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We Dance To the Sound of Sirens

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War, war, war, war/I want to declare a war

It was a hundred degrees inside the club, a ramshackle building made of concrete with
graffiti slogans all over the wall behind the stage. It used to be an all-ages disco, then the owner gave it to his cousin, who made it an all-ages punk spot, and also let the a/c die. Tommy had three PBR's and some of a bottle of Jack they were passing around in Jimmy’s car on the way over. Him and his friends (assholes) had listened to Stick It In to pump themselves up, coming through loud on the on-its-last-legs cassette player in Jimmy’s 1978 Chevy Malibu. When then finally made it he was late and buzzed and it had already started. Black Flag were on stage, Greg Ginn on the side, not looking at the audience while he played. Kira Rossler was on the other side, head down and frowning and Tommy wouldn’t have known she was a girl by looking at her. And in the middle, Henry Rollings was screaming his brains out as the audience thronged in front of him.

Tommy took off his spiked leather jacket, gave it to his girl (Mallisa, she had come with them), and ran right into the maelstrom. Immediately he was pushed and shoved from all sides, and he pushed back, loving it, already smiling. He couldn’t help it, he loved this, the violence and the sweaty slide of bodies. It was all guys, nearly, with just a few girls hanging around the back, holding their boyfriend’s leather. (There was one tough bitch on the scene, though: Carla Rossi, who could kick the ass of guys twice her size and Tommy had seen her do it. He’d gotten ice for her knuckles and given her some of his whiskey many times, admiring her lack of ability to take any shit.)

Tommy pushed up against Jack Demon, a fucking weirdo who had this combo hardcore/glitter rock band, which shouldn’t have gone together but did. Jack pushed him back, and they played off each other for a while before some fuckhead with his elbows up got Jack in the side of the head. Tommy got to the fuckhead first, breaking his nose with one well-aimed punch, and the place exploded. The main thing he remembered from the riot was Rollins punching some kid for getting too near the equipment, while Greg and Kira grabbed as much of it as they could.

Five minutes later, Tommy was running like fuck as sirens started coming from over down the street. Jimmy had already left, the pussy. Tommy dodged another punch and grabbed his jacket from Mallisa, her “Hey!” fading in the background as he ran through the back alleys. Behind him, the club was a mess of broken tables and chairs, the front window was broken, and Black Flag were waiting with their arms crossed for the cops. Tommy thought about the stoic faces they had when the riot started, and hoped they still got paid.

He ran until he found the house of a friend, Brent, and pounded on the basement door. Brent answered after a bit, looking tired and a little stoned. “What?”

“Let me in, motherfucker, the cops are out” was all Tommy had to say, and then he was in Brent’s basement. Within five minutes they were sharing a bong and watching Carnival of Souls on a tiny tv with the sound off. Brent got out his walkman-Ministry, of course, the goth fuck-and they shared the earphones, watching the girl who didn’t know she was dead being stalked by the inhabitants of the abandoned carnival. Brent taped his knuckles, put a bandage on the little cut he had gotten on his forehead from a flying broken bottle, and they both went to sleep in his fold-out bed. Tommy even felt a little kiss on his forehead, and he smirked right before he passed out.

Tommy woke up hungover and with his hand swollen, blood seeping out between the tape. Fuck, he needed to play tonight. Brent was still curled around him, and Tommy had to gently get up without waking him or pushing against his sleep hard-on. Brent was gay, they all knew Brent was gay-he was a goth, for one thing, despite having hardcore friends. It was sort of agreed among Tommy’s crew that anyone who fucked with Brent about it got a free baseball bat to the midsection. It’s not that they cared one way or another, but Brent was one of theirs-he didn’t have many little vampire fucks to hang out with, so yeah, fuck anyone who gave him shit.

“Whrhg,” Tommy said, looking for some pain pills in Brent’s stash. He wouldn’t care as long as Tommy left an IOU, he never did. Tommy took two, washed them down with a mini bottle of Jack, and left Brent a nice note thanking him for the place to crash and the pills.

See, he was a polite motherfucker.

Tommy made it to class in time for third period math. The whole class turned to watch Tommy stagger in, blood congealed around his knuckles. One of the prep girls huffed and Tommy just stared at her. Before her stupid jock boyfriend got up to defend her honor Mrs. Grayson had Tommy out of her class and down to see the guidance counselor.

Tommy sat in her office waiting room for a few minutes, poking at the bloody knuckles on his right hand. He could hear a high-pitched voice in the office with Mrs. Haden, and he couldn’t understand the words, but the fear and frustration came right through. He felt a twinge of sympathy for whoever it was.

Then the door opened, and Tommy looked up to see a tall, fat kid with red hair, freckles, and really pretty eyes. The guy stared at him like he was expecting Tommy to give him shit. That kind of pissed Tommy off-he was a punk, so he was supposed to hate everyone, which made him really did want to hate everyone-but he just nodded at the guy. “Hey.”

“Hey,” the guy said back, his voice soft and unsure. Tommy didn’t entirely get it-the fucker was almost twice his height. If anyone went after him he could’ve handled it easily. They just looked at each other a minute, Tommy with curiosity and openness, and the other guy-oh. Tommy got it, he didn’t get a chance to look much. Tommy held his gaze and before he thought about it, pushed his legs apart a little more. The other boy swallowed, Tommy blinked at him-and then Mrs. Haden was in the doorway. “Tommy, what are you doing? Adam, you can go to your next class now. Tommy, get in here.” The other boy-Adam-blushed furiously and ducked his head. He was gone before Tommy could even tell him ‘bye’. He slouched into Mrs. Haden’s office, her already bitching ninety to nothing.

Tommy came to somewhere in the middle of Mrs. Haden’s rant right about the time she said that he was going to be forced to take some sort of elective. “Because you need an outlet for your energy that isn’t getting into fights or playing clubs that turn into riots.” Tommy blinked, then looked at her. He held her gaze for a minute, and she squirmed under his look. He had to smile inside-he wasn’t even mad, she was just intimidated because he was a fucking dirty-ass punk. It was almost too easy. He dropped the eye contact long enough for her to get her breath, then returned it again.

“What elective?”

She seemed stunned that he wasn’t arguing with her over this, but then collected herself. “You can choose between theater, marching band, or debate. Art classes are all full.” Well that sucks, Tommy thought, and looked over the sheet she handed him with the times for classes. Marching band would require a uniform and going to football games-that was out. Debate-he loved a good pissing match, but he wasn’t that good with his words, and he would rather watch them than join them. He looked again, and then gave the sheet back to Mrs. Haden.

“Sign me up for theater. Maybe they’ll have a musical that needs some guitar.” She blinked at him in surprise and he smiled, one corner curling up. “Like you said, an outlet. Plus, it might be fun.”

“Tommy, I don’t want you taking this to get into fights with the theater kids-“ Tommy shoved forward in his seat.

“Theater kids are the last people I want to fight with, okay? They get shit from jocks same as me, and they don’t fight back. I don’t fight people who can’t defend themselves.” He just stared at her, because seriously? Is that what she thought? “I like performances, remember? I’m not scared of musicals.” Or being considered a queer for liking them, he added in his head. “Just sign me up, and I’ll be there for the next rehearsal. I’ll do props or something.”

She took the paper without any more comments, and Tommy was on for rehearsal at six. Tommy didn’t even know what the play was and frankly didn’t care. Whatever it was would be fun-shit, he was gonna miss band practice. Fuck, fuck, fuck. God, everyone was gonna be pissed.

When school finally let out, he flagged down this girl he knew. “Lisa! Can ya give me a ride home? I’ll buy you fries if you take me home, baby.”

Lisa looked over at him, her asymmetrical haircut swinging over one eye. “Anytime, my darling. Get in the car. Hey, I got another copy of Re-Animator, want to watch it?” Lisa’s mom somehow had a problem with a horror movie involving a severed head giving head, and had trashed the last one. Lisa had since learned to hide her horror stash a bit better.

“I would love to babe, but I have to get home. I gotta tell the band I can’t make it.”
“Fuck, what happened?” Lisa came over and gave him an a-frame style hug, and then rubbed over his wrist. “Wow, you fucked up that hand pretty good. I hope he deserved it.”

“He totally did. I have to miss it because I have to take an elective. I’m a theater geek now.” He grinned as Lisa dropped his hand and started laughing. He started laughing too because it was okay, Lisa could do that. She wasn’t mean. Then she squeezed his shoulder and they got in her Chevy, Lisa putting the radio on the local college station.

As they ate their fries and shared a chicken sandwich in the car, Tommy told her everything, and mentioned the boy in the office before him. “Yeah, he’s really shy, chubby but not bad looking. And I don’t know, we just kind of stared at each other.” He blushed a little-if most of his guy friends heard this he’d totally deny it, but he was pretty sure Lisa played for the other team. “I think his name was Adam or something.” Tommy was totally bullshitting right now-he knew goddamn well the kid’s name was Adam.

“Wait, his name is Adam? Shit, you’re gonna see a lot of him now.” Tommy just raised an eyebrow as she stuck a fry in some mayonnaise (and seriously, what the fuck was up with that). “He’s like, king of the theater department. He’s an amazing singer. I saw him perform in a college theater production-they just had him come in and sing show tunes. He fucking rocked them.”

“He can sing?” This got Tommy, well, kind of interested. He was a little punk fucker, but he loved music and people who made it well. Take Lisa-she pinch-hitted for horrible New Wave and dance bands, playing keyboards, but she was awesome on them.

“He can sing his ass off. He’s unbelievable for someone our age. Fuck, we gotta get you home, babe.” Lisa handed him the rest of the food and started the car back up, shoving a Misfits tape in the player.

“You know the rules, drop me off at Fifth and Whitman.” Tommy nibbled some of the fries. Fuck, they were going cold.

Lisa pulled her hair out of her eyes, the wind blowing it around from the open window. “You know, this whole thing you have about nobody ever seeing where you live just makes you hotter, baby.” Tommy laughed hard at that.

Tommy got home a little before four, walking the last four blocks. He looked at the house and shook his head before going in. He phoned the lead singer of his band and had a fifteen-minute argument that ending in him telling Chad that he could suck his mom’s dick and then quit the band. That was his fifth band this year. Oh well.

He put his bookbag in his room, fixed his hair, and left the house, jacket over his shoulder to walk back to school. Time to see how this drama experiment worked out. He went down the porch stairs and around the corner. The house was undisturbed.

Chapter Text

To create or to destroy/Many gods and goddesses-“Ares”, by Bloc Party

Tommy didn’t walk all the way back to the school, although it was a close fucking thing. He walked about two miles, then stood at the bus stop in front of the Church of Scientology. He smoked two cigarettes and listened to half of his Descendants tape before the bus showed up. He threw his last butt into the bushes, hoping it caught that fucking stupid “church’s” bushes on fire.

The bus driver glared at him, but Tommy didn’t even flinch. He was used to not giving a shit what his appearance caused.

When he finally got to the small theater their school had, he leaned in the doorway for a minute, watching. There was a group of about a dozen kids goofing around and talking. He knew a few of them by sight, but he kept looking until he saw Adam. And fuck, he looked so different now, relaxed and laughing with a group of girls around him. It was-it was just really interesting. Tommy moved away from the door and got out the paper that Mrs. Haden had given him. He had to look really hard, but he finally figured out that the tiny woman with brown hair was a teacher. “Hi. I’m taking drama as an elective now.” He handed her the paper without any other comment, as the rest of the kids suddenly went quiet.

The teacher looked at his paper. “Oh. This is unusual to start a month into the school year, but I see it’s a-special circumstance. All right. Tommy is it?” He nodded at her, ignoring everyone else for now. “Hi, I’m Miss Abdul, but call me Paula. Class, this is Tommy Ratliff.”

“We see.” Tommy turned toward the stage, where a tiny boy who had brown hair and was wearing a pair of goddamn tights was sitting with a group of his friends. Then he studiously turned away and ignored him. Everyone else pretty much did the same, except for Adam, how had stopped talking to his friends and was staring. Tommy met his eyes and Adam blushed and looked away. Tommy looked over at the teacher, but she was going over a script or something and didn’t see him.

Okay, fine. Tommy didn’t expect a warm fucking welcome anyway. He just took a seat in the audience area, and took a look at his fellow drama geeks. There was a pretty blond girl wearing some sort of asymmetrical dress standing next to a preppy Indian guy in an argyle sweater. Fuck, this crowd had some style issues.

Next to the boy in tights was a short guy who looked like he could take over Michael J. Fox’s career. Tommy didn’t have much use for adorable, but that’s what this fucker was. The guy in the tights kept flirting with him to make him blush, which was funny. But that kid looked like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Tommy always hated that. Perfection was so fucking boring.

Tommy considered turning his Walkman back on, but then Paula got out of her paperwork trance and said “Okay, we need to go over the songs we’re doing for the review. Anoop, you go first, you and Megan.” Tommy watched as the blond in the dress and Doc fucking Martins, (really, nothing was sacred) and the uptight looking preppy guy got up. The music started from a little boombox and they began singing.

“Anything you can do I can do better/I can do anything better than you.” Tommy was ready to crawl under his fucking seat in five seconds. This had to be the worst song ever written by mankind for anyone to sing. Suddenly it didn’t matter if they were the biggest assholes in the world, Tommy felt sorry for them for having to sing this in public.

But, as they kept rehearsing, he realized that they played off each other well. And they were both goofy fuckers, especially the girl. Paula had to keep reminding them they were supposed to be mad, because they kept making each other smile. He had to admit they were at least having fun, although he was praying to a whole bunch of gods he didn’t believe in for the pain to end soon.

When it finally did, he waited around while the teacher gave them a pep talk and then the Michael J. Fox guy came up. He brought an acoustic guitar with him and started singing “Moon River”. Tommy would never put this song in his top ten, but at least it didn’t make his ears bleed. And he was good. Of course he was good, he couldn’t have hoped for him to be off key or something, fuck. Not only was he good, he was fucking winsome. Tommy was sure this asshole had no problem getting dates-anybody’s mom would love him. When he was done, he actually had the balls to look surprised when everyone clapped. “Good job, Kris!” Adam yelled, and Tommy almost growled.

Great, he’d been here a half-hour and he had already found someone to hate just for existing. Tommy was supposed to be trying to be better than that.

Then the dancers got up and did their thing, including Tights Boy. It was all big Broadway numbers and Tommy would have fallen asleep except that the pain pills had long ago worn off and his hand was doing that familiar ache. Tommy gritted his teeth and wished he had brought some Jack.

Tommy was about to search his jacket pockets for Lortabs when Paula said “Okay Adam. It’s your turn sweetie.” Tommy slid up in his seat, wanting to see. Was he really as good as Lisa said he was? He hoped so.

Adam got up, looking shy and unsure until the minute he got in front of the mic and his music started to play. Adam straightened up, looked ahead and started to sing. “Once I had a secret love. That lived within the heart of me. All too soon my secret love grew impatient to be free…” Two stanzas into it and Tommy was fucking blown away. He leaned forward, on the seat in front of him, and rested his head on his good hand. He had to get closer to this, this fucking amazing force of nature. Adam-he wasn’t just hitting notes, he was bringing the emotion of the song to the surface. He thought about the shy, scared, closeted boy he had seen a few hours ago, and now he was looking at someone else.

 

Adam had thrown back his head and closed his eyes as he started to sing the last parts. He looked so fucking gorgeous, and Tommy wondered if that was how he looked when he was coming as he started hitting these glory notes.“Now I shout it from the highest hills, even told the golden daffodils. At last, my heart’s an open door. And my secret love’s no secret anymore.” Oh fuck, Tommy thought, really hearing the last lyrics and realizing how spot fucking on they were for Adam. A surge of something, empathy or fuck, real caring, Tommy didn’t fucking know anymore, pushed at his ribcage as Adam finished the song and came out of his trance. In a second, he was back to the shy, self-conscious Adam, and he shook his head when Paula jumped up and actually fucking applauded with the class. He looked at Tommy for just a second, and hell, he must have seen the overwhelmed look on Tommy’s face because he just mouthed “thank you” at him. Tommy nodded back, his face breaking into a small smile.

Tommy must have been sitting there like an idiot for a while, because then official rehearsal had been broken up, and oh fuck, Tights Boy was headed this way. Tommy shoved himself back in his chair, trying to wipe all expression off his face.

Tights Boy didn’t waste any time. “Why are you here?” Behind him, Megan and Anoop were looking at him as if he was going to go radioactive any minute now. He decided what the hell, tell them the truth.

“I was told to pick an elective or risk getting kicked out of school. That would’ve been my third expulsion since ninth grade, so I decided theater would be nice. What’s your name?” He kept his eyes on Tights Boy, not the rest, but Megan answered first.

“Aren’t you that psycho that destroyed the Zero Sum last night? Black Flag almost got arrested, the club has a couple of thousand dollars in damage. It’s awful, they just wanted to play.” Tommy knew she was right, so he couldn’t deny it.

“It was kind of a team effort, but yeah, it might be my fault. I was trying to defend a friend, and it got out of hand.” Megan looked down and saw the dried blood on Tommy’s hand for the first time. He eyes widened and leaned closer to Anoop, who looked like he wouldn’t mind busting his knuckles on Tommy.

Tommy stood up, and they all took a step back. “Everybody just relax. I don’t have any intention of getting into trouble, at least not here. I just wanted to see if there was something I could do. Paint sets, do props, just fucking something.”

Tights Boy kept looking at him. “Do you sing?”

“No. I play guitar and bass though.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “We might make use of that later. I take it you don’t dance? You don’t really look like a dancer.”

Tommy didn’t take any offense to that. “Nope, too clumsy and all I can do is the HB Strut anyway.” Megan looked like she was going to ask what that was, but Anoop shushed her with a look. Fuck, this girl needed a new boyfriend.

“So what do you do? Have you ever acted in your life? Come on, you have to give us something. Even if you’re doing sets, we might need an understudy.”

Tommy scratched his head with his good hand. “I know I could. I can perform, it’s something I’m fucking good at, okay?” Tights Boy just raised an eyebrow at him.

“Okay, fine. Get on stage and prove it.” Paula had just belatedly realized what was going on and made some sort of noise, but Tights just waved her off. “No, he wants to be in theater, he’s going to show us what he’s got.” He got Tommy’s good hand and walked him to the center of the stage. “Say something. Recite something, do a soliloquy, poetry, we don’t give a fuck. But do something.”

Tommy looked over at him, then at Adam, who was watching the whole thing in stunned fascination. That little fucker Kris looked mildly amused, which was enough to get Tommy going. Fuck yeah, he was going to show them something, all right. He took a deep breath, and let the poem come to him.

“Off Highway 106
At Cherrylog Road I entered
The ’34 Ford without wheels,
Smothered in kudzu,
With a seat pulled out to run
Corn whiskey down from the hills,”…Tommy had to pause sometimes between stanzas but he stood firm and looked toward the front, reciting his favorite poem. He didn’t look around at the others, but could feel their eyes on him, as he kept telling the story of a bad boy stealing auto parts and fucking farmer’s daughters. He tipped his head back a little for the last part.

“We left by separate doors
Into the changed, other bodies
Of cars, she down Cherrylog Road
And I to my motorcycle
Parked like the soul of the junkyard

Restored, a bicycle fleshed
With power, and tore off
Up Highway 106, continually
Drunk on the wind in my mouth,
Wringing the handlebar for speed,
Wild to be wreckage forever.”

When he was finished, the room was silent for a few seconds, then Miss Abdul hooted. “Very good Tommy! That was an excellent poetry recital, we won’t have any trouble putting you in dramatic roles!” Tommy had to grin, she was pretty fucking enthusiastic.

When he looked to the side, Anoop was staring at him. “You memorized a poem, and I know we haven’t had that in class recently.” Tommy just shrugged. “What the fuck?” Anoop actually looked a little angry that his assumptions about Tommy just might be wrong.

Again, Tommy shrugged. “Why is that so hard? I like music and art. Why wouldn’t I know a few poems?” He was really asking too, because motherfucker, didn’t anyone read anymore? He turned to face Anoop a little closer. “So, I hope you guys have non-musicals occasionally, because otherwise I won’t have much to do.” Anoop was about to answer, and it looked like he was leaving his asshole attitude aside for another time, when Tights Boy came back.

“Oh no, we are not done here. You might be able to speak pretty, but are you ready to be one of us theater bitches? Let’s see.” And then Tights Boy was grabbing his shoulders and kissing him. Tommy almost laughed into it, because really? This was hazing? He put his good hand on the small of the boy’s back and opened his mouth to it, deepening the kiss while holding the boy in place. He kept Tights Boy there a good 30 seconds, hearing some of the others laugh in astonishment, and then he let him go.

Tights Boy was actually stunned speechless for about ten seconds, and then he started bouncing on his toes and laughing. “I got kissed by a straight boy! All you bitches are jealous.” Then he took a step closer to Tommy. “I’m Brad.”

“Hi Brad. Any other rituals I need to know about, or is that most of them?” He was smiling just a little, but not at Brad. He was looking just behind him, to where Adam was standing. Tommy held his eyes just for a second while he wiped his mouth. Adam turned red again and moved back a little.

Why was he fucking with Adam? He didn’t really know. He turned his attention back to Brad.

“Oh no honey, I think you’ll do just fine-holy shit, look at your hand.” Tommy looked, and fuck-it had swelled even more than the last time he looked at it. It was also turning sort of purplish-black, and yeah, that wasn’t too sexy.

“Um, anyone get me a first-aid kid, a razor blade and some hydrogen peroxide and I’ll take care of this in the bathroom.” Paula took a couple of the younger kids to look for the stuff, while Brad, Megan and Anoop all backed away to a corner of the stage.

Tommy moved closer to Adam. “Hi. You did great.”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah, thanks.” Adam was smiling, but looked embarrassed.

“Really, I’d never heard that song before. It was really good, the way you did it.” Tommy looked back at his hand. “God, I hope I didn’t break another bone.”

Adam looked at Tommy’s hand, then up to his face. “Can I?” He was so gentle as he took Tommy’s fucked up hand and looked at it carefully. Tommy held back his reaction to Adam’s long, soft fingers touching his sensitive skin. “Can you move it? If it won’t move, we might have to take you to the emergency room.”

Tommy nodded and slowly moved his hand, once, twice. Tommy was fucking used to not showing any reaction when this happened, but it hurt like a bitch. “I think I can fix it. If it’s worse tomorrow, I’ll go to a doctor.” Adam looked up at him with this fucking mom expression, which really, they didn’t know each other well enough for that. “I promise, okay?”

“Okay. You really never have heard that song? It’s a standard. Doris Day sang it.” Adam looked over at Tommy and then grimaced. “Okay, that’s probably not your thing.”

“Probably not, no.” Tommy said, one side of his mouth quirking up. Adam not only smiled back, but giggled, and when Paula came back with the first aid kit, Adam still had Tommy’s hand in his. Adam let go when he saw them coming, but didn’t stop smiling.

Paula was there with the kit and going a mile a minute, but Tommy interrupted. “No really, I know what to do. Just let me have that stuff and I’ll fix it myself. I might need someone to help me wrap it, but they probably don’t want to watch.”

“What are you going to do?” Megan said, looking at his hand with more interest than disgust. Huh. Anoop was back to looking like he wanted to bodily throw Tommy out of the room.

Tommy held his hand out. “Look, there’s pus coming out right here, and it shouldn’t be doing that so fast. I must have had another infection. So, I’m gonna cut this with the razor blade, drain it, then wrap it back up.” He watched everyone recoil and then smiled. “Anyone with me?”

“I’ll go with you,” Adam said in his soft, shy voice. Tommy looked over at him and smiled. Everyone else gave them plenty of room as they left. When they were out of earshot of everyone else, Adam said “Are you really going to cut it?”

“Yep. I have my lighter in my pocket, I’ll just burn the razor a little to sterilize it. I’ve done it before.” And it hurt like a bastard every time, he thought. But he wasn’t going to say anything about that now. Adam showed him where the grimy little bathroom was. “They don’t clean much down here in the arts department, do they?”

Adam giggled, which came to a stop when he saw Tommy lay everything out and handed him the razor blade. “You hold on to this for me, I’m only working with one hand,” Tommy said, pouring some of the peroxide over his hand to clean the surface. It sizzled and fizzed around the open parts of his skin. Adam swallowed as Tommy got out his Zippo. Adam stood perfectly still as Tommy stood in front of him, heating up the edge of the razor just enough to hopefully kill some germs. Tommy flicked his lighter off. “Okay, from this point on you don’t have to look,” Tommy said as Adam handed him the razor and gave him a little space.

Tommy looked at his hand until he found the place that seemed the most swollen and nasty looking. He knew from experience that thinking about doing this was a bad idea, so he held his hand over the sink and cut into the puffy area over his middle knuckle. A spurt of green pus hit the sink first, then a steady drip of blood. Tommy twitched a little-it always smelled like dead rats. At least it looked cool, at times like this he was proud to be a gorehound. Blood, even his own, wasn’t so bad. He poked the wound with the razor again, to see if there was any more, but after a bit he just grabbed the peroxide again and poured it over, holding his breath as it flowed into the wound and made his whole hand feel like he’d stuck it in a fire. “Fuck, that fucking stings.”

A little whimper from the corner made Tommy turn his head. Fuck, Adam was going a little green around the edges. “Holy shit,” he said softly, and then ran into a bathroom stall.

Tommy just wrapped while Adam puked-he didn’t think dripping blood everywhere would help Adam right then. When the wound was finally taped shut, Adam was just coming out, wiping his mouth. “I’m sorry,” Adam said, looking miserable. “I thought I could handle it.”

Shit. Adam had thought it was some kind of test. “Dude, you did fine, I’ve had big motherfuckers covered in tattoos scream like girls when I did that.” Adam grinned at him, which made Tommy want to smile too, it was so pretty. “See, it’ll be better now. “

“Good. Doesn’t that hurt, though? How can you do that?” Tommy knew that Adam wasn’t just asking about the homemade surgery, but how he could keep doing the same shit knowing he was going to get hurt.

“It hurts like a motherfucker. But it’s not a big deal. It’s a skin injury and a light infection, it’s fucking nothing. And I wasn’t going to let anyone think they can elbow my friend in the head and not get their ass kicked.” Tommy was ninety-five percent sure that it had been intentional-a lot of people didn’t like Jack for the makeup and dresses he wore onstage.

Adam ducked his head for a minute. “Everyone says you fight just to fight.” Tommy knew that, and he knew a lot of other stuff said about him. He’d been accused of everything except the Manson murders by now. He was being blamed for stuff that happened months before he’d gotten to this shithole school. Tommy moved a little closer to Adam.

“I do violent shit sometimes. I like to slam dance, get bruises in the pit, I’ve destroyed property, I’ve done a lot of stupid shit. But I don’t fight unless someone goes after a friend or I’m defending myself. I’m not a fucking bully, I hate those.” He held Adam’s eyes with his again, and suddenly the room felt too close. He could tell Adam felt it too, as his eyes changed color-and fuck, he could do that!- darkening to gray. They were alone in an obscure bathroom, nobody would find out if Tommy leaned in-

Kris stuck his head in the door then. “Hey, ya’ll ready to go? It’s time to head for Dave’s Pizza.” Tommy added this to his list of reasons why he wanted Kris Allen to get into a horrible car accident on the way home, and stepped back, looking at Adam. Adam was leaning against the wall, trying to catch his breath.

“Adam? Wanna give me a ride to Dave’s?”

Tommy didn’t have to wait more than a second for Adam to say yes.

Chapter Text

Tommy had to admit, pizza with the theater geeks wasn’t so bad. He was squished in a booth, Brad next to him, Kris (goddammit) next to Brad, and Adam and a cute girl named Alisan on the other side. The pizza place was tiny and a bit dingy, but covered it up with dim lighting and red curtains on the windows. The pizza wasn’t bad either, Tommy thought as he ate his fourth slice.

“Good lord honey, didn’t you eat today?” Brad looked over at him as he had pizza grease smeared over his face. Tommy wiped at it with a napkin (even though he had bloody knuckles and hadn’t showered in two days).

“I ate a little after school, it’s just been a long day.” Tommy said. His hand was still throbbing, but he didn’t want to go home yet. He got one of the mozzarella sticks and swabbed it through the pizza sauce sitting on the table. “I don’t eat breakfast normally.”

“From what I’ve heard, you usually drink it.” That low, amused voice was coming from the far end of his booth. Tommy saw Adam’s eyes widen as he turned to look at Kris.

“Yeah? What else have you heard about me?” Tommy’s voice was low and a little dangerous. Adam and Alisan went still across the table. Brad looked at him like Please not here, with me in between you. Tommy leaned forward a little, closing the distance between them a little more. “Because people say all kinds of shit about me at this school, so I’d like to know what you’d be willing to repeat to my face.”

Kris looked a little abashed then, but not afraid. “Hey, I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just joking. I didn’t know you cared what people thought of you.” Tommy had to think about that for a minute, because it was actually a good point. When did he start caring?

Tommy held Kris’ eyes. “I care about not getting kicked out, again. I have to finish school, so yeah. It does bother me sometimes because it makes me look even worse to the teachers and principal." He pushed himself back into his corner of the booth and got another mozzarella stick. “Although I’m doing a pretty good job fucking up on my own”, he muttered.

Adam spoke up then, voice high and a little worried. “But you’re gonna do better, right? Because I don’t want you to get expelled.” Then he blushed, whole face turning red up to the tips of his ears. That was a lot more endearing that it had any right to be. Tommy swore he saw Alisan pat Adam’s hand under the table, and mentally put her on his list of decent people in this crowd.

“Me either,” Tommy grinned. “So I’ll try to calm down the bank trashing and throwing garbage cans into shop windows.” Adam, Alisan and Brad all laughed, while Kris looked like he was trying to find a way to ask if Tommy had ever really done any of that. Tommy smirked, wouldn’t he like to know.

When they were done, it was almost ten o’clock and they were trying to divvy up the bill. Anoop tried to pay for everyone, which he seemed to do every week and got shot down, then Brad and Kris tried to figure their shares out to the penny. Tommy scrounged around for some money. “I’m paying for mine and Adam’s.”

Adam looked surprised, then a little embarrassed. “Um, no it’s okay. I can pay for mine.” Tommy waved that bullshit away with his good hand.

“No, I think I should. You’ve been giving me a ride and I might as well pay your part. I’ve got enough.” He pulled out about eight bucks plus money towards the tip. “I don’t know if you’re doing anything else after this, but could you drop me off at a friend’s house? I’m tired and my hand’s really starting to hurt.”

Adam nodded. “Yeah, um. No, I’m not doing anything. I’ll take you somewhere.” Tommy tossed the money on the table and stood up. Brad and Kris got up to let him out.
“Thanks, I’m gonna go crash. I’ll see you Monday.” Brad waved brightly and Kris nodded a little. Tommy made sure to say goodbye to Alisan as well, since she was sweet and Adam liked her. Anoop raised an eyebrow when they went by, and Tommy just nodded a goodbye.

When they got into Adam’s Ford he looked a little nervous. “So, um, where am I taking you?”
“You know those Victorians that they made apartments out of on Brookline? Take me there. I’m house and pet sitting for a friend. I’ve got my clothes there and everything.” Tommy slid back in the seat. He played around with the radio dial as Adam drove. Adam looked over at him but didn’t say anything.

Tommy found the college station and nodded his head to it. It wasn’t punk but that jangly we-want-to-be-like-the-Byrds shit that kept coming out. R.E.M had a fuck lot to answer for, in his opinion. Adam seemed to like it though, singing along softly at the chorus. Tommy leaned his head back and listened to Adam sing.

“Hey, there it is,” he said, pointing to his friend’s place. “Second apartment on the ground floor.” Adam parked on the road and Tommy got out, feet a little unsteady now. Whoa, maybe it had been a long day. He looked over at Adam who was still in the car, and looked like he was ready to say goodbye. “Hey, do you want to come in for a minute? It’s really cool.”

Adam looked completely taken off guard for a second. “Um, yeah”, he said so quietly Tommy could barely hear it. Tommy started walking through the door as Adam turned off the car and followed him. Tommy could feel how nervous he was from ten feet away, and wanted to tell him to relax. Instead he just found the key and opened the door.

Adam was right behind him when he flicked on the light, showing a one-room apartment with a mattress pushed in the corner, band flyers all over the walls, and a lot of terrariums full of small creatures. “Pretty cool huh? This is Ashley’s place, but we all call her Alan. She’s in Central America right now. She says she’s doing humanitarian work, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she’d joined The Shining Path. Anyway, wanna help me feed her babies?”

Adam was still looking around the place, eyes wide. It wasn’t very clean, but it did look sort of inviting. There was a two-burner stove on the other side of the room, and a small table and chair. No tv, but there was a record player and three milk crates full of lp’s. “Wow. Uh, yeah. What has she got?”

Tommy grinned and showed him the various cages and small glass cases. “There’s a chinchilla over there, her name’s Reagan, here’s her tarantulas Lugosi and Lee. “ He pointed to another small enclosure. “And that’s Leatherface, her python.”

“Wow,” Adam said, looking at Lugosi. Tommy took him out of the terrarium and gave him to Adam. “Hold still, they don’t like surprise movements.” Adam nodded and watched as Lugosi walked gently up his arm. Adam held him a minute and then Tommy took Lugosi back and got Leatherface. “I don’t really recommend picking up Lee and Regan today, they seem kind of cranky. I’ve been gone too long.” He handed Adam the small green python and watched Adam smile gently as Leatherface wrapped around his arm.

They were quiet for a few minutes as they both played with and fed the animals. Adam made a face when Tommy got out the live crickets for the spiders and the python, which Tommy thought was pretty funny. “Hey, I could be feeding Leatherface mice, but she’s really not that hungry right now.” He turned to Reagan’s cage. “Hey baby, time to eat.” He got the little pellets she ate and put them in her dish, straightening up to see Adam staring at him, like he wanted to say something.

“Um, Tommy? Is –do you have a girlfriend?” Adam looked just as shy as he did at the guidance counselor’s office, vulnerable and open. Tommy didn’t know what to say as the sexual tension between them rose its head again.

“Yesterday I had a girlfriend. I’m pretty sure she hates me now. I’ve mostly dated girls.” Tommy watched Adam’s face drop and thought, oh shit. He didn’t know how to save this one so he started just fucking babbling. “Um, it’s been a really long day, you want a beer, or a coke or something? I’m probably just going to drink one and pass out. But you can stay for a while.” I want you to stay, his mind added.

But it was too fucking late, Adam was heading for the door. “I should get home, my parents are probably wondering where I am.” He didn’t even sound mad, but like he had done something wrong. “I’ll see you at school.”

“Hey, wait.” Tommy said, a little too fast. Adam stopped at the door, not meeting his eyes. “Give me your phone number? In case I need a ride or you want to hang out again.” Adam looked like he was considering it, then nodded and wrote his number down on a flyer tacked to the wall. Tommy looked at him a little while longer. “Okay. Um, I guess I’ll see you.” Fuck it was tense.

“Bye.” Tommy let Adam walk out the door. He watched Adam leave, then shut the door, kicking it a little.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck”.

When Tommy woke up the next morning, his head and hand were both pounding. He tried flexing the hand, and had to bite the pillow to keep from screaming. Tommy looked around for a minute, stumbling on shaky legs, until he found the phone. He dialed the first number he could think of.
“Hey, is Lisa there? Okay. Hey Lisa baby, if you’re not busy, could you take me to the emergency room?”

Forty minutes later he was barely standing up in front of the front desk nurse. She was glaring at him like he was a small bug. “Now son, we aren’t a hospital for the indigent, and if you can’t pay your bill you need to go somewhere-“

Tommy opened his wallet with his good hand and flipped out an insurance card, a credit card, and his ID. The nurse looked at his name and raised an eyebrow. Tommy stared her down. “Get me the fucking paperwork and get me a doctor.”

It was Sunday afternoon before he called Adam. “Hey, it’s Tommy.” He was slurring pretty bad. “I’m in the hospital, I don’t know if I’m making it to school tomorrow.”

There was a pause, and then he heard “Tommy? Tommy, what happened?”

“My hand, it’s all fucked up.” Tommy sighed. "Infected down to the bone, they had to cut into it, and I’m on an IV of antibiotics. And I’m taking a lot of Demerol. That’s the good part.” He laughed a little, but was too tired to put much effort into it.

“Oh my god, Tommy! You did that just from the other night?” Tommy heard Adam about to freak the fuck out and tried to sound reassuring.

“Actually, it might be from a couple of things, but the fight didn’t help. I must have gotten someone in the mouth, because you get a lot of bacteria that way. Anyway, tell the drama dudes that I’m pretty sick. And I’m sorry, you know. I just-I’m sorry.”

Adam was silent a minute, then he said “Do you want me to come by?” He sounded so fucking unsure that Tommy wanted to kick himself in the ass.
“Yeah, they’ve only got visiting hours for a little while longer, so come on.”
“Okay, see you there.” The phone clicked off.

Tommy held out his good hand. “Gimmie.” Adam grinned and handed him the chips. Tommy cradled them to his chest with his bad hand so he could pick the chips out of the bag. “Thanks for coming by-Lisa took me here, but then I made her go back and get your number from off Alan’s wall. I don’t think she’ll be giving me a ride back from the hospital when I get out.”

“Lisa Harrington? That senior with the cool hair?” Adam looked surprised and Tommy laughed.
“Yeah, she’s a good friend. We’ve known each other for years. She’s just-she’s a good person to know. I’ll introduce you two, she’ll love you.” Tommy sighed and put the chips up. “I’m really tired.”

“Want me to leave now?” Adam said, sitting down close to him. “I can let you sleep.”

“Been sleeping, wanna talk.” Tommy sighed. “I’m fuckin’ sorry about last night. I-I didn’t say what I meant. I don’t think.” Tommy frowned and tried to start again. “I have dated mostly girls-if by dated you mean see a few times and treat like shit.”
Adam wasn’t saying anything now, just sitting there surprised and shocked. “And so I blew it last night because I got scared, and fuck. Well. I hope you don’t hold it against me.” Tommy could hear his voice get lower as the Demerol made him drift off. Before he passed out again, he felt a little squeeze to his good hand.

Chapter Text

Man made natural disaster/Blocking out all of the sun-"Ares", by Bloc Party

The first visitor Tommy got Monday was Brad. “Honey! Adam told us you were sick and nearly destroyed your hand. Now will you stop trying to be all Rambo, fixing your wounds yourself?”

Tommy lifted his head halfway up. “I make no promises.” Brad giggled and sat on the edge of Tommy’s bed, telling him gossip about celebrities he didn’t care about and dirty jokes. Tommy showed off his thin plastic cast, which was held in a sling. “I can’t do anything with this fucker man.”

Brad looked at it for a second, considering. “Well honey, you can always start using your other hand.” Tommy snorted and threw an empty Coke can at him, just as Anoop came in.
“ Hi Brad, it’s my turn now.” Brad grumbled and gave Tommy an air kiss on the forehead and walked out. Anoop came over to Tommy’s bedside, looking him over. “Megan couldn’t make it, she’s working her waitress job tonight. But she sent you a mix tape of her favorite Kate Bush songs.” Tommy tried not to look disgusted-of course Megan would love Kate Bush. He could have seen that fucking coming. “But enough about that, here’s your homework for today. Enjoy.” Tommy scowled at him, and Anoop just grinned, smug. “We can’t have you getting any further behind-the only teachers who don’t look like they want to throw things when your name is mentioned is Miss Abdul and that insane creative writing teacher. So go ahead, I’ll be right here.”

“Yeah, enjoy my suffering asshole,” Tommy muttered, but he slowly did his homework with the wrong hand, while Anoop sat in the room and read. Tommy had to admit, having him nearby was nice. He wasn’t such a bad guy when he wasn’t talking. When Tommy got done, Anoop took the homework and left him a homemade card from some of the other drama kids.

Adam wasn’t there. When visiting hours were almost over, Tommy figured he must have fucked up with whatever the fuck it was he said last night. He couldn’t even remember, really. He had been trying to apologize, he knew that. Fuck, he must have gone too far. It was getting late and he had to try to sleep. Just as he turned over, the phone rang.
“Hey Tommy? It’s Adam, I’m sorry. I had singing lessons after class and then my parents made us go to a theater production-I was afraid you were already asleep.” Tommy was fucking glad nobody could see the goofy smile he knew was on his face.

“Well, almost, but I’ll stay awake a bit longer. How are you doing?” He closed his eyes as Adam answered back.
“Shouldn’t that be my line? Brad said you looked tired. But you’re getting out soon, right?”

“Fuck, I don’t know, I think they’re letting me out tomorrow. But I have to stay out of school two days-they want me to rest and heal up a little. And I’m in a splint and a sling. I can’t move my hand. I can’t fucking play guitar, Adam.” Tommy sighed. “It just fucking sucks. What am I going to do?”

“You’re going to get better, so you can play guitar again. It’ll be okay.” And fuck, Adam was so optimistic, and it was infectious, it made him think lying in a hospital bed with a damaged hand wasn’t so terrible. “Hey,” Adam said, “What did you think of the books I got you?”

Tommy looked over at the little stack of paperbacks. “Well, I’ve been sleeping a lot, so I just read that Stephen King and the poetry magazine you got me. Thanks for that, by the way.” It had been a pleasant surprise.
“Yeah, well, you like poetry, right? So I thought that would be a good bet. I’m glad you liked it-I don’t know much about that stuff. So um, you’re getting out tomorrow?”

“They have to look at it first, then give me a ton of fucking antibiotics and pain medication and yeah, I’m a free man, hopefully.” Tommy tensed, knowing what was coming next.

“Okay. What time are your parents coming to get you? I can see you before then, maybe.” Tommy almost sighed in relief, this wasn’t going to be so awkward.

“Oh, not until later, you’ll probably still be in school. Don’t worry about it, I’ll see you soon. But I probably will just hole up in the house when I’m getting better.” Tommy was twisting the blanket in between his fingers. Fuck.
“Oh okay. Um, let me know if you want any company. I know being sick is really boring.” Tommy smiled a little at that.

“Yeah? When were you sick?” Tommy listened as Adam talked about childhood illnesses and sprained ankles from dancing, glad to have changed the subject. They talked a little about injuries, even though Tommy clearly won on that front. After a while, Tommy yawned. “I really do have to sleep now. Thanks for calling.”

“No problem. And oh, um, thanks for what you said last night. I’m glad I didn’t do anything wrong. So we’re friends?” Adam sounded so hopeful, and Tommy swallowed.

“Fuck yeah, no problem. You’re the person I like best in that whole drama crowd. And when I get better, I’m taking you somewhere with me and Lisa.” He smiled a little. “Maybe I’ll take you to the Points.”

“Oh my god, the Points? Wait, I’ll get my ass kicked if I go there!” The Points was the hub of underground teenage life in their town-full of record stores, weird crumbling bookstores run by weird crumbling old beatniks, and some good cheap restaurants. There was even an old movie theater. And it was a huge punk hangout.

“You won’t get beaten up if you’re with me,” Tommy said, and he couldn’t help but sound proud. “Look, I gotta sleep-this stuff is still kicking my ass. I’ll talk to you later.” Tommy didn’t want to say when.

“Okay, call me when you get out. Bye.” Tommy said goodbye and promised nothing.

The next day, the doctors and nurses prodded and poked him, looked at his hand and pronounced him well enough to leave. He was given a prescription for pain medication (fuck yeah, Tommy thought), and some antibiotics that he swore he would take the way he should, uh-huh, yep. After all that, Tommy paid the co-pay with his card, and called a taxi to take him home.

He stayed inside for two days.

When Tommy showed up for drama class, he was still feeling pretty bad, and he must have looked it too. Paula’s eyes widened when she saw him loping into her class, bookbag over his shoulder. “Hi Paula, it’s okay, doesn’t hurt much now.” She looked at him like she wanted to hug him, but restrained herself, and Tommy was fucking glad for that. How embarrassing.

He sat down between Brad and Kris. Adam was in the corner, looking at him. Tommy smiled and Adam-sort of glared at him. Shit, why? It had to have shown on his face, because Brad patted his hand. “You just disappeared into the ether, honey. Some people are pissed.”

“I don’t get it, most of you guys don’t even like me,” Tommy snapped. Kris smirked next to him, and really, Tommy thought there should be a maximum amount of times a guy could smirk. Smirks sometimes led to busted lips.

Brad scoffed at that, waving his hands.“Do you think Anoop gets just anyone’s homework for them? And of course Adam wanted to hear from you. Even Kris was worried about you.” Oh great, Tommy thought, as Kris pulled a container out of his backpack.

“Yeah, I told my mama that you were sick and she made you some fudge. I would have brought it over to your place, but I don’t know where you live.” Tommy took the package like it was radioactive. Fudge. His mama, Jesus Christ. Who the fuck did this kid think he was?

“Yeah, I was just at home stoned off my ass on painkillers, it wouldn’t have been any fun.” Tommy tried to open the little Tupperware package, needing some help from Brad. The fudge was mixed chocolate and peanut butter, and it was really good. “Um, thanks.”

“What, do you hate it? I know it’s good, she makes it for me too.” Kris smiled at him all sweet and Tommy didn’t know what to say. He had met this fucker exactly once, why was he so nice?

“No. Don’t hate it. Here,” he said, handing a piece to Brad. He nibbled more of his piece while Brad swallowed his in one bite and licked his fingers. Tommy laughed, Brad and Kris joined in until Paula shushed them to start a lecture on absurdist theater.

After class, Anoop came up first and silently handed Tommy his missed homework. Megan came over and wanted to look at his splint, which made Tommy smile and Anoop jealous. Girls loved injuries, fuck if he knew why. Tommy looked for Adam and saw him leaving the room alone.

“Hey. Adam, hey.” Tommy jogged after him. Adam kept walking, but slowed down for Tommy to catch up. Tommy walked with him across the campus to the main building. “I’m sorry. I didn’t call anybody, it wasn’t just you.”

“Oh.” Adam didn’t say much else, so Tommy swallowed and started again. “I mean, I wouldn’t have been good company anyway-“

“I didn’t care about that,” Adam said. “I just wanted you to call.” Tommy sighed. He could have called, he knew that. Adam glanced over at him before putting his head back down. “I thought we were becoming friends.” As soon as he said it, Tommy wanted to punch a wall and fuck up his hand even worse. Fuck, he’d done it again.

Tommy frowned and tried to explain.“We are, and I’m sorry. I really didn’t talk to anyone. Not even Lisa. I’m sorry, I’ll call you if it happens again.” Tommy can hear how lame that is. “I mean. I’ll call you.” He put his good hand out a little and touched Adam’s arm.

Adam looked at him, startled, and Tommy could fuckin’ feel it too, the little shock of electricity zipping up his arm. Tommy must have looked puzzled, because Adam just shook his head. “See you.” He left Tommy standing there, the last bell ringing.

When school was over (fucking finally), Tommy found Lisa smoking in the parking lot. “Um hey, can you-“

“Take you home, you’ll buy me fast food or give me gas money, yeah, yeah.” Lisa flicked her cigarette away and pushed off her friends Mustang. “Let’s go.” Tommy followed her, wondering why she was pissed at him too. Everyone was mad except Brad and Kris Fucking Allen (and no, he would never think of his name any other way).

Lisa yanked the door of her Chevy open and waited for Tommy to get in. She was staring ahead, and Tommy tried to lighten things up. “Hey, we can go by that new burger place, I’ll get you whatever you want-“

“Fuck you, Tommy.” Lisa’s voice was so quiet that Tommy almost didn’t catch it. “Fuck. You. You could have died from that infection, and you just fucking go along with your life, bumming rides off me and acting like it’s my job to make sure you don’t fucking wind up dead in an alley somewhere!” She was yelling by the end of it, and Tommy couldn’t look at her. He swallowed against the lump in his throat and blinked hard.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking I would get that badly hurt. I’m fuckin’ sorry.” Tommy chewed on his fingernail and Lisa took a deep breath.

Lisa looked over at him, eyes shining from the tears threatening to spill. “Is it that bad? Do you want to kill yourself over it? Because you could have good things in your life, sometimes I even think you want them.” Lisa reached out, and Tommy let her put an arm around him, squeezing his good shoulder.

“I don’t know what I want. I just have no idea anymore.” Tommy whispered. “I’m tired. “ He leaned closer to Lisa, whimpering a little when he nudged his bad arm. “I’m just tired.”

“Then let’s get you home.” Lisa squeezed his shoulder again, then started the car. They drove towards his house in silence. Tommy had his eyes down, so he almost missed it.

“Hey, wait, you let me off there, at that street-“ Lisa jerked the car to the side of the road and slammed on the brakes.

“No, Tommy. No. You are on a ton of painkillers, your arm is in a sling, and you’re weak from being sick. I’m taking you home.” Tommy started to protest but Lisa just ran him over. “I know where your house is, Tommy Joe. I’ve known for a long time now. I know a lot of people miss the obvious, but you don’t live in the fuckin’ Batcave!” She jerked her car into drive and sped towards his house. Tommy didn’t try to stop her.

It was only a couple of minutes before Lisa was parked in front of Tommy’s house. They both just looked at it for a minute, and Tommy shuddered when she put a hand on his shoulder this time. “It doesn’t look bad from the outside,” she said, voice quiet.

“No. I’m sure it looks just fine.” Tommy grabbed his backpack and pushed his way out of the car. Lisa looked like she was going to apologize, but Tommy just shook his head. “I love you, it’s okay. You can take me home sometimes. But don’t…”

“I know, say anything. Just let me know if you need anything. Call me later. And from your actual fucking house this time!” Tommy nodded, a slight smile on his face, and headed inside.

A few hours later Tommy was eating a nuked burrito in the kitchen and trying to get his nerve up. After his sort-of dinner, he picked up the phone. “Hey. Um, is Adam home?” He gnawed on one of his cuticles-they were a mess.

“Who fuckin’ wants to know?” said a very young, very smartassed voice on the phone and Tommy almost laughed. “Really, who are you?” the kid said again.

“I’m Tommy, I’m a friend of Adam’s from school. Is he home?” Tommy was seriously grinning now. He liked this kid.

“Wait, Adam has a guy friend? Did he bribe you?” Right then Tommy heard a scuffle and Adam saying “Give me the phone, you fucking shit!” Tommy was still laughing when Adam came on.

“Hey, um sorry about my little fucker of a brother”, Adam said, voice rising on the last part. “Who is this?” Tommy felt a bit fucking nervous now-he’d screwed it up again last time.

“It’s Tommy, hi. Um is now a good time?” Tommy chewed on his cuticle again. There was a pause, and Tommy waited for Adam to hang up on him. He would have had that coming.

“Oh hey. Hi. Um, let me take this into the other room?” He heard Adam put the phone down and yell “And don’t you touch it, you ass!” Tommy waited a second for Adam to get the phone, giggling at the whole thing Adam had going on with his brother. Then he heard the phone being picked up and Adam yelling. “Neil! Hang the other phone up. I don’t care if you don’t want to, you asshole!” By the time the first phone had been hung up, Tommy was shaking with laughter. Adam heard him, and started laughing too. “Sorry about that.”

“Oh fuck, so that’s what it’s like to have siblings, I didn’t miss a thing,” Tommy said, still laughing. “How are you?”

Adam’s voice sounded a little shy still, but not as hesitant. “I’m okay. I went to my singing lessons and we had dinner. Nothing special, my dad is about to get me to work on my algebra with him. I’m horrible at it,” Adam laughed a little. “I just hate it so much.”

“Yeah, I know how it is, I feel that way about nearly every class. They’re so boring.” Tommy sat up a little. “I mean, do you know that my last English teacher assigned Treasure Island? I’m seventeen, I read that when I was ten! I mean fuck. I asked them to put me in AP, but I didn’t really have the grades.”

Tommy listened, but Adam didn’t say much. “Adam?” Adam cleared his throat.

“Um, nothing. Wow, you’re really smart.” Tommy laughed and slide back down in his chair.

“For all the fucking good it does me. It’s not like anybody pays attention long enough to notice.” Tommy scratched his head with his good hand. “My teachers think I’m an idiot.” Tommy shrugged and then winced-ow, that hurt his hand. Fuck, he couldn’t do anything. He made small talk with Adam for a few more minutes, then he said “Look, I have to take my pain pills. And my antibiotics,” he said as an afterthought. “I have to go.”

“Okay. Um, thanks for calling? Can I have your number?” Adam sounded a little shy, and Tommy could almost picture him biting his lip.

Fuck, Tommy thought. He hated giving out his home number. “Well-“ he started, and then he heard an older male voice. “Adam, come on, time to get off the phone. You have to turn this in tomorrow.”

“I’ll give it to you next time, okay?” Tommy said. “I’ll call you later. Bye.” Adam had just stammered out a goodbye when Tommy hung up. “Fuck. I’m an asshole,” Tommy muttered to himself. Tommy held his head in his hands, then pushed himself up. He got his medications and a mini bottle of Jack, then remembered he wasn’t supposed to drink on antibiotics.

He drank it anyway.

Later that night, in his room, he went in and out of sleep, waking up from pain. At one point he was dreaming that Adam was in his room, and he was playing guitar for him. They were sitting next to each other and everything was fun. In his dream, they were both smiling.

He woke up after that and blinked into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Keep the past, the future is ours-“Ares”, by Bloc Party

Tommy went back to school the next day, catching the bus this time. He drifted through his classes, turning in his work and then tuning out the teachers. When he got to theater class, however, he felt like he had just had some coffee, because of the energy in the room. He blinked and smiled at Paula, and she beamed at him. “Hi Tommy, come in.” Wow, a teacher who was goddamn happy to see him. There was a first time for everything.

It was early and class hadn’t really started yet. He went over and chose a seat next to Adam. “Hey.”

“Hey. That’s Alisan’s usual seat.” Adam’s voice was quiet and Tommy had to take a deep breath.

“I’ll leave it in a minute. Here.” He handed Adam a piece of paper. “Phone numbers: my house, Allan’s, and my friend Brent’s. I’m usually at any one of those three places. I’m home more now because I’m fucking injured.” Adam paused a minute, then took the paper.

“You’re really annoying sometimes, you know that?” He looked at Tommy with a smile threatening to creep up on one side. Tommy felt himself fucking grin, right out in the open. It was okay.

“Oh yeah, I’m an asshole.” They laughed a little and then Alisan came in and Tommy graciously gave her the seat back, and went over to sit next to Brad and Kris. Kris winked at him and Tommy shot him a look. Fuck, it’s not like he did anything.

After class, they were all reminded about that night’s rehearsal and “everyone should try to make it, even those that don’t have parts.” That part was clearly directed at him, but that was fine. Tommy was planning on going anyway. As he left class, he saw a group of girls wait for Brad. They formed something like a circle around him and then walked off. Tommy watched them leave, and noticed how Brad’s demeanor changed completely once he left the safety of the drama kids. He didn’t put his head down, but he was quiet and very…still.

“It’s hard for him,” a voice said close by. Tommy tensed at someone so close, and looked to see Kris, serious for once. “A lot of us try to help out, because…”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that.” Tommy started to his class and Kris went with him. “So, having the girls around helps keep jocks from kicking his ass?”

“Among other things, but yeah. It’s like a cloaking device to idiots.” Tommy laughed, and Kris grinned at him as he headed down another hall. He thought about Kris and the drama class in general through most of biology. They looked out for each other, what the fuck. Even Kris, who he still didn’t like all that fucking much. It should be a crime to be that perfect.

Tommy met up with Lisa and this other girl in the parking lot, leaning against Lisa’s car and playing The Germs. Tommy had gotten a third hand cassette copy of their song “Forming”, and it was fucked up and kind of dim, but it was good enough. The other girl (she called herself Delilah, but Tommy seriously fucking doubted that was on her birth certificate), groaned after a bit. “Who are these fucking geeks coming over here?” she said, and Tommy looked up to see Adam, Brad and Kris heading his way.

“People I like better than you,” Tommy said, throwing his cigarette down while he walked towards them. In the background he could hear Delilah make huffing noises and Lisa laughing. “Hey.”

“Hey, we just wanted to make sure you’re coming to rehearsal.” Adam said. “I mean, I’d understand if you went home, I know your hand has to be hurting you.” Adam’s voice was soft, and he looked kind of intimidated by being in the smoking part of the parking lot.

“My hand’s hurt like a bitch all day, what’s another few hours? I’ll be there. Hey guys, come over and meet Lisa.” Brad and Kris grinned at him, and Adam looked slightly awed. He walked them over to Lisa’s car, and she took a drag off her cigarette and grinned. “Adam, Kris, Brad, this is Lisa. She puts up with my shit more than anyone.” Lisa just rolled her eyes. “Lisa my darling, meet Brad, Kris, and Adam, the best fucking singer in the theater department.” Adam turned bright red at that, but smiled right at Tommy. Tommy had to try very hard not to look down.

Lisa flipped her hair out of her eyes-she had dyed the front part blue for this week. Brad stepped up first. “Hi. I know you, we’ve served detention together!” He reached out and squeezed her hand. For a second it looked like he was going to kiss it, but then he remembered he was in public. Lisa just squeezed back.

“Charmed, I’m sure.” That made them all laugh, and then Kris and Adam started talking to her as well, voices chattering together. Delilah was still there, smoking and watching them like they were bugs. Tommy stared at her shoes, deciding he didn’t like them.

Tommy looked straight at Delilah and said loudly,“Oh I’m sorry, I forgot. This is a poseur who calls herself Delilah and said you guys were geeks when you were walking up. Also, she gives really bad head.” Tommy heard a gasp, and then some laughter from Brad. Tommy saw the microsecond of hurt in Delilah’s eyes before they closed off and just became angry.

“Fuck you, Tommy!” Delilah shoved him, purposely getting his bad arm. “You were a lousy lay too! Fuck you all!” She stomped off while Lisa and Brad laughed.

“You weren’t worth the effort sweetheart!” Tommy said, laughing through the pain from her shove. He turned around and saw Adam and Kris staring at him. “What?” Kris just shook his head, but Adam looked a little freaked out.

Adam said something first. “So…was that the girlfriend you were talking about? The one that hates you now?” Tommy shook his head.

“No, Delilah or whatever she calls herself-not a girlfriend. Just a girl.” He saw Brad raise an eyebrow and started trying to remedy that. “Look, she was saying shit about you and I didn’t like it. I don’t have a problem with girls.”
“Tommy has a problem with people,” Lisa said, sliding up to the hood of her car. Brad bummed a cigarette off her. She grinned at him. “It’s true, babe.” Tommy shrugged.

“Yeah. But you know, it’s no big loss if she hates me. And, I need to get something to eat before we have rehearsal. Anyone want to come with us? Lisa drives me, most days.” Tommy really hoped that Adam didn’t think he was that much of a dick. From the surprised, wary look on his face, he wasn’t sure.

Kris shook his head. “I just have to go home. I have chores to do at the house.” Of course he does, Tommy thought. I’m sure ironing all those pretty preppy shirts is a big job. “Okay, see you,” he said, trying to sound friendly. Kris just rolled his eyes, smirking again, and left. Tommy looked over at Brad. “You coming?”

“Absoutely, me and my new friend here have much to discuss, most of it will probably be about you. “ He looked over at Lisa and she smiled back. “Adam, you want to grab something to eat?” Tommy watched for Adam’s reaction.

“I just-well, I’m not hungry. I don’t-I don’t really want to eat right now. I’m gonna go home and practice a little before rehearsals? I just-I’ll see you around.” Adam was blushing again and acting kind of strange. He turned to go and Tommy was about to follow him, but Brad caught his eye.

“Just let him go. He’ll see you tonight. It’s not you.” Tommy wasn’t so sure about that. Brad finished his smoke and stretched up. “So, where are we going?”

The “where” turned out to be a grimy coffee shop where Tommy pounded cup after cup of black coffee, while taking his medications. He got a slice of pie too, almost as an afterthought. Brad and Lisa did most of the talking, and Tommy was glad for it, his hand felt pretty shitty. And he was still thinking about Adam. He wasn’t even sure what he was trying to think about, exactly. But he kept thinking about how Adam looked as he left.

“Hey.” Tommy looked up, and only Brad was there. Lisa must have gone to the bathroom or something. “You’ve been frowning into your coffee cup all afternoon, does it hurt? You can skip rehearsal if you need to.” Tommy would tell most people to fuck off, he didn’t need their fake concern. But Brad was never fake about anything, so he just shook his head.

“I have a fucking high pain tolerance. I’ve just been thinking, that’s all. I’m fine.” Tommy had been replaying the way he humiliated Delilah, the look in Adam’s eyes. And fuck, why did it matter? Tommy pushed the last of his pie crust around his plate, not looking at Brad. Brad lightly kicked his leg under the table and Tommy looked up, willing himself not to kick back.

“I told you, it wasn’t about you. It’s-Adam’s got a few issues, hon.” Brad nibbled at the turkey sandwich he’d gotten. “I hate to tell this on him, but since you’re taking it to heart…Adam doesn’t like to eat in front of people. Especially if he’s just met them.”

Tommy frowned at that. “But we all had pizza Friday, didn’t he-oh.” Tommy thought about it, and while he was stuffing his face and ignoring the pain in his hand, Adam had just sat there watching him. “He didn’t have any of it, did he?”

Brad shook his head. “If we’re lucky sometimes he’ll eat a half-slice in front of us. That’s a good day.” Brad leaned forward. “That’s not your fault. Between you and Lisa, I guess it was too intimidating for him to even sit here.” Brad smirked at him a little. “And hell, you’re pretty intimidating all by yourself.”

“You’re not scared of me,” Tommy said, then took another gulp of coffee. “Fuck, this is getting cold.” Tommy shoved his half-finished pie to the side. “Hey, how long have you known Adam?”

Brad grinned big at the question. “Oh, a few years, he’s a good friend. We had dance lessons together, he’s really good at that.” Brad leaned forward. “So, are you fishing for information about him?”
“Oh, fuck off,” Tommy said, and they laughed. Then Lisa came back and they all started talking about what they wanted to do for the weekend. When Brad asked him, Tommy shrugged. “I guess I’ll be down at the Points. Hey, do you want to come?”

Brad stopped with his fork in midair. “I don’t know, how about during the day? I hear there’s a lot of fights around there.”

“It’s not as bad as everyone thinks it is.” Tommy knew he was totally fucking lying on that one, but it really was okay during the day. “I’ll ask at rehearsal if anyone else wants to come. Anyway, we ought to let you go home and change or whatever. I gotta do my fucking homework left-handed again.” They split up then and Lisa took Brad home.

Lisa and Tommy went to Allen’s, feeding the animals and hanging out until it was time to go back. Tommy did some of his homework, which made Lisa laugh. “I’ve seen you do that maybe five times ever, Tommy Joe.”

Tommy wrote out his algebra homework slowly with his left hand. “You should see the way Anoop glares at me if I don’t turn shit in. Fucker’s known me a week and he’s made himself my academic coach.” Lisa looked at him seriously then. Tommy looked up after a minute. “What?”

“They like you, huh?” She said, and Tommy wanted to stomp around and say no, they were just pretending to, he wasn’t falling for it. Lisa raised an eyebrow and he stifled a sigh. He could never really lie to her.

“I guess. I guess they do. Fuck if I know why.” Tommy scribbled out another problem. “I like them too-some of them. It’s okay.” Tommy kept his head down. Lisa scratched at the hair at the nape of his neck. “Hey, stop. That tickles.” He looked over, and they shared a grin.

An hour later, he was back in the school theater for rehearsal, although all he did was keep scratching at his homework (Anoop saw him and smiled, the fucker), and sometimes watched the others perform.

Like Adam. Yeah, all movement stopped and he paid the fuck attention when Adam sang. Tommy was actually starting to really love that song. This time, there was more in it, more emotion. Adam was so present in the song that Tommy was back to staring at him just like last week.

When it was all over, he was packing up his books and saw Adam, Anoop, Megan and Brad headed his way. “Hey honey,” Brad said. “I told this little group here about the Points, and they’re in if you still are.” Tommy grinned.

“Fuck yeah. We can go hang out. And the Palace Theater has a James Dean festival this weekend.” Tommy was watching Adam, and he was glad to see a small, nervous smile on his face. Tommy smiled back, he couldn’t fucking help it. Then he realized that Megan was talking.

“…We’ll come along for the movie but me and Anoop are going to the museum later,” she was saying. Wait, it’s more than one movie, isn’t it?”

Tommy nodded. “Yeah, Rebel, East of Eden, and Dean’s screen test.” Anoop and Brad didn’t look particularly impressed, but Adam did. Megan smiled, and played with her earrings a little.

“We might try to make it. Are you going with us for pizza tonight?” That made Tommy look at Adam again, thinking about him not wanting to eat. He shook his head and hefted his backpack.

“No, I gotta go.” He tried to get out of there fast. Adam followed him, touching him lightly on the shoulder. And even though he wasn’t looking, Tommy could tell it was him. “Yeah?”
“Um. Just. Do you need anything? A ride or something, I can take you.” Adam said. “It’s late to wait for the bus.” Tommy looked up at Adam, and thought again about how pretty his eyes were. “I mean, I know Lisa useally gets you, but I-I can.”

It was so tempting. Tommy could see it-getting into Adam’s car, joking on the way over, listening to the radio. But he didn’t know how to explain why they couldn’t go to his house. So he just said “Could you take me to the bus stop? And wait with me?” Adam looked really confused, so Tommy just said “I don’t want you to go out of your way, my house is kind of far.”

Adam nodded. “Okay. Um, sure. I’ll take you if you want. “Then Adam blushed, and Tommy felt that weird push against his ribs again. God, this whole thing was so fucked up. Tommy just nodded, and they headed out the door together. Tommy looked back in time to see Brad raise an eyebrow. Megan and Anoop were too busy arguing about something to notice.

They drove to the bus stop in silence, listening to the radio. Tommy had a long day, so he just leaned back with his eyes closed. After a while, they made it to the bus stop. “Um, you sure you don’t want me to take you? Is it really that far?” Tommy picked his head up to answer.

“It’s okay from here, I’ll just wait on the bus. No, it’s okay. I’m just sorry I’m falling asleep on you. Hey, see you tomorrow? I’ll call you when I get up. You don’t have anything planned, right? No lessons or rehearsals or anything?”

“No, no nothing. I’ll be there. Um, can I ask you something?” Tommy tensed, but nodded. God only knows where this was going to go.

“Is it okay for-someone like me to be there?” And well fuck, Tommy thought, that was a close to a confession of Adam being gay as he was likely to get for now. “I just-I don’t want to be scared.”

Tommy decided to answer honestly. “It’s about as good as anyplace else, sometimes a little better. Me and Lisa will stick with you. My fucking asshole friends will tease the fuck out of me, but if they say anything to you, either give it to them back or I will. Verbally,” he added quickly. “I can’t fight anyone for you, sorry.” He looked over at Adam, who wasn’t blushing or hiding, but staring at him straight on. It wasn’t his stage confidence, it was something else.

Tommy was still trying to figure it out when the bus came. He started to get out of the car, and Adam reached over and almost grabbed his bad arm, pulling away just in time. “Um, I’ll see you.”

Tommy nodded. “I’ll call, and me and Lisa will pick you up. You don’t have to drive me then. Night.”

When Tommy woke up bleary eyed the next morning, he microwaved some bacon to go with his breakfast of painkillers and antibiotics. He took a shower with his fucking bad arm sticking out, got dressed, and called Adam.

“Hey, is Adam there?” Tommy said, fully expecting Neil the smartass to answer again. Instead a sweet voice said “Adam? Sure.” And Tommy thought oh shit his mom just before Adam came on the line.

“Hey, Tommy is that you?” Adam sounded happy, and Tommy got a twist in his stomach knowing that Adam probably hadn’t expected him to call. Tommy wriggled the fingers of his right hand, feeling them ache.

“Hey, it’s me. I’m gonna call Lisa and we’ll be ready to go soon. Are you good with right now? Or do you have to go to something?” Tommy was chewing on a cuticle again.

“Hey, just anytime you get here-Hey mom, some friends are picking me up in a little bit. No mom, some new friends.” Tommy tried to bend his ears enough to hear what she was saying back. “No mom, it’ll be okay. We’re just going to the movies and to hang out. Um, most of the day? I don’t know, mom.”

Tommy was biting the shit out of that fucking cuticle before Adam came back. “Yeah, it’s okay. She’s alright with me going. I’ll be ready in about an hour? And tell Lisa I said hey.”

“Tell her yourself, she’s driving.” Adam laughed and hung up. Tommy went over at looked at himself in the mirror. He was puffy, his eyes were red, and he had on a Dead Kennedys t-shirt, black jeans, Converse, and a leather jacket.

He really fucking hoped that they could get Adam out of the house without a fucking inspection.

Forty-five minutes later, Tommy, Lisa, Brad and Lisa’s friend LP were pulling up to the house Brad said was Adam’s. Lisa honked the horn and Tommy leaned out of the car window. “Hey Adam! Come on, it’s gonna be great!” Tommy might have had a couple more mini bottles of Jack with his antibiotics again.

There was a movement at the door, and a little kid came to the door. “ADAM! There’s a bunch of freaks here to pick you up! Oh, and Brad.” There was the sound of someone running down the stairs, and Adam came out, shoving his brother out of the way. Neil came up and just stared at everyone. “Hi. Wow, are you Tommy? I like your jacket.” Just then, a dark-haired woman came out and Tommy groaned inwardly. Shit, here it comes.

The woman stared at the four of them, obviously puzzled. “Hello. I’m Leila, who are you?” They all introduced themselves, Tommy last.

“Hi, I’m Tommy. I just joined the drama group. We’re taking Adam out for the day, I’m not really sure when we’re getting back though.” Tommy tried to stay back far enough that hopefully she wouldn’t notice he had liquor on his breath.

“We’re going to the Palace, and a few other places,” Lisa said, smiling her ‘parents love me even with the hair’ smile. LP in the back just nodded. Leila just looked at them and then Adam. Tommy noticed how scared Adam looked.

“I’ll be fine mom. We’re just going to go hang out. It’s no big deal.” Lelia didn’t look convinced, she had just noticed Tommy’s DK t-shirt and her eyes widened. Then, another person came out to see them. Fuck, Tommy thought. Adam has a dad.

Adam’s father looked them over, and his eyes fixed on Tommy. “Come over here?”
Tommy did as he said, coming over to where the man was standing. The guy was wearing a tie-dyed Grateful Dead t-shirt and looked like he’d been getting high that morning. Good, good. Tommy could use that to his advantage maybe.

“I’m Eber, hi. You’re my son’s new friend?” Tommy nodded, wondering why this was such a big deal.
“Yeah. We’re going to a movie, but probably some record stores and other places too.” Tommy thought he sounded like a boy in the 50’s trying to convince a dad to let him go on a date with his daughter. That thought almost made him blush.
“What’s your name? Do you go to school with my son? Do your friends?” Eber crossed his arms in front of his chest and made Tommy feel about three feet tall. Really, what was up with the interrogation.

“Lisa and me go to Adam’s school. You already know Brad. LP goes to the university, he’s a music major. My name’s…” Tommy swallowed here. “Tommy Joe Ratliff.” He had really not wanted to give his last name.

“Ratliff,” Eber said, staring at him. Tommy stared back, willing no emotion to show on his face. Eber looked at him a long minute, until Adam came over.

“Dad? Can I go please? I promise I won’t get in any trouble. I just made some new friends, that’s all.” Eber looked at the car full of kids again, and then at Leila, who nodded. Eber looked back at Adam.

“Don’t be out all night. Have a good time, and don’t get into any trouble.” He turned to look at Tommy again. “How’d you hurt your hand?”

“It’s just an infection,” Tommy said, voice flat. Eber winced, told him to take it easy, and let him go. As they were getting into the car, Tommy could hear Neil begging to go with them. “That would be so awesome! Hey, can I get a jacket like that?”

Tommy didn’t say anything when he got back in the car, Brad jumping out to let them in the back so he could sit next to Lisa. He stared ahead, not looking at Adam. Fuck Adam’s fucking dad, anyway. Lisa caught his eye in the rearview mirror and shook her head at him. He dropped it, not ready to pretend to be happy yet. Lisa turned to smile at Adam, who was looking confused. “Don’t worry, it’s gonna be cool. Here.” She shoved a tape in, and Tommy had to grin a little despite himself. He loved Husker Du. “I Apologize” came screaming out of the tape deck as Lisa pulled out of the driveway and hit the gas pedal hard.

“IIIIIII apologize!” Lisa, Tommy and LP were all screaming along at top volume when Lisa hit the interstate ramp taking them downtown. “Said I’m sorry, said I’m sorry, said I’m sorry, now it’s your turn to look me in the eyes…apologize!”Tommy’s mood had done an 180 degree turn just from that, and he looked over at Adam, grinning. Adam still looked confused, but grinned and shook his head.

“Oh my god, who is this?, “ Adam yelled, trying to be heard over the music. Tommy tried to explain just how amazing Husker Du were as they raced down the interstate at around 80 mph. Lisa never got pulled over for speeding tickets, no matter how many freaks were in her car. LP added a few other good points about the record, and he and Adam started talking music while Tommy checked out Brad in the front seat. He looked terrified.

When they got off the exit, Lisa slowed down and took out the tape, putting the radio back on the college station. Tommy groaned as the radio played “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. “Not fucking again! What is it with people and this fucking song?”

“Because it’s funny, you idiot,” Lisa said, singing along. LP joined in, and Tommy just rolled his eyes at Adam. Adam laughed, squeezing down in the seat closer to him. Tommy just let himself look at Adam a minute, he was so pretty when he wasn’t self-conscious.

As soon as he thought that, of course, Adam started to duck his head. Shit, Tommy needed to stop staring. He elbowed Adam a little. “Hey. We’re almost there.” Adam looked up and yeah, they were a block from the weird little boho area of town where every freak within a 20 mile radius came on Saturday, if not every night of the week. Adam was staring at the faded sign of the Palace Theater as Lisa squealed into a parking space big enough for a car twice the size of hers and still overlapped it. LP popped his door open and Tommy almost scrambled over him to get out, jostling his arm but he didn’t give a fuck. He was home.

The Points was in an older section of town, and had nice buildings that age only made look grander. An old church was now a mixed co-opt and thrift store, there were a lot of little shops and tiny ethnic restaurants. The old biker bar was now a burger shop. In front of a huge Methodist church was a fountain. Everywhere you looked there was a mix of young kids, older hipsters, and homeless people.

Lisa, LP and Tommy gave Brad and Adam a bit of a guided tour at first. Brad had never been around before, saying he liked dance music and flashy clothes better than punk noise and all black all the time. Adam just looked around in wonder, eyes wide at the kids with Mohawks, hair bleached white or dyed jet black. They both saw JennyBaby, with her huge red mane and Catholic school girl uniform, and Tommy nudged Adam.

“It’s cool, huh? Jenny’s a fun girl. She’s like a goth more than a punk. She’s nice to everyone on the scene, though.” Tommy got a cigarette out and tried to light it one handed. LP came over and smoothly held the lighter for him. “Thanks.” He took a drag off his cigarette and looked around.

“Hey, you fucker!” A cheer went up from a corner and Tommy saw a bunch of baby punks who knew him. They were fourteen, fifteen to his seventeen, and had only been going out for a few months now. One of them, a little brat named Colin, stood up from where he and his friends had been passing a bottle. “We heard you were in the hospital, why didn’t you die?” Colin and his little shithead friends laughed.

“I did die. The Devil sent me back to torment you, asshole.” Tommy took another drag off and grinned, watching Adam’s reaction. Adam’s wariness had been replaced with something like enjoyment, although he still looked far too shy. “Anything happen while I was out?”

“Nah Tommy, same old shit. Who’s the new kids and are you gonna send them to Jez’s to get their hair fixed?” Colin was looking at Adam and Brad with faint disapproval. Adam swallowed and looked at his shoes. Tommy stood closer to him.

“You shut the fuck up Colin, we all saw the hair you had two months ago. You looked like Peter Fucking Frampton. These are my new friends, we’re just hanging out.” Tommy took another hard drag off his cigarette, then threw it into the gutter. “See you around you little shits.”

“Fuck you!” all the baby punks said in unison, and Tommy shook his head, quirking up a grin at Adam. Adam grinned back. Tommy looked over at Brad who didn’t seem as amused.

“So are today’s activities are going to be sitting on the street corner and drinking vodka out of a Coke can? Charming.” Brad was pouting, and Tommy had to admit it was kind of cute on him.

“Nope, that shit gets old after you’re fifteen-at least for me.” Tommy said. “Let’s go to the bookstore down here and see how Pirate Pete’s doing.” Lisa and LP nodded, Brad and Adam following along, giving each other wary looks.

Pirate Pete’s no-name bookstore was in a building that was about two more cracks in the foundation from being condemned, and had a high ceiling with wooden bookshelves that went up all the way. The books were generally old hipster classics, with an emphasis on poetry. It smelled like old books, dust and Indian food. Tommy walked up to an old office desk where a man with granny glasses and a long beard was sitting, chicken tikki forgotten. “Hey Pirate Pete, what’s up?”

“Tommy! It’s nice to see you,” Pete looked up and frowned. “But what did you do to your hand?”

Brad giggled. “He tried to fix an infection with a razor blade and some hydrogen peroxide.” Tommy made a face as Pete laughed.

“Oh Tommy, never change. Wait, on the other hand, please do, because you won’t live to see twenty-one if you aren’t careful.” Pirate Pete looked around. “I see you brought me two new potential customers.”

Tommy introduced Adam and Brad to Pirate Pete. “Pete is an old hippie who volunteered for the Navy during the Vietnam War, because he wanted to get material for a novel,” Tommy explained. “How’s that coming, anyway?”

Pete waved his hand. “Oh, comes and goes. Hey, don’t forget to come by Friday for Happy Hour. It should be a lot of fun this time, word’s getting around.” Tommy said he’d try to make it, and then disappeared into the poetry stacks. Adam followed him.

“His bookstore has a happy hour?” Adam whispered, but Tommy saw Pirate Pete cock an eyebrow over his copy of Dr. Sax. “I never heard of that before.”

“Yeah, every Friday they get a few six packs and then people take turns standing on that footstool-“

“That’s the stage,” Pirate Pete interrupted.

“-and recite poetry. It can be theirs or someone else’s, but you get extra points for having it memorized.” Tommy pulled out a book. “Hey, this is new.” He flipped through the book. “Hmm, that’s a little not my style.”

Adam looked around, then made this breathless laughing noise. “Wow. I need to get out of the musical theater world more.” He went looking through the poetry stacks as well, fingers sliding over the spines of the books. Tommy watched his hands until Adam caught him. “What?”

Tommy shook his head. “Nothing. Sorry.” He put his eyes back on the poetry collections. Adam went over to another part of the store while Tommy looked around and found a chapbook by Richard Hell. Fuck yeah, he was getting that. Then he went looking for Adam and Brad. They were staring open-mouthed at a wall of books and yep-they had found the gay fiction and history section.

Tommy came closer, and both Adam and Brad greeted him with twin looks of horror, Adam looking like he was going to run for it. Tommy held up his good hand. “It’s cool. Don’t worry about me. Or anybody else in here.” Adam paused and then nodded. Tommy got closer. “You see anything good?”

Adam was bright red all over. “I, uh, yeah. I don’t know.” Brad had already slipped away, so it was just him and Tommy talking. “I couldn’t take it home with me anyway, Neil would find it. I haven’t told my parents.” Tommy felt a tightening in his gut-Adam’s parents seemed good. Why couldn’t he tell them? Then he remembered that the only person he knew that came out in high school had to go live with his grandmother.

Tommy came closer. “Buy whatever you want, and I’ll keep it at Allen’s. I’ll put it in with my books. It’s okay.” Tommy took a deep breath. “I mean, you know it’s not just you.”

Adam nodded. “I know, Brad-“ Tommy cut him off with a hand on Adam’s arm. He could feel Adam’s pulse under his hand.

“I mean, it’s not just you.” Tommy hated himself for it, but he felt a blush. He had never been that blatant with anyone except Lisa. “I like both. I just don’t do much about it.” Adam stared at him, not even flinching as the book in his hand fell to the floor. Tommy looked down at it, and back at him. “I’m sorry, shit. I should have said something earlier. But, I don’t really…”

“Me either,” Adam whispered. They were silent for a minute, then Adam bent to pick up the book, hands still shaking. “I’ll get this one.” Tommy looked at it-it was a book about the Stonewall era. Tommy smiled.

“History instead of porn? You’re a good boy.” Adam blushed even hotter and gave him the finger. “I got it, you can pay for lunch later.” He took the books up to Pirate Pete. On his way, Brad was half hidden behind one of the bookshelves. He looked straight into Tommy's eyes.

“You goddamn well better know what you’re doing,” Brad whispered close to his ear.

Tommy kept going, thinking Not a fucking clue.

Songs in this chapter:

“Forming”, by the Germs
“I Apologize” by Husker Du
“Take the Skinheads Bowling” by Camper Van Beethoven

Chapter Text

After they left Pirate Pete’s, Tommy walked up with Lisa and LP, while Adam and Brad lagged behind a bit. Tommy knew they probably needed to talk more, but he couldn’t right then. He figured Adam was probably pretty fucking scared right now.

Yeah. Adam was scared, that was all. Obviously he couldn’t be, right? Fuck. Tommy shoved his hands inside his jacket pockets. He had his head down and didn’t hear Lisa calling him until the third time.

“Tommy! We want to go to Patil’s for lunch, are you in?” Tommy looked at them and almost said yeah, sure, but then he looked back at Adam and Brad. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll catch up with you later?” Tommy looked at Adam, who glared at Brad. Brad just held his hands out. After Adam and Brad had some kind of freaky telepathic communication, they both looked back and nodded. Tommy nodded back, and they all headed down the street.

Tommy was seated between Adam and Brad. It was a little tense now, everyone quiet and awkward. Lisa and LP didn’t notice, because they were talking together like crazy. Tommy took his good hand to pull off a piece of garlic naan and use it to smear through the saag paneer he had on his plate. Brad had two samosas and some tea. Adam had tea and some nearly plain rice. Tommy looked over at Brad when he felt another kick to his ankle. Brad just smiled at him, winking. Tommy’s mouth quirked up on one side, it was going to be okay.

Patil’s Café had a good view of the street from the windows, and Adam was watching all the people go by. Tommy watched Adam look, as he drank his tea and pushed the rice around on his plate. Tommy felt that push in his chest again, watching Adam too afraid to eat in front of others but not wanting to be alone. He wanted to give Adam some of his paneer, but he knew that wouldn’t do any fucking good.

“Hey,” Adam said, looking at a girl who was passing by the window. “Do you know her? I like those tattoos.” Brad made a snorting noise next to him, as if tattoos were going just one step too far.

“Oh yeah, I know her. She just got out of juvie last week. She must have gotten those done inside.” Tommy smiled, he was glad to see her out. Adam and Brad nearly spit their tea. Tommy, LP and Lisa all laughed.

Lisa grinned. “Don’t worry, not everyone Tommy knows has been in lockup. He never has, for one.” Tommy laughed at that.

“It’s true, I run fast and I’ve never been caught yet.” LP raised an eyebrow at that and Tommy’s smile faltered a bit. He ripped off another piece of naan to cover it, and stilled when he felt Adam’s fingers lightly touch his wrist.

“How are you? It is hard to do everything left-handed? I’m sorry I didn’t ask before.” Tommy looked at Adam and he was sincere. Tommy would laugh it off, but the truth they shared at Pirate Pete’s was spilling over.

“Getting dressed is hard. Doing my homework is. The good thing about this food is I don’t need a fork.” Tommy pinched the naan into a little pouch and squished up some more spinach. He needed to eat more vegetables anyway. Brad made a face.

Lisa and LP were still talking, and Tommy caught something about the Zero Sum. “Yeah? How’s it doing?”

LP grinned. “That fucking anonymous rich punk Robin Hood strikes again. One day, all the money for the damages just shows up in the mail. And they can not only pay for everything, but wire Black Flag their money. What the fuck, right?”

Tommy grinned. “Yeah. That’s pretty awesome. Too bad every town doesn’t have one of those.” Adam and Brad looked confused, so Tommy continued. “There’s a rich punk who pays for shit without leaving a name. Stuff like the Sum, I heard that co-opt got five hundred dollars in start-up money, bands who lose equipment sometimes get new stuff-“

“Not my old band,” Lisa said. “Probably because we sucked.” She nibbled on her chicken curry.

LP just laughed. “Now my band, we got a whole new bass drum once.”

Brad raised an eyebrow, impressed.“So, some of these people wearing thrift store clothes and homemade haircuts might actually have money. Good. I’ll have to ask for some.” Adam started giggling at that and Brad just said “Oh shut up, you asshole.” That made Tommy start laughing too.

After lunch they split up, Lisa and LP going to a music store to gawk over instruments, and Tommy leading Brad and Adam to one of his favorite shops. It was a mix of thrift and new clothes with everything from boots to jackets to wigs and goth makeup. Tommy stuck near the boots while Adam looked at shirts and jackets. Tommy caught Brad over by the wigs, and wondered if he was going to start doing drag shows once he got out of high school. Shit, Tommy would go to that.

“Oh fuck yeah,” Tommy said, causing Brad and Adam to turn around. Tommy couldn’t help it, he was staring. He was damn near drooling. Up on a high shelf was a pair of nearly knee-high Doc Martins, black and with those good thick rubber soles. “Oh shit. I want to try those on.” He pointed up to them. “Those. Fuck, boots of the gods, man.”

Adam looked up at them. “Wow, that’s pretty cool. Do you want them to get them down for you?” Adam seemed fascinated by the boots, the pants with bondage gear. Yeah, Tommy was noticing what got Adam interested. He wasn’t even going to pretend otherwise now.

“Fuck Adam, there’s no way I could lace those things right now. I mean, I’ve only got one hand and they go all the way up.” Tommy was still staring at them though. “Fuck, they are beautiful.” Adam kept his eyes on them.

“Yeah, they are.” Adam turned to the nearest employee, a transvestite in a rubber baby doll reading a true crime magazine at her counter. “Um, can we get these boots down? My friend wants to try them on.”

Tommy looked over at Adam like what the fuck? Because he could not do it, he only had the use of one arm and what the hell did Adam think he was doing-and the transvestite just got the rolling ladder and got them down, handing them to Adam. It was funny to watch Adam blush as he got an eyeful of the counter girl’s red frilly panties, though. That almost made up for it.

The counter girl (Tommy didn’t actually know her, she must be new), handed Adam the boots. “Here ya go honey, have fun.” Adam was still blushing, but he tugged on Tommy’s good arm. “Where’s the dressing rooms in here?”

Um. “Um, they’re back over here.” Tommy gestured towards the back, where a group of blue-painted boxes were. Adam grinned at him, boots in hand.

“Then that’s where we’re going.” Adam took Tommy’s left arm and guided him to the dressing rooms. Tommy had just enough time to think OH, shit before they found one and he was sitting on the bench inside it.

It was a pretty big dressing room, more than enough for two people. The door went all the way to the floor, nobody could see in, and it locked. Adam slid the lock in and then sat on the floor in front of him. Tommy tried very hard to seem like this wasn’t exciting the shit out of him.

“Um, I’m just going to put these on you,” Adam said. Tommy smiled a little and tried not to act like that was really fucking disappointing. I mean, he wanted something to happen, but-right then his brain short-circuited as Adam unlaced his Converse for him and slipped them off. “Shit Tommy, it’s time for some new socks.”

Tommy laughed, and it came out a little choked. “Yeah, I think I’ve had those on three days.” He stayed still and watched as Adam picked up one of the boots and unconsciously rubbed the leather between his fingers. Then he unlaced the boot and carefully slid it up Tommy’s leg.

Tommy bit his lip as he watched Adam slowly start lacing up the boot. Adam’s fingers were shaking a little, and he kept his head down. Tommy figured he didn’t know what he was signing up for when he decided to do this. But fuck it, Tommy was enjoying it too. The sweet, tentative way that Adam was touching him as he laced up the boot was making heat pool in his stomach. He could get hard from this, he thought, as he looked at Adam kneeling between his legs.

When Adam was done, he pulled the boot laces a little to tighten them up, then he started on the next one. Tommy didn’t even pretend not to be watching Adam anymore, the nervous, determined look on his face as he slowly (fuck, so slowly), and carefully laced the boot up Tommy’s leg. After the boots were laced, Adam stroked his hand down Tommy’s leather covered calf, then pulled his hand back. “Shit, sorry.” Adam looked embarrassed, flushed and-oh shit-he was turned on. Really turned on, and huge. Tommy didn’t know what to do, so he just smiled a little and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened.

“No, it’s okay.” Fuck yeah, it was more than okay. Tommy held his good hand out. “Help me up so I can see how they look.”

They look amazing,” Adam said, voice husky and deep and Tommy shivered, just a little. He had no idea why Adam was getting to him. Then Adam had one hand wrapped around his and another on his shoulder, helping him up from the low bench. Tommy watched Adam’s face, and he looked so serious, like he was concentrating as hard as he could.

Then Tommy was standing up, in front of Adam. He moved slightly around him and stood in front of the mirror. “Fuck, look at them.” The boots emphasized his skinny legs, but also made him look powerful. “I feel fucking ten feet tall in these.”

“Yeah.” Adam looked down at them, and his eyes moved up Tommy’s body. “You look amazing.” Tommy smiled, thinking he knew what was going to come next.

“Yeah?” he said, trying to move forward, but as soon as he did, it was like Adam had caught himself. He started stumbling back. “Wait, wait, I’m sorry. You probably didn’t want me to do that, I know you’ve been really nice to me and stuff, but-fuck, I’ll just go.” Adam headed for the door and started to undo the latches.

“Adam!” Fuck, what was wrong with him? “Adam.” Tommy stopped him at the door. “You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s okay.” Tommy put a hand up on Adam’s shoulder, near his neck. “It’s really okay.”

“You don’t want me that way, I shouldn’t have,” Adam whispered. “I shouldn’t have even wanted.” Tommy felt his heart halfway break at that, because fuck. That wasn’t even right.

“You can want things, don’t fuckin’ think you can’t, okay?” Tommy rubbed a hand over Adam’s neck, and Adam relaxed a little. Tommy smiled at him, and Adam smiled back about halfway. Tommy wanted to lean in again, kiss him, press him close. Adam was blushing, but looking at Tommy straight on. Tommy licked his lips...

“What the fuck is taking so-oh shit!” Brad was standing frozen in place where he had jerked the door open. Adam squeaked and Tommy nearly cussed Brad out for interrupting them. “Oh. Um. Fuck.” Brad for once was speechless. Tommy dropped his hand from Adam’s neck, and Adam moved toward the door.

“Brad-“ But Brad wasn’t having any of it, backing up, his face angry. “Okay. Fine. You guys jerk off in a public changing room, I’m going home.” Brad turned and started down the stairs, fast.

“Brad!” Adam ran to go catch him. Of course he fucking did, Tommy thought. He palmed his cock through his jeans, and then just grabbed his shoes and went downstairs to pay for the boots. At least this way, he didn’t have to try to explain the credit card. Fine. Fuck him.

Tommy didn’t see Adam again for another hour and a half. After the boots he had swiped a half-pint of whiskey and a Coke from the corner store, and was drinking his cocktail while JennyBaby and a whole bunch of girls took turns drawing on his sling. They had Jenny’s radio and Tommy was starting to relax, to feel better about the whole fucking clusterfuck that was fucking Adam.

Well, maybe he was starting to feel a little better.

Tommy was sharing his Coke with a new girl named Camila and looking at the Watchman she had with her when he heard a “Tommy?” said from somewhere a little too close. He glared up at Adam, who was standing near the group. He was twisting his hands a little, and Tommy thought about that hand on his calf. It almost made him hard again, but he wasn’t giving in that easily.

“Can I fuckin’ help you?” Tommy took another drink of his Coke, and the girls went silent, wondering what was going on. Camile glared daggers at Adam, which was funny since she and Tommy had only known each other for about thirty minutes.

“Can I talk to you?” Adam said, and Tommy looked around. “I mean, we can talk and I can just call my parents or catch the bus back home if that’s what you-“

“Okay, fine.” Tommy shoved himself up and nearly misbalanced. JennyBaby held him steady, her eyes on Adam. Tommy pushed past Adam, snarling. “Come on. There’s a little park over here.” Adam blinked at him, then followed. Tommy didn’t look back until they were in the park, named after a monk that did good works a hundred years ago. He sat on a park bench and waited until Adam sat down too. “You left me alone,” he started. Adam almost said something and Tommy continued. “You left me alone with a hard-on and took off after Brad. Is he your ex, or something?”

“I’m sorry. I had to follow Brad out. He was angry. And no, we kissed a couple of times, but he’s not my ex.” He could tell that Adam wanted him to look at him, but Tommy kept his eyes on his new boots. They really did look fantastic. “Brad worries about me. My family does, everyone does. It’s not about you, not really. They’re just-scared.”

“Why are they scared?” Tommy said, still not looking up. “Did something happen?” When he didn’t get an answer right away, he did look up. Adam was staring at some flowering bushes near the bench. There was a homeless man sleeping in its shade.

“I don’t-I don’t like to talk about it. I’m sorry. Just-not yet.” Tommy nodded, then took a deep breath.

“Well, it’s good you have a secret, because I do too. Here’s a deal, I won’t ask about what happened, and you don’t ask me about my family.” Tommy held Adam’s eyes. “I mean it, because I won’t say anything.”

Adam looked back at him, gentle concern in his eyes. Tommy didn’t see any pity, or he would have left right then. “There’s a lot of rumors about that. People say a lot of things about you.” Tommy ran his hand through his blond spiky hair.

“And I never answer. Ever. I just don’t want to get into it. Look, I said it was okay, and it is. And if you want to, that’s-yeah. I want to.” Tommy looked over at Adam, who was staring at him. Adam looked shocked, then he let out a long breath.

“Oh wow, I didn’t expect that when you asked me to come today. Did you-was this a date?” Adam was grinning at him full on now, and Tommy grinned back. “Oh my fucking god, I have don’t have a clue about that stuff.”

“I think it is now. I haven’t done much with guys. So we’re probably on the same page.” Tommy took another swig of his Coke and then handed it to Adam, who sniffed it.

“Wow, how much is in here? Okay…” He took a swig and coughed a little. Tommy started giggling and Adam gasped out, “Oh, fuck you,” and then they kept laughing for the next two minutes.
*

Adam and Tommy met back up with Lisa and LP at the Palace an hour later. Lisa had come very close to buying a new keyboard, and LP talked in detail the sticks he’d gotten. After that, they had-well, they never said for sure and Tommy sure as fuck wasn’t going to ask. Maybe they just got high-LP was known for having good shit on him. Anyway, they were in front of the Palace, trying to decide if they were going to see the whole show.

“I’m fucking saying, James Dean’s screen test,” Tommy argued, looking at the marquee. “And I like East of Eden.”

“You’re the only one, then.” Tommy turned at the new voice and big fucking surprise, there was Anoop and Megan. Megan was all dressed up like she was going to a dance party, with boots instead of high heels. Good for her. Anoop looked like he always did. “Hi, we might see some of the movies, if we’re still invited.”

“Of fucking course you’re still invited,” Tommy said, grinning. He introduced LP and Lisa to Anoop and Megan.

LP looked at Anoop for a minute, considering. “Wait, I’ve heard of you. Aren’t you that kid at Jefferson who ran for student class president and the jock running against you ran a racist campaign?”

“Yep, and he won.” Anoop said easily.

“And a couple of weeks later, that guy’s car turned up with all the windows busted.”

“Yes. Good thing I was away for the weekend, I wonder who did that.” LP and Anoop shared a smirk. Tommy was nearly giggling under his hand. Megan smiled angelically, like they were talking about parties or something. Adam just looked stunned.

“Wait, how did you guys know-“Tommy shot him a look, and Adam shut his mouth quickly. LP winked.

“Word gets around. Anyway, we’re trying to decide if we’re really going to see all of these. Tommy wants to see the whole thing. Hey Adam, whole thing or just come back later for Rebel?”

“Um. Whole thing I guess.” Adam looked at Tommy again, and Tommy nodded. Good. Fuckin’ great.

Megan shrugged. “I don’t think we can stay that late. And I’ve seen both of them on video.”

“It’s not the same as seeing them in the theater,” Tommy argued, and Lisa rolled her eyes, playfully shoving him.

“Your James Dean thing is now known to everyone, Tommy. Come on, we’ll all go in and then leave as we want. I think they’ll let us back in.” She headed toward the ticket seller.

It turned out they did, and after they all paid Tommy and Adam went in, Lisa and LP, and Megan and Anoop stayed outside a bit, chatting with a street musician that Tommy knew. Tommy acted like he was going to follow Lisa and LP, but then he pulled Adam’s hand. “Hey. This way.” Tommy showed him some stairs behind a sign that said “No Trespassing.”

“Hey, what-“ Adam tried to protest, but Tommy slipped over the chain and let Adam up. “Come on, quick,” he said, and they went up the stairs before an usher saw them. “Up here,” Tommy said as they went up the stairs and around a huge, crumbling balcony. “Watch your step. They haven’t finished restoring this part.”

“Oh, great,” Adam muttered as they walked carefully until Tommy found what he was looking for.

“Here we fuckin’ go.” It was a theater box, old fashioned, with walls around the sides. “Nice, huh? It’s like the show’s just for us.”

Adam looked over at him. “God, nobody can see us up here, can they?” He blushed a little. “Wow, thank you. This is great.” He snuggled back into the fraying red velvet seat. “Um, I guess that means-“

“It means whatever you want it to.” Tommy said, smiling a little. “I am going to watch at least some of the movies, though.” Adam laughed, the great one he had when he didn’t care what he looked like and his whole face lit up.
“Tease,” Adam said, and Tommy moved in close just as the theater lights went dark.

Tommy was holding still, waiting. There were a few previews, some other shit about donating money to the theater for the reconstruction, yeah, yeah, get to the good stuff. When they started running the screen test for Rebel, Tommy sat up straight, leaning in. He just watched it, black and white footage of Dean, Sal Mineo, and Natalie Wood. He had never seen it before, this version of the scene, but it was like covering a song-familiar and not at once. He winced a little when Plato started to cry, and looked at Adam, who seemed to be feeling the same.

It was over too soon, and then East of Eden began. Tommy had curled back into Adam’s side while this came on. His arm was hurting though, a dull ache that told him it had been too long between pain pills. He tried not to be obvious about gritting his teeth, because he really did want to see it again-the family conflict and the way Dean played the outcast son. But when Adam jostled him he forgot to be stoic and actually fucking whimpered.

Adam looked over at him. “Are you okay?” Tommy shook his head, feeling like an idiot. “My hand,” he said. Adam looked confused. “I haven’t taken enough pain pills today. I just drank a lot. That doesn’t help as much as you’d think.”

“Do you want me to get you something? Like a Coke?” Adam whispered, putting a hand on his shoulder. He looked very serious, eyes shining in the dim light.

Tommy nodded. “I would. But…we you bring some popcorn for us to share?” Adam looked like he was going to protest, but Tommy kept going. “You’ve been out all day and you haven’t eaten anything. Just some popcorn, I won’t watch you eat.”

“I’ve gone longer,” Adam said, voice quiet. “But okay. Just….don’t give me too much shit about it.” He stood up. “I’ll be back soon.”Tommy nodded shortly, and watched as Adam slipped out of their enclosure. He watched the movie, the throb in his arm keeping time with his heartbeat.

Adam came back a few minutes later, Tommy watching the movie rapt. Adam had to nudge him a little, then nearly dumped the cokes and popcorn in Tommy’s lap. “Sorry. Um, I got you some M&M’s too. If you want them, I mean.”

“Sugar,” Tommy said, grinning. He took a Coke and took two of his pain pills at once. Then he got a handful of M&M’s and popcorn mixed. Without thinking, he offered his candy to Adam and got met with a glare. “Hey, sorry, I just forgot.”

“It’s okay.” Adam nibbled at the popcorn, not looking at Tommy. They ate silently, Tommy still focused on the movie. Adam watched it, half-interested. After a while, he whispered to Tommy, “I understand Rebel, but why do you like this one so much? It’s kind of…old-fashioned.”

Tommy watched it for a minute more. “Mostly because of Dean, really. But…it’s such a classic story. Everyone fights for dominance in families, right? Brothers, fathers, everyone. I don’t really like the book, though.”

“Me either,” Adam answered. They were still whispering, even though there was nobody nearby. “My favorite book is One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest. And other stuff like that, that I got from my dad.”

“Hippie books,” Tommy said, grinning at him. Adam elbowed him, then apologized when Tommy hissed. “Fuck, those pills better kick in soon. I’m not supposed to be drinking on these antibiotics.”

And fuck, that was the wrong thing to say, because Adam actually looked pissed off. “So why don’t you stop drinking so fucking much then? Are you trying to get your hand amputated, you idiot?”

If Adam had said that to him even an hour earlier, Tommy would have knocked the popcorn out of his hand and stormed off. Nobody told him what to do, ever. But Tommy just stared at Adam, who stared him back down. Tommy dropped his head, and then felt that beautiful, soft hand on his neck. “Just try harder. You need to get better. That sling looks stupid.”

Tommy had to chuckle a little at that. “Yeah. It’s driving me crazy.” Tommy had no idea if he even could, but he would try. He’d go back to the fucking doctor next week.

They didn’t say a whole lot after that, Tommy just ate his candy and some of the popcorn. He tried to leave a lot for Adam, but he just nibbled on it. Tommy watched Adam’s face, glowing in the light of the Technicolor movie. And again, Adam caught him, but this time, he didn’t duck his head. He stared back.

Tommy looked back at him and then leaned in a little more. He was expecting Adam to kiss him or grab him or rub his hand over Tommy’s dick, any of those things. What he didn’t expect was for Adam to reach over and gently wrap a hand around his, with the M&M box still in it.

Tommy nearly fucking dropped it. Tommy looked over at Adam, eyes huge. What was he doing? Tommy had fucked girls in alleys, cars, bathrooms, backrooms of clubs, he had given blowjobs in the rec rooms of boys he got wasted with, their parents fighting over their heads. He’d been with two girls, he’d fucked a girl one morning and her sister the next day. Nobody had ever held his hand.

Adam looked as terrified as Tommy must have, but he didn’t let so. Instead, his long, soft fingers stroked down Tommy’s wrist, and Tommy had to close his eyes. It was so…gentle. Sweet. Nobody was ever this way with him.

Slowly, Tommy moved even closer to Adam, until he was almost in his lap. Adam took the candy and popcorn out of his hand and sat them down on the floor. He put an arm around Tommy’s waist, holding him nearly to Adam’s chest. Tommy was held in place, propped up on Adam, who looked at him, nervous. “Okay?”

“Yes,” Tommy said, tipping his face up. He belatedly realized how long he had been waiting for this when Adam bridged the gap and touched his mouth to Tommy’s. “Yeah,” he whispered again, leaning in further and kissing Adam back, keeping it gentle, trying not to scare him.

“Thought it would be rougher,” Adam whispered. “When I saw you that first time, thought you were gonna push me against a wall and kiss me hard.” He brushed another gentle kiss across Tommy’s lips and Tommy thought he was seriously going to fucking die.

“I probably would have, but this is fun too,” Tommy answered, and kissed Adam deeper this time. Adam whimpered into his mouth and grabbed Tommy harder, which made Tommy’s arm hurt like a bitch but he just bit at Adam’s lower lip. Adam actually fucking growled, and Tommy felt hot all over.

East of Eden ended and Rebel began and Tommy just kept on kissing Adam, hand up in his hair. Adam had one hand on Tommy’s jaw while the other held Tommy close. “God, amazing,” Adam said, his voice gone so low that Tommy could feel it in his guts. “You are so beautiful,” he said, staring at Tommy. “I have no idea what you’re doing here with me.”

