Chapter 1: Static on the Wind
Get down, and obey every word.
The city has incredible resources at their disposal. The motorcycles that the Dracs ride are nearly silent, their soft purr drowned out by the roaring engine of the Trans-Am, the guttural sound of the Harley. The only reason he knows how close they are, aside from the shots that are getting closer and closer to their mark, is pure instinct, a feeling like fingertips digging into his spine.
He has to stop them. They've stopped aiming for Fun Ghoul, hanging out the window of the car firing with a mismatched set, his own green and Party's bright yellow. They're aiming now for the rear of the car, the tires spitting up dust and gravel. If they get a hit, they're all fucked, a blown tire is a blown chase.
He turns. Hard and fast and the rear tire slips, he spins out and now the Dracs are in front of him as he leap-falls, finds his feet and the Harley twirls away. He throws off his helmet and the Dracs slow down, and he swears he can see something akin to a successful smile in their eyes gleaming inside the masks. He knew that a hostage would be enough to stop them.
No! He can hear Fun Ghoul's frantic voice screaming even over the roar of the Trans-Am as it pulls further ahead, away, as it leaves him alone. His heart aches in his chest. Stop the car. Turn around! We're not leaving him!
But he knows, they all know that Party Poison has to make the hard choices. He turns around and watches the car disappear where the sky comes down to touch the desert dunes. It's like the post-nuclear sun, red and angry, is swooping down to eat them. He almost reaches after the car, and he says a silent prayer for their safety.
He feels it a second before it happens. The stock of a raygun crashes into his head, right at the base of his skull. Black stars flash behind his eyes, and the last thing Jet Star sees is a slick black car pulling up, the trunk already open.
He wakes up in the trunk. The car's engine is a lot louder from the inside.
He makes a feeble attempt at stretching, but all it does is confirm what he'd begun to suspect from the tension in his hips and his shoulders. Hog tied. Probably the only way they could get him to fit.
He's gagged, too, and the musky dusty taste implies that it's with his own bandanna. Fuckers.
The car slows to a roll, the engine quiets to a purr and he struggles again. He can hear their voices now, low growls. He struggles, takes the pain in the arms to kick out with his legs. Thump, thump. The voices pause, then resume, but now they're talking about him.
"Should we stop? Knock it out again?"
Another pause. Anticipatory, thoughtful.
"No. We're almost there. Let it suffer."
He huffed into the gag. Suffer. Sure. More like seethe.
He reminds himself that he chose this. He knew the consequences. He'd done it to save his friends. Ever the self-sacrifice. If there was a way to get him out of this, they'd find it. Fun Ghoul would find it.
And if not, well. Death is but a door, and all that.
The car doesn't pick up speed again, so he assumes they're in the City now. He turns his head, but his hair sticks with sweat to his cheek. It's getting harder to breathe, but he's not sure if that's the restrictive position he's in, or fear creeping into his lungs.
He keeps up the effort it takes to kick, though his arms scream in protest before long.
The car slows to a complete stop, and the engine shuts off. He kicks once more for good measure.
"It's awake?" He recognizes the voice, deep and angry and quite utterly frightening. Korse. The Draculoids in the car don't respond, and Jet Star smiles around his gag, because it's nice to know they screwed up.
"Which one is it?"
"The tall one." One voice responds. He can hear an edge of fear.
"With the hair." Another voice adds, with a hopeful note.
He kicks again. It hurts, but he does it anyway. He wants them to know he still has some fight left in him.
"I don't want it awake while it's transported."
He hears a key enter the lock. He kicks out, and smirks with gratification when he feels the trunk open, and better, hears the lid connect with something, hears a grunt that he hopes is pain.
"Idiot." Korse's voice again. A hand clutches into his hair, pulls his head back. He averts his eyes, bites down on the gag so he doesn't make a sound. He won't give them the satisfaction. He won't give them anything.
A cloth is pressed to his face. He squints, the strong chemical smell making his head swim and his eyes sting. He tries to hold his breath, but then a steel-strong fist connects with his ribs, catches him unaware, and he gasps, reflexive. His head swims and he breathes in again, trying futilely to find fresh air.
It wasn't stars this time, just a dimness that turned to black, turned to nothing.
He wakes up slowly. Purposefully. He adjusts, identifies a single part of his pain or fear, establishes it before embracing it, letting it go.
The facts of his captivity. He's on his knees, when he tries to move he can feel shackles holding him to the floor. His arms are suspended over his head, holding his arms taut, fully extended. His hair is still long, hanging in his face, he can see where sweat has matted the curls together. He isn't clothed.
His mouth is dry, his lips chapped. His arms tremble occasionally, his shoulders shake. His knees ache, but he can't move. His bonds don't leave any room.
The room is stark, but bland. The walls are gray. The floor is gray. The ceiling is tiled in gray, interspersed with plastic panels over fluorescent tubes, and shiny black camera lenses. The lights never shut off.
There is a door. It's behind him. He doesn't hear the door open, but he hears sounds outside when it does. They're not frightening sounds. More like a somewhat busy office, which is almost more frightening, in a way. He turns his head, tries to see.
"Do not strain yourself." It's not Korse. It's not a Draculoid either. It walks around him, it's carrying a chair and a clipboard. Just a man, in a crisp charcoal suit, with neatly trimmed hair and wire-rim glasses over blank and soulless eyes. He sets the chair down, sits and faces the prisoner.
"You are Raymond Manuel Toro-Ortiz, known primarily as Ray Toro." It isn't a question, so he doesn't answer. He just looks back at his interrogator.
"Can you tell me why our records indicate that you are deceased? Specifically, that you are a casualty of the war?" This time it is a question, but he still doesn't answer. He will give them nothing. He'd rather die.
The man waits for a few beats, as though he still expects Ray to answer. When he doesn't, he looks back at the clipboard. "You were apprehended in the company of the Killjoys, and there is in fact evidence that you yourself are a Killjoy, the self-proclaimed Jet Star?"
He licks his lips, but it doesn't feel any better, it just stings.
"Are you aware, Raymond, that there is a standing order for your execution?"
The man stares at him so he stares back.
"The State is merciful, Raymond. You've been caught in a bad crowd, that's all. We understand that you've felt discontent. That can be remedied, Raymond. We don't want to simply kill you. Our records indicate you have a widow."
He struggles not to react, though he's screaming violently on the inside, that they would dare threaten her.
"She lives here in the city. She's safe. Does she know you are alive? We could arrange for you to go back to her. We'll clean you up, get you back on the right path. You can be fixed."
He licks his lips again, takes a deep breath, and when he speaks his voice sounds foreign. Dry and desolate. "I am not broken."
The man looks at the clipboard again, he flips a few pages, reads something, and then looks up. If he didn’t know better, he’d think there was pity in those empty eyes. “You will be.”
Time passed. The door opened again. He didn’t turn to look.
Korse. So it was personal, then.
Now he turned his head, watched Korse, flanked as ever by two Draculoids, walk around him. Then he sat down in the chair that had been left by the previous interrogator. Jet Star looked away when Korse focused on him.
“I must admit, I am disappointed.”
He hesitated, then after a long pause he looked up, and he saw the glint of fierce anger in Korse’s eyes that disappeared as soon as he noticed it.
