Oh, The Places You'll Go

Just for Practice

Notes: Fic entirely inspired by the excellent Seeing Other People by Belle and Sebastian. (I promise there is no lyrics quoting in sight. Would I do that to you?) Insightful and excellent beta from belmanoir - all remaining mistakes are, clearly, mine


Ray was a pretty boy; he'd given up denying it. When he looked in the mirror he saw a kid in need of a growth spurt with delicate features, clear skin, sharp blue eyes and red-gold hair that curled at his collar. His nose was straight, his dimples curved and he had a killer smile. Leastways, that's what his mom said. Father Dermot put it another way and was still screaming about cock-sucking when Ray left him on the floor, clutching his balls and his rosary.

The other kids, the ones who'd called Ray faggot and queer and 'Santa Maria full of jizz', seemed to take this incident as some kind of weird statement of solidarity. Like, if Ray could take out one of the most hated priests at the school despite being a fucking little fairy, then maybe he wasn't so bad. And maybe, if he wasn't so bad they'd let him hang out more. And then there was this freaky chain of events that steamed straight past hanging out to becoming the confidant to half the hardest boys in the school about their girl-troubles and then, by way of still not growing, and being, you know, still gay and pretty, to being some kind of substitute for the real thing. Ray figured since high school was all some fucked-up popularity contest, he might as well take his fifteen minutes. It would be back to hiding in the gym closet soon enough.

What all this meant was this; every Friday Ray's mom baked fresh chocolate chip cookies for all his 'friends' who would come over and play on his Atari before one by one climbing onto the bed with Ray. (Not that his mom knew anything about the bed part, like, he wanted her to be a burden to him in her old age, he wasn't looking to kill her or anything.) They'd lie there, facing each other, and make out. It wasn't actually called The Kissing Club because that way lay black eyes and finding out what eunuch really meant, but that's what it was in Ray's head.

It was practice, right? That's what they said. Getting it right on Ray before they tried it out on girls. They didn't all kiss him kiss him, Ray would've had to have incapacitated more than one pedo Jesuit before some of them would risk gay cooties, but they let him stick a hand over their mouth and they kissed that instead. It was hard to be objective without lip-on-lip interaction, but Ray gave the best advice he knew how. It was one way to keep them coming back. At least, to keep one of them coming back.

Vecchio was the life-blood of the school: Italian-American Catholic. He had an obsession with ricotta manicotti, more limbs than he knew what to do with, dark hair cut real short like he was in the army or something, and these big green eyes that never closed. Not when he was kissing Ray, not when he was on lookout at the window, not when he watched the others clambering on and off Ray's rickety wooden bed. He was loudly, vehemently, for sure-certain-definite Not Gay. And Ray wanted him more than he'd ever wanted anything.

Every Friday the faces would change. Some boys only wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Some of them got girlfriends and just came back for the occasional refresher, like when to move to full-blown tongue action and how to do it without impersonating a washing machine. Some of them had games or band or the church choir or whatever and came and went as the seasons ebbed and flowed. Vecchio, though, was there every week.

Self-appointed lookout, he was there first and left last, just the blips and bleeps of space invaders marching across the tiny TV screen to keep the two of them company. They'd kiss a little – Vecchio was a proponent of the hand-over-mouth technique – and then lie there together, side-by-side and Ray would say yes, Vecchio was using his lips better, and maybe he wanted to think about where his hands were going to go, and girls liked it when you touched their hair. And then they'd talk about other stuff like how Vecchio was going to buy his mom a mansion one day and he'd live there too, with his model wife and three beautiful kids, and how Ray was gonna be a rock star if he could only get this buttfuck F chord figured. By the time Vecchio was very carefully not-explaining what a stupid-ass punk his pop was, Ray's head would be nestled on Vecchio's shoulder and Vecchio would be twisting Ray's hair around his fingers, letting his thumb rub across the curve of Ray's ear.

They weren't dating, though.

It was just practice. They were seeing other people, Vecchio said. And by "other people" he meant girls, and by "they" he meant Vecchio. Ray wasn't seeing anyone. Ray was watching Vecchio leave and then giving into the sin of self-love with the fierce desperation that could only be brought on by having to hide a raging hard-on for the last few hours. He was so ready to pop he could be done in the time between Vecchio's cheerful 'Bye, Mrs. Kowalski!' and hearing the door to the apartment building slamming behind Vecchio two hallways away. Sometimes Ray couldn't decide if it was the pounding of Vecchio's feet as he ran home or the pounding of his own heart in his ears that he could hear as he came his brains out. It didn't much matter.

