The Decay of Lying
Written for: afrai in the Yuletide 2004 Challenge
Author's note: Thank you to Mia, Terri, Bone, Merry Lynne, and especially Mandragora, Brit Beta extraordinare! for their help with this.
Stuart wouldn't stop until they were on the ferry, and by then it was past three in the morning. After nine hours speeding along the backroads of England (Stuart being convinced that they had to avoid the motorways) Vince was entirely exhausted, but Stuart dragged him up to the boat's topmost deck to stare at England's rapidly receding shores.
Vince turned his jacket collar up against the whipping wind of the channel. "Tonight you be Kate Winslet, all right?"
"Fuck Kate Winslet!" Stuart's hands were white-knuckled where they gripped the deck railing. "Fuck all of England, in fact. Say goodbye, Vince," he said, sounding savage even for Stuart, and then he was leaning over the railing and yelling toward shore: "Goodbye, you bastards! Ciao, adieu, and fuck you!" The cliffs of Dover glowed luminously in the dark. "We're citizens of the world now!"
Vince had just opened his mouth to point out that no, actually, technically speaking, they were renegades, as they hadn't stopped to pick up their passports on their sudden flight from Manchester, and at some point some customs officer on the continent was going to ask them to produce— when Stuart turned, grabbed him by the tie, and kissed him fiercely. Vince swayed a little, then clutched Stuart's arms and held on.
Who needed identification? He could be anybody.
They didn't sleep at all that night; instead, they found a bench in an alcove and huddled together, knees tucked up to their chins, wearing their leather jackets backwards, like straightjackets. Vince bought them each a beer and a packet of crisps and they stared up at the sky and listened to the roar of the water.
"You know," Stuart said, his voice quiet and clear in the cool night air, "on the night Oscar Wilde was nicked, the boat-trains were full of queers. Mass departures for Calais."
Vince frowned at this. "You don't say."
"I do say. Six hundred men on the last ferry, this ferry, when normally there were twenty-five. They left everything behind— careers, family, property." Stuart let his head fall back against the wall behind him. "It's nothing new, you know," he said bitterly. "None of it's new."
Vince sat there for a moment, shivering. It was like he could feel the ghosts of all those other men, gliding around him. Finally, he took a deep breath and said, "Well, we're in good company anyway, right?"
Stuart turned his head to stare, and then one side of his mouth curled up in a grin. "Yeah," he said. "I guess we are," and then he rolled his head back and laughed up at the stars.
Stuart gave the bloke at customs an apparently unforgettable blowjob inside one of the private rooms reserved for searching luggage. Vince waited outside, arms crossed, tapping his foot and staring up at the cracked white styrofoam tiles of the room's dropped ceiling.
It was worth it, though. Stuart came out with a strut in his step, two stolen passports, and five thousand francs. They drove away from the ferry station into the sunrise.
"Are we," and here Vince let out a tremendous yawn, "going to Paris?"
"I'm not going to Paris," Stuart snorted. "Paris is full of wankers."
"Where then?" Vince asked.
"I don't know." Stuart turned the Rover onto the main road. "Italy, maybe. Right now, I need either a bed or a couple of lines—"
"God. You said bed," Vince said, thinking that sounded like the most beautiful word ever.
"—or both, actually," Stuart said, and shot him a curious, narrow look.
"We should find a hotel with a garage," Vince said. "In case someone's watching for our plate number. Maybe tomorrow we could switch them."
Stuart nodded slowly; he was staring fixedly at the road. "Yeah. Right. Good idea."
They chose a dingy business hotel outside of Calais. Stuart knelt on the oil-stained concrete floor of the garage to change the plates, but it was Vince who suggested that they take the front plate off one car and the back plate off another. "Nobody'll notice if they don't match," he reasoned. "And it'll take these here," Vince nodded at the cars, "fifty percent longer to notice their plates've been switched."
"Good, yeah," Stuart said, grunting as he tried to work the plate off. "We'll make a criminal out of you yet."
