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It was freezing, but Barry was stubborn. The rain spilled from the ends of his hair into his eyes. He'd already tried lighting a fag, but it wasn't going to work in this weather.

He wrapped his arms around himself and glared at the lit windows of the house. Tom had said things wouldn't be any different after the operation... that they would still always be together, but he was a liar. And Barry knew it from the moment that a separation was suggested, and Tom hesitated. Tom never should have hesitated... Tom never would have hesitated before. And so of course they went through with it... but if what Tommy said was true and it wasn't going to be any different, why get a separation in the first place?

Well. Tommy had wanted it, and he got it... Fine. It was fine with Barry.
The cold was making his nose run, and he sniffed, pressing the back of his hand to it. He leaned back against the truck of the tree he was standing under. Its overhanging branches didn't do much to stave off the rain though, considering most of the leaves had already been stripped away in the first few weeks of autumn.

He looked off into the darkness that was the woods, then quickly back at the house. It wouldn't do to get frightened out here and have to go back in. Fuck it was cold.

Think of something else... but now he was edgy. Thunder burst overhead, making him jump. He waited, used to storms on the Head, and sure enough lightning lit the night sky purple just behind Humbleden, and the trees around him glowed oddly blue. When it faded, the imprint was still left on his eyes and he blinked, trying to get his sight back to normal again.

Baz turned his head sharply when something caught his eye. Something that shouldn't be out here... He was the only one out here. Tom was up in their room with Laura. And Nick, Tubs, Spitz and Paul were all probably still in the kitchen, playing cards and betting whatever money they had on them. The game would also determine who did the next run for liquor and drugs. Barry hadn't seen any more lights flick on upstairs to indicate anyone moving. Barry was so cold that he didn't even feel cold anymore. His hands were tucked under his upper arms which were folded across his chest, and he bent his head against a fresh gust of wind.

Whatever happened to going together? Barry wondered. If he died, would Tom be sorry? Barry bit his lip, eyes trained on the ground without seeing it. This wasn't his first vague contemplation of suicide... he wondered if he should go through with it... but he never thought about it long because he knew that he would be able to... if he just got enough liquor in his system. He knew how easy it would be. There was a little voice in his head always pushing him in that direction anyway... it just seemed a lot easier out here in Humbleden. Drug overdose... alcohol poisoning. He'd heard stories.

"Barry!" The voice was soft, just audible over the pounding of the rain around them. There was surprise there too and something akin to exasperation. Barry's head shot up and his eyes locked on the familiar figure of Paul, looking like something the cat dragged in. Well... Barry thought. I probably don't look much better.

"What are you doing out here?" Paul asked, closing the distance between them. Barry realised the thing he saw must have been the movement of the front door. He should have known. He should have been more careful. It could just as easily have been Nick, and that would mean a beating for sure... the cold could make him sick, ruin his voice before the show the day after tomorrow. Barry couldn't give a shit.

Barry looked away, casually. "Fancied a walk," he said. The sound Paul made was halfway between a laugh and a sigh and he closed the distance between them.

"Come inside before you freeze to death."

"No, I'll stay out here, thanks, Paul."

"Barry, please." There was a warning note in Paul's tone, and so Barry stood up straight and the two of them began walking back to the house. Once the heavy door shut behind them the sound of the storm seemed to disappear like a record ending abruptly – leaving only the faint static behind – Paul turned to him. "What were you doing out there?" he asked while he toed his boots off. Not aggressively like Nick would ask, but still with a firm edge. His makeup was smudged slightly under his eyes from the weather.

"I..." Barry didn't know what to say so he busied himself with trying to unbutton his jacket, but his fingers wouldn't work. They were frozen that he couldn't get them to grip the buttons right.

"Fuck, Barry. You're bloody freezing," Paul said, moving forward, but stopping before he touched him. Barry was shivering but he looked up at Paul with defiance that quickly turned to confusion, and then... he couldn't sort through his emotions anymore, he was too busy watching the concern on Paul's face melt into something... else... when their eyes met.

Barry felt a thrill run through him, and he tried to find a response in Paul's eyes, but Paul had looked quickly away. "You need to get out of those clothes before you get sick," Paul was murmuring, not looking at him as he shrugged his coat off and hung it up. Barry hadn't moved. After a moment, he reached down and pulled of his shoes. His jeans were soaked through. All of his clothes were waterlogged and seemed even colder now that he was out of the storm. He felt miserable, and to his dismay, tears sprung to his eyes. He looked down, went back to his buttons, but it didn't work... he could feel frustration building and that didn't help.

"Here," Paul said, finally coming forward. The rain had only dampened the shoulders of his shirt and his trousers to his calves and up the front of his thighs. Barry could tell, not by the material which was no darker with the water, but by the way they clung to his legs. Paul's hands brushed his away carefully, and undid the buttons. He noticed how quiet Paul had gotten. How he was suddenly refusing to meet Barry's eyes.




Footsteps reached their ears and Paul sprung back from Barry as though burned, making the younger boy jump again. They both looked out into the hallway, frozen. Nick's voice reached their ears before he came into sight.

"Paul!" Barry said, softly but urgently, because he knew Paul knew what kind of trouble Barry would be in now. It would involve fists and yelling, that was certain.