“But we must make do with what we have, yes? A simple minion, instead of the leader. A terrible shame. But I am sure you will make yourself... useful.”
He made no further signal, but the Draculoids moved, circled around behind him.
“I am not a patient person. And you. You are only a means to an end. The State does not want you killed. But still, they gave you to me. Why do you think that is?”
He didn’t respond at first. Light exploded behind his eyes and he gasped with pain. Turning his head, he saw the Draculoid move away, return something to the pocket of it’s uniform. A handheld electric prod.
“You will answer my questions. Now. Surely you are aware that I, personally, want you dead. So. Why do you think the State has allowed me to interrogate you?”
“I don’t know.”
Korse smiled. It was truly frightening. “You learn fast. This will be easy, I hope.”
“Not on your life.”
“I don’t know, Jet Star. My life is worth considerably more than yours. Now, we begin. How many Killjoys are there?”
He braced himself, clenching his fists and closing his eyes, gritting his teeth. Korse almost frowned. The Draculoid moved close again, and again electricity coursed through him. He struggled not to cry out, and the shock stopped.
"Come now, Jet Star. Don't perpetuate this. A simple number is all I ask."
The silence stretched for a moment. Korse inclined his head. The electricity again, his arms jerked on reflex and pulled at his shoulders. This shock pulled a grunt from him. Korse smiled.
Another shock. This time, a curse, torn from deep inside him, he couldn't bite it back.
"You could save their lives, Jet Star. The State will rehabilitate you. You won't feel the need to rebel."
"Silence is their death sentence. I will continue to hunt them. And I will destroy them."
"You could end this. A name. A number. A location. And it stops. The pain, all of the pain you've ever felt, we will stop it."
"You don't want to die. No person wants to die."
Shock. Silence. His throat couldn't respond.
"This is not a game, Killjoy."
He lifted his head, his mouth formed shapes. More curses, violent, the sort of stuff that Fun Ghoul said. But only a wet growling sound actually came out.
Korse inclined his head again. The Drac shocked him again, kept shocking him until the white behind his eyes blinked out into darkness.
A pattern developed. He decided that the visits from Korse and his honor guard were daily, which gave him a sense of the passing of time. Twice a day the suits with the plain masks, not Draculoids, brought him water. He kept his mouth shut firmly, refused to drink and they didn't force it. The sessions with Korse always ended the same way. Eventually his throat would give out from screaming and the Draculoid would shock him into a brief, but blessedly dreamless unconsciousness.
He dozed off when he was alone, a fitful half-sleep that was plagued by hopeful dreams and terrible nightmares. It was still easier than hanging there by his wrists, awake and thinking. Thinking was dangerous, thinking brought memories, memories of his friends, of his lover. Memories turned into fantasies, and fantasies brought only a pain that hurt more than electricity ever could.
The fourth time Korse attempted to wrest information, he was growing impatient. He snapped at the Draculoid with the prod to vary his points of attack, and Jet Star realized the perpetual pain in his side was a slowly worsening burn.
By the sixth time, his throat had stopped recovering properly, and his voice would give out at the first scream. It became a painful farce, and he had no reason to doubt that Korse was continuing this only to take sadistic pleasure in his pain.
The tenth time, there was no pretense, no questions, just unfathomable anger in Korse's eyes, and a glee that burned itself into Jet Star's mind as he passed out.
They came again with water that he refused. And again. And three more times without a visit from Korse in between. His voice came back in fits. He couldn't fall into his doze, so he whisper-sang snatches of old songs to keep himself from thinking. He sang his own eulogy, he confessed his sins to the unfeeling room, and he waited to die.
Then again came a man in a charcoal suit, nearly identical to the one that had first addressed him, but this one was flanked not by two but four Draculoids.
"The State has suspended our investigation of you. You have been determined as unfit to provide information."
He stared at the stranger, then bared his teeth and growled. It was primal and animalistic. It was exactly what Fun Ghoul would have done.
There was silence. "You have one more chance, Raymond."
"I'd rather die." His voice was less than a whisper, dry as a desert breeze.
"You have already been informed that we do not want you dead. You are scheduled for Reformation. It begins now."
He tensed when the Draculoids moved closer, expecting a shock that never came. One of them grabbed his hair, used it to pull back his head. Another forced gloved fingers into his mouth, and prised his jaw open with a single-minded intensity he couldn't dream to resist. A third approached with a cup. The liquid inside might have been water, but it was murky with God only knew how many drugs. The fourth Draculoid pinched his nose shut as the third poured the contents of the cup into his mouth. He could either swallow or drown, but in attempting to breathe in and end this nightmare on his own terms, his body rebelled, and he swallowed it all.
"You will fit in." The man said, gesturing with one hand. The Draculoids dispersed, then reconvened. One held a syringe, the other a simple pair of kitchen shears.
He tried to struggle, but his limbs were no longer responding to his commands. He cursed to high heaven and deep hell as the drugs in the syringe ravaged through his veins, and as the scissors began hacking into his hair, he fought until familiar unconsciousness took him.
When he woke, it took him a hazy moment to realize he was lying down. This cell was different. The walls were lighter, but the lights were dimmer. He wasn't bound, and he was dressed, such as it was, in a loose-fitting pair of drawstring pants. The burn on his side, which had spread to mar most of the area of his ribcage, had been treated and bandaged, the pain reduced to an uncomfortable but not unbearable tingle.
His hands slowly came back to him, and they discovered for him that his hair had been cut short, tight curls close to his head. A part of him raged at the indignation, but it was a small part that had been thoroughly beaten down.
He felt reasonable. He ought to be afraid, but he found he didn't have the motivation for such a complex emotion.
A voice came from seemingly nowhere, speakers he couldn't see.
"Remain on the ground when personnel enter your cell."
He found he didn't have the drive to disobey the command. A door opened, and a faceless man entered with a small tray bearing a bottle of water and a few slices of plain white bread. The tray was set beside him and the figure retreated. The voice from the speaker returned.
"It is customary to thank someone for their hospitality."
He struggled not to respond. He was Jet Star. He was a Killjoy. He would not be assimilated.
He expected punishment, but the stranger simply left without a word.
He ate and drank. It would be unreasonable not to.
The next time he was fed, the tray included a small paper cup holding two plain capsules.
"You will take the Medications. They are for your own good."
He thanked the stranger who brought in the food, and he took the pills. It would be unreasonable not to.
He sat up, almost eagerly when the door slid open, anticipating his meal. But it wasn't a friendly employee of Better Living standing in the doorway. It was Fun Ghoul, his chest heaving, his eyes wild, his raygun drawn.
He was confused. He'd almost forgotten how sure he was that they'd find him and save him.
"Oh, fuck." The voice was so familiar to him, it felt good, like a friend. Or maybe more than a friend, but it was hard to be sure. He smiled, even though he thought that a curse was an odd way to greet someone.
Fun Ghoul shook his head, blinked tears out of his eyes and held out his hand.
"Get up. We have to run. Now."
He stood up, and took Fun Ghoul's hand.
Better Living had perfected the Medication to make the human mind more susceptible to commands. They didn't prepare for the eventuality that one of those commands might come from an outside source. There weren't supposed to be outside sources anymore.
