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He can feel the pain in every breath he takes, intensifying with each shallow in and out. He can feel the bones in his fingers as he looks down at the cigarette clenched between his index and middle finger. He notes that the ashes are perfect, curving down slightly but still somehow intact, and wonders if he´s even taken his first puff. He thinks maybe this is what a panic attack is.
He looks down at the concrete floor of the locker room, his eyes catching and fixating on the white stain where Probie dropped the bleach a few weeks back. He wants to make something out of it, make it mean some thing, have some kind of significance. All he comes up with is that the world is so fucked up that it makes the clean parts look out of place.
Franco´s voice echoes off the walls and bounces around in his head and Sean´s laugh follows closely behind it as they walk into the room. There was a time when that would have been enough for Tommy. When the sound of Sean´s giggle would bring a smile to his face, when Franco´s voice would make him feel like this was home. Right now though, today, it feels like yet another reminder of how empty he is. Today it feels like a reminder that he lost his innocence, his ability to laugh with carefree abandon, far too long ago.
You´re full of shit,’ Franco´s saying, and there´s a smile in his voice that Tommy doesn´t have to see to know is there.
I swear to God, Franco, right there in the restaurant,’ Sean´s reply comes, vaguely defensive. I´m serious!’
She jerked you off in the booth,’ Franco says, clearly disbelieving.
Yeah, man, and actually it was kind of awful cause it was more embarrassing then it was hot,’ Sean answers, the metallic click bang of his bent up locker door opening. The waitress asked me if I wanted desert right when I was about to--’
That´s when Tommy knows he´s busted, because Sean doesn´t stop talking in the middle of a sentence. Sean just keeps talking, he keeps talking until he´s run out of things to say, no matter how many times you tell him to shut up. Tommy had always complained about his incessant need to babble when he´s happy, but he´s secretly always welcomed it because it drowned out the voices in his head. Right now, though, he´s looking right into Tommy´s eyes, and Tommy wishes he would just start talking again.
Right when you were about to what, Sean,’ Franco asks, sounding confused. His back is turned to Tommy and Sean´s eyes are glued to him, and finally Franco casts an annoyed glance over his shoulder. Oh, hey Tommy.’
He thinks his ‘hey´ turned into somewhat of a grunt, but he couldn´t be sure.
Sean´s walking past Franco now, a frown playing over his face, his eyes flickering uncertainly. Tommy? Everything alright?’
Tommy takes a deep breath and looks down at his cigarette again, sees that it´s gone out by itself. His mouth quirks up in an ironic smile and he thinks it´s kind of fitting that even cigarettes die. He doesn´t even have to do anything. No.’
Sean´s standing in front of him now and he looks down at his feet, noticing the splotches of maroon paint on the tips of his steel toed shoes. He remembers when he got them, when he and the gang had all descended on Sean´s house, painting it in a haze of smoke and pizza and beer. He remembers how later Sean had said he hadn´t thought maroon would look so much like blood before it was on his wall. Tommy had laughed at the time, making some joke about how that would come in handy when Sean needed to commit a murder.
What´s up, Tommy, you seem a little ’ Franco´s standing next to Sean now, his shoes pristine, and Tommy thinks that´s fitting too. Franco´s vain, even if he doesn´t mean to be, and of course his shoes are clean. You seem kinda off.’
Off,’ Tommy says, finally looking up at their faces. He feels a hollow laugh bubble out of him. Off would be good. Off would be a fucking vacation.’ He laughs again and feels his mouth twist around a bitter smile. Off would be fan-fucking-tastic.’
Shit,’ Franco says, sounding annoyed. You fell off the fuckin´ wagon again, didn´t you? Damnit Tommy, I can´t believe you--’
Sean´s in front of him though, crouching down on his haunches, his eyes swiping over Tommy´s face, Tommy´s clothes, Tommy´s hands. He´s not drunk, man.’
Franco sits down next to him on the bench, his eyes sweeping over him quickly before looking back at his face. You´re not drunk?’
Tommy laughs again, and Franco darts a look at Sean, and Tommy thinks it´s probably because that laugh had sounded unhinged even to him. Drunk? No. No, but that would be nice. To have a drink. Drink till I pass out. Drink till I can´t drink any more. Just fucking drink till I fuckin´ die.’
Sean´s eyes widen and he leans forward. What the fuck´s goin´ on, man?’
