Disclaimer: Brothers of the Head belongs to Brian W. Aldiss. I am not profiting financially from this piece of fanfiction, nor do I intend to. Anything related to the film belongs to the filmmakers and Brian Aldiss respectfully - the idea for this piece of work, however, is my own.
The air was different here, and it had been different in London. And he could tell Barry didn’t like it – missed the scent of salt-water and the crying of the gulls. The sea-birds over the river Thames, they didn’t cry here, and Tom hadn’t realised that it had made him uneasy until now, lying here in bed with his brother in the unfamiliar room.
Two beds were pushed together and not quite the same height, so Barry was basically on top of him, but Tom knew that that was because of more than just trying to stay comfortable – Barry was frightened, though he would never admit it.
Tom turned his face into his brother’s hair and suddenly the nervous weight that had settled in his stomach since Bert had took them away from the Head dissipated, because Barry’s hair still smelled like sand and sea.
Neither of them really liked apples, but they grew in abundance in the trees lining the drive at Humbleden. Barry liked to spend most of the time spent outside stooping down, without much warning and making Tom wince and follow the movement – and then pitching them at the sheep. He always missed.
“Stop it, Barry,” Tom said, catching him before he could bend down again, both hands on Barry’s upper arms and steadying him. Those mischievous eyes met his own, that cocky grin, because he knew he was getting to him. Tom reached behind him fast, picking one of the small red apples from the nearest branch and shoved it at Barry’s mouth, just gentle enough not to hurt him. Barry turned his head away fast, and Tom mumbled a “how do you like it?” as Barry’s hands shoved his away and the apple fell to the grass with a dull thud.
Tom looked away, using the false anger to cover the strange flip of his belly, over and over. He wasn’t even sure why, just that it happened sometimes, when Baz looked at him a certain way.
Things were changing here. He felt more grown up, more independent, even with Barry’s chin on his shoulder, that constant weight of the join just under their ribs. Sometimes Tom wondered what it would feel like to not have that – that constant push and pull of tendon and skin – but more often than not, he didn’t even notice it was there.
But sometimes he would wake up and feel completely solitary. It wasn’t often, just in the last warm nights before the fall truly set in – and somehow he wouldn’t be touching Barry, or rather Barry wouldn’t be slung out, limbs tangled and twined with his… and he liked it – wondered what it would feel like to wake up alone in bed, white sunlight pooling in the window, going to get a cup of coffee without someone else constantly on him, leaning on him, the breath of Barry’s yawns drifting past his ear and over his shoulder. Never fully awake when his brother wasn’t…
Barry never got mad at him when Tom woke him, that sharp sudden pull, the hoarse, sleep-heavy shout passing his lips. These were the times where it terrified Tom, absolutely fucking terrified him to think about waking up and being alone.
It felt like he was. It was pitch black in the room. He couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, the imprint of his dream behind his eyelids when he closed them, and he wasn’t sure which was worse. Hundreds of bent legs, magnified, wings fluttered as though ensnared in some invisible spider’s web. Struggling, twisting and spasming as though in some horrible pain – dying, a noise like wind – or was it… – that high pitched whine just under the roar of sea.
His throat felt raw, like there was sand inside of it – slowly filling him up, suffocating him, and then Barry’s hands were on his face, over his ear, tuning him to the sounds of the room and not the remnants of the dream. In his hair. Barry’s mouth was close to his ear, brushing over his temple as he pulled him back down against the mattress, and the world came flooding back, and it was quiet except for his brother’s voice saying, “Just that dream, s’gone now, s’over,”
He watched Barry’s fingers slide over the table and pull Tom’s mug over to him, raising it to his lips. Tom pretended to ignore him, but watched him out of the corner of his eye. Sometimes he thought Barry did this specifically to annoy him, taking a drink of his coffee as though it would taste different today, and of course, it never did.
And as always Barry pulled a face and made a disgusted sound and something angry twisted sharp and hot in Tom’s stomach, surprising him, because Barry always did this, and it always irritated him, but suddenly he was swallowing back a surge of furious words rising in his throat. He stood up quickly, forcing Barry up with him, ignoring Paul’s slightly startled look and Barry’s low protest because he hadn’t finished his breakfast, and Tom pulled the two of them out of the room and onto the back steps where, really, it was too cold to be out here without their jackets. He lit a cigarette, not looking at him.