Once they were finished, they pushed through a dirty glass door to the foyer and asked for a room. The clerk at the desk seemed irritated, and worse yet, French. Stuart propped his elbow on the high counter. "Avez-vous des chambres libres?"
The clerk glanced pointedly at the wall clock. It was just past seven in the morning. "Check-in à partir du midi."
Stuart showed him his most charming smile. "Mais nous sommes ici maintenant," he said, and then leaned forward and flashed a fistful of francs. "Find us a room, mate, will you?"
The clerk found them a room, and Vince supposed it was probably one of the best on offer, though it was still nothing much. Two narrow beds, with a bedside table in between. Paisley coverlet, paisley curtains.
"God," Vince said, trying to ward off the paisley by holding up two crossed fingers. "I think this room's turning me queer. Oh, wait."
"Fake Louis Quatorze," Stuart said, kicking at a chair leg. "How ironic."
"Not nearly enough, if you ask me." Vince took off his jacket and hung it up in the room's small wardrobe. "It's caught tragically between homage and camp."
"It's just crap furniture in a crap hotel." Stuart was stripping with almost ruthless efficiency, scattering his clothes everywhere, not bothering to fold anything. A mistake, in Vince's opinion, considering these were the only clothes they had. "Still," Stuart said, unzipping and slipping out of his trousers with a skill that might have rivaled Houdini's, "any bed in a storm I always say."
The room, Vince thought, was on the chilly side, but Stuart seemed to be getting hard anyway. A talent, that. He turned and stared at the painting screwed to the wall: a print of some flowers. "Which bed do you want?" he asked. Some of the petals had already fallen onto the cloth of the table, he noticed. The whole arrangement was decidedly droopy. Dying before the paint had time to dry.
Stuart didn't say anything for a long moment. "Doesn't matter to me," he said finally, flatly. "Which bed do you want?"
Vince bent to tuck his shoes neatly into the wardrobe. He decided to keep his socks on, as well as his vest and pants. "I'll take the one nearer the lav then, if it's all the same."
"I don't mind," Stuart said, but when Vince straightened up and turned around, Stuart was sprawled, face down and naked, on the bed nearer the lav, one arm tucked underneath the pillow. His back was sleek and muscular. He'd gone and got in the wrong bed. His arse was round, firm-looking, smooth. Or maybe he'd done it deliberately; he'd always been a contrary bastard. You said A, he did B.
He was too damn tired for this. Vince went to the bed nearest the window and slid under the covers.
Be his own fault if Stuart caught a chill. He'd regret being a renegade with the sniffles.
Vince woke up when a pillow hit him in the face, and bolted upright. Stuart stood at the end of his bed, fully-dressed and glowering at him. "Get dressed," he said. "We're losing the light."
Vince glanced at the clock on the bedside table; half-past two in the afternoon. He'd had nearly eight hours, and he felt like he could sleep another eight. "All right," he said. "Coming."
Twenty minutes later they were on the road again, having slipped out without paying. "Well, we really shouldn't have to, should we?" Vince asked Stuart, who was staring grimly through the windscreen at the road. "After all, they charge by the night and we never spent the night, did we?"
Stuart didn't answer. He didn't seem in a particularly talkative mood.
It took Vince a while to notice the signs. Paris, 250 km. Paris. 200 km. Paris, 185 km. "I thought we were giving Paris a miss," Vince said.
"Changed my mind," Stuart said.
"You said Paris was full of wankers," Vince said, trying to score a point.
"So it is. But what of it?" Stuart's mouth quirked up into a hard-edged smile. "Might be just the thing: a wank or two, bottle of wine, good stinky cheese..."
Vince nodded slowly and turned to stare out the window at the rapidly passing countryside. He felt somehow paralyzed, unable to fix what was wrong between them for fear of losing what was right.
"Christ, I hate the fucking French," he said.
