OK, the minute the marriage equality bill passed I knew I had to write this fic. ^_^ Claude and Berger on the night that New York makes history and becomes the sixth state to embrace same-sex marriage doing what they do best. ;D Hell. Yeah. ^_^
Title: Equality Now!
Fandom: Hair, a Broadway musical (Revival)
Rating: NC-17 - I know, I know, it just keeps happening! And dude I promised them fluffy sex, didn't I? Yeah. I don't know either. :-P
Word Count: 6,992 - and now I want to write 8 more. O_o;;;
Warnings: Slash, NC-17
Disclaimer: Neither the musical nor the boys belong to me, if they did, the boys would be making out on sta- huh. Look at that. They do. ^_~ ((Hair was written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado with music by Galt MacDermot.))
Summary: Claude and Berger have waited over forty years to be able to say those two magical words that change nothing, but at the same time... change everything: 'I do.' Now, they finally have their chance.
June 28, 2011: Timeline check. This fic is set within the broader universe of the Where Do I Go?-verse canon. It takes place on June 24, 2011. There are mention of characters from that timeline, but you don't have to be familiar with that ficverse to understand this story as I mostly wrote it to be a stand alone. If you haven't read that universe, all you need to know is that Cloud is Jeanie's son and Georgie and Kelly are other kids from that generation connected to the Tribe. ^_^
Enjoy? And please remember... comments and reviews are love!
"Wait, what? Cloud, I can't... I can't even... Hello? Damn it, Cloud, where the hell are you? It's so fucking loud wherever it is that I can't hear you!" Claude cursed quietly as he pressed the phone closer to his ear in an attempt to make out what Jeanie's son was saying.
Berger chuckled quietly from the living room and shook his head, got up to grab another beer from the refrigerator. On the way back into the living room, he paused to move Claude's hair and press a gentle kiss to the side of his neck, "Relax. I'm sure wherever he is, he's out having fun."
Claude frowned at him, waved Berger away as he turned back to trying to hear what Cloud was yelling into the phone. After another minute, his eyes brightened in understanding, then immediately narrowed, "You're at the Stonewall? Cloud, are you sure that's safe?"
Berger laughed outright at that, nearly snorted beer out his nose, too, if the follow-up choking sounds were any indication. Once he was back under control, he smirked in Claude's direction and said, just loudly enough to be picked up by the phone's speaker, "Jesus fucking Christ, Claudio, when did you turn into your mother?"
At that comment, Cloud laughed and Claude lifted an arm to elbow Berger in the ribs. After another minute of screaming back and forth at each other through the phone, Claude's face finally relaxed and he shrugged, "All right, all right. If you've got Zack with you, I guess you're safe enough wherever you are. Worst case, he's bigger than you if things get ugly." He paused then as Cloud answered him and whatever the boy said made him smile, "Yeah. You, too. Be careful, kiddo."
Once he hung up, Claude turned around and buried himself into Berger's waiting embrace, let out a groan of pent-up frustration. Berger kissed the top of his head, held him close. A little while later, Claude lifted his face so he could meet Berger's eyes, "I just wish they'd get to it already. Enough is enough, you know?"
Berger planted a soft kiss on Claude's lips and let him go, "I know, love. We've been waiting a long damned time for this and I'm right there with you. The suspense is fuckin' killin' me."
At a soft ding from Claude's laptop, both men turned towards the living room. Claude drew in a deep breath, "Well, I guess this is it."
Berger swallowed hard, grabbed Claude's hand in his and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. When he answered, his voice was rough, "Yeah. This is it. We should... we should probably go back and watch, huh?"
They stood and stared at each other for a minute and finally Claude husked out, "I don't think I can." At Berger's startled look, he said, "I really don't think I can. I've read all the reports, seen all the newscasts, been following anyone who's anyone in this thing on Twitter and Facebook and... I know this should go our way." He swallowed hard and ducked his gaze, "But it should have gone our way two years ago, Berger... and it didn't. I can't... I don't know if I can take getting my hopes dashed like that a second time."
Berger sighed, put his beer down on the counter and pulled Claude back into his arms, "So that's why you didn't want to go to Georgie and Kelly's with everyone else. You think we're going to lose?"
Claude's breath hitched as he tightened his arms around Berger, "Yes. No. I don't know. Berger, I just don't know." He let out a small moan, "I'm too old for this."