“What’s wrong, Tommy?” Barry asked quietly after a few minutes, when the cigarette was almost completely gone. Tom looked at him, his hair mussed from sleep, faint freckles visible in the pale sun and the anger was gone, just like that, and he wondered why it had bothered him so much at all.
He shook his head, as though he didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Nothing, come on,”
The screen door creaked as he pulled it open, and they went back inside.
Tom liked being in the back on the van, on their way back from gigs because everyone was tired and happy, and the smell of pot had become comforting instead of strange. The only light was the rhythmic grow and fade of the yellow streetlights.
Barry’s hands seemed to have a life of their own after shows. When they were going to them, they were always tight around his bottle of vodka, or playing with the material of Tom’s jacket or his shirt. They were tense and calculated. Like this though, when they were all relaxed and laughing, his fingers would slide over the back of Tom’s neck, into his hair, relaxing Tom, if possible, even more than the smell of the pot. It was almost a ritual. His fingers would play from his hair and neck over his shoulders, down his spine or his side, over his arm, over his wrist, his hip. By the time they all piled out of the van and stumbled back up to the house, Barry’s arm would be fixed around Tom’s waist as usual.
It was his favourite part about the van ride that seemed so long on their way to the gigs. They never lasted long enough coming back home.
Sometimes he just fucking…
Just fucking wanted…
Sometimes he just fucking wanted to be alone.
And he would never have it. He knew that.
And Barry knew that, which was why he stood here, braced against his brother, both of them panting, chests rising and falling hard and heavy against each other. Tom’s fingers were tight, bruising around Barry’s wrist, and Barry’s fingers were tight around the handle of a knife, its wooden surface warped by years of use, and misuse, and later that night, Barry turned as much away from him as he could, Tom could feel it, half-in, half-out of a dream. He could feel the handle of that knife in his palm.
He would never forget that feeling.
His hands ran over Barry’s skin in an effort to forget, and Barry mumbled something and turned away more. That was the worst part. That Barry was afraid to touch him after that. He hadn’t even cut him, not even a nick, but he’d been trying to, and that was the worst part. Maybe it would have been better if he had drawn a little blood.
Sometimes it surprised Tom, how other people didn’t notice the change in his brother, just before he slipped off somewhere else in his mind. Somewhere not fully present. It was like shutters behind his eyes, those blue eyes that mirrored Tom’s, that mirrored Tom more often than anyone else in the world… they would become shut off, like doors.
Like doors closing.
Much more frightening and confining than the doors that Nick slammed and locked behind them when they were doing things not to his tastes.
Certainly, they were harder to open.
It was a pastime, and a good one at that. What would they do without the drinking? But it had its drawbacks too. Like the confidence it inspired in Barry, in Paul. Tom never really noticed it in anyone else, not so acutely. Paul’s fingers, calloused from so much time pressed against the strings of the instruments that he played so well, tracing lines and shapes against Barry’s shoulder blades, twisting gently in his curls, and the way his brother’s head fell so easily to Paul’s shoulder when they were sitting close.
It was as though Tom fell away, when they were drinking together, laughing together. Neither of them acknowledged him when they got like that, except to pass him a joint, but he was just one of the crowd at that point. Barry paid him no more attention than if he had been Tubs or Nick.
He wasn’t aware of how much of a job the music really was until the practises took up all of their free time. It had never been like this before. Really, they’d only been at Humbleden for just under half a year. But now they were doing the serious shows, Nick said – the shows critics were going to be at, the shows where real journalists were going to be writing about them, and not just the ones as desperate for publicity as they were.
It made Tom nervous, and it made Barry nervous even though they knew these songs inside and out, and never had a problem keeping time with each other – could keep up with each other spontaneously in the music – Barry singing too fast, Tom playing with the notes, fancying it up, or bringing it down and just making it loud.
It was like breathing.
It was just how they understood each other.
When was it, Tom wondered, when their old life had fallen away? When had they stopped being interested in naming the species of birds and plants? When had they started staying indoors when it was raining?
These things – they never thought about them before. Robbie would send them out to play unless the tide was pulling the soil from under the fence around the garden in the front yard.
