The Late 1950's, Scotland
The sight was so common, Quinn almost passed by without stopping. Four youth, wearing dark blue trousers, white shirts and school ties, standing on the street corner, singing a capella, their pure young voices blending in sweet, if somewhat untrained, harmony. He had seen that sight time and again…Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, London…teenagers dreaming of being musical stars.
He paused to listen for just a second and found his attention captivated by one particular youth. His hair was a tawny blond with red highlights, his eyes a mysterious blue-green, his chin marked by a slight cleft, but mostly it was his smile that grabbed Quinn. Electric, charming, inviting, it lit his entire face, announcing with the confidence of youth that life was fantastic and the future was his.
Given the right training, that smile could captivate an audience, making each member of the audience feel as if his song was directed straight at her.
Quinn leaned slightly against the rough brick wall, listening, analyzing whether the smile was worth the investment of his time. The quartet didn't seem disturbed by his presence, too wrapped up in their own music and dreams to care about a strange adult watching them.
Their song ended with a lengthy battle, as each tried to hold the note the longest. The final victor was the youth that commanded Quinn's attention. The battle was playful rather than serious, with laughter and smiles celebrating the end.
The four chatted for a few minutes before separating, one heading into a nearby store with the air of someone going to a job rather than casual shopping. Two headed off down the street and Quinn stopped the fourth before he could walk off.
"May I have a moment of your time?"
The youth merely shrugged, seeming unaccustomed to being approached by a stranger, but not unfriendly. In his own home environment, he had no reason to feel nervous.
"You may have heard of me. I'm a music producer." He pulled out one of his cards and offered it. "Quinn O'Malley."
Gingerly taking the card, the youth said, "Your name sounds familiar." He tried to sound nonchalant, but was a bit intimidated. No one in his circle of acquaintances ever owned business cards. In the corduroy slacks and sweater, the man didn't appear particularly out of place, but from the way he spoke and held himself, the man exuded a confidence and sophistication unknown to Ben.
"I used to be a singer. I'd like to talk to you about your singing. Is there someplace we can go?"
The youth studied Quinn carefully through lowered eyelashes. The man didn't seem dangerous and Ben was curious. Curious and bored, with little else to do. Ian had to work and their mom expected Brian and Andrew home, but this day was too important to trot back to his own house and hang around with his siblings. "There's a little place down the street. We could have some tea."
"Lead the way," Quinn said graciously. As he started to follow the youth down the block, he asked, "What's your name?"
"Benjamin. Benjamin McLaren. My mates and me, we were just celebrating. It's the end of school. All done and never going back."
"Finished your O Levels?" Quinn guessed, thinking Ben looked about 16, too young to be completing his secondary 5/6.
"Yeah. No more teachers…no more studying. It's great."
"So what are you going to do now?"
They entered a small diner and settled at a table, Ben nodding to the waitress.
"Don't know. Anything I want. Get a job. Go some place. Any place. Out of this town."
The waitress bustled over and took Quinn's order for two teas, nodding in a friendly fashion at Ben while giving the stranger an examining look.
"Have you thought about singing for a living?"
"I'm looking for someone - a special someone - to promote as a rock'n'roll singer. Not just in London, but in America. That's where the future is. I think you could be that person."
"Me?" Benjamin laughed. "You must be daft." When Quinn's level gaze didn't waver, Benjamin said, "You're serious," with disbelief in his voice.
"Very serious. You have talent, Benjamin. It's untrained and raw, but with hard work and determination, you could be great. Most importantly," he brushed one hand down the side of Ben's face, his thumb resting briefly in the cleft chin, "with your charisma, you could be famous."
Ben flushed at the compliment and jerked slightly away, uncomfortable with being touched, but his eyes sparkled. "Me and my mates, we've talked sometimes, about trying to make it big, going to London and singing in some of the clubs there - "
"No, Benjamin," Quinn interrupted. "Just you, as a solo singer."
"But they're my mates. We sing together!"
"They don't have the talent," Quinn said flatly. This would be hard, he knew. Benjamin obviously had a loving spirit, thinking of his friends as much as himself. Being self-centered would feel like betrayal. But success in the entertainment industry demanded a healthy ability to put oneself first. Quinn learned that the hard way; he wasn't sure if that lesson could be taught gently.
"You only watched them for one song!" Ben protested, his cheeks flushing with indignation. Who was this man to make snap judgments on his friends?
Gentling his tone, Quinn responded, "That's half a song longer than they would get many places. I know talent. I know that spark it takes. It's time to think about your future, Ben. Yours."
"Ah, you're daft. Like I could be famous in America, anyway. That's a fool's dream." Ben stood. Though he'd barely touched his drink, good manners forced a muttered, "Thanks for the tea." With that, he hurried out.
Quinn sipped his tea, thinking. That conversation could have gone better. His offer was too abrupt, too unbelievable, Benjamin too loyal, but no matter. Among the many lessons Quinn had learned as an enterprising Irish lad who tasted brief success with the big bands before transforming himself into a successful producer of rock 'n' roll, he knew when to persevere and when to let go.
Tossing some coins on the table, he rose and headed toward the store where Ben's friend worked. He needed information to try a different approach.
Ben pounded up the stairs and into his home, his mind still whirling from the conversation in the café. Famous? Could he be famous? He paused at the mirror hanging in the entry, gazing at his reflection. Sure, Mary thought he was cute, but could he be Fabian?
Not that such wondering mattered now. The daft old bugger would have accepted his "no" and gone away, never to be seen again.
Walking into the front room, he saw his mother polishing the furniture while straightening the room. Regardless of how drunk his Da got or how rowdy his younger siblings, she always attempted to keep their house as neat as the proverbial pin. Success wasn't possible with the odds she faced, but she insisted on trying. A low voice was crooning about love in the background as she worked.
"Benjamin, you're home. Last day for you."
"Yeah, Ma. Last day."
"I thought you'd be celebrating with your mates."
"Nah, Ian had to work and Brian and Andrew were wanted home." Ben crossed the room to give her a peck on the cheek, then flung himself into the chair and picked up the record cover. "Ian starts full-time next week." Though he'd celebrated Ian's job when he got it, the thought of him working every day was disturbing. After escaping the daily boredom of school, Ben wasn't ready to tie himself to more mindless tedium.
"Time for you to get a job," she said optimistically. "Good to have some money coming in."
Staring at the drawing on the cover, Ben decided it could have been the same man. A decade older perhaps - this man was only in his early 20's and his face was clean shaved. Tuning out her suggestion, he said, "I met this bloke today."
"Met this bloke? Met who?"
Turning the cover in his hands to face her, he poked a figure at the smiling figure in the dapper evening suit. "This guy. Quinn O'Malley." He fumbled in his pocket for the business card and pulled it out. "See? He's a music producer now. Silly idiot. He said he could make me a rock 'n' roll singer. In America."
His mother sat down slowly, the rag still clutched in her hand. "You met Quinn O'Malley."
"And he said he'd make you a star."
"Aye. I told him no though - he wanted me to leave my mates behind."
Her mouth opened and closed and Benjamin began to realize he'd made the most colossal mistake of his life seconds before the piercing shrieks hit his ear drums.
Ben was hunched miserably on the front stoop when Quinn strolled up half an hour later. “You got me in trouble,” he accused.
“Did I?” Quinn asked mildly.
“My mum’s in a fit because of you. She wouldn’t believe I met you and didn’t bring you home.” The fact that his mother was upset was particularly unsettling to Ben. His dad's drunken tantrums were common events but his mother was usually the restrained one of the family, the eternal peacemaker.
“Shall we rectify that mistake?”
His tone more conciliatory, Ben asked, “You’d do that for me? Come in and say hi?”
“My offer was abrupt but it was sincere, Ben. I still want to work with you but there will be a lot of changes in your life. You’ll have to leave this town. I want your parents to trust you with me.”
Ben shifted his feet as he stood. “You really think that? That I could be famous in America?”
“Yes Ben. You could be a great star.”
He hunched his shoulders slightly then rose up straight. Quinn could see the quicksilver changes of moods reflected in his eyes – distrust, surprise, wonder, acceptance. “Let’s go talk to my mum.”
Mrs. McLaren was effusive in her excitement, promptly packing Ben off to the kitchen to make tea with hurried instructions on doing it properly. Carrying the tray back in, Ben stopped in the doorway, surprised. He thought of his mother as old – she was his mother after all, a parental figure of authority, someone who wasn't quite a real person in her own right but rather an extension of the family. Sitting in a chair next to Quinn, listening enraptured to his soft Irish brogue, she appeared much younger and prettier than ever.
He set the tray down and she gave it a fast perusal, nodding once sharply to indicate he had performed the task correctly, having found three cups without chips. Ben perched gingerly on the worn couch next to Quinn as his mother poured tea and Quinn continued his tale about a concert he’d given in New York. His mother was laughing as Quinn wrapped up the story. How old was she? About 33, he guessed, remembering that she was still a teenager when she gave birth to him. She came alive in the presence of an idol.
“So,” Quinn changed subjects as he took the cup of tea, “I believe Ben told you about my suggestion.”
“Yes,” she said hesitantly, “do you really think Ben could be good? He’s always been very musical and very talented at performing,” she concluded with pride.
“I think he could be great. Excuse my bluntness, he deserves a better future than he can get in this town.” Quinn’s eyes flicked sympathetically around the small room, noting the threadbare furniture and lack of luxuries.
Her gaze followed his around. “It was the layoffs…Since his Da lost his job, everything’s been so bad. There’s not a lot of jobs to be had.”
Quinn sensed a certain dishonesty in that statement, though she was likely being as dishonest with herself as him. The economy was booming everywhere, even in sleepy Scottish towns. From his informative chat with the loquacious Ian, Quinn guessed Mr. McLaren had other flaws that prevented him for getting work. “Then let me take him to London. He’ll need a lot of training before we go to the States.”
“I don’t know,” she worried. “It’s so far…that new music is so…” She shook her head as if coming to a realization. “But it’s not up to me. He’s a man now. It’s Ben’s choice.”
Two pairs of eyes fixed on him, one expectant and hopeful, the other distraught but proud. Ben thought of his life, his family, his friends, his hometown, the only town he really knew. He thought of his future now that he was done with school. He couldn’t bear staying another two years to do A levels but what kind of job could he get with O levels? Despite his brave words that he could do anything, he didn’t truly know what he wanted to do or where to begin. He imagined standing in front of a crowd, singing to screaming hordes. It was difficult to conceive that it could be him, making music and causing girls to swoon.
He looked at Quinn, at the short brown hair, the neatly trimmed mustache and beard, the strong unlined faced, the confident posture, the manicured hands holding the tea cup. The hands were even bigger than his father's, but it was hard to picture them raised to strike him. "What about Da? And the kids?" His stomach sank at the thought of the younger ones without his presence, defending them when necessary.
"Of course, Ben would receive a salary while I'm training him. He'll have some minor expenses but I'm sure he'll send the rest home to you. I'm sure the family would appreciate the extra money."
Ben and his mother looked at each other, knowing what the other was thinking but not wanting to say it. If Ben sent money to his mother, she could hide most of it, using it for food and clothes for the kids. She would have to give his dad some to drink away at the pub, but at least it would occupy him, leaving the kids alone to study and play. Even in his absence, Ben could continue to take care of them.
Being a rock ’n’ roll star was a wild fantasy, a daydream for him and his mates. But this man said it could be true, if Ben was willing to walk away from everything he knew and place his life and trust in his big hands.
Everything was working out exactly as he planned, Quinn thought with satisfaction as he watched Ben sing, even though the last few months had been filled with more triumphs and rows than he expected.
Vocal lessons came first and foremost, increasing Ben’s range, making him memorize the lyrics to innumerable songs, knocking bad singing habits out of him. Properly trained, his voice proved as pure and strong as Quinn predicted. Coaching him to sound more English than Scottish proved the biggest hurdle, Ben’s fiercely patriotic streak almost causing a dreadful fight between the two. Quinn barely held onto his determination to remain calm and rational in the face of Ben's increasing resistance until the lad finally stalked out, disappearing for several hours before returning with a resentful apology. Quinn had apologized also and spent time patiently explaining American audiences and expectations. In Quinn’s experience, the Americans always loved the English but their love for the Irish and the Scottish was fickle. He didn’t intend to let Ben experience the same frustration of being seen as a passing fancy.