Berger laughed, tilted Claude's face upwards so he could lightly kiss the other man's lips, "Nonsense. We're never too old for this. Never. You know what? Enough of this. Come on." With that cryptic statement, Berger grabbed Claude's hand and dragged him out of the apartment and towards the elevator.
Claude pulled back, uncertainty scrawled across his face, "Berger, I don't really want to go out tonight. I told you-"
Berger shushed him with a brief kiss, smirked at his long-time lover, "I know. Trust me, Claudio. You'll like this."
Claude's answer to that was a groan, "Whenever you say that, it gets me into trouble. Always. Without fail." When Berger moved to protest, Claude merely said three words, "Bethesda. Fountain. November."
Berger snorted out a laugh at that, kissed Claude again, "Love, that was like... forty-five years ago! Get over it."
Claude finally relaxed, let Berger pull him into the elevator, "All right, Banana-Berger. I'm yours. Do with me what you will."
Berger just smirked softly at him, pulled Claude in for another kiss. When their lips met, it was soft, it was gentle... it was a little heartbreaking. Berger eventually let Claude's lips go, nuzzled into the soft skin at the juncture of the other man's neck and shoulder. When Claude let out a soft sigh, lifted a hand to cradle Berger's head against him, Berger smiled, "Oh, don't you worry, Claudio... I intend to."
When the elevator stopped they reluctantly broke apart. Claude looked around when they stepped out, uncertain of where they were. Berger just smiled, tugged him over to a door marked 'Exit.' Claude frowned, "Berger... where are you taking me?"
Berger just smiled, held a finger up to Claude's lips, "Uh-uh-uh. No questions. Just trust me." With Claude's reluctant acquiescence, he let go of him to go jimmy the door. When Claude moved to protest, Berger just held up a finger and shook it back and forth, "Nope. No questions. Just trust me."
Claude rolled his eyes, but let Berger finish his work on the door. Once he got it open, he pulled Claude through... and into a scene straight out of a romance novel. They were on the roof of the building, the sparkling lights of the city shining around them. Berger had hauled the air mattress - usually intended for guests - up to the roof and covered it in soft pillows and blankets... and there were what seemed like a hundred candles, burning merrily arrayed around it and the rest of the roof. Lazy spirals of smoky incense joined the flames, sending the occasional sweet smelling waft of air their way.
Berger bounced on his toes, a broad grin on his face at the dumbfounded look on Claude's. He leaned in, touched his forehead to Claude's shoulder, "I was saving this for after... you know, but I think... maybe you're right. I don't want to sit cooped up in the apartment and watch this on television or on your laptop. I'd rather be out here with you, just you, under the stars... and let the cheering crowds below us let us know when this thing passes." He wrapped a hand around the back of Claude's neck and gave him a firm shake as he said, "Because it will, Claudio. It will."
Claude met Berger's green, green eyes for an endless moment, finally smiled and melted against him, "OK, Sexy-Berger. You're right... and this is beautiful."
They settled in on the air mattress, Claude resting his head on Berger's shoulder, and stared up at the stars. For just a minute, Claude was transported back to a time when they used to do this all the time... just lay out in the park on warm, summer nights and stare up at the stars dreaming of some far off future when they could have everything they wanted, when they could be everything they wanted. They'd been different people then. Children. They didn't know enough to realize that their hopes and dreams might be as unreachable as those stars at which they stared. They just knew they had to reach for them. They couldn't have done anything else and still remained true to themselves.
And now, forty-five years later, here they were, staring up at those same stars, reaching for dreams that seemed just as distant. But Claude wanted this. He wanted this more than anything he'd ever wanted in his entire life. He wanted to stand up in front of the world and proudly proclaim the man next to him to be his husband. He wanted to stand up and shout from the rooftops that Berger belonged to Claude... and that he belonged to Berger. He wanted that security, that safety... that sense of belonging that only the word "marriage" implied. It was so very different from what he'd wanted when he was nineteen... but at the same time, it wasn't so very different at all. What he'd wanted then, what he'd always wanted... was to be loved, to have a family, to belong.
Berger pulled Claude in, pressed a soft kiss to his temple. Claude smiled, snuggled closer. There was a chill in the air left over from the rainstorms of earlier in the day, but laying here amidst the candle light, wrapped up in Berger, Claude couldn't have been more warm. This. Just this. This was all he wanted, right here in his arms, for the rest of his life.
