Tom stood next to Baz in the spurting bursts of rain that came in April, smoking a joint that was badly rolled, thanks to Barry and his inattention to whatever he was doing, waiting for Nick to finally come out of the house and start the van up for them.
They were going to another gig, but the day had been so quiet and rainy that Tom didn't feel the excitement of it quite yet. He didn't like that – the lack of feeling. He missed being excited and terrified even before they reached the end of their long drive and wondered what that meant for him now. Was all this just going to turn into something he got used to?
Barry was holding out his hand for the joint, but Tom didn't notice until Barry tapped the back of his knuckles sharply with his own. Tom blinked and handed it to him and Baz ducked close to and inhaled, trying to shield it from the rain.
The rain fell harder and Tom sighed, feeling irritated. A movement from the house caught his eye and he looked over, past his brother, hoping it was going to be Nick, but it was just Paul. His irritation heightened and before he even had time to suss out why that was – to chastise himself Paul was there and he felt the pull on the join as Barry straightened up. Tom had to move one foot towards him to lessen the tugging – to accommodate his brother.
He didn't even hear what Paul said – or didn't remember it. What he did remember was the way Barry's sullen look, that quietly sulking mood he'd had all day seemed to vanish in an instant, and he was grinning, pulling off the joint again and Tom watched them in that moment – the way their eyes never left each other's, not even when Barry lowered his hand and held the smoke in. The whole thing might have taken about five seconds, but it was too long. Too long for Paul to be looking at his brother that way.
Tom pulled Barry closer to him, reaching up into his wet hair and pulling his head down to Tom's neck and he felt Baz almost melt against him and felt the uncomfortable realisation that this was what Barry had wanted all day, but had held back from doing. Barry went quiet and his arm tightened around Tom's back, relaxing and Tom cursed himself because he hadn't noticed – all the warning signs were there – that It was lurking just on the edge of his brother's mind and he—no. He was lying to himself. He had noticed. Seen it in the way Barry sighed and chain-smoked and asked Tom several times if he wanted to go for a walk, but Tom had said 'no, it's raining,'… and so Barry had been made to struggle through it alone.
Tom knew it got better when he noticed it – when he kept Barry close to him, protected him, watched him to know when he needed a distraction and today he hadn't done any of it because he hadn't wanted to. He was tired of it – always having to do that. He was tired of Barry and tired of the one who didn't have a name…
His irritation faded away as though it had never been there, but left him with a cold, empty feeling. Guilt alongside a sort of dull fear. What was happening to them? Would he have been neglecting his brother back on the Head too? Would It have gotten as bad as this, tormenting Baz far more often than it had in the past?
But then, he wondered, as he caught Paul's slightly confused eyes, why he had to do any of this. Why was it was always him that had to take care of his brother… but he knew. It was because of the join, the band that connected them forever and ever. It wasn't fair. No matter how he looked at it, it wasn't fair. He'd never thought like this before.
Before it had always been "Something Special".
What had happened?
He watched Paul's eyes move to Barry again, the slight furrowing of his brow as he tried to contemplate them, figure out this sudden withdrawal from him. When he looked back up at Tom, maybe asking for answers, but certainly not expecting them, Tom felt his jaw tighten and he looked away. He knew Paul had noticed – knew he had hurt him because out of the corner of his eye, he watched Paul push his hands into his pockets and then move off to join Spitz and Tubs around the front of the van.
It was too late to call him back now.
After the gig, Tom sat in back corner of the van, adrenaline and alcohol still coursing through him – Tom was glad that the excitement had returned to him in the back room before they went up on stage and he had tried to get Barry to joke around a bit, or at least smile, but he was staring at the floor, or something beyond it, and barely acknowledged him.
Baz belted out the songs as though nothing was wrong, although Tom felt the tightening of his brother's hand on in the belt-loops of his jeans between songs, where he'd hooked his fingers to keep his arm supported around Tom's back and felt Barry's breath hot against his shoulder, both of them too hot, their hair dripping sweat to sting their eyes. He could feel Barry's heart racing but it was all in the wrong way. It wasn't excitement from the show, it was fear and no one else noticed it, except maybe Paul who'd come to them more than usual between songs to talk to him in the few seconds that they had. Barry seemed to hang onto his every word, watched him until he had to pick up the microphone again and Tom hadn't liked it.