Instruction in how to move was barely necessary. An instinctive performer, Ben swayed and danced to the music, making love to the microphone. He exuded the same hip-swaying style that made Elvis so desirable but with his own unique stamp.
The club Quinn selected for Ben's first test wasn’t large, but it was close to London. The manager owed Quinn a favor or two, happy to repay one by having Ben open for the night. The young girls in the audience shrieked and swooned satisfactorily as Ben crooned familiar songs, covering material made famous by well-known performers. Quinn was thrilled that this show was a strong indicator of Ben’s potential.
Unfortunately, this show also was a disturbing demonstration of Ben’s effect on Quinn. As he watched Ben clasp the microphone and lean closer to a delighted female, Quinn felt the heat build in his groin.
His initial attraction to Ben grew stronger the more time they spent together. No longer just an attractive face with potential, Ben was an open, honest, eager soul whom Quinn was falling deeper in love with every day. They talked for hours, the initial reserve quickly breaking down until they were sharing conversations more honest than Quinn had with all but the closest of his friends. He felt slightly dirty when he remembered the age difference. He was old enough to be one of Ben’s parents, if he’d been that indiscriminate at an early age.
Then Ben would laugh and smile, making Quinn crave to gather the lad’s body in his own and cover that vibrant smile with his kisses.
Confident that the show was going well and overwhelmed by his body’s demanding need, Quinn slipped away, finding the small bathroom backstage. Fumbling with his clothes, he freed his cock and grasped it firmly.
Letting his imagination roam, he pictured Ben naked before him. Living together, he’d often seen Ben in his underclothes, was familiar with the shape of his bare arms and legs, could visualize the curve of his perfect ass. When using public facilities, he had seen Ben’s penis, had seen its perfect beauty with furtive peeks, knew its size, surprising for one so short.
In his fantasy, Ben stretched sensually on the bed, one knee flexed and legs slightly spread, arms lying by his head, vulnerable and waiting. Waiting for Quinn to take him, either gently or savagely. It wouldn’t matter which way because they would be so in tune, it would be the way both needed at that moment.
The movement of Quinn’s hand speeded as he saw Ben, whispering endearments, pleading for his love, gasping in ecstasy and sobbing in completion. Such sweet contemplation, to imagine being the first one to introduce Ben to pleasure and love.
He shuddered with his own release, his free hand pressing on the wall to hold him up. Returning to reality was distasteful, but discovery would be disastrous. Even if Ben didn’t guess the true nature of Quinn’s desires, he would never understand finding his manager jacking off in the bathroom during his first concert. He rapidly cleaned himself up and restored his clothing before staring at himself in the dingy mirror. The images of lust and love were placed firmly in a secret corner of his mind, replaced by feelings of affection and concern. Ben regarded him as a mentor and he could not violate that sacred trust.
Perhaps the time would come when Ben was more mature, more polished in the ways of the world…perhaps then he could show Ben his love and have his affection returned.
He could only hope.
Ben was trying very hard not to gape but he had the sneaking suspicion he wasn’t succeeding. New York was everything he could have dreamed, with its army of towering skyscrapers and its hordes of well-dressed people.
Even his life was more than he could ever dream, he acknowledged happily. His first single was climbing the charts in the UK and the tickets for his every appearance were snapped up eagerly by his growing legion of admirers.
None of it would have happened without Quinn. He would have dreamed and maybe tried to be a success. Maybe he would have made it. Or maybe he would have dreamed his life away at a menial job in Scotland, drinking every night in the pub and bitterly complaining about everything except his own lack of initiative.
Stepping out of the taxi, he discreetly checked the fall of his jacket and tie, brushing his hand through his hair to ensure its straightness. The taxi sped away, leaving him smiling at Quinn as he noted his mentor making the same gestures.
As he stepped onto the sidewalk, a small cluster of girls began whispering, trying to identify them. Autograph hunters and fans of the stars, they waited outside this hottest of all restaurants to catch a glimpse of the rich or famous.
Ben nodded and smiled at them, knowing they might not recognize him. Quinn’s words repeated in his mind – ‘You’re becoming famous in Europe. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have American fans yet. That will come in time.’ His eagerness for success grew with each step and Quinn always seemed to sense when to calm him.
Glancing sideways at his mentor, more of Quinn’s words rang in his head – ‘Be poised and confident yet honest and open.’ Quinn certainly epitomized his own advice; it was difficult for Ben to reconcile the sophisticated businessman with the poor Irish kid he’d talked about once being.
An excited giggle and a wondering, “Benjamin!” told him Quinn had been overly pessimistic. He found himself surrounded by the crowd, small notebooks and pens thrust in his face. ‘Make eye contact. Smile. Always treat your fans well.’ Ben basked in the adoration until the last book was signed and a warning signal from the doorman sent the girls back to their place.
Carefully camouflaging his glee with a polite smile, Ben followed his manager into the restaurant, his feet walking on air. They were efficiently seated at a table for three to find a woman already waiting for them. As polished as Quinn, she screamed sophistication from the elegant chignon, tasteful gold jewelry and black velvet dress.
The introductions barely registered on Ben as he sat down, trying to see everyone in the restaurant without gawking, his delight at being admired replaced by the thrill of being close to those he admired. Quinn and the woman were chatting, catching up on news and tales of acquaintances.
“Quinn,” Ben hissed.
“Is that really Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin?”
The woman answered first, making directional gestures as she spoke. “If you take the long way to the bathroom, you can see for yourself.”
With a fleeting glance at Quinn for his amused nod of acceptance, Ben was gone, keeping his gait to a casual stroll.
“He is a charming boy,” Diana said, watching Ben’s delectable backside walk away. “Trying so hard to be a man of the world but still so naïve.” She started to tap a cigarette out of her holder but caught Quinn’s pointed glance. “Sorry darling. Always forget your concern about your throat. So what help do you need?”
"It's about Benjamin. He's beginning to face … temptations."
"He's beginning to have girls toss themselves at him right and left, yes that's obvious darling." At his grimace, she added, "Well, what did you expect? He's absolutely luscious and you're trying to make him a star. Looks, talent and fame, what more could anyone want?"
"I don't want him to get in trouble, not being able to cope. I thought if … he had some experience…" Quinn let his words trail off, unsure how to broach his suggestion.
Her laugh was sharp and short. "Darling, you don't need to make sure he gets experience. He'll find out the facts of life all by himself. If he hasn't already."
"He's dated girls from his school, yes, but we've been so busy these last few months …" He took a hasty gulp of water. "Never mind. It was a ridiculous thought."
Diana glanced back at Ben, circuitously making his way around the room and beginning to approach their table. Then more importantly, she looked into Quinn's eyes and saw the hidden feelings he couldn't reveal. "A few things, darling. One, in normal circumstances, I'd snap at your suggestion. He’s exactly up my alley and I'd love to play tutor. But most importantly, I'm your friend and sooner or later, it would eat away at you, that I had what you want." Barreling over Quinn's automatic attempt to deny the truth of her words, she said, "Don't lie to yourself, darling, and don't lie to me." Quinn nodded in resignation. "Secondly, Ben's a young man and he'll make some mistakes in love but don't we all? You can't protect him forever, either by keeping too busy to have a social life or by orchestrating his romances."
"And thirdly?" Quinn said wryly. Diana on a roll was impossible to stop.
"Thirdly…thirdly, if a young man that handsome and talented isn't already - what's your term, darling, shagging? - shagging girls left and right, maybe there's something holding him back? Something he hasn't admitted to himself?"
With sadness in his voice, "Please don't give me false hope."
“False hope about what?” Ben asked, sliding into the booth.
“Was it Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin?” Quinn countered to distract him.
“Aye, can you believe it? I’m eating dinner in the same restaurant with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin!”
“Someday, people will be in awe if they find themselves eating at the same restaurant as you,” Quinn promised.
Ben smiled, shaking his head with both wonder and disbelief. “Hey, can we go sightseeing tomorrow? I want to see the Statute of Liberty.”
“I can’t tomorrow. I have business, a potential client to see.”
Ben looked confused. “A client?”
“Well, he can’t manage just you, can he?” Diana asked with kind severeness. Ben glanced away, leaving Diana to wonder if perhaps Ben thought Quinn *should* concentrate all his time on him. “I have a suggestion though. I have a cousin who lives in town. Cute young thing. She’d love to show you around tomorrow, hit all the highlights.”
“Yeah, alright,” Ben agreed listlessly. “You’ll meet us for dinner, won’t you?” he asked Quinn.
“Yes, dinner will be fine. I’ll have my business finished by then. And speaking of dinner, let’s look at the menu for tonight.”
Obeying the suggestion, Ben wondered why he was so unhappy as he read the bewildering array of exotic appetizers and entrees. Quinn was hardly obligated to spend all of his time with Ben, even if he had for the last several months. If Diana’s cousin looked anything like her, she would be an attractive girl. Spending free time sightseeing with a young woman ought to excite him. But Ben had planned on seeing New York with Quinn, occupying his time during the long transatlantic flight by remembering movies set in New York and wondering what Quinn could tell him about the different sights. He wanted to hear what Quinn's first day in New York had been like, when Quinn discovered his favorite places. Some stranger as his tour guide didn’t seem right.
Ben didn’t make enough yet for Quinn to live only on his fees. Quinn tried to explain their contract to Ben, the investment Quinn made by supporting Ben until he started selling records and how he was being repaid, but Ben hadn’t understood much of it. He did know he owed Quinn a lot - he'd seen the checks Quinn sent home to his ma. How long would it take before he paid Quinn back? Would it be different when Ben was a big star? When Ben was famous and in demand all over the world, would Quinn have enough time to manage anyone else? Probably not, Ben decided. Then he’d never have to worry about Quinn having other commitments.
The early 1960’s, Southern California
Resting his feet on his coffee table, Quinn listened to the harmonic melodies of the latest singing groups emerging from his radio. The count down broadcasting the newest hits had just finished and normal programming resumed. To many people, spending Saturday night listening to teenagers croon might be boring, but music was his life, a love ingrained from his youth in Ireland where every word was spoken with poetic flair. Staying on top of America’s passion for this new, decadent, rock ’n’ roll was his business and Quinn was a superb businessman.
None of the other singers on the radio, Quinn thought fondly, could touch his Benjamin. He glanced over at the most recent publicity photo from the studio, a pre-release for Benjamin’s first movie. The silver frame displayed the black and white print of the youth’s striking looks to its best advantage. Fortunately, people never expressed surprise at Quinn’s predilection for having Benjamin’s photo in his home and office, assuming it a strategic move to advertise his successful protégé. No one realized it was more than mercenary good sense and a fondness for the lad that made Quinn gaze at the handsome youth with such pride and affection.
A knock sounded on the door and Quinn rose to cross the room and open it. As if conjured from his thoughts, Benjamin stood in the doorway. His hair, normally slicked back and tidy, was mussed, his tie slightly askew and his jacket unbuttoned. The smell of alcohol hung in the air. Quinn glanced past him to see Ben’s car parked unevenly in front of the house, the left wheels halfway up the sidewalk.
“Can we talk?” Ben asked abruptly, his faint Scottish accent seeping through the pristine English Quinn insisted he use. “I know it’s late.”
“Of course. Come in.” Standing aside, Quinn let Benjamin step into the living room. The lad hesitated in the middle of the room. “I think you could use a cup of tea,” Quinn said, taking his elbow and guiding him toward the kitchen.
“That would be nice.” Benjamin docilely allowed himself to be led into the other room, taking a seat at the breakfast nook, watching as Quinn puttered around the kitchen, putting on a kettle to boil water. “I didn’t want to bother you at this time of night, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“I’m always here for you, Benjamin. Always,” Quinn spoke forcefully.
“It’s just – you’ve always been honest with me. You tell me when I’m good, you tell when I’m being a shite bastard. Not everyone does that in this town.”
Setting out two cups, spoons, sugar and milk, Quinn agreed. “It’s a town built on magical dreams and sordid lies, Benjamin. I told you that when you got the movie contract.” He spoke softly, not wanting to sound as if he was rebuking Benjamin. The young and naïve could be warned but some realities were simply not accepted and understood until experienced. Quinn’s own introduction into the music business had been occasionally brutal, forcing an enterprising Irish lad trying to make it big in the new country to grow up fast.
“Yeah. I know.” Benjamin randomly traced patterns in the white formica of the table.
