[personal profile] yes_2day
John and Paul digest the aftermath of 9/11 with Jason and Gerry, and then John and Paul organize a concert for New York to raise funds for the first responders and other victims.  To publicize same, they make a cheeky appearance on a radio station.

WARNINGS: This is slash fiction, with a few intimate moments.  There are some real elements, but the story itself is pure FICTION.

Chapter 150



New York City
September 12, 2001


        John and Paul were holed up in their apartment in Manhattan.  They had invited Jason and Gerry over to watch television and share the stressful day with them.  There was a complete grounding of all air, train and bus travel in the United States for the first time in its history.  Jason and Gerry brought a large hamper of food and wine with them in the limo John had sent for them, because they were not the types of people to arrive at another’s home empty handed.  Even if the world was on fire and totally upside down!

        John had made a lot of comfort food for his friends, and the four of them huddled in front of the television watching history unfold.   Jason and Gerry had been invited to spend a few days at the apartment, so they had brought some light luggage as well.   They found their accommodations in Hotel de Lennon & McCartney to be quite luxurious, and were more than satisfied with their surroundings.

        On the late afternoon of September 12th, the four men decided to turn off the television and have dinner in the apartment’s dining room without regard to the hysteria flowing around in the world beneath them.  The patio was out of consideration:  there was still much too much debris and dust in the air.  A thick layer of it covered the entire patio.  As they quietly ate the food that John had made them (a lovely vegetarian meal along with a white fish sauté for the three meat eaters), Jason remarked, “I hardly recognize New York, it’s like a ghost land.”

        John said, “Hate is on the ascendant.  We all have to stand up and fight against it.”

        Paul contributed, “It’s like the Naxis.  It’s their way or the highway.”

        “Their way is a nightmare,” Gerry commented.

        “Which is why we need to fight against them!” John declared.  “They’re worse than medieval - they’re 7th century!”

        “And it’s absolutely insane - this bit about all the virgins they will get in heaven,” Jason commented with disgust.

        John sniffed.  “Oh, yeah, Paul and I both had that back in the sixties.  It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”

        That comment pretty much ended the conversation, as they all fell apart in giggles.  Of course, they had been drinking all day.


*****


       
        The next night John and Paul (taking Jason and Gerry with them) went to dinner at the home of Harvey Weinstein, the movie producer.  It was an impromptu gathering of a group of New Yorkers stranded in the City.  While they were there these wealthy people began to discuss how they could help raise money to help the victims of the attack, as well as the first responders and their families.  Among a number of schemes discussed, Weinstein suggested that John and Paul host a concert in New York and invite a number of their friends, in honor of the first responders.  They both agreed in principle with the idea, and said they would discuss it with their manager and get back to him.

        Finally, after three days, the airports were reopened, and John and Paul were able to board the Concorde at JFK airport and take off for London Heathrow.  As the plane took off, it banked over the City, and John and Paul could look down and see the utter devastation in lower Manhattan.  It was shocking and disturbing, and it was a sight that haunted them for months afterwards.


*****
        

October 2001
New York City


        It was being billed as “The Concert for New York,” and was organized by John and Paul, although truthfully Paul had done almost all the work cajoling people into participating.   Harvey Weinstein produced the show.  Performing would be numerous legendary English musicians, such as The Who, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John, and Eric Clapton.  The American artists included Bon Jovi, Jay-Z, Destiny’s Child, the Backstreet Boys, James Taylor, Billy Joel, and many others.  It was scheduled for October 20th at Madison Square Garden.

        Paul had the quirky idea of hiring the remaining living Maysles brother, Albert, to follow John and him around as they prepared for and performed the show, just as he had done with his brother David in February 1964 when the Beatles had first come to America.  But this time, John and Paul had a wiser, more educated idea of the power of film, so they had carefully determined when the camera would be on them, and when they would not.  The point this time was not to promote themselves but to promote an issue

        As part of the film, Paul suggested that they walk the streets of the City while going to rehearsals or about their business, so people would see them in the street and perhaps this would help allay some of their fears.  One of the most surprising reactions to the World Trade Center tragedy was the fear many people had about being in New York City and of flying.  Indeed, some of the artists Paul had contacted to join the concert regretfully declined because they were afraid of getting on an airplane and flying in to New York.  

