughts tumbled through his mind like clothes in a dryer. The normally eloquent and multi-lingual man had been rendered completely speechless and unable to process even a single thought. A million questions were on the tip of his tongue, but the only word he could manage to verbalize was a soft, “Huh…”
Penn laughed--not his normal boisterous, over the top laugh, but a quiet, amused chuckle. “Look man, I don’t know what this means or what it changes or anything like that, I just...I dunno. I felt it today. I mean, I’ve always felt it, but--”
“I felt it too.” Teller nodded in understanding. “I’m just a little--okay, a lot--surprised that you…” He couldn’t even form the words on his lips. “I was always under the impression that you just kind of tolerated me for the sake of the act.”
“Seriously?” Penn sounded somewhat hurt as he regarded his partner. “I know I’ve always tried to give the impression that we weren’t very close personally--which wasn’t a lie. We weren’t. We’ve become close, but it was a gradual build up. I just… I dunno… I didn’t want people thinking that we were lovers or that our relationship had anything to do with that. It really mattered to me for some stupid reason; like they’d take us more seriously somehow. I think I got so stuck in trying to make sure we weren’t defined in that way that I forgot--or maybe just convinced myself--that that was the way it was. That I didn’t have any affection for you. That I didn’t love you… But if I ever gave you the impression that I didn’t care about you, or that I just tolerated you...man, I am deeply, deeply sorry.”
“So why didn’t you ever tell me?” Teller asked. “You’ve never given any indication that you were attracted to men--you’ve always loved women, and everything about them, and I know you love Emily. You can see my confusion, can’t you?”
Penn rubbed his goatee again, dropping his gaze from Teller’s. “I do love women, and I do love my wife. That will never change. Ever. I’m not interested in men, Teller, I never have been. It’s just… It’s just you.”
Teller blinked slowly as their eyes met again. “I feel either really flattered or really offended right now--I can’t decide which.”
“Why offended?” Penn asked with complete seriousness.
“Because if you’re not interested in men, and really love women, but also love me...either I’m an exception to the rule, or you see me as a woman.”
Penn couldn’t stop himself from roaring with laughter, having not considered it that way. He grinned at Teller and leaned in close with a devious look. “If I was nice, I’d tell you which way you should be feeling, but we both know I’m not a nice guy.”
Teller was dumbfounded as Penn pushed himself off the bed, grabbed his shower kit from his open bag, and headed towards the bathroom. “Where the hell are you going?”
“I told you I need a shower,” Penn replied, pausing in the doorway to smirk at Teller.
“Well, now’s a fine fucking time to follow through on it!”
Penn just grinned before closing the door, and only then did Teller realize Penn hadn’t fully answered his question. If Penn had loved him all this time...why had he never said so?
Penn & Teller still do not belong to me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Whether Penn was intentionally taking an exceptionally long time in the shower, or time itself had just decided to slow to a crawl so that it could torture Teller, he figured he would probably never know for certain. He felt like he could have watched the changing of all four seasons by the time Penn emerged, still practically dripping wet, a white hotel towel affixed around his hips.
Teller had seen Penn in a towel before. Hell, he’d seen Penn naked before. But this was the first time Penn wanted Teller to see him like this. Teller had two immediate, visceral reactions to the sight--his mouth ran dry, and his loins flooded with desire. In three massive strides, Penn had crossed the room and was pushing Teller backwards against the pillows as he draped his entire body on top of Teller’s. Penn sought his partner’s lips, and Teller delighted in the mixture of fierce and sweet kisses.
“Shh.” Penn pulled back just enough to bring his hand up and lay his finger gently against Teller’s lips. “I don’t want to think about any of that. This is all I care about right now.”
Teller didn’t know how Penn could compartmentalize things so quickly and so easily, but when the kisses resumed, he was hardly in any state of mind to argue. Penn’s damp towel and slippery skin were starting to bleed into Teller’s clothes, and Teller gave a soft groan of displeasure, lightly pushing against Penn’s shoulder. “You’re making me wet.”
Penn couldn’t help but chortle at that, pulling back once again and grinning down at the other man. “I get that a lot, but it’s usually women saying it.”
“That’s the idea.” Penn leaned back in, opening his mouth against Teller’s, his tongue spelunking the eager maw for the first time.
Teller wanted to pinch himself just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, but his hands had found a far more pleasing task. He traced his fingertips up and down the smooth line of Penn’s spine, eliciting a deep moan anytime he passed over the curve of his lumbar region. Teller could feel the press of Penn’s erection against his thigh, and could feel his own throbbing with need. He knew Penn had never been with another man before, and his lack of experience was beginning to show as he struggled to figure out what to do with his hands. Being the expert in this field as well, Teller put a hand on Penn’s shoulder again and gently urged him onto his back, rolling along with the other man so that he was on top.
Penn looked up at him with a strange expression. “This is so fucking weird.”
“Do you want to stop?”
Penn’s large hands pulled Teller back to him. “No...but it’s still weird.”
Teller laughed quietly, nodding his agreement. “Just trust me, okay?”
“I always have.” Penn answered with intense sincerity. There was so much meaning in those words, that they nearly left Teller breathless. He leaned down and pecked Penn’s lips gently, giving into the need for tenderness by brushing the end of his nose against Penn’s before he pushed himself down Penn’s body, settling between the other man’s legs.
Penn propped himself up on several pillows to allow a better viewing angle, and Teller’s eyes traveled up the length of Penn’s (now much leaner) frame. He still had a bit of excess skin hanging around his midsection, but it hardly bothered Teller in the slightest. Penn reached a hand down, cupping Teller’s cheek and stroking along his cheekbone with his thumb. Teller turned his lips in against Penn’s palm, planting a soft kiss. His own hands flattened against Penn’s thighs, just above his knees and below the fabric of the towel still tucked around his hips.
Sliding both hands up under the towel, he caressed and massaged all along Penn’s thighs, his lips touching down to kiss and playfully bite whatever skin he exposed along his trek. The higher his travels took him, the more the towel started to loosen and give way. There was a prominent tent in the material as Penn’s erection stood at full mast, and Teller could hardly take his eyes off of it as he watched more and more skin revealing itself to him.
Penn tasted and smelled vaguely of soap, which Teller almost found disappointing. Certainly he knew that it was because Penn had just bathed, but he almost would have preferred something manly and purely Penn Jillette. The damn Gillette shave cream jingle from the 80s suddenly sprang to his mind, and Teller could help it. He started to crack up.
“What the fuck is so funny?”
Penn’s obvious unamusement only made Teller laugh harder, and all he could do was shake his head in an attempt to dissolve any fear that he was laughing at him until he could finally stop laughing long enough to explain, barely able to spit out the catch phrase “Gillette, the best a man can get” before laying his head against Penn’s thigh, shaking from the force of his laughter.
Whether Penn finally found the humor in it, or was infected by Teller’s laugh, the other man started laughing as well. Anytime they both lost it over something, they could spend up to half an hour in a vicious loop where they passed the laughter back and forth. If one stopped, a single chortle or snort would set them off again. This time was no different, and they both laughed at the stupid jingle until their sides hurt and they were struggling for breath.
Though they’d both lost their erections in the process, they were so high on endorphins that it didn’t matter. Penn pulled Teller back up to the head of the bed, turning on his side as they lay facing each other. He wiped the tears of mirth from Teller’s face, and Teller mirrored the action on Penn. Simultaneously, they both moved in for a tender kiss, resting their foreheads together against one of the pillows.
“I was afraid,” Penn admitted gently. “I completely freaked out.” It didn’t take Teller long to understand he was answering the earlier question of why he’d never told Teller how he felt.
“What were you afraid of?”
“Rejection. Humiliation. Reciprocation… Everything. Up until I met you, I had no doubts about my sexuality. I wanted to be with women. I don’t know what it was about you that changed that within me, and it wasn’t like an immediate ‘oh man, I want to fuck him’ response. Like everything, it was gradual...or at least my coming to the realization of it was gradual.”
“When did you really know and understand that you felt that way about me?”
Penn took a deep breath and slowly released it. “That first night I slept on your couch. Do you remember it? We stayed up for hours that night, laying in the middle of your living room floor on that disgusting brown shag carpet…”
Teller laughed softly. “I remember. You kept smashing your hand down in the carpet hoping to leave handprints everywhere.”
Chuckling at the memory, Penn continued. “Anyways, I just remember listening to you and thinking to myself ‘I think I’m falling in love with him.’ It was your intelligence and your ideas and...just everything. I didn’t think there was any chance you would have ever felt the same way. I mean, I was goofy, but I wasn’t smart like you and Wier were.”
