Hal was always looking for Tom to slip up so he could offer a scathing remark to see what reaction he was met with.
This time it was to do with a certain rota and Tom's sad eyes.
Hal swallowed, looking directly at Tom for the first time in weeks.
'I wish I'd killed that fucking baby the first time I'd set eyes on it.'
Tom left the room with broken knuckles and wet cheeks.
Hal laughed with blood on his teeth.
'No use having that old thing around, eh?' Alex would say after the incident, holding the rota with a smile that didn't reach her eyes and a laugh that was too precise, too practised. Tom agrees and thanks her because it's good manners and really, where would he be without her? Annie left just like McNair. And Hal, well Tom thinks, he's as good as dead. No, he regrets thinking that immediately. He understands that's not Hal slumped in the living room, tied and caged, restraining the monster in him that's crawling to the surface; that's ripping skin in order to form a more viscous and brutal casing for itself.
'Ever wonder why she left us, Tom? I personally think it was to do with having to take care of two incompetent infants that have an inability to feed, clothe and talk properly.'
Tom ignores him and continues tightening the straps.
It's been 6 months of this. Tom's tried moving him about the house.
'Change of scenery, yeah, mate? Do you the world of good.'
Each time Tom unbuckled the straps Hal would try and run away by easily overpowering Him. Alex always brought him back though, teasing light-heartedly that he shouldn't have taught her how to rent-a-ghost. She's met with Hal spitting insults and threats on what he has intended for her three brothers just as soon as he's out of those damned fastenings.
He's settled slightly now. He seems most comfortable in Annie's room.
'It's been absolute ages since I've been in 'er.'
Silence. Tom can't recall the last time Hal's talked to him. He only talks to Alex nowadays, saying he prefers her company.
'Do ya eva think 'bout 'er? Bet 'er and Nina are havin' a right good time. And George well 'e'll be -''
'Shut up, Tom.'
Tom smiles because its sound and words and that voice sounds so much lovelier when it isn't screaming in agony.
Tom let's himself remember that Hal.
It's one simple, hazy memory that makes Tom's heart heavy.
Annie's making Tea whilst Hal twists a single domino between his fingers and Tom sharpens his big stake under the table keeping an eye out in case Annie catches him. Then there would be hell to pay.
'Go on then, just in time for Antique Roadshow. C'mon, Hal.'
Tom's bumping Hal's shoulder and Hal groans but it's unconvincing as he follows Tom and they both fall onto the sofa, Tom hiding Thor under the pillows.
'I'm deffo getting it this time, mate. I can feel it.'
'Confident, are we?'
'You'll both be eating your words,' chirps in Annie as she crams herself between them, handing them their tea.
Hal's snarling makes everything sharp and clear and all too real again.
He's thrashing and struggling. His neck strained and his mouth wide open as his eyes blink furiously. He unclasps his hand that's been nestled in the covers and searches for something strong; more durable to grip and crush. Tom brings himself closer to where Hal's lying, kneeling on the floor and placing a hand on the bed. Hal grabs it without looking, clamping both their fingers together, squeezing desperately.