        So, the day before the concert, John and Paul, accompanied by Albert Maysles’ camera and sound equipment, decided to walk from their apartment to the Garden for their rehearsal.  It was a walk of about 24 blocks, but nothing a normal New Yorker wouldn’t do on an occasional basis if the weather was fine.  At certain times of the day and night, cars were superfluous in mid-Manhattan.  Every few feet they were stopped.  People would cry “Its John and Paul!” and gather around them.  They would pose for photos and even talk to the pedestrians’ loved ones on phones, and thus it took them a great deal of time to finally make it to the Garden. 

        Henry had arranged for John and Paul to do publicity to support the show.  He had the crazy idea of having them go on Howard Stern’s radio talk show.  Howard Stern was a notorious New York “shock jock” with a national following who asked wildly inappropriate questions of his guests.  Paul said a little sheepishly, “I’m afraid of him, Henry.  He always gets people in trouble.” 

        John liked the idea immediately.  He said, “At least when he asks embarrassing questions, it’s done in fun.  He really doesn’t give a shit what the answers are.  He just wants it to be entertaining.” 

        “He’s going to ask us really embarrassing things, John.  Are you sure you want to go there?” Paul couldn’t believe that John was so raring to do this, given how he’d been so regretful about his outburst in July. 

        “It’s not an ambush when you know it is going to happen,” John argued.  “So what is he gonna ask us?  He’ll definitely ask about our sex life.”
       
        Henry cleared his throat.  He was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the conversation and was now sorry he had come up with the idea.  He’d thrown it out there as a wild pitch, and hadn’t expected John to actually hit it.  “Maybe I can talk to Howard...”

        John laughed.  “He doesn’t make those deals.  It’s all or nothing with him.”

        Paul, seeing that John had a good feeling about the idea, was going to reluctantly agree to it.  In his savvy mind, it had occurred to him that it might be the best way to have those embarrassing personal questions asked of them and to get it out of the way - in a forum where they could make jokes and have fun with it, as opposed to a serious setting where the stakes were so much higher.  He also realized that whatever they said or did during the interview would get only minor press coverage, because the American press was still completely obsessed - for obvious reasons - with the 9/11 news.  So he said, “If you’re sure, John, I’ll go along with it.”

        “I’m sure,” John said firmly.  “So Henry - fix it.”

        A day later, they took a limo to the radio station, and Albert was filming them from the front seat next to the driver.  Paul and John were having a colloquy with the driver about Howard Stern.

        “What’s he going to ask us?” Paul asked the driver.

        “He’ll definitely ask how much money you have,” the driver opined.

        “Oh I hate money questions,” Paul grumbled.  “It’s so crass to talk about how much money you have.”

        “Do you think he’ll ask us about sex?” John asked playfully.

        The driver, an older gentleman who was not quite comfortable with sex issues, chuckled nervously.  “I would be amazed if he didn’t,” was what he said. 

        Paul groaned.  They were approaching the studio.  “Can you drive around the block one more time?” he asked the driver.  “Maybe I’ll decide to cut and run for it.”  Paul was really trying to kill another 5 minutes.  He didn’t want to show up early, because then Howard would have a chance to grill them before they went on the air.  But eventually he had to get out of the car and head for the green room.  He was lagging behind John, who approached the whole situation brazenly.  Paul knew for certain that he would let John take the lead in answering the most invasive questions.  John had a knack for coming up with the funniest responses to the worst questions.   

        While in the green room, there was a live feed from the studio, where Ozzie Osborne was talking with Howard.  John and Paul watched as Howard asked his usual slew of inappropriate questions.  John thought it was hilarious; Paul was chewing on his finger nervously.  As Osborne came out of the studio, and an ad was running, he was amazed to see his idols Lennon & McCartney standing there waiting to follow him.  Hugs all around, and Ozzie showed his sincere pleasure at meeting them. Then John, followed by Paul, sauntered into the studio.  Albert was filming it all.

        Howard greeted them from his booth, and his sidekick Robin was seated nearby.  John and Paul made themselves comfortable on a velour sofa.  They sat before large microphones, and with earphones on so they could hear what Howard and Robin were saying. 

