Fräulein Slash (frauleinslash) wrote,
Fräulein Slash
frauleinslash

Pepper: From Me To You

Name: Pepper - From Me To You
Fandom: None; original
Series: Pepper
Pairing: Alex/Marco (AU)
Rating: T; some language.
Word Count: 4,300
Summary: It's the summer of 1965, Beatles fever is still in the air, and Alex Ford is a peacock in a sea of pigeons. A new neighbour brings colour to his otherwise black-and-white world for the first time, and his resolution to keep his illegally-inclined heart concealed in a secret scrapbook filled with George Harrison suddenly falls apart.
This Chapter: Very quickly, they became inseparable; Alex’s mother called them Charles and Sebastian, not that he caught the reference.

Past Parts:

Love Me Do: One / Two

 

{{F R O M   M E   T O   Y O U;;

 

Alex’s parents definitely disapproved of his innovation, and he imagined that Marco’s parents didn’t take a very good view of it either.  All that he cared about was that it worked and that it had taken piss-ages to make it do that – and a bit of climbing on the side of his own house with Marco standing worriedly underneath him, frightened that he’d fall.  To tell the truth, Alex had been pretty scared he was going to fall himself, but he hadn’t wanted to let on.  That had been a very important step; he’d have had to do it sometime.  Better to do it with Marco thinking he was some sort of hero, right?  Definitely.

Now that it was all done, however, he wasn’t anywhere near Marco.  What he was near was a piece of thick rope that stretched in a loop between his house and the one next to it.  It was fastened to a pole that he’d fixed just next to his window; there was a similar pole in Marco’s room.  Tied to this rope was a sealable bag – it was in this sealable bag that he placed the first of many notes that would voyage across the space between them before closing the bag up again and feeding the rope around the pulley system until it reached Marco’s window.

Hello.

He could see Marco’s smile from here, and flushed eagerly as Marco scribbled something back and sent it back over.  He already knew what it was going to say, but the anticipation still killed him as he grabbed at the bag and took out the message.

Hi, Alex.

He leaned out of the window, a little bit too far for it to comply with his mother’s safety recommendations, and called out.  “This is the best idea I’ve ever had.”

“Quieten down,” a woman from a house not far along called back, a tone of boredom in her voice.  She was gathering in the washing – an odd task to be undertaking at this time of the evening when dusk was just falling, thought Alex, but who was he to judge?  He was no housewife.  Still, he completely ignored her.

“Come out to the park, like?”

“Bit late,” replied Marco timidly, evidently wary of the woman who was unpinning her washing and eyeing Alex like he was something unpleasant.  Alex had to strain to hear him, and it only made him more fond.  “Don’t know if I’ll be allowed.”

“Ahh, come on.  Ain’t that late.  Scared of the dark or something?”

“My baby,” the woman declared warningly, unpinning her washing still, “has just gone off to sleep.”

“Good for him,” retorted Alex.

For the first time, she abandoned her washing basket and turned to face him.  “Look, Alexander Ford, I ain’t above going to your mother.”

He tutted and pouted, snatching the note from the bag and scribbling a response back onto the piece of paper and putting it into the device he’d been so proud of a minute ago which now seemed so slow.

Seriously, come out?  We can be back in for nine.  I’m bored at home.

Is James coming?

No; just me and you.  Why?

No reason.  I’ll meet you outside in five minutes.

Six or seven minutes later – having meticulously fixed and then tousled his hair in the mirror – Alex was outside in the lukewarm night air with his blazer jacket and dickey-bowtie on, grinning at Marco’s decision to go for a full-on pea-coat and scarf ensemble.  “Anybody’d think you were cold, like; you sissy.”

“We’ll see who’s laughing when you’re bitter and won’t dare ask to borrow my gloves.”

Alex snorted.  “It’s obvious you’re new.  I never ask for anything.”

“Is that so?”

“Better believe it.”

It wasn’t an era for boys to link arms, but had they been girls they would have as they strolled across the street – completely empty of cars given the time – and made their way over to the park.  Marco had only been here a week, but already James had been shunted aside to make way for Alex’s new close connection.  Marco was different to the others; maybe it was just because he hadn’t grown up with them and hadn’t conformed yet – whatever the reason behind it was, Alex liked the change.  It was refreshing.  It was also perfectly complimentary to Alex’s own nature – everybody in his group had almost completely copied his.  They were all jaunty, often sarky, obsessed with the Beatles to the point of closing your eyes and just listening – though he suspected they didn’t feel what he felt; that feeling of falling in love every time you did it – wide-eyed yet casual, slightly rebellious and infuriatingly similar to him.  Maybe he was giving himself too much credit, but he doubted it.  They’d absorbed him into their systems, accepting him as the base model, and made only minor amendments to form people they called themselves.  Alex disagreed.  He saw himself in every one of them; reflected in their eclectic sunglasses and in their professed love for the Fab Four.