Berger's voice rumbled quietly in his ear, "Penny for your thoughts, Claudio?"
Claude laughed, "With inflation, I'd think they're worth at least a dollar by now."
A snort, "Do you know how much of a pain in the ass you are sometimes?"
Claude picked his head up from Berger's shoulder and smirked down at the other man, "But you always say you like it when I'm a pain in your ass."
Berger stared up at him for a moment in disbelief, then with a surge of laughter, quickly rolled them so that he was settled on top of Claude, "I won't deny that the thought had crossed my mind when I brought you up here... but I was more planning to be a pain in yours, if you take my drift."
Claude lifted his hands to cup Berger's face, pulled him down for a kiss. Lips slid over lips and tongues darted out in light flickers just to taste, to flirt, to test... Claude marveled at it, at the slow, almost hesitant way they approached this. They hadn't been this tentative, this slow or gentle with each other in years. But tonight... tonight felt different. There was such import to the occasion that it turned the simplest kiss into something more. Claude wanted to draw it out, spread the moment out like a blanket to wrap around them, wanted to do whatever he could to make this one perfect moment last. He didn't want it to end. He just wanted to lay here, Berger's weight warm on top of him, Berger's tongue doing a slow, intricate dance with his... this was all he wanted. Forever.
And for this one stretched out moment... it looked like he was going to get his wish. Leering comments notwithstanding, neither Claude nor Berger seemed inclined to move this intimacy on to the next step. Both were content to just lie there, exchanging deep, leisurely kisses as though they had all the time in the world for them.
Eventually they parted, Claude to rest his head back on Berger's shoulder and start lazily tracing circles around the other man's chest. Berger huffed out a small laugh and just held him closer, pressed a brief kiss to the top of Claude's head, "Penny for your thoughts, Claudio?"
Claude laughed, shook his head, "Are you sure you want to start that, again?"
Berger smiled against Claude's hair, caught that wandering hand in his and raised it up to kiss the knuckles, "No. No, I don't. I just want to lay here and hold you. Is that... Claude, is that stupid? G-d, it makes me sound so old." He then made a disgusted face, "Time was we'd have already done the deed in the time it just took us to talk about it."
Claude smiled, leaned up to place a gentle kiss at the corner of Berger's lips. He said, "It's not stupid, Berger. We grew up. We grew older. We're not teenagers anymore and that changes things. It has to. And it's a good thing."
Berger shook his head, "Hard to believe, man. If you'd asked me when I first met you if I'd ever be content to just lay around and... well... cuddle you without pressing for something more... let's just say I'd have asked you what you were smoking then hounded you until you shared."
Claude just looked up at him, raised a hand back up to cup Berger's face and said low and intense, "Kiss me."
As Berger tilted his head to do just that, Claude relaxed back into the air mattress, tugged at the other man until Berger's weight was once again resting warm on top of him, their legs intertwined. He couldn't have put it into words, but this was how he wanted to remember this moment, just he and Berger, entwined together, kissing under the stars. Because this was all that was important... this right here. This was why they'd fought so long and so hard to make this happen. Just this.
Claude had no idea how much time had passed, nor did he care, but after about a thousand of those breathtaking kisses, after he was sure his heart had stopped from sheer happiness at least twice, after he'd decided that he never wanted to leave this rooftop again... a gentle swell of noise finally broke through his concentration. For what seemed like the first time ever, he parted his lips from Berger's. He couldnt even speak the words. It was Berger who finally articulated his thoughts for him, "Is that... Claudio, do you hear...?"
Claude nodded, still unable to put his thoughts into coherent words. He could get his cell phone, pull up the Senate session on it, the news, Twitter - hell if the vote had happened it would be splashed all over the internet by now - he could call Cloud or Jeanie or any one of a number of other people, but he just... couldnt. It was irrational, but he was afraid. Right here, in this isolated moment, things were perfect. He didn't want that bubble of perfect happiness to burst, didn't want his hopes dashed yet again. In the privacy of his own thoughts, he worried that he wouldn't survive it, wouldn't be strong enough to fight the next fight.
