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Candy Striped Hell

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~*An Island of Calm*~

 

 


It’s only a short ride to the office, and Tommy spends most of it on his phone. Twitter, emails, his schedule – his life is on this device, keeping him sane when they’ve been on tour for so long he can’t tell if it’s a Monday or a Thursday and he doesn’t know what country they’re in never mind which city. It keeps him on track when he’s losing it in the intensity of being on tour, or in the public eye, and now there’s this stalker shit happening, he’s turning to the solitude again, turning to the parts of his life where he controls what he puts out there, which sides of Tommy Joe the fans get to see. Adam says he’s got control issues.

Tommy Joe thinks that Adam is right, but he tells Adam to shove it up his ass and blow smoke out of it anyway.

The car arrives outside the agency and Robert gets out to open his door, and then walks him all the way into the lobby and beyond into elevator space. Tommy avoids looking in the mirror in the elevator when he gets in – no make-up, no eye shadow, nothing. He’s clean shaven which is something he supposes, but his hair is lying to him and trying to be a Mohawk again, and his bags under his eyes are huge. He looks wrecked. Absolutely washed up on a beach wrecked, like after a night out on the town. He can’t get out of the mirrored box fast enough to escape his reflection telling him he’s less than perfect today.

When they reach the main bull pen on the third floor, Tommy says, “I’m good now. You don’t have to stick around now,” he means it. He’s perfectly capable of functioning without bodyguards all the time, has been doing so very well for the last thirty years of his life. Robert gives him the most impressive raised eyebrow he’s seen in his entire life outside of Raja and points to a sofa with an authoritative finger. Tommy’s half way there before he remembers to raise a protest, and then it’s too late because Lane’s spotted him and also points to the sofa while she talks on the phone that’s clamped to the side of her face.

So he sits on the sofa like a good boy, and waits. Five minutes later, he digs his phone out of his pocket, and logs into the Wi-Fi of the agency. While he waits for it to load, he opens up the text from Adam. He rubs his thumb over the screen, grins again at the glitterbby and swallows hard when he reads his own reply. thanks bbyboy. holding you to it.”  For some reason, he wishes he could take back the emotion he feels that he’s broadcasted with that text – the insecurity that makes those words sound needy and pathetic in his own head. Adam’s really good at reading people, and he takes it to the next level when it comes to reading Tommy. He could probably give lectures about his piss poor emotional stability, and his mental issues with love and sex, and his horrible, horrible, no good sense of self-esteem. Over the last few years, Tommy Joe has worked hard to create a good façade to the world – one that is 90 % himself, but with a few tweaks and alterations. He’s a private person, a good liar, an excellent emotion hider, and he’s got a wicked poker face when he needs it.

But that really doesn’t matter, because when it comes to Adam, everything falls away. Adam can always see right through him.

Always. Right back in the beginning at the auditions, and during the first few practises with the band, Adam’s been able to get under his skin with just a look, drawing out his emotions, understanding that when Tommy tells him thanks he isn’t saying that in particular, he’s saying so much more but he doesn’t know how. It’s only got easier for Adam to read him as time and their relationship progressed. Living on top of each other on the tour meant that Adam gained a supernatural ability to know Tommy’s emotions. His mind. His body. And ain’t that one a bit of a weird thing –.

Fuck. He’s just sent a text message that says, “I’m needy, and insecure, and frightened over jack shit,” to the one person who can actually read that in between the lines. Shit, he messed up good with that, didn’t he just... He rubs his eyes, pinches the bridge of his nose, and wishes for a moment that he was back in bed, back in the shelter that was his room, where there wouldn’t be any Adam who could practically read his mind. Who is no doubt on his way right now to the office with his entourage, and a plan to take Tommy out on the town somewhere where he will inevitably not fit in -

“Coffee!” A white mug appears under his nose, and he must be wired more than he thought today because HOLY SHIT, he wasn’t expecting that.

“Jesus!” He feels like he leapt three feet sideways out of his skin. Sutan looks slightly taken back and Robert’s got one hand tucked into his jacket like he was reaching for the Taser that’s sitting at his hip. Everyone in the office is looking at him now, and Lane’s got a pissed off look on her face as she turns away, one finger to her lips in a shushing gesture. Sutan frowns at him, eyes far too aware of Tommy’s less than stellar appearance to make him feel better. The coffee is placed in front of his nose again, and Tommy reaches for it but Sutan pulls it back a little bit.

“You know, I’m not sure you need the caffeine.”