“I thought you had a date with Susan,” Quinn asked. “Didn’t things go well? She seemed like a nice young woman.”
Rather than answering Quinn’s question, Benjamin began rambling about the day’s filming. One of the movie’s musical scenes was shot that day, featuring Benjamin as an unknown who wows the crowd at a local talent show. Ben had become a success because he truly loved few things as much as singing, connecting with an adoring audience, and using his fine tenor to the fullest. Even the numerous retakes hadn’t diminished his enthusiasm as he prattled about the hectic events that occurred when a large crowd of teenage extras, overly excited to be watching one of their idols, had gotten out of the director’s dictatorial control.
Quinn let Ben’s words meander, knowing the youth would come to the point in his own good time. The filming didn’t seem to be the problem. He racked his mind to remember Susan and could only picture a sweet girl with sparkling hazel eyes, brown curls, and a large white poodle skirt. She was the daughter of one of the crew members – the cinematographer, he thought – and managed to wrangle a visit to the set through her father. Quinn had been present when she was introduced to Benjamin and had been amused and half-jealous by her barely-hidden delight when Ben politely requested a date.
The kettle boiled as Benjamin’s ramble came to an end. Quinn made the tea and nodded toward the living room. “Let’s be comfortable, shall we?” Ben obediently moved back to the living room, tossing his jacket and tie on the chair. The two settled on the couch, not talking as they dealt with adding the proper portions of sugar and milk.
“Real tea,” Ben said, “not that tasteless shite they call tea in this country. Bad water, I call it.”
Propping his feet on the coffee table and leaning back, Quinn agreed, "The taste of home," before prompting, “Susan.”
Staring at his tea, Ben said, “I thought we’d go up the coast, take a drive, go someplace quiet. Someplace I’m not known.”
Quinn stifled a laugh, wondering where Ben thought he would be unrecognized after being featured on teen magazine covers and selling several gold albums. The lad's personality was still naïve despite his fame. “But you didn’t,” he prompted again, as Ben stalled to a halt.
“Nah. Susan wanted to go someplace famous, someplace known. A swank restaurant for celebrities. So we went to that new place Mark was talking about. There were photographers and famous people and people trying to pretend they were famous and crowds gathered outside. They all screamed when I got out of the car.”
“How did Susan react?”
“Ah, she was so excited. All the people screaming and the fancy clothes and snobby waiters and people she’d only seen in magazines.”
“She was with Benjamin the star.” Quinn could see the old, familiar path of this story. It had happened to him, though in a lesser degree, his fame never approaching Benjamin’s. Every celebrity learned the bitter truth eventually – too many people wanted the giddy delight of living in a star’s shadow but didn’t care that a real person existed inside that celestial being.
“Yeah.” Ben looked at Quinn, before grimacing and staring back down at his cup. “Then we – went for a drive.”
“You went parking.”
“Well – yeah. She let me kiss her but she got all fussy about her hair and I got all excited and then she said she had to go home,” came out in a rush.
Quinn remembered those hormonally-ridden days, when the lightest kiss or the slightest peek of bare flesh gave him an erection. He didn’t miss the skyrocketing emotions and rampant physical needs. “You feel she got what she wanted from you but she didn’t deliver on her end of the bargain,” he said bluntly. Like many young, sometimes Ben needing forcing to face his own truths.
“Well, not that. I mean, I knew Susan wouldn’t well – you know. Not all the way. I just get so tired of it all. I mean – the kids today, they were fun. I talked to a lot of them and signed autographs until my hand cramped and the director got all mad about his schedule. But it’s got so tiring, you know? No one knows *me.* No one but you. Everyone – even Susan – just wants to be with ‘Benjamin.’” Ben shifted restlessly on the couch, his knee brushing Quinn’s.
“Maybe we should go home when the movie is finished,” Quinn suggested. “Spend some time in England. Look up your friends.”
“The people who knew me ‘before’? Nah, they won’t work. I saw everyone when we were home between those last tours. It was the same thing, only they had to take me to the local pub and show me off. Like I was a pet monkey,” he said sarcastically.
From the evident bitterness, these feelings had been building slowly in Ben for a long time. Quinn had been too much out of touch with Ben lately, not wanting to waste all his time watching him work on the movie. Ben's shining optimism and good nature were being tarnished by the hard brass of reality while Quinn had been busy writing songs and lining up dates for the next tour. “I know it’s difficult, Ben. Believe me, I do understand what you’re going through. Not to the same extent,” he said, his mouth curving in a quirky understated smile, “but there are people out there – honest people. People who can be your friends, *your* friends, not just people hanging onto Benjamin."
"And the girls?" Benjamin asked. "You never found one."
Quinn shrugged uncomfortably. "There will be someone to love you, Ben, even if there hasn't been for me. Besides," he said lightly, "I'm still young. Maybe my perfect someone is waiting just outside." Or right next to me on the couch he added silently. If only…
"Maybe," Ben said despondently. "It seems there's no one to trust, no one who really listens to me or talks to me. No one but you." He put his cup down and flopped back, arms flinging to rest on the back of the couch.
Turning to look at the man he'd discovered singing with friends on a street corner as a young teenager and turned into an idol for millions of teenyboppers enjoying the postwar boom, Quinn wondered at the repetition of "No one but you." He held Ben's gaze, trying to see past those mysterious eyes into his mind. Was Ben merely lamenting being the only two Brits in this strange land of Hollywood? Was he tired of the constant travel from the last several years, when he’d met hundreds of new acquaintances in dozens of cities, but no true friends? Or could he possibly mean something more? Was this Ben's subtle way of broaching a subject that must seem very scary and frightening to the young man? Did he want something more than these young American girls, so repressed, so concerned at being labeled ‘bad girls’ that they couldn’t enjoy life? Taking a daring risk, Quinn set his tea cup on the table, took Ben's face into his hands, and kissed him. Ben's mouth was partially open as their lips met and Quinn's tongue darted out to trace along the soft lines, relishing the taste. For a second, he felt Ben's tongue slide against his before he was forcibly shoved back and Ben was leaping off the couch.
"You're a poof! A poof! God, I can't believe this! You don't want a girl!"
Quinn stood, making calming gestures. “Ben, it’s alright. It’s alright. I misunderstood.”
“You’re not my friend! You want – Christ, you want to - !”
Ben started to grab for his jacket and head for the door. Quinn panicked at what might happen if Ben, already depressed, slightly intoxicated, and hysterical from feeling betrayed by his mentor, got behind the wheel. Bad enough that he'd driven here from dropping off Susan. He strode after the young man, catching him in the short hallway, turning him around and holding him against the wall. “Ben, calm down.” In response, Ben only repeated the same accusations. Quinn shook him hard but Ben screamed again, “You want to fuck me!”
“Yes, I do!” Quinn practically bellowed. “But if I didn’t want your friendship more, don’t you think I would have done it already?”
The honesty shocked Benjamin into silence.
“Let’s go to my hotel room, little boy. Give me a blow job and I’ll make you a star. You’ll be bigger than Dion or Frankie.” Quinn said savagely. “Do you think you could have resisted for long? A barely educated Scots kid with a father on the dole and too many younger siblings? It didn’t take you long to abandon your mates to be a solo star.”
Ben stared, still silent, numb from both Quinn's brutal honesty and his unexpected attack. Quinn normally responded to Ben's upsets with an even temper and words of calm reason. His rare spurts of anger always forced Ben to look hard at himself and his actions. His struggle with the decision to leave his mates, particularly once fame had come and he’d visited home, seeing them at boring jobs, was long and painful. Quinn had been there for him and never thrown that betrayal in his face, reminding him time and again of how his success helped his family.
Neither of them were perfect people without flaws. And he owed Quinn too much to judge him hastily.
“Now go sit down and we’ll talk this out. You’re not leaving here in this state.”
Like a zombie, Ben walked back into the living room, sat down on the chair facing the couch, his jacket dropping on the floor from lax hands. Quinn picked it up and hung it in the closet, flicking off the radio before he sat on the couch. He poured them both more tea, adding an extra dose of sugar to Ben’s before shoving it at him. “Drink,” he commanded.
Sipping slowly, Ben said, “All this time – you’ve been a poof all this time. And I never knew.”
“I don’t exactly advertise it,” Quinn said calmly. “It’s bad for business.”
“You don’t want a wife.”
“No, I never have,” he admitted. “I experimented with women a few times, when I was young enough to think I should.”
“But – “ Ben waved the tea cup helplessly, as if he didn’t even know where to start, his perception of his best friend and mentor too topsy-turvy for comprehension.
“It just *is,* Ben. It’s the way I am. I can’t explain it and I can’t change it. When I saw you singing that day – I was attracted to you, I admit it. You’re a beautiful young man. But most importantly, you have a voice and smile the angels would envy. I knew if you had any determination and were willing to work hard, I could make you a star, a bigger star than I ever dreamed of being. It’s a different world. The youth control the world, not the war.”
“You said that, when we had tea together. That I had to have determination and work hard. That it wouldn’t be easy.”
“I’ve tried to never lie to you, other than about my – preferences. I wasn’t sure how you would react and you were so young. You’re still young,” he murmured.
“I’m an adult,” Ben flashed with the predictable anger of someone who is barely of legal age.
“Yes, you’re an adult. But not even old enough to drink those beers you were served.”
“That’s crazy American law,” Ben muttered. “I’m old enough at home.”
Quinn chose not to be distracted by the drinking issue, personally finding it odd that a country could allow their citizens to vote before drink. “And what I’ve said was true. You’ve worked hard and you’ve been an amazing success. I misunderstood tonight. I hoped – you were like me. That you were reaching out to me but didn’t know how to say it. I apologize. It won’t happen again. This doesn’t need to be mentioned again. Nothing has to change.”
“Oh,” was Ben’s only response. Quinn waited with a sense of helpless frustration, allowing Ben to process this new information, hoping that he hadn’t ruined the best relationship of his life. Better to return to a state of frustrated longing than lose Ben forever. “That guy, Philip,” Ben said eventually, “that guy who meets you in New York when we tour. He’s - ” he trailed off.
“He and I are lovers, yes. We’re not *in love.* But it’s good to spend time with someone who understands.”
“Oh.” His eyelashes shuttered his eyes for a moment before Ben looked at Quinn again, as if seeing him with new sight. “Are guys – are they – better?”
“Better?” Quinn repeated, afraid to make any more assumptions on Ben’s meaning.
“Are they – honest? Not so confusing? Say one thing and mean another? Get you all worked up and pretend they didn’t mean to?”
“To an extent, yes. It’s so rare to meet someone with the same preference. It’s very…exciting to be honest and open. But men are just people. They aren’t perfect. There can still be problems. Though you don’t have to worry about lipstick stains on your collar,” he added dryly.
“Oh.” An eternity dragged out for Quinn before Benjamin finally said, “You won’t lie to me ever again. Not about anything.”
“No,” Quinn promised emphatically. “Never again. There are no more secrets in my closet, Ben.”
“I guess – I guess we could just go on.”
“Thank you,” Quinn said calmly as relief soared through him. “We’re a great team, Benjamin. I’ve been working on new songs for you. You’ll love them.”
“I should go home,” Ben said. They both rose, Ben putting his cup down on the tray. They faced each other across the short width of the coffee table. Quinn was almost dizzy with relief. Their friendship would be saved. “That kiss – can I have another one?”
“Why?” Quinn asked hoarsely. Perhaps his hormonally-ridden days were not as gone as he thought, as all the blood in his body rushed to his groin.
“Because for four years I thought I knew everything about you. We’ve shared everything and sweated and worked hard and been best mates. And now I don’t quite know you. I need to know your kiss.” He stopped for a second before blurting out even more rapidly, “I don’t want to be like Susan, just lead you on for what I need and not give you what you need. But I need to know – more.”
Resting his hands on Ben’s shoulder, Quinn said, “I would be delighted to give you a kiss. And anything else you want. As long as you promise to say stop when you’ve had enough. And believe me, I won’t feel cheated.”
Ben nodded and then leaned together, Quinn bending down and Ben rising on his toes to eliminate the height gap. Their heads angled as their lips met, lingering together gently, barely touching. Quinn pulled back briefly, but when Ben stayed compliantly in the same place, he kissed him another time. The second was as sweet as the first, but deeper, mouths opening wider, tongues beginning to explore.