On Friday nights, Ray would clean himself up, put on some chapstick he'd stolen from his mom and pull out his comics collection, wondering how this had become his life.

*****

"Seeing other people?" said Thomas, tapping idly at his drum-kit while Ray picked at a couple of chords. "You gotta do that, too, you know? This guy ain't into you, you need to find someone who is. Dig?"

Ray did dig. He dug real good, like a champion shoveler. He just wasn't so keen on dirt. "I know, Tommy. When you're right, you're right, I just-"

"Don't give me any of your bullshit, Kowalski. You've got to be as sick of your fist as I am of your miserable fucking face. Go out. Get laid. Use your mouth for something other than whining."

Ray thought about being offended, but Thomas's place was the only escape he had from the icons and the Child Jesus ornaments so it wasn't worth the risk. "I love you, too, asshole," he said.

"Scottie's Bar. Across from the convent school and no, the irony is not lost on me. They won't ask questions and they won't check ID. Don't be dumb, don't let anyone buy you a drink and if someone tries to get you into a car and you don't wanna go, kick 'em in the cojones. – I think you got that down already."

Usually Ray was a think-last-do-first-kinda guy. This was different, though. This was stepping up, becoming a man. Maybe not exactly the kind of man his parents were hoping for, maybe not the kind of man he'd expected when he was four and asked Lena Markowski to marry him because she had orange sneakers and black hair, but it was the kind of man he was, and that's who he wanted to be, freak or not. Most days, anyway. Well, some. Today. So instead of heading straight out to Scottie's, he practiced.

It wasn't Friday so he had a mirror instead of a warm body, but he pressed his lips against it all the same. Soft at first, then harder, his tongue pushing against the cold surface, nose squashed against the glass. He sucked and nipped at his arm, varying the pressure, trying to get his hairs to rise and his skin to ripple. He stole a carrot from the vegetable crisper and watched himself slide it between his lips, flushed and wide-eyed. He hollowed his cheeks and rubbed the carrot up and down along his tongue. Ray felt a rush of blood to his dick and embarrassment brought him up sharp.

He kind of hoped it wouldn't be so easy to bite the end off the real thing.

Ray ate the rest of the carrot as he ransacked his closet for what to wear. Ten outfits later, when he'd cycled back to the original black t-shirt and jeans combo, he was ready to go. He looked at himself in the mirror once more and saw a terrified kid staring back at him. It would be so easy to stay home, to finish his homework (there was a first time for everything), and try not to think about Vecchio or the guys down at Scottie's. He frowned at his reflection then smacked himself around the head.

"Come on, Kowalski," he told himself. "Those guys can't wait to meet someone as good with a carrot as you. You will blow them away with your vegetable-matter-related skills." He mimed finger-guns and held the pose for a second before laughing and turning away. "Later," he said over his shoulder and blew a kiss at his departing reflection.

Ray's bravado lasted just as long as it took for some guy to slobber into his mouth, breath stinking of onions and beer. He had time to wish the man had been to his lessons before he was being pushed to his knees on the stony ground. Okay, so maybe Ray was never going to be a straight A student, but it was the work of a second to figure out that a carrot and a cock were two entirely different things. For one, a carrot didn't have a whole human being on the end, trying to get more of it in Ray's mouth than was physically possible.

It wasn't so easy to bite the end off the real thing.

Not that there was any blood. Or much biting, really. And the guy was nice about it, once he realized what the problem was. Seemed he was a born teacher, not that Ray had much brain left to appreciate the technique. Still, it gave Ray lots of ideas for a whole expansion of his Kissing Club, that is, if he could persuade some of the other guys to go along with it. And by some other guys, he meant Vecchio. Not wanting to disappoint his mom, who'd brought him up polite, Ray'd done his best to return the favor. There was no gagging this time and the guy had been enjoying himself if the constant stream of "Oh fuck, oh fucking god, you're so fucking pretty. I want to fuck your pretty mouth so bad, oh fuck, oh god, oh jesus god fucking hell damn fuck," was anything to go by. Ray was grateful that the guy had pulled out and come in his own hand because he wasn't quite ready to face spunk yet, and even more grateful when he'd pressed ten dollars into Ray's hand and told him to get on home, the streets weren't safe this time of night.

