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You Like Me Too Much, And I Like You

Chapter Text

A loud “thud” awoke Paul McCartney before his alarm clock. It made him shoot up out of bed, heart pounding, breathing heavy. The hollow sound reverberated through his tiny room for a second before fading back to silence. He carefully slid out of bed and peered out the window: the screen was dented, and a few stray, light colored feathers littered the ground. A dead bird lay still on the ground. Paul glanced back at the clock on his bedside table. Ten minutes till six, he grumbled to himself, might as well get up for the day.

Liverpool in the late winter was the perfect embodiment of gray. The sky, the shadows, the buildings, sidewalks, even the color of Paul’s skin took on the grayish hue of the season. Since he was kicked out of his father’s house, he felt the loneliness ache in his chest, and bleed out into the gray around him. It wasn’t far from his mind. In fact, he thought of his departure from his family home nearly every morning. It was the elephant in every room of his little government funded flat.

Paul turned off his alarm and began to ready himself for the day. Naturally, his mind drifted back to that fateful night.

It started in the early fall. He and a boy he knew from school had gotten into an odd situation. Paul couldn't even remember the boy’s name properly (Patrick, or William? Or maybe even Nick?), just that he had bright ginger hair and a mischievous glint in his eyes. Paul wasn’t a queer, certainly not. He loved birds just as much as the next red-blooded man. But, he also fancied men. This red-headed fellow shared the same odd affection for other boys. He and Paul would duck out late in the evening, meet up behind a tree on the edge of the neighborhood, and kiss. Nothing more. No, that was too far. Paul loved to feel the rough edges and strength of the other boy. The firm, large hands that raked through his hair, the unmistakably masculine sounds and touches. It all exploded when Paul’s father, Jim, happened to stray a little too far toward the end of the street one night. He saw a redheaded boy kissing a rather tall girl. The girl had oddly short hair, and a lack of feminine clothing or features. Jim McCartney stepped closer. The dark haired girl turned to the side a bit. That was no bird. That was his son!

“HEY!” Jim yelled angrily. His worst fear was confirmed when the young man turned around. The red haired boy turned the other way and bolted away into the wooded area that encircled the neighborhood, tearing off in the direction of the main road into town. Paul simply stood there, too stunned and terrified to move, color draining from his face. Fear gripped him. In his worst nightmares, he couldn’t fathom actually being caught with another man, let alone caught by his own father. Jim strode up to Paul and decked him across the face. Paul tumbled to the ground. Jim hovered over him.

“What in the hell do you think you’re doing, Paul?” he bellowed, face turning purple in rage. “Get off your arse! Get up!”

Paul scrambled to his feet.

“Dad, it’s not-“

“Shut up! Shut up and get back in the house! Go!” Jim shouted. He dragged Paul up by the collar and shoved him along the road until they reached their house. Jim opened the door and hauled his son inside.

“Dad, listen, I wasn’t-I’m not-“

“You’re a queer, Paul! My son is a bloody queer!” Jim raged.

I AM NOT!” Paul shouted. Tears were threatening to spill from his eyes. “I’m sorry Dad, I’m sorry, I was just-“

“I don’t care, Paul! I don’t care what your excuse is! I’m not having a queer under my roof! No son of mine is gonna to be a fuckin’ lad-lover!”

“Dad-“ Paul cried, unable to stop the tears from flowing down his cheeks.

“You’re no son of mine. God, your poor mother, what would she say? Perhaps it’s a blessing she’s not here to see this,” Jim said.

“It was a mistake! I’m sorry Dad, I never-“ Paul stepped toward his dad, arms reaching out. A hard backhand stopped him in his tracks, then Jim grabbed him harshly by the shoulders.

“Get out of my house!” Jim yelled.

Paul was silent. His eyes were wide with shock.

“Please, no, don’t do this. Please Dad,” Paul begged.

“If you’re not outta this house by the morning, I’ll throw you out on your queer arse myself, understand? That is, if I don’t have half a mind to beat the queer out of you first.” Jim released his hold on Paul’s narrow shoulders with a shove backwards, and disappeared into his room. Paul stood there reeling. His mind immediately went to his brother. Mike! Mike could help talk some sense into their dad, surely he could.

Paul ran to his brother’s room. Mike had heard the whole thing. When he saw his older brother running toward him, Mike slammed the door in Paul’s face.

“Mike, come on, please listen to me!” Paul begged as he knocked on the door.

“Sod off! You’re disgustin’!” Mike yelled.

“Mike, please!”

Instead of a response, Paul got the crackling sound of a rock and roll record, played on the record player at a volume so loud it distorted the music.

Where would he go? What would he do? He was fresh out of school, didn’t even have a real job yet. The tears returned to his eyes as he headed toward his room to pack.

The cold wind hitting his face brought Paul out of his memory. It was a common thing for him to do, getting ready for the day while replaying the events leading up to when he was forced out of his family’s home. What could he have done or said the yield a different result? Paul always came up with the same answer: don’t be a bloody queer, don’t find men attractive, and don’t get close enough to anyone who could draw that side out of him.

Paul managed to pick himself up quite well since last fall. He had a job at an insurance agency doing repairs, odd jobs, and deliveries on his bike. Anything the boss needed and didn’t want to do, Paul did. He had a tiny, government-funded flat. It was better than the street, but that’s where the positives stopped. Bugs and mice, leaky faucets. More things broken than working. Noisy neighbors. He had the basics and he was grateful to be on his feet.

The only thing he really, truly missed was his family and friends. He made no effort to contact his friends from home. They all knew about his "little mistake" by now. He was too embarrassed to call them anyways. Who would want to be friends with someone like Paul? He had tried to call his dad and brother to smooth things over, but the second they heard Paul’s voice on the phone, they would hang up. Paul didn’t dare show up at the house. The thought made his skin crawl. Not just the threat of violence from his family, but the sobering pain of the whole ordeal. Even now in his new life, he didn’t get close to anyone under any circumstances. If he didn’t get close, no one could find out his secret. Being lonely was better than the threat of inevitable and aggressive rejection.

What got Paul through the worst days was his music. He played rock music on his guitar to escape the world he lived in. When his fingers danced over the fretboard, all his worries were gone. He become the music. He became the songs he sang and wrote. It was his refuge. The little record player he was able to buy provided him a happiness he didn’t know was possible in his situation. On Fridays, Paul would indulge himself and go down to the record store after work. Of course, he couldn’t afford a new record every week. But just to be around the music was enough.

Paul walked up the cobblestone street, Liverpool bustling around him. His feet carried him as quickly as he could, without arousing suspicion from other people walking along, to the record store. The little bell over the door gave a cheerful jingle at his arrival. The corners of Paul’s mouth involuntarily curved up into a smile. The familiar smell of the store greeted him: papery and warm with a hint of woodiness. Warm yellow lights bathed the rows of records and posters on the walls in a soft glow. Upbeat guitar music played from somewhere in the back of the shop. Paul was home.

He expected the kind old shopkeeper who was always standing at the counter to greet him.

“Hello there, Paul!” the man would say in his gravelly voice. The friendly greeting always made Paul feel welcome and content.

This time, a different voice greeted him.

“Hi,” a slightly nasal, baritone voice said from around the corner. A man stepped around a shelf of magazines holding a cardboard box. He was tall, appearing to be slightly older than Paul, with a mop of auburn hair that curled slightly around the edges. His nose was long and slightly hooked, and eyes were a light brown, flickering with intensity. The man flashed a crooked grin.
Paul’s heart surged. He immediately decided the man was beautiful.

“I’m John, can I help you? Dunno if I’d be much help, being it’s my first week here, but I can try.” John sat the box on the cashier’s counter.

Chapter Text

Paul stared at the handsome man in front of him. John was the type of guy that Paul instantly had a weakness for. He opened his mouth to speak, trying his best not to let his internal flustering show.

“Uh, no, I’m just looking around, thanks. My name’s Paul, by the way.”

John gave a wide smile. His eyes lit up with a magnetic intensity. Paul couldn’t remember the last time someone genuinely smiled at him like that. It made his heart alight, just the friendliness of the other man, and Paul began to mimic John’s wide grin.

Whatever effect John had on Paul, John felt the same on his end. This young man standing before him, grinning ear to ear, all wide eyes and pink cheeks, made John’s stomach flip with excitement. He decided he liked Paul and wanted to get to know him a little better. Paul was just the type of man he gravitated toward: about the same size as himself if not slightly smaller, pretty features, a nervousness that was inexplicably arousing to John. Yes, he liked Paul very much.

“Well then, nice to meet you Paul,” said John. He made sure the cardboard box was firmly sat on the counter before reaching out toward Paul for a firm handshake. Paul eagerly accepted. The match of strength in their hands was all John needed to confirm: he liked Paul, Paul would be his.

“Nice to meet you too,” Paul said cheerfully. He noticed the cheerful look in John’s eyes had briefly switched from friendly to downright manic, then back to friendly again.

“Say, where’s the old fellow that usually works here? Can’t seem to remember his name, but he’s kinda short, real gruff, gray hair. You know him?” Paul asked.

“Yeah, that’s Henry. He owns the place. Now that he’s hired some help in the form of yours truly, he’s out for the night.”

“Oh,” Paul said, suddenly at a loss for words. He wanted to keep talking to this charming fellow, but his nerves were getting the best of him. A silent battle raged within him, whether or not to risk getting too attached to someone who could leave him if he found out Paul’s secret, or the ever-present loneliness that begged Paul to make just one new friend.