“Bullshit.” Teller interjected, propping his head up on one hand. “You were 17, Penn. Seventeen-year-olds aren’t typically all Einsteins, despite whatever they claim. As I recall, you were a good student, received excellent grades, and even wanted to go to college at some point. Believe it or not, I was more than impressed with you. You could think for yourself; you didn’t need to regurgitate a history book or speak six languages to prove your intelligence.”
“I know that now but back then I just felt like an idiot next to you. You spoke Latin, for fuck’s sake. You made me want to learn Latin. If I’d had you as a teacher in high school, I might have actually gone to college. Who knows what I would have done or what I could have accomplished.” Penn shook his head, wondering at the possibilities.
“Non omnia possumus omnes.”
Penn looked at Teller with mild annoyance. “Show off… Virgil?”
Teller nodded as he translated, “Not everyone can do everything.”
“Fuck that. Virgil never met me.”
Teller chuckled softly.
“Anyways...After I realized that I had kind of a crush--A crush? Christ that sounds so juvenile; what am I, 12? After I realized how I felt about you, I just manipulated myself into believing that all I wanted from you was your intellect. I turned myself into a complete sponge with you. I loved learning from you. I loved doing things with you. I loved that you loved learning things from me. But I never allowed myself to think about the fact that I was in love with you. I just didn’t even keep it in my vocabulary. You know how I am when I put my mind to something.”
“Oh yes…” Teller nodded emphatically.
“Anytime I started to feel those other feelings, though, I would find some way to feel the complete opposite. Eventually, I bought into it. Sort of reprogrammed my brain to believe that there was absolutely nothing there at all but cold, dead air.”
“And once you convinced yourself of that, it never slipped out of place?”
“If it did, I would just try to picture a clean room in a science lab and imagine you were the deadly specimen I was working with in a petri dish.”
“Well, that’s charming...but it certainly explains why you’ve referred to our relationship as ‘sterile’ before.” Teller paused, tracing his lips with his index finger as he reflected over their past and assimilated this new knowledge. Penn could almost see memories and preconceptions rewriting themselves now that Teller had more context behind Penn’s motives and attitudes. It was both beautiful and heartbreaking to know that his own insecurities and self-doubts had been the colors Teller had been forced to use to paint the canvas of his life. He felt like he was watching an artist whitewash a masterpiece.
When Teller finally met Penn’s eyes again, he only had one question. “For the last forty years you’ve had yourself convinced you had no real feelings for me...what the hell happened today to change all of that?”
“I don’t have a fucking clue,” Penn admitted, as perplexed by it as Teller was. “This morning when I looked at you...maybe it was the mention of Wier, or you thanking me, or my mind just finally saying ‘fuck you,’ but I just felt that same thing that I’d felt that first night with you in your apartment. I couldn’t bury it like I’ve always been able to do. I couldn’t trick myself back into thinking you were just my partner. It really fucked with my mind because of the life I have with EZ, Mox, and Z*...I still don’t know what this is going to end up being between us, Teller, but I know that I can’t lose my family over it.”
Teller shook his head, “I would never put you in that position, Penn. I resigned myself to the fact that my feelings would never be returned a long time ago. This, right now, is more than I ever dreamed possible.” He paused, searching Penn’s eyes. “Do you think last night’s experiment brought all these feelings back up?”
“The shit with your therapeutic touch crap?” Penn sighed and rolled onto his back, putting his hands under his head and staring up at the ceiling as he considered the possibility. “I don’t know. Wouldn’t I have started thinking about it when you were doing that arm thing to me? Instead of thinking about you, I thought about my mom. Seems kind of like a delayed reaction if it is due to all of that.”
Teller licked his lips. “Speaking of the ‘arm thing’...I have a confession to make.”
Penn turned his head to give Teller a quizzical look.
“I realized this morning that the reason I became aroused when you reciprocated the touch on me is because… Well… Do you remember that neck thing you used to do to try and annoy me? You’d touch my neck, play with my hair, that kind of crap.”
Penn chuckle at the memory and nodded, “You hated that.”
“Actually, I didn’t. Like you, I was terrified of telling you how I felt. I especially didn’t want to ever let on that I really enjoyed that damn neck thing. That was the real focus of my dream last night. Sitting in that station wagon with you, Wier in the back, with you caressing my neck. The way you touched my arm last night felt almost identical to that.”
“I’ll be goddamned…”
The next few moments elapsed in companionable silence as they looked at one another, Teller resting his hand against Penn’s shoulder.
It was Teller who broke the silence. “So now what?”
Penn turned his head to glance over at the clock, trying to gauge how much time they still had before they had to be at the venue to get ready for the show. He grinned back over at Teller. “You could finish what you started earlier.”
Teller laughed quietly, his cheeks tinging with pink. That hadn’t quite been what he meant with the question, but he figured Penn already knew that. Living by the creed Carpe Diem, Teller dipped his head down and molded his lips against the other man’s, gifting Penn with a long, languid kiss.
Penn moaned when Teller’s hand trailed down from his shoulder, across his chest and over his abdomen before it plucked at the folded corners of the towel, pulling them free from where they were tucked in. Teller didn’t break the kiss to examine Penn’s fully naked form, no matter how much he wanted to take in the sight of it. He kept his eyes close, mouth engaged with Penn’s, and let his fingers blindly explore.
He first encountered the soft patch of curls, neatly trimmed, and let his fingers play with them for a moment before slipping lower. Penn’s cock was listing to the right, not fully erect, but steadily getting there. Teller trailed his fingers up and down the shaft, memorizing the length between base and tip. He realized that both men had disengaged from the kiss, though their lips remained next to one another’s, and Teller pulled back to look at Penn’s face.
Penn’s eyes were closed, the lines in his face smoothed as he relaxed under Teller’s touch and focused on the pleasure. Teller finally let his eyes drift down the rest of Penn’s body, drinking in every inch of his 6’6’’ stature. He watch his fingers curl around Penn’s cock, enjoying the heft and girth of it before he started to stroke.
The groan of pleasure he elicited from Penn brought a smile to his face. It had been a long time since Teller had done this on anyone but himself, but he found it was like riding a bicycle--you didn’t forget how to give a handjob. Swiping his thumb across the head of Penn’s cock, Teller spread the drops of precum around the sensitive skin as he started to--once again--move down Penn’s body.
Staying on Penn’s left, Teller draped his upper body across the man’s thigh and leaned in to drag his tongue over the weeping slit.
“Fuck…” Penn breathed, one hand coming to rest at the back of Teller’s head.
Guiding the head of Penn’s cock into his mouth, he slid the underside against the cradle of his tongue, mindful not to scrape Penn with his teeth. He bobbed his head a few times, allowing only the first two inches into his mouth at any given time as he created suction, and moved his tongue against the organ.
Penn tried to fist a handful Teller’s hair, but the short strands kept slipping through his grip, and the man moaned equally in frustration and pleasure. Teller gently squeezed the base of Penn’s cock with one hand as he moved his other hand between Penn’s legs, cupping the warm, heavy sac. He felt Penn’s cock twitch in his mouth, and when Teller let his short, blunt nails drag against the sensitive skin, he was rewarded by the other man arching up against him.
“Jesus fucking Christ...Teller…”
As he massaged Penn’s sac, Teller took several more inches into his mouth, taking Penn as deep into his mouth as he dared. It had been a long time since he’d sucked another guy off, and he didn’t want to kill the mood by making himself gag unnecessarily, even if he was fairly certain he could control the reflex.
Penn didn’t mind that Teller didn’t take him all the way to the root, he was too busy trying to control the urge to thrust into Teller’s mouth and skull fuck him until he came. Penn was nothing if not considerate to his oral sex partners. And boy, could Teller give some good head. It still blew his mind that it was Teller’s mouth on his cock, but rather than turn him off or make him queasy, it just excited him all the more.
When Teller’s teeth accidentally scraped along his shaft, Penn thought he would lose his load right then and there. Teller hummed apologetically, thinking he’d hurt the other man, and quickly laved his tongue over the area to soothe it. Even the vibration of Teller’s vocal chords seem to resonate through every cell in Penn’s body.
“Teller...I’m not gonna last much longer,” he warned.
Taking that as permission to give it his all, Teller increased the suction around Penn’s cock, bobbing his head faster up and down the shaft for several more passes before he focused solely on the head once more. With his hands working Penn’s shaft and sac, and his mouth a vacuum at the end, Teller focused his attention on Penn’s face as much as he could.
Penn’s eyes were screwed shut, his mouth open as he panted and moaned and swore. The sounds were beautiful coming from that distinctly deep and perpetually hoarse sounding voice. It sent shivers up and down Teller’s spine, and he wondered if just listening to Penn reaching orgasm, could bring him over the edge as well. Teller couldn’t help but moan in response to the oratory pleasure, and Penn’s hand gripped Teller’s hair--or what he could manage to grasp, at least--as the vibration sent him over the edge.