Tommy sighs, reaching in his pocket to pull out his pack of cigarettes. He wonders if he´ll actually smoke this one. My life. That´s what. My fucking Irish luck.’
Franco´s hand lands on Tommy´s shoulder and it´s all he can do to not rear back and punch him in the face. He thinks about the last thing he wants right now is to be touched. Franco´s frown deepens when he yanks his shoulder out of his grasp, but it doesn´t stop him from speaking. Tommy spit it out.’
Sheila ’ Tommy cuts himself off, his voice choked. He doesn´t want to do this. He doesn´t want to say it out loud. He doesn´t want to make it real. She uh ’
Sean´s back straightens and he looks at Franco before looking back at Tommy. Tommy?’
It just ’ Tommy trails off, his hand floating through the air. He´s not even sure why he´s talking, he doesn´t mean to be. The words seem to just be coming out of their own accord. And then she lied about it. For a month. Just fuckin´ lied about it. Didn´t even tell me.’
Franco´s looking at him and he thinks Franco knows. The way his eyes harden, the way they darken, he thinks Franco understands. Tommy. What are you sayin´ here, man?’
Is something wrong with the baby,’ Sean asks softly, his hands landing lightly on Tommy´s knees. Tommy stares at them and wonders how they got there, wonders why they feel so heavy. ’Tommy?’
Not anymore,’ Tommy says, and what he thinks is a laugh is actually sob. It comes choking out of him, ripping out before he knows it´s coming.
Sean´s brows dart together in confusion but Franco tenses. Sean starts to say something but Franco´s voice cuts him off. Are you saying you lost the baby, Tommy,’ Franco asks, and Sean gasps, his eyebrows darting up so quickly Tommy thinks they might just fly off. Is that what you´re trying to say, man?’
No,’ Sean says, shaking his head, his tone almost pleading. No, that can´t be it. Right? I mean, that´s not--’
Yeah,’ Tommy says, closing his eyes and lifting the cigarette to his mouth, forcing himself to inhale the acrid smoke, forcing it down his lungs. Yeah man. We did.’
No,’ Sean says, his hands flying up to cover his mouth. Tommy thinks Sean´s way to old to be that shocked. Shit.’
Yeah,’ Tommy says, opening his eyes to look at Franco. He can´t look at Sean right now, Sean´s too innocent, Sean´s too open. Franco´s the one that´s made of stone, and he´s afraid if he looks at Sean he´s going to break. Fucked up, right? Here one day, just gone the next. Just like everything else.’
When,’ Sean whispers, and Tommy can tell just by the tone of his voice that his eyes are still wide with disbelief.
Tommy shrugs, leaning back against the lockers behind him. I don´t even fuckin´ know, man. She fuckin´ lied.’
Franco stares at the floor, his fingers twisting together. She didn´t tell you until now?’
She didn´t tell me period,’ Tommy says softly, taking a long pull on his cigarette again. He feels like it´s suffocating him and a part of him hopes it is. This would be so much easier if he were unconscious. But she´s losing weight, and she was starting to show, ya know? But now her stomach´s fuckin´ flat as a board.’
Maybe she didn´t then, man,’ Sean says quickly, reaching forward and grabbing Tommy´s hand. Maybe she´s just sick. Maybe she just needs to go to the--’
Sean,’ Franco says, shaking his head.
Sean´s mouth freezes on his next word, his jaw snapping shut audibly. He looks down at Tommy´s hand and grips it tighter. Fuck.’
The thing of it is, I´m so fuckin´ stupid. I didn´t even notice. I mean, I noticed, but.’ He shakes his head, shrugging helplessly. Every time someone brought up the baby she´d just shut off change the subject. I should´ve known.’
She should have told you,’ Franco says, his eyes flashing angrily. What the fuck was she thinking?’
Tommy closes his eyes, shaking his head again. Fucked if I know. She barely admitted it when I confronted her.’
God man,’ Sean says, looking balefully up at him, his fingers clutching tightly at Tommy´s hand. I don´t even--’
Are you crying, Sean,’ Tommy asks, ripping his hand away and glaring at him, a bitter edge creeping into his voice. Are you seriously gonna fuckin´ cry?’
Sean looks up at him and the tears in his eyes grip Tommy´s heart in a vice and tie it up in knots, pull it apart, and shred it to bits. I don´t know I just it was your baby, and--’
Tommy frowns, letting out a burst of air and looking away, staring at the walls of the room. Anywhere but at Sean. Well just fuckin´ don´t alright?’
