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Candy Striped Hell

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~*Take Our Advice*~


Adam is being all toppy still, but Tommy’s come down (or is that up?) from wherever he was half an hour ago, and he can actually function again. So it’s weird but it’s not life threatening or anything, is it? It’s just creepy as all hell, and he’s talking to the police now. They’ll fix it for him, make it go away. They’ll stop the fucker for him.

But the overwhelming answer to every question that they put to Tommy is “No.”

“Can you think of anyone who might know you like this?” – No. He’s a sort of private person about his real life, and no single person would know all this.

“Did you notice anyone paying you unusual attention to you last night?” – No. He was too busy trying to get into someone else’s pants to watch for anybody else.

“Had you ever seen the girl before?” – No. He never even got her name, and that’s something his mother would smack him for.

“Do you always go here for coffee?” – No. First time he ever went, and it’s the last time he’s fucking going there as well.

Tommy doesn’t need a degree in psychology to know that they’re concerned with his lack of knowledge, but there’s nothing he can do. He doesn’t know where the girl came from, he hasn’t noticed anything weird, hasn’t received anything like this before from the freak with the candy stripe obsession. He just thought Candy Stripe was just another slightly too obsessed fan, another overly excitable present giving man. The police write it all down, make him sign it at the bottom with his scrawl of a signature and make him say that he swears it’s the truth.

They haven’t got any answers at the moment, but they put the photos in an evidence bag, and the envelope and all the other gifts that still linger around the office. and Lane’s on the phone to the security agency, trying to rustle up a security guard for him. His own personal security guard. Now that’s rockstar, and he’s quite happy with it. It could almost be fun, he imagines, having his own personal bodyguard to keep busy until he remembers why he’s got to have one in the first place.

He rubs a hand over his face, and wonders where it was in his contract that the crazy came for free with the pay and excellent health insurance.

Adam’s pissy. Big time, big style, Lambert!tantrum pissy. The leather jacket he has on is all tough bitchiness, and he’s taking on the personality - he’s one step away from his stage persona of being domineering all over everyone in the room. “I want someone who’s built like a line-backer. Someone terrifying and scary and who’ll keep it him safe!” Adam means well with all the shouting and the demands; he doesn’t cope with situations where he’s not got control. He paces up and down the table, and Monte keeps out of his way by sprawling in a chair next to Tommy, and Isaac goes off to find coffee for everyone again, because when Adam’s pissy, the whole world better watch out. And have coffee on standby. Because Adam needs coffee when he’s pissy because then he has something to focus on. He hates coffee most of the time, so he bitches about it when he has to have it, and then everyone gets a break from his toppy shit.

“Adam!” Lane holds the phone against her shoulder and fixes him with a glare. “They are sending their biggest, toughest, most pants shittingly scary guys over as soon as they can, so will you please go back to Tommy and let me work!” She points a finger at Tommy and narrows her eyes, and Adam’s got two choices – be bitchy and probably get shoved out of the room to calm down with Monte, or do as he’s told and stay with Tommy.

Adam huffs but he goes back to stroking Tommy’s head, and that’s just fine with him. Monte is talking to the cops now, but there’s not much he can tell them. He’s never seen anyone following any of the band apart from fans, he’s not noticed anyone following him or his wife, and he hasn’t got any of the gifts that Tommy’s been disposing of to other people. He finishes up with the cops inside of five minutes, they move on Isaac, and Monte comes over to where Adam is with Tommy.

“How you doin’?” Monte is such a dad; you can feel in how he comes down to eye level with Tommy, who’s sat in a big black leather executive’s chair, instead of looming over him. It’s such a dad thing that for a moment Tommy can feel his heart clench as he misses his own. It hurts, but only briefly – a pang of regret that’s been scarred over, rather than the raw, bleeding edge it used to be.

“I’m fine. Mostly.” He adds the qualifier because he’s still feeling off-kilter but there’s nothing like freaking out to wear you out, and he’s a bit too tired to really get worked up and frothy topped about it. Adam has that covered for the moment.

Monte narrows his eyes at him for a moment, to check if he’s telling a lie but apparently Tommy’s half-truth has satisfied him for now, because Monte scoops up his bag of cookies and hands them to him. “Eat. You’re still skinny as hell.”

