I am so sad that nobody requested him, but I needed to share, so here you go 🙂
Of all the characters, Tommy is my favorite to write. I don’t know why, really, because he is constantly surprising me. Sometimes I have a plan for him in my head, but when I sit down to write the chapter, he takes me somewhere else. It’s invigorating to have a character come to life before you and Tommy has done that for me.
I created Tommy as a friend to Jack when I was planning out Nothing Matters. It was only when beta readers began to ask for more of him that I realized who he would truly be.
Remember that feisty redhead sitting in my desk drawer? I realized I found her man.
Tommy became my family.
Now, as a high school teacher, I can tell you first hand how unrealistic it is for an 18 year old to raise his sister, go to medical school and graduate on time after suffering the loss of both of his parents.
But with Tommy (and of course Jack) it just worked.
Because that’s who Tommy is.
Now I think you can see the changes I made in Tommy from book 1. We meet him on page 1 and he is asking Jack for help. Their relationship was established the moment the series took form because truly, they are the original Family by Choice.
There are parts of Tom I adore and parts that drive me crazy. Anyone who knows me knows his hairy chest is all me. Not that I have a hairy chest…but I LOVE that. Brittany’s love of his chest is her speaking directly through me. I also love when the others tease him about it.
There is a funny little exchange Julie has in “Red” when Tommy changes his shirt in front of her and Jack.
“Actually, I think you might,” Julie looked at him and pointed out that his shirt was inside out.
“Oh, well I had a rough night,” he said and pulled his shirt off.
“Go in your room,” she said as she looked grossed out.
“Seriously? I’m an adult man, Julie. My body is normal.”
“First of all, there is nothing normal about that forest you have on your chest. Second, you’re my brother and not a man.”
Jack grinned and Tommy pulled his shirt on the right way.
“Shut up,” he said to him. “You should have my back on this one.”
“I’m not touching that one,” he said. “But she is kind of right. You aren’t a man, you’re Tommy.”
He laughed and then walked to sit down on the couch, his head in his hands.
Jack and Julie looked at each other and went to him.
“We’re just messing with you. I’m sure you’re a man,” Julie said and sat down next to him.
Jack sat on his other side and shrugged.
“I’ve seen you naked and I can confirm you’re a man.”
Julie covered her mouth.
“You are disgusting.”
I love how Jack and Julie tease Tommy. It’s endearing and so real to how a family works.
I think I’ve said this before, but sometimes I write scenes out of order. The scene in If Only when Tommy finds Brittany in the woods and takes her to the cave for the night was one of those scenes. It was all Tommy, really, because Brittany was so out of it. I was able to let him show me and the readers who he was. He was terrified and he knew she was in dire shape. The doctor in him hesitated because for the first time, this wasn’t a patient. This woman was in his heart.
They hadn’t known each other long and he had been a complete tool to her, but she never backed down and she excited him in so many ways. He never thought he would find someone to bring his heart to life. He never cared to look. With Brittany, it just was.
The way Tommy cared for her wasn’t simply a way to save her life. He truly realized that someone in life had suffered incredible trauma and had also been existing, much as he had. He felt a kinship with her that simply didn’t exist with anyone else.
Another scene I wrote out of order was Tommy finding out Brittany was HIV positive. This was a profound moment because his reaction needed to be true to his character. I knew he wouldn’t run from her, but I needed him to react in a way that made sense to who he was. I needed her to tell him and not have him find out in any other way. I needed the reaction to be intimate and just with them in the course of conversation.
Brittany felt her heart sink. “Tommy, there is something else you should know about me.”
He looked at her. “Okay.”
“I am HIV positive,” she said and waited for the response.
Tommy heard her and the gravity of what she went through sank in. He didn’t know what to say. “Okay, but you still have to eat.”
She looked at him and smiled. “That’s true.”
“So, dinner?” he pushed.
I loved this. It was just Tommy. He heard her and it hit him hard; not because of fear but because of admiration.
She just moved him.
Aside from the love story, which I’ll get back to, Tommy has a big part of him that is a parent to Julie. Some of my favorite moments to write are the flashback scenes to Julie growing up. Jack is a huge part of those memories, but for Tommy, I feel like he always has the weight of his parents on his shoulders. He feels immense guilt at having more time with them then Julie did and he wants to give her the memories he had. He wants to make sure she never feels left behind.
That has led to humor and sadness. Tommy has tried so hard to be everything to Julie that it led to a lot of moments where he seemed to give up on his own dreams for her. She hates that and she hates feeling like she was the reason he was so lonely.
One of my favorite flashbacks was when Tommy remembered the moments right after the car accident. He sat in his parents room and wondered what all of us have wondered when we suffer a loss.
What comes next? How do you just move on with your life when every single aspect of living has changed?
I don’t think any 18 year old could do what he did. I don’t think every 18 year old would even want to try.
Tommy is unique. He is guarded and deeply personal. He is an introvert in a way and that’s why he meshed so well with Jack who is anything but.