“FUCK!” Penn growled as he released warm ropes of fluid into Teller’s waiting mouth. Teller allowed the cum to collect against his tongue, holding the suction steady until every drop had been spent and Penn was practically spasming in pleasure.
The grip at the back of his head lessened, Penn’s hand smoothing the hair he’d mussed, and Teller swallowed--giving one final lick at the tip to clean away the last few drops. Penn’s eyes were heavily lidded when Teller moved back up to the head of the bed. The younger man hooked his arm around Teller’s neck and pulled him down into a greedy kiss.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve done that,” Teller admitted quietly as the kiss ended, but their faces remained close together.
“Trust me, Rudy...it was fucking incredible.”
Teller couldn’t help but grin--not at the praise, but at the nickname. “You haven’t called me that in ages.”
Penn just smiled, pulling Teller down against him and wrapping both arms around him. “Christ, Teller...what the fuck do we do now?”
“What do you want to do?”
“I have no fucking idea.”
Teller rested his chin on Penn’s chest, looking up at the other man. “Are you going to tell Emily?”
“No.” Penn said staunchly, then rephrased. “Not yet. Not until you and I figure this out and I know what the fuck to actually say to her.”
Teller gave an empathetic sigh, but offered no advice. Penn’s relationship with his wife and children was none of his business. He would do everything within his power to keep Penn’s relationship with them intact and undamaged, but had to rely on Penn to tell him where exactly that line was.
“What do you want, Teller?”
Releasing a heavier sigh, Teller could only shake his head, at a loss of where to even begin. “I still feel like this is a dream. I never thought we’d actually find ourselves at this threshold, so I never had any hopes or ideas or plans for it. I don’t even know what the possibilities are.”
“What a mess. Why couldn’t you have just manned up 40 years ago and made a move on me?”
“You would have broken my nose if I’d done anything.”
“Yeah, probably,” Penn conceded. “But then I would have offered to make it up to you with mind-blowing sex.”
Teller laughed, and pushed himself up to sit cross-legged. “Missed opportunities.”
“Forty years of missed opportunities.”
“Maybe that should be the name of our next show--Penn & Teller: Forty Years of Missed Opportunities.” Both men chuckled before Teller sobered back up, “I wouldn’t change a single minute of it, though. I’ve lived an extraordinary life...and so have you.”
The two held each other’s gaze for a long moment, then Teller moved off the other side of the bed and unzipped his bag to find his toothbrush. As much as he enjoyed the taste of Penn in his mouth, he didn’t need any distractions during the show.
Teller looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror as he brushed his teeth, smirking in delight. Penn had certainly managed to do a number on his hair, making it stick out in odd directions. He still couldn’t quite believe that he’d just blown Penn and was currently digesting his cum. The thought made him laugh softly as he leaned over to spit out the toothpaste and rinse his mouth. With wet fingers, he fixed his hair.
Penn was up and getting dressed when Teller emerged, and the older man watched him unabashedly, relishing in the fact that he could do so openly...at least if they were alone. Teller had no intentions of revealing this in public, and he was confident Penn felt exactly the same.
“I think I’ll be able to do the juggling bit tonight,” Penn told him before turning to face Teller full on, finally taking notice that his partner was watching him. He shook his head and pulled a t-shirt on over his head. “This is still so fucking weird.”
Teller shrugged his eyebrows, smirking, then went back to putting his toothbrush away.
When the duo were finally ready to go, they decided to grab a bite to eat before making it back to the venue. With Penn’s diet, they often disagreed now on where to go if they happened to be together, but when Teller suggested Taziki’s Cafe, Penn was all in. Teller had introduced him to Greek and Mediterranean food at the very beginning of their relationship, and Penn had fallen in love with it. Experience told him he’d be able to find vegetarian options while Teller could still have whatever he wanted.
Conversation remained light over the course of the meal as they talked about current events and discussed articles one or the other had recently read. Despite everything that had just transpired, it seemed like nothing had changed. Teller was eternally grateful for that. He couldn’t think of anything worse than suddenly finding his relationship with Penn awkward and strained. Even though Penn had said--repeatedly--that it was weird to be on that new playing field with Teller, he appeared to be taking it in stride.
As showtime grew closer and closer, the two men finally made their way back to the venue to start getting ready. Their shared dressing room had a fresh stock of cold bottled water and seltzer. Their grey pinstriped suits had been freshly pressed and hung with care, and their shoes had been polished. Teller always took a minute to appreciate how far they’d come from homemade costumes, festivals, and a station wagon, to this.
They both changed into their stage outfits, Penn leaving his t-shirt on underneath the button up as he always did, and Teller helping to straighten the other man’s tie--as he always did. They used the lint roller to make sure everything was perfect, then heard the stage manager’s call over the dressing room intercom.
From their very first gig, Penn had always declared “Showtime” before the pair headed out on stage. Tonight, he leaned in and kissed Teller before making the declaration. Teller was glad that he was the silent one on stage, because the kiss had left him with the inability to speak. He stood there grinning like an idiot for several seconds before following Penn out of the room.
They parted ways backstage and each took their spot in the opposite wings. Teller closed his eyes, mentally packing all extraneous thoughts into an invisible box within his mind--including his feelings for Penn--until all that remained was what was necessary for the show.
The house lights dimmed and the audience began to cheer as the announcer introduced the act. By the time Teller stepped out into the spotlight, he’d forgotten he even had a personal life.
The show went as well as they always hoped it would, even if Teller found himself holding his breath a little during Penn’s juggling act. They left the stage to thunderous applause, finding a space where they could greet and sign and take selfies with any fan who wanted to come up, and in no time, both of them found themselves in the middle of separate circles as the crowd gathered round.
After so many years of doing this for the fans, Penn and Teller had it down to a science. They would let the crowd form a circle, then they would move from person to person, constantly rotating around the inside of that circle until it dwindled down to the last remaining few. There were fans who would stay to the side and wait until both men could be photographed together, so as soon as the two could merge their circles peacefully, they would.
It was both tiring and electrifying to meet so many people, take so many pictures, and sign so many autographs, but they’d agreed long ago that standing around until the last fan left the theatre was the least they could do for the people who paid to see them perform.
When they returned to the dressing room, Teller immediately went for a bottle of water and downed it in under a minute. They kept water in the wings of the stage, but there was rarely time to take more than a quick gulp. When he tossed the bottle in the trash, he caught sight of Penn looking at him in the mirror, and held the other man’s gaze through the reflective glass. He could see the contemplative look in Penn’s eyes, and turned to face his partner, a quizzical expression his silent question to ask what the other man was thinking.
“You know I can relate just about anything to a Dylan song,” Penn said. “But I’m not sure how I feel about the one that comes to mind when I look at you now.”
The only knowledge Teller really had of Bob Dylan was whatever he had learned from Penn over the years. He’d listened to the albums, with Penn translating it for him, but really had no real love for the music. He could appreciate it for art’s sake, but even now it still just sounded like caterwauling to him. His mind quickly tried to compile a list of possible song choices that might relate to their current circumstances, but knowing Penn, it would probably be some completely random association. For the sake of a joke, Teller tossed out “Just Like a Woman?”
Penn threw his head back with a loud laugh, appreciating the reference to his earlier jesting, and when he looked back at Teller, he was wearing a fond smile. “‘Til I Fell In Love With You,” he corrected.
Teller had to think for a minute to recall the song from memory. On the surface, it might be taken in two different concepts--a sappy love song, or one about lost love--but there was never anything superficial about Dylan’s lyrics. The song wasn’t just a blues song, it was a song of desperation; of a man falling apart over a love affair.
“I’m not sure how to feel about that either,” Teller finally conceded, not wishing to cause Penn any distress whatsoever.
“I think maybe I just see the potential of everything going to shit if we get this wrong somehow,” Penn allowed. “I could lose everything--Emily, Moxie, Zolten, you, the show--if we pursue this. But on the other hand...I can’t go back to ignoring how I feel. And frankly I don’t want to. That’s probably completely self-serving and selfish to say, but...well, there you have it.”
“Penn,” Teller stepped forward until the two were toe to toe. His soft voice was steady as he looked up into Penn’s eyes. “You have my word that no matter what we decide--or what you decide--I’m not going anywhere. I won’t pack up my toys and go home if you decide it’s too much or not worth it. Hearing you say you love me--or rather, experiencing it through that kiss since you didn’t actually say the words--is more than enough for me. You don’t need to risk everything else you have just because you think it would make me happy. You need to do what’s right for you. Don’t worry about me, don’t worry about the show. Besides, who would come and see the ‘& Teller’ show? Just doesn’t have the same appeal to it.”
