Runaway With Me, Alice

Into My Imagination

Told you, you should have grabbed a coat.”


Bill is shivering; standing with thin arms clasped tight around his stomach, feet walking in place. His eyes are screwed up against the cold but, somehow, he still manages to send a glare in his brother’s direction.


Get Natalie to get you one,” Tom suggests, watching the way Bill’s thin t-shirt stretches into shadowed lines across his shoulder blades as Bill hunches over.


They’ve been standing around for fifteen minutes while Tom watches Bill jiggling around to stay warm. It feels more like thirty or forty. Breath turns to white mist when it leaves hot mouths and merges with cigarette smoke to create a cloud that twists the light flooding from one of the still lit lamps beside the camera tripod.


Bill rubs at his arms and it makes Tom wonder how long it takes to change a fucking light bulb and who’s bright idea was it to do a night shoot anyway? Isn’t there at least one person on their payroll who could bring them a hot drink?


Bill shuffles over, tugging on the flap of Tom’s hoodie.


Tom drops his cigarette on the ground and traps it with his sneaker. “No.”


Bill’s lips push out in a slight pout; Tom can see a blueish tinge to them.


Bill plays with the tag on the hoodie’s zipper, tugging it up then down. “Let me in.”


Why don’t you get Natalie to get you a coat?” Tom asks again.


It’s useless though; he is already holding the hoodie open so Bill can shuffle forward and slide cold arms around his waist. The metal caps on the ends of Bill’s boots bump against the toes of Tom’s sneakers as Bill presses close. Tom jolts a little as a cold cheek bumps against his neck. He can feel Bill’s hands bunching up his t-shirt at the small of his back.


Zip up,” Bill says, his voice a hot whisper against Tom’s chin.


Tom huffs. “Bill. You’ll stretch it.”


But that is useless too because, already, he’s tugging the sides of the hoodie around Bill’s skinny frame. His fingers fumble with the zipper for a moment before it catches and he rips it up, encasing them both.


Bill makes a pleased, purring sound and his arms tighten around Tom’s waist. The photographer snaps a picture of them like that and though Tom scowls, he can feel Bill smile against his neck.


When Gustav finds them, he and Georg laugh.


Why didn’t you bring a coat, you idiot?” Gustav says. “You’ll stretch it doing that.”


Bill lifts his head to say, “It’s big enough!” which is true really, though it might never fit quite the same again.


Needed your snugly blanket, did you?” Georg asks. “Get Natalie to bring you a coat.”


She doesn’t have any,” Bill says into the gap beneath Tom’s chin.


The lights take another twenty minutes to get right and, in that time, hot coffee arrives and Natalie appears with a coat for Bill. Tom takes it and puts it on a chair beside the table where the coffee sits untouched.


Bill hums against Tom’s neck and the warmth in their hoodie is scorching.


-


He’d never admit it, but Bill loves the smell of Tom’s hoodies. Like minty chewing gum, cigarettes, a little like pot and a lot like Tom. The soapy coconut scent of hair wax engulfs Bill when he pulls the hood up and he can smell the lingering perfume of Tom’s deodorant that clings to the material even when it’s been washed.


They’re soft too, the hoodies— Bill loves that— and worn because Bill never chooses the new ones. He’s not interested in the printed patterns when they are still stiff to the touch and won’t wear them until that new store smell is replaced by Tom’s own.


It’s the same scent that clings to the blankets of Tom’s bunk and to his bedroom back home. It is slowly building up in the new apartment but it’s not quite there yet. No matter, though. Bill can get his fix whenever as he sits rubbing the soft material of a sleeve or a hood against the skin above his upper lip.


He inhales deeply, wondering if this is what a junkie feels like getting their glue fix.


Bill finds aching warmth in Tom’s scent; loves breathing in with his nose against Tom’s neck. He’ll use the hoodie as a breathing mask while they watch a movie. Even when Tom is close enough to smell in the flesh like he is now, rubbing his fingers against Bill’s ankles where his feet rest in Tom’s lap.


What are you doing under there? Not sucking your thumb are you?” Georg throws some popcorn and it bounces off the patterned material of the hoodie. “You are such a baby with your snugly blanket.”


The hood is over Bill’s mouth and nose so his retorting, “Shut up!” is muffled.


He burrows further under the hoodie, seeing Tom’s lips curve upwards out of the corner of his eye and feeling a hand squeeze his foot.


-


Bill will wear a hoodie whenever they’re officially in down time. When the air conditioning in the bus or their hotel room is a little too cold, he hides his hands in the sleeves and tugs the hood up over his hair. He curls his legs up to his chest when he’s sitting and tugs the hoodie down over his knees so it encases him in a little ball.


Tom always makes a face and complains that he’s stretching it but he never makes Bill stop.


Bill zips them right up to the neck and pulls the material up high to cover his mouth and nose while they watch a movie, or listen to something work related, so he can smell Tom. When he speaks the others are frustrated by the way his voice is muffled, so Bill has to tug the material down, irritated that they force him to remove the breathing mask and repeat what he’s said.


He never has to pull it away for Tom.


