Gerard’s got his arm draped across Frank’s shoulder and his knee bent, his leg lying across Frank’s thighs, effectively trapping Frank in the bunk. Hot and sweaty and needing to piss, Frank tries to twist to the side, and ends with his face jammed against Gerard’s stinking armpit, where clumps of old deodorant cling to strands of damp hair.
Frank gags, tasting chemicals and sweat as he presses his lips together and starts to wiggle away. Then frowns when Gerard moans and flaps his hand listlessly, says in a mumble, “I’m fucking spent, need a minute.”
Which yeah, like that’s going to happen, and Frank uses his elbows and knees, digging them into the thin mattress as he attempts a crab-like crawl to the side.
It’s a plan that ends with Frank almost rolling out of the bunk, his dick and balls pulled painfully over the wood base, and also seconds from pissing right there on the floor. Thighs clamped together, he whips back the bunk’s curtain, metal rings rattling against the track and ‘accidentally’ angling the heavy fabric so it hits Gerard’s head.
Not that it wakes him. Frank never expected it would.
He makes a run for the bathroom, steps over Mikey’s boots, one of Ray’s hoodies, but then a sock wraps itself around his ankle -- a long sock, striped and filthy. Frank kicks his foot and sends the sock flying.
The bathroom door open, Frank braces his elbow against the wall and then cradles his dick and pisses, directing the flow. Idly he creates a few circles and then attempts to write his own name. Today he gets all the way to the second R, even if it comprises of little more than a few dribbles.
“Next time lose the capital letters,” Mikey says through a mouthful of foam. Jammed in the tiny space between sink and shower he takes the brush out of his mouth and peers at the bristles. “This tastes like ass.”
Frank shakes off and rubs his foot over the droplets that sprinkle the floor. “I used it last night.”
Mikey levers himself free and drops the brush in the sink, says, “I hate you,” as he pushes past Frank.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Frank waves his hand toward Mikey and then looks down, using his thumbnail to scrape at something crusty that’s stuck to his pubes. Pulling the flake free, Frank flicks it away and then washes his hands, yells, “You’ve left the bathroom fucking disgusting.”
Mikey’s pointed silence is his only reply and Frank keeps soaping his hands and looks in the mirror. He leans forward, peering past the soap scum and water spots and examines his reflection. Dark shadows under his eyes, red rims, skin an unhealthy grey under his tan, same old, same old for this stage of the tour and disgusting time of the morning.
Inspection over, Frank goes back to his empty bunk and reaches inside, grabbing a pair of mostly-clean pants. Pulling them on Frank fastens the buttons and belt, and then leans across the narrow aisle. He pulls back the curtain, looking at Gerard.
He’s still sleeping soundly. Flat on his back now and mouth wide open, drool down one side of his chin. Frank uses his hand to wipe it away.
Usually breakfast consists of dry cereal, candy, or if you’re Gerard or Mikey, insanely strong coffee.
Frank’s decided to change that. He crouches down and stares into the fridge, bare feet planted on the sticky floor and swaying in time with the bus. There’s a McDonald’s hamburger from at least two states before, a bag of Twizzlers, two packs of lunch meat and one and a half bagels. What there isn’t is Frank’s fake bacon and red net of oranges.
Frank looks over his shoulder. He can see Bob’s socked feet hanging over the end of the bench seat, and the TV is playing. Frank stands, says, “Who the fuck ate my food?”
Bob’s toes repeatedly curl, like he’s trying to communicate via sock speak alone. Which, if he is it’s ridiculous because Frank doesn’t speak sock. A hit with his knee and Frank closes the fridge door and peers around the corner at Bob. “The fuck?”
Without opening his eyes, Bob uses the TV remote to point over at Mikey.
Suspicious, Frank peers at Bob, assessing the likelihood of misdirection, or even a blatant lie. They’re both possibilities and Bob looks far too content right now, like someone who’s just eaten a good meal.
Except, Mikey’s texting, fingers and thumbs flying, chin on his chest and reflected words flashing up on his glasses. He’s also smiling, the smallest, barest twitch of a smile. Frank crosses his arms across his chest and announces, “You ate my food.”
