Bob woke up to his phone making the twinkling noise that he had reserved specifically for Mikeyway texts. He sat bolt upright, hitting his head on the ceiling of his bunk. "Ow, fuck," he muttered, fumbling through blankets for the unseen phone. Nowhere. "Fuuuck. Where is—" Thud. Clunk. Twinkle.
He looked over the side of his bunk. Even from this height, he could read the text, glowing with a horrible keen grin. One word. Three letters.
bob i heard that
Aw, fuck it. Bob got up, slipped on something (fuck Ways, man, fuck them all and their stupid comic books. Can't they shove that shit under their beds like the rest of the world?), and made his way toward the lounge in the dark. Mikey was standing alone in front of the stove with Gerard collapsed in a chair, looking morose. The only light in the room came from the LCDs of appliance clocks (coffeemaker, stove, microwave) and the screen of Mikey's phone, which he snapped shut.
"I'm right fucking here," he growled. "And it's three in the morning, Mikey, what the fuck."
"I can't choose between orange and mango," Mikey said. "Gerard wouldn't help." Gerard, head down on the table, gave a feeble wave, looking exaggeratedly pale and wan and tragic. It was like an ad for tuberculosis: become a poet, die young, look fabulous. Fucking Ways. It was too early for Bob to have to deal with their shit.
"You woke me up," Bob said, "at three in the morning. To pick out a flavor of tea. Is it for Gerard? Just give him fucking whatever."
"His throat hurts," Mikey said like Bob couldn't have figured that on his own by looking at Gerard's wan and tragic face (but mostly by noticing that Gerard was not talking, which would otherwise be apocalyptic). He flipped open his phone and blinked at Bob. "This is a matter of life and death. Also, it isn't for him; it's for me. I'm giving him lemon because lemon is disgusting and he deserves it."
"What the fuck ever," Bob muttered. "Mango, then, your highness."
"A gutsy move," Mikey said, turning around and doing something involving enough mysterious tins, suspicious baggies, and enough absurdly precise scales to make a drug dealer proud. Bob waited for a minute, just in case. You never knew with the Ways. Without turning, Mikey flipped his phone open, typed something, and snapped it shut. To Bob's amazement, he set the phone down.
tea or gtfo
Bob decided that he wouldn't even try and question Mikey's ways. "Right," he muttered, preparing his exit. Mikey turned, a mug of tea in each hand. He gave Bob a look which might have been commiserating on anyone else's face (run while you still can; it's bad enough that I have to deal with him while he's sick), but which was only murderous on his (fuck off while I tend to the dying, you treacherous bastard, how could you have deserted us in Gerard's immune system's hour of need?).
"Night, Bob," Gerard croaked.
Mikey set down the mugs, pushing one in front of his brother. Gerard sniffed the contents of his, took a sip, and made a face. "Don't want this one."
"Too bad. It's yours," Mikey said, taking a long sip of his own.
Gerard huffed, pretended to go back to his own, and then snatched Mikey's from under his nose before his younger brother could stop him. He swallowed an enormous gulp, looking wildly smug and maybe slightly feverish, and set it back down in front of Mikey as though his lanky fuck of a brother could possibly have not noticed.
Mikey said, "No, wait, oh—"
And then the word, "fuck," came out of Gerard's mouth.
"That one's better," Mikey said, at the same time as Gerard croaked, "You fucking idiot."
"What?" Mikey asked, reaching for his mug. "I told you I don't like lemon."
"Oh my god, I have your cold, you're fucking dying and now I'm dying, oh my God. I'm going to kill you, Gerard."
"Oh, take some Aspirin," Mikey muttered, taking another sip of the mango tea. "Hey, this stuff is really good; my throat feels a lot better."
Bob knew he should leave, but was rooted to the spot. Oh. This was not happening. This was not happening at three in the fucking morning.
Gerard looked like he was about to kill someone. "I told you not to drink my fucking tea, Gerard, what the fuck were you thinking, oh fuck." He coughed suddenly, a loud and wracking sound. "Oh sweet baby Jesus, your lungs are climbing back up your esophagus. Oh god, that's my pristine fucking esophagus you're breathing out of. I want my esophagus back!"
"You look weird," Mikey informed Gerard. "I think my fever might have progressed to the point of hallucinations."
"Your fever is going to burn me out of your skin. Fuck you and your shitty cold and fucking everything. Gerard!" Gerard said suddenly, snapping his fingers in front of Mikey's face.
"Yeah, Mikes?" Mikey asked.
"You're in my fucking body, dickhead."
Bob propped himself up against a wall and reminded himself to breathe. This was totally not real. He was having a bad dream.
"I hate you so much right now," Gerard said, with real venom in his voice. No, there were some things that Bob's subconscious just could not come up with on its own..
Mikey smiled sheepishly. "Um, Bob, I think we might have switched bodies."
"Change back," Bob said, looking at Gerard. Mikey in Gerard's body. Fuck the what. "You need to fix this right now, Mikeyway."
"We can't," Gerard said. "I need supplies."
"Oh no," Bob said. "If those supplies can't be found on this bus right the hell now, I'm out. I'm leaving. I am walking away from you and your merry fucking band of lunatics. No more assholes at the round table for me." Because the last time Mikey had asked him to find something he'd ended up carrying their fucking rhythm guitarist around because Mikey'd magicked him into a child. And that was so not cool.
"First, it isn't magic," Mikey-as-Gerard said, affronted, "it's voodoo. Very different. And second, of course, the supplies aren't on the bus, Bob. I don't just keep them around for Frank to fucking snack on."
"Nope," Bob said. "Good night. Good luck dealing with Gerard's shitty cold and his fucking job as our lead vocalist, but it's three in the morning and I am going to sleep." And tomorrow he was reactivating his LinkedIn account and dumping the music industry forever. Fuck this shit.
"Bob!" Mikey-as-Gerard cried, voice cracking dismally at the end.
"I'm sorry?" Gerard-as-Mikey said. "Please help."
"If you don't start soon, we won't be better in time for the show tomorrow," Mikey-as-Gerard said softly. Bob stared at him. Gerard stared at him. Mikey smiled a slow, oozing smile.
Gerard, being Gerard, began to panic. "You gotta do it for the band, Bob!"
"How is that even fucking possible?" Bob had stopped mid-exit, knowing that Mikey had him. He'd never hear the end of it from Brian if they had to cancel a show because he wouldn't take a little initiative.
Mikey shrugged. "Moon cycle shit."
"You're shitting me." Mikey looked at him. "Okay, okay! Make me the fucking list."
