Author's Note: They don't belong to me … oh, how I wish they did! All credit to Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. I adore the film, but I love the musical even more, so that's what this is based on. So if you're thinking, "But that's not how it went!" well, that's why! Terence, Hugo and Guy are amazing but my heart belongs to Tony, Jason and Oliver. For me, they will forever be glamorous Bernadette, stressed-out sweetheart Tick and that perfect little scene-stealer of a Felicia :-)))))
For my fellow Country Girls and the Grand Circle Box Gang,
with love, hugs and glitter!
Desert Dust and Gold
It's strange, Tick thinks, how you can feel so many things all at once. His mind seems to be swirling with a dizzying mix of emotions: relief, gratitude, slight surprise at the icy-cold of Adam's hand; perhaps even a touch of envy, as he turns back to sneak a look at Bernadette and Bob, sitting by the puny little campfire with their champagne and cake. The fire doesn't look big enough to warm anyone; doesn't look big enough to keep them safe. Such a pathetic little dot of light in all that endless black. Like we need something else to remind us how insignificant we are? And where the hell did that cake come from, anyway?
But mainly he's just fucked off. Letting rip at Felicia has made him feel a bit better, but only a bit; he's still wound up like a spring and ready to go off again at any second.
He shoves Adam up the steps of the bus before jumping aboard behind him and turning back to swing the door shut. When he looks up again, Adam's still standing there. He looks like a bedraggled bird of paradise. Bare feet stained red with desert dust; dark curls in sweat-soaked disarray; and that ridiculous dress, which seems to be falling apart and shedding sequins even as Tick watches. That ridiculous, sexy as hell, damn near fucking deadly dress.
He doesn't. He's clutching the towel Bernadette draped around his shoulders, hanging on to it like a damn security blanket, and he's shaking. Beneath the tan he's gone a sort of sick greyish-white – apart from the bruises on his jaw and cheekbone, already turning purplish – and for a second or two Tick feels a twinge of sympathy, but then the fucked-off-ness takes over again.
"Bloody move, can't you?"
Still nothing. Tick gives an exasperated hiss and pushes roughly past anyway, pulling off his t-shirt as he goes. To hell with the stupid little bitch, he thinks fiercely. I need sleep.
He doesn't look back.
: : : : :
At first he has no idea what woke him; he goes from complete unconsciousness to heart-poundingly wide awake all in a split second, and lies there, tense and breathless, trying to figure it out. He thinks of Frank and his buddies, thinks fuck! and then surely not! and then no way, not with Bob here. Not after the way Bernadette dealt with them all tonight. Then what – ?
He hears it again; this time, he realises what it is. A half-muffled, hoarse little sob from the other side of Priscilla, a couple of gulps and a sniff; then a few rapid hitching gasps. Bloody hell, Tick thinks, and even though it's pitch black he squinches both eyes shut and claps his hands over his ears. I don't want to know. I don't need this. I've got enough to worry about, what with this broken-down old wreck of a bus that's probably going to leave us stranded in the middle of bloody nowhere, plus a gig we're never going to get to on time, plus a wife who'll kill me if we don't turn up, plus the minor detail of meeting my son – oh god, my son – for the first time. I do NOT need this. Shut UP, Felicia, damn it. Shut up, shut up, shut up! Attention-seeking little fuck!
Except this time, Tick doesn't really believe he is. When Adam wants to be centre-stage – which is, to be honest, pretty much every second of every day – the whole world knows it. Bernadette had been right: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. So if this isn't another act, if he genuinely is trying to hide the fact that he's over there crying his eyes out, then ... Ah, hell.
Tick throws off the tatty blanket he'd flung over himself earlier, rolls off the seat he uses for a bed, and lands awkwardly on his knees at Adam's side. "Hey," he ventures quietly, reaching out and hoping to find a hand. Hoping Adam's sleeping-in-the-nude phase has passed. "Felicia, hey ... "
The younger man doesn't reply; but the sniffling sounds stop. Tick's hand comes suddenly into contact with hot, damp skin and he snatches it back as though it's on fire. "Jesus fuck, Adam, you're burning up!" he exclaims, suddenly genuinely worried. He thinks maybe he should go back outside and get Bernadette; she seemed to have a damn good handle on the situation earlier, maybe she'll know what to do now – but before he can move, Adam erupts from his bed in an avalanche of blankets, flings his arms around Tick and bursts into a storm of harsh, wrenching sobs.
All Tick can think of to say is, "It's okay, Felicia, it's okay. I'm here, baby, I'm here … " He strokes Adam's hair, rubs his back, lets him cry it all out. Overheated and half-hysterical, Felicia smells like a puppy; like a very young child. Tick wonders vaguely if this is what being a dad is like. It's nice, in a strange sort of way; being the one who comforts. The one who makes everything better.
