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I'll Be Strong For You

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Douglas was the first to pay any attentiont to Tj's changing. His parents of course knew of the alcohol and weed but they just put it up to teenage rebellion. But Doug saw it for what it was. TJ couldn't handle the pressure of being surrounded by everything that they were.

Doug knew about the pills, though. He'd found his twin's stash of pills- painkillers, ecstacy, and something he thinks may be spilt cocaine but he's hoping it's just a pill that'd gotten crushed in the bottom of the bag. So that's what he tells himself it is.

He desperately wishes he could stop the downward spiral. He can see that TJ is headed toward the bottom, he's losing control, but his parents are too concerned with the politics and running the country to pay attention to their eldest son.

Douglas finds that he gets attention often, for being interested in politics and doing well in school, but he tries to turn it to TJ. TJ is the one who needs it. He needs help but no one will pay attention. He needs someone in his corner before he loses the battle that no one else notices that he's fighting. No one sees his so called rebellion for what it is but Doug.

So he goes to Nana. Nana will know how to help.

The first thing she does when Douglas sits down in front of her is sit down her glass and fold her arms in front of her, looking at him suspiciously, "What is it, Douglas?"

"What do you mean? I just wanted to eat lunch with my grandmother," he says innocently.

She huffs a laugh, "Yeah, if you were TJ, I would understand. He eats lunch with me all the time. But you are always in your mom's office, eating lunch with her staff. So what's really going on here?"

He forgot she can see straight through him, too.

"It's about TJ," he starts.

Her expression turns to concern then, sitting forward in her chair, "What about TJ?"

Douglas briefly wishes his Nana would show that much attention toward him but then he remembers that Nana is the only one who seems to actually look behind TJ's well put up exterior. He deserves that. If anyone is close to seeing the world behind TJ's wall, it is Margaret Barrish. She's the closest thing to help Douglas can think of. It's got to be quiet so there's no PR nightmare, though he thinks maybe that's part of the problem.

"I think he has a problem," Doug says. He really doesn't know how to go about this. He thinks the only way is straight on. Maybe that's good because Nana has never been one to beat around the bush.

"What kind of problem? We know about the alcohol. He probably gets that from his Nana," she says sardonically, taking a drink from her glass which he now isn't entirely sure is just her morning coffee.

"Besides the alcohol," he says before moving in slightly closer, "Nana, I found a bag of pills under his mattress."

"What kind of- what were you doing looking under his mattress?" She asks curiously.

Doug blushes. She really doesn't need to know about the magazines Douglas has. When his favorite had gone missing, he had just assumed TJ had taken it so he went looking for it. He just likes them for the articles. Really.

He coughs and skips past that part, "There were painkillers and ecstasy there. I don't know what else he may have somewhere else..."

Nana looks taken aback as much as Doug had felt. Yeah, sure, given all the people they knew, how hard would it be to find that sort of thing, but who would give a sixteen year old that kind of drug?

"That little shit," she murmurs, "How has he gotten those? How long has he been using them?"

"I don't know, honestly. I think maybe just recently. I feel like I would've noticed sooner." Douglas replies.

"Yeah, at least you would," She sighs, "My daughter is a wonderful politician. It's a shame she doesn't put that much effort into raising her children."

"Nana, running a country takes a lot of wor-"

"Don't you take up for her, Douglas Hammond," She scolds, "You hardly have to worry because you stay attached to her side already. TJ wasn't born for this like you were. He can't handle it. He should not have to. And he deserves to have a support system behind him holding him up whenever he falls. But his so called support is too worried about a damn campaign."

"I just, I know he's going to hate me for telling on him. But he's my twin brother. I want him to be okay," he whispers, Nana reaching over and lightly placing her hand over his, "We'll figure it out, Dougie."

-=-

"We have not located East," The walkie on Agent Clark says, and Doug has to look away to roll his eyes. The code names for them are the lamest he's ever heard. Elaine is North, Bud is South, TJ is East, and Douglas is West.

They seriously could've come up with better. Now it just sounds like someone can't read a compass. Though he supposes the intention is for no one to know who or what the agents are talking about, and it works.

"Douglas, where is your brother?" Elaine asks,letting her glasses fall to the tip of her nose to look over at Doug across the table.

"I don't know, Mom," he answers, "I didn't even see him leave. I thought he was still in his bedroom." His eyes track the movements of his dad walking across the room to the fridge, hardly even present to their conversation. He's been so into the new campaigns and such given that it's election year, that he's hardly even noticed they were in the room. Douglas can sort of see what Nana was talking about.

Another voice speaks through the walkie, "East is headed your way, Clark."

Whatever Agents Clark's response was is somewhat drowned out by the door slamming open and TJ stumbles through, nearly falling onto his face.

"Jesus, Thomas. Are you drunk?" Elaine asks, standing from her seat with a look that could scare even the hardest of politicians into submission.

"Nope," he replies, his lips popping on the p.