Mikey retrieved his phone and sat, typing methodically. After a few minutes, Mikey stabbed the 'send' button viciously, and Bob heard a twinkle from his pocket. He pulled out his phone.
celery salt black peppercorns tears of child rosehips lemongrass
"Tears of a child?" Bob snapped. "Are you shitting me?"
Mikey ignored him. "You can need to get the first two from, like, a fancy-ass grocery store, and the tears could be, like, a local park or some shit, but, uh, you'll need to go to Jersey for the last two."
"Rosehips and lemongrass aren't specific to Jersey," Bob snapped.
"Moon cycle, remember?" Mikey said. "Seriously, does this shit look easy or something?"
"I still don't need to start tonight."
"It takes four hours to get from DC to Belleville," Gerard piped up. Asshole. "At least."
"All right," Bob said, "so wake me up when the bus fucking stops." With that, he turned and made for his bunk. His phone twinkled at least three times on the way there, but fuck that, it would keep till morning.
The next time Bob woke up, it was to the eerie silence of their bus not being in motion. He'd gotten used to the vibration and low hum of the engine and wheels working beneath them that whenever they came to a stop, he felt uneasy.
His phone twinkled insistently for the millionth time. He grabbed it, read the message (time to wake up bob), and remembered with a sudden burst of irritation why he couldn't just ignore it. He trudged out to the kitchenette after spending as much time as he felt like he could waste in his bunk. Frank was sitting across the table from the two Ways, looking extremely amused. Mikey was scowling at his phone in a surprisingly good imitation of a normal human being, and Gerard was sniffling, scowling, and coughing on his brother as often as he could. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, even though the Ways were doing their personal all-time best to rip a small hole in the fabric of the universe.
"Bob!" Frank exclaimed, face brightening. "Did you know Gee and Mikey switched bodies?"
"I need a fucking cup of coffee first," Bob groaned.
"Er," Mikey-not-Gerard said. "I wouldn't drink the coffee, if I were you."
Bob sighed. "Why not, Mikeyway?"
"There might be something in it," Mikey rasped. "But I won't admit to anything."
"Good morning!" Ray chirped, eyes bright as he waltzed into the kitchenette, poured himself a cup of coffee, and downed it.
Mikey grinned darkly. "Okay, now you're good, Bob."
"I am going to kill you while you sleep," Bob said, but he poured himself a cup. If Mikey wanted to poison him, he would have done it already.
"What's wrong with Bob?" Ray asked. "Did you do something to him again? Gerard, I thought your mother said you weren't allowed to use kitchen utensils for evil anymore."
Gerard-not-Mikey spluttered, fingers fumbling on the Sidekick. "I -- Gerard -- we're -- oh," he muttered, hunching over the phone and typing furiously. "Never mind."
"Good coffee, Mikes," Ray said, tipping an invisible hat. "I'm going to be in the back if anyone needs me. Sound check at five. Five, Mikeyway. Not six. Not Pete Wentz o'clock. Five."
Mikey elbowed Gerard in the side. "Oh," Gerard said, frowning at his phone. "I'm late to everything."
Mikey elbowed him again. "Ow!" Gerard hissed, elbowing Mikey back. "Quit it! Ray, I'm the worst. I admit to my own failures as a human being. Also, I am a slut for Pete Wentz, even though that's frankly a questionable choice at best."
Ray nodded, but he was already a million mental miles away, humming something under his breath, and completely missing the impending doom that was hanging in the air.
"Later, Ray," Bob said, shaking his head as the curly-haired man beamed and retreated into the back lounge. He was probably going to record some kind of super advanced riff that would make them all millions of dollars, so Bob wasn't too worried.
"Okay," Bob said. "We have a serious problem here that needs to be resolved. Preferably before tonight when you have to get up on stage and sing to a thousand kids, Mikeyway."
Mikey's face lost all of its color. "Oh," he croaked. "I hadn't thought about that. Um, my throat is shot?"
"Try telling that to Brian," Bob muttered darkly.
"Drink your nasty-ass magic coffee that you never make for me," Gerard said, scowling. "You'll be fine." He squinted at his phone and adjusted the glasses on his nose with a triumphant grin. "See, even Pete says you'll be fine."
"I hate you," Mikey rasped, narrowing his eyes and reaching up to fix the sit of a pair of glasses that weren't on his face.
Frank grinned up at Bob. "This is fun."
"No, it isn't," Bob said. "Frank, we need to switch them back. And how did you know they'd switched, anyway?"
Frank pulled up a napkin with a gruesome, decapitated unicorn on it. "Mikey drew me this," he said. "And then Gerard said, 'Oh my god, don't use my hands to draw. You'll get ink under my nails.' And then Mikey said that, considering how often these nails were cleaned, he should be grateful only ink was getting under them. And then Gerard said, 'Well you'll get ink on my phone,' and I pretty much knew then."
Bob scrubbed a hand through his hair. He needed to shower, probably. And practice. But instead, he was going to have to run errands for a pair of asshat brothers who had somehow managed to switch bodies with one another. "Okay, well, great. You can help me get them back to normal, then."
"Aw, but I was going to borrow Mikerard," Frank said, pouting his bottom lip out.
"What?" Bob asked.
"Mikey with Gerard's brain," Frank said, scoffing like it was the most obvious thing.
"Right, well, no, you aren't," Bob said. He waited a moment, as Frank's mouth slowly turned into a grin. "Okay, what did you want to borrow Mi...kerard for?"
"Sex things," Frank said.
"Okay, nope. Definitely not. Out, get out of there and away from Mikey."
"What?" Mikey croaked, looking up from where he was draped over Gerard, trying to get at the phone. "Who's getting away from me?"
"Nobody," Bob said in the process of hauling Frank away from the table.
Mikey narrowed his eyes and said in a surprisingly acute assessment of the situation, "Was Frank trying to take advantage of me and simultaneously derail your mission to return our band back to normal, Bob?"
"Which version of normal is that?" Bob asked, surreptitiously trying to pull Frank away. Frank, in a genius move, had gone limp, which meant he now weighed approximately a hundred thousand metric fucktons.
Something in Bob's back pocket vibrated.
Mikey smugged. "Is that your cell phone going off, or—" he managed, before dissolving into a bunch of painful-sounding coughs. When he took another sip of his coffee and opened his mouth to speak, nothing happened. He grimaced and drank some more coffee.
Bob opened his mouth to say any number of things, including: 1) go fuck yourself, 2) do it yourself, and 3) I bet Pete Wentz is a bad lay. Instead, he let go of Frank (serve Mikey right), and pulled out his phone.
It was from Brian, which was a bad fucking sign. It read: What is going on in there? Bob typed back: need to make emergency trip to nj. gerard has no voice. all v bad. He hit 'send' before he could reconsider.
