Fandom: None; original
Pairing: Alex/Marco (AU)
Rating: T; some language.
Word Count: 3,862
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: It was his dad that answered the door – slightly intimidating, because he didn’t seem to like Alex, especially when he turned the charm on. Alex wasn’t used to that; usually people melted whenever he wanted them to.
Love Me Do: One / Two
From Me To You
She Loves You: One
He left the Santos’s house with a spring in his step – a spring that did not go unnoticed by Marco’s mam. She smiled at him inquisitively, so he told her they’d worked out their argument; he didn’t want to lie to her, because Mrs. Santos was a top old girl really – it was just that it wasn’t Alex’s secret to tell. It was their secret – and truth be told, that felt great. He left the house and noted that the sky was beginning to cloud, but it hardly mattered; it was still so warm despite the fact it’d been a drizzly summer so far, and he even doubted he’d need a jacket. Apparently the weather was obeying his mood; turned out that the Harrow kids weren’t the only ones who bent to Alex’s will. Today, however, he didn’t mind. Today was a good day.
As he reached his house, however, something dared to taint his mood – or rather, someone. “Alex!”
It could have rained and Alex would have felt less drizzled on. He turned around and tried to smile, but it wasn’t coming as easily as it usually did. “Hello, Luce.” She kissed him first, and it wasn’t as though he could just push her off; in other words, it was unavoidable. His gaze remained firmly fixed on Marco’s window, however, just in case he appeared on the window; kissing Lucy now was a function he had to go through, robotic. Kissing Marco not five minutes ago was something else entirely, and he didn’t fancy spoiling it because of something he couldn’t help. A few seconds into it – lips very firmly closed – he pulled her off gently, tugging her into a cuddle lest she smell a rat. “Not in front of the door, Lucy Goosey.”
“You’re unusually conservative today. Cat got your tongue?” Lucy grinned at him, clearly trying to be cheeky, but he didn’t take the rise.
“Dog has, actually. I’m meant to be taking Ringo out for a walk with Marco; I’d better hurry up, actually, or I’ll be late.”
She pouted at him. “You’re always spending time with Marco now.”
“Yeah; he’s my friend.”
“I’m your friend too,” she said, fiddling with his waistcoat button before he reached down to hold both of her hands to stop her from doing it. It was getting on his nerves. “Your friend and a lot more than that. You know...” she looked up shyly. “My mam and dad are going to a wedding next weekend and I’m not invited. So... I’ll have an empty house to look after.” She lifted his hands to her waist. “If you want to help me run it.” Blushing pink, it was obvious she didn’t want his help.
He looked to his right, recognising the voice straight away. Saved by the... the what? He was going to say ‘the boyfriend’ but... well, it was a bit early for that. “Marco; hi. I was just getting Ringo.” He let go of Lucy’s waist and smiled at her, patting her on the shoulder. She already looked a bit confused; well, he supposed he did usually kiss her goodbye, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that. Not now. “I’ll see you later, Luce, OK? I’ll ask mam and dad about... about what you asked.”
“Sure.” She turned to Marco and greeted him with little enthusiasm. “Hi, Marco.”
“Hello, Lucy. It’s nice to see you.”
“Hm,” she agreed, and then turned away; it was quite an obvious snub, and though he knew he shouldn’t, Alex couldn’t help but want to say something.
“Don’t be rude to Marco, Luce.”
“I told you not to be rude to Marco, and I think you should apologise.”
“Alex, it’s fine...”
“No, it isn’t fine, Marco. I won’t have people being rude to my friends.”
She blinked. “Sorry, Marco. I didn’t mean to sound like that. I’m just...”
Marco seemed about as embarrassed as she did. “Please, Lucy; it’s fine. There’s no need...”
Alex looked away stonily. “Ringo’s going to be waiting for his walk.”
“Of course. Sorry. I’ll... see you later. Bye.” She had to stand on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek, because he certainly didn’t want to bend down to help her out as usual. “Bye, Alex.”
Marco waited for Alex to close the door before he commented. “Alex, for goodness’ sake!” Cutely, he was wiping his feet on the doormat as he tried to sound incredulous, and it made it hard for Alex to take him seriously. With Dan out playing with his friends, his mam out at the shops and his dad at work, it was perfectly safe for him to smile at Marco in the way that he did and lean forward to kiss him on the head. “No, Alex, I’m serious. I told you; I’m used to people being a bit short with me. There was no need to make a fuss.”
“Marco, the reason they’re short with you is probably because you let them be short with you. I hate the thought of anybody being unpleasant to you – I already hated it before... this morning. And yesterday. I always stuck up for you in front of James. That isn’t going to change now.”
He grinned as Marco tutted. “You’re unbelievable. I don’t need you to defend me.”
“I want to.”