        “So John!” Howard started right in.  “Been to any male brothels recently?”

        “Apparently I’ve been banned, Howard, because I bring too much attention with me.”  John served it right back.    “They see all the paps trailing after me and they pull up the drawbridges.”

        “Paul - did you hit him with a rolling pin when you found out that he’d cheated on you?”

        Paul was a little breathless at how quickly the damn thing had gone out of control.  They hadn’t even been there a half- minute yet! 

        John could see that Paul was deeply uncomfortable and not yet in the groove, so he decided to jump in.  “Oh, I’m too fast for him.  He took a few swipes at me, but it was futile.” 

        “Does John always answer for you Paul?”

        “Pretty much, yeah,” Paul admitted sheepishly.

        “It’s because I know what he’s going to say, and I can say it better,” John explained cheerfully.

        “It’s true,” Paul confirmed as everyone in the studio broke up in laughter. 

        “So which one of you is the bottom?” Howard asked.  Robin shrieked and admonished Howard.

        John and Paul looked at each other in amused astonishment.  Paul’s face was saying, ‘I can’t believe he said that’, and John’s face was saying, ‘let’s play.’  So John turned to the mic and drawled into it suggestively, “Why do you think it has to be one or the other?”  This drew a really loud and scandalized reaction from the studio crew.

        At this point Paul was ready to die.  But he was enough of a pro to behave as though none of this craziness was fazing him at all.  Around him all the studio staff were laughing joyfully.  He began to realize that this was theatre; it wasn’t really an interview, and no one expected real answers here.  It was pure entertainment, and everyone was playing a part, so he might as well find a part and join in. 

        “But you guys were both sex hounds in the sixties - I mean, the story is, you’ve both had hundreds of women!  We’re all confused!”

        “Not half as confused as we were,” Paul pointed out reasonably.  John looked at Paul with joyful surprise and laughed delightedly.  This was fun.  Actual fun.  It was so much better to have the secret out, even if it was still shrouded in mystery and doubt, because he didn’t feel like he was tightrope walking over a deep crevasse, fearful of putting a foot wrong. Now he was free to be himself.

        “So Paul, have you had sex with any other men?” Howard asked.  Paul was the shyer one about such things - Howard figured that out immediately.  Howard had made a career out of sensing his guests’ weak spots and going for them mercilessly.

        “No,” Paul said simply.  He didn’t look stressed, and he didn’t feel the least bit pressured to add anything to that succinct response.

        “We won’t ask John that question,” Howard said to Robin in a theatrical aside, “because we know that he has.”

        John pretended to be insulted by this, but he wasn’t a bit insulted.  It was a great freedom not to have to defend himself anymore.  “Is that all you got, Howard?” John taunted. 

        Howard’s face lit up.  He was delighted that John and Paul had come to play.  They were obviously enjoying the humor and the vibe.  So Howard said, “So, were you doing it to each other back in the sixties, when you were in the Beatles?”

        Without missing a beat, Paul said “No.”

        John did a double take and thought to himself, so we’re going to lie about it.  His face was the picture of surprise.

        But Paul was not finished.  He leaned into the microphone as if he were about to reveal a great secret.  “What happened was...”

        And John couldn’t help himself.  He asked, “What happened?” 

        Paul winked at John and repeated himself.  “What happened was, we turned 40 and...”

        John was saying, “Yeah, and...”

        “We went POOF!!!!”  Paul flashed his hands outward like a magician.

        John collapsed backward on the sofa and was laughing whole-heartedly, and everyone else in the studio exploded in laughter too.

        John then sat forward again, and he said into the mic, “For a moment there Paul, I had no idea where you were going with that.” 

        “Yeah, John looked absolutely shell-shocked when you said ‘no.’” Howard pointed out.

        “I have to work at keeping John guessing,” Paul explained sensibly.  “Otherwise he’d get bored.” 

        “You don’t want me and Paul bored, Howard,” John said.  “We’re very creative, and it always leads to trouble.” 

        “That’s a good question - which one of you creates the most trouble?” Robin asked.

        “I was the one who got us into trouble, and Paul was the one who got us out,” John answered.

        “Why are you using the past tense?” Paul asked John.

