In for an Oscar - Out for a Kiss ....
by Chris J. Ueberall
Pairing: Howard Brackett/Peter Malloy
Summary: Before the wedding there had to be a happy ending.
Notes: This story was first published in Diverse Doings # 10, a multimedia slash zine by Kathryn Agel and Straight Up Press, in November 2002.
The village seemed unusually quiet after all the action that had happened here the last few days. Howard Brackett, ex-and-now-again-school-teacher sighed and inhaled the warm midday air. So many things had changed - for him, at least - and still this was the same small, clean, quiet place he had grown up in. With a smile on his handsome face, he walked along the intersection, remembering ....
"Mr. Brackett?" The shy female voice shook him out of his musings and he thanked God that he hadn't been on his bike.
"Yes?" He turned around and faced one of his younger students, a normally calm girl one could easily overlook. "Mary, what is it?"
Slowly she came nearer, her big blue eyes showing a deep emotional distress. "I wanted to talk to you," she whispered, obviously uncomfortable with the situation but determined to go through with what she had planned.
"Is this going to be a long talk?"
"Then let's sit down."
Side by side, they walked over to a wall and sat down on a log in front of it. Briefly this scene reminded him of another conversation, one he had had with Peter Malloy, and he could only hope that the girl wanted to know something about English literature and not about him being a homosexual. But of course that would have been too good to be true.
"You know, you have always been my favorite teacher," she started with a look in her eyes that spoke of hero worship and possibly more. "I thought you were honest, brave, handsome and nice, and now ... you, you are ...." She began to stammer. "I mean you're still handsome and nice, and it was very brave to speak up at your wedding but, but ...." She stopped and just stared at him like she usually did in school, waiting for him to finish her sentences.
"But now I'm gay." The hurt look she sent his way was laser-like in its intensity. "I'm sorry, Mary, but that isn't something I can change."
"I know that. What I don't get is how you could do that to Miss Montgomery, I mean, why tell her you love her when you're gay? How could you lie to her?"
So that was it. He sighed in relief. It wasn't his being gay after all that disturbed the girl, but his being a liar. Now that was something he could explain - he hoped.
"Look Mary, I know it's hard to understand, but it wasn't like that at all. I loved Emily, Miss Montgomery, I just didn't realize that it was more as a friend or a sister than as a ... um ... lover. I never wanted to hurt her."
The laser beam changed into a scanner, trying to see into his soul or his heart or both. "You're saying you didn't know you are gay?"
Howard shook his head. "I admit that the thought had crossed my mind, but I just refused to believe it and put it out of my head."
"And when Cameron said you were gay, you remembered?"
God, that girl could ask questions. "No, I told myself and everybody that he was wrong, and I believed it. Mary, listen, I didn't want to be gay. I wanted a normal, peaceful life here in our town with a wonderful woman and kids. Is that so hard to understand? And I had no proof that I was gay. I didn't look at boys any differently than I looked at girls. I saw bright or not-so-bright students in them; nothing more, nothing less. And there was no man in the village that I liked. So why should I be gay?"
She nodded, then frowned, then asked, "But something happened, right?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you were getting married and you just told me you had no reason to think you couldn't be normal, but at the wedding you came out. So something must have happened that proved to you you were gay, so what was that?"
"Oh, that." The girl was perceptive; was she an A-student? He looked at the grass in front of his feet, at the intersection, and then past the girl into the distance. "Yes, you could say that something happened. A guy came up to me, told me he was gay and kissed me."
"Just like that?"
"Yes, just like that."
"And what happened?" Before he could find the right words, she answered that herself. "It was like lightning, right? Hit you right down to your guts, lit everything up." She spoke with such enthusiasm that for a second he expected to see her pupils change into little pink hearts. "That's it, right?"
He couldn't disappoint her, and besides, it was the truth. "Lightning and fireworks. I tried to fight it, but after that, I couldn't lie to myself anymore."
The girl smiled and sighed. "That's okay then. And now, are you and that guy together?"
Belatedly, he wondered if it was good policy to talk about such private matters with a female teenage student, but it was too late now to stop.
"No, we're not. We're barely friends. You see, he didn't kiss me because he ... because he liked me, but because he wanted to prove something - which he did - but that's all."
"Oh." Her happy smile wavered, then made room for a compassionate one. "I'm sorry." She stood and touched his shoulder briefly. "But maybe you're wrong. I mean, I would ask him if I were you. Maybe the lightning struck both ways."
Obviously a romantic.
"Good-bye, Mr. Brackett, see you next year." And with that she was gone.
