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Never Promised You

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The only promise Tom has ever made Sean is that if it starts to go bad, he won't hesitate to walk away. It made sense at the beginning. He would've said anything to put Sean's mind at ease and get him to agree to form the band.

Of course, in retrospect, it wasn't such a fucking great idea, because Sean made Al and Ryan and Max make the same promise, and now two of them have taken the fucking out, and Tom's got a broken lead singer on his hands.

Or he would, if he could find him, since Sean pulled a runner and isn't answering his phone.

Tom exhales smoke and wonders what the fuck to do next. Max is supposed to text him if Sean checks in or shows up at the studio. Everyone else he knows in Chicago is on alert, even most of Sean's exes. But nobody's heard anything.

He's going to have to try to think like Van Vleet, which isn't his strong point. That's why he has Sean, for that kind of thinking. If he wanted to do it himself, he would.

He sits down on the curb and starts making a list on his phone. Bars. Liquor stores. Parks. Basements. Library???

"Not fucking helpful, Van Vleet," he mutters, blowing smoke again and then dropping the cigarette in the gutter.

He stands up and starts walking, picking his direction by going against the flow of traffic on the sidewalk. Sean's going to go to ground, find somewhere to be alone and brood and work himself up into a crazy state of mind. He mentally bumps parks and basements up on his list. Maybe basements under liquor stores. Or parks near liquor stores. That's probably the easiest place to start.

An hour later, he finds Sean sitting on a bus-stop bench, a block from his apartment in the opposite direction from what Tom had picked. Figures. Tom's life.

Sean does have a bottle of Evan Williams in one hand and a morose expression on his face, so Tom gives himself half-credit and sits down next to him.

"You been here all day?" he asks.

Sean takes a drink and blinks at him. "Pretty much."

"You couldn't have called?"

"Wanted to think some things through, first."

Tom sighs and takes the bottle from Sean's hand, looking down into it for a moment before he takes a drink. "We're gonna be okay, Sean."


"We'll find somebody to do drums for us."

Sean snorts and shakes his head, snatching the bottle back. "Not exactly the point, Tom. Which you know damn well. Don't play stupid at me, huh? It's a little late for that."

Tom sighs and looks up at the sky. "What do you want me to say?"

"Don't play that game, either."

"What do you want me to do?"

"There's nothing we can do." Sean takes another drink. "He made his choice. It's fine. It's no big deal."

Tom shrugs. "It kind of is a big deal, actually. Since without a drummer we can't do the shows we've got booked."

"Fuck." Sean closes his eyes, his jaw clenching tight, and throws the bottle into the street. "Fucking fuck, Tom. What the fuck are we going to do?"

"We're gonna get out of here before the cops show up. Jesus, Sean." Tom stands up, checking up and down the street for witnesses before he grabs Sean's shoulder. "Come on. Let's go back to your place."


Tom's been crashing on Sean's couch while they dealt with the last bits and pieces of the album. It means there's a pillow and blanket there for Sean when Tom throws him on the couch and stomps off to the kitchen for water. It also means there's beer in the fridge for Tom, and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black next to the sink for the very real possibility that the beer isn't going to be enough.

He brings the beer and the whiskey back to the living room and sits down at the foot of the couch, shoving Sean's feet out of the way. "Don't suffocate yourself. We need your lungs."

"Fuck you, Tom." Sean rolls over, twisting to glare at Tom down the length of his body. "I'm useless. I'm the problem here."

"Jesus. Drink more or shut the fuck up with that."

Sean grabs the whiskey bottle from between Tom's legs and curls up at the far end of the couch. "You know I'm right."

"You're not the problem, Sean."

"Well, I'm obviously not helping, either!"

Tom takes a drink and counts to ten. This would be a great time to be good with words, or even good with punching things that get in his way. His usual method of dealing is to go still and wait for the problem to go away, and that's obviously not going to cut it this time.

"You and Max should just fucking get out now, too," Sean mumbles, staring bleakly at the floor. "You can sing. He can do everything else. I'll fucking bartend forever. It'll be better for--"

"Shut up, Sean."

"You have a fucking great voice. You could do, like, solo acoustic, and Max can produce, and--"

"Neither of us is going fucking anywhere, Sean. Shut up."

"What's stopping you?" Sean's voice is about half a whine, but he sounds fucking desperate, too. Tom takes a deep breath and reaches out, grabbing Sean by the wrist.

"I'm in this, Sean. I'm not gonna walk out on you."

"There's nothing stopping you," Sean says again, trying to pull his hand away, and Tom realizes this is going to go in a fucking circle forever unless he snaps the guy out of it.

Dramatic gestures really aren't Tom's thing. But if Sean needs it, he'll make it happen. That is his thing. It's what he does.

He takes a breath, reaches out, and grabs Sean by the collar, hauling him down the couch and kissing him as hard as he can.