Tommy got hotter just from the look Adam was giving him. He was so hard. “I want to be here.” Really, that’s all there was to it. “I don’t do anything I don’t want to.” Tommy kissed him again, harder. Adam stopped talking and ran his hand down Tommy’s chest, rubbing him gently through the shirt. Tommy thrust up, trying to get that hand lower. Adam stilled, not moving his hand from Tommy’s chest. Tommy licked his lips. “I-fuck. You can do more. It’s okay.”

Adam kissed him again, but gentler. “I don’t-I want you, but I’m-not in the theater. I want us to be alone,” he said, kissing Tommy’s cheek.

“We are fucking alone,” Tommy growled, “there’s nobody up here and nobody’s gonna find us and I’m dying.” Tommy kissed Adam again, trying to take control, but Adam was strong, and pulled back a little, panting.

“I just want it to be good,” he said, so quietly that Tommy had to strain to hear. “I haven’t, and I just want it-I don’t want anything crazy. But I want it to be…”

“Special?” Tommy said, his head resting on Adam’s shoulder.

“I think I just want there to be a bed.” Tommy smiled at him, and as much as Adam was giving him blue balls, he was okay with that.

Chapter Text

Adam and Tommy spent the rest of the film alternating lazy making out with actually watching the movie. Adam had seen it before, but not on a big screen, and he would occasionally be distracted by it until Tommy nuzzled his neck or bit his earlobe.

“You’re the one who wanted to see it,” Adam said, kissing Tommy again, hand on the back of his neck.

“I know,” Tommy said, and his smile was lazy and satisfied. “But I’ve seen it a lot. You’re new.” Adam giggled and kissed Tommy’s cheek, of all fucking things. Tommy just shook his head. Adam was a crazy son of a bitch sometimes.

They stopped making out at the ending though, holding hands tight as they watched Plato get shot, and Jim’s dad come to help him up. Tommy looked over and saw tears in Adam’s eyes, and he swallowed around the lump in his throat. “Hey Tommy,” Adam whispered, “Plato…he was in love with Jim, right?”

“Oh yeah,” Tommy said. “I don’t see how it makes sense otherwise. That whole ‘father’ bullshit is just because it was the 50’s.” Adam nodded and let go of Tommy’s hand as the lights came up. Tommy had to try not to grab it again. “And anyway, both Sal Mineo and James Dean were bi.” Tommy stepped carefully and they got out of there.

“Yeah? Wow.” Adam said. “I knew about Sal but not James.” Tommy just nodded as they snuck down the stairs and stood in the lobby, waiting for everyone else. Again, Tommy had to remember that he couldn’t just take Adam’s hand in the middle of the goddamn lobby. Adam looked over at him, eyes wistful, and he knew he was thinking it to.

I gotta get him to Allen’s, Tommy thought. A mattress on the floor is as good as a bed, right? Tommy was interrupted from that thought at a “Hey!” that came from Megan. Her and Anoop came over, and he had an arm around Megan. “Where did you guys go?”

“We were in the back,” Adam said, and then blushed when both Megan and Anoop raised an eyebrow. “Oh come on, where were you?” Megan giggled and Tommy thought she looked cute glowing like that.

“Never mind, we should go. We need to get to Anoop’s long enough for me to talk to his parents before he takes me home.” They looked at Anoop, who shrugged.

“My mom likes to chat with Megan, it makes her happy.” Anoop put a hand on Megan’s back. “We’ll see you at school.” Adam waved at them.

“Bye,” Tommy said, then looked over at Adam. “His parents? Do Anoop’s parents think he’s gonna marry her out of high school or something?” Adam quirked his eyebrows, something Tommy had never seen him do before. Tommy wondered how many little habits Adam had been hiding around him, out of shyness. He hoped he’d get to see a lot of them.

“Well, I know his parents had a traditional arranged marriage. I think they have a hard time seeing any relationship not ending that way. So yeah, they might think that. Hell, for all I know, Megan and Anoop might think that, I never asked.”

“It would be kind of a hard thing to bring up,” Tommy said, then grinned when LP and Lisa showed up. “Hi!” Lisa came over and hugged Tommy. “You look happy,” she whispered in his ear. He playfully batted her away.

LP got out a cigarette. “So where are we going now? There’s no shows tonight.” Lisa shrugged.

“Let’s go to Revolution Records,” Tommy said. “I wanna talk to Monte.” He turned to Adam, “You gotta meet this guy, he’s hilarious.” Adam just grinned.

“Sure, whatever you want,” Adam said, voice low-and fuck, was he purring? Oh god. Tommy had to will himself not to get a hard-on. The walk to Revolution was about a block down, and Tommy could see the little fading Grateful Dead bears that were now mostly covered with Misfits and D.R.I stickers. There was a Subhumans poster in the window, a lot like the logo Tommy had on his leather jacket. Adam walked closer to him than was strictly needed, and LP caught Tommy’s eye, nodding slightly. Tommy nodded back, getting the message: Good luck, but be careful.

Monte met them at the door. “Hi! I’m about to close for the night, you want to come in for a minute? I’ve got some coffee brewing.” Monte was an old hippie who rather abruptly went punk rock somewhere around ’85. He changed his entire store merchandise, alienated all his old friends and became sort of a mascot of the punk scene Tommy was a part of. Nearly every time Tommy went to an all-ages show, Monte would be near the back, with his ever-present coffee cup (the motherfucker didn’t even drink, limiting himself to strong imported coffee and Mexican weed). He wasn’t a creep-most older people on the scene were trying to score with either young girls or boys. But no, Monte was still married to his lovely wife of 15 years, who ran a home based crafting co-opt and also gave guitar lessons to girls only. What a weird fucking family.

Tommy grinned. “That’s okay Monte. Hey, I asked you if I could volunteer once a week, you got a space open for me?”

Monte nodded absently and went to look at his little notebook schedule. “Let’s see-I have a time open on Friday nights. Is that okay?”

Tommy had to shake his head. “No, I’m in theater class now. I have to be there for rehearsals. Oh Monte, meet my friend from drama class. This is Adam, he’s a singer.”

Monte took Adam’s hand and shook it, then transferred the coffee cup back. “Nice to meet you,” he said looking back at his notebook. “Well Tommy, I might have a place open on Wednesdays after school if you can make it. Come in and work four hours and you’ll get store credit. Oh, and what happened to your hand?”

“Long story Monte, it involved a punch to the jaw and a hospital visit.” Tommy smirked. Monte nodded.

“Well, you take care of that arm and we’ll see you-“ He cut off as a chorus of screams and shrieks were heard from down the street. “Oh shit!” Tommy saw them first: shaved heads, red suspenders. “Fucking skinheads! Run!” Tommy grabbed Adam’s arm.

“Incoming!” Monte grabbed the baseball bat he kept nearby and stood to defend his store. Tommy looked and saw a rock go through the just-fixed marquee of The Palace. “Fuck, we gotta go!” Lisa and LP were already running. “Car’s this way!” He had to nearly drag Adam before he started, because he was staring at the shaved head thugs running full on down the street.

Tommy heard screaming and glass breaking everywhere, there had to be two dozen of them. He could hear Monte yelling “Nazi fuckers!” and what sounded like a baseball bat to the skull. Tommy saw JennyBaby leaving a store and yelled “Run! Jenny, run!” Jenny took off but a skinhead girl grabbed her by the hair, pulling her head back hard. “LP!” Tommy yelled. Tommy watched as LP stopped, grabbed a metal garbage can, and threw it in a perfect arc. It hit a whole group of shaved head fuckers, knocking at least one out. The skinhead girl ran.

“What the fuck?” Adam said, running next to him. “Why?” Tommy could hear them behind him. “Seig Heil! Seig Heil! White power! Kill the hippies! Kill the faggots!” This wasn’t a club riot, it was a fucking siege, and he couldn’t do anything. His arm was dangling around his chest, useless.

“I’ve never seen this many before, shit!” Tommy kept running, even though his arm hurt and he wasn’t that fast. Also, he wouldn’t leave Adam behind. A brick went through a window near them, making Adam scream. “Come on, Lisa’s got the car!”

Lisa and LP had gotten into the car safely and were now backing it up towards Tommy and Adam. “Fuck, get in!” yelled Lisa. LP opened the back door and Tommy was going to let Adam in first, but Adam shoved him inside just as four motherfuckers showed up.

“Adam!” Tommy reached to grab Adam one-handed and pull him into the car, but Adam shrieked, he made this unholy screeching sound that sounded like an opera singer being gutted, and then he kicked the nearest fucker in the balls, doubling him over. Then he shoved the guy he just kicked into his friend and sort of jumped backwards into the car and slammed the door, Lisa taking off with the other white power scum banging on the hood.

Lisa hit the gas as hard as she could and they screeched tires out of there. Behind them, there was the tinkle of breaking glass and yelling. “Oh god. Oh fuck, Adam are you okay?” Tommy tried to get Adam to look at him. “Adam?”

Adam sat there, pale, for a second, staring straight ahead. Then he gagged, and he got the window rolled down just in time to puke out the window. Tommy tentatively put a hand on Adam’s back, but took it away when he flinched. When Adam was done, he just flopped back in the seat. Tommy could see the tears on his face. “I asked you if I was going to be safe. Fuck, Tommy.” Tommy didn’t say anything, just hung his head down.

LP looked back at them. “Adam. I swear to you I’ve never seen that before. They’ve been around and gotten into fights, but they never rampaged the street like that. We didn’t know.” LP’s voice was low and tight, and Tommy knew that LP was already making plans to get his friends and pay a little visit to that pool hall they kept as a HQ.

Lisa had her eyes on the road, hands shaking, but she said “It’s true. That was-oh god. You did great Adam.”

Adam shook his head, but Tommy said “No, you were. And I’m sorry. I didn’t think that would happen.” He reached for Adam again, putting a hand on Adam’s leg. Adam didn’t respond, but didn’t move it either. He was still crying, so Tommy tried to cheer him up. “You’re gonna have to teach me to scream like that. It sounded fucking terrifying.”

Adam huffed out a laugh in the middle of his tears. “Opera lessons, guys.”

They all laughed, a little hysterically, as Lisa took the back roads down to LP’s place. “We don’t want the cops to see us out-shit.” Just then, there were lights behind them. “Everyone get your ID’s, I guess. I never got pulled over before, fuck.”

Tommy looked over at Adam, who had frozen against the seat. “Just take out your ID, slowly, and have it ready. Be cool, they’re probably not going to do anything.” Tommy moved his hand from Adam’s leg, hating that he had to. Lisa pulled the car over and waited. LP got his ID out and went blank, showing no emotion on his face. Tommy got his out. “Adam, you got yours?

 

“Yeah, I do.” They all went still, Adam trying to hide his tear tracks by ducking his head.

The cops didn’t say anything, didn’t give an explanation as to why they stopped the car, they just shined their flashlights in everyone’s faces. Lisa rolled down her window. “Hi. Is there a problem, officer?”

The cops kept shining the flashlights on them for a minute. Then the one on Lisa’s side said “Driver’s license and insurance, Miss.” Lisa handed him both, and slowly put her purse back down. The cop looked at both of them. “You kids just come from the Points?” Lisa and LP shook their heads.

The other cop shone a light in Adam’s eyes. “This one doesn’t look too well. You been drinking?” Adam stiffened up, and dropped his eyes.

“No sir.”

The cop kept shining his light into Adam’s eyes. “You puke on the side of the car, boy?”

Adam swallowed, and Tommy said “He’s not feeling well. We’re taking him home.” The cop moved his flashlight to Tommy, blinding him.

“Okay, you in the back with the blond hair, Billy Idol. Let’s see your ID.”

Tommy looked up at the cop with no expression and handed him his card. He watched the cop look at it, then look back at him again, then read the name a second time. Tommy didn’t move, didn’t say a word. The cops looked at each other, then gave everyone their cards back. The cop on Lisa’s side looked at her and just said “Okay, that’s enough. Get home and don’t come back out tonight. We’re closing the Points down.”

“Yes officer”, Lisa said, putting her ID away. LP didn’t move until they got going again, then turned around and gave Tommy a long look. Tommy didn’t move or say anything, but LP just nodded as if something had been confirmed for him.

Lisa dropped LP off and he squeezed her shoulder, said bye to Adam and Tommy, and bounded up the stairs to his apartment. Tommy could see the Bad Brains poster in the window. Tommy turned to Adam, “Hey, are you-“ but stopped when he saw more tears on Adam’s face.

Adam didn’t even look at him. “Lisa, take me home please.” She caught his eyes in the rearview and nodded, driving away from LP’s place. Adam didn’t say anything else all the way back to his place, just rubbed his face after he stopped crying. When they pulled up to Adam’s house, the porch lights were still on and Tommy realized it was only about nine o’clock. He reached out, for Adam again.

“Adam, can I call you?” Adam glared at him, and Tommy felt pinned by the dark gray anger in his eyes. “Adam, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-“

 

“I’ll talk to you later,” Adam said, voice flat. “I have to go now. I’ll see you.” He got out of the car and slammed the door, going inside quickly. Tommy just watched him go, and felt a kind of numb cold go over him. Lisa already had him by the arm, talking.

“Tommy, he’ll be back. You’ll see him and it’ll be okay. He’s just mad.” Tommy could barely hear her over the numb feeling in his body. Lisa kept talking, and started driving. Tommy didn’t even think to ask where they were going at first. Then he said “Please don’t take me to my house right now.”

“I’m not. I’m taking you to mine,” Lisa said, eyes on the road. Tommy tried to protest but Lisa interrupted him. “No, I know you’d love to go see Brent right now. He’ll fill the bowl, sell you some more drugs and probably suck your dick, but you’ll feel even worse tomorrow. And I know your arm hurts. You’re coming to my house, my dad misses seeing you.” Again, Tommy didn’t bother protesting.

They got to Lisa’s house a few minutes later, a rather pretty stone house that had climbing tea roses. Her dad was a good gardener as well. Tommy felt pretty fucking guilty when he came in-he really hadn’t seen Lisa’s dad in a while. He met them as they came in, and fixed them bowls of soup and bread he had made that day.

Lisa had both parents present and accounted for, but her mom was a radical feminist Women’s Studies professor at the university, and spent most of her time lecturing and working. Lisa’s dad was a homemaker/part time guitar maker. Tommy rarely saw Lisa’s mom, but she tolerated him about as well as she did anyone who wasn’t an academic.

If he was forced to by threat of losing his record collection, Tommy would admit that he kind of loved Paul, Lisa’s dad. The only problem with having a parent for a friend was that Paul could tell something was wrong and kept asking him about it. The more he asked, the quieter Tommy got until he was staring into his potato soup. Paul finally just came over and patted his good shoulder. Tommy closed his eyes, glad that Lisa had made a decision for him. He wanted the comfort of Lisa’s house so much, he would have never asked for it.

After dinner, Paul wanted to look at Tommy’s arm, and Tommy let him. They went into the kitchen, and Tommy could hear the fast typing on keys that meant Lisa’s mother was hard at work on her latest paper. Paul undid the sling and took off the gauze, leaving the brace on. It wasn’t as swollen, but it still hurt like a motherfucker when Paul poked at it. “Looks like you need to do back to the doctor, TJ,” Paul said. He was one of the people who could get away with calling him that. “You need to see what’s wrong, it shouldn’t be hurting you by now.” Tommy just nodded.

“Why are you so quiet tonight?” Lisa’s dad frowned, which was a good look for him. Lisa’s father was good looking enough to be an actor in the “aging gracefully” stage, which Lisa found funny and Paul embarrassing. Tommy shook his head.

“I kind of got my hopes up,” is all he would say. Paul nodded and got him some tea before bed. Tommy really wanted some whiskey in it, but he always tried to respect Lisa’s house. Lisa knew that of course, the little bitch-she was trying to keep him from drinking his ass blind.

Paul helped Tommy get his boots off. He just closed his eyes and thought about nothing. Nothing at all.

He wound up in Lisa’s room, watching Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains on Night Flight. They never seemed to get tire of airing that movie, and every punk girl Tommy knew never got tired of watching it. He always watched it too, because fuck yeah, Diane Lane. And as a bonus, the hot bassist from the Clash, which was also nice. Lisa was letting him rest his head on her shoulder.

“I was having such a good fucking time,” he said suddenly, then wished he could shut up forever. Fuck, fuck, fuck, he had given Lisa an opening. He tried to pull away, but Lisa had a hand over his neck, holding him close.
“Yeah? Tell me what happened?” And Tommy told her everything she’d missed, the boots, Brad freaking out, the park, and making out in the balcony. “It was one of the best days I’ve had in-fuck, so long, Lisa. And now he hates me.” Fucking Lisa and her fucking beautiful calm house-it was like fucking truth serum.

Lisa stroked Tommy’s hair, making him flinch. “Tommy, it’ll be okay. I think-you said something had happened to him. Maybe the whole thing was about that.” Tommy closed his eyes.

“He asked me if he would be safe, and he wasn’t and that’s my fault.” Tommy propped himself halfway up on pillows, easier to sleep that way with the arm.“You want me to sleep here, on the floor, or in the guest room?” Lisa’s parents didn’t give a shit if she had a boy in her bedroom, and Paul seemed to realize that they were platonic anyway. Lisa took her hand off Tommy’s neck.

“Wherever you want, you can stay here if you like. But Tommy-you weren’t the one attacking the car. It was those Nazi fuckheads. I hope LP and his buddies beat the shit out of them.” Tommy nodded, the idea of LP smacking a skinhead idiot over the head with a pool cue a nice thought to sleep to.

Tommy woke up the next morning, head pounding. He was hungover and he didn’t have any fucking pain pills on him, motherfucker. Lisa was already awake and padding around her room in her sweatpants and Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt. She looked over when Tommy stared at her bleary-eyed, and smiled. “Let me get breakfast.”

Breakfast turned out to be coffee and toast with minimal butter, which is probably all he could handle anyway. Lisa turned on the TV and they clicked between MTV and Jimmy Swaggart as they ate silently. One minute a hair band would be wailing, the next they were going to go to hell for drinking and listening to rock music. Tommy figured that while Dokken should be hell-worthy, that was probably an academic matter.After a while, Tommy said, “Hey, can you take me to Allen’s? I need a shower and I kind of want to crash there for a while.”

Lisa nodded. “Okay, you can take a shower here after I get done, though.” Tommy knew he could, but he never wanted to be more of a burden on Lisa’s family than he already was. He just let Lisa kiss his forehead and go to the bathroom with her robe, and he went downstairs to wait.

Paul talked to Tommy over his breakfast of poached eggs and ham, and Tommy tried not to gag-his stomach was still pretty fucking queasy. After Tommy had promised Paul that he would go to the doctor and do whatever they said for real this time, Lisa finally showed up.

Paul squeezed his shoulder goodbye. “You come back. I can’t wait for your arm to get better, we need to jam again.” Paul was a hell of a guitar player, but acoustic only. He and Tommy would get together sometimes and play old blues songs. (Tommy refused to play anything hippie, but had no problem with blues, so that was their compromise.) Tommy nodded and smiled a little. Lisa was right, it had been too long.

Lisa drove Tommy mostly in silence, they didn’t even play the radio. Tommy wanted to ask her things-was she interested in LP, did she even like guys-but he was tired and hurting. He just wanted to go to Allen’s, take care of the animals and rest. It was peaceful there. Tommy had his head back and was almost asleep when Lisa pulled up. “Here you are honey.”

Tommy rubbed his eyes. “Thank you for everything. Tell your dad I said thanks too.” Lisa kissed his cheek.“Take care of yourself, “she said before driving off. Tommy fiddled around for the key, thinking Yeah, because I’m really good at that.

Allen’s was a little musty-he had to clean up soon. First he fed the animals, taking Leatherface out and playing with her a while, then slowly took off his sling. His head still hurt, and his arm ached dully. It felt like it might be getting better-it had hurt more yesterday. He looked down at his boots and decided to leave them on, then curled on the mattress with the fraying sheets. He was thinking about how silent and final it was to sleep alone, right before he went under.

When Tommy woke up, it was dark, and he was blinking, trying to adjust his sight as he heard a knock on the door. It was pretty insistent, so Tommy struggled up from the mattress and staggered in the direction of the door. He ran into a milk crate full of records on his way there. “Fuck! Okay, coming!” He stumbled over and pulled the locks free, opening the door.

Adam was standing there, eyes wide and looking miserable. “Tommy? Can I talk to you? “ Tommy stood there, and noticed how cold it had gotten since he was last awake. The wind was coming in, making Tommy shiver. Adam looked afraid, like he wasn’t expecting another chance. He had given Tommy at least three.

“Yeah, come in,” Tommy said, letting Adam in and turning on a lamp.

Tommy walked back toward the tiny stove on the other side of the room, not looking at Adam. “Hey, I can fix us some tea,” he said, filling up the silence that was taking up too much of the fucking room.

“I-yeah. Tea’s nice. Please.” Tommy didn’t look up, just put some water on from the sink and started looking for the mugs and tea tin, when he felt Adam near his shoulder. “I just wanted to say I was sorry. And explain, a little.”

Tommy nodded, still not looking. “Okay, go ahead.” Tommy put the water on to boil and put two mugs on the table, with a tea bag in each. “Tell me what I did.”

Adam made this exasperated, sad noise. “Fuck Tommy. It wasn’t you and it was just scary and overwhelming and I’m so sorry. I knew I shouldn’t have just left you like that. I’ve been looking for you all day, where were you?”

“Lisa forced me to go home with her,” Tommy said, laughing a little. “She knew if she left it up to me, I might still be puking my guts out.” Brent had great stuff, but mixing was never a good idea, and yet Tommy did that all the time. “I don’t-“Tommy said suddenly. “Lisa’s like a sister to me. Don’t think anything happened, because it never has.”

“I didn’t really think so,” Adam said, still looking down. Tommy didn’t say anything for a while either, and time moved slowly. When the water started to boil, Tommy took it and carefully poured some in both mugs. When Tommy had filled the mug in front of Adam he spoke. “I know we promised not to tell each other our secrets, but I think I need to cash in most of mine right now.” Tommy flinched and nearly spilled boiling water on himself. “No, you don’t have to tell me anything, that’s okay. But, it’ll make more sense if you hear it.” Adam looked over at Tommy. “Um, is there any sugar or Sweet n’ Low or something for the tea?”

Tommy got up and got the honey bear down from the shelf above the store. “Here, Allen doesn’t like to have artificial stuff in her apartment. I had to bring all the Kraft Mac n’ Cheese and shit.” Adam smiled, just a bit, taking a spoon Tommy gave him. Tommy poked at his tea bag, waiting for it to steep enough.

“It was me and Brad,” Adam said, breaking the silence.” It was about a year ago? Something like that. Brad didn’t used to go to my school, but we had dance classes together downtown. That’s when we became friends.” Tommy looked up as Adam talked, Adam looking past Tommy’s shoulder towards the stove. “And that’s when we both realized we were gay-or I realized. Brad always knew.”

Adam stirred at his tea a little, and Tommy watched his hands. “You’ve seen how Brad flirts with Kris, right? When he knows damn well Kris isn’t going to ever do anything? That’s how we used to be, except we meant it, we were just scared. “ Adam stopped again, looking at his tea cup. He took a deep breath and kept going.

“One night, we were done with jazz class and we were waiting on our parents. We were flirting, just sort of seeing what we could get away with, I guess. Then Brad took me behind the building, out by the dumpster.” Tommy’s eyes widened. “He kissed me back there, and it was-fuck-amazing. He was so good at it.” Adam looked up at Tommy. “Like you are.”

Tommy swallowed under the force of Adam’s look and stirred his tea. “Did someone catch you?” Adam put some honey in his tea, and sipped it. After a minute he nodded.

“It was the cop dad of a little girl who took lessons there. It wasn’t enough for him to get upset, or yell, or drag our dance teacher out back and try to get us kicked out. He told me that I was fat and ugly and only a little nelly fag like Brad would ever look at me. I don’t remember what all he said, but it kept going until my parents got there. They told him to fuck off, and took me and Brad home. Brad never touched me again.”

Tommy just sat there, thinking about all the different ways that sucked, when Adam started again. “The cop had a son who went to school with Brad, and he caused so much trouble Brad had to switch schools.” Adam rubs a hand over his face. “Brad doesn’t blame me, he loves me now as a friend, but he won’t even try with anyone he thinks would like him back.”

“He kissed me at my first rehearsal though,” Tommy said, taking a sip of some of his tea. He didn’t add any honey to his and it tasted fine.

“That was for show, and he thought you were straight. I think he was a lot more comfortable with me being attracted to you as long as he thought that.” Adam sighed. “That’s most of it.”

Tommy nodded, he wouldn’t push for any more. Part of him was wondering if this was why Adam never ate in front of people, why he thought he was so ugly. Instead he said “You told me your parents didn’t know.” Adam looked down at his tea.

“It’s more like I’ve never told them. I’m sure they know, we just never talk about it, and they try to keep me busy as much as they can.” Tommy looked up and Adam said “You know, singing lessons, theater, dance, commercial work sometimes. Places where it’s safer for someone like me.” Adam drank more of his tea. “They were terrified when they saw the news about what happened at the Points. The only reason I’m here right now is I told them I was going to Kris’ to study.”

“I guess I can forget about calling your house ever again,” Tommy said, voice dull. “I swear-I never thought any of that would happen. Lisa really hadn’t ever been pulled over. I just wanted to show you a good time and it was like a fucking horror movie.” Tommy started a little when he felt Adam’s smooth, warm hand on his arm.

“I don’t give a shit what they think, you can call anytime you want.” Tommy looked up and was met with Adam staring at him, intense and almost uncomfortable. “I did have a great night, it just ended horribly. And I’m sorry.”

“You asked me to make sure you were safe, it’s my fault,” Tommy said, and pushed to a standing position, facing away from Adam. Tommy went searching the shelf, looking for something. He wasn’t sure what, maybe some cookies, maybe the pot Allen kept stashed around her place and forgot about. He didn’t care what he found, he just wanted something to distract him.

That became impossible when he felt a body press against his, and an arm curl around his waist. “It’s not your fault,” Adam said, near his ear, and Tommy was fucking shaking already. “I never really blamed you. I was just upset. You know why now. So are we okay? Or should I go?” Tommy turned his head to watch Adam’s expression. Adam looked scared, but he was holding on.

Tommy leaned into Adam’s body and Adam let out a long breath and Tommy was being kissed before he could fully process it. “Good, good,” Adam whispered, and kissed him again. He went on his toes, trying to reach Adam’s mouth better, and Adam laughed a little. “You’re so sweet, I wouldn’t have thought.” Tommy bit Adam’s lip in retaliation and Adam made that fucking growling noise in his throat again.

“Don’t forget what an asshole I am too,” Tommy said, smiling against Adam’s mouth. Adam just kissed him again, and they kept that up for another few minutes. Tommy could feel Adam’s dick getting hard against him, and fuck. He was hard too, had been since Adam slid behind him. Tommy pushed up against Adam again, rubbing against him and Adam made a shocked noise in his mouth. He pulled back, not letting go, just leaning away from Tommy’s mouth.

“Do you? Can we-“ Adam couldn’t seem to finish the sentence. He was flushed as far down as Tommy could see, and shaking a little. Tommy turned in Adam’s arms, holding back a little so he didn’t hurt his arm.

“We can, if you want. I don’t know if I have condoms though, and I’ve never done that anyway.” Tommy was almost as bad as Adam-what, he couldn’t say buttfucking? But Adam just leaned in for another kiss. Tommy kissed back, then said “I don’t want to rush you, but yeah. I want to.”

“You’re not rushing me, I want to. Oh god, really? You want to?” Adam looked way too fucking surprised. Tommy grinned, shaking his head. Really? Didn’t Adam know that Tommy liked him? He pulled closer, glad he’d taken that stupid fucking sling off. They said he could take it off after a week, right?

“I tried to get you to give me a handjob in the theater last night, remember? Um, let me get my backpack.” Tommy might’ve had condoms, and he wanted to find something else too. He went to the corner where he’d left his backpack last time, and fished out some lotion and a cassette tape. “Put this on.”

Adam looked at it and cracked up. “You carry mood music with you? You’re nuts.” He put it on though, and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” came on. “Oh, that’s good.” Tommy grinned and leaned in. This kiss was harder, more insistent. Adam’s hands were still shy though, rubbing over Tommy’s back in soft circles. Tommy kissed him back, giving in to it. He was wondering why Adam was the one taking control when Adam pulled back, smiling in a way that Tommy had never seen before. It was sly and almost fucking dirty.

“Hey Tommy, want me to take your boots off?” His voice was so innocent and sweet, and it went through Tommy like a lightning bolt. Oh fuck, Tommy thought, as he slid down in the chair closest to him. Adam kneeled between his legs again, still blushing, but a little surer, as he rubbed the leather again. “I had no idea how sexy this was.” Adam caressed Tommy’s calf covered by the boot. “I jerked off last night, thinking about you in the balcony, but this too.” He started unlacing the boots, left one first, going slow.

“Oh god, fuck you,” Tommy moaned. He thought he was hard before, but fuck-it was the same thing as yesterday, but now Adam knew the effect it had on both of them and was milking it. Tommy gasped out a breath. “You’re gonna fucking kill me.” Adam just smiled that fucking evil smile again and rubbed his face against Tommy’s thigh.

Tommy lost it right around then, grabbing the chair with his good hand. “Goddamn fucking amazing bastard. Shit, kinkiest virgin I ever met. Come on.” Adam just kept methodically undoing the boots, even though his hands shook a little and Tommy could see how hard he was. He pulled the boots off, one by one, and kissed Tommy’s knee, then wrinkled his nose.

“You should carry an extra pair of socks with you, gross,” Adam said, then kissed up Tommy’s thigh. He looked up at Tommy for a moment, face serious again, then put a hand over Tommy’s dick, rubbing him through the jeans. “Can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Tommy couldn’t even answer him, just dropped his head back. Adam kept touching him, sweet and experimentally, not enough to get him off. Tommy raised his head to look and he saw Adam rubbing himself with his other hand. “Adam,” he said, and fuck it, his voice was shaking. “Help me get my jeans off and let’s go lie down.”

Adam nodded, obviously scared. “Okay,” he said, so quiet and sweet Tommy wanted to pull him up and kiss him. He couldn’t, not with one hand, so he just wrapped his hand around Adam’s arm while Adam started undoing his jeans. His hands were shaking so much Tommy almost helped, but finally Adam got the zipper down and started pulling them down, along with his briefs. “Oh,” Adam said, looking at Tommy, and Tommy actually fucking blushed from the way Adam was studying him. He never had anybody, ever, treat him like this during sex. Adam looked up at Tommy and licked his lips. “Your shirt too?”

Tommy thought about it a second, then nodded. “Careful,” he said, and Adam started pulling off Tommy’s t-shirt slowly, trying not to hurt his arm. Adam stared at Tommy’s chest, and Tommy shifted, uncomfortable.

Tommy’s torso and chest had a nice little collection of scars. Adam traced one over Tommy’s stomach, a thin straight line. There was another one near Tommy’s collarbone, a circle-shaped burn mark. There were a couple of homemade tattoos done with some ink and a crude tattoo needle, momentos from late wasted nights. Adam looked up at him, tears in his eyes. “Tommy,” he said, and moved up to put his arms around him.

Anyone else, and Tommy would have laughed it off, or shoved them off, or said it wasn’t a big deal. Instead, Tommy put his arm around Adam and held him there. After a minute, Tommy whispered. “Take me to the bed? It’s pretty cold on this chair.” Adam pulled back, sniffling a little, and nodded. He helped Tommy up and Tommy lay down on the bed. He wasn’t hard anymore, and Adam’s crotch bulge seemed to be disappearing too.

“I’m sorry,” he said suddenly. “I should have told you to leave the shirt on.” Adam just rubbed over Tommy’s stomach again, making Tommy relax a little.

“No, it’s scary but-at least you think it’s okay. That I can see it.” Adam sat on the mattress and started taking his shoes off, his back to Tommy. Tommy rubbed Adam’s back through his shirt. “Does it-are you ashamed of it?”

Tommy shrugged a little. “Most girls think it’s hot. And guys-I don’t think I’ve ever gotten naked with a guy before.” Adam turned to look at him, surprised, and Tommy quirked up one side of his mouth. “I’ve mostly just given blowjobs or handjobs. When I was fucked up.”

“You’re not fucked up now.” Adam said it as a statement. Tommy shook his head. Adam looked at him. “I wasn’t going to take my clothes off. But since you did…”

Adam started pulling off his jeans first, back still facing Tommy. He stood up and shoved down his jeans and underwear, and Tommy swallowed. Even half-hard Adam’s cock was huge. “Fuck man,” Tommy said, and Adam looked confused. “You’re almost a porn star, goddamn.” Adam blushed even hotter, and Tommy wondered how far down it went. Adam hesitated, and then started unbuttoning his shirt, shoulders tensing. Tommy watched as Adam let his button-down slide to the floor, now standing in nothing but an undershirt. He crossed his arms over his stomach, like he was trying to hide it.

“You can leave that on if you want,” Tommy said. “Just come here,” and he slid over on the mattress. Adam lay down, curling up next to Tommy on the old thrift store sheets. Adam found Tommy’s mouth again, kissing him softly. Tommy wasn’t hard yet, but he pulled Adam in closer and let him control the kisses. Adam rubbed a hand over Tommy’s hip, then over to his ass. Tommy jumped a little, not expecting that.

Adam tried to move his hand. “Sorry, but I-“. He didn’t finish before Tommy looked straight at him and put the hand back. Adam rubbed over Tommy’s ass again, squeezing a little. Tommy laughed.

“My ass is too small, there’s nothing to grab.” Adam laughed too, and kissed him again. Tommy was starting to get hard again, and Adam was back to full fucking wood too. Tommy tried to take Adam in hand, but couldn’t really reach him. Adam gasped in his mouth anyway.

“Adam, hey,” Tommy pulled back a little. “Here, help me get these pillows set up.” He started to pull at them to try to prop his head up, and Adam helped after staring at him for a minute. Tommy laid on his back then. “Come up here. Straddle my head and I can try to blow you that way.” Adam looked at him for a second, mouth open, then moved over, putting his legs on either side of Tommy’s head.

“I didn’t know you could do it this way,” he whispered, then cried out when Tommy licked him. “Fuck, fuck,” Tommy didn’t say anything, just wrapped his arm around Adam’s hip and tried to get as much in his mouth as he could. Adam wound up bracing himself against the wall with one hand, the other one holding his cock. “Oh my god.”

Tommy pulled back after a minute, Adam’s dick smearing against his cheek. “Adam, don’t come in my mouth. I know you haven’t done this, but I’ve never swallowed, so don’t.” Tommy licked the head of Adam’s cock again. Adam rocked his hips forward suddenly and Tommy gagged. “Fuck, don’t choke me either, fucker.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to-oh shit,” Adam broke off into a whine as Tommy took Adam’s cock again. To be perfectly honest, Tommy had never done a guy in this position before, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Above him, Adam was making low, desperate sounds and shaking from the effort to keep still. The tape was still playing but it didn’t entirely disguise Adam’s moaning or the wet, slick sounds of Tommy’s mouth.

Suddenly, Adam cried out and pulled back, coming all over Tommy’s neck, face, and the pillows. Tommy sputtered a little as he got covered in spunk. Over him, Adam sagged and Tommy seriously fucking thought he was about to topple right on top of him. Instead, Adam moved and sort of slid down next to him. “Oh my god, thank you.”

“No fucking problem,” Tommy said, trying to get the come off his eyelids. Adam looked at him, eyes going so wide that Tommy started laughing. “Now that was just gross,” Tommy said, smearing some of it over his cheek.

“You told me not to come in your mouth!” Adam said, then he started laughing too. He kissed Tommy’s cheek, licking a little. “Ugh. I taste weird.” He got up then, and came back with some wet Denny’s napkins. Tommy was still giggling as Adam cleaned him up. Adam kissed him again, and Tommy nuzzled him, then ground against Adam’s leg, trying to remind him. “Oh. Um, what do you want?”

“You can just jerk me off,” Tommy said, kissing Adam again. “I got the lotion over there.” Adam looked confused for a second, and Tommy said quickly, “It’s your first time, you don’t have to go down on me.” Adam kissed him again, then slid down Tommy’s body. “Hey-“

“Just let me try,” Adam said, shy again. He rubbed over the head of Tommy’s cock first, and looked at the little drop of pre come that was already there. “Um, is it safe to do this?”

“If I don’t come in your mouth, yeah, I think so,” Tommy said. Actually, he wasn’t 100% sure, and he didn’t know if anyone was. Adam looked down at Tommy’s dick, like he was gathering his courage, and bent down. Tommy bit his lip as he felt Adam drag his tongue over his cock. “Oh,” he said, grabbing at the sheets.

Adam made a questioning noise and looked up. Tommy just nodded. Yeah, fuck yeah, he thought, as Adam licked him again, just getting him wet, but it was the sexiest goddamn thing that had happened to Tommy in fucking forever. He couldn’t figure out why, because when Adam put his mouth around the head it was awkward and clumsy and he didn’t cover his teeth that well. But it was so good, anyway. Tommy moaned again. Adam pulled off and put his hand on Tommy’s dick, jerking him slowly, and Tommy moved his hips into it.

Adam alternated between his hand and hand and mouth for a while, before Tommy grabbed his shoulder. “Pull off, now, come on-“ Adam pulled back in time and watched, eyes wide, as Tommy came over his hand. Tommy flopped back, boneless, and closed his eyes.

When he opened them a minute later, Adam was cleaning them up again with more napkins. Tommy reached over and touched his arm. “You okay?” Adam looked up.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” He dropped the napkins on the floor and came up to kiss Tommy. “That was amazing.” Tommy just nodded, head on Adam’s chest. Adam played with his hair, and Tommy smiled. He'd always liked that. Adam held him for a few minutes, which Tommy thought was cute. Tommy lifted his head up after a while and they kissed again.

After a while, Adam got up. Tommy didn’t know what time it was, but he figured it was nearly past the point of Adam being able to believably say he’d been doing his homework. He watched as Adam got dressed, neither of them talking. Adam looked tense and Tommy was wondering if he was worried about his looks when suddenly Adam said “Are we doing this again?”

Tommy sat up in the bed. “As many times as you want, trust me.” Adam dropped to his knees back on the mattress and kissed Tommy again.

“Okay,” he said, getting up and getting his keys. “I have to go home, I’m sorry I can’t stay…” Tommy just shook his head.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to sleep over. I’ll be fine. I’ll see you tomorrow at school, and we can go out after, if you want.” Tommy was going to say out to eat, but remembered in time that Adam didn’t. Adam shook his head.
“I have an acting class after school tomorrow, but I’ll see you in drama. Um, goodnight.” He came over and kissed Tommy quickly on the lips. Then he was out the door.

Tommy got up after a minute to lock the door back, the ache in his arm making itself known. He crossed his other arm over himself, cold again. He wound up taking a shower, bandaged arm sticking out, and then slowly put on a pair of sweats and his arm back in its sling. He fixed himself more tea and wondered if he had any whiskey, then realized: he had never fucked sober before.

Tommy couldn’t go to sleep after his all day nap, so he spent the next few hours doing his homework and working on a poem. It sucked, but it passed the time.

When he went back to sleep on Allen’s mattress, he traced over a wet spot on the pillow and thought about how Adam had felt in his mouth.

The next day, he called school to say he wouldn’t be there, and went to see his doctor.

Chapter Text

Wipe the blood off those knuckles-“Ares”, Bloc Party

When Tommy woke up, his “feeling better” phase seemed to be over. His hand was aching steadily, and hard. He tried to take off the bandages like Paul did last night, but it hurt so much that Tommy nearly bit through his lip. Fuck this, time to go see the doctor. He’d promised Adam anyway. He made the call and told them to be sure to tell Paula. It’s not like he could leave a fucking message just for Adam. That would look strange.

Tommy took the bus to Dr. Richardson’s office that morning, after having some coffee to try to steady himself. His arm throbbed, and he was shivering. He got the office and he had called but didn’t exactly have an appointment, just told them he’d be there soon and fit him in if they could. He camped out in a chair in their waiting room. It was okay, Tommy had his writing notebook and Walkman with him. He was listening to “Moving To Florida”, and it was loud enough to make an old lady get up and move away from him. Or maybe that was because of his Misfits t-shirt with the zombie on it. He could never be sure about these things.

Finally, he got called back, and he went slowly, his legs protesting about carrying him that whole fifty feet. The nurse made him stand on a fucking scale, then took him to a room to take his blood pressure. Next, the thermometer-now that got him a raised eyebrow. “You seem to be running a fever, Tommy.” Tommy looked up at her. He didn’t know this nurse-it had been a while since he’d been there, but she seemed fine.

“I knew something was wrong, how bad is it?” Tommy ran his good hand through his hair, touching his forehead. Yeah, that didn’t feel good.

“It’s 101 degrees. You didn’t drive here, did you?” Tommy shook his head and kind of regretted it, because it made the room swim a little.

“No, I took the bus. So um, my complaint is my arm’s not really getting better, I think it’s still infected.” The nurse wrote that down, and asked him the usual bullshit questions.

“Do you smoke?”

“Yeah, not a whole lot though.” Less than half a pack a day wasn’t that much.

She scratched that down on her little sheet. “Do you drink alcohol?”

Tommy generally had a smartass answer for this one, but he said “Yeah. I haven’t since Saturday night though.” What the hell, he had known his doctor for years. She probably knew or guessed the truth about that.

The nurse paused. “Do you take any illegal drugs?”

“Yeah, a few times a week. Pot mostly, and pills. Muscle relaxants and Xanax. I don’t like to take speed.” He didn’t really like cokeheads either, and tried to stay away from them. Really, who fucking needed speed with the music they listened to? That was just being fucking greedy. The nurse stared at him some more. Tommy sighed, lifting his head. “Sorry. I feel like shit, so I’m telling you everything for once. Do you need to know how much I drink?”

The nurse just looked sympathetic. “I’ll let you tell Dr. Richardson yourself. You rest a little.” Tommy nodded his thanks, and she left. Tommy laid back on the table, shivering.

Tommy was half-asleep when Dr. Richardson showed up. “Tommy?” she said, and he woke up, sitting up slowly. “Diane said you still had pain in your hand, and that you’re running a pretty high fever. Let me take a look.”

“I felt better last night, I don’t know,” Tommy muttered, as she took off the bandages and gently removed the cast. She shook her head, and Tommy looked down and winced. His hand was bright red and swollen. The skin was tight as a fucking drum skin when he poked at it. “Fuck, what did I do?”

“It looks like an infection of the tissue of your skin. I’m going to give you some stronger antibiotics, and something to help with the fever. And you’re going to have to stay out of school for a couple of days, until your fever goes down.” Tommy mouthed shit, because Anoop and Lisa were going to kill him.

“I need to ask you Tommy-how much are you drinking, and do you have side effects if you don’t?” Dr. Robinson was writing it all down, but standing close to Tommy. Tommy laid back down, suddenly feeling so tired. He closed his eyes, and Dr. Richardson had to prompt him before he answered her question.

“I’m not sure-two or three mini bottles a day, or a half-pint of whiskey. That’s what I like. And I’ve been a little more than a day without any. So I don’t know what’s from the infection and what’s not having it right now.” Tommy blinked his eyes open again to see Dr. Richardson staring at him.

“How long has it been since you didn’t drink every day?” And Tommy could hear in her voice that she was sad, but disappointed as well. Well, he never promised her anything, but that was still unfortunate.

“I don’t know. A year, more, I don’t know.” Tommy closed his eyes again, and heard Dr. Richardson mutter to herself about getting him a prescription for Valium for cravings as well, to be filled as needed. Tommy thought hell yeah as he almost fell asleep. But then he heard “…and we need to call your parents to take you home-“ That shit woke him up quick.

“Call Paul Harrington,” Tommy said, trying to sit up. He made it about halfway, propping himself up on an elbow. “He’s a family friend, he’s my best friend’s dad. I want to be over there to get better. I have his number in my records. Please call Paul.”

“Are you sure? Won’t your parents-“ She looked hesitant, and Tommy lost it. I mean, she wasn’t a stupid teacher or anything, she was his doctor. Didn’t she know?

“Doc, when was the last time you saw them here with me? Huh? I take myself to my own appointments, and I pay the co-pay, and you never see them!” Tommy had to take a deep breath, and he could feel his eyes start to sting. “I tried to take care of it, I didn’t do a good job. You need to call Mr. Harrington, because for one thing, he’ll actually be there.” Tommy flopped back down. “I don’t want to talk about it, just call him please.” He could tell he was pleading, but he didn't care.

Dr. Richardson paused for a moment, and then Tommy heard her say, her voice a little teary. “All right, I will. And Tommy, I care if you get better, for what that’s worth. And I’m going to put a card for a therapist I know in with your prescription.”

“Okay,” Tommy said, because fuck if he was up to arguing it now, and fell asleep on the table.
*

Tommy vaguely remembered being led into a car, he sort of remembered Paul buckling him in, telling him it would be okay. He muttered something back, and then fell asleep. For a long time, he slept and dreamed until he woke up in a real bed with the smell of chicken cooking in the air. He tried to sit up, but his hand throbbed and he was freezing. “Hey?” he said, feeling the presence of someone else rather than looking over. “Adam?”

 

“It’s me,” said a familiar voice, and Tommy turned to see Paul sitting in a chair next to the bed. “I’m fixing you some soup so you can take your medications. They’re pretty strong.” Paul looked a little uncomfortable. “Tommy, you were talking. I think it was the fever, you kept waking up and talking about, well actually to someone.”

“Oh.” Tommy said. “What did I say? Was it bad?” Tommy was really too fucking tired to even be that concerned, and it didn’t look like Paul was angry, so he figured it was okay. Paul looked at him for a minute and then sat back a bit, taking a deep breath.

“You were talking about a boy named Adam. In…more detail than I needed, but is this the person you were so upset about Saturday night?” Tommy had to fuckin’ hand it to Paul. He was handling this pretty goddamn well. Tommy couldn’t help but smile a little.

“Yeah, that’s Adam. He came by Allen’s later after Lisa dropped me off. We…figured things out. Sorry about that.” Tommy sighed a little. “I’ve only known him a little while. It’s-I don’t want to talk about it too much. Has he called?”

“No, you haven’t gotten any calls. Except one from Lisa, she swore to me she was gonna kill you when she saw you next. I do kind of doubt that.” Paul shook his head, smiling a little. “Why did you want to talk to him?”

“It probably sounds stupid. I just-he’ll be busy after school. And I wanted to see if he was alright.” Tommy closed his eyes again-this conversation was fucking tiring. “I just want him to know I didn’t skip because of…you know.” Paul nodded, forehead creasing in sympathy.

“I know I should let you sleep, but I have to ask. Is…did you find out you were gay and that’s why you stopped coming by to see me? Because it would never do what your parents-“ Tommy opened his eyes then. Time to cut that train of thought off.

“No, I didn’t mean to be gone so long. And I’m not-I don’t know what I am, okay? I don’t-I’ve only known Adam a week. It’s too soon to make a big deal out of.” Tommy looked at Paul, trying to make him understand that he didn’t want to jinx it by giving it too much thought. As if he could think of anything else, goddamn. “I didn’t show up because I’m an asshole. I’m sorry.” Tommy rubbed his eyes. “I wanted to be here, Paul. I just-I don’t know. I don’t know.” He closed his eyes. “I’m really tired. Wake me up when the soup’s ready?”

“Okay, Tommy.” Paul paused again. “I want you to know that you’re always welcome here. Always. Now get some sleep.” Paul touched Tommy’s shoulder and then left. Tommy curled on his side a little, glad that Paul knew not to refer to him as family. Tommy knew how that turned out.

When Tommy woke up again, the light was getting slanted and golden, October sun about to give up and turn into twilight. Tommy blinked awake, and saw his medications, a bowl of congealing soup and a cup of water left for him. There was a note in Paul’s neat handwriting: Try to eat something. It makes the antibiotics easier. Tommy slid up to a sitting position and shakily drank about half the chicken and rice soup Paul had made. It was homemade and delicious, but he didn’t have much appetite. He nibbled at the two saltines left on the side of the bowl and then took his antibiotics and pain medication. Paul had apparently elected to not fill the Valium prescription, and Tommy couldn’t fuckin’ blame him. Anyway, he wasn’t craving, he was too sick to worry about that.

When he was done, he flopped back down, now uncomfortably awake. Tommy had different gradients for being alone, they went from being comfortable to deadly quiet. Right now he just felt deserted. He couldn’t hear Lisa blasting music in her room or Paul playing his Todd Rungren records. He was too far away to hear if Dr. Tucker-Harrington was in her office or not. The guest room was pretty set off from the rest of the house.

He tried to get up, but he was still tired and almost glued to the sheets. Fuck, he’d been sweating a lot. His arm still hurt too-a dull ache that never got stronger or weaker, but just kept going. He saw the phone on the nightstand, and called Adam’s number.

Three rings, then someone picked up. “Hey, who is this?” Tommy grinned, it was Neil again.

“Hey Neil, it’s Tommy. Is Adam home?” Tommy laid back against the pillows, still smiling. There was a pause on the other line, and Tommy’s smile faded.

“Fuck, you mean he’s not with you? We don’t know where he is-he cut school and blew off his acting class. I thought at the very least you’d be off getting him involved in another riot. Hey, there’s a rumor going around the jr. high. Did Adam really throw a garbage can at those Nazis or what?”

Tommy didn’t know how to respond for a second, then said “Wait, he’s gone? Are you sure? And no, he didn’t throw a garbage can, Jesus.” Tommy shook his head-he was too sick to deal with this now.

“Yeah I’m sure. I don’t know-he disappears sometimes, you know? But he’s never left school for it. I really was hoping he was with you, man.” Neil sounded impressed, as if he thought Tommy was really cool.

Fuck, fuck, FUCK! “Oh god. Um, I don’t know where he might be, but I called in sick and I’m at Lisa Harrington’s place. If he shows up or anyone wants to call me, here’s the number.” He gave it to Neil while twisting the sheets in his hand. “Is he in trouble at home? Are your folks mad at him, or about me, or what?”

Neil was quiet for a few minutes. “They were kinda mad, about the riot and because Adam came home so late Saturday and last night. I mean, no fucking way he was at Kris’ place that long. But no offense, right now they’ve got more important things to be worried about than you.” Neil laughed a little. “I mean, I don’t think you’re getting blamed for this.”

“Thanks Neil. Call me if you see him.” Tommy hung up, the chills starting again. Fuck, what if Adam had freaked out and run away? If Tommy had gone to school, maybe he would have stayed-shit. Tommy rubbed a hand over his face. It had probably been too much too soon, they hadn’t known each other long. But, when Tommy thought about last night, it had seemed perfect in a lot of ways. They hadn’t hurt each other-god, he hadn’t hurt Adam, did he?

He reached for the phone again, and tried to think if he had anyone else’s phone numbers memorized. His head was all fucked up, but he punched in what he hoped was Anoop’s number. Three rings, then the phone answered and a woman answered the phone. “Hello, this is the Desai residence?”

“Hi. Um, my name is Tommy, is Anoop there? I’m a friend of his from class.” Tommy closed his eyes-he was really tired.

“Well Tommy, Anoop just got back, let me hand him the phone, one minute.” Tommy listened as a discussion took place. He could hear Anoop say he’d take the call upstairs, then after a minute, heard another line pick up. “Tommy Ratliff.” Anoop didn’t sound too pleased with him.

“Hey. Have you found out anything?” Tommy wondered if he sounded as panicked to Anoop as he did to himself.

“You found out. Where the hell are you?” From the tone Tommy could tell that Anoop would be happy to blame the whole thing on him. “I won’t be too worried, he’ll probably show up soon.”

“Yeah?” Tommy let out a breath of relief. “I’m sick again, I’m at Lisa’s house. And why does everyone say he’s going to show up? Fuck, tell me what’s going on.”

“I have no fucking idea what he’s doing, and you’re in no position to ask for information, are you?” Tommy was about to respond, because that was too goddamn close for comfort, but then Anoop caught himself. “I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that. It’s just today me and Megan had a fight, then the word comes that you were back at the doctor’s, then Adam up and leaves after drama class without saying anything. And my hand hurts.”

“What happened to your hand, dude?” Tommy said, taking all that in. It took a minute for Anoop to answer, and then he sounded pretty embarrassed.

“I punched my locker after Adam took off. I had to go to the nurse’s office.” Tommy laughed a little, even though it made him tired.

“Don’t start using me as an example, ‘Noop, I’m pretty sure that’s a bad life decision.” Anoop laughed too, and Tommy relaxed a little. “So Adam’s okay? Probably?”

Anoop stopped laughing then, and his voice got quiet. “What’s happening between you two? It’s okay, nobody in drama and theater cares.” Tommy didn’t say anything for a long minute, playing with the sheets.

“I don’t really know. I don’t know how to answer that.” Tommy said slowly. “Just-if you see him, tell him I’m at Lisa’s. I’ll give you the number. Tell him to come see me-I can’t get out of bed.” He rattled off the number while Anoop hummed as he wrote it down. “So yeah, tell him.”

After a brief silence, Anoop spoke again. “Sure. I’ll tell him. But…why aren’t you at your house? You’re sick, so won’t your mom want to-“Tommy hung up right then. Fuck if he was going to explain that to Anoop, and fuck if Anoop thought it was rude. He couldn’t do that now.

Tommy curled on his side a little, and slept. He heard the phone ring, but didn’t answer it, figuring Anoop was just calling to cuss him out. Then he didn’t hear anything for a long time.

The next time he woke up, he heard heels clicking on the hardwood floor. That meant Lisa was home. And behind those, another set of footsteps. He sat up as the door opened and the light was flicked on.

Brad poked his head in. “Disappointed, aren’t you?” Tommy leaned forward, about to ask where the fucking hell Adam was when Brad held a hand up to stop him. “Hey, it’s okay. Adam came home and tried to call you. Anoop called Adam and told him you were here, and that’s that. So he’ll probably be by tomorrow. But for now, you’re stuck with me.” Brad sat in the chair that Paul had left next to the bed.

Tommy wasn’t really calmed by that. “Is Adam okay? “ Brad nodded, and Tommy took a deep breath.”What was wrong? Do you know where he went?”

Brad shrugged. “I think he just-drove. Honey, you don’t really know Adam yet. When something happens that he can’t handle, he’ll just run. He’ll come back, but first he disappears. When you didn’t show up for school he got nervous, and then after he heard you had relapsed, the last time I saw him was when he excused himself in the middle of Paula’s lecture on the musicals of the 60’s.” Brad tucked one foot under the chair. “But he’s home now and seems okay, just a bit distracted. I only got to talk to him for a minute. And all he can talk about is you. Just like all you can talk about is him.” Brad looked straight at him, face serious.

“I’m sorry,” Tommy said. “Brad, Adam told me some of what happened. And I’m sorry about that. But I don’t know why you got so fucking mad. You hardly ever do.” Tommy ran his hand through his sweaty hair. Fuck, he must look disgusting. “Did that guy really say all that shit?”

“That fucker said a lot of things.” Brad ducked his head and Tommy could see his face redden in anger. “He said Adam was ugly and that I was disgusting. He threatened to call my parents. Did I mention, at any point, that my dad is career Army? I don’t think I did. He’s a Major, too.” Brad pulled out a cigarette. “You want one? They’re Winstons. I know, so butch.” Tommy took one with shaking fingers, and Brad lit it for him.

“So…Adam’s not the only one who was screwed by that whole thing. All I wanted to do was kiss him.” Brad stared at the wall behind Tommy’s head. “You know, kiss him as long as it took. For him to, fuck, I don’t know.” Brad took a drag off his cigarette while Tommy stared, because holy fuck, Brad was jealous. Brad saw the look on his face and shook his head.

“Really, I’m not angry at you. I was not thrilled about you two in a public dressing room, because that’s a really bad memory. And I admit, I wish it had been me.” Tommy dropped his gaze, and Brad took another drag. “I’m not wrong, am I? Something happened between you two and going by the look on his face when he came into school, I’d say it was good.”

Tommy didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t his place to tell Brad if he and Adam fucked, unless Adam wanted Brad to know. He wound up just looking down at the bedspread again. Finally he said “Good. I’m glad he was happy.” He took a drag off the cigarette. “That’s-that’s good.”

“Are you happy, though?” Brad said it pretty flippantly, but Tommy turned and saw Brad’s expression. It was sweet, slightly sad but still smiling. “Because that’s okay-the way I reacted was my problem. So,” Brad slid forward in his seat and touched Tommy’s damp hair. “Are you happy?”

Tommy nodded. “Yeah. Kinda. I mean-“ he sighed. “Fuck, I don’t know how to explain. I’m not used-“ Brad raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.

“I’m not used to good things.” Tommy thought about his own words. “Lisa said that. She said I could have good things in my life, but I kept fucking up and hurting myself.” Tommy felt the hand in his hair slide down to Tommy’s shoulder, and Brad’s fingers were gentle as he rubbed a circle over it.

“You’re not the only one.” He had the same slightly sad smile. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll figure my own shit out. You…you just work on what you need to. And, be gentle with Adam, okay?” Brad smiled again, more genuine this time, and kissed Tommy’s cheek. “Night, you horrible corrupter of virgins.”

“Fuuuck you,” Tommy drawled. He put the cigarette out in his water glass and laid his head back, smiling. At least, Brad didn’t hate him. Hopefully, Adam didn’t either.

The next day was a little better. Lisa came in and kissed him on the forehead before she left for school, telling him that her plans to kill him had been postponed. Tommy alternated most of the day with sleeping, taking his medications, and really fucking awkward conversations with Paul. Tommy fucking got that Lisa’s dad was concerned, but he didn’t want to discuss his sex life with him, ever. Finally, Paul handed him a number to a gay and lesbian center. “I’ve heard they have a counselor for gay youth, and safe sex information.” Paul was blushing like crazy-Tommy bet he never signed up for this when Tommy started hanging around his house.

“Thanks.” Tommy took the card and set it next to his water glass. “And thanks for letting me stay here. And not…for treating me so good and not letting who my parents…” Tommy couldn’t finish the sentence. Paul looked like he was going to reach for Tommy’s hand, but Tommy flinched away.

“None of that is your fault, Tommy. I want you to know that.” Paul’s voice broke a little. “You never deserved any of this, and if you wanted, you could live here.” Tommy looked over, surprised.

“I knew you knew everything, right?” Tommy said, trying to keep his voice steady. “I mean, nearly every fuckin’ body knows about my dad, but-“ Tommy had to take a deep breath. “Thanks for the offer, but my mom might actually notice if I was gone. You know, if she comes home for Christmas.”

“Has she sent you a letter?” Paul said, voice very steady and hesitant. Tommy nodded, pushing his hair back. “Do you know when she’s coming back?” Tommy shook his head, tears stinging his eyes. Why the fuck was he crying? His mom was a lot better off without him, she made that clear. Fuck her, fuck her. Paul started backtracking then, apologizing for making Tommy upset while he was trying to get better. Tommy shook his head hard, making himself dizzy. “It’s not you, fuck, don’t worry about me. Just-don’t worry about me.” Tommy lay back down, spent. “I have to rest, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

Paul stood up, and looked like he wanted to say something else, but he finally said “Get some rest, Tommy.”

“Don’t worry about me, please,” Tommy whispered one more time as he drifted off.

Chapter Text

It’s all getting quite highly charged-Ares, Bloc Party

When Tommy woke up again, his eyes were scratchy from his near-crying, and his throat was dry. But he did feel stronger, and when a hand brushed against his forehead he said without opening his eyes “Paul?”

“God, you look like shit.” Tommy looked over, blinking to clear his eyes, and saw Anoop with a bandage around his hand. “You haven’t been able to shower, have you?”

“Hi. How bad is it?” He craned his head a little and Anoop showed him the busted knuckle he got. “Very nice. Watch out, that shit gets addictive.” He looked around and saw Megan, Kris and Alisan as well. No Adam. “Hey guys.” He tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

Anoop just shook his head. “Adam is at home, trying to talk himself out of being grounded so he can come see you. We all wanted to check up on you.” Megan came forward and gave him a little box of candy. Tommy smiled a little.

“Thanks, but I don’t have much appetite. I’ll try to eat some later. Sorry, my fever’s been really high.”

“Hey, don’t apologize for that,” Alisan said. Tommy still didn’t know her too well-her and Adam tended to band together and whisper secrets-but she’d always been nice to him. “You feel like shit, it’s not your fault.”

“Some would argue, though. Fuck, I hope it gets better.” Tommy tried to prop his head up higher on the pillows, and Megan helped him. “If these antibiotics don’t work, I’m back in the hospital for IV’s. But my doc’s been calling, and she says I’m doing pretty good, the fever’s not as bad.”

“Well, that’s good.” Anoop smiled a little and Tommy hoped he wasn’t holding a grudge. Anoop seemed like a grudge-holding motherfucker if he felt like it.

He was about to say something to Megan about her cute waitress uniform (old style diner, and nice), when he caught Kris out of the corner of his eye. “Kris, stop that shit right now.” His voice was sharp and warning, and everyone turned to where Tommy was looking.

Kris got off the floor where he was kneeling, fingers still curled around the cross he always wore. “What? I’m not allowed to pray for you?” He seemed honestly stunned at the idea, and going by the look on everyone else’s face, so did they.

“That’s right, no fucking prayers. At least not for me, I don’t want them, and I don’t need them. You talk to invisible friends on your own time, Allen.” Tommy felt his face get red-he was tired, worn out, he didn’t need to be getting this mad. He knew that he was still upset about the talk with Paul, but he couldn’t stop.“Any psychotic disorder you have that makes you think there’s a higher power that gives a shit about us? Keep it to yourself.”

Kris stood there for a minute, face shocked. “Wow. Um. Wow. Okay. I didn’t know you were a hardcore atheist.” Megan’s eyes had gone almost comically wide at Tommy’s tirade. Alisan looked at Tommy like he had broken some social rule nobody had told him about. Anoop just looked disappointed. Kris cleared his throat and said “Okay, I won’t pray for you. Not at home, either. I’m sorry.”

Tommy sighed. “Okay. Don’t do it again.” He leaned back. “I shouldn’t have gotten so mad.” He was exhausted now.

“No, you shouldn’t have!” Megan came up closer, hands in fists at her sides, and Tommy had never seen her that angry. “Kris was just trying to help, that’s what he does! He’s not trying to push his beliefs on anyone, he goes on mission trips to help the poor-“

“Fuck that shit!” Tommy couldn’t help it, it just came out, but Megan rocked back as if Tommy had popped her in the mouth. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I don’t want-forget I said that.” Tommy sunk back down in the pillows, closing his eyes against everyone’s shocked expressions. “I didn’t mean to get into my religious shit.” Megan stared at Tommy, then cursed under her breath and left the room. Anoop followed her, glaring back at him over a shoulder. Alisan went over, petted Tommy’s hair, and said she’d be back in a minute. And that left Tommy alone with Kris. Tommy sighed. “Fine, get it over with.”

He expected Kris to go into a lecture about how Tommy needed Christ in his heart, or how God had helped him change from being a bad person to a good one. Instead Kris just sat down, and didn’t say anything for a minute. Then he said “I go on mission trips. I don’t try to make people accept my religion, but I try to make their lives better. Do you think that’s wrong?”

Tommy didn’t say anything at first, taking a sip of water. He looked over at Kris. “I’m really too tired to get into it, but yeah. I think it could still be a problem.” Tommy saw surprise, followed by something else flit across Kris’ face. Tommy thought it might actually be anger.

“So, you think the time I spent in Ecuador over the summer building a well in a place that had no running water was a waste?” He sounded incredulous, and Tommy couldn’t blame him. “Do you hate all religious thought that much?” Kris took a deep breath, something Tommy had never seen him do before. He was generally so steady. “I don’t use the Bible to justify hate. I’m not a racist, I’m not a homophobe. I don’t say that God created AIDS to kill gays, I’m in the damned drama class. Do you think my faith makes me a bad person?”

Tommy looked over at him, wondering how he could explain without giving away too much. “I don’t think you’re a bad person. I think that belief in a god is flawed, always. Sorry.” Tommy closed his eyes. “I really shouldn’t have gotten so mad. I’m probably going to fall asleep again. It’s not you, okay? It’s not you, Kris.” Tommy might still not like Kris much, but he knew this wasn’t actually his fault.

Tommy wasn’t entirely surprised when he felt the soft touch of Kris’ hand on his arm. He tensed a little, thinking he was going to get prayed over or yelled at or something. Instead, Kris said in a low voice, “God Tommy, what happened to you? I don’t know what hurt you this badly, but I’m so sorry.” This would have been a great time to tell Kris to take his shallow sympathy and shove it up his ass, but Tommy opened his eyes anyway.

“I don’t like people feeling sorry for me,” Tommy said, carefully. “But in this case, I’ll accept it. And I’m sorry, again. It was the wrong time.” Kris’ grip on his arm tightened slightly, and Tommy smiled a little. “You guys forgive me too easily. I don’t understand why.”

“Because we like you, you dumbass. And because Adam likes you.” Tommy could hear the amusement and affection in Kris’ voice. “And on that note, I’m going to let you rest. Next time I’ll just bring my guitar.”

“Please do, you play really fucking well. We’ll sing campfire songs or some shit.” Tommy opened his eyes to see Kris smile, and then go out the door. Tommy sighed. Well, that had gone well. He curled over and was about to sleep when the door opened again. He turned back over, it was Alisan, as promised.

She stood at the door, watching Tommy. “I need to explain something to you,” she said quietly. “Kris does a lot of work with the other Christians at school-the big jock guys who go to churches that teach them that gays are sinners and that Jews are going to hell. He has Bible study with them. And because of his influence and how he makes his case, Adam and Brad get a lot less shit than they would otherwise. You should know that.” Alisan came closer and looked Tommy in the eyes, hers narrowing as he voice got harder. “So whatever you think about religion, leave Kris out of it. Just don’t fuck with him about it. He’s one of ours.” Tommy nodded, too tired and emotional to speak. God, he was a fucking asshole. Alisan turned to go, then she said “You’re one of ours too, in case you haven’t noticed. It doesn’t take much for us to accept someone. So it’ll be okay. Get some rest.”

“Okay. Thank you.” Tommy curled back over again, hand throbbing just slightly. Alisan stood at the door for a minute, watching him. Then he heard the door open and her walk out. Tommy laid there for a few minutes, listening as a conversation went on in the living room between the gang-Lisa seemed to be in on it too. Megan’s voice carried the loudest, she still sounded upset. He could hear Anoop’s low, calming voice trying to reassure her. Tommy felt a pang, envying their public relationship, even if they did bitch at each other a lot.

That got Tommy thinking about Adam again, and he started to drift off wishing that Adam was there and had his arms around him. That was the one thing Tommy kept coming back to, how much he had enjoyed being held after sex. Adam was bigger, strong, and he could hold Tommy to his chest. Tommy smirked a little, chalking that up to one more thing he hadn’t known about himself before last week. Then he fell asleep entirely.

When Tommy woke up again, there was a gentle hand on his forehead, then sliding through his hair. It felt really good, nice big hand-oh. “Hey?” he said, voice probably too hopeful. “Adam, is that you?”

“Hey,” a quiet, shy voice said, and Tommy’s eyes flew open. Adam was there, wearing a bulky sweatshirt that was too hot for the weather and baggy jeans. Tommy frowned-Adam looked uncomfortable. “Adam? Hey, I’ve wanted to see you. What’s wrong?”

“I-it’s just hard to see you. I’ve been here thirty minutes and you were out cold. Are you sure you shouldn’t be at the hospital?” Adam reached down and took Tommy’s hand, and Tommy squeezed back, just barely. “And I had to really make a case to come see you-my parents were really upset.”

Tommy lifted his head a little. “Hey. Tell me if this is a question I shouldn’t be asking-but where did you go?” Adam tensed a little, and Tommy amended it. “Only if you want me to know, okay?” And since I asked a question, you can ask me one.” Tommy felt Adam rub over his fingers and he sighed. It really did feel good.

“When you didn’t come to school yesterday,” Adam started, then looked away. “At first, I thought you regretted it, and that you didn’t want to see me. Then when I got the news that you were sick again-I just couldn’t handle it. So I got in my car and drove. I wound up by the beach.” Adam let go for a minute, and looked off into space.

“I went about three different fast food places and got all kinds of shit. I ate in my car. I don’t-I won’t eat in front of people, but when I get upset…” Adam trailed off for a minute. “So, I went somewhere that nobody knew me and I ate-god-probably about four burgers, three packs of fries, ice cream. A lot of ice cream. Shit.” Tommy watched Adam’s face, and he looked like he was going to run at any minute. “I’m so disgusting.”

“No.” Tommy spoke a little more forcefully then he meant to, going by Adam’s wide eyes. “You’re not disgusting. You were upset and you ran away for a while. And you ate. That’s really not so bad.” Adam was about to interrupt but Tommy kept going. “One of the reasons I’m sick again is all the drinking I was doing. You ate ice cream but I’ve been drinking every day for a year. The doctor had to give me Valium for cravings.”

“Are you taking Valium?” Adam came closer and took Tommy’s hand again. “Oh my god, you drink that much? I didn’t know it was every day.” Adam looked scared, and Tommy started hoping he didn’t just fuck everything up with his big fucking mouth. He wouldn’t blame Adam for having second thoughts about…whatever it was they were doing. Tommy swallowed and decided to keep talking.

“I don’t think Paul filled it, and he hasn’t asked me yet if I want him too. I’m kinda cranky, that might be part of the reason. But anyway, don’t feel that bad about it. You did it and it’s over. I’m just glad you’re okay. I was worried about you.” Tommy wanted to stuff his fist in his mouth as soon as he said it-that was too soon, he should have kept his mouth shut. But Adam just looked surprised.

“You were worried about me? You’re sick. I was worried about you.” Adam grinned at him, a little watery. Then he frowned and kept going. “But Tommy-I eat like that a lot. I get up in the middle of the night and just-mostly ice cream, but anything bad, really.”

“Yeah? Do you puke afterward?” Tommy was thinking of an ex-girlfriend of his who wound up in the hospital from doing that little trick. Her parents had to send her to a special clinic in another part of the state.

Adam wiped at his eyes. “Oh god, I’ve never told anyone this-I have. But not every time, and I don’t mean to? But sometimes I eat so much some of it comes back up.” He sniffled. “I can’t believe I’m talking about how fat and disgusting and ugly I am. You’re really sick.”

Tommy rubbed a thumb over Adam’s wrist. “I’m starting to feel better-it’s been kind of a rough day. I’m really happy to see you. And you’re not ugly.” Tommy looked straight at Adam as he said that. “I’ve always liked the way you looked, from the first time I saw you.” Tommy thought about Adam’s beautiful eyes, his mouth, his long delicate hands, and his strong legs. “You don’t have to be perfect, it’s okay. I’m not.”

Adam stared at him, stunned. “I don’t understand. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I only feel…” he trailed off again, then sighed. “I feel beautiful when I’m performing, when I’m singing. That’s about it.”

“You are beautiful then,” Tommy grinned. “You can sing those corny musicals for me anytime. But I like how you look when you’re not singing too.” Tommy blushed then. “I can’t believe I just said all that. I’m a sap.” Adam blushed too, and then laughed. He got up for a minute and Tommy was about to protest. Where did he think he was going?

“Paul had to leave for a little while, Lisa’s out practicing with her new band. Um, Paul told me to get you some more soup and your medicines. I’ll be right back.” Adam looked at him, nervous, then leaned down. The kiss was a just barely there brush of lips, but it made Tommy’s skin heat. Adam blushed and left the room, while Tommy thought about what Adam had told him.

When Adam came back, he had a bowl of hot chicken soup, some crackers, and his meds on a tray. Tommy pulled himself into a sitting position and nibbled on his food while Adam talked to him, just gossip about school and the drama class. “You really made Megan mad, by the way.” Tommy nodded.

“Yeah, I wish I hadn’t been so mean about it. And I shouldn’t fuck with Megan, right?” Adam laughed, shaking his head. “Alisan kinda set me straight, though. I won’t give Kris a hard time about it again.” Tommy finished his soup this time, then started taking his antibiotics. “I just-I can’t believe in God.”

Adam just nodded. “I don’t know what I believe in. I’m Jewish, but we’re really not very observant. It’s not that big of a deal to us. I went to Hebrew school, but it fucking sucked.” Adam had gotten himself a mug of tea, and was sipping it. “I’m not going to eat anything for a couple of days,” he said, quietly. Tommy blinked-had Adam forgotten he was there? Because that was bullshit.

“Bullshit. You’re only going to make it worse.” Adam looked up, face red. “I mean,” Tommy struggled to say this right. “I don’t think you should. You’ll just wind up in the kitchen at midnight eating ice cream again.” Tommy chewed at his bottom lip-he was pissing everyone off tonight. “I’m sorry. You were nice enough to tell me, and I shouldn’t tell you what to do. Look, I said that you could ask me a question too. So, go ahead.” Tommy bit at his thumbnail, figuring he knew what was coming.

Adam didn’t say anything for a long time. Then very quietly, he said “Why aren’t you at home? Do you have one?” Tommy really didn’t want to think about this again, but he took a deep breath, and looked down at the blankets.

“Yeah. I have a home. I’m not homeless. But…I’m not home because there isn’t anyone else there. So I had my doctor call Lisa’s dad. And…I don’t really want to talk about my parents. I already did once today.” Tommy didn’t look up.

The silence stretched for a long minute. Tommy looked up and he could see how fucking much Adam wanted to ask another question. Tommy reached over for Adam’s hand, and Adam took it, squeezing. “Hey, come here.” He tugged Adam’s hand a little, and Adam moved until he was sitting on the bed. Tommy tugged again. “Come closer.” Adam hesitated, but Tommy scooted and Adam moved until he was curled next to him.

Tommy put his head on Adam’s shoulder, and Adam petted his hair again. After a minute, Adam said, “Um Tommy, I hate to say this but you stink. More than usual.” Tommy grinned, nuzzling Adam.

“I’ve been sweating like crazy, and I haven’t been able to take a shower. Paul actually had to help me to the bathroom yesterday. I need a bath.” Tommy kissed the side of Adam’s neck, and heard him inhale. “Adam. The guest bathroom’s through that door. Run me a bath?” Adam went absolutely still, then he breathed out.

“Tommy, we’re at Lisa’s house, we cant’-“ Tommy kissed his neck again.

“Nobody’s home, I don’t think. If Lisa’s mom is, she won’t leave her office. And I need you to help me bathe. It’ll be okay.” Tommy wasn’t sure what the hell he was doing-he wasn’t even sure if he could get it up. But he wanted something good to happen today, and finally Adam was here, and that was a step in the fucking right direction.

Adam turned around, and ran a finger down the side of Tommy’s face. “I-okay. If you’re sure.” Then he kissed Tommy again, harder this time, and then pulled back. “I’ll-yeah. I’ll start the water.” He went into the bathroom, looking stunned.
“Not too hot,” Tommy said, then laid back, smiling. This day was finally looking up.

Adam came back after a minute. “Um, I’ve got it going and I got you a towel, what else do you need me to do?” Tommy sat up a little and held out his hands.

“Help me up.” Adam smiled and helped Tommy off the bed, holding on when he stumbled. “Fuck, you really do need help, yeah?” Tommy nodded, head against Adam’s chest. Adam’s heart was beating fast, and his hands were shaking again, but he was holding on. Adam walked them both to the bathroom, Tommy snug up against him. When they got there, Tommy just held still until Adam got the message and started stripping him, Tommy holding on to the sink for support. When he was naked, Adam pulled Tommy close again, kissing him and rubbing over his ass. Tommy smiled into Adam’s kisses. He really did love Adam being taller and more solid.

“I thought about you so much since that night,” Adam whispered. “I came so many times thinking about you.” Tommy swallowed as Adam rubbed those beautiful fucking hands up Tommy’s ass, sweeping up to the middle of his back and down again. Tommy thought he might be able to get hard after all, no matter how sick he was. He could feel how hard Adam was already, through his jeans.

After a minute, Adam walked Tommy over to the bathtub and helped him get in, Tommy’s bad arm sticking awkwardly to the side. Adam just looked down at Tommy for a minute, as Tommy leaned back, head resting against the tile. “Oh my god,” Adam whispered. Adam kneeled down in front of the tub and rubbed his thumb over Tommy’s mouth, whimpering when Tommy sucked on it, nipping it slightly. Tommy ran his tongue over it, then let go. “Come on, get me clean,” he said, smiling up at Adam.

“Oh, fuck you.” Adam said, but he got the washcloth and started soaping Tommy up. Tommy kept his eyes closed as Adam washed him carefully, rubbing over his body. “That’s it, keep your eyes closed,” Adam whispered, and he heard the shower head come on. Adam washed and rinsed his hair, and it was all done gently and with so much care that Tommy could barely stand it. Then it was done, and Tommy opened his eyes.

Adam was still kneeling by the tub, rubbing his cock through his jeans. Tommy caught Adam’s eye, and licked his lips. Adam looked doubtful, scared again, but he undid his jeans and pulled them and his underwear to the floor. “How are we…”Adam started, but Tommy moved him until Adam was sitting on the side of the tub. “Fuck that’s cold-oh.” Tommy didn’t say anything, too busy trying to get as much of Adam’s cock as he could.

Adam held Tommy gently, supporting his neck as Tommy sucked him off. He didn’t go too fast, wanting to feel Adam after not seeing him for a whole day. One day…that shouldn’t have bothered him so fucking much. But now everything was fine, it was good. Even though he was still tired and only about half-hard, things were going fucking great.

He kept sucking, licking at the head of Adam’s (god, fucking huge) cock, stroking it kind of lazily with the other hand. Adam eventually put his hand over Tommy’s and stroked faster, biting his lip to keep from making noise. Tommy looked up at Adam, then sunk down as far as he could without gagging.

“Fuck, fuck, get off-“ Adam pulled at Tommy’s wet hair, and he pulled back in time for Adam to come over his hand, getting Tommy’s chest, neck and chin. He looked up to watch, to see Adam tremble and lean forward, head dropped down to his chest. “Yes, yeah, like that, oh god.” Adam took a few deep breaths and looked at Tommy. “Oh my god, you’re amazing.”

“Mmmm,” Tommy said, smiling. Adam cleaned him off with the washcloth and reached to cup Tommy’s cock, and frowned. “What’s wrong? I-oh god, I’m sorry, did I do something-“ And Tommy had to start talking fast to get him away from that idea quick.

“No, no it’s not you. I’m just-I’ve been asleep or delirious most of yesterday and today, or on the phone trying to find where you were. So I’m kinda tired and can’t get it up. That’s all. Don’t worry, I loved it.” Tommy slid back into the water, smiling. “That was fucking awesome. And I don’t mind, anyway. You know, giving and not getting anything back. That’s how it is, sometimes.”

Adam watched Tommy in the water for a long minute, then said “I’ll make it up to you as soon as I can. And thank you. And um, you must be feeling better. You didn’t feel like you had a fever to me.”

Tommy grinned harder. “I think I’ve felt better ever since you showed up.” Then he laughed. “Fuck, that was sappy. Don’t tell Anoop I said that, he’ll make fun of me forever.” Adam laughed too, and helped get Tommy out of the tub, toweling him down. Tommy curled up against Adam when he was dry. He couldn't stop the smile that kept breaking over his face, and he didn't want to.

When Lisa found them a half hour later, Tommy was wearing an old pair of gym shorts and a robe, sitting in an old chair and propped up with pillows. Adam was stripping Tommy’s bed, about to start the laundry. Lisa looked at the two of them, and put a hand over her eyes. “Tommy, please tell me you didn’t get laid in my house in two days when I haven’t for two months.” Adam looked over at Tommy, not knowing if she was really mad or not. Tommy winked and then grinned at Lisa.

“Well, technically…” Adam laughed, even though he was still bright red.

“Never fucking mind, I don’t want to know.” Lisa was smiling too, despite her words. “Adam, don’t you dare start doing his laundry for him. He’s a manipulative little fucker when he wants to be. I’ll take it, I already take care of his dumb ass.” Lisa got the sheets and marched back out toward the laundry room, still in her rehearsal outfit.

After that, they all met in Lisa’s room for tea and movies. Midway through The Evil Dead, Tommy was stretched over Adam’s lap, head pillowed on his thigh, almost asleep. Adam was petting his hair, and it was relaxing, lulling Tommy. Then, just barely heard over the screaming Deadites on screen, Lisa said to Adam “You like him, right?” Tommy held still, pretending to be fully asleep.

Adam kept petting Tommy’s hair, and Tommy heard him say “Yeah, I think I do. God, it’s too soon.” Tommy could hear the doubt in Adam’s voice, which only got worse when he heard “I wonder why he wants me around. I wonder how long it’s going to last.”

The last thing Tommy thought before he went under was Until you ask me to go.

Chapter Text

Tommy woke up the next morning in the guest bedroom again, groggy and tired still. Lisa came in with his medications and some more goddamned soup and told them to take them or else. As he was choking the soup down, she said “Oh, Adam brought you back here when you fell asleep. He’s stronger than I thought.” Tommy had to try very hard not to spill chicken rice soup on his sheets. Shit, but that was a nice thought. Adam could pick him up.

After Lisa left for school, Tommy slept some more. Paul woke him up a few hours later and gave him more soup and some rice pudding (hippie style with a lot of raisins and dates), and he took his antibiotics again. Then he fell asleep again. Finally, Tommy woke up suddenly to a dark room. He could hear movement and clatter down the hall so he got up, swaying a bit, and turned on the light. He dressed in sagging sweatpants (fuck he’d lost a lot of weight) and walked toward the noise. The whole Harrington family was having dinner together, Lisa’s mom included, and they turned to stare like he was a ghost.

Tommy leaned against the doorway.“Can I have something to eat that isn’t fucking soup please?”

The next day, Paul took Tommy back to the doctor. Dr. Richardson pronounced him well on the way to recovery, with his fever down and his arm better, although not 100 percent. “If you want, you can head by school today and get your assignments, but I wouldn’t do a full day yet.” Tommy nodded. “So…how are you feeling?”

Tommy knew she meant besides the arm. “I’m cranky, a little shaky, and I want to drink. Do you have any advice?” Dr. Richardson looked honestly upset, but she gave him a couple of pamphlets. “Here’s some stuff for helping with cravings. And you can always call Alcoholics Anonymous….”

“I don’t want to go there, they think you have to believe in a God, and I don’t.” Tommy did take one of their pamphlets, though, as Dr. Richardson tried to get him not to entirely rule it out. When that was done, Tommy got up and Paul took him to the school.
**
“Miss me?” Tommy grinned a little as the table full of his fellow drama nerds stared at him. Then Brad squealed and started clapping, which set off Anoop and Kris. Megan just smiled and tried to check out his arm without being obvious. Heh. And Adam….wasn’t with them. Oh, Tommy thought. Lunch, food. He was probably somewhere else. This was confirmed when Alisan stood up, kissed Tommy on the cheek and left the lunchroom. Tommy figured she would find him. “Nice to see you guys too, but can I sit down?” Tommy was still pretty lightheaded.

Kris stood up and gave Tommy his seat, which Tommy thought was pretty fucking gentlemanly of him. “You look a lot better today, man” he said, very earnestly. “How do you feel?”

Tommy shrugged. “Okay, still tired. I just have to get my work and then check in with the guidance counselor. I’ve already been by the nurse’s office. I’m still taking the antibiotics. God, does anybody have a Coke? I’m like, craving one. And something to eat.” Anoop pushed a can of Pepsi over at him, and Kris gave him a turkey sandwich. “Thanks.” Tommy ate half the sandwich and then drained the can of Pepsi in one gulp. Megan tried not to laugh when he burped.

“So classy,” Anoop said, but he was smiling. “So you’re going to be back for school tomorrow? “ Tommy nodded, eating the rest of the sandwich.

“Yeah. I’ll try to make rehearsal too, but no promises.” Tommy looked up then, and Alisan had come back in with Adam. Everyone at the table went quiet, the fuckers, as him and Adam stared at each other. Tommy broke first, smiling at Adam. “Hey. Wanna sit down?”

“I-yeah.” Adam looked shy again, as shy as he had been at first. Tommy wasn’t sure why until Adam sat next to him and Tommy caught a look at Adam’s crotch. Holy shit, Adam was half hard just from sitting next to him. This was gonna make going to classes together awkward. Tommy swallowed and tried to catch Adam’s eye. Adam was too embarrassed to look at him.

The awkward silence continued at the table until lunch was over.

After that minor debacle, Tommy headed to the guidance counselor to get his homework assignments for the week. “Hi,” he said, walking into her office slowly. Mrs. Haden looked at him in surprise as he slowly sat down in the chair across from her desk. “So I’m here for my homework?”

“Yes. I’m glad to see you’re feeling better, Tommy.” She seemed rattled as she said it, as if something was disturbing her. “I have everything here, so you can take it and either go home or try to catch your last two classes.”

“Great,” Tommy said, reaching for it, but then Mrs. Haden stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Tommy, why is it that you don’t have any parental contacts in your information? We called a number and got a woman-“

“She’s a family member,” Tommy said, voice curt. “Look, don’t worry about it. I have people who are legally allowed to sign papers and stuff. I’m okay. Just don’t ask me about it, I don’t like to get into details.” He stepped away from her, and her hand dropped.

“But Tommy, your father-“ she started, and Tommy glared at her.

“My dad deserves everything bad that happens to him, and he hasn’t tried to talk to me in two years. I’m fine with that.” Tommy pushed a hand through his hair. “I can’t get upset now. I’m barely fucking walking as it is. Everyone wants me to talk about it and I just can’t. Look, just talk to the people I have listed. They know what’s going on.”

Tommy pushed his way up slowly and headed for the door, but not before Mrs. Haden said “Your family member said she hasn’t seen you in a while.” Tommy paused, and looked back at her. He could feel the resignation on his face as he sighed.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll call her tonight. Thanks.” Then he left, while Mrs. Haden just watched him go.

Guidance counselors were totally worthless.

Tommy slept his way through his last two classes, although he did wake up when DioGuardi the crazy creative writing teacher started banging on her desk while talking about putting as much meaning in your writing as possible. She hugged him when class was let out, telling him how much she had missed him. But then, she hugged a lot of her male students. She was starting to get a reputation.

Tommy walked out to the parking lot, his nerves jittery, needing a smoke. When he got there, Lisa was beside her car, already lighting one up. He walked up to her and put an arm around. “Hey, can I bum one?” She smiled and got him one.

“Hi stranger, or I should say, hi person living in my house.” Tommy laughed and let her light it for him. He took a drag and exhaled, shaking a little. “Hey Tommy, what’s wrong? Are you tired?”

Tommy shrugged. “Kinda. I’ve been shaky and sleepy and god-I want something sweet really bad. And I’m still hungry-I haven’t eaten much.” Tommy took another drag off the cigarette. “I want to drink. I’m not going to.” Tommy groaned. “Fuck. Why didn’t you tell me what a fuckin’ mess I am before this happened?”

“I did, asshole,” Lisa said, smiling a little. Her hand went up and petted the back of his neck. Tommy closed his eyes to it. “You’re lucky I love you, Tommy Joe.” Tommy just nodded, because she was being sarcastic but it was also very true.

“Um, hey.” Tommy’s eyes flew open at that voice. Adam was standing in front of him, looking bashful and a little uncomfortable. “I’m sorry about lunch. “ Tommy moved towards Adam, forgetting about Lisa for a second.

“Hey, no problem. It was just kinda awkward. Um, do you want to go somewhere and talk? We can go to Allen’s if you want to.” Tommy watched as Adam’s face went red and Tommy swore that Adam might be getting turned on again. Tommy was staring when he felt a pinch on his arm. “Ow, what?” Tommy smiled over at Adam while Lisa dragged him over to the other side of the car. “Fuck, what did I do?”

“Tommy! You’re just starting to get better, you don’t need to go to Allen’s and fuck Adam until you get sick again.” Lisa hissed it at him, face close. “I love Adam, I think it’s great you two are together, but I want you to come back to our house. My dad’s really enjoyed having you over.”

Tommy held up his hands. “Lisa, it’s okay, chill out. Adam’s a little freaked right now, I want to be at Allen’s with him, and I swear I’ll get him to take me to your house later. If I pass out there, call me, okay?” Lisa looked at him for a long minute, and took a drag off her cigarette, nodding. “Good.” Tommy turned back around and saw that Adam was looking at his feet. He came up quietly and nudged Adam’s arm. “Okay?”

“I’m okay,” Adam whispered, which made Tommy think the fuck you are, Lambert. Adam seemed really scared, and Tommy wasn’t sure why. Adam looked up and bit his lip. “I-okay, I’ll take you to Allen’s. Do you want me to stay with you a while?”

“Hell fuckin’ yeah. I mean, yes. Come on, I won’t keep you too long. You don’t have to be anywhere tonight, do you?” Adam shook his head, smiling a little. “Okay. Take me back to Lisa’s house after a while.” Adam nodded again, his tongue darting out for a moment to lick his lips.

It was probably not a fucking conscious thing, but it still made Tommy get a little turned on. He started to follow Adam, when Lisa shoved his backpack full of homework at him. “Okay, okay, I got it. And yes, I have my medications. And I’ll call!” Adam looked over at Tommy, brow furrowed, and Tommy shook his head. “She’s really treating me like a little brother now.” Adam laughed, kind of forced, and they got into his car.

They didn’t say much on the way over. Adam was listening to some musical or another and Tommy was tolerating it for Adam’s sake. After a minute he said “Hey, Adam. Um, I’m really hungry, I’ve barely eaten for three days. If we get some food to take over there, is that okay? Me eating in front of you?”

Adam looked over at him, and smiled more genuinelly then he had before. “Oh sure, that’s fine. People do it all the time. Thanks for asking me though. Do you want to get fast food or-“ Adam trailed off as they approached a Von’s.

“Let’s go there. I’m going to get a whole fucking bunch of Cokes.” Adam pulled into the parking lot and Tommy barely waited for the car to stop before he scrambled out. He looked at Adam, who just shook his head, indicated he would stay in the car. Tommy ran in and starting grabbing shit. When he came back out, he dumped everything in the back seat. “Come on, let’s go see the spiders.” Adam looked wide-eyed, and Tommy said quickly “Don’t worry. Lisa’s got a key, remember? She fed the babies while I was passed out. “

“Yeah,” Adam said. “I like Lisa, you know. She really…she wants to look after you.” Tommy dropped his head a little, figuring he knew what was coming next. “Don’t worry, she didn’t tell me anything,” Adam said. “But, I mean, you’ll tell me right? I won’t be mad, whatever it is.”

Tommy sighed, he had wanted to wait awhile before getting into this. After a minute, he said quietly, “I live alone.”

“Oh.” Adam kept watching the road.

“I don’t want anyone to see my house.”

Adam nodded, still not looking at him.

“I don’t want to talk about where my parents are. They’re both still alive. I don’t…fuck. I’m sorry. It just makes me too mad. So that’s as much as I can say now.” Tommy pushed himself down in the seat, looking out the window. It was a pretty day. “I don’t like people feeling sorry for me, and I don’t want anyone to treat me differently, so I don’t say much. I think a few people have me figured out, though.”

Adam didn’t say anything for a long minute, and Tommy wondered if he had just fucked it up. Then Adam said something that Tommy could barely here. “Thank you. For telling me as much as you did. I know you didn’t want to.” Tommy felt a hand on his knee and just nodded. “I know you don’t want pity, and I don’t. But I am sorry.”

“Forget about it. I mean, we have problems.” Tommy laughed. “We are kind of fucked up.” Adam looked at him, shocked, and then laughed too.

“It’s the truth.” Then they were at Allen’s place, and Adam was parking the car while Tommy scrambled for the grocery bags. Adam was already halfway to the door, and Tommy grinned. Adam was just so fucking eager when they were alone, it was so fucking cute. When he saw Tommy with the bags, he ran back and grabbed a few, including the 12-packs of Coke.

As soon as Tommy had opened the door and let them both in, Adam closed it and put his stuff on the floor, arms going around Tommy. “Hi,” he said, still sounding a little unsure but Tommy could feel the strength in his arms as he held him.

“Hey,” Tommy tipped his head up and Adam’s mouth came down to kiss him, and Tommy felt the little knot he’d had in his chest since the awkwardness at lunch disappear. He knew it was nothing, they were just going to have to learn how to act around each other in school. Tommy dropped his bags and put his arms around Adam’s waist, pulling him in closer. He felt Adam try to suck in his stomach when it touched Tommy, but Tommy just held on tighter. “Don’t pull back,” he muttered into the kiss.

“Okay,” Adam moved one of his arms and put it on the door, next to Tommy’s head. He was pressing Tommy into the door now, his kisses getting more demanding. Tommy felt Adam’s other hand rubbing over his hip, then up his shirt. Tommy had to break away from the kisses to moan sharply when Adam reached up and skirted one of his nipples. “Does that feel good? I like it when I do it to myself.”

“Fuck yeah it feels good.” Tommy moved up to kiss Adam again, trying to take over, but Adam just tweaked his nipple and Tommy had to lean against the door, the breath surprised out of him. Adam kissed him harder, getting bolder, then he stopped and moved back. Tommy was just about to make a fucking protest when Adam started pulling at Tommy’s jeans. “I promised you,” he said, kneeling down on the floor around the grocery bags.

“Oh fuck, yeah.” Tommy leaned against the doorway and closed his eyes. He moaned as Adam’s long fingers got his cock out of his jeans and stroked. He opened his eyes to watch as Adam sucked him in. Adam pulled off. “Tell me what you like, okay?”

Tommy nodded. “Cover your teeth with your lips. You can suck the head most. And I like tongue.” Tommy bit his lip as Adam did everything Tommy told him, getting a good pace going. His hand wrapped around the base and Tommy put his hand on top of it, showing Adam how fast to stroke. Adam soon got the hang of it, making Tommy moan and try hard not to move into it. After a few minutes Tommy said “Pull off, Adam, pull off, I’m going to-“

Adam pulled off just in time as Tommy came in Adam’s hand, getting his shirt wet. “Oh shit. Sorry. Oh fuck, that was amazing.” Tommy slid down and sat on the floor, moving a package of hot dogs out of his way. He panted for a few minutes, so tired. Jesus, maybe Lisa had been right-no marathon fuck sessions for him for at least a couple more days.

Adam knelt in the space between Tommy’s legs and pulled him close. “Don’t worry about the shirt, I can wash it off in the sink. My pants too.” Tommy looked up at him and then let out a surprised laugh. “I know! When I saw you come, well…” Tommy let Adam hold him for a minute, until his stomach started growling. “Oh, you said you were hungry. I can fix some of this for you if you want.” Tommy nodded and Adam kissed him, mouth open, and then pulled back, taking the groceries with him.

Tommy pulled himself over to the mattress as Adam went through the bags, looking at what was available. “There’s pots and stuff here, right?” he said, looking over his shoulder at Tommy. Tommy pointed to over Adam’s head, and he said “oh”, and got one of the pots from the hanger. “So, um, hot dogs?” Tommy nodded.

“And mac and cheese-I bought a little milk, and there’s margarine in the fridge. God, I want real food so bad. Soup every meal is so boring.” Tommy nearly pulled everything back on, but then thought ‘why’ and instead took off his shoes, socks and jeans, keeping the underwear on. Then he threw the sheet over him and wrinkled his nose. He really did need to wash those fuckin’ sheets.

Adam put water on to boil in two pots, one on each boiler. “Hey, want me to put some music on?” Tommy nodded, and Adam’s eyes flickered over him before he went over to the boxes of records on the floor. “Okay, um. What the hell, the Butthole Surfers? Squirrel Bait?” Tommy laughed. “Do you have anything I might have heard of?” Tommy sat up against the pillows.

“Like what? What do you like besides musicals?” Tommy scratched his head, and thought about Brad-he really didn’t know Adam that well yet.

“Well, I like 70’s rock, like glitter rock. David Bowie, T. Rex, and I like dance music.” Tommy made a face and Adam laughed. “Shut up, I’m cooking for you. And um, I like a lot of stuff, I just haven’t heard of much of this. Is there any of that band you guys were playing in the car on the way to the Points? Husker something?”

“Husker Du, and yeah, there ought to be at least one in there.” Adam rummaged around and put on a record. Tommy grinned when he heard Zen Arcade start. “Fuck yeah!” Adam laughed a little and went back to fixing food. Tommy laid back and napped a little, until he felt Adam tug at him.

“Hey, come eat at the table. You don’t need to be lying down so much now, do you?” Tommy nodded, because that was probably right. He got up, grabbing a couple of Cokes from the 12 packs on the floor. He handed Adam one, and Adam sat it on the table. “I don’t know, I might have tea instead.” Tommy grimaced and Adam shook his head. “It’s okay, I drink them sometimes. But you’re the one who wanted them. So, mac and cheese, and two hot dogs. And here’s the ketchup.”

Tommy grinned and cut up his hot dogs (no buns, thank you) with his fork, put them over the Kraft mac and cheese, and poured ketchup over all of it. Adam made a face and Tommy laughed. “it’s good!” He ate his food quickly, then chugged his Coke. “God, I want sweet stuff so bad.”

“Yeah? You don’t normally? Do you think it’s because you’ve been sick, more calories, or something?” Tommy shrugged. Adam looked down at his shirt and made a face. “Shit, I gotta try to get that stain off.” He pulled his shirt off and went to the sink, trying to clean it. Tommy blinked-it was the first time Adam had taken off his shirt in front of him. He had a ton of dusty freckles over his back, to go with the ones on his arms and legs. Tommy had seen Adam in an undershirt, but now he could really apperciate how broad Adam’s shoulders were. Just then Adam turned around and saw Tommy staring. “Oh shit, no, don’t look-“

Tommy moved over to where Adam was. “It’s okay, it’s okay. I told you, I like the way you look.” Adam kept his back turned, putting his hands over his stomach. “Hey. I’ll take care of the shirt. You took care of me by fixing me something to eat,I’ll take care of this. Lie down if you want to.” Adam watched him, nervous, and then moved over to the mattress.

Tommy scrubbed at the shirt a little, trying to get the come stain off. “Okay, that has to dry.” He came over to where Adam was, covered by a sheet. Adam was looking at his legs right then, blushing a little. “Hey, it’s okay.”

“I’m sorry. I was staring at you in your fucking tightie whities, you can look at me without a shirt.” Adam pulled the sheet down, just a little. Tommy saw a bare shoulder. “I just…you know. I told you, it sucks.”

Tommy got on the mattress. “Can I get in too?” Adam nodded and Tommy slid in next to him. “Don’t worry, we’ll just talk about other things.” Adam looked amused, and Tommy said “Brad told me that I didn’t really know you yet, and that goes both ways. We always talk about the deep stuff.”

Adam laughed. “So you want to talk about movies or something for a while? Okay.” So while they waited for Adam’s shirt to dry, they talked about music, movies, how Adam got into theater, and when Tommy started playing guitar. When they finally stopped, the sun was getting low and Tommy went over to check on Adam’s shirt. “Okay, dry. Can we feed the babies and then you take me back to Lisa’s? I don’t think Paul is ready for me to move out of his spare bedroom yet.”

Adam put the shirt on, his back to Tommy. “Yeah, sure, I’ll feed the spiders.” They took care of the animals, Tommy did a half-assed pick-up of the apartment, and then they left, Tommy taking the Cokes with him. They kept talking on the way over, Tommy recounting all the crazy shit he’d done at shows, from stagediving off a balcony to getting a blowjob during a gig. “Not for long though, the security for the headlining act chased her away. And we were banned for playing the Sum for six months. So my band threw me out.”

“Oh my god!” Adam laughed. “ I can’t believe it-how many bands have you been in, anyway?” They were driving up Lisa’s street now.

“I can’t even remember, I can’t keep a band. I’m really good though. In a couple of days, you’ll get to hear me play guitar.” He couldn’t fuckin’ help it, he grinned big at the thought.

Adam did too. “Looking forward to it, maybe you know something I can sing.” Tommy laughed and looked around, then kissed Adam on the cheek, quickly. “Night.” Adam blushed and waved goodnight. Lisa was standing on the porch by then, and she waved at Adam, then frowned at Tommy.

“I can’t believe you’re using Allen’s as your own personal love nest. You are a freak.” Tommy grinned and hugged her. “Oh God, get off of me, you smell like spunk. I don’t even want to know…” She was smiling though, even as she gave Tommy a hard time.

Tommy came in and the look of relief on Paul’s face was enough to make him want to kick his own ass for not coming by. He smiled at him and Lisa’s mom, Dr. Tucker-Harrington (Tommy was sure she had a first name, he just didn’t know it). He begged off for a shower and some time alone, saying he still felt kind of tired. Lisa smirked.

He took a shower, scrubbing himself and remembering when Adam had bathed him. He was so much stronger than he had been two days before. Strong enough to do something he’d been putting off too long now.

When he was in the guest room, wrapped in a robe, he grabbed the phone and made a call. He waited three rings, and the phone picked up. “Hello? Oma? Yes. I’m fine now, danke. I’m sorry I didn’t call. I know, I’m sorry. Sorry dass ich nicht mit Sie gesprochen habe, Oma. I don’t know.” Tommy took a deep shaking breath. “I’m going to do better. I promise. Ja. I’m sorry. I know. Yes, I’ll come see you.” He listened for a few minutes while his Oma told him off, then he said “Nein, nein. Ich will nicht tote. I’m not going to die. Ja, I promise. How are you?”

He listened as she told him about her kids and what was going on with them, and then she demanded again he come over for Sunday dinner and church. “I’ll try. Can I just come for dinner? Nein. Oma..” Tommy sighed, this is why they had trouble. Explaining to a sixty-five year old German Lutheran that he was an atheist was never easy. “I’ll come by. You’ll fix sauerbraten, bitte? Okay. Yes, I will. Okay, Gute Nacht. Love you.” He hung up the phone, head pounding. He had ignored her for too long. She wasn’t really his Oma, but she was close enough.

Close-a-fucking-nough. Now he had to go to bed. He was getting a headache. He laid down, suddenly exhausted, and slept immediately, with no dreams.
***
German translations:
Oma-grandmother
Danke-thanks
Sorry dass ich nicht mit Sie gesprochen habe -I didn’t mean to not speak with you (Or, I’m sorry I didn’t speak to you)
Ja-yes
Nein-no
Ich will nicht tote-I don’t want to die.
Bitte-Please
Gute Nacht-Good night

Chapter Text

Speed agility super strength-“Ares”, Bloc Party

Tommy woke up in the guest room, blinking at the noise. He looked over and Lisa was standing over the bed, with her alarm clock plugged in and blaring. “Okay, okay, I’m getting up, shit.” Tommy dragged himself out of the bed slowly, rubbing over his face. “Knock that off, my head still hurts.” He hit the alarm button.

“Come on, asshole. You’re going back to school today, full day.” Lisa said, way too chipper. She was already dressed but didn’t have her makeup on. Tommy always thought she looked so cute and young without it, but he never said so. Wearing a full face of paint made her feel good and pissed off her feminist mom. Who Tommy was now staying in the same house with. Huh.

“You better go, I slept naked last night.” Tommy grinned as Lisa stuck her tongue out at him and left. He dragged himself to the shower, taking a look at his arm. It wasn’t swollen anymore, and the redness was gone. It still ached a little, but maybe that was from not moving it. He wasn’t sure. The tiredness was still there. Fuck, he was gonna need a lot of coffee.

Tommy showed up in the kitchen twenty minutes later, showered, dressed and with his hair not fixed. Fuck it, it could flop today, he didn’t care. He headed straight to the coffee maker and fixed a big cup, extra sugar. Belatedly, he saw Paul over at the breakfast nook. “Oh,morning.”