He bumped their noses together, and would have kept them there had it not been for the sound of the key in the door. They moved apart, Alex blushing furiously as he sat down on the stairs to change his shoes – he didn’t want to take his best brogues only to get them all muddy, so he decided to wear his second-best pair instead. Well, he had to look at least a little bit presentable if Marco was coming along, didn’t he? Ringo ran through yapping as his mam came in with the shopping, and he stood up to take a few bags off her – sweetly, Marco tried to do the same, but she wouldn’t let him.
“Oh, Marco, I wouldn’t dream of it. It was very dear of you to offer, though. Are you taking Ringo out with our Alex?”
“Yes, Mrs. Ford.”
“Keep him out of trouble, will you? You seem to be good at that. More so than James is, anyway – and he seems to want to be troublesome around Lucy; fancy that.” She winked at Marco, perhaps imagining that she was forming a personal joke with him, but Alex didn’t like it one bit. Needless to say, neither did Marco, even though he smiled politely and to the untrained eye looked just like he had a moment ago.
“Mam,” Alex whined, and she relented.
“Alright. Off you go.”
“We might be a while. Can Marco stay for lunch?”
“Don’t be embarrassed, Marco; I don’t see why not.”
“Thanks, mam. See you later. C’mon, Ringo!” Ringo yapped and jumped up at Alex, who laughed and bent down to growl at him and kiss the top of his head. “I think you’re overexcited. Yes, you are.” Clipping the lead to the dog’s collar, he looked up at Marco. “I should warn you that you’re probably going to get rather frustrated with me talking like that.” The way Marco was looking at him as he stood, lead gripped in his hand, made him blush; there was such fondness in his expression, and even though he’d seen it before when he’d presumed Marco only thought of him as a close friend, it blew him away now to know that someone felt like that about him. He almost wanted to tell Marco off for being this way with his mum just in the kitchen; it felt like she was too close for it to be private – too close for this atmosphere to be completely their own, and he didn’t want to share it with anybody but Marco. “Let’s go, then,” he said, slightly breathlessly – it embarrassed him, the way his voice sounded, but the other boy seemed endeared rather than amused.
“Oh; I, er… I’ll tell you something.”
“I think you’ll understand,” he said, eyes twinkling as he saw Marco catch on with a wide smile, “when I say that something…”
“Shh,” Marco said, bending down slightly to stroke Ringo’s head to prevent him from yapping at his heels quite so eagerly. “Don’t say it. Me too, but…”
“I know,” he interrupted quietly. “Just wanted to… tell you, I suppose.”
“Daft brush,” came the response; it took a lot of resolve for Alex not to pull Marco close as he said this. Usually his ego didn’t like him to be insulted, but in that tone of voice he could take it.
“Yeah, maybe,” he agreed, still hushed, “but I’m your daft brush.”
Marco hummed appreciatively, but they both silenced – and stopped walking, much to Ringo’s irritation – as Lucy jogged up to join them. At first his eyes were cold, but he couldn’t keep them that way for long; she seemed to be trying to make things better, and it’d be suspicious if he didn’t at least pretend to be appreciative of that. “Hello. Listen; I’m sorry. Really, I am.” She looked at Marco in a way that Alex guessed was meant to look apologetic, but Lucy wasn’t especially good at lying or pretending; it was no secret that James had begun to talk her round to his way of thinking where Marco’s nationality was concerned. She was an easy target, though – she already had another reason not to like the poor boy. Though he didn’t like her in that way, Alex had to admit that Lucy was a decent girl – she wasn’t racist, just susceptible to ideas that suited her. “I hope I didn’t offend you.”
“No, not at all,” said Marco amiably, and looked over at Alex almost nervously – questioningly, even. What do I say now?
“That’s sweet of you, Luce,” Alex said with a warm smile, trying to help out; really it only made things worse as she decided to link his arm as he spoke, but his intentions had been good. He saw the shudder in Marco’s eyes, and felt dreadful. “Ringo’s going to start yapping if we don’t walk him soon, though, so…”
“Poor little Ringo,” she said in her best impersonation of Alex’s puppy-talk voice, bending down from the waist to reach his height. It looked quite ridiculous, which was a shame – Alex supposed it had been intended for his benefit, as Lucy was usually a relatively respectable bend-at-the-knees sort of girl. The position wasn’t what trouble him most, though – it was the voice. She even didn’t realise she was impersonating him, and that was what infuriated Alex about all of them. They didn’t even see that they were doing it anymore. Marco was different; he’d highlighted exactly how samey-samey everybody else was. Marco was Marco – but that was a thought for another time. “Poor little doggy. Shall I come along so I don’t hold you up? Shall I? Would you like that?”
No, thought Alex stubbornly, but Ringo was, as usual, a sucker for the attention and company. He barked and wagged his tail in an undeniably excited gesture – this combined with Marco’s bashful smile and nod made for an offer he couldn’t refuse. “You’ll need some sensible shoes on. We’ll wait here for you.”