Ray stared at himself in the mirror for a long time, trying to figure out if he looked different now that he was a man. He didn't. He filled the bath to the top and slid down into the hot water, careful not to slosh it over the side. Curious, Ray checked his dick to see if it had changed at all. It hadn't. He let it rest in the palm of his hand and thought about the man's mouth on it, wet and warm and sucking. His dick grew a little, like it was stretching after a hard day. Ray's thoughts drifted and it was Vecchio's lips on him, Vecchio's green eyes open and looking at him as he slid Ray in and out of his mouth. And then Ray's dick wasn't in his hand any more because it was standing to attention, standing for attention, and Ray had to touch it, hips snapping up as his fist closed around it.

It took three towels to mop the floor.

As Ray drifted off to sleep, Vecchio's face floated behind his eyes. He looked disappointed and Ray shivered and wrapped the comforter tighter around himself.

*****

When Ray's room was again empty except for the two of them, Vecchio settled himself on the bed. "I want to practice being on top. That okay, Kowalski?"

"Sure," said Ray, without thinking.

Vecchio rolled over and lay along the length of Ray, one knee forcing its way between Ray's thighs. "Open your legs," Vecchio commanded. "And bend them up. That's what girls do."

Ray obeyed and Vecchio's weight shifted on him as he settled between Ray's legs. Resting on his elbows, Vecchio's belly pressed against Ray's soft dick and Ray's stomach flipped as he realized the inevitable conclusion.

"I got a blowjob last Saturday," he gabbled, considering it was a good a way as any to distract Vecchio from the movement in Ray's pants.

Vecchio's eyes widened. "You did? A blowjob? You did?" Vecchio's mostly-broken voice cracked on the last word, sending it screeching up an octave. He hated it, but it made Ray's stomach do back-flips and he had to forcibly stop himself petting Vecchio's hair. He nodded instead.

"From a girl?"

Ray made a non-committal noise.

"That's so- I mean, I haven't- You're the man, Kowalski." Vecchio fidgeted against him and Ray's smile strained. Was Vecchio trying to kill him?

"You wanna make- you wanna practice now?" he asked, desperate and, without waiting for an answer, pulled Vecchio down and kissed him.

It took five seconds for Ray to realize this was the first time they had kissed like this. It took another five to realize that Vecchio was not pushing him off or punching or yelling 'inappropriate sexual conduct'. It took another five to figure out that the hard thing he could feel pushing into him was Vecchio's dick.

Oh.

Blowjobs. If Ray had known that's all it would take. He let the tip of his tongue trace the inside of Vecchio's mouth before finding Vecchio's tongue and sucking on it, hinting, advertising. He was rewarded by a choked off "Fuck!" and Vecchio rolling off him to tug frantically at his belt. Oh god, he was going to make this good. He was going to make this so fucking good that Vecchio would be begging on his knees for more. For Ray.

Every time Ray looked up, Vecchio's eyes were on him, but he did not say a word. Not a 'fuck' or a 'more' or a 'please' or a 'now' passed his lips, even as he came in Ray's mouth. But as soon as the last spasm was done he started talking.

"Stella, she's tall and blonde and so elegant. She's a real lady, my beautiful angel. I told you I asked her to the dance, right? You wait till you see her, she'll even blow you away, Kowalski. Everyone wants Stella and Stella wants me. That's cool, right? Tell me how cool that is."

"Yeah, but will she blow you?" Ray muttered and he hated himself because his eyes were prickling and he was hard for a guy who either didn't want him or didn't want to want him and both ways made him feel like he was the one who was kicked in the balls.

Vecchio didn't hear or pretended not to and in seconds he was gone, yammering something about the dance and Stella and see you there, Kowalski.

Ray waited until he heard the door click and then smashed his fists into his pillows over and over, not sure whose face he was pummeling, Vecchio's, the perfect Stella's, or his own. When he finally slowed down he became aware of a funny taste in his mouth. It was- That was-

By the time he finished throwing up, Ray's erection was long gone. Father Matteus always said it was good to be grateful for small mercies.

*****

"Sucks, man," said Thomas. Ray scowled at him. "Sorry, bad word choice. That was a shitty thing to happen. But we've been through this before. If he can't see what it is he's got in you, then you've got two choices."

