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Candy Striped Hell

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* Prologue *

This is the Life

 

 

This is the life. The whole fucking life.

His fingers fly over the strings, and he can feel the atmosphere take a running jump into insane.

Adam is singing, on his knees in the front of the stage, and Tommy doesn’t need to look to know that on his face is the biggest, most blissed-out look you could ever imagine with. It’s a natural high, brought on by performing, because Adam is Adam, and Adam is a performance whore; always has been, always will be.

The Glam!bulge is loud and proud tonight, and Adam grins as he stalks over to Tommy, all teeth and smiling like a predator. He runs a be-ringed hand through Tommy’s floppy mohawkish hair, and Tommy leans in close, his throat exposed as Adam licks up a stripe up it.

They haven’t planned this, but Tommy leans in close, pressing himself against Adam’s bare chest, his throat exposed as Adam whispers something to the skin over his pulse, and Tommy can hear someone (probably Neil) in the background, groaning out “I don’t need to see this”. He doesn’t give a shit, but Adam chuckles in his ear, and Tommy knows that Adam heard as well.

They haven’t planned this, but the crowd love it, are screaming like a bunch of wild animals as Adam grabs him by hair on the back of his neck, and pulls his head back so he can sing straight to his face. And the whole time, Tommy Joe’s fingers don’t let up, they keep right on playing because this… this is what he does, he carries on while Adam uses him to perform. He’s just in the perfect headspace, and Adam can feel it as well, can see his fingers are moving without his brain even telling them what to do. Adam’s smiling at him, all teeth and lips, and Tommy leans in for a quick peck, but Adam catches his hair and pulls him close, close, closer, and it’s a good ten seconds before they break for air.

Adam leaves him alone for a while after that, and slopes off somewhere else to do some more singing, and Tommy settles back to his bass, propping himself on the edge of an amp just to have something to stabilise himself for a second. Being around Adam is weird, is intense, and it takes a moment to establish yourself when he goes away. At least, that’s how Tommy sees it.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees some guy in a crew t-shirt, hovering around the edge of the exit off stage, but he pays him no mind – there’s always some, usually the newbies who haven’t see all the bands yet, who want to see a live performance up-close and personal.

There’s a moment of hush, when Adam wraps up the last song before intermission, and then the crowd is applauding so loudly, that the bottle of water on the stage beside Tommy vibrates, just like in Jurassic Park.

Fucking A, man.

Adam rushes off to do and do a costume change and the rest of the band lay aside instruments to go and have a smoke, or to piss, or just take moment to come down off a high that has been building all night. This is a moment to breathe, to catch yourself before the second half of the performance, to inhale sanity, and exhale the performance rush.

Monte claps him on the shoulder when he brushes by, and Tommy sends him an open mouthed grin, because they are both loving this; it’s what they signed up for in the first place. He shuts himself in the bathroom, to take a leak after his run through the gauntlet of backstage staff, and security people. God, he’s been dying for one since the third song, and that was what, an hour ago? But it’s insanely hot out there, and he’s been chugging back the bottles of water that the in-house bar has been throwing at them all day because he will not faint from dehydration again. Adam always comes over and checks to make sure, anyway, and good luck trying to get out from under that motherhen act, because he’s been trying for six whole weeks, and it’s still ain’t worked.

All too soon, there’s a hundred people pushing them back on stage, and Adam is his usual fabulous self in a new costume, waiting to his moment to get back on stage and be fabulous again. He runs a finger down Tommy’s neck, just before he hits the stage, and damnitall, if he hasn’t got goose bumps running down his back, spreading like wildfire. He growls low in his throat, and Adam chuckles at him, pushing him onto the stage, and Tommy promises that he’ll pay him back later.

Maybe he’ll stick his ice cold feet on Adam’s stomach again. God, the shrieks last time, and Adam never lived it down. Ha. He’ll deserve it, hot blooded freak, s’not Tommy’s fault he runs like fifty degrees cooler than Adam.

 They’ve been playing for about twenty minutes, been through the introductions as well, and Tommy is totally in the zone, totally living through the music, and it’s just perfect. He can’t remember the name of this city off the top of his head, but he will will find out from Lane, so he can make them play again on the next tour (he avoids wondering whether there will be another one) because the crowd here are perfect, and the stage, and the crew, and everybody is just so amazing.

The guy is back again, and he’s got a strange little smile on his face. Whatever, sometimes music makes you feel weird. Sometimes, Adam gets like that, so do they all, really. There’s always a song that turns your mind upside down, and life gets complicated when you listen to it, and you just get it. There’s something intoxicating about Adam as well, and he turns away from the other guy, focuses on Adam who’s busy prancing around Monte, and the girls are loving him, as always. He can’t blame the guy for staring at the singer, because frankly, Tommy’s been touring with him since forever, or so it feels, and even he’s not immune to the Lambert!Effect.

He just shrugs off the gaze he feels burning into his neck when he turns his back on the guy again.

He carries on, and they launch into a new song, a different one with a heady beat, and a very complicated lyrical set that Adam’s particularly proud of. Tommy takes a sip of water, and jumps right in along with Adam, who is writhing around on the front of the stage, and the atmosphere turns electric as he turns his back on the stage entrance to his left. Then the screaming for Adam turns into real screams of fear, and Adam is screaming at him to get down, and in his ear someone is shouting at him

 

                                                                        to                    look                     up.  

 

When Tommy looks up again, the crew guy has a gun in his hand, and the strange smile is still there. And it's pointed straight at Tommy, and the guys hand is rock steady, even with the screaming, and the eyes on him, and the eleven million cameras pointed in his direction.

