Tom awoke, and Just for a moment, think about... he blinked, curling his body tighter around Barry's. That was the action that sent him into full wakefulness as his chest seemed to empty and a sick feeling entered his stomach that was more familiar to him now than feeling well and healthy and happy, but it was never welcome. When he opened his eyes, light was streaming into the room, and Where are we? But of course they were back home. He closed his eyes again, pulling Barry still closer to him, his brother's forehead almost touching his lips. He wrapped his arms tightly around Barry's back, running his fingers though his hair, comparing its colour to that of the sand on the Head, which was where they were... He fought back the tears, fought of the thought No... where am I?, swallowed down the crying-noise that threatened to escape his tightened throat and whispered "Barry..."
He didn't expect a response. He pulled back, and Barry's eyes fluttered under their lids. His stomach jumped, even as he knew that this meant nothing The earth is nothing but a star, just the merest light-point. But Tom made himself believe. Forced belief into his mind and forced his right hand to close on Baz's shoulder tightly. Tightly enough that it would hurt him and Baz would wake up and say, "What the fuck are you doing, Tommy?" and roll his shoulder away.
It didn't happen, but his brother's eyes did open. At least they opened. Barry didn't move after that. So How's the weather in your world? Tom dug his nails into Barry's shoulder-blade, pressed so hard that his own hand was trembling. Barry's breath sucked in and snagged in his throat, but he didn't even blink. Tom let go quickly. "Baz." His own voice was tight.
He buried his face Barry's hair, and shut his eyes. He never in his life wanted to be away from the Head more. Because if he was back at Humbleden, that would mean that none of this had ever happened. They wouldn't even have played that fucking gig yet.
Or maybe... maybe if they had never gone to Humbleden. He felt a slight pang as he thought about Laura. Never meeting her... My head was full of her as poppy seeds. But then Barry wouldn't be like this.
He listened to the gulls outside. It must be very early. He could hardly hear the sea... everything was calm. Everything was waiting.
He shifted away, sitting up. Barry followed, but it was like he was a mirror. If Tom did it, Barry would do it, but just barely. Tom slid out of bed, pulled on a shirt, a sweater, dressed Barry, avoiding his eyes as he did because it hurt too much.
He wasn't used to the Head anymore. He was always cold, and the sea sounded more lonely than he had ever heard it. Or maybe that was just because he was alone.
He looped his arm around Barry's shoulders, but Barry's didn't come up around his waist. He ignored it, shifting against him, and they made their way down the stairs. Tom had to move slowly. Always slower than normal now because it was like there was no balance. He wasn't used to moving so much on his own, and pulling half-dead weight around on top of it. They slipped out of the house into the sea-air. Even the wind was quiet. Tom wasn't sure where they were going. He wasn't even sure why he was out here. It wasn't as though it was going to help anything. There was nothing he could do for Barry anymore. No matter how many times he told Robbie that Barry would be all right... He'd only believed it the first few times he said it.
He didn't believe it anymore.
Tom stopped and stared out over the beach. The water looked like it was asleep. Heaving only slightly with waves that made almost no sound. It reflected the strange white of the sky, and everything around the two boys was a shade, no colours. It was all the same. Dark and light but it didn't mean anything anymore. Tom bent down, pulling his left arm away from Barry and picked up a handful of rocks. Seaweed clung to them, left over from the winter months, when the water was highest. For a moment Just for a moment think... Tom wondered why he'd ever wanted to come back here.
He threw them almost violently, each one landing short of the water he was aiming for... Barry normally would have sneered at him, then try to better him, and fail as well. Tom leant down to gather more.
Tom suddenly hissed through his teeth, turning his hand over. A line of blood appeared on his palm, seeming brighter than it should in this light, and he scanned the ground. Amidst the stones that were dusted with sand there was a sharp edge. He dug the shell out from the rocks it was trapped in. It was almost the size of his hand. Standing, Tom slid his arm around his brother's shoulders again. The hand that was still bleeding a little was closed in a fist against Barry's shoulder. He kept the shell in his right.
Tom, and therefore Barry, turned and walked away from the sandy shore. He'd thought he'd come out here to look at the water, but now he didn't want to. The sun would light the sky and the water would wake up and start crashing against the rocks again, bring the seaweed and the other sea-things in, and then take them away again. The water would turn back to grey and a new day would start with the sea, and life would go on without Barry's actual presence.
Tom didn't think he could stand it, so he turned the sea out, looked away.