So he ran and he kept running as Kobra Kid joined them, because Fun Ghoul urged him on.
It would be unreasonable not to.
Chapter 2: Steady, Get In Line
The people up top push the people down low.
Frank's heart felt like it was going to explode in his chest. The Harley spun out and he watched Ray hit the ground on his feet and he waited for the Trans-Am to stop, he braced himself for a sharp U turn that would bring them around so he could grab Ray and then everything could go back to making sense.
The car didn't stop. The bikes that had been chasing them swarmed and circled around Ray, and he just stood there, he wasn't even fighting, and Frank started screaming. He didn't even know what he was saying, he didn't know how much of it made sense and how much of it was just desperate cursing. He just knew that Gerard, fuck-shit stupid mother fucker Gerard wasn't listening, and he didn't understand and when Frank tries to reach around the seat and throttle Gerard and make him turn the car around, Mikey's there instead, shoving Frank back into the back seat.
"We can't leave him." Frank realizes the damp feeling on his face isn't sweat but tears and he turns away from Mikey and rubs the salt away furiously. Mikey doesn't respond, just turns around to face forward. Gerard's teeth are set, determined, and Frank wants to kill him. Frank wants to kill both of them and take the car and go back.
He turns around in his seat, straining for a glimpse, but the desert has already swallowed Ray up.
In the end, all the planning they'd done, all the ways they'd covered, all the discussions they'd had were all moot. They'd been planning for more than two weeks, trying to cover every possible outcome of such a brazen mission, but in the end they had to throw it all to the wind and charge in without so much as a thought beyond find him and get him out, which was exactly what Frank had wanted since the day they'd taken him.
He finds out from a faceless mook what cell he's in and he kills it without hesitation, and he shoots down the guard at the door as he tries to run away. He can hear mayhem all around him, behind him, but he's singularly focused, sure that Mikey and Gerard will be fine. They have to be, they can't be so brazen as to die now. This mission isn't about them, it's about Ray.
Frank kicks in the door with a reserve of strength he didn't know he had, and there's Ray, sitting there just looking vacantly at him, smiling. Frank knows there's something wrong, but he can't think about it right now, because there's Ray, he found him, and now part two of the plan goes into effect, get him out.
He shrugs off his worry and his fear and the tears in his eyes and holds out his hand. "Get up. We have to run. Now."
Ray doesn't answer, he just stands up and takes Frank's hand, and even without his gloves, the grip is just the same, just right and Frank knows that whatever they did to him, they didn't change him completely, his Ray was still in there.
"Let's go." He says, and Ray is right there with him. He's only got pants on, no shoes, no gun, no protection at all, but he runs as though he hasn't a care in the world, his long strides making up for his almost casual pace.
Mikey comes out of a side hallway, firing again and again, and Frank catches a brief glimpse of a hallway littered with bodies that might or might not be corpses as they run past. "Come on," Frank passes his raygun to his left hand so he can take hold of Ray's hand with his right. Handicapping his shots is preferable to losing Ray's hand and maybe losing Ray. Never, ever again.
The car is waiting, Gerard's hanging out the window shooting down every Drac and mook that dares show their mask.
Frank pulls Ray into the back seat, and Mikey takes shotgun and takes over firing their cover for Gerard, who guns the engine and they shoot away, barelleling for the tunnel that will take them out of the City and back into the Zones, and the relative safety the desert provides.
"Keep your head down," Frank whispers into Ray's ear, and he doesn't think to find it odd that Ray does so without hesitation. He's just so glad they've got him back.
There's something wrong with Ray. Frank doesn't even realize it until they make it to the bunker they'd been using as a makeshift base. They all pile out of the car and Ray walks a few paces away and just sits down crosslegged in the sand. He's looking around, looking up at the sky and out at the dunes and he's got this distant smile on his face, like he's seeing and thinking about something else entirely.
Frank gets a good look at him now, at how short his hair is, how pathetic it looks when compared with his memories of Ray from only a month ago. He notices the shining scar on Ray's side and wonders what caused it, what had been done to him, what he'd survived.
He was probably just shell-shocked. Post-Traumatic Stress. The only problem with that was that it was Ray, and Ray just didn't get traumatized. He made hard decisions and he looked blood and bone in the face and just dealt with it.
Frank makes to move closer to Ray, but something holds him back, and he turns around with a snarl. It's Mikey, of course, holding onto his arm with a grip like he's trying to hold back flood waters. He's got his glove on and Frank wonders briefly if Mikey would dare use it on him. Frank doesn't know where Gerard is, probably off moping somewhere. He'd been moping an awful lot, and served him right. It hadn't been Frank's stupid fucking decision to leave Ray to the wolves, and then to put off rescuing him for the sake of fucking planning that had been a supreme waste of time anyway.
"What." He growls in an undertone. Mikey's eyes shoot to Ray, who hasn't moved since he sat down. It's been at least fifteen minutes, and he hadn't even shifted, just sat there with his hands in his lap, smiling at the world.
"Be careful, Frankie. We don't know what they did to him."
Frank would have shoved Mikey, maybe even punched him just to let him know how he feels about Mikey's advice, but he'd called him Frankie, and Mikey had been so fucking distant for so long, even before they lost Ray. So he pats Mikey on the arm before he pulls away. "I'm always careful."
"That's a lie," Mikey mumbles, but he doesn't make a move to stop Frank from going over to Ray.
Frank crouches down in front of Ray, tilts his head to try and catch Ray's vacant stare, reaching for his clasped hands. "Hey."
"Hello." Ray looks at him, and then takes his hands and squeezes them. Frank feels some kind of weight leave his chest. He's still Ray, even with short hair. He's just in shock. Shock goes away.
"They did a number on you." Frank says. It's not a question, and Ray doesn't answer. Frank shifts forward, falling into his knees. "I wanted to go back for you."
Ray smiles brightly, reaches up to touch Frank's hair thoughtfully. "That's very nice of you."
Frank swallows bile, he blinks and tears that he can't afford slip down his cheeks. This is Ray, his Ray, and they got him back but it's like he's not even in there, at least not on the surface. It hurts.
His voice is shaking when he speaks again. He needs to know that Ray remembers, remembers them, as a team, as a pair, as a couple. "I was scared. Scared I'd lost you forever. Ray."
Frank sees a moment's hesitation in Ray's eyes, a confused twist of his eyebrows, and then Ray shrugs and leans forward and presses his lips to Frank's.
He tastes oddly clean. Almost sterile. Not dusty and dry, not the musk and sweat Frank had learned to not just expect but appreciate. This thing he had with Ray, it never would have happened in the City. It never would have happened Before. But here, and now, as Killjoys, as desert-rebels, this was apparently the golden garden for the relationship they'd been skirting around for probably years.
Somewhere deep inside, Frank knows this is wrong. He knows that the City had done something to Ray, he knows that now is no more the time for this than any previous time had been. There was a reason he and Ray hadn't consummated their relationship, such as it was. Ray wasn't willing, Ray insisted that they didn't have the time to waste on something like that. And as much as Frank wanted it, he respected Ray too much to fight the issue, and made due with idle fantasy and the occasional rushed handjob, which was as far as Ray was ever willing to go.