Mikey doesn’t look up as he says, “The canon needed ammo.”
“You did that without me?” Frank protests, and then catches himself, because his oranges. Though, that doesn’t explain the fake bacon.
“We experimented with aerodynamics, to see if a tail made a difference,” Mikey says, as if he’s tapped into Frank’s thoughts. Hell, maybe he has. Deciding to test that theory, Frank starts to think about Gerard – in detail and glorious close-up. Mikey stops texting, looking thoughtful. “We’re trying real bacon next time, to see if density makes a difference. And that’s fucking disgusting.”
“What is?” Gerard asks, stumbling into the lounge. He’s pulled on yesterday’s -- last week’s -- last month’s -- outfit and is scratching at his balls through his jeans, his eyes mostly closed.
“Frank was thinking about you naked,” Mikey says, going back to his frantic texting, and then, “Pete says next time think harder.”
“Tell Pete to fuck off.” Frank presses the back of his hand against the coffee pot testing for heat. The coffee is luke-warm at best, but he grabs a mug and fills it up, handing it to Gerard. “Mikey stole my food.”
Gerard takes a long drink, says, “He does that. I could never put cookies down around him because he’d eat them all.”
“I was a growing boy,” Mikey says sending a rapid-fire text.
“And now you’re a fucking orange thief,” Frank says, and turns to Gerard. “He’s your brother. Do something.”
Gerard looks confused. “Like what?”
There’s a beep, and then Mikey says, “Pete suggests spanking.”
“That seems fair,” Gerard remarks, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “But can we do it later? It’s too fucking early right now.”
Frank stares. Normally he’s got no trouble keeping up with the Ways, but right now.... It has to be the early start that’s throwing him off and he says slowly, “It’s past midday.”
“Twelve fifty seven,” Bob puts in, and he’s exactly right, which considering he hasn’t opened his eyes is fucking impressive.
“See. Too early,” Gerard says, and he yawns, adds, “I’ll make you some cereal.”
Frank sighs, says, “Fine.”
Frank tries not to go between the bus and the stage too often. Each time he does it means screams and yelled requests for attention. Which usually Frank doesn’t mind, just, taking pictures and signing autographs takes time.
Water, iPod and cell phone gathered, Frank drops them all in his bag and then turns to Gerard, asks, “Have you packed your sun cream?”
Gerard nods, and his own bag is open on top of the bench table. He looks inside and rummages through the contents, and then holds up a pair of rolled up sports socks, the material dyed a pale pink. “I’ve got your spare socks here, did you pick up your gloves?”
“Yeah,” Frank says, and the concert is hours away yet, but already the adrenalin is building. That slow burn in the pit of his stomach that Frank welcomes, knowing it’ll fan into flames. Eager to get going, Frank shrugs his bag on his back and then remembers Gerard’s Sharpies. They were at the foot of the bunk last time Frank saw them, and Gerard always seems to need them at some point in the day. “Have you got your Sharpies?”
“I....” Gerard says, about to reply.
“Have you got your special hair towel, Ray?” Bob asks, moving to stand next to Ray, his voice sickly sweet. “You know you need it.”
"I packed it myself,” Ray replies, and stares intently at Bob, then rests his hand on his arm. “Have you got your tissues? The ones with added balm?”
Bob nods, says, “Two packs. But what about your bag lunch? You can’t forget your sandwiches, I made them without crusts.”
Frank flips them both off and grabs a bottle of water, handing it to Gerard. “You won’t be mocking when you’re down with sun stroke or have to run back for a pen.”
“God forbid I ever forget a pen, my whole life would be ruined,” Bob says, and then yells, “Mikey, we’re going.”
Mikey pushes past in a flurry of sharp elbows and knees. Heading for the door he says mournfully, “No one makes me sandwiches without crusts.”
Frank sighs and follows. Sometimes there’s not a thing you can say.
Hands behind his head, Frank lies flat on his back, basking in the last lingering heat of the sun. The grass is dry, scratching his sides as he breathes. Close by people are talking, voices mixed with the music that drifts from the stages.