They'd been all over this place. There was hardly a place on the Head left unexplored. Tom walked until he couldn't see the house anymore, or the sea, but he could hear it. You could always hear it. Tom wished, suddenly, that the Head was like the city... for the places where the heart beats stronger, where the loving's madder, where the nights are longer. The city that he'd seen only through the window of a car, and in the short walks from the car to the back doors of pubs... and he wished for the first time that he could be lost out here. Barry was lost, after all. So why couldn't Tom be too?
He opened his hand again, and the stinging seared across the cut. It started to bleed again. He pulled away from Barry again, and looked at the cut up close, frowning. The sky overhead was turning pale blue. It was going to be one of those rare, rainless days.
Tom ran his thumb over the smooth inside of the shell, feeling it scrape slightly against his skin. He remembered so many cuts and bleeding from the number of times they'd hurt themselves on the shells as little kids. They went barefoot so much, it was no wonder. Barry had a scar from his heel almost to the arch of his foot... Tom looked up into his brother's face. Barry's expression hadn't changed since that morning. Since the night before. Since the day before that. Barry hadn't eaten. Tom couldn't go on like this. Something had to be done.
He raised the shell, calculating the distance from Barry's jaw to his eye, eye to cheekbone. Oh you are all things to me, and swung the shell down, cutting his brother's cheek just enough for it to bleed. Barry didn't even gasp. Just shut his eyes for a second longer than it took to blink. "Barry!" It was the loudest he'd spoken in days. "Barry!" he gripped his brother's shoulders and shook him. Nothing. He could hear the fucking sea now. The waves beginning to crash, and damn it all. Damn. It. All. How did everything just keep going?
The scream that tore from his chest seared up his throat, seeming to rip and tear at his insides, and he muffled it against Barry's shoulder. It turned into a sob, and then another, and they fell, the damp marsh seeping into the knees of their jeans. Barry's hands were muddied where they hit the earth, but there was nothing there. Barry wasn't there.
Gasping for the breath he couldn't catch, Tom raised the shell and stabbed it into the join, directly and perfectly in the middle. He gasped and choked. Barry did nothing. He couldn't, he couldn't, he couldn't, couldn't, couldn't, couldn't...
The flesh cut, blood began to run over the shell, over his fingers. He'd had a dream like this once. Barry's fingers were twitching, but Tom didn't stop. Baz wasn't there anymore. He hadn't been there since the gig. This wasn't his brother. Barry would never, never leave him alone like this and Tom hated this thing, this body that he was dragging around with him. This wasn't Baz!
Oh, there was so much blood. There was too much. Barry's eyes looked through his when Tom looked up to meet them. The most alive thing on Barry's face was the one drop of blood that had spilled down over his cheek, and even that had frozen there. Tom stopped. He had to stop. His fingers couldn't close on the shell anymore and it fell to the ground.
I shouldn't have done this.
He wasn't afraid to die, like he knew he was going to in this minute, but now his hands were trying to piece back together the scraps of skin and the pieces of him and Barry that held them together, and he was crying, but no noise escaped him.
It wouldn't work. There was too much blood. He couldn't see what he was doing.
He pulled his brother up against his chest and fell sideways, wrapping his arms around him, looking away from the blood that gushed from their middles with every quickened beat of their hearts. He smeared blood over Barry's temple and into his hair and he brushed it back from those eyes that were dead before he was.
And then you'll know my true love's bounds.
Then you'll know.
Tom didn't know how long they were there. He knew that the water had seeped through their sweaters and they were far beyond being cold. He remembered hoping that Robbie would never find them because she wouldn't understand and he knew the moment Barry's heart stopped beating against his and the last thing Tom heard before the world started to fade from his eyes was the sea.
Tom left before supper. He didn't think he could stand another meal so silent. Robbie, last night had covered her face in her hands, and Tom and their father just stared at her until she stood up and left. No tears at the table. Barry, of course, hadn't noticed.
Tom didn't need to hear his father's fist hit the wall again after leaving his and Barry's room. The first time he'd entered it in almost five years.
Tom would not, could not tell Robbie one more time that Barry was going to be fine.
So they walked. Tom stumbled more than once because Barry certainly wasn't helping. He didn't know where he was going. He was grateful it was dark enough to begin to lose his bearings. He would always be able to find his way back home he knew, but not now. Later. Once everyone else was in bed. The thought crossed his mind of just staying out here, just him and Barry, and going back to the house when Rob and Dad were asleep to get food and that. That way he wouldn't have to talk to anyone, or ignore the way they looked at Baz and him.
It wasn't fair that they'd already given up hope. No one had enough faith in Baz, and Tom knew that best of all. Even Paul and Laura didn't understand him enough to hope for him. Tom knew that, and that was why he hadn't bothered to keep in touch. That world seemed so far away now anyway.