“Yes, Monte.” Tommy doesn’t bother to argue with any of the glamily over his eating habits, because that’s a sure fire way to make sure they hover over him even more. He’s a skinny fucker, he gets it, but apparently nobody else does and there’s always someone shoving a sandwich under his nose or a bar of chocolate into his hands just to make him eat. He’d get sick of it, but hey, free food. You don’t live the starving artist lifestyle for long before you learn to take advantage of free stuff, especially food.

The police come back over, having questioned Lane, and picked her brains over the gifts. “Mr Ratliff?” Adam’s sitting on the arm of his chair, and Tommy’s leaning his head into the bigger man’s chest, like he could just bury himself away from the world. He withdraws from that quickly though, turning to meet the police officers head on, shoving on an expression of casual politeness. He’s nothing if not a consummate emotion hider.

“Tommy, please. I’m not respectable enough for Mr Ratliff.” He tries for humour and it makes Adam huff into his hair, so he supposes that it worked a bit.

“Okay, Tommy. We’re taking these ‘gifts’ away with us for testing, but on first look there doesn’t seem to be anything really wrong with them.” When Tommy’s face turns confused, the tall black officer elaborates, “There’s no smoke bomb in the candles, no razor blades hidden in the candy canes that we can tell, no strange powders coating the books.” Oh. Makes sens- No, wait. It doesn’t. But the officer carries on. “We’ve warned the staff to be on the lookout for gifts coming in that particular packaging, and there’s a few safety precautions that we’re gonna run over with you now, and then with the rest of the staff in a minute. For one thing, no more eating foods that your fans send you.” Damnit. There’s a fan here in LA that makes the most awesome English food gift baskets and sends one to them every once in a while. He’s gonna miss that. “Any presents you get from this guy, in this packaging, you can take straight down to the police precinct right here and then we’ll investigate it.”

The blonde female officer cuts in here, “Do you want any of the presents back?”

“God, no.” Only that’s not Tommy answering, but Adam. Adam then runs his hand over Tommy’s, and says, “We don’t need any more shit from that creep, thanks.”

“Mr Ratliff?” Oh, good. The woman obviously wants Tommy to answer for himself, so Tommy pushes an elbow into Adam’s side as a warning, and says, “What he said. I don’t care if you burn it; I don’t wanna see it again.”

“Okay, that’s good. We’ll keep it in evidence then.” Or they could do that with it. “We also want you to have some more security for you-” And this time Lane butts in, with a sheaf of paperwork in one hand, and a mug of hot sweet coffee in the other.

“Here, Adam. Drink.” She hands the mug to Adam, and gives Tommy the paperwork. “Thanks officer, but we’ve got some extra security on the way, who’ll be Tommy’s very own. No sharing, no expense spared.” The officer raises an eyebrow, because on the top of the paperwork is a photo clipped to a bio, and the guy isn’t just built like a line-backer. He is built like a brick shit house, so wide his shoulders barely fit into the frame. Hulking and his face looks like he slammed it into a wall a time or ten. The guy looks like he chews bricks for breakfast, and then washes it down with a bucket or two of blood and guts. Adam chokes on his coffee when he sees him.

Tommy likes the look of him already.

“I see.” The black officer, Sanderson from his nametag, “Is one going to be enough?”

“No, that’s why we’ve hired two.” Lane pulls another photo clipped bio out from the stack and slides it over to the police officer. This one is even scarier, broken nose, and big fists, and from the little that Tommy can read upside down, he’s nearly seven foot tall, weighs more than three times Tommy’s weight, and been in the business for nearly twenty years. Looks like they have themselves another winner.

“You listened to me, then.” Adam mutters as he studies the bio of the first guy. He takes another sip of coffee and Tommy can feel the wince all down his left side where Adam is pressed against him. It’s not what Adam wanted, but he needs sugary coffee at a time like this.