“Fuck you.” It’s not the nicest reply, but Sutan’s threatening to take away his coffee. Nobody, but nobody, threatens his coffee. He wraps his fingers around it, takes a sip and it’s just to die for. He’s pretty sure he makes an inappropriate moan over it but who the fuck cares. It’s one of Sutan’s masterpieces. He could die happy right now. When slender brown fingers try to wrap around the mug as well to take it off of him, he bares his teeth and growls at them.

“Feisty.” Sutan’s not at all fooled at the bravado, and Tommy knows that Sutan isn’t interested in playing coy when he says, “Come here.” He opens his arms wide. Tommy tries to hide down inside his own jacket, and pretend to be interested in his coffee but Sutan gives him one of his looks (he can see Raja in Sutan when he does that) the one with the narrowed eyes and a slightly furrowed forehead, and Tommy knows that Sutan isn’t playing today. He puts his coffee on the side table next to him, stands up and retreats into the taller man’s arms. They’re a physical barrier against the world; protection against the battering force of his own mind and the stalker together. There’s a scent of Sutan around him with little hints of Raja; makeup and coffee, and a hint of something spicier – more sultry and darker playing just out of reach. Tommy lets the sense of the man overwhelm him, lets Sutan clasp him as close as he can without physically removing clothing.

It must be nearly a minute before Sutan breaks the hug, drawing back but not letting go of his arms. Tommy has to tilt his head up to actually meet his eyes. “I keep forgetting how little you are,” the taller man says, threading his hands gently through Tommy’s hair.

“Fuck off.” Imaginative retorts are not his forte this early in the morning. He turns to grab the coffee, and Sutan grabs his other hand. “Wha-?” he says through a mouthful of coffee flavoured cream with chocolate dusting.

“We’re going to chat.” Shit. Robert steps closer to them, already shaking his head, but Sutan barrels right up to him, fearless in the face of such bulk. “Tommy’s defence league, right? Don’t worry; we’re just going to have a chat in one of the side rooms over there.” One perfectly manicured finger points to a door of a room that’s been set aside for the troupe when they need to hang around without annoying anyone. “We’ll be just fine so don’t you worry.” A half smile that promises pain if the guy doesn’t move aside now, and then they’re moving again, Sutan pulling Tommy along helplessly in his wake. Robert looks slightly bemused at what just happened, and Tommy raises his mug at in a hasty salute him before turning to face the way he’s going so he doesn’t trip over his own two left feet.

“It does best not argue with him,” is the last thing Tommy hears from one of the PA’s to Robert before Sutan closes the door behind them. The loss of sound is almost a noise in of itself – the heavy weight of silence loud between the two of them. Sutan guides Tommy away from the doors, around the coffee tables and chairs to a couch right at the back of the room.

“Sit.” And Tommy sits. A big squashy purple couch with room enough for three or more people and Sutan sits next to him anyway, leaning back against the arm of the sofa. “Talk to me, Tommy Joe.”

“What do you wanna know?” He doesn’t know where to begin. Is there even a beginning?

“Since when do you get a stalker?” Straight to the point. No fucking around today. He doesn’t know if that’s a good thing.

“Since a while back apparently.” He takes a breath, another sip of coffee, and tries to focus his mind. “You remember the candy stripe packages? Pink and white and shit?”

“Yeah, different coloured ribbons, really nice presents inside.” Sutan raises a brow, and then gets it, “Wait, moneybags candy guy? That’s your stalker?”

“Moneybags?”

“Sweetie, he sent you a hundred and fifty dollar candles, imported from Italy. He’s money-bagged up to here.” A finely manicured hand waves somewhere above Sutan’s head, pointing out just how moneyed the douche canoe actually is. Sutan puts down his mug on the floor beside his boots, points a finger at Tommy and frowns. “But that’s not what’s freaked you out is it?” Sutan’s eyes see far more than Tommy wants them to right now – he can see right down to the insecurity and unease Tommy’s been harbouring about this for the last day or so. Tommy confesses to Sutan because he knows that he won’t be judged, that Sutan knows if Tommy’s got a hunch, he’s not just being paranoid.

Tommy runs through what happened – the feelings he’s been having over the presents and how personal they are, the evening at the club with the girl and then his morning before the meeting that never happened. The message left with them. He doesn’t have to say, but he can see Sutan’s face become more frustrated as he goes on. Why the porn DVD tipped his weird meter just over the edge, why the photos just really freaked him so – so much so that he just shut down, let Adam control the situation, ceded any power to somebody else and just trusted that Adam would see him home safely. Sutan isn’t happy - his lips are thinning, and his hand is clenching tighter and tighter around Tommy’s the more he continues.

But that’s not the worst of it. Tommy had a lot of time last night to think, and he was in the shower at about midnight when he finally remembered what was so weird about the shots with the girl.