When Bill wants to tease Tom he’ll play with the zipper, tugging it up and down with a slow grin sliding across his face. Tom will notice and Bill can tell because the tips of his ears go a little pink. Then it’s slow torture waiting until they can get away and Tom can play with that zip himself.


-


As a rule, Bill hangs on to each hoodie for at least a week at a time; normally one Tom himself has become quite attached to. Once it is warm and worn in, he steals off with it to use as a blanket or a pillow. He pulls them on his skinny frame, letting the baggy sleeves hang over his hands and occasionally chewing on the drawstrings dangling off the hood.


He likes to wear them to bed when the air conditioning in the bus is too cold and the chosen hoodie is the first thing he slips into when he and Tom are entwined in a hotel bed or a narrow bunk.


Georg and Gustav love to tease him when Bill darts down the hallway, legs bare and skinny sticking out from under the hoodie as he goes to the kitchen for a snack or to the bathroom before disappearing back into the twins’ room.


Just because Tom’s shirts are dress size does not mean they’re appropriate to wear like that!” Georg calls, as Bill shuffles past, stuffing a piece of toast in his mouth.


Eyes, lined with the smudged remains of yesterday’s makeup that didn’t quite wash off, glare out from under the hood before a delicate finger is flipped upwards and Bill disappears into his room where Tom awaits with the next episode of Nip / Tuck.


He’s wearing one of them now. Even though it’s not cold, the hood is pulled up over his hair. The zip is open and Bill has both fists jammed into the pockets on the side. It looks ridiculously large, hanging off his skinny frame.


They’re outside on the swings next to the garage at the studio. The fans haven’t figured out there here yet, or there’d be no way they’d be doing this. They used to sit out here all the time, in the dark, hot, summer nights when they were recording their first album but now there are girls lurking at the letterbox all the time.


Got it?” Tom asks, watching Bill’s hands in the pockets of his hoodie.


His fingers search for something inside them before he makes a triumphant sound and pulls out the prize: a joint.


Tom smirks, flipping his Zippo and holding the flame up for Bill as his brother sucks. Bill inhales, holds and then inhales again, quickly, before passing the joint to Tom.


Brrr, it’s cold,” Bill complains, zipping the hoodie up.


Is not,” Tom says, passing the joint back.


He’s sitting on one of the swings, rocking gently back and forth with Bill standing in front of him, hanging off the chain by one hand. Tom rocks forward and nudges Bill’s leg with his foot.


You’re gonna make my top stink of smoke, you know,” he says.


Your tops always stink of smoke,” is Bill’s slightly choked reply. He releases a smokey breath. “Wanna go to McDonald's after this?”


It’s Tom’s turn for the joint. He holds the smoke in his lungs for a moment, feeling his head swirl a little. “You always talk about food when you’re high,” he says, coughing a little. The spasm in his chest sends the smoke right up to his brain and he grimaces. “How about pizza?”


Nnnnn fries.” Bill finished the joint in a succession of quick inhales before dropping it on the ground and crushing it with his sneaker. He blows his smokey breath into Tom’s face. “Come on, let’s go drive through.”


He tugs the sleeves of the hoodie down over his hand and Tom frowns.


Bill you’re gonna stretch it.”


Bill makes a face and grabs the bottom of the hoodie. Lifting the hem he steps forward and brings it down over Tom’s head, trapping him inside the material. One of Tom’s feet kicks out, startled and connects barely with Bill’s shin. Inside the hoodie, he kisses Bill’s stomach.


-


Mouths meet, smile and shift with the wet slide of tongue and hot moist steam of breath. They’re both wearing hoodies tonight, pulled up over messy hair and the material blocks out the rest of the world as it dampens the sound of their kisses.


They sit cross legged on their bunk, swaying just slightly with the movement of the bus. Their knees bump and fingers dig into jeans and curl into soft sweatshirt material as their lips touch.


Eventually it gets to be too much and Bill has to pull back a little. Sitting up he pushes the hood back and off his head. His face is flushed, his eyes smiling.


-


You were nervous tonight,” it’s not a question.


Tom shrugs a little. He is leaning back on his bunk, resting against the pillows he has stacked up against the wall. “You were,” he counters. “I can tell.” He eyes the hoodie Bill was wearing. It is Grey with an elaborate paisley print. Tom was wearing it this morning.


Bill has the hood pulled up and his hair slides down either side of his face. He bits a gummy worm in half, tugging on the end to stretch it. “Little bit.”


Tom’s mouth twists and he shrugs again. He sits up, reaching out to tug on Bill’s wrist. Bill slides forward, slumping against Tom’s side and pushing his face into Tom’s neck.


Tom tugs a little on the tag of the hoodie Bill has on. Metal teeth clink lightly as they separate then join again.


I like this one,” Bill murmurs, his lips moving against Tom’s neck.


Tom smiles. “I know.”


-


They’re a disruption and I won’t stand for it any longer!”


Bill and Tom are sitting side by side on two chairs outside the principal’s office. The poster on the wall opposite them is so familiar Bill could read the stupid rhyme about eating vegetables with his eyes shut. This is the third time in as many weeks that they’ve sat here while their mother and their teacher talk in what they think are hushed tones to the principal.


