Separation Anxiety

Part 15

"Tom," Laura whispered, touching his face as she slipped into bed beside him. Almost asleep, he pushed over, one of Barry's shoulders digging into his back. Laura shivered, half laughing as she said, "God, it's cold."

"Yeah," Tom said, feeling Barry shift as he awoke behind him.

"Tom, you know that Paul and I have to leave tomorrow evening."

Tom had been trying to push this thought from his mind. He wanted to go back, badly, but the thought of leaving Robbie again tore at his heart.

Laura's eyes flickered from Tom's face to Barry's as he pushed himself up onto one elbow, looking at her over his brother's shoulder. "Don't go," Baz said, his voice slightly hoarse, and she bit her lip. "We have to Barry." Laura's eyes moved back to Tom. "Can I come with you?" Tom whispered.

"I want to go too," Barry mumbled.

"Do you want to?" Laura asked, the question mostly directed towards Tom.

"I do but..."

Laura smoothed his hair and he closed his eyes, burying his head against her. "You don't have to come right away."

"I'll miss you."

Barry was watching them and she smiled at him briefly before she tucked her head down to kiss Tom. Barry's eyes moved over them. Tom made a small noise, leaning up to deepen the kiss, his hand coming up and tangling into Laura's dark hair. Barry looked away.

There was still something about Laura that he... no.

He heard Laura make that soft gasping that she did when Tom's hand slid between her thighs, and she turned onto her back, her eyes big and trusting and dark. Tom slid over her, one of her legs coming up to press against his hip, and that was when Barry pushed himself off the of the bed, finding a pair of jeans on the floor that, when he pulled on, he realized were Tom's because they were a little too long and less worn in. It didn't matter anyway.

He slipped out of the room, wondering if they would get caught. The thought amused him, and still he felt a little flutter, slightly lower than his belly when his fingers slid over the smooth railing of the stairs...

Paul awoke to the press of fingers against his jaw, and half sat up, slightly startled. Barry's hands fell to Paul's wrists and tugged him up from the couch.

"Baz..." he said, softly thinking that he should be used to these outdoor excursions at all hours of the night by now – they happened so frequently.

"What?" he asked, and Barry responded by turning to him and sliding his fingers into the waistline of Paul's dark jeans, pulling him forward a step, his mouth hot and wet against Paul's neck, but then the touch was gone, and Paul sucked in a breath. When Barry disappeared into the dark hallway, he followed.

Tom's eyes flickered to the door as Barry left, feeling guilty for a moment, before Laura's fingers slid down his back along his spine, and his breath burst from him as he jerked his hips against hers. She smiled at him, pressing down on the small of his back with her hands, keeping him there against her before lifting her hips. He whispered promises, senseless words and, above all, her name, against her neck as he slid into her, feeling her fingers tighten.

"I love you."

The sighing of the sea filled Paul's ears, and when Barry turned to him, his eyes flickering over Paul's shoulder to judge the distance from there, to the house, then back to him again, Paul felt more whole than he had his whole fucking life.

Barry's hands on him, and Paul lay back, feeling the shifting of the sand under his shoulders and the short bits of sea grass against his neck, as Barry's lean body slid over him. They were in a dip of land which hid them from the little house, but not from the Abbey, dark against the night sky, its stoney top just visible.

"Oh my God," Paul breathed, before their mouths met; and the words, the way they were said in wonderful desperation sent shivers all through Barry, which were only intensified with Paul's lips on his neck, Paul pulling the collar of Barry's sweater down, then changing his mind and taking the bottom of it and pulling it off completely. And fuck, sucking on Barry's pale skin where his pulse beat above his collarbone.

Their breathing was rough and warm against their skin – contrasting sharply with the cold breeze as Paul sat up and pulled his shirt off – it was still in his hand when Barry pushed him down against the grass again, when his hands came up to hold Barry's sides. Barry's hands were hard on Paul's shoulders.

Paul shoved him off and rolled on top of him, his hand forcing Barry's chin up, their laughter escaping them in soft breaths and little huffs. It was like a game, but the way Baz's hand seemed to send surges into his nerves as it slid down his abdomen to his trousers was so much more.