Thank G-d for Berger. Like always, he sensed when emotion had tangled Claude up so tightly that he couldn't think straight. He pressed a gentle kiss to Claude's brow and pulled out his own cell phone. The action alone made Claude smile, relax a fraction from the tightly wound coil he was in. Berger had never embraced technology, not the way Claude had, and it had been a struggle of epic proportions to even get the other man to acquire a cell phone, much less agree to carry it. He'd owned the same one for at least the last ten years, griped at Claude every time the other man suggested upgrading it to something newer, insisted that it worked just fine and it did what it was supposed to do - called people - and Berger didn't see why a phone needed to do anything else. It was adorable, and if pressed, Claude might have admitted that he continued to bring it up because watching Berger get flushed and defensive about his attachment to that old dinosaur of a phone was just... well, it was too cute for words.
Berger was deliberately ignoring the smirking grin on Claude's face as he shifted to the side so he could lift a hand to dial the phone. He held the phone up to his ear and ignored Claude's attempts to ask who he'd called. Berger frowned for a moment, most likely at the continued ringing, then smiled brightly as whoever was on the other end of the line picked up, "Jeanie! Just the person I needed- " His eyebrows then climbed up into his hairline as he held the phone away from his ear. At Claude's confused look, Berger shrugged, "I just heard her squeal, 'Oh My G-d!' before it degenerated into incoherent screaming."
Claude snorted out a laugh, pushed himself up on his elbows, "Well, that sounds like it's probably good news..."
Berger snickered quietly in response, "Yeah, but not entirely informative. Maybe I should have called Sheila..." Suddenly there was an abrupt cessation of noise from the phone and Berger put it back to his ear, said, "Hello?"
And from the immediate wince and the way Berger pulled the phone back away from his ear, Claude concluded that there was more screaming going on. This screaming was pitched a little higher, though... ah. It was probably Crissy who'd gotten on the phone to squeal, then. Berger rolled his eyes, waited for the screaming to stop again before putting the phone back to his ear and repeating, "Hello?"
Berger braced himself to pull the phone back away again if he was passed to someone else who wanted to scream in his ear, but this time it was a deep male voice that just said, "It's about damned time, man, don't you think? Congratulations."
Berger let out a sigh of relief, "Hud?" When the other man answered in the affirmative, Berger grinned wildly, "Groovy. So... I take it the bill passed?"
There was a moment of dead silence on the other end of the phone, then Berger was forced to pull the phone away from his ear again as Hud's voice boomed out to include everyone in the room around him in the conversation, "Hold up, man! How do you not know if it passed? What the hell were you two doing that you missed the vote tally? Jesus Christ, don't you two ever quit?"
Even Claude could hear that loud and clear - benefit of those old phones - and he and Berger both blushed at the resultant raucous laughter they could clearly hear from the other end of the phone. Berger put the phone back to his ear and said in an accusatory tone, "You've got us on speaker, don't you, you asshole?"
Hud's easy laughter was all the answer they needed. Several voices all started talking at once then and Berger couldn't make out a word they were saying. There was what sounded like a scramble to gain possession of Jeanie's phone then and the next voice was no longer accompanied by speaker echo when it spoke. When Berger identified that voice, he flopped back on the mattress in relief, "Wooooooooof... man, you've gotta give me a straight answer. Did this thing pass or not?"
Woof's calm voice then told him exactly what he needed to hear, "It passed, George. 33 to 29. Saland and Grisanti were the last two votes. Cuomo's on his way over to the Senate chamber right now and he plans to have it signed into law before midnight." He spoke his next words with a clear smirk in his voice, "So... should we all be putting July 24th on our calendars? If you don't claim it soon, you may need to fight Georgie and Kelly for it..."
Berger laughed at that, a beaming smile on his face as he pulled Claude down on top of him and tried his damndest to kiss him breathless. The phone tumbled from his hand onto the roof and he took the opportunity of having both hands suddenly free to slide them down and pull Claude's shirt roughly out of the waistband of his jeans, then slide them underneath to press against warm skin. Claude laughed too, eyes bright with a shine of tears that matched the shine in Berger's own - a shine that neither man was eager to acknowledge. Both dimly heard it as Woof said loud and clear, "Oh for goodness' sake, you guys couldn't even wait long enough to hang up before you started again? Typical. Just... typical," then hung up on his end.
They moved fast and furious from there, all thoughts of slow, stretched out, perfect moments gone. Berger grabbed the two sides of Claude's shirt and pulled. Claude stared down at him out of wide eyes as buttons flew every which way.