“Morning Tommy, are you running late? You should eat something.” The way Paul said it, like it was so normal that Tommy could be here, made Tommy’s heart ache a little. Paul had always welcomed him, and he couldn’t always handle that. Tommy sipped some of his coffee, really good stuff, and nodded. Paul put a plate in front of him. “Here, it’s some whole grain pancakes and applesauce. You’re still recovering, so no syrup.” Tommy frowned-like he didn’t just put a whole shitload of sugar in his coffee. “I saw all those sodas you brought home, Tommy, you’re eating a lot of-“

“I’m craving it, okay?” Tommy said, too sharp, and Paul looked stunned. Tommy sighed. “I’m sorry. Look, I’ll just eat and go to school. I’m too much trouble for you guys-“

“Tommy,” Paul said, and fuck that was a pretty exasperated tone of voice for Paul to take. “You’re not sponging off of us. I asked you if you wanted to live here. Last night, you could have stayed at Allen’s or at your house, but you promised Lisa you’d come here. Do you want to stay for a while? It can be as long as you want.”

Tommy figured it was way too early to make a decision of this size, but he just gulped some more coffee. “I think-if it’s okay with Lisa’s mom, I-okay. I’ll get some clothes from Allen’s and my house.” Tommy took another drink of coffee-his hands were shaking now, anxious. “I think I need…I mean, yeah.” I don’t think I need to be alone now, he thought.

Paul didn’t say anything, just nodded. Tommy finished his pancakes in silence, then got up to put the dish in the sink. Paul came up behind him. “I’m glad. And I’m…proud of you. You’re incredibly strong.” Tommy just shook his head, because he felt like he could fall apart any second-GOD, he was craving so hard. “You are. I’m glad you’re finally taking care of yourself.” Tommy gripped the sink, because fuck, that kind of stung. Finally. He thought he had been taking care of himself, but he had been wrong.

“I should probably get my backpack,” he whispered. “Is Lisa’s mom really okay with this?” He felt an unfamiliar hand on his back and went rigid.

“My name is Margret. Or Maggie, if you’re my grandmother.” Tommy turned around and saw Dr. Tucker-Harrington-wait, Margret-standing behind him. She had on a nice gray suit, no makeup or jewelry, and her hair brushed back. “Paul tells me everything. Of course you can stay. You’ll be fine here, I hope. Now, let me see if Lisa’s ready.” She dropped her hand and left to go find Lisa. Tommy could hear them arguing about the eyeliner Lisa wore and he had to put a hand over his mouth to keep from laughing.

“Wow,” Tommy said when he caught his breath. “Do you think she’d fight with me if I wore eyeliner?” Paul just shook his head, laughing too.
*
Lisa drove them both to school, Tommy still drinking coffee Paul had fixed in a travel cup for him. He had fixed him a lunch too, all good healthy hippy stuff. “Does your dad make you eat organic stir fry, or am I special?”

Lisa threw her cigarette out of the window. “You’ve been sick. He’s just being careful. Take it easy today, okay? I don’t know if you should go to the drama rehearsal or not.” Tommy just shook his head. Of course he’d be there. “I’m serious, don’t overstress yourself. You can call me if you need to come home.”

“Jesus Christ, stop nagging. I’ll call. Now shut up.” Lisa didn’t say anything while Tommy pouted in the passenger seat. Finally, he said “I’m sorry. I’m just not used to it, that’s all. And I feel like shit.”

Lisa didn’t say anything until they pulled into the parking lot. Then she said, “Okay. Have a good day. Let me know if you’re staying.” Tommy grinned and kissed her on the cheek. “Gross, save that for your baby.” Tommy made a face as he left the car, thinking He’s not my baby, come on. Then he saw Adam over by his car, and he felt his face break into a stupid grin. Shit.

Adam walked him into the building, neither of them saying much, but it was a lot less awkward than yesterday. Tommy didn’t see him again until drama class, and they sat where they normally did, but Tommy talked to Adam over Kris’ head before Paula started class. Tommy walked out of class with Adam and Kris, with Anoop and Megan holding hands behind them.

Tommy tried to actually pay attention and catch up in his classes, and spent his study period and most of lunch catching up on his homework (Adam wasn’t there, so it wasn’t like he was missing anything). He resisted most efforts by Kris and Megan to get him involved in the conversation, although he answered a few things when asked. This lasted until Kris put his hand over Tommy’s paper for history. “Relax. It doesn’t have to be in until after the weekend.” Tommy scowled, but put it up.

“It’s just a lot to catch up on,” he said, going back to eating the cold noodle stir-fry that Paul had made him. Kris shrugged and talked to him a little bit about the time he got really sick after a trip overseas, which Tommy had heard already goddamn it. Could everyone just stop talking for a fucking second?

Tommy put the lid on his lunch, leaving it, and left the lunch room. He wasn’t mad, he just needed some quiet. He heard Kris and Anoop call after him, and kept going. He wound up behind the theater, half hidden by a retainer wall. He lit a cigarette and tried to calm his fucking nerves. He had his head leaned against the wall and was exhaling the smoke when Anoop showed up. “Dude, please just leave me alone. I’m not mad, okay?”

“Okay,” Anoop said, clearly not convinced. He sat down next to Tommy and pulled out a cigarette.

“Didn’t know you smoked,” Tommy said, not looking at him. Anoop just shrugged and lit it, taking a drag.

“Don’t tell Megan, I’m supposed to try to quit.” Anoop and Tommy both looked ahead, not saying anything. After a few minutes, Anoop said, “So, my dad used to work at Federal Bank.” Tommy didn’t say anything, but he stopped breathing. “You know…about three years ago. He got fired without cause, along with a bunch of other people. But I’m sure you know about that.”

“Please don’t talk about this to me now,” Tommy said, closing his eyes. He figured Anoop knew who he was, but he didn’t think it was from personal experience. “I’m not my dad, so don’t fuckin’ hold it against me.” Tommy stubbed out his cigarette and lit another one. He had to have one, since the craving for booze was just getting worse.

“I don’t blame you, idiot. I never have. And my family’s doing fine, thanks. But when are you going to tell your friends? What about Adam?” Anoop looked over at him and Tommy had to will himself not to leave right then.

“Anoop,” he said, voice quiet. “I’ve been trying very hard not to think about this for years. How am I supposed to talk about it? And I’ve only known Adam a few weeks. I just-“ Tommy had to look away. “I can’t handle this right now, okay?” Anoop didn’t say anything. After a minute, Tommy said “I quit drinking. I feel like shit.”

“Oh,” Anoop said. He looked back at Tommy. “I thought you looked different, your eyes aren’t red and you look better. So that’s good.” Tommy chuckled a little.

“Checking me out? I’ll tell Megan.” Anoop flicked his ash in Tommy’s direction and grinned. “Asshole.” Tommy sat there for a few more minutes, until they heard the bell ring. “Fuck, gotta go to class. I don’t know if I should thank you for finding me or not. And-I’m sorry.”

“I said I wasn’t blaming you.” Anoop said. “See you tonight?” Tommy nodded and they went in opposite directions. Tommy shoved his hands in his jacket pockets-and felt a mini bottle of Jack stuck in between the pocket and the jacket liner. He took it out and stared at it, his nerves soothed just by looking. He’d always loved the label, the white lettering on black, the bottle shape, everything.

He tossed it on the ground and kept walking. Maybe a freshman would find it.

When he got done with his classes, he met up with Lisa in the parking lot, and saw her talking to Brad and Kris, all of them sitting on the trunk. “Hey guys,” he said, smiling a little. Kris frowned. “Sorry about lunch, I just had to get away. It was so loud.”

“I thought you liked that, Mr. Screeching Guitars,” Brad said, and Tommy sat down next to him. Brad put his head on Tommy’s shoulder, blinking up at him, and they all cracked up. Tommy was laughing so hard that he didn’t know anyone was coming until Lisa whispered “Heads up.” Tommy looked up to see four jocks headed their way. Fuck.

“Hey, are you Tommy Ratliff?” their leader said, a really big blond guy with blue eyes. “Hey, I’m with the Christian Athletic League, and I just wanted to say how glad we are that you’ve gotten better. Kris told us a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve been praying for you. So, we just wanted to say hi and that we’re praising God that you’re okay.” Tommy looked over at Kris for a minute like you are one dead motherfucker before turning his attention back to the jocks.

“Thanks,” he said, trying to sound sincere. “It’s good to know you were…thinking about me. I’m better now.”

The big guy clapped him on the shoulder, making Tommy’s bones rattle a bit. Tommy had no intention of starting a fight with this jackass, but he calculated his chances of winning if he did. It was an old habit.“Hey, I’m Michael. Just let me know if there’s anything we can do. You can come to my church sometime!” He started to walk off, and Tommy said under his breath, “Oh, I wouldn’t fuckin’ miss it”. Michael didn’t hear him, talking to his nice Christian football buddies about the next game. Brad and Lisa were both looking at Tommy for his reaction. Kris looked like he wanted to crawl into the ground.

Tommy raised an eyebrow over at Kris, who had please don’t kill me written all over his face. “You did this before I told you to knock that shit off, right?” Kris nodded, a little white around his eyes. “And these guys are part of your ‘god actually doesn’t like bigots’ ministry?” Kris nodded again. Tommy shook his head. “Putting people on prayer lists without asking them is rude,” Tommy said, smiling big. Kris actually exhaled in a whoosh, and everyone started laughing again. “Seriously, next time you want to do this for someone, just ask. Most of them aren’t me.” Tommy laughed again and looked for another cigarette.

“I’m sorry, really. I guess I never thought anyone would object. I’ll ask next time, promise.” Kris was blushing a little. Tommy had just lit his cigarette when Adam came up, along with Alisan. “Hey,” he said, cig forgotten.

“Hey,” Adam said, not as shy as yesterday. “Um, I’m going home before practice, do you want to come with me?” Tommy just stared blankly, and Adam started to back away. “Um, forget it, you don’t have to”-

“Yeah!” Tommy threw his cigarette down and stomped on it. “Are we going now? Yeah, sure, you just surprised the shit out of me.” Adam looked shocked but he laughed a little, turning red.

“Okay. Um, I’m taking Alisan home, and then we’ll go. Hop in.” Adam walked to his car, looking over at Tommy. Tommy kissed Lisa on the cheek, Brad on the hand, and then ran off. “Bye!” Kris gestured at him like What? No kiss? So Tommy ran back and smacked one on his forehead. Then he ran and got into the backseat, leaving Alisan the front. “Let’s go!” Adam laughed and turned up the music, Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. Tommy hummed along, wondering if he could play it on guitar now.

When they dropped Alisan off, Tommy hopped in the front seat and gave Adam’s hand a little squeeze. “So…what are we doing at your house?” He winked at Adam, feeling ridiculous but happy. “Nobody home?” Fucking hell, but he needed some time alone with Adam-his day had gone so shitty.

“Um, actually…” Adam looked really nervous and Tommy thought Oh shit. “My mom wants to meet you. My dad and brother are gone, they’re going camping this weekend. So me and mom are by ourselves. She told me to invite you to dinner.” Tommy slumped down in his seat, and Adam said “It’ll be okay, it’s just my mom, not everybody…”

“Oh goddamn.” Tommy groaned. The only time any chick he ever dated wanted him to meet the parents, it was to punish them for something. And Adam wanted to show him off or some shit. “Adam, what the fuck? What are you thinking, oh my God!” Tommy felt his temper start to overflow. “And of all fucking days-Adam, I’m like five days off drinking and I look like shit and your mom probably hates me for taking you to the Points and just-fuck!” Tommy had to lie back, tired. Adam didn’t say anything, but Tommy could see him biting his lip. “Adam, I’m-fuck. I’m not mad at you. But you should have warned me.”

“I’m sorry.” Adam said. “I didn’t think it would be a problem.” Tommy had to curl his hand into a fist, because yes it fucking was a problem. “But see, I’ve been telling my mom how sick you’ve been, and she wanted to see you.”

“Adam. Did you tell your mom we were…that we…”He didn’t even know what to call it. Tommy could not wrap his mind around some sixteen year old telling his mom all about the guy he was fucking. That was fucking suicide, what the fuck.

“I told her we were dating, yes.” Adam whispered. Tommy closed his eyes for a minute.

“You should have told me you were gonna do that.” Tommy said calmly. He was shaking inside, but he was going to be calm now. Adam didn’t deserve to get yelled at.“That could’ve turned out bad for you, man. Are you okay? She’s not mad?” Adam looked over at him, eyes wide.

“You’re not mad about me telling about you?” Adam drove past the kid’s softball park, and Tommy remembered when he went there as a kid, to pitch. Tommy shook his head. What the hell did it matter for him? It’s not like he had any family anyway.

“You could have gotten kicked out of the house. Most parents don’t take that news very fucking well. I guess you got lucky. But why did you-why?” Tommy had no idea why anyone would want him to have dinner with the folks.

“I was worried about you!” Adam said it like he’d been holding it back for ages. “I was worried and then my mom asked what was wrong. And I don’t like to lie to her. I don’t tell my dad everything, but me and mom…it’s different. So I told her how much you were hurting. I didn’t say anything about your family, except you were staying at Lisa’s. And she asked me if I was gay. And I said yes.” Tommy watched as Adam kept his eyes on the road. “And then she asked me if you were my boyfriend. And I said ‘I think so’.” Adam took a deep breath. “Then she asked me a bunch of really embarrassing questions about what it is we do, because she’s scared that I’ll get sick. And now she wants to meet you again.”

“Yeah, she probably wants to run me off. I’m a guy, and I’m fucking her son. She’ll love me, right.” Tommy stared straight ahead as they pulled up in front of Adam’s house. Adam put a hand on his knee and Tommy had to fight to not brush it off. Adam tipped Tommy’s face up with a finger.

“She’s not like that. She doesn’t hate you, she said she’s going into this with an open mind. It’ll be okay. And my parents are pretty liberal.” Tommy shook his head. He’d been a cranky fucker all day, and now he had to play nice for Adam’s mom. Who knew he and Adam were…dating? Tommy frowned as he got out of the car. Dating seemed to be the best word for it.

“I’ve never had to make a good impression on a parent before,” Tommy whispered as they went up the stairs. Adam opened the front door and yelled “Hey, we’re here!” Tommy tried to find a place for his backpack-oh god where, the floor, a chair-when Adam’s mom came downstairs. Tommy remembered her, how pretty she was. She was wearing white pants and a blue top and looked like she’d actually dressed up for this. “Tommy, you’ve met my mom, Leila. Mom, Tommy.” Tommy looked down for a second, then recovered and met her eyes.

“Hi.” He said, holding out his hand. “Um, it’s nice to meet you. Again.” Tommy didn’t think he’d ever felt this awkward in his life. Leila smiled and took his hand.

“Don’t worry about it, we’ll figure it out. This was…unexpected for me too.” She squeezed his hand and Tommy smiled a little shaky around the edges. At least they were both working without a net. “Tommy, are you hungry? I usually have an early dinner before Adam’s rehearsal.” She went back to the kitchen. “You boys help yourselves to any of the drinks. Except your dad’s beer, he gets angry.” Tommy ignored the little gnawing feeling on his nerves he felt at the mention of beer, and got himself a Coke. And then another one. By the time Leila had dinner on the table, Tommy was on this third.

Dinner wasn’t easy. Leila tried to keep the conversation going, but Tommy didn’t know what to say. He just answered questions in a monotone, while watching Adam push food around out of the corner of his eye. Leila kept asking him things, but Tommy was out of his depth. Finally, he gave up trying to answer anything with more than a monosyllable. Leila gave up soon after, and silence settled over the table.

When it was finally over, Tommy brought his plate to the kitchen, where Leila was. “Hey. Um, I didn’t finish everything, do you have a compost box or can I just throw it in the garbage or…” Tommy trailed off, feeling his face heat.

Leila looked up from where she was standing over the sink, and gave him a little surprised smile. “Oh, just put it in the trash. Thank you, my boys never bring their plates in, they just leave it to me.” Tommy scraped his plate and then handed it to her, smiling a little. Fucking finally, the ice was starting to break. “Tommy, I’m sorry if that was awkward for you.” Tommy felt shy again.

“It’s okay. I just didn’t know about it until we were in the car, you know? So I’m all ugly and my hair looks like sh-oh, sorry.” Tommy blushed again. “I make a really bad first impression.” Adam’s mom just laughed.

“Honey, have you seen who I’m married to? You can say any curse words you want.” Tommy ducked his head, laughing. He wound up helping her put the dishes in the dishwasher, making small talk about school.

Leila asked Tommy about his arm, and he pushed up his sleeve and showed her. “See? It looks pretty good now.” He slid his sleeve back down, unconsciously brushing his fingers over the fabric. “It feels good not to have that shell cast on anymore.”

Leila nodded. “It looks almost healed. Tommy.” Tommy stilled then, because he knew this was about to get serious. “You haven’t known Adam that long.” Tommy shook his head, looking at the floor. “It seems really sudden, at least to me. But, I remember, that’s how things are at that age. Things change fast.” There was a slight change in tone at the last part, and Tommy looked up at her.

“They’re not going to change that fast,” he said, looking her in the eyes. “I’m-I’m not going to-I’m happy.” Tommy was stunned by the last part, because what the fuck? He had felt like shit eighty-five percent of the time during the past three weeks. But Adam, yeah. Adam made him happy more times than he didn’t. That was more than he could say about anyone. “I don’t know what else to tell you,” he said, turning away. “I-it’s almost time for rehearsal, let me go find him.” Leila let him go, as Tommy wandered out of the kitchen and went upstairs.

Tommy found Adam in the bathroom, messing with his shirt, trying to fit it over his stomach so it didn’t bulge. Tommy didn’t even say anything, he just walked through the open door and hugged Adam. “Hey.”

“Tommy, what-“ and that’s all he got out before Tommy kissed him. “Tommy, my mom’s downstairs!” Tommy just wrapped his arms around Adam harder, clinging to him.

“I don’t need anything else right now,” he whispered. “My day sucked, just-please.” Adam nodded against Tommy’s ear, and put his arms around Tommy, holding him tight. They stood like that until Leila called them down.

Rehearsal itself was kind of boring, with Megan chattering about what everyone was doing for Halloween. Tommy had honestly not given it any thought. Any other year and he’d be either playing or at a show, but this time there was no telling. Megan wanted to go to Rocky Horror, of course. Alisan wanted to have a party. Tommy nudged Adam. “So, what do you want to do?”

“Oh, um, I’m not sure yet. I’d like to go to Rocky Horror, or anything really.” Adam smiled. “I don’t get out much on Halloween. I never got out much at all, but you know…” Tommy grinned and watched Adam blush, a little shy.

“Whatever you want to do, okay?” Tommy said, and then they all had to actually rehearse, so Tommy stayed on the back of the stage and watched. Adam killed “Secret Love” again, and this time Tommy was watching from the back, but it was still amazing. He felt someone move up against him and it was Alisan, so he leaned his head on her shoulder as they listened. Tommy stuck his fingers between his teeth and whistled when Adam was done, and Adam did that full body laugh that lit up his face. Tommy didn’t even know he was laughing too until Brad tried to cover his mouth, the fucker.

Pretty soon rehearsal was over and Adam asked Tommy if he wanted to go for pizza. Tommy shrugged. “I don’t know, I thought I’d go back to Lisa’s, call her to give me a ride. I was supposed to call anyway, fuck.” Tommy had totally forgotten about it. Adam made him stupid that way.

“Well, there’s a phone in Paula’s office back here. And um, do you want to, mom said it would be okay if you, do you want to spend the night at my house?” Tommy stared at him and Adam scrambled. “No, on the couch I mean. My mom isn’t that open-minded.”

“I didn’t think so. Tease.” Tommy grinned. Okay, let me call.” He knocked on the door to Paula’s office, and she opened it, eyes wide and a little startled looking. “Hi. Can I use the phone?”

“Tommy, yes and I’m so glad to see you. Would you be interested in doing a monologue for the production, now that you’re feeling better?” Tommy blinked, and she continued. “I just hate that you don’t have anything to do and you’ve been so sick and I thought maybe that would be something you could look forward to. I know it’s only another month, but it won’t be a long monologue. Okay?”

Tommy stood there, and said “Okay, sure. Do I get to pick it? Or is there one you have picked out?” Paula bounced in place, and then handed him a list of principal-approved monologues for boys to perform. Tommy almost wanted to find the girl’s approved list and do one of those just to fuck with everybody, but he didn’t say that. “Thank you. I’ll have something picked by Monday.” Paula did a little dance step and hugged him, then took off. “I think she’s happy I’m back.” Tommy grinned, and went to the phone.

“Hey, Paul? Hi, I’m finished with rehearsal. Um, Adam’s asked me to have a sleepover at his place. I’m going to be crashing on his couch. I just wanted to let you know that’s where I’ll be. Lisa’s got the number if you need it. Okay. Okay Paul. I’ll see you Saturday. Yeah ,bye.” Tommy turned to Adam and kissed him quickly on the lips. “Let’s go.”

Tommy and Adam drove back to Adam’s house without saying goodbye to the others. It had just seemed like too much trouble. On their way back, Tommy said “You know, I like your mom. We talked when you were getting ready.”

“Yeah?” Adam’s gave him that huge smile again. “I love my mom. I hated I didn’t tell her about me before now.” Tommy nodded, even though he still thought telling a parent anything before you were out of the house was a bad idea. But, Leila was okay for a parent. “I just couldn’t stop telling her about you, so she figured it out.”

“I’m sorry that I upset you that much that you had to tell her,” Tommy said, drinking another Coke. “I can’t believe I got sick twice. Fuck.” Tommy tossed the Coke can out of the window, and rolled it back up. Adam gave him a sideways look and Tommy said “What? You knew when you met me I did a lot worse than litter.” Adam was still giggling when they pulled into his driveway. Adam was undoing his seatbelt (he actually used it, what the fuck) and Tommy just said “Hey,” and leaned over.

The kiss was quick, and it was dark enough so the neighbors didn’t see, but Adam moaned softly when Tommy pulled back. Tommy smiled at him. “Let’s go inside.” He grabbed his backpack and they went in.

Leila was still there, but the formality of before was gone, and Tommy and Adam were left in the living room with a pizza and some more Cokes. They randomly channel-surfed and Tommy ate the pizza, feeling a little bad when he caught Adam watching. “Hey, you can eat some, it’s okay.” He wanted to say It’s just me, but he didn’t know if that was better or worse for Adam.

Adam shook his head. “No, I ate a little at dinner.” That was a total fucking lie, Tommy saw Adam pushing food around on his plate, but he didn’t say anything. They wound up finding “Cabaret” on TV and Adam insisted they watch. Tommy snuggled down into the blanket that he’d thrown over his shoulders and watched it. He surprised himself by enjoying it-this was closer to his kind of musical than “Annie Get Your Gun”. At any rate, the costumes were awesome.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” Adam asked as Tommy rested with his head on Adam’s shoulder. “I have dance class and then opera.” Tommy shrugged, rubbing his cheek against Adam’s shoulder.

“Well, I have to go and clean up Allen’s tomorrow, it’s been too long. Oh, I told you I’m living at Lisa’s for right now? Yeah. But anyway, do that, and maybe some other stuff-“

“Yeah, you called Lisa’s dad, are you really going to live there? I mean, that’s okay right? Are you still sick, is that why?” Adam didn’t look anything other than genuinely concerned, so Tommy just nodded.

“It might come back. And…I don’t really want to leave. I’ve been living alone a long time.” Tommy scratched through his hair. “But now I have to get used to calling to say I’ll be somewhere else, and having someone fix me food instead of doing it myself. But it’s nice.”

Adam didn’t move or say anything for a while, then he looked down, hand rubbing over the blanket. “I didn’t know it had been a long time. Um. So, cleaning up Allen’s?” Tommy nodded. “I can come over and help after three.”

“You can come over, yeah.” Tommy grinned, remembering what had happened yesterday. Adam laughed and pushed at him playfully, and Tommy pushed back, until they were on their sides, tickling and gasping. They were both getting little gropes out of it, but mostly they kept it at grappling. Finally, Adam had Tommy pinned on his back, hands held over his head. Tommy was still laughing when he saw Adam’s eyes go dark and he felt Adam’s hard cock against his leg. Tommy swallowed and looked up at Adam, laughter caught in his throat. Adam tightened his hands on Tommy’s wrists. “Oh fuck,” Tommy whispered, nodding. Yes, he thought. Go ahead.

“Um, boys.” Adam froze for a second, then moved off Tommy like he was burned. Leila was standing in the doorway, looking very fucking uncomfortable. “I think you should go to bed, Adam. You have dance classes all morning.” Adam blushed bright red, and got up, grabbing the blanket to wrap around himself and try to cover his hard-on. Leila didn’t say anything to Adam, just let him go upstairs. She watched Tommy for a second, then turned to leave.

“Hey,” Tommy said, making her turn back around. “Is there a guest room or am I on the couch? Or do you want me to leave?” He made sure he looked at her-he wasn’t going to back down if she wanted him gone.

“Oh,” she said. “No, no. You don’t have to go.” She took a deep breath and then turned away again. “The couch folds out, I’ll get the sheets and pillows.” Tommy nodded, even though she was already gone, and started working on the couch. He had it ready by the time she got back. “I’m sorry, all we had was Neil’s old Superman sheets, before he got too big for them…” she trailed off, still a little shaken.

“It’s okay. I like Superman.” Tommy looked at her, smiling gently. Leila broke out one laugh, covering her mouth, and then started fussing with the sheets. “Hey, it’s okay. I got it.” He was being very quiet and patient, since she didn’t seem actually mad. That right fucking there put her ahead of most parents. Leila looked at him, surprised, then handed him the sheets and sat down. Tommy put the sheets and blanket on the bed while she sat there, staring into space.

Just when he figured she had forgotten about him she said, “I guess I forgot he was growing up.” Tommy stilled and looked over at her, but she wasn’t looking at him. “I know what happened with Brad, and that was-I love Brad. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe if you have kids, you’ll know.” Tommy took note of the “if”, and nodded. “I’m sorry.” Tommy shrugged.

“You’re the first parent who found out I was dating their kid who didn’t want to kill me, so it’s fine.” She looked up at him and he shrugged again. “We actually-that was kind of an accident.”

Leila smiled, looking nervous. “That’s what Adam said when he saw me upstairs. Okay, you get some rest, it’s been a long day for you. Aren’t you tired?”

“Yeah I am. It’s been a long fucking day,” Leila just patted his shoulder. “I’m still getting better too. Okay.” Tommy sat on the bed, and started taking his boots off. “Thanks for letting me stay over. You didn’t have to.” Leila just smiled at him and then left. Tommy unlaced his boots, wishing that Adam was there to help, and that just fucking reminded him that Adam was upstairs, not far. Tommy pushed that idea away-he had to sleep. He curled his knees toward his chest and passed out.

When Tommy woke up again, it was still dark, it wasn’t daytime, and there was light and movement coming from the kitchen. He rubbed his eyes and sat halfway up-what the fuck was going on? He got up, carefully, trying not to knock into the coffee table and made his way through the dining room with the table that could seat eight, through to the kitchen.

Tommy stood in the doorway and felt a kind of numbness spread through him. Adam was there, back to the door at the breakfast nook and there was a gallon of ice cream next to him. There were two boxes of cookies and some leftover casserole from dinner and god only fucking knew what else. Adam was hunched over, spoon in the ice cream , alternating big scoops of it with whatever else he could get. Tommy nearly left the room before Adam saw him. He flashed back to the time that he walked in on a friend shooting up. This wasn’t nearly as bad, but it had the same taboo feeling, and the same feeling of shame coming off Adam in waves.

But Tommy couldn’t leave Adam like that, he knew how miserable it made him. So he took another step. “Adam? It’s me.”

Adam turned around, and he looked so frightened that Tommy almost left right then. It twisted something inside him to see Adam scared because of something he’d done. “Tommy, go back to bed, I’m sorry, I didn’t want you to see me-“

“Hey.” Tommy said, trying to figure out what to do. “Hey, it’s okay.” Tommy came a little closer and Adam’s head went down. “Don’t worry.” Tommy didn’t know what the hell he was doing until he had crossed the kitchen, gone through the drawers. And come back with a spoon. “It’s okay, I’ll sit with you.” Tommy sat next to Adam, and got a scoop of the ice cream. “Your mom gets the good stuff.”

Adam stared at Tommy for a minute, eyes wet. Then he nodded, “Yeah, she does.” He let Tommy take another spoonful, let Tommy sit closer until he had an arm around Adam. Tommy took bites of the ice cream and Adam sat there. Tommy could feel the tension leaving his back the longer Tommy was there. After a minute, Adam whispered “I’m not hungry anymore.” Tommy pushed the ice cream away.

“Are you okay? Are you going to puke?” Adam shook his head and Tommy pulled him into a hug. “It’s all right, Adam, you’re okay. I’ve seen worse.” He could feel Adam in his arms, holding on and trying to hold back little shudders as he cried.

“I can’t believe we’re worrying about me when you’re trying to stop drinking,” Adam whispered, and Tommy just kissed Adam’s temple. It didn’t fucking matter, that people thought his was worse.

“Doesn’t fucking matter”, Tommy said. “We look out for each other, right?” He leaned back then and kissed Adam softly. Adam opened up to it, and Tommy tasted chocolate ice cream on Adam’s tongue. They kissed for a few minutes, and then Adam curled over and laid his head on Tommy’s shoulder. Tommy tightened his arms around his boyfriend. Huh, boyfriend. Tommy smiled a little and kissed Adam’s neck right over the pulse.

“You can go to bed if you want, baby” he whispered. “I’ll clean this up. Just get some sleep.” Adam nodded against his shoulder, then moved his head until they were kissing again. Adam pulled away after a minute and stroked the back of Tommy’s neck.

“I didn’t ask, how did you do today? I mean, because you’re not drinking.” Adam looked so concerned and sweet, and Tommy knew he’d be okay for the rest of the night. He wouldn’t come back to the kitchen, he had already stopped thinking about it.

Tommy smiled a little, one side of his face quirking up. “The first half sucked. I started feeling better after school. Thank you.” Tommy leaned in for another kiss, short and soft, then pulled back. “Go to bed.” Adam smiled at him, and stood up.

“Goodnight. Baby,” Adam grinned at that and Tommy made a face. “No seriously though,” Adam said. “Goodnight.” Adam looked like he was going to say something else, but he turned and soon Tommy heard him going back upstairs. Tommy started putting up the ice cream and cookies. The whole time, he wondered what Adam had almost said.

He kept wondering after he finished with the kitchen and was back on the couch, trying to sleep.

Chapter Text

Tommy got about three more hours of sleep before noise in the kitchen woke him up again. He though Fuck, no before he opened his eyes and saw that it was morning. Leila was in the kitchen, talking on the phone and had coffee brewing. Tommy got up, pulled his jeans back on and headed for the kitchen.

Adam was already in there, wearing sweats and with what were probably his dance clothes in a backpack. He was leaning against the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee. When he saw Tommy, he smiled softly at him and then poured him a cup.

“Thank you,” Tommy whispered, and Adam nodded. Tommy looked at Adam-he looked tired and a little withdrawn, but not too bad. He drank his coffee black, and poured himself another one before Tommy finished his. Great, now Tommy was studying everything Adam did. They stood close to each other, but didn’t touch in front of Adam’s mom.

Leila got off the phone after a minute. “Morning boys, Adam’s driving himself to the dance studio, I have to show a house in a little bit. Adam can take you home-I mean, to your friend’s if you want. We have to go soon, though.”

Tommy shrugged. “I can take a shower at Lisa’s, it’s early anyway. No problem.” Tommy finished his coffee. “I just have to get my boots on.” He went into the living room and put them on slowly. He was still pretty tired. As soon as he stood up Adam was there with his car keys in hand. Tommy grabbed his backpack and they left, Adam calling goodbye over his shoulder.

They drove towards Lisa’s house, the car radio turned to the dance station. Tommy did his fucking best not to make a face. He was so distracted that it took him a minute to realize that Adam still wasn’t talking. “Adam?” Tommy swallowed. “Are we okay?”

Adam stopped at a red light, and turned to Tommy. “Thank you. For last night. I just-thank you. You didn’t laugh at me or tell me to get over it. I’ve been afraid to talk about it, because of that.” Adam’s voice was quiet, and Tommy reached over and held Adam’s hand.

“Don’t worry.” Tommy wanted to ask Adam a lot of questions, ask him what he needed to do to help, but he didn’t even know if Adam wanted it. So he just rubbed over Adam’s thumb. “Like I said, we’ll look out for each other, okay?” The light turned green and they started moving again. Tommy had to let go of Adam’s hand.

Adam nodded. “Okay. I’ll remember that.” Adam took a long breath. “I’m glad. I’ll try to call you, although I probably won’t be able to get to the phone at two am. But if I’m having a bad day? I’ll tell you. And you talk to me. I mean, if you want to.”

“I will”, Tommy said as they pulled up in front of Lisa’s house. There were too many kids playing on the front lawns for Tommy to kiss Adam so he just smiled. “Don’t forget, I’ll be at Allen’s after three. Come by if you can.”

“Okay. I might be late getting out of lessons, but I’ll try. See you later.” Tommy got his backpack and got out of the car, waving. Adam watched him go up the porch stairs, then put the car in reverse. Tommy knocked on the door of Lisa’s house-he still didn’t have a key. Paul let him in.

 

Tommy put his backpack on the floor in the foyer and sat down in the kitchen for a minute. “I’m really tired. I might go take a nap soon.” Paul nodded. “And I’m going to Allen’s later to clean it up, and I need to get some of my clothes.” Tommy hesitated for a minute. “Is it okay if I bring my guitars?”

Paul looked up from his breakfast at that. “Of course it is. You didn’t have to ask-I want you to bring your guitars, your arm’s better. I want us to play.” Paul shook his head, as if willing Tommy to get it. “ When I said you could stay, I meant it. Tommy, you can bring anything you want and do whatever you want to that room as long as you’re staying here. Paint the walls black, I don’t care.”

Tommy ducked his head. “I’m being an idiot, I’m sorry. Okay, I’ll get Lisa to bring me over there later and help me get my stuff. And I need to do some other stuff-“

“I can take you to your house, if you like.” Paul said, keeping eye contact with him. “I can help you get your stuff out. You never let Lisa inside, have you?” Tommy shook his head.

“No. Lisa’s just dropped me off. Okay, that’s fine.” Tommy rubbed a hand through his hair. “I’m really tired. And I need a shower.” Tommy turned halfway around, then looked over at Paul. “Thanks for letting me stay here.”

“You don’t have to thank us,” Paul smiled at him. “Go get some sleep.” Paul turned back to his copy of Mother Jones and his pancakes. Tommy rubbed at his eyes, then left. Paul hadn’t offered him breakfast. Maybe he assumed that Tommy had already eaten. Or maybe he just looked like shit. Tommy was wondering if he was getting too used to being here already.

He napped in his clothes, only taking his boots off, then got up and showered after an hour or so. He put some of his clothes in the laundry pile, leaving him one ratty t-shirt and a pair of thin jeans. He put his boots and jacket on, and figured he looked okay. He looked at his hair-his roots were growing in. It was time for a touch up. Whatever, maybe next week. He came out of the guest room about the same time Lisa stumbled out of hers. “Hey sweetie.”

“Hey yourself, where are you going?” Lisa rubbed her eyes. She was wearing a skirt that was a little faded and another old t-shirt. “You need a ride?”
“Only if you’re going somewhere, I need a ride to Morgan.” Lisa raised an eyebrow, but she just nodded. “I won’t be there long, I just want to check some things out.”

“I can take you, it’s not far from LP’s. I’m going over there for a while. Hey, you haven’t been back to the Points since the riot. They’re cleaning it up, you should come.” Tommy shrugged. “Well, whenever. You’ve got other stuff to do?”

“I think so. And dude, get some breakfast and put on some real clothes-you look like shit.” Lisa shoved him as he started laughing.

Forty-five minutes later, Tommy and Lisa were driving down to Morgan. Paul had packed Tommy a lunch and reminded him not to overdo it today. Tommy had promised and said he’d try to pace himself, but he was getting so fucking sick of being an invalid. And, he really had to do this.

Lisa pulled up on Morgan Street. “You ready for this?” Tommy looked at the small street. It had two gay bars, a gay and lesbian bookstore, an AIDS outreach building, and his target: the Harvey Milk Gay Center. Tommy looked over at Lisa and his lip quirked up on one side.

“I might as well do it now.” He kissed her cheek. “I’ll call your dad for a ride later, you’ve got the rest of the day off, sweetie.” Lisa flipped him off and he got out of the car, hands shoved in his jacket pockets.

He got a couple of catcalls from older men outside the bars as he went the one block towards the gay center, but nobody tried to fuck with him. He was worried about more skinheads-he really wasn’t in the mood to fight anyone today. He made it to the Gay Center’s door and let himself in. It was an old building, pretty small upstairs, but with a lower level. It was dingy and there were flyers for different groups and events everywhere. A short, husky man with a beard was at the desk, and he looked annoyed when Tommy came in. “Look kid, if you’re here to start any trouble, I can kick you out in a second. We don’t need any more of that shit.”

Tommy would have been insulted if he hadn’t seen the skinhead melee himself. “I don’t want any more either. I’m not here for that. Um.” Tommy felt his courage fail him and his cheeks heat. “I’m looking for information. Safe sex and…instructional, if you have it. And, is there a counselor I can make appointments with?” Tommy took a deep breath and looked back up at the man, who suddenly seemed more sympathetic. He pulled out a bunch of pamphlets, a small book, and-holy fuck-a whole bunch of condoms and lube samples in a bag. Then he grabbed a clipboard.

“Cassidy is our counselor, especially with young men. What time’s good for you?” Tommy blinked for a second, then stammered out the days he thought he could make it. The guy at the counter wrote those down. “I’m glad you came in, a lot of people your age aren’t trying to be careful at all.” Tommy was thinking Tell me about it when a man younger than the counter guy and older than him came up. He was brown haired and really cute, built and with cool hair-he looked like a goth. Shit, I could actually talk to this guy, Tommy thought.“Hey, this is Cassidy right here. This young man’s trying to get an appointment-Tommy?” Tommy nodded and Cassidy gave him a sweet smile.

“Hey. I don’t have anything scheduled for the next twenty minutes, and I was just gonna get some coffee, so if you want to we can just talk? Like an intake, get to know each other.” Tommy stuffed the things he’d gotten into his backpack and waved at the counter guy. “Yeah, come on, office is this way.” Cassidy led Tommy downstairs and down a hall into a tiny room with thrift store furniture and a battered filing cabinet. “Sorry, looks like shit. Want some coffee?”

“Always, and lots of sugar,” Tommy said, smiling a little. “I’m glad I came in, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.” Cassidy laughed and handed him a styrofoam cup of coffee and a handful of sugars.

“I’m glad you came in too. It’s not easy, for someone your age to just walk in. Did you circle the block a couple of times?” Tommy shook his head, sipping his coffee. “Okay, just tell me briefly the kind of things you want to talk about.”

Tommy tried to sum up the last month as well as he could-the fights, the drinking, the meaningless sex. Then getting sick, meeting someone he liked a lot, and trying to quit drinking. He didn’t mention Adam’s eating binges-not yet. It wasn’t his to tell. He also said he was living at a friend’s house “but not because I’m gay-I’m not even sure if I’m completely gay, anyway. My parents…they haven’t been around for a while.”

Cassidy sat there a minute, absorbing all of this. “That’s a lot for a person to go through,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “How are you feeling right now?” Tommy slid down a little in his chair and thought about it.

“I’m still craving a little,” he started. “I’m worried that I won’t be at my friend’s house for a long time, although they told me I was welcome as long as I liked.” He scratched at the ugly fabric on the arms of the chair he was sitting in. “I don’t believe most people when they say they care about me. But when I’m with my boyfriend-oh god, I said it out loud.” Tommy felt a grin slide over his face and saw Cassidy grin back. “When I’m with him, things seem a lot better. Even when I was really sick, just seeing him helped.”

Cassidy leaned forward a little. “You said you slept with both girls and boys. Is he your first serious boyfriend?” Tommy thought about it for a second.

“Yeah, he is. I was trying to think if any of my girlfriends were ever serious. I think I cared about maybe one of them. So yeah, that makes him different.” Tommy looked up, holding Cassidy’s eyes.

“That makes him special.”

“It makes me worry,” Tommy said suddenly. “He’s been in the closet, he was a virgin before we started up, he’s shy, we can’t be out at school-fuck.” Tommy slumped forward a little. “He’s a great guy. And he has no idea. How fantastic he is.”

Cassidy was quiet for a minute. Then he said “Now, I have to ask this, so you can tell me to fuck off if you want.” Tommy smiled at hearing a counselor say ‘fuck’. “But have you been having safe sex with him?” Tommy leaned forward, dying to get these questions answered.

“See, I wanted to ask someone if what we were doing was safe or not. Basically it’s been blowjobs, and not coming in each other’s mouths. And handjobs, that’s it really.” Tommy was quiet for a minute. “I don’t want to-I tried being careful, but a lot of girls don’t give a shit about condoms. They figure they’re on the Pill.” Cassidy nodded, and Tommy kept going. “And I never swallowed when I was giving blowjobs before. So, I don’t know. Are we okay?”

“I think you are. There hasn’t been enough studies about pre-come causing AIDS, so I can’t say for sure. You could use condoms during blowjobs to be extra careful, although hardly anyone I know does.” Tommy could totally understand that shit, who wanted to suck latex? “But if you’re planning to go further, you’ll have to use condoms and we can get you some latex gloves, for fingering.” As soon as Cassidy said that, Tommy blushed a little. “Oh, something that interests you?” Tommy laughed and nodded. “I’m really sorry I can’t tell you more, but that’s what we’ve got right now. Um, you said you were sick-do you think-“

“No! No, I don’t think so,” Tommy said, slightly panicked at the thought. “I got an infection of the skin from cutting my hand open. I’m an idiot, okay? I didn’t like, get sudden sores on my body.” Tommy couldn’t hide how nervous that line of questioning made him. He was telling the truth, but just the idea that he could make someone else sick-oh fucking god. Nobody deserved that. “Can I ask you one more thing?” Cassidy nodded.

“Are there any meetings for trying to stop drinking that aren’t AA? Because I don’t want to go to a group that has a religious bias. I’m an atheist, I want to keep it that way.” Cassidy shook his head, and Tommy sighed. “It was worth a shot.”

“I don’t want to nag you, but I will encourage you to give AA a chance.” Cassidy said, handing him a list of meeting times for various support groups. “We have meetings here that are all gay, lesbian and bisexual. So you wouldn’t feel excluded on that front, at least.” Cassidy looked at his watch. “Okay, I have to go, I have an appointment. Go back to the front and Jack will set you an appointment you can make, okay?” Tommy stood up as Cassidy held his hand out. “It was good to meet you.”

Tommy squeezed Cassidy’s hand. “Thanks. I’ll see you.” Tommy went back toward the front, and made an appointment for next Tuesday after school. Then he sat down for a minute at one of the ratty old tables in the corner, and looked at the list of meetings and groups. AA, PFLAG, AIDS support…Overeaters Anonymous? He had never even heard of that.

He put the meetings list in his backpack, but not before circling both the AA and OA dates and times.

After that, he went into the gay bookstore and browsed around, making a show of putting his backpack behind the counter when the woman watching the store that day frowned at him. He thought most of the books were pretty lame-very New Agey, but he did get what looked like a good book of essays. When he came up to pay for it the counter lesbian looked at him in surprise, and he thought Yeah bitch, I can actually read as he paid for his book. He got his backpack, stuck the book in, and wandered toward the Points.

It was only about a half-mile away from Morgan, but it was like a different world. Not only that, but it was a different world to him than the one he’d been at a week ago. There were windows that still had boards over them, although the glass had been cleaned up. There were kids around, but not as many, and the whole place seemed like it was half-asleep.

Everywhere, every step he took, he could smell booze and pot. It seemed like everyone was drinking, and the cravings he had mostly suppressed all day started coming back hard. He actually started trembling a little bit, fuck. Monte. He needed to see Monte. He would hook him up with a lot of fuckin’ coffee and it would take the edge off.

Tommy kept walking in the direction of Revolution Records, seeing kids he’d known casually and catching snatches of conversations. “Yeah man, both the Replacements and Husker Du are on majors now. Total fuckin’ sell out…” “Heard that those skinheads got the fuck beaten out of them, and their idiot leader got arrested…” “Hey, maybe Tommy can get us some whiskey.” Tommy froze when he heard that one, and turned around to face Colin. “Hey fucker, what’s up?”

Tommy had to look at him for a minute, suddenly not knowing what to say. “What do you want, Colin?” he said, and it sounded harsher than it should have. Colin took a step back, and Tommy realized that Colin was actually afraid of him. He got into a lot of fights, he knew that, but he wasn’t going to hit Colin for no reason.

“Man, what the fuck’s gotten into you? Look, we just want you to get us some whiskey, okay? We’re too young and you can get in there. It won’t take a minute. And we’ve got some money, we can pay you for at least half of it, the rest could be yours. No big deal, right?”

Hell fucking yes it is a big fucking deal, Tommy wanted to say. Colin was looking at him like he was his hero, and wanted him to buy him booze. And of course, leave some for Tommy for going to the trouble to get it. Tommy took two steps back, he had to get out of there, fuck. Monte’s store, now.

He took another step back without looking and ran into someone who yelled “You fucker!” and spun him around. Mallisa, of course, just what he needed. “I got caught and now I’m in alternative school because of you!” He barely had time to get his arms up to defend himself when she punched him in the nose. It connected, but just hard enough to make it really bleed, not enough to break. “I heard you were sick, and I hope it hurt! Fuck you! Fuck you!” From the corner he could hear all of Colin’s little fuckhead friends laugh.

Tommy just stood there, not wanting to hit her back, and wondering why he had ever called her his girlfriend. They didn’t even like each other. He knew what he should be doing, he should be cussing her out and shoving her so he looked cool to everyone else. But he couldn’t. He had to go, right then.

He left Colin and Mallisa on the sidewalk, one yelling in anger, and one in confusion.

When he reached Revolution Records, the blood had dripped halfway down his shirt and he was tired again. He used to walk miles to get places, no problem, but being sick had probably taken it out of him. “Monte,” he croaked out, and Monte appeared from behind the record bins, eyes widening when he saw the blood. “I need an ice pack or something.” Monte scrambled up to him, yelled at a sullen looking kid Tommy didn’t know to watch the front, and grabbed Tommy’s arm. In a minute, he was sitting in the back office with a wet paper towel and Monte fixing him a cup of coffee he couldn’t drink right then.

“Tommy, what happened? I haven’t seen you since the invasion, you just disappeared and now you’re coming in here bleeding-hey.” Tommy was gripping the side of Monte’s desk hard, shaking. “Hey, Tommy. It’s okay, man.” Monte put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder and Tommy didn’t flinch him off.

Tommy shook his head. “I don’t belong here anymore. I can’t handle it-last week, it’s like the Points was my home, and now…” Tommy pressed the paper towel to his mouth, trying to get the blood to stop. “I’m freaking out.” Monte got him another tissue and pulled a chair up next to him. “Hey dude, how did you deal with it? Changing?”

Monte just grabbed his own coffee cup and looked at Tommy, thinking about it for a second. “I didn’t have a lot of say in the matter-getting older makes you change one way or the other. So I had to decide if I was going to be one of those people who still go on tour and follow the Dead every year, or if I was going to start listening to current music. But if I’d kept being a Deadhead, it still wouldn’t have been the same as back then. I’m not that person.” He looked Tommy straight in the eyes as he talked. “I could see it last week, you know. That you were changing. You just didn’t know it yet.”

Tommy nodded a little. “It’s wearing me out.” Monte patted his shoulder again.

“It always does. You can hide back here as long as you want, I’m gonna get you an icepack.” Monte left and came back in a minute with a real cloth towel and some ice. Tommy iced his nose for a while, eyes closed. After the swelling went down some, he wandered to the bathroom in the back office and looked at it-it didn’t seem broken. He’d have to get that checked out too, but later. He just couldn’t deal with it right now. He found Monte’s office phone and called.

“Hey Paul? You gotta get me out of here.”
Twenty minutes later, Tommy was in Paul’s car with a fresh icepack. Paul didn’t say anything as Tommy told him the story, slowly, and also that he’d been to the gay center and had an appointment with a counselor. “I just shouldn’t have gone to the Points. I can’t handle it right now.”

Paul sighed. “Do you think your nose is broken?” Tommy shook his head. “Do you still want to head by your house and get your stuff?” Tommy nodded again, and they drove up to Tommy’s house. Paul didn’t have to ask to know where it was. “Well, all right then. I’ll go in with you and we’ll get whatever you want. Unless you want me to stay outside.”

“No, come in with me and help me get my clothes,” Tommy said, voice hushed. They got out of the car and Tommy had to look to find his house key. When he did, they went inside and Tommy showed Paul where his room was. In twenty minutes, they had most of Tommy’s clothes, all his guitars, and some of his favorite records packed in the car. Paul offered to take the stereo too, but Tommy said he would just use Lisa’s.

Back in the car, Tommy looked at his nose again. Not broken, but not cute either-it was pretty disgusting, actually, with dried blood everywhere. “I’m tired.” Paul looked over at him again.

“I know you are. I know these last few weeks have been hard on you. I can just take you home, you know. You can put off Allen’s another day or go later.” Tommy bit at his cuticle, not knowing how to say it. So he just sighed and told the truth.

“I’m meeting Adam there, when he gets done for the day.” Paul raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. “I don’t know how long it will be, probably not long. He’ll have to get home before too long. But his dad and little brother are out for the weekend, and I think he wants us to have some time. His mom knows now.” Tommy fidgeted with his jeans, and then said “It’s okay, you know. Me and him.”

Paul looked over at him. “You know, it’s a lot on you right now, and this is pretty intense, what you’ve got going with Adam.” Tommy stared out of the window. “I mean, is it too much? I’m not trying to pry, I just want to know how it’s affecting you.”

Tommy didn’t answer for a long time, looking out the window. Just when it seemed Paul was about to apologize or some shit, Tommy said quietly. “It’s good, you know? I know that’s not much of an answer, but it’s good.” Tommy sighed. “He’s just-when it’s the two of us, it’s like I can relax.” Tommy slouched down. “I’m not explaining it too good.”

“No. No, you’re doing fine,” Paul said as they drove up to Allen’s apartment building. “Is Adam going to take you back to our place?” He didn’t even ask if Tommy was spending the night there, Tommy noticed. Tommy had to smile a little at that, even though it hurt his nose.

“If he isn’t, I’ll call you. Thanks Paul.” Tommy grabbed his backpack and his extra shirt. “I’ll see you tonight.” Paul smiled then, and Tommy had to wonder why Paul wasted affection and caring on him. He didn’t do anything to deserve it. He let himself into Allen’s as Paul drove away.

Tommy took a shower first thing, leaving his shirt soaking in the sink. The blood had soaked onto his chest a bit. He used a lot of the Dr. Bronner’s hippie liquid soap Allen kept around, then dried off with a thin towel. He wound up in his jeans and the shirt, barefoot and no underwear. He wouldn’t need it anyway, probably.

It wasn’t three yet. He had an hour or so-goddamn he’d gotten to an early start today. He did what he said he was going to do, cleaned the apartment and fed the animals. He made himself not think about anything as he cleaned, not about the pain in his nose, the confession to Paul about Adam, how much he still wanted to drink and how accepting the gay center had been in contrast to the Points. Really, it was better not to think about anything but the scrape of the steel wool against the stove. It was much easier to deal with.

When he was done with that, he stripped the mattress of its sheets, then put them in a wicker tub for laundry. He was too tired to go take it then, so he just flopped on the bare mattress, boots dangling off, and rested a little. Fuck, he needed that.

He wasn’t sure how long it was, but soon he heard a tentative knock on the door. Tommy rolled over and smiled a little, thinking about last week when Adam had visited him here. He got up, stretching, and opened the door. “Hey.”

“Hey-oh my god, what happened, your nose is swollen, you look really tired. Tommy, are you okay?” Tommy already had a hand on Adam’s arm and was trying to pull him in.

“I’m fine now. Come in and kiss me.”

Chapter Text

Private World (Better keep it confidential)/You got to keep it confidential/You got to keep it confidentiall-“Private World” by the New York Dolls

 

Adam didn’t argue with Tommy, shutting the door behind him and pulling Tommy close against him. Adam’s kiss was fast and passionate, and it kind of hurt-Tommy’s nose was still sensitive. He didn’t give a shit. Adam was rubbing his back, and it was all fantastic. Then Adam pulled back, breathing hard.

“Hey, sit on the mattress. What happened to you today, sweetie?” Tommy noticed that Adam was a lot less hesitant compared to this morning. But it might have been because Tommy was worrying him. Tommy sat down heavily-he really was tired. The last two days must have been catching up to him. Adam sat next to him and Tommy curled close, head on Adam’s shoulder.

“I went back to the Points-I did some other stuff, I’ll tell you. But. I went there just to see what was going on, and I freaked.” Tommy rubbed over his forehead. “It was like-I wanted to drink so bad. Everywhere I went, every place, it reminding me of drinking. Fuck, I’m still fucked up about it.”

Adam rubbed over his back. “I’m really sorry. That sounds awful. But, I meant…why is your nose swollen? You’ve got blood around your nostrils.” Adam frowned at him and Tommy thought Shit, thought I got all that.

“Um, when I was down there, I was trying to get to Monte’s, and I ran into Malissa. She cussed me out and punched me.” Tommy shook his head. “I just got the hell out of there. I couldn’t handle it. I bled all over my shirt.” Tommy tensed inside. He knew this wasn’t going to go well.

Adam sat there, staring at him. “Oh my god,” he said. Tommy looked at the shock on his face-it was clear this kind of shit had never happened to anyone he knew before. “Why did she do that? Is she just crazy?”

Tommy couldn’t look Adam in the eye. “At the Black Flag concert, right before I met you? She was holding my jacket when the cops were coming. I grabbed it and ran. She didn’t run fast enough, and got caught. She got taken out of regular school, so she’s mad at me.” Tommy sighed. “I mean, fuck! She saw the cops coming, she could have run! Was I supposed to pick her up and fly like fucking Superman?” Tommy could feel Adam stiffen and he tried to brace himself for what was coming next.

“You just left her.” Adam’s voice was clipped.

“Yeah, I did.” Tommy couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“You chose your jacket over your girlfriend.” Tommy felt his heart freeze a little, and looked up into eyes that had gone ice blue with anger.

“I didn’t care about her,” he blurted out, and Adam flinched. “I mean-she didn’t care about me either! I don’t even understand what we were doing! We weren’t even friends, I think she just liked my last band or something…” Tommy figured he better shut the fuck up while he still could, so he ducked his head again.

He heard Adam take a deep breath, then he said very quietly “How many girlfriends? No, how many girls have you fucked?” Adam’s voice was so bitter on that last word that Tommy winced.

“I don’t know. I’m sorry. I could probably tell you how many guys I’ve sucked off, but I have no idea. A lot.” Tommy had never felt ashamed of it before now. It had been no big deal at the time-there were a lot of girls who wanted to fuck him, and he almost never said no. “It was just-it was easy.”

“Oh,” Adam said, anger gone. Tommy looked over and saw Adam hunched over himself, and no. No, fuck no. He grabbed for Adam’s arm, and Adam looked up, confusion and hurt in his face.

“Adam. I’m not going to-I didn’t care about them, and I don’t know why I was with so many girls. I was drunk-and I wouldn’t-Adam.” Tommy breathed out hard. “I told you before I’d had a lot of sex, and I’m sorry. You’re not-I don’t think of you that way.” Tommy wanted to promise that he would never do that, that he’d always be faithful and good to Adam. But he had nothing on his side to back that up. So he didn’t.

Adam looked back down again. “You could. I mean, I’m ugly, I’m fat, and you’ve mostly been with girls, and I’m not into your kind of music. I don’t even know why you let me be with you in the first place. Why do you like me?” Tommy could feel his gut twist nearly inside out at that, and he tightened his grip on Adam’s arm.

Tommy had to take a deep breath and figure out where to start, because fuck. It wasn’t just any one thing.“Because you always treated me like I mattered, even when Anoop and Megan looked at me like I was dirt. Because you’re really sweet, and I don’t think you’re ugly, God, you’re not.” Tommy took another deep breath. “I don’t know what I was thinking with Malissa, because it’s not even close. I don’t think-I don’t feel like the person I was then.” Tommy slumped over, putting his face in his hands, not caring how much it hurt his nose. “This ruins everything, doesn’t it?” Tommy was expecting to hear Adam get up and walk out of the apartment, when he felt a soft hand on his back.

“I don’t think it does,” Adam said, and Tommy felt his stomach relax just a little. “I mean, after last night-that could have gone so many ways. And instead you just stayed with me. When we were at the Points you didn’t leave me to fight those fuckers on my own. So no, I don’t think it does. But why…why did you do that to anyone?” The plaintiveness of the last part nearly made Tommy sick.

“I don’t know. Everyone…me and Malissa, but a lot of other girls and me too, we were all so mean to each other. I don’t know if we were just fucked up or what, but it can’t all be that. I think I’ve been with one girl who was actually nice.” Tommy felt his eyes sting. “That was maybe a year ago.” Tommy felt the hand on his back stroke gently down his spine. “I don’t know why.”

“It’s okay,” Adam said, gentle and sweet like always. Fuck, there was another person wasting their affection on him. What the fuck was wrong with people? Couldn’t they see it wasn’t worth it? Tommy almost shook Adam’s hand off, because really he was just getting his hopes up.

“I don’t know why it should be.” Tommy wiped at his eyes and then said “And the real fucking question is, what the hell are you doing with me? I’ve proven over and over again what a selfish, self-destructive piece of shit I am. I don’t understand, you should have left by now. Why me?”

Tommy had his head down so he didn’t see it coming. Adam sort of grabbed his shoulders and pulled until they were both lying on the bare mattress, Tommy held tight against Adam’s chest. Tommy gasped a little, and Adam covered Tommy’s lips with his. For a long minute, Adam just kissed him until Tommy could barely breathe, his hands clutching at Adam’s shoulders. Then Adam pulled back, looking straight into Tommy’s eyes.

“You aren’t the person you think you are. You’re open minded, you treat me like I’m special, you don’t pressure me, at all. You-you’re beautiful,” and Tommy shivered as Adam ran a finger down Tommy’s cheek. “And you understand me. I don’t know why, but I could trust you right away.” Then Adam’s stare got harder. “And don’t tell me I should leave you, unless you really want me to go.” Tommy shook his head, and Adam said “Okay then.”

“I haven’t even told you-there’s still a lot you don’t know about me.” Tommy let Adam stroke his hair, and he put his face in the crook of Adam’s neck, breathing him in. Adam kissed the top of his head, making Tommy smile.

“You will though. I mean, you’re trying so hard. I’m not going to push. We said we wouldn’t.” Tommy didn’t say anything for a minute, just let Adam hold him. Adam smelled good-he’d obviously had a shower after dance class. Tommy rubbed his nose against Adam’s neck and got a giggle out of him. “You’re so sweet. That was a surprise.” Tommy laughed.

“With you, I am. Uh, Adam.” Tommy pulled back a little. “I need to tell you what I did today before I went to the Points.” Adam looked at him for a minute, a little concerned, then nodded. “I went to the Harvey Milk center on Morgan.” If Tommy hadn’t just been kissed by that mouth, he might have laughed when it fell open-Adam obviously couldn’t believe it. “I signed up for a counselor.” Adam blinked once, then he smiled at Tommy, so warm and open that Tommy had to smile too.

“Oh sweetie, I’m so proud of you. Don’t say you’re a piece of shit again-if you were, you wouldn’t have done this.” Adam kissed him again, lightly on the corner of his mouth. “So, so proud of you, Tommy. You’re going to be okay.” Adam sighed. “God, you’re so brave.”

Bullshit, is what Tommy felt like saying, but instead he cleared his throat. “And while I was there, I got some information. Safe sex tips and um, instructional stuff. They gave me a book, and a bag of condoms and lube.” Adam’s smile fell from his face and he just stared at him, expression gone sharp and a little hungry. “Um, maybe this is the wrong time to bring it up, but...”

“No, no. Not the wrong time at all. Um, why don’t you get the instructional and safe sex stuff out of your backpack? Is that where you got it? Yeah, bring it over here. I want to see it.” Tommy went to get his backpack and in that time Adam had taken off his shoes and slid back on the mattress. He was wearing his sweatpants and t-shirt with a button down over it from earlier, and Tommy could already see he was half-hard. Tommy put the books and bag of…stuff on the bed, and started taking his boots off. Adam watched him, gaze intense, and Tommy blushed hard. Adam laughed. “Get comfortable. Are there any more sheets? This is okay, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s okay. I don’t have any more sheets, but I can get us a blanket.” Adam nodded and Tommy went to get it, opening up an old chest in the other side of the room. Allen had gotten it at an estate sale-the chest and everything in it. That included an old quilt, beautiful but a little threadbare in places. Tommy threw it at Adam, who put it on the mattress. “So you’re really not mad anymore?”

“I’m not mad, baby. You explained it, you were drunk.” Tommy didn’t think that was the whole story, but he didn’t argue as he got on the bed with Adam. Adam spread his legs and pulled Tommy into the space between them, cradling Tommy against his chest. “Hmmm, this is nice,” Adam said, rubbing over Tommy’s stomach. Tommy got fucking goosebumps, just from that. “Get the instructional book first. Is it safe sex too?”

“Dunno,” Tommy said, already a little breathless. “I haven’t looked at it yet.” He took out the book, which was spiral bound and looked kind of skimpy. Well, they probably didn’t need to know anything complicated. Adam tightened his hold on Tommy as he started skimming through the book. “What do you want to look at first?”

Adam paused, then said “I don’t really care. Maybe blowjob tips, because I’m just learning. Anything, even if I’m not ready to try it yet.” Tommy nodded at that, and opened up the page to blowjobs. Oh fuck yeah, it was illustrated. Tommy licked his lips as Adam moaned, rubbing over his chest. “I like that,” he said, pointing to a drawing of guy deepthroating.

“That’s kind of advanced,” Tommy said, breathing heavily. “I’ve never done it.” He could feel Adam’s cock, rock hard in his sweatpants, right against his ass. Adam kissed Tommy’s neck and Tommy moaned, trying to bite the sound back. Adam grinned against his neck, and Tommy tried to pull back. “Oh fuck you,” he said, trying to sound like he had a chance in hell of controlling the situation. It was supposed to come out bratty, but instead, he sounded breathless and needy. Fuck.

Adam didn’t say anything, he just gripped Tommy harder, rubbing over his stomach and down to Tommy’s jeans, fumbling with the button. Tommy almost had to laugh-Adam liked to take charge, but he still didn’t know how to undress someone one-handed. Tommy put his hand over Adam’s and helped him, undoing the button as Adam pulled the zipper down. Tommy was hard, he had been ever since Adam had pulled him close. He could feel the little kisses and nips on his neck and collarbone, heard Adam breathing harsh in his ear as he palmed over Tommy’s cock.

Tommy wasn’t tired anymore-not like before, but he was pliant, he didn’t resist when Adam moved him over onto his back and started pulling off his jeans. “I want to try something?” Adam said, still hesitant sounding even as he pulled off Tommy’s shirt too. Tommy sat up slightly and put his arms over his head. Adam looked at him, then moved until he was on top, holding Tommy’s hands over his head again. Tommy blushed-fuck, only Adam could make him do that it seemed-and tried hiding his face in Adam’s neck.

“It’s okay,” Adam said, kissing his neck, biting just enough to make Tommy jerk his hips. Adam kissed over the spot again, then pulled off suddenly. Tommy just about fucking panicked when Adam started going through the little bag he’d gotten at the center. Oh shit, was Adam going to try to fuck him? He wasn’t ready for that, not yet. He had to really try not to breath out audibly when Adam just came back with a few packets of lube. Unless…

“What are you-are you going to finger me? What do you want to do?” Adam was looking at him, his eyes dark gray again. Tommy spread out his legs, letting Adam look. He knew Adam loved it, loved looking at and touching him. After a minute, Adam shook his head. Tommy waited, wondering what the hell Adam wanted to do. He just watched, not moving, as Adam took off his sweatpants and crawled closer to him.

“Turn on your side. I want to rub against you.” Tommy did sigh out loud at that-that was fine, that he could probably fucking handle. He easily turned over, his ass facing Adam. Adam ran a hand down it, still gentle, and Tommy closed his eyes. His cock ached it was so fucking hard, but he didn’t try to touch it. Adam brushed his hand over Tommy’s ass again, and slid his finger between the cheeks. Tommy bit his lip to keep from whimpering.

“Don’t look,” Adam said, voice a little unsure. Tommy nodded and didn’t turn his head. Adam waited for a couple of seconds, and then Tommy heard the rustle of Adam’s two shirts being removed just before he felt Adam’s naked body pressed against him. “Is this-is this okay?”

“Yes,” Tommy said, maybe a little too forcefully. “Finally, I wanted to feel you against me. It feels good.” It did, Adam’s body was soft skin and strong legs and arms, with a soft middle-yes, Tommy knew Adam hated it, but he didn’t. Adam stroked over Tommy’s hip for a minute, then the hand disappeared and Tommy heard the lube packed being torn open.

“Remember, don’t look,” Adam whispered, and Tommy stilled as Adam’s huge fucking cock, wet with lube, slid against his ass. “I want this, but…” Tommy nodded. He understood, because it was scaring him too. Adam’s dick seemed gigantic against his stupid flat butt, and it felt so good and so weird. Adam thrust against him, and he moaned. “Fuck, Tommy.” Then Tommy heard Adam laugh. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Tommy said, relaxing a little as Adam moved his dick until he was pressed between Tommy’s ass cheeks. Adam seemed to be moving around, trying to find a good angle. Tommy moaned when he felt Adam’s arm come around his chest, holding him tight against Adam’s body. The other hand landed on his hip, and Adam started pushing against him, slowly. Tommy didn’t move, just breathed out and tried to get used to the alien feeling of someone rubbing on his ass. He had girls grab at it before, but this was way fucking beyond-Tommy grabbed at Adam’s arm. “Oh.”

“Good?” Adam asked, voice still sweet and gentle even as he rubbed against Tommy faster. Tommy gasped something in response as he felt Adam’s body grip him. The arm around his chest was pretty tight, and had one of Tommy’s arms tangled with it and Adam’s chin was digging into the top of his head. He realized with a start that he was caught. He couldn’t get away.

Except he could, because it was Adam and all he had to do was tell him to stop and that would be it. Tommy relaxed as soon as he remembered that, and pushed his ass against Adam as he slid up. “Oh my God”, Adam muttered, and moved faster. Adam’s dick slipped out and he put it back and kept going. Tommy kept moving with Adam, even as the lube wore off and it got a little dry.

After Adam slipped out the third time, he stopped. “How do we-“Tommy didn’t even think about it, he just lifted his leg up over Adam’s hip the same way girls had for him dozens of times. “Oh. Thank you.” Then Adam pushed hard against him, and ow, chafing. Tommy knew he could take a lot of pain, but he whimpered before he could stop himself. Adam stopped. “Baby, what’s wrong?”

“More lube,” Tommy panted out. He was about half-hard now (this was fun but fucking weird), but happy that he was right, that Adam would stop if he asked him too. Adam let go of him and Tommy kept his end of the deal, not looking while Adam opened another lube packet. “Maybe you could use two this time?” he said, still trying to get his breath. He was sweating already,dripping into his eyes, and hardly anything had started yet.

“Yeah, yeah. Okay, now…” When Adam pulled him close again and they went back to their old position, it was much slicker and easier. Tommy didn’t even worry about it anymore, he just let Adam push against him, moving with him, Tommy’s cock getting harder as he kept going. He could feel Adam sweating, gripping him tighter, and it felt amazing. He didn’t feel caught anymore, he felt cared for and protected and fuck if he could stop the stupid grin breaking out over his face.

Adam sped up just a little more, and Tommy moaned as he felt Adam start to tense, to get closer. “Yeah, come on. Come on Adam, I’m here, you can-“ and Tommy choked on the last part as he felt Adam push up hard and pulse against the small of his back. “Oh.”

Adam made a noise that sounded something like a moan and something like “mine”, and the arm around him relaxed a little. Tommy had to breathe in hard-he didn’t even realize how tight Adam was holding him. He felt Adam slide down and kiss his shoulder, and really, it was time to take care of this before he fuckin’ died. “Adam, please.”
“Oh!” Adam grabbed Tommy’s cock and started jerking him off fast, Tommy pushing up into it, one leg still propped up. “Thought you were doing this,” Adam panted in his ear, and yeah he could have been, but he didn’t. And now he had Adam’s hand on him, rubbing and twisting over the head, and Adam bit at his neck it was all over. He pushed up into Adam’s hand and came. “So good for me,” Adam said, and Tommy relaxed in Adam’s arms.

He didn’t remember much after that, he was in a feel good haze of post orgasm and exhaustion. He felt Adam wipe him clean and kiss his sweaty forehead, then wrap him in the blanket. He heard Adam putting his clothes back on and the sound of footsteps, and his last thought before sleep was hope Adam isn’t leaving me.

When he woke up, it was dark outside and the lights were on. Tommy sat up slow, rubbing his eyes. “Hey.” Adam was sitting by the table, watching Tommy. “I did the laundry for you.” Adam looked nervous, which lessened when Tommy smiled.

“Thanks. Um, what time is it?” Tommy flipped the blanket off and immediately wished he hadn’t-it was kind of cold. He slowly put his jeans and t-shirt back on, trying not to let on that his ass hurt a little from the dry humping. He looked over and saw Adam staring.

“Oh. Um, it’s about six. Do you need to go to Lisa’s now?” Tommy shook his head and Adam blushed. “Well, I don’t have to be home yet, I told my mom I was coming to see you so if you want me to we can hang out…” he was talking faster and not looking up until Tommy crossed the room in two strides and kissed him on the mouth.

“I loved it,” he said, and Adam looked surprised, then gave Tommy that smile that made him fucking glow and Tommy had to kiss him again. “It was amazing. Nobody’s ever done that before.” He kissed the side of Adam’s mouth. “I mean, just taken control like that.”

“Yeah?” Adam looked really fuckin’ happy. “I just-I should have said something, but that’s the kind of thing I always wanted to do. Before I met you, and I would be up at night, I wanted…” Adam trailed off, blushing. “And it’s so weird, I figured if I ever did have sex, you know, because of the way I look?” Tommy nodded, he knew what Adam was trying to say.

“Yeah, everybody goes by appearances. I know how that is.” Tommy pulled at his hair, then got distracted as his stomach growled. “Oh shit, I haven’t eaten at all today.” Tommy went to look in the mini-fridge, for something to eat.

“Me either,” Adam said, and Tommy turned around. Adam was smiling, obviously trying for a joke, but fuck. Ow. Tommy walked over and kissed his cheek. Adam shrugged, tried to turn away, but Tommy just kissed him again. When he pulled away, they just looked at each other and Tommy could feel the awkwardness. So Tommy just said “Hey, can you put the tea on? I just remembered that Paul gave me some stir fry. I’m gonna see if it’s all over my backpack yet.” Adam crooked up one side of his face in a smile, then got up and went to the stove.

Tommy got his little container full of tofu stir-fry, and found the frying pan to heat it up in. He looked around for some other stuff, starving, and found some of the hot dogs in the mini fridge. He cut two of them up and added them to the tofu. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Adam had put the tea on and was now looking at the instructional book again. Tommy wondered if he was about to wind up on his side on the mattress again, but Adam just kept reading. After a minute he said “You should get those safe sex things too. I think this book might be outdated.”

“Yeah, let me get that.” Tommy opened about four leftover soy sauce packets from the Chinese place and poured those into the stir fry, then turned off the heat. He came back with his backpack and poked around until he found one. “Here you go.” He went to get his stir-fry on a plate, with some of the cheap chopsticks from the Chinese place again, and then nearly had a goddamn heart attack. Adam was looking at the paper with the list of meetings. “Um. Adam?”

Adam looked at him, then tossed the paper to the side. His jaw was tense and he was glaring through Tommy again. “I thought you didn’t believe in AA. And why did you circle the meeting for fat people?” Tommy sat down next to Adam, who pulled back a little. “I thought we were just going to talk about it, not that you were going to fucking make decisions for me.” Tommy swallowed and tried to figure out what to do now-he didn’t want to hurt Adam.

“I wasn’t.” Adam shook his head, but Tommy continued. “I wasn’t, I only wanted to talk to you about it.” Tommy sighed. “Look, I don’t want to go to AA, it’s creepy and religious-and I’m scared. But Cassidy, the counselor, wants me to give it a chance. I saw the OA meeting on the list when I got the schedules, and I just circled it. I thought, maybe, we could go to those at the same time, meet up after. If you wanted to.”

Adam picked up the schedule again, looking at it, tracing over the date and times for the Overeaters Anonymous meetings. Then he handed it back to Tommy. “I’m not ready. I’m just-I’m not ready. I get that you weren’t trying to control me”-Tommy started to say something there, because what the fuck-“which is what I thought at first. But you don’t do that.” Adam rubbed his forehead. “I don’t think I can even go to that center now. I’m too scared.” Adam hung his head and Tommy reached across to put a hand over his. “It’s too public, you know?”

“I know, it’s okay.” Tommy got up and took the boiling water off, fixing both of them cups of tea. He left the honey bear on the table. “I didn’t mean for you to find that, I was going to bring it up later. And I’m sorry.” Adam shrugged.

“No, it’s okay. I mean, it’s scary.” Adam looked at him and Tommy could see it in his eyes. “It’s scary for me.” Tommy sat up straight, a little freaked out, but Adam kept going. “Because I don’t know what I’m doing , and I worry about the same thing with you, and drinking. And at first, I didn’t understand how bad yours was. But you’ve always-you’ve been really good about it. I mean, about me.”

Tommy slid over in his seat and hugged Adam. “I try. You don’t have to do anything. I just wanted you to know you could.” Adam hugged him back for a long minute, then let Tommy go. Tommy pulled back and started eating his hot dog/tofu stir fry while Adam drank his tea.

After a few minutes of quiet, Adam asked Tommy about the counselor he saw, and Tommy grinned. “Cassidy seems really cool, you know? He’s not much older than us, and he likes good music, he’s just cool. And um, he’s gorgeous." Adam narrowed his eyes at that. “No, naw, I’m not into him. He’s just nice to look at-you’d like him too.” Adam smiled a little and sipped his tea.

“I’m just glad you’re going. You’re like-this past week you’ve been amazing.” Adam said, voice soft. “You really have.” Adam looked down for a second as Tommy scooped up another disc of hot dog with his chopsticks. “Can you do something for me? I’m-can you fix me something to eat? Just like, a normal meal.”

Tommy dropped the fucking chopsticks, hearing one of them clatter to the ground. Regan the chinchilla ran to the back of her cage and glared at him. “I-okay. I don’t have much here. But what would you like?”

Adam shrugged, not looking at him.“Anything, really. If all you have are the hot dogs, I’ll eat them.” Adam was silent a minute, then looked over at Tommy. “It’s just-I never feel safer anywhere than I do here, you know? It’s not even your place, not really, but it’s like it’s just for us. So, maybe here it’ll be okay.”

Tommy stood up, moving slowly like he was afraid he’d spook Adam or something, and leaned in for a soft kiss, Adam opening to it. Then he went to the pantry over the stove and poked around to see what they had to eat. If Adam was going to eat in front of him, he wanted it to be something decent at least. Too bad he mostly had packaged crap. Where was Paul and his organic shit when he needed it? He should have shared.

Tommy wound up fixing Adam a can of tomato soup with some minute rice added to it, and two plain hot dogs. “Do you want ketchup?” he said, and Adam just nodded. He hadn’t been watching Tommy cook, he had just found the list of monologues that Paula had given Tommy yesterday. (And later, he was really going to have a talk with Adam about going through his backpack.)

“Hey, here you are.” Tommy put the bowl of soup in front of him first, then the plate with two hot dogs. Tommy put a hand on Adam’s shoulder, then got himself a fork to finish his food. When he sat down, Adam was staring at his food. “Hey, I can sit somewhere else, if you don’t want me to see.”

“No,” Adam whispered. “No, I want you here. It’s just-hard.” Adam picked up his spoon first and stirred the soup, looking at it. “You put rice it in-my great aunt used to do that.” Tommy nodded his head once, looking down. Adam took a small spoonful of the soup in a hand that was shaking a little, and blew on it before swallowing. Then he got a second one.

Tommy wound up looking at the list of monologues so he wouldn’t freak Adam out by staring. He did look up to check on him every minute or so, and Adam-well, he seemed like he was doing okay. He was eating slowly, and it seemed like he was trying hard to, to keep himself from gulping everything. Tommy got a pen and checked off a few monologues that looked interesting. After a few minutes, Adam put a hand on his. “Okay,” Adam said, and Tommy looked up. Both hot dogs and most of the soup were gone.

“That’s good.” Tommy got up and put his arms around Adam. “How are you?”

“Pretty fucked up, actually,” Adam said, and Tommy frowned. “I’m used to being hungry and not doing anything about it, and then eating at night. And now I ate just a little, and I’m starving. Fuck.” Adam leaned in, resting his head on Tommy’s chest. “I feel like I’m gonna leave here and get like four bacon cheeseburgers.” Tommy ran a hand through Adam’s red hair, stroking it. “I just don’t know what to do.”

Tommy had no idea what the fuck to do either, so he just held on. After a minute, Adam pulled back. “Hey. I don’t know-I’m not ready to go, but could you go to one of those meetings and see what it’s like? And tell me? Just-go see if you think it’ll be useful or not.” Tommy nodded, brushing a thumb over Adam’s cheek. “Thank you.”

“Don’t have to thank me.” Tommy pulled back a little. “Can you take me to Lisa’s? I promised Paul I’d be back there. I just need to do the dishes.” Adam nodded and went and remade the bed while Tommy cleaned up. When he was done Tommy repacked his stuff, put his jacket on, and met Adam at the door. “Okay, guess I’m ready-“Tommy stopped because Adam was just staring at him. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s stupid. But sometimes I hate leaving here. It’s so small, but it’s like its own world.” Tommy didn’t argue with Adam on that. He’d loved Allen’s before he even met Adam, because it was peaceful. Now it was a world he could share with someone else. Tommy could almost consider it a home.

Tommy kissed Adam softly, hands on his shoulders. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Tommy picked the radio station when Adam drove him back to Paul’s this time, and the tinny sounds of a Big Star wannabe band filled the car. He felt his nose-it still felt okay, hurting but not broken. Neither of them said anything, but only because there seemed to be no reason to. Adam reached for Tommy’s hand at every stop light and sign, and Tommy wrapped his fingers around Adam’s until they had to let go.

When they pulled up to the house, Adam said “So will you be around tomorrow? I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight, about-you know. I’m pretty hungry. And tomorrow my stupid brother and my dad come back. So, I don’t know if I’ll see you?” Tommy brushed a thumb over Adam’s cheek-he looked so open and vulnerable right then. He took a deep breath and decided to tell him a little bit more about his life.

“I’m going to see my Oma.” Adam’s expression let Tommy know he had no fucking idea what that meant, so he kept going.. “It’s German for grandma. Except she’s not really my grandma, not by blood. But she might as well be.” Tommy took a deep breath. “Sorry, my family’s complicated. Anyway, she wants me to go to church, but I can’t handle that. I’ll be at her house afterward for dinner. We…haven’t talked in a while.”

“You haven’t seen your grandma?” Adam’s eyes widened. “That’s horrible. Why-wait, I’m sorry. I know, I won’t ask. But I’m so sorry.” Tommy winced a little at the ‘I’m sorry’, but he wasn’t really upset by it. Adam never patronized him; that was one reason he liked Adam so much.

“It’s my fault, actually.” Tommy’s voice was soft. “I just hadn’t been calling her. But, I need to stop being an asshole. And I really missed her.” Tommy moved over and put his head on Adam’s shoulder. “This whole thing is so intense.”

“I know,” Adam said, hugging him with one arm. “You’re doing great, by the way.” Tommy nuzzled his neck, making Adam sigh. “Do you really have to go?” Tommy pulled back, reluctantly. He was worried about Adam, what would happen when one am rolled around and Adam got hungry. But he didn’t mention it again. They had talked about it a lot already.

“Yeah. I’m still really tired and I promised Paul I’d come home. Oh, and we brought my stuff over to my room here. I’ve got my guitars now. Hey, I’ll call you when I get back-maybe you can come over and hang out here. Me and Paul jam out on guitars sometimes. If you can get away, come and sing with us.” Tommy felt himself grow light and happy as Adam smiled again. It was so beautiful and it looked like he didn’t have a problem in the world. Tommy wished it were true.

“Okay, I’ll see if I can. Um, call me tomorrow.” Adam leaned in and kissed Tommy softly, just a brush across the lips. Tommy wanted to follow it, deepen the kiss, but he held back. “And um, if I need to call you, can I leave a message with Lisa, or-“ Tommy started rummaging around for a pen. Adam gave him one, and Tommy wrote the number on one of the safe sex booklets and gave it to Adam.

“Goodnight Adam. Call me if you need to.” Tommy smiled at him and left. Lisa met him at the front door, cigarette in hand and smirking. “Oh, fuck off,” he said, and she laughed, mouth wide and happy and he loved it when his best girl was happy. Not that he’d show that right now. Instead he scowled. “What?”

“Tommy, you’ve got a hickey on your neck. Wait until dad sees this, oh my God…” Lisa laughed some more and Tommy grimaced, one hand stroking over his neck. Yep, bruises.

“Fuck you. Where have you been all day, with LP? How’s that going? Or is anything going?” Lisa didn’t give a lot of information about who she was seeing, and for a long time Tommy assumed she liked women better. Lisa shrugged, taking another drag off her cigarette.

“I don’t really know what’s going on, actually.” She blew out the smoke, looking ahead of her, not at Tommy. “It’s nothing grand and epic, but it’s really nice. He’s a good guy, and he gets a lot of stuff. I like hanging out with musicians-they understand.” Tommy nodded because hell yeah. It was true, performers just were easier to be around in general.

“Well, I’m glad you had a good time. I’ll tell you about my day for you later, I’m exhausted baby.” Lisa put out an arm for a hug and Tommy leaned up against her, face in her neck. She smelled like knockoff Opium perfume and cigarettes, and it would have been sexy if it hadn’t been Lisa. He grinned against the soft skin, remembering how they had met. “Wasn’t it lucky that you shot me down?” It had been over a year ago, he had just gotten offstage at this awful club where the owner never managed to pay the bands. (That guy closed the club after someone put a concrete block through his truck windshield.) Tommy had been drunk as fuck, saw Lisa and thought he was being rather seductive when he asked her to give him a blowjob behind the club.

Lisa laughed, remembering it too. “Oh yeah, one of the best things I’ve ever done was tell you to go fuck yourself with your own dick. You were a fucking mess that night, Tommy Joe.” After she said that, he'd sat down on the floor next to her and told her he liked her guts and Slits t-shirt, they'd started talking about bands, and an hour later they'd become friends.

After a minute, Lisa pushed him off her and told him to get his stinky ass to his room. Tommy walked in, and heard Margret tapping away on her computer in the study. He poked his head in the doorway to check up on her-she had a horrible tendency to overwork, he’d heard. “Hey, I’m back. Do you need any tea?” Margret took her eyes off the screen long enough to smile halfway at him and shake her head. Tommy headed back down the hall and heard noise coming from the guest room. “Hey, Paul, you in here?” Tommy opened the door and then he had to fucking stand there for a second.

Paul had unpacked all his stuff and was putting his clothes in the closet. His records were put neatly on a shelf, and his guitars lined against the wall. Paul’s long hair was loose and falling in his face as he picked up some of Tommy’s t-shirts. Tommy went out into the hallway to get it together. Shit, this was too much on top of everything else today-Paul was fixing the goddamn room for him. He took a deep breath and went inside. “Um, Paul. Hey. I’ve got it from here.” Tommy walked over next to Paul and without thinking about it, put a hand on Paul’s back. “Just sit down?”

Paul looked over at Tommy and nodded. “Good to see you, I was afraid you’d fallen asleep.” Tommy looked around at the room, Paul had done a good job with it. He was going to have to remember to bring some of his books. “I’m sorry I didn’t ask you where you wanted everything, I just got started.” Paul sat down, pushing his hair back. He looked a bit out of breath and sweaty, and Tommy suddenly felt horrible about leaving all his stuff for Paul to haul in.

Tommy looked around-Paul had done a good job. “Thank you. Thank you so much-it looks really good-“ his voice decided to break on that word. “I’m sorry, it’s just been, I-I need to sleep. I’ll finish everything tomorrow.” Tommy took the t-shirts from where Paul had left them on the chair and put them in a drawer, then sat down on the bed. When he looked back up, Paul was staring at him. Tommy tried to brace himself, he couldn’t handle any more soul searching today. The day had been packed full of it.

Instead, Paul just came over, and ran a hand through Tommy’s hair, making Tommy relax a little. “You’ve had a long day, TJ. You get some rest. Do you want to play guitars tomorrow? I have some time at night.”

Tommy smiled, glad for the touch without having to have a talk. “Yeah. And I’m going to go see my Oma tomorrow.” Paul looked blank, so Tommy said “Birgitte”. You know, she’s my Oma. I called her, and I told her I’d be over after church. She still wants me to go with her, but-“ Tommy shook his head. When he looked at Paul again, he was smiling softly.

“Good. Let me know if you need a ride, or anything really.” Tommy shrugged, and Paul said “I mean it. You tell me if you need anything.” Tommy nodded and started undoing his boots. “You sleep well. I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight.”

“Night Paul, thanks again.” Tommy started pulling off his boots as Paul closed the door. He looked around and realized it really did look like his room. It was now somewhere that he was staying, and not a guest. Tommy got undressed and turned the light off, pushing that out of his mind. It worked, he was asleep the second his head hit the pillow.

 

The next day, he got up and showered, washing his hair (he still needed to fix the fucking roots). Breakfast was homemade bread and omelets with Lisa and Paul. (Margret was having coffee and editing her paper). After that, he basically did homework in the kitchen, killing time until he could go see Birgitte. An hour before he had to be there, he dressed carefully, combing his hair down and wearing a scarf to cover the hickeys. Lisa drove him down, and he felt like a fucking stranger when he saw her house. How long did he stay away? He knocked on the door, fully expecting to be told to fuck off by one of his Oma’s kids.

Nobody told him to fuck off. Instead, he was let in by Birgitte’s oldest son Kurt, who kind of shook his head when he smiled but otherwise said nothing. It was a full house that day, everyone still in church clothes, but nobody minded that Tommy was late to the party. He went into the kitchen, looking for Birgitte.

She was in front of the stove, all her concentration on whatever it was she was stirring, when Tommy snuck up behind her and enveloped her in a hug. His Oma yelped and turned around, hugging him back. She was tiny, only about five feet tall, and her face was kind, lined with smile wrinkles. The only thing ruining the grandmother image was her hair, which she still dyed bright red. Apparently it had been some shade of red in the past, so she kept up the illusion it still was. He squeezed her harder. “Hi, I’ve missed you, sorry-ow!” He grimaced and then laughed as his Oma smacked him on the back of the head, telling him in German how stupid he was for being away so long. All of the other kids and grandkids in the kitchen laughed, and then Tommy started helping set the table.

Lunch was long, full of heavy-ass German food that Tommy couldn’t finish. Birgitte just pushed more at him. “Eat, you lost too much weight being sick, leibling.” Tommy felt like time had slowed down, and all the bullshit and pain of the last few weeks was finally giving him a fucking break for a little while. He bantered with Birgitte’s family and felt relaxed in their presence, like he hadn’t ever been gone.

Finally, after dessert the coffee and liqueurs came out. That last item made Tommy a little nervous and he just took his coffee cup to the sitting room. His Oma followed him. “Why are you running away, leibling?” Tommy shrugged, and she put an arm around him. “You’ve had a hard month, ja?”

“I stopped drinking a couple of weeks ago. Just the smell of the wine makes my heard hurt.” She frowned at that, but didn’t yell at him for being an idiot for drinking so much. He slowly told her what had happened, all the fights and the loneliness, how he got sick and how he was trying to make new friends. He told her about Paul and Lisa and how they had taken him in. By the end of it he was trying really fucking hard not to cry as Birgitte clasped his hand.

“Good boy,” she said, patting his knee. “You should find a nice girl, not these horrible women who punch your nose. I have to go clean up, my family leaves a mess.” She got up and went into the kitchen.

Tommy sat there for a few minutes. He hadn’t told her about Adam, and now he guessed he was right. His body felt heavy, weighed down by disappointment and sadness. He couldn’t tell her. He was with someone good and he couldn’t say anything, at least not now.

He got up and went to help her in the kitchen.

When Paul came to pick him up, Tommy had about ten pounds of leftovers on him and Birgitte came outside to talk to him. Tommy had to admit it was pretty fucking funny seeing Paul getting interrogated by this tiny, fierce grandmother, but finally she seemed satisfied that Tommy was staying with good people and let them go. Tommy leaned back in his seat and sighed. “I guess that went okay.”

Paul looked over at him, but just said “She loves you, right?” Tommy nodded, not wanting to get into it, and Paul didn’t push. When the got to the Harrington house, Tommy suddenly remembered about what he’d told Adam.

“Hey, if Adam comes over when we’re jamming tonight, can he sing? I don’t think he plays anything, but he can sing. If that’s all right I mean.” Paul pulled into the driveway and nodded.

“If he can come, then fine. I’d like it if you two spent more time here, he’s welcome.” Paul got some of the food out of the car, and Tommy grabbed the rest as they headed back in. “I have to go and work on this custom guitar for a client for a few hours, you do whatever you want to.” Paul paused, and Tommy could tell that Paul wanted him to stay at the house for a few hours, and not go to Allen’s or somewhere else. Paul still felt like he couldn’t ask Tommy to stay, and Tommy understood that. He appreciated it, actually.

“I think I’ll stick around a while,” he said, smiling gently. Paul reached to put a hand on his shoulder and stopped himself. Tommy frowned, and then Paul went through with it, squeezing Tommy’s shoulder just a little. “Anyway, I have to finish my homework. And maybe me and Lisa can watch a movie in her room. This week has been crazy.” Paul didn’t comment as he let Tommy head back to his-the guest room. Or maybe it was his room. Tommy didn’t even fucking know anymore.

Tommy didn’t do much for the next few hours. He finished some more homework (and Jesus Christ, but DioGuardi had the weirdest creative writing assignments he had ever seen), and then picked up one of his guitars. He didn’t do much, just ran through a few songs, but it made him feel light and excited all over. It had been too long.

He played another song for the hell of it, and it made him feel brave. Brave enough to do something he’d been putting off. He picked up the phone and made a call he hadn’t done in a while. The phone rang twice, then he heard it pick up. “Yeah?”

“Brent? It’s Tommy, hi.” There was a silence on the other line. “I haven’t been over for a while, I know. But what’s going on?” There was a dry chuckle and then Tommy almost kicked himself for being stupid.

“Hi Tommy Joe. What’s been going on? Eh, just the usual. Why don’t you come over anymore? It’s been weeks, dude. And you were hurt the last time I saw you!” Hearing Brent’s hushed, breathless voice made Tommy miss him, but it also made him crave. If he went to Brent’s, he could have almost anything…he shoved that voice down.

“I’m sorry Brent. I’ve been really sick. And…I’ve gotten clean.” He figured he should tell him right now. “So it might be hard for me to come see you, dude. I miss you though.” Tommy chewed his lip during the long silence that followed.

“Oh,” Brent said, and it was another long minute before Brent said “Well, I hope that helps. I mean, I’ll miss you and the money, but I like you. If it’s making you unhappy, then fuck it.” Brent sounded a little tired and a lot lonely, and Tommy ran a hand through his hair, spiking it back up.

“Would you…I’m staying with Lisa now, with her parents. Do you think you could come here? I want us to be friends, I just can’t-you know.” I can’t let you be my dealer anymore, Tommy thought. He waited through another long pause.

“Well,” Brent said. “You know I haven’t been out in a long time, but…it’s cool?” Tommy told him that yes, it was cool, it was fine. “Okay, maybe if someone brought me. And I won’t bring any stuff. That’ll be fine, I don’t have much to do.” Tommy had to breathe deep at that-Brent hadn’t left the basement at his mom’s house for about a month. Tommy tried to picture Brent on the phone, wondering if he’d cut his hair himself again. Then he took another deep breath.

“There’s something else I have to tell you, Brent. I’m. I’ve. Uh, I have a boyfriend?” He couldn’t help his fucking goddamn voice rising on the last part, but at least he got it out. He could hear Bauhaus in the background as he waited for Brent to say something.

“Now wait,” Brent said, voice even softer. “Do you mean-you don’t mean like all those girls, do you? You mean an actual boyfriend?” Tommy nodded before he remembered he was on the fucking phone, and said yes, he had a real boyfriend, thanks. “Wow. I wondered when you would figure it out.” Brent let out a giggle, and Tommy hadn’t heard that sound in a long time. “I’ve just got one question: what the hell was wrong with me, dude? I was right there.” Brent’s voice was lighter, but Tommy knew it was a good question.

“I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe I’m just a fucking idiot.” Tommy bit at his thumbnail. “I’m a fuckup anyway. We would have fought or something, and then we wouldn’t have been friends anymore.” Yeah, that sounded like a good justification to him. Fuck, he didn’t know why, really. Brent was a nice-looking guy, and sweet.

“Is that gonna happen with your new boy? I hope not.” Brent sighed. “I’m a little jealous of him, and I don’t even know the bitch. But, I’m glad. You needed to stop giving those fucking friends of yours blowjobs-they all talked about you later. Do you remember doing it? Because they all said you didn’t even ask for anything back.”

Tommy had to fuckin’ let that sink in. “Wow, holy fuck, I guess I didn’t. Fuck those fuckers anyway, they didn’t even call when I was sick.” Tommy laughed, but there was something ugly behind it. So his idiot ex-friends thought he was a slut, so what. So fucking what. They didn’t matter anymore. “Fuck Brent, my life is so fucked right now. I can’t even stand to go to The Points-it makes me crave. How the fuck am I gonna play in bands like this?”

“Well, at least you can still leave the room,” Brent sighed. “I’m gonna miss you, I’ll try to come by. And you need to write Mutt a letter, he misses you too. I won’t tell him all of this if you don’t want me to. And stop whining and tell me about your boyfriend!” Tommy and Brent both laughed, and Tommy chatted about Adam for the next fifteen minutes, until Brent said he was tired and they hung up.

Afterward, he did write Mutt a letter in juvie, trying to cheer him up. He honestly hadn’t meant to, but when he read it back he realized it was 80% bullshit-most of it had nothing to do with what was really going on. He barely mentioned being sick, said nothing about Lisa's, or about stopping drinking. But he still managed to mention Adam. Funny how that kept happening.

Well, good. He’ll tell Mutt the rest when he got out. He hoped it was soon, Brent needed his older brother. He had to get the fuck out of that basement, he had to stop hiding. Tommy sighed. Thinking about Brent when he was sober made him sad.

Tommy laid back on his bed, and realized it was about seven. He hadn’t talked to Adam all day, and that seemed wrong somehow. He needed to call Adam and see if he was okay, and if he was coming over. He rolled over and grabbed the phone again. It took about three rings for someone to pick up. “Hey.” It was Adam, and the way he sounded…

“Adam? What’s wrong?” Tommy sat up on the bed, swinging his legs over the edge. “What’s going on?

 

“I-I don’t think I’ll be coming over.” Adam sounded nervous and a little scared. “I better stay in tonight. My parents are fighting.” Tommy felt a knot in his stomach from that. “I-it’s not your fault, Tommy. It’ll be okay.” When Tommy heard that, a chill spread all the way through his body.

“Oh fuck, did your mom tell your dad about us?” Tommy closed his eyes, willing himself not to fuckin’ cry. He wasn’t going to cry.

“Yes, she is, but don’t be upset. I don’t think anything will happen-Tommy, listen. My dad won’t break us up. And it wouldn’t matter if he did, I’d still see you.” Adam’s voice dropped on that last sentence, and Tommy felt a bit reassured. He heard some noise in the background, and then Adam yelled “Yeah, Tommy’s on the phone.” Tommy waited for a few minutes trying to act like that didn’t scare the shit out him, then Adam got back on the line.

“Tommy? My dad wants to see you after school tomorrow, to talk. Don’t worry about it, okay? It’ll be fine.” Adam sounded sure, so Tommy said okay, throat dry. He heard Adam’s dad tell him to hang up and Adam said “I’ve gotta go, okay? I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t worry. Bye.” Tommy croaked out a ‘bye’, and hung up the phone. He wandered out of the room , not speaking to Lisa when she called after him. He went down the stairs, to Paul’s workroom. Paul had his goggles on and was sanding a new guitar into perfect smoothness.

“Tommy, I’m not really ready yet-wait, what’s wrong? Tommy?” Paul stood up, took a step closer. “Tommy, what happened?”

Tommy stood in front of Paul, frozen in place. “Adam’s dad found out about us,” his voice sounded robotic, even to him. “He wants me to come over for a talk after school tomorrow.” Tommy had to look down then as the stiffness wore off and he heard his voice start to shake as he continued. “Will you come with me? I understand if you don’t want to, I’m not your responsibility-“

“Yes,” Paul said, and he took two long strides then, until he had his hands on Tommy’s shoulders. “I’ll be there if you need me to be.” Paul smelled like sawdust and sweat and Tommy’s face was in Paul’s work apron. He hugged Tommy gently, like he was expecting to get brushed off.

“Okay,” Tommy said, putting one shaking hand on Paul’s arm, holding him there.

Chapter Text

Tommy woke up the next morning, eyes still red, and got ready for school on autopilot. He wore his rattiest clothes, spiked his hair extra hard, and as a final touch put on eyeliner. He smeared the black makeup so it looked messy, like he’d been up all night (he almost had). Good. Let some jock fuck bother him, he would just love to get into a fight today.

Except he couldn’t do that, because he couldn’t get kicked out of another school. Fuck, why did he start caring? This was fucking everything up. He played with his hair a little more, staring at his reflection. He was an ugly, stupid looking motherfucker and Eber was going to hate him.

He pulled on his leather jacket, grabbed his backpack, and tried to leave the house to walk-“Tommy.” That was Paul, of course, stopping him with just a word. Tommy turned around, not wanting to look at him. “Eat breakfast with us. Let Lisa drive you.”

“I was just going to walk,” Tommy said, voice barely audible even to him. He came and sat down though, not putting up a fight even for the sake of his fucking own pride. Paul didn’t say anything, he just got Tommy a cup of coffee and some cinnamon sugar toast-Christ, was he eight now? It was such an obvious comfort food he almost stomped back to the guest room.

He ate it instead. It tasted good-homemade wheat bread with sunflower seeds in it, covered with real melted butter and broiled cinnamon sugar topping. Paul knew what the fuck he was doing, Tommy had to give him that. Tommy ate one piece and drank his coffee, then slumped in the chair, waiting on Lisa. Paul sat next to him, but he didn’t say anything. Tommy was glad, he just wanted things to be quiet. He couldn’t get his head to shut the fuck up, so at least the outer peace was nice.

Lisa came out about ten minutes later, grabbing a cup of coffee to go and one of her dad’s muffins. She looked over at Tommy, eyebrow raised, and he got up. He looked over his shoulder at Paul before putting his backpack on. “See you later.”

“It’ll be okay, TJ.” Tommy didn’t say anything, he just followed Lisa out. They both got their cigarettes out as Lisa started the car. Lisa didn’t say anything on the way over, just blasted all kinds of angry music. Tommy remembered when that would make him feel better, when guitars numbed him almost as good as Jack Daniels. But it just wasn’t working for him right then, so he popped the tape out. The rest of the drive was silent.

When they got to school, Tommy got his stuff and stumbled out of the car. Lisa tried to reach for him, but he moved out of the way. “Hey. Tommy Joe, wait.” He let her get out of the car. “It’s probably not as bad as you think. He wants to talk to you, so that’s not-“

“Maybe he just wants to tell me to fuck off in person.” Tommy threw the butt on the ground and stomped on it. “I don’t know. I’m all fucked up now.” Lisa reached over, slowly, and Tommy nodded. She rubbed at his shoulder, but Tommy could barely feel it through the jacket. “I gotta go baby. See you.” The bell rang then, and Tommy took off towards class. He had his head down, just thinking about the classwork he had to turn in, keeping his mind on that. One foot ahead of the other and-fuck.

Adam was right there. He looked good, he was wearing jeans and about three shirts, but he looked like Adam. Tommy didn’t know what to say at first, so they stared at each other. Then Tommy managed to get his throat working enough to say. “Are you okay? Did your dad kick you out?”

Adam stared at him for a minute, and he shook his head. “No. Oh god, was that what you were worried about? Or just seeing my dad or-“ Tommy turned and saw a big gang of jocks headed their way, and he tensed. These weren’t the guys Kris did his little preaching act with, but some real assholes. Tommy looked at Adam, who nodded. They split up, walking in the same direction but several feet from each other while the jocks ragged Tommy about the eyeliner. Tommy kept his eyes in front of him and thought Zen, be Zen, motherfucker until they got inside the school and Adam went down the other hallway.

The look Adam gave him before he moved out of sight would have been a dead fucking giveaway if anybody had noticed. Tommy felt nearly sick, Adam was so good, and he could lose him. He didn’t want to lose him. So don’t, motherfucker. You can do this. Tommy had no idea when his inner voice had gotten so confident.

First class he went to, the bitch teacher took one look at him and made him go the guidance counselor to get rid of the eyeliner. He wiped it off in Mrs. Hayden’s office with her baby oil and witch hazel as she kept at him, trying to get him to tell her what was wrong. “It’s private,” he kept saying. “It involves a friend.” After a while, she just sat back, her stiff hair pressed against her chair back.

“I just don’t know-“ she started, then paused. “You’ve changed over the past month, and I’m glad, but-“

“Don’t worry about it,” Tommy said, voice gentle. “Like a friend of mine said, change happens whether you want it to or not. So all you can do is try to control it, not stop it.” Even if I want to, sometimes, he thought. He pushed out of the chair, handing her the bottles of beauty supplies as he got up. “Thanks for the makeup remover, I gotta go to class. If I turn in my project, I’ll get my grade up in History. “ She smiled as he left, and Tommy just shook his head. Mrs. Hayden was far too easy to fool.

Drama class was third period . He went and sat down in his usual spot, Brad and Kris already in place. Adam looked over at him, then nodded at Tommy and went to sit next to Alisan. They had some kind of whispered discussion for a while, then they both moved over into empty seats near Tommy, Adam behind Kris, Alisan right behind him. Tommy wasn’t surprised when Adam slipped him a note. Meet me at lunch. Theater department, costume room in the back.

Tommy read it, then wrote Okay on the note and sent it back. Adam saw it and smiled, trying to catch Tommy’s eye. Tommy couldn’t smile back, but he nodded.

When class was over, Tommy got up and was heading for the door when Paula stopped him. “Tommy! Did you pick a monologue? I need to get it in soon!” Tommy blinked-he had totally forgotten. He fumbled around with his backpack and looked at the ones he had circled, finally deciding on one at random. “Okay Tommy. I don’t know if that’s the best fit for you, but we’ll try.” Tommy just put his stuff back in his pack and went out the door. Kris and Adam were waiting for him.

