And as I watched Warrior the other night I thought 'shit, you know what would be awesome? CROSSOVER'. So, um. I wrote this.
This has nothing to do with my feelings for Inception and has so very little to do with shipping Arthur/Eames. I just watched both movies and I thought 'you know what? Tommy and Adam would get each other'.
Blame the lack of sleep. I was up all night stabbing my BigBang. I slept for two hours, did some yard work, did some housework, and then spent about four hours on this.
I KNOW, DUDES. I DON'T EVEN.
Anyhow, if you want to read this there are spoilers for both movies in the fic. You could always, if you were curious and don't care, read it anyhow. Basics? 50/50: Adam's life is pretty good despite having a bit of a messed up family but then he discovers he has cancer and has a fifty-fifty shot of living. Cue living with it and fighting it. Warrior: Tommy's family is messed up and there are cage fights, he has to face his own brother. Cue punching and trying to make things right.
(Seriously? They're both really good movies and watching them is a good thing. Both Tom and Joe are actors I will watch in anything and they've got some quality stuff to work with in their respective films.)
Adam is waiting for the bus. It's early—not the bus, no the time, the hour is early—and he's early for the bus so he's waiting and not doing much of anything. It takes him almost no time at all to zero in on the only other person sitting and waiting at this time of day. There's a guy sitting on the steps of the bank across the street.
He's not fidgeting, not twisting to look at the doors, not moving much at all. It's entirely possible that the guy just had a late night or early morning and got tired and is resting but Adam doesn't think so. There's something about the way he's sitting that Adam knows, knows it in some deep part of himself. He gets up and crosses the street, stands at the foot of the stairs until the guy looks up at him. Up close, he recognizes the guy. Not as anybody in particular but as somebody like him.
Somebody who has been in the fight of his life.
"Hey, um," he starts, he gestures, "the bank's not gonna open. Bank holiday today."
"Huh," says the guy.
Adam knows that sound, that voice, that face, that feeling. He thinks of it as the 'and I had fucking cancer' feeling. "I can show you where the ATM is. Or I can show you one that won't charge you out the ass. It's just down the block."
"Thanks," the guy says, reaching inside his hoodie.
This guy is built a bit like a brick shithouse. He's wearing a t-shirt under his zip-up and he's obviously nothing but muscles. He's also wearing a knit cap and kind of looks like a thug—his knuckles are flattened and he's got scars and what looks like fading bruises and stubble and this guy could break him in half and now he's reaching inside his jacket for who knows what.
The thing is? Adam isn't scared, isn't even slightly nervous. He feels like he knows this guy.
From the depth of the hoodie, wrinkled and bent and probably housed in his armpit, the guy produces a slip of paper. Unfolded, it proves to be a check. "Only thing is, all I've got is this." The writing on the check is crisp, clean, a little blocky. Somebody does a lot of hand writing, somewhere. He tries not to read the memo line. "An' I'm not paying anybody three dollars just to give me this."
It's a bit of a thug accent, but that's because Adam was raised on gangster movies and anything east coast sounds a little bit badass. Adam puts his hands in his pockets. "You can always deposit it in the ATM."
"Can," the guy says, shrugging. Adam almost expects to hear the muscles move, like boulders or something. "Not gonna help me much. Just got in off the bus, got directions to the nearest." He tilts his head back, toward the bank.
Well. "Did you lose your wallet or something?" Adam asks, thinking of credit cards and identification. The guy's got a duffle bag behind him but that doesn't mean much.
The guy smiles and it's Adam's 'it's fine' smile. "Lost a lot of stuff, but not that." He shifts and looks past him. "I want this back, anyhow." He tucks the check away again. "You waitin' for the bus? One coming."
Adam doesn't even really make up his mind because that implies thinking, that he was thinking at all. He just holds out his hand to the guy. "Hey, yeah, come on."
This is where this guy should punch him or look at him weird or even ask him a question. Instead he takes his hand and gets to his feet, follows him across the street and onto the bus, quiet as Adam pays the fare. The bus is almost empty but the guy sits right next to him, a solid wall of…solid. Right beside him. It's nice.