Walking around the coffee table, Ben took Quinn’s hand as he sat down on the couch. “Another?” Quinn asked, his voice husky. The third was even deeper and harder, Ben’s tongue as aggressive as Quinn’s, his arms sliding around Quinn’s chest.
“That’s nice,” Ben said when they broke for air. “Nice.”
“Yes, it is.” Quinn agreed. It was, Quinn realized ruefully, almost the reaction he should have predicted. Despite – or perhaps because of - his poor background, Ben had an unquenchable hunger to be more. That craving was why he responded so eagerly and quickly to Quinn’s offer to tutor him into becoming a singing star once Quinn found a way to help his family during his absence. He’d felt limited all his life, constrained by a restrictive social class and other people’s low expectations of his family. Once convinced, he could free himself from those oppressive restraints, Ben’s showed a fierce determination to never stop until he was the best at anything he chose. Daringly, Quinn said, “But there’s many things even better.”
“What things?” Ben asked almost shyly.
Quinn’s hand splayed on Ben’s shirt, his index finger resting over one nipple, rubbing firmly. Ben breathed harshly and shivered. “Ah, girls don’t – “
“No, they don’t, do they. Young girls think it’s enough to let you kiss and pet them. They don’t know enough to take time to explore your body. Maybe they fumble a little bit, but it’s not enough, it is? Your body has many sensitive areas, Ben. Many. They’re good to touch.” He leaned closer, whispering in his ear, “They’re even better to kiss. Nibble. Suck.”
Ben’s hips bucked and Quinn smiled. The young man was obviously excited, evidenced by his cock pushing against the front of his trousers. Perhaps the excitement could be expected as part of Ben’s passionate personality – the willingness to try anything, taste everything, experience all that life has to offer – or perhaps Ben’s true nature was being freed from the constraints of polite society which hadn’t allowed him to even contemplate a different way of life. Maybe he just needed to be taken by the hand and showed the possibilities that existed.
“Can I taste you?” Quinn crooned in his ear. “Just a little bit? You can stop me any time. Just say the word ‘stop’ and I will. It can feel so good.”
Ben nodded his head eagerly.
Guiding Ben to lie down on the couch, Quinn went to his knees on the floor. He unbuttoned the front of Ben’s shirt, pulling it loose from his body, and pushed his undershirt up, exposing the firm, young chest. Quinn’s fingers played in the faint trickle of hair that arrowed down the center before leaning forward and licking at Ben’s nipples, alternating between the two, applying first a light pressure, then harder, firmer and more lingering. Ben’s hands twisted in Quinn’s short, brown hair as his nipples peaked under the attention.
“You lied,” Ben accused. “You said it wasn’t necessarily better.”
“I thought you meant the relationships. If you mean the sex,” Quinn purred as he snuggled his forearms on either side of Ben’s head, bending down until the lips touched, “the sex is much better.” He took Ben’s mouth as aggressively as he’d ever dreamed, imprinting himself on Ben’s lips, and the lad responded as enthusiastically as he could ever hope.
Breaking their lips apart, he explored Ben’s face, nuzzling at his cheekbones, darting his tongue into the cleft on his chin, pressing kisses on the strong nose. Ben allowed the exploration, his body limp and passive on the couch, a helpless shiver his main response. Quinn worked his way down Ben’s torso, discovering the taste of his Adam’s apple, the width of his shoulder bones, the taut flesh of his abdomen.
Stopping at the top of Ben’s trousers, he ran a finger along the waistline. Ben’s skin was so perfect, creamy pale, the solid muscle underneath rippling and flinching at Quinn’s touch.
“Do you want more?” Ben asked hesitantly.
“I’d like to take care of this for you,” Quinn replied, letting the top of one finger trace the fly of Ben’s trousers.
“I don’t want to, you know, take care of you. I don’t know how I feel about that. But I don’t want you to think I’m like Susan, taking and not giving.”
“You won’t cheat me by letting me give this to you. I’ve taught you so many things – how to talk, to sing, to play to an audience – let me teach you how good this can be.”
Biting his lower lip, Ben nodded. Quinn nimbly unbuttoned his belt buckle, undid the single button and unzipped his trousers. Ben cooperated by arching his back as Quinn pushed his trousers and underwear down his legs, puddling them around his knees. His hands caressed Ben’s firm upper thighs. They matched the rest of Ben’s body, slender and yet surprisingly muscular. But Ben’s thighs weren’t what Quinn most wanted and he soon began kissing Ben’s erection, licking the sensitive flesh before taking it into his mouth. It was everything Quinn desired, Ben’s musky scent filling his nose, his eager cock in Quinn’s mouth, the taste of youth and innocence flooding his senses.
“Jeez!” Ben exclaimed, as Quinn sucked, swallowing as much of Ben’s cock as he could. The curses became more graphic, Ben chanting swear words rhythmically as he buried his hands in Quinn’s hair and he thrust frenziedly, coming within seconds.
“Jeez, I can’t believe it,” Ben muttered, his body limp and satiated. “I can’t believe that felt that good.”
“Personally, I thought it was a little fast.”
“Oh. Sorry,” Ben flushed, embarrassed at his lack of control.
“I think we’ll try it again, a little slower. If you don’t mind.”
A squeak of surprise was Ben’s only comment as Quinn began again, taking the flaccid organ in his hands, cherishing it with tiny kisses and long strokes of his tongue. It took longer this time and was even more satisfying to Quinn, feeling Ben’s life force pulsate in his mouth, hearing Ben’s ragged exclamations of delight and astonishment, knowing he’d given Ben the ultimate gift of a perfect orgasm. Even without stimulation, he came in his trousers when Ben gave a final strangled scream, the lad’s excitement enough to push him over the edge.
“Wow,” Ben said when he could talk. Snuggling next to him on the couch, Quinn pulled the smaller man around so his own back was on the couch and Ben rested on his chest, held in place by Quinn’s embracing arms. He wished he could turn off the lights but was reluctant to disturb the atmosphere of bliss surrounding them.
”I’m so tired. I could fall asleep right here,” Ben said finally.
“You should stay the night.” When Ben tensed under his hands, Quinn added, “In the guest bedroom. Just like you do when we work late. You’re too tired to be driving. There are some of your clothes in the closet – you can clean up and go home tomorrow.”
With a soft kiss on Quinn’s nose, Ben stood, tugging his undershirt down and pulling up his pants. “Good night then.”
“Good night, Benjamin. And thank you.”
“Yeah, thank you.”
After the lad stumbled off to bed, Quinn lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling, wondering what tonight meant. Would it be a one-night fluke, caused by the combination of Ben’s unhappiness and insatiable curiosity and Quinn’s unrequited desire? Would Ben act as if everything was normal in the morning, allowing them to resume the mentor protégé relationship that made the single name of “Benjamin” a household word? Or was tonight the start of something even better? The long-term relationship Quinn yearned for with all his heart and soul?
He got off the couch, collected the tea things and took them into the kitchen, putting the milk away in the refrigerator. After turning off the lights and checking the door locks, he headed toward his own bedroom. The words of a movie rang through his head and he could only hope they would be the truth for him and Benjamin – “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
In the morning everything seemed fine. Quinn was cooking breakfast when Ben stumbled down the hall, still slightly yawning but freshly showered and casually dressed. Quinn slid a plate of eggs, bacon, toast, and fried tomatoes in front of Ben as he sat down. It was a breakfast from home and Quinn hoped it would give a sense of comfort after last night’s revelation.
Ben dug in with enthusiasm after a muttered, “Thanks.” Eating his own breakfast with slower appreciation, Quinn brought up the next tour and the two intently discussed cities and venues Ben should play.
The night before was acknowledged only one time. Placing his smaller hand over Quinn’s, Ben squeezed once as he met Quinn’s eyes and said, “Thanks…for listening last night…and the rest.” The lad blushed slightly and averted his gaze.
Squeezing back once, Quinn replied, “I’m always here for you, Ben.”
Ben nodded, separating their hands, and that was the end of it.
Making a silent vow to himself, Quinn swore that it would be enough. He had Ben’s friendship, respect, and one memory of that handsome face and strong body lost in the throes of passion.
It had to be enough.
When the phone call came two weeks later it surprised Quinn, even though he'd planned for such a possibility.
Working on a movie was unlike anything Ben had ever done. He was accustomed to long hours in the studio and a grueling schedule of concert dates but only with a group of musicians or an audience. How he would react to a cast and crew of dozens dependent on how he uttered every syllable and hit every cue was new. Quinn had little experience in the endeavor to help him.
Quinn had stayed the first few days, observing Ben's developing relations with the others and his reactions to the work. Everything seemed fine. Ben was a likeable young man who quickly made friends. The role was his choice and he wanted to do well, paying careful attention to the director's wishes and advice from his new drama coach.
So after a few days, Quinn had a discreet conversation with the drama coach and left Ben to it, only dropping by to check on the movie's progress occasionally. Madame Lefave's voice on the phone was a shock then, Quinn not instantly placing her husky French accent that he guessed covered the broader nasal tones of a native New Yorker.
"He is being ze prima donna, Monsieur Quinn," she complained, "and I cannot do a thing with him. Ze director is furious. You must come help."
"I'm on my way," he replied tersely.
His ears were assailed by both excited whisperings and discontented murmurings when he stepped inside the huge studio. Everyone seemed to be on a smoke break, puffing away at their cigarettes. Even the tech people were chatting rather than fussing interminably with the lighting. The room reeked with the harsh smell of nicotine, the exhilaration from those who found emotional scenes titillating, the discontent from those who were jealous of Benjamin's quick rise to fame, and boredom from those who wanted to get a good day's work in the can without temperamental scenes.
He wondered if any had called a columnist yet. Ben's publicity was universally good; no doubt any of Hollywood's gossip mavens would snap eagerly at a sign that the newest golden boy wasn't so perfect.
Making his way toward Ben's dressing room, he smiled and nodded politely at people, pretending the timing of this visit was purely accidental. Madame Lefave gave him a haughty sniff but made no further move toward him. Her task was done and he would remember to reward her with a larger paycheck for this week’s coaching.
Entering without knocking, he found Ben sprawled on the small daybed. He was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, the flannel shirt that comprised the rest of that day's costume tossed on the floor.
"Come to get me in line?"
Quinn swung a chair around and sat down on it backwards, his arms resting on the back. "Have you been out of line?" he questioned mildly. Patience and understanding were always his best response to Ben’s few flare-ups.
"I just get so sick of it! I had to say the same line twenty times today! Twenty times! 'Gosh Mr. Peterson, that'd be neat!' The lights were wrong then someone's make-up had to be touched up, then Jennifer wasn't in the right spot…" He let out an exasperated noise.
"Ben, what's wrong?"
"What's wrong?" He jumped up and paced the small room, kicking the flannel shirt out of the way. "I've told you what's wrong. I'm sick of always being on cue and doing the same thing over and over because of someone else's mistakes!"
Quinn snagged the shirt and tossed it on the bed. Still patient but more insistent, Quinn said, "I've seen you sing the same line fifty times without complaining to get the sound right. So what's wrong?"
Ben sighed and paced back the other way. "I'm surprised you're even here. Don't you have to go to the airport?"
"The airport?" Quinn parroted the words though he knew what Ben meant.
Making the two syllables sound like separate words, Ben said, "Phil-ip.” Quinn raised his brow but remained silent, wanting more. With exasperation, Ben continued, “At the airport. Coming in this afternoon. He called me last night when he couldn't reach you. Did you have a nice dinner?" The unusual snideness in Ben's tone told its own story. Ben wasn't unhappy about the frustrations of the daily filming; his sole source of anxiety was Quinn's personal life.
Quinn didn't let his hopes rise. Ben's jealousy wasn't particularly new, evidenced several years ago when his fame was escalating and he tried to convince Quinn to drop the rest of his clients. Quinn had fallen victim to his own desires then, waiting eagerly for some signal from Ben that he wanted a closer relationship before ultimately realizing Ben was simply trying to exercise control over his environment. And Quinn was the only constant element in his life. Answering the last questions first, Quinn said, "Yes, I had a very nice dinner with a prospective client. You're not the only person I manage, if you recall." Quinn forbade any comment at Ben's subtle flinch at the reminder. "And yes, Philip is coming in this afternoon to spend the weekend. He has a business meeting on Monday. He didn't mention he'd talked to you when he finally reached me."