John sensed there was something keeping Paul from speaking to him. He decided to use his charms to keep Paul’s attention. John pushed up the sleeves of his shirt and strode to the other side of the counter. He lifted up the cardboard box and put it on the floor. The outdated magazines could be dealt with later. Paul was here now, and his job could wait. He hoped no other customers came in and interrupted him. That would surely set off his hairpin-trigger rage and possibly scare off his new mate. John put his elbows on the counter and crossed his arms, leaning down and slightly forward toward Paul.

“What kind of music would a lad like you fancy?” John asked, peering up at Paul through his eyelashes.

“Mostly rock and roll, y’know. Elvis, Little Richard, the like. Anything with a good guitar and some edge to it,” Paul said. His smile was beginning to perk back up after fading from shyness.

“Ah, a man of taste!” John said excitedly. “That’s my favorite too!”

The men talked excitedly about their favorite records, their guitars, their love for loud and raunchy music. They talked for what felt like ages and seconds were passing by simultaneously, until a heavyset lady, appearing to be in her forties or fifties, wearing loud, clacking, high-heeled shoes stomped in and loudly demanded to be shown where some granny-esque jazz record was in the store. Paul saw a flash of pure, unadulterated rage come over John’s face at the intrusion, only to be smoothed over by his charming grin. John excused himself to help the fussy woman.

Paul wandered the around to rock music section. Truly, he felt like he was floating instead of walking. He found a kind, exceptionally handsome man who happened to share some of his main interests, and who also seemed to be interested in Paul as well.

After the older lady clacked her noisy heels out of the store, John found his way back to Paul. He was elated the younger man hadn’t left yet.

“That woman was a right cow, wasn’t she?” John laughed snidely.

“She sure was loud,” Paul said, a shy grin appearing on his lips.

“Yeah, loud, and not the good kind either,” John said with a wink.

Paul let out an unchecked laugh at the innuendo, and his heart skipped a beat because John had winked at him! John was mesmerized at the sound of the younger man’s laugh.

Somewhere outside, bells rang out the time. Paul looked up at the clock over the counter. 6:45 in the evening. He had been in the store over an hour, much longer than the usual half an hour at most he spent there.

“Bloody hell, quarter till seven already?” Paul asked. John turned his head toward the clock. Not wearing his glasses, it looked like a blurry circle on the wall.

“Doesn’t look like it to me,” John said. Paul chuckled quietly.

“‘Course it is, it says so on the clock right there!”

“I can’t see that far,” John said, squinting his eyes at the clock. “It’s whatever time I want it to be if I can’t see it.”

Paul laughed at John’s declaration. As much as he wanted to stay, he was getting hungry and had nothing ready to eat at home. He would be eating dinner at 9 o’clock if he didn’t head back to his flat soon. With a sheepish glance, he looked at John.

“I hate to let you down, but I can’t really afford any records today. I just like to take a look around at the end of the week after work. Sorry,” Paul said, hanging his head slightly.

“Don’t worry about it,” John said, patting him on the shoulder, “being able to talk to someone with some good taste is more than enough to make my day. Come back anytime, Paul.”

“Thanks, John. It was great to meet you,” Paul said. His eyes lit up at John’s words. He may actually have a new friend he could talk to somewhat regularly. That is, if his worries didn’t stop him.

“See ya round,” John called as Paul headed out the door.

“Bye!” Paul said with a smile. The chime on the door jingled again at his exit.

John stayed in his spot, grinning ear to ear toward the front door, electricity still buzzing under his skin from his attraction to the young man he'd just met. He held some rather unorthodox ideas about sexuality and attraction. For John, pleasure was pleasure. It didn’t matter if it came from a bird or a bloke. Both had their charms and drawbacks. He never got particularly attached to his lovers either. Once he lost interest, he was gone. Though he was very well aware that men were supposed to prefer the company of women, deep down he believed people just pretended to have such a desire for the opposite sex. Finding both attractive meant he didn’t have to search quite as hard to find a willing outlet for his lust. It was so much easier! Surely everyone with half a brain must share John’s outlook. He couldn't be the only one, and John suspected Paul felt the same. No fully straight bloke ever made eyes at him like Paul did when they met. They certainly didn’t blush and toss their heads back in laughter at a weak joke. That was a universal sign of attraction in John's eyes, and he intended to see it through.

He had his sights set on Paul. Paul was different. He wouldn’t just be a quick shag to call on until he got bored. No, Paul made John actually feel something, and how rare it was for John to truly feel for anything or anyone. When that fat, whining old biddy came in and interrupted him from his conversation with Paul, he could have slit her throat right there. The rage boiled inside him like a furnace. It was all he could do not to lay into her with some biting comment, laugh at her and her stupid music, and make her run away crying. He’d done it to other people before and he certainly had no qualms about doing it again. How dare she interrupt him while he was on a mission! But no, no matter how much he was drawn to Paul, John couldn’t afford to lose yet another job because of his outbursts.

At the end of the day, John thought his plan was sound: he liked Paul. Paul would be his, it was decided. Now there was work to do.

Chapter Text

When John Lennon was on a mission, nothing could come between him and his goal. Any obstacle would be dealt with at any cost. John usually could charm (or fight, or cheat) his way out of any mess. Since that Friday afternoon, all he could think about was Paul. He heard Paul’s laugh in the little bell in the record store that announced the arrival and exit of each patron. He saw Paul’s wide, hazel eyes in every record his fingers touched. All it took was that one little chance encounter and John was hooked.

The first phase of John’s mission was to learn everything about Paul.

Everything.

John noticed the direction Paul entered the shop and the direction he left. Likely he was traveling east. Because Paul mentioned he was coming from work and wanting to go home, he probably lived in one of the flat buildings in that direction. John also figured Paul either lived with his family or a roommate or two. No wedding ring. He looked a bit young for marriage anyways. No mention of a girlfriend either. Blokes liked to do that, casually mention their bird in conversation, either as a point of relatability or a subtle gloat that they were getting their dick wet. Paul seemed to pick up on John’s flirting. Maybe he didn’t care for birds at all. That was definitely something blokes didn’t casually mention- attraction to other men.

John figured Paul had a rather low-level job because of his age and his inability to buy a new record despite his admission of visiting the shop frequently. If he worked somewhere west of the shop, it was probably in an office or restaurant. John guessed an office, possibly a store- Paul didn’t have that telltale lingering smell of food that most restaurant workers did. His smart but practical clothes showed he didn’t do too much manual labor but didn’t sit around all day either.

And, Paul seemed to be a shy fellow. Probably didn’t have many friends, John thought, because of how much trouble he had starting a conversation. That worked in his favor.

On Monday, John arrived at the record shop far too early, just before daybreak. It was easy enough to explain away to his boss- a forgotten item, a suspicious person lurking about yesterday that John wanted to keep an eye out for, noise at his flat, any of them passable excuses. He positioned himself at an angle facing west, so he could see if Paul walked by. He wasn’t sure how early Paul would be heading to work, so he settled in with a cigarette to lay in wait. This time, he remembered his glasses. Vanity prevented him from wearing them regularly despite having terrible eyesight, but Paul was worth far more than vanity.

At some point before quarter till eight, John’s eyes caught sight of a pale, slender young man with delicate features and a head of dark hair, swallowed in a gray coat and black scarf. The figure stepped closer. John’s heart began to race. Could it be?

It was!

John grinned maniacally, stifling a laugh of pure joy. He quickly shrugged on his coat and ducked out the front door, being careful to lock it quietly, and putting out his cigarette in a potted plant on the windowsill. Eyes locked on the back of Paul’s head, he casually followed.

Following someone was an art that John Lennon had perfected. Pacing must be spot on. Not too quick, or slow, or stumbling. Distance must be just far enough to be imperceivable but close enough to adapt to quick changes in direction. It was a mindset, too, following someone. Any trace of nerves and the crowd could zero in on him. John never stared at anyone he followed. People can feel stares. He remained calm and detached, the picture of diligence and patience.

Paul didn’t suspect a thing. It was too easy, really. John thought it was so easy, Paul must want to be followed. He must want John to learn more about him and his habits in any way he could. It was welcomed.

After making his way up the main street, taking a left, then a quick right, Paul arrived at the front of a building. He unlocked the door and disappeared inside. First one there, John noted. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to stay in wait all day around the building, so he canvassed the area. Noticing cafes and bars, a little deli, the surrounding buildings, the “S&B Insurance” etched into the glass of the door Paul walked through. John figured he could stay until noon, when his shift started. That would give him plenty of time to at least figure out the entrances and exits to Paul’s office building. It was on the ground floor, easy work for John.

He repeated the same process that evening when it came time to look for Paul to go home. John timed his work so his break would fall exactly around the time he suspected Paul would be leaving work. Naturally, it worked.

He ducked out again. This time it was harder to follow because of the setting sun, but John had this down to a science. He followed Paul past the rows of family houses, then past the larger and somewhat nicer flats. Living with family, probably out, he thought. On and on he walked, making sure his shoes didn’t make too much noise on the street. They passed the last decent area of town. John was perplexed. The only thing down this way was the government-funded flats. Everyone in Liverpool knew just how bad those flats were. John’s heart broke for Paul.

John’s suspicions were confirmed when Paul unlocked a door of an unbelievably small-looking, ground floor flat, and went inside.