Frank stands up, then offers both hands to Ray, who takes them, uses Frank's grip to pull himself to his feet.
Frank throws his arms around Ray, and Ray returns the hug with an awkward pat on the back. Frank stretches onto his tiptoes and whispers into Ray's ear. "Come inside with me."
Ray leans back a bit, looks into Frank's eyes and smiles. It's warmer than his previous smile had been, a little less vacant, a little more here. "Yes, alright."
Frank pulls Ray towards the bunker. Gerard is still in the car, focused intently on the steering wheel and Mikey looks after them reproachfully before shaking his head and climbing into the car to pull his brother into his arms and wipe away his tears.
It's dark in the bunker. Frank turns on one of the little electric lanterns, but he decides they don't need anything more than that. He pulls away from Ray and crouches down in the pile of salvaged blankets they'd rescued from any number of odd places. It passed for a bed when one of them wasn't at top form, was injured or ill or simply too tired to keep going.
Now it would pass for a bed. Frank turns around and stares at Ray, and Ray smiles back at him. Frank takes a deep breath, then reaches for Ray. "Come here."
Ray moves closer, then lowers himself onto his knees, his head tilting slowly to the side. Frank reached out and Ray responded, grasping Frank's arms with his hands. After a moment of just staring, Frank shifted back and shrugged out of his vest and pulled his shirt off over his head. He was suddenly frantic, needing this, needing it now. Ray blinked and his eyes went wide and he moved closer suddenly, his hands finding Frank's chest as though he'd never seen it before, as though he hadn't spent years dressing beside Frank in close quarters.
"So much color." Ray mumbles, and he sounds almost nervous as his hands find the ink under Frank's skin, his fingers trembling as the trace the shapes. Frank shakes under Ray's hands, then reaches up, his fingers sliding into Ray's close-cut curls and getting tangled there, and he tears Ray's eyes away from his chest, kissing him fiercely. He still tastes clean, only now it's enticing, exciting, Frank is driven to taste it and claim it as his own, to share the badge of honor and horror.
When the kiss breaks, Frank is panting and Ray is barely breathing, his eyes blink open and he's still staring at Frank's skin, not looking Frank in the eye. Frank takes the opportunity of silence to unbuckle his belt and shimmy out of his jeans. Ray's eyes go a little wide as they trace down Frank's torso and linger on the birds inked into his hips. He reaches one hand out, the fingers shaking, and presses down on the bird wearing horns. Frank's eyes close as a surge of excitement and anticipation runs through him, and then he's reaching for the drawstring holding up the pants Ray had been wearing when they rescued him.
Ray gasps when the dry air hits him, he goes still as a marble carving for a moment, his hands pull away from Frank abruptly and then he's cringing, his eyes screwed shut like he's anticipating something terrible and Frank's heart stops for a second, he doubts himself for just a second, but his arousal is too much to deny now. He reaches for Ray, takes his hands and Ray falls back into his blank stupor as quickly as anything, which isn't great but it's way better than him looking like he was waiting for Frank to hit him. "Hey, it's okay."
Ray looks him in the eye, and then his eyes find the ink on his neck and sweep downards again. "Yes, it is."
"Ray." Frank pulls Ray close again, lies back and with nowhere else to go and Frank's hands around his wrists, Ray falls on top of him. Their skin touches, more of it than ever had before, and it's electric and Frank's entire body shakes, and Ray's is shaking too, but it doesn't feel the same. Frank tries to ignore it, putting his hands in Ray's hair again, petting him gently, trying to coax him to look into his eyes, to calm down and enjoy this, and just because they never had time before didn't mean that they didn't have time right now. "Ray, I know, I know there's no... We don't have a condom, but... But it'll be okay, right?"
Ray shifts a little, and as though by sheer accident, their dicks brush against one another and Frank gasps, and Ray gasps too, and now Ray's getting hard, as quick and easy as that, and if he wasn't sure before, now Frank is very sure that everything is going to be fine, that Ray wants this as much as Frank has been dreaming. "Yes, it will."
Frank throws his arms around Ray's neck and shifts, bending his knees on either side of Ray's waist, lifting his hips and anticipating the one thing he'd been fantasizing about for literally months. "Please, please do it."
Ray glances towards his eyes before they're drawn right back down towards the scorpion on his neck. "Alright." And he drives forward.
Frank's back arches with pleasure. Maybe it's wrong, because Ray had certainly not bothered to prepare Frank at all, and he hadn't bothered with anything even resembling lubrication, and that was incredibly out of character for gentle, careful Ray, but it was exactly how Frank expected desert rebel sex to be, it was exactly what he wanted, and judging by the soft sound Ray makes, it's exactly what Ray wanted too. He throws his head back and he screams, because for every inch that it hurts, it feels amazing for a mile.
Ray sets a steady rhythm, and that's enough for Frank, who rolls his hips in time with Ray's thrusts, coaxing Ray deeper, further, until Ray completely inadvertantly finds Frank's prostate. That's when Frank stiffens and holds his position as best he can, so each one of Ray's thrusts, which never very, hit him right there where he wants it. It's beautiful and amazing, and Frank stares into Ray's face even though Ray's eyes are tightly shut, like he's focusing with his entire being on this one action, like if he tries to take in any more of it he'll come apart.
It's good enough. Frank keeps one hand on Ray's cheek while the other snakes between their bodies. He grabs himself roughly and jerks hard and fast, matching the rhyhm Ray's set perfectly.
And then on one particular thrust, Ray holds his breath, and Frank lets his out with a long moan that turns into a scream at the end, because Ray's coming, and Frank is coming, and it's hot and slick, sticky and dirty and Frank is so happy he could just explode, which is technically exactly what he's doing.
Ray stops moving almost immediately as soon as he comes, and he slips out of Frank and for a second Frank feels like this sudden emptiness is the end of the world. Then he remembers who he is, where he is, what he's doing, and who he's with, and he looks up at Ray, who has pulled back to sit in the pile of blankets looking downcast, and Frank bursts into pathetic pansy-ass tears at the sight.
"No." He whimpers, reaching for Ray and pulling him close, pulling him into a hug and rolling over so Ray's on his back and Frank's lying on top of him with his head pressed to Ray's chest, and his heart is still beating, he still smells like Ray, and he's starting to smell more like Jet Star again. "Please, it's okay."
One of Ray's hands moves to tuck Frank's tangled and sweaty hair behind his ear, to brush Frank's tears away, almost absently, like it's simply the best possible reaction to have. "Don't cry."
"You looked upset. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Ray. Please..."
Ray considers Frank's face for a long moment, his fingers still brushing Frank's tears off his cheeks. "It's okay." Ray's voice sounds vacant, but Frank clings to the words with a feeble hope, purposefully igorning the tone.
"It... It was good, right?" Frank asks in a whisper. Ray smiles at him blankly and pets his hair.
"It was very nice."
Chapter 3: When the Guns Unload
Spinning everything outta control.
Three days after they rescue him, there hasn't been in any change in Ray. Frank has himself convinced that everything is fine, that Ray just needs time. Gerard still feels guilty about letting this happen to Ray in the first place, so he does the not-at-all-logical thing and avoids Ray completely, which leaves Mikey, but there's no headway there either. When Mikey tries to talk to him about what happened while he was in the City, Ray turns cheerful, unnaturally so. He informs Mikey that they were very kind, that he'd been well fed and that maybe they should go back.