He had got into that hypnotic, trance-like state that you get into on long road trips, and so he was surprised when Stuart pulled off the A1 motorway, following the sign for BORDEAUX/NANTES/BOBIGNY/PARIS. "Are we there?"
"Almost," Stuart said. "But I've got a stop to make first. Call it an errand."
Père Lachaise looked stunningly beautiful in the soft evening light: the wrought iron fences, the rows of bright green trees, the cobblestone streets. Some of the mausoleums looked like miniature romaneque churches, or Greek temples. Vince saw etched slabs of black granite, huge sculpted urns, and exquisite marble angels with their arms extended, as if poised to take flight.
Stuart strode off purposefully down one of the cobblestone paths. Vince trailed along more slowly, wanting to read the names etched on the monuments as he passed them. Leon Jouhuax, under a glossy black slab. Marie Laurencin, her tomb partly open and a colorful spray of flowers growing out of the gap. The Famille Chaptal, all of them listed on a tall obelisk. When Vince came back to himself, Stuart was off in the distance and just rounding a corner. Vince sprinted after him.
Stuart had wandered off the path, through the trees, and was standing in front of a massive tomb of mottled gray stone. Carved within the block of stone was a winged male figure wearing what looked like an Egyptian headdress. As Vince watched, Stuart crouched down in the dirt and stared up at the statue, one hand covering his mouth.
Vince came closer and looked down past Stuart's head to read the name carved on the base. OSCAR WILDE. He wasn't surprised—the statue seemed vaguely familiar to him, and he thought that maybe Stuart had a framed postcard of it somewhere, brought back from a term spent in Paris. What did surprise him was that the gray stone wasn't spotted, as he had first thought.
It was covered with kisses.
The stone was stained with the imprint of lips wearing every possible shade of lipstick. Heartfelt kisses marked the porous stone, the moisture sinking in and darkening into the image of a thousand shadowy ghost-mouths. Vince felt strangely rubber-legged and he folded himself onto the ground beside Stuart, sending up a small cloud of brown dust as he sat. Stuart was still gazing wide-eyed up at the monument, looking about as reverential as Stuart was capable of looking.
Then Stuart suddenly seemed to realize that Vince was watching him, and jerked a little, coming back to himself. "I used to come here a lot while I was at school," Stuart said, sounding deliberately casual, like he was having trouble putting his irony back on. Vince could understand why; this place, Wilde's grave, had an aura. Stuart arched an eyebrow and licked his lower lip. "It's a great place to meet people," he drawled, but if he meant it to come off as saucy, it didn't really. Instead, Vince had a clear vision of Stuart Jones at nineteen, loitering around Wilde's tomb, hoping to find someone. Maybe even himself.
Stuart raised two fingers to his lips, pressed them to the name carved in the stone, then let his hand drop. "Come on," he said, shifting as if to get up. "Let's find something to—"
Vince slid onto one knee, cupped the side of Stuart's neck, and kissed him, understanding with a gut level certainty that it had to be now, that it had to be here, or it would be never. Stuart might have forgiven him Judith's wedding, and he might yet forgive that morning's fuck-up at Calais, but not this. This was their gateway to Paris, and if he rejected Stuart here, Stuart would disappear into the city of lights, where a million Frenchmen were waiting. And a million Frenchmen couldn't be wrong.
One moment of sweetness and then Stuart jerked his face away. "What the fuck are you—"
"I'm sorry," Vince said, smothering the words against Stuart's mouth, and he was sorry—sorry for being such a coward. Stuart was following renegades who had left everything behind— careers, family, property—but those were the easy things. Much harder to leave behind your fears, your anxieties, your neuroses. How the hell else would you know who you were? "I'm really sorry," Vince murmured, then slipped his tongue into Stuart's mouth.
Stuart grabbed his shoulder and shoved hard. "You're daft is what you are. Cemeteries turn you on, is that it? You should have told me, we could have fucked in St. Anne's. Or is it just that you want to be sure you're the most charming person in the vicinity?"