This pattern repeated for ten days. He hid outside Paul’s flat late into the evening, and even peered into his minuscule living room from behind a bush, where he watched Paul improvise riffs on his acoustic guitar. He was mesmerized at Paul’s skill. It further solidified in his mind that Paul was meant to be his. He had to have him, he was sure. John was even lucky enough to be able to follow Paul unnoticed into a grocery store and watch him buy his food for the week, which gave him a better idea of the younger man’s likes and dislikes. The thing that struck John most was that Paul interacted with no one during the week. Not a single friend stopped by. Paul didn’t leave and visit anyone else either. John could fix that. He could be everything Paul was missing from his life. How grateful Paul would be for John, once he found out how they were meant to be in each other’s lives! It thrilled John’s heart just to think about.

There was one last thing John needed to complete the first phase of his mission. It was vital he had it, or else the other phases simply wouldn't work. The item required him meeting a seedy friend of his, from John's rougher days, and making a purchase. John waited at a bus stop at the end of the road near his flat. It was already half past midnight, but if John new anything about this old friend of his, is that he would probably be waiting for much longer. John settled into the bench and waited. And waited. Until around 1 am, a short man in a fitted trench coat appeared. John greeted him. The short man produced what appeared to be a small box, like one would get their take-away curry in from a food shop, and John produced a few pound notes and some coins. They exchanged items with a nod before parting in separate directions.

At 2 am, John finally arrived back at his own flat. He shut the door firmly behind him, then tore into the take-away box with the excitement of a child ripping into a Christmas present. Wrapped protectively in some newspaper was a small vial full of clear liquid. John couldn't help himself - he let out deep, hearty laugh. He was overflowing with sheer ecstasy at how his plan was nearing completion.

He readied himself for bed, head mingling full of thoughts of all things Paul. Tomorrow- no, today was Friday. It was Paul’s day to come to the record store. John was so excited he could barely sleep. Things were falling into place. With any luck, John could move to the second phase of his mission that same evening.

Chapter Text

Just as John expected, Paul scurried into the record shop at 5:30 in the evening. John greeted Paul and waved him over to the counter, trying not to disturb the other patrons in the store. As Paul approached the counter, John leaned in and motioned for Paul to come closer.

“You can’t tell nobody, but I got the American edition of Chuck Berry’s On Top! Got 2 new songs on it we’ve never heard over here,” John said.

“You’re daft! Are you serious, mate?” Paul asked incredulously. His wide hazel eyes were a sight to behold, even though John knew it was all because he was telling Paul a lie. It only fueled the burning desire to get Paul all to himself.

“Dead serious! They’re called 'Nashville Boogie' and 'Come On Over'. Real gear, guitar is somethin’ else,” John said.

“How’d you get that?”

“Shhh, not so loud! Remember, you can’t tell no one. They’re Henry’s special order from a guy in the states. Only sent one box, I think. I nicked one from the storeroom, swapped the American record with a copy of ours and left the sleeve here, but I’ll bring it back.”

“John, you stole it!” Paul whisper-yelled.

“No, no! Christ, I’d lose my job! I’m gonna bring it back, I just wanted to hear it for myself in case I couldn’t get my hands on one.”

“Can… can I hear it?”

John pursed his lips, deep in thought. He gave a glance toward the storeroom.

“I can’t pull one out in the store, Henry said so,” John paused, pretending to act sheepish, “but if you want, you can come over to mine and listen?”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I don’t live too far from here. We’ll have a few beers and make a real party of it. If you want, of course.” John cast his eyes down. It was hard to feign nervousness when he had planned this whole thing so meticulously.

Paul breathed a quick sigh. He felt his loneliness was going to win over his fervent desire to remain detached and safe from others’ judgment.

“I’d love to. Thanks, I’m real chuffed.” Paul’s cheeks turned a vibrant shade of pink. John felt the urge to snatch Paul up and bring him home right there, but he suppressed it. It would all happen in time.

“Great! I get off in 15, if you feel like waiting around,” John said

“Sure thing.”

A familiar gruff voice called from the direction of the storeroom:
“You remember to swap out those magazines today, Lenny?”

“Done it this mornin’, Henry!” John shouted in reply.

“Lenny?” Paul asked

“My last name's Lennon. But that’s too formal for around here, ya know.” John said.

“Right it is. Mine’s McCartney,” Paul said, unsure if he should have volunteered that information.

“Macca!”

“Yeah! Had a teacher last year who acted like nicknames were cuss words. ‘How disrespectful!’” Paul mimicked a high-pitched posh voice, “anytime we called each other anything other than our good Christian names”

“You were in school last year? Bloody hell, how old are you?” John asked.

“Eighteen. How old are you?

“Twenty. Woulda never guessed you were such a baby, but then again, you got the face for it,” John teased. Paul flattened his eyebrows. John grabbed a plastic bin from behind the counter with a few records in it. He held it in his hands as he walked around the counter.

“Oh, come off it. If you’re gonna rib me, at least come up with somethin’ more original than that,” Paul grumbled.

A sore spot? wondered John

“I’m only teasin’, Paul.”

The younger man gave an exaggerated eye roll in reply.

“All I gotta is put these last few things back and then we can go. Shouldn’t take long.”

“Alright, John.”

John tried his best not to rush and appear too eager while replacing the records. It would be too suspicious and scare Paul off. No, now was not the time for messing up his carefully laid plans. The slim vial he’d purchased the night before weighed heavy in the inner pocket of his jacket. It reminded him of how important this new phase of his mission was.

Meanwhile, Paul was lost in thought, watching John put the records back. Nerves were buzzing around in his stomach like a hornet’s nest. Someone had actually invited him over, to listen to a rare record! Even better, it was handsome and charming John! Paul yelled at himself internally: do not let your queer self mess this up. John’s cool, he thinks you’re cool, don’t wreck it. Underneath the crushing nervousness, Paul was actually quite pleased that a cool, slightly older fellow wanted to befriend him. Visions played in Paul’s head of what their friendship would be like. They could play guitar together. Paul would teach John if he didn’t know how. They would have beers after work sometimes. Maybe even go out on the weekends and play music, or meet some birds. They would be rough and tumble, but also understanding of one another… Paul stopped himself at the thought of his secret coming to light. Not even John could know, no matter how close they ever got in the future. Paul couldn’t risk it. He snapped himself out of his thoughts and tried to focus on how he was about to hear two brand new (well, they weren’t new to the Americans) Chuck Berry songs!

“You’re a quiet one, aren’t you?” John said, appearing out of nowhere, suddenly close enough to Paul that their shoulders were almost touching. Paul gave a sharp inhale at the surprise. John smelled like the warm, papery comfort of the record shop with a woodsy, clean scent of some kind of soap or aftershave. It was a little too nice, and it made Paul’s stomach flip once again.

“Yeah, I guess. I just don’t really speak unless I got somethin’ to say, y’know?” Paul replied.

“Ahh, those are the ones to look out for. We’ll get you out of that shell soon enough, then,” John said, an irresistible crooked smile lighting up his face, “Everyone’s got somethin’ to say.”

“I suppose that’s right. That part of why I like my music so much. It says the things I can’t.”

For a split second, as John put his last record in the proper spot, his eyes filled with a deep, dark intensity that gave his smile an almost frightening edge. Within a fraction of a second, it was gone, leaving Paul questioning if the other man’s expression had changed at all in the first place.

“That’s the last one!” John said, “Let me grab my coat and we’ll be out of here.”

“Took ya long enough,” Paul quipped. John gave him a rap on the shoulder with his bony knuckle and ran to the back to grab his things. Paul wondered why he was so uncharacteristically full of anxiety. Something inside him was screaming, but he didn’t know what it was or why. It made him want to run out the door or disappear from the very spot he stood. Paul chalked it up to being nervous around his first new friend since he got kicked out of his dad’s house. Full of determination, he forced himself to quell the screaming. John's long legs carried him quickly out of the store, and Paul followed close behind.

Chapter Text

When they arrived the short distance to John’s flat, John fished 2 beers out of the fridge, cracked them open, and handed one to Paul. He knew Paul would be insisting on hearing the new record, and possibly would want to see it, so John decided to stall.

“Fancy a ciggie?” John asked, holding out a cigarette carton toward Paul. “I know you came to listen to the record, but I’m dying for a smoke.”

“Sure, thanks,” Paul said as he plucked a cigarette from the package with his long, slender fingers. John marveled at how even Paul’s hands were beautiful, just like the rest of him. John fished a lighter out of his pocket and light his cigarette, then held out the lighter to Paul. When Paul leaned in, he almost touched his forehead to John’s. Paul lingered a little too long while lighting his cigarette, enjoying the other man’s nearness, until he realized what he was doing and pulled back. John looked at him, not with questioning, but with friendliness and- admiration? Paul could get lost for hours in John’s eyes.

They sat shoulder to shoulder, despite having an entire room to spread out, and smoked in comfortable silence until their cigarettes were finished and they were nearly finished a second beer each.

Now the fun begins, thought John. He could already tell Paul was comfortable and happy to be with him. Now was the time to strike.

“Say, Paul, you said you liked a good scotch, yeah?”

“Yeah, I love it, why?”

John reached under a bar cart near the edge of the living room and pulled out a bottle of scotch and two glasses.