“I go this way,” Tommy said, gesturing down the hall. Adam looked a little hurt, and Tommy sighed. “I’m sorry. Come on, you can walk with me.” Kris almost asked what was wrong, but Adam shook his head. They all walked in silence until there were nearly at Tommy’s class. “See you later,” Tommy called over his shoulder, then he went to his class.

When it was time for lunch, Tommy had to really fucking search to find the costume room in the theater area. Right now the jazz band was having a class, so Tommy had to slip by before Mr. Jackson saw him. He wouldn’t turn Tommy in for skipping, but he might forget he was supposed to be teaching and want to talk guitars for ten minutes. He found the costume room backstage. He knocked once, and he heard Adam’s voice first, scratchy and rough. “Tommy?”

Tommy winced at the hesitancy. “Yeah, it’s me. Can I come in?” Adam opened the door and immediately locked it behind Tommy when he came in. He had to stand there a minute-the costume room was a big closet full of sparkly, shiny things to wear onstage, makeup, all kinds of shit. “Wow. This is a nice place to hide.” He looked up at the prop stars hanging from the ceiling.

“Thanks.” Adam sat down on a step stool in the middle of the room, knees pulled up to his chest. “Hey. Talk to me, okay? You’re gonna see my dad, right? I told you he’s not mad at me.” Adam’s voice started to shake and Tommy dropped down in front of him, sitting in front of Adam.

“Adam. You know I want to, but I just don’t-I’m not good with dads. He’s gonna hate me, I already know that.” Tommy rubbed over Adam’s calf through the jeans and Adam twitched. Tommy left his hand where it was, but stopped moving it. “Adam. Hey, are you okay?”

Adam shook his head. “Not really. I hate it when my parents fight.” Tommy closed his eyes, but Adam kept going. “They don’t fight a lot, but my dad hates it when he thinks a decision’s been made without him.” Adam turned his face away. “I kind of had a bad night after that.” Tommy froze a little at that.

“Adam.” He went up on his knees and hugged Adam to him, putting his face in Adam’s neck. “Fuck. I’m an asshole. Did you get sick?” Adam shook his head, holding Tommy close. “How do you feel today?”

“About as bad as you do, it looks like.” Adam hiccuped a sob that tried to be a laugh, holding Tommy tighter. “Don’t scare me, please. And I’m sorry, you’ve had a lot on you and I didn’t mean to add to it.” Tommy nuzzled Adam’s neck, breathing in the clean scent of his skin, mixed with the mustiness of the costume room. It was hushed back here-Tommy couldn’t even hear the band perform. Adam spoke again, voice low. “I really don’t think it’ll be bad.”

Tommy moved away, just enough that he was looking at Adam.“I asked Paul to come with me. I thought, if nothing else, your dad would see I had one adult who liked me, you know? You think that was a good idea?” Adam had a tear in the corner of his eye and Tommy brushed it away with his thumb.

Adam leaned into Tommy’s hand. “Yeah, that might be good. Fuck. I’m just so sorry. And…how are you doing? I can tell you haven’t been drinking but...do you want to? Am I making it worse?” Tommy stared-that was probably the most insane thing he’d ever fucking heard.

“No, you don’t make anything worse. I know it’s hard, and everything’s happening fast. But it’s not worse.” He hugged Adam again, holding him for a couple of minutes before pulling back. “We gotta go, if we get found we’ll be dead fucking meat. Okay?”

Adam stood up, wiping his eyes. “I didn’t think you cared about that kind of shit.” Adam looked around the room. “I don’t want to leave, it’s beautiful here. All the pretty costumes and stuff. I think one reason I love musicals and theater is it’s not like real life. It’s all pretty and shiny and I don’t have to worry about anything. When I’m performing, everything’s fine.” Adam pulled out a feather boa and held it against him.

Tommy didn’t say anything for a minute. He looked up at the stars made out of glitter and wire hangers. “Yeah. I know.” He opened up the door. “I’ll go back to the lunchroom. And, I’ll see you after class. Um, find out what time your dad wants to meet me, okay?”

Adam nodded. “Okay,” he said, still playing with the boa. Tommy went back and put it around Adam’s neck, kissing him softly before pulling away fast. “Halloween’s this weekend,” Tommy said, “So we ought to do something if we can.”

That got Adam smiling, and he nodded as Tommy went to leave. “I’ll let you know” Adam said right before Tommy snuck out the door.

Tommy made it through the rest of the day without incident or much thought of anything except what was waiting for him after. He wasn’t as fucked in the head about it now, but he was still worried. When his last class let out, he went to wait at Lisa’s car, already getting his cigarettes out, wishing it was a Jack Daniels bottle. Well, fuck it. He lit up the filter-less Camel and inhaled deep. He needed to fuckin’ relax.

“Hey,” Tommy turned his head and saw Brad, Lisa and Kris coming his way. Brad skipped ahead (really, the fucker skipped, at school and everything) and put a hand on his arm, leaning in close. “It’ll be okay, Rocker Boy. I want you to remember something, all right? Eber had to hear that I kissed his son from a big, angry cop. And Adam’s dad told that cop to mind his own fucking business and threatened to tell his sergeant that he was harassing high school students. They still let me in their house. I know they’re protective, but I think you’ll be okay.” Brad’s eyes flitted over Tommy’s clothes. “But I would suggest you go home and put on something a bit less…confrontational?”

Tommy looked down at his 'We’re the Meatmen…And You Suck!' t-shirt. “Too much?”

“Just a bit,” Kris drawled. He had sneaked up on Tommy’s other side. Tommy threw an arm around him, making Kris oof a little as the chains on his jacket smacked into Kris’ side. “Ow, this thing is a weapon.” Kris looked serious after a second. “Lisa told me. I think it’s gonna be okay.”

Tommy just shook his head. “Lisa’s got a big mouth.” He smiled at her when she gave him the finger. Right now, with everyone around him, it wasn’t so bad. Then he saw Adam coming, and his smile faded. Everyone sort of took a step back when he went to meet Adam halfway in the parking lot. “So?”

 

“Dad’s coming home at four, and I told him Paul was coming. He’s heard of Paul, like, that he was on some activist boards or something.” Tommy kept his face neutral and nodded. “So, he says he’ll be ready to see you guys a little after then. And if everything goes well, stay for dinner.” Adam looked a little nervous at that and Tommy had to remember to stop himself from rubbing Adam’s arm right out in public.

“I’ll be there. It’ll be okay. And I’ll go home and get ready. I-I’ll try, okay? I’ll try.” Adam nodded and they just looked at each other for a minute, before Adam stumbled off in the direction of his car. Tommy let out a huge breath. Maybe waiting another hour and a half wouldn’t kill him.

Lisa took him home, with a stop by Burger King for fries and a shake-Tommy hadn’t eaten since breakfast. When they got there Paul and Margret were in the living room, and Tommy didn’t think twice. He came over and hugged Paul. “Okay. We’re supposed to go other there after four. Um, here’s the number if you want to call.” Margret patted Tommy’s shoulder when he pulled away, and handed him an academic periodical full of essays about gay and lesbian youth. Tommy knew this was her way of offering support, so he thanked her and made a mental note to read it later.

Lisa declared herself wardrobe advisor.. “Look,” she said, taking another drag off her cigarette (her mother hated her smoking in the house). “I’m not saying you shouldn’t be yourself, but you dressed up for your Oma. You can wear the jacket if you need it as a security blanket, but come on. Lose the ragged clothes and put on some jeans that don’t have holes in them.” Tommy made a face at her, but took her advice. He even redid his hair, making it a little less spiky. When Paul asked him if he was ready, he just nodded.

They didn’t talk much in the car, Paul’s crappy Moody Blues playing on the cassette deck. Tommy thought about asking him to change it out for some Dylan, but that would make him too antsy. Finally they pulled up in front of Adam’s house. “Oh. Shit.” Tommy said, nearly under his breath. Paul squeezed his shoulder. Tommy looked over at him, feeling his heart start to beat double-time. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“You can. Adam means a lot to you.” And Paul didn’t have to say anything else, because it was true. It was all true. Tommy took a breath and got out of the car, him and Paul walking toward the front door. It looked the same as Friday, which made him feel better.

Of fucking course, Neil answered the door when they came up (they didn’t even get a chance to knock, the fucker must have been staking them out). “Tommy, say it ain’t so. You’re messing around with my brother? He’s a dork. I actually thought you were cool! You could do a lot better…”

“Neil, that’s enough,” a deep voice said, and Tommy stood closer to Paul. “I told you to go upstairs. This is none of your business, and you’re still grounded anyway. Go to your room.” Neil whined as he went upstairs, and then Eber came to the door. He looked tired and a bit annoyed. “I’m sorry. My youngest son is a pain in the ass. Hello Tommy.” Eber actually held his hand out to shake, and Tommy took it, a little hesitantly. “I’m glad you’re better-I heard you were very sick.”

“Um. Yeah, I was.” Tommy was trying to avoid eye contact with Adam’s dad. “This is my friend, Paul Harrington. I’m staying at his house. His daughter is Lisa, she’s my best friend.” Tommy hung back as Paul and Eber shook hands. Eber commented on having met Paul at a couple of activist/community type meetings and they made a little small talk while Tommy tried not to disappear inside himself. Fuck, this was making him nervous. He remembered the mini bottle of Jack he threw away last week and wished he had it now.

When Eber touched him on the shoulder to get his attention, he couldn’t help the flinch. He didn’t wear his leather, just a long sleeve shirt, so he could feel the strength in Eber’s hand as he squeezed slightly. “Okay Tommy. We have a sun porch in the back, I want us to talk privately for a little bit first. Do you want a soda?” Tommy nodded dumbly, and they both got canned Cokes and went to the back of the house.

Tommy hadn’t seen the sun room before, it was a little screened in porch with wicker furniture and glass table tops. It wasn’t really his style, but it probably wasn’t Eber’s either-it looked like a Leila space. “Nice out here,” he said quietly. It was, it was a pretty day outside for October.

“Yeah, it was great camping weather. It’s too bad my trip sucked.” Eber popped his Coke can open. “Tommy, I know you heard that we argued over you.” Tommy kept his head down and nodded. “But you have to understand the circumstances. I had just come back from two days in the woods with my evil son, who I considered leaving there more than once. And when we finally pack up and drive back home, my wife immediately tells me that my wonderful son that does nothing wrong…has a boyfriend.” Tommy swallowed. “He’s gay, which I already knew, and he has a boyfriend. In high school! And that she let you spend the night without asking me.”

“I was on the couch.” Tommy’s voice might have been a little loud then, but he finally looked at Eber. “I slept on the couch that night. We didn’t do anything, we had a sleepover.” Tommy took a drink from his Coke, hand shaking a little. “It’s your house, and Leila was nice enough to let me stay over. She didn’t have to, I already had dinner here that night.” Tommy took another drink of Coke. “And Adam’s already told me this, but I have to ask again: He’s not in any trouble, is he? Because of me?”

Eber paused at that. “No,” he said, sighing heavily. “I would be insulted, but I understand why you asked. He’s not in trouble, and he’s not going anywhere. I would never throw out any of my kids. Neil drove me crazy on that trip, but Adam…he’s Adam. He is who he is. And I love him, he’s a great kid.” Tommy had to look away again as Eber played with his coke can. “But now I find out he’s got a boyfriend, which is…surprising. He’s been so shy.”

“He told me about what happened with Brad,” Tommy said. “I know we’re in high school, and it probably looks like a bad idea. But…we’re careful. The theater department knows what’s going on, some of them. You know, Adam’s friends.” Eber nodded. “And Lisa, who’s about the only friend I have left now.”

“Yeah. I heard not only you’ve been sick, you had to stop drinking.” Tommy tried to hide the twitch that gave him. “I know that must be hard. Are you going to AA?” Tommy shook his head. “Why not? They do pretty well with people, I hear.”

“I might, my counselor wants me to go,” Tommy said. “I signed up for counseling at the gay center. I got…information from them. You know, um…” Tommy trailed off, embarrassed.

Eber smiled a little. “That’s where you got the safe sex booklet my son had on him. I made him promise to me he was being safe, and he said ‘I think so’. So now I’m asking you, are you two using condoms? Because there’s an epidemic and if you think it won’t affect you…”

 

“We haven’t done that yet,” Tommy said quickly. “I mean um. You know, penetration." Jesus fuck, what was he even saying. "I haven’t ever done that with a guy.” Tommy decided to confess. “I’ve mostly been with girls. So my experience with guys is kind of limited.” Tommy saw the wary look on Eber’s face and wished he’d kept his fucking mouth shut on that one.

“So,” Eber said. “You’re seventeen, you’ve mostly been with girls, you just stopped drinking, and you’ve been sick twice in a month. That’s…a lot.” Tommy just put his head in his hands, shaking hard. “Tommy?”

“I don’t-I don’t know what to say, what you want me to say.” Tommy could tell how miserable he sounded. “I don’t know what you want me to do. I just-I guess I just have to ask you not to make us stop.” He looked up at Eber, and the expression Eber’s face was sympathetic, not disgusted. “Sorry, dads kind of scare the shit out of me.”

Eber started laughing at that, and Tommy joined in. Then Eber got serious again, and Tommy knew what was coming. “Your father, is he who I think he-“

“Yeah.” Tommy said, and he could hear the bitterness. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t talk about it. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time.” Tommy took a deep breath. “Fuck him,” Tommy said. “I wish he’d gone to jail. He’s a corrupt evil motherfucker and I don’t want to-I just…I keep in touch with the guy who runs the finances. And that’s it.” Tommy looked out the window, there was a bird at the feeder. Tommy didn’t know what kind it was.

“So you still live off his money,” Eber said, playing with his Coke can. “You know, that’s a little hypocritical.” Tommy shrugged. What did Eber expect him to do? He was still in high school.

“I’m seventeen. I finish school, I turn eighteen, and I get my full trust fund. Since he got off, I might as well take his fucking money.” Tommy sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I know what a fuck up I must look like to you,” and Eber almost said something, “But I’m trying. It’s only been a month. I’ll tell Adam, I will. But I need some time.”

Eber was silent for a while. “All right. And Paul, he’s your friend?” Tommy nodded, then drained his Coke.

“Yeah, he let me in his house. It’s kind of amazing.” Tommy grinned and Eber grinned back. “So, you don’t totally hate me?” Eber shook his head.

“You’re a pretty angry kid, but you like my son. From everything I’ve heard from you, Leila, and Adam, you seem to be good to him, and I guess that’s what matters.” Eber stood up, stretching a little. “I’m going to talk to Paul, and then we’ll have dinner. And I have a few ideas about what I want to do. None of them involve breaking you two up.” Tommy slumped in his chair, relief making him go almost boneless.

Eber wasn’t finished though. “But if you hurt Adam, I swear I’ll ban you from the house, and possibly get you arrested. And promise me you’ll be careful. It’s…Adam could die. You could die. You could get sick, you could get beaten to death on the street.” Eber rubbed his forehead. “I wasn’t ready for this so soon. I thought he’d wait until college.”

“He probably would have,” Tommy whispered. “I kind of messed that up.” He looked over at Eber then, thinking You’re so concerned about Adam, how come you haven’t noticed he binges nearly every night? Is that something you’d rather not think about? Because I know how that is. But he didn’t say it.

Eber got up then. “I’m going to talk to Paul. I think Adam’s with my wife, you can go talk to him.” That’s all Tommy had to hear before he was out of that sunroom and going to the living room. Adam was there, sitting with Leila and Paul. They had Cokes too (Paul had water), and were talking softly. Adam stood up when he saw Tommy, and Tommy didn’t give a shit-they were hugging right in front of Adam’s parents and Paul before he could stop.

“Um,” Tommy heard, and he turned around to find Eber a little pink. “Why don’t you two go to the rec room or something, while we talk? After that we’ll order pizza, we haven’t cooked.” Tommy nodded and Adam was already taking his arm and leading him…somewhere.

“Okay, find us when you’re ready. Hi Leila,” Tommy said as Adam dragged him out of the room. When they left, Tommy said “Fuck Adam, are you impatient or what?” Adam blushed a little.

“I haven’t seen you in a couple of days. It’s okay, I’m not going to do anything with them in the house. I just…want you to see my room.” Tommy grinned at that. “I mean, it’s important to me, I don’t get out a lot besides theater stuff, so I spend a lot of time here.” Tommy knew what he meant, a lot of kids he knew had rooms that were sanctuaries, not just places to sleep.

Adam let Tommy up the stairs, quietly. “We’ll go to the rec room in a minute, I just want to show you…” and then he opened the door. Tommy looked around at it in awe-every bit of wall was covered in musical posters, art from the high school art show, and right across from his bed-oh man. Tommy started laughing. “What?” Adam said, forehead wrinkled up and it was so cute and clueless Tommy could kiss him.

Tommy pointed. It was a full black and white poster of Prince, with a guitar and bikini underpants on and not a whole hell of a lot else. “If you ever thought your parents didn’t know you were gay, oh my god.” Adam turned bright red, then started laughing too.

“Fuck off,” Adam slid behind him and hugged him, bending so his face was in Tommy’s neck. He felt Adam breathe in, smelling him, then Adam pulled back Tommy’s shirt to kiss over the slight mark on Tommy’s neck. “So…did it go okay?” Tommy nodded.

“Yeah, I think it did. I think it’s okay.”

Chapter Text

“So what happened when you had dinner?” Cassidy said, leaning back in his chair. He looked awesome today, lots of eyeliner and a nice goth white shirt with a vest. It was Tuesday and Tommy had shown up for his after school appointment. They had moved from Cassidy’s tiny office to one of the group meeting rooms that was vacant for now. Tommy took a sip of his coffee.

“We were in the rec room, and Eber called us up. “ Cassidy smiled a little and Tommy shook his head. “No, we were playing Donkey Kong. We weren’t messing around in there with everyone over our heads. Anyway, Eber gave us some ground rules. He wants me to come over to their house more often, just to hang out. We can’t fool around when Neil’s in the house. He didn’t tell us to stop going to Allen’s. I guess he figured we’d fuckin’ do it anyway-and we would.” Cassidy grinned big at that. “And Paul said the same, that Adam could come over to his house. And they told us to be honest with them.” Tommy frowned at the last part, because he wasn’t always honest. He couldn’t tell Adam’s parents about their son’s binge eating. Tommy looked up from his coffee cup. “So that was pretty amazing.”

“They’re comfortable with it?” Cassidy leaned back and spread his legs a little, which was a fuckin’ pretty sight. Tommy mentally slapped himself for getting distracted and got back on the subject.

“It’s like-they’re not one hundred percent behind it, but they made a decision to treat it like Adam had a girlfriend-same thing.” Tommy shifted. “I still think Eber just wants me around to check on me.” Tommy couldn’t shake the feeling that Eber didn’t actually like him as much as he seemed to. Fuck, why would he?

“Well, you’re dating his son, and Adam’s dad knows you’ve had a lot of struggles.” Tommy smiled a little-Cassidy was just so diplomatic. “Let’s talk about those, okay? You said you had a rough few days.”

“Fuck yeah,” Tommy said, leaning forward. He told Cassidy about the Points and being tempted to drink, seeing his Oma, and how scared he was about meeting Eber. He also told Cassidy how amazing and accepting Paul had been. “But, you know, I keep freaking out. Me and Adam had an argument over my old girlfriends, and I thought he was gonna leave me. I keep nearly crying, I can’t shut shit out anymore. It’s been like a week since I stopped drinking. I just feel…fuck. I guess ‘raw’ is a good word. Exposed.” Tommy rubbed his neck. “I’m just worn out too-I sleep a lot. I crave all the time, but more under the surface, you know?” Cassidy nodded, and didn’t say anything for a minute.

“You know,” Cassidy said quietly, “the AA meeting starts in this room in about ten minutes.” Tommy nodded-he had the schedule. “You could give it a try. And I want to encourage you to come by, even when you don’t have a meeting with me. Would Adam like to come?”

Tommy shook his head. “Not yet, he told me he isn’t ready. It’s…he’s more, I don’t know, obvious?” Tommy wrinkled his forehead and Cassidy nodded. “So it’s harder for him. He’s afraid to even be in this neighborhood, at least right now. I wish he would, that would be great.” Tommy played with the chains on his jacket. “But yeah, I just feel really strung out.”

“Yeah,” Cassidy said, and he took another moment before he spoke again. “I think you should spend a little time by yourself. I know you like to spend as much time with Adam as possible, but you need to take care of yourself as well.” Tommy stiffened up a little at that.

“We take care of each other. And I guess-Adam’s at lessons a lot, singing and stuff. So I want to see him when I can.” Tommy took a deep breath. “I guess…when he’s gone, I’ll spend some time here. I don’t like being alone” Tommy paused for a minute.

“Does this have to do with your parents not being around?” Cassidy leaned in and Tommy looked at the clock. It was almost time for the session to end.

“I don’t want to talk about it, but I told you I was on my own. They never threw me out, the house is all mine, if I want it. I don’t.” Tommy heard his voice flatten out and he pulled his arms over himself. “I mean, it’s not my fucking home, it’s theirs.” Cassidy didn’t say anything to that, but just looked at Tommy. He was steady and nonjudgmental, there wasn’t any fake concern or pity. The minutes ticked by before Tommy spoke up again. “Can I go? Maybe some other time.”

Cassidy looked reluctant. “Okay, if you want. Will you make another appointment with Jack?” Tommy nodded, shoving his fists in his jacket pockets. “I just want to say one more thing.” Tommy looked up-he couldn’t help it, Cassidy’s tone was so soft and understanding. “From what you’ve told me, you’ve been cut off from your emotions for a long time. So it’s all probably coming out now. Maybe you should just work them out. You play guitar, you can write. Write songs, or a journal or something. And try not to shut out the people you trust.” Cassidy stood up. “I’ll see you whenever you next appointment is.”

“Okay, thank you.” Tommy got up and watched Cassidy leave. As he did so, some other people came in with doughnuts and copies of books under their hands. “Um, hey. I thought the AA meeting was in here. This isn’t Bible study or something, is it?” It would be my luck to find a group of gay Christians, Tommy thought.

An older man in a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt laughed. “No, we are the AA meeting. You can leave or stay, we don’t mind.” Tommy looked over the man’s shoulder and saw Cassidy standing there, eyebrow raised. Tommy sighed and nodded. What the hell, why not. He got himself more coffee and a doughnut, then sat in the chair closest to the door as the AA people chattered and caught up. They seemed to know each other well.

Tommy was pretty good until the meeting actually started and the guy in the flannel said “Welcome everyone, let’s start with the Serenity Prayer.” Tommy grit his teeth as everyone started rattling it off. Then everyone started introducing themselves. After that, there was a lull, and Tommy looked up. Everyone was staring at him expectantly.

“Oh, I’m Tommy. This is my first meeting.” And quite possibly my last, you weirdos. There was some gentle laughter.

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to participate if you don’t want” said a woman with short hair and a T-shirt from one of the bars next to the center. “You can just see what it’s like, or talk. Either way, we’re glad you’re here.” Tommy blinked. Is she serious?I gotta look as strange to them as these fuckers do to me. When she smiled at him, Tommy saw a gold tooth. He smiled back and nodded. I’ll give you cultists thirty minutes.

Flannel Guy announced that tonight was going to be a “literature meeting”. That didn’t sound too fucking promising, unless they decided to get out Hemingway. No such luck, Flannel Guy began reading from one of the AA books. Oh fuck me, it IS Bible study. Tommy’s eyes were glazing over. He didn’t actually pay much attention even after the reading was finished and Flannel Guy started talking about the meaning behind it.

Tommy accidentally stayed for the whole thing. At the end, they started asking who had been sober how many days-one day, 30 days, 90 days-and some people came up and got little fake coins. Then everyone grabbed hands (Tommy refused to get involved with that hippie bullshit) and said “Keep coming back-it works if you work it!” Tommy bit the inside of his cheek to keep from bursting out laughing. Goddamn, this was corny.

Tommy tried to slip out of the door before anyone could catch him, but the woman who smiled at him earlier came over. “Hi. I know it’s hard for people their first meeting, but here’s some stuff for you to read.” She handed him a couple of pamphlets. “Just read the Twelve Steps, and you’re welcome to come back whenever you want. I’m Janice.” Tommy took them and was going to turn away, but she put a hand on his shoulder, and he stilled.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back,” he said. “Maybe, I don’t know.” He looked at the Twelve Steps. “I don’t believe in this-I don’t believe in this, here.” He pointed at the middle of the list. “I don’t believe that there’s a God at all, and you think it’s possible to ask that it can make me perfect? What the fuck?” Tommy could hear his voice get louder, and he knew the others were looking at him.

Flannel Guy moved closer. “You don’t have to see it that way,” he said. “A lot of us do believe in a higher power, but it’s not necessary. The important parts are the work you do to make yourself better. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in all of it, you can come back anyway. Are you trying to stop drinking?”

Fuck you, already have. It’s been a whole week already. “Yeah. I stopped drinking,” he said, his voice lower. I can do it alone, I don’t need your help. You people are weird. Nobody said anything, and when Tommy looked up again everyone was still looking friendly and gentle. Janice came over to him, and gave him one of the fake coins.

“There’s your chip. That one’s for your first day without a drink. Keep it if you like.” She smiled at him again, and Tommy just stared at it. It was silver and had the Serenity Prayer on it.

Cultists. They are fucking cultists and they are just trying to lure you in. Tommy turned away. “I’ll go now, okay.” They let him go, and didn’t even seem mad. He got the hell out of that room and went to another one that was empty. He needed a break. When he looked at his hand, the chip was still in it. He put it in his jacket pocket, opened up his backpack, and started reading the academic magazine Margret had given him. What the fuck ever.

He wound up just hanging out at the Gay Center and drinking coffee until nearly six. When he looked up, Jack the counter guy was there. “Um, I’m about to go, so if you need to make an appointment…”

“Oh, yeah!” Tommy got up and went downstairs with Jack. “I’m surprised you guys didn’t forget about me. Okay, um, put me down for the same time next week? Or do I need to take another day?” Tom looked at the list and they got him down for next Tuesday. “Hey, can I use the phone? I should call a ride.” Jack nodded and pointed at the phone.

Tommy punched the numbers in, then waited. “Hey.” He cleared his throat. “Adam? Yeah, I’m done. I’m at the Center, will you pick me up and take me to Allen’s? I know the past couple of days have been crazy, can you get out?” Tommy saw Jack turn his back, making a show of not listening, and smiled. “It’ll be fine, you don’t have to leave the car. I’ll just wait for you inside. Okay, I know. Will your dad be okay with it? I mean, he’s going to ask, so you better go ahead and tell him. Okay, you go ask, here’s the number.” He rattled off the Center’s number. “See you.” Tommy started gnawing on his thumbnail as he flopped into a chair near the phone. A minute later, it rang. Jack answered it, and then handed it to Tommy.

“Adam, hi. Don’t worry, Jack answers the phones, you know. What did your dad say?” Tommy listened, hand tightening on the side of the counter. “No, it’s okay. I mean, yeah, it’ll be late soon. I know he has to tutor you in math.” Tommy cleared his throat. “No! I mean, we told him we’d be honest, that doesn’t mean he’s always going to say yes. It’s okay. No, it’s not your fault, Adam. Hey, I’ll see you in school. Call me before you go to bed, if you can. Bye.” Tommy let out a deep breath, staring at the phone after he hung it up. He looked up at Jack, who caught his eye and nodded. Tommy picked up the phone and dialed another number.

"Hey, Lisa? I’m at the center and I need a ride. Come pick me up?” He paused while Lisa asked what was wrong with him, he sounded like shit.”I don’t want to talk about it right now. Let’s just go to Allen’s and take care of the babies, okay? I’ll tell you in the car. Thanks sweetie. See you in a few minutes.” Tommy put the phone down and sat by the door, getting his cigarette and looking for an ashtray. He stared straight ahead, and he didn’t know Jack was handing him another cup of coffee until he smelled it. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Jack went back to organizing the paperwork and getting ready to close. When Lisa’s car pulled up, Jack said “Hey, what you’re doing? It’s pretty fucking brave, kid.” Tommy put out his cigarette and ran a hand through his hair.

“It doesn’t feel that way. Bye.” Tommy grabbed his backpack and half dragged it behind him. He got in the front seat and looked at Lisa. “Looks like you’re taking me home. We’ll just go and feed the animals.” Lisa was about to say something but Tommy held a hand up to stop her. “It’s okay. I called Adam and he couldn’t come with me to Allen’s, that’s all. Adam’s dad just didn’t want him out late. That’s what he said anyway. You know, school night.” Tommy laughed, because what the fuck, when then that shit become a factor in his life? But he laughed for a while, short staccato bursts, as Lisa squeezed his hand and started driving them back. He was still wiping his eyes when they pulled up.

Tommy hadn’t spent a lot of time with the babies, so him and Lisa gave them extra attention and love while Tommy fed them and cleaned the cages. After that, he picked up the apartment a little while Lisa watched him, smoking at the table. After he was done sweeping the floor, she looked up at him. “Done working off some of that energy, Tommy Joe?”

“Yeah. I guess I’m ready to go to your house now.” Tommy sighed. “I know-I mean, I shouldn’t be upset. I know he probably means it-that it’s just a school night.” He sat down next to Lisa. “It’s just hard.” Lisa put out her cigarette and hugged Tommy to her, rocking him a little. After a minute he pulled back, one hand still on her arm. “I guess we need to go. And you didn't even stop for burgers," he said, trying to smile.

“My dad fixed Thai tonight. You’re going to want some. Now come on.” Lisa pulled him out of the chair. “You need some decent food, dickhead. I bet you’ve had six cups of coffee since you got out of school.”

“Only five, I think,” Tommy said, and then they left, Tommy turning off the light.

Tommy went to school the next day with a headache, but otherwise he was fine. Lisa walked with him to class, and he saw Adam with Anoop, Megan and Kris near the art building. Lisa chose this moment to go in another direction while Tommy kept heading towards them. He saw Adam drop his eyes as he walked up. “Hi guys.”

Megan beamed at him. “Hi! We’re getting the drama group to go to Rocky Horror Friday night, are you going to come? We’ll all go in costume!” Tommy broke into a grin, mostly at Anoop rolling his eyes.

“Sure, Megan. I don’t have anything planned for Halloween, that’ll be great.” He looked over at Adam. “Hey, you’re going right?” Adam looked up then, and Tommy smiled. I’m not mad at you, he tried to let Adam know. It’s not a big deal.

Adam smiled back, obvious relief on his face. “Yeah, okay. Yeah, I’d love to go.” He looked happier the more he thought about it, and Tommy grinned. He could give a shit about Rocky, to be honest, but he wanted to have a good Halloween with Adam. They all talked about it until the bell rang, and Anoop and Megan went to their classes holding hands. Adam watched them leave, then turned around.

Tommy almost said something but Adam just said “No, that’s okay.” They walked on opposite sides of the hallway until Tommy went to his first class. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.

Afterward, Tommy caught a ride with Adam and they went to his house. They held hands at red lights again and Tommy could never really get over it. He had never had that kind of casual affection with someone he was with, so he made it count by rubbing over Adam’s knuckles, or lacing their fingers together. Adam was a little flushed when they finally got to his house, and turned in for a kiss. Neil, of course, was just getting off the bus and knocked on the window. “I have to be here with you two? Hey Tommy, do you have any tapes I can borrow? And why are you dating my stupid brother again?”

“Yes you have to be here, yes I have some tapes on me, and if you keep talking about Adam like that, you ain’t fuckin’ getting them.” Tommy smirked as Neil shoved his way into the house, muttering something Tommy was glad he didn’t catch.

They went inside and Neil bugged Tommy for a few minutes, trying to get Tommy to cut his hair to look cool. Tommy shook his head and after a while, Neil went up to his room. As soon as Neil was gone Adam pulled Tommy in for a kiss, sweet and gentle at first, then harder. Tommy kissed back, moaning into Adam’s mouth. Adam held Tommy’s wrists against his sides and kept kissing, and all the anxiety of the last few days dropped away for a few seconds. It was like nothing existed except the two of them in that moment. Adam let go of Tommy’s wrists and pulled him close, Tommy immediately snuggling in. “I’ve missed you.” He kissed the shell of Tommy’s ear.

“I’ve missed you too,” Tommy said, then he took a deep breath and stepped back. “But we told your dad we wouldn’t fool around when Neil was here. We have to follow the rules, at least until he gets used to the idea of me dating you.”

“Do you think he meant kissing too? Ugh.” Adam tried to go in for another, but Tommy stepped back. “Really?”

“I don’t want your dad saying I’m a bad influence and make us stop. So yeah, we should be good. You know Neil will rat on us.” Adam glared in the direction Neil left in. “So hey, what other games do you have?”

They were still playing video games in the basement when they heard the front door open and Neil yelling “Mooom! Adam and Tommy are playing Nintendo and they won’t let me play! They’ve been down there for an hour!” Tommy had to laugh, knowing that would send her to check on them. Sure enough, she was downstairs in about thirty seconds. Tommy put down his controller when he saw her.

“Hi Leila. Eber said he wanted me to come over more, so we’re just hanging out. Do you want us to come upstairs? I’m pretty much done with this game.” Tommy wasn’t actually that much of a video game person, but they were fun for a while. Adam moved closer to Tommy, like he was afraid his mom would try to kick Tommy out.

Leila was in her real estate selling clothes and looked kind of severe, but she smiled at them. “Sure, come on up, I just need to start getting dinner ready.” She turned her head and called upstairs. “Neil? They’re done if you want to play.” Tommy could hear Neil muttering about how he didn’t want to play anymore, it wasn’t any fun by himself.

Adam laughed a little and smiled at Tommy. “Okay, um, I’m just going to go upstairs for a little while. I’ll see you in the dining room.” He kissed Tommy’s cheek and got up, walking up the stairs past his mother. Leila touched his arm and he gave her a big hug. Tommy dropped his eyes when Leila started heading his way. Maybe she was mad about him coming over without asking?

“Hey,” she said, sitting next to him. “I just wanted you to know that Eber wasn’t angry.” Tommy looked over at her and nodded. “He just didn’t want Adam to leave on a school night, and he thinks Morgan is kind of dangerous. I don’t think it would’ve been so bad for him to pick you up, but I agreed on the school night part.”

“It’s okay,” Tommy smiled at her. “I mean, it’s weird for me and all, but I understand.” Tommy knew it was just that he’d never had any fucking restrictions on his behavior before, and now he had a few. It wasn’t that easy, but he’d never even heard of parents who let their son openly have a boyfriend, so he wasn’t complaining.

Eber was running late, so they all had dinner (Adam actually nibbled on some bread), and then Tommy and Adam did homework on the dining room table. Tommy soon learned that the nightly tutoring sessions were for a reason. “Okay, look. All these numbers are integers, the ones on the number line. Everything from the minus seven to the seven are integers. Now, everything from zero to one, two three-those are real numbers. Now, back to the problems, okay?”

Tommy didn’t know anyone was in the room until he heard Eber clear his throat. Adam’s dad stared at him for a minute. “Hi Tommy, I came in through the basement. If you’re taking over the tutoring tonight, I guess I’ll just get a beer. Do you want anything?” Eber smiled at him, and Tommy grinned back a little.

Yeah, a beer. And some whiskey. “Maybe just some coffee, or a Coke if you don’t want to start the coffee machine. But I don’t really need anything.” Eber came over and put a hand on Adam’s shoulder, squeezing it, and Adam smiled at him, shy and tentative. Fuck, but Tommy loved that smile too.

“You’ll want something, believe me. It’s hard to get Adam to focus when it comes to numbers.” Eber clapped him on the shoulder too and went in the kitchen. Tommy heard the coffeepot start, and soon he had a big cup of coffee while he tried to explain basic algebra to Adam. Eber was right, the coffee helped.

When Tommy was leaving, Eber met him at the door and said “Thanks for coming over. Leila told me you’re fine with what I’ve been trying to do.” Tommy nodded, because really, it was just an adjustment. It wasn’t anything horrible. “So, Adam asked me about Rocky Horror.” Tommy held his breath as Eber continued. “I think it’s fine if he goes in a group. And I know there will be costumes, so I want you to look out for him. Just-be safe. I’d like it if you waited until in the theater to change, but that might not happen.” Eber looked pretty okay with that, and smiled at Tommy. “I’ve been watching Adam play dress-up his entire life. He’ll love it.” They both laughed at that.

“Can Adam come by Paul’s tomorrow? Me and Paul play guitars together, and we just want Adam to sing with us.” Eber looked wary, and Tommy thought Fuck, school night, but Eber recovered well.

“Since you took over algebra torture duty for me tonight, I’ll let him come over for a couple of hours. Don’t keep him up late. And remember, you’ll see him Friday.” Eber hesitated for a minute. “I know Rocky is a midnight show. He can…he can come home whenever.” Then he left quickly, shaking his head as if he couldn’t believe he’d just said that.

Tommy was still picking his jaw off the fucking floor when Adam came up for his goodnight kiss.

Tommy didn’t even really have to ask Paul if Adam could come over, but he did, to be polite. Adam came over, looking nervous, but he smiled big when both Adam and Lisa hugged him. Paul didn’t waste any time in getting Adam into the basement to jam after dinner. Adam just beamed as they were messing around with their guitars, and asked Paul how he made them. He seemed fascinated by it. “I wish I could play something, but I’m terrible. My brother’s pretty good on the piano.” They talked song choices and decided on “Going to California” by Zeppelin, and Tommy didn’t even like that stupid fucking band and it was amazing. Adam sang the song so effortlessly, and with so much emotion. Tommy could feel that stupid push against his chest when Adam finished. Tommy was beginning to figure he always would.

When the song was finished, Paul and Tommy both just stared at him. Adam looked between the two of them. “What? Was I bad?”

Paul shook his head. “I don’t think there’s anything you can’t do with that voice, Adam.” Adam just beamed, eyes crinkling, and Tommy wanted to kiss him. He loved it when Adam was happy.

Adam made a show about having to go back into Tommy’s guest room to get “help” with something involving drama class. Paul knew bullshit when he heard it and wisely stayed downstairs when Adam followed Tommy to the room. Tommy was barely inside before Adam slid in and locked the door behind them. “Tommy,” he said, running his hands over Tommy’s arms. “Been too long.”

“Lisa’s not far-“ Adam cut him off by kissing him hard and holding it until the air was burning in Tommy’s lungs. He breathed through his nose as Adam walked him back to the bed. “Adam, baby.” Tommy wasn’t really protesting, it’s just that Adam was in such of a big goddamn hurry.

“I just want us to have some time, we haven’t had any time,” and the break in Adam’s voice made Tommy stop struggling, made him wrap his arms around Adam and hold on. They kissed forever, fully clothed on the bed, Adam on top of him. Adam moved to Tommy’s neck and sucked another mark there. Tommy laughed. “Fuck, Adam,” he breathed. “You’re kind of possessive.”

Adam responded with a growl and an actual fucking bite. “Fuck!” Tommy arched up, rubbing against Adam, who ground down, still biting. Tommy reached down to grab Adam’s ass, to keep him where he fucking was, god don’t move-

“Adam,” and Adam stilled, but didn’t get up. The voice on the other side of the door was Lisa’s. “I’m sorry, but your dad called. He wants you home in twenty minutes.” Adam didn’t say anything, but laid down on top of Tommy, almost squishing him, and breathed into Tommy’s neck.

“Fuck.” Tommy petted his hair. “I can’t stand it. I miss being with you.” Tommy kissed Adam’s temple, rubbed his back. “It’s so hard.”

“Price we pay for being open,” Tommy said. “But your dad told you right? Tomorrow, Rocky Horror. I’ve got you as long as I want you, baby.” Tommy rubbed a hand over Adam’s cheek. “We’ll dress up and be pretty, and it’s gonna be amazing.”

Adam’s face looked innocent and beautiful and heartbreaking as he said “Yes.”

Chapter Text

We’re after the same rainbow’s end/Just waiting round the bend-"Moon River".

Lisa pulled up in front of Adam’s house and looked over at Tommy though her freshly dyed blue streak. “Okay, go get your boy. After this, you’re on your own. I have my own plans.”

“I know.” Tommy grinned at her. “I hope you have a good show.” Lisa was playing guest keys in LP’s band, since they were doing some weird Halloween thing and needed an organ sound. It was too bad she couldn’t do it full time-Lisa deserved to be in a non-shitty band for once. “You look fucking fantastic.” Lisa was wearing a 60’s style sheath dress and cat ears, and Tommy had no idea what she was supposed to be, but it looked great.

“Thanks babe. Now come on.” Tommy grabbed his guitar case and they got out of the car, the sun already setting and little kids roaming the streets in costume. Tommy grinned-he fucking loved Halloween, as a kid and now. One little girl in a witch costume stopped in her tracks, staring at them. He waved. She looked at him, and smiled shyly.

“Hey. Are you supposed to be Billy Idol?” she said, looking at Tommy’s regular spiked blond hair and leather jacket. Tommy heard Lisa giggling behind his back, but he just grinned harder. “It looks really good on you,” she said again.

“Kind of, yeah. Thanks, I like yours too.” He started for the house as the little girl waved goodbye and ran to catch up with her friends. He saw the parent with the group shoot him an evil look, but he didn’t even glare back, he just ran to the porch. It was decorated with a pumpkin and a giant paper bat on the door. Tommy banged on the door right in the middle of the bat’s fangs. “Trick or treat!”

Leila answered the door, and smiled at seeing the two of them. “Tommy, Lisa, hi. Come on in, have some candy if you want. We finished dinner, but I think Adam’s ready to go now.” She reached out and tentatively patted Tommy on the arm. It was kind of embarrassing, but he smiled at her anyway. He liked Leila pretty well.

“Thanks, Mrs. Lambert, but I need to go,” Lisa said. “I’m playing tonight and I have to meet the band really soon. Bye!” She waved at Leila and Eber, who was just coming up. Eber called after her, asking if she had a soundcheck. “Nope, we’re the second opener. But thanks, Happy Halloween!” She got into her car and hit reverse, driving slightly slower than normal in an attempt to not kill any small children. Tommy shook his head. Lisa was crazy, but he loved her.

Tommy came through the door and immediately got a light saber stuck in his face. “You are no match for me, young Jedi,” Neil yelled. Of fucking course he would be Darth Vadar, was there any doubt? Tommy just looked over Neil’s head to where Eber was rolling his eyes. Neil dropped the saber and pulled up his cheap plastic mask. “Hi Tommy, Happy Halloween, are you and Adam really going to dress in drag?”

“Not yet,” Tommy drawled, grinning at him. Fuckin’ brat, he was going to make a good punk someday. “Um, Eber, can I talk to you before I leave with Adam?” Tommy jerked his head in the direction of the sun room. Eber and Leila both frowned, and Neil looked like he couldn’t wait to find out whatever it was Tommy wanted.

“Sure.” Eber didn’t say anything when they went back out into the sunroom where they had talked before. Tommy was hoping he didn’t freak this time-he felt a bit calmer than the beginning of the week, but still. Eber stood in the middle of the room. “What is it?” he said, voice slightly wary as he stared Tommy down.

Tommy took a deep breath, and got a piece of paper out of his pocket. “I just wanted to give you this.” Eber took the paper and stared at it. “It’s the number for the apartment I house and pet sit at. Me and Adam go there-and we’ll probably be there after the show.” Tommy took another breath-Eber was still staring at the number. “So, if we’re too late or we fall asleep or something…you’ll know where we are.” The last part almost came out as a whisper, as Tommy stood there and wondered if Eber was going to throw him out of his house. He had basically given Adam’s dad a piece of paper that said Hey, we'll be fucking over here Tommy had no idea what Eber was going to do now.

Eber sat down in one of the wicker chairs, legs spread apart. Tommy sat down too, across from Eber but probably not far enough away. “This is over in the Cloverdale area, right?” Tommy nodded, wondering what that had to do with anything. “So…it’s a pretty safe neighborhood.” Eber raised an eyebrow. “At least you have a real place to take him, and not in the back of a car somewhere. Okay, fine.” Eber put the paper down.

Tommy started to get ready to defend it, but that stopped him cold. “Okay?” Did he hear that right?

Eber folded the paper and put it on the table beside him. “It’s not you-well, most of it isn’t.” Tommy winced a bit, but Eber didn’t put any real venom in it. “But it…it just seems sudden. Adam’s been so shy.” Eber looked out the window, at the backyard. “But he’s sixteen, so….” Eber looked over at Tommy, staring him down. “You mean a lot to him, you know.”

Tommy nodded, looking down at his hands for a minute, before looking back up. “I know.” He was still fucking terrified of Eber, but he felt a muted joy. He meant a lot to Adam-he knew that, but hearing it from Eber was something else. “I think-I don’t know how to talk about it with you. But, I’m glad.” He looked up again and Eber looked satisfied.

“I know. So…okay, fine. But if you guys fall asleep and stay all night, I’ll come over and get Adam myself, just to embarrass the shit out of him.” Tommy must have looked as fucking horrified as he felt because Eber just shook his head, smirking. “Not really, but he’s got dance classes in the morning, try to make sure he actually comes home.”

Tommy stood up, feeling the stupid grin on his face as he faced Eber. “Thank you. I know it’s weird.”

“Oh it’s weird for everybody.” Eber paused for a moment, and ran a hand through his hair. “Except for Adam, he seems more…”Eber trailed off. “He seems more like himself, if that makes sense. Like, this is what he needed to happen. Maybe it is.”

Tommy was still turning that idea over in his head when suddenly he heard a “Hi!” and Adam was right there, hugging him hard right in front of his goddamn dad again. “Hey, I’m ready to go if you are.” Tommy automatically put his arms around Adam and dropped his head to Adam’s shoulder, squeezing hard. Adam pulled back and beamed at him, then kissed his cheek. “You brought your guitar, awesome, I saw it in the front room.”

“Yeah, yeah I did. I’m ready to go.” Tommy hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to Adam at school, he’d been too busy. Adam grinned and kissed Tommy’s cheek again. He was super excited, and Tommy felt his face heat, since now it was obvious to Adam’s dad why he was so fuckin’ happy.

Eber cleared his throat right then. “Adam,” he said and Adam let go fast. “It’s okay, I just wanted to tell you bye.” Eber stood up and hugged Adam, who hugged back a little awkwardly, like he was embarrassed for Tommy to see. “You have fun tonight. Be careful-no, listen,” Eber said as Adam opened his mouth to argue. “I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I want you to be careful and stay with your group. And if anything happens, run like you did last time.”

Yeah, run and kick a fucker in the balls, Tommy though, as Adam swore to his dad they would both be careful. They headed towards the door, with Leila going over the same shit with Adam, telling him to call if they needed help. She gave Tommy some candy, and he shoved two mini Mars bars in his pocket before grabbing his guitar and amp as they went to the car. Neil poked his head out of the door. “Bye! Bring me back something from the show! And take pictures!”

Adam groaned as he started up the car. “Fucking brat,” he said, as he backed out. “He wants to be just like you.” Tommy looked around-it was already dark. Packs of kids were roaming the streets, looking for candy or houses to TP. Tommy rolled the window down halfway and looked out. “Hey, Tommy,” Adam said after a minute.

“Yeah, what?” Tommy turned to him, smiling. Adam looked over and smiled back, just a little quirk of the lips.

“You talked to my dad? Is that going okay? I mean, he doesn’t say anything bad about you when you’re not home, you know. And he was kinda surprised you helped me with my math. I’m really bad at that stuff.” Tommy smiled.

“Yeah, it’s like we’re still feeling each other out? But he doesn’t seem mad. He’s been pretty good about all this.” Tommy fidgeted a little, pulling on his earring. “I don’t know.”

“Don’t worry. Hey, we’re gonna have a great night. I’m glad you brought your guitar. You know the plan, right?”

Tommy laughed. “Yeah, Paula lets us out of rehearsal early, even though the show’s in a few weeks, we borrow costumes from the theater closet, go to Megan’s for a pre-party, then the movie.” Tommy thought about it-that was a pretty full night. He realized that he hadn’t been out at night for a few weeks. Not since the skinhead riot.

“And then Allen’s,” Adam said, reaching over and squeezing Tommy’s knee. Tommy closed his eyes, breathing in. Fuck, it had been too long. “I’ve missed you honey. I can’t wait until we get alone.” Adam turned left and then they were at the school. “Come on, this won’t be long at all, it never is.” Tommy followed, half hard just from Adam fucking touching his leg. Goddamn, this rehearsal might be longer than Adam thought.

When they got there, everyone was chattering full speed, happy and excited. Megan saw them coming and shrieked. “Hi! Adam, Tommy, we’re gonna have so much fun, it’s gonna be fuckin’ awesome I want to see you guys dressed up!” She was bouncing in her Doc Martins and Anoop just looked over at Tommy like kill me now. Tommy had to stifle a laugh.

“Hi!” Tommy looked over to where Paula was waving at them. “Happy Halloween! Now, we’re going to run through this fast, so I hope you’re ready. Tommy, you brought your guitar?”

“Yeah I did. I think my amp’s in the car, sorry.” Tommy made it to the stage and sat with Adam on one side of him. Brad slid over on the other, with Kris hovering nearby, obviously wanting a look at the guitar.

“Don’t worry, you can borrow my amp if you want to,” Kris said, still looking. “Let’s see what you got.” Tommy smirked-Kris might be kind of annoying, but the musician geek stuff was sort of cute. Paula cut them short, saying they all had to rehearse their numbers fast. Megan and Anoop went first, and Tommy automatically tuned them out, scrabbling through his backpack to look for his monologue.

He was like that with everyone as he read over his monologue again, until Adam got up to sing. He sang it every rehearsal, and every time, it was like the world stopped for him. He mouthed the words, knowing all of them by now, and as Adam sang the last part, he sang along, softly, clumsily. “At last, my heart’s an open door. And my secret love’s no secret, anymore.” He looked over to where Brad was watching him, huge eyes taking it in. “Fuck I’m a sap,” he whispered. Brad just squeezed Tommy’s hand, and looked away. Tommy tried to catch his eye, but Brad wouldn’t look back over.

“Okay, Tommy? Have you had a chance to practice your monologue? I still don’t think it fits you that well.” Paul looked at her papers and frowned. “If you have it down, I say use it, but otherwise, we can pick another one.” Tommy sighed in relief.

“Actually, I’ve been so busy I really haven’t done much with it. I’d love to pick another one, I’m sorry.” He looked through his list and circled another piece, then jumped off the stage to show it to Paula. “It’s from Before Dawn, I like this one.” He really did, it was angry, not like the kind of stupid one he had earlier.

She looked at it and nodded.“I think that’s a better choice. Here, go over it a few times with Anoop while I let the dancers run through.” Paula seemed distracted, even for her, but didn’t seem too put out that he hadn’t prepared. He had no idea if that was faith in him or simple inattention.

Tommy got his piece and him and Anoop went to the back. “Here, run it through once reading it, and then perform it to me,” Anoop said after reading it. “This is good for you. Okay, go.” Tommy read it aloud, getting a feel for the rhythm of the piece, and Anoop nodded. “Not bad. Now look at me.” Tommy kept his eyes on Anoop and started reciting his monologue, then took a deep breath. “No, just try again. You’ve been…busy, right?”

Tommy glared at Anoop’s grinning face. “Shut the fuck up. We just changed this now, remember? Okay, let me do this again.” Tommy went over the short piece with Anoop a few more times, until Paula called the dancers off. “Hey thanks man. Can I practice with you some? I’ve got so much going on I might forget.”

“Sure, but I got a full schedule-chess team, debate. Come see the debate team-we’ve got a tournament next Saturday.” Anoop turned as Megan came over to him and kissed his cheek. “It’ll be fun-Megan might be working that day, so I want someone I can tolerate in the audience.” He laughed as she bopped him on the chest.

Tommy wondered how his life had gotten this weird. Come watch the debate team. Anoop actually wanted him to show up. “Sure, if I can make it-my life’s crazy these days. I’ll try.” Tommy shut up before he actually thanked Anoop for asking him. The fucker probably asked everybody in the drama club, he wasn’t special.

Tommy felt a gentle touch on his shoulder, and didn’t even have to look to know it was Adam. “Hey. We’re going to go raid the costume closet now-there’s a lot of good stuff. Okay? We’re done, almost.” Tommy turned around, and didn’t even try to hide the gentle smile on his face as he nodded. When he looked back, Megan and Anoop were grinning at him.

“What?” Anoop laughed and Megan bounced in place, grinning her face off. “Oh, mind your own business.” Tommy followed Adam, ignoring the catcalls from those two hetero fucks. Smug little fuckers, him and Adam were not cute, so they could shut the fuck up.

Tommy found the same costume closet that Adam had been hiding in Monday, but now everyone was stuffed in there, pulling shit off the racks and tossing feather boas at each other. Brad saw Tommy coming and grinned. “Hey, check it out. There’s Rocky costumes left over from previous drama classes. This is kind of a theater class ritual. Tommy nodded, thinking Yeah, a geek ritual while Brad kept going. “I don’t know-I’ve been a Translivanian in the past, but this time, I think…” he trailed off, giving it a little dramatic flourish. “I think I’ll be Columbia.”

“Fuck yeah,” Tommy said immediately, which made Brad give him a little blink of surprise. “You’ll look awesome. You’re about the right size, and you’ve got the legs for it.” Alisan turned when she heard this, Magenta maid outfit in hand.

“Why Tommy Joe,” Brad said, smiling. “You’ve been looking at my legs? Shame on you.” Brad turned around and started pulling out the pieces of the costume carefully, with reverence.

“You wear tights to rehearsal, of course I’ve noticed,” Tommy shot back. Alisan looked over his head, and Adam was standing there, looking a little confused. Tommy smiled at him, and Adam frowned. Oh shit, Tommy thought, just as Adam started backing out of the door. “Adam, hey…”

Adam had really long fucking legs, and catching up to him when he was walking fast meant running for Tommy. “Adam, come on. I wasn’t flirting with Brad. Adam. You know I wasn’t.” They wound up in a dark part of the backstage, where old junky props were left. “Adam, come on.” Adam stopped and turned, so fucking fast that Tommy nearly ran into him.

“Don’t say that shit, don’t talk about how beautiful Brad is, because I know, okay?” Adam wasn’t looking at him, he was looking down and Tommy wanted to call himself every curse word he could think of. “I want to be beautiful tonight, but I’ll probably wind up being a Transyvainian. Some of them are fat.”

“Adam,” Tommy whispered. Adam kept his head down. “Look at me, please.” Adam slowly lifted his head, and even in the dark Tommy could see the shame and anger in his face, his eyes. Tommy moved slow, lifting a hand so it brushed against Adam’s cheek. Adam tried to drop his eyes again, but Tommy moved his hand to Adam’s jaw. “You remember the first time I saw you, right? At the counselor’s office?” Adam nodded. “I liked you the moment I saw you. I know you think you look horrible, but you don’t. I like it. I love it, I always have.”

Adam sighed and Tommy held him. “It’s gonna be okay.” Adam leaned down, like he wanted to put his head on Tommy’s shoulder. “I want you to forget about it tonight. I want you to dress however you fucking want to dress. I want you to be happy. I’ll help.” Tommy kissed Adam’s cheek. “Okay? Let’s just be happy.”

Adam nodded against him, holding on tight. “Okay. I’m sorry. Things…they’ve been better since Monday.” Tommy paused but Adam didn’t say anything else. “How are you doing?” Tommy shrugged, a little disappointed that Adam wasn’t saying more. They walked back toward the costume room, Brad and Alisan waiting outside it. Tommy smiled at them, thinking It’s okay, got it under control.

“I’ve got good and bad days. And I like my counselor. And um, the AA people are kinda creepy-don’t you hate people who are just too fuckin’ nice? Oh, hi Kris.”

“Yeah, hi.” Kris drawled. He was smirking, seemingly not too worried about that last dig. “Better grab the costumes before they’re gone. You know who you want to be?”

Tommy looked over at Adam. “We’ll pick when we get to Megan’s. Just grab everything Rocky and we’ll get a couple of other things that look cool.” Adam squeezed his arm as Kris left. Tommy looked over. “I’m serious. Be whatever you want, it’s Halloween.” He could see Adam looking hesitant and added “And if anyone gives you any shit, I’ll kick their asses.”

“I don’t want you getting hurt again,” Adam said, but he smiled. “And it’ll be okay. I’ll wear something over it on the street and then just be dressed up at the show.” That sounded good to Tommy, who didn’t really relish the thought of getting dressed up as anyone from this lame movie.

They were almost gone when Tommy said “Wait, gotta get my guitar,” and jogged back to the stage. Adam was waiting for him by the door as everyone milled out, piles of costumes and boas in their hands. It looked like enough for an entire group of Rockettes. Adam handed Tommy some glittery, sparkling things and headed for the car. “Fuck, I’m trying to carry my guitar here,” he muttered, but Adam just laughed.

“It’s not far, dump it in the back.” Tommy did it, but not before putting his guitar case in first. Adam smiled at him, and Tommy noticed his hair was getting longer. At least it looked that way, maybe he was fixing it differently? It looked good.

He was still staring when Adam looked around, then kissed him just softly, just enough. “Okay, it’s not far to Megan’s.” Adam started the car and Tommy sat back, not watching which direction they were going. About five minutes later, as Adam made a turn down a street with older houses, Tommy realized something.

“Hey, this is my first party I’ve been to sober.” Adam looked over at him and nearly hit the curb. He swore and parked the car further down the street. Then he put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder, squeezing.

“There won’t be much drinking and stuff. Megan’s mom gets off work pretty soon. She doesn’t want anyone to get in trouble, and there’s not much beer at that house anyway.” Adam looked over at Tommy, concern and a little fear in his face. “So it should be okay. It’s going to be okay.”

“Alright. I’ll find you if I have to.” When Tommy said that, he knew he believed it. It would be fine because Adam wouldn’t leave him alone if people were drinking. He reached over and squeezed Adam’s hand. “Let’s go inside.”

Megan’s house was small, almost cramped, with décor from the 70’s and some tacky pictures on the walls. There was also a family portrait-her dad in a work shirt, mom in a dumpy dress and Megan at about 13 with horrible hair and a big smile. Megan saw him looking at it and tried to cover it up with a hand, laughing. “Come in, sorry about the house. We can’t afford to redecorate.” Tommy shrugged. He didn’t really care, but it was kind of a surprise-Megan always had cute clothes. Now that he saw where she lived he realized she didn’t waitress just for going out money-she probably bought all her own shit. Good for you, Meg he thought. You might fucking hate it, but taking care of yourself is the best thing ever.

Everyone else was already going back to Megan’s room and flinging clothes on her bed, or going to the kitchen for Kool-Aid or Cokes. Tommy grabbed a glass and filled it with grape Kool-Aid, and looked around the kitchen. It was spotless, even though everything was old. He liked it, it was homey. Anoop stood next to him, eyebrows raised in a challenge. Tommy looked at him. “I like it, okay? It’s nice here.” I mean, like Tommy hadn’t spent a whole lot of time in houses that were totally trashed, punk houses and squats, and crappy apartments. This was just fucking fine.

“Good. Meg’s a little self-conscious about her family sometimes.” Anoop shrugged. “She shouldn’t be, but you know…” Tommy nodded, he got it. Nobody else in the drama club had a job, not during school anyway. Anoop continued, speaking low so nobody else would here. “Don’t worry, I never said anything, about, you know.”

“I didn’t think you did,” Tommy said, surprising his own self. It was true, he trusted Anoop to keep his stupid-ass family a secret even from his girlfriend. “She’d be pissed, right?” Anoop grinned and shrugged in a way that said Hey, nothing I can do about it. He was such a fucker. “She seems okay with everyone here, though.”

Anoop put a hand on his shoulder. “Everyone else has been here before. You’re the only new guy. And she’s in a good mood.” Tommy laughed.

“Better take advantage of that later-ow.” He rubbed his arm through the leather jacket. Even Anoop’s play punches were kind of hard. He took his fuckin’ Kool-Aid and went looking for Adam.

“Hey, down here.” Kris grinned at him from a door with stairs leading down. “It’s gonna be a while. The basement’s cool, do you have your guitar?” Tommy smacked himself in the head. “Then go back to the car and get it, dork.” Tommy laughed and went to the car, sitting the glass on a mantle. He knew Adam forgot to lock the doors. Tommy smiled-that should fuckin’ annoy him, his guitar was in there, but it didn’t. It just seemed cute.

He headed back in with his guitar and mini amp, and met a woman at the door in a slightly dirty factory style uniform. “Hi, I’m Tommy. Are you Megan’s mom?” Tommy said. He waited while she looked him over, taking in his clothes and hair. Tommy normally hated this part, but Megan’s mom didn’t seem too bothered by it. “I’m in the drama class with her.” That got a tentative smile out of her.

“Yeah, that’s my girl. I just got off work, can you hold open the door? I have to carry in my toolbox. I work tool and die over at Sanson.” Tommy held the door open, and she saw the guitar. “Oh sorry, didn’t see that.”

“No problem.” Tommy closed the door. “I’m going back downstairs, do you need anything?” She grinned, smile wrinkles around her mouth and Tommy could see under the grime where Megan got her looks from.

“No honey, I need a shower and something to eat. Just go and play your guitar and keep those crazy kids off my back for 30 minutes.” They both laughed and Tommy took his guitar case downstairs, navigating the narrow stairs. When he got to the main room, everyone was sitting on old beat-up couches and debating about what they wanted on their pizza. Tommy slid on the couch next to Adam, almost in his lap, and Adam’s arm automatically went around his waist. Nobody even looked over, they just kept debating sausage vs. pepperoni. Finally Anoop told everyone to shut up and he went upstairs to order.

Tommy took his guitar out of the case and grabbed a cable. “Hey, anyone want to hear something?” Kris looked at him and smirked.

“I’m not big on the Sex Pistols, sorry.” Tommy caught the challenge in Kris’s eyes, and thought Oh, that’s it, you asked for it fucker. Tommy scrambled for his mini amp. When he got it plugged in he stood up, right near Kris.

“All right, just for you.” Tommy tuned it a little, then started to play. Kris’s eyes went almost comically wide when he heard the song, and Tommy smirked. His version of “Moon River” was a rock guitar song, louder and brasher than most versions. It wasn’t Kris’ version, all sweet and winsome. This one had an edge, it was desperate, it was angry, even. It was about moving on, now. Leave all that shit behind and take the moon and maybe a friend.

He mouthed some of the lyrics as he played the song. It felt really good to just finally, really play after not doing it much for nearly a month. The music was coursing through him, making him feel like he was made of light, and for once it felt like it was what he needed to do, not a chore like the last six months of hardcore bands. He did the version he always heard in his head while Kris did his-and yes he had fucking been listening. It didn’t fucking matter that he had never played it, hadn’t practiced. It was in his head, and it came right out.

Finally, he drew out the ending until it echoed in the small basement room. When that faded, Tommy sang in his shitty voice “Moon river…and me.” He hit the guitar one more time-*chunk*-and sat down on the couch arm, guitar on his side, and laughed at everyone’s stunned faces. There was a pause, and then Alisan started clapping, followed by everyone else. Tommy looked up and saw Anoop at the bottom of the stairs, smiling. Then he felt someone squeeze his hand and looked over at Adam, feeling his stomach twist as Adam looked at him with pride. “Goddamn, that felt good. Shit, I needed to play.” He was saying it to everyone, but looking at Adam.

"You really did good,” Adam said, and Tommy thought Fuck it, tonight is gonna be amazing.

Chapter Text

Tommy wound up playing guitar for nearly the next hour, only begging off long enough to get a goddamn piece of pizza (okay, two), and then go to the bathroom. He played what requests he could, considering he didn’t know a lot of the songs (“No, I don’t know how to play any Madonna. Sorry Brad.”) and would just riff in between. He did play “Rise Above” by Black Flag, and watched Kris make a face and Megan bounce around. That was funny.

“Hey,” Adam said after a long while. “I know it’s a long shot, but do you know any Prince at all?” Tommy grinned, remembering Adam’s poster.

“Naw, but if anyone has a tape, I can probably learn it. But only if you sing with me.” Megan squealed (Anoop flinched and made a face) and ran to get a box of tapes from near the boom box sitting next to a broken TV. She started rummaging through them really fast, and then held one up. Anoop grinned.

“I know what song she’s going to play,” Anoop said as Megan started winding the tape back. Finally, she was done and a song came on that was led with a chiming, melodic guitar. Tommy listened to it and started strumming along after a while. Tommy played along with it once and then looked at Adam.

“Wanna try it? I think I got it, if it’s not perfect, who cares, right?” He started playing it again and Adam leaned forward, arms on his knees, and started singing.

“When you were mine/I gave you all of my money/Time after time/You done me wrong…”

Tommy was trying to get all the chords right, but he did hear a lot of the lyrics too, especially when Megan and Anoop joined in on backing vocals. “I didn’t care/I never was the kind to make a fuss/When he was there/Sleeping in between the two of us”. Tommy raised an eyebrow-this was pretty fuckin’ awesome. He let the rhythm of the guitar part ground him as he listened to Adam’s voice soar in the chorus. “I love you more than I did when you were mine.” Tommy had his eyes closed for most of it, but he looked up at one point and saw Brad with his head down, and fucking missed a chord. He recovered it, but still. Fuck.

Tommy took a deep breath and finished the song, listening to Adam’s strong voice on the high note. Everyone clapped and Kris whistled, but Tommy couldn’t push the image of Brad out of his head. Fuck, Brad didn’t need to be unhappy. It just wasn’t right. He was distracted from that train of thought by Adam putting an arm around him. “What’s wrong?” he said, too soft for anyone else to hear.

“Oh, sorry. It’s nothing. Those lyrics have more bite than I expected.” He smiled at Adam and noticed Brad going upstairs, telling Anoop he was bringing the soda bottle downstairs. He looked back at Adam, who had started talking about what a genius Prince was, with Kris assisting. Adam focused on his stage act, clothes and voice, and Kris talked guitars and playing every instrument on his records. By the time the twin geeks were done, Tommy was considering buying a record or two. He played a few chords of “Lexicon Devil” in an attempt to quiet that thought. It didn’t entirely work.

“Hey come on, it’s time to get dressed up! Everybody, the stuff’s in my room.” Megan was bouncing again, and Anoop gently put a hand on her shoulder. That actually worked, Megan stopped bouncing and smiled at Anoop for a second, then turned back to them. “We have to get ready, we can’t be late.” Tommy frowned at that.

“Um, we’re not performing in it, are we?” Tommy shuddered inside at the thought. He couldn’t, he’d never live it down. Megan grinned and snuggled closer to Anoop. “Please, Megan, tell me I’m not going onstage.”

“You’re not. Me and Anoop are. We’re Brad and Janet!”

“Slut!” Kris said, laughing. Tommy looked over at him, horrified. Oh fuck me, Kris loves Rocky Horror. Kris. This is so fucked up. Tommy looked over at Adam, who was laughing too. Kris snorted a little and covered his face. “I’m performing too. I gotta get in costume.” He got off the couch and ran upstairs, Megan and Anoop following. Everybody else got up too, until Tommy and Adam were alone in the basement. Tommy almost headed up to but Adam stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

Tommy turned and Adam said “Hey, wait a minute”, his voice so soft Tommy barely heard him. Adam moved over a little, and pulled out two squished pieces of pizza wrapped in napkins. He had hidden them from everyone else. They were a little greasy and gross now, from being hidden between the couch and Adam’s body. “Stay in here with me. I need to eat something.”

Tommy watched as Adam ate two fucked up, crushed pizza slices and then drank some Coke. Adam was finished in about a minute and stood up. “Okay, I’m done, we can go up-Tommy?” Adam just stared at Tommy. “Tommy, what-“

Tommy couldn’t fucking help it, there were tears. There were tears and he hated to cry, he didn’t want Adam to think he pitied him but it was just so sad. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t-I’m sorry.” What he wanted to say was Oh my god you hid pizza behind your back, you goddamn nearly sat on it, so you wouldn’t eat in public. Why? But he couldn’t. It would just make things worse.

“Hey, hey.” Adam pulled Tommy to him. “Don’t cry. See, I’m eating a little better. I’m not binging as much, I just get little bits of food. As long as nobody sees me, I’m fine. And I…I can eat in front of you.” Adam brushed a tear away. “See, it’s better.”

How? Tommy wanted to shake him. How is sitting on your fucking dinner so nobody sees you better? I don’t understand. Tommy felt another tear drop, and then he just wanted to fucking ransack Meg’s house until he found a fucking liquor cabinet. There had to be one somewhere. “I don’t…I could have brought you food, and you could eat in the car.” That sounded just as fucking bad to him. “We could have lunch at school somewhere, if you want. But I don’t think…” he took a deep breath. “I don’t know. That scared me.”

“It did?” Adam didn’t even get it, he didn’t understand that he shouldn’t have to do that. “But, I wasn’t binging. I just-I couldn’t.” Tommy thought Nobody was looking at you when I was playing guitar for an hour, you could have had a slice. They know you don’t eat much in front of them, it would have been fine. “At least I got some of it.”

“I know,” Tommy rubbed his forehead. “I’m sorry. I know we said this should be a good night. But…we’ll have to talk about this some more. I want you to tell me. Okay?” Tommy knew he was way in over his fuckin’ head, but maybe Adam talking to him would help.

“I-okay.” Adam hugged him tighter. “I started eating breakfast. I’m not eating so much at night that I’m still stuffed when I wake up. It’s not much-I just get a slice of toast with my coffee now. My mom likes it, she said she didn’t like me just filling up on black coffee every day.”

Maybe Leila knows more than she lets on. Tommy put his face in the crook of Adam’s neck. “Okay, that’s probably good, for a start. And I think-maybe we can have lunch, or eat after school or something.” I’ll sit and eat with you every goddamn fucking day if that’s what it takes. “I don’t want you to be hurting.”

“I know,” Adam said, and that almost fucking made Tommy cry too. “You try to watch out for me, I know.” Adam rubbed over Tommy’s back. “I feel like I’m not supporting you enough. But you look out for me.”

‘You’re doing great.” Tommy pulled back, wiping at his eyes. “Just being around you makes me feel better.” Tommy blushed a little, thinking it was too much, too weird a thing to say. But Adam smiled at him.

“Okay. Um, we should go.” Adam hugged him again and started up the stairs, just as Kris showed up. Tommy hoped Kris wouldn’t notice if his eyes were red. He did not want to explain this shit to Kris now or ever.

“Hey, come on, all the good boas are gonna be gone.” Kris put a friendly hand on Adam’s shoulder as he went up, then came over to where Tommy was putting up his guitar. “Nice guitar,” Kris said, far too fucking casually.

“Thanks,” Tommy said, figuring out where this was going.

“Very nice, very expensive guitar, in fact.” Kris looked over at it. “It’s beautiful. You’ve taken good care of it.” Kris looked at it some more. “So…you have ripped jeans, no car, and a two thousand dollar guitar. What the fuck is up with you?”

“Back off, Kris.” Tommy said it very softly, but there was an edge to his voice. “My life is my own business, and if I feel like telling you about it, I will. Until then, leave it alone. Just leave it the fuck alone.”

“What’s going on?” Kris did not understand the concept of ‘leaving something alone’. “You’re still living at Lisa’s house, that’s what I heard. I mean, don’t you have a family-“

“Kris.” Tommy turned so he was facing him. “I told you to back off. So do it now.” I can’t fight him, he thought. No matter how good it would feel, I’m not allowed to beat his ass. We’re going to have a good night. Tommy put his guitar up and grabbed it and his mini amp. “It’s not something I want to talk about.” He turned in the direction of the stairs, and felt a hand on his shoulder. He stiffened up, and Kris dropped his hand. So you do have a self-preservation instinct, you little fuck.

“I’m just-I’m worried.” Tommy didn’t look over at Kris but he knew he was probably shifting from foot to foot, a nervous habit. “You’ve been so sick, and there’s all this…stuff, going on.” Tommy rolled his eyes-Kris couldn’t bring up him and Adam being boyfriends directly. “And I worry. I don’t like thinking nobody’s looking out for you.”

Tommy smiled a little, and turned to meet Kris’s eyes. “I have more people looking out for me now than I did before. Honestly. So, you don’t have to worry. Just…take my word for it that things are better. Okay?” Kris nodded, and for once he was serious and not smirking. Tommy nodded back. Good, he’s listening. He started up the stairs, and Kris called after him.

“I still want that guitar.” Tommy flipped him the finger and kept going.

Upstairs in Megan’s room (which had what was probably her old bedroom set from fifth grade, going by the ruffled pink canopy), there were costumes getting tossed around everywhere. Tommy saw Adam, bent over the bed and gently rearranging the costumes so they wouldn’t wrinkle. Tommy let him have a minute, not saying anything just yet. Megan and Anoop had their square outfits and went into the bathroom to put them on. Brad raised an eyebrow. “If they’re not out in ten minutes, we bang on the door.”

“Oh come on, give them fifteen. Anoop can last longer than ten,” Tommy said, looking through the clothes. Brad and Adam both cracked up, and Tommy felt good about that. They needed a laugh. Tommy grinned over at Alisan. “You’re gonna be Magenta?”

“Yep, I wanna be evil tonight. I’m so nice to all of you losers,” she said, smiling serenely. “Really, I just want to wear a maid’s outfit and too much makeup. It’ll be fun. “Alisan smiled and said “Who do you want to be, Adam?”

Tommy turned, and Adam’s smile was nervous. He looked okay, considering the conversation they’d just had in the basement. He caught Tommy’s eye for a minute, and Tommy nodded. “I don’t know. I don’t want to be a Translyvanian again. It’s boring. I want…I want to-I can’t. It wouldn’t work.”

Alisan frowned at him. “Adam, who do you want to be?” Tommy looked over and Brad was watching, Kris was in the doorway, waiting as well. “Whoever it is, we’ll make it work for you. We all will.” Everyone nodded as Adam looked at the floor.

“I want to be Dr. Frank,” Adam said. “But it won’t-I can’t. I can’t go out wearing a corset and panties, I’m too big and it’ll look horrible. Plus I’ll get my ass kicked.” Tommy let out a breath, because shit, that one wasn’t going to be easy. Adam couldn’t even let Tommy see him naked, but he secretly wanted to be Dr. Frank.

“Are you sure?” That was Megan’s voice from the doorway. She was already in her Janet costume. “I think we can do it, but it’ll be a little different. I mean, there are other things besides the corset top.”

“Yeah,” Brad said, holding Columbia’s hat in his hands. “You could do the surgeon’s gown, or, I don’t know, the cape or something. Or we can make something that looks like Frank, but different.” Brad paused and laughed. “I mean, come on. We’re drama nerds. We can fix something up.”

Adam looked around at everyone. “You don’t think it’s stupid?” Everyone shook their heads. “But I don’t-won’t I look awful?” Alisan came closer then, and looked at Adam’s face.

“You know, your face would be really good in the Dr. Frank makeup. You’re got really nice lips,” she said. Tommy thought Yes I know, but Alisan kept looking him over. “You get the makeup on and we’ll come up with a good costume to go with it. Can you do it?”

Adam looked stunned. “Um, I’ve only done theatrical makeup, I don’t know. Um, maybe if someone helps me I can?” Tommy put a hand on Adam’s arm, making him start. “Tommy?”

“I’ve put makeup on people before, like on friends before a show. I can give it a try.” Tommy looked over. “Who’s got a makeup kit?” Megan ran over from the doorway, and handed a giant makeup bag full of lurid crap to Tommy. “Wow. I didn’t know you were that kind of girl.”

“Fuck you, it’s for Rocky. And when I was in Cabaret.” Megan smiled at him. “You can go back downstairs if you like, we might be going in and out of the bathroom.” Tommy nodded and headed out, having to tug Adam’s hand before he went with him.

“Oh my god, are you going to put makeup on me?” Adam whispered. “Wow.” His voice sounded awed and hushed, like this was the best, most unexpected thing about tonight. “Okay. Wow.”

“I didn’t know you liked makeup,” Tommy said, and then wanted to kick himself. He wasn’t trying to say Adam was a drag queen or anything, but-

“I kind of do,” Adam said when they got downstairs and he sat back down on the couch. “I mean, I used to like Duran Duran, and I wanted to sleep with John, but I wanted to look like him too, you know?” Tommy had never wanted to do either, but he nodded anyway. “So yeah, make me up.”

“Okay,” Tommy said, and he fumbled around the contents of the bag, looking for the foundation. “Hold still.” The stuff he found was a pretty good match for Adam’s coloring, and covered his cute freckles. Adam was quiet for a few minutes, as Tommy did the base and powder, then the blush. “Fuck this part is hard.”

“How’d you learn how to do this?” Tommy shrugged.

“Making people up before shows, girls usually, but not always. A lot of people wanted me to because I’m good with eyes.” Tommy got out the eyeliner pencil then. “Okay, don’t twitch or anything.” He started making up Adam in black eyeliner. Adam was very still when Tommy did his eyes, and Tommy got to watch the transformation. “Fuck, it looks really good.”

“Yeah?” Adam said, and smiled just a little. “I like it, it feels good. Like I’m getting ready for a performance.”

“You are, baby.” Tommy took his time on the eyes. When they were finally done, he said “Okay, do you want to wait on the lipstick? That shit gets everywhere, on your teeth…”

“Tommy,” Adam said, shutting Tommy up. “Were you angry at me earlier? About…you know.” Tommy closed his eyes. He knew Adam hadn’t forgotten about it. He rubbed a hand over Adam’s knee, trying to be soothing.

“No, I wasn’t mad. I’m not now, either. I told you, it scared me.” Adam looked at him, and goddamn, but the black eyeliner made Adam’s eyes look amazing. “Don’t worry about making me mad. Fuck, you look beautiful now.” Adam gave him that tentative, sweet smile and Tommy kissed it.

They kissed for another minute until they heard a knock on the door at the top of the stairs. “We have to finish up,” Anoop said. “Come back up here, we’ve got something that’ll work.” Tommy kissed Adam again, quickly, and then stood up.

“Come on, I want them to show you how beautiful you look.” Adam didn’t argue with him, just went with Tommy, holding hands until they got to the top of the stairs.

When they got back, Megan reacted first, her eyes going as wide as a Betty Boop doll before she started clapping her hands. Brad joined in next, already dressed as Columbia. Alisan made a great Magenta, with her dark hair puffed up into a rat’s nest of curls. Adam just smiled, ducking his head. “It looks okay?”

 

Brad grinned at him. “It looks great honey.” Tommy caught the wistful note in Brad’s voice, but nobody else seemed to. “But where’s your lipstick?”

“Tommy’s going to do that when we get there. Um, what did you come up with?” Tommy watched as Adam’s eyes widened when they Alisan held out a tight black top and some dancer-type shorts. “Here, just wear the cape over everything, and we have the fishnets and heels. We’d do more, but this will work for now. Oh, and here’s the wig.”

“Oh my god,” Adam said, and smiled. “I’ll put this stuff on in the bathroom. Thank you.” He took the costume and stumbled off. Don’t cry and ruin my makeup, baby, Tommy thought. Everyone else joked and talked to each other, but Tommy kind of forgot to. He just watched the door until Adam came back.

Adam stood in the doorway, looking scared. He had the outfit on, including the wig. Tommy was stunned-Adam looked good in dark hair, even that lousy curly Dr. Frank wig He was wearing the giant platforms and fishnets, with the cape over the rest. He held the cape open for a minute, blushing hot red. “How is it? Do I look okay?”

Alisan was the first one to run over and give Adam a hug. “You look so good!” Megan said, and Anoop nodded. Kris patted Adam on the shoulder before disappearing into the bathroom himself, with a bag full of-stuff. Tommy had no fucking idea who Kris wanted to be.

Adam turned to Tommy and said very quietly, “Okay?” Tommy just had to nod dumbly. When he found his voice, he said “You look great. You really do.” Adam grinned at him and Tommy decided to forget about the pizza incident for the rest of the night. He went over to where Adam was and stood there awkwardly, not sure if he should hug him or not. They wound up just smiling at each other until Anoop started making gagging noises. Then Tommy went over and started talking to Brad, and Adam to Megan.

They kept bullshitting for a few minutes, and Tommy complimented Brad’s costume again. Brad got a twinkle in his eye. “Where’s yours? You need to dress up too, honey. Megan, see what we’ve got left for Tommy to wear.” Brad said, ignoring Tommy’s frantic head-shaking.

Megan beamed, and looked through the pile of leftover costumes. “I think you should wear this!” She held up…a tiny pair of gold lame shorts.

Tommy, Adam, and Anoop all spoke at once. “NO.” Tommy looked over at Adam, who already has his arms crossed, and Anoop, who was just laughing. Megan looked disappointed.

“But you’d make a great Rocky-okay.” Megan put them away. “All we’ve got left is Riff-Raff.” Tommy nodded, that wasn’t such a bad idea.

“Yeah, who is Kris-“ Tommy trailed off when Kris came in dressed as Eddie, big gash across his forehead and a sax around his neck. Tommy had to cover his face with a hand. Holy fuck, they are all crazy.

“Um…I don’t know if I really want to go as a character. Can I just be a zombie or something?”

Thirty minutes later, Tommy was in the car trying to adjust his Riff Raff bald wig and shifting around. “You know, trying to sit in a car seat with this hunchback is really fucking uncomfortable.”

“Shut up, you look good.” Adam followed the trail of cars to the theater. It wasn’t the Palace, but a little crumbling theater in the suburbs. It had a stage though, and Tommy guessed that’s all they needed.

“You look good, I’m the evil hunchback.” Adam laughed and told him to put on a tape. Since Adam didn’t specify which, Tommy decided The Dead Boys would be great music to listen to on the way to this fucked up teen suburban ritual. “Caught With the Meat In Your Mouth” was still playing when Adam pulled the car up next to Anoop’s. Megan jumped out of the car, adjusting her cute little ribbon-brimmed hat.

“Come on, me Anoop and Kris need to go meet the other cast members. Let’s hurry!” Megan was super happy right then, and Anoop had to grab a box of props and then try to catch up to her in his square Brad shoes. Adam looked at him again, expectant. Tommy groaned good-naturedly.

“Okay, I’m ready. Let me into the theater nerd holy ritual.” Adam rolled his eyes but they walked up the parking lot together and joined a huge crowd of costumed weirdos. Tommy felt his bald head wig itch a little, and he remembered not to touch it. Well, for tonight, you’re one of them, dipshit.

It wasn’t so bad. Anoop, Megan and Kris all got a big cheer when they walked up. “Those three do this a lot?” Tommy whispered to Adam, and he just giggled. Adam was nervous, standing there in his modified Dr. Frank outfit. A girl dressed as Frank looked Adam over, and Tommy stiffened to defend Adam if he needed to. Instead, the girl nodded in approval at the boots and went back to checking her lipstick.

“Oh yeah, I have to do your lips in the bathroom when we get in,” Tommy said, as they inched up in line. Adam snickered and Tommy shook his head. “Fuck off, that wasn’t even close to dirty.” They got to the front of the line-Tommy paid-and soon they were in the girl’s bathroom, which was an impromptu dressing room. Tommy lined and glossed Adam’s lips there, with the stuff he’d swiped from Megan’s makeup kit. What the fuck, he was gonna give it back.

They had to run to get to the front row, where everyone else were, the rest of the cast included. The Dr. Frank performing that night turned out to be a 19 year old college student, and straight. “I swear, I get more girls when I play Frank than anybody else. It’s really cool.” Adam looked mildly horrified, which made Tommy laugh. He already knew that some girls did like makeup on their boys. A Transyvainian gave them their props bags, and Adam and Tommy talked with the people around them as things got more raucous and silly.

Finally, the MC came on stage. She was a six-foot drag queen who Tommy knew, she came to shows and could kick fucking ass if she needed to. “Gimmie an R!” she yelled, and then after everyone screamed it sing-songed “…in a minute”. She then ran down the rules for the show as everyone gathered onstage. “Don’t throw toast, it attracts mice and I am not paying to get this dump an exterminator. And please remember, there are no lighters. The only open flames are the cast.” Everyone did a limp wrist. Adam laughed, and then looked guilty. Tommy shrugged-that really was just a joke. This was probably the least homophobic bunch of people on the planet.

Then they started rounding up the Rocky virgins, and it was pretty funny-lots of them it seemed. Then there was a pause, and-oh fuck YOU, Kris-he was getting pointing out. “You, Riff Raff, our Eddie says you’re a Rocky virgin.”

“Am not, and how would he know?” Tommy called back, grinning. The MC asked him again, and Tommy said yes, he’d been before. “Long time ago, though.” Adam nudged him.

“I didn’t know you liked Rocky,” he said, and he was smiling, eyes shining. Tommy didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d only seen it when he was sneaking out of the house as a kid and going to midnight movies for something to do. It was possible to catch a nap during a full house production of Rocky, at least if Tommy had enough muscle relaxants. But there wasn’t any need to talk about that now.

The last virgin left the stage after performing the “I’m a Little Teapot” song, and the MC (her name was Kate, Tommy remembered) got back up there and started the cheer. “Gimmie an R! Gimmie an O! Gimmie a C! Gimmie a K! Gimmie a Y! What’s that spell!"

“ROCKY!” Tommy yelled along with everyone else.

“What’s that spell?” The MC yelled louder.

“ROCKY!”

“One more time!”

“ROCKY!” Adam yelled it so loud, his voice pierced the crowd. Tommy laughed open mouthed at how happy Adam looked right then. Then the movie started.

“A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, God said, Let There Be Lips!” Tommy slid his hand over Adam’s, squeezing it, as the opening song started. Adam was singing along, seemingly transfixed, and Tommy relaxed, listening to Adam. He knew all the lyrics, and Tommy tuned out the crowd as Adam sang.

“At the late night double feature picture show/by RKO…” Tommy started humming along, as Adam caught his eye and smiled shyly as he sang. “In the back row…”

They both jumped a little when everyone around them turned and screamed “FUCK THE BACK ROW!” Tommy laughed again. Okay, that killed the mood. Or maybe it didn’t, because Adam didn’t let go of his hand.

“Did you think they were good?” Tommy blinked. Adam was talking about the movie. “You know, Megan and Kris and Anoop. They love doing those shows when they can.”

I was sitting right next to you, we held hands under the seat half the time and I was supposed to be paying attention to those losers? Right. “Oh yeah, they were good. Megan was good.” Tommy looked out the window, hoping that Adam didn’t catch on that he had no fucking idea. The soft giggle he heard let him know it probably wasn’t working.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be there soon.”

When they finally got to Allen’s, it was about one thirty. Tommy didn’t really care, he wasn’t tired because Adam was pushing against him as he was trying to open the door. “Come on, come on,” Adam whispered. “I’ve been waiting too long.” Tommy finally got the door open and they staggered in, Tommy’s guitar case banging against the door.

“Hey-“ Tommy said, and reached for it, but Adam shut him up with a kiss, putting a hand on Tommy’s neck to keep him still. After a minute Adam let him go and put the guitar case near the door, along with their bags. Tommy stepped back so he could take a look. Adam had taken off the cape and platforms, but he was mostly still in costume, and Tommy thought he looked fucking fantastic. They had driven back as soon as they could, fuck taking off the makeup. Adam pulled the wig off. “You looked good with dark hair,” Tommy said.

“Yeah? Good, because that thing was hot.” Adam moved closer and kissed Tommy again. “I’m glad you took your wig off though. That bald thing was pretty hideous.” He kissed down Tommy’s neck.

“Thanks…oh fuck,” Tommy said as Adam bit over his pulse. He pulled Adam closer to him, feeling Adam hard against his hip. Tommy loved how Adam had to bend down to kiss and nuzzle him, it made him feel taken care of. He would never admit it if asked, but it was true. Tommy was about to go to his knees when Adam’s hands on his shoulders stopped him.

“Not yet.” Adam pulled back, makeup a little messed up. “I…can you…I want you to take a shower.” Adam had such a hard time getting it out that Tommy blinked. “I know it sounds stupid, but that time I washed you and you went down on me? I think about that a lot.”

“You want me to do that again?” Tommy grinned-Adam’s best fantasy was pretty wholesome. Tommy started moving across the apartment, shedding his clothes on his way to the bathroom. “There’s not much room in here, I guess you can just stand in the doorway.” Adam followed him, eyes large and bright blue against the black eye makeup.

The bathroom really was tiny, the shower like a closet, and Tommy just left the curtain open as he turned on the water. What the fuck, he could always mop the floor in the morning. Adam did stand in the doorway, watching as Tommy scrubbed off the last of the makeup and soaped himself. Tommy could fucking feel Adam’s eyes on him. He arched his back a little, putting on a show, and felt pretty smug when he head Adam moan. “Fuck. You are so beautiful.” Tommy opened his eyes and saw Adam pulling down his shorts. “I have to get these fishnets off. They’re kind of annoying.”

Tommy watched as Adam took off the shorts and pulled the fishnets off. “They looked hot, though.” After a second, Tommy said “Why don’t you get in? Is that okay?” Tommy didn’t even expect to say that, it just left his mouth and hung between them.

“I don’t know.” Adam was in his underwear and the shirt now, makeup still on, and it looked silly and kind of hot at the same time. “I’m still…I don’t know.” Adam ducked his head, crossing his arms over his stomach.

“Maybe you could fit in here with me-I know it’s small,” Tommy whispered, and Adam met his eyes then. “I would like it.” Adam was listening, although not doing anything else, so Tommy continued. “I love doing what you want. But I’ve wanted to see you naked, all the way, and touch you. Can I?” Tommy wondered what Adam would say.

Adam shook his head a minute later. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t think I’m ready. I don’t know when I can.” Tommy nodded. “You’ve been really patient with me, and thanks. But...”

“No, it’s okay.” Tommy’s voice was quiet, and he didn’t know if Adam could hear him over the water. “I understand, it’s okay.” Tommy didn’t say anything else for a moment, then tried to step out. “I’m done, you can shower if you want to, I’ll be in the front room-“

“Wait,” Tommy looked over and Adam was bright red under his makeup. “I want you to um, clean up.” Tommy had no fucking idea what Adam was talking about, and then he got it. “I mean, I’m not gonna fuck you, I don’t think, but we can play if you want.”

Hell yes I want, Tommy thought as he got another washcloth, dripping water on the floor reaching for it. He soaped it up and felt himself get a little warm as Adam watched him clean between his cheeks. “Damn, um. Yeah, this is new.” Adam laughed, and that set Tommy off. Really, it was so fucking ridiculous. “We’re nervous.”

“That’s okay. I mean, we haven’t tried this before.” Adam was watching him and Tommy could see the outline of his cock, still hard. Tommy swallowed-he was glad they were just going to do fingering, he was pretty sure he wasn’t ready for that. “Are you okay with it, really?”

“Yeah. I’m okay with it.” Tommy winced a little as he scratched himself with the rough washcloth. “I wish I’d known ahead of time. I could have prepared better.” Tommy thought about it and laughed. “You know, I bet everyone else thinks that I’d be doing that to you.”

“Fuck them.” Adam grinned at him. “Are you sure though? Because if you want, you can finger me first. I got some gloves, and lube. We should be okay. Let’s just see if we like it.”

Yeah bullshit, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the one with those big fingers in my ass. Tommy shrugged. “Let’s start with me, and see how that goes.” Tommy still felt warm all over just thinking about it. “It’s something I wanted us to do, anyway.” Tommy dropped the washcloth and turned off the water. He faced Adam, still dripping water. “Just, stop if it’s too much for me?”

“Of course.” Adam looked horrified at the idea that he wouldn’t, and Tommy relaxed. “I want it to be good for you, okay? And if it’s not I want you to tell me. Just trust me.” Adam got a towel from the basket next to the door and started rubbing Tommy dry. The towel scratched a little too-Allen had gotten it at a thrift store a couple of years back and it had seen better days.

“Okay.” Tommy knew he would agree to it, that he was just waiting for Adam to make the next move. This was his game, since Tommy had done a lot and Adam had only had fantasies for so many years. Tommy pushed back the voice that said that wasn’t the reason really, that Tommy would probably do whatever Adam asked. He didn’t need to be thinking about that shit right now. He leaned in for a kiss, and Adam accepted it, but with his eyes trained down. “Hey, it’s okay.” He didn’t need fucking Adam freaking out right now.

“Hey, why don’t you go to the bed?” Adam said, still not looking. “You lie down and get comfortable, I’ll get everything.” Tommy could hear how much Adam was trying to sound like he knew what he was doing. Tommy kissed Adam again on his way out. Tommy heard the door close behind him. Adam didn’t want Tommy seeing him, even by accident, and Tommy tried really hard to pretend that didn’t hurt just a little.

The apartment was quiet as Tommy crossed the tiny room and went to the mattress. He could only hear his bare feet padding against the floor as he went and put some music on. It wasn’t punk, not this time, but an old soul record by Donny Hathaway he’d gotten for fifty cents at a used record store. He heard Adam start the water and he sat on the bed, looking at the piles of stuff they had left near the door. He pulled his backpack closer, and laid out the lube and a condom. They probably wouldn’t need it, but fuck, there it was. When he heard the shower stop, he turned over on his stomach, spreading his legs out.

Tommy had his eyes closed and was breathing deep to stay calm, when he heard Adam finally leave the bathroom. The hushed “oh my God” made Tommy smile a little. He relaxed more when he felt the mattress dip as Adam knelt next to him, petting down his back. “Oh my God,” Adam said again. Tommy lifted his head to look, but Adam had already pressed a kiss between Tommy’s shoulder blades. “Oh you got the lube, let me find the gloves I got.” Tommy giggled and looked over as Adam went through his own backpack, tearing through it. Adam had the shirt back on, but he was naked from the waist down, and still hard.

“Please tell me you’re not going to have to get dressed and go to the car,” Tommy said, and now he was laughing. Adam muttered something that sounded like “shut up” at him and kept looking. “Find them?”

“Yeah! It’s more lube, if we need it, and the gloves. I got them at uh, Planned Parenthood.” Tommy could imagine Adam's blush, and he started laughing again. “Oh fuck you. They give the gloves to lesbians and gay guys, it’s not like they thought I was gonna knock a girl up with my fingers.” Tommy was still giggling when Adam slid on top of him, Adam’s shirt riding up. Tommy’s laughter got caught somewhere in his throat. “Are you ready? “ Adam was about half on him, not with his full weight, and he was kissing Tommy’s neck. “I’ll take as long as you need. Oh God, I wanna do this so bad.” Tommy felt Adam moan as he kissed Tommy’s shoulder.

“It’s okay,” Tommy sounded fuckin’ weird to himself, low and needy. “I want you to, just be easy. And I have a condom out, although I don’t think we’ll get to that.” Adam stilled, then brushed his lips against Tommy’s ear. “I mean, just in case.”

“Good idea, but yeah, I don’t know if I can last that long.” Adam shifted down and Tommy could feel Adam’s cock against his ass. Tommy turned his head and Adam kissed him. “Okay,” Adam said, and slid off. Tommy heard the weird sliding sound of the glove going on, then Adam fumbling with the packets of lube.

Adam settled behind Tommy then, one hand massaging his back while the one with the glove on it rubbed over his hole. The touch made Tommy jump at first, but Adam whispered “Easy,” and Tommy relaxed almost on command. It’ll be okay, he thought, and just then Adam said “I’ve got you.” Tommy closed his eyes, silently agreeing. Yeah, you do.

This went on for a few minutes, with Adam just barely touching his asshole, his other hand sliding over Tommy’s back, shoulders and ass. Tommy was only about half hard, this was going to take a while. Adam kept touching him gently, like he was trying to calm Tommy down. Yeah, enough of that shit. He pushed up against Adam’s hand. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, come on, try it.” Tommy knew that he didn’t want it to hurt, but more for Adam’s sake than his. He could take pain, he’d taken a lot. But you were drunk then, asshole. Tommy frowned, that was true. And you know this isn’t about the pain, you’re just scared. Tommy would have liked to tell himself to fuck off, but then Adam pushed one finger inside and Tommy bit his lip, but didn’t flinch.

“Good. Don’t be so nervous.” Tommy could hear the nerves in Adam’s voice as he said it, as he tried to act like he knew what the hell he was doing. Adam moved it slowly, pushing the finger in a little more each time. “There, that’s it. Don’t tense up.” Tommy heard the relief in Adam’s voice, and understood then. Adam needed this, needed it to be good. Tommy relaxed more, breathing steady, as Adam pushed in a bit further. It didn’t feel all that good, but it wasn’t anything painful either. And the smooth slide of the latex glove did help, it wasn’t rough at all.

“Can you say something?” Adam said after a few minutes, when he had two fingers inside Tommy. Tommy had relaxed into it by then, breathing in sync with the fingers moving inside him. It still didn’t feel that fucking great, but it was fine.

“It’s okay. I mean, it doesn’t hurt.” Tommy knew that response wasn’t good enough when Adam moved his fingers nearly all the way out. No, fuck, come on, he thought.

“You don’t like it?” Adam sounded unsure and a little hurt. Tommy didn’t know what to say, so he moved his hips, trying to get Adam’s fingers back. “I mean, we can stop.” Tommy sighed. Fuck.

“I want to, it’s not hurting, but it doesn’t really feel good either. I don’t know, maybe I’m doing something wrong.” Tommy was about to suggest something else when Adam slid his fingers back in, experimenting, and pressed against something inside that-“Fuck. Oh shit Adam, that’s it.”

Adam laughed, and Tommy smiled at the relief he heard in it. “Oh my god.” He stroked his fingers inside Tommy, gently rubbing , and Tommy couldn’t think anymore, he just groaned and pushed against Adam’s fingers. Adam kept talking, keeping up a stream of words. “Oh fuck, this is amazing, it’s so hot. You look so good. Fuck, are you hard?” Tommy was really in no fucking position to answer, so he just lifted up a little more and grabbed his cock, stroking it.

“Wait, wait,” Adam said, and he moved them both so Tommy was on his hands and knees, Adam pressed against his back. “Is this good, tell me if it is. I want you to tell me.” Tommy could feel Adam’s cock against his ass. Adam had his other arm wrapped around Tommy’s waist, holding him still. Tommy felt good like this, fantastic.

“It’s good,” Tommy said. It still ached but it didn’t sting, and it felt so good whenever Adam touched that place inside him. It wasn’t perfect, they really didn’t have a rhythm going and Adam missed it more times than not. But Adam was right there, clinging to his back, breathing in his ear and fuck if Tommy was going to complain. “I-fuck, Adam.” Adam was pushing, sliding his cock against his ass, and Tommy was jerking himself harder. “Yeah.”

Adam groaned in his ear, and that was all the warning Tommy got. Before he knew it, Adam had flipped them so they were kneeling, front to back and Tommy was riding Adam’s fingers. Suddenly, they were a lot deeper and fuck, it burned. It almost felt like the fingers were going to come up his throat, and Tommy’s eyes started to water. Then he could feel the press against his prostate, and it was just pushing over from ‘ow’ to ‘fuck yeah’ when Adam bit his neck hard, coming against Tommy’s ass. Adam held Tommy tighter, but his fingers slid back just enough for Tommy to catch his breath. “Oh god, baby,” Adam said, reaching around to jerk Tommy off. Tommy let out a deep breath that ended in a moan, and he could feel Adam tense. “Baby?”

What the hell was that, I wasn’t expecting it, fuck that was hot, ow. “Put me on my back,” Tommy said. Adam slid his fingers out and Tommy couldn’t help wincing as Adam let him go and Tommy flopped over. Adam was in front of him, flushed from his orgasm and looking scared as hell. Fuck I gotta say something.“I’m okay,” Tommy said. “I’m okay. I mean, you just surprised the fuck out of me.” He was okay too, fuck, he was still hard.

“Oh fuck, did I hurt you? Tommy…” Adam brushed at Tommy’s eyes.. “Fuck, I made you cry. I made you cry, oh my god. I am so sorry.”
“I just wasn’t expecting you to do that, is all.” Tommy felt a lot better now that he was facing Adam. He looked horrified, and Tommy started talking fast, before Adam ran for it.“Your fingers went deeper than I was ready for. It’s okay, you can make it up to me.” Adam stared at him for a long minute, and Tommy was scared as fuck that Adam would leave. Tommy reached for Adam. “It’s okay,” he said again, nearly whispering it.

Adam moved so he was on his side next to Tommy, taking off the glove and throwing it across the room. “Are you really okay?” Tommy nodded, even though his ass was sore. “I just-when we’re together,” Adam said, rubbing over Tommy’s side, “I feel so safe, like I can do anything with you. And I did something I always thought about without asking you first. Did it hurt a lot?”

Tommy shook his head. “It’s probably going to be a little sore, but it’s not bad. Adam, I’m fine. We’ve never done this before. We don’t really know what to do.” Tommy curled up closer to him. “I know you love that, being in control. That’s what got you off, wasn’t it?” He looked over and Adam was pink in the face and smiling just a little. “See, it’s okay. If you want, you can go to the Center with me and maybe we can get some more tips. But for now-“ Tommy put Adam’s hand on his cock-“I really need to get off. You keep leaving me.”

“God I suck at this,” Adam whispered as he started jerking Tommy, slowly at first. Tommy moaned, closing his eyes. He felt Adam kiss down his body until he was at his cock, breathing over it. Tommy raised his hips. Okay, now you’re just being a goddamn tease. Then Adam’s mouth sucked the head of his cock in and his brain shut down for a bit.

When Tommy could open his eyes again, he looked down to see Adam’s eyes closed, looking calm and happy as he sucked on Tommy’s dick. Tommy put a hand in Adam’s hair, just petting the red-gold strands. “It feels good, yeah.” Adam looked up at him, and Tommy could see the trust and caring in Adam’s face before he went down again. “Aw fuck, Adam-“ Tommy gave Adam’s hair a little yank. “Get up, I’m going to-“

Adam moved just in time, finishing Tommy with his hand. Tommy arched halfway off the mattress, grabbing at Adam. They kissed even as Adam was still jerking him through the aftershocks, pressing together. “Oh fuck,” Tommy said, and laughed. “We ruined another shirt.”

“I’ve got my regular clothes in my bag,” Adam said. He grinned, then ruined it with a yawn. “I’m tired, it’s been a long day.” Tommy nodded, because it really fucking had. “Can I nap? Just wake me up in a little bit so I can go home.” Tommy snuggled next to Adam, curling up on his shoulder as Adam drifted off. Tommy thought about what had happened, and decided that the pain? Not a big fucking deal. Hell, he’d damn near killed himself a few times. They were just being awkward, the soreness would go away.

Tommy looked at Adam as he drowsed, thinking, But there’s something else. It’s sort of weird, and it’s not that it stung, it’s a feeling. Not sad, not angry, god not angry, freaked out? But why?

“Hey Tommy,” Adam said after a few minutes, voice groggy and far away sounding. “Love you.” Then Adam fell asleep again, leaving Tommy in the stillness.

Oh.

Chapter Text

Tommy lay next to Adam for a few more minutes, watching him sleep. He was beautiful asleep, even more than awake. Tommy had to force himself not to trace a finger over Adam’s lips. You are so fucking gorgeous. You never see it in yourself. Tommy brushed a hand through Adam’s hair, and he frowned a little in his sleep. He loved Adam, he knew it, he was pretty sure the drama department knew it. He had no idea if Adam knew it.

Tommy bit his lip. I can’t tell him without telling him everything. He can’t love me if he doesn’t know. Tommy slid from under Adam’s arm and curled up on the corner of the mattress, knees nearly to his chest. “Fuck,” he whispered. He had to figure out how to do this right. You know, you don’t have to do it right away, Adam would let you wait longer. Tommy shook his head against the voice that sounded more like Paul. In fact, he’s sure that was exactly what Paul would say.

Tommy couldn’t understand it, but he was pretty sure that Paul loved him too. Adam’s sleepy confession brought the count up to four then-him, Paul, his Oma, and Lisa. Tommy shook his head, then got up slowly. He heard a moan from the bed as he moved off the mattress. He got his smokes and lighter, and took the needle off the Donny Hathaway record. It had been scratching over the end and the noise was getting on Tommy’s nerves.