Four minutes and a few miles down the road, the guy speaks. "You ain't no fighter." Which Adam sort of disagrees with because the fuck he isn't but before he can say it, the guy goes on. "Not in the cage or anything like that."
"Cancer," Adam says, making his 'what can you do' face.
The guy nods. "That's a fuckin' bitch."
He's so matter-of-fact but there's a richness to it, an empathy not just sympathy. "Yeah." And then. "Shit, I'm Adam. Adam Lerner." He holds out his hand for a shake.
The guy takes it but doesn't shake it, holds on to it. "Tommy," he says and he opens his mouth like he's going to go on but doesn't.
"One of those things you lost?" Adam asks curiously.
"Nah," Tommy says. He pauses, his eyebrows drawing together slightly. "Maybe a little. Riordan." He's still holding Adam's hand, like a shake that decided to go fuck itself because they've got better things to do. "Conlon, maybe sometimes. Don't know."
"I'm just going to call you Tommy, so whatever," Adam tells him. Then he asks, "You're a cage fighter?" Because who else would bring that up as an option at all, honestly?
"Not a lot of that anymore," Tommy says. "Mostly not a lot of things. Not a cage fighter, not a pill popper, not in a military prison, not in the marines anymore."
Yeah, Adam knows this guy. "If you ever meet my mom, just stick with the marine thing."
"Sure thing," Tommy says. He finally lets go of Adam's hand, like he only just realized he had it. Adam had almost forgotten it until he let it go so it's not outside the realm of possibility. "You ever meet my old man, you can let him in the place but bust him one in the jaw first, all right?"
"Sure thing," Adam parrots.
The rest of the ride is quiet but it's peaceful.
Two fighters at rest, Adam thinks.
Skeletor is happy to see him and happy to meet Tommy.
He's happy to meet Skeletor, too. Drops his bag and then drops to his knees to pet Skeletor's skinny muzzle and goofy face. "Hey there," he says to the dog. "Hey."
"I probably should have warned you about Skeletor," Adam realizes belatedly. "This is Skeletor."
"For real?" Tommy is asking but he seems quite happy with it.
Adam crouches down and rubs a hand over Skeletor's bony, knobbly back. "Yeah, that's the name he came with. Retired racing dog. My girlfriend—ex-girlfriend—got him for me when I got cancer. To 'help the healing process'. She ended up cheating on me and I dumped her and it was fucked up but Skeletor's great."
Why? he asks himself. And What the fuck?
Tommy nods and goes with it, rolling with the punches as it were. "My older brother an' me? We faced off in the cage, aiming for the top prize in a tournament. He dislocated my shoulder and I tapped out. I probably could've kept up even with the shoulder but he told me he loved me and I tapped. Figured if he could say it he was probably stronger than me. I used to hate—nah, that's not it. No, I used to say I hated him but it was mad. I used to be mad at him for a lot of stuff. I was mad at him for marrying his girl instead of moving out with mom and me, for not bein' there when mom got sick and I was just a kid. Mad at him for all the stuff I couldn't be mad at anybody else about. Except," Tommy says significantly, "my dad. Mad at my dad for his own shit."
Skeletor licks both their faces.
Adam nuzzles into it. "You're just retired," he tells his dog. "And you're thinking I'm gonna walk you since I'm not at work."
The word 'work' makes Tommy lift his head. "Shit, you've gotta go to work?"
"Yeah—I, yeah, but it's research. It's radio. I can work from home." He'd take the day off but it's not like he's got any sick time left. "My boss is good for it." He stands and goes to the door, the hook with Skeletor's leash on it. "Do you—you don't have to but do you want to take Skeletor out? He probably'd like a bit more exercise than I give him. He used to race. Before he retired."
Adam is an idiot but maybe that's only in his own head. Tommy is smiling and there's no trace of the exhausted fighter in him, just the man. "Yeah. That'd be good. I usually do a good couple of miles. Well, used to. And I been on the bus for days." He takes the leash, holds it out to Skeletor to sniff. "You want to run?"
Skeletor wants to run.
Adam watches them jog down the walk and head off up the street, a slow and steady pace that's warming up, just a warm up pace. He shakes it off and goes to call his boss. He tells him that he had an appointment and that it was stressful and he just can't cope with the office today. He can work from home, he can document and log everything. He never played up cancer while he had it, didn't use it at work, so he figures he has some sympathy saved. Kyle will back any story he tells, probably more than he needs, but even so.