“What was so weird about her?” Tommy doesn’t look at Sutan, instead choosing to twist his wrists with Sutan’s fingers curled around them. The other man’s fingernails are a pretty midnight blue today, and Tommy runs his thumb over one of them. He really likes the colour; would rather talk about Sutan’s manicure than this or anything really, but Sutan’s not having it and pulls him back into the conversation.

He takes another deep breath, swallows the last of his coffee. Clutching the mug in one hand, Tommy talks to their hands instead of Sutan’s face because that… that would make this difficult. That would mean acknowledging the reaction and he knows, just knows that it’s not going to be a good one. “Because in a lot of the shots, she was looking at the camera.” He carries on over Sutan’s half started gasp, “Like, really looking at the camera. Straight into the lens and smiling.” That’s the bit that got him. She was smiling. She was getting off on it. “She knew whoever it was was….”

“…Was there.” Sutan finishes his sentence, plucking his empty coffee mug out his hands. He places it carefully on the floor beside their feet, and uses both hands to grasp Tommy’s. “You’re sure?”

Tommy’s had all night to remember those photographs, and the actual event in the alley. He thought she was just nervous about being seen – even though he couldn’t work out if she didn’t want to be, or if she got off on it, what with all the excited gasps every time someone walked across the entrance to the little side street. She had kept looking around, smiling a weird smile but he’d been too focused on getting his rocks off, trying to keep on kissing her while trying to slide his hands under her shirt to wonder about it, to wonder who else was there. “Yeah. I’m sure.” She had known someone was there. She had known the stalker was there with the camera, and that creeped him out more than anything. They were working together to get him in the crosshairs, and that’s as much as fuck a mind bender that Tommy can handle right now.

“Oh, sweetie…” Sutan crushes him into his chest again. He doesn’t object; he takes the comfort that’s being offered, wraps his fingers in the expensive linen of the shirt that covers surprisingly hard muscles, and holds on for dear life. Fingers are combed through his hair, and he relaxes into the touch.

“You know, this is why Adam calls you a pretty kitty…” The fingers don’t stop stroking through his blonde hair though.