And every bit of sound drains out of his world, in a quick rush with a sucking sound and a breath of wind rushes through his skin. And his world goes down to his bass under his fingers, the guy with the gun, who mouths, “I love you, Tommy Joe” at him, like it’s a secret, something between the two of them. And Tommy Joe can feel every camera flash from the audience, can see every flash from the glitter on the stage from where it's been thrown by the fans, and he thinks there is no secret here - he's all on his own in this sea of people with a psycho with a gun, a gun with a trigger that is being molested by the blonde in a crew t-shirt that Tommy realises isn't actually a crew t-shirt at all. That finger on the trigger is tightening by increments of millimetres.

And then the world explodes into sound again.

And his guitar's neck shatters in his hands, and something is pullingTommy to his knees, then backwards, sprawled out and looking up into the roof of this concert venue. Someone’s left a strip of candy striped safety tape dangling from one of the spotlights, and it waves in the breeze, backwards and forwards hypnotically. It’s such a stupid thing to notice, but there’s so much happening that he takes a moment to reset his brain, to focus on something small, because in a minute he’s going to have to get up and deal with the fucker who just broke his damn bass.

He loved that bass.

He’s gonna have to fuck up the fucker who broke his fucking bass, and then because he fucked up Adam’s show, and fucked up Tommy’s high as well, and that’s just not fucking cool, man, not cool at all. It’s his fucking bass, you know, his fucking bass, and his show. How he earns a living, and the fucking fucker just broke it so he’s gotta break the fucker right back, because he’s a rock star now, and rock stars don’t just lie down and take it like he’s doing, they get up and punch shit up.

But there’s more, and he feels his body shuddering under his bass, and something hits him in the chest, the leg, some other places that he can’t tell where but knows he’s hit, and suddenly, getting up is a lot more difficult, and he’s lost his grip on the amp that he was using to haul himself upright with.

And the crowd is screaming again, but it’s muted, and fading as fast as the warmth is spreading at his back, and Adam’s face appears above his. Tommy Joe feels like he should smile, should say something reassuring but the tears in Adam’s eyes, the tears streaking his make-up make Tommy think twice, make him think thrice, as the black begins to slide down the face of the man he knows so well, after all this time.

Because Adam doesn’t cry like this, not in front of everybody. Because Adam doesn’t grab his hand and hold on like he’s the only thing in the world keeping Tommy Joe in this world, gripping his fingers so tightly they slip and slide between his larger ones. Because Adam doesn’t fight Monte when he and Neil pull him back when someone wearing a fluorescent jacket, and carrying a big old box of shit starts shoving his shirt this way and that, cutting it off of him.

He wants to protest when they cut the strap of his bass off of him, wants to say something when Adam takes the bass from them because that’s his bass damnit, how could they take it away from him, because how they could they how could they how how how how….

And suddenly the world catches up with him, at the same as he reaches out for Adam, but when he tries to call out, blood bubbles up, and something inside of him is cold, cold like fire. He wants Adam, he wants Adam by his side, but there’s more people in bright yellow t-shirts, and Monte is clutching onto Adam’s shoulders with a grip so tight his knuckles are white.

And there is only silence, and Tommy really wants to say something, wants to ask what happened, because everything starts hurting, and he really really can’t help the tears welling up in his eyes, and Sutan is going to give him hell when he gets up in a minute, because he’s made his makeup run all down his face and it’s supposed to be waterproof and the fucking packaging lied. Again. But there’s more red bubbling up from his lips, so that’s good – Sutan won’t have to do his lips for him, because he’s already got enough smeared around them to make him a glam vamp, but Adam doesn’t seem to approve, as he drops to his knees beside Monte and Neil.

And then there’s black and grey creeping in the sides of his vision, and he doesn’t like that, because that’s not what he needs right now. He needs Adam, and someone to tell him what happened, and why is there red everywhere, all over Adam’s chest, and his hands, and the knees of the guys surrounding him, actually climbing the green fabric like some alien infestation.

It’s too much effort to keep straining his neck around to see Adam, who is white faced beneath the glitter and rhinestones now, kneeling on the floor beside Monte, and Neil’s hands are holding on to Adam’s while his face is buried in Adam’s neck, and Isaac is standing on the drum stand beside him, and his mouth is hanging open, and his drums sticks clutches in his hand like they’re the only things that mean anything anymore. The guys around him keep pulling at him, keep trying to talk to him, slapping his face, and pushing on his chest, his thigh, deep into his belly, which hurts. A deep, slow hurt which comes and goes in waves.  

His head is too heavy to move, so he goes all boneless and relaxed, like he does when he’s on the couch on the tour bus, and he can almost imagine his head on Adam’s lap and Adam’s fingers brushing across his head, as some shitty TV program plays in the background.

The last thing Tommy Joe hears is his heart beating off time in his chest, swishing back and forth like the ocean in Cabo, and he can smell the sea salt and he’d be back there if he wasn’t so fucking cold; this bone chilling ache that causes his teeth to press together with the pain of being so damn cold.

He wants to look at Adam, see Adam and tell him everything going to be just fine, because he’s a rockstar now, and this kind of thing is just walked off, but his body isn’t responding anymore, isn’t working like he wants to, and the last thing he sees isn’t Adam, but the candy stripe piece of tape swinging in the breeze, like a

 little warning flag

 

                                               that he didn’t

 

                                                                                 bother to pay

 

                                                                                                                      attention to.