He sat at the table, watching Reagan scuttle around her cage as he smoked. He’d had two and a half cigarettes when the phone rang. He picked it up quickly as Adam turned over. “Hello?”

“Tommy.” It was Eber, of course, and Tommy tensed up. “It’s nearly 3:30, is my son with you?” Tommy sat back down and flicked his cigarette ash into an old Coke can.

“Here’s here. He’s asleep right now.” Tommy noticed how quiet he sounded. “If you want, I can wake him and give him some coffee so he can get home tonight.” There was a pause on the other end, and Tommy took another drag with shaking fingers.

“Um, that would be fine. He can sleep over if you can get him up in time for dance class, but that would be fine too. Tommy, are you okay? Because if you two are fighting, I will find out about it. And then I’ll find you.”

Tommy chuckled a little. “No. We’re not fighting. I’m trying not to wake him up, this place is pretty small.” Tommy sighed a little. “Everything’s fine.” Tommy knew goddamn well that he didn’t sound fine. “Don’t worry.”

“Really.” Eber was not an idiot by anyone’s standards. “Tommy, I swear on my Grateful Dead records that if you hurt my son-“

“No,” Tommy said, maybe a little too loud. Adam groaned and turned over. He dropped his voice to a whisper. “No. It’s gonna be fine. I just don’t want to get into any details…”

“Please don’t. Respect my sanity, I already have to handle Neil.” Tommy chuckled.

“We didn’t fight, it’s-shit. He’s waking up. Um, I’m going to make some coffee and I’ll send him straight home. I can sleep here tonight.” Eber tried to cut in, asking about Paul, but Tommy just said his goodbyes and hung up. Adam turned over, moaning softly, and Tommy was hit by a wave of emotions: love, fear, the feeling he was out of his league. Adam turned and squinted at the light. “Hi.”

“Hey,” Adam said. “Is it morning already?” Tommy came over sat on the edge of the mattress, smiling. He hoped like hell he didn’t look nervous.

“No, you weren’t asleep that long. Your dad called, he wanted to know if you were coming home. I told him I could give you some coffee and you could go. I can sleep here tonight.” Tommy rubbed over Adam’s shoulder, and he felt-fine. At least for now, it was okay.

“Are you sure?” Adam frowned. “Because I can stay, or I can take you to Paul’s. I kind of like staying here with you.” Adam looked up at him, and his expression was trusting, and also-relaxed. Holy shit, Tommy thought. Does he even remember?

Tommy cleared his throat. “Well, I kind of don’t have an alarm clock here, and you need to go to dance class. So…maybe it would be best.” Adam dropped his eyes and Tommy grabbed his arm. “Hey. I’m sure you can stay over soon. I just don’t want you to miss you-“

“Fuck my classes,” Adam said, and Tommy blinked. “I just don’t care.” Adam sighed and then said “I want to be with you. And I know, you told my dad I’d get home. So I don’t think you’re trying to kick me out-“

“Fuck no,” Tommy said. But being alone would be awesome right now. I love you, but I have to think. Fuck, don’t go.

“But man, driving home and getting up in what, four hours for dance class sounds like shit.” Adam leaned in to kiss Tommy and Tommy couldn’t help himself, he just wrapped around Adam and held him tight. Adam giggled. “You’re happy now.”

Actually, I’m scared shitless by something you said and apparently don’t remember. “Thanks. Um, do you want me to fix you some tea? I said coffee, but then you’ll be up all night.” Tommy turned around, back to Adam as he went to put some hot water on.

“Yeah. Tea’s good. And um, can you do me a favor? Can you make me that tomato soup and rice again? Do you have some?” Tommy closed his eyes, and for a second he wanted to keep Adam here forever. Just to try to keep him happy and safe. But you can’t, said the voice in his head.

“Yeah, I can fix you a little something. Let me get the tea.” Tommy started the kettle on one eye and a pot for rice on the other, and rummaged around for the tomato soup he was sure was still here. When the tea was ready, he fixed the soup and rice silently. Adam sat down at the table, underwear and shirt on, looking at the cigarettes.

“You were up, were you freaking out? I mean, you’re still okay, right?” Tommy looked over then and nodded. “Tommy? You’re kind of quiet, are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I just-okay, the soup’s done.” He ladled in some of the rice and got Adam a bowl and spoon from the tiny crappy collection Allen had. “Do you want anything else?” Tommy sat back down and started smoking again. The air in the room was now slightly blue-tinted and Reagan the chinchilla sneezed.

“No, I just want to make sure you’re not hurt.” Adam looked at him, eyes big, and Tommy felt like the biggest asshole that every walked the fucking earth. Where did he get off, hurting someone so perfect? Adam put a hand on his arm, then slid closer and put his arm around Tommy. Tommy’s head dropped to Adam’s shoulder immediately.

“I guess I just have a lot to think about,” Tommy whispered. He could fuckin’ feel Adam tense up as soon as he said it. “No, don’t worry, it’s nothing like that. But-I want to see you later tonight. I have to talk to Paul and I’ll probably go to the Center too. I just need-you know.”

“Is it about drinking?” Tommy shrugged. He couldn’t answer, so he just snuggled into Adam’s side a little more. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Eat something.

Adam ate slowly and Tommy smoked another cigarette, then fixed himself some tea. They both pretended it wasn’t awkward when Adam got dressed and started packing his things. Then Adam stood in front of him, eyes worried. “Are you sure you don’t want to get dressed and let me take you to Paul’s? I can take you…”

“I’m sure.” Tommy was still naked, and now Adam was in front of him fully clothed and fuck that was a turn on. He pressed close to Adam, tipping his face up for a kiss. Adam moaned as Tommy kissed along his jaw, and that’s all it took.

“Oh.” Adam laughed a little when Tommy went to his knees, but he didn’t protest when Tommy unzipped his jeans and pulled his cock out. “Shit.” Tommy looked up at him as he sucked Adam slowly, knowing he should hurry up, let him go, but he couldn’t. He just kept sucking him and rubbing Adam’s balls until he heard “Okay, pull off, Tommy…”

Tommy didn’t pull off.

“What?” Adam said as Tommy coughed. It was thicker and stronger than he had expected. “Why-Tommy! We’re supposed to be having safe sex and you just-what the fuck? What’s up with you?” Tommy wiped his mouth and smiled up at Adam’s incredulous, angry expression.

“You were a virgin, it’s something I can do to you. It’s okay, you can’t hurt me.” Unless there’s a history of blood transfusions I don’t know about. “Don’t worry about it, I just wanted to try it. You can’t do that with me, though.”

Adam was just staring at him, confusion, lust and worry fighting for dominance in his expression. “How, you want me to go, but you did-I don’t understand.” Tommy stood up and hugged Adam. “What are we doing?”

“We’re fine,” he said, and it didn’t sound like a lie. “You need to go home, and I just want to stay here for a while. You know, it’s peaceful.” Tommy felt Adam’s shoulders relax and he knew that Adam believed him. “So, I do want to see you tonight.”

“Okay,” Adam grinned. “I don’t think we have anything planned as a family. And if we do, I can ask if you can come along. Tommy nodded, thinking Sure, what I have to talk about will go great with family movie night. “Just-if you need to call me at any time today, just do it. I get out of classes around one.”

“That’s a lot of theater and dance practice. Go home and get some sleep.” Adam smiled at him then, tentative but still sweet, and kissed him again. Tommy gripped his arms, and didn’t let go until Adam did. Then he was out the door, closing with a soft click, and Tommy was alone. He laid back on the mattress and tried to figure out what to do next.

Four hours later, the phone was ringing again. Tommy staggered up to get it, smacking his leg against the coffee table with the terrariums on it, and answered it on the third ring. “Yeah?”

“Tommy?” It was Paul’s voice on the other line, and he sounded worried and a little angry. “Tommy, I know you said you’d be late, but…” he trailed off, and Tommy wondered if he thought he’d gone too far. He’s so careful with me, he thought. Like if he says the wrong thing, I’ll be gone. And it’s a fuckin’ possibility, but…

“I didn’t call. I know. I, um, I’m sorry. It was an accident.” Tommy heard Paul sigh in relief, and Tommy felt like shit. “I’m sorry. I gotta get used to checking in. Hey, I’m going to go to the Gay Center in a little bit, can I get a ride back from you or are you busy? I know it’s Saturday.” Paul did a lot of his custom guitar making on Saturday.

“I can pick you up from there, sure. Just call me when you’re ready. Do you need a ride there?” Tommy said no, he’d take the buses and be fine. “It’s a one mile walk to the bus stop from there.”

“That’s not long.” Tommy used to walk that and more all the time. But Paul sounded worried, and Tommy thought Oh, yeah. “I’m a lot better now. Although, maybe we can call the doc and let her check on me I guess.” There was another person who seemed to actually care if he lived or died. Tommy was probably going to be making a list in his head for a while.

“We’ll make an appointment Monday. Okay, rest up if you have to, and I’ll see you later today. Uh, how did last night go?” Tommy thought about it and didn’t know how to answer. There were too many answers he could give. He chewed his fingernail for a minute and when Paul was about to say something else, he finally responded.

“I’ll talk to you when you pick me up okay? See you Paul.” He hung up and went back to the mattress. He didn’t exactly sleep, but he did stare at the ceiling for a while.

A couple of hours later he was taking the bus to Morgan. An old man whistled at him when he got off and Tommy just stared at him before stepping off and slouching down into his jacket. The men outside the bars didn’t whistle at him anymore, instead they nodded as he went inside the Milk Center. It’s like I’m becoming a fixture. Tommy had been that in the punk scene, the guy who was always there starting shit. But here, he didn’t have to start anything. He just had to show up. Jack saw him come in and raised an eyebrow when he saw Tommy. “Hi buddy, long night?” Tommy looked down and laughed. He hadn’t showered, his clothes were splattered with Rocky makeup and he probably still had some stray eyeliner on.

“I guess.” He looked at Jack again and said “Hey, I know it’s not my appointment time, but is Cassidy here? I just need to talk to someone.” Tommy chewed his nails while Jack made a call. After a minute, he hung up.

“He’s here, but not for long. He’s going to see a client of his in the hospital. It’s not-well, it’s always serious with AIDS.” Tommy nodded. “But it’ll probably be okay. Anyway, I’m sorry. We have other counselors, if you want.”

“No, that’s okay. I’m gonna hang out a while though, if that’s all right. I like it here.” Jack grinned at that, and crossed his huge arms over his chest.

“We like having you here, kid. But you drink all the coffee, you pay for it.” Tommy laughed and went upstairs. But before he did, he waited until Jack’s back was turned to put a couple of twenties into the donation box.

Tommy went upstairs, thinking well, my plan’s fucked. He wanted to tell Cassidy everything, tell him about Adam, about what he said, and what the fuck he should do now. He wanted to tell Cassidy about his parents, just to practice. Like maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible if he said it to someone else first. But now Cass had more important things to attend to that his stupid bullshit problems.

You’re just a fucked up rich kid who hates everyone, said one of the more annoying voices in his head. You should start drinking again, because you can’t handle this shit and you never could. He slumped down in a chair, sighing. Fuck, he wanted a drink. And fuck, he should’ve brought his notebook or a book or some shit for distraction.

“Hey,” a familiar voice said near his side, and he flinched before he looked up. It was Janice, from the AA meeting. “Nice to see you back. What’s going on?” Tommy looked at her, and she was wearing a t-shirt from one of the bars a few doors down. What the fuck, she’s in AA, he thought. He thought about telling her to fuck off, but he wanted to talk to someone too badly. “Are you okay, kid?” She looked at him with genuine concern.

“No, I’m kinda freaking out, so I thought I’d come here. I wanted to see Cassidy, but he’s busy. I don’t know.” Tommy scratched through his hair. “What about you?”

Janice looked at him for a minute. “I’m okay, at least for now. One day at a time, and all that.” She paused. “I’m glad you came to the meeting, even if you don’t think it’s for you. I’m not gonna ask you if you’re drinking or anything, I don’t know you that well.” Tommy looked at her and smiled a little.

“Well, I haven’t. I’d like to, but I’ve been avoiding places where I was doing it. And my new friends are pretty fucking cool about it. Hey, can I ask you something?” She grinned and nodded, showing her gold tooth again. Janice looked easy going but tough at the same time, with strong hands and a tattoo of a labrys on her wrist. “Why are you wearing a t-shirt from a bar if you’re in AA?”

Janice laughed. “Honey, I own that bar. Me and my wife. We bought it years ago, and I won’t give it up, even though I stopped drinking.” Tommy looked at her, surprised. She must have seen his next question on his face because she shrugged with one shoulder. “I don’t get nervous by other people drinking anymore-well, sometimes I do. But it’s more important to keep it open. There’s not too many places us queers can go to.” Tommy had never heard anyone say “queer” like that, as an insider term and not an insult. And she’s including you, he thought. That’s…not so bad.

Tommy didn’t know what to say at first, there were so many questions. He settled on “How long have you and your wife been together?” She grinned again. “That’s awesome by the way, that she’s your wife.”

“We’ve been together for about ten years now. I was married to a man and so was she, and when we met, we knew we couldn’t do it anymore. We both got divorced and moved in.” Janice stopped for a minute, twisting a gold band on her hand. “And we both lost custody of our kids.” She looked straight ahead when she said that.

Tommy sucked a breath in. He had no idea what to say. “I’m sorry,” he finally managed to get out, and it didn’t sound like nearly enough. Janice looked over at him and smiled just a little. She squeezed his shoulder, and Tommy moved in closer.

“It’s not as bad, I have visitation now. My ex-husband, he’s gotten used to it a little more. But for a while there, I nearly went crazy.” She looked over at him. “Be glad, you know. That you’re figuring things out now.”

Tommy nodded, head down. “Sometimes it was easier when I was wasted and had no idea, you know?” Janice looked at him steadily, keeping an arm around him. “But I’m glad, you know, that I found the people that I found.” Janice smiled big enough to show her gold tooth and stood up.

“Well, I gotta go to the meeting, I’m the leader of this afternoons. Do you want to come by? You know you don’t have to just because we were talking.” Tommy thought about it. What the fuck, why not.

“Yeah, I’m coming. Is there coffee?” Janice laughed, walking ahead.

“Coffee and doughnuts, can’t have a meeting without them.”

Tommy stayed for the whole meeting again, and actually talked a little. But mostly he listened, as people talked about being lonely, addicted, abandoned, about being sick and not having anyone to help them. Tommy had to wipe his eyes a few times, and wished he’d hidden in the corner. But he had sat right by Janice and he wasn’t going to leave. She squeezed his shoulder again after the meeting was over.

Tommy spent some time in the smoking section after that, just thinking. Some guys cruised him a little, but he just glared until they left. After a while, he got up to leave. Just when he was going out, Cassidy came in, looking like he was about to collapse from the weight of other people’s problems. “Hey Cass,” Tommy said, and just as Cassidy looked up, Tommy put an arm around him. “I heard you were out. I was just here. I went to a meeting.” Tommy didn’t say anything about looking for him.

“Thank you,” Cassidy said, and there was that smile and Tommy would have had the biggest crush on this fucker if his heart wasn’t already taken. “That’s-really nice, Tommy. And I’m glad you’re giving the meetings a chance.” Tommy shrugged, since his opinion on the religious part of it was the same. But the people weren’t bad. “Hey Tommy, you know you can come by whenever you want, if I’m here, I’ll try to see you. Oh, and there’s a movie night next Friday, maybe you can finally bring your boyfriend.”

Tommy looked at his feet when Cassidy said 'boyfriend', and then shook his head. “We’ve got drama practice-we’ve only got a couple more weeks before the show. I wish you could come, but I guess you’ll be here.” Cassidy nodded. “Well, okay. I’m gonna get out and go see a couple of friends." And then I’m gonna do what I need to. “See you, Cassidy, Jack.” Tommy left, jacket hanging off one shoulder, as he went down the street.

After a little bit, he was back at the Points, and it looked almost as bad as it did last week. But this time his target was closer. The bookstore was right on the corner, window still broken from a few weeks ago. “Pirate Pete, hi man.”

“Tommy, where have you been?” Pirate Pete actually got up from behind his fucking desk and shook Tommy's hand. “I heard you were sick, then that you ran down the street and nobody’s seen you. Are you doing okay?” Pirate Pete, along with Monte, was probably one of the best older freaks he knew, so Tommy was honest with him.

“It’s been hard, but I’m getting better. It’s not easy for me to be here anymore, but I wanted to say hi.”

“Why? You’re not about to run away and never come back, are you? Because that would be a shame. Are you still writing, Tommy?” Tommy ducked his head just a bit-Pete was one of the few people he’d trust with his poetry. He told most of his bands that he was a dumbass and didn’t write lyrics, but Pete knew the truth.

“Things have been so crazy I haven’t been much. I will, though. I have to talk to someone. I wanted to let you know that I’m not hanging out because I’m mad or in a nuthouse somewhere. I’m just saying hi.”

Pirate Pete smiled, showing crooked teeth with a little lettuce stuck in the bottom. “Anytime, Tommy. Hey, would you like a first edition paperback of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me? I got it special if you ever showed back up.” Pete produced the slim volume and Tommy took a minute to admire the early 60’s style beatnik cover.

“Hell yes,” he said, even though he had already read it. It was too beautiful not to buy. He paid cash for it, and then he looked around the store. Yeah, empty. “Hey Pete,” he whispered. Pete raised an eyebrow.

Tommy pulled out a few bills and gave them to Pirate Pete. “It’s all I could get from that fuckin’ ATM. Fix the window. And don’t tell anyone where you got it from.” Tommy squeezed Pete’s shoulder as he stood there staring at the money. “Yeah, it’s me. But nobody else gets to know.”

“Sweet Tapdancing Christ,” Tommy heard Pete say, the bells on the door chiming as he went out.

Paul picked Tommy up soon after. And finally, he talked to him in the car about what had happened, and how badly it had scared him, but he was fine now. “I just need to talk to Adam. I need to call him and tell him everything’s okay.” Paul didn’t say anything as Tommy kept going. “I feel like I need to, you know, tell him. I wasn’t sure if I could, but I feel better. Like I cleared my head.” Paul was still not saying anything, and just looking ahead. “Paul?”

“Sorry, it’s just-I was so scared when you didn’t call. Lisa came home at four with LP and his band members carrying her through the door.” Tommy’s eyes bugged out before Paul continued. “It’s okay, she was just so drunk she needed a fireman’s lift to the bed. Then you didn’t come home at all. And I understand, I do. I know you have a hard time. But we need you at the house sometimes too.”

“I know.” Tommy said. “And I’m sorry. I’ll-you let me in, so, yeah. I’ll do better.” Tommy didn’t say anything for a minute, and then he said “Paul? Did you know who I was at first when I started hanging around with Lisa?” Paul didn’t say anything for a minute as he turned. Tommy noticed they were heading towards Adam’s house.

“Not at first. I never really saw you before then, you stayed out of that whole circus with your father pretty well. After about three visits, I had figured it out.” Tommy nodded. “And to answer what might be your next question,” Paul said, pulling his hair back from his eyes, “I didn’t make friends with you because I felt guilty, or sorry for you, however you put it. I made friends with you because when you’re with Lisa and me, I see who you really are. Adam sees that too. I don’t think you need to worry so much.” Paul pulled up in front of Adam’s house. “Go see him, I have to pick up some 7-Up for Lisa. Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Tommy said as he got out of the car and ran to the Lambert’s front door. He knocked twice, wondering if he was even welcome, if Adam had freaked out, shit, so much could be wrong right now...

“Hi Tommy,” Eber answered the door. “You didn’t call to say you were coming over. How are you?” Eber was watching Tommy suspiciously, like he had earlier. Fuck.Tommy fidgeted a little.

“I’m okay. Is Adam back yet? I want to talk to him if that’s okay.” Tommy looked at the house-the Halloween decorations were still up, but the jack o lantern was gone, probably kicked to pieces by someone like him. Or like he once was. Tommy put his attention back on Eber.

“He’s home, in the basement. He said he’s not feeling so good.” Eber looked at Tommy again. “He’s upset about something. Whatever it is, I hope you can fix it.” Tommy didn’t say anything, but just nodded. Eber pointed to the basement stairs and Tommy came in taking off his jacket and holding it under his arm.

Adam was down in the basement, MTV was on but Adam wasn’t watching it so much as staring through it. He started when Tommy came down the stairs. “Oh. Hey. You didn’t call to say you were coming over.”

“I know,” Tommy said. He stopped about two feet from the couch-there was a tension between them that wasn’t there yesterday. And this would be your fault, dumbass. He swallowed a little. “Can I sit down?”

“Why are you even asking?” Adam said, and scooted over a little. Tommy sat down right next to him and put his arms around Adam. Adam didn’t move, and Tommy wondered what the hell he had done. Then Adam said quietly, “Did you come over to break up with me?”

Tommy had to just stare at him for a long time because what the fuck. “What the fu-no!” No, I don’t want to break up with you! Do you want to break up with me?” Adam shook his head. “Then come here.” Tommy took one of Adam’s arms and pulled on it, so that Adam would hug him back. It worked, Adam had him crushed to his chest in a second. “What’s wrong?” Adam glared at him.

“You-after I woke up, you acted so weird. It was like you were pushing me away one minute and the next sucking my dick off. What-is it because I hurt you? Just tell me and I’ll fix it.” Tommy sighed and put his head on Adam’s shoulder. Adam had beautiful big shoulders, and they were fun to lean on.

“I did freak out, but it’s not about that,” Tommy said carefully. “Adam, you were half asleep, and you said something. You don’t remember it.” Adam looked confused, and Tommy just wanted to make out with Adam and get this whole thing over with. “You-when we were cuddling-you told me you loved me.” Tommy lost his nerve a little and looked at his shoes.

When he looked back up Adam was still staring at him. “That freaked you out?” Tommy shrugged. “I mean, do you not want me to, because I don’t think I can stop.” Adam took a big shaky breath then and Tommy just hugged him tight. “I mean, if you don’t, then that’s okay. I can be okay with that, but…”

“What?” Tommy said. “No. You don’t understand.” Adam jerked back a little. “Yeah I freaked out, but it’s not-of course I love you!” Tommy started to get pissed off now. “I mean, did you think I didn’t?”

“Well how was I supposed to know, nobody ever-wait, you do?” Adam forgot all about being angry as shock set in. “Really?” He reached out tentatively, brushing a finger against Tommy’s jaw. Tommy closed his eyes to it.

“Yeah. I know I didn’t say anything, but it kinda fuckin’ scared me. I bet it does you too.” Adam nodded, and then-Jesus Christ-he hauled Tommy in his lap and kissed him. Tommy kept trying to tell Adam more-about how he went to the Center and talked to people to get to calm down, but Adam just kept kissing him.

Finally, Tommy pulled back a bit. “Adam, this is serious. I have to tell you now.” Tommy saw Adam form the phrase ‘tell you what?’ in his head, and then his eyes widened. “Yeah. We can’t-we can’t be in love if you don’t know, you have to know. I feel like I’m lying to you.” And that’s when Tommy fucking lost it, his voice breaking on the last words.

Adam watched him for a minute, not saying anything. Then, carefully, he said “You can tell me. I want you to tell me. But you don’t have to right this second. I mean, let’s just be happy for now.” Tommy tried to protest, but Adam just held him tight.

"Can we just be happy?"

Chapter Text

Tommy tried to be happy. Adam wanted to enjoy them being together, so Tommy stayed close and let Adam kiss him when he wanted. It was a lot like when Adam held Tommy’s hands over his head-Tommy would submit immediately. But this time there was a hollow feeling inside him. There was no joy in it for him, he couldn’t get his mind to focus on the here and now. When Eber came down later, he found Adam and Tommy watching TV. Adam had Tommy pulled into his space, like a little doll, and Tommy had his hands in his lap, just letting Adam hold him. Eber frowned at them. “It seems like you two made up. Um…everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine dad.” Adam was sparkling almost, so happy he shone with it. Tommy ducked his head into Adam’s neck so Eber couldn’t see the expression on his face.

Later, they had dinner and Tommy played with his food. He looked at Adam and he was doing about the same thing, but Tommy swore he still managed a few more bites than Tommy did. The conversation went on around him, but Tommy couldn’t understand any of it. He had to get Neil to repeat the same awful joke twice.

When Tommy left that night Adam hugged him close. “I love you,” he whispered. “And we’ll talk about it. Soon, okay?” Tommy nodded. Yes, soon.

Paul picked Tommy up that night, and Tommy evaded his concerned looks for a while, asking instead about Lisa and how she was. After a while, Tommy could feel the “don’t bullshit me” looks Paul was sending him and sighed. “Everything’s okay, mostly. I love Adam, Adam loves me. But he doesn’t want me to tell him yet. I think he just wants to be in love.”

Paul was quiet at first. “Can you do that? Or do you feel like you have to tell him everything right now?”

“I need to tell him,” Tommy said, sitting up straight. “If I don’t tell him then I’m lying to him, or he won’t know something important, and-“

“And you think he might break up with you over this, and better to do it now?” It was dark now, but Tommy could just see Paul cocking an eyebrow at him. Tommy looked at his sneakers. “Tommy, he’s not going to-“

“You don’t know that,” Tommy snapped. Paul didn’t say anything at first, then Tommy sighed. “I don’t know, Paul. I just don’t-I couldn’t even enjoy it. Us saying we loved each other. Because I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Paul was silent, and Tommy continued. “I haven’t told anyone, but you know, Adam’s dad knows-Anoop, at my school, his dad lost his job because of my fucking father!” Tommy was getting tenser, his body hunching forward, hands curled into fists.

“And none of them hate you,” Paul said, softly. “Please, whatever you decide to do, remember that.” Tommy was silent the rest of the ride over, and he got out of the car as soon as Paul parked it. He waited by the door as Paul came up. “I need to get you a key,” Paul said as he opened the front door.

“Okay,” Tommy said easily, not even questioning it. He came in and saw Margret sitting in the front room for a change, reading an academic journal. She said hello without looking up, and he came over and squeezed her shoulder. That earned him a distracted smile.

“Hello Tommy. Go and check on Lisa and see if she’s still throwing up her guts, she had a bad night.” Margret shook her head, not looking too worried. “One day she’ll learn not to mix liquors. Go talk to her, she’s missed you today.” Tommy started to head back and then heard Margret say “Oh, and if you don’t come home again without calling, I am going to make you proofread my papers for at least three hours.”

Tommy had to smile to himself. “Yes Doctor. Thank you.” He walked down the hall to Lisa’s room, still smiling at the idea of someone besides his Oma punishing him. He knocked on the door. “Lisa? You awake?”

“Get your ass in here,” Lisa said, sounding groggy and tired. Tommy came in and slipped his shoes off before sliding into bed with her. “Man, I feel like shit. How did you do last night?”

“Okay. A lot of shit happened, but I think it’s okay.” Lisa raised an eyebrow and Tommy sighed. “You’re hung over, I can wait to tell you. But…” Tommy slid down so he was leaning on her shoulder and Lisa put an arm around him. “Want to watch movies?”

“Yeah, but nothing too crazy. Maybe we can watch some of those art movies we have and keep ignoring.” Tommy nodded and started going through the box of tapes. They wound up watching “My Beautiful Launderette”, Tommy passing Lisa the saltines and 7 Up whenever she needed it. As they watched Omar and Johnny getting it on in the back room of the launderette, Tommy said quietly “Adam told me he loves me. And I said it back.”

Lisa looked over at him for a minute, not saying anything. Tommy bit his lip. “You know what I have to do now.” She nodded. “I just-he wants to put it off. I think he doesn’t want to think about anything bad for a while. I told him I didn’t want to talk about my past when we started going out, and he’s never asked. Not once.” He looked over at Lisa, realizing he had no idea how much she knew. I mean, just because Paul knew the story didn’t mean she did.

“He just doesn’t want to scare you off, baby.” Lisa said, looking at her nails. “I know how much things drive you crazy, and how hard you take it. But he loves you and I love you. You have more people looking after you than you think.” Tommy sighed, and Lisa squeezed him close. “Maybe you should talk to Cassidy, to practice.”

“Yeah?” Tommy looked over at her, and figured she at least knew enough. “Yeah that's a good fucking idea. I went to talk to him today though, and he was busy. You know, there’s other people with worse problems than-ow!” He winced when Lisa slapped him on the back of the head.

“Careful Tommy, my head hurts and I’m in no mood for your bullshit. I’m on driving restriction for the next week, and I’m not gonna listen to you whine about your problems not being important. Let me say it again: People care, you don’t have to do it alone. Do you hear me, you stubborn shit?”

“Yes ma’am, I hear you.” Tommy laughed a little. “How was your night, besides getting totally fucking plastered?”

Lisa watched the screen for a minute. “Me and LP decided we made better friends.” Tommy grabbed her hand and she shook her head. “That’s not why I got wasted. We’re okay with it, honestly. It just works out better this way.” Lisa kept looking straight ahead. “I’m not like you, Tommy. I don’t fall in love as hard. I’m sort of happy the way I am right now. I have you, friends, and I can play in bands. When I decide I really want to be with someone, I will. LP is a great guy, we’ll still hang out. It doesn’t actually change much.”

Tommy was quiet for a moment. “I didn’t love anyone at all for a while. Or I didn’t admit it. Now everything’s different.” Tommy looked over at her. “Thanks. For everything.”

“You say that like you’re expecting the worst, Tommy Joe,” Lisa said. I always expect the worst, Tommy thought as he snuggled down to sleep on Lisa’s shoulder.

When Tommy woke up again, he was curled away from Lisa, almost hanging off the edge of the bed. The alarm clock four inches from his face said eleven thirty. Tommy ran a hand through his hair, and left Lisa’s bed carefully, so as not to wake her. He went into the guest room and showered, thinking about the whole day and everything he felt he had to do.

When he got out, he towel-dried his hair and listened to the sounds of the house. It didn’t sound like Paul was working in his basement, and he couldn’t hear from that distance if Margret was still up, typing. Tommy got dressed, down to his boots and leather jacket, and went outside to smoke. The house was dark, and Tommy wondered if it was an early night or if they’d gone out for the evening.

Tommy sat on the front porch and smoked two cigarettes in the near-dark. He thought about what everyone said about it. Paul and Lisa both wanted him to wait. Lisa wanted him to talk to Cassidy. They were all good ideas.

Tommy didn’t even know he was walking at first, but he was heading down the streets, on the sidewalk, still smoking. He walked and walked, trying not to stumble on tree roots. The streets were quiet, hardly anyone out for the night after Halloween. Some trees still had toilet paper streaming from them, and Tommy thought it looked pretty festive. After about an hour, he was in front of Adam’s house.

He hadn’t planned to come here. He just did. The lights were out, except for the basement and Tommy was fucking sure that was where Eber was, probably getting stoned and listening to Workingman’s Dead. Tommy looked at the house for a long time, then noticed something. Oh, look at that tree right next to Adam’s bedroom window.

Tommy knew halfway up that this was a fucking stupid idea. It was breaking and entering, for one thing, and totally pathetic for another. But here he fucking went, like Romeo on a suicide mission and he didn’t even have a balcony to aim for. He wound up on a branch right in front of the window, and tried the lock. Fuck yeah, it opens right up. You’ve lost your goddamn mind, of course.

Tommy tumbled into Adam’s room, breath loud against the stillness of the upper part of the house. From the basement, he could just hear “Friend of the Devil” playing lowly, reminding him to be careful. He looked over at Adam, who was still asleep, but frowning. He was so beautiful, and Tommy thought again that maybe he should just leave, let Adam have a normal night’s sleep and maybe he should too, they should just take a break-and then he put a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “Hey. Adam, hey.”

Adam groaned at first, licking his lips, and Tommy shook his shoulder a little. Then Adam started, and Tommy put a hand over his mouth to keep him from yelling. “Adam, it’s me. It’s just Tommy. Hi. I had to come see you.” Adam sat upright and pulled Tommy’s hand off his mouth, then suddenly dragged Tommy onto the bed, boots and all. “Hey!-“

“Shhhh,” Adam said. “We have to be quiet, right?” Tommy nodded, knowing Adam could just barely see him from the moonlight through the window. “What the fuck are you doing? You could barely talk to me before in the basement, and now you’re climbing through my fucking window at night? You better-you’ve been crazy ever since last night! Talk to me!”

“I want to,” Tommy said, and he could feel Adam still. “I have to, I can’t stop thinking about it. I know I should wait, and that I’m scared, but I need for you to know.” Adam didn’t say anything, but he just held Tommy closer. “I love you, and I hate lying to you. And you’ve been so good about it. You’ve never asked, not one time.”

“I know, maybe I should have,” Adam whispered. “Because I have no idea-I know it’s your parents, but that’s it. You said they were alive-why don’t you live with them? What happened? Oh my god, Tommy…” Adam pulled Tommy closer to him, and they were kissing, wrapped up on his bed. Tommy put a hand in Adam’s hair, stroking through it. Adam sighed against his mouth.

Neither of them said anything, but slowly Tommy’s clothes came off, jacket and boots first. Soon Tommy was naked, and Adam laid back and let Tommy pull off his pajama pants. It wasn’t like the other times-there was no lights on, no music, and they couldn’t speak. It was all hands and bodies moving against each other, mouths linked so any noise was swallowed up. Tommy whimpered, just a little, as he came with Adam’s hand wrapped around both their dicks. Adam followed soon after, and Tommy kissed his neck when Adam threw his head back.

For a few minutes, they just lay there, not moving. Then Tommy nudged him, and Adam turned his head towards him. “I want to show you. It’s easier if I show you. Do you think we can get out of here and into your car without them noticing?” Adam’s expression in the moonlight told Tommy that Adam had never sneaked out of the house before. “Put on that desk lamp, we’ll get dressed and shut it off. Your car’s parked on the street tonight. What’s the best way out?”

Adam licked his lips. “Down the back stairs, my dad’s probably passed out by now.” Adam reached over to click on the desk lamp, and they both squinted at the light. “Are you sure we need to do this now? I can wait as long as you need.”

“But I can’t,” Tommy said. “I didn’t even mean to walk here, I just did. I-I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we should do this now.” Tommy thought again about everyone who would disagree with him, and then put them out of his mind. It didn’t matter what they thought, just Adam.

They got dressed quickly, silently, and then Adam put out the desk lamp. They went down the hallway past Neil’s door, and then down the back staircase, which led-fuck-into the garage right the fuck next to the basement. Tommy gripped Adam’s arm, and Adam just pointed through the door connecting the two. His dad was passed out, album still on, TV on mute. “He does that a lot,” Adam whispered, and Tommy was really fucking relieved that Adam knew his dad’s habits so well.

They slipped out through the garage side door, and walked to Adam’s car in silence. Adam got in and looked at Tommy, eyebrow raised. “Go toward the university. We’re not going that far, though.” Adam nodded and started the car up. It was quiet, the radio turned down low. Adam didn’t say anything for a minute, just looked straight ahead. “Okay, turn left,” Tommy said.

“Did we have sex right now because you’re afraid it’s going to be the last time?” Adam said, not looking at Tommy. “Do you really think that whatever it is will push me away? Fuck.” Tommy didn’t say anything. “Tommy? Don’t bullshit me Tommy, I can’t handle it.”

“I don’t know. I hope not,” Tommy said. “Straight through the next two stop signs, and on the right.” Adam looked at the houses in that area and his eyes widened a little. “The white house in the middle, yeah.”

Adam stopped the car and looked at the house. “Are we-is this your house?” Tommy shook his head.

“It’s theirs. Come on in.” Tommy got out of the car and fumbled for his key, while Adam followed him. Tommy didn’t even look behind him as he opened the door. He turned the light on. “Yeah. This was theirs.” Adam looked around, eyes wide.

“Shit.” Tommy looked at it too, seeing what Adam saw. It was a big house that his mother refused to call a mansion. That would be poor taste to her way of thinking. The living room had a high ceiling, it was perfectly kept up, and there were little knick knacks on the mantel. But there were no family pictures, no plants, no pets, nothing. Tommy never thought of it as a house, but more like a tomb.

“I don’t understand,” Adam said, and Tommy flinched. He knew Adam would say that, but not right away. “I just-it looks like-“

“Yeah.” Tommy sat down on the spotless couch in the middle of the house that his mother owned. “Don’t ask me how much it’s worth currently. I don’t know.” Tommy hunched in on himself, not wanting to look up. He felt the couch dip as Adam sat near him.

“I wasn’t going to ask,” Adam said quietly. “But…why did they leave you here? You said you lived alone, and I didn’t know if you stayed with friends, or what, but…they just left you the house? Where…”

“They took off on me. Well, it’s a long fucking story,” Tommy looked around, at the bright white blankness of the living room. “I hate it in here, let’s go in the kitchen.” Adam paled a little, and Tommy said “Just to sit down. It’s the only fucking place in here that I like.”

“Not even your room?” Adam said, as Tommy led the way into a kitchen that was still decorated coldly and precisely, but still managed to seem a bit warmer. Tommy slid into the breakfast nook, hands folded in front of him. Adam sat next to him, and put a hand on his leg.

“No, not really. I mean, it had all my stuff, everything I wanted, but. It didn’t mean anything. I was still at home.” Tommy sighed. “I don’t know where to start. I want to tell you everything, but…”

Adam looked around again. “One of the rumors was that your parents were rich. So that’s true?”

“Yeah, that’s true.” Tommy bit his thumbnail. “My dad was the president of the bank. My mom-she did stuff. Like, whatever it is rich women do when they don’t have to take care of their own kids. It was different when I was young. They sent me to private school, I got lessons, played Little League. I kept busy.” Tommy looked away from Adam. “But…I didn’t see them a whole lot.”

“Why didn’t you?” Tommy shrugged. “Who took care of you?”

“My Oma did. I told you she wasn’t really my grandmother. She looked after me and the house.”

Adam stared open-mouthed then. “She’s a housekeeper?”

Tommy felt something in him snap. “Don’t call her that, it’s not who she is! It’s just what she did!” Adam rocked back and Tommy started backtracking. “Sorry. Adam, I’m sorry. I haven’t even told you anything and I’m freaking out. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought you here.” Tommy could feel how the house got to him. “It’s a lot of bad memories.”

“Just fucking talk to me,” Adam said. “If you had to wake me up at one and drag me here, then it’s important. And I love you. So, talk.” Adam got that angry, not fucking around glint in his eye that Tommy bet not too many people ever saw. Adam was the sweetest person Tommy had ever met, but he had a tipping point. Everyone did. Tommy nodded.

“Like I said, my folks where never around, but my Oma was. She got me my first guitar when I was eleven. That same year, I told my parents I wanted to go to public school.” Tommy got up and paced the kitchen, then came back with a glass of water.

“Did they get mad?” Adam asked, voice quiet. Tommy shook his head. “Then what’s the problem?”

“They were too distracted to get mad. They were starting to fight and have little scenes. When I was twelve and thirteen, it got so bad it was like I didn’t even exist at all. I would spend whole weekends at my Oma’s and it was like I wasn’t even gone. I started getting punk records then. And then I started sneaking out to see shows at thirteen.”

“Thirteen?” Adam looked stunned. “Can you even do that?” Tommy sipped more of his water.

“You can, they’re called all-ages shows for a reason. I just had to be careful. There’s a lot of creeps out there.” Tommy changed the subject, quick. “So that went on for a while. I never knew what they were fighting about until the cops came when I was fourteen. They took my dad in for questioning. They didn’t arrest him, not yet.”

Adam stared at him for a long minute. “What did he get arrested for? Was he-did he hurt you?”

Tommy actually fucking laughed. “He’d have to know I was in the house to hurt me. Nope, I was never that important. He did some deep financial shit at the bank. Have you ever heard of junk bonds? Shit like that?” Adam shook his head. Tommy sighed. “It’s not easy to understand. Basically, he was helping people who were making investments that had a high chance of default. He was doing a lot of other shit too, but that was mainly it. It was like, fake money. And he was helping the mayor’s campaign through a lot of shady dealing. I don’t know. I tried to stay the fuck away from the trials.”

Adam’s mouth was wide fucking open, but Tommy tried not to look at him. “Some of his employees at the bank figured out what was going on, and my dad found out and fired them. One of them was Anoop’s dad. I didn’t know that until now. Turns out he’s known who I was from day fucking one.” Tommy drank more of his water, and wished like fuck for some whiskey to put in it. There’s a liquor cabinet here, you know where it is, said the voice in his head. “Anyway, they went to the police and the press.”

“Oh my god,” Adam said. “So all that happened when you were fourteen? What did you do?”

“I hid. I stayed with my Oma for a while, and went to a school in her part of town. I didn’t go to any of the hearings or anything. I wasn’t there when my dad pled out. I haven’t seen him since really.”

“Wait-your dad fired a whole bunch of people illegally, and he did something with bonds that I can’t figure out, and he pled? Did he go to jail?” Tommy laughed again, and it sounded uglier than the first time.

“I wish he had. I would be so happy if he did. They would’ve put him in jail for tax evasion, but fucking over other people’s retirements? That only got him a suspended sentence and a lot of fines. It was the FBI, so I don’t know if the mayor had any say in getting him off. Probably not. But I will say this, I’ve never gotten arrested once. And I’ve deserved it a couple of times. The cops know who I am, and they leave me the fuck alone.”

Adam didn’t say anything for a long time. “Where’s your dad now?” Tommy finishes his water. “And this is fucking crazy, by the way.” Tommy glared at him and Adam backtracked. “I believe you! But he didn’t go to jail.”

“If you’re rich enough, you don’t go to jail. He lost his job and got run out of town-I think your dad knows Paul from that. There was a citizen’s activism group that worked to expose my fucker of a dad, and they did a pretty good job. He lives a couple of cities away now, with his new wife. He actually got another job in finance. That makes sense, right? Why not put fuckin’ Iggy Pop in charge of the Drug War?” Tommy knew he was rambling now, and he had to take a couple of deep breaths. “So. My dad pretty much got away with it. He might have come out better-I hear the new wife is only about six years older than me. And he doesn’t have to deal with me anymore-I only talk to the guy who handles the money.”

“Handles the money? Is he still rich?” Adam was sitting back against the high wooden booth of the breakfast nook, stunned. Tommy nodded.

“He still has a lot to play with. And I will too-my trust fund comes in for real when I’m eighteen. Right now I have a lot, but I can’t always get access to it. But I can live here if I want to, or I can move around. I mostly just buy myself guitars. Or boots.” Tommy held his foot out. “I don’t need a lot. I give a lot of it away.”

Tommy waited for a few seconds, and he could hear the gasp when Adam put it together. “You paid for all that stuff at the Points? The Zero Sum?”

Tommy laughed a little there. “Yeah. I broke it, I bought it, right?” I’m the asshole who started the fucking fight.” Tommy laughed a little more, then sighed. “I didn’t plan on sticking around when I turned eighteen and got the money. I don’t even have to graduate high school to get it, there’s not any restrictions. I figured I would just find a band and hit the road.” Tommy paused. “Then I met you. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

“Stay,” Adam said, immediately, and Tommy looked up then. “None of this is your fault, I’m not-you’ll stay, won’t you?”

“I guess. I want to be here with you. And anyway, I’m sick of my own shit. I hid for years. You’d be surprised how easy it is, even though I have my dad’s last name. Punks think they’re political, but they don’t read the fucking financial section of the local paper, you know?” Tommy searched around his jacket until he found a cigarette. “Plus, a lot of punk kids are hiding something themselves. If they suspected anything, they never told me.”

“Everyone’s hiding something,” Adam whispered. “I mean, I am. And you know about it, and you’ve been so good-but yeah. So that’s your dad?”

“Yeah.” Tommy tensed everywhere, knowing what was going to come next.

“Where’s your mom?”

Tommy didn’t say anything for a long time, he just stared at the table until Adam put a hand on top of his. “Tommy. Come on, it can’t be worse than that-“

“Yes it can.” Tommy moved his hand and wrapped his arms around his stomach. “She fuckin’-she didn’t have to go! My dad’s an asshole, fuck him. But my mom…” Tommy looked up at Adam, who honestly looked fuckin’ terrified of him right now. Tommy hated himself for it, so he had to make it up to Adam and tell him the truth.

“She’s on a mission trip. She’s been on them since before my dad got caught. When they were fighting, it was because she knew what was going on. She went hippie save the world, instead of I don’t know, turning my dad in. But she still likes having money, no matter how much she gives away.”

Adam looked confused. “I know, I’m not explaining this too well. My mom’s-she joined this church. I don’t know what it is, exactly. It’s not Unitarian, but close? Anyway, she started going on these humanitarian missions to help the poor in Guatemala. They’re having a lot of trouble, and she’s helping the people the military are fucking with.”

Adam didn’t say anything for a minute, then very quietly he said “Well, that’s good, right?”

Tommy didn’t look up. “When I was fifteen, she came up and demanded that I go with her on one of these missions like, that week. Just pull up everything and go. I didn’t think it was a bad idea-I mean, these people are getting hurt. Killed.” Tommy took a drag off his cigarette blowing the smoke out hard. “But she had barely spoken to me in fucking years! And I had school, and a band, and all of a sudden she needs me to go do something with her? So I said no.” Tommy couldn’t look up.

“What-what happened?” Adam had sunk back in his seat even further, and Tommy wanted to fucking crawl under his. He had never told anyone this.

“She said I was a selfish fuckhead like my dad, and that I didn’t care about other people, and she’s been gone most of the time since. She comes back a few times a year. She might come see me at Christmas.” Tommy played with his cigarette. “Then again, she’s missed it before.”

“I don’t-why-why would your mom do this to you?” Tommy looked at Adam and he could see how much Adam didn’t understand. Adam’s parents loved him, he had two parents and a bratty kid brother and Tommy had a housekeeper and a friend’s parents. It made Tommy want to punch a fucking wall. Fuck.

“I guess she likes little kids who are grateful for what she does for them. What does she need me for? I’m nowhere near as cute. There’s not a fucking single picture of me in this fucking mausoleum, but she sends me pictures of kids from South America all the time. She doesn’t care about me.” Adam sounded like he was going to contradict him and Tommy raised his voice. “Adam. She’s come home for the holidays and seen me with bandages and black eyes, and never once asked me what happened. She doesn’t care!” Tommy looked straight at him, holding his eyes.

“Do you see why I just let people think I was a punk nothing? It’s just a lot fucking easier.”

Adam didn’t say anything for a long time, and Tommy felt himself grow still and cold on the inside. He smoked his cigarette and it wasn’t until he was done that Adam moved. Slowly, like he was scared of getting pushed off, Adam came in closer and put his arm around Tommy. Tommy hitched in a breath, and he had just enough time to think Aw, fuck before the tears ran down his face.

Tommy wasn’t sure when he stopped crying, how much time had passed, but when he stopped Adam still had his arms around him, holding him. Tommy wiped at the snot on his face. “Fuck, Adam.” He looked up and felt a dim surprise-Adam was crying too. He wasn’t disgusted, or angry or wanting to break up with him. He was just crying.

“Adam.” Tommy said, and he brushed his hand over Adam’s cheek. Adam sobbed once and started wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

“I shouldn’t-I don’t need to cry. But I don’t know what to do. I’m freaking out.” Tommy nodded. “I wanna go, I want to get out of here.”

“You’ve got that place you go to, the place by the beach.” Adam nodded, eyes red. “Take me with you?”

They got up without saying a word, and walked through the high ceilinged house decorated in silver and white. When they got to the door Tommy just shoved out of it after Adam.

“Aren’t you going to lock the door?”

Tommy looked back at the house. “No. Leave it.” They walked away from it, the door left slightly ajar.

Chapter Text

They drove in silence for a while, Adam maneuvering them out of the suburbs and then to the interstate. He took the exit that led them onto an older highway. Tommy slid up in his seat. “Oh yeah.” He said. This road was twisty and not as often used because of the rocky dropoff on one side.

“I know it’s kind of dangerous, but I love this road.” Adam spoke quietly. “It’s so beautiful, with the waves and the rocks.” Tommy nodded, opening his window. The cold night air came in and he could hear the waves crash. “It’ll take us another thirty minutes to get there. Do you want to talk to me?”

Tommy nodded. “I guess. I just don’t want to upset you when you’re driving. I know you already heard the worst, but still.” Especially since that is a motherfucker of a drop, said the voice in his head. It would be romantic and all, but I don’t think we need to go out together at this stage in the relationship.

“It’s okay. We can wait or stop somewhere.” Adam paused for a minute, then he said “I’m hungry.” There was an urgency to it, and Tommy turned his head quickly in Adam’s direction. “You got to me before I got to the kitchen tonight.”

“Yeah. I wanna get fucked up really bad.” Adam winced a little sympathy.

“I don’t think anyone would blame you if you did,” Adam said, and Tommy wondered how he was going to finish that thought. “But you know, you hang on and I hang on. Okay?”

“Okay. Um, so it’s okay for me to talk?” Tommy looked out of the window at the moon shining on the waves. “I just-I don’t know what else to tell you.”

“Just whatever you want, it’s okay.” Adam kept his eyes on the road, and Tommy relaxed a little. It was dark and quiet in the car, there wasn’t even any radio. Tommy closed his eyes and started to speak.

“I hate people feeling sorry for me. And I was so ashamed of my dad. So I never said anything. So after I left my Oma’s, I just kind of drifted around. I would crash at the house when I could stand to, but mostly I’d stay with Brent and Mutt.” Adam didn’t say anything, so Tommy kept going. “I miss them, but I haven’t been by. I stayed wasted when I was over there. And Mutt’s not out of juvie yet.”

Adam frowned a little at the mention of Mutt in juvie. “Are they boyfriends, or best friends or-“

“They’re brothers. Stepbrothers, but they’ve always been close. They just live in their mom’s basement. I think she came to check on us maybe three times in the whole time I was visiting.” Tommy sighed. “I worry about Brent being alone. He’s sick.”

Adam gasped, and Tommy shook his head. “No. It’s not AIDS, it’s fuckin’ mono, and like, a liver disease. It’s really bad-he’s been sick for months now. But try telling other people that.” Tommy kept looking out of the window. “Some people came after Brent because they thought he had AIDS. I mean, he’s gay, right, that must be it. So Mutt beat them up. One of them was in the hospital for a week. Mutt’s been in jail for a while, he could get out soon.”

“Shit.” Adam said. “These were your best friends?” Tommy nodded.

“Next to Lisa, yeah. I still love them and stuff, but I don’t know if I can go back there. Brent won’t go out now, ever.” Tommy sighed. “Really, I’m amazed I’m not in jail, or dead.”

“You could’ve died from that infection.” Adam said, and Tommy caught the waver in his voice. “I was so scared when you were sick. I had just met you, and I didn’t-fuck. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

“I’m sorry.” Tommy didn’t think that would do a lot of fucking good, but he said it anyway. “I didn’t care what happened to me. I couldn’t even talk to people who really cared about me except for Lisa. Mainly because she just wouldn’t fucking give up. Even Paul let me have a lot of space.”

“What about your Oma? She loves you, she has to.” Tommy wiped his eyes and nodded.

“I told myself she had enough of her own kids and grandkids, that she didn’t need me. But yeah, we love each other and she is like my real grandmother. I want to tell her about you.”

Adam smiled a little as they drove. The road was getting curvier, but Adam drove just fine, not too fast. “I don’t understand-“ Adam broke off for a minute. “It was really hard to hear that, about your parents. I can’t understand why they didn’t love you. How could they not?”

Tommy laughed, because really, he couldn’t understand why anyone could. “They managed not to.” Adam frowned at his flip tone and Tommy sighed. “I don’t know why. I thought it was me, or it was them, or maybe they just had no fucking business ever having kids. I don’t know. I don’t fucking know.” Tommy rubbed at his eyes. “I wish my mom would just never come back. Why she goes on pretending she cares enough to come to Christmas, I don’t know.”

“She ought to be in jail too.” The anger in Adam’s voice was a surprise. “She just left you.” Tommy shrugged, because what could he say? “So…that’s what you did after? Drugs and shit?”

Tommy nods. “Drank a lot, fucked a lot, and got into a lot of fights. I don’t even- I have no idea how I got that scar across my stomach. Fuck.” Tommy starts sniffling again. “This is so embarrassing. I haven’t been-I met you and I stopped drinking and now it’s like I can’t stop.”

“Can’t stop what?” There was a diner up ahead, and Adam was slowing down. “We should eat. I won’t go overboard if you’re with me. Okay? Let’s get something.” Adam turned to him, and Tommy answered his question.

“I can’t stop having feelings. I was ignoring them before.”

Adam looked at him, and then just nodded once. “Yeah. I know, I know.” He kissed Tommy’s cheek in the dark car, and then got out. Tommy got out too.

The diner was empty except for a tired but made-up waitress with long nails, and a short-order cook who had a bottle of beer stashed under his work station. Tommy could smell it, and it made his nerves tingle. The door had a bell on it that clattered as they came in, disturbing the silence. The waitress looked at the two of them and Tommy could see the wary look on her face.

They picked a booth near the back and the waitress silently handed them two menus. “Thank you,” Adam said, and he smiled at her. The waitress smiled back and some of the tension was immediately gone. Tommy felt a little proud of his boyfriend right then, the easy charm he could have with people.

Adam looked over the menu and sighed. “It’s hard, you know.” Tommy didn’t say anything, but he held Adam’s gaze. “I mean, you have to stop, completely. You want to, but you don’t use anymore, that’s what you try to do. But…I have to eat.”

“I know.” Tommy wished he could take Adam’s hand right there in front of the waitress and the drunk behind the grill, but instead he just looked at him. “Adam…you need more help than either of us can do.” Adam hid behind the menu for a minute. Then he put it down and Adam nodded, one sharp movement, not looking at Tommy. “Okay then.”

“Yeah. When we get back, I promise.” Just then the waitress returned and got their orders. Tommy got a cup of coffee-his appetite was gone. Adam got the same, and a grilled cheese sandwich. “I don’t know-I don’t think I should talk about it more while I’m here.” Tommy nodded. He got it-it would be like having an AA meeting in a bar. That reminded him of something.

“Hey,” he said. “When we get back, will you come with me? To see Cassidy? I think he could help you, help both of us.” Adam looked down again, only looking up when the waitress came back with his coffee, and he looked up at her.

“I don’t know. My dad’s all weird about me going there. My mom’s better about it. Anyway, we’ll see. “ Adam didn’t say anything else for a while.
Adam took his coffee black. Tommy fiddled with the creamers until it was light enough, and drank his silently. When the grilled cheese arrived, Adam picked it up and then sat it back down. Tommy looked behind them, and saw the cook glaring at the two of them. Fuck, he can’t eat with someone staring. Tommy glared back at the guy and said to Adam, “Get it to go. Um, we should go now.”

“Yeah.” Tommy got the check and slid out of the booth, while Adam got a to-go bag. He paid for the both of them with the cash he had left and left a good tip. The asshole behind the grill came over and handed Tommy a fucking religious tract. Tommy stared at him, not taking it, until the guy stepped back, cursing under his breath. The waitress shook her head and mouthed ‘sorry’. Tommy nodded at her and gave her an extra two bucks. Adam was waiting at the door, looking at his feet.“Let’s go.” Adam got out of there and into his car without looking back at the guy. “You know, fuck him. Good fucking riddance, we should have refused to pay.” Adam shook his head.

“It’s okay, not worth it. We’re almost there. I’m glad I got that coffee though.” They got into the car and left, Adam back on the road, which seemed to be getting narrower. Tommy looked at him and Adam shrugged. “Don't worry about the road, I know it. And you've done worse."

“Fuckin’ right,” Tommy said. He looked out the window again, and they were getting away from the rocks and closer to sand and beaches. The sounds of the waves crashing were louder. “I wonder how many people I hurt,” he said suddenly. “There was one girl who fell in love with me. I barely even knew her, but I fucked her and didn’t call her back. She wound up having to see a shrink. I’ve done so much bad shit. I don’t even know where to start.” Tommy sagged back in his seat. “I don’t deserve you, you know.”

Adam didn’t say anything for a long time, then as the car turned off the highway onto a side street, Adam glared at him. “Don’t say that again. Just don’t. First off, I love you. You can’t do anything about it, I’m not going to stop. So if you deserve it or not doesn’t even matter, okay? If you want to break up, you’re gonna have to do it. Don’t try to convince me you’re horrible and make me do it. We’ve been over this before.”

Tommy nodded. “I know. It’s just-hard for me. You know why now.” Tommy still wanted to fucking hide in his jacket just thinking about it. “Thanks for taking me out of there.”

“No problem. I couldn’t stand it either.” Adam drove slowly down a tiny street. In the streetlights, Tommy could just make out the pastel colored peeling paint on the houses they were passing. “It’s down here,” Adam said, and they pulled over to an area just past the seaside cottages, and Adam stopped the car. “Up here,” and Adam took his hand and lead him up some rocks. “Careful.”

When Tommy got to the top, he was on a flat rock facing the waves as they seamlessly crested and crashed on a white beach. The sky hadn’t turned yet, and the waves just kept coming in. Adam sat next to him, and they leaned together as the ocean wind cut through their t-shirts. Tommy took off his jacket and wordlessly, handed it to Adam. Adam draped it around his shoulders. The sky turned dark blue, then light blue and gold. A pelican flew close to them, on its way to get breakfast. A car full of surfers drove up a few yards away, but they didn’t even look over at Tommy and Adam. They were too busy getting their boards waxed to give them any shit.

They sat silently and watched the sun rise.

Tommy woke up when a surfer yelled at them. “You fuckin’ fell asleep, you queers. What are you doing here anyway? This is our beach.” Tommy woke up and rubbed a hand over his forehead. He quickly snatched it back-his skin was tight and hot. Fuck, sunburn. His skin itched all over, and he saw tiny little bites from sand fleas. Tommy looked over at Adam, who was asleep with his jacket under his head. He looked worse, like someone had roasted him under a lamp.

“Fuck,” he muttered, looking at Adam. The surfer on the sand below him yelled something else, and Tommy gave him the finger. “You fucking shut up. We’re not surfing and we’re not interested in your ugly ass. Now get your board, go back to your fucking dump apartment and listen to Marley, you shithead.” Another surfer came over and yelled at his friend to leave it alone, they had to go. Tommy shook Adam’s shoulder. “Wake up.”

“Ow,” Adam said, and he jerked awake, sitting up. “Oh fuck, I bet I look awful. I feel awful. Shit, let’s get out of here. I didn’t think I’d fall asleep.”

“It’s okay, don’t freak out. I’ll get us out of here.” Tommy and Adam scrambled down the rock to the car. “Fuck.” There was a parking ticket on it. Tommy looked at the sun-it was pretty high now. “Shit, what time is it? Adam, drive us to the nearest motel-I have my wallet, I can pay for it.”

Adam got in and started driving. The car smelled like grilled cheese. “I don’t know where one is.” Tommy looked around, but there wasn’t anything in the immediate area except tiny roads and beach houses. Then he saw another road besides the one they came off of.

“Try that one. Oh fuck, we’ve gotta call your parents. I bet they think we’ve run away.”

“Oh my god,” Adam said faintly. Adam drove about a half mile and stopped at a convenience store. “Do you have a quarter?” Tommy pulled one out, hands shaking. “I’m gonna call my dad. Oh shit.” Tommy squeezed Adam’s hand. Say it was all my fault, Tommy thought. Don’t get in trouble over me.

He watched as a bright red, exhausted Adam went to the pay phone and dialed the number. He stayed in the car as long as he could, but when he heard Adam’s voice rising he came out and stood by him. “No dad. Dad, we weren’t running away, it was an accident. I wanted to take Tommy to the beach and we fell asleep. You called the police? No, we’re about an hour away. We’re coming home. No dad, it was my idea. What do you mean it’s his fault?” Tommy saw the panic in Adam’s face and poked Adam.

“Let me have the phone.” Adam shook his head at first but Tommy took it. “Come on, let me try.” Adam told Eber that Tommy wanted to talk, and stepped back. Tommy said “Mr. Lambert, it’s me. I’m so sorry.”

“Tommy, what the hell did you think you were doing? You got my son out of bed in the middle of the night and you two took off to the beach? What the fuck?! Did you want to get him alone that badly? I called the police because I thought you had run away, Adam’s never done anything like this before…” Eber was starting to run out of steam so Tommy sighed and decided to let him know.

“It’s my fault, Mr. Lambert. You know how you wanted me to talk to Adam about my parents? Well…I did.” Eber went completely quiet. “Yeah, I got into the house and got him out of bed. And I took him to my parent’s house and told him everything.” Tommy heard his voice start to wobble. “You know how Adam takes off sometimes when he can’t handle shit? Well, turns out he goes to Devil’s Rock Beach. We were both pretty fucking upset, so we went. And we fell asleep. We’re so sorry.”

Eber didn’t say anything for another minute. Then he said “Everyone who knows both of you is nearly sick from worrying. Lisa wants to kill you, Paul is in my living room pacing a track through the floor, and your grandmother just learned that you were dating my son. She’s Lutheran, right? I have trouble telling the denominations apart.” Tommy felt his hand close into a fist at the last part. Fuck, she knows. Eber continued. “Tell us exactly where you are.”

“We’re at the 7-11 off um, Devil’s Rock Road, right off the highway. I don’t know if we can drive back, Adam’s exhausted.”

“Oh, you’re not driving back,” Eber snapped. “Me and Paul are coming to get you. We’ll drive you guys back before you two get lost and wind up in Tijuana. You’re not getting away that easily.” Eber took a deep breath. “Stay right where you are. We’re taking the freeway for most of it and it won’t take long. Do not go anywhere.”

“We won’t-“ But then Eber hung up. Tommy looked over at Adam, who was fidgeting and twisting his hands. “Um, they’re coming to get us. Get in the car and get comfortable.” Adam looked at Tommy and nodded. They got in the front seats, and Adam tipped his down.

“I’m really sorry,” Adam said, and he fell asleep. Tommy kept watch, over Adam and the car. He wondered what was going to happen when Paul and Eber got there. He wondered if Eber would ever let him see Adam again. He looked over at Adam, face blistered bright red, bug bites on his forehead. His mouth was open a little as he slept. No, I’m sorry. You’d have been better off without me.

Tommy scrunched down as far as he could in his seat, curling into a ball with his legs up to his chest. It hurt with the sunburn and sand flea bites, but Tommy didn’t care. He loved Adam and now they were both going to pay for it. He stayed curled up for a long time.

He must have fallen asleep, because a car horn right next to him woke him up. Tommy lifted his head and saw Eber’s face glowering at him right through the window. “Open the door, Tommy.” Tommy nodded at him, and shook Adam’s arm. “I’ll wake him up. Just get your jacket and get in the car with Paul. He’s driving you back.” Tommy got out, and looked at Eber.

“I’m sorry-“

“Not right now,” Tommy flinched at that, but Eber just pinched the bridge of his nose. “It can wait until we get to my house, we’re all meeting there.” Eber looked at Tommy. “Fuck, that’s a bad sunburn. My son must look a lot worse.” He went around the other side. “Get in the car, Paul’s been worried.”

Paul didn’t say much when Tommy got into the passenger seat. Instead, they both watched as Eber woke Adam up, and hugged him hard before getting in the driver’s side, Adam staggering into the back seat to sleep. Tommy bit his lip-Adam seemed really out of it. Fuck, when was the last time Adam ate anything? It took him a minute to realize that Paul was looking at him. “Hey. I’m sorry.”

Paul started the car and pulled out, following Adam’s car as they headed down the street toward the freeway. “So you ignored everything we told you and left in the middle of the night.” Tommy nodded, head down. “You didn’t leave a note, you didn’t tell us anything. And you basically broke into Adam’s house and took him to yours. What the hell were you thinking?” Paul wasn’t looking at him, but he seemed to really want an answer.

“I don’t know,” Tommy said, and he lifted his head and looked out the passenger window. “I just couldn’t wait anymore.” He looked over at Paul. “I just-I didn’t plan on it. I just walked to Adam’s house. And we didn’t plan to come here.”

“We called the cops, you know.” Tommy went totally fucking still as Paul continued. “They went by your parent’s house and found the door open. They thought it was possible someone had kidnapped you for ransom. Me and Eber both said that was unlikely.” Paul shook his head. “It’s as if you chose exactly the worst way to do this-you woke Adam up in the middle of the night and took him to your house? You can’t stand it there.”

“I know. I thought it would be easier if he saw it. I mean, what if I told him and he didn’t believe me?” Tommy looked at his boots. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“It’s not just me, it’s Birgittie, Lisa, Margret, and your friends from school.” Tommy’s head snapped up then and Paul nearly smiled. “Yep, me and Eber called all of them, we think. This Anoop guy dresses preppy but he can cuss like a sailor when he wants to.” Tommy tried to laugh but it stuck in his throat. “And you get to see all of them when we get you to Eber and Leila’s house.” Paul hit the interstate then.

“I guess you won’t let me go to your house and hide in the guest room.”

“The guest room. Jesus, Tommy-“ Paul broke off. No I won’t, so deal with it.” The rest of the drive was silent.

When they got to Adam’s house, Tommy sunk down in his seat at the group of cars there. It really was like everyone he fuckin’ knew had shown up to tell him what an asshole he was. His skin itched, some of the bug bites were oozing, and he felt completely disgusting. This should go over really fuckin’ well.

Tommy and Paul had barely gotten into the house when Lisa grabbed him. “You fuckhead,” she said, and Tommy steeled himself for the punch he knew he would be getting. Instead, Lisa grabbed him in a hug, squeezing his blistered skin, and held him to her. Tommy could feel her shaking and crying tears down his neck.“Don’t you ever fucking scare me like that ever again. I thought you had run away for good. And didn’t even tell me.”

Tommy shook his head, tears starting in his eyes. “I’ll always tell you. You’re my girl.” Lisa kissed his cheek, then slapped the back of his head. "Ow!"

“Goddamn right I am.” She took his hand and led him into the living room. “Get ready, some people are really pissed. Except for Neil, he’s enjoyed every minute of this, I think.” Of course he fuckin’ has, Tommy thought. The idea almost made him smile.

That ended really quick when he saw his Oma standing in the middle of the room, and she stared at him. “Tommy?” Tommy dropped Lisa’s hand and just stood there when she came over and hugged him. “You scared me. You scared everyone.” Tommy waited for the other shoe to drop, for her to stay something about Adam, she was a goddamn Lutheran, they didn’t like this shit-but she just stroked his swollen face. “You didn’t tell me. Were you afraid?” Tommy nodded, blinking hard. His Oma shook her head, and Tommy could see the cross she wore at her neck.

“Silly boy, I’m not your mother. I raised you since you were a baby. Nothing you can do, Tommy. I’ll love you no matter what.” She kissed his cheek and went to sit down, and Margret was up next, glaring at him. He looked over and saw Adam slumped in a chair, looking tired, his mom giving him some water and putting ointment on his sunburn. Neil was next to him, and yep-the little shit looked thrilled. He would get to make fun of both of them for months.

He couldn’t really concentrate on what Margret was saying to him, but after a minute Paul said “Honey, just let him sit down.” Tommy’s legs did feel like they were going to give out from under him as he looked around the room. His Oma, her son Kurt, Lisa and her family, um, Cassidy, Adam’s family, and about half the gang from the drama club. He was surprised Ms. Abdul wasn’t there. Or his goddamn guidance counselor.

Tommy sat on the couch furthest from Adam and bowed his head. He noticed that nobody was offering him water or ointment for his bug bites. “We’re really sorry. We weren’t trying to run away. Honestly, we just tried to go to Adam’s favorite spot.”

“And got burned like crispy critters.” Anoop was standing near the back, his arm around Megan. Tommy looked up and winced when he got her eye-she was furious. Anoop continued. “I’m glad you came back.”

“I’m not.” Megan strode over to Tommy and stood in front of him. “Your dad fired Anoop’s father.” Tommy nodded. “And you’re going to-what? Live off his money? He should’ve been sued, I don’t know why Mr. Desai didn’t sue him.”

“A few people did, I think. But it didn’t do much good.” Tommy ran a hand through his flat hair, roots growing out. “Half of my dad’s money came from his fucking dad. I don’t know even know why he did it. I don’t know what to say, Meg. It wasn’t me.” Tommy closed his eyes-this was going to be all over school and he could kiss whatever was left of his anonymity goodbye.

Anoop was beside Megan then, touching her arm. “My dad didn’t sue to get damages, just to get his job back. Then he got a better one and it turned out he didn’t need it anyway. Don’t blame Tommy for this, he already feels guilty.” Megan glared at him and Tommy thought he might be getting the punch from her that Lisa didn’t give. Instead she left the room, Anoop following.

Tommy looked over at Cassidy. “I tried to find you. I wanted to talk to you about it.” Cassidy sighed and tipped his head back. Brad was in the doorway between the living room and the dining room, and Tommy saw him raise an eyebrow. Good idea Brad. Too bad he’s older, huh?

Cassidy shook his head. “I had no idea. I knew you were holding something big that you weren’t saying, but I couldn’t push. I’d only seen you twice. I don’t understand-you held that in so long, how are you this calm?”

“I’m not,” Tommy said, and he sniffled again. “Now everybody knows, and I don’t know what’s going to happen-“ he looks over at Adam then. “Shit, Adam.”

Adam was slumping over forward and his mom was holding him up. “Adam…” He crossed the room before he even knew it and took Adam by the shoulders. “You need to eat. You didn’t eat the food I got you.”

“No,” Adam whispered. “I can go longer, I have. I can wait.” He was too out of it to realize that his mom was right there looking fuckin’ horrified. “I can just wait until tonight.”

Neil yelled then. “I told you! I told you I wasn’t eating all the ice cream!” Eber yelled at Neil to shut up and Tommy kept his hands on Adam’s shoulders, holding him up. Adam really didn’t look good-his eyes were unfocused and he was shaking.

Tommy cleared his throat. “Can me and Adam go into the kitchen alone. He won’t eat with anyone watching him. I can fix him something.” Adam shook his head, and Tommy realized he’d just told everyone. “I’m sorry Adam, I really am. But you’re going to pass out.”

Tommy looked over at Leila, who seemed to be in shock. “I knew he wasn’t eating at dinner. I thought he was eating at school.” Brad came over and looked at Adam, and then shot Tommy a look like it was his fault.

“We knew he wasn’t eating at school, we thought he was at home.” Brad put a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“I-I’m fine…” Adam didn’t exactly sound convincing. “I eat.” He paused. “I eat at night, and I…can’t stop.” Tommy had to take a deep breath- fuck, poor Adam, having to tell this with everyone staring at him. “Just let me get something and eat it in my room. Or with Tommy, I can eat in front of Tommy.” Tommy felt everyone’s eyes on him then. Eber put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder until Tommy looked at him.

“You knew about this.” Tommy nodded. Eber was staring through him, and Tommy knew he had a right to but he was still a little pissed off. “Then why the hell didn’t you tell us?” Tommy closed his eyes. Because I don’t trust parents to do the right thing for their kids. Not even you guys, and you should know this by now.

“I was trying to get Adam some help. And he was getting better, a little. But I got him out of bed last night before he ate-“

“And I didn’t eat when we stopped, I couldn’t.” Adam said. By now, Anoop and Megan were back and staring at Adam with horrified expressions on their faces. Kris and Brad just looked sad-Kris actually looked like he was going to cry. Adam covered his face with his hands. “Everybody stop staring at me! I wanna go to my room. Just-everyone leave me alone.” Adam stood up, legs shaking a little-and then dropped back down. “Shit.”

Cassidy came up then and looked at him. “Adam, I’m Cassidy,” Adam nodded. “I’m going to talk to your parents. And we’re going to get you some more water. Just stay here.” Adam nodded again.

Cassidy came forward then, and started talking to Eber and Leila about getting Adam some help, mentioning clinics as well as OA. Tommy drifted into the kitchen, and nobody noticed. Everyone had forgotten about him for the moment.

He went through the cupboards and found a can of soup, white rice, and some tea bags. Nobody bothered him while he made tea and tomato soup with rice, hands shaking. He was going to take it to Adam, it would make him feel better. He found a small bowl that looked like something you’d give a sick kid, and a tea mug with balloons on it. He found a tray and put all of the stuff on it. Walking back to the living room, he wondered why it had gotten so quiet.

When he got there, nearly everyone was gone and Eber’s car was pulling out of the driveway. He could see Adam in it, head back. Paul was right there. “Tommy? Tommy, it’s okay. They’re just taking Adam to the ER-he needs IV fluids and he’ll be back today. Hey-“ Paul caught the tray with the soup on it before it fell to the ground, but the liquids sloshed all over the tray, the floor, and Tommy’s boots. Paul took the tray from him. “It’s all right Tommy. I’m sorry, you can’t fix this for him.”

“I just-maybe-” Tommy looked around-Adam’s family were all gone, so were the drama kids except for Kris for some reason. Cassidy had left with Adam. But Paul, Lisa, Margret and his Oma were still there. “I tried. Paul, I tried.”

Paul walked Tommy away from the mess on the floor while Kris puttered, probably getting a mop or something. “Come on Tommy, let’s go.”

Tommy nodded. “I wanna go home. Take me home.”

Chapter Text

Tommy barely registered the drive back to Paul’s house. He was in the back, Lisa and his Oma on either side, holding his hands. When they got home, he ignored Lisa’s pleas to talk and went back to the room-wait. It was his room. He told Paul to take him home, and here he was. He sat down on the bed, shaking a little. He was aching and swelling from the sunburn and the tiny little bites over his body. He concentrated on that, because he couldn’t think about what was happening to Adam right now. His mind went blank when he tried to.

When his Oma came in, he just looked up at her. She petted his hair, and Tommy ducked his head. Brigette tipped his face up by the chin. “Leibling don’t worry. He will be fine.” Tommy shook his head and she sighed. “You make things so hard.” She went into the bathroom and Tommy heard the water start. Tommy closed his eyes, and he smelled the aloe mixture she was putting in there. She came back out and said “Go. I’ll fix you some food.”

“I’m not hungry,” Tommy whispered, but he couldn’t really put up a fight. He took the bath, up to his chin in the soothing water and tried not to cry.

He didn’t have much luck.

When he got out of the tub, nobody was in his room and he could smell his Oma’s German crepe things frying. He put on a robe, and looked at himself in the mirror. Disgusting, he thought. Ugly. Covered in bites and burned. Scarred. Why does he love you? Eber will never let you near him now.

Tommy went into Lisa’s room. She was there, on her bed wiping at her eyes. “Lisa, what have you got?” He heard the flatness in his voice.

She looked up at him, surprised at first, and then a little scared. “Tommy, I don’t…”

“Please Lisa, what have you got? You fucking gotta have something, where is it?” Lisa didn’t move at first as he started looking through her dresser drawers. He didn’t listen to her when she pleaded and yelled, and he didn’t stop when she ran out of the room as he kept going, throwing her clothes around. He went through her collection of videotapes looking for mini bottles, pot, pills, any fucking thing, until Paul showed up and grabbed his arms. “Lisa! Fuck, I can’t stand it. Please.”

Lisa shook her head. “You’re shit out of luck anyway. I stopped keeping anything in my room when you quit using.” Tommy sagged in Paul’s arms as he pulled him out of Lisa’s room and into his. He was sort of aware of Paul telling him he’d call a rehab if he had to, but he didn’t respond to that or his Oma’s begging him to come in and eat and talk. She thought everything could be fixed with food.

Food. Fuck, Adam. Tommy sniffled. “Can we call?” he said, making Paul stop mid-tirade.

“They’re probably still in the ER. We can call them later at home. But we might want to give Eber a day, Tommy. He’s angry.” Tommy curled up in a ball on the bed. “I know it’s not your fault, Tommy. And I swear, Eber does too deep down. He just-it’s easy for him to blame you.”

“I know,” Tommy whispered. Because I’m a fucking freak who he thinks fucked up his son.

“Tommy, look at me.” Tommy kept his eyes closed. “Eber didn’t know. He tries very hard to keep Adam safe, we both know that. Now he just found out that Adam’s been hurting himself right in their home. He’s really angry at himself. He’ll figure that out soon.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Tommy said. He uncurled and faced the ceiling with his eyes open. “I tried to fix it. I tried to help, I wanted Adam to see Cassidy.”

“Cassidy left with Adam and his parents,” Paul said. “I think they might be trying to find him help.”

Tommy sat straight up, hands curled into his legs. “Not Southern Care Unit. Oh God, whatever they fuckin’ do, tell them never to let him in that place!” Tommy felt himself start to shake and he looked over at Lisa, who was nodding furiously. “Paul, I’ve known six kids who got sent to that freakhouse and they all came back way crazier than when they got in!” He remembered Delia, a girl who had a habit of drawing skulls and wearing black clothes. Her parents read her poems, thought she was suicidal and had her sent to Southern. She had come out addicted to heavy prescription drugs. The last time Tommy had seen her, she was with a smack dealer, about twenty pounds skinnier, and with deep circles under her eyes. “It’ll kill him!”

“Shhhh,” his Oma had come in with a plate of delicious smelling pancakes with syrup and lemon. It was one of his favorite things, but it kind of made his stomach lurch now. “We can talk to them in the morning, or Paul can call the house tonight. They probably have not made any arrangements.”

Paul nodded. “I’ll call and talk to Eber myself. And we don’t know if they’re going to send him anywhere. So don’t worry about that.”

Tommy was going to fuckin’ goddamn well worry, so they could shut up about that. “Am I going to school tomorrow? I can’t go, everyone’s going to know something happened. I mean, the fucking cops got called.” Assuming Megan doesn’t tell everyone. Fuck she hates me now.

“I’m going to take you to the doctor, and maybe you’ll go a half-day. Don’t worry about it now. I don’t think you should avoid it, though.” Paul looked uncomfortable. “But if anything happens, don’t fight back. Just call and I’ll pull you out. We can always try somewhere else if we have to.”

“Sure,” Tommy nodded. A part of him protested that even with all this shit going on, he didn’t want to go somewhere else. He liked the drama club, he hoped they didn’t all hate him now. He would miss them. Well, maybe not Megan. But he would miss a lot of them. “Okay. I swear I won’t fight.” He looked over at Lisa too. “And…I’m not going to run away. I’ll be here when you wake up in the morning.” He could feel how fucking much it hurt to promise that, but he did it anyway. “I won’t leave again.”

He could see the relief on all their faces, and then he curled on his side, shutting his eyes to it.

They went to the doctor the next morning, after Tommy insisted they call Adam’s house first, just to make sure they’d gotten home. Paul was on the phone with Leila for a minute before he hung up. “Adam’s home, he’s out of school for the day. They’re going to figure out what to do next, and he’s on bed rest. But other than that, he’s fine. Don’t worry too much.” Tommy didn’t say anything, but he combed his hair back. He wasn’t up to the task of spiking it, and it was getting longer, his roots growing in. He looked at his leather jacket and thought about how he had given it to Adam when he was cold. That had only been yesterday.

He fucking left it, going out with just a thin X t-shirt and a pair of jeans with short boots. He didn’t care.

Dr. Richardson was glad to see him, and checked his tonsils, took his blood and generally tried to see if there was any trace of infection after a few weeks. “You look much better. Sometimes these infections will be dormant, but we’ll test your blood and be sure. Are you still drinking?” Tommy shook his head.

She paused. “Are you getting any help for it?”

“I’m in therapy,” he said quietly. “And I’ve gone to two meetings. I don’t really like them much, but sometimes…I go sometimes.” She looked at him, and obviously wanted to ask something else. But she didn’t, and instead prescribed him a topical cream for the sunburn and bug bites, plus a shot of cortisone for the swelling. His left arm had gotten it pretty fucking bad from the fleas.

Then he went to school. He could feel the eyes on him as he went to the office to sign in with a doctor’s notice. He got his slip and walked down the hall toward Ms. Abdul’s class (just his fucking luck). He couldn’t hear all the whispers, but he did get “ran away with Adam” and “fags? Oh my god!” from a couple of stupid girls by the lockers. He didn’t even look their way. He just kept walking.

He was too fucking numb inside to care anyway.

When he opened the door to drama class, the entire room went silent. He handed Paula his excuse, then went straight the fuck to the back of the room, sitting with his head down. After a pause, Paula started lecturing again, and Tommy closed his eyes. Just being in the room fucking hurt-Adam wasn’t there, and he could feel the daggers Megan was probably glaring at him. He wasn’t going to look up to be sure. When the bell rang, he stayed where he was, waiting for everyone else to leave first. Finally Paula came over to his desk. “Hey Tommy. You’re going to have to go to your next class now.” Tommy raised his head and looked up at her, and he could see the tears in her eyes.

“Okay. Thank you,” Tommy said, voice scratchy, and he left. What the fuck? Half the class was waiting around outside the doorway. He was sure that Megan and Brad had planned some sort of West Side Story style gang revenge, and he was about to get his ass beat by theater geeks in retaliation for messing things up with their leader. It would serve his ass right. But Megan was nowhere to be found, and Brad didn’t look like he was in the mood for a fight.

Alisan stood in front of him first, and stared until he met her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he just barely got out. Alisan looked at him for another second, then hugged him gently. Tommy just let her, arms hanging useless by his sides. Part of his brain was still insisting it had to be a setup, nothing else made sense.

After Alisan let go, Anoop, Kris, Brad and a few of Brad’s girls who ferried him to classes came up and formed a ring around him. Tommy didn’t say anything as he was escorted to his next class, and everyone else was silent as well. Except Kris, who looked at him and said “Come to my house after school. Bring your guitar.”

“I have to-“ but Kris just looked at him, and Tommy said “I’ll try.” Then the bell rang and he ducked inside for his next class.

The rest of the day went like that: jeers and whispers during class, and between a group of kids who would walk with him to make sure he was all right. Tommy felt like his brain had left his body-he couldn’t focus on anything except Adam, and fighting off the urge to run out the back door and head his ass to Brent’s.

He avoided lunch period, and instead stayed in the costume closet that Adam would hide in. He looked at the sparkles and sequins and thought about finding Adam here, holding him. He curled up on a wardrobe case and waited.

Next he got out of class to see Mrs. Hayden who had heard the rumors and wanted to ask him about them. Tommy denied going to beach with Adam or anyone else-sunburn and dozens of bug bites to the contrary. Fuck that, he wasn’t telling her shit. His life sucked enough. Afterwards, she tried handing him a pamphlet for counseling in the area. “Thanks, but I’m seeing someone already,” he said, and left before she could ask who.

Tommy walked out of school that day with Lisa, Kris trailing behind. Tommy still wasn’t saying much, so Lisa petted his hand. “Do you want to go to Allen’s? I think you need to spend some time with the spiders.”

“Yeah. We’ll call your dad.” Tommy said. He was still so tired, defeated in every way. He looked over at Kris. “See you later, unless you’re coming with us.”

Kris shook his head. “I mean it though. Come by my house with your guitar soon.” Tommy nodded at him, and Kris joined the rest of the theater gang on the other side of the parking lot. Tommy lit a cigarette with shaking hands.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Tommy and Lisa didn’t talk much over at Allen’s. Tommy fed the animals and Lisa cleaned up the place for a while until finally Tommy slumped on the mattress. He put his head on the pillow and smelled Adam’s scent-his shampoo and the warm smell of his body, and that was it. Lisa had to put out her cigarette to come over and hug Tommy as he cried. “Honey, it’s okay.” She said. “He’s getting help, it’ll be okay.”

“I miss him. And now everything’s fucked,” Tommy said, voice small. “Do you think…we can call them?” Tommy sighed. “I’m sorry about last night. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.”

“You’re forgiven for searching my room for booze,” Lisa said. “But you don’t have to apologize for Adam being sick. That wasn’t your fault, and you were trying to help him. I don’t know if we can call. Maybe we should just use my dad to communicate with Eber. I don’t know.”

“I just want to be sure he’s okay” Tommy slumped against her. Lisa kissed the side of his head.

“Let’s go home. Maybe dad will have some ideas.”

When they got back to Paul’s, Tommy saw Leila’s car in the driveway and bolted out of the car before Lisa even came to a complete stop. He was running full on for the door with Lisa trying to get out of the car and catch up with him when the door opened. It was Paul. “Hi. You came at a good time.”

Tommy saw Leila sitting there with Tommy’s Oma and Margret and felt his stomach crash because Adam wasn’t there. He tried not to show it, and instead sat in the chair closest to the couch they were all one. “Hi Mrs. Lambert, how are you doing?” His voice was a little shaky.

She looked up from her teacup and smiled with one corner of her mouth. “I’m okay. Adam’s at home, he’s still resting. I just wanted to see you.”

“Why?” Tommy probably shouldn’t have said that, but oh fucking well. “I mean-it was all my fault yesterday.” Margret was giving him the “shut up” look, but he ignored it. “Is Eber still mad at me?”

Leila sort of pursed her lips closed, and that pretty much gave Tommy his answer. But then she said, “Eber didn’t know. I did, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I thought it was getting better.”

Tommy leaned back in his chair, relieved that he wasn’t the only one. “I know. I tried. Can you tell him that? I wanted Adam to get help, I wanted him to talk to Cassidy.” Tommy wiped his nose with his arm. “I’m so sorry for everything. We didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Leila smiled a little. “Adam’s been saying the same thing. He keeps reminding his father that going to the beach wasn’t your idea.” She let Brigitte pour her another cup of the strong tea Tommy knew she made. “Eber says you two cover for each other.”

“We look out for each other,” Tommy said it so forcefully that his Oma looked surprised. “I don’t-we both have our problems, but we kind of worry about each other more. It’s probably fucked up.”

Paul had been silent, standing at the edge of the living room with Lisa, but at that he shook his head. “It’s not entirely true. Tommy’s worked so hard to stay sober and get better since he got here. He’s done well at it.” Tommy shook his head, unable to hear the compliment.

“I didn’t do so well last night.” Leila looked horrified and Tommy said “I didn’t though. Paul had to stop me.” Tommy bowed his head. “He’s right though. I try. I made it through today so far.” Tommy took a deep breath. “I want to see Adam. Can I just see him?” Leila paused.

His Oma took Leila’s hand. “Tommy is a good boy, when it matters. He’s worried. I didn’t know before last night, but I can tell he cares for your son very much.” Leila listened to Brigitte’s thick German accent and relaxed a little.

Leila looked down and wiped her eyes. “Cassidy is meeting us at our house after dinner, to discuss what options might be available to help Adam. It’s going to be family, mostly. I don’t know if Eber will want you there.”

Tommy leaned forward, leaning his elbows on his knees. “Mrs. Lambert? You might not want to hear this, but I’ve been sent to a half-dozen shrinks, gone to see Cassidy on my own, and over fifteen people I know were sent to institutions by their parents.” Leila looked horrified, but Tommy kept going, looking her in the eye. “I think I’m somewhat qualified to at least give you some ideas on which ones to avoid.”

When Leila looked at her tea cup, then back at him, Tommy knew he had his answer.

Eber didn’t look pleased when he saw Tommy standing behind Leila, hands shoved into his jean pockets. “Honey, this is supposed to be a family meeting.” Eber’s glare told Tommy that he wasn’t even considered a friend of the family right now.

Leila stared at Eber and didn’t back down. “Tommy wants to be a part of this too. And he wants to see Adam. He wants to make sure Adam’s all right.” Eber looked at the two of them and then stepped out of the doorway.

“He could have helped us by telling us something was wrong.” Eber was looking right at Tommy and talking about him like he wasn’t there. Tommy felt some anger at it, but mostly he was just resigned. He should count himself lucky that he got through the door.

“I know,” and Eber looked surprised that Tommy even had the nerve to say anything. “I want-I wanted Adam to tell you. I wanted him to get better. I didn’t see where going behind his back would help.” Tommy looked up at Eber, wanting to make him understand. “I’m really sorry.”

Eber turned away from him and headed to the kitchen. “Adam’s upstairs, in his room. We’re trying to make him rest. If you have to be here, you might as well go see him for a few minutes.” Tommy didn’t wait for Eber to change his mind, but he smiled at Leila over his shoulder. She nodded, but didn’t smile back.

Tommy wanted to run up the stairs, but he had to act like he was in control. For Adam, he had to be strong. It would help, it had to.

He opened the door to Adam’s room, and saw Adam sitting up in his bed watching MTV on a portable TV. Neil was in the room with him, a chair pulled up near the bed. He was reading a comic book and looked up when Tommy came in. “Hi Tommy. Your hair looks like shit.” Tommy ignored him, instead looking at Adam, who turned his way and just stared at him. Tommy grinned back and Neil got up. “You can have the chair. I’m going downstairs. See ya.” He held out the comic to Adam, who shook his head. “Okay, fine.”

Tommy sat down in the vacated chair. “Hi.” He wondered why it was so awkward and tense. Adam moved slowly so he was closer to the edge of the bed and to Tommy.

“Hi baby. Thanks for coming to see me. It’s been horrible.” Adam’s voice was quiet and a little groggy, and the realization hit Tommy like a shock of cold water. Adam was on something, a tranquilizer. “I’m kind of out of it right now,” Adam said next, like Tommy didn’t know.

“Yeah, what did they give you?” And fucking why, that’s a better fucking question.

“They gave me some Xanax, I think just for the next couple of days. I don’t know why, something about anxiety. They said I was weak and needed to rest, and that I was anxious because I kept asking for you.” Tommy looked down when Adam said that. “I’m not sure how I can be both at once. I think they’re just trying to keep me from running again.” Tommy bit his lip.

“I know how that is. Is that why you’re in bed?” Adam nodded. A fucking horrible pop act was on MTV and Tommy just wanted to shut it off. Now he was going to hear this song later and remember Adam in his bed, weak and drugged.

“Yeah. I think they thought I needed to sleep. Tommy, I wish you could get me out of here. I was hooked up to the IV in the emergency room and the doctors and nurses talked about me like I wasn’t there. Someone from the fucking mental ward tried to talk dad into putting me in there right away. Dad told him to fuck off.” Adam closed his eyes. “Now they’re going to get Cassidy and try to decide what to do with me.”

“You get a say in this too,” Tommy said, voice low. “Don’t let them make this decision all by themselves. They need to know what you think, make them hear that.”

“They don’t though,” Adam said staring blankly at the TV. “They keep trying to get me to eat, but they won’t leave the room. When I told them I couldn’t if they were looking, I swear they were right outside the door.” Adam sniffled then. “Neil told me he would eat something for me, to get them off my back.”

Tommy and Adam both chuckled. “What, he’s on your side now?”

“Yeah, he said it wasn’t my fault. Actually, he said it couldn’t be my fault, it was too weird for anyone to do on purpose. And then he apologized about a hundred times for ever calling me fat when we were fighting.” Adam smiled slightly. “Neil’s been the best, figure that one out.”

“How’s Leila been? She brought me here.” Tommy could hear a muffled argument going on downstairs, and he was pretty fucking sure it was about him.

“Mom’s scared. She told me she was afraid this was happening. I don’t understand why she didn’t just talk to me then.” Adam yawned. “I hate taking this shit. It’s making me tired. Oh shit, I shouldn’t say that around you, I’m sorry-“

“It’s okay.” Tommy looked at his nails-there was still some sand under them. “Well, I’m not that okay-I would’ve taken anything I could find last night. But there wasn’t anything.” Except I’m positive that Margret has a bottle of Valium hidden somewhere. She has to do something to relax. No wait, isn’t she into herbal methods? Valerian root then. Tommy reached out and took Adam’s hand. “I made it through last night and today. It’ll be okay.”

“Do they know at school?” The sad way that Adam seemed to accept that made Tommy want to kick something over. But he owed him a straight answer, so he told him about his day, and how the drama crowd had escorted him to every class. “People are whispering and laughing. The story’s gotten around that we tried to run away to Mexico together. But nothing happened, so maybe we’re okay. And it’s not like they actually know.”

“They reported us as runaways. So it’s close enough.” Adam sighed again. “I want to nap for a bit. Stay here with me?”

“I won’t go,” Tommy whispered, still holding Adam’s hand. “I love you. I wish I could say it would all be okay.”

“Don’t have to lie to me,” Adam smiled a little, then drifted off. Tommy still held his hand.

Twenty minutes later, Eber came into the room. Adam was still asleep and Tommy had moved the chair closer. He had to stop holding Adam’s hand when his started to cramp, but he was petting through Adam’s hair. He stopped when he saw Eber.

“Tommy,” Eber said. “Cassidy’s here. You want to stay for the…discussion afterward, right?” Tommy nodded. Eber paused again. “Would you like to eat with us?” Tommy paused.

“I’d like to, but I can sit here with Adam and try to get him to eat something if you want. He’ll…he can eat in front of me.” Tommy looked down. “I’m sorry.”

Eber came closer, and put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder. “Come on, into the hallway. We need to talk.” Tommy didn’t want to leave Adam, but he went. “Of all the things to apologize for, why the hell are you apologizing for that?”

Tommy didn’t look at him. “Because he can’t with you, but I’m okay somehow and I don’t know. I’m just sorry. I feel like I fucked everything up.”

Eber looked at Tommy a long minute. “Leila keeps telling me how good you two try to be for each other. I always thought you were just getting my boy in trouble.” Eber looked through the open door to where Adam was still dozing. “But he was already in trouble and I never saw it.”

Tommy wanted to apologize again. Eber derailed him from that though. “Have you eaten anything? Kris says you were pretty upset when we left.”

“No,” Tommy whispered. Eber shook his head.

“Come down and get some food. Fix two plates.” Eber headed down the stairs and didn’t look back, so Tommy just did what he said.

When Adam and Tommy had finished eating, they went downstairs and found Leila, Eber and Cassidy already around the living room table. The dishes had been cleared and Cassidy had a lot of papers and forms in front of him. Adam was still wearing his pajamas and his hair was matted and Tommy thought he looked beautiful. “Hi Cassidy,” Adam said, voice a little dull. Cassidy caught Tommy’s eye and Tommy gave him a quick nod. Yep, he’s kinda stoned.

Cassidy cleared his throat and looked at Eber and Leila. “Thanks for letting me try to get some information for you. And you wanted Tommy and Adam to be here for this?”

Adam spoke then. “I think I should get a say in it. And Tommy should at least be here, I think.” Adam looked at his parents, and Tommy had never seen that look before, gritty and determined. “I don’t want to be sent away.”

“Now son, we don’t know-“ Eber tried to argue with him and Adam cut him off.

“I don’t want to leave home, I don’t want to leave the drama class. And I don’t want to leave Tommy.” Adam took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to disappear-like ‘hey, what happened to that kid who used to sing? Oh, I heard his parents sent him to a hospital or boarding school, I don’t know’.” Leila was already wiping her eyes. “I mean, you can blame me or Tommy or that cop who called me names-you can blame whoever you like. But I’ve got a lot of good things here too. And I’m not going to leave.”

Tommy looked at Eber, and he was red in the face. Bet he’s not used to his son talking to him like that, Tommy thought. “How do you know that your friends will stand by you? Word’s gotten around the school, I hear. You could get hurt, someone could try to hurt you. How-how do you know Tommy won’t just leave? He lied about his past for three years, how can you trust-“

“I’m not going anywhere,” Tommy said suddenly. “I’m never hiding again. I went to school today, and I didn’t leave. Half the goddamn drama class wants to blame this on me, and they were the only friends I had. And I still didn’t leave. So I’m not fucking going anywhere. Even if you send Adam to boarding school or to a hospital in another state….” Tommy had to stop for a minute. “I’ll still be here when he gets back.”

“You’ve known him a month,” Eber pointed out. Tommy shook his head.

“It doesn’t matter. And even if you never let me see Adam again, I still don’t think he should go.” Tommy looked over at Adam, who looked horrified at that idea. “He’s got good friends in the drama department. And I don’t think he wants to leave you guys.” Tommy looked straight at both of them. “And I don’t think he should either.” You guys are good parents. I didn’t even think those existed besides Paul.

“I don’t know,” Leila was crying. “I pretending nothing was happening, I tried to act like Adam was okay. Maybe he’d be better off in another environment…” She started crying even harder and Tommy’s heart nearly broke. “I don’t want to send him anywhere.”

Cassidy leaned forward then. “I’ve looked at what’s available locally, and to be honest, outpatient would be better than most of the hospitals and care centers for Adam. A lot of the ones in the area have very bad reputations.”

“I know they do, I’ve known people who’ve come out of some of them.” Tommy said, scowling. Cassidy nodded.

“A lot of the places in the area that advertise themselves as ‘adolescent centers’ are actually much more interested in getting the insurance money than helping the children in their care.” Leila’s eyes widened as Tommy nodded vigorously. See, if I said that shit, you would’ve thought I was making it up.

“Wha-what do we do?” Leila was still crying and Eber was staring at his hands. Tommy was suddenly wondering if he had any right to be here at all. Adam squeezed his hand, just then, and Tommy knew that he had to be strong for Adam. He turned to him and tried to project It’ll be alright.

“Well, I haven’t really gotten to talk to Adam, but it sounds like his problems can be treated outpatient much more easily than some,” Cassidy said. “I can recommend a counselor that works for an eating disorders clinic, and she takes male clients.”

“You mean some don’t?” Eber looked shocked and Tommy felt his eyebrow go up too, because what the hell.

“Only about ten percent of people diagnosed with eating disorders are male, so it’s considered a specialized field of study, in some ways.” Cassidy shook his head. “It’s not really fair, I think there’s more out there than they believe.” He got a card and handed it to Leila. “And there are Overeaters Anonymous meetings at the Center and all over the city. I recommend that Adam go to these as well as whatever other treatment plan you decide on.”

Tommy nods. “Yeah, if I can go to AA, you can go-Adam?” Adam was crying softly, and Tommy didn’t even think about Adam’s parents being across the table before he had his arms around him. “It’s okay. They’re gonna find something that works and you’ll be okay.”

“I don’t want to talk about this to someone who doesn’t know me,” Adam said and Tommy nodded. “I’m sorry. I’m not brave.”

Tommy pulled back to look at him. “Now that’s bullshit,” he said, and Adam smiled a little. “You don’t have to go alone. When you see this counselor or whoever, you can have anybody you want outside waiting on you. I’d go, your mom, Cassidy probably.” Tommy looked over at Cassidy, who was nodding. “I bet even Neil would go with you.”

“Damn right I would” Neil said from his hiding position at the top of the stairs. Adam turned to give him the finger and Tommy had to try not to laugh.

“See? You’ve got people who want to help you.” Tommy let go of Adam then, slowly and turned to Eber and Leila. “I don’t think Adam has to be sent somewhere. I know you think that’s a selfish opinion, but I hope it isn’t.” When Eber half raised an eyebrow at Tommy, looking impressed, Tommy knew they had won.

After a few more minutes, Cassidy gave Adam’s parents a few more numbers of people they could call and the OA hotline, and his card as well. “Adam’s always welcome to see me too. I’d like to see him and Tommy together at some point as well, if that’s all right.”

Yeah, if they let me keep seeing him after this, Tommy thought, but he didn’t say anything. Cassidy left then, squeezing Tommy on the shoulder, and Tommy just sat there. The silence stretched out now that it was the four of them. After a long minute, Tommy said “Do you want me to call Paul for a ride?”

“I can call for you. You should go home soon, since you have school tomorrow.” Eber put an emphasis on you that made Tommy frown.

“Adam’s coming to school tomorrow, right? He’s had a day off to rest up, and I told you that the drama class will look out for him.” Adam nodded next to him.

“Mom, dad, let me go to school. If anything happens I’ll call you. But…if Tommy’s not going to hide, than neither am I.”

Eber looked at both of them and sighed. “Okay, fine. I was seriously thinking about finding Adam a new school, but maybe not now. You’re right, he should go back tomorrow at least.” Eber went to get the phone.

“And I have to be in the review,” Adam said, making Eber turn his head back in Adam’s direction. “I’m not giving up my song. If you have to take me out of school, wait until the holidays are over. But I don’t want to leave.” Adam looked at his dad, not wavering. “Don’t take away the good things I have by trying to fix something else.”

Eber watched Adam for a long minute, then nodded. “We’ll see. If you think that will work, we’ll see. I’m going to call Paul and tell him to come pick you up in an hour. You boys can go watch television. Fuck, I’m exhausted.” Eber left then, moving slowly. Adam and Tommy went into the living room.

Adam waited until the TV was on to whisper “he’s letting you stay a little longer. Do you think everything’s okay?” Tommy watched the opening credits of Times Square that had just started on HBO.

“I think I’m back on trial.” Tommy smiled at Adam. “But that’s okay, ‘cause I’m still here.”

“Yeah,” Adam said, and he put his arm around Tommy as they watched two girls meet and fall in love in the mental ward.

Chapter Text

The next day, Adam came to school. Tommy kept his distance, even though he was fucking dying inside. He wanted to be next to Adam and help him, but it would make the teasing worse. He would catch glimpses of Adam, walking in the middle of a group, and then duck his head before anyone saw him staring.

The drama crowd did the same thing as yesterday, splitting into two packs and walking both of them to class. Tommy did notice that Megan stayed with Adam, glaring whenever she saw him. At drama, Tommy moved back and sat between Brad and Kris again, looking over at Adam when he could. Kris nudged him, jolting him out of his thoughts. “Can you come by my house today? I have some great guitars.”

Tommy shrugged. “I don’t know, I’ve got therapy today.” Kris looked a little shocked at that, but nodded. “And um, why do you want me to come over? I never thought you liked me that much.”

“I like you fine. And guitars are about the only thing we have in common, and frankly-“ Kris dropped his voice to a whisper- “you’re gonna need more friends. So, I want to help. We can play Beatles songs.”

Tommy shook his head-he had no idea if Kris was genuinely interested in being his buddy, but what the hell. It couldn’t be all bad. “I only know Helter Skelter.”

Kris snorted. “Of course,” he grinned and then turned his attention to Paula when she ran in five minutes late.

The rest of the day was boring except when Tommy joined the crowd for lunch. Adam didn’t, and Tommy pushed back the urge to worry. He had given Brad a sandwich to give to Adam, so at least he had something to eat when he was hanging out with the costumes. Tommy meanwhile nibbled on the Chinese chicken salad that Paul had made him, and didn’t say much.

“Nice salad,” Megan said, in a not-nice voice.

“Thanks, want some?” Tommy said, stabbing out a forkful. The rest of the table went silent, Anoop glaring at Megan. Tommy was glaring too. Fuck it, if she’s going to be a bitch two days later, I’m not going to let her get away with it.

“It must be nice,” she said, ignoring Anoop and everyone else. “You can just eat whatever you want without worrying or hiding. You’re lucky, aren’t you?”

Tommy felt his anger start to rise up inside him, but he couldn’t lose control. He couldn’t make a scene. He kept his voice low. “Yeah, I’m so lucky I blitzed myself on booze for three years and then could’ve died from infecting my hand. I’m lucky. Think whatever you want of me, but don’t act like I think I’m better than Adam. I’m not.”

“Megan…” Anoop said, leaning forward. Tommy raised his eyebrows-Anoop was pissed, and not at him. Tommy looked around the table and Alisan was shaking her head at Meg, Kris was glowering (and fuck, that was a weird expression to see on him) and Brad was giving her his patented one-eyebrow-up ‘what the hell is wrong with you’ face. Megan stood up from her chair.

“Fine. I’m going to study hall. Fuck you guys.” She stomped out in her knockoff Docs (Tommy had checked the label-nope, not real). Anoop didn’t follow her for once, and shook his head when Tommy caught his eye.

“She’ll have to deal with this one on her own. It’s not actually about you, and you know that.”

“It’s about my dad, yeah.” Tommy sighed and ate the rest of his salad in silence.