“Fuck off,” he mumbles but because he’s smooshed against Sutan’s chest it turns more into a vibration and a groan which really isn’t at all threatening. Sutan chuckles right back. And those damnable fingers don’t stop stroking his. Fucking. Hair. For a second.

~~~~

 

Sutan keeps up the hair stroking for a while, breathing slowly and evenly so Tommy can follow him; chilling them both out. They’re lying back on the sofa; Tommy laying half on, half beside Sutan, and anyone looking in would be amazed at how familiar, how intimate the hold is. They’ve always been close, Sutan being Tommy’s Tranma, his voice of reason in the swirling glittery world that is Adam and the Glam Nation Tour and everything else besides. Don’t mistake it for being ungrateful – he loves everything Adam’s done for him and wouldn’t take it back for the world, but it’s a big step up from playing small gigs and having a couple of hours in bars to playing big international concerts and being on the road and in and out of hotels and shit. Tommy’s world used to be back alley clubs, and metal bands, and working out of a cubicle farm so he could save up enough money for health insurance and some rent money. Adam brought him into his bright, loud new world, but it’s a big difference.

Sometimes, Adam’s world is a rushing spinning vortex of glitter and cameras and stress, and Tommy Joe doesn’t handle that well. He struggles to deal with a world where anything he says might be wrenched out context and put all over the news and made into bad headlines for Adam; a world where people take photos of him, and have fan clubs and obsess over him and send him sex toys in the mail as symbols of their love and devotion (and that’s not just a little bit creepy); a world where he is constantly under scrutiny by everyone from Lane to Monte, and the fans, and the cameras and interviewers and even his mom, now that his Dad passed away and she needs something else to focus on.

It’s a very different world that Tommy finds himself in these days, and sometimes, he needs an island of calm to find himself again. Sutan is that island. The man could halt an avalanche with just a look, Tommy is sure of it, could prevent the end of the world with just a snap of his fingers sometimes, and Raja can out sass even Adam which is a feat in of itself. When the world is too noisy, too demanding and raw on his nerves and Adam’s too busy or in another interview, Tommy goes to Sutan. Sometimes he gets his make-up done, or his nails or it’s just a chat over coffee and really good cookies. Sometimes, it’s just enough to sit in the make-up room and watch Sutan make himself up or unpack or just even hug Tommy tight for twenty minutes.

Right now, Tommy just floats in the wonderful place between here and wherever and the land of dreams. He’s feeling actually pretty relaxed round about now; all mellowed out like he’s smoked a good batch of cannabis only without the pretty visual effects to go with it. For some reason his trips tend to be just a little bit psychedelic and glittery these days. He’s almost positive that’s a side effect of hanging around with Adam – the glitter invades everything including your mellow mellowing with the hash.

“What’s happened now, then?” Sutan doesn’t stop stroking his hair, and Tommy doesn’t withdraw his face. It’s easier to talk when you can more feel a person’s words than hear them.

“Lane got bodyguards for me. Insurance even paid for them, and stuff.” He huffs, “Adam pitched a shit fit – wanted only the best and scariest.”

“Sweetie, you know he only wants what’s best for you, you know that.” A finger trails down his spine and Tommy reluctantly releases the tension that’s been hoarded there for the last hour or so. “He wouldn’t want you to get hurt by this freak.”

“Yeah, I know….” He mumbles into the linen shirt. “He really flipped his lid though; went all diva until Lane gave him coffee-”

“He was worried. That’s how Adam deals.” Sutan prods his shoulders, “He would never forgive himself if something happened to you.”

“I’m just the bassist. He’s the star of the show-”

“Stop it.” A finger comes under his chin, pushing him up to meet Sutan’s gaze. “Stop right there. You know he cares for you; know he’d do anything for you. He lo-”

“Don’t.” Tommy tries to sit up, but Sutan’s stronger than he looks, and keeps him down with an iron grip across his waist. “Don’t go there, Sutan. You know…”

“Yeah.” Sutan sighs, “I know.” And that’s something that they’ve been avoiding for a while now. “But what else?”

“New locks, better door, new fence because quote “It’s got more holes than Kesha’s tights,”  At that Sutan huffs something that sounds like, “Adam!” Into his hair, and Tommy grins just a bit, “I gotta get some pepper spray and shit as well, cause Lane’s makin’ me.”

“Lane’s making you?”

“She threatened to staple it to my hands.” That’s all that needs to be said really. She’d do it, if it made the execs happy and everyone knows it. “And then that’s it, I guess…”

Sutan nods. There’ll be more no doubt in the meeting they’re all having today, but those are the salient points, the ones that Sutan cares about. They lie there for another few minutes, Sutan pushing away the tension in Tommy’s shoulders by talking about anything and everything, and Tommy just lies there, accepting it. He doesn’t need to understand what’s being said; only that Sutan is talking. This is his retreat, his island and he’ll damn well enjoy while he gets the chance.

All too soon though, it’s time to move, and Sutan pushes them both into a sitting position. However, this gives him optimum reach to gain access to Tommy’s hair, and he pushes his fingers through it, rubbing the roots and scrubbing his fingers through the shaven side of his head, where it’s still soft and fluffy and short. Tommy can’t help the purring sound that follows before Sutan withdraws his fingers from his blonde fauxhawk and turns back into being Sutan, the makeup artist and all around fashion fixer. His fingers primp at Tommy’s locks, pulling at the frazzled hair. “What did you do to your hair, baby?” he moans under his breath, and Tommy quirks a lip. He knew that Sutan would hate him for doing it, but he did it anyway.

“It died. A bit.”

“Yes, it did.” He pulls Tommy’s head closer to inspect it. “You bleached this yourself, didn’t you?” He accuses.

“Would you kill me if I said yes?”

“Not now. But do it again, and you’ll have my stiletto heels wedged where the sun don’t shine, cutie.” The threat is not idle. “We’ll have to do something with it, you’ve completely fried it.”

“Have not.”

“Well, not quite. But you’re pretty close. It’s not good for your hair to keep doing this to it.” He waggles a finger at him. “You’re torturing your hair.”

Torturing my hair?” He can’t quite keep laughter out of his voice. He did not go all medieval on his hair, start subjecting it to the iron maiden and shit.

“You might as well put it on the rack and tell it to. Confess. Its. Sins.” Sutan grabs a chunk, pulls gently to punctuate his point. “I’ll give you the name of a good brand of conditioner to help restore some of the protection it lost while you’ve been murdering it.”

“Thanks.” He means for everything, but says it response to the obvious statement. Sutan knows what he means though; the other man gives him a blinding smile.

“No problem, baby.”

A knock at the door. Lane’s voice comes at them through the wood. “Conference room in five minutes, guys.” She doesn’t come in, and Tommy’s grateful for her not invading their space right now. He needs a little while to put himself back to together, pull his defences back up to maximum.

Sutan lets him do that, spends the time pulling Tommy’s hair about, make it stand on end, and then smoothing it down. It’s helping Tommy piece himself back together, and brace his defences. He nods when he’s ready and Sutan grabs the coffee mugs with one hand and Tommy’s hand with the other. Together, that’s what the hand says, we’ll face it together.

Breathe deep and then Tommy’s ready to face the big bad world again.