Berger just smirked, "Hey, I may be old, but no one ever said I was weak." He then pulled Claude back towards him, rolled them over so he could more easily attack the other man's chest and abdomen with lips, hands and tongue. Claude gasped, buried his hands in Berger's hair and arched up into every sensation, mentally and physically overwhelmed and just grateful that this was something he didn't have to think about, was something he could just feel. Because he was feeling, too many things, too intensely, all at once... and he was no longer even sure which way was up. All he knew, all he cared to know, was Berger... his partner, his lover, his beloved - G-d, soon to be his husband - and he couldn't get enough of the other man, needed more and needed it now.
Berger got their jeans unzipped, pushed cloth out of the way until he could take them both in his hand. Claude let out a small whimper, made as if to get his own hand down there to assist, then finally gave up and used that hand to pull Berger's face back down for another kiss. They were both too worked up, too wrapped up in the emotion of the moment to even consider pulling back and slowing down. There would be time for that... there would be eternity for that. 'Til death do us part... and not even then.
Berger worked them both, hard, tight, almost too quickly, but Claude was right there in the moment with him, pulled away from the temptation of the other man's mouth only to bite lightly at the column of Berger's neck. He sucked hard at Berger's collarbone, finally clamped his teeth into Berger's shoulder to bury the scream as his orgasm rolled through him, taking Berger over the edge with him when he went.
They laid there, panting, only slowly coming down off the rush of that intense coupling. Berger made as if to move to the side, but Claude held him where he was, didn't want to lose the warmth of that living blanket as the night started to turn chill around them, didn't want to lose the feeling of being surrounded and protected by Berger's mere presence. Berger smiled, gently kissed him as he pulled just far enough away to readjust their clothes and grab a blanket from the foot of the air mattress. Claude chuckled softly at that, murmured, "Thought of everything, didn't you?"
Berger settled back in against him, one leg thrown over one of Claude's, body resting half on top of him, head pillowed on the other man's chest and returning the favor of the lazy circles Claude had been drawing on him earlier in the night. He smirked, pressed a kiss to the exposed flesh beneath his lips, "I do what I can, man."
It wasn't long before Claude's breathing evened out underneath him as the other man slipped off into the first truly restful sleep he'd had all week. Berger just wrapped his arms tighter around him, firmly told the lump in his throat that crying about something because you were happy was just dumb, and let himself drift off to sleep, too.
Claude jerked, startled awake by a sound that most certainly didn't belong. Staring up at the stars with Berger's weight warm at his side, for just a moment... he forgot where he was, forgot when he was. They could have been anywhere, any when... Central Park, Washington Square Park... any number of places the Tribe had spent nights in the open, curled around each other like puppies. It could have been 1967... but it wasn't. A small shift on his part told Claude that he wasn't lying in grass, but on an air mattress, and a quick glance around revealed the smoking remains of candle after candle after candle that had illuminated the darkness for them, then gone out. A dozen of them were still burning, protected from the night winds by the glass cylinders surrounding them. Claude used their light to find his phone - the source of the odd noise - and look at the e-mail he had just received.
It was from Cloud and read like this:
"Little birdie by the name of Uncle Woof told me you guys were a little... ~coughs~ ...distracted over there and I knew you wouldn't want to miss this. From Twitter:
GannettAlbany by CapitalTonight
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed #samesexmarriage bill at 11:55 p.m.
Uncle Claude... we did it. :'D
In 30 days we can legally get married. And after all this time, one of you damned well better name me ring-bearer. I've always wanted to be a ring-bearer.
And G-d help him, Claude read that e-mail twice... three times... four... even after he'd read it for the tenth time, he still didn't quite believe it. By the time he'd read it for the fifteenth time, there were tears running down his cheeks. By the twentieth time, he couldn't take it anymore, dropped the phone next to him on the mattress, buried his face against Berger's side and started to sob.
Naturally, that woke up Berger. After a minute, he realized that Claude was too overwhelmed to tell him anything, started searching around to find the other man's cell phone to see if there was some kind of clue to be found there. When he did and read the instigating e-mail, he too let out a small hiccuping sob and crushed Claude to him so tightly he was sure he would leave bruises. He didn't care.
