Michael would like to know just when ‘writing love songs’ became a code phrase for ‘having crazy insane sex in the back lounge of the bus’ but he also sort of doesn’t.
“Writing love songs,” he says. “They couldn’t have come up with anything more original?”
Butcher shrugs and takes off his t-shirt. “The ways of Carden and Beckett are strange.”
“I don’t understand why we’re the odd couple,” Sisky says. “Andy and I have nothing on those two.”
“They weren’t doing. . .whatever, you know, they weren’t doing this on the last tour,” says Michael. “Have they done this before? Is this like, something you forgot to tell me when I joined?”
“Oh yeah,” says Butcher, tying his t-shirt to his head and beaming. “Sorry. Hey Chislett! Sometimes Mike and William get cabin fever and take it out on each other.”
“Oh, sure, fine,” says Michael. “Thanks. Good to know.”
“It’s a fever they can’t sweat out,” Sisky adds.
“Whoa,” says Butcher, turning to look at Sisky. “Whoa, really? What is this, 2006?”
“Shut up,” says Sisky. “It’s still topical.”
“I hate you both so much right now,” says Michael. “Seriously. Well, no, I don’t hate you. But I feel weird.”
“You think it’s weird now?” says Butcher. He pulls a tiny bottle of sunscreen out of the pocket of his shorts and starts to squeeze it on his chest. “Try when they first got the fever, thanks Siska, what the fuck. Yeah, uh, and back then Conrad was involved too? So shit got real weird real fast. And Sisky and I felt left out for a little bit, and then we realized, no, actually, we wanted nothing to do with it. Remember, Sisky?”
“Yeah, I do,” says Sisky. “I was also underage. Remember that?”
“Hah!” says Butcher. He starts rubbing his chest.
“You get used to it,” says Sisky. He pulls at the neck of his shirt, fanning himself. “Guys, it is miserable.”
“It’s Warped Tour, what the fuck do you expect?”
“Is it going to last for the whole tour?” says Michael, before they get too far off topic. “It won’t right?”
“Probably will,” says Butcher. “Usually does. Anyway, better stock up on sunscreen. You’ll be spending a lot of time off the bus.”
“It’s only the first day of tour,” says Michael. He kind of feels like crying. His acoustic is in the back lounge of the bus, for starters. “How can they have cabin fever already?”
“The ways of Carden and Beckett are strange,” Butcher repeats. He touches Michael’s arm. “Cheer up, it’s not too bad. Summer of ’05, we ended up spending a lot of time with Fall Out Boy and the dudes from My Chem.” He nods. “It’s nice to spend time with other bands.”
“And we already have friends!” says Sisky. “Speaking of which, look out.”
“Who wants a popsicle?” says Gabe, running up to them. “But I only have red flavor.”
“Nah,” says Butcher. “Green is the best.”
“Purple,” says Sisky. “You need to diversify, Gabanti.”
“I only got reds,” Gabe explains, “so that everyone goes on stage looking like they’ve just given a blow job.”
Michael pauses in the midst of unwrapping a popsicle.
But, thing is, the further they get into tour, the less sure he is of the validity of Mike and William’s sexual relationship. Michael’s not quite sure that it’s real and that the whole band isn’t just playing him. He’s been sticking with the Gym Class boys just in case, because they’re really cool and Disashi’s got some ridiculous riffs up his sleeve, but he’s starting to doubt his band.
Two weeks in, he says to Disashi, “Um. You’ve toured with. . .” ‘my band’ sounds weird, so he tries, “the boys, uh, before, were there every any. . .did Mike and William ever. . .”
“Oh!” says Disashi, laying his guitar in his lap. “The rumors are true?”
“I don’t know,” says Michael, and he lays it all out before Disashi: how William always looks impeccable climbing off the bus, how Mike seems no more well-or-less-fucked than usual, and how their behavior towards each other hasn’t changed at all.
“Huh,” says Disashi, thumbing a string. “Man, I don’t know. We haven’t been on tour with them since 2004 or something, and I don’t even think William was legal then.”
“Yeah,” says Travis. He turns around from the kitchenette, sandwich in hand. “Don’t worry, Chislett. Those fuckers maybe crazy but they love you. William told me when he was drunk. They wouldn’t ever lie to you.”
“What?” says Michael. He’s been in tightknit bands before, but they were never particularly declarative.
“Yeah, man, seriously. God’s honest truth.” Travis holds up his sandwich. “Anyway, they’re definitely doin’ it. It’s in the little things.”
Michael watches but he doesn’t see anything unusual.
He finally asks William just as the van is pulling up to their spot in the venue parking lot. “Writing love songs? Really?”
“Of course, silly,” William flicks Michael in the forehead. “We’ve gotta make an album somehow.” He sips his coffee, smiling genially.