Paul leaned down and barely brushed the singer's lips with his own. When Barry leaned up to kiss him, Paul pulled away, grinning. His laugh interrupted the sound of the sea the third or fourth time this happened, and Barry, with a frustrated motion, finally managed to push the denim over Paul's hips and reached up to cup the back of Paul's head in his hands and pull him down.

"Shh!" Laura almost-laughed as Tom cried out, her gaze moving nervously to the door even as they still rocked against each other. Her hands reached up to cradle Tom's face as he pulled back enough to look at her.

The way he said her name was different from anyone and everyone else she had ever been with. Somehow, men groaning her name into her breasts didn't hold so much meaning as Tom's lips barely forming the word – while he looked at her like this.

"Paul," Barry whispered, softer than Paul's voice, as he held Barry's hips in place. Barry loved how Paul would watch him, speak quietly to him, drawing his attention away from the pain that – more often than not – still accompanied their sex at the beginning.

It wasn't like the first time – Barry could never quite remember that.

"Are you ta- taking me with you?" Barry asked, his breath hitching. "To London?"

Paul's eyes met his and Barry saw the worry there. He tensed – fearing that Paul had changed his mind once again, then winced, and felt Paul slow his movements to more careful ones. Barry's hands fell to his hips, elevating his own up against Paul's, guiding him, forcing him to quicken his pace once more.

"Yes," Paul answered, his hand slipping down between them, tracing the scar, then lower until Barry moaned and clutched at him.

They lay close together, limbs entangled long after their breathing had returned to normal. It was still cold, but Barry would have gladly remained there until the sun rose. Eventually though, long before the darkest part of the night, they made their way back into the house, sand still in their hair and in their clothes. Barry didn't go back up to his and Tom's room, and instead lay flush against the bassist on the couch, balanced rather precariously on the edge with Paul's arm around him, making sure he didn't fall, and that was where they fell asleep.

By the next evening the atmosphere on the L'Estrange Head had changed. The walls seemed greyer, and the rain that settled in suited the mood – or perhaps added to it. Albert Howe was more distant than usual, but when the boys stood in the door to his study to say goodbye to him he called them inside and stood, embracing them both at once – something he hadn't done since they were very young. Barry ducked his head against Tom's shoulder to collect himself before he his father noticed the tears. Somehow that made their leaving again much more permanent.

Robbie walked them to the boat, and stood with the four of them before Bert Stebbings arrived in his boat. It wasn't long before she pressed the heel of her hand against her mouth and walked away several paces and stood with her back to them, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed silently.

Tom called her name softly, but Barry went to her first, sliding his hand into hers as he had when he was just a kid and holding on tightly. Tom followed, pulling Robbie's head under his chin, his eyes closed. She clutched Barry's hand painfully, her other hand holding tightly to the fabric of Tom's sweater.

When the boat arrived, she'd collected herself and hugged both her brothers, whispering that she loved them. Paul and Laura stood apart from the three of them, outcasts.

"We'll come back soon, Robbie," Tom was saying, as Barry said something about writing her. Baz kissed her cheek fleetingly, and she looked a little surprised at that display of affection, but then he had walked away, passing both Laura and Paul before they could catch a glimpse of his face. Bert watched Robbie walk back to their house with a worried expression. She was taking her time, one of her hands always raised to her face, wiping away any evidence of tears before she reached her deck.

Barry and Tom didn't say a word all the way across the water, but when they reached the train station their moods brightened a little. Tom wanted to know if they would start the band back up and Paul told him that he would have to speak to Zak again.

It was the last train, and Tom slept against Barry's shoulder while his brother looked out the window, occasionally catching Paul's eyes – the main thing that made him feel like coming back to London wasn't a mistake.

Paul joined Laura on the couch, handing her his cigarette as they watched Tom and Barry argue over some song lyrics across the recording room at Humbleden. "Are you spending the night here?" she asked, after blowing smoke away from Paul's face. Paul shook his head, leaning down to slip his bass back into its case. "No, we're coming back in the morning though. Aaron and Ben and I are going to wrap up the first two songs... And this one," he added, indicating the twins as he sat up again and took the fag back from her and taking a drag, "If we can ever agree on a chorus."