"It was very dangerous, what we did." He says. "I think you hurt some people." Mikey wants to hit him, but he restrains the impulse, because that's definitely not going to fix anything. When he tries to push, to ask Ray what happened right after the Draculoids first picked him up, he shuts down, gets evasive, tells Mikey that he doesn't remember.
"You didn't get that scar from being well fed."
"It's not important. Honestly, Michael."
He called him Michael. It didn't come up with any of the others, Frank was Frank and Gerard was Gerard, and it might be a little odd that he had stopped calling them by their codenames even when it would have made more sense, but Frank had hand-waved that too, insisting that Ray was just wanting to feel like they were real. It had been an ordeal, obviously, and Mikey was being completely unfeeling with his harassing Ray all the time.
But Mikey was the one trying to bring Ray back to them, not just his body but his personality, the real Ray that is obviously not here right now, standing there in the plainest clothes they could piece together, because Ray got seriously agitated when they tried to put him in something a little more... Killjoy. Not that he had gotten properly upset about anything for the past three days, but when Mikey offered him a bright blue shirt Ray started pacing and said No, thank you about sixty times until Mikey finally put the damn thing away.
That first night had been one thing, and Mikey had made the executive decision that he needed to comfort Gerard, who was taking this whole thing a little harder than Mikey anticipated. He knows how guilty Gerard feels and he also knows that Gerard won't hear a single word about how it was the right decision.
But now that time was passing and Ray was still acting out of sorts, Mikey had made it his primary goal for this moment of his life to fix Ray, whatever it took. If just for Gerard's peace of mind, because once Ray is himself again, Gerard will be able to come to terms with what happened (and not even to him) and move on and they can just go back to being the Killjoys.
It was all very fucked up.
The most fucked up part was that the first night hadn't been the end of it. Mikey had given Frank the benefit of the doubt. He knew Frank cared about Ray deeply, maybe too deeply for the current world climate, but Frank could be very selfish. What he wanted, he strove to get. And in this case, what he wanted was Ray. So as much as Mikey hoped that Frank and Ray had only gone into the bunker so Frank could comfort Ray after his ordeal in peace, that hope is completely dashed when it keeps happening. Every night, Frank takes Ray's hand and says something quietly into his ear and Ray follows Frank into the bunker and they don't come out for at least an hour.
Mikey knows what they're doing now, it's incredibly obvious. The problem is that Ray is not Ray, Ray is some pleasant and reasonable person who does pretty much anything Mikey asks, except for answer him honestly. Mikey wonders how much of this is Ray blocking out what had happened to him, and how much of it was actively caused by what had happened to him. What was a memory he refused to remember, and what was a memory he'd been forced to forget.
He decides on a new tactic that fourth morning. He asks Ray to come with him on a short drive, and Ray seems excited, or at least as excited as he gets right now, at the idea. Mikey feels bad, because he thinks that maybe Ray thinks he's taking him back to the City so he can apologize for the mayhem his escape caused.
Gerard had finally left the car and spent most of his time out in the Zone on foot, head on, hiding from the rest of them. Frank was in the bunker, presumably dozing. Or whatever, Mikey didn't particularly care what Frank was doing, because for as much as Frank thought these past few days had been about taking care of Ray, Mikey knew that Frank was more concerned, as ever, with himself.
The question was, just how far had Frank been going, how far did he plan on going.
Mikey drove. He didn't drive the Trans-Am often, but he wasn't about to let Ray drive them both into the hands of the City. Ray just stared out the window, smiling that way he did. It was beginning to get unnerving, it made Mikey uncomfortable, and he just wanted to figure out a way to fix this.
Mikey parked the car somewhere out in the middle of the Zone, somewhere where they couldn't be snuck up on. It's off the road and in the middle of a wide expanse with no trees, no signs, no fences. Just the two of them in the Trans-Am. Ray turns to look at Mikey and Mikey reaches to touch his arm. Ray twitches, almost imperceptibly when Mikey moves towards him, and Mikey pulls his hand back immediately. He's not sure how much Frank has been pushing when Ray has these moments of nervousness, which are so obvious he might as well be screaming in abject terror, when compared with the stoic expression he's been wearing all the rest of the time since they got him out of the City. But Mikey is not as stupid and foolhardy as Frank, so he pulls back and lets Ray come back to himself before he pushes it again.
"Ray, can I ask you something?"
"Of course, Michael, that's just fine."
The matter-of-fact tone Ray is using creeps Mikey out big time but he shrugs it aside and plunges right ahead with it.
"What do you and Frank do?"
Ray tilted his head slightly. Mikey could swear his hair is already growing out, especially when he runs a hand through it. It reminds him so much of the old Ray that Mikey's heart thumps particularly hard in his chest. "What do you mean?"
"I mean when he takes you into the bunker. What are you doing?"
"We're having sex."
Mikey nods, because this is exactly what he suspected, but at the same time he cringes, because a month ago he never would have imagined shy prudish Ray to say something so blunt. Hell, he never would have imagined Ray giving in to Frank's constant requests.
"Okay. But, Ray, do you... I mean, do you want to?"
"Oh, it's alright. Frank wants to, you know, and he enjoys it so much."
Mikey shakes his head this time, he reaches for Ray again and this time Ray isn't paying attention so he doesn't jump and Mikey manages to take his hand. "Ray, I don't care about what Frank wants. I'm asking about you, you understand?"
Ray didn't answer, he just looked confused and very lost, and for the first time Mikey's heart legitimately ached for someone other than his brother.
Ray perked up, he turned and put his arms around Mikey, and Mikey had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that this was a response that Frank had conditioned into him. "Don't cry, Michael, it's alright."
Frank came storming up to them when they returned, slamming his hands onto the hood of the car as soon as it rolled to a stop. He was glaring murder and death at Mikey, but Mikey wasn't in the mood to deal with Frank's bullshit right now. He gets out of the car and Ray follows suit.
Mikey feels awful about what he does next, but he needs to talk to Frank alone, so he turns to Ray and smiles at him as encouragingly as he can. "Ray, could you go into the bunker for me, get my bandana?"
"Sure thing, Michael." Ray doesn't bother asking for clarification on where it might be, which Mikey had been banking on, since it was hidden away in the same odd corner of the bunker where he'd hidden the blue shirt. Mikey hoped his conversation with Frank would be over by the time Ray found it.
Frank glares at Mikey as Ray walks away from them and lowers himself into the bunker. And as soon as Ray's out of sight, Frank moves to shove Mikey hard. Mikey catches Frank's arms by the wrist before Frank can hit him, and Frank struggles against Mikey's surprisingly strong grip. Mikey's flush with focus and determination and righteousness, because he needs to stop everything right now, set it all right until Ray is better. Until Ray is one of them again.
"What were you fucking thinking?" Frank snaps at Mikey, pulling his arms away. Mikey determines that Frank isn't trying to hit him anymore, so he lets go and Frank almost falls over he'd been struggling so hard to escape. "Why would you just take off with him? I almost had a fucking heart attack."