He stopped walking and the breeze rustling their hair. It was warm for this time of year but he pulled Barry closer anyway. Barry's hands were too cold recently, and he was paler than he should be. Tom tried not to worry. Laura always said worry never helped anything.
Tom still believed Barry would pull through. He had to, because if he didn't, who would? He reached up and pulled Barry's head against his shoulder, leaning his own against it. He turned until his lips touched Baz's ear.
"I'm not going to give up... on you," he pulled away, checking for any sign of life in Barry's face. There was none, so Tom looked away before dread could overwhelm him. No... this couldn't go on much longer... Paul said things got worse before they got better... this was the worst it could go, so Barry had to get better now.
He had to.
Tom was suddenly jerked painfully down to the left as Barry fell. "Barry!" he gasped, and his hands scraped against the bark of a sparse plant before his right wrist slammed onto a stone making his arm go oddly numb.
Barry's body was thrown into a contortion, and Tom could see the pain in his brother's eyes even in the darkness before it spread over Barry's face, straining it, drawing it tight. Tom's hands found Barry's face as a sound escaped Barry's throat and Tom felt his own heat jump once, twice. His chest tightened with fear but it was more than that. Pain was starting in his arms now too.
Oh no, oh no Barry, oh God. Tom didn't know if he was saying the words out loud or not. Barry shuddered and Tom's hands slid over Barry's chest to find his heartbeat but Tom's eyes never once left Barry's face, because he was looking at Tom now. He was seeing him.
Baz was on his back now and Tom was crouch-splayed over him. His hand pressed against Barry's heart, and it wasn't... it was all wrong. It was all wrong, no, no, no, fuck! And then it stopped, the light that had been gone for so long from his eyes faded once more, and the fear, thank God, faded too. Tom gasped over him. Pressing harder against his brother's chest. Surely he just couldn't feel his heart through the sweater... that had to be it. He went to move his hands, but they wouldn't go. Looking down, Tom saw that Barry's hands were closed over his wrists. He pulled free, pressed his fingers under Barry's jaw, but there was nothing. No heartbeat. No blood moving where it should be moving. A sob shuddered out of him and he pulled Barry's sweater up, sliding his cold hand up to press against his chest where his heart should still be working.
That was when the fear overcame Tom. He could feel that something was wrong with his own body, but he wasn't concentrating on it. He knew he was short of breath for more than just the fact that he couldn't seem to stop crying, and the pain in his chest wasn't just because Barry was dead.
Tom's heart couldn't work for both bodies. If one of us dies... then we both die.
But Tom didn't want to die. Instinctively, he reached down, small sobs escaping him as he scratched and clawed at the join, pulling at it until it hurt, fuck. At the same time, his hands were still touching Barry's face because why had he died. He wasn't allowed to die like this. This wasn't how it was supposed to end. Tom didn't know how it was supposed to, but this wasn't it.
The skin on the join was bleeding now. The blood was collecting under his fingernails, but he couldn't get away. He knew Barry wouldn't want him to leave him, but he couldn't bring himself to stay. Barry was dead and Tom half wanted to run as far away as he could from that shell that had been his brother. "Please, please, please," he was sobbing, but now it hurt too much, his own heart. He collapsed against him and his hands pushed at the grass and mud to wrap around Barry's back. Tom tried to calm himself. Maybe if he was calm enough, he would be able to live until Robbie or Dad found them. He took breaths that didn't satisfy his need for air. He couldn't make them deeper, and God... he wished more than anything that Laura was here right now. He wished that Barry wasn't dead and growing colder beneath him.
It took a long time. Tom clutched Barry's body to him until it no longer felt like a human body anymore. He wanted to sleep. He wanted to get warm. He wondered if it was his fault that Barry had died. What if he hadn't made him walk all this way?
The pain in his chest faded a little before Tom closed his eyes but he could still feel his blood surging through him in the wrong way. It felt like it was clogging in his veins. That hurt, but not as much as the space where Barry used to be.
Tom didn't expect the hand that flew up and latched itself around his throat. His eyes widened, and he looked at Barry. Barry's eyes were still empty, but his face had changed, and it was angry.
"Bar-" Tom couldn't get the rest of the name out. A thumb pressed into his throat hard and he tried to draw in a breath to no avail. His own hands came up and tried to pull his brother's hand from his neck. It wasn't until those eyes filled with something that was so unlike Barry that it scared Tom that he had enough strength to wrench that hand away.
