“Come on guys. You don’t even have to buy a ticket. Cover’s like five bucks. What else are you doing with five bucks, buy a Big Mac? Ten minutes of eating plastic or a few hours of rock music. Doesn’t sound like a hard decision to me, man.”
Tim rolls his eyes. “It’s five bucks cover, and it’s fifty bucks in beer. Big Mac sounds better, gotta say. I need my half of our rent money, man.”
Frank shoves his hands into his pockets. He doesn’t get it. Either side of it, why they won’t just come, and why he’s making such a big deal about it. Still, he keeps trying. “Then don’t drink so much fucking beer, asswipe.”
Shaun shakes his head. “Tim’s right, man. We can’t go listen to them without being smashed off our faces. And considering our tolerance, it’s going to take a lot.”
He swallows, hoping it’ll help keep his stomach contents where they’re supposed to be. “What the fuck, why do you need to be drunk? it’s just another band.”
Tim snorts. “The hell it is man. Their bio on Eyeball’s website says they’re ‘queercore’. You know what that means? An hour’s set of dudes singing about fucking other dudes. I’m not sure there’s enough beer in the world that could get me to listen to that.”
“I know Washed Up Hollywood is playing, we should go check them out,” Neil suggests. Frank considers pressing his side longer, but looks at Tim and Shaun already arguing with Hambone on whether to share a few pitchers or buy individual drinks so they can leave the tables in the back and move closer to the stage, the way Neil is texting a friend, probably to see what time they play, and who’s opening and whether or not they’re worth watching. It’ll be easier to just see damn WUH. Mikey’s band will play another day, he’ll get Hambone high and talk him into it next time.
Frank is one of the handful of people that swarm to the stage after Fruit Brute’s set is over. The drummer and guitarist stay back trying to take down everything, but their singer -a growled introduction of Pete before their first song- starts talking to a few girls. Mikey comes over to him, face sweaty under his knitted beanie.
“So, what did you think? Good enough to recommend to friends?”
Frank ignores the way his stomach churns and smiles. “I thought you were fucking awesome, should have told me you could play bass that well.”
Mikey sees through it. “So, not good enough to recommend then.”
Frank shrugs apologetically. “I could. I would, but it wouldn’t matter. My friends are a bit,” fuck it, no point in sugarcoating it. “They’re homophobic douches. If you were screaming about wanting to get into a girl’s pants they’d be all over it, but.”
“Yeah. It’s not a new opinion.”
Mikey opens his mouth, about to say something else when Pete comes over, half climbing onto his bassist. “I swear to fucking God, if one more well meaning fan compares us to Limp Wrist, I’m going to cut a bitch.”
“We don’t sound like Limp Wrist, it was probably the only band they knew to compare us to.”
“It’s always the only band people know. Or the dyke bands, but seriously, huge fucking difference between me singing about rimming some hot ass jailbait-” from the way Mikey jolts forward Frank knows Pete’s grabbed his ass, “and singing about munching carpet. I mean, all the power to them, but ugh. No.”
Mikey smirks at Pete, a gentle one that shows Frank clear as a picket sign that they’re together. “I pity the girl that is forced to be eaten out by you.”
“Oh fuck you, Mr ‘I lost my virginity to a girl’, like you’re any better. Anyway that’s not the point. The point is that I don’t sound like fucking Limp Wrist, my voice is like three octaves deeper then their singer’s.”
“I know that, you know that, the rest of Brute knows. When we get more than ten fans at a show, they’ll know too. Relax. But yeah, Frank, if you can see if your distant friends want spots eleven and twelve?”
Frank agrees to try. The music is really good, and for the most part you can’t even understand the lyrics Pete’s bellowing. Maybe one out of ten, and if that one happens to be dick or balls, it still isn’t a reason for his friends to hate it.
When Tim moves out because he’s getting engaged, Frank’s basically left floating in shit creek. The first few applicants are crazier than crazy, by the fifth Frank would be honest to God grateful for a cat lady.
His paddle comes in the form of tall, muscled, and with an epic mane of hair. He offers to pay the first three months in one sum, he asks Frank what his routines and rules are, and he has references. It’s for those reasons that Frank tells Ray he can move in, not because his dick is demanding it. Frank’s smart enough to not judge a roommate by their looks, he wouldn’t let Tom Cruise move in. But it’s nice to think that he’s going to be seeing Ray walk to the bathroom in his boxers at least a few times a week.