Again, Penn laughed, winding his arms around Teller’s waist and pulling the other man up against him. Teller had to raise up on his toes just to keep his feet on the ground. Penn was looking down at him, a goofy smile plastered on his face. “I do, you know.”
“Do what?” Teller asked, the proximity and Penn’s heat making him nearly swoon.
“Love you.” Penn answered wholeheartedly as he bent his head, claiming Teller’s lips in a strong, sweet, sensual kiss.
*Mox is short for Moxie; Z is Zolten's nickname.
You know the drill, they're not mine.
After road shows, Penn would always call and FaceTime with Emily and his kids to check in and say ‘hi.’ Usually Penn looked forward to those calls, but Teller could tell he was apprehensive about it tonight, worried that his wife would know something was up and that Penn wouldn’t know what to say.Teller didn’t want to meddle, so he didn’t say anything on the ride back to their hotel.
Their manager was in the front seat of the car, so it made it easier for Teller to keep his silence, though he did discreetly lay his hand next to Penn’s in the space between them and link their pinkies. Penn gave his finger a gentle squeeze with his own in appreciation, but continued to stare out the window.
They were told what time to be ready in the morning when they unloaded from the car in front of the hotel, and said goodnight to the manager as they got off on their floor. Teller opened the door, preceding Penn into their suite and shrugged out of his jacket.
“Guess I better call home,” Penn sighed, sitting on the edge of his bed. “Christ...I should be happy to talk to them, but I’m just dreading it.”
Teller sat down next to Penn, his left side pressed against Penn’s right and held out his hand. “Let me see your phone.”
“Why?” Penn asked warily, holding it as far from Teller as possible until the other man replied.
“Just give me the damn phone, Penn.”
Penn hesitated, but then laid the phone in Teller’s hand. He watched his partner pull up his photo album, going straight to the album where he kept his pictures of Emily, Moxie, and Zolten for quick reference when he showed people his kids. He pulled up a picture he knew Penn was particularly fond of and held it in front of Penn’s face.
“Look at them.” He paused. “Has anything changed for you in regards to your family?”
Penn took the phone from Teller’s hand, unable to keep from smiling at the picture of his zany wife and kids. “No. Of course it hasn’t. I just feel like I’m being deceitful by not telling EZ how I feel about you.”
“I’m not going to tell you what to do here, Penn. They’re not my family. I love them dearly, of course, but this is between you and them.” He paused again. “But if I can make an observation?”
“Give your wife some credit. She knows you better than anyone--and still loves you despite it.”
Penn laughed at that. “Asshole.”
“Make the call. Follow what your gut tells you. It’s never been wrong.”
Looking at Teller for a long moment, Penn put his arm around the other man’s shoulders and pulled him into a soft kiss. Teller pat Penn on the knee, then got up, declaring that he intended on taking a nice, hot shower. Penn knew it was partly Teller’s way of giving the man some privacy, and silently thanked him. He waited until Teller had collected his things and closed the bathroom door before texting his wife that he was settled in and ready to chat.
Emily’s face filled his screen seconds later, surrounded by the maniacal grins of his children. Penn felt his heart swell with pride and love, and promptly stuck his tongue out at all of them. The kids took turns filling him in on everything they’d been doing, sometimes talking at once until Emily told them to slow down. Penn couldn’t help but laugh. Even though they talked daily, his children made him feel like he’d missed month's worth of activity.
After a few minutes, Emily told them to say goodnight and run along. Penn smiled ruefully as she sighed dramatically, obviously in need of ‘me-time.’ “Long day?”
“You have no idea.”
“I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I do live there, I am their father. I think I have a pretty good idea.”
Emily stuck her tongue out at him. “How was your day? Good show?”
“Great show,” Penn nodded. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to juggle, but I pulled it off.”
“You need to get some of those copper or magnetic bracelets, Penn,” Emily scolded, knowing full well about his arthritic pain.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” He’d heard that song and dance before and still thought it was a bunch of bullshit.
“Alright, don’t come crying to me when your hands turn into claws. I’ll just say ‘I told you so.’”
“We’ll just make it part of the act. As long as Teller still has dexterity, then at least one of us can still do magic. I can still hold my sticks for the fire eating bit with claw hands...it’ll be fine.”
Emily just shook her head. “Where are you tomorrow? I’m not looking at the schedule right now.”
“Buttfuck, Ohio, I think. I don’t know. I just get on a plane and go where the pilot flys me.”
“I hope you’re not the one who makes the 911 call if your plane gets hijacked by terrorists. ‘Where is the plane headed?’ ‘Oh, I dunno, Buttfuck, Ohio?’”
Penn laughed at her impersonation of him, which made him sound like a drooling imbecile. “I’ll just make sure to call you so you can call it in.”
They spent several minutes just chatting about nonsense before Emily said that she was going to go soak in the tub and crawl in bed with a good chick flick and some popcorn. “Don’t drown. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Emily blew him a kiss and Penn pretended to catch it. “Love, love.”
“Love.” Penn tapped the button to end the connection, tossing his phone to the side as he laid back on the bed. He heard the door to the bathroom open, and knew that Teller had probably finished showering several minutes ago, but had been waiting for Penn to finish the call before coming back in the room. “You know I don’t mind if you overhear our conversations, right? It’s not like we have phone sex...often.”
Teller chuckled quietly, putting his things away and digging out his charger so he could charge his phone. “I don’t like to intrude on anyone’s private calls, Penn. Regardless of content.”
“I’m just saying, you don’t have to hide in the bathroom.” Penn rolled onto his side, watching Teller pull back the covers on his own bed and furrowed his brow slightly. “What are you doing?”
Teller looked back at him perplexed, motioning to the bed and wondering how it wasn’t obvious. “Getting in bed?”
“Wrong bed.” Penn pointed out, patting his mattress.
Teller’s eyebrows shot up a little in surprise. “Are you sure?”
“Do you really have to ask?” Teller took a step towards the bed, and Penn reached behind him for his phone. “Would you mind plugging mine into charge while you’re up?”
Changing direction, Teller moved to Penn’s bag and pulled out his charger, bringing it over to plug it in next to the nightstand. He took Penn’s phone from his hand, sticking the connection into the port and waiting for the phone to beep at him to signal it was charging.
Penn moved over to the far side of the bed, sitting up so that he could take his shoes and socks off, tossing them on the floor at the foot of the bed. He helped Teller pull the covers down, sliding beneath them still clad in his jeans and t-shirt. Teller gave him a skeptical look.
“You aren’t going to change?”
“I will in a bit.” Penn shrugged. He waited for Teller to get into bed before he moved in closer to the other man, holding his arm out. “Will you do that thing again?”
“Oh, so that’s why you wanted me in your bed.”
Penn chuckled. “Damn right.”
Teller sighed, shaking his head, then looked at Penn seriously. “Are you sure?”
“I promise I won’t cry like a bitch this time.”
“Mhm.” Teller replied, disbelieving. He laid back against the pillows, resting Penn’s arm against his chest, and began to drag his fingertips up and down from wrist to elbow. He felt Penn relax almost instantly and smiled to himself.
“So how are we going to make this work?” Penn asked after a brief silence.
“You keep asking me that like I’m going to suddenly have the answer,” Teller observed.
“You’re the one with the college degree. You’re supposed to be smart.”
“Extramarital Affairs wasn’t part of the core curriculum,” Teller countered.
Penn balked, “Don’t call it that. That just...no, I don’t like that.”
Teller raised his eyebrows, glancing at the other man. He decided that quoting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet would probably not yield favorable results, so he let it go. “This has to be your decision, Penn. I’m not comfortable making a call that involves your family.”
Penn growled in frustration, his head thunking against the headboard as he dropped it back. “We’re just going around in fucking circles!”
“What did you expect? That this would be easy? If it had been easy, you never would have gone down this road.” The younger man had tensed back up, Teller could feel it. Penn was staring resolutely at the wall like a petulant child. Teller sat up, moving Penn’s arm off his chest. “Why are you getting upset with me over this?”
“I’m not upset with you,” Penn refuted. “I’m pissed off that I don’t know what to fucking do about this. I don’t know how to get what I want without hurting someone else.”
Teller sighed, pushing his fingers up under his specs to press them against his eyes. “Maybe we need to just nip it in the bud, Penn. Maybe it just has to be enough that we know how the other feels and let that be the end of it.”
“No, I won’t accept that. It’s not enough for me.”
“What would be enough for you? Ultimately, where do you see this going?”
“Ultimately? What we’re doing now--not arguing, but sharing the same bed. Being able to touch you or kiss you or fuck you just because I feel like it and can. It’s not on the road that’s the problem though, it’s when we’re home in Vegas. I want to be able to do those things with you any time I want, not just when I’m away from Emily. That doesn’t mean I want you to move in with us, or that I’m going to walk around in public holding your hand and calling you my partner who also happens to be my partner. I want to be able to spend time with you without feeling like I’m sneaking around.”