“You said scary, I got you scary. These guys will eat a stalker alive.” Lane taps her hand on the stack of paperwork. “Even got the insurance to cover it. Asset protection and all that.” And that’s good because how the fuck Tommy would even begin to pay these guys’ salaries, he doesn’t have a clue. He flips through the stack, but doesn’t see anything interesting – it’s all contractual information and boring legal shit. “We’ll get to work signing those in a minute.”

“Alright.” Chaplin, the female officer, picks up a plastic bag full of the gifts which are in more evidence bags. “I want you to also fit some more locks on your residence, since I understand it doesn’t have private access.” Fuck no, he lives in a dump. He was lucky to get off-road parking, never mind security gates and a fence like Adam’s place. “You need to consider adding some more protection to your front and back doors, maybe some deadbolt locks. Also, have a look at your screens, and windows.”

“Why?” Adam looks confused.

“You would be amazed at how many home burglaries we get where the thief managed to jimmy a downstairs window with nothing more than a wire coat hanger, and a bit of determination. Take our advice. Check and then get them replaced if necessary.”

Lane’s adding all this down in her PDA, tapping away with her stylus. “Anything else?”

“You might want to consider investing in some form of personal alarm and pepper spray. Just in case.” Oh fuck no. That’s like… what girls do, and he respects the need to defend themselves totally, because he loves women like fuck, but he’s a dude. He doesn’t want to carry pepper sp-

“I’ll get some sent over right now.” Fuck you, Lane. He so doesn’t need pepper-spray like some defenceless chick. “And don’t look at me like that.” Shit, she’s got eyes in the back of her fucking head. “You’re getting it, and you’re carrying it if I have to staple it to your hands.” Tommy resists the temptation to stick his tongue out because that would just be childish. He’ll carry it for a few weeks and then just sort of stop- “And if you think about ditching it, I will hurt you.” Fuck it.

Adam’s hand appears under his nose, holding the big mug of coffee. “Here, drink the rest of this.” The coffee is sweet, cream laden and oh so fatty. Just the way he likes it and Adam does too, but won’t have because it’ll go straight to his ass.

“Why?” It’s Adam’s, not his.

“Because I’m not feeling coffee, and I want tea.” Adam’s hand scruffs his hair again. “Now drink up.” He does, but only because he’s thirsty and not because Adam told him so. He so doesn’t do what he’s told when it comes to Adam. He doesn’t! Adam struts off for tea, obviously feeling a bit happier about the whole thing, which is more than Tommy can say, and in fifteen minutes he’s back with a mug of hot tea and Tommy pulls a face because when Adam is sat that close to him, he can smell the Earl Gray and it’s totally ruining his coffee bliss. 

The police give them some more advice, and then take off back to the station, and leave them all alone. Adam is pacing again, but it’s his thinking pacing, not angry!pacing, so Lane’s happy to leave him to do so. Instead, she works Tommy though the paperwork, explaining things to him, telling him what all the fucking legalese means. He signs where she points, and eats more cookies when Monte or Adam tell him to because arguing isn’t an option right now, and then it’s midday, and there’s a knock at the door.

Lane goes to answer it, and in walk the two new security guards. And holy shit, those photos do not do them justice. They are scary fuckers; both are taller than Adam and look like they could bench Tommy without breaking a sweat. They are both mean looking, and wearing suits that barely cover the muscles beneath. He wonders for a moment if they’ll break him in two if he tries to ditch them, because those arm guns are as big as his head around, and there’s ominous bulges at their sides that smack of either guns or Tasers. Lane said they were trained for both.

Then they both ruin the whole impression by breaking into perfect white toothed grins and coming forward to shake everyone’s hands.

Well, at least everyone else will be terrified of them.

Adam is clearly pleased with Lane’s choice as he shakes their hands, grinning widely, and even Monte and Isaac are impressed. It’s not often you meet two people who have to bend knee to get into the room. They come over to Tommy last.

“Mr Ratliff?” The shaven headed black man’s voice is deep, booming, and it practically resonates around the room. “I’m Callum Alawi.”

“And I’m Robert. Robert Matthews.” The slightly smaller blonde haired beside Callum leans forward to shake his hand. Tommy tries to stand up, but Adam’s hand is on his shoulder, pressing him into the plush seat even further.

