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.
Tom didn’t understand it, really. Why Paul Day always directed his attention towards Barry when Tom was the one trying so hard to please him. Paul had attempted to teach them both guitar, but in the end, only Tom had had the patience to learn. Barry had sulked and turned away. Barry had thrown tantrums and gotten angry and shouted, and yet it was Barry that got the lingering glances from Paul, the bigger smiles. It was Barry that Paul shared his beer with while Tom played and played until his fingers were sore for hours afterwards.
Paul was always more tolerant with Barry. If Tom faltered over a chord, Paul would correct him, never being mean or impatient. Just simple and clean – teacher and student... when Barry mixed up his words Paul was full of encouragement. More than just you’ll get it and sounds great.
Paul was the most amazing guitarist Tom had ever heard... granted he hadn’t heard many. And not only that but Paul could sing and write songs. He could play bass and drums, although he rarely got behind the drum set. He was a musical mastermind. A natural tunesmith as Mr Zak Bedderwick had put it... and Barry didn’t seem to see any of that.
They lay curled around each other in their bed, sheets pulled up to their chins in the drafty attic room and Tom talked about Paul, about the Noize, about playing guitar – being the best in the world. He talked about all of Paul’s guitars and Barry just listened. Sometimes he zoned out.
Almost a month in and Paul said that Tom was learning faster than he’d ever expected. Tom was thrilled. Barry was bored. Barry wanted to go home. Barry spiralled in fits of anger and Tom was pulled along for the ride... and yet Paul sat next to Barry on the couch in the main room.
But there were mixed messages too. Sometimes Tom would say something that wasn’t even really remotely funny and Paul would shoot one of his sweet smiles Tom’s way.
The band was coming together though. Tubs Puller and Steve Spitz – Spitzy had joined their little group. Tubs had been the drummer in the Noize. Paul had been guitarist and backup vocals. Tom and Barry and the Bang Bang weren’t even a band yet, and they had two of the best musicians from the 60s on their side. It was unbelievable, sometimes, really.
Tom was just glad that Barry had started working. He seemed less sad too, and that was good, but that didn’t change the fact that Paul leaned over Barry’s shoulder, touched Barry’s back and whispered in Barry’s ear. Tom never really found out what it was that Paul said that could make Barry... Baz, as Paul called him, smile like that.
Tom didn’t really know what to call it. Just knew that he wanted Paul Day to see him, notice him. See him as a separate entity from Barry. That had been important to him ever since he arrived here at Humbleden... even moreso now... now that he wanted to be noticed. And it was easy, really, because Barry hid from the camera and hid from Nick. Barry rarely ever talked to Tubs or Spitz.
Tom played along to the TV, picking up notes by ear, getting confused a few times, but eventually getting it right. He looked up at Paul who crossed the dark room behind the couch – behind them – Tom and Barry and stood there, watching and listening. Tom wished that Paul would lean over his shoulder and whisper whatever he whispered to Barry... and yet Paul handed his spliff to Barry who pushed Nick away, but accepted this from Paul without question... or thanks, Tom noticed. But Paul didn’t seem to mind.
Tom never really thought about it in much more detail than the fact that Paul was amazing. He wanted to be just like Paul. Wanted to play like him, make music, read it and understand it like he did, but it was difficult. His songs sounded amateur compared to the things Paul came up with musically, and their styles were very different. The first time Tom really thought anything of it was their first full-band practice with an entire song written and constructed – ready to play and be sung to. Paul went over everything with the boys carefully. Making sure they understood. Making sure they wouldn’t get confused. Barry was bored with the talk within the first two minutes. Tom hung on to every word and wondered why it was so hard to hold Paul’s blue eyes. Tom liked the way that he ringed them with dark eyeliner.
The music started. Tom didn’t know whether it sounded good or not. He was too intent on playing the guitar right. Hitting the right notes. Playing it on time. His nerves hit him now, full force, whereas they had only been slight when he and Barry were messing about with the mic only a few moments before.
Tom caught Paul’s eyes only for a second before Paul’s gaze fell on Barry... and it didn’t leave. Tom kept glancing up at Paul, hoping for his attention. Praise... even a criticism if it meant that he would be noticed.
Paul was so... there was something about him, backlit by the big windows, sunlight streaming in, and his hair all tousled. Something about the way that he leaned back, hips pressing against the smooth back of the bass that his fingers flew over so effortlessly – almost as though it was an extension of his body. As though he didn’t even have to think about it. Almost like him and Barry, Tom thought - the way he moved with the music… There was that way that he let the fag dangle from his lips... Tom missed a note, then two more, but no one seemed to notice. Everything else was too loud. He tried desperately to get back on track, but now he could feel himself pressing uncomfortably against his jeans, against his guitar – no Paul’s guitar. Embarrassment flooded him.
“Do the chorus again!” Paul shouted. Where they only that far into the song? Tom tried desperately to concentrate. To ignore the tinges and the pressure against his jeans.
To celebrate the first full run-through of their first song, they had a bit of a party. Tom and Barry sucked back a bottle of beer, then another because it was all so new to them – they liked to be a part of it. They liked feeling that dizzy, half-sick feeling that came with this alcohol. The peace – you never had to worry – and the way that everything was funny.
Tubs rolled up some grass and passed it around. Barry took the most until Spitz laughed at him to “Come on! Pass the fucking thing!”
A few hours later the party, if you could call it that, was still going. The New York Dolls blasted from the speakers and Paul checked his shin off the corner of the table and staggered, his hands coming down on either side of Barry’s legs as he fell in a crouch on the floor in order to keep himself from falling over completely. Tom felt the jump in Barry’s legs, heard the way that he sucked in a breath. Maybe he was just startled at the unexpected movement, but his heart was racing, making Tom’s pick up speed as well.
“Sorry, mate,” Paul was saying not really looking up until he’d half stood, obviously sloshed and placed on hand on the back of the couch beside Barry’s head to steady himself as he picked himself up. Barry kept his eyes on him, head tilted back against the material. Paul was so close to him, leaning over – keeping his balance.
Their eyes locked and Tom watched them unabashedly. Paul’s tongue shot out to lick his lower lip and Tom felt himself getting hard again. Out of his peripheral vision, he saw Tubs still and just watch them, the rolled grass smoking away between his fingers. Tom shifted a little, worried someone would notice and Barry glanced at him. That broke the moment.
Suddenly Paul smiled and straightened up completely. “Time to make some coffee, I think,” he said and managed to exit the room with enough grace to make up for his clumsiness a moment before
In their room later that night as they undressed, Barry hesitated, standing in the middle of the room, moonlight filtering in through the broken blinds, and Tom froze.
“What is it?”
Barry shifted a little. “Nothin’--”
Tom let the subject drop, but they didn’t fall asleep that night until much later, not turned into each other as usual. Tom would open his eyes to see Barry staring at the ceiling. He couldn’t sleep with Barry so wide awake like that… thinking about something…
Tom had a bad feeling – he thought he knew what this was all about.
After that, Barry noticed Paul more – leant away from Tom and into Paul’s brief touches, talked to him more, became less shy around Tubs and Spitz…
And then there was Laura, and that made it all better for a while.
Until that night after all of their songs were completed – Tom could barely remember finishing them all – the time had all gone so fast – that Barry kissed Paul at the party. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Either way, he swung Laura’s hand side to side and tried to ignore the rushing jealousy that flooded through him, the jump in his stomach to hear the tiny little sound Paul made into his brother’s mouth.
Barry always got everything he wanted.
- One More Grain Ship That Never Sailed