Behind the wall, Peter Malloy felt himself smiling so happily that it almost seemed as if his face would split. There were days and there were great days - this day had just turned into a wonderful one. He had come here to mourn for a lost opportunity and to wonder why he was such an idiot. But now it seemed there was another chance for him to get what he wanted, and he was determined to take it.
He had found Howard Brackett attractive from the first moment he'd seen him and had wanted to know him better from the moment Howard had tried to get rid of him. Howard had been so tired, embarrassed and angry then, and yet wasn't able to say something really insulting, revealing that he was a gentle creature by nature. Something that was so rare in Peter's world that it charmed him immensely. And that was only an extra to a very neat and handsome package.
As far as the kiss went, there had been no lightning at his end, but then he hadn't exactly paid attention to his own reaction; he had concentrated too deeply on his kissing skills, trying to make an impression and getting a point across.
And it had worked - better than he had hoped. And afterwards - for a moment it had seemed as if Howard would finally admit to being gay; for a brief second he had been sure that they would kiss again and maybe more .... But then Howard's parents had appeared and the opportunity had been gone. Damn it.
Of course, when Howard came out at his wedding, Peter had been sure there would be a new opportunity soon - that was until Howard hit him. Only then did it register how badly the teacher was hurting and how deeply this whole affair was confusing him. Peter had felt lousy then and tried to get drunk ....
Shaking his head, he came out of his reverie. Now was not the time to think about the past but to do something for his future.
He stepped around the wall and confronted Howard.
"Oh." It was a shock for Howard to find himself suddenly face to face with the man he had been thinking about. He wondered what he should do - talk, run - or something more manly like beating the reporter to a pulp?
"I wanted to apologize," Peter said, deliberately blocking the teacher's way. "I've acted like a shit, and you had every right to hit me, and if you want you can do it again."
Now that was an offer Howard would have found hard to refuse only two days ago, but now that all was settled and done, he had no anger left. After all, it seemed as if the reporter had been right; it hadn't been too bad, and something good might yet come out of it.
"No, but thanks." He tried to outstep the other man but was intercepted by a hand pushing lightly against his chest. "I'm surprised that you're still here. The story is complete, isn't it?" he heard himself ask.
Peter shook his head. "Not really. I have the feeling that another story has just begun. Something along the line of 'The school teacher and the movie star'."
"Oh, no!" That had to happen. After all, Cameron had played a gay soldier and had told the whole world that his English teacher was a homosexual. It was astonishing enough that the question 'Is Cameron gay and did he have an affair with his teacher?' had never been asked.
"Oh, yes." The reporter smiled openly, his hand still on Howard's chest. "I saw Cameron and Emily together and they looked really close and happy."
'Emily and Cameron?' Howard felt himself relax slightly. "So you even get a happy ending. Good for you."
The other man nodded. "Yeah, but that's only half of the story. I mean, there the bride is happy, but what about the groom?"
"Me?" It came out with a squeak. Howard swallowed, then pushed Peter's hand away from his chest. "If you think I'll let you follow me around town so you can figure out what kind of men I like, forget it! Haven't you done enough to me?"
The impertinent hand was back. "Actually, I thought I had a pretty good idea what your type is."
"Ha!" Now, that could have been funny if it wasn't such a tragedy. Howard tried to leave again.
"You know, I overheard your talk with the girl."
The words stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Is it true? My kiss did that to you?"
How he found the courage to look into the reporter's face he'd never know. "No. Yes. I don't know."
Amused, Peter let his hand wander from Howard's chest to his shoulder. "Very precise."
Taking a deep breath, Howard started again. "What I mean is that it was probably only because I was being kissed by a man. It could probably have been anyone. So you don't need to feel ... um ... that you ..." Damn it, what was it he had been about to say?
"But I do feel," Peter said quietly, "and I dearly hope, that it was because of me."
"You do?" Surprise colored Howard's voice.
"So how do we find out?" 'Stupid question,' Howard realized the moment the other man pulled him closer and kissed him again.
This time Peter's lips touched his own gently, begging entry and not demanding it; willingly Howard opened his mouth and let it be plundered.
The effect on his body was immediate and straight - or not so straight - to the point; his blood turned to lava and stars exploded behind his eyes. After they separated, he had to blink several times to clear his vision.
"Whoa," he murmured inadequately. Then he sobered somehow, realizing that Peter didn't look as if he'd been struck by lightning or anything else. "Cuts only one way, does it? Not even a little spark, right?" He tried not to let his disappointment show, but he had never been very good at hiding his feelings.