“Tommy, please.” He aims an elbow at Adam’s side. “Hi.” He extends a hand to Callum, who shakes it in an incredibly firm grip before offering it to Robert, who gives it even more effort. When he finally gets his fingers back, he flexes them quietly. “Ah…” Alright, lesson learned; these are hard men, and he’s a little bit below their league to play man games with them.

They go into their spiel, reassuring him that his safety is their top priority, and that they’re the very best out there so he can depend on them to keep him safe. Monte and Adam get into it, quizzing them on their training, and what skills they have, but Tommy’s not interested in shit like that right now. He’s come over all tired, and sleepy because he didn’t sleep fantastically well the night before after that girl ditched him, and then the ass-crack-of-dawn meeting that still hasn’t happened has screwed up his plan to sleep in till like two in the afternoon, and the sunlight is hitting him just right….Adam’s hand in his hair is also sending him to sleep as well – pushing him further and further into that drowsy-half awake state where you’re not really asleep, but not really awake either.

With an effort, he hauls himself away from Adam, out of the chair and into the present. “Lane, are we gonna have this meeting?” He’s tired, so damn tired, and he needs to push to bed now because if he tries to work through it, he’ll end up with chronic insomnia. For the fifth time in as many weeks, and he’d like to go sleep on a regular basis, if that’s okay with his fucking brain. She doesn’t hold it against him though and tells him to push off home because there’s no way he can concentrate now.

She’s right, but how’s he gonna get home now? He hasn’t got room in his car for both of these guys – Adam struggles to fit in the front seat, and these guys are twice his weight with change, and the back seat is all covered in junk and shit…

“We’ll follow you, Mr Rat- Tommy.” Evidently Callum is the more senior of the two as he decides what’s gonna happen. “From there we can make a list of what needs to be changed at your house, and talk to some people.” Some people? Full service bodyguards then. And then Adam’s invited himself along as well, and Tommy’s being ushered out to Adam’s car service.

He wonders about his own car, but Adam says he’ll swing by to pick him up tomorrow, and to just get in the fucking limo, okay, because every second he’s in public might mean another minute that he’s being photographed with a telephoto lens. Fuck it, he’s right, so Tommy climbs into the limo and Callum and Robert get into their own car – a high performance saloon car that’s understated and classy – black, with silver trim and nice leather seats from what he can tell in the 0.3 seconds he gets to be nosy when Adam ushers him by.

Then they are on the way to his house, and he’s feeling just a little bit nervous because yeah, okay, where he lives isn’t ghetto slum bad but it’s nowhere near as nice as Adam’s bachelor pad or even Monte’s four bedroom house in the burbs. It’s dingy, and the furniture as low rent and student housing as you can get, and Mike hasn’t got around to changing the carpeting so it still smells like tour funk even though there has never been nor will there ever be a tour in Tommy’s house. Still no point regretting it, as he’s had some of the best times in the world here, got laid a whole bunch too so it’s not gonna kill them to suck it up and deal with it like normal people and not Hollywood people.

He gets out when they arrive, face first into the warm heat, jogging up the front steps to the front door, and Mike is propping it open with half a crate of beer, having a cigarette in the mid-afternoon sun, sitting on the porch. He’s still wearing his sleep pants, and is shirtless and pasty white in the sun. It’s such a normal scene that Tommy could kiss him – if of course, he were a) interested in Mike like that, and b) deranged enough to want to kiss someone for having a cigarette. Too much coffee, he thinks. Mike raises an eyebrow but doesn’t say anything more than that at the entourage that Tommy brings into the house – two big bruisers and a flamboyant singing sensation. Could be worse. It could be the time that Tommy got lucky on the sofa, only to find the next morning that she took off, and left him all hanging loose and easy breezy for Mike to find in the morning.

God, that had not been a good start to the day.

Adam gets that frown on his face when he sees the dingy nature of the place, and even the bodyguards look a bit taken a back. Hey, it’s his fucking money and he likes where he lives now – it’s cheap and he doesn’t have to deal with the paps because nobody famous ever lives in a dump like this. See, it’s the motherfucking reverse psychology!

Or something.