Alex denied nobody the ability to be ranked beside him as a super-fan, but it was obvious that most of them just didn’t get the music like he did.  It ran in Alex’s blood.  Marco seemed to understand this – but what Alex really liked was that he didn’t pretend to feel the same.  He listened when Alex gushed, but he was happy to just enjoy their music.  He didn’t feel like he had to converge to Alex’s tastes – nor, it seemed, the convention of rolling over and accepting Alex’s thieving tendencies.

“No!” he said, high-pitched in mock-surprise as he pulled away playfully, trying to dodge Alex’s hands in his pockets before the play-fighting started.  He ended up being chased over to the playground area, where they both slumped onto the low swings and gave up, exhausted.  It didn’t take much for a scrawny young boy to get tired, and that was exactly what Alex was.  “Ugh.  You’re a rascal, is what you are.”

“I love it.  You love it.  What’s the problem?”

“I get the feeling you’d ‘borrow’ this swing if it wasn’t nailed down.”

“Can’t prove nothing.”  He flashed his grin and spun the swing, wrapping the chains above his head into a metal embrace.  “I love being out here in the dark and quiet.  Sometimes just come to sit, just ‘cos nobody else is here.”  Marco suddenly looked awkward, so he backpedalled a bit to explain.  “Nah, I like having you here.  You’re a breath of fresh air after that lot.”  He looked sufficiently embarrassed and pleased, so Alex pushed him – gently – in the arm and started swinging, legs seeming to stretch miles ahead of him as he noticed for the first time how very lanky he was.  “You finding living here OK, then?”

“It’s nice here.”

“Just nice?”

“Yeah.”  He didn’t continue for a second as he blushed crimson – Alex could even see it in the dusky, faded light – and worked his way up to saying what he wanted.  “It’s nice to have met you.  I didn’t have any friends like this back at Brighton.”

“No?”

“No.”

This made Alex feel oddly pleased, and he jumped of the spring with a calculated elegance that wouldn’t have seemed so perfect if Marco had seen all the times he’d fallen flat on his face practicing it during his childhood.  “Glad to be of service, guv’nor.”

Marco smiled shyly, and slowed the swing with his heels to dismount altogether more calmly.  “Don’t think James likes me, though.”

“Marco, I sometimes wonder if James likes me,” he lied smoothly, brushing something invisible from the elbow of his jacket.  “He’s such a sarky bastard, and you know he has that thing with... with your parents being from Italy, like.  Just ignore him.  He’ll get over himself.”

“I don’t mind.  I’m just saying.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.”

“It’d bother me, I think.”

“I don’t know.  I... well, maybe if you weren’t there I’d mind.  But... you are.”

Alex turned to smile at him fondly, trying to switch off the setting in his head which converted this sentence into something non-platonic; something which he desperately wanted to hear.  Marco didn’t mean it like that.  “Yeah, I am.  And if I’m ever not... well, you come find me.”

“I don’t think I’d go round with James instead of you, anyway.”

“Aw, kid.  Don’t make me cry.”  He slung an arm round Marco’s shoulder briefly, pulling him in close for a second – like mates do, right?

For every day in the weeks following, Marco and Alex spent their late evenings kicking around the park.  Sometimes they’d take Lucy’s portable record player with them and play it quietly; just listen to the music like Alex liked to do.  Marco humoured him.  Most of the time, they’d just walk and talk.  Very quickly, they became inseparable; Alex’s mother called them Charles and Sebastian, not that he caught the reference.  James no longer seemed to be able to get into Alex’s headspace – or maybe Alex’s headspace had shifted to keep him out.  He spent time with Lucy still, if only because he needed to convince himself and the world around him that he was taken now more than ever, but James was more or less forgotten in the wake of the new arrival.

They were sharing a cigarette round the back of James’ house one day when he finally brought it up.  “Can’t believe you’re so chummed-up with that Spick.”

“His name’s Marco,” Alex warned, taking the cigarette from him to have his turn with it, holding it between his lips with such grace that he could be the poster boy.  Poster boys would never have to turn away to conceal a quiet cough once they’d passed the cigarette back, however – Alex didn’t much like smoking, but they said it was good for you, and God, it looked good.  “Don’t be mean to him.  He’s decent.”

“I’m sure.”