Michael tries again, frustrated. “I mean, about you and ---“
“William,” says Mike, appearing from the bunks. “I think I found a great chord progression. You gotta come listen.”
“That’s my cue,” says William, setting down his mug.
“That’s our cue,” mutters Butcher, and him and Sisky grab their breakfast plates and jump off the bus. Michael lingers a little, but after hearing neither guitar nor tell-tale moans, he takes his waterbottle and leaves.
“You’re messing with me,” says Michael over lunch. They’re sitting outside the bus in lawn chairs. “This is some seriously delayed hazing, right?”
“No,” says Sisky, eyes wide. “We wouldn’t lie to you. We love you.”
“We do,” says Butcher. He takes a bite of his sandwich. “No, but seriously though, they’re fucking. Writing love songs. Whatever.”
“Travis said I’d notice something,” says Michael. He puts his sandwich down on his plate. “But they act the same as usual. They’re not even particularly nice to each other.”
Sisky puts down his sandwich too. “Chiz, man, think about the conversation you had with Bill this morning.”
Michael thinks back. “What? William was happy?”
“Try again,” says Sisky. “William’s usually pretty happy.”
“Um.” Michael thinks. It was mostly a normal conversation except he was trying to ask about the sex life of William and Mike without actually asking about it. Then it hits him. “William. Called me silly.”
“Really?” he said. “That’s proof. That’s really proof?”
“When has William ever called anyone silly, in the whole time that you’ve known him? Come on, Chiz.” Sisky picks up his sandwich again. “It’s the really little things. None of this lingering hands or fresh coffee in the morning bullshit. Just watch.”
Michael watches, and starts a list.
1. Mike doesn’t call Sisky a pussy when Sisky says fuck no he’s not doing shots with him and Ryland again he doesn’t have a death wish thank you.
2. William agrees to steal Katy Perry’s parasol.
3. William not only allows Victoria to straighten his hair, but convinces Travis to allow the same, and lets Alex photograph him in the process. Even though both Mike and Michael have longer hair than him, and even though Katy said she’d buy them all dinner if he managed to convince Travis, which is something none of them really want.
4. Michael has the following conversation with Mike:
Mike: “Did Butcher finish that garlic humus shit? Motherfucker.”
Michael: “No, he hid it in the vegetable drawer with all the beer.”
Mike: “You, my friend, will be the first I save at the end of the world.”
5. They run out of Jose Cuervo (or, more accurately, Gabe shotguns the last of it and passes out on the couch) and William is visibly sad. Mike and Jack do an alcohol-and-groceries run the next day, and they come back with a slightly more expensive bottle. Jack says he’ll kill anyone who opens it as it is his personal bottle, but Mike and William take the first two shots of it anyway.
Michael finds Gabe and consults. Gabe has proclaimed on a number of occasions that he is the master of all that is William Beckett and Michael figures that if anyone is going to confirm the subtleties of a changed William and Mike, it would be him.
“Oh dude,” says Gabe. “Dude. I don’t know about Mike, but Billvy. Yeah. Totally he is getting laid. Motherfucker. He didn’t even tell me! Me!”
Looking extremely upset, he grabs a pair of sunglasses out of the sink and runs off the bus, shouting for Victoria.
“Totally doin’ it with Mike,” says Nate. Michael turns around. Nate doesn’t even look up from his sandwich, so intent is he on making sure none of the tomatoes fall out. “How do you know?”
“Mike told me,” says Nate. He eyes his sandwich carefully. “And he says he’s got an album’s worth of love songs written with William.” He takes a bite of his sandwich and all the tomatoes fall out the other side. “Aw, man.”
They get a hotel night – thank God – and Michael is set to room with Mike. “Do you want to trade with Tony?” he asks, who is sharing with William.
“What? No.” Mike throws his bag down at the foot of one of the beds and throws himself onto the bed, rolling into the cushions. “Oh, god, it’s like heaven.”
Michael sets his bag down on his bed and opens it. “I just thought – because of you and William?”
“What? Oh no.” Mike rolls over to look at him. “I gotta spend quality time with my bro, you know?”
Michael stares at him. “You’re not doing, uh. . .”
“What, the album? I can’t spend all day with this fucking, like, fuck man, I’ve got blisters on my fingers. I think I drew blood yesterday.”
“I really didn’t need to know that.” Michael winces and upturns his bag on his bed in search of a clean t-shirt.
“What?” Mike props his head up on his hand. “Aren’t you interested in how the songs are coming? William and I were really hoping you’d listen sometime. We could use you. You come from a different place from us, you know, you think differently. We fucking love that.”
Michael says, “Er, what? You want me to what?”
“Song. Write. Ing,” says Mike, eyebrow raised. “William. Me. Are you okay?”