When Claude finally calmed down, Berger tilted his face upwards and placed a gentle, butterfly soft kiss on his lips. He then pulled away, sat up on the mattress and pulled Claude with him. Claude looked at him out of eyes that were so overwhelmed that Berger hesitated to add one more thing to the list, but he couldn't help it. He had to do this and he had to do it now. He slid off the edge of the mattress, reached into his back pocket.
At that move, Claude's eyes widened and his breath hitched. He clutched at Berger's arm with an almost desperation in his eyes and grip, like he wanted to stop what was about to happen... and at the same time couldn't get it to happen quickly enough. Berger smirked, gently pulled his other arm from Claude's grip and settled back on the rooftop on one knee amidst the remaining candlelight. Claude drew in a shaking breath, rubbed his hands vigorously over his face, then nodded at Berger to go ahead.
Berger smiled, a soft, knowing smile, as he held up the ring box, pulled open the top to reveal two matching silver rings. After giving Claude another minute to absorb the sight, Berger pulled one of the rings out and held it up, "Claude... I think I've been in love with you from the first moment I laid eyes on you, lost and terrified in the middle of Central Park. I think it was the first time I really understood what love was. Sometimes it feels like I've loved you all my life... all the best parts of it, anyway."
Berger paused then, struggled to put into words what he'd wanted to say for over forty years. Claude slid off the mattress to kneel in front of him and wrapped a hand around Berger's neck. He leaned forward, kissed Berger's lips and offered him a beaming smile. He then took the other ring from the box and filled in the silence with his own words, "Berger, almost 26 years ago, you told me that if you could have married me that day you would have... and that someday you would. Well..." He smiled softly, held up the ring, "Someday is today, Sexy-Berger." Eyes shining, he asked, "Will you marry me?"
Berger's breath caught in his throat and his eyes shone with a fresh set of tears that he refused to let fall. Instead, he crushed Claude to him, covered the other man's lips with his own and kissed him like he didn't intended to ever let him go. Eventually though, he did pull back just long enough to say, "Oh, hell yes." He even managed a watered down smirk and some waggled eyebrows, let his voice drift up into a high falsetto complete with Southern Bell accent as he added, "Why, Claude Hooper Bukowski, I thought you'd never ask!"
They slid the rings onto each other's fingers, took in another deep breath and both let it out on shaky laughs. To cover his sudden embarrassment, Claude started looking around for his cell phone, winced as he shifted position, "Oh... wow. That hurts." With another wince, he slowly shifted to sit back on the air mattress, rubbed at his knees, "That was definitely easier forty years ago."
Looking up to meet Claude's eyes with a sudden smile, Berger pointed out, "But at least we're not in diapers and wheelchairs, right?" With a similar wince, Berger shifted himself back onto the air mattress, then jumped and let out a yipe as the spot underneath him suddenly vibrated. As Claude laughed at the look on his face, Berger held up the offending device and said dryly, "Found your cell phone, dear."
Claude took the phone and leaned over to give Berger a peck on the cheek, "Thanks. You're the best, hon." All humor fled from his face, however, when he saw the missed call that had been the reason for the vibration.
Berger leaned over, wrapped his arms around Claude's waist and hooked his chin over the other man's shoulder to look down at the screen. Claude swallowed hard, said, "That's my mother's house line. She... she doesn't call me from the house line. She only ever calls from her cell phone."
Unspoken was the reason why - so that Claude's father wouldn't accidentally, or purposefully, listen in on any of their conversations. It was a long-standing issue, this cold war between Claude and his father, but Berger stayed well the hell out of it. Claude had tried numerous times, had even flown out to Kansas to speak to the man personally, the last time only a few years before, but he'd never managed to reconcile with the older man. There was too much history between them, too many words spoken in anger that couldn't be unsaid.
Claude stared down at the phone like it had grown fangs and bitten him, cursed when he realized that there was no message left to give him a clue... then further realized that that in itself was clue enough, "What if... Berger, what if it wasn't my mother who called?"
Berger let out a breath, pressed a kiss to the side of Claude's neck before answering, "What if it wasn't? Maybe he's calling to try to fix things. Maybe he heard about the vote."
Claude let out a bitter laugh, "Yes. That's it. He heard about the vote and wants to tell me in person that I and all the perverted deviants like me are going to be the ruin of this country. Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to cap the evening?" He put his phone down and shook his head, "I'm not calling."