Exhilaration and lethargy mix in one weird package, and Frank’s eyes are heavy-lidded, remaining half-closed when someone walks close.
“Mom wants to know if you’re buying off the registry or getting your own gift.” Mikey’s got his phone to his ear and his skin is tinged red, his fingers turned crimson where they’re backlit by sun. At Frank’s blank look he clarifies, “For the wedding. Cousin Bee’s.”
“Cousin Bee?” Frank repeats, and tries to remember if he’s actually been told about any wedding, never mind one for someone called Bee.
Mikey shifts his weight onto one hip. “I don’t think she’s an actual blood cousin,” then sighs, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, I know, mom. She’s still family.” There’s a long pause, Mikey staring off into the distance and Frank can easily imagine Donna talking, her cigarette lit and hair the usual awesome, insane. Eventually Mikey says, “She’s registered at Target, apparently you can order online. But mom says not to get the gravy boat, it’s too expensive and Bee’ll never use it.”
“Right,” Frank says weakly, and then quieter, “Who the fuck is Bee?”
“I have to go, mom. Love you.” Mikey ends the calls and jams his phone in his pocket. Lowering himself down to the ground he sits cross legged, elbows resting on his bent knees. “I told you, she’s a cousin.”
“I got that part,” Frank says, and sits up on one elbow, using his hand to shield his eyes. “But why am I buying her a gift?”
“Because you’re going to her wedding,” Mikey says, and then stops talking, his gaze losing focus. Frank snaps his fingers in front of Mikey’s face.
“I can’t remember being asked to a wedding.”
“Gee got the invitation,” Mikey says, and then frowns. “I need a plus one.”
“I’m Gerard’s plus one?” Finally things are starting to make sense, and Frank can well believe that Gerard got the invitation and then forgot to actually tell Frank. That is, it makes sense until Mikey shakes his head and pushes himself up, taking his phone from his pocket. “No, you were invited together.”
Frank likes back flat on the ground and tries not to think.
Parties are a way of life on this tour. Ranging from the small and intimate to the huge and insane, Frank doesn’t go to them all, but some nights he drinks beer cold from a cooler or warm from the sun, laughs and talks with an endless cycle of people, but he always goes back to Gerard.
Tonight Gerard stayed on the bus and Frank jumps, knocking on the lit-up lounge window before going inside.
“Hey,” Gerard says. He’s already dressed for bed, ratty pajama pants low on his hips and buried inside an oversized black hoodie.
“You look warm,” Frank says, and shoves his hands under the hoodie, his hands against the swell of Gerard’s stomach. Using his thumbs, Frank strokes over the stretchmarks he knows off by heart, then yawns, directly in Gerard’s face.
Gerard blinks, says, “I thought you’d sworn off those garlic things.”
Frank licks over his teeth. They feel greasy and he tries to remember how many of the garlic veggie dogs he actually ate. Truthfully he can’t remember, and says, “I was hungry.”
“You should have brought me one,” Gerard says, and moves in for a kiss, briefly licking into Frank’s mouth. “That’s fucking rank.”
Frank nips at Gerard’s bottom lip, because really, pot kettle and all that. “Like you’re one to talk.”
Gerard grins, says, “I own my stench.”
“How about owning it in bed?” Frank asks, utterly incapable of not grinning back. He pulls back his hands and straightens, heading for the bunks. “I need to piss first.”
“Brush your teeth too,” Gerard says, and Frank rolls his eyes and heads for the bathroom.
It takes less than a minute to piss, maybe two more to brush and gargle with water. Yawning, Frank pulls off his clothes, throwing them to one side and climbs into Gerard’s bunk, wincing when he kneels on a CD case that breaks with a crack.
“Sorry,” Frank says, but Gerard shrugs from where he’s lying on his side, his back against the bus wall.
“Come here.” Gerard stretches out his arm, and Frank shifts so they’re curled close together, his head on Gerard’s shoulder. Gerard brushes a kiss against Frank’s forehead, says, “You want to?”