Vince ignored him; he had been here before, and knew this was Stuart's way of giving him an out. Stuart would insult him, and then he could retreat, wounded, and look like a good bloke. Stuart always left him looking good. "Stuart," he said softly.
"And you know, you might want to think about the fact that old Oscar here is getting more than you," Stuart said, jerking his head toward the kiss-stained monument. "And he's been dead a hundred years—"
"It's all right." Vince leaned closer, knotting one hand in Stuart's dark purple shirt and feeling for his cock with the other. "You can shut up now."
"—but then again he had charm, talent, and more than a modicum of guts." Stuart's chin was up, and he had a defiant look in his eye, but he was also panting and growing hard in Vince's hand. "Unlike—"
"It's all right," Vince said slowly, trying to infuse his voice with kindness. "I don't need an out. What I need," he said, leaning in to nip gently at Stuart's jaw, "is a place where I can fuck you."
Vince felt the warm exhalation of Stuart's breath against his cheek. Stuart had probably been holding that breath for seventeen years. His warm hand slid under Vince's shirt, tracing his skin, then began to work itself under the waistband of his trousers.
"Preferably somewhere nearby," Vince panted, and then decided that right here was nearby enough, and pushed Stuart onto his back in the dirt.
There was something completely intoxicating about hearing Stuart Alan Jones's sex noises and finally knowing that you were the cause of them. Vince sprawled across Stuart's body, face bent to the open fly of Stuart's trousers, and sucked him off as long and as lovingly as he could, wanting to hear every note in his range, every grunt, gasp, and muttered obscenity.
For his own part, it was hard to keep his focus with Stuart writhing beneath him. He kept his fist tightly wrapped around the base of Stuart's cock and tried to concentrate on the smooth, wet head filling his mouth. He slid his lips up and down the shaft a few times and listened to Stuart's ragged moans, then stopped and gently tongued the head while they both gained control of themselves.
"Christ," Stuart breathed. "I need to come—fuck—please—"
Vince groaned helplessly around Stuart's cock; Stuart was begging him. This drew another ragged cry out of Stuart. Vince groaned again.
"Vince—fuck—if you love me—just—"
Vince went still, hand tightening around Stuart's cock. If he loved him? He didn't think he'd done anything in the last seventeen years that didn't take loving Stuart into account in some way. He didn't clip his mum's hedges without considering the topiary impact on Stuart Alan Jones.
He steadied himself by clutching Stuart's hip with his free hand, and began to work Stuart's cockhead with his mouth.
"Christ—fuck—yes—yes—oh—" and then Stuart was coming, hips bucking, and that was it. The first time, never to happen again. The time against which all their future times would be measured. Vince swallowed rhythmically, caressing Stuart's dick with the soft flat of his tongue, and prayed—to God, or Wilde, or anyone else who might be listening—that it had been good enough. Or enough, anyway.
When he lifted his head, he was relieved to see that Stuart looked sweaty and devastated, and that there were five long clawing fingermarks in the dirt below Stuart's right hand. He himself felt terribly overheated even though the sun was very nearly down and the ground was growing cold beneath them.
"How was that?" he asked, moving up a bit so that he could stare down into Stuart's flushed face. "Was that—?" and then Stuart was clutching his arms and rolling over on top of him. The move knocked the air out of Vince's lungs, but what did he need air for? Stuart was kissing him hotly and ripping his trousers open.
Finally Stuart lifted his mouth from Vince's and licked his palm a couple of times before returning it to Vince's cock. Christ, that felt fantastic...
"Promise me now," Stuart gasped into Vince's face, his own face tense with straining. "No more sleeping apart."
"No. More," Vince agreed breathlessly.
"Because I am not—" Stuart said in fits and starts, "—going on the lam with you—forsaking all others—if you're at all prone to—headaches."
"I'm not!" Vince gasped. "Fit as a fiddle! Tip-top—" but Stuart's mouth was crushing down upon his again, and he just melted into Stuart's body, feeling belatedly, finally, at home here, two steps from the grave.