“Which is why you need to talk to your wife about this.”
“You’re killing me.” Penn turned his head to look at Teller with exasperation. “You are literally killing me.”
Teller opened his mouth to reply, but Penn’s large hand grabbed the back of his neck and jerked him forward into a rough kiss. Using the weight of his body, Penn leaned on Teller until the other man shrank back down against the pillows, then he rolled himself on top. His fingertips grabbed the slender metal arms of Tellers glasses and slid them off his face, folding them up and putting them on the nightstand before removing his own. He resumed kissing Teller deeply, settling his hips between Teller’s legs and pressing himself against the other man, creating friction between their lower bodies.
A moan of pleasure leaked out of Teller’s mouth and into Penn’s, and a leg slid up over Penn’s hips, hooking itself across his lower back, urging the other man to press harder.
“Fuck…” Penn muttered, breaking the kiss and pulling back onto his knees. He ripped his t-shirt off over his head and chucked it blindly across the room. His hands fell to his belt, whipping the strap from the buckle and manhandling the button and zip open. As he started to push off his jeans and underwear, Teller lifted his hips to slide off his pajama bottoms. Once they were both out of their bottoms, Penn and Teller both grabbed for the hem of Teller’s t-shirt, working it off over the other man’s head.
As Penn reclaimed his position between Teller’s legs, both men moaned. Teller’s arms slid around Penn, his hands gripping his shoulders as he lifted his head to kiss Penn’s throat. Penn was using one hand to support himself against the mattress while the other explored Teller’s chest and abdomen. His hips continued to undulate against the other man’s, their erections sliding against one another. Penn was 100% certain it would have felt even better with lube, but seeing as how they didn’t have any, he would just make do with precum, sweat, and spit.
“When’s the last time you had sex?” Penn asked in a gravelly voice.
“I wish I could remember,” Teller breathed, not being facetious.
Penn stopped moving for a moment, looking down at Teller with an unreadable expression. “Seriously?”
Teller gave a soft shrug. “Other things were more important to me and I didn’t want a relationship. I can’t exactly do one-night stands anymore or I’d constantly be in the tabloids. Or broke from trying to pay them off. Or both.”
“That’s seriously depressing, Teller.”
“Then why don’t you stop talking and fuck me already?”
“Mouthy fucker.” Penn grinned, catching Teller’s bottom lip with his teeth.
Taking Penn’s hand in his, Teller brought Penn’s index and middle finger to his mouth, pulling his lip free so that he could suck the digits suggestively. His eyes stayed locked with Penn’s as his tongue danced around the two fingers to sufficiently slick them up. Sliding them out of his mouth, he guided Penn’s hand down in between his legs. “Slowly…” he murmured.
Penn positioned his digits at the point of penetration, finding it incredibly surreal that he was about to engage in ass play with Teller of all fucking people. He wanted to laugh, but had no desire to kill the mood for a second time that day. Teller’s legs spread a little wider beneath him, and Penn took advantage of the movement, sliding his middle finger in first--slowly and carefully.
A kaleidoscope of colors danced behind Teller’s closed lids as ripples of pleasure radiated thru him. Penn was far more gentle and thorough than Teller ever expected, taking his time to work one finger in before joining it with the other. When the fingers pressed deep, Teller spasmed slightly as they brushed against his prostate. His hips moved of their own accord, lightly grinding down against Penn’s fingers, and he heard a soft chuckle above him. Opening his eyes, he saw a wide grin stretched on the other’s face. Penn had been watching him. Teller felt a blush creep onto his cheeks, but Penn simply bent to kiss him softly.
“More than…” Teller breathed.
Penn withdrew his fingers, bringing his hand up to spit in it and using it to coat his cock as best as he could. He teased Teller’s lips with his tongue as he lined himself up, then plunged his tongue into the other man’s mouth as he slowly penetrated his partner.
Teller sucked in a gasp of air, unprepared for just how thick Penn would be, despite having sucked him off earlier. It really had been a while for him…
“You ok?” Penn’s voice was the gentlest Teller had ever heard it, edged with concern.
Unable to find his voice, Teller simply nodded, squeezing Penn’s biceps and gently biting the other man’s shoulder. Penn grunted his approval and began to push deeper inside of his partner. Teller concentrated on keeping himself relaxed and letting Penn do all the initial work, while Penn was just trying to keep from cumming.
“Holy fuck, Teller, you’re as tight as a goddamn virgin.”
Teller unlatched his teeth from Penn’s shoulder, chuckling. “I feel like one at the moment.”
“I’m sorry I don’t have any lube...I could find some lotion maybe…”
“It’s okay, Penn, it’ll get easier in a minute.”
“If I can last a fucking minute, geeze.”
Teller closed his eyes, breathing through the stretch as Penn fully sheathed himself inside. He thought about the fact that it was Penn, and it filled him longing and desire that helped to override the pain and discomfort. Penn’s cock was leaking precum like a faucet as the other man fought to control himself, adding natural lubrication to the mix. His teeth had found Teller’s earlobe and were grazing it in delicious distraction. He etched this moment into his memory, knowing he would never have this first experience again.
When the pleasure fully surpassed the pain, Teller heaved a heady sigh, the rush of arousal dilating every blood vessel in his body. He tightened his muscles around Penn’s cock, and the other man jerked in response, his hand flying to Teller’s hip and squeezing with bruising force.
“Don’t fucking do that or I’m gonna cum right now.”
Teller couldn’t help but laugh softly. “Feel good?”
“It feels fucking incredible, so don’t fucking do it.”
With a smirk, Teller did it again just to see what the outcome would be.
Penn’s body spasmed again, and he grunted in annoyance, gripping Teller’s hip even tighter as he drew a deep breath through clenched teeth. “You are such an asshole.”
Whether he had taken control of his orgasm, or he was intent on doling out a little torture of his own, Penn withdrew until just the tip remained inside of Teller, then plunged in. Teller managed half of a gasp before his breath was plucked away by the intensity of the pleasure, and his eyes slammed shut as he threw his head back against the pillow.
“Two can play that game,” Penn panted as he pulled back again and thrust in. Teller was clutching his ass, squeezing the rounded globes. When his breath returned to him, Teller moaned sweetly--those soft, honeyed tones running into Penn’s ears and making his spine tingle. “Yeah, you like that, don’t you?”
Teller wasn’t about to give Penn the satisfaction of hearing him talk dirty--he was more than capable of doing so, but he knew the longer he refused to speak, the more frustrated his partner would get, and the harder he would try to break Teller.
Pulling Teller’s leg up against his hip, Penn began drive himself in and out of the other man rhythmically. Teller could feel Penn’s heavy sac smacking against his ass like a pendulum, and focused on the steady tap, tap, tap so that he could shut everything else off internally to keep himself from being vocal in any way.
He quickly memorized Penn’s pattern and with every tap, tap, Teller squeezed. Penn grunted and growled, latching onto Teller’s earlobe as he realized after the third or fourth squeeze exactly what his partner was doing. He changed tempo to throw the other man off, which succeeded only until Teller found the new beat.
“Goddamn it…” Penn chuckled with a hint of exasperation, but Teller knew he was enjoying the game nevertheless. Prying Teller’s hands off of his ass, Penn forced the older man’s arms up next to his head, holding him down by his wrists as he stopped thrusting and simply slid slowly in and out of the tight canal.
Teller couldn’t stop the soft mewl that escaped his lips and Penn grinned triumphantly...until Teller squeezed relentlessly.
“Shiiii….” Penn’s swear trailed off as he held his breath and tried with all his might not to cum right then and there, nearly giving himself blue balls in the process.
Once he’d regained himself, he practically glared down at Teller. “No more fucking games.”
Teller raised his brows with a look to say ‘you started it,’ but Penn ignored him, rolling them both over so that Teller was on top. His cock slipped free in the process, making them both groan, but Teller quickly rectified the situation, by sliding it back in place. Penn’s hands where on his thighs now, thumbs stroking and massaging the muscles. Teller felt powerful like this, sexy somehow, and he didn’t think twice before he began to move his hips. He placed his own hands behind him against Penn’s thighs, leaning back to take Penn deep and give himself leverage to set a steady tempo.
Penn moaned beneath him, his hands roaming Teller’s abdomen and torso restlessly. When a hand fisted itself around his own cock, Teller breathed a blissful sigh. He closed his eyes, his head dropping back on its axis as he became cocooned in ecstasy. Each pass of Penn’s thumb across the head of his cock made him shudder almost violently, each downward stroke like a log onto the fire of his desire. Penn was fanning the flames, threatening to turn Teller into a blazing inferno, but the heat only spurred Teller to fuck the other man faster and more furiously.
