THE MUSICIAN

Finally, finally, fucking finally everyone had just gone. Whether it was out for fags and food or just to go to bed. Even Eddie, the ever-present cameraman was beyond hung over today and refused to get out of bed, much less leave his room. That meant that the rest of the filming staff had the day off as well.

No cameras. It was like a bloody revelation to what life could be like without the cameras. Barry had almost forgotten. But from the way Nick was acting it was as though the apocalypse was coming. He'd sat and snarled at them all day, chain-smoking like a fucking chimney and lashing out at anyone who double-crossed him. Tom didn't, Paul learned quickly, and Barry still had to keep his hands away from his face for fear of prodding the bruise.

In any case, it was a relief. A quieter day than most for once. They hadn't even played. Tubs and Spitz had gone out drinking as soon as they realized the foul mood that Nick was in.

And so everyone was gone… well, except for Tommy of course… and Paul.

Paul was sprawled on the couch, one arm hanging over the side, almost down to the floor, a cigarette burning it's way steadily to ash between his middle and ring fingers. His eyes were closed, his mouth slightly open. It had been a long day. He was fast asleep. Part of Barry wanted to see the slowly burning cigarette meet his fingers, not calloused on this hand as they were on his left, from the bass - just to see the reaction.

One of his heavy, black boots was propped up on the arm of the couch, the other leg trailing down to the floor, clad tightly in soft black leather. Barry swallowed. His free hand was under his neck, cushioning it against the hard arms of the short sofa, and his dress shirt had ridden up, revealing his pale-skinned stomach and had slipped slightly on one hip, revealing a knife-sharp hipbone. If I had Siamese Twins… I would cut 'em down the middle. Like a slice of bread.

As if reacting to the hard-bright glint of the metal knife in Barry's mind, Paul shifted, letting out a soft noise and Barry started, his eyes darting away for sudden fear of Paul catching him staring, but the older man simply turned his face towards the couch and slept on.

Barry looked away, coming almost nose to nose with Tom who was looking at him curiously. "What is it, Baz?"

Barry shrugged, averting his eyes and burying his face against his brother's shoulder for a moment. He could feel Tom's breath brushing against his ear, his neck, and felt his eyes on the back of his head, but after a few moments he turned back to his writing.

If Paul's breath had been that close… Barry drew his legs closer to himself licking his lips. He directed his attention at the T.V., trying not to think of anything except for what was happening on the screen… If Tommy had asked him what was happening there Barry wouldn't have been able to tell him.

Paul, his dark eyes, sparkling mischievously. God. Right, he had laughed, when they received the Siamese-sisters record from Zak Bedderwick. The way his disapproval showed plainly on his face when Nick had flicked his cigarette ashes in Barry's hair. Leaning forward to brush it out, Oh, now don't do that. He seemed so calm to Barry. So laid back. It was a quality he admired, even if he didn't really try incorporating that into himself… he wouldn't really be able to anyway…

No. Don't think about that. He thought to himself, blinking his eyes back into focus and staring at the T.V. screen, which was fuzzing slightly. But it was too late. He blew a hard, short breath through his nose and grabbed the first thing that he could reach, an ashtray, and threw it hard at the television.

"What the hell are you doing, Barry?" Tommy cried, startled.

"I'm tryin' t'turn it off!" Barry shot back, moving to stand up, ignoring the pulling of the join between them. Tom's familiar arm encircled his shoulders as he rose with him, alleviating the pressure and muttering softly under his breath. Tom picked up the ashtray, scooping the little mountain of ash and butts back into it as best he could, and Barry slammed the heel of his hand against the dial, turning his wrist sharply. The picture faded slowly into nothing, the screen seeming to suck in, pop white, making both brothers wince at the brightness in the dark room, then it shut off with an audible snap.

Surprisingly, through all the commotion, Paul hadn't moved at all. They settled back on the couch, Barry crossing one arm moodily over his stomach, closing it on the fabric of his sweater and looking stubbornly in the opposite direction, mad at Tommy because there was no one else to be mad at… No one… real anyway. Legitimate. Tommy flicked on the side lamp and continued writing.

"Paul." The glowing embers were millimeters away from the other's fingers. "Paul!" Barry tried again. Tom looked over and Barry ignored him. He reached out, finally, his own fingers sliding down Paul's with a strange jump in his stomach at such a stupid, simple, touch and flicked the cigarette onto the carpet and quickly picking it up again. He heard Tom's intake of breath, but his brother kept his mouth shut; knew when to lay off. Knew when provocation would trigger… trigger it. Him.