"I wouldn't say there wasn't a spark, but you must admit it was a bit one-sided. Maybe if you'd put a little more effort into it ...." Peter didn't finish his sentence, but the way he raised his eyebrows underlined that his statement was a challenge.
Swallowing hard, Howard decided to take it on. Peter wanted to be kissed? Now, that he could do. He stepped closer, so that their chests were touching, and then laid his hands on either side of the other man's head, drawing him into a kiss.
Feeling Peter's lips part under his, he slipped his tongue inside the moist haven and simultaneously changed his grip. One hand cradling Peter's skull, the other supporting his back, his kiss became fiercer, slowly shoving Peter into a position that was almost horizontal. For an endless minute they seemed frozen in what looked like the final pose of a tango, then, equally slowly, Howard brought them back to stand straight and tall.
Breathing heavily, Peter took two steps back to lean against the wall.
"And?" Howard wanted to know, feeling vulnerable and insecure. "How was that?" Then he realized he was talking to empty air. Surprised, he looked down - where the reporter sat on the grass, looking up with wide eyes.
"My legs just turned into jelly," Peter said by way of explanation. "Along with everything else." He grinned happily.
'Now is the right time to recite a beautiful poem,' a voice whispered in Howard's head, but all he said was: "Oh."
But Peter wasn't as speechless. "You know something? That really proves you're gay, because if you'd ever kissed Emily like that, she'd rather nuke the whole town before letting you go."
Blushing, Howard held out his hand to help the reporter to his feet. "And what do we do now?"
"Make love?" Peter suggested.
"Here?" Then it hit him. "Good God, I just kissed you, you kissed me, at the intersection where anybody could come and see ...."
"Three times lucky, huh?"
"Lucky?" Howard groaned, then gave up. "Okay, what's done is done, but I'm not making love to you here - no chance."
"No objections. I prefer a bed anytime."
"Good." Suddenly shy again, Howard looked anywhere but at the other man. "Shall we go then?"
Never before had the way to his house seemed so long and yet so short at the same time. A million butterflies unsettled Howard's stomach and he couldn't decide if it was a good feeling or not. Finally they reached his house and the sound of the door closing behind them reminded him of a shot from a starter's gun.
Giving Howard some time to calm down, Peter wandered through the house, deciding that he liked it. A book drew his attention and he picked it up curiously. "How To Be A Man, Discovering Your Masculinity?" he read aloud.
He turned back to find Howard standing in the doorway, his cheeks a light pink. "Well ... I had it for years, but only took it out after you'd kissed me."
"I had something like that once," Peter admitted. "I failed miserably. What about you?"
"The last test did me in."
"What was it?"
"I was supposed not to dance."
"And?" The reporter threw the book aside.
"And I danced."
Peter laughed and took the teacher into his arms. "I bet you love dancing, right? Music is like poetry, an art, a way of life and pure rhythm." Reaching out with one hand he switched the radio on.
"You can't stop the music, nobody can stop the music ...."
"How fitting. Dance for me, Howard."
"What? You're joking, I can't ...."
A finger on his lips stopped whatever he had been about to say.
"You can." Peter smiled. "Just listen, close your eyes and forget that I'm here. You can do it. Please?"
"You can't stop the music, nobody can stop the music, take the cold from snow,
Feeling silly but also intrigued, Howard did as the reporter asked. The song was about to end, but his feet had already picked up the beat, and before the spell could be broken the first notes of the next song started.
He closed his eyes and soon lost himself to the music.
He wasn't even surprised that the station played the Village People again, just took it as a sign that everything was as it should be ....
"Together, we will go our way - together, we will leave some day
The corridor became his stage, and his audience was as good as forgotten. The rhythm merged with his heartbeat and pumped the music through his being.
"I love you and know you love me
Gradually, he became aware of another body moving nearby and when he opened his eyes, he saw Peter swinging with him, mirroring every movement.
"Go west, to begin anew - Go west, this is what we'll do
And then from one moment to the next, they were dancing together, the world narrowing down to their small dance floor, the music guiding them safely through the first intimate touches, the first caresses.
The next title was a slow love song, cloaking them in its gentleness, but it was of no consequence any more for they were quite happily lost in their own world with their own melody.
"Easy," murmured Howard as strong hands slid under his shirt to caress the hot flesh beneath it.
"Don't worry." Peter's voice was barely above a whisper. "I know you're new to this. I promise I'll make it special."
Then there was no more talking, for their lips were irresistibly drawn together. Lightning struck and fireworks melted bones and hearts as they devoured each other with hands and lips.
That the floor was hard and cold and not exactly the ideal place for lovemaking dawned on them only some time later - much later.
© 25 February 1998