"Come on," Paul said, reaching out for Barry's arm and the two of them hurried up the stairs and into the shadows of the second floor landing before Nick even reached the main hallway. "Where the hell did Paul get to?" they heard him say, and Barry grinned at the man in question. Paul smiled back briefly before leading the way down the hallway to his room. Barry had never really been in here before. Everyone's private space in Humbleden was just that. Private. It surprised him, the sparseness of it. Two or three books and more bottles than he would bother to count were stocked in the first two shelves of the bookcase. Beneath that, magazines, sheet music, picks, several broken guitar or bass strings and a mess of other little things. A bed... a guitar case lay open on the floor, the instrument itself leaning against the wall.

Barry reached for a book but before he could read the title there was a knocking on the door that would better qualify as pounding. Paul pushed Barry back, gently, further into the room before he opened it. Nick glared at him. "What's this? You realised you were gonna lose, so you ran off?"

"No, I just... fancied a walk," Paul echoed Barry and he didn't sound convincing. Nick stared at him as though he was completely insane. "Leavin' the table means you're to do the next run." Nick snapped.

"Fine, sure." Paul answered, pleasantly enough. He never minded going into town to get things. It gave him a chance to be on his own for a bit.

Nick pulled away scoffing, "Fancied a walk," and Paul shut the door and faced Barry who was staring at him from the shadows like some wild thing. "What Nick means is that he lost, so he's still gonna pin the shopping on me."

Barry gave him a half-hearted smile and Paul wondered if Baz would want to come with him, into London. Probably not. It wasn't a good idea anyway, he told himself.

"Look at you," he murmured, more affectionately than he'd meant to. Barry stepped forward like an injured dog coming to a kind word, and Paul reached out and finished unbuttoning his jacket quickly, letting Barry push it to the floor. That movement was strange... if he'd put it over his arm, it would have been a different matter, but that reminded Paul too much of... nights he'd shared with other people.
Barry hesitated, then worked his fingers under the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. It
was heavy in his hands, and his skin was damp from it. Paul was watching him, seemingly unable to look away.

"Can I sleep here?" Barry asked suddenly. He heard Paul make a soft sound, but he couldn't be sure in the darkness. He could only just make out his face in the half light.

"Here?" Paul asked.

"It'll be cold in the recording room..." Barry suddenly didn't want to be alone. "And Laura's up with Tommy, and I..." the rest was left unsaid, hanging tense, between them.

Paul suddenly understood. Felt like an idiot for not getting it sooner. Hell, he should be keeping a closer eye on Baz, and now he felt bad. Of course Barry would need some physical proximity, it only made sense. And of course it couldn't be from Tom. Not now that Tom was spending his new freedom with Laura. Celebrating no doubt. That thought would have made Paul smile in a less tense moment.

Paul tried to work around it. He didn't trust himself here with Baz... alone... all night. "You should get a shower..." Not helping, he thought, turning away.

"No... I'm tired." Barry said.

Paul looked back at him, and he did look tired. He looked exhausted... and cold.

"Okay," Paul said... he could always leave once Barry fell asleep... Baz wouldn't know the difference.

Paul took off his own damp shirt, pulling on a new on instead, his back to Barry.

"Can't get my trousers off," Baz said, and Paul froze. Barry heaved a frustrated sigh and Paul watched him shivering, shoulders hunched as he tried to get his fingers to work. When Paul circled around him and touched Barry's hands, he was surprised at just how cold they were. As though he'd held them in a snow drift.

"God. How long were you out there?" he asked, almost to keep himself distracted as his own fingers found denim and metal. Barry just shrugged, so much for that plan. Baz's jeans were tight, which didn't help. They were even lower on his hips than they would normally be, heavy with water, and they usually clung to his thighs when they were dry. Gig clothes. The rain only made them cling more.

Paul got the top button undone, and there were four more on the inside instead of a zipper. He held back his sigh and set to work on them, trying to forget who he was standing so close to.

Barry made that impossible though because he brought a hand up to touch Paul's neck. He wasn't stupid. He knew an intimate situation when he saw it, but Paul wished he hadn't clued in. He knew his fingers were no longer moving, just as he knew Barry was wearing nothing underneath this cloth. He tried to catch his breath as he felt Barry's drift across his cheek.

They stood there for a long time, Paul not daring to meet Barry's eyes, not daring to speak because this moment, outside of these long seconds was not going to go the way he needed it to. He needed it to break. He needed to step away, but he needed to kiss this young musician more, and so he looked up.

Barry's eyes searched his, even as he lowered his head, closing only when he met Paul's mouth with his own. Paul shuddered closer after a second, as his tongue parted Baz's lips. Their clothes were all shed with enough tugging and struggling, but then... no, then Barry wasn't sure.

They sat on Paul's bed, eyes downcast, half holding each other close, half away. Barry didn't know if he was willing to go this far, and Paul didn't know if he could handle this again... it had been too much last time, a relationship, and just 'fucking around' with Barry wasn't an option. He meant more than that to Paul.

Paul pulled away first, amazed at his own restraint with this beautiful boy in front of him.

"Sleep," he instructed, pushing the covers back, and Barry did as he was told. Paul lay a safe distance, eyes closed, but not remotely tired. He could hear his heart pounding too fast in his ears... it struck him how much this situation, their nudity – the vulnerability of this moment, all the ways it could have gone wrong, but didn't – it didn't bother him; or Barry it seemed. How comfortable they were with each other, and yet he was terrified, but for all the wrong reasons. Or perhaps they were the right ones.

Barry managed to close the distance between them in under three minutes, his legs almost drawn to his chest, but one of his hands fishing around until it found Paul's hip.

Paul opened his eyes to meet Barry's who felt him jolt, but Baz's hand didn't venture anywhere else. An innocent touch. Paul would have to get used to that.

He didn't leave like he'd planned to.