The rest of the day looked better by comparison, at least. Still, it was kind of a major fucking surprise when Tommy came out of his creative writing class to find a blond jock standing there, looking uncomfortable. Well, that’s it, time for my ass-kicking. Tommy steeled himself, trying to remember not to fight back. I can’t get kicked out, I can’t get kicked out…

The jock approached him and Tommy stiffened up. “Hi, I’m Michael. I talked to you once before.” The guy looked awkward as hell, but he kept going. “Um, Kris couldn’t make it and he asked me to walk with you to History? Is that okay?”

Tommy blinked. Oh, I remember this fucker now. One of Kris’s little Bible Buddies. “Yeah sure, thanks.” Michael actually reached for Tommy’s books (like Tommy was a fucking girl), and then stopped himself. Tommy could’ve been proud and refused, but hell. His class was a long way away, and he was getting glared at a lot.

“You’re not wearing your jacket anymore,” Michael said, and Tommy looked at his outfit. He was still wearing black jeans and old t-shirts, but he had left the jacket and had kept his hair flat. “Are you giving up the punk look?”

“I’m not sure,” Tommy said. “I’m sick of my jacket though.” It’s still got sand in it, it still has the scent of the ocean. I can’t think about that right now. “Maybe I’ll get something else. I don’t know what.”

“Just don’t dress like Anoop. Argyle, gross.” Tommy had to laugh at that, especially coming from a guy wearing a Polo. They made it to Tommy’s class and the guy actually waved goodbye. Tommy saw some of Michael’s football buddies glaring at him. I guess some of these Christians don’t like the fag rumors. At least Michael’s…not so bad.

Tommy ducked into class. This train of thought was getting fucking disturbing.

When he finally got out, Lisa was waiting for him, and the drama crowd (except for Megan), was around the car as well. Adam was there, half-hidden in the crowd, and Tommy’s arms nearly physically hurt from wanting to hold him. “Hey guys. What’s going on? I gotta get to the Center and see Cassidy.”

“Yeah, we know.” Anoop looked over at Adam. “Do you think Adam could go with you? He told us he’d like to.” Tommy looked over at Adam, who had his head down. After a minute, he looked up and nodded. Shit, Adam’s having a bad day. Yeah, he should come.

“We’ll have to ask his parents. Let’s go to the McDonald’s and use the pay phone by there.” Within two minutes. Adam was in his car with Alisan riding shotgun, and Tommy was in Lisa’s. When they got there, Adam got out, getting a quarter from Lisa as she got out a cigarette. She had smoked about half of it in the couple of minutes it took for Adam to come back.

“Mom says okay. Dad will probably be pissed off, but I really don’t want to go right home. And I want to give this a try. Can I get in? Alisan can have my car until I need it.” He grinned at him, a little hesitant. Adam looked tired and his skin was peeling from the sunburn, but mostly he just looked relieved to be out of school now.

“Whoo!” Alisan said from the passenger seat. She got out and hugged Adam, getting his keys. “Don’t worry, I’ll be at the diner on 4th and then home, okay? You can call me there. How long do you think you’ll be?”

Tommy shrugged. “I guess it depends if I go to a meeting after counseling. I don’t know. I tend to just hang out there, but with Adam-we probably shouldn’t do that.”

“We’ll see, “ Adam said. “I can always call home again and check in.” Adam slid into the back seat. “Okay, let’s go to Morgan.”

When they got there, Adam got out and looked around at the street. “Oh my god,” he said. He was looking at the bars, the bookstore, and the Center. “Wow.”

Tommy nods. “I know. I mean, it’s not like it’s the Castro, but still-“

“Yeah,” Adam nodded. He leaned in the car and thanked Lisa for bringing them. The men hanging outside the bars gave Adam the once-over, and he blushed and tried to hide behind Tommy. “I’m kinda terrified.”

“I was scared too. I thought someone would jump me, but I don’t think about it anymore.” Adam looked worried and Tommy tried to reassure him. “Most of these guys hanging out by the bars? They’ll kick a fucker’s ass if they have to. The bars all have private security. And wait until you meet Jack.” Tommy opened the door to the Center. “Hi.”

Jack turned to greet them, wearing a short sleeved shirt that showed off his muscles as well as his gut. Tommy wondered if Jack would be a good example for Adam-to show him there was more than one way to look in the gay scene. He stopped thinking about that when Jack spoke to him. “Hey Tommy, Cassidy’s been waiting for you. He set aside some extra time if you want it. Is this your friend?” Tommy noticed that he didn’t say ‘boyfriend’, he wasn’t going to assume or push…

“Boyfriend,” Adam said, voice firm, and then Adam was holding his hand. All Tommy could do was smile. Jack had to smile too, and he told them which meeting room to go to.

Cassidy was already there, standing by the coffee machine. “Hi. Adam, I’m so glad to see you. Get a cup of coffee and come sit down.” Tommy poured one cup for Adam and handed it to him, then one for himself. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cassidy take an interest in this little move. Okay Cass, I’m whipped. Now you know.

When they sat down, Cassidy just rubbed his forehead for a minute. “You know, generally in counseling, you find out information in little bits and pieces that make up a whole eventually. But because of the incident Sunday, I learned a lot really quickly. Now I just have to hear how you two have been dealing with all of it.”

Tommy paused. “I don’t know if I should go first.” Adam nodded, and Tommy clasped his hands together on the table, looking down. “I had never really sat anyone down and told them about my family. And I never talked about my mother. Adam was the first person to hear about that from me.” Tommy took a deep breath. “I thought he would leave me, or be disgusted that I lied to him, or treat me differently because my parents have money. But he didn’t.”

“I couldn’t,” Adam said. “I couldn’t treat you differently, I already knew a lot about who you were. I just didn’t know why.” Tommy looked over at Adam, who smiled slightly at him. “It just hurt to hear it.”

Cassidy said “Why did it hurt so much?” Adam looked at Cassidy like he was an idiot, it was so obvious, and Tommy didn’t get it.

“I just don’t understand how they couldn’t love Tommy. I don’t understand why people treat him the way they do-they don’t even know him. And now Megan is angry at him because of my problems, my dad is pissed off. Everyone wants to blame my eating thing on Tommy, and I’ve been doing it for over a year!” Adam’s face was really red now.

“Not everybody blames me,” Tommy said quietly. It was close enough to the truth though.

“But it’s not fair-you’ve been…” Adam had to take a deep breath. “You’ve been so good to me. And it hurts that people don’t see that. And I just-god, you weren’t kidding, school’s awful right now.”

Cassidy leaned forward. “How bad is it? Are you being threatened?”

Tommy shook his head, and told Cassidy about the drama class taking the initiative to save their own from being hurt. “I got an escort or four to every class-so did Adam.” Adam smiled, just a little. “They’re looking out for us.”

“They’re good people,” Adam said. “I really hope I don’t have to change schools.”

Cassidy looked over at Tommy. “Do you mind if I ask Adam a few things for a while?” Tommy shook his head because fuck, he wanted to hear it too. “Adam, how are things going between you and your family, now that they know?”

Adam shook his head. “They’re driving me crazy. Mom cried when I got some toast and coffee and ate it in my room with the door locked. Dad got stoned last night after the talk. They both look at me like I’m going to run away at any minute. We weren’t even trying to run away! But it makes me just want to-go.” Adam looked at Tommy then, eyes blue against his red face. “Tommy? We could go.”

Tommy was fucking afraid of this. It was true, he didn’t have his full trust fund but he had enough to get them somewhere far away if he had to. They could go somewhere small and hidden, or big and loud. He could find them places that Adam’s parents would never think to look. Tommy shook his head. “Can’t run anymore. I just can’t, you’re gonna have to stay with me.” Adam shook his head and Tommy took his hand. “You can’t get better if you run.”

“I know. It’s just so hard. I don’t even know where to start.” Adam squeezed Tommy’s hand. “Thanks for smuggling me that sandwich to eat when I was cutting lunch. And thanks for not asking if I ate it or not.” That made Tommy really want to fucking ask, but he stayed quiet and Adam kissed his cheek. “Next time use spicy mustard.” Tommy beamed then, then saw Cassidy watching them.

“Oh no, don’t be embarrassed. I want you two to feel comfortable being yourselves here. You’ve become very close, and it’s only been a month?” Tommy and Adam nodded at the same time, and Tommy thought about how weird that was.

“A lot’s been happening, it’s going by so fast,” Tommy said. “Hell, Friday we were seeing Rocky Horror together, and now everything’s completely different.”

“I know, but at least everyone knows now,” Cassidy said. Adam made a face. “Adam?

 

“It’s just weird, now my school friends know too. They just thought I couldn’t eat in public, not that I was only eating at night. Which is totally screwed up now-I didn’t dare try to go downstairs. I bet I go home and there’s a padlock on the fridge.” Tommy shook his head.

“Your mom wouldn’t do that.” But I bet she stays awake wondering if she hears you downstairs. “Have they called the counselor Cassidy told them about yet?”

“I think my mom did that this morning, or on her lunch break. She was talking about it last night. She keeps crying. She’s acting like it’s her fault.” Adam slumped in his chair. “I mean, even I know that it’s not.”

Tommy couldn’t fucking help it, he squirmed a little at that. Your mom feels guilty about something that’s not her fault. My mom…fuck. Cassidy seemed to read Tommy’s change of mood, because then he said “Tommy, I’ve only heard your story second-hand. About your parents, and most people only seem to know about your dad. Do you think you can tell me about it? Or is it too much right now?”

Tommy didn’t look up. “I don’t know. It fucking freaks me out to talk about it. Especially the parts about my mom. God, fuck her.” Tommy felt Adam squeeze his hand. “Okay, I’ll try.”

Tommy told Cassidy the shortened version of his parents and the time he spent afterward drifting from his Oma’s house to friends and some time at the house his parents owned. “I just wish she’d stop showing up. It would be easier if she did. I don’t even know why she does it.”

Cassidy was very quiet when he said the next part, the part Tommy was fucking dreading. “Why is talking about your mom so much worse?”

“Because…she’s my mom.” She’s my mom and I can’t stop loving her and I hate her and I don’t know what I did wrong. Tommy felt the tears on his face and Adam grabbing him in a hug. “Fuck.” Tommy let Adam hold him for a minute, then he gently pulled away, facing Cassidy. “I was going to tell you. Lisa wanted me to practice on you before I told Adam. Fuck, I want a drink.”

Cassidy’s face was sympathetic and kind. “You’re doing so well, Tommy. I want you to know that.” Tommy shook his head. “No, you are. A lot of people wouldn’t have made it this far in so short a time. And you’re only seventeen.”

Tommy laughed. “Yeah, just turned.” Adam made a little noise and Tommy turned to him. “I know I told you I was seventeen. I was actually a couple of weeks from it. I don’t celebrate my birthday because there’s no point. It was the on the nineteenth last month.”

Adam looked kind of stunned. “You should have told me. Why did you hide that?” He looked more puzzled than he was annoyed, so Tommy shrugged.

“I never talk about it much. Hell, I don’t even mention it to Lisa, and she’s known me for years. It was never-my parents…” Tommy trailed off. “My Oma would make me a cake. And anyway, I was going through a lot, and hiding a lot worse than my birth date from you.”

Adam looked at him for a long minute, and then kissed his cheek. “Happy birthday.” Tommy saw the smiled on Cassidy’s face as he felt it on his own.

After the session, Adam called his home. “Dad? Yeah, I’m still here, we had therapy with Cassidy-yes, mom said I could go.” Adam looked at Tommy, a little of last night’s anger there. " I’m going to go to therapy anyway. I’m just calling to ask if I can stay for a while longer? There’s an OA meeting here I could go to. Oh. Okay. Yeah, I understand. Tommy too?” Adam’s voice went up and hopeful on the last part. “Okay. Alisan has my car, Lisa brought us. I don’t know, it made sense at the time. All right, see you in a few minutes.” Adam hung up. “Dad’s a little pissy about us being here, but he’s picking us up. And he wants you to come for dinner, so you better call Paul.”

It wasn’t long before Eber had picked them both up and gotten them to Adam’s house. He said one brief ‘hi’ to Tommy, but didn’t seem angry at him. Adam sat up front with his dad, Tommy in the back.

Eber talked to Adam-actually, it was more like interrogating. “Did anyone give you a hard time at school? Did you eat anything? Are you sitting in the lunch room? Let me know if anyone says anything to you. Why did you want to see Tommy’s therapist so badly?”

“Dad, stop.” Adam glared at him. “Just-I’ll talk about it later. I don’t want to get hammered with a bunch of questions right now. I’m fine, nobody hit me, and I ate a little. And I went to see Cassidy because he asked me too and I wanted some time between school and coming home, okay?”

Eber pulled into the driveway, and Tommy saw him look a little scared. “Son, I just want to know-“

“Leave me alone.” Adam got out of the car as soon as it stopped and left his backpack as he ran to get in before either of them. Eber turned to Tommy, his face disbelieving. “Tommy, what’s going on?” Tommy looked at the door that Adam just slammed, and got his and Adam’s backpack.

“I’ll go upstairs and see how he is.” He felt Eber watch his back as he trudged up to the house.

Tommy found Adam curled on his bed. “Did my dad want you to come up here?” Adam snapped, and shit, that hurt a little. Tommy stayed in the doorway.

“He didn’t really tell me what he wanted me to do. I just brought your backpack in. Can I come in, or is it bad right now?” Adam flopped over on his back and stared at the ceiling. Tommy looked over at Adam’s Prince poster-Neil had doodled on it.

“Can I just have ten minutes?” Adam said, whispering. Tommy looked at his feet. “I’m not mad at you. But I feel like everyone’s watching me. I just want some time alone. I’ll see you.”

“I’ll be downstairs,” Tommy closed the door, leaving Adam alone. He heard Eber in the kitchen and thought Oh, this is going to be fun. Tommy just sat in the living room, looking at his hands. After a minute Neil came over.

“Hey, did Adam kick you out? You use teeth or something?” Eber yelled from the kitchen, telling Neil to apologize and stop being such a brat. Neil sat on the couch next to him. “Sorry. What’s up with Adam?”

“He just wants to be left alone for a while,” Tommy said. “It’s okay.” And it was, because he needed his own time too. Adam already had a tough day, he needed to think. Neil looked over at him for a minute.

“Wanna play Mario Brothers?”

An hour or so later, Eber found Tommy and Neil in the rec room playing video games. “Boys, it’s time for dinner. Come on upstairs and wash your hands, Neil.” Tommy saw the tired, heavy way Eber was carrying himself, and got up quietly while Neil complained about having to wash his hands. Tommy washed his too, just to even it out.

The smells hit Tommy when he got near the kitchen-spaghetti and small meatballs, not the huge ones that you had to tear into, a big colorful salad, garlic bread. Eber had fixed it all. “Leila’s seeing her mother today,” he said. “She-well, anyway. I fixed dinner tonight. I’ll make chocolate mousse later.”

Neil looked at it, and raised an eyebrow. “That’s Adam’s birthday dinner. You fixed his favorites.” Eber looked down at the bowl of pasta and nodded. Tommy felt the sudden urge to comfort Eber, which was unexpected and a little fucking disturbing. “That’s great,” Neil said. He turned to Tommy. “Go get your plate and his and bring it up to him. See if he’s hungry.”

“Yeah, I will,” Tommy said. He fixed two plates, not looking at Eber until he felt a hand on his back. “Thank you Mr. Lambert.”

“It’s okay, it’s…good to have you here.” Eber sounded like the words didn’t make sense in his mouth, but he said them anyway. Tommy grabbed the plates with Neil coming behind him with two cans of Coke and they went upstairs.

Adam was there, thank fuck, he didn’t try that sneaking-away shit that they’d both done three days ago. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, looking tired. “Hey, is it time to eat-oh.” Adam looked at the pasta, salad and bread. “Well, wow.”

“Yeah, Neil said it was your favorite.” Tommy put the plates down on Adam’s desk and took the Cokes from him. Neil left without even being asked. Tommy pulled up a chair and Adam sat on the edge of his bed, looking at the plate. “It smells delicious-I didn’t know your dad could cook.”

Adam smiled, just a quirk of his mouth. “He knows how to make a few things. Mom works late sometimes. Her car’s not here, she’s either at work or she’s seeing my grandma.” Adam poked at the salad. “This is really nice, I’ll have to thank dad.” He ate a nibble of the salad. “It’s just-I’m not used to eating three meals a day. I ate half that sandwich you fixed me.”

Tommy nodded, deliberately not watching as Adam took a bite of his pasta. “Your dad said she was seeing your Grandma.” Adam ate a little more, carefully, as Tommy scraped his garlic bread in the sauce.

“I’m not surprised. She’s upset. My grandma might be coming here-shit, I hope mom tells her about you. I’m not up to that discussion right now.” Tommy looked at Adam with huge eyes, but Adam didn’t seem too upset. “I mean, she’s my grandma, she loves me, but-not right now.”

“Anyway, she’s not here, so don’t worry.” Tommy drank his Coke. Adam nodded and ate about a third of what was on his plate. “I’ll try to eat more later, or dad can save it for me. Is he making chocolate mousse?” Tommy nodded and Adam shook his head, smiling. “It sounds wonderful, but it’s-a lot right now. I might just have a little. You can bring some to Paul’s. Lisa would love it.”

“She will,” Tommy finished his plate and then his soda. Adam put his down and Tommy got closer, sitting next to him on the bed. “Is this okay?”

“Hell yes,” Adam said, turning quick to kiss Tommy, bumping their teeth. Adam had his arms around him, holding him in place as he kissed him again. Tommy just tipped his head back and held on, letting Adam have control. After a minute, Adam pulled back to kiss Tommy’s face and neck. “I haven’t had any time alone with you. I've missed that.”

“Me too,” Tommy said, nipping at Adam’s lip. “But we should-“ Adam kissed him again.

“I know,” Adam sighed. “Here, just lie next to me until someone comes up.” Adam scooted over on the bed and Tommy curled into the spot next to Adam’s side. Adam took Tommy’s hand and intertwined their fingers. Tommy leaned against Adam’s shoulder.

In a few minutes, Eber would come up and knock on the door. Maybe Leila would show up, with or without her mother. Maybe Neil would barge in on them. But for now, then just laid back on the bed, enjoying the quiet.

Chapter Text

“So what happened after that?” Lisa said, putting a spoon in her bowl of chocolate mousse and licking it off. Tommy smiled a little-Lisa was relaxing him just by being herself.

“Eber came up with dessert and saw us cuddled on the bed. I think he was surprised, but he didn’t say anything. He gave us these tiny little servings of the mousse-like, he used the espresso cups for it.” Adam had frowned when he saw it, but he kept quiet. “Then Adam thanked him for dinner and told him to save the rest of his plate.”

“Yeah, did he?” Lisa had finished her mousse by now, and Tommy brushed some off her nose.

“He took it downstairs, and Leila was coming through the door. She started giving Eber holy hell, saying he was trying too hard, then Eber said she was running away, and I swear, I thought Adam was going to leave with me. I called you about then. Fuck.” Tommy pushed his spoon into what was left of his mousse. He remembered how Adam had held him upstairs, shaking while they listened to his parents fighting. “They’re pretty good, normally, but they’re freaking out and it’s making Adam crazy. Neil actually came downstairs and told them to shut up.”

Lisa laughed. “Fuck, that kid is awesome. We should do his Mohawk now.” Tommy laughed thinking about it. “Adam can’t handle all that, can he?” That sobered him back up.

Tommy shook his head. “It’s like-he tried really hard for that not to be noticed, and it worked. Now everybody knows and it’s-yeah.” Tommy looked at the leftover mousse, which was perfect and delicious, and though about how Adam could only eat one spoonful with all the pressure on him.

“Shit,” Lisa said. “He wants them to know it’ll be alright, doesn’t he?” Tommy nodded. “I hope it is all right.”

“Yeah, me too.” Tommy took their bowls to the kitchen.

School the next day followed the same pattern as the day before, but with a few less escorts to classes as people began to calm the fuck down about it. When he went to drama class, Adam was in his usual chair, and Megan was in the back alone. He looked over at her, but she was sulking with her Walkman on. Fine, leave her. Adam smiled at him before looking back down. Tommy thought that Adam looked tired, and he bet that Adam didn’t sleep well after he left. He handed Brad half a roast beef sandwich with spicy mustard. Brad slipped it into Adam’s hand on their way out.

Tommy did see Michael again, as he just casually started walking with him when he went between history and creative writing. “Hey buddy,” Michael said, like they’d been best friends for years.

“Michael,” Tommy said, and Michael grinned happily. Really, this was one of the happiest jocks Tommy had ever met. “How are you?”

“I’m great man, great. Um hey, I can ask you something? Lisa, that girl who takes you to school every day? Is she your sister?”

Tommy honestly wasn’t sure how to answer that at first. Finally he said “Not by blood, but she might as well be. I live with her family.” Michael looked a little startled by that, but didn’t ask any more questions. And five points for you, Mike, for realizing that it’s none of your business.

“Oh okay. Awesome. Um, is she dating anybody? Winter Dance is coming up soon and my girl dumped me three weeks ago. Lisa’s really cute, and I love girls that look like they could kick my ass.” Tommy looked at Michael, thinking what the fuck, but he seemed completely sincere. “I mean, I know I’m a big guy, but who wants to date a doormat?”

Tommy had to wait a second while his fucking brain re-evaluated everything he had assumed about Michael the Christian jock. When he was finished, they were almost at his class. “Well, she just broke up with someone, but I’ll tell her you asked, okay? See you.”

“Okay man, just ask her. I can give her my number later. Bye.” Tommy shook his head a little and went inside. Man, wait until Lisa hears about this.

After school, Tommy was at Lisa’s car before he realized that Adam wasn’t around. He was looking around for him, panic starting to rise in his throat, when Alisan came up. “Hey. Adam left early last period and his parents got him. They’re going to see his new therapist. Oh, and I still have Adam’s car. Want to follow me when I drive it back? You guys can give me a ride.”

Tommy nodded as he took this information in. “Yeah, sure.” Then he looked over at Kris. “Hey, you still want to get together to play?” Kris looked surprised, but his mouth quirked up in a smile. “Then come on, we’re gonna drop Adam’s car off first.”

They dropped the car off, and then Lisa gave Alisan a ride home. Lisa and Tommy sat up front, smoking, while Kris and Alisan quietly freaked out at Lisa’s driving and the music blaring out of Lisa’s tape player. “This is a 70’s all girl punk band called The Slits”, Tommy yelled helpfully as Lisa turned a corner fast and Kris got a little green.

After dropping Alisan off, Tommy said “Hey, Paul is a guitar maker, do you just want to come home with us?” Tommy didn’t say This way I’ll be home if Adam calls, but Kris probably got it. “And this way, you can play some of my guitars.”

Kris still had the kid-on-Christmas look on his face when Lisa screeched to a stop in the driveway. Tommy and Kris got out-Lisa had said she was going to Allen’s to feed the animals and do her homework today “if you don’t have any plans there”. Tommy made sure to tell her about Michael’s offer right before she left. She laughed so hard she nearly went into the goddamned ditch getting out.

Tommy watched Kris out of the corner of his eye as he went inside the house. Kris took in the casual decorating style, the framed photos of family members and old rock and blues posters on the walls, and then saw Paul in the kitchen. Tommy stuck his head in the door. “Hey Paul, are you fixing dinner already?”

Paul smiled as he kept chopping veggies on his wooden cutting board. “I’m just trying to get a head start, actually.” Paul looked up and saw Kris there. “Hi, are you staying to eat? I’m making stir-fry.”

Kris shrugged. “I don’t know, I’d have to call my mama. I’m just here to play guitars with Tommy. But do you have anything to drink?” Tommy giggled a little as he opened the fridge door.

“Carrot juice?” Kris was still staring at his glass while Tommy went through his guitars, trying to find one he’d let Kris play. “Really, do you drink this stuff?” No, but it was funny to see your face when I got it out.

“Sometimes, Paul and Margret are health freaks. If me and Lisa want sodas we have to buy them ourselves. Tea and coffee are okay though. It could’ve been worse, I could have gotten the amazake.” Tommy smirked at Kris’s confused expression. “Don’t worry, it’s harmless and actually kind of tasty. Anyway, you want this one?” He held up a classic Fender.

“Hell yes.”

The next hour passed pretty well, with Kris and Tommy playing half-bits of songs. Kris wasn’t kidding-he played a lot of Beatles. Tommy wasn’t kidding when he said he didn’t know most of it, but he could learn after hearing it once. Kris gave him a puzzled look as he learned the chords to ‘Here Comes the Sun’. “I can’t believe you don’t know some of this. I mean didn’t your parents-“ Kris stopped right there, looking horrified. Tommy had his favorite acoustic in his hands, his Martin, and he paused for a moment, then kept playing, just pulling notes out of the air.

“No. Honestly, they didn’t play much of anything.” Tommy looked over at Kris, who was still sitting stock still, eyes wide. “My dad liked movies, at least that’s where he said he was always going.” Tommy kept playing while Kris stammered out an apology. “It’s okay. But yeah…they were pretty awful.” Tommy kept his head down, wishing his hair was long enough to cover his eyes.

“I’m really sorry-“

“I said it’s okay,” Tommy’s voice was a little too sharp. Time to change the subject. “Hey, if you like the Beatles, have you ever heard of Big Star?” Kris shook his head, so Tommy smiled with one corner of his mouth and started playing ‘Thirteen’. “Won’t you let me walk you home from school/Won’t you let me meet you at the pool/Maybe Friday I can/Get tickets for the dance/And I’ll taaake you.” Tommy couldn’t hit the high notes, but Kris started playing along, and pretty soon Tommy had taught it to him. “Yeah, thought you’d like that.”

“Yeah, why don’t you play that kind of music? I mean, you can play anything. Why punk?” Tommy shrugged.

“I don’t know. I like hardcore, but yeah. It’s gotten boring. Most of the good bands are gone. Most of the ones left are signing to major labels, things aren’t the same. And it gets boring to play after a while, I guess. But I love punk, I love the energy.” Tommy shrugged.

“You’re a fantastic guitar player,” Kris said, and it was just a simple statement. “So do whatever you want.” Tommy grinned over at Kris, who was grinning back, happy and relaxed. Maybe us being friends isn’t so crazy. I don’t know. Right then, the phone rang and Tommy stood up before he even knew he was going to.

“Yeah, you should get that,” Kris said, and Tommy smiled a little as he turned to get the phone. Paul came into the doorway as Tommy swallowed and said “Hi.”

“Hey.” Adam sounded upset, but not frantic. “Hi, thanks for bringing my car over. Um, can I come over? I want to tell you everything, but not here. It’s just-it’s better. But I want to get out of here for a while.” Tommy felt Paul’s hand on his shoulder as he told him of course, come on over. When he hung up, Paul and Kris were both looking at him.

“He sounds okay, but he wants to come over. It’ll probably take him ten minutes to get here, if that long.” Paul and Kris looked at each other.

“I’ll take Kris home. Is Eber okay with Adam coming over?” Tommy shrugged.

“He never said. Bye Kris, thanks. It was fun.” He moved closer, expecting an awkward straight boy hug. Instead he got a full body hug that lasted for a few seconds as Kris hung on to him. He hadn’t expected that, but then, he’d seen Brad and Adam get the same treatment. This is really the least uptight Christian straight boy I’ve ever met. Weird. Then Kris backed off and said Tommy could call later if he wanted. Paul hugged him too, and Tommy watched them leave. “Your house next time, Allen.” Kris turned and waved.

Tommy sat on the front porch and had a cigarette waiting for Adam to show up. He was just putting it out when the headlights to Adam’s car squealed into the driveway-he was driving like Lisa. Tommy stood up, and he had made it three steps before Adam was there with him. “Tommy,” Adam said, arms around him in a hug. Then Adam dropped his arms-some of the neighbor kids where still outside. “Hey.”

Tommy walked with him to the door. “Come on, tell me.”

Adam leaned on Tommy as they walked to his bedroom door. The house was quiet now, and Tommy could see the moment when Adam noticed that they were alone. When they got into his room, Adam closed and locked the door behind them.

“Thought you wanted to talk,” Tommy muttered, pushed up against the wall, Adam’s lips just brushing his. Tommy rubbed down Adam’s back, feeling how warm and solid he was. Adam kissed him again, and bent to nuzzle Tommy’s neck. Tommy tipped his head back. “Feels like it’s been so long.”

“I know,” Adam said, meeting Tommy’s eyes. Tommy could see the fear and depression of the day underneath the desire that Adam was expressing now. “Last time was Saturday night, after you sneaked into my room. Now everything’s different.” Adam closed his eyes, and Tommy trailed his fingers over Adam’s jaw. “And I need it. Tommy, I need you right now.”

“It’s okay. I’m here now. I’m right here.” Adam kissed him again and Tommy opened up to it, letting Adam have control. They kissed for another long minute before Adam pulled back, tugging on Tommy’s shirt. “Want me naked?” Tommy said, and Adam looked surprised for a second, and then grinned.

“You know I like seeing you.” Adam moved away from the wall and Tommy sat on the bed, unlacing his short boots. “Oh, let me get that.” Adam got on his knees and took the boots off, nuzzling at Tommy’s thighs. “God, you’re so sexy. Okay, the rest off, now.”

“Yes sir.” Tommy laughed when Adam rolled his eyes. Tommy stripped quickly and flopped on the bed. Adam just looked at him for a long moment before taking off his shoes. Tommy rubbed Adam’s thigh, feeling the denim of his jeans. “Do you want to take these off?”

Adam’s sigh made Tommy bite his lip. “I don’t know. It’s like-we were talking about my body and eating for two hours. I don’t even want to see myself now.” Adam rubbed his hands over Tommy’s body. “I think I just-can I just take care of you? At least for now.”

Tommy nodded and spread his legs out further. “Okay.” If Adam needed to take care of him, than that’s what they’d do. Adam reached into his pocket and got out gloves and some lube. Fuck, he planned for this. Tommy swallowed-he wondered if this would be too much, too soon again. But then Adam climbed over his body and kissed him, nipping at his lip, and Tommy relaxed into it.

Adam was gentle, but it seemed like time was moving faster. One minute Tommy was just getting kissed and petted, and the next Adam was between his legs, sucking his dick with two fingers inside him. Tommy bit his lip-the fingers were thick and it was a little harder at this angle to get them where he wanted. He tilted his hips up, and then moaned as Adam brushed over that place inside him. “Fuck.”

“Yeah?” Adam said, and sucked him deeper. It felt amazing, but Tommy’s fingers ached to touch-Adam was just staying out of reach. He tried to pet through his hair, and Adam pulled off his cock, sitting up on his heels. Tommy was fucking baffled-he couldn’t touch Adam’s hair? “I just want to-“

“Just not yet, okay? I just-let me do this, and you can go ahead.” He pulled his fingers out then, pulling the glove off, and blanketed Tommy’s body with his own. One hand went up to grab Tommy’s wrists, holding them over his head. The other hand wrapped around his cock, jerking him. Tommy cried out and Adam’s mouth was on his, swallowing his noises as he came over Adam’s hand.

Adam kissed Tommy again as he came down, and moved off the bed. He went into the bathroom, and Tommy laid there panting as he heard the water running. When Adam came back to clean him off, Tommy could see Adam’s hard-on in his jeans. As Adam cleaned him off, he reached again, putting a hand on Adam’s hip. Adam twitched a little. “Can I at least blow you?”

Adam looked down at him, and nodded. He unzipped his jeans and pulled them and his underwear down, and got back on the bed. Tommy nuzzled Adam’s neck, making him hiss-he was still tender from the sunburn. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. It’s a lot better,” Adam whispered as Tommy slid down the bed to Adam’s cock. He wished that Adam was naked, that he could kiss his way down and bite Adam’s hips and a dozen other things. Instead, he took Adam’s dick in his hand and stroked a few times before sucking the head.

Adam was quiet, unusually quiet. Tommy would look up and Adam would have his eyes closed, head tipped back, but not moving. He would moan or unclench his fists every now and then, but other than that, there wasn’t much for Tommy to go off of. Come on babe, give me a sign or something. Tommy moved faster, deeper, trying to get Adam to respond. Adam? Come on, do you still love me? Please do something.

“Uh,” Adam moaned. “Fuck, you’re so sweet Tommy.” Tommy closed his eyes in gratitude that somehow Adam knew what he needed, and he kept sucking him until Adam pulled his hair. He pulled off this time, Adam coming over his hand. He wiped it on the cloth, trying not to mess up Adam’s clothes. Adam kept stroking his hair and sighing. “I needed that. I love you.”

Fuck, finally. Mostly Tommy trusted Adam, he always did, but this time had been weird.“Thanks. Love you too.” You’re beautiful and sweet and innocent and you love me unconditionally. You don’t understand why some people don’t like me. Where were you earlier in my life? Tommy didn’t say any of this, but he slid up and kissed Adam, biting softly at his mouth. “Now are you ready to tell me?”

“Yeah, I think so. And thanks, for letting me do that.” Tommy nodded. “I just…they’re driving me crazy. I feel so boxed in at home.” Tommy moved a hand up to Adam’s hair, and Adam didn’t stop him from playing with it. “We saw the new therapist-I hope this works. She’s not so bad. Like, maybe I could talk to her if it was just her and me. But she did an hour with me, then the family. And with me, it was like chit-chat. Getting to know you kind of stuff. But she asked a lot of questions about my eating too. That was…hard.” Tommy kissed Adam’s temple. “Then my family came in and it just went nuts.”

“What happened?” Tommy kissed over Adam’s ear. Adam sighed and squeezed Tommy closer.

“It was about the same as last night, except mom’s pulled it together a little bit. She didn’t cry until the end. Dad doesn’t know what to do, and mom thinks everything he tries to do is wrong. They’re fighting over me. I never wanted to make them fight.” Adam paused for a minute. “Then she asked Neil what he thought, and that was five minutes on how everyone was doing everything wrong, except you. Neil likes you.”

“Wait, your therapist knows about me?” Tommy picked his head off the pillow and looked at him. “Did Cassidy tell her?”

“No, I did. I’m sure she suspected, but I wanted her to be sure. She’s supposed to help me get better, so I need her to not be freaked out by anything. So I went ahead and told her everything-I didn’t tell her about what’s happened to you,” Adam said. “I didn’t think I had the right to. But I told her we were boyfriends and that everyone thought we had run away when I had to go to the ER.” Tommy closed his eyes and nodded.

“What did she say? I try to look out for you-did she say what I was doing was wrong?” Adam opened his mouth to say something, but then the phone rang. “Yeah, I better get that.” Tommy reached over Adam to answer the phone. “Hi, it’s Tommy.”

“Hi Tommy.” Tommy winced-it was Eber. “Is my son over there?” Tommy tried to catch Adam’s eye, but he just looked down. Tommy squeezed his hand.

“Yeah, he’s here. Do you want to talk to him?” Tommy looked straight ahead as the silence on the other end crawled by. Finally Eber sighed.

“No, just tell him to be home soon. It’s a school night. And tell him-hell. Let me talk to him for a second.” Tommy handed the phone to Adam, mouthing ‘he’s not mad’ at him. Adam scowled a little but took it.

“Dad, hey. I told you I was coming-oh. Okay dad. No, it’s okay, it was just hard. I love you too dad. Yeah. Thank you for dinner yesterday. I know-dad. It’s not that, remember what Rebecca said, I’ve been starving and binging, so I’m not used to three square meals a day. No, I’m glad you fixed it.” Adam sighed. “Dad, we can talk about it when I get home. Okay, please? I’ll be home soon. Okay, love you.” Adam hung up the phone and put his head in his hands. “He’s driving me crazy.”

He just doesn’t know what to do, Tommy thought. I can’t figure it out either. Tommy rested his head on Adam’s shoulder. “He’s just really worried.”

“Nobody noticed for a year,” Adam said suddenly. “Mom kind of knew, but she didn’t say anything, and now she’s fucking guilt-ridden and blaming herself. Even Neil wasn’t surprised. Dad…he’s acting like he doesn’t even know me anymore. Fuck, what am I going to do?”

“You’re going to get better,” Tommy said automatically. “What does Rebecca want you to do? Does she want you to go to OA?” What’s the plan, because there better be a fucking plan before your parents want to kill each other.

“She’s not sure yet,” Adam said, and Tommy thought well, that’s fucking disappointing while Adam continued. “I have to make a list of everything I eat. And if I binge, I have to tell her what I was binging on, an approximate amount of food, and what I was thinking when I did it.” Adam laughed then. “Shit Tommy. If I’m binging, I don’t think at all.”

Tommy looked up at him from his place on Adam’s shoulder. “I know. I did the same thing, just different shit. I didn’t think about much of anything for years. I could’ve probably done that until I died. And that might not have taken too long.”

“Don’t-I hate thinking about that.” Adam shut his eyes. “I know it’s true, I know you were sick when I first really met you. But I-I would watch you sleep when you were sick and I was afraid something would happen .” Tommy was nodding at that, holding Adam, when a phrase caught him.

“What do you mean ‘when you first really met me’? Did we meet earlier?” Adam went bright red at that, darkening the skin that was starting to recover slightly from the sunburn. “’Cause I think I would remember, I hope I would have.”

“N-no, we didn’t meet exactly. I just liked you.” Tommy looked at him, wide-eyed, while Adam ducked his head, smiling. “I kind of had a crush on you when you started at our school. That’s why I couldn’t stop myself from staring at Mrs. Hayden’s office. You looked really good that day, even with your hand taped up.”

Tommy just sat there, staring at Adam. He remembered what Adam had said the first time they kissed. I thought it would be rougher. He hadn’t thought anything of it at the time. Now this sort of made him worry. Did you care about someone you thought was me, and then settled for the real one?

“Tommy?” Tommy blinked and saw Adam staring at him. “Are you thinking-no!” He grabbed Tommy then, rolling them over so he was on top of him. “I didn’t know you, I wasn’t in love with you, I just thought you were-hot.” He laughed a little, looking down at Tommy. “But when I first talked to you, at drama? I felt like I already knew you.”

“Yeah, me too,” Tommy said. Adam grinned at him and suddenly it was all right. I think it’s fine. It seems the same. “Okay, I’m sorry. I just freaked for a second.”

“It wouldn’t matter at this point anyway,” Adam said. “Because I know everything and I love you.” Tommy nodded, wrapping his arms and legs around Adam, getting a foot snagged in Adam’s undone jeans. Adam laughed. “Smooth.”

“Yeah, I know.” Tommy grinned and then they couldn’t stop laughing, even after Paul knocked on their door and told them it was almost time for dinner.

Chapter Text

When Adam left that night, Tommy went into Lisa’s room to do his homework while her VCR played lousy horror movies at them. It was calming, and he needed that right now. Lisa had gotten back more or less in time for dinner, and was doing her homework on the bed while he splayed out on the floor.

Lisa looked up after a while and just said “How’s he doing?” and went back to her calculus textbook. Tommy doodled in the margins of his notebook before he answered. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me, I can stop being a bitch-“

“You’re not being a bitch,” Tommy looked over at her. “I just don’t know what to say. Like, he just got his new therapist and they’re trying to figure out what to do next. So, there’s no answers, Adam’s parents are driving him fucking crazy, I don’t even know if I’m doing anything right.” Tommy flipped a page in his English book assignment-fucking Thomas Hardy. “But, in a way I’m glad that everyone knows, because keeping that a secret drove me goddamn crazy too. I think Eber’s forgiven me for not telling him now. It’s a lot to try to help him with.” Tommy paused again, and his voice was quieter. “We had a really good day, actually.”

Lisa slid off the bed and came over to where he was. She didn’t put an arm around him, she just stayed close. Tommy watched the screen for a minute-Motel Hell was on. Lisa watched it with him, silent for a minute. “Hey, my mom said a feminist professor did a paper on slasher movies. And she didn’t hate them, she was positive about them. She talked about how a girl always survives to the end.” Tommy liked Lisa’s attempt to lighten the mood and laughed, eyes crinkling.

“Your mom might have a new academic enemy.” Tommy read a couple of more pages of The Mayor of Casterbridge. “I think I’ve discovered the worst book of all time. Fuck I hate this.” He was glad that Hardy was so annoying, it gave him something else to focus on instead of worrying about Adam. Lisa leaned over to look at it.

“Eh, Last of the Mochicians is worse. Want me to get some ice cream? I bought it last night.” Tommy thought about Adam, about how he had eaten both his food and Tommy’s because he was afraid he would binge that night.I wonder if Adam’s parents have thrown out the ice cream yet. I bet they have.

“Sure, I hope it’s chocolate.” Lisa ruffled his hair and went to the kitchen. Tommy sighed and turned the sound down on the screaming going on in the human slaughterhouse on TV.

Tommy got through the next day of school fine. By now the idiots at school had found something else to whisper about, and things went pretty normally. Drama class was the same, except Megan was still on the outs. Fuck that girl is stubborn, Tommy thought when she glared at him like a wet cat. Adam looked fine, but still a little tired. Brad didn’t even hesitate, but held his hand out for Adam’s lunch. Tommy laughed and gave it to him. Paula saw the sandwich get handed across the room but didn’t say anything. She was too busy trying to finish the chapter on the late 60’s experimental theater.

At the end of the day, Anoop walked him to Lisa’s car. “Don’t forget, theater practice tomorrow. And we have to do well, it’s coming up soon. We’re doing it right before Thanksgiving break.” Tommy nodded, because he knew that, but it seemed like a long time and very soon at once. And hey, I still want you to see me in debate Saturday.” Anoop paused. “Especially since Megan might not be there.”

Tommy stopped dead right in the parking lot and a longhaired metal guy in a Camaro had to swerve, the blare of his horn just audible over Judas Priest. “Wait. You guys didn’t break up because of me?” Yeah, Megan was being a stubborn jerk, but she didn’t need to lose Anoop over it. Tommy had seen them together for a while-they were good together, their different personalities balancing out.

“We’re not talking right now, I won’t let her get away with trying to shun you,” Anoop said, and kept walking. “And it’s not your fault, she’s got issues about people with a lot of money. I mean, I didn’t even know her when my dad lost his job-that was so long ago. That doesn’t personally affect her. She’s…shit.” Anoop rubbed his forehead. “I miss her. I keep getting headaches.”

“I’m really sorry. Yeah I’ll be there.” Tommy looked over at the parking lot-Lisa was talking to Brad, they were leaning against the car and smoking. “Do you think you and Megan will get back together?” Anoop shrugged.

“It’s up to her this time. We’ve broken up before. I do care about her, I really do.” Tommy nodded, because he knew, he could see it. “But she doesn’t get to decide that you’re awful because of what your father did. She just thinks that even if you hate him, you can use your influence to get out of trouble.”

“Oh, I have.” Tommy looked over at Anoop, who just raised an eyebrow and smirked. “I didn’t even have to try.” Tommy frowned. “I should have gone to juvie, you know, more than once.” Then he saw Adam and couldn’t take his eyes off him. Adam was smiling shyly as he joined the group around Lisa and he looked so beautiful that Tommy felt his pulse quicken.

Anoop squeezed his shoulder-he could barely feel it-and moved towards his own car. “Past is over now Tommy,” he said, taking his books and getting into his car alone. Tommy looked over to the side and saw Megan sitting on the curb, waiting for the bus. Fuck. She might hate him now, but he didn’t want her to be miserable. Then Adam was walking up to him, still smiling a little, and Tommy forgot about her. I hope that’s true. I hope the past is over, but I can’t be sure. It would be nice.

“Hey.” Adam said. “I’m sorry, but I have to go right home. Mom told me today that we were going to get some material that my therapist wants us to read. Yeah, it sucks.” Adam shook his head. “Mom promised she’d make it fun, and we’ll get stuff besides books. But I don’t know. I’m not looking forward to it.”

“It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it, I’m going to go too. I’m gonna head by the Center if Lisa will take me.” He smiled at her and she handed him a cigarette. “So, call me later. I don’t know how long I’ll be.” Adam grinned at him and looked like he was going to kiss him in the goddamn parking lot. Tommy took a step back, just in case-they caught enough shit as it is. “Bye, I’ll talk to you later.” He left, squeezing Kris on the shoulder to say goodbye, wishing he could touch Adam.

Lisa got them fantastic greasy diner cheeseburgers from a dingy place that had a drive-in window stuck to a nearly fifty year old building. They were delicious, and Tommy was into his second when he remembered Adam and started to feel guilty. “Tommy, cut that shit out. Eat, you might be gone for a while.” Tommy nodded, and nibbled on his fried pickle chips. He was finished by the time they got to Morgan, and Tommy kissed Lisa on the cheek, promising to see her later.

The Center was quiet that day, so Tommy just went over to Jack, who was reading a book about gay history. “Hey. Cassidy in? Is he seeing anyone?” Jack looked up at him, his smile tired.

“Not yet kid, he’s still giving a statement to the cops. Did you hear?” Tommy’s mouth dropped wide open, and he barely felt his backpack hit his foot as he dropped that too. “No, don’t worry, he’s not hurt. Some fuckers spray painted swastikas on the side of the AIDS Outreach building. Cassidy volunteers there too. He’s just making sure a report actually gets filed, if nothing else.” Jack sighed. “Don’t worry too much, shit like this happens all the time. Nobody broke any windows, so it’s not so bad. We can get that painted over in a minute.”

“I can help,” Tommy said immediately, and Jack grinned at him. Tommy started to head upstairs, but then he turned back. “Hey. Cassidy…is he a student counselor or something? He’s volunteer right?”

Jack nodded. “Yeah, we’re all volunteers here. The director is the only one who gets a salary, but he’s not doing so well. I’ve basically taken over his job.” Jack looked down when he said that part. “So yeah, nearly everyone’s unpaid. Why did you ask?”

Tommy shrugged. “I don’t know. I was just wondering. And…maybe I could help out sometimes. I could use a volunteer gig. But I don’t know what I’m good at, besides playing guitar and writing.” Jack started laughing then, and Tommy’s eyes narrowed. “What?” Jack shook his head, still grinning.

“Kid, if you want to help, we’ll find you something to do, don’t worry. You can answer the phones, help us do repairs. You’ve been in bands, right?” Tommy nodded, not sure if he was proud of some of the dumbass acts he was in, but he’d been in a lot of them. “So you can probably help with basic repairs, electrical stuff, and you can play on coffeehouse nights.”

Tommy made a face. “I am not playing folk music. Blues, that’ll be okay. Maybe me and Adam can come and sing, if his dad would let him, I don’t know. But I’ll play guitar if you need one.”

“Just let us know. And hey-you were looking to talk to Cassidy. Do you want to schedule more therapy hours? I don’t think he’d mind at all.” Tommy looked at Jack, at the confident way he carried himself, and wondered how long it took to be that assured.

“Hell yes.” Tommy went to put himself down for two days next week, and penciled in for today.

When Cassidy came in an hour and a half later, Tommy had finished two cups of coffee and done most of his homework. Cassidy found him in a conference room where he was writing little bits of phrases into a notebook. “Hey, Jack said you wanted to see me?”

God fuck yes I have to talk to someone. “Yeah, is that okay? Do you have anyone scheduled?” Cassidy shook his head. “I just-here or in your office?” Cassidy looked great that day, no fancy clothes or makeup, just clean beauty and kindness in his eyes and face.

“Anywhere you want, but I need to get my notebook, for our records-hey.” Cassidy’s voice turned up slightly in surprise when Tommy got up and hugged him, face buried in Cassidy’s faded Cure t-shirt. “Hey. It’s all right.” Tommy stepped back, wiping at his eyes.

“Your office, I don’t want anyone walking in on me right now.”

Cassidy’s office was still a mess, but Tommy was just fuckin’ happy the door closed. Cassidy shut it behind him and put more coffee on. “Tommy, has something else happened? Or are you just-“

“I’m freaking out.” Tommy covered his hands with his face. “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been trying so hard, you know.” Cassidy had gotten his notebook and sat back in his chair, just watching as Tommy tried to figure out how to say it. “Adam’s trying, and his parents are fighting, and I have to be strong for him. I have to let him know everything’s gonna be okay, you know?” Cassidy nodded, and Tommy kept talking.

“And like, at the beginning of this week his dad was mad at me, now I think he wants me to be over there all the time. Eber knows that I help Adam and all that, so you know, I’m useful.” Tommy rubbed his face. “And meanwhile, I’m trying to stay sober and keep from going fucking crazy. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Adam, or to us. I just don’t know.”

When Cassidy spoke, it was very quiet. “When you two disappeared, Eber was furious. He thought you had convinced Adam to run away. Paul and Margret actually had to really come to your defense. I’m glad to hear he doesn’t blame you as much.” Cassidy paused, and looked at his nails. “I’m sorry, by the way. I left with Adam and his parents to help them get through the ER system better. I should have looked after you.”

Tommy didn’t answer, but he nodded. “It’s okay.” Tommy didn’t look up. “I was surprised anyone stayed for me, honestly.” Cassidy made a noise then, confused-sounding. “I know. But…I don’t expect it, at all. And I know that Lisa loves me. And her dad…” Tommy shrugged. He couldn’t say it out loud. “I never thought about it before. Having people I could depend on. Figures it would be Lisa’s family.”

“And Adam,” Cassidy said quietly. Tommy nodded. And Adam.

Most of the rest of the hour with Cassidy was spent with them going over things Tommy could do when he was stressed out. Cassidy had to point out over and over that Tommy needed to make time for himself so he could stay healthy. “I know, I have to stay healthy, I have to be strong for Adam-“

“No Tommy.” Cassidy looked at him. “I know you want to help Adam more than anything. But you have to help yourself because you deserve better than to be sick, or getting into fights, or dropping out of school because of drugs. Tommy, you deserve so much better.” Tommy sat back then, staring at Cassidy.

“You don’t know what I’ve done,” was all Tommy could whisper. “You don’t know. Adam…”

“Adam makes you want to be better, I get that. But you already had it in you. And for the record, a few of the police officers looking for you and Adam did mention some of the stuff you were suspected of. So yeah, I do know. And I still care about you. Adam does, Paul does, Lisa does, your Oma. And while I can’t condone the fighting, I don’t think you should hate yourself over it. You haven’t hit anyone since your hand got infected. You are changing, and it’s not all just because of Adam.”

“It’s ‘cause I don’t want to die, yeah. That’s part of it.” Tommy wiped his eyes again. “My doc told me she couldn’t believe I didn’t have to go to the hospital a second time.” Tommy sighed. “So, I signed up for more visits.” He didn’t think Cassidy was dumb enough for fall for this change of subject, and he was right.

“It’s about more than just not wanting to die, I think.” Cassidy backed off though. Okay, you try to stick to the ideas we came up with to stay calm. And I want you to go to AA more-have you been this week?” Tommy shook his head. “Try it-Janice asks about you. She likes you.”

“I like her, she’s really nice. Okay, maybe. I’m not ready to go home yet anyway.” Tommy thought about it. “Although, maybe I should call-“

“You can call Adam downstairs if you want.” Cassidy grinned and Tommy flashed a smile back. He kind of wanted to hug Cassidy again, but that would be kind of selfish. He’d already gotten one. Cassidy gave him that fantastic smile, and suddenly Tommy wanted to ask him questions: did he have a boyfriend, was he happy, stuff like that. But instead he stood there for a minute. When Cassidy frowned, he knew it had been too long. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I am. Um, are you?” Tommy laughed then, covering his face with his hand. “Oh man, I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t ask. But I was wondering if you were doing okay. You’re so nice to me and everyone else, and…” Tommy trailed off. You deserve someone to make you happy. It won’t be me, but you should have it.

Cassidy smiled again, this one softer. “This is the best I’ve been in my whole life. I’m in school, I try to help people, and I have great friends. I’m glad I came here to do my master’s degree and counseling training hours. And by the way, I know Dr. Tucker-Harrington. She’s a little less scary out of the classroom. Really, it was a surprise to find out she has a life outside academia.” Tommy laughed on his way down to the phone.

“Oh, hey!” Adam’s voice on the other end of the line seemed upbeat, and Tommy felt the relief bubble through him. “We just got in, we got some books and stuff, and mom bought me new shoes. Are you still at the Center?”

“Yeah, I am. I was just checking in. You got new shoes?” Tommy scratched his hand through his hair-it was getting longer, softer at the ends. “What kind, for dance class?” Tommy waved at one of the older men who came in all the time. He was a nice guy and didn’t perv on Tommy, at least not where he could notice.

“No, just school shoes. Um, mom’s calling me. I have to go, but call me back tonight? Okay Tommy. Um, love you.” Tommy blinked, and he had to rush to make it.

“Love you too.” Then the phone clicked dead.

Tommy went to the AA meeting, then got picked up by Lisa and went back home, but he kept wondering if he’d done something wrong to make Adam hang up so quickly. Lisa shook her head when he asked her. “I think his mom was just calling him. You know Adam, he can get distracted easily.” Tommy wanted to say not with me he doesn’t, but he left it alone. Lisa walked past him, bumping his arm. “Time for dinner, Dad’s made that South American black beans and rice again.” Tommy followed her, and realized he’d eaten every meal with just him and Adam that week. When Margret appeared long enough to get a plate and some tea, he almost followed her back into her office.

Tommy lasted an hour after dinner before he called again. “Hey, it’s Tommy. Is Adam there?”

“Hey Tommy,” Neil was on the line. “He’s here, him and mom are going over a ton of books and articles and shit. They’ve been at it all night. Adam only got alone to eat for a few minutes. You should’ve been here, man.” Neil’s voice was only mildly accusatory, but it still played on Tommy’s guilt.

“Well, you know, nobody asked me…”

“Bullshit, at this point I think you can come over anytime you want. You want me to get him? He’d probably like the break.” Tommy didn’t even get a chance to say yes before Neil had put the phone down, shouting for Adam. Tommy chewed his fingernail for a minute until Adam got on the line.

“Hey, me and mom are just studying this stuff, what’s going on?”

Tommy shrugged, as if Adam could see it. “I just wanted to see if you were okay. You got off the phone pretty fast. I don’t know, I’m sorry.” Tommy chewed his nail again.

“Oh. Oh no, Tommy, I’m sorry. Mom was just calling me. We got every book they had about compulsive eating. And there’s only a few. So we’re reading them and seeing if anything works. And we got some information from OA. None of this stuff agrees with each other.”

“Yeah? Is it hard or just weird?” Tommy stopped gnawing on his cuticle-Adam really did sound fine.

“It’s weird! And it’s all aimed at women. I guess guys never have this problem.” Adam sighed. “I’m a freak.”

“No, you’re not. I think Cassidy’s right, there’s more than they think. Don’t worry about it, just see what’s out there. You don’t have to use any of it.” And I hope like hell that Rebecca’s got an actual plan and doesn’t have them doing the fucking research for them. This seems kinda fishy. “I’ll let you get back to it if you want. Are you and your mom getting along?”

“We’re doing better. Dad’s hiding tonight though.” Adam sighed. “I’ll go down in the basement and say hi to him later. Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, okay. Goodnight.” Tommy hung up the phone, stared at it a minute, and then went to take a shower. He passed Lisa in the hallway. “Hey sweetie, can we get my roots done Saturday? And maybe get JennyBaby and we can have a haircut and dying party. It’ll be fun.” JennyBaby was in vocational school for hair styling, so she was great for helping out with home cuts.

Lisa grinned and petted his hair. “I’ll call her. Now I’m gonna go out and practice-I told dad I won’t be long. Are you okay, or do you want to come along?” If Tommy didn’t fucking know Lisa, he would have missed the fleeting look of worry on her face. It’s okay, she’s allowed to.

“I’ll be fine. Have fun at practice. Maybe next time I can sit in on guitar or something. See ya.” Lisa squeezed his shoulder and he went to his room, locking the door, and went into the bathroom. He cut the water on and stared at his reflection in the mirror until the rising steam obscured it. Everything’s okay. Adam’s okay, his mom’s doing better about it. Why are you sad?

He didn’t try to answer, he just took a shower.

Friday was better, because it was rehearsal day. Tommy didn’t realize how much he’d been looking forward to it. Not that he’d had a chance to practice his fucking monologue with all the shit that was going on, but still. It was familiar and he would get to hear Adam sing again. He breezed through the day with no real thought or worry about anything. He was on autopilot, and that was okay.

He got Lisa to drop him off at Adam’s an hour before practice. Leila hugged him when he came in. “Hi. I made a casserole. It was Adam’s favorite when he was a kid. Can you sit with him upstairs?” She still looked upset, but Tommy could see she was coping, as best she could. “I just-maybe-well…” Tommy didn’t know what to tell her. I know exactly how you feel. I thought that fucking tomato soup and rice was magic.

“No problem, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him at school. I’ll bring the food up.” Tommy wanted to ask how she was doing, but he wasn’t sure if he should. He wound up hugging her again before he went to the kitchen, and she seemed to relax. Fuck, I’m not the expert here. I’m just doing the best I can. Tommy went upstairs with the small plate and a cup of tea. Adam’s door was partially open, so Tommy just went in. “Hey.”

Adam looked up from the book he was reading, and he threw it on the bed when he saw Tommy. “Hi. I’m glad you came. Mom wants you to make sure I eat, huh? I’m actually not that hungry.” Tommy shrugged. “She’s trying to put me on a schedule, because one of the books said to do that. Another book said for me to eat whatever I wanted until I got sick of it. You know, because if something’s forbidden I’ll want it more. And this one”-Adam held up a book with the OA brand on it-“says that I should weight and measure all of my food.”

“What the fuck?” Tommy said, putting the plate down on Adam’s desk and pushing some of the books over so he could lie next to him. “Why?”

“It’s trying to get me to eat the right amounts or something. I don’t fucking get it.” Adam rolled over so he was holding Tommy, and Tommy felt his body instantly relax. Just having Adam with him made his sadness disappear. You’re dependent on him, said a voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Cassidy. Shut the fuck up, Cassidy Tommy answered back as he stroked through Adam’s soft red hair. “Today’s better though. Except Dad’s avoiding us.” Adam leaned closer, sighing. “That feels good. Dad got high again last night. He doesn’t normally do that twice during the work week. He’s freaking out.”

“I know,” Tommy said. I’d love to join him, but I can’t. Fuck. “I missed you yesterday,” Tommy said suddenly, and frowned. “Sorry, I don’t know why I said that. I called you twice, I see you all the time-“ Adam stopped him with a kiss, then another one, until Adam was half on top of him and Tommy had a hand on the back of Adam's neck.

“I missed you too,” Adam said when he came up for air. “Don’t worry so much. We just need each other right now. I mean, I’m working with my family, you went to a meeting yesterday, right?” Tommy nodded, licking his lips. Fuck, Adam kisses so good. “See, we’ll be okay.” Adam pulled off. “I’m gonna tell mom that we’re going to rehearsal. I’ve been looking forward to it way too much.” Tommy had to grin-him and Adam were on the same fucking page for that one. Adam took the untouched plate and went back downstairs.

Half an hour later, Tommy and Adam were at rehearsal, a little early. Adam sighed. “I should have eaten it, she’s upset because I didn’t.” Tommy nodded, looking out the window. Leila hadn’t said anything, she just put the plate in the fridge for Adam to eat later if he wanted. “But, she said we could go out later if we’re not out all night. I think they’re over the idea that we’re going to run away together.” Tommy squeezed Adam’s knee. “I want to go with you to Allen’s again,” Adam said suddenly.

Tommy felt a little turned on just thinking about that. Fuck yeah. “Sure. I think we should.” Tommy smiled over at Adam as he parked the car. “But now we get to sing and dance and shit.” He got out and waved at Kris, who had his guitar slung over his shoulder.

“You love it,” is all Adam said as they walked to the theater.

Tommy knew this was going to be a weird rehearsal when he noticed something important: Megan wasn’t there. It took him a half-hour to realize this, since they were early and Megan would have to bum a ride, but then it was time for her and Anoop’s number and she still wasn’t there. Paula called her name three times and then looked confused when she still didn’t show. Tommy looked over at Anoop. “Fuck man, now what?” Anoop stood up, looking coldly angry.

“Now I go to Megan’s house, that diner she works at, and any other place I know of and drag her back here. I’m tired of this.” Tommy was about to argue because shit, Megan had a right to make herself miserable if she wanted to, but Anoop cut him off. “No, she’s hurting the show, me, you, Adam, everyone. She can be mad, but she’s going to go through with the show. Or at the very least, she’s going to quit the drama club and let me pick another song.” Anoop looked really sad then and Tommy felt a pang. He could tell how much Anoop really loved Megan and wanted to be onstage with her.

Brad came over and touched Anoop on the arm. “Go get her and bring her back. I miss her, she just needs to get her head out of her ass. I mean, I don’t mind-“ Brad shut his mouth so fast that Tommy almost heard his jaw pop. “I mean, go get her. I’ve gotta stretch. Bye.” Brad walked fast until he was backstage.

“What was that?” Adam asked, and Tommy could only shake his head. Adam doesn’t need to know that Brad’s hung up on him. He’d just feel guilty. “Is he upset about Megan or something?” Kris silently went back to where Brad was, and Alisan rubbed Adam’s back. Paula stood there confused as half her kids ignored rehearsal.

Tommy wound up going next, screwing up his monologue but only in a couple of places. “Sorry,” he said and Paula just waved her hand. “I can do it again later if you want.” Paula shrugged and looked at her notes. You’d think she’d be more upset this close to showtime. Whatever. Tommy looked behind him and Kris and Brad had come back, Kris with an arm around Brad. Brad looked over at Tommy with a sad, apologetic expression. Tommy shook his head and smiled. It’s okay.

Brad and the other dancers (Tommy still barely knew them, except for a funny, sarcastic boy named Taylor who had a girlfriend at the Catholic school that had bounced JennyBaby), and they did a great job. Brad worked through a few more dance moves on the side, graceful ballet that seemed to indicate he was feeling better. It was hard to tell with Brad since his public face tended to be very upbeat. But his movements seemed calm and focused.

Adam got up to sing next, and “Secret Love” sounded even more powerful, even more appropriate as Adam put an angry edge to the lyrics. Tommy could barely look at him, he felt so much overwhelming love as Adam poured the entire last week into his song. Tommy closed his eyes at the last line “And my secret love’s no secret anymore.” No it’s not. And we’d gotten lucky about that, so far. Tommy was still listening to the final notes when the doors of the theater opened with a bang and Megan came stomping in, Anoop behind her. Brad raised an eyebrow. “That was fast.”

Megan had her arms crossed over her chest. “I went for a walk. Anoop found me a mile from my house. I…” Megan trailed off. “I wasn’t sure if I was coming or not.” She sat down on the stage. “I don’t want to perform like this. I can’t do that stupid song when I’m miserable.” She looked up at Anoop, then down at the floor. “But I don’t want to drop out.”

“You don’t drop out, Meg. You’re not a quitter.” That was Alisan, who came from the back and put a hand on her shoulder. “You just need to get over it.” Megan looked at her, and then at Tommy, fury in her eyes, and Tommy stood up, walking until he was in front of her.

“Come on Megan, let’s go back and talk.” He looked over at a very confused Paula. “We’ll be back soon.” Tommy walked back to the costume and props area, not checking to see if she was behind him. When he got to the costume closet, he pulled out a props chest and waited. Megan came in finally, dragging her feet. “Do you wanna sit down?” He gestured to the spot next to him. Megan shook her head, and sat on the floor, with her knees to her chest. The position made her look about ten.

Tommy didn’t say anything at first, just studied his nails, until Megan broke the silence. “I can’t stand you. Your dad fired Anoop’s dad, you lied about yourself to all of us, you just came in and everything’s different now, and Adam had to go to the hospital-“ she broke then, tears running down her face. “Anoop broke up with me because I’m so fucking mad.”

Tommy waited a minute before answering, looking over at her. “Adam didn’t go to the hospital because of me, and you know that.” She nodded, dripping tears on her dress. “And I’m sure it doesn’t make any difference to you, but I hate what my dad did. You can’t possibly hate him more than me. And…I’m sorry I didn’t say anything.” Tommy took a deep breath. “I never talked about it until I told Adam. Anoop had me figured out, but I…couldn’t.” Tommy reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a wrinkled Kleenex. “Here.”

Megan paused before she took it, looking it over. Then she wiped her eyes, sniffling. “How can you take his money if he’s so awful? And…there’s nobody at your house at all?” Tommy shook his head, and Megan blew her nose on the Kleenex. “My mom liked you, by the way. She said you were polite.” Megan laughed.

“I liked your mom,” Tommy said quietly. “I don’t even like to think about mine. Look Megan, I know you think I’m a slumming rich kid, and I probably am. But I’m not better than you. Fuck, I’m worse.” Tommy sighed. “I love Adam, if that’s worth anything. And I like you guys.” They both stayed silent as the minutes stretched ahead of them. “So, you can keep hating me if you really fucking want to, but don’t break up with Anoop over it. He misses you.”

Megan nodded. “Can I ask you one thing? Not about your mom.” Tommy nodded, glad that she was leaving that subject alone. “Why don’t you have a car? You could have one, why don’t you? Is it just to look poor?” Megan seemed honestly puzzled, so Tommy just leaned back, head tipping almost into the feathers behind him.

“I haven’t spoken more than ten words to my dad since I was fourteen. But when I was sixteen, the guy at the bank who manages my trust fund told me dad had bought me a car.” Tommy looked over at Megan, who was frowning but not snarling at him. “It was a fucking Porsche, like something out of a movie. I mean, can you even imagine me driving that?” Megan looked angry for a second, but then shook her head. “I felt like he was trying to fuckin’ buy me off. So I sold it.”

“Really?” Megan looked shocked, and then she giggled, high and bubbly. “You didn’t, really?”

“Yeah, I had my trust holder sell it. And I’ve been using that money for a while. You know, to fix up the Points and stuff.” Tommy paused. “I really need to get some checks sent.” Tommy wished he had a cigarette, so instead he drummed his fingers on the trunk. “I mean, I could have bought a used car. I still might, I can drive.”

Megan looked over at him. “Anoop tried to tell me that it was you being all Robin Hood when we were fighting, I didn’t believe him.” Megan looked down at her dress-she was wearing the red party one with a white man’s undershirt under it and boots. “Do you think I’m stupid for getting so mad? I just-I try so hard sometimes.”

“I don’t think you’re stupid, but next time just yell at me until you can’t anymore, don’t try to get Anoop or Brad involved. Okay? If I make you mad, let me know.” Megan didn’t say anything. “And I’m glad you try, I want you to try. I just hid for years. You’ve got bigger balls than I do.” Megan laughed at that and shoved at his arm.

“Um, I do believe it’s showtime.” Brad was standing at the wardrobe closet door, one hand on his hip. “Megan, you back?” She grinned at Brad and he beamed back at her. “See, there’s my girl. Now go sing with Anoop, he’s waiting.” Megan got up and hugged Brad on her way out. Tommy slid off the trunk and started for the door too. “Hey Tommy,” Brad said, voice quieter. “Don’t worry-I mean. We’ve talked about it before.”

“I know. I just-I wish we could be better friends, you know? I like you.” Brad looked down at the floor, then back up at him. He was smiling again, but it was more rueful. In the background, Paula was telling everyone to get into place, and for Anoop to turn on the boombox.

“I like you too.” Brad left then, and Tommy followed him. He didn’t push it-Brad was probably as good of friends as he could be. Tommy heard Anoop and Megan singing their horrible song as he headed back to the stage. Adam was sitting on the side of the stage, with Alisan and Kris near him. When Tommy got closer, Kris moved and Tommy took his place. Adam gently put a hand on Tommy’s back. Tommy smiled-everything felt all right.

Chapter Text

When rehearsal was over, Adam and Tommy left together. Kris hadn’t even mentioned the post-rehearsal pizza run, and Tommy could feel a concerned look or two aimed at their backs. Tommy wasn’t worried about it-when Adam was hungry, he’d tell him. Right now they had other things to do.

When they got there Adam didn’t waste any time, shutting the door and then leaning against it, pulling Tommy flush against his body. Tommy shivered as Adam leaned down to kiss him, tipping his face up for it. “God, want you. I want you, is that okay?” Tommy nodded, because of fucking course it was. Was he agreeing to something new? Adam kissed him again and looked down at him. “Can we lie down? And…you take your clothes off.”

Tommy smiled, kissing Adam one more time. “Okay. I have to go to the bathroom though.” Adam let him go, slapping Tommy’s ass when he turned around. Tommy laughed as he went towards the tiny bathroom. He pissed, washed his hands, and then thought about what Adam had said. He started the water for the shower, thinking Five, four, three, two…

“Hey.” That was Adam at the door. “Why are you taking a shower?” Tommy grinned at him as he pulled his jeans off.

“You wanted to fool around, so I thought I’d clean up. Is that okay?” Tommy stripped the rest of his clothes off and jumped in the shower stall. Adam’s eyes stayed fixed on him. “I mean, if that’s what you wanted to do…”

“Oh. Oh! I um, didn’t really have a plan but yeah. Hey, I’m gonna go wait for you. Okay?” Adam was a little freaked out, and Tommy frowned. Adam had gotten his fingers into him the other day too, Tommy just figured it was something they were going to do. Maybe Adam thought…oh. Well, that would be okay too. If we’ve got enough lube. Tommy kept washing himself, cloth between the cheeks of his ass, face red. You know he wants to. And…yeah. I want it too. So if we can, yeah.

Tommy got out of the bathroom a few minutes later, towel wrapped around him. Adam was sitting at the table, back to Tommy. He’d found the bag of chocolate chip cookies Tommy had on the shelf above the stove and was methodically pushing one after another in his mouth. “Hey baby,” Tommy said gently, and Adam flinched a little. He turned around, looking guilty, and handed Tommy the cookies.

“I’m sorry. I was a little scared,” Adam was blushing and looked embarrassed, but not devastated. “I just-it was only a few…I’m sorry.” Tommy brushed a hand through Adam’s hair. “I guess I’m freaking out.”

Tommy shook his head. “You didn’t eat dinner, you’re probably hungry. We can fix something now if you want to eat. And it’s okay anyway.” Tommy put the cookies back on the shelf, and looked over at where Adam was sitting. “Do you want anything now?” Adam shook his head.

“Not right now. Maybe we can eat, um, after.” Adam blushed. “Do you really want to?” Tommy grinned and dropped his towel, letting it pool onto the floor so he could kneel on it in front of Adam. “Oh. Awesome.” Adam laughed a little as Tommy put his hands on Adam’s thighs.

“Well, I knew we were going to mess around when we got here. And you’ve fingered me twice, so even if we just stick with that, cleaning up is a good idea.” Tommy bent his head down and kissed the top of Adam’s thigh through the denim, noticing a little self-conscious twitch when his lips touched Adam’s leg. “Do you want to go lie down?” Adam stood up, taking Tommy’s hands in his and helping him up. Tommy opened his mouth for the next kiss, groaning as Adam squeezed his ass.

“Yeah, lie down. Do you want me to put some music on? Do you want anything to drink?” Adam was getting seriously nervous, and Tommy frowned, shaking his head. He left the towel on the floor and went to the mattress, waiting for Adam. He watched as Adam took off his shoes, jacket, one of his shirts, and his pants. Then he came to the bed, looking nervous and being too quiet. When he lay down next to Tommy, he immediately pulled Tommy in close, and Tommy’s leg went around Adam’s hip. “Hey,” Adam said.

“Hey,” Tommy nuzzled Adam’s neck. “Are you okay?” Adam nodded against Tommy’s cheek and Tommy just wished, desperately, that he could fix it. That he had a magic word or formula that would make Adam okay, at least when they were alone. Because, goddamn it, this is where we need to be comfortable. Be freaked out with everyone else if you have to, but why with me? Tommy felt like shit for even thinking it, it wasn’t Adam’s fault.

“I’m better than I was last time. You know, I didn’t even want to take anything off.” Adam’s voice was low and nervous, but he held onto Tommy, pressing him right up against Adam’s body. Tommy could feel him, but Adam still didn’t want him to see what he looked like. “It’s been a bad week for that. I know you’ve seen me with my shirt off from the back, and with an undershirt on. I don’t know.” Adam pulled back a little, and rubbed his fingers over Tommy’s mouth. Tommy opened his mouth automatically and licked at Adam’s fingers. “Shit, that feels good.” Adam did that deep moan that made Tommy just want to climb inside him, and then pulled his fingers back. “I know you must want to see me. Because you know I want to see you all the time. I try to get you naked every time we’re alone.”

“I do want to see you, and feel you”, Tommy said. He was already missing Adam’s fingers. “And, you know I’m not perfect. Adam, I’ve got scars all over me.” Tommy sat up a little, so Adam could see his chest, and he traced his own fingers over the scar on his stomach keeping his eyes on Adam. “And I like the way you look. I’ve always told you how much I liked it.” Adam frowned then, and Tommy kept going. “I know. That’s probably not it, I know. You’ll be scared no matter what. But…I think you’re so beautiful.”

Adam pulled back then, and Tommy though Fuck, did it again as Adam tried to figure that one out. “I-you’ve said I was beautiful before. But what do you mean? What do you like so much?” Adam seemed less upset and more honestly wondering. Tommy swallowed. “I mean, I don’t think I look good at all. I feel good, when I’m with you and when I’m onstage, but otherwise I don’t.”

Tommy didn’t know how to start. If I list individual things, he’s going to think the rest of him is hideous. If I say ‘well I just love you’, it’s a fucking cop out. Come on Tommy, think. “I like…” Tommy paused. “I love how strong you are, and how safe it makes me feel.” Tommy felt his face heat as he said it. “I mean, you’re broad shouldered and you’re taller than me, and you’re just-your legs are amazing, they’re so strong. I love that.” Tommy dared to look up at Adam-he had gone completely silent.

Adam was staring at him in disbelief. “You don’t think I’m fat and weak? You think I’m strong? Really?” Tommy nodded. “I didn’t…I loved that you let me, you know. You let me push you against the wall and press you into the mattress. But you really like it?” Adam’s expression was changing in front of him from disbelief to wondering. “I mean, you could probably hurt me if you wanted.” Tommy frowned at that. “I mean, I don’t think you would, but…”

“Well, I know how to fight,” Tommy said. “And I can fight guys bigger than me because I’ve had to. But this isn’t about that. You’re like, protective. Lisa told me you carried me back to the bed when I was passed out, right? See, stuff like that. I really…it’s. I like it, it’s hot.” Tommy covered his face with his hand, groaning. “This is kind of embarrassing.”

“Yeah, I did pick you up. You seemed so weak that night, it’s like you didn’t weigh anything.” Adam’s voice was gentle, and so was the hand that pulled Tommy’s away from his face. “I thought you just let me do that because I liked it so much.” Tommy shook his head watching Adam’s wary face broke into a grin. “Wow.” He tumbled on top of Tommy then, pressing him down onto the mattress and kissing him hard. Tommy had his legs wrapped around Adam’s waist before he even really thought about it.

“Mmmph,” Tommy said against Adam’s mouth. “Wait, wait,” he pushed at Adam’s shoulders a little bit and Adam retaliated by biting at his neck. Tommy’s cock jumped from the sudden spark of pain, but he put a hand on the back of Adam’s neck. “Can I ask for a couple of things? You don’t have to get naked.”

Adam instantly looked worried again, so Tommy rushed ahead with it, before he got too scared. “Can I rub your back? I can do it through your shirt. And I want to touch your legs too, like massage them.” Tommy reached up to cup Adam’s face. “I know I said how much I love you taking care of me. But I want to do it back, at least a little. Okay?”

Adam turned his head and kissed Tommy’s hand. “I…yes.” Adam moved off of Tommy, Tommy sliding to the edge of the mattress. Then he lay down on his stomach, breathing deep. After a minute, Adam pulled his shirt up, exposing his back. “Rub my back, yeah. And you can touch my legs too. My shoulders are still kind of dry from the sunburn-do you have any lotion?”

Well fuck, this is working out great. “Yeah, I think I have some in my backpack…” Tommy leaned over to where his backpack was and started going through the outside pockets. He found lube packets and condoms too, and just dropped them on the dusty floor. He finally came up with a smallish bottle of Jergen’s and moved back to where Adam was. He squeezed out a little and straddled Adam, one leg on either side of his broad back. “Gonna start with your shoulders,” Tommy whispered, slicked hands coming down to stroke.

“Okay…oh! It’s kinda cold.” Adam’s giggle broke off as Tommy kept touching him slowly, moving his hands in gentle circles at first. When Adam relaxed more, he started rubbing Adam’s back harder, getting into the muscles the way Lisa had taught him to. She showed him how to give a good massage once when they were both drunk. (Nothing else had happened, it was just one of the weird things from their past.) Tommy rubbed down further, pressing fingers into the spots along Adam’s spine.

“Uh…yeah. That’s really good. Ahhhh,” Adam said as Tommy massaged a knot near the middle of Adam’s back. He was really tense there, and not just from being nervous tonight. I bet his back hurts him a lot, Tommy thought as he smoothed over the spot with his thumb. “That’s great. Dancing, you know-my muscles hurt.” Tommy thought it might be more than that, but he just kept working down, until he was rubbing right over Adam’s ass.

“You gonna touch that too?” Adam said, and he sounded sleepier than Tommy really wanted him too, so Tommy just skated his hands over Adam’s ass. “Huh,” Adam said.

“Is that okay?” Tommy rubbed over it again. Adam paused for a minute, then shook his head. “Okay. I’m sorry. I just-you didn’t sound like you’d mind.” Tommy was slightly disappointed, but he pushed that feeling aside. This was up to Adam.

“I know, I wanted to try it, but it just made me think about how huge it was. I don’t think that way about my back, you know?” Adam paused, and then his voice was much quieter when he said “You can still try touching my legs. That’s okay, I know you want to.” Tommy swallowed, and got a little more lotion.

Adam’s thighs were beautiful. Tommy could only reach the back of them, but they were soft and nearly hairless, milk white and covered in freckles. “Wow,” Tommy said, as he touched them. Underneath the soft skin Tommy could feel muscle, not soft fat. It wasn’t that Adam didn’t have it, but the muscle was much more prominent there. He just wanted to kiss Adam’s thighs, and he hoped that Adam didn’t think that was fucked up. “I want to kiss you, can I kiss you? I mean here.” He traced his fingers over the soft skin.

“You want to-okay. Yeah.” Tommy could hear that Adam was feeling it, he was turned on too. Tommy smiled a little as he slid down and pressed his face right there, high enough to almost be touching his ass, tongue flicking out to taste lotion and skin.

“Shit!” Adam jumped when Tommy nipped at his thigh. “Oh my god, Tommy.” Tommy hardly got any warning when Adam decided to turn over, hard cock visible in his briefs. “Tommy, do that…do that here.” He spread his legs apart, leaning back so he was sitting propped on the pillows, and Tommy just noticed that Adam hadn’t fixed his shirt-it was still up, revealing his stomach.

It wasn’t bad: Adam’s stomach was pale and freckled like the rest of him. It was large, but in an inviting way-Tommy wanted to kiss it. But he didn’t want to do that without asking, he was sure that Adam had fucking forgot all about his shirt being up. Probably too soon to ask. So Tommy did what he was told, and slid down until he was between Adam’s legs, rubbing and kissing his thighs and over his briefs. Adam moaned and put a hand in his hair, stroking through the short strands.

After a minute, the hand went up and quickly tugged on the shirt, as if Adam was hoping he wouldn’t notice. Tommy just closed his eyes and nuzzled the crease between Adam’s leg and his crotch. It didn’t fuckin’ matter, he was here with Adam and oh god, Adam’s cock straining against his shorts was so fucking hot. He kept his hands on Adam’s thighs while he sucked and nuzzled him through the shorts. I’ve sucked his dick at least a dozen times, why is this so hot?

Adam jerked on his hair after a minute. “Ow,” he said, but he looked up. Adam opened his eyes and looked down at him. “What do you want me to do, Adam?” Adam’s eyes were unfocused and he looked more turned on and un-self conscious than Tommy had seen in a while. “What, baby? He asked again, and that got him a bashful smile.

“Love it when you do that,” Adam said. “I just didn’t want to come yet, from you rubbing me through my shorts. Um, can you lie on your stomach? Or get on your hands and knees, whichever one you like better.” Tommy smiled as he moved up on his knees to kiss Adam, who kissed him back, eager and sweet. Tommy whimpered a little when Adam moved a hand up and tweaked his nipple. “Love you,” Adam said, whispering into Tommy’s hair. Tommy kissed him again, and moved to get on his knees, face in the pillow.

For a minute, all he heard was Adam moving around, as if he was gathering up all the lube packets he could find. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Adam said again, as he ran a hand down Tommy’s back. “I’ll just finger you and you tell me if you want to keep going.” Tommy nodded. Come on, just do it already, finger me you know I like it-oh. Adam had finally gotten ready, and Tommy felt the slickness of the gloves they used as Adam pushed a finger in. Tommy pushed back against it, and Adam sighed.

Adam was slower and gentler than he was a couple of days ago, and Tommy liked it more. Adam was just plain getting better at it as well. Tommy’s cock jerked when Adam’s finger found the sensitive spot inside him. “Fuck, yeah,” he said, voice thin. He could feel himself relax, open up to Adam’s fingers. Adam must have noticed too, because Tommy felt a second finger nudge inside the first. Fuck, this is getting to be normal. That made Tommy smile, as he felt Adam rub a hand down his back as he tried to find the right angle again.

Tommy lost track of time, he couldn’t concentrate on anything but the feeling of Adam’s fingers inside him, and the way Adam was constantly touching him with his other hand-stroking his hip, his back. It took him a while to notice it felt fuller than usual and he grunted, making Adam pause. “Do you-is that three?”

“Yeah, does it feel okay?” Adam started moving again, still slow and gentle. Tommy nodded, biting his lip and pushed back again. It didn’t hurt, but it was-full. He felt a tear roll down his cheek and he was glad Adam couldn’t see it, because he had no fucking idea why. He felt really good, like he was being taken care of.

Sometime later-minutes, an hour, he couldn’t tell-Adam pulled his fingers out. “Do you want me to? Tell me now.” Tommy nodded, trying to twist around so Adam could see his face. Adam nodded back, looking scared and suddenly so much younger. “I-okay. I’m getting the condom. And more lube.” Tommy relaxed at that. Fuck yeah a lot more lube.

It took too long. Tommy didn’t need to wait long enough to start doubting this decision, he just wanted it done. He could hear Adam fumbling with the condoms and after a minute sat up. “Do you want me to get it on you?” Tommy nearly laughed at the expression on Adam’s face-he had been trying to open those slippery packets with lube and gloved covered hands. “Let me,” Tommy said, and took the condom from Adam. And shit, putting it on was a turn on-Adam’s head went back when Tommy finally got it on, and he bit his lip as Tommy put more lube that people who weren’t virgins would think strictly necessary. “Okay, I think I’m ready.” He moved back over on his knees, arms folded.

“I’m gonna go easy,” Adam said, voice trembling a little. “God, thank you.” Tommy would have protested because this wasn’t a pity fuck, he wanted to be here-but then there was a nudge as Adam started to push inside and Tommy couldn’t think how to form words. He dropped his head between his arms and breathed in and out.

Adam kept his promise. He was slow, so slow, and Tommy swore he could feel it all, as Adam pushed inside him. All his fears about finally doing this-about how much it would hurt, what if the condom broke-got lost in the action of it happening. There wasn’t any time to worry anymore. Tommy just relaxed as much as he could and let Adam do what he needed to.

It hurt. Tommy wasn’t going to pretend it didn’t. But he’d gone through worse pain for much stupider reasons, and this pain wasn’t sharp. He wasn’t going to be injured, he could tell. It was just the dull ache of stretching plus the burn as muscles were tested. It was nothing an ice pack couldn’t take care of, like his Little League coach used to say. And what a fucking time to think of that, you really are trying not to freak out. Tommy laughed, his voice shaking.

“Okay?” Adam said, and he pushed in just a tad faster, not much faster but enough to take his breath. Tommy gripped at the sheets, gasping as he felt Adam’s dick hit his prostate. “Tommy?” Tommy nodded, trying to let Adam know that yeah, he was fine. Adam pushed in a little further and Tommy moaned so low, he could feel it vibrate through his body. Yes, right there. Fuck.

As soon as he did that, he heard a grunt and Adam pushed Tommy’s hips up a little. Tommy heard Adam whimper and felt a movement inside him, pulsing. Wait, that’s it? We’re not done! Motherfucker, come on! Adam cursed a little, and pulled out-ow, that wasn’t much fun. “Shit Tommy, sorry.” And hell, Tommy couldn’t really hold a grudge.

He turned to his side, resting his head on his elbow. Adam looked really embarrassed, he had the condom pulled off and was staring at it like he didn’t know what to do. Tommy moved carefully until he was sitting on the mattress facing Adam. “It’s okay,” he said, and took the condom from him, tying a knot into the top, and got up to throw it into the garbage. Tommy felt ridiculous-he was limping a little, sore, and still hard. When he got back to the bed Adam pulled him close and kissed him, wrapping a hand around his cock. “Yeah, please.”

“Shhhh,” Adam said, and he jerked Tommy off while kissing him, murmuring sweet things against his mouth and biting at his lips. Finally Tommy arched and came over both of their stomachs. Adam held Tommy to him, kissing him over his face and neck, until Tommy opened his eyes. “Hey,” Adam said, and he smiled at Tommy like he didn’t have any problems in the world.

“Hi,” Tommy said, smiling back. “Wow.”

“I’m sorry,” Adam said. “It’s just when I heard you moan, I couldn’t stop myself. You liked it, and that-I’ll have better control next time.” Adam was blushing down to his arms, and Tommy realized he could almost see through Adam’s undershirt. It was kind of wet now, from sweat and come, so that was part of it.

Tommy shook his head, still smiling. “It’s okay. That was good, don’t worry. And thanks, for letting me touch you.” Tommy waited for any signs that Adam was embarrassed, but he didn’t drop his eyes from Tommy’s. Tommy leaned in and kissed him again. “I love you and that was amazing. And now I think I better clean up again.” Adam laughed.

“You clean up. I’ll see what we have to eat. I’m starving now, will you eat with me?” Adam looked hopeful and Tommy nodded as he went back to the bathroom. He just cleaned off with a washcloth this time, thinking about Adam. Guess he’s gotten used to me eating with him. That’s alright, I guess. When he got back, Adam was looking at the shelf. “Um, there’s not much here. Maybe I’ll just go home. I think I can just eat the plate of food and not binge. I hope so.”

Tommy nodded, even though he wasn’t sure. He wanted to remind Adam to write his food down, and not to overdo it, but he didn’t want to nag. So he just kissed Adam’s cheek. “I’m gonna get dressed and feed the babies. You get a shower and you can take me home after that. Okay?” Adam kissed him and Tommy smiled as he walked over to get his clothes off the floor.

Tommy fed Allen’s animals as Adam took a quick shower, and thought about how right everything seemed. He was still sore, but it was like the world had stopped its bullshit long enough for them to get a breather and have some fun. And you are officially not a virgin in any way, Ratliff. He had to smile to think about it, and he realized the same was true for Adam. But he wasn’t freaking out, and the lonely feeling of the last week was gone.

When Adam got out of the shower, Tommy helped dress him, which was probably corny. They kissed for a long time, then rode back to Paul’s house in silence, hands touching. Tommy kissed Adam again right before he got out, and told him “Bye baby.” Adam said it back and Tommy watched as he backed out of the driveway.

The house he let himself in to was dark, with a dim light where Margret was pecking on her keys. Lisa and Paul weren’t there, and Tommy could feel the loneliness try to regain a foothold. Tommy shook his head, trying to clear it. Then he went into the kitchen and made two cups of tea. He took them to Margret’s office. “Hey. I got us some tea if you like. Can I sit with you?”

“Of course Tommy, just move those journals off the other chair.” She smiled just a little, without taking her eyes off the computer. “Oh, you got the Lady Gray, good choice” she said after a distracted sip.

“Thanks.” Tommy moved things around until he had a comfortable chair (or sort of comfortable-he might actually need that ice pack), and sipped his tea, letting the sound of Margret’s fingers on the keys soothe him. He was fine, Adam would be fine, and he wasn’t alone.

Chapter Text

Tommy woke up the next morning on his bed, clothes and shoes still on. He was sore and wanted to sleep all day, but two things were getting in the way of that. One was the sunlight coming through the windows and straight into his eyes. The other was the phone ringing six inches from his ear.

“Mrumph,” he said as he clawed for the phone. “Yeah? I mean, hi.”

“Tommy.” It was Anoop’s voice. “How are you?” He sounded formal, but still friendly. Tommy sat up and rubbed his face. Fuck, what time is it? He looked over and it was ten am. Kinda early for a weekend.

“I’m doing okay, how are you?” Suddenly, Tommy remembered what this was about. “Holy shit! Anoop, am I missing your debate?” Tommy sat up, and was rewarded with a dull ache. Ow, morning after I guess. “Shit I’m sorry…”

“No, you haven’t missed it yet, Tommy. This is your one hour wake up reminder call. That’s how much time you have. So make yourself as socially presentable as you can-“ Tommy could hear the grin in his voice when he said this-“And get your ass over here. Now, I have to study my notes. I’m serious, come and watch me kick Midtown High’s ass.” Tommy smiled at that, Anoop made a fucking high school debate sound like fun.

“Yes sir, right away. Let me see who’s available to drive me. Or else I’ll walk and be kinda late. But I’ll be there. See ya, Anoop.” Tommy hung up the phone and groaned. “Shit.” He stood up and scratched at his hair, staring at the mirror. He had dark circles under his eyes and he smelled bad even to himself. “Fuck, time for a shower.”

He meant to shower quickly, but he was sore and he wound up running the water hot as he could stand it and stood under it a long time. He was still twinging, but at the same time the ache was comforting, and reminded Tommy of last night. I’m totally having some aspirins with my coffee, though. He got dressed and stumbled down the hallway, looking for signs of life. “Anybody home?”

“Yeah, kind of.” Lisa came behind him and rubbed his back. “When do you want me to call Jenny over?” Tommy remembered that-something else he’d promised to do. He rubbed his face again, wincing a little. “Hey Tommy, what’s wrong? I mean, this afternoon is good, right?”

“Yeah,” Tommy said. “I gotta go to school, though-Anoop invited me to his debate team tournament. I said I’d go.” Tommy walked across the kitchen, squinting at the sunlight, and started making coffee. “Where’s your parents, they leave?”

“I heard them talking about going to the market downtown, I think. I was still in bed.” Lisa got two cups and some milk out. “Are you okay? Um, you seem…” Tommy saw her frown and his eyes widened.

“I’m fine, no. I’m not hungover or anything, I’m just tired. I didn’t sleep too well. Ask your mom, I was in her office. And I was with Adam before that.” Tommy made the coffee, keeping his face down. He just knew he was turning red. Lisa didn’t say anything, but she scratched her nails down his back until he smiled a little. “So, can you take me?”

Lisa sighed.“Of course, I am your humble servant. Are we putting this coffee in to-go cups? And do I have to watch this?”

“We can drink it here, and I can get a ride back no problem.” Tommy sipped his coffee, leaning against the counter. Lisa was right next to him and he slid in next to her side just by instinct. “Thanks.”

Lisa grinned. “You’re cuddly this morning. Hey, let me get my shoes and a jacket. Do you need anything else? Something to eat?” Tommy shrugged-he didn’t really care. He could eat later. He did briefly think about calling Adam, but then he remembered that he’d be gone to his Saturday classes anyway. He just gulped his coffee, grabbed his Chuck Taylors, and met Lisa at the door.

Lisa dropped him off at the school a few minutes later, and then Tommy followed a milling group of people to the auditorium. He slouched in his black blazer-he still wasn’t wearing his leather jacket-and walked past a bunch of the National Honor Society fucks that Anoop had debate with. A couple of them glared, but most of them just ignored him. Good, you fuckers, Tommy thought. Anoop was in the National Honor Society, so he tried not to hate them all on sight. Some of them made it kind of difficult, though.

Tommy found a seat near the front and tried to get comfortable in one of those little chairs. He wasn’t having much luck, but what the fuck. At least he made it. He saw Anoop with his team, and nodded his head once in greeting. Anoop nodded back, smiling. Then he looked in another direction and did the same thing. Tommy followed his gaze, and saw Megan, a lovely woman with long hair that must have been Anoop’s mother and…Mr. Desai. Oh shit.

Tommy hadn’t seen Anoop’s father in years. But it came back to him-the few times that his Oma would have to go to the bank to talk to his dad, she would leave him in an empty conference room. He suddenly, clearly remembered being eight and Mr. Desai giving him paper from the Xerox machine to draw with, telling Tommy that he did a good job coloring and that he had a son his age. Fuck, I gotta get out of here. I bet he doesn’t even know that me and Anoop get along. Tommy turned his head to look for an escape route, but then the announcer got up and started to introduce the team. Tommy just sunk down in his seat, scrunching his jacket up around him, and settled in for the debate.

The debate wasn’t bad-the topic was euthanasia of the sick and dying, and Anoop’s team had to argue for it. Tommy didn’t really pay attention to anyone except Anoop. He had just come out of duty to...friendship or whatever it was, but he found that he really liked Anoop’s argument. It was simple and logical-that if people had the right to choose how to live, they had the right to choose how to die. Free choice was just that, a free choice. He didn’t even bother to couch it in the language of not letting people suffer, as the other people on his team did. Tommy noticed that some people on his own team seemed a little uncomfortable with it, but Anoop just finished his points and sat down. Tommy joined the polite applause then, and Anoop looked in his direction again, smiling briefly.

Tommy tuned out the rest of the debate, and was mildly pissed when the school’s team lost to Midtown. Well fuck, Tommy thought. He hoped that Anoop hadn’t been too far out there for the judges, but you could never tell. Tommy watched as the school’s team was briefly lectured by their coach, a English Lit teacher that Tommy liked to avoid. It broke up soon enough though, and Anoop was released and headed straight for-him. Not his parents or Megan. “Hey man. You did great.”

“Not great enough, we didn’t win.” Anoop was frowning a little. “Do you think it was too much? Mr. Cowell thought that my speech went too far, since it wasn’t about morality or religion in any way.” Anoop shrugged. “I don’t get it.”

“That’s why I liked it,” Tommy said, and Anoop grinned back at him. Then over Anoop’s shoulder he could see Megan coming, her hand in Anoop’s mother’s as they all came up to talk to him. “Shit. Anoop, I don’t think your dad remembers me, but I’d like to avoid him, okay?” He started backing up, trying to hide in the crowd. Anoop looked at him, puzzled, just as Megan and the Desais came up. For some reason, he hung back enough to watch.

“Hi sweetie, you did great!” Tommy could tell that Megan wanted to jump in his arms but was holding back since his parents were right there. Anoop’s folks went up to him next, and his mom kissed him on the cheek while his father shook his hand. For a few minutes they talked about the speech and Tommy tried to make his escape, walking toward the door. Megan caught him about halfway there. “Tommy, hey.” Her smiled was still a bit forced, but she was trying. Tommy smiled back, feeling nervous-he really should go, but he couldn’t be rude to her after last night. She came closer. “You came to see Anoop, that’s awesome. I didn’t know if you’d come.” She paused, and then said quietly, “I didn’t know if I’d come. I’m not mad at you anymore, by the way.”

“Yeah, I hoped you wouldn’t be. And I’m glad you came. Look, I’ll see you Monday. I hate to run off, but I gotta head back to Lisa’s. We’re calling a friend and having a hair-dying party today.” As soon as Tommy said it Megan’s face lit up in delight. See, I missed that side of you, Meg. She bounced a bit and then left, saying they were all going out to lunch. Tommy watched her leave and then saw Anoop’s father look his way. Oh fuck, he thought, as recognition washed over the man’s face.

Tommy didn’t know what to do, so he waved at Anoop’s father. He was still about fifteen feet away, and Mr. Desai didn’t come any closer, but he stared at Tommy. “Tommy Ratliff?” he said, his voice betraying surprise but no anger, and Megan and Anoop seemed to freeze into place. Tommy nodded, not wanting to look him in the eye as he came closer. Might as well get this over with. “You’re the Tommy Anoop was angry about when he thought he ran away?”

That surprised a laugh out of him-last week seemed so far away now. Tommy nodded, wiping his eyes a bit. “Yeah, that was me. I didn’t run away though, it was just a misunderstanding. Hi Mr. Desai, I-I’m so sorry.” He knew he should leave before Anoop’s dad got angry at him, after all, he shouldn’t have even brought it up, who was he to-

“Tommy,” and now Mr. Desai’s voice registered a reproachful surprise that made Tommy look at him. “You don’t think that I blamed you? You were a child, your father wouldn’t even come in to see you when your housekeeper brought you over.” Tommy looked over then just in time to see Megan put a hand over her wide open mouth, and he didn’t need to see that. He turned from her horrified face, but kept listening to Mr. Desai. “What he’s done, that doesn’t reflect on you.”

Tommy almost said Some would argue, just to get a dig at Megan for daring to feel sorry for him. But he didn’t want to reopen that wound, and it didn’t matter anyway. It was probably better to have her pity than her hate. Instead he just sighed and hunched his shoulders over in his jacket. “I should go, sir. I’m staying at a friend’s house. I don’t want to stay at mine, so I don’t. It’ll take me about 40 minutes to walk if I don’t catch a bus or something. So yeah, I should go.” He turned away, but not before feeling a gentle hand on his arm. Mr. Desai was still there.

“We could give you a lift,” he said, and Tommy remembered that smile, and how it made him beam as a child because someone besides his Oma was paying attention to him. Tommy smiled back, it was hard not to. Anoop’s mom came over then and looked at him. Tommy saw her taking in his clothes and hair, and he wondered what she thought about that. Then she looked at him and smiled as well and Tommy thought Did I just pass a parental inspection? Weird.

“You guys are going to lunch, though. I don’t want to run you late,” Tommy said. “I can wait for the bus, it’s just…” he looked at Anoop, who had an eyebrow raised and slumped over in defeat. “I’m tired. I don’t really want to walk.” He wasn’t sure how he felt about being crammed into a car with Anoop’s parents, but he was really tired.

Anoop came over and squeezed his shoulder. “We’ll take you straight to Paul’s, okay? We won’t embarrass you further by being nice and inviting you to lunch or anything else you tell yourself you don’t deserve.” Tommy swatted at Anoop’s arm, feeling himself flush. Anoop just laughed. “Come on asshole, accept the fact that you’re not hated by everyone." Tommy just rolled his eyes.

“Okay, yeah. I’ll accept a ride, thanks.” You win this one, you smug fucker. How does your dad put up with you? Tommy looked over at Mr.Desai and he was just shaking his head at his son, probably disapproving of the language.

The ride back to Paul’s was short and only slightly nerve wracking. Tommy would have really liked to smoke, but he was pretty sure he couldn’t do that in their car. Most of the conversation centered around Anoop’s parents criticizing Anoop’s subject for his debate. “Now, you did a very good job,” his mother started out, “but it’s disturbing to me that you would put a person’s individual right over the rights of their community and family. To the point where you believe they should kill themselves.”

“But this was in cases of people being very sick and they were going to die anyway,” Anoop answered back.”I’m not in favor of on-demand suicide centers, it would be a mess. Could you imagine?” Mr. Desai said something else about it, but Tommy lost the thread. He wound up staring out the window, and when they pulled up in front of Paul’s house Megan had to shake his shoulder gently.

“Oh, sorry.” Anoop grinned at him and Tommy shrugged. “I was just thinking about things. Um, thanks a lot.” He looked up at Mr. Desai. “It was nice seeing you again. Sorry I freaked out a little.” He got out of the car, as Anoop’s dad told him it wasn’t a problem and that he hoped to see him again. Then they drove off and Tommy walked back inside. He needed a cigarette.

He’s just gotten one and gone out the back door when Lisa came out with him. “Hey, JennyBaby says she’s good to come over around three or after. And she’s not charging us anything, it’s just practice. Hey, do you wanna call your man?” Lisa winked at him, and damn but all of Tommy’s friends were sarcastic bastards.

“Fuck off. And yes, I’ll call him right now.” Tommy laughed as Lisa gave him the finger. He left his smokes outside and went into the kitchen to get the phone. Margret and Paul were just getting back from the market, baskets full of winter vegetables being put all over the counters, as he dialed Adam’s number. “Hi, Mrs. Lambert, it’s Tommy. Is Adam home?”

“Hi Tommy, and you know you can call me Leila.” Tommy frowned at her voice-she sounded worried. “Yes, Adam just got back. He didn’t have a good day at dance class, but he’s fine now.” She sighed. “You know he’s still…adjusting. And so are we.”

Tommy paused for a moment, and then lowered his voice just so Leila could hear it. “Did he eat when he got home last night? I know it was late…”

“He…no. I think he was afraid he’d eat too much. So he had yesterday’s dinner for breakfast, but that wasn’t much, so he got dizzy in the middle of class and had to sit out.” Leila sighed. “Shit. This is hard.” Tommy was nodding his head, because he totally knew what she meant. “He’s okay now, if you want to take him somewhere, but I’m worried.”

Tommy thought about it for a second, and then he said. “Well, me and Lisa were gonna get a friend of ours to dye and cut our hair. She’s a hair stylist major at Grant Voc Tech, and we wanted Adam to tag along-we’re not planning on making him dye his hair blue”, he said really quick before she got the wrong idea. “But maybe if he wanted a trim, she can do that. She needs the practice hours and she’s really good.”

Leila paused for a moment, before laughing a bit, one quick happy sound. “That sounds wonderful! That really does sound nice. Where were you going to do it, at your and Lisa’s house?” Tommy was a little shocked by the terminology, but what the hell. It was his house too. Paul always said so.

“Yeah, but to tell you the truth, it’s kind of chaotic here right now.” For the first time since Tommy had gotten there, Margret was helping with food preparation-putting winter greens into a colander and running water over them. Meanwhile Paul was going through what looked like ten pounds of sweet potatoes, looking for the best. “Um, I’ll have to ask Lisa and JennyBab-Jenny Martin, but…could we come to your house?”

An hour later, and Tommy, Lisa and JennyBaby were all in Lisa’s car. They had gone to Jenny’s house and put all her hairstyling shit right in the trunk of the car. “Come on, I want to meet this new guy,” she said, nearly bouncing in the backseat. Tommy smiled-Jenny was one of the happiest Goths he knew. “Is he cute? And is he punk, or a Goth, or what?” she said, on their way to Adam’s house.

Tommy and Lisa shared a look, and Tommy cleared his throat. “He’s a musical theater geek-you saw him the last time I was at the Points.” Tommy looked at Lisa again, and then swallowed. “And um…me and him are boyfriends. Don’t tell anyone else, okay?” He looked over at Jenny, and she had gone still. “Um, is that alright?” Tommy was nervous as hell, because while Goths tended to be the most gay-friendly freaks there were, he still had to be careful. After a couple more seconds, JennyBaby grinned.

“Really, you have a boyfriend? I thought you just liked girls. Wait, no, I heard stuff about you and guys, but I figured someone was just jealous because you plowed his girlfriend or something. Hey, is that why you fucked every girl in the scene except me and Lisa? Like, because you were in the closet?” Tommy almost said something, because that was a little too damn close to the truth, but she just kept going, hands flying through the air as she talked. “Hey, I remember him. Do you think he’d let me dye his hair? It’s really pretty though!” Then she started chattering about Joy Division. Lisa and Tommy turned to each other at the same time and grinned in relief.

JennyBaby was still talking when they pulled up, and they all helped her get the hair styling stuff out of the car-she had a huge kit of scissors, brushes, hair dryer, and a flatiron, plus another huge thing of hair dyes in all colors of the rainbow. Lisa grabbed the collection of towels and plastic bibs as Tommy led the way, knocking on the door.

“Tommy, what’s going on-oh. Hey.” Neil had answered the door and was now staring at JennyBaby, mouth slightly open. Tommy was used to looking at her, so he had to take another glance to see what Neil saw. She had a huge mane of bright red curly hair, lots of eye makeup, a black shirt with a skull on it, boots, and a super short Catholic schoolgirl type skirt. Yep, she is hot. Hello Neil, meet the kind of girl you’re going to be attracted to for the rest of your life. Good luck.