Not that he’ll ever, ever say anything about it. It’s more than obvious that no one in Pencey would be happy, and he doesn’t want to wreck his band. His family would be in turns devastated and furious. It’s not like it’s a nice political climate to come out into anyway. It might not be the seventies, with police sanctioned beatings, but it’s not exactly Canada either.
So Frank stays silent and enjoys the view from afar. And if he curls up on his bed, stomach aching, trying to remind himself it’s stupid to cry about things he can’t change, the first time Ray’s boyfriend comes over, well. It really just proves that he was right in not saying or doing anything. Ray’s unavailable.
Mikey doesn’t so much move in with him and Ray as he flees his apartment. He knocks on the door and Frank lets him in before he sees Mikey’s got a giant body bag sized duffel in one hand. Not that he wouldn’t have let him in, he just doesn’t get it. Even when Mikey explains he needs to stay here for the next few days, Frank doesn’t really understand. Mikey doesn’t seem to care that his bed is the shitty, stained living room couch, or that Frank has managed to convince Ray that meat does not belong in their fridge. After a few minutes, Frank welcomes him to stay as long as he needs. If Mikey wants to sleep on a couch in a room that gets bright by six in the morning, it’s not his place to say no. Or, well, it totally is, but there’s no need to.
Frank gets it later that evening. Mikey’s cell rings, he glances at the screen and puts it back on the table. Then he calmly asks Ray to get up, and starts shoving the loveseat with all his might. Frank doesn’t ask, just watches until Mikey has it settled in front of the door.
Ray doesn’t have the same attitude. He leans his head towards Frank, hair tickling his face. “Why is your friend rearranging shit?”
Frank shrugs. “Mikey, why you rearranging shit?”
Before he has a chance to answer Frank’s cell rings. Mikey narrows his eyes. “Don’t answer that.”
“If it’s from an unknown number, don’t answer it. Actually, for that matter, if it’s from anyone at Eyeball or bar friends, still don’t answer it. You can answer if it’s your mom though.”
“Thanks for the permission,” Frank grumbles. But it is an unknown number, and Frank doesn’t press the green button.
Fifteen minutes later his door is being knocked on like the person on the other side is being chased by a bear. Mikey sighs a ‘fuck’, but it’s definitely resigned, not shocked, Frank’s worked with him long enough to know the difference.
“Mikey open the motherfucking door!” Ray looks at Mikey, who’s sitting on the love seat without his phone in hand -a very strange look for him- with some alarm. Frank’s not as worried. The door is locked, and the couch is fucking huge and thus a good barricade, and whomever it is will probably get dragged away by the landlord in a matter of minutes.
“Who the hell is that, and how do they know you’re here and why do they want you?” Ray demands.
Mikey sighs again, this time with a sarcastic edge. “Got a where or a what to go with that? It’s my boyfriend, and we had a fight because our band broke up. We’re both bipolar. He’s probably in a manic mood right now. Which would be how he knows where I am; he probably contacted every person I’ve ever talked to trying to find me by process of elimination.”
“Should we call the cops? That’s kind of crazy, man.”
“Yeah, well sometimes I see ghosts and he’s never called them on me. It’s not like he’s going to hit me. I just know trying to talk to him will make shit worse. He needs to wear out.”
It’s then that Frank starts to worry, stomach starting to churn and send acid up his throat. He knows Pete, Pete isn’t the type to wear out easily. If no one calls the landlord he’s going to be there for hours. It’s not like he’s down on him for being crazy, one of Frank’s many cousins was committed for a bit after trying to overdose herself. It’s just he and Ray and probably Mikey have to work in the morning, and it’s hard to sleep through knocking that loud. Not to mention if Pete breaks a hole in the door it’ll kill any chance of Frank ever getting his damage deposit back when he eventually moves out.
Considering the way Mikey settles in to Frank and Ray’s apartment like he’s paying rent, Frank guesses he shouldn’t be surprised that Mikey and Ray start talking about music. It’s pretty much all they talk about, often times disappearing into Ray’s room with the door closed behind them. He would suspect them of something, if Ray didn’t have regular Saturday night dates that always seem to get in the way of great concerts, and if he didn’t know Pete would make it abundantly clear if he and Mikey had broken up.
Considering the way Mikey talks about his brother when all three of them are hanging out, Frank probably also shouldn’t be surprised the first day he comes home from grocery shopping after work and the famous Gerard is sitting on the coffee table, gesturing about something manically, facing Mikey and Ray and someone he doesn’t know. The someone ends up being Bob, Gerard’s boyfriend.