It isn't entirely a lie. He did have an appointment. He had a scan.
It's been one year and three months since he last had cancer.
He's watching for Skeletor and Tommy out the window so he sees when they come in to view. Tommy and Skeletor do a few sprints on the way; they pass the house at a walk. A cool down.
Adam misses running, running fluidly and without pain, for the first time in one year and three months. He opens the door and stands on the steps.
Tommy stays. They don't talk about it. There was only one moment where they even came close, on the second day after the bank. Tommy had been tucking his returned check—with the 'love you' in the memo line and the name Brendan Conlon on the signature line—into his hoodie and he'd looked up and Adam had looked at him and there had been a single moment, a solitary second.
But the bus had come and Adam took a moment to swear and hand Tommy his keys. "Run Skeletor if you want," he'd said. "Whatever food you want is fine. I'll be home after six."
"You want me to make dinner?" Tommy had called after him.
"Only if you can cook!" Adam had shouted, boarding the bus.
And that had been it.
Adam, on the second night, brings him into his bed. It's not sexual, it's just that Tommy's bigger than the couch can do comfortable for sleeping. They don't start out touching but they wake up back to back every morning, touching from shoulders to hips, ankles wound together under the sheets.
Kyle meets Tommy after a few weeks. Adam can't honestly remember how long it's been, he'd have to look at the calendar. Kyle meets Tommy because he comes over and Tommy is there.
"Holy shit, dude!" Kyle says, staring.
Adam blinks and remembers that nobody really knows about Tommy except for Skeletor. "Oh, yeah. Kyle, this is Tommy. He's staying here for a—" Well. "He's staying with me. Tommy, this is my best friend, Kyle."
"Holy fucking shit, dude," Kyle repeats. "Tommy Riordan. Aren't you supposed to be in prison or in front of a firing squad? Or in a cage beating the shit out of other dudes?"
"Tact is not his strong point," Adam says pointlessly.
Pointlessly because Tommy is smiling, sort of bemused. "Nah. Don't do the cage anymore. And the prison was kinda temporary."
It twigs in Adam's brain then. "Wait, how do you know that stuff?" he asks Kyle. Kyle isn't into cage fights. Kyle is into women and bars and clubs and radio and research and not cage fights.
"Adam, everybody knows this stuff! It was all over the news last year! And he deserted the army—"
"Marines," Tommy says.
"—and he and his brother beat the crap out of each other! It was everywhere! He saved a dude!"
Adam looks at Tommy. "I had cancer," he says with a shrug. He looks at Kyle. "Busy with cancer last year."
"How is that an excuse for not watching the news?" Kyle demands. "Like, a ton of people died!"
"My unit," Tommy says. His voice is soft, a quiet rumble. "'t's why I left, went AWOL. They said it was post traumatic stress after they brought me in and they gave me a discharge. Was only in custody for a few months while they figured things."
Kyle suddenly settles into his skin, no longer sparking with excitement. "Badass," he says. This is why Adam loves him even when he's obnoxious.
Adam goes to the fridge for beers. When he comes back he can hear Tommy saying "—complicated, I guess."
"Just asking how you knew each other," Kyle says. "Our man here says it's complicated? Like facebook complicated or—"
Adam shrugs. "Not…not really complicated. A little, maybe, but mostly we just know each other."
Cancer isn't something you ever get over, Adam figures. He's mostly come to terms with all of it, now that it's not his entire life, but he's pretty sure he'll always live with it. With cancer. Everybody else can move on, can have the memories surprise them every so often, but he doesn't have that option.
And mostly that's all right.
Every now and again, though, when shit just piles up, he thinks about it. He thinks 'I had fucking cancer' and wonders why the hell he can't catch just a little more of a break.
It happens one night. Tommy's been looking for work and he's not dumb, not by any stretch, but there's a lot against him that's keeping his options limited. The station's numbers are down. His dad hasn't remembered his name in two months. His mother found out about Tommy and is insistent on meeting him. Katherine's residency is starting soon. Kyle has stupid facebook posts. Alan has to have another scan because of a shadow on his last. And tonight he broke a dish and it reminds him of—just. He had goddamn fucking cancer. He stares at the shattered coffee mug and shoves Skeletor away when he comes to investigate.