In the meantime, Frank and Gerard had disappeared probably off for a smoke break. "Okay, fuck," Bob said, reading over the list on his phone again. "Rosehips and lemongrass? From your mom's house?"
Gerard handed Mikey the official bus sticky note pad (provided by Brian "If There's Only One, You Can't Lose it" Schechter), Mikey scribbled something on it, and Bob read: all instructions r obvs.
"This isn't a phone," Bob said. "You have to use full sentences."
Mikey reached for the pad.
"Oh, fuck you bob, haha, very funny," Bob said dryly, once Mikey had handed it back. "Okay, you've lost your pad privileges."
Mikey gave him a smug look that Bob realized probably meant roughly, "You can't do my bidding probably unless you give me the pad back, nyah, nyah."
Bob shrugged. He said, "All right, you have fun with Gerard's fangirls now," and turned and started to walk away. He managed about two and a third steps before he got tackled to the ground, and an irate Mikey wrestled the pad from him before sitting square on his chest and scribbling, "take frank asshole."
Bob was about to shout something obscene and full of expletives about how taking Frank on a road trip was worse than telling Brian they had to cancel a show or seven, but the front door to the bus opened and shut, and Brian's feet appeared in his line of vision, and Bob reconsidered. Brian cleared his throat, looking down at the two of them. "I don't want to know," he said, carefully stepping over Bob and going into the back. "Gerard, drink your tea," he said without looking.
Mikey ignored him and put the pad down in front of Bob's eyes. The word, "PLZ," had been given its own pale yellow sticky.
"Okay, okay," Bob muttered. "Would you at least remove your brother's fat ass from my ribcage?"
Mikey stood and offered Gerard's hand to help him up, but Bob declined the offer and pushed himself to his feet. Mikey had sneezed into that same hand not ten minutes ago, and Bob doubted that Gerard's body had somehow managed to produce any kind of sanitizer in the last hour.
Frank and Gerard burst into the main area, giggling, half a second before Brian came in from the opposite direction. They looked incredibly pleased with themselves in spite of Brian marching them into the kitchenette. Brian looked like he was about to go nuclear. His face wasn't red yet, though, which meant that they still had time.
"Okay, someone tell me what the shit is going on," Brian said. "Ray is unconscious in the back, Gerard was sitting on Bob for reasons fucking unknown, and you two look like a couple of first graders on pixie sticks. So someone? Explain."
Mikey in Gerard's body looked entirely bored. Gerard in Mikey's body looked guilty. Frank was just looking at his phone, cackling quietly to himself.
"Well, Brian," Mikey croaked, when Gerard made wide eyes at him and flipped out his phone. "I was, um, well." He coughed, made a face that was unmistakably Gerardish, and said, "I was trying to explain to Bob how important focus is in music when faced with— um, ninjas. Because, you know, anything could happen, right, um, and it is best to be prepared for all eventualities. Also, my voice... is dying?" he croaked, coughing piteously.
"And Mikey was taking pictures with Frank because..." Brian said, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Because of Pete Wentz of course!" Frank said, before Gerard could open Mikey's mouth and say something entirely un-Mikey-like.
Brian said, " 'Pete Wentz' is not actually an excuse for everything you fucking do," but it's mostly drowned out by Mikey shouting, "You did what?", his voice breaking on the end.
Gerard shrugged. With one shoulder. Bob saw the transition and then watched them rattle over the points and then go straight off the tracks into crazy Wayville.
Mikey clapped his hands over his ears and wailed, "I don't want to hear it. What is wrong with you? You are the scourge of the Way family."
"I'm bored," Gerard said, fussing with his glasses.
Mikey sniffed and cocked his hip out to the side. "I have decided I can only drink filtered water from now on," he rasped.
"I probably need orthopedic footwear because there is something wrong with my twiggy-ass body," Gerard said, glaring.
"I need a new team of stylists because I need to be pampered twenty-four-seven."
"I am the human embodiment of a text message, so don't try to talk to me in more than two sentences."
"I hog the bathroom, even though I never wash my hair."
"I straighten my hair for an hour, so it will look exactly the same way it did when I woke up all day."
"So Gerard and Mikey switched bodies again," Brian said, interrupting.
The way brothers shot identical looks of disdain and horror at Bob.
"I thought we weren't going to tell Brian," Mikey hissed.
"Yeah, Bob," Gerard said, scowling down at Mikey's phone. "God."
Brian sighed and folded his arms across his chest. "I guessed," he said, "around the time that I saw Gerard sitting on Bob. You can't play the show like this. Who's driving to Jersey this time?"
"Actually, I've been reading up about muscle memory," Gerard said brightly. "I think I have a good shot of letting Mikey's body play the bass for me."
"As appealing as that sounds," Brian said, rolling his eyes, "I'd really rather pay for someone to drive to your mother's house and back than watch Mikey try to sing in front of an audience."
"But," Gerard said, clearly disappointed at not being able to use his newfound muscle memory knowledge.
"It's okay. You can use your muscle memory on me," Frank said, winking lewdly.
"No," Brian said. "We're doing the old pantyhose and hat in the pot trick."
"The what?" Bob asked.
"Oh, you'll find out soon enough," Brian said darkly. "And I thought we agreed that tea was off limits, Michael."
"It's not my fault!" Mikey croaked, grimacing at Gerard's body's inability to fight off a cold. "Gee stole my cup."
"In my defense," Gerard said, blinking up at them all, "I did not know that the tea was magic."
Brian was rubbing his temples. "Bob, you take Frank and get a taxi to the nearest rental car place. Have Frank pay for it —no arguing— and get the items on the list as soon as possible. Be back an hour before sound check. It takes half an hour to brew, right?"
"Let's not discuss my extensive knowledge of Mikey's voodoo fuck-ups and say we did," Brian said. "I think it's best for all of us if I continue to repress as much of the memory as possible. Now, Bob, list. Go. Take Frank with you. And, Mikeyway, for the love of God, would you wake Ray up already?"
Mikey accepted the notepad and scribbled, not until hes ready 2 apologize.
Brian shook his head, one of his hands moving up to rub his temple. "Wake him up in ten minutes, then. Oh, and no more Pete Wentz. None. Are we clear?"
Everyone looked away from Brian.
Brian sighed and left.
When they finally get out of fucking Maryland and into New Jersey, Frank hadn't exhausted his obnoxious road trip games, but he had managed to spot twenty states' worth of license plates and irritate the shit out of Bob. He did, however, triumphantly punch the air as they entered his home state and start telling Bob some stupid story about his and the Ways and Ray's early band days. Bob was successfully tuning him out until—
"Bob! You have a text from Gerard."