Considering the way they’re all into music, and all bemoaning being out of active bands, and how much it sucks to only see things from the pit, Frank really shouldn’t be surprised when they decide to form their own band. He is though. More than that, he’s fucking jealous. Listening to them sit in his living room and bicker over lyrics, about whether or not it still counts as queercore if not every song is about boyfriends versus if it’s too one tracked and cliche to only sing love songs, gender or not... Sometimes it’s all Frank can do to not go run the water in the shower and scream.
What makes it worse is that Pencey is slowly cracking. Tim isn’t showing up to practice, everything that Hambone is writing is weird shit about pirates, Shaun just wants to design merch, he doesn’t want to fucking play. So one night after a failed practice, coming in to the four of them sitting around playing video games Frank finds himself plopping between Ray and Mikey on the longer couch and asking “If I said I sucked cock, could I be a second guitarist in your band?”
The initial silence is broken by Gerard, though he doesn’t take his head off Bob’s shoulder. “Would you be saying it because you want to be in the band, or because you actually suck cock?”
“Having a straight guy in a gay band is kind of fucking lame. It’s like having a single girl, but worse.”
Gerard punches Bob in the chest and informs him that there’s nothing wrong with having girls in a band, and to stop being stupid, hetero discrimination isn’t cool. But Frank doesn’t really hear the words, all he can hear is his gut about to revolt. “I, uh. I suck cock in theory.”
Mikey raises an eyebrow. “You think it sounds appetizing?”
Frank groans and sinks deeper into the couch. Right, that’s exactly what he needs right now, Mikeyway being a bitch about it. “Pardon fucking me for not having a fucking boyfriend.”
Ray offers “you really don’t need a boyfriend to get off.”
“Says the person with the boyfriend! Everyone in this damn room. Jesus, this is the worst fucking coming out ever. You’re all assholes!” Frank stands and storms his way to his bedroom. They can just gay it up in his fucking living room, see if he fucking gives a shit.
Minutes later there’s a knock on his door. It’s been just long enough that Frank knows they’ve fucking conferenced what to say to him. He groans into his pillow. It’s not loud enough to block out the words coming through the door. “You’re being kind of a bitch.”
Seriously, they discussed it, and decided that sending Mikey, fucking sending Mikey to mock him was the best of all possible plans. “Fuck all you guys,” he shouts while rolling onto his back so he’s clearer.
“Ray says he’ll share his parts. And we’ll probably write more. So shut the fuck up about your lack of Degrassi moment and come play Mario.” Frank hesitates for a moment before standing and stepping over his pile of clothes to open the door. If he needs to, he can always call them assholes and walk out again later.
He chews harder on his gum in hopes that his mouth tastes like strawberries and spit instead of stomach bile. It doesn’t really work, Frank’s chewed the piece long enough that if he spit it out it would probably be white instead of Bubbalicious pink. It’s more rubber than anything else now. It’s the best he’s got though, aside from running outside to smoke a joint. Not that he’s super sober living now, but Gerard used to be an alcoholic and Mikey can’t do drugs anymore because they fuck with his bipolar meds. It seems unfair to go and smoke up when the rest of the band is just as nervous as he is and they aren’t doing anything.
Still, he’s got concerns they don’t have. Half the people in this crowd know him, between work and friends he’s made after seeing the same faces a dozen times in the same clubs. And Hambone and Shaun are in the crowd, though he’s not sure about Tim-and-Wife, or Neil. He didn’t tell them details about his new band, just said My Chemical Romance was playing and if they wanted to come watch it would be cool. It was a fit of bravery that made him say it, and now he’s regretting it. Their first song is supposed to be Drowning Lessons, Gerard’s going to be singing about dreams of two men getting married and murdering each other, and everyone’s going to know.
“I can’t fucking do this,” Frank gasps. Screw the gum, he needs to chew a fucking tablet of rat poison. “This is fucking crazy.”
Mikey and Gerard don’t even look at him. They’re psyching themselves up by talking about previous bands and memories that are so old they can finish each other’s sentences. Bob is tapping out a rhythm on his bouncing knee. It’s Ray that says “You can’t leave now. You know how much you’d hate yourself if you pussied out?”
Ray’s probably right, Frank knows it. Still his words don’t mean anything when someone sticks their head into the tiny back room and tells them it’s time to get their shit together and tuned. Fucking everyone is going to know, and at this moment Frank would trade never playing again for not having this massive confrontation. He pukes on the floor, white oval of gum like a colourless cherry on a disgusting cupcake. Mikey wrinkles his nose at the puddle but pushes Frank out the door, careful to step over while following behind. Frank lets himself be shoved. My Chem is the audio symbol of his new life, and terrified or not he’s going to fucking shred it out.