So now, when Barry nuzzled into his shoulder, trying to get Tom to reach up and stroke his hair or just tighten his hold around his shoulders, just talk to him or – a stabiliser, a distraction… Tom didn't. Barry thought Paul could help him, so let Paul help him… the trouble was – Tom wasn't letting Paul help. He'd deliberately ignored him throughout the whole gig, and now the bassist was up op at the front of the van, on the opposite side, quietly smoking a cigarette and evidently lost in thought. Tom didn't want Paul to help Barry, but fuck, he did…
"Tommy?" Barry said softly, and Tom could hear the tension, the stress in his voice. It was worse now – in the silence, this thing. Tom knew Barry couldn't control it. Didn't decide he wanted to have a 'bad day'. Tom continued to ignore him, even when Barry touched his chest, trying to get his attention, "Hey…?"
Tom wanted to go home and see Laura, undress her, talk to her about how fucked he was – and have her help him, make it better, and not have Barry there watching. He could never tell Barry these things – but he figured that Barry probably already knew. In any case, he knew enough, because he sighed – almost scoffed, and pulled away suddenly, and cold air moved between them as he put as much distance between them as possible. He reached into his pocket, twisting his body to get his fags out, deliberately pulling on the join as if to say this is what we were, this is what we have to live with, so fucking suck it up. As if to say Why won't you help me, I'm closer to you than anyone ever will be. He was angry now, Tom could feel it in the quickened blood flow, the anger that rose in him, only aided but Barry's, not caused by it.
"D'you have a light, Paul?" Barry asked, shattering the near-silence of the van. Paul looked up, as though startled and then pulled out his matches and tossed them over. Barry lit up, keeping his eyes away from Tom's, ignoring him, shutting him out.
They all sat around the recording room after the show, drinking more, passing around one or two joints, all of them far more drunk than they should be. Barry had attached himself to Paul as much as he could, catching his wrist and not letting go when Tom pulled his brother inevitably down onto the couch and Paul sat down too, after only a moment's hesitation, a glance in Tom's direction, but Tom made sure to turn away from him before he had to meet it, and reach out for the joint that Nick had burning between his fingers where he'd passed out on the couch.
Even if Tom wanted to bring Barry's attention back to himself now, he couldn't – even if he'd wanted Barry to curl against his side and be protected from the world as much as Tom could protect him, because Baz was completely engaged with Paul now, and Paul wasn't raising any complaints. Barry would reach out and touch him, touch his hair, tug at the shoulder of his shirt, anything to keep his attention, anything at all. Barry put himself out there completely – almost – in order to keep Paul's interest.
Tom noticed Tubs watching them and he looked over, something he'd been trying to do all night but had found hard to avoid.
"Come on, Paul, do it," Barry was saying, joint half raised to his mouth, and Paul was smiling, but there was something there – a nervousness, excitement and Tom stilled, not wanting to be noticed, but not looking away.
He watched his brother inhale and then lower the joint and place his free hand on Paul's neck, then replacing it over his dark hair and pulling him closer. It wasn't close enough for their mouths to touch as Barry blew the smoke into the other man's mouth, but Tom felt his heart speed up and knew that part of that – most of it – was Barry's.
Paul had placed his hand on Baz's arm, moment before he pulled away, and he didn't let go for a moment. Tubs had looked away again and Tom realised that everything was still going – people were still talking, no one really seemed to have noticed, save their drummer, but what did it really matter to him in the end, Tom thought? How would he be affected by it.
Barry still hadn't taken his hand from Paul's neck when Tom looked back, and it was Paul that pulled away with a soft smile.
Tom never mentioned it, and Barry kept it to himself. The anxiety he'd felt all day seemed to have faded in a combination of his exhaustion, the intoxication and the memory of Paul – how close they'd been and Tom realised before he fell asleep that Paul was doing far more than he had been these last few months to help Barry…
He felt bad. He didn't want to abandon Barry – that wasn't what he was trying to do. The thought terrified him and suddenly he felt terrible – for how he'd been ignoring his brother, for how he'd been treating Paul.
He didn't know what to do anymore.
He slid his arm around Barry's back, who, even though he was half passed out and so far from sober, had tried to lay as far from him as possible. Barry tensed, his eyes opening and focusing vaguely on him.
"Go to sleep," Tom said, moving close. He felt Barry's hand move vaguely against his stomach and his hip, too far gone to raise his arm and wrap it around Tom's back.
Barry forgave him so easily, despite his stubbornness and his determination to be independent – to be strong enough. The trouble was though, that was he wasn't strong enough to handle this thing on his own, and Tom knew that. He understood that all too well.