Bob knew it was actually from Mikey, but he wasn't going to switch their fucking contacts for one fucking day of fucking fuckery. (Oh, hello, bad mood.) "What's it say?" Frank shoved it in his face.
bob mom xpx u hury plz
"Frank, I am trying to drive!" Bob shouted, swatting the phone out of his face, so he could see the fucking road.
"What do you want me to text him back?" Frank asked politely.
"What! Oh, um. 'Fuck you' should do it."
Frank dutifully typed and sent the message. "He won't like that."
Bob got back: dont tlk like that near my mom (as Frank dutifully recited, pointing out the bits that Mikey had abbreviated). Bob's eyebrow twitched. His phone twinkled. A message from Gerard using Mikey's phone.
"Dude, if you're going to keep getting texts, can I drive?"
Frank recited in lurid capitol-and-lowercase-fuck-up detail:
bOb plz dont swear arnd mY mom
ps mikEys phone is Wiered
pps if you get txtd a naked photo of pete wentz by Accident im sOrry i think this phone iz boobytraped
"Fuck my life," Bob muttered. "Are we there yet?"
Once they were off the New Jersey Turnpike and shuttling along local roads, Bob revoked Frank's radio privileges because he tended to sing along and forget to give Bob directions. He was almost at the point where he'd let the little shit drive if only to be rid of the occasional bouts of text-reading and bad direction giving when Frank said, "Oh, turn there. It'll be on your right," and when Frank shouted triumphantly at Bob to park, it was in front of a house that did not, in fact, look like it was inhabited by the sort of demons that he imagined spawning the Way children.
They hopped out of the car and barely made it across the lawn before Mrs. Way had swept up first Frank and then Bob himself into bone-crushing hugs and was leading them into her house. She was telling Frank how good it was to see him and how she'd just baked some cookies for them to take back and wasn't it nice of them to come do this for her silly, silly boys? She settled them in the living room on the couch and went to get them cookies, telling them not to move a muscle. Bob was half afraid to twitch at first before he realized that 1) that was a rhetorical flourish and 2) Mikey's mother seemed to be unarmed with voodoo or magical spells, creepy elephant leg trashcan or no.
"It's like a scary-ass temple," Bob whispered to Frank.
"Yeah, where Indiana Jones died," Frank muttered. "Ooh, a new lamp!"
Bob looked around in vain trying to find anything in the room that looked like it dated from after 1990, much less a recent purchase. He couldn't really tell whether Frank was talking about the garish orange lamp on the table, the base of which looked like a dragon claw or the furry lime green monstrosity in the corner that Bob was pretty sure was actually alive.
It waved at him.
Then, Mrs. Way came back into the living room, brandishing an antique silver tray with a plate of cookies. "It's so nice to have you here. How are my third and sixth favorite boys doing?"
Frank's eyes were screaming cookies cookies cookies, so Bob let him attack the plate with gusto and simply cleared his throat. "Um, we're good," he said. He was pretty sure he was the sixth favorite, there. "I, uh, we're here for some... stuff, actually. Did Mikey call you?"
Mrs. Way pursed her lips and perched on the edge of the surprisingly normal armchair. It was beige. It did not fit in with the rest of the room. "Well, one of my sons did call me this morning," she said. "A few minutes before you came over, actually. But I'm not entirely sure it was actually Mikey."
How did everyone except Bob seem to know all about Mikey's expansive voodoo malpractice?
"Id 'uz Fewad," Frank said through a mouth full of half-eaten cookie as he stuffed his cheeks like a deranged chipmunk. It wasn't like they didn't feed the man.
"Oh dear," Mrs. Way said, clearly understanding Frank's mouth-full-of-cookies speech. "Not again. I'm afraid I've forgotten what you'll be wanting for bodyswitching."
"Uh," Bob said. "Rosehips and lemongrass?"
"Oh, yes," Mrs. Way said. "Of course. You know, we've always encouraged the boys in their non-recreational-drug-taking hobbies, and tea leaves seemed so much safer at the time, but sometimes I wonder—" She sighed. "Well, ever since he planted his herbs in our yard, my petunias flower like you wouldn't believe. It must be the growing words he whispers to them once a year under the light of the full moon." She laughed weakly. Bob tried to imitate the sound and came up with a dry creaking noise. "I was joking," she added. He didn't believe her.
"I'll just snip you off some and put them in a bag." She patted his hand before leaving the room, and Frank finally swallowed his mouthful of cookie. "God, I love this place."
"Hm." Bob shifted on the couch and reached for the single cookie that was left. "That doll keeps staring at me."
"Oh, Rosita?" Frank asked, peering over to Bob's left at the china doll with bright red hair. There were too many dolls in there for one room, but that was just Bob's uneducated, mildly sane opinion. "Yeah, she's the worst one. At least, she isn't showing teeth like Evangeline over by the door."
Bob thought about the row of china figures lined up around the door and put the cookie back on the plate. "Right," he said, suddenly not hungry.
"You're not gonna eat that one?" Frank asked, swiping the cookie before Bob had the chance to say anything. "Oh! Gerard asked me to get something from his room. Hang on."
Bob grabbed his wrist. "Don't even."
"No, it's for the potion." Bob stared at him. "Promise," Frank whined. Bob let him go, but only because it just wasn't worth arguing.
Mrs. Way came back into the room with two Ziploc baggies the moment Frank bounced out. One of them had pale stalky shoots in it, and the other had very red berries in it. "I think I've cut you enough of both herbs in here," she said. "And we had some instant coffee left over from last time, so I put that in a bag, too, just in case. You know Mikey will hardly let me keep it in the house. Bad aura, you know. —And I've also packed you a bag of cookies for Frankie. Keep him busy on the drive back, you know."
Bob grimaced. Frank was going to throw up or be awake all night. Or both. "Uh, thanks."
"Don't worry, dear," Mrs. Way said. "I make them with Splenda when Frankie comes over. The boy practically sweats sugar; we don't need to give him any more."
"Oh, wow," Bob said. "Thank you. Seriously, I thought—"
"Trust me," Mrs. Way said. "I know far too much about all my boys. If you ever have a question, you just give me a call. Oh, and would you remind Mikey that his Selenicereus is going to bloom next month? He won't want to miss that again."
"Okay, Bob!" Frank shouted, barreling back into the room. "Let's go!"
"You take care now," Mrs. Way said, leading them to the door with a beam. Bob accepted the plastic bag and two Ziplocs and the hug that she also offered.
When they were halfway to the car, Bob turned to Frank. "Hey, weren't you getting something from Gerard's room?"