"How much have you had to drink?" Douglas asks, beating his mom to the question.

"Just a couple," TJ shrugs, twisting open a water bottle and plunking himself down beside Douglas, but not before smacking a wet kiss onto his cheek, "You should've come, little bro."

"I was only born three minutes after you, TJ," Doug replies, the familiar argument not making him miss how bloodshot TJ's eyes are. That's definitely not just from alcohol, "What have you taken?"

"Just a couple of-" TJ cuts himself off and narrows his eyes at Doug, catching on belatedly to the line of questioning, though not realizing he should shut his mouth, "When did you find my stuff?"

"Thomas James Hammond, if you value your freedom at all, you'd better finish your sentence," Elaine commands.

"What do you care?" TJ says in a nasty tone, "All you care about is your damn job."

"TJ," Doug starts.

"Shut up, Dougie. Thanks for being a snitch," he says, standing up and pushing past his brother, "and stay the fuck out of my room."

Douglas can only stare after his twin in astonishment, and finds his mother is doing the same thing.

"Douglas," Elaine says after a moment, catching his gaze to make sure he doesn't lie, "What was that about? What has he been taking? Did you know about this? How long have you known?"

Douglas momentarily hates the fact that he ends up with the third degree on his brother's behalf and that in order to help TJ, he has to snitch on him which may lead to his brother not speaking to him.

He gives a deep sigh, "Can't you just ask him?" he doesn't whine, oh no, but it sure comes close.

"Douglas, I know you want to protect your brother, but to keep him safe, you need to tell me what is going on with him. God forbid, he won't do it himself." she answers.

"He's tried, Mom. He's tried to talk to you and Dad but you won't listen. You brush him aside," he replies, a bit harsher than he intended, but it's really the truth. He sighs, "I found a bag of stuff under his mattress a couple of weeks ago. I told Nana because I knew she would listen. She didn't really know what to do, either."

"What was in that bag?"

"Pills. Those really fancy worded painkillers that you need a prescription for but the label had been ripped off so I couldn't see who they were prescribed too. And a bunch of little pills with unicorns on them. I googled those and they were ecstasy." he admits, choosing to leave out the maybe-maybe-not cocaine.

"Jesus Thomas," She murmurs under her breath, "Alright Dougie. Go get in bed. I'll deal with this."

"Yes ma'am. Goodnight, Mom," he says, rising from the table and moving to the hallway to go to his room.

"Dougie? What TJ said... Do you boys really think that?" Elaine asks, looking as if she already knows the answer and doesn't really want the confirmation.

"There may have been a little truth to that," he answers quietly, sinking his teeth into his bottom lip and walking out.

-=-

As it turns out, his parents idea of dealing with it is to take the bag of pills, yell at TJ for a while and ground him.

Yeah, because that's really going to solve anything.

They all know that the grounding won't stick, they have far too many events to go that they can't afford to have TJ mysteriously missing from, he can tune out the yelling easily, and since no one knows where the pills came from, there's no telling how easy it will be for him to get more. So TJ was only a little annoyed they took his stash, not even really angry.

"Teej," Doug says as he walks into his brother's room without knocking as he always does.

"Yes, Snitch?" he says, though the name isn't said with any malice anymore. It still bugs him, though.

"Lay off the name, alright TJ?" Doug sighs, "I was just trying to help you."

"I don't need help," Is TJ's reply.

"The fact that you say you don't is proof enough that you do. TJ, whatever cocktail of pills you're swallowing down with booze isn't good for you TJ. You're going to hurt yourself," Doug says, hoping to get through to his twin in a way that his parents yelling couldn't.

At this point he doesn't care who gets through to him, just as long as it happens before his brother's drug use is too far out of control.

"Yeah, and I don't think anyone would even notice," TJ mutters, continuing to scroll on his phone in his hand.

"Is that what this is, TJ? A cry for attention?" He asks.

"No, Douglas, that's not what this is. There is no this. I don't want any attention. Hell, if anything, that's what it is. I'm tired of being under a damn miscroscope all the time. I don't get to decide anything for myself except what I put in my body. Hell, I didn't even get to decide when I wanted to come out. Someone else decided that for me, too. To millions of people. That is what this is, Dougie. I don't want to be this person. I don't want to be TJ Hammond, first gay son of a president who's every move is on page six." TJ snaps.

"Why don't you tell Mom and Dad that?" Is the only response Douglas can manage out. He's not sure how to process everything TJ just threw at him.

TJ lets out a humorless laugh, one that sounds as if he can not believe his brother just said that to him, "Gee, Dougie. Why didn't I think of that?" he sighs, "Like Mom and Dad would ever leave DC."

He gives a deep sigh and sits on the end of TJ's bed, "I know, bro, I know. Just. I'm worried about you."

TJ gives a quiet laugh,"Don't worry about me, Dougie. I'm all good."

"Yeah, somehow I don't believe you," he mumbles, falling into a silence when his brother chooses not to reply.