Tom wondered if it was still half-fallen, that fence, or if their dad had finally fixed it like he’d been promising to do for year – just one part of it pointing out almost horizontally like a pregnant belly over the marshes. It had once been white – for about a month before the sea wind stripped all the colour away. Just like their house – everything on the head was grey and green and brown, but sometimes the sea was a startling blue.
Something had broken between them. Tom knew that, understood it, had risked it and not given a fuck as soon as Laura had taken his shaking hand and brought it down between her legs, pressing his fingers up inside of her, and he wanted more and he didn’t care that Barry was there, lying less than a few inches away from him.
For days, all he could feel was her soft hair brushing against his shoulders as she moved over him, how different her body was from his own, and from Barry’s – the only two bodies he was used to.
The way it felt, to be inside of her.
So then, why was it Barry’s blue eyes that stared back at him when he felt those same tight feelings in his belly? Why did he wake up and reach down under the sheets, between his thighs, without once thinking of Laura?
It had been an Indian summer and the red leaves didn’t drop from their branches until November was beginning to wane.
The weather got cold fast and sudden that year, and the wind tore the leaves from their branches and tangled them in their hair. Tom reached out and pulled them from Barry’s curls, and Barry reached out for it, twisting it in his fingers before letting it go. They never got colour like this back on the Head. It made him feel different, alive.
Barry leaned into his side, shivering in his light jacket and lowered his head alongside Tom’s to flick the lighter flint, Tom holding his jacket over both their faces to block the wind as they lit their cigarettes from the same flame, both emerging into the biting air, raising identical hands to pull the fags from their mouths and exhale in the bitter wind.
The whiskey always burnt his throat when he drank it, but it made him feel warm and lazy. Comfortable. It was a strange kind of neutral drunk for him. Sometimes he felt like the vodka made Barry violent, and the rum sometimes made them sick. Maybe it was just the fact that he hadn’t been drinking whiskey long enough to have any solid opinions on it. Everyone else had long since gone to bed, easier for them, when they only had one stumbling body to drag upstairs, one mind to un-cloud long enough to collapse onto their beds without undressing and fall asleep.
Barry’s head was near Tom’s chest, his body turned into, curled into, pressed into Tom’s body, and he was heavy, and so far into sleep that Tom couldn’t really move, even though he himself wasn’t tired – it was just that Barry’s heartbeat had slowed and Tom’s followed it, had to, to keep their blood flowing the same.
“Barry,” he whispered, then again, louder. “Barry, Baz,” Barry mumbled something and raised his head. “We should go to bed.”
In their bedroom, he busied his hands with undoing the buttons that connected their shirts together, that fit around the join. First his own side, then Barry’s, because Barry wasn’t helping, just standing there, looking disoriented and sleepy. Tom felt the inside of Barry’s wrists brush against the outside of his as he finally reached down and started undoing the buttons of his own jeans.
His brother made a soft sound suddenly, and leaned into him, trapping Tom’s hands between their lower bellies, and at first Tom thought he was just half passing out, but then his lips were moving against his neck, teeth scraping the thinner skin over his throat and Tom let his head fall back. “What’re you doin’?”
Barry’s hands were hard on his hips, partially holding himself up. He didn’t answer, and Tom panicked a little and moved away. “What… what’re you doing?” he asked, clearer.
Barry just looked at him. “Just thought… nothin’.”
Tom wanted to press him, say ‘No, tell me’, but he didn’t. Neither of them slept, hearts beating too fast.
Both of them were almost falling asleep in practice the next day, and finally Nick gave up and stormed out.
Tom thought that maybe it would have been better to just shut up and let Barry do… whatever he was doing.
Next time, he promised himself, he would just let it happen.
“Capable of being bent. Usually without breaking.”
Next time didn’t seem like it was going to come. Eventually it was forgotten. Mostly.
Practices, gigs, drinks, drugs.
Laura was there more often than not now, and Tom tried to ignore the fact that Barry was distant. Her schedule – she could work it around her life, because she wasn’t her own boss, but she knew how to write, when to write, and how long it would take her to do something if she left it to the last minute. It was clear to Tom that Barry wished her job took her away more. “Isn’t she s’posed to be a journalist?” he would ask. “What’s she doing hanging around us for?”
