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.
Barry had always seemed like the younger one. The little brother. At least that was how it was to Tom. And maybe Barry realised that, but Tom would never bring it up. He knew that Barry didn’t like that. Baz. His brother.
But there was something about him, a vulnerability, a look like—he was so uncertain, so confused. He looked troubled a lot of the time, and Tom understood all those moods, usually. Why he was in them. Tom understood that there were voices in Barry’s head and he knew that Barry needed him and so he tried to be there. He was there when it counted.
Or he used to be.
Sometimes, with Laura, he didn’t want to be there for Barry, because Barry needed him so much and sometimes it frightened him a little, and sometimes it just annoyed him. Barry’s restless fingers, watching him smoke his way through half a pack of cigarettes, one after the other, watch him wash it down with all that vodka.
He would look over at him, Laura at his side, speaking into his ear… and he would look at him and just… he would look so lost.
And that wasn’t fair… really… Tom never—he tried not to burden Barry with any of that. He was the one that was there to pull Barry back from all those corners of his mind that frightened them both. He was always going to be there for him… why didn’t Barry see that.
Why did he turn all his attentions to Paul when Tom looked away for five fucking minutes?
Did he think that he was going to leave him?
Barry ran the stick across the chain-link, back and forth, back and forth. The sound was grating.
“Stop it, Baz.”
“Not doin’ nothin’.”
“You fucking well are.” Tom finally looked up, glaring. Barry grinned at him and Tom reached out and grabbed the stick, wrestling it none too gently from his brother’s hand and throwing it away as far as could from his position, crosslegged on the ground.
It was fall, but warm. The light was fading, earlier now than it had all summer, and the leaves surrounded them, the smell of them something both boys had come to love – and so bright.
Like the blood coming up from Barry’s palm which he held between them, just looking at it – flecks of bark almost black against his white palm.
Tom sighed, and reached out for it. “Sorry--”
Barry wrenched it away and wiped it on the grass.
It had been that look – those mischievous eyes. They always did something to him, but something he didn’t really—it didn’t make his belly flip with nervousness, it didn’t make him want to push his fingers into his hair and kiss him.
Nick complained that there were no new songs, that Tom hadn’t been writing, that Paul hadn’t been composing new music. In truth though, they’d tried. Paul had written plenty of new stuff, but he wasn’t about to force it on the boys, and Tom knew that, but he could see that the other man was getting anxious.
And he—it wasn’t that there was a lack of things to write about, just the fact that whenever he opened his notebook to a blank page, all he could think about was…
Shoulders, freckles fading as summer faded, but not Laura’s shoulders. Not smooth and soft like Laura’s shoulders… and a mouth, hot against his own, desperate and needy and not at all like kissing a girl…
And Barry’s eyes, always shadowed, always just a little bit uncertain…
And Barry’s eyes on him now as he stared at the blank piece of paper. He snapped the notebook shut and pulled his guitar onto his lap and started playing an old song. Any old song, because Barry never looked at him when he sang, and that was what Tom needed right now.
Since there was no new music at the moment, they found themselves with a lot more free time on their hands than they were used to, without practices.
And it seemed like everyone needed a break anyhow. Nick was the only one whinging about it because Zak was breathing down his neck about new material, and didn’t he know that the record companies were going to be at the next show?
They went exploring, because really, they weren’t as grown up as their front-men facades made them seem. They found a room full of huge paintings all leaned up against each other, all leaned up against the walls. They used to hang in the art gallery, now the rehearsal room.
Most of them were scenic, and they didn’t really go through many of them for fear that they would break something – who knew how much these paintings were worth? But Tom and Barry had never seen any pictures framed on quite so large a scale. Some of these frames were both wider and taller than they were. There was a pile of rolled up prints in the corner, dated – not as important as the other paintings, so said one critic or another.
Barry’s fingers slid over the window ledge, making trails in the dusk and sending dust motes dancing wildly into the stream of sunlight coming in through the window.
Tom coughed slightly and Barry smiled, and it wasn’t quite that mischievous grin. Maybe it was something in the way that he stepped forward, his fingers feeling like they were covered in dust as they slid over his neck… maybe it was that that sent a jolt of feeling through Tom’s limbs, making him take a deep breath.