Alright,’ Sean mumbles, frowning and looking down. He backs up and sits down on the bench opposite of Tommy. I´m sorry.’
Listen, I know you´re going through a real bad time here Tommy, but you don´t need to take it out on us,’ Franco says softly, looking at Tommy and reaching over to clasp a hand on his shoulder. We don´t know how to handle this, we don´t know what you want us to do.’
You think I fuckin´ know,’ Tommy yells, sitting up straighter, jerking back from Franco´s touch. The anger inside him swells and he welcomes it. Anger he can do. Anger he can handle. This other thing inside of him, the thing clawing at his guts, he´s never known what to do with that. He´d always just gotten drunk enough to forget for a few hours. You think I know what the fuck I´m supposed to do here? Cause I don´t! I don´t have the first fuckin´ clue!’
I should go,’ Sean says abruptly, standing. I need to I should ’
Tommy looks at him, frowning. You´re gonna leave me now,’ he asks, looking up at him in wonder. I tell you this and you´re gonna just walk out on me?’
Tommy,’ Sean says, his voice thick and tortured. I don´t know what else to do. You told me not to cry and ’ He trails off as his eyes fill with tears again and he shrugs. I don´t know what you want me to do, Tommy. Tell me what to do.’
Tommy´s mouth twists slightly and he can hear Franco suck in a breath as he feels the tears forcing their way to the surface. I don´t want you to cry because I can´t do it any more. I can´t fuckin´ cry anymore, man.’
Sean rolls his eyes up, blinking rapidly as he sits down heavily. Jesus, Tommy.’
I´ve lost everything,’ Tommy says, blinking past a tear, feeling it trail slowly down his face. My wife, my fuckin´ kids I don´t even know where they are anymore. They haven´t called since ’ He shakes his head, shrugging and choking out a laugh. And this I mean, I feel like I had this second chance and it´s gone. Everything, man. Everything is gone. I can´t I can´t do this.’
Franco reaches out and clasps his hand on Tommy´s shoulder and doesn´t let him jerk away this time, his fingers digging almost painfully into his shoulder blade. You haven´t lost us, man,’ he says gruffly, looking him dead in the eyes.
I should have,’ Tommy hisses, feeling tear after tear falling, unable to stop them. He doesn´t even know how to. I don´t deserve you guys.’
Yeah? Well you didn´t,’ Franco says, tightening his grip on Tommy´s shoulder. And you´re not going to. Ever.’
I don´t deserve it,’ Tommy wrenches out, his throat convulsing as he tries to stifle the sob that threatens to come out. He can feel himself shaking, he´s about to break and he knows it, he´s about to shatter.
Fuck that,’ Sean says, and suddenly he´s right back in front of Tommy, squatting before him, his hands grasping both of his. Tommy wonders how it is this kid is so whole. How it is this kid before him can be so open. Fuck that shit, that´s fuckin´ bullshit, man.’
He takes a deep breath, his eyes rolling up as he tries to stop the flow of tears. He lets out a grunt, his hands unconsciously squeezing Sean´s. I don´t know if I can do this,’ he says softly, his voice grating out painfully. I don´t know if I can I want a drink so fucking bad.’
When Franco stands Tommy thinks for a second he´s going to hit him. There´s a hand hovering by his face and he blinks a few times before he´s able to see that it´s open and not closed. Get up,’ Franco says gruffly.
Sean lets go of his hands and stands as Tommy takes Franco´s hand. Wh--’
We´re going to a meeting,’ Franco says, nodding at Sean and yanking Tommy to his feet. There´s one on 3rd street, I think. Sean can handle your spot for an hour, right Sean?’
Absolutely,’ Sean says, nodding quickly. Of course.’
Tommy looks at Franco, tilting his head. What the fuck´s a meeting gonna do?’
That´s all I know to do, Tommy,’ Franco says, shrugging and looking lost. That´s all I fuckin´ know. A drunk wants to drink, they go to a meeting.’
Tommy laughs, and it echoes hollowly in his chest. This is more than a drunk wanting a drink.’
I know,’ Franco says, his fingers biting into his arm. But it´s all I know right now.’
Then what,’ Tommy asks, and he´s never felt this vulnerable before. He´s never turned his eyes on someone and wanted them to tell him what to do as much as he does right now.
I don´t know, Tommy,’ Franco says, looking at him, and Tommy can tell the look of determination on his face is a front, but he appreciates it anyway. But we´ll figure it out together.’