"An' on top of all that," Tommy says softly, "you had cancer, huh?"
Because Tommy gets it.
Tommy had the fight of his life once, too.
Adam closes his eyes. "Yeah." His voice sounds strained, like he's been screaming.
"Go get your sweats on," Tommy says. "I'll clean this up."
He follows Tommy and Skeletor out into a night-time run. It's not exactly easy and it's not exactly painless but it feels good. He runs until his back aches and his lungs burn and he has to turn around and walk home with an exhausted Skeletor and a quiet Tommy.
He curls up against Tommy that night, instead of waiting to end up back to back in the morning.
Obviously Tommy has noticed his scar and his slight limp. He notices other things, like the volcano. He never really asks and Adam doesn't always volunteer the information. If Tommy wants to know, he'll ask. Adam asks questions sometimes, too, but Tommy's scars aren't always so visible.
Sometimes they're audible, though.
"You're not Uncle Tommy," a small voice tells him authoritatively when he answers the phone.
He knows Tommy has family, knows there are nieces. "No, I'm not your uncle. I'm his friend, Adam."
"DADDY!" the little girl shrieks. "UNCLE TOMMY HAS A FRIEND NAMED ADAM WHO ANSWERS THE PHONE CAN I TALK TO HIM?"
There's a scuffle and some muffled thumps and voices and then, "Ah, sorry. That's—I'm Brendan Conlon, Tommy's brother."
"Hi," Adam says. Tommy loves his brother, he knows this. "I'm Adam Lerner. Tommy's friend. He's staying, um, here. For now."
Since cancer, Adam has become a great judge of silence. He can hear a lot of questions that Tommy's brother isn't asking. He likes the one that finally makes it out. "How's he doing?"
"Good," Adam says. He goes to stir the spaghetti sauce on the stove. "He's found a job—he'll be back soon, any minute. You can—"
"Honestly," Brendan Conlon interrupts. "I mean that: how's he honestly doing? Because he's about as far away from the 'burg as you can get while still being in the same country."
There's only so much that Adam can say. It's not his place for a lot of it. And Tommy is already coming in the door, he can hear him. "That's him now," he says into the phone. Tommy pokes his head into the kitchen, mouth open with a question. "He loves you," he says, probably to both of them but mostly to Tommy. "Your brother loves you."
On the other side of the country, the phone drops with a clatter. In his kitchen, Tommy grabs Skeletor's leash and Skeletor and leaves. Adam waits.
"Mister Adam?" A teeny, tiny voice says.
"Hi," Adam says. "Who are you?"
"I'm Rosie," says the voice and then there's another scuffle and a click and the tinny sounds of being on speaker phone. "I'm Emily," says the earlier little voice. "You're Adam, Uncle Tommy's friend. What did you say to my daddy?"
Adam smiles. "The same thing I told your Uncle Tommy."
"Okay," says Emily.
"Okay," echoes little Rosie.
The silence is cheerful and full of tiny noises. "I'm making dinner," Adam says at last. "And this is kind of awkward."
Not that he regrets it.
"Daddy's crying on Mommy," Rosie says. "Is that 'kward, too?"
Adam laughs. "Sure is." The back door creaks open and Tommy comes in, shoulders slumped. "Hey, talk to your uncle." He shoves the phone into Tommy's hands and accepts the thump to the head with a grin.
Tommy paces while he talks, hand tight on the phone. His smile flickers in and out as he talks to the little girls and then, Adam thinks, his sister-in-law. When he folds in on himself, tucking his limbs in and putting more weight on the balls of his feet, Adam knows that he's talking to his brother again. "No," he says. "I don't. I don't, it's good." There's a stretch where Tommy listens, a pause. "It's not like—not because of you or him." There's a longer pause. Then, "We just know each other," Tommy says, glancing at him.
He smiles at Tommy and takes his plate of spaghetti into the other room to watch television while he eats. When Tommy finally joins him he starts talking. It's all in Spanish, however, so Adam doesn't understand a word. Doesn't mean he doesn't understand it at all, though.