Vince had maybe been dozing a little, trapped as he was between Stuart's warm body and the cold, cold ground, when he felt Stuart flinch. He lifted his face from where it was pressed against Stuart's neck. "What's the—?"
"Sh!" Stuart hissed, and Vince froze. A moment later, he heard it too—the sound of voices, the barking of dogs. Stuart's mouth was suddenly hot against his ear. "Zip up. Now. Guards coming."
Vince obeyed instantly, feeling cold all along his front when Stuart pulled away to tuck himself in. A rustle caught his attention, and he turned his head just in time to see the round white beam of a torch darting among the tombstones. No passports, stolen plates, indecent exposure—they'd be nicked, and that thought brought him to his feet in an instant. There were two beams now, coming closer, one almost licking at Stuart's trainers. "Come on," he whispered, tugging Stuart to his feet and pulling him behind Wilde's massive monument. "Let's get out of here."
"No, wait," Stuart murmured, and they froze, listening hard.
"J'ai pensé que j'ai vu quelqu'un..." a gravelly voice muttered.
"Où?" They could hear the sound of twigs snapping underfoot.
"Là" and the air around them brightened as the torch beam illuminated the other side of the monument. "Près de Wilde—"
The second voice groaned. "Fichus pédés—"
Vince hadn't really followed the conversation, but its effect on Stuart was electric—some kind of insult, from the tone. Vince had to grab him and hold him still. "Not yet," he whispered as softly as he could manage. "Not here—"
"Yes, here," Stuart retorted, blue eyes flashing with anger. "Absolutely here. This is the only turf we've got!"
Vince stared into Stuart's face for a long moment and then said: "Right, then. I'll take the one on the left."
They left the two gendarmes writhing on the ground, clutching their bollocks and moaning. The dogs, however, were another matter; they were savage-looking things, growling and barking at them like mad. Luckily their leads had got tangled around the wrists and ankles of the two fallen policemen, which gave Stuart and Vince a bit of a head start before the animals freed themselves. Even so, Vince paused to press a quick kiss to Wilde's tomb before darting after Stuart through the trees.
"Hurry!" Stuart called over his shoulder. "This way!"
Vince could hear the dogs racing after them, barking furiously, but he had to concentrate on not tripping over one of the gravestones. "This isn't," he gasped, arms pumping, "how we came in—"
"They'll have locked—the gates," Stuart said breathlessly. "But we can get—over the wall—"
The dogs sounded very close indeed, and Vince's heart felt like it was going to explode in his chest.
"Here—" Stuart stopped suddenly in front of a small mausoleum, bent, and laced his fingers together. "Come on—quick—up you go!—"
Vince didn't hesitate, but stepped onto Stuart's hands and launched upward, scrabbling for purchase on the mausoleum's stone roof. He flung a leg up and over and hauled himself up, then stretched his arms down for Stuart. From here, he could see the dogs rushing toward them through the darkness like furies. "Christ, hurry," he said, then felt Stuart's sweaty palms lock in his and pulled for all he was worth. Stuart's trainers scrabbled for purchase against the moss-covered wall of the mausoleum, and then he was up, beside Vince on the roof, the dogs barking angrily below.
"Ha! Bastards!" Stuart called down gleefully, and then he turned and pointed to where the mausoleum abutted the cemetery's exterior wall. "There. Up and over, mate, and we're finally free."
They bought a few bottles of good French table wine, half a pound of pâté, a good stinky cheese, a jar of Nutella, a couple of baguettes, a box of condoms and a bottle of "JoyDivision BioGlide Anal," un lubrifiant which was apparently specially formulated pour les pénétrations anales, and promised to intensifie le plaisir de l'activité sexuelle. Then they checked into a tiny hotel on the other side of the cemetery. The concierge sent them to an attic room with a sharply slanted ceiling. The room had a fantastic view over Père Lachaise, though, as well as a good-sized double bed.
