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And I Tried Not To Smile. (but I smiled.)

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They’ve been fooling around since about a week after Bob became an official band member. Actually, they’ve been fooling around since they both got caught by the police for the first time. It’s what they’ve always done, though they never talked about it. Not with the others and certainly not with each other. It’s just one of those things you do and never mention; like Nick looking past Tommy’s weird hotel room habits or ways of loaning money (Nick knew, of course he did, but he wasn’t about busting Tommy out to Frankie or, God forbid, Bob).

And they still are nothing more than friends – first and foremost that’s what they’ve always been and what they will always be, band or not, fooling around or not.

“A little bit lower, dear,” Tommy croons good-naturedly as Nick kisses a small path from his lips to his neck, one hand on his neck and the other in his jeans.

“A little bit nicer, maybe,” Nick answers and bites into the skin behind Tommy’s ear, holding his head in place by the back of neck and smirking at the way he wants to dodge Nick’s teeth on his skin – a failed attempt, of course. Nick is still much stronger than Tommy and though he’s not against being the one hold in place; even by Tommy; it’s more fun to annoy him this way.

“For a second there I thought you called me baby,” Tommy grins and roughly pulls Nick up by his hair.

Nick feels the blood in his veins turn to ice, keeping him motionless and letting Tommy pull him up, up, up and up.

Once they’re eye-level, they look at each other, the venomous grin still on Tommy’s face and Nick can’t help but snort at the unkempt state they (but, really, mostly Tommy) are in. It’s a nice recovery from the weird thing that just happened inside of him. Around the place where his heart is located.

“You wish, DeVito,” Nick answers and pushes away from the wall he pushed Tommy against after he came out of the shower. He gives him another once over before he takes the room key and opens the door. “And put some clothes on, for God’s sake, you’re already late for breakfast anyway and Bob’s pissed enough.”

Nick can hear Tommy grunting and the sound of a towel hitting the door behind him as he leaves the room. When he’s in the dining room, the smile still hasn’t left his face.

“What you’re smiling about?” Frankie asks him.

“Nothing,” Nick answers, smiling.

 

*

 

Turns out he fucked something up enough that the next day he’s stuck in the same day as before. Nick curses to himself the moment he can hear Tommy grumbling the goddamn same thing as yesterday from his bed once he hears Nick getting up, which makes Nick throw a pillow at his head that his bandmate just uses to bury himself further under a nest of pillows and blankets and are that towels?

So, Nick thinks once he’s in the shower and Tommy has finally shut up, he should be worried about this, shouldn’t he? He should be scared probably as well, though he isn’t someone to get scared a lot. But being frightened is realistic, right? He’s not feeling any of these emotions, instead just a boned-deep dread in his gut; like foreshadowing; that this will take a while. And his gut-feeling never wronged him in his life. So there’s nothing else to do, Nick figures out with soap in his left eye, and that he has to find a way to not have another one of these days. Something must be out of balance or some matter of that sort, some displacing of planets or stars or whatever, as you usually hear in these kind of stories.

Getting worked up over it wouldn’t help him anyway, so rather skip the part and go straight to the logistics.

Which means that Nick goes through the day the same way as he did before – towel throwing and bribing Bob into finally losing his virginity while spotting Frankie’s absolutely crushed expression inclusive – and once Nick is done and in bed with one girl lying next to him and Tommy sprawled out over his shoulder and stomach he goes through everything that happened.

Making out with Tommy, getting breakfast, working on a song with Bob and Crewe, hearing about the girls Tommy got, preparing for the show, messing up Sherry during the show, backstage banters with the other guys, the party, Bob and Frankie, the night. Nothing seemed really unusual or out of character for him or the others, except for Frankie’s kicked puppy expression when Bob leaves him and the uneasy tension between them on the couch and Tommy throws an arm around him to introduce him to some of their girls. It’s all very much on brand for them, especially when keeping their recent on tour-behaviour in mind.

Nick curses under his breath and stares at the wall above his head, now nothing more than a faint gray pattern in the silence. Something must have been wrong. Out of tune. Not as it’s supposed to be. He recalls Tommy’s face after they kissed in the morning or how he looked at Nick when he brought them the message from the label, or when he watched in disbelief as Nick royally played the wrong notes and sang the wrong lines when they performed Sherry.

He thinks of the weird moment he felt caught off guard when Tommy asked him if he heard Nick correctly. It’s been there today too, staying a bit longer with him, even after he left the room.

Nick rolls his eyes and curses again into the back of his hand.

Fuck.

 

*

 

“Tommy, do you have a moment?” Nick says and takes Tommy by the elbow to stir him away from Frankie and Bob, who were busy enough to figure out what the hell is going on with them.

“Yeah, sure,” Tommy answers, tone already going sour. “Not like I have a choice, have I?”

“No, not really,” Nick agrees and stops once they’re in some hallway backstage, far enough from their bandmates and Crewe to not be overheard.

(Frankie had the horrible, horrible tendency to eavesdrop and Nick had gotten him out of trouble more than once with catching him doing it and dragging him away. He’s not in the mood to be one of Frankie’s victims today. Not when the guy is so emotionally unstable that Nick has to watch him cry into a beer bottle and sofa cushion at the same time for the past few nights.)

Nick stays in front of Tommy, now only an arms-length away, and playing out his height to have at least physical advance over Tommy. His ego is unreachable, even for Nick, so he doesn’t even start to try. He just has to bite the bullet and get this … this talk over with and then they would continue in their happy way to New Year’s. It would all be fine.

“So, Massi?” Tommy nudges him, one foot tapping impatiently on the linoleum floor, one dark eyebrow already arched at him in question and annoyance at being interrupted by whatever he did or planned to do. “I’m all ears.”