"Yeah, me too," he says.
Just to hear Tommy laugh at him.
Katherine loves Tommy and he loves her, too.
"Your girl is the shit," he tells Adam every so often. "VA sucks. I'd like talking to my therapist a lot more if he were good like that."
"I was her third ever patient," Adam says, backing the car out of the parking space. He's gotten much better at this.
"Yeah, he kinda likes to talk about that," Katherine says around the straw of her milkshake. "I don't always know what I'm doing," she says, twisting to look at Tommy and Skeletor in the backseat.
Tommy scrubs at Skeletor's neck and smiles at her. "That's what makes you so good. I don't feel stupid talking to you about how I feel 'cause you don't always know the right thing either."
Adam glances at him in the rearview and catches a little grin. "Ask her to help you get to your happy place and I'm kicking you out of the car."
"Nah, you're not," Tommy tells him, settling back. "'Cause then what would you tell Pilar and the kids, huh? And I tell you this, Pilar's sweet until you cross her. Manny, he used to get this look when she turned on him…" He trails off.
Adam knows about Manny, how Manny was his brother, how he was killed, how Tommy can't forgive himself for that, how Tommy is the godfather to both of the kids. He can't imagine losing Kyle. "Yeah, yeah," he says, poking gently at Tommy with the words. Because it's not like he can say 'hey, come back'. This is one of Tommy's 'I had fucking cancer' moments.
But he nods after a second, looking out the window. "He could never wait to get back home."
Katherine hums thoughtfully. "Home is complicated," she says. "It can be complicated," she corrects herself. "Do you ever think of going back, Tommy?"
Tommy throws a dog biscuit at her. "You ain't my therapist. Adam's gonna throw me out of this car if you try to take me to my happy place."
She laughs and brushes it out of her hair. "As your friend."
Adam watches him surreptitiously in the mirror.
Tommy looks back at him. "Sometimes," is all he says.
Sometimes. Adam isn't sure how he feels about that. It's entirely weird, his thing with Tommy. The whole thing where they sleep in the same bed should be fucked up but it's just comfortable. It's kind of like a cross between sleeping next to Kyle and sleeping with Katherine. Or with himself. But that's so wrong that he can't believe he comes up with that kind of thing even in his own head. He doesn't know what to say when Tommy says sometimes. He can't imagine Tommy not coming home to his house anymore.
It'd be nice to have sex in his own bed again, sure, but with Katherine starting residency down in San Antonio it's a bit of a moot point for now.
He puts it out of his head and they drive the last hour before they reach Pilar's home and they drop Tommy and Skeletor off to spend the weekend while they continue on. He doesn't think about it again until he's standing at the door of Katherine's new apartment, looking at her and he knows, like he knew Tommy.
"Why?" he asks. He's not as heartbroken as he should be and that's probably answer enough but Katherine helps him make sense of things in a way nobody else does.
She smiles at him and leans against him. "Because we're a good boyfriend and girlfriend but I don't think we'd be good at anything more than that." She draws away and smiles at him. "Thinking we'll be great friends," she confesses. "Again."
"Yeah." They will be. They can be. "If I'm still in love with you when you're done with the internship years…" He doesn't know how to finish that. Instead he kisses her, gently.
He knew Tommy the first time he ever saw him because they were…kindred. He can see it now, again, as Tommy kisses Pilar and the kids goodbye and throws his duffle in the back with the dog. "Yeah?" he asks.
Tommy leans back in the seat. "My brother had a plane ticket, voucher thing waiting for me at the house." He pulls a folded, rumple-edged paper out of his back pocket. "It's open ended, the leaving. An' the coming back is…open."
A year ago, when he first met Tommy, Adam had thought about it on the bus: Two fighters, at rest. Now, windows down and Skeletor's head out the window, the bright highway like a ribbon winding off in front of them, he thinks that they're still two fighters. But now they're back in the fight. The stakes aren't what they were but they're still important.
Two years since cancer.
Two years since tapping out.
"Let's go home," Adam says, "and figure our shit out."
"Yeah," Tommy says, smiling at him. "Yeah, let's do that."
Adam pushes the gas down and laughs out loud as Tommy turns the radio up.