The kiss was tentative, uncertain, because there was no reason for it really. They weren’t drunk, they were just alone together in a house that was old, nearly silent, surrounded by neglected works of art that had been taken from the walls to make way for a newer form of it… the music.
It might have gone on a bit too long, neither of them really wanting to pull away and deal with the aftermath – the sound of their mouths together, their soft breaths almost soothing, lulling them into the warm press of both their bodies.
Somewhere downstairs a record started playing.
Maybe Tom would have done it differently if he could have done it again. They made their way up to their own room from the Painting Room as Barry called it now. It was late in the afternoon, and they could hear the occasional burst of laughter or rise in conversation.
They lay stretched out on top of their sheets like lovers, like two people who had been doing this for years, and in a way, they had been, but not like this, never like this.
Barry was over him, one of his legs in between Tom’s, his hands supporting himself on either side of him, kissing slow, languidly, then a little more insistently. It was Tom who took it further. Barry – he seemed like the type that could just kiss forever, but – and he would never had thought it before – he was the one that wanted more. That wanted to be closer.
Maybe Barry felt much more secure in that moment, both of them shirtless now, Tom’s jeans undone, maybe as they struggled out of their jeans and shoes and socks, it was just one more moment of how together they were, proof of it.
And at the time, when there were lying there, everything so warm from the autumn sun – when they were rocking against each other, the strange new but oddly familiar slide and press of their cocks against each other’s, against their bellies, it wasn’t sex.
Even when they came, so close to each other, it wasn’t sex. It wasn’t sex.
Not until after did Tom start to look at it that way, uncertain now how he felt about it…
But looking at Barry, his happy smiles, the way he was so relaxed – he was never relaxed anymore it seemed… it wasn’t so strange for him.
Somewhere in between their first and fourth time pressed against each other, just needing to feel that way that they could move together – they could do it themselves, but both understood that it wasn’t the same – Tom began to worry.
The shower had gotten cold, and they were all tangled up in each other, the shock of freezing water, making them pull apart, Barry cursing, and step out, shivering, wet bodies dripping onto the floor as they dried themselves off quickly and got into bed.
For a long time the only sound was the tap dripping.
“What’s wrong?” Barry asked finally.
Tom shook his head, and when Baz reached out to slide his arm over his belly, Tom turned away and found his notebook.
Barry’s hands slid over his wrist, took hold of the book, trying to pull it away, murmuring his name, but Tom shook himself free.
“Fuck off!” he shouted, his voice surprising even him in the silence of the room.
Barry recoiled, looking like a puppy someone had just smacked for no reason and Tom almost apologised.
But in the end he didn’t. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be touching him like that now… not so soon after…
That was what him and Laura did, just fucking—they made love all day sometimes. Not often, because Barry hated that, but—he couldn’t do that with Barry.
Fucking Barry – they’d come that far now – wasn’t at all like fucking Laura. When he was in between his brother’s legs, hearing his brother’s breath catch as he thrust into him, it was totally different, and he couldn’t really tell why.
Barry’s mouth on his, the way he bit back the sounds, it was so different, and yet sometimes, when Tom was watching Laura move above him, her pretty white breasts, her soft belly, his hands clutching her thighs – it wasn’t what he wanted.
Sometimes he wanted to feel Barry, hard, pressed up against his belly while he moved into him so slowly it was infuriating for them both, but when they finally came it was so—it was so—like the world was ending, but they were all right because they had each other.
Days and days of rain. Sex with Laura, sex with Baz, his own hands between his thighs when he needed it but couldn’t stand to touch either of them because he was so fucking – he didn’t know what he wanted anymore.
And that evening in the recording room Barry and leaned over and kissed Paul hard on the mouth and it was okay because they were both high, and Tom was feeling high because Barry was high and he hadn’t fucking liked that.
So now, Baz’s legs all tangled around his hips, his hands hard on the back of Tom’s neck as Tom moved into him, his mouth open under Tom’s, harsh breaths coming out as Tom hit that spot again and again, he realised that this was what Barry had wanted all along – what he’d been trying to do by kissing Paul.