Her hands had mapped Tom’s body now, and memorised it, but he would always tense when her fingers brushed over the join.
There was a spot – closer to Barry than to him, where they could both feel it. The room smelled like sex and sweat , and Tom’s heart was still pounding, but his body was relaxed and calm, feeling her fingers drift over his chest, his belly, and finally to the skin that stretched out and joined him to his brother. Barry was trying to ignore them both, but Tom knew that he was wide awake. How could he not be when their hearts were pounding together, when his own breath quickened when Tom’s did. It wasn’t something he could help, and Tom tried not to think about how it felt, lying there so close to him and Laura.
Tom knew that sometimes it made him hard, but he would never touch himself – not with Laura there. Just willed it away. They never mentioned it.
Laura’s hands slid over the twisted skin, exploring, and it wasn’t bad. Not like how the doctors touched him, the feeling of those gloves that seemed to pull at the sensitive skin. Pressing and prodding. Didn’t they know it could hurt just like any other part of their body?
It happened in a split second, Laura’s arm was still draped over his belly, but the feeling of her fingers over the join was gone. On Tom’s side anyway. Barry’s hand came down so fast that Laura actually yelped a little in surprise.
He caught her wrist and held it and their eyes met over Tom’s chest.
Tom started to push himself up, come between them, but then Barry scoffed and let her go, and moved to get up. Tom didn’t budge.
“Where are you going?”
“Fuck!” Barry cried, suddenly, pulling at Tom’s shoulders, fighting, pulling him out of the bed and Laura watched the two boys struggled, silhouetted by the small window, half sitting up, her heart pounding in her chest. Was this her fault?
Barry pulled him into the bathroom and slammed the door behind them, not bothering to turn the light on, breathing hard with anger.
Tom waited, listening to him undo his trousers, then the sharp hitches in his breath and Tom leaned back against the door, face angled towards the ceiling and tried not to think about how unfair it was – to Barry, because when he started thinking about that, he started thinking about how unfair it was for him.
How fucking unfair everything was.
Tom could hear Laura getting dressed in their bedroom, but he didn’t hear her leave.
Barry made a soft sound, pressing his face against the junction between Tom’s shoulder and his neck and Tom knew that this wasn’t about Laura – Barry wasn’t attracted to her like he pretend to be. He only did that to annoy him. This was something else entirely. He sighed and turned on the light. It took a few seconds before it flickered on, filling the room with a quiet buzz, flickering every so often.
It wasn’t a glaring light. They barely used it because it provided just enough light to see by anyway. No one had gotten around to changing the bulb because they hadn’t told anyone it didn’t work. He raised one hand to the back of Barry’s head, holding him there, and his brother’s breaths came shaky and irregular, hot against his shoulder, his hand moving faster between his legs. Tom backed them up, leaning just a little to turn the water on in the shower, and his brother’s hands were grasping at his hips, and they stepped under the hot water.
It didn’t take long. Barry was already more than halfway there, but Tom never touched him. They never looked at each other, not once.
The room was cold when then stepped out of the bathroom and Tom met Laura’s eyes. Barry was ignoring her, looking everywhere else but at her, and she saw that, but she wasn’t about to let that stop her.
“Shower,” she said quietly as she passed them, and the boys crawled into bed, Barry curled tightly into Tom, hand tight on his shoulder, holding him against him, facing each other so that his back would be to Laura.
Even when she came back out, her hair still wet, skin hot from the water, Tom didn’t turn back to her.
It was as though none of it had happened in the morning.
You could barely even taste the vodka after the cocaine. It wasn’t nearly as harsh or as strong with that bitter taste in your throat and on your tongue. Oh fuck, he liked how it felt.
And everything, well it didn’t seem so bad now. It didn’t seem so fucked up and horrible, and in the red lighting of the basement everything looked so sharp and real and nothing was elusive and everything was here to look at and listen to, to touch and to fuck.
Tom and Laura were kissing, and they were so close that even though the music was so loud that he couldn’t tell the difference between it and his drug-rapid heartbeat pounding and reverberating through his chest, he could still hear them, the little sounds they made, and he could feel Tom’s heart speed up and it made Barry’s skip – miss a beat, miss a beat until maybe his heart wasn’t even beating at all and he’d suddenly discovered that he didn’t need it, and it didn’t matter that it was faulty and fucked up like the rest of him because he didn’t need it.