"I told him that since I wasn't your secretary," Ben sniped, "I didn't see you every day and he ought to keep trying himself."
Quinn stood and blocked Ben's pacing using his greater size to subtly pressure the smaller man against the wall. "Is that what this is about? Do you want to see me every day?"
"Are you going to bugger him?"
Placing his hands on the slim, denim-covered hips, Quinn took another step closer. "Do you object?"
Glaring down at the floor, Ben muttered, "I don't want you to. I don't want you to bugger him. I don’t want to think about the two of you together. But I don't - "
Quinn sighed and gently brushed his beard on Ben's smooth face. "You don't know what you want, do you?"
Ben repeated more firmly. "I don't want you buggering him. Or him buggering you."
Hoping to force Ben into further declaration, Quinn slid one hand into the small of Ben's back, the cotton T-shirt soft against his palm, while he cupped Ben's cock through the stiff denim. "If you want, I'll put Philip up at a hotel. I have to have dinner with him tonight. He’s my friend and I owe him some time. We won't have sex. But," he warned, catching one of Ben's hands and bringing it to his own groin, "I can't be celibate forever." He inhaled sharply as without encouragement, Ben curled his fingers, squeezing. For a long moment they stood, each fondling the other, Quinn's eyes darkening while Ben's widened with discovery.
"No, not forever. I can feel that," Ben said with a touch of humor. "I'll - figure things out. Soon. I promise."
"I'll wait as long as I can. And for your information, I bugger him." Quinn liked the way the pupils in Ben’s eyes dilated and the slight hitch in his breath at that information. Ben might not be ready to say it, but he wasn’t averse to the thought of Quinn as a lover dominating his partner. Quinn stepped back but glanced down in concern. With the enthusiasm of youth, Ben had reached full erection from Quinn's brief touches. "You can't go out there like that. Let me take care of you."
He started to sink down but Ben caught him. "Nah, not that way. With your hands. I want… I want to know your kisses when I come."
Quinn delayed only long enough to grab the washcloth from the rack. Ben unbuckled his belt and pushed his jeans and underwear down to rest on his thighs. His penis leaped out, curving up eagerly and for a second Quinn regretted Ben's choice as his mouth watered. Then he wrapped the cloth around the stiff flesh and buried his tongue deep in Ben's mouth.
The youth arched, digging his fingers into the broad muscles of Quinn's back. He hadn't wanted the cloth shielding his skin from the touch of Quinn's palm but he understood the need to protect his costume. Even with the covering, he could feel the individual digits of Quinn's hand, working together to pump him, jerking rapidly and forcefully, bringing him to ecstasy.
It was so very like Quinn, thinking of Ben's costume, of Ben's pleasure, drowning Ben's cries with the heat of his kiss to protect Ben's reputation. Always taking care of him.
Would it be different if they went all the way? If Quinn held him down and pounded into him? How would the care and understanding be expressed if Quinn turned him around, put his hands to the wall, and took him?
At the fleeting visual images of them together, Ben came, the tidal wave of pleasure cresting through him. He hung limply in Quinn's arms, allowing the bigger man to lean him against the wall. He watched dazed as Quinn pulled out his own cock, wrapped the dampened cloth around it, and came with a few urgent strokes, his cry muffled by biting his forearm.
Ben tugged his clothes into place, watching as Quinn steadied his breathing and attended to his own attire. Still without speaking, he quickly drew a comb through his hair restoring it to place, and patted at his face. His make-up was ruined by the streaks of perspiration. Grabbing the other washcloth, he wiped his face, cleaning off the rest of the face powder. He'd tell the make-up girl he was doing jumping jacks to burn off energy. She was accustomed to Ben's active ways disturbing her careful work.
Quinn was watching his preparations, appearing to Ben as he always did – elegant, polished, successful. Pulling on his outer shirt, Ben promised one more time, "I'll figure things out soon."
The loud knocking interrupted his contemplation of the city. He didn't know how long he'd been staring out the window, looking down at the Saturday morning traffic, but his tea had grown cold in his hands. Setting the cup down, he crossed the living room of his furnished apartment and opened the door to find Quinn's lover standing in the doorway.
"Philip," he said in some surprise. The older man was as impeccably dressed as ever in a lightweight suit. His angular features were striking, the bold nose dominating his face, his eyes as blue as Quinn's but his hair a solid black.
"Benjamin. Can I come in." Philip answered his own rhetorical question by strolling in, forcing Ben to move aside for him. "I thought we should talk."
Feeling ill at ease, Ben allowed the door to swing shut but didn't bother locking it. Philip didn't give the appearance of someone intending to stay a long time. "What would you like to talk about?"
"Oh, let's chat about Quinn, shall we? After all, it's not like we have much else in common. Funny, I hadn't realized how much we *did* have him in common."
The comment struck Ben strongly as he mentally agreed, wondering for the first time what Quinn saw in both of them. Philip, almost as tall as Quinn, around the same age, so dark-haired, a confident New Yorker, a man with the world weary attitude of having seen much and done more.
And himself – shorter, more slender, a poor Scots kid who knew and experienced only what he'd learned from or done with Quinn. How could Quinn possibly desire him over Philip?
Of all the words he'd never planned on saying, the "He's mine," tumbling out of his mouth, scared him silly, both for their unexpectedness and rightness.
"Oh, he's yours, is he?" Philip mocked savagely. "You don't even know what to do with him. Just because you let him blow you doesn't mean you have a clue how to satisfy a man like Quinn."
"You're right, I don't." Only the realization that he was already the victor in this battle allowed Ben to remain calm. He'd asked Quinn not to fuck this man and Quinn had obeyed, without requiring a commitment from Ben. Quinn's willingness to discard Philip as a lover was a powerful testament to his devotion to Ben. "But that makes it even better. I'll learn everything I need to know from Quinn. Just the way he wants to teach it to me."
Philip's face colored with anger. "Be careful little boy. He may not like you so much once he's had your innocence."
"He likes my innocence better than your experience apparently." Ben struck back, suddenly afraid at the possible truth in Philip's taunt. The thought nagged again - what could Quinn see in him over this man?
"Your innocence. Your damned innocence." Philip stalked closer to Ben, sneering down at him. "You don't even know where to begin, do you? You have some perverted schoolboy notion about taking a stiff one up the ass. You don't know what real love between two men is like."
"I think you mean real sex, Philip. If it was real love between the two of you, Quinn wouldn't be wanting me."
"You're too young to understand the difference between love and sex, so don't even pretend you do. This isn't even about love or sex, is it? It's about possession. Quinn's yours. I've heard about how you don't even like him to manage other clients. You think you can make him your lover to bind him even closer to you. But when it comes down to it, you won't be able to handle the sex."
"Look," Philip took a deep breath, mentally retrenching and speaking a little slower, "your motives are your own. If you really love Quinn and can make him happy, then I'm glad for you both. But he's too good a man to play with out of a misplaced sense of jealousy. If it's just sex you want, go for an older woman. Date Lorraine Dawson. She'll sleep with you in a heartbeat. But don't toy with a good man who's done nothing but help you."
Ben could see the sincerity in Philip's eyes but he couldn't respond to it. Maybe Philip was right. Maybe he just wanted Quinn out of jealousy. Maybe he wouldn't be able to cope with a form of sexual intercourse he barely understood. But the picture of Quinn and this man holding each other, kissing, muscled naked bodies tangled together, their skin gleaming with sweat - it scared Ben how much that image ripped him apart. Wondering about the number of times they made love caused almost a physical ache in Ben's chest. He wouldn't be this afraid if it was merely jealousy, would he? But if it wasn't jealousy, it was an emotion far more serious, and Ben wasn't sure he was ready to cope with it. His troubled thoughts and tangled emotions pounded through his brain but he was unwilling to reveal them to Quinn's lover.
Ex-lover, he thought with satisfaction as he said savagely, "Thanks for the advice, Philip, but regardless of what you think, Quinn is mine. Stay away from him."
With a snarl of disgust, Philip pushed past Benjamin and out of the apartment, the door slamming closed behind him.
Carefully picking up his cup, Ben walked to the small kitchen, dumping out the cold tea and putting water to boil. Philip's words disturbed him, unsettled him. He recalled that first dinner in America when he'd learned Quinn had other commitments, leaving Ben to spend several days strolling around New York with Diana’s beautiful but ditzy cousin. All four of them dined together every evening. The two were only alone in their hotel room late at night. The experience put him on edge, a feeling he attributed to the bewildering energy of the metropolis and its jaded citizenry. He hadn’t felt right until they started working on recording more songs for his debut album, just the two of them and the studio musicians spending eight hours a day in the studio.
Was he in love with Quinn? Had he been for a long time? Was that why he enjoyed the older man’s company so much? Why he had so eagerly and willingly let Quinn make love to him, not once but twice? Did his body know what his brain couldn't accept?
Or was it just possessiveness as Philip said? Quinn had been leaving him alone at the movie studio while writing songs, so now Ben needed proof that he was important to Quinn? Was he really just a spoiled dog in the manger who didn't want Quinn but wouldn't let anyone else have him?
Lorraine Dawson. Behind the horn-rimmed glasses she wore to play the school librarian, the older actress was a beautiful woman. Not even that old – probably around Quinn’s age. Her auburn hair was gorgeous when she freed it from its tight bun and swirled around her shoulders. Though they flirted on the set, Ben never even thought about dating her, taking the seductive banter merely as an indicator of her friendliness to a foreigner.
Maybe he should give her a call and see if she was free for dinner. He would take her to a quiet restaurant and then find out if she would be his dessert. Philip may love men but Ben believed he knew women too. Between Quinn’s worries about gossip mongers, long tiring days at the studio, and too many girls who felt obligated to be wined and dined before he even got a kiss, much less a good feel, it had been far too long since he’d been between the thighs of a woman, since he’d known the sensation of losing himself in a beautiful warm body rather than his hand.
Or Quinn’s mouth. Or Quinn’s hand. Quinn’s so very knowledgeable and skilled mouth and hand. Quinn's talented and experienced touch that gave him more pleasure than any woman ever had.
At those alarming memories, he reached for the phone. Maybe a good hard fuck was all he needed to exorcise these unsettling thoughts from his mind.
And then he could see Quinn and set him free.
The first package arrived on Tuesday morning, delivered by a uniformed messenger from one of Hollywood's ritziest stores. Quinn wouldn't even have guessed that Ben knew the store existed, but it was his protégé's sprawling writing on the attached note. "We need to talk. I've booked us rooms at an inn in Santa Barbara this weekend. Here's something to make sure you aren't late. Benjamin." A small map with directions was enclosed. He tore off the wrapping to find a gold watch, both elegant and masculine in design.
A set of golf clubs arrived the next day. The note this time said, "When we get tired of talking, I understand there's an excellent golf course nearby. B." Quinn swung each club admiring the balance and workmanship. Creating a small putting green in his living room, he whiled away the evening hours in pleasant anticipation.
Thursday's box was small and from a reputable jeweler. The note said merely, "Don't forget your dinner jacket." The cufflinks were gold to match his new watch, with his initials "QO" inscribed in cursive letters. Quinn went to start his packing.
Friday's present had him opening his suitcase to insert one more item - a dressing gown in blue velvet which matched his eyes. At first he thought there was no note, but then in a fit of whimsy he pulled the gown on over his clothes and tucked his hands in the pockets. Paper crinkled and he pulled out the final note. It had only three words written on it. "Tonight. Yours, Benjamin."
Ben was already there, walking on the beach, barefoot and with his pant legs rolled up. Quinn found him easily, surrounded by a small group of admirers, signing autographs and answering questions. He waved a hand and introduced, "My manager, Quinn O'Malley," which earned Quinn only brief looks from the girls before their attention was captured by their idol.
Quinn admired the ease with which Ben handled the crowded, adroitly signing autographs, answering questions and smiling all at the same time. Quinn may have given him the lessons, but Ben was an apt student. Once finished, Ben waved the girls away and they went reluctantly. The two fell into step as they walked along the beach.
"I'm glad you came," Ben said finally.
"Did you doubt I would?"
"Nah, guess not."
"I need to know where we stand, what you expect of this weekend."
Ben answered obliquely. "I took Lorraine out last Saturday. I never thought much about older women but - someone - suggested…well anyway. We went dancing and then for a drive and I realized she'd let me do anything I wanted. She made that pretty clear."