“Wanna try this one? My uncle gave it to me. I never been a big fan of it myself. Thought I’d share it with someone who likes it more than me,” John said, trying to play it cool despite the rush of adrenaline surging through him.

“I couldn’t John, that’s very kind of you to offer,” Paul replied. John guessed Paul would refuse at least twice, given his tendency toward shyness.

“Come on, I insist! It’s not that dear. And besides, Chuck Berry warrants a little celebration, don’t ya think?” John asked, giving Paul a flirtatious glance.

“Well if you’re offering, I suppose it’s rude to say no,” Paul said, his mouth quirking up into a smile. John grinned.

“That’s my boy. I’ll grab some ice,” John said. With that, he went to the kitchen and emptied the contents of the little vial he’d been hiding in his pocket into one of the glasses.

John made sure the liquid didn't take up too much room in the glass so that Paul wouldn’t notice it once John finished making their drinks. He added the ice, 4 whole cubes in Paul’s glass and 3 and one broken cube in John’s, just for extra safety, then brought the glasses back to the living room, where he poured the liquor in. Perfect.

He held out the drink to Paul and the younger man took it excitedly. Scotch, his favorite, was a rarity these days. Paul took a sip. Smooth and warm, a hint of bitterness, and a warmth the radiated in his chest after he swallowed the first mouthful. He noticed an oddly sweet aftertaste. It was much different than the harsh burn of most liquors.

“Kinda… sweet, this one is. You taste that?” Paul asked. John nodded, his glass raised to his lips.

“Yeah. My uncle explained it to me, some highbrow reason behind it. Aged in a barrel made of magical tree bark from the fairy forest or somethin’,” John said. Paul chuckled.

“It’s good, y’know. Not like that burning feeling you usually get from this stuff,” Paul said, gulping down another mouthful. It was strange for a liquor to be so sweet. Paul didn’t mind, though. Maybe the strange flavor worked to his benefit, making his cool, older friend think Paul could hold his liquor better than he actually could.

Paul was about halfway finished with his drink when he noticed he was feeling much more buzzed than usual after two beers and a few sips of liquor. Lights were starting to form blurred-out halos. He felt like he was sinking into the sofa.

“ 'S mighty strong though, me uncle said,” John quipped, his Scouse accent becoming more pronounced after downing another gulp of the scotch. “Be careful with this stuff or you’ll be stumblin’ home tonight.” John hoped the subtle challenge was enough to prompt Paul to finish his drink.

“Nah, s’not that bad at all,” Paul said. He made sure his words came out as un-slurred as possible. He wanted to show John he was tough, not just some pretty boy from the wrong part of town. Paul’s girlish features often made people think less of him as a man. He wasn’t going to let that happen tonight. Paul slowly drained the rest of the scotch from his glass- he was determined to hold it together.

It took all of John’s self-restraint to keep from breaking out in a frightening grin at what had just happened. Instead, he looked over at Paul, eager to see the drug’s effects take hold.

“Ya gonna play me that Chuck Berry record, John?” Paul said. It was taking more and more effort to not sound slurred and drunk.

“Yeah, lemme put it on,” John said, drawing out his words and stumbling on purpose as he stood. He tripped over his feet and let out an “oh shit!” Paul laughed heartily.

Pretending to be drunk would make Paul feel more at ease, at least, John hoped it would.

While John fumbled around, slowly getting the record started, Paul fidgeted in his seat. He certainly didn’t plan on getting piss drunk. And here he was with this brutally handsome man, a friend, that Paul found more and more attractive by the second. He vowed to remain still, lest his shameful side betray him and allow him to make a move on John, ruining it all from the start.

The beginning lick of Chuck Berry’s guitar wailed through the air. Both men instantly began to smile at the familiar sound of Johnny B. Goode. The beat was too strong to resist, and John began to dance. Even though his movements should have been drunken and hilarious, Paul was mesmerized. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any better (or worse), John began to sing.

Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode

John’s voice was raspy and raw, but had an impeccable tone and nearly spot-on pitch.

“John! You can SING!” Paul blurted, unable to keep his voice in check. John lit up. His smile lit up the room more than the single floor lamp John had switched on.

“C’mon Paul!” John said loudly, making his way over to Paul. Now Paul was in trouble. His heart was pounding, he felt like he was floating and sinking at the same time. He was terrified. For the first time in a very long time, he was having fun.

He took John’s outstretched hand and allow the older man to pull him off the couch. Paul crashed into John’s chest at the sudden movement, unable to stop his feet from moving. John was firm and strong, catching Paul easily and steadying him. Both men laughed without a care. They began to dance, albeit poorly, and sang along to the chorus.

Go go!
Go Johnny go go!

John’s voice dropped down to a lower harmony, intertwining perfectly with Paul’s higher register.

Go Johnny go go!
Go Johnny go go!

Paul also noticed just how well their voices fit together. Harmonizing with John was effortless. It flowed like water.

Go Johnny go go!
Johnny B. Goode

The moment began to take a turn from euphoric to frightening. Paul’s eyelids were feeling heavier now. He made to re-adjust his stance and stop his fervent dancing, but found it was like trying to stand up on a boat in the middle of a storm. How could he be that drunk, that fast? Maybe the liquor was really that strong. John didn’t seem to be as seriously affected by it. Something was wrong. Paul could feel it, but he was so disoriented, he couldn’t bring himself to care. He was singing and dancing with John and he didn’t want it to end.

“Paul, YOU can sing!” John slurred “Listen to you scream, bet that makes the birds go craaaa-zy ,” he drew out the last word, gently swaying Paul by his shoulders.

Paul tried to find words, but his mouth wouldn’t move. In fact, his legs could barely hold him and once again he fell against John. The older man caught him.

“Paul, you alright, man?” John asked, eyebrows knitting into a line of worry.

“John-“ Paul mumbled, “I don’ feel so good. I don’ feel…”

John held up Paul with one arm and quickly nudged the volume lower on the record player. Even Chuck Berry was cheering him on.

Go Johnny go go!

“ ’S alright Paul, take’t easy,” John soothed as he sat Paul down on the sofa, settling him in the most comfortable upright position he could. John sat immediately next to him. He cupped one side of Paul’s face in his hand. The feeling of Paul’s soft skin with the graze of 5 o’clock shadow under his fingertips was enough to make him want to close his eyes and bask in the moment. But no, the work was not finished.

“M’sorry, m’sorry, I dunno…” Paul could barely speak now. Dizziness was beginning to overtake him. He was floating in space. The only solid thing he could recognize was John. Nothing made sense anymore. There was the swirling chasm of the universe, cold and dark and confusing- and there was John. Any semblance of self-control vanished.

“Shhh, it’s alright Paul,” John whispered. Paul fell against John, wrapping his arms around him, and squeezing him as tight as his weak limbs would allow. John stopped slurring his words on purpose now that Paul couldn’t hear him. Even if Paul did, the odds of him remembering were slim.

John felt high from the energy, from how easy the younger man collapsed willingly into his arms.

“Johnny,” Paul breathed. Was he mimicking the song still playing in the distance somewhere, or was he talking to John? He didn’t know anymore. The began to let the sleepiness overtake him. In that moment, he didn’t feel fear or joy or anything at all. He found himself falling infinitely deeper into John’s warm, sturdy embrace. Paul felt as if he was melting into the ether and John was the only thing keeping him from disintegrating entirely.

“Johnny,” Paul mumbled. His voice barely a whisper, nearly incomprehensible.

“Johnny’s here, shhh,” he hushed. Paul was still and quiet.

“I’m never letting you go, Paul,” John whispered in Paul’s ear.

Chapter Text

Paul wasn’t quite awake, but he wasn’t fully asleep either. He felt like he was underwater, weighted down and impossible to move, yet he could breathe just fine. His hazy mind only functioned enough to know he was alive and not in pain. There was no light, no dark. Nothing. Just the numb emptiness where he floated.

Paul faded in and out of slumber. Light began to gently kiss his eyelids. It was enough to pull him further out of his half-aware state. Now his mind was beginning to awaken. He began to remember the night before: he was with John, they sat closer than necessary on the couch and smoked cigarettes, they drank beer and scotch- the thought jolted Paul’s heart. The scotch! Had he really blacked out on two beers and a scotch? He remembered the oddly saccharine taste, how the liquor tasted more like overly sugared tea instead of the warm, bitter flavor of alcohol. His stomach lurched. Something was wrong with the drink, but he forced himself to continue remembering more of what happened the night before. John put on Chuck Berry and began to sing. He remembered John’s perfect voice, and how they sang the chorus of Johnny B. Goode together. John danced, and Paul danced with him until he fell. Did he really fall? He couldn’t remember hitting the floor, just that he couldn’t stand up and found himself on the couch.

He barely remembered anything concrete after that. It was feelings and sounds. John’s low whisper in his ear - but what had he said? John’s arms tangled around him, the clean scent of the other man. The last thing he remembered was John all around him. Paul began to panic. What if he tried to kiss John, or done something else horrible and queer?

“Oh fuck!” Paul groaned aloud. His voice sounded gurgled and stiff. He made to sit up, but found he couldn’t. Fear surging through his veins, his eyes flew open.

Everything was blurry.