Neil was still standing there, mouth opening and closing like a fish, when Leila came to the door. “Neil! Let them in, okay?” She shoved Neil out of the way, petting his shoulder a little and looked at the three of them. “Come in. I’ve cleaned up the screened in porch, I think it’ll be a good spot.” She looked at Jenny and took in the outfit, but didn’t seem shocked. “Hi, I’m Leila, Adam’s mom.”

Jenny smiled at her, beaming, and Tommy was glad that she wasn’t automatically freaked out at knowing that parents would be there. “Hi! I’m Jenny Martin, or JennyBaby. That’s what everyone calls me. Did Tommy tell you I go to Grant Tech? Thanks for letting me come over. Yeah, come on, I’ll get set up! Is it back here?” Lisa walked in front of Jenny and led her back to the porch, Neil trailing behind. Leila raised an eyebrow at Tommy. “Sweetie, I think that must be the happiest person you know.”

Tommy was still laughing when he finally excused himself to look for Adam.

Adam turned out to be in his room, with the door halfway open. Tommy could hear the album he was playing-Bowie’s Diamond Dogs-and he knocked gently on the door as he walked in. Adam turned and smiled at him and it was so dirty and sweet at the same time that the night before came flooding back. He actually had to take a deep breath. Fuck, how can he do this to me? It’s amazing. “Hey. We’re ready if you want to join us. I think Lisa’s getting her hair done first, but it doesn’t matter.” Tommy could hear the waver in his voice.

Adam sat on his bed, legs spread far enough that Tommy could see he was a little turned on. “I guess mom would notice if you came in here and shut the door.” Tommy nodded, swallowing hard. Adam got up and hugged him, pressing close and giving Tommy a deep kiss. Tommy closed his eyes as Adam kissed him again, moaning into his mouth. When he tried to pull away, Adam didn’t want to let him go, but Tommy met his eyes and Adam stepped back with a sigh. “Sorry. I missed you, and…I had kind of a rough morning.”

“I heard,” Tommy said softly. “How do you feel now?” Adam rubbed Tommy's arm, over the bicep, and made him smile.

“I’m better. I ate lunch, some of it, came up here and then I just rested for a while. I was scared to eat last night. I mean, it was amazing but... Even good things are kind of overwhelming.” Tommy nodded. Fuckin’ tell me about it. Adam leaned in and kissed his ear before walking to the door. “Okay. I think I’m ready to go downstairs. Adam smiled, looking hopeful. “It’s going to be fun, right?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Tommy said as they headed back down.

Lisa was already in the chair Leila had set out, as Jenny ran a wet comb through Lisa’s hair. She squeaked a little when she saw Adam. “Hi, I’m JennyBaby, are you Adam?” She left Lisa for a second to run over and hug him, and Tommy saw Adam stiffen for just a second before he beamed and hugged her back. She whispered in his ear “Tommy told me about you and him. Is that okay?” Adam looked at Tommy, then back at her, and nodded. “Cool. Hey, is there a tape player we can put on? I have some Bauhaus tapes in my purse.”

An hour later, Lisa was sitting on the love seat with her hair wrapped in a towel, the deep conditioner treatment Jenny had put on soaking in. This time, Lisa had gotten purple tips-she didn’t need her roots done. Adam was sitting next to her, chatting softly. Tommy sat in the chair next as Jenny changed the music to The Cure. “Okay, do my roots.” Jenny looked at him and laughed.

“Yeah, you really let them grow in. Do you want me to trim it up? It’s getting longer.” Tommy shook his head. “Okay, tell me how you want it fixed after it grows out some. Hey, so you're really in drama class?” Tommy grinned-JennyBaby always knew all the dirt on everyone. It was probably part of being a hairstylist.

“Yeah, and I totally need to practice my monologue, thanks.” They both laughed and Tommy closed his eyes as she started squirting the bleach stuff on his scalp. “Don’t burn my hair off,” he said, and she fake punched him on the arm. Adam giggled and Tommy wished he could turn his head and watch him. But he stayed still instead.

He had to keep the bleach shit on for an hour, and then he went upstairs to wash his hair and get his ass back down for the conditioner. (JennyBaby would not let him or anyone else get away with skipping that part. He’d have better luck arguing with a brick wall.) When he was done, he walked back out to find Eber in the hall. “Hi, Mr. Lambert.” Tommy hadn’t seen him since the time him and Leila got into a fight when he was there, and now Eber looked stoned and very, very tired. “Are we disturbing you?”

“No.” Eber’s voice sounded a little surprised. “I just came upstairs to see what the racket was. Adam hardly has any friends over.” Eber looked like he wished he hadn’t said that.“So I’m glad, you know.,” he said quickly. “Even though I might have to send Neil to his room-he keeps ogling your hairdresser friend. What is that noise she’s playing anyway?”

Tommy laughed. “She’s a Goth,” he said, as if that explained everything.” I think she’s got Alien Sex Fiend on, but I’m afraid to ask.” Eber chuckled at that and Tommy started for the stairs. “I gotta go downstairs and let her finish me up.” Tommy could feel Eber’s eyes on him as he went down. That was weird. I guess he doesn’t mind us being here? He said it was okay. But he-shit. He probably just doesn’t feel up to having all these weirdos in his house. Tommy shook his head and went back to the party.

Leila was in the kitchen, staring into space when he crossed through it to get back to the porch. She turned when he came through and stared at him. “Tommy,” she said quietly. “I should offer them something to eat, shouldn’t I?” Tommy’s stomach twisted-he knew what was upsetting her. She didn’t want to leave food out that Adam couldn’t eat. Tommy ignored the part of him that was hungry, that hadn’t eaten all day, and smiled at Leila.

“It’s okay,” he said. She nodded, and Tommy continued. “I’ll ask everyone if they want a soda. You can make some sandwiches and leave them out if you want. But I don’t think you’ll need to. I mean, me and Lisa are gonna go back home to a giant farmer’s market feast, going by what Paul and Margret bought. And JennyBaby lives off veggie burgers and chocolate milkshakes.” With rum in them, he added in his head. “So it’s okay.” Leila smiled and wiped her eyes before hugging him.

Tommy went back to the party, feeling a sudden wave of tiredness. The music seemed really loud, but got Cokes for everyone and then let JennyBaby condition his hair. Next, he wound up on the couch (no towel around his head, fuck that) while Jenny patted the chair and grinned at Adam.

“Um, can I just get a trim? I don’t know if I want my hair dyed.” Adam looked really nervous, and he looked back at Tommy for reassurance, then back at Jenny. “I…maybe you can cut my hair shorter? And like, less on the sides.” Tommy smiled, that sounded good to him. He sunk down in his chair, and watched as Jenny got her clippers out.

Adam was still nervous, he could tell, but he let Jenny cut his hair shorter in the back and use the clippers at his neck and a little on the sides. “Okay, that looks good,” Jenny said, and then she got out her mouse and gel assortment. “What do you use on your hair?”

Adam looked stumped. “Not much, unless I’m in a performance. Hairspray? And maybe some mousse.” Jenny clearly looked displeased, and she made poor Adam tell her which brands he used. Then she got to work, styling his hair high on top, and with the sides slicked down. When she was done she grabbed a mirror and gave it to him.

“Okay, what do you think, too Depeche Mode? It could be kind of rockabilly too, actually.” Tommy stared at it too. It honestly didn’t look like she’d gone that far, but it was cool, in a new wave/goth kind of way. Man, this might get Adam more trouble. But it looks really good.

Neil still had his ass parked in the doorway so he could stare at JennyBaby. He looked at it critically. “I don’t know Adam.” Tommy noticed the lack of mocking. “I just-it looks pretty good.” Leila came in then and she beamed, obviously loving it. Adam kept touching the back of his neck, where she had shorn it close.

“Yeah, I like it. I think I like it.” Adam looked over at his mom gave her a shy grin. Then he looked at Tommy. “Do you really think it looks good?” Tommy nodded at him, and he could see Lisa do the same. JennyBaby bounced in place, doing a little dance move, which made Neil try to look under her skirt. Eber showed up then, pulling Neil into the kitchen and telling him to get his ass downstairs and leave Adam’s guests alone. When he came back, he peered through red eyes at Adam’s new do.

“Not bad son. Do you think it’ll be too much trouble to do every day?” Eber was fine with it. Tommy had planned something for Adam, well for him and Lisa too, and it went fine. Adam was smiling, Eber didn’t look like he wanted to kick him out of the house, and JennyBaby was grinning and bouncing-she was so happy when someone loved a haircut she’d given them. Tommy smiled, feeling good about everything, but so tired.

“Hey, I’m gonna rinse out this conditioner. I’ll be back in a minute.” Tommy left the room full of happy people and went upstairs on legs that felt like they weighed a fuckin’ ton. He went right past the shower, and into the first bedroom he saw. It had a lot of comics and collections of Time magazines-it must have been Neil’s.

He curled up on the bed, shoes still on, and fell asleep.

“Tommy.” Someone was shaking him. Tommy grunted, but didn’t open his eyes. He felt the person shake his shoulder again. “Tommy Ratliff. Are you okay?” Tommy opened his eyes and saw Eber leaning down, his face almost level to his. He looked concerned, and Tommy wasn’t sure he’d seen that face directed at him before.

“Tommy, you wandered off and fell asleep in Neil’s bed. Do you remember doing that?” Eber was trying to keep his voice calm, but Tommy got it: he was afraid Tommy was high. Tommy nodded. “You didn’t come back after a while and Adam came to find you and you were out cold. Do you need me to call Paul?” Tommy tried to sit up, but flopped against the pillows, all his strength gone.

“Dad.” Adam was in the room. Tommy craned his head to see him, and he could see everyone in the doorway. JennyBaby looked confused, Lisa worried, and Neil was kind of pissed. Adam came closer, and put a gentle hand on Tommy’s forehead. “You’re not running a fever.” Adam sat on the bed, and Tommy wanted to curl around him, but everyone was in the room watching. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know, I’m just fucking exhausted.” Tommy shook his head. “I’ve been trying so hard to stay clean, and I fell asleep in my clothes last night. I went to see Anoop’s debate, and I wanted to do something nice for you and…” Tommy trailed off, too tired to say anything else. He saw JennyBaby give Lisa a bewildered look, and Lisa pulled her into the hall, probably to catch her up. Adam just stroked his arm.

“You haven’t been taking care of yourself,” Adam said. “I know you’re not drinking, because I could tell, but...fuck. I’m sorry.” Tommy shook his head. He wanted to say It’s not your fault, I want you to be happy, but he just closed his eyes. Adam turned to his dad. “Dad, can Tommy sleep here for a while? And then we can call Paul, and maybe Cassidy too.”

“I’ll see Cassidy tomorrow,” Tommy whispered, already almost asleep. “I’ll make an appointment, I’ll go to a meeting. I’ll take care of myself, I swear.” He heard Leila make a little choked noise from the doorway, but he was already nearly out. He could hear Eber and Adam talking, Adam sounding more insistent, but he couldn’t make out the words.

The next thing Tommy knew, big familiar hands were pulling at him, sliding over him until he was standing up and leaning against Adam. Tommy automatically put his arms around Adam’s neck. When he opened his eyes, everyone was gone from the room except Neil. He was staring at his bed with the messed up Star Wars comforter on it. “You got conditioner all over my pillow.”

“Shut the fuck up, Neil,” Adam said, voice even. “Come on Tommy, I’m taking you to my parent’s bedroom. It’s got blackout shades, you can sleep better.” Tommy thought that Eber giving up his bedroom was kind of sweet. He must have said so, because Adam laughed a little.

“Dad doesn’t want you in my room, he thinks I won’t let you rest.” Adam help Tommy to the bed and immediately closed the door. The room was dark and cool, and Adam was just visible as he came over to pull off Tommy’s sneakers. “I’m really sorry, Tommy.” Tommy tried to answer back, saying it wasn’t his fault, but Adam continued. “I’ve been leaning on you a lot, and I know mom and dad have too. And I need to support you more, and I don’t because-fuck. I think I’m a bad boyfriend.”

“No,” Tommy whispered. “You’re great, you love me and you support me. You do. But I don’t like being alone.” Adam moved his hands to Tommy’s jeans and undid them, pulling them down. “I stayed up with Margret, and I got to bed really late. And then…I saw Anoop’s dad, and I wasn’t ready for that. He remembers me, you know.” Tommy could feel Adam’s hands hesitate as they came up to get the hem of his shirt. “And we’d already made plans. I’m just…so tired.”

Adam took Tommy’s clothes and moved them somewhere in the room that Tommy couldn’t see. Then he came back and kissed Tommy just briefly. “Just sleep now,” he said. “I’ll stay in here with you until you sleep again. We can talk later.”

Tommy nodded and Adam played with his hair, stroking it until Tommy was dreaming of music, chords running through his head with the background sound of waves crashing against the rocks. He could see Adam in his dream, and he tried to keep the music in tune with him, following him.

But the waves were always in the background.

Chapter Text

“Tommy.” There was a voice close to him, but Tommy couldn’t answer back, not yet. He could feel the mattress underneath him, knew he was in bed and dreaming. But he could still hear the waves and he didn’t want to leave Adam alone with them. “Tommy, wake up.” The voice got more insistent.

Tommy turned over on his side and blinked a couple of times. “Hi Tommy, I brought you some food.” Leila, it was Leila’s voice. He could smell something good and his stomach growled. Leila must have heard it, because he could hear her laugh as he rubbed at his eyes. “Come on, get something to eat. Lisa told us you blew off eating all day.”

“Okay,” Tommy said, smiling a little. He sat up, propped on the pillows, and the covers slid down to his waist. Leila made a little startled noise, and when Tommy looked up, she had taken a step back with the tray. He looked down-shit. Leila had seen his scars. “Oh fuck,” he said, and he pulled the covers over his body-why was his shirt so far away?

“Mom?” Adam cracked the door open and saw her standing there frozen while Tommy had the covers up to his neck. “Shit,” Adam said, and went to get Tommy’s shirt. “Don’t look mom.” Adam stood between the two of them and helped Tommy get into his shirt, kissing him on the cheek when he was done. “Okay? Mom, it’s all right, all those are old.” Tommy looked back at her and saw how fucking rattled she was, but she took a deep breath and came back with the tray.

“It’s pretty disturbing that they’re there at all,” she said, but there wasn’t any anger to it. Her voice shook just a little, but she put down a tray. There was a glass of water, some coffee, and a small plate of noodle pudding with raisins. Adam looked at it and smiled.

“Mom made my great-aunt’s kugel. She probably thinks you’re gonna throw up or something.” Leila swatted Adam’s arm and he continued, “Don’t worry, it’s delicious. Do you want me to stay in with you?” He looked at his mom, and she looked hesitant. “Mom, I’m just gonna sit with him. Tommy doesn’t like being alone.”

Tommy also didn’t care much for Adam talking about him like he wasn’t there, so he spoke up then. “I’d like it if Adam stayed. But if you want to talk to me, that’s okay too. I know you’re probably mad or something.” Tommy grabbed the glass, meaning to take a sip of water, and when he put it down it was empty. I must be thirsty, shit.

Leila shook her head. “Or something, kid. We called Paul, and he’ll pick you up after a while. He’s worried about you.” Tommy groaned and put a hand over his face. “Hey, it was an accident, don’t beat yourself up.” She came closer and ruffled Tommy’s hair. “And I’m sorry. About this past week, and for how I reacted just now.”

Tommy had no idea why she was apologizing-nobody would want to see their kid’s boyfriend covered in burn marks and cuts, but he nodded and sipped his coffee. Adam took the water glass. “I’ll bring you more,” and he left the room. Tommy nibbled at the kugle, Leila standing over him silently. He didn’t know what to say, and he wasn’t even sure why she was apologizing, but it was fine. The silence was companionable, not awkward. When he finished the noodle pudding before Adam showed back up with the glass, she just laughed and offered him more.

“Please. And thanks for letting me crash.” Leila just shook her head and left with the plate. Tommy looked over at Adam. “What? It was nice of them. Hey, did Lisa and Jenny leave? And how long have I been out?”

Adam just shook his head and sat on the other end of the bed. “You’re always so surprised when people treat you like a decent person.” Adam was smiling though, there was no malice in it. “Lisa took Jenny home-you kind of freaked her out. She found out what you’ve been through and she feels really bad. I don’t know why-she’s never done anything to hurt you, right?” Tommy shook his head because she hadn’t-JennyBaby was nice to him. She was nice to everyone. Adam was still talking-“Lisa said she’ll be back for you when you’re ready to go, or Paul can pick you up if you want. And you’ve been sleeping about three hours. Here, drink the water, it might help.”

Tommy didn’t argue with him, and sipped at the water. “That was good, what your mom fixed. And yeah, I’ve been told once today that I expect the worst. I don’t know.” Tommy sighed. “I’m tired.” Adam didn’t say anything, but he stretched out on the bed and kissed the corner of Tommy’s mouth. Tommy turned his head so he could reach Adam’s mouth better, trying not to tip over the tray. Adam put his hand on Tommy’s neck, holding him in place as he took control of the kiss. It was still sweet, but with a dominant edge to it that made Tommy feel relaxed and calm for the first time all day.

“Adam.” Adam and Tommy both jerked back at Eber’s voice. He was standing in the doorway with the plate of kugle, and some fruit as well. “You need to let Tommy get better, and not…distract him. Go to your room for now, son.”

“But I didn’t do anything-“ Eber silenced him with a look and Adam bounced off the bed (Tommy’s coffee started sloshing and he picked it up fucking quick), and stomped to his room. Eber looked Tommy over, and shook his head. “Sorry, I just wanted to talk to you. Here’s your food, I’m gonna sit down.” Eber grabbed a chair from the corner and sat near the bed, turning the bedside lamp on. Tommy winced from the light.

Eber was quiet for a minute, and it was a lot more uncomfortable than Leila’s silence. Tommy just kept his eyes on his plate, eating and wondering what the fuck Eber wanted to talk about. Is he gonna yell at me for sleeping in his bed? I fucking doubt it, since it was his idea. When Eber finally said something, his voice was so low Tommy had to strain to hear it.

“I’ve never really been fair to you. Last week I didn’t care if you ever came to my house again. Then Adam had to get help, and I let you take care of him instead of me. Either way, I wasn’t thinking about what you needed, and I’m sorry. It’s-I always want to help my kids, but I didn’t know what I was doing with Adam. I felt like everything I did was wrong.” Tommy nodded, because he felt the same way. “So…I’m not apologizing for wanting to put Adam first, but I didn’t do my part. And you worked yourself into the ground worrying about him.”

Tommy almost protested but Eber put a hand up. “Don’t deny it, me and Paul had a long talk on the phone. He really cares about you, you know.” Tommy nodded again. I know. I care about him too. Eber continued, looking at his hands. “He did say that since you got sober, you’ve been really…fragile.” Tommy could feel his shoulders hunch over but Eber kept going. “And he worries about that, because he thinks you’re throwing yourself into taking care of Adam so you don’t have to face your own problems.”

“I am facing them,” Tommy snapped, and sighed. “Sorry. I’m trying to face them, but it’s hard. And yeah, I care about Adam. It’s like you said, I want to put him first. I mean I…love him.” Oh fuck, you just said that to Adam’s dad, what the fuck. He’s gonna kick you out for sure.

“I thought you might.” Tommy tried not to let his mouth drop open. “After I saw you at the meeting with Cassidy, I could tell that it wasn’t just you two fooling around.” Eber looked uncomfortable then. “But if you get sick again because of how much you love Adam, you’ll hurt him. So, I’m giving you tomorrow off.” Tommy looked at him, because what the fuck, and Eber chuckled.

“You’re not banned, exactly, you can call Adam at night. But I want you to go to Paul’s tonight, and then go to the Center, talk to Cassidy, and whatever else it is you do to keep yourself sober and somewhat sane.” Eber was smirking, and Tommy could see where Adam got it from. “And I promise to do my part and help Adam with his eating. Okay?”

“Okay,” Tommy said, nodding. He did need to go over there. “I’ll bring my guitar too-they told me I could play. Cassidy says the same thing-I’m not doing what I like to do. I’m just trying-I’m just trying.” Tommy doesn’t look up. You must think I’m a loser. I know you don’t really like me that much. At least you don’t want me to get worse.

“You could bring your guitar here too, I don’t know why you don’t. That might be fun for everybody.” Eber’s voice was quiet, and Tommy caught his eye. “I’m glad you brought your hairdresser friend, I was just kind of surprised. That was a nice thing, why’d you do it?”

Tommy took a minute before answering. “I was going to have us do it at Paul’s, but they were really busy. So I thought it would be nice to come here. I know how upset everyone’s been, and you know, I thought it would be fun. Something to do on a Saturday, right? And then I passed out.” Tommy shrugged and Eber actually reached over and put a hand on his shoulder as he got up.

“I know kid, best laid plans and all that. Are you going to sleep more? You can take as long as you want before we call Paul. Oh, and I need to talk to both of you.” Eber’s expression changed. “About being safe.” Eber shook his head. “I’m not looking forward to this, and I know you’re not either. I want to see if you're listening to what I said last time. But I’ll wait a bit. Are you finished eating?” Tommy looked at his plate of mostly-gone kugel and nodded. Eber took the plate and left the room. Eber could hear him talking to Adam, telling him he could leave his room.

“You didn’t have to send me to my room.” Tommy could hear how petulant Adam sounded and tried not to giggle. Eber said something and Adam cut him off. “I didn’t do anything bad, you could’ve just said go downstairs or something. Okay. Okay dad, yeah. See you in a minute.” The bedroom door opened again, Adam leaning against it. “Hey.”

“Hi,” Tommy said back. “You just here for a minute?” Tommy winked at Adam and made him laugh. “Hey, I’m sorry if I worried you.” Adam sat down in the chair that Eber just left and leaned in for a kiss. It was gentle, Adam’s hand moving to Tommy’s neck again, but this time he just stroked the soft skin. When he pulled back, Tommy leaned in, chasing his mouth.

“Don’t apologize. Things are crazy with us, we both know that. Are you okay now?” Tommy nodded, the nap and the food had made him feel a lot better. “Okay. Um, you still have conditioner in your hair,” Adam said, smirking a little. Tommy felt his stomach twist-those little expressions that Adam made when he was unselfconscious were beautiful. “Maybe you should take a shower?”

Tommy grinned at that. “Okay,” he said, and Adam took the tray and went downstairs with it. Tommy got up, legs still a little shaky, and he grabbed his pants and went to the bathroom. The shower was quick-he mainly just rinsed out his hair, and he looked at it. JennyBaby didn’t even get a chance to put any toner on, but he could do that later. He got dressed and tried to brush his hair, but it was kind of a lost cause. Stop stalling and get downstairs, asshole he thought, and he slowly made it down.

Neil was at the bottom of the stairs, and raised an eyebrow. “Are you better? You still look tired.” Then he ran into the kitchen and came back, pressing a Coke into Tommy’s hand. “You want anything else? Oh, I should make you wash my sheets, but I already did.”

“Neil,” Eber said, voice warning. “Tommy’s not going to wash your sheets, shut up. Now go upstairs, I need to talk to Adam and Tommy.” Neil protested, and Tommy knew he really wanted to hear this part, but Eber kind of growled at him and Neil ran, taking the stairs two at a time. Tommy opened up his Coke and went back to the sun room.

It was different now-all of JennyBaby’s things were gone and it looked like its normal self. Adam was sitting on the little couch, and Tommy joined him. Adam took Tommy’s hand automatically, and Tommy squeezed it back.

Eber sat down across from them, and looked hesitant. “Hi. I don’t really know how to start this.” He sighed. “I just want to make sure you boys are being safe. Do you have condoms?” Tommy and Adam nodded at the same time. “Are you using them?” They nodded again. “For everything?” Tommy paused then, not sure what to say. “Boys…” Eber put a hand over his face.

“We haven’t been using them for oral, no.” Tommy said. Adam immediately put a hand over his face too, scrunching down in his seat. “But we don’t-we don’t swallow.” Except me, that one time he thought. Tommy saw a patch of Adam’s face, and it was bright red. His probably wasn’t much better. “We try to be careful, nobody even knows for sure that oral without condoms is unsafe.”

Eber glared at them. “Which is exactly why you should be as cautious as possible. Don’t be idiots, you two. It’s not like it was when I was growing up.” Eber sighed and took a drink from his cup of coffee. “I can’t believe I’m talking about this sober-oh, sorry Tommy.” Tommy shrugged-that wasn’t a big deal. “So, you are using them for…um….”

“Yes.” Tommy jumped. Adam had taken the hand away from his face and was looking his dad right in the eye. “Yes, we have. And latex gloves.”

“What do you need gloves for-oh.” Tommy must have been having an out of body experience right now, because he just noted that Eber got as red-faced as his son with cool detachment. “Well. I don’t know what else to say except to start using the condoms for blowjobs. I know that’s no fun, but-just do it, okay?” Adam was still staring his dad down, so Tommy nodded dumbly and Eber got the fuck out of there.

Adam looked over at Tommy after he left, and shook his head. A little smirk was starting to pull the side of Adam’s mouth up, and Tommy lost it. “Oh god,” he said, shaking in laughter as Adam held him close. “Fuck, I can’t believe you. You’re amazing.”

“Well, if he’s going to ask, I’ll answer,” Adam said and then cracked up. “I mean, I was kinda hard on him, but I’ve told him we were being safe.” Adam kissed Tommy’s cheek. “We’re not really going to start using them when we go down, are we?” Tommy sighed. “Tommy, come on.”

“I know but-what if we make a mistake and don’t pull off in time? We can just do it for me, since you’ve never been with anyone else.” Adam made a face then, and Tommy backed off that idea. “Yeah, sorry. No, if one of us has to, we both have to.” He kissed Adam then, just a peck, and pulled back. “I should go home soon. I need to call Paul.” Tommy got up and Adam came with him, pausing when they heard voices in the kitchen.

“…He’s talking back to me more, he’s more independent,” Eber was saying. He had his arm around Leila’s waist, and she was leaning on him. “And I know he’s supposed to, that he’s growing up, but it’s just so strange. I don’t know if that means I’m being a good dad or not.” Tommy wrapped a hand over Adam’s arm, who was frowning in his father’s direction.

“You are being a good dad, because you know that it’s just him being his age.” Leila’s voice was light and that made Tommy breathe out in relief. She obviously didn’t think it was a big deal. “Kids are supposed to give you reality checks sometimes. It’s just that Neil outpaces Adam on that by about fifty to one.” Tommy giggled then and Leila and Eber looked over, Eber’s face guilty. Tommy looked and Adam was watching his dad, but he didn’t seem upset. Tommy couldn’t really figure out Adam’s expression until it softened into something that was almost a smile.

“Sorry,” Tommy said. “Um, I’m gonna call Paul now. Can I use the phone in the living room?” Tommy didn’t wait for an answer, he just walked through the kitchen and toward the living room where Neil was sitting on the couch with a book. Tommy made the call. “Hi Paul, I’m ready to come home if you or Lisa want to get me. No, I’m feeling a lot better now. Yeah, Eber talked to us.” Tommy ran his hand through his hair. “I’ll see you in a few minutes? Okay, bye.” Tommy dropped on the couch next to Neil. “Hi.”

“Hey,” Neil said dryly. “Where’s Adam? Or are you guys acting like you can be apart for more than five minutes?”

“You’re an asshole, Neil,” Tommy said , but he did look around for Adam and saw him coming out of the kitchen, smiling at Tommy. “Hey,” he said, and Neil snickered.

“I’m gonna be upstairs. I’m not being punished or anything, but I think I’m gonna rest before dinner. Paul picking you up?” Tommy nodded. “Okay,” Adam said, and he crossed the room. Neil made just barely audible gagging noises when Adam kissed him goodbye. “See you.”

“Call you tomorrow,” Tommy said, and then Adam was gone. He looked over at Neil, who was rolling his eyes at the ceiling. “What? You don’t even care.” Neil looked over at him, surprised.

“What, you mean I don’t care that you and Adam are gay? You’re right, I don’t. I think it’s stupid-that shit’s for born again Christians and Reagan. Doesn’t apply to me. But he’s my brother, and anyway, kissing is gross. You should see yourselves, it’s so sickening.” Neil went back to his history homework. Tommy waited a minute.

“So how’d you like Jenny, huh?” he said totally innocently. It turned out that Neil’s skin didn’t go as red as Adam’s, but it was still pretty dark. Tommy laughed when Neil grabbed his books and went upstairs. He was still laughing a little when Paul picked him up. Tommy slept like a rock when he went to bed that night.

The next day was pretty good. Tommy stuck to his word and didn’t worry about Adam. Instead he had brunch with Lisa’s family, helped Margret proofread for an hour, and did his homework in Lisa’s room, cartoons playing in the background. Later Paul took him to the Center, guitar in hand. Cassidy beamed when he saw Tommy slide in the door, careful of his guitar case. “Come on in, we’re just having a lazy Sunday. Are you going to play for us?” Tommy shrugged and Cassidy shook his head. “You better.”

“I guess so, if you insist. Hi Jack.” Tommy found a seat in the tiny downstairs part and got his Martin out. He didn’t really play a song, but just riffed and improvised for a while, whispering potential lyrics to himself as he went along. When he looked up again (he had no idea how much time had passed), Cassidy was watching him closely. “What?”

“You’re amazing.” Tommy blushed and Cassidy kept going. “Let me know if you want to talk in my office, but you’re welcome to just hang around and play if you want. The MCC church is going to bring a potluck tonight if you want to stay for dinner. Don’t worry, they don’t preach much.” Tommy restrained the face he would normally make at that and nodded.

Tommy spent the rest of the day at the Center. He went to one AA meeting, hugging Janice when he saw her, and then got roped in to play guitar for a vocal group that was practicing in one of the upstairs rooms. They were older and performed mostly for AIDS fundraisers and Pride. It was kind of awkward because they had to teach him a lot of the songs, but it was fun. One of the guys raised an eyebrow at Tommy. “I cannot believe these kids today. If you don’t listen to more musicals we’re gonna have to take away your gay card.” Tommy snorted at that.

“Hey, I just joined the drama club last month,” he answered back making the guy-Mark-smile in surprise. “Give me time.” Then he thought about it for a second, just holding his guitar while the group watched. “I wonder….” He started playing “Secret Love”, trying to get it to work for guitar. Mark sat next to him, listening, and singing along when Tommy got it to sound right. Tommy tried not to listen too hard to the vocals. Mark could sing great, but he wasn’t Adam.

Later Cassidy caught up to him and asked how he was doing. “Paul called me about yesterday,” he said and Tommy groaned. Fuck. I was going to tell you myself. “No, he just wanted me to know. Sorry. Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah, right now I feel great.” Tommy nodded. “Eber basically made me swear I wouldn’t worry about Adam today, so I came here. It’s working.” And that was true. While there wasn’t anything in the world that would make Tommy stop thinking about Adam, he wasn’t worrying about him. Cassidy squeezed his arm, and Tommy smiled.

“Okay. Um, I’m probably going to leave soon, but the potluck is about to start, and you should get something to eat. Unless you wanted to talk?” Tommy shook his head. Cassidy looked a little worn around the eyes that day. He was tired, even though he probably didn’t want to admit it. “Okay. Goodnight Tommy, I’ll see you Tuesday.”

“See you then,” Tommy said, and he watched as Cassidy went towards the stairs. A skinny man in his twenties with pretty brown skin and short dark hair closed the magazine he was reading and stood up, touching one of his hands to Cassidy’s as they both went down. Ooooh, Tommy thought. He’s cute, go Cass. Then the Gay Church People (he could never just think of them as the ‘MCC’) game in, everyone carrying something delicious smelling, and Tommy didn’t think about it anymore.

A couple of hours later, after everyone had eaten and after Tommy found a quiet spot to do some writing for a while, he called Lisa to come get him. When she showed up twenty minutes later, Tommy so busy listening as Jack, Matt and some of the other guys told stories from when they were coming out that Lisa had to honk the horn. Twice.

“Sorry,” he said, as he put his guitar in the back seat and climbed in front. “How are you baby?”

“I’m okay, let’s get you home-wait.” Lisa had gone half a block on Morgan, when she saw a group of shadowy figures in the alley next to the AIDS center. “Look.” Lisa switched off the headlights. Tommy looked-there were a group of punk and skin looking kids with spray cans, drawing graffiti on the sides. They must have just gotten there, because Tommy could see the word “faggot” wasn’t quite finished. A skinny kid was holding the spray can, and Tommy realized with a sick lurch in his gut that it was Colin. He could see his little scrawny face from there. Tommy looked at Lisa, and she eased the car down Morgan slowly, not drawing any attention.

“Nearest phone is…”

“Over here,” Lisa finished, as they pulled quietly into a nearly empty restaurant parking lot. Tommy went to the pay phone with two quarters. He called the cops with one, and Jack with the other, before he got back in the car. Lisa got them the hell out of there, hitting the curb on the way out. Tommy was still shaking when they got home. Lisa hugged him hard. “It’s not your fucking fault,” she said, “Colin’s not your responsibility.” Tommy nodded, but he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The past isn’t over, it’s still around. It’s just waiting around a corner for me, I think.Tommy got a cigarette and lit it with trembling hands.

An hour later, after he’d calmed down a little, he called Adam. “Hey sweetie,” Adam said, sounding comfortable and happy. “I had a pretty good day, me and dad spent some time together and we got along really well. We’re trying to work out an eating plan, but that’s always hard. Anyway, how are you doing, is everything okay?”

Tommy paused for a moment. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”

Chapter Text

Tommy hung up the phone a few minutes later, and he could feel Lisa’s presence at the door. He looked over at her and she just sighed and sat down on his bed. “I didn’t tell him,” Tommy said. “I mean, it had been a pretty good day until that. And I…didn’t know what to say.”

“I know,” Lisa said. “I didn’t tell my dad.” Tommy looked over at her and she shrugged. “I know I can come to my father with anything, but sometimes…I just want to leave it alone too. That doesn’t make us bad people. I mean, we called it in.” Tommy nodded and Lisa yawned. “Okay, now I’m tired. Hey, JennyBaby brought some toner over if you want to finish your hair tonight. You can do that yourself, right?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Tommy said as Lisa kissed his cheek and went back to her room. He spent the next hour putting toner on his hair. Then he scribbled things in his notebook until he was about to fall asleep over it. When he finally put the damn thing down and curled on his side, he thought At least Cassidy will be happy that I’m writing in my journal.

Tommy kept busy that week, letting Adam have a bit more space to work things out. Adam said he’d start bringing his own lunch, so that wasn’t one of Tommy’s jobs anymore. He missed it, but it was one less thing to worry about. After class on Monday he was over at Anoop’s house, practicing his monologue. Anoop was a pretty good acting coach, and they worked on it for a couple of hours. When Tommy went upstairs to call for a ride, Mrs. Desai asked him to stay for dinner. “Okay. Thank you,” was Tommy’s answer. He wasn’t going to let Anoop call him an asshole for turning his folks down again.

Dinner turned out to be a bigger deal than anyone had let on-it seemed like people didn’t stop coming through the doors. “Dude, how many people live here?” Tommy whispered to him, and Anoop laughed as an older couple came in, the woman carrying a huge covered pot of something delicious smelling.

“Only me and my parents actually live here. But my grandparents live next door, and my aunt and uncle are stopping by, and dad’s brought the intern from work to dinner. He’s from Delhi, and he lives alone, so my dad’s kind of adopted him. I don’t mind, but we don’t have much in common. He’s an engineering student.”

“Full house, huh,” is all Tommy said before food started being served. The meal was sort of overwhelming-lots of dishes, lots of people and lots of laughter. It was a lot like being at his Oma’s though, so Tommy was pretty comfortable. He answered questions whenever anyone asked him, but it was impossible for him to keep up the threads of the eight conversations going on around him. When Anoop drove him home, Tommy had to slouch forward. “Your mom might’ve just put six pounds on me, holy shit.”

Anoop smiled. “She does that.” Anoop glanced over, then put his eyes back on the road. "She doesn't cook like that every night, just so you know. But mom’s had some time off work, and we had a lot of people over. That’s probably why she invited you too-she knew nobody was going hungry. Did you like it?”

“Yeah,” Tommy said. “It was really nice and the food was great. I guess being around your dad doesn’t freak me out anymore.” Tommy looked down at his hands. “You should come with me when my Oma has Sunday dinner. It’ll be great. Except wait…are you vegetarian? Because your family is, right?”

“No dumbass, you’ve seen me eat pepperoni pizza. They are vegetarian, though. But they’re also Hindu, and I’m not. I’m agnostic,” he said then, looking over at Tommy for a reaction. “So I’m not into religion, but I’m not as gung-ho about it as you are. They’re okay with that.” Tommy thought about Anoop and his relationship with Megan. I guess they’re cool with a lot of things. Tommy waved when Anoop let him out at Paul’s house.

When he slept that night he dreamed of Colin’s face and the word FAGGOT sprayed over his room, Allen’s, and Adam’s house. He didn’t sleep very fuckin’ well.

Tuesday was the Center and therapy, and Tommy talked to Cassidy a lot about feeling overwhelmed and about recognizing Colin in the group of kids messing with the AIDS outreach building. “It’s fucked up, a month ago I would’ve thought Colin was a friend. He looked up to me. And then I’m gone three weeks and he’s doing this. Who the fuck is he hanging out with now?”

Cassidy shook his head. “You can’t blame yourself for this. You have changed a lot, but it’s not your fault who Colin hangs out with.” Cassidy paused. “The police caught the guys, but let them off with a warning.” Tommy felt his jaw tense, and Cassidy looked angry too. “So, yeah.”

“Yeah,” Tommy said. Well shit, now I’m in the one group of people that the cops hate more than punks. Good for me. He couldn’t believe it. “That kinda shit happen often?” Cassidy laughed, and it didn’t sound very funny. Cassidy got both of them another cup of coffee, Tommy’s just the way he liked it, and then he sat down again.

“There’s a reason the bars have their own security. And hey, at least they showed up. Most of the time, they never show at all.” Cassidy looked at his papers in front of him. “You called Jack too-that was a good idea. Normally the security and some of us would go down there and take care of it, but we’re trying to get the cops to do their goddamn job. As you can see, it doesn’t always work out that well.”

Tommy looked at his feet. “I wish I could just talk to Colin. But I don’t know how. I don’t think I can do anything anymore.” Tommy rubbed his forehead-this was giving him a headache. “I don’t know what to do. I know you said he’s not my responsibility, but…” Tommy leaned back in his chair. “Fuck.”

“Just keep trying to take care of yourself, and let everything else follow with that. Adam’s got his father looking out for him now. And I want to ask, have you seen the doctor again? Because you just went upstairs and fell asleep at Adam’s house. Are you sure that’s just exhaustion?”

Tommy scratched at his jeans, still not looking up. “I had my doctor check me to see if any of the bacteria was still there, and I haven’t heard back. I probably need to call her before she closes for the day.” Tommy stood up. “I’m gonna see you again tomorrow, so can I just go downstairs and call?” Cassidy nodded, smiling a little indulgently. Tommy walked to the door and stopped on his way out. “Oh, and that guy from Sunday night? Cute,” he said before he ran out of there. He could hear Cassidy’s incredulous laughter following him down the stairs.

After about five minutes of waiting, Dr. Richardson got on the phone. “Hi Tommy, well, we didn’t find anything. You’re still fatigued, are you running a fever or anything else?” Tommy answered no, and added that he was still not drinking and under a lot of stress with trying to adjust to that. “Okay, but you should have gotten over the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal by now. Why don’t you come in, and we’ll look you over. It might just be stress, like you said. But celluitis is hard to get rid of. See if you can get a ride over, and I’ll make room for you.”

“Thanks,” Tommy said, and hung up the phone. He called the house and got Paul to pick him up and take him. It took about half an hour to get there, but Dr. Richardson still had her practice open. The receptionist looked at him and said “Mr. Ratliff? Come on back. She was waiting for you.” Tommy grinned-that was nice.

Tommy let Dr. Richardson give him a check-up, and she got someone to come take his blood so they could test it. “I’m going to test for bacterial and viral conditions, just a few of the most common ones,” Dr. Richardson said. She asked him again if he had any weird symptoms that could indicate another type of skin infection. Then she made him take his shirt off so she could see for herself. Tommy had to admit he didn’t mind the close attention and nosy concern. At least she asked.

“Well Tommy, you are a little more than just worn out,” she said when she came back with the test results. “You do have a mild level of infection, but nothing that can’t be handled with another round of antibiotics. I’ll write you a prescription. How are you doing with not drinking?”

“It’s okay,” Tommy said easily. “Well, it’s hard, but I’m all right. And I have good friends now.” Tommy didn’t say anything more. I have no idea how you’d react if I said I had a boyfriend, so I’m just not going to. Dr. Richardson wrote out the prescription pad as Tommy looked down.

“Well, that’s good to hear. Is your friend of the family here with you?” She looked at him then, and Tommy didn’t really like the look. “Tommy he’s…you’re okay, aren’t you? You’re safe with him?”

Tommy stared at her for a minute, thinking Is she serious? Then he laughed, one short noise surprised out of him. “Paul’s my best friend’s father. Since my parents don’t care about me, he lets me have the guest room. It’s okay. Don’t worry about that, its fine.” Tommy decided right then, however, that he was never telling her that he was gay, or bi. He was keeping that to himself, because fuck if he knew how she felt about gay people now. Although hating chickenhawks isn’t a bad thing at all, he reminded himself. She’s just trying to look out for you.

 

Dr. Richardson took a deep breath, and smiled at him. “Good. I do worry about you since you told me that your parents weren’t available. And well…it’s late. I guess I’ll just let you go. Is there anything else you need?” Tommy felt a little better, hearing that. I guess she’s okay. I’m still not gonna tell her though.

“Naw, don’t think so. Thanks for letting me in late.” Tommy ran a hand through is longer hair, and grabbed a jacket-not his leather one, but one from Paul's closet. It didn’t really fit him or look like something he'd wear, but it was warm. He waved at the receptionist on the way out. She just nodded, busy with trying to get done and go home. Tommy didn’t blame her, and he just walked outside to where Paul already had the car out front.

“Really?” Paul was frowning a little when Tommy told him what she’d said. “Huh. I’m a little insulted, but at the same time I’m glad she cares enough to ask about you. It’s just kind of sad that she felt she had to.” Paul drove them towards the house. “Hey, Margret’s leaving for her conference tonight. So it’s just going to be the three of us. Do you want to go out for dinner? We can go to the co-opt restaurant near the Points.”

Tommy wondered if the location would give him any trouble, but he said “Yeah, let’s go out.” Paul smiled, and Tommy smiled too. Tommy really wanted to-his social interaction was now mostly school and the Center, and Adam. He was actually really happy about going out to dinner. Tommy, your social life is pathetic now, said a voice in his head that sounded a lot like Brent. Tommy ignored that and walked ahead of Paul to the house and opened the door. “So Margret’s not coming with us?”

“No,” Margret said, standing right in front of him with her bags packed. She had an arm around Lisa, and Tommy smiled-they looked like they actually got along. She took two quick strides across the room to kiss Paul goodbye, then she moved over to where Tommy was. Tommy looked down when she ruffled his hair. “Take care of yourself, and don’t worry so much. I’ll be back in a week. You guys go and have fun.” Then she was out, with her luggage trailing behind her. Tommy waved. I bet I’ll miss her more than I think I will.

When Tommy called Adam that night, he didn’t talk much about himself at all, and instead just listened. Adam’s voice filled up the doubtful and worried parts of him, as he told Tommy about how he and his dad were trying to work together more on helping with his eating. Tommy told him about the infection and Adam made him swear to take his antibiotics “Or I’ll fucking feed them too you, you stubborn idiot,” he said, sounding like Lisa.Tommy laughed when he heard Leila berate him for talking to Tommy like that. “See? Now she likes you better than me,” Adam said, and Tommy laughed, but it got stuck in his throat.

What the fuck? Nobody liked him better than Adam, especially someone’s mom. Oh well, it was just a joke. They hung up a little too early, and then Tommy went to bed. He had a dream where he was drinking a gallon of Jack Daniels that seemed to have no bottom. He woke up shivering. He was right, the house did seem a lot lonelier without Margret.

The next day, he was back at the Center for more therapy, but he kept thinking about Adam-it was his day to see his therapist. He talked to Cassidy about what happened and Cassidy didn’t look surprised. “A lot of doctors who see teens are on the lookout for kids being exploited. You’ve been lucky that you have had good friends and places to stay. Also…”

“Money isn’t a factor, yeah.” Tommy never liked to talk about that. “And I’ve got other places I could stay. I was…you know I wanted to leave town when my money came in. But I can’t do that now.”

“You won’t leave Adam.” Tommy shook his head. No, I won’t. I won’t leave a lot of people, but especially not him. “And you want to stay, I think.” Tommy nodded at that. “So that’s good, you’re not running away from people who care about you. That’s a big thing for you.”

“I guess so,” Tommy shrugged. “But it’s stupid-I mean, it shouldn’t be a big thing. I hate being alone, but…” he couldn’t articulate how hard it was for him to trust, right then. “I don’t know, let’s talk about something else.” He didn’t want to talk about how staying in town was hard because so many things reminded him of his parents.

“Sure,” Cassidy said. “Let’s talk about your co-dependency issues.” Tommy groaned and laughed.

When Tommy got out of Cassidy’s office, Jack was downstairs. “Hey kid, your boyfriend called a few minutes ago. He said he was coming to pick you up.” Tommy had just enough time to think Oh fuck, therapy must have gone bad before Jack spoke up again, quickly. “Hey. He sounded fine. He just said he wanted to see you. That was about ten minutes ago, so he should be here”-and then a car horn sounded from just outside.

“Bye!” Tommy hoisted his backpack and ran toward the door, Jack shaking his head. Tommy saw Adam’s car right out front and got in quickly, throwing his backpack in the back seat. “Hey, you’re not coming in? Wait, how are you?” Tommy looked at him, and Adam looked…tired.

“I’m okay, really. But I just had a long therapy session, and I have an assignment from it. So I’m kidnapping you for the next few hours. Okay?” Adam smiled then, but it looked worried around the edges. Tommy didn’t even want to ask what assignment, but instead started going through Adam’s tapes until he found Prince and shoved it in. “Thanks,” Adam said. “I should’ve thought to put that in.”

You must be freaked if you forgot about it,Tommy thought as they drove. After a few minutes, they drove into a supermarket parking lot and Tommy was staring at the Von’s sign on the front of the building. “Wait, is your homework going fucking grocery shopping? Isn’t that a little soon?” Tommy couldn’t figure it out-he’d only been in therapy for two fucking weeks.

“Probably.” Tommy looked over at Adam was hunched in his seat. “She told me to buy groceries for the next few days, and to get stuff I wouldn’t binge on. She wants to see if I can make good choices.” Adam sighed. “The thing is, my house is full-I don’t buy the groceries at my house. Mom’s asked me to help plan meals more, but it just makes me nervous.” Adam turned off the car and got out, waiting by his side of the car for Tommy.

“So, why are we here? If it’s not for your house…” Tommy scrambled out, not sure what they were fuckin’ up to. “Are you just going to donate it, or what?” Adam grabbed a cart and looked at him, smiling just a little. And again, I’m having serious doubts about your therapist.

“Sort of, I thought I would buy stuff for Allen’s apartment. We spend a lot of time there, and it’s empty, right?” Tommy nodded. “So, I’ll buy for there, and that way I won’t wind up going home hungry on Fridays again. I told mom and dad about it, they thought it made sense.” Adam went through the first aisle, and looked carefully at the boxes before getting a box of Wheat Thins. “These aren’t so bad.” He put the box in the cart. “I’m supposed to get good stuff, but stuff I’d actually eat.” Adam shrugged, looking at the crackers.

“You eat good stuff sometimes, your mom can cook,” Tommy said. “And stocking up Allen’s is a good idea. So that means we’re going there, right? It’s a school night.” Tommy watched as Adam picked up a box of cookies, then sat them down, backing up a step. “Hey, it’s okay.”

“I got permission to stay a little while. But not too late,” Adam said. “I guess it’s a reward for getting through therapy. Um, let’s get some other stuff.” Adam moved away from the cookies and started looking at the soups. Tommy followed, watching Adam carefully pick through the supermarket selection. Adam hasn’t asked me about my therapy or my day, Tommy thought, and then he shook his head a little. It was fine, he was just distracted. It didn’t matter.

It took a long time for Adam to shop for the small amount of food that Allen’s apartment could hold. Adam carefully read every label, and Tommy just stood there, getting hungry himself from waiting. After a while he wandered off to the magazine section. He was flipping through the latest issue of Thrasher when Adam came around the corner. “Hey, are you bored? I’m sorry, I’m almost done.” Tommy shrugged. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Tommy said, but it didn’t sound right. “I’m okay, keep getting whatever you want to.” Adam looked at him for a moment, obviously about to say something else, and Tommy looked around to distract him. “Hey,you forgot to get honey for our tea.”

“Oh yeah,” Adam said, and then he was back to wheeling the cart towards the honey aisle. Tommy trailed behind him, magazine in hand. He might buy it, there were some good reviews in that issue. By they time they got to the checkout counter, a whole hour had passed. Tommy tried to pay for it, but Adam wouldn’t let him. “Dad gave me money, it’s okay.” Tommy nodded and shoved the copy of Thrasher in with the Weekly World News, making the cashier glare at him.

When they got to Allen’s, it only took them a few minutes to stock up the pantry and the mini-fridge. Adam had shopped pretty well, even though there wasn’t much room to store stuff. Tommy put the crackers and tea bags on the shelf. “So…does she have a plan for you yet?” I don’t know how many chances I’m going to give her if she doesn’t. Then Tommy thought about him and Cassidy, and how there wasn’t much of a plan either, they just went for it. But that’s different, he tried to argue in his head.

Adam shook his head. “Not really, she looked over the logs I made of what I ate, and she gave me some general guidelines. But she doesn’t think a strict plan will work for me, you know? She thinks I’ll just rebel and binge if we take it too far.” He put up a can of tomato soup. The bag of rice went next to it.

Tommy just nodded. Fair enough, but I’m still not sure she knows what the hell she’s doing. “So you wanna eat dinner here?” He said, smiling a little. “Or are you going to eat at home?” Even though he knew that Adam was going to do, he still shivered when Adam’s body pressed against him, holding him back to front.

Adam answered by kissing down his neck, one hand rubbing over Tommy’s chest through his shirt. Tommy could feel the minute his brain shut off, when he no longer cared about what else had happened that week, the nightmares, none of it. He just leaned back into Adam’s arms and relaxed.

Adam walked him back to the mattress and laid him down, then started to untie one of his boot laces. Tommy hazily remembered how frantic Adam had been last week after his therapy, and raised his head to try to read Adam’s expression. “Adam, hey.” Adam didn’t look up, but just yanked off one boot and then started on the other. “Adam,” he said again, raising up on one elbow to look at him.

“What?” Adam said, and there was that look, kind of desperate and needy. Adam looked just like he did last week, when he only wanted to get Tommy off without even getting undressed. Tommy stared at him until Adam blushed. “What? Don’t you want to? I just…I need you.” Tommy looked at him and his chest ached from the thought of denying Adam what he needed. Instead, he held a hand out. Adam looked at Tommy’s outstretched hand and took it, letting Tommy pull him onto the bed so they were lying together. “What did I do wrong?” Adam said.

“I just want…” Tommy trailed off, because he wasn’t sure what he wanted. “I’m scared,” he said. “And I just wanted to slow down.” That wasn’t everything, but it was a start. He took a deep breath. “I need for things to be slower now, I think.” He brushed Adam’s hair back. “You look amazing, by the way.”

“I-thanks-wait, did I scare you? Was I going too fast? I thought you liked that, when I took over. Shit, I’m sorry.” Adam looked a little freaked out, and Tommy stroked over his shoulder and arm. “I wouldn’t hurt you.” Tommy shook his head-he hadn’t thought Adam was going to hurt him.

“I’m just...” Tommy curled into Adam’s space, ducking his head into his neck. “Could you?” Hold me. Hold me for a while. Yes, I’m a fucking girl when I’m with you. Tommy decided he didn’t really care, he needed this so badly right now.

Adam held him gently, like he was afraid Tommy would break. They didn’t say anything for a while and Tommy just laid there, Adam’s arms around him. After a few minutes, Adam said “What’s wrong? Just tell me. You got so quiet in the store.”

“I don’t know,” Tommy said, which was of course a total fuckin’ lie. “I’m tired. I’m trying so hard, and bad shit keeps happening.” Tommy sighed. “I kinda want to disappear again, sometimes. But I can’t, I’d miss you, I’d miss everyone.”

Adam pulled back a little and tipped Tommy’s chin up so he could look Adam in the eyes. “What? Why? You don’t-I’m the one who wanted to run away! Why are you doing this?” Tommy shook his head, and then squeezed Adam’s shoulder trying to reassure him.

“I’m not going to, I couldn’t.” Tommy sighed. “And I can never go back anyway, even if I wanted to.” Adam stared at Tommy, and he could see Adam didn’t get it. Tommy took a deep breath. “Something scared the shit out of me at the Center Sunday night,” he said. He didn’t look up when he told Adam about Colin spray painting “faggots” on the Outreach building. He even tried not to think about it while he was talking, but that didn’t work so well. “I couldn’t believe it,” Tommy finished. “I thought he was a nice kid.”

Adam didn’t say anything at first, but then he pulled Tommy in and kissed him. Tommy opened to it, pressing his body closer and feeling relieved that Adam wasn’t mad for him not saying anything sooner. They kissed for a long minute, Adam’s hands rubbing over his back and moving up to touch the soft hair at his neck. “I love you,” he said when he pulled away. “I’m sorry. I make everything about me. I’m so sorry.”

Tommy kissed his cheek. He wanted to say it was okay, but that wasn’t true, so he just said “I understand”, because he did. He felt the same way, coming out of therapy sometimes. “I know it’s hard for you to talk about your body. It’s hard for me to talk about my parents.”

“Did you? With Cassidy today, I mean?” Adam looked down at him and Tommy kissed him, just on the lower lip. Tommy nodded, not wanting to talk about it again. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say about that. So I never say anything.” Adam whispered the last part, and Tommy leaned against him.

“You listened to me when I told you. That went a long fucking way.” Tommy put his face against Adam’s chest, and Adam went back to stroking his back. After a few seconds Tommy said “I have nightmares. I keep seeing Colin, I dream that I might start drinking again. I dream that I can’t take care of you and that something will happen.”

“I have that nightmare too,” Adam said, and Tommy closed his eyes. He felt kind of shitty for being glad that Adam had nightmares, but know at least he knew that Adam did worry about him. “Nights are hard.” Tommy nodded, feeling Adam’s heart beat.

“They sure fuckin’ are. You know, sometimes I sleep in with Lisa. And I hang out in her room a lot. It makes things a little bit better.” Adam laughs at that, and Tommy can hear it rumbling up from Adam’s chest.

“Do you think she’d let me stay with her sometime too?” Adam sat up a little then, pulling Tommy in his arms again, kissing his cheek. “We don’t have to have sex right now. And anyway, I should probably get home soon.” Adam ran a hand through Tommy’s hair, then tipped his face up for a kiss. Tommy brushed his tongue against Adam’s, and then pulled back.

“I love it when we’re together, but yeah. I guess we can wait.” Tommy was about half hard, and he could tell Adam was the same. They might have some time to fool around, later. Tommy looked up at Adam and smiled. “So are you eating here or what?” Adam laughed, his eyes crinkling up at the corners.

“I’ll eat here, we can fix dinner.” Tommy slid off the mattress first and Adam joined him by the two burner stove. When Tommy was getting the spaghetti out and Adam was reaching for the teabags, Tommy thought Maybe one day we’ll have a place that’s really ours.

He didn’t say it out loud, but it didn’t scare him either.

Chapter Text

When Tommy got to school Friday Kris was waiting for him in the parking lot. “Hey, you ready for tonight?” Tommy frowned because he knew about rehearsal already. Did Kris think he’d forgotten about it? He must have looked confused, because Kris then said “Oh! I forgot to tell you, it’s the last official rehearsal, so we’re all going to Alisan’s after. We’re gonna go over it a little more and hang out. It’s a tradition. Didn’t Adam tell you?”

Tommy waved goodbye to Lisa, who was heading to her first class across campus. “No, he didn’t say a word about it. But, you know, we’ve been kinda distracted.” The look on Kris’s face was both horrified and guilty, and Tommy scrambled to reassure his ass before he got all sympathetic. “No, it’s okay. It sounds like fun.” Tommy knew that Friday was the night that he and Adam played around at Allen’s the most often, but he decided to spare Kris that detail. He'd have to traumatize the fucker later, he had to get to class.

School was uneventful, except he got a better grade in calculus than he expected. Other than that, it was the same-he kept his fuckin’ head down and worked. He was doing better in school, but a lot of that was just because it distracted him from his problems for a while, and from Adam’s. And also, because you’re not fuckin’ getting kicked out, he thought. You need to be here.

Tommy was still thinking about that when he got out of his last class and waved to Michael. He waved back, but Michael was busy talking to a girl who wasn’t Lisa. Tommy smiled-she looked like a better chance of getting that nice little Christian meathead a date. Lisa was at her car, smiling and sharing a cigarette with Brad. Tommy waved and Lisa handed him the cig as she came over for a hug.

“Hey honey, are you ready? Are you coming straight home today, or going to Adam’s?” Tommy shrugged, he didn’t really know. Adam was over with Kris and Anoop, so Tommy went over. They were talking about the musical, but Adam smiled when he came over.

“Hey,” Tommy said, and Kris and Anoop moved over to say hi to Lisa for a minute. “Um, I was just wondering if I was coming over before we go to rehearsal or not.” Just because he had nearly every other time didn’t mean today was etched in stone, after all.

Adam looked down at his feet, then back up at Tommy. I guess he doesn’t want to tonight. Tommy had just thought it when Adam said “Um, can I come with you and Lisa instead? I can call mom and let her know. I think it’ll be fun, we can watch movies in Lisa’s room or something. I always get nervous this close to a production.”

“Oh. Okay. Fuck yeah, let me tell Lisa.” Tommy walked Adam over to the car, and he saw that Michael had joined them. He was talking to Lisa, but he didn’t appear to be asking her out. When Tommy got over there, Michael patted him hard enough on the shoulder to make his bones rattle and left. He raised an eyebrow at Lisa. “So what was that? Oh, and Adam’s coming home with us.”

Lisa shook her head. “Just small talk, let’s go.” Tommy looked at Adam, but he knew better to push Lisa on something she didn’t feel like talking about. She kissed Brad on the cheek and got in the car. “Adam can pick the music if he wants to.” She laughed when Tommy protested that he didn’t get to pick it this time, and she laughed harder when he asked for Prince. They wound up listening to a new band called Concrete Blonde as Lisa sped out of the parking lot. Adam nodded his head to it absently as Lisa drove them, flipping through a textbook, not even freaked out by Lisa’s driving any more.

When they got home, it turned out Adam really wanted to just get out of his house. When he called his mother to say where he was, he wasn’t on the phone long and he just shook his head when Tommy asked him about it. “Hey, it’s okay though, right?” Adam looked at him and nodded.

“It’s okay. I’m just-tired, of things.” Adam didn’t say anything else, but Tommy was about to ask him if he was having problems with his dad again. He didn’t get a chance, because Lisa came in and kissed Adam’s cheek, holding out a VHS tape.

“Hey Adam, wanna watch a movie?”

They wound up watching Pink Flamingos on Lisa’s TV. Adam had never seen a John Waters film before, and he howled all the way through it, one hand half over his eyes. “Oh my god, this is so fucked up. ‘I sentence you to death for assholism’. This is crazy!” Tommy waited for the next scene, watching Adam, and yeah-he almost turned purple from laughing. “Oh my god, no way! They didn’t really do that, did they?” Tommy laughed at Adam’s horrified face when Divine ate the dog shit on camera.

Lisa grinned and nodded. “They really did that, you couldn’t fake it.”

Adam stared at the movie as the credits rolled. “Wow, I feel a lot better about performing my song now. That’s nothing compared to this.” Tommy looked over at Adam and then cracked the fuck up. This, this was why he loved Adam so much-he could be naïve, but he wasn’t scared of freaky stuff-he actually loved it.

“I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. Holy shit.” Tommy was still laughing, glad that Adam had enjoyed it. “John Waters is the best director. Well, he’s the most awesome one anyway.” Lisa nodded and left the room, saying something about getting a smoke. Tommy raised an eyebrow. “I think she’s giving us some alone time.”

“Good,” Adam said right before he tipped Tommy’s face up for a kiss. Tommy pressed into it, he’d missed the way Adam kissed him. After they had dinner at Allen’s, they just kissed a little bit more and Adam had driven him home. Tommy hated to go even a day without Adam touching him, and from the way Adam was biting at his mouth, he figured Adam felt the same way.

Adam laid him down on the floor, pressing his body against Tommy’s as they kissed more. Tommy felt like he’d gone boneless into the carpet as Adam touched him so gently, kissing him and stroking Tommy’s neck and chest. After a few long minutes, Adam pulled away. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I should eat something before we leave.”

Wait, are you serious? Food before sex, huh? Tommy swallowed hard and said “Okay. Get something and we’ll eat in my room.” He stood up on shaky legs and staggered his way down the hall, collapsing on his bed. After a few minutes, Adam came in with a small bowl of soup and a Diet Coke. Tommy rolled over and looked up at a guilty Adam. “Hey. It’s okay, go ahead.” Tommy bit his lip as Adam sat across the room with his tiny meal.

Adam ate his little bowl of soup fast, and Tommy just watched him. Normally he’d be talking to Adam to distract him-just small talk and shit. But right then, he was too horny to be much good as an eating cheerleader. When Adam was done, he pulled his shoes off and got on the bed with Tommy, curling around him. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he said automatically, and relaxed at the feeling of Adam holding him. He tipped his face up for a kiss, and pretty soon it was like they hadn’t stopped. Tommy kissed Adam again and again, and grunted when Adam slid a hand down his pants. “Fuck yeah,” he panted.

“I wish we had time to do it right,” Adam said, “But we can jerk each other off. Or I can blow you.” Adam nuzzled his neck, and then bit lightly over his pulse. Tommy jerked his hips up then. “That looks so good,” Adam said, and he bit at Tommy’s neck again, hand still on his dick. Adam sped his hand up, and it only took a couple of minutes for Tommy to come in his pants, Adam panting in his ear.

When Tommy caught his breath, he could feel Adam’s hard dick against his thigh. He was just reaching for it when he heard Lisa’s boots coming down the hall. Adam looked at him and Tommy could see how turned on he was. But Adam pushed himself up. “We should go, Lisa sounds like she’s ready to take us. Um, I guess you change pants and I’ll take care of this.”

“Don’t,” he said, but it was too late. Adam had slid off him and gotten up, flushed and hard. He went to the bathroom. Tommy curled over on his side as he heard Adam running the water in the bathroom. A couple of minutes later he was back, hard on gone and with kind of a guilty look on his face. Tommy just hugged him, and said “I’ll clean myself up”. He went in and rubbed off with a wet cloth, and when he got back, Adam had a new pair of jeans and shorts picked out for him. “Thanks.”

“Here you go. I like these jeans on you,” Adam said quietly. Tommy grinned and went in for a kiss. He had just touched Adams mouth with his when Lisa knocked on the door. “Shit,” Adam said. “We’ve gotta go, and we have Alisan’s party tonight. But…we can go to Allen’s later.”

That cheered Tommy up enough for him to be smiling a little when he met Adam and Lisa by the door.

Rehearsal that night had a different energy to it-it was buzzing, nervous. Tommy had felt that before at big shows where one of his band would be opening for someone awesome, and he felt that now. Brad was excited and beaming at everyone. Anoop kept doing vocal exercises and tried to remember his marks. Megan just bounced.

The only person who wasn’t affected seemed to be Paula, who looked nearly asleep in her chair. Tommy nudged Adam, jerking his head in her direction. “Yeah,” Adam said, sighing. “Miss Abdul kind of checks out by the last rehearsals. So we’ll have to coach each other.” Tommy shrugged-it was no big deal, they could do it.

Adam was right-everyone worked together hard to get their parts right. They gave advice and helped each other while Paula graded papers and basically ignored them. Tommy thought this was a pretty ass-backwards way to run a theater class-she could’ve been lax when they were just starting. But maybe Adam was right and this was how she responded to pressure. Not the best fucking way I ever saw, but I have no room to judge, he thought.

The rehearsal lasted extra long, with the dancers and Tommy doing their bits the most. They didn’t have to worry about overstretching vocal chords, so they just kept at it. At the end, the singers did their thing, Adam going last. Tommy thought then that the performance was going to be his last chance to hear Adam sing “Secret Love”, and the thought made him irrationally sad. Adam will sing for you, anything you asked him to. He shook that thought off and applauded when Adam was done.

“You’re amazing,” Tommy said as they left. “You never miss on that song.” Adam looked at him and did kind of a double take, then blushed.

“I guess, I don’t know. I love to sing and I work really hard at it.” Tommy found himself wishing Adam didn’t brush it off, but what the hell. He never liked bragging about his guitars either. “Hey, are you good with going to Alisan’s?” Tommy looked over at Adam for a minute, questioning, but then Alisan yelled for them and they got in her car before he could ask.

Tommy had never been to Alisan’s house before, and it was pretty big. It wasn’t as big as the mausoleum his parents owned, but it was pretty fucking sizable. “Nice place, Ali. What does your dad do?” He thought maybe he was being too much of a smart ass, but everyone around him laughed.

“He used to be a TV writer, and he wrote a couple of screenplays too. One of them even got made, but it wasn’t released. The TV show he wrote was awful. Now he’s a songwriter-he likes it more and it pays better.”

Brad nodded. “Yes, that was a terrible show. Now, who was the actress who played the youngest daughter again?” He winked at her and everyone except Megan laughed. Tommy looked over and she was staring at the ground, Anoop’s hand on her shoulder. That made him feel bad-Megan knew Alisan, they liked each other. But it was still hard for her that Alisan had a nice house. It might take a while for her to be totally okay with you, he thought.

“Yeah, that was me. I was like, seven, and I was on a TV set all the time. It was weird. I’ve still got the money I made off that show in a fund. It’ll help pay for college or whatever when I’m eighteen.” Alisan got the keys out and went to open the door. “My dad decided that it was too much pressure to put on a kid, and we moved here.”

“I’m glad he did, or we wouldn’t have met you,” Adam said as they walked in. The house looked nice on the inside too-it wasn’t showy or overly decorated, it was just comfortable. The living room was spacious and full of comfy couches with enough room for them all, but Alisan just said “Okay Kris, grab the Cokes and stuff and we’ll go downstairs.” Tommy grabbed a few two liters and thought The basement, where all kids live. He wondered why-there didn’t seem to be anyone else home.

“Hey, your parent’s aren’t here right? So why downstairs?” He nudged Alisan a little, and she looked surprised for a minute. Then she laughed.

“We’ve got a mic set up here! There’s a little sound system and stuff, my dad uses it to write songs, and they wanted me to be able to play at home too. It’s pretty cool, this way the vocalists can practice or we can just play around. Oh god, you didn’t bring your guitar did you?” Tommy slapped his hand on his forehead and Alisan patted his shoulder. “We can borrow one of my dad’s, don’t worry.”

Tommy nodded and went down to the basement where everyone was setting up. He looked around and saw Megan and Anoop in a corner, giggling. Megan seemed to be getting over her jealousy, which was good. Tommy didn’t like seeing her sad, especially over something nobody could help.

That thought made him think about Adam, and if he’d eaten enough that night. He found him over in the corner talking to Kris and Brad, and stood by him. Adam automatically put an arm around his shoulder, and Tommy smiled. We don’t have to hide in front of our friends. That’s…pretty awesome. Then he looked at Brad, guilty, but Brad didn’t seem to be taking much notice. He just kept talking about the show, then he sat down next to Taylor. Tommy blinked-he didn’t come to these much.

The party started off like most of them, with Anoop calling for pizza and a few people singing. Alisan gave Tommy a very nice Fender for him to play, and he played along to whatever people were singing. He say Kris smile at him. “Learning more songs?” Tommy shrugged.

“Yeah, I guess so. It’s the only time I get to play anymore, backing up you guys or at the gay center.”

“Wow, you go there a lot?” That was Megan, sitting in the corner and sipping a Coke. “I hear people get bashed there.” Tommy had to bite his lip for a minute, because Megan meant well. She actually looked concerned. But it reminded him of the vandalism and Colin and he wished she hadn’t said anything.

“There’s some shit that happens, but the bars have security and stuff. Nobody’s messed with me. It’s a lot less than when I was at all-ages shows.” Tommy ran a hand through his hair. “But the first time I came in, Jack-he volunteers there-thought I was gonna cause trouble. “ Tommy could see Megan shake her head in sympathy, as if she’d never pre-judged him. Tommy didn’t call her on it. “I like going there, it’s nice.”

“Do you see your old friends anymore?” Kris said from his place on the arm of the chair that Brad was sitting in. Tommy shook his head. “Don’t you miss them?” Tommy thought about Brent and Mutt.

“Yeah, a few,” he said, and then Alisan got up to sing and that put an end to uncomfortable questions. He loved hearing her sing-he liked hearing everybody, really. He was glad that he came. Adam sat on the floor in front of the couch and let his head rest against Tommy’s knee. Tommy idly scratched at his hair while he listened to Alisan sing. It’s nice here, but I hope we go to Allen’s soon, he thought.

Everything was going pretty well until about an hour in, when the smell hit Tommy first. Whiskey. Jack Daniels, someone found the liquor cabinet, fuck! Tommy tried to get Adam’s attention, but he was too involved talking to Kris. Tommy nudged his arm again but Adam wasn’t paying attention. He could see it now, a little group in the back of the room led by Alisan. Just smelling it made him feel like his skin was prickling all over. Tommy didn’t wait for Adam to figure it out and just got his ass upstairs. He had to get away from it.

He wandered around the house until he found a bathroom, and splashed water on his face to distract him. I’m a fucking idiot, he thought. Party with a bunch of kids and no adults-of fucking course. I don’t know what I was thinking. Tommy grabbed a Dixie cup from a dispenser and took his antibiotics, hands shaking. I gotta go back and find Adam. I need for us to leave, now. We can go to Allen’s. Everything will be fine there. Tommy had no problem with Eber having a beer around him, but he couldn’t deal with this shit-if theater geeks were anything like other performers, everyone was going to be shit-faced soon.

Tommy wandered around the house for a minute, thinking about what Adam had said before they came. Are you good with going to Alisan’s-Tommy hadn’t thought a fucking thing about it. But fuck, maybe that meant Adam knew, and he didn’t think it was a big deal. Motherfucker, yes it is, Tommy thought, breathing hard. He fought the panic swelling into his chest back down. I’ll find Adam. I’ll find him and we can go. He’ll understand when I tell him.

As he made his way back through the horribly huge maze of a house (and no fucking way did Alisan’s dad make this kind of cash as a tv and song writer, he must have been dealing coke on the side) he came through a room with the lights off and nearly ran right into a couple making out. “Sorry-oh.” Tommy stood there and blinked. Brad was there with Taylor, and Taylor’s mouth was swollen and glossy from kisses. “Um, yeah, sorry.”

Brad raised an eyebrow at him. “Privacy please, and don’t tell anyone if you can help it.” Taylor nodded, still dazed looking. Tommy felt himself nod back, and tried to smile. Really, he would be very happy with him if he wasn’t so desperate right now. Brad must have seen it because he narrowed his eyes. “Hey, are you all right?”

Tommy shook his head as he stumbled back downstairs, and now the smell was stronger-Jack Daniels, light piss beer, some cheap tequila-he could smell all of it. As he hit the end of the stairs, Anoop appeared by his side, without a drink and a really worried look on his face. “Tommy? Shit, you probably shouldn’t be down here-“

“I gotta find Adam,” Tommy says. “We need to go, now.” Tommy was aware of Anoop shadowing him as he wandered through the crowd (and were there this many people before? Holy shit.), looking for his boyfriend. “Adam?” He said. “Adam, can we go outside?” He looked around and saw Adam.

Alisan was handing him a beer, and he was reaching for it. When he turned to look at Tommy, he fumbled and the beer spilled on the floor. Tommy could smell it and a crazy image went through his mind of getting on his knees and licking it up. Then his stomach twisted and he ran back up the stairs, trying to reach the bathroom.

He made it as far as the dining room before he puked on the floor. As he wiped his mouth and tried to blink the tears out of his eyes, he heard a soft “Oh my god,” behind him. He turned slowly, knowing whose voice it was. Adam was standing there, tears in his eyes. “Tommy. Tommy I’m sorry. I was stupid, I wasn’t thinking-“ He reached for Tommy and Tommy stepped the fuck back, almost slipping in his puddle of recycled Coke.

“No, you weren’t thinking. Adam, how could you?” Tommy could feel the crowd gathering more than he could see them. He just looked straight at Adam as the anger coursing through him made him shake. “I help you, I always try to help you, and you don’t care, you don’t ask me how I’m doing, you didn’t tell me anyone would be drinking-I’ve only been stopped a month! I was fucked up for two years! “ He had to stop then, because the anger inside him was wild, and he was afraid he’d hurt Adam. He didn’t trust himself not to hit someone right now.

Just then, someone touched his arm and he recoiled, hands going into fists automatically. He breathed out when he saw it was Anoop, and relaxed his hands. When Anoop put an arm around him, helping him hold himself up, he was grateful. “I want to go home,” he said, and Adam opened his mouth, probably to apologize again or offer a ride, and Tommy shook his head. “No. I just want to leave.”

Megan stepped out of the crowd then. “Okay,” she said quietly. “Me and Anoop will take you. I’m going to get my purse.” She looked over at him. “Sorry,” she said, and Tommy had no fucking idea why she was apologizing, but he just let Anoop lead him out.

The front porch was cool and quiet, and he got a cigarette out, taking a drag and then handing it to Anoop, who shook his head. “You need it more than me.” Anoop looked straight ahead. “I’m really sorry. I had no idea that other people drinking bothered you so much. I know you asked about it at Megan’s party, but I still..I didn’t know.”

“It’s about a little more than that, but yeah. The smell drives me crazy sometimes.” Tommy wiped at his eyes. Adam hadn’t come out to see how he was doing, but he could hear him inside. Adam was crying, and it made Tommy want to go in, to apologize, to lie about how much it hurt, to do whatever it took so Adam wouldn’t be in pain.

Then Megan came out, purse in hand. Anoop and Tommy stood up, and they all left the party.

The drive was really quiet. Tommy sat up front with Anoop, Megan was in the back. After about five minutes, Megan spoke first. “Adam doesn’t really drink that much. Maybe you should be mad at Alisan. She was talking him into having one since he didn’t drive.” Tommy shook his head, and Anoop looked back at her.

“Meg, I think Tommy’s more upset that Adam didn’t think to tell him there was going to be an open bar in the first place. He’s never been to Alisan’s house, only yours. And nobody told him.” Tommy kept quiet, letting Anoop speak for him for now. “I mean, we fucked up, we all did.”

“There’s more to it than that,” Tommy said suddenly. “I just…I don’t want to get into our shit. I don’t. But I take care of Adam a lot, and he just…”

“You said he doesn’t ask how you’re doing,” Megan said. When Tommy looked back, he could see that she was crying a little and had smeared her eye makeup. “And you’re trying to be sober.” He felt Megan’s tentative, tiny little hand land on his shoulder and squeeze. He didn’t try to stop her or act like he didn’t need the comfort.

“I am sober,” Tommy said then, as they turned the corner to Paul’s house. I am sober, I’m going to be sober even when we fight. I can do this. Fuck, I hope so. “Thanks for the ride. And tell Adam…” Tommy’s voice broke for a second. “Tell him to call me?”

He ran for the door before he could say anything else. When he reached his room, he thought about Adam kissing him and he couldn’t go in. He walked, numb, to Lisa’s room. She wasn’t there, so he just stripped to his underwear and got in her bed. He stared at the numbers on her clock radio until the phone rang. He picked it up, knowing who it was going to be. “Adam?”

“Baby?” Tommy bit his lip-Adam had to call him that, had to make him remember how much he loved him. “Tommy, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have taken it, I should have told you-I thought you knew.”

“I didn’t know. I should have guessed. But, you should have told me anyway. And I can’t believe you did that.” Tommy started to get madder thinking about it. “You didn’t even talk to me when we were there! You didn’t go upstairs with me when I smelled the booze, because you were talking to Kris, you didn’t even know-I don’t understand. Why?” Tommy could feel his head throb with his heartbeat as he listened to Adam cry on the phone. He could feel the wetness on his face, he couldn’t’ pay attention to that now.

“I don’t know,” Adam said. “You told me you needed more from me, and I want to, but I fucked it up so bad.” Adam sniffled again. “Are we breaking up?” Tommy was silent for a minute, because that was it, wasn’t it? Was he going to forgive Adam for this? He’s changing too. You’re changing faster, but he’s changing too. Don’t give up, not yet.

“No,” Tommy said. “But I’m mad. I’m really mad and I feel like you don’t understand me, and I’ll have to see you tomorrow or something. I’ll come by your house, or we can see Cassidy, or whatever you want to do. But we have to figure out what we can do. We can’t just go to Allen’s and fuck this time.”

Adam breathed out a sigh of relief then. “Okay. I will. I’m so sorry.” There was a pause for a minute as Adam caught his breath. “I threw up too.”

“Did you make it to the bathroom?” Adam laughed and Tommy did too, a little. “Okay. I’m really tired. I’m going to sleep. You sleep too, okay? You’ll see me tomorrow.” You’re doing it again, a voice in his head said. He fucked you over and you’re spending your time making sure he’s okay.

“I-okay,” Adam said. “At least call me. If you’re not ready to talk to me in person, call me.” Adam was really quiet then, and Tommy wondered if he was going to binge. Then Tommy wondered if he was going to ransack the house for booze again and quit thinking about Adam for a second.

“Okay, I will. Goodnight.” Tommy was about to hang up, but Adam stopped him.

“I-I love you,” Adam said, like he expected Tommy to hang up in his face. Tommy was quiet for a long minute, and Adam said “Tommy?” Tommy thought about Adam, and what he’d done in front of their friends and how he still didn’t seem to get it. Telling me you love me isn’t going to fix this, baby. I’m sorry but it’s not. Finally he got his voice.

“I love you. I’m going to sleep now. Bye.” Tommy felt cold as he said it, as Adam said goodbye back. He hung up the phone and curled into a ball. When Lisa came in about an hour later, she just shoved her heels and stockings off, took out her hair clips, and climbed in next to him. He put his head on her shoulder and she petted him until he slept.

His dreams that night weren’t about drinking, or Colin, or not being able to help Adam. Instead he saw his parent’s house, the bare white walls stretching up like a cathedral. When he woke up the next morning, he could still feel the barren cold of the house he had lived in.

Chapter Text

When Tommy woke up, Lisa was sitting at the edge of the bed, watching MTV with the sound off. “Hey,” she said. “I got six calls for you while you were asleep. After the third, I just turned the ringer off.” Tommy rubbed at his face and tried to avoid her look. “You don’t want to talk about it, do you?” Tommy pushed the covers off and stood there in his underwear. His head throbbed and he couldn’t decide how to even get started.

“Lisa, can we go out for coffee and doughnuts? I…can’t be here right now.” Just then, he heard the phone in his room ring, and he dropped his head forward.“Fuck, that’s him, isn’t it?” He looked over at Lisa, who raised an eyebrow at him as Madonna danced on the tv behind her.

“It’ll be the fourth time today if it is,” she said. Tommy sighed and picked up Lisa’s phone.

“Hey,” the voice on the other line said, and Tommy nearly dropped the phone. “Tommy, it’s Eber.”

“Hi,” Tommy said. “Mr. Lambert, I…” He was cut off before he could stumble out an apology or anything else he really didn’t mean.

“Tommy, I just want to tell you that Adam’s here. We’re keeping him home today, no dance or voice classes. He’s not being grounded, but we think it’s best if he stays in. Last night was very draining on him.” Eber cleared his throat, and Tommy didn’t dare say anything, but inside his head a little voice said Yeah, keep him home. Don’t let him deal with any responsibilities for his actions. You shoulda made him go to class. He bit his lip as Eber continued talking.“You are allowed to come over if here if you want to try to talk things out. Maybe you can bring Paul or Cassidy with you. But otherwise, maybe you can have him come by or see him Sunday.”

“Okay, sir. I-I just woke up myself,” he said. Tommy sounded like he’d been gargling gravel, and he wondered if he cried in his sleep. “I might have to wait a day to talk to him, but I don’t know. And I’d like it if Adam went to the Center with me to see Cassidy. But...thank you.” There was a long pause and Tommy bit his thumbnail, waiting for a response.

When Eber spoke again, Tommy could hear how tired he was. “That might be best. Adam was up half the night. Tommy…how are you?” Eber said it so carefully that it took Tommy fifteen fucking seconds for him to realize what Eber was asking.

“I’m…okay. I didn’t…I just came home.” Tommy tried to fight down the cravings that were clawing in his guts right then. He didn’t want to talk about this, but he knew Eber had to ask. “How’s Adam? When he called me last night…it didn’t sound so good.” Looking after Adam again, I see. At least you answered a question about yourself first. Tommy frowned, his inner monologue was being a bitch today.

“No kid, it wasn’t,” Eber’s voice was resigned and tired. “He’s in his room. Do you want to talk to him?” Tommy paused for a minute, not knowing what to say, and Eber rushed to fill the silence. “I’m sorry, is it too soon?”

“Well,” Tommy said. “I think I’ll call later. I really need to get some breakfast and maybe go to the Center. But I want to call Adam today, at least.” Tommy sighed. “I’m still mad,” he said, and then froze. I probably shouldn’t have said that shit.

“I don’t blame you kid,” Eber said. “He’s my son and I love him, but you both have a lot to put up with. Now, call back later, tell us if you’re coming over or not. Goodbye, Tommy.” Tommy said goodbye and looked over at Lisa. She had gotten dressed and had her purse in her hands.

“You gonna go to Dunkin’ Donuts in your underwear or what?”

“Okay,” Lisa said when they were at the doughnut place, Tommy curled on himself in a booth, his coffee in front of him. He had his leather jacket on, and it felt wrong, like it had belonged to someone else. “I’ve heard Adam’s version of what the fuck happened last night. Now, what happened on your end?” Tommy swallowed a mouthful of hot coffee and winced at the pain. He was glad it hurt though-it balanced out the noise in his head.

“I couldn’t handle it,” Tommy said quietly, and Lisa nodded. “I can’t be around that shit anymore, and I should have known. I probably did know, but I wasn’t ready. And then I saw Adam reaching for a beer.” Tommy shook his head. “I don’t know what he was thinking.” Tommy grabbed his doughnut and then put it back down. “Fuck. I’m so angry at him. I don’t understand why he thought that was okay.”

Lisa picked at her bear claw-she still had her sunglasses on and was staring into space. Tommy saw a bunch of little kids in Bible School t-shirts staring at him and Lisa. Some of them were pointing and making faces. He glared at one of the adults until they moved the entire two tables over out of their sight range. Good. Run, you little god-fearing brainwashed brats. The clubs will see you in a few years. Then he put his attention back on Lisa.

“I think he didn’t understand what you’ve been trying to tell him,” Lisa started. “I think he hasn’t heard for several reasons. One, you don’t know how to tell him.” Tommy nearly spoke up and Lisa pulled her sunglasses down long enough to glare at him. “Tommy, I’ve seen how you two act. Ever since it became serious you put him way before you. You make sure he eats, you talk to him about his problems, you try to do the things he likes. And at his house-it’s the same thing. He gets supported and taken care of.”

Tommy interrupted then, leaning forward. “But they didn’t even know until two weeks ago. They thought Adam was fine.” Lisa shook her head and tore off another piece of bear claw, popping it in her mouth.

“They’ve never thought that. He’s always been the protected kid. He got bullied by a goddamn police officer, so of course they’ve been watching him. And now that they know, it’s gonna be worse. If they could lock him in a tower until high school was over, they probably would.”

Tommy shook his head. “That’s not true, they put him in local and school theater.” He knew what Lisa meant though. “And fuck, I can’t-I don’t even have parents, not real ones. If they overprotect him, is that bad?” He took another sip of coffee and avoided Lisa’s eyes. “Shit. I don’t know. I don’t know shit about parents.”

“You know mine,” Lisa said quietly. “And you know your Oma. You know good parents when you see them, and Adam’s are pretty good. But they…it would be hard for anyone, I guess.” She took a deep breath. “But this is off the subject. Anyway, Adam’s so involved in his own shit that he can’t always see yours. I think it’s part of having an eating disorder-he thinks the entire world is looking at him. And since he’s onstage a lot, that probably makes it worse.”

“I guess,” Tommy said, picking at his cruller. “But nobody else thought it was a big deal either, except Anoop. And that wasn’t until he saw me. I guess a lot of people don’t understand.” Tommy sighed.

“So, you have to make them understand, especially Adam,” Lisa said, lighting up a cigarette. “I’m glad you don’t seem to want to just let him beg and cry and give you blowjobs until you forgive him, though. It takes a lot for you to stand up for yourself sometimes, kid.” Tommy grinned at her, ignoring the angry glares of a family in a booth across from them.

“I love you, you know that?” he said, just before the manager came to their table.

“Fucking family restaurant, fuck them.” Lisa was still cussing the Dunkin’ Donuts out as she drove him to The Center. “I’m going to tell my mom when she gets home and we’ll probably get free doughnuts for the next six months once she’s done with them.” Tommy just smoked his cigarette, flicking the ash out of the window. “Oh, I should tell you. The other three calls that weren’t Adam were from Anoop, Megan, and Alisan. They all apologized, and I don’t think Anoop and Megan had to.”

“No they didn’t,” Tommy said, looking out the window. “Lisa,” he said suddenly. “Do you think I should buy my own car? I don’t need to bother you to take me everywhere.” Tommy hadn’t given it much thought, but suddenly he was remembering his conversation with Megan, about why he didn’t have one. “Maybe I depend on you too much, like Adam leaning on his family. I don’t know.”

Lisa was quiet for a minute, as she pulled into a parking spot across the street from the Center. “I don’t know honey, will you use it to run away?” Lisa’s voice trembled when she said it and Tommy couldn’t trust himself to speak. He just shook his head. “I know you lean on me, and my family, but we want you to. What’s so bad about it? You had shit parents and I’m glad you trust us. But if you want a car, get one.” She took off her sunglasses and wiped at her eyes. “You can do whatever you want to, Tommy. I don’t think you know that.” She sighed and kissed his cheek. “I’m gonna drop by Allen’s and see how the babies are doing. You call me there later if you want. Dad’s gonna be gone all day-he’s going to do some things before he picks mom up at the airport.”

Tommy hugged her and kissed her cheek. “ I need to go by there, it’s just…” He couldn’t finish the sentence. It reminds me too much of me and Adam. Of Adam going down on me, fingering me-I can’t think about that now.“Okay,” he said instead. “I’ll call you. Love you.” He got out of the car and walked down to the Center, getting nods from some of the guys hanging around outside.

When Tommy came in, Jack came from around the counter to give him a hug. Tommy leaned into it and Jack ruffled his hair. “Always good to see ya, kid. Cassidy’s here, do you want to talk to him?” Tommy nodded and signed in.

Cassidy was in his office, and the second he saw Tommy he stood up. “Hey. Um, Eber called me and let me know you were probably coming, but he didn’t say why.” Good, Tommy thought, as Cassidy continued. “So, did something happen?” Tommy just dropped into the only other chair in Cassidy’s stuffed office and put his head in his hands. “It’s okay, just…start whenever you want.”

“Okay,” Tommy said after a while, and he told Cassidy about the party, and about Adam letting him down. “I got so upset, I’m still mad. I haven’t talked to him since he called last night. I just-I can’t. I can’t. Everything’s always about him, and I don’t get enough from him. And I’ve asked for it, I tried to make him see it. But…it’s not working.” Tommy kept his head down, not looking up. “I don’t know what to do. I haven’t told him it was okay, because it’s not.”

“No it isn't.” Tommy looked up then, surprised at the emphasis. Cassidy looked angry, and Tommy wondered if he had done something wrong before Cassidy leaned back in his seat, eyes closed. “I was afraid of something like this. I thought the relationship was a little one-sided. But I’m still surprised he was this thoughtless. No, don’t you feel at all guilty about being mad. I would be furious.”

“I am,” Tommy said. “I feel like…I do so much for him. I went with him after he had therapy so he could grocery shop, and then…I don’t know what to do. I love him so much.” He looked up at Cassidy, who nodded. “And I know he loves me, I believe that.” Tommy shook his head. “Fuck.”

“I can see both of you, if you like,” Cassidy said after a minute. “We can go to one of the meeting rooms and talk there. I know you want to work things out, and I’m sure Adam does too. But he needs to hear you.” Cassidy got up and poured Tommy a cup of coffee. “For what it’s worth, I think you two can be great for each other. If you want me to, I’ll call him and see if I can get him to come over right now. Are you ready to see him yet?”

Tommy thought about it, and nodded. “Yeah, I can see him with you here. At least for a while, he thought. “I’m a little freaked out about talking to him alone.” Cassidy nodded, and then went to another room to make a call. Tommy took an empty room closest to Cassidy’s office and doodled in his notebook for a while until Cassidy came back. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Cassidy smiled at him, and Tommy tried to smile back. “Hey. You can be upset about this if you want. I know you’re sad, you don’t have to pretend in front of me.” Tommy shrugged and looked down. “You’ve got your leather jacket back on,” Cassidy said after a minute of quiet. Tommy looked down at it and laughed.

“Yeah, I didn’t think about it when I put it on. I feel like I’m wearing a costume when I look at it now.” He fiddled with the chains hanging from the side. Tommy looked over at Cassidy. “I don’t want to go back to who I was before Adam. I mean, even if we…” Tommy trailed off, he couldn’t make himself say it.

“I don’t think you will. A lot of people don’t want you to.” Tommy nodded and then him and Cassidy talked more about how Tommy was feeling as they waited for Adam to show up. Tommy mentioned how shut down he felt when he woke up, and how Lisa had helped him. Cassidy just nodded. “See, you’ve got people on your side.” Just then, they heard someone running up the stairs, the footsteps echoing through the old building, and Tommy knew it was Adam. “It’ll be okay,” Cassidy told him, and Tommy picked his chin up so he wasn’t looking in his lap just as Adam came through the door.

A second later Adam was right there, arms around him and hugging him. It was an awkward angle and Adam was holding him in a way that pressed his jacket chains into his sides, but he hugged back anyway. Adam pulled back far enough to look at him and then started talking. “Tommy I’m sorry. I’m sorry I was up all night and I binged and dad made me stay home but he said I could come over and I’m really sorry…” Tommy sagged in Adam’s arms and didn’t say anything. After a while the words all started to blur together as Adam talked. Tommy didn’t look at him until Adam paused. “Tommy?”

Tommy dropped his eyes. “Can you sit down?” he said, wincing when he heard how cold and bitter his voice sounded. “I’m glad to see you but…just sit with us right now.” Adam sat down, and Tommy looked at the confused expression on his face. Tommy looked over at Cassidy, who nodded at him. “Adam…you didn’t ask me how I was doing.”

Adam’s face went pale, and Tommy found a detached part of himself notice how much Adam’s freckles stood out as Adam stammered. Cassidy interrupted then. “Adam. I think it might be best if you let Tommy talk. He thinks you aren’t hearing him when he tries to tell you what’s bothering him.” Damn right I don’t, Tommy thought, and he took a deep breath, trying to find the words.

“I don’t think you really know what I go through,” Tommy started. “And I don’t know how to tell you. I tried, this week, I wanted you to know how freaked out I was. But I don’t…I don’t understand why you did that. I can handle it if it’s your dad drinking a beer or getting stoned, but just barely. I have to control myself, because it’s your dad, but at a big party…” he stopped and took another breath. “I’m not making any sense.”

Adam reached for Tommy’s hand, but stopped midway when Tommy flinched. “I’m sorry,” Adam said again. “I…go ahead. I’ll be quiet.” Tommy wiped at his eyes and didn’t say anything for a minute. When he looked up, it was at Cassidy. The support that he saw in Cassidy’s eyes helped him.

“It’s like-“ Tommy started. “Remember when I talked to you earlier this week and you said you never asked me about my parents because you couldn’t understand it? So you just never brought it up? It’s the same with me drinking, I think. But it’s more like you forget-you tell me everything that’s happening with your therapy, and then as an afterthought, you ask me. And I let you do it, I let you because…I want to help you. I want you to be okay. I worry about you a lot.” Tommy tried to look at Adam. “I’m so mad at you though.”

Tommy paused, and he could see Adam crying silently. It made him feel like shit, but he wasn’t finished. When Adam didn’t say anything, Tommy picked up again. “It’s like, every day I want to drink, most of the time I have nightmares. Some days are worse than others, but it’s always there. And I know, I understand that it’s worse for you. Because I can just not drink or use, but you have to eat every day. But…it’s still really hard.” Tommy paused, picking at a hole in his jeans. “And…it’s easy for me to worry about you, and just let my shit slide. If I’m thinking about your problems, I don’t have to think about my parents, or anything else. I can just make sure you’re okay. And…I can’t do that anymore. Not all the time.” Tommy looked over at Adam them, at the way he was hunched over, arms wrapped around his body. “I’m sorry.”

“N-no,” Adam said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Adam wiped at his eyes. “I don’t know why, because you’ve been sick and you’ve gone through so much. But I always think that you can handle it, you know?” Tommy looked at him, having no fucking idea what to say to that. When did I ever give you that impression? I’ve been a fucking mess ever since you’ve known me.

Cassidy cleared his throat. “I don’t think Tommy feels that way at all. Can you tell him why you think he’s got a better handle on his problems than you do?”

Adam was quiet for a minute, and when Tommy looked over he could see that Adam was picking at his cuticles, something he’d never seen Adam do. “I just…” Adam trailed off and started again. “Maybe I’ve put Tommy on a pedestal. I still remember the first time I saw him at school, before he knew me. And he’d just stagger down the hall, he wouldn’t look at anyone, and I just thought he was the coolest thing. He acted like he didn’t need anybody, and I thought it was great. I thought he was fearless.” Adam looked over at him. “I guess I still think that sometimes.”

“You know it’s a lie. It always was,” Tommy said next, dropping his eyes back down. “I’m glad that I fooled you, but-you know better now. I can’t do it on my own. I tried, and I fucked it up.” Tommy looked over at him again. “And you thought me being fucked up all the time was cool?” Tommy felt a stab of anger at that, but it was muted because after all, everyone else thought that, including him.

“I thought it was better than being too scared to eat in front of anyone,” Adam whispered, and Tommy leaned closer to him. “I’m dumb,” Adam said then. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I forget.” Tommy let Adam take his hand, but he didn’t squeeze back. “Can I…I want to make it up to you. But you have to tell me because I’m getting it wrong.”

Tommy was quiet for a long minute, trying to think of what to do next. “Spend the day with me,” he said suddenly. Adam looked excited for a minute, but Tommy shook his head. “I told you we can’t fix this by going to Allen’s or running away to the beach. I want you to come with me to an AA meeting.”

Adam frowned then. “I thought you hated them. You don’t believe in God, you can’t stand that stuff.” Tommy took a sip of his coffee and noticed that his hand was shaking a little. Just bringing it up was making him nervous.

“I don’t like them. They scare me, and you coming to one with me makes it worse,” Tommy said. “But I want you to see what it’s like. And…yeah, I don’t agree with half of it, but there isn’t anything else. There’s no such thing as an atheist AA meeting that I’ve ever heard of.” Tommy looked over at Adam. “And I want you to hang out here with me a little. I spend a lot of time here and it’s important to me. And…fuck, I don’t know. Just let me call the shots today?”

When Tommy looked over, Adam was nodding, his eyes on the table. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll go with you, anything you want. I’m just so sorry.” Tommy winced a little-Adam had apologized something like two dozen times. He still wasn’t sure how deep Adam’s apologies went, though.

“So,” Cassidy said, and Tommy looked up-he had almost forgotten he was in the room. “Is there anything else you want to say to each other?” Tommy clutched his coffee cup as Cassidy looked between the two of them. “Adam, do you want to say something now?”

“Just that I love Tommy,” Adam said quietly, and Tommy watched as Adam brushed at his eyes. Tommy fought the impulse to kiss the tear tracks. He didn’t need to do that right now. “And-I don’t know what else to say. I’ve said I was sorry, but Tommy doesn’t believe me.”

“I believe you,” Tommy said too soon. “But…I still don’t think you really understand.” You don’t know how young and naïve you sound, Adam. You’re not that much younger than me. “I just don’t want us to mess it up. If we’re going to be together,” Tommy had to take a deep breath-he hated saying ‘if’ almost as much as Adam hated hearing it. “Then you’re going to have to.”

Adam bit his lip and again, Tommy felt the pull inside him to make it all better, to tell Adam that he was forgiven and it was all right. But he didn’t. It wouldn’t be all right, and they both knew it. He looked at Cassidy, who gave him the barest of nods.

“Okay. The next AA meeting is in half an hour. I think Janice will be there.” Tommy nodded at that and he got up. Adam was still seated, looking up at him.

“Come on Adam, let’s see if there’s anyone else going yet. Maybe we can help bring in the doughnuts.”

Tommy didn’t pay much attention to Adam before the meeting, except to introduce him to Janice. “Oh, this is Adam,” she said, so matter of fact that Adam blushed. “He talks about you all the time,” she said as she gave Adam a quick hug. “You gonna sit in with us today?” Adam nodded, and Tommy could tell how tense he was. He realized then that there were whole parts of his life that Adam didn’t have much to do with. That realization made him ache, even knowing that it wasn’t intentional.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Janice said, still talking to Adam. “We have Al-Anon meetings too, for people with alcoholics in their lives. Maybe you can go to one of those later.” Tommy moved closer to Adam as he absorbed this idea.

“I think I want to be here with Tommy. Yeah, maybe though. Thanks.” Tommy hadn’t heard Adam sound that hesitant in a while. Janice just patted him on the shoulder and started putting the chairs in a circle. After a second, Adam began helping her.

The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, and it was pretty typical as far as Tommy was concerned. It had the weird combination of stiff formality and ritual at the beginning and end, and relaxed talking in the middle. He was really glad that Adam’s first exposure to AA wasn’t a goddamn literature meeting. Afterward Tommy shook hands with a couple of regulars, and then went to give Janice a hug. “Hey. Um, I’ve thought about it and can I get your number if I need to call you?” Tommy blushed-he couldn’t believe he was doing this.

Janice only blinked once. “Of course, kid Do you want me to be your sponsor?” Tommy shrugged and she backed up a little. “Don’t worry about what to call it right now. But if you need to call me, there’s my number.” Janice wrote her number on a flyer and Tommy took it, tucking it inside a pocket that he used to keep mini bottles in. “See you kids,” Janice said, waving at them as some more people came by to talk to her.

Adam left with him, not saying anything until they were outside the room. “That was uh. It was kind of intense.” Tommy nodded. “Can we sit down?” Tommy took Adam’s arm and gently guided him to another empty room, sitting down beside him.“I’m sorry,” Adam said. “I was just listening to everyone’s stories and it got to me a little. I’ve heard yours, and I guess…I don’t know.”

“It’s because you know me, maybe,” Tommy said. Or because you still have this delusion that I can handle it. “But you know, I don’t think listening to them is bad. It helps me to hear that other people have the same problems y’know? That’s why I go to them. The rest of it kind of makes me cringe.” Tommy sighed. “I asked Janice to be my sponsor so I can call her when I’m having a bad time. She’ll want me to do more of the program, and I don’t know if I’m ready.”

Adam held his hand. “It’ll be okay. I don’t know her, but she likes you. I don’t think she’ll pressure you or anything.” Tommy squeezed Adam’s fingers, and Adam did it back. Tommy felt reassured at the touch, it made him feel better immediately. He let go of Adam’s hand and straightened up in his seat.

“Adam. Do you know why you did that last night? I mean, you weren’t really paying me any attention at the party either. I mean-is there a reason?” If I did something, if it is my fault, then tell me. I can handle it.

“I don’t know,” Adam said, and Tommy closed his eyes. “I was happy you were with me, but I was talking to other people. I thought you knew that I was right there. But then you needed me and I didn’t notice. I saw you go upstairs,” Adam paused, and Tommy could see Adam tracing patterns on the table with his fingers. “And I almost followed, but then Alisan called me over. I don’t know why I went to her and not you.”

“She’s been your friend a long time, you’ve only known me a month,” Tommy whispered. “She’s your friend.” Tommy felt a cold feeling in his guts. You’re still new, he thought. You’re like Adam’s new toy, you can’t compete with his friends. He nearly jumped when Adam put a hand on his shoulder.

“But I’m not in love with her,” Adam said. “I fucked up, and I don’t know why. I didn’t even want that beer, not really. But I can’t give you an excuse because I don’t have one.” Adam closed his eyes and Tommy couldn’t find anything to say to that.

They sat there a long time, not looking at each other, until Tommy cleared his throat. “Adam…take me home? I think I wanna go to Paul’s now.”

“I….okay,” Adam said, and pushed up from his chair. He held his hand out for Tommy. Tommy took it and pulled Adam into a hug. “Thank you,” Adam said, his voice wavering as he held Tommy to his chest. Again Tommy felt a wave of reassurance and love just from Adam’s touch. He let himself feel that for a minute, and then pulled back.

“Okay, let’s go. And I’ll see you tomorrow. I might call later, I’m not sure what I’m doing tonight.”

Adam shifted from one foot to the other. “I wish everything was okay now. Dad told me not to expect that it would be." Adam ran his hand through his hair. “And Neil said I was a stupid motherfucker and I was lucky you even got Cassidy to call me. And my mom wants to see you. I think she wants to feed you again or something.”

Tommy smiled with one corner of his mouth. “I like your family.” Adam nodded, smiling as he brushed at his eyes. “Um, before you take me home, can we drive up to the Points? Just to The Points Thrift.” Adam looked confused, but nodded.

It was a short drive, but it made Tommy want to scrunch down in his seat. It looked dead, as if the life and color he had associated with the Points had been bled out. Most of the skinhead damage had been repaired, but the crowds hanging around looked wary and bored. Or maybe they always looked like that, he thought. You probably looked like that.

Adam parked in the tiny lot that the thrift store shared with a vegetarian co-opt restaurant. “Okay, come on in with me. This is gonna take five minutes.” Adam looked curious, but didn’t argue. Tommy got out of the car and looked around. He didn’t see Colin, which made him both glad and worried. Because I don’t want to see the little shit, but where is he? He shook that thought off and pulled the door to the thrift open, Adam behind him.

JennyBaby was there, doing her one day a week volunteer gig behind the counter. “Tommy! Adam! Hi!” She bounced over and hugged both of them. Tommy wrapped his arms around her when she came to him, hugging her hard. “Oh God, it’s good to see you two, how are you?” Tommy laughed into her hair. Jenny was always the same when he saw her, and he loved her for that.

“Hi baby doll, we’re just here for a second. I wanna give you guys something if you can sell it.” Jenny’s smiled faded and her eyes went wider as Tommy stripped off his leather jacket and handed it to her. “Here you go, one jacket. The chains and spikes are extra.” Tommy smiled as Trisha came to look at it. “If you can’t sell it, just give it to someone. But I don’t need it anymore.”