Hasn't got a name…

Strangely, Paul awoke at this small touch even when the noise hadn't succeeded. He woke quickly, looking confused for a moment before swinging his leg off of the arm of the couch and sitting up with a slight wince, arms falling between his knees. Barry's eyes lit on the older man's bringing the smoke to his lips for a quick drag, the ash already having fallen off, and then he reached over Tommy, crushing it out along with the other butts into the ashtray.

He didn't notice Paul cock his head, watching Barry thoughtfully, but Tommy did, out of the corner of his eye.

Last night, after they'd finished the recording of the Bang Bang's first album, high as he was, he hadn't missed Barry and Paul's little snogging episode on the bed beside him. Back then he hadn't really thought anything of it… Laura was there, and she of course had his attention.

She'd noticed though. He remembered her watching Barry and Paul, long after they had pulled apart… And Barry and Paul hadn't spoken much to each other after that. Nothing aside from the professional stuff anyway, and there'd been almost none of that today. He'd made a half-hearted attempt at asking them to practice to pacify Nick, but none of them wanted to, and Paul wasn't about to force them.

"I want t'go for a walk." Barry's sullen voice cut into his thoughts as pushed himself upright again and he glanced at Paul once, who raised no objection but instead stood up, twisting around to grab his jacket with one hand and pulling his trousers up an inch or two with the other.

It was only every once in a while that Barry would notice the effects all the cocaine, crank, booze, and little pills had on them. Tommy's ribs far more prominent than before when they went in for a shower, Barry's own dark circles under his eyes, and Paul's clothes rapidly becoming too big for him.

"I'll come with you." Paul said. Tommy smiled. "Don't want to run into Nick when he gets back?"

"That's part of it, yeah," Paul said, rolling his shoulders forward to get his jacket on, already with a fresh fag between his lips. Barry looked between them, envying the ease of their conversation

The three of them went out together. It was a cool night, but the sky was clear and the stars were out, shining stonily down on them as they made their way across the grounds of Humbleden Hall.

Tommy pulled a jacket on over his right arm, draping the other over his left shoulder and Barry's right. Their breath rose before them and Barry shivered in his sleeveless undershirt and pushed his hands into his pockets, pressing unconsciously closer to Tom for warmth.

The three of them leaned back against the cold stone wall, Tom lighting a smoke he'd started earlier. He'd never quite taken to the habit, but in this place, where there was nothing really to do but practice and write and talk (and, thought Barry, when Laura's around, fuck, even though that doesn't include me. Tom's Laura's boyfriend. Touching the join, not him, not Barry.)

He fumbled in his pocket for his fags, anything to keep his head. Referring to himself in the third person let him catch himself sometimes… before it really got him. His hands shook a little as he flicked open his cigarette pack.

He drew out the last one, realizing it had been crushed in his jeans and the filter was now irreparable he swore softly, straightened it out as best he could and put it in his mouth anyway. "I need a light, Paul."

"Yeah—Baz, now don't smoke that." Paul said, exhaling smoke as he reached out and took the smoke from his lips, throwing it onto the ground. Barry watched him fumble for his own pack, thinking amusedly that Paul let them snort the powder up their noses and swallow the pills, but he wouldn't let him smoke a fag with a ruined filter.

"Thank you, Paul." Barry said reaching up for one of the older man's slightly lighter brand, but the bassist's fingers brushed his lips as he placed it in Barry's mouth himself, leaving Barry's hand hanging uselessly in mid-air.

"Here." Leaning close to him, he caught Barry's blue eyes and Barry watched, his stomach turning worrisomely as the older man's eyes darted to his lips. A slight hesitation and Paul leaned in, his hand coming up against Barry's cheek, minding the bruise under his eye and turning his face as he lit Barry's fag with his own.

Forgetting, for a moment, to inhale, Barry just closed his eyes, feeling Tom's burning into him, but then the smoke flooded his mouth and he swallowed.

Paul pulled away first.

"Thank you, Paul." Barry repeated, and Paul clapped his shoulder briefly before he turned away, staring out at the branches of the trees waving in the steady breeze.

Barry could avoid Tom's eyes better than anyone else on the planet. He was a master at it, they both were. They had to be. They didn't have the option of storming out of a room or turning their backs on each other if they got into an argument, and that's what Barry did now. How would it feel, he wondered, to have a shirt-lifter for a brother?

Well… he had to deal with Tommy's Laura, didn't he? Same difference.

He'd accepted this fact already, Barry, that he wanted Paul. Ever since he'd met him, really, there'd been something. A friendship, a protection from bleeding Nick Sidney and a beautiful, beautiful boy who would always turn his dark eyes on him, Barry, not Tom, while they were playing.