Berger made a disgusted noise and picked up the phone, pulled up the phone number and hit the call button for him before Claude had a chance to even raise a protest. There was a brief scramble for the phone which ended with Claude sprawled on top of Berger on the mattress and both breathing a bit hard, but Berger held onto it until it had rung enough times that Claude's innate sense of responsibility would keep him from hanging up before he could leave a message or explain why he'd called so late. On the last ring, Berger handed it over.
Claude took the phone from him, heart in his throat and almost choking off his voice as a gruff voice on the other end said, "Yes? Hello? Who is this?"
Claude swallowed hard, pushed himself upright and only barely got out, "It's... Father, it's... it's Claude. I..." He swallowed again, finally got some moisture into his throat and said softly, "I don't want to disturb you, sir, but I saw that you called...?" Claude let his voice trail off.
There was silence on the other end for so long that Claude thought for sure that the other man had walked away from the phone in disgust. Just as he was about to say "Hello?" again, that gruff voice sounded once more, "Well." The older man cleared his throat, "I was... Well." He fell silent. Again, though, before Claude could prompt him, he started speaking, "Your mother is over at a friend's house, some church group supporting... something or another. She left the computer on, though, left it on a specific page. She didn't tell me why, but I knew. I wasn't going to watch. That's... that's her thing. Being involved in all this social change. I'm... I'm too old for that, son. Too old to change."
Claude closed his eyes, resolutely ignored the tear that slipped free at the sound of his father calling him "son" for the first time in over thirty years. He said softly, "Father... you're never too old to change. Not if you really want to."
"That's as may be, but it doesn't come easy," his father said in response.
Claude nodded, clutching that phone to his ear like a lifeline, "No, no it doesn't."
There was another pause as both men struggled to find a way to bridge this yawning chasm that had formed between them without Claude's mother to help them do it. Finally, Claude's father said, "You... you still with that boy? The one with the strange name? Frankfurter or something?"
It took everything in him for Claude not to laugh at that awkwardly casual question. Oh, how Berger would laugh when he relayed it to him. He wouldn't balk at that oblique comparison to Rocky Horror's famous personage... no, not in the least. After all, in his own way, he'd been the original Frank 'n' Furter, no shame, no boundaries... don't dream it, be it. Instead, Claude got his amusement well under control before he answered. He said, "Berger. George Berger. And... yes. We..." He hesitated before continuing, some part of him disappointed that his father was the first person with whom he would now share this news... and some part of him overjoyed beyond belief. He said, "We actually just now got engaged."
There was another silence on the other end of the line. Berger pulled him closer, arms tight around his middle as he buried his face in Claude's back. Claude ignored him, so intent was he on listening for the first hint of sound from the phone pressed to his ear. When his father finally cleared his throat again, Claude wasn't ready, jumped a little. When that gruff voice came back, it was hesitant... almost uncertain. And what it said rocked Claude's entire world.
"The law said the gays can start getting married out there in a month. I, uh... I guess you'll want your mother and I to come in for that, won't you?"
Claude pressed a fist to his mouth, unsure whether he wanted to burst into tears or hysterical laughter, but equally certain that he didn't want his father to hear it, either way. He got his voice back under control as quickly as he could, said in a more broken voice than he liked, "I would like that, Father. I'd like that very much."
Another round of throat clearing, "Well, once you've set a date, you be sure to tell your mother. She does all our travel arrangements these days."
Claude got his next answer out in a choked whisper, "I will. I... I'll call her right away."
"Good. That's good, son. Well," Claude's father cleared his throat again, finally said, "Well, that's all I had to say. Good night."
Claude lurched to his feet before his father hung up and said, "Wait!" He took a deep breath, said, "Father... thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me. I... I love you. I never wanted to disappoint you. I... I wanted to be a son you could be proud of. I'm so sorry that I... that I wasn't."
There was another deep silence from the other end of the phone and just when Claude was sure that his father would hang up on him rather than answer that outpouring of emotion, he heard a heavy sigh. His father said, "Claude... son..." He trailed off for a moment before saying, "I think I'm too old to keep having this fight over and over again. I'm ready to be done with it. I want peace between us sometime before I die." He said, "I haven't always understood you, haven't always agreed with your choices, that's certainly true. I've been angry with you, especially when you showed how much of your mother's stubbornness you inherited... how much of mine you'd inherited, too, but, Claude... you've never been a disappointment. I am proud of you. Hell, I'm even proud of the way you stood up to me all those times over the years." There was another pause then he said, "And I know I never said it much when you were growing up, never had it said to me much, so I guess I didn't see the need... but I've always loved you, son. Always."