Their rhythm built up like Jenga blocks, teetering on the edge of complete cataclysm. Teller threw himself forward, pressing his hands against Penn’s shoulders as he thrust into the man’s hand, then pushed back on Penn’s cock. He became aware only of his impending orgasm, and chased it between the two points of pleasure.
Penn could see the utter look of concentration on Teller’s face, and knew the other man was in the complete throes of passion. It was beautiful, and awe-inspiring to know that Penn was the one taking him to that height. He almost didn’t care if he, himself, came at that point, so long as he got to witness Teller coming undone.
“That’s it, baby,” Penn urged, continuing to stroke Teller’s cock and lifting his hips up to push even deeper inside his partner every time the man sat back. The added depth elicited delightful moans from Teller, and Penn could feel the man’s short, blunt nails digging into his shoulders. He was so close.
With one final swipe of his thumb over the head of Teller’s cock, the older man cried out Penn’s name. His entire body tensed, his muscles becoming like vice around Penn’s cock. The sudden contraction around his erection was nearly enough to make Penn blow his own top, and then Teller started to grind against him.
Up became down, left became right, order became chaos, and both men were plunged into a raging sea of rapture. Teller felt the waves crashing over his head, stealing his breath as ropes of cum erupted from the end of his cock. He could feel Penn gripping both of his hips now, his own jutting up arrhythmically as he finally lost control and spilled himself deep within Teller.
All Teller could hear was the whooshing sound of blood and he realized he’d stopped breathing in response to the intensity of his orgasm. He was getting light headed. Gasping for air felt like breaking through the waves and floating up into thin air. He lost the ability to support himself against Penn’s shoulders, his arms shaking until they gave out and he collapsed down on the other man’s chest.
Penn’s heart was thundering beneath his ear, his lungs expanding and expelling air as quickly as if he’d run a marathon. Teller felt Penn try to throw an arm around his back, but it slipped off of him from lack of muscle strength. They both chuckled, exhausted and completely sated; neither in any hurry to regain control of their muscles and move.
“Jesus Christ, Teller…” Penn panted. “I don’t know about you, but that was worth the fucking wait.”
Teller grinned lazily. “Mm. But imagine how much better it would have been 40 years ago when we both had more stamina.”
“Fuck you, I still have plenty of stamina. More now that I might have a couple of years ago when I weighed a metric ton.” Penn thought about how heavy he’d been before he started his diet and shook his head a little. “At least you didn’t have to fuck Fat Penn.”
Teller lifted his head with some effort and looked down into his partner's eyes. “It’s never mattered to me how much you weigh--I mean, other than for obvious health reasons. I would have enjoyed it then just as much as I did now.”
They held each other’s gaze for a long moment as Penn fought the urge to say something caustic just so he didn’t have to process the well of emotions that sprung up at the sentimental words. He curled his fingers around the back of Teller’s neck and pulled him down into a searing kiss, his only acknowledgement and silent thank you.
“Get the fuck off me, I’m covered in cum.”
Teller couldn’t help but laugh, but did as requested. He carefully pushed himself off of Penn, rolling onto his back, still mostly boneless from his orgasm. He watched Penn carefully shift out of the bed and into the bathroom to clean up, disappearing from view. Teller let his lids slide shut over his eyes, almost lulled into blissful sleep immediately. He was startled awake by something warm and wet landing in the middle of his chest, and his eyes flew open to see Penn standing over him, wiping him down with a washcloth.
Penn took care in cleaning up his chest, stomach and nether regions, then tossed the washcloth towards the bathroom before grabbing the remote off the nightstand and climbing across Teller to lay on his other side. He clicked the TV on, then reached back over for his glasses, sliding them on his face.
“How are you not exhausted after that?” Teller asked, still lying on his back and looking up at Penn as the younger man settled against a stack of pillows and the headboard.
Penn smirked down at him, leaning over and giving him a kiss. “Two reasons. One--more stamina. Two--it hasn’t been a hundred years since the last time I fucked.”
“Fuck you…” Teller grumbled, rolling on his side away from Penn and adjusting the pillow under his head as Penn laughed and began his nightly channel surfing routine.
Well, it's only taken me two years to update this... I really hope I haven't lost the groove of the story.
Thanks to all who have encouraged and inspired me to continue this, and who have reminded me just how much I love Penn and Teller.
As always, ignore any glaring typos or omitted words. Even when I proofread, I still fail to catch all of them.
Please enjoy, and leave any comments you have on it.
Oh, and needless disclaimer: Penn and Teller still don't belong to me.
Teller awoke to what sounded like a freight train passing through his ear canal, and found himself cocooned in Penn’s arms. The other man’s head was resting close to Teller’s on the same pillow, crooked at an odd angle which was causing him to snore.
“Penn…” Teller muttered sleepily, trying to gently nudge the other man with his elbow. “Penn!”
The louder call made Penn snort and stir. “What?”
Penn mumbled unintelligibly, still mostly asleep, but turned onto his back.
Teller listened to Penn’s breathing even out once again. It was nice to hear Penn’s natural breath rather than the Darth Vader-like sounds that came from the portable CPAP machine Penn used to have to wear when he was overweight.
As he started to push himself up to answer the call of nature, Teller felt the muscles in his lower back spasm, a sharp pain radiating along his spine. He hissed involuntary, gritting his teeth and pressing his fingertips against the area, rubbing it to relieve the pang.
“You okay?” Penn asked, sounding only slightly more awake than he had a moment ago.
Teller gave a nod, somehow knowing Penn was watching him even through the darkness.
Warm fingertips slid under Teller’s, rubbing the tissue with just the right amount of pressure. “It’s getting worse, isn’t it?”
Teller had been to the doctor several times about his back pain over the years, and had been told that he should lose a little weight, or stop the acrobatics in the act--Lift Off Of Love certainly wasn’t doing him any favors, which was why they didn’t perform it nearly as often these days. While Teller had never been particularly heavy, he had carried much of his weight around the middle, like most men his age. Over the years he’d tried to keep an exercise routine to stay in shape, but--like Penn--his diet had never been as good as it should have been. Since canning the more physically demanding bits in the show wasn’t an option, Teller had opted to try and trim down a little more, and do stretches and exercises to strengthen the affected area that would relieve some of the pain.
Most of the time, Teller could manage fine. It was usually just a twinge or a little stiffness, a spasm here and there when he aggravated the nerves and muscles around that area of his spine. There were times, though, that the pain was excruciating, like his spine had been set on fire, or felt like an elephant had roundhouse kicked him through a steel wall, or that at any given moment his backbone would just snap in two like a twig. He didn’t want to admit that those times were getting far too frequent, afraid that he was going to be forced to stop doing the acts he loved.
“It’s the same as it’s always been,” Teller replied simply. It wasn’t technically a lie. His back had been shot for years, but he hadn’t let on about just how bad it could get. Thankfully the pain now was just a minor annoyance, and not one of his more agonizing attacks.
“When’s the last time you went to the doctor?”
“A few months ago, probably,” it had been longer. “I’ll make an appointment when we get back to Vegas.” He’d probably put it off for at least another six months if Penn didn’t bring it up again. As long as he was standing and able to perform, he’d manage.
“‘K,” Penn sounded like he was half asleep again, the circular motion of his hand had stopped and his fingers were slowly drifting downward. Teller looked over his shoulder to see the man was right on the cusp of sleep.
With a soft smile, he ignored the twinge in his back and moved off the bed with as little disturbance to Penn as he could in order to carry out his original mission of emptying his bladder. As he emerged from the bathroom, he found his discarded pajama pants and sat on the edge of the empty bed to pull them on. Penn had rolled to the middle of the bed they’d been sharing, and was now lightly snoring again. Teller didn’t have the heart to wake him again and make him roll over to give him room, so he slipped under the covers in his own bed, and slowly drifted back into the abyss of sleep.
Waiting in the airport lounge the following morning, Teller was flicking through his Twitter feed when he felt eyes boring into him. He glanced up to see Penn sitting across from him, cheek resting on his fist, looking at him with a strange expression. Teller furrowed his brow a little, mildly concerned.
Before he could say anything, Penn spoke matter of factly. “I think I’m going to talk to EZ about it today.”
There was no doubt that the ‘it’ Penn was referring to was ‘them.’ His mouth formed a silent ‘oh,’ but again Penn read his mind and spoke first.
“I want to get her thoughts on things before--well, you know.”
Before we get in too deep, Teller could hear the unspoken. Too late. He thought, reflecting on his own feelings. He had promised, though, that he would let Penn come to this in a way that everyone was comfortable with. If Emily, or even Penn for that matter, decided it was too much to risk, then...well, at least he’d have last night to remember for the rest of his life. One night with Penn had been more than he’d ever thought possible. He’d count himself lucky and go back to the way things had been.