Michael says, “Oh, uh. Er, sorry, I just. I mean. I really like you but –“
“But?” says Mike, sitting up, a strange expression coming across his face. “But what?”
“I’m straight?” says Michael. “Sorry. I’m really sorry.”
Mike laughs so hard that he starts coughing and then he says, “Oh shit, oh shit, I gotta tell Bill,” pulling out his phone.
Michael holds up a dirty pair of jeans in front of him like a shield and says, “But I thought. . .?”
Mike is already texting. He says, “Songwriting is not a metaphor, dumbass.”
“You lied to me!” says Michael the next day, cornering Butcher and Sisky in the back lounge of the bus while they’re playing video games. “They aren’t sleeping together at all!”
“No!” they both protest immediately. “We wouldn’t lie!” “Who told you we’re lying?”
“He’s lying,” says Butcher. He puts a hand up to his ear. “What hark?”
They hear Mike and William talking in the front of the bus, opening and shutting cupboards. “Sisky, where’s the Nutella?” William yells.
They venture out into the front of the bus. Mike and William are cutting up a baguette. Michael adds it to his list. He’s never seen a baguette on any tour he’s ever been on.
“It’s in the second fridge,” says Sisky, throwing himself down on the bench of the table. “Behind Butcher’s sandwich.”
“Ah,” says William. “Thank you. Would any of you fine gentleman care for some baguette?”
The band eats their baguette together in companionable silence. When they finish, Butcher says, “I’m gonna go harass Ryland, anyone want to come?”
“Yes!” says Sisky immediately.
“Nah,” says Mike. “I think I’m gonna take a nap before we go on.”
“Email,” says William, already heading back to his bunk. “My sister wants me to look at her portfolio again.”
Sisky and Butcher look at Michael with winning smiles. He rolls his eyes. “All right.”
They’re halfway across the parking lot when Michael realizes he’s left his phone on the bus. “I’ll meet you there,” he says. “I forgot my phone.”
“Hurry,” says Butcher. “It’s gonna be good.”
Michael jogs back to the bus and climbs in. He picks up his phone off the table and just as he turns to leave he hears a low laugh. He turns around again. Just beyond the door to the back lounge, he sees William. He can’t see Mike, but William’s got one hand on the wall in front of him, and he’s smiling. A hand curls around his waist and pulls him in – William leans in for a kiss and all but disappears from view. Michael backs out of the bus slowly, and runs across the park to the Cobra bus.
“It’s true!” he gasps, climbing up the steps and sitting down on the couch next to Victoria. He puts his head in his hands. “It’s true!”
“We told you!” says Sisky. He pumps a fist. “How far were they? Once I saw them – well, anyway, it sucked, I was scarred for life.”
“William sucked,” Butcher amends.
“What base?” demands Gabe, coming out of the bunk area. He pulls a shirt over his head and makes grabby hands at Victoria’s sunglasses.
“First,” says Michael. He looks up. “It was quite sweet actually. William looked really happy.”
“Cute,” says Victoria, looking up from her cellphone. “Gabanti, you are not going to break that up.”
“Fuck,” says Gabe.
Michael explains the whole thing to them later, and Mike hits Sisky on the head. “You couldn’t have just said, hey, you know Mike and William are sleeping together?”
“Uh,” says Sisky. “I guess. It’s uncomfortable to talk about though.”
William pulls Michael in for a hug. “Imagine how uncomfortable it must have been for poor Michael.” He pets Michael’s head. “I’m sorry,” says William. “We should have told you.”
“Anyway,” says Mike. “We actually have been writing love songs, you fuckers.”
“Prove it,” says Sisky, arms crossed. Michael wiggles free of William and sits down next to Butcher.
Mike goes into the back and comes out with a guitar. He nods at William, who smiles.
“Poor bastard,” says Mike. He rubs William’s shoulder. “Writing love songs. What an awful fucking code phrase.”
“Mmm,” says William. He looks up at Mike. “Perhaps we should have told him ourselves.”
“Nah,” says Mike. “It’s more fun when they just walk in on us.”
“For you,” says Wiliam, lying back against Mike, fingers laced on his bare stomach. “I was mortified. Siska wasn’t even eighteen.”
“Gotta learn the facts of life somewhere,” says Mike. “Who better than his big brothers?”
“Don’t say that,” says William. “I’m uncomfortable with incest.”
“Your sister is so hot though,” says Mike. William elbows him. He kisses William on the top of his head. “Just sayin’. Smokin’.”
“Right,” says William. “Fuck off.” He turns over, presses one hand on Mike’s chest, and leans up to kiss him. “Fucking love songs,” he murmurs. He bites Mike’s lip and laughs.
“Yeah,” says Mike, bringing both hands up to pull William closer. “They couldn’t have come up with anything more original?”