The rain had stopped, Barry realised, when he woke up that morning. The sun was shining in brightly, and his thighs and belly, he realised, when he stretched, were both sore, but he didn’t mind it. They lay completely languid together, and it was so natural somehow, that they should be together like this, when there was a join connecting them forever. Constant intercourse. All their lives.
Tom woke up and smoothed his fingers over Barry’s cheek and smiled at him and Barry leaned forward and tucked his head under his brother’s chin, feeling Tom’s careful fingers pull gently at the tangles in his hair.
There were no regrets. This was how things were meant to be.
Barry, Tom thought, was so much like a child, watching the last of the bees bend the stems of the flowers in the garden as they tried to save up the pollen for winter, or whatever it was that bees did.
When Barry looked at him, he looked so innocent, so content, sitting sprawled there on the lawn that was too hard and cold for that sort of thing now that autumn was beginning to fade into winter.
Tom reached out and pulled Barry against his chest, listened to that confused noise because maybe he didn’t feel that like Tom did, that near parental protectiveness, that fucking unconditional love that he couldn’t even fully comprehend…
Barry watched Tom stirring sugar into his coffee, the way the cream dispersed through the black liquid, blossoming up from the depths of the cup in strange, pretty patterns. Tom glanced at him and Barry met his eyes, and suddenly, without warning Barry slid his arms around his waist and held on, his face against Tom’s neck.
“What?” Tom asked, still holding the spoon as his arms slid around his brother’s back. Barry felt him crane his neck to glance at the door, but then he just lowered his face into Barry’s hair, and they stood there for a moment.
Barry didn’t answer him. He couldn’t explain it, couldn’t even figure it out in his head really, the way he felt about Tom sometimes, the overwhelming need to touch him, even though they were already touching…
“Love you,” he said, almost shyly, and felt Tom’s arms tighten just a little.
It was Barry who caught it, the tiny garden snake that coiled around his hand, its head held carefully between his thumb and index finger. Laura stood up fast, laughing a little nervously and both boys looked up at her from where they were sitting crosslegged, their knees pressed together, one of Tom’s overlapping Barry’s slightly.
“Barry don’t,” she said, watching the tongue flicker out, tasting the air.
“S’just a baby,” Barry said, a little wickedly Tom thought.
“Tom,” she said, her eyes fixed on the animal.
“What?” he asked, but he knew she wanted him to make Barry get rid of it. He hesitated.
Laura backed away. It was funny that through all her toughness she would be afraid of snakes.
Barry let it go when she was halfway back to the house and met Tom’s eyes. Six months ago, he wouldn’t have let Laura leave, he’d have made Barry get rid of it like she wanted.
He felt bad afterwards, made it up to her, her mouth against his, the warmth of her.
Barry, his arms wrapped tightly under the join kept his face turned away, even when she fell asleep and Tom’s fingers brushed against his belly.
He hadn’t meant to hurt Barry’s feelings, he’d just wanted to make up with her… but to do that meant to have Barry angry at him, and he didn’t like those choices.
Winter was wet up until late December, barely any snow at all until just a few days before Christmas. Barry scraped a handful of it off of the roof of the van and then shoved it down the back of Tom’s jacket.
“Fuck!” Tom’s hands grappled at him, grabbing his own handful of snow and shoving it at Barry’s face, and Barry was laughing and they both moved at the wrong time and tripped up.
The van hid them from the house and Barry made no move to climb off of him.
They made it inside ten minutes later, breathless, cheeks red from the cold, fingers freezing and both dipping wet.
They shared the same mug of tea once they’d changed and come back down, because there were no cups clean and neither boy was intent on washing one.
It snowed that night, hiding the evidence it seemed, and they were wrapped up in each other, warm even in the cold of the little attic room.
This, what they had, sometimes it felt much more real than what he had with Laura. It was much more real, more confusing maybe, but sometimes, with Laura, he felt like—maybe what he was doing – when they slept together – wasn’t what she wanted. It was never like that with Baz.
And something about the solidity of their relationship, how well they knew each other, what felt good, how their bodies were, what they could do to each other… with each other… it was safer, somehow.