Their teacher hates them, she calls them disruptive. This afternoon when Tom threw a dart that got stuck in Bill’s hair she said it was the last straw.


Bill thinks it’s personal; Tom just thinks Mrs Adler is a bitch.


I won’t do it, I won’t teach them together!”


Bill’s head jerks up. “What? What did she say?”


Tom is scowling. “No way,” he mutters.


You think this means they’re going to split us up?”


The twins have always been in the same class, ever since they went to school wearing sweaters with their names on them to help their teacher remember who was who. Even when their year was split into two, they still remained together.


Bill twists his fingers into the sleeve of Tom’s hoodie and Tom shifts in his chair but doesn’t pull away.


They won’t do that, right?” Bill says. “I mean, we didn’t even do anything that bad.”


Mum wouldn’t let them,” Tom says, confidently. “Man, Mrs Adler is such a bitch.”


Bill laughs, leaning against Tom’s arm. “Yeah, you should have thrown the dart at her head.”


The door to the Principal’s office swings open and the twins look up. Their mother walks out, her mouth pressed in a thin line. Mrs Adler and the Principal follow. Bill swallows hard; he doesn’t like the look on their faces.


Their mother shakes the Principal’s hand like she always does. Normally she’s already fed up, they can tell by the way her smile is a little too tight; but she waits until they’re at least in the corridor before she tells them they won’t be allowed to go to their next gig if they keep this sort of behavior up. Today, though, something is different.


Bill can’t stand it. “What is it?” he demands, loudly.


Simone hesitates and the Principal steps in. “Boys,” he says in a voice that makes Bill’s stomach drop. “Starting tomorrow you’re going to be in separate classes—”


Tom bolts to his feet. “No! No way!” He turns to Mrs Adler, adding, “You bitch!”


The older woman gasps. “That one!” she says. “I want him out of my class.”


Then I’m going too!” Bill declares, getting to his feet too, his hand clutching Tom’s sleeve again. “I don’t want to be in your class, anyway. Bitch,” he adds, in a display of solidarity.


Bill! Tom!” Their mother’s voice is sterner than they’ve heard in a long time. She grabs their bags and actually apologized Mrs Adler. “We’ll deal with this at home,” she says. “Come on.”


On the ride home, Bill and Tom both sit in the back seat, though normally they fight over who gets to sit up front. They clasp hands in the space between them. Their mother is lecturing them on the difference between expressing themselves and being disrespectful.


I don’t respect her!” Bill cried. “She’s a cow. She never tells the kids off when they say shit about me.”


Simone’s hands tighten on the steering wheel. “Honey, we’ve talked about the other kids.”


I don’t want to go to another class,” Tom yells, kicking the passenger seat in front of him. “This is bullshit.”


Please don’t make us split up,” Bill says, feeling desperation sliding over him. “Mum, please.”


Simone is silent for a moment before she says, “We don’t have a choice, guys. I can’t keep coming to school to talk to your principal every week.” She glances over her shoulder to give them a shaky smile. “Besides, it’ll be good for you. You can stay together forever.”


Bill slumps into the sleeve of Tom’s hoodie and feels Tom’s hand tighten around his own. He hears Tom’s fierce whisper, “Yes, we can.”


The first time Bill wears one of Tom’s hoodies is the first time they sit in class separated by a wall. No amount of pleading with their mother would make her change her mind.


The bell has rung and Bill and Tom linger outside the door to Tom’s new classroom. Bill is shaking a little.


You cold?” Tom asks and Bill nods though they both know it’s not that.


Here.” Tom shrugs off his hoodie and hands it to Bill who pulls it over his head.


Thanks.”


Tom’s mouth twists a little to one side. “I’ll… see you at lunch.” He pulls open the door.


Yeah.” Bill watches as Tom throws one last look at him before the class room door closes between them.


When Bill walks into his own class room and past Mrs Alder, he pulls his hood up over his head. It doesn’t block out the sound of the kid who sits one row over who says, “Faggot,” into his hand or the others that laugh, but it does mean that Bill doesn’t have to look at them as, scowling, he pulls his notebook out of his bag.


Bill, take that off your head,” Mrs Adler says.


Bill makes a face but ignores her and begins to write a letter to Tom with his favorite pen.


When he inhales he can smell Tom all around him.


-


He’d never admit it, but Tom loves the smell of his hoodie after Bill’s been wearing it. Like sugar sweet gummy bears, cigarettes, a little like moisturizer and a lot like Bill. The slightly stinging scent of hairspray fills Tom’s nose when he pulls up the hood and when he reaches into his pocket where he left a pack of cigarettes to find an half finished packet of sweets, or a scrunched up piece of paper with abandoned lyrics there instead.


Bill’s smell reminds Tom of home and the countless hours curled up watching TV; of falling asleep with his nose in Bill’s neck and playing his guitar while Bill curls around his back, singing in his ear.


Bill wears a hoodie for a week before abandoning it for one that Tom has made his own. Then Tom will find it, draped over a chair or lying on the sofa and he will slip it on and pull the hood up, inhaling deeply.


He always complains, but really, Bill doesn’t stretch them all that much.


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