He wanted to rub his eyes but his hands refused to move. Instead, he shook his head. His vision cleared up enough to see he was laying in an unfamiliar room, on his right side, hands tied together with some kind of cloth, and the cloth fastened to the bedpost. He looked down. His ankles were also tied together and fastened to the post at the foot of the bed. A wave of nausea crashed over him at the sight. It made no sense! Thoughts began to race through his head. What if he did something queer and wouldn’t stop, so John tied him up? The thought was enough to make him cry from shame. Then his mind took a darker turn. What if he’d been kidnapped? What if John was only bait and Paul would never see him again? What if someone was going to torture and kill him?

Paul’s breath quickened. He couldn’t move at all. Before he could think it through, he took in a deep breath and shouted as loud as his lungs would allow:

“HELP! HELP ME! SOMEBODY HELP!”

He began to thrash about on the bed, hoping the movement would make some kind of vibration through the walls and floor. He paused to take in his surroundings. The bed was pushed against the front corner of the room, next to a window. He couldn’t tell if he was on the ground floor or higher. A little desk sat against the opposite wall, and a dresser stood in between the window closest to Paul and the opposite wall. The floor appeared to be soft carpet. There was a door on the wall opposite the windows, Paul didn’t know where it lead to. The bed he was on was clothed in a fluffy duvet, with big pillows. A blanket hung off a chair next to the desk. A little bedside table with a cheery yellow lampshade stood on Paul’s left side. The room, Paul thought, appeared to be oddly cozy. As if someone had prepared a guest room for a dear friend.

It was all too strange. Nothing made sense. Paul began to struggle in his restraints and yell again out of fear:

HELP! Somebody, please-“ he was cut off by the door swinging open and a lanky figure rushing in. Paul let out a terrified yelp. Usually he was a tough man. He needed to be, when people assumed he would be easy to take advantage of because of his delicate appearance. Sure, there were times when it worked in his favor to be the pretty boy. Paul could charm anyone and everyone with his puppy eyes and sweet smile, but he could also handle himself in a fight. Back when he as in school, he knocked a bloke out at a party after he accused Paul of flirting with some bird. Paul didn’t like to start fights, but he sure as hell could finish them. Now, he was helpless, tied to a bed, at the mercy of the long figure rapidly approaching him.

“HELP-“ a large, broad hand covered Paul’s mouth. Paul forced his eyes to focus on who was in front of him. When they finally focused, Paul stopped struggling. He was too shocked. His head was reeling in confusion.

“John?” he muttered, though his mouth was still covered.

“Shhh, you have to be quiet, Paul! I’ll let you go, but no more screaming. I mean it!” John said, his voice full of quiet intensity. Paul nodded. John removed his hand. After heaving in a gulp of air, Paul spoke, careful not to raise his voice too loud:

“John? What the FUCK is going on here? Untie me right this second!”

John stifled a smile. Paul really was too pretty, even when he was upset. John was so thrilled, he couldn’t help it: he let out a giggle and allowed his manic grin to stretch his face into a full on smile. His plan worked beautifully. He had Paul all to himself.

“I really outdid myself this time,” John mused aloud.

“John! What the hell are you on about? Is this some kind of prank? If this is your idea of a joke, it ain’t bloody funny! Quit fucking around and untie-“

A sudden wave of anger overtook John’s glee. He slapped Paul harshly across the face.

“Shut up!”

Paul’s eyes began to water at the impact. The slap at such a close range stung like mad. He was silent, and horrified. A stray tear rolled down his cheek. John gently reached out to brush the tear off of Paul’s face. Paul flinched. John looked taken aback, as if Paul had sworn at him.

“Come on now, Paul. Why are you flinchin’ away from me like that? Last night you were happy to fall into my arms, now this?” John cooed. Paul tried to scoot back from him, but his restraints prevented it. John caressed Paul’s cheek where he slapped him. Paul had no choice but to allow it. His stomach churched with an overwhelmed mix of terror, shock, and confusion.

John’s words echoed in Paul’s head. Last night you were happy to fall into my arms. What the hell had he done? Paul was beyond the point of fear and panic. Should he worry more about what he might have done last night, or the fact that he was tied to a bed? His head felt like it was full of cotton. Time passed in slow motion, like he wasn’t even real anymore. None of this felt real. He was just watching it happen to someone else in his body.

“John,” Paul said in a shaky voice, barely above a whisper, “What happened last night? What’s going on? Can ya tell me, please?”

John smiled again. This time, it was a softer smile, not edged with something frightening. John didn’t stop stroking Paul’s cheek. The touch make him feel sick. Paul closed his eyes. It was too much.

“Oh Paul,” John said, “You’re a special one, you know. From the minute I met you, I knew you were different. I had to have you.” John paused to look at Paul. The other man was still as death. Paul opened his eyes again. This pleased John greatly, seeing Paul’s big hazel eyes peering up at him. John withdrew his hand from Paul’s face.

“You see, I’ve learned a lot about you. I thought I would do something that would help us both, make us both much happier,” he paused again. Paul stayed silent.

“It broke my heart, seeing how lonely you were. Playing your guitar by yourself, going to work by yourself, hell, even coming into the record store by yourself. Right sad, it was. I saw how you lit up when you came in and was around the music. Like a different person. And you seemed to take kindly to me, the way you’d bat those eyelashes. You’re so eager to please, Macca,” John smothered a giggle under his breath, “I had to do something to get you out of that miserable state. I thought you’d be much happier with me. But you were so shy, I knew you’d never agree, so I had to take matters into my own hands. All I did was give ya a little somethin’ to relax. Nothing that would ever harm you, just put you to sleep-“

John giggled again. Paul should have been horrified that his “friend” had actually stalked him and kidnapped him, but he couldn’t truly believe it was real.

“You know, for such a headstrong fellow, I would have never guessed how much you wanted a cuddle while you slept,” John said, the maniacal look edging into his expression.

All Paul could do was give a weak “what?”

“Yeah, you just wrapped your arms 'round me and fell right to sleep. Even when I tried to move you upstairs, you didn’t want to let go. It broke my heart even more than watching you playing your guitar all by your lonesome each night. That’s how I knew I made the right choice, bringing you here. You’ll never be lonely again, Paul! This is a wonderful thing!”

Paul was too stunned to speak.

“What’s the matter?” John’s wild grin was replaced by a cloudy frown. Paul didn’t reply.

“What is it?” He repeated, anger edging into his voice.

“I- you-“ Paul stuttered.

“Spit it out, for Christ’s sake!” John growled. He grabbed Paul’s narrow shoulders far too hard. Hard enough to leave bruises. Paul whined in pain.

“John, I would have been your friend anyway,” Paul whispered, “you didn’t have to do… this.” His voice raised to a normal level.

“You know you can’t keep me here,” Paul spoke as calmly as he could to avoid provoking John’s impending wrath. “They’re going to come looking for me, and then you’ll get in trouble-“

“Who’s going to come looking for you?” John shouted. “Who? Tell me, please! You don’t have any family. You think those people at work are gonna care enough to call about you? You’re their girl Friday, you can be replaced in a day, easy! And besides, I can find my way out of any trouble, any day. Don’t you dare tell me what I can and can’t do!”

“People are going to find out one way or another, John! Be reasonable, mate!” Paul pleaded. “You can’t just keep another person locked away-“ John backhanded him again, twice. The hard strike made Paul cry out.

“What did I just say?” John raged. He grabbed Paul by the neck of his shirt and yanked him close until their noses were almost touching. “You can either behave and I’ll make this enjoyable for both of us, or you can keep acting like a cunt and I’ll make your life a living hell. Understand?”

John’s breath was hot and sour, invading Paul’s nostrils. Paul tried to scoot back, struggling against the restraints.

“Do you understand?” John growled. Paul closed his eyes and shrank away.

John’s hateful expression suddenly smoothed out into a flat, cold demeanor. He threw Paul down against the pillow, stood up, and walked toward the door.

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t just pull away from me and ignore me. Instead, I’ll give you some time to think about it.” John made to walk out the door before stopping and turning back toward Paul.

“Oh, and if you make any more noise,” he stood menacingly over the younger man, “I’ll kill you.”

Paul wasn’t so much afraid of John’s words as he was of his emotionless voice. It was the tone that told Paul that John would kill him if he screamed, and would probably feel no remorse.

John calmly left the room and shut the door behind him.

Chapter Text

How long had it been since John left the room? Paul didn’t know. There was no clock in the room. All he had to tell the passing of time was the sunlight filtering through the closed curtains. It felt like hours.

White noise filled his ears. His mouth felt like it was full of cotton. He was violently thirsty. Hell, he would stick his mouth right on the faucet of the kitchen sink if it meant catching a few drops of water. Paul’s mind began to churn, his head beginning to ache from dehydration. The only way to get his hands on something to drink was to call out for John, but that would require making noise.

If you make any more noise, I’ll kill you.

John’s voice echoed in his head. Paul wondered if John was bluffing. Surely he wouldn’t just leave him tied up all day (or longer). He would have to come back. Otherwise, Paul had no other way of getting his attention beside making some sort of noise.

The sound of dishes clinking around in the kitchen brought Paul out of his thinking spiral. John was home. Paul had to act fast if he wanted water. He didn’t know if John would have to leave for work soon. Paul came up with a quick plan to at least stay alive: do whatever John says, whenever John says. It was the best he could think of in that moment to stave off danger and keep himself relatively comfortable while he figured out a long game plan for escape. Ironically, Paul used to be a prideful fellow by nature, before he was kicked out of his home. He used his charm and good looks to persuade people to get what he wanted, and if that failed him, he had no qualms about walking away. Never did he beg or submit. Since being on his own, some of that bravado, naturally, diminished. His crushing thirst drained what little he had left.