“Jim, you haven’t even spoken to him properly yet.”

“Who’s to say he’d understand me?  I certainly can’t understand him.”

“Oh, don’t exaggerate.  He’s lived in England all his life; he’s only got the tiniest accent from his parents.”

Eh Mama; Papa.  They send-a me to the corner-shop-a.

“Stop it.”  He pushed James in the arm.  The gesture wasn’t nearly as pleasant as it was when he did it to Marco.  “Don’t.  You know I don’t like all this fannying around with racism.  It’s just silly.”  He cleared his throat before taking another drag.  “He doesn’t sound like that anyway.”

“Nancy,” James declared, and for a moment Alex didn’t know who he was referring to.  “The pair of you are, like.  Nancies.  Swanning around laughing like girls... thought you had some dignity.”

“I do.”

“For goodness’ sake, Al.  They’re Eyeties.  The entire block’s talking about them – talking about you.”

“They always talk about me, Jimmy.”

“Arse.  Guilty by association this time, you are.”

“Or maybe they’re innocent by mine,” he retorted, pushing off the wall with his foot to stand up straight, passing James back the cigarette.  “I’m going to find Marco.  Least he won’t spend the entire conversation calling you a prick – even if you are.”

That, needless to say, was the end of that; for the week, at least.  James and Alex argued frequently, and usually came back to being friends again with gruff mutual agreement – they never actually apologised.  In this case, however, James’s decision not to apologise  was the nail in his coffin.  Alex had already decided that if his former best friend did not express some form of regret for insulting his new one, then that would be it – and that was it, in the end.  They’d begun drifting apart weeks ago, but now it became more obvious.  Alex didn’t know James anymore; didn’t want to.  All he wanted to know was in Marco. 

Of course, it was becoming painfully obvious – more so day by day – that Alex’s intentions weren’t purely platonic.  He adored Marco as a friend; he’d always believed that friends should click, and he and Marco ticked like a clock – constantly continuing to fit into place as they changed.  Gradually, they grew more intimate.  Marco had used to look a bit uncomfortable when Alex tugged gently at his hair and clothes or pushed him around jokily, but now he joined in.  A comfy camaraderie existed between them, and Alex felt almost guilty for marring it with his true feelings.  It felt invasive to think about Marco as potentially something more than a friend – perverse, even.  He was so innocent – he blushed at the slightest thing, and turned shy very quickly if you said nice things to him.  Alex felt as though he couldn’t be too rough or reckless with the boy; as though his pretty wrist would crumble if he gripped it too hard. 

Maybe it would.  He didn’t dare to try. 

One normal Saturday evening he heard a tap against his window; that’d be the sound of the weight they’d attached to the bag knocking.  They’d done that deliberately so they could knock when a message was there.  Grinning, he scooted over and opened it up, almost clawing at the bag with eagerness.  He could see Marco standing at the windowsill opposite and saluted at him, tugging the note from the bag. 

Is there anywhere else we can go instead of the park? 

What sort of place do you have in mind? 

I don’t know.  I just don’t feel like going there tonight. 

How come? 

Why are you so full of questions? 

Maybe I’m just inquisitive?  What do you think? 

Very funny. 

I agree.  Meet me outside in ten minutes?.  Bring your coat; not that you usually don’t. 

It’s practical. 

It’s cute; that’s what it is.  Ten minutes. 

Fifteen minutes later – why did Alex care more about his hair as time went on? – they were on their way to one of Alex’s favourite spots in the world.  Usually he ventured there when he wanted to be alone; it was like a more private, secluded version of the park.  He’d never come across anybody else there; he’d been there often enough to know that other people hardly ever visited it, at least in the evenings, when he did.  It’d be odd bringing anybody here, but it was even odder to bring Marco.  When he thought about how quickly they’d gotten so close, it made him wonder whether he really knew Marco at all, but then he felt cruel for thinking it.  Marco was an open book. 

“Are you ever going to tell me where we’re going?” 

“Now who’s full of questions?  We’re here, anyway.”  He stopped in front of an underpass that’d take them underneath the train tracks that led to central London.  He called it the viaduct, even if he wasn’t entirely certain that was the right word for it.  It sounded right. 

“Alex, are you sure this is safe?” 

“No,” he said, even though he was.  “Come on; it’s alright.  I come here all the time.” 

Uncertainly, Marco followed him into the dimly-lit tunnel.  “I can’t say this is much better than the park, actually.” 

“I like it.  It’s so... quiet.” 

“I’ll give it that,” said Marco, though Alex got the impression he was just trying to be kind.  “Maybe we should go back.  Park’s alright for me, I guess.” 