Bit odd that he called Adam "baby," and odder still that it didn't feel wrong at all; but he doesn't want to think about that right now.
: : : : :
Much later, they sit together on Priscilla's roof and watch the sky. Tick feels a little bit guilty invading Felicia's space; but Adam sees him looking nervously around and says, "It's fine, Mitz, she doesn't mind." It's strange to hear him speaking of Felicia as a third person; but Tick knows what he means. Right now she's nowhere in sight, and there's just Tick and Adam, and the tiny red glow of Tick's cigarette; and it's weird, and a little scary, but it's good.
"D'you think they're asleep?" Adam asks softly. For a second Tick can't even think which "they" he means, and Adam gives a quiet snort of laughter, correctly interpreting the silence. "Bob and Bernadette," he elaborates. "Or are they out there listening, or – "
"Or?" Tick grins, raising one eyebrow; an expression wasted in the dark.
"Or d'you think they – "
"Gaah. Don't go there. No, I think they're asleep. And if not, well ... hey, Bob's a great bloke."
"He wasn't such a great bloke tonight," mutters Adam resentfully. "Turning away like a great big coward, pretending he never saw me before ... "
Tick blinks in surprise. "Do you blame him?" he asks honestly. "You turn up looking like sex on legs and acting like a bitch on heat, what the hell else did you expect him to do? He's a good bloke, Adam. And Bernadette saved your sorry arse tonight. Give them a chance, 'kay?"
"'Kay," echoes Adam, unusually compliant. He goes quiet again for a bit, and Tick leans right back to stare up at the stars. That's one thing you don't get, living in the city, he thinks. You get all the fun and the buzz and all that shit, but you miss the starlight.
Tick takes a long drag on his cigarette, breathes out slowly, watches the smoke veil the stars. "Yup?"
"Did you just say 'sex on legs'?"
"No. You're imagining things."
"Fucking am not. You said I looked like sex on legs. And there was me thinking you had no taste."
Tick grimaces. It seems Felicia's absence was only temporary. He tries to suppress a shiver as she runs one finger down his arm; wonders vaguely if she can see in the dark. "I have taste," he protests, irritated but nevertheless unable to stop himself rising to her bait. "When have I ever shown any interest in you?"
"Never." Even in the dark, the pout is visible.
"My point exactly."
"Fuck you, Mitz."
"Ha. You wish."
"Did you ever ... I mean, did anyone ever ... " Suddenly serious again, Adam's voice trails off into awkward silence. It's not like him to be so tongue-tied. Tick sits back up again, stubs out the ciggie and flicks the stub carelessly out over the edge into pitch-black space; watches it fall like a miniature meteor. When no more words are forthcoming, he leans over and pokes Adam in the ribs, producing a squeak and a slightly petulant whine of "Owww," but it's a bit half-hearted. Tick gives him a second or two, and then, very quietly, he says, "It's okay, Adam. Go ahead and ask. I don't mind."
Another long pause; and then, in almost a whisper, Adam asks, "Has anyone ever done anything ... like that ... to you?"
"Yeah," Tick says, as matter-of-factly as he can, "they have. Couple of times, actually. First time wasn't too bad. Second time I was in hospital for a bit. Broken ribs, you know, nothing too ... life-threatening. But it was worse than what happened to you tonight. And I was hardly looking for trouble, either," he adds, unable to stop himself. For a heartbeat he thinks he's blown it, broken the spell, ruined the moment; thinks that any second now, Adam's going to go storming back down off the roof and that'll be the end of this strange and unexpected understanding. But Adam doesn't move.
"And ... you were okay?"
"No, not really. Broken ribs are fucking painful – "
"So's a fucking broken jaw, Mitzi, for your information."
"Your jaw isn't broken, Felicia – "
"Pah. You're not a doctor; what do you know? Anyway, that's not what I meant."
Silence once more. Adam's breathing gets a little more ragged, a little louder and faster, and Tick worries that he's going to start crying again. He wishes he'd thought to bring the whole pack of cigs up here instead of just the one; he could really use another smoke right about now. "Don't, Adam," he says, almost pleading; and a harsh half-laugh, half-sob comes out of the darkness.
"Wasn't," Adam says, his voice sounding thick with unshead tears but remarkably stroppy for all that. The fact that he's viciously wiping his eyes is painfully obvious but Tick decides not to comment.
"Fine, then," he shrugs. "So ... yes, I was okay. Not for a while, but ... yes. In the end. It's ... listen, okay? I know you don't want to hear this, but someone needs to knock some sense into that thick head of yours before it's too late. Because one of these days you're going to get in too deep and really get hurt."