"No," Frank said, guiltily. "Oh, well, yes. A sketchbook. Exclusively a sketchbook. 150 pages, hardcover, spiral bound. Nothing else. Definitely not anything from under the bed. Stop asking so many questions, god! What is this, the third degree? I call shotgun!"
"So that would be porn," Bob said, sighing as Frank leaped headfirst into the car, no sketchbook in sight. Or porn for that matter. He climbed reluctantly into the driver's seat and did up his seat belt before realizing, "Where are you keeping it?"
"Nowhere. Onward, noble steed!" Frank shouted, bouncing in the seat.
"What are the car rules about calling the driver 'noble steed'?" Bob asked, making a three point turn using the Ways' driveway.
"Not to do it," Frank said.
"Or what happens?" Bob asked, narrowing his eyes at Frank.
"I sit in the backseat," Frank said, eyes wide and innocent.
"In the trunk," Bob said.
Frank sighed exasperatedly. "In the trunk," he repeated.
"Don't fucking do it," Bob said. "I will put you in the tiny trunk myself, short stuff."
"Yessir," Frank said. "Now, can you drive faster than a grandma, or what?"
All Bob wanted right now was for Frank to get off his back and walk like a normal human being for once in his fucking life, so Bob could take a piss in the creepy-ass rest stop bathroom. Unfortunately, judging by the way Frank's hands were tight around his neck, Bob was pretty sure that he was going to have to shout him down. "Frank," Bob said, trying to imbue his tone with a sense of warning and urgency. "We have to finish the list, remember?"
"In a minute," Frank said, nuzzling his face into the skin behind Bob's ear. "Can we get Starbucks?"
"No," Bob said, "absolutely fucking not." The last thing he needed was Frank hyped up on caffeine.
"I'll get off and order for us?" Frank offered, and okay, coffee that isn't going to turn him into anything other than a slightly perkier version of himself sounds pretty great. Also, he'll be able to take his long-awaited piss, won't he? "Okay, but don't get recognized or some shit." Frank nodded earnestly, and Bob, after reminding Frank to get him a latte, went gratefully into the bathroom.
When Bob came out into the slightly fresher but still greasy-smelling air again, he instantly spotted Frank, the barista Frank was showing off his tattoos to ("Dude, you gotta check out my chest piece!"), and the girls who were now craning in to see Frank's newly bared chest and abdomen. This was such a clusterfuck. Bob sauntered over, trying to look big, imposing, and scary, even though he knew that fans were way beyond him.
"Bob!" Frank shouted as soon as he saw Bob. "You've gotta meet Rodrigo. He's super nice. Check out his sleeves!"
"You got the frappuccino, didn't you?" Bob said.
The trace of whipped cream on Frank's upper lip said as much as the enormous cup in his hand did. Frank just beamed and thrust Bob's latte at him. "Rodrigo, this is my friend Frank. He's in my band, too."
Then, Bob saw the girl, leaning over, Starbucks cup in hand, about to ask for Frank's autograph. If they started on that, they'd be camped out there all day. "Frank, we need to go."
"Gee and Mikey need our help."
"Fine." Frank sighed as though Bob were always dragging him away from handsome Latino men with nice tats. "I'll trade my autograph for directions to the nearest supermarket," he announced to the modest crowd.
The nearest supermarket did not have celery salt or whole peppercorns, black or otherwise. Bob was also not speaking to Frank mostly, except to mutter things under his breath about very small, very dead guitarists. Frank had bought himself a cupcake ("to compliment Mrs. Way's cookies!") and a bottle of Powerade (because it was such hard work sitting in the passenger seat and blabbering like an asshole).
As Bob was starting the car up again, his phone buzzed. Swearing, he grabbed it and wrenched it open, ready for the next Way missive. The text was from Frank: Im sorry Bob. Bob looked up at Frank who was brandishing the cupcake with a big number-one candle stuck in it and a set of killer puppy eyes. Bob sighed. "All right, all right, you're forgiven."
He ate the cupcake before they left the parking lot. It tasted like cake out of a box and grocery store frosting and sugar. Bob felt a little bit better.
Frank threw the door to the bus open and shouted, "We're back!", before running up the steps, Bob following behind at a slow trot. Mikey and Gerard looked up at them from where they were sitting at the table, Feuding with a capital F based on their expressions. Bob just handed over the bag. It wasn't as though he, oh, deserved a little fucking appreciation or anything. Mikey grumbled something under his breath, but pulled everything out of the bag. "Oh! Mom remembered." Mikey held up a photograph of his mother. "She put a smile in here for us."
"Mom's cool," Gerard said. "Hey, are those cookies?"
"They're probably for me," Mikey croaked. "I'm her favorite."
"Fuck off," Gerard said. "I'm the firstborn, he who shall inherit the cookies." He ate one triumphantly.
There was silence but for Gerard's chewing as Mikey prepared an answer, opened his mouth, attempted to deliver it, and made a little pained noise. Voice gone again, then. Probably for the fucking best.
Gerard beamed. "And I get to text Pete, too." He pulled out Mikey's phone, smugging at it. "Sorry, did I say texting? I meant sexting." Mikey wasn't too sick to give him a sharp punch to the arm. "Ow! That hurt. Not funny."
Mikey made a face.
"Oh, shut up, I am too funny. Besides, he'll never know it wasn't you; I'm a fabulous actor."
Mikey crocked an eyebrow and took a sip from the mug of tea sitting in front of him.
"Peter Pan does to count as acting, shut the fuck up! I was Peter, I was the living embodiment of him, okay? Shut your fucking mouth, Mikeyway."
Mikey gave him a smug and triumphant look, made slightly less smug and triumphant because it came from Gerard's own face. It was like watching a particularly murderous tennis match with cell phones instead of racquets and no ball.
"I AM SENDING A PHOTO OF YOUR LAP TO PETE. I am doing it. You cannot stop mmmgraffllk—"
Frank and Bob watched as Mikey tackled Gerard to the floor as Gerard tried to hold the phone safely out of reach while it sent the picture message. Bob took a step back to dodge some flailing limbs. Fucking great.
"I hate you. You are the worst of brothers. Give me your cell phone back!" Gerard shrieked.
"Excuse me," Bob said loudly. They stopped rolling around on the floor, although Mikey's hand was still making a desperate bid for where Gerard was holding his phone just out of reach. Ignoring Mikey's death glare, which coming from Gerard's face, looked a lot squishier and a lot less menacing, he said, "What kind of fucking grocery store can I get celery salt and peppercorns at? And please don't sext Pete Wentz. You could get diseases."
"Nah, those can't spread by phone yet," Gerard said, squirming away from Mikey. "But you're probably right that Pete would have invented it if they could."
Mikey muttered, "Give it five years."
"Gross," Frank said appreciatively.