Much of Tommy’s introduction to the series as a romantic lead was unconventional. He fought so hard against committing to a relationship and when he finally realized what was happening, he realized he found someone he loved who fought just as hard against it.
Tommy and Brittany’s relationship is my favorite. Maybe because I created them so long ago or maybe because Tommy is so much of my ideal romantic hero, I don’t know. What I do know is that I adore him. (I think you can all tell that).
Making Tommy a pediatric surgeon was important for a lot of reasons. I felt he would work best with children because he is an understanding and kind man with a desperate need to help. I also saw him as a man who had an intense need to help families stay together. If he could fix what was wrong, maybe he could make a difference to those families.
I also knew, in the back of my mind, that he would be faced with a fight he never saw coming.
Bringing a child into the world the way Naomi entered was one of my proudest achievements. I didn’t know what was going to happen with her. I didn’t know if she would make it. I didn’t know if she would be stillborn. I didn’t know if I could put the family through what I wanted to happen.
It was important for me to show Tommy’s absolute fear surrounding Naomi’s birth. Every single aspect was out of his control and everything he loved in the world was in danger of dying.
Brittany’s health was something I thoroughly researched and her bleeding disorder is a real and terrifying condition- confounded with her HIV it’s almost insurmountable.
The moments surrounding Naomi coming into the world were terrifying, but also some of my favorites. Having each member of the family meet her and tell her about themselves and having Brittany thinking she Naomi died were moments that still effect me. The kangaroo touch is one of the most beautiful things and I adore the connection Naomi and Brittany have because of that.
But Tommy meeting his daughter for the first time is my favorite.
Tommy pulled up a chair and sat down, eye level with the incubator. He reached his hand in through the glove and his finger was almost the length of her arm. He gently touched her tiny fingers and she scrunched her face into what he could only describe as a smile. His heart swelled with love for her and he didn’t even know he had the capacity to love someone so completely. It was different from any other connection he felt. It was as if everything in the world was right because of this precious little being.
“Hi sweet girl. I’m your daddy. We haven’t officially met before, but I’m the strange voice you kept hearing. I know you’re probably confused because you were in a nice warm home where you were safe and protected and now you are here and things are scary and harsh, but you need to know something. You are loved and you are wanted more than anything in this world. Your mommy and I, we are so proud to be your parents and we love you to pieces. You are going to grow and get stronger and you are going to have the best life,” he wiped his eyes and she let out a teeny wail and he moved the little cloth she had covering her over a bit to conceal her little behind and she calmed down immediately.
Tommy let a sob escape his throat. “Just like your mom. You like your privacy and you should. Your daddy will never let anyone hurt you. My sweet baby Naomi. Daddy loves his baby girl,” he watched as she slept and he stepped back, looking at the nurse who also had tears in her eyes. “Thank you.”
I could go on and on about these moments, but there’s more I want to say.
One of the hardest moments I wrote for Tommy was when he decided to remove Brittany from life support. It was never so she would die. He knew she needed to fight and he knew she could do it. He also knew he would never be able to live with himself if it didn’t work. In a way, he was pulling the plug on both of them. A gamble he took with their lives.
Tommy nodded, feeling his elation flow like the air out of a balloon. He watched as Dr. Schmidt turned off the life support machine and removed the tube from her throat. He stepped away from the bed and gave them some privacy. The beep of the heart monitor was the only sound that permeated the room. Tommy choked back a sob and sat down with her, taking her hand in his. “Okay, now you fight. Listen to me, baby, and show me I am right. I know you’re in there and I know you can do it. All you have to do is breathe. Listen to my voice and find your way back. Dammit, listen to my voice and come home. You can do this,” he took her shoulders and gently shook her. “Feel me here, baby. Feel my heart. Find your way home,” he rubbed her arms and her cheeks. The alarms began to ring as her heart rate slowed. Tommy began to panic; this was too fast. “Brittany, don’t leave me. You can do this. For once in your life, believe you’re worth it. Make me worth it, too. Come back to me,” he put his head down on her chest and sobbed. “Oh God, please don’t leave me.”
This was so hard to write. It was a risk- having him do this while alone, but it’s what Tommy would do. He wanted to spare everyone else.
Tommy and Jack’s friendship is another of my favorites. I am always finding new ways to write their stories and fun moments to recreate.
Jack is incredibly protective of Tommy and I love that. He would do anything for him and Tommy would do the same for him. When Megan took Tommy and Jack found him, I remember thinking how profound and deeply affected Jack was by what Tommy had been put through.
Jack was empty. He had nothing. He could offer nothing. His hands and his knowledge were useless. What good was it to be a world-class surgeon when you couldn’t save those closest to you?
He looked at Tommy and knew he would be waking up any minute. His bruises were beginning to heal, although his face was a mess. Whatever Megan hit him with to break his orbital bone and nose must have been large because it left a huge gash across his face. It was more pronounced now that the oxygen mask had been removed.