"Those are fucking stupid lyrics, Tommy!" Barry's voice carried across the room to them and Paul looked over, letting out a breathy laugh.

"Just fucking change them altogether then!" Nick snarled, coming out of the joined room. "You two arguin' about it ain't gonna make the song better!"

Barry glared at Nick and Tom backed down, pulling his notebook from Baz's hands and putting it into his guitar case. Laura stood up and joined him half-way across the room where he lowered his head towards hers and said something softly.

"Oi! What are you two talking about over there?" Nick asked, pointing his fag at them.

Laura only spared him a half-second glare before returning to their conversation.

Barry looked around, as Paul stood up, his bass case in his hand. Before he could ask, Paul said, "Are you coming with me?"

It was strange at first, Paul would find himself thinking in the middle of the night, while Barry slept next to him, to have Baz here in his flat – just the two of them. It was so rarely just the two of them. Usually it was them and Tom, and Laura, and Nick and Eddie who seemed more whole now that he had his cameras out at Humbleden, and with the rest of the crew never more than a room away.

It was a relief though – to escape from all the noise and the commotion. Passing the mirror that reflected the white powder back and forth on Paul's sitting-room floor and laughing until it hurt. The way their lips would be numb from cocaine when they kissed – tongues collecting the drug from each other's fingers.

But it wasn't always like that. Sometimes they would share a bottle of cheap wine or vodka, depending on their mood and it was quiet and peaceful. Records would spin over and over in the background, The Kinks, Clive's High Five, Iggy Pop, John Cale, The New York Dolls... The Bang Bang.

Sometimes they wouldn't speak for songs at a time. My Friend, Doola and Dawla that would always remind Barry of Robbie, and of It...

Sometimes there was a rushing in his ears – the sound of the sea. He knew that It... He... would never leave him completely.

Robbie jumped at the sudden noise, whirling around to face her window where Bert was sitting on her roof. He grinned at her and she crossed the room to push the window up.

"Bert, you startled me."

"Do you want to come back to my house with me?"

"What, now? It's so late."

"No I mean..." he began, somewhat awkwardly. "Well, I would have bought you a ring if I could afford it, but my job doesn't pay me that well, so I thought, we had to start somewhere..."

Robbie's eyes widened, and he pulled her hand away from her mouth and kissed her. "C'mon, gal. I'll have you back by morning, and ah, we'll break it to your Da'."

Tom stared out his and Barry's – his and Laura's window, only two stars visible from his position on the bed, Laura's head on his chest – and thought about his brother. At this moment, Barry's white limbs were tangled with Paul's on top of white sheets in Paul's flat, but Tom's jealously that Paul had, in a way, taken Barry away from him could never make him dislike the bassist.

Paul's tentative conversation with him had become easier and just like old times, when Barry was Tom and Tom was Barry, and no one could take him away. It was good, he thought, that Baz had found someone. And if Paul was anything like Laura – which Tom knew he must be – then all was well.

But no matter the distance. No matter that Barry was in a small flat all the way out in the city, shifting carefully against Paul, and looking out the window to where the city lights made the sky a velvety black – chasing all the stars into hiding – and hating the sound of the traffic, they were still Tom and Barry. Tom could still know him just by looking into his eyes – more than he'd ever known about Laura – or ever could know.

Barry thought, once, that even if they were both lost in London, or anywhere really, that they would know where to find each other.

He remembered a day about a month ago, when he had been out with Paul, pressing closer to him than was necessary as they made their way through the bustling crowds to the bus station so that they could meet with Zak about the band, the way he had looked up, for no reason at all and caught Tom's eyes through the crowd across the street. He had no idea that Tom had been out with Laura, returning from giving one of her articles to a publisher. He remembered the way they had held each other's eyes.

Neither of them told Laura or Paul about it.

They were, Tom thought, despite their (at times, seemingly endless) differences: still brothers, soulmates, twins.

Tom, Barry thought was Barry, Tom thought, was him.