Gerard squinted up at him. "Your hair is a different color from these eyes. —Ooh, a text from Pete!"
Mikey tried to punch Gerard in the head, but got bowled over by a coughing fit instead. Ray wandered in, still yawning from his earlier bout of forcible unconsciousness, and said, "Dude, you okay?"
Mikey gave him one searing look and stormed away from them all toward his bunk.
Ray cocked his head. "What's with Gee?"
"He's sick," Bob said. "He's being a diva about it."
"A— Hey," actually-Gerard said. "I'm not a— Gerard isn't a diva!"
Ray gave him a sidelong look as he made for the coffee pot, which showed a fucking awful sense of self preservation in Bob's opinion. "You're usually the first one to say he is, Mikes."
Gerard huffed and puffed, and then he sat up and actually read the text. "He says hi to Mikey's lap," Gerard informed them all. "And I'm not a diva," he muttered to Bob.
"Are too," Bob called after Gerard on his way no doubt to smug at Mikey.
"Are the Ways pretending to be each other again?" Ray asked as he sipped a probably unpoisoned cup of coffee.
"Again?" Bob asked. "That happens often?"
Ray shrugged. "We all go a little crazy on tour after a while."
Frank eyed Mikey's phone, left for safety on the table. "Hey, do you think Pete'd say hi to me if I sent a picture of my lap to him? That is code for balls, right? I'm not missing out on some important detail here?"
"Eugh," Bob said. "Don't text Pete Wentz. He'll give you diseases."
"Don't you mean viruses?" Frank said, blatantly considering the best angle at which to take a Myspace-style photo of his crotch.
"No," Bob said. "Ray, where can I buy celery salt and black peppercorns?"
"Uh, I don't know. Maybe, Whole Foods? Do they have that here? Ask Mikey. He'd know." Bob looked down the hallway at Mikey. Ray added, "Maybe not."
"Come on, Frank. Let's go get some fucking primo grocery shit and get back here."
Once they got directions from the third gas station they tried, it wasn't that hard to find the Whole Foods. Finding the celery salt and the black peppercorns without having to ask an eerily bright-eyed employee, however, was proving slightly more difficult. It didn't help that at least four of them were tailing them, trying to make sure the tiny tattooed hooligan and the giant Viking didn't shoplift any precious organic produce. After they had explored the entire crap-in-bulk section (quinoa! granola! dried mango!) and the wholesome toiletries aisle and the deluxe American-made pet products aisle (this took some time because Frank was genuinely pretty interested, the little shit), Bob was ready to concede defeat and ask a salesperson where the fuck they kept the spices and shit when a petite, blonde girl with a ponytail skirted up to them from behind and asked in a distinctly try-anything-and-I'll-call-security way, "Hi, I'm Katie. Can I help you find anything today?"
Frank got out, "We need salt and pepper," before Bob could say anything.
Bob rolled his eyes. "Celery salt and whole black peppercorns," he corrected. Then, realizing how smarmy he had sounded (was Gerard rubbing off on him?), he got to watch as the thought, "Oh, they're gay," went through her head. She beamed and told them to follow her, and she'd find them exactly what they needed. He sighed and slung an arm around Frank's shoulders while they strolled over to aisle ten. Might as well not disappoint. Because it was Frank and, when anyone gave Frank an inch, he took a mile, he took that as a signal to climb Bob like a tree. Fucker.
Katie showed them a wide variety of flavored salts and then of colored pepper, some black, some white, some green, some whole, some crushed. Naturally, she offered them the most expensive of the celery salt options (koala Frank reoriented her, from the general neighborhood of Bob's shoulders, toward finding the one with the smallest crystals because "it needs to dissolve"). Bob took the task of finding whole black peppercorns, which wasn't actually as hard as it looked, provided he was willing to buy them in a pepper mill that would clearly shed all over the rental car. What the hell. You only lived once.
While they waited for Frank to decide which celery salt he liked best, Katie asked Bob what they were cooking in that innocent way of hers. As though they might be normal people who only went to grocery stores to buy groceries. "Oh," Bob said casually, "just restocking the kitchen.
Frank said, "Actually, we're trying to reverse the body switching spell one of our friends cast on his brother. Bob, I think this one looks good, don’t you?"
When they climbed back onto the bus, car safely returned to a clerk who was seriously surprised at how many miles they'd managed to clock in less than twenty-four hours, Brian was at the dining table, his head buried in his arms as Gerard stood behind him, apparently giving him a back massage.
"Brian has a headache," Gerard said to Bob. "And you remember how I was reading up on physiology earlier, right?"
"Of course," Bob said, watching as Frank set the groceries on the table. Mikey wandered in, wearing one of his hats on Gerard's head. He and Frank had a brief, silent conversation that ended in Frank handing over a lumpy package. What the fuck?
"Well, it turns out that Mikey's fingers are much more tactile than mine. All of his bass-playing has made his hands much more well-suited to the art of massage. It's crazy how good I am at this now."
Bob remembered Gerard's massages, having been on the receiving end of a few of them. They were pretty good, but he could imagine Mikey's quick fingers were probably easier to work. "Right."
"Yeah, it's like that muscle thing you were talking about," Frank said.
"Not really," Gerard said, a vague frown on his face as his fingers kept working between Brian's shoulder blades. Mikey slid into the seat across from Brian, trying and failing to keep a straight face. "Mikey doesn't give a lot of massages, does he? I think it's more about muscle strength. I read about it, you know."
"Oh, yeah, of course," Frank said, rolling his eyes. "Muscle strength, yes. From playing bass. Not from all the back massages Mikey's given Pete Wentz."
Gerard gave Frank an unimpressed look.
"Naked back massages," Frank added. Mikey snorted.
"Oh, god." Gerard's mouth dropped open, and he clapped a hand over it before pulling his hand away and staring at it in horror as though he'd grown a third arm. Or like his brother had maybe done some extremely inappropriate things with that hand and then they had switched bodies and he'd used it unknowingly for nearly twenty-four hours. Or something.
"And other naked things," Frank said definitively, "that involve hands."
Suddenly green, Gerard raced off toward the bathroom, banging his hip on the counter when he tried to take the corner too fast.
Mikey snickered into the cup of tea sitting in front of him. Brian just sighed and straightened up. "It was such a good massage that I don't even care about the naked Wentz definitely-not-implied-handjobs part of it," he said.
Frank nodded vehemently. "Naked Pete is very wise." Mikey shoved a sticky note with a message on it at Frank who made his silent reading face. "You aren't funny. I'm funny. You aren't." Mikey gave him a sulky look and kicked him.
"Mikey wants you to know that it says, 'nkd pete has gud taste'," Frank said grumpily.