“That’s okay, isn’t it?” Penn asked with slight concern when Teller failed to make any kind of reply.
“Of course, Penn. The ball is in your court with this. I told you how I feel about Emily knowing.”
Penn nodded. “Just making sure nothing’s changed.”
They boarded the flight, and Teller had the sense of deja vu he always got when they were touring outside of Vegas--hotel, plane, gig, hotel, plane, gig, hotel, plane, gig. He couldn’t help but think about what Emily might say, or for that matter, how Penn was going to approach it. Penn had two modes of sharing information and storytelling--long-winded, and blunt. He expected nerves would make the other man chose a more long-winded approach, but hoped that wouldn’t include the intimate details from last night. Not that Teller was ashamed, but he imagined it would come as quite a shock to an unsuspecting spouse. If Emily had ever had doubts about Penn’s faithfulness, Teller was willing to bet he was never in the ‘line of suspects’ for affairs in her thoughts. Would be she angry? Betrayed? Amused? Disgusted? Teller valued Emily’s friendship, respected her opinion of him, and enjoyed the privilege of spending time with Moxie and Zolten. The thought of losing all of that made him queasy. Would it have been better to lie to Penn when he’d asked if Teller was in love with him? Probably not, but it would certainly have been easier.
The longer flight meant that Penn and Teller were taken straight to the venue to set up, but the truck was still a good 20 minutes out thanks to highway construction. Penn excused himself to find somewhere private to make his call home, and Teller suddenly found himself incredibly anxious. This time, he did wish he could eavesdrop on the conversation, but instead busied himself with doing his normal pre-set up routine, envisioning where each of the props would go.
Penn was still on the phone when the truck arrived, so Teller helped the crew unload without him. A light rain had started to fall, making the loading dock wet and treacherous. Teller was helping one of the lads wheel out one of their heavier pieces when the young man’s shoe found an exceptionally slippery part of the steel dock plate. The man fell forward against the crate, which rolled the heavy load into Teller. Teller braced himself against the crate to keep it from falling off the platform dolly, but wrenched his back in the process.
Several of the stagehands and crew rushed to their aid in the next moment, helping to stabilizing the load and help the younger man to his feet again, but the damage had been done. Teller pressed his hand against his back and moved to lean against the wall. Pain was shooting down his backside, an invisible knife twisting in his spine. There were voices and shouting all around him, people asking if he was okay, people trying to get him to sit, people bitching about the lack of cover from the elements, but it was just background noise to the crescendo of pain currently trying to bring him to his knees
“What the fuck happened!?” Penn’s distinctive voice cut through all of it and Teller felt him at his side in the next instant, a strong hand gripping his arm in support. “Teller? Teller, sit down.”
Someone had brought a chair, and Teller slowly sank into it.
“Are you okay? What do you need?”
“Advil. Tylenol. Something…” Teller replied, still in crippling pain even though he was sitting down. After a minute, someone else handed him three small pills and a bottle of water. He downed them quickly. “I just need to lay down somewhere quiet for a little bit,” Teller told Penn, hoping that between a little rest and the anti-inflammatory meds that he’d be good enough to perform that night.
Penn and their manager Glenn both helped Teller back to his feet before they led him to the green room that had a nice, long couch. Teller laid down, resting his forearm across his eyes to block out the fluorescent lights overhead. Penn asked Glenn to turn the lights off, then turned his attention back to Teller. “What can I do?”
“Help them tape the stage, do the lighting and sound check. I’ll be okay.” Teller gave him a run through of where he thought everything should go, and told Penn that he trusted him to make the final call on placement.
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Just in case, though...maybe someone should find me a back brace.”
“Teller,” Glenn cut in gently. “We really should get you in to see a doctor.”
“I promise, I’ll be okay. I don’t want to cancel the show.”
Teller knew if Penn was resorting to calling him Rudy, he was really worried. He looked at Penn with a solemn expression. “I’m fine, Penn. Please, trust me.”
Finally, the other man relented. “Okay. Is there anything you want to change about the line up?” Teller shook his head softly, and Penn nodded, giving Teller’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “If you change your mind…”
“You’ll be the first to know.”
Teller was more than a little surprised when Penn leaned in and kissed him. Glenn was in the room with them, and Teller could see him out of the corner of his eye pretending not to have just seen the kiss. Penn promised to come check on him after everything was set up, then the two men left Teller alone.
Folding his arms across his stomach, Teller bent his knees so that he was in a modified supine position. He could feel the tension and pain in his back start to slowly ebb away, and closed his eyes to try and nap, hoping that the complete relaxation of his body would calm the muscles and nerves. He let the distant sounds of their crew working lull him to sleep.
“No! The left side of the stage. Left!” Penn directed the stage crew as they moved stuff around.
He hated this, and he knew the crew hated this, too. This was Teller’s job. It had always been Teller’s job. Teller was good at this job. Penn sucked at this job.
Rubbing his temples, Penn couldn’t help but worry about Teller. He’d known about Teller’s back pain for a long time, but today was the first time he’d seen the man debilitated by it. Maybe it was a fluke and he really did just pull something when he tried to stop the crate from falling over, but Penn’s gut told him otherwise. Maybe he would feel different if Teller hadn’t been in pain last night, but after years of dealing with his own health issues, and pain, and shortness of breath, and nearly stroking out from high blood pressure, Penn felt he was a little more in tune with the struggles of others. Whatever the case was, he wished Teller had at least consented to being seen by a doctor.
Lighting and sound went much quicker than taping the stage. Penn mostly ranted into the microphone as he paced the stage, using self-deprecating humor to try and make the crew feel better about Teller’s absence and having to put up with him instead. It got a few laughs, but Penn could tell they were all worried about Teller as well, hoping the other man would be better by show time.
When he finally left the stage, Glenn caught him in the wings to say that Teller was asleep, and that if they were going to cancel, they needed to make the call now. He knew Glenn wasn’t trying to be an asshole about it, but Penn wasn’t sure how it mattered if they cancelled four hours before the show verses an hour before the show. Sure, it would save some people the hassle of traveling to the venue for no reason, but if they were going to get their money back--and they would if it came to that--then Penn didn’t give a rat’s ass. Hell, he’d stand outside and sign autographs for anyone that showed up if it mattered that much.
“I’ll talk to Teller,” he said to mollify the other man, and headed back for the green room.
Perching on the edge of a chair next to Teller, Penn watched his partner sleep for several minutes, caught up in the surrealness of the last few days. Man, was it weird to finally allow himself to feel something for Teller. Forty years of living in denial played a hell of a trick on your mind. He’d heard Teller say once that nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself, and that statement couldn’t be more accurate. Forty years ago, he’d made himself believe he felt nothing for Teller, and he’d sold the world on that lie. It was bemusing how the truth could be revealed in the simplest, stupidest way. It was like the greatest magic trick of all time, and it was fucking beautiful.
Emily, of course, claimed to have always known, saying that it was obvious to anyone who truly knew Penn. “You always make it a point to say that you never had any affection for Teller whenever anyone asks if you two are friends. If there wasn’t something there, you would have just said ‘we don’t really hang out outside of work.’”
He hadn’t been able to argue, but to his relief, he didn’t have to. Emily was supportive of whatever they decided to make of this. She loved and trusted Teller--in a different way that she loved and trusted Penn, of course--and she knew how important she and the kids were to Penn.
He knew he was the luckiest man alive to have her.
Penn finally reached out and touched Teller’s shoulder, gently jostling him awake.
Breathing in deeply as he was roused from sleep, Teller opened his eyes and found himself in the dark looking up at Penn. He was disoriented for a moment, confused about where he was, until coherency returned. Scrubbing a hand over his face, he yawned. “What time is it?”
“Almost five,” Penn told him. “How are you feeling?”
Teller carefully sat up, gingerly twisting to gauge his pain. There was still a moderate amount of discomfort, but nothing he hadn’t put up with for the last decade. He nodded to Penn. “I’m okay. A little hungry, but my back’s okay.”
“Good enough to do the show?”
Teller nodded wordlessly and Penn looked at him over the rim of his glasses.
“If your lying to me, I’m going to be really pissed off.”
“I’m not lying, Penn. I’m okay to do the show.”
Penn rested his hand on Teller’s knee. “Why don’t we go find you something to eat and let Glenn know you’re good for the show. I think he was about to wear a hole in the wings from all the pacing he was doing.”
Teller pushed himself to his feet, following Penn towards the door. “Did you get everything set us?”
“I think so,” Penn replied, trying not to be annoyed by Teller’s micromanaging skills. “Did you want to go check it?”