"And did you?" Quinn asked, dreading the answer.
"Nah. 'Cuz it'd be just like Susan, wouldn't it? Oh she'd…" Ben glanced away, embarrassed. "She'd come across but it'd be the same. Neither of them wants me for me. Neither of them has been there at my side for years, taking care of me. Neither of them would want to stay if things went bad, if the glamour disappears. Neither of them…really loves me. You've always loved me, haven't you?"
"I tried not to," Quinn admitted candidly. "I didn't want to take advantage. But you're such a special person." Automatically, he glanced around, noting the closeness of other people. Their wandering had led them to an isolated area close to the rocks, so Quinn dared to cup one of Ben's cheeks with his hand, his thumb brushing Ben's cheekbone. "I can't imagine life without you," he said simply. "As your manager, your friend…or more, if you'll have me."
"Then I want to be your lover. Or try, anyway," Ben amended. "What we did before, that seemed nice. I think more would be okay. But I haven't - " He bit his lip.
"I understand, Ben. Don't worry. We'll only do what makes you comfortable."
"Then tonight. I'll come to you," Ben promised.
The anticipation was expected but the nervousness surprised him. Quinn paced the hotel bedroom, waiting for Ben to come to him, unable to relax. His jitters were worse than the first time he stepped onto a stage, blinded by the spotlights, but knowing hundreds of people were watching him, waiting for him to entertain them.
Stopping at the full-length mirror, he studied his reflection, trying to examine himself from Ben's eyes - from the perspective of a potential lover. His body was in good shape, kept fit by regular workouts. Tall and broad and male though, it was not likely that Ben had ever imagined loving such a body.
Enough people, both men and women, had told him he was handsome, even with the bump on his nose that marred the symmetry of his face.
The figure in the mirror stroked its cheeks and Quinn wondered frantically if he should have shaved. Would a young man, accustomed to dreaming of a woman's soft skin, be repulsed by the coarse hair of his beard and mustache?
Then other hands slid down the brocade lapels of his dressing gown, coming to rest on the tie and Ben murmured, "I knew this color would match your eyes." Ben's face was smiling over his shoulder, his hold on Quinn allowing him to keep his balance as he rose up on his toes. "Sorry I took so long. I didn't want to be seen."
"I'm just glad you came."
Those busy fingers were undoing the tie and the blue velvet robe dropped open. "Damn," Ben said dubiously, "I thought I remembered how big you were. Is that going to fit?"
His penis hardening at the mere suggestion, Quinn promised hoarsely, "Yes, absolutely." He turned, pulling Ben into his arms. They fit together perfectly, as naturally as if they'd been created for each other. They kissed passionately, learning again the sweet taste of lips and teeth and tongue.
With a light shove, Ben broke away. "Nah, not this way." When a distressed look crossed Quinn's face, he kissed him quickly and reassuringly before backing him across the room and pushing him to sit in the armchair. "I know you. You'd pleasure me first. But we've done that twice already. This time," he said, sinking to his knees between Quinn's thighs, "this time is for you."
Quinn could only groan at the sight of that beloved face so close to his erect penis. Trust Benjamin to insist on being a full participant. Quinn hoped he had the stamina to truly appreciate Ben's taking control.
Then Benjamin's hands were on his chest, exploring his skin with his fingertips, stroking from his shoulder blades to the crease where thigh met torso and back again. Ben delicately plucked at Quinn's nipples and smiled in satisfaction when they hardened. "Not so very different," he murmured.
"No," Quinn agreed, barely able to speak as warm hands wrapped around his cock, measuring its length and thickness.
"Now this," Ben said, "this is very different."
"Not so different from you. From what you're used to feeling."
"True," Ben agreed. "So I'll just do what I like having done, shall I?" No answer was required as Benjamin leaned forward and pressed his lips to the top of Quinn's cock. Using his lips, tongue, teeth and hands, he explored Quinn's cock, his heavy testicles and the smooth skin of his inner thighs. His touch was hesitant for mere seconds as Ben was quickly emboldened by Quinn's moans and the comforting feeling of knowing what Quinn would be experiencing. Not a woman with a woman's mysterious responses and way of thinking, but a man, simple and direct, needing the warm stimulation that would lengthen his penis to its ultimate hardness, draw his balls up tight and then finally allow release in a sweeping ecstasy of pleasure. Pleasure that would leave his body satisfied and his cock limp and relaxed.
Ben’s lips played around the tip of his cock, his tongue lingering in the slit, swirling around the flared head, tickling at the sensitive underside. Quinn’s hands, lying on his thighs, twitched with suppressed need. Opening his mouth wide, Ben slipped it over Quinn’s cock, taking as much as he could. He sucked fiercely, feeling like he had a jawbreaker in his mouth and was determined to reach the sweet center. The taste was unfamiliar and slightly bitter in Ben’s mouth, but surprisingly flavorful. Fingers wrapped in his hair, Quinn’s hands convulsing on his skull.
He felt the throbbing in his mouth, the signal that Quinn was about to come, and those hands yanked on his hair, pulling him away. He didn't go far, still kneeling on the ground, watching as Quinn came, his body shuddering, the milky fluid landing on his thighs. Watching another man come from such a close perspective was a new sight, but one that Ben found strangely erotic and gratifying.
Quinn gathered Ben into straddling his lap, the youth smiling in a very self-satisfied cat who ate the canary way. It was so like Ben. Ben, who crowed when he perfectly hit a note he'd been striving for. Ben, who found pride but not arrogance in his accomplishments. The smugness reassured Quinn that the experience was mutually enjoyable.
Quinn kissed him, curling a hand around his penis, not surprised to find it only half-hard. Quinn could come merely from giving Ben pleasure, but Ben wouldn't have that same feeling of a repressed dam being released.
"Get into bed," he said and Ben went, sliding between the sheets, watching Quinn as he disappeared into the bathroom. Quinn left the door open so Ben could see him wet a cloth and wash the semen from his body.
Dropping his robe over Ben's, he slid into bed next to him.
"You'll want to – well, take me now?"
"In a little bit. I need to recover."
He reached for the whiskey and glasses he placed on the night stand and poured them generous measures.
Ben took the offered glass with a half-mocking smile. "Getting me drunk, are you?"
"It will help if you are relaxed."
The repetition of that single syllable worried Quinn. "We don't have to do this if you don't want to."
"No. I want to." The affirmation was emphatic. "I've been thinking about it enough. What it would be like. I want to know."
"Then drink up and roll over." Quinn was warmed by Ben's obvious trust in him as the lad followed his directions, swallowing the liquor before setting the glass down and stretching out on the bed. The blankets and sheets slipped to the small of his back and Quinn admired the elegant lines of his body. Short, compact, and yet so finely made.
He didn't linger any longer, not wanting to let anticipation cause Ben to worry, but oiled his fingers and slipped one between the cheeks of his ass and into his body. He searched for the one spot that would guarantee Ben's pleasure and was relieved to find it easily, as evidenced by Ben's gasping exclamation.
"Jeez! What is that?"
A chuckle signaled Quinn's happiness. "It's called a prostate." He stroked the spot again, pleased when Ben shivered and clutched at the pillow. "I gather you like it," he teased.
"Like it? Ah – " Any further words were lost as Quinn stroked a third time.
Moving with haste but finesse, Quinn introduced another finger and then yet one more, stretching the tight muscle and preparing Ben to accept him, keeping a steady rhythm of touches against his prostate.
When Ben had pushed him in the chair with the obvious intention of fellating him, Quinn had worried momentarily if he would be able to have a second erection. He wasn’t old, certainly, but he lacked the quick recharge of his youth. His fear was completely unfounded as the sight of his young lover writhing on the bed was all the stimulation he needed.
That and the knowledge that he would be Ben's first. Not only his first in male love, but the only man with whom Ben had even contemplated having sex.
Letting his fingers slip out, he was gratified by Ben's small, needy whimper at the loss. He nestled his legs between Ben's spread thighs, kissing the back of his head and whispering, "Don't worry, it gets better," before thrusting his cock slowly into Ben.
His intention was to keep his speed slow and the motion of his hips smooth, all too conscious of Ben's virginity. But Ben was never a blushing initiate at anything, doing everything with enthusiasm. After the first few strokes, the younger man shoved back as fiercely as Quinn thrust, turning the sex into a battle, a duel to see how hard Ben could take it and how forcefully Quinn could give it to him. Quinn was surprised but willing, responding with vigor as he lunged deeper, his hands clenching on the sheets as he locked his elbows to give himself more power.
For Ben, having Quinn's cock in his mouth had seemed the easy part when he contemplated the evening. He knew what that was like from the other side. Knowing that Quinn wanted to bugger him was difficult to imagine but surprisingly easy accepting in reality. After the initial mild pain and discomfort, it was all pleasure, taking Quinn into his body, feeling the other man's power and passion become a part of him. They were truly united now, bound together by Quinn's hard cock plunging into his body, raking across his prostate and sending fire throughout his body. Welcoming Quinn felt unbelievably right and Ben wanted more, wanted all that Quinn could give him, wanted Quinn to fuck him until he completely filled Ben, until the two were no longer divisible and dropped from exhaustion.
They fought the battle fiercely, the sounds of their moans and the smell of sweat and sex filling the air until their joint cries of passion proclaimed they both won.
The wrap party was in full swing when Quinn arrived. A band played on one side of the room while a lavish selection of food was spread out on tables on the other side. Actors, executives, technical crew, and associated hanger-ons mingled together, celebrating the end of a successful production, bemoaning the loss of the closeness that had developed during the shoot and boasting about or angling for their next job.
Ben was the adored center of attention. Everyone wanted to congratulate him, for the most part out of a genuine liking but also to treasure the ability to say they'd known him when he was a fledging actor. His future in movies seemed as assured as his success in movies and all Hollywood loves a success.
Quinn waded into the throng of admirers, gave Ben a hearty hug, basking in the reflected glow as his manager for a few minutes, then strolled over to the food table, spending the next few hours nibbling on appetizers, making new contacts or touching base with old ones. He indulged in his favorite pastime, watching Ben. To a casual observer, the younger man fairly glowed with excitement but Quinn could detect the slight strain around his eyes. Something was causing Ben stress but now wasn’t the time to discuss it.
The producer trapped Quinn on the other side of the room, boring him with a lengthy monologue. Quinn finally broke free when he realized Ben was gone. He found him in the dressing room, sitting in a chair, his feet propped on a box containing his personal possessions, and a contemplative expression on his face.
Ben turned to face Quinn at the tiny clicking sound of the door being locked. Quinn leaned down and they kissed lightly but Ben's response was more abstracted than passionate.
"Sorry to be finished?"
"Nah. It's been fun but I'm ready to concentrate on music again. The acting was fun but music is the best."
Quinn stroked one finger down the curve of Ben's face. "Then what's wrong? You seem distracted."
"That's always the way it's going to be, isn't it? You'll give me a hug or pat my back in public but then lock the door behind us. You'll never come up to me at a party and kiss me or hold my hand or ever just stay at my side all evening. Not like a bird would."
"No, I never will. I can't. It's not just bad for business, it would ruin both of us. Jerry Lee almost destroyed his career marrying his cousin and at least she was the right sex. Can you imagine the uproar if we even held hands in public?" Squatting down, he rested one hand on Ben's knee, feeling the tenseness of his leg muscles.
"And having brought me this far, you're not going to let your love ruin me, are you?"
"Why are you doing this Ben? You knew how things had to be from the beginning."
"Yeah, but then it seemed all secret and exciting. Picking those presents for you and telling outrageous stories to the sales clerks about why I was buying my manager such nice things. Escaping off to Santa Barbara and these last few weeks…we've spent all our time together and that's been great, getting to know this whole other side of you. And the sex," Ben flushed, "well, we've spent so much time in bed that I hadn't thought much about being out in public. Until tonight."
"And now that you're thinking about it?"
"I'm thinking…maybe I should go home. See my family before we go back to the recording studio."
The desire to fight Ben's suggestion was strong. The urge to carry him off and keep him close was fierce and his emotions slipped before he could stop them. "I don't want you to go."
"I don't know that I want to go. But I think I must."
Though he felt like it was a low blow, Quinn couldn't stop himself from saying, "I thought your friends also treated you like a celebrity, that I was the only one who still saw you as Ben, not Benjamin."