Like hell he did.
Brian interrupted: "No more Pete shit. You get that pot going right now, Mikeyway, or I swear to a thousand deities, you will be the frontman for this extremely famous band and like it."
Mikey glared at Brian. "Not my fault," he croaked. "Gerard's."
"You're the little shit that messed with powers beyond your understanding," Brian snapped. "Fix it."
"Make your damn magic soup and be done with it," Brian said, eyebrow twitching.
They all looked on as Mikey pulled down a glass teapot, filling it with water and setting it to boil on the stove. Then, he assembled all the ingredients they had gotten for him and pulled out a cutting board, chopping the lemongrass stalks into thin disks before dumping them into the teapot. Then, he spilled a dozen rosehips onto the cutting board, hissing softly. Bob watched him as he used the flat of the blade to crush each in turn and then tried to sweep them into the pot, swearing vigorously. As soon as it hit the water, the juice diffused through the pot, turning the whole mess a brilliant pink. Then, he started fussing through the kitchen drawers, looking for something.
"Do we even have fucking measuring spoons?" Mikey muttered. Gerard and Frank looked at him blankly.
"Left drawers, third down," Brian said. "Don't any of you fucking cook?"
There was a muttered chorus of 'no's as Mikey successfully located the measuring spoons, helpfully joined together on a ring. He painstakingly measured out the celery salt before dumping it into the pot. Then, he turned to the pepper. "Oh, motherfucker, Bob, this is a pepper mill! You get to pry it open."
Bob crossed, unscrewed the mill part with little to no effort, and handed it back. "Whatever, fuckface."
"Thanks, shithead." Mikey counted out eleven peppercorns and chucked them in as Bob watched with interest. "What?" he snapped when he noticed Bob standing beside him.
"Then, sit down." Bob did, but only because it had been a long day, not because he was, you know, listening to Mikey, who was not the fucking boss of him. Mikey set the lid on and waited half a minute for it to boil. He furrowed his brow. Shit. "Hang on," he said. "I need something else."
"But we got everything from the list," Frank said. "Didn't we?"
Bob thought briefly about the tears of a child he'd been told to collect as he poured a cup of water. "Pretty much," he said, feeling guilty already.
"Where's Ray?" Bob asked Brian, who was sitting on the other side of the table.
"Working," Brian said, "unlike the rest of you." He closed his eyes and sighed. He said mildly, "Bob, could you get me a couple aspirin?"
Bob gave him a look and then back to his bunk to get it. As he rummaged through the vast accumulation of crap, he heard Mikey saying in the kitchen, "Frank, can you give me a hand?"
"Me?" he heard Frank reply. "What do you need me for?"
"A hand, asshole," Mikey shout-croaked. There was no more shouting, so Frank must have bent to Mikey's iron will. Oh well. More self-preservation for Bob. More cookies and chemical burns for Frankie.
At the bottom of a pile of used socks, dried out teabags, and moldy sandwich crusts, Bob found the bottle he had been looking for. He double-checked the label and then jogged back into the kitchenette. He heard a vague shout of "shit!" beside him, but nothing really mattered once Bob could see what Mikey had needed Frank for.
Frank, looking about five this time, was sitting on the floor of the kitchenette, bawling his eyes out. Bob saw red for a split second before he noticed Mikey pushing Frank's tiny face into a glass.
"Mikeyway," Bob shouted, storming over to the pair. "You get your filthy fucking hands off him. What the fuck is this? What the hell do you think you're doing? You made him cry, Mikey! The fuck did you do to him?"
Frank opened his eyes when Bob spoke and hiccuped. "Bob," he wailed, pushing Mikey away and running over to shove his face into Bob's hip, which was as far as he could reach. He sobbed into Bob's jeans, tiny hands clenching and unclenching the worn denim.
"I told you," Mikey said, calmly inspecting the glass, "I needed the tears of a child. And I got them."
"And you thought turning Frank into a kid again and making him cry was the best course of action?" Bob asked. He scooped Frank up when he made grabby hands in the air and let the little guy bury his face in his shoulder. "How the shit did you make him cry so fast anyway?"
"I have my ways," Mikey said, looking more shifty than evil-mastermind. "Now, do you want me to turn him back into an adult or what?" He picked up the devil thermos off the counter and thrust it at Bob. "Make him drink it."
Bob offered it to him, and Frank just shook his head and tightened his grip on the sleeve of Bob's t-shirt. His little chest was still heaving with sobs and Bob hiked him up, rubbing circles on his back. "Hey, little guy," Bob said, glaring daggers at Mikey. Mikey rolled Gerard's eyes and cocked his hip out, looking unimpressed.
"Hey, Frankie," Bob said, trying to do that swaying thing he'd seen his mom do with crying kids. It was hard, but the motion actually seemed to work. "That's right, it's all okay. Nobody's gonna hurt you."
Frank sniffled and pulled his face away from Bob's shoulder, which was now covered in a liberal layer of tears and snot. "Mi— Mi— Mi— Mikey," he stuttered, hiccuping for air again. He rubbed one balled-up hand into one of his eyes, apparently unable to breathe properly.
"Hey, Frankie, hey," Bob said, still rubbing circles on the kid's back. "Just breathe, that's right. What did Mikey say?"
"He, he," Frank stammered, sniffling and clearly trying to follow Bob's instructions. "He said sp— sp— He, he.. He said spiders."
"Spiders?" Bob asked, swearing when the word sent Frank into another series of sobs. "No, no, fuck, Frankie, it's okay. There are no spiders here. Come on, buddy, it's all gonna be just fine."
(Over Frank, Bob watched Mikey whip off his hat and shove it into the teapot, following shortly by a pair of pantyhose. What the fuck, Way?)
"No," Frank said, voice muffled as he heaved for breath, face buried in Bob's shirt and tiny hand squeezing the side of Bob's neck as he held on, "No, Mikey, Mikey said— He said they was gonna eat me."
"I promise you," Bob said, "there are no spiders here. Look, Frankie, remember Ray? You know Ray, right?"
Frank was silent as he snuffled into Bob's shirt, but he nodded eventually, peeking up at Bob.
"Well, Ray is real big, yeah?" Bob reached over and smoothed Frank's hair out of his eyes. Grownup Frank was going to want to shower so bad. "He's so big that he just scares all the spiders away just with his hair."
"His hair?" Frank asked, eyes wide.
"All that hair, spiders just hate it," Bob said. "They all just run away because they think it's gonna eat them." He wiggled his fingers in Frank's face, and Frank giggled, hiccuping once more before he pushed away from Bob and straightened up.
"You telled me the truth about Ray's hair, right," Frank said very seriously.