Then, Tommy gets to spend a terrifically boring two hours showing every door and window to the bodyguards, watching them take photos with a neat little digital camera of all the locks and the lattice beside his window, and then they all get to sit in the living room on the ratty old couches and talk business. Tommy’s sat next to Adam and he’s mostly in the warm yellow sunshine coming in through the back window, and it’s just right - listening to them debate the merits of locksmith companies, the lull of words he’s not really listening to lulling him to sleep because he’s just very tired right now. Could really do with another five or six hours in the sack, just being generally lazy, not getting up unless he needs a piss, and then straight back to bed.

It’s not until he hears Adam’s chuckle that he realises that he’s been slumped into Adam’s side for oooh, at least the last forty minutes, snuggled away from the world, and completely out of the conversation that’s been happening over his head. Again. He makes a valiant effort to pull himself back into the world of the living for a moment.

“Right. Yeah. Umm… What’s happening?” he gets for his troubles two raised eyebrows from both his bodyguards, and Adam’s hand stroking the back of his neck. “What’s going to happen?” He corrects himself.

“Well, we’re going to go now, and you need to lock up tight. Tomorrow, we’ll get the locksmith round; make him change the locks and stuff. We’ll also get in a DIY guy, improve your fencing a bit because it’s…”

“Shit.” Adam interrupts Callum, and keeps right on stroking the back of Tommy’s neck. “You’ve got more holes in it than Kesha’s tights, so you need a new one.”

“Riiiight…” Tommy’s spent many days when they were on tour perfecting the tone for that word – drawing it out into one long raised eyebrow in verbal form. His fence is shit, but unless the next one comes electrified, it’s not going to prevent anyone climbing over it.

“We’re not going to be live in bodyguards…” Robert waves a hand around his head, “Because you haven’t got the…” Clean house, nice car, money… “space,” of course. “But we’ll pick you up every morning that you need to go out, and take you wherever you need to go, as long as it’s on a list of acceptable locations – and we have strict orders that Taco Bell is not acceptable.” Lane’s orders probably; Robert gives him a look of Hollywood superiority – Tommy likes junk food despite what the whole of Tinsel Town has against it. “We’ll make sure you get to the grocery store and meetings and stuff…” He’s still talking but Tommy’s got just a little bit pissy now.

“I do not need a baby sitter.” Because he’s finally clocked what Adam’s been trying to avoid letting him know. Adam’s bodyguards follow Adam. If Adam fancies a restaurant on the other side of town from the one he picked out ten weeks ago, they get in the cars and drive across town to go to the damn restaurant that Adam picked. They follow behind him in cars while Adam rides in the limo. If Adam wants to go shopping, they man up and come along, and get stuck wandering around the shops for six hours. If Adam decides to go for a wander down to the beach when they’re on location, Adam gets to go and the bodyguards get to look hilarious in suits and smart shoes on the white sand beaches of Miami, or Bali or wherever. They listen to Adam and do what Adam wants.

What does Tommy Joe get? He gets a pair of fucking babysitters who’ll make sure he gets to the grocery store to buy healthy shit and to his meetings on time, and make sure he doesn’t go anywhere unattended. Fuck off, Adam, he wants to shout, but Adam’s fingers are scritching just above his ear, and frankly, he can’t summon the energy to be pissed right now. He’ll deal with it in the morning. Just like everything else in his life, he’ll deal with it tomorrow.

Everything happens in both double time, and half speed, and it feels like five minutes and it’s actually been another hour and the body guards have left, and Adam’s kissing him just behind the ear on the front porch, telling him to get some sleep because he’ll have to be up early tomorrow for the meeting that didn’t happen today. When the last of the entourage have flounced, strode or lumbered down to the cars and finally, finally driven away, Mike looks up from where he’s been drinking and smoking, and generally being Zen on the steps and says, “What the fuck what was that?” without even taking the cigarette out of his mouth.

And Tommy just shrugs. A rockstar doesn’t need to know what it’s called to know when it’s time to call it a night. Even if it is half past four in the afternoon, and the rest of the world is still wide awake and functioning human beings. Sometimes, you just gotta stick your head down, and deal with it when you wake up.

It’s worked all his life until now. No reason why it can’t work again.