Maybe they were alone in the basement because Laura had climbed over Tom now, her leg brushing Barry’s hip, her legs against Tom’s sides, her hips above Tom’s hips and she was moving over him and her skirt was hiked up around her thighs and maybe they were fucking… you couldn’t tell.
Barry closed his eyes, one leg drawn up, thighs pressing together, the muscles in his stomach tight because he was so fucking hard and it was too hot and his heart was skipping and it made him lightheaded and—
Someone’s hand was in his hair, cool fingers. They smelled like cigarettes and night air and Barry opened his eyes and met Paul’s. His hair was so dark, such a contrast in this red light, his eyes almost black, but he was high too, so that might have something to do with it.
“Oh,” Barry said, and then moaned softly because—his own hand was down between his legs, pressing against the seam of denim and Paul glanced down.
Barry grinned at him, but Paul wiped it off his face soon enough, his cold fingers coming down over Barry’s to press against that spot between his legs, and Barry’s head fell back and Paul’s mouth was against his neck…
In the morning Paul was gone, and his head was pounding and Tom was turned away from him, and into Laura, skirt still pulled up, long white legs stark against the dim light coming from the open basement door.
His jeans were still done up, but he could feel where the fabric was rough, that it needed to be washed and he wished that he had someone to turn into, and looking at his brother, the soft hair curling at the base of his neck, Barry wanted it to be him… didn’t he?
So why, upstairs, when Paul looked at him that way -- that way that meant that it hadn’t been a dream -- nervously, trying to smile through it… why did Barry’s belly tighten – that same nervousness.
But Paul didn’t touch him again. Not like that. Not for a long time.
Tom’s fingers slid over Barry’s side of the join absently. It was very early and Barry was in a light sleep next to him, and like this, Tom could look at him without Barry’s eyes looking defiantly back, or without him talking, without him doing something to make Tom annoyed with him, because he was his brother and he was annoying.
Barry’s hair curled over his temples, a piece tangling into his eyelashes and Tom reached up and brushed it away and Barry’s eyes flickered open for a moment, Tom’s hand suspended there in the air, but then he turned his face into the pillow, drew his legs up, knees knocking against Tom’s shins, against his hip and he reached under the blankets to push that leg down, annoyance rising in him again.
Then Barry slid his thigh in between Tom’s and pressed closer, his forehead against the hollow of Tom’s shoulder…
Tom wrapped that arm around his back and Barry’s fingers slid over his jaw and rested there and Tom closed his eyes.
He remembered mornings like these when getting up early wasn’t distorted by their time at Humbleden, drugs and drink and late night after late night bringing them into what Tom thought of as city life’ even though they weren’t really in the city.
He remembered the smell of bread mixed with the smell of the sea and hot sand spilling into their open window, and drifting up from downstairs, and how, in the summer, the food they had was so much different – blackberries and apples, whatever Robbie could get from the market on the mainland – so much different from the meat and potatoes and endless fish and canned vegetables the rest of the year.
He’d always liked summer best.
Tom watched Barry from the corner of his eye as he ate his breakfast. Snow was falling rapidly outside and while everyone just wanted to stay indoors and watch it fall, no one wanted to practice.
Paul was sitting across from the boys, his hands wrapped around his cup of tea; that ring on his finger tapping against the ceramic. They were laughing about something they’d seen on the telly last night, but it was more than that. Tom could feel the way Barry’s heart sped up when Paul reached out for his hand to demonstrate something, Paul’s strong-fingered hands – capable of bringing music out of anything – wrapped around Barry’s palm, slid down his bare forearm, Paul’s soft voice, just on the edge of laughter, Barry’s eyes fixed on him and Tom put his fork down. He couldn’t eat anymore. Neither of the other two men noticed.
When Paul got up to leave, Tom watched Barry watch Paul empty his mug into the sink, and then his eyes found Tom’s so fast that Tom didn’t even have a chance to look away.
He did anyway, but it was too late.
“Why’re you looking at me like that?”
“Wasn’t looking at you, Barry.”