"Frank." Mikey says quietly, trying to undercut his fury before he gets going too hard. Frank could be unstoppable sometimes. "I need to talk to you."
"You're unbelievable, Mikey. I've told you how many times to stop harassing him. He's in shock, and you just keep pushing him to reminisce about what was probably the most horrific part of his life."
Mikey shakes his head, waits for Frank to shut up for a second before he starts speaking again. "You need to stop what you're doing to him."
Frank hesitated for a fraction of a second, his eyes shifting from side to side once, like he was hiding something. Mikey's stomach twisted. He had really, honestly hoped that it was entirely innocent on Frank's part, but now he's not so sure.
"I don't know what you mean. I'm not the one bugging him every waking moment to tell me all about how he was tortured and mind-fucked."
"Was he?" Mikey asks suddenly, glancing nervously towards the bunker, because he really doesn't want Ray to come out right now, and then glancing nervously around the rest of their immediate area because as worried as he is about Gerard spending so much time alone, he's even more worried that Gerard will walk up and hear this conversation, and he wouldn't take it well, Mikey knows he wouldn't.
"Was he what?"
"Tortured. Mind-fucked. He hasn't told me anything like that, but if he's opening up to you, then far be it from me, obviously I've got it all wrong and I'll shut up and go about my business."
It's a risky gamble, but it pays off when Frank sighs, the fight going out of him, though Mikey knows it won't be for long. It never is for long. "No. He hasn't told me anything, it's just... It's obvious, isn't it? What else would they do to him? How else would he get that scar?"
Mikey shrugs slightly, gesturing for Frank to join him in sitting on the hood of the Trans-Am. Frank hesitates, but then he does, perching nervously like he's ready to take flight.
"I don't know, Frankie, but I think... I think there's more going on here than just the after-effects of torture."
Mikey shrugs again, though he gives Frank a serious look that he hopes Frank takes seriously. "Like drugs, maybe? The drugs they dole out to everyone in that place?"
Frank takes a shaky breath, avoids Mikey's eyes purposefully.
"Haven't you noticed how... How agreeable he is? How reasonable? How he doesn't argue?"
Frank shrugs. Mikey catches the way Frank's eyes are darting around, and also how they're edged with tears. He sighs softly and touches Frank's shoulder. "Frank. He told me you're having sex."
Frank smacks Mikey's hand away and stands up suddenly, moving a few paces away before he turns to face Mikey again, seething, his fists clenched at his sides. "It's none of your fucking business what me and my b-boyfriend do, Mikey."
Mikey stares back at Frank, stoic, serious, firm. He has to be, because the next thing he's going to say is going to end very badly, he can feel it.
"Does he want to, Frank?"
Frank tosses his hair out of his eyes, he huffs like an angry cat, the muscles in his arms twitch like he's fighting with all his might not to stride over and punch Mikey square in the face. "He fucks me, for your information, so I'd say yes. He fucking wants to."
Mikey shakes his head, looks down at the ground. "I don't think so."
"Well, I think you're a stupid, nosy, annoying mother fucker and maybe you should stick to worrying about your fuck-shit brother and stay out of my fucking affairs."
"Just stay out of it, Mikey!"
"Frankie, please, just..."
"What do you fucking care, anyway, you've got Gerard, like that's not fucked up-"
"You're raping him!" Mikey finally snaps. Frank had made it personal, and besides, it was the truth.
Frank clears the distance between them in a heartbeat and his fist connects with Mikey's cheek hard enough, sudden enough that Mikey's teeth clench and cut a nice slice inside his cheek and his mouth fills with blood, but before he can spit it at Frank for being such a stupid fucker, Frank is gone, running hard and fast towards the horizon.
Frank comes back, he even comes back before the sun sets. Mikey had been worried about him, just like he'd been worried about Gerard, out on his own every night, and every day, and all the time pretty much, except for the blessed parts of hours when he shows up, somehow knowing that Frank and Ray are in the bunker.
He heads right for the bunker, and as he goes he passes Ray and he leans down and whispers into his ear and Ray gets up immediately and makes to follow Frank into the bunker.
Mikey can't handle this. He can't have this staring him right in the face. It's dirty and it's wrong and it makes him feel sick just knowing about it. He runs after them, and he grabs Ray's wrist and pulls him away from Frank.
Ray stops and turns to face Mikey, smiling sweetly as he ever does. He even inclines his head a bit, moving his free hand to touch Mikey's shoulder. "What's wrong, Michael?"
Mikey shoots a glance at Frank, who's glaring daggers at him. Mikey runs his tongue over the cut inside his mouth to remind him of why he's doing this. Now it's not just Ray that needs help, now it's Frank too. And typically if one of them needed help, he'd go to the other, but that wasn't an option now, and Gerard was still all kinds of AWOL, so Mikey grits his teeth and takes his place as the de facto second in command.
"Don't go down there with him." He says to Ray, but he's looking at Frank, who snarls.
"I don't mind!" Ray says brightly, looking almost frantically between Frank and Mikey. Mikey is beginning to piece together what's going on in Ray's mind, and he feels terrible because he knows the anger that he and Frank are both showing is agitating to Ray. He's beginning to figure out that Ray would do just about anything to make sure they all stayed copacetic and chilled out and happy.
"I mind, Ray. You can't keep doing this, you have to think about yourself."
Frank's anger is slowly melting away into frustrated tears, and Mikey's heart feels like it's going to beat itself into its four separate chambers and just flood his chest and he thinks that might be preferable at the moment.
"Ray." Frank says softly, and Mikey grits his teeth. "Ray, I love you."
Ray turned to look at Frank. "I love you too, Frank."
Mikey shook his head, rocked back on his heels but he didn't let go of Ray's hand. "Ray, please. Why are you saying that?"
"I do!" He insists, reaching out with his free hand for Frank's. Frank takes it, but before he grips Mikey notices how his fingers are shaking.
"Frank," Mikey says softly. "Frankie, just. Think about him for a second. Please."
Ray looks back and forth between them again, and he seems to be relaxing a bit. Mikey squeezes Ray's hand hard.
"Ray, do you... Do you want to come down to the bunker with me?" Frank's voice sounds frightened, though if he's afraid of the question he's asking, or the answer he wants, or the answer he thinks he's going to get is unclear.
Mikey tugs on Ray's hand, and Ray looks around at him, looking lost and torn again, like he had in the car back in the desert. "Ray, would you like to stay the night out here?"
"That would be fine." Ray nods and looks back at Frank for confirmation.
Frank blinks and tears run down his face, creating tracks in the dust and grime on his cheeks. He looks at Ray, and then he looks at Mikey, and then, mercifully, he pulls away when Ray reaches for him, reaches for the tears on his cheeks.
"No, Ray. That's fine. I'm going to sleep in the car." Frank pulls away from both abruptly and trip-runs towards the Trans-Am. He climbs into the back seat and the door slams after him, and Mikey can hear him crying and raging.
"I should go, he shouldn't be so upset."
Mikey took a deep breath, took both of Ray's hands and held tight to them, moving till he got Ray to look into his eyes. "Sometimes people are upset, Ray. And that's okay. We're going to worry about you right now. Okay?"
Chapter 4: Exactly Where I'm At
Somewhere in between the kick and the hi-hat.