This was the first time Baz had moved on his own accord in days, and now it wasn't even Barry at all. Tom sent a panicked glace back towards their little house, but he couldn't even see it from here. This wasn't Barry. He'd seen hints of this before in his brother's eyes like when Barry came at him with a knife, this personality that wasn't his own, but now Baz wasn't anywhere to be found. Tom struggled to overcome his shock and to keep that body away from him.
Hands clawed at his face and his arms, and Tom held him off. They struggled and fell back. Tom's head hit the ground and he was thankful that it was wet earth, constantly soaked with the rain that had just begun to fall again. It was harder to hold the full weight of Barry's body off of him but somehow Tom managed to roll them so that he was on top. Barry, or rather, that body struggled beneath him, and Tom didn't even have time to register the strangeness of this situation. He knew now, deep down, that Barry had been so silent because he was silently fighting this thing. It had taken all of his brother's concentration to do it, and so he could hardly be present in the real world as he tried to stave off the thing that had been threatening to overtake him ever since he could remember. And it had won.
Tom cried out, and blackness burst before his eyes as a rock held in a tight hand connected mercilessly against the side of his head.
Tom fought past the darkness that circled him somehow and even though his head was swimming, he tried to catch up those hands and keep them away from his throat. This thing in Barry was going to extinguish Tom's life as it had Baz's, only it would be a far quicker process with Tom. It had, after all, been working at Barry forever and apparently it was running out of patience.
Tom screamed, hoping someone from the house would hear him over the marshes. He had to get away. He could feel jagged rocks cutting into his knees and his shins, and realized how close he was to hitting his head here.
Reaching back, he grabbed one and hacked at Barry's shoulder. It was a moment before the blood stained the cloth of his sweater, but the thing didn't make a sound. Tom realised that it was in Barry's body, but it couldn't feel it.
Panicking, not thinking about anything more than escaping now because a hand was tight around his throat again, he cut at the join of flesh between them, the part when it connected with his own body. He'd expected it to hurt but not this much. The fact that he could not breathe drove him on. It went on forever, but it couldn't have been that long because he was still going. He hadn't passed out from lack of oxygen yet. The blood dripped audibly into the damp ground, and finally, finally the fingers loosened. Baz's body was losing blood too. Tom drew in a hoarse breath, choking. He coughed and tasted blood. He dropped to his side on the ground, one hand holding himself as far as he could from what had been his brother, the other trying to slow the flow of blood from his own body. When he could move again, he could kill Barry's body, since Barry clearly wasn't there anymore. Barry would never do this.
Tom kept his eyes closed as tightly as he could. He tried to scream for someone at the house again, but he couldn't. He was so tired... he could barely hold that body off that was still trying to move closer to him.
"Tommy." Barry's whisper was frightened and faint, but Tom opened his eyes.
Barry's eyes held his, his face covered in tears and flecks of blood and dirt, and Tom realised that his brother had won. Something had happened, and Barry had fought back that fucking horrible thing even after Tom thought he was lost to it for good.
He let his arm, the arm that was splayed on Barry's chest to hold him away, relax and Barry pulled himself closer, his own hands going to the blood that was seeping from Tom's belly, pressing, trying to stop the flow. "Tommy," his voice was choked with tears, and Tom realized that he was crying too. He felt Barry's fingers brush something that should not be on the outside of his body and Tom sucked in a breath that felt like there were still fingers around his neck.
Barry was sobbing now, too exhausted to lift his head. They were both on their sides, and Barry was looking down, trying to gently push parts of Tom's body back inside. He was saying Tom's name over and over, and "why," and "please, no," and "I'm sorry,"
Tom reached up, "Shh," his hand was coated in blood but Barry didn't flinch as he touched his brother's face. He tired to pull him closer, but he couldn't. Barry pulled himself forward and held Tom's shoulder with one hand, the other still pressing over Tom's over the wound. It didn't help much.
"Sorry," Tom whispered.
"No, you can't leave me," Barry was saying. Tom shut his eyes.
Barry couldn't breathe anymore. He couldn't even think. Tom's eyes flicked open again after a minute. An hour. Who knew? Who was keeping track of time? What did it matter?
"Sing something," Tom said. He couldn't stand Barry's sobs anymore, but Barry just shook his head.
"Two way Romeo." Tom whispered. Barry breathed in shakily.
"Shh..." it was taking so much effort to speak. He closed his eyes again. "Bending the rules, touch...ing the tools, don't... don't cry, Baz."
"Don't make us feel fucking fools," Barry said against his neck.
"You're looking... Tommy, please... you're looking cool, feel the crown jewels... Tommy?"
"All the way home..."