        John laughed.  “What I meant to say, I am the one who gets us into trouble, and Paul is the one who gets us out.”  As everyone chuckled John said, “No really.  He can talk us out of anything.  It’s like some kind of crazy magical thing he does.”

        Paul said wryly, “John thinks that negotiating politely with authority figures is some crazy magical thing.  The rest of us call it ‘common sense.’” 

        “Ok, John - what is the one thing about Paul that drives you up a wall?” Howard asked.

        “Oh, you’re trying to break us up now,” John accused. 

        Howard defended his question.   “No relationship is perfect - we all know that.”

        “I’m not sure if we have enough time to explain all the ways in which Paul and I have pissed each other off over the years,” John said.

        “Just one thing - the worst one,” Howard coaxed.

        Paul was smiling during this interchange.  He thought it was kind of amusing - talking about their ‘relationship’ on the radio.  Just six months earlier he would have thought he would rather die than do this.

        John said, “Okay, this will be no surprise to Paul.  He compartmentalizes.”

        “He what?” Robin asked.

        “He goes to Paul Land, or wherever, and when he is there, you can’t really reach him.  And so, in this compartment is his muse, and in that compartment is his business mind, and in the other compartment he is a great pal... My problem is, I want access to all the compartments, but I only have access to about 75% of them.  And that has taken me decades to accomplish - something like 45 years!”

        “You mean I have compartments left that you haven’t invaded yet?” Paul asked, feigning surprise.  “I could have sworn you’d taken over all of them by now.” 

        Everyone was laughing.  Howard said, “This is really good stuff.  You guys give good interview.”

        “We give good everything,” John cooed naughtily.

        “So Paul - your turn,” Robin chirped.  “What is the one thing about John that makes you crazy?”

        Paul exchanged a grin with John.  He thought about it for a few moments, and then he said, “The fact that I can’t say ‘no’ to him.  Well, I do say ‘no’, quite frequently, but I can never make it stick...”

        Howard was laughing.  “So that’s how he got you into bed, is it?”

        “We’re not gonna answer that one, Howard,” John said sharply.  “That would be giving away my secrets.”   

        “So, you two are as rich as god, aren’t you?”                      

        “Is god rich?” Paul asked John.

        John said, “God is anti-materialistic, so I think we’re way richer than god.”

        Paul groaned. “And now we’re going to get burned at the stake in the Bible belt.  John - didn’t you learn your lesson the last time you said something like this?”

        John laughed.  “Oops.  I forgot about that.”

        “I think I want to change my answer about the most irritating thing about John,” Paul volunteered.  

        John laughed and said more seriously, “What I should have said is that the whole point of religion is to value things other than money.  So it seemed odd to me, Howard, that you would say something like that - ‘richer than god.’” John turned to Paul and said, “You like that better?”

        Paul smiled and said, “Much better, thank you.”

        “But you still haven’t answered my question?  How much do you have?  Are you billionaires?” Howard persisted.

        “It’s tacky to talk about stuff like that,” Paul protested. 

        “That’s me - I’m tacky,” Howard agreed cheerfully.  “So what’s the answer John?”

        “Don’t ask me - I haven’t got a clue.   Paul does all that,” John responded honestly.  “Although I did read in the paper that we were worth over a billion pounds, and I asked Paul if it were true.  And Paul told me, ‘let me put it this way.  You can buy that B1 Bomber you’ve always wanted.’”

        Everyone laughed.

        Howard said, “The B-1 bomber costs about a billion, doesn’t it?”

        Paul said, “I really have no idea.  I was just making a joke.  I liked the image of John in the cockpit of a B1 Bomber.  Look out world!”

        “Speaking of the world, you’re both in town this week to host a huge fundraiser for the families of the first responders at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night.  Are you headlining the show?”

        “Yes,” John answered.  “This is something we feel very strongly about.”

        “We were on the runway at JFK when it happened,” Paul said.  “We could see the burning buildings.  They canceled our flight.”

        “That must have been freakish,” Howard said.

        “You couldn’t believe what you were seeing,” John said.  “It didn’t compute.  I’m still not sure I’ve made any sense of it.  We’re all in a kind of free fall, and we’re hoping that getting together to share music will help us all settle down a little.”