Gerard wasn't patrolling. He has a thought that maybe he should feel bad for lying to Mikey, but then he remembers that he never told Mikey where he was going, and further, Mikey never asked.
He wasn't going far, but without the car it was still a long walk to the stretch of desolate road where their chase had come to an end. The wind has long since done away with any marks in the sand, but the Harley is still there on its side, and Ray's helmet is still sitting there, upside down, slowly filling with sand.
Gerard makes it this far and then he sits down and he smokes a cigarette, which is stupid and selfish and foolhardy and any number of extra negative emotions, but Gerard does it anyway. He sits there, and he smokes his cigarette, and he looks at the evidence of the stupidest decision he's ever made. The monuments to his being a shitty leader and a terrible friend.
He's dwelling. He knows, on some level, that it's not healthy, and that the smart and sensible thing to do would be to go back and help Mikey, who was obviously struggling to make sense of all of this.
He does go back occasionally, and he creeps around the outskirts of their little compound, listening for the signs that Frank and Ray are otherwise occupied before he goes to Mikey, pretending like he's just coming back.
Mikey tells him some of what is going on. Some of it he over-hears. Guilt gnaws away at him, bores holes in his stomach and his heart and his lungs.
"I really wish you'd just talk to him." Mikey says one night. Gerard's sitting up, leaning against the Trans-Am, and he has Mikey's head in his lap, he's stroking Mikey's hair while Mikey stares at the bunker, like he's waiting for something, a cat hunting a mouse.
"Either of them. You're the leader, G."
Gerard shrugs and looks away. "I never wanted to be."
Mikey sighs. "But you are. That's all there is to it."
Gerard keeps touching Mikey's hair. He doesn't feel any better for it, but maybe Mikey will. Maybe he can still do right by Mikey, even though he got Ray fucking abducted and now he's all strung out on City bullshit, and even though he gave Frank a fucking complex and a half and now he's apparently a goddamn rapist.
Gerard's pretty sure there's no coming back from this, and he wonders if maybe it wouldn't have been better to leave Ray in the City, where he'd been obviously, if obliviously, happy. That thought makes him feel guilty all over again, and he pushes Mikey gently up out of his lap when the bunker opens, climbing to his feet and walking very quickly away. He can hear Mikey sigh behind him, hit the car with annoyance, but Gerard's not ready. Maybe it's selfish, but he just can't deal with this yet.
A few days later, Gerard has started to linger longer, hang around even when Ray and Frank are milling about. He stays in the car mostly, under the pretense of cleaning and repairing it. He tells himself he's re-acclimating to being in the company of all three of them. It's a step, a tiny stupid baby step but a step all the same, and he's going to take it.
Gerard's there the day it starts. Mikey, completely on reflex and totally innocently, asks Ray to hand him a wrench that's lying just out of his reach while he works on the car.
Mikey literally drops what he's doing, which crashes to the ground and makes for what will be a lot more work later, and he turns around and stares up at Ray, and Gerard peeks out of the window nervously, because this could be what they'd all be waiting for, whether they knew it or not.
Ray's just standing there, looking shocked, like he was surprised at his own daring. His hands drift together and he clasps them, his knuckles popping softly.
"Ray?" Mikey asks softly, and he stands up slowly, reaching a greasy hand for Ray's shoulder.
"No!" Ray takes a stumbling step back, his hands flying apart and out, like he's trying to ward Mikey off. His eyes are wild, darting around with more purpose than they'd had at all in the week since they'd rescued him. He looks trapped and scared, and Mikey stops moving towards him, but he keeps backing away.
Frank comes out of the bunker and looks at the scene with one eyebrow lifted in an expression that could be interpreted as annoyance as easily as curiosity. "What's going on?"
Ray spins to face him, breathes out suddenly, and then Ray turns tail and runs, runs right to the bunker and he lowers himself inside and closes it behind himself, and Frank turns on Mikey.
"What did you do?"
Mikey glances back at Gerard like he expects back-up, and Gerard just shrugs.
"Nothing. I just asked him to hand me something."
Frank scowls, but Mikey's obviously telling the truth so he doesn't push it.
Ray comes out of the bunker fifteen minutes later, and he's all blank smiles again, apologizing for how he reacted, but Mikey doesn't say a word, he just climbs into the car and sits beside Gerard and puts his head in his hands.
Gerard puts his hand on Mikey's shoulder and rubs and speaks to him in and undertone. "What's wrong?"
"He was afraid of that shirt five days ago."
Gerard looks out at where Frank and Ray are just sitting, they're holding hands but there doesn't seem to be anything sinister about it. Ray's wearing a bright blue shirt that Gerard doesn't even recognize it had gone unclaimed so long.
Ray takes to spending a lot of time alone in the bunker. Any time Frank or Mikey tries to go with him he gets agitated, wringing his hands together and asking them to please respect his wishes to be alone, and he's got that same reasonable tone of voice, but he's obviously nervous, showing emotion so neither of them push it.
They have a meeting, one of these times. It's the first time they've sat down together since they'd rescued Ray. Frank is silent, his arms crossed over his chest, hunched in himself like he's trying to make himself seem smaller than he actually is. Mikey's doing most of the talking.
"I think it was drugs. We know they shell that shit out to everyone. It did something to him, and it built up in his blood or whatever."
"So what's going on now?" Gerard asks, feeling for the first time like he needs to be a leader again.
"Detox? Or, I don't know, however you want to put it. The drugs are burning out of his system, he's getting clear again."
"He's coming back?" Frank asks softly, hopefully, but at the same time with a note of sadness that makes Gerard want to smack him. Fuck, Frank could be so selfish sometimes.
"I think so." Mikey glances back towards the closed bunker. "I hope so."
"So what do we do?"
Mikey shrugged. "I guess we ride it out. Try to be here for him when he needs it."
Frank and Gerard exchange a glance, and Gerard's glad to see determination there. Frank was selfish, but he was also pretty full of love.
They both nod.
Gerard was head-and-shoulders inside the Trans-Am, trying to fish out a tool he'd dropped into the dark underbelly of the internal combustion engine. He had a feeling just leaving it there would be stupid. He pulls out a little, turning to look over his shoulder. It's Ray standing there, and Gerard's heart does a little tap dance because Ray's wearing a holster at his side. It has one of the white BL/ind guns Mikey collected off their kills in it, because of course they'd confiscated Ray's own when they'd captured him.
"What's up?" Gerard asks cautiously. Ray has a glint in his eyes, something serious. It's pretty intense to see Ray looking like that, after getting used to his blank stare, but Gerard takes it as a good sign.
"Could we go on a drive? Just you and I?"
It takes Gerard a second to track on the fact that Ray is asking him to do something. As far as Gerard knew, it was the first actual request Ray had made for himself since the rescue.
"Yes." He nods and dives back into the engine, his purpose renewed he retrieves the tool as easily as if with mere thought, and he tosses it on the ground before slamming the hood back down. "Yeah, I'd like that."
Ray took the passenger seat, so Gerard climbed behind the wheel and started the car. It roared and Ray flinched slightly, but he didn't say anything so Gerard shot off into the desert.
"Did you want to go anywhere in particular?"