The doctor also said there were marks on his side from something electric, like a taser or a stun gun. Jack knew how much of a fight his brother had put up. Dr. Turner was cautiously optimistic about his legs, but it would take time to make sure there would be no lasting problems. Until he woke up, the extent of the damage was hard to ascertain.
The surgery to repair the damage caused to his torso had been successful, but they were concerned about his liver and any complications from the beating he took. It seemed the people who got to him knew just where to hit him. Jack figured it was Louis who got him initially and then let Megan take over, but who knew for sure.
Tommy began to move a little and Jack’s heart dropped. He moved closer and spoke to him.
“Tommy? Open your eyes, it’s Jack.”
He could see the movement below his lids and finally, Tommy opened his eyes and tried to focus.
“Hey, that’s good,” Jack smiled. “Can you see me?”
“Where is my wife?” Tommy asked in a raspy voice.
“I need for you to stay calm, please, or they will sedate you again, okay?” Jack said firmly and Tommy blinked.
“Just tell me, please,” he said, his eyes wet.
“She is here, and she is in very bad shape. I think it would be a good idea if you saw her, but I’m not sure if you can be moved. We are going to arrange for your bed to be taken in to her room for a few minutes.”
Tommy looked at Jack. “What happened to her?” he asked brokenly.
“It’s not important right now. I just think you need to go and say what you need to say.”
“Oh God,” Tommy tried to get up and Jack held his arm.
“Stop it right now or I won’t hesitate to sedate you,” he said through his own tears. “I need you to be okay.”
“I don’t care what you need,” he said, his voice barely a whisper from the smoke damage. He closed his eyes and Jack nodded.
“I know. I’m so sorry,” Jack sighed. “I’ll get them to unhook you and we’ll go.”
Tommy stared ahead and didn’t say anything else.
There are more of these as well, but this one really shows the connection between the two men.
I could go on and on with my favorite Tommy scenes.
-When he got shot after Monty got to him.
-When he gave Brittany her guitar because he had to be able to ‘fix’ something.
-When he told Brittany he loved her.
-Their time in the Poconos (both times)
-When he helped Courtney
-Tramp and his vet visits
-The first time he and Brittany made love
-Finding out about the pregnancy
-Tramp getting shot
-His meeting John
-His protection of Jade
-His love for “Red”
-Daddy’s hairy balls 🙂
-Reading the file
-Finding out the extent of what happened to Brittany
A final part I wanted to share was book 5 Darkness.
Having Tommy lose his memories of Brittany was a calculated risk. I needed him to be harsh because he wouldn’t be any other way when confronted with such confusion.
Tommy looked at his wife. “Look, I know who I am and I am not crazy. I appreciate my family being here, but you’re not one of them and I need to talk to them alone. I would like you to leave.”
Brittany nodded and turned, walking out. Stephanie followed her. The entire room stared at Tommy. “What?” he asked.
This was so sad to write. His amnesia did so much to everyone around him and having Brittany go through explaining everything again was heartbreaking. The guilt Tommy felt after remembering everything combined with the premature birth of Naomi just made everything so much harder for all of them.
But it made their love that much stronger.
Tommy is complex. He is not simply good or bad. He is a combination of some profound life experiences that not many people could share. He loves deeply and is loyal to a fault. He is handsome and strong but also insecure and moody.
He loves his wife and daughter more than anything, but his fears are deep.
I could have shaken him when he uttered these words.
“I think I was wrong.”
“How can you say that?” Jack felt sick at how his brother sounded.
“She sat up here in a wheelchair and had nowhere to go and I told her I would take care of her. I asked her to come home with me and we both didn’t have to be alone. I told her I just wanted to help.”
“And you did. You both needed each other and you have the greatest connection. Tom, I’ve known you your whole life. You never let anyone close to you until her. You have been with her through everything and you have survived unimaginable heartbreak. How are you saying this? How are you so detached?” Jack asked him.
Tommy exhaled and looked at his hands, playing with his wedding band.
“I don’t think this is what I want anymore,” he said.
“Um, excuse us,” Stephanie said, knowing this needed to stop. When Brittany didn’t speak, Stephanie continued. “Brittany was stable and she wanted to see you, to help you. Bill is waiting downstairs for you but I thought we could go,” she said to Jack.
Brittany stood there, her face registering the pain at Tommy’s words.
“Did you hear all of that?” he asked, horrified.
She took a deep breath and nodded.
“I’ll be downstairs. You do whatever you feel you need to do,” she held her head high and walked past the wheelchair and to the stairs. Stephanie turned and ran after Brittany and Tommy sank to the floor, stunned.
This isn’t good. What happened next solidified Brittany’s fears and she truly feels she has no one who wants her.
Tommy has his work cut out for him.
He has a daughter who needs him and is in dire shape.
He has a wife who is at a turning point.
He needs to finally make a decision.
Be in this life with them or let them go.
Thank you for reading!