The tapping of Tommy’s shoe is causing a headache to build behind Nick’s nose and eyes and if he wouldn’t be so stressed already, he’d even tell his friend to stop. But he’s on edge enough by other things, Tommy’s fucking shoe is only the last straw. And not the point of this conversation.

“What am I to you?” Nick rushes out and winces at himself for sounding like a fourteen-year-old teenager in the school yard. Get it together, Massi.

Tommy blinks at him, three times in a row, in what can only be interpreted as disbelief, and then moves his head forward in that well-known mannerism of his to accentuate his astonishment at Nick’s words.

“Pardon?” he asks, clearly believing he misheard something.

Or just trying to make Nick even more uncomfortable because now Nick has to spell it out for him, so Tommy understands, and it just makes this much, much worse. He has the sudden urge to slap the younger man. Or to push him against a wall. Or to do both.

God, he hates this.

“What is this? Between us? To you?” Nick clarifies, mortified by the mischief in Tommy’s eyes as he gets what Nick wants from him.

Fuck this.

“Well,” Tommy draws out and his hands reach out to take the lapels of Nick’s jacket between his fingers, closing the gap between them until their chests touch and Nick has to bow his head in a medically dangerous way to see Tommy in the eyes. “What do you want it to be?”

No, really. Fuck this.

“This is not about what I want it to be, Tommy,” Nick says, trying to be the serious one here, and takes Tommy’s hands away from his jacket but not letting go of them. Because he can’t. Because there’s this ice-cold feeling in his blood again, the one that roots him to the spot and makes him want to stay right here, pressed against the body of their guitarist.

“This is about what you see in this,” Nick continues, pushing himself to do so, to let Tommy see him as someone who cares about them and what they have – no matter what it is in the end – because Nick still has the importance of camaraderie and loyalty ingrained in him. That’s what growing up in Jersey teaches you, after all. “And if we are on the same page here, ‘cause I ain’t thinking so.”

Tommy looks at him, a bit confused and a bit unsure, usual bravado and cockiness washed out of his eyes after hearing Nick. It’s comforting and frightening, Nick thinks, to be able to read Tommy like a store window during Christmas in New York.

“I, I don’t know,” Tommy stammers – Tommy stammers – and looks away from Nick for a moment and then back at him. “I like you and I like what we’re doing, but I’m not about being –“ Tommy breaks off and frees one of his hands from Nick’s to flay it around in the air, vaguely building a shape that means something that Nick is not sure he can crack.

“Serious?” Nick tries though, and finishes for him.

Tommy nods. “Yes!” he exclaims. “I mean, you know me best out of everyone – don’t tell Frankie that I said that – and you’re also not one for, you know, this whole monogamy thing and all.”

Nick swallows down the sting with the next breath he takes and with at least having Tommy acknowledging how close they are. It’s more than nothing and not less, which is a good thing. As far as he knows, having more than nothing is better than having more than less.

Or so someone told him once.

“But feelings?” Nick starts and motions with his index finger of his free hand between them.

Tommy’s eyes follow the motion, growing wider the more he understands. At least Nick doesn’t have to spell it out again.

“Oh, yeah, totally. I’m not messing with people I’m not interested in at least a bit. And I’m interested in you a whole lot, Massi. My hand to God.”

A weight falls from Nick and he thanks any God up there that probably isn’t listening before he redirects his attention back to Tommy. Who grins wickedly at him.

“Good to hear that,” he answers, hiding the exhilarating feeling that’s in his veins. “Likewise.”

The grin grows from wickedly to maddingly and Nick probably should be scared right now. He is, a bit and in a weird and new way, but the satisfaction of having this finally cleared up is enough for him to ignore it. He’s not used to being scared, anyway, no use in starting with it now.

He takes Tommy’s face in his hands and kisses him deeply. Like oil on a burning flame.

 

*

 

Watching Frankie figure out what Nick had figured out is amusing at first. After fourty days it’s absolutely painful and nothing less, no exaggeration or hyperbolic sentiment.

Nick spends his days as he did the first time, except that he mostly gets Tommy for himself for a moment – or, rather, liberally taking the moment – and talks with him about the thing between them. A few times, he forgets or misses him by a few minutes and it makes him fuck up Sherry again and be in a bad mood during the party, waiting for the day to be over to get his part of the deal right.

It takes so long for Frankie that Nick has kissed Tommy so often that he’s not sure if it’s friendship with some cream on top after all or if it’s growing into more on his part, though he brands it as unlikely. Kissing doesn’t turn your world upside down or turns you into a hopeless romantic. That’s what Nick learns through the loop. It just makes you realize fondness for the people around you a bit earlier and kinder than usually and that’s, that is fine by Nick.

It takes fourty-six days and shaking things up a bit for Frankie to get it right and when Nick wakes up the next morning to Tommy curled around him and none of the girls around, he’s so triumphant that he nearly wakes Tommy up by accident. He gets himself under control pretty fast, though he can feel the relief through every muscle and bone in his body.

Breakfast is a delight of an affair with Bob and Tommy being as petty as possible to each other and Frankie being as red as the fire-extinguisher outside in the hall and Nick busying himself with finally a new newspaper to read over his coffee.

He takes a well-earned pride in catching Frankie off guard when congratulating him on finally getting it right and calling him a good person on top of it. It’s gotten a bit much, after all, and while kissing Tommy senseless isn’t a bad thing, the over-all situation has taken its toll on Nick’s patience and let it wear way too thin for his liking.

Tommy grins all the way through breakfast and Nick can feel his foot rubbing against his ankle, so he can’t be one to complain.

Not that he ever would.