        “I’m really grateful you guys came here today, and you’ve been fantastic guests.  Of course I’ve loved your music since I was a kid, and it is really an honor to have you here.”

        Paul was waiting for the joke, but apparently Howard was being sincere.  He smiled warmly.

        John said, “I’m glad we came, too.  I had fun.”

        Paul added honestly, “And I’m glad it’s over.”


       
*****



        “You were amazing,” John told Paul with admiration as they were being driven back to their apartment after the Stern interview.  John had forgotten Albert was in the car and filming.  Paul had not forgotten.  He flashed a warning smile at John, who then said, “Oh!  Albert!  I forgot you were there!  You’ll have to cut that bit out of your film!” 

        Albert would of course cut out any bit that his subjects were uncomfortable about.  He understood that John’s comment, and the way that he looked at Paul as he said it, reached a level of intimacy that neither of them wanted to expose publicly.

        When they got to the apartment, they said goodbye to Albert in the parking garage, and then went up to their flat, where Jason and Gerry eventually joined them.  They had been invited over for dinner and drinks. 

        “You two were absolutely brilliant!” Jason cried.  “Gerry and I listened to you on the radio.”

        “That man was absolutely vile,” Gerry grumbled.  “But I have to say you both handled him masterfully.”  Gerry had never heard of Howard Stern before that day, and had been appalled by the man’s vulgarity.  But yet again he was amazed at how beautifully John and Paul could thread the needle when it came to their confrontations with the press. 

        “Well, I thought it was hilarious,” Jason said.  “The great thing about it is that if some of your fans are not comfortable with your relationship, the way you answered everything so playfully will still allow them to believe you were just joking and it might not be true.”

        John thought about what Jason said and, sadly, agreed.  He and Paul were still hiding behind their wits and reputations to a certain extent, and there would always be a great number of people who would not want to know about the true nature of their relationship.  It was good for their business, yes, but John wasn’t sure how good it was for his soul, or for anyone else’s soul, come to think of it, if learning to accept and even admire people who are different from the norm was a laudable societal goal.  John thought it was a laudable goal.  But he had to remember to work on being patient.  As Fiona was always telling him:  baby steps.  Get used to baby steps.  The trouble was, thinking small was anathema to John.


*****



October 20, 2001
Madison Square Garden, NYC

      
        There was a great vibe in the Garden that night.  Paul had come up with a new song, Freedom, which he thought would be a good way to end the show.  The terrorists’ agenda had reminded Paul of the Nazis - the arrogant assumption that people could be killed going about their daily lives just to make a political or religious point that less than 1% of the world’s population would fully agree with.  Some things were worth fighting for, in Paul’s view.

        John liked the song too, because ultimately that is what western civilization was trying to protect - the freedom to think what you want, to be whom you want, and to believe what you want.  The political viewpoint of most terrorists was absolute:  it had to be their way or no way.  John fully opposed that way of thinking.  He and Paul did discuss that the song might be taken as a war chant, but then they decided that they would not release it as a single, and they would just sing it in this venue because it would be much appreciated by the firefighters and police officers in the audience who were understandably angry given the appalling losses they had just sustained.  There would be a time when all these people would regain their equilibrium, but right then they were hurting big time.

        Billy Joel wanted Paul to listen to a tape of some music he was working on.  He was trying to write classical music like Paul did.  Bon Jovi wanted to spend a few minutes with John Lennon, his idol.  Elton John ran into Paul in the hallway and the two men hugged and kissed.  On the lips.  Eric Clapton agreed to participate in the Freedom finale, but Mick Jagger did not.  “Typical Mick, such a cunt,” John could be heard grumbling under his breath.  Stella showed up after a quick flight over from London, and joined her dads in their dressing room.  “This is my baby girl,” Paul said proudly, introducing Stella to a handful of celebrities hanging in the room.  Then she flew into John’s arms and gave him a huge hug.  And Albert caught all of this on film.  Some of it would eventually make it into the film - not to be released for 10 years - and some of it wouldn’t.

