Tommy pulled the camera away from his face and closed his eyes, trying to regain his focus. It had been a long shoot, certainly, but not any longer than he was used to. Getting the pictures right took time. Normally, he was fine with that. Hell, normally he didn’t even notice.
Today, the images kept blurring in front of him. He set his camera to the side—something he pretty much never did, it was part of him. He’d purchased Sasha the Camera first hand, his first major purchase ever, after the royalties from the Fall Out Boy cover art had come through. There were newer models, now, but he didn’t care. Sasha was his girl.
He rubbed at his neck, unsure of why it was so much more tense than usual. One of the best things about Sasha was how light she was for her size.
One of the techs yelled, “Tommy? We done for the day, or something? What’s the hold up?”
Tommy bit back a sigh. “Bathroom break, take five. Jesus.”
Then he went to the bathroom, and took all five minutes of peace and quiet and cold water from the faucet for himself.
By the time Tommy got back to the apartment, swallowing water was straight-up agony and light of any type seemed to cause actual tearing in his brain tissue. He set Sasha carefully on the dresser before falling halfway into bed with his shoes still on and passing the hell out.
He woke up to Jon saying, “C’mon, buddy.”
In general, since prison, Tommy had been anti-violence, but he totally hauled off and punched Jon. Or, he would have, but the strength to get his arm off the bed abandoned him halfway through the effort, so it was more like he flailed at Jon.
Jon said, “I feel you, but you’ve been asleep for a day and a half and you feel like you’re one billion degrees farenheit.”
“A day—“ Tommy blinked, tried to get his vision to blur less, but his head was splitting open down the middle. “I was, uh, the shoot—“
It hurt to talk, too. Life pretty much just hurt currently. Jon said, “I called and told them you had an advanced case of near-death. They’re bringing in a sub, because there’s a deadline, but they didn’t take it badly.”
Fuck. Tommy had a moment of panic, the way he always did when something happened to a job, anything, the sheer inimical sense that it would undo all his years of work, the reputation he’d built up. Jon said, “Tom, Tommy, relax. Really, they told you to feel better and they’d be in touch when they had another job.”
The words were barely making sense, but Tommy was too exhausted and sore to even hold onto the panic. Jon hauled him out of bed, despite Tommy’s resistance and said, “Tommy, you gotta help.”
“What—“ Tommy couldn’t concentrate. He winced at the way the word scraped over his throat and shut up.
Jon said, “I swear, I swear I’m doing this to help.”
Tommy had no idea what that meant until Jon sat him down and started pulling his shirt over his head. Tommy struggled. He couldn’t help it. Things weren’t making much sense and he was being undressed and moving hurt and it was just instinct.
“Fuck,” Jon said. “Okay. Okay, just. Stay put.”
At some point, Tommy accidentally fell off of the chair—which was evidently the toilet. He thought about trying to get back up, but the tiles were cool against his skin. He was really tired.
Time got a little fuzzy, and then Frank was there saying, “Jesus fucking Christ, kid,” and Tommy freaked, because Frank meant prison and he was so sure he’d gotten out, so sure. He couldn’t remember anything properly.
He was hauled up, maybe by Frank. That was okay, Frank was safe. Frank said, “Tommy, it’s shower time.”
Showers weren’t safe, not at all, but Frank was there. Frank never let anything happen, even if Tommy was just some stupid Irish punk. Frank pulled Tommy’s shirt over his head and took Tommy’s shoes off, and the rest. Tommy thought he might be on fire, but that didn’t make sense, because how would he have caught on fire? Had someone—
He yelped and immediately whimpered from the pain of yelping when cold water came down over him. Frank said, “I know. I know, kid, just keep breathing.”
Tommy wanted to tell him breathing hurt, but he was too busy trying to listen to Frank. Frank deserved to be listened to. Slowly, the water got less cold, and then it stopped, and Frank wrapped him carefully in a towel. Tommy shivered, freezing, and Frank sighed, but just herded Tommy ahead of him.
Frank put Tommy in a bed that wasn’t Tommy’s bunk, and Tommy thought Frank was going to leave him, going to give him to someone else, only Frank stayed and then Alex came in and sat down on the bed. Tommy rubbed at his face and tried to think. Alex wasn’t in jail. Or, had Alex done something? Had Tommy done something to get Alex in trouble? Why couldn’t he understand what was going on? Why was he so fucking cold?
Alex said, “Hey gorgeous. Made you some chicken soup. Think you can eat some? Frank says he thinks your throat is sore.”
Soup sounded good, even if his throat did hurt, so he tried to take the bowl, but his hands weren’t cooperating at all, and everything was still fuzzy. Alex said, “Hey, hey, it’s okay. Just, open up.”
Open-- That wasn’t, Tommy didn’t want—
“Open your mouth, Tommy,” Frank said, and Tommy did by rote.
Alex said, “Careful, this might still be kind of hot,” and placed the spoon carefully on Tommy’s tongue.
Oh. Tommy closed his mouth and swallowed. It hurt like a motherfucking bitch, but the soup tasted really good, so he took another few spoonfuls before giving up. Alex said, “Okay, babe,” and helped him lay back down, tucking him in. Tommy was asleep again before Alex’s hands had left the blankets.
Tommy blinked awake to the sight of a glass of water condensing on the nightstand. He reached with a shaky hand and took a few sips. Swallowing still hurt, but it didn’t make him want to die. He put the glass back and closed his eyes, trying to think. He was pretty sure he’d woken up a couple of times since the shower, maybe.
The door opened and Bob came in the room. He said, “Hey. You actually with us?”
“Pretty sure,” Tommy said quietly.
“Good, ‘cause one more night and Gee was going to insist on a hospital trip. Fun for everyone involved.”
Tommy made a face. “That bad?”
“You were running at 103 that first night and you kept thinking you were back in prison, so, little bit.”
“Three nights, since Jon first found you still in bed when the shoot called.”
If they’d been watching over him the whole time, then a lot of people had gone out of their way to make sure he was all right. “Sorry.”
“For getting sick?” Bob asked, his expression neutral.
“Mm, fuck you,” Bob said, and then wandered out of the room, only to return with familiar-smelling soup.
Alex returned that night. According to Jon he’d been there every night that Tommy’d been sick. He made Tommy a milkshake, and sat with him while he drank it, then helped him lie down again. When Tommy was settled, Alex kicked off his shoes, and got in bed with him, spooning him from behind. “You mind?”
“You’re gonna catch this fucking thing.”
“Mm. Then I guess you’ll have to take care of me.”
“You’ve had my cooking.”
“Good point.” Alex chuckled against Tommy’s neck, making him shiver. Alex said, “You’re pretty good at colcannon.”
It was one of the few things, maybe the only thing, Tommy remembered of his mother. “Also, very good at bringing take away.”
Alex laughed some more. “See? I’ll be well cared for.”
Tommy considered the last few days, everyone taking time off just to make sure he got better. It was still overwhelming and hard to think about, but Alex was here, sure that if he needed Tommy, Tommy’d be there. Nobody had ever really believed that before, not that Tommy could remember.
“Maybe Greta could teach me to the soup trick.”
Alex wiggled his hand underneath the hem of Tommy’s t-shirt and said, “I’m sure she’d be thrilled.”
“I could learn,” Tommy said.
“I know,” Alex said, with infinitely more confidence than Tommy was ever going to have in himself. Alex yawned. “Go to sleep, babe.”
It was the least Tommy could do to obey.