Punks didn’t get nervous. They put on a record (or five). They lit up a smoke. They moshed and fought until the floor was slick with sweat and blood, and they didn’t give a shit for danger or anxiety or the stomach-crippling butterflies that had Lestrade backed up against a wall, trying to catch his breath.
He didn’t have music, or a crowd to leap into. He had a lighter in his jacket pocket, but he’d burned through his last cigarettes over an hour ago.
He had a couple of minutes to lean against the bricks and hope to god in heaven that he didn’t make a fucking arse of himself when his mate turned up. He had an important question to ask -- there was a sort of talk that seemed necessary, and a speech he might’ve rehearsed a bit because fuck if he was going to trip over his own tongue while Laurence was standing there. He’d rather lunge into the bloody Thames.
Christ, he hoped his mate brought a pack of smokes with him. He needed it.
It was the first fucking question out of his mouth when the other man turned the corner, and retrospectively, he was glad. It made his friend laugh, and that in turn settled his nerves a bit. The nicotine and smoke did the rest, and banished those bloody butterflies straight to some place hellish -- like Knightsbridge, or France.
His shoulders slumped and his head fell back. He breathed out slowly, and a long cloud of smoke stretched out into the open air. Smoke in a London alley -- now that was a pretty sight. It made him smile.
“What’s with you?” Laurence asked.
“Yeah? ‘Bout what?”
“Last night,” Greg answered with a grin. “The way you just leapt--” He imitated a dive. “--right into the crowd. They fuckin’ loved it.”
Laurence smiled and flicked ash off the end of his cigarette. “Gotta do it,” he replied. “You can’t be up there, away from everybody, and expect ‘em to understand what you’re singin’, you know?”
Greg nodded -- but his mate had tossed his cigarette away and set off down the alley. Always curious to watch London’s punk icons, even in the most mundane circumstances, Greg followed on his heels like a puppy.
Laurence took a running leap and hauled himself up on top of a dumpster. Spinning around, he held his arms out in mockery of his own stage performances and grinned down at Greg. “Don’t you see?” He called out. “Up here I’m... I’m the worst! I’m above you!” His voice echoed on the brick walls like sound from his band’s amps. “I’m rotten!”
“If I don’t jump--” He moved right up to the edge of the dumpster’s lid, until the toes of his ragged shoes stuck off the end. Greg watched with a wide smile, cigarette still pinched between his lips, but completely forgotten in the heat of the moment. He was head over heels for this man, and his band, and everything they stood for. He wasn’t the only one -- Laurence’s gang was the fucking symbol for London’s burgeoning punk movement -- but Greg’s admiration for their music and their state of being bordered on idolatry.
High above, Laurence dropped his arms. “I’m nothing,” he finished -- and Greg’s face fell. “You gotta... you gotta get in there. Get right in--” he pounded his fist into his hand, “--with the people and let ‘em feel you! Let ‘em feel the music in your soul.”
He didn’t care much for dignity, but only a shred of sanity stood between Greg and drooling all over his own shirt as he listened to Laurence speak.
Without warning, Laurence leapt off the dumpster. Greg threw his arms up immediately, but it made no difference. The pair of them slammed into the concrete with a sickeningly loud crash. Laurence howled with laughter, even as blood dripped down his cheek. He’d skinned his face sliding across the ground, but he didn’t fucking care.
Greg couldn’t breathe, but his mate’s laughter was too fucking infectious for it to matter. He grinned from ear to bloody ear while he wheezed, completely thrilled by the agony of his lungs struggling to reinflate with Laurence slumped across his chest.
He dug his fingers into Laurence’s side, and the young punk rocker slowly pushed himself up. He was still smiling -- even after nearly breaking a wrist, he was still fucking smiling. Some days it seemed like he never stopped. He just went from one bruise to the next with a wicked, rebellious grin plastered across his scraped and battered face.
Greg loved it. He genuinely loved it.
But without air, he couldn’t say it, or anything like it. He couldn’t give his practised speech or even try to explain himself. He couldn’t even sit up just yet. He had to suffer the sweet misery of that face looking down at him and do nothing.
He offered his best, only-slightly-crooked smile back, and Laurence laughed.
Greg raised his hand slowly and ghosted his fingers over the scrape running down the side of Laurence’s face.
“Is it nice?” he asked, turning his head to the side.
It was perfect -- all bloody and scabbing over. Greg nodded. And eventually, he found enough air in his lungs to rasp out a quiet: “Brutal,” -- to Laurence’s delight.
“Hey,” he added, as his voice steadily returned. “I wanna talk to you about something.”
Greg tucked a strand of hair behind Laurence’s ear, to keep it away from his cut. He’d completely forgotten his speech, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. It was just the two of them, a back alley, and a punk dream -- and it felt so right.
“I fancy you,” Greg admitted softly.
And the man who always smiled quite suddenly stopped.
Greg’s sweet, brown eyes widened. “I just thought-- I needed you to know.”
Laurence cut him off by sitting up quickly. “What are you saying?”
Greg didn’t move. All those butterflies came swarming back, and he felt the bile rising in his throat. “Thought that was pretty obvious,” he mumbled, watching his mate. “Look, if you don’t--”
“Greg, I’m not gay.”
Everything went numb all at once -- the throbbing pain in his head where he’d slammed into the concrete, the cut on his right ear, his aching lungs. Even his rolling stomach seemed mild. His mind no longer felt connected to his body.
“That’s--... but we’ve-- you’ve kissed me,” he corrected. “Fuck, we’ve done a lot bloody more than that.”
Laurence looked up sharply, scanning the alley. “Look, mate. I donno what you thought that was--” he glanced down again, but pushed himself to his feet, “--but I’m not gay. I’m just generous.”
And he kept staring, even as Laurence offered him a curt apology, and slipped out of the alley.
He didn’t move for quite a long time after that.