"Okay, hit me," said Ray and caught the drumstick that came flying towards him. "How many times do I got to tell you you're not a comedian, Tommy? Choices. Give 'em."

"Choice number one," said Thomas, ticking it off on his finger, "you give up, wait till college and pick up a nice, easy Protestant boy. Or an atheist. Someone with less guilt, anyway. Unless it's the liberal kind. The liberal kind is your friend."

"First, I have no idea what you're talking about, freak. Second, I got two years nearly. I do not like this idea. Spin me another."

"Choice number two: you change. He wants tall, golden and elegant. You do your best to give it to him. Start praying for your growth spurt, short stuff."

Ray twirled the drumstick between his fingers. "So all that stuff people say about 'being yourself' and 'you are God's special unique daffodil', that's bullshit, is what you're saying?"

"You catch on quick, my son," said Thomas, leaning back, hands clasped behind his head. "Women want you to change for them. All of them do. And they change for us. You think they wear cute lacy panties every day of the month the way those things ride up?" Thomas paused, but Ray signaled 'got nothing' and he continued. "No, they do not. You check a woman's dresser and you'll find the big panties. The comfy cotton ones that've gone grey 'cos they got in with the dark clothes. The ones they haven't thrown out because they like wearing them. I'm telling you, mon ami, they do what they have to do to catch us."

"I'm not a woman," Ray protested.

"In this case, you are. You really are."

Change for Vecchio? Be something he wasn't to compete with Stella or the next girl or the next? How would that even work? How could it end any way but bad? Every morning he put himself on with his clothes, the shoes a little scuffed, the tie knot too short for regulation, the shirt untucked. It had taken a long time for him to figure out who he was and to start to accept it. The clothes, the hair, the I''ll-be-your-girltoy-attitude, it was all part of it. If he changed that, any of it, how would he know who he was any more? It was himself or nothing and that thought made Ray clutch his chest with the pain of it.

"I can't," he said, through clenched teeth. "I can't. I gotta- I need to hit something. Now."

"Sure," said Thomas, holding out his drumstick with a sympathetic look. "Beat the living hell out of my drums. You'll feel better. You know," he added as Ray took the stick from him, "are you sure you don't want to sleep with girls? At least they know which hole to stick your dick into."

Ray kicked the bass pedal so hard he tore through the skin.

*****

On Friday it was business as usual. The numbers were small, only four this time and Vecchio wasn't one of them. A new kid, kind of sharp looking, Gardino, stood lookout. When it was his turn he didn't want the hand and he kissed with a whole lot of enthusiasm if no particular skill. Ray gave him some pointers but his mind was elsewhere. Was that it now with him and Vecchio? Had the blowjob taken it too far? Were they not even friends now? Were they ever?

Gardino showed signs of wanting to hang around and hinted that there was something he wanted to talk about, his legs jittering up and down. Ray couldn't be bothered to shoo him off and lay with his arm over his face, as the other boys got ready to go home. He said his goodbyes without moving.

"Bye, Gardino," came another voice and Ray's heart skipped a beat.

"I'm not-" Gardino whined.

"Fuck off, fox-face," said the voice, cheerfully. "Unless you want me to hang you and your over-sized jacket on the hooks in the showers on Monday."

Ray heard the sounds of a hasty retreat and then felt the mattress dip underneath him as Vecchio sat down.

"No date with Stella?" asked Ray, wondering if he managed to keep the bitterness out of his voice. He was too tired to fight.

"Nope," said Vecchio, and the bed creaked as he swung his legs up and lay alongside Ray. "Had somewhere else to be."

Ray took his arm away from his face and turned his head to look at Vecchio. His mouth was settled in a relaxed smile but his eyes were closed. His eyes were never closed. Ray's head raced with questions that he couldn't ask. He stayed, frozen, staring at Vecchio for a long minute, neither of them speaking, then Vecchio yawned and stretched his arm behind Ray's head.

Carefully, carefully, Ray shifted until his head was resting on Vecchio's shoulder, same way they'd done so many times before. There was another brief pause and then Vecchio started telling stories about his little sister Francesca's latest fight with his mom. Ray felt Vecchio's hand in his hair, twisting it around his fingers and he let himself smile, just a little. Maybe later he'd tell Vecchio he was seeing other people. Just for practice.


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