Not that he felt unsafe with Laura…
But more natural, organic… comforting – like Robbie’s voice, like the smell of the sea.
Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it felt like Barry’s fingers tight in his hair and Barry’s teeth on his shoulder. And Barry’s body in between his legs both of them moving against each other a little too hard, their teeth clacking together when they kissed, all desperation and need…
It was never like that with Laura either.
Tom had started writing new music, with Barry’s help. Sometimes they both knew that the lyrics were meant for them. Not all the songs, but some of them. And something about the fact that it was a secret from everyone else, something that only they knew made it so much more—just…
Tom liked it, writing that way. He learned to write discreetly so that even Barry, sometimes, didn’t know quite what he was talking about. He would catch him sometimes, reading the lyrics Tom wrote without Baz’s help, over his shoulder, his brow furrowed a little, trying to puzzle it out, if it was about him.
He would catch Paul sometimes, watching the two of them, watch him watching Barry, but Barry didn’t seem to notice.
Part of him felt bad, but the other part, the part that always pulled Barry nearer when the bassist got too close, that part made him think that this was for the best.
Paul didn’t understand Barry like he did anyway.
Barry lay on his back, Tom’s fingers sliding over his lower belly, back and forth, back and forth, his brother’s face buried in his neck, watching the light slowly fade from the room as the sun set. Tom was falling asleep, drawing Barry down too, into that rhythmic, slow breathing.
Sometimes he felt like he had never felt as safe as this, lying on top of the mussed sheets with his brother, skin touching everywhere, and Tom’s fingers moving over him lazily, the touch barely there anymore.
It was permanent, their connection. It could never be broken. It was a stability that he had never really known before.
Maybe on the Head, but that seemed so far away now.
Another time. So far away.
Tom woke up in the dead of night, and automatically tried to remember if he’d had a dream. His heart was hammering as though he’d woke up from one. It was so dark, he couldn’t see a fucking thing.
And it was so silent. For a horrible, sickening moment that made him break into a cold sweat he thought – This is it, I’m in a coffin, they’ve cut Barry away because Barry wasn’t here—and then he realised that he was sitting up, and that he was breathing harshly and that his heart was still beating. He had his hand pressed against it…
The whispering was the first thing he really heard, outside of the blood pounding in his ears. It was Barry, his voice going on and on, seemingly without taking a breath, completely monotone.
Tom heard him say his own name – referring to himself in the third person. He reached over and clumsily found Barry’s face in the darkness, his palm clumsily brushing Barry’s lips, and it was so sudden. He felt Barry’s hands come up and close over his arm, his teeth against his palm, and the struggle began. It was so violent that they fell out of bed, the floor hard and cold on their naked skin.
Suddenly a blinding light lit the room and Tom stopped, and he didn’t even have to think about it. One minute he was holding Barry back from him – his brother all teeth and fighting and wild, frenzied energy, and the next he was clutching him to his chest, his brother’s body shuddering like mad against Tom’s.
Tom couldn’t look directly into that glare. It stung his eyes painfully.
“All right, lads?” Paul had turned his head fast, lowering the torch quickly when he realised they had nothing on. It provided shadows, but not modesty.
Tom’s arms held onto his brother even tighter. He felt Barry turn his head against Tom’s chest to squint at the man in the doorway.
“The power’s gone out… I heard the noise…” Paul said, voice low, face still angled away.
“We’re all right… just a… we’re fine. Thanks.” He stood, pulling Barry with him, Baz’s eyes still on Paul even as Tom turned them and got back into bed.
Paul knew something was wrong. He knew about these episodes Barry had, how strange he got.
And Tom knew.
Paul left after a mumbled apology and a goodnight, echoed by Tom, Barry still pressed tight to his side.
When the door closed, Tom turned his face to Barry, his own face still flushed a little by Paul seeing them.
“All right?” he asked.
“He’s gone now,” Barry murmured.
Tom knew he didn’t mean Paul.
They spent a lot of time that winter, standing together by the window in the attic, watching it snow. It snowed heavily that year, strangely, and everyone, for the most part had gone from admiring it to complaining about it except for the boys.