He could see the sulk coming into Barry’s eyes before it even touched his face, hollowed his cheeks a little, tightened his mouth.
They both looked down with a sense of anxiety – neither of them wanted to be fighting, not now, not this morning. Something about it was peaceful.
The underside of Barry’s foot slid over his underneath the table. Tom could feel the rough edge of the scar that started on the side of his brother’s foot and made a line all the way underneath the arch of it to the ball of it from going barefoot on the beach when they were little kids.
Something about it, more than just the physical touch, but just knowing that scar, knowing where it came from, it gave him a sense of—tenderness maybe. He knew Barry… more than anyone else.
Barry wasn’t going to leave him. He turned his head, leaning into his brother’s shoulder and pressing his nose against that unruly hair just for a moment before pulling away.
And just like that, everything was okay again.
Just like that.
When Tom opened his eyes he couldn’t see anything. He lifted his hands to rub his eyes—tried to lift them. They were heavy, everything was so heavy, but there as just enough space to move a little, turn his head. He pushed against the weight – what the fuck was it – and sand sprinkled down over his bare skin.
And then the panic set in and he was clawing at it, wet sand caking underneath his fingernails, coming away from above him in clumps, his bare feet digging into the ground, and suddenly it was very cold, and no matter how much he clawed at the surface it was just replaced with more and more sand, and no matter how loud he screamed it just echoed in his own ears, oddly dead in the few inches between his lips and the sand.
Pitch fucking black. Un…bury…me…
He screamed again.
“Tommy, Tom! Tom!” Barry’s voice, muffled at first, so far away, and warmth was on his face, somehow, in this cold blackness, encasing him, trapping him. He must be crying.
He woke up screaming, his voice choked, gasping in air as though he’d been drowning, and Barry’s hands were on his face, and then they were gone, and Tom was saying “No! Nononono, fuck, don’t leave me!”
Light flooded the room and his brother’s hands were back, holding his cheeks, forcing him to look at him, smoothing down his hair, saying “Shhh, shhhshh,”
And everything fell silent save for his ragged sobs, his sniffling, and then Barry’s arms were around him, holding him so tightly it was as though Barry had been the one who was dreaming.
“I don’t want it, didn’t mean it, Barry, Barry I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,”
Barry pulled back, put his hand over his mouth, Tom’s hot breath, but he stopped talking. The door was pushed open and Nick stood there, tense. He’d heard the screaming. Tom pulled away enough to see the door.
Barry dropped his hand from his brother’s mouth too late.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
“Dream, I had a dream,” Tom mumbled, voice soft and almost calm through his sobs that kept coming even though he wasn’t crying anymore.
“Go away, Nick.” Barry said, not pulling his arm from around his brother’s shoulders.
To their surprise, he did, closing the door and cursing all the way down the stairs.
Barry’s thumbs, his palms on Tom’s face, brushing away the last of the tears and Tom couldn’t look at him, and suddenly, his brother’s mouth was on his, just for a moment, but it wasn’t a chaste kiss, and Tom looked up at him, all innocence and confusion.
Barry reached down and pulled the blankets Tom had kicked off up around them again, laying down and pulling Tom with him.
And then they were all hands and limbs and hard chests and soft bellies, pressed so tight up against one another it was as though they would never be more separate than this, and Barry’s soft breathing calmed him, grounded him more than anything else, and they fell asleep.
When morning came it made the dream seem so much less real.
Summer came – they’ been over a year in this place, and the music that spilled out of it now was much better than the music that came out at the beginning.
Barry’s fingers flicked a bug away from Tom’s neck, and it was almost funny to see him with all that black eyeliner, hair freshly shaved above the temples, and still with a cluster of freckles brought on by the sun.
Tom lay back in the grass and Barry followed, his arm caught under Tom’s head, but neither seemed to mind. They stared up at the sky, the branches swaying in the slight breeze over their heads.
Tom turned his head to look at his brother through the long blades of grass and Barry smiled after a moment, eyes still fixed on the sky. “What?”
Tom reached over and pretended to brush something from his chin, watched Barry wrinkle his noise and rub the back of his hand over that spot. Tom smiled at him and lay back down, his eyes flickering over to him every so often.