Trisha looked at it. She helped start the co-opt and the rumor was that she’d lived in New York in the early 70’s and had been a regular at Max’s and CBGB’s for a while. She looked over the jacket critically. “At least you used a sticker on the back and not spray-paint. I understand that everyone customizes these, but that can make them hard to sell.” She looked at the spikes on the shoulders, the chain that was looped onto the side, the buttons. “We can take most of this off easily. Do you want to keep any of the buttons?” Tommy shook his head. Okay, if that’s what you want.” She smiled at him then, a quick flash of kindness on the face of someone who’d seen it all. “You want cash or credit, Tommy?”

“Credit, I’ll be back later and pick out something cool.” Jenny squeaked and started filling out his credit voucher. He looked over at Adam, and saw him looking worried. "Oh hey, I think I left something in the pocket," he said. Trisha handed him back the jacket and he got Janice's number out of it. "There." Adam nodded and Tommy mouthed 'thanks'.

He got thirty bucks toward something else, and after Jenny hugged both of them again, he folded the voucher and put it in his jean pocket. The air was a little chilly without the jacket.

“Why’d you do that now?” Adam said, driving them out of the parking lot and in the direction of home.

“It was past time,” Tommy said, looking at the rear view at the store. “Maybe later you can come with me and pick out a new one.” Adam smiled then, hopeful and sweet. Tommy turned to the window, watching the Points fade away.

Chapter Text

Tommy spent most of the rest of the day lying on his bed, not wanting to talk to anyone. When Paul brought Margret home, she got his ass up for dinner. “You need to eat, aren’t you still taking your antibiotics? And how do you feel, is that better?” Tommy nodded and ate his paella without saying anything.

At the end of the meal, when everyone was grabbing the dishes and talking about what to do tomorrow, Tommy spoke up. “I want to buy a car.” Everyone went silent, Paul standing there with a serving plate of leftovers in his hands. “I talked to Lisa about it a little, and I’m sick of bumming rides. Can someone go with me and pick out a used car? I don’t really care much what it is.”

After a long minute, Paul cleared his throat. “I can go with you, if you want. But since your Oma is your legal guardian, why don’t you get her to come along too? They might need her to sign something.” Tommy nodded, that made sense to him.

“Tommy,” Margret said then. “Why do you want a car all of a sudden?” She looked at him, frowning and Tommy felt himself duck a little. Lisa came over to her mom and touched her shoulder, whispering. Margret looked back at him, then at Lisa. “Are you sure it’s a good idea?”

“I love how everyone immediately thinks I’m going to do something stupid.” Tommy stood up from the table. “No, I just want a car now. Megan asked me why I didn’t have one and I wasn’t sure. It’s my money, right? It’s not his if he gave me a fucking car and I sold it, right?” Paul’s eyes widened, but he nodded, just a little. “So if I want a car, it’s not really like it came from him. And I won’t buy anything stupid and wasteful. I just want a normal fucking car. I…it’ll be mine.” Tommy sighed, he wasn’t even really sure why he thought it was so important. It just was.

“Okay,” Paul said. Lisa and Margret both nodded, and Tommy thought that he could see a family resemblance between them. It wasn’t something he saw often. “I think you should call Birgittie and let her know.”

“Yeah,” Tommy said, grabbing his plate and pushing away from the table. “That was really good, by the way. Thanks for waking me up. And…I’m glad you’re back, Margret.” He walked by Paul, feeling a little guilty for not talking to him. Please understand, I just can’t rehash it again. Let’s leave it alone for now. Paul must have seen it in his face, because he didn’t say anything.

Tommy went back to his room and wrote in his journal for a while, then did some homework. After putting it off for a good hour or so, he called his Oma and told her about the car. She argued with him for another twenty minutes, and then agreed to go with him if he came for dinner tomorrow. “Sure. I’m sorry I haven’t been by more often. I missed you.”

“Stop being sorry and come by, darling. At least I know you were thinking of me.” He could tell she was smiling and he could feel himself smile in return. “You’ve had a hard time. Come by. We’ll give you a plate for Adam so he can eat later?” Tommy felt his smile fade at that, but he said yes, of course, and then got off the phone in a hurry.

Tommy fucked around for another hour, then called Adam’s house. “Hey,” he said. “Is Adam there?”

“Hi Tommy, you haven’t given up on my loser brother yet?” Tommy tensed up. Should’ve known Neil would answer, he thought. “Yeah, let me get his dumb ass on the phone.” Tommy could hear a slightly muffled Neil yell “Adam, it’s Tommy!” and then the other line pick up.

“Tommy?” Adam said, and Tommy could hear how unsure he was. “Hey. How are you doing?” Tommy winced when he heard that. He knew that Adam had probably been reminding himself to ask since he got home. At least he said it, he thought. “I mean…are you okay?” Adam sounded even shyer and Tommy realized he still hadn’t answered.

“Yeah, I’m doing okay. How are you doing?”

“I’m okay. I haven’t left my room much. Um, so…” Tommy could feel the silence stretch out. After a minute, Adam started again. “So, what are you doing tomorrow? Oh, and we have practice at Anoop’s, but it’s mostly the singers.”

“I can be over there, maybe. Just tell me the time.” Tommy cleared his throat. "I’m going to see my Oma, and…I think I’m getting a car.” Tommy winced as Adam didn’t say anything for another long minute. Fuck, everyone thinks this is a bad idea.

“Really?” Adam’s voice sounded excited, not angry. “Wow, what kind do you want? I didn’t pick out my car, I just got my cousin’s old one. When are you going to get it? And um, why now?” Tommy sighed-so Adam thought he was going to leave too. It made him want to snatch the phone out of the wall and throw it. He told Adam basically the same thing he told Margret, and that seemed to calm him down. They talked a little bit about what kind he wanted, and that passed some of the time.

“Okay", Adam said. “I think it’s time for me to eat-I’ve been putting it off." He paused again. “I love you. I’m still-if you can come by, or call me tomorrow…” Tommy nodded before he realized that Adam couldn’t see him. Adam laughed then, and Tommy could tell he was trying not to cry. “And if you get your car tomorrow, I want to see it!”

“I might come by, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Yeah, I might have to go to the bank and come back! I’ll call you and I’ll let you know.” Tommy realized how inadequate that must have sounded at Adam’s silence, so he tried to cover it. “Hey. I’m not mad at you right now. We just…need to talk more and I’m too fucking exhausted to do it now. So…maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I understand. I really fucked up. I’m just glad you’re giving me a chance.” Adam paused again, and Tommy thought Of course. You’ve given me chances before. I love you, I know it’s hard. He didn’t say any of that though. When they hung up, Tommy curled on his side, looking at the clock.

He must have dozed off, because he was jerked awake by a soft “Hey” at the door. He wasn’t surprised that it was Paul in the doorway. “Can I come in?” Tommy nodded as Paul walked into his room, sitting down on the love seat across the room. “Lisa told me,” he said, pausing to see if Tommy would get upset. When Tommy just nodded, he continued. “I just want you to know…we consider you part of the family.”

Tommy felt his hands curl into fists. Don’t say that. I hate that word. Don’t call me family. But he knew that Paul meant it as a good thing, so he nodded. “Thanks for having me here,” he said. “I’m sorry, I just don’t feel like talking about it anymore. And…I’ve got so much to do this next week.” Tommy laughed then. “Oh god, I have to be in the review next week!” Tommy wiped at his eye as a tear threatened to fall. “I kind of don’t even have time for me and Adam to fight. I just want to not think about it.”

“You’re doing okay,” Paul said. “Do you think you can perform with Adam?” Tommy nodded because sure, of course he could. They weren’t the only two people in the drama department, and he didn’t think that everyone would take Adam’s side. At least, not all the way.

“Good,” Paul said, and stood up. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” Tommy shrugged, because he was as close to it as he could get, and he didn’t flinch when Paul came over and put a hand on his shoulder. “I just wanted to let you know that we’re all supporting you.”

“I know,” Tommy said. “And…I’m glad.” Maybe if nothing else works out, I’ll always have this, he thought. I can’t think of them as a family, but they love me. I believe that. He watched as Paul left the room, then got ready for bed. He took the last of his antibiotics in the bathroom after brushing his teeth. Fuck, I hope that’s the last of them for a while.

As he slept, he dreamed that Adam was holding him, kissing him and saying “I’m sorry” in between the touch of his mouth on Tommy’s. He could feel Adam’s weight pressed into him, and when he woke up, his shorts were sticky. He just went straight into the shower, not thinking about it at all.

Tommy called Anoop when he was dressed and ready to go. “Hey man. Thanks for calling yesterday. Um, what time is the rehearsal at your house? Do you think I should come?” There was a pause and Tommy bit at his thumbnail waiting for a response.

“Hey,” Anoop said carefully. “We’ve got people coming in and out, actually. Just come by whenever you feel like it. Um, you’ll be okay, right? You know my parents wouldn’t let anything happen.” Tommy had to wonder what Anoop meant. What ‘anything? Drinking, fighting, or both? Tommy decided he didn’t really want to know.

“I’ll be okay,” Tommy said, relieved. “I’m not mad at anyone. I can be over if you want. But right now, I’m going to see my Oma. Maybe I’ll be by later.” There was another long pause and Tommy took a deep breath, getting ready for what he was sure was gonna come next.

“Well, okay. See you then, I’ll be here all day.” There was a noise in the background and Anoop laughed a little. “And Megan says hi. We’ll see you if you come. Bye.” Tommy said goodbye and hung up. Of course, Anoop going to choose to be tactful and not ask nosy questions. Good for him, Tommy thought. Tommy sighed and went to meet Lisa at the front door, her keys already out.

Sunday dinner with his Oma and her family was about the same as last time, except better in a way. Tommy felt a little guilty for being gone, but it had only been a few weeks and not months this time. Afterward, his Oma and Kurt got into the car and went to the nearest used car lot. Kurt actually gave a shit about cars, so Tommy wanted him along. When he got out of the car, the salesmen or owner of the lot looked him up and down, but didn’t betray any disgust. Tommy decided that he was okay, and walked up to him. “Hi, I’m here with my grandma and we want to get me a car. I don’t really care what kind.” The guy’s eyes widened a bit, and then he put his salesmen smile on.

After three hours of looking at every car, (Kurt would pop the hood and take a look at the engine, which the salesman obviously thought disturbing), Tommy test drove a couple. When he had Kurt with him for the last drive, he said “Hey. What do you think of this one?”

“It’s okay. Do you really want to buy one today though? Maybe you should give it a couple of days to think about. It’s a big purchase.” Tommy didn’t look over, because it had honestly been a long fucking time since he’d driven a car and he didn’t want to run into anything, but he nodded. “I mean, I think it’s a good idea-get it if you want it. This one’s not bad. But…there’s no rush.” Kurt’s pause made Tommy wonder if he thought it was a bad idea too.

“I swear, I’m not going to do anything stupid,” Tommy said, and Kurt laughed, making Tommy laugh too. “Fuck you man, I know you think that’s mostly what I do.” Kurt was like Tommy’s exact opposite, in his neatly ironed button down shirt and glasses. Tommy thought that maybe he should introduce him to Anoop. “But…I haven’t had one and it would be nice you know? I told everyone last night I wanted something that was mine.”

“Yes, I can see that,” Kurt said. He waited until Tommy was stopped at a red light to add “And this is also a good way to spend a day. Especially if you don’t want to speak to someone.” Tommy glared at him past the time of the light changing. Someone had to honk the horn to get him to move.

“Kurt…just don’t, okay? And how much do you know about this? Fuck, everyone knows my business.” He turned left to head back to the car lot. “I talked to Adam yesterday. I tried to make him see what I go through.” Tommy hit the steering wheel, accidentally smacking the car horn and scaring a girl on her bike. “Sorry!” He yelled out of the window at her as she sped off. Kurt just shook his head.

“I know you did,” Karl said. “And I just know what I hear. Maybe this isn’t a bad idea. It’s like a break. But I think you should see him again soon. And I mean today.” Tommy shrugged as he pulled back into the lot. When he got out, the lot owner and his Oma both looked at him expectantly. “Yeah, I’ll get it.”

An hour later, Tommy drove behind his Oma in his new car, Kurt still sitting shotgun. “That fucker. He couldn’t believe I had my own checking account and that your mom could approve the purchase. He said I should’ve cleared it with the bank first. Now I’m just going to have to write her a check when we get to the house.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Kurt said easily. “You’ve still got the car, and we know you’re good for paying my mother back.” He looked out the window again. “I’m glad you got this one, it’s good quality and you won’t have to get it fixed too often, I don’t think. I’m surprised though. I mean, it’s a used Honda, it’s so…unassuming.”

Tommy shook his head. “I don’t need everyone to look at me all the time now,” he said. Now I only need a few people, and I don’t have to have a badass car to impress them. At least, I don’t think so. He was quiet for a few minutes as he drove back to his Oma’s house. “Kurt? How are you doing?” Kurt straightened up and looked at him.

“I’m doing well. I like my job, although I might try another engineering firm. My wife’s doing good at her job. I can’t remember the last time you asked me how I was doing, thanks.” Tommy winced as he heard the echo of his own complaints to Adam. “I like where I live, but I’m also glad I didn’t move so far that I couldn’t come visit on the weekends. It’s hard not to be around mother.”

“It’s hard to stay away from her cooking,” Tommy answered back easily, and they laughed as he pulled up to her small, pretty house.

When Tommy left, his new car smelling like the package of food his Oma had given him, he meant to go straight to Anoop’s house. He needed to practice, and he wanted to see everyone and make sure they were okay with him. But when he got into the car, he just turned on the radio and drove. The car was an econo-box, but it was smooth and nice to drive. He hadn’t driven in forever, so he rolled the window down and tried to enjoy the cool air.

He didn’t know he was going to Brent’s until he was in front of the house. He parked in the street in front of it, and just stared for a long minute. Brent, you haven’t seen Brent forever. Maybe you should go in, you miss him-no, no. You’ll buy if you do, what the fuck are you doing here? Tommy gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles went white. Your first time out in a car alone in ages, and you went straight the fuck to your dealer. Great job, Tommy. He should have left, but he couldn’t make himself start the car. He just stared at the house for minutes, until the door opened.

Mutt came out of the door then, and Tommy grinned and nearly ran out to say hi. Fuckin’ Mutt! He’s out! Tommy heard himself laugh a little-Mutt was out of juvie, this was good-what the fuck?

Colin was with Mutt, his hair cut even closer on the sides. He had a few new buttons on his jacket-skinhead bands. Tommy’s mouth went dry as he looked at Mutt again, and saw his jacket. It was a jean jacket covered in studs, and suddenly he remembered a figure in shadows that had been in the background when he saw Colin at the AIDS outreach building. He remembered the arm of the jacket, and it was exactly like that one.

Tommy just stared, forgetting that he should get the hell out of there, or at least hide himself. What the fuck-Brent’s gay! Mutt went to juvie to defend him! He loves Brent, what-is he okay? Is Brent okay? Tommy felt his body tense, and for the first time in weeks he was ready to run out there and start swinging before asking questions. He wanted to know what the fuck had happened, but he wanted to kill them too. Then Mutt turned his head in Tommy’s direction, and his eyes were blank. Tommy knew Mutt, he knew all his expressions, and this one was never good.

Tommy started up the car and got the fuck outta there, not even checking to see if Mutt had recognized him or not.

Tommy drove to Allen’s this time. He hadn’t been there in so long, and he needed it. He walked in on numb legs, and he saw the mattress, the stuff that Adam had bought for them to eat just last week. “Fuck,” he said out loud. He felt himself go on automatic for a while, and he cleaned up the place and played with the animals as he tried to work out what he’d seen. What’s going on? Why is Mutt doing this shit? What’s happening? I can’t do anything, I can’t call Brent because Mutt will answer. Is he even still there? Can anyone check for me? He had no idea if there was even anyone he could still call.

When he was done cleaning the apartment, he laid back on the mattress. It still smelled like Adam a little, the sweet smell of his shampoo and the soft scent of his body. I’m avoiding someone I love, I can’t help it. But I can’t… Tommy curled up and held the pillow for a while. He had a brief thought before he drifted off that Adam was probably doing the same in his bedroom right now.

When he woke up, the sky was dark and the phone was ringing. He stumbled up to answer it. “Hey, I’m here,” he said. He rubbed his hand through his hair.

“Well good,” Adam said quietly. “Hey,” he said again. “What’s going on? Nobody’s seen you in hours. Lisa was going to come check if you were there, but she didn’t want to, you know…”

Tommy nodded. “Yeah, they’re trying to act like they’re not worried about me being alone.” Tommy scratched his head again. “Maybe they should be.” He heard Adam’s little gasp and thought Shouldn’t have fuckin’ said that. “It’s okay, Adam. It’s just been really weird.”

“It’s not, you’re upset about something,” Adam said quietly. “But…can I help? Will you let me try to? I know you’re not just letting me take over right now, and you shouldn’t. But I still want to help. I still love you.” Tommy closed his eyes as Adam kept talking. “I’ve been just holed up in my room. I’ve been sleeping a lot-“

“Yeah,” Tommy said. “I don’t feel sick anymore, I’m just…tired.” Tommy sighed. “I don’t think I’m mad right now. I mean, not at you-I don’t know,” Tommy sighed. “I’m not making any sense.” Tommy stopped talking for a minute, and the silence stretched out. Adam wasn’t saying anything, he wasn’t pushing or trying to talk over Tommy. It was quiet, but it wasn’t tense. “You can come over if you want. Do you want me to fix something?”

“Just fix some tea for now, and maybe we’ll eat later.” Adam’s voice was warm and relieved in his ears, and Tommy smiled. “I know this doesn’t fix everything, baby,” Adam said, and Tommy frowned a bit. They didn’t have to talk about that right now. “But thank you. I’ll be right there.” Tommy hung up the phone and got up, moving to the stove.

Tommy was sitting at the table, his cup of tea in front of him, when he heard the knock on the door. He went to get it and Adam was there with a book in his hand. “Hey,” he says. “I didn’t have time to buy you anything, so this is one of my dad’s books. I just want to give you something. You don’t have to take it if you don’t want. I don’t know.” Adam looked down at his feet and Tommy took the book, looking at the cover. It was a biography of Beat poets.

“Thanks,” Tommy said. “Your dad knows you took it, right?” He smiled up at Adam, and Adam smiled back, obviously relieved, and Adam took his coat off. “I’ll fix yours for you,” he tried to say, but Adam just went to the stove and put the water on. It was quiet for another long minute and Tommy fidgeted, watching Adam’s hands as he fixed the tea. Tommy sipped his, already cold.

“What’s bothering you?” Adam sat down next to him, pushing his teabag down into the cup with a spoon. “Did something happen?” Tommy wanted to deny it, but Adam was asking. He didn’t come charging in and try to make everything about himself, or start pushing Tommy against the wall. He was trying to listen, and it reminded him of the first time him and Adam had tea like this.

Tommy looked down at his hands. “I didn’t mean to go there,” he started, and Adam frowned. Slowly, Tommy told him everything from getting the car to seeing Mutt and realizing he’d been at the Center that night. “I’m pretty sure he saw me. I don’t know what to do-I told Brent that I was gay. I don’t know if Mutt’ll be after me or not. I don’t know what’s happening anymore, if Brent’s okay!” Tommy had to stop then, and put his head in his hands. “I should have kept in touch. I called him one time since I met you. But I couldn’t go and see him.”

Tommy heard the chair scoot closer as Adam came closer. Adam's arms went around him and Tommy let himself enjoy the comfort that Adam was trying to give. He didn’t move, he didn’t hug Adam back, but he could feel Adam’s body holding him close. After a minute, Adam kissed his ear. “I’m so sorry baby. It’s not your fault.” Tommy shook his head but Adam just squeezed him harder. “It’s not.” Tommy felt the familiar weight and warmth of Adam’s body holding him and relaxed his hands, moving until he was hugging Adam back. Tommy felt the shaved sides of Adam’s hair tickle his face and he almost smiled.

“Do you think you can do anything?” Adam said later, as they lay sprawled out on the mattress. Adam was holding and kissing Tommy like he was afraid Tommy would break in his hands, and Tommy didn’t mind. He’d missed Adam’s careful sweetness these last couple of days. Tommy looked up at him and shook his head.

“I can’t call. I’m trying to think if there’s anybody that’ll still talk to me that can find out. I’m really only talking to JennyBaby, and I don’t want to get her into anything that might hurt her.” Tommy frowned just thinking about it. He couldn’t stand the thought of getting her hurt.

“No, no. Maybe there’s someone you can ask, like Monte. I don’t know.” Adam kissed him again, a soft kiss on the lips and Tommy opened his mouth to it a little. Adam deepened the kiss, tongue sliding in, and Tommy felt his resistance that he had kept up so well yesterday slide out of his body as he relaxed and let Adam move him around until he was comfortably on top. Tommy remembered his dream and the way Adam’s body pressed against his. Yeah, just like this.

Adam had one hand up on his neck, the other one gripped on his shoulder as he moved against Tommy’s body. “Okay?” he said, and Tommy nodded without thinking as he closed his eyes. Tommy felt another sweet kiss to his neck, and he bit his lip. Adam was keeping it gentle, and Tommy wondered if he regretted their last time, hurried and unsatisfying in his room before rehearsal. Maybe he wants to make it up, Tommy thought, and opened his eyes. Adam was kissing his neck and collarbone, and Tommy put a hand in his hair. Adam sighed happily and Tommy couldn’t remember all the reasons why this was a bad idea.

“I’ll take care of you,” Adam breathed in his ear, and Tommy didn’t answer back.

Afterward, Tommy looked at the come drying on his naked stomach as Adam went to get a towel. He touched the mess and felt disgusted with himself. So easy, you’re so easy for him. He’s gonna think everything is okay now, and it’s not. Just then Adam came back with a damp towel, his sunny smile fading as soon as he saw the look on Tommy’s face.

“Tommy…oh god, I’m sorry. That was too soon, wasn’t it?” He came over right then, kneeling on the mattress and putting his arms around Tommy and for a crazy second Tommy wanted to push them off. He didn’t want Adam’s comfort right then. “I was trying to help-I knew you liked it when we’re together. I was trying to be strong for you-“

“That’s the only way you know how to be.” As soon as Tommy said it, he snapped his mouth shut, because oh God. Adam let go of him and rocked back, staring at him in horror. He didn’t know how to come back from it, so he kept going, all his repressed anger and hurt coming from inside him and out of his mouth. “Adam…I love you. But you don’t know how to take care of me. And sometimes, I don’t know how to take care of you. I try and try and you just let me wear myself out. And when we fuck…” Tommy stopped then to wipe his eyes. “Mostly it’s awesome, but sometimes it’s like-I can’t think. You flip me on my back and I stop thinking. I’ll just do whatever you want. That’s scary.”

Adam stared at him, and then his face got red and he got an expression that Tommy had never seen before. “That is such bullshit,” he spat. “You told me you loved it when I took over, you love it when I put you on your back. You just came five minutes ago from me having my fingers in you! Don’t tell me you’re scared of it!” Adam moved away from him, skittering to the edge of the mattress. “And I told you I’m sorry a dozen times, I don’t know why I did that and you won’t forgive me! You just keep putting it off, and I-I wanted to get you back, make it up to you. I was just trying to make it good.” Adam was still glaring, but tears were starting to threaten to spill over now. “I don’t know what to do!”

“I know you don’t,” Tommy said, then shook his head. It was so mean, but he felt like he had to say it. “You’ve been taken care of by your family, you never have to do anything for yourself.” Tommy sobbed then, his voice cracking as he kept hurting his boyfriend. “I’m sorry, but it’s true. You’ve been spoiled so much and you don’t even know it. You’re so lucky and you don’t even know it. You can’t understand what I’ve been through. You said it yourself.”

“I’m spoiled? You say I’m spoiled? You have tons of money and a big house and when you’re legal, you can do any goddamn thing you want! You don’t have to stay here or worry about going to school or anything! And yeah, I don’t understand. I don’t know how anyone could do that to you, to anyone!” Adam was sobbing now too, but his eyes were still alive with anger and for a crazy second Tommy wondered how capable of violence Adam was. He didn’t trust himself not to hit back out of instinct.

“You can have the fucking money if you want it so much. I’ll give it to you.” Adam gaped at him and Tommy started to backtrack, to say he went too far. But now Adam was pushing himself up and going to put his pants on. “Adam…don’t run away. I won’t if you won’t. Come on, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Fuck you. You meant all of it,” Adam said, still crying. He zipped his jeans and then turned back to him. “You might hate your father, but maybe you’re more like him than you think. You’ve told me about all the shit you’ve done and all the people you’ve hurt. I just never thought I’d be one of them.”

Tommy watched Adam as he got his belt on. “I didn’t think you’d hurt me either. Adam…” he tried to will Adam to look at him, but Adam’s eyes were on the floor. “I love you. I’m sorry I got angry, but we need to fix it. We need to find out what’s wrong. Please don’t leave like this.”

Adam shook his head, looking at him again. “I have to go right now. I’m not…I love you too. But I have to go. I’m sorry, I guess you’re right.” Tommy didn’t know what Adam meant at first, but Adam wiped his eyes and kept going. “Maybe I’m not strong enough for you. If I was, I’d stay.”

“Then stay. Adam…” But Tommy knew that Adam was going to go back home and hide. He’d been doing it all weekend. Adam’s parents would accept it and keep him safe. Tommy felt angry again, thinking about how Adam never had to question that. Tommy took a deep breath. “If you have to go, can you take care of yourself? Can I come see you in a couple of days? We can make it better, I know it.”

“I’ll try,” Adam said. “And…we’ve got the show next week. We’re probably going to be really busy.” Tommy nodded as a new tear rolled down his face. “So I’ll see you at the rehearsals.” Adam turned to Tommy and looked at him. “And I want you to do something for me. Get tested.” Tommy opened his mouth to protest, and Adam moved his hand through the air, cutting him off. “No, you’ve been sick, and I believe you when you say it’s staph. I know it is. But you need to do this for yourself. I know you don’t want to, but get Cassidy or someone to go with you and do it.”

“You won’t go with me,” Tommy said flatly. Adam paused, and then shook his head. “You never liked going to the Center, did you? It’s too blatant, it’s too-“

“Shut up!” Adam glared at him, and then his shoulders sagged. “It freaks me out there,” he said, his voice dropping to a whisper. “Old guys keep looking at me, and some people-they’re so sick, they’re dying. And I can’t handle it. I love Cassidy, but I’m not like you. You’re…you don’t care what people think about you. I’ve always loved that. But I’m not ready right now, for the Center or anything like that. I’m sorry about that too.”

Tommy wiped his eyes. “I know. I’m-fuck, I’ll do it. I promise.” Adam nodded and Tommy wanted to cry more. “Are you really leaving?”

“I guess,” Adam said, voice still soft. “Do you need me to take you to Paul’s?” Adam looked over at him, eyes red and looking miserable.

Tommy almost laughed. “No, I-I got a car, like I said I would. Remember? I can drive myself now.” Adam looked at him, and gave a dry chuckle. “What?”

“I guess that’s one thing you don’t need from me anymore,” Adam said, turning toward the door. “I guess I’ll see you.” Tommy closed his eyes, not wanting to watch Adam walk out. “Hey.” Tommy opened his eyes again to find Adam closer. As soon as he looked up, Adam dropped to his knees on the mattress and tugged Tommy up for a kiss.

It didn’t last long-just a quick press of lips and teeth and tongue. But Tommy could feel the urgency and sadness in it, and he tried to latch on, to keep Adam there. But he couldn’t hold on forever, and Adam pulled back, looking at him. Tommy wrapped his arms around his chest as Adam covered him with the blanket, one hand coming up to brush back his hair. Tommy kept his eyes down until he heard the door click shut.

After a few minutes Tommy wiped himself off with the cold towel that Adam had dropped, and got dressed. He looked over all the animals to make sure they were okay, and washed the cups. Then he left the apartment, his new car keys out.

It wasn’t until he got in the car and smelled the leftovers that he’d forgotten about, the ones his Oma had meant for Adam, that he started crying again.

Chapter Text

“Tommy?” Tommy opened one eye up and heard Paul’s voice from the hall. “Where’s Tommy? He’s not in his room.” Tommy poked his head out of the covers in Lisa’s room and saw she was still asleep, his head on her shoulder. He pushed up, not wanting to leave the bed, and on stiff legs walked towards the door just as Paul opened it. “Oh. Hey.”

“Hey,” Tommy said. His voice sounded like shit, gravely and rough from crying. He had driven straight to Paul’s when he left Allen’s, and tried to tell them what had happened. He wasn’t sure what he said now, only that Lisa had held him while he blubbered like a kid. Now it was morning and he was standing in front of Paul in his underwear, Lisa muttering something behind him as she woke up.

Paul looked back and forth at the two of them. Tommy shook his head quickly-he had never explicitly told Paul that he’d never had sex with Lisa, but now seemed like a pretty good time. I wouldn’t try to rebound with her anyway, I love her, he thought. Paul looked at Tommy, and didn’t seem to know what to say to him. Tommy wasn’t sure either-he felt exposed and fragile, as if the wrong word or look could send him into a new wave of tears or worse.

After a second, Paul just said “You kids get ready for school. I’ll have breakfast on.” And then he left. Tommy looked back at a sleepy Lisa who was rubbing her eyes with one hand and clicking off her alarm with the other. She looked up after a second and tried to smile at him.

“Fucking Dad, he woke me up with ten minutes to go on my alarm,” she said, forcing out a laugh. “He knows we were up late too.” Lisa had taken him outside and they had smoked cigarettes on the porch, with the light from the front windows coming through. Tommy had rested his head on her shoulder as he told her everything he could. He even told her about Mutt. Lisa had hugged him and later they had curled in bed together. Lisa slept while Tommy watched the ceiling and occasionally drifted off until the nightmares started. And there were a lot of nightmares to choose from.

Lisa looked at him, and he must have looked fucking horrible, because she said “Hey, you can stay out today, I don’t think you should go to school like this. I know you feel awful.” Tommy looked at her and thought I wish. I used up all my feelings yesterday and now they’re gone. I wonder if I’ll get them back.

“No.” Tommy shook his head. “I’ve missed a lot of days over the past month anyway. And…I need to go. I’m not going to stop going to school over this, I-“ Tommy had to stop for a minute and take a deep breath. “I think I just have to do what I would normally do. Go to school, go to class, and then the Center.”

“What about drama class? What about rehearsals?” Lisa shot these questions at him rapid-fire, but Tommy was already stumbling to his room. He pulled off his briefs and got started fixing the shower. Just go to school, Tommy. One foot in front of the other until the week’s over. You can do it. The shower was warm and comforting, and that made Tommy never want to come out. He cut it short just for that reason.

He was dressed and ready soon after, hair still damp. Fuck if he was up to fixing it. Paul had fixed a big, comforting breakfast that Tommy couldn’t imagine eating. The eggs and waffles looked repulsive to him, and Tommy knew he’d puke. Lisa finally handed him a coffee to go and a granola bar from Margret’s stash. “It’s okay Dad,” she said. “Maybe we can have the waffles for dinner or something.” Tommy nodded his agreement, because he knew that Paul just wanted him to feel better.

“Tommy,” Paul said right as he was about to head for the door. “If you need to call me or anything, I’m right here.” Tommy nodded and Paul put a hand on his shoulder. That almost did it-Tommy felt a twinge of emotion, a dull pain like a stubbed toe. He had to pull back. “Tommy-“

Please stop. Please, just stop for now. “Sorry,” Tommy said. “I just…I have to go now. Okay? But I’ll see you tonight.” He looked at Paul and he could see that Paul was willing to wait, that he was going to give Tommy space on this. “Bye Paul. Um, I’ll be back.” He turned and went out the door where Lisa was standing in the yard, smoking. He got a cigarette off her.

Lisa stared at the new car in their driveway. “I was waiting on you, I forgot you didn’t need a ride anymore,” she said. She looked at his little car-black with a new paint job and nothing else to really recommend it from the outside. “It looks pretty good.”

“Thanks,” Tommy said. “You know, it’s pretty fucking stupid for both of us to take a car to school. Can I drive you? Or do you have to be anywhere after?” Lisa grinned and shook her head, and Tommy smiled. I owe you so much anyway. At least I can drive you to school. They got in his car, and Lisa popped in a Husker Du tape as Tommy pulled out of the driveway, window open and his elbow propped out.

It was almost a normal drive, but Tommy didn’t enjoy it at all.

When they got to school, Tommy stared at it and felt another wave of sadness crash into his chest. Not only was Adam going to be there, but he couldn’t even act like something was seriously wrong. He couldn’t even be heartbroken, since he wasn’t supposed to have a boyfriend in the first place. Only the drama kids knew for a fact what was happening, and that was how it had to be. Tommy heaved his book back over his shoulder and walked toward class, not saying goodbye to Lisa. When he walked through the main door, he thought At least no one expects me to act happy. I’m glad I’m a moody fucker right now.

Tommy sat through his early classes numb, only turning in his homework and then staring into space. When it came time for drama class, he thought about ditching. But then he remembered, one foot in front of the other, and walked in.

The first thing he did was look for Adam, and he wasn’t there. (Paula wasn’t there either-but sometimes she was late for class.) Tommy felt that dull stubbed toe pain again, and it must have shown on his face because Anoop took him over to sit with him and Megan. “It’s okay. Adam’s gone a half-day, he’s got an appointment. Are you all right?” Anoop looked really concerned and worried, and the thought hit Tommy like a brick to the head: Anoop was his best friend in this group. He never would have guessed.

“I’m just trying to make it,” Tommy said. He wished he could’ve said something else, but he couldn’t lie after what he just realized. “Did anyone…did Adam call anyone? How is he?”

“He called me,” Brad said from a few chairs down. He was looking at the desk, doodling on a piece of notebook paper. “He called me and told me what happened.” Brad looked up at him then, brown eyes flashing. “I kind of want to kick you in the balls, you know. I’m not going to, but I thought about it.”

Tommy felt his body tense forward. Adam called Brad, of course he did. Brad hates me, Adam’s going to leave me for him-he stopped the paranoid voice screeching in his head, and took a deep breath.“I wouldn’t blame you,” Tommy finally said. Before Brad could respond, Paula ran in and started taking roll at warp speed. He stayed sandwiched between Anoop and Megan during the class and walked with them when it was out.

Alisan caught up with him when he was alone in front of his classroom, nearly running down the hall. He stood there and waited for her, until she stopped right in front of him, a horrified, guilty looked on her face. Tommy shook his head, wanting to reassure her but not able to force a smile. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said, and he touched her hand before walking into the classroom right before the bell rang.

*

“Hey,” a soft, familiar voice said, and Tommy nearly dropped his granola bar.

It was lunch, and he was sitting on the far end of the drama table, Anoop close by but not right next to him, and he wasn’t expecting Adam. He didn’t know when or if he was coming back to school, and he never ate in the lunchroom anyway. Tommy swallowed at seeing him. “Hey,” he said. He couldn’t say anything else, like What was your appointment or Why are you at the lunch table, or I love you and I’m sorry. Adam blinked at him, and Tommy could see the disappointment on Adam’s face. Adam didn’t sit next to Tommy, instead sandwiching himself between Brad and Alisan. Tommy wanted to say something and try to get Adam to look at him, but it all seemed stuck in his throat. When lunch was over, Tommy stood up and looked at Adam again. Adam looked up for just a second before getting up and leaving, going the opposite direction.

Tommy made his way through the rest of his classes and staggered out at the end of the day. He leaned against his car and lit a cigarette with shaking hands. Time to get outta here, I need to see Cassidy. Fuck, I can’t believe I even came. Right now, his idea about pretending everything was fine sounded like the stupidest thing ever. He jumped when he felt a light touch on his shoulder, and turned around.

It’s wasn’t Adam. Kris stood in front of him, looking worried, and Tommy breathed out a lungful of smoke in relief. It was an accident that he got it in Kris’s eyes, but he didn’t seem to mind too much. “Hey,” he said, and just like before, there didn’t seem to be anything else anyone could say.

“Hey,” Kris said back. He didn’t seem to know what else to say either. After a minute, Kris scratched the back of his neck. “Wanna go someplace for burgers? I saw your new car. Can I catch a ride?” Tommy looked for Lisa, and saw her talking to Anoop. When she noticed him, she came over for a hug.

“Are you okay?” she said, and Tommy nodded, because he didn’t know what else to do. “Anoop wants me to meet someone who needs a keyboardist. So…if it’s okay? I’ll see you tonight at home.” Tommy nodded as she turned and looked at him one more time. Kris waved at her and she beamed at him, and then walked away.

Tommy dropped his cigarette on the asphalt and ground it down with his sneaker. “Yeah, let’s get outta here. I have someplace I need to be though, so we’re gonna make it quick.” Kris got shotgun while Tommy got his keys and threw his book bag in the back seat. From a distance, he could see Adam surrounded by Alisan, Brad and Taylor. He waved, but Adam wasn’t looking. Taylor was the only one who turned to watch him go, and the nod he gave him made Tommy felt slightly hopeful.

“I don’t really wanna talk about it,” Tommy said when Kris had a mouthful of burger. They were at the same diner he went with Lisa, Adam and Brad what seemed like a lifetime ago. “It’s not anyone else, so I don’t know what to say. We fought, but that’s private.” Tommy helped himself to some of Kris’s pickles and sighed.“It’s not even about the party, not anymore.”

“I’m still sorry. We all are, but…why didn’t you talk to Adam at school?” Tommy resisted the urge to kick Kris in the kneecap-he’d told him to leave it alone. But, it was a fair question.

“I can’t, not at school,” Tommy said, and Kris seemed to get it then. “I can’t exactly talk about our boyfriend problems where other people could hear us,” and Tommy could hear his voice drop in volume even though they were alone. “I know you think the best of everyone and you do your part to make people see that fag bashing is bad. But people have just gotten over the whole beach thing. If anything else happens?” Tommy glared. “Some of ‘em are gonna jump on us like a pack of fuckin’ wolves. And I can’t let Adam get hurt. I can’t.”

Kris looked at him as he stuck some ketchup-covered fries in his mouth, thinking it over. “You just said you care about Adam getting hurt. Not if you get hurt.” Kris actually seemed surprised by that.

Tommy pushed his plate to the side, ignoring the grilled cheese with two bites taken out of it. “I get hurt all the time”, he said. Kris didn’t try to argue, and the rest of their meal was silent.

After Tommy dropped Kris off, he couldn’t drive to the Center fast enough. He fucking tried to restrain himself, but he did wind up there a lot faster than he thought he would. He parked and ignored everyone standing outside as he jogged in. “Jack, hey. Is Cassidy…?” Jack shook his head. “Is he gone?”

“He’s just in there with someone else, it’ll be a minute,” Jack said, and he handed Tommy a local gay paper for him to read. Tommy tried to sit still, the numbness now gone from his body and replaced with sheer hurt and a little panic. He needed to talk to Cassidy.

If I talk to him, he can tell me what to do. He can help me get him back, maybe. Tommy bit his thumbnail until the copper taste of blood welled up in his mouth. The pain soothed him a little, but he still jumped when Cassidy came up behind him. “Hey Tommy, do you need to talk?” Tommy looked at him, how sincere and sweet Cassidy looked. He was also so concerned and perfect, and suddenly Tommy wanted to get out of there. He couldn’t-he was always asking for too much. Before he knew it, he’d dropped the paper and ran for the door, dimly hearing Jack and Cassidy calling after him.

Tommy walked for a while, aimless, until he found the park that was midway between the west part of the Points and some horrible yuppie nightmare houses. He found a pretty ornate metal park bench and sat down, lighting a cigarette with shaking hands. He blew out the smoke and wiped at his eyes. You ran. You can’t even face up to what’s going on with your life anymore. It’s too much. Adam’s probably going to replace you with Brad. Maybe that would be better, maybe Brad will be better for him. He shut his eyes, trying to make himself stop thinking.

“Hey,” a voice Tommy didn’t recognize said. He looked up and at a guy he’d seen at the Points. He was one of the homeless people who hung around sometimes, unshaven and in an old overcoat. He was black, taller than him and looked about sixty, but it was hard to tell. “Can I sit down?” Tommy scooted over, wiping his nose with his sleeve.

The guy sat down and Tommy could hear his knees crack. “Thanks man. I need to sit a little while. Shelter don’t open back up for another few hours.” The guy looked him over, and frowned. “You ain’t one of those little Nazi fuckers, right? ‘Cause a friend of mine got beaten up couple of nights ago.”

Tommy shook his head. “No, no way. And I think they’re looking to beat me up too.” He handed the guy a cigarette, lighting it for him when he accepted. “I’m Tommy.”

“Robert. Thank you,” he said, taking a drag off it. It was silent for a little while, and Tommy finished his cigarette, glad for company that wasn’t trying to make him talk about anything. He’d had enough of explaining, or waiting for Adam to come to him. Instead, he looked ahead of him, at the park. It was quiet and pretty, empty except for the two of them.

“Hey,” Robert said, looking him over. “You wanna get a six pack and find a place to drink it? I got ID if you got some money. I gotta have a beer or two before I go back to the Salvation people.” Robert looked at him, and Tommy knew the look, he gave it to people himself. Robert knew a fellow drunk when he saw one.

Tommy couldn’t breathe, he didn’t know how he would answer if he did. Do it, said a voice in his head. You’ve been so fucking good, through everything. Now Adam’s gone, and it doesn’t matter if he loves you or not, you probably can’t keep him. What does it matter? You could just have one, maybe. You know you miss it.

While Tommy’s mind was whirring, his hand had gotten a ten out of his wallet and was handing it to Robert. Tommy blinked as Robert took the cash, stuffing it in his inner coat pocket. “Thank you son, liquor store’s a couple of blocks that way. Wanna walk with me? I’d like the company.” Tommy sat still, and Robert raised an eyebrow. “Something wrong there Tommy?”

Tommy stood up, locking his knees so he didn't automatically start walking to the liquor store with his new friend. “I want to. But I better not. I’m trying-I’m trying. I’m sorry.” He looked at his hands and realized he was shaking. He stuffed them under his arms. “I should probably go back.” Robert stared at him for a minute, his expression moving from confused to understanding.

“I know what it’s like, don’t worry. I quit before. If you want to stop, go ahead. You’re young, it might work.” Robert took the money out of his pocket. “You want this back?” It was obvious in his voice and that he really didn’t want to lose his chance for some beer. Tommy shook his head.

“You can keep it if you want it. I’m not gonna tell you not to buy beer, ‘cause I almost did. I gave it to you, so it’s yours.” Tommy watched as Robert smiled and put the money in his hidden pocket so fast Tommy barely saw it. Tommy dropped his arms and breathed out as Robert nodded his goodbye and then headed off in the direction of the liquor store. He didn’t look back.

*
“Okay,” Cassidy said, leaning on his elbows on the table. “Now that you’re back, can you tell me what happened?” He didn’t seem upset with Tommy for running, or surprised that he came back. Tommy actually stood in front of the Center, not even sure if he should go in. After a minute Jack came outside and steered him back in with a hand on his shoulder, rolling his eyes all the while. “I guess it was pretty bad?”

“Nobody called to warn you this time? Shit.” Tommy was bunched up in a chair, arms crossed in front of him. “I’m kind of surprised.” He chewed on a cuticle for a minute, then he whispered “I think we broke up. I don’t know for sure. But…I don’t know if he’s going to come back. And…maybe he shouldn’t.”

“Oh, Tommy,” Cassidy said, and Tommy had to drop his eyes. He couldn’t look at Cassidy and tell him what happened at the same time, so he kept his eyes down on the fucking table and told him about the fight, all the things he’d said, and how numb he’d been all day. He even told him about the park and Robert. “I don’t know why I didn’t do it. I don’t have any reason not to drink now.” Tommy put his arms on the table and laid his head on them. “Why am I still trying?”

“You tell me,” Cassidy said, and there was a sharp tone to it that made Tommy look up. Cassidy was watching him, not in anger, but like he was seeing what Tommy would do. “Because I think you know what the answer is.” Cassidy held the eye contact until Tommy nodded.

“I knew I had to when I was sick. When I was sick at Paul’s house I mean. I didn’t even blink when I went to the fucking hospital, I just kept drinking and ignoring the pain. But when I got sick again, I spent a lot of time half asleep or delirious. And I remember waking up one time and thinking that I didn’t want to die.” He looked away again, watching his fingers scratch over the table. “I knew then, that if I didn’t stop, I probably wouldn’t live long. So, it’s not even about Adam, not really.”

“Do you think Adam made you want to live? Do you think you’ll go back to the way you were if you never get back with him?” That last part tore into Tommy like a razor in a fight, but he shook his head. “So why do you want to live now?”

“It was Adam at first, but it’s other people too,” Tommy said. “Lisa, Paul-they all let me in and I can stay there as long as I want. I can be around people who care about me and not want to run away from them, most of the time anyway. So that’s good. And…I just don’t want to die. I can’t. If I’m dead, then they won.” He looked up at Cassidy and saw him frown.

“You mean your parents?” Tommy nodded and Cassidy raised his eyebrows. “That’s probably the first time you’ve brought them up without me asking you. I’m proud. So, you want to stay alive to spite them?” His sly smirk that passed over his face made Tommy surprise himself with a laugh.

“I guess. I don’t know if they were trying to make me want to die. I don’t think I ever figured in a single plan of theirs, at all.” Tommy went silent for a minute, and bit at another fingernail. “I just have no idea why they even had me. I guess my dad wanted an heir, that’s all.” Tommy leaned back in the chair and looked at the ceiling. “There’s something else.”

“You can tell me,” Cassidy said automatically, and Tommy smiled. I know I can. That makes you amazing, by the way. “So…it’s not anything illegal, is it?”

Tommy laughed again, and then sobered up as he thought about what he had to ask. “Before he left, Adam asked me to get an AIDS test. Will you…come with me? Doesn’t it take a long time to get the results?” Cassidy got up from his chair and immediately went around and put a hand on Tommy’s. “I mean, do I have to make an appointment, or…”

“I can go with you, we go to the Health Department for that, they have the HIV test there, and you can get it done. They have to send it away to be tested, and it takes about three weeks. I’m sorry it’s not faster.” Cassidy squeezed his shoulder, and Tommy had to take a deep breath before he started crying again. “Just…are you sure you can handle it now?”

Tommy pulled away a little, about to say What makes you think I can’t, but Cassidy kept going. “You’ve been through so much in such a small amount of time. You almost drank in the park today, and you’re really vulnerable. Do you think it’s too much?”

Tommy looked at the room, at the AIDS prevention posters and the pictures of Pride marches that were decorating the walls, and he looked back at Cassidy. “If I feel like I can’t handle it, we can put it off until later,” he said. “But, I want to do it. Adam was right about that, I should do it for me, and not because he asked me to. I…worry. I worry about it. I’ve had such a fucked up life, Cass.”

“I’ve seen worse,” Cassidy said gently, and Tommy could tell from the sad, resigned look in his eyes that Cassidy was expecting to see worse still. Tommy stood up then and Cassidy hugged him. Tommy felt another stab as his brain compared hugging Cassidy to Adam, how their bodies were different. He sniffled a little as he pulled back, and Cassidy’s smile was kind as he handed Tommy a Kleenex. “It’s going to be okay, Tommy. No matter what happens, I know you can make it.”

Tommy nodded, hoping it was true. Maybe it was.

Chapter Text

Tommy went to another AA meeting after talking to Cassidy. This time he hung in the back and didn’t participate, just like the first few times. Janice wasn’t there, and Tommy reminded himself to call her soon. He missed her.

He took a longer route driving home, just because he wasn’t ready to deal with talking to anyone. He didn’t want to talk anymore. When he finally got there, he just hugged Paul and went toward his room. Paul didn’t call after him, and Tommy was grateful for that.

After an hour or so, he grabbed his Martin and started to play blues songs he had learned from buying old records for two dollars each at lame record stores. Well, if nobody else got how great and pure that music was, then fuck them. After a few minutes, Paul knocked on the door. “Want to come downstairs? I can play with you if you want.”

Tommy thought about it, then said “Yeah, okay.” He couldn’t talk about his day, but he didn’t mind sharing it with Paul. Tommy wound up in the back of Paul's basement workroom, singing softly as he played Robert Johnson. “When the train left the station there were two lights on behind/ The blue light was my baby, and the red light was my mind. All my love’s in vain.” Tommy felt himself choke up, and he put his guitar down quick before he dropped it. Paul put an arm around him and Tommy let him. “Today sucked,” he said in a soft voice. “I’m not expecting tomorrow to be any better.”

“I wish I could help,” Paul said. “But…I don’t know what to say. You seem like you’re doing well.” That surprised a bitter laugh out of Tommy, but Paul looked serious. “No, I really think you are. You’ve changed so much Tommy. You’ve…grown a lot.” Paul hugged him and Tommy remembered when he would flinch from that. “Are you hungry? I made potato soup.”

“I guess,” Tommy lied. He wasn’t hungry at all, but he needed to eat. He stared at it for a minute, thinking Paul made my favorite. That’s…really nice. He ate a small bowl, wishing he could eat more. Lisa came in, keyboard case in hand, and she hugged Tommy tight when she saw him. Tommy was tired of sympathy by this point, but he didn’t push her off. He just accepted the hug, washed his bowl, and got ready for bed.

He slept in his own room that night. He still had nightmares, but this time he slept straight through them.

The next day at school wasn’t any different than the first, and it hurt just as much. Adam sat in the lunch room again, between Alisan and Brad. Tommy kept to his place with Anoop and Megan. He hoped that this didn’t split the drama group into factions or anything. It wasn’t worth that.
But this time, when Adam stood up, he looked right at Tommy and said “Bye, see you later.” His voice was nearly toneless, and Tommy felt a sharp pain in his guts. He looked at Adam, helplessly. He barely knew what to say, the pain was so strong. Adam sighed and looked away, and Tommy finally found his tongue.

“I’ll see you, yeah,” he said, but Adam was already turned away. He looked over his shoulder, but not for long. Tommy sat in the lunch room until one of the coaches made him leave.

This time, it was Anoop and Megan who met him in the parking lot as Tommy smoked his cigarette for the day. “How are you doing?” Anoop said, and Tommy almost wanted to smile-Anoop never fucked around or bullshit him. He just got straight to the point. Next to him, Megan was actually wringing her hands, shifting from one foot to the other, and Tommy felt grateful that she had not only forgiven him, but cared that much. He dropped his cigarette, even though he had only smoked half of it.

“It’s about like yesterday, except Adam said one sentence to me. That’s better, I guess.” Tommy shook his head. “Can we go somewhere?” Tommy didn’t see any assholes nearby, but you could never tell. Anoop and Megan both nodded, and Tommy said “Okay. Let me drive,” and he opened the door for them to get in.

They wound up going to Anoop’s house (actually, Anoop insisted), and Tommy was greeted by Anoop’s mother as if he was a great friend of the family. She started pushing delicious smelling food on him immediately, and Tommy didn’t resist her. The three of them went into the living room, eating sweets and drinking tea while Megan chattered. Tommy wanted to tell her she didn’t have to keep the conversation up, but he didn’t really mind. This way nobody could ask him anything uncomfortable.

Of course, just fucking then Anoop broke in with “Oh, and the rehearsal tonight is going to be here again. It was going to be at Adam’s, but…” Anoop looked away, and Tommy wanted to shout at him, wanting to know what the hell was going on with Adam. Was there something they were keeping from him? He wanted to know.

Instead Tommy just slumped in his chair and played with his teacup. “Is Adam going to be here? I mean, yeah, of course he is. He’s closing the show.” Tommy looked at Anoop and Megan and then had a horrible thought. “I mean, he is, right? He didn’t quit or anything, because he shouldn’t…”

“No,” Megan said softly. “He didn’t quit. But…he wants to change the song. He told Paula he wasn’t sure if he could sing it.” Megan looked down at her cup. “He told Brad it hurt too much.” Tommy covered his face with his hands. Fuck. “But…I don’t know if he can change it this soon. The show’s this Friday. I don’t know if he has time to pick another one.” He felt Megan’s hand on his shoulder, stroking over it. “He won’t leave the show, I know he won’t.”

Tommy thought about Adam having to change his song, and he felt the dull pain in his gut spread over his body. He really didn’t want that to happen, but at the same time-“I’m not sure if I can hear him sing it now,” Tommy whispered. “I’d probably freak out.” You mean cry like a baby, a voice in his head said, and he ignored it. “But…I love it.”

“Tommy,” Megan said, her hand still on him. “Did you love Adam because of his singing?” Tommy heard Anoop clear his throat, and looked up to see him glaring at Megan. “What? I’m just asking.” Megan looked at him again, obviously afraid that she had offended him, but he didn't care.

“Naw Megan, I don’t think that’s it,” Tommy said. “I’m not sure what it is. I love his voice, and yeah he got my attention with it at drama. But I’d seen him before. No, it’s not that. It’s…” Tommy trailed off. “He’s just Adam. I don’t know what to say.” Tommy gulped the rest of his sweet, spicy tea. “I wanna go. I can’t stay here right now. Anoop, let’s get your car, okay? You left it at the school.” Tommy got up and went for the door. He heard Anoop say something to Megan, who seemed to want to argue about it. Tommy waited by the car until he came out of the house.

Tommy was quiet for the first couple of minutes, then he said “I know I have to talk to him. I just don’t know if I should now.” Tommy stopped at a light, and got another cigarette, giving Anoop one too. “I mean…it’s hard.”

“We could keep you apart if you want,” Anoop said, lighting the cigarette and cracking his window. “I mean, it is actually supposed to be a rehearsal. My house isn’t ideal, but Alisan is scared to have them at her house now. That freaked her out.”

“It wasn’t her fault,” Tommy said automatically. “I hated he did that, but there’s other stuff too. Shit,” Tommy said, and threw his cigarette out of the window. He just didn’t give a shit about them right now, he wanted a drink too much. “I know I shouldn’t ask,” he said after a while, “but…how is he, really?”

Anoop glanced over at Tommy, and Tommy caught his eye for a second before he put them back on the road. “He’s like you now,” Anoop said. “He’s confused and upset and he misses you. It’s just as hard for him.” Anoop looked out his window. "And yes you should fucking ask, that means you care about him." Anoop took a drag off the cigarette Tommy gave him. "I don’t know if Megan and me are a good example,” he said, “But maybe you should talk sooner than later. Kris had to tell him that you weren’t talking at school because it wasn’t safe, not because you hate him.”

Tommy sighed. “Fuck. Good, I’m glad he said that.” Tommy pulled into the high school parking lot and drove next to Anoop’s fancy car. “Just…maybe I’ll be back.” Anoop frowned and Tommy looked over at him. “I’ll be okay. I made it through yesterday without doing anything stupid-I promise. If I don’t come back, tell Adam-fuck, I don’t know what you should tell him.” Tommy’s hands started to shake on the wheel and he turned the engine off. “I’m sorry.”

“Fuck you, don’t apologize for being sad,” Anoop said, and Tommy nearly laughed. “You’re my friend, idiot. I want you to be okay. Now pull yourself together and get your ass back to my house. At least you can put in a fucking appearance, so Adam doesn’t think you’ve disappeared. And anyway, you and me need to go over your monologue-I know you haven’t even thought about it since Friday.”

Tommy tried to smile at that. “Okay, I’ll try.” Tommy paused for a minute as Anoop opened the car door and threw his cigarette on the asphalt. “Hey,” Tommy said quietly. “Thank you. I never thought you and me would be friends.” Anoop grinned at him and got out of the car.

“Me either,” he said, and then shut the door. Tommy watched him drive off.

Tommy went to Allen’s on autopilot, and fed the animals. He didn’t look at the mattress at all, ignored that entire part of the tiny apartment. He watched Regan after he fed her as she scuttled around her cage. After a few minutes, he got dressed in some of the clothes he kept there. The Misfits t-shirt he slid on was worn and soft, and left before he got too freaked out. “Bye,” he said, but he wasn’t sure if it was to the apartment or the animals.

His next stop before going back was to the same diner as yesterday. This time he slammed two coffees and had a huge piece of chocolate pie with gloppy whipped cream about three inches high. Next to Mrs. Desai’s Indian sweets it tasted horrible-too cloying and fatty, but he didn’t care. What the fuck, he thought. I can’t drink, so this will fucking do.

After that, nerves jangling, he came back to Anoop’s house. Mrs. Desai opened the door and Tommy smiled a little. “Hey, nice to see you again. Where is everybody?” She patted his arm gestured to a door. “Downstairs?”

“Yes, it’s the only place they will all fit,” she said, and Tommy laughed, a sound that died in his throat as he actually went downstairs. He could hear Megan and Anoop performing as he came in. When he walked over, everyone stared at him. Shit.

Tommy cleared his throat and sat on the floor in the corner, away from everyone else. Anoop frowned at him, messing up one of the lyrics to the song, but they kept going until the song was over. When Megan pushed the stop button on the boom box, you could have heard a fuckin’ pin drop.

“Hey,” Tommy said, not looking up. Fuck, why can’t I say anything else? I sound fucking stupid. Tommy kept his eyes down until he felt a hand on his arm. He looked up to see Kris smiling softly at him.

“Hey man,” he said in his soft drawl. Kris handed him a can of Coke and Tommy took it. He didn’t object when Kris pointed toward the seat next to him either. When he looked up from his place on the couch, he saw Adam right across the room. He had to swallow hard to keep from crying.

Adam was turned in his seat, deliberately not facing him, and talking to Brad. Taylor was on the floor next to Brad, and he was frowning, looking between Adam and Brad. He suddenly felt sorry for Taylor, who was now in the middle of this thing he probably had no idea about. He thought that maybe the two of them should talk after rehearsal or something. Then Kris said something and Tommy had to turned to look at him.

“You didn’t bring your guitar, man?” Kris looked mock-disappointed, and Tommy’s mouth twitched against his will. “Hey, I got an idea, why don’t you play mine. I know you can do “Moon River”. Just play it and I’ll sing. Okay?’

Tommy didn’t object when Kris gave him his guitar, and he sat there tuning while Kris went to talk to Brad. Tommy kept his fuckin’ head down and tried not to listen, but he did see it when Brad moved over, just a little, but sliding closer to Taylor. Adam moved further to the other side of the sofa, and Kris came back. “You can sit over there, if you want. Or, stand up with me to play.”

Tommy stood up. “I’ll be your sideman,” he said, and a few people laughed nervously as Tommy strummed Kris’s guitar a couple of times. “Okay, one, two and…” Tommy started the chords for “Moon River” and Kris kicked in on the lyrics just in time. Tommy mouthed them as Kris sang the song, Tommy liking the little soulful groove he was giving it. Tommy didn’t look at the rest of the room, he just closed his eyes and concentrated on the song, and was surprised at the applause when it ended. He smiled, his eyes down, and gave Kris his guitar back. “Thanks man,” he said to him.

“No problem, I knew you wouldn’t break my guitar,” Kris drawled, and Tommy just rolled his eyes. “I think the dancers go next. Hey Brad, is it just you and Taylor today?” Brad looked up from where he was staring at his lap and shrugged. Taylor spoke up then, voice soft.

“I think the girls went to get new leotards or something. So it’s just the two of us right now.” Tommy could hear how uncomfortable he was, and it made him want to talk to Taylor more. “I mean, we can run through it if you guys want us to.”

“Give us five minutes to stretch,” Brad said, and then he got up and waited pointedly for Taylor to follow him. They both left then, going upstairs. “We’re gonna be in that little study that nobody uses, okay ‘Noop?” Then the door to the basement stairs slammed and everyone lapsed into uncomfortable silence again. Tommy had sat next to Kris without thinking about it, and he realized he maybe should have sat with Adam. Not sure if I can handle that, he thought.

“I can go,” Alisan said. “I’ll sing my song.” Tommy realized then that he could never remember what it was. Just then, Alisan laughed a little. “Well, I think this is my song. I changed it like three times.” Alisan looked over in Tommy’s direction, and he smiled at her. Then she looked at Adam. Adam stopped staring at Tommy long enough to return her look and try to smile. Tommy though that Adam seemed much more vulnerable without Brad next to him.

Then Alisan started to sing, and Tommy forgot about it for a while, and just listened to her voice soar and dip. It was beautiful, and when it was over Tommy almost felt let down. He had underestimated Alisan’s talent for a while, forgetting about her while focusing on Adam. He couldn’t really feel bad about that, but it was a shame him and Alisan had never become better friends. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t, he thought. Before Alisan went to sit next to Adam, she came by him and touched his shoulder. “You play guitar for me next time,” and Tommy wondered if she was a fucking mind reader.

Tommy nodded, keeping his gaze on her. “I will,” he said softly. He knew what it was-she wanted him to stay, to not drop the rest of them even if him and Adam never fixed anything. He kind of loved her for it. Just then, Brad and Taylor came back downstairs, Brad not looking at anyone as he found their tape. Brad and Taylor did their parts of the dance bit as best they could in the tiny basement, Taylor only bumping into the wall once. Tommy watched Brad with interest and a little envy. He looked beautiful in motion, so graceful and as if nothing was bothering him. He looked like joy felt, Tommy thought. But how many times in your life have you felt that? His critical inner voice answered. Without anything else around to fuck it up?

Tommy looked back at Adam. A couple of times, he thought back to the voice in his head. Then the song stopped and he was a beat behind everyone else clapping. Taylor smiled shyly and sat down. Brad beamed, but it faltered when he saw Tommy. Tommy mouthed ‘good job’ at him, and he shrugged, but a corner of his mouth turned back up. Maybe it wasn’t hopeless.

“Hey Adam, it’s your turn. Are you gonna go next? Or is Tommy?” Tommy groaned and looked over at Megan. “Come on, it’s okay if it’s not perfect.” Tommy stood up and tried to remember his monologue-he didn’t have his script with him. He took a deep breath and started.

“My father was a boilermaster,” he said, trying to remember how to phrase the words.“We lived hard on the factory and our window gave on the factory yard…” He kept his focus on his character and the anger he felt at the world for all the pain it caused, and that focus helped. He only stumbled twice. When he was done, everyone was silent for a second, and then they applauded. Megan bounced in her chair, and even Anoop looked pleased.

“Wow,” Adam said, and Tommy turned around, surprised. “That’s…really good. You could be an actor.” Everyone in the room was looking at him, and Adam suddenly seemed to realize that him and Tommy weren’t talking. “Um, I mean…” he looked down and Brad shifted closer to him. Tommy took a step forward and Adam tensed a little.

“Thank you,” Tommy said to Adam, and he just stared back. Tommy could see how much he was holding back-as much as him, maybe more. Tommy suddenly felt so sorry about everything as the room quieted so much he could almost hear Adam’s breathing. “Um,” he said. “If you don’t want to sing your song with me here, I can go. If it’s too much…”

“Shut up,” Adam said, sounding like it was nearly forced out of him. He looked horrified right after and tried to backtrack, even though Tommy wasn't mad. “I mean-don’t make yourself leave. You don’t have to leave.” He stood up then, in front of Tommy. “I…I’ll have to sing it at the revue anyway, and you’ll be there.” Tommy looked at him and nodded, feeling a lump in his throat. “And Paula doesn’t think I should change it, she says it’s good for my voice, so…you shouldn’t go.”

Tommy stared at him then, forgetting about everyone else in the room for a second. Adam was right in front of him and he wanted to just throw his arms around him and forgive everything. From the look on Adam’s face, he looked like he wanted to do the same. But neither of them moved until Brad surprised Adam by giving him his tape. Tommy went back to his seat while Adam put his background music in, taking a deep breath before hitting play.

“Once I had a secret love,” Adam started, and Tommy grabbed Megan’s hand. Every time Adam did this song, it sounded different to him. In the past it had been euphoric, angry or defiant. Now it sounded miserable, defeated instead of hopeful. It sounded like the secret could never survive being shared. Tommy could barely stand to listen to it, and he blindly grabbed for Kris’s guitar. When the instrumental part came up, he started playing along to it, improvising a solo. He stopped when Adam’s was supposed to come back in, and he looked up when Adam didn’t.

Adam was staring at him, and tears were right at the corners of his eyes. Megan made a noise and Tommy knew she’d covered her mouth to keep from saying something. Adam looked around the room, panic in his face, and said “I’m sorry, I’ve got to-I can’t…” and then he went out the side door, closest to the cars. Tommy had handed Kris's guitar back to him and was chasing Adam down before he even thought about it, bursting out the doors behind him. Adam was almost at his car and Tommy grabbed at his arm.

“Don’t!” Adam pulled his arm back so fast that Tommy nearly fell over. “I have to go home, I can’t do this right now, I’m sorry-“ Tommy leaned on Alisan’s car as Adam ranted. “I can’t just…” he looked around, remembering that it was night and someone might hear him yelling. “Fuck, Tommy,” he said.

Tommy moved forward, just a little, his hands in front of him. “I don’t think you should drive like this,” he said quietly. “Let me drive you home. If you’re not ready to talk to me, at least let me do this for you. Please.” Adam looked at him and Tommy could see little bit of hope as it hit his face and disappeared.

“I don’t know, okay,” Adam said, voice soft and Tommy wanted to kiss him so badly right then. He wanted to make it all okay by touching Adam. But that never worked, they had tried it again and again. So instead he just got his keys out and he and Adam walked silently to his car.

“I like it,” Adam said after two minutes of silence. “You car, I mean.” Tommy looked over and he saw how uncomfortable Adam seemed. He was hunching over, as if he was in pain. Tommy wanted to ask him about his eating, or a dozen other things, but he didn't know how.

“I want to tell you something,” Adam said, looking out the window. Tommy tried to keep his eyes on the road, steadying himself for whatever came next. “When I saw my therapist, I tried to tell her what had happened, because you know, if affects when I binge and other stuff. If I’m depressed.” Adam paused for a moment while Tommy kept driving. “And she said that even though she got referrals from Cassidy and she doesn’t have a problem with me, she was a little uncomfortable talking to me about gay stuff.” Tommy had to clench his jaw and remind himself that he was driving and he couldn’t try punching his own goddamn windshield out. “So I fired her.” Tommy’s mouth dropped open as Adam continued. “You wanted me to take better control of my eating stuff, so I am. I’m looking for another therapist, and I looked at some OA meetings. I might go to one soon.” Adam let out a long breath. “So…maybe I’ll be okay. Even though you don’t want me.”

“What?” Tommy had to pull over, because he wasn’t letting that go. “What are you talking about? I told you-I begged you not to leave! I told you I loved you when you walked out. What makes you think I don’t want you?”

“Because!” Adam waved his hands and almost got Tommy in the cheek. “You said all that stuff-you said all that horrible stuff right after we fucked! I thought things were getting better and that you were ready to forgive me and then you did that! I had just been trying to love you. You made me feel like I was horrible!”

“You left me alone. You left me naked and crying on the mattress because you couldn’t handle it.” Adam flinched from the bitterness in Tommy’s voice, and Tommy sighed. “We both fucked up, Adam. You know we did.” Tommy wiped at his eyes. “I miss you so much. I’m sorry, but we haven’t fixed anything.”

“I know,” Adam said. “I cried all over my mom when I got home. She kept telling me to put myself in your shoes, how you would have felt when I got that beer. And…dad said we’re both so fragile, maybe…” he choked on the last part, and Tommy knew what Eber had said. “I don’t know Tommy,” Adam said. “I don’t want to lose you. You’ve changed me so much.”

“You did the same for me,” Tommy said, and it was true. But a lot of changes had hit him at once, and it wasn’t just Adam. Although it hurt him so much he could barely stand it, he knew that if they didn’t make it, he would keep changing and trying to be better. He didn’t really see any other way now. “I’m glad…that you did things to help yourself even though we’re so fucked now.”

“Thank you,” Adam said. “I really am so sorry. I think I understand now…that I never should have done that. I didn’t respect you, I didn’t think about you. You said I was spoiled. Maybe, I don’t know.” Adam leaned his head back on the seat. “Mom said that maybe they protected me too much. They’ve been going crazy, by the way. Because of the eating, and because I said I’d never see that woman again and we’ll have to find someone else who takes boys as clients. They just have no idea what to do with me anymore.” Adam shook his head. “When dad didn’t know I was listening, he said I used to be such a good kid, no trouble. He has no idea.”

Tommy reached for Adam’s hand, but then stopped. He didn’t know if he should touch Adam or not right now. “Your dad’s gonna have to grow some balls,” Tommy said quietly, and Adam let out a wet laugh. “You’re his son, he’s gonna have to deal with the fact that you’re not perfect.” Tommy sat back. “I know everything I said was hard,” Tommy said, and Adam tensed up. “And I’m sorry, I’m sorry I let it build up, I’m sorry I was so mean.”

“So you think it’s true, that I’m selfish and I use you?” Adam said. “Fuck Tommy, what am I supposed to do about that? I’ve tried to understand you. I’ve tried. And right now I just want to touch you and I don’t think I’m allowed to, that you’ll get mad again, and I don’t know what to do anymore.”

“I know,” Tommy said. “I want to touch you too.” They looked at each other for a long minute, and Tommy finally said. “I need to get you home, there’s cops coming by here all the time.” Adam straightened up in his seat and Tommy started the car again. They drove in silence for a long minute, and Tommy was nearing the Lambert house when Adam spoke again.

“Fuck. Tommy, I didn’t ask how you were doing. It’s true then, I’m selfish. Fuck.” Tommy could hear Adam sniffle for a while, then take another breath. “Please, tell me.” Tommy looked straight ahead, wondering how to answer him, and he could hear Adam shift positions, nervous. Then Adam said “Was it bad?” Tommy knew then he had to be as honestly as he could.

“I’ve had a lot of nightmares,” he started with. “I’ve been craving really badly, and I nearly drank at the park.” Adam gasped then, and Tommy kept going. “But I didn’t. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t let myself. It would’ve been too easy.” Tommy took a deep, shaky breath and continued. “But I’ve gone to meetings and I’ve seen Cassidy and I’ve got Lisa and Paul. And Anoop’s been great. I haven’t run away, like everyone thought I would. And…” Tommy took a deep breath. “Cassidy will go with me to get tested. When I feel like I’m ready, he’ll go with me.”

Adam wiped at his eyes. “Okay,” he said. “I’m glad.” Tommy turned down Adam’s street, and Adam looked over at him as they pulled into the driveway and Tommy cut the engine. “I guess we don’t have everything fixed,” he said. “But you don’t hate me.” Tommy shook his head. Adam reached for Tommy’s hand and stopped, the same way Tommy had a few minutes before.

Tommy took Adam’s hand very gently, and held it in his. “I don’t think you know this,” he said, “But you were the first person I ever held hands with. I’d done all this crazy shit, but nobody-I never meant that much to anyone, I guess.” Tommy closed his eyes, and rubbed over the soft skin of Adam’s hand with his thumb. After a minute, he looked up into Adam’s eyes, and very softly, he let go. “I love you,” he said.

Adam opened the door to Tommy’s car. “I love you too. Keep talking to me, I know we can try.” He looked at Tommy. “And…I’m sorry about today, and last week, and everything I’ve done to make you not trust me.” He reached back into the car, and touched Tommy’s arm, just grazing over it. “I’ll see you soon. Go home?” Tommy nodded, because he honestly didn’t want to be anywhere else if he couldn’t be with Adam. “Okay. Bye,” Adam said, and then he closed the car door and walked to the door, Leila opening it immediately. Must’ve been right at the door, Tommy thought as he started the car back up.

Tommy wouldn’t let himself think about it on the way home. But when he got there, Lisa came over and gave him a normal hug, not one that felt like he was being suffocated with concern. “You look okay,” she said, hesitantly. Tommy nodded and pulled her in again.

“I think it’s better,” he said, and he felt some of the ache in his chest subside.

Chapter Text

Tommy couldn’t say much for the next day at school except he got through it. It still hurt, but it wasn’t so bad that he felt like he couldn’t breathe. When Tommy saw Adam at lunch, he looked better too, smiling softly in Tommy’s direction. They still didn’t say much, but it wasn’t nearly as bad.

He could tell it lightened the mood of the drama group as well. They had obviously been freaked out by what had happened the night before. There was still a slight split-Brad and Alisan stayed close to Adam, Anoop and Megan to him. Kris moved between the two camps, while Taylor seemed to be an island, no longer right next to Brad. Tommy observed all this quietly. It was a good distraction from the pain of being closer and still so far from Adam.

He couldn’t wait to get out of there and back to the Center. Cassidy hugged him as soon as he came in. “I’ve been hoping you’d come today-how are you?” Tommy slumped in his arms for a minute, but then pulled back. Cassidy’s arms had felt so good, and it hit him then that he physically missed Adam, and being held by him. Cassidy was different, in how his body felt and how Tommy felt about him. But Cassidy cared for him, and that came across. Tommy was glad he had pulled back-it had stung and felt too good at the same time.

“A lot’s going on,” is all Tommy could say to that. Cassidy headed upstairs and Tommy followed. He wound up drinking two coffees and eating some brownies that a regular who owned a bakery had left. “So we kinda talked, we tried to. But nothing’s settled and we can’t really do it right now. We want to make things okay, I guess.”

“Do you think being apart is helping Adam?” Cassidy said, and Tommy shrugged. It seemed to be, as hard as that was for both of them. Adam was becoming stronger, at least. Tommy was a lot less worried about him, now. “Are you okay?” Cassidy was a goddamn mind reader, sometimes.

“I’m better than yesterday, and the day before,” Tommy said, looking down. “But I keep expecting-something like Monday could happen again, and I might not be strong enough to say no.” Tommy paused. “I wonder if Adam gets that now. He told me-“ Tommy stopped himself then, figuring it wasn’t his fucking place to tell Cassidy that his boyfriend had fired someone he’d suggested. “He’s working on his eating more, I think. He’s taking care of it more by himself. I’m proud of him.” Tommy didn’t add any more.

“Good,” Cassidy said. “Are you ready to talk about yourself now?” Tommy shook his head because really, he never was. But he took a deep breath, and talked to Cassidy about stuff he’d wished he’d told Adam. It was things from his past, some involving his parents and some not, but they had had left marks on him. When they stopped the session, Tommy felt raw inside.

Cassidy must have noticed because he put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder, and again Tommy welcomed the touch. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve heard worse.” Cassidy’s smile was sad and resigned and Tommy thought Yeah, I’m sure you have. Then as they headed downstairs, he heard a soft voice talking. He ran down the last remaining stairs and-well, shit.

“Adam?” he said, and yeah, there he was: Adam had come into the Center all by himself and was talking to Jack. Adam looked up and Tommy saw his face pale. “Adam. Hey,” he said, trying to calm him down. Adam looked like he might just run out the door.

Adam took a step closer, and Tommy was aware of Cassidy standing just a few feet behind him. Adam cleared his throat. “Hi, I was just…making an appointment. I wasn’t-I didn’t mean to come here when you did, I wasn’t trying-“ Adam broke off, sounding miserable. Jack looked tense, like he was ready to intervene in case something happened.

Tommy took one step closer to Adam. “It’s okay. I didn’t think you were following me, we just got out of school, right? When else could you come?” He tried to make it sound light, but a part of him was thinking You never wanted to come here at all. Why is it different now? But Adam had come, so that was something. “So…you’re here to see Cass?”

Adam chuckled a little, wiping at his eyes. “Yeah, I did. I wanted to-you know.” He looked over at Tommy. “You okay?” Tommy looked Adam over, thinking I’d love to ask you the same. Instead he said “I’m okay. Um, can we talk for a second?” He turned to Cassidy. “I’ll have him right back, I just need-“

“No, go ahead,” Cassidy said. “Just pick a room.”

When they got upstairs, Tommy found the first room and went inside, Adam closing the door behind him. “Did I do something wrong?” Adam said, and Tommy shook his head. “I didn’t know, I just thought that you wanted to talk to me alone, that-“

“No. I’m-not great, but things are still better. I just wanted to ask how you were.” Adam’s expression smoothed out, becoming less worried. “And I want to ask you something if it’s not going too far.” Tommy took a deep breath. “You’ve been sitting with us in lunch. “Are-are you eating? You don’t have to tell me.”

“Oh,” Adam said. Tommy thought he sounded surprised and a little disappointed. “I’m okay. I just talked to the school nurse and Mrs. Hayden. I can eat during my half hour study period in the nurse’s office. They’ve done this before. That way, I’m not skipping lunch and I can still eat.” Adam smiled, and it was so bittersweet that Tommy wanted to kiss it away, make it better. “The nurse said she’s done this about once or twice a year for other students, but I’m the first boy who ever asked.”

“Wow,” Tommy said. “You told the nurse?” Tommy wouldn’t even have considered asking someone at school for help. Adam had done it and didn’t seem to regret it. Look, he can take care of himself. He doesn’t need you to mommy him. He can do it. “That’s awesome. Fuck, were you scared?” Would you have done this earlier, if I hadn’t tried to cover for you? If your parents hadn’t made it easy for you to hide?

“Terrified. But it worked out fine. I’m trying to do what you said, I want to get better. I don’t need to lean on other people so much. I think it might work.” Adam took a step closer, and Tommy felt that mix of loneliness and desire surge inside him again. Adam held his hand out tentatively and Tommy took it. Adam rubbed over Tommy’s knuckles, and he had to close his eyes. “How are you doing?” Adam said in a voice so soft Tommy almost didn’t catch it.

“Okay,” and then Tommy laughed. “Not really. We just went through a lot of deep shit in therapy and I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.” Tommy looked at him. “There’s still a lot you don’t know. We need to-“

“I know we do. And we will,” Adam said, squeezing his hand. Adam looked a hell of a lot less confident about it than his words, but Tommy was sure it was the truth. After a minute, Tommy let go of Adam’s hand and started toward the door. Adam stood there for a second before he realized he was blocking Tommy and moved, leaving a path to the door clear. “Sorry,” he whispered, and Tommy paused, wanting to kiss him and tell him it was all right.

Instead he said “Good luck. I’ll see you tomorrow,” and left the room. He left the door open, and walked downstairs. “He’s in the first room. Bye guys.” He was dimly aware of Jack saying goodbye, and he raised his hand in response without looking back.

Tommy didn’t leave Morgan right away. He went to the gay bookstore and sat in their reading area, drinking coffee and munching on some whole wheat hippie cookies someone had brought in. He needing some fucking mental space after all that, and the cookies tasted really good. God, he couldn’t get enough sweets this week. After a while, he saw someone heading for him. “Anoop? Hey man, what are you doing?” He put Burroughs down and sat up. “Get a cookie. You come looking for me?” He really was more relaxed-he could smile now.

“Yeah, I wanted to see if you were here. If you want to come back to my house to practice, we can. Or I can go to yours. I’m flying solo today-Megan’s got work. She can’t give away too many shifts.” Tommy nodded and knocked back the rest of his coffee. He put the copy of Naked Lunch back in the reader’s pile, put his coffee cup in the bus tub, and put five dollars into the volunteer coffee jar. He said goodbye to the woman behind the counter. She had long gray hair and nodded, but didn’t look up from her copy of Off Our Backs.

“Just one thing,” Tommy said when they got outside. “We’re not going to your house or Paul’s.” Anoop looked confused, but Tommy just shrugged. “I gotta do something, so follow me. You’re not scared of spiders, snakes or chinchillas, are you?” Anoop laughed, shaking his head. “Then come on, fucker.” Tommy headed for his car, and Anoop followed him. Hehoped that Anoop being there would make it easier.

When they got to Allen’s, Tommy noticed that it was a little musty smelling. “Hey, come on in,” he said to Anoop. Anoop stood in the doorway for a full minute, and Tommy tried to see it through his eyes-a tiny living space with a mattress on the floor and a bunch of crazy flyers tacked onto the walls. The one for the Cramps concert a year ago was nearest to the door, and had a werewolf on it carrying a half-naked woman. “Fuck Anoop, I can clean the place, you’re not gonna need a tetanus shot, get the fuck in here. Come and meet the babies.”

“Do you live here?” Anoop said, slowly closing the door and looking around one more time. When he seemed satisfied that nothing was going to attack him, he went over to the dining table and sat in one of the two chairs. “Because honestly, if you wanted to be as less like your dad as possible, this is the way to go.”

Tommy laughed and took Leatherface out of her cage. “I don’t own it, but this was where I slept for a long time. I’m petsitting for a friend-she’s out of the country. I’m actually not sure when she’ll be back, I’ve been doing this for a while.” He held Leatherface for a minute and put her back. “I don’t think she’s hungry-I gave her a mouse just a couple of days ago.” He looked over at Anoop, and his expression was politely disgusted. He took the jar of crickets and fed the spiders, and then went to see Regan. “Watch out, chinchillas can be scared of new people. I won’t let her out of the cage, she bites sometimes.” Tommy knelt in front of her cage as she hopped to the very back, keeping an eye on the new person. Anoop lit a cigarette and watched as Tommy fed her and gave her more water. “Okay, that’s all of them.”

“You don’t have a Komodo dragon in the tub? That’s kind of a disappointment,” Anoop said, and Tommy just gave him the finger. Then he started wandering around the apartment, nervous now that there were no books or sweets to distract him. He got a laundry basket and started gathering stuff to take home, but paused in front of the mattress. Eventually he just closed his eyes and pulled off the sheets, stuffing them in. His toe hit something-the book Adam had given him. He didn’t think about it.

Later, after he had swept the floors and had moved on to cleaning the stove with Allen’s chemical-free cleanser, Anoop spoke up again. “I’ve never seen this side of you, Tommy. Should we get you a French Maid uniform?” Tommy turned, surprised-he had forgotten that Anoop was there. “Sit down,” Anoop said, blowing out a lungfull of smoke. “What the fuck happened?”

Tommy fidgeted for a minute, and then started to tell him about Adam’s surprise visit to the Center. “I don’t know-I talked to him for a minute. But I had just finished my therapy-sucked, by the way-and I…wanted to throw in his face that he didn’t like being there. He’s scared to, but all of a sudden there he is. And I know why-he needs Cassidy’s help. But fuck. I just don’t get it. Why did he only come for me a couple of times?”

“You wanted him to take care of his shit on his own, right? Because that’s what it seems like.” Tommy nodded, looking down. “So shut up and let him do it. You should be proud, and I know that you are. You care about him too much not to be.” Tommy looked up at him, and Anoop sighed. “Put on some more coffee, it looks like we’ll be here a while.”

Over coffee, Tommy wound up telling Anoop everything that happened, in between begging him never to let it get back to Adam. Anoop shook his head. “Fuck. That’s…a lot. And honestly, I could’ve done without some of the personal details. It’s okay though.” He thought for a minute. “Me and Megan have done that-fucked and fought and then not talked to each other for a couple of days. But like I said, we suck as role models.”

“She loves you though,” Tommy said. “How-you guys are so different-how does it work?” Anoop laughed and put his coffee cup down. “What?”

“Fuck if I know-we always circle back to each other. I think…” he thought about it. “She sees things in me, and I do in her. We seem to balance each other somehow. I over think everything and she just jumps in with both feet. I’m sarcastic, but she’s silly. And I know some people think she wants me because my family has a little more money that hers. That’s bullshit though-she loves my parents, she sees them more than hers. It’s just because her dad’s on that oil rig all the time, and her mom works nights.” He looks at Tommy. “You’ve got that in common-she’s had to raise herself too.”

“I think she did a better job,” Tommy muttered, but he nodded as well. “She is really something,” he said, smiling at the thought of Megan bouncing in her knockoff Docs whenever she was happy.

“You are too,” Anoop said. “And…you and Adam, it’s kind of the same thing, right? He’s got things that you don’t, and vice versa. And sometimes it’s great, but yeah.” Anoop ground out his cigarette in an old saucer. “If you start to resent that shit, well…”

“You wind up having a big fucking fight,” Tommy finished. He wandered over to the bed and stared at it. “I never thought we’d break up here. This-I thought of it as our apartment. Like a private world.” Tommy started when he felt Anoop’s hand on his shoulder, and he tried to hide his face.

Anoop wasn’t like everyone else-he didn’t try to hug him, but he stood right there as Tommy hitched a few sobs, and then got him a napkin. He didn’t try to get him to talk anymore, and when Tommy was calm, he went through the mini fridge and shelf to try to find something to cook. “Huh, the food here is healthier than I would have though. The bread’s moldy though.”

Tommy thought about how Adam had taken him on that shopping trip, and tried very hard not to react to that. In the end, they just had some chicken soup and crackers. Tommy washed the dishes before they left, and Anoop just shook his head. “French maid’s outfit,” he said again, and Tommy snorted. They both went their separate ways after that.

When Tommy got home, dinner had already been eaten and there was a pile of dishes in the sink. Paul had probably headed downstairs to work, so Tommy just grabbed a scrubber and started wiping them off for the dishwasher. He was surprised by Margret coming up and putting a hand on his shoulder.“Thanksgiving’s next week,” she said, as if she were talking to herself. “I didn’t even notice until I checked my calendar.” Tommy stilled for a minute-he’d forgotten too. There had been way too much going on for him to even think about it. “Will you be eating with us or your grandma, Tommy? Have you thought about it?”

Tommy looked over his shoulder at her. “I’m not sure. I might try to make both, but it’s hard to leave Oma’s after she really starts cooking, you know?” Margret rubbed over his shoulder, and Tommy felt soothed by it. Margret could be distracted, but it just made her kindness more pronounced when she showed it.

“Then I guess you can start here,” she said, and then went back to her office. Tommy was grateful, but he couldn’t help but be disappointed as well. I guess Adam’s house is out of the question now. But anyway, would he even want me to? Fuck, Thanksgiving has to suck for him. Just thinking about that made him depressed, so he turned on the dishwasher and went back to his room.

He heard Lisa’s knock on the door when he just got out of the shower. He opened it, not worrying about being in his robe and briefs-she’d seen him in less. She smelled like cigarette smoke and was dragging her keyboard case with her. “Hey babe,” she said. “I’m sorry I’m not around as much. How are you?” Tommy looked her over-she wasn’t dressed up, and she looked tired. Lisa still hadn’t told him who she was rehearsing with.

Tommy smiled softly. “I’m alright. I miss him a lot, though.” Lisa looked at him, and he kept going. “We’re-it’s like we’re scared to touch each other. I don’t know-I still think of him as my boyfriend.” Tommy blinked hard. “I still love him.”

Lisa put down her case on the floor and hugged him. “So you guys just need some time?” Tommy nodded because sure, it was as close as anything else he could come up with. Adam seemed to be getting better, at least. Yeah, a voice in his head said. It’s still all about Adam. You’re fucking miserable, but you only care about him. He shook his head, it wasn’t true. He was pretty sure it wasn’t true.

“What’s wrong?” Lisa said, and he reconnected to the present and Lisa’s arms around him. “You wanna sleep in my bed tonight? We can watch a movie if you want.” Tommy just rested his head on her shoulder as she rubbed over his back. “Up to you.”

Tommy wanted to, but he still shook his head. “I’ll be okay. I’ll sleep alone tonight. I don’t…” Tommy looked up at her. “I love you, but I want to be alone.” He hoped she didn’t take it the wrong way, and think he was going to run or something. But Lisa just kissed his forehead and let go.

“Okay. I’m right in the next room.” Tommy watched her drag her keyboard, and he realized forgot to ask her what her new gig was. She’ll tell me if she wants, he thought, going to bed. He heard her voice on the phone as he drifted off, and dreamed about Adam.

He woke up Thursday with fuckin’ butterflies. Show tomorrow, show tomorrow, gonna make an ass out of myself, he chanted in the shower. He had no fuckin’ idea why it bothered him-sure he was nervous before shows but…oh.

“Fuck,” Tommy said out loud. He had never performed any kind of show sober. No fucking wonder. That explains a lot. He was kinda glad for the nervousness right then-he wasn’t thinking about Adam as much. When he left for school, riding with Lisa this time, he hoped the goddamn day would be over with quick.

It was, and afterward everyone in the revue went to the theater for one last full rehearsal. Tommy even had a costume for his monologue-sort of. It wasn’t much-just work overalls, a jacket, and heavy shoes. He dressed in the bathroom, and then went out to look at his reflection. “Do I look like a union-building badass?” he said to nobody.

“Yeah, you kinda do,” Taylor said, and Tommy jumped. Taylor just smirked-a lot of people didn’t seem to notice him until he spoke. “It looks good. I just get stuck in black tights all the time.” Taylor came closer, standing near him. “How are you?”

I’ll be better when everyone stops asking me, he thought. It could be so exasperating sometimes, having to answer that. But Taylor had never done anything to hurt him, and Tommy had wanted to talk to him too. “It’s getting a little better,” he said. “I guess we’ll be fine, eventually.”

“We, huh? What about you?” Tommy frowned, because Taylor was turning out to be almost as annoyingly fucking perceptive as Anoop. But then he shrugged, saying “Hey, never mind. It’s okay. I mean, you guys are really together.” Taylor smoothed his hair back and Tommy was about to ask him, about what him and Brad had that wasn’t real, at least according to Taylor.

Right then the door banged open and Brad was there, looking kind of panicked. He saw the two of them and immediately smiled, only his eyes giving him away. “Hey, are you ready?” Brad was talking to Taylor, not looking at Tommy at all. “We should stretch.” Taylor nodded at Tommy and went around Brad and out the door. Tommy noticed they didn’t touch. Brad stayed there for a second, no longer trying to look happy. Tommy waited for him to say something as Brad looked at him from top to bottom. “I like the costume,” he finally said, and started to close the door.

“Brad,” Tommy started, but Brad just shook his head and mouthed no. Tommy nodded and didn’t try to ask again. He wanted to know how Brad was doing. But he didn’t have permission to ask any of that. Tommy took a deep breath, and pushed out all the thoughts about Brad, Taylor, even Adam. Get your ass up there and do your part, he thought to his reflection. Worry about the rest later.

The dress rehearsal was kind of repetitive-they ran the lights and sound a bunch of times, all the logistics that Paula generally couldn’t be bothered with. They all mostly just hit their marks and worked out the lights, as the singers couldn’t strain their voices too much. Tommy did his monologue, as they were still working out his marks.

Then Adam said “I’ll run through mine. Just once, okay?” He had been quiet ever since they began, and Tommy started. He stood behind Megan and Anoop when Adam got on stage and hit his mark.

“Don’t want to freak him out again,” he whispered to Megan. She squeezed his arm.

He didn’t have to worry-Adam stared straight to the back of the auditorium and sang as if the audience were already there. It sounded better this time, and Tommy detected the feeling of slight hope. It made him want to grab Adam, to tell him he felt it too, but he just stayed where the fuck he was. When Adam was done, everyone applauded, and Adam nodded, but didn’t look over.

When it was over, Tommy walked over to Anoop. “Hey, Lisa left me here and my car’s back at the house. Can I get a ride?” Anoop had just opened his mouth when Tommy felt a big, familiar hand on his shoulder. Tommy turned around, and Adam didn’t even have to ask. Tommy nodded and followed him out. Neither of them looked back to the voices telling them goodbye.

“You’re quiet,” Adam said when they had driven a little bit. Tommy couldn’t deny it, so he didn’t say anything. He felt apprehensive, not knowing what was going to happen now. “Are you okay? I want to ask you something.”

Tommy had to bite his lip at that-he had no idea how good or bad the ‘something’ might be. “I’m pretty okay. I’m better. What is it?” And then he fuckin’ braced himself for whatever was next. Maybe he’s gonna tell me that he wants us to break up for real, or maybe he’s gonna want us to go to Allen’s, and fuck, or…

“Did you know that Brad was in love with me?” Tommy looked over at Adam, not knowing what to say. Holy shit, I hadn’t thought of that one.It took a minute for his brain to catch up, so he could barely hear it as Adam kept going. “…Because Brad said something to Alisan that I overheard and when he saw me, he just ran to get Taylor. And the only person who would tell me anything was Kris.” Tommy looked over just as Adam did. “So…did you know?”

“Can we go to your house and talk about it?” Tommy said. “I think we really need to, okay?” Adam sighed in frustration, and took a different side street. “I’m not trying to put you off, but-“

“It’s okay,” Adam said, a little sharp. A second later, his voice was softer when he added “Yeah, I get it. Probably shouldn’t talk about this when I’m trying to drive.” Tommy couldn’t argue with that. They wound up in front of Adam’s house in ten minutes, and Adam just walked straight for the door, Tommy behind him.

Eber was in the front room half asleep in front of Letterman, and he sat upright when he saw both of them come in. Adam walked past him, and Tommy looked back, waving a little. “Hey, we’re just gonna talk a little bit. It’s okay.” Inside his mind, Tommy wasn’t sure how okay it was. Adam took his hand and marched him right up to his room. Oh shit, Tommy thought. We might not stop at talking. What was Adam going to do-push him against the door and kiss him? It wouldn’t be the first time.

Instead, Adam left his door cracked and sat on his bed. “In case my dad comes in. So, did you know? You must have. I think I’m the only one who didn’t.” Adam looked hurt, and Tommy didn’t know what to say at first. Then he took a deep breath, wishing he had the balls to take Adam’s hand.

“He told me,” Tommy said quietly. “When I was sick at Lisa’s that time, and you had run off. He’d been jealous and kind of an asshole-you remember how he acted when he saw us in the dressing room?” Adam nodded, and Tommy kept going, trying to face Adam. “He came over to tell me his side of what had happened when that cop caught you. He said he started it because he wanted to kiss you until you liked him.” Tommy saw honest surprise on Adam’s face, and dropped his eyes. “I didn’t think it was my place to tell you. I felt so bad for him-I still do. I didn’t like us being together hurting him. I wish me and him could be friends.”

Adam didn’t say anything for a long time. “I had no idea,” he said, and the wistful note in Adam’s voice almost broke Tommy’s heart. See, he wishes it was him and Brad, then he wouldn’t need you, Brad would be better…Tommy closed his eyes against his thoughts as Adam continued. “Brad was so angry when we got caught.” Tommy looked up at Adam and saw him with his head down. “He was getting bullied, he blamed me, blamed himself. We didn’t talk for a couple of months, he got in a lot of trouble at home. When he came to my school, we started over as friends.” Adam looked up then. “I didn’t know that it meant so much to him. I didn’t think I would to anybody.”

“You’re wrong about that,” Tommy said softly. “I love you. And of course it meant something to Brad. I’m sorry he didn’t tell you, but it wasn’t my-I couldn’t go behind his back. He didn’t want you to know. I think he tried to be happy for you.” Adam nodded then, head still down, and Tommy reached for his hand. He wrapped it around Adam’s and got a squeeze back.

“Adam…” Tommy started. He knew this was probably a stupid idea, but he had to know. He wanted to be sure that he wouldn’t have been second best if things had been different. “Do you wish it was him? That you were with him and not me?” Adam stared at him, just blinking in shock, and Tommy kept going. “Because I don’t know if I’m that good for you and maybe he would’ve been better, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad…”

Adam just stared at him for a second. “What? I-no! How could you even say that?” Adam jerked his hand back and stood up, face flushing a hot red. “You always think I’m going to leave you or that you’re not good enough or something! I just told you that Brad wouldn’t even talk to me! Why would I wish it were him? “Adam took a step forward, and Tommy stood up too. Fuck it, if Adam was going to get pissed, he would too.

“You did leave me, you left me at Allen’s.” Tommy thought dimly that he shouldn’t bring that up again, but not until he saw the hurt pass like a wave over Adam’s face. “I didn’t mean-I don’t know! We’ll never know because you two didn’t and now you’re with me.” Tommy hung his head. “And we’re fighting.”

Adam was so fast that Tommy didn’t even see when Adam grabbed both of his wrists in one hand, holding hard enough to hurt. “Don’t fucking ever think you’re second best,” Adam said, and there was an undercurrent of desperation mixed with anger in his voice. “I want to be with you. I want us to be together again but I don’t know how that’s going to happen, and I’m so scared. I can’t handle it, how can you handle it?” Tommy didn’t get a chance to answer before Adam nearly crushed him in a hug. “Fuck. I miss you. I can’t stand this. I just want to make it better.”

Yeah, me too, Tommy thought. But it’s not, not yet. He let Adam hold him, one hand around Adam’s waist, his wrists still aching. Tommy could feel the way that Adam was holding back, trying not to kiss him. Adam was hard, just being this close to him, and so was Tommy. But he couldn’t do a damn thing. Adam was holding him so hard it almost hurt, but Tommy just put his face in Adam’s neck, and heard him sigh.

“Boys,” Eber’s voice said from the door, and they both jumped. “That’s enough, Adam.” There was no anger behind it, it was mostly just weary resignation. Adam let go, walking backwards, and Tommy missed his warmth and weight immediately. Eber looked at both of them, and Tommy flushed. “It might be time for Tommy to go home-it’s a school night. Tommy, I can take you.”

Tommy walked toward the door and looked over at Adam. Adam’s face was scared, and Tommy knew it wasn’t about his dad. Tommy swallowed and ignored Eber for a minute. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom, I’ll be out in a minute. I’ll see you downstairs before I go.” Adam closed his eyes and nodded. Tommy nodded and turned away.“I’ll see you,” he said again, and walked quickly to the hallway bathroom, one hand shielding his hard-on.

He splashed his face with water for a few minutes, thinking Well, that could’ve been a lot more awkward, I guess.Adam hadn’t gone back to the way he knew how to fix everything, but they were lucky that Eber had been listening. Tommy wasn’t as pissed off as he thought he would be. He knew how much he wanted it too, so it wasn’t like he could really hold a grudge. He pushed away from the sink and wiped his face off with a hand towel. I don’t know how we’re ever going to talk about it, Tommy thought. He looked at his reflection and sighed. So fuckin’ hard, why is it so hard?

When he opened the bathroom door, Neil was blocking his path. The kid was wearing his Star Wars pajamas and a really pissed off expression. “What is wrong with you two, fuck,” he said and then stomped back to his room. Tommy didn’t try to explain, because he didn’t think he could.

When he headed downstairs, he heard Eber talking to Adam. When he got closer, he could hear Eber saying “Are you okay? Were you two taking things too far? I know it’s hard, but you have to be patient.” Adam tried to protest and Eber interrupted him. “Look. You’re young and you’re letting your emotions run away with you. You need to calm down.” Eber sighed then, rubbed his hand over his face. “I know I’ve been suspicious of him before, but Tommy has to care about you. Just don’t rush it. I still think both of you need your time.” Tommy came down the stairs then, and Eber looked surprised. “Tommy. I’m sorry you heard that.”

“I’m not sorry,” Tommy said. “Thank you.” Eber looked at him, clearly surprised, and then nodded. Tommy nodded back and then walked over to where Adam and was, and kneeled in front of Adam’s spot on the sofa. “It’s okay,” he said, and Adam looked confused. “I’ll see you soon-don’t worry about this now. We’ve got to do the show tomorrow.” Adam laughed then, a little hysterically, and Tommy said “What?”

“I think you want this to go on more than I do. I just want it over, by now.” Adam gave him a strained smile. “But yeah. I’ll be okay. Go home.” Tommy paused, wanting to kiss Adam’s cheek. Instead he just smiled, tight at the corners of his mouth. “Bye,” Adam said, his voice almost inaudible. Eber was at the door with his coat when Tommy finally got up, and they left Adam there.

The silence in Eber’s car couldn’t be more awkward, and Tommy spent a lot of time fiddling with the seatbelt. “Can I smoke in here?” he asked, and Eber started a bit. “I mean, probably not. It looks like a nice car…”

“Just open the window,” Eber said. Tommy did, but he couldn’t find his pack. Eber kept driving, and after a while he said “So everything was okay? Adam seemed…pretty forceful.” Eber cleared his throat. “I’d just come up the stairs to check on you two, and then I saw him squeezing so hard I thought he’d break your ribs.” Tommy paused for a minute. He didn’t know what to tell Adam’s dad after something like this. “I mean, Jesus. Does this happen often?”

“Adam…,” Tommy paused, looking at the trees outside the window. “I think Adam just wants to make it all better, you know? And what used to work… But he wouldn’t have hurt me. He’s never hurt me.” Tommy looked over at Eber, wondering if he’d gone too far. But Eber just nodded and Tommy leaned back in his seat. “I just wanna go home. I don’t need any more bullshit.”

“No. I don't think you do.” Eber said. Tommy didn't know what to say to that. Eber pulled into their driveway and looked over. “That your car? Why didn’t you drive it today?” Tommy chuckled as the porch light came on and Lisa stood in the door. He was really fuckin’ glad Eber had changed the subject.

“Lisa’s turn to drive, that’s all. Goodnight Eber. Um, tell Adam goodnight for me. If he’s freaking out, tell him he can still call.” Tommy closed the car door and waved before running back in and hugging Lisa hard. “Okay, this time I’m sleeping in your room.”

Chapter Text

The next day passed in a haze, Tommy too weirded out by the fact that it would all be over by tonight. Nearly everybody seemed to feel the same way. On one extreme was Megan, who couldn’t hold still and kept bouncing through the halls. On the other end, Kris spent most of drama class staring straight ahead, looking terrified. Tommy couldn’t blame him-by the end of the day he wasn’t sure he’d turned in any assignments or not.

As for Adam, he seemed to be almost invisible to Tommy-he was there physically, but he had reverted back to not talking. It wasn’t just to Tommy, but to everyone, and his nervousness was so bad that Alisan actually commented on it. “He’s not normally like this,” she whispered to Tommy, who nodded and though Nothing about this has been normal.

Tommy was worried for Adam, but also for himself. The show was distracting, but what really made him useless what the constant wonder. What’s going to happen after? Are we going to talk? Does Adam still want to? Tommy couldn’t help himself-getting ready for the show might have kept him from going crazy or giving in to Adam too soon, but it was time for that to end, all-goddamn-ready.

He went home only to change clothes and get a bowl of Paul’s soup. Lisa kissed his cheek on the way out, promising that they would all be there, Margret too. “Okay, thanks,” Tommy said, and tried to hide how glad he was that anybody wanted to see him at all. “Hey,” he said. “Did you call my Oma? I know I told them when I went to dinner at her house, but…” Lisa hugged him again and then Tommy was heading to the car, not sure why he didn’t call her himself. He randomly remembered the first theater practice and how he had walked there, his Walkman on and his hand infected and throbbing. Things had changed a lot in two months. That made him think of Adam again, and how much last night had given him hope and twisted his heart at the same time. This is gonna end, he thought. And then…you can get back to what’s important.

Fuck, he hoped that was true. He hoped things would turn out well.

Everyone else was filing in about the time he was, about an hour before the show was set to start. Brad and the other dancers were putting on stage makeup. Megan had her frilly costume on and Anoop his ridiculous suit, and Megan was being loud and goofy. Tommy decided to go into quiet part of backstage and recite his lines to himself. He tried to remember what his staging was, where he was supposed to be. Fuck, I’m gonna forget everything and look like an asshole, he thought, groaning. Just then he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Don’t over-rehearse,” Kris said, smiling at him. “You’ll just choke. Come on over with me and we can play a little and clear our heads. You’ll remember everything when you get up there. I’ve heard you do it, don’t worry.” Tommy sighed with relief when Kris got his guitar and they sat in the wings for a while. Kris let him play around with his guitar while he sang snippets of songs After a few minutes Tommy felt calmer.

“Hey,” Kris said, taking his guitar back and tuning it a little. “I didn’t expect to see you so nervous. Is it about-“ Tommy didn’t wait for the rest of the question.

“A little bit-I can’t believe I’m gonna hit a stage and not be wasted, you know?” He looked at Kris’s expression and he knew that wasn’t what he meant. “Oh. Yeah, that too. I mean, of course.” Tommy didn’t want to mention how much this show was helping him not think about Adam while at the same time not allowing him to get away from him. “Mostly, I just want this to be over.” Tommy sighed. “Lisa and her family said they’re coming. That’s pretty cool.” Tommy was scrounging through Paul’s old jacket for a candy bar he’d stashed when Kris answered him.

“Aren’t they your family by now?” Tommy went totally still, the words stuck in hi