Pulling on his short sleeve black t-shirt, Tommy ran his hand through his newly cut dark brown hair and briefly checked his reflection when a rather smarmy voice mumbled unhappily behind him.
"I thought you didn't have a girlfriend? This is the third time you're missing JT and me play. It's not cool, man. Not cool at all."
Tommy grinned and turned toward Red, giving the acting Piper Sergeant a strange look. "Anyone ever tell you that you whine like a girl?"
Red raised his eyebrows and said, rather indignantly, "Yes, but that's not the point."
"I'll be by later, princess. I promise. I gotta see about a girl."
"Meh," Red muttered.
"Such a girl," Tommy said, giving Red a light pat on his cheek and opened his apartment door to usher the both of them out.
This was the third time he was missing going out with the other Pipers, but it had nothing to do with a girl. The first two times he found himself on the ass end of a bender, in some random girl's apartment, which admittedly was a bit of a plus, but things were different now. As an Augmentee, his life had very different meaning, other than being temporary help. Tommy fluttered about, city to city, country to nameless country, filling in for the Global Pipers. But now he was not just a Piper, but one of the Alpha's Pipers; an honor and responsibility that he could not shirk any longer.
It wouldn't be long before his binges interfered with his duty and that would just not do. Tommy had not touched a drop since his last binder, granted only a week earlier, but it was taking everything to control the shakes around the other Pipers. The Sergeant, or rather acting Lieutenant Piper Charlie Hammond had given him a long, penetrating look the morning Tommy walked in from his last black out. The LT didn't have to say a word, but Tommy recognized disappointment when he saw it. His father made sure of that.
Tommy stopped in front of the stoop of the building that was his evening destination and shoved his hands in his jeans. They were either churches or community centers that held the AA meetings he would eventually drag himself into, but this one in particular was a nondenominational church in a moderately middle income neighborhood. It was far enough away from the pack for him not to feel as if he'd be recognized, but Tommy still stood nervously at the bottom of the stoop, checking his surroundings nervously when the smell of smoke wafted by him.
"New here, huh?"
Tommy looked over at the voice and then looked longingly at the cigarette. The voice belonged to a tall man with short dark hair and clean blue eyes. "First time, yeah. Here, at least," Tommy mumbled.
"Uh, five years, off and on."
"How long off, I meant."
The man had a strange, knowing smile. His features looked fresh, his skin a healthy glow, but his eyes looked soulless, enough to make Tommy falter. "Week. It's been a week."
The man put the cigarette back into his mouth and inhaled as he dug into his leather jacket and pulled out a pack. Shaking a stick out, he lit it with his own, and then handed it to Tommy who gladly took it.
"Nice people here."
"Aren't they always?" Tommy asked, knowing the drill with these types of gatherings.
The man laughed. "No, not all of us." He nodded toward the door. "Going in?"
"After you," Tommy said and then took a long drag from the cigarette before flicking it out into the street. "I'm Tommy."
The man with the blue eyes spit his short cigarette over the stoop's side and held his hand out. "I'm Kyle. Welcome to the fun house."
After shaking Kyle's hand, Tommy held the door open to the church and followed him into Tommy's first AA meeting in Nachton.