The memory came unbidden, the two of them just sitting there on the front steps of Humbleden, smoking a single cigarette between them because Paul hadn’t run to the store yet.
He remembered standing in their bathroom, Robbie and Da’ were outside working in the garden, and Barry watched Tom pull his tee shirt off, both of them standing there with their clothes scattered around their feet. They might have been about twelve. Thirteen at the oldest.
He remembered the way they had stood there, together, just standing, Tom’s arm coming up around his neck and turning them both to face the mirror, their bare chests, ribs and hips jutting – still not men. There wasn’t really any smooth muscle for those bones to fade into.
Light hair there between their legs. Barry’s fingers slid quickly over the inside of his thigh, brushing away sand and he remembered that Tom’s eyes lingered on their hips, their penises. His eyelashes were so long. They were exposed like this, thin awkward legs, and Tom’s arm around Barry’s shoulder, pulling his head against his own, twin eyes staring back at them from tanned faces, hair tangled and dirty and bleached from the sun.
He looked at Tom now, his face was a little different, but they always looked like each other. That was comforting. He slid his arm up around Tom’s neck and pulled his head against his own.
Tom sighed, their bedsheets rustling as he stretched his legs out as Barry’s fingers dipped into the hollow of his shoulder, then slid down his arm, thumb brushing his hip before he pulled his hand away and pulled it to his own chest. They never really touched… not like that.
But Tom reached out and caught Barry’s wrist, bringing it back to his waist, too shy to bring it any lower when they were like this, naked, exposed in a too-intimate situation. He knew Barry looked at him, saw it from the corner of his eyes, but he didn’t look up.
The house was too quiet.
His brother’s fingers moved almost timidly all of a sudden over his back, then his belly and Tom shifted, feeling himself get slightly hard, bringing one leg up to hide it.
Baz’s fingers slid over his hip, the dip of skin there near his belly and before he could stop it a soft noise escaped him and Barry tensed, but his thumb tapped briefly against the bone, fingers sliding back up to his waist. When Tom looked up at him, just a glance, he saw that Barry’s eyes were fixed on his hand, mapping out Tom’s side like this. Those long fingers slid over Tom’s and pulled his hand gently along the length of the join, to his own side, his own hip, then let go.
They lay like that for a long time, tracing each other’s lines and hollows. Tom brushed the pad of his thumb over a freckle on Barry’s thigh. He wondered if he had one too. He’d never noticed.
It had only been a matter of time, Tom thought, his brother’s lips brushing his jaw, because this—they weren’t supposed to touch like this, in the darkness, halfway up the stairs to their room, both of them too drunk to really—this wasn’t good idea.
And Laura, she had been touching him downstairs, just for a moment, just briefly, teasing, and he knew that she would be up here later tonight, but right now Barry’s tongue brushed his lips and Tom opened his mouth and they were kissing hard and desperate and Tom’s hand was between his brother’s thighs and Barry was saying “Oh, fuck, Tommy,”
And Tom pushed him back, both of them stumbling a little on the steps until Barry’s back was against the opposite wall and Tom was pressing against him hard, his leg between his brother’s, and there was no hiding it now, that they wanted this.
Was it wrong? He wondered, as he kissed him. Was it wrong?
It was raining when they all piled out of the van. They’d leave the equipment in there until it stopped pouring enough to bring them in without damaging them. They all ran to the house, huddling together around the doors and Paul, shoulders hunched against the damp, was laughing and talking with them, and for a moment it was all right, even good, until he reached out and touched Barry’s face, wiping some of the smudged eyeliner away and Barry moved, head tilted into that touch, his eyes on Paul, and there was something—the way he looked at him.
Tom wanted that for himself.
Paul pulled away quickly enough because the rest of the guys were there, and it wouldn’t do to be seen like that…
Tom tightened his arm around Barry’s shoulders just a little more.
Light from the hallway spilled into their bedroom, where Barry was wrapped around him, their legs tangled together, just sleeping. Tom knew it was Eddie, but he kept his eyes closed, willing him away. It was times like these that he realised that being like this, so close to Baz wasn’t… other people didn’t do this. Couldn’t do this really. Other people didn’t know each other so well… and maybe it looked strange when he played it back, those reels of film ,two brothers pressed against each other like this…
- Tom and Barry