Voice trembling with fear, he called out.

“Hey John?” He did his best to make his voice sound as friendly and non-confrontational as possible.

Silence. Paul counted to 10.

“John? You there, mate?”

Paul heard footsteps growing closer. His heart began to pound so hard, he felt dizzy. The white noise rushed in his ears once again. This could mean relief for his thirst or certain death.

The footsteps grew louder, and louder, until the door opened.

John opened the door forcefully and strode over to Paul.

The younger man began to tremble uncontrollably. His vision went blurry. He couldn’t make out John’s demeanor.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make noise, I was just- I needed-“ Paul stopped to heave a breath of air, his dry throat burning, “Could I have some water? Please? I’m real thirsty.”

John knelt at his side. He was virtually emotionless. Paul kept blabbering on nervously.

“I’m real sorry I got upset with you, mate. Y’know, being frightened and all, I’m sorry.” Paul stopped talking, aware of his habit of anxious rambling. He had calmed down just enough to get a clear look at John.

John’s expression was frustratingly neutral.

“You want some water?” John asked.

“Yes, please, can I?” Paul asked. After he spoke, his stomach flipped at how saccharine his voice sounded. The only thing worse would have been batting his eyelashes for good measure. Paul braced himself mentally for another slap to the face.

John’s expression softened. He reached out for Paul’s tied wrists, gently glazing over the other man’s long fingers. Paul swallowed what little pride he had left and peered up at John through his eyelashes, just as he did in the record store. Flirting with someone who kidnapped him, all for a fucking glass of water.

“Alright, let’s get you fixed up, yeah?” John’s voice sounded just like it did back in the record store, warm and familiar.

John began to untie his ankles. Before he untied the final knot, John wrapped his long, broad hands around Paul’s crossed ankles and gave them a squeeze.

“No funny business, Paul. You better behave, son.” John said.

Paul looked up at him and eagerly nodded. A hint of a smile ghosted across John’s lips. That smile would have made Paul’s heart flutter not even a day ago. Now, it made his stomach sink with fear. John helped him sit up and regain his balance after laying on his side for so long. It was a good thing too, because Paul’s increasingly strong headache and dizziness made it hard to find his footing on his own. John’s hands firmly but gently held Paul’s arms just above his elbows. He allowed John to lead him down the hall into the kitchen.

John placed Paul standing right next to the sink. He gave the younger man’s arms a good squeeze. Sharp enough to say “don’t go anywhere,” but soft enough to convey more friendliness than anger. Paul obeyed. His heart felt like it was about to beat out of his chest while John picked a water glass out of the cabinet and filled it from the tap. Paul reached out for it, but realized with horror that his hands were tied in an x-shape, with the backs of his hands together and his wrists crossed. He gave a small gasp as he realized the water glass was right there and he couldn’t even take it from John’s hands.

John stifled a laugh at the other man. Did he actually think he would be able to use his hands so soon? It was almost cute, really, the little whimper Paul gave when he looked at his restraints. John did this for a reason. Well, a few reasons. Mainly to keep Paul from trying to fight and run away. John knew Paul would probably be able to take him in a fight. They were about the same size, though Paul was narrower, and John couldn’t have the risk of not being able to easily subdue the other man. The second reason was for Paul to be just slightly helpless, to need John’s help. It would show him that John wasn’t out to hurt him, but to help him.

Paul’s hands were straining for the water glass now. John placed his hands over Paul’s and pushed them down as softly as he could manage. He then placed one hand on the back of Paul’s head and lifted the glass to Paul’s slightly parted lips. John could feel the other man shiver as he gulped down the water in just a few mouthfuls.

At first, the water burned Paul’s throat. His mouth was so dry, the first few mouthfuls tasted of blood, coppery and metallic, before dissipating into the sweet taste of nothing. John had put his hand on the back of Paul’s head with all the tenderness of a lover. It sickened him knowing John was enjoying this. Suddenly the water was gone and the glass was removed from his lips. Paul was panting. He forgot to breathe while swallowing the whole glass of water.

“More,” he heaved, voice still raw from how dry his throat had been. John silently filled up the glass again and lifted it to Paul’s lips. Paul could feel the cold water travel all the way down to his stomach. It was an odd, almost unpleasant sensation, but not bad enough for him to stop drinking. He downed the second glass nearly as quickly as the first. His head began to stop spinning and calm down. For the first time, he became more aware of his surroundings and the man standing in front of him. John had a peaceful expression on his face. As much as Paul didn’t want to look at the other man, who had betrayed him so violently, he noticed how his brown eyes sparkled in the sunlight beaming in through the little window in front of the sink.

“Do you want more, Paul?” John asked. A hint of a smile lifted the corners of his lips. Paul nodded. John filled up another glass of water and helped Paul drink it. Paul would have happily chugged glass after glass, but his stomach was gurgling at being filled up with water so quickly. The last thing he wanted was to be sick in front of John and unleash the other man’s wrath.

“Another?” John asked. Paul shook his head

“No, I better not. Don’t wanna make myself sick, y’know.” Paul’s stomach gave a loud growl. What time was it? Paul glanced at the clock on the wall in front of him. It read 2:00 in the afternoon. Suddenly it dawned on him- he was starving.

“Oh, where are my manners,” John giggled, “It’s past noon and I haven’t even offered you anything to eat! Can I fix you something? A sandwich, cheese on toast, cornflakes? Anything at all?”

Paul’s eyebrows knitted together. Watching John like this was like watching another person entirely. There was enraged, frightening John who drugged him, tied him up, and slapped him around. There was also friend John who was witty and kind, always up for conversation. Friend John suddenly took the place of Angry John. Paul wanted to seize the moment to ensure his… friend? Captor? No, don’t go there now, Paul thought to himself, mind beginning to spin again until he forced himself to remain calm and remember his plan. Do whatever John says, whenever John says. Paul added a footnote to his plan: keep Friend John around as much as possible. He gathered his strength to act as normal as he could, despite the nervous sweat creeping down his spine.

“That’s very kind of you, John. Have you eaten already?” Paul asked, smiling as genuinely as possible. John’s eyes lit up.

“Not since breakfast, no.”

“Well then, I’ll have whatever you’re having. I’m not too hungry-“ Paul’s stomach cut him off with a noise that sounded vaguely like a scream. Both men couldn’t help it, they laughed at the noise as if they were schoolboys snickering at a well-timed belch.

“Not too hungry, my arse!” John laughed. Paul’s heart involuntarily fluttered at the sound.

“Ok, maybe I am a little hungry.” Paul allowed himself a moment of comfort to laugh with his “friend.” John waltzed over to the fridge and yanked it open. He gave it a thorough scan.

“I don’t have everything for a full fry-up, but I got some eggs, sausages, ham,” John paused, digging around in the fridge. He let out a surprised yelp and pulled his hand out.

“Something bite you in there, mate?” Paul quipped.

“No, worse,” John giggled, pulling his hand out with his fingers halfway sunk into a rotten tomato.

“Aw, disgustin’!” Paul said. He wrinkled his nose. John got a mischievous look in his eyes. Damn you Paul and your little rabbit nose, John thought. He held out the rotten tomato and took two large strides toward Paul.

“No! No! Aye, come on mate!” Paul hopped away from John, who was giggling like a naughty child. John chased him around the kitchen for a moment, enjoying the playfulness, before backing Paul into a corner, tomato dripping in his hand. Paul turned his face away with one final plea of “No! John!” There was a mix of giddiness and genuine terror in his eyes. John thought it was a rather pretty look for Paul. Gingerly, John inched the tomato toward Paul’s mouth.

“Mm-mm, mm-mm!” Paul muttered with lips sealed shut, shaking his head “no.”

“You sure you don’t want it? Come on, now, nothing wrong with it!”

“MM-MM!” Paul muttered even louder. He was trying not to open his mouth and laugh.

“Suit yourself, then,” John said. He tossed the tomato into the bin behind him. Safe from the threat of the vile tomato, Paul allowed himself to laugh. John joined him. They doubled over in a fit of laughter. For a minute, it was like nothing ever happened between them, until Paul reached up to put a hand on John’s shoulder.

His hands were still tied together.

Paul’s laughter abruptly ceased. John stopped his giggling and looked at the other man. He saw the younger man holding his hands halfway out, saddened expression pulling the corners of his eyes and lips downward. John’s eyes locked with Paul’s.

“I was-” Paul swallowed thickly, “I was gonna pat you on the shoulder, but I can’t.” His voice sounded much sadder than he wanted. John gave him a soft smile and reached out with his left hand to gently cup Paul’s shoulder and give him a friendly clap on the arm.

“All in good time, mate,” John said. A smile began to creep back over his face. John lifted his right hand, covered in rotten tomato slime, and reached out as if he was about to stroke Paul’s cheek.

“NO, JOHN!” Paul cried as he laughed and jumped back.

“If you insist, I suppose I’ll refrain.” John chuckled under his breath and strode over to the sink to wash his hands.

John sat Paul at the kitchen table with a glass of orange juice and a paper straw to keep the younger man occupied while John cooked. Once breakfast, more like lunch, was ready, John pulled a chair up next to Paul. He sat a plate of food in front of Paul, then another in front of himself.

Paul attempted to grab his fork, though it was much more difficult than he anticipated with his hands tied together, and slide into his eggs. He fumbled about before dropping the fork into his food.