No one ever looked only at Barry. It was always Barry and Tom, Tom and Barry, Barry and fucking Tom and fucking Barry and Tom… and him. Barry's.

Laura looked at Tom. Laura looked only at Tom. Laura's eyes would never wander from Tom's as she rode him in their bed, even when Barry was less than a foot away.

Touching the join, never him.

No one but Paul ever just looked at Barry.

Paul who would lean back, as he played the bass, fag in his mouth, half a smile, happy simply to be playing. The way he would watch, troubled, when Nick knocked Barry around. No one messed with Nick. Barry didn't blame Tom or Paul for being bystanders.

But it was only Paul. Barry didn't fancy Spitz or Tubs lighting his cigarettes with the end of theirs, and certainly not anything to do with fucking Nick Sidney anywhere near him. No… and he liked Laura… Laura's body. Laura's tits. And Adelle had one of the nicest arses he'd ever laid eyes on… but…

"Ouch! Shit!" He threw the cigarette down, rubbing his fingers quickly together, then on his shirt before pressing the skin, blackened with ash at the second knuckle into his mouth. Paul laughed at him, grabbed the fag off the ground and handed it back. "Shut up." Barry snapped.

Tommy's soft laughter reached his ears and suddenly he turned on him and shoved him with all his strength, as though forgetting they were conjoined. Tom staggered backwards and Barry went with him. Barry was barely aware of what he was saying as he said it, but he was straddling his brother awkwardly, the join forcing him down, pulling at him, holding him there, and then he watched blood spurt from Tom's mouth as his head jerked to the side.

"Whoa, whoa!" Paul was yelling and strong hands gripped Barry's shoulders, but he couldn't very well pull him off. "Barry! Barry! Fuckin'. Stop it!"

Tom had tried to push him off, but now he just laid there, hands over his face, legs drawn up as he tried to block the worst of the blows.

"…you bloody bastard! Wha-? You keep watching, watching like what you do is any fucking better!" Barry caught the end of the sentence, issuing from his mouth, but it wasn't his own. Paul's hands relaxed on his shoulders after a moment and Tom and Barry panted harshly together as they collected themselves.

Barry wiped his mouth, his eyes on Tom's hands, still covering his face. "C'mon now, get up." Paul said from somewhere behind him. "Tom?" he continued, shaken but soft, "Tom, are you all right? C'mon now, lads."

Tom slowly pulled his hands away, blood trickling down from his split lip and from his nose. He didn't look at Barry. They struggled up. "Here now." Paul wiped some of the blood away with his hands and Tommy winced. Baz stood by silently, shaking a little, his eyes on the grass, watching the cigarette embers dying.

After a long silence, Paul said that they should probably go back in. "Barry, you look frozen."

Tom's arm tightened around Barry's shoulders and his twin sucked in a breath. Tom always forgave him for these episodes. As soon as they were over. He knew. They both knew. And Paul knew. So no questions asked.

Just like it never happened. Just like he wasn't there.

Barry couldn't get warm, after the fight. Tom had cleaned himself up, not rubbing it in for his brother by letting Paul take care of him like he was a child. Paul had kept Nick busy instead, so he didn't notice the blood. Barry shivered against Tom's chest, his brother's hand stroking his hair, the other wrapped around his back under the blankets.

For a while they whispered to each other, Tom resorting finally to talking about The Head where they grew up, and Robbie and When They Were Kids because Barry was only responding in monosyllables.

Finally Tom felt Barry's shivering subside. He kept talking and soon his twin's breath evened out and he slept, and only then did he allow himself to fall asleep as well.

Hours later Barry awoke with a start. His body had resumed more normal temperatures again and he'd turned away from Tommy, because it was too hot. Someone was touching his hair and he jerked back, instinctively towards his brother, but then Paul's voice met his ears. "Shh, Baz, it's me."

"What are you doing here?" Barry whispered, his voice an octave or two higher than normal.

Paul shook his head, but Barry could barely make it out in the darkness. Paul's hand pushed his curls back from his face several more times.

"You're all right, Barry." He said, and Barry furrowed his brow. "What?" But then Paul pressed his lips against Barry's forehead. He lingered for a moment, and then there was a rustling of cloth. The floorboards squeaked under his weight, and then the door creaked on its hinges.

Pale blue light flooded into the room from the hallway and Barry watched Paul's silhouette look back at him before he edged from the room, pulling the door half closed behind him.

When Barry fell asleep again, he dreamed of Paul's hands in his hair, and his lips against his neck.

If Tommy dreamt he didn't remember it in the morning, but there was no sand on this night, and Barry was right there beside him.

fin