Adam goes suddenly still; Tick, feeling his temper growing hotter again, carries on, oblivious, "And who knows whether we'll be around, next time? What if Bern hadn't been there tonight? I know what it's like. You think it's all one big game. You wind people up 'til they're just about ready to pop but you scare the crap out of anyone brave enough to get close, so you assume you'll be fine – I've known you long enough to see the way it works. You never give anyone a chance to hurt you ... because you always hurt them first. You just ... lash out. Whether they deserve it or not. Just to be on the safe side, right? Even me and Bernadette. Attack is the best form of defence, isn't that how it goes, Felicia?" He spits the name out like an insult; is slightly disturbed to realise he means it as one.
There's a scuffling sound and a sudden swirl of air as Adam, in no mood for home truths, tries to scramble to his feet and escape; but this time Tick is too fast. He makes a wild snatch with one hand and manages to grab Adam's wrist; hangs on for dear life as Adam hisses, "Let go! Let me fucking go, Mitzi, damn it – " dragging Tick up onto his knees and almost over the edge of the roof as he fights with surprising desperation to get free. Suddenly it's a choice between a nasty fall and simply opening his hand; and so Tick does the latter, sitting back on his heels and staring open-mouthed at the place he assumes Adam to be. "What in the name of fuck was that?!" he gasps.
"Don't like that," Adam snarls, and Tick can hear him prowling around the roof like a caged animal. He can barely put two words together. "Wrists. Don't like it. Don't. Too much like … like them, tonight. Can't – oh, fuck it." There's a thud as he sits down hurriedly, muttering, "Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuckfuckfuck," in a broken monotone.
All the anger drains out of Tick in a rush. He climbs unsteadily to his feet, follows the sound of swearing to Adam's side, and sits beside him again. "Oh, Felicia," he sighs, the name coming out this time full of exasperated affection, "you little idiot. What the hell are we going to do with you?"
No answer. Tick cautiously reaches out again, finds Adam's shoulder and squeezes it, hard, before sliding his hand across to the nape of the younger man's neck, running his fingers up and into all those ridiculous curls. Adam makes a strange sound, almost a moan; then, as if in slow motion, he leans heavily against Tick and goes quietly and completely to pieces.
: : : : :
Tick's exhausted. They've sat up there for hours now, neither of them saying anything. Adam isn't crying any more, but neither has he moved from the shelter of Tick's arms, not for ages, and Tick thinks maybe he's fallen asleep.
Which is fine. He kind of likes the way it feels, having Adam's body curled against his. He thinks he could get used to it, maybe, if he absolutely had to ...
"Bit cold," Adam whispers, and shivers as though to prove it. "Can we go back in?"
"Course," says Tick, climbing stiffly back to his feet and reaching down to give Adam a hand. They make their way off the roof; the inside of Priscilla isn't a whole lot warmer, with the engine off; but at least there are blankets and things they can wrap themselves up in.
"Did you mean it?" Adam asks, and Tick frowns thoughtfully, trying to figure out which "it" he may or may not have meant.
"Um ... "
"That it'll get ... y'know ... better."
"Oh, that. Right. Yes, I meant it. Of course I meant it. That first time – the first time somebody really tries to hurt you – it's always a shock. Always. But you'll be okay."
"Promise. Look at what happened in Broken Hill – "
"Big deal. So they pretended to love us and wrote faggots on the bus behind our backs. Big fat fucking deal. Nobody in Broken Hill tried to – to – "
"Fair point. But what I meant was ... I meant, look at the way you handled that. Bouncing right back, all that stuff. Positive thinking. Pink paint, for fuck's sake!" He has a sudden vivid memory of Adam, all glorious and golden like an earthbound sun, wielding that paintbrush. Dancing barefoot around Priscilla, on tiptoes as though he was wearing invisible heels. The pictures in his head make him smile and blush, and he's grateful as all hell for the darkness. "You just need to ... calm it down a bit, maybe, you know?" he carries on, refusing to let himself get distracted. "I mean, calm Felicia down. All the defensive stuff. Getting the first blow in – "
"Hah. You wish."
Tick groans. "Well, that's a pretty perfect example ... "
"Fine. Just try and remember what I said, okay? Ungrateful brat." He thwacks Adam neatly round the head; this time the "Owww!" is more genuine and Tick smirks. He asked for that one.
"I am not. And for the last time, it is not fucking pink!"
"The paint. Not pink, Mitz. Salmon Sur-fucking-prise, if you don't mind!"
"See what I mean?" Tick laughs, happier to hear Felicia's caustic tone back in Adam's voice than he ever thought he'd be, but damned if he'll admit it. He reaches out again, drops an arm casually around the younger man's shoulders. "Bouncing back. You're going to be fine, Adam. You just can't keep a good queen down!"
"You can if you hold – "
"Oh for God's sake, Felicia. Filthy bitch." But he's grinning all over his face even as he says it.
"Yeah, and that's why you love me," Felicia drawls, and wraps both arms around Tick, who finds that once again it's impossible to argue.
And he realises that he wouldn't, even if he could.
: : : : :