“John, y’know, it’s really hard to eat like this,” Paul said. He pouted at the fork on his plate.

“Oh, right,” John replied, as if he’d forgotten something terribly obvious. He picked up the fork off of Paul’s plate and began to cut his eggs for him, then dipped a corner of toast in the egg yolk and lifted it up to Paul’s mouth. Once again, Paul felt a stab at his pride as he opened his mouth and took a bite. Something about being fed like a child made his stomach flip with shame. After swallowing his food, he wrestled with the idea of asking to be untied to feed himself, weighing it against the chance of making John upset. Before Paul could open his mouth to speak, John had a forkful of meat held up to Paul’s lips.

“What’s the matter?” John asked, chomping on a slightly overcooked piece of toast.

“Nothing,” Paul said.

“Then what’s that sour look for?”

Paul’s eyes grew wide for a second. His troubled expression betrayed him. Paul swallowed again and spoke,

“I guess, I feel kinda bad with you havin’ to sit here and feed me. Your food’s gonna get cold before you can finish it.” It wasn’t exactly the truth, but it wasn’t a lie either. John’s brow furrowed into a line. A warning expression if Paul ever saw one.

“It’s not a problem, Paul. Your hands are staying like that until I say so. Understand?”

“Yeah,” Paul nodded, “It just sorta wounds my pride.” Paul stopped immediately once he realized what he blurted out. His heart surged and his stomach churned with a wave of nausea.

John slammed his hand against the table. Paul gasped and looked up at him.

“Do you think it’s funny to not listen to me, Paul?” John paused, grabbing Paul harshly by the shoulders. “Do you?!” he yelled.

“No, no, I’m sorry John! I’m sorry!”

“Sorry, you’re gonna be real sorry if you can’t get it through your thick head,” John rapped Paul’s skull twice with his knuckles, “that I make the rules! Your fuckin’ hands stay fuckin’ tied until I say otherwise! You think I give a shit about your pride, Paulie boy?” John angrily pinched Paul’s cheeks. It was this sort of mocking that cut Paul to the core. Hot tears began to pool at the corners of his eyes. He forced himself not to let the fear and shame take over and openly cry. John let out a frightening laugh.

“Gonna cry start cryin’ now, are we?” John howled with laughter. Paul’s lip began to tremble.

“Awww, ickle Paulie boy, don’t cry!” John said in a mocking voice one might use with a small child, and pinched Paul’s cheeks again. A hiccup escaped Paul’s lips. HIs face was a burning shade of beet red.

“For someone so worried about pride,” John snarled, “you don’t seem to be too worried about cryin’ like a fuckin’ baby!”

“John, I’m sorry, I’ll stop-“ Paul blubbered.

“Yeah, you’ll stop alright,” John said, heaving Paul out of the chair and punching him in the stomach. Paul let out a yelp and fell to his knees, only to be hauled up and punched again.

“John, please, I’m sorry!” Paul begged. He’d fallen flat on his arse this time and nearly had the wind knocked out of him. His breath came in shaky, wheezing gasps. He stared up at John with sad, watering eyes, and an expression that belied any sense of pride.

“I’ll behave, I’m sorry John,” Paul said in a voice just above a whisper. John’s angry snarl began to smooth out into that horrifying emotionless expression.

“You’ll learn, one way or another,” John said, towering over him and stalking around him like a predator circling its prey. John contemplated throwing Paul back into his room without feeding him, but coming back to find Paul passed out from hunger or thirst didn’t sound too appealing. Instead, John made Paul sit up on his knees.

“Let’s play a game, Paul,” John growled. He bent down so that he was inches from Paul’s nose. “It’s called ‘Shut The Fuck Up And Do As I Say.’ It’s real simple. All you have to do is shut the fuck up, and do what I fuckin’ tell ya to do. And if you utter another word before I tell you to, I’ll break that pretty little rabbit nose of yours. Understand?”

Paul nodded. The white noise was starting back up in his ears. The feeling of not being in reality, of being entirely detached from himself, returned. His head felt fuzzy. Surely this wasn’t happening to him. No, this was just like earlier, he was simply watching it happen to someone else in his body. In his mind, he was floating above the room.

“Good,” John’s low voice snapped him halfway back into reality.

“Get up,” John said, helping the younger man back into his chair. John picked up Paul’s fork and scooped up a bite of eggs and meat.

“Open.”

Paul opened his mouth and ate from the fork. The eggs had long gone cold and the meat was chewy and a tad slimy, but he didn’t dare wince or complain.

After Paul finished his plate and drank another glass of water, John stood him up, lead him back down the hall, and shoved him into his room. Without a word, John locked the door and Paul heard the other man’s footsteps striding away.

The white noise never left Paul’s ears, but something inside him forced him firmly back into reality. He had been stolen. His stomach was aching from where John punched him. John, who he thought was his friend- John. The thought was too painful.

It was all too much. Paul sat down on the edge of the bed and swung his legs around. He buried his face in the pillow and let his tears fall.

Chapter Text

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

John was pacing so violently across the kitchen floor, he was worried he would pace right through the wood and into the foundation of his flat. This wasn’t going as well as he thought it would be. In fact, it was a right disaster. Bringing Paul home with him was supposed to be fun. Whatever was going on now was most certainly not fun.

John knew Paul would resist, and question him, and generally disobey him. He knew that, so why did he get so terribly upset when Paul did it? It was something he struggled with all his life, his temper. His Aunt Mimi would sometimes fear his tantrums as a child because he would get much more upset than any child should over a minor inconvenience. If John didn’t get his way or had to wait for something, he would go on a rampage and tear up everything in sight while screaming his lungs out. If Uncle George was late getting home, John would cry and howl, terrified he had abandoned the family and would never return. Of course, Uncle George always returned. And as John got older, he learned to quell some of his outbursts, but his tendency toward intensity never faded. He did not “feel” things the way others did. There were two sides: he felt nothing at all, or he felt every single emotion deep in every fibre of his being. He knew how he would react to less than ideal situations, and he knew how he should react, yet often times he found himself flying uncontrollably off the handle. That is, if he wasn’t giving a cold stare and not caring about the situation at all.

It made him feel quite small and powerless. Despite his arrogance and bravado, his dangerous charm, John constantly carried a pervasive fear that he would never be normal. He would never be good enough to live a normal, calm life. He would always be fighting. Or unable to care about anything even when he knew he should. Or somehow, someway, driving away everyone and everything he loved.

The main reason John took Paul was to improve both of their lives, to have fun with his friend. That is, once Paul got over the initial shock and saw how John was really, truly meant to be in his life. John imagined how much he and Paul would enjoy their time together. Instead, he had just punched Paul in the stomach, made him cry, and shoved him back in his room alone.

A far cry from the fun he imagined.

John lit up a cigarette and sat at the kitchen table. He stared at his own plate of uneaten food in front of him, reminding him of how badly he was failing is current mission: make Paul feel happy with him. After finishing his cigarette, John glanced up at the clock. Just 15 minutes had passed. He figured if he wanted to damage control and fix his wounded relationship with Paul, he had to act fast. The longer he left the other man alone, ruminating in fear and anger, the more irreparable the damage would be. John stood up from the table. He was resolved to gain Paul’s friendship back. It would require giving up a little bit of his control over the situation, which made him uneasy, but he knew it was worth it. This time would be different.

Quietly, John made his way down the hall to Paul’s room. He paused before opening the door. His stomach lurched with nervousness, a feeling he was entirely not used to.

Paul was laying on his side, not even crying anymore, just breathing shakily into the pillow while his breath came in small hiccups. He looked up when he saw the door open. His heart gave a surge so powerful, it made him dizzy and nearly unable to react.

“Paul,” John said as kindly as he could.

Paul said nothing, afraid of getting injured again if he made any noise.

“Paul, mate, I’m sorry. I’ve been a right dick to you. I won’t hurt you anymore, promise. M’sorry.” John said. He approached Paul’s trembling figure. He held a hand out and gently sat Paul upright on the bed. Paul was trembling.

John stroked up and down the other man’s shoulders. He could feel the shaking.

“Come on, will ya talk to me. Please?” John pleaded. Paul sat there, eyes wide in fear, mouth hanging slightly open in shock. Not even half an hour ago, John was beating him up in the kitchen, now he was begging for forgiveness.

“Say something, anything at all. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” John continued. He buried his head in Paul’s shoulder, his breath coming in quick gasps. As terrified as he was, now was the time to get back in John’s good graces. It pained Paul to be so sweet to the man who was doing this to him. He persisted for his own sake. He didn’t see a better way out.

“John,” Paul began, his voice still quavering from how he was crying earlier, “hey, it’s alright.” He had no idea what to say. Instead, he leaned his head over so that it was gently resting on John’s.

“We’re still mates, aren’t we?” Paul asked.

“Yeah,” John muttered, his voice muffled from still being pressed into Paul’s shoulder.

“Then it’s alright. Even friends get into it sometimes, y’know.” Paul would have given John a hesitant embrace (if his hands weren’t tied) in an effort to calm him down. He instead had to settle for brushing his cheek against the top of John’s head. He noticed how nice John smelled. Like pine and earth, clean but undeniably masculine. It reminded Paul that he must not smell too good himself, having no access to a shower or toothbrush. His cheeks flushed slightly in embarrassment.