“Why’d you want to go somewhere else anyway?” 

He struggled with the answer he gave, and Alex suspected it wasn’t the truth.  “Just fancied a change of scenery.  The square’s great, but I’ve hardly left it yet.” 

“OK.” 

“You’re not upset, are you?” 

“Why would I be?” 

He hadn’t meant for it to sound like a challenge, but it ended up coming out that way; like a puzzle demanding to be solved.  As such, it gave away the answer to Marco’s question – yes, he was.  Even he wasn’t quite sure why – perhaps he felt overtly protective of this most personal of spaces, or... well, he didn’t know.  Neither did Marco, who admitted as much with a shrug and poorly-hidden sad eyes.  “We can stay here if you want.” 

“Your choice.” 

“Alex, really...” 

“I don’t care.” 

Anxious to avoid this potential first conflict, petty as it was, Marco’s blurted-out suggestion sounded incredibly desperate.  “Shall we flip a coin?” 

Alex laughed warmly.  “Yeah, alright.”  Maybe Marco hadn’t intended to defuse the situation by being cute, but it had worked like that anyway.  He pulled out a coin from his pocket, shone it against his sleeve and then held it up to the light.  “Heads we stay here; tails we go back?” 

“Sure.” 

He flipped the coin and caught it expertly – again, years of practice and failure that Marco hadn’t seen made it look far easier than it really was.  Alex wasn’t much of a natural at anything, except looking pretty and charming the pants off anybody he needed to.  He held it out to Marco to see what it said, and Marco called it.  “Heads.  We stay here.” 

“Cool.”  He flipped the coin a few more times just for fun, and the clinging noise rang into the silence.  It was a comfortable sort of silence, even though they both sought to break it.  “Heads you actually stand under the bridge; tails you remain a wuss.”

“Hey!  It’s... tails.  Ha.  Not that I win either way, I suppose... heads you owe me a bag of sweets; tails I owe you one.”

Obediently, he flicked the coin back up into the air, though he also pointed out, “Doesn’t matter which way it goes; we’d both share anyway.  Heads; my treat tomorrow.  Uhh...”  A flash of inspiration came across his pretty face, and he cleared his throat.  “OK.  Heads I give you your gloves back, and tails I keep ‘em.”  He grinned, wiggling the fingers of his spare hand at Marco – sure enough, they were clothed in Marco’s gloves.

“Wh... what?  When did you...?”

“A magician never reveals his secrets; some funny-feeling stuff in your pockets, like.”  He flipped the coin as Marco protested against this invasion of his jacket and silenced him as he held out the arm so that he could read the result.

“Heads; give them back.”

“That’s not heads, you liar!”

“My hands are cold-”

“Damn shame you have no sense of personal security then, right?”

“Alex!” he reached over to get them, making the first move in what would quickly become a gentle playfight, gloves wafted over Marco’s head where he couldn’t reach them and tucked under Alex’s arm; eventually Alex resorted to his old trick of tickling.  Thankfully, the viaduct was a bit removed from everywhere else; the fact that Marco was screaming like a girl didn’t really matter as he got pushed against the brick wall of the viaduct, wrestling with Alex to fight for the best position as they rolled along the wall and into the darkness, laughing and shouting fond threats that meant nothing at all before eventually coming to a stop as Alex pinned him to the wall.  Both their breathing was fast-paced and every couple of seconds they’d start laughing again as Alex tried to fumble for the coin in his pocket again whilst keeping Marco pinned at the same time – he needn’t have tried so hard, as Marco was just as tired as he was at this point and didn’t plan on fighting any more.

“I never had fun like this back home,” he said quietly as Alex flipped the coin and held it on the back of his hand, covered by his other. 

Alex grinned at him, twinkling eyes barely visible in the dim light that reached the centre of the bridge from either end.  “Good.  You’re my friend.  Best friend.” 

“Alex,” Marco complained, feeling himself go red; of course, it wasn’t really a complaint at all.  It was just his way of registering his appreciation.  It was sweet.  It was reciprocated.  It was... well, what?  “Alex.” 

He looked up from examining the back of his hand, which had something scribbled on it from earlier today.  “What?  Oh, yeah.  Sorry.  Heads I let you go.  And, er.  Tails.”  He looked around for inspiration and found none.  “Heads I let you go, and tails I... tails I...” 

“Kiss me.”