Ray was staring out the window. He didn't turn around when Gerard asked the question, just spoke in a soft voice that was familiar to Gerard only from a much more distant memory. "Where they got me." Is all he says, and Gerard knows exactly what he means. He'd only been there himself every day for the past few weeks.
Nothing's changed, nothing changes at all there from day-to-day and Gerard takes it as a good sign that the Draculoids hadn't bothered to come back, clean up, confiscate the bike.
Ray gets out of the car almost before it's stopped moving, and he walks over to his helmet and he crouches down and just looks at it. Gerard stays in the car for a moment, then he decides that if he's going to have to be the leader, he might as well do it now, where there's only Ray to judge him. He climbs out of the car and walks closer to Ray, who doesn't jump or start when Gerard walks right up to him, and he only jerks a bit, with a perfectly reasonable surprise when Gerard touches his shoulder.
Ray sits back in the dirt, and he looks up at Gerard and he looks so lost for a second, so completely lost and alone, and Gerard falls right to his knees and puts his arms around Ray and hugs him hard, like he's trying to crack ribs.
"Ray, I'm sorry. I never should have let them take you. We should have gone back."
"No." Ray shook his head and he put his arms around Gerard, and somehow Gerard knew that Ray wasn't just saying this so Gerard wouldn't be upset. He really meant it, maybe more than he meant anything he'd said in the past month. "No, you shouldn't have. Because then we'd all be like this. No one would have come to rescue us."
"We could have fought."
"We would have died." Ray says this so simply, so matter-of-fact that Gerard doesn't have it in him to argue. "You did what was right for the group, at the expense of one. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It's like chess."
"I never played chess." Gerard realizes he's crying, not sobbing or choking, just silent tears making his cheeks damp. Ray doesn't seem to notice, or if he does, he's restraining himself from wiping the tears away. He's making his own choice, and Gerard's heart swells.
"Well, it's like Magic, then. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices."
Gerard actually laughs at this, and it's short and it tears at his throat, but it feels so good. "Sac cards are some of my favorites." Ray laughs too, his quiet chuckle, and they sit there for a while, just hugging and existing completely together.
After a while Gerard pulls back, he looks at Ray's face and he sees the light in Ray's eyes, and he knows that whatever drugs had been lingering in his system were almost completely gone. That he was Ray again.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Ray shook his head slowly. "Not really. I could, but it's. It's not worth dwelling. It's over now."
They lapse into silence again, which Gerard against feels the need to break. "What about Frank?"
Ray sighs softly. "That is the question, isn't it?"
When they finally get up, their legs all pins-and-needles from sitting on them for so long, Ray picks up his helmet and dumps the sand out. He puts it on and suddenly he's Jet Star again, just as simple as that, even without his coat, or his signature blue ray gun. He moves to the Harley where it lie abandoned in the dirt, lifts it back onto its wheels and straddles it.
Gerard drives home, or back to what passes for home anyway, and the Harley's roaring along behind him, and everything feels right, for a little while, at least.
Frank and Mikey had just been sitting down outside, by the time Gerard pulled close enough, he noticed that Mikey was holding a nearly spent cigarette, and he figured they'd been sharing it. Probably commiserating.
Frank scrambled to his feet when he noticed the bike, when he noticed Ray on the bike, and he sort of shook where he stood, like he was having a grand internal debate about whether he wanted to move closer or stay where he is or run as far as he possibly could the other direction.
Ray parked the bike, and took off his helmet, and he handed it to Gerard, who took it and they exchanged a quiet look that spoke volumes of the time they'd shared, the silent conclusions they'd come to.
"Mikey, c'mere." Gerard gestured with his shoulder, and Mikey stood up slowly, tossing the smoldering end of the cigarette down and crushing it out with his boot. Ray and Mikey crossed along the way and Ray reached out to grab Mikey's wrist with a squeeze. Mikey hesitates, almost says something, but Gerard shakes his head almost imperceptibly and so Mikey keeps going.
Gerard puts an arm around Mikey's shoulders when he comes closer, tilts his head and nuzzles Mikey's neck.
"He's back?" Mikey asks in a whisper. Gerard nods, and leads Mikey to the car, so Frank and Ray can have some privacy.
Ray stops when he gets close to Frank, and Frank can't meet his eyes, he can't even look at his face. Ray just stands there for a second and Frank seriously considers running away and never facing this head on.
Finally, he swallows, and Ray shifts slightly, like he was just waiting Frank out, waiting for Frank to make the first move.
Ray nods, like this was what he was expecting. "Sorry for what?" There's barely restrained emotion in Ray's voice, and it sounds so different from how it had for the past few weeks, so much more like Ray, and Frank silently berates himself for ever having convinced himself that Ray was okay. Now, confronted with the real Ray, the Ray he'd fallen in love with, it was so obvious how not okay he'd been.
"For. For not going back for you."
Ray shifts, his hands slide into his pockets and he hunches his shoulders, and Frank's mouth goes dry, because the next part is going to be a lot harder to say, a lot harder to admit, and a lot harder for Ray to forgive him for.
"For taking advantage of you."
Frank took a deep breath to calm himself, closing his eyes so his tears don't betray him. "I'll understand if you... If you don't..."
Frank's entire body shudders when Ray's arms wrap around him, one hand splayed on his back and the other in his hair, and Frank's face is pressed to Ray's neck and he smells like Jet Star, he smells like a Killjoy, and Frank can't stop breathing him in.
"I forgive you." Ray's voice is soft, his lips making the hair near Frank's ear twitch and tickle, and Frank takes another deep breath but all it does is make his head swim with the smell and presence of Ray holding him. His arms wrap around Ray in return, but only so he has something to hold onto, something to anchor him, to keep him grounded.
"I was wrong." Frank whispers into Ray's chest.
"It was a mistake."
They pull apart, just far enough apart that Ray can look at Frank's face, and Frank forces himself to look right back. Ray deserves everything Frank can give him now, after everything that Frank had been taking.
"So you don't... You're not..."
Ray shrugged. "Life's too short to be angry. Not over this. Not at you. We were friends, brothers before we were ever anything more."
Frank tore his gaze away from Ray's eyes, looked past him towards the sky. His eyes sting with unshed tears, but he'll be goddamned if he'll let them fall now.
"So, you and me?"
Ray gave Frank a little squeeze and then pulled away. Not in a hasty way, not in a rush to get out of Frank's arms. Just an easy parting motion, every bit his own decision. "We'll just take it slow."
Frank feels a little like his legs are going to give out. His knees go weak for a second, and then Ray's moved a few steps away, he's looking over his shoulder at Frank and smiling at him, and it's like the sun is rising in a clean sky. "You wanna go for a ride?"
Frank's legs come back to him and he jogs to catch up with Ray's long strides towards the bike. As he gets closer, he reaches out, and Ray's hand meets his half-way.
In the Trans-Am, Mikey and Gerard watch Ray straddle the Harley, watch Frank climb on behind him and snake his arms around Ray's middle, watch them drive off into the sunset. Mikey leans his head on Gerard's shoulder and pokes him in the side with his finger.
"I told you everything would be fine if you just talked to him."
"I had nothing to do with it. The drugs, Mikey?"
Gerard decided not to argue the point. "Let's go for a drive."