-=-

As it turns out, TJ wasn't all good. He wasn't all good during the many parties Douglas had dragged him from. He wasn't all good on the many night he stumbled in far too late after curfew but his parents were already asleep, having left the secret service to make sure he'd returned. He supposes in retrospect, if it was a cry for attention of TJ's part, it could be justified.

Needless to say, Thomas James Hammond was far from all good.

And Douglas couldn't do anything but watch his brother fall further and further into a life of self-destruction.

It wasn't until he and his mom stopped by TJ's condo late one night for reasons Elaine wouldn't reveal that he realized exactly how far down past rock bottom TJ had fallen.

Douglas stayed in the car since his mom had just said she was going to run in and check on his brother. He remembers wondering why a grown man needed to be checked up on. He was musing that bit when he first heard his mom screaming.

Immediately he pictured TJ lying on the floor, having swallowed one too many pills and had gotten himself into trouble before he could phone anyone. But as he raced into the house, having hardly even remembered to turn off the car and shut the door, he leaves the front door wide open and follows the sounds of Elaine screaming for help.

What he sees when he finally locates her in the garage is a far cry from the images in his head. Oh it's worse. So, so much worse. No accidental overdose. No.

The oldest Hammond had closed himself into his car in the closed garage with the car on. TJ had tried to kill himself.

Douglas can feel his eyes prickle with tears but he'd probably chalk it up to the exhaust fumes, as he runs down the steps to where Elaine is pulling TJ from the car, coughing herself. Douglas slams the button to open the garage door as he passes, hoping to filter out some of the fumes so he and Elaine don't pass out trying to help TJ.

He can hear his mother's sobs as she struggles with TJ's weight which Douglas quickly relieves her of, hoisting TJ into his arms as best as he can and dragging him toward the garage door. Getting him out into the cool night air would be better than trying to get him up the stairs and inside although it's far warmer in there.

As he gets TJ laid out onto the sidewalk and dips his head down to see if he can hear or feel TJ breathing, he is dimly aware of his mother crying details into the phone. At least most 911 operators can understand cry speak or the ambulance would never find him.

He can barely hear a soft wheezing breath, not even enough to create fog from his mouth in the December air like Doug and his mom are.

"Is he breathing?" Elaine asks, dropping to her knees beside where Douglas is crouched beside his brother. He feels at TJ's wrist but can't find a pulse so he knows it must be weak. He feels a barely there fluttering when he touches his neck and can't help the sigh of relief that at least it is there, "Douglas!"

He startles, having been more concerned with making sure TJ's heart was beating and the breathing he'd heard hadn't been a trick of the mind. He nods, though he knows his face is grim from the way she recoils away from him, "Yes, but barely. I can hardly feel it." and his chest is barely moving but he figures she's frantic enough without that information.

"Oh, Tommy," she sobs, cradling his head in her lap and Douglas breathes a sigh of relief as the ambulance sirens become loud enough to deafen him for the moment, drowning out her babbling about some guy name Sean that TJ'd been seeing.

Later, as he stands at the side of TJ's bed and watches his brother's sleeping face, the heart monitor beeping steadily in the background, he can't help but think about all those years ago when he first found TJ's stash. God, he wishes he could've found a way to stop him them. He wishes he'd had the courage to make his parents listen. To stand up for his brother when he couldn't do it himself.

-=-

Six months later, when TJ does actually overdose, Douglas spends a good ten minutes pacing TJ's hospital room, ranting about himself and how shitty of a brother he's been to TJ. Anne finally has to physically pant her small frame in his way and not move to get him to stop pacing.

This time luckily isn't as bad as the carbon monoxide poisoning. He's out of the hospital in about three days rather than the week six months previous.

Douglas has vowed to himself and to a then-sleeping TJ that he would be there for his brother this time. He'll do anything he can to keep TJ on the right path.

He overhears his mom telling his dad that it's their fault for being so into politics and not paying the brothers enough attention. For not noticing just how bad TJ's problem was.

Douglas can't help but agree.

-=-

He drives TJ to and from every appointment with his counselor and sits with him through every Narcotics Anonymous meeting. It takes a bit longer than Douglas thinks it would if he wasn't there watching for TJ to open up, but when he finally does, it makes Douglas feel even more like shit.

He knows he shouldn't feel bad, but he's pretty mad at himself for enjoying so much the politics which is the exact thing that's broken TJ down. But he quickly banishes the thought. It's not his fault, and despite what a lot of people may say, it's not TJ's fault either. He can't help how he's felt.

He hates that his mom and even himself at times has said TJ isn't strong enough to withstand the live of a Hammond. Douglas thinks that's completely untrue. No, he knows it now. How can you call someone weak when they've overcome all that TJ has, even with hating every minute of the politics and living in DC as he has.

He sees it now as he watches TJ's face light up with a smile as Anne teases him over dinner one night. He realizes this is probably the first time he's seen TJ completely sober and actually wanting to be sober.

TJ is the strongest one of them all.