She smiled, relieved, and pecked him on the cheek. “I’ll only be a minute. Start the walk up, if you like. Where are we heading?”
For a moment he was tempted to tell her a lie, but doubted Marco would be particularly endeared by this deceptive quality in him. “Up through the viaduct.” She frowned, so he flapped a hand and tried to elaborate. “The bridge, I mean.”
“Sure. I’ll meet you up there, OK?” She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him; again, he didn’t help her by leaning down. “See you in five minutes. Bye, Marco.”
They didn’t move until she was out of earshot, and even then it was only Alex’s lips that moved; he tipped his head to look at the floor, where Ringo was sniffing at a patch of overgrown grass, and then eventually managed to speak. “I’m really sorry.”
“It’s alright. I don’t mind if she comes along.”
“Really?” Though Marco nodded earnestly, Alex looked at him sceptically, moving on at Ringo’s wide-eyed prompting with slow but long steps. “I would mind. In fact, I do mind. I just… couldn’t say no.” He looked up as a cloud momentarily covered the sun, distracted, and then turned his attention back to trying to balance Marco and Lucy. “Even if you’re telling the truth, I’m sorry. It’d bother me. I wanted it to be just us.”
Marco rubbed the back of his arm gently, and it was so intimate a gesture that Alex reddened quickly and wondered if it didn’t make it so obvious how they felt. They’d been touching like this for a while now, but now that things of changed – now that there was actually something concrete to hide – it felt forbidden. He wasn’t sure he liked it. Marco seemed not to notice, even if he withdrew his hand quite soon afterwards. “We spend a lot of time together, Alex. We can make it up later.”
The smile melted his embarrassment a bit, though he still felt himself looking over his shoulders. He felt watched, like every eye in Harrow was now focused in on him and the boy beside him as they walked innocently through the park. They chatted about nothing in particular, though Alex had the feeling they could both feel the clock ticking on their conversation. Perhaps Marco really didn’t mind that Lucy was coming along; Alex didn’t feel comfortable enough to really look at him and decide whether he thought he was telling the truth or not – not in public. That didn’t mean, of course, that he wouldn’t prefer to spend time alone with Alex – at least, Alex hoped not. Lucy was a nice girl, but… well, he didn’t want to lose out on Marco time to her. Eventually, the sound of trainers against loose gravel warned them that their time was up and they fell silent, waiting for her greeting.
“I was expecting you to be ages away by now.” She linked her arm uncomfortably through Alex’s, and reached out for Ringo’s lead – he didn’t really want to give up control but he supposed he already had in every other sense, so he glumly handed it over. “Thank you. Ringo likes walking with mummy; don’t you, Ringo?”
The next forty-five minutes were fairly painful. Not only did Lucy seem to continue talking constantly for the entire stretch, she also continued to cling to him; she didn’t let Marco get a word in edgeways, at least. Gradually, Alex watched Marco fade. He tried to include him in the conversation, but Lucy managed to return all his difficult serves with little effort, even if it meant sprinting to the other side of the court to make a shot it didn’t really make sense for her to make.
“Luce,” he eventually tried, “will you let Marco get a full sentence out, please?”
She wasn’t biting, however, and when they eventually got back to the street she still held onto his arm firmly. This wasn’t the way he’d wanted this day to end up – Marco standing awkwardly on the end of his driveway making fumbled goodbyes and Lucy still on his arm as he made his way back home.
“Well, um… I have stuff to do, so…”
“Alex, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“It’s… it’s about Marco.”
The blood in his face seemed to rush straight to his head; he felt dizzy and a little bit sick. Was he really so see-through? He’d thought despite it all that he’d managed to hide it quite well, but evidently… well, evidently it wasn’t so.
“I see. D’you, er… want to come in? Bit more private.”
“Yes; that would be a good idea.”
She wiped her feet delicately on the mat and then removed her shoes, treading barefoot up the stairs to his bedroom and, as done only hours before, dropped onto the bed without asking its owner’s permission. “Better sit down,” she said as he followed her in and closed the door, sitting down tentatively next to her on the sheets. She took his hand. “Listen, I don’t want to upset you.”
This was an odd beginning. Lucy wasn’t the cleverest girl he’d ever met, but she was generally quite socially astute; she wouldn’t open a telling-off like this. In fact, he couldn’t think what sort of thing she would open like this – of course, he didn’t have long to wait.
“That isn’t my intention at all,” she continued, squeezing his hand and bringing her feet up to rest gently on his quilt. “Promise. Just… swear you’ll listen to me? You won’t just dismiss what I’m going to tell you without thinking about it?”
“Uh… yeah, I guess so.”