Ben flinched at the accuracy of that shot. "Yeah, they do. But they're my friends too. I just - I need to get away for a while."
Quinn conceded the fight. At least Ben wasn't leaving permanently and Quinn would know where he was. He nodded his acceptance as he stood up, pulling Ben into his arms. "But not tonight?" he asked with hope.
“No, not tonight.”
“Good." Speaking in a whisper in Ben's ear, he said, "I want you to fuck me.”
Ben gasped in surprise, but his body unconsciously jerked and arched toward Quinn in arousal. “I thought you didn’t like that.”
“It’s not my favorite thing. But I want to know your possession.”
"Damn. Let’s get out of here while I’m still decent.”
By the time they drove their cars separately to Quinn’s, parking and walking into the house with decorum, the emotional exhaustion of the party caught up with Ben. Quinn undressed him efficiently, tucking him into the bed and undressing himself before joining him. Ben rolled over and cuddled into Quinn's arms. "I'm sorry. I can hardly keep my eyes open."
"It's okay," Quinn reassured him truthfully. "Go to sleep." He wanted this experience to be special, not undermined by tiredness. The thought of Ben going back home alone scared him. Not that his parents would be particularly good role models for marital bliss, because they weren't. But his friends were already marrying and having children and Ben did love kids. He was fiercely protective of his younger siblings, keeping in regular touch through long-distance phone calls. One of his siblings calling to tell him about a good grade was as important as a journalist phoning to hear his reaction to his new song cracking the top ten.
The worst trouble Quinn could foresee would be Ben's envious male friends. All of them - both married and still single - undoubtedly would want to know about the starlets he was dating. What was it like to work with some of the most beautiful women in the world? Green with jealousy, they would nudge him in the ribs and demand to hear everything.
How would Ben answer them?
Ben liked waking slowly, liked emerging from a pleasant dream to the sensation of his early morning arousal making him stiff and hard, stretching in the warm sheets and letting the wisps of sleep clear from his mind.
There was a hand stroking him, a big rough man's hand soothing a slippery gel onto his cock. He groaned and nestled back into Quinn's arms, shivering as teeth latched onto his ear and nibbled.
"Damn, that feels good."
The "good morning" was amused but the "ready to fuck me?" snapped Ben fully awake.
His eyes turned to search Quinn's, finding only acceptance and need. With a harsh moan he flipped over, pushing at Quinn, shoving the sheets away, grabbing for the tube of lube as it started rolling away. Foreplay seemed unimportant with his cock stiff and ready.
Quinn cooperated, rolling onto his stomach and rising slightly onto his knees. “I want you to do me now.”
For the barest second, Ben hesitated, his eyes greedily feasting on the supple back, taut buttocks, and long, well-muscled legs. He squirted the gel on his hand and slipped a finger into the ring of tight muscle.
Ben wasn't the most accomplished lover, his touch tentative and slightly fumbling, but Quinn arched his back and moaned encouragingly, relaxing his muscles as much as he could. Then Ben's legs were between his and the pressure built until the head slipped in, the rest of Ben's cock following until he was buried completely.
An amazed whisper of "You're so tight!" sounded in Quinn's ear before Ben pulled back out and lunged back in. He was moving mindlessly, shoving himself in and out of Quinn's body, sweat dripping from his body onto Quinn's back, their skin rubbing together.
The position may not have been Quinn's first choice but it yielded a certain satisfaction. It was his tightness, his heat driving Ben to distraction. The alien intruder plunging in and out of his body was Ben's cock. He was now Ben's first lover in all the important positions; everything else was just frills and sexual play.
Then Ben hit the right angle, his cock sliding across Quinn's prostate. Quinn inhaled fiercely as ecstasy radiated through his body. The position was no longer just a tactic to tie Ben even closer to him, to expose him to all types of pleasure he could find with Quinn, but mind-stealing, breath taking, muscle-clenching blissful delight.
Ben could tell that Quinn as enjoying it more now than at first and tried to keep to the same angle. He wanted to slow down, drag things out to make this pleasure last, but he couldn't. The pressure around his cock was too delicious, squeezing him tightly, seeming to suck at him, encouraging him to bury himself again and again, deeper and deeper into Quinn's big body until his hips were moving faster than the pistons on a turbo-charged sports car. To his amazement, Quinn accepted it all, accepted the speed and force, moaning and groaning under him and begging for more. His confident, so assured older lover wanted him, wanted Ben to fuck him as hard and as fiercely as Ben liked to be fucked, and had no hesitation in letting Ben know it.
With Quinn's entreaties for more echoing in his ears, Ben yelled as he poured himself into Quinn, his muscles jerking and body feeling like it would split apart from the tremors shaking his frame. He reached around Quinn's body, groping for his cock and stroking, relieved when the other man began to shudder. Ben almost climaxed again when Quinn came, the muscles of his ass clenching tightly on Ben's cock.
Ben rolled off Quinn, sprawling on the bed as he groaned, "I could get to like that."
"You'll have to come back for more," Quinn noted, trying to downplay the importance of Ben's answer. Was it enough of a bribe to ensure Ben's return?
"Come back?" Ben teased, "Give me half an hour and I'm going to do it again this morning." He leaped off the bed. "But I think a shower first and some breakfast." Stopping in the doorway to the bathroom, he asked, "Going to join me?" before stepping into the shower stall.
Quinn got out of bed and followed. Ben may insist on going back to Britain, but Quinn was going to make certain he had plenty of memories to take with him.
Several days passed before Ben managed to talk to his mother alone. Family and friends had come from near and far to celebrate Ben's trip home. Once the initial rush of excitement faded, they had to attend to school and work obligations, leaving Ben with free time. It was early afternoon the only time he ever spoke of their love to his mother, in her sewing room in the new house. The house wasn't as large or as grand as Ben had wanted to buy his parents, but they had refused the mansion the realtor found. This comfortable house was all they would accept, being situated close enough to the old neighborhood to visit friends. Each of his siblings had their own rooms, though the twins opted to bunk together. His ma was delighted to have the excess bedroom as a place to retreat and sew, enjoying the chance to create for pleasure rather than mend clothes and darn socks to stretch a nonexistent clothing budget.
"Quinn and me," he said hesitantly, watching her hands deftly clicked the knitting needles back and forth in a complicated pattern, "we're…lovers. I love him. I think I may spend my life with him." How he could say those words to his mother when he hadn't yet said them to Quinn, he didn't know.
Her hands paused briefly before resuming motion, not dropping a stitch. "It's that serious," she said.
With her mother's intuition, she'd known. Though Quinn's actions seemed casual to most, she sensed the meaning behind those fond glances, the hand giving a light squeeze to Ben's shoulder, the care in Quinn's eyes when they rested on his protégé. Sensed and worried, but accepted that Ben was an adult. "Yeah, ma. I think it is."
“There was a boy I went to school with…well, everyone knew he was different. It didn’t matter to me. We were good friends and I liked him. But the bullies would beat him up. Things, bad things happened to him.”
“Quinn and I are careful Ma. And things are better in America. Nothing will happen to us.” Whether the reassurance would be truth or not, Ben didn’t know, but she seemed to relax a little, wanting to hear that everything would be fine. Her vision of America was idealized and perfect, the land of milk and honey that made Ben a star and saved their family.
"You won't give me grand kids with him."
Ben shrugged uncomfortably. He hadn't thought much about having a family; he hadn't thought much about committing to never having a family. Being a big brother was great but the responsibility could be tiring, particularly when dealing with his da. "You've got all the younger ones. They'll give you a passel."
"Aye, and probably before they should. James is spending too much time with that girl down at the shop." She looked up from her knitting and met his eyes, letting him see both her acceptance and sadness. "Don't tell your da. He'll kill him. At least, he'll try. And probably make a bloody fool of himself."
Ben looked away, muttering, "I don't know why he would care. He doesn't do anything but tell me how I've done everything wrong anyway."
Setting down the needles and yarn, she caught his face in her hands. "Your father is more proud of you than you can imagine. When you're gone, all he does is boast about you and what a big success you are. He fair pops his shirt buttons with pride."
Scowling darkly, Ben said, "He doesn't show it to me." He was adored all over the world by women who showered him with presents and adoration but coming home was still the same, his father commenting how singing wasn't a tough job.
"You've bought us this beautiful home, you pay for our clothes and food, you've made your brothers and sisters stay in school and given them hope for a good life. You've done what he could never do and a thousand times better than he could ever dream. He can't forgive himself for that, Ben."
"So he has to take it out on me?"
Wrapping her arms around him, she hugged him hard. "He takes it out on himself worse. But he does love you."
Ben hugged her back, pressing his cheek on her head, smelling her fragrant rose shampoo and the flour and spices from the tea cakes she baked earlier. "But you're happy for us, aren't you Ma? Happy for Quinn and me?"
"Finding love is the best thing in this world, Ben." Stepping back, she wiped one tear from her eye. "If you're happy with him, then I'm happy for both of you."
Quinn roamed through the house, drinking a beer. He was supposed to meet a songwriter but he’d cancelled, not being able to stomach the pretense of the music business schmoozing. Too many days had passed. Ben was gone, on a plane ticket with no set return date, and Quinn was miserable.
It would be close to midnight on the east coat, but Philip wouldn’t mind being woken up, if he was even home. The phone rang five times before Philip answered, his voice blurry with sleep. “Yes?”
“What’s wrong?” Philip’s voice sounded more alert.
“Ben’s gone. Gone home to Scotland. I don’t know for how long.”
“Hell. Why? I thought you two were happy.”
More bitter than he realized, Quinn complained, “He needed to think about us. Think about whether he can be my lover.”
“Hell. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. I wanted too much, hoped for too much…” Philip was silent, rousing Quinn’s suspicion. Philip didn’t normally apologize for things over which he had no control. “Philip, what did you do?”
“I went to see him when I was in town. I challenged him. I hoped it would make him jealous.” A bit defensively, he added, “You couldn’t keep living with things the way they were. Both Diana and I could see how the waiting was tearing you apart, even if you tried to hide it. It wasn’t fair to you. He needed to be pushed into a decision.”
“But was it a decision based on love or his possessiveness?” Quinn asked softly.
“I’m sorry, Quinn.”
“No, don’t be. Your motives were good. At least – at least I had a few weeks with him.”
“He’ll come back, Quinn.” Stronger, “He must. You two are perfect together. He’ll see that.”
“I hope so, Philip. I can only hope so.”
The conversation with his father took place in the pub, still his da's favorite haunt. The bartender waved idly and poured him a pint when he entered. Fortunately, Ben had already spent enough time being admired in the pub that he was left alone to perch on a stool next to his da. His timing was good, he could tell. Early enough that he wasn't quite drunk yet but sufficiently late that a few pints had mellowed his spirit.
A grunt was his answer.
"I thought I'd go home in a few days."
"Been good you could spare time from your busy life to visit your family. You should get away from your Hollywood friends and come home more often. Your ma misses you."
"I miss her. I miss all of you." They drank companionably for a few moments. Ben didn't know why he had to have this conversation with his da, only that beyond all other considerations, the drinking, the fights, the bad times - this man was still his father. Even with his mother's reluctant blessing, he sought some sign from his da that he was doing the right thing. He gathered his nerve and asked, "Da, how did you know you loved Ma?"
His da looked at him suspiciously. "You fallen in love, boy?"
"I think - I think maybe so. But it's hard to know, what's real?"
"Your ma was the prettiest girl in school. I knew she was the one for me the second I saw her. But I'll tell you what's real - what's real is the way she's stayed by me."
Ben looked puzzled.
"I'm not an easy man to live with." He waved one hand in negation, stopping Ben from objecting, not that Ben intended to disagree with that statement. Life was easier once Ben started becoming famous, the lack of monetary concerns alleviating his da's temper, but nothing would make him the ideal father or husband. "But she's always put up with me. She's been there, through thick and thin. That's the kind of woman you need in your fancy lifestyle. Not just someone who's pretty but someone who's always going to be there for you."
Softly, Ben said, "Thanks, Da."
"Any time, son."
His powerful arms and legs slicing through the water, Quinn loved the California sun. Almost any day of the year he could slip on his trunks, plunge into his backyard pool, and swim an endless number of laps while the sun baked into his body. To him, California would never be as beautiful as green Ireland, but the weather was better for his needs. And right now he needed to push himself until he was too tired to think. Reducing himself to a mindless state of exhaustion was the only way to avoid dwelling on Ben and his absence. Alcohol hadn't worked.