Stuart spent a fair amount of time playing silly buggers and spreading pâté and Nutella all over Vince's naked body before licking it off. Vince giggled stupidly and said, "Stop it!" without meaning it at all. However, he grabbed the baguette out of Stuart's hand when he began making what could only be described as lewd gestures with it, and together they ate practically all the grub they'd purchased. They also drank three bottles of red wine between the two of them.
Thus he had to rely on Stuart's expertise; if anyone could fuck while post-prandial and flushed with booze, it was Stuart Alan Jones. "Fuck me," Vince whispered against Stuart's warm skin; he felt lazy and sloppy and fine. "Bend me over and fuck me—" but when Stuart finally pounced, it was to shove Vince onto his back instead.
"Lift your legs," Stuart said, and Vince obeyed, pulling his knees up to his chest. He expected Stuart to start lubing him with his fingers, but Stuart surprised him by leaning in with his tongue. Christ, his muscles were melting, and he didn't seem to be able to keep his legs from shaking, but then Stuart was holding his thighs in strong hands and digging in with his tongue. Vince's eyes closed helplessly and he lay there, overwhelmed with sensation.
When he finally felt strong enough to open his eyes again, he saw Stuart staring down at him with the most peculiar expression of—what? Longing, maybe; had to be. Almost defensively, Stuart slid two fingers deep into him and flexed them, sending another ecstatic shudder through his body.
"You're ready." Stuart sounded oddly short of breath as he pulled his fingers out. "Me," he added, rolling a condom on and slicking lube over it, "I'm well past ready," and then Stuart seized him and began to fuck his brains out.
They drowsed in each other's arms, waking occasionally to kiss, or eat, or drink another glass of wine. Vince woke once and watched Stuart sleep for a few minutes while he pinched himself hard on the soft inside of his elbow. Another time, he woke up to find Stuart awake and staring dreamily out the window, his head resting lightly on Vince's chest.
"Ay-uh," Vince said sleepily, regressing to familiar Manchester sounds.
Stuart lifted his head, turned to him, and showed him a truly radiant smile. Vince stroked his head with rough familiarity, and Stuart closed his eyes. "You know," Stuart said, apparently apropos of nothing, "Oscar Wilde loved the American West."
"Oi, that makes my head hurt." Vince felt his lips twisting into a smile. "Did he really?"
"He did, yeah. Think about it: men in leather, saloons with batwing doors, cool hats. Guns. What's not to like?" Stuart bit his lip thoughtfully and let his head sink back onto Vince's chest.
"Well, put that way—nothing."
"The Americans were expecting an English pansy, I think, but Wilde was 6'4" and built like an Irish boxer." Stuart seemed gleeful at the thought. "He went down into a silver mine, drank and smoked with the cowboys, then lectured the lot of them on interior design. Brilliant."
"Well, that is gutsy," Vince agreed, then interrupted himself: "Sorry, did I say gutsy? I meant totally barking mad."
"Amounts to much the same thing, if you ask me."
Vince rolled his eyes. "Right, I forgot he was your hero. Explains everything, really."
"So anyway," Stuart said and rolled over, bracing himself on his forearms, "Wilde walks into a saloon in Colorado—"
"This isn't an Irish bar joke, it it?" Vince asked suspiciously.
"—and in this saloon, there's a sign over the piano. It says, 'Please do not shoot the piano player. He is doing his best.'" Stuart paused, apparently lost in thought, and then murmured abstractly: "Wilde said that was the only practical piece of art criticism he'd ever seen."
"So it's an Irish bar joke after all," Vince said, but Stuart didn't seem to be listening. "Stuart," Vince said gently. "Stuart—"
Stuart blinked at him and said: "Paris is full of wankers. What say you to going West and becoming an art critic?"
Vince thought about this for a long moment as he stared at Stuart. He felt suddenly like he could see every naked hope and dream on Stuart's face.
And then Vince smiled, and raised his hand, two fingers pointing like a gun. "Bang," he said.