There was a moment of hesitation, and Penn could tell that the other man did want to, but was fighting the urge since he’d entrusted the deed to Penn. “No,” Teller finally replied. “After this long, I’m pretty sure you know how to set a stage.”
Penn laughed. “Not as well as you, though. I think the crew will be glad to have you back on your feet and not listening to me shout at them.”
Teller’s lips curled into a soft smile, pleased that his talents were appreciated, and amused by the vision of Penn trying to give them directions. He wished he could have seen that, knowing that Penn preferred a more hands-off approach to managing their crew.
They walked side by side down the corridor and found Glenn talking on his cellphone near the locking dock. When their manager spotted them, he hung up the phone without so much as a ‘goodbye’ to whoever was on the other end, looking between Penn and Teller with eyes the size of saucers. “Well? What’s the word?”
“The show goes on,” Penn answered.
Glenn looked to Teller for confirmation, and Teller did a little twirl for evidence that he was alright. Glenn looked relieved, letting them know their suits were being pressed and would be in the dressing rooms, and asked if they were willing to do a last minute interview with the one of the local radio talk shows. They agreed and Glenn led them to a quiet area so they could call in for the brief Q&A, setting up the call before he swept from the room to take care of some other business.
While they waited on hold for their time to speak to the hosts, Teller looked at Penn with slight trepidation. “Did you talk to Emily?”
Penn knew he had an excellent opportunity to fuck with Teller on this, but the man had had enough of a rough day. He couldn’t add to his grief for the sake of a laugh. “I did. I’m pretty sure her exact response was ‘No shit, Sherlock.’”
Teller grinned in response, but Penn didn’t have time to elaborate as the hosts took them off hold. The good thing about radio interviews over the phone, Teller suddenly realized, was that he really didn’t have to do anything, which freed him up to have a little fun at Penn’s expense. He got up from where they were sitting and moved to close the door quietly. Penn’s eyes were on him, dividing his attention between the call and his partner. Teller held his finger up to his lips with a soft grin, indicating for Penn not to let on that anything was happening, then got on his knees in front of Penn, his hands going for the man’s belt.
‘You fucker.’ Penn mouthed, although he leaned back a little more to grant Teller access, watching his partner silently unzip his jeans before his deft hand slipped inside to pull his cock out. Teller’s eyes met his with a mischievous sparkle as he stroked Penn a few times to help him get hard, then he leaned in and began to tease the other man with his tongue.
It wasn’t the first time Penn had been blown while on the phone doing business, but it was the first time it had been with Teller. It was always exhilarating when he had some chick sucking him off while he was doing this kind of stuff, but Teller brought it to a whole new level. Penn was forced to bite his knuckle more than a few times to keep from moaning as he tried to give lucid answers to the questions being asked.
Thankfully the phone interview ended before Penn could, and he made sure the call ended before he tossed the phone aside. Teller pulled his mouth off of him with a wet pop, smirking impishly. “I’m surprised you were able to hold it together that well.”
“I’m an old pro,” Penn returned, resting his hand on Teller’s head and trying to urge him back down.
Teller didn’t need much encouragement, and resumed the task with zeal. He enjoyed doing this for Penn, delighting in the feel and taste of the other man, all the while holding onto the knowledge that Penn’s pleasure was his...and his alone. Drawing him in deep, Teller did the same “happy accident” of lightly scraping his teeth along Penn’s shaft, and felt the man practically come unglued.
“Fuck, Teller...Teller, fuck…” Penn muttered, gripping the back of his partner’s head and thrusting up into Teller’s mouth repeatedly.
Teller had no choice other than to just hold the suction around Penn while he was more or less skull-fucked. Not that he minded; seeing Penn so out of control in the throes of passion was still brand new territory to him and he wanted to explore every inch of this new realm.
Penn came with a hoarse groan, forcing himself to otherwise stay quiet by biting his lower lip. He could feel the ropes of cum against his tongue, and Penn was gripping his ears like a loving cup to keep him in place. With one final groan, the last drop of cum was expelled and Penn fell slack into the little loveseat where he’d been sitting, panting with bliss. Swallowing thickly, Teller cleaned him up with his tongue, then pushed himself up, bracing one knee between Penn’s legs as he gripped the arm of the couch with one hand and Penn’s shoulder with the other, leaning down to capture Penn’s lips in a passionate kiss.
“I am never going to get used to this,” Penn admitted quietly as Teller broke the kiss and slid into the space next to Penn on the loveseat, resting his arm across the back. He chuckled a little as an earlier thought rolled through his mind. “I’m really glad I didn’t fuck with you like I was going to when you asked if I’d talked to EZ.”
Teller gave him a curious look, silently prompting him to explain.
“I was going to lie and tell you she freaked out. I figured you’d had enough of a shit day, though, so I decided not to. And I’m glad because otherwise that wouldn’t have happened,” he pointed at his cock, still hanging out, and Teller laughed.
“So she’s really okay about this?”
“Yep. I guess you were right. I should have given her more credit. I was just scared shitless. Nothing ever seems to go this right for me, you know?”
“We still have to figure out the logistics of how this works at home,” Teller pointed out. “I personally wouldn’t feel right about taking away any time you have with your family.”
Penn thought for a minute. “What if we start doing our business meetings at your house on Tuesdays?”
Teller considered it for a minute. “I don’t want our brainstorming sessions to suffer, and therefore the show, if we constantly get sidetracked by fucking around, but...we could always give it a try and see how it goes.”
“There’s something I need you to promise me, Teller--and I’m being serious when I say this.”
Teller nodded softly, showing he was listening.
“We can’t let our feelings for each other ruin us. We can’t become like all those other groups who fell in love, and whose partnerships fell apart because of it.”
Teller seemed to have an epiphany in that moment, understanding now with absolutely clarity why Penn had always contrasted their relationship to those of the legendary duos like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. It had been fear. Fear that if they allowed themselves to explore a relationship beyond their partnership that that’s what they would become. Everytime Penn had made that distinction in interviews, he wasn’t telling the world that their relationship was cold and sterile because he had no affection for Teller, he was telling the world it was cold and sterile because he had too much affection for Teller. He was essentially saying ‘I love this man so much that I can’t allow myself to acknowledge it.’ Teller actually teared up at the revelation. How had he not seen through that after all these years? He couldn’t help but give a soft laugh that came out as partly a sob of joy, taking Penn’s hand in his and bringing it to his lips. Penn was looking at him strangely, oblivious to the train of thought that had just pass through Teller’s head.
Struggling to swallow the lump of emotion in his throat, Teller finally met Penn’s eyes, wiping the tears from his own. “I promise, Penn. We’ve been through everything together, and we’ve survived. We can survive this too. We have something no other group has had--a solid foundation of working together for 40 years. We know how to argue, we understand one another, and we’ve never let our anger get personal. I know this is new territory, but I also don’t think that the respect and friendship we’ve built is going to fly out the window if we disagree on something. The minute it starts to turn volatile, we’ll lay this to rest.”
Penn nodded in agreement. He hoped like hell it would never come to that, but he felt better hearing Teller affirm that their partnership was more important than their relationship. They would ride this ride as far as it went, and Penn intended to enjoy every fucking second of it.
There was a knock at the door, and Teller pulled his hand away as Penn quickly stuffed his cock back in his jeans and zipped back up before yelling that it was open. It was Glenn, coming to give them an update on the time to make sure the two would be suited up before show time.
“I’ve had some sandwiches and a veggie tray put in your dressing rooms--I know no one’s had time to eat today.”
Teller had temporarily forgotten his hunger until food was mentioned and his stomach growled in response. Penn looked at it and laughed, and just like that the mood was carefree and light again.
Alone in his dressing room, Teller snacked on the sandwiches and veggies as he changed into his suit, and downed a couple of ibuprofen to keep the edge off of the pain in his back. He hadn’t been lying when he told Penn he was fine for the show, but he wasn’t exactly being honest with everyone about how severe the pain could get. Though he dreaded what the doctor would say, Teller knew he’d have to go in when they got back to Vegas. Even if Penn didn’t bring it up, Teller knew his own guilt at hiding it would eat at him.
As he slid into his jacket and made his way to Penn’s dressing room for their small pre-show ritual, Teller found himself thinking about therapeutic touch again. He remembered reading an article that one of the benefits was pain management. He’d scoffed at the idea then, calling Bullshit on the notion that simply running your hands over an area would manipulate the energy and promote healing. Talk about new-age nonsense…
Now, though, he was almost considering asking Penn to try it on him. If they were going to try and poke holes in the theory, his back pain would surely be a big enough hole to deflate the entire thing. Perhaps, if Penn didn’t die of laughter first, Teller might get him to agree to another experiment.
“Hell,” Teller said to himself with a shrug. “Why not.”