“Right.” She took a deep breath in through the nose and exhaled again before the words came to her. “Alright. I… I know you’re very close. You and Marco. I think it’s lovely that you’re so good at making friends. It’s just… well. Me and James aren’t convinced, Alex.”
“Yeah,” he said, a little heatedly, “I gathered that from all the racist rubbish he’s been banding about.”
“Alex, please. Just listen.” She looked up at him, and something in her eyes told him she really didn’t want to say this. “It’s… it’s not just that he’s a Spick.”
“Italian,” Alex near-growled, sick of being seemingly the only person his age – save Marco himself, of course – who knew it was wrong to talk like this.
“It’s not just that he’s Italian,” she corrected graciously, evidently trying to stay on his good side. “I… well, it’s the reason I wanted to come out with you on your walk today. We weren’t sure about his… his intentions… with you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Alex, me and James have been keeping an eye on him, and we suspected something that our little walk today has rather confirmed…” He was suddenly furious at her for refusing to get to the point, and she seemed to suspect that – or perhaps she simply didn’t know how to say it gently. “Alex, we think he’s a queer.”
He sat in silence for a moment before he tugged his hand away under the pretence of turning so that he was more comfortable on the bed. “Well, he’s my friend, and I don’t think so. And what would it matter if he was? I’m not.”
“We know that, Alex. That’s why we’re worried. We know you’re not one – and we know you don’t think he is. Just… humour me. I’ve seen the way he looks at you when you’re not looking at him, and it isn’t friendly. It’s weird. We’re just worried he might… y’know…”
“I don’t know, actually,” Alex said dryly, “so you’re going to have to enlighten me.”
“Well. Try something.”
He scoffed angrily, shaking his head and turning away from her completely. “Don’t be so ridiculous, Lucy.”
“It isn’t ridiculous! You heard about those poor navy boys who got taken in by some deviant politicians.”
Infuriated, he stood up and looked straight at her. “Lucy, for God’s sake. They were cleared of all charges. My mam read us the article, remember?”
“Doesn’t mean they were innocent. Bent judge, probably,” she said, in that superior tone of voice that Alex so hated.
“You’re not the expert, Lucy, and I don’t like this conversation one bit. Suppose you’re wrong – in fact, I say you are. Marco rather likes girls a lot. Haven’t you seen him and Sam?”
“Dead end, Sam says,” she said with snippy authority. “Alex, I know you don’t want to believe it, but it’s true. He’s as queer as a clown.”
“We’re just friends,” he said through gritted teeth, and she stood to try and meet his height, though she was far smaller.
“I know that, Alex Ford,” she said, beginning to get frustrated herself; she even prodded him in the chest with a finger to punctuate her final three words. “All I’m saying is he doesn’t want to be just friends, and you ought to watch your back.”
He growled and stepped away from her, feeling an odd urge to hit her, which he of course restrained. As much as he disliked Lucy at the moment, he didn’t really want to hurt her – not deep down. Fists clenched, he turned back. “You know something, Lucy Bolton? If Marco really was a queer I’d still want to be friends with him over someone as prejudgemental and… and… anti-love as you. Fancy trying to spread all this hate! You should know by now that that isn’t my ticket. Not at all.”
She examined him coldly – he was surprised to find he didn’t much care that there were tears pooling in her pretty big eyes. “Well, if you’d rather preserve a new, silly little friendship over your courtship then perhaps I don’t want to go out with you anymore.”
“Perhaps it’s mutual,” he spat childishly. “Get out; go on, go back and bitch and cry to James. See if I care.”
“Boy’s put the devil in you,” she said, voice breaking, and slammed the door behind her.
It took him all of thirty seconds to remember to take a breath, and when he did so he found he was trembling. His ears were ringing with the conflict – he usually didn’t like to argue – and at first he thought he was imagining the knocking noise; then he remembered what else it might be. Dashing to the window, he flung it open and took the note from inside the back, scanning it quickly with his eyes.
Alex, I can’t do this. She loves you. It isn’t my place.
Staring at the note in disbelief, it took him a moment to realise that Marco was still standing at his window trying to catch Alex’s eye. He called over, “No, I-” but was interrupted by a look; mere heartbeats later Marco shook his head, mouthed ‘Sorry’, and closed the window.
Time seemed to go slowly for the half a minute Alex spent dashing around his room trying to find his pen and a spare bit of paper before managing to scribble his response.
But I don’t love her. Please, Marco; don’t. We’ve just broken up. I want to be with you.
It was incredibly disjointed, but he wasn’t in a position to care. He nigh-on threw it into the bag before tugging at the rope like a boy possessed, sending the note flying over to Marco’s window which it knocked against, time and time again; this time, however, the window did not reopen, and as the cloud Alex had thought would blow away and pass bumped into its brother, all that he could see was the vague outline of a window and a little bag knocking against it helplessly, begging for an invitation it would never receive.