“Will you forgive me, Paul? I promise I won’t do it again! I don’t know what gets into me sometimes, but I won’t do it again,” John begged.

“Of course I’ll forgive you,” Paul said. He became acutely aware of how filthy he felt compared to how clean John was. It made his face burn an even hotter shade of red.

“Thank you! Oh thank you,” John said. Paul could have sworn he felt John press a light kiss on the sleeve of his shirt. Then again, it could have been his imagination.

“Can I ask a favor of you, John?” Paul asked as sweetly as his voice would allow.

“Anything,” John said. The older man was still nestled snugly against Paul. For a moment, Paul was lost in thought. John was scary and deranged. Paul was still very much afraid of him. So why did Paul enjoy so much how John was laying against him? He quickly tried to explain it away as an involuntary reaction from being alone for so long. Why did he not instantly flinch away and feel sick at John’s closeness? Worse, why did he not want it to stop?

“Paul?” John said, snapping Paul out of his thought spiral.

“Oh, right,” Paul said, “I was just wondering if-“ he paused to make sure his words were unlikely to send John into a rage. “I was just wondering if I could, y’know, freshen up or something? I feel kinda grotty after spending the night in my clothes.” Paul’s heart began to race. If John said yes but didn’t untie him- he didn’t even want to think about that. The loss of privacy and dignity made his stomach sink.

John sat up from Paul’s shoulder.

“Yeah, I guess I’ve been a rotten host to not show you around to the facilities,” John said. Paul didn’t know how in the world John could call himself a host, as if Paul was an invited guest and not a hostage.

John stood up and went to the door across the room from Paul’s bed. Once he opened it, Paul saw it was a nice little bathroom. John opened the drawers and scanned around the bathroom thoroughly, as is he were looking for something very important. His search completed, John sat down next to Paul.

“I’ve got everything fixed up for you,” John said. Paul didn’t know what that meant. For a moment, John paused. He had a choice to make: he could keep Paul’s hands tied and risk getting into another fight when Paul resisted, or he could trust Paul to behave while untied and risk him running away or besting him in a fight. John removed any possible item in the bathroom Paul could use to hurt himself or anyone else. The risk that Paul would try to injure himself seemed low. Still, John felt uneasy about letting the younger man free.

He quickly came to a decision after remembering what happened earlier that day.

“Alright Paul, listen to me carefully, ok?” John said. Paul nodded.

“I’ll untie you and let you take care of your business, but the second you try anything, the ties come back and I don’t let you out of my sight. Ever. Understood? I don’t want a repeat of what happened earlier.” John said. The look in his eyes conveyed a frightening intensity.

Paul nodded silently again, and held his hands out for John to untie. John made quick work of removing Paul’s restraints. Once the younger man’s hands were free, John grabbed them in his own, lacing their fingers together.

“I mean it, Paul,” John said.

“Ok, I understand,” Paul replied. He gave John’s hands a squeeze then tried to let go, but John refused to release his hands. Paul stifled a gasp when he realized this was the first time he had ever held hands with another bloke. His previous interactions with men were all hurried kisses and grabbing a handful of hair at the nape of his partner’s neck. There was no action not charged with desire. But this was different. It was a similar dissonant feeling to when John laid his head on Paul’s shoulder, a mix of horror and comfort. Paul figured at some point soon he would have to get over the initial excited reaction whenever John touched him.

The two men stayed for a second, hands twined together, breathing in sync, until John stood up and lead Paul off the bed, then into the bathroom. He turned around so Paul was standing in the bathroom and John was just outside the door.

“I’ll be waiting here,” John said as he released Paul’s hands, swiftly pulled the door shut, and locked it from the outside.

Alone, Paul stood still in the bathroom. He took in his surroundings: toilet in the corner with a cabinet above it, tidy little sink and countertop, bathtub on the opposite wall with a showerhead sticking out from the wall, and a large blue rug that took up a good majority of the white tile floor. Upon closer examination, Paul saw there were brand new, unopened toiletries sat on the counter. Everything a person could possibly need to feel at home, toothpaste and toothbrush, bar of soap, deodorant, shaving cream (but, curiously, no razor), and various other bottles were perched there. A shiver ran up Paul’s spine as he realized just how thoroughly John planned out the kidnapping. This wasn’t just an otherwise sane man who suffered a brief loss of contact with reality. No, this was someone with issues that ran deeper than Paul could ever want to know. The thought made his stomach lurch.

The sensation in his abdomen suddenly reminded him of how badly he needed to take a piss. He quickly rushed over to the toilet to relieve himself. Paul knew in the back of his mind that John was outside the door, listening to every move Paul made. The embarrassment made Paul’s face turn a shade redder. However, he did his best to ignore John’s presence lurking behind the door. After washing up, Paul decided to brush his teeth. The day’s worth of grime in his mouth gave his teeth an awful, fuzzy feeling that he detested. The final step in cleaning up was showering. Nervously, Paul stripped himself naked and stood next to the bathtub, and turned the knobs and levers until he figured out how to run the shower and the hot water.

The hot water soothed Paul’s aching muscles. His entire body was stiff from laying in one position for so long. Not to mention his stomach still hurt from where John punched him earlier. He closed his eyes. For a moment, Paul forgot where he was. He was relaxed enough that he felt as if he were at home. At home, he always sang in the shower. Quietly, he began to hum as he showered. The hums turned into soft singing. Paul took in a deep breath and was about to let out a note at a normal volume until he opened his eyes. This wasn’t home.

Paul quickly rinsed off and grabbed a fluffy, pale yellow towel from the rack behind him. He dried himself off, then wrapped the towel around his waist. The mirror had fogged over, so he cleared away some of the steam with his hand before grabbing a comb and running it through his hair. Usually he would do it up with pomade and brush it into a quiff, but he settled for the slicked over look instead. The hairstyle reminded him of his younger days for a reason he couldn’t quite place.

Instinctively, Paul reached for the robe he usually kept hanging on a hook on his bathroom door. Of course it wasn’t there.

The familiar nervous sinking feeling returned. He really didn’t want to put his old clothes back on, but that was the only other option besides the towel. Paul wondered if he should ask John to borrow some clothes. The two men were about the same size, though John had a bit more thickness to his figure than Paul. Carefully, Paul evaluated his options. What would be the least likely to set John off? With as quiet a sigh as he could muster, he wrapped the towel around his waist and approached the door.

“Aye, John?” Paul said.

“Yeah,” John replied. The clarity of his voice showed he was just outside the door. The thought of the lack of privacy made Paul’s stomach lurch once again.

“Would you happen to have any clothes I could borrow? The ones I had on are right filthy.”

That was a lie. He hoped John wouldn’t press him. All he wanted was a change of clothes.

“Yeah, I do, hang on,” John said. From the other side of the door, Paul heard rustling of footsteps and the sound of drawers being opened and shut. His mind couldn’t stop circling on how vulnerable he was in that moment: naked aside from a towel, in an unfamiliar place, with a volatile captor. John could easily find a way to see more of Paul than Paul was willing to show. It was a frighteningly small feeling that made Paul’s hand tremble slightly as he made sure his towel was secure around his waist.

“Paul?” John called from behind the door.

“Yeah?”

“Mind if I open the door? I got you a shirt and some trousers. May be a bit big on you, but they’ll probably fit.”

Paul released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. John didn’t barge in on him or give him any hassle at all. Maybe John was feeling at least a little apologetic for his outburst earlier, Paul wondered.

“Yeah, you can open it,” Paul replied.

John opened the door a fraction, just enough to reach in and hand Paul the neatly folded stack of clothes. For a brief moment, John’s eye’s met Paul’s before John withdrew his hand and closed the door. Paul stood frozen in place with the clothes in his hand. He didn’t know why, but he brought them up to his nose and inhaled. Of course the clothes smelled like John. Even worse, it was a pleasant and inviting scent. One that reminded Paul of his budding friendship with John, and how it could have been the beginning of something wonderful, but instead, here he was. Held captive, about to wear his captor’s clothes.

It could be worse, Paul reminded himself, at least John is being nice. It could be much, much worse.

Paul dressed himself and emerged from the bathroom. He did feel considerably better than before. Before he opened the door to the bedroom, Paul stared at his hands. At the moment, he could move about and stretch as he pleased. The luxury of movement might vanish once he stepped out of the bathroom. Paul took a moment to stretch his arms and shoulders, moving left and right, splaying his fingers wide as he did so. A rush of anxiety overwhelmed him when he finished stretching and approached the door.

"Alight, John, I'm good to go," he said. He desperately didn't want to be tied up and left alone again. The thought was suffocating.

John opened the door, and Paul was relieved to find the friendly side of him was still out.

"Thanks, I feel a lot better now," Paul said as John took him by the hand and lead him out of the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

"No problem," John said.

While Paul was in the bathroom, John opened the curtains in the room. When John stood in a ray of sunshine, Paul saw John's features illuminated like he hadn't before: thin yet strong lips, Roman nose that would have looked ridiculous on anyone else except John because it suited him so well, brown eyes shining with flecks of amber and gold, auburn hair reflecting hues of shimmering red in the light. Damn if Paul wasn't struck by John's undeniable beauty again. In another life, Paul thought, maybe they would have had a chance. Probably not at anything romantic, just anything better than what they had now. It was a shame, enough to make Paul's heart beat a little faster as he stared at the other man, because John was painfully gorgeous, but impossible to have.