At that, Claude did start crying, steady soundless streams of tears running from his eyes as he clutched the phone even tighter. Finally, he said, "Thank you. Father... thank you. I... I can't wait to see you."
Claude could almost hear the smile on the other end of the line, almost feel the gentle pat that his father would have given him on the shoulder if he were standing there with him, "Me, too, son. We've a lot of catching up to do, you and I. Now, call your mother. You know how upset she'll be if you don't."
With a watery chuckle, Claude said, "Yes, Father. I know. Right now. Good night."
Once his father had said the same and they'd hung up, Claude stood there, staring down at the phone with a dazed, far-off look in his eyes. After several minutes, Berger got up from the air mattress, walked over and pulled the other man into an embrace, planted a kiss on his nose, "Well, that sure as Hell sounded like a conversation I'd have liked to hear. You couldn't have put it on speaker phone?"
With that, Claude threw his arms around Berger's neck, started frantically planting kisses on whatever part of Berger's skin was in reach at that moment. Berger laughed, finally caught Claude's chin in his fingers and got them lined up correctly, lips sealed together and tongues entwined. Claude kept laughing into the kiss, kept pausing to pull back and wipe tears from his eyes. When he finally pulled back to run the back of his hand frantically over his nose, Berger made a face, "Oh, come on, Claudio, that's just disgusting." He then pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and held it up to Claude's nose, instructed, "Blow."
Claude made a face and yanked the square of cloth out of Berger's hand to make use of it. Once he'd calmed down, Berger smiled at him, "So, you ready to call your mother?" At Claude's enthusiastic nod, Berger smirked and said, "This time you damned well better put it on speaker. I like your mother and I want to be in on this one. Besides... if we're not careful, she'll fly out here and move in with us for the next month while she plans the perfect wedding, and Claudio... I may love you, but I am not letting your mother plan our wedding, because I am not wearing a wedding dress."
Claude stared at him for a full minute, then they let out small chuckles, which turned into louder guffaws, then finally a good round of very hearty laughter. Euphoric with that small release, Claude reached for Berger again, pulled him in for a kiss. As he started pushing them back towards the mattress, Berger started working on the closures of their jeans, determined to at least get them both fully unclothed this time. As he pulled Claude down onto the mattress with him, he smirked up at the older man, "On second thought... calling your mother can wait... I want you to myself for at least a little while... my soon-to-be-husband."
Claude leaned over him, grey-streaked hair falling in a curtain around their faces as he dropped soft, gentle kisses onto Berger's lips, "Well, soon-to-be-husband... I think that can be arranged." And with eyes soft and shining, Claude said, "As I told you earlier, I'm yours, Sexy-Berger... do with me what you will."
And if Claude's mother was forced to call them the next morning because Claude never got back around to calling her that night, and if she then felt justified in haranguing them for not calling the night before, if they had to endure merciless rounds of teasing from all of their friends as well as their nieces and nephews for getting so distracted that they missed the voting tally entirely... well, they would both have said that it was worth it. In fact... they wouldn't have had it any other way.
R-chan: See? I told you I'd write you fluffy sex.
Older Claude: *smirks* *settles back against the wall* So you did. I most definitely approve. Thanks.
Younger Claude: *gapes* No. Nonono. You promised you'd write me fluffy sex. What the hell, man? I have to wait 45 more years to get fluffy sex? What the hell is up with that?
Older Claude: *twitch* *points finger at Older Berger* Don't even say it.
Older Berger: Say what? *innocent grin* I didn't say anything.
Older Claude: You were thinking it.
Older Berger: What?
Older Claude: That I'm a brat. I know I was. I've gotten over it. So, shut up.
Older Berger: Hey, man, you're the one who said it, not me.
Younger Berger: *stares at the two arguing older men and lets out a cheer of monumental proportions, then grabs his Claude and starts swinging him around*
Younger Claude: The hell, man?
Younger Berger: You live to be in your sixties! That means you come back to me! :D :D :D :D
Older Claude: *rae*
Older Berger: *snickers quietly* OK, so you weren't the only one.
Questions, comments, passionfruit?