Barry’s head was tucked against Tom’s shoulder as he smoked, hand going to the side of the window, the cigarette burning steadily away.
They were waiting for summer. Everything seemed strange, too silent… almost at a standstill.
They’d come this far together, touching, fucking, kissing.
Where did they go from here? Anywhere? What happened next?
What did it all mean?
It was Barry that noticed it first, some of the sound crew in the basement talking about a film they’d seen – or maybe something they’d read. Tom writing in his chord book, Barry smoking and jostling his leg up and down as though he was impatient, Paul sprawled on the couch opposite them, reading something in a music magazine and Tubs and Spitz playing foosball on the game table across the room, occasionally bursting into laughter.
They were talking about a brother and sister who slept together, or maybe just kissed. Something… it caught Barry’s attention a little too late – the words – incest, siblings… sick. Disgusting. Wrong.
How could you do that with your fucking brother, right? And they’d laughed about it, the guys, cracking crude jokes.
He glanced at his brother who was staring down hard at his chord book, but he wasn’t writing anymore, and his eyes flickered, and Barry knew that Tom knew he was watching him, knew that he had heard.
Of course it wasn’t right… they’d known that from the start…
But just how bad… how bad was it? What they were doing?
Just like that, it became something they weren’t supposed to do… something that they did rough and frenzied now because they were trying to hold themselves back from it, but neither admitted to it – it would be strange and sudden but not unexpected, up against the door of the bathroom, in the middle of pulling their clothes on in the morning before going down to practice, and once in the middle of the night in the recording room, frightened and wary of footsteps or voices, any sound that meant someone was coming as Tom rocked hard enough against Baz to send his shoulder blades colliding with the wall with every thrust, his face pressed against Tom’s neck, both their breathing short and fast.
They were both too paranoid to take their clothes off, so they had their jeans undone, just enough so that they were brushing against each other, their hands on each other’s hips.
For a moment, just before Tom came Barry pulled back and looked at him, and he was asking why it had to be different just because of what someone thought.
Tom could understand that – clear as fucking day.
Because everything they did – someone wasn’t going to like it.
Some people back on the mainland didn’t even think that they should have been allowed to live because of a band of skin joining them, making them a freak of nature, not two people but one…
But were they one?
They weren’t, right?
So why did they keep—why did they need this? This proximity?
Tom raised his hands to Barry’s face and kissed him hard, but he didn’t have the answers.
“Everything’s wrong! No one’s gonna like it all the time! Maybe we’re wrong, fuck Tommy, what do you want to do?!”
“I don’t know!” He confessed, finally shouting, finally breaking because here they were, in the snow by the lake, and he was cold, and the wind was harsh and dry, and he was shivering and Barry had been shouting at him for the past five minutes.
Barry stopped, breathing hard, and stared out over the frozen lake.
“I don’t even fucking want it if it’s going to feel so bad.”
“Then we won’t.”
“You know fucking well we will! You know! We’ve tried stopping!”
“Not hard enough!”
“Fuck! You’re going to listen to what the fucking sound crew said?! What they think?”
“I don’t care…”
“Fuck you then.”
“I’m going in.”
“I want to stay.”
“Please, it’s freezing.”
“I want to stay,” Barry said, even as he ducked his head and they started walking to the house.
Later that night, when Tom pressed against him, wanting to make things right, lips on his brother’s chin, his cheek, Barry turned his face away and raised one leg, creating a barrier.
Tom knew he wanted it, but Barry was too stubborn…
This was his punishment.
The snow stopped abruptly, replaced by rain, and they huddled together on the front step waiting for the rest of the band to come out – on their way to a gig.
The van ride was as it usually was, Barry high-strung and tense all the way there, and his wandering fingers on the way back, his head against Tom’s shoulder just briefly, daring this time – it had been a long time since they’d touched like this and not just fucked because they’d needed it.
Tom had to keep his knees drawn up, shifting uncomfortably because he was hard, and Barry knew it. Tom felt him smile against the skin of his neck, his fingers dipping into the back of his jeans just for a moment.
Upstairs in their room that night was the first time they’d drawn it out in a long, long time. Kissing, wandering hands, not just tense fingers guiding hips in a rhythm that was too fast, too frantic.