Lazily, Frank reaches down between their bodies, his hand on Gerard’s soft cock. He strokes it once, twice, and Gerard sighs, and then yawns. Which makes Frank yawn again too, and suddenly he’s exhausted, so tired his eyes are closing and he says, “It’s been a long fucking day.”
“The longest,” Gerard agrees, and then adds, “And we’ve got that interview tomorrow.”
Frank nods, his hand still on Gerard’s cock as they both fall asleep.
Hours later and Frank’s peering at his watch through screwed shut eyes, his heart pounding from being abruptly woken.
There’s a thump, the sound of Bob laughing, and then Ray’s walking up to the bunks, singing I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing horribly off-tune. Frank pulls back the curtain, scowls and demands, “The fuck?”
Ray’s grinning, and he waves his hands wildly as he says, “It’s a metaphor, yes, one of those. The song. About Mikey and Pete.”
Frank’s in no mood to be charitable and he says, “A shitty song is about Mikey and fucking Pete?”
“That’s Mr fucking Pete to you,” Pete says, and squashes in next to Ray, waving as he says, “Hi.”
“It can’t be a metaphor,” Gerard says, and he sounds far too intent for someone who’s just woken seconds before. “Well, I guess there could be a metaphor in the song but I don’t think there is.”
Without looking, Frank reaches back and presses his hand over Gerard’s face. “Fuck the fucking metaphor, what the fuck do you want?”
Ray’s smile fades, and he leans heavily against the bunk side, his shoulders drooping. “To tell you about the song. How Bruce Willis died, and it’s like Mikey and Pete. Just, they’re not going to die, only their romance.”
Frank groans and takes a moment to press his face against the pillow, hoping when he looks up this will all be a big nightmare and Ray and Pete will be gone. They’re not and Frank says, “That’s a fucking stupid theory, they’re not going to break up, we’re going to be stuck with him for-fucking-ever, and who the fuck even says romance?”
“See!” Pete beams, and Frank can’t help recoiling from those rows of bright, white teeth. “Frank knows we’re not going to die in space. He’s the best brother-in-law ever.”
Alarmed at the thought of being any kind of relation to Pete, Frank hurries to say, “We’re not related, thank fuck.”
“You sort of are,” Ray says, and he’s listing even further forward, his hair sharing the bunk with Frank and Gerard. “He’s Mikey’s... whatever, boyfriend, fuck buddy....”
Sugar bunny stud muffin,” Pete suggests, and Ray waves a hand.
“Sugar bunny stud muffin, and Mikey’s Gerard’s brother and you’re married to Gerard so.....”
Which is when Frank scowls and pointedly pulls the curtain closed, snuggling back up to Gerard. They lie still, breathing in sync and Frank listens to a loud thump -- Ray falling -- a zip being opened -- Bob getting his camera before helping Ray up -- and a series of rhythmic creaks from the bunks on the right -- Frank doesn’t even start to figure that one out.
“Can you believe Ray said that we’re married?” Frank says, and tugs at his pillow, getting it positioned just right. Placement perfect, he fits himself up close to Gerard, hand on his hip and their legs pressed together, Frank’s feet on the top of Gerard’s. “I think Pete’s weirdness is catching.”
Gerard reply is a drawn out sigh, something Frank takes as validation, and he rests his head against Gerard’s shoulder. “We need an intervention, Mikey’s a goner but Ray’s got a chance. Oh, and we need a gift too. For cousin Bee’s wedding. What do you think of a silver serving platter? No one’s bought one yet.”
This time Gerard doesn’t respond at all, and when Frank tilts his head to the side he sees that Gerard’s eyes are closed, his breathing already starting to deepen.
Gently, Frank brushes a kiss against Gerard’s mouth, and then cuddles in close, settling down to sleep.
Minutes later and Frank’s abruptly and completely awake. All tiredness gone and his eyes wide open, Frank looks at Gerard and sees he’s staring right back.
“Holy shit,” Frank says slowly. “We’re married,” and the words feel right, feel perfect. He repeats, “We’re fucking married.”
“We are,” Gerard says, and he smiles.