Alex looked up sharpish at that, ears flushing bright red.  He made to say something and then he couldn’t think at all – let alone think straight, however hard he tried – and was forced to go back to his default setting and just stare a bit, mouth uselessly open.  It had been such a quiet, uncertain request and he wanted to say something to make Marco feel better; wanted to be gentle and reciprocate or refuse and be a gentleman – or what, or what?  There was nothing else to do but look at the coin.

“Uh.  Heads.”  Disappointment dripped through him and released his arms and knee for him, operating on autopilot; he took a step backwards, looking uncertainly over the other boy.  Oh.  Oh.  No.  Marco looked so crestfallen, so... so humiliated.  “I mean, er...”  He fumbled with the coin and flipped it awkwardly again and again, but it kept landing on heads – what was the matter with this coin?  “Heads.”  Was it trying to tell him something?  He didn’t care.

He dropped his arms again and for a split second, his eyes met Marco’s.  It was all it took.

“Oh, fuck the coin.”

If he didn’t do it now he never would.  He leaned forward quickly, vaguely registering the feeling of the other boy’s arms around him pulling him closer as a nice thing, and pressed his lips against Marco’s.  Kissing a boy, he decided, was very different to kissing a girl.  Lucy was all curly brown locks and sugar and polka-dots and giggles.  Marco was adrenaline and fire and hands and irrepressible humming noises and God only knew what else – nobody but a deity could have orchestrated a moment like this, and Alex thanked whoever it was for it.  Marco’s face flushed under his gentle touch, and it reminded him that this was who he was kissing – shy, gorgeous, wonderful, clever, adorable Marco Santos.

Oh my God.

He pulled away suddenly and stumbled back, forcing his way out of Marco’s embrace.  “Shit.”

“Alex, don’t panic.  I...”

“No, I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have... just...”

“Please; it’s alright.”

“No, it isn’t.  It’s not alright.”  He paced away for a few steps and then, inevitably, came back.  “It’s not alright.  It’s illegal, and I’ve got a girlfriend.  I don’t want this.  Neither do you.”  Marco seemed to want to say something, but he wasn’t the type to speak up.  Instead he bit his lip – oh God, don’t do that – and struggled to keep dry eye contact.  Instead, he remained silent and withstood Alex’s tirade; maybe even incited it with that silence.  “We’re not going to talk about this ever again.  Ever.  And we’ll just... we can be friends still, if we forget about it.”

“I don’t want to,” Marco said quietly, and then forced himself to say it louder.  “I don’t want to forget about it, Alex.”

It hurt to say it; really, it did.  “I don’t care.”

A crevasse stretched between them, silence stinging – Alex’s wound had finally been exposed to the air, and he could hiss for all the pain.

“OK.  We’re going back now.”  He stepped out into the light, smoothing down his clothes before he reached it in panic.  Nobody could see.  Nobody could ever, ever know.  Marco didn’t follow for a second, so he turned and called back.  “Marco, you’ll get lost.”

“Right; yes.”

It was the longest five-minute walk of Alex’s life.  The worst part was that as soon as his back was against the door of his bedroom it dawned on him that he’d made a stupid, stupid mistake.  It didn’t matter if Marco knew his secret.  Marco... Marco had the same secret.  He was pretty sure of that now.  On top of that, though, it seemed that his affections were tailored to Alex in a way that he could only ever have dreamed of before, and now he’d thrown it all back in his face.  It wouldn’t matter if Marco knew.  Marco liked him just as much as he liked Marco.  Shit – at least, he hoped Marco still liked him.

He grabbed a pencil and scribbled the fastest note he’d ever written.

Marco, I’m really sorry.  I didn’t mean to push you away.  Do you forgive me?  I’m stupid and frightened and I like you ever so much, really.  I mean it.

He opened the window as quietly as possible – it was getting on now, but even if it hadn’t been Alex supposed he’d have tried to be gentle.  It was a tender situation; he didn’t want to bang about as he usually did.  That just wasn’t the point.  Marco’s window was understandably closed, so he made sure the weight was attached before he fed the rope around the circuit, taking the note over to the other boy’s bedroom.  Oh, Marco, please.

He stayed sitting at the window for five minutes after he’d knocked before Marco eventually relented and opened it up to take the note, trying his hardest not to pay any attention to a rather lovesick-looking Alex leaning out of the window and throwing his best – and most serious – puppy-dog eyes in his direction.  It took altogether too long for him to scribble his response, and it was most disheartening when he closed his window as soon as the note reached Alex.  Of course, the note itself was much worse.

Goodnight, Alex.

He closed his eyes, and prayed he’d never have to open them again.  Seemed like he was a natural at spoiling things, too.

 

Tags: original, pairing: alex/marco (a), series: pepper
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