It was lucid. Barry’s hands slid over Tom’s chest, his face and his hair as though he’d never seen him before and Tom reached up and caught his brother’s hand, the apology sticking in his throat.
But they didn’t need anything as trivial as words. Not then.
Not between them.
Spring came, bringing with it more rain, gleaming puddles in the morning sun all the way up the orchard and the driveway.
The warm weather was welcomed after the freezing winter, and the boys realised it was to be their last summer here at Humbleden before their contract with Bedderwick Walker ended.
And Tom didn’t miss Barry’s eyes lingering on the bassist – the amount of time Barry wanted to spend with Paul, instead of up in their room, just them, together.
Tom knew Barry would miss Paul. He would too, but he didn’t like the way Barry watched him – like he wanted more of Paul’s attention, almost like he was sad.
Paul noticed too, Tom was sure of that, but Paul had started to keep his distance because to have Barry now, and then to lose him come the fall… it was too little time.
He’d lost one too many lovers in his life, and he wasn’t ready to have Barry just to have it taken away in less than half a year.
Barry had said something once, mentioned Paul’s flat in London and Tom shook his head. They both knew they would be going back to Norfolk… and Barry knew that Tom wasn’t very well going to stay with Paul – it wouldn’t be fair. Just like Barry wouldn’t stay with Laura.
Their dividedness set in again.
They stopped touching, stopped the sex, the kissing. Barry’s mind was elsewhere, his thoughts were with Paul and Tom’s were forced to turn to Laura, and that was hard because she was away being a journalist in London.
And Paul loved being with Barry, but wouldn’t let him get too close. There was a sudden divide with everyone. It was too much to take sometimes, but Barry’s hands were still there when he woke up from a dream, short of breath, and Tom knew that it would always be them, in it together, and he knew that Paul wasn’t going to let Barry in – not now – it was too late for that, and so it was okay…
That’s what he told himself.
The silence though, his brother’s eyes that were sometimes so far away…
Maybe they’d done something wrong. Maybe he should have tried to keep Laura close, maybe he should have let Barry and Paul have their space.
But he hadn’t.
And it was April.
September came, and they were going home. Laura hadn’t come back to see them off, but Paul had warned Tom that she might not. She was like that – she didn’t face up to things she didn’t like, and when he thought about it on the boat ride back to the Head, he thought, maybe it was better that way. She didn’t want to say goodbye to him, so she didn’t.
Paul had wrapped his arms around Barry and didn’t let go for what a long time, and Barry was still for the first time in a long time, totally still, his face turned into Paul’s hair, his arms tight around the other man’s back.
Tubs walked in, cleared his throat and they broke apart just before Nick came in the room. They didn’t really speak much – neither of them sure what to say. Maybe they’d been cheated out of something. Maybe it was their own fault.
But it didn’t matter. Not anymore.
They were home, him and Baz, and they were together. It had been three years since they had seen their father or their sister or their beloved Head, the marshes and their little house – had it always been this small? This grey? This battered by the elements?
They didn’t touch anymore, not here. Here things were different. Less strange, less desperate.
Maybe someday they would make their way back to London again. To Oxford. They had to wait until next January before they found out if Zak would renew their contract, but the band had changed.
Paul had left for the southern United States, going solo for a while. Tubs and Spitz were still available, but not living at Humbleden anymore. Nick Sidney would always be there…
That was what they knew so far… news was few and far between.
Maybe someday they would go back and things would be different. Maybe Laura would be there to welcome him back even though she couldn’t bring herself to see him off.
Maybe Barry and Paul would find each other again, break down a few of those walls. Paul calmed Barry, Tom saw that. He saw a lot of things now that they didn’t have them anymore.
Maybe they would go back and they would touch and kiss – make love together in London, in the city. Maybe it was wrong, but maybe… to them it wasn’t.
Maybe they wouldn’t.
Maybe they would get a separation, or maybe not. They would always have each other, and that was more than most people got.
Anyway, they didn’t have to decide any of that yet.
Right now they were apart from it all, separated from everything, by the sea.
- Tom and Barry