Two weeks… Only two weeks so far. Sooner or later, Ben would contact him. Maybe to end their romantic relationship. Maybe to end their business relationship. Maybe, if fate was kind, to resume both.
He stopped swimming and rolled on his back, staring at the blue sky, letting the sun caress his skin with its warmth.
"I was beginning to wonder if you would ever stop," said an amused voice.
In his shock at hearing Ben, Quinn floundered for a moment, slapping at the water, finally righting himself and swiftly reaching the edge of the pool. Ben was crouched down by the side, resting on his heels, elbows on his knees. "Ben. You're back." Instantly he cursed himself for the stupid, obvious words, but he could only stare in delight at Ben.
"Yeah. You really like to swim, don't you?"
Drinking in the sight of Ben, smiling, relaxed…confident Ben, Quinn replied, "Yes." He waited to hear the decision that imbued Ben with such ease, the anticipation stealing what breath remained from his exertion.
"We'll have to have one at our place. With a much higher fence."
"Our place?" Surely Ben was a sorcerer, for he had stolen Quinn's ability to string together a coherent sentence.
"Yeah. Well, it'll be known as my place, won't it? It's about time I moved out of the apartment and into a real house." Grinning, he said, "With a big backyard and a high fence so the neighbors can't see if I make mad, passionate love to my manager in the pool."
Swallowing against a dry throat, Quinn agreed, "Yes, a high fence sounds like a good plan."
"In the meantime, I guess we'd better save the wild passion for the bedroom, eh? Hate to give your neighbors a show." With those careless words, Ben stood, picking up his suitcase and walking toward the house as he loosened his tie. Stopping at the backdoor, he turned to throw a challenging look at Quinn. "Well?" he asked before continuing into the house.
Grasping the side of the pool, Quinn pushed himself up and swung onto the ground, following Ben's path. The luggage was dropped inside the doorway. Ben's tie was on the living room floor, his shoes in the short hallway, his shirt at the entrance to Quinn's bedroom. The rest of his clothes were in an untidy pile on the bedroom floor. Ben was lying out on the bed, idly stretching his arms and legs, squirming slightly on the pale blue sheets, the covers tossed to one side.
It was Quinn's fantasy from the first time Ben sang to an audience. His lover, waiting for him, wanting him.
"Ben, I have to know."
"Know what?" Ben asked, with an odd smile on his face.
"What this means," Quinn said hoarsely.
Ben twisted, rising up on his knees, crawling to the edge of the bed and placing his hands on Quinn's hips, suddenly serious. "It means that I've done all the thinking I needed to do. That everything is straight in my mind. That you are the one right person in the world for me. You've proved that over and over again. You are my manager, my friend… my love.”
The untidy bedroom might not have been the most romantic place for such a declaration but the words could not have been any more sincere. Curling his hands around Ben's wrists, Quinn, one of the supreme lyricists of rock 'n' roll could only say, "Oh…my love."
A flash of mood change and Ben grinned. "Now get this suit off and prove your love."
Catching his spirit, Quinn promised, "Any time, any place, every day, every night…" He stripped off the clingy wet suit as Ben fell back, holding onto his knees to press his legs to his chest, demonstrating how he wanted to be taken. Preparation was swift, both too impatient for lengthy foreplay, and then Quinn was sinking deep into Ben. His position held Ben's legs against his chest, allowing Ben's hands to be free to roam at will. And roam they did - over Quinn's back, his arms, through his hair, moving ceaselessly to communicate his need.
The unconscious restraint was gone, a sense of freedom sweeping through Quinn. He no longer had to worry about all the nagging questions - whether he could make it good for Ben, whether Ben would like it, whether Ben would stay with him. Ben had made his choice. Ben wanted him and they would be together forever.
Southern California, modern day
The talk show hostess bubbled with excitement in her overstuffed chair as she began introducing her next guest. She was one of the most famous, richest women in the world, but her ability to share the public's starry-eyed wonder at meeting 'big names' allowed her to connect to the 'little people.' Even with millions in the bank, she was 'one of us.'
"And now, I am *so* excited to bring you my next guest. He's been a singer for decades, done all kinds of music, made some fantastic movies, written beautiful songs, and face it, ladies, still one of the most attractive men in the world. My god, I *love* this man. He's called 'the British Elvis' and we all know why! But most importantly, he's just - BENJAMIN!"
The audience screamed as Benjamin strolled onto the stage, leaning over the desk to hug the hostess before settling into the first chair. He smiled and waved and the crowd slowly quieted. The hostess didn't exaggerate his attractiveness. Though silver, his hair was thick and full, his smile sparkled with electric excitement, and the casually expensive suit covered a figure still lithe and trim.
"Thank you, darling, for the introduction. I'm very happy to be on your show."
"You're happy? We're happy. I am *so* glad you could come. And you're flying tomorrow right? For the ceremony?"
"Yes, the ceremony is tomorrow night, so my flight leaves for Cleveland in the morning."
"Tell us about it."
Smiling modestly, Benjamin replied. "I'm being inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame."
Turning to the audience, the hostess asked, "And isn't it about time?" She beamed upon receiving the numerous, enthusiastic "yes"s and whistles.
A little more serious, Benjamin said, "But that's not really why I've come here today."
Her "Oh?" was one of genuine surprise. The two had talked in the green room backstage before the interview and Benjamin had only discussed his thrill at being honored as a great musical pioneer and for his many accomplishments over the last several decades.
"I wanted to talk about truth and love. It's past time for honesty."
Sensing a great story that she would be privileged to break on her show, she leaned forward intently, encouraging, "Yes?"
"There's been a lot of nonsense written about my life. About the fact that I never married. All the tabloids, seeking some scandal, making up lies about me, that I'm cold and distant and can't keep a relationship going, or that I have mistresses secreted around the country, raising my dozen kids."
"And those unauthorized books! I've heard they've said horrible things."
"No one's ever hit upon the truth." His voice softened, "In the beginning, we couldn't say it. We would have been ruined. And then we just got used to being private. There were so few things in our lives that were truly personal; we didn't want to share our secret with the world. But with the nomination, there's been a lot of lies printed again. Everyone must have some story for their headlines. I hate the lies. Not for my sake, but for my love."
The hostess merely nodded eagerly as Benjamin broke for a moment. He deliberately calmed himself, taking a deep, slow breath, releasing the bitterness at the false gossip. This speech had been a long time coming and he wasn't going to mess it up. "There's only been one person in my life. One person who's always been there for me. Who's always known me, my hopes, my fears, my dreams. Who's cared for me, worried over me, helped me, fed me. Who's always been my strength and who sometimes let me be strong for him." He stood gracefully, moving slow enough that the camera could pull back and keep him in focus. Stretching one arm toward the side of the stage, he added, "Quinn O'Malley, my manager, my love…my life."
Quinn was already walking forward, one hand using a cane to keep his step steady, wondering why Ben's speech caught him by surprise. He'd lived with Ben long enough; he should have realized the younger man was planning something when he insisted Quinn accompany him to the interview. He caught Ben's hand with his free one and pulled him into an embrace, Ben's body yielding to his easily. Like Ben, he had aged well, staying fit, his face surprisingly unlined for a man of his age. On a dare in the 1970s, he had grown his hair long. Once he realized how much Ben loved playing with the strands, he kept the length, pulling a section from each side back into a ponytail for neatness. They stared at each other as the director frantically shouted in the control room for the camera to zoom in.
"You're an idiot and you didn't have to do this," Quinn said fondly. "But I love you."
Quinn's words were broadcast to the world only through the mic pinned on Ben's jacket, the sound hushed and almost indecipherable. The director cringed at missing any syllable of this revelation, snapping at the mic man.
"And I love you. I always have. I always will. And I did have to do this. You deserve it."
Rather than arguing, Quinn pulled Ben closer and the two kissed with the comfort of long familiarity. The crowd "oohed" and "aahed" while the hostess gaped with delight. *This* would top Drew's flashing her breasts at Letterman or Madonna's swearing.
Neither Quinn nor Ben rushed the kiss. Decades of never holding a hand in public, forbidden to use an endearment except among the closest of friends, restraining any touch but the most casual, were broken loose. Finally, they could express their love and they wanted everyone to see it. But their passion was calmer these days, and neither felt inclined to embarrass themselves. They broke the kiss, Quinn's hand cupping the side of Ben's face for a last, long look before they sat in the plush chairs, a black-clad mic man darting in unobtrusively to clip a microphone on Quinn's lapel.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Quinn O'Malley," the hostess leaped in. "Also, a wonderful singer, an amazing music producer, and a fantastic songwriter. Benjamin's manager and lover." She led the audience in a brief round of applause, beaming as proudly as the best man at a wedding introducing the newly married couple. "This is amazing, this is just amazing. You two? You've been together all this time?"
"Not the whole time," Quinn interjected hastily. "Ben was 20 when we fell in love."
"That's so amazing."
Clasping Ben's hand in his, Quinn said, "The amazing thing is that I have been privileged to love this man for so many years. We've done so many kinds of music together, shared our families, traveled the world together… he has been there for me as much as I have been there for him."
Ben shook his head in negation. "You're the one who's always been there for me."
The hostess exclaimed. "What's to argue? So tell us more. You met in Scotland, right? What happened then?"
"Yes," Ben said. "Scotland on the day I finished school, never knowing my life was about to change forever…"
Across the country in his apartment, Philip pumped his hands over his head in a mock victory gesture, throwing a gleeful look at Diana's picture. "I told you there was a reason Ben called and said I should watch the show. I told you." Long gone from lung cancer, Diana's picture returned Philip's satisfaction with her perpetually frozen smile.
On the television, Quinn and Ben talked and talked, their words easily flowing back and forth as one began a story and the other finished it. They didn't offer the most intimate details, but tales of romance and love. The two were beautiful to watch. Ben’s hand rested on Quinn’s knee while Quinn draped his arm over Ben’s shoulders, the other hand holding his cane. They answered the questions, Ben beginning the story and Quinn finishing or vice versa. The easy intimacy and exchange of information were the strength that had made them so formidable as a creative force in the music business, a strength few outside the industry had ever been privileged to see.
The hostess chirpily announced a break and a commercial came on, a harried looking housewife lamenting mildew in her grout. By the time the next ad began to roll, the door slammed open and Ben’s niece dashed into the room, flinging herself to sprawl on the couch by Philip. Her arrival in America has been a timely relief after his hip surgery. Though acquiring a roommate hadn’t been on his agenda, Ben’s request to help his niece find a place to stay while attending Columbia had been a godsend. Giving up his spare room was a small price to pay for someone running his errands and walking Ringo while he recovered.
“Isn’t this great? I saw the start downstairs on the doorman's TV. I can’t believe it took so long for the daft old bugger to do this.”
Ringo leaped onto her and proceeded to lick her face as she laughed at his antics, petting the small terrier.
“You’re not upset?” Ben and Quinn loved their families and though adults with their own lives, Philip knew they would still prefer their families’ blessing. Not that it would change anything at this late date, but it would be heart breaking to alienate them.
“As if the entire family hasn’t known for years,” Elizabeth scoffed. “Well, all except Granddad. He never realized. They always stay at a hotel when they visit, never someone’s house. And talk about when anyone visits them! They’re so discreet it hurts. We’ve always figured they would tell us when they wanted us to know. Trust Uncle Ben to tell the entire world instead. That's so like him.”
“And it doesn’t bother you that they’re men?”
“Nah. We’ve all seen how good they are for each other.”
Ringo jumped off her lap, prancing to the door and whining as the hostess appeared again, cheerily welcoming everyone back. “He wants his walk.”
Elizabeth snapped her fingers to encourage the dog to come back to her lap. “After the show, pup.”
The hostess finished her welcoming, allowing the camera to pan over to Ben and Quinn, standing in front of the small band. Having discarded the cane, Quinn was using their entwined hands to stay steady, free hands holding microphones. Speaking into the mic, Ben said, "This wasn't one of my hits, but it's a song that two friends of ours, Diana and Philip, the first time they heard it, they said it was Quinn's song while he was waiting for me to wake up. But it's really true for both of us." The band struck up an easily recognizable tune and the two sang, "Love, love me do, you know I love you, I'll always be true, so please…love me do."
~ finis ~