"Yes," Bob said, completely deadpan.
Frank wiped at one eye with a hand and nodded. "Pinkie swear," he said, holding his teeny tiny pinkie out to Bob.
Bob momentarily forgot about how disgusting his shirt was in favor of having his heart melt a little when Frank's pinkie could barely wrap all the way around Bob's. "Pinkie swear," Bob repeated.
"Okay," Frank said, nodding.
"You want to drink this coffee for me now?" Bob asked, holding the cup up to Frank.
Frank nodded again and let Bob put him on the ground before taking the cup. "Coffee is yummy," he said very seriously before drinking the whole thing in one go. Well. Some of it poured onto his shirt and face and Bob. But at least he was trying.
Bob half-expected a cloud of sparkles to surround Frank, or maybe for the shadows to loom above them and for lightning to appear above them, but instead, one second, Frank was five and, the next, he was sitting naked on the floor of the bus, still holding the thermos. This was beginning to happen an awful lot.
"What the fuck," Frank slurred, blinking dazedly up at Bob.
"Hey, buddy," Bob said, patting him on the head. "Put some pants on; we've got a band to save."
"What does that mean," Frank said, standing unsteadily. "Why's the room spinning? Why is your shirt gross?" Why was Frank so much less endearing as an adult?
Bob looked down at his shirt. Right. Snot. "Nothing," he said, pulling his shirt over his head. "You. Pants. Now."
"Worst stripper ever," Frank muttered and headed for his bunk and, Bob hoped, clothes. Next to Bob, Mikey sniffed the contents of the pot, stirred, sniffed again, and looked satisfied.
Then, he sat down at the kitchen table and drank some tea.
Bob and Brian watched. Bob didn't think that Brian looked nearly creeped out enough, especially considering the hat and pantyhose looked in danger of disintegrating. Then, Brian gave up and lurked into the back to try to wake up Ray. Almost as soon as he left, the teapot began to bubble riotously.
And the bubbles were bright yellow and smelled peppery halfway across the room.
Mikey said, "Oh dear," and then he screamed Gerard's name as he made a mad dash for the last of the ingredients. Bob had a very bad feeling that they were all fucked and then Gerard came into the room and then Bob felt the bottom of his stomach fall out.
And then he was very small.
He blinked. The world was closer to him now. He wiggled his fingers experimentally, looked at them critically, and looked up.
His own voice said, "Don't make that face in my face, asshole."
Then, Gerard said, "Am I back in my own— I am, aren't I?" He patted himself down, checking that everything was still in place. "Dude, did you eat my spare candy bar?" Mikey looked shifty. Gerard huffed. "Well, at least, now we can test the rest of you guys' muscle memory, right?"
"What?" Bob shrieked in Mikey's voice.
"The batch is ruined," Gerard said with confidence.
"No," Mikey said. "Just airborne." And Mikey leaned forward and took a big sniff with Bob's big nose. Gerard only had about half a second to look horrified before he was Bob looking horrified instead.
"Fix it," Bob said to Mikey, who was now himself again. "This is fucking ridiculous."
Mikey shrugged with one shoulder and said, "Muscle memory, fucker. Use it." He grabbed a towel off the countertop and ran it under the tap before pressing it over his nose and mouth. He flicked the switch on the burner and pulled off the stopper with a slurp. "Shit. It's starting to melt the glass. Gee, give me the smile. Bob, hand me Frank's tears. Don't fuck it up."
Gee lunged for the tiny, creepy, cut-out photo-face of their mother and clung to it as though his life depended on it. Maybe, that wasn't half wrong. Bob was more careful in carrying over the glass with its shallow contents. If he spilled it, they were fucked. He was so not letting Mikey turn Frank into a kid again just to torture him some more.
Mikey dropped the photo into the thick soupy liquid and then eyed Bob's glass. He took it delicately. Gerard cocked an eyebrow at him, and he muttered something that sounded awfully like "consecrated," but Bob really, really didn't want to ask. Mikey turned the burned to simmer back on and started to pour very slowly, biting hard on his lip in concentration. "Okay," he said through gritted teeth and muffled by the towel, "you guys are going to have to drink this shit straight and I'm going to need to leave the room before you do it and you can't let anyone in or the entire process is totally fucked, so if anyone knocks, you better not fucking act like fucking gentlemen."
"Couldn't we just do another switch, so you can be here?" Gerard whined, sounding about as nervous about doing amateur coffee voodoo as Bob felt.
"Not an option. It could go completely fucking wrong if we do it too many times." Mikey looked up at Bob. He sighed heavily. "Do you want to be a fly for the rest of your life?"
"Sign me up for the goddamn yellow goo-poison," Bob said.
"I thought so," Mikey grumped. Having set the lid on the teapot, he stepped away, not removing the towel, and backed out of the room.
Gerard and Bob looked at each other. "You do it," they both said at once.
Bob scowled. "This is your fucking fault, Way. You get to pour." Gerard made a face, Bob's normally stoic expression crumpling into a Way-scowl. Mikey's potion was busily cooking down into a thick sludge, not nearly as tea-like as it had begun. Bob-as-Gerard scampered over to the cabinets and pulled out a pair of shot glasses before slamming them onto the table. "Do it."
Gerard, undisguisedly terrified and clearly holding his breath, poured each of them a shot. There was still a fair amount of sludge left in the pot, but Gerard set it down on the table anyway and picked up his glass. "Cheers," he said, and Bob grudgingly clicked their shots together before each of them downed his with apprehension. Bob clung to his glass and waited. And waited.
"We need to finish it."
"You pour this time. Your fingers are too big for this."
"Then why am I pouring?"
"No, these your fingers. Your actual fingers. Your real bona fide Bob-fingers."
Bob poured their second shots just to shut him up. "To my brother," Gerard said. "May he in the future not be as much of a total fucker as he has been today." They slammed them back, gasped, winced, and knew better than to wait. Bob carefully distributed the dregs between them, making sure that Gerard got the still-floating photo-face. Bob hesitated and saw Gerard doing the same. If this didn't work—
"Doesn't bear fucking thinking on," he told Gerard and tossed it back. And the world shifted. He staggered a little, feeling his own body around him again. "Shit." Gerard nodded. Then, after about half a minute, he felt it crash down on him like a pile of bricks, headache, vague queasiness, weak legs. He plopped down into a chair and whimpered. Gerard was, he suspected, doing something similar across the table, but Bob felt too fucking awful to check.
Bob's phone twinkled. "Motherfucker," Bob tried to snarl, but mostly failed to snarl. He checked it one-handedly. It said:
need a hangover cure 2?
Bob texted back, "Fuck you," and heard Mikey laugh in the next room.