        John and Paul had handpicked their eight songs carefully, with an eye towards what was going on in the world.  They started out with their duet, Because, and moved right into the happy Wings song What the Man Said, followed by John’s solo Instant Karma, Paul singing Hey Jude, and John singing Imagine. This led directly into All You Need is Love, Freedom, and finally Let It Be, with most of the performers joining them on the last two songs.  Freedom was a huge hit with the audience, who sang along with it as if they had known the song for years.  It was fun for all the celebrities who were on the stage singing, too, when a bunch of firefighters and police officers came out and sang with them. 

        While everyone was singing, Pete Townshend was coming on big time to Paul, and in the background comedian Billy Crystal was visibly shocked by this display.  John, who noticed it immediately, was ready to thump Pete. He was incredibly surprised by the intensity of his reaction.  John figured it was because when they were keeping their relationship on the down low, all of these lecherous bisexual rock stars weren’t sure if Paul was bisexual too, but there was the chance that he wasn’t, and open flirting with him might end up being embarrassing for them.  But now that they knew for sure that he was at least bisexual, some of them were apparently seeing green lights where they ought to see red lights (at least John thought so).   John gritted his teeth and continued singing and smiling for the audience.  He’d smack Pete in the back of his head later.

        Finally, they were off the stage, and everyone was hugging each other and the first responders.  John and Paul were surrounded by dozens of people - not just the firefighters, police, EMTs and their family members, but also celebrities.  They each tried to focus on people one-to-one, but the crush was quite overwhelming.  After 15 minutes of this, John grabbed ahold of Paul’s wrist, and dragged him down the hallway past grasping people, and then they made their way into their limo.

        “Whoa!” John said as the car door closed behind them.  “That was a serious crush, man.”

        “I was afraid we were going to be swallowed whole,” Paul responded.  “It was a bit dicey.”

        “Fucking Pete Townshend was slobbering all over you while we were doing Freedom,” John grumbled.  (Albert was not in the car with them, and the driver had raised the privacy divider.)

        Paul sniffed.  “You’re dreaming,” he said.

        “I’m not!  He was fucking slobbering all over you!” John responded.  “I wanted to fucking kill him!”

        Paul laughed.  “What was the worst that would happen?  It isn’t as if he was going to get anywhere with me.”

        John laughed.  “I saw red.  He was trespassing on my territory, man...”

        “Territory?” Paul’s voice was quite squeaky.  “Is that what I am to you - territory?”

        “Abso-tutin’-lutely!” John responded unapologetically.

        Paul laughed.  “I’m not a pushover, Johnny.”

        “That may be true, babe, but I’m gonna make sure that I keep you honest,” John said.  “Not to worry.  Lennon’s on the case.”

        Paul laughed out loud.  John was a very fun person.  He was a constant hilarious surprise.  And, truthfully, it was a little comforting that the man could still feel jealousy.  Paul didn’t want John to be jealous, but if John showed it under these silly circumstances, it was something Paul could appreciate.  It was satisfying to know that his lover was possessive enough to be worried over some third party’s half-hearted theatrical flirting.  He felt warm and appreciated, and he turned a loving smile on John.

        John melted:  nothing like a full on Macca smile to make his day.  He said, “I’m going to give Pete a piece of my mind when I see him next.”

        Paul said softly, “Don’t be giving away pieces of your mind, Johnny. They’re far too valuable to waste on nonsense.”

        John leaned over and offered up his lips for a kiss. Paul was filled with a feeling of affection, and leaned in towards John, and then they kissed each other - full on the lips. 


*****
      


        Later that night Stella returned to her fathers’ apartment, where she was staying that night, before returning to London the next day with them on the Concorde.  She had gone out to a club with her cousins after the concert, and had dragged herself into the apartment at 2 a.m.  She had been very proud of John and Paul - they had put the very successful concert together and had headlined it in such a perfect way.  Now she sat in the darkness of the sitting room, going through her cell phone to see what messages Alasdhair might have sent.  He had sent her a series of sweet messages, and she found herself tearing up.  She really, truly was done with the single life.  She couldn’t wait to get back to London and Alasdhair.

        John and Paul had fallen asleep about an hour earlier.  They had needed to unwind from the stress and excitement of the last few days.  The form of ‘unwinding’ they indulged in involved some very energetic sex.  As they were pumping away John suddenly said, “If Howard Stern could see us now, he’d know who was on the bottom!”  And that smartass remark almost spoiled the mood.



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