Sean chokes, grabbing at Tom's shoulders, and Tom feels the rush of tepid liquid down his chest as the whiskey bottle tips over. "Fuck," he gasps, jerking back and fumbling for the bottle. "Oh, fuck, sorry, dude."

Sean stares at him, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, horror dawning in his expression. "Don't--don't fucking be sorry, Tommy."

"I just wasted a whole bottle of booze."

"Just don't be sorry." Sean sounds desperate again. "Please, Tom."

Tom's soaked from chest to crotch, he's going to smell like a distillery for days, and Sean's staring at him like he's the only good thing he's ever seen. Only the last part matters.

"Okay," he says. "I'm not sorry."

Sean leans in to kiss him again, and the bottle rolls off onto the floor.

Tom tangles his fingers in Sean's hair, holding on tight while Sean's hands scramble at him, shoving his t-shirt up to his armpits and then scratching down his chest. "Easy," Tom gasps, "take it easy."

"Don't leave, Tommy, don't fucking leave."

"I'm not. Sean. For fuck's sake." Tom gasps as Sean goes for the crotch of his jeans, fumbling at the zipper. "Whoa. Slow down. I'll get it. Sean! I'm not going anywhere."

"I need you. You and Max. I can't--I can't--"

"God, shut up." Tom tightens his grip in Sean's hair and kisses him again, rolling on his side to press Sean to the back of the couch. "Just...just shut up, man, please?"

It's not romantic; they're rolling around on the whiskey-soaked cushions of Sean's couch, their jeans undone but only half-off, and Sean keeps missing Tom's mouth and sort of biting at his face. But it's--it's something, it's Sean under Tom's hands, and maybe it's getting through to Sean that Tom isn't fucking going anywhere. Maybe Sean's getting that, along with everything else, every single fucking thing Tom does every single fucking day, this is Tom's promise.


Tom wakes up on the couch, cold and uncomfortable on the wet cushions. He lies still for a moment, listening; the apartment's small enough that usually he can track Sean down by sound. He hears a gagging noise and a moan from the direction of the bathroom. Predictable.

He detours into the kitchen for a glass of water and a paper towel, then walks down the hall to the bathroom. "Sean. Sit up, dude. Drink this."

"Tom?" Sean blinks at him, eyes red, face screwed up in utter misery. Tom doesn't know what to do with him sometimes. He wants to cradle him to his chest and pet him like a kitten. He also kind of wants to shake him until his teeth rattle. His fucking life. But that's Sean.

"You're still here?" Sean asks, sitting back on his heels and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. "I thought..."

"I told you I wasn't going anywhere."

Sean shakes his head, shifting around to lean back against the wall. Tom shoves the glass of water in his face, and Sean turns his head away, waving his hands at him.

"Sean!" Tom grits his teeth. "Stand the fuck up, drink the fucking water, and go the fuck back to bed."

Sean stares at him. "You pissed at me, Tom?"

"I'm pissed that you're acting like such a martyr. Drink the water now."

Sean curls his fingers around the glass, staring down at the water. "I'm sorry about yesterday. I lost my shit."

"Don't be sorry."

"I put all my shit on you. You're trying to figure out what we're going to do without Ryan, and I--"

"We're going to figure it out together, Sean. I'm not in charge here."

Sean shrugs and takes a drink. "You're way better at being in charge than I am."

"Yeah, well. That's not the point." Tom runs his hand through his hair. "You don't have to be sorry about anything that happened yesterday. Except maybe running off and not calling. Just be sorry about that. Nothing else."

"I just...I don't..."

Tom squats down to look Sean in the eye. "I meant what I said."

Sean blinks. "What?"

"I promised, Sean. I'm not going anywhere. I promised."

Sean sets the glass down on the floor, shaking his head. "Tom."

Tom hurries to keep him from saying anything that's going to fuck this up. "And, like...I meant that. I do mean it. Still. I promise. I promise I'm not going anywhere. I promise you."

Sean stares at him, his eyes huge in his pale face. "You...didn't say that yesterday."

"I didn't?"

"No. Definitely not."

"Oh." Figures. It seems like it should've fit in there somewhere, but Tom's still not great at words. "Well...I promise now. All of that stuff I just said. I promise it."

Sean's eyes are so fucking wide. "Tom, you know I'd never ask you to promise me shit."

"Yeah. I know that." Tom shrugs and rests his forehead against Sean's, closing his eyes. "I'm doing it anyway."

Sean takes a shaky breath. "I don't deserve you, Tommy."

"You're stuck with me anyway." He feels Sean's lips brush his and pulls back just a little. "Don't kiss me until you brush your teeth, man."

"For real?"

"Yes, for fucking real." Tom shakes his head and stands up, offering Sean his hand. "Not like I'm not gonna be here."