Gabe figures it must be serious when they don't tell anyone. A serious joke or serious for real, he hasn't managed to decide, but living on a tour bus, in spaces like matchboxes, it's hard to keep anything a secret for long and it's usually easier - and less painful in the long run - just to get it off your chest right away.
But he and Alex wake up, hangovers beating at their heads, disentangle their bodies and roll to opposite sides of the bed. Gabe looks down at his hand, because there's something unfamiliar there. Then he looks over at Alex, who looks back, and they agree not to mention it without saying a single word at all.
In the bathroom, Gabe moves the ring to a different finger.
Alex's is still on his hand when he looks next, also moved, but still there. Gabe is still trying to remember how it happened. Presumably there was a lot of pot and booze involved, as there usually was whenever they decided to take their clothes off together, whenever Gabe would give up enough control to give himself over. He thinks he remembers saying I need you. He's not sure.
He corners Alex on the bus before everyone else gets on and Alex presses his face to Gabe's neck, just breathing, and Gabe slides his hands down over Alex's hips and thinks fuck, fuckfuckfuck, this is for real.
Life goes on, almost the same as normal. There's a girl in Indianapolis, girls in Baltimore and Boston, but he doesn't sleep with any of them. Instead, he writes lyrics and plays MarioKart with Ryland. He chases Gizmo back and forth, he does tequila shots with Nate and Victoria (she drinks them under the table). And most nights he falls asleep in the lounge and wakes up with crap piled on top of him, like socks and empty microwave popcorn bags and sticky Red Bull cans. But sometimes he falls asleep, surfaces with Alex wrapped around him and this would almost be normal too, if not for the rings on their hands and the fact that this time Gabe is completely sober and nuzzling at Alex's neck to wake him up. "Alex," he whispers. "Alex."
"Shut up, 'm sleeping," is the response.
"You're not sleeping if you're talking, bro," Gabe says, and resists the urge to put his hand down Alex's pants. Instead, he licks Alex's earlobe. "Alex."
"I'll still be here in the morning," Alex whispers, and rubs his shoulder. "Go back to sleep."
Gabe takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and finds it's easier to fall asleep when he's not alone.
They're doing two nights in Chicago, which means the luxury of a hotel room and Alex slipping a key into his pocket in the elevator. "We're in the same room?" Gabe asks, and Alex nods. "Sweet! High-five!"
Alex slaps his hand and grins. "You, Gabriel, are such a dork that in the dictionary? Your picture is the only definition they have."
"I'm down with that," Gabe replies. "What are we doing tonight?"
"Ryland's got this club he found on the internet he wants to check out, but I'm staying in. I plan on getting more than four hours of sleep for the first time in..." Alex scrunches up his face, thinking. "Two months? I think. Anyway, Ry said that if you're game, you should meet him in the lobby in twenty minutes."
The drive from the venue to the hotel was just long enough that most of the adrenaline has worn off, and Gabe knows all about the clubs Ryland finds on the internet, so his reply is almost immediate. "Sleep sounds better."
The shower is hot and he's tempted to just fall asleep right in the tub with the water beating down on him, but before he can think seriously about how to best curl up and close his eyes, the curtain's being shoved aside and Alex is standing there. "Dude, why are you still dressed?" Gabe asks, as if it's a travesty that Alex is imposing on his shower without climbing into it with him.
"I figured it out," Alex says, running his fingers through his hair.
"Figured what out?" Gabe asks, and moves so the water stops running into his eyes.
"We never got married." Alex makes a gesture that Gabe can't quite decipher but involves throwing his arms partially into the air. "The thing we thought was a marriage certificate? It's fucking fake."
"Oh," Gabe says, because what else can he say? He would ask how Alex came to the conclusion that the paper was fake, but there's still another piece to this puzzle. "Then what about-"
"I found the receipts, so I'm pretty sure we bought them. We were fucking stoned that night, dude."
Gabe definitely remembers getting wasted. Being wasted? Not so much. That was how fucked up he'd been, apparently. He looks at Alex, steam billowing between them. Alex is still wearing his ring. "Then why the fuck did we leave them on?" he asks, half hoping the question will be drowned out by the noise of the spray. Alex says nothing, just looks down at his hands, like he's waiting for Gabe to answer first.
He reaches out, grabs Alex's sweatshirt, and pulls him clothes and all into the shower. "Hey, what," Alex manages, before Gabe has him pressed up against the tile wall and is unbuckling his belt. "Oh," he murmurs, a small little sound, and Gabe thinks maybe Alex has understood his answer.
"Me and Alex got married," Gabe tells Ryland.
Ryland pauses in opening a jar of olives and raises his eyebrows at them. "Did you ask Alex's parents for his hand in marriage first, or did you run off and elope?" he asks, and the lid pops off.
"We got really high," Gabe says, just as Alex says, "Why am I always the bitch?"
Ryland shrugs. "Because you're pretty?"
"Hey, mine," Gabe interjects, and Alex grabs him by the elbow and drags him to the back lounge to tell the rest of the band.
Victoria doesn't even look up from her laptop when they attempt to squeeze through the door at the same time. "You owe me a hundred bucks," she says to Nate, who swears and pins Gabe and Alex with a glare.
"What are you looking at us like that for?" Alex asks.
"You two, and your marriage, and..." Nate trails off, groaning, and digs out his wallet. "I only have forty, V."
"I'm confused," Gabe whispers in Alex's ear. "How did they know?"
Victoria holds up her phone. "The wonders of text messaging, you idiot. Hand it over, Navarro," she says, extending her hand. Nate slaps the cash into it with a sigh.
"You buying us dinner with that?" Gabe asks her, only to grin and take a step closer to Alex when she gives him a look. "How about something off our Wal-Mart registry?" he tries, and ducks when she throws her shoe.
The bus is finally quiet, although if Gabe strains he can hear the music through Nate's earbuds. He slips out of his bunk and into Alex's. Alex barely stirs, just leans into him. Gabe arranges himself the best he can, the desire to be close to Alex outweighing the tiny space they have to be close in. "I need to tell you something," he whispers.
"Mmm," is Alex's drowsy reply.
"I want to keep them." He waits for a second, he can feel that Alex's heart sped up when he said it. "What do you say?"
Alex's voice is clearer now. "Are you asking me to marry you? For real?"
Gabe winds their fingers together, rubs his thumb over the ring on Alex's hand. He's not entirely sure what for real means in this situation; like, the next time they're in Vermont for a show? That would be good, he thinks. "I guess so, yeah."
Okay. It takes Gabe a second to be able to speak again; he's pretty sure his heart sped up as well. "I hear Vermont is nice this time of year."
"Shut up, you don't know shit about Vermont," Alex replies, his voice dropping back into a sleepy mumble. His hands tighten on Gabe's. "Love you," he breathes. "Stay."
"Love you too," Gabe says, kissing the back of Alex's neck, "and you don't need to ask. I'll still be here in the morning."